Sunday, July 20, 2008

Indian Politicians making mockery of themselves

Politicians of India are making big mockery of themselves over Nuclear Deal finalization. Today politicians have come openly showing how much they care about people of India. None of them looks committed over Democracy and none of them seems to look forward to what is in favor of people of India. Politicians in India are Uneducated and impolite. Either they have their noses stuck in the air or they prostrate at somebody's feet - and there's nothing in between.

Today a game is being played in the parliament of India, they game, which is also known as 'confidence vote'. The biggest challenge in this game for the two teams fighting each other is to hoard maximum players in their camp. The camp that has atleast 271 players is bound to emerge as winner of the game, or in other words we can say is allowed to run the Government of India. It is a game of ego, honour, deals on deal, money, loyalty, power and bargaining. This game will be played in Delhi inside parliament between United Progressive Alliance (UPA) and National Democratic Alliance (NDA) + United Nation Progressive Alliance (UNPA) on 22nd July.

Why this situation came up was, because UPA wanted to go for a Nuclear Deal with Superpower America. As the deal is with America, it is imperative that America-loathers will certainly play a spoil-sport. And the Indian politicians are well known for their role as Killjoy. Again some points that I failed to understand. If these points are part of a psychological test that the politicians are made to undergo, I am sure each will fail.

1. Left Parties (CPI & CPM) withdrew its support from Congress on this issue. If the government falls, Left is in no position to make the government on its own. Either Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) or Congress will be part of the government even if general elections are held. Left can’t have an alliance with BJP and will never want to see BJP in power. So what is the point in making a government unstable?

2. Left are known for their anti-American policies. I am happy that the Left are not in power else millions of Indians currently working in call centres and IT industry would have remained unemployed. Imagine what progess India could have made in the last two decades.

3. Some said that the Nuclear deal will contribute to only 3% of India’s energy needs. What they mean is that our scientists are not capable to improving the performance, 3% of 113 billion population, who will benefit from Nuclear power, is a very small number and we have an infinite number of renewable sources of energy.

4. Thomas Friend man, author of The World is Flat is wrong and his masterpiece that says that the world is a level playing field should be banned. We will use goods bought from America and visit America for holidays but wont do any business with America. We don’t want Bill Gates, an American, to spend 26 billion $ for fighting HIV in India. Let these HIV infected patients rather die without treatment.

5. Some say that the deal is anti-Muslim. Bush led America attacked Iraq, a Muslim nation. Therefore, Bush is anti-Muslim. The deal is with Bush led America. Therefore, the deal is also anti-Muslim. We will oppose the deal even if Obama replaces Bush. So, the entire America is anti-Muslim. What a logical conclusion? I am really surprised by these views.

6. BJP wanted the deal when it was in power but if it supports the deal now, the government won't fall and it will not get an opportunity to be in power. BJP as an opportunist is now against this deal. Who cares about the deal? We want power.

7. If the two camps are offering 30 crores to each MP to buy support, then whats wrong when a government officer asks for a bribe of just 30 rupees?

8. Opposition says that Inflation is too high and the government policies are responsible for the surge. What they mean is that if elections are held now, it will be free of cost or opposition will sponsor the elections in order to save money and curb inflation. Assuming that they don't want subsidies on essential goods to be lifted .

9. Three-Fourth of energy needs in France are fulfilled from Nuclear Reactors. Does that mean France is a banana country? India’s coal reserves will last for another four decades only. What will happen after that?

10. People living in India or outside India want this deal to happen, but thanks to fake and misleading speeches of Politicians of India who are playing with the sentiments of general public.

There is a huge gap between words and deeds. Only the confidence vote will decide whether it saves the blushes for Manmohan Singh, The Prime Minister of India or will bring a lot of embarrassment to the country.

Regards,

Sandesh Kumar


also read: Shekhar Kapoors views

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Minister asks to Book parents of underage drivers

I think it is really a welcome step. I am strongly in favour of this and i really support Mrs. Renuka Choudhary (Union Minister, India). I think this really is the first step to solve the major accidents happening and i believe that this is going to change the whole panicy situation in India.

Here is the full news covering for Tribune India Newspaper, reported by Aditi Tandon

Book parents of underage drivers, says Renuka

Union women and child development minister Renuka Choudhury today hit out at parents for allowing underage children to drive, and said laws should be adequately amended to bring such parents to book. She was referring to the tragic death of two minors in a road accident in Gurgaon two days ago.
“Children are not to blame for reckless driving. It is the parents’ job to teach the children how to go by the rulebook. Parents are to blame. In fact, licences of fathers who allow minors to drive should be taken away if at all underage driving is to be controlled,” she said, adding that she would write to the road transport ministry to take steps against parents who let minors drive. For this, she said, laws must be amended to cover reckless parents as well. She was speaking after the inauguration of a facilitation centre where information pertaining to ministry’s schemes and programmes would be readily available.
Renuka was equally vociferous in demanding a blanket ban on the use of mobile phones in schools, again putting the onus on parents. She said the human resource development ministry should initiate the move by telling schools not to allow students to use mobile phones. Besides, parents should impose regulation and see that children do what was best in children’s interest, said the minister.
“It is well-documented now that mobile phones harm the physical and intellectual abilities of children. Moreover, children have no business using cell phones. I can say that even at the cost of sounding conservative. Schools should coordinate and honour the step taken by the telecommunications ministry which had listed the ill-effects of mobile phone use,” said Renuka, also referring to the harm mobile phones do to pregnant women.
Renuka had earlier lashed out at producers of reality TV shows, who, she said, were exploiting children by completely disregarding their special needs. On the instructions of the ministry, the National Commission for Protection of Child Rights will now study the extent of the problem and frame guidelines for TV producers who bring children on shows.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Know About India

From Sandesh Kumar

Nearly one sixth of all the human beings on Earth live in India, the world's most populous democracy. Its borders encompass a vast variety of peoples, practicing most of the world's major religions, speaking scores of different languages, divided into thousands of socially exclusive castes, and combining the physical traits of several major racial groups. A civilized, urban society has existed in India for well over 4,000 years, and there have been periods when its culture was as brilliant and creative as any in history.
India's leaders have played a prominent role in world affairs since the country became independent in 1947. Nevertheless, the standard of living of most of its citizens is low. The huge population strains the nation's limited resources. Fertile, cultivable land is scarce, yet more than two thirds of the people depend directly on agriculture for their livelihood. Many millions of Indians are inadequately nourished, poorly housed, and lacking in basic educational, medical, and sanitary services.
The modern nation of India (also known by its ancient Hindi name, Bharat) is smaller than the Indian Empire formerly ruled by Britain. Burma (now Myanmar), a mainly Buddhist country lying to the east, was administratively detached from India in 1937. Ten years later, when Britain granted independence to the peoples of the Indian subcontinent, two regions with Muslim majorities--a large one in the northwest (West Pakistan) and a smaller one in the northeast (East Pakistan)--were partitioned from the predominantly Hindu areas and became the separate nation of Pakistan. East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan in 1971 to form the independent nation of Bangladesh. Also bordering India on its long northern frontier are the People's Republic of China and the relatively small kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan. The island republic of Sri Lanka lies just off India's southern tip.


LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Much of India's area of almost 1.3 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers--including the Pakistani-held part of Jammu and Kashmir) is a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean between the Arabian Sea on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the east. There are three distinct physiographic regions. In the north the high peaks of the Himalayas lie partly in India but mostly just beyond its borders in Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. South of the mountains, the low-lying Indo-Gangetic Plain, shared with Pakistan and Bangladesh, extends more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Finally, the peninsular tableland, largely the Deccan, together with its adjacent coastal plains, makes up more than half of the nation's area.

The Himalayas

The northern mountain wall consists of three parallel ranges. The highest of these ranges is the Greater Himalayas, which include several peaks that rise above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters). Even the passes through these mountains are farther above sea level than the highest summits of the Alps. India has the world's largest area under snow and glaciers outside the polar regions.
Lower mountain ranges branch off from both ends of the Himalayan system, running along the border with Myanmar toward the Bay of Bengal in the east and--mainly through Pakistan--toward the Arabian Sea in the west. Thus, the low-lying country to the south is relatively isolated from the rest of Asia. This accounts for its recognition as a subcontinent.

The Indo-Gangetic Plain

The Indo-Gangetic Plain, with an area of about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers), varies in width by several hundred miles. It is the world's most extensive tract of uninterrupted alluvium. These deep, river-deposited sediments give rise to fertile soils. In addition, they are rich in groundwater for well irrigation. The flat terrain also makes the area ideal for canal irrigation.
The greater part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain is drained by the Ganges River, which rises in the southern Himalayas and flows in a generally south to southeast direction to the Bay of Bengal. Its principal tributary, the Yamuna, or Jumna, flows past New Delhi, the capital of India, to join the Ganges near Allahabad. North of Goalundo Ghat in Bangladesh, the Ganges is joined by the Brahmaputra . The Indus and its tributaries drain the western and southwestern parts of the plain. The northern part of this area, now divided between India and Pakistan, is traditionally known as the Punjab, or Land of the Five Rivers, for the five major tributaries of the Indus--the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas . Also on the India-Pakistan border and considered part of the plain is the arid Thar, or Great Indian, Desert.

The Deccan

The so-called tableland of India is actually a more complex landform region than that word suggests. Most of the 735,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers) of the Deccan are relatively flat, with elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300 to 600 meters) above sea level. However, the terrain also includes numerous ranges of hills, as well as several long, prominent escarpments. Anai Mudi (8,842 feet, 2,695 meters), in the Southern Ghats, is the highest peak in peninsular India.
The coastal plains flanking the Deccan are relatively narrow, ranging from 6 to 80 miles (10 to 130 kilometers). The eastern plain is drained by several large deltas, including, from north to south, those of the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri rivers.
India is rich in nonenergy mineral resources and moderately well endowed with coal, but it is poor in proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The principal mineral deposits lie south of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Foremost among mineral-rich regions is the Chota Nagpur Plateau. This area contains India's main coal deposits as well as large quantities of high-grade iron ore, copper, bauxite, limestone, mica, and chromite. At more than 100 billion tons, the country's coal reserves are the fifth largest in the world. However, most of the coal is of poor quality because of its high ash and moisture content. Proven on-land petroleum reserves are insufficient to meet current demand. There has been some success with offshore exploration. Many of India's rivers are potential sources of hydroelectric power.


KNOW ABOUT INDIA

Click here to read about the author.

Nearly one sixth of all the human beings on Earth live in India, the world's most populous democracy. Its borders encompass a vast variety of peoples, practicing most of the world's major religions, speaking scores of different languages, divided into thousands of socially exclusive castes, and combining the physical traits of several major racial groups. A civilized, urban society has existed in India for well over 4,000 years, and there have been periods when its culture was as brilliant and creative as any in history.
India's leaders have played a prominent role in world affairs since the country became independent in 1947. Nevertheless, the standard of living of most of its citizens is low. The huge population strains the nation's limited resources. Fertile, cultivable land is scarce, yet more than two thirds of the people depend directly on agriculture for their livelihood. Many millions of Indians are inadequately nourished, poorly housed, and lacking in basic educational, medical, and sanitary services.
The modern nation of India (also known by its ancient Hindi name, Bharat) is smaller than the Indian Empire formerly ruled by Britain. Burma (now Myanmar), a mainly Buddhist country lying to the east, was administratively detached from India in 1937. Ten years later, when Britain granted independence to the peoples of the Indian subcontinent, two regions with Muslim majorities--a large one in the northwest (West Pakistan) and a smaller one in the northeast (East Pakistan)--were partitioned from the predominantly Hindu areas and became the separate nation of Pakistan. East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan in 1971 to form the independent nation of Bangladesh. Also bordering India on its long northern frontier are the People's Republic of China and the relatively small kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan. The island republic of Sri Lanka lies just off India's southern tip.

LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Much of India's area of almost 1.3 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers--including the Pakistani-held part of Jammu and Kashmir) is a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean between the Arabian Sea on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the east. There are three distinct physiographic regions. In the north the high peaks of the Himalayas lie partly in India but mostly just beyond its borders in Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. South of the mountains, the low-lying Indo-Gangetic Plain, shared with Pakistan and Bangladesh, extends more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Finally, the peninsular tableland, largely the Deccan, together with its adjacent coastal plains, makes up more than half of the nation's area.

The Himalayas

The northern mountain wall consists of three parallel ranges. The highest of these ranges is the Greater Himalayas, which include several peaks that rise above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters). Even the passes through these mountains are farther above sea level than the highest summits of the Alps. India has the world's largest area under snow and glaciers outside the polar regions.
Lower mountain ranges branch off from both ends of the Himalayan system, running along the border with Myanmar toward the Bay of Bengal in the east and--mainly through Pakistan--toward the Arabian Sea in the west. Thus, the low-lying country to the south is relatively isolated from the rest of Asia. This accounts for its recognition as a subcontinent.

The Indo-Gangetic Plain

The Indo-Gangetic Plain, with an area of about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers), varies in width by several hundred miles. It is the world's most extensive tract of uninterrupted alluvium. These deep, river-deposited sediments give rise to fertile soils. In addition, they are rich in groundwater for well irrigation. The flat terrain also makes the area ideal for canal irrigation.
The greater part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain is drained by the Ganges River, which rises in the southern Himalayas and flows in a generally south to southeast direction to the Bay of Bengal. Its principal tributary, the Yamuna, or Jumna, flows past New Delhi, the capital of India, to join the Ganges near Allahabad. North of Goalundo Ghat in Bangladesh, the Ganges is joined by the Brahmaputra . The Indus and its tributaries drain the western and southwestern parts of the plain. The northern part of this area, now divided between India and Pakistan, is traditionally known as the Punjab, or Land of the Five Rivers, for the five major tributaries of the Indus--the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas . Also on the India-Pakistan border and considered part of the plain is the arid Thar, or Great Indian, Desert.

The Deccan

The so-called tableland of India is actually a more complex landform region than that word suggests. Most of the 735,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers) of the Deccan are relatively flat, with elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300 to 600 meters) above sea level. However, the terrain also includes numerous ranges of hills, as well as several long, prominent escarpments. Anai Mudi (8,842 feet, 2,695 meters), in the Southern Ghats, is the highest peak in peninsular India.
The coastal plains flanking the Deccan are relatively narrow, ranging from 6 to 80 miles (10 to 130 kilometers). The eastern plain is drained by several large deltas, including, from north to south, those of the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri rivers.
India is rich in nonenergy mineral resources and moderately well endowed with coal, but it is poor in proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The principal mineral deposits lie south of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Foremost among mineral-rich regions is the Chota Nagpur Plateau. This area contains India's main coal deposits as well as large quantities of high-grade iron ore, copper, bauxite, limestone, mica, and chromite. At more than 100 billion tons, the country's coal reserves are the fifth largest in the world. However, most of the coal is of poor quality because of its high ash and moisture content. Proven on-land petroleum reserves are insufficient to meet current demand. There has been some success with offshore exploration. Many of India's rivers are potential sources of hydroelectric power.

CLIMATE, VEGETATION, ANIMAL LIFE

In general, India's climate is governed by the monsoon, or seasonal, rain-bearing wind. Most of the country has three seasons: hot, wet, and cool. During the hot season, which usually lasts from early March to mid-June, very high temperatures are accompanied by intermittent winds and occasional dust storms.
Strong, humid winds from the southwest and south usually bringing very heavy rains that fall almost daily in the middle or late afternoon--the "burst of the monsoon"--herald the start of the wet season. It may begin as early as late May in the south. Eventually, the rains taper off, and by late October cool, dry, northerly air has replaced the humid marine air over all of India except the southeastern third of the peninsula. This "retreat of the monsoon" marks the start of the cool season.
Average annual precipitation varies widely. Cherrapunji in the Shillong Plateau just north of Bangladesh receives 450 inches (1,143 centimeters), making it the second rainiest place on Earth, after Mount Waialeale in Hawaii (460 inches, 1,168 centimeters). At the other extreme, the western Thar Desert averages only 4 inches (10 centimeters). In the driest parts of India, however, the rainfall is highly variable.
Temperature varies as does rainfall in different parts of India. Hill stations in the Himalayan region, such as Darjeeling and Simla, record the lowest temperatures, with annual averages of between about 54° and 57°F (12° and 14°C). In the Indo-Gangetic Plain, Delhi and Allahabad register an average of 79°F (26°C).

Plant and Animal Life

Most of the far northeast (north and east of Bangladesh), northern West Bengal, and the west coast from Cochin to somewhat north of Bombay get more than 80 inches (200 centimeters) of rainfall annually. This is usually enough to keep the soil moist throughout the year. The natural vegetation associated with these regions is an exceedingly varied, broadleaf, evergreen rain forest, typically tall and dense. Much of the rain forest, however, is in hilly regions that have been repeatedly burned over and cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture, a type of farming particularly associated with India's tribal population. As a result, the soil has become less fertile. Where the forest has grown again, it is generally lower and less open than the original vegetation.
Areas with from 40 to 80 inches (100 to 200 centimeters) of rainfall (enough to grow at least one crop of rice) include almost the whole northeastern peninsular region, the eastern Gangetic Plain, a narrow belt on the plains and hills just south of the Himalayas as far west as Kashmir, another belt just east of the crest of the Western Ghats, and most of the southeastern, or Coromandel, coast. In these areas, as average rainfall declines the forests become progressively shorter, less dense, and less varied.
In addition, as rainfall declines from 80 to 60 inches (200 to 150 centimeters) evergreens gradually give way to deciduous species, which in these regions lose their leaves during the cool, dry season. Where government protection from slash-and-burn agriculture has kept forests intact, they include good stands of teak, sal, and other excellent timber species.
Most of the rest of India averages from 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 centimeters), enough to grow one crop of grain other than rice. The natural vegetation consists of low, open forests, intermixed with thorny shrubs and grasses. Little of the original vegetative cover remains.
A wide variety of distinctive vegetation types occurs as a result of special ecological conditions. Tall grass savannas, with scattered acacias, grow on the moist soils of the Terai, the fringe of plains bordering the northern mountains. Mangrove forests are found in the brackish deltas of the east coast, and many types of palms grow in sandy or salty soils. Often impenetrable stands of bamboo sprout up in fields formerly given over to slash-and-burn cultivation.
The alterations in India's vegetation over the centuries have brought about many changes in the animal life. Today the dominant forms are cattle, goats, buffalo, sheep, and, in the drier regions, camels. While cattle are essential to the nation's economy, there is a religious taboo against their slaughter.
In the forests and the high, rugged areas where wild species are still dominant, the array of animals remains rich. Among large mammals are the Indian elephant, still regularly rounded up and domesticated in several areas; the rhinoceros, living almost exclusively in game sanctuaries; over a dozen species of deer and antelope; and wild cattle, sheep, goats, and boars.
Carnivores, or meat eaters, include tigers and leopards; lions, once wide-ranging but now confined to the Gir Forest on the Kathiawar Peninsula; the nearly extinct cheetah; and a variety of bears. Monkeys, especially langurs and rhesuses, are common even in cities. The cobra is the best-known reptile. Three species of crocodiles are found. There are about 1,200 species of birds, among them vultures, parrots, mynas, quail, and bustards.


KNOW ABOUT INDIA

Click here to read about the author.

Nearly one sixth of all the human beings on Earth live in India, the world's most populous democracy. Its borders encompass a vast variety of peoples, practicing most of the world's major religions, speaking scores of different languages, divided into thousands of socially exclusive castes, and combining the physical traits of several major racial groups. A civilized, urban society has existed in India for well over 4,000 years, and there have been periods when its culture was as brilliant and creative as any in history.
India's leaders have played a prominent role in world affairs since the country became independent in 1947. Nevertheless, the standard of living of most of its citizens is low. The huge population strains the nation's limited resources. Fertile, cultivable land is scarce, yet more than two thirds of the people depend directly on agriculture for their livelihood. Many millions of Indians are inadequately nourished, poorly housed, and lacking in basic educational, medical, and sanitary services.
The modern nation of India (also known by its ancient Hindi name, Bharat) is smaller than the Indian Empire formerly ruled by Britain. Burma (now Myanmar), a mainly Buddhist country lying to the east, was administratively detached from India in 1937. Ten years later, when Britain granted independence to the peoples of the Indian subcontinent, two regions with Muslim majorities--a large one in the northwest (West Pakistan) and a smaller one in the northeast (East Pakistan)--were partitioned from the predominantly Hindu areas and became the separate nation of Pakistan. East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan in 1971 to form the independent nation of Bangladesh. Also bordering India on its long northern frontier are the People's Republic of China and the relatively small kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan. The island republic of Sri Lanka lies just off India's southern tip.

LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES

Much of India's area of almost 1.3 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers--including the Pakistani-held part of Jammu and Kashmir) is a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean between the Arabian Sea on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the east. There are three distinct physiographic regions. In the north the high peaks of the Himalayas lie partly in India but mostly just beyond its borders in Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. South of the mountains, the low-lying Indo-Gangetic Plain, shared with Pakistan and Bangladesh, extends more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Finally, the peninsular tableland, largely the Deccan, together with its adjacent coastal plains, makes up more than half of the nation's area.
The Himalayas.
The northern mountain wall consists of three parallel ranges. The highest of these ranges is the Greater Himalayas, which include several peaks that rise above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters). Even the passes through these mountains are farther above sea level than the highest summits of the Alps. India has the world's largest area under snow and glaciers outside the polar regions.
Lower mountain ranges branch off from both ends of the Himalayan system, running along the border with Myanmar toward the Bay of Bengal in the east and--mainly through Pakistan--toward the Arabian Sea in the west. Thus, the low-lying country to the south is relatively isolated from the rest of Asia. This accounts for its recognition as a subcontinent.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain, with an area of about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers), varies in width by several hundred miles. It is the world's most extensive tract of uninterrupted alluvium. These deep, river-deposited sediments give rise to fertile soils. In addition, they are rich in groundwater for well irrigation. The flat terrain also makes the area ideal for canal irrigation.
The greater part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain is drained by the Ganges River, which rises in the southern Himalayas and flows in a generally south to southeast direction to the Bay of Bengal. Its principal tributary, the Yamuna, or Jumna, flows past New Delhi, the capital of India, to join the Ganges near Allahabad. North of Goalundo Ghat in Bangladesh, the Ganges is joined by the Brahmaputra . The Indus and its tributaries drain the western and southwestern parts of the plain. The northern part of this area, now divided between India and Pakistan, is traditionally known as the Punjab, or Land of the Five Rivers, for the five major tributaries of the Indus--the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas . Also on the India-Pakistan border and considered part of the plain is the arid Thar, or Great Indian, Desert.
The Deccan.
The so-called tableland of India is actually a more complex landform region than that word suggests. Most of the 735,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers) of the Deccan are relatively flat, with elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300 to 600 meters) above sea level. However, the terrain also includes numerous ranges of hills, as well as several long, prominent escarpments. Anai Mudi (8,842 feet, 2,695 meters), in the Southern Ghats, is the highest peak in peninsular India.
The coastal plains flanking the Deccan are relatively narrow, ranging from 6 to 80 miles (10 to 130 kilometers). The eastern plain is drained by several large deltas, including, from north to south, those of the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri rivers.
India is rich in nonenergy mineral resources and moderately well endowed with coal, but it is poor in proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The principal mineral deposits lie south of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Foremost among mineral-rich regions is the Chota Nagpur Plateau. This area contains India's main coal deposits as well as large quantities of high-grade iron ore, copper, bauxite, limestone, mica, and chromite. At more than 100 billion tons, the country's coal reserves are the fifth largest in the world. However, most of the coal is of poor quality because of its high ash and moisture content. Proven on-land petroleum reserves are insufficient to meet current demand. There has been some success with offshore exploration. Many of India's rivers are potential sources of hydroelectric power.

CLIMATE, VEGETATION, ANIMAL LIFE

In general, India's climate is governed by the monsoon, or seasonal, rain-bearing wind. Most of the country has three seasons: hot, wet, and cool. During the hot season, which usually lasts from early March to mid-June, very high temperatures are accompanied by intermittent winds and occasional dust storms.
Strong, humid winds from the southwest and south usually bringing very heavy rains that fall almost daily in the middle or late afternoon--the "burst of the monsoon"--herald the start of the wet season. It may begin as early as late May in the south. Eventually, the rains taper off, and by late October cool, dry, northerly air has replaced the humid marine air over all of India except the southeastern third of the peninsula. This "retreat of the monsoon" marks the start of the cool season.
Average annual precipitation varies widely. Cherrapunji in the Shillong Plateau just north of Bangladesh receives 450 inches (1,143 centimeters), making it the second rainiest place on Earth, after Mount Waialeale in Hawaii (460 inches, 1,168 centimeters). At the other extreme, the western Thar Desert averages only 4 inches (10 centimeters). In the driest parts of India, however, the rainfall is highly variable.
Temperature varies as does rainfall in different parts of India. Hill stations in the Himalayan region, such as Darjeeling and Simla, record the lowest temperatures, with annual averages of between about 54° and 57°F (12° and 14°C). In the Indo-Gangetic Plain, Delhi and Allahabad register an average of 79°F (26°C).

Plant and Animal Life

Most of the far northeast (north and east of Bangladesh), northern West Bengal, and the west coast from Cochin to somewhat north of Bombay get more than 80 inches (200 centimeters) of rainfall annually. This is usually enough to keep the soil moist throughout the year. The natural vegetation associated with these regions is an exceedingly varied, broadleaf, evergreen rain forest, typically tall and dense. Much of the rain forest, however, is in hilly regions that have been repeatedly burned over and cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture, a type of farming particularly associated with India's tribal population. As a result, the soil has become less fertile. Where the forest has grown again, it is generally lower and less open than the original vegetation.
Areas with from 40 to 80 inches (100 to 200 centimeters) of rainfall (enough to grow at least one crop of rice) include almost the whole northeastern peninsular region, the eastern Gangetic Plain, a narrow belt on the plains and hills just south of the Himalayas as far west as Kashmir, another belt just east of the crest of the Western Ghats, and most of the southeastern, or Coromandel, coast. In these areas, as average rainfall declines the forests become progressively shorter, less dense, and less varied.
In addition, as rainfall declines from 80 to 60 inches (200 to 150 centimeters) evergreens gradually give way to deciduous species, which in these regions lose their leaves during the cool, dry season. Where government protection from slash-and-burn agriculture has kept forests intact, they include good stands of teak, sal, and other excellent timber species.
Most of the rest of India averages from 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 centimeters), enough to grow one crop of grain other than rice. The natural vegetation consists of low, open forests, intermixed with thorny shrubs and grasses. Little of the original vegetative cover remains.
A wide variety of distinctive vegetation types occurs as a result of special ecological conditions. Tall grass savannas, with scattered acacias, grow on the moist soils of the Terai, the fringe of plains bordering the northern mountains. Mangrove forests are found in the brackish deltas of the east coast, and many types of palms grow in sandy or salty soils. Often impenetrable stands of bamboo sprout up in fields formerly given over to slash-and-burn cultivation.
The alterations in India's vegetation over the centuries have brought about many changes in the animal life. Today the dominant forms are cattle, goats, buffalo, sheep, and, in the drier regions, camels. While cattle are essential to the nation's economy, there is a religious taboo against their slaughter.
In the forests and the high, rugged areas where wild species are still dominant, the array of animals remains rich. Among large mammals are the Indian elephant, still regularly rounded up and domesticated in several areas; the rhinoceros, living almost exclusively in game sanctuaries; over a dozen species of deer and antelope; and wild cattle, sheep, goats, and boars.
Carnivores, or meat eaters, include tigers and leopards; lions, once wide-ranging but now confined to the Gir Forest on the Kathiawar Peninsula; the nearly extinct cheetah; and a variety of bears. Monkeys, especially langurs and rhesuses, are common even in cities. The cobra is the best-known reptile. Three species of crocodiles are found. There are about 1,200 species of birds, among them vultures, parrots, mynas, quail, and bustards.

PEOPLE AND CULTURE

It is not certain which racial group first occupied India. The assumption is often made that the first inhabitants had characteristics in common with the small-statured, dark, aboriginal population of Australia, as well as with other tribal groups still found in isolated, forested regions of Southeast Asia. Therefore, the term proto-Australoid has been applied to the racial type represented by a number of tribes still living in India, mainly in the states of Bihar, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh. Other early arrivals were the ancestors of the peoples, now living mainly in southern India, who speak languages of the Dravidian family. The Mongoloid peoples have also been in India a long time. Their present-day descendants include several tribal groups living along the frontiers with Myanmar, China (Tibet), Bhutan, and Nepal.
Not later than the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, a wave of migrants of inner Eurasian origin began to filter into India through passes on the northwestern frontier of the country. These invaders, known as Aryans, had relatively light skin and spoke languages of the Indo-European family.
Throughout recorded history new groups have continued to penetrate India, mainly from the northwest: Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Afghans, and, since the 16th century, small numbers of Western Europeans. Over the millennia all these peoples have interbred in varying degrees. The resulting mixture is so highly complex that it is virtually impossible to draw clear racial distinctions among the people of India today.

Language

Linguistic differences are much clearer than those of racial groupings. Two linguistic groups, the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian, account for all but a tiny proportion of the population. Of the Indo-Aryan languages, Hindi, the official national language, is the most important. In its standard form and its many dialects, it is spoken by about 43 percent of the population and is understood by a large number of others. It is predominant in the northern and central regions. Included among the Hindi variations is Urdu, referred to until 1947 as Hindustani or Khari Boli, which is recognized as a separate "official" language in the Indian constitution. Urdu is also the official language of Pakistan and is spoken by most Indian Muslims (except in the far south and east).
Other important Indo-Aryan languages are Bengali (the official language of the state of West Bengal and also of Bangladesh), Panjabi (the official language of the state of Punjab and the most widely spoken language of Pakistan), and Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Assamese, and Kashmiri (respectively, the official languages of the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Assam, and Jammu and Kashmir). Two other languages of the Indo-Aryan family are among the 15 regarded as official languages by the constitution: Sanskrit, a classical literary language, and Sindhi, spoken largely in the Sind province of Pakistan and also by Hindu refugees who came to India after partition in 1947. The list of official languages includes four Dravidian tongues: Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada, which predominate, respectively, in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
English is understood by most educated persons. While it is not one of the 15 languages, it is officially recognized and is used, for example, for correspondence between Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi-speaking states. It is also the language shared by the Dravidian-speaking south and the Hindi-speaking north. Of the scores of languages not officially recognized, many are spoken almost exclusively by tribal peoples, known collectively as Adibasis.

Hinduism

Though a number of religions flourish in India's tolerant social climate, four fifths of the people are Hindus. Hinduism evolved from Vedism, the religion of the early Aryan invaders. While it recognizes innumerable gods, they are widely regarded as diverse manifestations of one great universal spirit. Hinduism has no standard orthodox form. It is, in effect, what people who call themselves Hindus do in carrying out their dharma, or religious obligations. This varies considerably from one region and social group to another.

Caste

The social groups with which Hindus identify most strongly are their jatis, or castes. A caste is a hereditary group whose members intermarry only among themselves. Each has its own origin myth, traditional occupation, rules relating to kinship, diet, and various forms of behavior. Castes are graded in a social and ritual hierarchy in which each expects respect from inferior groups and gives respect to superior ones. While obviously creating disparities, the caste system is not regarded by most Hindus as unjust. According to generally accepted beliefs associated with reincarnation, or rebirth after death, the caste into which one is born depends on one's karma--that is, one's accumulated good and bad deeds in previous existences. The way to achieve higher status in future incarnations is to accept one's station in life and live accordingly. This is the path that may eventually lead to salvation, called moksha, freedom from the continuous round of rebirths.
There are thousands of jatis, but most may be grouped into four great social classes called varnas. The highest are the Brahmans, the priestly castes that traditionally dominated the learned professions and still wield great influence. Next are the Kshatriyas, traditionally warriors, rulers, and large landowners. Third are the Vaishyas, once mainly farmers but now chiefly associated with commerce. Lowest are the Shudras, who today constitute the mass of India's artisans and laborers.
Below the Shudras are a number of castes with no varna designation. Traditionally these outcastes were regarded as "Untouchables" because their association with unclean occupations, such as scavenging and leatherworking, made them ritually impure and able to convey pollution to others. These groups have always been subject to considerable prejudice. The nationalist leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, who tried to ensure that they were treated humanely, bestowed on them the name Harijan, or children of God, by which they are now popularly known.
Officially they are recognized as "scheduled castes." The Indian constitution, which outlaws untouchability, requires that a "schedule" of such groups be prepared in every state as an aid to providing them with special benefits. The aim is to help them overcome their disadvantaged position. Thus, they are guaranteed seats in the national and state parliaments, at least in proportion to their 15 percent of the population, as well as minimum quotas for placement in universities and government, and various other benefits. Similarly, the tribal peoples, 7.5 percent of the population, are designated as "scheduled tribes" and given corresponding benefits.

Islam

Muslims, who constitute 11 percent of the population, are the largest religious minority. Many of these followers of the monotheistic faith of Islam are descendants of invaders from the Middle East and Central Asia who began entering the subcontinent as early as the 8th century. Most, however, are descendants of converts from Hinduism and other faiths. The majority belong to the Sunnah branch of Islam, though the Shi'ah sect is well represented among Muslim trading groups of Gujarat.
Although Islam, unlike Hinduism, stresses the equality of people, the institution of caste is so strong in the subcontinent that it has affected the communities professing Islam and most other faiths. Thus, most Indian Muslims intermarry within graded, castelike groups, many of which have traditional occupations. Muslims form a majority of the population in Jammu and Kashmir and substantial minorities in the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala.

Other Religious Minorities

Sikhs, with 2.6 percent of the population, are predominant in the state of Punjab. Their faith, which dates from the early 16th century, combines aspects of Hinduism, such as belief in reincarnation, with ideas borrowed from Islam, in particular strict belief in only one God. A militant brotherhood, they are recognizable by their distinctive beards and turbans. Sikhs form a prominent part of India's army and are influential in many professions and in government.
Two ancient and related faiths, Buddhism and Jainism, each have several million followers in India. Though Buddhism originated in India, it became virtually extinct there and remained so until 1956, when a renowned leader of the scheduled castes, B. R. Ambedkar, converted to it. Millions of his followers subsequently followed suit. Jainism, never very popular, has contributed enormously to Indian art, architecture, and religious thought. For centuries the small Jaina community has been especially prominent in commerce. Both Jainas and Buddhists practice ahimsa, or nonviolence, one of many religious beliefs they share with the Hindus. The Zoroastrians, known as Parsis, form another small (barely 100,000) but highly educated and influential religious community. Members of a religion founded in the 6th century BC by the Iranian prophet Zoroaster, they are descendants of Zoroastrians who fled to India from the 10th century onward to escape Muslim persecution.
Christianity claims to date back to AD 52, when St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles, is said to have landed on the west coast of India. He is recognized as the founder of the Syrian Christians. Roman Catholics, including many descendants of 16th-century converts, are the most numerous Christian group, especially on the west coast and in the far south. During the last two centuries, Protestant missionaries have been especially successful among tribal and scheduled caste groups. Collectively, Christians make up nearly 3 percent of India's population. A small percentage follows Judaism, which was introduced by early Jewish traders who established settlements in coastal towns, notably Cochin.
Recent Indian censuses have reported only a few million of India's large tribal population as practicing animistic religions. Nevertheless, there is a strong element of spirit worship in the religious practices of most of India's tribes, blended in varying degrees with forms borrowed from Hinduism.


Ways of Life

Three fourths of India's people live in villages. These settlements may contain a thousand or more households, but one hundred to several hundred families is typical. In northwestern India villages tend to have an almost urban appearance, with tightly clustered dwellings that often form parts of high-walled compounds with few windows facing the street. In the eastern and southern regions the villages are less cramped. The various castes within a village are residentially segregated. The higher and more powerful castes generally have their homes near the center of the village, while the scheduled castes and Muslims, if any, live on its outskirts. In southern India scheduled-caste hamlets half a mile or more from the main village are not uncommon.
In much of India the typical village dwelling is a modest one-story mud hut of one or several rooms. Roofs are generally flat in the dry regions and peaked in areas of heavier rainfall. Most houses have no windows, but many have a shaded veranda where social activities take place. A cubicle or a corner of the yard is set aside for the kitchen hearth, normally containing an earth stove fueled by cow dung or firewood. Furniture is scarce, indoor plumbing is virtually unknown, and electricity is uncommon. Water, brought home from wells, is stored in large clay jars, which are also used to keep perishable foods.
The family.
Households often consist of more than one married couple. These joint families are usually headed by a senior male, whose wife, mother, or another related senior female assigns domestic chores to the women and girls. Generally the extended family may include his unmarried children, his younger brothers and their wives and unmarried children, his unmarried sisters, and his married sons and grandsons and their wives and unmarried children. In practice, however, brothers commonly separate and form new households soon after the death of their father.
Over most of India (though not in the south or northeast), a girl marries outside her village, usually while still in her teens. Even where a female marries within the village, she moves to the husband's household. Widow remarriage is frowned upon. Married couples display a marked preference for male children. Boys are desired not only because of their anticipated contribution to the family income but also because sons are needed to perform certain rites at a parent's cremation. Girls, on the other hand, are seen as a liability because they require expensive dowries when they are married. Various state governments have tried to discourage this practice, but often families still go into debt to provide dowries; a family with several daughters and no sons may face financial disaster. Boys are expected to help in the fields and girls in the home. The freedom that girls enjoy is restricted after they reach the age of puberty; in northern India, even among the Hindus, female seclusion is common.
The village economy.
Most villagers are farmers. The majority own some land, usually in scattered parcels, but a substantial number must rent all or part of the land they farm, either for cash or for an agreed-upon share of the harvest. The amount depends on whether the cultivator or the landlord pays for seed and irrigation water, and on who provides the animals for plowing. Shares typically range from one third to one half the harvest. Many families, especially among the scheduled castes, have no land at all, and both adults and children must sell their labor to the larger farmers.
The simple tools used by most Indian farmers are generally made in the villages. Plows are wooden, with short iron tips. They furrow but do not turn the soil. Draft animals are mainly oxen in the drier regions and water buffalo in the wetter, rice-growing areas. Both cattle and water buffalo are milked, but yields are low. Transport is still largely by oxcart or buffalo cart, though the use of trucks is gaining as a result of road improvement. Tractor cultivation is rare except in Haryana and the Punjab.
Goods and services that are not available locally are obtained from nearby villages, at weekly outdoor markets, in towns and cities, and at fairs, usually held in connection with religious holidays. Payment for goods and services provided within the village may be either in cash or in kind. The latter type of payment, usually a portion of grain at the time of harvest, used to be the customary rule. Most specialized-caste families catered to a particular set of patron families, known as jajmans, with whom they were linked by hereditary ties. This jajmani system is breaking down over most of India, but patron-client alliances among various castes remain a common feature of village life.
Most villages have at least a primary school offering up to six years of instruction. Some also offer adult education classes in the evening. While few villages can support a well-trained doctor, many have practitioners of traditional medicine. Government-aided dispensaries are increasingly common.
For entertainment men join their fellow caste members or those from castes at levels close to their own to pass the evening hours smoking and chatting. Women and girls talk at the village well and may join groups to sing religious songs. Male youths sometimes form sports clubs or drama groups. Village-owned radios set up in public spaces are common, but television is rare. Traveling storytellers, musicians, acrobats, and snake charmers relieve the drabness of life, as do weddings, religious celebrations, trips to local fairs, and occasional religious pilgrimages.
Local government.
Village government is in the hands of a democratically elected council, known as a panchayat, presided over by a village headman. In former days virtually all panchayat members were men of the upper castes, usually those who owned the most land. Now many states require that a certain number of women and members of scheduled castes be included. Increasingly, elections are held by secret ballot. The panchayats are expected to work closely with the government-sponsored Community Development Program, which has divided the entire country into community development blocks, averaging about a hundred villages each. Village-level workers within each block are the chief links between the government and the villagers. They bring news to the villagers of developments that might benefit them and report back the sentiments of the people.

Urban life

Approximately one fourth of all Indians live in urban places. Of these, more than half live in settlements of more than 100,000 people, officially defined as cities. The 1991 census listed 18 cities with over one million people. The three largest--Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi (including the capital, New Delhi)--had populations of more than five million each.
Indian cities are generally poorly planned and are much more crowded than those of Europe or North America. Streets are narrow, the number of people in residential dwellings is high, and buildings with more than two stories are relatively scarce. The principal activity is retail trade, mainly carried out in small shops in specialized bazaar streets. Many shops combine a handicraft activity, often in a back room, and a sales outlet. The family of the shopkeeper normally lives just behind or above the shop.
Open spaces within larger cities and on their outskirts are likely to contain makeshift squatter settlements, occupied by recent immigrants from the countryside who have come to the city in search of employment. Many people lack any shelter at all and simply resort to sleeping in the streets, especially near railway stations where temporary day laborers are recruited each morning.
In the last few generations, many cities have spawned satellites located a considerable distance away from the densely settled cores. Some housed members of the civil administration during the period of British rule and are still known as civil lines. Others, designated as cantonments, included residences and special areas such as parade grounds set aside for the army. Since India achieved independence, many planned modern suburbs have sprung up. Modern factories, sometimes grouped in government-sponsored industrial estates, have increasingly been located outside the cities.
Like cities everywhere, those of India are centers of education, cultural activities, political ferment, and social change. In the urban setting, the caste and religious barriers that loom so large in the villages are considerably relaxed. Thus, there is somewhat more opportunity for talented individuals to rise in government, modern business, factories, and universities.

Art and Literature

The artistic and literary heritage of India is exceptionally rich. Probably most renowned are the country's architectural masterpieces. These date from many different ages. The ancient Buddhist domed stupa, or shrine, at Sanchi was probably begun by the emperor Asoka in the mid-3rd century BC. The Kailasa Temple at Ellora was carved out of solid rock in the 8th century. The enormous, elaborately sculptured Sun Temple at Konarak dates from the 13th century, and the Minakshi Temple in Madurai, with its striking outer towers and inner Hall of 1,000 Pillars, from the 16th century. The sublime Taj Mahal at Agra was built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favorite wife. Every major region and religious group of India has produced works of extraordinary merit. Hindu and Jaina temples are usually richly embellished by sculpture. Because of the Islamic opposition to representative art, mosques are comparatively austere and rely for adornment largely on inlaid stonework, decorative tiles, geometric designs in stone, plaster, or wood, and ornate calligraphy.
Painting is relatively less developed, and much of the work of the past has fallen victim to weather. However, the well-preserved, sensuous cave paintings at Ajanta, dating from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD, demonstrate great technical proficiency at an early date. Altogether different is the lyric and romantic style of the various schools of miniature painting that flourished in the courts of the Mughals and the Rajput princes in the 16th and subsequent centuries. Modern painting, inspired by both European and Far Eastern models, has had several internationally recognized exponents.
Classical Indian music, dance, and drama are closely linked. Their roots go back nearly 2,000 years. Their mastery calls for great discipline and intensive practice. Each has a conventionalized "language" that demands considerable sophistication on the part of the audience. As with architecture, a number of regional styles have developed. Folk music and dance also show wide regional variations.
The literature of India covers many fields of knowledge, but religious and philosophical texts are particularly numerous. The oldest religious texts, the Vedas (beginning with the 'Rig-Veda' around 1500 BC, were transmitted only by word of mouth for many centuries before being committed to writing. For most Hindus the two best-known texts are the great epics, the 'Ramayana' and the 'Mahabharata', composed roughly 2,000 years ago. The former recounts the adventures of the god-king Rama and provides models of proper conduct for both men and women. The latter, the longest poem ever written, relates a great mythical war involving all the peoples of ancient India. The most important portion of that epic, the 'Bhagavadgita', is the principal Hindu tract on morality and ethics.
Indian Muslim literature covers a wide range of practical subjects. However, the authority of the Koran, Islam's holy book, leaves little room for religious speculation. Poetry is particularly admired.

Education

Although India can boast the world's third largest pool of scientifically and technically trained persons, a large percentage of its people--47 percent of the total population--are still illiterate. The literacy rate for females (39 percent) is much lower than for males (64 percent), but the gap between the sexes is being reduced steadily. Similarly, the rural literacy rate is considerably lower than that for urban areas. The central and state governments are attempting to eradicate illiteracy. Thanks to a recent rapid increase in the number of schools, especially in the villages, around five sixths of the children aged 6-11 are now enrolled. However, the proportion falls to roughly two fifths for the 11-14 age group and only one fifth for those aged 14-17.
India's first three universities, at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, were chartered only in 1857. By independence the number of universities in what is now India had risen to 20, and today there are well over 100 with a combined student body of more than 3 million. Most universities have affiliated colleges scattered over a rather wide area. There are few towns of more than 20,000 population that do not have at least one such college.
The colleges have shown a gradual shift toward instruction in the official state languages. This makes higher education accessible to many more people, but it has also meant a decline of proficiency in English. Since postgraduate education is almost entirely in English, this may present a major problem in the future. Another problem, already serious, is the large number of graduates who are unemployed because college and university education has expanded much more rapidly than the economy.

Health
In general, the level of health among the Indian population is far from good. Because of impure drinking water and lack of public sanitation, diseases such as dysentery and typhoid are fairly common. Cholera, malaria, filariasis, and other illnesses associated with wet, tropical climates are serious problems. Although few people now starve to death in times of scarcity, many millions are improperly nourished and afflicted by various deficiency diseases.
The government is making considerable efforts to meet the health needs of the people. Thus, the average life expectancy at birth rose from around 32 years in 1951 to 53 years in 1981 and to 60 years in 1992. Immunization programs have greatly reduced the incidence of certain diseases, and smallpox, once a major killer, has been eradicated. A vigorous anti-mosquito campaign came close to wiping out malaria as well, but with the emergence of DDT-resistant strains of mosquitos, the spread of malaria has continued virtually unabated.
The number of government-paid doctors in the countryside has increased substantially, and a network of rural primary-health-care centers is being established. These centers are staffed by "multipurpose health workers" who have taken a short medical course, enabling them to treat many common health problems that do not really need a doctor's attention. Throughout India there are also practitioners of traditional Indian systems of medicine that are reasonably effective for a number of ailments.
Apart from treating illnesses, the medical profession has been called on to play a major role in implementing India's family planning program. This involves giving advice to women or married couples who wish to practice birth control and performing sterilization operations on willing men and women. However, a controversial effort to enforce compulsory sterilization in the mid-1970s failed, and the Indian public has been slow to accept the desirability of limiting family size. While the birthrate has fallen significantly in recent decades, it is still dangerously high. At the current growth rate of approximately 2 percent per year, the population of India could double every 37 years.

THE ECONOMY
Because of low levels of productivity, both per worker and per acre of agricultural land, average incomes in India are among the lowest in the world. Almost all production must go to meet the subsistence needs of the population, and savings and investment are difficult to promote. Hence, the nation finds it difficult to escape from a vicious cycle of poverty. Nevertheless, by a combination of careful economic planning and foreign economic aid India has managed to make remarkable progress since independence. Major sources of aid have been the United States, the Soviet Union, and the World Bank and other international agencies. Because the growth rate of agricultural production has substantially exceeded that of the population, acute famine no longer appears to be a serious threat. Growth in manufacturing has been impressive, and India now ranks among the world's ten largest industrial nations.


Agriculture
Crops.
The pattern of Indian agriculture varies greatly from one region to another. Almost everywhere, grains form the principal crop: rice in the wetter portions of the east and south, wheat in the north and northwest, sorghum and millets over much of the peninsular interior. Leguminous crops such as gram, often grown with grain, are also widely cultivated, as are various oil seeds. Sugarcane is a highly profitable crop where modern crushing plants are accessible. Certain fruits, especially mangoes, are exceedingly abundant in season. Nevertheless, the total area given over to fruits and vegetables is insufficient to provide most Indians with a balanced diet.
Since the late 1800s Indian agriculture has become much more intensive as efforts were made to obtain the best yield from every piece of land. The first major changes resulted from the development of giant canal irrigation projects, especially in the western Indo-Gangetic Plain and on the Indus Plain, which now is largely in Pakistan. Following independence the government of India accelerated this effort. Multipurpose river basin development projects were established in all parts of the country. As the opportunities for additional surface water projects became limited, the emphasis shifted to irrigation from groundwater, usually by means of deep, cement-lined, power-driven tube wells.
The Green Revolution.
Another major change has been the spread of new, high-yielding varieties of hybrid seeds. In some areas use of these seeds has multiplied wheat yields several-fold. There have also been impressive gains in rice production. However, these varieties require large inputs of fertilizers, irrigation water, and pesticides. Thus, a whole new technology, popularly called the Green Revolution, is needed. States such as Punjab and Haryana, where the new methods have been practiced on a large scale, have prospered greatly. Other states that have been unable to adapt them are still struggling.
Traditional Indian agriculture was overwhelmingly for subsistence, but from the 19th century onward there has been a great increase in commercial farming. Chief among the cash crops is cotton, which is grown mainly on the black lava soils of the Deccan. Jute, grown for fiber, is important in the Ganges delta area of West Bengal. Plantation crops include tea, grown in the highlands of the far south and northeast; coffee, a southern highland crop; and rubber and coconuts, produced mainly along the southwestern coast. Important specialty crops include tobacco, chilies, various spices, cashew nuts, and betel leaf (pan).
Livestock.
Because of the scarcity of land and the widely held taboos against eating meat, especially beef and pork, little livestock is raised for slaughter. Mutton from sheep and goats is widely consumed, however, as are poultry and eggs. Animals are economically important for plowing and transportation; for milk and milk products; for leather, skins, and wool; and as sources of dung for fuel and fertilizer.


KNOW ABOUT INDIA
Note: This article has been reproduced from the Crompton's Encyclopedia. Click here to read about the author.
Nearly one sixth of all the human beings on Earth live in India, the world's most populous democracy. Its borders encompass a vast variety of peoples, practicing most of the world's major religions, speaking scores of different languages, divided into thousands of socially exclusive castes, and combining the physical traits of several major racial groups. A civilized, urban society has existed in India for well over 4,000 years, and there have been periods when its culture was as brilliant and creative as any in history.
India's leaders have played a prominent role in world affairs since the country became independent in 1947. Nevertheless, the standard of living of most of its citizens is low. The huge population strains the nation's limited resources. Fertile, cultivable land is scarce, yet more than two thirds of the people depend directly on agriculture for their livelihood. Many millions of Indians are inadequately nourished, poorly housed, and lacking in basic educational, medical, and sanitary services.
The modern nation of India (also known by its ancient Hindi name, Bharat) is smaller than the Indian Empire formerly ruled by Britain. Burma (now Myanmar), a mainly Buddhist country lying to the east, was administratively detached from India in 1937. Ten years later, when Britain granted independence to the peoples of the Indian subcontinent, two regions with Muslim majorities--a large one in the northwest (West Pakistan) and a smaller one in the northeast (East Pakistan)--were partitioned from the predominantly Hindu areas and became the separate nation of Pakistan. East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan in 1971 to form the independent nation of Bangladesh. Also bordering India on its long northern frontier are the People's Republic of China and the relatively small kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan. The island republic of Sri Lanka lies just off India's southern tip.

LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Much of India's area of almost 1.3 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers--including the Pakistani-held part of Jammu and Kashmir) is a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean between the Arabian Sea on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the east. There are three distinct physiographic regions. In the north the high peaks of the Himalayas lie partly in India but mostly just beyond its borders in Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. South of the mountains, the low-lying Indo-Gangetic Plain, shared with Pakistan and Bangladesh, extends more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Finally, the peninsular tableland, largely the Deccan, together with its adjacent coastal plains, makes up more than half of the nation's area.
The Himalayas.
The northern mountain wall consists of three parallel ranges. The highest of these ranges is the Greater Himalayas, which include several peaks that rise above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters). Even the passes through these mountains are farther above sea level than the highest summits of the Alps. India has the world's largest area under snow and glaciers outside the polar regions.
Lower mountain ranges branch off from both ends of the Himalayan system, running along the border with Myanmar toward the Bay of Bengal in the east and--mainly through Pakistan--toward the Arabian Sea in the west. Thus, the low-lying country to the south is relatively isolated from the rest of Asia. This accounts for its recognition as a subcontinent.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain, with an area of about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers), varies in width by several hundred miles. It is the world's most extensive tract of uninterrupted alluvium. These deep, river-deposited sediments give rise to fertile soils. In addition, they are rich in groundwater for well irrigation. The flat terrain also makes the area ideal for canal irrigation.
The greater part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain is drained by the Ganges River, which rises in the southern Himalayas and flows in a generally south to southeast direction to the Bay of Bengal. Its principal tributary, the Yamuna, or Jumna, flows past New Delhi, the capital of India, to join the Ganges near Allahabad. North of Goalundo Ghat in Bangladesh, the Ganges is joined by the Brahmaputra . The Indus and its tributaries drain the western and southwestern parts of the plain. The northern part of this area, now divided between India and Pakistan, is traditionally known as the Punjab, or Land of the Five Rivers, for the five major tributaries of the Indus--the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas . Also on the India-Pakistan border and considered part of the plain is the arid Thar, or Great Indian, Desert.
The Deccan.
The so-called tableland of India is actually a more complex landform region than that word suggests. Most of the 735,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers) of the Deccan are relatively flat, with elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300 to 600 meters) above sea level. However, the terrain also includes numerous ranges of hills, as well as several long, prominent escarpments. Anai Mudi (8,842 feet, 2,695 meters), in the Southern Ghats, is the highest peak in peninsular India.
The coastal plains flanking the Deccan are relatively narrow, ranging from 6 to 80 miles (10 to 130 kilometers). The eastern plain is drained by several large deltas, including, from north to south, those of the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri rivers.
India is rich in nonenergy mineral resources and moderately well endowed with coal, but it is poor in proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The principal mineral deposits lie south of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Foremost among mineral-rich regions is the Chota Nagpur Plateau. This area contains India's main coal deposits as well as large quantities of high-grade iron ore, copper, bauxite, limestone, mica, and chromite. At more than 100 billion tons, the country's coal reserves are the fifth largest in the world. However, most of the coal is of poor quality because of its high ash and moisture content. Proven on-land petroleum reserves are insufficient to meet current demand. There has been some success with offshore exploration. Many of India's rivers are potential sources of hydroelectric power.

CLIMATE, VEGETATION, ANIMAL LIFE
In general, India's climate is governed by the monsoon, or seasonal, rain-bearing wind. Most of the country has three seasons: hot, wet, and cool. During the hot season, which usually lasts from early March to mid-June, very high temperatures are accompanied by intermittent winds and occasional dust storms.
Strong, humid winds from the southwest and south usually bringing very heavy rains that fall almost daily in the middle or late afternoon--the "burst of the monsoon"--herald the start of the wet season. It may begin as early as late May in the south. Eventually, the rains taper off, and by late October cool, dry, northerly air has replaced the humid marine air over all of India except the southeastern third of the peninsula. This "retreat of the monsoon" marks the start of the cool season.
Average annual precipitation varies widely. Cherrapunji in the Shillong Plateau just north of Bangladesh receives 450 inches (1,143 centimeters), making it the second rainiest place on Earth, after Mount Waialeale in Hawaii (460 inches, 1,168 centimeters). At the other extreme, the western Thar Desert averages only 4 inches (10 centimeters). In the driest parts of India, however, the rainfall is highly variable.
Temperature varies as does rainfall in different parts of India. Hill stations in the Himalayan region, such as Darjeeling and Simla, record the lowest temperatures, with annual averages of between about 54° and 57°F (12° and 14°C). In the Indo-Gangetic Plain, Delhi and Allahabad register an average of 79°F (26°C).

Plant and Animal Life
Most of the far northeast (north and east of Bangladesh), northern West Bengal, and the west coast from Cochin to somewhat north of Bombay get more than 80 inches (200 centimeters) of rainfall annually. This is usually enough to keep the soil moist throughout the year. The natural vegetation associated with these regions is an exceedingly varied, broadleaf, evergreen rain forest, typically tall and dense. Much of the rain forest, however, is in hilly regions that have been repeatedly burned over and cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture, a type of farming particularly associated with India's tribal population. As a result, the soil has become less fertile. Where the forest has grown again, it is generally lower and less open than the original vegetation.
Areas with from 40 to 80 inches (100 to 200 centimeters) of rainfall (enough to grow at least one crop of rice) include almost the whole northeastern peninsular region, the eastern Gangetic Plain, a narrow belt on the plains and hills just south of the Himalayas as far west as Kashmir, another belt just east of the crest of the Western Ghats, and most of the southeastern, or Coromandel, coast. In these areas, as average rainfall declines the forests become progressively shorter, less dense, and less varied.
In addition, as rainfall declines from 80 to 60 inches (200 to 150 centimeters) evergreens gradually give way to deciduous species, which in these regions lose their leaves during the cool, dry season. Where government protection from slash-and-burn agriculture has kept forests intact, they include good stands of teak, sal, and other excellent timber species.
Most of the rest of India averages from 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 centimeters), enough to grow one crop of grain other than rice. The natural vegetation consists of low, open forests, intermixed with thorny shrubs and grasses. Little of the original vegetative cover remains.
A wide variety of distinctive vegetation types occurs as a result of special ecological conditions. Tall grass savannas, with scattered acacias, grow on the moist soils of the Terai, the fringe of plains bordering the northern mountains. Mangrove forests are found in the brackish deltas of the east coast, and many types of palms grow in sandy or salty soils. Often impenetrable stands of bamboo sprout up in fields formerly given over to slash-and-burn cultivation.
The alterations in India's vegetation over the centuries have brought about many changes in the animal life. Today the dominant forms are cattle, goats, buffalo, sheep, and, in the drier regions, camels. While cattle are essential to the nation's economy, there is a religious taboo against their slaughter.
In the forests and the high, rugged areas where wild species are still dominant, the array of animals remains rich. Among large mammals are the Indian elephant, still regularly rounded up and domesticated in several areas; the rhinoceros, living almost exclusively in game sanctuaries; over a dozen species of deer and antelope; and wild cattle, sheep, goats, and boars.
Carnivores, or meat eaters, include tigers and leopards; lions, once wide-ranging but now confined to the Gir Forest on the Kathiawar Peninsula; the nearly extinct cheetah; and a variety of bears. Monkeys, especially langurs and rhesuses, are common even in cities. The cobra is the best-known reptile. Three species of crocodiles are found. There are about 1,200 species of birds, among them vultures, parrots, mynas, quail, and bustards.

PEOPLE AND CULTURE
It is not certain which racial group first occupied India. The assumption is often made that the first inhabitants had characteristics in common with the small-statured, dark, aboriginal population of Australia, as well as with other tribal groups still found in isolated, forested regions of Southeast Asia. Therefore, the term proto-Australoid has been applied to the racial type represented by a number of tribes still living in India, mainly in the states of Bihar, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh. Other early arrivals were the ancestors of the peoples, now living mainly in southern India, who speak languages of the Dravidian family. The Mongoloid peoples have also been in India a long time. Their present-day descendants include several tribal groups living along the frontiers with Myanmar, China (Tibet), Bhutan, and Nepal.
Not later than the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, a wave of migrants of inner Eurasian origin began to filter into India through passes on the northwestern frontier of the country. These invaders, known as Aryans, had relatively light skin and spoke languages of the Indo-European family.
Throughout recorded history new groups have continued to penetrate India, mainly from the northwest: Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Afghans, and, since the 16th century, small numbers of Western Europeans. Over the millennia all these peoples have interbred in varying degrees. The resulting mixture is so highly complex that it is virtually impossible to draw clear racial distinctions among the people of India today.

Language
Linguistic differences are much clearer than those of racial groupings. Two linguistic groups, the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian, account for all but a tiny proportion of the population. Of the Indo-Aryan languages, Hindi, the official national language, is the most important. In its standard form and its many dialects, it is spoken by about 43 percent of the population and is understood by a large number of others. It is predominant in the northern and central regions. Included among the Hindi variations is Urdu, referred to until 1947 as Hindustani or Khari Boli, which is recognized as a separate "official" language in the Indian constitution. Urdu is also the official language of Pakistan and is spoken by most Indian Muslims (except in the far south and east).
Other important Indo-Aryan languages are Bengali (the official language of the state of West Bengal and also of Bangladesh), Panjabi (the official language of the state of Punjab and the most widely spoken language of Pakistan), and Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Assamese, and Kashmiri (respectively, the official languages of the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Assam, and Jammu and Kashmir). Two other languages of the Indo-Aryan family are among the 15 regarded as official languages by the constitution: Sanskrit, a classical literary language, and Sindhi, spoken largely in the Sind province of Pakistan and also by Hindu refugees who came to India after partition in 1947. The list of official languages includes four Dravidian tongues: Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada, which predominate, respectively, in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
English is understood by most educated persons. While it is not one of the 15 languages, it is officially recognized and is used, for example, for correspondence between Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi-speaking states. It is also the language shared by the Dravidian-speaking south and the Hindi-speaking north. Of the scores of languages not officially recognized, many are spoken almost exclusively by tribal peoples, known collectively as Adibasis.

Hinduism
Though a number of religions flourish in India's tolerant social climate, four fifths of the people are Hindus. Hinduism evolved from Vedism, the religion of the early Aryan invaders. While it recognizes innumerable gods, they are widely regarded as diverse manifestations of one great universal spirit. Hinduism has no standard orthodox form. It is, in effect, what people who call themselves Hindus do in carrying out their dharma, or religious obligations. This varies considerably from one region and social group to another.

Caste
The social groups with which Hindus identify most strongly are their jatis, or castes. A caste is a hereditary group whose members intermarry only among themselves. Each has its own origin myth, traditional occupation, rules relating to kinship, diet, and various forms of behavior. Castes are graded in a social and ritual hierarchy in which each expects respect from inferior groups and gives respect to superior ones. While obviously creating disparities, the caste system is not regarded by most Hindus as unjust. According to generally accepted beliefs associated with reincarnation, or rebirth after death, the caste into which one is born depends on one's karma--that is, one's accumulated good and bad deeds in previous existences. The way to achieve higher status in future incarnations is to accept one's station in life and live accordingly. This is the path that may eventually lead to salvation, called moksha, freedom from the continuous round of rebirths.
There are thousands of jatis, but most may be grouped into four great social classes called varnas. The highest are the Brahmans, the priestly castes that traditionally dominated the learned professions and still wield great influence. Next are the Kshatriyas, traditionally warriors, rulers, and large landowners. Third are the Vaishyas, once mainly farmers but now chiefly associated with commerce. Lowest are the Shudras, who today constitute the mass of India's artisans and laborers.
Below the Shudras are a number of castes with no varna designation. Traditionally these outcastes were regarded as "Untouchables" because their association with unclean occupations, such as scavenging and leatherworking, made them ritually impure and able to convey pollution to others. These groups have always been subject to considerable prejudice. The nationalist leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, who tried to ensure that they were treated humanely, bestowed on them the name Harijan, or children of God, by which they are now popularly known.
Officially they are recognized as "scheduled castes." The Indian constitution, which outlaws untouchability, requires that a "schedule" of such groups be prepared in every state as an aid to providing them with special benefits. The aim is to help them overcome their disadvantaged position. Thus, they are guaranteed seats in the national and state parliaments, at least in proportion to their 15 percent of the population, as well as minimum quotas for placement in universities and government, and various other benefits. Similarly, the tribal peoples, 7.5 percent of the population, are designated as "scheduled tribes" and given corresponding benefits.

Islam
Muslims, who constitute 11 percent of the population, are the largest religious minority. Many of these followers of the monotheistic faith of Islam are descendants of invaders from the Middle East and Central Asia who began entering the subcontinent as early as the 8th century. Most, however, are descendants of converts from Hinduism and other faiths. The majority belong to the Sunnah branch of Islam, though the Shi'ah sect is well represented among Muslim trading groups of Gujarat.
Although Islam, unlike Hinduism, stresses the equality of people, the institution of caste is so strong in the subcontinent that it has affected the communities professing Islam and most other faiths. Thus, most Indian Muslims intermarry within graded, castelike groups, many of which have traditional occupations. Muslims form a majority of the population in Jammu and Kashmir and substantial minorities in the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala.

Other Religious Minorities
Sikhs, with 2.6 percent of the population, are predominant in the state of Punjab. Their faith, which dates from the early 16th century, combines aspects of Hinduism, such as belief in reincarnation, with ideas borrowed from Islam, in particular strict belief in only one God. A militant brotherhood, they are recognizable by their distinctive beards and turbans. Sikhs form a prominent part of India's army and are influential in many professions and in government.
Two ancient and related faiths, Buddhism and Jainism, each have several million followers in India. Though Buddhism originated in India, it became virtually extinct there and remained so until 1956, when a renowned leader of the scheduled castes, B. R. Ambedkar, converted to it. Millions of his followers subsequently followed suit. Jainism, never very popular, has contributed enormously to Indian art, architecture, and religious thought. For centuries the small Jaina community has been especially prominent in commerce. Both Jainas and Buddhists practice ahimsa, or nonviolence, one of many religious beliefs they share with the Hindus. The Zoroastrians, known as Parsis, form another small (barely 100,000) but highly educated and influential religious community. Members of a religion founded in the 6th century BC by the Iranian prophet Zoroaster, they are descendants of Zoroastrians who fled to India from the 10th century onward to escape Muslim persecution.
Christianity claims to date back to AD 52, when St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles, is said to have landed on the west coast of India. He is recognized as the founder of the Syrian Christians. Roman Catholics, including many descendants of 16th-century converts, are the most numerous Christian group, especially on the west coast and in the far south. During the last two centuries, Protestant missionaries have been especially successful among tribal and scheduled caste groups. Collectively, Christians make up nearly 3 percent of India's population. A small percentage follows Judaism, which was introduced by early Jewish traders who established settlements in coastal towns, notably Cochin.
Recent Indian censuses have reported only a few million of India's large tribal population as practicing animistic religions. Nevertheless, there is a strong element of spirit worship in the religious practices of most of India's tribes, blended in varying degrees with forms borrowed from Hinduism.

Ways of Life
Three fourths of India's people live in villages. These settlements may contain a thousand or more households, but one hundred to several hundred families is typical. In northwestern India villages tend to have an almost urban appearance, with tightly clustered dwellings that often form parts of high-walled compounds with few windows facing the street. In the eastern and southern regions the villages are less cramped. The various castes within a village are residentially segregated. The higher and more powerful castes generally have their homes near the center of the village, while the scheduled castes and Muslims, if any, live on its outskirts. In southern India scheduled-caste hamlets half a mile or more from the main village are not uncommon.
In much of India the typical village dwelling is a modest one-story mud hut of one or several rooms. Roofs are generally flat in the dry regions and peaked in areas of heavier rainfall. Most houses have no windows, but many have a shaded veranda where social activities take place. A cubicle or a corner of the yard is set aside for the kitchen hearth, normally containing an earth stove fueled by cow dung or firewood. Furniture is scarce, indoor plumbing is virtually unknown, and electricity is uncommon. Water, brought home from wells, is stored in large clay jars, which are also used to keep perishable foods.
The family.
Households often consist of more than one married couple. These joint families are usually headed by a senior male, whose wife, mother, or another related senior female assigns domestic chores to the women and girls. Generally the extended family may include his unmarried children, his younger brothers and their wives and unmarried children, his unmarried sisters, and his married sons and grandsons and their wives and unmarried children. In practice, however, brothers commonly separate and form new households soon after the death of their father.
Over most of India (though not in the south or northeast), a girl marries outside her village, usually while still in her teens. Even where a female marries within the village, she moves to the husband's household. Widow remarriage is frowned upon. Married couples display a marked preference for male children. Boys are desired not only because of their anticipated contribution to the family income but also because sons are needed to perform certain rites at a parent's cremation. Girls, on the other hand, are seen as a liability because they require expensive dowries when they are married. Various state governments have tried to discourage this practice, but often families still go into debt to provide dowries; a family with several daughters and no sons may face financial disaster. Boys are expected to help in the fields and girls in the home. The freedom that girls enjoy is restricted after they reach the age of puberty; in northern India, even among the Hindus, female seclusion is common.
The village economy.
Most villagers are farmers. The majority own some land, usually in scattered parcels, but a substantial number must rent all or part of the land they farm, either for cash or for an agreed-upon share of the harvest. The amount depends on whether the cultivator or the landlord pays for seed and irrigation water, and on who provides the animals for plowing. Shares typically range from one third to one half the harvest. Many families, especially among the scheduled castes, have no land at all, and both adults and children must sell their labor to the larger farmers.
The simple tools used by most Indian farmers are generally made in the villages. Plows are wooden, with short iron tips. They furrow but do not turn the soil. Draft animals are mainly oxen in the drier regions and water buffalo in the wetter, rice-growing areas. Both cattle and water buffalo are milked, but yields are low. Transport is still largely by oxcart or buffalo cart, though the use of trucks is gaining as a result of road improvement. Tractor cultivation is rare except in Haryana and the Punjab.
Goods and services that are not available locally are obtained from nearby villages, at weekly outdoor markets, in towns and cities, and at fairs, usually held in connection with religious holidays. Payment for goods and services provided within the village may be either in cash or in kind. The latter type of payment, usually a portion of grain at the time of harvest, used to be the customary rule. Most specialized-caste families catered to a particular set of patron families, known as jajmans, with whom they were linked by hereditary ties. This jajmani system is breaking down over most of India, but patron-client alliances among various castes remain a common feature of village life.
Most villages have at least a primary school offering up to six years of instruction. Some also offer adult education classes in the evening. While few villages can support a well-trained doctor, many have practitioners of traditional medicine. Government-aided dispensaries are increasingly common.
For entertainment men join their fellow caste members or those from castes at levels close to their own to pass the evening hours smoking and chatting. Women and girls talk at the village well and may join groups to sing religious songs. Male youths sometimes form sports clubs or drama groups. Village-owned radios set up in public spaces are common, but television is rare. Traveling storytellers, musicians, acrobats, and snake charmers relieve the drabness of life, as do weddings, religious celebrations, trips to local fairs, and occasional religious pilgrimages.
Local government.
Village government is in the hands of a democratically elected council, known as a panchayat, presided over by a village headman. In former days virtually all panchayat members were men of the upper castes, usually those who owned the most land. Now many states require that a certain number of women and members of scheduled castes be included. Increasingly, elections are held by secret ballot. The panchayats are expected to work closely with the government-sponsored Community Development Program, which has divided the entire country into community development blocks, averaging about a hundred villages each. Village-level workers within each block are the chief links between the government and the villagers. They bring news to the villagers of developments that might benefit them and report back the sentiments of the people.
Urban life.
Approximately one fourth of all Indians live in urban places. Of these, more than half live in settlements of more than 100,000 people, officially defined as cities. The 1991 census listed 18 cities with over one million people. The three largest--Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi (including the capital, New Delhi)--had populations of more than five million each.
Indian cities are generally poorly planned and are much more crowded than those of Europe or North America. Streets are narrow, the number of people in residential dwellings is high, and buildings with more than two stories are relatively scarce. The principal activity is retail trade, mainly carried out in small shops in specialized bazaar streets. Many shops combine a handicraft activity, often in a back room, and a sales outlet. The family of the shopkeeper normally lives just behind or above the shop.
Open spaces within larger cities and on their outskirts are likely to contain makeshift squatter settlements, occupied by recent immigrants from the countryside who have come to the city in search of employment. Many people lack any shelter at all and simply resort to sleeping in the streets, especially near railway stations where temporary day laborers are recruited each morning.
In the last few generations, many cities have spawned satellites located a considerable distance away from the densely settled cores. Some housed members of the civil administration during the period of British rule and are still known as civil lines. Others, designated as cantonments, included residences and special areas such as parade grounds set aside for the army. Since India achieved independence, many planned modern suburbs have sprung up. Modern factories, sometimes grouped in government-sponsored industrial estates, have increasingly been located outside the cities.
Like cities everywhere, those of India are centers of education, cultural activities, political ferment, and social change. In the urban setting, the caste and religious barriers that loom so large in the villages are considerably relaxed. Thus, there is somewhat more opportunity for talented individuals to rise in government, modern business, factories, and universities.

Art and Literature
The artistic and literary heritage of India is exceptionally rich. Probably most renowned are the country's architectural masterpieces. These date from many different ages. The ancient Buddhist domed stupa, or shrine, at Sanchi was probably begun by the emperor Asoka in the mid-3rd century BC. The Kailasa Temple at Ellora was carved out of solid rock in the 8th century. The enormous, elaborately sculptured Sun Temple at Konarak dates from the 13th century, and the Minakshi Temple in Madurai, with its striking outer towers and inner Hall of 1,000 Pillars, from the 16th century. The sublime Taj Mahal at Agra was built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favorite wife. Every major region and religious group of India has produced works of extraordinary merit. Hindu and Jaina temples are usually richly embellished by sculpture. Because of the Islamic opposition to representative art, mosques are comparatively austere and rely for adornment largely on inlaid stonework, decorative tiles, geometric designs in stone, plaster, or wood, and ornate calligraphy.
Painting is relatively less developed, and much of the work of the past has fallen victim to weather. However, the well-preserved, sensuous cave paintings at Ajanta, dating from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD, demonstrate great technical proficiency at an early date. Altogether different is the lyric and romantic style of the various schools of miniature painting that flourished in the courts of the Mughals and the Rajput princes in the 16th and subsequent centuries. Modern painting, inspired by both European and Far Eastern models, has had several internationally recognized exponents.
Classical Indian music, dance, and drama are closely linked. Their roots go back nearly 2,000 years. Their mastery calls for great discipline and intensive practice. Each has a conventionalized "language" that demands considerable sophistication on the part of the audience. As with architecture, a number of regional styles have developed. Folk music and dance also show wide regional variations.
The literature of India covers many fields of knowledge, but religious and philosophical texts are particularly numerous. The oldest religious texts, the Vedas (beginning with the 'Rig-Veda' around 1500 BC, were transmitted only by word of mouth for many centuries before being committed to writing. For most Hindus the two best-known texts are the great epics, the 'Ramayana' and the 'Mahabharata', composed roughly 2,000 years ago. The former recounts the adventures of the god-king Rama and provides models of proper conduct for both men and women. The latter, the longest poem ever written, relates a great mythical war involving all the peoples of ancient India. The most important portion of that epic, the 'Bhagavadgita', is the principal Hindu tract on morality and ethics.
Indian Muslim literature covers a wide range of practical subjects. However, the authority of the Koran, Islam's holy book, leaves little room for religious speculation. Poetry is particularly admired.

Education
Although India can boast the world's third largest pool of scientifically and technically trained persons, a large percentage of its people--47 percent of the total population--are still illiterate. The literacy rate for females (39 percent) is much lower than for males (64 percent), but the gap between the sexes is being reduced steadily. Similarly, the rural literacy rate is considerably lower than that for urban areas. The central and state governments are attempting to eradicate illiteracy. Thanks to a recent rapid increase in the number of schools, especially in the villages, around five sixths of the children aged 6-11 are now enrolled. However, the proportion falls to roughly two fifths for the 11-14 age group and only one fifth for those aged 14-17.
India's first three universities, at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, were chartered only in 1857. By independence the number of universities in what is now India had risen to 20, and today there are well over 100 with a combined student body of more than 3 million. Most universities have affiliated colleges scattered over a rather wide area. There are few towns of more than 20,000 population that do not have at least one such college.
The colleges have shown a gradual shift toward instruction in the official state languages. This makes higher education accessible to many more people, but it has also meant a decline of proficiency in English. Since postgraduate education is almost entirely in English, this may present a major problem in the future. Another problem, already serious, is the large number of graduates who are unemployed because college and university education has expanded much more rapidly than the economy.

Health
In general, the level of health among the Indian population is far from good. Because of impure drinking water and lack of public sanitation, diseases such as dysentery and typhoid are fairly common. Cholera, malaria, filariasis, and other illnesses associated with wet, tropical climates are serious problems. Although few people now starve to death in times of scarcity, many millions are improperly nourished and afflicted by various deficiency diseases.
The government is making considerable efforts to meet the health needs of the people. Thus, the average life expectancy at birth rose from around 32 years in 1951 to 53 years in 1981 and to 60 years in 1992. Immunization programs have greatly reduced the incidence of certain diseases, and smallpox, once a major killer, has been eradicated. A vigorous anti-mosquito campaign came close to wiping out malaria as well, but with the emergence of DDT-resistant strains of mosquitos, the spread of malaria has continued virtually unabated.
The number of government-paid doctors in the countryside has increased substantially, and a network of rural primary-health-care centers is being established. These centers are staffed by "multipurpose health workers" who have taken a short medical course, enabling them to treat many common health problems that do not really need a doctor's attention. Throughout India there are also practitioners of traditional Indian systems of medicine that are reasonably effective for a number of ailments.
Apart from treating illnesses, the medical profession has been called on to play a major role in implementing India's family planning program. This involves giving advice to women or married couples who wish to practice birth control and performing sterilization operations on willing men and women. However, a controversial effort to enforce compulsory sterilization in the mid-1970s failed, and the Indian public has been slow to accept the desirability of limiting family size. While the birthrate has fallen significantly in recent decades, it is still dangerously high. At the current growth rate of approximately 2 percent per year, the population of India could double every 37 years.

THE ECONOMY
Because of low levels of productivity, both per worker and per acre of agricultural land, average incomes in India are among the lowest in the world. Almost all production must go to meet the subsistence needs of the population, and savings and investment are difficult to promote. Hence, the nation finds it difficult to escape from a vicious cycle of poverty. Nevertheless, by a combination of careful economic planning and foreign economic aid India has managed to make remarkable progress since independence. Major sources of aid have been the United States, the Soviet Union, and the World Bank and other international agencies. Because the growth rate of agricultural production has substantially exceeded that of the population, acute famine no longer appears to be a serious threat. Growth in manufacturing has been impressive, and India now ranks among the world's ten largest industrial nations.

Agriculture
Crops.
The pattern of Indian agriculture varies greatly from one region to another. Almost everywhere, grains form the principal crop: rice in the wetter portions of the east and south, wheat in the north and northwest, sorghum and millets over much of the peninsular interior. Leguminous crops such as gram, often grown with grain, are also widely cultivated, as are various oil seeds. Sugarcane is a highly profitable crop where modern crushing plants are accessible. Certain fruits, especially mangoes, are exceedingly abundant in season. Nevertheless, the total area given over to fruits and vegetables is insufficient to provide most Indians with a balanced diet.
Since the late 1800s Indian agriculture has become much more intensive as efforts were made to obtain the best yield from every piece of land. The first major changes resulted from the development of giant canal irrigation projects, especially in the western Indo-Gangetic Plain and on the Indus Plain, which now is largely in Pakistan. Following independence the government of India accelerated this effort. Multipurpose river basin development projects were established in all parts of the country. As the opportunities for additional surface water projects became limited, the emphasis shifted to irrigation from groundwater, usually by means of deep, cement-lined, power-driven tube wells.
The Green Revolution.
Another major change has been the spread of new, high-yielding varieties of hybrid seeds. In some areas use of these seeds has multiplied wheat yields several-fold. There have also been impressive gains in rice production. However, these varieties require large inputs of fertilizers, irrigation water, and pesticides. Thus, a whole new technology, popularly called the Green Revolution, is needed. States such as Punjab and Haryana, where the new methods have been practiced on a large scale, have prospered greatly. Other states that have been unable to adapt them are still struggling.
Traditional Indian agriculture was overwhelmingly for subsistence, but from the 19th century onward there has been a great increase in commercial farming. Chief among the cash crops is cotton, which is grown mainly on the black lava soils of the Deccan. Jute, grown for fiber, is important in the Ganges delta area of West Bengal. Plantation crops include tea, grown in the highlands of the far south and northeast; coffee, a southern highland crop; and rubber and coconuts, produced mainly along the southwestern coast. Important specialty crops include tobacco, chilies, various spices, cashew nuts, and betel leaf (pan).
Livestock.
Because of the scarcity of land and the widely held taboos against eating meat, especially beef and pork, little livestock is raised for slaughter. Mutton from sheep and goats is widely consumed, however, as are poultry and eggs. Animals are economically important for plowing and transportation; for milk and milk products; for leather, skins, and wool; and as sources of dung for fuel and fertilizer.

Fishing and Forestry
There are some taboos against eating fish, but they are less prevalent than those against meat. Hence, fishing at sea and in rivers provides a modest supplement to a diet generally poor in protein. Increasingly, rice paddies are being stocked with carp and other fishes. Shrimp have become a significant export.
Forestry is not well developed. Most of the nation's forests--about 23 percent of the total area--are owned and managed by the state governments. Commercial exploitation is generally carried out by licensed companies. The principal timber species are sal and teak. However, much of the legal cutting and considerable poaching is for firewood and the manufacture of charcoal. Other forest products include wood for pulp, paneling, and matches; aromatic sandalwood; bamboo canes; medicinal plants; lac, which is used in shellac; resins; and tanning and dyeing materials. In a country where paper is scarce, leaves often serve as wrappers.

Mining
A great variety of minerals are mined and quarried. Foremost in importance and in value of production is coal, which is mined at many sites but chiefly in the Chota Nagpur Plateau. Coal supplies more than half of India's energy needs. Petroleum production, from small fields in Assam and Gujarat and the promising offshore Bombay High field, is expanding fairly rapidly, but domestic production meets only half of the demand for petroleum products. Hydroelectricity, an important supplementary source of energy, provides nearly two fifths of the nation's electrical power requirements. India is a major producer and exporter of iron ore. It also produces several important minerals used in ferroalloys, such as manganese and chromite. Other metals include copper, gold, zinc, lead, bauxite, and silver. Limestone, phosphorite, dolomite, and gypsum are used in the manufacture of cement, fertilizers, and other products. High-quality building stones, gems, mica, and kaolin, or china clay, are produced in significant quantities.

Manufacturing
Indian handicraft industries, especially those producing textiles, have been renowned for centuries. Before the Industrial Revolution the products of these industries were avidly sought for European markets. Subsequently, however, millions of artisans in India found it virtually impossible to compete with the cheap products of British mills and lost their traditional forms of livelihood. Before independence attempts were made to boycott British imports, as advocated by Mohandas K. Gandhi. This, together with official support for small-scale industry after 1947, led to some resurgence of handicrafts. In India as elsewhere, however, the economic advantages of large-scale production have forced ever greater reliance on factory production.
The oldest factory industry--and the most important as a source of employment--is the manufacture of cotton textiles. Though mills are found in most parts of the country, they are concentrated along the west coast, from Bombay north to Ahmadabad. India ranks among the world's principal manufacturers and exporters of cottons. Other textile industries include the manufacture of jute for burlap bags and other uses, concentrated in cities on the Hooghly River north of Calcutta; woolens, in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Amritsar (Punjab), and Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir); and rayon. In the widespread leather industry, as with textiles, modern factories offer severe competition to traditional craftsmen. In general, modern food industries are poorly developed, mainly because low incomes limit effective demand for their products. Among the exceptions are sugar refining and the processing of vegetable oils, tea, and coffee.
India's modern metallurgical industry got its start in 1907, when the Tata Iron and Steel Company was established at Jamshedpur (Bihar) on the Chota Nagpur Plateau. In addition to steel, India produces aluminum and copper for further processing. Other major products include machine tools, automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, railway cars, diesel engines, pumps, and sewing machines, many of them produced for export. The country's electrical and chemical industries are expanding rapidly.
In the worst industrial accident in history, a highly toxic chemical escaped from a plant in Bhopal in December 1984. More than 3,300 people were killed. In 1989 the plant's owner, Union Carbide Corporation, paid 470 million dollars in relief to the victims, under the order of the Indian Supreme Court.

Transportation and Communication
India's railway system, begun in the mid-19th century, is an important inheritance from the period of British rule. With approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers), the government-owned network is the fourth largest in the world. Although the volume of freight carried is not impressive, the number of passenger-miles per year in the late 1980s was surpassed only by those of the Soviet Union and Japan. Trains on main lines offer frequent and efficient service. Few places are more than a day's walk from a railroad line.
Since independence there has been a great spurt of road building. By the early 1990s the road network had grown to approximately 1,250,000 miles (2,000,000 kilometers), about 42 percent of which was surfaced. Most villages can now be reached by automobile, at least in the dry season. The use of motor vehicles rose correspondingly, but the total was still small: 1,433,000 trucks and buses, 2,284,000 private cars, and more than 12 million motorcycles.
India has the largest merchant shipping fleet among the world's less developed countries. In the early 1990s it totaled 10.5 million gross registered tons and operated out of ten major and 170 minor ports. Companies engaged in overseas and coastal trade are both publicly and privately owned. Inland water traffic on the several thousand miles of navigable rivers and canals is no longer very important.
Air India, the government-owned international airline, flies to many parts of the world from Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. The Indian Airlines Corporation, also a state monopoly, serves virtually all the nation's cities. For most Indians, however, air travel is no more than a distant dream. A typical family is happy to own a single bicycle. In the countryside, transportation of goods by cart and pack animals is still the general rule. Human porters are common in the cities, where every conceivable mode of ground transport exists on the crowded streets.
The communications system of India is not well developed. Postal and telegraphic services reach all parts of the country, but service is slow. The telephone system is overburdened and inefficient. The main radio and television services are government operated and noncommercial. Service to the cities is generally adequate, but many villages do not have a single radio. Television is virtually unknown in rural areas, except in the vicinity of a few major cities. Plans are under way, however, for satellite transmission that will reach more parts of the country.
Motion pictures are an especially powerful and popular communications medium. Open-air cinemas are features of fairs, and no town of any size is without a movie house. In some years India is the world's leading film producer. Several hundred feature films are released annually in a variety of regional languages. Most are escapist adventures and love stories, in color, with a number of dance and song sequences. However, some Indian filmmakers, like Satyajit Ray, have achieved international acclaim.
The vigorous Indian press provides about 16,000 newspapers, including more than 2,000 dailies. The English-language press is still the most prestigious and influential, but newspapers in Indian languages have been gaining rapidly in readership.

GOVERNMENT
India's present constitution went into effect on Jan. 26, 1950. At that time, the nation changed its status from a dominion to a federal republic, though it remained within the Commonwealth. The governor- general, appointed by the British Crown, was replaced by a president, chosen by an electoral college. The president is the official chief of state, but the office is largely ceremonial.
Laws are enacted by a Parliament consisting of two chambers--the popularly elected Lok Sabha, or House of the People, with not more than 545 members and the Rajya Sabha, or Council of States, with not more than 250 indirectly elected members. The prime minister is elected by the majority party or coalition in Parliament and then formally appointed by the president. Executive power is exercised by the appointed Council of Ministers, or cabinet, under the leadership of the prime minister. Elections to the Lok Sabha are held at least every five years; if there is a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister's government, the president must call for new elections. The Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of federal laws, handles disputes between the central government and the states or between the states themselves, and judges appeals from lower courts.
India consists of 25 states and seven union territories. The governments of the states are organized in much the same way as the central government. The federal constitution gives the states control over certain issues, such as agriculture, and retains control over almost 100 others, such as foreign affairs. There is a third list of subjects, such as price control, on which both the central and state governments may pass laws. The union territories are controlled directly by the central government. The most important of these territories is Delhi, which includes the capital, New Delhi, and the rest of the Delhi metropolis.
The federal constitution includes a lengthy list of fundamental rights. It guarantees freedom of speech and religion, among many other rights, and abolishes untouchability. It also specifies a set of Directive Principles of State Policy, designed to guide the government in the interests of the people. In periods of national emergency, which only the president can declare, the government may legally suspend certain rights for a limited period. Such an emergency was in force in India from June 1975 to March 1977.
Party politics are energetically pursued at both the national and state levels. There are many parties, and their orientations are diverse. The Indian National Congress, or its dominant faction, has governed India since independence except for the three years from 1977 to 1980. It has been committed to a form of democratic socialism, with a mixture of private and state enterprise. Several other Socialist and Communist parties are ideologically to the left of Congress, while other parties are to its right. In addition, there are a number of parties that represent the interests of particular regions, language groups, and religions. With so many parties contesting Parliamentary elections, independent candidates have a fairly good chance of being elected. Despite the high level of illiteracy, voter turnouts in Indian elections are normally large.
In foreign affairs India tried to maintain a policy of nonalignment in the political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It supported independence movements in areas subject to colonial rule, opposed racism in South Africa and elsewhere, and championed the nations of the Third World in their economic dealings with the affluent countries of Europe, North America, and Japan. India has played a prominent role in the United Nations and in many of its specialized agencies.


KNOW ABOUT INDIA
Note: This article has been reproduced from the Crompton's Encyclopedia. Click here to read about the author.
Nearly one sixth of all the human beings on Earth live in India, the world's most populous democracy. Its borders encompass a vast variety of peoples, practicing most of the world's major religions, speaking scores of different languages, divided into thousands of socially exclusive castes, and combining the physical traits of several major racial groups. A civilized, urban society has existed in India for well over 4,000 years, and there have been periods when its culture was as brilliant and creative as any in history.
India's leaders have played a prominent role in world affairs since the country became independent in 1947. Nevertheless, the standard of living of most of its citizens is low. The huge population strains the nation's limited resources. Fertile, cultivable land is scarce, yet more than two thirds of the people depend directly on agriculture for their livelihood. Many millions of Indians are inadequately nourished, poorly housed, and lacking in basic educational, medical, and sanitary services.
The modern nation of India (also known by its ancient Hindi name, Bharat) is smaller than the Indian Empire formerly ruled by Britain. Burma (now Myanmar), a mainly Buddhist country lying to the east, was administratively detached from India in 1937. Ten years later, when Britain granted independence to the peoples of the Indian subcontinent, two regions with Muslim majorities--a large one in the northwest (West Pakistan) and a smaller one in the northeast (East Pakistan)--were partitioned from the predominantly Hindu areas and became the separate nation of Pakistan. East Pakistan broke away from Pakistan in 1971 to form the independent nation of Bangladesh. Also bordering India on its long northern frontier are the People's Republic of China and the relatively small kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan. The island republic of Sri Lanka lies just off India's southern tip.

LAND AND NATURAL RESOURCES
Much of India's area of almost 1.3 million square miles (3.3 million square kilometers--including the Pakistani-held part of Jammu and Kashmir) is a peninsula jutting into the Indian Ocean between the Arabian Sea on the west and the Bay of Bengal on the east. There are three distinct physiographic regions. In the north the high peaks of the Himalayas lie partly in India but mostly just beyond its borders in Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet. South of the mountains, the low-lying Indo-Gangetic Plain, shared with Pakistan and Bangladesh, extends more than 1,500 miles (2,400 kilometers) from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Finally, the peninsular tableland, largely the Deccan, together with its adjacent coastal plains, makes up more than half of the nation's area.
The Himalayas.
The northern mountain wall consists of three parallel ranges. The highest of these ranges is the Greater Himalayas, which include several peaks that rise above 25,000 feet (7,600 meters). Even the passes through these mountains are farther above sea level than the highest summits of the Alps. India has the world's largest area under snow and glaciers outside the polar regions.
Lower mountain ranges branch off from both ends of the Himalayan system, running along the border with Myanmar toward the Bay of Bengal in the east and--mainly through Pakistan--toward the Arabian Sea in the west. Thus, the low-lying country to the south is relatively isolated from the rest of Asia. This accounts for its recognition as a subcontinent.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain.
The Indo-Gangetic Plain, with an area of about 270,000 square miles (700,000 square kilometers), varies in width by several hundred miles. It is the world's most extensive tract of uninterrupted alluvium. These deep, river-deposited sediments give rise to fertile soils. In addition, they are rich in groundwater for well irrigation. The flat terrain also makes the area ideal for canal irrigation.
The greater part of the Indo-Gangetic Plain is drained by the Ganges River, which rises in the southern Himalayas and flows in a generally south to southeast direction to the Bay of Bengal. Its principal tributary, the Yamuna, or Jumna, flows past New Delhi, the capital of India, to join the Ganges near Allahabad. North of Goalundo Ghat in Bangladesh, the Ganges is joined by the Brahmaputra . The Indus and its tributaries drain the western and southwestern parts of the plain. The northern part of this area, now divided between India and Pakistan, is traditionally known as the Punjab, or Land of the Five Rivers, for the five major tributaries of the Indus--the Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Sutlej, and Beas . Also on the India-Pakistan border and considered part of the plain is the arid Thar, or Great Indian, Desert.
The Deccan.
The so-called tableland of India is actually a more complex landform region than that word suggests. Most of the 735,000 square miles (1.9 million square kilometers) of the Deccan are relatively flat, with elevations ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 feet (300 to 600 meters) above sea level. However, the terrain also includes numerous ranges of hills, as well as several long, prominent escarpments. Anai Mudi (8,842 feet, 2,695 meters), in the Southern Ghats, is the highest peak in peninsular India.
The coastal plains flanking the Deccan are relatively narrow, ranging from 6 to 80 miles (10 to 130 kilometers). The eastern plain is drained by several large deltas, including, from north to south, those of the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri rivers.
India is rich in nonenergy mineral resources and moderately well endowed with coal, but it is poor in proven reserves of petroleum and natural gas. The principal mineral deposits lie south of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Foremost among mineral-rich regions is the Chota Nagpur Plateau. This area contains India's main coal deposits as well as large quantities of high-grade iron ore, copper, bauxite, limestone, mica, and chromite. At more than 100 billion tons, the country's coal reserves are the fifth largest in the world. However, most of the coal is of poor quality because of its high ash and moisture content. Proven on-land petroleum reserves are insufficient to meet current demand. There has been some success with offshore exploration. Many of India's rivers are potential sources of hydroelectric power.

CLIMATE, VEGETATION, ANIMAL LIFE
In general, India's climate is governed by the monsoon, or seasonal, rain-bearing wind. Most of the country has three seasons: hot, wet, and cool. During the hot season, which usually lasts from early March to mid-June, very high temperatures are accompanied by intermittent winds and occasional dust storms.
Strong, humid winds from the southwest and south usually bringing very heavy rains that fall almost daily in the middle or late afternoon--the "burst of the monsoon"--herald the start of the wet season. It may begin as early as late May in the south. Eventually, the rains taper off, and by late October cool, dry, northerly air has replaced the humid marine air over all of India except the southeastern third of the peninsula. This "retreat of the monsoon" marks the start of the cool season.
Average annual precipitation varies widely. Cherrapunji in the Shillong Plateau just north of Bangladesh receives 450 inches (1,143 centimeters), making it the second rainiest place on Earth, after Mount Waialeale in Hawaii (460 inches, 1,168 centimeters). At the other extreme, the western Thar Desert averages only 4 inches (10 centimeters). In the driest parts of India, however, the rainfall is highly variable.
Temperature varies as does rainfall in different parts of India. Hill stations in the Himalayan region, such as Darjeeling and Simla, record the lowest temperatures, with annual averages of between about 54° and 57°F (12° and 14°C). In the Indo-Gangetic Plain, Delhi and Allahabad register an average of 79°F (26°C).

Plant and Animal Life
Most of the far northeast (north and east of Bangladesh), northern West Bengal, and the west coast from Cochin to somewhat north of Bombay get more than 80 inches (200 centimeters) of rainfall annually. This is usually enough to keep the soil moist throughout the year. The natural vegetation associated with these regions is an exceedingly varied, broadleaf, evergreen rain forest, typically tall and dense. Much of the rain forest, however, is in hilly regions that have been repeatedly burned over and cleared for slash-and-burn agriculture, a type of farming particularly associated with India's tribal population. As a result, the soil has become less fertile. Where the forest has grown again, it is generally lower and less open than the original vegetation.
Areas with from 40 to 80 inches (100 to 200 centimeters) of rainfall (enough to grow at least one crop of rice) include almost the whole northeastern peninsular region, the eastern Gangetic Plain, a narrow belt on the plains and hills just south of the Himalayas as far west as Kashmir, another belt just east of the crest of the Western Ghats, and most of the southeastern, or Coromandel, coast. In these areas, as average rainfall declines the forests become progressively shorter, less dense, and less varied.
In addition, as rainfall declines from 80 to 60 inches (200 to 150 centimeters) evergreens gradually give way to deciduous species, which in these regions lose their leaves during the cool, dry season. Where government protection from slash-and-burn agriculture has kept forests intact, they include good stands of teak, sal, and other excellent timber species.
Most of the rest of India averages from 20 to 40 inches (50 to 100 centimeters), enough to grow one crop of grain other than rice. The natural vegetation consists of low, open forests, intermixed with thorny shrubs and grasses. Little of the original vegetative cover remains.
A wide variety of distinctive vegetation types occurs as a result of special ecological conditions. Tall grass savannas, with scattered acacias, grow on the moist soils of the Terai, the fringe of plains bordering the northern mountains. Mangrove forests are found in the brackish deltas of the east coast, and many types of palms grow in sandy or salty soils. Often impenetrable stands of bamboo sprout up in fields formerly given over to slash-and-burn cultivation.
The alterations in India's vegetation over the centuries have brought about many changes in the animal life. Today the dominant forms are cattle, goats, buffalo, sheep, and, in the drier regions, camels. While cattle are essential to the nation's economy, there is a religious taboo against their slaughter.
In the forests and the high, rugged areas where wild species are still dominant, the array of animals remains rich. Among large mammals are the Indian elephant, still regularly rounded up and domesticated in several areas; the rhinoceros, living almost exclusively in game sanctuaries; over a dozen species of deer and antelope; and wild cattle, sheep, goats, and boars.
Carnivores, or meat eaters, include tigers and leopards; lions, once wide-ranging but now confined to the Gir Forest on the Kathiawar Peninsula; the nearly extinct cheetah; and a variety of bears. Monkeys, especially langurs and rhesuses, are common even in cities. The cobra is the best-known reptile. Three species of crocodiles are found. There are about 1,200 species of birds, among them vultures, parrots, mynas, quail, and bustards.

PEOPLE AND CULTURE
It is not certain which racial group first occupied India. The assumption is often made that the first inhabitants had characteristics in common with the small-statured, dark, aboriginal population of Australia, as well as with other tribal groups still found in isolated, forested regions of Southeast Asia. Therefore, the term proto-Australoid has been applied to the racial type represented by a number of tribes still living in India, mainly in the states of Bihar, Orissa, and Madhya Pradesh. Other early arrivals were the ancestors of the peoples, now living mainly in southern India, who speak languages of the Dravidian family. The Mongoloid peoples have also been in India a long time. Their present-day descendants include several tribal groups living along the frontiers with Myanmar, China (Tibet), Bhutan, and Nepal.
Not later than the middle of the 2nd millennium BC, a wave of migrants of inner Eurasian origin began to filter into India through passes on the northwestern frontier of the country. These invaders, known as Aryans, had relatively light skin and spoke languages of the Indo-European family.
Throughout recorded history new groups have continued to penetrate India, mainly from the northwest: Persians, Arabs, Turks, Mongols, Afghans, and, since the 16th century, small numbers of Western Europeans. Over the millennia all these peoples have interbred in varying degrees. The resulting mixture is so highly complex that it is virtually impossible to draw clear racial distinctions among the people of India today.

Language
Linguistic differences are much clearer than those of racial groupings. Two linguistic groups, the Indo-Aryan and the Dravidian, account for all but a tiny proportion of the population. Of the Indo-Aryan languages, Hindi, the official national language, is the most important. In its standard form and its many dialects, it is spoken by about 43 percent of the population and is understood by a large number of others. It is predominant in the northern and central regions. Included among the Hindi variations is Urdu, referred to until 1947 as Hindustani or Khari Boli, which is recognized as a separate "official" language in the Indian constitution. Urdu is also the official language of Pakistan and is spoken by most Indian Muslims (except in the far south and east).
Other important Indo-Aryan languages are Bengali (the official language of the state of West Bengal and also of Bangladesh), Panjabi (the official language of the state of Punjab and the most widely spoken language of Pakistan), and Marathi, Gujarati, Oriya, Assamese, and Kashmiri (respectively, the official languages of the states of Maharashtra, Gujarat, Orissa, Assam, and Jammu and Kashmir). Two other languages of the Indo-Aryan family are among the 15 regarded as official languages by the constitution: Sanskrit, a classical literary language, and Sindhi, spoken largely in the Sind province of Pakistan and also by Hindu refugees who came to India after partition in 1947. The list of official languages includes four Dravidian tongues: Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, and Kannada, which predominate, respectively, in the southern states of Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
English is understood by most educated persons. While it is not one of the 15 languages, it is officially recognized and is used, for example, for correspondence between Hindi-speaking and non-Hindi-speaking states. It is also the language shared by the Dravidian-speaking south and the Hindi-speaking north. Of the scores of languages not officially recognized, many are spoken almost exclusively by tribal peoples, known collectively as Adibasis.

Hinduism
Though a number of religions flourish in India's tolerant social climate, four fifths of the people are Hindus. Hinduism evolved from Vedism, the religion of the early Aryan invaders. While it recognizes innumerable gods, they are widely regarded as diverse manifestations of one great universal spirit. Hinduism has no standard orthodox form. It is, in effect, what people who call themselves Hindus do in carrying out their dharma, or religious obligations. This varies considerably from one region and social group to another.

Caste
The social groups with which Hindus identify most strongly are their jatis, or castes. A caste is a hereditary group whose members intermarry only among themselves. Each has its own origin myth, traditional occupation, rules relating to kinship, diet, and various forms of behavior. Castes are graded in a social and ritual hierarchy in which each expects respect from inferior groups and gives respect to superior ones. While obviously creating disparities, the caste system is not regarded by most Hindus as unjust. According to generally accepted beliefs associated with reincarnation, or rebirth after death, the caste into which one is born depends on one's karma--that is, one's accumulated good and bad deeds in previous existences. The way to achieve higher status in future incarnations is to accept one's station in life and live accordingly. This is the path that may eventually lead to salvation, called moksha, freedom from the continuous round of rebirths.
There are thousands of jatis, but most may be grouped into four great social classes called varnas. The highest are the Brahmans, the priestly castes that traditionally dominated the learned professions and still wield great influence. Next are the Kshatriyas, traditionally warriors, rulers, and large landowners. Third are the Vaishyas, once mainly farmers but now chiefly associated with commerce. Lowest are the Shudras, who today constitute the mass of India's artisans and laborers.
Below the Shudras are a number of castes with no varna designation. Traditionally these outcastes were regarded as "Untouchables" because their association with unclean occupations, such as scavenging and leatherworking, made them ritually impure and able to convey pollution to others. These groups have always been subject to considerable prejudice. The nationalist leader Mohandas K. Gandhi, who tried to ensure that they were treated humanely, bestowed on them the name Harijan, or children of God, by which they are now popularly known.
Officially they are recognized as "scheduled castes." The Indian constitution, which outlaws untouchability, requires that a "schedule" of such groups be prepared in every state as an aid to providing them with special benefits. The aim is to help them overcome their disadvantaged position. Thus, they are guaranteed seats in the national and state parliaments, at least in proportion to their 15 percent of the population, as well as minimum quotas for placement in universities and government, and various other benefits. Similarly, the tribal peoples, 7.5 percent of the population, are designated as "scheduled tribes" and given corresponding benefits.

Islam
Muslims, who constitute 11 percent of the population, are the largest religious minority. Many of these followers of the monotheistic faith of Islam are descendants of invaders from the Middle East and Central Asia who began entering the subcontinent as early as the 8th century. Most, however, are descendants of converts from Hinduism and other faiths. The majority belong to the Sunnah branch of Islam, though the Shi'ah sect is well represented among Muslim trading groups of Gujarat.
Although Islam, unlike Hinduism, stresses the equality of people, the institution of caste is so strong in the subcontinent that it has affected the communities professing Islam and most other faiths. Thus, most Indian Muslims intermarry within graded, castelike groups, many of which have traditional occupations. Muslims form a majority of the population in Jammu and Kashmir and substantial minorities in the states of Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, Assam, and Kerala.

Other Religious Minorities
Sikhs, with 2.6 percent of the population, are predominant in the state of Punjab. Their faith, which dates from the early 16th century, combines aspects of Hinduism, such as belief in reincarnation, with ideas borrowed from Islam, in particular strict belief in only one God. A militant brotherhood, they are recognizable by their distinctive beards and turbans. Sikhs form a prominent part of India's army and are influential in many professions and in government.
Two ancient and related faiths, Buddhism and Jainism, each have several million followers in India. Though Buddhism originated in India, it became virtually extinct there and remained so until 1956, when a renowned leader of the scheduled castes, B. R. Ambedkar, converted to it. Millions of his followers subsequently followed suit. Jainism, never very popular, has contributed enormously to Indian art, architecture, and religious thought. For centuries the small Jaina community has been especially prominent in commerce. Both Jainas and Buddhists practice ahimsa, or nonviolence, one of many religious beliefs they share with the Hindus. The Zoroastrians, known as Parsis, form another small (barely 100,000) but highly educated and influential religious community. Members of a religion founded in the 6th century BC by the Iranian prophet Zoroaster, they are descendants of Zoroastrians who fled to India from the 10th century onward to escape Muslim persecution.
Christianity claims to date back to AD 52, when St. Thomas, one of the 12 apostles, is said to have landed on the west coast of India. He is recognized as the founder of the Syrian Christians. Roman Catholics, including many descendants of 16th-century converts, are the most numerous Christian group, especially on the west coast and in the far south. During the last two centuries, Protestant missionaries have been especially successful among tribal and scheduled caste groups. Collectively, Christians make up nearly 3 percent of India's population. A small percentage follows Judaism, which was introduced by early Jewish traders who established settlements in coastal towns, notably Cochin.
Recent Indian censuses have reported only a few million of India's large tribal population as practicing animistic religions. Nevertheless, there is a strong element of spirit worship in the religious practices of most of India's tribes, blended in varying degrees with forms borrowed from Hinduism.

Ways of Life
Three fourths of India's people live in villages. These settlements may contain a thousand or more households, but one hundred to several hundred families is typical. In northwestern India villages tend to have an almost urban appearance, with tightly clustered dwellings that often form parts of high-walled compounds with few windows facing the street. In the eastern and southern regions the villages are less cramped. The various castes within a village are residentially segregated. The higher and more powerful castes generally have their homes near the center of the village, while the scheduled castes and Muslims, if any, live on its outskirts. In southern India scheduled-caste hamlets half a mile or more from the main village are not uncommon.
In much of India the typical village dwelling is a modest one-story mud hut of one or several rooms. Roofs are generally flat in the dry regions and peaked in areas of heavier rainfall. Most houses have no windows, but many have a shaded veranda where social activities take place. A cubicle or a corner of the yard is set aside for the kitchen hearth, normally containing an earth stove fueled by cow dung or firewood. Furniture is scarce, indoor plumbing is virtually unknown, and electricity is uncommon. Water, brought home from wells, is stored in large clay jars, which are also used to keep perishable foods.
The family.
Households often consist of more than one married couple. These joint families are usually headed by a senior male, whose wife, mother, or another related senior female assigns domestic chores to the women and girls. Generally the extended family may include his unmarried children, his younger brothers and their wives and unmarried children, his unmarried sisters, and his married sons and grandsons and their wives and unmarried children. In practice, however, brothers commonly separate and form new households soon after the death of their father.
Over most of India (though not in the south or northeast), a girl marries outside her village, usually while still in her teens. Even where a female marries within the village, she moves to the husband's household. Widow remarriage is frowned upon. Married couples display a marked preference for male children. Boys are desired not only because of their anticipated contribution to the family income but also because sons are needed to perform certain rites at a parent's cremation. Girls, on the other hand, are seen as a liability because they require expensive dowries when they are married. Various state governments have tried to discourage this practice, but often families still go into debt to provide dowries; a family with several daughters and no sons may face financial disaster. Boys are expected to help in the fields and girls in the home. The freedom that girls enjoy is restricted after they reach the age of puberty; in northern India, even among the Hindus, female seclusion is common.
The village economy.
Most villagers are farmers. The majority own some land, usually in scattered parcels, but a substantial number must rent all or part of the land they farm, either for cash or for an agreed-upon share of the harvest. The amount depends on whether the cultivator or the landlord pays for seed and irrigation water, and on who provides the animals for plowing. Shares typically range from one third to one half the harvest. Many families, especially among the scheduled castes, have no land at all, and both adults and children must sell their labor to the larger farmers.
The simple tools used by most Indian farmers are generally made in the villages. Plows are wooden, with short iron tips. They furrow but do not turn the soil. Draft animals are mainly oxen in the drier regions and water buffalo in the wetter, rice-growing areas. Both cattle and water buffalo are milked, but yields are low. Transport is still largely by oxcart or buffalo cart, though the use of trucks is gaining as a result of road improvement. Tractor cultivation is rare except in Haryana and the Punjab.
Goods and services that are not available locally are obtained from nearby villages, at weekly outdoor markets, in towns and cities, and at fairs, usually held in connection with religious holidays. Payment for goods and services provided within the village may be either in cash or in kind. The latter type of payment, usually a portion of grain at the time of harvest, used to be the customary rule. Most specialized-caste families catered to a particular set of patron families, known as jajmans, with whom they were linked by hereditary ties. This jajmani system is breaking down over most of India, but patron-client alliances among various castes remain a common feature of village life.
Most villages have at least a primary school offering up to six years of instruction. Some also offer adult education classes in the evening. While few villages can support a well-trained doctor, many have practitioners of traditional medicine. Government-aided dispensaries are increasingly common.
For entertainment men join their fellow caste members or those from castes at levels close to their own to pass the evening hours smoking and chatting. Women and girls talk at the village well and may join groups to sing religious songs. Male youths sometimes form sports clubs or drama groups. Village-owned radios set up in public spaces are common, but television is rare. Traveling storytellers, musicians, acrobats, and snake charmers relieve the drabness of life, as do weddings, religious celebrations, trips to local fairs, and occasional religious pilgrimages.
Local government.
Village government is in the hands of a democratically elected council, known as a panchayat, presided over by a village headman. In former days virtually all panchayat members were men of the upper castes, usually those who owned the most land. Now many states require that a certain number of women and members of scheduled castes be included. Increasingly, elections are held by secret ballot. The panchayats are expected to work closely with the government-sponsored Community Development Program, which has divided the entire country into community development blocks, averaging about a hundred villages each. Village-level workers within each block are the chief links between the government and the villagers. They bring news to the villagers of developments that might benefit them and report back the sentiments of the people.
Urban life.
Approximately one fourth of all Indians live in urban places. Of these, more than half live in settlements of more than 100,000 people, officially defined as cities. The 1991 census listed 18 cities with over one million people. The three largest--Calcutta, Bombay, and Delhi (including the capital, New Delhi)--had populations of more than five million each.
Indian cities are generally poorly planned and are much more crowded than those of Europe or North America. Streets are narrow, the number of people in residential dwellings is high, and buildings with more than two stories are relatively scarce. The principal activity is retail trade, mainly carried out in small shops in specialized bazaar streets. Many shops combine a handicraft activity, often in a back room, and a sales outlet. The family of the shopkeeper normally lives just behind or above the shop.
Open spaces within larger cities and on their outskirts are likely to contain makeshift squatter settlements, occupied by recent immigrants from the countryside who have come to the city in search of employment. Many people lack any shelter at all and simply resort to sleeping in the streets, especially near railway stations where temporary day laborers are recruited each morning.
In the last few generations, many cities have spawned satellites located a considerable distance away from the densely settled cores. Some housed members of the civil administration during the period of British rule and are still known as civil lines. Others, designated as cantonments, included residences and special areas such as parade grounds set aside for the army. Since India achieved independence, many planned modern suburbs have sprung up. Modern factories, sometimes grouped in government-sponsored industrial estates, have increasingly been located outside the cities.
Like cities everywhere, those of India are centers of education, cultural activities, political ferment, and social change. In the urban setting, the caste and religious barriers that loom so large in the villages are considerably relaxed. Thus, there is somewhat more opportunity for talented individuals to rise in government, modern business, factories, and universities.

Art and Literature
The artistic and literary heritage of India is exceptionally rich. Probably most renowned are the country's architectural masterpieces. These date from many different ages. The ancient Buddhist domed stupa, or shrine, at Sanchi was probably begun by the emperor Asoka in the mid-3rd century BC. The Kailasa Temple at Ellora was carved out of solid rock in the 8th century. The enormous, elaborately sculptured Sun Temple at Konarak dates from the 13th century, and the Minakshi Temple in Madurai, with its striking outer towers and inner Hall of 1,000 Pillars, from the 16th century. The sublime Taj Mahal at Agra was built in the 17th century by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a mausoleum for his favorite wife. Every major region and religious group of India has produced works of extraordinary merit. Hindu and Jaina temples are usually richly embellished by sculpture. Because of the Islamic opposition to representative art, mosques are comparatively austere and rely for adornment largely on inlaid stonework, decorative tiles, geometric designs in stone, plaster, or wood, and ornate calligraphy.
Painting is relatively less developed, and much of the work of the past has fallen victim to weather. However, the well-preserved, sensuous cave paintings at Ajanta, dating from the 1st century BC to the 7th century AD, demonstrate great technical proficiency at an early date. Altogether different is the lyric and romantic style of the various schools of miniature painting that flourished in the courts of the Mughals and the Rajput princes in the 16th and subsequent centuries. Modern painting, inspired by both European and Far Eastern models, has had several internationally recognized exponents.
Classical Indian music, dance, and drama are closely linked. Their roots go back nearly 2,000 years. Their mastery calls for great discipline and intensive practice. Each has a conventionalized "language" that demands considerable sophistication on the part of the audience. As with architecture, a number of regional styles have developed. Folk music and dance also show wide regional variations.
The literature of India covers many fields of knowledge, but religious and philosophical texts are particularly numerous. The oldest religious texts, the Vedas (beginning with the 'Rig-Veda' around 1500 BC, were transmitted only by word of mouth for many centuries before being committed to writing. For most Hindus the two best-known texts are the great epics, the 'Ramayana' and the 'Mahabharata', composed roughly 2,000 years ago. The former recounts the adventures of the god-king Rama and provides models of proper conduct for both men and women. The latter, the longest poem ever written, relates a great mythical war involving all the peoples of ancient India. The most important portion of that epic, the 'Bhagavadgita', is the principal Hindu tract on morality and ethics.
Indian Muslim literature covers a wide range of practical subjects. However, the authority of the Koran, Islam's holy book, leaves little room for religious speculation. Poetry is particularly admired.

Education
Although India can boast the world's third largest pool of scientifically and technically trained persons, a large percentage of its people--47 percent of the total population--are still illiterate. The literacy rate for females (39 percent) is much lower than for males (64 percent), but the gap between the sexes is being reduced steadily. Similarly, the rural literacy rate is considerably lower than that for urban areas. The central and state governments are attempting to eradicate illiteracy. Thanks to a recent rapid increase in the number of schools, especially in the villages, around five sixths of the children aged 6-11 are now enrolled. However, the proportion falls to roughly two fifths for the 11-14 age group and only one fifth for those aged 14-17.
India's first three universities, at Calcutta, Bombay, and Madras, were chartered only in 1857. By independence the number of universities in what is now India had risen to 20, and today there are well over 100 with a combined student body of more than 3 million. Most universities have affiliated colleges scattered over a rather wide area. There are few towns of more than 20,000 population that do not have at least one such college.
The colleges have shown a gradual shift toward instruction in the official state languages. This makes higher education accessible to many more people, but it has also meant a decline of proficiency in English. Since postgraduate education is almost entirely in English, this may present a major problem in the future. Another problem, already serious, is the large number of graduates who are unemployed because college and university education has expanded much more rapidly than the economy.

Health
In general, the level of health among the Indian population is far from good. Because of impure drinking water and lack of public sanitation, diseases such as dysentery and typhoid are fairly common. Cholera, malaria, filariasis, and other illnesses associated with wet, tropical climates are serious problems. Although few people now starve to death in times of scarcity, many millions are improperly nourished and afflicted by various deficiency diseases.
The government is making considerable efforts to meet the health needs of the people. Thus, the average life expectancy at birth rose from around 32 years in 1951 to 53 years in 1981 and to 60 years in 1992. Immunization programs have greatly reduced the incidence of certain diseases, and smallpox, once a major killer, has been eradicated. A vigorous anti-mosquito campaign came close to wiping out malaria as well, but with the emergence of DDT-resistant strains of mosquitos, the spread of malaria has continued virtually unabated.
The number of government-paid doctors in the countryside has increased substantially, and a network of rural primary-health-care centers is being established. These centers are staffed by "multipurpose health workers" who have taken a short medical course, enabling them to treat many common health problems that do not really need a doctor's attention. Throughout India there are also practitioners of traditional Indian systems of medicine that are reasonably effective for a number of ailments.
Apart from treating illnesses, the medical profession has been called on to play a major role in implementing India's family planning program. This involves giving advice to women or married couples who wish to practice birth control and performing sterilization operations on willing men and women. However, a controversial effort to enforce compulsory sterilization in the mid-1970s failed, and the Indian public has been slow to accept the desirability of limiting family size. While the birthrate has fallen significantly in recent decades, it is still dangerously high. At the current growth rate of approximately 2 percent per year, the population of India could double every 37 years.

THE ECONOMY
Because of low levels of productivity, both per worker and per acre of agricultural land, average incomes in India are among the lowest in the world. Almost all production must go to meet the subsistence needs of the population, and savings and investment are difficult to promote. Hence, the nation finds it difficult to escape from a vicious cycle of poverty. Nevertheless, by a combination of careful economic planning and foreign economic aid India has managed to make remarkable progress since independence. Major sources of aid have been the United States, the Soviet Union, and the World Bank and other international agencies. Because the growth rate of agricultural production has substantially exceeded that of the population, acute famine no longer appears to be a serious threat. Growth in manufacturing has been impressive, and India now ranks among the world's ten largest industrial nations.

Agriculture
Crops.
The pattern of Indian agriculture varies greatly from one region to another. Almost everywhere, grains form the principal crop: rice in the wetter portions of the east and south, wheat in the north and northwest, sorghum and millets over much of the peninsular interior. Leguminous crops such as gram, often grown with grain, are also widely cultivated, as are various oil seeds. Sugarcane is a highly profitable crop where modern crushing plants are accessible. Certain fruits, especially mangoes, are exceedingly abundant in season. Nevertheless, the total area given over to fruits and vegetables is insufficient to provide most Indians with a balanced diet.
Since the late 1800s Indian agriculture has become much more intensive as efforts were made to obtain the best yield from every piece of land. The first major changes resulted from the development of giant canal irrigation projects, especially in the western Indo-Gangetic Plain and on the Indus Plain, which now is largely in Pakistan. Following independence the government of India accelerated this effort. Multipurpose river basin development projects were established in all parts of the country. As the opportunities for additional surface water projects became limited, the emphasis shifted to irrigation from groundwater, usually by means of deep, cement-lined, power-driven tube wells.
The Green Revolution.
Another major change has been the spread of new, high-yielding varieties of hybrid seeds. In some areas use of these seeds has multiplied wheat yields several-fold. There have also been impressive gains in rice production. However, these varieties require large inputs of fertilizers, irrigation water, and pesticides. Thus, a whole new technology, popularly called the Green Revolution, is needed. States such as Punjab and Haryana, where the new methods have been practiced on a large scale, have prospered greatly. Other states that have been unable to adapt them are still struggling.
Traditional Indian agriculture was overwhelmingly for subsistence, but from the 19th century onward there has been a great increase in commercial farming. Chief among the cash crops is cotton, which is grown mainly on the black lava soils of the Deccan. Jute, grown for fiber, is important in the Ganges delta area of West Bengal. Plantation crops include tea, grown in the highlands of the far south and northeast; coffee, a southern highland crop; and rubber and coconuts, produced mainly along the southwestern coast. Important specialty crops include tobacco, chilies, various spices, cashew nuts, and betel leaf (pan).
Livestock.
Because of the scarcity of land and the widely held taboos against eating meat, especially beef and pork, little livestock is raised for slaughter. Mutton from sheep and goats is widely consumed, however, as are poultry and eggs. Animals are economically important for plowing and transportation; for milk and milk products; for leather, skins, and wool; and as sources of dung for fuel and fertilizer.

Fishing and Forestry
There are some taboos against eating fish, but they are less prevalent than those against meat. Hence, fishing at sea and in rivers provides a modest supplement to a diet generally poor in protein. Increasingly, rice paddies are being stocked with carp and other fishes. Shrimp have become a significant export.
Forestry is not well developed. Most of the nation's forests--about 23 percent of the total area--are owned and managed by the state governments. Commercial exploitation is generally carried out by licensed companies. The principal timber species are sal and teak. However, much of the legal cutting and considerable poaching is for firewood and the manufacture of charcoal. Other forest products include wood for pulp, paneling, and matches; aromatic sandalwood; bamboo canes; medicinal plants; lac, which is used in shellac; resins; and tanning and dyeing materials. In a country where paper is scarce, leaves often serve as wrappers.

Mining
A great variety of minerals are mined and quarried. Foremost in importance and in value of production is coal, which is mined at many sites but chiefly in the Chota Nagpur Plateau. Coal supplies more than half of India's energy needs. Petroleum production, from small fields in Assam and Gujarat and the promising offshore Bombay High field, is expanding fairly rapidly, but domestic production meets only half of the demand for petroleum products. Hydroelectricity, an important supplementary source of energy, provides nearly two fifths of the nation's electrical power requirements. India is a major producer and exporter of iron ore. It also produces several important minerals used in ferroalloys, such as manganese and chromite. Other metals include copper, gold, zinc, lead, bauxite, and silver. Limestone, phosphorite, dolomite, and gypsum are used in the manufacture of cement, fertilizers, and other products. High-quality building stones, gems, mica, and kaolin, or china clay, are produced in significant quantities.

Manufacturing
Indian handicraft industries, especially those producing textiles, have been renowned for centuries. Before the Industrial Revolution the products of these industries were avidly sought for European markets. Subsequently, however, millions of artisans in India found it virtually impossible to compete with the cheap products of British mills and lost their traditional forms of livelihood. Before independence attempts were made to boycott British imports, as advocated by Mohandas K. Gandhi. This, together with official support for small-scale industry after 1947, led to some resurgence of handicrafts. In India as elsewhere, however, the economic advantages of large-scale production have forced ever greater reliance on factory production.
The oldest factory industry--and the most important as a source of employment--is the manufacture of cotton textiles. Though mills are found in most parts of the country, they are concentrated along the west coast, from Bombay north to Ahmadabad. India ranks among the world's principal manufacturers and exporters of cottons. Other textile industries include the manufacture of jute for burlap bags and other uses, concentrated in cities on the Hooghly River north of Calcutta; woolens, in Kanpur (Uttar Pradesh), Amritsar (Punjab), and Srinagar (Jammu and Kashmir); and rayon. In the widespread leather industry, as with textiles, modern factories offer severe competition to traditional craftsmen. In general, modern food industries are poorly developed, mainly because low incomes limit effective demand for their products. Among the exceptions are sugar refining and the processing of vegetable oils, tea, and coffee.
India's modern metallurgical industry got its start in 1907, when the Tata Iron and Steel Company was established at Jamshedpur (Bihar) on the Chota Nagpur Plateau. In addition to steel, India produces aluminum and copper for further processing. Other major products include machine tools, automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, railway cars, diesel engines, pumps, and sewing machines, many of them produced for export. The country's electrical and chemical industries are expanding rapidly.
In the worst industrial accident in history, a highly toxic chemical escaped from a plant in Bhopal in December 1984. More than 3,300 people were killed. In 1989 the plant's owner, Union Carbide Corporation, paid 470 million dollars in relief to the victims, under the order of the Indian Supreme Court.

Transportation and Communication
India's railway system, begun in the mid-19th century, is an important inheritance from the period of British rule. With approximately 38,000 miles (61,000 kilometers), the government-owned network is the fourth largest in the world. Although the volume of freight carried is not impressive, the number of passenger-miles per year in the late 1980s was surpassed only by those of the Soviet Union and Japan. Trains on main lines offer frequent and efficient service. Few places are more than a day's walk from a railroad line.
Since independence there has been a great spurt of road building. By the early 1990s the road network had grown to approximately 1,250,000 miles (2,000,000 kilometers), about 42 percent of which was surfaced. Most villages can now be reached by automobile, at least in the dry season. The use of motor vehicles rose correspondingly, but the total was still small: 1,433,000 trucks and buses, 2,284,000 private cars, and more than 12 million motorcycles.
India has the largest merchant shipping fleet among the world's less developed countries. In the early 1990s it totaled 10.5 million gross registered tons and operated out of ten major and 170 minor ports. Companies engaged in overseas and coastal trade are both publicly and privately owned. Inland water traffic on the several thousand miles of navigable rivers and canals is no longer very important.
Air India, the government-owned international airline, flies to many parts of the world from Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta, and Madras. The Indian Airlines Corporation, also a state monopoly, serves virtually all the nation's cities. For most Indians, however, air travel is no more than a distant dream. A typical family is happy to own a single bicycle. In the countryside, transportation of goods by cart and pack animals is still the general rule. Human porters are common in the cities, where every conceivable mode of ground transport exists on the crowded streets.
The communications system of India is not well developed. Postal and telegraphic services reach all parts of the country, but service is slow. The telephone system is overburdened and inefficient. The main radio and television services are government operated and noncommercial. Service to the cities is generally adequate, but many villages do not have a single radio. Television is virtually unknown in rural areas, except in the vicinity of a few major cities. Plans are under way, however, for satellite transmission that will reach more parts of the country.
Motion pictures are an especially powerful and popular communications medium. Open-air cinemas are features of fairs, and no town of any size is without a movie house. In some years India is the world's leading film producer. Several hundred feature films are released annually in a variety of regional languages. Most are escapist adventures and love stories, in color, with a number of dance and song sequences. However, some Indian filmmakers, like Satyajit Ray, have achieved international acclaim.
The vigorous Indian press provides about 16,000 newspapers, including more than 2,000 dailies. The English-language press is still the most prestigious and influential, but newspapers in Indian languages have been gaining rapidly in readership.

GOVERNMENT
India's present constitution went into effect on Jan. 26, 1950. At that time, the nation changed its status from a dominion to a federal republic, though it remained within the Commonwealth. The governor- general, appointed by the British Crown, was replaced by a president, chosen by an electoral college. The president is the official chief of state, but the office is largely ceremonial.
Laws are enacted by a Parliament consisting of two chambers--the popularly elected Lok Sabha, or House of the People, with not more than 545 members and the Rajya Sabha, or Council of States, with not more than 250 indirectly elected members. The prime minister is elected by the majority party or coalition in Parliament and then formally appointed by the president. Executive power is exercised by the appointed Council of Ministers, or cabinet, under the leadership of the prime minister. Elections to the Lok Sabha are held at least every five years; if there is a vote of no-confidence in the prime minister's government, the president must call for new elections. The Supreme Court decides on the constitutionality of federal laws, handles disputes between the central government and the states or between the states themselves, and judges appeals from lower courts.
India consists of 25 states and seven union territories. The governments of the states are organized in much the same way as the central government. The federal constitution gives the states control over certain issues, such as agriculture, and retains control over almost 100 others, such as foreign affairs. There is a third list of subjects, such as price control, on which both the central and state governments may pass laws. The union territories are controlled directly by the central government. The most important of these territories is Delhi, which includes the capital, New Delhi, and the rest of the Delhi metropolis.
The federal constitution includes a lengthy list of fundamental rights. It guarantees freedom of speech and religion, among many other rights, and abolishes untouchability. It also specifies a set of Directive Principles of State Policy, designed to guide the government in the interests of the people. In periods of national emergency, which only the president can declare, the government may legally suspend certain rights for a limited period. Such an emergency was in force in India from June 1975 to March 1977.
Party politics are energetically pursued at both the national and state levels. There are many parties, and their orientations are diverse. The Indian National Congress, or its dominant faction, has governed India since independence except for the three years from 1977 to 1980. It has been committed to a form of democratic socialism, with a mixture of private and state enterprise. Several other Socialist and Communist parties are ideologically to the left of Congress, while other parties are to its right. In addition, there are a number of parties that represent the interests of particular regions, language groups, and religions. With so many parties contesting Parliamentary elections, independent candidates have a fairly good chance of being elected. Despite the high level of illiteracy, voter turnouts in Indian elections are normally large.
In foreign affairs India tried to maintain a policy of nonalignment in the political rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It supported independence movements in areas subject to colonial rule, opposed racism in South Africa and elsewhere, and championed the nations of the Third World in their economic dealings with the affluent countries of Europe, North America, and Japan. India has played a prominent role in the United Nations and in many of its specialized agencies.

HISTORY
Archaeological excavations at Mohenjo-daro and Harappa (both in Pakistan) reveal the existence of a civilization in the Indus Valley as long ago as about 2500 BC . The remains show that an urban manner of living had developed in which the people had wells, bathrooms, drainage systems, handsome jewelry, and well-made household utensils and copper weapons. The Rig Veda, composed in about 1400 BC, tells of the struggle between the Aryan invaders and the prior occupants of the land. By the 6th century BC at least 16 Aryan states had been established south of the Himalayas, and Brahmanism was flourishing.
In 326 BC the armies of Alexander the Great reached the Hydaspes River, the modern Jhelum. Soon after Alexander's death in Babylon in 323, Candragupta founded the Maurya Empire. His grandson Asoka adopted Buddhism, then a relatively small sect, and energetically promoted that faith. Under Asoka the Maurya Empire extended over all India except the extreme south, but it began to break up shortly after his death. Candra Gupta I, who reigned from AD 320 to 330, was the founder of the imperial dynasty of the Guptas, which flourished until the mid-6th century. The Gupta Dynasty marked the peak of classical Indian civilization.
A succession of invaders, notably the Kushans, Sakas, and Ephthalites, or White Huns, penetrated the subcontinent during these centuries. Mongol forces of Genghis Khan made raids into Punjab in the 1200s, and in 1399 Timur Lenk's hordes poured in. In 1526 Baber, a descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur Lenk, came through the northwest passes from Afghanistan and seized the throne of Delhi, establishing the great Mughal Empire. This remained almost continuously powerful until the early 1700s. The south of India was never completely conquered, but the empire of the north, under such rulers as Akbar and Shah Jahan, was among the most brilliant in the history of the Orient. During the reign of Aurangzeb, the last of the great Mughals, from 1618 to 1707, the Marathas of the Deccan undermined the Mughal Empire.

Arrival of the Europeans
Meanwhile, the struggle between European powers for dominance in Indian affairs had begun. In 1498 Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese navigator, discovered the ocean route around the Cape of Good Hope, and by the early 17th century the Dutch, British, and French began to challenge the Portuguese for the Indian trade. In 1600 the British East India Company was chartered, and within a century it had trading posts at Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta (then called Fort William). The French organized local troops, and their role in the quarrels of Indian rulers brought much of the Deccan under French influence by 1751.
British presence in India was threatened with extinction, but the genius of Robert Clive turned the tables. His storming and subsequent defense of Arcot in 1751 and his victory at Plassey in 1757 overthrew the French power and laid the foundations of the rule of the British East India Company . Later, trading rights gradually grew into political rule. It was a strange conquest, in which a private trading company conquered an empire chiefly through the use of soldiers (Sepoys) raised in the land itself. Warren Hastings, who became governor-general for the East India Company in 1774, built upon the foundation Clive had laid . By 1849 the rule of the company had been extended over virtually the whole of the subcontinent by conquest or treaties.
Certain high-handed methods used by the British company, as well as the teachings of missionaries and the introduction of European customs, now stirred a great wave of unrest. In 1857 a rumor was circulated among the company's Indian soldiers that the cartridge papers they had to tear with their teeth were greased with the fat of cows and pigs. The cow is sacred to Hindus, and the pig is abhorred by Muslims. This rumor started the great Sepoy Revolt, or Indian Mutiny, of 1857. The outbreak, though crushed, ended the powers of the East India Company. In 1858 the administration was transferred to the British Crown. In 1876 the British Parliament ruled that India should be designated an empire. The next year Queen Victoria was crowned empress of India.

The Indian Empire
The viceroy of India, appointed by the crown, ruled directly only in the provinces of British India. Hindu and Muslim princes continued to govern almost 600 native, or princely, states. These were nominally autonomous, but they were forbidden to make war on one another, and the viceroy kept an agent at each court to advise the ruler.
British rule brought internal peace and some economic development. The British built roads and railways, canals, irrigation works, and mills and factories. They introduced Western law and police systems, modernized cities, and built schools. Most British civil service personnel were able, though their aloofness aroused resentment. Indian intellectuals, many of them educated in England, began to dream of a free India. In 1885 they founded the Indian National Congress to further the participation of Indians in their own government.

The Struggle for Independence
During World War I Indian troops served the British loyally, but nationalist agitation increased afterward. The British Parliament passed a reform act in 1919, providing for provincial councils of Indians with some powers of supervision over agriculture, education, and public health. Far from satisfied, the extreme nationalists, led by Mohandas K. Gandhi, gained control of the Congress. Gandhi preached resistance to the British by "noncooperation" . Hundreds of thousands joined his civil disobedience campaigns. The Congress party quickly gained a mass following.
Rioting broke out when Parliament placed no Indians on the Simon Commission, appointed in 1927 to investigate the government of India. The British imprisoned Gandhi and his associates. In 1929 Jawaharlal Nehru was elected president of the Congress . Like Gandhi, Nehru was passionately devoted to the cause of freedom. He had absorbed Western ideas at Harrow and Cambridge, however, and, unlike Gandhi, wanted to bring modern technology and industrialization to India.
After three "round-table" conferences in London had considered the commission's report, Parliament passed a new Government of India Act in 1935. It provided for elected legislatures in the provinces, but property and educational requirements restricted the number of voters to about 14 percent of the population. To protect the interests of minorities, voting was by communal groups. Upper-caste Hindus, Untouchables, Muslims, Sikhs, and others voted for their own candidates. The system perpetuated religious strife. Mohammed Ali Jinnah, leader of the Muslim League, charged that Congress ministries mistreated their Muslim minorities. He agitated for the separation of the Muslim provinces from India and the creation of a state called Pakistan, which means "country of the pure."
When World War II broke out, the Congress demanded complete and immediate freedom for India as the price for India's active participation. In 1942 Sir Stafford Cripps went to India with a plan for granting dominion status after the war, but Indian leaders could not agree on the terms. The Congress insisted on a unified India. The Muslim League demanded a separate Pakistan. The princes were determined to preserve their states.
The Japanese invaded northeast India from Burma with a small force in the spring of 1944. It was quickly driven out. In spite of opposition to British rule, India raised a volunteer army of nearly 2.5 million. Its industries expanded greatly to supply arms and other goods for the war effort.

Birth of the New Nations
In February 1947 the British government announced that it would leave India not later than June 1948. Muslim threats of civil war then forced the Hindu leaders to agree to the establishment of the separate state of Pakistan. The British Parliament rushed through the Indian Independence Act in July. On Aug. 15, 1947, the Indian Empire came to an end.
The two new dominions--India and Pakistan--had complete self-rule. Though they remained in the Commonwealth, they were free to withdraw. India took over the Indian Empire's membership in the United Nations. Jinnah became the first governor-general of Pakistan. Nehru, a moderate socialist, took office as India's first prime minister.
The boundaries between India and Pakistan were drawn so as to separate Muslims from Hindus and Sikhs. The Punjab, Bengal, and Assam were split in two. Yet some 38 million Muslims remained in India and about 19 million Hindus and more than 1.5 million Sikhs were left in Pakistan. Rioting broke out. Millions poured across the borders to the country of their own faith. Hundreds of thousands were massacred or died of other causes while migrating. Hundreds of villages were burned in communal strife.
On Jan. 30, 1948, Gandhi was assassinated by a fanatical member of a militant Hindu group that disapproved of his efforts toward reconciliation. Hindus and Muslims alike mourned his death. The Indian government immediately acted against the extremist group, and violence subsided. In 1950 the two nations agreed to protect their religious minorities. By 1951 about 7.2 million Hindus and Sikhs had fled from Pakistan into India and 7.4 million Indian Muslims had entered Pakistan. Additional millions crossed later. Religious strife and violence persisted for decades, however, in spite of these migrations.

Status of Princely States and Foreign Areas
The Indian Independence Act applied only to the provinces of British India. The 562 native states were left outside both dominions. A few joined Pakistan. The rest were brought into India. Hyderabad, the largest princely state, insisted on remaining independent. India sent in troops, and in November 1948 it became a part of India .
Both India and Pakistan coveted Jammu and Kashmir, a large princely state in the far north. When troops entered the state from Pakistan, the ruler of Kashmir joined his state to India and asked for India's help. For 14 months the two countries waged an undeclared war in Kashmir. The fighting ended on Jan. 1, 1949, when both agreed to permit the United Nations to hold a plebiscite in the state. It was never held. India and Kashmir announced in 1957 that Kashmir's accession to India was permanent, but it was not recognized by the United Nations. Part of it remains occupied by Pakistan .
When Britain withdrew from India, Portugal ruled Goa and several other territories on India's west coast with a total area of 1,472 square miles (3,813 square kilometers). France held Pondicherry and a number of other small areas totaling 196 square miles (508 square kilometers). Between 1950 and 1954 France's colonies were merged with India. The Portuguese possessions were seized by India in 1961.

India Fact Summary
Official Name. Republic of India. Capital. New Delhi. India. Indus, from Sanskrit Sindhu referring to Indus River. National Emblem. Adapted from Sarnath Lion Capital of Asoka in 1950. Four lions (one of which is hidden from view) standing back to back with wheel in the center of the abacus; a bull on the right, a horse on the left, and the outlines of the other wheels on the extreme right and left. The words Satyameva jayate (Truth Alone Triumphs) are inscribed below the wheel in the Devanagari script. Anthem. 'Jana Gana Mana' (Lord of the People, of Society, and of the Mind).

NATURAL FEATURES
Borders. Coast, 3,533 miles (5,686 kilometers); land frontier, 9,425 miles (15,168 kilometers). Natural Regions. Himalaya; Indo-Gangetic Plain; Deccan. Major Ranges. Himayalas, Karakoram, Vindbya, Aravalli, Satpura, Western and Eastern Ghats. Major Peaks. Nanda Devi, 25,646 feet (7,817 meters); Kamet, 25,447 feet (7,756 meters); Anai Mudi, 8,842 feet (2,695 meters). Major Rivers. Ganges, Yamuna (Jumna), Brahmaputra, Narbada, Mahanadi, Godavari, Kaveri. Notable Lake. Wular. Major Islands. Andaman, Nicobar, Lakshadweep. Climate. Three seasons for most of the country--cold season from November to February; hot season from March to June; rainy season from June to October.

THE PEOPLE
Population (1996 estimate). 952,969,000; 733.1 persons per square mile (288.8 persons per square kilometer); 26.8 percent urban, 73.2 percent rural (1995 estimate). Vital Statistics (estimated rate per 1,000 population). Births, 26.5; deaths, 9.8. Life Expectancy (at birth). Males, 58.7 years; females, 59.8. Major Languages. Hindi (official), English (official), Telugu, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese. Major Religions. Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Zoroastrianism.

MAJOR CITIES (1991 estimate)
Bombay (9,925,891). Major port and financial and commercial center of India; capital of Maharashtra state; well known for cotton-textile, film, and printing industry; Victoria Gardens, Brabourne Stadium, and Marine Drive . Delhi (7,206,704). Capital of India; political, educational, cultural, and transportation center; Red Fort, Central Secretariat, Parliament House, Rashtrapati Bhavan, Qutab Minar, and the National Gallery of Modern Art . Calcutta (4,399,819). Major port, capital of West Bengal state; cultural, commercial, religious, educational, and political center . Madras (3,841,396). Major port and capital of Tamil Nadu state; educational, transportation, cultural and traditional handicraft center; the Indian Institute of Technology, University of Madras, the Madras Government Museum, Napier Park, Marina beach, and the Corporation Stadium . Bangalore (3,302,296). Capital of Karnataka state; leading cultural, educational, industrial, publishing, and transportation center of south India; Vidhana Saudha, Mysore Government Museum, Lal Bagh, and Hesaraghatta Lake . Hyderabad (3,145,939). Capital of Andhra Pradesh state; educational, cultural, industrial, commercial, and handicraft center; the Char Minar, Mecca Masjid, Salar Jung Museum, and racecourse. Ahmadabad (2,954,526). Industrial, commercial, financial, and educational city; major cotton-textile center, Lake Kankaria, Gandhi Ashram, Jama Masjid, Tin Darwaza (Three Gates), and the Tomb of Ahmad Shah . Kanpur (1,879,420). Industrial and commercial city; rail and lead junction; Kanpur University, the Indian Institute of Technology, and a Hindu glass temple, cantonment, and Sati Chaura. Nagpur (1,624,752). Transportation, industrial, educational, agricultural, and cultural center; British Fort, Ambajheri Tank, Bhonsla Palace, Kasturchand Park, and Secretariat. Lucknow (1,619,115). Capital of Uttar Pradesh state; transportation, commercial, educational, cultural, and handicraft center; Hazratganj, Great Imambara, Rumi Darwaza, Residency, botanical and zoological gardens . Pune (1,566,651). Educational, cultural, commercial, and industrial center; Empress Gardens, Wellesley Bridge, Deccan College, Statue of Shivaji, and Shanwar Wada (Saturday Palace).

ECONOMY
Chief Agricultural Products. Crops--sugarcane, rice, wheat, corn (maize), sorghum, millet, mangoes, bananas, oranges, lemons, limes, apples oilseeds, pulses, coconuts. Livestock--cattle, goats, water buffalo, sheep. Chief Mined Products. Limestone, iron ore, bauxite, manganese, chromium, zinc, copper, lead, gold, diamonds, coal, crude petroleum, natural gas. Chief Manufactured Products. Cement, finished steel, steel ingots, refined sugar, fertilizers, paper and paperboard, bicycles, motorcycles and scooters, cotton cloth. Foreign Trade. Imports 59 percent, exports 41 percent. Chief Imports. Fuel oil and refined petroleum products, chemicals, fertilizers, iron and steel, machinery, vegetable oils, rough diamonds, transport equipment, electrical machinery, foodstuffs. Chief Exports. Handicrafts, engineering goods, tea, fish, fruits and vegetables, coffee, textile yarn and fabrics, clothing, leather, precious and semiprecious stones, iron ore, road motor vehicles, works of art, tobacco, iron and steel. Chief Trading Partners. United States, United Kingdom, Japan, Germany, Saudi Arabia. Monetary Unit. 1 Indian rupee = 100 paisa.

EDUCATION
Public Schools. Lower primary (age 6-10) is free throughout India; secondary (age 11-17) is free in most areas. Compulsory School Age. From 6 to 14 in all states except Nagaland and Himachal Pradesh. Literacy. 52 percent. Leading Universities. More than 100; Calcutta, Bombay, Madras, Allahabad, Benaras Hindu, Mysore, Patna, Osmania. Notable Libraries. Central Secretariat Library, New Delhi; National Library, Calcutta; Indian Council of World Affairs Library, New Delhi, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Public Library, Patna. Notable Museums and Art Galleries. Prince of Wales Museum of Western India, Bombay; Birla Industrial and Technological Museum, Calcutta; Indian Museum, Calcutta; National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi; Government Museum and National Art Gallery, Madras.

GOVERNMENT
Form of Government. Republic. Constitution. Effective Jan. 26, 1950. Chief of State. President; elected by electoral college, 5-year term. Head of Government. Prime Minister. Legislature. Parliament: Council of States (Rajya Sabha) consists of not more than 250 members elected for 6 years; House of the People (Lok Sabha) consists of not more than 545 members elected for 6 years. Executive. President, vice-president, and Council of Ministers headed by the prime minister to advise the president; supreme command of the defense forces is vested in the president. Judiciary. Supreme Court; final authority subject to the provisions of the constitution; a chief justice and not more than 17 other judges appointed by the president; members hold office until age 65. Others--High Courts, Courts of Session, Courts of Magistrates. Political Divisions. 25 states; 6 union territories; 1 national capital territory (Delhi). Voting Qualification. 21 years of age.

PLACES OF INTEREST

Agra. Historic city; location of 17th-century Taj Mahal; Agra Fort; Akbar's Tomb (Sikandara); Dayal Bagh; Jami Masjid (mosque); Tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah. Ajanta. Complex of about 30 rock-cut cave temples and monasteries dating back to 200 BC; one of the noblest memorials of Buddhism in India. Ajmer. Religious city; site of a most revered Muslim shrine, Khwaja Muin-ud Din Chishti's Dargah (burial place); Arhai-din-ka jhonpara (mosque); Palace of Akbar. Amritsar. Religious city; site of the most revered Sikh shrine, the Golden Temple with a gold-foil-covered dome; a national monument dedicated to people killed in the Amritsar Massacre (1919). Asansol. Industrial city; center of the Kulti-Burnpur complex of iron and steel, and textile factories. Bhakra Dam. One of the biggest of India, 725 feet (221 meters) high. Part of multipurpose hydroelectric project. Buddh Gaya. One of the holiest of Buddhist sites where Lord Buddha attained enlightenment; a shrine of Buddha dating back to 300 BC; Magadh University. Chandigarh. Joint capital of Punjab and Haryana states; modern planned city designed by Swiss architect Le Corbusier; it is divided into 36 rectangular sections. Damodar Valley Corporation (DVC). A multipurpose project with four dams and one barrage, covers about 7,000 square miles (18,130 square kilometers). Darjeeling. Summer resort in the Himalayas; noted for its tea plantations; Lloyd Botanical Garden; Institute of Mountaineering; Mahakal Temple. Ganges River. Great river of the plains of North India; held sacred by Hindus; rising from Himalayas, its course is about 1,557 miles (2,506 kilometers) long. Goa. Natural harbor and tourist resort with a unique Portuguese colonial heritage; 16th-century Basilica Bom Jesus; Se Cathedral; shrine of St. Francis Xavier. Khajuraho. Historical site having a complex of 20 surviving temples of Siva, Visnu, and Jain patriarchs, dating back to AD 1000. Ootacamund. Called Queen of Indian Hill Stations; situated at about 7,500 feet (2,300 meters) in Nilgiri Hills; tea processing; Botanical Garden; Fern Hill Palace; race course; golf courses. Pondicherry. Religious place; Ashram (retreat) of Sri Aurobindo Ghose, noted Indian philosopher and poet; international study center; Auroville, new universal (international) township. Puri. Hindu pilgrimage center; site of the 12th-century Jagannath (Krsna) Temple; annual Chariot Festival. Sanchi. Historic site having best-preserved group of Buddhist monuments, dating back to 300 BC; Great Stupa (shrine). Srinagar. Internationally famous tourist place in the Vale of Kashmir; seven wooden bridges on Jhelum River; Shalimar and Nishat gardens; Dal Lake; Hazratbal Mosque. Tirupati. One of the richest temples in India; believed to be the abode of god Venkateswara; center of Hindu pilgrimage and a fine example of Dravidian art; Sri Venkateswara University. Varanasi. Commonly known as Kashi; the most holy place for Hindus; principal Hindu religious center since prehistoric times; complex of about 1,500 temples headed by the Kashi Vishwanath Temple; Benares Hindu University; handicrafts, perfumes, and silk and muslin textiles.


FURTHER RESOURCES FOR INDIA
Ashton, Stephen. The British in India (Batsford, 1988). Caldwell, J.C. India (Chelsea House, 1990). Forster, E.M. A Passage to India (Harcourt, 1984). Jaffrey, Madhur. Seasons of Splendour: Tales, Myths and Legends from India (Puffin, 1987). Karan, P.P., ed. India in the Global Community (Gateway, 1988). Kipling, Rudyard. The Jungle Book (Viking Kestrel, 1987). Kipling, Rudyard. Kim (Penguin, 1987). Lerner Publications Company, Department of Geography Staff, ed. India in Pictures (Lerner, 1989). Mason, Philip. The Men Who Ruled India (Norton, 1985). Ogle, Carol, and Ogle, John. People at Work in India (Batsford, 1988). Scholberg, Henry. The Encyclopedias of India (Promilla, 1986). Thapar, Romila. A History of India (Penguin, 1985). Tharoor, Shashi. India: From Midnight to the Millennium (Arcade, 1997). Traub, James. India: The Challenge of Change, rev. ed. (Messner, 1985). Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India (Oxford Univ. Press, 1997).