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    GENERAL INFORMATION INDIA  

General Information of India

General Information of IndiaIf there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India." - Romain Rolland

India is the largest democratic country in the world, seventh largest country and the second most populous. India is a picture of diversity seen in her peoples, cultures, colorful festivals, dress and costumes, religions, flora and fauna and varying landscapes. Her history dates back to the Indus Valley civilization of about 2500-1700 BC. She is, as Mark Twain intones " the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, grandmother of legend, and great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only." She gave the world the knowledge of counting that transformed the scientific faculty of man. She was and arguably is the spiritual seat of the world.

General Information of IndiaIndia is located in the Asia continent in northern hemisphere. The Himalayan ranges crown the northern boundary of India. It is bounded on the north by Afghanistan, China, Nepal, and Bhutan; on the east by Bangladesh, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and the Bay of Bengal; on the south by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar (which separates it from Sri Lanka) and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Arabian Sea and Pakistan. The country is divided into 28 states (three of which are recently formed) and 7 Union Territories. New Delhi is the capital of India and one of its largest cities.

Fast Facts on India
Population: 1, 027, 015, 247 (2001 Census) 
Area: 3.3 million square kilometers 
Geographical location Lies: between latitudes 8 ° 4' and 37 ° 6 ' north and longitudes 68 ° 7 ' and 97° 25' east 
Coastline length: 7600 km 
Languages: 17 major languages, 844 dialects 
Major religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism
National flag: Horizontal tricolor in equal proportion of deep saffron on the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. In the center of the white band is a wheel in navy blue color
National currency Rupee (One Rupee=100 paise)

History of India
Dating back at least 5000 years, civilization in India has been a rich and complicated mix of peoples and religions. The history of India begins with Harappa and Mohenjodaro, which were ancient Indian cities that existed between 3000 and 1500 BC. Excavated remains suggest that these cities were well planned with brick structures, wide streets, and underground water systems. Many copper, bronze, and pottery items were recovered as well as gold and silver jewelry. Seals with writing on them were also found but archeologists could not interpret these writings. The earliest urban civilization in the history of India therefore remains partly a mystery to us.

Brahminism, Buddhism, Jainism and Hinduism all developed here in a series of kingdoms and empires. The Gupta dynasty ruled over north India, during a golden age of about two hundred years (320-544 A.D). In the 600s, the Indus River Valley was invaded by Arabs, who brought Islam with them, and it took hold in northern India, leading to many changes in the future course of the history of India.

The Sultanate of Delhi was established in 1206, starting a period in the history of India when the ruler from the throne at Delhi was considered very important. The Sultanate managed to withstand repeated Mongol invasions and eventually succeeded in bringing together nearly all of India (with the exception of some of the southern states). But the Sultanate of Delhi was weakened by the stresses of internal rebellion, particularly when combined with the attack of Timur Leng (Tamerlane) in 1398. In 1526, Babur established the Mughal Empire, whose culture thrived under Akbar the Great. Threats to the Mughal Empire from Maratha and Rajput forces were compounded by the encroaching interests of the European powers, who came to India after Vasco de Gama discovered a sea route to India in 1498. This discovery opened another chapter in the history of India.

British rule in India began in the AD 1700s. Foreign domination engendered Indian nationalism, which eventually led to India winning its independence in 1947, and the beginning of the history of India as a democratic and independent nation. Split from Pakistan at independence, India struggled with its Muslim neighbor over border differences and Hindu-Muslim relations. India and Pakistan still conflict over the Jammu and Kashmir region, parts of which are also occupied by China. The history of India reflects its the regional diversity, cultural heritage and the unifying forces that have made India the secular and pluralistic nation that it is today.

Geography of India
India's total land mass is 2,973,190 square kilometers and is divided into three main geological regions: the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the Himalayas, and the Peninsula region. The Indo-Gangetic Plain and those portions of the Himalayas within India are collectively known as North India. South India consists of the peninsular region, often termed simply the Peninsula. On the basis of its physiography, India is divided into ten regions: the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the northern mountains of the Himalayas, the Central Highlands, the Deccan or Peninsular Plateau, the East Coast (Coromandel Coast in the south), the West Coast (Konkan, Kankara, and Malabar coasts), the Great Indian Desert (a geographic feature known as the Thar Desert in Pakistan) and the Rann of Kutch, the valley of the Brahmaputra in Assam, the northeastern hill ranges surrounding the Assam Valley, and the islands of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Several major rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus, flow through India. Arising in the northern mountains and carrying rich alluvial soil to the plains below, these mighty rivers have supported agriculture-based civilizations for thousands of years.

The climate of India may be broadly described as tropical monsoon type. There are four seasons: winter (January - February), hot weather summer (march - may), rainy southwestern monsoon (June - September) and post- monsoon, also known as the northeast monsoon in the southern peninsula (October - December). India's climate is affected by two seasonal winds- the northeast monsoon and southwest monsoon. The north-east monsoon commonly known as winter monsoon blows sea to land after crossing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The southwest monsoon brings most of the rainfall during the year in the country.

Society and Culture of India
The Indian society is not a uniform one. This is a natural corollary to the fact that diversity is a part of Indian way of life. From region to region, diversity in the social structure is prominently seen. The north Indian social traditions and customs are markedly different and so those of the eastern India from those of other parts of the country. And here lies the tantalizing element of mystery associated with India.

The diversity factor notwithstanding, there is a common thread running through the Indians. Unity in diversity is best seen in India in a maze of seemingly disparate peoples. One social unifier is the Indian system of caste-ism adhered to by all racial groups belonging to the Hindu religion fold. Lambasted by many as a retrogressive social tradition, this system has also given the Indians a sense of belongingness to a shared way of life. Though caste rigidity was prevalent in the olden times, now it has become flexible to a large extent. It is not an uncommon to come across families of so called incompatible castes entering into matrimonial alliance.

The gender inequality is a phenomenon causing concern in the Indian society. The Indian society is highly prejudiced against the female gender. Basically a male dominated society, decision making at family and political level is almost single handedly handled by the men. Customs such as Dowry are worsening the process of subjugating women in the society. Of late, with social awareness about women's vital role in the development of a community or the country, there has been a change in the perception of gender equations in favor of women. Education of women, giving the women a greater say in decision making in the family and the governance are emphasized. With the liberalization of economy women are in top managerial position at par with the best men.

In spite of significant leaps made by India in the economic front, poverty is still a dominant social reality. A majority of the population of India lives in utter poverty without access to health care, housing, drinking water and education. Major policy change has to be enforced to better the lives of these millions souls if India is to become a truly desirable place to live in.

Education is still a privilege in this country of over one billion people. Providing Primary education has been the motto of the government. So far the government has not live up to its promises with the results that there are more illiterate people than functionally literate people in India. Lack of education is the primary obstacle to the nation's development. India should educate the masses if its hope of becoming the global knowledge superpower is to become a reality.

India has a rich cultural and artistic heritage. The fact that India was invaded and ruled by various kings down the ages is already reflected by its impact on India culture. The Gupta dynasty, the Mughal dynasty and many other dynasties influenced and contributed to the Indian culture.

Music, inspired perhaps by the whistles of the wind or the splash of the waves, chirping of the birds or may be falling of the rain, exists on this land since the existence of humanity. They designed many musical instruments and innumerable ragas. Then developed different notes for different times, seasons and feelings. Different regions developed their own style of singing, not following the ragas but their own tunes and taking the lyrics in their own language and themes from their day-to-day life. One of the powerful attractions in India is the colorful and diversified attire of its people. The silk saris, brightly mirrored cholis, colorful lehangas and the traditional salwar-kameez have fascinated many a traveler over the centuries.

For a single length of material, the sari must be the most versatile garment in existence. It is only one of the many traditional garments worn by women, yet it has somehow become the national dress of Indian women. A sari is a rectangular piece of cloth, which is five to six yards in length. The style, color and texture of this cloth vary and it might be made from cotton, silk or one of the several man-made materials. The sari has an ageless charm since it is not cut or tailored for a particular size. This garment can fit any size and if worn properly can accentuate or conceal. This supremely graceful attire can also be worn in several ways and its manner of wearing as well as its color and texture are indicative of the status, age, occupation, region and religion of a woman.

Another popular attire of women in India is the salwar-kameez. This dress evolved as a comfortable and respectable garment for women in Kashmir and Punjab, but is now immensely popular in all regions of India. Salwars are pyjama-like trousers drawn tightly in at the waist and the ankles. Over the salwars, women wear a long and loose tunic known as a kameez. Though the majority of Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be found in more conventional western clothing. Men from all regions in India wear shirts and trousers. However, men in villages are still more comfortable in traditional attire like kurtas, lungis, dhotis and pyjamas.

The traditional lungi originated in the south and today men and women wear it alike. It is simply a short length of material worn around the thighs rather like a sarong. A dhoti is a longer lungi but with an additional length of material pulled up between the legs. Pyjama-like trousers worn by the villagers are known as the lenga.

Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both religious and regional and one is likely to witness a plethora of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the Indians. Indian dance is a blend of nritya - the rhythmic elements, nritya - the combination of rhythm with expression and natya - the dramatic element. Most Indian dances take their themes from India's rich mythology and folk legends. Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu and Lakshmi, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are all depicted in classical Indian dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depicting the life, ethics and beliefs of the Indian people.

The genesis of the contemporary styles of classical dances can be traced to the period between 1300-1400 A.D. India offers a number of classical dance forms, each of which can be traced to different parts of the country. Each form represents the culture and ethos of a particular region or a group of people.

Bharatnatyam - Tamil Nadu; Kathak - Uttar Pradesh; Kathakali - Kerala; Kuchipudi - Andhra Pradesh; Manipuri - Manipur; Mohiniyattam - Kerala; Odissi - Orissa.

There is a multiplicity of festivals in India. Most of the festivals owe their origin to legends, gods and goddesses and mythology. As many communities there are, there are as many festivals unique to them. Color, gaiety, enthusiasm, feasts and a variety of prayers and rituals characterize festivals here. There are number festivals celebrated in India too numerous to count. Some important festivals are: Deepawali, Krishna Janmashtami, Onam, Dussehra, Pongal, Ramzan Id, Baisakhi Easter, Ganesha Chaturthi Holi, Raksha Bandhan, Ram Navmi, Christmas, Good Friday, Makar Sankranti, Moharrum Shivratri, Durga Puja and many others.

Visa Requirements
Foreigners desirous of visiting India can do so after obtaining a visa from the Indian Mission in the country of their residence, or in a country nearest to them. People of all nationalities are welcome to visit India for tourism, business, education, family reunions etc. Employment visas are also granted if backed by employment contracts. Visas for spouse and children of foreigners employed in India are automatically granted. Nationals of Pakistan and Afghanistan are advised to apply for their visa well in advance of their intended travel because the procedure for processing their applications often takes longer than for other nationalities. All visa applicants must posses a valid passport of their country of citizenship.

Types of visa
Tourist Visa: Usually a multi-entry visa is granted for the purpose of tourism.
Transit Visa: Transit visas are granted by Indian Missions abroad for a maximum period of 15 days.
Business Visa: A foreigner can obtain one from an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad.
Student Visa: A student visa can be obtained from an Indian Embassy or Consulate abroad on the production of proof of admission and means of sustenance while in India. The visa is valid for one year but can be extended in India for the duration of the course.
Conference Visa: Delegates coming to attend international conferences and/or exhibitions in India can be granted Conference Visas to cover the conference as well as for tourism in India Delegates are advised to apply to the Indian Embassies well in advance.
Religious missionary visas: Religious missionaries can obtain visas for single entry and duration as permitted by the Government of India. Writers who are known to have offended religious sentiments have been refused visa in recent years. Foreign religious preachers known, or suspected, to be able to arouse religious passions that can disturb peaceful co-existence of all religions, are unlikely to be given visa.
Journalist Visa: Professional journalists and photographers are granted visa for three months' stay in India.
Employment Visa: Employment visas are initially issued for one-year stay.  This can be extended by the Foreigners' Regional Registration Office in India, if the job contract continues.  Spouses and children will get coterminous visas.

FOREIGNERS' REGIONAL REGISTRATION OFFICES
Foreigner's Regional Registration Offices (FRROs) in New Delhi, Mumbai and Calcutta and the Chief Immigration Officer in Madras, handle visa renewals as well as permits for Restricted Areas, via Andaman Islands, Sikkim, Assam, Ladakh, Lahaul Spiti, etc.

New Delhi: 1st Floor, Hans Bhavan, Tilak Bridge, New Delhi - 110002. Telephone: (91 11) 3319489
Calcutta: 9/1, Gariahat Road, Calcutta - 700020. Telephone: (91 33) 443301, 2470549
Chennai: 9, Village Road, Nungabakkam, Madras - 600034. Telephone: (91 44) 8270549
Mumbai: 2nd Floor, 414 V.S. Marg, Prabhadevi, Mumbai - 400001. Telephone: (91 22) 430133

Exemption from Registration
Foreigners coming to India on tourist visas for 180 days or a shorter period are not required to register themselves with any authority in India. They can move about freely in the country, except to restricted/protected areas and prohibited places.

FOREIGN TRAVEL TAX
Passengers embarking on journeys to any place outside India from a Customs airport / seaport will have to pay a Foreign Travel Tax (FTT) of Rs.500/- to most countries and Rs.150/- on journeys to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.

In case of transit passengers, provided they do not leave the Customs barrier, Transit passengers traveling by air who have to leave the airport on account of mechanical trouble but continue their journey by the same aircraft and the same flight number by which they arrive are also exempt from FTT. Transit sea passengers leaving the ship for sightseeing, shopping, etc., during the ship's call at any of the Indian ports will not be required to pay FTT.

INLAND AIR TRAVEL TAX
An Inland Air Travel Tax is leviable at 10 per cent of the basic fare, on all passengers embarking on an inland air journey. However, those passengers paying their Airfare in foreign exchange will be exempted from payment of this tax. In addition, infants, cancer patients, blind persons and invalids (those on stretchers) are also exempted from payment of this tax after fulfilling certain conditions, stipulated in the relevant notifications.

CURRENCY REGULATIONS
There are no restrictions on the amount of foreign currency or travelers' checks a tourist may bring into India provided he makes a declaration in the Currency Declaration Form given to him/her on arrival. This will enable him not only to exchange the currency brought in, but also to take the unspent currency out of India on departure. Cash, bank notes and travelers' checks up to US$ 10,000 or equivalent need not be declared at the time of entry. Any money on the form of travelers' checks, drafts, bills, checks, etc. in convertible currencies, which tourists wish to convert into Indian currency, should be exchanged only through authorized money changers and banks who will issue an encashment certificate that is required at the time of re-conversion of any unspent money into foreign currency. Exchanging of foreign exchange other than through banks or authorized money changers is an offense under the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act 1973.

CUSTOMS FORMALITIES AND REGULATIONS
Visitors are generally required to make an oral baggage declaration in respect of baggage and foreign currency in their possession. They are also required to obtain the Currency Declaration Form from the Customs. They should fill in the Disembarkation Card handed to them by the airline during the course of the flight. There are two channels for Customs clearance:

Green Channel: for passengers not in possession of any dutiable articles or unaccompanied baggage.
Red Channel: For passengers with dutiable articles or unaccompanied baggage or high value articles to be entered on the Tourist Baggage Re-Export Form.

HEALTH REGULATIONS
No vaccination certificate is required for entry into India except the persons traveling through Yellow fever epidemic countries (Certain African and Latin American Countries) are required to have yellow fever vaccination certificate conforming to International Health regulations.

TRAVELLING WITHIN INDIA

Domestic Airlines
Indian Airlines (IC) network spans the country's 8,000 kilometers and covers all places of importance for business and tourism. This state-owned airline also flies to a few neighboring countries (India's principal foreign air carrier is Air India). You can choose from a host of low fare packages offered by Indian Airlines. Liberalization of the aviation sector has meant that a number of private airlines have been formed and are now competing with Indian Airlines. Private airlines too which fly to several important cities in the country. Some of the private airlines are: Damania, Jet Airways, Sahara, Archana Airways and Skyline NEPC among others.

AIRPORTS
The international airports of the metro cities (Calcutta, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai) offer a range of services ensuring that the traveler on business can continue working while waiting to board an international connection, or when transferring between international flights. These include restaurants, business centers, rest rooms and handy telephone booths. Business centers are equipped with sate-of-the-art equipment including word processors and telefax. Airports also offer tourist duty free and handicrafts shopping; informal snack bars, nursery and baby care rooms, and even an art gallery. Duty free prices in the airport shops are very competitive, offering you bargain on international merchandise.

Railways
India has the world's most extensive railway network, both for long distances and intra-city commuting. The speed of Indian trains however is slow by Western standards. Except for a few 'super-fast' trains, which are most often dot on time, the other trains often reach their destinations a few hours late. This however does not take away from their immense usefulness as a cheap and - with reservation - comfortable train journeys. Railway travel is also an excellent introducer to the people of India as most of them travel by trains. Long-distance railway travel is a superb illustrator of the geographical and demographic diversity of India. It is also very cheap in dollar terms. If you are not in a great hurry for an appointment with the prime minister, forget air travel and go for the trains, but this requires you to make your reservation well in advance. You can do this through any good travel agency. Most good long-distance trains have their own kitchens. Use their services. Avoid buying food from hawkers or stalls at railway stations. Insist on bottled drinking water even from the railway catering services. Or, play safe, and carry enough bottled water yourself.

Intra-city commuting is quickest by suburban trains. These trains operate at a frequency of every few minutes. But they are almost always over-crowded during peak hours. Foreigners will be in for some delightfully rude shocks if they use suburban trains for intra-city commuting. Many foreigners therefore choose to use taxis to reach their places of business appointments while using the suburban railway for 'experience.' The only exception is the highly efficient Calcutta Metro (Underground) railway in which one can travel comfortably and quickly even during peak hours. Mass rapid transport systems have been planned for the big cities.

Road Travel
Unless it is for experience, avoid the local public bus services. Use taxis or rented cars. Avoid driving yourself. Indian roads can be dangerous if you are not accustomed to them. In addition to human beings walking as if on a suicide mission, motorists also have to encounter stray cows and dogs, some of whom might be having a snooze right in the middle of a busy road even in the capital city of Delhi. Privately operated bus services are far better for inter-city travel than the government services. But any bus journey of more than six hours can be trying. Go for inter-city buses only if you have to. Prefer the luxury coaches for they make life a little more pleasant.

Sightseeing
India is a delight for tourists interested in history and culture. Go for a conducted tour if your stay in a city is short. Most hotels, big and small, have arrangements with local tour operators. Use such arrangements. Carry enough bottled drinking water with you at the start your tour. Avoid conducted tours if your stay within a city is long. Get a car with a driver from a rental firm and let him take you around at your pace. You can also strike a deal with a taxi driver for a daylong tour of the place you are in, but ask your hotel to get you a taxi driver they know and trust. Invite your driver to join you for the meals you have in the course of the tour. Tip him at the end of the tour.

Restricted and Protected Areas
These area's were earlier restricted, but are now open to tourists. Which means that foreign tourists can visit these areas without any restricted area permit: Darjeeling (West Bengal), entire Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.

Foreign Tourists still require restricted area permit to visit the following areas:
Arunachal Pradesh, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshwadeep, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram, Sikkim and certain areas of Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir.

Restricted area permit can be obtained from Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi, Indian Missions Abroad, Foreigners Regional Registration Offices (FRRO) in India, resident Commissioners of respective State Governments based in Delhi and Home Commissioners of each state capitals.

Application for restricted permit has to be made at least six weeks in advance. For Andaman and Nicobar Islands, entry permit can be obtained from the Chief Immigration officers in Madras, Calcutta and Port Blair. Restricted area permit for Sikkim, Andaman and Nicobar Islands can also be obtained on the spot.

Language
English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political and commercial communication. Hindi, the national language is the primary tongue for 30% of the population. Hindustani, a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu and is spoken widely throughout Northern India.

Currency Restrictions
There are no import restrictions on money or traveler's cheques brought into the country. Cash, Bank Note or travellers' cheques upto a value of USD 10,000 or equivalent, need not be declared on entry into the country. Tourists are advised to exchange cash or traveller's cheques only in Banks or authorised exchanges and retain the receipts. This allows for re-exchange of currency on departure.

Money
Currency: Rupee = 100 Paise. Coins are in denominations of 10, 25 & 50 Paise & l, 2 & 5 Rupees. Notes are in denominations of Rs 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500. Actual exchange Rates

Do's and Don'ts (Travel Tips)

DO'S
1. All foreign nationals must pay hotel bills in foreign currency (cash or travelers' cheques) this can be paid in Rupees if the visitor has a bank receipt as proof of currency exchange.
Exchange money only through authorized banks or money changers.
Insist on a receipt when exchanging money.
Retain all receipts to facilitate re-conversion of unspent money on departure from India.
Export of most wildlife and their products is either banned or strictly regulated. Export of the few permissible items even as passengers' personal luggage is allowed only under an export permit.
Taxis and auto-rickshaws in cities do not all have meters, but where they do insist on the meter being flagged in your presence. If the driver refuses to co-operate, seek the assistance of a policeman.

DON'TS
Don't get lured by shopping bargains on the street.
Don't exchange money except with an authorized money changer.
Don't encourage beggars by giving them money or other articles.
Don't wear any footwear inside Hindu, Muslim, Sikh or Jain places of worship. Some temples do not permit leather articles to be taken in.

Major Cities of India

AgraAjmerAmritsarAurangabadBangalore
BikanerBombayCalcuttaCape ComorinCochin
DarjeelingDelhiGangtokGoaGwalior
JaipurJaisalmerJodhpurKalimpongKanchipuram
KhajurahoKodaikanalKovalamKumarkomLadakh
LakshadweepLucknowMadrasMaduraiMahabalipuram
MandawaNalandaOrchaPatnaPondicherry
RanakpurShillongTanjoreTiruchirapalliTrivandrum
UdaipurVaranasiSacred cities  


Important festivals of India
The Indian calendar is a long procession of festivals; if you can find yourself in the right place at the right time, it is possible to go through your visit with a festival each day. The harvest festivals of the south, the immersion of Ganesh in Bombay, the car Festival of Puri, snake-boat races in Kerala, Republic Day in Delhi... every region, every religion has something to celebrate. Below is a selection of the major ones, but there are countless others.

JANUARY / FEBRUARY
Sankranti / Pongal: Mainly Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. 3 days and colourful: Tamil harvest festival. 
Republic Day: National establishment of Republic 1950. 26th January. A national day of great importance when India became a republic in 1950. It is celebrated traditionally with the hoisting of the national flag followed by parade by the armed forces and school children, traditional tabalou of different parts of the country which moves down from the Rashtrapati Bhawan, past the India Gate and on to connaught place heart of the city on to historic red fort.

Vasant Panchami: National (Mainly in the Eastern region): Hindu – dedicated to Saraswati the beautiful Goddess of Learning. Women wear yellow saris.

Floating Festival: Madurai: Birthday of local 17th century ruler; elaborately illuminated barge carrying decorated temple deities at the Mariamman Teppakulam Pool amids chanting hymns.

Desert Festival: With the " golden " fort of Jaisalmer in the back- ground the desert is brought to life as dancers in vibrant lahangas and dresses and the famous bards of the region echo the rhythm of the people. The festivities include a pageant, camel races and acrobatics, camel polo & dances there is also the thrill of the turban tying competition, the unique sound & light show on the desert sands.

Nagaur fair
The sands of this desert out post stir with life annually as thousands of camels , horses and cattels assemble here for the ritual buying and selling . Colourful stalls sell items used in every day life of the rajasthani people, and there is entertainment in the form of the local circus and nautanki.

Elephant March
January is another festive time in thrissur when the great elephant march takes place. With colourful events that are successively staged in thrissur, alappuzha & thiruvanthapuram. They include thrissur splendid elephant pageant, performances of masked dances, displays of kerala's martial arts & boat races on the back water.

Camel Festival Bikaner
A festival where the hardships of the desert are seen at their best. A colourful spectacle , the beautifully decorated camels fascinate the onlookers with their languid charm & grace . A celebration of joyous music lilting rhythms and gay festivities.

FEBRUARY / MARCH

Shivaratri: National: Solemn worship of Hindu deity, Lord Shiva. Fasting and chanting. Special celebrations at Chidambarum, Kalahasti, Khajuraho, Varanasi and Bombay.

Mardi Gras:
Goa: Mainly three days during lent. Unique celebrations at this carnival.

Ramnavami:
National: Birth of Rama, incarnation of Vishnu. No processions. Plays and folk theaters.

Mahavir Jayanti:
National: Jain festival; birth of Mahavira, the 24th and last Tirthankara. 
Easter: Good Friday / Easter Sunday National.

HOLI
The most colourful festival in India, celebrating the advent of spring . Men & women of all ages throw coloured water on each other. Groups go around amorring one another with "gulal" coloured powder. Send online greeting cards to your dears

MARCH / APRIL
 

Kumbh Mela:
The oldest and most important of the Hindu festivals. It takes place every three years, at one of the four great holy cities; Nasik in Maharashtra, Ujjain (MP), Prayag (Allahabad) and Hardwar (both in UP). It is attended by millions of pilgrims who take a holy dip in the sacred Ganges River.

Gangaur
A festival in rajasthan where the women , in colourful dresses, worship lord shiva and pray for a good husband . The celebrations are marked by singing and dancing.

Baisakhi
An important day for the sikhs when guru gobind singh founded the khalsa. It also marks the hindu solar new year, ad there is a lot of feasting and dancing in punjab.

APRIL / MAY

Pooram: Trichur:
New Moon. Spectactular sight of large number of elephantscarrying ceremonial umbrellas going round the temple; midnight fireworks display.

Id-Ul-Zuha: (Bakrid):
Muslim, National: The most celebrated Islamic festival in India, commemorating the sacrifice of Abraham. Id-Ul-Fitr (Ramzan Id): Muslim, National: Celebration to mark the end of the month of Ramadan.

Meenakshi Kalyanam: Madurai.
Marriage of Meenakshi with Lord Shiva. Colourful temple festival. Deities borne by colossal chariot. Ten day festival.

Fair: Rajasthan:
Urs Ajmer Sharif. Ajmer, 6 days. Religious cultural and commercial extravaganza dedicated to the Sufi. Music; no procession.

JUNE / JULY

Rath Yatra:
Mainly Orissa. Greatest temple festival in honour of Lord Jagannath (Lord of the Universe). Three colossal chariots drawn from Puri temple by thousands of pilgrims. Similar festivals, on a smaller scale, take place at Ramnagar (near Varanasi), Serampore (near Calcutta) and Jagannathpur (near Ranchi).

JULY / AUGUST 

Teej:
Rajasthan- Particularly Jaipur: Procession of the Goddess Parvati to welcome monsoon; elephants, camels, dancers etc. Women wear green saris. Colourful.
Raksha Bandhan: Northern and Western India. Legendary reenactment, girls tie rakhis or talismen to men’s wrists. Colourful build up.

Naag Panchami:
Mainly Jodphur, Rajasthan and Maharashtra. Dedicated to the green thousand-headed mythical serpent called Sesha. The day is also observed in many other parts of Western and Eastern India.

Amarnath Yatra:
Hindu: Lidder Valley, Kashmir at full moon. Pilgrims visit the place where Lord Shiva explained the secret of salvation to his consort Parvati.

AUGUST / SEPTEMBER 

Independence Day: (15th August).
National: Independence Day. Prime Minister delivers address from Delhi’s Red Fort.

Janmashtami:
National, particularly Agra, Bombay and Mathura; Lord Krishna’s birthday.

Onam:
Kerala’s Harvest Festival; spectacular snake boat races in many parts of Kerala. 
Ganesh Chaturthi: Mainly Pune, Orissa, Bombay, Madras, dedicated to elephant-headed God Ganesh. Giant models of the deity processed and immersed in water. Colourful, and a particularly worth visiting on the Day of immersion at Bombay.

SEPTEMBER / OCTOBER

Dussehra:
National: The most popular festival in the country, celebrated in different ways in different parts of the country. In the north and particularly in Delhi (where it is known as Ram Lila), plays and music recall the life of Rama; in Kulu, the festival is also very colourful celebrated. In Bengal and many parts of Eastern India it is known as Durga Puja, and in the South as Navaratri. 
Fair, Himachal Pradesh: Kulu Valley to coincide with Dussehra (10 days). 
Gandhi Jayanti: National: Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday. No processions.

Diwali:
National: One of the most lively and colourful festivals in India. In some parts, it marks the start of the Hindu New Year. In Eastern India, the goddess Kali is particularly worshipped; elsewhere, it is Lakshmi, the goddess of prosperity, who is venerated. Everywhere there are magnificent illuminations and fireworks.

Gurpurab:
Mainly in northern India. Anniversaries of ten gurus, spiritual teachers or preceptors of Sikhism. No procession.

NOVEMBER 

Muharram:
Muslim. Commemoration of Imam Hussain’s martyrdom. Tiger dancers lead processions of colourful replicas of martyr’s tomb. Colourful, particularly at Lucknow. 
Bihar: Largest cattle fair in the world; 1 month Sonepur, Patna; on banks of the Ganges.

Pushkar Mela:
Pushkar, near Ajmer, Rajasthan. Important and colourful. Camel and cattle fair, attended by Rajputs from miles around. Camel races and acrobatics etc.

DECEMBER 

Christmas Day:
National: Most exuberantly celebrated in Goa, Bombay and Tamil Nadu.

Note: Besides the above festivals there are hundreds of festivals and fairs which are of regional significance, celebrated with equal pomp and colour. The most authentic of these are the following:

The Temple Festival in South India,
The many festivals at Ladakh in Kashmir.
The many festivals in Rajasthan at a time when a festival of some kind is not either in Progress or about to take place.
 
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