You see me on TV, hear me on radio and you read about me in newspapers as I unfold myself in varying moods. At times, I blossom like a multi-hued flower and yield like a moody river. Some other times, I am bathed in blood. I am your curious next-door neighbour, a daughter dreaming in gay abandon, a rural mother kneading dough in dusk, or just myriad emotions of an urban young who brings a paycheck to his hungry, despairing home every month. That’s me, your country, that’s who I am.
I have evolved over time, warding off invaders who have pilfered many homes with remorseless efficiency. They came riding horses, sailing ships and flying fighter jets. They had drawn blood then, they are drawing blood now. They hit me with disdain and greed. But they couldn’t stop my heart from beating… they couldn’t sever the lifeline of millions. They cannot, ever.
If you be from where the Himalayas peak to where land merges into blue water, you will find me in every step, in every easy or toiled breath you take – simmering beneath you with pain and happiness, hope and despair. I am yours as much as you’re mine. I am your country; find me in your heart while there is time.
The majestic Himalayan ranges form a fortress on the North, while I reach out into the extensive oceans. If you imagine a topography, I have it exclusively for you somewhere in my thirty odd states. Mountains, Plateaus, Forests, Deserts, you just name it. I also treasure diverse religions, cultures and traditions.
Like cells of a body, states constitute my identity.
Jammu and Kashmir forms my crown, with terrain varying from arid mountains in the far north to the lake country and forests near Srinagar and Jammu. The holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi attracts many pilgrims to this state. The topography has a rugged character of its own, rocky, yet green. The views would sweep you off your feet. The Kashmir Valley is a prime tourist attraction, justifiably named “Switzerland of India”. Beautiful Mughal gardens, the challenging Ladakh and Leh Valley, the serene Daal Lake, the spicy cuisine of fiery red curries and much more await you here.
Move south along the Indus river, the landform becomes flatter, widening into the fertile plains of Punjab to the west and the Himalayan foothills of Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh. Agriculture continues to be a prime occupation even today. Crops and cereals of Bajra, Makki, Rabi and sugarcane are exported all over the country and the world. Leather and hosiery industries of Punjab are famous too. The Golden Temple, The Jalianwala Bagh, Borders at Fazilka and Wagah stand quiet testimonies to the tyranny of English rule and my religious heritage. The city of Chandigarh, shared with Haryana, is an architectural wonder. Oh, don’t miss the lassi made by my Punjabi children for anything in this world!
River Ganges flows to the East through Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh, two states known for religious tourism at Haridwar, Rishikesh, Rudraprayag, Varanasi, Allahabad, Mathura and likewise. Beautiful hill stations, Mussourie, Dehradun and Landsdowne are also popular destinations for their comfortable climate. Agra has created a prestigious spot for me on the global map, with Taj Mahal on the banks of River Yamuna featuring among the Seven Wonders of the World.
Chamba, Dalhousie, Shimla, Palampur, Kangra, McLeodganj and many a hill station is speckled over the state just north of Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh. The industrial belt of Solan houses factories and plants of business giants.
My political capital, Delhi is the tiniest entity among its counterparts. Its size not withstanding, Delhi houses the maximum number of vehicles, which is greater than that of other metropolitan cities combined. History reverberates in the monuments that date back to Mughal rule. Some are well maintained while some quietly await their turn when the authorities would wake up. This is also the city that represents all my parts, with migrants from all corners.
A large part of Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, and Rajasthan forms the National Capital Region of Delhi, the nucleus of my political power and development.
The legacy of heritage flows into Rajasthan, wherein beautiful forts await you. Traditional arts such as Bnadhni, Natural Dyes and Mirror embroideries coupled with spicy and delicious foods would make your stay memorable in the state. The desert of Jaisalmer is one of my largest, and you must enjoy a camel ride!
Gujarat showcases a characteristic culture in its traditions, strongly affected by Parsi traditions. The milk products of Gujarat are famous globally. This is my strongest willed child. Natural calamities such as earthquakes have shaken the state, riots have ripped it apart, but it has pulled itself together. Today, more and more industries are locating themselves in Gujarat, and a very bright future is just round the corner.
My western wing is dominated by Maharashtra, the state of Chhatrapati Shivaji and many warriors. Mumbai, its capital, is a city where many an Indian have found his future and worldwide fame. Bollywood, my prime film industry, is located here. Sachin Tendulkar, the cricketer who has records of world records, hails from Mumbai.
The coastal line of Maharashtra extends into Goa, Daman and Diu towards the north. Picturesque beaches, sea breeze, sea food, Portugese architecture, fun and prolic, peace and tranquility would characterize your experience.
My Southern parts, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Pondicherry form my peninsula, with the tip at Kanyakumari. Beaches, plains, hill stations, reserve forests, temples you have it all. The temples have a characteristic architectural style of towering entrances, called Gopurams. The local languages could be a challenge, but my children can speak English good enough to converse with you. The houseboats of Kerala, misty hills of Coimbatore, calm Covalam beach in Trivandrum, Golconda fort in Hyderabad, the brave Tipu Sultan’s palace in Mysore, Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry form highlights of this area. The mighty hills of Western Ghats form my fortress against the oceans and winds across them.
If you slide your finger southwards from West Bengal and eastward from the Western Ghats, you would land on a crescent of islands, called Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Detached from urban chaos, this is a place where tranquility is personified. The blue ocean, the palm trees, the sparsely populated habitation, the wild life and the tribals .. you are surely going to have an experience of a lifetime.
Right above the Deccan peninsula, lies Madhya Pradesh, which has the largest area under its jurisdiction. Located centrally like a diamond, this state reflects bits of all regions around it. Do visit the imposing Marble Rocks at Jabalpur, National Forest in Ranthambore and the cosy hill station in Panchmari, with many waterfalls.
On the eastern side, are the twin sisters, Bengal and Bihar. Unfortunately in Bihar, the focus has not been too much on tourism. But the state houses tremendous potential.
Jharkhand, formerly part of Bihar, is the address for Hazaribagh, a national forest and Nalanda, the world famous university that dates back to the days of Lord Buddha, is in Bihar. Madhubani is an obscure village, but the indigenous Madhubani style of paintings are world famous. The land is rich in minerals, and Jamshedpur, the city founded by the Tata family, is a jewel of Bihar.
On the East lies West Bengal, recently rechristened as “Paschim Banga”. The River Ganges bifurcates into River Hooghly on one side and moves out of the state. River Hooghly forms the lifeline of this state as the staple diet is based out of agriculture and pisciculture. On the extreme south is Sunderbans, where the land merges into the sea amidst deltas. The majestic Howrah Bridge and Victoria Memorial in Kolkata are few examples of the architectural wonders of the state. India’s Nobel Laureates, R.N. Tagore and Amartya Sen, both hail from this state. The educational institutes, handicrafts, music, art and culture of Bengalis are famous; the maximum limelight, however, have been dominated by their love for sweets!
Wedged between Bengal and Andhra Pradesh, is Orissa (or Odhisa). Your trip to this state is incomplete unless you have been to the Chilka Lake, bird sanctuary at Gopalpur, the Sun Temple of Konark and the Jagannath Temple of Puri.
As I reach out over Bangladesh, a part of myself, cordonned off by cruel military boundaries, I house seven of my states on the North East. They huddle around each other and Bangladesh, as if to protect each other. I touch Nepal, Bhutan and China, along the edge, try to spread the message of love, peace and harmony. You shall witness tribal life in its true colours in Nagaland, Mizoram, Tripura, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh, Meghalaya and Assam. The handicrafts of this region along with folk dances would take you to another world you cannot conceive of without being there yourself. Shillong is a pretty hill station in Meghalaya where the clouds descend to meet you and in Cherrapunji, you would experience rainfall out of the blue.
Last but not the least, there is Sikkim on the north of West Bengal, sharing the Himalayan ranges. It is a picturesque state where you get breathtaking views of Kanchenjungha, Mt Everest and other snow clad peaks. I share international boundaries on three sides of this state, yet the state is peaceful. The hills are famous for gurgling waterfalls, and lush green foliage.. but look out for a tumbling boulder during the monsoons!
I am India, united by the diversity of the parts of my soul. I am India, waiting for you to discover my secrets yourself. I hope this has been able to act as a trailer, and soon, your bags would be packed in search of the unknown. Take care.