The country of India is located in South Asia. It is surrounded by the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal. The northern part borders China, Nepal, and Bhutan while to the east it borders Bangladesh and beyond that Burma. On its western border are Pakistan and Afghanistan. Despite these countries surrounding it, India is a very open country that welcomes visitors with the same open arms it offers its citizens.
India is a densely populated country and very inviting for tourists. There are many incredible places to visit that offer not only beauty but history as well. This article discusses what makes India such an amazing place, the different regions of India, and some tips on how to make your trip unforgettable.
The diversity in India
One of the most intriguing things about India is the different cultures it holds. Within one small country, there are more languages, religions, and ethnicities than anywhere else in the world! 22 official languages represent over 1 billion citizens. One of these is Tamil which is spoken by some 60 million people. Other major languages include Gujarati (44M), Hindi (40M), Kannada (38M), Bengali (34M), Telugu (33M), Marathi, and Urdu which are spoken by 90-100 million people each. There are also 135 other languages being spoken throughout the country that range in several speakers from only a few hundred to many millions!
The people in India are incredibly diverse. There are Hindus, Muslims, Jains, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, and many other religions that are all represented within Indian citizens. The two largest ethnicities are the Indo-Aryan which makes up around 76% of the population while Dravidian makes up 24%.
The diversity in culture is what makes India one of the most vibrant countries in the world.
India is divided into 29 different states and 7 union territories. The states may be further subdivided into districts and sections and even smaller sections for different cities, towns, and villages. Many languages represent these different areas which add to the diversity within the country.
India is divided up into these key regions:
Northwest India. This region includes Punjab, Haryana, Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttrakhand, Uttar Pradesh, Chandigarh. New Delhi is also located here along with many rivers including the Indus and Ganges.
Central India. This region contains Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Orchha, Bhopal City, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand, and many other states and cities.
Eastern India. This area includes West Bengal, Bihar, Odisha (formerly known as Orissa), Sikkim, and Assam. There are many tea plantations in this region and the biggest river is the Ganges which also flows through Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Nepal.
Southern India. This area includes Andhra Pradesh, Telangana Tamil Nadu (formerly known as Madras), Kerala, Karnataka (formerly known as Mysore), Goa, and Pondicherry which used to be a French colony.
Western India. This section includes Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, and the union territory of Lakshadweep Islands.
The best way to see India’s diversity is by visiting as many states as possible. Many regions within each state are worth visiting!
What to see and do in India
There is so much history throughout the country that cannot be found anywhere else in the world. You can find temples, palaces, forts, monuments, museums, art galleries, local markets with all different types of crafts, and even some of the oldest universities in the world.
India is also home to several UNESCO World Heritage Sites including:
The Taj Mahal in Agra was built from 1632-1653 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife who died while giving birth to their 14th child.
Amber Fort is a 17th-century fort that was originally built of red sandstone but then later on some white marble was used to enhance its beauty.
Ellora Caves are a collection of 34 Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain cave temples and monasteries that were carved into the rocky cliffside in the 5th and 10th centuries.
The Qutb Minar is a huge tower with brick and sandstone which was built in 1192 by Ulugh Khan who wanted to celebrate the Muslim capture of Delhi.
Fort Kochi is a town in the district which used to be an important port for trade between Europe and India until it was taken over by the Portuguese in 1503.
Varanasi is considered to be one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world with evidence that settlements were established here during the Stone Age. It also has the Ganges which is one of the holiest rivers in Hinduism and many Hindus see it as a duty to be cremated here.
The Buddhist caves at Ajanta are one of the most important historical sites in India. The Buddhist monks that lived here were from a sect called Mahayana who created extensive works of art with red, green, ochre, white, and black colors.
In Ajanta, there is a hill that was hollowed out to create Viharas or prayer halls that were used for the monks to live in. There are also two meditation caves and one chaitya or hall that was carved out of a huge boulder which is considered to be the most impressive of all these sites with its painted ceiling and sculpted Buddha figure.
The Qutub Minar is a huge tower located in Delhi that was originally built of red sandstone but then later on some white marble was used to enhance its beauty. The bottom part is solid, octagonal shaped, and made up of Hindu-style architecture while the rest is cylindrical with a series of superimposed galleries.
The tower stands 73 meters high and has 379 stairs. The first three stories are made up of Hindu motifs than the next five have ornamental bands that were added by different rulers from the Khilji Sultanate to the Tughlaqs. Inscriptions all-around show different types of Muslim calligraph
Fatehpur Sikri was built between 1569-1572 by Emperor Akbar I as the capital of his empire until it was abandoned in 1585.
The city is made up of palaces, courts, a mosque, private quarters for courtiers and servants, public buildings that included royal stables, and residential areas for soldiers.
It has red sandstone walls that surround different levels of platforms which are divided into different sections.
Elephanta Caves (these caves and carvings date back to 610-700 CE)
The Elephanta Caves are located on an island of the same name off the coast of Mumbai. There are Hindu caves that have large, sculptured reliefs carved out of the basalt rock which is devoted to different forms of Lord Shiva.
These carvings are very old and were created by Brahmin craftsmen who followed Buddhist traditions that were popular in the Mauryan Empire before it collapsed.
The caves consist of a man cave, two smaller ones, and a few stupas which were later replaced by Hindu temples. The Shiva carvings here are well-known because they include a very large number of human figures as well as animals such as elephants and horses.
India is home to some of the best beaches in the world that will certainly offer you a break from your busy schedule. Here are some places:
Goa is a state in India that has been popular with tourists, ex-pats, and romantics for many years. The state offers a combination of the historical influences from Portugal and France, the natural beauty in its coastlines and beaches, and the vibrant nightlife in its cities.
Kerala is another state in India that has beautiful beaches, countryside, and wildlife. It is particularly popular for its backwater tours where you can go on a houseboat or stay at a luxury resort. You can also visit the mountain ranges of Munnar while you are there.
Pondicherry was once the center of French influence in India until 1954. The buildings, the food, the lifestyle are all still influenced by France. If you are looking for a peaceful place to stay with lots of art and culture then this region offers itself up as an ideal destination.
It also has a great beach with blue water and white sand which is the best to visit.
If you like to shop there are markets throughout the country where you can buy clothes, shoes, jewelry, bags, carpets, antiques, and artifacts. It is common to barter with the local shop owners, so try to keep that in mind as you negotiate a deal for a lower price! Popular shopping destinations include Delhi’s Connaught Place, Mumbai’s Crawford Market, Hyderabad’s Charminar Area, Kolkata’s New Market Area, Jaipur’s Bazaars, and Chennai’s T. Nagar Area.
Most of us know about Indian food, but what does it taste like? The cuisine usually consists of curries that are spicy and made up of spices such as cumin, turmeric, coriander, ginger, cardamom, fennel seeds, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Dishes similar to the ones in Indian cuisine can be found in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Myanmar (Burma), Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia.
The staple food is rice that has many different varieties including brown rice or basmati rice which is popular throughout the country. The main styles of cooking are tandoori which is traditionally cooked in a clay oven called a tandoor, kadhai, balti, and pakora.
Some well-known dishes you might find include chana masala (chickpeas with spices), aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower dish), dal (lentils cooked in a variety of spices), chicken tikka (chicken marinated and then grilled in the oven or on a grill), kebabs, naan (bread that is cooked in the tandoor oven), and biryani (rice dish with vegetables, meat, and/or eggs).
Most airports will have Indian restaurants where you can find all your favorite dishes to taste when you visit.
India is a country that offers so much for anyone who visits. From the bustling metropolises to the peaceful countryside, this dynamic nation has it all. Whether you want to experience its vibrant culture or relax on one of its pristine beaches, India will not disappoint. If you are planning your next vacation and need help with accommodations or additional information about what to pack while visiting India’s many regions, let us know!