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Passport: India

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Travel to the country with a rich cultural, spiritual and artistic history — India — a vastly diverse nation with some of the most amazing sights you’ll ever see.

In addition to the art, jewelry and fashion many appreciate and collect from India, cultural elements like spirituality, yoga, films and dance are also popular exports from foreigners. For some, food has become a favorite. Now mainstream grocery stores and restaurants are incorporating Indian foods and spices that were difficult to find a decade ago.

So, pack your imaginary backpack and trek through this world of color, spices and adventure in our slide show of images from the Golden Triangle — Agra, Jaipur and Delhi — to the South, where the financial capital of the nation, Mumbai, bustles with commerce and traffic every day. And, once you’ve traveled the country in photos, find out how much you know about it with our quiz.

Life in India

Find out whether these tidbits about life in India are fact or fiction.

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Perhaps the most recognizable tourist destination in India, the Taj Mahal, not only boasts millions of visitors each year, it is also considered one of the seven wonders of the world.

Yet, this beautiful structure is not the only extraordinary sight to behold in India. Venture further into the art, culture and destinations of this unique country.

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Made of marble and semi-precious gemstones like onyx, the Taj Mahal is an intricate masterpiece. In this photo, you can see just a small fraction of the details on this historic structure.

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On the grounds of the Taj Mahal, fountains, trees, ponds and sweeping views of a river accompany the ambiance of the great memorial. And, on each side of the Taj are two identical mosques that mirror each other.

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Fatehpur Sikri is a city located outside of Agra on the way to Jaipur. Akbar the Great, the Mughal emperor in 1750, created the city as a second home for his family away from busy Agra. Only the elaborate palace and mosque remain, Fatehpur Sikri is an amazing location to tour, though it's off the beaten track a little.

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Ornate carvings in rust red similar to the Agra Fort, decorate the walls, turrets and even graves located in the palace and mosque. And, if you're lucky, you'll get to witness an intense sandstorm as photographed here (ha!). Well, at least it was an authentic experience.

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On the road to Jaipur, which is home to a historic region called the Pink City, men herd camels to sell in markets on the western edge of the country near Pakistan. Young and old camels travel the distance, their heads bobbing along as they chew hay with bored eyes and the occasional bray from an annoyed member of the pack.

At many tourist spots you can pay to ride one of these oddly shaped animals. Who feel almost like a horse, but a lot higher. Watch out for their spit!

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Another majestic creature you'll see on the road is the elephant. Strong and easy to manage, elephants are used to transport people, pull trailers and even, move heavy objects (when trained well). Though they require a lot of clean up and plenty of water (they get thirsty and ornery quickly), they are social animals that like to follow each other.

Many tourists line up early in the morning to ride elephants up to the Amber Fort in Jaipur. Day after day, elephants follow each other up the cobbled path to the palace, as foreigners snap photos in ridiculous hats.

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Hawa Mahal

Perhaps one of the more decorative facades in Jaipur, Hawa Mahal, is the part of the City Palace in the historic region the Pink City. This salmon-colored palace is made of sandstone and was originally crafted so the ladies of the palace, the maharaja's harem, could observe the life of the city without ever being seen.

This section of the palace has 953 windows, which allow for a cooling breeze, which is where it's name originates, "Palace of the Winds." The shape of the facade was created to resemble the crown of Lord Krishna, a Hindu god.

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In Jaipur, bright colors are a must from women of all ages. Pink and orange fabrics are always in style. Whether women are shopping for a sari or fabric for a lenghas or kurtis.

Never heard of a sari? A sari is a traditional dress worn by Indian women. A lengha is another type of dress worn to more formal occasions like weddings. A kurti is a tunic type of shirt worn with pants underneath.

When shopping for fabric, be careful to notice the amount of embroidery and beading on the material -- the more detail, the higher the price!

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Sari Shopping

Sari shopping is perhaps one of the more fun and less intense shopping experiences in India. Due to the extreme poverty, there is a lot of begging and markets can be especially intimidating experiences because vendors are so aggressive.

However, in the comfort of a sari shop, where you will sit on a bench and select from a range of fabrics, while a man drapes them on himself to show you what your sari would look like, it's like watching your own personal fashion show. And, sometimes, they'll even bring a soda or some tea for you to sip while you choose.

After you've chosen the fabric for your sari, you'll have to take it to a tailor. The tailor will create a top and petticoat to wear underneath the fabric. There are many styles of tops worn by women, often designed to flatter their personal style. Depending on what part of the country you are in, women tie and wrap their saris differently.

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Holi

Holi, or the Festival of Colors is a celebration of springtime practiced by Hindus. On the holiday, many youngsters take to the streets buying colored powders that they throw on their friends and family to mark the end of winter. Though there are a couple different origins relating to Hindu mythology, many feel it's a way to celebrate good health and love.

When the holiday began, people would throw herbs on one another, later colored powder and colored water was used to commemorate the event.

Traveler's Warning: While the holiday is fun, some travelers should be careful where they buy "colors," the colored powder. Some are made of synthetic materials that can burn your skin.

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Amber Fort

Located high above Jaipur are the maharaja's summer and winter homes. The Amber Fort and the Jaigarh Fort. In the photo to the left, the maharaja's court at the Amber Fort is shown. Much of the palace is covered in carvings, frescoes, tile work and mirrors. Both forts also have a sophisticated system of cooling and water retrieval that were highly advanced in its inception.

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After visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra and the sights in Jaipur, you can venture up to Delhi where sights like the Red Fort and the Lotus Temple reside. The Lotus temple is a Bihai Temple, a religion based on the unity of all the world's religions. The Lotus Temple, named after its flower-like shape, was completed in 1986.

When visiting the temple, you must leave your shoes outside. Inside the temple, it is completely silent despite the amazing acoustics of the high cathedral-like ceiling and the cool marble floors.

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New Delhi is the second largest metropolitan area in India, second to Mumbai. Given the Delhi territory's and the city of New Delhi's large populations, there are many impoverished communities located within and the surrounding the area. Sonia Bihar, the largest slum, located North of the city, is an illegal tenement.

In fact, many slums are named after politicians and historical figures in hopes of deterring people from tearing down something that is named after them or someone important to India's history.

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This photo was also taken in the Sonia Bihar slum, where some children now have access to education and vaccines due to the help of the Hope Foundation. The Hope Foundation, an American organization dedicated to improving the lives and welfare of women and children in countries across the globe, established a clinic and school in the slum for its residents.

The foundation also aids a nearby Leprosy colony and orphanage.

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The Red Fort

Indian national flags flutter outside the Red Fort in New Delhi, India, Sunday, Aug. 14, 2005. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will address the nation Monday from the Red Fort during the 58th Independence Day celebrations.

(AP Photo/Gurinder Osan)

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Ramdayal Srivastava, a freedom fighter, dressed as Mahatma Gandhi climbs up to put a garland on Mahatma Gandhi statue on his134th birth anniversary in Bhopal, India, Thursday, Oct.2, 2003.

(AP Photo/Prakash Hatvalne)

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A replica of Delhis India Gate is seen as Hindu devotees throng to take a dip in the holy river Ganges on the occasion of Kartik Purnima in Varanasi, India, Saturday, Nov. 8, 2003. According to the Indian almanac, the full moon day or Purnima of the month of Kartik, which usually falls in November, is one of the most auspicious days. On this day Hindus worship Ganga Devi, the Goddess who presides over the Holy Rivers.

(AP Photo/Rajesh kumar Singh)

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A sign at the popular Gateway of India tourist site in Bombay welcomes visitors with the unfamiliar name, "Mumbai," in this photograph made Sunday August 20, 1995. The city of 12 million and India's financial capital has been ordered renamed by the right-wing Shiv Sena party, which won legislative control of Maharashtra state in March.

(AP Photo/Santosh Bane)

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Slumdog Millionaire (2008) won 8 Academy Awards. The film was shot on location in Mumbai, India.

In this image released by Fox Searchlight pictures, Dev Patel, left, and Freida Pinto are shown in a scene from "Slumdog Millionaire." The film was nominated for an Academy Award for best picture, Thursday, Jan. 22, 2009. The 81st Oscars will be presented Feb. 22 in a ceremony airing on ABC from Hollywood's Kodak Theatre.

(AP Photo/Fox Searchlight, Ishika Mohan)

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Azharuddin Mohammed Ismail, child actor of the Oscar-winning movie "Slumdog Millionaire," left, looks on outside his new house in a residential complex in Mumbai, India, Saturday, July 4, 2009. The makers of the hit movie bought the new home for Azhar, who lost his homes in May when authorities demolished parts of the slum area he lived in.

(AP Photo/Rajanish Kakade)

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An Indian vendor arranges oranges for sale at a wholesale fruit market in Calcutta, India, Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2007.

(AP Photo/Sucheta Das)

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A dance teacher throws colored powder on students during a celebration of "Holi", the Indian festival of colors at the Rabindra Bharati University in Calcutta, India, Monday, March 9, 2009. The University is named after India's first Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore.

(AP Photo/Bikas Das)

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Can you guess what city Jessica is in?

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