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Colors, Flavors & Traditions

Take a glimpse of some of India’s other sides to bring your enjoyment full-circle.

Geography

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North East

Northeast India refers to the easternmost region of India consisting of the contiguous Seven Sister States, Sikkim, and parts of North Bengal (districts of Darjeeling, Jalpaiguri, and Koch Bihar). In the far northeast, the Chin Hills and Kachin Hills, deeply forested mountainous regions, separate India from Myanmar. The Bangladesh-India border is defined by the Khasi Hills and Mizo Hills, and the watershed region of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The Patkai, or Purvanchal, are situated near India's eastern border with Myanmar, made up of the Patkai–Bum, the Garo–Khasi–Jaintia and the Lushai hills. The Garo–Khasi range lies in Meghalaya. Mawsynram, a village near Cherrapunji , located on the windward side of these hills, has the distinction of being the wettest place in the world.

Central

Vindhyachal mountain range defines central India, located as they are almost in the middle part of Indian sub-continent. The mountain range of Vindhyachal extends from the state of Gujarat to Bihar, passing through the central Indian states of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh. Sonabhadra and Narmada rivers originate from the Vindhyachal, the mountain range that divides India or Bharat into two distinct halves: northern India and peninsular India.

South

India reaches its peninsular tip with South India, which begins with the Deccan in the north and ends with Kanyakumari. The states in South India are Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala. The southeast coast, mirroring the west, also rests snugly beneath a mountain range---the Eastern Ghats, sloping down to the Indian Ocean.

West

The states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Goa, and part of the massive, central state of Madhya Pradesh constitute Western India. Extending from the Gujarat peninsula down to Goa, the west coast is lined with some of India's best beaches. The land along the coast is typically lush with rainforests. The Western Ghats separate the verdant coast from the Vindhya Mountains and the dry Deccan plateau further inland. Apart from the Arabian Sea, its western border is defined exclusively by Pakistan.

North

Himalayas, the world's highest mountain chain and Nepal as its neighbouring country, dominate India's northern border. Following the sweeping mountains to the northeast, its borders narrow to a small channel that passes between Nepal, Tibet, Bangladesh, and Bhutan, then spreads out again to meet Burma in the "eastern triangle”. North India is the country's largest region begins with Jammu and Kashmir, with terrain varying from arid mountains in the far north to the lake country and forests near Srinagar and Jammu. Moving south along the Indus river, the North becomes flatter and more hospitable, widening into the fertile plains of Punjab to the west and the Himalayan foothills of Uttar Pradesh and the Ganges river valley to the East. Located between these two states is the capital city, Delhi.

East

India is the home of the sacred River Ganges and the majority of Himalayan foothills, East India begins with the states of Bihar, Orissa and West Bengal, which comprise the westernmost part of the region. East India also contains an area known as the eastern triangle, which is entirely distinct. This is the last area of land that extends beyond Bangladesh, culminating in the Naga Hills along the Burmese border.

History

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Independence

India wrested its independence from Britain in 1947 after a long freedom struggle led largely by the Indian National Congress and its visionary leaders, especially, Mahatma Gandhi. From 1920, the freedom movement leaders began highly popular mass campaign against the British Raj using largely peaceful methods. India’s acquisition of independence resulted in the formation of two countries, India and Pakistan. Following the controversial partition of India, rioting broke out, leaving some 500,000 dead. Also, this period saw one of the largest mass migrations ever recorded in modern history, with a total of 12 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims moving between the newly created nations of India and Pakistan.

Colonial

The Europeans -- Portuguese, French, Dutch, Danish and British -- started arriving in the early 1600s after Vasco da Gama successfully discovered a new sea route from Europe to India in 1498. All of them held territories in India and made friends and enemies among India's rulers as they got more and more involved with Indian politics, but it was the British who eventually controlled most of India and finally made it one of their colonies. In 1617, the British East India Company was given permission by Mughal Emperor Jahangir to trade in India. In the aftermath of India’s First War of Independence in 1857, all power was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown, which began to administer most of India as a colony; the company's lands were controlled directly and the rest through the rulers of what it called the Princely states.

Mughal

The Mughals came from Central Asia and soon held sway over most of the northern parts of the subcontinent. Mughal rulers introduced Central Asian art and architecture to India. In addition to the Mughals and various Rajput kingdoms, several independent Hindu states, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, the Maratha Empire, and the Ahom Kingdom, flourished simultaneously in southern, western, and north-eastern India, respectively. The Mughal Empire suffered a gradual decline in the early 18th century, which provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis, Sikhs, and Marathas to exercise control over large areas in the northwest of the subcontinent until the British East India Company gained ascendancy over South Asia.

Pre-Mughal

In 1192, Mohammed of Ghor, a ruler from Afghanistan, came into India and captured several places in the north including Delhi. When he returned home, he left one of his generals in charge who became the first Sultan of Delhi. During this time Islam, was introduced into a major part of northern India. It may be mentioned that, even before that, just after the period of the Prophet (Praise Be Upon Him), Islam was brought to the western coast of India by Arab traders and flourished in what is now Kerala.

The Delhi Sultanate gradually took control of more and more of North India over the next 200 years, till Timur, who was called "Timur the Lame" or "Tamberlane" came from Turkey in 1398 to attack India which practically signalled the end of the Delhi Sultanate. Soon the Mughals, who were from Central Asia, came in and took control of the north.

In the meantime in the south, in 1336, the Hindu Vijayanagar Empire based at modern day Hampi in Karnataka was established and gained strength.

Medieval

The Gupta dynasty was the greatest to rule in the north after the Mauryas, heralding a period known as the ‘Golden Age of India’, while in the southern part of India several different empires --the Cholas, the Pandyas and the Cheras -- spread and grew, trading with Europe and other parts of Asia till the end of the 1100s. Christianity entered India at about the same time from Europe. Legend has it that St. Thomas the Apostle arrived in India in 52 AD. Even earlier than that people of Jewish religion arrived on India's shores. In approximately the 7th century AD, a group of Zoroastrians, or Parsees, landed in Gujarat and became a part of the large mix of religions in India today, each of which adds its important and distinctive flavour. In the 15th century, Guru Nanak laid the foundation of the Sikh religion in Punjab.

Ancient

The coming of the Indo-European group around 1500 BC provided the final blow to the collapsing Indus Valley civilisation. At the dawn of Vedic ages, the Indo-European group came in from the North and spread through large parts of India bringing with them their culture and religious beliefs. The Four Vedas, or the important books of Hinduism, were compiled in this period. Although it is widely held that the Indo-European group came into India from somewhere in Central Asia and soon spread to other parts of India, there are also very compelling arguments amongst historians that the Indo-European group were native to the rough geographical area that is the Indian subcontinent.

In 567 BC, the founder of the Buddhist religion -- Gautama Buddha -- was born. During this time also lived Mahavira, who founded the Jain religion. Two hundred years later, in the 4th century BC, Emperor Ashoka of the Maurya dynasty, one of the greatest King of Indian history, led the Magadhan Empire based at Pataliputra (present day Patna- and capital of Bihar) to take over almost all of what is now modern India. This great leader embraced Buddhism and built the group of monuments at Sanchi (a UNESCO world heritage site). The Ashoka pillar at Sarnath has been adopted by India as its national emblem and the Dharma Chakra on the Ashoka Pillar adorns the National Flag.

Pre-historic

The Indus Valley civilisation is the earliest known in the region. Although little is known about the rise and subsequent fall of the civilisation, e the twin cities of Mohenjodaro and Harappa (now in Pakistan) are thought to have been ruled by priests and held the rudiments of Hinduism. These civilisations were known to possess a sophisticated lifestyle, a highly developed sense of aesthetics, an astonishing knowledge of town planning and a script language that has remained undeciphered till date. The Indus civilisation, at one point of time, extended nearly a million square kilometres (sq km) across the Indus river valley. It existed at the same time as the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Sumer but far outlasted them. The civilisation is known to have survived for nearly a 1,000 years.