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India

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India is the world’s largest democracy and one of the oldest civilization on earth. Located in the south-eastern part of Asia, it protrudes as a peninsula into the Indian Ocean. To its north, bordered by the Great Himalayas, lies China and Nepal. Most of the country is surrounded by water bodies; to the east lies the Bay of Bengal and to the west the Arabian sea. The Indian ocean and the tear-shaped island-country of Sri-Lanka, lie to the south.

The whole country drips with history and an ever-lingering presence of a bygone era can be found in its language, architecture, clothing, arts, festivals and food. No other country in the planet encapsulates such magnificent mélange of cultures within a single society as India does.

India is one country just for namesake. An outsider will easily notice the variety and diversity that India represents. The country has more than 150 languages, millions of gods, thousands of different traditional spread across varied geography. Yet, by some magical force, it remains together.

One of that magical wand is, of course, Bollywood. The Indian movie industry churns out a massive 700+ movies each year, making it highest in the category. Bollywood unites India with its heartthrob superstars, classic melodies, and evergreen characters.

If there is anything else that can challenge the energy and enthusiasm surrounding Bollywood, it surely is cricket. Cricket, incidentally, was introduced by the British, who colonized India for about 200 years. The British had left more than just the gentleman’s sport. The British Raj was in some ways a watershed moment in India’s evolution and it changed the destiny of the whole subcontinent. The British introduced India to the western ideas of democracy and self-rule. But the colonial legacy isn’t a rosy picture and is filled with stories of hatred and humiliation.

The collective thinking of India is deeply molded by its past, as India is a very old Civilization. It lacks the spirt of change, that new countries like the US have. Its history stretches back to legends and lore from the prehistoric ages. It sits on the legacy of more than a thousand years and it often struggles to find its place in the contemporary globalized world.

On one hand India boasts of a robust economy, a vibrant space program, swanky shopping malls, world-class restaurants and 7-star hotels while on the other you can also find Asia’s largest slum, extreme malnutrition, and an overburdened infrastructure. A massive chunk of India lives below the poverty line, in extreme frugality. The Great Indian middle-class fuels most of the economy and they are mostly well educated compared to world standards. There are also clusters of “high-society” neighborhoods comprising of millionaires and billionaires. Sadly, the iconic trait of diversity plays out in its income inequality too.

India can be somewhat be called the cultural capital of Southeast Asia, and the religious capital of Asia. Most of the Asian religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism originated in India and spread out gradually. Buddhism, in particular, had an overwhelming impact in countries like China and Japan. Apart from these homegrown religions, India is also home to the second largest Muslim population in the world. Other religions like Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Judaism was introduced to India at various times and India gladly accepted them all.

Religion and caste often get entangled with politics which is as diverse as the country itself. As of 2015, India has a staggering 1866 political parties. The general election in India in 2014 was the largest election in history, where 850+ million people voted to choose their leader.

India is also a tourism hotspot and a riot of mesmerizing cultures and places are waiting to be discovered. The crown of India is the Himalayas, where you can find lofty snow-covered peaks reaching for the skies. Mount Everest, the highest peak in the work, is located at the border of India and Nepal. The Middle Himalayas are dotted with a number of ineffable hill stations like Nainital, Shimla, Manali, Dharamshala, Darjeeling, etc. There are also some pristine and scenic valleys spread throughout the Lower Himalayas.

The Himalayas also feed some of the most important rivers of India, like the Ganga and Yamuna. The glaciers of Gangotri and Yamunotri are places of great religious significance and are jam-packed with pilgrims throughout the summer months. Other popular pilgrimages in India is the Deviprayag, in central India, a place where three crucial rivers meet.

In this holy river of Ganga, lies the city of Varanasi. Varanasi is an old warhorse of ancient India , which still stands amid waves of change. It is a city of thousand legends and is soaked in an eternal ethos of another era, an undying king contemplating on its past glories.

Temples of India will present to a totally different perspective of India. The temples can best exemplify India’s diversity. You can find a plethora of different architecture, traditional, worship style and gods spread throughout India.

The world of Muslim architectural wonder is another rich heritage of India. The famous Taj Mahal represents the epitome of aesthetic beauty. There are other pieces of marvel scattered throughout North India, like Sidi Sayyid Mosque, Humayun's Tomb, Fatehpur Sikri and Buland Darwaza.

Southern India is a symbiosis of festivals and natural beauty. Sandwiched by coasts on both sides it has an a number of tourist spots like Goa, Pondicherry, Visakhapatnam, Kannur, etc. It is also a popular choice for wildlife travel and spice-expeditions as it is home to two picturesque mountain ranges; the Eastern Ghats and the Westerns Ghats.

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