India is a fascinating country. It is home to thousand year old ornately sculptured temples, the world famous Taj Mahal, modern skyscrapers, and prevalent slums. It is framed by the daunting Himalaya’s in the north, the Arabian Sea and Pakistan in the west and the Bay of Bengal and Bangladesh in the east. The southern tip of India is washed by the waves of the azure Indian Ocean separating it from Sri Lanka. India contains an astonishing variety of geographical features from stretches of eternally frozen glaciers, deep rain-forests, fertile valleys, blistering deserts, and palm sprinkled silvery beaches.
It is an ancient land, with an absorbing history. The Neolithic Indus Valley civilization, almost 5000 years ago, extended much over what is now Pakistan and western India. The Aryans spread the Vedic civilization until the 1st millennium from the west through the Gangetic plains in the east. In the south, Dravidian culture was prominent and flourishing. Great religions were born, vast empires rose and fell; and waves of invaders repeatedly attacked India for its treasures. From the 10th century Islamic empires were established, ending with the Mogul Empire. European colonialism began in the 17th century, ushering in a new era in the region, by Portugal, Holland, France and lastly, Britain. India gained independence in the late 1940’s mainly through the non-violent movement for freedom and justice led by M.K. Gandhi, which left an incredible impression throughout the modern world.
Over thousands of years, geographical, historical and religious influences have weaved the colorful fabric of Indian culture, one of the oldest known to humanity. Tall, fair skinned and green eyed Aryans, small framed Asians and dark skinned Dravidians, have all left a complex demographic profile in the society. Religion, in many forms, is the basis of India’s cultural context. This is entwined with every aspect of life and culture in India. The diversity is reflected in the 17 major languages and 900 dialects. Hindi is the National language but use of English remains extensive in education and business. Traditions, rituals, art, music and dance, drama, literature, movies, recreation, sports and cuisine all have their distinct flavors depending on the region of the country. It never fails to amaze observers, who witness bullock carts competing with motor vehicles, street vendors selling their wares in the shadow of fashionable shopping centers and snake charmers existing amicably with physicians and scientists.
Traveling in India can be a colorful, inspiring and interesting experience. It can also be confusing, chaotic and frustrating. Many love it, some are challenged by it, but no one can come back indifferent. India almost demands response from its visitors. It is essential to get reliable information when planning a trip to India.
More and more foreigners are visiting India for reasons other than sight-seeing. Companies are sending their employees as expatriates and consultants are being invited to live and work in India. To meet their needs, many local and international organizations are available to assist with obtainable resources. Indian embassy and consulates are good sources for such a search.
The spirit of India eludes easy definition or explanation. India is many things to many people and each individual comes away with a unique experience.