Indian civilisation is more than 5000 years old and is the largest democracy in the world. It is the seventh largest country of the world and the second most populated (over 1 billion). It is about 1/3 the size of the United States.
India has the Himalayan Mountains to the north, the Arabian Sea to the west, the Bay of Bengal to the east and the Indian Ocean to the south. Pakistan is on its western border, Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) on its eastern border and Tibet and China on its northern border. Sri Lanka is the island off India's southern tip.
India's capital city is New Delhi. The country's population is made up of 72% Indo-Aryan, 25% Dravidian and 3% Mongolian. All five major racial types are represented in India (Australoid, Mongoloid, Europoid, Caucasoid and Negroid), making India a country with probably the largest and most diverse mix of races. At various periods of India's long history, successive waves of settlers and invaders including the Aryans, Parthians, Greeks and Central Asians, Jews and Zoroastrians came into the country and merged with the local population. This explains the variety of racial types, cultures and Languages in India.
India's main languages are Hindi and English, plus 15 other main languages and over 700 dialects. India's religious diversity consists of 82% Hindus, 11% Muslims, 2% Christians, 2% Sikh, 0.7% Buddhist and 0.7% Jains.
India's first major civilisation flourished for a thousand years from around 2500 BC along the Indus River valley. Its great ancient cities were Mohenjodaro and Harappa (now in Pakistan) where an advanced urban civilisation flourished. Lord Shiva, a great god and important symbol of Hinduism, is thought to have originated from this culture.
In 1500 and 2000 B.C, Aryan invaders from central Asia invaded and secured control of northern India and pushed the original Dravidian inhabitants south. The Aryan rule was interrupted shortly in 327 BC when Alexander the Great attacked the Indus River region and captured large areas of North India and ruled till his death in 323 BC. The Aryan rule continued and its Gupta Empire was the most glorious with its peace and prosperity and is considered as "The Golden Age" in Indian history.
In 1192, the Delhi Sultanate became India's first Muslim kingdom. 1526 saw the start of the Mogul empire. The Mogul emperors are the giants of Indian history and of Muslim rule in India. The Moguls combined Hindi and Arabic languages to give rise to a new language Urdu, and generally ushered another golden age of building, arts and literature. Nowhere more is the grandeur of Mogul architecture displayed than the most visited monument in India, the Taj Mahal. Mogul ruler Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his beloved wife Mumtaz.British rule in India was initially exercised by the East India Company, which established a trading post at Surat in Gujarat (Western India) in 1612. The British were not the first or the only European power with a presence in India in the 17th century but they soon established their dominance over India, which lasted about 200 years. Opposition to British rule began in earnest at the turn of the 20th century.
Mahatma Gandhi, a humble attorney, returned from South Africa to his motherland to question British rule and insisted on India's freedom while adopting a policy of passive resistance, or satyagraha in Hindi. At the same time WWII dealt a blow to colonialism and Indian independence became inevitable.
Within India, however, the large Muslim minority resented the impending majority Hindu rule and tensions began to mount between the two. Faced with a political standoff and rising tension, the viceroy, Lord Louis Mountbatten, reluctantly decided to divide the country and set a rapid timetable for independence. When the dividing line was announced, a great exodus took place as Muslims moved to Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs relocated to India. The effects of that move are still felt in India and Pakistan today.
India became independent in August 1947. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime minister of independent India, and Dr. Rajinder Prashad was nominated as the first President of the Indian republic.
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