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Sunday, February 20, 2011

About India


Map of India. Most of India is yellow (elevation 100–1000 m). Some areas in the south and mideast are brown (above 1000 m). Major river valleys are green (below 100 m).India (Listeni /ˈɪndiə/), officially the Republic of India (Hindiभारत गणराज्य Bhārat Gaṇarājya; see also official names of India), is a country in South 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.[16] Mainland India is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east; and it is bordered by Pakistan to the west;[note 1] Bhutan, the People's Republic of China andNepal to the north; and Bangladesh and Burma to the east. In the Indian Ocean, mainland India and the Lakshadweep Islands are in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives, while India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share maritime border with Thailand and the Indonesianisland of Sumatra in the Andaman Sea.[17] India has a coastline of 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi).[18]
Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilisation 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.[19] Four of the world's major religions—HinduismBuddhismJainismand Sikhism—originated here, while ZoroastrianismJudaismChristianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped the region's diverse culture.
Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early 18th century and colonised 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 a non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.
India is a federal constitutional republic with a parliamentary democracy consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. A pluralistic,multilingual and multiethnic society where more than 400[20] languages are spoken, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats. The Indian economy is the world's eleventh largest economy by nominal GDP and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity. Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies in the world;[21] however, the country continues to face several povertyilliteracycorruption and public health related challenges. India is classified as a newly industrialised country and is one of the four BRIC nations.[22][23] It is the world's sixth de factorecognised nuclear weapons state and has the third-largest standing armed force in the world, while its military expenditure ranks tenth in the world.[24] India is a regional power in South Asia.[25]

Etymology

The name India is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit सिन्धु Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River.[26] The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ινδοί), the people of the Indus.[27] The Constitution of India and common usage in various Indian languages also recognise Bharat (pronounced [ˈbʱaːrət̪]  ( listen)) as an official name of equal status.[28] The name Bharat is derived from the name of the legendary king Bharata in Hindu scriptures. Hindustan ([ɦɪnd̪ʊˈst̪aːn] ( listen)), originally a Persian word for “Land of the Hindus” referring to northern India and Pakistan before 1947, is also occasionally used as a synonym for all of India.[29]

History

Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh are the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared about 8,500 years ago and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation,[30] dating back to 3400 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic period, which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society, and ended in the 500s BCE. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country.[31]
Damaged brown painting of a reclining man and woman.
Paintings at the Ajanta Caves inAurangabadMaharashtra, sixth century
In the third century BCE, most of South Asia was united into the Maurya Empire byChandragupta Maurya and flourished under Ashoka the Great.[32] From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient "India's Golden Age".[33][34]Empires in southern India included those of the Chalukyas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagara EmpireScience, technologyengineeringartlogiclanguageliteraturemathematics,astronomyreligion and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.
Following invasions from Central Asia between the 10th and 12th centuries, much of northern India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire. Under the rule ofAkbar the Great, India enjoyed much cultural and economic progress as well as religious harmony.[35][36] Mughal emperors gradually expanded their empires to cover large parts of the subcontinent. However, in northeastern India, the dominant power was the Ahom kingdom ofAssam, among the few kingdoms to have resisted Mughal subjugation. The first major threat to Mughal imperial power came from a Hindu Rajput king Maha Rana Pratap of Mewar in the 16th century and later from a Hindu state known as the Maratha confederacy, that ruled much of India in the mid-18th century.[37]
From the 16th century, European powers such as Portugal, the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain established trading posts and later took advantage of internal conflicts to establish colonies. By 1856, most of India had come under the control of the British East India Company.[38] A year later, a nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms, known as India's First War of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny, seriously challenged the Company's control but eventually failed. As a result of the instability, India was brought under the direct rule of the British Crown.
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.
Mahatma Gandhi (right) with Jawaharlal Nehru, 1937. Nehru would go on to become India's first prime minister in 1947.
In the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organisations.[39]A large part of the movement for independence was led by Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress, which led millions of people in several national campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience.[40]
On 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but at the same time the Muslim-majority areas were partitioned to form a separate state of Pakistan.[41] On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect.[42]
Since independence, India has faced challenges from religious violencecasteismnaxalismterrorism and regional separatist insurgencies, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast India. Since the 1990s terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 194719651971 and 1999. India is a founding member of the United Nations (as British India) and the Non-Aligned Movement.
India is a state armed with nuclear weapons; having conducted its first nuclear test in 1974,[43] followed by another five tests in 1998.[43]Beginning 1991, significant economic reforms[44] have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, increasing its global clout.[21]

Geography

Topographic map of India.
Map of India. Most of India is yellow (elevation 100–1000 m). Some areas in the south and mideast are brown (above 1000 m). Major river valleys are green (below 100 m).
The territory controlled by India, the major portion of the Indian subcontinent, lies between latitudes  and 36° N, and longitudes 68° and 98° E. The country sits atop the Indian tectonic plate, a minor plate within the Indo-Australian Plate.[45]
India's defining geological processes commenced seventy-five million years ago, when the Indian subcontinent, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a northeastwards drift—lasting fifty million years—across the then unformed Indian Ocean.[45] The subcontinent's subsequent collision with the Eurasian Plate and subduction under it, gave rise to the Himalayas, the planet's highest mountains, which now abut India in the north and the north-east.[45] In the former seabed immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough, which, having gradually been filled with river-borne sediment,[46] now forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain.[47] To the west of this plain, and cut off from it by the Aravalli Range, lies the Thar Desert.[48]
The original Indian plate now survives as peninsular India, the oldest and most geologically stable part of India, and extends as far north as theSatpura and Vindhya 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.[49] To their south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the left and right by the coastal ranges, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats respectively;[50] the plateau contains the oldest rock formations in India, some over one billion years old. Constituted in such fashion, India lies to the north of the equator between 6°44' and 35°30' north latitude[51] and 68°7' and 97°25' east longitude.[52]
The Himalayas form the mountainous landscape of northern India. Seen here isLadakh in Jammu and Kashmir.
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.[18] 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.[18]
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.[53] Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and the Kosi, whose extremely low gradient causes disastrous floods every year. Major peninsular rivers whose steeper gradients prevent their waters from flooding include the Godavari, the Mahanadi, theKaveri, and the Krishna, which also drain into the Bay of Bengal;[54] and the Narmada and the Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea.[55]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.[56] 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.[57]

Climate

India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the monsoons.[58] The Himalayas prevent cold Central Asian Katabatic wind from blowing in, keeping the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes.[59][60] The Thar Desert plays a crucial role in attracting the moisture-laden southwest summer monsoon winds that, between June and October, provide the majority of India's rainfall.[58] Four major climatic groupings predominate in India: tropical wettropical dry,subtropical humid, and montane.[61]

Biodiversity

The Indian peacock is India's national bird and is found primarily in semi-desert grasslands, scrubs and deciduous forests of India.[62]
India, which lies within the Indomalaya ecozone, displays significant biodiversity. One of the seventeen megadiverse countries, it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of all avian, 6.2% of all reptilian, 4.4% of all amphibian, 11.7% of all fish, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species.[63] Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic.[64][65]
India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman IslandsWestern Ghats, and northeastern India to the coniferous forestof the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; the teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain.[66] 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, shadedGautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment. According to latest report, less than 12% of India's landmass is covered by dense forests.[67]
Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated. Peninsular India's subsequentmovement 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.[68] Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through twozoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya.[66] Consequently, 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.[63] 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.[69] 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[70] and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; in addition, the Forest Conservation Act[citation needed] was enacted in 1980. Along with more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries, India hosts thirteen biosphere reserves,[71] four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reservestwenty-five wetlandsare registered under the Ramsar Convention.[72]

Politics

The Secretariat Building, in New Delhi, houses key government offices.
India is the most populous democracy in the world.[16][73] It is a parliamentary republic and operates under a multi-party system.[74] There are six recognised national parties, such as Indian National Congress (INC) and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP), and more than 40 regional parties.[75]From 1950 to 1990, barring two brief periods, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority. Since late 1980s, politics in India has been dominated mostly by the INC and the BJP;[76] however, the emergence of several influential regional parties has often necessitated the formation of multi-party coalition government.[77]
Within Indian political culture, the INC is considered centre-left or "liberal" and the BJP is considered centre-right or "conservative". The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the state of emergencydeclared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1989, a Janata Dal-led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition won the elections but managed to stay in power for only two years.[78] As the 1991 elections gave no political party a majority, the INC formed aminority government under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was able to complete its five-year term.[79]
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 that excluded both the BJP and the INC. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several other parties and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term.[80]
In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various Left-leaning parties and members opposed to the BJP. The UPA again came into power in the 2009 general election; however, the representation of the Left leaning parties within the coalition has significantly reduced.[81] Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term.[82]

Government

India National Symbols of India[83][84]
FlagTricolour
EmblemSarnath Lion Capital
AnthemJana Gana Mana
SongVande Mataram
AnimalRoyal Bengal Tiger
BirdIndian Peacock
Aquatic animalDolphin
FlowerLotus
TreeBanyan
FruitMango
SportField hockey
CalendarSaka
RiverGanges
India is a federation with a parliamentary form of government, governed under the Constitution of India.[85] It is a constitutional republic andrepresentative democracy, "in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law." Federalism in India defines the power distribution between the centre and the states. The government is regulated by a checks and balances defined by Indian Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.
The Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950.[86] The preamble of the constitution defines India as a sovereignsocialist,seculardemocratic republic.[87] India has a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. Its form of government was traditionally described as being 'quasi-federal' with a strong centre and weaker states,[88] but it has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic and social changes.[89]
The President of India is the head of state[90] elected indirectly by an electoral college[91] for a five-year term.[92][93] The Prime Minister is thehead of government and exercises most executive power.[90] Appointed by the President,[94] the Prime Minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament.[90] 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.[95]
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).[96] The Rajya Sabha, a permanent body, has 245 members serving staggered six year terms.[97] Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in proportion to the state's population.[97] 543 of the Lok Sabha's 545 members are directly elected by popular vote to represent individual constituencies for five year terms.[97] The other two members are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community if the President is of the opinion that the community is not adequately represented.[97]

Judiciary

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.[98] The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases involving fundamental rights and over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts.[99] It is judicially independent,[98] and has the power to declare the law and to strike down Union or State laws which contravene the Constitution.[100] The role as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution is one of the most important functions of the Supreme Court.[101]

Administrative divisions

India consists of 28 states and seven Union Territories.[102] All states, and the two union territories of Puducherry and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, have elected legislatures and governments patterned on the Westminster model. The other five union territories are directly ruled by the Centre through appointed administrators. In 1956, under the States Reorganisation Act, states were formed on a linguistic basis.[103] Since then, this structure has remained largely unchanged. Each state or union territory is further divided into administrative districts.[104] The districts in turn are further divided into tehsils and eventually into villages.
Map of India showing its states and territories
The 28 states and 7 union territories of India
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

Foreign relations

Two seated men conversing. 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.
India and Russia share an extensive economic, defence and technologicalrelationship.[105] Shown here is PMManmohan Singh with President Dmitry Medvedev at the 34th G8 Summit.
Since its independence in 1947, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. In the 1950s, it strongly advocated for the independence of European colonies in Africa and Asia and played a pioneering role in the Non-Aligned Movement.[106][107] India was involved in two brief military interventions in neighbouring countries – the Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka and Operation Cactus in Maldives. India has a tense relationship with neighbouring Pakistan and the two countries went to war in 194719651971 and 1999. Most of these conflicts were fought over the Kashmir dispute, with the exception of the 1971 war where the dispute primarily concerned the civil unrest in erstwhile East Pakistan.[108] After the Sino-Indian War and the 1965 war, India developed close military and economic relations with the Soviet Union and by late 1960s, the Soviet Union had emerged as the largest supplier of military arms to India.[109]
India continues to maintain strategic relations with Russia and also enjoys extensive defence relations with Israel and France. In recent years, it has played an influential role in the SAARC and the WTO.[110] India has provided as many as 55,000 Indian military and police personnel to serve in thirty-five UN peacekeeping operations across four continents.[111] India is also an active participant in various multilateral forums, particularly the East Asia Summit and the G8+5.[112][113] In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nationsin South America, Asia and Africa. Since early 2000s, India has vigorously pursued its "Look East" policy which has helped it increase its collaboration with the ASEAN nations, Japan and South Korea on a range of issues, particularly economic investment and regional security.[114][115]
Recent overtures by the Indian government have enhanced India's economic, strategic and military cooperation with the United States and the European Union.[116] In 2008, a civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States was signed, prior to which India received waivers from the IAEA and the NSG which ended restrictions on nuclear technology commerce, even though India possesses nuclear weapons and is not a signatory of the NPT. As a consequence, India became the world's sixth de facto recognised nuclear weapons state.[117] Following the NSG waiver, India has also signed civilian nuclear energy cooperation agreements with other nations including Russia,[118] France,[119] the United Kingdom,[120]and Canada.[121]

Military

Jointly developed by Sukhoi andHindustan Aeronautics, the Su-30 MKI"Flanker-H" is the Indian Air Force's prime air superiority fighter.[122]
India maintains the third-largest military force in the world, which consists of the Indian ArmyNavyAir Force and auxiliary forces such as theParamilitary Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command.[42] The official Indian defence budget for 2010 stood at US$31.9 billion (or 2.12% of GDP).[123] According to a 2008 SIPRI report, India's annual military expenditure in terms of PPP stood at US$72.7 billion.[124] The President of India is the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces. Defence contractors, such as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), oversee indigenous development of sophisticated arms and military equipment, including ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft and main battle tanks, to reduce India's dependence on foreign imports.
China's repeated threats to intervene in the 1965 war in support of Pakistan convinced India to develop nuclear weapons to counter Chinese nuclear tests.[125] India conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 1974 and carried out further underground testing in 1998. Despite criticism and military sanctions, India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT which it considers to be flawed and discriminatory.[126]India maintains a "no first use" nuclear policy and is developing a nuclear triad capability as a part of its "minimum credible deterrence" doctrine.[127][128] India also has an advanced ballistic missile defence shield development program and is developing a fifth generation fighter jetin collaboration with Russia.[129][130] Other major indigenous military development projects include Vikrant class aircraft carriers and Arihantclass nuclear submarines.[131][132]

Economy

View from ground of a modern 30-story building.
The Bombay Stock Exchange, in Mumbai, is Asia's oldest and India's largest stock exchange bymarket capitalisation.
According to the International Monetary Fund, India's nominal GDP stood at US$1.3 trillion, which makes it the eleventh-largest economy in the world,[133] corresponding to a per capita income of US$1,000.[134] If purchasing power parity (PPP) is taken into account, India's economy is the fourth largest in the world at US$3.6 trillion.[135] The country ranks 142th in nominal GDP per capita and 127th in GDP per capita at PPP.[133] With an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% for the past two decades, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.[136]
Before 1991, the Indian government followed protectionist and socialist-inspired policies because of which the Indian economy was largely closed to the outside world and suffered from extensive state intervention and regulation.[137] After an acute balance of payments crisis, the nation liberalised its economy and has since moved towards a free-market economy.[138][139] Since then, the emphasis has been to use foreign trade and investment as integral parts of India's economy.[140] Currently, India's economic system is portrayed as a capitalist model with the influx of private enterprise.[139]
India has the world's second largest labour force, with 467 million people.[141] In terms of output, the agricultural sector accounts for 28% of GDP; the service and industrial sectors make up 54% and 18% respectively. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes.[102] Major industries include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery and software.[102] India's external trade has reached a relatively moderate share of 24% of GDP in 2006, up from 6% in 1985.[138]In 2008, India's share of world trade was about 1.68%;[142] in 2009, it was the world's fifteenth largest importer and eighteenth largest exporter.[143]Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, gems and jewelry, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and leather manufactures.[102]Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertiliser, chemicals.[102]
Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car.[144]India's annual car exports have surged fivefold in the past five years.[145]
During the late 2000s, India's economic growth averaged 7.5% a year.[138] Over the past decade, hourly wage rates in India have more than doubled.[146] According to a 2007 McKinsey Global Institute report, since 1985, India's robust economic growth has shifted 431 million Indians out of poverty and by 2030, India's middle class population will rise to more than 580 million people.[147] India ranks 51st in the Global Competitiveness Report and if diversified, it ranked 16th in financial marketsophistication, 24th in banking sector, 27th in business sophistication and 30th in innovation; ahead of several advanced economies.[148]Seven of the world's top 15 technology outsourcing companies are based in India and the country is viewed as the second most favourable outsourcing destination after the United States.[149] India's consumer market is currently the world's thirteenth largest and is expected to become the fifth largest by 2030.[147] India has the world's fastest growing telecommunication industry, adding about 10 million subscribers during 2008–09 period.[150] The country has the world's second fastest growing automobile industry, with domestic sales increasing by 26% during the 2009–10 period[151] and exports increasing by 36% during the 2008–09 period.[152]
Despite India's impressive economic growth over recent decades, the country continues to face various socio-economic challenges. Though the percentage of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of $1.25/day decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005,[153] the country still contains the largest concentration of poor people in the world.[154] Since 1991, inter-state economic inequality in India has consistently grown; the per capita net state domestic product of India's richest states is about 3.2 times that of the poorest states.[155]Perception about corruption in India has also increased significantly[156] and according to one estimate, since independence India has lost US$462 billion in illegal capital flows.[157] Half of the children in India are underweight[158] and about 46% of Indian children under the age of three suffer from malnutrition.[154]
According to a 2011 PwC report, in terms of PPP, India's GDP will overtake that of Japan in 2011 and by 2045, India's GDP will surpass that of the United States.[159] Additionally, over the next four decades, India's average annual economic growth rate is expected to stand at about 8% and therefore, it has the potential to be the world's fastest growing major economy over the period to 2050.[159] The report also highlighted some of the key factors behind India's high economic growth rate — young and rapidly growing working age population; growth of manufacturing sector due to strong engineering skills and rising levels of education; and sustained growth of consumer market due to rapidly growing middle class population.[159]However, the World Bank suggests 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, educationenergy security, and public health and nutrition.[160]

Demographics

Map of India. High population density areas (above 1000 persons per square kilometer) are the Lakshadweep Islands, Kolkata and other parts of the Ganga (Ganges) river basin, Mumbai, Bangalore, and the southwest coast. Low density areas (below 100) include the western desert, east Kashmir, and the eastern frontier.
Population density map of India.
With an estimated population of 1.2 billion,[10] India is the world's second most populous country. The last 50 years have seen a rapid increase in population due to medical advances and massive increase in agricultural productivity due to the "green revolution".[161][162] The percentage of Indian population living in urban areas has consistently grown; from 1991 to 2001, India's urban population increased by 31.2%.[163] In 2001, about 285 million Indians lived in urban areas while more than 70% of India's population resided in rural areas.[164][165] As per the 2001 census, there are twenty seven million-plus cities,[163] with the largest cities being MumbaiDelhi and Kolkata.
India's literacy rate is 64.8% (53.7% for females and 75.3% for males).[42] The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate at 91% while Biharhas the lowest at 47%.[166][167] The national human sex ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.9, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.01 births per 1,000 people per year.[42] Though India has one of the world's most diverse and modern healthcare systems, the country continues to face several public health-related challenges.[168][169] According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water and breathing in polluted air.[170] There are about 60 physicians per 100,000 people in India.[171]
The Indian Constitution recognises 212 scheduled tribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country's population.[172] As per the 2001 census, over 800 million Indians (80.5%) were Hindu. Other religious groups include Muslims (13.4%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs(1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), JewsZoroastrians and Bahá'ís.[173] India has the world's third-largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population for a non-Muslim majority country.

Languages

India is home to two major linguistic familiesIndo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by about 24%). Other languages spoken in India come from theAustro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman linguistic families. Neither the Constitution of India, nor any Indian law defines any national language.[8] Hindi, with the largest number of speakers,[174]is the official language of the union.[175] English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a 'subsidiary official language;'[176] it is also important ineducation, especially as a medium of higher education. In addition, every state and union territory has its own official languages, and the constitution also recognises in particular 21 "scheduled languages".

Culture

The Taj Mahal in Agra was built byMughal emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial to his deceased wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is aUNESCO World Heritage Site considered to be of "outstanding universal value".[177]
India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism[178] and cultural pluralism.[179] India's cultural tradition dates back to 8000 BCE[180]and has a continuously recorded history for over 2,500 years.[181] With its roots based in the Indus Valley Tradition, the Indian culture took a distinctive shape during the 11th century BCE Vedic age which laid the foundation of Hindu philosophymythologyliterary tradition and beliefs and practices, such as dhármakármayóga and mokṣa.[182] It has managed to preserve established traditions while absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants and spreading its cultural influence to other parts of Asia, mainly South East and East Asia.
Indian religions form one of the most defining aspects of Indian culture.[183] Major dhármic religions which were founded in India includeHinduismBuddhism and Jainism. Considered to be a successor to the ancient Vedic religion,[184] Hinduism has been shaped by the various schools of thoughts based on the Upanishads,[185] the Yoga Sutras and the Bhakti movement.[183] Buddhism originated in India in 5th century BCE and prominent early Buddhist schools, such as Theravāda and Mahāyāna, gained dominance during the Maurya Empire.[183] Though Buddhism entered a period of gradual decline in India 5th century CE onwards,[186] it played an influential role in shaping Indian philosophy and thought.[183]
Indian architecture is one area that represents the diversity of Indian culture. Much of it, including notable monuments such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Mughal architecture and South Indian architecture, comprises a blend of ancient and varied local traditions from several parts of the country and abroad. Vernacular architecture also displays notable regional variation.
Considered to be the earliest and foremost "monument" of Indian literature, the Vedic or Sanskrit literature was developed from 1,400 BCE to 1,200 AD.[187][188] Prominent Indian literary works of the classical era include epics such as Mahābhārata and Ramayana, dramas such as the Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya.[189] Developed between 600 BCE and 300 AD, the Sangam literature consists 2,381 poems and is regarded as a predecessor of Tamil literature.[190][191][192] From 7th century AD to 18th century AD, India's literary traditions went through a period of drastic change because of the emergence of devotional poets such asKabīrTulsīdās and Guru Nānak. This period was characterised by varied and wide spectrum of thought and expression and as a consequence, medieval Indian literary works differed significantly from classical traditions.[193] In the 19th century, Indian writers took new interest in social questions and psychological descriptions. During the 20th century, Indian literature was heavily influenced by the works of universally acclaimed Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore.[194]

Society and traditions

A statue of Śiva, a principal Hindu deityand one of three aspects of trimūrti, inMurudeshwara, Karnataka.
Traditional Indian society is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. The Indian caste system describes the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed asjātis or castes.[195] Several influential social reform movements, such as the Bramho Shômaj, the Arya Samāja and the Ramakrishna Mission, have played a pivotal role in the emancipation of Dalits (or "untouchables") and other lower-caste communities in India.[196] However, the majority of Dalits continue to live in segregation and are often persecuted and discriminated against.[197]
Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm, although nuclear families are becoming common in urban areas.[198] An overwhelming majority of Indians have their marriages arranged by their parents and other respected family members, with the consent of the bride and groom.[199] Marriage is thought to be for life,[199] and the divorce rate is extremely low.[200] Child marriage is still a common practice, more so in rural India, with half of women in India marrying before the legal age of 18.[201][202]
Many Indian festivals are religious in origin, although several are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. Some popular festivals are Diwali,Ganesh ChaturthiUgadiThai PongalHoliOnamVijayadashamiDurga PujaEid ul-FitrBakr-Id, Christmas, Buddha JayantiMoharram andVaisakhi.[203][204] India has three national holidays which are observed in all states and union territories — Republic DayIndependence Dayand Gandhi Jayanti. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in individual states. Religious practices are an integral part of everyday life and are a very public affair.
Traditional Indian dress varies across the regions in its colours and styles and depends on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such assari for women and dhoti or lungi for men; in addition, stitched clothes such as salwar kameez for women and kurta-pyjama and European-style trousers and shirts for men, are also popular.

Music, dance, theatre and cinema

Indian music covers a wide range of traditions and regional styles. Classical music largely encompasses the two genres – North Indian Hindustani, South Indian Carnatic traditions and their various offshoots in the form of regional folk music. Regionalised forms of popular music include filmi and folk music; the syncretic tradition of the bauls is a well-known form of the latter.
Indian dance too has diverse folk and classical forms. Among the well-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of West Bengal, Jharkhand ,sambalpuri of Orissa , the 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 Nadukathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniyattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradeshmanipuri of Manipur, odissi of Orissa and the sattriya of Assam.[205]
Theatre in India often incorporates music, dance, and improvised or written dialogue.[206] Often based on Hindu mythology, but also borrowing from medieval romances, and news of social and political events, Indian theatre includes the bhavai of state of Gujarat, the jatra of West Bengal, the nautanki and ramlila of North India, the tamasha of Maharashtra, theburrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, the terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, and the yakshagana of Karnataka.[207]
The Indian film industry is the largest in the world.[208] Bollywood, based in Mumbai, makes commercial Hindi films and is the most prolific film industry in the world.[209] Established traditions also exist in AssameseBengaliKannadaMalayalamMarathiOriyaTamil, and Telugu language cinemas.[210]

Cuisine

Indian cuisine is characterised by a wide variety of regional styles and sophisticated use of herbs and spices. The staple foods in the region are rice (especially in the south and the east), wheat (predominantly in the north)[211] and lentils.[212] Spices, such as black pepper which are now consumed world wide, are originally native to the Indian subcontinent. Chili pepper, which was introduced by the Portuguese, is also widely used in Indian cuisine.[213]

Sport

Cricketers in a game in front of nearly-full stands.
2008 Indian Premier League Twenty20cricket match being played between theChennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight Riders
India's official national sport is field hockey, administered by Hockey India. The Indian hockey team won the 1975 Hockey World Cup and 8gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals at the Olympic games, making it one of the world's most successful national hockey teams ever. Cricket, however, is by far the most popular sport;[214] the India cricket team won the 1983 Cricket World Cup2007 ICC World Twenty20, and shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri LankaCricket in India is administered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) and domestic competitions include the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy and the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy. In addition, BCCI conducts the Indian Premier League, a Twenty20 competition.
India is home to several traditional sports which originated in the country and continue to remain fairly popular. These include kabaddikho kho,pehlwani and gilli-danda. Some of the earliest forms of Asian martial arts, such as KalarippayattuYuddhaSilambam and Varma Kalai, originated in India. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award are India's highest awards for achievements in sports, while theDronacharya Award is awarded for excellence in coaching.
Chess, commonly held to have originated in India, is regaining widespread popularity with the rise in the number of Indian Grandmasters.[215]Tennis has also become increasingly popular, owing to the victories of the India Davis Cup team and the success of Indian tennis players.[216]India has a strong presence in shooting sports, winning several medals at the Olympics, the World Shooting Championships and the Commonwealth Games.[217][218] Other sports in which Indian sports-persons have won numerous awards or medals at international sporting events include badminton,[219] boxing[220]and wrestling.[221][222] Football is a popular sport in northeastern IndiaWest BengalGoaTamil Nadu and Kerala.[223]
India has hosted or co-hosted several international sporting events, such as the 1951 and the 1982 Asian Games, the 1987 and 1996 Cricket World Cup, the 2003 Afro-Asian Games, the2006 ICC Champions Trophy, the 2010 Hockey World Cup and the 2010 Commonwealth Games. Major international sporting events annually held in India include the Chennai Open,Mumbai MarathonDelhi Half Marathon and the Indian Masters. The country is scheduled to host the 2011 Cricket World Cup and the first Indian Grand Prix in 2011.

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