India: An Overview

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India is the 7th largest country in the world by geographical area, and the 2nd most populous country. It is also the most populous democracy in the world. The subcontinent is bounded by the highest mountains in the world, the Himalayas, to the north and northeast, the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the southwest, and the Bay of Bengal on the southeast. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.

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One of the most diverse countries in the world, India is a vast tapestry of pluralistic ethnicities, religions, lifestyles, cuisines, languages, wildlife, and landscapes. Indian culture dates back to 8,000 BCE. Historically, India was home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and was shaped by the rise and fall of historic trade routes and vast empires, and the resultant influx of various cultures. The Vedic age, during the 11th century BCE, shaped much of India’s distinctive culture with the introduction of Hindu mythology, traditions, philosophy and practices as well as the traditions of yoga, dharma, karma, and moksa. Throughout its histroy, India has managed to not only preserve its complex, established traditions while absorbing new traditions and ideas but to also extend its cultural influence to South and East Asia. Four of the world’s major religions originated in India – Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. Other religions, like Judaism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE, continuing to shape India’s diverse culture.

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India was annexed by the British East India Company early in the 18th century and was colonized by the United Kingdom from the 19th century until gaining independence in 1947 following a historic, non-violent struggle led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

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India, officially the Republic of India, is a federal constitutional republic with of a parliamentary system representing the 28 states and 7 union territories. It has the 3rd largest standing army in the world. India’s economy is the world’s 11th largest by GDP and 4th largest by purchasing power. Considered a newly industrialized nation, it is one of the fastest growing major economies.

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(Image: Heather Buckley http://www.heatherbuckley.co.uk)

For more on the traditions of India, continue to follow our blog we prepare for our upcoming event, A Taste of India.