"So far as I am able to judge, nothing has been left undone, either by man or nature, to make India the most extraordinary country that the sun visits on his rounds. Nothing seems to have been forgotten, nothing overlooked." --Mark Twain, from Following the Equator
Geography & Climate
The subcontinent of India lies in south Asia, between Pakistan, China and Nepal. India is set apart from the rest of Asia by the Himalayas, the highest, youngest and still evolving mountain chain on the planet. The subcontinent as it is rightly called, touches three large water bodies and is immediately recognizable on any world map. This thick, roughly triangular peninsula defines the Bay of Bengal to the east, the Arabian sea to the west, and the India Ocean to the south.
Indian weather varies from The Tropical monsoon in south India to temperate in north India. One cannot speak of the climate of India, or else one must speak of several different India's. The subcontinent has eight climatic zones all of which only have the monsoon rains in common. But even the monsoon comes to different parts of the country at different times. While the heat is unbearable in the Gangetic plain, the people of Ladakh shiver in the snowy cold.The Indian year passes through four seasons. Winter lasts from December to February, and summer from March to May. The rainy season of Southwest monsoon is from June to September. The post monsoon season, which is North East monsoon in South India, is in October and November. The most pleasant weather in India lasts from June to November.There is a heavy rainfall in Northeastern region, the western slopes of the Western Ghats and parts of the Himalayas during the year. On the other hands, there is hardly any rainfall in Rajasthan, Kutch, and Laddakh. There is medium or average rainfall in other parts of the country.
Area: 1,229,737 sq. mi. (3,287,590 sq. km)Approximately
Elevation extremes: The lowest point in India: Indian Ocean 0 m and highest point is Mount Kanchenjunga 8,598 metres above sea level.
Largest Indian cities: Bombay (Mumbai) (2000 est.), 17,850,000 (metro. area); Calcutta (2000 est.), 12,900,000 (metro. area); Madras (Chennai) (2000 est.), 6,600,000 (metro. area); Hyderabad (2000 est.), 6,650,000 (metro. area); Bangalore (2000 est.), 5,500,000 (metro. area); Ahmedabad, 4,150,000; Kanpur, 1,874,409
Culture & People
With nearly 1 billion citizens, India is the second most populous nation in the world. It is impossible to speak of any one Indian culture, although there are deep cultural continuities that tie its people together. English is the major language of trade and politics, but there are fourteen official languages in all. There are twenty-four languages that are spoken by a million people or more, and countless other dialects. India has seven major religions and many minor ones, six main ethnic groups, and countless holidays.
Religion is central to Indian culture, and its practice can be seen in virtually every aspect of life in the country. Hinduism is the dominant faith of India, serving about 80 percent of the population. Ten percent worship Islam, and 5 perscent are Sikhs and Christians; the rest (a good 45 million) are Buddhists, Jains, Bahai, and more.
Dress: Light and loose, easily laundered clothing is best for the south, and the northern plains, especially from April to September. You will need warmer clothes, including woolens, for the north during winter. Warm clothing is a must in the hill stations all year round.
Principal languages of India : Hindi (official), English (official), Bengali, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Kannada, Assamese, Sanskrit, Sindhi (all recognized by the constitution). Dialects, 1,652
International airports in India : Amritsar, New Delhi, Guwahati, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Goa, Chennai, Bangalore, Cochin, Thiruvananathapuram.
All visitors, except those from Nepal and Bhutan, must have valid passports stamped with current visas.Visitors must register with the Foreigners’ Regional Registration Office within 14 days of arrival.
Visitors possessing more than US$ 10,000 (or the equivalent in travelers' cheques or bank notes) must fill in a currency declaration form. Visitors may bring in up to 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, and one litre of alcohol, duty-free. Non-sporting firearms and narcotics are prohibited, as are gold bullion or coins (except by Indian nationals returning from working abroad, who may bring in a maximum of 5 kilograms).
The units of Indian currency are the Rupee and Paisa (100Paisa equal 1 Rupee). Paper money is in denominations of Rupees 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins are in denominations of Rupees 1, 2 and 5.