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, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River. The ancient Greeks referred to the ancient Indians as Indoi, the people of the Indus. The Constitution of India and common usage in various Indian languages also recognise Bharat (pronunciation (help·info), /bʰɑːrət̪/) as an official name of equal status. Hindustan (/hin̪d̪ust̪ɑːn/ (info)), which is the Persian word for “Land of the Hindus” and historically referred to northern India, is also occasionally used as a synonym for all of India. History Main articles: History of India and History of Republic of India Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in 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.
Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra. 2nd century BCE The empire built by the Maurya dynasty under Emperor Ashoka united most of South Asia in the third century BCE. From 180 BCE, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, including those led by the Indo-Greeks, IndoScythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans in the north-western Indian Subcontinent. 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, south India had several dynasties such as the Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas, Pallavas and Cholas, which overlapped in time and territory. Science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings. Following invasions from Central Asia between the tenth and twelfth centuries, much of north India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty. Mughal emperors gradually expanded their kingdoms to cover large parts of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, several indigenous kingdoms, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, flourished, especially in the south. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the Mughal supremacy declined and the Maratha Empire became the dominant power. From the sixteenth century, several European countries, including Portugal, Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom, started arriving as traders and later took advantage of the fractious nature of relations between the kingdoms to establish colonies in the country. By 1856, most of India was under the control of the British East India Company. A year later, a nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms, variously referred to as the First War of Indian Independence or Sepoy Mutiny, seriously challenged British rule but eventually failed. As a consequence, India came under the direct control of the British Crown as a colony of the British Empire.
Mahatma Gandhi (right) with Jawaharlal Nehru, 1937. Nehru would go on to become India's first prime minister in 1947. During the first half of the twentieth century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organisations. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, and displaying commitment to ahimsa, or non-violence, millions of protesters engaged in mass campaigns of civil disobedience. Finally, on 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but was partitioned, in accordance to wishes of the Muslim League, along the lines of religion to create the Islamic nation-state of Pakistan. Three years later, on 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect. Since independence, India has experienced 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 in 1962 escalated into the brief Sino-Indian War; and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. India is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations (as part of British India). In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test. This was followed by five more tests in 1998, making India a nuclear state. Beginning in 1991, significant economic reforms have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, adding to its global and regional clout. National symbols of India Government Main article: Government of India India is the largest democracy in the world. The Constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India has a quasi-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 of India is the official head of state elected indirectly by an electoral college for a five-year term. The Prime Minister is, however, the de facto head of government and exercises most executive powers. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President and, by convention, is the candidate supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament. Flag Emblem Anthem Song Animal Bird Flower Tree Fruit Sport Calendar Tricolour Sarnath Lion Capital Jana Gana Mana Vandē Mātaram Royal Bengal Tiger Indian Peacock Lotus Banyan Mango Field hockey Saka
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 Rajya Sabha, a permanent body, has up to 250 members serving staggered six year terms. Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in proportion to the state's population. The Lok Sabha's 545 members are directly elected by popular vote to represent individual constituencies for five year terms. The executive branch 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, with the Prime Minister and his Council being directly responsible to the lower house of the parliament. India has a unitary three-tier judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India, twentyone High Courts, and a large number of trial courts. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases involving fundamental rights and over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts.
It is judicially independent, and has the power to declare the law and to strike down union or state laws which contravene the Constitution. Politics Main article: Politics of India
The North Block, in New Delhi, houses key government offices For most of its democratic history, the federal Government of India has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC). State politics have been dominated by several national parties including the INC, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (CPI), and various regional parties. From 1950 to 1990, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority barring two brief periods. The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the "Emergency" declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1989, a Janata Dal led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition won the elections but managed to stay in power for only two years. The years 1996–1998 were a period of turmoil in the federal government with several short-lived alliances holding sway. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996, followed by the United Front coalition. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several regional parties and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term. In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various leftleaning parties and members opposed to the BJP. Foreign relations and the military Main articles: Foreign relations of India and Indian Armed Forces
The Nuclear capable Agni-II ballistic missile during a Republic Day parade. Since independence in 1947, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. It took a leading role in the 1950s by advocating the independence of European colonies in Africa and Asia. India is 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 fought and won several wars with Pakistan, primarily over Kashmir. India also fought an additional war with Pakistan for the the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971. Despite criticism and military sanctions, India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT, preferring instead to maintain sovereignty over its nuclear program. Recent overtures by the Indian government have strengthened relations with the United States, China, and Pakistan. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations in South America, Asia, and Africa. In recent years, India has played an influential role in the ASEAN, SAARC, and the WTO. India has been a long time supporter of the United Nations, with over 55,000 Indian
military and police personnel having served in thirty-five UN peace keeping operations deployed across four continents. India maintains the third largest military force in the world, which consists of the Indian Army, Navy, and Air Force. Auxiliary forces such as the Paramilitary Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command also come under the military's purview. The President of India is the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces. India also became a nuclear state in 1974 after conducting an initial nuclear test. Further underground testing in 1998 led to international military sanctions against India, which were gradually withdrawn after September 2001. India maintains a "no-firstuse" nuclear policy and has a clean record of non-proliferation. Subdivisions Main article: Subdivisions of India India is a union of twenty-eight states and seven federally governed union territories. All states, the union territory of Puducherry, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi have elected governments. The other five union territories have centrally appointed administrators.
Administrative divisions of India, including 28 states and 7 union territories. States:
1. Andhra Pradesh 2. Arunachal Pradesh 3. Assam 4. Bihar 5. Chhattisgarh 6. Goa 7. Gujarat 8. Haryana 9. Himachal Pradesh 10. Jammu and Kashmir 11. Jharkhand 12. Karnataka 13. Kerala 14. Madhya Pradesh
15. Maharashtra 16. Manipur 17. Meghalaya Union Territories: 18. Mizoram 19. Nagaland A. Andaman and Nicobar Islands 20. Orissa B. Chandigarh 21. Punjab C. Dadra and Nagar Haveli 22. Rajasthan D. Daman and Diu 23. Sikkim E. Lakshadweep 24. Tamil Nadu F. National Capital Territory of Delhi 25. Tripura 26. Uttar Pradesh G. Puducherry 27. Uttarakhand 28. West Bengal
All states and union territories are subdivided into districts. In larger states, districts may be grouped together to form a division. Geography Main articles: Geography of India and Climate of India
Topographic map of India India, the major portion of the Indian subcontinent, sits atop both the Indian tectonic plate and the northwestern IndoAustralian Plate. Its defining geological processes commenced seventy five million years ago, when the Indian subcontinent, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a northeastwards drift, lasting fifty million years, across the then unformed Indian Ocean. The subcontinent's subsequent collision with the Eurasian Plate and subduction under it, gave rise to the Himalayas, the planet's highest mountains, which now abut India in the north and the north-east. Plate movement also created a vast trough in the former seabed immediately south of the Himalayas, which was subsequently filled with river-borne sediment, and now forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain. To the west of this plain lies the Thar Desert, cut off from it and from the moisture-laden monsoon-winds by the Aravalli Hills. The original Indian plate itself survives as pensinsular India, the oldest and geologically most stable part of India, and extending as far north as the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in central India; these parallel ranges run west to east from the Arabian Sea coast in Gujarat to the coal-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand. To their south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan plateau, flanked on the left and right by the coastal ranges, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats respectively, has the oldest rock formations in India, some over one billion years old. Constituted in such fashion, India lies to the north of the equator between 6°44' and 35°30' north latitude and 68°7' and 97°25' east longitude. Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, both of which drain into the Bay of Bengal. Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and "Bihar's Sorrow", the Kosi, whose extremely low gradient causes disastrous floods every year. Major peninsular rivers–whose steeper gradients prevent their waters from flooding–include the Godavari, the Mahanadi, the Kaveri, and the Krishna, which also drain into the Bay of Bengal, and the Narmada and the Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea. Among notable coastal features of India are the marshy Rann of Kutch in western India, and the south-western region of the alluvial Sundarbans delta, which India shares with Bangladesh. India has two archipelagos: the Lakshadweep, coral atolls off India's south-western coast, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a volcanic chain in the Andaman Sea. India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the dynamics of the monsoons. The Himalayas prevent cold Central Asian katabatic winds from blowing in, keeping the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes. Concurrently, the Thar Desert plays a role in attracting moisture-laden southwest summer monsoon winds that, between June and October, provide the majority of India's rainfall. Four major climatic groupings predominate in India: Tropical wet, tropical dry, subtropical humid, and montane. Flora and fauna Main articles: Flora of India and Fauna of India
An artist's impression of the Himalayan mountain quail, one of three bird species of India that went extinct in the 20th century. 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, exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; for example, 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 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 hosts thirteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention. Economy Main article: Economy of India
The Bombay Stock Exchange is Asia's oldest and India's biggest stock exchange For most of its post-independence history, India adhered to a quasi-socialist approach with strict government control over private sector participation, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. However, since 1991, India has gradually opened up its markets through economic reforms and reduced government controls on foreign trade and investment. Foreign exchange reserves have risen from US$5.8 billion in March 1991 to US$247 billion in September 2007, while federal and state budget deficits have decreased. Privatization of publicly-owned companies and the opening of certain sectors to private and foreign participation has continued amid political debate. With a GDP growth rate of 9.4% in 2006-07, the Indian economy is among the fastest growing in the world. India's GDP in terms of USD
exchange-rate is US$1.103 trillion, which makes it the twelfth largest economy in the world. When measured in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP), India has the world's fourth largest GDP at US$4.156 trillion. India's per capita income (nominal) is $820, ranked 128th in the world, while its per capita (PPP) of US$3,700 is ranked 118th. The Indian economy has grown steadily over the last two decades; however, its growth has been uneven when comparing different social groups, economic groups, geographic regions, and rural and urban areas. Although income inequality in India is relatively small (Gini coefficient: 32.5 in year 1999- 2000) it has been increasing of late. Despite significant economic progress, a quarter of the nation's population earns less than the government-specified poverty threshold of $0.40/day. In addition, India has a higher rate of malnutrition among children under the age of three (46% in year 2007) than any other country in the world. India has a labour force of 509.3 million, 60% of which is employed in agriculture and related industries; 28% in services and related industries; and 12% in industry. Major agricultural crops include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, and potatoes. The agricultural sector accounts for 28% of GDP; the service and industrial sectors make up 54% and 18% respectively. Major industries include automobiles, cement, chemicals, consumer electronics, food processing, machinery, mining, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, steel, transportation equipment, and textiles. In 2006, estimated exports stood at US$112 billion and imports were around US$187.9 billion. Textiles, jewellery, engineering goods and software are major export commodities. Crude oil, machineries, fertilizers, and chemicals are major imports. India's most important trading partners are the United States, the European Union, China, and the United Arab Emirates. More recently, India has capitalised on its large pool of educated, English-speaking people, and trained professionals to become an important outsourcing destination for multinational corporations and a popular destination for medical tourism. India has also become a major exporter of software as well as financial, research, and technological services. Its natural resources include arable land, bauxite, chromite, coal, diamonds, iron ore, limestone, manganese, mica, natural gas, petroleum, and titanium ore. Demographics Main article: Demographics of India See also: Religion in India Population density map of India With an estimated population of 1.12 billion, India is the world's second most populous country and is expected to be the most populous by 2040. Almost 70% of Indians reside in rural areas, although in recent decades migration to larger cities has led to a dramatic increase in the country's urban population. India's largest cities are Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Delhi, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Chennai (formerly Madras), Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad. India is the second most culturally, linguistically and genetically diverse geographical entity after the African continent. 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. Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of India. English, which is extensively used in business and administration, has the status of a 'subsidiary official language'. The constitution also recognises in particular 21 other languages that are either abundantly spoken or have classical status. The number of dialects in India is as high as 1,652. Over 800 million Indians, or about 80.5% of the country's population, are Hindu. The next-largest religious group are Muslims, who make up 13.4% of the population. Other religious groups include Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), Jews, Zoroastrians, Bahá'ís and others. Tribals constitute 8.1% of the population. At the time of India's independence in 1947, its literacy rate was 12.2%. Since then, it has increased to 64.8% (53.7% for females and 75.3% for males). The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate (91%); Bihar has the lowest (47%). The national gender ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.9, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.01 births per 1,000 people per year. Culture
Main article: Culture of India
The Taj Mahal, Agra. Shah Jahan's 1648 memorial to wife Mumtaz Mahal, would, in 1983, be cited as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage." India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism and cultural pluralism. It has managed to preserve established traditions while absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants. Multicultural concerns have long informed India’s history and traditions, constitution and political arrangements. Notable monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Mughal architecture and South Indian architecture are the result of traditions that combined elements from several parts of the country and abroad. The vernacular architecture displays notable regional variation, from the unique barrel-shaped huts of the Toda people to the sloping thatched and clay-tiled roofs of rural West Bengal. Indian music covers a wide range of traditions and regional styles. Classical music is split mainly between the North Indian Hindustani and South Indian Carnatic traditions. Famous representatives of Hindustani tradition are shehnaiplayer Bismillah Khan and sitarist Ravi Shankar and of the Carnatic tradition, vocalist M. S. Subbulakshmi and mridangam-player Palghat Mani Iyer. Highly regionalised forms of popular music include filmi and folk music; the syncretic tradition of the bauls of Bengal is one of the best known forms of the latter. Indian dance too has diverse folk and classical forms. Among the well-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of Bihar and Orissa and the ghoomar of Rajasthan. Eight dance forms, many with narrative forms and and mythological elements, have been accorded classical dance status by India's National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama. These are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, manipuri of Manipur, odissi of the state of Orissa, and sattriya of Assam. The last named, traditionally performed by celibate monks of the Vaishnavite tradition, notably on Majuli island in the Brahmaputra, is now performed by both women and laymen. India has many forms of traditional and folk theatre, which incorporate music, dance, and improvised or written dialogue. Often based in Hindu mythology, but also borrowing from medieval romances, and news of social and political events, these forms include the bhavai of state of Gujarat, the jatra of West Bengal, the nautanki and ramlila of North India, the tamasha of Maharashtra, the terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, and the yakshagana of Karanataka. Yakshagana, in particular, has undergone innovation in dance and theatre, which includes performances of Shakespeare. The earliest works of Indian literature were transmitted orally and only later written down. These included works of Sanskrit literature, such as the epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, and the drama The Recognition of Śakuntalā, and those of the Sangam literature in Tamil. Among Indian writers of the modern era active in Indian languages or English, Rabindranath Tagore is best known. Gitanjali, his anthology of devotional songs, earned him the Nobel Prize in 1913.
A prayer flag above Tanze Monastery in the Kurgiakh Valley. The wind is believed to propagate the prayers printed on tissue. The Indian film industry, which debuted in 1913 with director Dadasaheb Phalke's Raja Harishchandra, is today the world's largest; the Mumbai-based Bollywood's commercial Hindi film is its most recognisable face. Established traditions also exist in the regional-language cinema, including Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu. A product of the regional tradition, Pather Panchali (1955), auteur Satyajit Ray's debut film of childhood and death in rural Bengal, is a landmark of world cinema. Indian cuisine is characterized by a wide variety of regional styles and sophisticated use of herbs and spices. The staple foods in the region are rice (especially in the south and the east) and wheat (predominantly in the north). Foods originally native to the Indian subcontinent that are now consumed world wide include oranges, sugar, chicken, and black pepper; in contrast, hot chilli peppers, popular across India, were introduced there by the Portuguese. Traditional Indian dress greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles and depends on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi for men; in addition, stitched clothes such as shalwar kameez for women and kurta-pyjama for men, introduced into India with Muslim invasions, and European-style trousers and shirts for men, introduced with British rule, are also popular. India's national sport is field hockey, even though cricket is the most popular sport. In some states, particularly those in the northeast and the states of West Bengal, Goa, and Kerala, football is also a popular sport. In recent times, tennis has also gained popularity. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India, is also gaining popularity with the rise of the number of recognized Indian grandmasters. Traditional sports include kabaddi, kho-kho, and gilli-danda, which are played nationwide. India is home to the age-old discipline of yoga and to the ancient martial arts, Kalarippayattu and Varma Kalai. Many of the Indian festivals are religious in origin, although several are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. The most popular holidays are Diwali, Holi, Onam, Vijayadashami, Bihu, Durga puja, the two Eids, Christmas, Ugadi, Buddha Jayanti and Vaisakhi. India has three national holidays. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in the individual states. Religious practices are an integral part of everyday life and are a very public affair. Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, although urban families now prefer a nuclear family system due to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.