|Republic of India
|Motto: "Satyameva Jayate" (Sanskrit)
सत्यमेव जयते (Devanāgarī)
"Truth Alone Triumphs"
|Anthem: Jana Gana Mana
Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people
I bow to thee, Mother
Area controlled by India in dark green;
Claimed but uncontrolled territories in light green.
|Recognised regional languages|
|National languages||None defined by the
|-||Prime Minister||Manmohan Singh|
|-||Chief Justice||K. G. Balakrishnan|
|-||Upper House||Rajya Sabha|
|-||Lower House||Lok Sabha|
|Independence||from the United Kingdom|
|-||Declared||15 August 1947|
|-||Republic||26 January 1950|
|-||Total||3,287,240 km2 ‡(7th)
1,269,210 sq mi
|-||2010 estimate||1,178,394,000 (2nd)|
|GDP (PPP)||2009 estimate|
|-||Total||$3.298 trillion (4th)|
|-||Per capita||$2,930 (130th)|
|GDP (nominal)||2009 estimate|
|-||Total||$1.242 trillion (12th)|
|-||Per capita||$1,017 (143rd)|
|HDI (2007)||0.612 (medium) (134th)|
|Currency||Indian rupee (₨) (
|Time zone||IST (UTC+5:30)|
|-||Summer (DST)||not observed (UTC+5:30)|
|Drives on the||left|
India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: भारत गणराज्य Bhārat Gaṇarājya; see also other Indian languages), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country, and the most populous democracy in the world. Bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east, India has a coastline of 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi). It is bordered by Pakistan to the west; China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.
Home to the Indus Valley Civilisation 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 major religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity and Islam arrived in the first millennium CE and shaped the region's diverse culture. Gradually annexed by the British East India Company from the early eighteenth century and colonised by the United Kingdom from the mid-nineteenth century, India became an independent nation in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by widespread non-violent resistance.
India is a republic consisting of 28 states and seven union territories with a parliamentary system of democracy. It has the world's twelfth largest economy at market exchange rates and the fourth largest in purchasing power. Economic reforms since 1991 have transformed it into one of the fastest growing economies in the world; however, it still suffers from poverty, illiteracy, disease, and malnutrition. A pluralistic, multilingual, and multiethnic society, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.
The name India (pronounced /ˈɪndiə/) is derived from Indus, which is derived from the Old Persian word Hindu, from Sanskrit सिन्धु Sindhu, the historic local appellation for the Indus River. The ancient Greeks referred to the Indians as Indoi (Ινδοί), the people of the Indus. The Constitution of India and common usage in various Indian languages also recognise Bharat (pronounced [ˈbʱɑːrʌt̪] ( listen)) as an official name of equal status. The name Bharat is derived from the name of the legendary king Bharata in Hindu Mythology. Hindustan ([hɪnd̪ʊˈstɑːn]( listen)), originally a Persian word for “Land of the Hindus” referring to northern India, is also occasionally used as a synonym for all of India.
Stone Age rock shelters with paintings at the Bhimbetka rock shelters in Madhya Pradesh are the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared over 9,000 years ago and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilisation, dating back to 3400 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic period, which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society, and ended in the 500s BCE. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country.
In the third century BCE, most of South Asia was united into the Maurya Empire by Chandragupta Maurya and flourished under Ashoka the Great. From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient "India's Golden Age." Empires in Southern India included those of the Chalukyas, the Cholas and the Vijayanagara Empire. Science, technology, engineering, art, logic, language, literature, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.
Following invasions from Central Asia between the 10th and 12th centuries, much of North India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate and later the Mughal Empire. Under the rule of Akbar the Great, India enjoyed much cultural and economic progress as well as religious harmony. Mughal emperors gradually expanded their empires to cover large parts of the subcontinent. However, in North-Eastern India, the dominant power was the Ahom kingdom of Assam, among the few kingdoms to have resisted Mughal subjugation. The first major threat to Mughal imperial power came from a Hindu Rajput king Maha Rana Pratap of Mewar in the 16th century and later from a Hindu state known as the Maratha confederacy, that dominated much of India in the mid-18th century.
From the 16th century, European powers such as Portugal, the Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom established trading posts and later took advantage of internal conflicts to establish colonies in the country. By 1856, most of India was under the control of the British East India Company. A year later, a nationwide insurrection of rebelling military units and kingdoms, known as India's First War of Independence or the Sepoy Mutiny, seriously challenged the Company's control but eventually failed. As a result of the instability, India was brought under the direct rule of the British Crown.
In the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organisations. Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi led millions of people in several national campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience.
On 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but at the same time the Muslim-majority areas were partitioned to form a separate state of Pakistan. On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect.
Since independence, India has faced challenges from religious violence, casteism, naxalism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies, especially in Jammu and Kashmir and Northeast India. Since the 1990s terrorist attacks have affected many Indian cities. India has unresolved territorial disputes with the People's Republic of China, which in 1962 escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan, which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. India is a founding member of the United Nations (as British India) and the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test and five more tests in 1998, making India a nuclear state. Beginning in 1991, significant economic reforms have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, increasing its global clout.
|National Symbols of India|
|Emblem||Sarnath Lion Capital|
|Anthem||Jana Gana Mana|
|Animal||Royal Bengal Tiger|
The Constitution of India, the longest and the most exhaustive constitution of any independent nation in the world, came into force on 26 January 1950. The preamble of the constitution defines India as a sovereign, socialist, secular, democratic republic. India has a bicameral parliament operating under a Westminster-style parliamentary system. Its form of government was traditionally described as being 'quasi-federal' with a strong centre and weaker states, but it has grown increasingly federal since the late 1990s as a result of political, economic and social changes.
The President of India is the head of state elected indirectly by an electoral college for a five-year term. The Prime Minister is the head of government and exercises most executive powers. Appointed by the President, the Prime Minister is by convention supported by the party or political alliance holding the majority of seats in the lower house of Parliament. The executive branch consists of the President, Vice-President, and the Council of Ministers (the Cabinet being its executive committee) headed by the Prime Minister. Any minister holding a portfolio must be a member of either house of parliament. In the Indian parliamentary system, the executive is subordinate to the legislature, with the Prime Minister and his Council being directly responsible to the lower house of the Parliament.
The Legislature of India is the bicameral Parliament, which consists of the upper house called the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) and the lower house called the Lok Sabha (House of People). The Rajya Sabha, a permanent body, has 245 members serving staggered six year terms. Most are elected indirectly by the state and territorial legislatures in proportion to the state's population. 543 of the Lok Sabha's 545 members are directly elected by popular vote to represent individual constituencies for five year terms. The other two members are nominated by the President from the Anglo-Indian community if the President is of the opinion that the community is not adequately represented.
India has a unitary three-tier judiciary, consisting of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice of India, 21 High Courts, and a large number of trial courts. The Supreme Court has original jurisdiction over cases involving fundamental rights and over disputes between states and the Centre, and appellate jurisdiction over the High Courts. It is judicially independent, and has the power to declare the law and to strike down Union or State laws which contravene the Constitution. The role as the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution is one of the most important functions of the Supreme Court.
India consists of 28 states and seven Union Territories. All states, and the two union territories of Puducherry and the National Capital Territory of Delhi, have elected legislatures and governments patterned on the Westminster model. The other five union territories are directly ruled by the Centre through appointed administrators. In 1956, under the States Reorganisation Act, states were formed on a linguistic basis. Since then, this structure has remained largely unchanged. Each state or union territory is further divided into administrative districts. The districts in turn are further divided into tehsils and eventually into villages.
India is the most populous democracy in the world. For most of the years since independence, the federal government has been led by the Indian National Congress (INC). Politics in the states have been dominated by several national parties including the INC, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (CPI(M)) and various regional parties. From 1950 to 1990, barring two brief periods, the INC enjoyed a parliamentary majority. The INC was out of power between 1977 and 1980, when the Janata Party won the election owing to public discontent with the state of emergency declared by the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In 1989, a Janata Dal-led National Front coalition in alliance with the Left Front coalition won the elections but managed to stay in power for only two years. As the 1991 elections gave no political party a majority, the INC formed a minority government under Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao and was able to complete its five-year term.
The years 1996–1998 were a period of turmoil in the federal government with several short-lived alliances holding sway. The BJP formed a government briefly in 1996, followed by the United Front coalition that excluded both the BJP and the INC. In 1998, the BJP formed the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) with several other parties and became the first non-Congress government to complete a full five-year term. In the 2004 Indian elections, the INC won the largest number of Lok Sabha seats and formed a government with a coalition called the United Progressive Alliance (UPA), supported by various Left-leaning parties and members opposed to the BJP. The UPA again came into power in the 2009 general election; however, the representation of the Left leaning parties within the coalition has significantly reduced. Manmohan Singh became the first prime minister since Jawaharlal Nehru in 1962 to be re-elected after completing a full five-year term.
Since its independence in 1947, India has maintained cordial relationships with most nations. It took a leading role in the 1950s by advocating the independence of European colonies in Africa and Asia. India was involved in two brief military interventions in neighbouring countries – Indian Peace Keeping Force in Sri Lanka and Operation Cactus in Maldives. India is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations and a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. After the Sino-Indian War and the Indo-Pakistani War of 1965, India's relationship with the Soviet Union warmed and continued to remain so until the end of the Cold War. India has fought two wars with Pakistan over the Kashmir dispute. A third war between India and Pakistan in 1971 resulted in the creation of Bangladesh (then East Pakistan). Additional skirmishes have taken place between the two nations over the Siachen Glacier. In 1999, India and Pakistan fought an undeclared war over Kargil.
In recent years, India has played an influential role in the SAARC, and the WTO. India has provided as many as 55,000 Indian military and Indian police personnel to serve in thirty-five UN peace keeping operations across four continents. Despite criticism and military sanctions, India has consistently refused to sign the CTBT and the NPT, although Prime Minister Manmohan Singh recently stated that India would be willing to join the NPT as a recognized nuclear weapons state (NWS). Recent overtures by the Indian government have strengthened relations with the United States, China and Pakistan. In the economic sphere, India has close relationships with other developing nations in South America, Asia and Africa.
India maintains the third-largest military force in the world, which consists of the Indian Army, Navy, Air Force and auxiliary forces such as the Paramilitary Forces, the Coast Guard, and the Strategic Forces Command. The President of India is the supreme commander of the Indian Armed Forces. India maintains close defence cooperation with Russia, Israel and France, who are the chief suppliers of arms. The Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) oversees indigenous development of sophisticated arms and military equipment, including ballistic missiles, fighter aircraft and main battle tanks, to reduce India's dependence on foreign imports. India became a nuclear power in 1974 after conducting an initial nuclear test, Operation Smiling Buddha and further underground testing in 1998. India maintains a "no first use" nuclear policy. On 10 October 2008 Indo-US civilian nuclear agreement was signed, prior to which India received IAEA and NSG waivers, ending restrictions on nuclear technology commerce with which India became de facto sixth nuclear power in world.
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 now abut India in the north and the north-east. In 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 of this plain, and cut off from it by the Aravalli Range, lies the Thar Desert.
The original Indian plate now survives as peninsular India, the oldest and geologically most stable part of India, and extending 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 their south, the remaining peninsular landmass, the Deccan Plateau, is flanked on the left and right 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, whose 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 wind 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.
India, which lies within the Indomalaya ecozone, displays significant biodiversity. One of eighteen 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 shola forests, exhibit extremely 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 North-East 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. 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. According to latest report, less than 12% of India's landmass is covered by dense forests.
Many Indian species are descendants of taxa originating in Gondwana, from which the Indian plate separated. 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 the brown and carmine 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 suffered a near-extinction from 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. 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.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, India followed socialist-inspired policies. The economy was shackled by extensive regulation, protectionism, and public ownership, leading to pervasive corruption and slow growth. In 1991, the nation liberalised its economy and has since moved towards a market-based system. The policy change in 1991 came after an acute balance of payments crisis, and the emphasis since then has been to use foreign trade and foreign investment as integral parts of India's economy.
With an average annual GDP growth rate of 5.8% for the past two decades, the economy is among the fastest growing in the world. In 2009, India's nominal GDP stood at US$1.243 trillion, which makes it the twelfth-largest economy in the world. India's nominal per capita income US$1,068 is ranked 128th in the world. If PPP is taken into account, India's economy is the fourth largest in the world at US$3.548 trillion corresponding to a per capita income of US$3,100.
In the late 2000s, India's economic growth has averaged 7.5% a year, which will double the average income in a decade. Despite India's impressive economic growth over recent decades, it still contains the largest concentration of poor people in the world, and has a higher rate of malnutrition among children under the age of three (46% in year 2007) than any other country in the world. The percentage of people living below the World Bank's international poverty line of $1.25 a day (PPP, in nominal terms Rs. 21.6 a day in urban areas and Rs 14.3 in rural areas in 2005) decreased from 60% in 1981 to 42% in 2005. Even though India has avoided famines in recent decades, half of children are underweight, one of the highest rates in the world and nearly double the rate of Sub-Saharan Africa.
A 2007 Goldman Sachs report projected that "from 2007 to 2020, India’s GDP per capita will quadruple," and that the Indian GDP will surpass that of the United States before 2050, but India "will remain a low-income country for several decades, with per capita incomes well below its other BRIC peers." Although the Indian economy has grown steadily over the last two decades; its growth has been uneven when comparing different social groups, economic groups, geographic regions, and rural and urban areas. World Bank suggests that the most important priorities should be public sector reform, infrastructure, agricultural and rural development, removal of labor regulations, reforms in lagging states, and combating HIV/AIDS.
India has the world's second largest labour force, with 516.3 million people. In terms of output, the agricultural sector accounts for 28% of GDP; the service and industrial sectors make up 54% and 18% respectively. Major agricultural products include rice, wheat, oilseed, cotton, jute, tea, sugarcane, potatoes; cattle, water buffalo, sheep, goats, poultry; fish. Major industries include textiles, chemicals, food processing, steel, transport equipment, cement, mining, petroleum, machinery, software. India's trade has reached a relatively moderate share of 24% of GDP in 2006, up from 6% in 1985. In 2008, India's share of world trade was about 1.68%. Major exports include petroleum products, textile goods, gems and jewelry, software, engineering goods, chemicals, and leather manufactures. Major imports include crude oil, machinery, gems, fertilizer, chemicals.
With 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 made by the green revolution. India's urban population increased 11-fold during the twentieth century and is increasingly concentrated in large cities. By 2001 there were 35 million-plus population cities in India, with the largest cities, with a population of over 10 million each, being Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata. However, as of 2001, more than 70% of India's population continues to reside in rural areas.
India is the world's most culturally, linguistically and genetically diverse geographical entity after the African continent. India is home to two major linguistic 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 linguistic families. 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. However, except Hindi no language is spoken by more than 10% of the population of the country. In addition, every state and union territory has its own official languages, and the constitution also recognises in particular 21 "scheduled languages".
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. Tribals constitute 8.1% of the population. India has the third-highest Muslim population in the world and has the highest population of Muslims for a non-Muslim majority country.
India's literacy rate is 64.8% (53.7% for females and 75.3% for males). The state of Kerala has the highest literacy rate at 91% while Bihar has the lowest at 47%. The national human sex ratio is 944 females per 1,000 males. India's median age is 24.9, and the population growth rate of 1.38% per annum; there are 22.01 births per 1,000 people per year. According to the World Health Organization 900,000 Indians die each year from drinking contaminated water and breathing in polluted air. Malaria is endemic in India. Half of children in India are underweight, one of the highest rates in the world and nearly same as Sub-Saharan Africa. Many women are malnourished, too. There are about 60 physicians per 100,000 people in India.
India's culture is marked by a high degree of syncretism and cultural pluralism. It has managed to preserve established traditions while absorbing new customs, traditions, and ideas from invaders and immigrants and spreading its cultural influence to other parts of Asia, mainly South East and East Asia. 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.
Traditional Indian family values are highly respected, and multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm, although nuclear family are becoming common in urban areas. 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, with half of women in India marrying before the legal age of 18.
Indian cuisine is characterised by a wide variety of regional styles and sophisticated use of herbs and spices. The staple foods in the region are rice (especially in the south and the east) and wheat (predominantly in the north). Spices such as black pepper that are now consumed world wide are originally native to the Indian subcontinent. Chili pepper, which was introduced by the Portuguese is also very much used within Indian Cuisine.
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.
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 and Vaisakhi. India has three national holidays. Other sets of holidays, varying between nine and twelve, are officially observed in individual states. Religious practices are an integral part of everyday life and are a very public affair.
Indian architecture is one area that 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 music covers a wide range of traditions and regional styles. Classical music largely encompasses the two genres – North Indian Hindustani, South Indian Carnatic traditions and their various offshoots in the form of regional folk music. Regionalised forms of popular music include filmi and folk music; the syncretic tradition of the bauls is a well-known form of the latter.
Indian dance too has diverse folk and classical forms. Among the well-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of West Bengal, Jharkhand and sambalpuri of Orissa and the ghoomar of Rajasthan. Eight dance forms, many with narrative forms and mythological elements, have been accorded classical dance status by India's National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama. These are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniyattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, manipuri of Manipur, odissi of Orissa and the sattriya of Assam.
Theatre in India often incorporates music, dance, and improvised or written dialogue. Often based on Hindu mythology, but also borrowing from medieval romances, and news of social and political events, Indian theatre includes the bhavai of state of Gujarat, the jatra of West Bengal, the nautanki and ramlila of North India, the tamasha of Maharashtra, the burrakatha of Andhra Pradesh, the terukkuttu of Tamil Nadu, and the yakshagana of Karnataka.
The Indian film industry is the largest in the world. Bollywood, based in Mumbai, makes commercial Hindi films and is the most prolific film industry in the world. Established traditions also exist in Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, and Telugu language cinemas.
The earliest works of Indian literature were transmitted orally and only later written down. These included works of Sanskrit literature – such as the early Vedas, the epics Mahābhārata and Ramayana, the drama Abhijñānaśākuntalam (The Recognition of Śakuntalā), and poetry such as the Mahākāvya – and the Tamil language Sangam literature. Among Indian writers of the modern era active in Indian languages or English, Rabindranath Tagore won the Nobel Prize in 1913.
India's official national sport is field hockey, administered by the Indian Hockey Federation. The Indian field hockey team won the 1975 Men's Hockey World Cup and 8 gold, 1 silver and 2 bronze medals at the Olympic games. However, cricket is the most popular sport; the India national cricket team won the 1983 Cricket World Cup and the 2007 ICC World Twenty20, and shared the 2002 ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka. Cricket in India is administered by the Board of Control for Cricket in India, and domestic competitions include the Ranji Trophy, the Duleep Trophy, the Deodhar Trophy, the Irani Trophy and the Challenger Series. In addition Indian cricket league and Indian premier league organise Twenty20 competitions.
Tennis has become increasingly popular, owing to the victories of the India Davis Cup team. Association football is also a popular sport in northeast India, West Bengal, Goa and Kerala. The Indian national football team has won the South Asian Football Federation Cup several times. Chess, commonly held to have originated in India, is also gaining popularity with the rise in the number of Indian Grandmasters. Traditional sports include kabaddi, kho kho, and gilli-danda, which are played nationwide. India is also home to the ancient martial arts, Kalarippayattu and Varma Kalai.
The Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and the Arjuna Award are India's highest awards for achievements in sports, while the Dronacharya Award is awarded for excellence in coaching. India hosted or co-hosted the 1951 and the 1982 Asian Games, the 1987 and 1996 Cricket World Cup. It has also successfully hosted the Men's Field-hockey World Cup 2010 and is scheduled to host the 2010 Commonwealth Games and later the 2011 Cricket World Cup.
|Currency||Indian Rupee (INR)|
|Area||total: 3,287,590 km2
land: 2,973,190 km2
water: 314,400 km2
|Population||1,147,995,898 (2008 est.)|
|Language||Hindi, English and 21 other official languages|
|Religion||Hindu 81.3%, Muslim 12%, Christian 2.3%, Sikh 1.9%, other groups including Buddhist, Jain, Parsi 2.5% (2000)|
|Electricity||230V/50Hz, Indian (Old British)/European plugs|
India (Hindi: भारत)  is the largest country in the Indian Subcontinent and shares borders with Pakistan to the west, China and Nepal to the north, Bhutan to the north-east, and Bangladesh and Myanmar to the east. Sri Lanka, the Maldives and Indonesia lie to the south-east in the Indian Ocean. It is the seventh largest country in the world by area and, with over a billion people, is second only to China in population. It's an extremely diverse country, with vast differences in geography, climate, culture, language and ethnicity across its expanse, and prides itself on being the largest democracy on Earth.
India is administratively divided into 28 states and 7 union territories. The states are broadly demarcated on linguistic lines. They vary in size; the larger ones are bigger and more diverse than some countries of Europe. The union territories are smaller than the states—sometimes they are just one city—and they have much less autonomy.
These states and union territories are grouped by convention into the following regions:
|Himalayan North (Jammu and
Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand)
Mountainous and beautiful, a tourist destination for the adventurous and the spiritual. This region contains some of India's most visited hill-stations and religious places. Includes the exquisitely scenic states.
|The Plains (Bihar, Chandigarh, Delhi, Haryana, Madhya Pradesh, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh)
The country's capital Delhi is here. The river Ganga and Yamuna flows through this plain. Many of the events that shaped India's history took place in this region.
India (Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu, Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan)
Miles and miles of the Thar Desert. Home to the colorful palaces, forts and cities of Rajasthan, the country's most vibrant and biggest city Mumbai (formerly known as Bombay), wonderful beaches and pristine forests of Goa and Bollywood (Indian film industry in Bombay).
|Southern India (Andaman and
Nicobar, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala, Lakshadweep, Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu)
A strong bastion of indigenous culture, South India features famous and historical temples, tropical forests, backwaters in Kerala, equally great coastal line and country side infused with rich heritage in Andhra Pradesh, beautiful hill stations in Tamil Nadu, beaches and cosmopolitan cities in Pondicherry, Karnataka and the wonderful lush island groups of Andaman & Nicobar (on the east) and Lakshadweep on the west.
India (Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Sikkim, West Bengal)
India's mostly rural region, its largest city is Kolkata (formerly known as Calcutta), the temple cities of Puri of Lord Jagannath fame and Bhubaneswar are both in Orissa.
|North-Eastern India (Arunachal
Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura)
remote and sensitive, the country's tribal corner, with beautiful landscapes and famous for Tea Gardens. Consists of seven tiny states (by Indian standards, some of them are larger than Switzerland or Austria) popularly nicknamed as the Seven Sisters.
Below is a selection of nine of India's most notable cities. Other cities can be found under their specific regions.
India has many outstanding landmarks and areas of outstanding beauty. Below is a list of nine of the most notable:
Befitting its size and population, India's culture and heritage are a rich amalgam of the past and the present: From the civilizations, fascinating religions, variety of languages (more than 200!) and monuments that have been present for thousands of years to the modern technology, economy, and media that arises as it opens up to a globalised world, India will never cease to awe and fascinate the visitor.
Indians date their history from the Vedic Period which historians place between 2000 and 1000 BC. This is the period when the Vedas, the oldest and holiest books of Hinduism, were compiled. The earliest archaeological traces are from 7000 BC in Mehrgarh, which grew to be the "Indus Valley Civilization", which, in 3300 BC had well-planned towns and well-laid roads, but gave no evidence of weapons or fortifications. This declined and disintegrated around 1900 BC, possibly due to drought & geological disturbances. There is a major dispute over whether the textual descriptions in Vedic literature match with the archaeological evidence found in the Indus Valley. The majority of the historians claim that they do not match, which means that Vedic people were not the same as the Indus Valley people. The theory is that the Vedic people were later migrants, who encountered a civilization in decline and perhaps hastened that decline. The minority view challenges this Aryan Migration (or invasion) theory, claiming that the Indus Valley people were in fact the ones who compiled the Vedas.
The Vedic civilization influences India to this day. The roots of present-day Hinduism lie in them. Some rituals of Hinduism took shape during that period. Most North-Indian languages come from Sanskrit, the language of the Vedas, and are classified as part of the Indo-European group of languages. In the 1st millennium BC, various schools of thought in philosophy developed, enriching Hinduism greatly. Most of them claimed to derive from the Vedas. However, two of these schools - Buddhism and Jainism - questioned the authority of the Vedas and they are now recognized as separate religions.
Many great empires were formed between 500 BC and AD 500. Notable among them were the Mauryas and the Guptas (called the Golden Age). This period saw a gradual decline of Buddhism and Jainism. The practice of Buddhism, in particular, disappeared from the Indian mainland, though Buddha himself was incorporated into the Hindu pantheon. Jainism continues to be practised by a significant number who are ambivalent about whether they consider themselves Hindus or not.
Islamic incursions started in the 8th century in the form of raids. Gradually the raiders started staying as rulers, and soon much of North India was ruled by Muslims. The most important of the Muslim rulers were the Mughals, who established an empire that at its peak covered almost the entire subcontinent (save the southern and eastern extremities), while the major Hindu force that survived in the North were the Rajputs. Eventually the Mughal empire declined, partly under attack from the Marathas who established a short-lived confederacy that was almost as big as the Mughal Empire. The Rajput and Mughal period of North India was the golden age for Indian art, architecture, and literature, produced the monumental gems of Rajasthan, and the Taj Mahal. Hindi and Urdu also took root in medieval North India. During the Islamic period, some Hindus also converted to Islam, either due to force, to escape the low social status that the caste system imposed on them, or simply to gain the benefits of being aligned with their rulers. Today, some 13% of the Indian population and an overwhelming majority of Pakistan is Muslim.
South India followed a different trajectory, being less affected by the Islamic invasion. The period from 500 AD to 1600 AD is called the classical period dominated by great South Indian kingdoms. Prominent among them were the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas and Vijayanagara empires who ruled from present day Karnataka and the Pallavas, Cheras, Pandyas and Cholas who ruled from present day Tamil Nadu & Kerala. Tamil, Kannada and Telugu literature flourished during this time and has been prolific ever since. Among them, the Cholas are widely recognised to be the most powerful of the South Indian kingdoms, with their territory stretching as far north as Pataliputra and their influence spreading as far east as Sumatra, Western Borneo and Southern Vietnam at the height of their power. Some of the grandest Hindu and Jain monuments that exist in India were built during this time in South and East India, which were less subject to Muslim religious prohibitions.
European traders started visiting India beginning in the late 16th century. Prominent among these were the British, French and the Portuguese. By the 19th century, the British East India Company had, one way or the other assumed political control of virtually all of India. though the Portuguese and the French too had their enclaves along the coast. There was an uprising by Indian rulers in 1857 which was suppressed, but which prompted the British government to make India a part of the empire. Many Indians converted to Christianity during the period, for pretty much the same reasons as they converted to Islam, though forcible conversions ended in British India after 1859, when the British Government took over from the East India Company, and Queen Victoria's proclamation promised to respect the religious faiths of Indians.
Non-violent resistance to British colonialism under Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi led to independence in 1947. However, independence was simultaneously granted to the secular state of India and the smaller Islamic state of Pakistan, and the orgy of Hindu-Muslim bloodletting that followed Partition led to the deaths of at least half a million and the migration of 12-14 million people.
Free India under Nehru adopted a democratically-governed, centrally-planned economy. These policies were aimed at attaining "self-sufficiency", and to a large extent made India what it is today. India achieved self-sufficiency in food grains by the 1970s, ensuring that the large-scale famines that had been common are now history. However these policies also led to shortages, slow growth and large-scale corruption. After a balance-of-payments crisis in 1991, the country adopted free-market reforms which have continued at a meandering pace ever since, fueling strong growth. The IT and the business outsourcing industries have been the drivers for the growth, while manufacturing and agriculture, which have not experienced reforms, are lagging. About 60% of Indians live on agriculture and around 25% remain in poverty.
Relations with Pakistan have been frosty. They have fought three (or four, if you count the Kargil conflict of 1999) wars, mostly over the status of Kashmir. The third war between the two countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming Bangladesh. China and India went to war in 1962 over a border dispute. An unprepared India was defeated by China. Viewed as a "betrayal" in India, the defeat still rankles. Though current relations are peaceful, there is still military rivalry and no land crossings are allowed between the two countries, though one border crossing between Sikkim and Tibet was re-opened in 2006 for trade (but not tourists). The security concerns over Pakistan and China prompted India to test nuclear weapons twice (including the 1974 tests described as "peaceful explosions"). India wants to be accepted as a legitimate nuclear power and is campaigning for a permanent Security Council seat.
India is proud of its democratic record. Constitutional government and democratic freedoms have been safeguarded throughout its 60 years as an independent country, except for an 18 month interlude in 1975-1977, when Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency, suspending elections and human rights.
Current concerns in India include the ongoing dispute with Pakistan, terrorism, over-population, corruption, environmental degradation, continuing poverty, and ethnic and religious strife. But the current obsession, at least among the educated elite, is over whether India will be able overtake China in economic growth.
Indian Standard Time (IST) is 5 hours and 30 minutes ahead of Greenwich Mean Time (GMT+5.5). Daylight Saving is not observed.
Mountains, jungles, deserts and beaches, India has it all. It is bounded to the north, northeast and northwest by the snow-capped Himalayas, the tallest mountain range in the world. In addition to protecting the country from invaders, they also fed the perennial rivers Ganga, Yamuna (Jamuna) and Sindhu (Indus) on whose plains India's civilization flourished. Though most of the Sindhu is in Pakistan now, three of its tributaries flow through Punjab. The other Himalayan river, the Brahmaputra flows through the northeast, mostly through Assam.
South of Punjab lies the Aravalli range which cuts Rajasthan into two. The western half of Rajasthan is occupied by the Thar desert. The Vindhyas cut across Central India, particularly through Madhya Pradesh and signify the start of the Deccan plateau, which covers almost the whole of the southern peninsula. It is bounded by the Sahyadri (Western Ghats) range to the west and the Eastern Ghats to the east. The plateau is more arid than the plains, as the rivers that feed the area, such as the Narmada, Godavari and the Kaveri run dry during the summer. Towards the northeast of the Deccan plateau is what used to be a thickly forested area called the Dandakaranya which covers the states of Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, the eastern edge of Maharashtra and the northern tip of Andhra Pradesh. This area is still forested, poverty stricken and populated by tribals. This forest acted as a barrier to the invasion of South India.
India has a long coastline. The west coast borders the Arabian Sea and the east coast the Bay of Bengal, both parts of the Indian Ocean.
In India, it rains only during a specific time of the year. The season as well as the phenomenon that causes it is called the monsoon. There are two of them, the Southwest and the Northeast, both named after the directions the winds come from. The Southwest monsoon is the more important one, as it causes rains over most parts of the country, and is the crucial variable that decides how the crops (and therefore the economy) will do. It lasts from June to September. It hits the west coast the most, as crossing the western ghats and reaching the rest of India is an uphill task for the winds. The western coastline is therefore much greener than the interior. The Northeast monsoon hits the east coast between October and February, mostly in the form of occasional cyclones which cause much devastation every year. The only region that gets rains from both monsoons is Northeastern India, which consequently experiences the highest rainfall in the world.
India experiences at least three seasons a year, Summer, Rainy Season (or "Monsoon") and Winter, though in the tropical South calling the 25°C (77°F) weather "Winter" would be stretching the concept. The North experiences some extremes of heat in Summer and cold in Winter, but except in the Himalayan regions, snow is almost unheard of. November to January is the winter season and April and May are the hot months when everyone eagerly awaits the rains. There is also a brief spring in February and March, especially in North India.
Opinions are divided on whether any part of India actually experiences an Autumn, but the ancients had certainly identified such a season among the six seasons ( or ritus - Vasanta - Spring, Greeshma - Summer, Varsha - Rainy, Sharat - Autumn, Shishira - Winter, Hemanta - "Mild Winter") they had divided the year into.
India has a very rich and diverse mix of culture and tradition, dominated by religious and spiritual themes. There is no single unified Indian culture, and it's probably the only country where people of so many different origins, religious beliefs, languages and ethnic backgrounds coexist. There are 3 main sub-cultures: North, East and South. Most of the ancient Indian culture is preserved in the South which is famous for its classical arts, such as Carnatic music and classical Indian dance.
The Northern part of India has a rich heritage of Hindustani Classical Music and vibrant dance forms. Art and theatre flourish amongst the bustling cities of the country, against the backdrop of the ever expanding western influences that flavour life in the large metropolises of India.
The East is popular for its many forms of folkdances and music. These art forms are enriched by a strong east asian influence.
"Atithi Devo Bhavah"
India's tourism ministry has started a program to encourage people to show more courtesy and to display sensitivity to the needs of tourists. It has named the initiative Atithi Devo Bhavah, which is an ancient Hindu dictum meaning "Guest is a God". The term will develop as a brand, to certify that a service provider ensures a certain minimum level of quality. Look out for the badge or sticker with these words when you are searching for taxi drivers, tour operators, etc .
There are three national holidays: Republic Day (January 26), Independence Day (August 15), and Gandhi Jayanti (October 2) which occur on the same day every year. In addition, there are three major nationwide festivals with shifting dates to be aware of:
Religious holidays occur on different days each year, because the Hindu and Islamic festivals are based on their respective calendars and not on the Gregorian calendar. Most of them are celebrated only locally, so check the state or city you are visiting for information on whether there will be closures. Different regions might give somewhat different names to the same festival. To cater to varying religious practices, offices have a list of optional holidays (called restricted holidays by the government) from which employees are allowed to pick two, in addition to the list of fixed holidays. This may mean thin attendance and delayed service even when the office is officially open.
Touts are ubiquitous, as in many developing countries, and you should assume that anyone 'proactively' trying to help you has a hidden agenda to part you from your money. During your travels in India, you will be deluged with touts trying to get you to buy something or patronize particular establishments. There are a myriad of common scams, which range from telling you your hotel has gone out of business (of course, they'll know of one that's open with vacancies), to giving wrong directions to a government rail ticket booking office (the directions will be to their friend's tour office), to trying to get you to take diamonds back to your home country (the diamonds are worthless crystal), to 'poor students' giving you a sightseeing for hours and then with pity make you buy school books for them (tremendously overpriced from a bookstore with whom they are affiliated). There will also be more obvious touts who "know a very good place for dinner" or want to sell you a chess set on the street.
Indians, in general, are a friendly lot, and people will be forthcoming in their questioning and offer suggestions, which may be helpful, may not be warranted at that point of time. Indians tend to be friendly with visitors and most of them will be pleased to assist tourists.
Faced with such an assault, it's very easy to get into a siege mentality where all of India is against you and out to squeeze you dry. Needless to say, such a mentality is harmful to any true appreciation of the country. Dealing with touts is very simple: first, assume that anyone doing something for you or offering something without being asked is a tout. Second, assume anyone offering surprising information (such as "your hotel is shut down") is a tout. Never be afraid to get a second or third answer to a question. To get rid of a tout:
Many visitors expecting maharajas and fabulous palaces are shocked when their first impressions are dominated by poverty instead. Prepare for the following:
Most visitors get inured quite fast and start seeing the good sides too, but take it easy on your first few days and schedule some time to get away from it all.
Citizens of most countries with a few exceptions like Bhutan and Nepal need a visa to get in. Depending on your purpose of visit, you can get a tourist visa (six months), a business visa (6 months, one year or more, multiple entries) or a student visa (up to 5 years). A special 10 year visa (US$150, business and tourist) is available to US citizens only. An Indian visa is valid from the day it is issued, not the date of entry. For example, a 6-month visa issued on January 1 will expire on June 30, regardless of your date of entry.
As of 1 January 2010, India has introduced a new visa-on-arrival scheme, which is available to citizens of Finland, Japan, New Zealand, Luxembourg and Singapore at the airports in Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Kolkata for a stay of up to 30 days. The visa-on-arrival costs US$60, is valid for a single entry and is not extendable. In addition, there is a minimum two month gap between the expiry of one tourist visa and the issuance of the next.
Many Indian embassies have outsourced visa processing in full or in part to third party companies, so check ahead before going to the embassy. For example, in the USA, you must submit your visa application to Travisa , not the embassy. Applications through these agencies also attract an application fee, above that which is detailed on most embassy websites and should be checked prior to submitting your paperwork. In addition, many Indian embassies only offers visas to residents of that country: this means you should get your visa before you leave home, instead of trying to get in a neighboring country (although, as at August '09, non-residents are able to apply for visas through the Bangkok embassy for an additional 400 THB "referral fee").
It's wise to ask for a multiple entry visa even if you aren't planning to use it - they cost the same, are handed out pretty liberally and come in handy if you decide last minute to dip into one of the neighboring countries.
There are other categories for specialised purposes . The missionary visa is mandatory for anyone who is visiting India "primarily to take part in religious activities". This rule is meant to combat religious conversion, particularly of Hindus to Christianity. There have been cases where preachers have been deported for addressing religious congregations while on a tourist visa. You don't need to be worried if you are just on a religious tour of churches in India.
If you are on a Student, Employment, Research or Missionary visa, you need to register within 14 days of arrival with the Foreigners Regional Registration Office where you will be staying. If the place you are staying at doesn't have one, you need to register at the local police station . All visitors who intend to stay more than 180 days also need to be registered.
Overstaying a visa is to be avoided at all costs as you will be prevented from leaving the country until you have paid some fairly hefty fines and presented a large amount of paperwork to either the local immigration office or police station. This while process is unlikely to take less than 3 days, and can take much longer if you include weekends, numerous government holidays and the inevitable bizarre bureaucratic requirements.
Clearing customs can be a bit of a hassle, though it has improved vastly over the the last decade. In general, avoid the touts who will offer to ease your baggage through customs. There are various rules regarding duty-free allowances — there are differing rules for Indian citizens, foreign "tourists", citizens of Nepal, Bhutan and Pakistan, non-citizens of Indian origin and people moving to India. Cast a quick glance at the website of the Central Board of Excise and Customs  for information about what you can bring in. If you are a foreign tourist and you aren't Nepali, Bhutanese or Pakistani and you aren't entering through Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan, you are entitled to bring in your "used personal effects and travel souvenirs" and Rs. 4,000,- worth of articles for "gifts". If you are an Indian citizen or are of Indian origin, you are entitled to Rs. 25,000,- worth of articles, (provided of course you aren't entering through Nepal, Bhutan or Pakistan.) The other rules are on the web site. If you are bringing any new packaged items along, it is a good idea to carry along the invoices for them to show their value. You are also allowed to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 250 grams of tobacco and 1 liter (2 liters for Indians) of alcohol duty-free. If you do not have anything to declare, you can go through the green channel clearly marked at various airports and generally you will not be harassed.
Importing and exporting Indian rupees by foreign nationals is theoretically prohibited, although in practice there are no checks. Indian nationals can import or export up to Rs 5000,- maximum, but on trips to Nepal, this cannot include Rs 500,- and Rs 1000,- notes.
The major points of entry are Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata. If you are flying in from a Western country, chances are that you will get in through one of these cities. There are also many connections to to Bangalore and Hyderabad from other Asian countries. However in recent years, to accommodate the increasing traffic, many other airports have been upgraded to take in international flights. Among these are Amritsar, Ahmedabad, Calicut, Cochin, Coimbatore, Dabolim in Goa, Guwahati, Jaipur, Mangalore, Pune, Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruchirappalli and Varanasi. Hyderabad recently have got direct flights setup from Amsterdam, Frankfurt by airlines like KLM and Luftansa etc.
India has homegrown international airlines like Air India   (the merged airline formed by merging Air India and Indian Airlines). These provide good connectivity within the country. In recent years, the government has allowed Indian private airlines like Jet Airways  and Kingfisher  to go international. There are daily flights to major hubs around the world from the New Delhi & Mumbai airports.
Air India often offers the lowest rates for long haul flights to India. In recent years, it has steadily improved and has even been invited to join the Star Alliance, but there is still some ways to go until it can be considered world-class. Air India suffers from rampant corruption and there have been documented cases of Air India personnel pilfering through and stealing customer's items.
From the United States, Continental Airlines  offers nonstop daily service from Newark Airport to Delhi and Mumbai; Delta Airlines  offers nonstop daily service from Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta (formerly, Kennedy International Airport [JFK] in New York) to Mumbai; Air India offers daily non-stop service to Mumbai and Delhi from JFK. The same service now extends itself by having a final leg at Hyderabad as well; and American Airlines  offers nonstop daily service from Chicago to Delhi. Various European airlines offer connecting service through their European hubs from most major US cities and various Asian airlines offer connecting service from West Coast cities to India through their Asian hubs. Jet Airways  also flies from New York to Delhi and Mumbai via Brussels and from San Francisco to Mumbai via Shanghai.
Entries from Europe and Northern America are possible using many European airlines such as Lufthansa , Finnair , British Airways , KLM Royal Dutch Airlines , and Air France . For long-term visitors (3-12 months), Swiss airlines  often have good deals from Switzerland with connecting flights from major European and some American cities as well.
To save on tickets, consider connecting via Gulf countries, by Air Arabia  (Sharjah-based low cost carrier having some connections in Europe), Etihad  (especially if you need one-way ticket or going back to Europe from another Asian country) via Abu Dhabi, as well as Emirates  via Dubai or Qatar airways  via Doha. Obviously, these airlines are also the easiest way to come from the Gulf countries themselves, along with Air India and Air India Express.
From East Asia and Australia, Singapore (which is served by Air India, it's low-cost subsidiary Air India Express , Jet Airways, as well as Singapore Airways , it's subsidiary Silk Air  and low-cost subsidiary Tiger Airways ) has arguably the best connections to India with flights to all the major cities and many smaller ones. As about the cheap way from South-East Asia or vice versa, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia  is usually the best choice (if booked well in advance, one-way ticket price is normally below $100, sometimes being less than $50, they have connections from China, Australia and most of South-East Asian countries). They fly from Kuala Lumpur to Tiruchirappalli and, as of November 2009, are starting three other routes to Kolkata, Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram. If you're going from/to Thailand, Air India Express flies from Chennai and Kolkata to Bangkok. Jet Airways, Air India and Thai Airways  fly from there to the wider range of Indian cities also. Most Recently, Silk Air  started its direct flights from Singapore to Hyderabad as well.
India has several international ports on its peninsula. Mumbai and Chennai are the main ones handling passenger traffic, while the rest mainly handle cargo. However, due to the profusion of cheap flights, there no longer appear to be any scheduled ferry services from India to the Middle East.
There are two links from Pakistan. The Samjhauta Express runs from Lahore to Attari near Amritsar in Punjab. The Thar Express, restarted in February 2006 after 40 years out of service, runs from Munabao in the Indian state of Rajasthan to Khokrapar in Pakistan's Sindh province; however, this crossing is not open to foreign tourists. Neither train is the fastest, safest or the most practical way to go between India and Pakistan due to the long delay to clear customs and immigration (although the trains are sights in their own right and make for a fascinating trip). Ths Samjhauta express was the victim of a terrorist strike in February 2007, when they set off bombs that killed many people. Should you want to get from one country to the other as quickly as possible, walk across at Attari/Wagah.
From Nepal, trains run between Khajuri in Dhanusa district of Nepal and Jaynagar in Bihar, operated by Nepal Railways. Neither is of much interest for travelers and there are no onward connections into Nepal, so most travelers opt for the bus or plane instead.
Train services from Bangladesh were suspended for 42 years, but the Moitree Express started running again between Dhaka to Kolkata in April 2008. The service is biweekly: A Bangledeshi train leaves Dhaka every Saturday, returning on Sunday, while an Indian train leaves Kolkata on Saturdays and returns the next day.
From Pakistan the only land crossing is from Lahore to Amritsar via the Attari/Wagah border crossing. See Istanbul to New Delhi over land. You will need a Carnet de Passage if crossing with your own vehicle. The process is not particularly lengthy - crossing with your own vehicle from/to Pakistan should take a maximum of 3 hours to clear both borders for you and your vehicle.
From Bangladesh there are a number of land entry points to India. The most common way is the regular air-conditioned and comfortable bus services from Dhaka to Kolkata via Haridaspur (India)/Benapole (Bangladesh) border post. Bus companies 'Shyamoli', 'Shohag', 'Green Line', and others operate daily bus services under the label of the state owned West Bengal Surface Transport Service Corporation (WBSTSC) and the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC). From Kolkata 2 buses leave every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while from Dhaka they leave on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. The journey usually takes around 12 hours with a one-way fare of Rs. 400-450 or BDT600-800, roughly $8-10.
Another daily bus service by 'Shyamoli' and others under the BRTC label from Dhaka connects Siliguri, but the buses in this route do not cross the Changrabanda/Burimari or Burungamari border post. Rather, passengers reaching the border have to clear customs, walk a few hundred yards to cross the border and board the awaiting connecting buses on the other end for the final destination. Ticket for Dhaka-Siliguri-Dhaka route costs BDT 1600, roughly $20-25 depending on conversion rates. Tickets are purchased either in Dhaka or in Siliguri.
There is also a regular bus service between Dhaka and Agartala, capital of the Indian state of Tripura . Two BRTC buses daily from Dhaka and the Tripura Road Transport Corporation plying its vehicles six days a week with a round fare costing USD 10 connect the two cities. There is only one halt at Ashuganj in Bangladesh during the journey.
Other entry points from Bangladesh are Hili, Chilahati/Haldibari, Banglaband border posts for entry to West Bengal; Tamabil border post for a route to Shillong in Meghalaya, and some others with lesser known routes to north-eastern Indian regions.
See Kolkata for where to book tickets for journeys originating there
India is big and there are lots of interesting ways to travel around it, few of which could be described as efficient or punctual. Flights get cancelled, trains are delayed by hours or days, buses show up late if at all. Allow considerable buffer time for any journey with a fixed deadline (eg. your flight back), and try to remember that getting there should be half the fun.
Note that travel in much of the North-East (with the notable exception of Assam) and parts of Jammu and Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh and Uttar Pradesh will require obtaining a Protected Area Permit (PAP). The easiest way to get one is to request it along with your visa application, in which case it will be added to your visa. Otherwise, you'll need to hunt down a local Ministry of Home Affairs office and battle with bureaucracy.
India's large size and uncertain roads make flying a viable option, especially as prices have tumbled in the last few years. Even India's offshore islands and remote mountain states are served by flights, the main exceptions being Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh (although crossing over from neighbouring states is fairly easy). Due to the aviation boom over the last few years, airports have not been able to keep up with the air traffic. Most Indian airports continue to function with one runway and a handful of boarding gates. Check in and security queues can be terribly long, especially in Delhi and Mumbai. India has recently built two new international airports in Hyderabad and Bangalore, which are modern and well-equipped. Mumbai and New Delhi airports are being upgraded.
In northern India, particularly Delhi, heavy winter fog can wreak havoc on schedules. Flights to small airports up in the mountains, especially to Leh in Ladakh (which is reachable only by plane for most the year), are erratic at the best of times.
At one time, domestic flights were the monopoly of the government-owned Indian Airlines, but things have changed dramatically and now there are quite a few competitors, with prices a traveller's delight. The main operators are:
Keep in mind, however, that outside of big cities coverage is poor. If you need to get to a small town, low-cost airlines other than Kingfisher Red won't help you. You may have to rely on Indian Airlines or Jet. Flying low-cost to a metro and taking a train is not a bad idea either.
The earlier you book, the lower you pay. You will hear a lot about air tickets at Rs. 500 ($12), but those are promotional rates for limited seats which are sold out within seconds. In some other cases, the advertised fare may not include charges such as passenger service fees, air fuel surcharge and taxes which will be added subsequently. Nonetheless, you do get good rates from the budget airlines. Tickets for small cities will cost more than those for the metros, because of the spotty coverage noted above. Indian ticket pricing has not attained the bewildering complexity that the Americans have achieved, but they are getting there. As of now, you don't have to worry about higher prices on weekends, lower prices for round-trips, lower prices for travel around weekends etc.
There are two complications for non-Indians trying to buy plane tickets:
Checking in at Indian airports tends to be slow and bureaucratic, involving lots of queueing and security checks. A few pointers to smooth your way:
Don't hesitate to ask someone if you are unsure. Most staff in airports are very helpful to foreigners and will take pains to ensure you catch your flight. There are separate queues for passengers travelling light (without check-in baggage) and these queues are usually less crowded. Different airlines have different standards for what they allow as cabin baggage, so err on the side of caution, especially if you are travelling by a low-cost airline.
Railways were introduced in India in 1853, more than one and half a century ago, by the British and today India boasts of the biggest network of railway lines in the world, and the rail system is very efficient, if not always on schedule. Travelling on Indian Railways gives you the opportunity to discover the Indian landscape and scenic beauty first hand and is generally more economical than flying domestic. It is one of the safest ways of travel in India. With classes ranging from luxurious to regular, it's the best way to get to know the country and