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Country, South Asia. It fronts the Bay of Bengal
on the southeast and the Arabian Sea
on the southwest. Area: 1,222,559 sq mi (3,166,414 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 1,198,003,000. Capital: New Delhi
. The peoples of India comprise widely varying mixtures of ethnic strains drawn from peoples settled in the subcontinent before the dawn of history or from invaders. Languages: Hindi, English (both official), and other Indo-European languages, including Bengali, Kashmiri, Marathi, and Urdu; Dravidian languages
; hundreds from several other language families. Religions: Hinduism; also Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism. Currency: rupee. India has three major geographic regions: the Himalayas
, along its northern border; the Indo-Gangetic Plain
, formed by the alluvial deposits of three great river systems, including the Ganges
(Ganga); and the southern region, noted for the Deccan
plateau. Agricultural products include rice, wheat, cotton, sugarcane, coconut, spices, jute, tobacco, tea, coffee, and rubber. The manufacturing sector is highly diversified and includes both heavy and high-technology industries. India is a multiparty federal republic with two legislative houses; its head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. India has been inhabited for thousands of years. Agriculture in India dates to the 7th millennium BCE, and an urban civilization, that of the Indus
valley, was established by 2600 BCE. Buddhism
arose in the 6th century BCE in reaction to the caste-based society created by the Vedic religion
and its successor, Hinduism. The first Muslim contact with the subcontinent was in the 8th century CE. Muslim invasions began after c.
1000, establishing the long-lived Delhi sultanate
in 1206 and the Mughal dynasty
in 1526. Vasco da Gama
's voyage to India in 1498 initiated several centuries of commercial rivalry between the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French. British conquests in the 18th and 19th centuries led to the rule of the British East India Co.
, and direct administration by the British Empire
began in 1858. After Mohandas K. Gandhi
helped end British rule in 1947, Jawaharlal Nehru
became India's first prime minister, and Nehru, his daughter Indira Gandhi
, and his grandson Rajiv Gandhi
retained that office for all but a few years during more than three succeeding decades. The subcontinent was partitioned into two countriesIndia, with a Hindu majority, and Pakistan
, with a Muslim majorityin 1947. A later clash with Pakistan resulted in the creation of Bangladesh
in 1971. In the 1980s and '90s Sikhs sought to establish an independent state in Punjab
, and ethnic and religious conflicts took place in other parts of the country as well. In 2004 Manmohan Singh, a Sikh, became the country's first non-Hindu prime minister. The Kashmir
region in the northwest has been a source of constant tension.