India, a country mainly located on the subcontinent of Asia, has been independent since 1947, when it was freed from British colonialism through the nonviolent resistance movement led by Jawaharlal Nehru and Mohandas Mahatma Gandhi. It was at that time that the state of India, which is secular, and the state of Pakistan, which is Muslim, were formed, and there have been several wars between them, one of which resulted in the formation of the nation of Bangladesh in 1971.
India is bordered to the southwest by the Arabian Sea, to the northwest by Pakistan, to the north by Nepal, China, and Bhutan, to the east by Myanmar or Burma, and to the east by the Bay of Bengal, with Bangladesh tucked into its northeastern arm. It has an area of 1,269,345.6 square miles (3,287,590 sq km), making it the seventh largest country in the world, following Russia, Canada, the United States, China, Brazil, and Australia.
Although seventh in size, India is second in population, following China, with an estimated 1,147,995,904 people. While most of the population is ethnically Indo-Aryan (72%), 25% are Dravidian and 3% are Mongoloid or other. The people of India are primarily Hindu (80.5%); with 13.4% Muslims, 2.3% Christians, and 1.0% Sikhs.
The population is more diverse when it comes to languages. The country has 14 official languages, with Hindi being the most spoken native language (41%), but English having associate status and being used for politics and business. Other official languages include Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Kahmiri, Malayalam, Marathi, Orriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Sindhi, Tamil, and Telugu. The literacy rate is 61%.
Locally, the country is known as Bharatiya Ganarajya and is a federal republic, divided into 28 states and seven entities known as union territories. In addition to a state legal system with roots in English common law, there exist separate codes of personal law for the three major religious groups: Hindus, Muslims, and Christians.
Most of the population — 60% — is involved in agriculture, although this area contributes least to the gross domestic product, coming in behind both industry and the service sector, which contributes the most at 53.7%, while comprised of only 12% of the labor force. Exports include chemicals, gems and jewelry, engineering and textile goods, petroleum products and leather.
India is known for regional food specialties, including Tandoori-style foods and Bengali specialties. Many Indians are vegetarians, and spices in various combinations, including garam masala and curries are popular. There is even a spiced tea called chai. Dal dishes made from beans, spinach dishes, and rice dishes, as well as a variety of breads — some of them stuffed and going by names such as chapati, samosa, pakora, and poori — are common.