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.
Origin of names
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.
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, and 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. Art, literature, mathematics, astronomy, engineering, religion, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings. Following the Islamic invasions in 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
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 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.
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 significance and has been reduced to one of many parties. The congress party itself broke into many factions and is in power in the centre with support by various smaller parties. BJP is the main opposition party with its right wing ideology based on hinduism. In todays political climate both the parties are not in a position to come to power without the support of various small 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.
India is home to several major rivers such as the Ganga (Ganges), the Brahmaputra, the Yamuna, the Godavari, and the Krishna.
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
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.
National Capital Territory:
India has made no territorial claim in Antarctica but had two scientific bases there – Dakshin Gangotri and Maitri.
See also: List of states of India by population
A nation in rapid development, India has an economy ranked as the twelfth 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$ 2,540, ranked 143rd by the World Bank. India's foreign exchange reserves amount to over US$130 billion. Mumbai serves as the nation's financial capital and is also home to both the headquarters of the Reserve Bank of India and the Bombay Stock Exchange. While 25% of Indians still live below the poverty line, a large middle class has now emerged along with the growth of a promising IT industry.
The Indian economy has shed much of its historical dependence on agriculture, which now contributes to less than 25% of the GDP. Other important industries are mining, petroleum, diamond polishing, films, textiles, information technology services, and handicrafts. Most of India's industrial regions are centred around the major cities. In recent years, India has emerged as one of the largest players in software and business process outsourcing services, with revenues of US$ 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. India's major trading partners are the United States, China, the United Arab Emirates and the European Union.
See also: List of Indian companies
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 being literate. The sex ratio is 933 females for every 1000 males.
Although 80.5% of the people are Hindus, India is also home to the second largest population of Muslims in the world (13.4%; see Islam in India). 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'ísIndia facts and figures, Embassy of India
- ^ Census of India 2001, Data on Religion, Census of India (Official site)
- ^ History of Chess, Anatoly Karpov.
- ^ The Origins of Carrom, Carrom.org
- ^ History of Polo, Federation of International polo
- ^ Battledore and Shuttlecock, Online guide to traditional games
India is also the letter I in the NATO phonetic alphabet.
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.