India General Information
The most colorful land on the earth, India, is unique in itself. It is rich in exotic land of chivalry, color, valiance, invincible forts, palaces, sand dunes, snow clad peaks, serene lakes, rivers, vibrant beaches, backwaters and many more. Moreover, India represents diversity in people; culture, costumes, music and dances. There are innumerable temples, mosques, churches and gurudwaras (a kind of temple) in every state which are the unique example of art and architecture. No doubt, it is a land of rich culture and heritage. There are different types of culture, dances, music and languages in every state. The unique and unmatched example of art and painting, miniature painting can be seen in the monuments, temples, palaces and architectural buildings of India.
Ample of sanctuaries, national parks and protected areas provide shelter for different kinds of flora and fauna. The migrated and native species of animals, reptiles, birds can be seen in these national parks. Similarly, India is also famous all over the world for its handicrafts and jeweler designing. So, one conscious citizen must come and experience the magic of India with Columbus Treks and Expedition.
Indian history dates back to 3000 BC. Many excavations in Punjab and Gujarat reveal that the Indus Valley civilization was a highly developed urban civilization. Similarly, the two cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, situated on two sides of the river Ravi, are known to have been built on a similar plan. This has been recorded in the Rig Veda - the earliest known literary source composed in this period that sheds light on India's past. India's history can be traced under the following grounds:
The Great Dynasties
It is reported that the Magadh rulers dominated the Northern plains during the 6th century. In the mean time, a new wave of thinking emerged in the form of Buddhism and Jainism to challenge Hindu orthodoxy. The Magadh rule was followed by the rule of Chandragupta Maurya, one of India's greatest emperors. The reign of Maurya sumited under the reign of Ashoka the Great who extended his empire from the Kashmir and Peshawar in the North to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East. Ashoka was not only a great ruler but also one of the most successful propagators of Buddhism in India. After Ashoka's death in 232 B.C., the empire began to disintegrate and the country was repeatedly raided and plundered by foreign invaders, leaving India disunited and weak for the next 400 years. Stability returned with the reign of Chandra Gupta I (380-412 A.D.). His rule is considered as the golden period in Indian history when art and culture flourished far and wide and the country prospered.
There had been little impact of invasions on life in Southern India unlike the North of India. Under the various rulers, arts and craft in the South also saw the emergence of various styles of architecture and some of the excellent architectural accomplishments in the South - the most famous being the exquisitely crafted Chola bronzes. These were followed by the Hoysala and the Vijaynagar empires - among the greatest Hindu empires.
The Muslim Invasions
It was between 1001 and 1025 A.D. that the first Muslim invasions of the country started with the Mahmud of Gazni, who plundered the sub-continent for its riches. In the later days, Mohamed Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan, the Tomar ruler of Delhi and left it in charge of his deputy, Qutub-ud-din, the man who built the Qutub Minar in Delhi. His rule was followed by that of the Khilji, Tughlaq, Sayyid and Lodi dynasties respectively. It was during the period of Sultanate of Delhi that the Muslim rulers introduced Islamic concepts of society and governance at max, however, the South remained largely untouched. Mughal empire was established in 1525 A.D. when Babur, a descendant of Timur, as well as Genghis Khan invaded Punjab. The rule of Babur was followed by that of his son Humayun. He was ousted by Afghan chieftain Sher Shah however, resumed power after Sher Shah's death. Sher Shah is, however, remembered as the builder of Grand Trunk road spanning from Peshawar to Howrah. Later, Akbar, the son of Humayun started to reign who actually consolidated power and extended the empire across North India and parts of South India. Akbar is remembered as one of India's wisest rulers and most able administrators. He was succeeded by Jahangir, followed by his son Shah Jahan - best known as the builder of the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid. Shah Jahan's reign was followed by Aurangzeb's. The rule of Mughal declined after the death of Aurangzeb in India.
It is a matter of fact that over the centuries India had always been attractive to traders. It was Vasco da Gama, the first European to come to India who landed at Calicut, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1498. Later in the 16th century, the Portuguese established their colony and ruled till 1961 A.D. India offered liberal interests of commerce, as a result, the Portuguese, the French, the Dutch and the English, all of whom were lured. The English established themselves as the powerful ruler in India introducing revolutionary changes in social, political and economic life of the general people by the last quarter of the 18th century.
The seeds of British establishment in India were the disintegration of the Mughal empire, fighting among the Maratha rulers and inability of the various rulers across the country to unite against a common enemy, etc. However, with the wake of the 19th century, the country witnessed a revival of national pride and social reform and the revolt against the suppressive British rule. It was in the second half of the 19th century when the first war of independence in 1857 broke out in Meerut, people of all walks of life united for freedom.The anti-British sentiment became a mass movement with the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who devised a unique strategy for India's freedom struggle based on non-violence and civil disobedience. Gandhi, the father of Indian independence, conceived and led the non-cooperation movement in 1922, the Salt Satyagraha in 1930 and the Quit India Movement in 1942. Finally, the British government was compelled to transfer power on August 15, 1947 to the sovereign Indian people. Today, India stands as the world's largest democracy with a federal form of government.
Located in the northern hemisphere, India shares its borders with Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. It is one of the largest countries in the world with a total land area of 3.3 million square kilometers. This Indian sub-continent is unique from the rest of Asia. We find towering Himalayas in the north which slope out into the great Indo-Gangetic plains. The Vindhya ranges separate the Deccan Peninsula from the northern plains in Central India. Bay of Bengal is on the east coast of the country, while Arabian Sea is on the west coast. The southern-most tip of the country is projected into the Indian Ocean.
India holds not only mountains, plains and the seas, but also about every geographical feature as well.Thar desert lies in Rajasthan in the west of the country, while a little south of it are the unique marshlands of Kutch. On the other hand, we find world's largest delta and a unique mangrove forest on the east. Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Indian Ocean include the islands of India. Thus, to sum up, India has a wide variety of flora, fauna and a climate that ranges from tropical to arctic.
India's climate varies from region to region. It is cold in the winter months in the north between November and March. We find tropical climate throughout the year in the coastal areas, while the plains and most central and southern regions of the country enjoy hot in the summer months of April and June.
India is rich in its culture. It has enjoyed an international reputation for the brass and bell metal work. The Indian culture was moulded throughout various eras of history, all the while absorbing customs, traditions and ideas from both invaders and immigrants. There is remarkable cultural and religious diversity in modern India. Different ethnic communities have their own distinct identities and almost every state carved out its own cultural niche. However, in spite of its unique cultural diversity, the whole country has been able to preserve its national identity.
India was the birth place of religious systems such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism. Such religions have strong influence not only in India but also in the whole world. After the invasion of the Islamic empire and the subsequent foreign domination from the tenth century onwards, the culture of India was heavily influenced by Persian, Arabic and Turkic cultures. India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition, says Mark Twain.
Indian cuisine has great variety and each region has its own distinctive flavours. Rice and wheat are the staple cereals. Chapatis or rotis, wheat based and rice are the staple meals of North Indian, eaten with a wide variety of side dishes like pickle, dals, curries, yogurt, chutney, etc. South Indian staple dishes consist of rice, sambhar, rasam, etc. Coconut and the popular snacks called idli dosa (rice-based) are other important ingredients in south Indian food. Fish is popular in coastal states, especially in Orissa, Kerala and West Bengal. Street foods like Panipuri, Vada pav, Bhelpuri, samosa, vada are also popular in different regions. Indianized version of the Chinese cuisine is also popular in the major urban areas. Like other Asian countries, tea enjoys heavy popularity, while coffee is quite popular in South India. Nimbu pani (lemonade), lassi, and coconut milk are also popular drinks of India.
Languages have created diverse traditions of culture in India so as regional diversity. India has a mosaic of languages; 216 of them are spoken by a group of 10,000 persons. Similarly, there are various other languages in India which are spoken by less then 10,000 people. Approximately, there are about 415 living languages in India. Hindi and English are the two official languages of communication for the national government as stipulated by the Constitution. Nepali is another language spoken in the northern part of India, especially in Darjeeling, Sikkim and Assam. A further 22 languages are scheduled for official use, mainly by state governments. Sanskrit is believed to be the mother of other languages spoken in India. Apart from India, Sanskrit is studied in other countries of the world as well.
The Dharmic religions are believed to be originated in India, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism and so on. It is a matter of fact that Hinduism and Buddhism are the world's third and fourth largest religions respectively, with a collective 1.4 billion followers, despite being free of any evangelistic traditions. India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with one of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. It is reported that more than 80.4% of the total population are Hindus followed by Islam (13.4%). Similarly, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism are other religions practiced in India. Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Judaism are also influential but the population is small. Despite the strong role of religion in Indian life, atheism and agnostics have also visible influences.
The colorful mosaic of Indian Festivals and fairs-as diverse as the land, is an expression of the spirit of celebration that is an essential part of the country observed with enthusiasm and gaiety; festivals are like gems, ornamenting the crown of Indian culture. They are round-the-year vibrant interludes in the mundane routine of life. Every season brings along new festivals, each a true celebration of the bounties of nature. In addition, that is not all! The birthdays of gods and goddesses, saints and prophets, great historical happening and the advent of the New Year, all find expression in colorful festivities. The same festival, though celebrated differently in the various parts of the country, exhibits an eternal harmony of sprit. Packed with fun and excitement, festivals are occasions to clean and decorate houses, to get together with friends and relatives and to exchange gifts. New attire, dance, music and ritual, all add to their joyful rhythm. It is a time for prayer, for pageantry and processions... a time to rejoice.