The history of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilisation, which flourished in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent from 3300 to 1700 BC. This Bronze Age civilisation was followed by the Iron Age Vedic period, which witnessed the rise of major kingdoms known as the Mahajanapadas. In the 6th century BC, in two of these kingdoms, Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born.
The subcontinent was united under the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. It subsequently became fragmented, with various parts ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next ten centuries. Its northern regions were united once again in the 4th century AD, and remained so for two centuries thereafter, under the Gupta Empire. This period was known as the ""Golden Age of India."" During the same time, and for several centuries afterwards, India, experienced its own golden age under the rule of the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas, during which Hinduism and Buddhism spread to much of south-east Asia.
Islam arrived at the subcontinent early in the 8th century AD with the conquest of Baluchistan and Sindh by Muhammad bin Qasim. Islamic invasions from Central Asia between the 10th and 15th centuries AD brought most of northern India under the rule of, at first the Delhi Sultanate and later of the Mughals. Mughal rule, which ushered in a remarkable flowering of art and architecture, came to cover large parts of the subcontinent. However, several independent kingdoms, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, flourished contemporaneously, especially in southern India. Beginning in the mid-18th century and over the next century, India was gradually annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, after which India was directly administered by the British Crown and witnessed a period of both rapid development of infrastructure and economic decline. During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, and later joined by the Muslim League. The subcontinent gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, after being partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan.
Within India you will find you can be staying in a variety of accommodations as myriad as the landscape, from a humble home stay with a local family, a tented jungle camp or a heritage hotel to luxurious and historical palaces. We use a variety of places and those we have personally visited to ensure your stay is as comfortable and wonderful as possible. Apart from the very luxurious chain of hotels, most of the accommodations will be privately run and often owned and passed down from generation to generation. You will find yourself most welcomed by your hosts throughout your stay.
Facilities therefore will vary– but one can expect en suite facilities and all essentials as standard in most places. In remote or rural areas electricity from the grid can be sporadic at night. Normally a generator is used as back up at most of the wildlife camps and some of the luxury camps now have hotel-like facilities including internet connection and air conditioning.
India has a three-season year - the hot, the wet and the cool. The heat starts to build up on the northern plains around February and by April it becomes unbearable - expect 35-45°C (95- 113°F) days in most places. The first signs of the monsoon appear in May, with high humidity, short rainstorms and violent electrical storms. The monsoon rains begin early in June in the extreme south and sweep north to cover the whole country by early July. The monsoon doesn't really cool things off, but it's a great relief - especially to farmers. The main monsoon comes from the southwest, but the south-eastern coast is affected by the short and surprisingly wet north-eastern monsoon, which brings rain from mid-October to the end of December. The main monsoon ends around October, and India's northern cities become crisp at night in December. In the far south, where it never gets cool, the temperatures are comfortably warm rather than hot.
Indian society is affected by strong religious beliefs with a large population of Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs and Christians. The importance of different religions and their effect on daily life and the culture of the country over the centuries have meant that Indians and Westerners often find it extremely difficult to communicate and understand one another.
Indian cuisine varies greatly from region to region. In the north of India, it tends to be somewhat similar to Arabic cuisine whereas in the south the food is generally spicier, and more vegetarian dishes are eaten. The ingredients used in these dishes depend on the religious background of the people and on the region in question. In the south rice is eaten with every meal, but in the north breads predominate.
A great deal of time is needed to prepare an Indian meal. All dishes are made with fresh foodstuffs only. The various spices are ground into a paste everyday. It is interesting to know that curry powder frequently used in the West is never used in India. This rather flavourless mixture is a legacy of colonial times. Curry leaves on the other hand are often used and impart a wonderful aromatic flavour.
It is wise not to drink the tap water; use bottled water instead, or boil water before drinking. We would also recommend you to take water purification tablets with you as a precaution if you are travelling to more remote areas. Avoid taking ice in cold drinks, and do not eat salad and vegetables unless you are eating in a major international hotel or restaurant.
It is considered auspicious to make donations at sacred sites like the monasteries and temples. It is a common sight of people seeking alms at religious sites to receive money from Indian worshippers as a gesture of their faith and humility. However, the donations and the amount to be donated are not obligatory.
Begging is a normal practice. While giving to the needy and the physically handicapped is a good practice, we do not encourage begging. There is no need to feel pressured to give, even if crowds of beggars approach you and struggle to get your attention.
You will be surprised by the power of bargaining. Bargaining is a way of life throughout Asia. It is important that you do not over pay for anything. Your guides can make recommendations about what a fair price is. Never suggest the price for yourself in the beginning. Wait for the storeowner to quote a price before you start bargaining.
The official language in India is Hindi, although English is widely spoken.
Respect for elders is a keystone of Indian culture. This genuine acknowledgment of seniority is demonstrated through endearing customs, such as sitting to the left of elders, bringing gifts on special occasions, not sitting while they are standing, not speaking excessively, not yawning or stretching, not putting one's opinions forward strongly, not contradicting or arguing, seeking their advice and blessings, giving them the first choice in all matters, even serving their food first.
Female tourists should be aware of the offence which may be unwittingly caused by wearing certain western clothing – therefore it is best advised to avoid shorts and skimpy t-shirts, unless you are on the beaches. Men should also wear long trousers as a mark of respect when visiting certain areas. Anyone visiting a holy place should observe tradition: in other words, no shoes in temples or mosques, appropriate clothing and no photographs. Also, covering your head when visiting Sikh temples is necessary.
Hindus usually place their palms together, in front of their chest, as a form of greeting. Then, they bow their head and say “namaste” or “namaskar”.
Modern Indian women have no qualms about shaking hands with Western women. They may not want to shake hands or engage eye contact with men who are not known to them.
Displays of affection between men and women are not usual in public.
One should never pass anything with one's left hand, as this is the unclean hand, used after the visit to the bathroom.
The lowest, dirtiest part of the body are the shoes, as one walks on the dirty streets in them. For this reason, one should always remove one's shoes before entering a temple, mosque or a person's home."
There is a luggage allowance in full service airlines like Air India which is approximately 23 kg per person on most Economy Class flights. The Business Class allowance is about 30kg. The allowances can vary, depending on the airline, and we can advise the exact amount when you book. Low cost airlines like Spice Jet, Indigo, Goair and Jetlite have only 15 Kg allowance and they charge approximately four US dollars per kg of extra luggage. Hand luggage is usually restricted to one piece per person and should not be larger than 55cm x 40cm x 20cm and should not weigh more than 7 kg. Luggage can get thrown about a little so make sure you carry any breakables in your hand luggage and they all should be lockable. Also make sure you allow plenty of space to pack in all those gifts and curios you will buy on your holiday.
Trips are best enjoyed if you are reasonably fit and healthy. Some of your most enjoyable experiences will be walking in wilderness and tribal areas and to appreciate this in warm climates it is good to be reasonably fit.
There are medical facilities in most large cities and the better hotels and lodges have doctors on call.
There are no compulsory vaccinations required for visit to India. However as a sensible precaution, the following vaccinations are recommended: Cholera, Typhoid, Tetanus, Hepatitis, Meningitis (particularly if trekking) plus Malaria protection.
We recommend that you check with your doctor for individual requirements.
A simple but adequate medical kit can be very useful while traveling. Please make sure you have enough medicines to last during your trip, as well as a copy of the prescription(s) or letter from your health-care provider explaining that the medication has been prescribed for you. Always carry medications in their original containers, in your carry-on luggage. Make sure to bring along over-the-counter anti-diarrhea medication (e.g., bismuth subsalicylate, loperamide) and an antibiotic prescribed by your doctor to self-treat moderate to severe diarrhea.
Yes, travel insurance is compulsory. Dharma Adventures asks, as a condition of accepting your booking, that you take out a comprehensive personal insurance policy, which covers you for sickness, accident, loss of baggage and trip cancellation (this may mean an extra premium). For trekking clients, it’s important that the policy covers you for the unlikely event of evacuation by plane or helicopter. If you have optioned rafting, the policy must cover this as well. We will provide you with a certificate, which should be accepted by your insurance company, if you need to claim.
When you are away, things might go wrong!
We do provide evacuation specialists and assistance specialists. Insured clients have 24 hours access to our doctors and nurses in the cities and towns, but can be organized at the earliest time in the mountain if paid for.
Existing medical conditions must be declared and will probably incur an additional premium. If you do not declare, claims will be refused.
The Indian rupee is the official currency. Obtaining rupees outside India before your departure is not possible and unnecessary. We would advise carrying from approx about $300 to $500 cash per person - in small denominations and a credit card (most well known cards are acceptable) for supplementary monies. On arrival we advise changing a small amount of money for your immediate needs at airport or hotel. (There is hardly any difference in rate of exchange between Banks, Hotels, Money Changers.) Indian currency notes circulate far longer than in the West and the small notes in particular become very tatty. You may occasionally find that when you try to pay for something with a ripped note, your money is refused. You can change old notes for new ones at most banks. However, it is best to refuse tatty notes from shops/vendors. Keep a supply of smaller denomination notes - there is a perpetual shortage of small change. It is also useful to keep lower denomination notes as tip money.
Most of the larger hotels in India will accept major credit cards such as American Express, MasterCard, Visa and Diners Club. Some of the smaller ‘Heritage Hotels’ do not accept Visa cards. There is a growing number of ATM machines in the major cites which is useful and a relatively quick way to draw cash.
Your safety is paramount at all times and it is important to ensure you do not wander far from guides unless escorted by a member of staff when walking in wilderness areas on the borders of parks, particularly Kanha. It is quite normal for animals to wander into these areas. You will be given a full briefing about safety and the very best way to see and appreciate India.
Tipping is always a concern for travellers. In India, tipping is very common and expected, but there are no fixed rules for the amount of the tip. If someone is providing an extra service or favour for you, a tip would be expected and welcome.
The expectations are quite high when they see a foreigner. Waiters, room-service attendants, housekeepers, porters, and doormen all expect to receive one.
We advise you to ask for some small change in the denomination of rupees ten, twenty and fifty when you change your money into Indian rupees.
The electricity voltage in India is 220 AC 50 cycles. It is advised that you bring a universal travel adaptor. India uses 2 pin round plugs that may vary in size. Power cuts can be common, and back up generators provide essential cover when this happens.
Some restaurants and hotels offer free WiFi while some require a paid password protected system. The connection however may be slower than expected. While going to remote areas outside the main cities, WiFi may not be available.