A. The Country

India is located in Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan. Its surface is 3.287.590km2, of which 2.973.190 km2 are land and 314.400 km2 are water. 56% of the land are arable, 1% are permanent crops, 4% are permanent pastures and 23% are forests and woodlands. The highest point of India is the mountain Kanchenjunga (27°N, 88°E), which is 8.598m high. Common natural hazards are droughts, flash floods, severe thunderstorms and earthquakes.

B. The People

India has 1.029.991.145 inhabitants, this represents 16% of the world's population. 33,12% of these are at the age of 0-14 years, 62,2% are at the age of 15-64 years and 4,68% are at the age of 65 and over. 81,3% of the people are Hindu, 12% are Muslim, 2,3% are Christian, 1,9% are Sikh, 2,5% have another religion. Life expectancy is at about 62,22 years for men and 63,53 years for women. There are several different ethnic groups: the Indo-Aryan (72%), Dravidian (25%) and Mongoloid and others (3%). There are many different languages spoken in India, the national language and primary tongue of 30% of the people is Hindi. English is the most important language for national, political and commercial communication. Other languages, each spoken by a million or more persons, are Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Oriya, Punjabi, Assamese, Kashmiri, Sindhi, Sanskrit and Hindustani, a popular variant of Hindi/Urdu, spoken in northern India.

C. The origins of India

Scientists are dependent on archaeological discoveries about the social, cultural and political events of India's early times, as there aren't any written recordings. It's supposed that the inhabitants of the subcontinent during the stone age were assimilated by Dravidian tribes coming from the west. The culture built up by the Dravidians is supposed to correspond to the Mesopotamian or Egyptian culture or even surpass it.

In the middle of the third millennium BC, there was a series of Indo-European invasions into the Dravidian India. The origin of these tribes is unknown, they are usually called Indo-Aryan tribes. Most Dravidians fled to the north and the centre of the Indian peninsula, where the Dravidian language is still used. The Indo-Aryan eventually absorbed the remaining tribes and their culture.

The political history of the centuries after the conquests is mainly unknown.

The Veda, a collection of holy writings of 1200 BC contains information about society, religion and culture. According to the Veda, the combined Indo-Aryan and Dravidian culture was quite remarkable. Their tribal councils were put together according to democratic principles, the women's social position was higher than the men's social position, marriage was regarded as holy. The Indo-Aryan had good knowledge about cattle breeding, metalwork and building ships. About the political situation of that time is only known that 16 autonomous states had been founded.

D. Food and drink

Food and drink differ from culture and region. In the south, rice is the main foodstuff, but in the north, the main foodstuff is "roti" (white bread). The dishes are often strongly spiced. Several types of curries with eggs, fish, meat or vegetables are very popular. Many people only eat vegetarian food for religious reasons. Hindu consider cows as holy. They eat no beef, like the Sikh. Orthodox Muslims generally renounce pork and alcohol.

E. The Music

Indian music is divided into two fields, the north Indian Hindustani and the south Indian Karnatak. Both are based on the combination of melodic tones, the Ragas, and repeating rhythmic cycles, the Talas. This music can be sung or played, either as a solo concert or as accompaniment for theatre and dance.

p Interpretion of the Bharata Natya, one of

India's oldest dances.

F. The Climate

The Indian climate, which is mainly tropical and subtropical, is characterized by the monsoon. There are four different seasons: a cool premonsoon time from January to march, a hot premonsoon time from April to May, the rain time during the summer monsoon from June to September and an after monsoon time from October to December. Temperate climate can only be found in the Himalaya region. In the hot premonsoon time, temperatures are from 30°C to 35°C in May. Near Calcutta, the average annual temperature is 26°C. On the west coast the average annual temperature is 28°C and in Madras, on the east coast it is 29°C. In the northeast the annual rainfall is at about 10.000mm. On the south slopes of the Himalaya it is at about 1.500mm.

p Average annual rainfall (in mm)

p Average temperatures in January (in °C)

G. Pictures

p The Taj Mahal is one of the most famous buildings in the world. It was built by Shah

Jahan to commemorate his favourite woman Arjumand Banu Bagam, who died

during the birth of their child.

p In the Hindu mythology, rivers are holy. The holiest of all rivers is the Ganges, that

flows through the northeast of India. Priests and millions of people go on long

pilgrimages to the Ganges, where they purify their souls and bodies.

p Women gathering tea leaves on a tea plantation in east India.

p Missing hygiene is one of the main reasons for the

spreading of tropical diseases. This picture shows

gloves that were cleaned with water, now hanging in the

sun to dry, in front of an Indian hospital.

H. Sources

Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia 2001 Plus

Microsoft Encarta World Atlas 2001*

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