India: a land of contrasts

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India offers a very diversified geographical, ethnic, cultural, linguistic, political, economic and religious panorama. Its cultural heritage has a recorded history for over 4,500 years .

Indian landscapes are diverse

The total land area of India is 3,3 millions square kilometres where we can find desert areas (in the west), high mountain ranges (in the north), sunny beaches (in the south) and even jungles (in the north east).

Different people

The Indian subcontinent comprises various populations. In the north of India, people are predominantly Indo-Aryan, fair skinned and very tall. In the south and by the Indian Ocean, the population is mainly Dravidian, of darker complexion and medium height. From the west of India to the East, people are rather tribal groups with Tibeto-Burman features.

Over 1,600 languages and dialects

India has a total of 22 constitutional languages and over 1,600 languages and local dialects. We distinguish two major linguistic families: the Indo-Aryan languages in the north and the Dravidian languages in the south.

The official languages of the central administration of India are Hindi and English. However, contrary to what one might think, English is spoken by only 5-10 percent of the Indians. These English speakers are mainly found in urban areas and jobs related to information technologies and communication, computer science or legal professions since the official texts of the central government are mostly published in English. Similarly, not all Indian people speak Hindi being spoken by an estimated 30-40 percent of the population.

22 languages are recognized in India and officially adopted by the states of the Indian Union: Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu.

Besides these 22 languages, there are local dialects. Then, there are a total of over 1,600 languages and dialects in India. Thereby, It is quite difficult to find a positive answer in rural areas to the following question “Do you speak English?”…

Important development contrasts

Indian regions are not similar as much on a geographical, ethnic, cultural, linguistic level as on a socio economic level. Rural areas are hit harder than urban centres by poverty. Villages are far less modern than cities and attitudes are much more conservative. Poverty is omnipresent as 80% of Indians try to survive on less than two dollars a day. Mass poverty exists side by side with an excessive luxury being frequently displayed in Bollywood movies, the Indian cinema.

The XX century technological and scientific activities, the average growth rate of 7% in the decade since 1997 to 2007 and the Indian billionaires let behind them a nation which vibrates to the rhythm of medieval living conditions.

India welcomes all the religions

In India 80% of the population is Hindu and there are a great number of religious minorities, in particular, Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and Jains.

Despite the principle of welcome without discriminating any religious faiths enshrined in the Indian constitution, religious equality is very often endangered. Some parties even advocate the belief that India should be purely Hindu and clashes between religious communities are sometimes reported. However there is political willingness to guarantee a durable peace between religious communities and religious diversity very frequently appears in the Indian government formation. Yet, key positions in administrations, political, economic and military posts are traditionally held by Hindus.