“If we were to look over the whole world to fine out the country most richly endowed with all the wealth, power and beauty that nature can bestow-in some parts a very paradise on earth-I should point to India”. ~ Max Mueller
What Max Mueller said is indeed true. Crowned by the Himalayas on top and vast seas surrounding its peninsula, India is quite distinct on the world map.
The Himalayas enveloped all the beauty with in itself, giving rise to the mighty rivers-Indus, Ganga and Yamuna and their tributaries, spreading over the land like arteries, providing life blood to the species while in the Deccan plateau and South, the Narmada, Krishna, Godavari Cauvery, sucked water from the vast seas and drenched the entire land. With so much vivacity all around, life bloomed and soon the entire subcontinent was filled with rare, fragrant flowers and beautiful creatures started making it their home.
Could man be far behind? India has seen many eras blooming on her soil. Each era has left its indelible lifestyle, thinking’s, languages, tastes and the whole culture was different. From Harappa’s to Maury as, Guptas to Sultans, and Mughals to the English, India saw a metamorphosis in each era. People mixed, cultures intermingled, and each century brought a new India, influenced by all, yet retaining its old identity. So, the whole of India, was dotted it temples, mosques and churches, palaces, havelis and forts.
The biggest asset of India as a desirable tourist destination is its 5,000-year-old historical and cultural heritage. Every region in India developed a culture of its own. The culture is a wide term, which includes the languages, rituals, beliefs, festivals and tradition, given form father to son and carried on with generations.
The regional diversity is attributed to the fact that the historical roots of development of each region culturally depended much on the dynasties ruling it and also on their proximity to other cultures. This limited regional influence was seen in the languages, cuisines, dressing sense and even in dance and music in each region. The local perceptions and feelings gave way to regional beliefs and traditions.
Take for instance, the desert state of Rajasthan. With that at its background and shifting sand-dunes, mirages and camels, the vast palaces, forts and havelis present a very distinct aura. The Rajupt Culture with bright ‘Bandhani’ colors, intricate designs and the Royal background gives a very different look. Its unique architecture in the series of palaces in Pink City (Raipur), Lake Palace in Udaipur and sand colored forts in sand-dunes city of jaislmer, coupled with the folk dances and art, gives it a distinction of ‘Epitome of Culture Tourism in India’.
But, one jewel which attracts the bulk of tourists is in the once Mughal Capital-Agra. The great Mughals gave India the architectural splendor and influence of Persia. It reached its zenith with the symbol of Mughal romance-the Taj Mahal. Its architectural perfection gave it a place as one of the Seven Wonders of the World Today; Taj Mahal has become synonymous with ‘India’.
Be it be Ancient Indian beauty in the form of caves of Ajanta-Ellora, Sun Temple at Konark, Khajuraho Temples or the Dravadian style stone-carved temples of Hoysalewara and Ranganathaswamy or the Medieval glory of Qutab Minar, Red Fort, Fatehpur Sikri and other forts and mausoleums with Islamic influence of Persia, Turkey or Afghanistan; or even the English and the Portuguese influence in Victoria Memorial, Gateway of India and churches in Goa; each one symbolizes the glory of India in the different eras.
All these eras gave India some spectacular masterpieces which are not found anywhere around the globe. Some masterpieces are objects of awe and mystery, not only because of their unique craftsmanship, challenging the modern technological growth but because of their technological superiority. No one has been able to solve the mystery of the Shaking Minarets in the mosque and tomb f Raj Bibi in Ahmedabad. The Bhool Bhulaiyan in Lucknow and the acoustic wonders of Gol Gumbaj speak for themselves. In fact, you can never have enough of India when it comes to the architectural wonders and excellence.
Another aspect of Indian culture is its vibrant and colorful festivals. India has been the mother of the oldest religion – The Hinduism and subsequently Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Islam and Christianity also experienced the motherly affection of this great country. The festivals still carry on the gaiety and colors of past. The festive season in India coincides with the Tourist Season and with 33 core Gods and Goddesses; one surely cannot miss out the colorful extravaganza whenever he visits India. In fact, the real, culture experience of India is unaccomplished without these festivals.
India’s Dance and Music festivals also have culture roots. The Taj Mahotsava in February, Khajuraho Dance festival at Khajuraho Temples in March and Konark Dance festival in November, give an opportunity of seeing all internationally acclaimed faces of Indian classical dance and music (both vocal and instrumental) on one stage. Around 14 such festivals are arranged all over the country. All one needs is to be sure that the itinerary includes these festivals, and the trip to India will be the most memorable of all.
If you want more of India, there’s a series of Heritage hotels, Orient Express, Palace-on-Wheels, fairy Queen, all at very affordable prices. And if you like to take a piece of Indian Culture heritage with you as a reminiscence, there is a huge backbone of Souvenir industry, with all Indian craftsmanship creating magic on marbles, leather, wood, brass and even clay. You cannot find such intricate designs and patterns anywhere in the world.
The diversity of India is not limited to culture, but nature too has been very generous to India. While the Himalayan Ranges gave beautiful valleys of Kashmir and Himachal, ‘Valley of Flowers’ ‘Scotland of the East’, snoew-acpped mountains and lush green plains, the Thar Desert gave sand-dunes and mirages. Its 3200 km. long silvery soastline gave beautiful and often secluded beaches in Colva, Aguada, Arjuna, Gopalpur, Konark; and lagoons and backwaters of Kerala and Chilka in Orissa. Kutch and Sundarbans, where land and rivers meet sea, gives opportunity to nature-lovers and ecologists to unravel the mysteries of nature and observe the delicate balance of nature with living beings. The giant waterfalls, Coral paradise islands and rushing mighty rivers are all nature’s gifted pearls.
As each region has unique physical features, soil types and climatic conditions, so are the vegetation and wildlife. Many flora and fauna are endemic. To safeguard this unique treasure of India, Project Tiger was initiated in 1973, and several biosphere reserves and wildlife and bird sanctuaries sprang up. The most popular being the Bharatpur Bird Sanctuary, which is the home of many water birds and migratory birds, including the rate Siberian cranes. The Corbett National Park protects the Royal Bengal Tiger, Gir Reserve is the only surviving home of Asiatic Lion, Kaziranga is the Royal house of rhino and Periyar in Kerala homes the Indian elephants. Many other rare species, like Hangual (in Dachigam, Kashmir), deer’s and other wildlife forms including rare trees are protected in over 200 sanctuaries and wildlife reserves all over India. Almost half the tourists coming to India show special interest in these wildlife forms.
And when all the natural beauty is mixed with culture, this harmony presents a very unique picture, making each destination different. So for the nature lovers, the experience of a hill station in Himachal (Kullu-Manali), Mount Abu in Rajasthan and Ooty and beautiful, peaceful Connor in Tamil Nadu are all different, because a distinct cultural spice is added to it.
Similarly, a ‘Sunset’ in the Kashmir Valleys, monastery surrounded North-East hills, cool, green Goa beaches, turquoise seas with temple background and that at the lowest point of Indian Peninsula—the Kanyakumari, are all different, because man’s genius blends with the nature’s in a distinct way.
For India to continue as a ‘Tourist Paradise’, a judicious and prudent analysis of socio-cultural and environmental carrying capacity has to be done. Apart from Desert Triangle and Golden triangles in many states, many circuits have to be developed.