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India will humble, awe, frustrate, amaze, and intimidate - all in the same day. Home to the world's most ancient culture and spectacular medieval architecture; sacred rivers and crowded streets; religious rituals and endless traffic jams; aristocratic tigers and casteless untouchables; jewel-encrusted tombs and pavement-bound beggars; ancient traditions and modern-day scams -- there is so much to take in. Whether you're here to soak up India's spirituality, chill out on the beaches, rejuvenate at an Ayurvedic spa, or live like a king in the land of princes, will help you experience the very best India has to offer.

It is impossible not to be astonished by India. Nowhere on Earth does humanity present itself in such a dizzying, creative burst of cultures and religions, races and tongues. Every aspect of the country presents itself on a massive, exaggerated scale, worthy in comparison only to the superlative mountains that overshadow it. Perhaps the only thing more difficult than to be indifferent to India would be to describe or understand India completely.

With nearly 1 billion citizens, India is the second most populous nation in the world. It is impossible to speak of any one Indian culture, although there are deep cultural continuities that tie its people together. English is the major language of trade and politics, but there are fourteen official languages in all. There are twenty-four languages that are spoken by a million people or more, and countless other dialects. India has seven major religions and many minor ones, six main ethnic groups, and countless holidays.

India's extraordinary history is intimately tied to its geography. A meeting ground between the East and the West, it has always been an invader's paradise, while at the same time its natural isolation and magnetic religions allowed it to adapt to and absorb many of the peoples who penetrated its mountain passes. No matter how many Persians, Greeks, Chinese nomads, Arabs, Portuguese, British and other raiders had their way with the land, local Hindu kingdoms invariably survived their depradations, living out their own sagas of conquest and collapse. All the while, these local dynasties built upon the roots of a culture well established since the time of the first invaders, the Aryans. In short, India has always been simply too big, too complicated, and too culturally subtle to let any one empire dominate it for long.
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