India - Your Destination to Diversity and Identity
India is a land of diversity and identity. This South Asian country has around 18 official languages, several dialects, and people of multiple religions, each with their own practices and cuisine. It is this country’s diverse character that has made this land of intriguing contrasts more fascinating to tourists.
The country is also popularly known for its mind and body healing methods, as well as for its popular version of Hollywood called Bollywood. If you are planning on a trip to India, you may want to research into its many faces, and plan in advance where you want to go and what you want to do. Here are some tips to help you out in this regard:
Where to go
In 2007, the number of tourist arrivals in India was 4.9 million, which is 11.9% higher than in- 2006. These numbers highlight India’s undying allure to tourists. In this regard, most foreigners commonly find the Taj Mahal, Humayun’s Tomb, Gateway of India, and Ajanta Caves some of the must-sees.
Taj Mahal- Considered one of the most extravagant works of architecture ever built in human history, the Taj Mahal symbolizes love that is greater than wealth and power. This mausoleum was made from white marble, and was commissioned by Emperor Shah Jahan as a gift for his second wife Mumtaz Mahal. The death of Mumtaz, due to childbirth, caused much pain to the Emperor, leaving him eager to build something for the memory of his wife. You won’t regret visiting this structure when you can see the rich golden sheen in the marble, which transforms to pink and red, and blue. (Do you know that Taj Mahal is rated no. 2 in the list of the Top Ten Asian tourist destinations that you must visit)
Humayun’s Tomb- This structure was actually the inspiration for the Taj Mahal. The wife of the second Mughal emperor had it built in mid-16th century. It is one of the most beautiful buildings in India and is surrounded by formal gardens that contain the black-and-yellow marble tomb of Humayan’s wife, as well as the red-and-white sandstone.
Gateway of India- The Gateway of India is a colonial marker that was created after King George V’s visit to India in 1911. This arch of triumph is a popular city emblem and a spot where locals gather on weekends and in the evening.
Ajanta Caves- These caves were also known as the Buddhist caves. When Buddhism declined in India in the latter half of the first millennium AD, these caves were slowly abandoned and, in the end, were forgotten. It wasn’t until 1819 that a British hunting team stumbled upon these caves. Paintings inside remained intact. These caves, often-crowded by weekend visitors, are considered World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
What to do
You can enjoy Indian music. Their type of music is distinct, as Indian singers have their own style of hitting notes. Most female voices are thin and high, while male singers have deep voices. Examples of Indian musical instruments are sarod, sitar, and the tabla rhythm. (Learn how to play sitar)
Snorkeling in the Andaman Islands is a favorite activity. These islands are found on the Bay of Bengal, which is a thickly forested archipelago that houses exotic plants, corals, and tropical fishes.
Also, you can feel like a nomad in India’s desert. Every January and February, the Jaisalmer desert in Rajasthan holds the Desert Festival. In November, the Pushkar desert showcases the Camel Fair.
Mountaineering or trekking in Shimla, Kumaon, and Kodaikanal is likewise one of the popular attractions in India.
Oh and yes, the food. Let your taste buds feast on spicy and herb-loaded traditional Indian dishes like Tandoori Chicken, Chicken Tikka Masala, Kaali Daal or black lentils, and Naan, or leavened Indian flatbread.
What to remember
Privacy is a luxury in this country. If you look like a foreigner, you will surely attract the probing eyes of the locals around you. You can, however, easily ask for help. This is also true in traffic. You may notice that there is no distinction between the walking paths and the freeways. Cars share the streets with people. At times, there are elephants, stray dogs, camels, and cattle that seem to come out of nowhere. If you are not used to it, you may feel stressed out.
To prevent or minimize culture shock, here are some tips you can follow:
- Don’t be surprised to see and encounter beggars. They can really be persistent and make you go out of your wits with their endless talking, pleading, threatening and following. Refrain from giving money; if you really want to help them, you can do so with meals.
- Always have hand sanitizer with you for emergencies. When at a restaurant, drink mineral water that is purified and safe. You do not want an upset stomach to ruin your vacation.
- Also, the best way to greet people is to fold your hands and say “Namaste,” especially members of the opposite sex.
- Try to be sensitive to the culture of this country and its people’s beliefs. This way, you can enjoy more of what India has to offer!