This is India – the land of magic and mystery, of dazzling beauty and exotic charms. Where the centuries co-exist and the modern blends seamlessly into the ancient. Where hospitality is a tradition, and development a passion. A beauty beyond description, beyond compare. An ancient civilization, as old as history. India is a glittering mosaic of people of different faiths and cultures, of varying climatic zones, of greenery and desert, river and mountain, wealth and happiness, modernity and tradition. This is India, a place like none else on this planet. India means welcome! India is the complete destination, for the mind, body and soul.
Known to its people as Bharat, this ancient land fascinates the visitor with its size, culture and diversity, its colors, scents, styles, customs, languages, architecture and geography. India is a fairytale, a continent, several countries rolled into one. India satisfies every taste and desire - from sun and sand to mountains and snow, from ancient monuments to adventure holidays, from gentle traditions and customs to rugged landscapes and daunting rivers and valleys. India is paradise – at any time of the year! The land blessed by the gods!
Fall in love with India, with its legendary palaces, temples and forts. Savour its spectacular music, dance and folklore. Excite your mind and body with rafting, gliding, trekking and desert safaris. And then calm yourself with yoga. Or go tracking wildlife in one of India’s numerous forest reserves. Treat yourself to an amazing array of arts, crafts and materials, at bargain prices.
Great religions took birth and root in India, among them Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. Ancient Indian texts like the Vedas go back several thousand years and are treasure houses of philosophy, spiritual insight, knowledge and treatises on subjects like science and medicine. Sanskrit, the root language of India, was an advanced and well formulated system. It is the basis of modern computer languages. India invented the decimal system and bequeathed zero to the world. Astronomy and medicine are Indian inventions.
More than any other building, the Taj Mahal is the symbol of India to the world. This 17th century monument is a dream in marble, an eternal symbol of love and fidelity. The focus of countless romantic stories and colourful fantasies, it has fascinated artists and photographers, poets and dreamers, travelers and writers. This supreme example of architectural genius is a tribute to the wonder that was, is and shall forever be India.
To visit this land of eternal, enchanting beauty all you need is a valid passport and visa. A special license is required to photograph protected monuments using a flash and tripod. There are some conditions for bringing in certain personal goods such as film, video cameras, liquor, tobacco and weapons, while all high value articles and professional materials must be declared on arrival and re-exported on departure. All of India is on the same time, GMT + 5 hours 30 minutes, throughout the year. Voltage is 220 AC 50 cycles and international telephone and postal connections are available everywhere.
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With 1,500 dialects and 22 official languages, all the world’s major religions including Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism and Judaism, various styles of art, architecture, literature, music and dance, cuisine and several lifestyles from the urban and rural to the tribal, Indian culture is a rich confluence of various diversities.
India’s music spans various traditions, from regional folk songs and music to tribal music, from classical and semi-classical traditions to popular and film music.
Indian dance has an unbroken tradition of over 5,000 years, with themes drawn from mythology, legend and classical literature. The diversity of Indian dance forms spans folk and tribal dances with their regional variations, and classical dances, based on ancient texts with rigid rules. Some of the major classical dance traditions are Bharata Natyam, Kathak, Odissi, Manipuri, Kuchipudi, Mohiniattam and Kathakali.
Indian literature dates to the oral tradition of the Vedas several thousand years ago, and the great epics, which are still an integral part of daily life. The oral tradition continues through folk songs and dramas. The tradition of dance-drama in India has ancient historical roots, and is kept alive by a vibrant tradition of folk theatre. Indian art continues its vibrant classical and folk traditions from painting to sculpture to handicrafts.
And then there is Indian cinema – the largest film industry in the world. Cinema came to India in 1896, the first Indian film was made in 1912, and the first talkie in 1931. Today, India makes more than one thousand films annually, in centers like Mumbai (Bollywood), Calcutta (Tollywood) and Chennai (Mollywood)!
India, the world’s largest democracy, is a Sovereign, Secular and Democratic Republic. It became independent on 15th August, 1947 and a Republic on 26th January, 1950 when its Constitution came into effect. The Constitution guarantees fundamental rights including freedom of religion, of occupation and of speech, and the right to vote. General elections based on universal adult suffrage are normally held every 5 years.
Today, the Union of India consists of 28 states and 7 union territories with the Central Government at New Delhi, the capital. The political structure laid down by the Constitution is federal in nature but unitary in spirit, with legislative powers and revenues divided between the States and the Centre, and residual powers vested in the Centre. Certain subjects are jointly controlled and enforced by both the Centre and the States, with the Centre superseding the States if necessary.
At the Centre and in the States, powers are divided between the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary. At the Centre, the Executive comprises the President, Vice-President and the Council of Ministers, headed by the Prime Minister. The Union Legislature (Parliament) has two houses - the Lok Sabha (the lower house, elected by the people of India from individual, simple majority constituencies) and the Rajya Sabha (the upper house, elected by the State Legislatures which in turn are directly elected by the people on the same lines as the Lok Sabha). At the apex of the judiciary is the Supreme Court of India.
This structure is paralleled in India's States, with the Executive comprising the Governor (appointed by the President of India), the Council of Ministers headed by the Chief Minister who is responsible to the directly elected Legislative Assembly and the High Court. Each State is further divided into districts, themselves divided into municipalities, further subdivided into blocks down to the individual village. At each level, legislative, executive and judicial powers are divided equitably, so as to prevent concentration or misuse.
India is a founder member of the Nonaligned Movement (NAM), the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Co-operation (BIMST-EC), the Commonwealth and several other organizations. It is an active member of the United Nations and its various organisations such as UNESCO and the UNHCR. India is also a member of the WTO and the Group of 77, and participates actively in the Group of 15. India looks forward to its rightful place as a permanent member of a reformed United Nations Security Council