Geography and Climate

The ancient land of India is located in Southeast Asia. Covering 1,229,919 square miles, it is approximately one-third the size of the United States.

India is a land of environmental extremes. To the north lie the snow-capped Himalayas. Tropical coasts, hills, and brushy regions dot the main peninsula in the south. The geography of central India includes a desert in the northwest, as well as the fertile Ganges plain flowing eastward.

The country's climate varies as dramatically as its topography. Most of the time the Himalayan area is bitterly cold, while the tropical coasts have humid, rainy weather. Temperatures in the region between are more moderate. This area has three distinct seasons: hot, cool, and rainy. The northeastern hills receive 400 inches of rain per year. In the desert, the annual rainfall is only five inches.

Population

Sixteen percent of the world's population lives in India—more than 1 billion people. Approximately 28 percent of India's citizens reside in its cities. More than 36 million people are crowded into three cities: New Delhi, the capital, 9,252,000; Bombay, 13,545,000; and Calcutta, 13,413,000.

India has 17 officially recognized languages. Hundreds of dialects are spoken throughout the nation.

History

India has been inhabited for at least 3,500 years. Throughout its long history India has been invaded many times.

In the 15th and 16th centuries India began trading with European merchants. The British East India Company was one of the most notable firms doing business with India. Great Britain gradually began to play a dominant role in India. Finally, Britain gained control of the country in 1858.

Early in the 20th century Mahatma Handy led India's successful, non-violent struggle for independence. India became an independent nation in 1950.

Current Conditions

Political tension and confrontation have plagued the country since it gained independence from Great Britain.

A high birth rate, low literacy rate (52 percent), prejudice, and resistance to change continue to impede progress. Market reforms and liberalization are being instituted to stimulate the economy, but more than 600 million people still live in poverty. Additionally, the growth in population may outstrip food production by the year 2000.

Although law forbids caste discrimination, it is socially important for more than 80 percent of the population.

Hinduism, Animism, and Islam are India's major religions. Strife between these groups often leads to open conflict.

Approximately 1.9 percent of the population is Protestant. In Bihar and West Bengal provinces, where Free Will Baptists work, less than nine-tenths of one percent of the population professes Christianity.

Several unsuccessful attempts have been made to pass an anti-conversion law. At this time, the government guarantees religious liberty.

Statistics gathered from The World Factbook and Joshua Project.