Women in bright saris crowd together as they walk in a bridal procession in Mandawa, Rajasthan. Rajasthan is the largest state in India—a land of extremes—encompassing steamy forests, dry plains, and the snowy Himalaya.
Diwali, the Festival of Lights
Two women in Jaipur hold candles to celebrate Diwali, or the Festival of Lights. Observed over five days throughout India, it marks, among other things, the start of the new business year and the victory of light over dark.
Varadarajaswamy Temple, Kanchipuram
A man steps through a doorway at the Varadarajaswamy Temple in Kanchipuram, “city of a thousand temples.” Kanchipuram is also known for silk saris—a thriving business here.
Taj Mahal, Agra
The Mogul emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in Agra as a tribute to his favorite wife, who died in childbirth in 1630. The white marble monument, with its sprawling gardens, took 20 years to build. A red sandstone mosque stands on one side.
Amber Palace and Jaigarh Fort, Jaipur
Decorated elephants carry tourists past the Jaigarh and Amber Forts in Jaipur, Rajasthan, constructed beginning in the 15th century. The marble-and-sandstone Amber Fort has intricate carvings; the immense Jaigarh Fort once served as a center of artillery production.
Varanasi Train Station
Passengers peer out the windows of a train in a station in Varanasi, a 3,000-year-old holy city filled with religious statues and temples. Many Hindus journey here to walk down the ghats, or steps, into the Ganges River to be purified.
Ganges River Festival
Hindu pilgrims bathe in the Ganges hoping to wash away their sins. Every 12 years millions take part in the 45-day Kumbh Mela, or Grand Pitcher Festival, which includes ritual bathing in this and other rivers.
The rolling hills near Munnar, Kerala, are covered with tea plantations that were originally planted by a Scotsman in the late 19th century.
Akash Deep Puja
To honor the dead, lanterns are hung from poles stuck into the banks of the Ganges during Akash Deep Puja, the sky lantern festival.
Fishing in Kerala
Fishing is an important source of income in Kerala. People in the southwestern state also have the highest literacy rate in India and enjoy the best health.
Lamayuru Gompa Monastery, Ladakh
The Ladakh region, culturally Tibetan, is home to Buddhist temples andgompas, or monasteries, including Lamayuru. This arid Himalaya land was closed to visitors until the 1970s, and it remains sparsely populated.
Sacred Cows, Varanasi
Cows, such as these two in Varanasi, are a common sight on India’s congested streets. Hindus revere cows, believing that they offer sustenance and ask nothing in return.