20.6 degrees East and 78.8 degrees North

Welcome to 20.6 degrees East and 78.9 degrees North!

~Fatima Quadri ‘11

What has a vast history of being one of the most ancient civilizations in the world and yet is still one of the younger, but second largest, democracies?  Pull out your map, head towards 20.6 degrees east and 78. 9 degrees north, and take a closer look at India.

Bordering countries such as Pakistan and Bangladesh sits the seventh largest and second most populous country, India. Today we see India as a country on its way to becoming one of the world’s leading super powers). Many people also know India for its unique cusine, the largest movie industry in the world, monsoons, and the home of the Taj Mahal and Mohandas Gandhi. Yet there is so much more to this country; after all an ancient civilization is going to have a very long and interesting history.

The name “India” is derived from the word “Indus”. The earliest civilization that existed in modern day India was the Indus Valley Civilization; it existed over 2000 BCE ago in western India. This civilization made great advances in the sciences and arts; they were the first do develop a system of uniform weights and measures. The Vedic period followed; this period was significant in constructing the modern foundations and culture of Hinduism. Yoga developed during this era. There were many other notable empires, but one that stands out is the Gupta Empire. This is when people made large achievements in the field of mathematics, astronomy, religion, science, and more. One can compare this time to when ancient Greek civilization was advancing in such fields. After this empire was the Mughal Empire, traces of which can be seen in both India and Pakistan; one of it’s most well known features would be the Taj Mahal located in northern India. This empire came about with the invasion brought by Muslims from Persia, Afghanistan, Mongolia and other places. The Mughal Empire lasted for over 200 years and greatly influenced the architecture of not only India, but other parts of South Asia as well. As said before, the most notable piece of architecture from both the Mughal era and modern India in general would be the Taj Mahal, a mausoleum created by Emperor Shah Jahan for his late wife Mumtaz Mahal. After the invasion of Muslims from neighboring countries, India was introduced to a new group of invaders: The British.

Early on, and because of its spices and tea, India became very popular in the trading business with European countries. The simplicity of trading later evolved to some countries establishing colonies in area of the country. By the 1850’s, most of India was under the rule of the British East India Company and then shortly after was known as a colony of the British Empire. Fights for independence were prevalent throughout the decades but it wasn’t until a lawyer by the name of Mohandas Gandhi came into the picture that the movement noticably picked up momentum. Gandhi emphasized protest through non-violent means and civil disobedience. This method was successful and India was granted independence on August 15th, 1947.  It was on this day that India became a modern democracy.

Democratic India celebrated its 61st birthday this year. Modern India is just as unique as the ancient civilization it once was. India was one of the first countries in the world to have a female leader; Indira Gandhi was prime minister from 1966 to 1984. India produces the most movies in a year and has the largest film industry in the world commonly known as “Bollywood”. India has two national languages, English and Hindi, yet is a home to over 30 official state languages from Telgu to Tamil to Punjabi. India also has the twelfth largest economy in the world.

The capital of India is New Delhi, and because of its high population, many of India’s major cities show up on charts such as “100 most populous cities of the world,” such as Mumbai, Delhi, and Calcutta. Today the country is divided into 28 states, each with its unique culture and language. The majority of the population is Hindu but there are a significant amount of Muslims (third largest population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan), Sikhs (where Sikhism was founded; fifth largest religion in the world), Buddhists, and Christians. With such a wide range of religions, there are many major holidays celebrated in India from Diwali to Eid to even Christmas.

So there’s a small glimpse at one of the world’s most ancient civilizations/younger democracies. Up next time will be a sister of India: Pakistan.

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