India is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Diversity is an aspect that is intrinsic to her being, and the result is that this country often puzzles the first time visitor with the range of experience it offers to visitors. The landscape, the people, castes and religion, culture and philosophy, cuisine, architecture, occupations and languages are all as diverse in this vast country. Classical, folk, and tribal cultures coexist as do 21st century ideas with medieval attitudes and age-old lifestyles. India, as a highly evolved civilization, has offered invaluable perspectives. The country is still young, but ranks among the top 10 industrialized countries in the world, even as an ancient mythology permeates her psyche. There are hundreds of gods and deities that are enthusiastically worshipped by the people here, yet they all believe in the existence of the Supreme Reality. People speak several languages and hundreds of dialects in different parts of the country. You will experience extremes on this land, and while there are contradictions, their explanations are often more startling.
People say diversity is the pulse of India, creating a texture, which is alive and enduring. It can make one doubt all certitudes and dwell upon the meaning and purpose of life. The perennial associations with the Orient are here –the exotica, the palaces and forts, the remnants of royalty, the heat, dust and crowds, even the elephant on the highway. But the essence of India’s beauty, her Indianness as it were, is contained in the texture of life here. It can be sensed by one who comes without preconceived ideas, who resists the tendency to constantly measure against a known reality, and who is willing to look beyond the apparent chaos.
The Indian subcontinent is demarcated by the desert, mountains and sea. Nature has not withheld her bounty and, imbued with mythological associations, bears a sacred dimension as well. Geographical factors have to a large extent determined the course of history. In the last 3,500 years, India has harbored waves of alien influences, especially from Central Asia and Europe. Some survive in a quaint and whimsical manner, others entered the mainstream while simultaneously retaining a part of their identity. But the richest and the finest were absorbed and assimilated, resulting in a synthesis which was profoundly creative.
Today, India has emerged as the world’s largest democracy. She is in the throes of change, generated equally by her specific historical and cultural context, by a burgeoning population and the pressures of a shrinking world. It is not easy to understand India, for she does not reveal herself instantly or entirely. But it is not an impossible task either. And once the curiosity is awakened it cannot be readily subdued. Once the seed of interest takes root, it craves to be nourished. This has been the experience of travelers throughout the centuries.