India



India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the largest liberal democracy in the world. India has a coastline of over seven thousand kilometres and borders Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is adjacent to the Indian Ocean island nation of Sri Lanka.

Home to the Indus Valley Civilisation, a centre of important trade routes and vast empires, India has long played a major role in human history. Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism and Jainism all have their origins in India, while Islam, Judaism and Christianity enjoy a strong cultural heritage having arrived through trade even before foreign invasions, and having reached the subcontinent before European occupation of the region. Colonised as part of the British Empire in the nineteenth century, India gained independence in 1947 as a unified nation after an intense struggle for independence. The country's population, wildlife, geographical terrain and climate system are among the most diverse in the world.

The name India is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River. The Constitution of India and common usage recognise Bharat, as an official name, India is also recognized with equal status. A third name, Hindustan has been used since the twelfth century, although its contemporary use is unevenly applied.

The sub-continent in its earliest civilization days was known as 'Jambudvipa', which translates roughly into the island of the Jambu tree which grew in abundance here. Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at Bhimbetka in the state of 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 laying the foundations of ancient India.

The empire built by the Maurya dynasty under Emperor Ashoka the Great united most of modern Southern Asia except the Dravidian kingdoms in the south. From 180 BCE, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed including the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians, Arabs, Afghans 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, in the south there were several dynasties such as the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Cheras, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas in different times and regions. The political influence of these mighty southern kingdoms, though felt to a lesser extent by north India, extended into Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka and deeply influenced their culture. The southern kingdoms remained relatively more stable and carried out maritime trade in spices and precious gems with the Arabia, China and Europe from ancient times. Science, engineering, art, literature, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.
The Sanchi stupa in Sanchi, Madhya Pradesh built by emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century.

Following the invasions from Central Asia, between the tenth to the twelfth centuries, much of north India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty, who gradually expanded their reign through most of the Indian subcontinent. Nevertheless, several indigenous kingdoms flourished, especially in the south, such as the Vijayanagara Empire. From the sixteenth century onwards, several European countries, including Portugal, Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom, started arriving as traders, later taking advantage of the fractious nature of relations between the kingdoms, to establish colonies in the country. By 1856, most of India came under control of the British East India Company. A year later, a failed nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms, known locally as the First War of Indian Independence (known as the Sepoy Mutiny elsewhere) broke out, leading to India being under the direct control of the British Crown as a colony of the British Empire.

In the early twentieth century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, and various revolutionary groups. The movement was largely led by Mahatma Gandhi, with Maulana Azad, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, Lala Lajpat Rai, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Bipin Chandra Pal and Subhash Chandra Bose playing important roles. Millions protested in various mass campaigns of civil disobedience with a commitment to ahimsa or non-violence. Finally, after the Quit India massive civil disobedience movement during WWII, and a number of mutinies in the armed forces after the war, India gained independence from British rule on 15 August 1947. Three years later, on 26 January 1950, India ratified a new Constitution, and became a republic.

Since it gained independence, India has seen 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 escalated into the brief Sino-Indian War in 1962; and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and in 1999 war in Kargil. India is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations (at the time as part of British India). In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test. This was followed by five more tests in 1998. Significant economic reforms beginning in 1991 have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

India is referred to as the largest democracy in the world, by virtue of the fact that it has the largest electing population among democratic countries. The country has a 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 is the head of state, though he has a largely ceremonial role to play. He is also the Supreme Commander of India's armed forces. The President is elected indirectly by an electoral college for five-year terms. Presidential assent is needed for a Bill or Ordinance passed by the Parliament to come into force. The Prime Minister is the de facto head of government, and has most executive powers. He or she is appointed by the President, with the requirement that he or she enjoy the support of the party or coalition having more than 50% seats in the lower house. The Union Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister aids and advises the President on governance matters.

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 245-member Rajya Sabha is chosen indirectly through the state Legislative Assemblies, and has a staggered six-year term. Each state sends members to the Rajya Sabha in a proportion of its population. The 545-member Lok Sabha is directly elected (Some seats are reserved for Caste based system) by popular vote for a five-year term (except two nominated Anglo-Indian members), and is the determinative constituent of political power and government formation. Universal adulthood suffrage is guaranteed by the Constitution for citizens above 18 years of age. The executive arm 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.

India's independent judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India. The Supreme Court has both original jurisdiction over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the eighteen High Courts of India, and additionally, the power to declare Union and state laws null and void if in conflict with the Constitution.

For most of its independent history, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress. The party enjoyed a parliamentary majority barring two brief periods during the 1970s and late 1980s. This rule was interrupted between 1977 to 1980, when the Janata Party coalition won the election owing to public discontent with the "Emergency" declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Janata Dal won elections in 1989, but its government managed to hold on to power for only two years. Between 1996 and 1998, there was a period of political flux with the government being formed first by the right-of-centre, nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) followed by a left-leaning United Front coalition. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with smaller regional parties, and became the first non-Congress and coalition government to complete a full five-year term. The 2004 Indian elections saw the left-leaning Congress party winning the largest number of seats to form a government by leading the United Progressive Alliance, and supported by communist parties and those opposed to the BJP.

Since independence, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. It took a lead in the 1950s in advocating the independence of European colonies in Africa and Asia. During the Cold War, India tried to maintain its neutrality and was 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 consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT to maintain sovereignty over its nuclear program despite criticism and military sanctions. Recent overtures by the Indian government have strengthened India's relations with United States, China and Pakistan. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations of South America, Asia and Africa. In recent years, India has played an influential role in the SAARC. India has been a long time supporter of the United Nations, with over 55,000 Indian military and police personnel having served in 35 UN peace keeping operations over four continents. Since the 1990s, India has been considered an emerging power on the global stage, meaning it has increasing influence on international affairs.

Administratively, India is divided into twenty-nine states (which are further subdivided into districts), and six union territories (or territories owned by the Central Government). All states and the union territory of Pondicherry have elected governments. The remaining five union territories have centrally-appointed administrators. The states and territories are further divided into 602 districts.

States:

1. Andhra Pradesh
2. Arunachal Pradesh
3. Assam
4. Bihar
5. Chhattisgarh
6. Delhi
7. Goa
8. Gujarat
9. Haryana
10. Himachal Pradesh
11. Jammu and Kashmir
12. Jharkhand
13. Karnataka
14. Kerala
15. Madhya Pradesh
16. Maharashtra
17. Manipur
18. Meghalaya
19. Mizoram
20. Nagaland
21. Orissa
22. Punjab
23. Rajasthan
24. Sikkim
25. Tamil Nadu
26. Tripura
27. Uttaranchal
28. Uttar Pradesh
29. West Bengal

Union Territories:

1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
2. Chandigarh
3. Dadra and Nagar Haveli
4. Daman and Diu
5. Lakshadweep
6. Pondicherry

The territory of India constitutes a major portion of the Indian subcontinent, situated on the Indian Plate, the northerly portion of the Indo-Australian Plate, in southern Asia. India's northern and northeastern states are partially situated in the Himalayan Mountain Range. The rest of northern, central and eastern India consists of the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain. In the west, bordering southeast Pakistan, lies the Thar Desert. The southern Indian Peninsula is almost entirely composed of the Deccan plateau, which is flanked by two hilly coastal ranges, the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats.

India is home to several major rivers, including the Ganga, Brahmaputra, Yamuna, Godavari, Kaveri, Narmada, and Krishna. India has three archipelagos – Lakshadweep off the southwest coast, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands-volcanic island chain to the southeast, and the Sunderbans in the Gangetic delta in West Bengal.

Climate in India varies from tropical in the south to more temperate in the Himalayan north, with elevated regions in the north receiving sustained snowfall in winters. India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert. The Himalayas, along with the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan, provide a barrier to the cold winds from Central Asia. This keeps most of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations in similar latitudes. The Thar Desert is responsible for attracting the moisture laden southwest monsoon winds that provide most of India's rainfall between June and September.

The economy of India is the fourth largest in the world as measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), with a GDP of US $3.63 trillion. When measured in USD exchange-rate terms, it is the twelfth largest in the world, with a GDP of $785.47 billion or Rs 35,34,615 crore in 2005, as calculated by the World Bank. India is the second fastest growing major economy in the world, with a GDP growth rate of 9.3%, and annual Industrial production change of 12.4%, as of the first quarter of 2006. Wealth distribution in India, a developing country, is fairly uneven, with the top 10% of income groups earning 33% of all income. India's per capita income (PPP) of US$ 3,400 is ranked 122nd in the world.

For most of its independent history, India adhered to a quasi-socialist approach, with strict government control over private sector participation, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. Starting from 1991, India has gradually opened up its markets through economic reforms by reducing government controls on foreign trade and investment. Privatisation of public-owned industries and some sectors to private and foreign players has continued amid political debate.

India has a labour force of 496.4 million of which 60% is employed in agriculture or agriculture-related industries which contributes to only about 22% of the GDP, 17% in mainstream industry and 23% in service industries. India's agricultural produce includes rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes. Major industries include textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transportation equipment, cement, mining, petroleum and machinery.

India's large English speaking middle-class has contributed to the country's growth in Business Process Outsourcing (BPO). It is becoming a major base for US tech companies for future targeted research & development, including the likes of Google, IBM, and Microsoft. All this has helped the services sector to increase its share of the economy to approximately 50%.

India is also a major exporter of financial, research and technology services. India's most important trading partners are the United States, China, UK, Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, Switzerland and Belgium.

India is the second-most populous country in the world with an estimated 1.1 billion people in 2006.[9] Language, caste and religion are determinants of social and political organisation within its diverse population. Although 81.5% of the people are Hindus, India is also home to the second-largest population of Muslims in the world (12.2%), after Indonesia. Other religious groups include Sikhs (2%), Christians (2.33%), Buddhists (0.76%), Jains (0.40%), Jews, Zoroastrians, Ahmadis, and Bahá'ís. The national average literacy rate is 64.4%(with males-75.6% and females-54.2%). The state of Kerala leads the country with a literacy rate of approximately 94%.

Unlike the USA, UK, and Australian Censuses, the national Census of India does not recognize racial or ethnic groups within India.

India's biggest metropolitan agglomerations are Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Delhi, Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), Chennai (formerly Madras), Bangalore and Hyderabad. The national sex ratio is 933 females per 1,000 males and median age is 24.66. India's birth rate is 22.32 births per 1,000.[9] The total fertility rate (TFR) for India is above the world average, however the growth rate is showing signs of decrease in South India.

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. The Indian constitution recognises 23 official languages. Hindi and English are used by the Union Government of India for official purposes, wherein Hindi has a de jure priority. Sanskrit and Tamil enjoy classical language status in India. The number of dialects in India is as high as 1,652.

India has a rich and unique cultural heritage, and has managed to preserve its established traditions throughout history whilst absorbing customs, traditions and ideas from both invaders and immigrants. Many cultural practices, languages, customs and monuments are examples of this co-mingling over centuries. Famous monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Islamic-inspired architecture have been inherited from the Mughal dynasty. These are the result of a syncretic tradition that combined elements from all parts of the country.

Indian music is represented in a wide variety of forms. The two main forms of classical music are Carnatic from South India, and Hindustani from North India, each of which has several popular sub classes. Popular forms of music also prevail, the most notable being Filmi music. In addition to this are the diverse traditions of folk music from different parts of the country. Many classical dance forms exist, including the Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Odissi, and Manipuri. They often have a narrative form and are usually infused with devotional and spiritual elements.

The earliest literary traditions in India were mostly oral, and were later transcribed. Most of these are represented by sacred works like the Vedas and the epics of the Mahabharata and Ramayana. Sangam literature from Tamil Nadu represents some of India's oldest traditions. There have been many notable modern Indian writers, both in Indian languages and in English. Millions of ancient handwritten manuscripts have been identified and classified. India's only Nobel laureate in literature was the Bengali writer Rabindranath Tagore. India is the third largest newspaper market in Asia with an estimated circulation of at least 66 million copies daily in 2003.

The nation also produces the world's largest number of motion pictures every year. The most recognisable face is that of cinema production based in Mumbai, which produces mainly commercial Hindi films, often referred to as "Bollywood". There are also strong cinema industries based on the Bengali, Malayalam, Kannada, Tamil and Telugu languages.

Varanasi, the religious and cultural center of India for thousands of years is the oldest living city in the world and is considered as one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage for Hindus irrespective of denomination.

Religious practices of various faiths are an integral part of everyday life in society. Religion in India is a very public affair, with many practices imbued with pomp and vitality accompanying their underlying spiritual qualities. Education is highly regarded by members of every socio-economic stratum. Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, and considered sacred, although urban families have grown to prefer a nuclear family system, owing to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.

The cuisine of India is diverse, as ingredients, spices and cooking methods vary from region to region. Rice and wheat are the staple foods in the country. The country is notable for its wide variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine. Spicy food and sweets are popular in India. Traditional dress in India greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles, and depend on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include the traditional sari for women and the traditional dhoti for men.

India's national sport is field hockey, although cricket is now the de facto national game. In some states, particularly in the northeast, football (soccer) is the most popular sport and is widely watched. In recent times, tennis has gained popularity in India. Chess is also gaining popularity with the rise of the number of recognised grandmasters. The most commonly held view is that chess originated in India. Traditional indigenous sports include kabaddi, Kho Kho and gilli-danda, which are played in most parts of the country.

India is also known as a land of festivals. A melting pot of many religions, India has a rich diversity of festivals, many of which are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. The most widely known and popular celebrations include the Hindu festivals of Diwali, Holi, Pongal and Dussehra and the Muslim celebration of Eid. A number of festivals are common to most parts of India; however, they may be called by different names in the various parts of the country or may be celebrated in a different fashion and style.Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.2 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts.
Virtual Magic is a human knowledge database blog. Text Based On Information From Wikipedia, Under The GNU Free Documentation License. Copyright (c) 2007 Virtual Magic. Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, no Front-Cover Texts and no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is included in the section entitled "GNU Free Documentation License".

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