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Research paper example essay prompt: India Overview - 2872 words

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India Overview A Brief History of India The roots of Indian civilization stretch back in time to pre-recorded history. The earliest human activity in the Indian sub-continent can be traced back to the Early, Middle and Late Stone Ages (400,000-200,000 BC). The first evidence of agricultural settlements on the western plains of the Indus is roughly contemporaneous with similar developments in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia. The Indus Valley Civilization This earliest known civilization in India, the starting point in its history, dates back to about 3000 BC. Discovered in the 1920s, it was thought to have been confined to the valley of the river Indus, hence the name given to it was Indus Valley civilization.

This civilization was a highly developed urban one and two of its towns, Mohenjodaro and Harappa, represent the high watermark of the settlements. The emergence of this civilization is as remarkable as its stability for nearly a thousand years. All the cities were well planned and were built with baked bricks of the same size; the streets were laid at right angles with an elaborate system of covered drains. There was a fairly clear division of localities and houses were earmarked for the upper and lower strata of society. There were also public buildings, the most famous being the Great Bath at Mohenjodaro and the vast granaries. Production of several metals such as copper, bronze, lead and tin was also undertaken and some remnants of furnaces provide evidence of this fact.

The discovery of kilns to make bricks support the fact that burnt bricks were used extensively in domestic and public buildings. Evidence also points to the use of domesticated animals, including camels, goats, water buffaloes and fowls. Trade seemed to be a major activity at the Indus Valley and the sheer quantity of seals discovered suggest that each merchant or mercantile family owned its own seal. These seals are in various quadrangular shapes and sizes, each with a human or an animal figure carved on it. Discoveries suggest that the Harappan civilization had extensive trade relations with the neighboring regions in India and with distant lands in the Persian Gulf and Sumer (Iraq). The Harappan society was probably divided according to occupations and this also suggests the existence of an organized government. The Aryans and the Vedic Age The Aryans are said to have entered India through the fabled Khyber pass, around 1500 BC.

They intermingled with the local populace, and assimilated themselves into the social framework. They adopted the settled agricultural lifestyle of their predecessors, and established small agrarian communities across the state of Punjab. The Aryans are believed to have brought with them the horse, developed the Sanskrit language and made significant inroads in to the religion of the times. All three factors were to play a fundamental role in the shaping of Indian culture. Cavalry warfare facilitated the rapid spread of Aryan culture across North India, and allowed the emergence of large empires.

With work specialization, the internal division of the Aryan society developed along caste lines. Their social framework was composed mainly of the following groups : the Brahmana (priests), Kshatriya (warriors), Vaishya (agriculturists) and Shudra (workers). With land becoming property and the society being divided on the basis of occupations and castes, conflicts and disorders were bound to arise. Organized power to resolve these issues therefore emerged, gradually leading to formation of full-fledged state systems, including vast empires like The Mauryan Empire, the Gupta Empire, and the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas and Pallavas in the south. The Great Mughals The most important Islamic empire was that of the Mughals, a Central Asian dynasty founded by Babur early in the sixteenth century.

His son Humayun succeeded Babur and under the reign of Humayun's son, Akbar the Great (1562-1605), Indo-Islamic culture attained a peak of tolerance, harmony and a spirit of enquiry. The nobles of his court belonged to both the Hindu and the Muslim faiths, and Akbar himself married a Hindu princess. Mughal culture reached its zenith during the reign of Akbar's grandson Shahjehan, a great builder and patron of the arts. Shahjehan moved his capital to Delhi and built the incomparable Taj Mahal at Agra. Aurangzeb, the last major Mughal, extended his empire over all but the southern tip of India, though he was constantly harried by Rajput and Maratha clans.

The Marathas The power that came closest to imperial pretensions was that of the Marathas. Starting from scratch, the non-Brahmin castes in the Maharashtra region had been organized into a fighting force by their legendary leader, Shivaji. By the third quarter of the 18th century, the Marathas had under their direct administration or indirect subjection enough Indian Territory to justify use of the term the Maratha Empire, though it never came near the dimensions of the Mughal Empire. The Marathas also never sought to formally substitute themselves for the Mughals; they often kept the emperor under their thumb but paid him formal obeisance. Soon, however, they were to fall to India's final imperial power, the British. Coming of the Europeans The next arrival of overwhelming political importance was that of the Europeans. The great seafarers of northwest Europe, the British, French, Dutch and Portuguese, arrived early in the seventeenth century and established trading outposts along the coasts. Early in the 16th Century, the Portuguese had already established their colony in Goa; but their territorial and commercial hold in India remained rather limited.

The Years of 'The Raj' The newcomers soon developed rivalries among themselves and allied with local rulers to consolidate their positions against each other militarily. In time they developed territorial and political ambitions of their own and manipulated local rivalries and enmities to their own advantage. The ultimate victors were the British, who established political supremacy over eastern India after the Battle of Plassey in 1757. They gradually extended their rule over the entire subcontinent, either by direct annexation, or by exercising suzerainty over local rajas and nawabs. Unlike all former rulers, the British did not settle in India to form a new local empire. The English East India Company continued its commercial activities and India became 'the Jewel in the Crown' of the British Empire, giving an enormous boost to the nascent Industrial Revolution by providing cheap raw materials, capital and a large captive market for British industry.

In certain areas farmers were forced to switch from subsistence farming to commercial crops such as indigo, jute, coffee and tea. This resulted in several famines of unprecedented scale. In the first half of the 19th century, the British extended their hold over many Indian territories. A large part of the subcontinent was brought under the Company's direct administration. By 1857, the British empire in India had become the British empire of India. The means employed to achieve this were unrestrained and no scruple was allowed to interfere with the imperial ambition.

A century of accumulated grievances erupted in the Indian mutiny of sepoys in the British army, in 1857. The uprising, however, was eventually brutally suppressed. The rebellion also saw the end of the East India Company's rule in India. An Act of British Parliament transferred power to the British Crown in 1858. The Crown's viceroy in India was to be the chief executive.

The Freedom Struggle The British Empire contained within itself the seeds of its own destruction. The British constructed a vast railway network across the entire land in order to facilitate the transport of raw materials to the ports for export. This gave intangible form to the idea of Indian unity by physically bringing all the peoples of the subcontinent within easy reach of each other. Since it was impossible for a small handful of foreigners to administer such a vast country, they set out to create a local elite to help them in this task; to this end they set up a system of education that familiarized the local intelligentsia with the intellectual and social values of the West. Ideas of democracy, individual freedom and equality were the antithesis of the empire and led to the genesis of the freedom movement among thinkers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Bankim Chandra and Vidyasagar.

With the failure of the 1857 mutiny, the leadership of the freedom movement passed into the hands of this class and crystallized in the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. At the turn of the century, the freedom movement reached out to the common unlettered man through the launching of the Swadeshi movement by leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghose. But the full mobilization of the masses into an invincible force only occurred with the appearance on the scene of one of the most remarkable and charismatic leaders of the twentieth century, perhaps in history. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a British trained lawyer of Indian origin from South Africa. He had won his political spurs organizing the Indian community there against the vicious system of apartheid.

During this struggle, he had developed the novel technique of non-violent agitation which he called 'satyagraha', loosely translated as moral domination. Under his leadership, the Congress launched a series of mass movements - the Non Cooperation Movement of 1920 -1922 and the Civil Disobedience Movement in 1930. The latter was triggered by the famous Salt March, when Gandhi captured the imagination of the nation by leading a band of followers from his ashram at Sabarmati, on a 200 mile trek to the remote village of Dandi on the west coast, there to prepare salt in symbolic violation of British law. In August 1942, the Quit India movement was launched. It became evident that the British could maintain the empire only at enormous cost.

At the end of the Second World War, the British initiated a number of constitutional moves to affect the transfer of power to the sovereign State of India. For the first and perhaps the only time in history, the power of a mighty global empire 'on which the sun never set', had been challenged and overcome by the moral might of a people armed only with ideals and courage. Independence India achieved independence on August 15,1947. The progress and triumph of the Indian Freedom movement was one of the most significant historical processes of the twentieth century. Its repercussions extended far beyond its immediate political consequences. Within the country, it initiated the reordering of political, social and economic power.

In the international context, it sounded the death knell of British Imperialism, and changed the political face of the globe. The New State Throughout history, India had absorbed and modified to suit its needs, the best from all the civilisations with which it has come into contact. India chose to remain within the British Commonwealth of Nations. It also adopted the British system of Parliamentary Democracy, and retained the judicial, administrative, defense and educational structures and institutions set up by the British. India is today the largest and most populous democracy on earth. Today India is a pluralistic society of over 1 billion people.

It is a country of contrasts. On the one hand it is the twelfth largest industrial power in the world, and, on the other hand, it is the fifteenth poorest nation in per capita income. Urban and metropolitan India presents a picture of an affluent minority with hedonistic lifestyles and coexists with the grinding poverty of rural India India Today Population Indias population just crossed the billion milestone, more than three times that of the United States and about threefourths of China. Indias population is growing at a rate of 2 percent annually, whereas in China the growth rate is 1.2 percent annually. India is also more densely populated with an average of 547 persons per square mile. According to the 1990 census, about 25 percent of the population in India lived in urban areas (about 2500 cities and towns).

The remaining 75 percent live in more than 500,000 villages. The drift to the urban areas is obviously revolutionary in its effects on Indian life. Many urban dwellers maintain their ties with village life. They take back to the villages new ideas of what is possible and desirable, and the villages themselves thereby change. The literacy rate lags in rural areas and among women, but for all of India, it has risen from 16.6 percent in 1951 to 43.5 percent in 1990.

The prevailing impression of the larger Indian city today is one of overcrowding of immense and diverse populations, but at the same time of a teeming and vigorous life. Traffic is often chaotic, animal transport (bullock carts, horse-drawn carriages and even camels in dry areas) mingling with modern vehicles. In dock areas there is even a good deal of human labor and this, together with the frequent use of two or more persons for an apparently simple task can be regarded as a form of disguised relief for Indias underemployed population. Religion India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism. As a secular state, however, India has no official religion and religious toleration is guaranteed under the constitution.

Hindus constitute about 83 percent of the population, Muslims, 11 percent, Christians 3 percent, Sikhs 2 percent and Buddhists and Jains less than 1 percent each. Caste System The caste system, a set of social and occupational classes into which individuals are born, is an important facet of Hinduism and thus is a dominant feature of Indian life. Since independence, the government has been attempting to eliminate castes, but caste consciousness remains important in Indian politics, despite the fact that caste discrimination is unconstitutional. Harijans, the lowest caste (traditionally the untouchables) who constitute 15 percent of the population and tribals, who constitute 7 percent are given special privileges in terms of reservations for education and jobs. Education Education is a concurrent responsibility of the national and state governments, with the national government laying down policy directions and the states implementing them. The system of education is comprised of primary, secondary (with vocational and technical courses) and collegiate institutions. Education is free and compulsory through age fourteen.

Literacy has risen from 17 percent in 1950 to 48 percent in 1990; in that year, 52 percent of all men and 31 percent of all women were literate. Literacy is generally higher in urban areas. Languages About 200 different languages are spoken in India and an appreciation of the linguistic divisions provides a key to better understanding of the nation. Four principal language groups are recognized of which the Aryan and Dravidian are most important. Hindi (belonging to the Aryan linguistic group) is the official language of the country.

English is also widely used in government and business. In addition, fourteen other languages have received official recognition in the constitution; Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Kashmiri, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sindhi and Urdu belonging to the Aryan group and Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu belonging to the Dravidian group, and Sanskrit that provides the root for many of the Indian languages. Sanskrit is no longer a spoken language. Many other languages are spoken by smaller groups and they are either regional variations or dialects. Material Life A nations material life reflects on its economic advancement and the standard of living of her people.

One indicator of material life is the overall consumption pattern. Currently, Indias families spend over 60 percent of their income on food, with expenditures on health care being as little as 2.5 percent and household furnishings accounting for only 4.2 percent. However, these aggregate figures fail to reveal an important fact of life in India. While a large population lives a mediocre life, a substantial proportion maintains a decent standard of living and the number of people in the latter group is rising, which potentially makes India a promising market for a variety of goods and services. Indias large population, the physical terrain, climate and culture are all conducive to the development of a consumption society.

Government and Politics India follows a parliamentary system of government both at the center and the states. At the center, there are two houses of parliament: the Lok Sabha (house of the people) and Rajya Sabha (house of the state). The head of the country is the president, chosen by an electoral college of both houses of parliament and state legislatures. The president calls the leader of the majority party in the Lok Sabha to form the government. The leader of the majority party becomes the Prime Minister and runs the government with the help of a cabinet of ministers appointed by the president on the advice of the Prime Minister.

The constitution vests all executive power in the President, but the real relationship between President and the council of ministers headed by the Prime Minister is analogous to that of British Monarch, who exercises ceremonial powers, and the British cabinet which actually governs. The country is divided into twenty-five States and seven Union Territories. Despite Indias enormous problems, it has the distinction of being a true democracy. Since independence, twelve general elections have been held, all on time and all as free as in North America and Western Europe, but with the distinction of larger voter participation despite still low literacy and insufficient transportation. India has proved that democratic stability need not precede economic prosperity and that universal literacy is not a precondition for open and fair voting. Many critics view Indias political future as bleak.

They point to the continued problem of dealing with the Sikh extremists in Punjab and the political turbulen ...

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