The Republic of India, commonly known as India, 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; People's Republic of China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east.
My father was born in Madras in the 1930s. My grandmother was a ballerina touring the world and a colonial. My father was raised in Bombay and Shimla, and educated at a private school in Kodaikanal in the 1940s. Hence, I have a soft spot for this part of the world. NK
Map of India
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. Despite countless invasions over thousands of years, Indian culture and society has been so resilient, that it has either thrown away or completely absorbed any foreign influences, with the social fabric largely remaining unchanged and intact. The present modern democratic nation-state of India emerged in 1947, after it overthrew foreign occupation by widespread use of nonviolent resistance.
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. In addition, its successful space programme, a modern technologically advanced defence forces aided by a nuclear deterrence has led to India's current status as an emerging superpower in international relations. It is also a member of the G4. Although India's standard of living is projected to rise sharply in the next half-century, it currently battles high levels of poverty, persistent malnutrition, and environmental degradation. A multi-lingual, multi-ethnic society, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.
For most of its democratic history, India has been ruled by the Indian National Congress at the federal level, state politics have been dominated by national parties like Indian National Congress, Bharatiya Janata Party, Communists and some regional parties. Till 1990, Indian National Congress 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 won the election owing to public discontent with the "Emergency" declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The Janata Dal coalition, called the National Front, 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 Bharatiya Janata Party followed by the 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 Indian National Congress winning the largest number of seats to form a government leading the United Progressive Alliance, supported by left-leaning and other parties opposed to the BJP.
India, world location map
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 northeastern 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 Kaveri, the Narmada, and the Krishna. 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 in 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.
Apatani tribal women in Arunachal Pradesh
With an estimated population of 1.1 billion, India is the world's second most populous country. 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, Pune, Kolkata, Delhi, Chennai , Bangalore and Hyderabad.
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.
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, Ayyavazhi's, Zoroastrians, Bahá'ís and others.
At the time of India's emergence as a nation-state in 1947, India's literacy rate was 11%. 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%). The national sex ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.66, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.32 births per 1,000 people.
The Taj Mahal in Agra
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