“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.