The rich and complex history of India is one of both triumph and tragedy; its finest qualities will be a feast both for the eyes and the mind with its myriad of colours, and its many contributions to philosophy, health, and the arts.
If your trip warrants a touch of romance, you’ll find it from north to south. Few places on earth are greater symbols of love than the Taj Mahal: this mausoleum of the Mughal era (16th century) is located in the northern city of Agra, and was commissioned by emperor Shah Jahan, as a tribute to his third wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died giving birth to their 14th child. Within its walls, the two are buried side by side, their tombs encrusted with precious and semi-precious gemstones.
Much further south, in the capital Mumbai, you will find the centre of the famous Bollywood film genre. While many incorrectly assume that Bollywood encompasses all of India’s film industry, it is but a portion, mostly concerned with pictures of romantic and melodramatic themes. While similar in name, Bollywood has many differences from Hollywood. It is not a place or city, though the Film City tour offered in Mumbai will take you to the shooting locations of popular flicks, and Bollywood films very rarely show frontal nudity, French kissing or drug use.
For an historically oriented visit, it seems apropos to visit the site of the Salt SatyaGrahah of 21 March, 1930. This event marked a powerful blow in favour of Indian Independence as the citizens, led by Mahatma Gandhi, marched to make their own salt, in protest of the British monopoly. In the western state of Gujarat lies Varanasi, one of India’s (and perhaps the world’s) oldest cities. Often referred to as ‘the city of temples’, Varanasi is a crossroads of religion and learning for Indians, hosting large universities and existing as a pilgrimage site for Jains, a holy city for Hindus, and largely populated by Muslims.
If you are a lover of tea, few places would be as breath taking as the tea fields of Darjeeling, nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas. The cool climate and scenic vistas could soothe the spirit after visiting the bustling major cities, and here you can board the Darjeeling Himalayan Railway (or “Toy Train”) which can take you all the way to New Jalpaiguri. If trains are not your cup of tea, spend a day in the Rock Garden in Ganga Maya Park and gaze into the mesmerising waters of the Chunnu Summer Falls as they weave their path downward through the green hills.
As you travel through India, always be informed of local customs, so that nothing inadvertently spoils your journey. Additionally, be aware of the following:
1. Alcoholic drinks served in India may be significantly stronger than what you are accustomed to.
2. The currents along the coastlines may be very strong, and you should swim carefully if you choose to enter the waters.
3. Take great care with your food and water, doing what you can to ensure that they are free of contaminants before ingestion.
4. To travel throughout the country, you will need to obtain appropriate visas, including a transit visa. Be sure to inform yourself thoroughly before arrival, so that there is no delay in your touring plans.
5. Tourist spots will often charge foreigners more than Indian citizens for entry, and added charges may be encountered when bringing video or photographic equipment on your visit.
From street markets to a good cuppa, massive monuments to small alleys, India is sure to leave you with memories that will last a lifetime.