India

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Republic of India
IndiaLocation.png
National anthem Jana Gana Mana
Capital New Delhi
Largest city Mumbai (Bombay)
Official language Hindi, English
Government type Republic
President Pranab Mukherjee
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Area ~3,287,590 km²
~1,269,346 mi²
Population 1.24 billion (2nd)
Population density 329/km² (31st)
852 mi²
HDI 0.619 (medium) (128th) (2007)
Currency Indian rupee (INR)
Time zone IST (UTC+5:30)
Country codes Internet TLD : .in
Calling code : +91

The Republic of India (Hindi: भारत गणराज्य Bhārat Gaṇarājya) is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the most populous liberal democracy in the world. India has a coastline of over seven thousand kilometres, bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east. India borders Pakistan to the west;[1] the People's Republic of China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Burma to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, Maldives and Indonesia.

Home to the Indus Valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped India's variegated culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early eighteenth century and controlled by Britain from the mid-nineteenth century, India became a modern nation-state in 1947 after a struggle for independence marked by widespread use of nonviolent resistance as a means of social protest.

India.gif

With the world's fourth largest economy in purchasing power and the second fastest growing large economy, India has made rapid progress in the last decade, especially in information technology. India deals with many economic and social problems, as do most evolving democracies. Common problems facing the country include high levels of poverty, illiteracy, persistent malnutrition, and environmental degradation. However, India is a rapidly advancing country, with an economy that is currently doing better than most countries in the region. A pluralistic, multi-lingual, multi-ethnic country, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.

Etymology

The name India /'ɪndiə/ is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River.[2]. The ancient Greeks referred to the ancient Indians as Indoi, the people of the Indus. [3]

The Constitution of India and common usage in Hindi also recognise Bharat as an official name of equal status. A third name, هندوستان, Hindustan (Persian: Land of the Hindus), has been in use since the twelfth century, though its contemporary use is unevenly applied.

History

For more information, see: History 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 Civilisation, 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.

The empire built by the Maurya dynasty under Emperor Chandragupta Maurya and expanded by Ashoka the Great united most of modern South Asia in third century BCE. From 180 BCE, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, including those led by the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans (or Yuezhi) in the northwestern 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 Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas, which overlapped in time and territory. In particular, the thassalocratic Chola Empire stretched across the east coast of India and extended to large parts of South-East Asia.

Science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.

Islam first arrived in India through Arab traders in the 7th and 8th centuries. Military excursions by Muhammad bin-Qasim of the Ummayyid Caliphate began the first Islamic conquest of the subcontinent. This was followed by invasions from Afghanistan between the tenth and twelfth centuries, leading to the takeover of the country under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty by Central Asian invaders. 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 Hindu Maratha Confederation, under the Chhatrapati Shivaji Raja Bhonsle, became the dominant power. From the sixteenth century, several European countries, including Portugal, Netherlands, Denmark, France and Britain 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.

During the first half of the twentieth century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political and revolutionary organisations. Millions of protesters engaged in mass campaigns of civil disobedience with a commitment to ahimsa or non-violence, led by Mahatma Gandhi. Finally, on 15 August, 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but not before losing its Muslim-majority areas, which were carved out into the separate nation-state of Pakistan. In 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, resulting in a tactical victory for China; and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and in 1999 in Kargil. 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, called "Smiling Buddha." 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, adding to its global and regional clout.

Government

India is the largest democracy in the world. The Constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India has a federal form of government and a bicameral parliament operating under a parliamentary system.

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 the head of government and exercises most executive powers. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, with the requirement that they enjoy the support of the party or coalition securing the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament.

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 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.[4]

India's independent judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over disputes between states and the Centre, appellate jurisdiction over the twenty-one High Courts of India, and the power to declare union and state laws null and void if in conflict with the basic structure of the Constitution of India.[4]

Politics

For most of its democratic history, the Government of India has been led by the left-wing centrist Indian National Congress (INC). State politics have been dominated by several national parties including INC, the center-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the far-left 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. A Janata Dal coalition, called the National Front, won elections in 1989 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 Indian National Congress won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance, supported by a various left-leaning parties and members opposed to the BJP.

Military and foreign relations

Since independence in 1947, India has maintained cordial diplomatic 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 several wars with Pakistan, primarily over Kashmir. The Indo-Pakistani war of 1971 was a particularly notable victory for India over Pakistan, which resulted in the independence of the province of East Pakistan, renamed Bangladesh.

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 35 UN peace keeping operations deployed across four continents.[5]. More recently, India fought a war with Pakistan in Kargil in 1999 which ended largely in India's favor.[6][7][8]

India maintains the third largest military force in the world, which consists of an 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 is the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces. India also became a nuclear state in 1974 after conducting an initial nuclear test explosion. Further underground testing in 1998 led to international military sanctions against India, which were gradually withdrawn after September 2001. Recently, India concluded a deal with the United States that would allow the latter to supply Indian reactors with civilian nuclear technology and fuel. India maintains a "no-first-use" nuclear policy.

States and union territories

India is a union of twenty-nine states and seven federally-governed union territories. All states, and the union territories of Puducherry and the National Capital Territory of Delhi have elected governments. The other five union territories have centrally-appointed administrators.

All states and union territories are subdivided into districts. In larger states, districts may be grouped together to form a division.

Geography

India constitutes the major portion of the Indian subcontinent, which sits atop the Indian Plate and the northwesterly portion of the Indo-Australian Plate. India's northern and north-eastern states are partially situated in the Himalayan Range. The rest of northern, central, and eastern India consists of the fertile Indo-Gangetic Plain. In the west, bordering southeastern Pakistan, lies the Thar Desert. Southern India is almost entirely composed of the peninsular Deccan plateau, which is flanked by two hilly coastal ranges, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats.

India is home to several major rivers, including the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Yamuna, the Godavari, the Mahanadi, the Kaveri, the Narmada, the Krishna and the Tapti. India has three archipelagos — Lakshadweep, which lies off the southwestern coast; the volcanic Andaman and Nicobar Islands island chain to the southeast, and the Sunderbans in the Ganges Delta of West Bengal.

The climate of India varies from tropical in the south to more temperate in the Himalayan north, where elevated regions receive sustained winter snowfall. India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert. The Himalayas, along with the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan, prevent cold Central Asian katabatic winds from blowing in. This keeps the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes. The Thar Desert is responsible for attracting the moisture-laden summer monsoon winds that, between June and September, provide most of India's rainfall.

Flora and fauna

India, lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, hosts significant biodiversity; it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of avian, 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.0% of flowering plant species.[9] Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic.[10][11] India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and Northeast India to the coniferous forest of the Himalayas. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain.[12] 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 the 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.[13] Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalayas.[12] 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.[9] 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.[14] 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 now hosts fourteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.

Economy

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$177 billion in January 2007, while federal and state budget deficits have reduced.[15] Privatisation of publicly-owned companies and the opening of certain sectors to private and foreign participation has continued amid political debate.

The economy of India is the fourth largest in the world as measured by purchasing power parity (PPP). With a gross domestic product (GDP) of US $4.164 trillion, it is behind only the U.S., China, and Japan. [16] When measured in U.S. dollar-exchange-rate terms, it is the twelfth largest in the world, with a GDP of US $930.0 billion (2007).[17] India is the second fastest growing major economy in the world, with a GDP growth rate of 9.2% at the end of the second quarter of 2006–2007.[18] However, India's huge population results in a per capita income of $3800 at PPP and $796 at nominal.[16]

Wealth distribution in India, a developing country, is fairly uneven, with the top 10% of income groups earning 33% of the income.[19] In 2007, The Times newspaper reported that "India's recent economic gains, while enriching the social elite and middle classes, have failed to benefit almost half of its 1.1 billion people."[20] This was prompted by a survey finding that 47% of Indian children suffered from malnutrition.[21]

India has a labour force of 509.3 million, 60% of which is employed in agriculture and related industries. 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.[16]

In 2006, estimated exports stood at US$112 billion and imports were around US $187.9 billion. Textiles, jewelry, 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 U.S., the European Union, China, and the United Arab Emirates.[16] More recently, India has capitalised on its large pool of educated, English-speaking people to become an important outsourcing destination for multinational corporations. India has also become a major exporter of software as well as financial, research, and technological services.

Demography

With an estimated population of 1.1 billion, India is the world's second most populous country.[22] Almost 70% of Indians reside in rural areas, although in recent decades migration to larger cities has led to the exponential rise in the urban population. India's largest urban agglomerations are Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bangalore.

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.[23] Hindi and English are used by the Union Government of India for official purposes, wherein Hindi has a legal priority. Sanskrit and Tamil enjoy classical language status in India. The number of dialects in India is as high as 1,652.[24]

Although 80.5% of Indians report themselves as Hindus, India's Muslim population is the world's second largest; they constitute 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.[22] Eight percent of India's people are classified as tribal.[22]

At the time of India's emergence as a nation-state in 1947, India's literacy rate was 11%.[25] Since then, it has increased to 68.6% (58.25% for females and 78.8% of males). The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate (91%); Bihar has the lowest (47%).[26] The national sex ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.7, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.3 births per 1,000 people.[22]

Culture

India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism; it has managed to preserve established traditions whilst absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants. Many Indian 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 architecture, have been inherited from the Mughal dynasty. These are the result of traditions that combined elements from all parts of the country.

Indian music is highly diversified. Classical music is mainly split between the North Indian Hindustani and South Indian Carnatic traditions. Highly regionalised forms of popular music include filmi and folk music like bhangra. Many classical dance forms exist, including Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Odissi and Yakshagana. 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 only later transcribed. Most of these are represented by religious texts such as the Vedas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana; Sangam literature from Tamil Nadu is among India's oldest. The many notable Indian writers of the modern era, using both Indian languages and in English, include Rabindranath Tagore.

The Indian film industry is the world's most prolific; its most recognisable face is the Mumbai-based "Bollywood", which produces mainly Hindi films. Other strong cinema industries are based on the Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Bengali, and Marathi languages.

The cuisine of India is extremely diverse, as ingredients, spices and cooking methods vary from region to region. Rice and wheat are the nation's main staple foods. The country is notable for its wide variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine. Spicy food and sweets are popular in India.

Traditional Indian dress greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles, and depend on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include the sari for women and the lungi or dhoti for men.

India's national sport is field hockey, although cricket is the most popular sport in India. In some states, particularly those in the northeast and the coastal states of West Bengal, Goa and Kerala, football is the more popular sport. In recent times, tennis has gained popularity. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India, is also gaining popularity with the rise of the number of recognised 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 also to the ancient martial art, kalarippayattu.

Indian festivals come in a vast variety; many are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. The most popular holidays are Diwali, Holi, Onam, Sankranti/Pongal, Gudi Padwa/Ugadi, Durgapuja, Dussehra, the two Eids, Christmas, 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 many urban families now prefer a nuclear family system due to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system.

Footnotes

  1. The Government of India also considers Afghanistan to be a bordering country. This is because it considers the entire state of Jammu and Kashmir to be a part of India including the portion bordering Afghanistan. A ceasefire sponsored by the United Nations in 1948 froze the positions of Indian and Pakistani held territory. As a consequence, the region bordering Afghanistan is in Pakistani-administered territory.
  2. "India", Oxford English Dictionary", second edition, 2100a.d. Oxford University Press
  3. Basham, A. L. (2000). The Wonder That Was India. South Asia Books. ISBN 0283992573. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Matthew, K.M. (2006). Manorama Yearbook 2003. Malayala Manorama, pg 524. ISBN 81-89004-07-7. 
  5. India and the United Nations. Retrieved on 2006-04-22.
  6. The Spoils of War, India backs its 'boys'
  7. Samina Ahmed. "Diplomatic Fiasco: Pakistan's Failure on the Diplomatic Front Nullifies its Gains on the Battlefield" (Belfer Center for International Affairs, Kennedy School of Government)
  8. Multiple views and opinions on the state of Pakistan's economy, the Kashmir crisis and the military coup, The Promise of Contemporary Pakistan by Faisal Cheema
  9. 9.0 9.1 Indira Gandhi Conservation Monitoring Centre (IGCMC), New Delhi and the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP), World Conservation Monitoring Center, Cambridge, UK. 2001. Biodiversity profile for India.
  10. Botanical Survey of India. 1983. Flora and Vegetation of India — An Outline. Botanical Survey of India, Howrah. 24 pp.
  11. Valmik Thapar, Land of the Tiger: A Natural History of the Indian Subcontinent, 1997.
  12. 12.0 12.1 Tritsch, M.E. 2001. Wildlife of India Harper Collins, London. 192 pages. ISBN 0-00-711062-6
  13. K. Praveen Karanth. (2006). Out-of-India Gondwanan origin of some tropical Asian biota
  14. Groombridge, B. (ed). 1993. The 1994 IUCN Red List of Threatened Animals. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK. lvi + 286 pp.
  15. "Revenue surge boosts fiscal health". Business Standard. Retrieved on 2006-12-28.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 CIA - The World Factbook — India
  17. Economic Times India
  18. India's Economic Growth Unexpectedly Quickens to 9.2%, Bloomberg, September 30, 2005.
  19. In Pictures—Middle Class, or Upper Class?. India Together. Retrieved on 2007-03-10.
  20. Page, Jeremy. Indian children suffer more malnutrition than in Ethiopia, The Times, Times Newspapers, 22 February 2007. Retrieved on 12 October 2013. [subscription required]
  21. Mendelson, Sam (24 November 2009). Child malnutrition in India: Why does it persist?. Child In Need India. Retrieved on 12 October 2013.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 Census of India 2001, Data on Religion. Census of India. Retrieved on November 18, 2006.
  23. Languages of India. India image. Retrieved on August 14, 2005.
  24. Matthew, K.M. (2006). Manorama Yearbook 2003. Malayala Manorama, pg 524. ISBN 81-89004-07-7. 
  25. The Colonial Legacy: Myths and Popular Beliefs. Image-India. Retrieved on November 18, 2006.
  26. Census of India 2001, Data on Literacy. Census of India. Retrieved on November 18, 2006.