OFFICIAL NAME: Republic of India, Bharat
FORM OF GOVERNMENT: Federal republic
CAPITAL: New Delhi
OFFICIAL LANGUAGES: Hindi, English, 21 others
AREA: 1,269,345 square miles (3,287,590 square kilometers)
MAJOR MOUNTAIN RANGE: Himalaya
MAJOR RIVERS: Ganges, Yamuna, Indus, Brahmaputra
India’s form of government is a democracy – it is the world’s largest democracy. India’s parliamentary government was inherited from the British. After they became independent in 1947, one party, the Congress Party, and one family, the Nehru family, dominated politics in India for decades. Now, however, many parties compete for elected positions.
India is a land of festivals! One of the main festivals is Diwali (the Festival of Lights) and it takes place around the end of October and signals the start of the new year in the Indian calendar. Everyone lights lamps in their homes during Diwali. Holi, the Festival of colors, is another famous festival of India. People gather in open areas and apply dry and wet colors of multiple hues to each other, with some carrying water guns and colored water filled balloons.
People and Culture
Society throughout India is divided into social ranks, called castes. Caste is determined by birth and there is almost no way to change it. High castes include priests, landowners, and soldiers. So-called Untouchables have no caste and do the most menial jobs.
India is a very spiritual country. It has no official religion, but more than 80 percent of Indians are Hindu.
When Indian people greet each other, they place their hands together and say “Namaste”, which means, “I bow to the divine in you.” Older people are treated with great respect in India.
Watching movies is a popular pastime in India. Bombay is the center of India’s film industry. Ever heard of Bollywood? Well it’s the Indian alternative to Hollywood, and some amazing movies have been produced here.
The most popular sport in India is cricket, with the Indian team being the first to win the Cricket World Cup on home soil in 2011. Soccer and field hockey are also very popular. India is one of the most successful countries when it comes to men’s field hockey.
What Indians eat varies by region and religion but all use fabulous herbs and spices. Most are vegetarians and eat several small meals a day. Many families begin the day at dawn with prayers and chai tea. A few hours later, they will have a light breakfast. Lunch usually includes one or two cooked vegetable dishes, rice and chapati (a flat-bread). Around 5pm, they have an afternoon tea and a snack (maybe something from a street stall that sells spicy snacks). Dinner traditionally is served quite late and includes two or three vegetable dishes along with rice and chapati.