If you are planning to visit South Asia, then be sure to consider India as one of your stops. There definitely is a lot to see, taste and experience while in this highly cultural republic.
Indians are widely known for their expertise in medicine (Ayurveda), mathematics (the invention of ZERO), and rich cultural beliefs. Their food has been embraced and duplicated all over the world but you will only get the opportunity to taste it first hand in its country of origin.
Above all else, spending your gap year in India will present you with the opportunity to leave with a mind opening experience. No other culture in the world is as rich as what India bestows upon us!
Prolific Architectural Designs
If there is something that Indians have well perfected, it is complex yet outstanding cultural designs. Spending your gap year in India will make that very clear! A visit to your local temple will grant you a bit of insight into what this is all about. Having a first-hand experience of this is definitely going to leave you mesmerized. Their attention to detail and the ability to produce original, yet flawless crafts of shrines and buildings is worth the attention.
Some of the sights and places worth paying a visit to while in India include Taj Mahal, Lotus Temple, Konark Sun Temple, Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus Railroad, Agra Fort and much more. Most of the buildings and monuments with outstanding architectural designs are traditional and hold rich history, created the people’s ancestors. The beauty of the Indians is that they hold on to this cultural ability and continue producing outstanding works.
Only a handful of nations have and honor their historic monuments and objects. India is one of them. This guarantees that there will not be a dull moment when you visit this country. On tour around the nation, you will be greeted by opulent palaces, majestic structures and ancient forts that hold rich historic background around almost every corner. These depict tales of love/romance, battles, bravery, and strength.
There are certain monuments that hold rich historic culture that will hand you a handful of tasty experiences. These include the Taj Mahal Agra, one of the world’s seven wonders. It was built in the year 1632 by Shah Jahan for his late wife, who was the love of his life, Mumtaz Mahal. It took him 22 years to complete and it stands today as one of the best structures in the world. It is said that Shah Jahan cut off the hands of all the workers who helped build the structure to prevent them from ever duplicating the monument.
Agra Fort, another historic sight to see, was built in 1565. It is entirely built using red sandstone. The red fort Delhi was also built by Shah Jahan for over 10 years, from the year 1638-1648. It is where the President gives his speeches on Independence Day.
Qutub Minar, the first muslim kingdom, is definitely a sight worth visiting. The Indo-Muslim architecture displayed on this monument is unmatched and is dotted with carvings and rich verses of the Quran in Arabic and Nagari. Other history-rich places to visit include:
- Humayun’s Tomb in Delhi
- Fatepuhri Sikri in Uttar Pradesh
- Hawa Mahal in Jaipur
- Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh
- Sanchi Stupa, Madhya Pradesh
- Konark Temple Odisha
- Mahabodhi Temple in Bodh Gaya
- Rani Ki Vav, Gujarat
- Mahabalipuram in Tamil Nadu
The Hawa Mahal:
Just like their culture, Indians are known to remain loyal to their traditional foods. Their staples include Basmati rice with just about every dish. Their food is of course, spicy but delicious as well. They incorporate a rich blend of spices and herbs into their meals so you may want to hold back if you have a sensitive tummy. Some of their favorite spices are curry, coriander, turmeric, cardamom, dried cinammon, dried hot peppers, and many others. However, some of their dishes are mild with minimal spices, yet still delicious.
Some of the foods worth giving a try are Vada Pav, Masala Dosa, Aloo Parantha, Biryani, Rogan Josh, Chaat, Roti, Gulab Jamun, Pav Bhaji, Dhokla, Chicken Curry, Indian Bread, Samoa, Bhajia, Idli-Sambar, Gajar Ka-Halwa, Tandoori Chicken and much more. You can also expect to find international foods from fast food restaurants such as McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut and others.
Cultural, Traditional and Religious Beliefs
When visiting such a culturally-rich country such as India, it is best that you familiarize yourself with the people’s traditional and cultural beliefs. You should realize or study would could be considered offensive to them. A simple gesture such as patting a female acquaintance on their back could be translated the wrong way.
India is the birthplace of Buddhism and Hinduism, which are the fourth and third largest (respectively) religions in the world. Almost 84% of its citizens identify as Hindu, but there are several variations of it. However, there also are Christians and Muslims as well.
Their traditional wear is the famous and colorful sari for the women and dhoti for the gentlemen. Dhoti is a unstitched piece of garment that’s tied around the waist and legs. The Kurta, a knee length long shirt, is also a traditional wear for men. During special occasions, men are known to wear a long coat with buttons running up to the neck, known as Sherwani. A Nehru jacket is also worn on special occasions and a short version of the Sherwani.
The largest and most important holiday in India is Diwali, which lasts for 5 days and all businesses are known to be closed during this festival. You may also hear this holiday being termed as ‘the festival of lights’. The different lights lit during this time symbolize inner light which protects them from spiritual darkness. Holi, also known as the festival of colors, is also an important holiday for Indians. It is also termed as the festival of love and is celebrated during the spring.
Most Indians are vegetarians so you may notice a lot of herbs and vegetables in their diets. However, not everyone is a vegetarian and this group of people is well catered for in their rich and internationally recognized meat such as chicken tandoori. Cows are believed to be religiously holy, so expect to brush shoulders with a few of them in the streets. These remain untouched and to some people, eating beef in public is considered a sign of disrespect to cows.
If you are seriously considering your gap year in India, check out more interesting facts about India HERE! Also, spending your gap year in India means being up-to-date on shots and vaccinations which you can check out here.