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To cel­e­brate 70 years of In­dia’s in­de­pen­dence, 2017 has been des­ig­nated the UK-In­dia Year of Cul­ture. It’s a mag­i­cal, mys­ti­cal coun­try where no two trips will ever be the same.

While you might not be able to pre­dict ex­actly what will hap­pen when you visit, you can be cer­tain that it will be an ex­pe­ri­ence. This colourful coun­try has in­fi­nite cul­tural quirks. There are the Stand­ing Babas, Hindu men who don’t sit down for 12 years, and 84.4 mil­lion peo­ple who still live tribal life­styles in the most re­mote cor­ners of the land. Mys­ti­cism and su­per­sti­tion are wo­ven into the fab­ric of ev­ery­day life. Bunches of fra­grant lemons and chill­ies dan­gle above doors for luck, while ba­bies’ faces are daubed in dusky kohl to ward off the ‘Evil Eye’. Perch on one of the an­cient ghats in Varanasi (pic­tured) and you’ll see pil­grims dip­ping into the river Ganges to cleanse their souls after trudg­ing thousands of miles to reach this sa­cred city.

This year, there are a host of ac­tiv­i­ties to cel­e­brate the an­niver­sary. On 15 August, In­de­pen­dence Day, the en­tire coun­try grinds to a halt and looks up to the sky for cer­e­mo­nial kite dis­plays. Ex­pect a ma­jor mil­i­tary march in Delhi, rous­ing speeches by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi and pa­tri­otic songs such as Vande Mataram to blast out all over.

Ideal for a first-time visi­tor, In­dia’s Golden Tri­an­gle in­cludes the an­cient cities of Delhi, Agra and Jaipur. Ex­plore all three with Trav­el­sphere’s trav­el­ ten-day tour, as well as spot­ting tigers in Ran­tham­bore and vis­it­ing the Taj Ma­hal in Agra.

Can’t make it to In­dia? You can im­merse your­self in its unique cul­ture right here in the UK. Un­til the end of the year, the BFI in Lon­don is show­ing In­dian films in its cin­e­mas and online, while the Dak­sha Sheth Dance Com­pany will be tour­ing Birm­ing­ham and Ed­in­burgh from 24-30 Septem­ber. Lon­don’s Science Mu­seum is also launch­ing a sea­son of ex­hi­bi­tions called Il­lu­mi­nat­ing In­dia from 27 Septem­ber.


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