Country Information

India, it is often said, is not a country, but a continent. Stretching from the frozen summits of the Himalayas to the tropical greenery of Kerala. Its expansive borders encompass an incomparable range of landscapes, cultures and people. Walk the streets of any Indian city and you’ll rub shoulders with representatives of several of the world’s great faiths, a multitude of castes and outcastes, fair-skinned, turbanned Punjabis and dark-skinned Tamils. You’ll also encounter temple rituals that have been performed since the time of the Egyptian Pharaohs, onion-domed mosques erected centuries before the Taj Mahal was ever dreamt of, and quirky echoes of the British Raj on virtually every corner.
• The Republic of India, whose capital is Delhi, is bordered by Afghanistan, China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) to the east and Pakistan to the west.
• It’s the seventh largest country in the world, covering more than three million square kilometres, and is second only to China in terms of population, at more than 1.22 billion. Hindus comprise eighty percent of the population, Muslims 13 percent, and there are millions of Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains.
• Twenty-three official languages are spoken, along with more than a thousand minor languages and dialects. Hindi is the language of more than forty percent of the population; English is also widely spoken.
• The caste system is pervasive and, although integral to Hindu belief, it also encompasses non-Hindus. It holds special sway in rural areas and may dictate where a person lives and what their occupation is.
• Eighty-two percent of males are literate, compared to 65 percent of females: 74 percent of the total population.
• India now boasts more than 400,000 millionaires, with a combined net worth of nearly US$2.5 billion.
• Indian Railways is the largest employer on the planet, with around one million workers.
• Producing 1100 movies each year and turning over US$4 billion dollars, India’s film industry is the largest in the world, in terms of ticket numbers if not box office receipts.

Culture:

Cultural differences extend to all sorts of little things. While allowances will usually be made for foreigners, visitors unacquainted with Indian customs may need a little preparation to avoid causing offence or making fools of themselves. The list of do’s and don’ts here is hardly exhaustive: when in doubt, watch what the Indian people around you are doing.

Climate:

India is home to an extraordinary variety of climaticregions, ranging from tropical in the south to temperate and alpine in the Himalayan north, where elevated regions receive sustained winter snowfall. The nation’s climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert.

What season is it in India?
Monsoon or rainy season, lasting from July to September. The seasonis dominated by the humid southwest summer monsoon, which slowly sweeps across the country beginning in late May or early June. Monsoon rains begin to recede from North India at the beginning of October.

How many seasons are there in India?
Traditionally, Indians note six seasons or Ritu, each about two months long. These are the spring season (Sanskrit: vasanta), summer (grīṣma), monsoon season (varṣā), autumn (śarada), winter (hemanta), and prevernal season (śiśira). These are based on the astronomical division of the twelve months into six parts.

How hot does India get?
In most of India summer is very hot. It begins in April and continues till the beginning of October, when the monsoon rains start to fall. The heat peaks in June with temperatures in the northern plains and the west reach 45° C and more.

When does spring season start in India?
In terms of complete months, in most north temperate zone locations,spring months are March, April and May, although differences exist from country to country. (Summer is June, July, August; autumn is September, October, November; winter is December, January, February).

Current Time & Date:

India Time Zone UTC +05:30 This makes it 5hr 30min ahead of London, 10hr 30min ahead of New York, 13hr 30min ahead of LA, 4hr 30min behind Sydney and 6hr 30min behind NZ; however, summertime in those places will change the difference by an hour. Indian time is referred to as IST (Indian Standard Time, which cynics refer to as “Indian stretchable time”).

Currency:

The currency is the Rupee, abbreviated as Rs. which is divided into 100 paisa. The Rupee notes come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000. Coins are in denominations of Rupee 1, 2 and 5.

Languages:

English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication. The official language of the Indian Union is Hindi, which is the primary tongue of 30% of the people. Besides Hindi, some of the other official languages include Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri and Sindhi.

Food & Drinks:

Indian food has a richly deserved reputation as one of the world’s great cuisines. Stereotyped abroad as the ubiquitous ”curry”, the cooking of the Subcontinent covers a wealth of different culinary styles, with myriad regional variations and specialities, from the classic creamy meat and fruit Mughlai dishes of the north through to the banana-leaf vegetarian thalis of the south. The basic distinction in Indian food is between the cuisines of the north and south. North Indian food (which is the style generally found in Indian restaurants abroad) is characterized by its rich meat and vegetable dishes in thick tomato, onion and yogurt-based sauces, accompanied by thick breads. South Indian food, by contrast, is almost exclusively vegetarian, with spicy chilli and coconut flavours and lots of rice, either served in its natural state or made into one of the south’s distinctive range of pancakes, such as the dosa, iddli and uttapam.

Holidays:

Virtually every temple in every town or village across the country has its own festival. The biggest and most spectacular include Puri’s Rath Yatra festival in June or July, the Hemis festival in Ladakh, also held in June or July, Pushkar’s camel fair in November, Kullu’s Dussehra, Madurai’s three annual festivals and, of course, the Kumbh Mela, held at Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. While mostly religious in nature, merrymaking rather than solemnity are generally the order of the day, and onlookers are usually welcome. Indeed, if you’re lucky enough to coincide with a local festival, it may well prove to be the highlight of your trip.
India has only four national public holidays as such: Jan 26 (Republic Day); Aug 15 (Independence Day); Oct 2 (Gandhi’s birthday); and Dec 25 (Christmas Day). Each state, however, has its own calendar of public holidays; you can expect most businesses to close on the major holidays of their own religion. The Hindu lunar calendar months are given in brackets here.
Key: B=Buddhist; C=Christian; H=Hindu; J=Jain; M=Muslim; N=non-religious; P=Parsi; S=Sikh.

Moveable
H Kumbh Mela: Major three-yearly festival held at one of four holy cities: Nasik (Maharashtra), Ujjain (MP), Haridwar (UP) or Prayag (Maharashtra) as well as at Allahabad (UP). The Maha Kumbh Mela or “Great” Kumbh Mela, the largest religious fair in India, is held every twelve years in Allahabad (UP); the next festival is due to take place in 2016 (April 22 to May 21) in Ujjain.
M Ramadan: The month during which Muslims may not eat, drink or smoke from sunrise to sunset, and should abstain from sex. Future estimated dates are: June 28–July 27, 2014, June 17 to July 16, 2015 and June 6 to July 5, 2016.
M Id ul-Fitr: Feast to celebrate the end of Ramadan. The precise date of the festival depends on exactly when the new moon is sighted, and so cannot be predicted with complete accuracy. Estimated dates (though these may vary by a day or two) are: July 28, 2014, July 17, 2015 and July 6, 2016.

Money:

India’s unit of currency is the rupee, usually abbreviated “Rs” and divided into a hundred paise. Almost all money is paper, with notes of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 500 and 1000 rupees. Coins in circulation are 1, 2, 5 and 10 rupees, the latter two gradually replacing the paper versions. Note that it’s technically illegal to take rupees in or out of India (although they are widely available at overseas forexes), so you might want to wait until you arrive before changing money. Banknotes, especially lower denominations, can get into a terrible state. Don’t accept torn banknotes, since no one else will be prepared to take them and you’ll be left saddled with the things, though you can change them at the Reserve Bank of India and large branches of other big banks. Don’t pass them on to beggars; they can’t use them either, so it amounts to an insult. Large denominations can also be a problem, as change is usually in short supply. Many Indian people cannot afford to keep much lying around, and you shouldn’t necessarily expect shopkeepers or rickshaw-wallahs to have it (and they may – as may you – try to hold onto it if they do). Larger notes – like the Rs500 note – are good for travelling with and can be changed for smaller denominations at hotels and other suitable establishments. A word of warning – the Rs500 note looks remarkably similar to the Rs100 note.

Health:

When it comes to food, be wary of dishes that appear to have been reheated. Anything boiled, fried or grilled (and thus sterilized) in your presence is usually all right, though seafood and meat can pose real risks if they’re not fresh; anything that has been left out for any length of time, or stored in a fridge during a power cut, is best avoided. Raw unpeeled fruit and vegetables should always be viewed with suspicion, and you should steer clear of salads unless you know they have been washed in purified water. be vigilant about personal hygiene: wash your hands often, especially before eating. Keep all cuts clean, treat them with iodine or antiseptic (a liquid or dry spray is better in the heat) and cover them to prevent infection. Advice on avoiding mosquitoes is offered under “Malaria”. If you do get bites or itches, try not to scratch them: it’s difficult, but infection and tropical ulcers can result if you do. Tiger balm and even dried soap may relieve the itching. Finally, especially if you are going on a long trip, have a dental check-up before you leave home.

Visa:

A valid passport and visa are required for travel to India. The Indian government now offers two options for tourists, a traditional tourist visaor an e-Tourist Visa (eTV) issued electronically. A traditional Indiantourist visa is stamped inside the traveler’s passport.

International Airports:

New Delhi – Indira Gandhi International Airport
Mumbai – Chatrapati Shivaji International Airport
Kolkata – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose International Airport
Hyderabad – Hyderabad Airport
Goa – Goa Airport
Chennai – Anna International Airport
Bangalore – Bangalore International Airport
Cochin – Cochin International Airport
Trivandrum – Trivandrum International Airport

Flag of India

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Country Stats

India-GD_resize-300x204 %DMC Network
Founded: August 15, 1947
Population: 1.252 billion (2013)