History of India
Incredible India – India’s history is its essence, ungraspable but never far away. Its thousands of years have seen hundreds of invasions, the rise and fall of myriad empires and colonisation by the Mughals (who built the Taj Mahal), Portuguese (the first European powers to arrive and the last to leave, in 1961), the French, who established themselves in Puducherry (Pondicherry).
Perhaps the most well-known of India’s colonisers were the British. The Mughals granted British traders a licence to trade in Bengal in the 17th century; by the early 19th century India was effectively under British control but it wasn’t until the mid-19th century, following the Indian Mutiny in 1857, that the British government took over administration of India from the East India Company.
Notions of Indian independence were temporarily pushed aside at the start of the 20th century and India fought alongside Britain in two world wars. It was during this time that one of India’s greatest political figures came to the forefront. Mahatma Gandhi preached a policy of equality to be gained through passive resistance. In 1942 he introduced the ‘Quit India’ campaign and was imprisoned, not for the first time, for subversive behaviour. Gandhi was assassinated in January 1948, not long after India gained independence from Britain in 1947.
With independence came the decision to divide India into Muslim and Hindu territories; a decision that is reaping the seeds of discontent even today. Indian foreign policy continues to be dominated by relations with Pakistan. The main cause of friction is the status of Jammu & Kashmir, a disputed territory straddling both India and Pakistan.
In July 2007 Pratibha Patil became India’s first female president and her supporters hailed her election as a victory for women. She succeeded APJ Abdul Kalam, an esteemed scientist and the architect of the country’s missile programme.
People of India
India is a fascinating country where people of many different communities and religions live together in unity. Indian Population is polygenetic and is an amazing amalgamation of various races and cultures.
It is impossible to find out the exact origin of Indian People. The species known as Ramapithecus was found in the Siwalik foothills of north western Himalayas. The species believed to be the first in the line of hominids (Human Family) lived some 14 million years ago. Researchers have found that a species resembling the Austrapithecus lived in India some 2 million years ago. Even this discovery leaves an evolutionary gap of as much as 12 million years since Ramapithecus.
There are many diverse ethnic groups among the people of India. The 6 main ethnic groups are as follows.
- Proto – Australoids or Austrics
- Mediterranean or Dravidian
- Western Brachycephals
- Nordic Aryans
The Negritos or the Brachycephalic (broad headed) from Africa were the earliest people to have come to India. They have survived in their original habitat in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Jarawas, Onges, Sentinelese and the Great Andamanese are some of the examples. Some hill tribes like Irulas, Kodars, Paniyans and Kurumbas are found in some patches in Southern part of mainland India.
Pro-Australoids or Austrics
These groups were the next to come to India after the Negritos. They are people with wavy hair lavishly distributed all over their brown bodies, long headed with low foreheads and prominent eye ridges, noses with low and broad roots, thick jaws, large palates and teeth and small chins. The Austrics of India represent a race of medium height, dark complexion with long heads and rather flat noses but otherwise of regular features. Miscegenation with the earlier Negroids may be the reason for the dark or black pigmentation of the skin and flat noses.
The Austrics laid the foundation of Indian civilization. They cultivated rice and vegetables and made sugar from sugarcane. Now these people are found in some parts of India, Myanmar and the islands of South East Asia. Their languages have survived in the Central and Eastern India.
These people are found in the North eastern part of India in the states of Assam, Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, and Tripura. They are also found in Northern parts of West Bengal, Sikkim, and Ladakh. Generally they are people with yellow complexion, oblique eyes, high cheekbones, sparse hair and medium height.
These are the people of South India. They have been believed to come before the Aryans. They have different sub-groups like the Paleo-Mediterranean, the true Mediterranean, and the Oriental Mediterranean. They appear to be people of the same stock as the peoples of Asia Minor and Crete and pre- Hellenic Aegean’s of Greece. They are reputed to have built up the city civilization of the Indus valley, whose remains have been found at Mohenjo- daro and Harappa and other Indus cities.
These include the Alpinoids, Dinarics and Armenoids. The Parsis and Kodavas also fall in this category. They are the broad headed people living mainly on the western side of the country such as the Ganga Valley and the delta, parts of Kashmir, Kathiawar, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu.
Nordics or the Indo-Aryans
This group were the last one to immigrate to India. They came to India somewhere between 2000 and 1500 B.C. They are now mainly found in the northern and central part of India.
India, a place of infinite variety, is fascinating with its ancient and complex culture, dazzling contrasts and breathtaking physical beauty. Among the most remarkable features of India, is the arts and culture in particular. The Indian culture has persisted through the ages precisely for the reasons of antiquity, unity, continuity and the universality of its nature.
Thus within the ambience of Indian culture one can identify ‘Indian Music’, ‘Indian Dance’, ‘Indian Cinema’, ‘Indian Literature’, Indian Cuisine”Indian Fairs and Festivals’ and so on.
About 80% Hindu, 13% Muslim, with Sikh, Christian, Jain, Parsi and Buddhist minorities.
The traditional Hindu greeting is to fold the hands, tilt the head forward and say namaste. Indian women generally prefer not to shake hands. All visitors are asked to remove footwear when entering places of religious worship. Most Indians also remove their footwear when entering their homes; visitors should follow suit. Many Hindus are vegetarian and many, especially women, do not drink alcohol. Most Sikhs and Parsis do not smoke. Women are expected to dress modestly and men should also dress respectfully. Women should not wear short skirts and tight or revealing clothing, although there is a more casual approach to clothing in Goa.
Language in India
Hindi is the official language of India and, used by about 40% of the population, India’s most widely spoken. English is also enshrined in the constitution for a wide range of official purposes. In addition, 18 regional languages are recognised by the constitution. These include Bengali, Gujarati, Oriya and Punjabi, which are used in respective regions, and Tamil and Telugu, which are common in the south. Other regional languages include Kannada, Malayalam and Marathi. The Muslim population largely speaks Urdu.
India things to see and do
Snorkel in the Andaman Islands, in the Bay of Bengal – a lushly forested archipelago that has exotic plant life and a wide variety of corals and tropical fish. The best sites for diving around the islands are more difficult to reach remote. It is also home to India’s only active volcano.
Mumbai (Bombay) has Juhu and Chowpatty, while Goa offers some of the nation’s most sublime beaches and resorts. Marina Beach in Chennai (Madras) is the second largest in the world. The lush state of Kerala includes the famous beach at Kovalam.
Bollywood and Bombay
Escape Indian stereotypes in Mumbai (Bombay), the capital of Maharashtra, where a bustling port and the country’s commercial hub, Mumbai’s plate-glass skyscrapers and modern industry jostle alongside ramshackle bazaars and a hectic street life. The city is also the home of the prolific film industry. Welcome to ‘Bollywood’!
Experience India’s sprawling deserts from the back of a camel. Make sure you camp overnight to experience the desert’s incredibly clear array of stars. Coincide your visit with one of the annual festivals such as Jaisalmer’s Desert Festival (January/February) and Pushkar’s fascinating Camel Fair (October).
Experience India’s sprawling deserts from the back of a camel. Make sure you camp overnight to experience the desert’s incredibly clear array of stars. Time your visit to coincide with one of the annual festivals such as Jaisalmer’s Desert Festival (January/February) and Pushkar’s fascinating Camel Fair (November).
Take part in the Durga Puja (September/October) in Kolkata (Calcutta). One of the biggest Hindu religious festivals in India, it is full of colour and noise, held in honour of the goddess Durga. Other Hindu festivals to watch out for include Diwali, Ganesha Chaturthi and Kumbh Mela.
Orissa state is famous for temples. Bhubaneswar has some particularly notable temples, including the Lingaraj Temple. Puri, a holy Hindu place of pilgrimage, stages Rath Yatra in June or July, where icons of gods are drawn on massive chariots. Konarak is known for its striking ‘Sun Temple ‘.
Music and dance
Listen to the evocative instruments of Indian music, such as the sitar, sarod and the subtle rhythm of the tabla. There is also a variety of dance forms to marvel at, each with its own costumes and elaborate language of gestures.
Taj Mahal and the Golden Triangle
Discover the area known as the ‘Golden Triangle’ with its many stunning attractions. Delhi sits at the heart of the area with Agra in the southeast with the iconic Taj Mahal. To the southwest, in Rajasthan, is Jaipur, the vibrant ‘Pink City’. Visit the Amber Fort and the Hawa Mahal (Palace of the Winds). To the southeast of the triangle lies Khajuraho with its famous erotic friezes.
Temples of Ajanta
Observe stunning rock-cut temples all over India including the Buddhist cave temples at Ajanta, which date back at least 2,000 years, and Khajuraho with its famous erotic friezes. The caves at Ellora depict religious stories and are Hindu, Buddhist and Jain in origin.
Before you go
A passport valid for at least 180 days and with at least two blank pages is required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.
Visas for India are required by all nationals referred to in the chart above.
Nationals not referred to in the chart are advised to contact the embassy to check visa requirements for India.
Of the countries listed in the chart above, nationals of the following countries are eligible to apply online for an e-Tourist Visa (eTV): Australia, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. You must apply at least four days before you arrive in India. You can only enter India via those airports listed on the eTV website.
Certain parts of the country have been designated protected or restricted areas that require special permits and in some cases prior government authorisation. You should indicate your intent to visit a specific restricted region when applying for a visa and a permit will be granted to visit that region only. It is advised that you apply for the special permit for restricted areas when you enter India by visiting the FRRO (Foreign Regional Registration Office) which has offices in all major Indian airports and cities. You must complete an additional form, but there is no fee for a restricted area permit.
Types and cost:
- e-Tourist Visa: up to US$60, depending on nationality.
- UK nationals: transit visa: £56; tourist visa: £102; business visa: £152.
- US nationals: transit visa: £17; tourist visa: £69; business visa: £112.
- Other nationals listed in the chart above: transit visa: £17; tourist visa: £32 (up to six months), £52 (up to one year); business visa: fees vary according to nationality.
- All visa applications are subject to a non-refundable £7.44 VFS service charge.
- e-Tourist Visa: 30 days from the date of arrival.
- Transit: valid for three months for a maximum stay of 15 days.
- Tourist/business for UK nationals: valid for single or multiple entries within one year (maximum stay of 180 days per visit).
- Visa validity for other nationals varies according to nationality.
- Visas issued by the embassy/VFS Global are valid from the date of issue not your date of departure.