Officially known as the Republic of India, India is a large country in South Asia. In terms of physical size, India is the seventh biggest country on the planet, covering an area of over 1.2 million square miles ). It is also one of the most populous, being home to over 1.3 billion people, making it the second largest country on Earth in terms of population. CDC information for travelers. Hours/availability may have changed.


1.Overview

Overview
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India has shore line along the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal, and has land borders with China, Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and Pakistan. India also has the sixth biggest economy in terms of nominal GDP and is regarded as one of the world's fastest growing countries, undergoing a lot of development in recent years but still facing issues regarding healthcare, education, and poverty.

India is known as a highly spiritual and religious place, with religions like Buddhism and Hinduism originating and developing in India, and the country being home to many ancient temples and religious sites, as well as examples of extraordinary architecture like the Taj Mahal and fascinating natural areas and landmarks like the Ganges River. The country is divided up into 29 states and 7 union territories; read on for some info on its biggest cities.

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2.The Largest City in India - Mumbai

The Largest City in India - Mumbai
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Mumbai, once known as Bombay, is the capital city of Maharashtra, a state located in the central-western part of India. Mumbai is the largest city in India in terms of population, with a general city population of over 12.4 million and an estimated metropolitan population of over 21 million.

Mumbai is a coastal city, being located on the Konkan coast, and is classed as the wealthiest city in the country, being home to more millionaires and billionaires than any other location around India.

Mumbai is also home to some interesting historical sites and touristic landmarks like the Elephanta Caves, the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, the Bandra-Worli Sea Link bridge, and the Gateway of India monument. It is the major financial and entertainment capital of the country, well-known as the home of 'Bollywood'.

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3.The Second Largest City in India - Delhi

The Second Largest City in India - Delhi
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Delhi, officially known as the National Capital Territory of Delhi, is the second largest city of India. Part of Delhi is New Delhi, which is the capital city of India, and the whole Delhi metropolitan area stretches out across a total of 573 square miles (1,484 square km).

The city of Delhi is home to over 11 million people, with its entire metropolitan area housing over 26 million people, making it the biggest metro area in India and the second biggest on the planet.

Delhi has history dating back hundreds of years and was founded in the northern part of India. This city is a key cultural, political, economic, and educational center for India, being the second wealthiest city in the country and one of the most productive metro areas in all of Asia.

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4.The Third Largest City in India - Bangalore

The Third Largest City in India - Bangalore
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Bangalore, which is officially known as Bengaluru, is the third largest city in India. This city is located in the state of Karnataka in the southwestern part of the country and is actually the capital city of the state.

Bangalore stretches out across around 270 square miles (700 square km), but its full metropolitan area extends over 3,000 square miles (8,000 square km). The city is home to over 10 million people in total.

The official name of Bangalore, Bengaluru, comes from the Kannada language but was anglicised to Bangalore during times of British colonial rule in India. In 2014, however, the city was officially renamed to Bengaluru but is still known under its anglicised name in many parts of the world.

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5.The Fourth Largest City in India - Hyderabad

The Fourth Largest City in India - Hyderabad
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Hyderabad is the fourth biggest city in India in terms of population. This city is located in the state of Telangana, which is located in the southern-central part of the country. Hyderabad is the state capital of Telangana and is also recognized as the capital of the Andhra Pradesh state as well.

Hyderabad was founded on the banks of the Musi River and covers around 250 square miles (650 square km) of land, being home to around 7.7 million people in its full metropolitan area, with about 6.8 million living in the city itself according to the latest estimates.

A key entertainment city for India, Hyderabad is home to the Telugu film industry and also has a past as a key pearl and diamond trading location, even earning the nickname 'City of Pearls'. Nowadays, Hyderabad is also a key science and research location, being home to various scientific institutes and research centers.

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6.The Fifth Largest City in India - Ahmedabad

The Fifth Largest City in India - Ahmedabad
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Ahmedabad is the fifth biggest city in India. It is located in the state of Gujarat in the western part of the country. It was once the state capital of Gujarat, but has since been replaced by Gandhinagar. Ahmedabad was founded on the banks of the Sabarmati River and is less than twenty miles away from Gandhinagar, so there are close links between the two cities.

Ahmedabad covers an area of almost 180 square miles (460 square km) and is home to around 5.6 million people in total, with around 6.4 million in the full metropolitan area, according to the latest statistics.

Ranked as one of the fastest-growing cities in India, Ahmedabad has also been classed by travel experts and Indian authorities as one of the best cities to visit in India, with its historic district becoming the first UNESCO World Heritage City in all of India.

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5 of the Largest Cities in India



More Ideas: India’s Holi Festival

India holds the annual Holi festival to celebrate the triumph of good over evil, specifically when the demon Holika was burned and destroyed thanks to the people’s undying devotion to Lord Vishnu, the Hindu god of preservation. It’s also known as the “Festival of Colors,” a name given by Lord Krishna (one of Lord Vishnu’s many reincarnations), who was fond of playing pranks on little girls by soaking them in water and all kinds of colors.

The festival also marks the culmination of the winter season and beginning of spring as well as the anticipation of the harvest season.

When is Holi celebrated?

There’s no fixed date for the Festival of Colors. Rather, it’s based on the lunar calendar and held one day after the full moon in March. In 2018, for example, Holi happeedn on March 2. A day before that is called the Holika Dahan, when bonfires are lit on the eve of Holi. In future years, the dates are as follows:

- 2019: Holi on March 21, Holika Dahan on March 20

- 2020: Holi on March 10, Holika Dahan on March 9

As an exception, the states of Odisha and West Bengal celebrate the Holi festival as Dol Purnima or Dol Jatra, which is the same day as the Holika Dahan. This practice is quite similar to Holi in that they are dedicated to Lord Krishna. The difference, however, lies in the mythology behind it.

Where is it celebrated?

The festival is actually celebrated in most parts of India, with some places having more prominent celebrations than others. The main day of Holi is mostly spent celebrating – the religious rites and more serious activities are performed in the days before. Here are some places definitely worth visiting during Holi:

- Barsana: The women of Nandgaon and Barsana celebrate Holi by beating men with sticks. This is a ritual known as the Lathmar Holi. This happens a week before the date of celebrating Holi.

- Mathura: 40 days before the main day of Holi, the temple towns of Vrindavan and Mathura already celebrate the festival. These locations are significant because Lord Krishna was born in Mathura, while Vrindavan was his childhood town.

- Shantiniketan, West Bengal: The idea of celebrating Holi as part of the spring festival or Basanta Utsav started when Rabindranath Tagore, a famous Bengali poet and a Nobel Laureate, introduced it to Vishva Bharati University after he was inspired by the colors of Holi. During this time, students don spring colors and host lively cultural programs for visitors to enjoy. It is an occasion that attracts many tourists.

- Purulia, West Bengal: Yet another Basanta Utsav festival, this one runs for three days, leading up to the actual day of Holi. Here, tourists sing and play with the locals and are exposed to a wide selection of local folk art. Tourists can come here by train from Kolkata and get to stay in tents during the whole celebration.

- Anandpur Sahib, Punjab: This is where you can experience Holi as originally intended by the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh. Instead of throwing around colors, they celebrate Holi by a show of physical prowess, such as martial arts, wrestling, acrobatic exercises, and mock sword fights.

- Udaipur: The Mewar royal family observes Holika Dahan in a way that only royalty could. Those who go there will witness a magnificent procession going from the royal residence to the City Palace in Manek Chowk. This will all be concluded by the ceremonial burning of an effigy of Holika.

- Mumbai: In spite of its image as a slum, Dharavi celebrates Holi as a community that tourists can be a part of. There, visitors can tour the community in a safe and friendly environment that’s filled with colors and music. Worthy of note is the fact that 80% of the proceeds from the celebration are used to help the Dharavi locals.

- Delhi: If you want to experience Holi at its liveliest, go to Delhi, where simply going out on the day of the festival will get you covered in colors from the moment children or shopkeepers see you outside. You might also want to join the Holi Moo Festival (formerly the Holi Cow Festival), which is filled with colors and music by both local and international groups. It’s all safe and the colors are non-toxic, so go ahead and enjoy the celebration with locals and tourists alike.

- Jaipur: Celebrate Holi with elephants as the people of Jaipur host elephant beauty contests, tug-of-war games between elephants, and more. There are also folk dances and other attractions. Although the pressure from animal rights groups has reduced the number of elephant-related activities, you’ll still be able to see these enormous creatures during the Holi season.

There are many places where Holi is celebrated prominently. But because Holi is mainly a festival of North India, most of the celebrations are held there. In South India, Holi is more focused on religious rites held within temples, except in Karnataka, where the whole town gets festive during the morning before the people wash off the colors at the end of the day.

Some helpful tips:

- If you’re out to enjoy Holi, you’re sure to get soaked in many colors, so try to wear old clothes or the kind you can afford to get discolored, since some of the paint might be impossible to wash off.

- Because Holi is a time when people loosen up, some of the local men tend to go overboard. Women should be careful as they might be harassed by men who are already drunk. If possible, avoid going solo.

- Go out during the day and try not to stay out too late. Don’t worry, most hotels host their own special Holi celebrations to give their guests a safe place to celebrate at night.

- Make a habit of protecting your eyes or keeping your mouth shut so you don’t accidentally get any colored powder in your mouth. While most of the paint and coloring are non-toxic, it’s better to be safe by protecting yourself.

You can only learn so much about India’s Holi festival by reading about it. The best way to understand their culture is to experience Holi yourself.

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Applying for an Indian Visa for US Citizens

All nationalities, US Citizens included, have to apply for a Visa if they want to travel to India. It’s a long but otherwise easy-to-learn process that just takes some getting used to. The process may vary slightly depending on your purpose for the visit, as well as the kind of visa you’re applying for. There’s also the matter of different ways of applying for the same kind of Visa, so you need to familiarize yourself with those as they might prove useful in the future.

Needless to say, the best way to learn about all this is to visit the official website of the Consulate General of India, as their information is official and updated.

Getting a Short Term Visa

India’s Short Term Visa can be applied for and acquired via application on arrival or E-Visa.

The brand new E-Visa system is currently the most practical means of getting an Indian Visa for all US Citizens. Successful applicants will then get a visa that’s good for sixty (60) days of travel. Although people call the E-Visa as a kind of “visa on arrival” it is far from that - you still need to apply in advance.

American citizens are among the 161 nationalities that can apply for an Indian E-Visa. Those who have the E-Visa can enter India through the Cochin, Mangalore, and Goa seaports as well as 24 airports of the country. E-Visas have three subcategories, namely the e-Tourist Visa, e-Business Visa, and the e-Medical Visa.

Applying for an Indian Visa Online

Getting an E-Visa starts with going to India’s official government website:

https://indianvisaonline.gov.in/.

The entire process is all done online and you’ll get your Visa via email which you have to print and bring with you when you go to India. The visa will then be attached to your passport. This really makes planning holidays to India a lot quicker since you don’t have to send your passport and wait for two weeks processing. You just need to get used to filling out the forms and filing the paperwork asked of you. Any mistake could cause you to go through the whole process again.

Note: If your parents and/or grandparents were born in Pakistan, you need to apply for the visa through traditional methods, as you won’t be allowed to apply for an E-Visa regardless of your current nationality.

Long Term Indian Visas

India is a pretty big tourist destination, so there will be US travelers who will want to have longer vacations. So if you plan on staying in India for more than 2 months, then you’ll want to get a long term visa, which entails a different process. You’ll have to send off your passport from the US through Cox and Kings for processing.

US citizens are lucky enough to be able to apply for a visa that lasts up to 10 years, much longer compared to the 6-12 month visas other nationalities can get. This is especially useful if you plan on flying in and out of the country over long periods of time. Of course, these require a lot more requirements since they are different from the typical tourist visa.

One of the more notable requirements is that the passport must be at least 6 months valid at the time of the application and must have two blank pages for the stamp.

Tourist Visa Costs

When talking about costs, it’s important to remember that the actual amount needed may vary between different nationalities, occupations, and other factors. The rates may even increase each year. At some point, the 10-year multiple entry visa for US passport holders would cost around $120, but now they cost $150. These fees include admin fees.

Paying for the visa and getting it approved are two different things, though. So make sure you comply with all the requirements as these fees are non-refundable.

Applying for a 5 to 10 year Tourist Visa with Cox and Kings

Before getting a visa via Cox and Kings, make it a point to read the site’s official Visa Application Guide thoroughly so you know what to expect. Thankfully, the CKGS official website adjusts to your nationality so you will get the information and requirements that apply to US citizens.

Pay extra mind to the Document Checklist, which you must print and attach to your application. You might want to print two copies so you can use one to help you track your progress with complying with all the documents while the other gets attached to the application.

Make sure you have the following details before starting with the process:

- Travel Itinerary

- Complete Info on previous trips to India

- Countries you’ve visited in the last 10 years

- Approximate date of the trip

- Proof of address

Applying for a Visa via Post or Personally

Whether you apply by post or in person, you will still have to start with Cox and Kings and NOT with the Indian Consulate Website. As before, familiarize yourself with the process first before jumping into anything.

When ready, start the online process and fill out the form. It’s a bit detailed and will take a lot of time. Follow instructions and details meticulously so as not to void the form. Finally, keep in mind that every person must apply for his or her own Visa.

Important Questions on the Form

- Center to apply With: You will have to choose the right application center depending on where you live. Thankfully, this is chosen for you the moment you pick your state and residence.

- Family Information: Make sure to be as accurate as possible. Also, keep in mind that the process will be different if you have parents or grandparents who were born in Pakistan.

- Payment Method: You can either pay via credit card either online or through the designated Center. Cash payments, however, are only accepted for walk-in applicants. Each applicant must pay separately, including minors. You can’t pay with personal checks. Don’t forget the receipt.

- Reference Numbers: Keep them, as they are essential for keeping track of your application’s status.

Finally, the whole process would usually take about five to ten working days, give or take a few. Because of this, you should make it a point to apply for your visa for no less than 15 days prior the travel dates. Make sure to follow the requirements for claiming your passport if you didn’t opt to have it shipped to you.

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