In a sea of Indian saris, Mrs. Kennedy and Rajasthan's governor move through Jaipur airport. On her forehead is the Rajasthani mark of luck and respect, the tika. Her silver-encased coconut also honors the occasion
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Caption from LIFE. In a sea of Indian saris, Mrs. Kennedy and Rajasthan's governor move through Jaipur airport. On her forehead is the Rajasthani mark of luck and respect, the tika. Her silver-encased coconut also honors the occasion.Art Rickerby—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
In a sea of Indian saris, Mrs. Kennedy and Rajasthan's governor move through Jaipur airport. On her forehead is the Rajasthani mark of luck and respect, the tika. Her silver-encased coconut also honors the occasion
Indira Gandhi with Jackie Kennedy in 1962.
The First Lady Jackie Kennedy and sister Lee Radziwill in India in 1962. LIFE estimated Jackie wore 22 different outfits during her trip; on one day in New Delhi she changed five times.
On a side trip to a textile showroom in Banaras, Mrs. Kennedy wore a sleeveless pink unbelted and high-waisted sheath of linen-like silk by New York designer Donald Brooks. Covered buttons up the side.
As day followed vivid day, India's magic began to work on Mrs. Kennedy and — in a change from the first days of the trip — she became relaxed and easy
Jackie Kennedy during her visit to India in March 1962.
First Lady Jackie Kennedy, center, in a white coat and hat walks with Ambassador John Galbrath, right, in India in 1962.
The esthetic summit of Jackie's trip was her visit to the Taj Mahal. She saw it twice —once in the morning, as here, and again by moonlight, when she returned to stand in awe before its pale splendor.
Jackie Kennedy presents a cup to Princess Gayatri Devi, right, and members of a polo team in Jaipur in March 1962.
Jackie Kennedy attends a formal event in India in 1962.
At Jaipur, sitting in an elaborately carved howdah, Jackie and her sister [Lee Radziwill] ride on a trumpeting female elephant, newly painted and spangled for the show.
First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy wears a pink dress and three-stranded pearls during her visit with Indian leader Jawaharlal Nehru, left, and Ambassador to the U.S., Braj Kumar Nehru.
In fitted silk apricot dress, Jackie walks through crowds at Udaipur, where she was given a noisy reception." She walks with the Maharaj of Mewar, left, during her visit in 1962.
Jacqueline Kennedy
Mrs. Kennedy, center, and Mrs. Indira Gandhi, third from left, attend a sporting event on the First Lady's tour of India in March 1962.
Mrs. Kennedy smiles with the U.S. ambassador to India, John Kenneth Galbraith, in 1962.
Jackie Kennedy during her tour of India in March 1962.
Jackie Kennedy visits children in a hospital during her tour of India in March 1962.
First Lady Jackie Kennedy is greeted by Gov. Gurmukh Nihal Singh, center, at Jaipur Airport in March 1962.
On a carved wooden swing in the prime minister's garden, the First Lady sits and talks with Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter and the former president of the ruling Congress party of India.
Jackie walks with Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in the garden of his home in 1962.
Jackie Kennedy on her tour of India in March 1962.
On veranda outside her room at the residence of Prime Minister Nehru, Mrs. Kennedy turns her miniature camera on photographers. Beside her, Ambassador Galbraith busies himself with his notes
Jackie Kennedy with Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru in India in 1962.
First Lady Jackie Kennedy, right, in blue sheath dress and white gloves watches a polo match with Maharani of Jaipur, Gayatri Devi, on a visit to India in March 1962.
At a glittering state luncheon for her in New Delhi, the First Lady, wearing a green Oleg Cassini sheath, sits at the right hand of Prime Minister Nehru.
Jackie Kennedy at the Taj Mahal in March 1962.
Caption from LIFE. In a sea of Indian saris, Mrs. Kennedy and Rajasthan's governor move through Jaipur airport. On her f
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Art Rickerby—The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images
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LIFE With Jackie Kennedy: The First Lady Wows India in 1962

Feb 09, 2012

"If she commanded fewer crowds than previous, official tourists like President Eisenhower and Queen Elizabeth," LIFE wrote of Jackie Kennedy's 1962 goodwill tour of India, "she [nevertheless] conducted herself magnificently."

Kennedy — all of 32 years old and, a full year into her husband's administration, arguably the most famous woman in the world — "wore a perpetual grin and a dazzling collection of clothes that were both perfect and simple" during her March 12-21 visit. But, as correspondent Anne Chamberlin reported, she "was not slavishly given over to Kennedy ways. One morning when a lot of Kennedys would have been up to see the sun rise over Delhi or swim 80 laps in the pool, Jackie slept late."

While in India the stylish First Lady also had an effect on the "traditionally dowdy female press corps," LIFE wrote: "Two lady reporters now carry, in addition to typewriters, hatboxes containing wigs, and three take notes while wearing little white gloves."

Here, LIFE.com offers a series of photographs — many of which never ran in LIFE — that capture a young woman, wife, mother and fashion icon-in-the-making ("Her every seam has been the subject of hypnotized attention from the streets of Delhi to the Khyber Pass," Chamberlin wrote) navigating with evident ease the high-stakes, high-stress worlds of diplomacy and international relations.

For her part, meanwhile, it was clear that Mrs. Kennedy took something of India with her when she left.

"It's been a dream," Jackie said of her trip.

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