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.
The country is called Bharat (pronounced as bhaarat; 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.
Bharat Ganarajya National motto: "Satyameva Jayate" (Sanskrit: Truth Alone Triumphs) Official language; Hindi (+17 other nat. lang.)
Capital; New Delhi Largest City; Mumbai (Bombay) President; APJ Abdul Kalam Prime Minister; Atal Behari Vajpayee Area; 3,287,590 km² Population; 1,049,700,118 Independence; - Date From the British Empire August 15, 1947 Currency; Indian Rupee (INR) Time zone; UTC +5.30 National anthem; Jana-Gana-Mana National song; Vande Mataram National game; Hockey? Cricket Internet TLD; .IN Phone Calling Code; 91
The Indus Valley civilisation (also called the Sindhu-Sarasvati Tradition) is one of the oldest cultural traditions in the world, that goes back to at least 3000 BC.
The rock art tradition of India has been traced to 40000 BC in the art in Bhimbetaka in Central India and other sites.
According to the Aryan invasion theory, Aryan tribes from the northwest of India invaded about 1500 BC, and 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 incursions by European traders beginning in the late 15th century.
It is noteworthy that the above-mentioned Aryan Invasion Theory is now being widely challenged with the use of modern & scientific tools such as satellite imagery from NASA.
Events mentioned in the Vedic texts have been astronomically calculated to date back to the 5th millennium BC.
By subjugating the Mughal empire in the 19th century, the British Empire had assumed political control of virtually all Indian lands.
Mostly non-violent resistance to British colonialism under Mohandas Karamchand 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.
Pakistan occupied two non-contiguous areas, and 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 Sovereign Socialist 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 house called 'The Council of States' (Rajya Sabha) and the lower House called 'The House of the People' (Lok Sabha), both of which were established by the Constitution of India.
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.
States and territories
India is subdivided into 28 states, 6 union territories and the national capital territory of Delhi:
Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Andhra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chandigarh, Chattisgarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Delhi, Goa, Gujarat, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, Pondicherry, Punjab, Rajasthan, Sikkim, Tamil Nadu, Tripura, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal.
Located on the Indian subcontinent, India consists roughly of three major parts; in the north the massive Himalayas 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 climate 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.
As measured by GDP in US Dollars, India's 2002 output of $481 billion ranked it 12th in the world.
As measured by GDP on Purchasing Power Parity basis, India's 2002 figure of $2.66 trillion makes it the fourth largest in the world.
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 17 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, Nepali, Konkani and the classical language of Sanskrit.
Many other languages belonging to both groups are spoken as well.
English, though only an associate or 'link' language, is still widely in use in law and government, particularly in the higher echelons.
Although 83% of the people are Hindus, India is home to the world's second largest Muslim population.
Other smaller religious minorities include Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, jews and Parsis.
The caste system once reflected Indian occupational and religiously defined hierarchies.
Traditionally, there were four broad categories of castes (varnas), though they consisted of thousands of castes and subcastes, whose relative status varied from region to region.
The caste system was an important social factor for most Indians till the early 1900's.
The embracement of the lower castes into the mainstream community was brought about by Mahatma Gandhi who called them "Harijans" (people of God).
Presently, India has tough laws against discrimination on the basis of caste.
There is a policy for the socio-economic upliftment of the erstwhile lower castes, by the provision of free education till graduation, reservation of admission seats in institutions for higher education, a 50% quota in government jobs and faster promotions.
However, caste remains a significant factor in the political life of the country as well as in some social customs such as marriage.
Indian culture is an expression of the numerous and successive waves of influences in the subcontinent with the Northern part of India being subjected to this more than the South.
What follows constitutes just a small sample of a vast tradition.
In music, two important forms are the Carnatic and the Hindustani, the former from South India, a much purer form and the latter from North India deriving a lot from Muslim influences.
In literature, oral and written forms prevail.
Apart from the Vedas which are a sacred form of knowledge, there are other works such as the epics of Ramayana and Mahabharatha, treatises such as Vaastu Shastra in Architecture and Town planning and Artha Shastra in political science.
Urdu poetry is an example of a linguistic synthesis.
The literature of the Sangam period in Tamil is renowned.
Many dance forms exist in India - Bharata Natyam, Odissi, Kuchipudi, Kathak, Kathakali, etc., mostly they have a narrative form, telling stories.
Other forms such as street theatre and puppetry are also found.
Festivals can also be included as part of Indian culture because they are a way of life in India.
There are many of them -Diwali, Vijayadasami, Pongal, etc., they are not only religion-based but also include those glorifying important stages in a person's life, seasonal cycles, etc.
Indian science was advanced in ancient times - Aryabhatta and Bhaskara were important scientists who studied planetary motion.
The Arabic numerals are actually an Indian contribution.
Traditional dresses in India include the Sari (Saree), Salwar Kameez, Dhoti and Kurta.
In cuisine, rice and wheat form the staple diet.
Some popular dishes include Thali- a full fledged meal, Dosa, Idli and Chapati.
Movies are an integral part of everyday life in India, most notably the Hindi, Tamil and Telugu for their commercial bases, and Bengali and Malayalam for its artistic leanings.
Though each region has a specific culture, in recent times there is a growing tendency to merge boundaries and imbibe aspects from other regions.
Also, with increasing globalization, and due to the liberalisation of the Indian economy in the early 90's, there has been influence of Western culture.
So there is Indi-pop in music , Hinglish or Tanglish- English flavoured with terms from local language used most prominently in fields such as advertising, pizzas with indigenous spices, experimental dance and theatre forms, and so on.
The invasion of cable TV has spawned an entirely new popular culture.
Apart from these historical and context specific forms, what an Indian sees as important in Indian culture are abstract qualities such as hospitality, family values, acceptance and toleration of differences, resilience and co-existence.
As far as sports are concerned, though not India's national sport, cricket is a very popular game today and India's size has made it the game's financial powerhouse.
Some other popular sports - hockey, tennis, chess. (Chess is supposed to have originated in India).
Some traditional indigenous games -kabaddi, gilli-danda.