India (officially the Republic of India (Sanskrit: Bhārata Gaṇarājya)), a country in South Asia, is one of the biggest countries in the world, in terms of population, with over 1.2 billion people (second only to China). The country is also the seventh largest country by area and the most populous democracy in the world.
Where is India?
India is located in South Asia on what is known as the Indian Subcontinent. The Indian Subcontinent comprises India, India's western neighbor Pakistan, eastern neighbors Bangladesh and Myanmar, northern neighbors Nepal and Bhutan, and southern neighbor Sri Lanka. The Subcontinent is bordered to the north by the Himalayas, the highest mountain range on Earth, beyond which lies Tibet, a region of China.
How many people live in India?
Over 1.24 billion people live in India as of the 2011 Census (which is a survey conducted in India every 10 years, gathering data about the number of people living in India and their characteristic use of things like % of people owning a car, etc.). This comprises over 16.7% of the world population and makes India the 2nd most populated country.
It has over 10 times the number of people than the country with the most land area (Russia). This means that one out of every 6 people in the world is an Indian!
The main part of India, which does not include the islands of Lakshadweep (listed on the map by its old name, Laccadive) and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, has a total area of 3.28 million km². There are 29 states in India, the biggest being Rajasthan and the smallest being Goa. Population wise, the biggest is Uttar Pradesh and the smallest is Sikkim.
In Indian territory, the biggest mountain in the Himalayas is K2, also known as "Godwin Austin".
Leaders and rulers
India follows a parliamentary form of democratic government. This means that it is a system where everyone who is at or above 18 years is allowed to vote (democracy) and that the president of the country is elected by an elected body of people called the Parliament. Note that there is no king or queen in India, and the prime minister is not elected in the same way.
What languages are spoken in India?
There are over 1,536 languages spoken in India, including 30 spoken by more than a million people! This is because of the huge diversity experienced in India. There are many languages spoken with varying levels of population. It can range from Hindi with 400 million speakers, to local dialects (variations of a language) like Majhi with only 4 speakers! However, there is no official language as such, although English and Hindi are the main languages of the national government. Hindi because it is the most spoken first language, and English because most of India was ruled by the United Kingdom for hundreds of years until 1947.
It means that no one is forced to learn any particular language (for instance, people hailing from Tamil Nadu, who speak Tamil, do not have to learn Hindi). Also, languages of the minorities have a right to conserve that language, preserving the diversity. Also, it is a crime to deny admission to anyone who does not know a particular language.
22 languages are officially recognised by the national government of India, known as the scheduled languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, and Urdu. Each of the states of India is also allowed to have its own official languages. Some states, Uttar Pradesh for instance, have only Hindi as their official language, some, like Arunachal Pradesh, only English, while others have other languages, such as Gujarat in, where only Gujarati is official. The state of Assam has three languages as official languages: Assamese, Bodo and Bengali.
Some states have official languages you may not expect: the union territory of Puducherry has French as an official language!
Most country-level (like the 10th and 12th Boards CBSE boards) exams are generally set in English and Hindi (with regional allowances). However, this is generally not the case for language exams.
What religions are practiced in India?
Just like languages, people practice a variety of religions in India.
The most common religion is Hinduism, with about 80% of people practicing it. There are a sizable number of people practicing other religions, such as Christanity (about 2.3%), Islam (about 13.4%), and Sikhism (about 1.8%). In addition, there are a variety of smaller religions (like Buddhists, Jainists, and Zoroastrians), and even people practicing no religion (atheists).
However, just as for languages, there is no official religion in India. It means that India does not discriminate between people on the basis of religion. People are free to believe, propagate, practice, and convert to any or no religion. But, this comes with some required restrictions: The use of force, fraud or instigation is not allowed (i.e, people cannot force someone to convert to any religion). Also, immoral activities cannot be done in the name of religion (like killing of human beings or protected species).
This also means that government schools will not favour any religion, as well as no government religious institutions.
What sports are played in India?
- Cricket: India's cricket team is regarded to be one of the best teams on the world, winning the 1983 and 2011 (in their own country) World Cups. They were runner ups in the 2003 Cricket World Cup, and were semifinalists in 1987, 1996, and 2015.
- Badminton: While generally not as popular as cricket, there are some of the best badminton (men and women) players in India, like Saina Nehwal.
- Tennis: While present, it is not popular in India.
- Kabbadi: A traditional game in India, which India is quite good in, and quite popular as well, though not as much as cricket.
- Hockey: Indian's hockey team was regarded as one of the best in the 20th century.
What are some important sights?
India is very diverse; it is not easy to mention all of the places to visit in India! Some of India's most well-known tourist sites include:
- The Taj Mahal, is an enormous mausoleum (a building built as a tomb), built by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a memorial for his wife (Mumtaz Mahal) after she died after giving birth to their 14th child. The Taj Mahal became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 for "the jewel of Muslim art in India and one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world's heritage". The Taj Mahal gets at least 7 - 8 million visitors a year, and was a winner of New 7 Wonders of the World (2000 - 2007).
- The Ganga River (also known as the Ganges), a very famous river considered sacred by Hindus. This river originates from the Gangotri glacer in the Himalayas, and flows through most of North and North-East of India and nations of Bangladesh, and rated as the 3rd largest river in the world by discharge. However, it is also the 5th most polluted river in the world. The pollution threat affects not only humans, but as well as fish species, amphibian species, and the endangered South Asian river dolphin.
- Darjeeling, located in the Indian State of West Bengal, Darjeeling is famous for it's tea productions and it's scenery. Darjeeling is the only place to attract so many tourists in the Eastern Part of India, and some visitors come to this place to trek and the river raft.
- Qutub Minar, located in Mehrauli, New Delhi, is the tallest brick minar in the world, after the tallest minar in the world, which is Fateh Burj in Punjab (a state) in India. The minar's construction started in 1200 AD by Qutub-ud-Din Aibak, the founder of the Delhi Sultanate (a Muslim kingdom, based mostly in Delhi). Abaik's successor and son-in-law, Iltutmish, added 3 storeys to the tower. In 1369, a lightning strike destroyed the Qutub Minar. But, the minar was worked on again by Shah Tughlaq (a Turkic Muslim ruler), made with red sandstone and white marble. Qutub Minar is surrounded by several historical monuments, that relate (historically) to the minar, such as the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque, Alai Darwaza, and the Tomb of Iltutmish.