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About India
About India >> Facts of India

Facts of India

Visas: Six month multiple-entry visas are now issued to most nationals regardless of whether you intend staying that long or re-entering the country. Only six-month tourist visas are extendable. Most Indian embassies and consulates won't issue a visa to enter India unless you hold an onward ticket. Be careful to check whether your visa is valid from the date of entry or the date of issue.

When to Go

India has such a wide range of climatic factors that it's impossible to pin down the best time to visit weather-wise. Broadly speaking October to March tend to be the most pleasant months over much of the country. In the far south, the monsoonal weather pattern tends to make January to September more pleasant, while Sikkim and the areas of northeastern India tend to be more palatable between March and August, and Kashmir and the mountainous regions of Himachal Pradesh are at their most accessible between May and September. The deserts of Rajasthan and the northwestern Indian Himalayan region are at their best during the monsoon.

The trekking season in the Indian Himalaya runs roughly from April to November, though this varies widely depending on the trek, altitude and region. The ski season is between January and March.

It's worth checking the dates of particular festivals - you may be attracted by them, or conversely may want to avoid the chaos and jacked-up prices that attend them.

Events

India is blessed with a huge number of festivals, some so spectacular that you would be a fool to miss them if you were remotely within spitting distance.

They start with the secular Republic Day Festival in Delhi each January, which includes elephants, a procession, and plenty of military might and Indian princely splendour. Holi in February is one of the most exuberant Hindu festivals in the north of India.

It marks the end of winter and basically involves throwing coloured water and red powder over as many people as you can in one day.

The 10-day Shi'ite Muharram festival commemorates the martyrdom of Mohammed's grandson. It's marked by a grand parade and dedicated penitents scourge themselves with whips in religious fervour.

It's best seen in Lucknow, the principal Indian Shi'ite city; its timing varies with the Islamic calendar. The massive Kumbh Mela festival commemorates an ancient battle between gods and demons for a pitcher (kumbh).

During the fight for possession, four drops of nectar fell from the pitcher and landed in Allahabad, Haridwar, Nasik and Ujjain. The mela is held every three years rotating through these four cities. Don't mistake the great car festival Rath Yatra for a rally race. This spectacle in Puri in June/July involves the gigantic temple car of Lord Jagannath making its annual journey, pulled by thousands of eager devotees. One of the big events of the year in Kerala is the Nehru Cup Snake Boat Races on the backwaters at Alappuzha (Alleppey), which take place on the second Saturday of August.

The festival of Ganesh Chaturthi in August/September is dedicated to the popular elephant-headed god Ganesh. It's celebrated widely, but with particular enthusiasm in Maharashtra. Shrines are erected, firecrackers let off, clay idols are immersed in rivers or the sea, and everyone tries to avoid looking at the moon.

September/October is the time to head for the hills to see the delightful Festival of the Gods in Kullu. This is part of the Dussehra Festival, which is at its most spectacular in Mysore and Ahmedabad.

November is the time for the huge and colourful Camel Festival at Pushkar in Rajasthan. Diwali (or Deepavali) is the happiest festival of the Hindu calendar and is celebrated over five days in November. Sweets, oil lamps and firecrackers all play a major part in this celebration in honour of a number of gods.





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