Inspiring India

India is one of the world's largest countries. The Himalayan mountain range forms the country's northern boundary. The Arabian Sea is to the west, and the Bay of Bengal is to the east. The distance from Cape Comorin, India's southernmost tip, to the country's northernmost border is 3,200 kilometres (2,000 miles). India is home to some of Asia's largest rivers. The Ganges emerges from an icy cave 4,000 metres (13,000 feet) above sea level in the Himalayas as a small trickle. It is already a large river by the time it reaches the plain below (the plain that separates the Himalayan chain from the Deccan Plateau, which covers the majority of central and southern India). It flows through Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, collecting the waters of other large rivers such as the Gagra, the Sarda, the Gandak, the Sone, and the Kosi. The Ganges, like the other Himalayan rivers, transports large amounts of sand, gravel, and silt, which it deposits on its bed, raising the water level above that of the surrounding countryside. Flooding is unavoidable in times of heavy rain, and people live in constant fear of the water destroying their property during the monsoon season (June to September). 

The Ganges begins to split into several branches as it approaches the sea, some of which cross into Bangladesh before reaching the coast at the Ganges' mouths. Calcutta, the capital of West Bengal, is located on one of these branches and serves as a major trade hub in the fertile Ganges plain. The Ganges is 2,494 kilometres (1,550 miles) long in total. The rivers that originate in the Himalayas are very different from those that originate on the Deccan Plateau. They are merely trickles in stone or sand beds for the majority of the year. Only during the monsoon's four months do they truly deserve to be called rivers. There is no fear of flooding because their beds are usually deep enough to carry the monsoon rains. This limited and valuable supply of water must be used carefully to ensure that it lasts the entire year. 

Terraced gardens in Kashmir
Terraced gardens in Kashmir, a fertile, mountainous region in the north of India.
Dams have been constructed across these rivers to store water, and canals have been constructed to transport the water from the reservoirs to the fields. The Sindhu, or Indus, is another great river that originates in Tibet. It flows through Pakistan for the majority of its length. The Sindhu River gave rise to the words 'Ind' and 'Hind,' which were used to refer to 'the land beyond the Indus.' We get the words "India" and "Hindu" from these words. The Dravidians, India's first inhabitants, were a primitive people whose religion was based on nature god worship. Around 2,000 BC, the Arians, a tall, fair people from the north, invaded India and imposed their way of life on the Dravidians. The Arians' religion, which is described in an ancient book known as the Rig-Veda, was mingled with the Dravidians' religion as a result of this. We call the end result, which is part religion and part social system, Hinduism. It is a very tolerant religion, respecting faiths other than Hinduism and never seeking converts. Hinduism can mean different things to different people because it encompasses the worship of a variety of gods as well as a variety of religious beliefs.

Appreciation of beauty, as well as respect and regard for women, are important aspects of Hinduism, according to Hindus. Hinduism divided people into superior and inferior groups known as 'castes' as a social system. Priests (Brahmins), soldiers, merchants, and labourers or artisans were listed in order of precedence. The 'untouchables', or pariahs, are at the very bottom. This caste system has recently undergone significant changes. Discrimination on the basis of race, religion, creed, or sex is prohibited by the Indian Constitution, the untouchable caste has been abolished, and discrimination on these grounds has been made a criminal offence. In the fifth century BC, the Hindu religion had become overly formalised and ritualistic, prompting the development of Buddhism as a reaction. The Buddha, Prince Siddharta Gautama, was the son of a king in north-east India who left his palace to become a hermit and learn why the world was so sad. He rejected ritual and ceremony, and superstition had no place in his faith. He advised his followers to accept that the world would always be a sad place and to learn to forget about themselves through meditation and self-discipline. Renouncing pleasure and reward for oneself while being kind and generous to others is still an important characteristic of a good Buddhist today. Though there are still Buddhists in India, the faith is most widely practised in Asia.

A small village on the banks of the river Cauvery in Madras, Southern India
A small village on the banks of the river Cauvery in Madras, Southern India
India is also home to two other religions: Jainism and Sikhism. Mehavira, the founder of Jainism, lived a few centuries before Buddha, but he was also an outspoken opponent of modern Hinduism. He preached that no living thing should be harmed, and that plants, birds, and animals of all kinds should be treated with respect and consideration. The Jains abhor wealth and possessions, despite having some of India's most beautiful temples, and teach peace and nonviolence. Guru Nanak (1469-1539), a religious leader who rejected caste divisions and idol worship and taught his followers to believe in simplicity and equality, founded the Sikhs in the fifteenth century. By the early eighteenth century, the Sikhs had evolved into a warrior nation based primarily in Punjab, which they fiercely defended against the British in 1839. Despite this, the Punjab joined the Empire in 1849.

Islam (Mohammed's religion) has had a significant impact on India's history. Arab traders and seafarers brought it to India in the seventeenth century. Emperor Akbar, a Muslim (a person who practises Islam) who believed strongly in religious tolerance, was one of the greatest of the Moghul Emperors. He married a Hindu princess and appointed Hindus to important positions at court. As a result of his efforts to combine the best of both religions, architecture, art, and philosophy flourished during his reign. India is primarily an agricultural nation today. Over 70% of their population relies on agriculture for a living. Food grains occupy the majority of agricultural land. Rice is the most important cereal and a staple food in eastern and southern India, while wheat is the most important cereal in northern India. Maize, barley, and millet are also significant crops. India is the world's largest producer of tea and peanuts, as well as second in rice, jute, and raw sugar. Agriculture is beset by a slew of issues. 

An open-air market
An open-air market in Southern India
Because so many people rely on it for their livelihood, it is a far greater disaster than it would be in Europe, for example, if the harvest fails. Small farmers remain highly reliant on the weather, and a prolonged drought can quickly lead to widespread famine. Dams and canals have been built to conserve as much water as possible while also ensuring its distribution during droughts. Projects are underway to improve the lives of small farmers, both on the farm and in their communities. Land is reclaimed, fertilisers are provided, water supplies are improved, and the quality of the seeds and implements used by farmers is improved as a result of these projects. Education, public health, and medical care facilities are improved, and new housing projects are launched. Each village serves as a self-governing unit in many ways. All development projects in the area are overseen by the village elders' council, which includes plans to make agriculture more productive and reorganisation of the labour force in the village to provide a wider range of agricultural occupations, thereby increasing production and reducing time and labour waste. There's also the village co-operative and school, as well as affiliated organisations such as women's and youth organisations and farmer's associations. In the early days of India's independence, the government focused on the crucial issue of land distribution. 

The British East India Company organised the land holding system in the eighteenth century. A landed aristocracy had emerged, often absent from and uninterested in the development of the land they owned. This resulted in peasant oppression and agrarian problems. The Indians devised a land reform scheme in their first Five-Year Plan. They decided that land should be properly owned by the person who cultivates it, and this has remained the ideal ever since. Since then, the process of removing the intermediaries who controlled the land but did not work has continued. The Bhoodan Movement, which began in 1951, encouraged landlords to give their land away voluntarily, and as much as 1,800,000 hectares (4.5 million acres) have been collected as a result. People's clothing styles differ depending on where they live in the country. However, men typically wear a 'dhoti,' or loose cotton garment, and a loose shirt, whereas women typically wear'saris,' or blouses. Women wear cotton or silk trousers and a tunic with a small veil around the shoulders or over the head in some places. In towns, men may wear semi-Western clothing such as a jacket, trousers, and shirt. 

Delhi, India's capital, is located on the Yamuna River in the northern part of the plain that connects the Himalayas and the Deccan Plateau. Old Delhi, Cantonment, and New Delhi are the three distinct towns that make up Delhi. The British built much of New Delhi with the intention of making it a magnificent capital for the Indian Empire. After the Indian Mutiny ended in 1858, Delhi was severely punished for her role in the uprising; the entire population was forced to flee the city, and many homes were demolished to make the fortress's defence easier. After chis, life slowly returned to Delhi, and it remained a provincial town for a long time. However, Queen Victoria was proclaimed Empress of India here in 1877, and George V was crowned Emperor here in 1911. India is fortunate in having a mineral-rich continent. Her iron ore deposits are among the world's richest, and 20,000 million tonnes of coal are estimated to be available for mining. Manganese ore and bauxite are also found. South Bihar, south-west Bengal, and north Orissa are the most important mining areas. In Assam, oil wells have already been drilled, and prospectors are still looking for more in Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal. India has a thriving light industry, producing 2 million bicycles, over 2 million electric fans, and 1 million radio receivers in 1973. 

A village potter
A village potter making bowls and dishes

India's scientists have long been renowned, and the country's nuclear and medical programmes are among the most advanced in the developing world. However, despite the presence of nearly a hundred universities, 25% of the population is illiterate. India has a lot of beautiful and diverse scenery to offer. There are still many examples of ancient architecture to be found. There are temples, monasteries for Jains or Buddhists, mosques, and mausoleums, many of which were carved out of solid rock or carved from the insides of caves. The Lion Capital of Sarnath is one of the most notable monuments. It was built by Emperor Ashoka in the third century BC to commemorate the location where the Buddha first preached his gospel of peace and freedom to the world. The figures of four large lions facing the four corners of the universe, symbolising power, courage, and confidence, are carved into the top of the pillar. The four directions are guarded by four smaller animals below them: the North's lion, the East's elephant, the South's horse, and the West's bull. The wheel, or chakra, which is depicted in relief, is the pillar's final important feature. This wheel also appears in the Indian flag's centre, where it is interpreted as a symbol of motion or progress. The beauty of stone carving is particularly notable in ancient buildings. The delicate details of this carving make it appear as if the craftsman used ivory instead of stone at times. Many of the fine carvings, as well as many depictions of the Buddha himself, were inspired by Buddhism. By no means do all of India's fine old buildings date from this time period. 

Many monuments from the Muslim period of Indian history, particularly the Moghul Emperors' reign, can be found. The Taj Mahal, a great tomb built in the seventeenth century that is said to have taken 20,000 men 22 years to build, not only because of the size of the structure but also because of the delicate carving of characters, flowers, and abstract patterns that decorate the structure. One would expect such a large country to be full of contrasts, and it is; contrasts like the one between Kashmir's pastoral valley and the palm-fringed coasts of the south. There are hill stations and vacation resorts in the Himalayas where you can go swimming and fishing in the summer and skiing and other winter sports in the winter. On a clear day, the magnificent peaks of Mount Everest and Kanchenjunga can be seen from Darjeeling. Madras and Bombay both have beautiful beaches. The Indian swamp deer, the brow-antlered deer, the spotted deer, or Chital, the Blue Bull of Nilgai, the Blackbuck, and the four-horned antelope are among the animals that can only be found in India. There are also majestic tigers and, on rare occasions, the stunning snow leopard, though these are becoming increasingly rare. Panthers, bears, wolves, snakes, and various monkeys can be found in the forests; deer and wild boar can be found on the plains; trout and crocodile can be found in the rivers, and wild duck and snipe can be found in the marshes. There are also many different kinds of birds, some of which are becoming increasingly rare and even extinct, such as the Indian bustard, golden eagle, and red mynah.

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