India (proper name also Hindi Bhārat Gaṇarājya) is a country in South Asia. India covers most of the Indian subcontinent. The Himalayas form the natural northern border of India, in the south, the Indian Ocean encloses the national territory. India borders Pakistan, the Chinese Tibet Autonomous Region, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and Bangladesh. Other neighboring countries in the Indian Ocean are Sri Lanka and the Maldives. In terms of land area, India is the seventh largest country in the world. With about 1.42 billion inhabitants, India is the second most populous country in the world after the People’s Republic of China and thus the most populous democracy in the world. Due to progressive modernization, education, prosperity and urbanization, the birth rate has been declining since the early 1980s. Nevertheless, India is expected to overtake China as the world’s most populous country in 2023.

Republic of India
Bharat Ganarajya (Hindi)
Motto : सत्यमेव जयते Satyameva Jayate
Sanskrit: “Only truth wins”
India on the globe
India on the globe
Official language Hindi and English
(official languages of the Union)
21 other officially recognized languages are partly official languages at the regional level.
Kashmiri Konkani Maithili
Marathi Meitei
Capital New Delhi
Form of government Federal Republic of Germany
Head of state President
Draupadi Murmu
Head of government Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Area 3,287,263 (7th) km²
Population 1,417,173,173 (2nd) (2022)
Population density 431 (18th) inhabitants per km²
Demographic development +1.14% (2018) per year
Gross domestic product

  • Total (nominal)
  • Total (PPP)
  • GDP/inhab. (nom.)
  • GDP/inhab. (PPP)

  • $2.59 trillion (5th)
  • $8.68 trillion (3rd)
  • 1,876 USD (146th)
  • 6,283 USD (131st)
Human Development Index 0.633 (132nd) (2021)
Currency Indian Rupee (INR)
Independence 15 August 1947
(from the United Kingdom)
National anthem Jana Gana Mana
National holiday 26 January (Republic Day)15 August (Independence Day)2 October (Gandhi Jayanti)
Time zone UTC+5:30
License plate .IND
ISO 3166 IN, IND, 356
Internet TLD .in
Area code +91

The Federal Republic of India is formed by 28 federal states and eight federal territories. Its capital is New Delhi, part of the metropolis of Delhi. The most populous city and at the same time the economic and financial center is Mumbai. Other metropolitan areas are Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad and Pune.

The area of India has been civilized at least since the Bronze Age Indus civilization. Since its independence from the United Kingdom in 1947 and the British Empire, it has been a member of the Commonwealth of Nations, first as an Empire with the British monarch as Emperor of India and since 1950 as a democratic and secular republic. Since then, India’s political system has been based on a parliamentary republic modeled on the British Westminster system.

Despite constitutional freedom of religion, Indian society is governed by the religious hierarchical caste system. By far the largest religious group are the Hindus, followed by Muslims, Christians and the Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains historically originating from India. The United Nations Development Programme ranks India among the countries with medium human development. In the country comparison of the Human Development Index, India ranked 132nd out of 191 worldwide in 2021.

Economically, India is considered an emerging economy. It belongs to the O5 and BRICS countries and the group of the twenty most important industrialized and emerging economies (G20). Despite its low per capita income, sometimes high poverty, high unemployment and pronounced income inequality, India is the third and sixth largest economic power in the world (adjusted for purchasing power or nominal) due to its large population and was the fastest-growing economy of the G20 group for the first time in 2015.

Since 2014, the Hindu nationalist politician Narendra Modi has been Prime Minister of India. Under him, the state of democracy and human rights in India has steadily deteriorated.


Landscape structure of India

Topographic map of India
Topographic map of India

India is the seventh largest country in the world with 3,287,490 square kilometers. It extends in the west-east direction from 68th to 97th eastern longitude over about 3000 kilometers. From north to south, between the 8th and the 37th degrees north latitude, the extension is about 3200 kilometers. India borders six countries: Pakistan (2912 kilometers), China (Tibet Autonomous Region; 3380 kilometers), Nepal (1690 kilometers), Bhutan (605 kilometers), Myanmar (1463 kilometers) and Bangladesh (4053 kilometers). Overall, the border length is 14,103 kilometers. Since the northern part of disputed Kashmir has been under Pakistani control since 1949 (ceasefire after the Kashmir conflict), India no longer shares a border with Afghanistan. The coast of the country is around 7000 kilometers long.

The natural border in the north and northeast is formed by the Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, which is separated from the Karakoram and the Ladakh Range in the extreme northwest by the high valley of the Indus. South of the Himalayas are the broad, fertile river plains of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. In the west, the Ganges River merges into the Thar Desert, which is bordered to the east and south by the Aravalli Mountains. South of it is the swamps of the Rann of Kachchh and the Kathiawar peninsula. The northeast of India, including the Brahmaputra plain, is only connected by a narrow corridor between Bangladesh and Nepal or Bhutan with the rest of the country. The northeast region is shielded by the up to 3800 meter high Patkai or Purvachal mountains of Myanmar and the almost 2000 meter high Khasi mountains of Bangladesh.

The highlands of Deccan occupy most of the wedge-shaped Indian peninsula jutting out into the Indian Ocean. The Vindhya and Satpura mountains shield the Deccan from the Ganges plain in the north. In the west, it is bordered by the up to 2700 meter high Western Ghats, in the east by the flatter Eastern Ghats. Both mountain ranges meet in the south, where the peninsula runs pointedly to Cape Comorine. The Western Ghats drop steeply to the Konkan and Malabar coasts along the Arabian Sea. The Eastern Ghats merge into the wider eastern coastal plains of the Bay of Bengal.

India also includes three island groups off the Indian subcontinent. About 300 kilometers west of the Malabar Coast are the coral atolls of Lakshadweep, which includes the island groups of the Laccadives and Amindives as well as the island of Minicoy. Southeast of the peninsula, between 1000 and 1600 kilometers from the Indian mainland, extend the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, which also mark the eastern border of the Bay of Bengal.

The highest point in India is the mountain Kangchenjunga with 8586 m altitude. It is located in the far west of Sikkim; the border with Nepal runs through it. The highest mountain entirely on Indian territory is the Nanda Devi with 7822 m. Before the then Kingdom of Sikkim joined the Indian Union in 1975, this was also the highest mountain in India. The lowest point is the Kuttanad Depression on the Malabar Coast, located two meters below sea level.

Rivers and lakes

All major rivers of India originate in one of the three main watersheds of the subcontinent: in the Himalayas, in the central Indian Vindhya and Satpura mountains or in the Western Ghats.

India’s longest and most important river is the Ganges (Ganga), which rises in the Himalayas. Its longest tributaries are the Yamuna and the Gomti; The Chambal River is a tributary of the Yamuna River. The Brahmaputra, whose upper reaches, in turn, separate the Himalayas from the Transhimalayas and which flows through the country in the northeast, unites with the Ganges and forms a huge delta before its mouth in the Bay of Bengal. India shares in this in the West; most of the Ganges Delta lies on the territory of the neighboring state of Bangladesh. Almost a third of India’s surface area belongs to the catchment area of the Ganges and Brahmaputra.

In the extreme north, the Indus River crosses the Union Territory of Ladakh in a southeast-northwest direction.

The highlands of Deccan are drained by several major rivers. The Narmada and Tapti rivers flow into the Arabian Sea, while Godavari, Krishna, Mahanadi and Kaveri flow into the Bay of Bengal.

Despite its size, India has few large natural lakes. For irrigation and power generation, huge reservoirs were created throughout the country. The largest are the Hirakud Reservoir (746 square kilometers) in Odisha, the Gandhi Reservoir (648 square kilometers) in Madhya Pradesh and the Govind Ballabh Pant Reservoir (465 square kilometers) on the border between Uttar Pradesh and Chhattisgarh.


The theory of continental drift states that India belonged to the southern continent Gondwana until the end of the Jurassic. In the Cretaceous period, it broke away from the continental floe of Antarctica and drifted in geologically extremely short 50 million years across the entire Tethys Ocean towards the south of the Eurasian plate. The meeting of the two continents took place approximately 43 to 64 million years ago at the beginning of the Paleogene. In the resulting common “crumple zone” of these crustal movements, the Himalayas and neighboring mountain systems were pushed up (unfolding of the former continental margins) and the highlands of Tibet were raised.

Although individual parts of the crustal have now welded together, the Indian plate is still moving northwards, so that the Himalayas rise by a few millimeters annually – as well as other folded mountains on earth, of which it is one of the youngest. The river plains in front of it were formed by sediment deposits in the Pleistocene. The rock formations of the Deccan are more diverse. The majority is occupied by Proterozoic formations in the south and east, the volcanic Deccan Traps formed in the Cretaceous period in the west and northwest, and unformed cratons in the northeast and north, which are among the oldest parts of the earth’s crust.

Climate in India

With the exception of the mountainous regions, northern and central India have a predominantly subtropical continental climate, while the south and coastal regions have a more maritime tropical climate. In the north, for example, considerable temperature fluctuations occur over the course of the year. In the northern lowlands, 10 to 15 °C prevail in December and January; in the hottest period between April and June, maximum temperatures of 40 to over 50 °C are possible. Moreover, in the south, on the other hand, it is (relatively constant) hot all year round.

Rainfall throughout the country is significantly influenced by the Indian monsoon. The southwest or summer monsoon begins in June in most parts of the country and brings abundant rainfall until September or October, depending on the region. The monsoon depression moves from southeast to northwest, which means that precipitation is usually highest in the southeast of the country. The very different topography also has an enormous influence on precipitation distribution.

For example, the humid maritime air rains down on orographic obstacles, such as mountains, in the form of uphill rain. Therefore, the heaviest downpours fall on the west coast, in the Western Ghats, on the slopes of the Himalayas and in northeast India. The Himalayas, which are hit by the monsoon, are the reason why India has the highest rainfall totals in the world. The town of Cherrapunji holds several worldwide rainfall records. It is driest in the Thar, which is located in the northwest of the country and is, therefore, least affected by the monsoon.

The northeast or winter monsoon winds coming from Central Asia between October and June bring hardly any moisture. Due to the strong temperature contrast between the cold, dry air in the interior of the continent (Tibetan Plateau) and the comparatively warm south, this cold air mass flows south and warms up as it descends from the Himalayas so that a dry, warm fall wind arrives in India. Therefore, in most areas, 80 to over 90% of the total annual rainfall falls during the summer months. Only the southeast receives rain during the northeast monsoon, as the air currents over the Bay of Bengal absorb moisture.


Teak leaves and fruits
Teak leaves and fruits

Due to the size of the country and the different climatic conditions in the individual parts of the country, India has a great variety of landscapes. The flora of India ranges from high mountain vegetation in the Himalayas to tropical rainforests in the south. Large parts of the original vegetation cover are destroyed today, instead, India is predominantly characterized by cultural landscapes. Only about one-fifth of the country is forested, although official figures vary to include degraded areas and open forests. For the year 2015, a forest area of 701,700 km² is given: 21.3% of the land area (3,287,300 km²). In 2001, the figures were 768,400 km² and 23.4% – in 14 years India’s forest area shrank by 9.5%.

In the lower altitudes of the Himalayas, there are still extensive forests. As precipitation on the slopes of the mountains decreases from east to west, there are evergreen subtropical and temperate moist and rainforests in the Eastern Himalayas, which become lighter and drier towards the west. Deciduous forests with oaks and chestnuts predominate; Rhododendrons are characteristic of the Eastern Himalayas. At higher altitudes, conifers dominate, especially cedars and pines. The steppe and desert-like high valleys in Ladakh and other parts of the western Inner Himalayas merge into the dry highlands of Tibet. The vegetation line is about 5000 meters.

The hard-to-reach northeast is partly still densely forested. Particularly high amounts of precipitation allow semi-evergreen moist forests there.

The vast majority of the Ganges plain, the Deccan and the adjacent foothills were formerly covered by monsoon forests; today there are only remnants of it, mostly in mountainous regions. The intensively used agricultural plains, on the other hand, are practically forest-free. Monsoon forests shed foliage during dry periods. Depending on the amount of precipitation and the length of the dry period, a distinction is made between moist and dry forests.

Forests that receive between 1500 and 2000 millimeters of annual precipitation are usually referred to as deciduous moist forests. They predominate in the northeastern Deccan, Odisha and West Bengal, as well as in the lee of the Western Ghats. With precipitation between 1000 and 1500 millimeters per year, one speaks of deciduous dry forests; these dominate in India. Because of the thinner treetops, monsoon forests have dense undergrowth. The characteristic tree species of the north is the Sal ( Shorea robusta), in the central and western Deccan highlands it is the teak tree ( Tectona grandis) and the south of the peninsula is dominated by sandalwood trees (Santalum album). Bamboo species are widespread.

In the drier parts of India, such as Rajasthan, Gujarat, the western edge of the Ganges lowlands or the central Deccan, the endemic neem trees, which are mainly used medicinally, grow. Also, in the arid climate, open thorn forests have formed, which merge into semi-desert vegetation with isolated thorn bushes in the Thar desert.

In the humid Western Ghats, there are still relatively large contiguous parts of the original, evergreen or semi-evergreen moist forests. They are characterized by the floor structure typical of tropical rainforests. Some of the tall tree species on the top floor shed their foliage seasonally, while species growing below them are evergreen. Epiphytic plants such as orchids and ferns are found in great diversity.

Mangroves, saltwater-resistant tidal forests, are only common on the east coast of India. The Sundarbans in the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta have the densest mangrove stands in the country. Other tidal forests are located in the deltas of Mahanadi, Godavari and Krishna.


Thanks to its diversity of landscapes, India is home to an extremely diverse wildlife. It is estimated that about 350 species of mammals, 1200 birds, 400 reptiles and 200 amphibians are native to it. However, many species only occur in refuges such as forests, swamps, mountains and hills. Indian waters are also home to more than 2500 species of fish.

India’s largest mammal species is the Indian elephant, which is probably also the best known besides the king tiger. The tiger was threatened with extinction for a long time, but the establishment of tiger sanctuaries allowed the population to recover. Nevertheless, there are only a few thousand specimens in the wild. In addition to the tiger, other big cats live in India, including leopards and lions. The latter are found exclusively in the Gir National Park in Gujarat, the last refuge of the Asian lion. The rare snow leopard inhabits the high mountainous regions of the Himalayas. The best-known and most widespread of the smaller predator species is the mongoose.

The rhinoceros lives almost exclusively in the swamp and jungle areas of Assam, especially in the Kaziranga National Park.

On the other hand, even-toed ungulates are widespread. These include wild boar, muntjacs, sambars, axis deer, pig deer, barasinghas, water buffalo, gaur and several antelope species.

The horse-like are represented by the Kiang in the Himalayas and the Khur, a subspecies of the Asian donkey, in the semi-desert of Gujarat.

Monkeys are also common in India. Rhesus monkeys are considered sacred to Hindus, are not allowed to be harassed and have therefore even spread to cities. In the south of the country, it is replaced by the slightly smaller Indian hat monkey. The Hanuman langurs, which are widespread throughout India, are also considered sacred. Also, there are other langur species and macaques.

In the drylands of the northwest still live some Indian donkeys, which stay mainly in the Dhrangadhra Game Reserve in the Small Rann of Kachchh. In the humid east of the country, on the other hand, species of the tropical rainforest live, such as white-browed gibbons and clouded leopards. Other mammals worth mentioning are the red dogs, striped hyenas, Bengal foxes, which mainly inhabit grasslands, and the dense forests prefer sloth bears. In the Ganges, Brahmaputra and their tributaries, the Ganges dolphin is still occasionally found.

India’s bird life is extremely diverse with over 1200 native species – more than in the whole of Europe. In addition, there are countless migratory birds from North Asia in winter. The peacock is considered a national bird and is widespread. Also common are pigeons, crows, weavers, woodpeckers, pittas, drongos, parakeets, nectar birds and orioles. Wetlands are home to storks, herons, cranes, ibises and kingfishers. Among the birds of prey, Egyptian vultures and Bengal vultures were the most common. While the latter was still ubiquitous in the 1980s, it has been almost completely eradicated by a veterinary drug, along with two closely related species.

About half of all reptile species native to India are snakes such as the spectacled snake, the king cobra and the tiger python. In wetlands, however, marsh crocodiles can also be found. Very rare is the shy, fish-eating Ganges gharial. A special feature is the occurrence of chameleons in southern India and Sri Lanka, which are otherwise missing in South Asia.

Natural disasters

India is repeatedly hit by various natural disasters, especially floods that can occur during the summer monsoon due to extreme rainfall throughout the country. During the dry season or in the absence of monsoon rains, however, droughts often occur. Cyclones and the resulting tidal waves, especially on the east coast, often cost many lives and cause devastating damage. In some areas, there is also an increased risk of earthquakes, namely in the Himalayas, the northeastern states, western Gujarat and the region around Mumbai.
On 26 December 2004, a seaquake in the Indian Ocean caused a devastating tsunami that claimed 7793 lives and caused severe devastation on the east coast and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Nature and environmental protection

With a very large diversity of species and biodiversity (especially in a narrow strip on the humid tropical southwest coast), a very large number of endemic species, genera and families of plants and animals as well as diverse ecosystems, India is counted among the megadiversity countries of this earth. In addition, due to the great threat situation, the rainforests of the Western Ghats are listed as a biodiversity hotspot.

India has extensive environmental legislation, but in many cases, it is poorly implemented. Almost 5% of the country’s surface area is designated as nature reserves, the number of which amounts to almost 600, including 92 national parks.

Water scarcity is one of India’s biggest environmental problems. Dams and artificial irrigation systems are designed to ensure water supply in arid areas. Excessive irrigation is one of the main reasons for the sinking groundwater levels in many places; in addition, an estimated 60% of agricultural land is affected by soil erosion, salinization or waterlogging. In addition, deforestation is excessively irrigated and fertilized.

Water and sanitation in India have improved dramatically since the 1980s. While almost the entire population of India now has access to toilets, many people still have no access to clean water and sanitation infrastructure. Various government programs at the national, state and local levels have led to rapid improvements in sanitation and drinking water supplies. Some of these programs are still ongoing.

Polluted and contaminated water contributes significantly to the emergence and spread of infectious diseases. NGOs such as the Water Literacy Foundation and government agencies such as the Ministry of Drinking Water and Sanitation are working to improve the situation. In 1980, the coverage rate of rural sanitation was estimated at 1%, reaching 95% in 2018. The proportion of Indians with access to improved water sources has increased significantly from 72% in 1990 to 88% in 2008.

At the same time, local government institutions tasked with providing drinking water and sanitation are seen as weak and do not have the financial resources to perform their tasks. In addition, only two Indian cities have a continuous water supply and, according to a 2018 estimate, about 8% of Indians still do not have access to improved sanitation.

Air pollution is very high, especially in the Indian metropolises. Factories, small industries, power plants (including many coal-fired power plants), transport and private households emit numerous air pollutants, including large amounts of particulate matter. According to a study by the World Health Organization, Delhi was the dirtiest city in the world in terms of air quality in 2014. Kolkata was the first city to operate a metro network in 1984, followed by Delhi in 2002.

Mumbai and Chennai have a comparatively well-developed train network. Trucks, buses, over 5,000 diesel locomotives, auto rickshaws, private cars, motorcycles and mopeds contribute to air pollution. The number of cars per 1000 inhabitants is considered very low. CO2 emissions have increased sharply in the past; Causes included population growth, advancing industrialization and increasing traffic. In 2015, India was considered the third largest country emitting greenhouse gases worldwide; it emitted 1.6 tons per capita. India signed the Paris Agreement on 2 October 2016.

The inadequate technical equipment in factories often leads to impairments or avoidable emissions. In Bhopal, highly toxic gases escaped in 1984 in the pesticide factory of the American Union Carbide (UCC) (Bhopal disaster). Within days, 7,000 people died, 15,000 more died of long-term effects, thousands suffered chronic health damage.


India-wide has a total of 868 protected areas (PAs) as of March 2019, accounting for 5% of India’s total geographical area of 3,287,000 square kilometers (including Indian-administered parts of Kashmir) – an increase of 11,000 km² or 0.35% since 2009:

Dependencies 2019 2009 Area 2009 Share 2009
National Parks in India 104 99 40,501 km² 39,442 km² 1,23 % 1,20 %
Game reserves 550 512 119,776 km² 113,395 km² 3,64 % 3,45 %
Conservation Reserves 87 45 4,286 km² 1,260 km² 0,13 % 0,04 %
Community Reserves 127 5 525 km² 21 km² 0,02 % <0.01 %
Protected Areas (PAs) 868 661 165,088 km² 154,118 km² 5,02 % 4,67 %

Name of country

The name India is derived from the river Indus. Its name, in turn, goes back to the Sanskrit word Sindhu meaning “river” through the mediation of ancient Greek (Indos) and Old Persian (Hinduš). European navigators referred to all of South and Southeast Asia as India. Terms such as island India (“insulinde”) and the state name Indonesia still bear witness to this. The term East Indies was also used to distinguish it from the islands of the Caribbean known as the West Indies, which Christopher Columbus had discovered in search of the sea route to India. In colonial times, the term was gradually reduced to the present-day areas of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, to finally assume its current meaning when the Indian state was founded.

From the Persian form Hind or Hindustan also derive the name Hindu and the name of the language Hindi . The official name of India in most national languages (e.g. Hindi Bhārat) comes from the Sanskrit term Bhārata, which means “(land) of Bharata” and refers to a mythical ruler.

History of India

Prehistory and Classical Age

The stainless iron pillar in Delhi is attributed to the Gupta period
The rusting Iron Pillar in Delhi is attributed to the Gupta period

The Indus Valley civilization, mostly located in present-day Pakistan, was one of the early advanced civilizations of the world, with its own script, the hitherto undeciphered Indus script. Around 2500 BC, planned cities such as Harappa existed there, with a sewage system, seaports and baths, while it is believed that even less developed conditions prevailed in South India. Further east, other archaeological complexes are noticeable, such as the so-called Kupfer-Hort culture. From 1700 BC onwards, the Indus civilization began to decay for unknown reasons.

A very important period for the further development of India was the Vedic period (about 1500 to 500 BC), in which the foundations of today’s culture were laid. Far less is known about political developments than about religious and philosophical developments. Towards the end of the Vedic period, the Upanishads were created, which in many ways form the basis of the religions Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism that originated in India. This period saw urbanization in the Ganges plain and the rise of regional kingdoms such as Magadha.

From the 6th century BC, Buddhism developed, which for about 500 years represented the authoritative intellectual current of India alongside Hinduism. In the 4th century BC, the Maurya Empire was the first Indian empire to emerge, which ruled almost the entire subcontinent under Ashoka. After numerous conquests, Ashoka turned to Buddhism, which he sought to spread in his own country and as far as Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia and the Middle East. In the 3rd century BC, Prakrit literature and Tamil Sangam literature flourished in southern India.

During this period, southern India was ruled by the three Tamil dynasties of Chola, Pandya and Chera. After the death of Ashoka, the Mauryan Empire gradually disintegrated again into countless small states, which could only be reunited by the Gupta in the 4th century AD into a great empire in northern India, whose empire collapsed in the early 6th century also as a result of the attacks of the Hunas. With Buddhism, India exerted a significant cultural influence on the entire area of Central and East Asia. The spread of Hinduism and Buddhism via Indochina to present-day Indonesia shaped the history and culture of these countries. The last great promoter of Buddhism in India is Harshavardhana, whose reign in northern India in the 7th century marks the transition to the Indian Middle Ages.

Indian Middle Ages and Mughal Period

The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal
The Taj Mahal was built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan for his wife Mumtaz Mahal

Arab conquests in the 8th century brought Islam to northwestern India. When the Arabs attempted to advance into Gujarat and beyond, they were defeated by the Indian king Vikramaditya II of the Western Chalukya dynasty. From the 8th century to the 10th century, the three dynasties of Rashtrakuta, Pala and Pratihara ruled over a large part of India and fought among themselves for supremacy in northern India. In southern India, the Chola and Chalukya dynasties ruled from the 10th century to the 12th century.

However, the dominance of Muslim states in the north and the Islamization of large parts of the population there did not occur until the invasions of Central Asian Islamic powers from the 12th century onwards. The Delhi Sultanate even briefly extended its power to the south, yet its cultural influence remained limited to the north. The Mongol invasion of 1398 weakened the sultanate, so that the Hindu regional empires regained strength. The Muslim rulers were only able to recover in the 16th century with the founding of the Mughal Empire, which became the dominant force of the north for about 200 years and lasted until 1857. Outstanding rulers such as Akbar I, Jahangir, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb not only extended the borders of the empire to the Deccan but also created a functioning administration and state system and promoted the arts.

Philosophical education was also high and emanated from the competing schools in Delhi and Lucknow. While in Delhi there was a particular demand for a return to early Islamic teachings, in Lucknow logic, law and philosophy, especially Aristotelianism, were taught. Hindu kingdoms existed during their time only in South India, for example in Vijayanagar. In the late 17th century, the Hindu Maratha Empire was founded, which overran the Mughal Empire in the 18th century and conquered much of northern India. Weakened by the attacks of the Marathas, the empire was considerably destabilized after Aurangzeb’s death. The decline of internal security and the poor networking of the center and provinces resulted in political decentralization, which in turn went hand in hand with economic reorientation.

Regional markets were strengthened and a new social group of successful traders emerged. It also reshaped India intellectually: the call for social equality became louder. They maintained close contact with Europe and stood in stark contrast to the hierarchical-elitist hereditary aristocracy of the country. Thus, the 18th century in India became a time of upheaval, in which regional rulers, European trading powers and the weakened Mughals fought for supremacy over the country.

European colonial rule and independence movement

After Vasco da Gama had discovered the sea route to India in 1498 and thus the lucrative Indian trade became accessible to Europeans, Portugal began to conquer or build smaller coastal bases to control the trade routes from 1505 (see Portuguese India). In the 17th century, other European powers were also involved in India, from which the British were able to prevail in the end. From 1756 onwards, the British East India Company subjugated large parts of India from its port bases in Calcutta (today: Kolkata), Madras (today: Chennai) and Bombay (today: Mumbai). The pre-existing influence of the European colonial powers Portugal, the Netherlands and France was largely eliminated by it. An important step was the mapping of the subcontinent.

George Everest continued the Great Trigonometric Survey, begun by Lambton in 1806, from 1823 to 1841. In 1832 he carried out the Indian meridian grade, The Great Arc, also begun by Lambton, until 1841. This covers more than 21° from the southern tip of India to Nepal north of Dehradun (2,400 km). Loyal princes retained states with limited sovereignty such as Hyderabad, Bhopal, Mysore or Kashmir. In 1857/58 parts of the population of North India rose up in the Sepoy Rebellion against the rule of the East India Company. After the suppression of the uprising, it was disbanded and India was placed under direct control by Great Britain. The British monarchs also bore the title Empress of India or Emperor of India from 1877 (until 1947).

Colonial flag of British India
Colonial flag of British India

In 1885, the Indian National Congress was founded in Bombay. Initially, he did not demand the independence of India, but only more political say for the local population. Its members were mainly Hindus and Parsis. The Muslim upper class kept their distance, as their spokesman Sayyid Ahmad Khan feared that they would be forced out of the administration by the introduction of the majority principle. Instead, the Muslim League was founded in 1906 to represent the interests of Muslims.

The far-reaching division of politics into religious groups was mainly due to the fact that in the 19th and 20th centuries uniform religions (Hinduism, Islam, …) developed from different religious communities with fluid transitions into uniform religions (Hinduism, Islam, …) with certain contents and fixed demarcations to the outside world. In the search for a unifying idea in a colony with many different peoples, faith offered itself as a connecting (always existing) instance. Nevertheless, there was not exclusively religious nationalism, and even this could be very different in its claim to absoluteness.

During the First World War, the vast majority of the population remained loyal. Out of anger that the British were involved in the division of the Ottoman Empire, many Muslims joined the independence movement.

In the Second World War, India took part in the Second World War with an initial 200,000-strong volunteer army, which grew to over two million soldiers in the course of the war, on the side of Great Britain. By the end of the war, more than 24,000 Indian soldiers had died, over 11,000 were missing, and two million people had starved to death (see Bengal famine of 1943). On the other hand, there were also efforts, mainly driven by Subhash Chandra Bose, to fight for the freedom of India with an Indian volunteer army in alliance with the Axis powers against the British colonial power.

Nonviolent resistance to British colonial rule, especially under Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, led to independence in 1947. At the same time, the colonial power decreed the division of the colony of British India, which covered almost the entire Indian subcontinent, into two states, the secular Indian Union and the smaller Islamic Republic of Pakistan. The British thus fulfilled the demands of the Muslim League and its leader Muhammad Ali Jinnah, which had been growing louder since the 1930s, for a separate nation-state with a Muslim majority.

Developments since independence

The division led to one of the largest displacement and refugee movements in history. About 10 million Hindus and Sikhs were expelled from Pakistan, about 7 million Muslims from India. 750,000 to one million people lost their lives.

The princely states bound to the British by protection treaties had already declared their accession to the Indian Union before independence. Only two seriously stood in the way of the process of integrating the principalities. The Muslim ruler of the almost exclusively Hindu Hyderabad was brought down by an invasion of Indian troops. In Kashmir, the Maharaja, himself a Hindu with a predominantly Muslim population, delayed his decision. After Muslim fighters invaded his country, he finally decided to join India, which then occupied most of the former principality. Pakistan considered accession illegal, leading to the First Indo-Pakistani War over Kashmir (1947–1949). Since then, the Kashmir conflict has been smoldering in the border region, which also led to the Second Indo-Pakistani War in 1965 and the Kargil War in 1999.

On 26 November 1949, India joined the Commonwealth of Nations and on 26 January 1950, the constitution drafted mainly by Bhimrao Ambedkar came into force, which made India a republic. Border disputes led to a brief war with the People’s Republic of China in 1962, the so-called Indo-Chinese Border War. The Indian support of an independence movement in what was then East Pakistan led to a third war between India and Pakistan in 1971 with the subsequent partition of Pakistan and the founding of the new, also Islamic state of Bangladesh.

Indira Gandhi with US President Richard Nixon (1971)
Indira Gandhi with US President Richard Nixon (1971)

Domestically, under Jawaharlal Nehru, Prime Minister from 1947 to 1964, and then until the early 1970s, the Congress Party dominated the young, independent democracy. At best, opposition parties could exert their influence at the state or local level. Only when Nehru’s daughter Indira Gandhi, who became prime minister in 1966, centralized the party and tried to expand her own position of power did the opposition succeed in forming itself at the federal level.

A court in Allahabad found Gandhi guilty of irregularities in the 1971 elections in 1975. Instead of following the demands of her political opponents to resign, she declared a state of emergency and ruled by decree until 1977. Basic democratic rights such as freedom of the press and freedom of assembly were severely restricted. The growing dissatisfaction of the population with the de facto dictatorial regime was expressed in 1977 in a clear electoral defeat of Indira Gandhi. Between 1977 and 1979, therefore, for the first time not the Congress Party, but a coalition led by the Janata Party formed the government of India.

In the 1980 elections, Indira Gandhi managed to return to power. Her second term in office saw an escalation of the conflict in Punjab, where Sikh separatists demanded a state of their own. When Sikh militants entrenched themselves in the Golden Temple in Amritsar, Indira Gandhi ordered Operation Blue Star in 1984. Indian troops stormed the temple and ended its occupation. This led to bloody riots, culminating in the murder of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards.

Her son Rajiv Gandhi took over the affairs of government but was unable to effectively implement the reform plans he had planned. A bribery scandal involving the Swedish arms company Bofors eventually damaged his reputation to such an extent that the opposition was able to win a clear victory over Gandhi’s Congress Party in 1989. After a two-year hiatus, however, it returned to power from 1991 to 1996. The government of P. V. Narasimha Rao initiated the economic opening and foreign policy reorientation of the country, which has been socialist since Nehru. The reform program included the privatization of state-owned enterprises, the lifting of trade restrictions, the removal of bureaucratic barriers to investment and tax cuts. Economic reforms were continued by subsequent governments.

Since the 1980s, Hindu nationalism has experienced a significant upswing. The dispute over the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh), built on the site of an important Hindu temple, developed into one of the defining domestic political issues. In 1992, Hindu extremists destroyed the Muslim house of worship, leading to serious riots in large parts of the country. The political arm of the Hindu nationalists, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), led a government coalition between 1998 and 2004, with Atal Bihari Vajpayee as head of government. In 2004, however, she was surprisingly defeated by the newly formed Congress Party under Sonia Gandhi.

The widow of Rajiv Gandhi, who was murdered during the election campaign in 1991, renounced her post as prime minister after protests by the opposition because of her Italian descent. Instead, Manmohan Singh, who as finance minister under Rao had played a major role in shaping India’s economic liberalization, took over this position. In the 2009 election, the Congress Party was able to expand its majority and Singh remained Prime Minister until 2014. In the 2014 election, the opposition BJP won a landslide victory and its leading candidate, Narendra Modi, was elected prime minister.

Today, despite the significant economic upswing, India’s fundamental problems are still widespread poverty as well as severe overpopulation, increasing environmental pollution and ethnic and religious conflicts between Hindus and Muslims. In addition, there is an ongoing dispute with Pakistan over the Kashmir region. The Indian-Pakistani antagonism is particularly explosive due to the fact that both states are nuclear powers. India conducted its first nuclear weapons test in 1974. Pakistan responded to further nuclear tests in 1998 with its own nuclear weapons tests.

In recent years, there has been a rapprochement between India and Pakistan. Prisoner exchanges took place and links were opened in the Kashmir region.

Terrorism and ethnic conflicts

Since 1986, various groups in Muslim-majority Kashmir have been fighting by violent means for the independence of their region or the annexation to Pakistan (Kashmir conflict). Again and again, attacks are carried out in the region on institutions of the Indian state, such as in October 2001 on the regional parliament of Jammu and Kashmir in Srinagar, on the armed forces stationed in Kashmir or against Hindu villagers and pilgrims.

However, not only in Kashmir, but also in other parts of India, there have been repeated terrorist attacks attributed to Kashmiri separatists or Islamist terrorist organizations such as Lashkar-e Taiba. The worst series of attacks to date took place on March 12, 1993, when ten bomb explosions on the stock exchange and hotels in Mumbai, as well as trains and gas stations, killed 257 people and injured 713 people. In December 2001, Islamists stormed parliament in New Delhi, killing 14 people. There were 52 deaths in August 2003 when two taxis loaded with explosives exploded in Mumbai.

After three bomb explosions in markets in New Delhi in October 2005, 62 people were killed. In March 2006, 20 people died in a double attack on the railway station and a temple in the city of Varanasi. Bomb attacks on trains in Mumbai in July 2006 killed around 200 people and injured more than 700 people. On February 18, 2007, two incendiary bombs exploded on the “Friendship Express”, the only train connection between India and Pakistan, 100 kilometers north of Delhi. At least 65 people were killed.

On August 25, 2007, two bomb explosions occurred in Hyderabad, killing at least 42 people and injuring many more. A third bomb was found and defused. What goal the assassin or perpetrators pursued with the bomb attacks in well-visited leisure places was initially not known. (Hyderabad has the highest Muslim population of the Indian metropolises at almost 40%.)

A series of bombings rocked India in 2008. On July 25, two bombs exploded outside police stations and six other bombs in Bengaluru (Bangalore). Within 15 minutes, two people were killed and six injured in the eight bombings. A series of explosions of 16 bombs within 90 minutes in the metropolis of Ahmedabad in the western Indian state of Gujarat on July 26, 2008, caused at least 130 dead and over 280 injured. A suspected Muslim terrorist group Indian Mujahideen, presumably a splinter group of the radical Islamic Lashkar-e Taiba, claimed responsibility for the terrorist attacks in Ahmedabad.

During the attacks in Mumbai on November 26, 2008, there were 17 explosions, attacks with rapid-fire weapons and hostage-taking in ten different places of the city in the Indian metropolis of Mumbai within a short period of time by a group of about ten attackers who had divided into several groups. According to the Indian authorities, there have been at least 239 injured and 174 dead.

Following a citizenship reform enacted in December 2019, which granted religiously persecuted refugees, with the exception of Muslims, asylum in India more quickly, there were strong protests by the Muslim population in India in the same month and at the beginning of 2020.



Population pyramid India 2016: India's median age was 27.6 years
Population pyramid India 2016: India’s median age was 27.6 years

In 2019, the population of India was 1,380,004,000. This makes India the most populous state in the world after the People’s Republic of China. The population density is 388 inhabitants per square kilometer. Nevertheless, the population is highly unevenly distributed. It is concentrated mainly in fertile areas such as the Ganges plain, West Bengal and Kerala, while the Himalayas, the mountainous areas of the northeast and drier regions in Rajasthan and the Deccan have only a low population density. In Bihar, for example, an average of 1106 people live per square kilometer, while in Arunachal Pradesh there are only 17.

On May 11, 2000, India’s population officially exceeded the billion mark. While it took 47 years from 1920 – when India had 250 million inhabitants – to double the population, from 1967 to 2000 it was only 33 years. Population growth has slowed only slightly in recent decades and currently stands at 1.4% per year, representing an annual population increase of 15 million people. Thus, India is currently recording the largest absolute growth of all countries in the world. However, the relative increase is only slightly above the world average.

According to estimates, population growth in India will hardly slow down in the coming decades, and India will have replaced the People’s Republic of China as the most populous country in the world by 2025. Although the birth rate is already declining as a result of progressive modernization, education, prosperity and urbanization, population growth is not explained by an increased birth rate, but by the increase in lifespan in recent decades. This is due, among other things, to an improvement in health care. In terms of mortality, India had already caught up with Germany in 1991 (10 per 1000), for 2006 it is estimated at 8.18 per 1000. However, the fertility rate remained high (1991: 30 per 1000) and is gradually declining (2016: 19.3 per 1000). The fertility rate fell from 5.2 children per woman in 1971 to 3.6 in 1991, in 2013 it was 2.3.

The average age of the Indian population was 26.7 years in 2015, while the average life expectancy was 66.2 years for men (only 44 years in 1971) and 69.1 years for women (only 46 years in 1971). In Germany, for comparison, it is 78 years for men and 83 years for women. One-third of the population is younger than 15 years. India is also one of the countries where there are significantly more men: According to the 2011 census, there are 943 women for every 1000 men. This surplus of men contributes to destabilization in some regions of the country, as Henrik Urdal of the Harvard Kennedy School shows.

Over the past thirty years, 60% of India’s urbanization has been driven by natural population growth (in the cities). Immigration (from rural areas) contributed to one-fifth of urban population growth. Another fifth of the growth is evenly distributed between the formation of new cities through statistical reclassification and the expansion of borders or sprawl. India now has 46 cities with more than one million inhabitants (as of the 2011 census). The metropolitan area of Mumbai alone now has over 28 million inhabitants, a larger population than the whole of Australia. Nevertheless, the urban population represents a minority with a share of the total population of only 31.2% (2011 census). With economic development, India’s urbanization is progressing rapidly and India’s urban population is growing by almost 10 million annually. India’s cities account for almost all of India’s economic output.

The emergence of slums is a major problem in India’s cities. In Mumbai’s Dharavi slum, an estimated 1 million people live in confined spaces in catastrophic conditions, making it the largest slum in the world.  Urbanisation in India is much less planned than, for example, in China, and an estimated 30% of the urban population lives in unplanned dwellings and slums, totaling over 90 million people.

It is estimated that up to 25 million Indian citizens and persons of Indian origin (Non-resident Indians and Persons of Indian Origin) live abroad. While English-speaking Western countries such as the USA, Great Britain and Canada mainly attract well-trained specialists, in the Gulf States (especially the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia) many Indians are employed as “cheap labor”, rarely in higher positions. During the British colonial period, Indians were recruited as workers in other colonies, so many individuals of Indian descent live in Malaysia, South Africa, Mauritius, Trinidad and Tobago, Fiji, Guyana and Singapore. They usually have citizenship of the respective country. Remittances from expatriates to their relatives in India represent an important economic factor.

Below are the population figures of India between 1700 and 2050 (2025 and 2050 are forecasts) – note changes in the area over time: Figures up to 1875 are calculated according to the territorial status of British India (including Bangladesh, Myanmar and Pakistan), from 1900 in the present-day borders of the Republic of India:

18th century Inhabitant   19th century Inhabitant   20th century Inhabitant   21st century Inhabitant
1700 137.026.000   1800 255.000.000   1901 1,238,396,327   2001 1.028.737.436
1725 140.413.000 1825 256.469.000 1925 1,263,071,000 2005 1.094.985.000
1750 155.212.000 1850 283.496.000 1950 1,350,445,000 2011 1.210.569.573
1775 198.344.000 1875 300.963.000 1975 1,600,763,000 2017 1.339.180.000
1800 255.000.000 1900 271.306.000 2000 2025 1.451.829.000
  2050 1.658.978.000

Ethnic composition

India is a multi-ethnic state whose ethnic diversity is easily comparable to that of the entire European continent. About 72% of the population are Indo-Aryans. 25% are Dravids, who live mainly in the south of India. 3% is accounted for by other ethnic groups, mainly Tibeto-Burmese, Munda and Mon-Khmer peoples in the Himalayan region as well as northeastern and eastern India.

8.6% of the inhabitants belong to the indigenous tribal population, which describes itself as Adivasi, although it is ethnically highly heterogeneous. The Indian constitution recognizes more than 600 tribes as so-called scheduled tribes. They are mostly outside the Hindu caste system and are socially disadvantaged despite existing protective laws. The Adivasi have large populations in the northeastern region (especially in Mizoram, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur, Tripura, Sikkim) as well as in the eastern and central Indian states of Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh. Due to social discrimination, radical left-wing groups such as the Maoist Naxalites enjoy strong support among parts of the Adivasi. In addition, there are separatist movements of various peoples – such as the Mongolid Naga, Mizo and Bodo, but also the Indo-Aryan Assamese – in northeast India, where tensions between the native population and immigrant Bengalis, mostly illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, provide additional potential for conflict.

In 2017, according to official figures, 0.4% of the population was born abroad. The number of illegal Bangladeshis immigrants in India is estimated at up to 20 million. The approximately 100,000 exiled Tibetans living in India, who have fled their homeland since the Chinese occupation of Tibet in the 1950s, are officially recognized as refugees and have a residence permit. In addition, about 60,000 Tamil refugees from Sri Lanka live on Indian territory.

Languages and scripts

In India, well over 100 different languages are spoken, belonging to four different language families. In addition to the two national official languages Hindi and English, the Indian Constitution recognizes the following 21 languages: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Marathi, Meitei, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Santali, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Most of these languages also serve as official languages in the states where they are spoken by a majority of the population. English is the language of administration, instruction and business. Of the constitutional languages, 15 belong to Indo-Aryan, four to Dravidian (Telugu, Tamil, Kannada and Malayalam), two to the Tibeto-Burman or Sino-Tibetan language family (Bodo, Meitei) and one each to Austroasiatic (Santali) and Germanic (English).

Recently, there have been attempts to revive the use of Sanskrit. Sanskrit is a classical language, no longer used as a first or mother tongue, which has a similar status in India as Latin is in Europe. It is also one of the officially recognized constitutional languages but is nowhere used as an official language. The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has made Sanskrit the third language taught in the schools it regulates. In these schools, Sanskrit instruction is compulsory for the fifth to eighth grades.

The retention of the status of English as an official language is decided every 15 years. English continues to be considered a prestige language and is only spoken fluently by a privileged minority of the population. When people from different language communities meet, they speak either Hindi or English to each other in the north, or one of the Dravidian languages or English in the south.

In addition to the constitutional languages, Hindustani, the “predecessor” of Hindi and Urdu widespread in northern India, Rajasthani as a generic term of the dialects of Rajasthan and Mizo are also worth mentioning. Bihari is the generic term for the dialects in Bihar, which also include Maithili, Bhojpuri and Magadhi.

Most languages have different writing systems. While Hindi, Marathi, Nepali, Konkani and Sanskrit use a common script (Devanagari), Telugu, Tamil, Kannada, Malayalam, Gujarati, Oriya, Punjabi and Santali are each characterized by their own script. For Bengali, Asamiya and Meitei another script (Bengali script) is used. Urdu is written in Arabic script, Kashmiri and Sindhi are written in Arabic script or in Devanagari.



Membership of religious communities
Religion Percent
Hinduism 79,8 %
Islam 14,2 %
Christianity 2,3 %
Sikhism 1,7 %
Buddhism 0,7 %
Jainism 0,4 %
Other 0,9 %
Source: 2011 census
Hindu temple in Mysuru
Hindu temple in Mysuru

Four of the major religions emerged on the Indian subcontinent: Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. Islam came to the country as a result of trade and conquest by the Mughal Empire, Christianity by early proselytizing in the first century and then by colonialism, Zoroastrianism (Parsism) due to immigration. India, therefore, offers an extraordinarily rich religious landscape. Although Buddhism was the preferred religion for centuries, Hinduism never died out and was able to maintain its position as the dominant religion in the long term. In the Middle Ages, Indian traders and sailors brought Hinduism to Indonesia and Malaysia. Although India is still a Hindu country, India has the world’s third-largest Muslim population after Indonesia and Pakistan (about 140 million), and the second-largest number of Shiites after Iran.

According to the 2011 census, the religions are as follows: 79.8% Hindus, 14.2% Muslims, 2.3% Christians, 1.7% Sikhs, 0.7% Buddhists, 0.4% Jains and 0.7% others (for example, traditional Adivasi religions, Baha’is or Parsis). A total of 0.2% of Indians declared no religious affiliation or declared no religion in the census.

The roots of Hinduism lie in the Veda (literally: knowledge), religious texts whose oldest layer is dated to about 1200 BC. However, the term “Hinduism” did not become common until the 19th century. He connects many currents with similar beliefs and history, which are particularly consistent in the teachings of karma, the cycle of rebirths (samsara) and the pursuit of salvation. He knows no single founder of religion, no uniform creed and no central religious authority. The main popular schools are Shaivism, Vishnuism and Shaktism. In addition, the Indian folk religion is regionally and locally widespread. Religious teachers (gurus) and priests have a great value for personal faith.

The Adivasi (natives) often resisted the missionary attempts of the major religions and partly retained their own religion. The indigenous peoples of India have a lot in common with Hinduism, such as the belief in reincarnation, an external variety of gods and a kind of caste system. Not infrequently, local deities or tribal deities are simply integrated into the Hindu pantheon – an approach that has historically contributed to the spread of Hinduism. Especially today there is a strong tendency of “Hinduization” (in Indology “Sanskritization”), social customs of Hindus and their forms of religious practice are adopted.

Buddhism is popular today, especially as neo-Buddhism among the “untouchables” (Dalits), especially in the state of Maharashtra (“Bauddha”). In this way, the Dalits are trying to escape the discrimination of the caste system. More than 10% of India’s population belongs to the Dalit caste. This movement was initiated by the lawyer Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar (1891–1956), who himself belonged to an untouchable caste. In addition, there are smaller groups of Tibetan Buddhists in the Himalayan areas of Ladakh, Sikkim and Arunachal Pradesh as well as the Tibetan exile community in Dharamsala, the seat of the incumbent Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government in exile. From the point of view of fundamentalist Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians are also among the untouchables, who according to this definition would comprise about 240 million people, i.e. almost 20% of India’s population.

The Parsis, who now live mainly in Mumbai, form a small, predominantly wealthy and influential community (about 70,000 people). Not least because of their pronounced social commitment, they play an important role in Indian society despite their small population. In Europe, they are known for their burial customs (“towers of silence”). The Jains, too, are often wealthy, as they are predominantly merchants and traders due to their belief that forbids the killing of living beings. Parsees and Jains mostly belong to the middle and upper classes.

The majority of Indian Muslims belong to the Sunni direction, and more than 20 million Shiites live in India. In addition, there are smaller faiths within Islam: Dar ul-Ulum in Deoband in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh is more fundamentalist, to which the Afghan Taliban, among others, refer, albeit in a radically shortened interpretation. The situation of Muslims in India is difficult. They are poorer and less educated than the average. They are underrepresented in politics and civil service. It should be noted, however, that the former President of India, A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, was a Muslim. The number of Muslims in India is growing faster than the rest of the population and by 2050 India could have over 300 million Muslim residents.

The Sikhs are mainly native to northwestern India (Punjab). Their position in society is characterized by success, especially in the military field, but also in political life. Former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is a Sikh.

Cross of the Thomas Christians
Cross of the Thomas Christians

In 53 AD, an apostle of Jesus, Thomas, is said to have come to India and founded several Christian congregations along the southern Malabar coast. The “Thomas Christians” in Kerala trace their origins back to the Apostle Thomas. Portuguese missionaries introduced Roman Catholicism in the late 15th century and spread it along the west coast, for example in Goa, so that Roman Catholics today make up the largest proportion of India’s Christian population. Although the British showed little interest in proselytizing, many tribal peoples in the northeast (Nagaland, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Manipur, Arunachal Pradesh) converted to the Anglican Church or other Protestant denominations. More recently, members of untouchable castes as well as Adivasi converted to Christianity to escape the injustice of the caste system.

When India gained its independence, there were still around 25,000 Jews living in India. After 1948, however, most of them left their homeland for Israel. Today, the number of Jews remaining in India is estimated at 5,000 to 6,000, the majority of whom live in Mumbai.

  • Religions according to the 2001 census
  • Hinduism in India
    Hinduism in India
  • Islam in India
    Islam in India
  • Christianity in India
    Christianity in India

Religious conflicts

Laicism, the separation of state and religion, is one of the most essential principles of the Indian state and is anchored in its constitution. For centuries, different faiths have coexisted, mostly peacefully. Nevertheless, there are sometimes regionally limited, religiously motivated conflicts.

During the partition of India in 1947 and the Bangladesh War in 1971, there were massive riots between Hindus and Muslims. Unrest between followers of the two faiths breaks out again and again in India at certain intervals. One point of conflict remains Kashmir, whose predominantly Muslim population is sometimes violently campaigning for independence or annexation to Pakistan. Since the late 1980s, they have been fuelled by the burgeoning Hindu nationalism (Hindutva) and Islamic fundamentalism.

One of the highlights of the clashes was the storming and destruction of the Babri Mosque in Ayodhya (Uttar Pradesh) by extremist Hindus in December 1992, as the Islamic house of worship had once been built on the site of an important Hindu temple to mark the birthplace of Rama. The last riots occurred in Gujarat in 2002 when 59 Hindu activists (kar sevaks) were burned on a train. As a result of the escalating violence, about 2,000 people were killed, mainly Muslims. The political situation in Kashmir has claimed the lives of over 29,000 civilians since 1989 due to the activities of Islamist terrorists.

Conflicts also arose in other religions. The demands of Sikh separatists for an independent Sikh state called “Khalistan” culminated in the storming of the Golden Temple in Amritsar by Indian troops in 1984 (Operation Blue Star) and the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her own Sikh bodyguards. In total, more than 3,000 Sikhs were killed in the 1984 riots.

In some states, there have been pogroms against Christians. In the second half of 2008, at least 59 Christians were killed in religiously motivated riots in Orissa. In its answer to a parliamentary question of December 4, 2008, the German government cites the following extent of violence against Christians in Orissa (Odisha): 81 Christians have died, 20,000 people are in refugee camps, 40,000 more have hidden in forests. 4677 houses, 236 churches and 36 other ecclesiastical institutions were destroyed.

Social problems

Slum in Mumbai
Slum in Mumbai

According to the World Bank, 44% of Indians now have less than one US dollar a day at their disposal. Even though the food situation has improved significantly since the 1970s, more than a quarter of the population is still too poor to afford adequate nutrition. Undernourishment and malnutrition such as vitamin deficiencies are widespread problems, especially in rural areas, where the proportion of poor is particularly high. The regional division of the problem can be clearly seen in the hunger index for India, the state of Madhya Pradesh is particularly striking here.

In 2007, 46% of children in India were malnourished, and according to UNICEF, 2.1 million children die annually in India before the age of five. Child labor is mainly carried out in rural areas, as the income of many farming families is not sufficient to survive. Heavily indebted farmers often not only have to sell their farmland but also mortgage their services to the landlords. This phenomenon, known as debt bondage, is still one of the greatest obstacles to the fight against poverty. In 2006, an estimated 17,000 farmers committed suicide due to high debt.

The poor living conditions in rural areas cause many people to migrate to the cities (urbanization). At the same time, the country’s sprawling metropolises are hardly in a position to provide sufficient jobs for immigrants. The result is high unemployment and underemployment. Almost a third of the inhabitants of the megacities live in slums. Dharavi in Mumbai is the largest slum in Asia with more than one million people.

According to the 2011 census, 16.6% of the Indian population is counted among the so-called untouchables (Scheduled Castes), 8.6% belong to the Indian tribal population (Adivasi, officially Scheduled Tribes). Since both groups are exposed to abuse (discrimination, economic exploitation, sometimes persecution and violence) by another caste Indians, the Indian constitution provides for the promotion of the socially disadvantaged in the form of quotas. Through this “positive discrimination”, up to 50% of places in universities, vocational training institutions and parliaments are reserved for scheduled castes. The caste question occupies a highly explosive position in Indian domestic politics. An extension of quotas to lower castes at the suggestion of the controversial Mandal Commission provoked fierce protests from members of higher castes in 1990 and led to the overthrow of Prime Minister Vishwanath Pratap Singh.

Inadequate education and reproductive health counseling have led to a rapid increase in the number of people infected with HIV from the 1980s and 1990s onwards, when the first cases of infection became known in 1986. In 2008, around 2.27 million Indians between the ages of 15 and 49 carried the virus. The number of infected people is thus in third place worldwide behind South Africa and Nigeria.

In the years after 2002, there was a percentage decline in the number of infected people. In 2002, 0.45% of the adult Indian population was infected, in 2007 it was 0.34% and in 2008 it was 0.29%. The transmission routes of the HIV virus are reported for 2009/10 at 87.1% between heterosexuals. This is mainly due to widespread unprotected sexual intercourse with prostitutes. Mother-to-child transmission is 5.4% and between homosexuals 1.5%. Drug addicts account for 1.5% of the total number of transmission cases.

Status of women

In Indian society, which is shaped by paternal rights, women are still very disadvantaged despite the legal equality of the sexes (see below on women’s suffrage).

Dowry problem

Traditionally, women were given a dowry at their wedding to build their own household. Although this has been prohibited by law since 1961, such a dowry is still often demanded of the bride’s parents for purely economic reasons. In some cases, the required “dowry” exceeds the annual income of the bride’s family. Occasionally, so-called dowry killings occur when the bride’s relatives were unable to meet the high demands for marriage. This dowry problem contributes to a not inconsiderable extent to the fact that girls are usually less respected than boys or are even considered undesirable.

The practice of asking for dowry also encourages exploitative working conditions such as the Sumangali principle (child labor), as poor parents willingly give their daughters to recruiters in the hope of obtaining a dowry they have earned themselves.

Child sex ratio in India
Child sex ratio in India

Abortion of female fetuses

In India, significantly more female fetuses are aborted than males: According to the 2011 census, there were only 914 girls per 1000 boys (47.75% = 109 boys to 100 girls) – in 2001 there were 927 girls (48.11%, 108:100; each under 7 years). In 2011, there were 940 female Indians (48.45%, 106:100) for every 1000 males, compared to 933 females (48.27%, 107:100) in 2001.

Sexualized violence

According to a study by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, India was the most dangerous country for women worldwide in 2018. India ranked No. 1 among the 10 most dangerous countries (including the US and Saudi Arabia) in 3 out of 6 areas: cultural oppression and abuse of women, sexualized violence against women, and human trafficking and forced prostitution. In 2016, 40,000 rapes were reported in India.

Women’s Indices

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020, which measures gender equality in 153 countries, India ranks only 112th with a gender gap of 33.2%: women reach only two-thirds of men’s level in economic, educational, health and political participation.

In 2018, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) determined the Gender Inequality Index (GII) among 162 countries: India ranked 122nd with only 39% women with secondary education (men: 63.5%) and 23.6% labor force participation (men: 78.6%). India ranked 153rd out of 166 countries in the Gender Development Index (GDI): there was a 75.5% difference in per capita income alone ($2,625 annual income versus $10,712 for men).

Politics and the state

Indian political system

According to the 1950 constitution, India is a parliamentary democracy. India is, in terms of the number of citizens, the largest democracy in the world. The Indian Parliament is the legislative power and consists of two chambers: the lower house (Lok Sabha) and the upper house (Rajya Sabha). The lower house is elected for five years according to the principle of majority voting. Every citizen who has reached the age of 18 is entitled to vote. has reached the age of life. The upper house is the representation of the states at the national level. Its members are elected by the parliaments of the States.

The country’s political party landscape is extremely diverse (see List of political parties in India). Although many parties are limited to certain states, there is always a need to form coalitions. The National Democratic Alliance (NDA) was a coalition of 13 parties (led by the BJP) at the beginning of its term in 1998.

The President as head of state is elected for five years by a committee of representatives of the Federation and the Länder. Draupadi Murmu has held the office since 2022. The Constitution provides that states can be placed under the president’s rule if the country is deemed “ungovernable.” This has been the case in several states in the past. However, the presidency is predominantly characterized by ceremonial or representative tasks, the political power lies with the Prime Minister. Usually, the Prime Minister gives the President appropriate “advice”, which is usually followed. Most recently, after the riots in Ayodhya in 1993, Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao removed all four BJP state governments from office and placed the countries under President’s rule. The president is also the supreme commander of the armed forces.

The head of government in the states and in three out of eight Union territories is the Chief Minister, who is elected by the legislature of the respective territory.

Political indices

Political indices issued by non-governmental organizations
Name of the index Index Worldwide rank Interpretation aid Year
Fragile States Index 77 of 120 66 of 179 Stability of the country: increased warning 0 = very
sustainable / 120 = very alarming
Democracy Index 6.91 out of 10 46 of 167 Incomplete democracy
0 = authoritarian regime / 10 = full democracy
Freedom in the World Index 66 out of 100 Freedom status: partially free
0 = unfree / 100 = free
Press Freedom Ranking 41 of 100 150 of 180 Difficult situation for freedom of the press
100 = good situation / 0 = very serious situation
Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 40 out of 100 85 of 180 0 = very corrupt / 100 = very clean 2021

Administrative unit

India is divided into 28 states and eight union territories, which are divided into a total of over 600 districts. In some states, several districts are combined into divisions. Subordinate to the districts are parallel and partly overlapping the tehsils (or taluks), blocks and subdivisions. The lowest administrative level are the villages themselves, which can sometimes be grouped into so-called hoblis.

While the Union Territories are administered by the central government in New Delhi, each state has its own parliament and government. The government of a state is headed by the Chief Minister, who is formally subordinate to a governor appointed by the President of India with largely representative functions. The latter are entrusted with the affairs of government when the President’s rule is applied.

Local government is the responsibility of the municipal corporations in larger cities with several hundred thousand inhabitants, and the municipalities in smaller towns. In rural areas, the three-tier Panchayati Raj is used. This system includes elected councils (panchayats) at village and block level, but also at the district level. The responsibilities of local governments vary from state to state.

Before independence, India included both independent princely states under British supervision and British provinces ruled by British colonial administrators. After independence, the former princely states were governed by an appointed governor, but the former provinces were governed by an elected parliament and governor. In 1956, the States Reorganization Act eliminated the differences between former provinces and principalities and created unified states with an elected regional government. In the reorganization of the states, the respective mother tongue of the inhabitants was used as the basis for the demarcation of the border.

On 1 May 1960, the former state of Bombay was divided into the new ethnic states of Gujarat and Maharashtra. In 2000, three new states were created: Jharkhand from the southern parts of Bihar, Chhattisgarh from the eastern parts of Madhya Pradesh and Uttarakhand (until 2006 Uttaranchal) from the northwestern part of Uttar Pradesh. On 2 June 2014, parts of the state of Andhra Pradesh were created as the new, 29th anniversary of the formation of Pradesh. State of Telangana; its capital is Hyderabad. On 31 October 2019, the state of Jammu and Kashmir was dissolved and divided into the union territories of Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh. The union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu were merged into Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu on 28 January 2020.


India: 28 states and 8 union territories
India: 28 states and 8 union territories

The following list shows the 28 states of India, their abbreviations correspond to the ISO standard (31766-2:IN) – where the license plate deviates from it, it is attached in brackets:

  Abbreviation Federal state
1 Ap Andhra Pradesh
2 ARE Arunachal Pradesh
3 ACE Assam
4 Bro Bihar
5 CT [CG] Chhattisgarh
6 GA Goa
7 FY Gujarat
8 MR Haryana
9 Hp Himachal Pradesh
10 CENTURY Jharkhand
11 KA Karnataka
12 KL Kerala
13 MP Madhya Pradesh
14 MH Maharashtra
  Abbreviation Federal state
15 MN Manipur
16 ML Meghalaya
17 MZ Mizoram
18 Nl Nagaland
19 OR [OD] Odisha (until 2011: Orissa)
20 PB Punjab
21 RJ Rajasthan
22 SK Sikkim
23 TN Tamil Nadu
24 TG [TS] Telangana
25 Tr Tripura
26 UT [UA, UK] Uttarakhand
27 UP Uttar Pradesh
28 WB West Bengal

Union territories

  Abbreviation Union Territory
29 AT Andaman and Nicobar Islands (Islands)
30 Ch Chandigarh
31 DH [DD] Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu
32 DL Delhi (Capital Territory)
33 JK Jammu and Kashmir
34 LA Ladakh
35th AP Lakshadweep (Islands)
36 .PY Puducherry


The Gateway of India in Mumbai (2016)
The Gateway of India in Mumbai (2016)

The capital of India is New Delhi within the borders of Delhi, which is the second largest city in the country with around 11 million inhabitants and the second largest agglomeration with more than 16 million inhabitants. Delhi is the cultural hub of the Hindi-speaking community of the North. However, India’s largest city and economic center is Mumbai (Bombay). The metropolis on the west coast has more than 12.5 million inhabitants, in the agglomeration, around 18 million.

Bengaluru (Bangalore) follows in third place. The city of 8.5 million in the southern Deccan highlands is home to numerous high-tech companies, which has earned it the nickname “Silicon Valley of India”. The fourth largest city is Hyderabad, also located in southern India, with 6.8 million inhabitants, followed by Ahmedabad in western India with 5.6 million inhabitants. Chennai (Madras), the seventh largest city in India with 4.7 million inhabitants, is known as the cultural center of South India and especially the Tamils. Calcutta, the most important metropolis in the East, ranks eighth with 4.5 million people. It is considered an intellectual center.

The following list shows the 20 largest urban areas according to the 2011 census in India:

Rank City Federal state Inhabitant   Rank City Federal state Inhabitant
1 Mumbai Maharashtra 18.414.288   11 Kanpur Uttar Pradesh 2.920.067
2 Delhi Delhi (territory) 16.314.838 12 Lucknow Uttar Pradesh 2.901.474
3 Calcutta West Bengal 14.112.536 13 Nagpur Maharashtra 2.497.777
4 Chennai Tamil Nadu 8.696.010 14 Ghaziabad Uttar Pradesh 2.358.525
5 Bengaluru Karnataka 8.499.399 15 Indore Madhya Pradesh 2.167.447
6 Hyderabad Telangana 7.749.334 16 Coimbatore Tamil Nadu 2.151.466
7 Ahmedabad Gujarat 6.352.254 17 Kochi Kerala 2.117.990
8 Pune Maharashtra 5.049.968 18 Patna Bihar 2.046.652
9 Surat Gujarat 4.585.367 19 Kozhikode Kerala 2.030.519
10 Jaipur Rajasthan 3.073.350 20 Thrissur Kerala 1.854.783

Judicial system

The Karnataka High Court in Bengaluru
The Karnataka High Court in Bengaluru

The history of modern Indian law began with the founding of the British East India Company on New Year’s Eve 1600.

Women’s suffrage

In 1950, comprehensive women’s suffrage was introduced. However, the background to this goes back to the 19th century: According to reports from 1900, the participation of women in local elections in Bombay was made possible with an amendment to the Bombay Municipal Act (1888): homeowners were then allowed to vote regardless of gender.  However, there are indications that some women voted in the Bombay city council elections many years earlier.

In 1918, the National Indian Congress supported the introduction of active women’s suffrage, and the constitutional reforms of 1919 allowed provincial legislative assemblies to decide for themselves on its introduction. Madras province, in which the anti-Brahmin party had the majority, was the first to give women the right to vote in 1921; other provinces followed. Women who had the right to vote at the provincial level were also allowed to vote in elections to the Central Legislative Assembly.

In 1926, women were also granted the right to stand for election. In 1926, Sarojini Naidu became the first female president of Congress. In 1935, the Government of India Act, which came into force in 1937, further extended the right to vote for both sexes. It provided that women could vote if they fulfilled one of several conditions: land ownership, a certain level of education that included reading and writing, or the status of a wife if the man was entitled to vote.

The amendment of another provision indicated an important change in the understanding of what was meant by civil rights: some seats in provincial legislative assemblies were reserved for women; Men could not take over these mandates. These rules guaranteed that women were actually elected. The regulation also meant that women applied for seats beyond this quota and ensured that capable women could demonstrate their skills as members of parliament and ministers. In 1937, the first elections were held under these new rules. Of the 36 million eligible voters, six million were women.

By the end of 1939, all provinces had introduced women’s suffrage. Although this was a fundamental step forward, the right to vote was tied to real estate. Since many Indians did not own land, relatively few men and even fewer women were given the right to vote as a result of the 1919 reforms.

India gained independence in 1947 – until then there had been no universal suffrage for either women or men. In 1949, the Constituent Assembly drafted a new constitution. Female MEPs, who had themselves benefited from the quota system, spoke out against the continuation of this practice. The new constitution, which came into force on 26 January 1950, provided for universal voting and standing as a candidate for all adults. But in the parts of the country that became Pakistan during the partition, women had to wait for years for universal suffrage.

Checks and balances

Since India has a separation of powers, the judiciary is strictly separated from the legislative and executive branches. The country’s Supreme Court is the Supreme Court in New Delhi with 26 judges appointed by the president. It is chaired by the Chief Justice of India. Disputes between states and the central government fall within its competence. It is also the country’s highest court of appeal. Subordinate to the Supreme Court are 21 high courts of the states.

From the third legal level (district level), a distinction is made between civil and criminal courts. Civil litigation in metropolitan districts falls within the jurisdiction of the City Civil Courts, which correspond to the district courts of the rural districts. The Sessions Courts are responsible for criminal law in urban and rural districts. There are also special courts for special areas such as family and commercial law. The jurisdiction of simple disputes of the lowest level takes place in the Panchayati Rajs of the villages (Gram Panchayat ).

As a result of the British legal practice of the colonial era, common law is still widely used in India today, which is based not only on laws, but to a large extent on authoritative judgments of high courts in precedents. The court language is English, but at the lower levels it is also possible to hear the case in the respective regional official language.

A peculiarity in otherwise secular India is its legislation in family and inheritance law, which maintains its own regulations for Hindus (this also applies to Sikhs, Jains and Buddhists), for Muslims, for Christians and for Parsees.

Home affairs

During the struggle for independence, the National Congress was formed, which wanted to end the colonial rule of the English. After independence in 1947, the Congress Party became the strongest party and formed the first government under Jawaharlal Nehru. Until the mid-1990s, the Congress Party dominated the country’s politics, mostly under the leadership of the Nehru-Gandhi family, with only two brief interruptions.

Only in connection with the planned “reconstruction” of the Ram Janmabhumi temple instead of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya did the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP, Indian People’s Party, symbol: lotus blossom) succeed in finding widespread support with nationalist slogans. This culminated in the march on Ayodhya and the demolition of the mosque, which led to violent riots and assaults throughout the country, especially against Muslims, with many deaths. The polarizing and pro-Hindu policy of the BJP is dominated by the Hindu nationalist Hindutva movement, which – also with the participation of paramilitary groups, such as the National Volunteer Corps (Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, RSS for short) – aims at the Hinduization of India and, in its extreme excesses, the expulsion of the Muslim and Christian population. From 1998 to 2004, the BJP served as Prime Minister under Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

After an attack on a train carrying pilgrims in 2002, massacres began in Gujarat, which were only half-heartedly fought by the ruling BJP. These unrest have probably brought many moderate Hindus to a certain rethink, especially since the vision of a Shining India (“Radiant India”) upheld by the Indian People’s Party made large parts of the population, who did not benefit from the boom of recent years, rather skeptical about the ambitious goals.

In the 2004 parliamentary elections, the opposition Congress Party under Sonia Gandhi scored an unexpected victory. Surprisingly for her party coalition, she refused to take over the post of Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh was sworn in as Prime Minister on 22 May 2004. In the 2009 general election, the coalition of parties of the United Progressive Alliance under the leadership of the Indian National Congress was able to significantly expand its parliamentary support, so that Manmohan Singh was re-elected Prime Minister. In the 2014 election, Narendra Modi was elected Prime Minister, his Bharatiya Janata Party won 31% of the vote by a large margin.

Foreign policy

For four decades, Indian foreign policy was characterized by its involvement in the Non-Aligned Movement and the “special relationship of friendship” with the Soviet Union, which was particularly promoted by Jawaharlal Nehru. The three guiding principles of Indian non-alignment were to stay away from military alliances with American or Soviet participation, to address foreign policy challenges appropriately and fully from an Indian perspective, and to maintain friendly relations with all countries. India did not consider itself equidistant but sought leadership within the non-aligned movement until the war against China in 1962. This was expressed, for example, in the deployment of peacekeepers to the Gaza Strip in 1956 and the Congo in 1961, as well as in the condemnation of the Franco-British intervention in the Suez Crisis. It also condemned Soviet actions at the beginning of the Korean War in 1950 and 1956 as unacceptable interference.

After the end of the Cold War, India reoriented itself. The historically rather difficult relations with the USA improved; In March 2000, US President Bill Clinton visited India. The US now made greater efforts to find India as a strategic partner. With regard to the Kashmir conflict, the US now supported India’s stance more strongly. After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, India unreservedly sided with the United States.

Today, India’s foreign policy goals are characterized above all by the effort to gain a permanent seat on the UN Security Council. Here, India uses China as a benchmark and strives for a status upgrade. Due to its size and civilizational importance, India claims the same rank as China, which is represented as a recognized nuclear power with a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

India conducted two nuclear tests, the first in 1974 under Indira Gandhi, the second in May 1998 under Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Two weeks later, on May 28, Pakistan detonated a nuclear test for the first time. Neither India nor Pakistan have signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Relations between the two states have been strained by the Kashmir conflict since the end of the colonial era. A final highlight of the “ice age” between India and Pakistan was the fighting in Kargil in 1999.

A peace process began in 2004; but it stalled in 2008 after attacks in Mumbai, India, with 166 dead. India blames Pakistani Islamists for the act. The two Foreign Ministers met in 2010 and 2011.

Although the nuclear tests in May 1998 were always justified by reference to the Chinese threat (China’s attack in 1962), India’s primary aim is to improve its international status and to establish equality with China.
India is engaged in a significant conventional build-up, as are China and other Asian countries such as Pakistan.

In fact, India and China are now more on friendly terms. Increasing trade links and the mutual recognition of the status quo in Tibet by India in 2003 and Sikkim by China in 2004 have contributed to a noticeable relief of the political relationship. Nevertheless, there are still border disputes over the Chinese-occupied part of Kashmir (Aksai Chin) and most of the Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh.

There has been disagreement with Bangladesh over water distribution issues for decades. The course and traffic of the border were also controversial for a long time. Until the Indo-Bangladesh Border Treaty of 2015, there were more than 150 enclaves on both sides of the border, including a “piece of Indian land within Bangladeshi territory, which itself is completely surrounded by an Indian possession, which in turn lies within Bangladesh” (as of May 2015). The illegal immigration of many Bangladeshis to India is also considered a burden. On 6 June 2015, an agreement was signed under which Bangladesh received 111 Indian enclaves and India received 52 Bangladeshi enclaves on its territory. This established a “regulated border”. 53,000 inhabitants of the affected areas were able to decide which of the two states they wanted to belong to.

India is one of the founding members of the United Nations and a member of numerous other international organizations, including the Commonwealth, International Monetary Fund, World Bank and World Trade Organization (WTO). India is a member of the Group of Twenty most important industrialized and emerging economies and the G33. It plays a key role in the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC). In 2017, India joined the Shanghai Cooperation Organization together with Pakistan. India applied for membership in the Organization of Islamic Cooperation but was rejected due to a veto by Pakistan, even though India is the country with the third most Muslims in the world.

India’s relations with the EU are based on a comprehensive political declaration and strategic partnership action plan adopted at the EU-India Summit in the autumn of 2005 and gradually implemented since then. This is intended to formally put relations with India on a par with those with the United States, Canada, Japan, Russia and China. In the future, the aim is to exploit the potential for joint cooperation and exchange even more. This applies in particular to conflict prevention, counter-terrorism and the strengthening of human rights.


In India, education is compulsory from 6 to 14 years old, and the Indian Parliament voted unanimously in 2002 to include the right to education in the constitution. During this period, public schools are free of charge. In total, there were 315 million students in India, more than in any other country (as of the 2011 census). The school system comprises four main levels: the five-year primary school is followed by the middle school from the sixth to the eighth grade, then the secondary schools and finally the colleges and universities. In general, the state has in the past paid particular attention to the promotion of higher education institutions, which has rather reinforced the elitist character of the education system stemming from the colonial era. Nevertheless, many members of the middle and upper classes prefer private institutions to state institutions, especially when it comes to higher education.

In India, the median duration of school attendance for all persons aged 25 and over increased from 3 years in 1990 to 6.3 years in 2015. The current educational expectation is already 11.7 years. Today, almost all children – at least boys – are actually enrolled in school, but in the higher grades the number of dropouts is increasing. Especially in rural areas, many children therefore receive only an extremely rudimentary basic education. Secondary schools and higher education institutions, on the other hand, are usually only available in cities. After all, great progress has been made in literacy since independence. In 2011, the national average literacy rate was 74.0% (males: 82.1%, females: 65.5%). In 2001 it was 64.8%, in 1951 it was only 18.3%.

Since education is largely the responsibility of the federal states, it has correspondingly large regional differences. This is most evident in the very unequal illiteracy rate. While in Kerala, the state with the highest literacy rate, it was only 6.1% in 2011, it was almost six times as high in the financially poorest state of Bihar at 36.2%. Another problem is the disadvantage of girls, whose school enrolment rate is lower than that of boys (average 2000 to 2004: boys: 90%, girls: 85%).

In higher education institutions, the proportion of women is generally well below that of men. A major weakness is also the hitherto little-developed vocational school system, which, however, is growing strongly. India had 750 universities and 41,435 colleges in 2016, with a total of 28.5 million students. After the People’s Republic of China, India is the country with the most university students. According to the Times Higher Education ranking of 2019, the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore and Indian Institute of Technology Ropar make it into the top 400 institutions worldwide.

The following list shows the India-wide development of literacy from 1951 to 2011; in 1901, 5.1% of the population could read and write, a proportion that rose to 16.1% by 1941:

Literacy rates in the censuses since 1951
(1951 to 1971: persons aged ≥ 5 years, from 1981: persons aged ≥ 7 years)
Year Literacy
1951 18,33 % 21,16 % 8.86 %
1961 28,30 % 40,40 % 15,35 %
1971 34,45 % 45,96 % 21,97 %
1981* 43,57 % 56,38 % 29,76 %
1991** 52,21 % 64,13 % 39,29 %
2001 64,83 % 75,26 % 53,67 %
2011 74,04 % 82,14 % 65,46 %

* Without Assam
** Without Jammu and Kashmir

Health service

Health data (2005)
Area India Kerala
Life expectancy 64.35 years 73 years
Birth rate 22.32 per 1000 inhabitants 18 per 1000 inhabitants
Mortality 8.28 per 1000 inhabitants 6 per 1000 inhabitants
Infant mortality 56.29 per 1000 births 14 per 1000 births
Note: “Births” = live births Source: Indexmundi; Kerala: UNDP

The healthcare system is predominantly state-run, although there are also many private hospitals. Although health care in rural areas has already been significantly improved, especially through first aid stations in villages, there is still a large urban-rural divide.

In many villages, there are no medical facilities. The situation is exacerbated by poor hygienic conditions, such as a lack of access to clean drinking water and sanitation, as well as malnutrition. Similar conditions prevail in urban slums. Diseases such as malaria, filariasis, tuberculosis and cholera are still a major problem in some regions. Despite all the difficulties and obstacles, life expectancy at birth rose from 53.3 years in 1980 to 67.6 years (men: 66.2 years, women: 69.1 years) in 2015. India used to be one of the few countries in the world where men had a higher life expectancy than women. In recent years, this has been reversed. The infant mortality rate (under 5 years of age) in India was 3.7% in 2018 (24.2% in 1960).

Due to the low costs and the good quality of medical treatment in specialized hospitals, medical tourism from North American and European industrialized countries is becoming increasingly important.

The following list shows the India-wide development of life expectancy from 1950 to 2015 (source: UN-DESA):

Period Expectations (years) Period Expectations (years)
1950–1955 36,6 1985–1990 56,7
1955–1960 39,7 1990–1995 59,2
1960–1965 42,7 1995–2000 61,6
1965–1970 46,0 2000–2005 63,5
1970–1975 49,4 2005–2010 65,6
1975–1980 52,5 2010–2015 67,6
1980–1985 54,9    

COVID-19 pandemic in India

The COVID-19 pandemic led to attacks on medical personnel who were considered carriers of the disease.

Armed Forces and Defense

Main Battle Tanks of the Indian Army (T-90)
Main Battle Tanks of the Indian Army (T-90)

India’s military consists of volunteers, there is no conscription. The official armed forces are the third largest in the world. They comprise 1.3 million soldiers, of which 1.1 million serve in the army, 150,000 in the air force and 53,000 in the navy. In addition, there are 800,000 reservists and 1.1 million men in paramilitary units, which are mainly used in internal conflicts. If the latter is included, only China’s military has a larger troop strength. The Indian Armed Forces had 3,264 battle tanks, 733 fighter jets, 199 helicopters, 21 warships and 17 submarines in 2005. In 2004, India was the second largest arms buyer in the world, accounting for 10% of all arms purchases; a quarter of Russia’s total arms exports went to India. Military spending in 2016 was $55.9 billion, equivalent to 2.5% of GDP. India thus had the world’s fifth-highest military budget.

India has been an official nuclear power since 1974. It has self-developed short-range missiles as well as medium-range missiles with ranges of 700 to 8000 km. In 2012, 84 nuclear warheads were available. To date, India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but according to its nuclear doctrine, it renounces the nuclear first strike. India’s only overseas military base since 2004 has been Farkhor Air Base in Tajikistan. In addition, there is a military agreement with Mozambique, which provides for anchorage rights and supplies of Indian warships. There are also close military ties with Mauritius. The Indian Air Force controls the Mauritian airspace and there is cooperation with the Indian Navy (as of 2007).

Since independence, the Indian military has shown little interest in exerting political influence. It is subordinate to the civil administration; the military supreme command has the President.

Economy of India

India’s market shares in the commodity market
(production 2002–2004)
Raw material Percent
Cattle and buffaloes 36,0 %
Sugar 20,8 %
wheat 16,8 %
Cotton 15,7 %
Coal 9,8 %
Iron ore 7,9 %
Bauxite 7,0 %

India is a managed economy that has been increasingly deregulated and privatized since 1991. Since then, economic growth has accelerated significantly. According to many observers, the performance of the Indian economy in some sectors (information technology, pharmaceuticals) has now reached top international levels.

The growth of production in the Indian economy is hampered in particular by deficiencies in the often outdated infrastructure, especially by bottlenecks in the energy supply, which lead to frequent power outages. Despite the liberalization of the economy that began in 1991, industry and the banking sector, in particular, continue to suffer from frequent state intervention and slow political decision-making processes. Protecting inefficient state-owned enterprises from competition remains a stumbling block. Widespread corruption is also a burdening factor. In addition, labor market regulations, such as making redundancies much more difficult, continue to hamper the investment climate. Foreign investors are thus deterred. India is also losing a large number of skilled workers abroad (brain drain). On the other hand, it is the biggest beneficiary of foreign remittances from emigrants in the world. In 2016, they amounted to US$ 62.7 billion, accounting for almost 3% of economic output.

India’s integration into the global economy has intensified in recent years. The country is increasingly benefiting from the advantages of the international division of labor and globalization. However, the Indian economy is still very strongly domestically oriented. Their share of the global economy is still just under 3%, although imports and exports have grown strongly in recent years. The low shares of exports and imports in the gross domestic product still signal considerable growth potential. In 2016, exports of goods and services accounted for just over 19.2% of gross domestic product, while imports accounted for 20.6%.

India’s medium- and long-term growth prospects are often viewed very favorably. Some studies predict that India will grow even faster than China in the future. Apart from the great pent-up demand, especially in the area of infrastructure, the age structure of the population, in particular, speaks for continued strong economic growth. The high proportion of young people in the population will ensure a high proportion of people of working age in the coming decades. The “aging” of the population expected in Europe and also in China will begin much later in India. Growth will also be supported by the already large supply of skilled workers and the increasingly tight integration into the global economy.

The high foreign exchange reserves and relatively low external debt should strengthen the confidence of foreign investors in the development of the Indian economy. So far, foreign direct investment in India has been low by international standards, especially with China. Narendra Modi’s government, which is considered economically liberal, is trying to attract foreign investment with reforms and initiatives such as the Make-in-India campaign. In the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business Index, India ranked 100th out of 190 countries in 2017. India was thus able to improve by 30 places compared to the previous year and was among the top 100 countries for the first time.

Potential for conflict lies in the sometimes high level of poverty, the unequal distribution of income and the high unemployment. India had 104 billionaires in 2017, making it the fourth highest number of billionaires in the world behind the US, China and Germany, while over 20% of the population lived in extreme poverty and 96.2% of Indians had a private wealth of less than $10,000. So far, however, India has enjoyed remarkably high levels of social stability.

In the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Index, which measures a country’s competitiveness, India ranked 40th out of 137 countries in 2018. In the Heritage Foundation’s and Wall Street Journal’s Index of Economic Freedom, India ranked 130th out of 180 countries in 2018. According to Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, India ranked 79th out of 176 countries in 2016, along with Belarus, the People’s Republic of China and Brazil, with 40 out of a maximum of 100 points.

Current macroeconomic development

Development of GDP (real) and inflation (according to the World Bank)
Year GDP Inflation
2005 +9,3 % +6,1 %
2006 +9,3 % +4,2 %
2007 +8,6 % +6,4 %
2008 +3,9 % +8,3 %
2009 +8,5 % +10,9 %
2010 +10,3 % +11,9 %
2011 +6,6 % +8,8 %
2012 +5,5 % +9,3 %
2013 +6,4 % +10,9 %
2014 +7,4 % +6,6 %
2015 +8,0 % +4,9 %
2016 +8,3 % +4,9 %
2017 +6,8 % +3,9 %
2018 +6,5 % +3,3 %
2019 +3,7 % +3,7 %
2020 −6.6% +6,6 %
2021 +8,9 % +5,1 %

From 2005 to 2015, India’s gross domestic product (GDP) grew by around six to 7% annually, adjusted for inflation. Despite the significantly accelerated growth, the official unemployment rate at that time was still 9% – although a significant number of unemployed is to be expected, which are not covered by the statistics. The total number of employees is estimated at 521.9 million in 2017. A large proportion of them work in the informal sector. 24.5% of the labor force is female, which means that women still have a relatively low participation rate in the labor market.

The development of public finances also remains unsatisfactory. The general government budget deficit is between nine and 10% of gross domestic product, with a slight downward trend. About half of this is accounted for by the central government deficit.

However, the leading credit risk assessment agencies are increasingly assessing India’s creditworthiness against the backdrop of favorable macroeconomic developments. According to the rating agency Moody’s, the Fitch agency also raised its rating of Indian government borrowing to the lowest so-called investment grade at the beginning of August 2006.

In the course of India’s increasing international economic integration, the country was also affected by the global economic crisis from 2008 onwards. Steady annual economic growth collapsed. The reasons given are the young, globally active Indian capital market, high private borrowing, rising unemployment figures and falling domestic demand and export figures. To combat the crisis, government stimulus packages were launched, including infrastructure programs, tax cuts and subsidies for the export industry.

India’s economy has regained momentum in recent years. Economic growth was 7.9% in 2015. In 2016, the gross domestic product in the same period was about 2,251 billion US dollars, the nominal GDP per capita about 1,723 US dollars. Inflation fell from around 10% at times to around 5% in 2018. According to experts, India is expected to be not only the most populous country in the world by the middle of the century but also become the third largest economy in the world (after the USA and China). Nevertheless, India continues to struggle with high levels of poverty among its population. About 30% of the population currently lives below the poverty line of 1 US dollar per capita per day.


Main crops in the regions of India
Main crops in the regions of India

The worldwide change in the economic structure from agriculture to industry and the service sector is also taking place in India, which, however, is still very strongly agrarian in international comparison, for example with China. 59.4% of the population are employed in agriculture. The rural population is the poorest part of the population. So far, the population of the cities has benefited mainly from the upswing in the economy, where an affluent middle class of often highly qualified specialists has formed. This is a source of social conflict. The recall of the last government in 2004 is essentially explained by the dissatisfaction of the rural population with economic development.

However, agriculture’s share of the gross domestic product is declining sharply. While it contributed 56% in 1956, it was still around 17.4% in 2016, according to the World Bank. The dependence of annual economic growth on weather conditions is correspondingly high. Unfavorable harvesting conditions can noticeably affect it.

Since independence, great technical advances have been made, especially in the wake of the so-called “Green Revolution” since the mid-1960s. The large-scale introduction of high-yield varieties, the use of fertilizers and pesticides, the partial mechanization of agriculture and the expansion of irrigated areas have contributed to the fact that the country is now largely self-sufficient in food. Nevertheless, India’s agriculture is still comparatively inefficient. Many people are underemployed in rural areas, and large-scale industrialization of agriculture is yet to come. Only in Punjab, the “breadbasket of India”, is it already more advanced.

The most important is the cultivation of cereals, especially rice. Its main cultivation areas are in the fertile river plains of the north as well as along the coasts and in the eastern Deccan. India is the second largest rice producer in the world after China. India accounts for about one-fifth of global revenues. India also ranks second in the world for wheat, the second most important crop. Wheat is mainly grown in the northern states of Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, but also in the north and northwest of the Deccan as well as Gujarat and Bihar. In drier areas, such as Rajasthan, Gujarat and large parts of the Deccan, millet dominates. Maize and barley play a lesser role. Food production is also supported by the cultivation of legumes, potatoes, onions, oilseeds (especially peanuts, soybeans, sesame, rapeseed, coconuts), mangoes and bananas.

The main commercial crops are cotton, sugar cane, tea, tobacco, coffee, jute, cashews, spices (especially chili, pepper, cardamom, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, garlic) and betel nuts.

Indian cattle breeding is not very efficient, despite the largest cattle population in the world with 222 million animals (as of 2002). A total of 20% of Indians are vegetarians, so meat production is not always a priority, depending on the region. For this purpose, milk and dairy products are produced in large quantities.


After the successful increase in agricultural yields, the promotion of fishing began in the 1980s. Parallel to the “Green Revolution”, the term “Blue Revolution” was coined. After initially supplying small-scale fishermen with outboard engines, the construction of a modern trawl fleet began. Although this led to a significant increase in yields, it also led to overfishing of many coastal sections. India’s main fishing grounds are on the west coast, where around 70% of catch yields are generated. In 2001, India ranked seventh in the world with a catch of 3.8 million tonnes. Fish and shrimp are now exported in large quantities. Shrimp farming is particularly encouraged. About half of the shrimps now come from aquacultures, which have been established since the 1990s, mainly on the east coast.

Traditional inland fishing in rivers, ponds and lakes plays a particularly important role in eastern and northeastern India. In the vicinity of Delhi, the commercial breeding of fish, especially carp, is now also established.

Mining and mineral resources

India has abundant deposits of high-quality iron and manganese ores, coal, bauxite and chromium. The largest deposits of raw materials are located in the East Indies, especially Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh and Odisha. Iron ore, which in 2003 produced the country fourth in the world with 100 million tonnes, is also found in Goa, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. With over ten million tonnes, India is the fifth largest producer of bauxite, the most important raw material for aluminum, which is mainly mined in coastal areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra as well as in Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. For copper, India is still dependent on imports despite the increased yield.

Although India is the world’s third largest producer of hard coal, it meets part of its needs with higher quality and cheaper imported coal. Hard coal is the country’s most important energy source. The reserves of crude oil and natural gas are far from sufficient to meet the steadily increasing demand. Significant oil deposits exist only in Assam, Gujarat, in the Gulf of Khambhat and off the coast of Maharashtra. The company’s own production covers only one-third of consumption. Natural gas deposits are found in the Gulf of Khambhat and have only been exploited since the 1980s.


Development of steel production
as a key indicator for India’s industrial
Year Tons to the previous year
1995 22.0 million
1997 24.4 million +3,4 %
1999 24.3 million +3,4 %
2001 27.3 million +1,5 %
2003 31.8 million +9,4 %
2005 38.1 million +16.9%
2007 53.1 million +7,3 %
2008 55.1 million +3,7 %
2012 76.7 million +4,3 %
2018 106.5 million
2021 118.1 million  
Source: ISI For 2008:
Steel industry/Tables and graphs

During colonial rule, the development of industry – with the exception of the textile industry, which was important at an early stage – was hindered rather than promoted. After independence, therefore, the expansion of capital-intensive key industries was particularly accelerated. These included the steel, machinery and chemical industries.

The production of consumer goods was neglected and was to be covered by small industries. In order to achieve the ambitious goals, following the example of the Soviet Union, the expansion of key industries by the state was based on five-year plans. In 2001, 21.9% of the working population was employed in industry. According to the World Bank, industrial value added amounted to 28.8% of gross domestic product in 2016, making India’s industrial production one of the largest in the world. Deregulation in the energy, chemical and raw materials markets is a growth engine in the industrial sector. Growth impetus is also coming from rapidly rising domestic demand for consumer durables.

Thanks to the huge domestic demand and production for export, the textile industry is still one of India’s largest and most important economic sectors. Leather is produced and processed in large quantities, both industrially and by hand. Since Hindus regard the touching and recycling of animal carcasses as unclean work, most employees of the leather industry are Muslims or “untouchables”. Child labor is also widespread in the industry. Many employees are often exposed to hazardous working conditions, and companies have repeatedly infiltrated the statutory minimum wage in the past. Trade union activities are also suppressed.

In addition to these more traditional industries, iron and steel, machinery, motor vehicles and chemicals dominate. Among them, the state share is particularly high. However, the share of private enterprises has been increasing since the liberalization of the economy in the 1980s and especially in the early 1990s. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is one of the largest and most advanced among the developing countries. Because of the Indian patent protection legislation, to which medicines were subject only to a limited extent, there were repeated disputes with the industrialized countries, above all the United States of America.

Meanwhile, India has adapted its patent laws. An important driver of the economic upswing of recent years is the information technology sector, which can be attributed partly to the industrial and partly to the service sector. The software sector in particular has developed into an important economic sector. Many Indian cities now have “software parks”. The production of hardware is also experiencing a rapid upswing. With double-digit annual growth rates, biotechnology is also gaining in importance.

Industrial production is concentrated in a few large urban areas. The main industrial zones are the metropolitan areas of Mumbai-Pune, Ahmedabad-Vadodara-Surat, Delhi, Kanpur-Lucknow, Chennai, Calcutta-Asansol as well as Punjab and the east of Jharkhand.

The cutting-edge technology is mainly located in the south of the country: the center of the information technology industry is Bengaluru, Hyderabad has established itself as a new growth center of biotechnology, especially with the establishment of the biotechnology center Genome Valley.


Unusually high for a developing country is the contribution of services to India’s overall economic production. Around 53.8% of gross domestic product was already generated by services in 2016. India has achieved significant market positions, particularly in information technology services, other engineering services, research and development and administrative tasks. In 2005, India became the world’s leading exporter of software and IT services, and by 2007, more than a third of all computer services came from here. These services are also increasingly provided on behalf of foreign clients and are often referred to as Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) or Knowledge Process Outsourcing (KPO). Examples include call centers and healthcare services.

Foreign trade

Development of India’s foreign trade (World Bank)
Year Import of goods Export of goods
US$ Increase US$ Increase
2013 465.4 billion −8.1% 314.8 billion +7,8 %
2014 462.9 billion +0,8 % 322.7 billion +1,8 %
2015 392.9 billion −5.9% 267.4 billion −5.3%
2016 359.1 billion +2,3 % 264.9 billion +4,5 %
2017 448.4 billion   299.3 billion  
2018 510.7 billion   325.6 billion  

In relation to its economic power, India’s foreign trade links are rather low. This is largely due to the strong focus on the internal market in the decades following independence. However, since the economic opening in the early 1990s, which also resulted in the lifting of many import restrictions, foreign trade has experienced a significant upswing. Between 1991 and 2004, trade with foreign countries more than quadrupled.

India is a major exporter of raw materials and finished products, but also labor and services. Software products and software developers come from India; it has a large number of well-trained specialists. The main export goods are textiles, clothing, cut and processed gemstones, jewelry, chemicals, petroleum products, leather goods and software products. India imports mainly crude oil, electronic products, precious stones (e.g.: diamonds), machinery, precious metals, chemicals and fertilizers.

According to initial data from the Federal Statistical Office, trade between India and Germany once again grew significantly in the first seven months of 2006. Germany imported goods worth 2.4 billion euros, 30.5% more than in the same period last year, and exported goods worth 3.3 billion euros, 39.7% more than in the first seven months of 2005. By 2016, the total trade volume had risen to 17.4 billion euros, putting India in 24th place among Germany’s most important trading partners.

The following lists show the volume and trading partners of India’s foreign trade (source: Reserve Bank of India):

Imports (2016/17)   Exports (2016/17)
# Country US$ Share # Country US$ Share
1 People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong) 61.3 billion 16,0 % 1 United States 42.3 billion 15,3 %
2 United States 22.1 billion 5,8 % 2 U.A.E 31.2 billion 11,3 %
3 U.A.E 21.4 billion 5,6 % 3 Hong kong 14.1 billion 5,1 %
4 Saudi Arabia 20.0 billion 5,2 % 4 People’s Republic of China (excluding Hong Kong) 10.2 billion 3,7 %
5 Switzerland 17.2 billion 4,5 % 5 Singapore 9.6 billion 3,5 %
6 Indonesia 13.4 billion 3,5 % 6 United Kingdom 8.6 billion 3,1 %
7 South Korea 12.6 billion 3,3 % 7 Germany 7.2 billion 2,6 %
8 Iraq 11.7 billion 3,1 % 8 Bangladesh 6.7 billion 2,4 %
9 Germany 11.5 billion 3,0 % 9 France 5.4 billion 1,9 %
10 Iran 10.5 billion 2,7 % 10 Nepal 5.4 billion 1,9 %
  Other 181.0 billion 47,3 %   Other 135.8 billion 52,9 %
  India: total imports 382.7 billion 0,100.0 %   India: total exports 276.5 billion 0,100.0 %

Tourism in India

Tourism has become one of India’s most important foreign exchange-earners. In 2014, India saw a larger influx of tourists than ever before, with 7.6 million foreign visitors. Among them, however, are many foreigners of Indian origin who live mainly in North America and Great Britain and regularly pay longer visits to their relatives in India. Nevertheless, in 2014, the tourism sector generated revenues of $10.7 billion from the arrival of foreign guests. India has a total of 38 UNESCO World Heritage Sites as of July 2019, including 30 World Heritage Sites, 7 World Natural Heritage and 1 mixed cultural and natural heritage.

By far the most visited tourist attraction is the white tomb Taj Mahal in the northern Indian city of Agra. Other popular destinations are in the north the state of Rajasthan with its deserts and camels, the capital New Delhi, the former Portuguese colony Goa on the west coast and in the far south the state of Kerala with its backwaters under coconut palms. In addition to cultural, beach and nature tourism, adventure holidays such as trekking or rafting and health tourism (yoga, Ayurveda) are becoming increasingly important.


In 2016, the state budget included expenditures of the equivalent of 283.1 billion US dollars, which were offset by revenues of the equivalent of 200.1 billion US dollars. This resulted in a budget deficit of 3.6% of GDP, with a public debt of $1,177 billion, or 52.3% of GDP.

In 2014, the share of government expenditure (as a percentage of gross domestic product) was in the following areas:

  • Education: 3.8% (2012)
  • Health: 3.6%
  • Military: 2.5%

On 2 August 2016, the House of Lords decided to introduce a uniform Goods and Services Tax (GST) instead of regional tax rates in the 29 states in order to promote the seamless movement of goods. The decision still needs to be ratified by the states and should come into force in spring 2017. At the end of March 2017, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee signed the laws that would introduce a uniform value-added tax across India from 1 July 2017.



India has the third largest energy consumption in the world behind China and the US. India also had the third largest CO2 emissions in the world, which are also growing rapidly.

In 2014, 79.2% of Indian households had access to electricity (70.0% in rural areas and 98.3% in cities). However, frequent power outages continue to affect the availability of electricity.

The current energy demand of 560 kilowatt hours per inhabitant per year is one of the lowest in the world. Half of the energy is provided by coal, a quarter by oil, gas and hydropower, and one-fifth by burning livestock manure, firewood and other materials.

India ranks fourth in the world in terms of wind energy development. In February 2021, the capacity of installed wind turbines was 38.789 GW (2017: 32.8 GW; 2020: 38.625 GW, representing 5.2% of global wind power output). In the run-up to the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris in 2015, the government announced that it would expand wind energy capacity to 60 GW by 2022. Solar energy has also been significantly expanded since the early 2010s.

In the autumn of 2011, just 45 megawatts of photovoltaic capacity were installed, but due to the strong expansion, the 20 gigawatt mark was already reached in March 2018. The national target is 100 GW of installed capacity by 2022. Of these, 39.54 GW had been reached by February 2021. Overall, India had set itself the goal of expanding renewable energy to 225 GW by 2022. Of this, 46.06 GW were reached at the beginning of 2021 with large hydropower plants and 92.97 GW with other renewables.

In 2011, nuclear energy accounted for about 3.7% of the electricity supply. In August 2012, there were six nuclear power plants in India with 21 reactor units and a total installed gross capacity of 5780 MW connected to the grid. Six more reactor units with a total gross capacity of 4300 MW are under construction. Since India has not signed the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, many countries are very reluctant to participate in the construction. So far, India has agreed to cooperate with Russia, the European Union and Canada on the peaceful uses of nuclear energy (see also the list of nuclear reactors in India).

India is the third largest consumer of oil in the world and had a demand of 4.1 million barrels per day (as of 2015). India is dependent on oil imports, which are likely to rise sharply in the future due to India’s growing population and economy. The largest Indian petroleum companies are Reliance Industries and Indian Oil Corporation.



Mumbai Airport
Mumbai Airport

Due to the huge distances within India and the still underdeveloped land infrastructure in many places, air transport is playing an increasingly important role. The main hubs for domestic flights are Delhi (Indira Gandhi International Airport), Mumbai (Mumbai Airport), Kolkata (Kolkata Airport) and Chennai (Chennai Airport) as the focal points of their respective regions. Flights between India’s largest cities exist several times a day. A major difficulty is the small size and poor accessibility of increasingly congested airports. Previously, air traffic was dominated by the two state-owned airlines Air India (international flights) and Indian Airlines (domestic flights). There are now several private airlines that have already captured a 40% market share within India.

Rail transport

India’s first train ran between Mumbai and Thane on April 16, 1853. Just four decades later, the railway connected all important parts of the country. Even today, it plays an important role in the transport of goods and passengers. Almost 30% of freight and 15% of passenger transport is carried by rail. Indian Railways is divided into 16 regional companies and employs 1.6 million people, more than any other state-owned company in the country.

There are 7200 railway stations. However, the superlatives can hardly hide the partly desolate state of the railway network. The main problems are the uneven and large-scale development of the country, the most outdated technology, and for today’s standard, a low degree of electrification: only 19,000 of the total 64,000 kilometers of track length (as of 2011) are electrified. The rail network consists of 54,257 kilometers of broad-gauge tracks measuring 1676 millimeters, the remaining 10,000 kilometers are spread over three different narrow gauges.

India’s railway network is thus the second longest behind China but by no means the densest in Asia. On a global scale, India’s railway network ranks fifth. The state focuses primarily on the electrification and double-track expansion of the main lines, the conversion of meter-gauge lines into broad gauge and the modernization of technical facilities. In fact, the expansion of the railway can hardly keep pace with the increasing demands of the population and industrial growth, which contributes to the rapid development of road transport. One attempt to make rail passenger transport more attractive are the Shatabdi Express trains, which connect the three metropolises of Chennai, Mumbai and New Delhi with major cities and economic regions.

Maritime transport

Since India is cut off from its trading partners in the neighboring regions of East, South-East and Western Asia due to its geographical location, and its immediate neighbors occupy only a subordinate position in the mutual exchange of goods for economic or political reasons, foreign trade is carried out almost exclusively via seaports. India’s twelve largest ports account for around 90% of goods handled overseas. In addition, there are many medium-sized and smaller ports, but they are not suitable for large ships and container handling and are therefore almost exclusively called at by coastal vessels.

Road traffic

The most important traffic route in India today is the road. As early as the 1970s, road transport overtook rail freight and passenger transport. Today, around 70% of freight transport and as much as 85% of passenger transport is carried out by road. India’s road network covers around 3.3 million kilometers, of which only about half is paved. Most important are the National Highways, which cover over 65,000 kilometers. They connect the country’s largest cities with each other. The artery is the Grand Trunk Road, which leads from Amritsar on the Pakistani border via Delhi to Calcutta. In fact, the vast majority of National Highways are only two-lane and often in a catastrophic condition. The more than 130,000 kilometers of state highways of the federal states remain problematic, which meet very different standards and are partly only single-lane in poorer states.

In 2013, a total of 238,562 people were killed in Indian road traffic, making India, behind the People’s Republic of China, the country with the second-highest number of road deaths worldwide. For comparison: in Germany, there were 3,540 deaths in road traffic in the same year. The reasons for the high level of uncertainty are insufficient infrastructure and reckless driving.

In India, left-hand traffic prevails.


India’s Telecommunications 2005
Telephone calls 67,25 per 1000 inhabitants
Mobile phones 350,51 per 1000 inhabitants
Radios 227,69 per 1000 inhabitants
Televisions 680,07 per 1000 inhabitants
Computer 25,68 per 1000 inhabitants
Internet users 21,13 per 1000 inhabitants
CIA World Factbook: India 2005

In India, more people already have a mobile phone than a landline. In June 2006, the number of mobile phone users exceeded the 100 million mark. In 2011, 900 million mobile phones were already in circulation. Coverage was over 70% and India was the second-largest market for mobile phones in the world.

The spread of telecommunications and computers in India is still characterized by a strong urban-rural divide.

Often you can see a so-called Public Call Office (PCO) in the streets. These are public telephones that are usually operated at a small street stall. This is usually not a payphone, but a normal telephone, for the use of which is personally charged. Of the usual PCOs, only national calls (STD) are possible, which is why special international PCOs must be visited for international calls (ISD).

In 2016, 462 million or 34.8% of the population used the internet in India. This made India the country with the second most Internet users worldwide after China. In 2021, it was already 624 million or 45% of the population.

Indian Culture

Indian culture is one of the oldest and most diverse cultures on earth. It was formative for the whole of South and Southeast Asia. Faith has always played a prominent role in India, the country of origin of several religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism), and has thus also decisively shaped the culture of the country. The almost unmanageable variety of languages and peoples has also produced regional peculiarities and peculiarities. But foreign influences such as Islam or European colonial powers also left their mark. India has an enormous cultural diversity and regional or local identities, customs and cultures can differ greatly.

Various cultural scientists have dealt with the typical Indian mentality, compared self-image and external images and formulated so-called cultural standards of behavior.

Indian clothing and jewelry: Bindi, Dhoti, Kurta, Lungi, Mehndi, Salwar Kamiz, Sari


The architecture of India reflects the various cultural influences that shaped the country. In addition to palace and fortress buildings, the sacred architecture stands out.

In the earliest times, wood, clay and fired bricks were used as building materials. The oldest surviving remains of Indian architecture date back to the Indus civilization, which spread mainly in the territory of present-day Pakistan, but also in Gujarat and the Indian part of Punjab.

The oldest completely preserved structures are Buddhist stupas. Stupas are dome-shaped structures standing on a rectangular platform. Inside, as a rule, a relic is kept. In fact, the stupa developed from burial mounds, as they were already common in Vedic times. Each part of the stupa has a symbolic meaning, as a whole it represents the world mountain Meru. The most outstanding example is the Great Stupa of Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) from the 3rd century BC. Furthermore, Buddhist monasteries with prayer halls ( Chaitya Hall ) and living cells for monks ( Vihara) were built, as in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora (Maharashtra, 2nd century BC to 7th century AD). With the decline of Buddhism in India, with the exception of the Himalayan region, from the 10th century onwards, the development of Buddhist architecture came to an end. It continued in East and Southeast Asia as well as Sri Lanka and Tibet.

At the same time as Buddhist architecture, Jain architecture emerged. Jain temples are usually open to the outside to let in light. In addition, they have particularly artistic, filigree stone carvings. Among the finest examples are the temple of Ranakpur (15th century) in Rajasthan and the countless buildings of the pilgrimage city of Palitana in Gujarat. In South India, independent stylistic elements developed. Famous is the impressive monolithic statue of an ascetic in Shravanabelagola (Karnataka) from the 10th century.

Until the first centuries AD, only a few durable building materials, especially wood and clay, were used for Hindu temples. However, the first stone temples took up the style of their predecessors. Basically, every component has a symbolic meaning. All Hindu temples symbolize the cosmos, while the temple tower represents the mythological Mount Meru. Nevertheless, from the 7th century onwards, two different main styles emerged, which differ most clearly in the shape of the tower. The North Indian Nagara style is characterized by the beehive-shaped tower above the Holy of Holies, called Shikhara. In South India, the Dravida style dominates, which is characterized by a staircase-shaped tower called Vimana.

Later, the stylistically similar Gopuram (also Gopura) above the entrance gate emerged as a further feature. Outstanding architectural monuments in the Nagara style are the Mukteshvara temple in Bhubaneswar (Odisha), built in the 10th century, the Sun Temple of Konark (Odisha) from the 13th century and the temple district of Khajuraho (Madhya Pradesh) from the 10th and 11th centuries. The most famous Dravida temples are located in the Tamil cities of Thanjavur (Brihadishvara Temple, 11th century) and Madurai (Minakshi Temple, 16th to 17th centuries). In Hampi (Karnataka) numerous religious and secular buildings have been preserved. Early precursors of the Dravida style from the 7th and 8th centuries can be found in Mamallapuram (Tamil Nadu).

With the advance of Islam into northern India from the 12th century onwards, Indo-Islamic architecture emerged. Early mosques were often built in place of Hindu temples or even included parts of them. The most famous building of this period is the Minaret Qutub Minar (12th century) in Delhi. In the course of time, Islamic architecture mixed with Hindu elements to form an independent Indo-Islamic architecture, which flourished under the Mughals. The magnificent Mughal architecture has produced some of India’s most important buildings, such as the Taj Mahal in Agra (Uttar Pradesh), which Shah Jahan had built in the 17th century as a tomb for his wife, or the palaces of Fatehpur Sikri. Other Muslim states in India also built elaborate buildings, such as the Mausoleum Gol Gumbaz in Bijapur (Karnataka) from the 17th century.

The British colonial period gave new impetus to Indian architecture from the 19th century onwards. From the fusion of European, Islamic and Indian elements, the Indo-Saracenic style emerged. Examples include the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai, most of the buildings of the Indian High Courts and countless buildings in the former colonial capital Calcutta. In Goa, there are churches and monasteries from the Portuguese colonial era, the most important of which are in Velha Goa. Newer palace buildings of Indian rulers, such as the Amba Vilas in Mysuru (Karnataka), were also under European influence.

Among the modern architecture of India, the planned city of Chandigarh by the architect Le Corbusier, the campus of the Indian Institute of Management in Ahmedabad (Gujarat) and the lotus-shaped Baha’i Temple in New Delhi stand out.


Indian literature is one of the oldest in the world. However, it should be noted that at no time has there been only one “Indian” literature, but on the contrary many literature of the countless ancient and modern languages of India.

The oldest works were written in Sanskrit, Pali and Tamil. Among the most outstanding Sanskrit works are the Vedas from the 13th to 5th century BC, the Upanishads (about 700 to 500 BC) and the two great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana. They deal with mythological-religious themes of Hinduism. In addition, many other important works were created in various fields, such as religion, philosophy, statecraft and science. With the rise of Buddhism in the 5th century BC, Pali became an important literary language, which among other things produced the writings of Theravada Buddhism.

In South India, Tamil was the first to develop into a classical literary language. The oldest works were created around 2000 years ago. Sangam literature dates back to the heyday of early Tamil. In addition to heroic works about kings and wars, it contains above all love poetry. Later, Kannada, Telugu and Malayalam emerged as important written languages.

In the Middle Ages, a new intellectual movement emerged with Islam, which exerted a great influence on the literature of India. Sanskrit lost more and more importance. From him or the Middle Indian Prakrit languages emerged new languages such as Hindustani, Bengali, Punjabi and Marathi, all of which developed their own literary tradition. Religious poems of Hinduism were now written in the regional languages that could also be understood by the people and were increasingly devoted to bhakti, the devotional worship of God. Outstanding representatives of this new literature include Tulsidas, Kabir and Mirabai in Hindi, Dnyaneshwar in Marathi or Narasinh Mehta in Gujarati.

Noteworthy is the fusion of Islamic-Persian and Indian elements in Urdu poetry. Some of the most beautiful love poems were written in this language, which eventually became the court language of the Mughals and flourished from the 17th century onwards. The ghazels of the poet Mirza Ghalib and the works of Muhammad Iqbal, who is revered today mainly in Pakistan, achieved the highest fame.

In the 19th century, Western influence on Indian literature intensified. Under these circumstances, Bengali literature in particular experienced an upswing. Its best-known representative is certainly Rabindranath Tagore, who is now revered as the national poet and so far is the only Indian to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature. Two of his poems later became the national anthems of India and Bangladesh. Since the early 20th century, many Indian writers have also used English for their works.

Contemporary literature in India not only encompasses all the major written languages of the country but also covers a wide range of topics. Famous modern authors include Salman Rushdie, Arundhati Roy, R. K. Narayan, Mulk Raj Anand, Rohinton Mistry, Ruskin Bond, Amrita Pritam, Mahasweta Devi, Vikram Seth, Amitav Ghosh, Anita Desai and Dom Moraes.


Indian classical music is divided into two main directions: Hindustani and Carnatic music. Hindustani music originates from northern India and is strongly influenced by the Persian cultural area. Carnatic music is the predominant classical style of South India. However, both are based on raga and tala as essential concepts. The raga represents the basic melodic structure. Each raga is based on a certain tone sequence that conveys a mood of feeling. It is played to a certain tala, a kind of beat system, which indicates the rhythm of the piece of music. Typical instruments include stringed instruments such as sitar, vina, sarod, tanpura and sarangi, as well as wind instruments (flute, shehnai). Rhythm instruments include the tabla or – in South India – the mridangam. The sitar player and composer Ravi Shankar is considered the most famous interpreter of Indian classical music.

In addition to classical music, India has rich folk music traditions in different parts of the country. Well-known are the Bhangra music from Punjab or the Bengali Baul musicians. Today, traditional folk music is more confined to rural areas.

On the other hand, Indian pop music enjoys the greatest popularity among the entire population, which has characteristics of Western, folk and classical Indian music. Catchy tunes from popular movies are particularly popular. Among the most successful and well-known singers of Indian film music are Lata Mangeshkar, Kishore Kumar, Mohammed Rafi, Manna Dey and Asha Bhosle.


In Hinduism, dances have always played an important role, on the one hand as a danced version of the prayer, on the other hand to depict mythological themes. So it is not surprising that an enormous variety of classical dances, most of which bear traits of drama, has developed in India. Dance is one of the most highly developed art forms in India. Often even the smallest movements and facial expressions have a symbolic meaning. Classical dances are usually based on literary foundations.

Among the classical styles, the Bharatanatyam stands out, a Tamil dance in origin, but today appreciated throughout India. Similar to him is the Kuchipudi dance originating from Andhra Pradesh, but it has more acting components. One of the most expressive forms of dance theatre originated in Kerala with the Kathakali practiced by men. Mohiniyattam, a women’s single dance, also comes from Kerala. Odissi is the classical temple dance of Odisha. The North Indian Kathak was also originally a temple dance, but it was exposed to Islamic influences under the Mughal rulers and developed into a courtly dance. The Manipuri from the northeastern Indian Manipur, on the other hand, has influences from the Burmese cultural area and regional peculiarities. It is performed in a group.

In addition, there is a variety of regional folk dances in India. These are presented on a wide variety of occasions, such as weddings, regional festivals, at the harvest or at the beginning of the monsoon. Very well-known are the Bhangra from Punjab and the Garba from Gujarat.


Although sculpture has long been considered the higher art form in India, there was a highly developed tradition of painting early on. Apart from prehistoric paintings and ornate ceramics from the Indus civilization, the earliest examples date back to the Gupta period. The Buddhist rock paintings in the caves of Ajanta are considered masterpieces of this era. Later works in Ajanta as well as Hindu, Jain and Buddhist depictions in the caves of Ellora continued the Gupta style.

Raga Shri. Ragamala in the Deccan style, around 1595 (India)
Raga Shri. Ragamala in Deccan style, around 1595 (India)

With the appearance of Islam from the 12th century onwards, painting gradually gained importance as courtly art in the Persian tradition. It reached the peak of its development with the Mughal style of the 16th to 18th centuries. Miniature painting, in particular, flourished. Almost exclusively secular things were depicted, so portraits of important personalities of the empire as well as depictions of court life and important historical events predominate. Miniature painting also flourished in other Islamic parts of India. Thus, an independent style developed at the courts of the Deccan sultanates.

The Mughal style also influenced the emergence of Rajput painting at the courts of the many princely states of Rajasthan. However, this was mainly devoted to Hindu themes, such as the illustration of the great Hindu epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Puranas and literature with a historical author. Particularly popular were depictions from the life of Krishna. Due to the large number of Rajput princely courts, various painting schools emerged. Although each school developed its own peculiarities, they all have in common the large-scale drawing and the bright colors. Figures were often depicted without shadows. The music-inspired miniatures called Ragamala formed a thematically separate genre.

In the western Himalayas, Pahari painting flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries. It is also dominated by Hindu motives. Characteristics are landscapes with only a few figures.

Western influences during the British colonial period brought revolutionary changes. Towards the end of the 19th century, traditional Indian painting was in decline. Instead, painters such as Raja Ravi Varma tried to imitate European styles, especially realism. It was only after the turn of the century that traditional stylistic elements found their way back into the works of Indian artists, including the Bengali School around Abanindranath Tagore.

Modern painting in India takes up Western art movements, but also continues and develops Indian traditions. The most famous modern artist is Maqbul Fida Husain.

In addition, there has always been a strong tradition of folk painting in India. In the countryside, houses are often lavishly painted. Particularly well-known is the Madhubani painting from Bihar. Increasingly, the art of the Indian tribal population is also recognized.


Cinema is undoubtedly one of the most important components of India’s modern everyday culture. With more than 1000 productions annually, the Indian film industry is the largest in the world. The cultural, especially linguistic, diversity is therefore also reflected in this genre. Thus, each of the major regional languages has its own film industry. Hindi film produces the most productions. It is produced in Mumbai and is known as “Bollywood” for its commercial cinema. Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh Bachchan and Rani Mukerji are popular and famous Bollywood actors. Bengali, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Malayalam cinema are also very popular and have great mass appeal.

The most important features of the entertainment films are similar in all regional productions. The films, which are often more than three hours long, contain many music and dance scenes, without which no commercial film would be complete. Sometimes the film music is released in advance. If it is a success, the film will most likely become a box-office hit. The actors are expected to be able to dance, while the vocal interludes are done by professional singers. Also striking is the mixture of funny, romantic, dramatic and action elements.

In addition, auteur cinema also receives a lot of recognition. Internationally known are the two Bengali directors Satyajit Ray and Mrinal Sen.


Many of the sports practiced in India originated in England and spread during British colonial rule.

The second most popular sport is hockey, which is considered the national sport of India and is also the most successful Olympic sport for India: The Indian men’s national field hockey team has won eight gold, one silver and two bronze medals at the Summer Olympics. India won the 1975 Men’s Field Hockey World Championship and finished second in the 1973 Men’s Field Hockey World Championship. India has also hosted this tournament four times: in 1982, 2010, 2018 and 2023.

Cricket, which originated in England, is by far the most popular sport. The Indian national cricket team has won the Cricket World Cup twice: in 1983 and 2011, and finished second in the 2003 Cricket World Cup. The Cricket World Cups in 1987, 1996 and 2011 were held in India, among others, and the Cricket World Cup 2023 will be hosted in India again. The national team also won the ICC World Twenty20 2007 in South Africa, shared the ICC Champions Trophy with Sri Lanka in 2002 and won the ICC Champions Trophy in 2013, as well as the Asia Cups in 1984, 1988, 1990, 1995, 2010, 2016 and 2018.

The Indian Premier League (IPL) is considered the most popular cricket league worldwide and attracts spectators mainly from the Indian subcontinent, but also from South Africa, the British Isles and the Caribbean. However, due to the time difference between Australia and New Zealand and the nightly transmission, the IPL receives little attention there. In November 2021, India was named to host the 2026 T20 World Cup (with Sri Lanka), the 2029 Champions Trophy and the 2031 Cricket World Cup (with Bangladesh).

In some parts of the country such as Goa, Kerala or West Bengal, football is also very popular.

Narain Karthikeyan from Chennai was India’s first Formula 1 driver. From 2011 to 2013, the Indian Grand Prix was held at the Buddh International Circuit; Sebastian Vettel won all three races. As early as 2007, Force India created its own Indian Formula 1 team.

India has produced some of the best chess players in the world, including former world chess champion Viswanathan Anand. Rohan Bopanna is one of India’s most famous and successful tennis players.

At the Olympic Games, Indian athletes won a total of 28 medals. India was undisputedly dominant with its national hockey team from 1928 to 1964; in these 8 games, they won 7 gold and one silver. Abhinav Bindra was the only individual athlete to win another gold medal for the country. Norman Pritchard, Khashaba Jadhav, Leander Paes, Karnam Malleswari, Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Sushil Kumar and Vijender Kumar also won medals (3x silver, 5x bronze) for India.

In 2010, the Commonwealth Games were held in New Delhi. The 1951 and 1982 South Asian Games were also held in India.


The postures (asanas) of the approximately 2000-year-old yoga are the most well-known part of yoga in the West (cf. Hatha Yoga). Autogenic training and other related types of exercise are derived from it. Yoga prepares meditation and complements religions, although it itself is not. An example: The sun salutation (also sun prayer), is a dynamic sequence of movements, which also corresponds to the symbolic Indian sun worship (Surya). Asanas and Ayurveda are a part of ancient Indian practices that include holistic health and spiritual experience far more than Western ones.


Indian cuisine reflects both the regional diversity and the different historical and religious imprints of the country. There can therefore be no question of a uniform culinary culture. Rather, ingredients and eating habits differ similarly from each other as in Europe. In general, meat is less important than in Western cuisines. The most consumed type of meat is chicken. Meat dishes are still most popular with Muslims, who do not eat pork, while some Hindus live completely vegetarian. Most of them – as well as the Sikhs – strictly reject beef. Jains are even strictly forbidden to eat any animal food. As frying fats, vegetable oils are far more common than animal fats.

In addition to rice, various types of white bread (roti) serve as staple foods in North and West India, the most common variant of which is chapati, an unleavened flatbread made from wholemeal wheat flour. In contrast, naan bread, which is widespread in the northwest, is baked with yeast. In South and East India, rice is the most important food par excellence. As side dishes, legumes such as lentils, chickpeas, peas, urd beans and mung beans are common.

The word “curry”, known in the Western world as a spice mixture and regarded as a symbol of Indian cuisine, is a term in India for the preparation of a variety of vegetarian or meaty dishes in an often spicy sauce. In fact, the spice mixtures called masala are indispensable in Indian cuisine, but their recipe and use varies considerably depending on the region. Curries are often served with spiced sweet and sour chutneys made from vegetables and fruit. Dairy products, such as ghee (clarified butter) and yogurt, are also common ingredients of many foods and sauces.

Popular drinks include coffee, tea, masala chai (milk tea with spices), fruit juices and milk-based drinks such as lassi (a yogurt drink). Alcoholic beverages are rejected by many Indians for religious reasons. In some states, alcohol is generally not available.

Holidays and Festivals in India

National holidays are Republic Day on 26 January, the day the constitution came into force in 1950, and Independence Day on 15 August, which commemorates the end of British colonial rule in 1947. However, the latter is not celebrated as lavishly as Republic Day, when a large parade takes place in Delhi, which is accepted by the president. The birthday of the leader of the independence movement Mohandas Karamchand (“Mahatma”) Gandhi on October 2 (Gandhi Jayanti) as well as several religious festivals are national public holidays.

Religious holidays are extremely important in India. Among the most important Hindu celebrations are the Diwali Festival of Lights, Dashahara (the day of Rama’s victory over the demon Ravana), the spring festivals Holi and Vasant Panchami, Ganesh Chaturthi in honor of Ganesha, Raksha Bandhan (festival of the “protective connection” between siblings) and many other pujas in honor of individual deities. Muslims celebrate the Feast of Sacrifice (Id al-Adha) at the climax of the pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca and Id al-Fitr at the end of the fasting month of Ramadan. The most important holiday of the Sikhs, Buddhists and Jains is the birthday of their respective founder of faith (Nanak Dev or Buddha or Mahavira). Christians celebrate Easter and Christmas in particular.

In addition, there is an unmanageable number of regional festivals. During the harvest season, harvest festivals such as Tamil Pongal, Lohri in Punjab or Onam in Kerala (around Kochi) are celebrated in rural areas, while people in other parts of the country celebrate Makar Sankranti on the same day. The Onam festival was initially religious in nature, but nowadays the focus is on the culture and tradition of Kerala. From late February to early March, a seven-day dance festival takes place against the backdrop of the Khajuraho Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Media in India

According to the 1950 constitution, freedom of expression and freedom of the press apply in India, even if these are restricted in crisis areas such as Kashmir and parts of northeast India. Due to its pluralistic society, however, India has an extremely diverse media landscape.

In the 2017 press freedom rankings published by Reporters Without Borders, India ranked 130th out of 180 countries, outperforming its neighbors Pakistan (139) and Bangladesh (146). In 2017, four journalists were killed in India. According to the Reporters Without Borders report, the deaths of the victims are directly linked to their journalistic activities.

Printed media

India’s first newspaper, the English-language Bengal Gazette, appeared in Calcutta in 1780. Today, India has an extremely diverse press landscape. The Indian press is considered critical, and the range of topics is extraordinarily wide. About 55,000 newspapers and magazines are published in the country – more than in any other country in the world – with a total circulation of over 140 million. Among them are more than 5000 daily newspapers. Most print media is located in Hindi, which accounts for 45% of the total press market. English-language newspapers have a share of 17%. The rest are spread over 100 languages and dialects.

The main news and press agencies are the Press Trust of India (PTI) and the United News of India (UNI).

The following list shows the 10 most widely read daily newspapers in India in 2013, according to the Indian Readership Survey (IRS) – the largest English-language newspaper is The Times of India with over 7 million readers (compare the list of Indian newspapers):

  Daily Language Reader
1 Dainik Jagran Hindi 15.527 million
2 Hindustan Hindi 14.246 million
3 Dainik Bhaskar Hindi 12.857 million
4 Malayala Manorama Malayalam 8.565 million
5 Daily Thanthi Tamil 8.156 million
6 Rajasthan Patrika Hindi 7.665 million
7 The Times of India English 7.254 million
8 Amar Ujala Hindi 7.071 million
9 Mathrubhumi Malayalam 6.136 million
10 Lokmat Marathi 5.601 million
The Hindustan Times English 4.335 million
The Hindu English 1.473 million
Mumbai Mirror English 1.084 million
  Magazine Language Reader
1 Vanitha Malayalam 2.762 million
2 India Today English 1.532 million
3 Pratiyogita Darpan Hindi 1.457 million
4 Saras Salil, Women’s Magazine Hindi 1.174 million
5 India Today (Hindi) Hindi 1.151 million
6 Samanya Gyan Darpan Hindi 1.094 million
7 Manorama Thozil Veedhi Malayalam 1.012 million


Until the early 1990s, radio was the dominant electronic medium. With almost 200 million listeners, however, it now reaches only half as many people as television. The monopoly position of the state-owned All India Radio, which broadcasts in 24 languages and can be received throughout the country, has long since been broken by the increasing number of private FM stations. In the big cities, private radio stations have already overtaken state radio.


Television was first introduced in the Delhi area on 15 September 1959. However, a regular program has only existed since 1965. On the occasion of the Asian Games in New Delhi in 1982, color television was introduced. In the same year, the broadcasting of television programs via satellite began.

Initially, television was reserved for a small, wealthy minority, but experienced rapid viewership growth in the 1980s and is now by far the most popular mass medium in India. The state television Doordarshan, which held a monopoly position until 1991, is now opposed by numerous private satellite and cable channels. The latter find their audience mainly among the younger urban population. In the meantime, about half of the approximately 100 million television households have a cable connection. The most watched private channels are STAR Plus, Sony Entertainment Television, Sab TV, India TV, Colors TV and Zee TV.


The Internet is widely used among India’s middle and upper classes. In 2016, 34% of the population had access to the internet. However, the number of users is increasing rapidly, not least thanks to the Internet cafés that are becoming increasingly widespread. The larger Indian daily newspapers are present on the Internet with an online version. The number of social media users is 153 million and is still quite small compared to the size of the population, but with a very high growth rate of over 45% compared to the previous year, and the number of users is rising continuously.

Publishing and the book market

Every year, 12,000 publishers publish around 90,000 titles in over 18 languages. India is the third largest market for English-language publications, benefiting greatly from the removal of an investment-restrictive law. Increasingly, publishing mainly from the manufacturing, English and online departments is being relocated from developed countries to India (according to ValueNotes with a turnover of INR 122 billion), especially in the field of scientific, technical and medical literature.

Two of the world’s largest book fairs are held annually in India, the Kolkata Book Fair in Kolkata and the New Delhi World Book Fair in New Delhi.

References (sources)