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Capital New Delhi
Continent Asia
Code +91
Currency Indian Rupee (₹)
Languages Hindi , English , Hindi , English


India is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast, it shares land borders with Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; its Andaman and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand, Myanmar, and Indonesia.

Modern humans arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa no later than 55,000 years ago. Their long occupation, initially in varying forms of isolation as hunter-gatherers, has made the region highly diverse, second only to Africa in human genetic diversity. Settled life emerged on the subcontinent in the western margins of the Indus river basin 9,000 years ago, evolving gradually into the Indus Valley Civilization of the third millennium BCE. By 1200 BCE, an archaic form of Sanskrit, an Indo-European language, had diffused into India from the northwest, unfolding as the language of the Rigveda, and recording the dawning of Hinduism in India. The Dravidian languages of India were supplanted in the northern and western regions. By 400 BCE, stratification and exclusion by caste had emerged within Hinduism, and Buddhism and Jainism had arisen, proclaiming social orders unlinked to heredity. Early political consolidations gave rise to the loose-knit Maurya and Gupta Empires based in the Ganges Basin. Their collective era was suffused with wide-ranging creativity but also marked by the declining status of women and the incorporation of untouchability into an organized system of belief. In South India, the Middle kingdoms exported Dravidian languages scripts, and religious cultures to the kingdoms of Southeast Asia.

In the early medieval era, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and Zoroastrianism put down roots on India's southern and western coasts. Muslim armies from Central Asia intermittently overran India's northern plains, eventually establishing the Delhi Sultanate, and drawing northern India into the cosmopolitan networks of medieval Islam In the 15th century, the Vijayanagara Empire created a long-lasting composite Hindu culture in south India. In Punjab, Sikhism emerged, rejecting institutionalized religion. The Mughal Empire, in 1526, ushered in two centuries of relative peace leaving a legacy of luminous architecture. Gradually expanding the rule of the British East India Company followed, turning India into a colonial economy, but also consolidating its sovereignty. British Crown rule began in 1858. The rights promised to Indians were granted slowly, but technological changes were introduced, and ideas of education, modernity, and public life took root. A pioneering and influential nationalist movement emerged, which was noted for nonviolent resistance and became the major factor in ending British rule. In 1947 the British Indian Empire was partitioned into two independent dominions, a Hindu-majority Dominion of India and a Muslim-majority Dominion of Pakistan, amid large-scale loss of life and unprecedented migration.

India has been a federal republic since 1950, governed in a democratic parliamentary system. It is a pluralistic, multilingual and multi-ethnic society. India's population grew from 361 million in 1951 to 1.211 billion in 2011. During the same time, its nominal per capita income increased from US$64 annually to US$1,498, and its literacy rate from 16.6% to 74%. From being a comparatively destitute country in 1951, India has become a fast-growing major economy and a hub for information technology services, with an expanding middle class. It has a space program that includes several planned or completed extraterrestrial missions. Indian movies, music, and spiritual teachings play an increasing role in global culture. India has substantially reduced its rate of poverty, though at the cost of increasing economic inequality. India is a nuclear-weapon state, which ranks high in military expenditure. It has disputes over Kashmir with its neighbors, Pakistan and China, unresolved since the mid-20th century. Among the socio-economic challenges, India's faces are gender inequality, child malnutrition, and rising levels of air pollution. India's land is megadiverse, with four biodiversity hotspots. Its forest cover comprises 21.7% of its area.  India's wildlife, which has traditionally been viewed with tolerance in India's culture, is supported among these forests, and elsewhere, in protected habitats.


According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. However, the earliest known human remains in South Asia date to 30,000 years ago. Settled life, which involves the transition from foraging to farming and pastoralism, began in South Asia around 7,000 BCE. At the site of Mehrgarh presence can be documented of the domestication of wheat and barley, rapidly followed by that of goats, sheep, and cattle. By 4,500 BCE, settled life had spread more widely, and began to gradually evolve into the Indus Valley Civilization, an early civilization of the Old World, which was contemporaneous with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This civilization flourished between 2,500 BCE and 1900 BCE in what today is Pakistan and north-western India and was noted for its urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage, and water supply.

In the early second millennium BCE, persistent drought caused the population of the Indus Valley to scatter from large urban centers to villages. Around the same time, Indo-Aryan tribes moved into Punjab from Central Asia in several waves of migration. Their Vedic period (1500-500 BCE) was marked by the composition of the Vedas, large collections of hymns of these tribes. Their varna system, which evolved into the caste system, consisted of a hierarchy of priests, warriors, and free peasants, excluded indigenous peoples by labeling their occupations impure. The pastoral and nomadic Indo-Aryans spread from Punjab into the Gangetic plain, large swaths of which they deforested for agriculture usage. The composition of Vedic texts ended around 600 BCE when a new, interregional culture arose. Small chieftaincies, or janapadas, were consolidated into larger states, or mahajanapadas, and second urbanization took place. This urbanization was accompanied by the rise of new ascetic movements in Greater Magadha, including Jainism and Buddhism, which opposed the growing influence of Brahmanism and the primacy of rituals, presided by Brahmin priests, that had come to be associated with Vedic religion, and gave rise to new religious concepts. In response to the success of these movements, Vedic Brahmanism was synthesized with the preexisting religious cultures of the subcontinent, giving rise to Hinduism.

Most of the Indian subcontinent was conquered by the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. From the 3rd century BCE onwards Prakrit and Pali literature in the north and the Tamil Sangam literature in southern India started to flourish. Wootz steel originated in south India in the 3rd century BCE and was exported to foreign countries. During the Classical period, various parts of India were ruled by numerous dynasties for the next 1,500 years, among which the Gupta Empire stands out. This period, witnessing a Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known as the classical or "Golden Age of India". During this period, aspects of Indian civilization, administration, culture, and religion (Hinduism and Buddhism) spread to much of Asia, while kingdoms in southern India had maritime business links with the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Indian cultural influence spread over many parts of Southeast Asia, which led to the establishment of Indianised kingdoms in Southeast Asia (Greater India).

The most significant event between the 7th and 11th centuries was the Tripartite struggle centered on Kannauj that lasted for more than two centuries between the Pala Empire, Rashtrakuta Empire, and Gurjara-Pratihara Empire. Southern India saw the rise of multiple imperial powers from the middle of the fifth century, most notably the Chalukya, Chola, Pallava, Chera, Pandyan, and Western Chalukya Empires. The Chola dynasty conquered southern India and successfully invaded parts of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bengal in the 11th century. In the early medieval period Indian mathematics, including Hindu numerals, influenced the development of mathematics and astronomy in the Arab world.

Islamic conquests made limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Sindh as early as the 8th century, followed by the invasions of Mahmud Ghazni. The Delhi Sultanate was founded in 1206 CE by Central Asian Turks who ruled a major part of the northern Indian subcontinent in the early 14th century, but declined in the late 14th century, and saw the advent of the Deccan Sultanates. The wealthy Bengal Sultanate also emerged as a major power, lasting over three centuries. This period also saw the emergence of several powerful Hindu states, notably Vijayanagara and Rajput states, such as Mewar. The 15th century saw the advent of Sikhism. The early modern period began in the 16th century, when the Mughal Empire conquered most of the Indian subcontinent, signaling the proto-industrialization, becoming the biggest global economy and manufacturing power, with a nominal GDP that valued a quarter of world GDP, superior to the combination of Europe's GDP. The Mughals suffered a gradual decline in the early 18th century, which provided opportunities for the Marathas, Sikhs, Mysoreans, Nizams, and Nawabs of Bengal to exercise control over large regions of the Indian subcontinent.

From the mid-18th century to the mid-19th century, large regions of India were gradually annexed by the East India Company, a chartered company acting as a sovereign power on behalf of the British government. Dissatisfaction with Company rule in India led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, which rocked parts of north and central India, and led to the dissolution of the company. India was afterward ruled directly by the British Crown, in the British Raj. After World War I, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, led by Mahatma Gandhi, and noted for nonviolence. Later, the All-India Muslim League would advocate for a separate Muslim-majority nation-state. The British Indian Empire was partitioned in August 1947 into the Dominion of India and Dominion of Pakistan, each gaining its independence.


India accounts for the bulk of the Indian subcontinent, lying atop the Indian tectonic plate, a part of the Indo-Australian Plate. India's defining geological processes began 75 million years ago when the Indian Plate, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a north-eastward drift caused by seafloor spreading to its south-west, and later, south and south-east. Simultaneously, the vast Tethyan oceanic crust, to its northeast, began to subduct under the Eurasian Plate. These dual processes, driven by convection in the Earth's mantle, both created the Indian Ocean and caused the Indian continental crust eventually to under-thrust Eurasia and uplift the Himalayas. Immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough that rapidly filled with river-borne sediment and now constitutes the Indo-Gangetic Plain. Cut off from the plain by the ancient Aravalli Range lies the Thar Desert.

The original Indian plate survives as peninsular India, the oldest and geologically most stable part of India. It extends as far north as the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in central India. These parallel chains run from the Arabian Sea coast in Gujarat in the west to the coal-rich Chota Nagpur Plateau in Jharkhand in the east. To the south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the west and east by coastal ranges known as the Western and Eastern Ghats; the plateau contains the country's oldest rock formations, some over one billion years old. Constituted in such fashion, India lies to the north of the equator between 6° 44′ and 35° 30′ north latitude and 68° 7′ and 97° 25′ east longitude.

India's coastline measures 7,517 kilometers (4,700 mi) in length; of this distance, 5,423 kilometers (3,400 mi) belong to peninsular India and 2,094 kilometers (1,300 mi) to the Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep island chains. According to the Indian naval hydrographic charts, the mainland coastline consists of the following: 43% sandy beaches; 11% rocky shores, including cliffs; and 46% mudflats or marshy shores.

Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, both of which drain into the Bay of Bengal. Important tributaries of the Ganges include the Yamuna and the Kosi; the latter's extremely low gradient, caused by long-term silt deposition, leads to severe floods and course changes. Major peninsular rivers, whose steeper gradients prevent their waters from flooding, include the Godavari, the Mahanadi, the Kaveri, and the Krishna, which also drain into the Bay of Bengal; and the Narmada and the Tapti, which drain into the Arabian Sea. Coastal features include the marshy Rann of Kutch of western India and the alluvial Sundarbans delta of eastern India; the latter is shared with Bangladesh. India has two archipelagos: the Lakshadweep, coral atolls off India's south-western coast; and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, a volcanic chain in the Andaman Sea.

The Indian climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the economically and culturally pivotal summer and winter monsoons. The Himalayas prevent cold Central Asian katabatic winds from blowing in, keeping the bulk of the Indian subcontinent warmer than most locations at similar latitudes. The Thar Desert plays a crucial role in attracting the moisture-laden south-west summer monsoon winds that, between June and October, provide the majority of India's rainfall. Four major climatic groupings predominate in India: tropical wet, tropical dry, subtropical humid, and montane.

Temperatures in India have risen by 0.7 °C (1.3 °F) between 1901 and 2018. Climate change in India is often thought to be the cause. The retreat of Himalayan glaciers has adversely affected the flow rate of the major Himalayan rivers, including the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. According to some current projections, the number and severity of droughts in India will have markedly increased by the end of the present century.

Government and Politics

The dominion of India was reborn on January 26, 1950, as a sovereign democratic republic and a union of states. With a universal adult franchise, India’s electorate was the world’s largest, but the traditional feudal roots of most of its illiterate populace were deep, just as their religious caste beliefs were to remain far more powerful than more recent exotic ideas, such as secular statehood. Elections were to be held, however, at least every five years, and the major model of government followed by India’s constitution was that of British parliamentary rule, with a lower House of the People (Lok Sabha), in which an elected prime minister and a cabinet sat, and an upper Council of States (Rajya Sabha). Nehru led his ruling Congress Party from New Delhi’s Lok Sabha until he died in 1964. The nominal head of India’s republic, however, was a president, who was indirectly elected. India’s first two presidents were Hindu Brahmans, Rajendra Prasad, and Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, the latter a distinguished Sanskrit scholar who had lectured at the University of Oxford. Presidential powers were mostly ceremonial, except for brief periods of “emergency” rule when the nation’s security was believed to be in great danger and normal constitutional procedures and civil rights were feared to be too cumbersome or threatening.

India’s federation divided powers between the central government in New Delhi and several state governments (crafted from former British provinces and princely states), each of which also had a nominal governor at its head and an elected chief minister with a cabinet to rule its legislative assembly. One of the Congress Party’s long-standing resolutions had called for the reorganization of British provincial borders into linguistic states, where each of India’s major regional languages would find its administrative reflection, while English and Hindi would remain joint national languages for purposes of the legislation, law, and service examinations. Pressure for such reorganization increased in 1953, after the former British province of Madras was divided into Tamil Nadu (“Land of the Tamils”) and Andhra (from 1956 Andhra Pradesh), where Telugu, another Dravidian tongue, was spoken by the vast majority. (Andhra Pradesh itself was divided in 2014, with the northern, Telugu-speaking portion being split off to become the new state of Telangana. Hyderabad [in Telangana] served as the capital of each state.) Nehru thus appointed the States Reorganisation Commission to redesign India’s internal map, which led to a major redrawing of administrative boundaries, especially in southern India, by the States Reorganization Act, passed in 1956. Four years later, in 1960, the enlarged state of Bombay was divided into Marathi-speaking Maharashtra and Gujarati-speaking Gujarat. Despite those changes, the difficult process of reorganization continued and demanded attention in many regions of the subcontinent, whose truly “continental” character was perhaps best seen in this ongoing linguistic agitation. Among the most difficult problems was a demand by Sikhs that their language, Punjabi, with its sacred Gurmukhi script, be made the official tongue of Punjab, but in that state, many Hindus, fearing that they would find themselves disadvantaged, insisted that as Hindi speakers they too deserved a state of their own, if indeed the Sikhs were to be granted the Punjabi Suba (state) for which so many Sikhs agitated. Nehru, however, refused to agree to a separate Sikh state, as he feared that such a concession to the Sikhs, who were both a religious and a linguistic group, might open the door to further “Pakistan-style” fragmentation.


According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Indian economy in 2020 was nominally worth $2.7 trillion; it is the sixth-largest economy by market exchange rates and is around $8.9 trillion, the third-largest by purchasing power parity (PPP). With its average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% over the past two decades, and reaching 6.1% during 2011–2012, India is one of the world's fastest-growing economies. However, the country ranks 139th in the world in nominal GDP per capita and 118th in GDP per capita at PPP. Until 1991, all Indian governments followed protectionist policies that were influenced by socialist economics. Widespread state intervention and regulation largely walled the economy off from the outside world. An acute balance of payments crisis in 1991 forced the nation to liberalize its economy; since then it has moved slowly towards a free-market system by emphasizing both foreign trade and direct investment inflows. India has been a member of WTO since 1 January 1995.

The 522-million-worker Indian labor force is the world's second-largest, as of 2017. The service sector makes up 55.6% of GDP, the industrial sector 26.3%, and the agricultural sector 18.1%. India's foreign exchange remittances of US$70 billion in 2014, the largest in the world, were contributed to its economy by 25 million Indians working in foreign countries. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, and potatoes. Major industries include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, pharmaceuticals, biotechnology, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, and software. In 2006, the share of external trade in India's GDP stood at 24%, up from 6% in 1985. In 2008, India's share of world trade was 1.68% In 2011, India was the world's tenth-largest importer and the nineteenth-largest exporter. Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, jewelry, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and manufactured leather goods. Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertilizer, and chemicals. Between 2001 and 2011, the contribution of petrochemical and engineering goods to total exports grew from 14% to 42%. India was the world's second-largest textile exporter after China in the 2013 calendar year.

Averaging an economic growth rate of 7.5% for several years before 2007, India has more than doubled its hourly wage rates during the first decade of the 21st century. Some 431 million Indians have left poverty since 1985; India's middle classes are projected to number around 580 million by 2030. Though ranking 51st in global competitiveness, as of 2010, India ranks 17th in financial market sophistication, 24th in the banking sector, 44th in business sophistication, and 39th in innovation, ahead of several advanced economies. With seven of the world's top 15 information technology outsourcing companies based in India, as of 2009, the country is viewed as the second-most favorable outsourcing destination after the United States. India was ranked 48th in the Global Innovation Index in 2020, it has increased its ranking considerably since 2015 when it was 81st. India's consumer market, the world's eleventh-largest, is expected to become fifth-largest by 2030.

Driven by growth, India's nominal GDP per capita increased steadily from US$329 in 1991, when economic liberalization began, to US$1,265 in 2010, to an estimated US$1,723 in 2016. It is expected to grow to US$2,191 by 2021. However, it has remained lower than those of other Asian developing countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and is expected to remain so shortly.

According to a 2011 PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) report, India's GDP at purchasing power parity could overtake that of the United States by 2045. During the next four decades, Indian GDP is expected to grow at an annualized average of 8%, making it potentially the world's fastest-growing major economy until 2050. The report highlights key growth factors: a young and rapidly growing working-age population; growth in the manufacturing sector because of rising education and engineering skill levels; and sustained growth of the consumer market driven by a rapidly growing middle-class. The World Bank cautions that, for India to achieve its economic potential, it must continue to focus on public sector reform, transport infrastructure, agricultural and rural development, removal of labor regulations, education, energy security, and public health and nutrition

According to the Worldwide Cost of Living Report 2017 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) which was created by comparing more than 400 individual prices across 160 products and services, four of the cheapest cities were in India: Bangalore (3rd), Mumbai (5th), Chennai (5th) and New Delhi (8th).


Indian cultural history spans more than 4,500 years. During the Vedic period (c. 1700 BCE – c. 500 BCE), the foundations of Hindu philosophy, mythology, theology, and literature were laid, and many beliefs and practices which still exist today, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga, and mokṣa, were established. India is notable for its religious diversity, with Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity, and Jainism among the nation's major religions. The predominant religion, Hinduism, has been shaped by various historical schools of thought, including those of the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras, the Bhakti movement, and Buddhist philosophy.