India: an overview

India, officially the Republic of India (Bharat Ganarajya), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second most populous country, and the most populous liberal democracy in the world.India has a coastline of over seven thousand kilometres which is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east.India borders Afghanistan and Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal and Bhutan to the north-east; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is in the vicinity of the Indian Ocean nations of Sri Lanka, Maldives, Indonesia and Thailand.

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Hawa Mahal, Jaipur

Taj Mahal, Agra

Taj Mahal

The first urban civilization on the Indian subcontinent arose around 3300 BCE in the Indus river valley.India subsequently became a hub of ancient trade routes, the seat of vast empires, and a center of cultural innovation and synthesis,whose diverse achievements included the decimal number system,the Buddhist cave monuments at Ajanta, and the Taj Mahal. Four of the world’s major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated in India, while Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism arrived in the first millennium CE and played an influential role in the formation of the variegated culture of India. In addition, through the transmission of Buddhism and Hinduism, India notably influenced the cultures of South Asia,South-east Asia,and East Asia.

India emerged as a modern democratic nation-state in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was characterized by the first large-scale use of nonviolent resistance and civil disobedience as a means of social protest. It became a republic in 1950, with the completion of a constitution that guaranteed “liberty of thought, expression, belief, faith, and worship.” Modern India is a large and complex country that defies easy characterization. On the one hand, it is now the fourth largest economy (PPP) in the world and the second fastest growing economy,having made rapid economic progress in the last ten years, especially in the field of information technology. It has the second largest agricultural output of any country in the world; it is a declared nuclear deterrent state,with an active space program; and it is sometimes spoken of as an emerging superpower.On the other hand, despite these gains, India battles endemic poverty and uneven development. It ranks 122nd in per capita income among the nations of the world, with four-fifths of its population living on less than $2 a day. India also ranks 126th in the 2006 UN human development index and, according to the FAO, has the largest number of undernourished people of any country in the world,which, at 212 million, is a full one-fifth of the population.However, India’s overall prognosis is now much improved: with its high rate of growth, its standard of living is expected to rise sharply in the 21st century.