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India Culture, Geography and History
Culture and Customs of India
As one of the oldest living civilisations in the world, India's customs are based on an ancient cultural heritage. As contemporary India changes at a rapid pace, it stills clings to time worn traditions that have been in existence for centuries. Modern India is made up of a fascinating blend of ethnicities and religions, and as the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, any visit to India will undoubtedly be steeped in spirituality as it permeates most aspects of society. Although there are significant populations of Muslims and Christians, most Indians belong to one of the four main religions mentioned above.
Regardless of a person's religious beliefs, the family unit is given paramount importance in life and society, with generations of family members living together under one roof, often with the eldest male acting as head of the family. Indian weddings are usually elaborate affairs and arranged marriages are still common - being arranged according to caste, social standing and sometimes, favourable astrological alignments at birth. Giving the world everything from playing cards to prayer flags, yoga, cotton cultivation, ayurvedic medicine, Bollywood films, as well as many other important contributions in mathematics, science, literature and political theory, India's evolution has impacted on the entire world.
Indian cuisine, architecture, dance and fashion are also admired and reproduced worldwide, which is partly due to Indian populations who have immigrated to other parts of the world, taking their culture and beliefs with them.
Geography and Environment of India
India shares land borders with Bangladesh, China, Pakistan, Nepal, Myanmar and Bhutan, and also has wide stretches of coastline along the Arabian Sea, Bay of Bengal and Indian Ocean. As the seventh largest country in the world, India is home to a variety of terrains - the Himalayas of the north, the deserts and plains of the west, the fertile waterways of the south and the hills and forests of the east. Development is occurring at a rapid pace, with India's large, sprawling cities consisting of everything from five star hotels to shanty towns, and with modern malls and cinemas sitting comfortably alongside bazaars and street food vendors. A trip through India will reveal a diverse range of landscapes, villages, cities and environments.
History and Government of India
India has been inhabited by humans for as long as 75,000 years, with early civilisations flourishing as early as 3300 BC. Subsequent civilisations showed advanced technology and infrastructure with drainages systems and houses made of brick appearing sometime between 2600 and 1900 BC. Over the centuries, India both influenced and was influenced by other nations and kingdoms, with far reaching trade, conquest and migration spreading the subcontinent's culture far and wide. Trading with the Romans, Persians and Greeks ensured that Indian culture had an impact on civilisations that seemed worlds away. Empires rose and fell over the centuries, with the wealthy Mughal Dynasty ruling most of India by 1600. At the same time, different European nations started showing an interest in India after being brought to the area for trade. The Portuguese, Dutch, British and French all had vested interests in India, with the British East India Company being given the rights to trade in India in 1617. The 1857 rebellion and War of Independence culminated in the decline of Mughal rule and were considered the first movements against the British Raj's heavy handed rule of the country. India's independence movement continued to grow and soon changed the face of India's future.
By the 1920s, India's independence movement had grown considerable momentum with Mohandas Gandhi leading mass movements based on passive resistance and non-cooperation against the British Raj. Although it took decades, India finally gained independence in 1947. More recently, India has seen dramatic changes in society mainly due to modernisation and globalisation. A new wave of prosperity has seen the rise of the middle class, with men and women entering into new work roles in telecommunications, manufacturing and business. India's large cities are dealing with mass migration of rural citizens, who are moving to the city to seek better employment, education and opportunities for their children. Delhi successfully hosted the Commonwealth Games in 2010, further putting India on the map as an increasingly cosmopolitan, modern country.
India at a glance
- New Delhi (population 295,000)
- 1.14 billion
- Hindi, Urdu, Tamil, Bengali, Kashmiri, Kannada, Marathi, Gujarati, Telugu, English
- (GMT+05:30) Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai, New Delhi
- Type C (European 2-pin), Type D (Old British 3-pin), Type M (see D)
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