The Republic of India, Asia's second-largest country after China, occupies the largest part of theSouth Asian subcontinent, which it shares with Pakistan, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. India'stotal area is 3.3 million square kilometers (1.3 million square miles). Among India's most seriousenvironmental problems are land damage, water shortages, and air and water pollution (about70 percent of India's water is polluted). Even in rural areas, the burning of wood, charcoal, anddung for fuel, coupled with dust from wind erosion during the dry season, creates an air pollutionproblem. Rice, the largest crop, is grown wherever the conditions are suitable.
S AND F
Some of India's foods date back five thousand years. The Indus Valley peoples (who settled inwhat is now northern Pakistan) hunted turtles and alligator, as well as wild grains, herbs andplants. Many foods from the Indus period (c. 3000±1500 B.C.) remain common today. Someinclude wheat, barley, rice, tamarind, eggplant and cucumber. The Indus Valley peoples cookedwith oils, ginger, salt, green peppers, and turmeric root, which would be dried and ground into anorange powder .The Aryan-speaking peoples who entered India between 1500 and 1000 B.C used leafyvegetables, lentils, and milk products such as yogurt and ghee (clarified butter). The Aryans alsoused spices such as cumin and coriander. Black pepper was widely used by 400 A.D. TheGreeks brought saffron, while the Chinese introduced tea. The Portuguese and British made redchili, potato and cauliflower popular after 1700 A.D.Perhaps the biggest contributors to India's culinary heritage are the Muslim peoples from Persiaand present-day Turkey, who began arriving in India after 1200.These peoples, known later as the Mughals, ruled much of India between 1500 and early 1800.They saw food as an art, and many Mughal dishes are cooked with as many as twenty-fivespices, as well as rose water, cashews, raisins and almonds.
What Indians eat varies by region and religion. Northern Indians eat more flat breads, whilethose from southern India prefer rice. In coastal states, such as Kerala and Bengal, fish dishesare popular. Chicken and mutton (sheep) are eaten more often in mountain and plains regions.