India (Hindī: भारत Bhārat), officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the most populous liberal democracy in the world.India has a coastline of over seven thousand kilometres and borders Afghanistan and Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is in the vicinity of the Indian Ocean nations of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand.
The first urban civilization on the Indian subcontinent arose around 3300 BCE in the Indus river valley. India subsequently became a hub of ancient trade routes, the seat of vast empires, and a center of cultural innovation and synthesis,whose diverse achievements included the decimal number system,the Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta and the Taj Mahal.Four of the world's major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism all originated in India, while Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism arrived in the first millenium CE and played an influential role in the formation of the variegated culture of India. In addition, through the transmission of Buddhism and Hinduism, India notably influenced the cultures of South Asia,South-east Asia,and East Asia.
India emerged as a modern democratic nation-state in 1947 after a struggle for independence which was characterized by the first large-scale use of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience, as a means of social protest. It became a republic in 1950, with the completion of a constitution that guaranteed "liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship". Modern India is a large and complex country that defies easy characterization. On the one hand, it is now the fourth largest economy (PPP) in the world and the second fastest growing economy,having made rapid economic progress in the last ten years, especially in the field of information technology. It has the second largest agricultural output of any country in the world and the 14th largest industrial output. It is a declared nuclear deterrent state,has an active space program, and is now sometimes spoken of as an emerging superpower. On the other hand, despite these gains, India battles endemic poverty and uneven development. It ranks 122nd in per capita income among the nations of the world, with 79.9% of its population living on less than $2 a day. India also ranks 127th in the United Nations 2005 human development index and, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization, has the largest number of undernourished people of any country in the world, which, at 212 million, is a full one-fifth of the population. However, India's overall prognosis is now much improved: with its high rates of growth, its standard of living is expected to rise sharply in the 21st century.
The name India /'indiə/ is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River. The Constitution of India and common usage recognise Bharat, as an official name; India is also recognized with equal status. A second name, Hindustan (Persian: Land of the Hindus) has been used since the twelfth century, although its contemporary use is unevenly applied.
- Main article: History of India
Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at Bhimbetka in the state of Madhya Pradesh are the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared over 9,000 years ago and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilization, dating back to 3300 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic Civilization which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country laying the foundations of ancient India.
The empire built by the Maurya dynasty under Emperor Ashoka the Great united most of modern Southern Asia except the Dravidian kingdoms in the south and laid the first foundation of a united subcontinental territory. From 180 BCE, a series of invasions from Central Asia into the north-western Indian Subcontinent followed, including the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and the Kushans. From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient India's "Golden Age." While the north had larger, fewer kingdoms, in the south there were several dynasties such as the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Cheras, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas in different times and regions. The political influence of these mighty southern kingdoms, though felt to a lesser extent by north India, extended into Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka and deeply influenced their culture. The southern kingdoms remained relatively more stable and carried out maritime trade in spices and precious gems with the Arabia, China and Europe from ancient times. Science, engineering, art, literature, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.
Following the invasions from Central Asia, between the tenth to the twelfth centuries, much of north India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty, who gradually expanded their reign through most of the Indian subcontinent. Nevertheless, several indigenous kingdoms flourished,in the west and the south, such as the Maratha Empire and Vijayanagara Empire. From the sixteenth century onwards, several European countries, including Portugal, Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, started arriving as traders, and attempted to establish colonies in the subcontinent, taking advantage of the fractious nature of relations between thousands of kingdoms. At the Battle of Plassey in 1757, the British East India Company defeated the local ruler Siraj-ud-Dawla and was given Bengal. Overtaxation by the British resulted in the Famine of 1770. In 1857, a nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms, known as the Rebellion of 1857 broke out. This shook the British East India Company, however, the lack of an organized leadership weakened the rebellion, and inspired the British to take more power. The British again started the process of uniting the territories and even appointed symbolic Governors-General, who, in reality, were subject to the capriciousness of the Indian kings and nobles. Over the next few decades, many Indian kings and nobles cleverly used those symbolic British Governor-Generals for a western-style industrial development of their respective myriad territories. A western-style bureaucracy was raised with trained Indian people. It was during this time that the railways, telegraph and posts, military camps (cantonments) western-style educational institutes, and other industries were established. By this time the British realized that all these territories could be directly brought under the direct control of their empire. However, both the World Wars weakened Britain. The Indian freedom movement reached a cresendo between the wars when a unified territory allowed intensfication of the movement, culminating into the forging of a large powerful democratic nation. Some historians also point out that during the last decades of 19th century, the numerous Indian nobles allowed the rapid development and industrialisation initiated by the British colonial authorities, perhaps expecting an absorption of the people or eventual expulsion of the authority from the country.
By the early twentieth century, a nationwide movement for social reforms, expulsion of the British, and full native governance was launched by the Indian National Congress, and various revolutionary groups. The movement was largely led by Mahatma Gandhi, with Maulana Azad, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bipin Chandra Pal and Subhash Chandra Bose playing important roles. Millions protested in various mass campaigns of civil disobedience where a very prominent philosophy was of ahimsa or non-violence. There were also armed revolts throughout this period where numerous Indians like the Chaphekar brothers, Bhagat Singh, Udham Singh, Sukhdev, Rajguru and an army of Indian soldiers under Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose used revolutionary or military means. Finally, after the Quit India movement during WWII and a number of mutinies in the armed forces after the war, the British colonial authority ended with the emergence of India as a modern democratic nation-state on 15 August 1947. This period also sowed the seeds of another nation - Pakistan, and after a blood-stained partition, the Muslim majority regions were carved out to form Pakistan. Three years later, on 26 January 1950, India ratified a new Constitution, and became a republic. Modern India thus emerged as a amalgamation of western democracy while preserving its ancient heritage laid in its first foundation in 321 BCE during Emperor Ashoka the Great's Mauryan Empire.
Since it became a democratic nation-state, India has seen sectarian violence and insurgencies in various parts of the country, but has maintained its unity and democracy. It has unresolved territorial disputes with China, which escalated into the brief Sino-Indian War in 1962; and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and in 1999 war in Kargil. India is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations (at the time as part of British India). In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test. This was followed by five more tests in 1998. Significant economic reforms beginning in 1991 have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.
India is referred to as the largest democracy in the world, by virtue of the fact that it has the largest electing population among democratic countries. The country has a federal form of government and a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. It has three branches of governance: the Legislature, Executive and Judiciary. The President is the head of state, though he has a largely ceremonial role to play. He is also the Supreme Commander of India's armed forces. The President is elected indirectly by an electoral college for five-year terms. Presidential assent is needed for a Bill or Ordinance passed by the Parliament to come into force. The Prime Minister is the de facto head of government, and has most executive powers. He or she is appointed by the President, with the requirement that he or she enjoy the support of the party or coalition having more than 50% seats in the lower house. The Union Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister aids and advises the President on governance matters.
The legislature of India is the bicameral Parliament, which consists of the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), and the lower house called the Lok Sabha (House of People). The 245-member Rajya Sabha is chosen indirectly through the state Legislative Assemblies, and has a staggered six-year term. Each state sends members to the Rajya Sabha in a proportion of its population. The 545-member Lok Sabha is directly elected (Some seats are reserved for Caste based system) by popular vote for a five-year term (except two nominated Anglo-Indian members), and is the determinative constituent of political power and government formation. Universal adulthood suffrage is guaranteed by the Constitution for citizens above 18 years of age. The executive arm consists of the President, Vice-President, and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet being its executive committee) headed by the Prime Minister. Any minister holding a portfolio must be a member of either house of parliament. In the Indian parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the legislature.
India's independent judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India. The Supreme Court has both original jurisdiction over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the eighteen High Courts of India, and additionally, the power to declare Union and state laws null and void if in conflict with the Constitution.
For most of its democratic history, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress. The party enjoyed a parliamentary majority barring two brief periods during the 1970s and late 1980s. This rule was interrupted between 1977 to 1980, when the Janata Party coalition won the election owing to public discontent with the "Emergency" declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Janata Dal won elections in 1989, but its government managed to hold on to power for only two years. Between 1996 and 1998, there was a period of political flux with the government being formed first by the right-of-centre, nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) followed by a left-leaning United Front coalition. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with smaller regional parties, and became the first non-Congress and coalition government to complete a full five-year term. The 2004 Indian elections saw the left-leaning Congress party winning the largest number of seats to form a government by leading the United Progressive Alliance, and supported by communist parties and those opposed to the BJP.
Foreign relations and the military
Since emerging as a unified nation-state, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. It took a lead in the 1950s in advocating the dissolution of European colonialism in Africa and Asia. During the Cold War, India tried to maintain its neutrality and was one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. After the Sino-Indian War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, India's relationship with the Soviet Union warmed at the expense of ties with the United States and continued to remain so until the end of the Cold War. India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT to maintain sovereignty over its nuclear program despite criticism and military sanctions. Recent overtures by the Indian government have strengthened India's relations with United States, China and Pakistan. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations of South America, Asia and Africa. In recent years, India has played an influential role in the SAARC. India has been a long time supporter of the United Nations, with over 55,000 Indian military and police personnel having served in 35 UN peace keeping operations over four continents . Since the 1990s, India has been considered an emerging power on the global stage, meaning it has increasing influence on international affairs.
Administratively, India is divided into twenty-nine states (which are further subdivided into districts), and six union territories (or territories owned by the Central Government). All states and the union territories of Delhi and Puducherry have elected governments. The remaining union territories have centrally-appointed administrators. The states and territories are further divided into 602 districts.
- Andhra Pradesh
- Arunachal Pradesh
- Himachal Pradesh
- Jammu and Kashmir
- Madhya Pradesh
- Tamil Nadu
- Uttar Pradesh
- West Bengal
- See also: List of Indian districts
The territory of India constitutes a major portion of the Indian subcontinent, situated on the Indian Plate, the northerly portion of the Indo-Australian Plate, in southern Asia. India's northern and northeastern states are partially situated in the Himalayan Mountain Range. The rest of northern, central and eastern India consists of the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain. In the west, bordering southeast Pakistan, lies the Thar Desert. The southern Indian Peninsula is almost entirely composed of the Deccan plateau, which is flanked by two hilly coastal ranges, the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats.
India is home to several major rivers, including the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Yamuna, Godavari, Kaveri, Narmada, and Krishna. India has three archipelagos – Lakshadweep off the southwest coast, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands - volcanic island chain to the southeast, and the Sunderbans in the Gangetic delta in West Bengal.
Climate in India varies from tropical in the south to more temperate in the Himalayan north, with elevated regions in the north receiving sustained snowfall in winters. India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert. The Himalayas, along with the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan, provide a barrier to the cold winds from Central Asia. This keeps most of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations in similar latitudes. The Thar Desert is responsible for attracting the moisture laden southwest monsoon winds that provide most of India's rainfall between June and September.
Flora and fauna
India, lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, hosts significant biodiversity; it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of all avian, 6.2% of all reptilian, 4.4% of all amphibian, 11.7% of all fish, and 6.0% of flowering plant species. Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic. India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and North-East India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; the teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain. Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies. The pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded the Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment.
Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, to which India originally belonged. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic changes 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms. Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya. As a result, among Indian species, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians. Notable endemics are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and the brown and carmine Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species. These include the Asiatic lion, the Bengal tiger, and the Indian white-rumped vulture, which suffered a near-extinction from ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-treated cattle.
In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife; in response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; further federal protections were promulgated in the 1980s. Along with more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries, India now hosts fourteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.
The economy of India is the fourth largest in the world as measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), with a GDP of US $3.63 trillion. When measured in USD exchange-rate terms, it is the twelfth largest in the world, with a GDP of $785.47 billion or Rs 35,34,615 crore in 2005, as calculated by the World Bank. India is the second fastest growing major economy in the world, with a GDP growth rate of 9.3%, and annual Industrial production change of 12.4%, as of the first quarter of 2006. Wealth distribution in India, a developing country, is fairly uneven, with the top 10% of income groups earning 33% of all income. India's per capita income (PPP) of US$ 3,400 is ranked 122nd in the world. It is calculated by the IMF that by 2007, the Indian economy will be ranked 3rd measured by PPP.
For most of its democratic history, India adhered to a quasi-socialist approach, with strict government control over private sector participation, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. Starting from 1991, India has gradually opened up its markets through economic reforms by reducing government controls on foreign trade and investment. Privatisation of public-owned industries and some sectors to private and foreign players has continued amid political debate.
India has a labour force of 496.4 million of which 60% is employed in agriculture or agriculture-related industries which contributes to only about 22% of the GDP, 17% in mainstream industry and 23% in service industries. India's agricultural produce includes rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes. Major industries include textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum and machinery.
India's large English speaking middle-class has contributed to the country's growth in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). It is becoming a major base for US tech companies for future targeted research & development, including the likes of Google, IBM, and Microsoft. All this has helped the services sector to increase its share of the economy to approximately 50%.
India is also a major exporter of financial, research and technology services. India's most important trading partners are the United States, China, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and Belgium.
India is the second-most populous country in the world with an estimated 1.1 billion people in 2006. Language, caste and religion are determinants of social and political organisation within its diverse population. Although 81.5% of the people are Hindus, India is also home to the second-largest population of Muslims in the world (12.2%), after Indonesia. Other religious groups include Sikhs (2%), Christians (2.33%), Buddhists (0.76%), Jains (0.40%), Jews, Zoroastrians, and Bahá'ís. The national average literacy rate is 64.4%(with males-75.6% and females-54.2%). The state of Kerala leads the country with a literacy rate of approximately 94%.
Unlike the USA, UK, and Australian Censuses, the national Census of India does not recognize racial or ethnic groups within India.
India's biggest metropolitan agglomerations are Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Delhi, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Chennai (formerly Madras), Bangalore, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad. The national sex ratio is 933 females per 1,000 males and median age is 24.66. India's birth rate is 22.32 births per 1,000. The total fertility rate (TFR) for India is above the world average, however the growth rate is showing signs of decrease in South India.
India is home to two major linguistic families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by about 24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman linguistic families. The Indian constitution recognises 23 official languages. Hindi and English are used by the Union Government of India for official purposes, wherein Hindi has a de jure priority. Sanskrit and Tamil enjoy classical language status in India. The number of dialects in India is as high as 1,652.
India has a rich and unique cultural heritage, and has managed to preserve its established traditions throughout history whilst absorbing customs, traditions and ideas from both invaders and immigrants. Many cultural practices, languages, customs and monuments are examples of this co-mingling over centuries. Famous monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Islamic-inspired architecture have been inherited from the Mughal dynasty. These are the result of a syncretic tradition that combined elements from all parts of the country.
Indian music is represented in a wide variety of forms. The two main forms of classical music are Carnatic from South India, and Hindustani from North India, each of which has several popular sub classes. Popular forms of music also prevail, the most notable being Filmi music and Bhangra music. In addition to this are the diverse traditions of folk music from different parts of the country. Many classical dance forms exist, including the Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Manipuri. They often have a narrative form and are usually infused with devotional and spiritual elements.
The earliest literary traditions in India were mostly oral, and were later transcribed. Most of these are represented by sacred works like the Vedas and the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Sangam literature from Tamil Nadu represents some of India's oldest traditions. There have been many notable modern Indian writers, both in Indian languages and in English. Millions of ancient handwritten manuscripts have been identified and classified. India's only Nobel laureate in literature was the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. India is the third largest newspaper market in Asia with an estimated circulation of at least 66 million copies daily in 2003.
The nation also produces the world's largest number of motion pictures every year. Most cinema productions are based in Mumbai, Noida, Chennai and Hyderabad. Popular cinema industries are based on regional languages such as Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Bengali, and Kannada languages. The growing film industry is backed by film schools.The world famous Asian Academy Of Film & Television attracts students from 65 countries across the globe.Hence making India the hub for film education.
Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Religion in India is a very public affair, with many practices imbued with pomp and vitality accompanying their underlying spiritual qualities. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, and considered sacred, although urban families have grown to prefer a nuclear family system, owing to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.
The cuisine of India is diverse, as ingredients, spices and cooking methods vary from region to region. Rice and wheat are the staple foods in the country. The country is notable for its wide variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine. Spicy food and sweets are popular in India. Traditional dress in India greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles, and depend on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include the traditional sari for women and the traditional dhoti for men.
India's national sport is field hockey, although cricket is now the de facto national game. In some states, particularly in the northeast, football (soccer) is the most popular sport and is widely watched. In recent times, tennis has gained popularity in India. Chess is also gaining popularity with the rise of the number of recognised grandmasters. The most commonly held view is that chess originated in India. Traditional indigenous sports include kabaddi, Kho Kho and gilli-danda, which are played in most parts of the country.
India is also known as a land of festivals. A melting pot of many religions, India has a rich diversity of festivals, many of which are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. The most widely known and popular festivals include the Hindu festivals of Diwali and Holi The Sikh festival of Vaisakhi and the Muslim festivals of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha. A number of festivals are common to most parts of India; however, they may be called by different names in the various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion and style.
- States and territories of India
- Geography of India
- Economy of India
- Demographics of India
- Culture of India