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India (Bharat) is a country in South Asia. The parliamentary democracy, federal republic of India is populated by over 1.15 billion people. Ethnic multiplicity is an understatement with representation by over 2000 ethnic groups. The people are generally deeply religious and practically every major religion is represented in this secular nation.

At the last count, India consisted of 28 states and 7 union territories. It is the seventh largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country (after China).

India is bounded (see map) by the Bay of Bengal on the East, the Arabian Sea on the West, the Indian Ocean in the South. and India has a long continuous coastline of over 7,500 kilometres. India shares her Western borders with Pakistan, North-Eastern borders with China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) to the East. India's close neighbours are the island nations of Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and a bit further away, Indonesia in the Indian Ocean.

India in World Map

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India's history began many thousands of years ago.  This land was the home of the Indus Valley Civilization and a region of regular, hectic and historic trade.  Ancient India consisted of many kingdoms and even vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified by the rest of the world for its commercial and cultural wealth.  Four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium A.D. adding to the shaping of India's multi-faceted, diverse culture. There is a good deal of British influence in modern India and this is because the once trading company 'British East India Company' gave way to India being colonised by the United Kingdom from the mid-nineteenth century. India gained her independence in 1947 after a long struggle that was marked by widespread non-violent resistance initiated by Mahatma Gandhi, who is known as the 'Father of the Nation'.

The four major families of languages spoken are Dravidian, Indo-European, Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman languages. The official language is Hindi though English is spoken and understood in almost every corner of this vast country. Only, the even more ancient continent of Africa, surpasses India in linguistic, genetic makeup and cultural diversity.  Top>>

Indus Valley Ruins

India has grown to be an economic giant and is now the world's twelfth largest economy and the fourth largest in purchasing power. This is fuelled by a rapidly increasing middle class.

India is a country of great economic disparity among its peoples. More than 70% of the people live in more than over half a million villages, and approximately 30% crowd more than 2000 towns and cities.

Given the large mix of religions practiced, India is surprisingly peaceful and inter-faith tolerance is tangible. Regrettably, in keeping with the times, sections of the country are witnessing spasms of violence due to religious intolerance. Estimated break up of religions is said to be 80% Hindus, 13.5% Muslim, 2.3% Christians, Buddhists 0.8%. India has the majority of the world's Zoroastrians (Parsis - Origin Iran), Sikhs and Jains. Other religious groups include, Jews and Baha'is.    
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India's national sport is field hockey although men's cricket is far more popular. Soccer is also played, more often during the monsoon season. Various clubs in most cities are hosts to a number of indoor sports or games.

Indians have a great partiality towards gold jewellery.  Jewellery is most often crafted from 23 carat gold and sometimes even pure gold is used.  White gold or ornaments made from less than 23 carat gold are rarely used.  Silver ornaments, particularly anklets for children is common place and almost a ritualistic buy or gift.    Top>>

Indian Jewellery

India's rich cultural heritage and multitude of quiet havens make it an ideal tourist destination. Tourists come from all countries. A visa system is enforced and visitors need to have their paperwork sorted out before entering the country. There is no need for tourists to take precautionary vaccinations.    Top>>

 

From ancient times, Indians have revelled in their music and a wide variety of musical instruments have been used by folk from all parts of the country. They all serve to provide the haunting rhythm or a thunderous backing to the lyrics in question. Here are some of the musical instruments listed by their traditional names.

Bowed / String Instruments
Esraj or dilruba, Sarangi, Sarinda, Sitar, Rebab, Ravanhasta & Veena (Saraswati)

Indian Bamboo Flutes
Bansuri, Pullanguzhal or Venu

Double reed
Kuzhal, Nadaswaram & Shehnai

Percussion
Chenda, Dhol, Idakka, Kanjira, Mizhavu, Pakhavaj, Tabla, & Urumee     
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Indian Instruments

The India Meteorological Department designates four official seasons.
Winter: January and March. The coldest months are December and January, with average temperatures of 10-15 oC (50-59 oF) in the North-West.   More towards the equator, the temperatures rise to between 20-25 oC (68-77 oF).
Summer or pre-monsoon season: March to June (April to July in North-West of India). In western and southern regions, the hottest month is April.  May is the hottest month in the northern regions. Temperatures average around 32-40 oC (90-104 oF) in most of the central India.
Monsoon or rainy season: June to September.  The South-West monsoons slowly sweep across the country from the South & West, beginning in late May or early June. By October, the monsoon rains begin to recede from North India.
Post-monsoon season: October to December. Parts of the country as far West as Maharashtra sometimes receive the North-East monsoons.  Light showers are also experienced in the South of India.

There are two additional seasons, autumn and spring, experienced by the Temperate Zone Himalayan states.

India's geographical features is as diverse as its people.  It  has vast areas of natural forests, home to the Bengal tiger and herds of elephants, numerous hill stations and of course the Himalayan mountain ranges to the North.  There is the great Thar dessert.  Rivers criss-cross the country but other than the religious ritual areas of some of the rivers like the Ganges, rivers capture little tourist interest.  With a vast coastline, the hotel industry has set up shop at all prime locations.  Many tourists explore further away from the major stops and find excellent deals with small time board and lodging establishments or homes and take away fond memories of ethnic food and a peaceful stay in a home away from home.   Top>>

India Geography

Bengal Tiger and Cubs

Places of worship are found almost everywhere with many of the temples, churches and mosques still standing centuries after they were first built.  Most of the older structures are considered of heritage value and are maintained by the government.  Top>>

Places Of Worship

The traditional attire for women is the sari (saree) or the lehenga / ghagra - choli and the pyjama-kurta for men.  The men in the villages don the 'dhoti' or a wrap-around called the 'lungi'.  Each of these come in variants peculiar to each region.  Indian or Chinese cotton is the fabric most used because of its availability and comfort level in the hot and humid climate.  Indian Silk is famous and most visitors treat themselves to the purchase of at least a scarf or two. 

The following should answer a common question from tourists ....  What is the appropriate dress code for tourists in India?

The answer to this question is dependent on the destination, the occasion, the mode of travel selected and the group number.  The saying "In Rome, do as the Romans do" is as apt here as anywhere else. 

For females it is better to be covered with Indian or Western garments from shoulder to knee unless attending a function in the metro cities where moderately revealing or body hugging  tops and slacks or jeans are common place.  As a thumb-rule, a salwar-kameez, which is available ready-made or tailored to fit in a vast variety of styles and prices is acceptable wear all over the country. The material used can range from pure cotton to sheer, and depends on the location and season.  Two-piece swim suits or bikinis are not inappropriate on the beaches of Goa or at the pools of the star hotels but most certainly out of place in other locales.

For males, Western garments may be worn at any time and in any place.  The visitor may choose to don the pyjama-kurta for its inherent comfort and cost value.

Most religious places in India impose a dress code in the monument premises, like covering of the head with at scarf (or dupatta) or just a kerchief (both males and females), walking barefoot inside the monument, etc. All visitors are advised to comply with them, so as not to seem offensive but on the contrary to be, and seem to be, respectful towards the religious sentiments of the concerned community.   Top>>

 
The major mode for travel into and out of the country is by air with the Capital city New Delhi and the business centre Mumbai airports having the most traffic. The list of domestic airports being upgraded to international is increasing and the tourist is advised to check with their travel agents for a  better routing. Travel by sea is generally limited to cruise liners on day stops at Mumbai (Bombay).

India has a vast railway network with many luxury trains specifically designed for tourists. These trains are filled to the hilt with luxurious amenities and are a wonderful way to relax while travelling inter-city.   
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Indian Railways
The currency in India is the Indian Rupee. Currency term is 'INR' and the mathematical short-forms are Re for the singular and Rs for plural. The Indian rupee is made up of 100 paise. Coins are minted in denominations of 25p, 50p, Re 1, Rs 2 & Rs 5. Notes are minted in denominations of Rs 5, Rs 10, Rs 20, Rs 50, Rs 100, Rs 500 & Rs 1000

There are numerous banks (both private and nationalised) and travel agents such as Thomas Cook or Cox & Kings that are authorised to change a variety of currencies. ATMs are found attached to most bank premises and also in some shopping malls and gas stations.

The Indian Postal Service is cost effective and their 'Speed Post' facility is competition to most courier services.  
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Travel agents are a dime a dozen. It is always advisable to hire the services of agents who have previously proved themselves to family or friends.

Most travellers get drawn to visiting the Taj Mahal a marble masterpiece, a token of eternal love, a true wonder of the world.

Kerala 'God's Own Country' and the beaches of Goa are other popular destinations. 
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The country is dotted with therapy centers which combine their treatment procedures with great locale, ambience and facilities for an unforgettable experience, gearing the patient/tourist for another year ahead in their home countries. And many of them come back regularly.  Top>>

Alternative Therapy
Tourists interested also in collecting curios and artefacts will find an abundance of these in antique stores and may get a surprise bargain at the local 'Thieves Markets' an endearing term for shopping zones specially catering to sale of second-hand or antique stuff. Top>> Antiques Aplenty
 

Medical or 'Wellness' tourism’ is a fast emerging tourism product in  India.

Many of the bigger cities have super-specialty hospitals and treat patients from all around the world.  Because of the world-class facilities at reasonable prices, the patients can afford to be accompanied by their families and choose a combination package where both the patient and those accompanying them get 5-star treatment.  They 'Get well' and are ready for life in their own country once again.

The government of India has announced a new category of visa termed as 'medical visas' for the convenience of persons who want to combine treatment with a great tourism experience in India. Top>>

Where to Advertise? Incredible India Tour Operators - Link above (all) images to your website
References or Links http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India

 

http://www.india.gov.in/overseas/travel_advisories.php
http://www.rbi.org.in/currency/faqs.html
http://www.bsnl.co.in/viewstatecode.php
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