The Indian subcontinent has been inhabited for at least 75,000 years, with the first major civilization in South Asia, the Indus, living in present day Pakistan from 3300 - 1300 BC. From the birth of Buddhism in the 5th century BC to the resurgence of Hinduism in the "golden age" stretching 1500 years from the 3rd century BC, India has long influenced the rest of the world. Aspects of Indian civilization, administration, culture, and religion spread throughout Asia, while kingdoms in southern India influenced outsiders from the Roman Empire to the Khmer Kingdom. Muslim rule started in some parts of northern India in the 13th century, but the emergence of several powerful Hindu states saw its influence decline for a period. Mughals from Central Asia entered India in the 16th century, controlling large areas and creating many of the most impressive edifices in the country, inlcuding Shah Jahan’s sublime Taj Mahal. At the beginning of the 18th century, rule gradually shifted to the Maratha and Sikh Empires and the Mysore Kingdom. In the late 18th century, large sections of India were annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, after which the British provinces of India were directly administered by the British Crown. During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle led by Mahatma Gandhi finally led to independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, and after widespread chaos and violence the British provinces were finally partitioned into the modern dominions of India and Pakistan.
India's population is around 1.2 billion, making it the second most populous nation on earth. India's languages, religions, dance, clothing, music, architecture, food, and customs differ from place to place within the country. Indian culture, really an amalgamation of several cultures, has been influenced by several millennia of history. India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with religion playing a central and definitive role in the life of many people. Around 80% of the population are Hindu, with Islam practised by around 13% of all Indians. The remaining 7% consists of around 23 million Christians, over 19 million Sikhs, about 8 million Buddhists and 4 million Jains. India is widely known for its traditional arts and philosophies from yoga to vegetarianism as well as its contemporary pop culture, such as the "Bollywood" phenomenon. Social change over the last few decades is in dramatic contrast to the expectations of traditional Indian culture. These changes have led to Indian families giving education opportunities to girls and accepting women working outside home and pursuing a career.
Pakora, Paneer and Paratha
Indian food is as diverse as India itself. Indian cuisines use numerous ingredients, deploy a wide range of food preparation styles, cooking techniques and culinary presentation. From salads to sauces, vegetarian to meat, spice to simplicity, breads to desserts, Indian cuisine is invariably complex. Generally, Indian cuisine can be split into five categories - northern, southern, eastern, western and north-eastern. Though a significant portion of Indian food is vegetarian, many traditional Indian dishes also include chicken, goat, beef, buffalo, lamb, fish, and other meats. Fish-based cuisines are common in the eastern states of India, particularly West Bengal.
India is the seventh-largest country in the world, with a total area of 3,166,414 square km. On the south, India projects into and is bounded by the Indian Ocean; the northern frontiers are defined largely by the Himalayan mountain range, where the country borders China, Bhutan, and Nepal. Its western border with Pakistan lies in the Punjab Plain and the Thar Desert. The thickly forested Chin and Kachin Hills and Kachin Hills separate India from Burma, and the border with Bangladesh contains the watershed region of the longest river, the Ganges.
Plants and Animals
The huge size of the Indian subcontinent makes for a wide diversity in flora and fauna, from the equatorial south through deserts in the west and alpine tundra in the upper reaches of the Himalayas. Many of the major farm animals such as cows, buffaloes, goats, poultry, pigs and sheep, as well as an amazingly wide variety of other animals are native. Bengal tigers, deer pythons, wolves, foxes, bears, crocodiles, camels, wild dogs, monkeys, antelope, bison and the Asian Elephant are all found in India. The region's rich and diverse wildlife is preserved in 89 national parks, 18 bio reserves and 400+ wildlife sanctuaries, however in recent decades human encroachment has posed an increasing threat. India's forest cover ranges from tropical rainforest to coniferous forest. Between these extremes lie moist deciduous forest, teak-dominated dry deciduous forest and the babul-dominated thorn forest. Since ancient times, use of plants as a source of medicines has been the inherent part of life in India. There are more than 3000 officially documented plants in India that holds great medicinal potential. Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural India, and the pipal fig tree, which shaded the Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment.
Scheduled Tours 2015 / 2016
Join Rush Expeditions India specialist Steve McHardy and popular food blogger Charlie Louie from Hotly Spiced on this exciting culinary adventure to Northern India. This fascinating tour serves an introduction to both India itself and Indian cuisine. Our professional, enthusiastic team of travel and food experts will help you get the most out of your experience in one of the most gastronomically exciting places on earth. Experience the grandeur and power of the British Raj in Delhi; marvel at the beauty of the beguiling Taj Mahal in Agra; enjoy the opulence and history of the Maharajas in Jaipur and relax in a country retreat in rural Shekawati where you’ll also enjoy special Indian cookery workshops with a local chef. Visit some of the best Indian restaurants available in each destination and enjoy the variety of local and regional cuisines. There is also plenty of time to simply enjoy learning more about this beautiful country, revel in our “less ordinary” special experiences and relax into the holiday of a lifetime.
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This tour is a great introduction to a land of surprises and contrasts. Using trains, boats, buses and rickshaws, visit magnificent forts and palaces, fascinating Hindu and Jain temples, and travel off the beaten track to experience rural India. Monsoon is a good time to travel this part of India, with fewer tourists, uncrowded attractions and weather not as oppressive as the pre-monsoon season. In New Delhi, start with an introduction to India’s recent history. Fly to the beautiful lakeside city of Udaipur with opulent palaces and beautiful temples. Also visit Jodhpur with its imposing hilltop fortress and spend time in the rural villages of the strictly vegetarian Bishnoi clan. Onwards to the bustling pink city of Jaipur, you’ll spend time at an elephant sanctuary, before heading to Agra to enjoy the truly superlative experience of the Taj Mahal, history’s greatest tribute to love.
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