There are few destinations on the planet that possess the mystique of India. It is as though all the early upheavals, foreign invasions, and cultural clashes only strengthened the spiritual identity of the country and its people. Few travelers leave India without the most vivid of memories and an inkling they might be compelled to return.
The Republic of India is divided into 29 states and 7 union territories. The seventh largest country by area, India is home to 1.3 billion people, making it the second most populous country. Bounded by the Indian Ocean in the south, the Arabian Sea in the southwest, the Bay of Bengal to the southeast, and Pakistan to the west, India abuts China, Nepal, and Bhutan in the northeast, and Bangladesh and Myanmar in the east.
A civilization arose here in the Indus Valley around 3,000 BC. A thousand years later, the earliest Hindu scriptures were composed. During the first millennium BC a social caste system appeared around the same time that Buddhism and Jainism arose. Regional kingdoms formed, and cultural diversity flowered during the 6th and 7th centuries AD. By the 17th century, the Islamic Mughal Empire had expanded the economy. But the country then came under the control of the British East India Company in the 1700s, and the British Crown in the mid-1800s. It was not until a century later that India was granted independence.
The country is topographically diverse and comprised of four main regions: the mountains, the plains, the southern peninsula, and the desert. The lofty Himalayan Mountain Range in the northeast spans ten Indian states, while the Eastern and Western Gats hug the coastlines of southern India. The plains occur in the eastern and central portions of the country, while the Thar Desert lies in the northwest. The coasts are rich in agricultural and marine resources, but also suffer from seasonal cyclones.
Major or influential cities include the capital, New Delhi, part of Delhi proper, as well as Mumbai (Bombay), Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Channai, Kolkata (Calcutta), Jaipur, and Lucknow.