India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh largest country by region, the second most populous country (with more than 1.2 billion people) and the world’s most massive democracy. It is limited by the Indian Ocean in the south, the Arab Sea in the southwest and the Bengal Bay in the southeast.
It shares land borders with Pakistan in the west, [China], Nepal and Bhutan to the northeast; and Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is near Sri Lanka and Maldives. Indian Andaman and the Nicobar Islands share the maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.
The Indian economy was the sixth largest in the world by nominal GDP in 2017 and the third largest purchasing power parity. After market economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies and is considered a newly formed country. However, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, corruption, malnutrition and inadequate public health care.
The state of nuclear weapons and regional power, it has the second largest army in the world and is ranked fifth in military spending among nations. India is a federal republic administered under the parliamentary system and consists of 29 states and 7 trade unions.
India is widely known for its wide cinema, rich cuisine and lush wildlife and vegetation. It is a pluralistic, multilingual and multiethnic society, and is also the home of wild wilderness in different protected habitats. India is a member of the ASEAN Plus mechanism.
There are three national holidays: Republic Day (26 January), Independence Day (15 August), and Gandhi Jayanti (2 October) which occur on the same day every year. In addition, there are four major nationwide festivals with shifting dates to be aware of:
Holi, in February or March — The festival of colour is a major festival celebrated mainly in North, East and Western India. On the first day, people go to temples and light bonfires, but on the second, it’s a waterfight combined with showers of coloured powder. This is not a spectator sport: as a visible foreigner, you’re a magnet for attention, so you’ll either have to barricade yourself inside, or put on your most disposable clothes and join the fray.
Alcohol and bhang (cannabis) are often involved and crowds can get rowdy as the evening wears on. Celebrations are fewer in South India, though private celebrations occur among North Indian communities residing in major South Indian cities.
Durga Puja / Navarathri/Dussehara, Sep-Oct — A nine-day festival culminating in the holy day of Dasara, when locals worship the deity Durga. Workers are given sweets, cash bonuses, gifts and new clothes. It is also new year for businessmen, when they are supposed to start new account books. In some places like West Bengal, Durga Puja is the most important festival.
In the north Dussehara celebrations take place and the slaying of Ravana by Lord Rama is ceremonially reenacted as Ram Lila. In Gujarat and South India, it is celebrated as Navarathri where the festival is celebrated by dancing to devotional songs and religious observances like fasts extended over a period of 9 nights.
Eid-ul-Fitr, the largest religious holiday of the year for Indian Muslims, it celebrates the start of the holy month of Shawwal. Ramazan ends with the Eid-ul-Fitr festival extending over several days. Food is the highlight, and if you’re lucky you’ll be invited into a private home for a feast. Businesses close for at least a couple days if not a week.
Diwali (Deepavali), Oct-Nov — The festival of lights, celebrates the return of Lord Rama to the capital of his kingdom, Ayodhya after an exile of 14 years. Probably the most lavish festival in the country, reminiscent (to U.S. travellers at least) of the food of Thanksgiving and the shopping and gifts of Christmas combined. Houses are decorated, there is glitter everywhere, and if you wander the streets on Diwali night, there will be firecrackers going off everywhere including sometimes under your feet.
Apart from these, each state has its own major national festival like Onam for Kerala or Sankranti for Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka or Pongal for Tamil Nadu or Baisakhi for Punjab or “Ratha Yatra” for Odisha, which is celebrated as public holiday in respective states.
Religious holidays occur on different days each year, because the Hindu and Islamic festivals are based on their respective calendars and not on the Gregorian calendar. Most of them are celebrated only locally, so check the state or city you are visiting for information on whether there will be closures.
Different regions might give somewhat different names to the same festival. To cater to varying religious practices, offices have a list of optional holidays (called restricted holidays by the government) from which employees are allowed to pick two, in addition to the list of fixed holidays. This may mean thin attendance and delayed service even when the office is officially open.
Indian cuisine encompasses a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines, often depending on a particular state (such as Maharashtrian cuisine). Staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bājra), rice, whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), and a variety of lentils, such as masoor (most often red lentils), toor (pigeon peas), urad (black gram), and mong (mung beans). Lentils may be used whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split. Split lentils, or dal, are used extensively. The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited by historians as the primary catalyst for Europe’s Age of Discovery.
Clothing in India varies depending on the different ethnicity, geography, climate and cultural traditions of the people of each region of India. Historically, male and female clothing has evolved from simple Langotas, Dhoti, Saree, Gamaccha, and loincloths to cover the body to elaborate costumes not only used in daily wear but also on festive occasions as well as rituals and dance performances. In urban areas, western clothing is common and uniformly worn by people of all social levels.
India also has a great diversity in terms of weaves, fibers, colours and material of clothing. Sometimes , Colour codes are followed in clothing based on the religion and ritual concerned. The clothing in India also encompasses the wide variety of Indian embroidery , prints , handwork , embellishment ,styles of wearing cloths . A wide mix of Indian traditional clothing and western styles can be seen in India.