India is the world’s second most populous country and largest democracy. Despite some success in reducing the birth rate, its population will probably overtake China’s by 2035.
Geography: Separated from northern Asia by the Himalaya mountain range, India forms a subcontinent. As well as the Himalayas, there are two other main geographical regions, the Indo-Gangetic plain, which lies between the foothills of the Himalayas and the Vindhya Mountains, and the central-southern Deccan plateau. The Ghats are smaller mountain ranges located on the east and west coasts.
Climate: Varies greatly according to latitude, altitude, and season. Most of India has three seasons: hot, wet, and cool. Summer temperatures in the north can reach 104°F (40°C). Monsoon rains normally break in June, petering out in September to October. In the cool season, the weather is mainly dry. The climate in the warmer south is less variable than in the north.
People & Society: India’s planners, overseeing an economic revolution, see its growing population rather than environmental constraints as the main brake on development. Nationwide awareness campaigns promote birth control but cultural and religious pressures encourage large families. Rural deprivation spurs urban migration, to live in sprawling slums. Almost 70% of people survive on less than $2 a day. The majority of Indians are Hindu. Various attempts to reform the Hindu caste system, which determines social standing and even marriage, have met with violent opposition. Severe tensions exist between Hindus and the Muslim minority, specially in Kashmir and Gujarat. Smaller ethnic groups exist in the northeast, and many struggle for greater autonomy. Over two million people are living with HIV/AIDS.
The Economy: One of Asia’s fastest-growing economies. Protectionism has given way to free-market economics. Tea, gems, textiles exported. High-tech industries, outsourcing center. Success of “Bollywood” films. Cheap labor. Huge market, held back by poverty.
Insight: India’s national animal, the tiger, was depicted as early as 4000 years ago by the Mohenjo-Daro civilization
Official Name: Republic of India
Date of Formation: 1947
Capital: New Delhi
Population: 1.2 billion
Total Area: 1,269,338 sq. miles (3,287,590 sq. km)
Density: 1044 people per sq. mile
Languages: Hindi*, English*, Urdu, Bengali, Marathi, Telugu, Tamil, other
Religions: Hindu 81%, Muslim 13%, Christian 2%, Sikh 2%, other 2%
Ethnic Mix: Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3%
Government: Parliamentary system
Currency: Indian rupee = 100 paise