My love for North Indian Classical music began when I took a course taught by Vinay Bhide at Carleton University in 2002. His introduction to Indian music was aimed at all Western musicians, but to me seemed geared even more towards jazz musicians since so much of the excitement in Hindustani music comes from improvisation, usually over a pre-determined or standard form. Their idea of form differs, but not as much as you might think.
Although the amount of great reading materials is rapidly growing, I most often recommend the following books:
Music in North India
The Raga Guide
Ravi Shankar's Autobiography/Guide to music
One concept that appealed to me was improvising over an odd time cycle by finding a really relaxed and comfortable way to count and feel it.
I set Milestones to a 7.5 time cycle. I count it as five quarter notes and then five eighth notes (5/4 + 5/8 alternating).
[1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 1 2 3 4 5]
This sets up a nice 10+5 sensation that differs greatly from other ways of getting to 15 beats. The skip at the end makes it really feel like 7.5 quarters.
[1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5 - 6 - 7 - &]
I can't trust myself to count it properly this way, though. I like the grouping of two fives, one long, one short.
One suggestion to let a phrase breathe is to leave a space where the last beat would be. The result is
[1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - o - 1 2 3 4 o]
I find by leaving space in your counting (do this when you know you have the right pacing), it opens you up for more natural improv over top.
Here is a clip of me and Matt Ouimet jamming on it.