The basics Population: 1.3 billion Capital: New Delhi Religion: Hindu (80%), Muslim (14%), plus Christian, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain and others Emergency numbers: 100 (police), 101 (fire), 102 (medical) The key dates 25 May: Vesak Day, celebrating the birth, enlightenment and death of Buddha. 3 November: Deepavali, or Diwali, the festival of lights – a five-day Hindu festival, which includes the lighting of lamps, plenty of firecrackers and sharing of sweets. The hot spots Popular destinations include Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Kerala, Goa, Mumbai, Rajasthan and Bangalore. There are more than 30 World Heritage Sites, including the Taj Mahal, Delhi’s Qutb Minar, the churches and convents of Goa, and the Ellora Caves. Some itinerary ideas • “The Golden Triangle”: Delhi – Agra (Taj Mahal) – Jaipur • Beaches: Mumbai – Goa – Kochi – Allepey – Kerala backwaters • Mountains: Delhi – Leh – Himalayas • Culture & Religion: Kolkata – Bodhgaya – Varanasi How to stay healthy • Malaria is prevalent throughout most parts of the country, and be aware that Chloroquine is not an effective antimalarial drug in India • Be careful with food and water. Drink bottled water, be wary of street food and take anti-diarrhoeal medicine • If you visit the Himalayan mountains, ascend gradually; adjusting to high altitudes can give you insomnia, headaches and nausea

While you’re there, please don’t… Eat food or pass objects with your left hand; the left hand is used to perform bathroom functions, and is therefore traditionally considered unclean Before you go, read … A Suitable Boy, by Vikram Seth – one of the longest books ever to be published, it follows four families over 18-months as a mother searches for a suitable boy for her daughter. Life of Pi, by Yann Martell – a fantastical novel with a dark underbelly. Before you go, watch … Gandhi – the story of the leader of the Indian revolt against British rule and his philosophy of non-violent protest. A Passage to India – based on the novel by EM Forster, the film focuses on doomed friendships and colonial distrust. They said it “The Indian way of life provides the vision of the natural, real way of life. We veil ourselves with unnatural masks. On the face of India are the tender expressions, which carry the mark of the creator’s hand.” – George Bernard Shaw, playwright “In India, ‘cold weather’ is merely a conventional phrase and has come into use through the necessity of having some way to distinguish between weather which will melt a brass door- knob and weather which will only make it mushy.” – Mark Twain, author

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