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India

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Republic of India

Bharat Ga?arajya
Horizontal tricolour flag bearing, from top to bottom, deep saffron, white, and green horizontal bands. In the centre of the white band is a navy-blue wheel with 24 spokes. Three lions facing left, right, and toward viewer, atop a frieze containing a galloping horse, a 24-spoke wheel, and an elephant. Underneath is a motto: "??????? ????".
Flag Emblem
Motto:
“Satyameva Jayate” (Sanskrit)
“Truth Alone Triumphs”
Anthem:
Jana Gana Mana
“Thou Art the Ruler of the Minds of All People”
National Song: Vande Mataram
“I Bow to Thee, Mother”
Image of a globe centred on India, with India highlighted.
Area controlled by India is in dark green.
Claimed but uncontrolled regions are in light green.
Capital New Delhi
28°36.8′N 77°12.5′E
Largest City Mumbai
Official Language(s)
Recognised regional languages
National languages None defined by theConstitution
Demonym Indian
Government Federal parliamentary
constitutional republic
- President Pratibha Patil
- Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (INC)
- Speaker of the House Meira Kumar (INC)
- Chief Justice S. H. Kapadia
Legislature Parliament of India
- Upper House Rajya Sabha
- Lower House Lok Sabha
Independence from the United Kingdom
- Declared 15 August 1947
- Republic 26 January 1950
Area
- Total 3,287,263 km2 [A](7th)
1,269,219 sq mi
- Water (%) 9.56
Population
- 2011 census 1,210,193,422 (2nd)
- Density 366.3/km2 (31st)
948.8/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2011 estimate
- Total $4.469 trillion (3rd)
- Per capita $3,703[5]
GDP (nominal) 2011 estimate
- Total $1.843 trillion (10th)
- Per capita $1,527
Gini (2004) 36.8(79th)
HDI (2011) increase0.547 (medium) (134th)
Currency Indian rupee (INR) (INR)
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
- Summer (DST) not observed (UTC+05:30)
Date formats dd/mm/yyyy (AD)
Drives on the left
ISO 3166 code IN
Internet TLD .in

Calling code 91

India, officially the Republic of India, Bharat Ga?arajya; see also the official names of India), is a country inSouth Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Burma and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India’s Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

Home to the ancient 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 of the world’s major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism—originated here, whereas Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region’s diverse culture. Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century andadministered directly by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence which was marked by non-violent resistance and led by Mahatma Gandhi.

The Indian economy is the world’s ninth-largest economy by nominal GDP and fourth-largest economy by purchasing power parity (PPP). Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies; it is considered a newly industrialized country. However, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, corruption, and inadequate public health. A nuclear weapons state and a regional power, it has the third-largest standing army in the world and ranks tenth in military expenditure among nations. India is a federal constitutional republic governed under a parliamentary system consisting of 28 states and 7 union territories. It is one of the fiveBRICS nations. India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and multiethnic society. It is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.

Etymology

Main article: Names of India

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 ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi the people of the Indus. The Constitution of India and usage inmany Indian languages also recognises Bharat as an official name of equal status. The name Bharat is derived from the name of the legendary king Bharata in Hindu scriptures. Hindustan, originally a Persian word for “Land of the Hindus” and referring to North India and Pakistan before 1947, is also occasionally used as a synonym for all of India.

Ancient India

The earliest anatomically modern human remains found in South Asia are from approximately 30,000 years ago. Nearly contemporaneous Mesolithic rock art sites have been found in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, including at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh. Around 7000 BCE, the first known neolithic settlements appeared on the subcontinent in Mehrgarh and other sites in western Pakistan. These gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilization,the first urban culture in South Asia, which flourished during 2500–1900 BCE in Pakistan and western India. Centered around cities such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Dholavira, and Kalibangan, and relying on varied forms of subsistence, the civilization engaged robustly in crafts production and wide-ranging trade.

Damaged brown painting of a reclining man and woman.

Paintings at the Ajanta Cavesin Aurangabad, Maharashtra, sixth century.

During the period 2000–500 BCE, many regions of the subcontinent evolved from copper age to iron age cultures. The Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed during this period, and historians have analyzed these to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Ganges Plain. Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent from the north-west. The caste system, which created a hierarchy of priests, warriors, and free peasants, but which excluded indigenous peoples by labeling their occupations impure, arose during this period. In the Deccan, archaeological evidence from this period suggests the existence of a chiefdom stage of political organization. In South India, the large number of megalithic monuments found from this period,and nearby evidence of agriculture, irrigation tanks, and craft traditions suggest progression to sedentary life.

By the fifth century BCE, the small chiefdoms of the Ganges Plain and the north-west regions had consolidated into 16 major oligarchies and monarchies called Mahajanapadas. The emerging urbanisation as well as the orthodoxies of the late Vedic age created the religious reform movements of Buddhism and Jainism.Buddhism, based on the teachings of India’s first historical figure, Gautam Buddha, attracted followers from all social classes excepting the middle; Jainism came into prominence around the same time during the life of its exemplar, Mahavira. In an age of increasing urban wealth, both religions held up renunciation as an ideal, and both established long-lasting monasteries. Politically, by the 3rd century BCE, the kingdom of Magadha had annexed or reduced other states to emerge as the Mauryan Empire. The empire was once thought to have controlled most of the subcontinent excepting the far south, but its core regions are now thought to have been separated by large autonomous areas. The Maurya kings are known as much for their empire building and determined management of public life as for Ashoka the Great’s renunciation of militarism and far-flung advocacy of the Buddhist dhamma.

The Sangam literature of the Tamil language reveals that, between 200 BCE and 200 CE, the southern peninsula was being ruled by the Cheras, the Cholas, and the Pandyas, dynasties that traded extensively with the Roman Empire and with West and South-East Asia. In North India, Hinduism asserted patriarchal control within the family leading to increased subordination of women.By the fourth and fifth centuries CE, the Gupta Empire had created a complex administrative and taxation system in the greater Ganges Plain that became a model for later Indian kingdoms.Under the Guptas, a renewed Hinduism based on devotion rather than the management of ritual began to assert itself. The renewal was reflected in a flowering of sculpture and architecture, which found patrons among an urban elite. Classical Sanskrit literature flowered as well, and Indian science, astronomy,medicine, and mathematics made significant advances.

Medieval India

The granite tower of Brihadeeswarar Temple inThanjavur was completed in 1010 CE by Raja Raja Chola I.

The Indian early medieval age, 600 CE to 1200 CE, is defined by regional kingdoms and cultural diversity.When Harsha of Kannauj, who ruled much of the Ganges plain from 606 to 647 CE, attempted to expand southwards, he was defeated by the Chalukya ruler of the Deccan. When his successor attempted to expand eastwards, he was defeated by the Pala king of Bengal. When the Chalukyas attempted to expand southwards, they were defeated by the Pallavas from farther south, who in turn were opposed by the Pandyas and the Cholas from still farther south. No ruler of this period was able to create an empire and consistently control lands much beyond his core region. During this time, pastoral peoples whose land had been cleared to make way for the growing agriculture economy were accommodated within caste society, as were new non-traditional ruling classes. The caste system consequently began to show regional differences.

In the sixth and seventh centuries CE, the first devotional hymns were created in the Tamil language. They were imitated all over India and led to both the resurgence of Hinduism and the development of all modern languages of the subcontinent. Indian royalty, big and small, and the temples they patronized, drew citizens in great numbers to the capital cities, which became economic hubs as well.Temple towns of various sizes began to appear everywhere as India underwent another urbanization. By the eight and ninth centuries, the effects were felt in South-East Asia, as South Indian culture and political systems were exported to what today are Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Java. Indian merchants, scholars, and sometimes armies were involved in this transmission; South-East Asians took the initiative as well with many sojourning in Indian seminaries and translating Buddhist and Hindu texts into their languages.

After the tenth century, Muslim Central Asian nomadic clans, using swift-horse cavalry and raising vast armies united by ethnicity and religion, repeatedly overran South Asia’s north-western plains, leading eventually to the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206.The Sultanate was to control much of North India, and to make many forays into South India. Although at first disruptive for the Indian elites, the Sultanate largely left its vast non-Muslim subject population to its own laws and customs.By repeatedly repulsing the Mongol raiders in the thirteenth century, the Sultanate saved India from the devastation visited on West and Central Asia, setting the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, learned men, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from that region into the subcontinent, thereby creating a syncretic Indo-Islamic culture in the north. The Sultanate’s raiding and weakening of the regional kingdoms of South India paved the way for the indigenous Vijayanagara Empire. Embracing a strongShaivite tradition and building upon the military technology of the Sultanate, the empire came to control much of peninsular India, and was to influence South Indian society for long afterwards.

Early Modern India

Scribes and artists in the Mughal court, 1590–1595.

In the early sixteenth century, northern India, being then under mainly Muslim rulers, fell again to the superior mobility and firepower of a new generation of Central Asian warriors. The resulting Mughal Empire did not stamp out the local societies it came to rule, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practicesand diverse and inclusive ruling elites, leading to more systematic, centralized, and uniform rule. Eschewing tribal bonds and Islamic identity, especially under Akbar, the Mughals united their far-flung realms through loyalty, expressed through a Persianised culture, to an emperor who had near divine status. The Mughal state’s economic policies, deriving most revenues from agricultureand mandating that taxes be paid in the well-regulated silver currency, caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets. The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the seventeenth century was a factor in India’s economic expansion, resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture. Newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience.Expanding commerce during Mughal rule gave rise to new Indian commercial and political elites along the coasts of southern and eastern India.As the empire disintegrated, many among these elites were able to seek and control their own affairs.

By the early 18th century, with the lines between commercial and political dominance being increasingly blurred, a number of European trading companies, including the English East India Company, had established outposts on the coast of India. The East India Company’s control of the seas, greater resources, and more advanced military training and technology led it to increasingly flex its military muscle and caused it to become attractive to a portion of the Indian elite; both these factors were crucial in allowing the Company to gain control over the Bengal region by 1765 and sideline the other European companies. Its further access to the riches of Bengal and the subsequent increased strength and size of its army enabled it to annex or subdue most of India by the 1820s.India was now no longer exporting manufactured goods as it long had, but was instead supplying the British empire with raw materials, and many historians consider this to be the onset of India’s colonial periodBy this time, with its economic power severely curtailed by the British parliament and itself effectively made an arm of British administration, the Company began to more consciously enter non-economic arenas such as education, social reform, and culture.

Modern India

The British Indian Empire, from the 1909 edition of The Imperial Gazetteer of India.

Historians consider India’s modern age to have begun sometime between 1848 and 1885. The appointment in 1848 of Lord Dalhousie as Governor General of the East India Company rule in India set the stage for changes essential to a modern state. These included the consolidation and demarcation of sovereignty, the surveillance of the population, and the education of citizens. Technological changes—among them, railways, canals, and the telegraph—were introduced not long after their introduction in Europe. However, disaffection with the Company also grew during this time, and set off the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Fed by diverse resentments and perceptions, including invasive British-style social reforms, harsh land taxes, and summary treatment of some rich landowners and princes, the rebellion rocked many regions of northern and central India and shook the foundations of Company rule.Although the rebellion was suppressed by 1858, it led to the dissolution of the East India Company and to the direct administration of India by the British government. Proclaiming a unitary state and a gradual but limited British-style parliamentary system, the new rulers also protected princes and landed gentry as a feudal safeguard against future unrest.In the decades following, public life gradually emerged all over India, leading eventually to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.

Two smiling men in robes sitting on the ground with bodies facing the viewer and with heads turned toward each other. The younger wears a white Nehru cap; the elder is bald and wears glasses. A half-dozen other people are in the background.

Jawaharlal Nehru became India’s first prime minister in 1947. Mahatma Gandhi led the independence movement.

The rush of technology and the commercialization of agriculture in the second half of the 19th century was marked by economic setbacks—many small farmers became dependent on the whims of far-away markets. There was an increase in the number of large-scale famines,and, despite the risks of infrastructure development borne by Indian taxpayers, little industrial employment was generated for Indians. There were also salutary effects: commercial cropping, especially in the newly canalled Punjab, led to increased food production for internal consumption. The railway network provided critical famine relief, notably reduced the cost of moving goods, and helped nascent Indian-owned industry. After World War I, in which some one million Indians served, a new period began. It was marked by British reforms but also repressive legislation, by more strident Indian calls for self-rule, and by the beginnings of a non-violent movement of non-cooperation, of which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would become the leader and enduring symbol. During the 1930s, slow legislative reform was enacted by the British; the Indian National Congress won victories in the resulting elections.The next decade was beset with crises: Indian participation in World War II, the Congress’s final push for non-cooperation, and an upsurge of Muslim nationalism. All were capped by the independence of India in 1947, but tempered by the bloody partition of the subcontinent into two states.

Vital to India’s self-image as an independent nation was its constitution, completed in 1950, which put in place a sovereign, secular, and democratic republic. In the 60 years since, India has had a mixed bag of successes and failures. It has remained a democracy with civil liberties, an activist Supreme Court, and a largely independent press. Economic liberalization, which was begun in the 1990s, has created a large urban middle class, transformed India into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, and increased its geopolitical clout. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture. Yet, India has also been weighed down by seemingly unyielding poverty, both rural and urban; by religious and caste-related violence; by Maoist-inspired Naxalite insurgencies; and by separatism in Jammu and Kashmir. It has unresolved territorial disputes with China, which escalated into the Sino-Indian War of 1962; and with Pakistan, which flared into wars fought in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. The India-Pakistan nuclear rivalry came to a head in 1998. India’s sustained democratic freedoms are unique among the world’s new nations; however, in spite of its recent economic successes, freedom from want for its disadvantaged population remains a goal yet to be achieved.

Geography

Map of India. Most of India is yellow (elevation 100–1000 m). Some areas in the south and mid-east are brown (above 1000 m). Major river valleys are green (below 100 m).

Topographic map of India.

India comprises the bulk of the Indian subcontinent and lies atop the minor Indian tectonic plate, which in turn belongs to the Indo-Australian Plate.India’s defining geological processes commenced seventy five million years ago when the Indian subcontinent, then part of the southern supercontinentGondwana, began a north-eastward drift across the then-unformed Indian Ocean that lasted fifty million years. The subcontinent’s subsequent collision with, and subduction under, the Eurasian Plate bore aloft the planet’s highest mountains, the Himalayas. They abut India in the north and thenorth-east. In the former seabed immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough that has gradually filled with river-borne sediment; it now forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain. To the west lies the Thar Desert, which is cut off by the Aravalli Range.

The original Indian plate survives as peninsular India, the oldest and geologically most stable part of India and extends as far north as the Satpura andVindhya ranges in central India. These parallel ranges run from the Arabian Sea coast in Gujarat in the west to the coal-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand in the east. To the south the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the west and east by the coastal ranges, the Western and Eastern Ghats respectively; the plateau contains the nation’s oldest rock formations, 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[c] and 68° 7′ and 97° 25′ east longitude.

A shining white snow-clad range, framed against a turquoise sky. In the middle ground, a ridge descends from the right to form a saddle in the centre of the photograph, partly in shadow. In the near foreground, a loop of a road is seen.

The Kedar Range of the Greater Himalayas rises behindKedarnath Temple, one of the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines.

India’s coast is 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi) long; of this distance, 5,423 kilometres (3,400 mi) belong to peninsular India and 2,094 kilometres (1,300 mi) to the Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep Islands. According to the Indian naval hydrographic charts, the mainland coast consists of the following: 43% sandy beaches, 11% rocky coast including cliffs, and 46% mudflats or marshy coast.

Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges (Ganga) and the Brahmaputra, both of which drain into the Bay of Bengal. Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and the Kosi; the latter’s 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 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.

The Indian climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the economically and culturally pivotal summer and wintermonsoons. 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.The Thar Desert plays a crucial role in attracting the moisture-laden south-west 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.

Biodiversity

The Indian peacock (Pavo cristatus) is the national bird. It roosts in moist and dry-deciduous forests, cultivated areas, and village precincts.

India lies within the Indomalaya ecozone and contains three biodiversity hotspots. One of 17 megadiverse countries, it hosts 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of all avian, 6.2% of all reptilian, 4.4% of all amphibian, 11.7% of all piscine, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species. Endemismis high among plants, 33%, and among ecoregions such as the shola forests. Habitat 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 moist deciduous sal forest of eastern India; the dry deciduous teak forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain. Under 12% of India’s landmass bears thick jungle. The medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies, is a key Indian tree. The luxuriant pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment.

Shola highlands in Kudremukh National Park, part of the Western Ghats.

Many Indian species descend from taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated long ago.Peninsular India’s subsequent movement towards and collision with the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. Epochal volcanism and climatic changes 20 million years ago forced a mass extinction.Mammals then entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes flanking the rising Himalaya.Thus, while 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians are endemic, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are. Among them are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and 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, by ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-laced cattle, nearly went extinct.

The pervasive and ecologically devastating human encroachment of recent decades has critically endangered Indian 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[125] and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial wilderness; the Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1980 and amendments added in 1988. India hosts more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries and thirteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.

Politics

Parliamentary joint session held in theSansad Bhavan.

India is the world’s most populous democracy. A parliamentary republic with a multi-party system, it has six recognised national parties, including the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and more than 40 regional parties. The Congress is considered centre-left or “liberal” in Indian political culture, and the BJP centre-right or “conservative”. For most of the period between 1950—when India first became a republic—and the late 1980s, the Congress held a majority in the parliament. Since then, however, it has increasingly shared the political stage with the BJP, as well as with powerful regional parties which have often forced the creation of multi-party coalitions at the Centre.

In the Republic of India’s first three general elections, in 1951, 1957, and 1962, the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress won easy victories. On Nehru’s death in 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri briefly became prime minister; he was succeeded, after his own unexpected death in 1966, by Indira Gandhi, who went on to lead the Congress to election victories in 1967 and 1971. Following public discontent with the state of emergency she declared in 1975, the Congress was voted out of power in 1977; the just-created Janata Party, which had opposed the emergency, was voted in. Its government lasted just over three years. Voted back into power in 1980, the Congress saw a change in leadership in 1984, when Indira Gandhi was assassinated; she was succeeded by her son Rajiv Gandhi, who won an easy victory in the general elections later that year. The Congress was voted out again in 1989 when a National Front coalition, led by the newly formed Janata Dal in alliance with the Left Front, won the elections; that government too proved relatively short-lived: it lasted just under two years. Elections were held again in 1991; no party won an absolute majority. But the Congress, as the largest single party, was able to form a minority government led by P.V. Narasimha Rao.

The two years after the general election of 1996 were marked by political turmoil. Several short-lived alliances shared power at the Centre. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996; it was followed by two comparatively long-lasting United Front coalitions, which depended on external support. In 1998, the BJP was able to form a successful coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), which under the leadership of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term. In the 2004 Indian general elections, again no party won an absolute majority, but the Congress emerged as the largest single party, forming a successful coalition: the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It had the support of left-leaning parties and MPs opposed to the BJP. The UPA coalition was returned to power in the 2009 general election with increased numbers, and it no longer required external support from India’s Communist parties. That year, Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1957 and 1962 to be re-elected to a second consecutive five-year term.

Government

Rashtrapati Bhavan, home of the President of India.

India is a federation with a parliamentary system governed under the Constitution of India, which serves as the country’s supreme legal document. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, in which “majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law”. Federalism in Indiadefines the power distribution between the federal government and the states. The government abides by constitutional checks and balances. The Constitution of India, which came into effect on 26 January 1950, states in its preamble that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democraticrepublic. India’s form of government, traditionally described as “quasi-federal” with a strong centre and weak states, has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic, and social changes.

National symbols
Flag Tricolour
Emblem Sarnath Lion Capital
Anthem Jana Gana Mana
Song Vande Mataram
Calendar Saka
Game Hockey
Flower Lotus
Fruit Mango
Tree Banyan
Bird Indian Peafowl
Land animal Royal Bengal Tiger
Aquatic animal River Dolphin
River Ganges

The federal government comprises three branches:

  • Executive: The President of India is the head of state who is elected indirectly by a national electoral collegefor a five-year term. The Prime Minister of India is the head of government and exercises most executive power. Appointed by the president, the prime minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of parliament.The executive branch of the Indian government consists of the president, the 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 one of the houses of parliament.In the Indian parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the legislature; the prime minister and his council directly responsible to the lower house of the parliament.
  • Legislative: The legislature of India is the bicameral parliament. It operates under a Westminster-style parliamentary system and comprises the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (“Council of States”) and the lower called the Lok Sabha (“House of the People”). The Rajya Sabha is a permanent body that has 245 members who serve in staggered six-year terms. Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in numbers proportional to their state’s share of the national population. All but two of the Lok Sabha’s 545 members are directly elected by popular vote; they represent individual constituencies via five-year terms. The remaining two members are nominated by the president from among the Anglo-Indiancommunity, in case the president decides that they are not adequately represented.
  • Judicial: India has a unitary three-tier judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India, 21 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; it has appellate jurisdictionover the High Courts. It is judicially independent and has the power both to declare the law and to strike down union or state laws which contravene the constitution. The Supreme Court is also the ultimate interpreter of the constitution.

Subdivisions

Main article: Administrative divisions of India
See also: Political integration of India

India is a federation composed of 28 states and 7 union territories.All states, as well as the union territories of Puducherry and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, have elected legislatures and governments, both patterned on the Westminster model. The remaining five union territories are directly ruled by the Centre through appointed administrators. In 1956, under the States Reorganisation Act, states were reorganised on a linguistic basis. Since then, their structure has remained largely unchanged. Each state or union territory is further divided into administrative districts. The districts in turn are further divided into tehsils and ultimately into villages.

States:

  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Arunachal Pradesh
  3. Assam
  4. Bihar
  5. Chhattisgarh
  6. Goa
  7. Gujarat
  1. Haryana
  2. Himachal Pradesh
  3. Jammu and Kashmir
  4. Jharkhand
  5. Karnataka
  6. Kerala
  7. Madhya Pradesh
  1. Maharashtra
  2. Manipur
  3. Meghalaya
  4. Mizoram
  5. Nagaland
  6. Orissa
  7. Punjab
  1. Rajasthan
  2. Sikkim
  3. Tamil Nadu
  4. Tripura
  5. Uttar Pradesh
  6. Uttarakhand
  7. West Bengal

Union territories:

  1. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
  2. Chandigarh
  3. Dadra and Nagar Haveli
  4. Daman and Diu
  5. Lakshadweep
  6. National Capital Territory of Delhi
  7. Puducherry
A clickable map of India exhibiting its 28 states and 7 union territories.

A clickable map of India exhibiting its states and territories.

Foreign relations and military

Main articles: Foreign relations of India and Indian Armed Forces

Two seated men converse. The first is dressed in Indian clothing and turban and sits before an Indian flag; the second is in a Western business suit and sits before a Russian flag.

Manmohan Singh meets Dmitry Medvedevat the 34th G8 summit. India and Russia share extensive economic, defence, and technological ties.

Since its independence in 1947, India has maintained cordial relations with most nations. In the 1950s, it strongly supported decolonisation in Africa and Asia and played a lead role in the Non-Aligned Movement. In the late 1980s, the Indian military twice intervened abroad at the invitation of neighbouring countries: a peace-keeping operation in Sri Lanka between 1987 and 1990; and an armed intervention to prevent a coup d’état attempt in Maldives. India has tense relations with neighbouring Pakistan; the two nations have gone to war four times: in 1947, 1965, 1971, and 1999. Three of these wars were fought over the disputed territory of Kashmir, while the fourth, the 1971 war, followed from India’s support for the independence of Bangladesh. After waging the 1962 Sino-Indian War and the 1965 war with Pakistan, India pursued close military and economic ties with the Soviet Union; by the late 1960s, the Soviet Union was its largest arms supplier.

Aside from ongoing strategic relations with Russia, India has wide-ranging defence relations with Israel and France. In recent years, it has played key roles in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the World Trade Organization. The nation has provided 100,000 military and policepersonnel to serve in 35 UN peacekeeping operations across four continents. It is an active participant in various multilateral forums, most notably theEast Asia Summit and the G8+5.In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with the developing nations of South America, Asia, and Africa. It pursues a “Look East” policy that seeks strengthened partnerships with the ASEAN nations, Japan, and South Korea revolving around many issues, but especially those involving economic investment and regional security.

The HAL Tejas is a light supersonic fighter developed by the Aeronautical Development Agency and manufactured byHindustan Aeronautics.

China’s nuclear test of 1964, as well as its repeated threats to intervene in support of Pakistan in the 1965 war, convinced India to develop nuclear weapons. India conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 1974 and carried out further underground testing in 1998. Despite criticism and military sanctions, India has signed neither the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) nor the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, considering both to be flawed and discriminatory. India maintains a “no first use” nuclear policy and is developing a nuclear triad capability as a part of its “minimum credible deterrence” doctrine.It is also developing a ballistic missile defence shield and, in collaboration with Russia, a fifth generation fighter jet. Other major indigenous military development projects include Vikrant class aircraft carriers and Arihant class nuclear submarines.

Since the end of the Cold War, India has increased its economic, strategic and military cooperation with the United States and the European Union. In 2008, a civilian nuclear agreement was signed between India and the United States. Although India possessed nuclear weapons at the time and was not party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it received waivers from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), ending earlier restrictions on India’s nuclear technology and commerce. As a consequence, India has become the world’s sixth de facto nuclear weapons state.Following the NSG waiver, India was also able to sign civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreements with other nations, including Russia, France, theUnited Kingdom, and Canada.

The President of India is the supreme commander of the nation’s armed forces. With 1.6 million active troops, the Indian military is the world’s third-largest.India’s armed forces consists of anArmy, Navy, Air Force, and auxiliary forces such as the Paramilitary Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command.The official Indian defence budget for 2011 stands at US$36.03 billion, or 1.83% of GDP. According to a 2008 SIPRI report, India’s annual military expenditure in terms of purchasing power stood at US$72.7 billion, In 2011, the annual defence budget increased by 11.6%,although this does not include funds that goes to the military through other branches of government. India has become the world’s largest arms importer; in the period from 2006 to 2010, it accounted for 9% of all money spent on international arms purchases.Much of the military expenditure is focused on defence against Pakistan and countering growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.

Economy

Indian agriculture dates from the period 7,000–6,000 BCE, employs most of the national workforce, and is second in farm output worldwide.

According to the International Monetary Fund, as of 2011, the Indian economy is worth US$1.631 trillion; it is the ninth-largest economy by market exchange rates, and is, at US$4.057 trillion, the fourth-largest by purchasing power parity, or PPP. With its average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% over the past two decades, and reaching 10.4% during 2010, India is one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. However, the country ranks 138th in the world in nominal GDP per capita and 129th in GDP per capita at PPP.Until 1991, all Indian governments followed protectionist policies that were influenced by socialist economics. Widespread state intervention and regulation largely walled the economy off from the outside world. An acute balance of payments crisis in 1991 forced the nation to liberalise its economy; since then it has slowly moved towards a free-market system by emphasizing both foreign trade and direct investment inflows. India’s recent economic model is largely capitalist.

The 467-million worker Indian labour force is the world’s second-largest. The service sector makes up 54% of GDP, the agricultural sector 28%, and the industrial sector 18%. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, and potatoes. Major industries include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, and software.In 2006, the share of external trade in India’s GDP stood at 24%, up from 6% in 1985. In 2008, India’s share of world trade was 1.68%; India was the world’s fifteenth-largest importer in 2009 and the eighteenth-largest exporter. Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, jewelry, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and leather manufactures.Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertiliser, and chemicals. Between 2001 and 2011, the contribution of petrochemical and engineering goods to total exports grew from 14% to 42%.

Street-level view looking up at a modern 30-story building.

The Bombay Stock Exchangeis Asia’s oldest and India’s largest stock exchange by market capitalisation.

Averaging an economic growth rate of 7.5% during the last few years, India has more than doubled its hourly wage rates during the last decade.[194] Some 431 million Indians have left poverty since 1985; India’s middle classes are projected to number around 580 million by 2030. Though ranking 51st in global competitiveness, India ranks 17th in financial market sophistication, 24th in the banking sector, 44th in business sophistication, and 39th in innovation, ahead of several advanced economies. With 7 of the world’s top 15 information technology outsourcing companies based in India, the country is viewed as the second-most favourable outsourcing destination after the United States. India’s consumer market, currently the world’s thirteenth-largest, is expected to become fifth-largest by 2030. Its telecommunication industry, the world’s fastest-growing, added 227 million subscribers during the period 2010–11. Itsautomotive industry, the world’s second fastest growing, increased domestic sales by 26% during 2009–10, and exports by 36% during 2008–09. Power capacity is 250 gigawatts, of which 8% is renewable.

Despite impressive economic growth during recent decades, India continues to face socio-economic challenges. India contains the largest concentration of people living below the World Bank’s international poverty line of US$1.25 per day, the proportion having decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005.Half of the children in India are underweight, and 46% of children under the age of three suffer from malnutrition. The Mid-Day Meal Scheme attempts to lower these rates. Since 1991, economic inequality between India’s states has consistently grown: the per-capita net state domestic product of the richest states in 2007 was 3.2 times that of the poorest. Corruption in India is perceived to have increased significantly, with one report estimating the illegal capital flows since independence to be US$462 billion.Driven by growth, India’s nominal GDP per capita has steadily increased from US$329 in 1991, when economic liberalisation began, to US$1,265 in 2010, and is estimated to increase to US$2,110 by 2016; however, it has always remained lower than those of other Asian developing countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and is expected to remain so in the near future.

According to a 2011 PwC report, India’s GDP at purchasing power parity will overtake that of the United States by 2045.During the next four decades, Indian GDP is expected to grow at an annualised average of 8%, making it potentially the world’s fastest-growing major economy until 2050. The report highlights key growth factors: a young and rapidly growing working-age population; growth in the manufacturing sector due to rising education and engineering skill levels; and sustained growth of the consumer market driven by a rapidly growing middle class. The World Bank cautions that, for India to achieve its economic potential, it must continue to focus on public sector reform, transport infrastructure, agricultural and rural development, removal of labour regulations, education, energy security, and public health and nutrition.

Demographics

Map of India. High population density areas (above 1000 persons per square kilometer) centre on Kolkata along with other parts of the Ganges River Basin, Mumbai, Bangalore, the south-west coast, and the Lakshadweep Islands. Low density areas (below 100) include the western desert, eastern Kashmir, and the eastern frontier.

Population density and Indian Railwaysconnectivity map. The already densely settled Indo-Gangetic Plain is the main driver of Indian population growth.

With 1,210,193,422 residents reported in the 2011 provisional Census, India is the world’s second-most populous country. Its population grew at 1.76% per annum during the last decade, down from 2.13% per annum in the previous decade (1991–2001). The human sex ratio, according to the 2011 census, is 940 females per 1,000 males. The median age was 24.9 in the 2001 census. Medical advances made in the last 50 years as well as increased agricultural productivity brought about by the “Green Revolution” have caused India’s population to grow rapidly.India continues to face several public health-related challenges.According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water or breathing polluted air. There are around 50 physicians per 100,000 Indians.The percentage of Indians living in urban areas has grown by 31.2% between 1991 and 2001. Yet, in 2001, over 70% lived in rural areas. According to the 2001 census, there are 27million-plus cities in India, with Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, and Chennai being the largest. The literacy rate in 2011 was 74.04%: 65.46% among females and 82.14% among males. Kerala is the most literate state; Bihar the least.

Woman in Bundi, Rajasthan.

India is home to two major language families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families. India has no national language. Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of the government.English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a “subsidiary official language”;it is important in education, especially as a medium of higher education. Each state and union territory has one or more official languages, and the constitution recognises in particular 21 “scheduled languages”. The Indian Constitution recognises 212 scheduled tribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country’s population. The 2001 census reported that Hinduism, with over 800 million adherents (80.5% of the population), was the largest religion in India; they are followed by Muslims (13.4%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), Jews, Zoroastrians, and Bahá’ís. India has the world’s largest Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian, and Bahá’í populations, and has the third-largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population for a non-Muslim majority country.

Culture

Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years. During the Vedic age (c. 1700–500 BCE), the foundations of Hindu philosophy, mythology, andliterature were laid, and many beliefs and practices which still exist today, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga, and mok?a, were established. India is notable for its religious diversity, with Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Jainism among the nation’s major religions. The predominant religion, Hinduism, has been shaped by various historical schools of thought, including those of the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras, the Bhakti movement, and by Buddhist philosophy.

Art, Architecture, and Literature

The Taj Mahal, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by orders of Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, has been described in the UNESCO World Heritage Listas “the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage.”

Much of Indian architecture, including the Taj Mahal, other works of Mughal architecture, and South Indian architecture, blends ancient local traditions with imported styles. Vernacular architecture is also highly regional in it flavours.

The earliest literary writings in India, composed between 1,400 BCE and 1,200 AD, were in the Sanskrit language.Prominent works of thisSanskrit literature include epics such as the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, the dramas of Kalidasa such as the Abhijñanasakuntalam (The Recognition of Sakuntala), and poetry such as the Mahakavya. Developed between 600 BCE and 300 AD in South India, the Sangamliterature, consisting of 2,381 poems, is regarded as a predecessor of Tamil literature. From the 14th century AD to the 18th century AD, India’s literary traditions went through a period of drastic change because of the emergence of devotional poets such as Kabir, Tulsidas, and Guru Nanak. This period was characterised by a varied and wide spectrum of thought and expression; as a consequence, medieval Indian literary works differed significantly from classical traditions. In the 19th century, Indian writers took a new interest in social questions and psychological descriptions. Twentieth-century Indian literature was influenced by the works of Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore.[244]

Performing Arts

Indian music ranges over various traditions and regional styles. Classical music encompasses two genres and their various folk offshoots: the northernHindustani and southern Carnatic schools. Regionalised popular forms include filmi and folk music; the syncretic tradition of the bauls is a well-known form of the latter. Indian dance also features diverse folk and classical forms. Among the better-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of West Bengal and Jharkhand, sambalpuri of Orissa, ghoomar of Rajasthan, and the Lavani of Maharashtra. Eight dance forms, many with narrative forms 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 mohiniyattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, manipuri of Manipur, odissi of Orissa, and the sattriya of Assam.

Theatre in India melds music, dance, and improvised or written dialogue. Often based on Hindu mythology, but also borrowing from medieval romances or social and political events, Indian theatre includes the bhavai of Gujarat, the jatra of West Bengal, the nautanki and ramlila of North India, tamasha of Maharashtra, burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, and the yakshagana of Karnataka. The Indian film industry produces the world’s most-watched cinema. Established regional cinematic traditions exist in the Assamese, Bengali, Hindi,Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Tamil, and Telugu languages. South Indian cinema attracts more than 75% of national film revenue.

Society

Traditional Indian society is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. The Indian caste system embodies much of the social stratification and many of the social restrictions found in the Indian subcontinent. Social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed as jatis, or “castes”. Most Dalits (“Untouchables”) and members of other lower-caste communities continue to live in segregation and often face persecution and discrimination. Traditional Indian family values are highly valued, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm in India, though nuclear families are becoming common in urban areas. An overwhelming majority of Indians, with their consent, have their marriages arranged by their parents or other family members. Marriage is thought to be for life, and the divorce rate is extremely low. Child marriage is still a common practice, more so in rural India, with more than half of women in India marrying before the legal age of 18.

Many Indian festivals are religious in origin. The best known include Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Thai Pongal, Navaratri, Holi, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas, and Vaisakhi. India hasthree national holidays which are observed in all states and union territories: Republic Day, Independence Day, and Gandhi Jayanti. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in individual states. Traditional Indian dress varies in colour and style across regions and depends on various factors, including climate and faith. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as the sari for women and the dhoti or lungi for men. Stitched clothes, such as the shalwar kameez for women and kurta-pyjama combinations or European-style trousers and shirts for men, are also popular. Use of delicate jewellery, modelled on real flowers worn in ancient India, is part of a tradition dating back some 5,000 years; gemstones are also worn in India as talismans.

Indian cuisine is best known for its delicate use of herbs and spices and for its tandoori grilling techniques. The tandoor, a clay oven in use for almost 5,000 years in India, is known for its ability to grill meats to an “uncommon succulence” and for the puffy flatbread known as naan. Staple foods in the region are rice (especially in the south and the east), wheat (predominantly in the north), and lentils. Many spices which have worldwide appeal are native to the Indian subcontinent, while chili pepper, native to the Americas and introduced by the Portuguese, is widely used in Indian cuisine.

Sport

Kalarippayattu, a martial art native to Kerala.

In India, several traditional indigenous sports remain fairly popular, among them kabaddi, kho kho, pehlwani, and gilli-danda. Some of the earliest forms of Asian martial arts, such as kalarippayattu, musti yuddha, silambam, and marma adi, originated in India. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award are the highest forms of government recognition for athletic achievement; the Dronacharya Award is awarded for excellence in coaching. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India as chatura?ga, is regaining widespread popularity with the rise in the number of IndianGrandmasters. Pachisi, from which parcheesi derives, was played on a giant marble court by Akbar. Tennis has become increasingly popular; this stems from the victorious India Davis Cup team and the recent successes of Indian tennis players. India has a comparatively strong presence in shooting sports, and has won several medals at the Olympics, the World Shooting Championships, and the Commonwealth Games. Other sports in which Indians have succeeded internationally include badminton, boxing, and wrestling. Football is popular in the North-East, West Bengal, Goa, Tamil Nadu, and Kerala.

India’s official national sport is field hockey; it is administered by Hockey India. The Indian national hockey team won the 1975 Hockey World Cup and have, as of 2011, taken eight gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals, making it the sport’s most successful team. Cricket is by far the most popular sport; the Indian national cricket team won the 1983 and 2011 World Cups, the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, and shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka. Cricket in India is administered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, or BCCI; the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy, and the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy are domestic competitions. The BCCI conducts a Twenty20 competition known as the Indian Premier League. India has hosted or co-hosted several international sporting events: the 1951 and 1982 Asian Games; the 1987, 1996, and 2011 Cricket World Cups; the 2003 Afro-Asian Games; the 2006 ICC Champions Trophy; the 2010 Hockey World Cup; and the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Major international sporting events held annually in India include the Chennai Open, Mumbai Marathon, Delhi Half Marathon, and the Indian Masters. The first Indian Grand Prix featured in late 2011.

Notes

  1. ^ “[...] Jana Gana Mana is the National Anthem of India, subject to such alterations in the words as the Government may authorise as occasion arises; and the song Vande Mataram, which has played a historic part in the struggle for Indian freedom, shall be honoured equally withJana Gana Mana and shall have equal status with it.” (Constituent Assembly of India 1950).
  2. ^ “The country’s exact size is subject to debate because some borders are disputed. The Indian government lists the total area as 3,287,260 km2 (1,269,220 sq mi) and the total land area as 3,060,500 km2 (1,181,700 sq mi); the United Nations lists the total area as 3,287,263 km2 (1,269,219 sq mi) and total land area as 2,973,190 km2 (1,147,960 sq mi).” (Library of Congress 2004).
  3. ^ The northernmost point under Indian control is the disputed Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir; however, the Government of India regards the entire region of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Northern Areas currently administered by Pakistan, to be its territory. It therefore assigns the longitude 37° 6′ to its northernmost point.