The vast “Incredible India” stand in Berlin continues to celebrate the diverse cultural experiences that are an indelible part of any journey to the subcontinent.
From the vast Himalayan ranges in the north to palm-fringed golden beaches of Kerala in the south, India’s contrasting landscape is also matched by the in nite cultural hues that colour daily life in a society that dates back thousands of years.
Anoop Biswas, tourist information officer for the Indian Ministry of Tourism, is at ITB Berlin to promote the fact that culture is endemic in every step through India. Travellers should also be ready to discover the fascinating cultural differences spread across the key regions in the east, west, south and north of the country.
“We are giving people the chance to encounter the local people and stay with local communities,” Biswas told ITB News about a strategy to encourage visitors to dig deeper into Indian cultural life.
Under the monikers “bed and breakfast” and “rural tourism”, visitors to the subcontinent are encouraged to stay in remote villages and become embedded with the local culture.
This includes the little-known Nagaland region of northeast India, a lush, mountainous enclave where 16 local hill tribes practice their own unique culture, and where travellers can embark on a trekking homestay to experience indigenous traditions from fertility and harvest festivals to music and dance rituals.
Lisapila Anar, Nagaland Tourism’s public relations of cer, said that the region is back at ITB Berlin after many years to “create visibility for tribal communities with very vibrant cultures.” To this end, she said the focus is on “living with local people.”
The Incredible India stand at ITB Berlin is showcasing a subcontinential cultural kaleidoscope including live henna body tattooing and meditation sessions with master yogis. The focus again is on cultural traditions from India’s four corners.
In the south, for example, the devout Dravidian people live and breathe their ancient religion in a region replete with vast Hindu temples covered by colored sculptures of gods and goddesses, and from where smell of incense and the chime of the temple bell rung by priests emanates from morning to night.
Rustic carts drawn by oxen with their brightly coloured painted horns while villagers harvest hay at the side of the road mark the journey from the metropolis of Chennai to the renowned temple town of Mahabalipuram.
Indeed, there are many impressive temple towns in South India, from Kanchipuram with its spectacular gopurams, to Tanjore, Tiruchirapalli and the pilgrim centre of Madurai – one of the oldest cities in southern India.
Meanwhile in the east near Mumbai, Ahmedabad is the principal textile city of the country, but is also well- known for the Sabarmati Ashram founded by Mahatma Gandhi – and where his ideals of peace and non-violence are still promoted to visitors who are always welcome.
Further east is Maharashtra, where visitors can nd the thirty Buddhist caves at Ajanta which are cut into the steep face of a deep rock gorge, and experience the special aura that is said to remain 2000 years after Buddhist monks inhabited the caves.
“Namaskar,” the word for welcome in India, is a word with much deeper implications for visitors to a timeless culture that has been 5,000 years in the making, says Anoop Biswas.
“In India, the guest is a god,” he says, repeating an ancient Sanskrit saying. In India, all people, including travellers, are part of one family, he adds.
As much as music, religion, arts and ancient architecture, this culture of openness is a key selling point for subcontinental travel vendors at this year’s India stand.
Hall 5.2b / Stands 205, 205a