Ten fascinating facts about India to whet your appetite for travel

India is one of those countries that offers endless opportunities to discover new places and learn new things. Before booking your next flight to India, take time to sit back and enjoy our list of fun and fascinating facts about one of the world’s most enticing holiday destinations

Who lives in India?

India is the world’s second most populous country, with almost 1.4 billion people making it their home. Numbers this big allow for a rich diversity of cultures, religions and communities living side by side. India’s main religions are Hinduism, which is followed by almost 80% of the population, Islam, which is the faith of around 14 per cent. Christians, Sikhs and Jains largely make up the remaining six per cent.

What languages do they speak?

Such is the diversity to be found in India that there are around 23 official languages spoken across the different regions. Hindi is the most widely spoken and is the official language of the central government in India. All the other languages are considered to be of equal importance and much effort is put into helping children learn to communicate in them from a young age.

The illustrious history of the sari

Saris are colourful outfits worn by Indian women as part of traditional Indian dress. They come in a variety of vibrant colours, patterns and fabrics and date back to at least 3000BC. Brides often wear red saris to symbolise prosperity and fertility. Saris can be draped and arranged around 100 different ways and can range from 3.5 yards to over nine yards in length.

Indian weddings are a sight to behold

Indian weddings are bright, colourful occasions that run for several days. Celebrations begin with a private ceremony called the Ganesh pooja, just for the couple and their close family members and friends as they start their journey towards married life. Next comes the Mendi, when henna painted on the hands and feet of the bride and her female relatives in intricate, symbolic patterns. An evening of music and dancing follows that, known as the Sangeet, with the main marriage ceremony and reception taking place the next day.

Who was Mother Teresa?

Macedonian nun, Mother Theresa spent 17 years living and working in India, amongst some of the poorest of the country’s population. She became a nun at the age of 18 and founded the Order of the Missionaries of Charity. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work in 1979 and was canonised by the Catholic church in 2016 as Saint Teresa of Calcutta.

Who was Indira Gandhi?

Indira Gandhi was India’s first female prime minster and so far, the only woman to take the role. She served for eleven years from 1966 to 1997, inspiring women and girls the world over. Indira Gandhi was then re-elected in 1980 before being assassinated just four years later while still in post.

India on the world economic stage

India has a successful economy and is the world’s third largest in terms of purchasing power. Its currency is the rupee, and there are harsh restrictions on bringing it into and out of the country. Notes all carry the image of the famous Indian leader, Mahatma Gandhi, and are printed in 15 different languages. Each rupee denomination note is printed in a different colour.

Bring on Bollywood

India is the home of Bollywood, a colourful, lively film industry that is based in Mumbai. It Is the world’s largest film industry and is characterised by productions depicting singing and dancing in bright costumes. More than 1,500 Bollywood movies are produced each year and some of its leading names are among the best paid actors in film.

Tea with staying power

Indian tea has its origins in 750BC, when the first mentions of its existence were recorded. Tea was consumed as a vegetable dish for ages before the 18th Century, when the arrival of the British led to tea being grown commercially, in order to reduce Britain’s reliance on importing it from China.

Tiger, tiger…

The Bengal tiger is a magnificent big cat species that was adopted as India’s national animal in 1972. The Corbett Tiger Reserve in Uttarakhand Stats in northern India has the country’s largest population of Bengal tigers and is open to visitors all year round. Bengal tigers live for around 25 years and are largely nocturnal in their habits.