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Bhārat, also known as India (Bhārat Gaṇarājya),[lower-alpha 1] 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. It is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast. It shares land borders with Pakistan to the west;[lower-alpha 2] China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the northeast; and Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives. India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

The Indian subcontinent was home to the urban Indus Valley Civilisation of the 3rd millennium BCE. In the following millennium, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism began to be composed. Social stratification, based on caste, emerged in the first millennium BCE, and Buddhism and Jainism arose. Early political consolidations took place under the Maurya and Gupta empires; the later peninsular Middle Kingdoms influenced cultures as far as southeast Asia. In the medieval era, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived, and Sikhism emerged, all adding to the region's diverse culture. Much of the north fell to the Delhi sultanate; the south was united under the Vijayanagara Empire. The economy expanded in the 17th century in the Mughal Empire. In the mid-18th century, the subcontinent came under British East India Company rule, and in the mid-19th under British crown rule. A nationalist movement emerged in the late 19th century, which later, under Mahatma Gandhi, was noted for nonviolent resistance and led to India's independence in 1947.


The name India is derived from Indus, which originates from the Old Persian word Hindu.[1] The latter term stems from the Sanskrit word Sindhu, which was the historical local appellation for the Indus River.[2] The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ἰνδοί), which translates as "The people of the Indus".[3]

The geographical term Bharat (Bhārat, pronounced [ˈbʱaːrət̪]), which is recognised by the Constitution of India as an official name for the country,[4] is used by many Indian languages in its variations. It is a modernisation of the historical name Bharatavarsha, which traditionally referred to the Indian subcontinent and gained increasing currency from the mid-19th century as a native name for India.[5][6] Scholars believe it to be named after the Vedic tribe of Bhāratas in the second millennium B.C.E.[7] It is also traditionally associated with the rule of the legendary emperor Bharata.[8] Gaṇarājya (literally, people's State) is the Sanskrit/Hindi term for "republic" dating back to the ancient times.[9][10][11]

Hindustan ([ɦɪnd̪ʊˈst̪aːn]) is a Persian name for India dating back to the 3rd century B.C.E. It was introduced into India by the Mughals and widely used since then. Its meaning varied, referring to a region that encompassed northern India and Pakistan or India in its entirety.[5][6][12] Currently, the name may refer to either the northern part of India or the entire country.[12]


Ancient India[edit]

The earliest authenticated human remains in South Asia date to about 30,000 years ago.[13] Nearly contemporaneous Mesolithic rock art sites have been found in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, including at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh.[14] Around 7000 BCE, the first known Neolithic settlements appeared on the subcontinent in Mehrgarh and other sites in western Pakistan.[15] These gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation,[16] the first urban culture in South Asia;[17] it flourished during 2500–1900 BCE in Pakistan and western India.[18] Centred around cities such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Dholavira, and Kalibangan, and relying on varied forms of subsistence, the civilisation engaged robustly in crafts production and wide-ranging trade.[17]

During the period 2000–500 BCE, in terms of culture, many regions of the subcontinent transitioned from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age.[19] The Vedas, the oldest scriptures associated with Hinduism,[20] were composed during this period,[21] and historians have analysed these to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Gangetic Plain.[19] Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent.[22][20] 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.[23][24] On the Deccan Plateau, archaeological evidence from this period suggests the existence of a chiefdom stage of political organisation.[19] In southern India, a progression to sedentary life is indicated by the large number of megalithic monuments dating from this period,[25] as well as by nearby traces of agriculture, irrigation tanks, and craft traditions.[25]

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 the Ganges Plain and the north-western regions had consolidated into 16 major oligarchies and monarchies that were known as the mahajanapadas.[26][27] 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.[28] 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.[29][30][31] In an age of increasing urban wealth, both religions held up renunciation as an ideal,[32] 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.[33] 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.[34][35] 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.[36][37]

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 with West and South-East Asia.[38][39] In North India, Hinduism asserted patriarchal control within the family, leading to increased subordination of women.[40][33] 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.[41][42] Under the Guptas, a renewed Hinduism based on devotion rather than the management of ritual began to assert itself.[43] The renewal was reflected in a flowering of sculpture and architecture, which found patrons among an urban elite.[42] Classical Sanskrit literature flowered as well, and Indian science, astronomy, medicine, and mathematics made significant advances.[42]

Medieval India[edit]

File:Big Temple-Temple.jpg
The granite tower of Brihadeeswarar Temple in Thanjavur 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.[44] 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 Chalukya ruler of the Deccan.[45] When his successor attempted to expand eastwards, he was defeated by the Pala king of Bengal.[45] 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.[45] No ruler of this period was able to create an empire and consistently control lands much beyond his core region.[44] 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.[46] The caste system consequently began to show regional differences.[46]

In the 6th and 7th centuries, the first devotional hymns were created in the Tamil language.[47] They were imitated all over India and led to both the resurgence of Hinduism and the development of all modern languages of the subcontinent.[47] Indian royalty, big and small, and the temples they patronised, drew citizens in great numbers to the capital cities, which became economic hubs as well.[48] Temple towns of various sizes began to appear everywhere as India underwent another urbanisation.[48] 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 Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, and Java.[49] 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.[49]

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.[50] 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.[51][52] 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.[53][54] The sultanate's raiding and weakening of the regional kingdoms of South India paved the way for the indigenous Vijayanagara Empire.[55] Embracing a strong Shaivite tradition and building upon the military technology of the sultanate, the empire came to control much of peninsular India,[56] and was to influence South Indian society for long afterwards.[55]

Early modern India[edit]

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,[57] fell again to the superior mobility and firepower of a new generation of Central Asian warriors.[58] 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[59][60] and diverse and inclusive ruling elites,[61] leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule.[62] 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.[61] The Mughal state's economic policies, deriving most revenues from agriculture[63] and mandating that taxes be paid in the well-regulated silver currency,[64] caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.[62] The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion,[62] resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture.[65] 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.[66] Expanding commerce during Mughal rule gave rise to new Indian commercial and political elites along the coasts of southern and eastern India.[66] As the empire disintegrated, many among these elites were able to seek and control their own affairs.[67]

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.[68][69] 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.[70][68][71][72] 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.[73] 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.[68] 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.[74]

Modern India[edit]

File:British Indian Empire 1909 Imperial Gazetteer of India.jpg
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. Technological changes—among them, railways, canals, and the telegraph—were introduced not long after their introduction in Europe.[75][76][77][78] 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.[79][80] 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.[81][82] In the decades following, public life gradually emerged all over India, leading eventually to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885.[83][84][85][86]

Jawaharlal Nehru sharing a joke with Mahatma Gandhi, Mumbai, 6 July 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.[87] There was an increase in the number of large-scale famines,[88] and, despite the risks of infrastructure development borne by Indian taxpayers, little industrial employment was generated for Indians.[89] There were also salutary effects: commercial cropping, especially in the newly canalled Punjab, led to increased food production for internal consumption.[90] The railway network provided critical famine relief,[91] notably reduced the cost of moving goods,[91] and helped nascent Indian-owned industry.[90]

After World War I, in which approximately one million Indians served,[92] a new period began. It was marked by British reforms but also repressive 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.[93] During the 1930s, slow legislative reform was enacted by the British; the Indian National Congress won victories in the resulting elections.[94] 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.[95]

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.[96] In the 60 years since, India has had a mixed record of successes and failures.[97] It has remained a democracy with civil liberties, an active Supreme Court, and a largely independent press.[97] 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,[98] and increased its geopolitical clout. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture.[97] Yet, India is also shaped by seemingly unyielding poverty, both rural and urban;[97] by religious and caste-related violence;[99] by Maoist-inspired Naxalite insurgencies;[100] and by separatism in Jammu and Kashmir and in Northeast India.[101] It has unresolved territorial disputes with China[102] and with Pakistan.[102] The India–Pakistan nuclear rivalry came to a head in 1998.[103] 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.[104]


Map of India. Most of India is yellow (elevation 100–1000 m). Some areas in the south and mid-east are brown (above 1000 m). Major river valleys are green (below 100 m).
A topographic map of India

India comprises the bulk of the Indian subcontinent, lying atop the Indian tectonic plate, and part of the Indo-Australian Plate.[105] India's defining geological processes began 75 million years ago when the Indian plate, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a north-eastward drift caused by seafloor spreading to its south-west, and later, south and south-east.[105] Simultaneously, the vast Tethyn oceanic crust, to its northeast, began to subduct under the Eurasian plate.[105] These dual processes, driven by convection in the Earth's mantle, both created the Indian Ocean and caused the Indian continental crust eventually to under-thrust Eurasia and to uplift the Himalayas.[105] Immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough that rapidly filled with river-borne sediment[106] and now constitutes the Indo-Gangetic Plain.[107] Cut off from the plain by the ancient Aravalli Range lies the Thar Desert.[108]

The original Indian plate survives as peninsular India, the oldest and geologically most stable part of India. It extends as far north as the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in central India. These parallel chains run from the Arabian Sea coast in Gujarat in the west to the coal-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand in the east.[109] To the south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the west and east by coastal ranges known as the Western and Eastern Ghats;[110] the plateau contains the country's oldest rock formations, 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[lower-alpha 3] and 68° 7' and 97° 25' east longitude.[111]

A shining white snow-clad range, framed against a turquoise sky. In the middle ground, a ridge descends from the right to form a saddle in the centre of the photograph, partly in shadow. In the near foreground, a loop of a road is seen.
The Kedar Range of the Greater Himalayas rises behind Kedarnath Temple (Indian state of Uttarakhand), which is one of the twelve jyotirlinga shrines.

India's coastline measures 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi) in length; 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 island chains.[112] According to the Indian naval hydrographic charts, the mainland coastline consists of the following: 43% sandy beaches; 11% rocky shores, including cliffs; and 46% mudflats or marshy shores.[112]

Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, both of which drain into the Bay of Bengal.[113] Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and the Kosi; the latter's extremely low gradient often leads to severe floods and course changes.[114] 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;[115] and the Narmada and the Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea.[116] Coastal features include the marshy Rann of Kutch of western India and the alluvial Sundarbans delta of eastern India; the latter is shared with Bangladesh.[117] 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.[118]

The Indian climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the economically and culturally pivotal summer and winter monsoons.[119] The Himalayas prevent cold Central Asian katabatic winds from blowing in, keeping the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes.[120][121] The Thar Desert plays a crucial role in attracting the moisture-laden south-west summer monsoon winds that, between June and October, provide the majority of India's rainfall.[119] Four major climatic groupings predominate in India: tropical wet, tropical dry, subtropical humid, and montane.[122]


File:Barack Obama at Parliament of India in New Delhi addressing Joint session of both houses 2010.jpg
A parliamentary joint session being held in the Sansad Bhavan.

India is the world's most populous democracy.[123] A parliamentary republic with a multi-party system,[124] it has six recognised national parties, including the Indian National Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), and more than 40 regional parties.[125] The Congress is considered centre-left in Indian political culture,[126] and the BJP right-wing.[127][128][129] For most of the period between 1950—when India first became a republic—and the late 1980s, the Congress held a majority in the parliament. Since then, however, it has increasingly shared the political stage with the BJP,[130] as well as with powerful regional parties which have often forced the creation of multi-party coalitions at the centre.[131]

In the Republic of India's first three general elections, in 1951, 1957, and 1962, the Jawaharlal Nehru-led Congress won easy victories. On Nehru's death in 1964, Lal Bahadur Shastri briefly became prime minister; he was succeeded, after his own unexpected death in 1966, by Indira Gandhi, who went on to lead the Congress to election victories in 1967 and 1971. Following public discontent with the state of emergency she declared in 1975, the Congress was voted out of power in 1977; the then-new Janata Party, which had opposed the emergency, was voted in. Its government lasted just over three years. Voted back into power in 1980, the Congress saw a change in leadership in 1984, when Indira Gandhi was assassinated; she was succeeded by her son Rajiv Gandhi, who won an easy victory in the general elections later that year. The Congress was voted out again in 1989 when a National Front coalition, led by the newly formed Janata Dal in alliance with the Left Front, won the elections; that government too proved relatively short-lived, lasting just under two years.[132] Elections were held again in 1991; no party won an absolute majority. The Congress, as the largest single party, was able to form a minority government led by P. V. Narasimha Rao.[133]

File:Rashtrapati Bhavan Wide New Delhi India.jpg
The Rashtrapati Bhavan is the official residence of the president of India.

A two-year period of political turmoil followed the general election of 1996. Several short-lived alliances shared power at the centre. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996; it was followed by two comparatively long-lasting United Front coalitions, which depended on external support. In 1998, the BJP was able to form a successful coalition, the National Democratic Alliance (NDA). Led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the NDA became the first non-Congress, coalition government to complete a five-year term.[134] In the 2004 Indian general elections, again no party won an absolute majority, but the Congress emerged as the largest single party, forming another successful coalition: the United Progressive Alliance (UPA). It had the support of left-leaning parties and MPs who opposed the BJP. The UPA returned to power in the 2009 general election with increased numbers, and it no longer required external support from India's communist parties.[135] That year, Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1957 and 1962 to be re-elected to a consecutive five-year term.[136] In the 2014 general election, the BJP became the first political party since 1984 to win a majority and govern without the support of other parties.[137] The Prime Minister of India is Narendra Modi, who was formerly Chief Minister of Gujarat.


File:Girls in Kargil.jpg
Women in Kargil, Jammu and Kashmir

With 1,210,193,422 residents reported in the 2011 provisional census report,[138] India is the world's second-most populous country. Its population grew by 17.64% during 2001–2011,[139] compared to 21.54% growth in the previous decade (1991–2001).[139] The human sex ratio, according to the 2011 census, is 940 females per 1,000 males.[138] The median age was 24.9 in the 2001 census.[140] The first post-colonial census, conducted in 1951, counted 361.1 million people.[141] 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.[142] India continues to face several public health-related challenges.[143][144]

Life expectancy in India is at 68 years, with life expectancy for women being 69.6 years and for men being 67.3.[145] There are around 50 physicians per 100,000 Indians.[146] The number of Indians living in urban areas has grown by 31.2% between 1991 and 2001.[147] Yet, in 2001, over 70% lived in rural areas.[148][149] 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.[150] According to the 2011 census, there are 53 million-plus urban agglomerations in India; among them Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Ahmedabad, in decreasing order by population.[151] The literacy rate in 2011 was 74.04%: 65.46% among females and 82.14% among males.[152] 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.[150] Kerala is the most literate state with 93.91% literacy; while Bihar the least with 63.82%.[152]

India is home to two major language families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by 24% of the population). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austroasiatic and Sino-Tibetan language families. India has no national language.[153] Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of the government.[154][155] English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a "subsidiary official language";[156] 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 22 "scheduled languages". The Constitution of India recognises 212 scheduled tribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country's population.[157] The 2011 census reported that the religion in India with the largest number of followers was Hinduism (79.8% of the population), followed by Islam (14.23%); the remaining were Christianity (2.30%), Sikhism (1.72%), Buddhism (0.70%), Jainism (0.36%) and others[lower-alpha 4] (0.9%).[158] India has the world's largest Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian, and Bahá'í populations, and has the third-largest Muslim population—the largest for a non-Muslim majority country.[159][160]


File:Hampi Royal Area, Vijayanagara Empire, Karnataka.jpg
Hampi, seat of the Vijayanagara Empire

Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years.[161] During the Vedic period (c. 1700 – 500 BCE), the foundations of Hindu philosophy, mythology, theology and literature were laid, and many beliefs and practices which still exist today, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga, and mokṣa, were established.[3] India is notable for its religious diversity, with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Jainism among the nation's major religions.[162] The predominant religion, Hinduism, has been shaped by various historical schools of thought, including those of the Upanishads,[163] the Yoga Sutras, the Bhakti movement,[162] and by Buddhist philosophy.[164]

Art and architecture[edit]

Much of Indian architecture, including the Taj Mahal, other works of Mughal architecture, and South Indian architecture, blends ancient local traditions with imported styles.[165] Vernacular architecture is also highly regional in it flavours. Vastu shastra, literally "science of construction" or "architecture" and ascribed to Mamuni Mayan,[166] explores how the laws of nature affect human dwellings;[167] it employs precise geometry and directional alignments to reflect perceived cosmic constructs.[168] 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".[169] 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 the UNESCO World Heritage List as "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage".[170] Indo-Saracenic Revival architecture, developed by the British in the late 19th century, drew on Indo-Islamic architecture.[171]


The earliest literary writings in India, composed between 1700 BCE and 1200 CE, were in the Sanskrit language.[172][173] Prominent works of this Sanskrit literature include epics such as the Mahābhārata and the Ramayana, the dramas of Kālidāsa such as the Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya.[174][175][176] 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.[177][178][179][180] 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 Kabīr, Tulsīdās, 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.[181] 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,[182] who was a recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.

Performing arts[edit]

File:Rukmini Devi.jpg
Rukmini Devi Arundale, one of the foremost revivalists of bharatnatyam dance in the 20th century, performs at a concert.

Indian music ranges over various traditions and regional styles. Classical music encompasses two genres and their various folk offshoots: the northern Hindustani and southern Carnatic schools.[183] Regionalised popular forms include filmi and folk music; the syncretic tradition of the bauls is a well-known form of the latter. Indian dance also features diverse folk and classical forms. Among the better-known folk dances are the bhangra of Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of Odisha, West Bengal and Jharkhand, garba and dandiya of Gujarat, 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 Odisha, and the sattriya of Assam.[184] Theatre in India melds music, dance, and improvised or written dialogue.[185] Often based on Hindu mythology, but also borrowing from medieval romances or social and political events, Indian theatre includes the bhavai of Gujarat, the jatra of West Bengal, the nautanki and ramlila of North India, tamasha of Maharashtra, burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, and the yakshagana of Karnataka.[186]

Motion pictures, television[edit]

The Indian film industry produces the world's most-watched cinema.[187] Established regional cinematic traditions exist in the Assamese, Bengali, Bhojpuri, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Odia, Tamil, and Telugu languages.[188] South Indian cinema attracts more than 75% of national film revenue.[189]

Television broadcasting began in India in 1959 as a state-run medium of communication, and had slow expansion for more than two decades.[190][191] The state monopoly on television broadcast ended in the 1990s and, since then, satellite channels have increasingly shaped popular culture of Indian society.[192] Today, television is the most penetrative media in India; industry estimates indicate that as of 2012 there are over 554 million TV consumers, 462 million with satellite and/or cable connections, compared to other forms of mass media such as press (350 million), radio (156 million) or internet (37 million).[193]


File:Indian Spices.jpg
An assortment of Indian spices

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), rice, whole-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.[194] The spice trade between India and Europe is often cited by historians as the primary catalyst for Europe's Age of Discovery.[195]


File:Northern and Western Indian Home Cooked Lunch and Southern Indian Thali Dinner.jpg
Top: A North Indian home-cooked tiffin lunch as delivered to an office by a dabbawala. Bottom: A South Indian thali-style dinner as served in a restaurant.

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".[196] India declared untouchability to be illegal[197] 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.[198][199]

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.[200] An overwhelming majority of Indians, with their consent, have their marriages arranged by their parents or other elders in the family.[201] Marriage is thought to be for life,[201] and the divorce rate is extremely low.[202] As of 2001, just 1.6 percent of Indian women were divorced but this figure was rising due to their education and economic independence.[202] Child marriages are common, especially in rural areas; many women wed before reaching 18, which is their legal marriageable age.[203] 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.[204][205] However a report from 2011 has shown improvement in the gender ratio.[206] The payment of dowry, although illegal, remains widespread across class lines.[207] Deaths resulting from dowry, mostly from bride burning, are on the rise.[208]

Many Indian festivals are religious in origin. The best known include Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Thai Pongal, Holi, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas, and Vaisakhi.[209][210] India has three national holidays which are observed in all states and union territories – Republic Day, Independence 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 sari for 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.[211] 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.[212]


In India, several traditional indigenous sports remain fairly popular, such as kabaddi, kho kho, pehlwani and gilli-danda. Some of the earliest forms of Asian martial arts, such as kalarippayattu, musti yuddha, silambam, 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.[213][214] Pachisi, from which parcheesi derives, was played on a giant marble court by Akbar.[215]

See also[edit]


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  1. See names of India in its official languages.
  2. The Government of India also regards Afghanistan as a bordering country, as it considers all of Kashmir to be part of India. However, this is disputed, and the region bordering Afghanistan is administered by Pakistan. Source: "Ministry of Home Affairs (Department of Border Management)" [archive] (PDF). Retrieved 1 September 2008.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. The northernmost point under Indian control is the disputed Siachen Glacier in Jammu and Kashmir; however, the Government of India regards the entire region of the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, including the Gilgit-Baltistan administered by Pakistan, to be its territory. It therefore assigns the longitude 37° 6' to its northernmost point.
  4. Besides specific religions, the last two categories in the 2011 Census were "Other religions and persuasions" (0.65%) and "Religion not stated" (0.23%).


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The Cultural Heritage of India (in nine volumes): Ramakrishna Ashram

Foundations of Indian Culture (in two volumes): G.C. Pandey

The Fundamental Unity of India: Radhakumud Mookerji

India in Kalidasa: Bhagavat Saran Upadhyaya

The Arthashastra of Kautilya: R.P. Kangle

The Complete Works: Swami Vivekananda

Essays in National Idealism: Ananda K Coomaraswamy

Trade and Trade Routes in Ancient India: Motichandra

The World of Courtesans: Motichandra

Suvarnadvipa, Ancient Indian Colonies in the Far East: R C Majumdar

Rama and Ayodhya: Meenakshi Jain

History of the Dharmashastras (in six volumes): Pandurang Vaman Kane

India: The Land of Kalpasutras: Ram Gopal

Manusmriti: Translated by Ganganath Jha (suggested by Hari Ravikumar)

Karpasa in Prehistoric India: A Chronological and Cultural Clue: K D Sethna

Legal and Constitutional History of India: Rama Jois

A Case for India: Will Durant

Nature of the Indian Society: Dharampal

India in the Eighteenth Century: Dharampal

Transition from an Indigenous to the Colonial System: Dharampal

A Beautiful Tree: Dharampal

Annam Bahukurvita: Dr. J.K. Bajaj and M.D. Srinivas

Hindu Polity: K P Jayaswal

Essentials of Hindutva: Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

The Indian War of Independence, 1857: Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

Six Glorious Epochs of Indian History: Vinayak Damodar Savarkar

India’s Rebirth: Sri Aurobindo

Is India Civilized? by John George Woodroffe

Sri Aurobindo’s Foundations of Indian Culture.

Ancient Indian Education: Brahmanical and Buddhist: Radha Kumud Mookerji

Travels in India (in two volumes): Jean Baptiste Tavernier

The Untouchables: Who Were They? And Why They Became Untouchables: B.R. Ambedkar

Who were the Shudras? B.R. Ambedkar

Warfare in Ancient India: Organizational & Operational Dimensions: Uma Prasad Thapliyal

Military History of India: Uma Prasad Thapliyal

Festivals, Sports and Pastimes of Ancient India: V. Raghavan


This article includes modified content derived from Wikipedia. See source [1] [archive]

Censorship and bias on wikipedia[edit]

Wikipedia in the very first sentence mistakenly says that the sole official English language name of the nation is 'Republic of India'.[2] [archive]

Bharat controversy[edit] [archive] [archive] [archive] [archive] [archive]

External links[edit] [archive] [archive]