Posted on 26/08/2018

#Culture #India

Incredible India

From the icy mountains of the north to the stunning, sunny beaches of the south, India is endowed with natural beauty and breathtaking landscapes. Home to the world's second largest population, it is an exceptionally diverse country with a culture that changes every 6 miles. A trip to India is a trip through history, tradition and culture, and a spectacle of unity in diversity.

Ganga Aarti

Start your journey with a dip in India's holiest river, Ganga, and be transported to another world by witnessing the evening Aarti (Prayer of the River). People across the globe visit Varanasi, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, to feel the grandeur of this holy act. Whether you are religious or not, this evening prayer of the Ganges will give you goosebumps. It's a sight to remember, and will leave you with a feeling that's difficult to express. - © Nastya Tepikina/123RF

Ladakh

Bound by the Great Himalayas and Karakoram Range, Ladakh lies amidst quiet monasteries, thrilling mountain passes and a unique culture. A trip to Ladakh is a dream destination for every adventure seeker and nature lover. With sights such as the serene Pangong Lake, the peaceful Thiksey monastery, and the gravity-defying Magnetic Hill, Ladakh is the ideal mountain experience. - ©Rudra Narayan Mitra/123RF

Handicrafts of India

Each region of India has its own unique handicrafts that further amplify the beauty of this diverse country. In the north, you'll find a rich tradition of woodwork with intricate carvings and nuanced designs. Kashmir is home to the famous Pashmina shawl, which is made entirely by hand. Bikaner in Rajasthan is known for its painted pottery, and Kolhapur in Maharashtra is famous for its kolhapuri chappals (leather shoes). West Bengal, Assam and Tripura are your destinations for ecofriendly crafts. They specialize in making furniture, toys, mats, dolls, and many more items from bamboo. If you are a fan of clothes, then you'll be awed by the Zardozi embroidery work primarily done in Lucknow, Bhopal, Hyderabad, Kashmir, Agra and Ajmer. These elaborate designs are made wth gold and silver threads to stunning effect. The saree, a traditional outfit worn by most Indians, varies with every state. In the south, Tamil Nadu is known for Kanchipuram sarees with soothing motifs and colours, while in the north, Banarasi silk sarees with zari work are very common. - © Marina Pissarova/123RF

Amazing Architecture

Much like its handicrafts, Indian architecure is also rooted in history, culture and religion. With 33 million gods and goddesses, you are bound to see innumerable temples with different styles of architecture all around the country. Some must-visit temples include the Shore Temple of Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu, the Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur, the Somnath Temple in Gujarat, and the Konark Sun Temple in Odisha. These architectural marvels are a delight for even the most seasoned traveller. Seeing the shadow of the Brihadeeswara Temple disappear at noon is something to behold. The Ajanta and Ellora caves carved into the hillside rock of Northen Maharashtra, Mumbai are a delight for the history enthusiast. The 34 caves at Ellora were built between the 6th and 11th centuries, and the 29 caves in Ajanta were built between the 2nd and 6th centuries. They were carved by hand with a hammer and chisel, and if this doesn't impress you then the Kailash Temple in the 16th Ellora cave will leave you spellbound. It's twice the size of the Pantheon in Athens, and is one and a half times as high. - ©Marina Pissarova/123RF

The Great Heritage of Dance and Music

There are a myriad of different languages and cultures in India, but what unites this land most of all is dance and music. No matter where you find yourself in India, all the varied dance forms can be understood in the context of Indian life and thought. They are different in their steps, postures and costumes, but they all portray the richness of this land through their respective styles. The same goes for India's soulful music. Indians have a song for every occasion; you name it, and they have a song for it. From songs of separation to child birth, from motherhood to the torrential rain, India has a song for them all. And believe me, they even have a song for every emotion and feeling. Find time for a classical or folk dance performance during your trip. As an integral part of Indian cultural life and heritage, they're a must-see. - ©Dmitry Rukhlenko/123RF

The Land of Spices

India is the world's largest producer, consumer and exporter of spices. It produces 75 out of 109 varieties of spices in its various climatic regions. With so many spices at their disposal, Indian food is one of a kind. It's no surprise then that Indians take their food very seriously. Known for its aroma and taste, Indians spend hours preparing sumptuous dishes like mutton rogan josh, malabar mathi curry, biryani, and especially chicken chettinad, which you absolutely must try. Other famous dishes from this exquisite land are chicken tikka, mutton kebab, dal makhni, shahi paneer, gulab jamun, lassi, pongal, dosa, thepala and many more. The names of the dishes might be difficult for you to pronounce, but the point is that every street in India will welcome you with its own special meal that will fill your mouth with a new delight. For the vegetarian travellers, this is the place for you. Indian food is teeming with quality and quantity when it comes to meatless menus. - © Aleksander Sajewicz/123RF

The Great Rann of Kutch

The Great Rann of Kutch in the Thar Desert in the Kutch District of Gujarat is one of the largest salt deserts in the world. Spread across around 3,861 square miles, it remains entirely underwater during monsoon season. However, for the remaining eight months of the year, it dries out to become an enormous stretch of white salt. Make sure to plan your trip here on a night with a full moon to see the white carpet of salt glow like a dreamland. It's surreal to witness, and even if you miss out on the full moon, stay on the salt land for the transcendental sunset. - © kreativeart/123RF

The Taj Mahal

The Taj Mahal is not only India's pride but one of the most celebrated structures in the world. It was constructed under the rule of the Mughal emperor, Shah Jahan, in 1632 to house the remains of his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It took more than 20 years to build this iconic structure on the banks of the Yamuna River in Agra. It's a fine example of Mughal architecture, and a stunning symbol of India's rich history. The Taj Mahal is a must-visit. If you find Mughal architecture to your liking, visit Fatehpur Sikri in Agra, and Humayun's Tomb and the Lal Qila (Red Fort) in Delhi. - ©belikova/123RF

The Festivals of India

Expect a festival or two every month in India due to the country's diversity. Each festival is a unique experience with its own history, legend and significance. Diwali, the festival of lights, is the most significant Hindu festival. Families decorate their homes with fancy lights, clay lamps, flowers, candles and elaborate floor designs called rangoli. The festival lights up the entire country on the darkest new-moon night. Holi, the festival of colors, is the most vibrant festival. Friends and family play with water and coloured powder to celebrate the coming of spring, the triumph of good over evil, and to come together as one. Mathura, Vrindavan and Banaras are the best places to witness a Holi celebration. Ganesh Chaturthi brings Mumbai to a standstill with its 11 days of continuous celebrations. The energetic dancing and singing on the streets is infectious, and you are bound to sing or dance along with them. Dussehra, Eid, Gurupurab, Durga Puja are some of the other widely celebrated festivals in India, and if you happen to be travelling during one of them be sure to join in the celebrations. - ©phive2015/123RF

The Majestic Beaches of India

In India, there's so much to see and do that it's easy to get overwhelmed with the sights and sounds. So take a holiday from the holiday, and let yourself relax at one of the many beautiful beaches that India has to offer. Whatever your preference, India will shower you with choices; you can select one, or try them all! Take it easy on a houseboat in the Kerala backwaters in Alappuzha, known as the 'Venice of the East'. Here you can also enjoy an authentic Ayurvedic massage. Or make your way to Goa, the city of beaches. However, Havelock Island in Andaman might just win first prize. This quiet island is the ideal getaway from the hustle bustle of the city. It's calm and serene with swimming elephants, white sand and an unbeatable coral reef. - ©Marina Pissarova/123RF

With second largest population in the world, over 780 spoken languages, 9 recognized religions, India is once in a lifetime experience that you don't want to miss out on.