As any traveller or a curious mind would know, we humans have a quirky tendency to draw parallels or find out differences based upon the standard, i.e. what we are familiar with or aware of. Something similar happened to me as I spent a few years away from my home in India, around different parts of the world. I began to notice that all the diversity of culture, religion, beliefs, social dynamics, cuisine and everything else that defines the identity of a group of individuals that varies within different countries through a continent are nothing compared to the diversity of majestic, grandiose, India, making it a modest, mini-continent within itself.
A country that stretches a few thousand kilometres in each direction, or as the locals love to say from Kashmir to Kanyakumari (which are the northernmost and southernmost places in India), is one of the oldest civilisations and second most populated country in the world now. There is definitely something you are looking for that you will find in India. Diversity really has a whole new meaning in India. From deserts to seas, mountains to beaches, secluded islands to hyper metropolitan cities, serendipity to chaos, meditations to parties, everything at its right place, waiting to be explored and indulged into as and when one needs. Diversity also has a more speculative aspect to it in this modest mini-continent. India has over 22 official languages, with people practicing over seven different religions. This gives India an unusual extent of literary, culinary, cultural, spiritual and historical experiences that can be combined together in in-numerous ways.
India has one of the richest histories with secrets that are waiting to be explored. From ancient civilisations to great empires to colonialism, India has witnessed all the divergent ways of societies to now be the biggest democracy in the world. Reminiscences of all these eras still linger around beautifully interwoven with contemporary life the country lives. All these eras amalgamated to mould the beautifully diverse, culturally rich, contemporary India. One of the most ancient civilisations of the world thrived around 2600 BC in what is the current day Afghanistan, Pakistan and Northwest India. Artefacts from these civilisations can be found in the National museum in New Delhi. Eventually, the region witnessed another monumental edification. Around 1700 AD, the Mughal empire grew to its strongest. It comprised 27% of the world trade in those times. India has an exhaustive attestation of this era in different manifestations in the form of beautiful palaces, rich culture and literature, and most definitely an exquisite cuisine. The fame that preceded India in the 15th century, subsequently led to its downfall. Soon enough, the colonisers heard of the great land of riches and wanted to establish their dominance in the region. From the 18th century, India witnessed the darkest eras of colonisation. However, ironically, there are some beautiful western marvels that are left behind from those awful times. There are cities which have their own charm, that were planned by the British colonisers. But all this history evinces a beautiful country that has always been hospitable and welcoming.
India is an extravagant country, vibrant in its very soul, full of colours, smells, flavours, sounds and beautiful landscapes and architecture. There is nothing about the country that is not charming. Amidst all the excursions it offers for the senses, there is always somewhere, something mystical that waits to be embraced and perhaps not to be discerned. The federal union consisting of 29 unique states and 7 union territories has something unique to propound from each of these entities. Be it the warmth and vibrancy of the Punjab, or the beautiful forts of Rajasthan, or the extraterrestrial landscapes of Ladakh, or the piquant sweets of Kolkata, or the intricate weaves of Odisha, there are boundless secrets to unfold, infinite stories to be heard, experiences to be lived through and miracles to be witnessed. And as the language and lifestyle change every few hundred kilometres so does the cuisine, the topography, the architecture, the climate and the people, making India an immense but modest little continent.
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