Introduction

The Republic of India, which lies across the Tropic of Cancer, comprises most of the Indian sub-continent. India is the largest democracy in the world, the seventh largest country by area, with the second largest population. Located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere, it is bound by Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. The Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Bay of Bengal border its coastline.

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India’s ancient and diverse culture, is linked back to at least 5000 years, with successive waves of migration absorbed into the fabric of Indian life, has enriched it time and again to make a multi-cultural nation with a rich diversity of languages, customs, cuisines, religions, literature and arts. Within this kaleidoscope of immense variety there is a thread of continuity that has determined Indian civilization and social structure.

On 15th August 1947 India attained independence from the British rule and adopted a parliamentary system of government with a union of states, declaring itself a Sovereign Democratic Republic on 26th January 1950. The country has been divided into 30 States and 7 Union Territories. The States have considerable autonomy while the Union Territories are governed by the President through appointed administrators. At the village level there is a system of Panchayati Raj, or a pattern of self-government that oversees the planning and execution of projects in district, block and village levels.

India being a secular state is home to Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism and several other religions. Hinduism, the dominant faith, is practised by over 80% of the population.

Seventy percent of the population lives in rural India with agriculture and agro-based small industry providing the major occupation. A wide variety of crops and vegetables are grown that has made it a surplus food producing country. Animal husbandry, dairy, poultry and the fishery industry are also well developed.

India has become one of the top five industrialized Countries of the world, producing every conceivable industrial item as well as consumer goods. With large industrial cities and urban centres developing, a new middle class and a new working class have emerged where the social and cultural order is distinctly pluralistic.

India, with its well-diversified economy, initiated a process of liberalization through a restructuring process, which has created a new spirit of economic freedom with faster growth rates. The series of ambitious economic reforms aimed at deregulating the country and stimulating foreign investment was rooted in a political consensus that spans her diverse political parties.

India’s stable and committed democracy has no fundamental conflict between its political and economic systems. Its political institutions have fostered an open society with a balance of collective and individual rights and an environment supportive of free economic enterprise. India’s dynamic and highly competitive private sector has long determined the prevailing economic activity, accounting for over 75% of its Gross Domestic Product. India is one of the most exciting emerging markets in the world with skilled managerial and technical manpower that match the best available in the world.

A free and vibrant press, a judiciary which can and does overrule the government, a sophisticated legal system, albeit accused of being exceedingly slow, and a zealous intelligentsia which actively participates in debating ideas and issues in open forums, are hallmarks that distinguish India.

India rewards the travelers with her timeless landscapes, spectacular architecture, monumental history, cultural kaleidoscope and undeniable aura of romance and mysticism. India is a vast land of contrasts that blend, of harmony in variance. To explore India is to discover unending secrets to the mystery of life, to enjoy India is to celebrate the very fact of living.

The Republic of India, which lies across the Tropic of Cancer, comprises most of the Indian sub-continent. India is, by area, the seventh largest country in the world with the Indian mainland covering an area of 3,287,782 sq.km. From north to south, the country measures 3,214 km and from east to west 2,933 km. India’s land frontiers are approximately 15,200 km long and its coastline is about 6,100 km.

China, Nepal and Bhutan are India’s neighbours on the north-east and Pakistan and Afganistan on the north-west. To the east of India lies Myanmar, while surrounded by India’s eastern and north-eastern states is Bangladesh. Eastern India is, as a result, linked to the north-eastern territories by a strip of land that is only about 50 km wide at its narrowest.

Below the broad territorial expanse of northern India is peninsular India, with the Arabian Sea to its west and the Bay of Bengal to the east. Just south of peninsular India is Sri Lanka, separated from the mainland of India by Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal and Lakshadweep and Minicoy Islands in the Arabian Sea are integral parts of the Indian Territory.

India’s great landmass is divided into four fairly clear regions: the northern mountain region, the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the desert area and the southern peninsular. The mountain region, which stretches along almost the entire northernmost part of the country, comprises three almost parallel ranges extending over a distance of around 2,400 km. In these mountain ranges are found some of the highest peaks in the world.

The river valleys of the Indus, Ganga and Bramhaputra merge to form the Indo-Gangetic Plain, which extends across Northern India for about 2,400 km, with a width varying from 260 to 350 km. This almost flat plain is amongst the most densely populated areas on earth. The desert region of India comprises the ‘great desert’ and the ‘little desert’. The former extends northwards from the edge of the Rann of Kachchh and covers virtually the whole of the Rajasthan-Sind frontier. The ‘little desert’ stretches from between Jaisalmer and Jodhpur to a little beyond north Rajasthan.

The Peninsular plateau, separated from the Indo-Gangetic Plain by the Aravalli, Vindhya, Satpura, Maikala and Ajanta mountain ranges, is flanked by the Eastern Ghats and the Western Ghats, the former averaging about 600 metres in height and the latter around 1,000 metres (with certain peaks over 2,000 metres). Joining both Ghats at the southern point of the great plateau are the Nilgiri Hills. The country has many large rivers, the most important of which are the Ganges, Jamuna, Brahmaputra, a stretch of the Indus, Godavari, Krishna, Mahanadi, Narmada and Cauvery. All these rivers are navigable in parts.

India with its varied terrain and climatic conditions can be broadly defined as having four climatic seasons : Winter (December to February), Summer (March to May), South-West Monsoons (June to September) and Post-monsoon season (October to November). The winter months are pleasant throughout India with bright sunny days, except in the mountainous regions of the North where the temperature can fall steeply associated with heavy snowfalls

The summer months are hot in most parts of India. The hill resorts of Himachal Pradesh and Kashmir, the Garhwal and Kumaon hills, Sikkim, West Bengal and the Nilgiri hills gain popularity during the summer holiday season when educational institutions are closed. The south-west monsoon usually breaks around the beginning of June on the west coast and reaches elsewhere later. India receives the major share of its rainfall between June and September. The post-monsoon season is generally the most pleasant time of year throughout the country.

Rainfall is very heavy in the north-eastern region, the western slopes of the Western Ghats and parts of the Himalayas, all of which receive over 2,000 mm annually. The eastern part of the peninsula, extending up to the northern plains, receives rainfall varying from 1,000 to 2,000 mm a year, while the area from Western Deccan up to the Punjab plains gets between 100 mm and 500 mm a year. Rajasthan , Kachchh and Ladakh have hardly any rainfall.

Forests in the western Himalayan region range from conifers and broad-leaved trees in the temperate zone to silver fir, silver birch and junipers at the highest level of the alpine zone. The temperate zone of the eastern Himalayan region has forests of oaks, laurels, maples and rhododendrons, among other species.

Vegetation of the Assam region in the east is luxuriant with evergreen forests, occasional thick clumps of bamboo and tall grasses. The Gangetic plain is largely under cultivation. The Deccan tableland supports vegetation from scrub to mixed deciduous forests. The Malabar region is rich in forest vegetation. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands have evergreen, mangrove, beach and diluvia forests. Much of the country’s flora originated three million years ago and are unique to the sub-continent.

With 1,210,193,422 residents reported in the 2011 provisional census, India is the world’s second-most populous country. Its population grew at 1.76% per annum during 2001–2011, down from 2.13% per annum in the previous decade (1991–2001). The human sex ratio, according to the 2011 census, is 940 females per 1,000 males.

The number of Indians living in urban areas has grown by 31.2% between 1991 and 2001. Yet, in 2001, over 70% lived in rural areas. According to the 2001 census, there are 27 million-plus cities in India; among them Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore,Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune are the most populous metropolitan areas. The literacy rate in 2011 was 74.04%: 65.46% among females and 82.14% among males. Kerala is the most literate state with 95.5% literacy; while Bihar the least with 67.8%.

India is home to two major language families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families. India has no national language. Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of the government. English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a “subsidiary official language”; it is important in education, especially as a medium of higher education. Each state and union territory has one or more official languages, and the constitution recognises in particular 21 “scheduled languages”.

India lies within the Indomalaya eco zone and contains three biodiversity hot spots. One of 17 mega diverse countries, it hosts 8.6% of all mammalian, 13.7% of all avian, 7.9% of all reptilian, 6% of all amphibian, 12.2% of all piscine, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species. Endemism is high among plants, 33%, and among ecoregions such as the shola forests. Habitat 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 moist deciduous sal forest of eastern India; the dry deciduous teak forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain. Under 12% of India’s landmass bears thick jungle. The medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies, is a key Indian tree. The luxuriant pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment.

Many Indian species descend from taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated more than 105 million years before present. Peninsular India’s subsequent movement towards and collision with the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. Epochal volcanism and climatic changes 20 million years ago forced a mass extinction. Mammals then entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes flanking the rising Himalaya. Thus, while 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians are endemic, only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are. Among them are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and Beddome’s toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172 IUCN-designated threatened animal species, or 2.9% of endangered forms. These include the Asiatic lion, the Bengal tiger, and the Indian White-rumped Vulture, which, by ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-laced cattle, nearly went extinct.

The pervasive and ecologically devastating human encroachment of recent decades has critically endangered Indian 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 wilderness; the Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1980 and amendments added in 1988. India hosts more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries and thirteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 was enacted by the Government of India on 5 February 2003. The Act extends to the whole of India and reaffirms the sovereign rights of the country over its biological resources. Subsequently the Government of India published Biological Diversity Rules, 2004 (15 April 2004).

The Rules under section 22 states that ‘every local body shall constitute a Biodiversity Management Committee (BMC’s) within its area of jurisdiction’. First BMC of the Ahmednagar district of Maharashtra was formed in the village Pimpri Gawali.

The cultural diversity of India allows it’s people to use the following languages.

  • Assamese
  • Bengali
  • Bodo
  • Dogri
  • Gujarati
  • Hindi
  • Kannada
  • Kashmiri
  • Konkani
  • Maithili
  • Malayalam
  • Manipuri (also Meiteior Meithei)
  • Marathi
  • Nepali
  • Oriya
  • Punjabi
  • Sanskrit
  • Santali
  • Sindhi
  • Tamil
  • Telugu
  • Urdu
  • The name ‘India’ is derived from the River Indus, the valleys around which were the home of the early settlers. The Aryan worshipers referred to the river Indus as the Sindhu. The Persian invaders converted it into Hindu. The name ‘Hindustan’ combines Sindhu and Hindu and thus refers to the land of the Hindus.
  • Algebra, Trigonometry and Calculus are studies, which originated in India.
  • The world’s highest cricket ground is in Chail, Himachal Pradesh. Built in 1893 after leveling a hilltop, this cricket pitch is 2444 meters above sea level.
  • Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine known to mankind. The Father of Medicine, Charaka, consolidated Ayurveda 2500 years ago.
  • India exports software to 90 countries.
  • Jainism and Buddhism were founded in India in 600 B.C. and 500 B.C. respectively.
  • Islam is India’s and the world’s second largest religion.
  • Jews and Christians have lived continuously in India since 200 B.C. and 52 A.D. respectively.
  • Sikhism originated in the Holy city of Amritsar in Punjab. Famous for housing the Golden Temple, the city was founded in 1577.
  • India is the world’s largest, oldest, continuous civilization.
  • India is the world’s Largest democracy.
  • India never invaded any country in her last 1000 years of history.
  • India invented the number system. Zero was invented by Aryabhatta.
  • When many cultures were only nomadic forest dwellers over 5000 years ago, Indians established Harappan culture in Sindhu Valley (Indus Valley Civilization).
  • There are 300,000 active mosques in India , more than in any other country, including the Muslim world.
  • Sanskrit is the mother of all the European Languages . Sanskrit is the most suitable language for computer software – a report in Forbes magazine July 1987.
  • Chess (Shataranja or AshtaPada) was invented in India.
  • India has the second largest pool of Scientist and Engineers in the World.
  • India is the largest English speaking nation in the world.
  • India is the only country other than US and Japan, to have built a super computer on its own.
  • India has the largest number of Post Offices in the world.
  • One of the largest employer in the world is the Indian Railways , employing over a million people.
  • India was one of the richest countries till the time of British rule in the early 17th Century. Christopher Columbus, attracted by India’s wealth, had come looking for a sea route to India when he discovered America by mistake.
  • The Baily Bridge is the highest bridge in the world. It is located in the Ladakh valley between the Dras and Suru rivers in the Himalayan mountains. It was built by the Indian Army in August 1982.
  • The Vishnu Temple in the city of Tirupati built in the 10th century, is the world’s largest religious pilgrimagedestination. Larger than either Rome or Mecca, an average of 30,000 visitors donate $6 million (US) to the temple everyday.
  • Varanasi, also known as Benaras, was called “the Ancient City” when Lord Buddha visited it in 500 B.C., and is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the world today.
  • Martial Arts were first created in India, and later spread to Asia by Buddhist missionaries.
  • Yoga has its origins in India and has existed for over 5,000 years.

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