The cave shelters of Bhimbetka in central India showcase a historical narrative from the pre- historic to the historic period. Around 3000 BC, one of the world's oldest civilisations flourished in the fertile valley of the river Indus. Excavations at Mohenjodaro and Harappa point to an evolved civilisation living in well planned cities. Seals, as also the existence of a dockyard at Lothal seem to indicate a seaborne trade with Mesopotamia . Around 1500 BC, the Aryan presence is recorded. Aside from the horse, they introduced the worship of fire.
From nomads to settled agriculturists, the Aryans developed village communities. Hinduism was at a very nascent stage and Sanskrit, from which most north Indian scripts are derived, was the prevailing language. The Hindu epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata are products of this period.
Social and intellectual ferment in the 6 th century BC led thinkers like Mahavira and Gautama Buddha to seek and offer alternate paths- Jainism and Buddhism.
When the Greek ambassador Megasthenes visited India , in the 3 rd century BC, the north was consolidated into one great empire under Chandragupta Maurya. His grandson Ashoka the Great (268-231 B.C.), however, is better known. Deeply affected by the bloodbath on the battlefield, he chose to practice and preach the Buddhist philosophy of non-violence, both in India and abroad.
Down south, while the local rulers - the Cheras, Cholas and Pandyas battled for supremacy, maritime trade with Rome flourished. St Thomas came to India in the 1 st Century AD and established a Christian community here.
Between 320 and 480 AD, often referred to as the Golden Age of the Guptas, India saw the flowering of art, culture, literature and science. Erudite treatises on subjects ranging from medicine and mathematics to astronomy and even love (the famed Kamasutra) were written.
Qutub-ud-din Aibak laid the foundation of the so-called Slave dynasty in India , in the 13 th century. The Tughlaqs and Lodis succeeded the Aibaks. In the 16th century Babur, established Mughal rule here. His grandson Akbar (1562-1605) is even now viewed as a progressive ruler, for he sought in many ways - through administrative systems, art, culture and even religion - to amalgamate disparate cultures. Physically too, the splintering kingdom became an empire. Another ruler, Shahjahan, famed for his immortal creation, the Taj Mahal, took Mughal glory to its zenith. Aurangzeb was the last great emperor of the Mughal dynasty.
The 17 th century brought the Europeans; with the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese setting up trading posts. Soon commercial interests combined with political aspirations (a process in which the local rulers played an active part) and a power struggle ensued. The Battle of Plassey in 1757 was decisive, with the British gaining supremacy over the others.
During the British period, a rail network as also a bureaucracy developed. However, national aspirations and the desire for self-determination on the part of the Indians resulted in the First War of Independence in 1857. Though brutally suppressed, it marked the beginning of a struggle in which the Indian National Congress, founded in 1885, formed the backbone. Finally, on 15 August, 1947 , India gained independence. On 26 January, 1950 it became a republic with a written constitution.
Many describe India as a continent. And not surprisingly, for the country spans 3.29 million sq km. In the north are China , Nepal and Bhutan , to the northwest, Afghanistan and Pakistan and in the east, Myanmar and Bangladesh . The Palk Strait and the Gulf of Mannar separate the country's slender southern tip from the island-state of Sri Lanka .
Stretching 2,400 km across its entire northern boundary, from the Pamir knot in the northwest to the Brahmaputra valley in the east, is the world's youngest (60 million years old) mountain range -the Himalayas, which has the world's highest peak - Mt Everest.
Far older is the stable mass of pre-Cambrian rock - the Deccan (meaning “Southern”) plateau, which occupies a southern position in the peninsula. The Aravalli range, in its north, as also the Western and Eastern Ghats are remnants of this formation. The eastern edge, drained by the Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna and Kaveri rivers, break the Eastern Ghats into low hills. The Western Ghats are steeper and swift-flowing rivers form backwaters and lagoons along the Kerala coast. Kanyakumari is the southernmost tip of India .
Between the Himalayas and the Deccan plateau is the fertile Indo-Gangetic plain. In the east, the Brahmaputra River joins the Ganga in a combined delta, the largest in the world and known for its rich, mangrove forests. Nestled in the Bay of Bengal in the east, are the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, while in the Arabian Sea in the west, coral atolls form the Lakshadweep islands.
Situated between 80'4” and 37'6” north latitude and 68'07” and 97'25” east longitude, the country measures 3214 km from north to south and 2933 km from east to west.
Winters are cold in the north, pleasant in the south, which is closer to the equator. Summers are hot, with temperatures touching 47 degrees Celsius in some parts. The monsoon season is roughly between June and August.
FLORA AND FAUNA
Four major racial groups have met and merged in this fertile land to give its populace this great diversity. Racial dovetailing has influenced lifestyle patterns as much as it did looks.
Lifestyles, customs, traditions and religious beliefs vary. There is, in fact, no composite Indian character, but there is a rare catholicity and the people are united in their acceptance of individual styles and beliefs. The majority of Indians are Hindu, but Muslims, Sikhs, Christians and Jews enjoy religious freedom and festivals of different faiths, like Holi (festival of colours), Diwali (festival of lights) Dussehra, ld, Christmas, Good Friday are celebrated with much fervour by all.
Sartorial styles are equally diverse, though women through the length and breadth of the country wear the sari. Equally diverse is the cuisine repertoire, which ranges from hot and spicy to subtle, bordering on the bland. Styles differ from one region to another as also from one state to the next. What many find mind boggling is the number of vegetarian dishes available necessitated no doubt by the large number of Indians who are vegetarians.
The world's largest democracy, India follows a parliamentary system of governance. The Constitution guarantees liberty, equality and justice to all. Elections, based on adult franchise, are held every five years. Parliament consists of two Houses - the Lok Sabha (Lower House), with members elected by the people and the Rajya Sabha (Upper House), where members are both nominated and elected by provincial legislatures. Members from both Houses and the State Assemblies, elect the President for a five-year term. The President is the head of the State and the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. The person enjoying majority support in the Lok Sabha is appointed Prime Minister by the President. The President appoints other Ministers on the advice of the Prime Minister.
There are twenty six States and six Union Territories . Each state has a Governor at the helm, aided by a Council of Ministers with the Chief Minister as their leader.
The judiciary, independent of the executive, is the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. The Supreme Court at the head of the judicial system is the apex court of the land.
President H.E.Smt. Pratibha Devisingh Patil (since 25th July, 2007 )
India 's foreign policy and external relations are guided by the well established principles of the Non Aligned movement ( NAM ) and Panchsheel. The spirit of peaceful co-existence is the foundation of its policy.
In its continued endeavour to improve and strengthen its relations with its neighbours as also other countries of the world, India has been playing an active role in the various regional and international fora. These include the UN, Non-aligned Movement (NAM), South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN), G-15, G-77, EC, Commonwealth, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), OECD, CR-ARC. World Bank, IMF, WTO, etc. It is through these and other relevant forms as also various innovative initiatives, both at bilateral and multilateral levels, that India has been able to contribute towards establishing a world order, consistently guided by the spirit of peaceful co-existence and mutual cooperation in order to help promote the socio-economic well being of mankind.
While primarily playing a pacific role, India is acutely conscious of moral obligation to maintain security equilibrium in the region.
Visitors to this website should visit the highly recommended website of Ministry of External Affairs ( http://meaindia.nic.in/ ). This contains useful information about India , the current developments in India 's external relations as well as useful linkages to various Government and non-government websites, containing information on various aspects of life in India . It also has useful compendium of media stories on issues of current and historical interest.
As regards India's external and internal economic policies, visitors might wish to visit the official websites of various Ministries of the Government of India [External Affairs (http:// www.indiainbusiness.nic.in ), Finance (http://finmin.nic.in), Commerce and Industry ( http://commin.nic.in ) etc.,] as well as the leading Indian business chambers e.g. , Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry ( http://www.ficci.com ), Confederation of Indian Industry ( http://www.ciionline.org ), Federation of Indian Export Organisations ( http://www.fieo.com ), Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India ( http://www.assocham.org ) etc.
Currently the fourth largest economy in the world in terms of purchasing power parity, India has developed a diverse and competitive industrial base. Plans for the various sectors are drawn up by the Planning Commission, which is headed by the Prime Minister. The National Development Council, comprising the state chief ministers, is the highest decision making body. Initially, emphasis on self-reliance led to the establishment of a strong public sector presence in areas like steel, cement, power and heavy engineering.
The tone has altered today. India pursues economic reforms for higher growth coupled with social justice. Reforms ushered in during the 1990s led to much economic restructuring, holding out the promise of a strong and resurgent India . The results showed: GDP grew rapidly with the growth rate being 8.1 % in 2003-4, while inflation dropped significantly during the period. Globalisation and liberalisation, key aspects of the new economic order ensure that India is no longer isolated from international markets. Within India , there is a strong private sector presence and foreign investment has entered many sectors, including the previously state monopoly of infrastructure.
Today, India manufactures highly sophisticated telecom equipment and computer software and has entered high-tech areas like nuclear power generation and the manufacture of space equipment. Bangalore , which is the nucleus of such activity, is referred to as the Silicon Valley of India.
Visitors are strongly recommended to visit the websites of various Government of India Ministries as well as business chambers and other websites of interest.
Substantial part of the work force being employed in agriculture, its development has been the primary focus of Government policies since independence as they affect a large section of Indian population. Post Independence , achieving self-sufficiency in foodgrains was the prime concern. From 51 million tonnes in 1951 foodgrain production has, due to intensive research, quality inputs, modern tools and innovations, risen to 202 million tonnes in 1998-99. The public distribution system, a national network, ensures that supplies reach the remotest areas of the country.
The agricultural sector contributes to 24.2% of the GDP, employing 69% of the workforce. Wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton, groundnut, mustard, pulses and jute are the main crops. Coffee, tea, coconut and rubber are the major plantation crops. With horticulture, fruits, vegetables, flowers and spices becoming increasingly lucrative, there has been a shift to non-traditional areas. Private investment is on the increase in dairy farming, horticulture, floriculture and food processing.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) ( http://www.icar.org.in/ ) and a network of agricultural universities provide training and research. Tax exemption on agricultural income and the availability of rural credit are other supportive measures.
To experience the full range of country's progress in agriculture and agro-based sector, visitors to this site are advised to consult the websites of Ministry of Agriculture, i. e. Department of Agricultural Research and Education ( http://dare.nic.in ) , Department of Agriculture and Co-operation ( http://agricoop.nic.in ) and Department of Animal Husbandry and Dairying ( http://dahd.nic.in ) and other allied agencies.
SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY
A scientific temper is not new to this country that invented the zero and had complex astronomical observatories centuries ago. Contemporary India has made major strides in theoretical and applied research in such diverse fields as atomic energy, space remote sensing, biotechnology, electronics and oceanography.
The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research ( http://www.csir.res.in ) has a network of 39 laboratories and over 100 extension and field centres. The country has become one of the five members of the exclusive space club which has the capability to design, fabricate and launch satellite systems. The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) now has several captive satellite-based networks. The Bhaba Atomic research Centre (BARC) is a world class institution for nuclear research which has led the country to become not only self-reliant but also enabled it to complete the entire nuclear fuel cycle from exploration and mining of nuclear fuel ores to power generation and waste management. The Centre for the Development of Advanced Computing (C-DAC) recently unveiled its third computer hardware breakthrough, the Param -10000 supercomputer with a stupendous 100-gigaflops of super computing power.
Proud of its ancient world renowned universities and great intellectual tradition, India can legitimately claim to have a highly development system of education at the basic and secondary level as well as at the University level. It also has highly reputed institutions for pure technological and academic research. The Universities power India 's technological and economic surge in the current globalisation age. In this effort, private sector education at different levels is also playing a significant role. Taking advantage of the English language as a medium of education in a large number of Indian institutions of higher learning, India has become an attractive destination for growing number of students from developing and developed countries alike to offer quality world class education at very reasonable prices. Taking the process a step further, some of our top educational institutions like the Indian Institute of Technologies and Indian Institute of Management, as well as prestigious secondary schools, are exporting their brand of education to other countries.
Higher And Technical Education
For further details, visit the website of the Department of Education, Ministry of Human Resource Development: http://www.education.nic.in
To visit the websites in this area, the following may also be mentioned : EDCIL (http://www.edcil.co.in), premier agency for advising many countries for developing suitable education systems and National Council of Educational Research and Training ( http://ncert.nic.in ) .
The increase in life expectancy from 32 to 62.4 years in the last four decades, indicates the level of progress on the health front.
Infrastructure for health services has expanded with the number of hospitals, primary health centres and doctors in attendance showing an increase. Acknowledging the fact that healthcare is most crucial at the maternity and infant stage, targeted programmes have been initiated (particularly in the rural areas) through the network of government-run primary health centres. Immunisation and ensuring better maternity care has led to a decline in the infant mortality rate, Recognising that this is directly linked to family size, the current family welfare programmes are working towards reducing the net reproductive rate.
The Indian systems of medicine as well as homeopathy have been accorded increased importance.
One of the major success stories in the present economic/liberalisation phase of India , is the exponential growth of the pharmaceutical sector, which has established a reputation for itself for quality pharmaceuticals at a very competitive price in the world. With high-quality laboratories and a highly skilled but inexpensive manpower of scientists, managers and technicians, India is poised to press its advantage in the global market in generic and bio-technology field as well. Its competitive edge in HIV/AIDS medicines is now acknowledged world-wide, including the African continent. Both the pharmaceutical sector as well as the technology sector, are making a major impact in the pharmaceutical sector as well as the technology sector, are making a major impact in the global market. The websites for the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and the Pharmaceutical Export promotion Council, respectively, are http://mohfw.nic.in and http://www.chemexcil.org
India is a delectable feast for any kind of tourist. From ancient ruins to modern architecture, from religious pilgrimage spots to scientific observatories, from the jagged peaks to sun-kissed beaches the range is both varied and immense. It has emerged as the fourth most favourite destination of tourists from all over the world.
Places of pilgrimage and sacred temples dot the entire country. Mathura , Varanasi , Haridwar, Rishikesh, Badrinath and Kedarnath in UP go back to the days of the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. The Jagannath temple at Puri in Orissa, Tirupati in Andhra Pradesh and Madurai in Tamil Nadu are among the holiest Hindu pilgrimage sites. The temples at Konark (Orissa), Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) and Tanjore (Tamil Nadu) are outstanding examples of grandeur, beauty and complexity. Buddhist shrines at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh and Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh as well as the Nalanda university in Bihar , go back to the pre-Christian period. Rock-cut caves at Ajanta near Aurangabad in Maharashtra have Buddhist painting dating back before the Christian Era. Amristar (Punjab) ) is known for the famous Golden Temple in which is enshrined the holy book of the Sikhs, the Guru Granth Sahib.
The Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa holds the mortal remains of St Francis Xavier, Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan is a sacred pilgrimage place for Muslims, The Red Fort and the Jama Masjid in Delhi, Fatehpur Sikri, Agra Fort and the Taj Mahal all belong to the heyday of Mughal architecture and reflect a distinct blend of Indian and Perso-Arabic styles.
Forts and palaces of the medieval period dot the Rajasthan landscape. The Pink City, Jaipur, Udaipur and its lakes, the sand fort at Jaisalmer, the havelis (traditional mansions) at Shekhawati, the sprawling fort at Chittorgarh, all reflect the colour and grandeur of the Rajput lifestyle,
Picturesque hill stations - Nainital, Ranikhet, Mussoorie, Shimla, Manali and Dharamsala to name a few, dot the Himalayan landscape. Mt. Abu stands on the Aravalli ranges in Rajasthan, while Ooty is the pride of the Nilgiris in the south, Sikkim and Ladakh offer many mountaineering opportunities.
The beaches of Goa and the lagoons and backwaters of Kerala are ideal leisure haunts and attract a large number of international tourists. The coral atolls of the Lakshadweep and the archipelago of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands are characterised by limpid waters and rich abundance of tropical marine life.
National parks and wildlife sanctuaries are not just tourist attractions. They help preserve the rich flora and fauna of the country.
The Kaziranga National Park in Assam is the home of the one-horned rhino, the Keoladeo National Park in Bharatpur, Rajasthan is the haunt of many migratory birds, (particularly the Siberian crane) and the proud lion roars in the Gir National Park in Gujarat . Project Tiger, started in the 1973 to arrest the animal's dwindling numbers, led to reserves being established at Ranthambhor, Sariska, and the Sunderbans.
Urban India is encountered in cities like Chandigarh and Bangalore . Delhi , the nation's capital, is a fine blend of the medieval and modern. Mumbai is the country's commercial capital.
There are various ways of seeing India . It can be the backpacker's paradise for accommodation and food is available at all budget levels. It can also be seen in luxury where a tourist can opt to take one of the luxury trains like the ‘Palace-on- Wheels' where the cabins are well appointed and have a regal ambience. The stops during the day, as the train meanders through princely India , offer the tourist a chance to actually see the tourist sites. Journeys from one destination to another are done at night.
Few know of India as an adventure destination. Trekking can be done using hill stations as base camps. The States of Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Sikkim as also Ladakh offer trekking itineraries to suit the beginner as well as the more experienced trekker. River rafting, kayaking and canoeing are possible on the Ganga, Zanskar and Brahmaputra rivers. Other water sports like surfing, snorkeling and diving can be done in the Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands as also at Goa .
The website of the Ministry of Tourism, the best source of information, is http://www.tourismofindia.com/ . It also hosts some extremely useful links for accessing further information on tourism and travel arrangements.