Useful Notes: India

"We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."
Albert Einstein

"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
Mark Twain

A really long story made short - India, officially known as Republic of India (Hindi: भारतीय गणराज्य, Bhartiya Gaṇrajya), is the world's largest and most complex democracy. Also birthplace of Indus, one of the five earliest civilizations in the world which together formed the foundation of human culture, along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica.

Arguably, the concept of India as a whole begins in the 4th century BCE, when most of the subcontinent came under the Maurya Empire, ruled by King Chandragupta Maurya with his adviser, Chanakya. The empire was formed, uniting the many fragments of the subcontinent, presumably as a defense against the Greek/Macedonian invasion led by Alexander the Great. This theory is given credence because Chanakya, the architect of Chandragupta's rise to power, viewed the Greek conquest as an attack on Indus culture. Chanakya is today regarded as one of the greatest war strategists of all time, and the tale of his cunning tactics and ploys against the Greeks (both Alexander and his successors) have grown into legend.

Chanakya's manipulations struck several blows to the invading Macedonian army, not the least of which was Alexander almost getting killed twice, during and after the Battle Of Hydaspes, which is a story unto itself (see the Maurya Empire article for more). As a result, India was almost completely unaffected by the Macedonian Conquests.

The Mauryan Empire lasted a few more generations, reaching the height of its territorial extent, military power, and cultural achievement under Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka the Great. Ashoka is perhaps most famous for being (we think) a Buddhist and (possibly) a pacifist (after having done a lot of killing and conquering...), but he made more lasting contributions in the form of the usual good-monarch business (lawgiving, fair dispensation of justice, efficient administration, etc.). Of course, no empire can last long, and the Mauryan Empire soon broke up into what would later be termed the Middle Kingdoms of India; most of the kingdoms co-existed in peace, and trade routes started by Maurya flourished over the next 1,500 years. Every now and then, a new empire would rise and run most of the subcontinent for a few generations, but nobody really cared other than the nobles doing the ruling and fighting, as these political distinctions did comparatively little to affect the economic activity on the ground. This classical period is known as the Golden Age of the country, during which India became the wealthiest economy in the world. Unfortunately, nobody noticed because India was never united into a single country. That sort of unity was only ever approximated by the Mughal Empire, who would at their height grow to unify well over 80% of the subcontinent, bringing about the good (such as a flowering of high culture, infrastructure and relative order) and then the bad (religious oppression particularly under the later Mughals, corruption, and atrophy). Eventually, the insistence by later Mughal leaders such as Aurangzeb to sideline Hinduism and Sikhism led to the formation of a strong resistance in the South that would eventually evict the Mughals from large portions of the Deccan Plateau, forming the Maratha Confederacy, a state on the border between The Empire and The Federation internally. All of this occurred to a backdrop of warfare well on par with the Thirty Years' War, which thoroughly wrecked the golden age of before and the emergence of other petty states like Mysore in the vacuum. After well over a century of conflict, both sides still warily eyed each other, looking for the chance to finish the other off...

... until the British East India Company came in and destroyed both of them.

Under British Colonial Rule, first under the East India Company and then directly under the Crown, two hundred and fifty years of capital-F-Foreign rule began. Initially, the East India Company was allowed to govern more or less by itself, which resulted in such lovely policies such as Christianization. The resulting flare up was the Indian Mutiny, which was crushed and resulted in the elimination of the Mughals, but also resulted in the crown abolishing the EITC and ruling directly and *far* more cautiously. Britain created a modern, united, well-developed system of rule, with railways, telegraph and court systems - and marked a merciful end to the warfare that had wracked the subcontinent. But the entire infrastructure was specifically designed to exploit the resources of the country, with only a minimal regard as to the consequences for the Indian people. Right up until independence in 1947, there was also exactly zero interest (actually scratch that, minimal interest with zero support from the crown) in fixing social problems such as casteism, illiteracy, gender and income inequality, etc that civilizations were attempting to overcome around the world. In addition, while the Raj became increasingly Indianized in terms of bureaucracy, true representative rule was never really put into place; the world's largest population was ruled without any direct way of voicing its wishes in government. This is known as "The Drain" in Indian history, when India's wealth and resources were harnessed—recklessly—by the British for their own ends. Britain then proceeded to popularize this image of the 'Poor India' around the world, emphasizing that such a country of "savages" was unfit to rule itself.

Contrary to popular belief, Britain's withdrawal from India wasn't as simple as "Gandhi's love impressed them so much they left in peace" and more a result of a number of diverse factors, such was WW2's significant impact on Britain's army and economy, anti-British riots beginning to break out around the country, growing dissent among the Indian Army during WW2, who were becoming increasing antagonistic towards the Allies (unsurprising, since they were now caught in a situation where they were fighting against an oppressive regime for an oppressive regime - nearly 100,000 Indian soldiers eventually defected over to the INA; the pro-Japanese, anti-British Resistance movement, and some PO Ws were actually recruited voluntarily by the Japanese; both these forces inevitably went on to fight the Allies in Southeast Asia) plus, having just witnessed the results of a totalitarian government, the world was much less willing to buy the idea of British rule being for "India's own good".

Obtaining total Independence from Britain on August 15th, 1947, India was divided into what is now modern India, Pakistan, Portuguese occupied Goa (which was later conquered and integrated into India—not that most Goans had any problem with it),note  Bangladesh (which broke off from Pakistan in '71 with India's help), Bhutan (which remains independent), and Sikkim (which was an Indian protectorate from independence to 1975, at which point it was admitted as a state). A much-overlooked fact is that because of the structure of the British Raj, India had to fight for considerable swaths of territory (Kashmir aside). The country at the time was divided into a whopping five hundred plus now-independent Princely States (which Britain had governed and taxed indirectly through traditional Indian monarchs) and, deciding not to expend the vast resources that would be necessary to make a smooth transition, Britain took an attitude of "you guys sort it out among yourselves" and withdrew without establishing the new government.

Things took a rapid turn for the worse when Muhammad Ali Jinnah, India's most prominent Muslim leader, put forward a charming theory that Hindus and Muslims must live in separate countries, divided by religion. India being a region of numerous faiths, the situation spiraled out of control rapidly, escalating into full-scale communal riots that left hundreds of thousands dead. The situation was eventually (sort of) resolved by Partitioning into the territories mentioned above.

Meanwhile, the Herculean task of uniting the princely states fell to Home Minister Vallabhai Patel, his Constitutional Advisor V.P. Menon, and (more controversially) the Britain-appointed Viceroy Luis Mountbatten. While the parts of the subcontinent under direct British rule immediately became part of the Union of India (as it was called before it became a republic in 1950), the Princely States themselves had the option of joining India, joining Pakistan, or remaining independent. Majority-Muslim states on the border with Pakistan tended to join Pakistan without controversy, while most others chose to join India. However, several princely states refused to follow the obvious patterns, the most notable of which are Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad, all instances where the ruling elite was a different religion from the majority of the population in the state. Kashmir, where the ruler was Hindu and the people Muslim, is quite possibly the biggest political can of worms in the world today besides the Arab-Israeli Conflict and (historically, perhaps) The Troubles. The other two major instances involved a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu state: Junagadh's Muslim prince decided to join Pakistan despite not bordering it at all, leading India to essentially lay siege to the territory, and eventually the prince fled. Hyderabad's Muslim ruler decided he didn't much care to be part of India or Pakistan, and Hyderabad had to be integrated by force of arms.

A lot of the problems that nobody got around to rectifying before independence are still there now, most notably a high rate of illiteracy in the more rural areas, which both the government and private organizations are fighting to change. Sixty years of quick, accelerated development later, India today is the world's largest democracy, maintaining the second largest military in the world, a nuclear superpower, and the only nation that has U.N permission to trade in nuclear fuel without having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

For a country that has only had six decades of actual modern development, it says a lot about how fast the nation is moving forward, especially when Americans today are concerned that Indians are surpassing them in the IT sector. Poverty is extremely widespread still, with 41% of the nation falling below the poverty line (and an equal percentage of malnourished children), and the nation containing a third of the world's poor. It is trying to deal with these problems, but it will be a slow climb.

(Note: A lot of the pages below are unfinished, so just go ahead and create/expand them if you think you can.)
The History Of India
  • Indus Valley Civilization: One of the most ancient civilizations in the world.
  • The Vedic Age: Indo-Aryan tribes moved into the Indus valley, and then, all of northern India. They brought the Sanskrit language, which is comparable to Latin in Europe in terms of the influence it had on India. It also is a distant relative of most European languages such as English, French, Russian etc.
  • The Mauryan Empire - Macedonian Invasion, The Battle Of Hydaspes, Unity under Mauryan Rule, decline into the Middle Kingdoms
  • The Middle Kingdoms - Growth of Economy, The Mughal Expansion, Prithviraj Chauhan, Discovery by Vasco Da Gamma, Arrival of the British
  • Formation Of The Raj - Annexation by East India Company, Rule until 1857, The Sepoy Mutiny (India's First War For Independence)
  • The Raj - The Colonial Rule, Popularization of the "Savage" India through British Media, The JWB Massacre, The World Wars, Bhagath Singh, Mahatma Gandhi
  • The Largest Democracy - Independence in 1947, the partition into India and Pakistan, important events from 1948 - present

Indian Cities

Indian Culture
  • Hindu Mythology - The truth about it, not the unresearched crap you see in movies
  • Indian Languages - 22 officially recognized languages, 250+ minor languages, 4000+ variations and dialects...
  • Bollywood - The Hindi Film Industry, nicknamed after its U.S counterpart.
  • The Otherwoods - Because not all Indian movies are Bollywood.
  • Filmi Music - Ever wonder why Indian movies have so many songs and musical numbers?
  • Cricket Rules - Cricket, Cricket, Cricket. What is it?
  • Type Caste - And just like everywhere else, Indians have their own type of racism. The one particular aspect of the nation's history people want to forget, but can't.
  • Mad Dogs And Englishmen - India's climate

Misrepresentations of India in International Media
  • Sim Sim Salabim - What does India looks like? It's full of snake charmers and flying carpets, of course!
  • Indian Accents - You are to be teaching me very good English, Masterji!
  • Bollywood Nerd - All Indians are absolute geniuses!
  • Operator from India - No, wait, all Indians work in Call Centers!
  • Kali Is The Goddess Of Death - Apparently, Indians worship death and want to destroy the world.

Indian Food & Cuisine - Contrary to popular belief, it's not all spices and pepper.
  • South Indian Food - Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and other Southern States
  • North Indian Food - Punjab, Kashmir, Rajasthan, etc.
  • Other Cuisines Of India - Eastern, Western, and North Eastern India

Law Enforcement, Military and Politics

Transport And Communications
  • Indian Railways - The Railway department of the government holds the Guinness Book distinction of being the world's largest commercial or utility employer.
  • Indian Roads - Ah, the roadways of India. Or, alternately, your worst nightmare.

The People Of India
  • Unity In Diversity - Hundreds of religions and languages, how do they coexist?
  • Indian Accents
  • Type Caste

It Happens Only In India
  • The Land Of Festivals - India is known as the Land Of Festivals. Read this to find out why.
  • Indian Culture Shock - a popular trope used in Indian films, which is now spreading to Hollywood.

India in popular culture

The Indian flag
The flag's saffron, white and green stripes symbolize courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry, respectively; at the center is the Ashoka Chakra, the personal symbol of Emperor Ashoka, one of India's greatest rulers, symbolizing the eternal wheel of law and order.

Alternative Title(s):

Useful Notes On India