Photos of India
full country name Republic of India
capital New Delhi
population 1025.1 million (as of 2001)
surface area 3287300 sq km
currency rupee (RE, plural: RS)
exchange rate US$ 1 = RS 45 (as of April 2004)
language Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, ...
main religion 81% Hindu
Internet users 0.49% (as of 2000)
India - how exciting! What was it like? What are the people like there?
I wish I could simply say to you "Great!" I wish I could reiterate other travellers who enthusiastically report "I loved it! I saw A, B, C, and did D, E, F. I definitely want to go back for G, H, I ... (more)
Breaking Point
India is a country in which seemingly senseless cultural/societal "ways-of-doing" day in and day out cumulatively have the power to unleash a furious helplessness and out-of-controlness. This ... (more)
The Indian Railway Crossing
Get there in a car, with a cycle-rickshaw, or on a bus. It does not matter how, as long as you get there. Drive a luxury 4WD SUV or steer an oxcart. Ride a bicycle or take an autorickshaw. Walk ... (more)
A Perfect Day
For breakfast, a glass of saffron-flavored makhania lassi, thick and sweet, at the Shri Mishrilal Hotel in Jodhpur and masala dosa with excellent mint chutney, sambar, and rasam from ... (more)
A Hippo in India
Bikaner. - Today Amar Circus is in town. A circus in India - what an unbelievable experience this will be? Snake charmers who insert a living snake into one nostril until it comes out through ... (more)
Our route through India
Our route...
Cones of colorful powders for religious ritualsThe tiger - India's national animal
Ancient art formThe only tools are the artist's skillful hands and vegetable powders
Decorating the entrance for the evening's Kathakali playMake-up is an integral part of Kathakali performances
Arches of the Lotus MahalGetting distracted from fishing
Finished within a dayStreet vendor
Tug-of-war against the brute force of the Arabian SeaPowerful waves of the Arabian Sea crash against the shore
Vivekananda Memorial at the meeting point of the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of BengalTrekking in the hills of the Kodagu
Is the sign working?Tea plantations near Ooty
The bangle maker is coloring, heating, and shaping wax into red rings to fit on the inside of metal or wooden bangles which are worn for all occasions
No explanation needed
At the exquisitely symmetrical Taj Mahal, white marble with pietra dura (inlay of semiprecious stones) harmoniously dazzles the sensesHavelis are large, multi-family residences with an outer courtyard to receive guests and a private inner courtyard
"I am not afraid!"Shimla's Christ Church is the second oldest in Northern India
"When I grow up, I will snatch handbags just like my Mom!"Blue traditionally indicated homes of Brahmins in Jodhpur but it is also used by non-Brahmins today
all photos © gM
November 12th, 2003, we arrived in Chennai after traveling for one and a half days and staying one night in Singapore. We stayed in India for three and a half months, visiting the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka, passing through the metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Delhi, attending a wedding in Kalka just north of Chandigarh, touring Rajasthan in the northwest of India, and admiring the Taj Mahal in Agra at sunrise. On February 27th, 2004, we left India for Austria. On April 6th, 2004 we returned to India for an additional week before flying to New Zealand.

Tamil Nadu. - We spent two and a half weeks in this state at the southeast of India. We began our days with mouth-wateringly satisfying (masala) dosa before visiting ancient forts, palaces, and Hindu temples in Mamallapuram, Thanjavur, Kumbakonam, Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, and Padmanabhapuram. Sarangapani Temple in Kumbakonam, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple in Tiruchirappalli, and Sri Meenakshi Temple in Madurai may be the most rewarding to visit, but with a little bit of luck, one could come across a unique experience at any of the places listed above. The worthwhile teak and granite palace of Padmanabhapuram lies in Tamil Nadu, but actually belongs to Kerala.

At the southernmost tip of India at Kanyakumari, fishing boats with cone-shaped sails bring in the catch from this meeting place of the Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal. On two rocks just offshore, the memorial of Swami Vivekananda (an important Hindu philosopher and monk) imposingly stands. Mahatma Gandhi's ashes were scattered into the three seas at Kanyakumari, and in the city there is a memorial where his ashes were kept. This, coupled with the well-done Gandhi Memorial Museum in Madurai, allows anyone to understand why the greatness of this man is still undisputed even more than half a century after his assassination.

With a nostalgic steam train, we reached pleasant Ooty, a 2200m high hill station in the Western Ghats mountain range. We visited a tea factory and a eucalyptus oil distillery while trekking through tea plantations, villages, the Forestry Department Nature Reserve, and Toda tribal land.

Kerala. - The two weeks in this state at India's southwest were a wonderful mix of sandy beaches, wildlife watching, and cultural events. The touristy village of Kovalam impressed us mainly because of its fantastic fusion cuisine and the opportunity to witness a traditional way of fishing. After a boat drops the fishing net 250m offshore, two groups of men on the beach pull on heavy ropes to bring in the net. As the net draws close to shore, a third group in the middle jumps up and down in the water to prevent the fish from escaping. Varkala and its scenic red cliffs, on the other hand, won in all other categories - beautiful sunsets over the Arabian Sea, palm trees, and gawker-free beaches with white sand, massive waves, and strong currents.

After boating on the backwaters of Kerala from Kollam to Alappuzha and to Kottayam, we traveled by bamboo raft and trekked in the Periyar Tiger Reserve in order to see wild Indian elephants (from a distance), wild boar, lion-tailed macaques, sambar deer, and recent tiger tracks in the mud and claw marks on a tree. Back on the coast, Kochi was very much worth a visit thanks to Kathakali and hand painting with vegetable colors. Kathakali means "story play" and is an ancient dance-theater art form of Kerala with elaborate make-up and costumes, as well as sophisticated hand gestures, facial expressions, and dizzying eye movements. Hand painting is similar in concept to sand mandalas, and does not use any tools except for the artist's skillful hands and differently colored powders. White comes from rice, green from the leaves of the vaga tree, black from the ash of burnt rice husk, red from the mixture of turmeric and limestone from shells, and yellow from turmeric. Within a couple of hours, the artist painted on the floor an astonishing two-by-two meter portrait of the goddess Kali by letting the powders drizzle down from his hands and layering color over color.

Karnataka. - During our month in Karnataka, we spent three weeks in the south, covering Bangalore, Mysore, and the hills around Madikeri. Bangalore, the capital of Karnataka, is as modern as a city can be in India and a good place to shop, reliably develop and scan slide film, and get a dog bite sorted out. Mysore's charm has more to offer to travelers with its market, its view from Chamundi Hill, the Maharaja's Palace, the rather well-kept Mysore Zoo, and outstanding day trips to nearby locations such as the Hoysala temples at Somnathpur. The Kodagu area around Madikeri offers opportunities for enjoyable and easy-going trekking with scenic views. On our way to Mumbai through the north of Karnataka, we traveled back in time to the ruins of the Vijayanagar empire in Hampi, the ancient cave temples of Badami, and the Islamic monuments of Bijapur. The unique, boulder-strewn hills around Hampi create an intriguing atmosphere in which one is enticed to explore the ruins for a few days. The cave temples are indeed amazing, but Badami also gets our prize for the most expensive Indian town in which to connect to cyberspace.

Mumbai, Delhi, and a Wedding in Kalka. - In mid January, we reached Mumbai where we enjoyably dined, where the bathrooms at the Taj Mahal Hotel were the epitome of heavenly exceptions to usual toilet (non-)facilities, where the Gateway of India is still Mumbai's wanna-be tourist landmark, and where as in the rest of India, poverty cannot be but prevalent. Hundreds of dhobi-wallahs at Mahalaxmi Dhobi Ghat are a sight one must see to truly grasp. Mani Bhavan is a highly recommended Gandhi museum in the house in which Mahatma Gandhi used to live for seventeen years, and Chowpatty Beach is still Chowpatty Beach.

Delhi greeted us with cold and rainy weather. On the one hand, this was good as we did not have to carry heavy backpacks because we were wearing everything we had brought with us. On the other hand, this was bad as the Red Fort needs clear blue skies and bright sun to look impressive and not depressing. In Kalka, half an hour north of Chandigarh and at the beginning of the train line to the hill station of Shimla, we had the firsthand opportunity to participate and closely observe a wedding from the perspective of the bride's family. In addition to the wedding day itself, we were involved in the joyful as well as serious ceremonies leading up to the wedding day as well as the wind down after. Back in Delhi at the beginning of February, we spent most of our time in the Connaught Place area, running errands and recuperating from our colds.

Rajasthan. - Two weeks were far too short for this magnificent desert state filled with havelis (colorfully painted houses), castles, and garhs (forts). Homestays are an ideal way to connect with some of the friendliest people in India, and we were lucky enough to spend time at such homestays wherever we went in Rajasthan - Nawalgarh, Bikaner, and Jodhpur. From the 18th to the early 20th centuries in Nawalgarh and the surrounding Shekhawati region, wealthy merchants built huge havelis to show off their fortunes and bring color to this arid environment. In Bikaner, Junagarh is worth one's time, and so were the festive evenings with BBQed chicken and rum at our homestay. One hundred and eighty kilometers south, Mehrangarh impressively towers over the blue city of Jodhpur, and the fort's massiveness and awe-inspiring beauty, combined with it being the best organized attraction we have seen in India, ensured a more than satisfying visit.

Agra. - At the end of February at sunrise, we were the first ones through the entrance gate and had the Taj Mahal to ourselves for ten whole minutes before the hordes arrived. Despite its popularity and astronomical entrance fee, the Taj Mahal is an absolute must. The elegant symmetry of the outside perfectly reflects the morning light, and the interior's finely crafted inlaid gems form floral designs as exquisite as one will ever find. Agra Fort and Fatehpur Sikri pale in comparison to the Taj Mahal, but are still formidable sights by themselves.

Shimla, Delhi, and a day in Kalka. - In April, we finally visited Shimla, a hill station in the foothills of the Himalayan range. We enjoyed the train ride to the hill station through more than 100 tunnels and over almost 900 bridges. We relaxed in cooler weather, strolled through the streets, and watched honeymooners, travelers, and many monkeys. After a wonderful day in Kalka, we returned to the blistering heat of Delhi where we walked along the Rajpath from India Gate (Delhi's versions of the Champs Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe) to Rashtrapati Bhavan (the official residence of India's president), and visited Safdarjang's and Humayun's Tombs.