India is a country of contrasts. On the one hand, there’s the non-stop bustle of Delhi – where more than 8.5 million private vehicles were registered at the end of March 2015 – or the frenetic glitz of a Bollywood dance routine. On the other, stunning temples catch the sunlight and rare big cats prowl through acres of jungle.
India’s geography is also characterised by its differences: you’ll find snow-capped peaks in the north and glorious swathes of beach bordering the Indian Ocean to the south-east (not forgetting the verdant hills and busy cities in between). Mighty rivers such as the Ganges traverse the country; more than 420 million people live on or near the river or rely on the Ganges for their livelihood.
India is also a land steeped in history. The buildings and cities are perhaps familiar – the iconic silhouette of the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Red Fort complex in Delhi and the “pink city” of Jaipur (so named following its 19th-century repainting in honour of the visit of Queen Victoria and the Prince of Wales). However, India’s political history also shapes its present, with Pakistan and Bangladesh created following the controversial partition of India in 1947.
Some visit India for spiritual reasons, others to soak up the country’s unique atmosphere.