Regions in India
India is administratively divided into 29 states and 7 union territories. The states are broadly demarcated along linguistic lines. They vary in size; the larger ones are bigger and more diverse than some countries in Europe. The union territories are smaller than the states – sometimes consisting of only one city – and have much less autonomy.
India has two island chains off the mainland – the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and the Lakshadweep Islands in the Arabian Sea.
These states and union territories are divided by convention into the following regions:
- The North of the Himalayas (Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand).
Mountainous and beautiful, a destination for the adventurous and the spiritual. This region contains some of India’s most visited hill stations and religious sites.
- The Plains (Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh)
The plains, India’s breadbasket, are watered by the holy rivers Ganges and Yamuna and their tributaries. This region is also home to the capital Delhi, Agra with its famous Taj Mahal, and the holy cities of Allahabad, Mathura, Varanasi, and Bodh Gaya. Many of the events that have shaped India’s history took place in this region.
- Western India (Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan).
The kilometer-long Thar Desert. Home to the colorful palaces, forts, and cities of Rajasthan, the country’s most vibrant and largest city, Mumbai, home to the Bollywood film industry and the country’s business center, the fascinating rock caves of Ajanta and Ellora in Maharashtra, pristine forests, the beautiful beaches of Goa, the Asiatic lions of Gujarat in the Gir jungle and the rapidly developing cities of Ahmedabad, Surat, Jaipur, and Pune.
- South India (Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, Telangana).
South India offers famous and historic temples, tropical forests, backwaters, beaches, hill stations, and the vibrant cities of Bangalore, Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, and Hyderabad. The city of Mysore is world-famous for its palaces, especially the Mysore Palace. The island groups of Andaman & Nicobar (in the east) and Lakshadweep in the west are included in this region for convenience, but they are far from the mainland and have their own unique features.
- Eastern India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Odisha, Sikkim, West Bengal).
Economically less developed, but culturally rich and perhaps most inviting to outsiders. With Kolkata, once the capital of British India, and the temple towns of Puri, Bhubaneswar, and Konark. The region stretches from the mountains to the coast, resulting in fascinating climate variations. It is also the mineral repository of India, with the largest and richest mines in the country.
- North-Eastern India (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura).
Insular and relatively untouched, this is the tribal corner of the country, with lush, beautiful landscapes, endemic flora, and fauna of the Indo-Malay group and famous for tea gardens.
Cities in India
These are nine of the most remarkable cities in India. For more cities, see their respective regions.
- Delhi – the capital of India and the heart of North India
- Bangalore (Bengaluru) – the garden city, once the sleepy home of retirees, has been transformed into a city of pubs and high-tech companies
- Chennai (Madras) – the most important port in South India, cultural center, the automobile capital of India, and a rapidly emerging IT center
- Hyderabad – known for pearl and diamond trade, now with a large manufacturing and financial institutions and a growing IT sector
- Jaipur – This pink city is an important showcase for the Hindu Rajput culture of northern India in the Middle Ages.
- Kochi (Cochin) – the Queen of the Arabian Sea, historically a center of international trade, today the gateway to sandy beaches and backwaters
- Kolkata (Calcutta) – the cultural capital of India, known as the “City of Joy” and home to numerous colonial buildings
- Mumbai (Bombay) – the largest city and the financial capital of India, the city that never sleeps, home of “Bollywood”, the Hindi film industry
- Varanasi (Banaras or Kashi) – considered the holiest Hindu city, located on the banks of the Ganges, one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world
Other destinations in India
India has many outstanding landmarks and areas of outstanding beauty. Here are some of the most remarkable.
- The main temple complex at Bodh Gaya, the place where Buddha Sakyamuni attained enlightenment, including the Mahabodhi Temple
- Ellora/Ajanta – spectacular rock-carved cave monasteries and temples, a sacred place for the Buddhists, Jains, and Hindus.
- Golden Temple – a sacred site of the Sikhs in Amritsar
- Hampi – the awe-inspiring ruins of the Vijayanagara Empire
- Temple complexes in Khajuraho, famous for their erotic sculptures
- Konark – Sun Temple, a unique example of Kalingan architecture that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Meenakshi Temple – a spectacular Hindu temple in Madurai.
- Taj Mahal – the incomparable marble tomb in Agra, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World