India, officially the Republic of India (IASTBhārat Gaṇarājya), 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. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, theArabian Sea on the south-west, and the Bay of Bengal on the south-east, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west;[d] ChinaNepal, and Bhutan to the north-east; and Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia. India's capital is New Delhi; other metropolises include MumbaiBangaloreChennaiHyderabadAhmedabad and Kolkata.
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.[23] Four religions—HinduismBuddhismJainism, and Sikhism—originated here, whereasZoroastrianismJudaismChristianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millenniumCE and also shaped the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century and administered directly by the United Kingdom after theIndian Rebellion of 1857, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.
In 2015, the Indian economy was the world's seventh-largest by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). Followingmarket-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies; it is considered a newly industrialised country. However, it continues to face the challenges of povertycorruption,malnutrition and inadequate public healthcare. A nuclear weapons state and a regional power, it has the third-largest standing army in the world and ranks sixth in military expenditure among nations. India is a federal republicgoverned under a parliamentary system and consists of 29 states and 7 union territories. India is a pluralisticmultilingual, and a multi-ethnic society. It is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.


Ancient India

The earliest authenticated human remains in South Asia date to about 30,000 years ago. Nearly contemporaneous Mesolithic rock art sites have been found in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, including at the Bhimbetka rock sheltersin Madhya Pradesh. Around 7000 BCE, the first known Neolithic settlements appeared on the subcontinent in Mehrgarhand other sites in western Pakistan.  These gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation, the first urban culture in South Asia; it flourished during 2500–1900 BCE in Pakistan and western India. Centred around cities such asMohenjo-daroHarappaDholavira, and Kalibangan, and relying on varied forms of subsistence, the civilisation engaged robustly in crafts production and wide-ranging trade.
Map of the Indian subcontinent during the Vedic period
During the period 2000–500 BCE, in terms of culture, many regions of the subcontinent transitioned from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age. The Vedas, the oldest scriptures ofHinduism, were composed during this period, and historians have analysed these to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Gangetic Plain. Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent. 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. On the Deccan Plateau, archaeological evidence from this period suggests the existence of a chiefdom stage of political organisation. In southern India, a progression to sedentary life is indicated by the large number of megalithic monuments dating from this period, as well as by nearby traces of agriculture, irrigation tanks, and craft traditions.
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 BCE, the small states and chiefdoms of theGanges Plain and the north-western regions had consolidated into 16 major oligarchies and monarchies that were known as the mahajanapadas. 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. 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. In an age of increasing urban wealth, both religions held uprenunciation as an ideal, and both established long-lasting monastic traditions. Politically, by the 3rd century BCE, the kingdom of Magadha had annexed or reduced other states to emerge as the Mauryan Empire. 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. 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.
The Sangam literature of the Tamil language reveals that, between 200 BCE and 200 CE, the southern peninsula was being ruled by the Cheras, the Cholas, and the Pandyas, dynasties that traded extensively with the Roman Empire and withWest and South-East Asia. In North India, Hinduism asserted patriarchal control within the family, leading to increased subordination of women. 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. Under the Guptas, a renewed Hinduism based on devotion rather than the management of ritual began to assert itself. The renewal was reflected in a flowering of sculpture and architecture, which found patrons among an urban elite. Classical Sanskrit literature flowered as well, and Indian scienceastronomymedicine, and mathematics made significant advances.

Medieval India

The granite tower ofBrihadeeswarar Temple inThanjavur was completed in 1010 CE by Raja Raja Chola I.
The Indian early medieval age, 600 CE to 1200 CE, is defined by regional kingdoms and cultural diversity. When Harsha of Kannauj, who ruled much of the Indo-Gangetic Plain from 606 to 647 CE, attempted to expand southwards, he was defeated by the Chalukyaruler of the Deccan. When his successor attempted to expand eastwards, he was defeated by the Pala king of Bengal. 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. No ruler of this period was able to create an empire and consistently control lands much beyond his core region. 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. The caste system consequently began to show regional differences.
In the 6th and 7th centuries, the first devotional hymns were created in the Tamil language. They were imitated all over India and led to both the resurgence of Hinduism and the development of all modern languages of the subcontinent. Indian royalty, big andsmall, and the temples they patronised, drew citizens in great numbers to the capital cities, which became economic hubs as well. Temple towns of various sizes began to appear everywhere as India underwent another urbanisation. 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 MyanmarThailandLaosCambodiaVietnam,PhilippinesMalaysia, and Java. 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.
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. The sultanate was to control much of North India, and to make many forays into South India. Although at first disruptive for the Indian elites, the sultanate largely left its vast non-Muslim subject population to its own laws and customs. By repeatedly repulsing Mongol raiders in the 13th century, the sultanate saved India from the devastation visited on West and Central Asia, setting the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, learned men, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from that region into the subcontinent, thereby creating a syncretic Indo-Islamic culture in the north. The sultanate's raiding and weakening of the regional kingdoms of South India paved the way for the indigenous Vijayanagara Empire. Embracing a strong Shaivite tradition and building upon the military technology of the sultanate, the empire came to control much of peninsular India, and was to influence South Indian society for long afterwards.

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,fell again to the superior mobility and firepower of a new generation of Central Asian warriors. The resulting Mughal Empire did not stamp out the local societies it came to rule, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites,leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule. Eschewing tribal bonds and Islamic identity, especially under Akbar, the Mughals united their far-flung realms through loyalty, expressed through a Persianised culture, to an emperor who had near-divine status. The Mughal state's economic policies, deriving most revenues from agriculture and mandating that taxes be paid in the well-regulated silver currency, caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets. The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion, resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture. Newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience.[88] Expanding commerce during Mughal rule gave rise to new Indian commercial and political elites along the coasts of southern and eastern India.[88] As the empire disintegrated, many among these elites were able to seek and control their own affairs.[89]
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.[90][91] The East India Company's control of the seas, greater resources, and more advanced military training and technology led it to increasingly flex its military muscle and caused it to become attractive to a portion of the Indian elite; both these factors were crucial in allowing the company to gain control over the Bengal region by 1765 and sideline the other European companies. Its further 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.[95] India was then no longer exporting manufactured goods as it long had, but was instead supplying the British Empire with raw materials, and many historians consider this to be the onset of India's colonial period.[90] 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.[96]

Modern India

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.
Historians consider India's modern age to have begun sometime between 1848 and 1885. 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, the surveillance of the population, and the education of citizens (English Education Act 1835). Technological changes—among them, railways, canals, and the telegraph—were introduced not long after their introduction in Europe. However, disaffection with the company also grew during this time, and set off the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Fed by diverse resentments and perceptions, including invasive British-style social reforms, harsh land taxes, and summary treatment of some rich landowners and princes, the rebellion rocked many regions of northern and central India and shook the foundations of Company rule. 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.[103][104] In the decades following, public life gradually emerged all over India, leading eventually to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.[
Jawaharlal Nehru sharing a joke with Mahatma Gandhi, Mumbai, July 6, 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.[109] There was an increase in the number of large-scale famines,[110] and, despite the risks of infrastructure development borne by Indian taxpayers, little industrial employment was generated for Indians.[111] There were also salutary effects: commercial cropping, especially in the newly canalled Punjab, led to increased food production for internal consumption.[112] The railway network provided critical famine relief,[113] notably reduced the cost of moving goods,[113] and helped nascent Indian-owned industry.[112] After World War I, in which approximately one million Indians served, a new period began. It was marked by British reforms but alsorepressive 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.[115] During the 1930s, slow legislative reform was enacted by the British; the Indian National Congress won victories in the resulting elections. 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, but tempered by the partition of India into two states: India and Pakistan.
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. In the 60 years since, India has had a mixed record of successes and failures. It has remained a democracy with civil liberties, an active Supreme Court, and a largely independent press. 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, and increased its geopolitical clout. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture. Yet, India is also shaped by seemingly unyielding poverty, both rural and urban; by religiousand caste-related violence; by Maoist-inspired Naxalite insurgencies; and by separatism in Jammu and Kashmir andin Northeast India. It has unresolved territorial disputes with China and with Pakistan. The India–Pakistan nuclear rivalry came to a head in 1998. 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.


With 1,210,193,422 residents reported in the 2011 provisional census report,[266] India is the world's second-most populous country. Its population grew by 17.64% during 2001–2011,[267] compared to 21.54% growth in the previous decade (1991–2001).[267] The human sex ratio, according to the 2011 census, is 940 females per 1,000 males.[266]The median age was 24.9 in the 2001 census.[214]The first post-colonial census, conducted in 1951, counted 361.1 million people.[268] 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.[269] India continues to face several public health-related challenges.[270][271]
Life expectancy in India is at 68 years with life expectancy for women being 69.6 years and for men being 67.3.[272] There are around 50 physicians per 100,000 Indians.[273] The number of Indians living in urban areas has grown by 31.2% between 1991 and 2001.[274] Yet, in 2001, over 70% lived in rural areas.[275][276] 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.[277] According to the 2011 census, there are 53 million-plus urban agglomerations in India; among them MumbaiDelhiKolkataChennaiBangalore,Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, in decreasing order by population.[278] The literacy rate in 2011 was 74.04%: 65.46% among females and 82.14% among males.[279] 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.[277] Kerala is the most literate state with 93.91% literacy; while Bihar the least with 63.82%.[279]
India is home to two major language familiesIndo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austroasiatic and Sino-Tibetan language families. India has no national language.[280] Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of the government.[281][282] English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a "subsidiary official language";[6] it is important ineducation, 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 scheduledtribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country's population.[283] The 2011 census reported thatHinduism (79.8% of the population) is the largest religion in India, followed by Islam (14.23%). Other religions or none (5.97% of the population) include Christianity (2.30%), Sikhism (1.72%), Buddhism (0.70%), JainismJudaism,Zoroastrianism, and the Bahá'í Faith. India has the world's largest Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian, and Bahá'í populations, and has the third-largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population for a non-Muslim majority country.


Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years.[288] During the Vedic period (c. 1700 – 500 BCE), the foundations of Hindu philosophymythologytheology andliterature were laid, and many beliefs and practices which still exist today, such asdhármakármayóga, and mokṣa, were established.[26] India is notable for itsreligious diversity, with HinduismBuddhismSikhismIslamChristianity, andJainism among the nation's major religions.[289] The predominant religion, Hinduism, has been shaped by various historical schools of thought, including those of theUpanishads,[290] the Yoga Sutras, the Bhakti movement,[289] and by Buddhist philosophy.

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.[292] Vernacular architecture is also highly regional in it flavours. Vastu shastra, literally "science of construction" or "architecture" and ascribed to Mamuni Mayan,[293] explores how the laws of nature affect human dwellings;[294] it employs precise geometry and directional alignments to reflect perceived cosmic constructs.[295] 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".[296] 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 theUNESCO World Heritage List as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage".[297] Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, developed by the British in the late 19th century, drew on Indo-Islamic architecture.


The earliest literary writings in India, composed between 1700 BCE and 1200 CE, were in the Sanskrit language.[299][300]Prominent works of this Sanskrit literature include epics such as the Mahābhārata and the Ramayana, the dramas ofKālidāsa such as the Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya.[301][302][303]Kamasutra, the famous book about sexual intercourse also originated in India. Developed between 600 BCE and 300 CE in South India, the Sangam literature, consisting of 2,381 poems, is regarded as a predecessor of Tamil literature.[304][305][306][307] 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 KabīrTulsīdās, 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.[308] 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,[309] who was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.


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), ricewhole-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.[321] The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited by historians as the primary catalyst for Europe's Age of Discovery.


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".[323] India declared untouchability to be illegal[324] 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.[325][326]
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.[327] An overwhelming majority of Indians, with their consent, have their marriages arranged by their parents or other elders in the family.[328] Marriage is thought to be for life,[328] and the divorce rate is extremely low.[329] As of 2001, just 1.6 percent of Indian women were divorced but this figure was rising due to their education and economic independence.[329] Child marriages are common, especially in rural areas; many women wed before reaching 18, which is their legal marriageable age.[330] 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.[331][332] However a report from 2011 has shown improvement in the gender ratio.[333] The payment of dowry, although illegal, remains widespread across class lines.[334] Deaths resulting from dowry, mostly from bride burning, are on the rise.[335]
Many Indian festivals are religious in origin. The best known include DiwaliGanesh ChaturthiThai PongalHoliDurga PujaEid ul-FitrBakr-IdChristmas, and Vaisakhi.[336][337] India has three national holidays which are observed in all states and union territories – Republic DayIndependence 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 BCE. 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 sarifor 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.[338] 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.


In India, several traditional indigenous sports remain fairly popular, such as kabaddi,kho khopehlwani and gilli-danda. Some of the earliest forms of Asian martial arts, such as kalarippayattumusti yuddhasilambam, 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.[340][341]Pachisi, from which parcheesi derives, was played on a giant marble court byAkbar.[342]
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.[343] 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.[344][345] Other sports in which Indians have succeeded internationally include badminton[346] (Saina Nehwal and P V Sindhu are two of the top ranked female badminton players in the world), boxing,[347] and wrestling.[348]Football is popular in West BengalGoaTamil NaduKerala, and the north-eastern states.[349] India is scheduled to host the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.[350]
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 TrophyCricket 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 theNKP Salve Challenger Trophy are domestic competitions. The BCCI is also responsible for conducting 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 19871996, 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.[351]
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.[352]
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.

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