India, it is often said, is not a country, but a continent. Stretching from the frozen summits of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala, its expansive borders encompass an incomparable range of landscapes, cultures and people. Walk the streets of any city when you visit India and you’ll rub shoulders with representatives of several of the world’s great faiths, encounter temple rituals performed since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, onion-domed mosques erected centuries before the Taj Mahal, and quirky echoes of the British era on virtually every corner.
India has two million gods and workshops them all.
Many first-time visitors find themselves unable to see past such glaring disparities. Others come expecting a timeless ascetic wonderland and are surprised to encounter one of the most materialistic societies on the planet. Still more find themselves intimidated by what may seem, initially, an incomprehensible and bewildering continent. But for all it's jarring juxtapositions, intractable paradoxes and frustrations, India remains an utterly compelling destination. Intricate and worn, its distinctive patina – the stream of life in its crowded bazaars, the ubiquitous filmi music, the pungent melange of diesel fumes, cooking spices, dust and dung smoke – casts a spell that few forget from the moment they step off a plane. Love it or hate it – and most travellers oscillate between the two – India will shift the way you see the world.
Indians have a saying, ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (‘Guest is God’), and you’ll be warmly welcomed whether you’re staying in a converted palace, jungle camp or Keralan family home.
The culture of India is one of the oldest and unique. In India, there is amazing cultural diversity throughout the country. The South, North, and Northeast have their own distinct cultures and almost every state has carved out its own cultural niche. There is hardly any culture in the world that is as varied and unique as India. India is a vast country, having variety of geographical features and climatic conditions. India is home to some of the most ancient civilizations, including four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
A combination of these factors has resulted into an exclusive culture- Indian culture. Indian culture is a composite mixture of varying styles and influences. In the matter of cuisine, for instance, the North and the South are totally different. Festivals in India are characterized by color, gaiety, enthusiasm, prayers and rituals.
The population of a country is what makes it. The people you meet as a visitor will influence your thinking and the friendliness can make a huge difference to the overall view of your holiday and the country.
The people of India in the most part are very friendly and helpful. Many customers tell us how much they loved meeting the locals and how welcome they were made to feel.
It is a great help that most Indians speak some English – and they love to practice it. It is also true that they are very ‘service’ minded and if you ask for help (eg to carry a bag, ask for directions etc) they will willingly assist you.
There are more than 120 National Parks and 500 Wildlife Sanctuaries in India, these along with the 18 Bio-Reserves offer a wide range of wildlife experiences. India has some of the most bio diverse regions in the world and has three biodiversity hotspots with many endemic and endangered animals including the Bengal tiger; Asian elephant; wild dog (dhole); Asiatic lion; sloth bear; garial (crocodile). It is a rich country for bird watchers and those interested in amphibians, reptiles and insects are also rewarded with the range India has to offer.
India has 2 official languages, Hindi and English, which are spoken very widely. However, there are also 21 other languages which are recognised by the Indian Constitution, and overall there are more than 1500 languages spoken across the country. Due to British colonial influence, English is spoken widely in the context of education, government and business.
In North and Central India, Hindi serves as the de facto lingua franca, however in the South there has been some resistance to the promotion of Hindi as a national language, with southerners feeling that it will diminish the importance of their regional languages. As a result, in the South of India, English is the more commonly heard of the two official languages.
Festivals & Religions
India is well known all over the world as a country of cultural and traditional festivals as it has many cultures and religions. One can enjoy the festival celebration in India every month.
As it is a secular country full of diversity in the religions, languages, cultures and castes, it is always crowded with the people involved in the fairs and festivals celebration. People from each religion have their own cultural and traditional festivals.
The major festival in India is Holi, Diwali, Eid, Navratri, Christmas & Kumbh Mela.
The food of India is another major attraction. The food of North India is rich (cooked in ghee) and often served with breads whereas in South India there is a stronger emphasis on vegetarian food which is mostly cooked in coconut oil, served with vast quantities of rice.
Meat is mainly chicken or mutton (goat) but in Kerala and Bengal you may be offered beef. Fish is popular in coastal regions.
Vegetarians and vegans will find India one of the easiest places in the world to visit and enjoy a wide variety of dishes.
In India it’s traditional to greet people using ‘Namaste’ – place both hands together and bow slightly. In urban areas this is often overlooked. Men will often also shake hands when meeting or leaving. Men should not attempt to shake hands with women. Some Indian women might shake hands with a western woman.
Indian culture is based on a hierarchical system so elders and superior are greeted first. Religion, caste and social standing all effect greetings Indian etiquette is an unusual mixture of British and Asian influences. Therefore in some ways their customs will seem familiar to westerners, and in other ways they differ greatly.
In India, traditional clothing varies hugely in different parts of the vast country. It is common to see draped, flowing outfits, such as the sari for women, and the dhoti for men. In recent years a passion for bright colours and shiny and ostentatious jewellery and accessories has become more apparent in female dress.
In urban areas, it is common to see both men and women wearing more Western-influenced clothes, and in a business context suits and ties for men are the norm.
The weather in India varies dramatically. While the southern tip of India is being lashed by tropical monsoon rain, the north will be blanketed in thick snow. Therefore, the best time to travel to India depends greatly on the destinations to be visited and the climate experienced there.
Indian weather itself is divided into three distinct seasons -- winter, summer, and the monsoon. Generally, the best time to visit India is during the winter, when the weather in most places is relatively cool and pleasant.
In India, currency is the Rupee. Because the Rupee is non-convertible it cannot be taken out of India, so you cannot get currency before you travel. You can change money at the airport, in banks and large hotels. ATMs are available too, especially in more established resorts. While Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted, we recommend you check with your card provider about what fees they charge for transactions abroad. These vary considerably, and can add up over the course of your holiday. There may also be limits on how much cash you can withdraw during a 24-hour period, so check you will be able to take out enough to cover your needs
Tips in India are typically referred to as baksheesh. Think of giving baksheesh as a small act of appreciation for good service. You will be asked for baksheesh in India often but may refuse anytime. Tips in India are often much smaller (up to 10 percent) than what is expected in the United States and other countries where employees depend on customer gratuity as an important part of their salaries.
Get some small change as quickly as possible after arriving in India. Make a practice of separating your money; carry a few small bills in an accessible pocket so that you can give baksheesh quickly without digging through a wad of money in view of everyone. You shouldn't have to expose your wallet to snatch thieves each time you give a small tip — which you may find is more often than expected.
Note: Beggars in India often approach with demands of "Baksheesh! Baksheesh!" Someone asking you on the street for baksheesh without providing a service is simply begging. Child begging gangs and hierarchies are a serious problem in India — don't perpetuate this nefarious industry by making it profitable.
In India, scope for tourism activities prevails through out the year. The best time to visit India depends on your tour theme or purpose of visit. Winter (Nov-Dec-Jan-Feb) is the most preferred time for tourists in India. Tours for Heritage tourism, cultural tourism, wildlife tourism are mostly organized during this time. The Central India & Southern regions are good destinations in the winter months (November to March), as temperatures are mild and game viewing in the national parks is at its best. Winter temperatures in the north can be harsh, but this is an excellent time for bird watching, as migrant species arrive. Winter is also the breeding time for big cats. Summer weather (April to June) in the south is mild and this is the ideal time for beach holiday or cultural tours in this region. In the north, summers are an excellent time to visit the Himalayas. Although hot, summer is considered a good time for wildlife photography and safaris in the interior, as the jungle thickets dry out and game becomes concentrated at watering holes.
Summers are good for adventure tourism and hill station visits of North India and North East areas. For trekking it is the ideal time. North & Eastern regions like Leh-ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Sikkim etc are the mostly visited states & reigons during summers.