India is a both beautiful and bamboozling place, where holy cows bask on heavenly beaches next to modern hotels, and ancient temples sit perfectly at home besides shiny offices. Glittering trains pass through rural villages where life hasn’t changed for hundreds of years, and through it all teems one sixth of the world’s population. India is vast, varied and, above all, unforgettably beautiful. India’s intoxicatingly rich history has spawned a number of exquisite palaces, temples and monuments. The most frequently visited part of India is the Golden Triangle, comprised of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. The people-packed cities of Mumbai (Bombay) and Kolkata (Calcutta) have a bustling, colourful charm, while the holy city of Varanasi and the awe-inspiring temples of Tamil Nadu are rewarding places of pilgrimage. Goa and Kerala’s palm-fringed beaches await those in search of tropical bliss. And for fresh air and serenity, India ripples with pristine mountains and hills, from the towering beauty of the mighty Himalayas to a bevy of beautiful pine forests, orchards and babbling streams.
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 Ganga 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.
The official language is Hindi which is spoken by about 30% of the population, English is also often used for official or commercial purposes. In addition, 17 regional languages are recognised by the Constitution. These include Punjabi, Bengali, Gujerati and Oriya which are widely used in the north and Tamil and Telegu which are common in the south. Other regional languages are Marathi, Kannada and Malayalam. The Muslim population largely speak Urdu.