Consisting of 25 individual states, each with their own very distinct history, geography and culture, India is one of the most diverse lands in the world. From its border with China in the north, it stretches over 3,000 km to Sri Lanka in the south. The majority of the extreme north of the country is cut off from the rest of Asia by the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, but it also shares a border with Nepal. In the northeast it shares borders with Tibet, Bangladesh and Bhutan, with Burma in the east and on the west it is border by the Arabian Sea and Pakistan.
Home to over one billion inhabitants, India is the second most populous country in the world – only China has more citizens – and it is expected that the Indian population will surpass the Chinese one in the next two decades. As you can appreciate in a country of this size, therefore, the vast amount of cultural diversity within the country is beyond anything you can imagine. Six main ethnic groups - the smaller ones are innumerable- twenty-four different languages, fourteen of which are official as well as hundreds of minor linguistic groups and seven major religions combine to make it one of the most interesting places you will ever visit.
Religion actually plays a major role in India’s daily life. The birthplace of two of the worlds greatest religions – Hinduism and Buddhism – as well as one of the smallest, Jainism, there are countless different religions being practised in the country at the moment. Hinduism is the dominant faith being practised by about 80% of the population, 10% or so practise Islam and 5% are made up of Sikhs and Christians. The remaining 5% which consists of about 45 million inhabitants practise Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Bahaism as well as many more.
As well as the aforementioned cultural diversity, however, the geographical and historical contrast to be found throughout the country is also one which you won’t forget in a hurry. In fact it is the former which has largely shaped the latter. Due to its position between the East and the West, it has been a feeding ground for invaders throughout the decades. The Greeks, the Chinese, the Arabs, the Portuguese and the British all made their own raids on this land which was virtually isolated from the rest of Asia. In fact it was its isolation which also shaped its cultures and traditions because once people actually made it into the country they found that getting out wasn’t quite so easy.