India at a glance
A blend of the traditional and the modern, India is one of the oldest civilizations and the world's largest democracy. It is home to 1 billion-plus people professing various faiths and speaking in different tongues. But what binds them together is a sense of 'Indianness' which is hard to define, but could be sensed instinctively amid all this mind-boggling diversity. A vibrant multi-lingual, multi-cultural and multi-faith society, India is seen by many as a model pluralistic society based on its twin ethos of tolerance and mutual respect. Comprising twenty-eight states and seven union territories, India is home to all major religions of the world. But the state makes no distinction between them, allowing each Indian citizen constitutional guarantees to pursue freedom in the broadest sense - freedom of expression and freedom to pursue the religion of one's choice.
This dazzling diversity has spawned a unique composite culture and created an unmatched reservoir of talent and enterprise in the country. People are India's greatest resource and strength. And it can be seen in all-encompassing socio-economic progress this nation has made during the last 61 years of its independence. The world has taken note and has been generous with its praise of the India Growth Story. Small wonder, India is now seen as an emerging Asian power and an important participant in the ongoing search for global solutions to global problems ranging from terrorism and poverty eradication to climate change and energy security.
India has become self-sufficient in agricultural production and is now the tenth industrialised country in the world. It is the sixth nation to have gone into outer space, not to militarise it, but to create a better life for its people. Anybody coming to India for the first time or wishing to know it better will be struck by its sheer size and diversity. The country is spread over an area of 32,87,2631 square km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off as it is by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bound by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.
GEOGRAPHY: Location: India, with an area of 3.3 million sq. km, is a subcontinent. The peninsula is separated from mainland Asia by the Himalayas. The country lies between 8° 4' and 37° 6' north of the Equator and is surrounded by the Bay of Bengal in the east, the Arabian Sea in the west and the Indian Ocean to the south.
The mainland comprises four regions, namely the great mountain zone, plains of the Ganga and the Indus, the desert region, and the southern peninsula.
The Himalayas form the highest mountain range in the world, extending 2,500 km over northern India. Bound by the Indus river in the west and the Brahmaputra in the east, the three parallel ranges, the Himadri, Himachal and Shivaliks have deep canyons gorged by the rivers flowing into the Gangetic plain.
Indian Standard Time GMT + 05:30
Area 3.3 Million sq. km
Telephone Country Code +91
Border: Countries Afghanistan and Pakistan to the north-west; China, Bhutan and Nepal to the north; Myanmar to the east; and Bangladesh to the east of West Bengal. Sri Lanka is separated from India by a narrow channel of sea, formed by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar.
Coastline: 7,516.6 km encompassing the mainland, Lakshadweep Islands, and the Andaman & Nicobar Islands.
Climate: The climate of India can broadly be classified as a tropical one. But, in spite of much of the northern part of India lying beyond the tropical zone, the entire country has a tropical climate marked by relatively high temperatures and dry winters. There are four seasons:
South-west monsoon season (June-September)
Post monsoon season (October-November)
Natural Resources: Coal, iron ore, manganese ore, mica, bauxite, petroleum, titanium ore, chromite, natural gas, magnesite, limestone, arable land, dolomite, barytes, kaolin, gypsum, apatite, phosphorite, steatite, fluorite, etc.
Natural Hazards: Monsoon floods, flash floods, earthquakes, droughts, and landslides.
India is a country with probably the largest and most diverse mixture of races. All five major racial types - Australoid, Mongoloid, Europoid, Caucasian and Negroid - find representation among the people of India, who are mainly a mixed race.
The people of India belong to diverse ethnic groups. At various periods of India's long history, successive waves of settlers and invaders, including the Aryans, Parthians, Greeks and Central Asians, came into the country and merged with the local population. This explains the variety of racial types, cultures and languages in India.
India’s population as on 1 March 2001 stood at 1,028 million (532.1 million males and 496.4 million females). India accounts for a meagre 2.4 per cent of the world surface area of 135.79 million sq km. Yet, it supports and sustains a whopping 16.7 per cent of the world population.
The population of India, which at the turn of the twentieth century was around 238.4 million, increased to 1,028 million at the dawn of the twenty-first century.
The population of India as recorded at each decennial census from 1901 has grown steadily except for a decrease during 1911-21.
One of the important indices of population concentration is the density of population. It is defined as the number of persons per sq km. The population density of India in
2001 was 324 per sq km. The density of population increased in all States and Union Territories between 1991 and 2001. Among major states, West Bengal is still the most thickly populated state with a population density of 903 in 2001. Bihar is now the second highest densely populated state pushing Kerala to the third place. Ranking of the
States and Union Territories by density is shown in table 1.3.
For the purpose of the Census 2001, a person aged seven and above, who can both read and write in any language, is treated as literate. A person, who can only read but cannot write, is not literate. In the censuses prior to 1991, children below five years of age were necessarily treated as illiterates.
The results of 2001 census reveal that there has been an increase in literacy in the country. The literacy rate in the country is 64.84 per cent, 75.26 for males and
53.67 for females.
Population Growth Rate: The average annual exponential growth rate stands at 1.93 per cent during 1991-2001.
Birth Rate: The Crude Birth Rate according to the 2001 census is 24.8
Death Rate: The Crude Death Rate according to the 2001 census is 8.9
Life Expectancy Rate: 63.9 years (Males); 66.9 years (Females) (As of Sep 2005)
India has about 15 major languages and 844 different dialects. Hindi, spoken by about 45 per cent of the population, is the national language. English has also been retained as a language for official communication.
Country Name: Republic of India; Bharat Ganrajya
Government Type: Sovereign Socialist Democratic Republic with a parliamentary system of Government.
Capital: New Delhi
Administrative Divisions: 28 States and 7 Union Territories.
Independence: August 15, 1947 (From British Colonial Rule)
Constitution: The Constitution of India came into force on 26th January 1950.
Legal System: The Constitution of India is the source of the legal system in the Country.
Executive Branch: The President of India is the head of the state, while the Prime Minister is the head of the government, and runs it with the support of the council of ministers, who form the cabinet.
Legislative Branch: The Indian legislature is a bi-cameral one, comprising the Lok Sabha (House of the People) and the Rajya Sabha (Council of States).
Judicial Branch: The Supreme Court of India is the apex body of the Indian legal system, followed by other High Courts and subordinate courts.
National Flag : The National Flag is a horizontal tricolour of deep saffron at the top, white in the middle, and dark green at the bottom in equal proportion. At the centre of the white band is a navy blue wheel, which is a representation of the Ashoka Chakra at Sarnath.
National Days: 26th January (Republic Day)
15th August (Independence Day)
2nd October (Gandhi Jayanti; Mahatma Gandhi's Birthday)
Religions: According to the 2001 census, out of the total population of 1.028 million in the country, Hindus constituted the majority with 80.5%, Muslims came second at 13.4%, followed by Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, and others.
Hinduism: The Hindu religion had its origin in the concepts of the early Aryans who came to India more than 4,000 years ago. It is not merely a religion but also a philosophy and a way of life. It does not originate in the teachings of any one prophet or holy book. It respects other religions, and does not attempt to seek converts. It teaches the immortality of the human soul, and three principal paths to ultimate union of the individual soul with the all pervasive spirit.
The essence of the Hindu faith is embodied in the Bhagavad Gita, a philosophical poem that never ceases to surprise readers with new insights into life and man's fate in the world. "He who considers this(self) as a slayer or he who thinks that this(self) is slain, neither knows the Truth. For it does not slay, nor is it slain. This (self) is unborn, eternal, changeless, ancient, it is never destroyed even when the body is destroyed," says a verse in the Gita.
Jainism and Buddhism: In the sixth century before Christ, Mahavira propagated Jainism. His message was asceticism, austerity and non-violence.
At about the same time, Buddhism came into being. Gautama Buddha, a prince, renounced the world and gained enlightenment. He preached that "nirvana" was to be attained through the conquest of self. Buddha's teachings in time spread to China and some other countries of South-East Asia.
Islam: Arab traders brought Islam to South India in the seventh century. After them came the Afghans and the Mughals. Akbar, seen as the most enlightened Mughal emperor, almost succeeded in founding a new religion Din-e-Elahi, based on a blend of different religions including Hinduism and Islam, but it failed to find many adherents.
Islam has flourished in India through the centuries. Muslim citizens have occupied some of the highest positions in the country since independence in 1947. India today is the second largest Muslim country in the world, next only to Indonesia.
Sikhism: Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism in the 15th century, stressed the unity of God and the brotherhood of man. Sikhism, with its affirmation of God as the one supreme truth and its ideals of discipline and spiritual striving, soon won many followers. It was perhaps possible only in this hospitable land that two religions as diverse as Hinduism and Islam could come together in a third, namely Sikhism.
Christianity: Christianity reached India not long after Christ's own lifetime, with the arrival of St. Thomas, the Apostle. The Syrian Christian Church in southern India traces its roots to the visit of St. Thomas. With the arrival of St. Francis Xavier in 1542, the Roman Catholic faith was established in India. Today, Christians of several denominations practice their faith freely.
Zoroastrianism: In the days of the old Persian empire, Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion in West Asia. In the form of Mithraism, it spread over vast areas of the Roman Empire, as far as Britain.
After the Islamic conquest of Iran, a few intrepid Zoroastrians left their homeland and sought refuge in India. The first group is said to have reached Diu in about 766 A.D.
Their total world population probably does not exceed 130,000. With the exception of some 10,000 in Iran, almost all of them live in India. The vast majority of Parsis are concentrated in Mumbai. The Parsis excel in industry and commerce, and contribute richly to the intellectual and artistic life of the nation.
Judaism: The Jewish contact with the Malabar coast in Kerala, dates back to 973 BC when King Solomon's merchant fleet began trading for spices and other fabled treasures. Scholars say that the Jews first settled in Cranganore, soon after the Babylonian conquest of Judea in 586 BC. The immigrants were well received and a Hindu king granted to Joseph Rabban, a Jewish leader, a title and a principality.
The state emblem is an adaptation from the Sarnath Lion Capital of Ashoka. In the original, there are four lions, standing back to back, mounted on an abacus with a frieze carrying sculptures in high relief of an elephant, a galloping horse, a bull and a lion separated by intervening wheels over a bell-shaped lotus. Carved out of a single block of polished sandstone, the Capital is crowned by the Wheel of the Law (Dharma Chakra).
In the state emblem, adopted by the Government of India on 26 January 1950, only three lions are visible, the fourth being hidden from view. The wheel appears in relief in the centre of the abacus with a bull on right and a horse on left and the outlines of other wheels on extreme right and left. The bell-shaped lotus has been omitted. The words Satyameva Jayate from Mundaka Upanishad, meaning 'Truth Alone Triumphs', are inscribed below the abacus in Devanagari script.
The song Jana-gana-mana, composed originally in Bengali by Rabindranath Tagore, was adopted in its Hindi version by the Constituent Assembly as the National Anthem of India on 24 January 1950. It was first sung on 27 December 1911 at the Kolkata Session of the Indian National Congress. The complete song consists of five stanzas.
(As published in Volume Eight of Sri Aurobindo Birth Centenary Library, Popular Edition 1972)
Jana-gana-mana-adhinayaka, jaya he
Tava shubha name jage,
Tava shubha asisa mange,
Gahe tava jaya gatha,
Jana-gana-mangala-dayaka jaya he
Jaya he, jaya he, jaya he,
Jaya jaya jaya, jaya he!
Playing time of the full version of the national anthem is approximately 52
A short version consisting of the first and last lines of the stanza (playing time approximately 20 seconds) is also played on certain occasions.
The following is Rabindranath Tagore’s English rendering of the anthem :
Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,
Dispenser of India’s destiny.
Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sind,
Gujarat and Maratha,
Of the Dravida and Orissa and Bengal;
It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,
mingles in the music of Jamuna and Ganges and is
chanted by the waves of the Indian Sea.
They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.
The saving of all people waits in thy hand,
Thou dispenser of India’s destiny.
Victory, victory, victory to thee.
The song Vande Mataram, composed in Sanskrit by Bankimchandra Chatterji, was a source of inspiration to the people in their struggle for freedom. It has an equal status with Jana-gana-mana. The first political occasion when it was sung was the 1896 session of the Indian National Congress.
The following is the text of its first stanza :Vande Mataram!
Sujalam, suphalam, malayaja shitalam,
Phullakusumita drumadala shobhinim,
Suhasinim sumadhura bhashinim,
Sukhadam varadam, Mataram!
The English translation of the stanza rendered by Sri Aurobindo in prose is :
I bow to thee, Mother,
cool with the winds of the south,
dark with the crops of the harvests,
Her nights rejoicing in the glory of the moonlight,
her lands clothed beautifully with her trees in flowering bloom,
sweet of laughter, sweet of speech,
The Mother, giver of boons, giver of bliss.
The national calendar based on the Saka Era, with Chaitra as its first month and a normal year of 365 days, was adopted from 22 March 1957 along with the Gregorian calendar for the following official purposes: (i) Gazette of India, (ii) news broadcast by All India Radio, (iii) calendars issued by the Government of India and (iv) Government communications addressed to members of the public.
Dates of the national calendar have a permanent correspondence with dates of the Gregorian calendar, 1 Chaitra falling on 22 March normally and on 21 March in
The magnificent tiger, Panthera tigris, a striped animal is the national animal of India. It has a thick yellow coat of fur with dark stripes. The combination of grace, strength,
ability and enormous power has earned the tiger its pride of place as the national animal of India. Out of eight races of the species known, the Indian race, the Royal Bengal Tiger, is found throughout the country except in the north-western region, and also in neighbouring countries, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.
The Indian peacock, Pavo cristatus, the national bird of India, is a colourful, swansized bird, with a fan-shaped crest of feathers, a white patch under the eye and a long, slender neck. The male of the species is more colourful than the female, with a glistening blue breast and neck and a spectacular bronze-green tail of around 200 elongated feathers. The female is brownish, slightly smaller than the male and lacks the tail.
Lotus (Nelumbo Nucipera Gaertn) is the National Flower of India. It is a sacred flower and occupies a unique position in the art and mythology of ancient India, and has been an auspicious symbol of Indian culture since time immemorial.
The Banyan Tree (Ficus benghalensis) is the National Tree of India. This huge tree towers over its neighbours and has the widest reaching roots of all known trees, easily covering several acres.
Mango (Manigifera indica) is the National fruit of India. Mango is one of the most widely grown fruits of the tropical countries. In India, mango is cultivated almost in
all parts, with the exception of hilly areas. Mango is a rich source of Vitamins A, C and D. In India, we have hundreds of varieties of mangoes. They are of different
sizes, shapes and colours.
With a wide range of climatic conditions from the torrid to the arctic, India has a rich and varied vegetation, which only a few countries of comparable size possess. India can be divided into eight distinct-floristic-regions, namely, the western Himalayas, the eastern Himalayas, Assam, the Indus plain, the Ganga plain, the Deccan, Malabar and the Andamans.
The Western Himalayan region extends from Kashmir to Kumaon. Its temperate zone is rich in forests of chir, pine, other conifers and broad-leaved temperate trees.
Higher up, forests of deodar, blue pine, spruce and silver fir occur. The alpine zone extends from the upper limit of the temperate zone of about 4,750 metres or even higher. The characteristic trees of this zone are high-level silver fir, silver birch and junipers. The eastern Himalayan region extends from Sikkim eastwards and embraces Darjeeling, Kurseong and the adjacent tract. The temperate zone has forests of oaks, laurels, maples, rhododendrons, alder and birch. Many conifers, junipers and dwarf willows also occur here. The Assam region comprises the Brahamaputra and the Surma valleys with evergreen forests, occasional thick clumps of bamboos and tall grasses. The Indus plain region comprises the plains of Punjab, western Rajasthan and northern Gujarat. It is dry and hot and supports natural vegetation. The Ganga plain region covers the area which is alluvial plain and is under cultivation for wheat, sugarcane and rice. Only small areas support forests of widely differing types.
The Deccan region comprises the entire table land of the Indian Peninsula and supports vegetation of various kinds from scrub jungles to mixed deciduous forests.
The Malabar region covers the excessively humid belt of mountain country parallel to the west coast of the Peninsula. Besides being rich in forest vegetation, this region produces important commercial corps, such as coconut, betelnut, pepper, coffee and tea, rubber and cashewnut. The Andaman region abounds in evergreen, mangrove, beach and diluvial forests. The Himalayan region extending from Kashmir to Arunachal Pradesh through Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Meghalaya and Nagaland and the Deccan Peninsula is rich in endemic flora, with a large number of plants which are not found elsewhere.
India is rich in flora. Available data place India in the tenth position in the world and fourth in Asia in plant diversity. From about 70 per cent geographical area surveyed so far, over 46,000 species of plants have been described by the Botanical Survey of India (BSI), Kolkata. The vascular flora, which forms the conspicuous vegetation cover, comprises 15,000 species. The flora of the country is being studied by BSI and its nine circle/field offices located throughout the country along with certain universities and research institutions.
Ethno-botanical study deals with the utilisation of plants and plant products by ethnic races. A scientific study of such plants has been made by BSI. A number of detailed ethno-botanical explorations have been conducted in different tribal areas of the country. More than 800 plant species of ethno-botanical interest have been collected and identified at different centres.
Owing to destruction of forests for agricultural, industrial and urban development, several Indian plants are facing extinction. About 1,336 plant species are considered vulnerable and endangered. About 20 species of higher plants are categorised as possibly extinct as these have not been sighted during the last 6-10 decades. BSI brings out an inventory of endangered plants in the form of a publication titled Red Data Book.
The Zoological Survey of India (ZSI), with its headquarters in Kolkata and 16 regional stations, is responsible for surveying the faunal resources of India. Possessing a tremendous diversity of climate and physical conditions, India has great variety of fauna numbering over 89,000 species. Of these, protista number 2,577, mollusca 5,070, anthropoda 68,389, amphibia 209, mammalia 390, reptilia 456, members of protochordata 119, pisces 2,546, aves 1,232 and other invertebrates 8,329.
The mammals include the majestic elephant, the gaur or Indian bison–the largest of existing bovines, the great Indian rhinoceros, the gigantic wild sheep of the Himalayas, the swamp deer, the thamin spotted deer, nilgai, the four-horned antelope, the Indian antelope or black-buck – the only representatives of these genera. Among the cats, the tiger and lion are the most magnificent of all; other splendid creatures such as the clouded leopard, the snow leopard, the marbled cat, etc., are also found.
Many other species of mammals are remarkable for their beauty, colouring, grace and uniqueness. Several birds, like pheasants, geese, ducks, mynahs, parakeets, pigeons, cranes, hornbills and sunbirds inhabit forests and wetlands.
Rivers and lakes harbour crocodiles and gharials, the latter being the only representative of crocodilian order in the world. The salt water crocodile is found along the eastern coast and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. A project for breeding crocodiles which started in 1974, has been instrumental in saving the crocodile from extinction.
The great Himalayan range has a very interesting variety of fauna that includes the wild sheep and goats, markhor, ibex, shrew and tapir. The panda and the snow leopard are found in the upper reaches of the mountains.
The depletion of vegetative cover due to expansion of agriculture, habitat destruction, over-exploitation, pollution, introduction of toxic imbalance in community structure, epidemics, floods, droughts and cyclones, contribute to the loss of flora and fauna. More than 39 species of mammals, 72 species of birds, 17 species of reptiles, three species of amphibians, two species of fish and a large number of butterflies, moth and beetles are considered vulnerable and endangered.
Source: India 2009, Ministry of Environment, Planning Commission, Ministry of Health, Press Information Bureau, Census of India, Ministry of External Affairs, Union Budget, Reserve Bank of India, India 2005 - A Reference Annual, www.indiainbusiness.nic.in