The Taj Mahal
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Uttar Pradesh is a state in the central north of India and with a population of around 200 million it is the most populous state in the country. It would be the 6th most populous country in the world when treated as a separate nation!
Sights and Activities
India's most famous attraction, the Taj Mahal, is a mausoleum in Agra that was constructed under Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his favorite wife, Mumtaz Mahal who died after giving birth to their son.
The imposing Agra Fort at Agra is something which should not be missed. The construction of this fort was started by Mughal Emperor Akbar and later on additional building were added by his son and grandson. The fort complex has numerous building of importance like the Moti Masjid, Sheesh Mahal, Jehangir’s Palace, Deewane-E-Am and Deewane-E-Khas.
According to Hindu mythology, Varanasi is considered to be one of the holiest cities in India. It lies along the banks of the sacred Ganges River, and it's believed that taking a dip in it washes away all the sins and purify the soul.
Events and Festivals
- Holi is quite popular in the Indian sub-continent and is traditionally celebrated on the day after the full moon in the month of Phalguna (early March), according to Hindu calender. Holi is a thanksgiving festival, where people offer prayer to God for good harvest and fertility of the land. Holi is a festival of freedom from social norms and caste inhibitions are shed for a day as people indulge in fun and merry-making. Colors and 'gulal' are showered on the people dressed up for the occasion and the whole community seems to merge into one big family under the guise of colors, without any distinction whatsoever. Children with face smeared with colors run around with 'pichkaris' (big syringes to splash colored water) and play amongst themselves. People exchange good wishes, sweets and gifts. Holi is also marked by vibrant processions which are accompanied by folk songs, dances and drum beating. Parties are also organized where snacks and the traditional milk-based drink “Thandai” is served which is often intoxicated with “Bhang”. Of late, lots of foreigners have started taking interest in this festival and they even enjoy the colors and the intoxicating drink. It is advised to cover your hair with a cap and eyes with sunglasses to avoid the colors splashing the eyes and damaging the hair.
- Republic Day - Republic Day is a national holiday in India every January 26 to commemorate the adoption of the Constitution in 1950 and the declaration of independence in 1930. The capital of New Delhi is the focus of the celebrations, including a flag raising ceremony, wreath laying, 21-gun salute, Presidential speech, and presentation of awards for selflessness and bravery. A massive military parade includes elephants ridden by children who have received national accolades.
- Gandhi Jayanti - Gandhi Jayanti is a national public holiday commemorating the birth of the peaceful activist, Mohandas Gandhi on October 2, 1869. The celebration coincides with the United Nations’ International Day of Non-Violence. In India, Gandhi is remembered through statues, flower and candle offerings, prayers and singing the devotional hymn Raghupati Raghava Raja Ram. The Indian government issues special mint rupees and postage stamps bearing his picture.
- Diwali - Diwali is the five-day festival of lights held in India in late October or early November each year. The widely celebrated Hindu event marks Lord Rama’s victory over the demon Ravan. Homes and streets are decorated with lights, candles and small clay lamps, and new clothes are worn and sweets are exchanged.
- Lucknow International Airport (Airport code LKO), also known as Chaudhary Charan Singh Airport is located in Amausi, around 20 kilometres from the city centre. The airport handles domestic flights to all the major cities of the country and international flights to a few destinations which include Dubai, Sharjah, Jeddah, Riyadh and Muscat. Some of the domestic airlines operating from Lucknow include Kingfisher, Indigo, Jet Airways, Indian Airlines. Pre-paid taxis are available from the airport to the city centre and recently a city bus service has also been started to service the airport.
- Varanasi Airport (VNS) can be reached by Indian Airlines from Delhi and Mumbai. Recently some of the budget carriers have also started flights from Delhi/Mumbai to Varanasi. These include Jet Airways, Kingfisher Airlines and Spice Jet. Khajuraho can be reached with Indian Airlines, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines, Lucknow with Indian Airlines and Chennai with Kingfisher Airlines. International connections include Kathmandu with Indian Airlines, Bangkok with Thai Airways International and Jet Airways, and Colombo with Mihin Lanka.
- The government is planning a new international airport which is expected to be operational in around 3 years time. For now, the small Agra Airport only receives flights from Delhi by Kingfisher Airlines. The nearest big airport is Delhi International Airport, which is about 200 kilometres away.