India is the 7th largest country in the world, by area and yet the most populous country in the world. It is known for its diversity in food and spices which have been exported worldwide.
1.4 billion (2021)
Hindi, English, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Tamil, Urdi and 15 other official languages
Take off your shoes when you enter a person’s house
Avoid touching people with the left hand, as it is considered unclean and will cause insult
Three foods you need to try in this country:
- Pani puri (street food. crispy puffballs with mashed chickpeas, potatoes, a variety of spices, onion and mint/tamarind flavoured water)
- Momos (steamed dumplings)
- Masala Dosa (thin pancake made from fermented rice and black lentils filled with the fired potato, mustard seeds and other spices very lean red meat)
- Real fruit lassi
- Stuffed paratha
- Masala chai
What the country is known for :
- Birthplace of four ancient religions – Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism
- Spiritual Experiences
- Origins of the practice of Yoga
- Origins of Ayuverda
- Largest producer of spices
- The Taj Mahal
More About India
I visited India at the beginning of 2023 as I began my long-term travel journey. India is well known as the home of spirituality, and I felt that this would be a good place to start and get myself centred before beginning the journey of a lifetime. I signed up for a 3-week yoga retreat in Rishikesh, which was the perfect introduction to Indian culture and spirituality. It was also amazing that my accommodation looked over the Ganga, and the area was surrounded by hills.
India is an interesting place as it really is a nation of contrasts. One can find extreme poverty and extreme wealth right next to each other on the same street, some of the best medical care provision and high deaths due to a lack of medical attention as well as a celebration of life and the burning of dead bodies along the same river. The country provides a challenge to all the senses in the body.
Hinduism is one of the most practised religions, and the practice is widespread, with a smaller percentage of the population practising Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism. It is interesting to note how people of different religions are integrated into communities together. As religion is such a big and prevalent part of Indian culture, it is a good place to visit to deepen one’s own spirituality or learn about other religious practices. Due to the prevalence of religion, one can also visit a vast number of religious buildings from different religions such as temples, mosques and churches. The country is also home to some alternative medicine practices such as Ayurveda, whose principles are based on ancient writings and centre around the use of ‘natural’ and holistic approaches to physical and mental health. Ayurveda is one of the world’s oldest medical systems.
The biodiversity offered by India is incredible due to the large size of the country. With the Himalayas closer to the north of the country, beaches in the south, and varying terrains, including desserts and forests in between. This, therefore, makes India a great place to visit for different outdoor activities. However, one needs to be mindful about seasons because although Indian summers can be scorching depending on the location, in the winter, some parts of India are so cold, it even snows.
Some interesting places of note to visit in India include the Taj Mahal, the Ganga, the Gateway of India in Mumbai, Jaipur, Amritsar, Kerala, Manali, Varanasi as well as Kashmir. The interesting thing about India is that due to its cultural diversity and biodiversity, a visit to each region is likely to incite a completely different experience of the country for you.
One cannot speak of India without talking about their gift to the rest of the world – the spices. As they have grown them, they have learnt to create so many amazing offerings with them, from sweet to savoury. It’s amazing to also note the regional differences of the food in India, and therefore, one can try different foods depending on where they are. In Rishikesh, for example, they are strictly vegetarian, and therefore, you will have a variety of vegetable dishes to try. In coastal areas, one may find more seafood. One of the main threads across the country, though, would be rice, which is one of the staples of India. An interesting thing I learnt is that the word ‘masala’ just means ‘blend of spices’, and therefore, you can create a masala for absolutely any food/drink. It was also surprising to learn that not all Indian regions eat ‘hot’ (as in spicy) food. The food is definitely worth trying out and, in many respects, quite different from what you sometimes get from Indian takeaways in the West. I highly recommend a local food tour to expand the different flavours you get to experience, particularly if your time is limited.
NEWS & UPDATES
I always try and immerse myself in the local food culture. In many parts of Asia and South America, I have found that street food is very much part of the culture. As the diligent