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The Republic of India (Hindi: Bharat Ga arajya), commonly known as India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the most populous liberal democracy in the world. India has a coastline of over seven thousand kilometres, bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east. India borders Pakistan to the west; People's Republic of China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east.

Home to the Indus Valley Civilization 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. Four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Islam, Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism, arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped India's variegated culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early 18th century and colonised by Great Britain from the mid-19th century, India became a modern nation-state in 1947 after a struggle for independence marked by widespread use of nonviolent resistance as a means of social protest.

With the world's fourth largest economy in purchasing power and the second fastest growing large economy, India has made rapid progress in the last decade, especially in information technology. Although India's standard of living is projected to rise sharply in the next half-century, it currently battles high levels of poverty, persistent malnutrition, and environmental degradation. A multi-lingual, multi-ethnic society, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.

Etymology
Main article: Etymology of India
The name India /'?ndi?/ is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River.[2] The Constitution of India and common usage in Hindi also recognise Bharat (/b???r?t?/ (help·info)) as an official name of equal status. A third name, ????????, Hindustan (/hin?d?ust???n/ (info)) (Persian: Land of the Hindus), has been in use since the 12th century, though its contemporary use is unevenly applied.


History
Main article: History of India
Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh are the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared over 9,000 years ago and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilization, dating back to 3300 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic Civilisation, which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country.

The empire built by the Maurya dynasty under Emperor Ashoka united most of modern South Asia in third century BCE, except for the Tamil kingdoms in the south. From 180 BCE, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, including those led by the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans in the northwestern Indian Subcontinent. From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient India's "Golden Age." While the north had larger, fewer kingdoms, the south had several dynasties such as the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas, which overlapped in time and space. Science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.

Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in western India.Following invasions from Central Asia between the tenth and twelfth centuries, much of north India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty. Mughal emperors gradually expanded their kingdoms to cover large parts of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, several indigenous kingdoms, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, flourished, especially in the south. From the sixteenth century, several European countries, including Portugal, Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom started arriving as traders and later took advantage of the fractious nature of relations between the kingdoms to establish colonies in the country. By 1856, most of India was under the control of the British East India Company. A year later, a nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms, variously referred to as the First War of Indian Independence or Sepoy Mutiny, seriously challenged British rule but eventually failed. As a consequence, India came under the direct control of the British Crown as a colony of the British Empire.

Mahatma Gandhi (right) with India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal NehruIn the early twentieth century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, largely led by Mahatma Gandhi. Millions of protesters engaged in mass campaigns of civil disobedience with a commitment to ahimsa or non-violence. Finally, on 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but not before losing its Muslim-majority areas which were carved out into the separate nation-state of Pakistan. Three years later, on 26 January 1950, India chose to be a republic, and a new Constitution came into effect.

Since independence, India has seen sectarian violence and insurgencies in various parts of the country, but has maintained its unity and democracy. It has unresolved territorial disputes with China, which escalated into the brief Sino-Indian War in 1962; and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and in 1999 in Kargil. India is a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement and the United Nations (as part of British India). In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test. This was followed by five more tests in 1998. Significant economic reforms beginning in 1991 have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies and an emerging superpower in the world, which have added to its global and regional clout.


Government
Main article: Government of India
National symbols of India Flag Tiranga
Emblem Sarnath Lion
Anthem "Jana Gana Mana"
Song "Vande Mataram"
Animal Royal Bengal Tiger
Bird Indian Peacock
Flower Lotus
Tree Banyan
Fruit Mango
Sport Field Hockey
Calendar Saka
The Constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India has a federal form of government and a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. It has three branches of governance: the Legislature, Executive, and Judiciary.

The President of India is the official head of state elected indirectly by an electoral college for a five-year term. The Prime Minister is, however, the de facto head of government and exercises most executive powers. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, with the requirement that they enjoy the support of the party or coalition securing the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament.

The legislature of India is the bicameral Parliament, which consists of the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (Council of States), and the lower house called the Lok Sabha (House of People). The Rajya Sabha has upto 250 members holding staggered six year terms. Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in proportion to the state's population. The Lok Sabha's 545 members are directly elected by popular vote to represent individual constituencies for five year terms.

The executive branch consists of the President, Vice-President, and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet being its executive committee) headed by the Prime Minister. Any minister holding a portfolio must be a member of either house of parliament. In the Indian parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the legislature, with the Prime Minister and his Council being directly responsible to the lower house of the parliament.

India's independent judiciary consists of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over disputes between states and the Centre, appellate jurisdiction over the twenty-one High Courts of India, and the power to declare union and state laws null and void if in conflict with the basic structure of the Constitution of India.

Politics

For most of its democratic history, the India federal government has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC). State politics have been dominated by several national parties including INC, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Communist Party of India (CPI) and various regional parties. From 1950 to 1990, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority barring two brief periods. The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the "Emergency" declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. A Janata Dal coalition, called the National Front, won elections in 1989 but managed to stay in power for only two years. The years 1996-1998 were a period of turmoil in the federal government with several short-lived alliances holding sway. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996, followed by the United Front coalition. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several regional parties, and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term. In the 2004 Indian elections the Indian National Congress won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance, supported by a various left-leaning parties and members opposed to the BJP.


Military and foreign relations
Main articles: Military of India and Foreign relations of India

An Indian-developed Agni-II ballistic missile during a Republic Day parade held in 2004.Since Independence in 1947, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. It took a leading role in the 1950s by advocating the independence of European colonies in Africa and Asia. India is one of the founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement. After the Sino-Indian War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, India's relationship with the Soviet Union warmed at the expense of ties with the United States and continued to remain so until the end of the Cold War. India has fought several wars with Pakistan, primarily over Kashmir. Indian fought an additional war with Pakistan for the the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971.

Despite criticism and military sanctions, India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT, preferring instead to maintain sovereignty over its nuclear program. Recent overtures by the Indian government have strengthened relations with the United States, China, and Pakistan. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations in South America, Asia, and Africa. In recent years, India has played an influential role in the ASEAN, SAARC, and the WTO. India has been a long time supporter of the United Nations, with over 55,000 Indian military and police personnel having served in 35 UN peace keeping operations deployed across four continents.

India became a nuclear state in 1998 by successfully conducting underground nuclear tests. This was followed by international military sanctions which were gradually withdrawn after September 2001. Recently, India concluded a nuclear deal with United States that would allow the United States to supply civilian nuclear technology to India and nuclear fuel to Indian reactors. India has adopted a No first use nuclear policy.

India maintains the third largest military force in the world, which consists of the army, and the navy, air force. Auxiliary forces such as the Indian Paramilitary Forces, the Indian Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command also come under the Indian military. The President of India is the supreme commander of the Indian armed forces.


States and union territories
Main article: States and territories of India
India is a union of twenty-eight states and seven federally-governed union territories. All states, the National Capital Territory of Delhi and the union territory of Pondicherry have elected governments. The other five union territories have centrally-appointed administrators.


States and territories of IndiaStates:

Andhra Pradesh
Arunachal Pradesh
Assam
Bihar
Chhattisgarh
Delhi
Goa
Gujarat
Haryana
Himachal Pradesh
Jammu and Kashmir
Jharkhand
Karnataka
Kerala
Madhya Pradesh
Maharashtra
Manipur
Meghalaya
Mizoram
Nagaland
Orissa
Punjab
Rajasthan
Sikkim
Tamil Nadu
Tripura
Uttarakhand
Uttar Pradesh
West Bengal

Union Territories:

Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Chandigarh
Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Daman and Diu
Lakshadweep
Puducherry
All states and union territories are subdivided into districts. In larger states, districts may be grouped together to form a division.


Geography
Main article: Geography of India

Elevated regions in IndiaIndia constitutes the major portion of the Indian subcontinent, which sits atop the Indian Plate and the northwesterly portion of the Indo-Australian Plate. India's northern and north-eastern states are partially situated in the Himalayan Range. The rest of northern, central, and eastern India consists of the fertile Indo-Gangetic Plain. In the west, bordering southeastern Pakistan, lies the Thar Desert. Southern India is almost entirely composed of the peninsular Deccan plateau, which is flanked by two hilly coastal ranges, the Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats.

India is home to several major rivers, including the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, the Yamuna, the Godavari, the Kaveri, the Narmada, and the Krishna. India has three archipelagos — Lakshadweep, which lies off the southwestern coast; the volcanic Andaman and Nicobar Islands island chain to the southeast, and the Sunderbans in the Ganges Delta of West Bengal.

The climate in India varies from tropical in the south to more temperate in the Himalayan north, where elevated regions receive sustained winter snowfall. India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert. The Himalayas, along with the Hindu Kush mountains in Pakistan, prevent cold Central Asian katabatic winds from blowing in. This keeps the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes. The Thar Desert is responsible for attracting the moisture-laden summer monsoon winds that, between June and September, provide most of India's rainfall.


Flora and fauna

Now the world's rarest monkey, the golden langur typifies the precarious survival of much of India's megafauna.Main articles: Fauna of India and Flora of India
India, lying within the Indomalaya ecozone, hosts significant biodiversity; it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of avian, 6.2% of reptilian, and 6.0% of flowering plant species.[5] Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, also exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic. India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and Northeast India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain.[8] Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies. The pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded the Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment.

Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, to which India originally belonged. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards, and collision with, the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic changes 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms. Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya. As a result, among Indian species, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians. Notable endemics are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and the brown and carmine Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species. These include the Asiatic lion, the Bengal tiger, and the Indian white-rumped vulture, which suffered a near-extinction from ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-treated cattle.

In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife; in response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; further federal protections were promulgated in the 1980s. Along with over 500 wildlife sanctuaries, India now hosts 14 biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; 25 wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.


Economy

Goldman sachs has predicted that India will become the 3rd largest economy of the world by 2035 based on predicted growth rates of 5.3 to 6.1%.[1] Currently it is cruising at 9.2% growth rate
The Bombay Stock Exchange Sensex index reflects investor confidence in the Indian economy.Main article: Economy of India
For most of its democratic history, India adhered to a quasi-socialist approach, with strict government control over private sector participation, foreign trade, and foreign direct investment. However, since 1991, India has gradually opened up its markets through economic reforms by reducing government controls on foreign trade and investment. Forex reserves have risen from US$5.8 billion in March 1991 to US$177 billion in January 2007. High level of foreign reserves acts as a cushion against external shocks. Privatisation of publicly-owned industries and the opening of certain sectors to private and foreign participation has continued amid political debate.

With a GDP growth rate of 9.2%, the Indian economy is among the fastest growing in the world.[11] It is the world's third largest as measured by purchasing power parity (PPP), with a GDP of US $4.042 trillion. However, when measured by USD exchange-rate terms, it is the twelfth largest in the world, with a GDP of US$785.47 billion. A Goldman Sachs report recently cited by BBC News stated that 'India could overtake Britain and have the world's fifth largest economy within a decade as the country's growth accelerates' Wealth distribution in India, a developing country, is fairly uneven, with the top 10% of income groups earning 33% of all income.[14] India's per capita income of US $3,700 is ranked 117nd in the world. The federal and state budget deficits, has reduced.

India has a labour force of 509.3 million, 60% of which is employed in agriculture or agriculture-related industries. The service sector accounts for 54% of GDP; the agricultural and industrial sectors make up 28% and 18% respectively. Major agricultural crops include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, and potatoes. Major industries include automobiles, cement, chemicals, consumer electronics, food processing, machinery, mining, petroleum, pharmaceuticals, steel, transportation equipment and textiles.

Last year exports stood at US$112 billion and imports was around US$187.9 billion. Textiles, Jewellery, Engineering goods and software are major export commodities.Crude oil, machineries, fertilizers and chemicals are major import commodities. India's most important trading partners are the United States, the European Union, Japan, China, and the United Arab Emirates.[16]More recently, India has capitalised on its large pool of educated, English-speaking people to become an important outsourcing destination for multinational corporations. India has also become a major exporter of software as well as financial, research, and technology services. India's software exports is growing at the rate 30-35% per year.


Demographics

Apatani tribal women in Arunachal Pradesh.Main article: Demographics of India
With an estimated population of 1.1 billion, India is the world's second most populous country. Almost 70% of Indians reside in rural areas, although in recent decades migration to larger cities has led to the exponential rise in the urban population. India's largest urban agglomerations are Mumbai, Kolkata, Delhi, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Chennai.

India is home to two major linguistic families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by about 24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman linguistic families. The Indian constitution recognises 23 official languages.[18] Hindi and English are used by the Union Government of India for official purposes, wherein Hindi has a de jure priority. Sanskrit enjoy classical language status in India. The number of dialects in India is as high as 1,652.

Although 80.5% of Indians report themselves as Hindus, India's Muslim population is the world's second largest; they constitute 13.4% of the population. Other religious groups include Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), Jews, Zoroastrians, Bahá'ís and others.

At the time of India's emergence as a nation-state in 1947, India's literacy rate was 11%.[20] Since then, it has increased to 68.6% (58.25% for females and 78.8% of males). The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate (91%); Bihar has the lowest (47%).[21] The national sex ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.66, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.32 births per 1,000 people.


Culture

The Taj Mahal in Agra is India's most popular tourist destination.Main article: Culture of India
India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism; it has managed to preserve established traditions whilst absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants. Many Indian cultural practices, languages, customs, and monuments are examples of this co-mingling over centuries. Famous monuments, such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Islamic-inspired architecture, have been inherited from the Mughal dynasty. These are the result of traditions that combined elements from all parts of the country.

Indian music is highly diversified. Classical music is mainly split between the North Indian Hindustani and South Indian Carnatic traditions. Highly regionalised forms of popular music include Filmi and folk music like Bhangra. Many classical dance forms exist, including Bharatanatyam, Kathakali, Kathak, Kuchipudi, Manipuri, Odissi and Yakshagana. They often have a narrative form and are usually infused with devotional and spiritual elements.

The earliest literary traditions in India were mostly oral, and were only later transcribed. Most of these are represented by religious texts such as the Vedas, the Mahabharata, and the Ramayana; Sangam literature from Tamil Nadu is among India's oldest. The many notable Indian writers of the modern era, using both Indian languages and in English, include Rabindranath Tagore. The Indian film industry is the world's most prolific; its most recognisable face is the Mumbai-based "Bollywood", which produces mainly Hindi films. Other strong cinema industries are based on the Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Bengali, Marathi languages.


A Toda tribal hut.The cuisine of India is extremely diverse, as ingredients, spices and cooking methods vary from region to region. Rice and wheat are the nation's main staple foods. The country is notable for its wide variety of vegetarian and non-vegetarian cuisine. Spicy food and sweets are popular in India. Traditional Indian dress greatly varies across the regions in its colours and styles, and depend on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include the Sari for women and the Lungi or Dhoti for men.

India's national sport is field hockey, although cricket is the most popular sport in India. In some states, particularly those in the northeast and the coastal states of West Bengal, Goa and Kerala, football is the more popular sport. In recent times, tennis has gained popularity. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India, is also gaining popularity with the rise of the number of recognised Indian grandmasters. Traditional sports include Kabaddi, Kho-Kho, and Gilli-Danda, which are played nationwide. It is also home to one of the worlds oldest martial art forms - Kalari Payattu.

Indian festivals come in a vast variety; many are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. The most popular holidays are Diwali, Holi, Onam, Sankranti/Pongal, Gudi Padwa/Ugadi, the two Eids, Christmas, and Vaisakhi. India has three national holidays. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in the individual states. Religious practices are an integral part of everyday life and are a very public affair. Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, although urban families now prefer a nuclear family system due to the socio-economic constraints imposed by the traditional joint family system. Credit: Wikipedia).

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