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India, officially the Republic of India (Hindi: भारत गणराज्य Bhārat Gaṇarājya; see also Official names of India), is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with 1.18 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world.[16][17] Mainland India is bounded by the Indian Ocean on the south, the Arabian Sea on the west, and the Bay of Bengal on the east; and it is bordered by Pakistan to the west;[note] China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north; and Bangladesh and Burma to the east. India is in the vicinity of Sri Lanka, and the Maldives in the Indian Ocean, and its Andaman and Nicobar Islands are also in the vicinity of the Indonesian island of Sumatra in the Andaman Sea.[18] India has a coastline of 7,517 kilometres (4,700 mi).[19]

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.[20] 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.[21]

India is a federal constitutional republic with a parliamentary democracy consisting of 28 states and seven union territories. The Indian economy is the world's eleventh largest economy by nominal GDP and the fourth largest by purchasing power parity.[22] Since the introduction of market-based economic reforms in 1991, India has become one of the fastest growing major economies in the world;[23] however, it still suffers from poverty,[24] illiteracy,[25] corruption,[26] disease,[27] and malnutrition.[28] India possesses nuclear weapons and has the third-largest standing army in the world,[29] while its military expenditure ranks tenth in the world. India is one of main troop-contributing countries to United Nations peacekeeping operations. It is a member state of the United Nations and members of Commonwealth of Nations, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, G20, and the Non-Aligned Movement, and is one of the BRIC Countries. A pluralistic, multilingual and multiethnic society, India is also home to a diversity of wildlife in a variety of protected habitats.

History

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,[34] 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.[35]

Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra, sixth century

In the third century BCE, most of South Asia was united into the Maurya Empire by Chandragupta Maurya and flourished under Ashoka the Great.[36] From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient "India's Golden Age".[37][38] 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.[39][40] 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 ruled much of India in the mid-18th century.[41]

From the 16th century, European powers such as Portugal, the Netherlands, France, and Great Britain 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.[42] 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.

with Jawaharlal Nehru, 1937. Nehru would go on to become India's first prime minister in 1947.

In the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organisations.[43] Indian leader Mahatma Gandhi led millions of people in several national campaigns of non-violent civil disobedience.[21]

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.[44] On 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect.[45]

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[46] and five more tests in 1998, making India a nuclear state.[46] Beginning in 1991, significant economic reforms[47] have transformed India into one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, increasing its global clout.[23]

Geography

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