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INDIA – GENERAL INFORMATION

                 Fig.1 – India Flag

GEOGRAPHY

India shares borders to the northwest with Pakistan, to the north with China, Nepal and Bhutan, and to the east with Bangladesh and Myanmar. To the west lies the Arabian Sea, to the east the Bay of Bengal and to the south the Indian Ocean. Sri Lanka lies off the southeast coast, and the Maldives off the southwest coast. The far northeastern states and territories are all but separated from the rest of India by Bangladesh as it extends northwards from the Bay of Bengal towards Bhutan. The Himalayan mountain range to the north and the Indus River (west) and Ganges River (east) form a physical barrier between India and the rest of Asia. The country can be divided into five regions: Western, Central, Northern (including Kashmir and Rajasthan), Eastern and Southern.

HISTORY

One of ancient history’s greatest civilizations, India remains the world’s most intriguing contradiction. Throughout it’s more than 4,000 years India alone, among her ancient colleagues, has

Credit: Central Intelligence Agency

maintained her allure for visitors eager to understand rather than judge on first acquaintance. The country is a living paradox, a land of great wealth and even greater poverty. A place where farmers, using the same tools as their ancient ancestors, celebrate the nation’s latest communication satellite’s launching. This is a land of tigers, elephants, and cobras, jet airplanes, luxurious hotels and state-of-the-art nuclear power plants. In the most impoverished of settings, the people, especially the women, often wear the most vivid colors imaginable – bright greens, crimsons, yellows, magentas – almost as an assertion of pride and life in the midst of want and deprivation. India is a hundred nations speaking a hundred languages and a million gods serving a million religions, the world’s oldest and youngest. The country’s secret is simple. Throughout the ages, this unimaginable variety and complexity that is India has always welcomed the visitor. Any traveler in any era, who visited India for the first time, has been bombarded with a host of different experiences, impressions and images. Every Indian town and village simply pulsates with life. Everywhere there are people walking, riding, running, sitting, talking, carrying, making, mending, and buying, selling, haggling or just being.

 THE PEOPLE

Human occupation is as old in India as anywhere in the world although by 4,000 BC, A little slower than her western neighbors in Mesopotamia and Egypt, India began building the foundations of Neolithic culture within the confines of the Indus River. Not much is known about these early inhabitants outside of their intense conservatism and absolute uniformity. There were nine phases of rebuilding in the two ancient cities of the time. Excavations have revealed that, despite being interrupted by disastrous flooding, the new houses continued to be built on exactly the same sites for generation after generation and that the street plan had remained the same for more than 2,000 years. By 1500 BC the Indus Valley civilization had completely dispersed. The great towns of Mehenjo-Daro and Harappa, once with populations of 35,000 souls, each lay in ruins.

THE ARYANS:

Like a gale of change, the Aryans swept over the mighty Hindu Kush Mountains into India. No one can say for sure where the Aryans originated. Possibly refugees from Central Asia, they drove their herds before them conquering the local peoples they encountered. Our key to understanding the Aryans did not come from the archaeologist but from the philologist. With the analysis of Sanskrit’s shared characteristics with Greek, Latin, German and other western languages scientists were able to construct a portrait of a culture.

Unlike the earlier civilization of the Indus Valley, the Aryans left nothing behind in the way of concrete remains. However they did leave us a most vivid picture in their literature, a picture that became one of the most important epochs (1500 BC – 330 BC) in Indian history. The Aryans provided the essential characteristics of Indian civilization, the roots of its religion, philosophy, literature and customs.

Before the arrival of Alexander the Great in 326 BC the foundations for the Hindu Caste system were already in place. Early Aryan religious verses known as the Vedas led to the great Hindu epic poems, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. These two epics act as a huge compendium, an encyclopedia of sub-stories, myths, legends and religious treatises of Hindu social and religious ethics. Together with the Vedas, these works form a collection of literature, which make up the basis of Hinduism, its religion and its philosophy. From a too rigid Vedic Hinduism, in the 6th century BC, Buddhism and later Jainism offered a search for new answers and explanations that challenged the foundations of the religion.

THE MAURYAS:

Alexander the Great’s death led to a swift retreat of Greek power in India. The resulting vacuum was rapidly filled by the rise of the Buddhist Maurya dynasty. The Mauryas, as they were called, was India’s first imperial dynasty. They ruled for almost 140 years from the foothills of the Himalayas to Mysore in the south and from Bangladesh to the heart of Afghanistan. The dynasty achieved its golden age during the 37-year reign of Ashoka. Ashoka embraced the Buddhist philosophy of Dharma, ‘Righteousness’ or moral law. Dharma, along with the doctrine of ‘Ahimsa’ or non-violence towards all living things became an important element of his rule.

Thanks to Ashoka’s patronage, Buddhism grew from a sect to a world religion. Buddha’s teachings were gathered and codified, missionaries were sent out to all parts of India and beyond and the first Great Council of the Buddhist clergy was convened. As a result, Buddhism spread far beyond the frontiers of India, to survive abroad as one of the world’s great religions long after it died out in the subcontinent.

THE GUPTA’S:

Ashoka died in 232 BC and within 50 years the strength of the dynasty waned. The last of the emperors was deposed and the great subcontinent politically drifted for the next 500 years. By the time Constantine was founding his great city of Constantinople, India had fragmented into a number of small warring states. Out of this political weakness arose a new leader intent on restoring the lost glory of the Mauryas. By alliances and marriage he had himself enthroned in 321AD at the old Mauryan capital proclaiming him ‘Maharaja-dhiraja’ or ‘king of kings’ and his coins announced the beginning of the Gupta era.

Gupta rule saw the creation of a new empire which for the next 150 years was to dominate the whole of northern India, witnessing such a brilliant outpouring of science, art, music and literature, that the empire has been hailed as the ‘Golden Age’ of ancient India.

But India however had changed a great deal since Mauryan times and although the Guptas lavished patronage on Buddhism and Jainism, they themselves were Hindu and the society travelers now visited was predominantly Hindu. Buddhism and Jainism had softened and humanized Indian society but caste was becoming much more important than before. There was also an upsurge in the popular worship of Shiva and Vishnu, who now overshadowed the other gods in the Hindu pantheon. Sanskrit already having become the language of the ruling classes, the reign of the Guptas saw a flourishing of Sanskrit literature. The Guptas also heralded the architectural transition in temple building from wood to dressed stone. The era’s sculpture was supreme. The Gupta style can still be seen today in the magnificent sculptures and paintings at the cave temples of Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra. Ajanta represents the very finest examples of Indian religious painting.

In the West, European civilization had degenerated into chaos as the Roman Empire neared its end, while further to the east China was racked by troubles in the period between the two great dynasties of the Han and Tang. To many travelers who saw it, India under the rule of the Guptas must have seemed the happiest and most peaceful place on earth.

THE MUSLIMS:

Toward the later years of Gupta influence, when the Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsang was preparing to take the sacred Buddhist message back to Tang China, a new religion was beginning to make its influences felt. From the deserts of Arabia, Islam rose and reached out to convert the entire civilized world and India would not be an exception. Moslem armies burst through Persia across Asia towards India. The initial invasions of the subcontinent came in 674 at Sind now the southernmost province of Pakistan. Sind was soon overrun and has remained Muslim ever since. But Allah’s legions, pre-occupied with the Jihad in the west, halted at Sind and did not attempt to penetrate further. The real threat was not to come for another 300 years and it was to arrive from a different direction.

THE RAJPUT INTERVAL:

Instead of using the 300-year hiatus to build and prepare for Islam’s next arrival the early invasions were soon forgotten and north India settled down to enjoy a long series of power struggles and internecine conflicts resulting in the rise of petty warlords who fashioned themselves ‘Sons of Kings’ or Rajputs.

When the Muslims returned they did so in the form of Seljuk Turks who by the mid 10th century had become the standard-bearers of Islam. The first attacks came in 1175 in the Punjab, Peshawar fell in 1179 and Lahore; the Punjab’s capital fell in 1186. In 1191 a short-lived Rajput alliance temporarily slowed the Turkish advance but the following year the Turks returned to stay. At the battle of Tarain, about 80 miles north of Delhi the Rajputs were routed and Muslim control established.

ISLAM RESURGENT (1192-1526):

It was thought at the time, that not unlike other conquerors, the Moslems would in time, be assimilated into the fabric of Hindu civilization. But the Moslems were not on the same level as previous invaders. They represented a religion and culture, which would remain entirely separate from the Hindu structure. For the first time a completely foreign culture was inserted into the Indian fabric, one which could not and would not be absorbed. To this day Muslim communities exist side by side with Hindu, each with its own distinctive customs. This failure to assimilate would have profound implications for the future of the subcontinent.

The Sultanate established in Delhi lasted 320 years under five successive Turkish and Afghan dynasties. Despite its longevity this was a very turbulent period, marked by court intrigue, palace revolutions and full-scale rebellions. By the time of Columbus, the Delhi Sultanate had become only one of a number of Muslim states in northern India. There was brief resurrection under the Afghan Lodhi dynasty however continuing struggles finally culminated in the governors of Punjab calling for foreign assistance to overthrow the dynasty. Babur, the ruler of Kabul, was invited to invade; in 1526 (15 years after the Portuguese arrival in Goa), the two armies met at Panipat where the last Lodhi sultan Ibrahim was defeated. Babur’s victory ushered in a new Mughal era in India’s history.

THE MUGHALS (1526 – 1719):

The Mughal reign was India’s most splendid Muslim dynasty. Like so many previous conquerors, the Mughals had their roots in Central Asia; the word Mughal itself is an Indian spelling of Mongol. The very word Mughal conjures up images of fabulous wealth, dazzling splendor, awesome power and savage ruthlessness. For Western travelers to the subcontinent in the 16th and 17th centuries, India was the land of the ‘Great Mogul’. The impressions and images were so strong that even after long since vanishing the visions of Mughal India remain with us today.

During the time of the third ‘Great Mughals’ Akbar the Great, the dynasty was finally able to fully consolidate it power and embark on a ‘Golden Age’. The most evocative expression of Akbar’s genius is his royal capital at Fatehpur Sikri, one of the most spectacular sites in the whole of India. Only inhabited for fourteen years before being abandoned the city remains a very well preserved ghost town, a silent complex of splendid palaces, pavilions, tombs, reflecting pools and a great mosque, all elaborately carved from red sandstone.

The accession of Shah Jahan, grandson of Akbar marked the high point of Mughal power and glory. Although a ruthless politician, Shah Jahan had a great capacity for love and affection. His greatest work, the Taj Mahal, India’s and possibly the world’s most perfect building, is a tribute to his undying love for his queen Mumtaz Mahal.

Like the previous Delhi Sultanates, Mughal India too gradually lost control over events in the provinces and eventually endured a series of struggles for the succession leading to the erosion of Mughal prestige and authority. The ‘Great Mogul’ became little more than a pawn in the hands of different court factions, a mere shadow of the awesome figure he had once been. This culminated in 1719 when the emperor Farrukhsiyar was dragged from the harem, blinded and poisoned by his own courtiers. India would again; as had happened in the past regress to petty warring states more focused on local enemies than on the threat from without.

 FOREIGN INTERLUDE (1719 – 1947):

The Portuguese were the first to arrive along the Kerala coast at Goa in 1510. Goa was to become the hub of Portugal’s empire in Asia and they were to stay until 1961. Portugal’s Asian Empire however proved too large and unwieldy and their position gradually passed to the Dutch who in turn were overtaken by a new rival, the English East India Company.

Britain’s first and most important settlement of all was set up in 1609 in Bengal. This small settlement on the banks of the Hughli River was to become the city of Calcutta, the first capital of the Empire in India.

Britain’s second commercial port was along the Coromandel Coast where in 1639 permission was obtained to set up a fortified trading post on the site of a small village. This small village became the settlement of Madras, one of India’s great capital cities with a population of more than 6 million.

In 1688 the East India Company gained another foothold when they received the Portuguese settlement of Bombay on the West Coast. Originally a string of malarial islands; these were gradually joined up as Bombay developed from a fort into a port then into a city.

Trade continued to expand and the ‘Company’ found itself successively becoming more and more involved in internecine conflicts. Unable or unwilling to unite against the common foreign threat, local rulers one by one all found cooperation with the ‘Company’ more expedient than sitting down at the negotiation table with their neighbors. As British political and military power grew they eventually fought a series of wars against the Mughal’s old enemies, the Marathas, and the Sikhs. Both represented the greatest threat to the final establishment of British power. The Maratha wars were to last from 1802 – 1819 before their power was finally broken. The Sikh war lasted from 1839 to 1848 and by 1850 the Union Jack ruled almost the entire subcontinent from the Indus River to Bengal, from Kashmir to Cape Comarin. All that remained to be done was to integrate and organize this vast polyglot of people’s, and cultures.

The British were to remain in India, the Empire’s ‘Jewel in the Crown’ until 1947 when at midnight between August 14/15 the Empire ceased to exist. The new states of India and Pakistan since that time have struggled to build and maintain a consensus of leadership, direction, identity and growth. At times the task has seemed too imposing to realize however progress continues along at its own pace. With a history of more than 4,000 years, the peoples of India view time as an ally, and patience is a virtue.

CUSTOMS

The Indian Hindu greeting is to fold the hands and tilt the head forward to Namaste. Indian women prefer not to shake hands. All visitors are asked to remove footwear when entering places of religious worship. The majority of Indians remove their footwear when entering their houses. Because of strict religious and social customs, visitors must show particular respect when visiting someone’s home. Many Hindus are vegetarian and many, especially women, do not drink alcohol. Sikhs and Parsees do not smoke. Small gifts are acceptable as tokens of gratitude for hospitality. Women are expected to dress with sobriety. Short skirts and tight or revealing clothing should not be worn, even on beaches. Business people are not expected to dress formally except for meetings and social functions. We recommend you bring socks if you do not wish to walk barefoot in temples.

LANGUAGES

A number of languages and dialects are spoken in India. Of these, 15 languages have been specified as “official”. These are: Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malyalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Sindhi, Kashmiri, and Sanskrit. All these languages are represented on the Indian currency.

CLIMATE

The climate of India may be broadly described as tropical monsoon type. There are four seasons:

Winter (November – February),

Hot summer (April-June);

Rainy south-western monsoon period (June-September) and

Post-monsoon period, also known as north-east monsoon period in the southern Peninsula (October-December).

India’s climate is affected by the monsoon winds – the northeast monsoon and the southwest monsoon. The north-east monsoon commonly known as the winter monsoon blows from land to sea whereas south-west monsoon known as the summer monsoon blows from sea to land after crossing the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The southwest, summer, monsoon brings most of the rainfall.

TIME

GMT + 5.30. India is 9 1/2 hours ahead of the US East Coast, and 12 1/2 hours ahead of the US West Coast.

ELECTRICITY

Usually 220 volts AC, 50Hz. Some areas have a DC supply. Plugs used are of the round 2- and 3-pin type.

LOGISTICAL

Visa Requirements:

The E-visa process works well, but you have to be sure you go to the official site.  There are scam sites almost identical in appearance to the official one. Passports must be valid for at least 6 months after the completion of your journey at departure from India.

Visas are required by US & Canadian passport holders for entry into India.

Embassies:

Embassy of the United States of America Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri,

New Delhi 110 021, India

Hours of Operation: Mon to Fri, 10:00A till 5:00P Tel: (11 2419 8000

The US has Consulates in Calcutta and Mumbai too.

Canadian High Commission 7/8 Shanti Path, Chanakyapuri, New Delhi 110 021, India

Tel: (11) 4178-2000

Fax: (11) 687 6579 or 687 0031

Canada has Consulate in Mumbai too.

HEALTH

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636) or via the CDC website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the infectious diseases section of the World Health Organization (WHO) website  at http://www.who.int/topics/ infectious diseases/en/. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.

You are also encouraged to consult with your own doctor and health network, some of which operate travel clinics as part of their services.

BANKING & CURRENCY EXCHANGE

The unit of currency in India is the Rupee (Rs). Notes are in denominations of Rs 2,000, 500, 100, 50, 20 and 10. Coins are in denominations of Rs. 5, 2, 1 and 50, 25, 10 and 5 paise.

Currency can only be changed at banks, hotels or authorized moneychangers. MasterCard, American Express and Visa are widely accepted. Check with your credit card company for details of merchant acceptability and other services, which may be available. Current exchange rate is approximately 68 Rupees to 1 US dollar.

The import of local currency is prohibited. Export of local currency is also prohibited, except for passengers proceeding to Nepal (excluding notes of denominations higher than Rs100), Bangladesh, Pakistan or Sri Lanka (up to Rs20 per person). Foreign currency may be exported up to the amount imported and declared. All foreign currency must be declared on arrival if value is over US$2500, and when exchanged the currency declaration form should be endorsed, or a certificate issued. The form and certificates must be produced on departure to enable reconversion into foreign currency. Changing money with unauthorized moneychangers is not, therefore, advisable. Banking hours are 10:00am to 2:00pm Monday to Friday, and 10:00am-12:30pm on Saturday. ATMs are found in major cities.

FOOD & RESTAURANTS

The unforgettable aroma of India is not just the heavy scent of jasmine and roses on the warm air. It is also the fragrance of spices so important to Indian cooking – specially to preparing curry. The word ‘curry’ is an English derivative of kari, meaning spice sauce, but curry does not, in India, come as a powder. It is the subtle and delicate blending of spices such as turmeric, cardamom, ginger, coriander, nutmeg and poppy seed. Like an artist’s palette of oil paints, the Indian cook has some 25 spices (freshly ground as required) with which to mix the recognized combinations or masalas. Many of these spices are also noted for their medicinal properties and, like the basic ingredients, vary from region to region.

Although not all Hindus are vegetarians, vegetable dishes are more common than almost anywhere else and are particularly common in southern India. Broadly speaking, meat dishes are more common in the north, notably, Rogan Josh (curried lamb), Gushtaba (spicy meatballs in yogurt) and the delicious Biryani (chicken or lamb in orange-flavored rice, sprinkled with sugar and rose water).

Mughlai cuisine is rich, creamy, deliciously spiced and liberally sprinkled with nuts and saffron. The ever-popular Tandoori cooking (chicken, meat or fish marinated in herbs and baked in a clay oven) and kebabs are also northern cuisine.

In the south, curries are mainly vegetable and inclined to be hotter. Specialties to look out for are Bhujia (vegetable curry), Dosa, Idli and Sambar (rice pancakes, dumplings with pickles, and vegetable and lentil curry), and Raitas (yoghurt with grated cucumber and mint). Coconut is a major ingredient of southern Indian cooking.

On the west coast, there is a wide choice of fish and shellfish: Mumbai duck (curried or fried bombloe fish) and pomfret (Indian salmon) are just two. Another specialty is the Parsi Dhan Sak (lamb or chicken cooked with curried lentils) and Vindaloo (vinegar marinade). Fish is also a feature of Bengali cooking as in Dahi Maach (curried fish in yoghurt flavored with turmeric and ginger) and Malai (curried prawn with coconut). One regional distinction is that, whereas in the south rice is the staple food, in the north this is supplemented and sometimes substituted by a wide range of flat breads, such as Pooris, Chapatis and Nan. Common throughout India is Dal (crushed lentil soup with various additional vegetables), and Dahi, the curd or yoghurt which accompanies the curry. Besides being tasty, it is a good ‘cooler’; more effective than liquids when things get too hot.

Sweets are principally milk-based puddings, pastries and pancakes. Available throughout India is Kulfi, the Indian ice cream, Rasgullas (cream cheese balls flavored with rose water), Gulab Jamuns (flour, yogurt and ground almonds), and Jalebi (pancakes in syrup). Besides a splendid choice of sweets and sweetmeats, there is an abundance of fruit, both tropical – mangoes, pomegranates and melons – and temperate – apricots, apples and strawberries. Western confectionery is available in major centers. It is common to finish the meal by chewing Pan as a digestive. Pan is a betel leaf in which are wrapped spices such as aniseed and cardamom.

For the more conservative visitor, Western cooking can always be found. Indeed, the best styles of cooking from throughout the world can be experienced in the major centers in India. Fruits include mango, papaya, pineapple, guava, orange, apple, peach, strawberry, cherry, bananas, and grapefruit.

It is normal practice to eat with your hands in India, using bread as makeshift scoops–but should only use the right hand.

Tea is India’s favorite drink and many of the varieties are enjoyed throughout the world. It will often come ready-brewed with milk and sugar unless ‘tray tea’ is specified. Coffee is increasingly popular. Nimbu Pani (lemon drink), Lassi (iced buttermilk) and coconut milk straight from the nut are cool and refreshing. Soft drinks and bottled water are widely available, as are Western alcoholic drinks. Western beer and Western spirits can be expensive. Indian beers, wines and spirits are available to visitors and are much cheaper. There is a huge variety of excellent Indian beers. There is also Indian-made gin, rum, brandy and wine of various quality. Bottled water is sold everywhere in India, but make sure the bottles are properly sealed.

Restaurants have table service and, depending on the area and establishment, will serve alcohol with meals. Most Western-style hotels have licensed bars. In almost all big cities in India certain days in the week are observed as “dry” days when the sale of liquor is not permitted. Tourists should check with our local guide for the prohibition laws/rules prevailing in any given state where they happen to be travelling or intend to travel.

ENTERTAINMENT

India has generally little nightlife as the term is understood in the West, although in major cities a few Western-style shows, clubs and discos have become popular. In most places the main attraction will be cultural shows featuring performances of Indian dance and music. The Indian film industry is the largest in the world, now producing three times as many full-length feature films as Hollywood. Mumbai and Calcutta are the country’s two ‘Hollywoods’. Almost every large town will have a cinema, some of which will show films in English. Music and dancing are an important part of Indian cinema, combining with many other influences to produce a rich variety of film art. Larger cities may have theatres staging productions of English-language plays.

SHOPPING

Indian craftsmen have been perfecting their art for centuries, passing down traditions and techniques from generation to generation. Each region has its own specialties, each town its own local craftsmen, its own particular skills. The result is a consummate blend of ancient skills and modern aesthetics. Silks, spices, jewelry and many other Indian products have long been famous and widely desired, and merchants would travel thousands of miles, willingly enduring the hardships and privations of the long journey in other to make their purchases. Nowadays, the marketplaces of the subcontinent are only hours away, and for fabrics, silverware, carpets, leatherwork, antiques the list is endless India is a shopping paradise. Goods are exotic, attractive, beautiful handcrafted and an excellent value. Half the fun when buying goods in the bazaars is bargaining and you can always check for reasonable prices at state-run emporiums. Below are some of the best buys, either for the souvenir hunter or the connoisseur.

 FABRICS: One of India’s main industries, silks, cottons, and wool rank amongst the best in the world. Of the silks the brocades from Varanasi are among the most famous variety; other major centers include Patna, Murshidabad, Surat and Kanchipuram. Rajasthan cotton with its famous “tie and die” design is usually brilliantly colorful, while Madras cotton is known for its attractive “bleeding” effect after a few washes. Throughout the country may be found the “himroo” cloth, a mixture of silk and cotton, often decorated with patterns. Kashmir sells beautiful woolens particularly shawls.

 CARPETS: India has one of the world’s largest carpet industries, and many examples of her ancient and beautiful craft can be seen in museums throughout the world. Cashmere has a long history of carpet making, influenced by the Persians. Pure wool and woven and silk carpets are exquisitely made, and can be bought for a fraction of the cost that one would pay in the west. Each region will have its own specialty; such as the distinctive, bright colored Tibetan rugs, available mainly in Darjeeling.

 CLOTHES: Clothes are very cheap to buy, and can be tailor made in some shops, usually very quickly. Choose from an unmatchable range; silks, cottons, himroos, brocades, chiffons, chignons, touched with streaks of silver and gold thread, set with sequins or semi-precious gems.

 JEWELRY: Particularly of Rajasthan (Kundan), is traditionally heavy and stunningly elaborate. Indian silverwork is world-famous. Gems can be bought and mounted. Apart from diamonds, other stones include lapis lazuli, Indian star rubies, star sapphires, moonstones and aquamarine. Hyderabad is one of the world’s leading centers for pearls.

 HANDICRAFTS AND LEATHERWORK: Once again, each area will have its own specialty; the vast range includes fine bronzes, brassware (often inlaid with silver), canework and pottery. Paper Mache is a characteristic Kashmir product; some decorated with gold leaf. Marble and alabaster inlay work, such as chess sets and ornamental plates, are a specialty of Agra. Good leatherwork buys includes open India sandals and slippers.

WOODWORK: Sandalwood carvings from Karnataka, rosewood from Kerala and Madras, Indian walnut from Kashmir. These are often exquisite and make excellent presents.

OTHER BUYS: Foods such as pickles, spices and Indian tea, perfumes, soap, handmade paper, Orissan playing cards, musical instruments- anything that takes your fancy.

NOTE: It is forbidden to export antiques and art objects over 100 years old, animal skins or objects made from skins.

TELEPHONE

IDD service is widely available all over India. Otherwise calls must be placed through the international operator. Country code: 91. Outgoing international code: 00. Fax: Facilities are available in most 5-star hotels and some offices of the Overseas Communication Service in large cities.

BAGGAGE

Baggage rules for international and domestic air travel have changed much in recent years, differ from carrier to carrier and these days even may cover your on-board bags. Checking luggage may cost a separate fee or may be free depending on your personal status with the carrier. We therefore encourage you to read your ticket’s small print and/or contact your carrier for exact rules.

In India you will not be allowed in the terminal unless you also show the security guard a paper copy of your flight reservation. Be sure to have that with your passport when you approach the air terminal entrance.

You cannot pack anything with wires or batteries in your checked luggage. Security will have to take everything out of your carry-ons that looks at all electronic, including cameras and lenses, to pass through the x-ray separately.

TIPPING

Tipping Guidelines as follows:

Guide – Full day $10 Per Person, Half Day US$ 6 Per Person Driver – Full day $ 7 Per Person, Half Day US$ 4 Per Person Porterage – $1 per bag.

Restaurants 10% where service is not included.

 LAUNDRY

Laundry service is available at most hotels in the main centers. Generally you should allow for overnight service. Some hotels have emergency service available at an extra charge.

 PHOTOS & VIDEOS

In some countries you must refrain from photographing sites such as Military bases and industrial installations. Also be aware of cultural sensitivities when taking pictures of or near churches and other religious sites. It is always courteous to ask for permission before taking photographs of people.

 USE OF DRONES 
The use of drones is being legislated by many countries. In some cases drones are already forbidden and their unauthorized use may carry severe penalties. If you plan to travel with a drone please contact the embassy or consulate of the country you wish to visit.

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