THE TAJ MAHAL
The local people in India, particularly in the rural areas, are some of the kindest and most hospitable people I’ve encountered in all of my travels. Whether you’re invited into a local’s home for a traditional meal or just simply wander the streets and encounter children playing, you’ll surely be touched by the warmth of the locals.
The Taj Mahal, one of the seven wonders of the world, is the most iconic symbol of India and is, arguably, the most famous monument in the world. Built by the Emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his favourite wife, this ‘teardrop on the face of eternity’ is widely considered one of the most beautiful architectural wonders ever created. A visit to this marble mausoleum needs to be on every traveller’s list.
Indian food is much more than the catch-all phrase of “curry,” and like most things in India there is a surprising amount of diversity in the country’s cuisine. In the North, you’ll sample clay-oven Tandoor recipes with thick gravy and naan bread, while in the East you’ll find plenty of fish and tortilla-like chapatti, and wafer-thin filled crepes called dosa in the South. There’s plenty of spice if you’re looking for it, sweets covered in silver, and yogurt-based drinks to beat the heat. The best food is prepared within local homes, not in restaurants.
This is a whole separate kind of food from what you’ll find in restaurants. These roadside specialties are not the most sanitary or refined preparations, but they are absolutely delicious. The street food junkies who enjoy it is part of the experience. They’re people from all backgrounds and classes, and it’s a great way to feel connected to the locals. Besides, it’s a cheap treat. Spicy, savory, and sweet dishes are readily available for less than $1.
THE HOLIEST RIVER IN THE WORLD
THE HISTORY & ARCHITECTURE
The Ganges River runs 2,525 km from the northern Himalayas all the way to the Bay of Bengal. It is much more than a river to the one billion Hindus in India and beyond, however. It is their lifeblood. Not only does it provide sustenance in the form of fishing, industry and agriculture, it is also believed to transport the prayers of believers to heaven and a dip in the river is said to purify the soul. Many observant Hindus make a pilgrimage to Varanasi, India’s oldest city, to participate in ceremonies or to cremate the dead along the banks of the Ganges. Hindus believe that if the ashes are washed away in the river, the soul is guaranteed to be transported to heaven and will escape the cycle of rebirth.
Varanasi is believed to be the oldest civilization is among the most India. Situated on the banks of River Ganga, the city holds a sacred spot in Hinduism.Every year, lakhs converge on the Ghats of Varanasi for performing the last rites of their relatives and dear ones. Despite the seemingly macabre surroundings, the Ghats of Varanasi have a certain allure to them. The spirituality and the calmness that prevails here, makes it an excellent destination to attain Nirvana.The best time to escape to Varanasi is anytime from the end of September till March. There are several festivals and events that take place in Varanasi during this period, which showcases the hard core culture.
The province of Rajasthan in the north of India conjures up images Maharajas and Moguls, of majestic forts and opulent palaces. It is said that there is more history in Rajasthan than all of India combined. This is a land of camels, precious jewels and stretching desert landscapes.Major features include the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization at Kalibanga; the Dilwara Temples, a Jain pilgrimage site at Rajasthan's only hill station, Mount Abu, in the ancient Aravalli mountain range; and, in eastern Rajasthan, the Keoladeo National Park near Bharatpur, a World Heritage Site known for its bird life. Rajasthan is also home to two national tiger reserves, the Ranthambore National Park in Sawai Madhopur and Sariska Tiger Reserve in Alwar. The state was formed on 30 March 1949 when Rajputana – the name adopted by the British Raj for its dependencies in the region – was merged into the Dominion of India. Its capital and largest city is Jaipur, also known as Pink City, located on the state's eastern side.
India is an exceptionally beautiful and architecturally diverse country filled with forts, palaces, mosques, temples, monuments and ancient ruins. Home to the world’s oldest civilisation, the architecture of India is rooted in its history, religion and culture. Architectural styles have evolved under the influence of countless dynasties as well as the colonial period. There are currently 32 UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites across the nation, making India a treasure trove for history buffs and design enthusiasts.
RELIGION & SPIRITUALITY
YOGA & MEDITATION
TEMPLES OF GOLD
India has an abundance of folk art, which is kept alive in the small rural communities and is being revived in the big cities. Each region has a unique dance style, music, handicrafts, and more. My favorite thing to do here is to shop for rural artwork because the artists are so talented and use the few materials they have to their fullest potential. All the artwork is unique, one-of-a-kind, and handmade, and usually has a story or meaning behind it that offers some cultural insights.
In India, religion and spirituality are intricately intertwined with everyday life. India is home to all of the major religions of the world and is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Observing the local people engaging in their daily rituals is a profoundly intimate experience. Many people also come to india to find spirituality, practising yoga or attending a meditation retreat in an ashram.
India is the birthplace of yoga and is a combination of physical, mental, and spiritual practices. There are a number of forms, specializations, and focuses. You will find it different than as it is at home. It is more holistic approach that is focused on breathing and mediation than as a chic form of exercise. There are a number of opportunities to experience yoga in India, whether it’s through a private teacher, classes, or a stay at an ashram where yoga is practiced.
In the heart of Punjab, the Golden Temple of Amritsar is a deeply sacred monument to the Sikh, and it is beautiful to behold.Visitors are welcome, so head across the striking mosaic-smothered walkway that leads out over the water to the heart of the temple complex, and prepare to be dazzled. Think gold-plated walls, bronzed cupolas and gleaming decorative marble adorned with floral patterns. Visit at night to see the complex lit up inside and out, and to participate in the Palki Sahib, the veneration of the holy book of the Sikh religion.
THE GREAT HIMALAYAS
ADVENTURE & WILDLIFE
God`s own country - KERALA
The highest mountain range in the world is breathtakingly beautiful and worth a visit. See yourself as a bit of an adventurer? Don’t miss out on the Himalayas. Think jagged peaks crested with diamond-like snow, sunsets, sunrises, and regal Bengal tigers on the roam.
They’re vast and far-reaching, with a difficulty level to suit whatever works for you: snap pictures from afar, hike the meandering trails, or test your fortitude at high altitude with a challenging climb up Jammu or Kashmir. The flower-studded valley of Badrinath, chilly white-water paddling, and the Tibetan-influenced culture of Ladakh all beckon.
No matter where you travel to in India, a keen sense of adventure follows you everywhere you go. Whether you’re riding around the southern beaches of Goa on a Royal Enfield, trekking snow-capped mountains in the north, attempting to spot Bengal tigers and Indian elephants in the wild, or even just navigating the chaotic streets of Delhi, travelling to India is one big adventure.
A state in Southern India is known as a tropical paradise of waving palms and wide sandy beaches. It is a narrow strip of coastal territory that slopes down the Western Ghats in a cascade of lush green vegetation, and reaches to the Arabian sea. Kerala borders the states of Tamil Nadu to the east and Karnataka to the north. It is also known for its backwaters, mountains, coconuts, spices and art forms like Kathakali and Mohini Attam. It is the most literate state in India, and a land of diverse religions, where you can find Hindu temples, mosques, churches, and even synagogues. With world class tourist sporting options, ayurvedic spas and treatments, eco-tourism initiatives, a large number of visit options ranging from beautiful high altitude blue mountains to pristine rain forests to golden sun-sand beaches and an enormous range of accommodation, Kerala has much to offer the visitor.
Embracing the chaos is an important part of any trip to India! There will be endless traffic jams, crowded streets, delays, incessant honking of horns, swerving motorbikes and rickshaws and many invasions of personal space. Learning to relax, going with the flow and being at peace with things happening on ‘Indian time’ will facilitate a much deeper understanding of the nation and culture.
THE FESTIVAL OF COLOURS
FESTIVAL OF LIGHTS
Think paintball taken to serious extremes. India’s Holi, or festival of colors, is a major Hindu event that takes place in March each year. Celebrating the arrival of spring, it’s an excuse to douse everyone around you in colorful powder and dance the night away.
Puffs of vividly hued powder explode into crowds – thrown by everyone from your best friend to temple priests – and the country becomes a rainbow. Leave your good clothes at home, and prepare to spend the next day washing powder out of your hair.
Diwali or Deepavali is the Hindu festival of lights celebrated every year in autumn in the northern hemisphere (spring in southern hemisphere). It is an official holiday.One of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.Its celebration includes millions of lights shining on housetops, outside doors and windows, around temples and other buildings in the communities and countries where it is observed.The festival preparations and rituals typically extend over a five-day period, but the main festival night of Diwali coincides with the darkest, new moon night of the Hindu Lunisolar month Kartika in Bikram Sambat calendar. In the Gregorian calendar, Diwali night falls between mid-October and mid-November.
Before Diwali night, people clean, renovate, and decorate their homes and offices.On Diwali night, people dress up in new clothes or their best outfit, light up diyas (lamps and candles) inside and outside their home, participate in family puja (prayers) typically to Lakshmi – the goddess of fertility and prosperity. After puja, fireworks follow, then a family feast including mithai (sweets), and an exchange of gifts between family members and close friends. Deepavali also marks a major shopping period in nations where it is celebrated.