The Republic of India, located in the south of Asia and comprising most of the Indian subcontinent, is the second most populous country in the world and is the world's largest democracy with over one billion people and more than one hundred distinct languages. The Indian economy is the fourth-largest in the world, in terms of purchasing power parity.
The name India is derived from Sindhu, the local name for the river Indus. It is called Bharat (pronounced as bhaarath; after the wise and pious king bharata of ancient times) among Indians. India borders Bangladesh, Myanmar, China, Bhutan, Nepal and Pakistan on land, with Sri Lanka and the Maldives just across the Indian mainland in the Indian Ocean.
|National motto: "Satyameva Jayate"|
(Sanskrit: Truth Alone Triumphs)
|Official language||Hindi (+14 other nat. lang.)|
|Prime minister||Atal Behari Vajpayee|
- % water
|Ranked 7th |
- Total (2000)
|From the British Empire
August 15, 1947
|Currency||Indian Rupee (INR)|
|Time zone||UTC +5.30|
|National song||Vande Mataram|
The Indus Valley civilization, one of the oldest in the world, goes back at least 5,000 years. Aryan tribes from the northwest invaded about 1500 BC; their merger with the earlier inhabitants created the classical Vedic culture. Arab incursions starting in the 8th century and Turkic in the 12th were followed by European traders beginning in the late 15th century.
By defeating the Mughal Empire in the 19th century, the British Empire had assumed political control of virtually all Indian lands. Mostly nonviolent resistance to British colonialism under Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru led to independence in 1947. The subcontinent was divided into the secular state of India and the smaller Muslim state of Pakistan that occupied two noncontiguous areas. A civil war between West and East Pakistan in 1971, in which India eventually intervened, resulted in the sedition of East Pakistan to form the separate nation of Bangladesh.
Fundamental concerns in India include the ongoing dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir, massive overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and ethnic and religious strife, all this despite impressive gains in economic investment and output.
India is a Union of states with an increasingly federal structure. Officially it is declared as The Soverign[?] Secular Democratic Republic of India. India has as head of state a president, whose duties are largely ceremonial. The president and vice president are elected indirectly for 5-year terms by a special electoral college. Their terms are staggered, and the vice president does not automatically become president following the death or removal from office of the president.
Executive power is centred in the Council of Ministers (cabinet), led by the prime minister. The president appoints the prime minister, who is designated by legislators of the political party or coalition commanding a parliamentary majority. The president then appoints subordinate ministers on the advice of the prime minister.
India's bicameral parliament consists of the upper Council of States (Rajya Sabha) and the lower House of the People (Lok Sabha). The Council of Ministers is responsible to the Lok Sabha. The legislatures of the states and union territories elect 233 members to the Rajya Sabha, and the president appoints another 12. The elected members of the Rajya Sabha serve 6-year terms, with one-third up for election every 2 years. The Lok Sabha consists of 545 members; 543 are directly elected to 5-year terms. The other two are appointed by the president.
|Map shows parts of Kashmir claimed by India,|
but controlled by Pakistan, as part of Pakistan.
Located on the Indian subcontinent, India consists roughly of three major parts; in the north the massive Himalaya mountain range (with the highest point being the Kanchenjunga at 8,598 m) and the Indo-Gangetic plain[?] (with deserts in the western end), and in the south the extensive Deccan[?] plateau. The latter is part of a large peninsula in between the Bay of Bengal to the east and the Arabian Sea to the west, with both being part of the greater Indian Ocean.
India is home to several major rivers such as the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Yamuna[?], the Godavari and the Krishna. A small part of the upper course of the name-giving Indus lies within Indian territory. The Indian climate varies from tropical monsoons in the south to more temperate climes in the north.
India's economy encompasses traditional village farming, modern agriculture, handicrafts, a wide range of modern industries, and a multitude of support services, including software. In fact, India's software exports alone are around $10 billion(2003). However, a quarter of the population is still too poor to be able to afford an adequate diet. India's international payments position remained strong in 2001 with adequate foreign exchange reserves, and moderately depreciating nominal exchange rates.
Growth in manufacturing output has slowed, and electricity shortages continue in many regions. India has large numbers of well-educated people skilled in the English language; India is a major exporter of software services and software workers.
India is the second-most populous country in the world, with only China having a larger population. Language, religion, and caste are major determinants of social and political organisation within the highly diverse Indian population today.
Hindi, in the Devanagari script, is the only official federal language and individual states and territories have adopted 14 other co-official languages. These are the Dravidian languages of Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu, and the Indo-Aryan languages of Bengali, Marathi, Urdu, Gujarati, Oriya[?], Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri[?], Sindhi[?], and the classical language of Sanskrit. Many other languages belonging to both groups are spoken as well. English, though only an associate language, is still widely in use in law and government, in particular in the higher echelons.
Although 83% of the people are Hindu, India is home to the world's second largest Muslim population. Other smaller religious minorities include Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, and Parsis. See also Religions of India.
The caste system reflects Indian occupational and religiously defined hierarchies. Traditionally, there are four broad categories of castes (varnas), though they consist of thousands of castes and subcastes, whose relative status varies from region to region. Despite economic modernisation and laws countering discrimination against the lower end of the class structure, the caste system remains an important source of social identification for most Hindus and a potent factor in the political life of the country.