Wednesday, August 4, 2010

India

India



India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: भारत गणराज्य Bhārat Gaṇarājya; see also Official names of India), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with 1.18 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world.[16][17] Mainland India is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east; and it is bordered by Pakistan to the west;[note] China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Burma to the east. India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, its Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also in the vicinity of the Indonesian island of Sumatra in the Andaman Sea, and in the Andaman Sea India also shares a maritime border with Thailand.[18] India has a coastline of 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi).[19]



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.[20] Four major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early eighteenth century and colonised by the United Kingdom from the mid-nineteenth century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by widespread non-violent resistance.[21]



India is a federal constitutional republic with a parliamentary democracy consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. A pluralistic, multilingual and multiethnic society, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats. The Indian economy is the world's eleventh largest economy by nominal GDP and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity. Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies in the world;[22] however, it still suffers from poverty,[23] illiteracy,[24] corruption,[25] disease,[26] and malnutrition.[27] India is classified as a newly industrialized country[28][29] and is one of the four BRIC nations. It is a nuclear weapons state and has the third-largest standing armed force in the world.[30] while its military expenditure ranks tenth in the world. It is a founding member of the United Nations, the East Asia Summit, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement and a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and the G-20 major economies.



Etymology


Main article: Names of India

The name India (pronounced /ˈɪndiə/) is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit सिन्धु Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River.[31] The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ινδοί), the people of the Indus.[32] The Constitution of India and common usage in various Indian languages also recognise Bharat (pronounced [ˈbʱɑːrʌt̪] ( listen)) as an official name of equal status.[33] The name Bharat is derived from the name of the legendary king Bharata in Hindu scriptures. Hindustan ([hɪnd̪ʊˈstɑːn] ( listen)), originally a Persian word for “Land of the Hindus” referring to northern India, is also occasionally used as a synonym for all of India.[34]



History

Main articles: History of India and History of the Republic of India

Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at the Bhimbetka rock shelters 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 Civilisation,[35] dating back to 3400 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic period, which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society, and ended in the 500s BCE. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country.[36]





Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, sixth centuryIn the third century BCE, most of South Asia was united into the Maurya Empire by Chandragupta Maurya and flourished under Ashoka the Great.[37] From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient "India's Golden Age".[38][39] Empires in Southern India included those of the Chalukyas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Empire. Science, technology, engineering, art, logic, language, literature, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.



Following invasions from Central Asia between the 10th and 12th centuries, much of North India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire. Under the rule of Akbar the Great, India enjoyed much cultural and economic progress as well as religious harmony.[40][41] Mughal emperors gradually expanded their empires to cover large parts of the subcontinent. However, in North-Eastern India, the dominant power was the Ahom kingdom of Assam, among the few kingdoms to have resisted Mughal subjugation. The first major threat to Mughal imperial power came from a Hindu Rajput king Maha Rana Pratap of Mewar in the 16th century and later from a Hindu state known as the Maratha confederacy, that ruled much of India in the mid-18th century.[42]



From the 16th century, European powers such as Portugal, the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain established trading posts and later took advantage of internal conflicts to establish colonies in the country. By 1856, most of India was under the control of the British East India Company.[43] A year later, a nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms, known as India's First War of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny, seriously challenged the Company's control but eventually failed. As a result of the instability, India was brought under the direct rule of the British Crown.





Mahatma Gandhi (right) with Jawaharlal Nehru, 1937. Nehru would go on to become India's first prime minister in 1947.In the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organisations.[44] Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi led millions of people in several national campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience.[21]



On 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but at the same time the Muslim-majority areas were partitioned to form a separate state of Pakistan.[45] On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect.[46]



Since independence, India has faced challenges from religious violence, casteism, naxalism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast India. Since the 1990s terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China, which, in 1962, escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. India is a founding member of the United Nations (as British India) and the Non-Aligned Movement.



In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test[47] and five more tests in 1998, making India a nuclear state.[47] Beginning in 1991, significant economic reforms[48] have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, increasing its global clout.[22]



Government

Main article: Government of India

National Symbols of India[49][50]

Flag Tricolour

Emblem Sarnath Lion Capital

Anthem Jana Gana Mana

Song Vande Mataram

Animal Royal Bengal Tiger

Bird Indian Peacock

Aquatic animal Dolphin

Flower Lotus

Tree Banyan

Fruit Mango

Sport Field hockey

Calendar Saka

River Ganges



India is federation with a parliamentary form of government, governed under the Constitution of India.[51] 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 center and the states. The government is regulated by a checks and balances defined by Indian Constitution, which serves as the country's supreme legal document.



Constitution

The Constitution of India, the longest and the most exhaustive among constitutions of independent nations in the world, came into force on 26 January 1950.[52] The preamble of the constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic.[53] India has a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. Its form of government was traditionally described as being 'quasi-federal' with a strong centre and weaker states,[54] but it has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic and social changes.[55]



President and Prime Minister

The President of India is the head of state[56] elected indirectly by an electoral college[57] for a five-year term.[58][59] The Prime Minister is the head of government and exercises most executive power.[56] Appointed by the President,[60] the Prime Minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament.[56] 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.[61]



Legislature

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).[62] The Rajya Sabha, a permanent body, has 245 members serving staggered six year terms.[63] Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in proportion to the state's population.[63] 543 of the Lok Sabha's 545 members are directly elected by popular vote to represent individual constituencies for five year terms.[63] The other two members are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community if the President is of the opinion that the community is not adequately represented.[63]



Judiciary

India has a unitary three-tier judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India, 21 High Courts, and a large number of trial courts.[64] The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases involving fundamental rights and over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts.[65] It is judicially independent,[64] and has the power to declare the law and to strike down Union or State laws which contravene the Constitution.[66] The role as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution is one of the most important functions of the Supreme Court.[67]



Administrative divisions

Main article: Administrative divisions of India

India consists of 28 states and seven Union Territories.[68] All states, and the two union territories of Puducherry and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, have elected legislatures and governments patterned on the Westminster model. The other five union territories are directly ruled by the Centre through appointed administrators. In 1956, under the States Reorganisation Act, states were formed on a linguistic basis.[69] Since then, this structure has remained largely unchanged. Each state or union territory is further divided into administrative districts.[70] The districts in turn are further divided into tehsils and eventually into villages.





The 28 states and 7 union territories of IndiaStates:



1.Andhra Pradesh

2.Arunachal Pradesh

3.Assam

4.Bihar

5.Chhattisgarh

6.Goa

7.Gujarat

8.Haryana

9.Himachal Pradesh

10.Jammu and Kashmir

11.Jharkhand

12.Karnataka

13.Kerala

14.Madhya Pradesh

15.Maharashtra

16.Manipur

17.Meghalaya

18.Mizoram

19.Nagaland

20.Orissa

21.Punjab

22.Rajasthan

23.Sikkim

24.Tamil Nadu

25.Tripura

26.Uttar Pradesh

27.Uttarakhand

28.West Bengal





Union Territories:



A.Andaman and Nicobar Islands

B.Chandigarh

C.Dadra and Nagar Haveli

D.Daman and Diu

E.Lakshadweep

F.National Capital Territory of Delhi

G.Puducherry











Politics

Main article: Politics of India



The Secretariat Building, in New Delhi, houses key government offices.India is the most populous democracy in the world.[16][17] It has operated under a multi-party system for most of its history. For most of the years since independence, the federal government has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC).[68] Politics in the states have been dominated by national parties like the INC, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and various regional parties. From 1950 to 1990, barring two brief periods, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority.



Within Indian political culture, the Indian National Congress is considered center-left or "liberal" and the Bharatiya Janata Party is considered center-right or "conservative". The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the state of emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1989, a Janata Dal-led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition won the elections but managed to stay in power for only two years.[71] As the 1991 elections gave no political party a majority, the INC formed a minority government under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was able to complete its five-year term.[72]



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 that excluded both the BJP and the INC. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several other parties and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term.[73]



In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various Left-leaning parties and members opposed to the BJP. The UPA again came into power in the 2009 general election; however, the representation of the Left leaning parties within the coalition has significantly reduced.[74] Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term.[75]



Foreign relations and military

Main articles: Foreign relations of India and Indian Armed Forces



Jointly developed by Sukhoi and Hindustan Aeronautics, the Su-30 MKI "Flanker-H" is the Indian Air Force's prime air superiority fighter.[76]Since its 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.[77] India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement.[78] India was involved in two brief military interventions in neighbouring countries – Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka and Operation Cactus in Maldives. After the Sino-Indian War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, India's relationship with the Soviet Union warmed and continued to remain so until the end of the Cold War. India has fought two wars with Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute. A third war between India and Pakistan in 1971 resulted in the creation of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan).[79] Additional skirmishes have taken place between the two nations over the Siachen Glacier. In 1999, India and Pakistan fought an undeclared war over Kargil.



In recent years, India has played an influential role in the SAARC and the WTO.[80] India has provided as many as 55,000 Indian military and police personnel to serve in thirty-five UN peacekeeping operations across four continents.[14] India is also an active participant in various mutlilateral forums, particularly the East Asia Summit[81] and the G8+5.[82] Recent overtures by the Indian government have strengthened relations with the United States and China. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations in South America, Asia and Africa.





India and Russia share an extensive economic, defence and technological relationship.[83] Shown here is PM Manmohan Singh with President Dmitry Medvedev at the 34th G8 Summit.India maintains the third-largest military force in the world, which consists of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force[46] and auxiliary forces such as the Paramilitary Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command. The official Indian defence budget for 2010 stood at US$31.9 billion (or 2.12% of GDP).[84] According to a 2008 SIPRI report, India's annual military expenditure in terms of PPP stood at US$72.7 billion.[85] The President of India is the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces. India maintains close defence cooperation with Russia, Israel and France, who are the chief suppliers of arms. Defence contractors, such as the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and Hindustan Aeronautics (HAL), oversee indigenous development of sophisticated arms and military equipment, including ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft and main battle tanks, to reduce India's dependence on foreign imports.



India became a nuclear power in 1974 after conducting an initial nuclear test, known as the Operation Smiling Buddha, and carried out further underground testing in 1998. Despite criticism and military sanctions, India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT. India maintains a "no first use" nuclear policy[86] and is developing nuclear triad capability as a part of its "minimum credible deterrence" doctrine.[86] On 10 October 2008, a civilian nuclear agreement between India and the United States was signed, prior to which India received waivers from the IAEA and the NSG which ended restrictions on nuclear technology commerce and recognized India as the world's de facto sixth nuclear weapons state.[87] On 12 March 2010, Russia signed with India a nuclear reactor deal which will build 16 nuclear reactors in India as part of defence and energy deals .[88] On 28 June 2010, Canada signs with India a nuclear co-operation deal to promote and develop co-operation in civilian nuclear energy .[89]



Geography

Main article: Geography of India

See also: Geological history of India and Climate of India



Topographic map of India.India, the major portion of the Indian subcontinent, sits atop the Indian tectonic plate, a minor plate within the Indo-Australian Plate.[90]



India's defining geological processes commenced seventy-five million years ago, when the Indian subcontinent, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a northeastwards drift—lasting fifty million years—across the then unformed Indian Ocean.[90] The subcontinent's subsequent collision with the Eurasian Plate and subduction under it, gave rise to the Himalayas, the planet's highest mountains, which now abut India in the north and the north-east.[90] In the former seabed immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough, which, having gradually been filled with river-borne sediment,[91] now forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain.[92] To the west of this plain, and cut off from it by the Aravalli Range, lies the Thar Desert.[93]



The original Indian plate now survives as peninsular India, the oldest and most geologically stable part of India, and extends as far north as the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in central India. These parallel ranges run from the Arabian Sea coast in Gujarat in the west to the coal-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand in the east.[94] To their south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the left and right by the coastal ranges, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats respectively;[95] the plateau contains the oldest rock formations in India, 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[96] and 68°7' and 97°25' east longitude.[97]



India's coast is 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi) long; 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 Islands.[19] According to the Indian naval hydrographic charts, the mainland coast consists of the following: 43% sandy beaches, 11% rocky coast including cliffs, and 46% mudflats or marshy coast.[19]





The Himalayas form the mountainous landscape of Northern India. Seen here is Ladakh in Jammu & Kashmir.Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges (Ganga) and the Brahmaputra, both of which drain into the Bay of Bengal.[98] Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and the Kosi, whose extremely low gradient causes disastrous floods every year. 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;[99] and the Narmada and the Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea.[100] Among notable coastal features of India are the marshy Rann of Kutch in western India, and the alluvial Sundarbans delta, which India shares with Bangladesh.[101] 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.[102]



India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the monsoons.[103] The Himalayas prevent cold Central Asian Katabatic wind from blowing in, keeping the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes.[104][105] The Thar Desert plays a crucial role in attracting the moisture-laden southwest summer monsoon winds that, between June and October, provide the majority of India's rainfall.[103] Four major climatic groupings predominate in India: tropical wet, tropical dry, subtropical humid, and montane.[106]



Flora and fauna

Main articles: Flora of India and Fauna of India

See also: List of ecoregions in India



The Indian peacock is India's national bird and is found primarily in semi-desert grasslands, scrubs and deciduous forests of India.[107]India, which lies within the Indomalaya ecozone, displays significant biodiversity. One of eighteen megadiverse countries, it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of all avian, 6.2% of all reptilian, 4.4% of all amphibian, 11.7% of all fish, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species.[108] Many ecoregions, such as the shola forests, exhibit extremely high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic.[109][110]



India's forest cover 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 sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; the teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain.[111] 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 Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment. According to latest report, less than 12% of India's landmass is covered by dense forests.[112]



Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated. 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.[113] Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya.[111] Consequently, 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.[108] 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.[114] 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[115] and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; in addition, the Forest Conservation Act[116] was enacted in 1980. Along with more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries, India hosts thirteen biosphere reserves,[117] four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.[118]



Economy

Main article: Economy of India

See also: Economic history of India, Economic development in India, and Transport in India



The Bombay Stock Exchange, in Mumbai, is Asia's oldest and India's largest stock exchange by market capitalisation.In 2009, India's nominal GDP stood at US$1.243 trillion, which makes it the eleventh-largest economy in the world.[119] If PPP is taken into account, India's economy is the fourth largest in the world at US$3.561 trillion,[120] corresponding to a per capita income of US$3,100.[121] The country ranks 139th in nominal GDP per capita and 128th in GDP per capita at PPP.[119] With an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% for the past two decades, India is one of the fastest growing economies in the world.[122]



India has the world's second largest labour force, with 516.3 million people. In terms of output, the agricultural sector accounts for 28% of GDP; the service and industrial sectors make up 54% and 18% respectively. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry; fish.[68] Major industries include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, software.[68] India's trade has reached a relatively moderate share of 24% of GDP in 2006, up from 6% in 1985.[123] In 2008, India's share of world trade was about 1.68%.[124] Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, gems and jewelry, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and leather manufactures.[68] Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertilizer, chemicals.[68]



From the 1950s to the 1980s, India followed socialist-inspired policies. The economy was shackled by extensive regulation, protectionism, and public ownership, leading to pervasive corruption and slow economic growth.[125] In 1991, the nation liberalised its economy and has since moved towards a free-market economy.[123][126] The policy change in 1991 came after an acute balance of payments crisis, and the emphasis since then has been to use foreign trade and foreign investment as integral parts of India's economy.[127]





The Tata Nano, the world's cheapest car.[128] India's annual car exports have surged fivefold in the past five years.[129]In the late 2000s, India's economic growth averaged 7.5% a year.[123] Over the past decade, hourly wage rates in India have more than doubled.[130] In 2009, the Global Competitiveness Report ranked India 16th in financial market sophistication, 24th in banking sector, 27th in business sophistication and 30th in innovation; ahead of several advanced economies.[131] Seven of the world's top 15 technology outsourcing companies are based in India and the country is viewed as the second most favourable outsourcing destination after the United States.[132]



Despite India's impressive economic growth over recent decades, it still contains the largest concentration of poor people in the world.[133] The percentage of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of $1.25 a day (PPP, in nominal terms Rs. 21.6 a day in urban areas and Rs. 14.3 in rural areas in 2005) decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005.[134] Since 1991, inter-state economic inequality in India has consistently grown; the per capita net state domestic product of India's richest states is about 3.2 times that of the poorest states.[135] Even though India has avoided famines in recent decades, half of children are underweight[136] and about 46% of Indian children under the age of three suffer from malnutrition.[133][137]



A 2007 Goldman Sachs report projected that "from 2007 to 2020, India’s GDP per capita will quadruple," and that the Indian GDP will surpass that of the United States before 2050, but India "will remain a low-income country for several decades, with per capita incomes well below its other BRIC peers."[138] Although the Indian economy has grown steadily over the last two decades; its growth has been uneven when comparing different social groups, economic groups, geographic regions, and rural and urban areas.[133] The World Bank suggests that India must continue to focus on public sector reform, infrastructure, agricultural and rural development, removal of labor regulations, improvement in transport, energy security, and health and nutrition.[139]



Demographics

Main article: Demographics of India

See also: Religion in India, Languages of India, Ethnic groups of South Asia, and List of most populous metropolitan areas in India



Population density map of India.With an estimated population of 1.2 billion,[10] India is the world's second most populous country. The last 50 years have seen a rapid increase in population due to medical advances and massive increase in agricultural productivity due to the "green revolution".[140][141] India's urban population increased 11-fold during the twentieth century and is increasingly concentrated in large cities. By 2001 there were 35 million-plus cities in India, with the largest cities, with a population of over 10 million each, being Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. However, as of 2001, more than 70% of India's population continues to reside in rural areas.[142][143]



India is the world's most culturally, linguistically and genetically diverse geographical entity after the African continent.[68] 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. Neither the Constitution of India, nor any Indian law defines any national language.[8] Hindi, with the largest number of speakers,[144] is the official language of the union.[145] English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a 'subsidiary official language;'[146] it is also important in education, especially as a medium of higher education. In addition, every state and union territory has its own official languages, and the constitution also recognises in particular 21 "scheduled languages".



As per the 2001 census, over 800 million Indians (80.5%) were Hindu. Other religious groups include Muslims (13.4%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), Jews, Zoroastrians and Bahá'ís.[147] Tribals constitute 8.1% of the population.[148] India has the third-highest Muslim population in the world and has the highest population of Muslims for a non-Muslim majority country.



India's literacy rate is 64.8% (53.7% for females and 75.3% for males).[46] The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate at 91% while Bihar has the lowest at 47%.[149][150] The national human sex ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.9, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.01 births per 1,000 people per year.[46] Though India has one of the world's most diverse and modern healthcare systems, the country continues to face several public health-related challenges.[151] According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water and breathing in polluted air.[152] There are about 60 physicians per 100,000 people in India.[153]



Culture

Main article: Culture of India



The Taj Mahal in Agra was built by Shah Jahan as memorial to wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World and a UNESCO World Heritage Site considered to be of "outstanding universal value".[154]India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism[155] and cultural pluralism.[156] India's cultural tradition dates back to 8,000 BCE[157] and has a continuously recorded history for over 2,500 years.[158] With its roots based in the Indus Valley Tradition, the Indian culture took a distinctive shape during the 11th century BCE Vedic age which laid the foundation of Hindu philosophy, mythology, literary tradition and beliefs and practices, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga and mokṣa.[159] It has managed to preserve established traditions while absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants and spreading its cultural influence to other parts of Asia, mainly South East and East Asia.



Indian religions form one of the most defining aspects of Indian culture.[160] Major dhármic religions which were founded in India include Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. Considered to be a successor to the ancient Vedic religion,[161] Hinduism has been shaped by several schools of thoughts such as the Advaita Vedanta,[162] the Yoga Sutras and the Bhakti movement.[160] Buddhism originated in India in 5th century BCE and prominent early Buddhist schools, such as Theravāda and Mahāyāna, gained dominance during the Maurya Empire.[160] Though Buddhism entered a period of gradual decline in India 5th century CE onwards,[163] it played an influential role in shaping Indian philosophy and thought.[160]



Traditional Indian society is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. The Indian caste system describes the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed as jātis or castes.[164] Several influential social reform movements, such as the Bramho Shômaj, the Arya Samāja and the Ramakrishna Mission, have played a pivotal role in the emancipation of Dalits (or "untouchables") and other lower-caste communities in India.[165] However, the majority of Dalits continue to live in segregation and are often persecuted and discriminated against.[166]



Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm, although nuclear family are becoming common in urban areas.[125] An overwhelming majority of Indians have their marriages arranged by their parents and other respected family members, with the consent of the bride and groom.[167] Marriage is thought to be for life,[167] and the divorce rate is extremely low.[168] Child marriage is still a common practice, with half of women in India marrying before the legal age of 18.[169][170]



Indian cuisine is characterised by a wide variety of regional styles and sophisticated use of herbs and spices. The staple foods in the region are rice (especially in the south and the east) and wheat (predominantly in the north).[171] Spices, such as black pepper which are now consumed world wide, are originally native to the Indian subcontinent. Chili pepper, which was introduced by the Portuguese, is also widely used in Indian cuisine.[172]





One of the fourteen gopurams of the Meenakshi Temple complex in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Dedicated to Hindu God Shiva and his consort Meenakshi, the temple is considered to be the foremost religious and cultural center of Tamil people[173] and is one of the holiest Hindu sites in India.[174]Traditional Indian dress varies across the regions in its colours and styles and depends on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi for men; in addition, stitched clothes such as salwar kameez for women and kurta-pyjama and European-style trousers and shirts for men, are also popular.



Many Indian festivals are religious in origin, although several are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. Some popular festivals are Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Ugadi, Thai Pongal, Holi, Onam, Vijayadashami, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas, Buddha Jayanti, Moharram and Vaisakhi.[175][175] India has three national holidays which are observed in all states and union territories — Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanthi. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in individual states. Religious practices are an integral part of everyday life and are a very public affair.



Indian architecture is one area that represents the diversity of Indian culture. Much of it, including notable monuments such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Mughal architecture and South Indian architecture, comprises a blend of ancient and varied local traditions from several parts of the country and abroad. Vernacular architecture also displays notable regional variation.



Indian music covers a wide range of traditions and regional styles. Classical music largely encompasses the two genres – North Indian Hindustani, South Indian Carnatic traditions and their various offshoots in the form of regional folk music. Regionalised forms of popular music include filmi and folk music; the syncretic tradition of the bauls is a well-known form of the latter.



Indian dance too has diverse folk and classical forms. Among the well-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of West Bengal, Jharkhand , sambalpuri of Orissa , the 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 Orissa and the sattriya of Assam.[176]



Theatre in India often incorporates music, dance, and improvised or written dialogue.[177] Often based on Hindu mythology, but also borrowing from medieval romances, and news of social and political events, Indian theatre includes the bhavai of state of Gujarat, the jatra of West Bengal, the nautanki and ramlila of North India, the tamasha of Maharashtra, the burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, the terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, and the yakshagana of Karnataka.[178]



The Indian film industry is the largest in the world.[179] Bollywood, based in Mumbai, makes commercial Hindi films and is the most prolific film industry in the world.[180] Established traditions also exist in Assamese, Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu language cinemas.[181]



The earliest works of Indian literature were transmitted orally and only later written down.[182] These included works of Sanskrit literature – such as the early Vedas, the epics Mahābhārata and Ramayana, the drama Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya[183] – and the Tamil language Sangam literature.[184] Among Indian writers of the modern era active in Indian languages or English, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in 1913.



Sport

Main article: Sport in India



A 2008 Indian Premier League Twenty20 cricket match being played between the Chennai Super Kings and Kolkata Knight RidersIndia's official national sport is field hockey, administered by Hockey India. The Indian field hockey team won the 1975 Hockey World Cup and 8 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals at the Olympic games,the highest from any national team. However, cricket is the most popular sport; the India national cricket team won the 1983 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, and shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka. India has also won the Asia Cup a record five times.Cricket in India is administered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI); and domestic competitions include the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy and the NKP Salve Challenger Trophy. In addition, BCCI conducts the Indian Premier League, a Twenty20 competition.



Tennis has become increasingly popular, owing to the victories of the India Davis Cup team. Association football is also a popular sport in northeast India, West Bengal, Goa,Tamil Nadu and Kerala.[185] The Indian national football team has won the South Asian Football Federation Cup several times. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India, is also gaining popularity with the rise in the number of Indian Grandmasters.[186] Vishwanathan Anand,an Indian Grandmaster,has won the World Chess Championship four times.



Traditional sports include kabaddi, kho kho, and gilli-danda, which are played nationwide. India is also home to the ancient martial arts, Kalarippayattu and Varma Kalai. The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award are India's highest awards for achievements in sports, while the Dronacharya Award is awarded for excellence in coaching.



The Jaypee Group Circuit in Greater Noida,will be the upcoming hosts of the Indian Grand Prix in 2011.India has hosted several high-profile international sporting events, including the 2003 Afro-Asian Games and the 2007 Military World Games. India has also hosted or co-hosted the 1951 and the 1982 Asian Games, the 1987 and 1996 Cricket World Cup. It has also successfully hosted the 2010 Hockey World Cup and is scheduled to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games and later the 2011 Cricket World Cup.

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