Photograph by Antonino Puppi, My Shot
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
Photograph by Joe McNally/National Geographic Stock
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
Photograph by Dinodia Dinodia, Photolibrary
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
Photograph by Apratim Saha, My Shot
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
Photograph by Patitucci/Aurora Photos
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
Photograph by Thomas Holton/Getty Images
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
Photograph by David Lazar, My Shot
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.
Photograph by Subhrojyoti Banerjee, My Shot
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
Photograph by John Henry Claude Wilson/Getty Images
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
Photograph by Vikram Singh, My Shot
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
Photograph by Robert Harding/Masterfile
The Ladakh region, culturally Tibetan, is home to Buddhist temples and gompas, or monasteries, including Lamayuru. This arid Himalaya land was closed to visitors until the 1970s, and it remains sparsely populated.
Sacred Cows, Varanasi
Photograph by Mark Henley/photolibrary.com
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.
Photograph by Ed Kashi
A cow lies in the middle of the Golden Quadrilateral, a superhighway that opened in 1998 linking India's four main cities: Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata (Calcutta), and Delhi. It’s part of a $30 billion-plus National Highways Development Project—the most ambitious building spree in India since Britain created the railway system in the 1800s.
Photograph by Ed Kashi
Kolkata’s omnipresent rickshaws are part of its image—something it would like to change. City officials have debated banning the hand-pulled vehicles, citing traffic jams as well as humanitarian issues.
Chhatrapati Shivaji Railway Station, Mumbai
Photograph by Aji Lal, My Shot
Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, formerly the Victoria Terminus, is notable for its mix of traditional Indian and Victorian Gothic Revival architecture; it has turrets, pointed arches, and a ground plan that resembles an Indian palace.
Dharavi Slum, Mumbai
Photograph by Jonas Bendiksen/National Geographic Stock
A young girl walks through Mumbai's Dharavi slum, home to about a million people. Many Indians live in modern suburbs and work in gleaming skyscrapers, but many more—a large majority—remain impoverished and trapped by tradition.
Brigade Road, Bangalore
Photograph by Walter Bibikow/photolibrary.com
Bangalore’s Brigade Road hums, a reflection of how quickly India’s industries have grown in response to globalization. Along with Commercial Street and the MG Road, Brigade Road appeals to young, savvy shoppers.
Jain Wedding, Mumbai
Photograph by Kris Pannecoucke/Aurora Photos
In Mumbai, a bride feeds the groom at a Jain wedding, which requires a series of rituals thanking deities. Some tenets of Jainism are similar to those of Hinduism, but the religion hasn’t spread far beyond India.
Photograph by Petra Warner, My Shot
The hands of a woman in Jaipur are covered with mehndi patterns painted with henna. Trendy in recent years, the lacework decorations are part of a 5,000-year-old tradition of creating designs to ward off evil or declare one’s happiness.
Karni Mata Temple, Deshnoke
Photograph by Rachael Williams, My Shot
A woman in Deshnoke, Rajasthan, stands outside the Karni Mata Temple, a monument to the rat goddess. More than 20,000 rats live in the temple, including a handful of white ones, which are thought to be direct descendents of Karni Mata and therefore considered especially sacred.
Baha’i House of Worship, New Delhi
Photograph by Ed Freeman/Getty Images
The Baha’i House of Worship in New Delhi is better known as the Lotus Temple, thanks to its lotus-shaped concrete petals. The complex covers 26 acres (nearly 11 hectares).
Taj Mahal at Sunrise
Photograph by Adrian Pope/Getty Images
The Taj Mahal, one of the most enduring symbols of India, is popular with tourists, drawing more than two million each year. Cricket is the most popular sport in India.
Wrestling Match, Himachal Pradesh
Photograph by Himanshu Khagta, My Shot
Two men wrestle during a festival in Himachal Pradesh, which means “region of snowy mountains.” This resort area in the foothills of the Himalaya is an Indian favorite.
Sikh Holy Book
Photograph by Charles Meacham, My Shot
Sikhs reach to touch a chest containing a copy of their holy book, the Guru Granth Sahib, as it’s carried into Sachkhand Sri Hazur Sahib, a temple in Nanded, during the 300th-anniversary celebration of the book’s consecration. Sikhs also mark the anniversaries of the passing of their religion’s gurus.
Ganesh Festival, Mumbai
Photograph by Gautam Singh/Associated Press
During the ten-day Ganesh festival in Mumbai, devotees carry a statue of the elephant-headed Hindu god into the sea. Across India, worshippers carry hundreds of the statues into rivers and lakes as well as the sea.
Temples in Agra
Photograph by Martin Bauer, My Shot
Tourists flock to Agra to see the world-famous Taj Mahal, only to realize that the area is home to many other astonishing buildings, among them the 16th-century Red Fort, which once surrounded a Mogul imperial city.
2014 Traveler Photo Contest
See all the winning images from the 2014 Traveler Photo Contest.