The history of India is shrouded in antiquity. The country has been thought of as a nation of philosophers with a well-developed and even idyllic society. Excavations of sites belonging to the Harappan era show that the people lived in brick houses in towns with excellent drainage. One of the oldest scriptures in the world is the four-volume Vedas that many regard as the repository of national thoughts that anticipated some of the modern scientific discoveries. Despite formidable barriers in the form of the mighty Himalayas and oceans, India also received a succession of foreigners, many of them carrying swords and guns. But nearly all of them stayed on. Out of these waves of immigration has emerged the composite culture of India and made it a land of unity in diversity. India became a land of assimilation and learning, a land of change and continuity. The Aryans were among the first to arrive in India , which was inhabited by the Dravidians. Others who came here included Greeks, Persians, Mughal and even British, Portugese and French. Over the years there have been many major ruling dynasties like the Shakas, the Kushans, the Maurayas and Guptas. Nearly every major religion in the world is represented in India , which is also the land of the Lord Buddha, Lord Mahavira and Guru Nanak Dev, the founders of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

INDIA : Quick Facts


Republic of India

Location :

South Asia . Lies between latitudes 8 ° 4' and 37 ° 6 ' north and longitudes 68 ° 7 ' and 97 ° 25' east

Time :

UTC (+) 5 1/2 hrs

Capital :

New Delhi

Language :

Hindi, English, Punjabi, Urdu & seventeen regional Languages

Area :

3.3 million square kilometers

Coastline Length:

7,600 km

Population :

1027 million (2001 Census)

Major Religions:

Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism

National Day :

26 Jan (Republic Day)

Currency :

Indian Rupee US $1 = INR. 48.80

Airline Name :

Air India (AI), Indian Airlines (IA)

International Airports :

Indira Gandhi (Delhi - DEL), Santa Cruz (Mumbai - BOM), Dum Dum (Kolkata - CCU), Meenambakkam (Chennai - MAA), Ahmedabad, Amritsar, Bangalore, Goa, Hyderabad, Trivandrum

Holidays :

January 1 2008 Gregorian New Year (Christian). January-26 Republic Day. March-23 Easter Sunday (Christian). August-15 Independence Day. October-1 Id al Fitr (End of Ramadan). October-2 Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday. October-28 Deepavali (Hindu Festival of Light). November-11 Guru Nanak's Birthday. December-25 Christmas (Christian).

Climate :

Hot tropical weather with variations from region to region. Coolest weather lasts from December to February, with cool, fresh mornings and evenings and dry, sunny days. Really hot weather, when it is dry, dusty and unpleasant, is between March and May. Monsoon rains occur in most regions in summer between June and September.

National anthem :

Jan gana mana written by  Rabindranath Tagore

National emblem :

Replica of the Lion Capital of Sarnath

National flag:

Horizontal tricolor in equal proportion of deep saffron on the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. In the center of the white band is a wheel in navy blue colour.

National animal :

Tiger, Panthera tigris

National bird :


National flower :


National tree :


National fruit :


National currency :

Rupees (One Rupee=100 paise)

India :

Sovereign, Socialist, Secular, Democratic Republic

Form of government :

Parliamentary, based on universal adult franchise

Legislature :

Parliament, consists of President and the two Houses, known as Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and Lok Sabha (House of the People )

Executive :

Consists of President, Vice-President and Council of Ministers led by the Prime Minister

Judiciary :

Independent of executive

Travel - International


India 's national airline is Air India (AI), which operates International Flights along with Indian Airlines, the other State-owned airline. Recently Privately owned Airlines in India have been cleared for operating International routes. Jet Airways is the first to do so and is soon to be followed by Kingfisher Airlines, post its acquisition of Air Deccan. Most leading International Carriers fly to India from around the world.

International Airports

All the airports mentioned below have money exchange facilities, tourist information offices and hotel reservation services:

Mumbai (BOM) is 29km (18 miles) north of the city (travel time - 75-90 minutes). Taxi services go to the city. Taxi fares should have fixed rates from the airport to the city. Public transport is also available in the form of the EATS bus service and local buses. Other facilities include a retiring room for passengers in transit and a child-care lounge.

Calcutta (CCU) is 13km (8 miles) northeast of the city (travel time - 40-60 minutes). There is a 24-hour coach service to Indian Airlines city office and major hotels. A bus goes every 10 minutes 0530-2200. Taxi services go to the city. There is a 24-hour post office, bars, duty-free shops and restaurants available.

Delhi (DEL) (Indira Gandhi International) is 22km (15 miles) south of the city (travel time - 45 minutes). There are coach, bus and taxi services to the city. There are 24-hour duty-free shops and restaurants.

Chennai (MAA) is 14km (8 miles) southwest of the city (travel time - 30-40 minutes). A coach meets all flight arrivals 0900-2300. There is a train every 20-30 minutes from 0500-2300. Bus no. 18A runs every 25 minutes from 0500-2200. Taxi services go to the city.


The main passenger ports are Mumbai, Kolkata ( Calcutta ), Kochi , Chennai, Calicut , Panaji (Goa) and Rameswaram (the main departure point for the sea crossing to Sri Lanka . Indian ports are also served by several international shipping companies and several cruise lines. There are, however, no regular passenger liners operating to South-East Asia .


This section gives details of the major overland routes to neighbouring countries (where frontiers are open); in most cases these will involve road as well as rail travel. Details should be checked with the Government of India Tourist Office as they may be subject to change (see address section).

Connections to Pakistan

Currently only possible between Amritsar and Lahore (New Delhi-Amritsar-Lahore-Hyderabad-Karachi).

Connections to Nepal

The most practical and popular route to Nepal is by train to Raxaul (Bihar) and then by bus to Kathmandu or by train to Gorakphur (or by bus if coming from Varanasi) and then by bus to Kathmandu crossing the border at Sunauli; also, by train to Nantanwa (UP) and then by bus to Kathmandu/Pokhara, or Bhairawa to Lumbini for Pokhara. It is also possible to make the crossing from Darjeeling by bus to Kathmandu across the southern lowlands.

Connections to Bhutan

The best way of reaching Bhutan is by train to Siliguri, then bus to Phuntsholing. There is also an airlink from Kolkata ( Calcutta ) to Paro by Druk Air.

Connections to Bangladesh

The best route to Bangladesh is Kolkata ( Calcutta ) to Bongaon (West Bengal) by train, rickshaw across the border to Benapol, with connections via Khulna or Jessore to Dhaka . Another route is from Darjeeling via Siliguri, then train or bus from Jalpaiguri to Haldibari.


Of late, the overland route from Europe to India has become very popular, but travellers should have accurate information about border crossings, visa requirements and political situations en route. The most popular border crossings into India are Sunauli (for Delhi and northwest India ), Birganj (for Kolkata ( Calcutta ) and east India ) and Kakarbhitta (for Darjeeling ). Amritsar is now open for overland crossings into Lahore ( Pakistan ). Several 'adventure holiday' companies arrange overland tours and buses to India . A bus service between New Delhi and Lahore ( Pakistan ) has recently been launched (the first one in 50 years). The journey takes roughly 10 hours and there are four weekly return trips available. For information on this and other overland routes to neighbouring countries, contact the Government of India Tourist Office.

Travel - Internal


The domestic airline is Indian Airlines (IC). The network connects over 70 cities. Indian Airlines also operates regular flights to the neighbouring countries of Pakistan , Nepal , Bangladesh , Sri Lanka , Myanmar , the Maldives , Singapore , Malaysia , Thailand and the Middle East . Privately owned domestic airlines include Jet Airways (9W), Kingfisher Airlines (IT), Air Deccan, Jet Lite (formerly Sahara Airlines), Indigo, SpiceJet, Archana Airlines, Gujarat Airlines (G8) & Jagson Airways,


There are ships from Kolkata ( Calcutta ), Vishakapatnam and Chennai to Port Blair in the Andaman Islands, and from Kochi and Calicut to the Lakshadweep Islands . Services are often seasonal, and are generally suspended during the monsoon. One particularly attractive boat journey is the 'backwaters' excursion in the vicinity of Kochi in Kerala. Several local tours are available.


The Indian internal railway system is state-run by India Railways. It is the largest rail system in Asia and the second-largest in the world. There are over 62,000km of track, over 7000 stations and over 11,000 locomotives, including 5000 steam engines. Its trains carry over 12 million passengers every day. The network covers much of the country and is a quintessential part of the fabric of India , as well as being relatively inexpensive. Express services link all the main cities and local services link most other parts of the country. Buses connect with trains to serve parts of the country not on the rail network. Children 5-11 years of age pay half price, children under five travel free. There are seven classes of travel: first-class air-conditioned, second-class air-conditioned, air-conditioned three tier, air-conditioned chair car, first-class sleeper and second-class. Major trains carry restaurant cars. Important routes run as follows: Mumbai-Ahmadabad (five a day), Mumbai-Bangalore-Mysore (two a day), Mumbai-Calcutta (three a day), Mumbai-Chennai (three a day), Mumbai-New Delhi (four a day), Mumbai-Patna (five a day), Mumbai-Pune (five a day); Kolkata (Calcutta)-Allahabad (three a day), Calcutta-New Jalpaiguri-Darjeeling (Toy Train, one a day), Kolkata (Calcutta)-Chennai (three a day), Kolkata (Calcutta)-New Delhi (three a day); Delhi-Agra (Taj Express, five a day), Delhi-Ahmedabad (four a day), Delhi-Allahabad (five a day), Delhi-Jaipur (five a day), Delhi-Chennai (three a day); Chennai-Ernakulam-Kochi (one a day)

Indrail Pass : This special pass consists of a single non-transferable ticket which enables a visitor to travel on any first-class air-conditioned (A/C) or first class sleeper train without restriction within the period of validity. First-class sleeper tickets are; £100 for 7 days; £137 for 15 days; £147 for 21 days; £180 for 30 days; £290 for 60 days and £384 for 90 days. A/C tickets are twice as much. Children (aged between 5-12) are entitled to half-price fares. Children under 5 travel free. It is sold only to foreign nationals and Indians residing abroad holding a valid passport, and replaces all other concessional tickets. Payment is accepted only in foreign currency (US Dollars or Sterling ). Refunds can be given only if cancellation is made before the starting date.The normal free baggage allowances are 70kg air-conditioned class, 50kg first-class. Holders of an Indrail Pass travelling on the Reydhani Express and Shatabdi Express are exempted from all reservation fees, sleeping car charges, express train meal charges and other costs. Validity: A ticket can be used within one year of its issue. Validity period is from the date of commencement of the first journey up to midnight of the date on which validity expires. Advance reservation is essential, particularly on overnight journeys, arranged through travel agents. Reservations are on a first-come-first-served basis. For individuals or small groups a 2/3-month notice should suffice; during summer months a longer period is desirable to ensure reservations for the entire itinerary. Reservations can be made up to 360 days in advance.

Palace on Wheels: This expensively decorated Edwardian-style luxury steam train with 14 coaches, travels to Rajasthan. Each coach consists of a saloon, four sleeping compartments with upper and lower berth, bathroom, shower, toilet and small kitchen. Room service is available. There is a dining car, a bar, an observation car and a fully-equipped first-aid centre. Modern amenities include air-conditioning, four-channel music and telephone intercom throughout the train. Tariff includes cost of travel; full catering; elephant, camel and boat rides; conducted sightseeing tours; and entrance fees.

Royal Orient Express: This luxury train journeys through Gujarat and Rajasthan taking in the sights of Chittargarh, Udaipur , Palitana, Sasangir, Ahmedabad and Jaipur. The trip takes eight days and accommodation is in furnished carriages with lounge, minibar and kitchenette. Multi-cuisine restaurants and a library are also available. Contact Indian Railways for further information.

Other trains: Rajdhani Express: Deluxe super-fast trains connecting Delhi with Mumbai, Kolkata (Calcutta), Chennai, Bangalore, Bhubhaneswar, Guwahati, Jammu Tawi, Secunderabad, Thiruvananthapuram, Ahmedabad, Ajmer and many others.

Shatabdi Express: Super-fast trains connecting major and secondary city centres. Visitors can travel chair car or executive class. Snacks and meals are provided.

Konkan Express: This connects the states of Marharshtra, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala along the coast of the Arabian sea . The route includes 72 tunnels and many bridges often crossing ravines of over 50m deep.

Toy Trains: Narrow-gauge rail lines completed in the 19th century linking numerous hill stations and various mountain landscapes. For example, the Kolkata ( Calcutta )- Darjeeling route takes 8 hours, crosses over 500 bridges and offers ample opportunity for photos as the pace is leisurely.


Traffic drives on the left. An extensive network of bus services connects all parts of the country, and is particularly useful for the mountainous regions where there are no rail services. However, public transport is often crowded and can be uncomfortable. Details of routes may be obtained from the local tourist office.

Tourist cars: There are a large number of chauffeur-driven tourist cars (some air-conditioned) available in the main tourist centres. These unmetered tourist cars run at a slightly higher rate than the ordinary taxis, and are approved by the Government of India Tourist Office. Self-drive cars are not generally available. Driving around India is not recommended due to the erratic nature of Indian driving standards.

Documentation: An International Driving Permit is required.


Taxis and auto rickshaws are available in large cities and fares should be charged by the kilometre. They do not always have meters but, where they do, visitors should insist on the meter being flagged in their presence. Fares change from time to time and therefore do not always conform to the reading on the meter, but drivers should always have a copy of the latest fare chart available for inspection. Kolkata ( Calcutta ) has a 16.45km (10 mile) underground railway.

Resorts & Excursions


India has a rich history and the palaces, temples and great cities of its ancient cultures cannot fail to grip the imagination. In the spring particularly, the big cities come alive with concerts, plays, parties and exhibitions. Among the most spectacular hill stations (mountain resorts which make ideal destinations in summer) are Shimla (once the Imperial summer capital), Mussoorie, Ranikhet and Nainital (within reach of Delhi ), and West Bengal's magnificent resort, Darjeeling , which offers a breathtaking view of the whole Kanchenjunga range. Along the fabled coasts of Malabar and Coromandel, unspoiled sandy beaches stretch for miles. Skiing is possible in the silent snowbound heights of Gulmarg and Kufri in the Himalayas

The North

DELHI : Delhi has two parts: New Delhi , India 's capital and the seat of government, is a 20 th -century city, offering wide tree-lined boulevards, spacious parks and the distinctive style of Lutyens' architectural design; 'Old' Delhi , on the other hand, is a city several centuries old, teeming with narrow winding streets, temples, mosques and bazaars. Must sees, include the Red Fort and the nearby Jama Masjid ( India 's largest mosque) both built in the mid-seventeenth century at the height of the Moghul Empire. Also of note is the Qutab Minar's soaring tower built in 1193 by Qutab-ud-din immediately after the defeat of Delhi 's last Hindu kingdom. At the base of the tower is the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque built in the same period using stone from demolished Hindu temples. The " Lotus Temple " near Nehru Place in South Delhi is a modern architectural marvel & a place of worship for the Bahai religion. Delhi Haat near AIIMS & opposite the INA Market in South Delhi, gives tourists a quick look at what Delhi has to offer including its handicraft, fine arts & cuisine. Delhi attracts the finest musicians and dancers offering an ideal opportunity to hear the sitar, sarod and the subtle rhythm of the tabla, and to see an enthralling variety of dance forms, each with its own costumes and elaborate language of gestures. Theatres and cinemas show films from all over India , and the city has some of the country's finest restaurants offering many styles of regional cuisine. While the " Bukhara " at Maurya Sheraton offers the best of Frontier Cuisine (kebabs etc.) in its plush upmarket ambience, several of Delhi 's Restaurants offer the best kebabs & curries at more affordable charges. Pandara Road Market in Central Delhi (near India Gate) is one such place for delicious Mughlai cuisine. Of course, Delhi has several food chains such as McDonald, Pizza Hut, KFC, TGIF & Ruby Tuesday for tourists who are not as adventurous in their taste. For shopping the various State Emporia on Baba Khadag Singh Marg (near Connaught Circus) and the Central Cottage Industries Emporium at Janpath, provide the best of Indian Handicrafts at fixed prices. Other shops at Janpath challenge your negotiation skills, but, are popular with bargain hunters.

UTTAR PRADESH: To the east of Delhi is the state of Uttar Pradesh, through which flows the sacred River Ganges. Built along its bank is the wondrous city of Varanasi , India 's holiest Hindu location. The town itself is a maze of winding streets, dotted with temples and shrines. Lining the river are a series of ghats which, at dawn, are thronged with pilgrims and holy men performing ritual ablutions and prayers.

Delhi lies at the apex of the 'Golden Triangle' - an area filled with ancient sites and monuments. In the southeast lies Agra , city of the fabled Taj Mahal. This magnificent mausoleum was built by Shah Jahan as a monument to his love for his wife, Mumtaz, who died in childbirth in 1631. Shah Jehan was later imprisoned by his own son in the nearby Red Fort, another major attraction whose massive red sandstone walls rise over 65 feet and measure 1.5 miles in circumference. Other important landmarks are Akbar's Palace, the Jahangir Mahal, the octagonal tower Mussumman Burj and the Pearl Mosque. An hour outside Agra is Fatehpur Sikri, the town Akbar built as his new capital but abandoned after only a few years. This town is now no more than a ghost town but is definately worth seeing if you have time

RAJASTHAN: The southwestern pivot of the triangle is Jaipur, gateway to the desert state of Rajasthan. Known as the ' Pink City ' because of the distinctive colour of its buildings painted in preparation for the visit of Britain 's Prince of Wales in 1853, Jaipur is a town of broad, open avenues and many palaces. The Amber Palace , just outside the city is spectacularl and the façade of the Palace of the Winds within the city walls is eseential photo stop. Also worth seeing is Jai Singh's City Palace and the Jantar Mantar Observatory. To the southwest is the most romantic city in Rajasthan, Udaipur, built around the lovely Lake Pichola and famed for its Lake Palace Hotel, it has been dubbed the 'Venice of the East'. To the north, in the centre of the Rajasthan desert, is Jodhpur , with its colourful, winding lanes and towering fortress. Near Ajmer is the small lakeside town of Pushkar . It is a site of religious importance for Hindus and it is here that every November the fascinating Camel Fair is held. Jaisalmer is a charming oasis town, once a resting place on the old caravan route to Persia . Among its attractions are the camel treks out into the surrounding desert

MADHYA PRADESH: To the south of the 'Golden Triangle' is the huge state of Madhya Pradesh. Its greatest attractions lie close to the northern frontier. Less than 160km (100 miles) from Agra is the great ruined fortress at Gwalior . To the east lies Khajuraho with its famous temples and friezes of sensuously depicted figures - a must for any visitor.

HIMACHAL PRADESH: Less than 320km (200 miles) to the north of Delhi is Shimla, the greatest of all hill stations, surrounded by finely scented pine forests and the rich beauty of the Kulu Valley .

JAMMU AND KASHMIR: In the far north, reaching into Central Asia, is the extensive mountain region of Kashmir, formerly a popular summer resort (visitors are now advised to consult government advice before visiting this area), and the valley of the River Jhelum. The gateway to the region is Jammu , a town surrounded by lakes and hills. The temples of Rambireshwar and Raghunath number among its most impressive sights. Jammu is the railhead for Srinagar , the ancient capital of Kashmir , and favourite resort of the Mughal emperors. It was they who built the many waterways and gardens around Lake Dal , complementing the natural beauty of the area. Among the attractions are the houseboats where visitors can live on the lakes surrounded by scenery so beautiful it is known as 'paradise on earth'. Srinagar is also a convenient base for trips to Gulmarg and Pahalgam. Gulmarg offers fine trout fishing, and enjoys the distinction of having the highest golf course in the world. From here there are good views of Nanga Parbat , one of the highest mountains in the world. It is well placed as a starting point for treks into the hills and mountains. Pahalgam is another popular hill resort and base for pilgrimages to the sacred cave of Amar Nath .

More exotic, though less accessible, is the region of Ladakh, beyond the Kashmir Valley . It is a mountainous land on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau which is still largely Tibetan in character. The capital, Leh, is situated high in the Karakouram mountain range, through which passed the old Silk Road from China to India and Europe .

The West

MUMBAI: The principal metropolis of Western India is Mumbai, the capital of the state of Maharashtra , a bustling port and commercial centre, with plate-glass skyscrapers and modern industry jostling alongside bazaars and a hectic streetlife. Many of the country's films are made in the famous Mumbai studios. The city also boasts one of the finest race tracks in India , the Mahalaxmi course. There is a pleasant seafront with a palm-lined promenade and attractive beaches such as Juhu, Versova, Marve, Madh and Manori. On the waterfront is Mumbai's best-known landmark, the Gateway to India , whence boats leave on the 10km (6-mile) journey across the busy harbour to the Elephanta Island . The island is famous for the 8th-century cave temples, on whose walls are large rock carvings, the finest of which is the 3-faced Maheshmurti, the great Lord

MAHARASHTRA: To the east of Mumbai is Aurangabad , the starting point for visits to two of the world's most outstanding rock-cut temples. The Buddhist cave temples at Ajanta date back at least 2000 years. Cut into the steep face of a deep rock gorge, the 30 caves contain exquisite paintings depicting daily life at that time.

The caves at Ellora depict religious stories and are Hindu, Buddhist and Jain in origin. The Temple of Kailasa is the biggest hewn monolith temple in the world. Southeast of Mumbai are several fine hill stations, notably Matheran with its narrow gauge trains, and Mahabaleshwar. The thriving city of Pune with its peaceful Bund Gardens and its cultural attractions is also in this area.

GUJARAT: To the north of Mumbai lies the state of Gujarat, renowned for its silks, as the birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, and as the last refuge of the Asian lion, found deep in the Gir Forest . Ahmedabad, in the east of the state, is the principal textile city of India , producing silks which are famous throughout the world. Ahmadabad is also the site of Sabarmati Ashram, founded by Mahatma Gandhi, from where his ideology of non-violence is still promoted. Gandhi's birthplace is some 320km (200 miles) to the west, in the fishing village of Porbandar

GOA: To the south of Maharashtra lies Goa . The 100km-long (60-mile) coastline offers some of the finest beaches in the subcontinent. Goa was Portuguese until 1961, and there is also a charming blend of Latin and Indian cultures. Panaji, the state capital, is one of the most relaxed and elegant of India 's cities. The town is dominated by the huge Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, but the shops, bars and pleasant streets are its main attraction. 'Old Goa ', only a bus ride away from Panaji, displays a bewildering variety of architectural styles. Buildings of note include the Basilica and the Convent and Church of St Francis of Assisi . In nearby Ponda is the 400-year-old Temple of Shri Mangesh , which is said to be the oldest Hindu shrine.

Goa 's infamous hippies are being replaced by backpackers, Indian visitors and package tourists. Full moon parties still take place in Anjuna but are smaller and less authentic than in the heady days of the 1960s. Anjuna is also famous throughout Goa for its Wednesday flea market. If you are looking for beautiful, quiet beaches head for the South between Benaulim and Palolem.

Accommodation in the region includes the luxury resort of Aguada, the Taj holiday village and the Aguada hermitage. There are also good, simple hotels and cottages for rent in villages along the coastline, notably Calangute, Baga and Colva.

Goa also has several wildlife sanctuaries, including Bondla in the hills of western Ghats, where wild boar and sambar can be seen in their natural habitat. The region is famous for its food - an array of dishes, both Indian and Portuguese - as well as for its colourful festivals, including the spectacular Carnival held on the three days leading up to Ash Wednesday.

The South

The south is the part of India least affected by incursions of foreign cultures through the centuries. It is here that Indian heritage has survived in its purest form.

CHENNAI: The regional capital is Chennai (formerly Madras ), India 's fourth-largest city and capital of the state of Tamil Nadu. Chennai is the cradle of the ancient Dravidian civilisation, one of the oldest articulate cultures in the world. It is also home of the classical style of Indian dancing and a notable centre of temple sculpture art. Sprawling over 130 sq km (50 sq miles), the metropolis has few tall buildings and enjoys the relaxed ambience of a market town rather than the bustle of a huge city. From Chennai Lighthouse there is a fine view of the city that includes many churches which tell of the city's strong Christian influence, first introduced in AD78 when the apostle St Thomas was martyred here.

Chennai, however, is largely a commercial city and the centre of the area's rail, air and road networks, and serves as a good starting point from which to explore the south.

TAMIL NADU: Within the state are several important religious centres, notably Kanchipuram, which has an abundance of temples, and whose striking gopurams, or gateways, are decorated with sculptures of gods and goddesses. Inland is Madurai , with a large and bustling temple, and Thanjavur. Also worth visiting is Tiruchirappalli, which has a fortress built atop a strange boulder-shaped hill that dominates the town.

Further south, along the coast, is Pondicherry , an attractive town with a distinctive French style, and beyond, Rameswaram, once the ferry link to Sri Lanka .

KERALA: To the west lies the state of Kerala, where many of India 's major coastal resorts are to be found. Among the finest is Kovalam, offering unspoilt beaches with increasingly modern amenities, including luxury bungalows and a number of hotels (some including a swimming pool). Only a few miles away is Trivandrum , the state capital with its famous Padmanabhaswamy Temple . Further inland is the Periyar Game Sanctuary which has a rich and varied wildlife. Other resorts include Cranganorre, Alleppey and Kochi

KARNATAKA: Further to the north is the state of Karnataka, which has fine, unexplored beaches at Karwar, Mahe and Udupi. The state's capital is Bangalore , an affluent city which is the centre of electronics and engineering industries, but has many charming parks and gardens. To the southwest lies Mysore , where incense is manufactured.

Karnataka has a number of important religious and historical sites, including the ruins at Hampi to the north of Bangalore , and the vast statue of Lord Bahubali at Sravanabelagola, north of Mysore .

ANDHRA PRADESH: To the east of Karnataka is the state of Andhra Pradesh, with its capital at Hyderabad , offering a well-stocked one-man museum. 220km (350 miles) to the east is Visakhapatnam , the fourth-largest port.

ANDAMAN ISLANDS: Far away to the east across the Bay of Bengal are the Andaman Islands , a lushly forested archipelago which has exotic plant life and a wide variety of corals and tropical fish, making it a major attraction for snorkelling enthusiasts. The islands' capital, Port Blair, can be reached from Chennai and Kolkata ( Calcutta ) by boat or air. Visitors should note that the islands are subject to special entry restrictions and a Restricted Area Permit may be required; see the Passport/Visa section for details

The East

KOLKATA ( CALCUTTA ): The largest city in India and hub of the east is Kolkata ( Calcutta ), the capital of West Bengal . Established as a British trading post in the 17th century, it grew rapidly into a vibrant centre. Its colonial heritage is reflected in the buildings of Chowringhee Street and Clive Street , now Jawaharlal Nehru Road and Netaji Subhash Road . The city is filled with life and energy. It is a major business centre and offers fine markets and bazaars. It is also the centre of much of the country's creative and intellectual activity, including the sub-continent's best film-makers. Central Kolkata ( Calcutta ) is best viewed from the Maidan, the central area of parkland where early morning yoga sessions take place. The city's Indian Museum is one of the finest in Asia . Other attractions include the white marble Victoria Memorial, the Ochterlony Monument (Sahid Minar) and the headquarters of the Rama Krishna movement. Across the river are the Kali Temple of Dakshineshwasar (Belur Math headquarters of Ramakrishna Movement) and the Botanical Gardens

BIHAR AND ORISSA: To the west is the state of Bihar , with the religious centre of Bodhgaya, a sacred place for both Hindus and Buddhists. To the south, in the state of Orissa, are three temple cities. Foremost is Bhubaneswar , a town in which there once stood no less than 7000 temples, 500 of which have survived. Largest of these is the great Lingaraja Temple , dedicated to Lord Shiva. A short journey away to the south of Bhubaneswar lies Puri, one of the four holiest cities in India , now being developed as a beach resort. In June and July Puri stages one of India's most spectacular festivals, the Rath Yatra or 'Car Festival', at which pilgrims pay homage to images of gods drawn on massive wooden chariots. A short distance along the coast to the north is Konarak, known for its 'Black Pagoda' - a huge solitary temple to the sun god in the form of a chariot drawn by horses. The sculpture has a sensuous nature similar to that of Khajuraho, and is counted amongst the finest in India

DARJEELING : To the north of Kolkata ( Calcutta ) is one of the great railway journeys of the world, the 'Toy Train' to Darjeeling . The last part of the line runs through jungle, tea gardens and pine forests. Darjeeling straddles a mountain slope which drops steeply to the valley below, and commands fine views of Kanchenjunga (8586m/28,169ft), the third-highest mountain in the world. It is the headquarters of the Indian Mountaineering Institute, as well as the birthplace of Sherpa Tenzing. It is also a world-renowned tea-growing centre.

A bus journey of two and a half hours takes one to Kalimpong, a bazaar town at the foot of the Himalayas . From here a number of treks can be made to places offering fine panoramas of the mountains.

SIKKIM : Further north is the mountain state of Sikkim . The capital, Gangtok, lies in the southwest. The main activity for visitors is trekking, although it is still in its infancy and facilities are minimal. At the moment travel for non-Indian residents is limited. Trekking is allowed only in groups, while individuals may only visit Gangtok, Rumtek and Phodom. The nearest railheads are Darjeeling and Siliguri, on the slow but spectacular line of India 's northeast frontier railway.

ASSAM AND MEGHALAYA: Even further to the east are the states of Assam and Meghalaya. Assam is famous for tea and wildlife reserves, and can be reached from the state capital of Guwahati. The tiger reserve of Manas is also rich in other varieties of wildlife, while in Kaziranga it is possible to see the one-horned rhinoceros of India .

Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya, is the home of the Khasi people. The region is filled with pine groves, waterfalls and brooks and is described as the ' Scotland of the East'.

Beach Resorts

India 's coast has some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. Below are listed both well-known resorts, such as Goa , and several lesser-known beaches. Hotel facilities and accommodation are also indicated. Further information may be obtained by consulting the Resorts & Excursions sections.

Major beaches include:

Goa: Calangute, Baga Beach and Colva Beach . 5-star hotels with private beaches: Fort Aguada Beach Resort, Oberoi Bogmalo Beach and Cidade de Goa. It has reasonably priced hotels, tourist cottages, a tourist resort and youth hostels.

Mumbai: Juhu Beach . 5-star hotel complex. Crowded.

Kovalam: Ashok Beach resort. 5-star hotel complex, including beach cottages, Halcyon Castle and Kovalam Palace Hotel. Hotel Samudra, Kerala Tourism Development Corporation, is reasonably priced. Kovalam Beach gets crowded during the peak tourist season (November to March).

Chennai Region: Fisherman's Cove at Covelong beach resort; shore cottages by the shore temples at Mamallapuram (which also has a beach resort).

Puri: 3- and 4-star hotels, tourist bungalows, youth hostels. Major Hindu pilgrim centre.

Lesser-known beaches

Gujarat: Tithal, Ubhrat, Hajira, Diu (UT), Daman (UT), Chorwad, Dahanu and Dwarka. Cheap hotels, holiday homes.

Maharashtra : Off Mumbai - Madh, Marve and Manori. Cheap hotels - Murud Janjira. Holiday homes - Erangal.

Goa : Karwar, Ankola, Gokarna, Honnavar and Bhatkal.

Karnataka: Ullal (smaller beach resort, Summer Sands, cottages), Udupi (Hindu pilgrim centre), Mahe (UT) and Mangalore.

Kerala: Cannanore, Quilon, Varkala.

Tamil Nadu: Kanya Kumari, Tiruchendur, Rameswaram, Karikal (UT) and Pondicherry (UT).

Andhra Pradesh: Maipadu, Machilipatnam, Mangiripundi and Bheemunipatnam.

Orissa: Golpalpur on Sea, Oberoi Hotel.

West Bengal : Digha - reasonably priced hotels, tourist bungalows.

Note: UT = Union Territory .

Hill Stations

Hill stations have long been popular among Indians and foreign visitors alike for providing a relaxing and salubrious retreat from the heat of the plains. Further information on some of the places mentioned here may be found by consulting the Resorts & Excursions sections.

Popular hill stations: Kashmir: Leh in Ladakh, Srinagar , Pahalgam, Gulmarg for lakes, houseboats, good hotels, tourist reception centres.

Himachal Pradesh: Shimla (various types of hotels, tourist bungalows), nearby Kufri (winter sports centre, skating rink, skiing facilities), Kulu, Manali (reasonably priced hotels, log huts, travellers lodges and tourist bungalows).

Uttar Pradesh: Nainital boasts a lake boat club, Almora, Ranikhet (reasonably priced hotels, tourist bungalows, clubs, youth hostels), Mussoorie, Ropeway (hotels and tourist bungalows).

West Bengal: Darjeeling , RA, Kalimpong for mountaineering.

Maharashtra : Mahabaleshwar, Panchgani, Matheran, Lonavla and Khandala.

Meghalaya: Shillong.

Sikkim : Gangkok (RA, hotels).

Tamil Nadu: Ootacamund, Udagamandalam, Kodaikanal, Silvery Lake - hotels, tourist bungalows.

Lesser-known hill stations: These include

Himachal Pradesh: Dalhousie, Dharamsala, Nahan, Paonta Saheb, Keylong, Chamba and Kangra.

Kashmir : Sonamarg, Batote.

Uttar Pradesh: Dehra Dun , Lansdown.

West Bengal : Mirik.

Madhya Pradesh: Pachmarhi.

Maharashtra : Panhala.

Gujarat : Saputara.

Rajasthan: Mount Abu .

Tamil Nadu: Yercaud, Coonoor, Kotagiri.

Kerala: Periyar, Ponmundi, Munnar.

Karnataka: Mercara.

Andhra Pradesh: Horseley Hills.

Bihar : Netarhat.

Assam : Haflong.


Below is a description of the most important trekking areas in India . For further practical details on trekking, see the Sport & Activities section.

JAMMU AND KASHMIR : Jammu and Kashmir is India 's northernmost state, and the one which is best-known for trekking. It is an extravagantly beautiful land of flower-spangled meadows, wild orchards, spectacular coniferous forests, icy mountain peaks and clear streams and rivers. The capital, Srinagar , is the base for many treks, notably to the blue Zabarwan Hills and Shankaracharya Hill. The three other main bases in Jammu & Kashmir are Pahalgam (100km/62 miles from Srinigar) in the Lidder Valley, the base for treks to sacred Amarnath, Aru, Lidderwat and the glacial lakes of Tarsar and Tulian; Gulmarg (51km/32 miles from Srinagar), from which treks can be made to the crystal tarns of Apharwat and Alpather, the upland lakes of Vishansar and Gangabal and the Thajiwas Glacier; and Sonamarg, in the Sindh Valley, the base for treks into the surrounding mountains.

Srinagar is also the roadhead for trips into the arid plateau of Ladakh, a country of perpetual drought, the home of wild asses and yaks and with high ranges that have some of the largest glaciers in the world outside the polar regions. Leh, the divisional capital, lies on an ancient Silk Road and is the base for spectacular treks across this remarkable landscape.

Further south, excellent trekking may be had in the vicinity of Jammu , the railhead to the Kashmir Valley . The three main centres are Kishtwar, Doda and Poonch.

HIMACHAL PRADESH: The landscape of this province ranges from the barren rocks and raging torrents of the valleys of Spiti and Lahaul in the north to the southern orchard country of Kangra and Chamba. Treks from Manali include the Bhaga River to Keylong, and then on to the Bara Shigri glacier or over the Baralacha Pass to Leh (see above). Kullu, in the centre of the province, is set in a narrow valley between the towering Himalayas and the River Beas, and is famous for its temples and religious festivals. Treks from here traverse terraced paddy fields and on to remoter regions of snow and ice. The view from the Rohtang Pass is particularly spectacular. The town of Dharamsala , in the Kangra Valley area, is the base for treks into the Bharmaur Valley over the Indrahar Pass , and on to other still higher passes beyond. Chamba, situated on a mountain above the Ravi River , is named after the fragrant trees which flourish around its richly carved temples. Treks from the nearby town of Dalhousie lead to the glacial lake of Khajjiar and to the passes of Sach and Chini. Shimla, once the summer capital of the British, is a high hill station and the base for treks into Kullu Valley via the Jalori Pass and on to the Kalpur and Kinnaur valleys

GARHWAL: Set high in the Garhwal Himalayas, this region (which is sometimes referred to as the Uttarakhand) abounds in myths and legends of the Indian gods. It is also where the source of the life-giving 'Ganga' is to be found; indeed, many of the great rivers of northern India have their headwaters in this land of lush valleys and towering snow-ridged peaks. Mussoorie, a hill station much used by the British to escape the searing heat of the plains, is an excellent base for treks into the Gangotri and Yamounotri valleys. The source of the Ganga at Gaumukh can also be reached from here. Another hill station, Rishikesh, is situated just north of the sacred city of Hardwar , and is the base for treks to another holy shrine, Badrinath. A particularly rewarding stop en route to Badrinath is the breathtaking Valley of Flowers , which is in full bloom in August. Other destinations include Hemkund Lake , Mandakini Valley and Kedarnath, one of the 12 Jyotirlings of Lord Shiva with a beautiful temple

KUMAON: This region, which stretches from the Himalayas in the north to the green foothills of Terai and Bhabar in the south, consists of the three northeastern Himalayan districts of Uttar Pradesh, all of which are particularly rich in wildlife. One of the major trekking centres is Almora, an ideal base for treks into pine and rhododendron forests with dramatic views of stark, snow-capped mountains. The Pindiri Glacier and the valley of Someshwar can be reached from here. Another base is Nanital, a charming, orchard-rich hill station. It is the base for short treks to Bhimtal, Khurpatal and Binayak Forest . Ranikhet, with a magnificent view of the central Himalayas , is the base for treks to Kausani. The view from here is one of the most spectacular in India , and inspired Mahatma Gandhi to pen his commentary on the Gita-Anashakti Yoga

DARJEELING AND SIKKIM : Dominated by the five summits of mighty Kanchenjunga, the Darjeeling and Sikkim area of the Eastern Himalayas is also a region of gentle hills and dales, pine forests, turquoise lakes and babbling streams. One of the best ways of arriving in the area is by the 'Toy Train' from New Jalpaiguri. The town of Darjeeling is the home of the Everest-climber Tenzing Norgay and also of the Himalayan Mountaineering Institute, and is the base for both low- and high-level treks. Destinations include Tiger Hill (offering a breathtaking view of the Himalayas ), and the peaks of Phalut, Sandakphu, Singalila and Tanglu. To the north, Sikkim is a wonderland of ferns and flowers, birds and butterflies, orchids and bamboo, forests of cherry, oak and pine, all set among slowly flowing rivers, terraced paddy fields and blazing rhododendrons. Deep in the interior are Sikkim 's famous monasteries, their white prayer flags fluttering against a deep blue sky. The capital is Gangtok, a convenient base for treks into the mysterious north and east of the region, to sacred Yaksum, Pemayangtse and the mountains near Bakkhim and Dzongri

ARAVALLI HILLS: The Aravallis, remnants of the oldest mountain range in the subcontinent, resemble outcroppings of rocks rather than mountains and are virtually barren except for thorny acacias and date palm groves found near the oases. The main resort in the region, Mount Abu , stands on an isolated plateau surrounded by rich green forest. A variety of one-day treks are available from here, all of which afford the opportunity to visit some of the remarkable temples in the region, notably Arbuda Devi Temple, carved out of the rock face and offering spectacular views across the hills. Guru Shikhar, Gaumukh and Achalgarh Fort can all be reached during one-day treks from Mount Abu

SATPURA RANGE : This range straddles central India and forms the northern border of the Deccan . The main hill station is Pachmarhi, a beautiful resort of green forest glades and deep ravines overlooking red sandstone hills. Short treks can be had from here to the Mahadeo and Dhupgarh peaks.

WESTERN GHATS: The Western Ghats run parallel to the west coast of India from the River Tapti to the southernmost tip of the subcontinent. The mountains are lush and thickly forested and although they cannot claim to have the awesome majesty of the great Himalayas , the region has many features of great natural beauty. The hill station of Mahabaleshwar, in the north of the range, is the highest in the area and is considered an ideal base for trekkers. Other popular bases and trekking destinations include Lonavala, Khandala, Matheran and Bhor Ghat, a picturesque region of waterfalls, lakes and woods. Further south in Karnataka is Coorg, perched on a green hilltop and surrounded by mountainous countryside. Madikeri is a take-off point for treks in this region. The Upper Palani hills in Tamil Nadu are an offshoot of the Ghats , covered in rolling downs and coarse grass. Kodaikanal is the attractive base for two short treks to Pilar Rock and Green Valley View. Courtallam, also in Tamil Nadu, is surrounded by dense vegetation and coffee and spice plantations; rich in wildlife, it is also one of the most beautiful areas of the Western Ghats

NILGIRIS: The gentle heights of southern India , a world away from the daunting Himalayas , are friendly and approachable with treks made simple by moderate altitudes and a pleasant climate. Sometimes known as the Blue Mountains because of their lilac hue, they are noted for their orange orchards, tea gardens, wooded slopes and tranquil lakes. There are three major trekking centres here: Ootacamund (popularly known as Ooty) is the base for walks to the Wenlock Downs, the Kalahatti Falls and Mudumali Game Sanctuary; Coonoor, conveniently situated for Drogg's Peak and Lamb's Rock; and Kotagiri, the oldest of the three, whose sheltered position enables it to offer many shaded treks to explore the tranquillity of the Nilgiri


The Indian peninsula is a continent in itself, the geographical diversity of which has resulted in a vast range of wildlife, with over 350 species of mammals and 1200 species of birds in the country. Each region has something special to offer: the hangul is restricted to the valley of Kashmir in northern India , the rhino is found in isolated pockets along the Brahmaputra River in the east, the black langur in the Western Ghats, and Western India is the home of the last remaining Asiatic lions.

Two of India 's most impressive animals, the Bengal (or Indian) tiger and the Asiatic elephant are still found in most regions, though their population has shrunk drastically.

Most of India 's wildlife finds refuge in over 200 sanctuaries and parks around the country. The following list refers to some of the more important of these. Accommodation often needs to be booked in advance, either by direct application or through the local State ITDC or the controlling authority of the respective park.

NORTHERN INDIA: Dachigam Wildlife Sanctuary ( Kashmir ): Broad valley; mountain slopes; rare hangul deer, black and brown bear, leopard; heronry.

Govind Sagar Bird Sanctuary (Himachal Pradesh): Bird sanctuary with crane, duck, goose and teal.

Corbett National Park (Uttar Pradesh): Himalayan foothills near Dhikala; Sal forest and plains; tiger, elephant, leopard and rich birdlife. Excellent fishing in Ramganga River .

Dudhwa National Park (Uttar Pradesh): Nepal border; tiger, sloth bear and panther.

Valley of Flowers National Park (Uttar Pradesh): When in bloom this 'roof garden' at 3500m (11,500ft) is a glorious blaze of colour. Permits are required to enter.

Sariska National Park (Rajasthan): About 200km (125 miles) from Delhi . Forest and open plains; sambar (largest Indian deer), cheetal (spotted deer), nilgai (Indian antelope), black buck, leopard and tiger; good night-viewing.

Ranthambhor (Sawai Madhopur - Rajasthan): Hill forest, plains and lakes; sambar, chinkara (Indian gazelle), tiger, sloth bear, crocodiles and migratory water-birds.

Bharatpur National Park (Keoloadeo Ghana Bird Sanctuary)(Rajasthan): India 's most outstanding bird sanctuary; many indigenous water-birds; huge migration from Siberia and China ; crane, goose, stork, heron, snakes, birds, etc.

Bandhavgarh National Park (Madhya Pradesh): Situated in the Vindhyan Mountains , this park has a wide variety of wildlife including panther, sambar and gaur.

Kanha National Park (Madhya Pradesh): Sal forest and grassland; only home of barasingha (swamp deer), tiger, cheetal and gaur.

Shivpuri National Park (Madhya Pradesh): Open forest and lake; chinkara, chowsingha (4-horned antelope), nilgai, tiger, leopard and water-birds.


Krishnagiri Upavan National Park ( Maharashtra ): Formerly known as Borivli, this park protects an important scenic area close to Mumbai. Kanheri Caves and Vihar, Tulsi and Powai lakes; water-birds and smaller types of wildlife. Lion Safari Park nearby.

Tadoba National Park ( Maharashtra ): Teak forests and lake; tiger, leopard, nilgai and gaur. Night-viewing.

Sasan Gir National Park ( Gujarat ): Forested plains and lake; only home of Asiatic lion, sambar, chowsingha, nilgai, leopard, chinkara and wild boar.

Nal Sarovar Bird Sanctuary (Gujarat): Lake ; migratory water-birds; indigenous birds include flamingo.

Little Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary ( Gujarat ): Desert; herds of khur (Indian wild ass), wolf and caracal.

Velavadar National Park ( Gujarat ): New Delta grasslands; large concentration of black buck.


Periyar Wildlife Sanctuary (Kerala): Large artificial lake; elephant, gaur, wild dog, black langur, otters, tortoises and rich birdlife including hornbill and fishing owl. Viewing by boat.

Vedanthangal Water Birds Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu): One of the most spectacular breeding grounds in India . Cormorant, heron, stork, pelican, grebe and many others.

Point Calimere Bird Sanctuary (Tamil Nadu): Particularly noted for its flamingo, also for heron, teal, curlew and plover, black buck and wild pig.

Pulicat Bird Sanctuary (Andhra Pradesh): Flamingo, grey pelican, heron and tern.

Dandeli National Park (Karnataka): Park with bison, panther, tiger and sambar. Easily accessible from Goa .

Jawahar National Park (includes Bandipur and Nagarhole National Parks (Karnataka), and the Wildlife Sanctuaries of Mudumalai (Tamil Nadu) and Wayanad (Kerala): Extensive mixed forest; largest elephant population in India , leopard, gaur, sambar, muntjac and giant squirrel. Birds include racquet-tailed drongo, trogon and barbet.


Kaziranga National Park ( Assam ): Elephant grass and swamps; one-horned Indian rhinoceros, water buffalo, tiger, leopard, elephant, deer and rich birdlife. Elephant transport is available within the park.

Manas Wildlife Sanctuary ( Assam ): On the Bhutan border, rainforest, grassland and river banks; rhino, water buffalo, tiger, elephant, golden langur and water-birds; fishing permitted.

Nameri National Park ( Assam ): Tiger and water-birds; fishing permitted.

Palamau Tiger Reserve ( Bihar ): Rolling, forested hills; tiger, leopard, elephant, sambar, jungle cat, rhesus macaque (monkey) and occasionally wolf.

Hazaribagh National Park ( Bihar ): Sal forested hills; sambar, nilgai, cheetal, tiger, leopard and occasionally muntjac (larger barking deer).

Sundarbans Tiger Reserve ( West Bengal ): Mangrove forests; tiger, fishing cat, deer, crocodile, dolphin and rich birdlife. Access and travel by chartered boat.

Jaldapara Wildlife Sanctuary ( West Bengal ): Tropical forest and grassland; rhino, elephant and rich birdlife.

Similipal Tiger Reserve (Orissa): Immense Sal forest; tiger, elephant, leopard, sambar, cheetal, muntjac and chevrotain.

Chilika Wildlife (Bird) Sanctuary (Orissa): Migratory birds, flamingo, Siberian ducks, heron and Teal Comorant


India , with an area of 3.3 million sq. km, is a subcontinent. The peninsula is separated from mainland Asia by the Himalayas . The country lies between 8° 4' and 37° 6' north of the Equator and is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean to the south. 

The Himalayas form the highest mountain range in the world, extending 2,500 km over northern India . Bounded by the Indus river in the west and the Brahmaputra in the east,

the three parallel ranges, the Himadri, Himachal and Shivaliks have deep canyons gorged by the rivers flowing into the Gangetic plain. 

River Systems

The rivers may be classified as follows: (a) the Himalayan, (b) the Deccan , (c) the coastal and (d) the rivers of the inland drainage basin. The Himalayan rivers are generally snow-fed and flow throughout the year. During the monsoon months (June to September), the Himalayas receive very heavy rainfall and the rivers carry the maximum amount of water, causing frequent floods. The Deccan rivers are generally rain-fed and, therefore, fluctuate greatly in volume. A very large number of them are non-perennial. The coastal rivers, specialty on the west coast, are short and have limited catchment areas. Most of these are non-perennial as well. The rivers on the inland drainage basin are few and ephemeral. They drain towards individual basins or salt lakes like the Sambhar or are lost in the sands, having no outlet to the sea. 


The Himalayan range in the north acts as the perfect meteorological barrier for the whole country. Despite the country's size and its varied relief, the seasonal rhythm of the monsoon is apparent throughout. Although much of northern India lies beyond the tropical zone, the entire country has a tropical climate marked by relatively high temperatures and dry winters. 

Natural Vegetation

The Himalayan region, which is rich in vegetative life, possesses varieties that can be found practically from the tropical to tundra regions. Only the altitude influences the distribution of vegetation. In the rest, of the country, the type of vegetation is target determined by the amount of rainfall. Outside the Himalayan region, the country can be divided into three major vegetation regions: the tropical wet evergreen and semi-evergreen forests, the tropical deciduous forests, and the thorn forests and shrubs. 


India is a country with probably the largest and most diverse mixture of races. All the five major racial types - Australoid, Mongoloid, Europoid, Caucasian and Negroid - find representation among the people of India , who are mainly a mixed race. 

The people of India belong to diverse ethnic groups. At various periods of India 's long history, successive waves of settlers and invaders including the Aryans, Parthians, Greeks and Central Asians came into the country and merged with the local population. This explains the variety of racial types, cultures and languages in India . 


India has about 15 major languages and 844 different dialects. The Sanskrit of the Aryan settlers has merged with the earlier Dravidian vernaculars to give rise to new languages. 

Hindi spoken by about 45 per cent of the population is the national language. English has also been retained as a language for official communication. 


Hinduism : The Hindu religion had its origin in the concepts of the early Aryans who came to India more than 4,000 years ago. It is not merely a religion but also a philosophy and a way of life. It does not originate in the teachings of any one prophet or holy book. It respects other religions and does not attempt to seek converts. It teaches the immortality of the human soul and three principal paths to ultimate union of the individual soul with the all pervasive spirit. 

The essence of Hindu faith is embodied in the Lord's Song, the Bhagavad Gita: "He who considers this(self) as a slayer or he who thinks that this(self) is slain, neither knows the Truth. For it does not slay, nor is it slain. This (self) is unborn, eternal, changeless, ancient, it is never destroyed even when the body is destroyed." 

Jainism and Buddhism : In the sixth century before Christ, Mahavira propagated Jainism. His message was asceticism, austerity and non-violence. 

At about the same time, Buddhism came into being. Gautama Buddha, a prince, renounced the world and gained enlightenment. He preached that "Nirvana" was to be attained through the conquest of self. Buddha's teachings in time spread to China and some other countries of South-East Asia . 

Islam : Arab traders brought Islam to South India in the seventh century. After them came the Afghans and the Moghuls, among whom the most enlightened was the Emperor Akbar. Akbar almost succeeded in founding a new religion Din-e-Elahi, based on both Hinduism and Islam, but it found few adherents. 

Islam has flourished in India through the centuries. Muslim citizens have occupied some of the highest positions in the country since independence in 1947. India today is the second largest Muslim country in the world, next only to Indonesia . 

Sikhism : Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism in the 15th century, stressed the unity of God and the brotherhood of man. Sikhism, with its affirmation of God as the one supreme truth and its ideals of discipline and spiritual striving, soon won many followers. It was perhaps possible only in this hospitable land that two religions as diverse as Hinduism and Islam could come together in a third, namely Sikhism. 

Christianity : Christianity reached India not long after Christ's own lifetime, with the arrival of St. Thomas , the Apostle. The Syrian Christian Church in Southern India traces its roots to the visit of St. Thomas . With the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in 1542, the Roman Catholic faith was established in India . Today, Christians of several denominations practice their faith freely. 

Zoroastrianism : In the days of the old Persian Empire, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in West Asia, and in the form of Mithraism, it spread over vast areas of the Roman Empire, as far as Britain . 

After the Islamic conquest of Iran , a few intrepid Zoroastrians left their homeland and sought refuge in India . The first group is said to have reached Diu in about 766 A.D. 

Their total world population probably does not exceed 130,000. With the exception of some 10,000 in Iran , almost all of them live in India , the vast majority concentrated in Mumbai. The Parsees excel in industry and commerce, and contribute richly to the

intellectual and artistic life of the nation. 

Judaism : Jewish contact with the Malabar Coast in Kerala, dates back to 973 BC when King Solomon's merchant fleet began trading for spices and other fabled treasures. Scholars say that the Jews first settled in Cranganore, soon after the Babylonian conquest of Judea in 586 BC. The immigrants were well received and a Hindu king granted to Joseph Rabban, a Jewish leader, a title and a principality.



The cultural policy of the Government has three objectives - to preserve the cultural heritage, inculcate art consciousness among the people and promote high standards in the performing and creative arts. Eminent persons from the field of fine arts are nominated by the President to the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of the Indian Parliament. 


India has very strong but ancient traditions in painting. The evidence lies in the frescoes of Ajanta and Ellora, the Buddhist palm leaf manuscripts and the Jain texts. Religion had a great influence on the early Indian paintings. There are several series depicting the life of Lord Krishna. The Islamic period saw many schools bearing Persian and Indian influence, produce miniatures in tempera on paper. The Ragini paintings, depicting the musical modes, are unique in the world. Some of the well-known Indian painting schools are the Rajput, Deccan , Kangra and Moghul. 

The Bengal renaissance and modern art, influenced by Europe , also made their mark. The doyen of Indian modern art, Abanindranath Tagore, used Japanese and Chinese techniques in his paintings and drawings. The Nobel laureate, Rabindranath Tagore, was an accomplished painter. His contemporaries, Nandalal Bose, Samarendranath Gupta and A.K. Haldar among them, laid the foundation of modern Indian painting. Jamini Roy was another founder of modern Indian painting and graphic art. Amrita Shergill, half Hungarian, represents the best among the European style painters of early 20th century. The art scene in India is enriched today by artists like M.F. Hussain, J. Swaminathan, N.S. Bendre, Krishen Khanna, Vivan Sundaram, Bhupen Khakar, Ghulam Shaikh and many others. 


The origin of classical dance in India goes back to 2BC when the ancient treatise on dance, Natya Shastra, was compiled. Dance in India is guided by the elaborate codes in the Natya Shastra and by mythology, legend and classical literature. Both classical and fold form of dances are performed in India . Classical dance forms have rigid rules for presentation. Among the leading forms of classical dance are Bharat Natyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Manipuri, Odissi, Kuchipudi and Mohini Attam. Bharat Natyam, originating in Tamil Nadu, has movements of pure rhythm, rendering a story dramatically in different moods. Kathakali, the dance drama from Kerala, requires the artist to wear an elaborate mask. The principal classical dance of north India , Kathak, originated as a religious performance but later developed as a court dance under the Moghuls. The lyrical style of dance, Manipuri, comes from the eastern State of Manipur . It described the games of Krishna and the "Gopis". Odissi was once a temple dance in Orissa. Kuchipudi, the dance-drama from Andhra Pradesh, is based on themes from the epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata. In addition, there are numerous forms of folk and tribal dance in India . 


The classical theatre survives only in a few cities. But the folk theatre thrives in almost every linguistic region. Its themes are becoming modern. The professional theatre is largely confined to big urban centres. It draws on the work of modern playwrights and also likes to experiment with various forms including folk theatre. The plays are performed in Indian languages as well as English. The rich tradition of puppet theatre also survives in many parts of the country. The National School of Drama not only trains students, but also conducts research in classical, traditional and modern drama. 


The country leads the world in the output of movie films, with more than 900 produced annually. They command an enormous domestic market and have become increasingly popular abroad, particularly in Asia, Africa and West Asia . The major production centres are Mumbai, Madras and Calcutta . Movies are the most popular medium of entertainment. Much of the commercial cinema revolves around social dramas and thrillers with many songs and dance sequences thrown in. But an art cinema which takes a serious look at Indian society is becoming increasingly popular. There has been widespread recognition of Indian artistes and directors at film festivals in different parts of the world. The late Satyajit Ray was awarded many prestigious international awards including the Oscar in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement in Cinema. 


The ancient Indians believed in the divine origin of music. The purest form of sound was considered equal to cosmic energy. As a result, music and religion were always closely intertwined. Classical music tradition was probably evolved from the religious poems and chants of the Vedic period. It was later codified by Bharata Muni. 

At present, there are two schools of classical music-the Hindustani style of the North and the Carnatic of the South. All classical music is set to the raga arrangements of musical notes that have a characteristic mood and are repeated in any composition. Musicians, however, have considerable freedom to improvise within the framework, and performances are judged very often by the brilliance of the improvisation. 

As in dance, music has a rich and vigorous folk tradition and music is inextricably woven into the fabric of rural India . 


Hockey, in which India has an impressive record with eight Olympic gold medals, is officially the national sport. Other popular games are football, cricket, basketball, volleyball and badminton. Cricket has become a very popular game and India , once one-day cricket champions, staged the World Cup in 1987 and again in 1996. Sunil Gavaskar's aggregate of 10,122 test runs and 34 test hundreds remain unbeaten world records. 

In games like tennis and billiards, which are played by a very small percentage of the population, Indians have nevertheless made a mark in the international arena. At the young age of 17 Vishwanath Anand became an international chess grandmaster. Geet Sethi has won the both the World Amateur and Professional Billiard Championships, while in 1990 Leander Paes became the third Indian Wimbledon Junior Champion. 

After the IX Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982, the capital city now boasts of some very modern sports facilities. Such facilities are also being developed in other parts of the country. With the introduction of new equipment and techniques of coaching and training, there is hope that India will show a marked improvement in various disciplines of sports. 

Besides the sports and games which are included in the international sporting agenda, there are many which have developed indigenously and are played by people in the villages. Among these is wrestling, a sport which has developed many local styles and schools. It is taught for the most part in traditional gymnasia with packed mud floors. There are also several indigenous systems of martial arts. 

Among the indigenously developed games, the most popular are kabaddi and kho-kho. National competitions are held in these two games. Among equestrian sports, tent-pegging has a uniquely Indian flavour. Camel races and elephant races are also uniquely Indian. Among the indigenous water sports, the snake-boat race which takes place in the backwaters of Kerala during the Onam festival has now become an international tourist attraction

Economy, Industry & Trade
The new Economic Order & Industrial growth, Globalising of Trade & Telecommunications


Though agriculture has been the main preoccupation of the bulk of the Indian population, the founding fathers saw India becoming a prosperous and Modern State with a good industrial base. Programs were formulated to build an adequate infrastructure for rapid industrialization.

Since independence, India has achieved a good measure of self-sufficiency in manufacturing a variety of basic and capital goods. The output of the major industries includes aircraft, ships, cars, locomotives, heavy electrical machinery, construction equipment, power generation and transmission equipment, chemicals, precision instruments, communication equipment and computers. Early planners in free India had to keep in mind two aims: all-round development and generation of large-scale job opportunities. Economic development strategies were evolved with an eye on these twin objectives.

New International Economic Order

As a responsible and progressive member of the international community, India is continuing her untiring efforts to bring about a constructive dialogue between the developed and developing countries in their quest for a cooperative approach towards a new International Economic Order. India is convinced that the establishment of an equitable International Economic Order involving structural and other, changes is the only answer to the various economic ills and problems of development confronting the world today.

Economic Restructuring

The international confidence in India 's economy has been fully restored.

The reforms launched have made India an attractive place for investment. Duties have been lowered, repatriation of profit made liberal and levels of foreign equity raised considerably, 100% in case of export oriented industry.

While several multinational companies have entered the Indian market, some Indian companies have also begun to gain international recognition. In the field of computer software, India is among the major exporting nations with an overflow of scientists in the field.

With the conclusion of the Uruguay Round of Multilateral Trade Negotiations, India decided to join the new World Trade Organization, successor to GATT. India hopes that developing countries will not suffer on account of any protectionism.

On its part, India has opened several sectors hitherto restricted to the public sector. The rupee is convertible on the trade account. In 1994, exports grew by 17%. Figures for 1995-96 show that exports grew at a rate of 28.8%. About 90% of India 's import are financed by export earnings. The Non-Resident Indian (NRI) enjoys special incentives to invest in India like tax exemption and higher interest rates on deposits.


The government acknowledges the great role that the vast number of Indians living and working abroad, the Non-Resident Indians, can play in accelerating the pace of development in the country. In the 1980s, the NRIs contribution through their remittances was instrumental to a large extent in stabilizing the balance of payment situation. Several initiatives have been taken to attract NRI investments - in industry, shares and debentures. The NRIs are allowed 100% investment in 34 priority and infrastructure facilities on non-repatriation basis. Approval is given automatically on investment in certain technical collaborations. They can buy Indian Development Bonds and acquire or transfer any property in India without waiting for government approval. The Foreign Exchange Regulation Act has been amended to permit NRIs to deal in foreign currency and they can also bring in five kg of gold. There are programs to utilize the scientific and technical talents of the NRIs with the help of the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.


In view of their crucial importance, power, transport and other infrastructure industries are owned by the State. As a result of special attention given to the area in recent years, the infrastructure industries have been growing at the rate of 9 to 10 per cent annually.

Power: The generation of power has increased impressively in recent years. In 1990-51, India generated 6.6 billion-kilowatt hour of electricity, in 1995-96 the figure was 380.1 billion-kilowatt hour. The installed capacity, which was 1400 MW at Independence in 1947, has crossed 83,288 MW The policy of inviting private sector has been well received; about 140 offers that can generate over 60,000 MW of power have came in.
  Coal: Coal is the primary source for power generation in India. The country has huge reserves of coal approximately 197 billion tons. A sufficient amount of lignite (brown coal used in thermal power stations) is also available.

India produced about 270 million tons of coal in 1995-96. The government now welcomes private investment in the coal sector, allowing companies to operate captive mines.

Petroleum and Natural Gas: The recent exploration and production activities in the country have led to a dramatic increase in the output of oil. The country currently produces 35 million tons of crude oil, two thirds of which is from offshore areas, and imports another 27 million tons. Refinery production in terms of crude throughput of the existing refineries is about 54 million tons.

Natural gas production has also increased substantially in recent years, with the country producing over 22,000 million cubic meters. Natural gas is rapidly becoming an important source of energy and feedstock for major industries. By the end of the Eighth Five-Year Plan, production was likely to reach 30 billion cubic meters.

Railways: With a total route length of 63,000 Kin and a fleet of 7000 passenger and 4000 goods trains, the Indian Railways is the second largest network in the world. It carries more than 4000 million passengers per year and transports over 382 million tons of freight every year. It is well equipped to meet its demands for locomotives, coaches and other components.

Lately, the Railways have launched a massive gauge conversion drive as about a third of the track is meter or narrow gauge. With improvement in tracks, plans are afoot to introduce faster trains. Very soon, certain prestigious long distance trains will be running at 160 Kin per hour.

The Railways have also started a scheme to privatize several services that will include maintenance of railway stations, meals, drinking water and cleaning of trains.

Road Transport: The roadways have grown rapidly in independent India . Ranging from the cross-country link of the national highways to the roads in the deepest interiors, the country has a road network of
  2.1 million-km. India also manufactures most of its motorized vehicles -cars, jeeps, trucks, vans, buses and a wide range of two-wheelers of various capacities. While Indian scooters have established a good foreign market, the car industry is also looking up with several foreign companies setting up plants in India .

Shipping: The natural advantage of a vast coastline requires India to use sea transport for the bulk of cargo transport. Following the policy of liberalization, the Indian shipping industry, major ports, as also national highways and water transport have been throw open to the private sector.

Shipping activity is buoyant and the number of ships registered under the Indian flag has reached 471. The average age of the shipping fleet in India is 13 years, compared to 17 years of the international shipping fleet. India is also among the few countries that offer fair and free competition to all shipping companies for obtaining cargo. There is no cargo reservation policy in India .

Aviation: India has an aviation infrastructure, which caters to every aspect of this industry. Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) is India 's gigantic aeronautical organization and one of the major aerospace complexes in the world.

India 's international carrier, Air India , is well known for its quality service spanning the world. Within the country, five international airports and more than 88 other airports are linked by Indian Airlines. Vayudoot, an intermediate feeder airline, already links more than 80 stations with its fleet of turboprop aircraft and it plans to build and expand its network to over 140 airports in the far-flung and remote areas of the country. Pawan Hans, a helicopter service, provides services in difficult terrain.

The Government has adopted a liberal civil aviation policy with a view to improving domestic services. Many private airlines are already operating in the country.

Pipelines: Oil and natural gas pipelines form an important transportation network in the country. The country completed recently, on schedule, one of its most ambitious projects, the 1700 km Hazira-Bijaipu Jagdishpur pipeline. Costing nearly Rs. 17 billion, the pipeline transports liquid gas from the South Bassein offshore field off Mumbai to Jagdishpur and Aonla, deep in the mainland in Uttar Pradesh. Besides, India has nearly 7,000 km of pipeline mainly for the transportation of crude oil and its products.

Telecommunications: With rapid advances in technology, India now uses digital technology in telecommunications, which derives advantage from its ability to interface with computers. The present strategy focuses on a balanced growth of the network rapid modernization, a quantum jump in key technologies, increased productivity, and innovation in organization and management. Moving towards self-reliance, besides establishing indigenous R&D in digital technology, India has established manufacturing capabilities in both the Government and private sectors.

The private sector is expected to play a major role in the future growth of telephone services in India after the opening of the economy. The recent growth in telecommunications has also been impressive. Till September 1996, the number of telephone connections had reached 126.1 lakh (12.6 million). Soon every village panchayat will have a telephone. By 1997, cellular services in most major urban areas were functional, and telephone connections were available on demand. India is linked to most parts of the world by E-mail and the Internet.

Key Industries

Steel: The iron and steel industry in India is over 122 years old. However, a concerted effort to increase the steel output was made only in the early years of planning. Three integrated steel plants were set up at Bhilai, Durgapur and Rourkela . Later two more steel plants, at Bokaro and Vishakhapatanam, were set up. Private sector plants, of which the Tata Iron and Steel Company (TISCO) is the biggest, have been allowed to raise their capacity. The Steel Authority of India (SAIL), which manages the public sector plants, has undertaken a Rs. 40,500 crore program to modernize them. During 1995,96, production of salable steel in the country was about 21.4 million tons. The five SAIL plants accounted for over half of this: The export of iron and steel jumped from 9.10 lakh tons in 1992-93 (valued at Rs.'708 crore) to over 20 lakh tons (Rs. 1940 crore).

TISCO and a large number of mini steel plants in the country contribute about 40% of the steel production in the country. The Government has given a push to sponge iron plants to meet the secondary sector's requirement of steel scrap.

Engineering and Machine Tools: Among the Third World countries, India is a major exporter of heavy and light engineering goods, producing a wide range of items. The bulk of capital goods required for power projects, fertilizer, cement, steel and petrochemical plants and mining equipment are made in India . The country also makes construction machinery, equipment for irrigation projects, diesel engines, tractors, transport vehicles, cotton textile and sugar mill machinery. The engineering industry has shown its capacity to manufacture large-size plants and equipment for various sectors like power, fertilizer and cement. Lately, air pollution control equipment is also being made in the country. The heavy electrical industry meets the entire domestic demand.

Electronics: The electronics industry in India has made rapid strides in recent years. The country produces electronics items worth over Rs. 200 billion annually. Exports are also rising; in 1995-96 they reached Rs. 4.5 billion. The software export during the same year reached Rs 2.5 billion. Compared to 1994-95, the software export growth in 1995-96 rose by an impressive 70%. The Software Technology Park scheme for attracting investments has proved successful. The relative low cost of production in India makes items made in India competitive in the world market.

Some of the major items manufactured in India are computers, communication equipment, broadcasting and strategic electronics, television sets, microwave ovens and washing machines.

The compound growth of the computer industry has been 50% during the last five years. Almost the entire demand for floppy disk drives, dot matrix printers, CRT terminals, keyboards, line printers and plotters is met from indigenous production. With the availability of trained technical manpower, computers have been identified as a major thrust area. Special emphasis has been given to software export.

The Indian software industry has developed skill and expertise in areas like design and implementation of management information and decision support systems, banking, insurance and financial applications, artificial intelligence and fifth generation systems.

Recognition for the Indian computer software industry has been global. Indian software enterprises have completed projects for reputed international organizations in 43 countries.

Textiles: Textiles, the largest industry in the country employing about 20 million people, account for one third of India 's total exports. During 1995-96, textile exports were estimated at Rs. 35,504.6 crore which was 13.3% more than the 1994-95 figure. In recent years, several controls have been removed and in October 1996, a new long-term Quota policy was announced to boost exports over the next three years, till 1999.

Public Sector: The public sector contributed to the initial development of infrastructure and diversification of industrial base. It is now being exposed to competition. Part equity of some units is being disinvested. But many core and strategic areas, important for economy and self-reliance, will remain in the public sector.

Research and Development

Research and Development activities are supported by the governments at the Center and the states as well as by public and private sector undertakings. The Department of Scientific and Industrial Research recognizes over 1200 in-house R & D units. About 200 research laboratories exist in government departments and agencies. The benefits of the R & D works are reaching various fields like industry, agriculture and commerce.

Planning for Development

The Planning Commission headed by the Prime Minister, draws up five-year plans under the guidance of the National Development Council to ensure growth, self-reliance, modernization and social justice. Its role has been redefined in the eighth plan document: from a centralized planning system, India is moving towards indicative planning which will outline the priorities and encourage a higher growth rate. The Rs. 4,000 billion eighth plan envisaged a growth rate of 5.6%.

Traditional Industry

Indian handicrafts have withstood competition from machines over the years. The skills are passed on from one generation to the next. The handicraft and handloom sector is a major source of rural employment and earns substantial foreign exchange. Traditional textiles are as popular abroad as they are within the country. The major export items include hand-knotted carpets, art metalware, hand-printed textiles and leather, wood and cane wares

Science & Technology
Atomic Energy, Space, Oceanography, Bio-Technology & Electronics


The tradition of Science and Technology (S & T) in India is over 5000 years old. A renaissance was witnessed in the first half of the 20th century. The S&T infrastructure has grown up from about Rs. 10 million at the time of independence in 1947 to Rs. 30 billion. Significant achievements have been made in the areas of nuclear and space science, electronics and defense. The government is committed to making S&T an integral part of the socio-economic development of the country.

Param", the parallel super computer developed by India

India has the third largest scientific and technical manpower in the world; 162 universities award 4,000 doctorates and 35,000 post-graduate degrees and the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research runs 40 research laboratories which have made some significant achievements.

In the field of missile launch technology, India is among the five top nations of the world.

Science and technology, however, is used as an effective instrument of growth and change. It is being brought into the mainstream of economic planning in the sectors of agriculture, industry and services. The country's resources are used to derive the maximum output for the benefit of society and improvement in the quality of life. About 85 per cent of the funds for S&T come directly or indirectly from the Government. The S&T infrastructure in the country accounts for more than one per cent of the GNP. S&T in India is entering a new frontier.

Atomic Energy

The prime objective of India 's nuclear energy program is the development and use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes such as power generation, applications in agriculture, medicine, industry, research and other areas.

India is today recognized as one of the countries most advanced in nuclear technology including production of source materials. The country is self-reliant and has mastered the expertise covering the complete nuclear cycle - from exploration and mining to power generation and waste management. Accelerators and research and power reactors are now designed and built indigenously. The sophisticated variable energy cyclotron at Calcutta and a medium energy heavy ion accelerator 'pelletron' set up recently at Mumbai are national research facilities in the frontier areas of science.

As part of its program of peaceful uses of atomic energy, India has also embarked on a program of nuclear power generation. Currently eight nuclear stations are producing 8 billion kilowatt of electricity. Four more nuclear power stations are planned. The new nuclear reactors are designed in India . The peaceful nuclear program also includes producing radioisotopes for use in agriculture, medicine, industry and research.


The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO), under the Department of Space (DOS), is responsible for research, development and operationalisation of space systems in the areas of satellite communications, remote sensing for resource survey, environmental monitoring, meteorological services etc. DOS is also the nodal agency for the Physical Research Laboratory which conducts research in the areas of space science, and the National Remote Sensing Agency which deploys modern remote sensing techniques for natural resource surveys and provides operational services to user agencies. India is the only third world country to develop its own remote sensing satellite.

India joined a select group of six nations on October 15, 1994, when the Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) successfully accomplished its mission of placing the 800-Kg remote sensing satellite, IRS-P2, in the intended orbit. Earlier in May, the fourth developmental flight of the Augmented Satellite Launch Vehicle (ASLV) achieved its mission by placing the 113 Kg SROSS-C2 scientific satellite in a near-earth orbit. India is well on its way to developing a Geosynchronous Satellite Launch Vehicle (GSLV) capable of putting 2000 Kg satellites into space. The Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is currently trying to develop an indigenous cryogenic engine GSLV. A GSLV model has already been tested in wind tunnel.

The INSAT series of satellite launched earlier are performing well and provide vital services for telecommunications, television, meteorology, disaster warning and distress detection. The latest INSAT series will include new features like Ku-band transponders and mobile satellite services transponders. The remote-sensing satellites, launched in 1988 and 1991, have already become the mainstay of the natural resource management system of the country. The projected launch of advanced remote sensing satellite will not only enhances the scope of their application, but will also offer commercial service to other countries.

The Indian achievement in the application of space-based remote sensing technology has led a US company to enter into an agreement for marketing the data from Indian satellites globally.

India 's progress in space technology has attracted worldwide attention and demand, with leasing agreements for marketing of IRS data and supply of space hardware and services. India also believes in cooperation in space with agencies all over the world. A high-level UN team selected India for setting up a UN Center for Space Science and Technology Education. India is on the threshold of achieving self-reliance in the launch capability. It will be a befitting tribute to the father of the Indian space program, Dr. Vikararn Sarabhai, whose 80th birth anniversary was observed in August 1996.


The Department of Electronics plays the promotional role for the development and use of electronics for socio-economic development. Many initiatives have been taken for a balanced growth of the electronics industry. The basic thrust has been towards a general rationalization of the licensing policy with an emphasis on promotion rather than regulation, besides achieving economy of scale with up to date technology. A multi-pronged approach has been evolved for result-oriented R&D with special emphasis on micro- electronics, telematics, and high performance computing and software development.

Application of electronics in areas such as agriculture, health and service sectors has also been receiving special attention. For upgrading the quality of indigenously manufactured products, a series of test and development centers and regional laboratories have been set up. These centers for electronic design and technology help small and medium electronics units. A number of R&D projects have been initiated to meet the growing requirements of the industry.


India has a coastline of more than 7,600km and 1,250 islands, with its Exclusive Economic Zone covering over 2 million sq. km and continental shelf extending up to 350 nautical miles. The Department of Ocean Development was established in 1981 to ensure optimum utilization of living resources, exploitation of non-living resources such as hydrocarbons and minerals, and to harness ocean energy. Two research vessels, ORV Sagar Kanya and FROV Sagar Sampada, are assessing and evaluating the resource potential.

Survey and exploration efforts have been directed to assess seabed topography, and concentration and quality of mineral nodules. In August 1987, India was allotted a mine site of 150,000 sq. km in the central Indian Ocean for further exploration and development of resources. India is the only developing country to have qualified for Pioneer Status by the UN Conference on the Law of the Sea in 1982, and it is the first country in the world to have secured registration of a mine site.

India has sent 13 scientific research expeditions to Antarctica since 1981, and has established a permanently manned base, Dakshin Gangotri. A second permanent station, an entirely indigenous effort, was completed by the eighth expedition. The objective is to study the ozone layer and other important constituents, optical aurora, geomagnetic pulsation and related phenomena. By virtue of its scientific research activities, India acquired Consultative Membership of the Antarctic Treaty in 1983 and acceded to the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources in July 1985. India is also a member of the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research, and has played a significant role in adopting a Minerals Regime for Antarctica in June 1988. A National Institute of Ocean Technology was set up for the development of ocean -related technologies. It is also responsible for harnessing resources of the coastal belts and islands.


India has been the forerunner among the developing countries in promoting multi-disciplinary activities in this area, recognizing the practically unlimited possibility of their applications in increasing agricultural and industrial production, and in improving human and animal life. The nucleus of research in this area is the National Biotechnology Board, constituted in 1982. A Department of Biotechnology was created in 1986.

Recently, the Biotechnology Consortium India Lt. was set up. It will play the role of catalyst in bridging the gap between Research and Development, Industrial and Financial Institutions. Some of the new initiatives taken include developing techniques for gene mapping, conservation of biodiversity and bioindicators research, special biotechnology programs for the benefit of the scheduled castes and scheduled tribes and activities in the area of plantation crops.

The areas, which have been receiving attention, are cattle herd improvement through embryo transfer technology, in vitro propagation of disease resistant plant varieties for obtaining higher yields, and development of vaccines for various diseases.

Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR)

CSIR was established in 1942, and is today the premier institution for scientific and industrial research. It has a network of 40 laboratories, two cooperative industrial research institutions and more than 100 extension and field centers. The Council's research programs are directed towards effective utilization of the country's natural resources and development of new processes and products for economic progress. It is now playing a leading role in the fulfillment of the technology missions evolved by the Government