From snow-capped mountains to bustling metropolises, and from honking vehicles to vibrant markets with bustling crowds – India brings breathtaking geographical wonders, and the scenery changes constantly. Here is a list of fascinating facts about India, proving that life over there is never dull and that the Indian people can do and live in a way only they can get by with.
The World’s Largest Postal Network
You're never far away from a post office in India, even in today’s digital age. Only in India can you send mail from a floating post office in Dal Lake, Srinagar. Or, send a postcard from one of the world’s highest post offices in the quaint village of Hikkim in Spiti Valley.
The Hikkim post office stands at an elevation of 15550 feet. Not just any post office, it is a cultural institution and social hub for the community living in the Trans-Himalayas. India has the largest postal network in the world, with one post office on average for every 7,175 people.
India Has a Ban on Captive Dolphins
That dolphins are intelligent mammals is an established fact. But India takes this concept a few notches further. The country considers dolphins "non-human persons," and it’s an official stance. From comprehensive laws on dolphin rights to defining what “non-human person means,” India takes dolphin conservation seriously.
Dolphins have advanced cognitive abilities. Their social behavior and activities sometimes bear striking similarities with humans. In essence, dolphins are just like us. One could say they are better versions of us living in the oceans. The Indian Government has made keeping dolphins captive in the country illegally. Now if only the rest of the world would follow.
The Second Largest English-Speaking Country In The World
India is the second largest English-speaking country in the world - right after the United States. Surprised? You’re not alone. The Western world tends to think of India as primarily an outsourcing destination and, by extension, a nation of questionable English language skills.
These stereotypes might be true to an extent, but that’s only one side of the story. India has the second-highest number of people who can converse in the language, and they do so fluently. English is one of the official languages there. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t speak the language, especially in major Indian cities.
Home to Two of the Rainiest Places on Earth
The state of Meghalaya in India is home to not one but two of the wettest inhabited places on the planet. Mawsynram - a village in the state of Meghalaya - is the wettest place on Earth. This beautiful village receives a staggering 11,872 millimeters of rainfall every year. Around 60 kilometers away from Mawsynram is Cherrapunji.
Cherrapunji once had the distinction of receiving the world’s highest rainfall until the title went to Mawsynram. But when it rains, it still pours in Cherrapunji. Both places are ideal for witnessing the full glory of the monsoons in India – from rainfall that doesn’t stop for weeks to gushing waterfalls and roaring rivers full of silt.
A Human Gathering Visible From Space
The Kumbh Mela is a Hindu festival that originated over 200 years ago. The festival takes place every three years when devotees embark on a pilgrimage to sacred sites across India to atone for any misdeeds. While the festival means different things to different people, everyone knows it as a gathering of epic proportions.
Millions of people congregate at the Kumbh, and that is not an exaggeration. The proof is in the numbers, or in this case, satellite pictures. The 2011 Kumbh Mela was so massive that it was visible from space! Over 75 million pilgrims came together in 2011, making it the largest gathering in human history.
The Incredible Engineering of the Bandra Worli Sealink
Mumbai has become synonymous with the Bandra Worli Sealink in recent years. The Bandra Worli Sealink is a bridge and the city’s most important landmark. What’s in a bridge? This is no ordinary structure. The impressive bridge took 2,57,00,000 man-hours to complete. What’s more, if one were to put together its steel wires from end to end, it would be equal to the circumference of the Earth. Truly an engineering marvel.
The Bandra Worli Sealink also weighs as much as 50,000 African elephants. Take some time to visit the bridge if you ever find yourself in Mumbai. Engineering enthusiasts or not, the bridge is worth checking out. If nothing else, it’s a testament to the mind-blowing scope of human excellence.
Home to the Highest Cricket Ground
Cricket fans, get ready to be bowled over and, hopefully, not bowled out. The highest cricket ground in the world is located in Chail, Himachal Pradesh, India. At an altitude of 2,444 meters, the historic ground was constructed in 1893. Since then, the ground has become an important part of the Chail Military School. The ground is every cricket lover’s paradise – beautifully constructed, classy, and oozes history. And those views!
The Chail Cricket Ground is tucked away in a sleepy mountain town, surrounded by alpine forests and mist, most of the year through. Whether you're a die-hard cricket fan or someone who likes discovering hidden travel gems, the Chail Cricket Ground is an ideal destination.
The Concept of Shampooing Started in India
Can you imagine a world without shampooing? We have India to thank for the hair-cleansing routine that has become indispensable to everyone’s lives. Shampoo and the concept of shampooing originated in India. How’s that for a fascinating history into everyday times we take for granted?
The word "shampoo" comes from the Sanskrit "champu," which means "to massage." And the original shampoo was meant to do that – gently cleanse and nourish the scalp through massage. Shampoo back then was quality stuff, too. People in India made shampoo with herbs, spices, and other natural ingredients – none of the harmful commercial stuff we use today.
The Surprising Way India Launched Its Space Program
Few places in the world function so visibly on dichotomy the way India does. Modernity vs. tradition, order in chaos, spiritual yet scientific – numerous contrasting forces exist harmoniously in the country. The story of India's first rocket has a similar narrative.
The rocket – a breakthrough in scientific research and innovation – was transported to the launching station in an unconventional way. It was so small and lightweight that someone carried the rocket on a bicycle to the Thumba Launching Station in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. The origin story of India’s space ambitions is both humble and grand. The first rocket helped pave the way for India's future as a major player in the global space race.
A Spa for Elephants
Elephants feature prominently in the popular imagination of what India represents. The Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre in Kerala takes it to an awesome and inspiring new level. This one-of-a-kind spa has an incredible mission - to pamper and rejuvenate these gentle giants. The spa’s design and ambiance cater specifically to elephants, prioritizing the animals’ peace and downtime.
Elephants get relaxing baths and massages – much needed in Kerala’s scorching heat. Delicious meals and carefully selected diets are, of course, a part of the spa package. The Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre is an extension of the Guruvayurappan Hindu Temple, where elephants take center stage in temple processions.
These Hollywood Stars Have Indian Roots
Freddie Mercury and Ben Kingsley are iconic names in the entertainment industry. But we bet most people don’t know that both stars have Indian roots. Freddie Mercury was born Farrokh Bulsara into a Parsi family in Gujarat, India. Mercury spent most of his childhood in India before moving to England at the age of 17. The singer famously remained connected to his Indian heritage. He was proud of his Parsi roots.
Oscar-winning actor Ben Kingsley was born Krishna Pandit Bhanji in Yorkshire, England, to a father of Indian descent and a British mother. Although he was born and raised in the UK, Kingsley never lost touch with his roots, thanks to his parents, who made sure of it.
India’s Sparkling Diamond Legacy
Everyone loves diamonds, but have you ever wondered about their history? Diamond mining originated in India. The history of diamond mining in the country began as early as the 4th century BC in the Krishna River Delta. It was here that the massive Koh-i-Noor diamond, now part of the British Crown Jewels, was discovered.
For centuries after, India remained the only source of diamonds in the world. It is still one of the busiest diamond-producing hubs, and every diamond enthusiast worth their mettle knows about Surat, for example. This Indian city in the state of Gujarat is the largest diamond-cutting and polishing center in the world.
A Polling Station for One Person
How far would you go to uphold democracy? Not as much as this man, we’re certain. Every election cycle in India, a small but significant polling station comes to life – not on a street somewhere but in the middle of a forest. Mahant Bharatdas Darshandas is the only resident of Banej, a remote village in the heart of Gujarat’s Gir Forest.
That has never stopped him from performing his civic duty. Darshandas shows up every election cycle without fail to cast his vote. The authorities have set up the polling station only for him – the sole voter from Banej. His story gives new meaning to the saying “every vote counts.”
Snakes and Ladders Was Born There
The popular board game, Snakes and Ladders, originated in India but with a wholly different premise. Originally called Moksha Patamu, the game was a lesson in morals for children. It aimed to teach kids about karma and the consequences of good and bad deeds. The board visually represented life - every triumph, setback, and trial.
Players climbed ladders to enlightenment after doing good deeds. Snakes represented bad deeds. The more snakes a player encountered, the further they were from attaining “moksha” or enlightenment. Moksha Patamu seems like a fun way to teach children about consequences. It certainly sounds more effective than detention or grounding.
The Himalayas Are Still Growing
India is famous for its bustling cities and vibrant culture. What we should also be talking about more is the country’s diverse topography and landscapes. The Himalayas are in India, in case that slipped people’s minds. And the geological forces that created the Himalayas are still at work. What does this mean? The Himalayas are still growing and evolving! But first, a little history.
Around 50 million years ago, the Indian subcontinent was a separate landmass until it collided with the Asian continent. The impact of this collision formed the Himalayas as we know them today. Scientists estimate that this majestic mountain range grows approximately 2 inches (5 centimeters) taller every year. The Himalayas aren’t just a natural treasure but a living, growing proof of the geological processes that shape the earth.
A City as Old as Time
Varanasi, also known as Benares, is the oldest continuously inhabited city in central Asia. And it also looks the part. Just a glimpse of its old houses, temples, and teeny tiny lanes along the Ganges River is enough to transport you thousands of years back. This sacred city’s history is shrouded in legend. The earliest known settlements date back to 1900 BCE, however, scholars and writers still can’t agree on the age of the city.
Hindu mythology says the God Shiva founded Varanasi over 5,000 years ago. Mark Twain refused to give the city an age, and he once said that Varanasi was older than history, older than tradition, and older even than legend. The city attracts pilgrims and travelers the world over. Everyone comes to Varanasi to immerse themselves in its timeless rituals and rich cultural heritage.
India Has the World’s Second Largest Road Network
India's road network spans a staggering 4.7 million kilometers. To put this into perspective, that is nearly enough distance to loop around the Earth more than 117 times! India’s road network is the second largest in the world, behind the United States. Roads connect even the country's most remote corners, and each one looks different.
As anyone will tell you, traveling on India's roads is an adventure. One can encounter everything, from massive highways and dirt roads to rugged mountain passes and serene coastal highways. India's road network continues to expand and connect millions of people across the country.
The Sacred and Profitable Trade of Indian Hair
It’s no secret that people can be slightly obsessed with their hair. But you might be surprised to learn the lengths people would go to for gorgeous locks. Enter the business of human hair export and driving the industry are India’s temples. India exports hair to several countries every year, an industry worth over $415 million.
This one’s a classic tale of religion and commerce finding common ground yet again. Donating hair as a spiritual offering is an ancient Hindu practice. Most people who donate their hair cannot afford to give jewelry or money, and companies collect the hair to make wigs and hair extensions. Ethics and discomfort aside, it’s a thriving industry that employs many people in the country.
Inside the World’s Largest Family
So, you thought dealing with your family was tough? Here’s a story from India’s northeast state of Mizoram that might make you feel differently. Meet Mr. Ziona Chana - the patriarch of the world's largest family. Chana has 39 wives, 94 children, 14 daughters-in-law, and 33 grandchildren - his family consists of a whopping 181 members.
They live together in a 100-room mansion in Baktawng village. Chana is the leader of a religious clan where having many wives and children is considered a divine blessing. His wives live in a shared dormitory near his private bedroom. Chana spends time with each of them in rotation, and the family cherishes their way of life, even though others find it unusual.
Home to the World’s Largest River Island
Majuli isn’t just any island. It’s a river island and the largest in the world. Majuli covers an area of around 880 square kilometers along the mighty Brahmaputra River in Assam. The island is only accessible by ferry, adding to its mystique for intrepid adventurers the world over, it is also home to various indigenous tribes who have called it home for centuries.
Like every vulnerable ecosystem on the planet, Majuli has been grappling with the dire effects of climate change. At the rate humans are going, rising water levels and erosion threaten to submerge the island completely in the future.
The Largest Known Boat Crew in History
The beautiful coastal state of Kerala is known for many things but is (arguably) most famous for the Snake Boat race. Teams compete with each other to race traditional ornate boats that resemble snakes navigating the water. The boats are long and narrow, designed to cut through the water with speed and agility. In 2008, one team took things to the next level.
The Aries Punnamada Urukku Chundan, a Snake Boat from Alleppey, set out to make history on May 1, 2008. This particular boat was massive. It was 43.7 meters long and required a crew of 143 people to row. Speaking of the crew – it took a village to assemble the best team: 118 rowers, two rhythm men, five helmsmen, and 18 singers singing rhythmic chants to keep things upbeat!
How India Protected the Taj Mahal During WWII
The story of how India protected the Taj Mahal during WWII is one for the ages. After much deliberation, the authorities took a risky gamble – hide the monument in plain sight. They disguised the monument as a stockpile of bamboo, which turned out to be an unusual but effective solution, and the bamboo stockpile camouflage successfully fooled potential attacks.
Today, the Taj Mahal still stands proudly as one of the most famous landmarks in India and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Its history, beauty, and resilience make it an inspiration. The monument survived the war, however, whether it will survive human-induced pollution and apathy is up for debate.
The Sentinelese: The World’s Most Isolated Tribe
India’s North Sentinel Island is a mysterious and remote place that is off-limits to outsiders. In 1991, an anthropologist named Madhumala Chattopadhyay achieved what no other person had – establish peaceful contact with the island's inhabitants. The Sentinelese choose to have no contact with the outside world, and they are famously hostile to trespassers. They are not averse to using extreme violence on anyone disrespecting their wishes.
Ships and boats are advised to steer clear of the island unless one enjoys dodging spears and arrows. As for Chattopadhyay, she famously sat on a boat, passing coconuts to the islanders in the water. It was probably the only physical contact anyone had ever had with the tribe. The Sentinelese continue to remain fiercely protective of their tribe and way of life, as is their right.
India Produces 70 Percent of the World’s Spices
India's cuisine is massively popular. Glorious spices are at the heart of this cuisine, as India produces 70% of them globally. We knew India is the spice capital of the world, but the numbers really put things into perspective. Indian spices are an essential ingredient in kitchens worldwide. Most of us are familiar with the more common Indian spices like cumin and turmeric, but that's merely scratching the surface!
The country also loves its ajwain, kalonji, amchur, and asafetida, each bringing a signature flavor and aroma to dishes. Whether you’re a biryani or butter chicken fan, the signature magic in every bite is all thanks to Indian spices.
Only in India Does KFC Offer a Vegetarian Menu
India loves chicken as much as any country, but it also loves vegetarian food. Enter KFC’s fully vegetarian menu! Pause and read on before rising up in arms. KFC in India caters to diverse dietary and cultural preferences, as any company should. Besides the chicken, the menu features delicious dishes like the Potato Krisper Burger, Paneer Zinger, and Veg Twister.
Even the regular menu items are anything but ordinary. Spoiler alert, everything’s spicy! If you're a KFC fan in India, try their unique vegetarian offerings and the legendary fried chicken. Everything on the menu is finger-lickin’ good, and you won’t be disappointed.
A Temple Devoted to Rats
The state of Rajasthan is everything one imagines India to be – expansive deserts, camel safaris, forts, and palaces. The state also contains decidedly more offbeat and strange attractions, such as the Karni Mata Temple. This temple in Bikaner is devoted to rats! Over a thousand rats call the temple home, which is surprisingly clean and well-maintained despite it.
Pilgrims visit the temple in droves to pay their respects. The story? Goddess Karni Mata of the Charan clan was revered in her community. She lived till she was 150 years old, never aging visibly, and after she died, she came back as a rat. Her followers believe they, too, will become rats when they die, and similarly, every time a rat dies, it comes back as a human in the next life.
The Skeleton Lake
The Roopkund Lake is a glacial lake in the Himalayas, popular among trekkers for its beautiful trails. It is also infamous as the “Skeleton Lake.” An Indian official discovered hundreds of human skeletons scattered around the lake in 1942. Who were these people? And how did 800 people meet their end at the lake? No definite answers still.
Some historians believe these may have been soldiers or traders traveling on the Silk Road, but the more established theory is that a group of pilgrims encountered a terrible hailstorm and lost their lives there. You won’t find any skeletons at the lake today. Trekkers and story chasers still visit this hauntingly beautiful lake, regardless.
India Has Over 22 Official Languages
India is a linguist’s paradise. Hundreds, if not thousands, of languages, thrive and co-exist here. The country has 22 official languages, including Hindi and English. Unofficially, the number of other languages is at least 121, and a thousand other dialects. Sounds chaotic, but here’s the thing about this amazing country – the only way to understand India is to acknowledge that there are multiple Indias.
Visitors discover different versions of India every hundred kilometers – from the language people speak and the food they eat to where they live. Diversity is a part of India’s ethos. Despite the dizzying differences, Indians are united by national pride. It’s what makes the country one of the most fascinating and welcoming places in the world.
A Village Where People Keep Doors Unlocked, Literally And Figuratively
Shani Shingnapur is a village like no other. People here truly keep an open house, both literally and figuratively – their houses have no doors or locks. This unique practice stems from their faith in the god Shani who represents justice, and the villagers believe he will always protect the village. Their faith in him is so steadfast that even the village bank and post office have no security!
They must be doing something right because there hasn’t been a single theft since the village was established 400 years ago. It just goes to show how pockets of utopia can exist even today. Shani Shingnapur demonstrates what humans can achieve through trust, ownership, and the power of community.
A Meteor Created this Lake
Lonar Lake in Maharashtra is not ordinary as it contains fresh water and saltwater. What’s more, the lake stands inside a crater. J.E. Alexander discovered this natural wonder over 200 years ago. Since then, scientists have conducted reams of research and study to conclude that a massive meteor collision was responsible for forming the crater.
Water slowly filled the crater over time to form the stunning lake India knows and loves. Lonar Lake is today a Geo-heritage monument and the pride of Maharashtra, and it is home to a thriving ecosystem of lush forests, plants, and wildlife. It’s the perfect location for those with a passion for nature, history, and geology.
An Animal Ark Like No Other
It was another sultry afternoon in Maharashtra’s Dandarayana forest when Dr. Prakash and Dr. Mandakini stumbled on a baby monkey clinging to her dead parent. The heart-breaking incident would be the start of their journey of rescuing orphaned and injured animals, even though the couple didn’t know it yet. They struck a deal with the Madia-Godia tribe in the area, who typically killed animals not for the game but for sustenance.
The couple asked them to bring the animals to them in exchange for food, clothes, and healthcare, and that's how the Animal Ark was born. They have since taken in and rescued all kinds of animals. Their efforts also transformed the lives of the Madia-Gond tribe, who today have access to better healthcare, education, and protection.
Living Root Bridges
Forget bridges made of steel and wires, India also has living root bridges. Beautiful bridges made from tree roots have existed for centuries in the northeastern state of Meghalaya. The custodians of this ingenious craft are the Khasi tribe, and the community intricately hand-weaves tree roots without using a single nail or tool. You won’t find a sturdier bridge anywhere else since the roots grow stronger over time.
Visitors will find over a hundred living root bridges stretching across rivers, anchored on either bank. The bridges connect one valley and village to the next, acting as lifelines for the locals during the monsoons when rivers and streams rage, as Meghalaya is home to two of the rainiest places on earth.
A Buffalo Worth $90 Million
In a world where most people value luxury cars and penthouses, this story from India is a game-changer. Say hello to Yuvraj, an Indian buffalo that gives luxury and wealth a new name. Yuvraj is worth a gobsmacking INR 9.25 crore, approximately $90 million. The animal has caused quite a stir among animal enthusiasts and collectors.
What's so special about him? Yuvraj isn’t your average buffalo. This pedigree buffalo is a massive 11.5 feet wide and 5.8 feet tall. Of course, he needs a careful diet to stay in top form, and he reportedly drinks 20 liters of milk, and eats 10kg of fruits and 5kg of green fodder and dry straw every day.
Babiya, The Vegetarian Crocodile
For decades, devotees visiting the Ananthapura Lake temple in Kerala flocked to see Babiya, the vegetarian crocodile. Legend says that Babiya appeared in the temple pond shortly after a British soldier shot a crocodile there in 1945. She initially seemed like any other crocodile, as her size and strength were formidable, but Babiya turned out to be the gentlest crocodile the world had probably seen.
She had no interest in the fish or other organisms that inhabited the pond with her. Babiya was content with offerings from the temple or people who visited. And thus, the "vegetarian crocodile" became a phenomenon. Babiya tragically passed away, but her legacy endures at the Ananthapura Lake temple.
How an African Tribe Found a Home in India
We know India is diverse, but this story is one for the history books. In the Gir forest in Gujarat resides a tribe of African descent known as the Siddi. Yes, people of African origin in India. The Siddi tribe looks like Africans but they speak fluent Gujarati and follow Indian customs. How did they end up in Gujarat, and what's their story?
The Siddi tribe arrived in India more than two centuries ago. When the Portuguese landed in the country, they brought people from East Africa to work for them. Many of these people were the ancestors of the Siddi tribe who live in India today. Over the years, the Siddi's original African culture and traditions have faded however, remnants of a different past still exist in their music and especially the traditional dance, the "Siddi Dhamal."
Kongthong, the Singing or Whistling Village.
Welcome to Kongthong, the "Whistling" or "Singing" Village in Meghalaya, India. People here don't call each other by name but by a special melody or tune. Every villager has two names: a regular name and a unique song, and when a new baby is born, the mother composes a song for them.
The residents of Kongthong call this tune 'Jingrwai Lawbei,' or mother’s love song, and when a person passes away, their song or tune dies with them. Knowing how to carry a decent tune isn’t for the exceptionally talented, it’s essential in Kongthong. Unlike other places, singing represents identity and a way of life.
The Magnificent Rural Olympics
Acrobats on horseback. Kite flying. Racing in farm machinery. And the crowd goes wild! These are just some of the things you can expect at the magnificent Rural Olympics in India. Locally called the Qila Raipur Festival, the annual event has been a grand celebration of rural life in Punjab since 1933. Participants compete in traditional games such as Kabbadi, Kho-Kho, and Rasa Kashi (tug of war).
The games also feature contemporary sports like hockey and cycling, but the performing arts steal the show each year. Think tractor races, martial arts, and sword fighting. The Rural Olympics are age agnostic, and it doesn't matter if you are 18 or 80, everyone is welcome here. One of the most popular events is a 100m race for 90-year-olds who usually give their grandkids a run for their money.
Home to the World’s Leading Luxury Train
India is home to some of the world's most luxurious trains, and opulent carriages where one can live like the Maharajas once did. The Maharaja Express is the most sought-after luxury train experience as this veritable palace on wheels allows travelers three weeklong journeys. You can choose to lounge in the bar car, with not one but two bars.
Not sure what food you want to eat? Take your pick from two restaurants serving Indian and international cuisine. Of course, one can also expect butler service, guided off-tour excursions, paramedic services, and porterage. For anyone who thinks they know India because of “Slumdog Millionaire,” perhaps this will inspire a different view.
India Builds Its Own Glaciers
Decades ago, a curious boy noticed water trickling out of a semi-frozen pipe in a mountain village in Ladakh on a frosty morning. The water collected in a small crater on the ground and froze like a glacier. Little did he know that this simple observation would lead to a ground-breaking invention. Fast forward to 1986, and that boy became a civil engineer changing the lives of his community.
Chewang Norphel created the first artificial glacier to combat the acute water crisis in the town of Leh. Like most people ahead of their time, Norphel faced opposition and even ridicule, the "Ice Man of India" persisted, and the world is better for it. Norphel has since built at least 17 artificial glaciers across Ladakh.
A Young Indian Scientist Built the World’s Smallest Satellite
India's young scientists created the world's smallest satellite called Kalam Sat. Who was this team, and how young were they? Rifath Sharook, an 18-year-old student from Tamil Nadu, and his team were not professional space scientists or engineers. What they lacked in experience, they more than made up for in passion.
This young lot made history as the first Indian team to have their own satellite on a NASA rocket. Kalam Sat is a tribute to the late Abdul Kalam, India’s former President, and leading scientific mind. The satellite was the only Indian payload at NASA's Wallop Island facility during the launch, but how small was the world’s smallest satellite? It weighs only 64 grams, essentially a 3.8cm cube that fits in one’s palm!
Yoga on a Mountain on a BMX
A 71-year-old man who calls himself Dadaji (or “grandpa” in Hindi) is intimately familiar with life on the edge. He makes a choice each day, and some seniors prefer taking it easy during retirement. Dadaji would rather do yoga on a BMX bike, perched on top of a mountain, no less!
So, if you thought the movements at your yoga class were taxing, try striking a yoga pose while balancing on the front wheel of a bike at the edge of a cliff! Dadaji is an inspiration. He loves yoga and loves his country. BMX yoga is just his way of preserving India's heritage, albeit with a twist.
The Kohinoor Paan to Spice Things Up in the Bedroom
The land that gave us Kama Sutra is full of surprises still. Say hello to the Kohinoor paan at Tara Pan Center in the Indian city of Aurangabad. Paan is a popular breath freshener in India made from betel leaves stuffed with betel nuts, spices, and tobacco. What makes this Paan so special? It allegedly contains aphrodisiac effects that can last up to two days! That's right, two whole days of added spice in the bedroom.
Mohammed Sarfuddin Siddiqui has been operating the shop for over 30 years, and he even exports his magical paan to countries in the Middle East. The ingredients used in this plan are carefully selected and different for men and women, ensuring maximum effectiveness. The catch? The store only serves married couples, and it will set them back a neat INR 5000 (around $60).
The Country of Gastronomical Challenges, If You’re Up to It
If you’re the kind who enjoys a food challenge, India will put your stomach to the ultimate test. Move over, pie-eating competitions, and say hello to the legendary 'Baahubali Thali' challenge in the Indian city of Hyderabad. Your challenge - should you choose to accept it - is to finish a meal of 30 vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes within 30 minutes.
The cash prize is ₹1 lakh ($1000). This thali (platter) is famously massive and not for the faint-hearted, and it includes chicken biryani, prawns curry, schezwan noodles, salad, raita, and drinks for ₹1,800 ($22). Would you give this a go?
A Village Where Every House Has an Expert Male Cook
Kalayur village in Tamil Nadu is every gourmand’s dream. Not only does everyone know how to cook, but men are the most sought-after cooks here. The unique tradition began 500 centuries ago when the Vaniyars, a lower caste, proved to be culinary artists, their skills surpassing even the Brahmins. Brahmins are traditionally of a higher caste, custodians and gatekeepers of the fine things in life – until the Vaniyars stepped inside the kitchen.
The men from the Vaniyar community began taking an interest in cooking since farming had become less profitable. Today, these expert male cooks travel across South India, culinary magicians who whip up feasts for big weddings and birthdays in just hours.
The Chess Village of India and its Incredible Origins
The residents of Marottichal village in Kerala love chess, and you agree that it is unusual to find an entire village of chess enthusiasts. Visitors will find the locals discussing and strategizing chess moves at any time of the day, however, it wasn't always this way. Marottichal then was a village of alcoholics, not chess, and back in the '60s and '70s, the villagers made local liquor for a living.
A student named C. Unnikrishnan decided that enough was enough. Unnikrishnan traveled to a nearby village to learn chess. He was inspired by a news report about American chess legend Bobby Fischer. Subsequently, he gave free chess lessons to anyone willing to learn at his house, and the game caught on, and then some! That’s how the "chess village of India" was born, where everyone, from children to the elderly, is obsessed with the game.
A Village With Over 550 Sets of Twins
The idea of having a doppelganger isn’t far-fetched, but a village in India makes it five hundred times more fun. Kodinhi, a village in Kerala, has a unique claim to fame. The village is home to over 550 sets of twins, with 42 twins born for every 1000 deliveries in the village.
The numbers are staggering since the average rate of twin births globally (yes, globally) is just 6 per 1000 deliveries. The Kodinhi phenomenon began approximately three generations ago however, experts are still not sure why, and they strongly believe the villagers' food and drink choices might be related to it.
The Tree Scooter
Scooters that climb trees? Only in India. Ganapathi Bhat, a farmer from the coastal town of Mangaluru in India, has revolutionized betel nut harvesting with his "tree scooter." The machine can scale 20 meters up a tree in just five seconds. One scooter harvests 300 areca palms in a day, more than thrice the amount if someone climbs a tree.
Bhat was inspired to create the scooter to address labor scarcity during the rainy season. Harvesting betel nuts is a tough job, and you need all the help you can get. Despite naysayers, Bhat spent about a whopping 4 million rupees developing the scooter and has already sold hundreds of them.
Kung Fu Nuns
The Buddhist nuns of the Drukpa lineage are a force of nature. These women believe in discovering their spiritual roots by championing gender equality, fitness, and respect for all living beings. And they're doing it through the ancient art of Kung Fu! What sets these nuns apart is their unwavering belief that they're here to help others.
The nuns practice Kung Fu not just for themselves; they do it to inspire other women since Kung Fu builds spiritual and physical strength. While most of the nuns train at the Druk Amitabha Mountain Nunnery in Nepal, many of them live in Ladakh – a high-altitude desert and mountainous region in India. Some of them also live in the capital city, New Delhi.
Grandmas Who Are Martial Arts Warriors
Meenakshi Amma is not your average grandma. She is a badass martial arts warrior! This unstoppable grandma is a Kalaripayattu (a traditional martial arts form of Kerala) maestro who has been practicing the art for the best part of six decades.
Meenakshi Amma began teaching the art form after her husband passed in 2009, and her dedication to the craft has earned her one of India's highest civilian awards, the prestigious "Padma Shri." The next generation of warriors is lucky to train under Meenakshi Amma; however, only a few people can bring strength and grace into martial arts the way she does.
The Mysterious Pull of Magnetic Hill
Ever wanted to defy gravity? Look no further than the Magnetic Hill in Ladakh. This extraordinary spot is famous for its mind-boggling anti-gravity effect. You can’t miss the area while in Ladakh. Visitors will find a yellow notice board instructing visitors to place their cars in neutral gear, park on a spot marked by white paint, and voila!
Suddenly, cars start moving uphill on their own, defying logic and explanation. Something tells us there’s a scientific explanation behind all of it, but do we really want to know? For once, it’s okay to let explanations be and just enjoy this out-of-the-world experience.
Cows Are Protected By Law
Cows are more than just livestock in India. They are revered as sacred animals. It's a belief rooted deeply in Hinduism, India's predominant religion. What’s more, the norms are cultural and legally binding, making India the only country in the world with a Bill of Rights for cows.
The Indian Constitution has rules that protect cows from being sold or slaughtered in most states. It’s a sign of Hindus' deep reverence for these animals. If you’ve ever wondered why so many cows are roaming the streets, this is why. Remember to treat cows with the same respect you would give your own mother.
A Significant Part of the Himalayas Lies in India
The Himalayas are home to 9 out of the 10 highest peaks in the world. The tallest of them is Mount Everest, at a towering 8,848 meters. Nepal lays claim to many of these majestic peaks, but did you know a significant portion of the Himalayas falls within India's borders? Mountaineers and trekkers usually make a beeline to Nepal when right next door is India, with mountains just as stunning.
Think Kanchenjunga Peak, Nanda Devi, Kamet Peak, and Stok Kangri, among many others. Seasoned mountaineers will find plenty of adventure here, novice hikers have their pick of walking trails and alpine meadows too.
India Has the Most Mosques in the World
India is home to over 300,000 mosques, which is more than any other country in the world – even ones where the population is all-Muslim. The mosques are important hubs of religious and cultural gatherings for the sizable Muslim population in India.
The Jama Masjid in New Delhi is a cultural icon and a place of solace from the bustle of the city. The grand Mecca Masjid in Hyderabad is among India’s largest mosques, and it is known to house at least 10,000 pilgrims. India’s mosques are centers of tranquility, with arguably some of the country's most stunning architecture and design.
The Timeless Appeal of the Sari
In a world where fashion trends come and go before you can blink, the sari continues to transcend time. The sari isn’t just a piece of cloth but a symbol of India's rich cultural heritage, and the origins of the sari date back to at least 3000 BCE. The versatile garment can be draped in various ways and in different fabrics and colors depending on the occasion.
It’s the garment of choice for most Indian weddings. Red is often the go-to color for brides, as it symbolizes prosperity and fertility. The elegant sari has been around for millennia, and we’re betting it will still be around a millennia later.
Chess Was Born in India
The game of chess has roots in an ancient Indian war game called Chaturanga, played in north-western India in the 7th century. The game became massively popular. As it spread across countries and continents, every culture added a unique twist and variation to the game. This complex and layered history makes up the challenging game we know today.
Chess has stood the test of time to become a game universally loved. You have players playing in a chess club or challenging someone to a game in the park. Whoever you are or wherever you might be, chess transcends perceived borders and instantly levels the playing field.
The Mighty Indian Railways
If you're looking for a way to explore India, there's no better way than a train ride for the ages! Like most things in India, the trains here are a visual and sensory overload. That’s not all. The Indian Railways is one of the top employers on the planet and one of the largest railway networks in the world. It employs over 1.4 million people, playing a key role in boosting the country's economy and infrastructure.
This state-owned network operates a massive, intricate system spanning thousands of miles, and there’s a train for every major city and town, even in remote villages. The Indian Railways transports a staggering 23 million passengers daily, making it one of the world's busiest and most efficient rail systems.
Mumbai’s Efficient Lunch Box Delivery System Is a Case Study in Management
The Dabbawallahs have been around for over 125 years and are integral to Mumbai’s food culture. Who are they? The Dabbawallahs are a group of insanely efficient lunchbox delivery men, and their lunch delivery is so efficient that it has earned them a Six Sigma designation from Forbes! Every day, Mumbai’s Dabbawallahs deliver over 200,000 lunch boxes from homes to offices on their bikes and the Mumbai local trains.
A unique coding system ensures that each lunchbox reaches the right person at the right place and time. Most Dabbawallahs don’t have formal education, but they have created one of the most sophisticated logistics systems that is the envy of companies around the world.
You Won’t Find White Tigers Anywhere Else in the World But Here
The magnificent and rare white tigers are endemic to India. They are not a different species of tigers, and neither are they Siberian tigers. These apex predators have a genetic mutation that causes their fur to turn white, and are larger than Royal Bengal tigers. Their piercing blue eyes against all-white fur have an other-worldly, almost chilling aura.
You can’t help but hush around a tiger. With white tigers, the feeling is elevated dramatically. Spotting one in the wild is difficult but not impossible however, occasional white tiger sightings have been reported in the states of Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Odisha, Assam, and the Sunderbans.
The Jain Way: Extreme Measures for Non-Violence
The principle of non-violence or “Ahimsa” is the foundation of Jainism – a religion practiced by a small percentage of the Indian population. It believes every living being is part of a larger cosmic mechanism. Everything we say or do – no matter how insignificant – affects our future. Of course, all religions advocate for non-violence, but Jainism lies on the extreme end of that spectrum as it takes the utmost care to prevent harm to any living being.
They are strict vegetarians, refusing even to eat root vegetables such as garlic and onion since it means an entire plant gets uprooted. Some people might gently sweep the road in front of them while walking to avoid stepping on insects, while others might cover their mouths with their hands to prevent breathing in any microorganisms.
The Legacy of India’s Erstwhile Maharajas
The Indian government officially stripped the Maharajas (royalty) of their titles in the 1970s, but what are the official stances on centuries of culture, tradition, and unimaginable privilege? The Maharajas are still massively influential today. These families were once the rulers of expansive states and territories.
They no longer enjoy political clout or social relevance but still command respect and love from people familiar with their history, particularly ordinary folk in the same region. The history of several Indian cities is closely related to the Maharajas and their legacies. Today, India’s erstwhile royalty have dedicated their lives to philanthropic causes, and some of them continue living in their grand palaces.
How Fortune-Telling Shapes Culture
We know of people who use vision boards to manifest the life they want. India’s version of it is fortune-telling. It’s not uncommon for people (primarily Hindus) to consult an astrologer before making big decisions. Fortune-tellers help predict the future or swing the vote on major life choices.
This might include decisions on careers, money, or the compatibility of potential life partners. The latter is by far one of the most popular uses of fortune-telling in India, and all will be well if a couple’s horoscope charts are in sync. Horoscopes also determine when couples get married or what to name a child.
Open Air Crematoriums
Hinduism says the soul must be released from the body for reincarnation, which is why traditional open-air cremations are still prevalent, despite the rise of eco-friendly electric crematoriums. Many Indians prefer open-air cremations to honor loved ones who have passed, as the ceremony is steeped in centuries of spiritual tradition.
Only close family and friends observe the cremation, after which a person’s ashes are ceremonially scattered in a river. In the holy city of Varanasi, funeral pyres have burned for thousands of years – a powerful and humbling sight. The rising flames and smoke are a somber reminder of fleeting human existence.
The Largest Community Kitchen in the World
The Golden Temple in Amritsar, Punjab, is famous for its beauty and chequered history, but for people in Punjab, the site is a symbol of communal harmony and unity. Among the most fascinating aspects of the Golden Temple is the “Langar” - a free vegetarian meal served to everyone who visits the temple, regardless of religion, caste, or social status.
The Langar is a concept unique to Sikhism, and it is the largest community kitchen in the world. Every day, the Golden Temple serves over 50,000 people; during special occasions, the number can go up to 100,000. The Langar is an embodiment of the Sikh principle of “seva,” which means selfless service, and what’s more, the Langar is entirely volunteer-driven.
The Indian Law That Puts Family Before Everything Else
It’s illegal in India for kids to leave their parents in the lurch after they retire, and this law is just one example of the value of family and culture in Indian society. India’s Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act ensures that children care for their parents in their old age.
Parents can take legal action against their kids should they feel neglected or mistreated. Food for serious thought, particularly when we keep hearing cases of elder abuse in many countries. Although the family is everything, and it’s heartening to see India’s laws reflect it, things aren’t all rosy since the implementation is never easy.
Home to Tigers and Lions in the Wild
India is the only country in the world where tigers and lions live in the wild. The Royal Bengal tigers have distinctive orange coats with black stripes, and they blend beautifully into their surroundings. Spotting a tiger in the wild is difficult for the untrained eye, but with some luck, you might catch a glimpse while on a safari.
Asiatic lions inhabit Gujarat's Gir Forest National Park, where they roam freely and hunt for prey. Asiatic lions may be smaller than their African counterparts but are just as majestic and fierce. Like the tigers, Asiatic lions are also endangered, with only a few hundred left in the wild.
India’s Experimental Township
In the heart of Tamil Nadu lies a unique township called Auroville. Founded in 1968, Auroville is unlike any other in the world, a town that defies the norms of society as we know it. Religion as a concept does not exist here. Everyone contributes to the collective welfare of the town through work, kindness, and sometimes money – although money never changes hands inside Auroville.
The experimental community has people from all walks of life and cultures exchanging ideas and building meaningful, harmonious lives together. It is home to people from over 50 different countries. The ultimate goal is sustainability, eco-friendly living, and a world free from barriers.
All That Glitters: The Gold Reserves of Indian Housewives
Indian housewives hold 11% of the world's gold. That's more than the reserves of the United States, International Monetary Fund, Switzerland, and Germany put together! It's tradition for Indian families to invest in gold as a form of savings and security, but what nobody saw coming was the massive accumulation of gold in Indian households over time! The obsession with gold might sound strange to countries in the West, where gold is considered somewhat of an extravagance.
For many Indian families, gold represents wealth, status, and tradition, and it's not just a commodity. In some cases, gold ownership ensures financial security to many Indian housewives in strictly patriarchal households - women who otherwise might have limited agency in their everyday lives.
Building a Supercomputer In-House
India is the only country (other than the US and Japan) to have built a supercomputer by itself. No outsourcing or assistance from other countries - the PARAM supercomputer is proudly Indian. Since its development in 1991, India has continued to push the boundaries of its computing capabilities. The PARAM supercomputer ushered in a new era for India's technology industry.
When we think of tech hubs today, India is among the first names that come to mind, and the world’s biggest tech companies have offices in India. The city of Bangalore, India’s IT hub, has startup offices every few kilometers. The food and beverage industry caught on, and almost every cafe doubles up as a co-working space today.
The Indian Roots of the James Bond Theme
Hold on to your trivia hats! We were today years old when we learned that the James Bond theme has Indian roots! Composer Monty Norman took inspiration from a song he wrote for a musical based on "A House for Mr. Biswas," a book by VS Naipaul. The song, called "Good Sign Bad Sign," was originally composed on a tabla (Indian percussion instrument) and sung by Indian characters on the island of Trinidad.
When Norman presented the guitar version to the producers for "Dr. No," they hated it. Producer John Barry stepped in and created the iconic orchestral arrangement that cinephiles everywhere know and love.
The Fibonacci Sequence Originated From Sanskrit Poetry
The famous Fibonacci sequence originated in ancient India, where each number is the sum of two preceding numbers. An Indian scholar named Pingala described the pattern over 2000 years ago to explain patterns in Sanskrit poetry; then, Western European mathematics used these numbers much later when Leonardo of Pisa, also known as Fibonacci, described them in his book "Liber Abaci."
The next time someone complains about having to learn math in school, point them in this direction. Math is everywhere, only if one cares to look. A mathematical sequence with roots in ancient Sanskrit poetry is one of the best things we’ve learned lately.
India Invented the Button
The button, a fixture of our daily lives and wardrobes, has a fascinating origin story that goes back to the Indus Valley Civilization in India. The earliest known button, made from a curved shell, is a relic from around 2000 BCE. Initially, buttons were used as ornamental embellishments, a way for wealthy people to flaunt their status.
Buttons were essentially small holes drilled into cloth surfaces and attached using thread. Some of them formed intricate patterns – the more detailed the work, the more valued the garment. In time, buttons evolved to become more practical, serving as fasteners to keep clothing secure. The ancient Romans took this evolution one step further, using buttons as fasteners with the help of pins.
The Concept of “Zero” Originated in India
Zero, or nothingness, is a fundamental part of our lives – mathematically or metaphysically. But who came up with the idea of zero? And how did it become so indispensable to mathematics and mathematical language? The first recorded instance of zero as a symbol and a value was in India around 650 AD.
A mathematician named Brahmagupta represented zero with small dots underneath numbers known as "sunya" or "kha," meaning "empty" and "place," respectively. He assigned zero as a placeholder. He also gave it a null value – the first mathematician in history to do so. Brahmagupta’s representation of zero would go on to change the course of mathematics.
Indian Doctors Performed Sophisticated Cataract Surgeries Before Modern Medicine
As far back as 200 BC, Indian doctors were revolutionizing cataract surgery, using radically different methods from what the Greeks were doing at the time. They used a nifty tool called the Jabamukhi Salaka - a curved needle that delicately dislodged a clouded lens mucking up someone’s eyesight.
This technique was highly advanced for its time and a major breakthrough in eye surgery. The Greeks were so intrigued that they made the long journey to India just to see be able to see it in action. A word about this pathbreaking technique spread like wildfire, reportedly all the way to China.
Ancient Indian Scholars Estimated the Length of a Year With Amazing Accuracy
Ancient Indian scholars thousands of years ago were already making accurate calculations about the length of a year. The Surya Siddhanta – an astronomy text written between 700 BC to 600 AD - estimated that it took the Earth 365.2563627 days to revolve around the Sun. Astonishingly, this figure is only 1.4 seconds off from the modern value of 365.256363004 days.
It was the most accurate estimation in the world at that time, holding true for centuries. The Surya Siddhanta is a Sanskrit text on astronomy and timekeeping. The text has mind-bogglingly detailed information on the positions of celestial bodies, eclipses, and the calculation of the length of a solar year.
The Pythagorean Theorem Wasn't Discovered by Pythagoras
Pythagoras wasn't the first to discover the theorem that bears his name. Mesopotamian, Indian, and Chinese mathematicians all beat him to the punch! The Baudhayana Sulba Sutra, written between 800 BC to 500 BC in India, contains a statement of the Pythagorean theorem, even offering geometrical evidence of an isosceles right triangle.
The text contains some of the world's earliest known works on mathematics. The next time you use the theorem to calculate the length of a hypotenuse, remember that ancient scholars from across the world were using it long before Pythagoras came along. He’s the guy who made it popular and got all the credit.
Ayurveda is the World’s Oldest Healthcare System
Ayurveda is one of the world's oldest, most holistic healthcare systems, born in India at least 5,000 years ago. Ayurveda means “the science of life,” which beautifully captures the essence of this medicinal practice. Ayurvedic principles say that our health depends on the balance between mind, body, and spirit and how well we align ourselves with nature. We fall sick when this delicate balance is disrupted.
Treatments emphasize safe and affordable solutions to common ailments. Ayurveda isn’t just about healing. Prevention and overall wellness are emphasized through proper diets, exercise and movement, detoxifying remedies, and herbal medication. The World Health Organization (WHO) recognizes Ayurveda as a safe, natural, and effective alternative to modern medicine.
The Reasoning Behind Deep Breathing in Yoga
India’s ancient yogis and yoginis understood that life is precious. They believed humans only have a finite number of breaths allotted and must make each of them count. The secret to achieving this was deep breathing. Taking slow, deep breaths does wonders for our systems. It extends our lifespans and promotes physical and mental health.
This simple yet profound wisdom has now been passed down through the ages. Slow and deep breathing isn’t just for times when we’re stressed; we should be consciously slowing down daily. Thankfully, the world has yoga and meditation, where being conscious of one’s breath is non-negotiable.
India’s Aravalli Range Is the World’s Oldest Surviving Geological Feature
The Aravalli Range is the oldest surviving geological feature on the planet. Most people (even Indians) have no clue that the mountains and ridges they drive past daily are millions of years old, and they have survived countless geological upheavals. They’ve been around for so long that they once stood as tall as the Himalayas - hard to fathom considering their current height.
The mountains have been weathered down by the elements over millions of years to become the low hills and ridges we see today. Don't let their humble appearance fool you, though. The Aravallis are still magnificent in their own right, spanning an impressive distance of 800 kilometers from Gujarat to Delhi.
Noah's Ark: The Indian Mythology Version
Indian mythology has its own version of the Great Flood and the story of Noah's Ark. The legend goes that Vishnu, the Protector, had many avatars, and among them was a fish named Matsya. Matsya warned King Manu about a catastrophic flood that would wipe out all life on Earth. To save the world from destruction, Manu built a massive ship and filled it with animals and seeds.
Noah steered the ark to safety in the Bible, however, in Hindu mythology, Matsya guides the ship. It’s the crossover you never expected! Could these legends be a remembrance of the floods mentioned in the Bible? They say the world is small, and these two stories make it astonishingly more so.
The Cultural Bias Against Left-Handedness in India
Left-handed folks have traditionally had a hard time in India. The country has a strong cultural preference for right-handedness. There’s even a Hindi term for it – “Seedhe Haath,” which loosely translated means the “correct hand.” Visitors often receive advice about using their right hand exclusively. The left is supposedly reserved for unmentionable things like ablutions.
Using the left hand has long been considered taboo in many parts of the country – an inexplicable bias cutting across Hindu, Muslim, and Christian communities. Thankfully, things are better today. Some people believe the success of famous left-handed cricket players like Sourav Ganguly and Yuvraj Singh may have reduced the stigma.