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India Information - Page 2
History
India has over five thousand years of history. The earliest civilization was in the Indus Valley. The major cities of this civilization were well planned and laid out with complex drainage and water systems.

The country was influenced by many invasions: the Aryans in 1500 BC; Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 327 BC. Although Alexander crossed the Indus and defeated an Indian king, he turned back without pressing on with his conquests. The first great Indian empire was that of the Mauryas which reached its peak around 260 BC under the Emperor Ashoka. The Muslim invasions began towards the end of the 12th century. In the sixteenth century Babur from Fergana (Uzbekistan), a descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur (Tamburlaine) invaded, beginning the great Moghul Empire.

The Portuguese were the first Europeans to settle in India, in Goa, in the fifteenth century. The arrival of the French and the British led to much rivalry between the two countries over India. (In 1613 the British East India Company started its first trading post in Gujarat). At the Battle of Plassey Robert Clive, an employee of the British East India Company, defeated the French and the Nawab of Bengal, an important step towards the eventual British dominance of the country. After the 1857 Indian Mutiny - First War of Independence - the British government took over control of India from the East India Company. Queen Victoria became the Empress of India.

Eventually demand grew for Indian independence. One of the leaders of the movement was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869-1948), a lawyer who believed in non violent protest (civil disobedience). In 1919 a national day of mourning was proclaimed. This was meant to be a peaceful protest but the British were worried about unrest and sent troops to Amritsar. At the Amritsar Massacre hundreds of people were killed.

Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi continued his peaceful protests and was arrested many times. Gandhi worked with Jawaharlai Nehru, the secretary of the Indian National Congress. Mohammed Ali Jinnah led the Muslim League which wanted an independent Muslim state.

Indian independence was granted in 1947 and the separate Muslim state of Pakistan (which initially included present-day Bangladesh) was created. During the separation of Pakistan from India many people were killed. Gandhi spoke against the violence: he was assassinated by a Hindu. Nehru became the first Prime Minister of independent India. Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, eventually became prime minister. She was assassinated in 1984. Her son, Rajiv Gandhi who succeeded her, was killed in 1991 by a Tamil suicide bomber.

Economy
After independence the Indian government's aim was to build up the country's industrial sector - this was done through a mixed economy, the state playing an important role. Today, India has a sound industrial base, is self-sufficient in providing food for its population and has a well developed service sector.

India has a good transport system which includes one of the largest railway systems in the world, a legacy from the British Raj. The major cities are connected by a good communications network of roads and much investment has been made in telephones and telecommunications.

Agriculture, forestry and fisheries employ a large percentage of the population. Most of the farms are small. The soil is fertile and there is plenty of water.

Tea and cotton are important exports. Rice is a main crop and other locally grown foodstuffs are wheat, maize, millet, sorghum, beans, chick peas, lentils, nuts, oil seeds, spices, sugarcane and fruit. Many farmers produce dairy products.

Silk, cotton and jute are important textile crops: cotton goes to the clothing industries, jute is used to make hessian and sacking. Hemp, whose stem fibres make tough materials such as canvas and rope, is also grown. Other crops include rubber and tobacco.

India's long coastline supports a substantial fishing industry and the deep sea catch is an important earner of export revenues.

A significant percentage of India's land is covered with forest; some of the timber is exported; some is used as firewood.

India is rich in minerals: bauxite, chromite, iron ore, limestone, manganese, mica, titanium ore and diamonds are all found in exploitable quantities. Coal is an important source of energy: hydo-electric power is used as well as thermal and nuclear power. India has some petroleum and gas resources.

There are many small manufacturing businesses whose products make up the country's main exports: textiles, handicrafts, leather products, carpets, machinery, transport equipment, electronic and engineering products, chemicals, iron and steel and processed foods.

India is a major exporter of software services and software workers.

Tourism is an important part of the service sector of the economy. People come to visit buildings such as the Taj Mahal, temples and mosques. There are beaches, mountains, national parks and wildlife sanctuaries. Walking, trekking and climbing in the Himalayas are popular. (2008)

Arts
The traditional art of India is heavily influenced by religion. Moghul influence is also seen throughout India.

Art is part of the Indian heritage: not only are there Hindu and Buddhist murals, sculptures, carvings and Islamic and Moghul decoration, but artistic expression is also seen in the village crafts of rug and textile design. India has a wealth of literature: the sacred writings, the Vedas, date back to 1200 BC. There are many significant modern Indian writers and many famous western authors have written some of their best works about India. Rabindranath Tagore who wrote poems, plays and novels in Bengali won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913.

Classical Indian dancing was traditionally part of religious ritual. Dancers tell the stories of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. There is meaning in all gestures and movements, for example, hand gestures and facial expressions. Kathakali dancing originates from Kerala (katha means story, kali means play). The dancers are male and portray gods and demons. Dancers must have a lot of stamina as some performances go on all night. Kathakali is said to be the forerunner of Eastern martial arts.

Indian music is intrinsically woven into Indian culture and is very unlike western music. Ravi Shankar is perhaps one of India's most known musicians.

It is not surprising that as the tradition of theatre is part of Indian life, India was one of the first countries to make films. The Indian film industry started at the end of the nineteenth century and is very popular with India producing hundreds of films each year.

Sport
Throughout India many different types of sports are popular: hockey, football, tennis, golf, fishing and mountaineering and skiing in the north. In Rajastan camel racing is popular.

Cricket is a very popular sport and was introduced to India by the British. India's national teams have been particularly successful in both cricket and hockey. Polo is a traditional Eastern game originating in Persia and developed in India which is now played around the world.

Snooker was invented in 1875 by a British officer stationed in India.

Holidays
India observes the festivals of all its major religions. Other national holidays are Republic Day, Independence Day and the birthday of Mahatma Gandhi.

News
News from India is available from Newslink.

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