India is an exhilarating assault on the senses: the sights, smells, and sounds. The country is incredibly diverse in terms of geography, religion, languages, art, cuisine, and customs. South India, in particular, has a strong sense of culture and tradition, especially Hindu tradition. Tamil Nadu is the cradle of Dravidian culture. The Tamil language is India's (and one of the world's) oldest surviving language. ELI operates throughout the southern states of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
Kerala is the southwestern-most state in India. For primarily geographical reasons, the culture in Kerala developed in realtive isolation from the rest of India, and many unique customs are still practiced on a daily basis. Karnataka, in turn, bridges the north and south of India and is home to the hi-tech capital of India, Bangalore. In part because of this range of diversity, South India has generally avoided some of the more violent clashes that have occurred elsewhere in the country. Travelers in this region can explore ancient temple cities, soak in cosmopolitan Chennai, float through Kerala's backwaters, sunbathe on sandy beaches, trek through the Western Ghats, and maybe catch a glimpse of a wild tiger or elephant.
ELI partners with many organizations in India to create diverse volunteer and internship opportunities. Participants can teach in the hill town of Munnar surrounded by tea plantations, help out in a village orphanage outside Chennai, study at one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in India, help plan an HIV awareness campaign in the poor neighborhoods of Chennai, plant trees in the Palani Hills, and much more. Each program offers an unforgettable cultural experience in a civilization that has been a center for art and learning for thousands of years.