India: Centuries of Tradition
Republic of India
India* or officially, the Republic of India, is a country in South Asia. It 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. India has a coastline of 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi).
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 there, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped the region’s diverse culture.
It was gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early 18th century and colonised 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 a non-violent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi.
India is a federal constitutional republic with a parliamentary democracy consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. India is a pluralistic, multilingual and multiethnic society where more than 400 languages are spoken.
India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats. The Indian economy is the world’s eleventh largest economy by nominal GDP. It is the fourth largest by purchasing power parity.
Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies in the world. However, the country continues to face several poverty, illiteracy, corruption and public health related challenges.
History of India
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago.
The Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent from c. 3300 to 1300 BCE, was the first major civilization in India.
Almost all of the subcontinent was conquered by the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. It subsequently became fragmented, with various parts ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next 1,500 years.
Much of northern and central India was once again united in the 4th century CE, and remained so for two centuries thereafter, under the Gupta Empire. This period, witnessing a Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known among its admirers as the “Golden Age of India”.
India is a federation with a parliamentary form of government, governed under the Constitution of India. It is a constitutional republic and representative democracy, “in which majority rule is tempered by minority rights protected by law.”
Federalism in India defines the power distribution between the center and the states. The government is regulated by a checks and balances defined by Indian Constitution, which serves as the country’s supreme legal document.
The Constitution of India came into force on 26 January 1950.
An insincere and evil friend is more to be feared than a wild beast; a wild beast may wound your body, but an evil friend will wound your mind.
Chaos is inherent in all compounded things. Strive on with diligence.
Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.
I do not believe in a fate that falls on men however they act; but I do believe in a fate that falls on them unless they act.
It is better to conquer yourself than to win a thousand battles. Then the victory is yours. It cannot be taken from you, not by angels or by demons, heaven or hell.
India has an estimated population of 1.2 billion. India is the world’s second most populous country. The last 50 years have seen a rapid increase in population due to medical advances and massive increase in agricultural productivity due to the “green revolution”.
The percentage of Indian population living in urban areas has consistently grown. From 1991 to 2001, India’s urban population increased by about 31%. In 2001, about 285 million Indians lived in urban areas while more than 70% of India’s population resided in rural areas.
As per the 2001 census, there are twenty seven million-plus cities, with the largest cities being Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata.
Though India has one of the world’s most diverse and modern healthcare systems, the country continues to face several public health-related challenges.] According to the World Health Organization, 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water and breathing in polluted air. There are about 60 physicians per 100,000 people in India.
As per the 2001 census, over 800 million Indians (80.5%) were Hindu. 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.
Neither the Constitution of India, nor any Indian law defines any 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. In addition, every state and union territory has its own official languages, and the constitution also recognizes in particular 21 “scheduled languages”.
India’s cultural tradition dates back to 8000 BCE and has a continuously recorded history for over 2,500 years. The Indian culture took a distinctive shape during the 11th century BCE Vedic Age.
The foundation was laid for Hindu philosophy, mythology, literary tradition and beliefs. Practices such as dhárma, kárma, yóga and moksa were laid at that time.
India has managed to preserve established traditions while absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants. It has spread its cultural influence to other parts of Asia, mainly South East and East Asia.
Indian religions form one of the most defining aspects of Indian culture. Major dhármic religions which were founded in India include Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
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 castes.
An overwhelming majority of Indians have their marriages arranged by their parents and other respected family members, with the consent of the bride and groom. 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 half of women in India marrying before the legal age of 18.
Many Indian festivals are religious in origin, although several are celebrated irrespective of caste and creed. Some popular festivals are Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Ugadi, Thai Pongal, Holi, Onam, Vijayadashami, Durga Puja, Eid ul-Fitr, Bakr-Id, Christmas, Buddha Jayanti, Moharram and Vaisakhi.
*Some information taken from Wikipedia
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The following articles were submitted by our readers. We are not privileged to know most of these customs, superstitions, or symbols, being born and raised in the USA. This is new knowledge for us and maybe you too. We hope you enjoy these articles and can take advantage of some of the information presented.
Reader contributed articles and more
- Bhiksha – ‘one who lives on alms’
- Holy Bathing
- Dakshinavarthi Shankh
- Ganesh Shankh
- Lakshmi Paduka
- Laghu Nariyal
- Parad Shivling
- Shwetark Ganpati
- Narmedeshwar Shiva lingam
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- Author – Saba
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- Bindi Dot Decoration
- Shaligram Mystical Stone
- Heera Shankh
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- Fasting – Upwas or Vrat
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