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Oldest Civilization:

One of the oldest civilizations in the world, India was the dreamland of all ages down from Solomon to Great Alexander to Columbus who tried to find out a sea route to India. When the western civilization was confined to the caves, India had a flourishing civilization on the banks of great rivers like Indus and Ganges. 5000 years of rich history is behind the people. The great mountain range of Himalaya with the highest peak Mount Everest protected India from enemies for centuries. The Vedas, the holy books of Hinduism are considered the oldest written books. It is dated 3000 to 4000 BC.

Diversity:

The second most populous and the seventh largest nation is a country with different languages and cultures. It is verily a melting pot of different cultures which assimilated in the great Indian Civilization. The most peace-loving and most philosophical people on earth --may be poor by western standards-- are once again coming up on the world stage.

An example of Indian Philosophy:

"What is the greatest paradox on earth" Yama, the Lord of Death asked King Yudhishtira. Yudhishtira, the wise king replied. " Everyday innumerable people die around us. But we live thinking that we will never die. This is the greatest paradox on earth."


India, the world's second most populous nation (after China) and the seventh-largest in area, is located in South Asia on the Indian subcontinent. It is about 3,000 km (1,875 mi) wide and has, because of its peninsular shape, a shoreline of about 7,000 km (4,400 mi) along the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west. The land frontier of about 5,700 km (3,600 mi) is shared with Pakistan on the west; by China (mostly Tibet), Nepal, and Bhutan on the north; and by Bangladesh and Myanmar (Burma) on the east. India's eighth neighbor is the island nation of Sri Lanka, located off the southern tip of the peninsula. Northeast India is virtually isolated from the rest of the nation by Bangladesh. Also part of India are the LACCADIVE ISLANDS (Lakshadweep) off the western coast and the ANDAMAN and NICOBAR islands, located in the eastern portion of the Bay of Bengal.

India and Bharat are both official names. The early settlers called their land "Bharat Varsha" or "Bharat," and during medieval times it was known as "Hind." The name India, which derives from the Indus River and was used by the ancient Greeks and Persians, came into wide usage during the colonial period.

Indian culture is of great antiquity. The earliest Indian civilization grew up in the Indus Valley from 4000 to 2500 BC. Beginning about 1500 BC Aryan invaders entered India from the northwest and intermingled with the local Dravidian population. The foundations of Indian society, including Hinduism and the caste system, were established from these two groups. Buddhism and Jainism also began in ancient India. The culture was subject to strong Islamic influences beginning in the 11th century period and continuing under the Mogul Empire (established 1526). After 1750 the subcontinent was absorbed piecemeal into the British Empire, the local princes and rulers retaining some of their autonomy.

India gained its independence from the British on Aug. 15, 1947, at which time two predominantly Muslim regions in the northwestern and northeastern corners of the subcontinent became the separate state of Pakistan. The modern country of India is a union of 25 states--ANDHRA PRADESH, ARUNACHAL PRADESH, ASSAM, BIHAR, GOA, GUJARAT, HARYANA, HIMACHAL PRADESH, Jammu and Kashmir (see KASHMIR), KARNATAKA, KERALA, MADHYA PRADESH, MAHARASHTRA, MANIPUR, MEGHALAYA, MIZORAM, NAGALAND, ORISSA, PUNJAB, RAJASTHAN, SIKKIM, TAMIL NADU, TRIPURA, UTTAR PRADESH, and WEST BENGAL--and 7 union territories--Daman and Diu, PONDICHERRY, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Chandigarh, Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Delhi, and Lakshadweep. In 1956 the map of India was largely redrawn as provisions were made for reorganization of the states along linguistic lines, with the goal of preserving regional cultures and aspirations. A policy of "democratic decentralization" provides states with a large measure of self-government.

Today India ranks among the top ten industrial nations in the world. Because the huge population is growing as rapidly as the economy, however, the primarily rural population of this huge, developing nation has one of the world's lowest per-capita incomes. Despite the accompanying social and political stresses, and despite a brief period of authoritarian rule (1975-77) under Prime Minister Indira GANDHI, India remains the world's most populous democracy.

C. H. Deshpande Reviewed by Donald Johnson

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