India

Spotlight on India

India will sideswipe you with size, clamor and diversity - but if you enjoy delving into convoluted cosmologies and thrive on sensual overload, then it is one of the most intricate and rewarding dramas unfolding on earth, and you'll quickly develop an abiding passion for it. Nothing in the country is ever quite predictable; the only thing to expect is the unexpected, which comes in many forms and will always want to sit next to you. India is a litmus test for many travelers - some are only too happy to leave, while others stay for a lifetime. The country's glorious diversity means there's an astonishing array of sacred sites, from immaculately kept Jain temples to weathered Buddhist stupas; there's history around every corner, with countless monuments, battle-scarred forts, abandoned cities and ancient ruins all having tales to tell; and there are beaches to satiate the most avid sun worshipper. On a personal level, however, India is going to be exactly what you make of it.

Delhi is the third largest city and consists of Old Delhi and New Delhi. Old Delhi was the capital of India Between 17th and 19th centuries and now contains many mosques, monuments and forts relating to India's Muslim history. The other Delhi is the imperial city created as the capital of India by the British. In addition to its historic interest and role as government center, Delhi is a major travel gateway. The architectural designs and sophistication that buildings in Delhi like Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, India Gate, Connaught Place and various administrative buildings like the South and North blocks along the breathtaking view available from Raj Path, show British influence. Modern Delhi has a cosmopolitan culture that nurtures festivals of all faiths and religions. Theatre, drama and entertainment of all sorts including discotheques are there.

Agra - In the mid 16th century and early 17th century, Agra witnessed a frenzied building activity and it was during this time when the symbol of love Taj Mahal was built. The buildings made during this era were purely in the contemporary Mughal style and of very high quality which is still reflected in what ever monuments remain in Agra. The narrow lanes of Agra filled with aroma of Mughlai cuisine, the craftsman who are busy creating masterpieces with their skill all remind of the Mughal royalty which this city had once experienced. Today whatever remains, has become a major tourist attraction which has taken Agra again to the heights of glory but this time as a major tourist destination of India. Main shopping areas include Taj Mahal complex, Kinari Bazaar, Raja Mandi, Sadar Bazaar. the Gangotri at Taj Mahal Complex and the Up Handlooms, UPICA at the Sanjay place are two UP Government emporiums.

Mumbai (Bombay) - About 300 years ago, the area of Bombay was nothing more than seven islands occupied by small fishing settlements. Today this bustling city offers a seemingly endless array of sights and cultural activities. Mumbai is the glamour of Bollywood cinema, cricket on the maidans on weekends, bhelpuri on the beach at Chowpatty and red double-decker buses. It is also the infamous cages of the red-light district, Asia's largest slums, communalist politics and powerful mafia dons. This pungent drama is played out against a Victorian townscape more reminiscent of a prosperous 19th-century English industrial city than anything you'd expect to find on the edge of the Arabian Sea. Mumbai has vital street life, India's best nightlife, and more bazaars than a visitor could ever explore.

Goa is the smallest state of the republic of India. It lies on the country's west coast, about 250 miles south of Bombay. The state covers an area of 1,429 square miles. Long, sandy beaches, fringed with coconut palms, make Goa a tropical paradise for visitors. Other tourist attractions are the colonial buildings from the 1500's, built when Goa was headquarters of Portugal's Asian empire. Today, Old Goa is half-hidden in jungle. Its population was severely affected by plague in the 1600's, and a new city was set up at Panaji, which contains the main government buildings. Margao is Goa's biggest commercial center. Mormugao, Goa's major port, has a fine harbor - one of the best on the west coast of India. The harbor is the focus of economic activity in Goa.

Cochin is the great, old Keralan spice city. It consists of mainland Ernakulam, islands of Willingdon, Bolgatty and Gundu in the harbor, Fort Cochin and Mattancheri on the southern peninsula and Vypeen Island north of Cochin. Because of the area’s dense tropical forests, extensive ridges and ravines, it has been sheltered from invaders and the rest of India. This encouraged Keralites to welcome maritime contact, and therefore influence from the outside world. In Cochin there is still a small community of descendants from Jewish settlers who fled Palestine 2,000 years ago. When the Portuguese arrived here some 500 years ago, they were surprised to find Christianity already established along this coast. People from far-off lands have been coming to Kerala since ancient times in search of spices, sandalwood and ivory. Such long contact with people from overseas has resulted in the blending of various cultures and has given Keralites a cosmopolitan outlook.

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Agents who have been to India...