India, a South Asian country, is the largest democracy in the world with the National Territory of Delhi as its capital. The country is bordered by the Indian Ocean in the south, Bay of Bengal on the south-east and Arabian Sea on the south-west. The neighbouring countries are Bhutan, Nepal, and China in the north-east, Pakistan in the north-west, Bangladesh and Bhutan in the north-east. Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia, and Thailand are the neighbouring countries sharing the marine boundaries. The Republic of India consists of 29 states and 7 union territories including the Andaman & Nicobar and Lakshadweep Islands and is governed under a Parliamentary system and the Constitution of India, the longest constitution of any sovereign country in the world, is the supreme law and it lays down all the political, socio-economic duties of a citizen of the country. India is a diverse country in terms of religion, language, culture, flora and fauna. The country is the second most populous country in the world, next to China with a 1.2 billion population and in terms of area; it is the seventh largest country in the world.
Indian civilization is one of the oldest civilizations in the world and during the pre-historic times, it was called the “Golden land” for its rich wealth which attracted the Mughals, Dutch, Portuguese, French, and the English to invade India. This land was the origin of four religions in the world namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism and eventually due to invasions, Islam, Christianity, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism developed in the country, adding to the versatility in the religions followed. India became independent in the year 1947 from the British rule and became a Republic in the year 1950.
After the independence, the country was struck by acute drought, famine, and poverty. But due to the Green Revolution movement by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan, and by following the market-economy, India became one of the fastest growing economies and today, according to the purchasing power parity (PPP), India is ranked third and by 2050 it is expected to beat the United States of America. However, being a developing country, the nation faces many issues such as poverty, corruption, malnutrition, socio-economic crisis, terrorism, border security issues, inadequate healthcare and other regional problems.
Due to the Indus Valley Civilization, the name India is coined from the word Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindus, which in turn was derived from the Sanskrit word “Sindhu” representing the River Indus. The Constitution of India recognises “Bharat” as the official name of the country named after the King Bharata who is believed to be the ruler of ancient India and the land ruled by him was called “Bharata Desham (land or country of Bharata). Hindustan is a Persian word that means the “land of Hindus”. In early civilization, Pakistan was also a part of Indus Valley Civilization. It was after the struggle for independence that Pakistan separated out from India.
According to the excavations of Mesolithic rocks dating back to about 30,000 years, the human civilization in the northern parts of the then India comprising of Gangetic Plains and Pakistan started during that time. However, it is believed that the modern human settlement in this South Asian country occurred before 75,000 years. The Indus valley civilization developed near the River Indus, in the northern India and structures such as Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, Kalibangan, and Dholavira were constructed. Crafts and trade were the two key components of this civilization. It flourished over a period from 2500-1900 BCE. During 2500-500 BCE, there was a transition from the Chalcolithic age to the Iron Age, and this period saw Indo-Aryan migrants and the Aryan culture developed and the Vedic teaching is believed to be composed during this age. This period also witnessed the development of class system based on the occupation of the people. In the southern India, Deccan Plateau, there was an ordered political system of rule and there were many civil constructions such as irrigation tanks, well, etc. Around 5th century BCE, Buddhism originated from the school of thought of Gautama Buddha and Jainism was founded by Mahavira around the same time. During the 3rd century BCE, the whole of southern India came under the rule of Mauryan Empire after the surrender of the king Magadha, and Ashoka, a prominent king of the Mauryan Empire was responsible for spreading Buddhism in the country.
Between 200 BCE and 200 CE, the southern part of Indian Penninsula was ruled by the three prominent Empires of Chera, Chola and Pandya. This period was the golden period of temples in the south and Buddhism also spread considerably in the state, while in the north, the Guptas established their empire and they were masters in administration and the system of tax collection was introduced by them. The period under the Guptas witnessed the rise of Sanskrit literature and India had eminent personalities in all the fields such as Indian medicine, astronomy, astrology, mathematics, and sciences.Medieval Period:
Between 600 CE to 1200 CE, the medieval India saw a reign of regional kingdoms, with Harsh of Kanauj ruling the Indo-Gangetic plains, king Pala in Brngal, the Chalukyas in the Deccan, and the Cheras, Cholas, and Pandyas towards south. The country was divided into regions based on the cultural diversity. Devotional (Bhakthi) movements grew during the 6th and the 7th centuries and the devotional songs composed in Tamil language soon spread across the country and many rulers patronised temples and the culture, economy, trade exchange took shape during this period and this was extended to the neighbouring regions of Java, Myanmar, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, and Laos. After the 10th century, Muslim nomadic hierarchy from Central Asia tried to invade and establish themselves in India and they succeeded in 1206 with the Sultanate of Delhi ruling the whole of North India. When they tried to conquer South India, there were many battles fought and they failed to establish a hold on Southern India. Vijayanagar Empire emerged as the strongest power in South India and the Saivism cult spread throughout South India.Early Modern India:
In the 16th century, the Muslim ruler of big and small provinces united to form the huge Empire of Mughals under the leadership of King Akbar. He inspired the rulers, and the people of the country and under his rule taxation and revenue policies were revised and the king was also a great patron of art. Rajputs, Marathas, and Sikhs ruled the country in small pieces of land. At the end of 17th century, Mughal Empire began to disintegrate and this paved way for many European companies to set up colonies in India. In the 18th century, the Dutch, French, and Portuguese set up their establishments in the country who were eventually replaced by the British East India Company. The English with their military expertise and Divide and Rule policy captured the whole of Bengal region and curbed India’s export of goods and brought India under the complete rule of England. According to the historians, this period was the worst in the Indian era. The country’s treasury was drained and the people were forced to serve as soldiers in the British army to further extend their colonization within the country and around the world.Modern India:
The modern era of India began between 1848 and 1885, and under Lord Dalhousie, the Governor General of East India Company, the country witnessed many modern changes such as the development of roads, railways, irrigation tanks, education facilities, and military forces. Eventually in 1857, the First Struggle for Independence (Sepoy Mutiny) was fought between the English and the Indian soldiers employed in the British army. However, the mutiny failed to liberate India but it laid a foundation for India’s struggle for independence. The Indian National Congress was founded in 1885 with the advent of commercialisation.
India faced extreme poverty, famines and unemployment issues despite industries being developed from the tax paid by the Indians and the farmers of India faced economic crisis due to the heavy tax levied and the country was drained to its fullest. The wakeup call of India came after the First World War during which many Indian soldiers lost their lives serving the British. It was during this time that India, under the leadership of Mahatma Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and many other leaders fought a non-violent freedom struggle which led to the liberalisation of India from the British rule in 1947, however, it was also partitioned into two countries of India and Pakistan, and Pakistan was formed with Muslim majority.
Post independence, India suffered extreme conditions of famine and it was due to the Green Revolution that India became self sufficient in food supply to its population. The country became the fastest growing economy in 1990s due to the globalisation and urbanisation. Though the country makes it fullest effort to become a developed country, it is faced with many issues such as terrorism, extremism within the country, poverty, population, corruption and other socio-economic issues.
The Indian subcontinent lies atop the Indian tectonic plate and part of Indo-Australian tectonic plate which were formed about 75,000 years ago when the southern part of Gondwana (Indian plate) shifted towards northeast direction, with the sea spreading towards southward, southwest and southeast. The Tethynoceanic plate and the Eurasian plate collided in northeast, thus forming the Indian Ocean in the south and the rise of Himalayas in the north, which acts as a barrier to the Siberian winds restricting its entry into the country. To the south of Himalayas, Indo-Gangetic Plains were formed and the Thar Desert of Rajasthan lies to the south of Aravalli ranges. The southern part of India is formed by the original Indian plate and since there is not much of major shift, unlike the plates bearing the northern part of India, the land is geologically stable. Vindhya and Satpura ranges are in the central part of India, running from the coast of Arabian Sea (Gujarat) to the east of Jharkhand. The Deccan plateau in the southern part consists of oldest rocks in the planet and it is bordered by the Western and Eastern Ghats.
India is situated to the north of the equator between 6° 44' and 35° 30' north latitude and 68° 7' and 97° 25' east longitude. The coastline of India’s Mainland runs for about 5,423km and the coastline along the shore of Andaman & Nicobar Islands and Lakshadweep Islands covers 2,094km, constituting a total of 7,517km of coastal line. Ganges and Brahmaputra are the two main rivers that flow across northern India. Both these rivers originate from the Himalayan glaciers and they drain into Bay of Bengal. The main tributaries of Ganga are Kosi and Yamuna. The rivers flowing to the south of Deccan plateau are Kaveri, Godavari, and Krishna which also flow into Bay of Bengal. Tapti and Narmada Rivers drain into Arabian Sea. The rivers form marshy delta regions, the major ones being the Sundarbans (Tiger Reserve) in the east and the Rann of Kutch (Gujarat, western India). There are coral reefs in Lakshadweep Islands and volcanic regions in Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
There are four major climatic conditions in India namely tropical dry, tropical wet, sub-tropical humid and montane and these climatic conditions are controlled by Thar Desert and Himalayas. Thar Desert welcomes the southwest monsoon rainfalls in between June and October months and the winter season is between the month of November and February.
India is one among the top 17 most bio-diverse countries in the world. Due to a range of climatic conditions right from the tropical humid climate in the south to the dry climate in the north, India has a variety of forests namely the coniferous forest in the Himalayan ranges, dry deciduous forests in the central part of India and tropical rainforests in Andaman & Nicobar Islands. India is home to three biosphere reserves. 12% of the land area is covered by thick forests and the main trees are teak, sal, neem, and pipal fig tree.
India has a diverse fauna. It has 172 IUCN declared endangered species including Bengal Tiger, Asiatic Lion, Indian White-rumped Vulture, Nilgiri Leaf Monkey, and Beddome’ Toad of Western Ghats.
India enacted Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and Project Tiger to save the endangered species. It has over 500 sanctuaries and national parks, 13 biosphere reserves, and 25 marshlands.
Government and Politics:
India is a sovereign, secular and democratic-republic country. It is governed under a parliamentary system of government and the people of India elect their Prime Minister once in five years. The Constitution of India is the Supreme law and the Supreme Court of India is the highest custody of judiciary. The country runs a federal system of government comprising of executive powers, legislative powers, and judicial powers. The President of the India (head of executive powers of the state) is elected by the Electoral College for a period of five years. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President (elected by the people) for a term of five years and he/she and his/her council of ministers are responsible for the political, legislative, socioeconomic development of the country. The Parliament consists of two houses namely Lok Sabha (lower house) and Rajya Sabha (upper house). The legislative powers are held by these houses. The upper house has 245 members elected indirectly by the state legislatures for a staggered six year term and the lower house has 545 members, all except two are elected directly by the voting system and the two members are then chosen by the President from the Anglo-Indian community if there is inadequate representation of them in the house. The judiciary powers are held by the Supreme Court and 24 High Courts across the country. The Supreme Court is the ultimate head of judiciary and it can interfere even in the state and union laws if required. The Supreme Court holds direct control over the cases involving the seven Fundamental Rights of the Indian Citizens. The country is split into 29 states and 7 union territories, further into districts, tehsils, and finally into villages .The country has six registered national parties and 40 regional parties. Indian National Congress and Bharatiya Janata Party are the two prominent parties.
Foreign relations and military:
India always strives to maintain cordial relationships with the countries across the world. In 1950s the country raised voice against colonisation in Asia and Africa and signed a treaty in the Non-Aligned Movement. Indian Border Security Force is the largest in the world. The country has helped in peace-keeping operations in Sri Lanka in 1987 and 1990. The country has strained relationships with Pakistan over the border dispute of Kashmir and the two countries have fought over four times in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. The country has rendered over 100,000 military soldiers and police personnel in order to help the UN in 35 peace-keeping operations across the world. The country participates in various forums such as G8+5, Asia Summit, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and also participates in the working of World Trade Organization. The country has defence related relationships with France and Russia.
The country is a nuclear power. It performed its first nuclear weapon tests in 1974 and further underground tests in 1998. However, being a peace-making country, it maintains a “no first use” of nuclear weapons policy. However, it has not signed the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty. The country manufactures many military weapons and airplanes such as Arihant-class nuclear submarines and Vikrant-class aircraft carriers.
With 1.325 million active troops, India has the third largest armed forces in the world, constituting Indian Army, Indian Air Force, and Indian Navy. The President of India is the supreme commander of these armed forces. According to 2011 report, India’s military expenditure was US$72.7 billion and it is today, the leading exporter of arms. The two threatening countries for India are Pakistan and China.
India is ranked eleventh in terms of world economy and third largest on the basis of purchasing power parity (PPP). The country’s economy is worth US$1.842 trillion with a nominal annual GDP of 6.1% making it 140th in the world and 129th in the world based on per capita PPP. The country follows capitalist economic model and due to the globalisation and liberalisation policies, it has emerged as the fastest growing economy. The Indian labour force is the second largest in the world of which, 55.6% is contributed by the service sector, 18.1% by the agricultural sector, and 26.3% by the industrial sector. The country is ranked 10th and 19th in the world largest importers and exporters respectively. Chemical, pharmaceuticals, textiles, leather, software, telecommunications, food processing, power generation, iron and steel, mining, petroleum, and machinery are the major industries and the agriculture includes rice, wheat, sugarcane, potatoes, cotton, oilseed, jute, and tea.
India’s telecommunication industry has strived to become the world’s fastest growing telecom industry serving over 227 billion subscribers and India is ranked third in the smart phones consumer markets next to US and China. India ranks 24th in the banking sector, 39th in innovation, 44th in business sophistication, and 17th in financial market thus making it 54th in the overall global competitiveness.
The automobile industry is ranked as the world’s second-largest growing industry with a hike of 26% and 36% in the domestic and export sales respectively in the year 2009. The IT industry generates huge revenue of US$100 billion and India is the favourite outsourcing destination next to US as per 2009 report. India has invested more than 60% of its R&D investments in biotechnology and the pharmaceuticals industry is rapidly growing in India. The country is one among the top 12 biotech research destinations in the world.
India is the second most populous country in the world next to China with 1,210,193,422 residents, about 70% of whom live in rural areas. The country has 27 million-plus cities; Chennai, Bangalore, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Ahmadabad are the most populous metropolitan cities. The sex ratio is 940 females per every 1,000 males and the literacy rate of the country is 76%. Kerala holds the status of highest literacy rate with 95.5% while Bihar has the lowest rate of 67.3%. The average life expectancy is 68 years with women having 69.6 years and men having 67.3 years.
India being a multi-linguistic country, it has no national language. Hindi is the official language due to the majority of Hindi speakers in the country and English is used widely for administrative and business purposes. Besides these two languages, the states and union territories of India have their own official languages. There are hundreds of languages with or without written scripts, spoken in India, out of which 21 languages have been recognised by the Constitution of India as scheduled languages. These languages further have different dialects. There are 212 recognised scheduled tribes in the country. As of 2001, Hinduism is the majority religion with 80.5% of the population following it. Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Bahai Faith are the other religions practised by the decreasing order of population. India is ranked third in the largest population of Muslims and first in the largest population of Muslims in a non-Muslim majority country. The country has the highest number of Hindu, Jain, Sikh, Bahai Faith, and Zoroastrian population.
Cultural history of India dates back to more than 4,500 years and the principles of dharma, karma, yoga, and moksha from the text of Vedas and Upanishads, Bhakti Movement, Yoga Sutras, and Buddhist philosophy in the Hindu religion are still in practise. Apart from Hinduism, Islam, Jainism, and Buddhism are the other major religions.
Art and architecture:
The architecture of India showcases the blend of ancient indigenous tradition and the imported art form. Vastushastra or the Science of Construction is used for building houses and the ancient temples were built based on Shilpashastras. The vernacular architecture is also most revered and the Jewel of India, Taj Mahal built by Emperor Shah Jahan at Agra is one of the World Heritage Sites declared by UNESCO.
The oldest literary works of India (1400 BCE and 1200 CE) were in Sankrit language. The most revered works are Ramayana and Mahabharata, Abhijnanasakuntalam, poems and dramas of Kalidasa, and Mahakavya. Kamasutra, a popular book about sexual intercourse, is from Indian origin. Classic works in Tamil language was during the Tamil Sangam period, consisting of 2,381 poems. During the 14th century, there was a wave of devotion across the country and saints like Tulsidas, Kabirdas, Meera, and Guru Nanak led the Bhakti Movement. During the early modern period of India, the poets across the country composed patriotic and social issues related songs. Rabridranath Tagore and Subrahmanya Bharati belonged to that period.
Indian Classical Music has two genres namely Carnatic Music and Hindusthani Music. The other popular beats among the people are the folk and filmi music. The country has diversity in the dance forms with each state having its own form. The well-known folk dances are bhangra of Punjab, bihu of Assam, Garba and Dhandiya of Gujarat, sambalpuri of Odisha, chhau of Odisha, Jharkhand, and West Bengal, ghoomar of Rajasthan, and lavani of Maharashtra. Associated with legends and mythodology, eight dance forms hold the status of classical dance forms of the country namely bharatanatyam of Tamil Nadu, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniyattam of Kerala, manipuri of Manipur, odissi of Odisha, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, and sattriya of Assam. The theatricals of India are ramlila and nautanki of North India, bhavai of Gujarat, tamasha of Maharashtra, terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, jatra of West Bengal,yakshagana of Karnataka, and burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh.
The Indian film industry has established regional language film industries in Tamil, Telugu, Odiya, Assamese, Bengali, Kannada, Punjabi, Malayalam, Gujarati, and Marathi. World class movies are produced from these industries. There are 554 million TV consumers which is very high compared to other media consumers.
The Indian society is a strict follower of ancient traditions or the “Samskar”. Marriage practises in India hold strong basis. It is considered to be a pure relationship of lifetime and predominantly, marriages are arranged by parents and the divorce rate in India is very low. The society is divided based on the caste system. Even today, there are many small communal riots that occur across the country. Child marriages are seen in rural areas and female infanticide exists in the society. Dowry, though illegal, is still causing hindrances in the family peace and the suicides due to dowry is prevailing in the society.
The country celebrates many festivals such as Ganesh Chathurthi, Diwali, Durga Puja, Bakri-Id, Christmas, Eidul-Fitr, Makara Sankaranthi, Navratri, Holi, Vaisakhi, Thai Pongal to name a few. Unanimously throughout the country, three national holidays on Independence Day, Republic Day, and Gandhi Jayanthi are observed. The other national holidays vary from state to state.
Clothing style varies from region to region based on climate and faith. The popular ones are draped sarees for women and dhoti or lungi for men. Salwar-kameez and Pyjama-kurta for women and men respectively are also famous. The western wear of Europeans is also seen. Indians use flowers to garland themselves. It is an integrated part of their costume. Tali or Mangal Sutra is worn by married Hindu women as a mark of their marriage.
The indigenous sports of the country are kabaddi, pehlwani, khokho, and gilli-danda. The martial art forms that originated in the country are kalarippayattu, silambam, mustiyuddha, and marmaadi. Chess, called chaturangam in Indian language originated in India and the country has produced many grandmasters. Tennis is one among the favourite sports of the country. Indians have won medals in Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games in shooting, badminton, wrestling and badminton.
Hockey is the national sport of the country and the Indian hockey team won the Hockey World Cup in 1975 and has won eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals in the Olympics till 2012. Cricket is the most favourite sport of the country and the Indian Cricket team has won the Cricket World Cup in 1983 and 2011.
India has hosted 1987, 1996, and 2011 Cricket World Cups, 1951 and 1982 Asian Games, 2003 Afro-Asian Games, 2010 Hockey World Cup, and 2010 Commonwealth Games. Arjuna Award and Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award are the highest honorary awards conferred by the Indian government for excellence in sports and the Dronacharya Award is conferred for the excellence in coaching.