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India strikes its visitor with a sensory, intellectual, spiritual and philosophical assault that’s unmatched by any other place on earth, all set in an awesome physical environment teeming with a resilient, indefatigable 1.2 billion-strong population. Every expectation – be it of beauty, mysticism, poverty, bigotry or bureaucracy – will be outdone by what hits you on the ground. When VS Naipaul wrote “there is little subtlety to India”, it was itself an understatement: whether measured in passion for cricket, film, faith or politics, India revels in the extreme and rejects all apathy, minimalism and restraint.
The subcontinent’s sheer diversity is staggering: India ranges from tropical beach paradises to primary forests of teak and jackfruit trees where elephants roam and macaques leap, desert tundras broken by fairytale forts ruled by haughty princes with Rajput moustaches, chilly foothills clad in tea plantations and dotted with British clubhouses, opening onto vistas of the world’s highest mountain peaks, through outsized metropoles whose infrastructure buckles under the weight of the unceasing movement of their vast human populations, right down to atavistic village life of tapping toddy, ploughing seed, tilling soil.Read more
Delhi, India’s capital city is brash, chaotic, dynamic and a perfect introduction to the country. In Agra, the Taj Mahal still astonishes in its power and beauty, while Amritsar’s Golden Temple is another jaw-dropping destination that combines spirituality with the warmest of welcomes. Rajasthan is littered with evocative forts and palaces, but also has varied landscapes that shelter rare wildlife, including tigers.
Despite the fact that India is embracing modernity with open arms, it has shunned secularism. Most of Indian society remains fiercely religious, a religiosity which remains a source of both social harmony and sporadic tension. The north holds hushed Tibetan Buddhist monasteries of frugal understatement, hewn into jagged Himalaya cliff faces, their air thick with incense and lit with ghee lamps, where prayer wheels turn and flags flutter in the high-altitude granite desert.
The south answers with riotous candy-pop Hindu confections, crammed with gaudy gods, flanked by painted festival elephants and bugle-playing Brahmins. In between lie Muslim mosques of vast proportions, sprawling Sikh temple complexes and the tombs of Sufi mystics visited by pilgrims of every denomination.
Places of interest in India
Amritsar (‘Pool of the Nectar of Immortality’) is named after the sacred pool in the Golden Temple, the holiest...
Delhi can take you aback with its vibrancy and growth. Less than 60 years ago the spacious planned city of New Delhi...
The sandstone ‘pink city’ of Jaipur, is the heady gateway to the magical state of Rajasthan. Its historical...
Located in eastern Rajasthan, Ranthambore National Park is one of the finest tiger reserves in the country. Most...