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Destination Overview

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Things To Do

Activities

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Taj Mahal
(World Heritage Site) India’s most fascinating and beautiful monument, the Taj Mahal was completed in 1653 AD by the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as the final resting place for his favourite Queen Mumtaz. This perfectly symmetrical monument took 22 years (1630-1652) of hard labour and 20,000 workers, masons and jewellers to build and is set amidst landscaped gardens. It was built by the Persian architect, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

Golden Temple
Also known as Harmandir or Darbar Sahib, the temple is a white and gold majestic building, the foundation of which was laid by the Muslim saint, Mian Mir, an admirer and friend of Guru Arjun. The Mandir is built on a 67-ft square of marble and is a two storied structure. The top structure of the temple is covered with pure gold leaf, hence, the popular name, Golden Temple. Inside the temple lies the holy book of the Sikhs - the Granth Sahib.

Virupaksha temple 
Built by Queen Lokamahadevi in 745 to commemorate her husband's (Vikramadiyta II) victory over the Pallavas, the temple is influenced by the architecture of the Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. The Virupaksha temple later served as a model for the Rashtrakuta ruler Krishna I (757 -783 A.D.) to carve out the great Kailasa at Ellora. 

The Virupaksha is a large complex consisting of a tall vimana with axial mandapas and peripheral sub-shrines round the court, enclosed by a wall with gopura-entrances in front and behind, all designed and completed at one time. As such, this is the earliest extant temple-complex in the Chalukyan series. The massive gopuras are also the earliest. The compound-wall of the complex, following the plan of the group itself, has on its coping kuta and said-heads, suggestive of a derivation from the Shore-temple at Mahabalipuram-a device which gives the impression of a lower storey when viewed from a distance.

Ajanta Caves
The thirty rock-hewn caves at Ajanta, cut into the scarp of a cliff are either Chaityas (chapels) or Viharas (monasteries).  On the walls of the caves are paintings, many still glowing with their original colours.  The outer walls are covered with brilliantly executed sculpture. The Buddhist theme of the Ajanta paintings recounts the life of Lord Buddha and tales of his previous earthly experiences.

Diving in Andaman & Nicobar 
The waters around Andaman have spectacular bio-diversity, and dive conditions that are ideal for an experienced diver.

Cinque Island: One of the best dive destinations on the island, with clear emerald waters and a visibility of up to 80 feet. The deep dive offers a terrific variety of marine life including back coral and sightings of sharks, and is ideal for the experienced diver.

Havelock Island: This island is located approximately four hours away from the Port Blair airport by inter-island ferry. The dive centre located on the island offers a wide range of largely unexplored dive sites rich in underwater marine life. The nearest decompression chamber is at the Naval base in Port Blair. 

Snake Island: Awesome rock faces and a spectacular dive landscape. Marine life includes trigger fish, grunts, goatfish and rays.

Kerala- Kumarakom Backwaters 
Every year, more than seven million tourists visit Kerala, a place that the National Geographic Magazine has described as one of the must-see places in a lifetime. Kumarakom is an important stopover for a majority of these tourists. This famous tourist backwater hub is a cluster of islands on the eastern banks of Lake Vembanad.

Kumarakom is an unbelievably beautiful paradise of mangrove forests, emerald green paddy fields and coconut groves interspersed with enchanting waterways and canals adorned with white lilies. Situated on the Vembanad Lake, this small water world has plenty of traditional country boats, crafts and canoes, which will take you in to the heart of scenic Kerala. The resorts near by offer comfortable accommodation and exclusive leisure options like Ayurvedic massages, Yoga and meditation besides boating, fishing, angling and swimming. In the last Century, Henry Baker, an English man, attracted by the beauty of the place, selected Kumarakom as his residence and built a bungalow, obtaining 104 acres of land from the then Maharaja of Travancore. He also made a beautiful garden. Preserving the old style, the beautiful bungalow of Baker has now been modified into the Taj Garden Retreat, a hotel with modern living facilities.

Arts

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The art of India is inextricably intertwined with the country’s cultural history, religions and philosophies, with the production and patronage of art being linked to social and cultural contexts.

The earliest Indian religion to inspire major artistic monuments was Buddhism. Soon after the Buddhists initiated the rock-cut caves, Hindus and Jains started to imitate them at Badami, Aihole, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, Aurangabad and Mamallapuram.

The Chola period, remarkable for its sculptures and bronzes, is represented by some of the finest figures of Siva in various forms, Vishnu and his consort Lakshmi, Siva saints, etc., created by using the lost wax technique

The 2nd century BC Ajanta Caves marked the beginnings of cliff paintings in India. There are known more than 20 locations in India with paintings and traces of former paintings of ancient and early medieval times (up to 8th - 10th century AD such asBagh Caves (Madhya Pradesh), Ellora Caves (Maharashtra) andSittanavasal (Tamil Nadu).

The huge range of folk and tribal art in India is manifested through varied media such as pottery, painting, metalwork,dhokra art, paper-art, weaving and designing of objects likejewellery and toys. The subjects of this art range from puranic gods, local deities, festivals, fairs, myths, nature and legends.


Mughal art and architecture a characteristic Indo-Islamic-Persian style that flourished on the Indian subcontinent during the Mughal Empire (1526-1857). This new style combined elements of Islamic art and architecture, which had been introduced to India during the Delhi Sultanate (1192-1398) and had produced great monuments such as the QutbMinar, with features of Persian art and architecture. A special aspect of Mughal painting is a particular style of South Asian painting, generally confined to miniatures either as book illustrations or as single works to be kept in albums, which emerged from Persian miniature painting, with Indian Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist influences, and developed largely in the court of the Mughal Empire, and later spread to other Indian courts, both Muslim and Hindu, and later Sikh.

British colonial rule had a great impact on Indian art as old patrons of art became less wealthy and influential, and Western art more ubiquitous. Abanindranath Tagore (1871–1951), referred to as the father of Modern Indian art introduced reworked Asian styles, in alignment with a developing Indian nationalism and pan-Asianism to create a new school of art, which is today known as the Bengal school of art. Other artists of the Tagore family, such as Rabindranath Tagore (1861–1941) and Gaganendranath Tagore (1867–1938) as well as new artists of the early 20th c such as Amrita Sher-Gil (1913–1941) were responsible for introducing Avant Gardewestern styles into Indian Art. Many other artists like Jamini Roy and later S.H. Raza took inspiration from folk traditions.

In 1947 India became independent of British rule. A group of six artists - K. H. Ara, S. K. Bakre, H. A. Gade, M.F. Husain, S.H.Raza and Francis Newton Souza founded the Progressive Artist's Group, to establish new ways of expressing India in the post-colonial era. Though the group was dissolved in 1956, it was profoundly influential in changing the idiom of Indian art. Almost all India's major artists in the 1950s were associated with the group. Some of those who are well-known today are BalChabda, ManishiDey, V. S. Gaitonde, KrishenKhanna, Ram Kumar, Tyeb Mehta, Devender Singh, Akbar Padamsee, John Wilkins, Himmat Shah and ManjitBawa. Present-day Indian art is varied as it had been never before. Among the best-known artists of the newer generation include Sanjay Bhattacharya, Bose Krishnamachari, Narayanan Ramachandran, GeetaVadhera, Devajyoti Ray, Satish Gupta, and Bikash Bhattacharya. 

Contemporary Indian art takes influence from all over the world. With many Indian artists immigrating to the west, art for some artists has been a form of expression merging their past with their current in western culture.

Beaches

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Varkala
A famous beach destination in southern Kerala, Varkala comes lauded as a sacred pilgrimage center too. Like the white cliffs of Dover, the pink  cliffs at the Varkala Beach offer sensational view of the Arabian Sea. Mineral water springs originating from the cliff is believed to possess medicinal properties. 

A dip in the holy waters at the beach is believed to purge the body of impurities and the soul of all sins; hence the name 'Papanasam beach'. The place is home to 2000-year-old Vishnu Shrine of Janardhanaswamy. The Sivagiri Mutt established by the great social reformer, Sree Narayana Guru is another start attraction of the place.

Gokarna
Literally meaning ‘cow’s ear,’ the quant town of Gokarna in Uttara Kannada district of Karnataka is formed by the ear-shaped confluence of two rivers and the favourite haunt of Hindu pilgrims, Sanskrit scholars, and beach buffs. Om Beach, one of Gokarna’s five famed beaches, takes the shape of an “Om”, a Hindu spiritual symbol.

The other beaches, wedged between gigantic cliffs that protrude like delicate fingers into the sea, are Gokarna, Kudle, Half Moon, and Paradise. The drive up the winding path that leads to Gokarna is a scenic delight with rocky mountains and the Western Ghats on one side, and the Arabian Sea on the other. Adventurous tourists must be prepared for a bit of cliff-scrambling in this coastal town.

Palolem Beach
Just 3 km away from Canacona Railway station, now on the Konkan Railway, Palolem is situated at the West of Chaudi in South Goa. About 1.61 km long, Palolem Beach is endowed with crystal-clear azure waters of the Arabian Sea.

Tarkarli
Situated at the confluence of the river Karliand the Arabian Sea, it is the most beautiful beach of Maharashtra and a scenicplace, away from the city life. The water is so clear that the seabed upto a depth of 15 ft can be seen. Places of interest include, Tarkarli Beach, Tarkarli Creek – a bird watcher’s paradise, Kolamb Beach, Ahra Beach, Newali- Bhogwe Beach which can be reached by ferry, Sindhudurg Fort (6 km), Deobagh Beach (7 km), Dhamapur Lake (20 km).

Arambol Beach 
Situated some 50 km away from Panaji, the Arambol Beach is strikingly beautiful and has a peaceful ambience.

Kovalam Beach 
This Internationally renowned Beach Resort has been a favourite haunt of tourists since the 1930s. Kovalam consists of three adjacent crescent beaches. The Southernmost, known as the Lighthouse beach, is the most popular Kovalam offers accommodation options to suit all budgets.

Culture

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Music
Said to be one of the oldest unbroken musical traditions in the world, Indian classical music has its originsin the Vedas (ancient scriptures of the Hindus). Over the centuries, Indian classical music has also evolved through interaction between different races and cultures. 

The foundation of Indian music is ‘sangeet,’ a combination of three artforms: vocal music, instrumental music and dance. Although these three artforms were originally derived from stagecraft, today they represent different, highly complex individual artforms.

The system of Indian music is based onraag and taal with the former being the melodic form and the latter the rhythmic.

Raagcan be roughly equated with the Western term mode or scale.  There is a system of seven notes which are arranged similar to Western scales.  The taals are complex and revolve around repeating patterns of beats.
The different interpretations of the raag and the taalhas led to the distinction of two major traditions of classical music:  Hindustani sangeetof the north and Carnatic sangeet of the south.  

Instruments typically used in Hindustani music include the sitar, sarod, surbahar, tanpura, bansuri, shehnai, sarangi, santoor, pakhavaj and tabla. Instruments typically used in Carnatic music include venu, gottuvadyam, harmonium, veena, mridangam, kanjira, ghatam and violin.

Literature
The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. The Rig Veda, a collection of sacred hymns (1500–1200 BCE), and epics Ramayana and Mahabharata composed towards the end of the first millennium BCE, form a part of India’s impressive repository of literary works.Examples of Classical Sanskrit literature include Shakuntala and Meghaduuta, two plays written by Kalidas,indisputable India’s greatest playwright in Sanskrit;Mricchakatika by Shudraka;SvapnaVasavadattam by Bhasa, and Ratnavali by Sri Harsha. Later poetic works include GeetaGovinda by Jayadeva, as well asChanakya'sArthashastra and Vatsyayana'sKamasutra.

In the medieval period, Kannada and Telugu literature gained ascendency in the 9th and 11th centuries, followed by works in Marathi, Bengali, and various dialects of Hindi, Persian and Urdu. Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore became India's first Nobel Laureateliterature in early 20th century.

Cinema
India is the world's largest producer of films, with as many as 1,000 films in various languages of India being produced annually. India’s first full-length motion picture,Raja Harishchandra (1913), a silent film in Marathi,was produced by DadasahebPhalke. ArdeshirIrani released AlamAra, the first Indian talking film, on 14 March 1931 and H.M. Reddy, produced and directed BhaktaPrahlada (Telugu), released on 15 September 15, 1931 and Kalidas (Tamil) released on 31 October  31, 1931.

The 'Golden Age' of Indian cinema -- the late 1940s to the 1960s – saw the production of some of the most critically acclaimed Indian films of all time, such as  Guru Dutt’s films Pyaasa (1957) and KaagazKePhool (1959) and Raj Kapoor films Awaara (1951) and Shree 420 (1955). These films expressed social themes mainly dealing with working-class urban life in India post independence.

Simultaneously, the Parallel Cinema movement, mainly led by Bengali cinema, emerged. Early examples of films in this movement include ChetanAnand'sNeecha Nagar (1946),[RitwikGhatak'sNagarik (1952), and Bimal Roy's Do BeeghaZameen (1953), laying the foundations for Indian neorealism and the "Indian New Wave". Satyajit Ray’s The Apu Trilogy (1955–1959) won major prizes at all the major international film festivals and led to the 'Parallel Cinema' movement being firmly established in Indian cinema. Ever since ChetanAnand's social realist film Neecha Nagar won the Grand Prize at the first Cannes Film Festival, Indian films frequently competed for the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival for nearly every year in the 1950s and early 1960s, with a number of them winning major prizes at the festival. Satyajit Ray also won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for Aparajito (1956), the second part of The Apu Trilogy, and the Golden Bear and two Silver Bears for Best Director at the Berlin International Film Festival. A number of Indian films from different regions, from this era are often included among the greatest films of all time in various critics' and directors' polls.

Commercial Indian cinema, in all languages, continued to grow from strength to strength since then. Today, the provision of 100 percent foreign direct investment has made the Indian film market attractive for foreign enterprises such as 20th Century Fox, Sony Pictures, Walt Disney Pictures and Warner Bros. Indian enterprises such as Zee, UTV, Suresh Productions, Adlabs and Sun Network's Sun Pictures also participated in producing and distributing films. Tax incentives to multiplexes have aided the multiplex boom in India. The Indian diaspora consists of millions of Indians overseas for which films are made available both through mediums such as DVDs and by screening of films in their country of residence wherever commercially feasible. These earnings, accounting for some 12% of the revenue generated by a mainstream film, contribute substantially to the overall revenue of Indian cinema, the net worth of which was found to be US$1.3 billion in 2000.

Events

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Holi
Holi, the most lively of all Hindu festivals, is observed all over North India. It heralds the end of the winter and the beginning of the spring and marks the rekindling of the spirit of life. It is a festival of joy when all is forgiven. People throw coloured powder at each other and make merry. Singing and dancing add to the gaiety of the occasion. Holi celebrations in Mathura and the small towns of Braj Bhoomi, the land of Sri Krishna, are spectacular.

Diwali
Diwali, or Deepavali, perhaps the best-known Hindu festival, is celebrated 18 days after Dusshera in October/November. Diwali is called the festival of lights, and every house is illuminated with lamps and lights. The worship of Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth, is an important feature of the celebrations. Homes are spring-cleaned and decorated. Celebration is invariably accompanied by the exchange of sweets and the explosion of fireworks. Multi-coloured rangoli designs and floral decorations adorn the entrance of most homes.

Durga Puja, West Bengal
Beautifully decorated images of the goddess Durga are worshipped in specially erected Puja Pandals. Community prayers (pujas) are organised in every locality, around which shops and eateries spring up. Cultural events and shows are held every evening of the nine-day celebrations. Families visit each other to share feasts. On the final day, the idols are taken in elaborate processions to be immersed in the river or the sea

Ganesh Chaturthi, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala
Ganesh Chaturthi is dedicated to Lord Ganesh (son of Shiv), the elephant -headed god of all good beginnings and success. The festival celebrated as the birth day of Lord Ganesh is a 10-day event. Idols of Ganesh and installed at home and prayers offered to them for 10 days, after which they are ceremoniously carried in a procession through the streets of the town and immersed into the river, sea or well. Classical dance, music performances, poetry recitations, folk dances, theatre and film festival are a highlight of this festival.

Pushkar Fair, Rajasthan
This fair is held at Pushkar town, 11 km from Ajmer, for 12 days annually. This cultural, trade and religious fair is an attractive and lively spectacle with Rajasthani men and women in their colourful traditional attire, saffron-robed and ash smeared Sadhus (holy men) and thousands of bulls, cows, sheep, goats, horses and camels in richly decorated saddles. Perhaps the largest cattle fair in the world, it attracts more than 1,00,000 people, from all over India and abroad. Apart from the religious rituals and trading, people participate in a number of cultural and sporting events.

Explore The Outdoors

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Corbett National Park
One of India’s best known and oldest wildlife sanctuaries, the Corbett National Park lies along the Ramganga river at the foot of the Kumaon hills. It is named after Jim Corbett, the famous naturalist and the legendary hunter of the man-eaters of Kumaon. 

The main areas for tourists are the Dhikala Tourism Zone (entry through Dhangarhi Gate) and the Bijrani Tourism Zone (entry through the Amdanda Gate).

Kanha National Park
Kanha National Park, which forms the core of the Kanha Tiger Reserve created in 1974 under Project Tiger, is a beautiful land that is home to large number of varieties of flora and fauna in the beautiful forests. Occupying an area of 940 sq km, Kanha National Park, which inspired Rudyard Kipling’s Jungle Book and its memorable characters Mowgli and Baghheera is a wildlife enthusiast’s delight.

A great holiday destination, away from the hectic pressures of city life, Kanha National Park is a beautiful place to unwind with nature by your side and indeed a wonderful experience in itself. Barasingha, or the swamp deer, is the signature animal of Kanha National Park.

Bandhavgarh National Park
The Bandhavgarh National Park, lying in the heart of the Vindhya Mountain Range in Central India, is a small and compact National Park, yet full of game. The density of the tiger population at Bandhavgarh is the highest known in India. 

The centre of the park is dominated by the majestic Bandhavgarh Fort built in the 14th century, around which are numerous caves containing shrines and ancient Sanskrit inscriptions. The park has four main entrances, Panpatha in the north, Tala in the east (most of the hotels are located in Tala), Dhamokar in the south-west and Khitauli in the west. Two roads, Umaria-Rewa highway and Parasi-Katni road via Khitauli pass through the park. Tala is a small village on the Umaria-Rewa state highway. 
The Original home of all the white tigers alive, today, Bandhavgarh was the hunting ground of the Maharajas of Rewa; their old fort still dominates a hill in the forest. These white tigers were found in the old state of Rewa for many years. The last known tiger was captured by Maharaja Martand Singh in 1951. The White Tiger, Mohan, is now stuffed and on display in the palace of the Maharaja of Rewa.

Ranthambore Tiger Reserve
Situated in the in the Sawai Madhopur district of the Indian state of Rajasthan, Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is compact, yet full of game. Sprawling over an undulating terrain of Aravali and Vindhyan ranges, the park occupies an area of 393 sq. Km.. A system of three artificial lakes enhances beauty of the park. The density of the tiger population at Ranthambore Tiger Reserve is quite high in India. Ranthambore national park is one of the most visited national parks in India. The area got the status of a wildlife sanctuary in 1957 and was declared a National Park in 1981. Ranthambore national park was taken under the Project Tiger in the year 1974.

Sundarban National Park
Located in the state of West Bengal, the Sundarban National park is an entrancing preserve for the Royal Bengal Tigers. It is the Ganges River together with the Brahmaputra and the Meghnarivers that create the world’s largest estuarine delta filled with lush vegetation, islands of salt-tolerant mangrove forests that make up what is described as a biodiversity hotspot.
Though the undisputed highlight of the Sundarban National Park is obviously the Royal Bengal Tiger, the park is home to wide range of fauna, including 260 species of birds, aquatic mammals and other endangered species such as the estuarine crocodile and the Indian python. Declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, the Sundarbans mangrove forest is a dazzling panorama of wildlife in a spectacular natural setting.

Food

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North-east
In Assam, boiled rice served with Tengamach (sour fish) and Khar ( alkaline) is a popular item on the menu. Boiled rice cakes wrapped in leaves is a favourite snack in Arunachal Pradesh as is thukpa, a noodle soup, favourite of the Monpa tribe.In Meghalaya too, rice is the staple but combined with spicy meat and fish preparations. Popular dishes are jadoh, kikpu, tung-toh, and pickled bamboo shoots. Mizoram’s cuisine is a blend of Chinese and north Indian cuisines. A popular dish is Bai, eaten with rice, which can be made from boiling spinach with pork and bamboo shoot. Another common dish is Sawchair made of rice cooked with pork or chicken.Dried fish, prawns, ghost chilli and preserved colocasia leaves are common ingredients of Naga cuisine, known for exotic meats cooked with simple and flavourful ingredients. Sikkim has its own unique dietary culture with specific cuisine and food recipes. Rice is the staple food. Meat and dairy products are also consumed depending on availability.

Central
The cuisine in Madhya Pradesh varies from region to region, with the north and west of the state being mainly based around wheat and meat, and the wetter south and east being dominated by rice and fish. Gwalior and Indore abound in milk and milk-based preparations. Bhopal is known for meat and fish dishes such as rogan josh, korma, keema, biryani pilaf and kababs such as shami and seekh. A popular dish is the bafla (wheat cakes) dunked in rich ghee which are eaten with daal (a pungent lentil broth). Another popular dish in the Malwa region is poha (flattened rice), served mostly for breakfast.Diet in Chhattisgarh is rice based. Fish and pork constitute a large part of Chhattisgarhi cuisine. Pork forms a major item in their diet and almost every major ceremony starts with the sacrifice of a pig.

West
Seafood, coconut milk, rice and paste are main ingredients of Goan delicacies and use of Kokum is a distinct feature. Goan cuisine is mostly seafood based and incorporates several Portuguese influences. Well known dishes include Pork Vindaloo and the Xacuti style of cooking.Maharashtrian cuisine covers a range from mild to very spicy dishes. Popular dishes include puranpoli, ukdichemodak and batatawada. Coastal Maharashtra, loosely called the Konkan, boasts of its own Konkani cuisine, while the interior – the Vidarbha area -- has its own distinctive cuisine known as the Varadi cuisine. Gujarati cuisine is primarily vegetarian and dhokla is indisputably the most popular snack. The typical Gujarati Thali consists of roti (a flat bread made from wheat flour), daal or kadhi, rice, and sabzi/shaak (a dish made up of different combinations of vegetables and spices, which may be stir fried, spicy or sweet).

East
With an emphasis on fish and lentils served with rice as a staple diet, Bengali cuisine is known for its subtle flavours, its confectionaries and desserts, and use of panchphoran (or five spices - fenugreek, Nigella seed, cumin seed, radhuni and fennel seed in equal parts). Bengalis prepare fish in innumerable ways – steamed or braised, or stewed with greens or other vegetables and with sauces that are mustard-based or thickened with poppyseeds. Oriya cuisine is similar to that from Bengal.Pakhala, a dish made of rice, water, and yoghurt, that is fermented overnight, is very popular in summer, particularly in the rural areas.Dairy products, such as yoghurt, buttermilk, butter, ghee (clarified butter), and lassi, are consumed in Bihar throughout the year. The traditionalpoha (flattened rice) with yoghurt and sugar is popular. Bihar is famous for Sattuparanthas, which are paranthas stuffed with fried chickpea flour, Chokha(spicy mashed potatoes).

South
Food from Andhra Pradesh is known for its heavy use of spices and chillies. Telugu cuisine has evolved separately from Hyderabadi cuisine, the most famous of which is theHyderabadi biryani, a mixture of rice, yoghurt, onions, meat and spices. In Karnataka, Masala Dosa, Rave Idli, and Maddur Vade are popular whilethe Coorg district is famous for spicy pork curries and coastal Karnataka has seafood specialities. Kerala cuisine has a multitude of dishes prepared using fish, poultry and meat. Kerala also has a variety of breakfast dishes like Appam, Idiyappam, Puttu, and Pathiri.The cuisine of the union territory of Puducherry, a French settlement for centuries, has an innovative French and Indo style. Tamil food is characterised by the use of rice, legumes and lentils, its distinct aroma and flavour achieved by the blending of spices. Sambhar (lentils cooked with vegetables) and VathalKuzhambu are popular curries, eaten with plain or mixed rice while Idli, Dosa, Uthappam and Pongal are popular breakfasts. A distinct form of cuisine in Tamil Nadu comes from the Chettinadu area famous for its use of meat marinated in spices.

North
Kashmiri cuisine has evolved over hundreds of years, and strongly represents several influences such as Central Asian, Persia, and the North Indian plains. The most notable ingredient in Kashmir cuisine is mutton (lamb), of which there are over 30 dishes.Wazwan, a multi-course meal in Kashmiri cuisine and a matterof pride in Kashmiri culture and identity, includes dishes that are meat-based (lamb, chicken, fish). Punjabi cuisine, on the other hand, can be non-vegetarian or completely vegetarian. Some favourites include stuffed paranthas and dairy products (especially paneer- Indian cottage cheese), Mah Di Dal (lentil) and Sasron Da Saag (mustard leaves). Tandoori food is a Punjabi speciality. Uttar Pradesh has also been greatly influenced by Mughal (Mughlai cuisine) cooking techniques which is very popular worldwide. The Samosa and Pakora, among the most popular snacks in all of India, are also originally from Uttar Pradesh. Awadhi is a type of West-Central Uttar Pradeshi cuisine found in the state's Awadh Region.

Places

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Varanasi
Varanasi or Banares is the ultimate travel destination of India; and has been for centuries.Considered to be one of the oldest living cites in the world, Varanasi attracts visitors who come to this mystical city for a brush with the divine. Legend has it that that anyone who dies here will be liberated from the cycle of life and birth and therefore is one of the holiest cities for Hindus.

Jaisalmer
Situated in the heart of the Thar Desert, the Jaisalmer Fort seems suddenly to rise out of the desert haze, a magnificent edifice of massive yellow sandstone ramparts and bastions bathed golden in the sunlight. The city was founded in 1156 by Rawal Jaisal, a Bhati Rajput King, after whom it is named – and till today exudes an age-old aura of valour and royalty. 
Apart from the spectacular golden fort or Sonar Qila, as it is known locally, Jaisalmer also boasts of some beautifully constructed medieval Havelis and a Jain temple.

Agra
Agra is an ancient city, mentioned in the Mahabharata and came into the limelight during the reign of the Mughals. It is famous as being home to one of the Seven Wonders of the World-the Taj Mahal. The Taj is a monument of such incredible elegance that it is considered synonymous with beauty itself.

Mumbai
Mumbai is a fascinating city, a compact mix of the traditional and the modern. A lively and varied place, this waterfront city, also the capital of Maharashtra, boasts a vibrant and cosmopolitan identity. Few cities in the world leave the tourists with such vivid impressions, whether it's the glitz and glamour of 'Bollywood', the spectacular array of Victorian buildings of the British Raj, the seaside rendezvous on the Juhu Beachor the maze of alleyways and lively streets of Mumbai. 

For many tourists, however, its world-class museums and galleries - notably the superb Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalay, with its collection of the antiquities, - are reason enough to visit. 

This blend of old and new worlds makes for a fascinating exploration of the city's streets. An orientation of Mumbai is best begun from the Gateway of India, the most famous colonial landmark While Mumbai itself could take a lifetime to explore, it's also ideal as a base for visiting beautiful rock-cut Shiva temple on Elephanta Island - a short trip by launch across the harbor offering some respite from the frenetic activity of the city.

Dehli
No other city in the world is like Delhi, the capital of India. One of the oldest cities in the world, Delhi has an excellent old town ambience in Old Delhi, and is modern in New Delhi.

Stately and historic, the city is one of the undisputed highlights of the country. An array of historical sites including World Heritage Sites of Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb and Qutub Minar rests amongst other several historical treasures in Delhi’s possession.

The seamless blend of old and new worlds makes for a fascinating exploration of this metropolis. The city is normally the first port of call for those planning to visit Northern India.

Jaipur
Jaipur, dubbed "the Pink City" after the colour-wash of its old city’s walls, is indeed a visual treat. The city, which is the Holy Grail of Indian tourism, boasts its assembly of world-renowned monuments. The monuments which draw the largest crowds to Jaipur are the Palace of Winds or Hawa Mahal, Jai Singh's City Palace and Jantar Mantar Observatory, built by the city's founder, 
Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II, a man famed for his talents as a politician, astronomer, and mathematician. Other attractions that will detain you in the capital of Rajasthan are Ram Niwas Bagh and Govindji Temple, Ram Niwas Bagh, the city garden, houses Albert Hall (Central Museum).

Goa
Goa, situated on the west coast of India, is one of the most delightful states in India. Formerly a Portuguese colony, it is endowed with variety of attractions, like palm pronged beaches, miles of golden sands, lush green country-side, an incredible mosaic of cultural heritage, magnificent churches, temples, forts and monuments and a unique cultural synthesis of the east and west. 

With its tropical climate, Goa is a tourist’s destination for all seasons. Goa’s cities are impressively individual. The capital, Panjim (Panaji), for many, hast the edge over many cities in the country.Replete with colonial architecture, the city is known for its vibrancy that attains its pinnacle in the annual Goa Carnival festival.

Kolkata
Established in 1690 as the trading post for the English East India Company by Job Charnock, Kolkata, or Calcutta as it was formerly called, is the present capital of the eastern state of West Bengal and one of the largest cities in India. The city that once served as the showpiece capital of the British power in India is noteworthy for its colonial architecture including the Victoria Memorial. 
Other important sights include the Howrah Bridge, an engineering marvel that links the city and Howrah Station, the Indian Museum. Gateway to eastern India,and home to prominent intellectuals, the city is fiercely loved by Kolkatans.

Udaipur
Udaipur is often called ‘Venice of the East’. It is also the ‘city of lakes’. The Lake Palace (Jag Niwas) located in the middle of Pichola Lake is the finest example of architectural and cultural marvel. The grand City Palace on the banks of the lake along with the Monsoon Palace (Sajjan Garh) on the hill above enhances the beauty of this magnificent city. Udaipur is also the centre for performing arts, crafts and its famed miniature paintings. The Shilpgram festival is a great crowd-puller on new year.

Kochi
Kochi, the commercial hub of Kerala, is one of the most picturesque places in Kerala with an all weather harbour and a grand seascape and is termed the ‘Queen of the Arabian Sea’. The earliest verifiable history of Kochi kingdom is traced to the last Perumal of the second Chera Dynasty, Rama Varma Kulashekara Perumal in the 12th century. 

Chinese and Arab traders are believed to have been the first traders to this port, heralding a wave of subsequent visitors, the Portuguese, Dutch and British, who brought in the era of colonial power to the region. Kochi was able to offer in abundance the best of spices to the world, a reputation that continues to this day.

In addition to spices, the voyagers also coveted the fine ivory, sandalwood, perfumes and gold that came to this market town. At one point nothing but a small fishing village, the destiny of Kochi changed in 1341, with the flooding of the Periyar River, which rendered the then popular Kodungallur ineffective. 
Among many repercussions of this event was the creation of a natural harbour at Kochi. It was Sir Robert Bristow, an experienced harbour engineer who came to Kochi in 1920 who was responsible for the modernization of Kochi harbour. The city is now the proud owner of one of the most beautiful ports of the country that is the biggest in Kerala and is also one of the premier industrial trading and commercial centres of southern India. Kochi expanded to include many towns and villages surrounding it and the corporation of Kochi was formed in 1967.

Bengaluru
Capital of Karnataka State, Bengaluru, also known as the 'City of Gardens', is one of the most attractive cities in India with its beautiful parks, avenues and impressive buildings. The once-sedate cantonment settlement of the British has now spread way beyond the mud fort and the four towers constructed by Kempe Gowda in 1537. With its booming economy and racy lifestyle, the capital of Karnataka has metamorphosed from a sleepy Garden City into one of India's fastest growing, accommodating, technophiliac, and cosmopolitan cities.

Bangalore is a city of contrasts, going by several other aliases: India's Silicon Valley, Pub City, Shopper's Paradise, Garden City, Air-conditioned City, Gourmet's Delight, Pub Hopper's Paradise and Shopper's Hot Spot. Surrounded by weekend getaways, Bangalore makes an ideal hub for visitors who want to travel to the many hill stations and coastal towns of South India.

What kind of vacation would you like to take?