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Country of excess, India provokes very intense feelings in those who venture there. Delhi, the capital, offers many treasures that the country has as a whole: Countless museums, all categories of restaurants with delicious food, magnificent monuments, various cultural events, all of which can be discovered within the two different worlds of Old Delhi and New Delhi. Agra, 2 hours by train from Delhi, is well known as the home of the Taj Mahal, a beautiful white marble palace built at the request of Emperor Shah Jahan in honor of his love for his deceased wife, this building is justly famous and considered unequaled in its serene beauty by many throughout the world.

You should not miss Benares (now called Varanasi), the holy city on the west bank of the Ganges, where you will see various funeral processions on their way to cremations, as well as the pilgrims that come to wash away their sins, also you can discover the Vishwanath Temple, also known as the Golden Temple. Goa, the smallest state, made famous by the hippies during the sixties; has great beaches and coconut palms, a relaxing tropical atmosphere, and the people seem to be friendly and happy.

In southern India, you will be astonished at the beautiful landscapes of Kerala; the rice fields and tropical plants, the endless beaches and the Thousand and One Nights Palace, the wildlife, rich spices, and iridescent colors.  Mumbai will turn your head with its excessive and heterogeneous world: Traffic congestion, continuous deafening noise, pollution – everything takes place against a backdrop of impressive sights with a multitude of bazaars, very fashionable boutiques, and establishments at the forefront of the twenty-first century. Here, the abject poverty rubs elbows with the air-conditioned shops. However, this city has a special charm you cannot ignore.

Madurai with its temple, Udaipur with its palace on Pichola Lake, Jodhpur with its Fort close to the desert, or the various national parks and safaris, where you can see the splendid tigers, all of these will offer wonderful visits during your trip to India. Many travelers are touched by this country: Some of them come back with a tenacious nostalgia close to that of addiction. Your challenge will be to define what makes it so charming and deeply moving that you will probably want to come back: In any case, you will almost certainly find that one visit is not enough!


Top destinations in India are:

  • Rajasthan
  • Agra
  • Kerala
  • Varanasi
  • Ellora & Ajanta Caves
  • Delhi
  • Goa
  • Ladakh
  • Amritsar
  • Mysore


The best period to visit India is from November to April.


It is not easy to describe the climate of such a vast country: However, it can be mainly divided into three different seasons, a hot season, a wet season, and a cold season. The hot weather is mainly between February and May in the north and during these months the heat gradually rises to reach the top of the mountains in May.

Temperatures can exceed 45°C in the Centre. In late May, the monsoon begins with heavy cloudbursts, thunderstorms, and storms becoming gradually stronger from the south to the north, then it extends to the entire territory, ending in October, except on the southeast coast where it is the worst between October and December. Temperatures fall significantly in the north between October and January, while in the south they are constantly temperate.

The best time to visit India, therefore, depends on the area, although the season from November to February is the best for the majority of them. If you want to visit the northeast, Kashmir or the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, it is advisable to go between April and September. On the other hand, during the monsoon is quite a good time to visit the Rajasthan desert and the northwest of the Himalayas.

Following a list of typical festivals and celebrations of India.

  • H Kumbh Mela: Major festival held at four holy cities in rotation, with each location hosting once every twelve years: Allahabad (UP), Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (MP) or Haridwar (Uttarakhand). The Allahabad event is the most important and drew 120 million people in 2013; there are also Ardh (half) Kumbh Melas in between, the next at Allahabad in 2019.
  • M Ramadan: The month during which Muslims may not eat, drink or smoke from sunrise to sunset, and should abstain from sex. Muslim areas tend to come alive in the evenings as locals break their fast after prayers (iftar) and shop for Id. Estimated future dates are from May 27 to June 25, 2017, May 16 to June 14, 2018, and May 6 to June 4, 2019.
  • M Id ul-Fitr: Feast to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The precise date of the festival depends on exactly when the new moon is sighted, and so cannot be predicted with complete accuracy. Estimated dates (though these may vary by a day or two) are June 26, 2017, June 15, 2018, and June 5, 2019.
January-February (Magha–Phalguna)

Hampi Utsav: Government-sponsored music and dance festival.

Pongal (1 Magha): Tamil harvest festival celebrated with decorated cows, processions, and rangolis (chalk designs on the doorsteps of houses). Pongal is a sweet porridge made from newly harvested rice and eaten by all, including the cows. The festival is also known as Makar Sankranti, and celebrated in Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and the east of India.

Sagar Mela: Pilgrims come from all over the country to Sagardwip, on the mouth of the Hooghly 150km south of Kolkata, to bathe during Makar Sankranti.

International Kite Festival/Uttarayan (Jan 14). Coinciding with Makar Sankranti, Ahmedabad (Gujarat) hosts the most spectacular of all of India’s kite festivals.

Vasant Panchami (5 Magha): One-day spring festival in honor of Saraswati, the goddess of learning, celebrated with kite-flying, the wearing of yellow saris, and the blessing of schoolchildren’s books and pens by the goddess.

Republic Day (Jan 26): A military parade in Delhi typifies this state celebration of India’s republic-hood, followed on Jan 29 by the “Beating the Retreat” ceremony outside the presidential palace in Delhi.

Teppa Floating Festival (16 Magha). Meenakshi and Shiva are towed around the Vandiyur Mariamman Teppakulam tank in boats lit with fairy lights – a prelude to the Tamil marriage season in Madurai, Tamil Nadu.

Elephanta Music and Dance Festival. Classical Indian dance performed with the famous rock-cut caves in Mumbai harbor as a backdrop.

February-March (Phalguna)

Losar (1 Phalguna): Tibetan New Year celebrations among Tibetan and Himalayan Buddhist communities, especially at Dharamsala (HP).

Shivratri (10 Phalguna): Anniversary of Shiva’s tandav (creation) dance, and his wedding anniversary. Popular family festival but also a sadhu festival of pilgrimage and fasting, especially at important Shiva temples.

Holi (15 Phalguna): Water festival held during Dol Purnima (full moon) to celebrate the beginning of spring, most popular in the north. Expect to be bombarded with water, paint, colored powder and other mixtures; they can permanently stain clothing, so don’t go out in your Sunday best.

Khajuraho Festival of Dance: The country’s finest dancers perform in front of Madhya Pradesh’s famous erotic sculpture-carved shrines.

Goa Carnival: Goa’s own Mardi Gras features float processions and feni-induced mayhem in the state capital, Panjim.

March-April (Chaitra)

Gangaur (3 Chaitra): Rajasthani festival (also celebrated in Bengal and Odisha) in honor of Gauri (Parvati), marked with singing and dancing.

Ramanavami (9 Chaitra): Birthday of Rama, the hero of the Ramayana, celebrated with readings of the epic and discourses on Rama’s life and teachings.

Easter (moveable feast): Celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Good Friday in particular is a day of festivity.

Pateti:Parsi new year, also known as Nav Roz, celebrating the creation of fire. Feasting, services, and present-giving.

Khorvad Sal (a week after Pateti): Birthday of Zarathustra (aka Zoroaster). Celebrated in the Parsis’ fire temples, and with feasting at home.

April-May (Vaisakha)

Baisakhi (1 Vaisakha): To the Hindus, it’s the solar new year, celebrated with music and dancing; to the Sikhs, it’s the anniversary of the foundation of the Khalsa (Sikh brotherhood) by Guru Gobind Singh. Processions and feasting follow readings of the Granth Sahib scriptures.

Chithirai: Lively procession at Madurai in Tamil Nadu. See p.1016.

Mahavir Jayanti (13 Vaisakha): Birthday of Mahavira, the founder of Jainism. The main Jain festival of the year, observed by visits to sacred Jain sites, especially in Rajasthan and Gujarat, and with present-giving.

Puram: Frenzied drumming and elephant parades in Thrissur, Kerala.

Buddha Jayanti (16 Vaisakha): Buddha’s birthday. He achieved enlightenment and nirvana on the same date. Sarnath (UP) and Bodh Gaya (Bihar) are the main centers of celebration.

May-June (Jyaishtha)

Ganga Dussehra (10 Jyaishtha): Bathing festival to celebrate the descent to earth of the goddess of the Ganges.

June-July (Ashadha)

Rath Yatra (2 Ashadha): Festival held in Puri (and other places, especially in the south) to commemorate Krishna’s (Lord Jagannath’s) journey to Mathura.

Teej (3 Ashadha): Festival in honor of Parvati to welcome the monsoon. Particularly celebrated in Rajasthan.

Hemis Tsechu Held sometime between late June and mid-July, this spectacular Ladakh festival features chaam (lama dances) to signify the victory of Buddhism over evil.

July-August (Shravana)

Naag Panchami (3 Shravana): Snake festival in honor of the naga snake deities. Mainly celebrated in Rajasthan and Maharashtra.

Raksha Bandhan/Narial Purnima (16 Shravana): Festival to honor the sea god Varuna. Brothers and sisters exchange gifts, the sister tying a thread known as a rakhi to her brother’s wrist. Brahmins, after a day’s fasting, change the sacred thread they wear.

Independence Day (Aug 15): India’s biggest secular celebration, on the anniversary of Independence from the UK.

August-September (Bhadraparda)

Ganesh Chaturthi (4 Bhadraparda): Festival dedicated to Ganesh, especially celebrated in Maharashtra. In Mumbai, huge processions carry images of the god to immerse in the sea.

Onam: Keralan harvest festival, celebrated with snake-boat races. The Nehru Trophy Snake Boat Race at Alappuzha (held on the 2nd Sat of Aug) is the most spectacular, with longboats crewed by 150 rowers.

Janmashtami (23 Bhadraparda): Krishna’s birthday, an occasion for fasting and celebration, especially in Agra, Mathura, and Vrindavan (UP).

September-October (Ashvina)

Dussehra/Dasara (1–10 Ashvina): Ten-day festival (usually two days’ public holiday) associated with vanquishing demons, in particular Rama’s victory over Ravana in the Ramayana, and Durga’s over the buffalo-headed Mahishasura (particularly in West Bengal, where it is called Durga Puja). Dussehra (known as Dasara in south India) celebrations include performances of the Ram Lila (life of Rama). Best in Mysuru (Karnataka), Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and Kullu (Himachal Pradesh). Durga Puja is best seen in Kolkata where it is an occasion for exchanging gifts, and every locality has its own competing street-side image.

Mahatma Gandhi’s Birthday (Oct 2): Solemn commemoration of independent India’s founding father.

October-November (Kartika)

Diwali (Deepavali) (15 Kartika): Festival of lights, and India’s biggest, to celebrate Rama’s and Sita’s homecoming in the Ramayana. Festivities include the lighting of oil lamps and firecrackers, and the giving and receiving of sweets and gifts. Diwali coincides with Kali Puja, celebrated in temples dedicated to the wrathful goddess, especially in Bengal, and often accompanied by the ritual sacrifice of goats.

Jain New Year (15 Kartika): Coincides with Diwali, so Jains celebrate alongside Hindus.

Nanak Jayanti (16 Kartika): Guru Nanak’s birthday marked by prayer readings and processions, especially in Amritsar and in the rest of Punjab, and at Patna (Bihar).

November-December (Margashirsha or Agrahayana)

Sonepur Mela: World’s largest cattle fair at Sonepur (Bihar).

Pushkar Camel Fair: Camel herders don their finest attire for this massive livestock market on the fringes of the Thar Desert in Rajasthan.

December-January (Pausa)

Poush Mela (Dec 22–25): Held in Shantiniketan near Kolkata, this festival is renowned for its musical performances by Bauls (mystic minstrels).

Christmas (Dec 25): Popular in Christian areas of Goa and Kerala, and in big cities.


Traveling to India by air is the easiest way: You land in Mumbai, Delhi or Madras. To travel within the country, domestic flights have recently increased. A train is a possible option, despite its slowness, it is cheap and goes everywhere. The buses are less crowded than trains at almost the same price but they are not very comfortable. In large cities, there are a lot of taxis, rickshaws, and tongas.

by plane, the main airports are:

by train

by car


health tips & vaccination: drink only bottled water and avoid ice. Malaria vaccination is recommended during the rain season and near the coast.

local currency: Indian Rupee

local time zone: GMT+5:30

electricity: type C, type D, and type M (230 V, 50 Hz)

mobile phone operators:


typical food in India

  • Dhal: Lentils; there are dozens of varieties and they come stewed, fried or ground up into flour as an essential ingredient for pastries and fritters
  • Pakora: Deep-fried vegetables in lentil-flour batter, a favorite portable snack
  • Samosa: Triangular pastry parcels, stuffed with potato and pea curry
  • Thali: A platter of rice, chapattis, vegetable curries, meat dishes and more; in many parts of India, this is a just described a “meal”
  • Naan: India’s favorite bread, cooked in the tandoor (clay oven)
  • Tandoori chicken: A Punjabi specialty, spiced chicken marinated in yogurt, cooked in the tandoor
  • Paneer: Soft Indian curd cheese cooked in sauces or spiced and grilled
  • Jalebi: Deep-fried batter in sweet syrup, poured out in a nest of orange squiggles
  • Dosa: A pancake made from fermented rice-flour batter, serve with curry dips or stuffed with vegetable curry, originally from the south
  • Chai: Sweet, strong Indian tea, best sampled from roadside chai-wallahs
  • Kingfisher: India’s most popular lager

souvenirs from India

  • fabrics
  • silverware
  • carpets and rugs
  • leatherwork
  • gems
  • antiques
  • pickles, spices, coffee, and tea
  • clothing and chappals
  • pashmina shawls
  • jewelry
  • perfumes
  • soap
  • handmade paper
  • incense
  • puppets
  • musical instruments


Hello: Namaste

Goodbye: Alavida

How are you?: Kya haal hai?

Thank you: Dhanyavaad

What is your name?: Aapaka naam kya hai?

How much is it?: Yah kitane ka hai?

Sorry: Maaf keejiye

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