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Tiger Safaris, Goa Beaches, and Maximum City Mumbai
Western and Central India offer a range of travel moments: tiger safaris to desert landscapes, easygoing Goa beaches to Mumbai’s mayhem. And while you are in the region, explore its rock-cut architecture, palaces, and spiritual side too.
Beyond its colonial and art deco architecture, vibrant Mumbai, with its hectic markets and endless jostling can be overwhelming. We understand that. Which is why Enchanting Travels’ private India tours take you through this megacity at an easy pace. And for relaxation after, spread your wings east or south. Barely an hour’s flight southward is India’s most laid-back corner, Goa, where warm waters, coconut groves, and delightful seafood are par for the course. Choose an alternative calm by travelling east to the national parks of Central India, famous for tiger safaris and luxury tented camps. But beyond that apex predator, the dense forests and sprawling grasslands brim with colorful birds, insects, and a multitude of other animals.
This region is also a history – and architecture-lover’s dream destination, starring erotic temples in Khajuraho, and a host of grand medieval forts and palaces. On a private India tour, spiritual seekers can also include time to explore temples and Hindu pilgrimage sites along the sacred Narmada River.
There is much to discover in Central & West India – from the UNESCO sites of Ajanta and Ellora, to tiger safaris, beaches, salt deserts at the Rann of Kutch and Nashik, which hosts the largest religious festival in the world. Our destination experts are happy to plan your private India tour to these famous sites of Central & West India.
What are the things to consider while planning a trip to India? What clothes should you pack for your tour? What type of food can your expect? What are Indian trains like? Our destination experts answer all these questions and more.
Our Central & West India tours offers great insights into the region’s culture, which is as varied as the landscape is diverse! Each state within the region has a distinctive set of traditions, festivals and social systems that govern the daily lives and eating habits of the people.
Hinduism is the main religion of the area and Muslims are the largest minority group, followed by Christians. Religion is deeply rooted in the culture and much religious strife has rocked the region (excluding Goa) since Independence. Through stricter rules and a vigorous secularist policy, the government today is advocating religious tolerance throughout the nation.
Each state in India has its own religious or state festivals and the following are popular in Central & West India:
Ganesh Chaturthi: when an idol of the Hindu deity Ganesha is paraded through the city and immersed in water, celebrated especially in Mumbai.
Navratri: a nine night Hindu festival, celebrating shakti (the goddess of power) that takes place through one of the harvesting seasons.
Shivratri: the day the Hindu deity Shiva married Parvati and celebrated in Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh.
Christmas: celebrated in Goa.
The region is known for its love of the arts, music and culture – from the beautifully carved temples of Khajuraho, the vibrant Garba dances of Ahmedabad, the Bollywood film industry of Mumbai to Goan song and dance.
Clothing varies greatly in each state and is generally dominated by the climatic conditions. Draped garments such as the sari for women and the dhoti for men, are popular through the country, although the sari is worn differently in each state. Mahatma Gandhi advocated the use of hand-woven khadi garments to counter the difficulties the Indian clothing industry faced due to colonial exploitation. Goa is perhaps the most relaxed area in India when it comes to clothing – Portuguese influence still holds sway and ‘everything goes’ in this tourist-friendly region!
Each state has its own language in India – Gujarati is the official language of Gujarat, Marathi in Maharashtra, Hindi is spoken widely in Madhya Pradesh and the Goans speak Konkani. English is widely spoken and understood in all urban areas although you may have trouble finding English-speakers if your Central & West India tour takes you into the interiors and rural regions.
Top Central & West India Travel Tip – Culture: Although Mumbai and Goa are relaxed cosmopolitan destinations, most of Central & Western India is rather orthodox and conservative.
Modesty in dress and behaviour are much appreciated in all of these states and public displays of affection are frowned upon.
Gujarati food is mainly vegetarian, given that Gujaratis are followers of Mahatma Gandhi, who advocated vegetarianism and forgoing alcohol and because of the influence of Jainism. A traditional Gujarati meal or thali (plate) includes flatbread, lentil soup, rice and various vegetable curries and sweets. A festive meal could contain up to a dozen items! You will find some of the best snacks and sweets in Ahmedabad during private Central & West India tours – from dhoklas and muthias to fafdas and sev, the food here is truly delish!
Food in Maharashtra can range from the extremely spicy to the supremely bland. Meat is eaten infrequently although people from urban centers such as Pune and Mumbai have fairly westernized food habits. Many vegetarian communities avoid eating onion and garlic as well as meat. The menu changes from season to season, depending on the availability of vegetables. Seafood and grated coconut are both popular ingredients in recipes.
Flatbread or chapatis made from wheat are a staple part of the diet here, as is rice. In arid parts of the state, a simple meal consisting of bread and a dry chutney is quite popular with the poor. Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh, which boasts Mughal and Muslim influence, offers rich and spicy and biryanis, kebabs and minced meat dishes.
Goa still bears traces of its Portuguese heritage when it comes to food. It is well-known for a charming fusion of modern cooking techniques with indigenous flavors tempered by colonial influence Food consists mostly of meat and seafood-based dishes, including shark, tuna, pomfret, lobster and kingfish.
Try some of these regional dishes:
Xacuti: curry made with roasted and grated coconut and meat such as lamb or chicken in Goa
Vindaloo: spicy meat-based curry in Goa known for its garlic and wine marinade
Poha: flattened rice eaten with jalebis (sweets) for breakfast in Madhya Pradesh
Bombay duck: a popular type of fish, usually fried with batter and served crispy
Puran poli: flatbread stuffed with jaggery and flour in Maharashtra
Khichdi: rice and lentils cooked together and served with pickles and buttermilk in Gujarat
Top Central & West India Travel Tip – Cuisine: The cow is regarded as a sacred animal everywhere in India and beef, which is not available in Gujarat, has recently banned in Maharashtra.
Western and Central India, which includes Gujarat, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh and Goa, is an enchanting amalgam of the rural, urban and beach life.
From ancient times, Central & Western India has been mentioned in various epics and historical documents. Some parts of Gujarat were home to the great Indus Valley civilization of the Bronze Age. According to the Indian epic, the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna, the reincarnation of the Indian deity Vishnu, founded the city of Dwarka in Gujarat – which exists today and has often been equated to the lost city of Atlantis!
Throughout history, the region was home to several mighty kingdoms that extended far and wide – the Rashtrakutas, the Mauryas of the illustrious Chandragupta Maurya fame, the Gurjars, the Satraps and even Greeks! In Central India, the Kalachuri kingdom held sway, building much of the beautiful architecture evident today! Vasco da Gama, the famous Portuguese explorer, reached Goa in 1498. For about 450 years, Goa remained under Portuguese control.
Central & Western India came to be ruled by the Mughals during the reign of Emperor Aurangzeb until the fall of the empire. The Mughal dominion was followed by the mighty Maratha empire in the West. The descendants of this kingdom, the Marathis, are the dominant people of Maharashtra today! In Central India, several smaller kingdoms continued to be at war and at one point, even fought the Nawabs of Bengal. The region was involved in the Anglo-Maratha war when the British arrived. Most of India came under colonial rule.
During the struggle for Indian Independence, the region saw some major upheavals. Mahatma Gandhi led the famous Dandi March to resist the British in Gujarat.
After much strife, India was freed from British rule in 1947 and Central & Western India was divided into several states based on the languages spoken in each area. The infamous Chambal valley of Madhya Pradesh, home to crocodiles, turtles and dolphins, saw the reign of infamous dacoits (bandits) until the early 21st century.
The area has seen a series of difficulties, from earthquakes that killed thousands, to the violent Gujarat riots that rocked the nation, and the Bhopal gas tragedy which is reportedly one of the worst man-made disasters in the world. The national and state governments have implemented various measures to help victims and today, almost one-fourth of India’s GDP comes from this region.
Rudyard Kipling famously wrote The Jungle Book, after spending time in the vast national parks of this region. Today, this still remains the best spot for a tiger safari in India.
Top Central & West India Travel Tip: On our tailor-made Central & West India tours, you can visit the historic Sabarmati Ashram, a national monument where Mahatma Gandhi resided for many years.