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India

Background:

India, officially the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world.India

Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history.  Four world religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism—originated here, whereas Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region's diverse culture. 

Gradually annexed by and brought under the administration of the British East India Company from the early 18th century and administered directly by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.

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A nuclear weapons state and a regional power, it has the third-largest standing army in the world and ranks ninth in military expenditure among nations. India is a federal constitutional republic governed under a parliamentary system consisting of 28 states and 7 union territories. India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and multiethnic society. India2

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Ethnic groups: (2000)

1. Indo-Aryan 72% 

2. Dravidian 25%

3. Mongoloid and other 3% 

 

Languages:

1. Hindi 41%

2. Bengali 8.1%

3. Telugu 7.2%

4. Marathi 7%

5. Tamil 5.9%

6. Urdu 5% 

7. Gujarati 4.5%

8. Kannada 3.7%

9. Malayalam 3.2%

10. Oriya 3.2%

11. Punjabi 2.8%

12. Assamese 1.3%

13. Maithili 1.2%

14. Other 5.9% 

 

Note: English enjoys the status of subsidiary official language but is the most important language for national, political, and commercial communication; Hindi is the most widely spoken language and primary tongue of 41% of the people; there are 14 other official languages: Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, and Sanskrit; Hindustani is a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu spoken widely throughout northern India but is not an official language (2001 census) 

Religions: (2001 census)

1. Hindu 80.5%

2. Muslim 13.4% 

3. Christian 2.3%

4. Sikh 1.9%

5. Other 1.8%

6. Unspecified 0.1% 

Population:  1,205,073,612; ranked 2nd in the world (2012 est.) 

 

Age structure: (2012 est)

1. 0-14 years: 29.7% 

2. 15-64 years: 64.9% 

3. 65 years and over: 5.5%  

 

Median age:  26.2 years 

 

Population growth rate:  1.312%; ranked 88th in the world (2012 est.) 

 

Birth rate:  20.6 births/1,000; ranked 85th in the world (2012 est.) 

 

HIV/AIDS - adult prevalence rate:  0.3%; ranked 84th in the world (2009 est.) 

 

HIV/AIDS - people living with HIV/AIDS:  2.4 million; ranked 3rd in the world (2009 est.) 

 

Literacy:  61%

*definition: age 15 and over can read and write 

 

Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years.  During the Vedic period (c. 1700– 500 BCE), the foundations of Hindu philosophy, mythology, and literature were laid, and many beliefs and practices which still exist today, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga, and mokṣa, were established.India3

The Indian economy is the world's tenth-largest by nominal GDP and third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP).  Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies; it is considered a newly industrialized country. 

However, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, corruption, malnutrition, and inadequate public healthcare.  According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water or breathing polluted air. 

Traditional Indian society is defined by a relatively strict social hierarchy.  Family values are important in the Indian tradition, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm in India, though nuclear families are becoming common in urban areas.  An overwhelming majority of Indians, with their consent, have their marriages arranged by their parents or other family members.  Marriage is thought to be for life, and the divorce rate is extremely low.  Child marriages are common, especially in rural areas; more than half of Indian females wed before reaching 18, which is their legal marriageable age.

India lies within the Indomalaya ecozone and contains three biodiversity hotspots.  One of 17 megadiverse countries, it hosts 8.6% of all mammalian, 13.7% of all avian, 7.9% of all reptilian, 6% of all amphibian, 12.2% of all piscine, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species.  Under 12% of India's landmass bears thick jungle.  The medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies, is a key Indian tree.India4

India hosts more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries and thirteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves; twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.

The pervasive and ecologically devastating human encroachment of recent decades has critically endangered Indian wildlife.  

The 2001 census reported that Hinduism, with over 800 million adherents (80.5% of the population), was the largest religion in India; it is followed by Islam (13.4%), Christianity (2.3%), Sikhism (1.9%), Buddhism (0.8%), Jainism (0.4%), Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and the Bahá'í Faith.  India has the world's largest Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Zoroastrian, and Bahá'í populations, and has the third-largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population for a non-Muslim majority country.

Sources:

http://www.theodora.com/wfbcurrent/india/india_people.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/India

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