The founding fathers of the country obviously recognised how this diversity would become a problem in the long run if not treated carefully, so after uniting the hundreds of princely states that made up the Raj, the country was transformed into a federation with the states drawn according to the ethnic groups that dominate each part, neatly avoiding the pitfalls befalling those European countries who drew the borders for their former colonies without this in mind. These states and territories were also grouped into six regions (Zonal Councils) to foster cooperation among them: North India, West India, South India, East India, Central India and Northeast India.
Haryana (Green Plains)
Largest City: Faridabad
Official languages: Hindi (Punjabi, secondary official)
Formed out of the British province of East Punjab, for Hindi-speaking Punjabis. Known for being mostly farmland, and producing hard headed, practical, down-to-earth types, as well as some pretty fine soldiers. The capital, Chandigarh, is used by both Punjab and Haryana, and was designed by the architect Le Corbusier - it's considered in India to be a fine example of town planning, especially in comparison to the disorderly sprawl of most Indian cities. The state itself, however, is otherwise unremarkable - which makes it a staple of the ran-away-to-someplace-exciting plots of several movies.
...Until recently, that is.
Nowadays, the state is becoming notorious for being a land of patriarchal misogynists, non-official yet powerful Khap Panchayats, fanatic revivalist cults, its own kind of caste-based local politics, which often descends into mob violence, riots, vandalism and lynchings. And stellar sportsmen like Kapil Dev. The misogyny is evident from the fact that it historically has had the lowest sex ratio when compared to other states (caused by widespread female feticide), and honor killings committed against women who bring "dishonor" and "shame" to their houses (usually by marrying either outside their caste or within their gotra clan, where membership is based on sharing an ancient, mythological ancestor, such that virtually every member is very, very distantly related to each other). And in fiction, this means that it is a staple of run-away-from-crapsack-world plots.
However, on a brighter note, the state is well known for producing Olympic level wrestlers, including several female ones. Also, recent awareness about the sexism is leading to a rising sex ratio, as per the latest census. Gurgaon, which is in the suburbs of Delhi, is also known for its growing IT sector and BPO hub (the origin of the Operatorfrom India trope). There are also industrial manufacturing hubs near Delhi like Manesar (which has the Maruti-Suzuki car plant) and Faridabad.
Himachal Pradesh (Land of Ice and Snow)
Largest City: Shimla
Official languages: Hindi (English, secondary official)
A mountainous state dominated by the Himalayas (its name literally means "snowy country") boosting diversity in both landforms and cultures. During the Raj, Shimla (Simla) was the summer capital of the Indian Empire; the entire government would move from Calcutta or Delhi every year during summertime. These days, the city and the surrounding countryside remain popular with tourists. The state also currently hosts the Dalai Lama and his Tibetan government-in-exile at Dharamsala.
It produces some of the finest soldiers in the region, the Garhwahli natives being particularly hardy and excellent fighters, as well as the Gurkhas, who also live in the region. They're distrustful of outsiders, but once they befriend you, they'll stay by your side until the day they die.
Largest City: Srinagar
Area (including all areas currently administered by Pakistan and China): 222,236km/85,806mi
Official languages: Urdu
The catalyst of The Indo-Pakistan Conflict and one of the biggest political quagmires of all time, alongside Korea, the Arab-Israeli conflict and Afghanistan. Now, saying too much or too less about this state or anything to do with the region may and will cause a massive Flame War, so let's talk about it in a dignified manner, shall we?.
Okay, so this chilly, snowy, and mountainous Kashmir region is both a part of Indian and Tibetan cultural spheres (Tibet was influenced by India through Buddhism); its population is a mix of Indo-Aryans and Tibetans, for example. Though the southern Jammu region was (and still is) a part of the Hindustani belt, the northern Kashmir and Ladakh regions were more varied. Eventually, the region came under the rule of Muslim kings, whose four-centuries rule had a significant impact on what the populace chose as their faith, which was followed by Sikh princes ruling the region with an iron fist until the British kicked their asses and made the region a part of the Raj, transferring the administration to Hindu rulers.
India's independence was when things got even more complicated. Basically, due to the population's faith, the newly carved Pakistan expected the region join them, yet the movement that organized Kashmir's independence from the Raj allied themselves with India. And the king wanted to make the region neutral like Switzerland. Suffice to this, things got very, very, messy, and the result to this day is the region being disputed, with India controlling the Jammu, Southern Kashmir, and Ladakh regions. Oh, didn't we forget about the Chinese? Yeah, the Chinese, having owned Tibet, decided to join the fun and raised their claims too, mostly under the reasoning that "it's part of Tibet". They now own the (mostly-uninhabited) Aksai Chin region to the east of Ladakh as well as Shakshgam Valley. Since they're best buds, China and Pakistan have normalized their borders, but considering their mutual enmity with India...
Politics aside, the state is the only one in India whose populace is Muslim-majority. It's quite unevenly distributed, though, as mentioned above: the southern Jammu region is mostly Hindu, the Kashmir region is overwhelmingly Muslim, and Ladakh is evenly split between the Muslims and Tibetan Buddhists. It's also the only state that has two cities serving as capitals: chilly Srinagar serves as the main capital of the state, but since the Kashmiri winter prevents anyone from entering or leaving that city, it's temporarily moved to warmer Jammu. Once everyone forgets about the conflict, the state is a genuine Scenery Porn with lots of potential for tourism, though every region bordering the Himalayas does have a tendency to be just that (in fact, a lot of Bollywood films in the 1960s and 1970s were shot or set there or both, making the region a back drop for many a film song. Even today, a lot of filming happens at Ladakh, which is comparatively peaceful).
Punjab (Five Rivers)
Largest City: Ludhiana
Official languages: Punjabi
The region is the birthplace of Sikhism, which was founded by Guru Nanak sometime in the late 15th Century by incorporating elements from Hinduism, Islam and Buddhism. It's famous for its tenets of selfless service, the oneness of all humanity, combating injustice wherever it be found and devotion to one's family and people.
As the name suggests, the region is interspersed with five major rivers and their tributaries - Sutlej, Chenab, Ravi, Jhelum and Beas. A sixth river, Saraswati, is also known to have flown through the area, but it has long since dried up, though some believe that it never truly was a real river and was a metaphor for knowledge. Make of that what you will. Unsurprisingly, the region is extremely fertile, and a substantial proportion of the land is given over to farms and farmland, producing quite a bit of India's food. This has also led to the region being ferociously contested throughout its history. Pick any battle that changed the course of the subcontinent's history - Kurukshetra, Tarain, the Battles for Panipat - and you'll find that it was all here. After all, an Army marches on its belly, and there is no better way to bring someone to their knees than by starving them out.
All that war bred in a culture and society that placed a high degree of respect for martial prowess, and that is visible even today. The Sikhs are THE Proud Warrior Race to end all others, and are known for their prowess and valor both on the battlefield and off it. They're also the only people who are permitted to carry swords in public in India, since for them, the sword is but a part of their body, and no true man of the people goes anywhere without one. Unsurprisingly, the British were big fans of theirs, and raised many regiments and soldiers to fight for them in their wars. They still are the most visible element of soldiering in India today, and they're in larger proportion to practically every other group of soldiers in the Army, save for the Rajputs (more on that below), with whom they have a Friendly Rivalry going. If you see someone in charge of a formation of the Indian Army, it's a pretty good chance they're going to be a Sikh, Gurkha or Rajput.
Culturally, it's pretty diverse. Being the entry for nearly everyone coming into India from the West, it's absorbed the customs of all who go through, and its cultural traditions reflect that - loud, bright, and guaranteed to have something to please everyone. It has some truly impressive food and drink, good clothing, fine art and produces several athletes capable of giving any other competitor a run for their money, sometimes quite literally. It also has an enduring tradition of song and dance - The Other Wiki has more on that, as there's simply too much to list here. Of particular note are folk-tales, called kissa, which can range from the "Just So" Story mold to anecdotes about famous characters and places. Most of them are true - sort of.
Economically, the region is extremely prosperous, with several industries and heavy agricultural infrastructure keeping the cash rolling in throughout the region. It was partitioned into three sections - West Punjab (now in Pakistan), East Punjab (the state itself) and Haryana (for those who didn't speak Punjabi). Despite this, it's still one of the richest states in India. It's also the most heavily fortified, with several military bases, airstrips and fortresses throughout the region, due to its importance both strategically (it sits on the Indo-Pakistani border), economically and its ancient heritage of war. It also has a ongoing drug problem, which the state government has been trying to desperately fix for some time - with some success.
Rajasthan (Land of Kings)
Official languages: Hindi
This is THE source of the Maharajahs, Mystics and Snake-charmers stereotype. This state is composed of various erstwhile Rajput (Sons of Kings) princely states. As such, it is full of medieval fortresses and palaces that used to belong to these rulers, which are now either crumbling ruins or converted into luxury hotels or resorts for tourists. This is the tourist hub of India, where you'd definitely come across a Japanese or American tourist taking photos and soaking into the 'colors and cuisine of India.' In fact, this land is the basis of many Western fictional portrayals of India, as this is the most advertised state in the West and most frequented by Western tourists. This was partly because of the old colonial fascination with the pomp and splendor of the princes - and the publicity efforts of many suave ex-princes after Independence, who realized that they had to find new revenue sources once they acceded their realms within the new Indian Republic. Another reason for being attractive to tourists is its relatively low crime rate, when compared to its neighbors - you just go right ahead and try to pickpocket that noble with the sword and rifle, buddy. Films like Octopussy, The Darjeeling Limited and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel have been shot there.
Apart from the royal heritage, Rajasthan also has the Thar Desert in its western part, which includes the spectacular sand dunes of Jaisalmer, which makes for a fantastic filming location. The Ranthambor and Sariska national parks are also well known for having photogenic wildlife (in the form of Tigers) - and therefore, the site of many a wildlife documentary. There is also the Aravalli range, which also has the famous Mt. Abu Jain temple. Other famous religious shrines, of various faiths, are Pushkar (which is where the world famous camel fair is held), Ajmer Sharif (a Sufi shrine), and the Karni Mata Mandir (you know, the one which has all those rats...).
The state has borne witness to many battles and sieges, the most famous ones pertaining to the former Kingdom of Mewar and its citadel, Chittorgarh. Also, as a result of the 1947 partition, it became a border state, with the desert frontier being fenced up and patrolled by Camel-mounted border police. It also became the front line in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War, with the Battle of Longewala, where a small Indian army company of 120-ish troops held off a Pakistani tank brigade of 2000 men and tanks and thwarted the opening of a western front in that war. Pokhran in the Thar desert has also been a site for nuclear weapon testing. As a result of the harsh climate and warfare, the region has produced many fine warriors, the most famous being the Rajputs, of whom not one, but two renowned regiments - the Rajputana Rifles and the Rajput Regiment - exist. As they say, words such as "defeat" and "failure" do not exist in a Rajput's vocabulary.
Despite the exotic nature of this state, it should be noted that it is still counted as a socially and economically backward state owing to the arid climate that makes agriculture difficult (especially in the western part, where it is just a desert), unequal land ownership (feudalism still thrives here, which is a flip-side of the aristocratic splendor), absence of mineral wealth, and the prevalence of regressive medievalist practices (think of the life of a commoner in A Song of Ice and Fire - it's not fun to be a lowborn). In fact, this is one of the factors that drive tourism promotion in the state - it has so far been the only perennial source of income and employment for people living there, such that they'd gladly hype up the foreigner's expectations of their state, no matter how fantastic it may be. Also, in recent years, caste and religious tensions are flaring up in the state, mostly due to the burgeoning population of this historically sparsely populated land.
Recently, though, Jaipur is booming with new businesses, including manufacturing, emerging, as a result of the spillover from Delhi. Similarly, Udaipur in the southern part is benefiting from business spillovers from Gujarat and Maharashtra. Also, oil and gas have been recently discovered and being extracted at Jaisalmer and Barmer in the Thar area, bringing new found wealth to this region, although time will only tell if the good times are going to roll. Apart from that, the state is also banking on its arid climate to become a solar power hub of the future.
Chandigarh (Chandi's Fortress)
Official languages: English
This union territory is an oddity; it's the only territory that's composed of only one city, the only one to be a recently-planned one (the first one, in fact), and the only one to be the capital of two states (Haryana and Punjab), though it is not part of either. Its existence is due to the Partition of India in 1947; the at the time undivided region of Punjab's traditional capital is Lahore, which went to Pakistan alongside a major chunk of Punjab itself, thus necessitating the need for a new capital city. When Punjab was split in 1966 to form the state of Haryana, they decided to keep the capital as Chandigarh as well, so it became a union territory to accommodate both states.
The city has been lauded many times for its achievement in many environmental rankings, including being the only smoke-free, the cleanest, the most structurally-organized, the most transportation-friendly, and the happiest city in India. It also has one of the highest HDI ranking and GDP per capita of all India.
Official languages: Hindi and English
The saying in India goes that "The road to Delhi lies through Agra", and they're not wrong. Delhi (originally known as Indraprastha, then as Shahjahanabad during the Mughal era) has historically been India's political heart and a glittering prize for any would-be lord of the subcontinent, due to its proximity to Uttar Pradesh - and thus control of that state's rich soil and manpower. It still fulfills this role as India's capital - albeit much expanded and rebuilt by the British as a symbol of Imperial power and renamed as New Delhi.
Like the Beltway and Washington, D.C. in the United States, all the jokes about politics and politicians in general apply to the city and its people. That said, one should be cautious of mocking a politician where somebody can hear them - the results aren't pretty, India's political class being notoriously thin-skinned (even more so than most others). Unless you're a politician yourself, of course. Note that the sentences above were an example of one such joke.
Largest City: Vasco da Gama
Official languages: Konkani (Marathi can also be used)
India's smallest state and arguably, the most famous. Unlike the majority of India, which was colonized by the British, Goa was colonized by Portugal, who exerted considerable influence in the region's culture and society (most of the road signs are still in Portuguese, and some locals can speak it fluently and Catholics make up 25% of population). It wasn't the only Indian colony owned by the Portuguese (more on that below), but it was the biggest and certainly the most prized of them all. Even as the decolonization of the Great Powers was underway after World War II, Portugal remained in possession of most of its overseas colonies, including Goa. India wasn't terribly pleased with this situation, and decided to "return everything back to the motherland", i.e. annex the colony. Which they did. To be fair, the military option was kind of the last resort - the Portuguese proved to be particularly nasty when asked to hand it over nicely - turns out, killing random fishermen and attacking passing Nnaval ships (which weren't even trying to be hostile) doesn't make for good press.
Portugal predictably refused to recognize the annexation, even when the British said to just give it up already, until the 1974 signing of the peace treaty that saw Portugal officially ceding most of its overseas colonies (except Macau, which wasn't returned to China till 1999). Goa's annexation was probably the catalyst which caused Portugal to finally give up its colonial possessions, since the event inspired a great deal of nationalism within its African colonies (though of course, the Communists' role overshadowed them, and the Cold War just made everything worse). Goa subsequently attained statehood in 1987.
Currently, Goa is India's richest and most developed state, having the highest GDP per capita and scores near the top of HDI rankings. It frequently tops the list of India's best places to visit and stay. Being located in the Western Ghats region means that Goa has a ridiculously high biodiversity for so small a state, providing for plenty of Scenery Porn. Its culture is likewise popular domestically and internationally; ever heard of Goa Trance? Well, now you know where it originated.
Gujarat (Gurjar Nation)
Largest City: Ahmedabad
Official languages: Gujarati
Known for producing the finest merchants in the region. The birthplace of Mahatma Gandhi, and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan. It's also famous for having some of the best sweets in India, the ruins of Harappa (one of the oldest known human settlements in the world), and a (supposedly) ancient - and highly advanced - sunken city somewhere off the coast.
Originally the southern part of the state was known as Junagadh, as the region was semi-independent under British rule. In 1948, the state's Nawab (a Muslim) tried to join Pakistan, but his people refused, the state being majoritarian Hindu. He fled the region after it became obvious that he was no longer welcome there, and it acceded to India. Was struck by a plague in 1994 and an earthquake in 2001, but managed to bounce back from both incidents.
Maharashtra (Great Lands)
Largest City: Mumbai
Official languages: Marathi
The place of a great deal of India's commercial and industrial activity. The summer capital, Mumbai, is India's version of the Big Applesauce - see the city's page for more details.
Historically, the region is significant for producing some of the most powerful kingdoms in India's history, notably the Maratha Confederacy, whose founder Shivaji is something of a Memetic Badass and Folk Hero rolled into one. The fact that he pretty much stuck it to the Mughal Empire while being only a teenager probably helps, and reading his life history is like reading a superhero story - if the main character worked on sheer badassery and derring-do with the attitude and wits to match.
The Marathas were - and still are - ferocious soldiers and they have a reputation for producing Hypercompetent Sidekick types and Colonel Kilgore-esque leaders without peer. In their own words - Darte nahin, darate hain - ''We don't get frightened, we scare others''. They were able to hold off the British more than any other kingdom in the region, and at one point were pretty close to unifying the entire subcontinent under their rule. This failed when their leader, Peshwa Bajirao II, was killed by a staggeringly unlucky shot to the head during the Third Battle of Panipat. This devastating setback turned the battle - which they had been winning - into a rout, and its after-effects were to cause the downfall of the Confederacy - and the beginning of the The Raj in India. Needless to say, it's a popular plot in alternate history scenarios, where writers try to imagine What Could Have Been if the Marathas had won the battle.
The people of the region are known for their industrious nature, ferocity in battle, and for a great deal of Cultural Posturing.
Dadra and Nagar Haveli
Official languages: Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, and English
Daman and Diu
Official languages: Marathi, Gujarati, Hindi, and English
Andhra Pradesh (Land of the Andhras)
Largest City: Visakhapatnam
Official languages: Telugu
Situated on the southeastern coast of the country on the Bay of Bengal, it formed as Andhra State in 1953, merged with landlocked Telangana to the north in 1956 to form Andhra Pradesh, and separated from Telangana in 2014, but kept the name. This is why the state capital of Hyderabad is not actually in Andhra Pradesh but deep inside Telangana; both states will share the old capital until Andhra Pradesh can build its own. The state comprises of two distinct regions, Coastal Andhra along the coast and Rayalaseema further inland, the former being predominantly agricultural whereas the latter is more forested and mineral-rich.
The famous (and contentious) Koh-i-Noor diamond was believed to have been mined here, at Kollur. Contentious in that the British "acquired" it for themselves, and made it a part of the Crown Jewels of the British Monarch (as such, the metaphor for the British Raj, "The Jewel in the Crown", is both literal and figurative). Both India and Pakistan have been at loggerheads over who's supposed to get it back, assuming the British even agree to give it back (they don't).
Karnataka (Black Soil Plateau)
Official languages: Kannada
Historically, it was the seat of two of India's great medieval states, the Empire of Vijayanagar, and the Kingdom of Mysore, the latter of which gave the British a run for their money during their conquest of the subcontinent, and exposed them to rocket artillery, which the British later reverse-engineered and used against the Americans in the War of 1812 (the "rockets' red glare" from the US national anthem). Mysore itself is now a rather quiet city (and also one of the country's cleanest), and still has its royal family (the Wodeyars) living in its massive palace - which is, naturally, a huge tourist attraction.
Bangalore, the capital, is also the center of India's IT industry, and ISRO (Indian Space Research Organisation) - the institution that is India's space program, is headquartered here. Bangalores associations with IT are due to it previously being an electronics hub, with companies such as Bharat Electronics, LRDE (eLectronics R&D Establishment) and the Indian Telephone Industry being founded there. Bangalore is also the aeronautics capital of India, with Indias only aircraft manufacturer Hindustan Aircraft Limited being headquartered there, along with affiliated R&D establishments such as the National Aerospace Labs and the Aeronautical Development Establishment. The Air Force base in the Yelahanka neighborhood is where all military pilots receive their basic flight training. It is also where the Test Pilot School is located. Bangalore takes this even further with the Parachute Regiment being headquartered there. Oh, and Indian Special Forces are trained at the Commando School located in the town of Belgaum. In fact, even the Defense Research and Development Organization - Indias DARPA is in Bangalore. Bangalore also produced Indias finest physicists (Nobel laureates CV Raman discoverer of the titular Raman Effect and Subramaniam Chandrasekhar) and mathematicians (Ramanujam and Shakuntala Devi).
The people of the region (Kannadigas) have a reputation for being easy going, mild-mannered and somnolent, compared to their hot-blooded neighbors. The region also has a prolific film industry (Sandalwood) No, really - that's what it's called. Most productions, however, baffle outsiders - either because they're hilariously over-the-top, or embody (for Westerners, at any rate) some pretty massive Values Dissonance.
Kerala (Chera Land)
Official languages: Malayalam
The state ranks 1st in HDI ranking and is possibly the most egalitarian of them all; for once, women actually outnumber men here. The economy and education are also one of the highest. Kerala contributes most of the expatriates currently working in the Persian Gulf countries. Notable for being led for years by one of the world's few democratically-elected Communist governments. Kerala's culture is a mix of indigenous Dravidian Malayalam culture mixed with Indo-Aryan. From the state came one of the most ancient martial arts in the world: Kalaripayattu. Kerala is also famous for its backwaters, a network of picturesque lagoons and lakes that are big tourist draws.
Tamil Nadu (Land of the Tamils)
Official languages: Tamil
Now, for those folks who still don't get how diversity in India can sometimes present a problem, it's better to shake that off and learn about this before things get unpleasant. Long story short, the Dravidians have learned that further identification of their culture is what really keeps them from being absorbed entirely by the Indo-Europeans (speakers), and thus, they began to demand more autonomy from the central government (which is always concentrated in the north, for some reason). These demands make the Dravidians a very nationalistic people and sometimes can lead to some....fiery things. Which also leads to the Angry Tamil Man stereotype in India, along with the Scary Tamil Man image.
The government kowtowed with as much grace as it could muster and gave some autonomy for the Dravidians, who got a large state in the south to govern themselves and got on with it, since they didn't want to get burned like Sri Lanka, where those fiery things are very literal things - with bombings, and all the joys of terrorism and violent ethnic cleansing plus a vicious and bloodthirsty insurgency. Yeah, it's that kind of argument - think of the Irish insurgency, just a hell of a lot more violent and you're pretty close to visualizing it.
The capital city Chennai (formerly Madras) is considered Indias Detroit owing to the large number of automobile companies headquartered here. Coimbatore is yet another automobile manufacturing hub. The locality of Kalpaakam near Chennai houses one of Indias few nuclear reactors.
The culture of Tamil Nadu is among the richest in India. It has the added distinction of having the longest-surviving classical language in India, possibly also the world, the Tamil language, which the people of the state are very proud of, so for the love of heavens try to avoid speaking foreign languages (especially Hindi) while in the state. The state's also the center of the largest Otherwoods: the fiery and chock-full-o'-action Kollywood.
Official languages: Telugu, Urdu
The centuries of Nizam rule has given the state a distinctive blend of South Indian and Mughal/Persian culture, and the capital city of Hyderabad still has a large Muslim minority. These days, it's known for its concentration of biomedical research (the so-called Genome Valley) and IT industry (Cyberabad). It's also the centre of the Telugu film industry or Tollywood, which rivals Bollywood in film production. And yes Hyderabadi biryani, as the name suggests, originated here.
Andaman and Nicobar Islands
Official languages: Hindi and English
While Indians predominate nowadays, the islands also host a small community of indigenous peoples who speak language isolates and for the most part, exhibit negroid and pygmy (short stature) traits. One group from this community, the Sentinelese, don't even want outside interference, and thus, their customs, culture, and language are therefore not understood (they're called "uncontacted peoples" academically). These native peoples have a collective Moment of Awesome during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami; the islands were significantly affected, but the natives were not thanks to them having retreated inland, the legends about such catastrophe apparently being ingrained to them.
Lakshadweep (Hundred-thousand Islands)
Largest City: Andrott
Official languages: Malayalam, English
Lakshadweep also shares the same environmental problem with Maldives. Since sea levels are expected to rise rapidly throughout the next century, by 2100, there may not be any Lakshadweep anymore.
Official languages: Tamil, Malayalam, and Telugu
Bihar (Temple Lands)
Official languages: Hindi (Urdu, secondary official)
Bordering Nepal to its north, the state of Bihar is one of the founding states of the country (it was originally carved out of the British Central Provinces) and is remarkable for its significance to the subcontinent's history. It was the location of Magadha, the capital of India's first empire, the Mauryan Empire. It was also the heartland of the Gupta Empire, considered by many to be where the concept of India as a country first cropped up. It also had the ancient University of Nalanda (sacked by Afghan invaders - they're trying to rebuild it, but it's a long hard slog) and was a centre of science, philosophy, and commerce.
It's also the region where Buddhism first arose and became one of the most-practised religions in the whole world. Bihar became a centre of Buddhism in classical times, receiving patronage from the Mauryan and Gupta Emperors, and Pala kings of Bengal (who also ruled this region) - in fact the name of this state is derived from the fact that many 'Viharas' (Sanskrit for Buddhist monasteries) were established here. The most prominent was Nalanda, which was not only a monastery, but also a university that attracted students ,not only across India, but also from China, South East Asia and Central Asia. However, Buddhism faded away after the conquest of the region by Turco-Afghan invaders, who looted and destroyed many monasteries.
That said, the Bodhi Tree where The Buddha was enlightened is in Gaya, which is in Bihar. This pretty much ensures a steady stream of pilgrims from all over the world. It's one of the few temples that the invaders didn't burn.
Sadly, its rich history does not translate to the modern world very well, as it is currently one of the poorest regions in India, with a lack of infrastructure, filthy cities, rampant corruption, overpopulation, and ethno-religious violence.
Jharkhand (Bush Lands)
Largest City: Jamshedpur
Official languages: Hindi
Formerly the southern half of Bihar before being split off in 2000, Jharkhand is known for having some of India's biggest mining areas, with large deposits of coal and iron ore in particular. Tribal peoples make up about a quarter to a third of the population, and about 12% of them are followers of Sarnaism, an indigenous religion distinct from Hinduism. It's also one of the poorest states in India despite its mineral wealth, which is not helped by the fact that it's the northern part of the Red Corridor. It has mostly calmed down now, though, and prospects are pretty good - assuming the government gets its act together.
Odisha (Land of the Odra Tribes)
Official languages: Odia
This state had several names throughout its history, like Chedi (Ched Tribes), Kalinga, Kamala Mandala (Lotus Land), Tosali (Tos Tribes) and so on and so forth. In medieval times, it was Utkala. Under the Mughals, it got the name Orissa, derived from the ancient Prakrit term for land of the Odras, an ancient kingdom in the northern part of the present state (Odra Visaya). Before India's Independence, it was granted separate statehood (after many years of linguistic agitation by locals, who now called themselves and their language Odia), with the name Orissa (land of the Oriyas, the anglicized version of Odia). This made it the first state of India to be formed on the basis of language. And yes, it was actually established on April Fool's Day, although in the state, it is officially celebrated as Utkala Dibasa (Anniversary of Utkala). The government changed it to the phonetically apt Odisha in 2009, and that remains as the official name.note
All that apart, the region has been settled since the Late Neolithic Era, and has been home to several Kingdoms, almost all of whom were The Gadfly to any would-be conqueror, from either the North or the South. It's got a rich cultural tradition of its own, and is famous for worshipping Jaggannath (who is Krishna, but is represented as an oddly designed yet gigantic wooden statue). The Sun Temple at Konark is a sight to behold, though the celebration at the Jagannath Temple (from where we get the word "Juggernaut") generally takes all the attention - since there's nothing more impressive than a huge wooden chariot with all the fanfare involved.
Economically, it has plenty of minerals and mines, along with a largely smooth coastline and several large rivers flowing out - put those together and you have a heavily industrialized region with several refineries, factories and dockyards. However, for many years, this was not the case - it used to be a poor and largely agrarian state, with only pockets of industries.
One reason may have been logistical - the state lacks natural harbors (with its main port at Paradip being artificially developed). It used to have a limited number of railway lines and roads, which were mostly confined to the eastern coastal plain, while its mineral rich western interior remained largely out of reach. Another reason was political - for many years, it was ruled by local parties that didn't necessarily align with the reigning national parties at the federal level - which meant that it has often been left out of the federal gravy train whenever economic allocations were made. Plus, many ruling politicians and bureaucrats were sleazeballs to begin with or just plain inept. The western region was largely neglected, since most of it was inhabited by tribal communities, who used to be seen as non-Odias for a very long time, drought prone and a part of the aforementioned Red Corridor (which was another excuse for bureaucrats and businessmen to NOT work over there or do anything at all, as far as development was concerned). Another reason (yes,another one) is that this state is the real life equivalent of Westeros' Stormlands - it is frequently plagued by devastating annual cyclones, that destroys infrastructure and claims thousands of lives.
In recent years, the economy has become more developed and diversified though, with quite a few services-based companies setting up operations in the region - largely because of competent and honest governance for the last decade and a half, Bhubaneswar turning into an educational hub (especially for IT and engineering) in the east, and better disaster management, which has drastically reduced the number of lives lost to cyclones.
The political and economic center of Odisha are Twin Cities of Bhubaneswar - Cuttack, which are polar opposites to each other, despite being merely 20 kilometers apart. Bhubaneswar (sometimes conveniently shortened to BBSR), the current capital, is a modern city, having been established in 1948. The city was designed and planned by one Otto Konigsberger, a German - so Germanic Efficiency is quite evident in the town planning, with proper urban layouts, commercial centers, wide roads cutting at right angles and proper sewer systems, making it a rival to Chandigarh (both cities were developed at the same time).
Cuttack, on the other hand, is a medieval city, with cheek-by-jowl housing, narrow, winding streets, bazaars, old colonial mansions, slum like villages or Saahis, open air drains, and an old fort (of which just one rotting gate remains). It used to be the traditional capital of the Utkal kingdom, and the capital of British Orissa. It is built between the Mahanadi and its tributary, the Kathajodi (in fact just right at the point where the river splits) - which makes it notoriously prone to flooding and water borne diseases in the monsoons and cyclonic weather. This, along with its association with the British Raj, was one of the reasons for the leaders of post independence Odisha to shift to a less flood prone area, which would serve as a fresh start. note
While BBSR was, for many years, a small government town, full of government offices, vast official bungalows, and civil servants, Cuttack was the business, intellectual and legal hub (the last one due to the fact that the state police HQ and the state High Court are located there, such that senior cops and judges live there, along with advocates). Eventually, Bhubaneswar's political clout, better civic infrastructure and cosmopolitan culture soon started diverting businessmen and intellectuals away from Cuttack. It now has modern malls, hotels, an IT park, schools and colleges dedicated to engineering and software, while the latter is slowly degenerating into a squalid yet ageing Silver City. Only the lawyers still live and thrive over there, which doesn't help matters in the slightest. However, with recent economic development, BBSR is growing rapidly, and with expansion heading towards Cuttack, both cities may soon end up merging together (considering that both cities have now fallen under a single police commissioner, this isn't an unlikely possibility in the near future), thereby creating a potential megalopolis.
Puri, where the above mentioned Jagannath temple is located, is the cultural and spiritual hub of Odisha, which attracts many tourists and pilgrims throughout the year. It is somewhat like Varanasi, but with beaches rather than ghats, as it is at the coast by the Bay of Bengal. In fact, the beaches of Puri rival that of Goa in terms of popularity, as they are wide and sandy and not as crowded.
Apart from Puri, other famous coastal tourist hot spots are Chilika lagoon, Chandipur-by-the-Sea, Gopalpur, Gahirmatha, Bhittarkanika mangrove wildlife sanctuary (full of massive saltwater crocodiles).
Odias also have a local film industry, called Ollywood, whose production values, genres, stories and scripts remind people of the Bollywood films from the 1980s and 1990s. It used to be based at Cuttack, but because of the reasons mentioned above has shifted to BBSR.
Official languages: Bengali (Nepali in Darjeeling district)
Population aside, the region was important historically as it contains the city of Kolkata (formerly Calcutta), the capital of the British Raj for many years and renowned as the centre of Indian culture and education. It was eventually moved to New Delhi when the British grew wary of the Indian nationalistic movements, as Bengal was the site where the seeds of the Indian independence movement were held. The British tried to divide the region, but the locals protested and the plan was aborted. The British have always claimed that it was just an exercise in administrative efficiency, but the locals have always claimed that it was a nefarious plot to undermine the unity of the pro-Independence movement. As historians have pointed out, both sides had some truth to their claims, but that doesn't make for a terribly exciting narrative so it's usually ignored.
Whatever be the truth of such claims, the unfortunate reality was that the region eventually did get divided this way during the Partition of India in 1947, resulting in very large population movements as the local Hindus and Muslims became confused by the sudden rule change (though not to the extremity that was Punjab). And followed it up by massive communal riots (the Indian term for sectarian violence) across the region from 1944 to 1946. Making the whole exercise an effort in futility.
The state is known for its distinctive Bengali culture (do NOT confuse them with the Hindustani people, seriously), which the people value over their differing faiths as shown when they viciously rejected the first plan to divide the region in 1905. The state is predominantly Hindu as the Muslims have mostly settled in Bangladesh (before the partition, it was one of the most multiconfessional regions in the Raj), though a 25 million-strong minority can still be found (by the way, it's ''miniscule'' by India's standards).
On a last note, try to steer away from that little jut in the northeastern part of the state. That region is called the Siliguri Corridor, the only region connecting the northeastern states with the rest of the country (derisively called the Chicken's Neck), and it's full of fun things including: rampant militancy, illegal drugs being traded, illegal immigrants, not to mention bordering Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan all at once. Oh, and a violent political agitation by the locals in that sector demanding a separate administrative region for themselves (don't mention the "Gorkhaland" Issue in polite company - we mean it). It's currently not advisable to visit there.
Chhattisgarh (The Thirty-Six Counties)
Official languages: Hindi
Together with Jharkhand, it is one of the most mineral and resource rich states of India. It's also infamous for being part of the Red Corridor - a hotbed of Naxalism, whose adherents apparently didn't notice that the Cold War is over. That has begun to change though, after considerable effort, and the region has been pretty quiet for the past few years. Whether this is the end of the troubles in the region, or merely the calm before a new storm, is still up for debate.
Madhya Pradesh (Central Lands)
Largest City: Indore
Official languages: Hindi
Has a larger than normal number of former princes and feudal lords (other than Rajasthan, of course - more on that below), many of whom are in politics, and who are still referred to by their noble titles (though without any official connotation - it's simply done as a mark of respect).
Uttar Pradesh (Northern Province)
Official languages: Hindi and Urdu
The majestic beauty that is Taj Mahal, is in the city of Agra, as is The Red Fort - which is where the Prime Minister gives their inaugural address after a general election. In addition, several Mughal tombs, as well as some of the largest temples and mosques in the country are also located here, as are Hinduism's most holy sites of Varanasi (AKA Benares), Prayag (AKA Allahabad - which is pronounced as "Ilahabad"), as are the rivers Ganga (the Ganges) and Yamuna (the Jamuna), both of which are considered sacred to Hindus. Much like how Egypt is the gift of the Nile, Uttar Pradesh is the child of the Ganges and the Yamuna, since both are why the state is predominantly agricultural and India's other breadbasket after the Punjab.
Being the center of Hindustani culture means that many of its areas are mentioned quite a lot in many of India's ancient epics, be it mythological, semi-historical or religious, including The Mahabharata and the The Ramayana. Buddhism really began here - Gautama Buddha began seriously practicing and pushing forward his teachings here: Varanasi was where he first taught Buddhism, and he also died in Kushinagar in the northeast of the state, so there's a near-endless flood of Buddhist pilgrims visiting the state. It was also the seat of power for the Mughal Empire, which historically made it the Islamic center of India as well.
For all these reasons, it was inevitable that most of India's political power would flow from this region. The saying in India goes that "The road to Delhi lies through Agra", and they're not wrong. Delhi (originally know as Indraprastha, then as Shahjahanabad during the Mughal era) has historically been India's political heart and a glittering prize for any would-be lord of the subcontinent, due to its proximity to Uttar Pradesh - and thus control of its rich soil and manpower. It still fulfills this role as India's capital - albeit much expanded and rebuilt by the British as a symbol of Imperial power and renamed as New Delhi.
Uttarakhand (Northern Land)
Official languages: Hindi and Sanskrit (!)
Largest City: Guwahati
Official languages: Assamese (also Bengali and Bodo in some districts)
This state once encompassed the entire northeastern India, but was eventually split to accommodate the non-Assamese populations of the region. It borders Bhutan to the north and Bangladesh to the south. It's famous for its the Brahmaputra valley it stands on, oil, and tea (the state is the world's largest tea-growing region). Assam, with its tropical rainforest climate, houses one of the world's largest biodiversity zones - or a Death World comparable to Australia, depending on whom you're asking.
It preserves a great deal of animal species, many of which are critically endangered - and unrepentantly hostile. A government posting to this place is generally seen as a punishment, not only due to the vicious climate and floods, but also due to ethnic tensions.
Various ethnic groups, such as the Ahoms/Assamese, Bodos, Kachars, etc. have launched insurgencies in recent decades that either sought secession from India or separate statehood (i.e.,they want a separate exclusive province while remaining with India). Insurgents have not only fought against Indian administrators, but also other insurgent groups. And compounding this tension is the continuous flow of illegals immigrants from Bangladesh (who are mostly Muslim) since the 1970s, and whose numbers are growing, which has generated sectarian clashes between the migrants and the locals, as well as generating fears of the region becoming a target for Islamist violence.
So, basically an Indian bureaucrat and policeman would have to deal with a bunch of violently squabbling ethnic groups (while being resented for meddling in it) and insurgents, while at the same time dealing with a humid climate, dangerous fauna, horrible tropical diseases, and the annual great deluge caused by the Brahmaputra river (which bloats up under the torrential rainfall of the monsoons, and which engulfs most of the southern part of the state) that claims a lot of lives and infrastructure. You can see why being sent here is being Reassigned to Antarctica.
Arunachal Pradesh (Land of the Morning Calm)
Area: 83,743km/ 32,333mi
Official languages: English
The state of Arunachal Pradesh is both the northeastern and easternmost state of India. It's quite mountainous, bordering the Himalayas on its northern side. It is ,linguistically and ethnically, very very diverse- just see this link on the OtherWiki about the demography to understand this. However, many Arunachalis (the collective term for residents from here) can speak fluent Hindi or English with non-Arunachalis. Most of the population is animist/shamanist (each tribe has their own set of nature gods), a significant minority subscribes to Tibetan Buddhism , though Christianity is also significant.
The northern part of the region (Tawang district) was originally a part of Tibet, who ceded it to the British Empire in 1914, back when they were still independent (though the British had managed to gain de facto control of the region long before that). Obviously, China (who now owns Tibet) doesn't like this one bit and continues to claim the entire region as part of their own (even though the region's vast ethnic diversity would not make all of them qualify as Tibetans). India, on the other hand, claims that the region was officially signed over by an independent Tibet to the British (in 1914) and hence, both China and India, as respective successor states to the original parties, must accept this. Apart from that, the Indian government has claimed that it observes 'Unity in Diversity', a kind of civic nationalism, wherein Indian citizenship and local identities can coexist together in the same territory. In other words, it doesn't matter whether the Arunachalis don't conform with most of India's ethnic, linguistic and racial identity - they are a part of India, and India respects their unique identities - unlike the ethnically homogenizing Chinese state. This is just one of many reasons for the Sino-Indian War of 1962.
While its status fuels ongoing tensions between India and China, it hasn't spawned the chaos that's usually found at Kashmir. The region is inhabited by various tribes, some of who still follow the old ways. The region was deliberately left untouched by modern development for various reasons. Initially, The Raj wanted it to remain a buffer between Tibet, China on one hand, and the Brahmaputra valley (which contained the Assamese tea estates owned by the British) on the other hand, such that it was left as an untraversible region for anyone who 'traveled' down from Tibet, with the added bonus of hostile 'savages'. Then, after independence, the Indian government, as per the advice of an anthropologist Verrier Elwin, avoided development and restricted access to the state, so that it could remain as a pristine tribal paradise that would not be hostile to Indian rule. To a certain extent, it may have worked, as none of the communities over there have been involved in a rebellion or insurgency. Then, after the Sino-Indian war, the Indian government decided to continue with this policy, but for a more 'realistic' reason- to impede a future Chinese invasion by making it a logistics hellhole for the PLA in the absence of any railway line and a ridiculously bad road network riddled with potholes and easily convertible to mud under rainfall (which is severe and perennial, by the way). However, the Indian government has come to realize that leaving the region underdeveloped is actually giving more credence to Chinese claims (since they can claim that India neglects this state and its residents, while also pointing out an absence of 'mainstream Indian civilization' in this land of 'Tibetans') and that it would be harder to defend in case of a war, now that the Chinese have built up a lot of infrastructure on their side of the border. As such, the government has decided to build up new settlements and infrastructure projects (including hydro-power projects across major rivers in the state) in order to bolster Indian claims and connect it with the rest of the nation.
The state is also becoming a new tourist hot spot, considering its biological diversity (it is one of the most biodiverse regions in India and it has various national parks and wildlife sanctuaries across the state), geographic diversity (ranging from the alpine Himalayas at the north, to the tropical rain-forests in the southern foothills), Tibetan Buddhist heritage (at Tawang), and its friendly tribal communities. It is particularly attractive for hiking, mountain climbing and river boat rafting.
Being the eastern most (contiguous) state, it is named accordingly (first daybreak on mainland India happens there). In fact, like much of the North East, being on the eastern extreme of the Indian timezone, sunrise is much early (around 4-5 am in summers) and sunset is also early, making work difficult (since the working hours are set as per day-night cycle in central India, which is further west to that of this state). There have been calls for establishing a second timezone, specially for the North East, in order to remedy this.
Manipur (Land of the Sleeping Forest)
Official languages: Meithei
Manipur is one of the "Seven Sister States" of Northeastern India. It borders Myanmar to the east. The people of Manipur are largely tribal and speak Meithei, a language that is not part of Indo-Aryan and Dravidian language families as typical with other parts of India, but instead forms an independent branch within Sino-Tibetan. This characteristic is actually shared with several other states of Northeastern India, and it is for this reason that separatist movements sometimes arise; Manipur itself is currently under a militant insurgency that has claimed almost two thousand lives since it started in The '60s. This is not helped by the Partition of India, as this means that the entire area is landlocked, while help from the mainland can only be delivered from the narrow Siliguri Corridor, a highly guarded region bordering three countries at once (Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan) with illegal trading and other problems on its own.
On a positive note, the people of Manipur help popularize polo (though the sport is actually native to Iran). And for being Badass Adorable. And despite the insurgency, for being a fairly nice place to live.
The capital, Imphal, was besieged by the Japanese during World War II and the vicious fighting that took place there - and in the neighbouring city of Kohima - gave it the nickname "Stalingrad of the East". It marked the end of the Imperial Japanese Army's advance, and the beginning of the end of the War in the East. The cemetery there is a notable tourist attraction.
Meghalaya (Palace of the Clouds)
Official languages: English
This forested state is located between the large Assam state to its north and Bangladesh to its south. It's one of the three states of India whose populations are overwhelmingly Christian. English serves as a uniting language to this very multicultural state, which houses the Khasi people (an Austroasiatic people, which means that they're related to the Vietnamese), Garo (Sino-Tibetan, as per other northeastern states), and assortments of Bengali, Nepali, and other minorities. The culture of the Khasi people is notably matriarchal, which contrasts with the highly patriarchal society of regular Indians, and a very unusual one at that: in the state, properties are inherited by the youngest daughter of the family.
Has a great deal of Foreign Culture Fetish among it's peoples, with some truly embarrassing names cropping up as a result.
Official languages: Mizo, English
The state of Mizoram was carved from Assam in 1972, gaining statehood in 1987. It's the southernmost of the northeastern states of India (collectively known as the "Seven Sister States") and borders Bangladesh and Myanmar. It's also one of the three states of India to have a Christian majority; Presbyterians dominate the northern part of the state, while people subscribe to Baptists in the south. The people here, like other northeastern states, are largely tribal and from time to time, profess the hope of separating themselves from India, though the militant activities are quite low in Mizoram itself compared to its neighbor Manipur. The economy of Mizoram is still largely agricultural, most of them in the form of slash-and-burn practices known as jhum.
Largest City: Dimapur
Official languages: English
The Japanese besieged the city during World War II, and lost most of their forces to disease, starvation and savage close-quarters fighting in the city itself. The battle was ferocious and very much like Stalingrad, hence the nickname "Stalingrad of the East".
Sikkim (New Palace)
Official languages: English (main), Nepali, Sikkimese, Lepcha, Limbu, Newari, Gurung, Magar, Sherpa, Tamang, and Sunwar (!)
Tripura (Three Cities)
Official languages: Bengali and Kokborok