India is a mystical land of seductive images. It is also India's vastness that challenges the imagination: the subcontinent is home to one sixth of the world's population, a diverse culture and an intoxicatingly rich history.
Perhaps this is because Indian civilisation can be traced back to at least 2500 BC. The first known civilisation settled along the Indus River in what is now Pakistan. Between 521 and 486 BC, under Darius, the area became part of the Persian Empire. India's two great religions, Hinduism and Buddhism, developed, and various dynasties emerged.
Such a rich history has spawned palaces, temples and monuments. Indeed, the most frequently visited part of India is the Golden Triangle. The great cities of Mumbai and Kolkata have a bustling, colourful charm, while the holy city of Varanasi or the awe-inspiring temples of Tamil Nadu are worthy objects of pilgrimage. And for solitude, India ripples with mountains and hills, from the towering beauty of the Himalayas to pine forests, lakes and babbling streams.
One of the fascinations of India is the juxtaposition of old and new; centuries of history rubbing shoulders with the computer age.