India is a wonderfully vast and diverse country with a history spanning over more than five millennia. From the towering Himalayas in the north to the Cape Cameron in the south, India is home to snow-clad peaks, sky kissing mountains, vast stretches of coastline with splendid beaches, rolling deserts, Gangetic plains and dense tropical forests inhabited by magnificent wildlife. During a short visit, a tourist can see only a few top sights of the country. One such must see place is Kerala. It is included in the National Geographic top 50 must see destinations of the world. This emerald beauty is strewn with rich green forests, rivers, lagoons and backwaters.
The treat to the eyes include the golden beaches of Kovalam, the Veli lagoons, the Kollam and Alappuzha backwaters, the enchanting hill stations at Munnar and Ponmudi and the waterfalls at Vazhachal and Athirampally. A tourist can never forget a boat ride on the backwaters of Kerala. So is the beauty of the beaches of Goa. The picturesque beaches of Goa dotting her long coastline make the tourists drunk with her beauty. Palm and coconut groves adorn these beaches to make them more inviting. Besides the sea, there are in Goa old historical churches of Gothic style. The Basilica of Bom Jesus Church is the most famous among them. The Taj Mahal in Agra in the state of Uttar Pradesh is one of the most wonderful monuments of the world. Located some 200 km south of New Delhi, India’s capital city, this white marble world heritage structure stands as a testimony of an emperor’s love for his wife. There are other heritage structures worth visiting in India like the Ajanta and Ellora Caves and Akshardham Temple, one of the largest temples in the world. One must visit Kashmir and Rajasthan.
The nature of India is as diverse as her geology. The Deccan Plateau covering the southern and western part of India is formed by the oldest Mesozoic igneous rocks. On the other hand, the Himalayas covering the northernmost part of India were formed during the Tertiary period and are geologically younger than the Deccan lava flows of the Mesozoic volcanic eruptions. The Aravalli Range is the oldest mountain range in India formed during the Proterozoic era. The oldest Precambrian rocks are found in peninsular India and is known by the name gneiss, a type of igneous rock. The gneisses are found in the Aravallis in the state of Karnataka. It is in Karnataka that India’s only goldmine Kolar is situated. Spiti in Jammu and Kashmir in the central Himalayas is composed of sedimentary rocks from Cambrian period.
The sedimentary rocks are rich in fossils. Fossilized faunas are found in the rocks of Kashmir from the Silurian period. While the Jurassic black shales are found in the Sikkim Himalayas, a large part of India is covered by Cretaceous rocks. The sedimentary rock deposits of this period found in South India are rich sources of phosphates. The basalt rocks of the Deccan Traps were formed due to volcanism towards the Cretaceous end. These rocks weathered to form a soil type called loam which is ideal for cultivation of cotton. The building of the Himalayas during the Tertiary period and the Deccan lava flows continued concurrently. These Tertiary deposits are the main sources of coal and petroleum in India. Simla area in Himachal Pradesh is mainly composed of shales and sandstones. The Khasi Hills in Assam are formed from limestones. These sandstones and limestones have oil trapped in them. The Siwalik region in the foothills of the Himalayas is rich in vertebrate fossils.
India is an ancient civilization and her social and cultural ethos has developed over the last over 5000 years influenced both from within and outside. The oldest Indus Valley Civilization dates back to 3250 BC. It saw development of two planned cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro that survived for more than 1500 years. Around that time the Aryans also came to India and Hinduism, the primary religion of the country was born. These two phases of the ancient Indian history comprising of the Indus Valley Civilization and the arrivals of the Aryans to India and origin of Hinduism are known as pre-Vedic and Vedic periods. Besides Hinduism, India is also home to two other great religions- Jainism and Buddhism. During 6th century BC, these religions were founded by Mahavira and Gautama Buddha respectively.
The great Mauryan Emperor Ashoka of the 4th century BC was the first to reign over almost the entire country. Christianity arrived in India during the 1st century AD. Founding and expansion of other religions followed during the period 7th to 15th century AD. The Zoroastrians or the Parsees came to Gujarat in the 7th century, Islam came with the invasion of India by Mohammed Ghori in 1192 and Sikhism was founded in Punjab by Guru Nanak in the 15th century. Ghori was the first Sultan of Delhi. The Sultanate ruled for the next 200 years till the arrivals of the Moghuls. While the Moghuls reigned over almost the entire northern India, the southern India was ruled by the Hindu kings.
From the early 17th century, European traders from Britain, France, Portugal and Holland started to establish their bases in India and the process of colonization commenced. With the setting up of the East India Company, the British rulers dominated over the others in the power struggle that ultimately led to India being ruled by the British Empire for the next 300 years. After a long struggle for freedom, India became independent in 1947.
India is a land of cultural diversity. But she is also a land of unity in diversity. Many cultures and religions coexist giving the country a varied flavor that the visitors find amazing. Every state in India has its distinctive cultural identity. The North, South, East and West India are the four broad cultural divisions of India. The languages, the festivals, art, and music- everything differs from north to south and from east to west. Such immense cultural diversity has however not prevented the Indian society from developing a unified social structure. The people here greet each other with ‘namaskar’ or ‘namaste’, a gesture of bowing down a little with the palms joined together.
This form of salutation acknowledges presence of God in every human being. The Indian festivals display celebration of life with colorful and joyous worship of idols. The famous Indian festivals include the Durga Puja in Kolkata and Ganesha Chaturthi in the western and southern parts of India. The Indian culture encourages people to freely pursue individual religious faiths. The two classical Indian music forms are the Hindustani and the Carnatic. Pop and folk music are also popular in India. The rich cultural traditions of India are demonstrated in her people’s perseverance to adhere to social values like respecting the elders, caring for the aged, treating guests with honor and leading a healthy family life. The younger in the family touch the feet of the elder for getting blessed. Living in unity and helping one another are the hallmarks of Indian culture. The Indian cuisine is deliciously different. Rice and the ‘roti’ are the staple foods of India. The famous dishes include ‘tandoori’ in the northern part, ‘idli’ and ‘dhosa’ in southern India and mouth watering sweets of eastern India like ‘rasogolla’ and ‘sandesh’.
India is a democratic republic of several states and has a parliamentary system of government. This sovereign and secular nation’s polity is governed in terms of the Indian Constitution. The Chief Executive of the Indian Union is the President of India. However actual executive power to administer the country is vested with the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister of India. The President has to act according to the advices of the Prime Minister in the matter of legislation. The government runs on collective responsibility of the council of ministers to the people of India who elect them to the Lok Sabha or the House of the People. This federal structure at the Center is replicated at the state level with the Governor representing the President as the Executive Head of the state.
The actual executive power however lies with the Chief Minister of the State and his council of ministers who forms the state legislative assembly and is collectively responsible to the state legislature elected by the people of the state. The power sharing between the Center and the States is defined by the Constitution of India and the remaining legislative powers are vested with the Central Parliament. It is only the Parliament that can amend the Constitution. The Union Executive of India comprises the President, the Vice President and the Prime Minister with the Council of Ministers to assist and advise the President in framing legislations. The President is elected by the elected members of both Houses of Parliament (Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha) and state legislative assemblies. The President’s term of office is for five years. The election and term of office for the Vice-President is similar. The Parliament of India consists of the President, Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. Both houses of the Parliament have to accord sanctions to all legislations.
Transport in India has a vast network consisting of air, rail, road and shipping transport. The integrated network covers all major parts of the country. The Indian roads with a total length of over 30 lakh km are among the largest roads in the world. Though the highways constitute only 2% of the total roads, they carry almost half of the passengers and goods. There are metalled as well as unmetalled roads in India.
Indian air transport system is quite efficient. There are domestic as well as international flights covering major destinations. Both national and private airlines operate flights within and outside the country. Apart from the national air carriers, there are several private airlines like Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines and IndiGo Airlines. The major international airports in India are Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa, Bangalore, Kerala and Chennai. The Indian Railways has the largest network in the world covering a length of around 63,000 km and carrying more than 11 million passengers each day. Of the total rail route, about 13,000 km is electrified. Having a long coastline, the country has large sea ports important among which are Mumbai, Chennai, Cochin, Vizag and Kolkata.
The travelers can reach such remote destinations in India as Ladakh and Kashmir by air from the capital city of Delhi. Foreign tourists are offered special fares by the Indian Airlines that includes concessional economy class air fares on domestic destinations. The Palace on Wheels is a luxury special train that takes the traveler on a tour of Rajasthan. Run by steam engine, the train has 14 coaches with all modern amenities. It originates and terminates its journey in Delhi covering on the way Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Ranthambae, Chittaurgarh, Udaipur, Bharatpur and Agra. Darjeeling Himalaya can be traveled by toy train and the Andaman Islands can be visited by ship from Chennai or Kolkata.
- Take off your shoes before entering a Hindu temple or religious place.
- Safe keep valuables.
- If important documents are lost, contact nearest police station/Government of India or State Government Tourist Office.
Contact the hotel for assistance or the nearest nursing home in case medical aid is needed.
- Obtain prior information about the place to be visited including law and order situation.
- Arrangements for travel to India must be made in advance when traveling during the busy period between October and March.
- Hire transport only from licensed operators.
- Shake hands with an Indian woman unless she extends her hand.
- Eat food from a roadside shop with unhygienic condition.
- Take alcohol before entering a religious site or temple.
- Accept any offering from strangers.
- Encourage beggars.
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