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Republic of India
Bhārat Gaṇarājya
Horizontal tricolor 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: "सत्यमेव जयते".
Flag State Emblem
Motto: "Satyameva Jayate" (Sanskrit)
"Truth Alone Triumphs"[1]
Anthem: "Jana Gana Mana" (Hindi)[2]
"Thou Art the Ruler of the Minds of All People"[3][2]

National song
Vande Mataram
"I Bow to Thee, Mother"[lower-alpha 1][1][2]
Image of a globe centred on India, with India highlighted.
Area controlled by India shown in dark green;
claimed but uncontrolled regions shown in light green.
Capital New Delhi
Largest city Mumbai
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Official languages
Recognised regional languages
National language None[8][9]
Religion 79.8% Hinduism
14.2% Islam
2.3% Christianity
1.7% Sikhism
0.7% Buddhism
0.4% Jainism
0.9% others[lower-alpha 3][10]
Demonym Indian
Government Federal parliamentary
constitutional republic[1]
 •  President Ram Nath Kovind
 •  Vice-President Venkaiah Naidu
 •  Prime Minister Narendra Modi
 •  Chief Justice Sharad Arvind Bobde[11]
 •  Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla
Legislature Parliament of India
 •  Upper house Rajya Sabha
 •  Lower house Lok Sabha
Independence from United Kingdom
 •  Dominion 15 August 1947 
 •  Republic 26 January 1950 
 •  Total 3,287,263[5] km2[lower-alpha 4] (7th)
1,269,346 sq mi
 •  Water (%) 9.6
 •  2017 estimate 1,326,572,000[12] (2nd)
 •  2011 census 1,210,854,977[13][14] (2nd)
 •  Density 417.2/km2 (31st)
1,080.6/sq mi
GDP (PPP) 2017 estimate
 •  Total $9.489 trillion[15] (3rd)
 •  Per capita $7,153[15] (122nd)
GDP (nominal) 2017 estimate
 •  Total $2.454 trillion[15] (6th)
 •  Per capita $1,850[15] (141st)
Gini (2013) 33.9[16]
medium · 79th
HDI (2015) Increase 0.624[17]
medium · 131st
Currency Indian rupee () (INR)
Time zone IST (UTC+05:30)
DST is not observed
Date format DD-MM-YYYY
Drives on the left
Calling code +91
ISO 3166 code IN
Internet TLD .in

India, officially the Republic of India (Bhārat Gaṇarājya),[lower-alpha 5] is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country (with over 1.2 billion people), and the most populous democracy in the world. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast. It shares land borders with Pakistan to the west;[lower-alpha 6] China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

The Indian subcontinent was home to the urban Indus Valley Civilisation of the 3rd millennium BC. In the following millennium, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism began to be composed. Social stratification, based on caste, emerged in the first millennium BC. India is a deeply spiritual country where Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism all have their origin. Early political consolidations took place under the Maurya and Gupta empires; the later peninsular Middle Kingdoms influenced cultures as far as southeast Asia. In the 1st century AD Christianity was brought to Kerala by St Thomas. [18]. In the 10th century, Zoroastrians started to arrive in India as refugees from Persia, which was being invaded by Muslims.[19] In the 11th century, Islamic conquerors arrived in Northern India and Afghanistan, persecuting all other religion and wiping out the Buddhists. Much of the north fell to the Delhi sultanate; the south was united under the Vijayanagara Empire. A new religion, Sikhism emerged in the 14th century. The economy expanded in the 17th century in the Mughal Empire. In the mid-18th century, the subcontinent came under British East India Company rule, and in the mid-19th under British crown rule. A nationalist movement emerged in the late 19th century, which later, under Mahatma Gandhi, was noted for nonviolent resistance and led to India's independence in 1947.

In 2015, the Indian economy was the world's seventh largest by nominal GDP and third largest by purchasing power parity.[15] Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies and is considered a newly industrialised country. However, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, corruption, malnutrition, and inadequate public healthcare. A nuclear weapons state and regional power, it has the third largest standing army in the world and ranks fifth in military expenditure among nations. India is a federal republic governed under a parliamentary system and consists of 29 states and 7 union territories. It is a pluralistic, multilingual and multi-ethnic society and is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.


The name India is derived from Indus, which originates from the Old Persian word Hindu.[20] The latter term stems from the Sanskrit word Sindhu, which was the historical local appellation for the Indus River.[21] The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ἰνδοί), which translates as "The people of the Indus".[22]

The geographical term Bharat (Bhārat, pronounced [ˈbʱaːrət̪]), which is recognised by the Constitution of India as an official name for the country,[23] is used by many Indian languages in its variations. It is a modernisation of the historical name Bharatavarsha, which traditionally referred to the Indian subcontinent and gained increasing currency from the mid-19th century as a native name for India.[24][25] Scholars believe it to be named after the Vedic tribe of Bhāratas in the second millennium B.C.[26] It is also traditionally associated with the rule of the legendary emperor Bharata.[27] Gaṇarājya (literally, people's State) is the Sanskrit/Hindi term for "republic" dating back to the ancient times.[28][29][30]

Hindustan ([ɦɪnd̪ʊˈst̪aːn]) is a Persian name for India dating back to the 3rd century B.C. It was introduced into India by the Mughals and widely used since then. Its meaning varied, referring to a region that encompassed northern India and Pakistan or India in its entirety.[24][25][31] Currently, the name may refer to either the northern part of India or the entire country.[31]


Ancient India

The earliest authenticated human remains in South Asia date to about 30,000 years ago.[32] 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.[33] Around 7000 BC, the first known Neolithic settlements appeared on the subcontinent in Mehrgarh and other sites in western Pakistan.[34] These gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation,[35] the first urban culture in South Asia;[36] it flourished during 2500–1900 BC in Pakistan and western India.[37] Centred around cities such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Dholavira, and Kalibangan, and relying on varied forms of subsistence, the civilisation engaged robustly in crafts production and wide-ranging trade.[36]

During the period 2000–500 BC, in terms of culture, many regions of the subcontinent transitioned from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age.[38] The Vedas, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism,[39] were composed during this period,[40] and historians have analysed these to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Gangetic Plain.[38] Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent.[41][39] The caste system arose during this period, creating a hierarchy of priests, warriors, free peasants and traders, and lastly the indigenous peoples who were regarded as impure; and small tribal units gradually coalesced into monarchical, state-level polities.[42][43] On the Deccan Plateau, archaeological evidence from this period suggests the existence of a chiefdom stage of political organisation.[38] In southern India, a progression to sedentary life is indicated by the large number of megalithic monuments dating from this period,[44] as well as by nearby traces of agriculture, irrigation tanks, and craft traditions.[44]

Damaged brown painting of a reclining man and woman.
Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, 6th century

In the late Vedic period, around the 6th century BC, the small states and chiefdoms of the Ganges Plain and the north-western regions had consolidated into 16 major oligarchies and monarchies that were known as the mahajanapadas.[45][46] The emerging urbanisation gave rise to non-Vedic religious movements, two of which became independent religions. Jainism came into prominence during the life of its exemplar, Mahavira.[47] Buddhism, based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha attracted followers from all social classes excepting the middle class; chronicling the life of the Buddha was central to the beginnings of recorded history in India.[48][49][50] In an age of increasing urban wealth, both religions held up renunciation as an ideal,[51] and both established long-lasting monastic traditions. Politically, by the 3rd century BC, the kingdom of Magadha had annexed or reduced other states to emerge as the Mauryan Empire.[52] 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.[53][54] The Mauryan kings are known as much for their empire-building and determined management of public life as for Ashoka's renunciation of militarism and far-flung advocacy of the Buddhist dhamma.[55][56]

The Sangam literature of the Tamil language reveals that, between 200 BC and 200 AD, 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.[57][58] In North India, Hinduism asserted patriarchal control within the family, leading to increased subordination of women.[59][52] By the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Empire had created in the greater Ganges Plain a complex system of administration and taxation that became a model for later Indian kingdoms.[60][61] Under the Guptas, a renewed Hinduism based on devotion rather than the management of ritual began to assert itself.[62] The renewal was reflected in a flowering of sculpture and architecture, which found patrons among an urban elite.[61] Classical Sanskrit literature flowered as well, and Indian science, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics made significant advances.[61]

Medieval India

The granite tower of Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur was completed in 1010 AD by Raja Raja Chola I.

The Indian early medieval age, 600 AD to 1200 AD, is defined by regional kingdoms and cultural diversity.[63] When Harsha of Kannauj, who ruled much of the Indo-Gangetic Plain from 606 to 647 AD, attempted to expand southwards, he was defeated by the Chalukya ruler of the Deccan.[64] When his successor attempted to expand eastwards, he was defeated by the Pala king of Bengal.[64] 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.[64] No ruler of this period was able to create an empire and consistently control lands much beyond his core region.[63] During this time, pastoral peoples whose land had been cleared to make way for the growing agricultural economy were accommodated within caste society, as were new non-traditional ruling classes.[65] The caste system consequently began to show regional differences.[65]

In the 6th and 7th centuries, the first devotional hymns were created in the Tamil language.[66] They were imitated all over India and led to both the resurgence of Hinduism and the development of all modern languages of the subcontinent.[66] Indian royalty, big and small, and the temples they patronised, drew citizens in great numbers to the capital cities, which became economic hubs as well.[67] Temple towns of various sizes began to appear everywhere as India underwent another urbanisation.[67] By the 8th and 9th centuries, the effects were felt in South-East Asia, as South Indian culture and political systems were exported to lands that became part of modern-day Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Java.[68] 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.[68]

After the 10th 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.[69]

This was a period of massive genocide in India, as Muslims slaughtered non-Muslims. Hindu historians estimate that between 1000 AD, the year Mahmud Ghazni invaded India, and 1525, Muslims killed between 80 and 100 million Hindus. The written records of Muslim chroniclers and graphic drawings confirm large-scale massacres of unarmed men, women and children.[70] Ferishtha lists several occasions when the Bahmani sultans in central India (1347-1528) killed a hundred thousand Hindus, which they set as a minimum goal whenever they felt like punishing the Hindus; and they were only a third-rank provincial dynasty. The biggest slaughters took place during the raids of Mahmud Ghaznavi (ca. 1000 AD); during the actual conquest of North India by Mohammed Ghori and his lieutenants (1192 AD); and under the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526). [71]

The Muslim conquests, down to the 16th century, were for the Hindus a pure struggle of life and death. Entire cities were burnt down and the populations massacred, with hundreds of thousands killed in every campaign, and similar numbers deported as slaves. Every new invader made (often literally) his hills of Hindus skulls. Thus, the conquest of Afghanistan in the year 1000 was followed by the annihilation of the Hindu population; the region is still called the Hindu Kush, i.e. Hindu slaughter. [72]

The sultanate's raiding and weakening of the regional kingdoms of South India paved the way for the indigenous Vijayanagara Empire.[73] Embracing a strong Shaivite tradition and building upon the military technology of the sultanate, the empire came to control much of peninsular India,[74] and was to influence South Indian society for long afterwards.[73]

Early modern India

Writing the will and testament of the Mughal king court in Persian, 1590–1595

In the early 16th century, northern India, being then under mainly Muslim rulers,[75] fell again to the superior mobility and firepower of a new generation of Central Asian warriors.[76] Armed with gunpowder, firearms and cannons, against spears, swords and arrows, the Mughal Empire rampaged through India slaughtering millions and making this period one of almost non-stop warfare. Indian historians regard the Muslim slaughter of Hindus, Sikhs and tribespeople as the greatest Holocaust in human history. [77] It went on for centuries, but they particularly single out the brutality of Babur who raised towers of Hindu skulls at Khanua when he defeated Rana Sanga in 1527 and later he repeated the same horrors after capturing the fort of Chanderi. The Emperor Akbar, supposedly a tolerant and synchretist ruler, ordered a general massacre of 30,000 Rajputs after he captured Chithorgarh in 1568. The women were heaped up into a huge pile and burned. Emperor Nadir Shah made a mountain of the skulls of the Hindus he killed in Delhi in 1739. The Bahamani Sultans had an annual agenda of killing a minimum of 100,000 Hindus every year.[78] [79]

The Mughals destroyed many Hindu and Sikh temples, and compelled leaders to convert to Islam on pain of death. There was recurrent war between the Mughals and the rebellious Hindu and Sikh states. When they defeated the Hindu ruler Rama Raya at the battle of Tallikota in 1565, the Mughals totally destroyed the city of Hampi-Vijayanagara, once the capital of a great empire. [80] Only ruins were left. [81]

The last of the Mughal Emperors of India, Bahadur Shah (1707-1712), Farrukh Siyar (1712-1719), Mohammad Shah (1719-1748) and Ahmad Shah (1748-1754) ordered an indiscriminate massacre of the Sikhs, hoping to wipe Sikhs from the earth, but the Sikhs preferred to lay down their lives rather than allow their hair to be shaved or Turban to be removed.

Mir Manu, a Hindu, was the provincial Muslim Governor of the Punjab, during the regime of Mohammad Shah. He was the most cruel of all the corrupt administrators of the Mughals. He was determined to exterminate the entire population of the Sikhs who lived mainly in the Punjab at that time. Head money (a bounty) was even offered on Sikhs. Nevertheless, Sikhs survived with some help from the British and by 1764 a Sikh ruler, Maharaja Ranjit Singh, was established in the Punjab.[82]

This perpetual state of warfare greatly impoverished India, and the native majority was further impoverished by the Muslim custom of setting up monopolies for common products - cloth, salt and grain for instance. The holders of these monopolies grew very rich, and their payments to the Mughal rulers were used to finance huge standing armies and arsenals of weapons. The Mughal rulers imposed high taxes, including a "Jizya" tax on all non-Muslims, which cost a laborer about a month's wages per year. There were taxes on marriage, horses and many other items. [83]

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 coastal outposts.[84][85] The East India Company advanced its power by a series of strategic alliances with warring Hindu, Muslim and Sikh powers in India and Afghanistan. In southern India they fought the French who sided with the Mughal ruler Tippoo Sahib. 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.[86] By 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.[87]

British Raj

When the British first came to India in the early eighteenth century, they had no views beyond establishing profitable trade and achieving a dominance over their rivals the French, who controlled Pondicherry, and the Portuguese, who held Goa. However the prevailing situation of warfare between Muslim and other states led them to realize that they could skillfully intervene, and by diplomacy and manipulation, eventually supplant the Muslims as the dominant power. They achieved this by 1848, and disarmed all the warring states. Only half of India was brought under direct British rule, the rest remaining as principalities under the auspices of the British crown. There followed a century of peace and progress.

The British Raj conferred on India a host of technological, scientific and cultural advances. The British introduced the printing press, paper, clocks and watches, spectacles, the bicycle - indeed all sorts of iron wheel - the steam engine, the mechanized loom, the camera, the Macadam flood-proof road, the suspension bridge, the concept of a Post Office, tea, which is now India's favorite drink, and the game of cricket, which is now India's national game. Most famously, they planned and supervised the building of the railway system, an immense engineering challenge, which is still the backbone of India and is used by tens of millions of people every day. [88] [89]

The British built the first college of engineering in the world in India, at Chennai in 1794 (not at Roorkee in 1847 as wrongly stated on Wikipedia). Many more followed, all still flourishing today as colleges or expanded into universities. [90] All over India they built schools, colleges, hospitals and clinics many of which were founded and run by Christians, but which were always open to those of other religions.

There were also some disadvantages of British rule, such as the use of large areas of land for plantations of tea, indigo or other cash crops, but these considerations were small in comparison with the rapacious and genocidal rule of the Muslims.

The British were extremely tolerant of the Hindu, Sikh and Muslim ways of life, apart from a few barbarities such as the "suttee" (burning of a widow on her husband's funeral pyre) and the child-sacrifice of the cult of the goddess Kali, both of which they outlawed. The laws remained in place after Independence. Unfortunately there are still some scattered instances of these practices in modern India. [91] [92]

The British Raj was not a racist state. From the earliest times, it was always legal for British and Indians to marry or interbreed, and the resulting progeny, the Anglo-Indian population, had a special function in the Raj as administrators and professionals. By the time of Independence, they numbered nearly a million.

The British Indian Empire, from the 1909 edition of The Imperial Gazetteer of India. Areas directly governed by the British are shaded pink; the princely states under British suzerainty are in yellow.

The appointment in 1848 of Lord Dalhousie as Governor General of the East India Company set the stage for changes essential to a modern state. These included the consolidation and demarcation of sovereignty, and the education of citizens. Technological changes—among them, railways, canals, and the telegraph—were introduced not long after their introduction in Europe.[93][94][95][96] However, disaffection with the company also grew during this time, and set off the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Sparked off by a false rumor that the bullet-cases used by the Indian army were sealed with pig's fat, and that native soldiers, who opened them with their teeth, were being defiled, the rebellion rocked many regions of northern and central India and shook the foundations of Company rule.[97][98] 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.[99][100] In the decades following, public life gradually emerged all over India, leading eventually to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.[101][102][103][104]

Jawaharlal Nehru sharing a joke with Mahatma Gandhi, Mumbai, 6 July 1946
Jawaharlal Nehru (left) became India's first prime minister in 1947. Mahatma Gandhi (right) led the independence movement.

The rush of technology and the commercialisation 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.[105] There was an increase in the number of large-scale famines,[106] and, despite the risks of infrastructure development borne by Indian taxpayers, little industrial employment was generated for Indians.[107] There were also salutary effects: commercial cropping, especially in the newly canalled Punjab, led to increased food production for internal consumption.[108] The railway network provided critical famine relief,[109] notably reduced the cost of moving goods,[109] and helped nascent Indian-owned industry.[108]

After World War I, in which approximately one million Indians served,[110] a new period began. It was marked by British reforms but also repressive legislations, by more strident Indian calls for self-rule, and by the beginnings of a nonviolent movement of non-co-operation, of which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would become the leader and enduring symbol.[111] During the 1930s, slow legislative reform was enacted by the British; the Indian National Congress won victories in the resulting elections.[112] The next decade was beset with crises: Indian participation in World War II, the Congress's final push for non-co-operation, and an upsurge of Muslim nationalism. All were capped by the advent of independence in 1947.[113]

Independence and the Partition of India

It is a myth that the British partitioned India. When they arrived, they found more than 600 petty, warring states exhausted by strife. When they granted Independence, they created two states, India and Pakistan, to minimize conflict and violence between the Muslims and the Hindu majority. Their decision was influenced by the existence of a militant Muslim League in the 1930s and 1940s, led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who demanded a separate state because they did not wish to be ruled by Hindus.

Whereas the old Indian states had been monarchies or theocracies governed in a despotic way, the British parting gift to India and Pakistan was a democratic constitution in which both sexes and all castes have the vote. Since Independence, a woman and a "harajan" (out-cast) have both held office as Prime Minister of India, while a woman has also been Prime Minister of Pakistan. All this is part of the legacy of the British Raj.

Modern India Post-Independence

Vital to India's self-image as an independent nation was its constitution, completed in 1950, which put in place a secular and democratic republic.[114] In the 60 years since, India has had a mixed record of successes and failures.[115] It has remained a democracy with civil liberties, an active Supreme Court, and a largely independent press.[115] Economic liberalisation, which was begun in the 1990s, has created a large urban middle class, transformed India into one of the world's fastest-growing economies,[116] and increased its geopolitical clout. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture.[115] Yet, India is also shaped by seemingly unyielding poverty, both rural and urban;[115] by religious and caste-related violence;[117] by Maoist-inspired Naxalite insurgencies;[118] and by separatism in Jammu and Kashmir and in Northeast India.[119] It has unresolved territorial disputes with China[120] and with Pakistan.[120] The India–Pakistan nuclear rivalry came to a head in 1998.[121] India's sustained democratic freedoms are unique among the world's newer nations; however, in spite of its recent economic successes, freedom from want for its disadvantaged population remains a goal yet to be achieved.[122]


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).
A topographic map of India

India comprises the bulk of the Indian subcontinent, lying atop the Indian tectonic plate, and part of the Indo-Australian Plate.[123] India's defining geological processes began 75 million years ago when the Indian plate, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a north-eastward drift caused by seafloor spreading to its south-west, and later, south and south-east.[123] Simultaneously, the vast Tethyn oceanic crust, to its northeast, began to subduct under the Eurasian plate.[123] These dual processes, driven by convection in the Earth's mantle, both created the Indian Ocean and caused the Indian continental crust eventually to under-thrust Eurasia and to uplift the Himalayas.[123] Immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough that rapidly filled with river-borne sediment[124] and now constitutes the Indo-Gangetic Plain.[125] Cut off from the plain by the ancient Aravalli Range lies the Thar Desert.[126]

The original Indian plate survives as peninsular India, the oldest and geologically most stable part of India. It extends as far north as the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in central India. These parallel chains run from the Arabian Sea coast in Gujarat in the west to the coal-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand in the east.[127] To the south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the west and east by coastal ranges known as the Western and Eastern Ghats;[128] the plateau contains the country'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[lower-alpha 7] and 68° 7' and 97° 25' east longitude.[129]

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 behind Kedarnath Temple (Indian state of Uttarakhand), which is one of the twelve jyotirlinga shrines.

India's coastline measures 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi) in length; 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 island chains.[130] According to the Indian naval hydrographic charts, the mainland coastline consists of the following: 43% sandy beaches; 11% rocky shores, including cliffs; and 46% mudflats or marshy shores.[130]

Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, both of which drain into the Bay of Bengal.[131] Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and the Kosi; the latter's extremely low gradient often leads to severe floods and course changes.[132] 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;[133] and the Narmada and the Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea.[134] Coastal features include the marshy Rann of Kutch of western India and the alluvial Sundarbans delta of eastern India; the latter is shared with Bangladesh.[135] 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.[136]

The Indian climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the economically and culturally pivotal summer and winter monsoons.[137] 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.[138][139] 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.[137] Four major climatic groupings predominate in India: tropical wet, tropical dry, subtropical humid, and montane.[140]


The Indian peafowl (Pavo cristatus) is the Indian national bird. It roosts in moist and dry-deciduous forests, cultivated areas, and village precincts.[141]

India lies within the Indomalaya ecozone and contains three biodiversity hotspots.[142] One of 17 megadiverse countries, it hosts 8.6% of all mammalian, 13.7% of all avian, 7.9% of all reptilian, 6% of all amphibian, 12.2% of all piscine, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species.[143][144] About 21.2% of the country's landmass is covered by forests (tree canopy density >10%), of which 12.2% comprises moderately or very dense forests (tree canopy density >40%).[145] Endemism is high among plants, 33%, and among ecoregions such as the shola forests.[146] 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.[147] 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.

Many Indian species descend from taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated more than 105 million years before present.[148] 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.[149] Mammals then entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes flanking the rising Himalaya.[147] Thus, while 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians are endemic, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are.[144] Among them are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172 IUCN-designated threatened animal species, or 2.9% of endangered forms.[150] These include the Asiatic lion, the Bengal tiger, the snow leopard and the Indian white-rumped vulture, which, by ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-laced cattle, nearly became 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[151] and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial wilderness; the Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1980 and amendments added in 1988.[152] India hosts more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries and thirteen biosphere reserves,[153] four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.[154]


A parliamentary joint session being held in the Sansad Bhavan.

India is the world's most populous democracy.[155] A parliamentary republic with a multi-party system,[156] it has seven recognised national parties, including the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and more than 40 regional parties.[157] The Congress is considered centre-left in Indian political culture,[158] and the BJP right-wing.[159][160][161] 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,[162] as well as with powerful regional parties which have often forced the creation of multi-party coalitions at the centre.[163]

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 then-new 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, lasting just under two years.[164] Elections were held again in 1991; no party won an absolute majority. The Congress, as the largest single party, was able to form a minority government led by P. V. Narasimha Rao.[165]

The Rashtrapati Bhavan is the official residence of the president of India.

A two-year period of political turmoil followed the general election of 1996. 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). Led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the NDA became the first non-Congress, coalition government to complete a five-year term.[166] In the 2004 Indian general elections, again no party won an absolute majority, but the Congress emerged as the largest single party, forming another successful coalition: the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It had the support of left-leaning parties and MPs who opposed the BJP. The UPA returned to power in the 2009 general election with increased numbers, and it no longer required external support from India's communist parties.[167] That year, Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1957 and 1962 to be re-elected to a consecutive five-year term.[168] In the 2014 general election, the BJP became the first political party since 1984 to win a majority and govern without the support of other parties.[169] The Prime Minister of India is Narendra Modi, who was formerly Chief Minister of Gujarat.


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 India defines 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,[170] states in its preamble that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.[171] India's form of government, traditionally described as "quasi-federal" with a strong centre and weak states,[172] has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic, and social changes.[173][174]

National symbols[1]
Flag Tiranga (Tricolour)
Emblem Sarnath Lion Capital
Language None[8][9]
Anthem Jana Gana Mana
Song Vande Mataram
Currency (Indian rupee)
Calendar Saka
Animal Tiger (land)
River dolphin (aquatic)
Bird Indian peafowl
Flower Lotus
Fruit Mango
Tree Banyan
River Ganga
Game Not declared[175]

The federal government comprises three branches:


Indian Ocean Bay of Bengal Andaman Sea Arabian Sea Laccadive Sea Siachen Glacier Andaman and Nicobar Islands Chandigarh Dadra and Nagar Haveli Daman and Diu Delhi Lakshadweep Pondicherry Pondicherry Pondicherry Arunachal Pradesh Assam Bihar Chhattisgarh Goa Gujarat Haryana Himachal Pradesh Jammu and Kashmir Jharkhand Karnataka Kerala Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Manipur Meghalaya Mizoram Nagaland Odisha Punjab Rajasthan Sikkim Tamil Nadu Tripura Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand West Bengal Afghanistan Bangladesh Bhutan Myanmar China Nepal Pakistan Sri Lanka Tajikistan Dadra and Nagar Haveli Daman and Diu Pondicherry Pondicherry Pondicherry Pondicherry Goa Gujarat Jammu and Kashmir Karnataka Kerala Madhya Pradesh Maharashtra Rajasthan Tamil Nadu Assam Meghalaya Andhra Pradesh Arunachal Pradesh Nagaland Manipur Mizoram Telangana Tripura West Bengal Sikkim Bhutan Bangladesh Bihar Jharkhand Odisha Chhattisgarh Uttar Pradesh Uttarakhand Nepal Delhi Haryana Punjab Himachal Pradesh Chandigarh Pakistan Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Sri Lanka Disputed territory in Jammu and Kashmir Disputed territory in Jammu and Kashmir
A clickable map of the 29 states and 7 union territories of India
States (1–29) & Union territories (A-G)
1. Andhra Pradesh 10. Jammu and Kashmir 19. Nagaland 28. Uttarakhand
2. Arunachal Pradesh 11. Jharkhand 20. Odisha 29. West Bengal
3. Assam 12. Karnataka 21. Punjab A. Andaman and Nicobar Islands
4. Bihar 13. Kerala 22. Rajasthan B. Chandigarh
5. Chhattisgarh 14. Madhya Pradesh 23. Sikkim C. Dadra and Nagar Haveli
6. Goa 15. Maharashtra 24. Tamil Nadu D. Daman and Diu
7. Gujarat 16. Manipur 25. Telangana E. Lakshadweep
8. Haryana 17. Meghalaya 26. Tripura F. National Capital Territory of Delhi
9. Himachal Pradesh 18. Mizoram 27. Uttar Pradesh G. Puducherry

India is a federation composed of 29 states and 7 union territories.[190] 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.[191] 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.

Foreign relations and military

Two standing men are pictured shaking hands. The first is dressed in Indian clothing; the second is in a Western business suit; both standing behind a Russian flag.
Narendra Modi meets Vladimir Putin at the 6th BRICS 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.[192] 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 1988 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.[193] 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.[194]

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 Organisation. The nation has provided 100,000 military and police personnel to serve in 35 UN peacekeeping operations across four continents. It participates in the East Asia Summit, the G8+5, and other multilateral forums.[195] India has close economic ties with South America,[196] Asia, and Africa; it pursues a "Look East" policy that seeks to strengthen partnerships with the ASEAN nations, Japan, and South Korea that revolve around many issues, but especially those involving economic investment and regional security.[197][198]

INS Vikramaditya, the Indian Navy's biggest warship.

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.[199] 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 nor the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, considering both to be flawed and discriminatory.[200] India maintains a "no first use" nuclear policy and is developing a nuclear triad capability as a part of its "minimum credible deterrence" doctrine.[201][202] It is developing a ballistic missile defence shield and, in collaboration with Russia, a fifth-generation fighter jet.[203] Other indigenous military projects involve the design and implementation of Vikrant-class aircraft carriers and Arihant-class nuclear submarines.[203]

Since the end of the Cold War, India has increased its economic, strategic, and military co-operation with the United States and the European Union.[204] 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, it received waivers from the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Nuclear Suppliers Group, ending earlier restrictions on India's nuclear technology and commerce. As a consequence, India became the sixth de facto nuclear weapons state.[205] India subsequently signed co-operation agreements involving civilian nuclear energy with Russia,[206] France,[207] the United Kingdom,[208] and Canada.[209]

The President of India is the supreme commander of the nation's armed forces; with 1.325 million active troops, they compose the world's third-largest military.[210] It comprises the Indian Army, the Indian Navy, and the Indian Air Force; auxiliary organisations include the Strategic Forces Command and three paramilitary groups: the Assam Rifles, the Special Frontier Force, and the Indian Coast Guard.[211] The official Indian defence budget for 2011 was US$36.03 billion, or 1.83% of GDP.[212] For the fiscal year spanning 2012–2013, US$40.44 billion was budgeted.[213] According to a 2008 SIPRI report, India's annual military expenditure in terms of purchasing power stood at US$72.7 billion.[214] In 2011, the annual defence budget increased by 11.6%,[215] although this does not include funds that reach the military through other branches of government.[216] As of 2012, India is the world's largest arms importer; between 2007 and 2011, it accounted for 10% of funds spent on international arms purchases.[217] Much of the military expenditure was focused on defence against Pakistan and countering growing Chinese influence in the Indian Ocean.[215]


A washing plant for mined iron ore in Orissa. India's iron ore reserves of 25 billion tonnes comprise 6% of global reserves. India is the world's 4th largest producer and 3rd largest exporter.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Indian economy in 2017 was nominally worth US$2.454 trillion; it is the 6th-largest economy by market exchange rates, and is, at US$9.489 trillion, the third-largest by purchasing power parity, or PPP.[15] With its average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% over the past two decades, and reaching 6.1% during 2011–12,[218] India is one of the world's fastest-growing economies.[219] However, the country ranks 140th in the world in nominal GDP per capita and 129th in GDP per capita at PPP.[220] 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;[221] since then it has slowly moved towards a free-market system[222][223] by emphasising both foreign trade and direct investment inflows.[224] India's recent economic model is largely capitalist.[223] India has been a member of WTO since 1 January 1995.[225]

The 486.6-million worker Indian labour force is the world's second-largest, as of 2011.[211] The service sector makes up 55.6% of GDP, the industrial sector 26.3% and the agricultural sector 18.1%. India's foreign exchange remittances were US$70 billion in year 2014, the largest in the world, contributed to its economy by 25 million Indians working in foreign countries.[226] Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, and potatoes.[190] Major industries include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, and software.[190] In 2006, the share of external trade in India's GDP stood at 24%, up from 6% in 1985.[222] In 2008, India's share of world trade was 1.68%;[227] In 2011, India was the world's tenth-largest importer and the nineteenth-largest exporter.[228] Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, jewellery, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and leather manufactures.[190] Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertiliser, and chemicals.[190] Between 2001 and 2011, the contribution of petrochemical and engineering goods to total exports grew from 14% to 42%.[229] India was the second largest textile exporter after China in the world in calendar year 2013.[230]

Averaging an economic growth rate of 7.5% for several years prior to 2007,[222] India has more than doubled its hourly wage rates during the first decade of the 21st century.[231] Some 431 million Indians have left poverty since 1985; India's middle classes are projected to number around 580 million by 2030.[232] 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, as of 2010.[233] 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, as of 2009.[234] India's consumer market, the world's eleventh-largest, is expected to become fifth-largest by 2030.[232]

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 remained lower than those of other Asian developing countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and is expected to remain so in the near future. However, it is higher than Pakistan, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh and others.[235]

According to a 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers report, India's GDP at purchasing power parity could overtake that of the United States by 2045.[236] 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.[236] The report highlights key growth factors: a young and rapidly growing working-age population; growth in the manufacturing sector because of rising education and engineering skill levels; and sustained growth of the consumer market driven by a rapidly growing middle class.[236] 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.[237]

In 2016, the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) released a list of the Top 10 cheapest cities in the world, based on the cost of 160 products and services, of which four were in India: Bangalore (2nd), Mumbai (3rd), Chennai (6th) and New Delhi (8th).[238]


A small hydro-electric dam on the Ganges Canal at Nagla Kabir, UP. The electricity sector in India has an installed capacity of 205.34 Gigawatt (GW), the world's fifth largest. Coal-fired plants account for 56% of India's electricity capacity, renewal hydropower for 19%.

India's telecommunication industry, the world's fastest-growing, added 227 million subscribers during the period 2010–11,[239] and after the first quarter of 2013, India surpassed Japan to become the third largest smartphone market in the world after China and the US.[240]

The Indian automotive industry, the world's second fastest growing, increased domestic sales by 26% during 2009–10,[241] and exports by 36% during 2008–09.[242] India's capacity to generate electrical power is 250 gigawatts, of which 8% is renewable. At the end of 2011, the Indian IT industry employed 2.8 million professionals, generated revenues close to US$100 billion equalling 7.5% of Indian GDP and contributed 26% of India's merchandise exports.[243]

The pharmaceutical industry in India is among the significant emerging markets for global pharma industry. The Indian pharmaceutical market is expected to reach $48.5 billion by 2020. India's R & D spending constitutes 60% of the biopharmaceutical industry.[244][245] India is among the top 12 biotech destinations of the world.[246][247] The Indian biotech industry grew by 15.1% in 2012–13, increasing its revenues from 204.4 Billion INR (Indian Rupees) to 235.24 Billion INR (3.94 B US$ – exchange rate June 2013: 1 US$ approx. 60 INR).[248] However, hardly 2% of Indians pay income taxes.[249]


Despite impressive economic growth during recent decades, India continues to face socio-economic challenges. In 2006, India contained the largest number of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of US$1.25 per day,[250] the proportion having decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005;[251] under its later revised poverty line, it was 21% in 2011.[lower-alpha 8][253] 30.7% of India's children under the age of five are underweight.[254] According to a Food and Agriculture Organization report in 2015, 15% of the population is undernourished.[255][256] The Mid-Day Meal Scheme attempts to lower these rates.[257] 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.[258] Corruption in India is perceived to have increased significantly,[259] with one report estimating the illegal capital flows since independence to be US$462 billion.[260]

India has the highest number of people living in conditions of slavery, 18 million, most of whom are in bonded labour.[261] India has the largest number of child labourers under the age of 14 in the world with an estimated 12.6 million children engaged in hazardous occupations.[262][263][264]


An ascetic in Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh

With 1,210,193,422 residents reported in the 2011 provisional census report,[265] India is the world's second-most populous country. Its population grew by 17.64% during 2001–2011,[266] compared to 21.54% growth in the previous decade (1991–2001).[266] The human sex ratio, according to the 2011 census, is 940 females per 1,000 males.[265] The median age was 24.9 in the 2001 census.[211] The first post-colonial census, conducted in 1951, counted 361.1 million people.[267] 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.[268] India continues to face several public health-related challenges.[269][270]

Life expectancy in India is at 68 years, with life expectancy for women being 69.6 years and for men being 67.3.[271] There are around 50 physicians per 100,000 Indians.[272] The number of Indians living in urban areas has grown by 31.2% between 1991 and 2001.[273] Yet, in 2001, over 70% lived in rural areas.[274][275] The level of urbanisation increased from 27.81% in 2001 Census to 31.16% in 2011 Census. The slowing down of the overall growth rate of population was due to the sharp decline in the growth rate in rural areas since 1991.[276] According to the 2011 census, there are 53 million-plus urban agglomerations in India; among them Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, in decreasing order by population.[277] The literacy rate in 2011 was 74.04%: 65.46% among females and 82.14% among males.[278] The rural urban literacy gap which was 21.2 percentage points in 2001, dropped to 16.1 percentage points in 2011. The improvement in literacy rate in rural area is two times that in urban areas.[276] Kerala is the most literate state with 93.91% literacy; while Bihar the least with 63.82%.[278]

India is home to two major language families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by 24% of the population). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austroasiatic and Sino-Tibetan language families. India has no national language.[279] Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of the government.[280][281] English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a "subsidiary official language";[4] 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 22 "scheduled languages". The Constitution of India recognises 212 scheduled tribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country's population.[282] The 2011 census reported that the religion in India with the largest number of followers was Hinduism (79.8% of the population), followed by Islam (14.23%); the remaining were Christianity (2.30%), Sikhism (1.72%), Buddhism (0.70%), Jainism (0.36%) and others[lower-alpha 3] (0.9%).[10] India has the world's largest Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian, and Bahá'í populations, and has the third-largest Muslim population—the largest for a non-Muslim majority country.[283][284]


The Awadhi Hindi poet Tulsidas composed the Ramcharitmanas, which is one of the best-known vernacular versions of the Ramayana.

Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years.[285] During the Vedic period (c. 1700 – 500 BC), the foundations of Hindu philosophy, mythology, theology and literature were laid, and many beliefs and practices which still exist today, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga, and mokṣa, were established.[22] India is notable for its religious diversity, with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Jainism among the nation's major religions.[286] The predominant religion, Hinduism, has been shaped by various historical schools of thought, including those of the Upanishads,[287] the Yoga Sutras, the Bhakti movement,[286] and by Buddhist philosophy.[288]

Art and architecture

Much of Indian architecture, including the Taj Mahal, other works of Mughal architecture, and South Indian architecture, blends ancient local traditions with imported styles.[289] Vernacular architecture is also highly regional in it flavours. Vastu shastra, literally "science of construction" or "architecture" and ascribed to Mamuni Mayan,[290] explores how the laws of nature affect human dwellings;[291] it employs precise geometry and directional alignments to reflect perceived cosmic constructs.[292] As applied in Hindu temple architecture, it is influenced by the Shilpa Shastras, a series of foundational texts whose basic mythological form is the Vastu-Purusha mandala, a square that embodied the "absolute".[293] 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 List as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage".[294] Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, developed by the British in the late 19th century, drew on Indo-Islamic architecture.[295]


The earliest literary writings in India, composed between 1700 BC and 1200 AD, were in the Sanskrit language.[296][297] Prominent works of this Sanskrit literature include epics such as the Mahābhārata and the Ramayana, the dramas of Kālidāsa such as the Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya.[298][299][300] Kamasutra, the famous book about sexual intercourse also originated in India. Developed between 600 BC and 300 AD in South India, the Sangam literature, consisting of 2,381 poems, is regarded as a predecessor of Tamil literature.[301][302][303][304] From the 14th to the 18th centuries, India's literary traditions went through a period of drastic change because of the emergence of devotional poets such as Kabīr, Tulsīdās, and Guru Nānak. 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.[305] In the 19th century, Indian writers took a new interest in social questions and psychological descriptions. In the 20th century, Indian literature was influenced by the works of Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore,[306] who was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Performing arts

Sarod performance at the Musée Guimet, Paris

Indian music ranges over various traditions and regional styles. Classical music encompasses two genres and their various folk offshoots: the northern Hindustani and southern Carnatic schools.[307] 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 Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand, garba and dandiya of Gujarat, 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 Odisha, and the sattriya of Assam.[308] Theatre in India melds music, dance, and improvised or written dialogue.[309] 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.[310]

Motion pictures, television

The Indian film industry produces the world's most-watched cinema.[311] Established regional cinematic traditions exist in the Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Odia, Tamil, and Telugu languages.[312] South Indian cinema attracts more than 75% of national film revenue.[313]

Television broadcasting began in India in 1959 as a state-run medium of communication, and had slow expansion for more than two decades.[314][315] The state monopoly on television broadcast ended in the 1990s and, since then, satellite channels have increasingly shaped popular culture of Indian society.[316] Today, television is the most penetrative media in India; industry estimates indicate that as of 2012 there are over 554 million TV consumers, 462 million with satellite and/or cable connections, compared to other forms of mass media such as press (350 million), radio (156 million) or internet (37 million).[317]


An assortment of Indian spices

Indian cuisine encompasses a wide variety of regional and traditional cuisines, often depending on a particular state (such as Maharashtrian cuisine). Staple foods of Indian cuisine include pearl millet (bājra), rice, whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), and a variety of lentils, such as masoor (most often red lentils), toor (pigeon peas), urad (black gram), and mong (mung beans). Lentils may be used whole, dehusked—for example, dhuli moong or dhuli urad—or split. Split lentils, or dal, are used extensively.[318] The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited by historians as the primary catalyst for Europe's Age of Discovery.[319]


Top: A North Indian home-cooked tiffin lunch as delivered to an office by a dabbawala. Bottom: A South Indian thali-style dinner as served in a restaurant.

Traditional Indian society is sometimes defined by 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 jātis, or "castes".[320] India declared untouchability to be illegal[321] in 1947 and has since enacted other anti-discriminatory laws and social welfare initiatives. At the workplace in urban India and in international or leading Indian companies, the caste related identification has pretty much lost its importance.[322][323]

Family values are important in the Indian tradition, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm in India, though nuclear families are becoming common in urban areas.[324] An overwhelming majority of Indians, with their consent, have their marriages arranged by their parents or other elders in the family.[325] Marriage is thought to be for life,[325] and the divorce rate is extremely low.[326] As of 2001, just 1.6 percent of Indian women were divorced but this figure was rising due to their education and economic independence.[326] Child marriages are common, especially in rural areas; many women wed before reaching 18, which is their legal marriageable age.[327] Female infanticide and female foeticide in the country have caused a discrepancy in the sex ratio, as of 2005 it was estimated that there were 50 million more males than females in the nation.[328][329] However a report from 2011 has shown improvement in the gender ratio.[330] The payment of dowry, although illegal, remains widespread across class lines.[331] Deaths resulting from dowry, mostly from bride burning, are on the rise.[332]

Many Indian festivals are religious in origin. The best known include Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Thai Pongal, Holi, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas, and Vaisakhi.[333][334] India has three 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.


Cotton was domesticated in India by 4000 BC. 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 kurtapyjama combinations or European-style trousers and shirts for men, are also popular.[335] 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.[336]


Boys play football in Manipur.

In India, several traditional indigenous sports remain fairly popular, such as 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. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India as chaturaṅga, is regaining widespread popularity with the rise in the number of Indian grandmasters.[337][338] Pachisi, from which parcheesi derives, was played on a giant marble court by Akbar.[339]

The improved results garnered by the Indian Davis Cup team and other Indian tennis players in the early 2010s have made tennis increasingly popular in the country.[340] 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.[341][342] Other sports in which Indians have succeeded internationally include badminton[343] (Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu are two of the top ranked female badminton players in the world), boxing,[344] and wrestling.[345] Football is popular in West Bengal, Goa, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and the north-eastern states.[346] India is scheduled to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.[347]

Field hockey in India is administered by Hockey India. The Indian national hockey team won the 1975 Hockey World Cup and have, as of 2016, taken eight gold, one silver, and two bronze Olympic medals, making it the sport's most successful team in the Olympics.

India has also played a major role in popularising cricket. Thus, cricket is, by far, the most popular sport in India. The Indian national cricket team won the 1983 and 2011 Cricket World Cup events, the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka, and won 2013 ICC Champions Trophy. Cricket in India is administered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI); the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy, and the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy are domestic competitions. The BCCI also conducts an annual 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 Cup tournaments; 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, the Mumbai Marathon, the Delhi Half Marathon, and the Indian Masters. The first Formula 1 Indian Grand Prix featured in late 2011 but has been discontinued from the F1 season calendar since 2014.[348]

India has traditionally been the dominant country at the South Asian Games. An example of this dominance is the basketball competition where Team India won three out of four tournaments to date.[349]

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.

See also


  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 with Jana Gana Mana and shall have equal status with it." (Constituent Assembly of India 1950).
  2. Hindi in the Devanagari script is the official language of the Union. English is an additional official language for government work alongside Hindi.[4][1][5] States and union territories can have a different official language of their own other than Hindi or English.
  3. 3.0 3.1 Besides specific religions, the last two categories in the 2011 Census were "Other religions and persuasions" (0.65%) and "Religion not stated" (0.23%).
  4. "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).
  5. See names of India in its official languages.
  6. The Government of India also regards Afghanistan as a bordering country, as it considers all of Kashmir to be part of India. However, this is disputed, and the region bordering Afghanistan is administered by Pakistan. Source: "Ministry of Home Affairs (Department of Border Management)" (PDF). Retrieved 1 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 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 Gilgit-Baltistan administered by Pakistan, to be its territory. It therefore assigns the latitude 37° 6' to its northernmost point.
  8. In 2015, the World Bank raised its international poverty line to $1.90 per day.[252]


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