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India - Overview


INDIA

If there is one place on the face of earth where all the dreams of living men have found a home from the very earliest days when man began the dream of existence, it is India." - Romain Rolland

India is the largest democracy in the world, seventh largest country and the second most populous. India is a picture of diversity seen in her peoples, cultures, colourful festivals, dress and costumes, religions, flaura and fauna and varying landscapes. Her history dates back to the Indus Valley civilization of about 2500-1700 BC. She is, as Mark Twain intones the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, grandmother of legend, and great grandmother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only. She gave the world the knowledge of counting that transformed the scientific faculty of man. She was and arguably is the spiritual seat of the world.

India is located in the Asia continent in northern hemisphere. The Himalayan ranges crown the northern boundary of India. It is bounded on the north by Afghanistan, China, Nepal, and Bhutan; on the east by Bangladesh, Myanmar (formerly known as Burma), and the Bay of Bengal; on the south by the Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar (which separates it from Sri Lanka) and the Indian Ocean; and on the west by the Arabian Sea and Pakistan.

The country is divided into 28 states (three of which are recently formed) and 7 Union Territories. New Delhi is the capital of India and one of its largest cities.

Geography

India's total land mass is 2,973,190 square kilometers and is divided into three main geological regions: the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the Himalayas, and thePeninsula region. The Indo-Gangetic Plain and those portions of the Himalayas within India are collectively known as North India. South India consists of the peninsular region, often termed simply the Peninsula. On the basis of its physiography, India is divided into ten regions: the Indo-Gangetic Plain, the northern mountains of the Himalayas, the Central Highlands, the Deccan or Peninsular Plateau, the East Coast (Coromandel Coast in the south), the West Coast (Konkan, Kankara, and Malabar coasts), the Great Indian Desert (a geographic feature known as the Thar Desert in Pakistan) and the Rann of Kutch, the valley of the Brahmaputra in Assam, the northeastern hill ranges surrounding the Assam Valley, and the islands of the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal. Several major rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus, flow through India. Arising in the northern mountains and carrying rich alluvial soil to the plains below, these mighty rivers have supported agriculture-based civilizations for thousands of years.





The climate of India may be broadly described as tropical monsoon type. There are four seasons: winter (January- February), hot weather summer ( march- may), rainy south-western monsoon ( June- September) and post- monsoon, also known as the north-east monsoon in the southern peninsula ( October- December). India's climate is affected by two seasonal winds- the north-east monsoon and south-west monsoon. The north-east monsoon commonly known as winter monsoon blows sea to land after crossing the Indian Ocean, the Arabiab Sea and the Bay of Bengal. The south-west monsoon brings most of the rainfall during the year in the country.

History

Dating back at least 5000 years, civilization in India has been a rich and complicated mix of peoples and religions. Harappa and Mohenjodaro were ancient Indian cities which existed between 3000 to 1500 BC. Excavated remains suggest that these were well planned with brick structures, wide streets, and underground water system. Many copper, bronze, and pottery items were recoverd as well as gold and silver jewelry. There was some writing system as well but archeologists could not interpret these writings.

Brahminism, Buddhism, Jain, Hinduism all developed here in a series of kingdoms and empires. The Gupta dynasty ruled over a golden age for north India for about two hundred years (320-544 A.D.). In the 600s, the Indus River Valley was invaded by Arabs, who brought with them Islam, which took hold in northern India.

The Sultanate of Delhi was established in 1206. It managed to withstand repeated Mongol invasions and eventually succeeded in bringing together nearly all of India (with the exception of some of the southern states). But the Sultanate of Delhi was weakened by the stresses of internal rebellion, particularly when combined with the attack of Timur Leng (Tamerlane) in 1398. In 1526, Babur established the Moghul empire, whose culture thrived under Akbar the Great. Threats to the Moghul empire from Marathan and Rajput were compounded by the encroaching interests of the European powers, who came to india in 1498 in the person of Vasco de Gama.

British rule in India began in the AD 1700s. Foreign domination engendered Indian nationalism, which eventually led to India winning its independence in 1947. Split from Pakistan at independence, India struggled with its Muslim neighbor over border differences and Hindu-Muslim relations. India and Pakistan still conflict over the Jammu and Kashmir region, parts of which are also occupied by China.

Society and culture

The Indian society is not a uniform one. This is a natural corollary to the fact that diversity is a part of Indian way of life. From region to region, diversity in the social structure is prominently seen. The north Indian social traditions and customs are markedly different and so those of the eastern India from those of other parts of the country. And here lies the tentalising element of mystery associated with India.

The diversity factor notwithstanding, there is a common thread running through the Indians. Unity in diversity is best seen in India in a maze of seemingly disparate peoples. One social unifier is the Indian system of casteism adhered to by all racial groups belonging to the Hindu religion fold. Lambasted by many as a retrogressive social tradition, this system has also given the Indians a sense of belongingness to a shared way of life. Though caste rigidity was prevalent in the olden times, now it has become flexible to a large extent. It is not an uncommon to come across families of so called incompatible castes entering into matrimonial alliance.

The gender inequality is a phenomenon causing concern in the Indian society. The Indian society is highly prejudiced against the female gender. Basically a male dominated society, decision making at family and political level is almost single handedly handled by the men. Customs such as Dowry are worsening the process of subjugating women in the society. Of late, with social awareness about women's vital role in the development of a community or the country, there has been a change in the perception of gender equations in favour of women. Education of women, giving the women a greater say in decision making in the family and the governance are emphasized. With the liberalization of economy women are in top managerial position at par with the best men.

In spite of significant leaps made by India in the economic front, poverty is still a dominant social reality. A majority of the population of India lives in utter poverty without access to health care, housing, drinking water and education. Major policy change has to be enforced to better the lives of these millions souls if India is to become a truly desirable place to live in.

Education is still a privilege in this country of over one billion people. Providing Primary education has been the motto of the government. So far the government has not live up to its promises with the results that there are more illiterate people than functionally literate people in India. Lack of education is the primary obstacle to the nation's development. India should educate the masses if its hope of becoming the global knowledge superpower is to become a reality.

India has a rich cultural and artistic heritage. The fact that India was invaded and ruled by various kings down the ages, is already reflected by its impact on India culture. The Gupta dynasty, the Mughal dynasty and many other dynasties influenced and contributed to the Indian culture.

Music, inspired perhaps by the whistles of the wind or the splash of the waves, chirping of the birds or may be falling of the rain, exists on this land since the existence of humanity. Many musical instruments and innumerable ragas were designed by them. Then developed different notes for different times, seasons and feelings. Different regions developed their own style of singing, not following the ragas but their own tunes and taking the lyrics in their own language and themes from their day-to-day life.

One of the powerful attractions in India is the colourful and diversified attire of its people. The silk saris, brightly mirrored cholis, colorful lehangas and the traditional salwar-kameez have fascinated many a traveler over the centuries.

For a single length of material, the sari must be the most versatile garment in existence. It is only one of the many traditional garments worn by women, yet it has somehow become the national dress of Indian women. A sari is a rectangular piece of cloth which is five to six yards in length. The style, color and texture of this cloth vary and it might be made from cotton, silk or one of the several man-made materials. The sari has an ageless charm since it is not cut or tailored for a particular size. This garment can fit any size and if worn properly can accentuate or conceal. This supremely graceful attire can also be worn in several ways and its manner of wearing as well as its color and texture are indicative of the status, age, occupation, region and religion of a woman.

Another popular attire of women in India is the salwar-kameez. This dress evolved as a comfortable and respectable garment for women in Kashmir and Punjab, but is now immensely popular in all regions of India. Salwars are pyjama-like trousers drawn tightly in at the waist and the ankles. Over the salwars, women wear a long and loose tunic known as a kameez. Though the majority of Indian women wear traditional costumes, the men in India can be found in more conventional western clothing. Shirts and trousers are worn by men from all regions in India. However, men in villages are still more comfortable in traditional attire like kurtas, lungis, dhotis and pyjamas.

The traditional lungi originated in the south and today it is worn by men and women alike. It is simply a short length of material worn around the thighs rather like a sarong. A dhoti is a longer lungi but with an additional length of material pulled up between the legs. Pyjama-like trousers worn by the villagers are known as the lenga.

Indian dressing styles are marked by many variations, both religious and regional and one is likely to witness a plethora of colors, textures and styles in garments worn by the Indians. Indian dance is a blend of nritta - the rhythmic elements, nritya - the combination of rhythm with expression and natya - the dramatic element. Most Indian dances take their themes from India's rich mythology and folk legends. Hindu gods and goddesses like Vishnu and Lakshmi, Rama and Sita, Krishna and Radha are all depicted in classical Indian dances. Each dance form also draws inspiration from stories depicting the life, ethics and beliefs of the Indian people.

The genesis of the contemporary styles of classical dances can be traced to the period between 1300-1400 A.D. India offers a number of classical dance forms, each of which can be traced to different parts of the country. Each form represents the culture and ethos of a particular region or a group of people.

Bharatnatyam- Tamil Nadu; Kathak - Uttar Pradesh; Kathakali - Kerala; Kuchipudi- Andhra Pradesh; Manipuri - Manipur; Mohiniyattam - Kerala; Odissi - Orissa.

There is a multiciplity of festivals in India. Most of the festivals owe their origin to legends, gods and goddesses and mythology. As many communities there are, there are as many festivals unique to them. Festivals here are characterized by colour, gaiety, enthusiasm, feasts and a variety of prayers and rituals. There are number festivals celebrated in India too numerous to count. Some important festivals are: Deepawali, Krishna Janmashtami, Onam, Dussehra, Pongal, Ramzan Id, Baisakhi Easter, Ganesha Chaturthi Holi, Raksha, Bandhan, Ram Navmi, Christmas, Good Friday, Makar Sankranti, Moharrum Shivratri, Durga Puja and many others.

Economy and Infrastructure

India is the seventh largest and second most populous country in the world. A new spirit of economic freedom is now stirring in the country, bringing sweeping changes in its wake. A series of ambitious economic reforms aimed at deregulating the country and stimulating foreign investment has moved India firmly into the front ranks of the rapidly growing Asia Pacific region and unleashed the latent strengths of a complex and rapidly changing nation. India's process of economic reform is firmly rooted in a political consensus that spans her diverse political parties. India's democracy is a known and stable factor, which has taken deep roots over nearly half a century. Importantly, India has no fundamental conflict between its political and economic systems. Its political institutions have fostered an open society with strong collective and individual rights and an environment supportive of free economic enterprise.

India's time tested institutions offer foreign investors a transparent environment that guarantees the security of their long term investments. These include a free and vibrant press, a judiciary which can and does overrule the government, a sophisticated legal and accounting system and a user friendly intellectual infrastructure. India's dynamic and highly competitive private sector has long been the backbone of its economic activity. It accounts for over 75% of its Gross Domestic Product and offers considerable scope for joint ventures and collaborations.

Today, India is one of the most exciting emerging markets in the world. Skilled managerial and technical manpower that match the best available in the world and a middle class whose size exceeds the population of the USA or the European Union, provide India with a distinct cutting edge in global competition.

The road transport sector has been declared a priority and will have access to loans at favourable conditions. The Monopoly and Restrictive Trade Practices Act (MRTP Act) was passed in order to encourage large industry to enter the road sector.

The National Highways Act has been modified to help the reduction of tolls on national motorways, bridges and tunnels. Calcutta's Howrah Bridge is the world's busiest with a daily flow of 57,000 vehicles and innumerable pedestrians. Private participation in the energy sector has been encouraged with the reduction of import duties, a five year tax exemption for new energy projects and a 16% return on equity.

The government is also following a new telecommunications policy that aims for the improvement of quality to a worldwide standard and, as a result, India could emerge as a major producer and exporter of telecommunication systems. Advantageous policies in this sector are encouraging private and foreign participation. Given below is a profile of the present Indian Union Infrastructure:

  • Road network (1990-91) 2,040,000 Km
  • Motorway network 34,000 Km
  • No. good transport vehicles 1,600,000
  • Railways 62,486 Km
  • No. railway stations 7,000
  • Produce transported by rail (1992-93) 350,000,000 tons
  • No. international airports 5
  • No. national airports 88
  • No. large ports 11
  • No. small and medium ports 139
  • Goods traveling through ports 166,610,000 tons
  • Merchant fleet 443 ships
  • No. post offices 150,000
  • Energy production capacity (91-92) 78,000 Mw
  • Energy generated (1992-93) 301,400,000,000 kWh
Future

India has a promising future, given the unprecedented growth in economy and its clout in the global issues. India is now riding on the wave of a gigantic boom in computer driven new economy. The huge pool of English speaking talented software professionals in India is being sought after by many developed countries of the world. Premier professional institutes like IIT and IIM have become the source of big international corporates' human resource needs, both overseas and within India.

India is also a nuclear power. Its security concerns have been to some extent allayed by the possession of nuclear weapons, though fears remain of an expensive military expenditure to sustain the nuclear programmes.

India is also poised to become the entertainment superpower. Already the Bollywood is churning out hundreds of films annually. With improvements in the technical and artistic aspects India can well give a stiff competition to western productions.

Indian culture is influencing the western world in dress, food and festivals. The Indian diaspora is increasing in economic prosperity and status. The Indian community is a force to reckon with in every country because of its contribution to the country concerned. Indian lobby groups are funding partly some of the elections in vital countries of the world.

The 21st century could well belong to India if it fully utilize its resources and expertise. India's population is an asset and not a pull down factor. Finally India is going to prove just that.

Population 1, 027, 015, 247  (2001 Census)
Area 3.3 million square kilometers
Geographical location Lies between latitudes 8 ° 4' and 37 ° 6 ' north and longitudes 68 ° 7 ' and 97° 25' east
Coastline length 7600 km
Languages 17 major languages, 844 dialects
Major religions Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism
National anthem Jan gana mana written by Rabindranath Tagore
National emblem Replica of the Lion Capital of Sarnath
National flag Horizontal tricolor in equal proportion of deep saffron on the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. In the center of the white band is a wheel in navy blue colour
National animal Tiger ( Panthera tigris)
National bird Peacock
National flower Lotus
National tree Banyan
National fruit Mango
National currency Rupee (One Rupee=100 paise)
National Sport Hockey
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