India is a vast country with some incredible sights to be seen. More a continent than a country, you’d need a lifetime to explore all it has to offer.
So to complement our focus on India this month, we thought we would handpick a list of fascinating facts about this colourful corner of the world. And if you have any that we haven’t mentioned, why not share them on our Facebook page?
India is home to the world’s largest democracy, thanks largely to its burgeoning population of 1.2 billion. Not only that, but it’s expected to become the most populous country in the world by 2028 – surpassing its neighbour China. In fact, the number of births in India each year is higher than the entire population of Australia – strewth!
2. Multi-lingual people
Did you know India is the second largest English speaking nation in the world? No? Neither did we! Hindi and English are the official languages of India, with approximately 125 million English speakers – although a government census in 1961 listed 1,652 languages across the country. However, the big six languages – Marathi, Tamil, Hindi, Bengali, Telugu and Urdu – are each spoken by more than 50 million people.
3. Indian Island
Some 100 million years ago, while dinosaurs were roaming the planet, India was an island. After breaking off from an ancient supercontinent it sailed northwards until colliding with Asia around 50 million years ago. The impact created the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountain range. Today the Indian sub-continent is still slowly moving northwards, which is why Mount Everest is increasing in height every year.
4. Ancient City
The Indian city of Varanasi claims to be the oldest continuously inhabited city in the world. Whether that’s true or not, historians have found archaeological evidence of a settlement dating back to the 12th century BC.
5. Game Changer
Many historians claim chess was invented in India sometime before the 6th century AD. Originally called chaturanga in Sanskrit, it meant “four members of an army” and featured elephants, horses, chariots and foot soldiers. The game later spread to Persia, the Arab world and southern Europe, before evolving into its current form in the 15th century.
6. Hold the front page
While many countries can only watch as the newspaper industry goes into freefall, India’s newspapers are booming. This can be attributed to low Internet use, the low cost of newspapers, the popularity of classified advertisements and the huge number of languages across the country – making the local rag a must-read to find out what’s going on.
You’ll find every major world religion in India, as well as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism – which all have their roots in India. Some 80 per cent of Indians are Hindu. Interestingly, the country is home to the largest number of mosques in the world, despite its Muslim population standing at only 13 per cent. Cows are also said to be sacred in India, as most Hindus respect the blessed bovines for their gentle nature.
8. Rich heritage
Prior to the British invasion in the early 17th century, the Indian sub-continent was very wealthy due to its natural resources, such as minerals, metals and diamonds. It was only on August 15th, 1947, that Indians gained their independence from British rule after almost 200 years.
9. Extra Seasons
Another eye-brow raising fact that might come in useful at a pub quiz is that the Hindu calendar has six seasons: spring, summer, monsoon, autumn, winter and prevernal. And no, an Indian summer isn’t one of them!
10. Big in Bollywood
Unbeknown to many is the fact that India has the world’s largest movie industry. The “B” in Bollywood comes from Bombay, the former name of Mumbai, where the industry is based. The term Bollywood was coined in the 1970s when Indian cinema overtook the US as the world’s largest film makers. And on a similar note, India is also where you’ll find the biggest and largest employer in the world – Indian Railways – who employ more than one million people!
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