Sights and Activities: What is there to do?
Errrr… just a bit! The following is an overview of some of the sights and activities of various interests and a broad variation to give just a flavour, a small hint of what is available to see and do.
Safari to see the Bengal tiger: Jeep, entrance and guide Rp 3180 (£45). Available in many places through north and central India. The highest probability of seeing a tiger however is in Bandhavgarh national park. Again as this is India planning is essential so you get there and have the best chance of making the trip count. We, unfortunately failed.
The Elephant Festival: A unique event held in Assam in mid February. Elephants are groomed to perfection, and walk a catwalk before an enthralled audience. The elephants move in procession, run races, play games of various kind.
Elephant ride: Often as part of a safari, which incurs additional costs before elephant hire (approx rs 600/ £8.75). Before heading to India planning an elephant ride was top of the agenda. However while travelling for half a year we realised that many of the elephants are badly treated and under nourished. Not all, but it is important to keep animal welfare in mind. Often the short journey’s lasting 30 minutes up and down the same track are the biggest culprits for mistreating their beautiful Indian elephants, as it is a low price, high volume business that requires the hardest work for the animal.
Find out what is happening and connect with others who have visited India:
Diwali: Festival of light that is famous throughout the world. If you are in India in November you will see it.
Rathyatra: Chariot festival celebrated for 8 days is held at the famous Jagannath Temple at Puri (Orissa).
Kaziranga National Park: Located in Assam is inhabited by the world’s largest population of one-horned rhinoceroses, as well as many mammals, including tigers, elephants, panthers and bears, and thousands of birds.
Pongal: Harvest festival of the Southern States, like Kerala notes feasting and shedding of old household items which are collectively burnt.
Ganga Dussehra: During this festival ten days of the month are devoted to the worship of Holy River Ganga venerated by the Hindus as a mother as well as a goddess.
Kumbh Mela: If you are around then this is a must. Held every 12 years for the full Mela and every 6 for a half Mela (2010 was a half Mela). An inclusive Hindu festival celebrated by tens of millions. People across the country bathe in the spiritual waters of the Ganges, Shipra and Godavari rivers. See kumbhamela.net for more info.
Holi: The festival of colour involves getting soaked in coloured water. Bring a change of clothes.
Teej Festival: One of the most popular festivals of India. Teej is widely celebrated, but its real charm can be found only in Jaipur, Rajasthan. It celebrates the arrival of monsoon (July- Aug), after the scorching sun of summers with processions to celebrate Goddess Parvati.
Chaitra Navrati: Navratri, the festival of nine nights is celebrated with true devotion and purity all over the country, by visiting temples and offering pujas at the Mother’s feet.
Ganesh Chaturthi: A festival during Aug/ Sept that sees large idols of Ganesh being produced and sold, worshipped for 10 days and then cast off into the sea. Sweets and dancng are abound in this fun filled ocassion. In several states of India, but especially in Maharashtra (e.g. Mumbai) clay idols of Ganesh in varying sizes are made and sold.
Mechuka Gompa: The popular Tibetan Buddhist temple in Basar, is a census town, and a shelter for tribal communities like Adi, Memba and Khamba.
Pushkar Camel Fair: Held in Rajastan every year during Oct/ Nov, with numerous random contests and trading, all combined with a yearly spiritual dip in the Pushka for Kartik Purnima.
Ajanta Caves: The most ornate caves and popular to visit, these Hindu monsteries date back to 2nd century BC.
Situated atop the Nilachal Hills of Assam, Kamakhya is an ancient seat of Tantrik and Shakti cults of Hinduism. A small distance from Kamakhya temple is Bubhaneshwari temple from where one can have a panoramic view of the Brahmaputra River and the city.
These are the sights and activites we saw and give the associated costs as of the time of writing 2010 (using an average of 67 Rs to the pound):
Ellora Caves: 250 Rs (3.73 pounds)
Dalautabad (Fort): 200 (2.98 pounds)
Taj Mahal: 750 (11.19 pounds)
Boat Ride down the Ganges in Varanasi: 90 (1.35 pounds)
Yoga for 2 hrs over 2 days in Varanasi: 400 (5.97 pounds)
Banjakri Falls Gangtok: 17 Rs (25p)
Steam Train in Darjeeling: 240 Rs (3.58 pounds)
Cooking course in Varanasi: 225 Rs (3.35 pounds)