The Republic of India is the second most populous country in the world, with a population of more than one billion, and is the seventh largest country by geographical area. India has grown significantly, both in population and in strategic importance in the last two decades. The Indian economy is the fourth largest in the world with respect to gross domestic product, measured in terms of purchasing power parity, and is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. India, the world's largest liberal democracy, has also emerged as an important regional power, possessing one of the world's largest military forces and a declared nuclear weapons capability.
Located in South Asia with a coastline of over seven thousand kilometres, India constitutes most of the Indian subcontinent, and straddles many important and historic trade routes. It shares its borders with Pakistan, the People's Republic of China, Myanmar, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, and Afghanistan1. Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Indonesia are the adjacent island nations. India is home to some of the most ancient civilisations and has given birth to four major world religions: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. The country was a part of the British Empire before gaining independence in 1947.
|Official language|| Hindi, English, and |
21 other languages
|Largest city||Mumbai (Bombay)|
|President:||APJ Abdul Kalam|
|Prime Minister:||Manmohan Singh|
– % water
|Ranked 7th |
– Total (2005)
|Ranked 2nd |
| GDP (2005) |
- Total (PPP)
- Total (Nominal)
- GDP/capita (PPP)
- GDP/capita (Nominal)
$3.33 trillion (4th)
$720 billion (10th)
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5.30)|
|National anthem||Jana Gana Mana|
|National song||Vandē Mātaram|
|National animal||Bengal Tiger|
|National sport||Field hockey|
Table of contents
Origin of names
Main article: Origin of India's name
The official name India is the Old Persian version of Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the river Indus. The Constitution of India and general usage also recognises Bharat, which was the name of an ancient Indian king, as an official name of equal status. A third name, Hindustan, or land of the Hindus in Persian, was used from Mughal times onwards.
Main article: History of India
Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh are the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago and developed into the Indus Valley Civilization, which peaked between 2600 BC and 1900 BC.
From cir. 500 BC onwards, many independent kingdoms came into being. In the north, the Maurya dynasty, which included the Buddhist king Ashoka, made great contributions to India's cultural landscape. From 180 BC, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, with the establishment in the northern Indian subcontinent of the Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian kingdoms, and finally the Kushan Empire. From the 3rd century AD the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as India's Golden Age.
In the south, several dynasties including the Chalukyas, Cheras, Cholas, Pallavas, and Pandyas prevailed during different periods. Science, Art, literature, mathematics, astronomy, engineering, religion, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.
Following the Islamic invasions in the beginning of the second millennium, much of India was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate, and later, the Mughal dynasty. Nevertheless, some indigenous kingdoms remained in or rose to power, especially in the relatively sheltered south.
During the middle of the second millennium, several European countries, including the Portuguese, French, and English, who were initially interested in trade with India, took advantage of the fractured kingdoms to colonise the country. After a failed insurrection in 1857 against the British East India Company, popularly known as the First War of Indian Independence, most of India came under the crown of the British Empire. A prolonged and mostly non-violent struggle for independence, the Indian independence movement, followed, eventually led by Mahatma Gandhi, the father of modern India. On 1947–08–15 India gained independence from British rule, becoming a secular democratic republic in 1950.
As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, India has had its share of sectarian violence and insurgencies in different parts of the country. Nonetheless, it has held itself together as a secular democracy barring a brief period from 1975 to 1977 during which the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a "state of emergency" with the suspension of civil rights. India has unresolved border disputes with China, which escalated into a brief war in 1962, and Pakistan which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, and 1971. India was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test, making it an unofficial member of the "nuclear club", which was followed up with a series of five more tests in 1998. Significant economic reforms beginning in 1991, have transformed India into one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
Government and politics
Main article: Politics of India
India is a democratic republic. It is a federation of states within a federal structure. The head of state is the President, who has a largely ceremonial role. The President and Vice-President are elected indirectly by an electoral college for five-year terms.
The Prime Minister wields the executive power. The Prime Minister is designated by legislators of the political party or coalition commanding a parliamentary majority. He or she is assisted by the Council of Ministers, or the cabinet, appointed by the President on the advice of the Prime Minister. All ministers are sworn in by the President.
India's bicameral parliament, its legislative arm, consists of the upper house known as the Council of States, or Rajya Sabha and the lower house known as the House of the People, or Lok Sabha. The Rajya Sabha is chosen by an electoral college whereas the Lok Sabha is elected directly.
India's judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, the highest court and eighteen appellate state High Courts. Courts are empowered to issue directions, orders or writs, including writs in the nature of habeas corpus, mandamus, prohibition, quo warranto and certiorari to enforce them. Courts in India are a constitutional authority, independent of political interference. A conflict between the legislature and the judiciary is arbitrated by the President, but this has never happened in India's history.
For most of its independent history, India's union government has been ruled by the Indian National Congress Party. Having been the biggest political group in pre-independence India, the Congress enjoyed nearly unchallenged dominance in national politics for over forty years. It was not until 1977 that a united opposition, under the banner of Janata Party, was able to win elections and form a non-Congress government. In recent past, the Indian National Congress has lost its stranglehold over the Indian electorate. The 2004 Indian elections, saw the Congress party attaining the highest number of seats, thus forming the government with the support by various smaller regional parties. The BJP is the main opposition party with its right wing ideology based on core Hinduism. Governments formed since 1996 have been a coalition type of government due to the steady rise in regional parties.
Geography and climate
Main article: Geography of India
India's entire north and northeast states are made up of the Himalayan Range. The rest of northern, central and eastern India consists of the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain. Towards western India, bordering southeast Pakistan, lies the Thar Desert. The southern Indian peninsula is almost entirely composed of the Deccan plateau. The plateau is flanked by two hilly coastal ranges, the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats.
The Indian climate varies from a tropical climate in the south to a more temperate climate in the north. Parts of India which lie in the Himalayan mountains have a tundra climate. India gets its rains through the monsoons.
States and Union territories
Main article: States and territories of India
India is divided into twenty-eight states (which are further subdivided into districts), six Union Territories and the National Capital Territory of Delhi. States have their own elected government, whereas Union Territories are governed by an administrator appointed by the union government.
Union Territories:Antarctica but had two scientific bases there – Dakshin Gangotri and Maitri.
Main article: Economy of India
India has an economy ranked as the tenth largest in the world in terms of currency conversion and fourth largest in terms of purchasing power parity. It recorded one of the fastest annual growth rate of around eight percent in 2003. Owing to its large population, however, India's per-capita income by purchasing power parity works out to be just US$ 3,262, ranked 120th by the World Bank. India's foreign exchange reserves amount to over US$ 143 billion. Mumbai serves as the nation's financial capital and is also home to both the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of India and the Bombay Stock Exchange. While a quarter of Indians still live below the poverty line, a large middle class has now emerged along with the growth of a promising IT industry.
The Indian economy has shed much of its historical dependence on agriculture, which now contributes to less than 25% of the GDP. Other important industries are mining, petroleum, diamond polishing, films, textiles, information technology services, and handicrafts. Most of India's industrial regions are centred around the major cities. In recent years, India has emerged as one of the largest players in software and business process outsourcing services, with revenues of US$ 12.5 billion in 2003-2004. There are also a lot of small-scale industries that provide steady employment to many of its citizens in small towns and villages. While India receives only around three million foreign visitors a year, tourism is still an important source of its national income. Tourism contributes 5.3% of India’s GDP. The actual employment generation, both direct and indirect, is estimated to be 42 million that is about 10% of India's work force. In monetary terms, it contributes about 4 billion US$ in foreign exchange. India's major trading partners are the United States, China, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union.
Main article: Demographics of India
India is the second most populous country in the world, with only China having a larger population. Language, religion, and caste are major determinants of social and political organisation within the highly diverse Indian population today. Its biggest metropolitan agglomerations are Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Delhi, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), and Chennai (formerly Madras).
India's literacy rate is 64.8%, with 53.7% of females and 75.3% of males being literate. The sex ratio is 933 females for every 1000 males. Work Participation Rate (WPR) (the percentage of workers to total population) stands at 39.1%, with male WPR at 51.7% and female WPR at 25.6%.
Although 80.5% of the people are Hindus, India is also home to the third largest population of Muslims in the world (13.4%; see Islam in India) after Indonesia and Pakistan. Other smaller religious minorities include Christians (2.33%; see Christianity in India), Sikhs (1.84%), Buddhists (0.76%), Jains (0.40%), Jews (see Jews in India), Parsis, Ahmadi, and Bahá'ís. Religion in India is very public, with many practices imbued with pomp and vitality accompanying their underlying spiritual qualities. A melting pot of many religions, India has rich festivals celebrated by one and all. The most widely known and popular celebrations include the Hindu festivals of Diwali, Holi and Dussera.
India is home to two major linguistic families, those of the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian-derived languages. The Indian constitution recognises twenty-three official languages. Hindi along with English are the languages used by the Central Government for official purposes. Two classical languages native to the land are Sanskrit and Tamil. The number of mother tongues in India is as high as 1652.
Main article: Culture of India
India has a rich and unique cultural heritage, and has actively preserved its established traditions throughout history. It has also absorbed customs from both invaders and immigrants. Many cultural practices and monuments, such as the Taj Mahal, have been inherited from the rule of Mughal emperors.
Indian society is largely pluralist, multilingual and multicultural. Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. The traditional Indian family values are highly respected and considered sacred, although urban families have grown into a nuclear family system, owing to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.
Indian music is represented by a wide variety of forms. The two main forms in terms of classical music are the Carnatic from South India and Hindustani from the north. Popular forms of music also prevail, the most notable being Filmi music. In addition to this are the diverse traditions of folk music. Many dance forms exist in India – Bharatanatyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Kathakali and others. They often have a narrative form (based on the Indian epics) and are usually infused with devotional and spiritual elements.
The earliest literary traditions were mostly oral and were later transcribed. Most of these spring from Hindu tradition and are represented by sacred works like the Vedas and the epics of the Mahabharatha and Ramayana. Sangam literature from Tamil Nadu represents some of India's oldest secular traditions. There have been many notable Indian writers in modern times, both in Indian languages and English. India's only Nobel laureate in literature was the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore.
India produces the world's highest number of films annually. The most recognisable face is that of Bollywood, based in Mumbai, which produces mainly commercial Hindi films. Cinema in other language bases is particularly strong, with movies regularly produced in well-established Bengali, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu industries. India's gift to world cinema was the internationally renowned Bengali language director Satyajit Ray.
Rice and wheat (in bread forms) are the staple foods in the country. The gastronomy of India is extremely diverse, as ingredients, spices and cooking methods all vary from region to region. The country is notable for its wide variety of vegetarian cuisine. Spicy food and sweets are popular in India. Traditional dress in India greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles. The sari and salwar kameez are popular styles of dress for women. Traditional raiments for men are the kurta and dhoti.
- (Wikibooks entry for Cuisine of India)
Sports and games
Main article: Sports in India
Unlike other comparable countries, India is not a major sporting power. India's national sport is field hockey, although cricket is now the de facto national game due to its success and popularity in recent times. Though cricket popularity is widespread, it is not the most popular sport in many states of India, particularly India's northeast states. India has had little success in international events like the Olympics, where it has garnered just a single medal in each of the previous three Olympics.
Some traditional indigenous sports are kabaddi, Kho Kho and gilli-danda, which are played in most parts of the country. Chess, carrom, polo, and badminton are some other games and sports that are said to have originated in India. Football (soccer) also finds a large viewer ship in almost the entire country, and is the most popular sport in many states of India.
Main article: Holidays in India
India has only three National Holidays. Other holidays pertaining to festivals, religious holidays and births of leaders are legislated by the individual states.
|26 January||Republic Day||India became a republic on this day in 1950.|
|15 August||Independence Day||India gained independence from the British Empire on this day in 1947.|
|2 October||Gandhi Jayanti||The birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi|
- Traffic moves on the left side (and cars have right-hand drive).
- The Indian English spoken in India is modelled on British English.
- Date format: dd/mm/yyyy
- Number format: 10,000,000 = 1 crore. 100,000 = 1 lakh. (See Indian numbering system)
- Postal Code (PIN): 6 digits.
- Official Measurements: Metric (SI)
- Electric power 220 V; 50 Hz
- Power plugs: Type C, D & M (CEE 7/16; CEE 7/17; BS 546)
- Television signals use PAL B/G
- The financial year starts on April 1.
- ^ India facts and figures, Embassy of India
- ^ Forex reserves up by $1bn, The Economic Times, 2005–04–30
- ^ India Economy, Travel Document Systems
- ^ Services, India in Business
- ^ Destination India: An Unpolished Diamond, Times of India Foundation, Vivek Nair
- ^ US, UAE, UK, China, Japan among India’s top trade partners, The Indian Express], 2005–01–02
- ^ Provisional Population Totals 2001 Census, Census of India (Official site)
- ^ Debating India – India's literacy rate, Debating India
- ^ Census of India 2001, Data on Religion, Census of India (Official site)
- ^ Languages of India, India image
- ^ Manorama Year Book 2003 – pg 524 – ISBN 81–900461–8–7
- Travel guide to India from Wikitravel
- Wikicities has a wiki about India: India
- GOI Directory — Directory of governmental websites
- Prime Minister's Office Official Website
- President of India Official Website
- Indian Parliament Official Website
- Ministry of Defence — Official MOD site
- Indiaimage — National Informatics Centre — Basic Portal to Govt. of India Websites
- Census of India — Office of the Census Commissioner
- India in Business – Official site of the Government of India.
- Indian Postal Service
- Supreme Court of India
- Ministry of External Affairs — Discover India. Definitive site for information and links.
- Central Board of Excise and Customs, India —
- Election Commission of India — India's political watchdog.
- Engineering Export Promotion Council (EEPC) — Indian Export Organisation
- Department of Electronics
- Tourism of India — Ministry of Tourism
- Department of Education, Govt. of India
- Ethnologue report on Languages of India
- CIA — The World Factbook — India — CIA's Factbook on India
- Country Profile: India — BBC's Country Profile on India
- Travel information at countryguide.com
- Historical Maps of India
- Indian States — Table of Indian states and codes from Statoids
- India the Media
|Countries in South Asia|
1 The Government of India considers the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India. This state borders a part of Afghanistan. A ceasefire sponsored by the United Nations in 1948 freezes the positions of Indian and Pakistani held territory. As a consequence, the region bordering Afghanistan is in Pakistani-administered territory.