|Official language||Hindi and English|
|Form of government||Parliamentary federal republic|
|Time zone||UTC + 5:30 = CET + 4:30|
|Telephone area code||0091 (Source: ALLCITYCODES)|
With a land area of around 3,287,590 km², India is the seventh largest country in the world. Together with the states of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, it occupies the entire South Asian subcontinent, which forms an independent natural area. In the north, the high mountain ranges of the Himalayas represent a natural barrier to the rest of Asia. Around 10% of the country’s surface is formed by high mountains. The Arabian Sea lies to the west of the peninsula, the Indian Ocean to the south and the Bengal Sea to the east. India has national borders in the west with Pakistan, in the north with Tibet, Nepal and Bhutan and in the east with Bangladesh and Myanmar.
The landscapes of India are very different. The Himalayas in the north of the country are the highest mountains in the world, but only a relatively narrow mountain range belongs to India. At 8,586 m, the Kangchenjunga is the highest mountain in the country and the third highest peak in the Himalayas. Wide valleys lie between the high mountain ranges. Towards the south, the country drops to fertile alluvial plains that run through the country from east to west. Numerous rivers flow through these levels, including the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. In the northwest, part of the Indus lowlands (Punjab) belongs to India. A little further south is the Tharr Desert, the driest region in India, which also belongs to the Indus lowlands.
North and south India are separated by a tectonic trench: South India, once a separate continent, encountered the Eurasian continent due to its north drift, which gave rise to the Himalayas. This north drift is still effective today, which repeatedly leads to severe earthquakes in India. The last major quake in January 2001 claimed several thousand lives.
The central part of South India is occupied by the Dean’s highlands, which are at an average altitude of around 800 to 1,000 m. The highlands are heavily divided by numerous rivers, mountain ranges and plateaus. In the east and west, the highlands are bordered by mountain ranges, the so-called ghats (which means “steps” in Sanskrit). The Eastern Ghats, which have an average height of around 600 m, are preceded by a broad coastal region (Coromandel coast), while the Western Ghats descend steeply to the Arabian Sea (Malabar coast) and reach heights of up to 2,700 m. In the extreme south of the country, the two mountain ranges unite to form the Palni Mountains.
The Ganges, the sacred river of the Hindus, is one of the most water-rich rivers in India. It originates in Tibet in the Himalayas and flows into the Bay of Bengal after around 2,700 km. Other important rivers in India are the Brahmaputra and the Jamuna. The meltwater from the Himalayas that is carried regularly causes floods.
The climate in India is tropical to subtropical and is determined by the monsoon. From May / June to September, the southwest monsoon brings a large part of the precipitation, which is distributed very differently according to the size of the country. The west coast of India measures up to 3,000 mm, while on the Dean’s plateau it is between 500 and 1,000 mm. At the edge of the Himalayas, between 1,000 and 2,000 mm are measured. The heavy rains lead to large floods in some years, in other years the monsoon brings little rain and parts of the country are affected by drought. The driest areas in India are the Tharr Desert and the savannahs of Rajasthan in the west of the country. In the months of October and November the wind direction turns slowly, at this time of year tropical cyclones can occur, especially on the east and northeast coasts.
The temperatures in the southern part of India are high all year round (except for the high mountains) and show only slight fluctuations. Trivandrum has average temperatures from 26 °C to 28 °C throughout the year. To the north, the cold air currents from the Himalayas make it cooler in winter. In January, the capital, New Delhi, it averages around 14 °C and in July around 31 °C.
Flora and fauna
The vegetation of India is regionally different according to the climatic differences. Evergreen tropical rainforest can be found in the warm and humid south, coconut palms and bamboo grow on the east coast. Grasslands with scattered acacia forests are characteristic of the highlands of Dean. The fertile plains in the north of the country are mainly agricultural land, the original deciduous monsoon forests are only sporadically available. Almost a fifth of the country is still forested today. The Sundarbans, the jungle area at the mouth of the Ganges, is one of the largest mangrove areas in the world. In the Tharr desert in the northwest, grass and thorn bush savannah can be found.
In the Himalayas below the snow line, coniferous species such as fir, cedar and spruce grow. In lower areas, deciduous forests with oak, birch, chestnut, maple and rhododendron growth predominate.
The animal world of India is very diverse and diverse, but is increasingly being curtailed in its habitats by the rapidly growing population. Many of the animal species are now considered endangered, including the Indian rhinoceros, the gaur (the largest wild cattle with a shoulder height of over two meters), the swamp deer, the snow leopard and the Bengal tiger. After the number of tigers in India had dropped to around 2,000 specimens by hunting and by restricting their habitat by 1972, the Indian Mayor Indira Ghandi initiated the “Project Tiger”: To protect the animals, nine reserves were set up nationwide, which consist of one existed forbidden core zone, and a kind of buffer zone, which people may temporarily enter.These now numerous protected areas (more than 15) also form a suitable habitat for numerous other animal species.
The country’s original fauna includes various types of monkeys such as the rhesus monkey and the hulman. This Indian slim monkey is considered sacred to the Hindus in India (just like the cows) and can often be found in temple complexes. The reptiles include the chameleon and the king cobra. Among other things, the Ganges dolphin and various otters such as the fish and the dwarf otter live in the rivers.
India’s rapidly growing population (1.4%) now has over 1.1 billion residents. India is one of the most densely populated countries in the world; 329 residents live on average in one square kilometer. According to official estimates, a quarter of the population lives on the poverty line, in fact the percentage is probably higher. Around three quarters of the population of India live in villages, the most densely populated are the fertile plains and valleys in northern India and the coastal plains in the southern part of the country. The capital New Delhi (292,000 residents) is a district of the metropolis of Delhi in the northern part of the country, in whose metropolitan area around 13.78 million people live.Other cities with over a million residents include Bombay (Mumbai) with 16.38, Calcutta with 13.22 and Chennai (formerly: Madras) with 6.43 million residents. Check ALLCITYPOPULATION to see other large cities in India by population.
With improved medical care (life expectancy is now 64.4 years) and the fact that child wealth is still the best-functioning retirement provision in India, overpopulation is a serious problem for India at the start of the new millennium.
A large number of different peoples live in the country: In North and Central India there are predominantly the light-skinned Indians who are of Indian Aryan origin (such as the Sikhs), the Melanids in the northeast, the Weddids in the highlands of Dean. Smaller groups of Mongolian origin live in the Himalayas. The population diversity is reflected in the national languages: Hindi and English are official languages, official languages are also Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and other. These languages are taught in schools in their respective regions and also used by authorities, etc.
According to COUNTRYAAH, 81% of the Indian population are adherents of Hinduism. The proportion of Muslims is around 13.5%, that of Christians around 2.3%. Hinduism, the third major world religion after Christianity and Islam, has a significant impact on society through the caste system that is still effective today, because all socio-cultural areas are subject to a strict principle of order. The originally four hierarchically arranged castes (Brahmins, i.e. priests and scholars; Kschatrijas, warriors; Waishjas, farmers and artisans; Schudras, servants) were subdivided into about 3,000 castes today. It establishes a strict social hierarchy in society – from birth onwards. In 1997 Kocheril Raman Narayanan was the first member of a low caste to be elected President. Literacy is almost 60% in India, although it is significantly lower among the female population (48%).
The Republic of India is a parliamentary democracy with a constitution dating from 1950 (several changes).
The head of state is the President (since July 2012 Pranab Mukherjee). It is elected for five years by an electoral committee made up of members of the Parliament.
Much of the political power lies with the Prime Minister (Manmohan Singh since May 2004). He makes recommendations for ministers officially appointed by the President. The prime minister is elected by representatives of the strongest party in the lower house of parliament (Lok Sabha).
The bicameral parliament (Sansad) consists of the regional assembly or upper house (Rajya Sabha) with a maximum of 250 members and the lower house (Lok Sabha), which has 545 seats. The members of the upper house are elected indirectly for six years; up to twelve members can also be appointed by the president. House of Representatives have a five-year term (two are nominated by the President). Citizens aged 18 and over are entitled to vote.
India is divided into 28 states and seven Union territories (especially island territories).
India’s economy is clearly on the upswing. The reasons for this are the increasing liberalization and privatization of companies since the mid-1990s. The diversification of the economy increases, foreign investors come to the country. Nevertheless, at the beginning of the third millennium, the state is still one of the poorest countries in the world. The high growth of recent years has made regional development differences and the growing income gap between the urban middle class and the predominantly poor rural population even more pronounced.
Growth and prosperity are largely thanks to the service sector (2012: 57% of gross domestic product, GDP), but only a minority of the population benefits from an employment share of 27%.
Agriculture only has a share of 17% of GDP, although its effectiveness has increased considerably through increasing mechanization and the use of artificial fertilizers. Around half of the population is active in the agricultural sector, and more than half of the country’s total area is used as agricultural land. Rice, potatoes, corn, cotton, sugar cane, jute, tea, coffee, cereals and legumes are cultivated. With the exception of marked years of drought, the state can cover its own needs with food. Agricultural products account for around 8% of total exports. Above all, this includes tea (India is the world leader here) and coffee, sugar cane and cotton. The teas from the eastern Himalayas (Darjeeling) and from Assam in particular are world famous.Cattle are considered sacred in India and are only milked. Water buffalos, sheep, goats and poultry are also bred.
The industrial sector continues to expand strongly. The basis for this is the country’s wealth of raw materials. India has bauxite, various ores (zinc, iron, chrome), hard coal and brown coal, manganese and gold. Although India is the third largest producer of hard coal in the world, it covers part of its needs with higher quality and cheaper imported coal. Hard coal is the most important energy source in the country. The deposits of oil and natural gas are far from sufficient to meet the steadily increasing demand.
The textile industry supplies important export goods in India, as does the food processing industry. Other sectors are iron and steel processing, the chemical industry and above all the high-technology sector, which has the highest growth rate. One of India’s strengths in this area is the high percentage of well-educated, English-speaking workers who are in demand worldwide, especially as software developers. The main imports are crude oil, chemical products, machines and electronics. The most important trading partners are China, the United Arab Emirates and the USA.
The currency is the rupee.