Map Page 1123 Area 1,284,215 square mile (3,287,590 square kilometer) Population 1,049,700,118 Capital New Delhi Highest Point 28,201 foot (8,598 meter) Lowest Point 0 m GDP per capita $462 Primary Natural Resources coal, iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite.
INDIA IS LOCATED in South Asia bordering the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal in the south. It has a 4,375-mi- (7,000-km-) long coastline. India, with a rich and long history, is 1 of the oldest civilizations of the world. The Indus Valley civilization, which flourished in the Indus Valley crescent, is almost 5,000 years old. This agricultural surplus-based civilization had urban and advanced culture. As India was very rich in natural resources, it was continuously invaded by foreign powers. Around 1500 Before Common Era, the country was invaded by Aryan tribes from the northwest. They brought and proliferated their religion, which was later known as Hinduism. The Aryan tribes also introduced the hierarchy of society based on four-caste system: Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Sudras. The concept of the caste system still persists among the Hindus. Interestingly, as most of the Muslims and Christians in India are converted from Hinduism, many of them have retained their caste distinction. In 711 C.E., India was again invaded by Arabs, followed by Turks in the 12th century. During their long reign, a new feature in the form of Islam religion was introduced in the society. By 1757, Great Britain had virtually assumed political control over a large part of India. The Indian society yet again was fused with many different elements of the Western world. India finally got its independence from Britain in 1947. However, the Indian subcontinent was divided into 2 different countries—India and Pakistan. India is full of imprints transmitted by diverse racial, religious, and cultural groups, which shaped the Indian culture and society as it exists in the present era. India is slightly more than one-third the size of United States and comprises 28 states and 7 Union Territories with diverse physical characteristics. The entire country can be divided into 4 principal physiographic regions. They are: 1) The Deccan Plateau in the south and center, which is a part of the ancient Gondwanaland. It consists of numerous mountain ranges, mesalike Deccan lava country, and scarplands, and rift valleys. 2) The lofty Himalayas in the north, which were formed in the recent geological era (Tertiary) and support 20 of the highest peaks of the world. The Himalayas rose from the floor of the sea, called Tethys, as a result of pressure from the Indian Plate moving northward and colliding with the Asian Plate. The Himalayas are 1,491 mile (2,400 kilometer) long and are a sequence of parallel or converging ranges intersected by gigantic valleys and widespread plateaus. 3) The great Indo-Gangetic plain, in the north-central part, is a gently sloping land intercepted by the landforms imprinted by rivers. Scholars confirm that the great crescent of alluvium from the delta of the Indus River to that of the Ganges River represents the infilling of foredeep warped down between Gondwanaland and the Himalayas. The depth of the alluvium at places surpasses 6,000 foot (1,829 meter). The plains provide the most fertile land for agricultural use. 4) Coastal plains border the coasts of the plateau in the west and east. These physiographic divisions not only give rise to diverse landforms, but also fabricate assorted human responses to the use of land and resources. India is drained by many mighty river systems. Rivers, particularly the Ganges (Ganga), are considered sacrosanct in India, and several religious towns have developed at the bank of these rivers. Varanasi, by the side of the Ganges, is considered the most sacred of the Hindu pilgrimage places. The rivers of India originate either in the Himalayas or in the Deccan Plateau. The Himalayan river system of the Ganges and Brahmaputra is younger than its plateau counterpart. The rivers are engaged in swift and extensive downcutting, making a steep V-shaped valley in the mountainous stretch of their courses. The plateau river systems, Mahanadi, Godavary, Krishna, and Cauvery, are commonly characterized by an older or mature stage, with extensive valleys flowing down the moderate slopes. Narmada and Tapti are the west-flowing plateau rivers, curving through the structural faults. Rivers are incredibly vital for the economic and agricultural development of India. Many of the perennial rivers are utilized for navigation and irrigation. Only some of the rivers are used for hydroelectric power generation. The climate of India ranges from tropical monsoon in the south and the central part to temperate in the extreme north in the Himalayas. Wet summers and dry winters characterize monsoons. A monsoon climate is actually caused by the differential heating and cooling of land and water in the summer and the seasonal reversal of winds. Indian agriculture is highly dependent on the monsoon rains. As the quantity, timing, and extent of the monsoon rains are extremely erratic, the farmers are fairly undecided about their future. The unpredictable and irregular behavior of monsoons may cause droughts or destructive and extensive flooding, leading to failure of crops. It also results in human and animal deaths. It is from such uncertainty that Indians have developed a belief in fate. Six major climatic regions of India are tropical rainy, humid subtropical, tropical savannas, steppe, mountain, and desert. In the tropical rainy region in northeast India and the west coast, the average annual temperature varies from 77 degrees F (25 degrees C) to 80 degrees F (27 degrees C), and rainfall ranges from 78 inch (200 centimeter) to 156 inch (400 centimeter). The region enjoys high rainfall reliability and thus it is less dependent on irrigation. The humid subtropical and tropical regions, covering most of the plateau and Indo-gangetic plain, receive annual precipitation between 39 inch (100 centimeter) and 78 inch (200 centimeter), and average temperatures range from 68 degrees F (20 degrees C) to 77 degrees F (25 degrees C). The region is moderately irrigation dependent. In the tropical savanna region, the annual rainfall varies from 24 inch (60 centimeter) to 32 inch (80 centimeter). Consequently, the region is highly dependent on irrigation for successful agriculture. The mountain region in the north is a narrow strip along the Himalayas and is very cold during the winter and mild in summer. The desert region in the western part of the country has scanty rainfall. No cultivation is possible without irrigation. India, with a population of some 1.05 billion (2003), is rapidly increasing its number of people. Its total population is second only to that of China. The growth of population was sluggish in the beginning of the 20th century. Nevertheless, since 1921 there has been a large-scale net growth of population. Between 1921 and 1951, the nation’s population grew by approximately 1.2 percent annually. However, the stunning growth of population has occurred since the end of World War II. The decade of 1951 to 1961 recorded an annual growth rate of 2.2 percent, increasing to 2.5 percent between 1961 and 1971. Such high growth was part of the post-World War II “population explosion,” which was the result of a sharp decline in death rates (8.49 deaths/1,000 population, 2003) and only a gentle decline in birth rates (23.28 births/1,000 population, 2003). Currently, the population growth rate is declining (1.47 percent) because of increasing acceptance of family planning methods. The population is highly concentrated in the fertile plains, irrigated lands, and industrial centers.
In achieving independence from the British Empire, the geographic area of the Indian subcontinent was divided into the nations of India and Pakistan. Later eastern Pakistan broke away to form Bangladesh.
Indian society is predominantly Hindu (81.3 percent); other believers are Muslim (12 percent), Christian (2.3 percent), Sikh (1.9 percent) and others (2.5 percent). There are 18 official languages. Hindi, the national language, is spoken by 40 percent of the population. “English enjoys associate status but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication,” explains the CIA World Factbook. India has a large number of knowledgeable people proficient in the English language though only 59.5 percent of the total population of the country is literate. India, since its independence, has maintained a democratic system of government based on free voting rights for persons over the age of 21, making it the largest functional democracy of the world. The economy of India has been maintaining an outstanding average growth rate of 6 percent since 1990. The economy is based on conventional agriculture, contemporary farming, handicrafts, contemporary small- and large-scale industries, and a large number of support services (especially customer support services for multinational high-tech companies). India supports an agrarian economy where 60 percent of the labor force is engaged in agriculture and about 40 percent of national income is earned from it. The increased population pressure has resulted in immigration and intense cultivation of the arable land more than once in a year, usually referred as double or triple cropping. This, combined with the development of an irrigation system, has resulted in augmented agricultural production. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has predicted that India can feed triple the size of its 1985 population by the year 2010. Industries in India are clustered in the specific areas based on the economies of location, leading to 5 prominent belts. An array of industries ranging from heavy (chemicals, iron and steel, petroleum, textile) to highly skilled (software) provides a strong base to the country’s economy. India maintains trading relations with a number of developed countries. The cities of Mumbai (Bombay) and Bangalore, in particular, attained global importance in the development of information technology. India is developing at an incredibly fast pace with the onset of modern technology. It provides an enormous market to international and national businesses. This colossal growth has adversely affected and polluted the environment. Deforestation, desertification, air and water pollution, and soil erosion are a few of the intense environmental problems experienced by the Indian population. Constantly mounting population pressure is also overstressing the natural resources. In spite of the remarkable gains in economic investment, India has to go a long way to fully stabilize its economy, settle its international disputes, eradicate poverty, control overpopulation, settle ethnic and religious conflicts, and limit environmental degradation.