As the seventh largest country in the world and with a population of over 1.2 billion people, India is such a vast and varied land that you would be a fool to think you can experience all it has to offer on one trip, no matter how long; in fact arguably you could spend a lifetime here and still only see a tiny fraction of the place and its peoples. With over 400 languages spoken here it is a true melting pot of cultures and religions and its sheer breadth of history is deeply fascinating to the many travelers that venture here. Time is so often of the essence though so below we have devised a guide to getting a real taste of India, which should give you a good introduction into the traditions of the many people who are proud to call the country home.
Unearth Ancient India
Many Indian sites and monuments date back thousands of years; indeed the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh are believed to date from the Mesolithic Period, making them an astonishing 100,000 years old, and by tracing this history you will get a better understanding of how the modern-day country was formed. There are many significant periods in India’s history, such as the Vedic Period from the 2nd century BC up until the 6th century BC, which is very influential in Hinduism. Meanwhile, the white mausoleum of the Taj Mahal, which stands proud in the desert-like land of Agra, is an outward display of affection like no other, and it aptly displays the opulent nature of the Mughal Empire of the 16th century.
Go On a Yoga Retreat
Spiritualism and inner healing are fundamental to many Indian people’s lives and one method of achieving a permanent state of peace is through yoga, which has its roots in ancient India and links to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. There are many places where you can escape to find tranquillity in India and options range from two-week hatha yoga courses held in beautiful and serene settings, to more intense retreats run by revered gurus miles from civilisation.
Learn About Indian Art and Music
Underpinning India’s rich heritage is its myriad of languages, which have been expressed in an abundance of great works of literature and the vast cultural differences can also be seen in its musical forms, which range from restrained classical music to the more relaxed modern Bollywood music. Today much of the country’s music and art includes western influences but look back through its history and it’s clear that creativity has long been interwoven into India’s psyche. Indian art as we know it is believed to date from around the 3rd millennium BC and can be divided up into four main eras: the ancient period, the Islamic ascendancy, the colonial period and the post-colonial period, and there are lots of opportunities to learn about both the historic and modern techniques of Indian art, be it on an specialised art cruise, as part of a tour, or by doing a practical course. Many earlier examples of art can be found in temples and at sites such as the Buddhist Caves of Ajanta, which date from between the second century BC to the sixth century AD, and include paintings and sculptures that the Archaeological Survey of India described as among “the finest surviving examples of Indian art”.
Visit a Tea Plantation
The cultivation of tea in India is a long-held tradition, and since the 1850s a very lucrative one, too. India’s hilly regions are home to countless bulbous tea trees from where one of the country’s most productive exports is plucked. Visit a tea plantation to sample the produce and buy some supplies, but more than that, visit to watch the workers pruning and plucking away to get an idea of the scale of the industry and the work that goes into it.
Go On an Indian Cookery Course
India is synonymous with good food, and in particularly spicy food. Cooking is an art here, not something that is merely thrown together but concocted and evolved over generations. There are lots of cookery schools to enrol at or you could do a home stay for a truly authentic alternative to learning about the love and thought that goes into the dishes, most of which are very different to those found on western Indian menus.
The battle between modern routines and old traditions has been going on for an age and more. Modernists want new systems to be prevalent, while traditionalists hold on to the past, to our history. Contrasts and comparisons are regularly made and importance is lost in the struggle for what is right, based on the perceptions of thousands. It could be said that some of the architecture of today is cold and ugly, or serves no purpose other than a way to fill a space for economical gain. In the same vein, the buildings our ancestors constructed, some of which are still standing after millennia, are true tributes to a more beautiful age, where aesthetics were as important as function and colour walked hand in hand with skill to create a timeless bond.
Gold has always held a value; it’s monetary worth making it one of the most sought after commodity, its glint attracting hungry consumers the globe over, and as an idea and colour in our history it holds a lot of weight. The fascinating Harmandir Sahib, or Temple of God, in Amritsar in the Punjab region of North India boasts its prominence with its facades completely coated in gold. The Golden Temple was completed in the year 1604 as a Gurdwara for the Sikh nation of India, although it was originally intended to be a worship place for anyone from any walk of life or any religion. The temple is in a romantic location, being surrounded by the huge lake Sarovar, with its multiple entrances signifying an openness to the world and its differences. Magnificently intricate designs and a tinted golden facade make the gurdwara an age-old statement to Mughal construction almost 400 years ago.
The new is the Sripuram, a modern Golden Temple in the southerly state of Tamil Nadu, constructed in 2007 and boasting over 1500kg of gold in its body. It is the largest golden building of its kind in the world, yet being so new, has yet to attract a large following. Perceived during a divine vision and created in just 10 years, Sripuram is a new icon for religious devotees.
If you are in India, or want to go, stop by one of these golden masterpieces to see the real contrast between old and new.
It’s like escaping from a bubble. Comfortable in the life you lead, thinking you know a lot or at least a little. Doing your day to day and challenging yourself, always in the knowledge that you are aware of your environment. Then you see the reality and you step down a rung to begin learning again. A humbling and exceptionally satisfying experience – to understand that you know not what you know; that there is always more. Continue reading A Different Side to India…
Do safari the interesting way: on horseback or camelback. Many tour packages are offered in car, coach, train, boat and on foot. Although these are the more common options when taking a safari in India, touring on a horse or camel can be a really exciting and refreshing way of seeing sights and wildlife.
Whats more is that you will learn to use what was the fastest mode of transport of our generations past (riding horseback or camelback). Indian Wildlife Moments offers a 17 day tour package from the Thar Desert to the Aravali hills, with the client getting the choice of which animal to ride upon.
You will start your tour with one of the company´s representatives and your comrades in New Delhi, the largest city in India and the second largest in population. Get yourself acclimated and up to date with what the tour will involve by spending the first and second days in the wonderful cosmopolitan metropolis of Delhi, full of tourist attractions. On the 16th day you will return to Delhi to finish off the safari tour. The 14 days in-between are what will leave you thinking. With visits to two major cities, a palace, a range of small desert villages, special mountainside resorts, holy temples, the holiest city in India, one of the worlds most famous ancient fortresses, serene lakes and vast desert land, this tour will open doors to you and teach you an incredible amount of information on the beauty that can be seen and experienced in North India.
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Also known as Kashi or Benares, Varanasi is a city on the west banks of the River Ganges which has long been considered as a pilgrimage spot for Hindus. The city is considered to be more than 3000 years old, with legend stating that it was founded by the Hindua god Lord Shiva up to 5000 years ago, and is regarded as one of the worlds oldest continually inhabited cities.
With its river-side location in Uttar Pradesh on the Gangetic Plain, Varanasi lands are fertile and continuously replenished by the Ganges´ abundant water supply. This town is similar to that of the Italy´s Venice, as its old town is dominated by ancient looking buildings, winding lanes, avenues, little artesan shops and a huge amount of ghats, small stairways leading down to the river body. Varanasi has a large amount of small and large temples, seen on every V setstreet corner and thus for many years members of the Hindu religion (one million a year on average) have led pilgrimages to this city, mainly to visit the shrine of Lord Kashi Vishwanath and to bathe in the holy waters of the city-side River, which is believed to cleanse the soul and wash away sins.
This city is beautiful beyond compare, and a destination that I want to visit perhaps above any other in Uttar Pradesh. Tours are available to and around this location, and if you are not inspired by this blog, just read a little more about Varanasi and its history….
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Check out India Perspective, another blog dedicated to India’s magic…
The last time this sacred Hindu pilgrimage took place 12 years ago, 60million took to bathing in a holy ritual which purifies sin. In 2013 between January and February the Maha Kumbh takes place again in Allahabad.
This magical ceremony is thousands of years old, dating back to India’s Vedic period. Hindu mythology states that several demi-gods had lost their power due to a curse by Durväsä Muni and some fighting daemons. To get their strength back they approached Lord Brahma the Creator and Lord Shiva the Destroyer. They were told to go to Lord Vishnu, the supreme Preserver of the Universe. To reach a sacred isle, they had to churn an ocean full of milk, containing amrita, the nectar of immortality. The story goes that an urn (called the Khumba) containing the amrita appeared provoking a fight between daemons and demi-gods that lasted 12 days and 12 nights (equating to 12 human years). It is said that Lord Vishnu took the Khumba and flew away, spilling just four drops. The drops fell at Allahbad, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik. Four holy places for the ceremony to take place.
Thus, with mythology bringing about the majestic and nostalgic aspect of the ceremony, the reality of Kumbh Mela is much more modern. Fighting demi-gods and daemons would be a spectacle however! Pilgrims travel from all over India and the world to carry out ritual bathing, religious discussions, mass feeding, devoted songs and dance and more.
The great author Mark Twain wrote about Kumbh Mela:
“It is wonderful, the power of a faith like that, that can make multitudes upon multitudes of the old and weak and the young and frail enter without hesitation or complaint upon such incredible journeys and endure the resultant miseries without repining. It is done in love, or it is done in fear; I do not know which it is. No matter what the impulse is, the act born of it is beyond imagination, marvelous to our kind of people, the cold whites.”
Next year this wonderful ritual will take place in Allahbad (more exactly Prayaga, which some say is the second oldest city in India), one of the most sacred of places, at the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna and the mystical river Saraswati.
• 27th January (Sunday) – Paush Purnima
• 6th February (Wednesday) – Ekadashi Snan
• 10th February (Sunday) – Mauni Amavasya Snan (Main Bathing Day)
• 15th February (Friday) – Basant Panchami Snan
• 17th February (Sunday) – Rath Saptami Snan
• 18th February (Monday) – Bhisma Ekadashi Snan
• 25th February (Monday) – Maghi Purnima Snan
Allahbad is connected by bus, train and airport. If you get a chance and want to experience something that is not only magical, but life affirming, then make the journey to Prayaga next year.
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Adventure Tours and Vacation Ideas For Turkey
Turkey makes for a special and versatile holiday destination. It’s a Mediterranean country and one that’s not too far from the UK, but also boasts a high chance of fine weather for much of the year, coupled with beaches to relax on. Turkey is also a place of culture and adventure, whether in the form of restaurants, ruined cities or hikes into scenic mountains.
If you’re after a city break, Turkey can provide. Istanbul, the old capital, is chock full of interesting architecture; highlights include the Grand Bazaar and the Hippodrome, whilst those more interested in partying can try the clubs in the downtown area of the city. Not all of Turkey’s cities have a modern tinge though and if you’d like to explore the ancient world, consider going to Cappadocia, where cities, complete with churches, remain underground. Other Turkish cities have famous names, such as Troy and Gallipoli and equally enticing pasts, which you can explore via city walks and tours.
Turkey offers luxury in equal droves as it provides historical vistas. The Turkish hotel circuit is varied, with tourists able to take their pick from moderately priced budget hotels to truly opulent accommodation. Turkey’s hotels provide for the family too, with many containing water parks and play areas within their packages, giving kids a place to explore whilst parents relax.
Getting into the great outdoors isn’t difficult in Turkey and outdoor activities could form the basis of your holiday to this country. Consider Mt. Nemrut National Park for example, which is not only a place of great beauty but also offers glimpses into the reigns of royalty through the artwork still visible around its confines. Trekking in Turkey is made easy through well-organised trails, allowing you to discover mountain views, forests and ruins with your family.
Outdoor enthusiasts and those who want extra thrills on their holiday should find plenty to amuse them in Turkey. Animal lovers should try a Turkish safari tour. Boarding a jeep from a remote Turkish village, safari holidays take travellers through outstanding scenery in places such as Olympos and Bodrum. Along the way, you’ll catch glimpses of exotic flora and fauna, enjoy sea views and on certain safari holidays even get to try the delights of authentic Turkish food, such as locally-produced pancakes.
Adventure holidays sometimes focus on a particular part of Turkey. Eastern Turkey is full of mystery and offers myriad opportunities to head off the beaten track and explore ruins and intriguing locations, such as Nemrut Dagi, the Deyrul Zaferan Monastery and Arsameia. Hikers can scale Mount Ararat with its Biblical connections, whilst even the most casual travellers will be enchanted by Turkish bazaars.
Other adventure trips are themed around activities, making them ideal for sporty or energetic travellers. Places like Kas are very suitable for activity-themed trips. You can use Kas as a base for exploring the local scenery and go on kayaking, mountain biking or even scuba diving trips.
If you’ve decided that Turkey is a place you’d like to visit, you’ll need to decide on the kind of holiday you want. If you’ve got kids to entertain or want to relax, you’ll be looking for something more low-key than young travellers who wish to be on the go all the time.
Greg Watson writes regularly on travel and adventure holidays for a range of international vacation websites and blogs.
Whether you are taking a career break, a gap year from study or just want a holiday with a difference, spending time as a volunteer in another country can be life changing. It will give you the opportunity to experience another culture and a way of life completely different from your own. Whether you choose to volunteer on a wildlife conservation project, work in an orphanage teaching the children to play and prepare for life as an adult or work in a health clinic or community project, working abroad is a fulfilling and rewarding way to see the world.
Who Can Volunteer?
If you are over eighteen and in good general health then you will be able to volunteer. Some kinds of volunteer work abroad require more physical activity so you should be prepared for this. If you are a qualified teacher and wish to teach abroad you will find your skills are in high demand and you will be able to choose from a variety of placements. However, experience is not needed for most volunteer work and training is provided. A caring and positive attitude and good listening skills as well as practical ability are all that is needed.
What Can I Do?
There are many ways to make a difference and lots of opportunities to get involved in something close to your heart. Whether you want to try nature and wildlife conservation or community work such as house building, health care or teaching, you are sure to find a unique and fulfilling experience.
Conservation projects include working with cheetahs in Namibia to conserve their natural environment or becoming a research volunteer in Kenya. You could work with monkeys in South Africa, orangutans in Malaysia, pandas in China or Sri Lankan elephants. The roles can include conserving habitat, feeding and caring for the animals in a conservation centre and observing them in the wild. These projects allow you to get up close and personal with the amazing wildlife while experiencing the rich culture and landscapes of these beautiful countries.
There are also many communities where you can volunteer to work directly with people. You can teach abroad or work to promote literacy and health care among children and adults. Possibilities include befriending and caring for children in orphanages, working in adult healthcare as well as building homes, schools, community centres and hospitals. Locations such as Nepal, Cape Town, the Himalayas, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Thailand provide a stunning back drop to an unforgettable experience in which you can immerse yourself in local culture and tradition.
Why Should I Pay to Volunteer?
Most organisations that run volunteer programmes do not make a profit and are funded entirely by donations. These projects are unable to fund the cost of travel, food, training and housing for their volunteers as well as other costs such as insurance and recruitment. In order to continue their work, they have to charge their volunteers. In return, the volunteer will receive all the training and practical skills they need to make a difference.
Volunteering is a great way to see the world. You will get to see and experience life in another country in a way that you never could as a tourist. You will learn the reasons why these countries have the problems they do and the issues which affect communities. You will learn about another country and its culture, gain new skills and make lots of friends along the way.
Susannah Kaye writes regularly on volunteer work abroad for a range of travel websites and blogs.
KEOLADEO NATIONAL PARK – BHARATPUR – RAJASTHAN
Fauna presents in the park:
Blue Bull (Nilgai antelope)
+ of 430 species of birds
A sad news in connection with this park: the female tiger which had flees Sariska N.P. and had settled in the content of the park died of disease in July 2005.
As usual in Bharatpur we stayed in Ashok and Indu place at the Safari Guest House which is a place not expensive and really clean with one calm and slackened environment.This park is universally famous for its migratory birds and residents who come from three continents: Asia, Africa and Europe you can visit it by foot or bicycle. Siberian Cranes come to spend the winter there.I was lucky to see from very near a family: the mother, the father and the baby. This time I didn’t see any of the pythons because it was too cold so that they leave their burrows (22 to 24 Â°C only).
I made nice pictures of male and female Blue bulls in the marshes, of Sambars as well as few birds including one colony of 3.000 storks.
After 8 days on Bharatpur,we went to Udaipur by Jaipur always with the car with a Car with Driver, an Ambassador, of my friend Raju’s company. Two days of rest and shopping in Jaipur, Raju invited us in his city; thus housing in a Maharadja Hotel. A suite nicely decorated to rest!!!.We discovered that it is in Jaipur that Indian traditional puppets are manufactured, will bring back from there finally 19 pairs!!. One hopes to resell some.
Departure early to join Udaipur 350 km from there. We take the national highway with 2 times 2 ways, that it surprised of being able finally to exceed the 60 Km/h, we will make even 100!!!. Arrival at the beginning of afternoon, we stayed in Kankarwa Haveli on the edge of the lake in front of the famous white marble palace used for the James Bond film : Octopussy.
Udaipur is a very tourist city but alleviating thanks to its lake and its Palaces.Visit of the city palace, boat trip on the lake and shopping downtown take us our three days on the spot.We failed to bring back a pup met downtown and really too much, but considering the French administrative formalities we gave up the idea.
Wants to thank Mr. Raju to help us to make this dream travel. If any one want to get any help regarding North India travel you can contact with www.rajuindia.com
After one night in the train for Delhi, a car driver awaited us at the railway station direction Uttaranchal and Jim Corbett N.P.
JIM CORBETT NATIONAL PARK – UTTARANCHAL
Fauna presents in the park:
about 100 Leopards
about 800 Elephants
10 To 30 Sloth Bears
+ of 280 species of birds
The dream of much of the visitors of national parks in India is to see the Bengal tiger in front of them.It is also the dream of all Indians, therefore there is now crowd in the parks where the tiger easily lets itself see (Corbett, Kanha, Bandhavgardh) Moreover to make even more under the directors of these parks had authorised the entry of a too great number of car.
We have stayed in Ramnagar 2 km of the gate of ijrani in the east of the park, the 1st afternoon safari was done since this gate. As usual after the entry a troop of Elephants wishes us the welcome, we remain more than 45 mn with them. A wind of madness does seize all the jeeps of the surroundings; a tiger was seen. Everybody drive speed to have the opportunity to see the Tiger !!!!.
We arrive in the dried up bed of a river where about fifteen jeeps are trying to put itself in the best position to see a beautiful male tiger laying down at more than 200 meters far from them!!! Which madness to see all these people getting down the jeeps, which is prohibited, jumping from jeep into jeep by hustling all and all on their passage (impossible to take a good picture because of that) and shouting instead of keeping silent. Still more shouts, the animal condescends to rise and aproche us, we must transfer from our jeep a man which is encrusted and jumped everywhere!!!
The Tiger aggravated by the noise and the madness of the vehicles making of farwards and backwards to be in the good position to see him (that mean in front of the others!!!) decides to go up on a hill and disepears in our eyes our driver (very profesional and very calm, I am always lucky to have the best one) place our jeep on the suposed way of the tiger; after 10 mn waiting there it is on the road 10 meters in front of us.Unfortunately we are not alone and the other jeeps are hustled, they overtake us and make flee the majestic king of the Jungle definitively in the thick forest. Result of this capharnaum: two good pictures.
2nd day Morning Bijrani Gate Afternoon Jhiona Gate:Chitals, Sambars, Langurs, Macaques, King Vulture, king-fishers and many birds.
No tiger in this second day but grat pictures of dears and monkeys as well as King Vulture (Vulture with red head), the track of a very large python having crossed the road 15/20 mn before us.
3rd day Morning Jhina Gate Afternoon Bijrani Gate: Chitals, Sambars, Langurs, Macaques, king Cobra, king-fishers and many birds.
No tigers, Elephants or Leopards, pugmarks of a sloth Bear and a king cobra fleeing with our approach.
The following day visits in morning of the winter house of Jim Corbett 25 km of Ramanagar before going back to Delhi.
Thus not so conclusive that this 2nd park of which I had a joy, it would have been necessary that we stayed in the north of the park in luxuary lodges to have access to the gate which goes towards Dhikala in the center of the park where finds Gavials, Crocodiles and other headlights of the park. It is my fault, I wanted to save money while placing in Ramnagar.
thank Mr. Raju to help us to make this dream travel. If any one want to get any help regarding North India travel you can contact with www.rajuindia.com