The Republic of India is a nation in South Asia. It borders Pakistan to the northwest, China, Nepal, and Bhutan to the north, and Myanmar and Bangladesh to the east. It is the second most populous nation on Earth; with 1.2 billion people, it is second only to China's 1.4 billion. Although historically wealthy, modern day India struggles with chronic poverty, illiteracy, and corruption. Its capital is New Delhi, and its largest city is Mumbai. The dominant languages are Hindi and English. Most Indians are Hindu, although a significant portion of them are Muslims, Jains, or Buddhists.
Indian history begins nearly 5000 years ago, the estimated date for the founding of Hinduism. The Aryan invasion in the first millenium BC brought the caste system to India, which endures to the present day.
In the 3rd century BC, most of India was unified by the Maurya Empire, which was founded by Chandragupta Maurya. Ashoka the Great expanded this empire to its greatest extent, with the conquest of Kalinga. However, once he saw the bloodshed inflicted on the Kalingans, he converted to Buddhism and became a pacifist.
The next major Indian empire was the Gupta Empire, beginning around 200 AD. It was fairly decentralized, with much of its wealth coming from the merchant class. It was a high point in Indian art and culture. It fell around 500 AD.
Beginning in the eleventh century, Muslim invaders began to pour into India. The Sultanate of Delhi was established, and at times it controlled most of India. However, the Hindu princes remained strong in the south.
In 1526, Babur, a distant relative of Timur, founded the Mughal Empire, a Muslim dynasty that would come to rule all of India for the first time since the Mauryas. Although Muslim, the Mughals initially tolerated Hinduism.
In the 17th century, Europeans began to arrive in India in numbers. They established trading posts on the coast, but in the beginning did not attempt to control the inland. In 1750s and 1760s, the Carnatic Wars confirmed Great Britain's dominance over the other colonial powers, particularly France.
In the latter half of the eighteenth century, a Hindu power began to challenge the Mughals. The Maratha Empire began in the hills of central India. The Mughals were unable to root them out, and they continued to grow. The Mughals became more oppressive against the Hindus in response.
By the nineteenth century, the United Kingdom controlled most of India indirectly through the British East India Company. In 1859, the sepoys revolted, and the British government came in to put them down. The Mughal Empire and the British East India Company were disestablished, and the British Raj was created in their place.
The Indian independence movement began in the 1920s. It was strengthened in the 1930s by the charisma of Mahatma Gandhi, a civil rights leader who believed in nonviolent protests. The majority of Indians were opposed to entering World War II, but they had no choice, as they were still ruled by the United Kingdom. Hundreds of thousands of Indians died in the fighting, and the 1943 Bengal famine claimed many millions more.
In 1947, India was granted independence. The territory that was the British Raj became two countries: Pakistan, the Muslim-majority parts, and India, the Hindu-majority parts. Massive internal migrations and conflicts over Kashmir led to a bloody war between the two countries.
India has struggled since independence. The License Raj slowed economic growth until its repeal in 1991, and several more devastating wars were fought with Pakistan, including the massive 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. In the 21st century, India is a rising global power, with the potential to become a superpower.
India is relatively isolated from the rest of Asia by the Thar Desert in the northwest and the Himalayas in the north. The Western Ghats and the Eastern Ghats run down the sides of the Deccan peninsula. The Ganges and Brahmaputra form a fertile plain in the north. The tallest mountain in India is Kangchenjunga.