India Travel Guide

History
Indian history dates back to 3000 BC. Excavations in Punjab and Gujarat reveal that the Indus Valley civilisation was a highly developed urban civilisation. In fact the two cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, situated on two sides of the river Ravi, are known to have been built on a similar plan. But that only meant a new wave of urbanisation was taking place along the Ganges around 1500 BC. This has been recorded in the Rig Veda – the earliest known literary source composed in this period that sheds light on India’s past.

The Great Dynasties
By 6th century BC, the Magadh rulers dominated the Northern plains. It was also the time when new thinking emerged in the form of Buddhism and Jainism to challenge Hindu orthodoxy. The Magadh rule was followed by the rule of Chandragupta Maurya (322-298 B.C.), one of India’s greatest emperors. The Mauryan reign peaked under the reign of Ashoka the Great who extended his empire from the Kashmir and Peshawar in the North to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East. Not only was Ashoka a great ruler, he was one of the most successful propagators of Buddhism in the country. After Ashoka’s death in 232 B.C. the empire began to disintegrate and the country was repeatedly raided and plundered by foreign invaders, leaving India disunited and weak for the next 400 years. Stability returned with the reign of Chandra Gupta I (380-412 A.D.). His rule is considered the golden period in Indian history when art and culture flourished and the country prospered.

Geography
India is the 7th largest country in the world. It has a total area of 3,166,414 square kilometer. Situated north of the equator, the country lies between 68°7′ and 97°25′ east longitude and between 8°4′ and 37°6′ north latitude. The second most-populous country in the world, it is surrounded by countries like Nepal, Bhutan, China, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Myanmar on land and by the Indian Ocean, mainly the Bay of Bengal, the Laccadive Sea and the Arabian Sea. The highest point of India is Kangchenjunga (8,598 m/28,208.7 ft) and the lowest point is Kuttanad (−2.2 m/−7.2 ft).

India is divided into 6 physiographic regions:

  1. The Northern Mountains: This region consists of the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain range.
  2. The Peninsular Plateaus: The largest and oldest physiographic region constitutes the Vindhya range, the Malwa Plateau, the Deccan Plateau, the Chota Nagpur Plateau, the Satpura Range, the Aravali Range, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats.
  3. Indo-Gangetic Plains: Also known as the Great Plains, three main rivers i.e. the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra dominate this region. It runs parallel to the Himalayas and covers 700,000 sq km in area.
  4. Thar Desert: It is one of the largest deserts in the world with an area of 200,000. Most of the desert is located in Rajasthan. It enters into Pakistan as well.
  5. The Coastal Plains: This region is composed of Eastern Coastal Plain, which stretches from Tamil Nadu in the south to the West Bengal in the east, and Western Coastal Plain, which lies between the Western Ghats and the Arabian Sea.
  6. The Islands: Two major island groups the Lakshadweep Islands off the coast of Kerala in the Arabian Sea and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal near the Burmese coast and other islands make up this region. Barren Island, which is the only active volcano in India, is situated in the Andaman Islands.

How to Enter India
Tourist can enter in India by different modes of transportation:

  • By Air
  • By Overland
  • By Sea

But they need visa before entering in India.

India Visa Info
An Indian visa is issued by the Indian embassy or a consulate. In many countries, the job of collecting the application form and fees has been outsourced to a visa agency. Check the website of the Indian embassy or consulate nearest to you (depending upon the country from where you are applying.)
The general documentary requirements for obtaining a tourist visa to India are as follows:

  1. A valid passport that has a validity of 6 months remaining and at least two blank visa pages.
  2. Proof of residency, if you’re not applying from your home country. Check with the Indian consulate in your country as to what factors apply in these cases.
  3. Two passport-size photos (2″ x 2″) that were taken within the last 6 months. These should be without glasses.
  4. A completed Indian visa application form.
  5. Fees for the Indian visa, as stated on the visa website for your nationality and the country you are applying from.

You must fill in your India tourist visa application form online and print a copy afterwards. Be very careful when completing the form as even a minor error in spelling or a typo can get your application rejected. All names and addresses should match your passports and other identification documents that you submit along with your application.

Other than your passport, don’t submit any original documents. Send color copies instead, as the embassies warn that they are not responsible for any original documents lost.

People, Language and Culture

People
India is the world’s second most populous nation (after China). Its ethnic composition is complex, but two major strains predominate: the Aryan, in the north, and the Dravidian, in the south. India is a land of great cultural diversity, as is evidenced by the enormous number of different languages spoken throughout the country. Although Hindi (spoken in the north) and English (the language of politics and commerce) are used officially, more than 1,500 languages and dialects are spoken. The Indian constitution recognizes 15 regional languages (Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu). Ten of the major states of India are generally organized along linguistic lines.

Language
India has 28 states and seven territories, according to the World Health Organization. There is no official language in India, according to a Gujarat High Court ruling in 2010. Many people living in India also write in Devanagari script. In fact, it is a misconception that the majority of people in India speak Hindi. Though many people speak Hindi in India, 59 percent of India residents speak something other than Hindi, according to The Times of India. Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu are some other languages spoken in the country.

Culture
India’s culture is among the world’s oldest. Civilization in India began about 4,500 years ago. Many sources describe it as “Sa Prathama Sanskrati Vishvavara” — the first and the supreme culture in the world, according to the All World Gayatri Pariwar (AWGP) organization.
Western societies did not always see the culture of India very favorably, according to Christina De Rossi, an anthropologist at Barnet and Southgate College in London. Early anthropologists once considered culture as an evolutionary process, and ”every aspect of human development was seen as driven by evolution,” she told Live Science. “In this view, societies outside of Europe or North Americans, or societies that did not follow the European or Western way of life, were considered primitive and culturally inferior. Essentially this included all the colonized countries and people, such as African countries, India, and the Far East”.

However, Indians made significant advances in architecture (Taj Mahal), mathematics (the invention of zero) and medicine (Ayurveda). Today, India is a very diverse country, with more than 1.2 billion people, according to the CIA World Factbook, making it the second most populous nation after China. Different regions have their own distinct cultures. Language, religion, food and the arts are just some of the various aspects of Indian culture.

Festival and Holidays

Festival

Diwali
Diwali is a five-day festival that represents the start of the Hindu New Year. It’s known as the “Festival of Lights” for all the fireworks, small clay lamps, and candles that are lit during the celebrations. These lights are said to represent the victory of good over evil, and brightness over darkness. The candlelight makes Diwali a very warm and atmospheric festival, and it’s observed with much joy and happiness.

Ganesh Chaturthi
The spectacular eleven day Ganesh Chaturthi festival honors the birth of the beloved Hindu elephant-headed god, Lord Ganesha. The start of the festival sees huge, elaborately crafted statutes of Ganesha installed in homes and podiums, which have been especially constructed and beautifully decorated. At the end of the festival, the statutes are paraded through the streets, accompanied by much singing and dancing, and then submerged in the ocean.

Holi
Holi is a two-day festival that also celebrates the victory of good over evil, as well as the abundance of the spring harvest season. It’s commonly referred to as the “Festival of Colors”. People exuberantly throw colored powder and water all over each other, have parties, and dance under water sprinklers. Bhang (a paste made from cannabis plants) is also traditionally consumed during the celebrations. Holi is a very carefree festival that’s great fun to participate in if you don’t mind getting wet and dirty.

Krishna Janmashtami/Govinda
Krishna Janmashtami, also known as Govinda, commemorates the birthday of Lord Krishna. An extremely fun part of the festival involves people climbing on each other and forming a human pyramid to try and reach and break open clay pots filled with curd, which have been strung up high from buildings.

Customs and celebrations
The country celebrates Republic Day (Jan. 26), Independence Day (Aug. 15) and Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (Oct. 2). Diwali is the largest and most important holiday to India, according to National Geographic. It is a five-day festival known as the festival of lights because of the lights lit during the celebration to symbolize the inner light that protects them from spiritual darkness. Holi, the festival of colors, also called the festival of love, is popular in the spring.

Weather and Climate
Monsoon or rainy season lasts from June to September. The season is dominated by the humid southwest summer monsoon, which slowly sweeps across the country beginning in late May or early June. Monsoon rains begin to recede from North India at the beginning of October. South India typically receives more rainfall.

As such, the seasons of the year are observed in India as follows: Winter – January to February; Spring – March to May; Summer – May to September; Autumn – October to December.