What is IndiaJun 07 2022
Brief information about the country
India is no place for a coward. A constant challenge to the mind and body, it thoroughly shakes your entire system. It excites, exhausts and infuriates. You will soon discover that this is a land where the realities of everyday life prevail over the mysteries of popular myth. Instead of the well-known and often misunderstood mysticism of ancient religions, India actually has a very different wonder to offer: the richness of its peoples and landscapes.
India is shaped like a diamond, stretching over 3,000 km from the Himalayas in the north to Kanyakumari, or Cape Kumari, in the Indian Ocean . From east to west, India also stretches for about 3000 km from Arunachal Pradesh and Assam on the border with its neighbors China and Myanmar to the state of Gujarat, washed by the Arabian Sea . The topography ranges from the snows of the high Himalayas to the deserts of Rajasthan and the lush tropical landscapes of Kerala.
It was only in more modern post-colonial times that it ceased to include the neighboring countries of Pakistan and Bangladesh , which, despite hostilities, have an undeniable cultural affinity with India. The sheer size of India’s territory implies distinct and inevitably conflicting regional and religious interests. India has at least 22 official languages: Hindi, Urdu, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Bengali, Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Maithili, Santali, Dogri, Punjabi (Punjabi), Assamese, Bodo, Manipuri, Nepalese, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Konkani, Kannada (Kannara), Tamil and Telugu. Approximately 850 languages are used daily.
The official national language is Hindi, much to the annoyance of the Tamils, but it is spoken by a minority of the people, as well as English, still used by government offices and institutions, which is spoken by only 5% of the people, mainly in the south and in the big cities.
One of the first impressions that you will get already at the airport of Delhi or Mumbai (Bombay) is the diversity of the peoples of India. When you meet green-eyed Kashmiris and Tibetans, sometimes even brown-haired, natives of North and Central India who speak European languages, as well as dark-skinned Dravidians from the south, you soon realize that there is no such thing as a “typical” Indian.
The prehistoric settlers of India were probably the kind of people that anthropologists call proto-Australoids. Since then, Mongols, Aryans, Greeks, Turks, Persians and Afghans have joined them, and the Dutch, British, Portuguese and French have also left their mark.
Landscape and heritage
The landscapes of India are contrasting. The territory is either covered with lush vegetation, or deserted and arid. The majestic Himalayas to the north provide a suitable home for Shiva, one of the most revered Indian gods. Kashmir is a beautiful and secluded land of green forests, high meadows and lakes, while the Punjab in the northwest is the country’s fertile breadbasket, providing it with wheat, barley and millet.
At the threshold of this richness, the Thar Desert of Rajasthan precedes the vast Deccan Plateau, the scorched, reddish granite formations that dominate the peninsula that is South India.
Delhi is located at the western end of the Ganges basin , where most of India’s rice is grown. Covered on both sides by forested areas leading to the foothills of the Himalayas , the flat plain extends for 1,600 km to the Bay of Bengal, but parts of it are preserved as the country’s wildlife sanctuaries, in particular for tigers, leopards and elephants. The vegetation of Bengal is the forerunner of the tea plantations of Darjeeling and Assam.
The southern peninsula is bordered by low mountains: Vindhya and Satpura from the north and the Western and Eastern Ghats, located parallel to the coast from the west and east, respectively. On the forested Malabar Coast to the west, coconuts, betel nuts, peppers, cardamom, rubber and cashew nuts are grown. Until now, all these exotic products serve as an attractive commodity, forcing ships to cross the Arabian Sea. Palm trees border the entire coast of the Hindustan peninsula, from Mumbai to the Ganges delta .
An integral part of the landscapes of India are also man-made architectural treasures, evidence of the existence of major religions and civilizations that have enriched the country. Now the historical monuments, after many centuries of desolation, are being preserved with the help of a restoration program under the control of the department engaged in archeological research in India.
The attractions are endless: Hindu gopuras (temple towers) in the south, the ghats of Varanasi (Benares), cave monasteries of Ajanta and Ellora, beautiful and erotic sculptures of Khajuraho , luxurious marble palaces, fortresses and mausoleums of emperors and maharajas in Delhi , Agra and Rajasthan, colonial government buildings in New Delhi or municipal buildings in Mumbai in an unusual oriental gothic style.
Urban bastis (slum areas) are often directly in the shadow of glittering skyscrapers built by the inhabitants of the same slums. Here women carry piles of bricks on their heads as gracefully as they would carry a pitcher of water. Women are responsible for another feature of the Indian landscape – cow cakes – which they save as fuel and skillfully build whole hills out of them.
The only thing that is constant in the vast expanses of India is people. Even in the vast open spaces of the Rajasthan desert or the Deccan plateau in Central India, people appear everywhere: a native on a camel or a lone woman holding the end of her head covering with her teeth so that dust does not enter her mouth while she carries a huge jug of water or a bundle of firewood on her head.
If there is even one tree on a street in India that stretches out to the horizon in front of you, you will almost certainly find at least one sadhu (holy man) resting in its shade under it.
The population sizes of Delhi , Mumbai and Kolkata have become the talk of the town. Crowds of people move along the highway, peeking out of tiny auto rickshaws and piling up on the roofs of buses and trains. A family of four or five manages to fit on a motor scooter, and an entire school class on a single bullock cart. It’s dangerous: buses overturn, passengers from the roofs of trams are sometimes knocked down by an overhanging cable, but they take risks for the sake of a free ride. Rooftop riders are not in the habit of buying tickets.
Despite significant economic growth, there are still a huge number of people living in complete poverty, especially in big cities, but also in rural areas. In India, poverty is carried with a kind of stoicism that Westerners find hard to comprehend.
The concept of crowding and crowding may seem alien to many tourists, but in India it is a way of life. And everyone makes way for the cow, sacred to the Indian. A cow has the right to go anywhere, whether she’s pacing carelessly through downtown or lying in the middle of a new expressway. After a while, you can detect something slightly supernatural in the way she looks around and beyond her surroundings: as if knowing that she is sacred.
You cannot ignore this: India is a country where religion is omnipresent. Although India has the status of a secular state under the modern constitution, religion still plays an important role in daily life. Its symbols are presented on the streets, as well as on the great monuments of architecture, painting and sculpture.
No other country in the world has such a diversity of beliefs as India, which is reflected in the religious activities of its inhabitants and the beautiful architecture of its churches, mosques and shrines.
All temples are open to the public in principle, with the exception of some Hindu temples and all Zoroastrian (Parsi) fire temples. Mosques are closed to non-Muslims at certain times of the day. Most temples will ask you to take off your shoes and/or cover your head, so it’s worth taking some kind of headdress or headscarf for such occasions.
Sikh gurdwaras are not allowed with tobacco, and Jain temples are not allowed with any leather goods (including wallets). So if you don’t want to miss out on the sights of the city, consider wearing your money in a belt – canvas or some other suitable fabric.
There are synagogues in the big cities of India, such as Mumbai and Delhi ; There are Christian churches of various denominations in virtually every city.
Over 80% of India’s population is Hindu, which is more of a way of life than a religion; his sacred rituals and observance of customs are only a small part of what good Hindus think makes them good Hindus. Far more than the elements of mysticism that fascinate and draw so many Westerners here, Hinduism is concerned with the essentials of daily life: birth, work, health, love relationships, and death—all without regular consultation with an astrologer.
Therefore, the main religion of India owes its popularity to the fact that it offers something for everyone: mysticism and metaphysics for scientists, rituals and spectacles for its adherents, austerity, sensuality, tranquility and madness.
Based on ancient local beliefs and Vedic teachings of the Indo-Aryans dating back to the second millennium BC. e., Hinduism began to take its current forms in the 4th century. n. e. pressured by the need for a more “accessible” religion. A popular religious belief, bhakti, with its appeal to many people, has replaced a belief held by brahmins (priests) and involving sacrifice.
It is said that in the pantheon of Indian gods there are 330 million gods, but they can be considered 330 million manifestations of one deity. The three most important manifestations of the deity are Vishnu, Brahma and Shiva, often presented to Westerners as a trinity, although this is not really comparable to the Christian concept.
Vishnu is the guardian of the universe; four-armed god with mace, conch, disk and lotus. He has many incarnations, the most famous being Krishna, who appears as a conquering hero, a flute-playing lover, or a mischievous child. Vishnu’s wife Lakshmi is the goddess of wealth. Brahma is the creator of the world, self-born (without a mother) in a lotus flower, grown from the navel of Vishnu at the birth of the universe.
Shiva is the dancing god of destruction; around his neck and arms is a garland of skulls and snakes. Being the god of time and hermits, he decides the fate of the world. Lord of animals and king of dance, Shiva is as passionate as Vishnu is serene. Just in case everything seems clear to you, remember that Shiva regulates the world order through renewal, which is the result of destruction.
Hindu ethics says that the road to salvation has three principles: justice, honestly achieved prosperity, and no less pleasure. At the center of the confrontation with the harsh realities of everyday life is the concept of dharma and karma. It is “correct” behavior and the knowledge that the total sum of a person’s actions in a previous life will determine his state in this and future lives.
The best reincarnation is promised to those whose deeds and deeds have been good in this life. The ultimate goal is spiritual salvation, or moksha, liberation from the cycle of rebirth.
While this teaching served to maintain a strong hierarchy of the caste system, it is not as fatal as it seems. Hindus say that we cannot avoid karma, but by relying on sanity and foresight, we can use it to our advantage.
By the 19th century reformers like the Bengali Ram Mohan Roy tried to adapt Hinduism to ideas borrowed from Europeans, but, fortunately, the monkey god Hanuman and the elephant-headed god Ganesha are still idolized, and no one denies the sanctity of the cow and all its products: milk, cottage cheese, butter and excrement.
One of the most infamous rituals, the self-sacrifice of widows, known as sati (members of some ultra-traditional castes believe that a widow becomes a sati, “virtuous woman” by climbing on her husband’s funeral pyre), was outlawed by the British in the 19th century. and now almost disappeared.
Even today, India’s intricate caste system can play a role in Indians’ choice of job, spouse, and political party, despite the many anti-discrimination laws that have been put in place since India became an independent country. Brahmins, a caste of priests, hold many of the highest positions in universities and administration; many Indian army officers come from the proud Kshatriya (warrior) caste; the business is managed by members of the Vashya caste, and the people from the Sudra caste are engaged in agriculture.
Indians from the untouchable caste (now called “Dalits”) now have great opportunities to climb the social ladder, some of them become the head of industrial enterprises and even, as in the case of K. R. Narayan, the president of the country.
Most marriages in India are performed according to tradition, with the amount of the dowry being carefully negotiated. Although there are more and more advertisements in the Saturday editions of The Times of India and other newspapers looking for a bride with the note that her belonging to one or another caste is not important, there are also those where a certain caste is required, or the bride must have skin color “ripe wheat”, and a university degree or work permit in America is also desirable.
India is such a diverse country that it is very difficult to choose a path on your first visit. Don’t think to “make” India the way people “make” Europe. Even if you like to improvise and are horrified by timetables and detailed itineraries, you must accept the fact from the outset that traveling in India will still require a certain plan with limited time.
Remember, there are a billion Indians living in India and many of them will be traveling at the same time as you, so you will need to at least book hotel rooms in the main cities and plane or train tickets for your travels. This will give you plenty of time to deviate from your planned itineraries and stay overnight in new and unexpected places.
In India, there is a risk of being overloaded with cultural attractions, so most people choose to visit other interesting places, such as nature reserves and national parks, beach resorts, hill stations, deserts and mountains.
Even if your budget allows you to fly all over the country, you can never cover everything, so it’s best to make a list of must-see places in each area.
If you’re traveling by train and comfort is important to you, travel first class with an Indrail Pass. Its main advantage is that it can give you access to “quotas” when the train is supposedly “full”. But traveling with an Indrail pass is much more expensive and doesn’t always speed up ticketing.
Aircraft is another much more efficient way to travel long distances with relative ease. This has become possible due to the recent rapid development of domestic flights. Many airlines offer flights to virtually every significant city in the country. The Visit India scheme offered by Jet Airways (www.jetairways.com) includes flights across India for one to three weeks, a convenient, though not particularly cheap option.
Tourist Information Offices in India can be very helpful. You will find that their guides are much more reliable than those who offer their services near temples or palaces. Warning: different guides will give different explanations of the meaning of the statues, as well as many different versions of the legend and historical “fact”. It would be easy to dismiss these explanations as nonsense, but you will understand India better if you can appreciate that each guide’s words may be true in their own way.
The climate in India imposes mandatory recommendations and restrictions on your itinerary. It makes no sense to visit the Himalaya region in winter, in Delhi it’s unbearably hot in June, and flight schedules can be overwhelmed during the monsoon season. There are three seasons here – cool, hot and very humid, and they are of particular importance in Indian conditions.
The cool season from November to February is the ideal time to travel throughout most of India (except the northern hills and mountains, where it is very cold at this time). Cool – this means that the weather is pleasantly warm during the day, and in the evening it is cool enough to wear a sweater. Temperatures begin to rise in mid-February. During the hot season – from mid-March to June – there is such heat that a person can experience only a few times in his life.
Cities and plains are definitely not worth visiting this season, but for mountain stations, this is the best period. From mid-June to September is a wet period: it does not rain every day all day, but heavy rains are frequent enough to call into question the schedule of travel, and mosquitoes and other insects are especially annoying at this time. However, at this time the country is covered with greenery, and monuments, especiallyTaj Mahal , take on a radiant beauty.
As far as your health is concerned, there are two things that can poison your pleasure: negligence and hypochondria. Take basic precautions, drink bottled drinks and eat freshly prepared food and you won’t have any major stomach problems. The occasional bout of “deli belli” (diarrhea) is inevitable if you’re not used to spicy foods, but nothing to worry about; calm down, drink more fluids, and everything will pass.
If you’re on a short trip, you need to bring a fast-acting remedy to keep you on your feet, but if your body is overloaded with antibiotics and other drugs, it will never be able to fight back, and the next attack will be even more brutal.
Be sure to protect yourself from the heat. Save the sun toasting for the beach or hotel pool. When outdoors, stay in the shade and wear a ventilated hat. Try to do sightseeing in the morning and at the end of the day. Rest after lunch. Drink plenty of fluids – in the heat, dehydration is more dangerous than intestinal upset.
Keep calm. In the first few days, jet lag, acclimatization, and too many experiences can make you lose your temper when you see airports, railroads, and hotels that aren’t organized the way you’re used to, but don’t forget that the famous economist and thinker John Kenneth Galbraith called it functioning anarchy. Count to ten, and, like del belli, this too shall pass.
On days like these, airports, train stations, and hotels can be a pain in the ass anywhere but here. Indians are for the most part friendly people, and react much more readily to a smile than to a frown.
Red tape can feel like barbed wire at times, but it can be dealt with too. After several centuries of bureaucracy (don’t blame the British civil service for this – bureaucracy was born much earlier), India inherited an extraordinary respect for the written document and the stamp. Don’t criticize it – use it. Letters of guarantee, passes, letters of recommendation and printed business cards all make a magical impression when a “confirmed” booking becomes an “unconfirmed” one.
Every office echoes the echo of the friendly phrase: “No problem.” While this rarely means there really isn’t a problem, just interpret it as “no disaster” and have a good time.