* Angel Hill Sanctuary *
* EMPIRE of INDIA *
India : The earliest anatomically modern human remains found in South Asia are from approximately 30,000 years ago. Near contemporaneous Mesolithicrock art sites have been found in many parts of the Indian subcontinent, including at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh. Around 7000 BCE, the first known neolithic settlements appeared on the subcontinent in Mehrgarh and other sites in western Pakistan. These gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation, the first urban culture in South Asia, which flourished during 2500–1900 BCE in Pakistan and western India. Centred around cities such as Mohenjo-daro, Harappa, Dholavira, and Kalibangan, and relying on varied forms of subsistence, the civilisation engaged
robustly in crafts production and wide-ranging trade.
During the period 2000–500 BCE, many regions of the subcontinent evolved from copper age to iron age cultures. The Vedas, the oldest scriptures of Hinduism, were composed during this period, and historians have analyzed these to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Ganges Plain. Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent from the northwest. The caste system, creating a social hierarchy, appeared during this period. In the Deccan, archaeological evidence from this period suggests the existence of a chiefdom stage of political organization. In South India, the large number of megalithic monuments found from this period, and nearby evidence of agriculture, irrigation tanks, and craft traditions suggest progression to sedentary life.
By the fifth century BCE, the small chiefdoms of the Ganges Plain and the northwest regions had consolidated into 16 major oligarchies and monarchies called Mahajanapadas. The emerging urbanization as well as the orthodoxies of the late Vedic age created the religious reform movements of Buddhism and Jainism. Buddhism, based on the teachings of India's first historical figure, Gautam Buddha, attracted followers from all social classes; Jainism came into prominence around the same time during the life of its exemplar, Mahavira. In an age of increasing urban wealth, both religions held up renunciation as an ideal, and both established long-lasting monasteries. Politically, by the 3rd century BCE, the kingdom of Magadha had annexed or reduced other states to emerge as the Mauryan Empire. The empire was once thought to have controlled most of the subcontinent excepting the far south, but its core regions are now thought to have been separated by large autonomous areas. The Maurya kings are known as much for their empire building and determined management of public life as for Ashoka the Great's renunciation of militarism and his far flung advocacy of the Buddhist dhamma.
The Sangam literature of the Tamil language reveals that during the period 200 BCE–200 CE, the southern peninsula was being ruled by the Cheras, the Cholas and the Pandyas, dynasties that traded extensively with the Roman Empire and with west and south-east Asia. In north India during the same time, Hinduism asserted patriarchal control within the family. By the fourth and fifth centuries CE, the Gupta Empire had created a complex administrative and taxation system in the greater Ganges Plain that became a model for later Indian kingdoms. Under the Guptas, a renewed Hinduism based on devotion rather than the management of ritual began to assert itself and was reflected in a flowering of sculpture and architecture, which found patrons among an urban elite. Classical Sanskrit literature flowered as well, and Indian science astronomy,
medicine, and mathematics made significant advances.
The Indian early medieval age ( 600 CE to 1200 CE ) is defined by regional kingdoms and cultural diversity. When Harsha of Kannauj, who ruled much of the Ganges plain from 606 to 647 CE, attempted to expand southwards, he was defeated by the Chalukya ruler of the Deccan. When his successor attempted to expand eastwards, he was defeated by the Pala king of Bengal. When the Chalukyas attempted to expand southwards, they were defeated by the Pallavas from farther south, who in turn were opposed by the Pandyas and the Cholas from still farther south. No ruler of this period was able to create an empire and consistently control lands much beyond his core region. During this time, pastoral peoples whose land had been cleared to make way for the growing agriculture economy were accommodated within caste society, as were new non-traditional ruling classes. The caste system consequently began to show regional differences.
In the sixth and seventh centuries CE, the first devotional hymns were created in the Tamil language. These were imitated all over India and led both to the resurgence of Hinduism and to the development of all the modern languages of the subcontinent. Indian royalty, big and small, and the temples they patronized drew citizens in great numbers to the capital cities, which became economic hubs as well. Temple towns of various sizes began to appear everywhere as India underwent another urbanisation. By the eight and ninth centuries, the effects were evident elsewhere as well as South Indian culture and political systems were being exported to Southeast Asia, in particular to what today are Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and Java. Indian merchants, scholars, and sometimes armies were involved in this transmission, and south-east Asians took the initiative as well with many sojourning in Indian seminaries
and translating Buddhist and Hindu texts into their languages.
After the tenth century, Muslim Central Asian nomadic clans, using swift horse cavalry and raising vast armies united by ethnicity and religion, repeatedly overran South Asia's north-western plains, and led eventually to the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206. The Sultanate was to control much of North India, and to make many forays into South India. Although at first disruptive for the Indian elites, the Sultanate largely left its vast non-Muslim subject population to its own laws and customs. By repeatedly repulsing the Mongol raiders in the thirteenth century, the Sultanate saved India from the destruction seen in west and central Asia, and set the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, learned men, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from that region into India, thereby creating a syncretic Indo-Islamic culture in the north. The Sultanate's raiding and weakening of the regional kingdoms of South India, paved the way for the indigenous Vijayanagara Empire. Embracing a strong Shaivite tradition and building upon the military technology of the Sultanate, the empire came to control much of peninsular India, and to influence the society and culture of South India for long afterwards.
Early Modern India
In the early 16th century, northern India, being then under mainly Muslim rulers, fell again to the superior mobility and firepower of a new generation of Central Asian warriors. The resulting Mughal Empire did not stamp out the local societies it came to rule, but rather balanced and pacified them through new administrative practices and diverse and inclusive ruling elites, leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule. Eschewing tribal bonds and Islamic identity, especially under Akbar, the Mughals united their far-flung realms through loyalty, expressed through a Persianised culture, to an emperor who had near-divine status. The Mughal state's economic policies, deriving most revenues from agriculture and mandating that taxes be paid in the well-regulated silver currency, caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion, resulting in greater patronage of painting, literary forms, textiles, and architecture. Newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience. Expanding commerce during Mughal rule gave rise to new Indian commercial and political elites along the coasts of southern and eastern India. As the empire disintegrated,
many among these elites were able to seek and control their own affairs.
By the early 18th century, with the lines between commercial and political dominance being increasingly blurred, a number of European trading companies, including the English East India Company, had established outposts on the coast of India. The East India Company's control of the seas, its greater resources, and its army's more advanced training methods and technology, led it to increasingly flex its military muscle and caused it to become attractive to a portion of the Indian elite; both these factors were crucial in the Company becoming the ruler of the Bengal region by 1765, and sidelining the other European companies. Its further access to the riches of Bengal and the subsequent increased strength and size of its army enabled it to annex or subdue most of India by the 1820s. India was now no longer exporting manufactured goods as it long had, but was instead supplying the British empire with raw materials, and most historians consider this to be the true onset of India's colonial period. By this time also, with its economic power severely curtailed by the British parliament and effectively now an arm of British administration, the Company began to more consciously enter non-economic arenas
such as education, social reform, and culture.
Depending upon the historian, India's modern age begins variously in 1848, when with the appointment of Lord Dalhousie as Governor General of the Company rule in India, changes essential to a modern state, including the consolidation and demarcation of sovereignty, the surveillance of the population, and the education of citizens, were put in place, and technological changes, among them, railways, canals, and telegraph were introduced not long after being introduced in Europe; 1857, when disaffection with the Company's rule, set off by diverse resentments, which included British social reforms, harshness of land taxes, and the humiliation of landed and princely aristocracy, led to the Indian rebellion of 1857 in many parts of northern India; 1858, when after the suppression of the rebellion, the British government took over the direct administration of India, and proclaimed a unitary state, which on the one hand envisaged a limited and gradual British-style parliamentary system, but on the other hand protected India's princes and large landlords as a feudal safeguard; and 1885, when the founding of theIndian National Congress marked the beginning of a period in which
public life emerged at an all-India level.
Although the rush of technology and the commercialization of agriculture in the second half of the 19th century was marked by economic setbacks—many small farmers became dependent on the whims of far away markets, there was an increase in the number of large-scale famines, and, despite the Indian taxpayers enduring the risks of infrastructure development, little industrial employment was generated for Indians, there were also salutary effects: commercial cropping, especially in the newly canalled Punjab, increased food production for internal consumption, the railway network provided critical famine relief, reduced notably the cost of moving goods, and helped the nascent Indian owned industry. After the first world war, in which some one million Indians served, a new period began, which was marked by British reforms, but also repressive legislation, by more strident Indian calls for self-rule, and by the beginnings of a nonviolent movement of non-cooperation, of which Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi would become the leader and enduring symbol. During the 1930s, slow legislative reform was enacted by the British and the Indian National Congress won victories in the resulting elections. However, the next decade would be beset with crises, which included, the second world war, the Congress's final push of non-cooperation, and the upsurge of Muslim nationalism—all capped by the independence of India in 1947, but tempered by the bloody partition of the subcontinent into two states.
Vital to India's self-image as an independent nation was its constitution, completed in 1950, which put in place a sovereign, secular, democratic republic. In the 60 years since, India has had a mixed bag of successes and failures. On the positive side, it has remained a democracy with many civil liberties, an activist Supreme Court, and an independent press; economic liberalization in the 1990s, has created a large urban middle-class, transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, and increased its global clout; and Indian movies, new music, and spiritual teachings, have increasingly contributed to global culture. However, on the negative side, India has been weighed down with seemingly unyielding poverty, both rural and urban; by religious and caste-related violence, by the insurgencies of Maoist inspired Naxalites, and separatists in Jammu and Kashmir; India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China, which escalated into the Sino-Indian War of 1962, with Pakistan which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999, and nuclear rivalry which came to a head in 1998. India's sustained democratic freedoms, for over 60 years, are unique among the world's new nations; however, in spite of its recent economic successes, freedom from want for its disadvantaged population, remains a goal yet to be achieved.
India, the major portion of the Indian subcontinent, lies atop the Indian tectonic plate, a minor plate within the Indo-Australian Plate. India's defining geological processes commenced seventy-five million years ago when the Indian subcontinent, then part of the southern supercontinent Gondwana, began a northeastwards drift—lasting fifty million years—across the then unformed Indian Ocean. The subcontinent's subsequent collision with the Eurasian Plate and subduction under it gave rise to the Himalayas, the planet's highest mountains, which abut India in the north and the north-east. The Kanchenjunga is the highest mountain bordering India and Nepal. The Nanda Devi is the second highest peak and the highest mountain located entirely within India. The former seabed immediately south of the emerging Himalayas, plate movement created a vast trough which, having gradually been filled with river-borne sediment, now forms the Indo-Gangetic Plain. To the west lies the Thar Desert, which is cut off by the Aravalli Range.
The original Indian plate survives as peninsular India, the oldest and geologically most stable part of India and extends as far north as the Satpura and Vindhya ranges in central India. These parallel ranges 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 the coastal ranges, Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats respectively; the plateau contains the oldest rock formations in India, 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 coast is 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi) long; of this distance, 5,423 kilometres (3,400 mi) belong to peninsular India and 2,094 kilometres (1,300 mi) to the Andaman, Nicobar, and Lakshadweep Islands. According to the Indian naval hydrographic charts, the mainland coast consists of the following: 43% sandy beaches, 11% rocky coast
including cliffs, and 46% mudflats or marshy coast.
Major Himalayan-origin rivers that substantially flow through India include the Ganges (Ganga) 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 causes disastrous floods every year. 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. Among notable coastal features of India are the marshy Rann of Kutch in western India, and the alluvial Sundarbans delta, which India shares 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.
India's climate is strongly influenced by the Himalayas and the Thar Desert, both of which drive the 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 southwest 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.
Wildlife of India
List of Eco-Regions
Lying within the Indomalaya ecozone with three hotspots located within its area, India displays significant biodiversity. As one of the 17 megadiverse countries, it is home to 7.6% of all mammalian, 12.6% of all avian, 6.2% of all reptilian, 4.4% of all amphibian, 11.7% of all fish, and 6.0% of all flowering plant species. Many ecoregions such as the sholaforests exhibit high rates of endemism; overall, 33% of Indian plant species are endemic. India's forest cover ranges from the tropical rainforest of the Andaman Islands, Western Ghats, and northeastern India to the coniferous forest of the Himalaya. Between these extremes lie the sal-dominated moist deciduous forest of eastern India; the teak-dominated dry deciduous forest of central and southern India; and the babul-dominated thorn forest of the central Deccan and western Gangetic plain. Under 12% of India's landmass is covered by dense forests. Important Indian trees include the medicinal neem, widely used in rural Indian herbal remedies. The pipal fig tree, shown on the seals of Mohenjo-daro, shaded Gautama Buddha as he sought enlightenment.
Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated a long time ago. Peninsular India's subsequent movement towards and collision with the Laurasian landmass set off a mass exchange of species. However, volcanism and climatic changes 20 million years ago caused the extinction of many endemic Indian forms. Soon thereafter, mammals entered India from Asia through two zoogeographical passes on either side of the emerging Himalaya. Consequently, among Indian species only 12.6% of mammals and 4.5% of birds are endemic, contrasting with 45.8% of reptiles and 55.8% of amphibians. Notable endemics are the Nilgiri leaf monkey and Beddome's toad of the Western Ghats. India contains 172, or 2.9%, of IUCN-designated threatened species. These include the Asiatic Lion, the Bengal Tiger, and the Indian white-rumped vulture, which nearly became extinct
by ingesting the carrion of diclofenac-treated cattle.
In recent decades, human encroachment has posed a threat to India's wildlife; in response, the system of national parks and protected areas, first established in 1935, was substantially expanded. In 1972, India enacted the Wildlife Protection Act and Project Tiger to safeguard crucial habitat; in addition, the Forest Conservation Act was enacted in 1980 and amendments added in 1988. Along with more than five hundred wildlife sanctuaries, India hosts thirteen biosphere reserves, four of which are part of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves ;
twenty-five wetlands are registered under the Ramsar Convention.
India is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, 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; Bhutan, the People's Republic of China and Nepal to the northeast; and Bangladesh and Burma to the east. In the Indian Ocean, India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka and the Maldives; in addition, India's Andaman
and Nicobar Islands share a maritime border with Thailand and Indonesia.
Home to the ancient Indus Valley Civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four of the world's major religions—Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, whereas Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the 1st millennium CE and also helped shape the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early 18th century and colonized by the United Kingdom from the mid-19th century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence
which was marked by non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.
The Indian economy is the world's tenth-largest economy by nominal GDP and fourth largest economy by purchasing power parity (PPP). Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies, and is considered a newly industrialized country; however, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, illiteracy, corruption and inadequate public health. A nuclear weapons state and a regional power, it has the third-largest standing army in the world and ranks tenth in military expenditure among nations. India is a federal constitutional republic governed under a parliamentary system consisting of 28 states and 7 union territories. It is one of the 5 BRICS nations. India is a pluralistic, multilingual, and multiethnic society. India is also home
to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.
According to the International Monetary Fund, India is the world's tenth largest economy by market exchange rates with US$1.53 trillion and fourth largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) with US$4.06 trillion. With its average annual GDP growing at 5.8% for the past two decades, and at 10.4% during 2010, India is also one of the fastest growing economies in the world. However, the country ranks 138th in the world in nominal GDP per capita
and 129th 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 caused the Indian economy to be largely closed to the outside world. After an acute balance of payments crisis in 1991, the nation liberalised its economy and has since continued to move towards a free-market system, emphasizing both foreign trade and investment. Consequently, India's economic model is now being described overall as capitalist. With 467 million workers, India has the world's second largestlabour force. The service sector makes up 54% of the GDP, the agricultural sector 28%, and the industrial sector 18%. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, and potatoes. Major industries include textiles, telecommunications, chemicals, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery and software. By 2006, India's external trade had reached a relatively moderate proportion of GDP at 24%, up from 6% in 1985. In 2008, India's share of world trade was 1.68%; India was the world's fifteenth largest importer in 2009 and the eighteenth largest exporter. Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, jewelry, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and leather manufactures. Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertiliser, chemicals.
Averaging an economic growth rate of 7.5% during the last few years, India has more than doubled its hourly wage rates during the last decade. Moreover, since 1985, India has moved 431 million of its citizens out of poverty, and by 2030, India's middle class numbers will grow to more than 580 million. Although ranking 51st in global competitiveness, 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 7 of the world's top 15 technology outsourcing companies based in India, the country is viewed as the second most favourable outsourcing destination after the United States. India's consumer market, currently the world's thirteenth largest, is expected to become fifth largest by 2030. Its telecommunication industry, the world's fastest growing, added 227 million subscribers during 2010–11. Its automobile industry, the world's second-fastest growing, increased domestic sales by 26%
during 2009–10, and exports by 36% during 2008–09.
Despite impressive economic growth during recent decades, India continues to face socio-economic challenges. India contains the largest concentration of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of $1.25/day, the proportion having decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005. Half of the children in India are underweight, and 46% of children under the age of three suffer from malnutrition. Since 1991, economic inequality between India's states has consistently grown: the per capita net state domestic product of the richest states in 2007 was 3.2 times that of the poorest. Corruption in India is perceived to have increased significantly, with one report estimating the illegal capital flows since independence to be US$462 billion. Driven by growth, India's nominal GDP per capita has steadily increased from U$329 in 1991, when economic liberalization began, to US$1,265 in 2010, and is estimated to increase to US $2,110 by 2016; however, it has always remained lower than those of other Asian developing countries such as Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand,
and is expected to remain so in the near future.
According to a 2011 PwC report, India's GDP at purchasing power parity will overtake Japan's during 2011 and the United States by 2045. Moreover, during the next four decades, India's economy is expected to grow at an average of 8%, making the nation potentially the world's fastest growing major economy until 2050. The report also highlights some of the key factors behind high economic growth – a young and rapidly growing working age population; the growth of the manufacturing sector due to rising levels of education and engineering skills; and sustained growth of the consumer market because of a rapidly growing middle class. However, 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 labour regulations, education, energy security, and public health and nutrition.
Demographics of India
Ethnic groups of South Asia
Most populous Metropolitan Areas
With 1,210,193,422 citizens reported in the 2011 provisional Census, India is the world's second most populous country. India's population grew at 1.76% per annum during the last decade, down from 2.13% per annum in the previous decade (1991–2001). The human sex ratio in India, according to the 2011 census, is 940 females per 1,000 males the lowest since independence. India's median age was 24.9 in the 2001 census. Medical advances of the last 50 years as well increased agricultural productivity brought about by the "green revolution" have caused India's population to grow rapidly. The percentage of Indian population living in urban areas has grown as well, increasing by 31.2% from 1991 to 2001. Despite this, in 2001 over 70% of India's population continued to live in rural areas. According to the 2001 census, there are
27 million-plus cities in India, with Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata being the largest.
India's overall literacy rate in 2011 is 74.04%, its female literacy rate standing at 65.46% and its male at 82.14%. The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate, whereas Bihar has the lowest. India continues to face several public health-related challenges. According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water or breathing polluted air. There are about 60 physicians per 100,000 people in India.
The Indian Constitution recognises 212 scheduledtribal groups which together constitute about 7.5% of the country's population. The 2001 census reported the religion in India with the largest number of followers was Hinduism, with over 800 million (80.5%) of the population recording it as their religion. Other religious groups include Muslims (13.4%), Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%), Jains (0.4%), Jews, Zoroastrians and Bahá'ís. India has the world's third-largest Muslim population and the largest Muslim population
for a non-Muslim majority country.
India is home to two major language families: Indo-Aryan (spoken by about 74% of the population) and Dravidian (spoken by about 24%). Other languages spoken in India come from the Austro-Asiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families. India has no national language. Hindi, with the largest number of speakers, is the official language of the union. English is used extensively in business and administration and has the status of a 'subsidiary official language;' it is also important in education, especially as a medium of higher education. Every state and union territory has its own official languages, and the constitution recognises
in particular 21 "scheduled languages".
Culture of India
Formative in India's 4,500 years old culture is the Vedic age in which were laid the foundation of Hindu philosophy, mythology, literary traditions, beliefs and practices, such as dhárma, kárma, yóga and mokṣa; distinctive in this culture are its diverse religions, which include Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Christianity and Jainism. The predominant religion, Hinduism, has been shaped by the various schools of thought including those of the Upanishads, the Yoga Sutras,
the Bhakti movement, and by Buddhist philosophy
Indian architecture represents the diversity of Indian culture. Much of it, including notable monuments such as the Taj Mahal and other examples of Mughal architecture and South Indian architecture, comprises a blend of ancient and varied local traditions from several parts of the country and abroad. Vernacular architecture also displays notable regional variation.
Indian cuisine is best known for its delicate use of herbs and spices and for its tandoori grilling techniques. The tandoor, a clay oven in use for almost 5,000 years in India, is known for its ability to grill meats to an 'uncommon succulence' and for the puffy flatbread known as the naan. The staple foods in the region are rice, especially in the south and the east, wheat, predominantly in the north and lentils. Many spices which are consumed world wide
are originally native to the Indian subcontinent. Chili pepper which was introduced
by the Portuguese is widely used in Indian cuisine.
The earliest literary writings in India, composed between 1,400 BCE and 1,200 AD, were in the Sanskrit language. Prominent works of this Sanskrit literature include epics such as Mahābhārata and Ramayana, the dramas of Kalidasa such as the Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya. Developed between 600 BCE and 300 AD in Southern India, the Sangam literature consisting of 2,381 poems is regarded as a predecessor of Tamil literature. From the 14th century AD to 18th century AD, India's literary traditions went through a period of drastic change because of the emergence of devotional poets such as Kabīr, Tulsīdās and Guru Nānak. This period was characterised by varied and wide spectrum of thought and expression and as a consequence, medieval Indian literary works differed significantly from classical traditions. In the 19th century, Indian writers took a new interest in social questions and psychological descriptions. During the 20th century, Indian literature was heavily influenced by the works of universally acclaimed Bengali poet and novelist Rabindranath Tagore.
Society and Traditions
Traditional Indian society is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. The Indian caste system describes the social stratification and social restrictions in the Indian subcontinent, in which social classes are defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed as jātis or castes. Several influential social reform movements, such as the Brahmo Samaj, the Arya Samaj and the Ramakrishna Mission, have played a pivotal role in the emancipation of Dalits (or "untouchables") and other lower-caste communities in India. However, the majority of Dalits continue to live in segregation and are often persecuted and discriminated against.
Traditional Indian family values are highly valued, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm in India, though nuclear families are becoming common in urban areas. An overwhelming majority of Indians, with their consent, have their marriages arranged by their parents or other family members. Marriage is thought to be for life, and the divorce rate is extremely low. Child marriage is still a common practice, more so in rural India,
with more than half of women in India marrying before the legal age of 18.
Many Indian festivals are religious in origin. The best known include Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Thai Pongal, Holi, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas, and Vaisakhi. India has three national holidays which are observed in all states and union territories – Republic Day, Independence Day and Gandhi Jayanti. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine
and twelve, are officially observed in individual states.
Traditional Indian dress varies across the regions in its colours and styles and depends on various factors, including climate. Popular styles of dress include draped garments such as sari for women and dhoti or lungi for men; in addition, stitched clothes such as salwar kameez for women and kurta-pyjama and European-style trousers and shirts for men, are also popular. The wearing of delicate jewellery, modelled on real flowers worn in ancient India, is part of a tradition dating back some 5,000 years; gemstones are also worn in India as talismans.