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Fast Fact on India

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Official Name: Republic of India

Geography: Area: 3.29 million sq. km. (1.27 million sq. mi.); about one-third the size of the U.S.

Capital City:
New Delhi (pop. 12.8 million)

Other major cities:

  • Mumbai, formerly Bombay (16.4 million)
  • Kolkata, formerly Calcutta (13.2 million)
  • Chennai, formerly Madras (6.4 million)
  • Bangalore (5.7 million)
  • Hyderabad (5.5 million)
  • Ahmedabad (5 million)
  • Pune (4 million)


Flag: The national flag, adopted in 1947, is a horizontal tricolor in equal proportion of deep saffron on the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom. In the center of the white stripe is a blue wheel representing a wheel (chakra)-- a Buddhist symbol dating back to 200th century BC. The spokes intend to show that there is life in movement and death in stagnation. The saffron stands for courage, sacrifice and the spirit of renunciation; the white, for purity and truth; the green for faith and fertility. The flag symbolizes freedom.

Monetary Unit:
The Indian Rupee is the official currency of India. Rupee is also the name used in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Mauritius and the Seychelles. The origin of the word "rupee" is found in the Sanskrit word rūp or rūpā, which means "silver" in many Indo-Aryan languages such as Urdu.

Terrain:
Varies from Himalayas to flat river valleys.

Climate:
Alpine to temperate to subtropical monsoon.

Population (2004):
1.1 billion; urban 27.8%

Annual growth rate:
1.4%

Ethnic groups:
Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid 2%, others.

Religions:
Hindu 82.41%, Muslim 12%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other groups including Buddhist, Jain, Parsi 2.5%.

Languages:
Hindi, English and 16 other official languages.

Education:
Years compulsory--9 (to age 14). Literacy--65.38%.

Health:
Infant mortality rate--61/1,000. Life expectancy--63 years.

Workforce (est.):
416 million. Agriculture--63%; industry and commerce--22%; services and government--11%; transport and communications--4%.

Government:
India is a Federal republic that gained independence on August 15, 1947.

People:

  • Although India occupies only 2.4% of the world's land area, it supports over 15% of the world's population. Only China has a larger population.
  • Almost 33% of Indians are younger than 15 years of age.
  • About 70% of the people live in more than 550,000 villages, and the remainder in more than 180 towns and cities.
  • Over thousands of years of its history, India has been invaded from the Iranian plateau, Central Asia, Arabia, Afghanistan and the West; Indian people and culture have absorbed and changed these influences to produce a remarkable racial and cultural synthesis.
Society and Language:
  • Religion, caste and language are major determinants of social and political organization in India today.
  • Although 82% of the people are Hindu, India also is the home of more than 126 million Muslims--one of the world's largest Muslim populations.
  • The population also includes Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists and Parsis.
  • The caste system reflects Indian occupational and socially defined hierarchies. Ancient Sanskrit sources refer to four social categories, priests (Brahmin), warriors (kshatriya), traders (vaishya) and farmers (shudra).
  • Although these categories are understood throughout India, they describe reality only in the most general terms. They omit, for example, the tribes and low castes once known as "untouchables." In reality, society in India is divided into thousands of jatis--local, endogamous groups based on occupation--and organized hierarchically according to complex ideas of purity and pollution.
  • Despite economic modernization and laws countering discrimination against the lower end of the class structure and outlawing "untouchability," the caste system remains an important source of social identification and a potent factor in the political life of the country.
  • Nevertheless, the government has made strong efforts to minimize the importance of caste through active affirmative action and social policies.

 

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