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Introdction to India


India – Land of 1.3bn people and counting.  Second only to China in population but a third of it in land mass or even America.  Hence you will always find people around you.  India is packed with people and jam packed at places with people from diverse cultures, customs, languages, and history.  Provinces or States of India as we call them, are divided based on languages hence culture and customs.  India has 29 states and seven union territories. This implies 29 different cultures and practices and customs.  Number of official languages are 22 though 1652 spoken languages were recorded in census conducted half century back.  Count of dialects spoken are even more.

Many people think that visiting one area of India is a good indicator of seeing whole of India.  They cannot be more wrong.  Because of the diversity and cultural groupings, I prefer to consider India as Europe and each province of India equivalent to independent country of Europe.  Hence, when you visit one province of India, you have not seen whole of India or Europe equivalent, but only part of it.  Hence traveling from one region to another can make you an outsider and tourist within your home country.

To better understand India and organize your travels, I have divided India into 10 groups which are mutually exclusive to each other.  Though each province has its own uniqueness but within the group, they are largely similar.  Hence visiting two to three cities of the group will by and large be representative of the whole group wrt culture and customs and topography.

  • Northern Hills / Himalayas: This region includes provinces of Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and altitudes of Uttarakhand. Natural beauty is untouched in many places, and Leh / Ladakh (cold desert) is a popular biking roadtrip from New Delhi. The views and experience of driving at 18,000ft and more is simply amazing.  Due to the remoteness of the region, advanced healthcare facilities / ATMs are not available everywhere hence carrying enough cash is a must and also being cautious or restrained in adventures as help might not be around the corner. The remoteness of region and also scantiness of population can be gauged from the fact that though Ladakh is a popular tourist destination but it does not have a petrol pump.
  • Northern Plains– Region includes Chandigarh, Haryana, New Delhi, and Punjab.  It is one of the prosperous and developed regions of India.  Chandigarh, New Delhi, and Punjab are the major attractions of this region. New Delhi is a historical city and Capital of India while Chandigarh is an important city of the region.  Punjab though developed is largely rural as agriculture is its main activity.  Being at the foothills of Himalayas, this region also acts as gateway to the hills.
  • North Gangetic Plains– Including Bihar, Jharkhand, Uttar Pradesh, and plains of Uttarakhand this is the less developed part of India but the religious and spiritual center. Towns of Agra, Allahabad, Bodh Gaya, Haridwar, Lucknow, Rishikesh, Sarnath, and Varanasi are in these states.
  • North West – Rajasthan (Desert State). Very popular among tourists, this state is all about bright strong colors and sand and luxury. Popular tourist spots of Udaipur, Jaipur, Pushkar, Jodhpur, and Jaisalmer lie here.
  • Central – Madhya Pradesh (MP), and Chhattisgarh. One of the poorest regions of India, but abundant in history, nature, natural park / reserves and forests. Towns of Gwalior, Khajuraho, Ujjain are in MP along with many natural park / reserves. Chhattisgarh is largely tribal area and extremely rural but has one of the most pristine and beautiful nature.
  • West – Goa, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. Rann of Kutch, and Mumbai are in this region and also the Ellora and Ajanta caves. These are the big states occupying large land mass but don’t forget the party beaches of Goa.
  • South – Andhra Pradesh (AP), Telangana, Karnataka (KAR), Puducheery, Tamil Nadu (TN), and Kerala (KL).  Religion takes another form here.  Number of temples in Tamil Nadu might astonish you.  Ancient city of Hampi along with the modern city of Bangalore is in Karnataka.  Another historical city Hyderabad where old and modern city co-exist is located in Telangana region.  The beautiful Western Ghats are spread in three states (TN, KAR, KL) along with the relaxing backwaters of Kerala.  Else you have a coastal town of Vizag in AP or Puducherry in TN to relax on the eastern coast.
  • North East – Sikkim, Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland, Tripura, and Meghalaya.  I call this region the different India, good India.  Sikkim is a hilly state along with the northern half of Arunachal Pradesh.  Cleanest village in Asia is in Meghalaya, something which is difficult to believe after seeing rest of India.  In general too, this region is very beautiful and scenic with extremely nice and friendly people.
  • Bengal Region– West Bengal & Orissa.  The art and literature capital of India and gateway to North East.  Do not miss seeing and enjoying Kolkata and Darjeeling here or to see the sun temple of Konark in Puri, Orissa.  Trying different sweets in Kolkata is also a must activity.
  • Islands (South)– Lakshwadeep (West), and Andaman & Nicobar (East).  Largely tribal area with limited access to tourists (Indians and Non Indians) in order to preserve the tribes.  But never the less, very beautiful and scenic islands with possibility of water sports in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.

 

Weather:

Weather in India is largely tropical monsoon with the exception of hilly regions.  Technically, eight climate regions exist in India.  Weather is dry throughout the year barring the rainy season or monsoons in June – September.

Monsoon rains start from early June from South India and are expected to cover all of India by June end.  They begin to retreat in August end from North and leave India by late September.  Places which are particularly notorious for heavy rainfalls are Western Ghats (hilly regions of Southern India – Karnataka & Kerala & Goa), Uttarakhand, Orissa, West Bengal, Sikkim esp North Sikkim, and Arunachal Pradesh.  Tourist places which are impacted are – Arunachal Pradesh, Gangtok & Lachung (Sikkim) in North East, Munar, Ooty, Mahabaleshwar in South India, Mumbai, Kolkata, Goa in West India, and higher altitudes of Uttarakhand in North. If you enjoy rains, then all of these places are open for you throughout the year except North & North East hills, due to risk of landslide / cloud burst.

 

Due presence of Himalayas, temperature variation in India can be very high.  You might be sweating in one area in June but in hills you may feel need of warm clothes.  Season’s average temperatures details can be found below:  On individual days and in the middle of the season, temperatures can be high / low by ~+5 to +7 degree Celsius:

 

  Summer Rains Autumn Winter Spring
Northern Hills

Max: ~17

Min: ~2

Max: ~23

Min: ~8

Max: ~17

Min: ~2

Max: ~1

Min: ~(-11)

Max: ~3

Min: ~(-7)

Northern Plains

Max: ~38

Min: ~21

Max: ~34

Min: ~23

Max: ~29

Min: ~13

Max: ~20

Min: ~4

Max: ~23

Min: ~8

North Gangetic Plains

Max: ~39

Min: ~25

Max: ~33

Min: ~35

Max: ~31

Min: ~17

Max: ~24

Min: ~10

Max: ~28

Min: ~14

North West

Max: ~39

Min: ~26

Max: ~33

Min: ~25

Max: ~32

Min: ~16

Max: ~23

Min: ~9

Max: ~27

Min: ~13

West

Max: ~41

Min: ~27

Max: ~33

Min: ~25

Max: ~35

Min: ~23

Max: ~29

Min: ~13

Max: ~33

Min: ~16

Central

Max: ~39

Min: ~24

Max: ~29

Min: ~22

Max: ~30

Min: ~16

Max: ~26

Min: ~11

Max: ~30

Min: ~15

Bengal Region

Max: ~35

Min: ~26

Max: ~32

Min: ~26

Max: ~32

Min: ~22

Max: ~27

Min: ~14

Max: ~ 31

Min: ~19

North East

Max: ~31

Min: ~22

Max: ~32

Min: ~25

Max: ~31

Min: ~23

Max: ~24

Min: ~11

Max: ~28

Min: ~14

South

Max: ~35

Min: ~27

Max: ~35

Min: ~25

Max: ~30

Min: ~24

Max: ~28

Min: ~21

Max: ~31

Min: ~23

Islands

Max: ~31

Min: ~23

Max: ~29

Min: ~23

Max: ~29

Min: ~22

Max: ~29

Min: ~21

Max: ~31

Min: ~21

Note: Summer: April – June; Monsoons: July – September; Autumn: October – November; Winter: December – January; Spring: February – March

To know more about India, and to plan for your trip, you may find information in links below helpful.

 

Please click on the below states to read about them and the cities I have visited.  Alternatively, you can navigate by taking your mouse over Travel Destination – India.  Follow the drop down menu to see the states I have visited and further the cities within these states to read in detail and plan your trip:

 

Please come back again to read about more states and cities

 

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