Learn About India

The famous Taj Mahal was build in the 1600s by Shah Jahan, a Mogul emperor, as a tomb for his wife.

One out of six people on earth live in India. Yet this Asian country is just over one-third the size of the United States, so many of India's people live very close together! Some live in villages very much like their ancestors have for hundreds of years. But India also has bustling cities such as Delhi and Bombay which mix the very old shopping bazaars, narrow streets, and centuries-old monuments alongside modern skyscrapers and factories.

India is a nation of many such contrasts. While India's cities are among the most crowded and busy in the world, India also has some of the most beautiful wilderness on earth, from giant mountains to vast plains, jungles, and mighty rivers. The wilderness of India is home to beautiful and endangered Bengal tigers well as rhinoceroses and lions. The Himalayas, the highest mountain range in the world, run through Inida as well as Nepal, Tibet, and Pakistan.

One of the world's oldest civilizations began in the valleys of India and its neighbors on the Indian subcontinent. People settled in the Indus River valley about 5,000 years ago and they built cities as old as those of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The cities contained straight streets, regular blocks, and brick buildings. These cities were forgotten until archaeologists found the remains of one of them in 1922! The beginnings of the Hindu religion can be traced to this ancient civilization. Today, about 80 percent of Indians are Hindus, while there are also large numbers of people of the Muslim, Sikh, and Christian religions.

An important part of Hinduism for thousands of years was the caste system. The caste system divided Indians into classes called castes. Each had their own duties and traditions. People could not move from one caste to another. The caste system was formally abolished in 1949, but in some places, the castes still exist.

Like America, India had to throw off colonial rule to become free. The British established a colonial empire in England in the 18th century. Two centuries later, Mohandas K. Gandhi who became known as "Mahatma," which means "great soul" led the Indians in a movement for independence from the British. He believed that Indians could win the fight for independence without using violence. People all over the world such as civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr. have been inspired to follow Gandhi's example of fighting for equality through "civil disobedience," which means the disobeying of unjust laws. India won its independence from the British government on August 15, 1947.

India today has a mix of English customs from colonial days and its own cultures. The English game of cricket is very popular in India. You play cricket with a bat and ball, like baseball. People in India also love to go to the movies. India calls the movie business in the city of Bombay "Bollywood," like Hollywood. India produces more new movies every year than any other country!

History Highlights
25003500 B.C.: India's first major civilization develops along the Indus River valley in the city of Harappa. The complex civilization is ruled by priests and contains the beginnings of the Hindu religion.
1500 B.C.: Aryans, tribes of herders from the north, invade and take over the Indian subcontinent.
326 B.C.: Alexander the Great invades the Punjab region of India.
1526: The Mughal emperors invade the Punjab from Afghanistan. They defeat the Sultan of Delhi and the Indian forces. Their descendants rule India for a long time, during which one emperor builds the Taj Mahal. Even though the emperors retain the throne until 1857, their power fades as the British become more powerful and take over India.
1757: The British East India Company defeats the much larger army of Siraj at the Battle of Plassey. This marks the beginning of the British Indian empire.
1947: India becomes independent and is partitioned into two nations, India and Pakistan, divided along religious lines. India will be predominantly Hindu, while Pakistan will be Muslim. Jawaharlal Nehru becomes India's first prime minister.
1983: Sikhs demand self-rule for the Indian state of Punjab, and Indira Gandhi places the state of Punjab under president's rule. Later that year, she is assassinated by Sikh members of her personal guard.
1998: Tensions between India and Pakistan, neighbors but rivals, worsen. Both countries shock the world by conducting underground nuclear tests. After negotiations, both nations pledge to sign a worldwide treaty banning these dangerous tests.

Write about it:
How is it possible to change a government without starting a war? To learn more, explore the links below.

Learn more about India in these selected Web sites:
This page includes links outside of Scholastic.com.
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Hinduism:
http://www.worldalmanacforkids.com/explore/religion/hinduism.html
Study the philosophy, rituals, and history of one of the world's major religions.

Indus River Valley Ancient Civilizations:
http://www.harappa.com/har/har1.html
The Indus Valley civilization flourished around 2500 B.C. in the western part of south Asia, in what today is Pakistan and western India. Learn about life then and how it's being uncovered. It includes a slide show.

Gandhi:
http://www.engagedpage.com/gandhi.html
Gandhi led his people to overthrow British rule using principles of nonviolence and civil disobedience. Read his biography and see what leaders like Martin Luther King have to say about their hero.

Cricket:
http://www.cricket.org/link_to_database/NATIONAL/IND/
Today, cricket is the country's most popular sport. Read interviews with Indian cricket stars and reports of the team's progress!

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