This post is written by American writer. She spent several months in India. It's all her experiences. So go ahead and enjoy it.
If you are fond of traveling like I am, then you must be familiar with the rush and contentment one gets after visiting and spending quality time at a new geographical place. A place away from home, where you can simply be yourself and have all the fun you want. Zero concerns that people know and will judge you. Just having the exciting opportunity to explore new lands, make new friends, and possibly even learn a new language. That is India to you. Yes, you read that right, and if you have not been to this haven yet, you may wonder why it is so.
A Foreigner’s Haven
India is this place on earth with some of the best races you could ever find; a perfect blend of people from diverse cultures, all living together in complete harmony and respect for one another. You’ll also find wildlife, amazing monuments, architecture, amazing scenery; I could go on and on. Did you know that the country is also among the top tourist destinations in the world? This is courtesy of a recent WEF report which ranks India 34th on world travel and tourism competitiveness index. This is with good reason. What with its many natural and cultural resources, and not forgetting its competitive prices.
Whether you are looking for an escape with your friends, or a solo trip to calm your mind and meditate, India is a destination you should consider. Join other avid travelers from all over the world and get to enjoy the amazing experiences the country offers. I have personally been there once, and I can tell you for sure that it remains to be one of my most amazing trips yet. I have also interacted with other travelers, and almost everyone I interviewed says they can’t wait to travel back. Explained in this article are some of the main things that make India such a haven to foreigners.
Ask any visitor about the first thing that struck them about India, and they will much likely highlight the diversity of cultures. India is a highly populated country with a population of 1.3 billion, coming second only to China. Though English and Hindi are the official languages, you will find more than 1500 different dialects, with the main languages being about 23. The second-largest population speaks English, making it an official language. You will, however, interestingly note how the various cultures all live harmoniously together, regarding each other as fellow countrymen
The diversity of Indians also comes out in the various religions and cultures of the people. This is the country you will find Muslims, Hindus, and Christians living in the same neighborhood. They joyously partake and celebrate each other’s festivals freely, and it is not uncommon to find a Hindu with their Muslim and Christian neighbors celebrating Eid and Christmas together. Other major world religions that can be found in India include Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism, among others.
It is this integration of religions and cultures that make India so beautiful as a country and attracts many foreigners there. Regardless of your religion or race, you will feel welcome and at home in India and will experience the love that its citizens so willingly share.
2. The Taj Mahal, Agra
The Taj Mahal is arguably one of the most famous buildings in the world. It also carries an interesting tale, as it is one of love. The building is named after Mumtaz Mahal, who was Emperor Shah Jahan’s favorite wife. The construction of the Taj Mahal began after her death in 1631, as a tribute to her - a clear sign that their love knew no bounds of death. This beautiful piece of architecture took a total of 17 years to complete and involved the work of 20,000 men.
Some of the Taj Mahal’s most astounding features are its Islamic designs with an onion-shaped dome, arches, and minarets. It also has some splendid black calligraphy around the entrance, and its walls are decorated with marble and other precious stones such as jade, lapis lazuli, diamonds, and pearls. This grand artifice attracts a total of 8 million visitors yearly, which translates to a staggering 22,000 visitors daily. The Taj Mahal is surely a sight to behold and it is almost always top of the list for every visitor that tours India.
The many temples in India are another attraction for thousands of daily visitors. The temples that can be found in India are innumerable with some earlier reports suggesting that they could be well over 1 million. Among these, there are some 30 of them that are very popular due to their unique features, and you will find tourists visiting them every so often. Most of these temples are decorated with gold statues among other precious stones, signifying the reverence Indians have for their many gods.
Most of these temples are open to the public, regardless of race or religion, thus, allowing visitors from all over the world to come and share in their magnificence. I will talk about one of the temples that I visited during my stay in India and found rather interesting to share.
Harmandir Sahib: The Golden Temple of Amritsar
Amritsar is a hub for Sikh history and culture, with the Golden temple being the most popular attraction in the area. The golden temple, whose proper name is Harmandir Sahib, is so well known due to the number of gold decorations it holds. The temple is a mixture of both Hindu and Islamic styles, and it is characterized by its golden dome which represents a lotus flower. This is a sign of purity among Sikhs.
Another fact that makes the golden temple so unique is the fact that it offers free food for the public daily. This is regardless of your religion. Everyone is welcome. As unbelievable as it may sound, it is a fact, and thousands of visitors flock the temple daily if for anything, to prove the truth of the claim. The temple offers up to 50,000 free meals to the public daily, and most of the people working in the temple are volunteers.
If there’s one thing you will notice and love about the Indian people, it is their undying hospitality. A popular saying in India goes, "Atithi Devo Bhava" and when roughly translated, it can be put as, "the guest is God." This tells you the regard with which Indians carry their guests. That explains why life for foreigners is so easy in India as compared to other countries. Everywhere you go in India; you can count on being welcomed with smiling faces and open arms.
Many Indians are open to the idea of welcoming guests in their homes, and there they will treat you with utmost love and respect. There is no other place on earth that can compare to the hospitality offered by Indians to their guests. It is this hospitality that draws so many visitors to India as it is a direct contrast to life in the west and other areas of the world. It simply amazes the genuine love that this race of people freely offers to guests.
Prior to my visit to India, I was convinced that India is a developing country and I will forgive anyone that holds similar beliefs. However, my stay in some of the Indian houses was enough to have me change my perspective concerning the community. For one, you will realize that almost every Indian home has gold. This is in the form of decorations, jewelry, and deities. And I mean every house has them! Ponder on that.
5. Famous Personalities
India is a source of many celebrities and world personalities. Beginning with the revered ancient philosophers like Mahatma Gandhi to modern Bollywood celebrities like Priyanka Chopra, India is endowed with talent that the world likes to relate to. Mahatma Gandhi is especially a renowned character in and out of India, and his sayings and teachings are revered and followed all over the world. Gandhi’s philosophies inspired world leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Dalai Lama, and Martin Luther King Jr. among others. As a result of his contribution to India and the world, today Historians and academicians alike visit India daily to site the country that gave birth to this renowned world figure.
India’s entertainment industry is another field that has contributed to India being opened up to the world and thus attracting many tourists to the country. Bollywood creates about 800 films yearly, which surpasses those produced by Hollywood. India has used this industry to showcase their culture to the world, and this has significantly increased the number of tourists visiting the country to experience it first-hand.
India also has many monuments in the form of forts and ancient palaces. These monuments are important to India as they not only carry the country’s royal history, but they also act as major tourist attractions in the country. Some of the oldest forts that you can find in India are Jal Durg and Vana Durg. UNESCO has also named Agra Fort and the Red Fort in India as world heritages.
The Red Fort, New Delhi
The Red Fort in New Delhi is referred to that way due to the red sandstone that was used in its construction. This monumental piece is a major part of Indian history, having been constructed by Shah Jahan in 1968, as the seat of Mughal Power (Mughal was an early empire in India). This status was held until 1857. Some of the features that make this monument so astounding and a figure to behold are its two gates; Lahore Gate, which was the main entrance, and the decorated Delhi Gate, which the emperor used for ceremonial processions.
Chatta Chawk Bazaar
You can decide to tour the Red Fort yourself, but I would advise the use of a local guide. That way, you will have a far better experience as they narrate to you the various aspects of the fort and its significance to Indian history. The Chatta Chawk Bazaar is an interesting part of the fort where you can buy various ornaments and souvenirs at the site. They have everything from silk, jewelry, to food items. Another highlight of the red fort is the daily sound and light show that happens every evening and explains important events of the fort’s history.
You can’t visit India and fail to notice their love for cricket. Don’t ask me how or why, but within my 3-month stay in the country, I discovered a new hobby, cricket. This is a similar case for everyone who visits the country, especially for longer periods. Indians love the sport and they begin playing it at a young age. You will find boys of school-going age playing the sport along narrow paths and the cheers and excitement in the game will be similar to what you’d expect at a major tournament.
The scene gets even bigger in stadiums. The jeers and cheers in those games are deafening, and even when you don't understand the game, you'll end up joining in. There is a cricket game almost every weekend in India and the sport attracts large crowds. Foreigners are also drawn to these games, though most of them have no idea what is happening. However, to the Indians, cricket is a religion that they all subscribe to. That explains why the international cricket star, Sachin Tendulkar, is so popular in India. Everyone idolizes him and it is almost taboo not to know him.
If nothing else attracts you to India, then their wildlife will surely do the trick. India is home to a wide variety of animals, most of which are specific to India. A good example is a tiger, which is a common animal in India and an incredible sight to behold. Other major wild animals in India include elephants, rhinos, and the rufous –bellied hawk eagles.
Ranthambore National Park
India boasts of many game parks that are major resorts for tourists and locals alike. The Ranthambore National Park wildlife safari is one of the most adventurous parks you can tour in India. It is located in Rajasthan, and it was traditionally used as a hunting ground by the Maharajas. Today the park harbors a long trail of tigers, and it is also a favorite destination for birdwatchers. Other animals that you will be lucky to spot in this park include leopards, hyenas, jackals, and Indian foxes. The park also has many birds’ species such as pelicans, egrets, and parakeets.
Sundarbans National Park
The Sunderbans national park is another park that you could visit over your stay in India. Almost every tourist who visits India expects to spot a tiger for them to count the trip worthwhile. This is one park where you have high chances of coming across one. There is even an old saying in India that when in Sunderbans, whether or not you see a tiger, you can be sure that one has already spotted you. If you are a naturalist, then Sunderbans will be a paradise to you. You will be sure to love its scenery, with the marshy land and dense mangroves. The park is an exquisite site, spreading over 54 islands and extending into Bangladesh.
Most people travel to India for a spiritual experience and to rediscover themselves. This is due to the deep spiritual beliefs that Indians hold. Yoga and meditation are the trademarks of India, and many foreigners visit the country yearly to experience this spiritual aspect. Apart from yoga, foreigners are also privileged to participate in an evening aarti, or fire worship, along the Ganges River. Popular spots along the river are Rishikesh, Haridwar, and Varanasi.
Varanasi is in the state of Uttar Pradesh, and it is one of the sacred Indian cities. Varanasi is also referred to as the City of Lord Krishna and it is believed that anyone who dies here will be saved from the process of reincarnation. If you are looking for a spiritual experience in India, you should consider visiting this city and staying at one of the riverside hotels. The rituals performed in this city are open for Hindu adherents and foreigners alike.
Haridwar is another city where you can get to experience India’s spiritual journey. The city is also known as the gateway to God, and it is one of the oldest cities in India, as well as one of its holiest. The city is located at the foothills of the Himalayas and Hindu pilgrimages visit it to bathe at the flowing waters of Ganges River. This act is symbolic and Hindus take it to mean that they are washed clean of their sins. Foreigners are welcome to partake in the exercise and though you may not share in the beliefs, the act does have some spiritual essence in it as one feels connected with nature.
Inventions are another aspect that makes India such an important destination for tourists. India has been a major contributor of world inventions that have brought real change in various fields and put India in a recognizable part of the world map. Whether it is researchers who want to see and learn from Indian professionals or observers that are marveled by some of the incredible inventions of India, foreigners are making India a common destination. India’s health sector is also a contributing factor as foreigners are travelling to India in search of cheaper medical operations or alternative methods of treatment. Some common inventions of India are Zero, The Ayurveda, Shampoo, among others.
Indians were the first people to use the number zero in their numerals. As simple as this invention may seem, without it, there would be no binary digits and thus no computers. The man who introduced the zero was none other than Aryabhata. This significant contribution to mathematics gives India credit for the invention, thus making it a destination for researchers and academics.
This is one of the alternative methods of treatment that was introduced by Indians. Ayurveda means the science of life, and it is a form of treatment that does not use prescription drugs. The credits for this invention go to the father of medicine, Charaka, who was among the first contributors to the therapy. Indians have practiced Ayurveda for over 5000 years and today foreigners still travel to the country for the treatment.
01 What is the official name for India?
India, by its official name, is referred to as ‘Bharat’ in Hindi or ‘Republic of India’ in English.
02 What is the capital city of India?
The capital city of India is New Delhi.
03 What are the official languages in India?
There is no single official language in India. Hindi is the most common language in India, with English as a second official language. There are 22 official languages.
04 What are the most common religions in India?
The major religions in India today are Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, and Jainism.
05 Who is the prime minister of India?
The current prime minister of India is Shree Narendra Damodardas Modi.
06 What is the level of literacy in India?
India has a literacy rate of 74.4%
07 Who is India’s president?
The current president of India is known as Shree Ram Nath Kovind.
08 What is India’s national animal?
The tiger is the national animal of India.
09 What is the national sport of India?
India do not declared national sport. Most people assume its a hockey.
10 Is the peak of Mt. Everest located in India?
No. The peak of Mt. Everest is located in Nepal.
India is a wonderful country that is welcome to people from all over the world. Though the country may also have its vices, and some citizens that are not as friendly to outsiders, the major population is generally loving and kind to foreigners. Truth be told, every country has its fair share of negatives. However, the benefits offered by India by far outweigh the demerits and many of the people who visit there leave with fond and memorable experiences.
India has a hoard of gifts and wonderful experiences that are unavailable in other areas of the world. The examples I highlighted are just some of the ones I found interesting in my visit there, but there are far more experiences and fun places to visit in India that I have not included in the article. Have you or your friends been to other exciting places in India that you’d love to share? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments section.