Population: 1.3 billion Languages: Hindi, English, more than 20 other official languages Religions: Hinduism (80%), Islam (14%), Christianity (2.3%), Sikhism (1.7%), Buddhism/other (2%) Life expectancy: 67 years (men), 70 years (women)
ENVIRONMENT AND GEOGRAPHY
The name ‘India’ is derived from the river Indus, which runs through India, Pakistan and China.
India’s geography is extremely varied. In the north there are the Himalayas, coniferous forests and the floodplains of the Ganga and Indus river systems; there is desert in the north-east and tropical rainforest on the Andaman Islands in the south.
Natural hazards in India include monsoon floods, flash floods, earthquakes, droughts and landslides.
The mango is India’s national fruit. India grows nearly 40 per cent of the world’s mangoes, with several hundred varieties.
India is the world’s seventh largest country and second most populous country, and the world’s largest democracy.
More than 1,000 languages are spoken in India. The main languages are Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu. Hindi and English are considered the ‘official’ languages.
Despite Islam being a minority religion (14% of the population), different sources suggest India has the second or third highest population of Muslims in the world – with almost the same number of Muslims in India as there are in Pakistan.
India’s caste system is one of the world’s oldest surviving forms of social stratification. The system divides Hindus into four main categories: Brahmins (teachers and intellectuals), Kshatriyas (warriors and rulers), Vaishyas (traders) and the Shudras (menial workers). Outside the system are the Dalits, or so-called untouchables (BBC).
ECONOMY AND CULTURE
India is one of the world’s fastest growing economies. Agriculture provides jobs for over half the population. The industry sector includes mining, construction and energy. Services, including IT, is the fastest growing sector.
India has nuclear power and nuclear weapons.
India sends satellites into space.
India is one of the world’s largest producers of renewable energy.
The Taj Mahal, built in Agra between 1631 and 1648 by order of Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his wife, is one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
India has the world’s largest film industry, with more than 1,100 films produced each year on average, which is twice as many as America.
Cricket is by far the most popular sport in India. Football is the second most watched game by Indian sports fans. Field hockey is also popular; India has won more medals at the Olympics than any other team in this sport.
India struggles with an ever-widening gap between rich and poor. It is the country with the fourth highest number of billionaires, yet an estimated two thirds of the population is living below the poverty line.
India is shaped by many conflicts, including religious and caste-related violence, various insurgent and separatist movements, and unresolved territorial disputes with China and Pakistan.
300 million Indians have no access to power and millions more live with sporadic supplies of electricity.
Environmental concerns in India include air pollution, energy conservation, waste management, oil and gas conservation, and forest conservation.
South Asia, with India at its centre, is one of the fastest-growing regions for human trafficking in the world. Many victims are from poor rural areas and are lured by traffickers with promises of good jobs, only to find themselves or their children forced to work in fields or brick kilns, enslaved in homes as domestic workers, or sold to brothels.
FAMILY AND CHILDREN
Family values are important in the Indian tradition. Multi-generational patriarchal joint families have been the norm, though nuclear families are becoming common in urban areas.
Child marriages are common, especially in rural areas; many women wed before reaching 18, which is the legal marriageable age. Female infanticide and female foeticide have caused a discrepancy in the sex ratio, with an estimated 37 million more males than females in 2011.
(Sources: BBC, CIA World Factbook, jagranjosh.com, knowindia.gov.in, Reuters, Sporteology, Washington Post, Wikipedia).
Anglicans in India
Christians are in a tiny minority in India – and Anglicans are a minority within this minority. They operate with a space for religious freedom that is currently shrinking amid a rise in Hindu nationalism.
Two churches in India are members of the Anglican Communion: the Church of North India and the Church of South India. Both are United Churches, meaning they are comprised of a range of protestant denominations, not just Anglicans.
In outlook, these churches are prophetic and radical, with a heart for Indian marginalised communities, particular the Dalit and tribal peoples, who are the so-called untouchables.
The Church of North India was established in 1970, bringing together six churches, including Baptist, Brethren, Anglican, Methodist and other protestant denominations. Its motto is ‘Unity, Witness, Service’ and its mission priorities include evangelism, renewal, restructuring, education, reconciliation and the protection of livelihoods.
The Church of South India was founded in 1947 following Indian Independence. It brought together a number of Anglican and Protestant denominations in India, including the Church of England, the Methodist Church and the Church of Scotland. The church’s motto draws on the words of Jesus in John 17:21: ‘That they all may be one.’