India country overview

Geography, People, Culture, and Economic Profile

India information index

India summary

Learn about the ethnic groups, the Highlands, and the culture of India

India is a sovereign nation situated in the vast expanse of South Asia. Comprising 28 states and eight union territories, the country has established its national capital in New Delhi. This city, conceptualized in the 20th century, lies to the south of the historical epicenter of Old Delhi and functions as the administrative heart of India. The nation operates under a constitutional republic framework and serves a highly diverse demographic, which includes a myriad of ethnic groups and a linguistic variety that spans hundreds of dialects. In 2023, India was recognized by the United Nations as the most populous country in the world.

The archaeological record indicates that around 2600 to 2000 BCE, the Indus civilization, known for its advanced urban culture, was prevalent in the northwestern sector of the Indian subcontinent. Since then, India has largely remained a self-sufficient political and cultural entity, fostering a unique heritage predominantly linked to Hinduism, with its origins deeply rooted in the Indus civilization. India is also the birthplace of other major religions, such as Buddhism and Jainism, which, despite their reduced contemporary presence, have left an indelible mark on the nation’s history. Over the centuries, India has cultivated a profound intellectual tradition in various disciplines, including mathematics, astronomy, architecture, literature, music, and the fine arts.

The iconic Taj Mahal, situated in Agra, was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1983. Similarly, the Rajput fort in Jaisalmer, Rajasthan, gained the same status in 2013, standing as a testament to India’s rich historical tapestry.

India’s historical narrative has been punctuated by incursions from beyond its northern mountain ranges. The advent of Islam, introduced by Arab, Turkish, Persian, and other invaders from the northwest as early as the 8th century CE, played a significant role in shaping the subcontinent’s destiny. Over time, many of these invaders established their presence in the region, leading to a significant Muslim rule by the 13th century. The exploration of Vasco da Gama in 1498 and the ensuing dominance of European maritime powers marked the beginning of substantial external influences via maritime routes, culminating in the decline of the Muslim ruling class and the incorporation of India into the British Empire.

The direct governance by the British, initiated in 1858, brought about a political and economic consolidation of the subcontinent. With the cessation of British colonial rule on August 14-15, 1947, a date commemorated as Independence Day, the subcontinent was divided on religious grounds into two nations: India, predominantly Hindu, and Pakistan, primarily Muslim, with the latter’s eastern segment eventually becoming Bangladesh. Post-independence, several British institutional legacies persisted, such as the parliamentary system of governance. English continued its role as a significant lingua franca, and India retained its membership within the Commonwealth. While Hindi was designated the official language, numerous regional languages also attained official recognition, and a dynamic English-language intellectual community continued to flourish.

India stands as a testament to one of the most ethnically diverse nations globally. It is a mosaic of various religions and sects, encompassing a vast array of castes and tribes. Additionally, the country boasts a linguistic richness with over a dozen major languages and numerous minor dialects stemming from distinct language families that bear no relation to one another. Despite this diversity, religious minorities such as Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Jains constitute a considerable segment of India’s population.

Efforts to cultivate a sense of national unity within this diverse demographic have been earnest, although communal tensions persist and have occasionally led to violent conflicts. Nevertheless, progressive social legislation has made significant strides in redressing the inequities faced by historically marginalized communities, including the so-called “untouchable” castes, tribal groups, women, and other traditionally underprivileged sections of society.

At the dawn of its independence, India was fortunate to have leaders of exceptional calibre, including the eminent Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru. Their leadership not only inspired the Indian populace but also elevated India’s stature on the international stage. The nation has since assumed a more prominent role in global affairs.

India’s trajectory of growth is evident in its expanding physical and cultural prosperity, despite persistent internal challenges and economic disparities. The country’s development is reflected in its sophisticated infrastructure, a robust and varied industrial sector, an impressive contingent of scientific and engineering expertise (among the world’s largest), and the rapid progress of its agricultural sector. India’s cultural vitality is globally recognized through its contributions to music, literature, and film.

While India’s demographic remains predominantly rural, it is home to three of the world’s largest and most cosmopolitan urban centers: Mumbai (formerly Bombay), Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), and Delhi. Additionally, cities like Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), Chennai (formerly Madras), and Hyderabad are emerging as global hubs for high-technology and innovation, attracting the presence of leading international information technology and software corporations.

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