India Children’s Encyclopedia


One sixth of humanity

India, one of the largest and above all of the most populous states in the world, is an extraordinarily complex country, varied in terms of territory and residents, with a long, rich and important history marked by very great civilizations: yet, it is still in the balance between hunger and development. Like so many other regions in the South of the world, India has undergone severe colonization, its growth has been blocked, its political and territorial organization upset. Only a few decades ago it has been heading towards better living conditions and is acquiring greater economic and political weight in the world, as it should be for a country that hosts one sixth of the population of the Earth.

At the mercy of the winds

The Indian territory corresponds in practice to two great natural regions: the Deccan – a triangle of high lands bordered by coastal mountain ranges (the Western and Eastern Ghats) – which is the peninsular part, almost entirely located south of the Tropic of Cancer ; and the plain crossed by the great river Ganges with its many tributaries, north of the Deccan, almost joined to the plain furrowed to the west by the Indus – which however only partially re-enters India -.

To the north of these plains, the Himalayas also overlook Indian territory: in the northwestern region of Kashmir, a section of the great Himalayan range, the Ladakh mountains, and a part of the Karakorum, with peaks that largely exceed 7,000 m, belong to India.. India also includes the coral archipelagos of the Laccadives, in the Arabian Sea, and of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in the Bay of Bengal.

Despite the position on the Tropic, the climate of India is very varied, both for the presence of the reliefs and above all for the different distribution of rainfall. The dominant and characteristic element of the climate of India – and of all South Asia – is the alternation of monsoons: winds that blow from the SW towards the NE in summer, bringing humid air from the Indian Ocean and, therefore, rain ; and in winter they follow the reverse direction, from the ground, from NE to SW, causing drought instead. The paths of these winds are actually less linear, as they are deflected by the mountains: for example, the summer monsoon that blows from the Bay of Bengal is deflected by the eastern Himalayas and enters the Ganges valley.

Regional diversity

Even apart from the mountain areas, which in India are quite small, there are many differences between the regions of the Deccan and the Indo-Gangetic lowland.

The Deccan is more arid: the summer monsoon, in fact, is intercepted by the Western Ghats, which are well over 2,000 m; on their slopes there is a heavy rainfall, but in the interior the air arrives dry; the temperature is high, and in the hinterland it is not much attenuated by the altitude, while on the coast the presence of the sea softens it. The coastal regions (Malabar to the west, Coromandel to the east) are therefore very dense in residents, despite the presence of forests. In the interior Deccan, on the other hand, the population is much more scarce: here the spontaneous vegetation is the savannah, the waterways have periods of accentuated lean and agriculture is made uncertain by the scarcity of water. to the east – connected with the Indo-Gangetic plain.

Even in the plain, the climate is varied: it ranges from marked aridity (Thar desert, in the west, on the border with Pakistan) to very high rainfall (in Assam: even 11,000 mm of rain in a year). It is in the plain of the Ganges (Indostan) that the Indian population is concentrated and that the most productive agricultural areas are found. The rivers of the Gangetic Basin are fed by the snows of the Himalayas and have water even in the dry seasons. To the north, in the valleys of the Himalayan spurs, the jungle survives and, on the slopes of the mountains, tropical forests very rich in plant and animal species; almost the entire plain has been cleared and cultivated.

One billion people

The Indian population has always been very large. But over the last century it has increased at a staggering rate, slowing only in the past twenty years. The increase was sudden, produced by interventions in the health and hygiene fields that reduced infant mortality and led to an increase in life expectancy and population growth. But food availability did not increase until the 1960s, so the history of India between the 19th and 20th centuries is a tragic succession of famines and epidemics. An increase in population and a failure to increase food production were the result of colonization (colonialism). For India 2011, please check

The effects of the colonization were also the formation of the state – a federation which brought together, on a religious basis, many ancient independent states – and the ethnic composition of the population. Over the centuries India has welcomed numerous migrations that have mixed thoroughly in certain regions, while in others they have preserved their specific characters: for example, the languages ​​spoken are a few hundred, even if the Constitution recognizes ‘only’ 18 of them. ; the most widespread is Hindi, the official language of the state, but English must be used alongside this.

About 80% of the population is Hindu, but there are many Muslims, and then the followers of various other religions. Traditionally, Hindu society also had a caste division (Hinduism), which has been abolished, but in reality it continues to weigh heavily on Indian life.

Less than a third of Indians live in cities: large agricultural villages are the most common type of settlement. However, some cities are very populous. The metropolitan area of ​​Bombay has almost 16.5 million residents, more than 13 has that of Calcutta, slightly less than that of Delhi (one of its suburbs, New Delhi, is the capital of the Indian Union), in Madras they live more 6 million, almost as many in Bangalore and Hyderabad.


The great growth of the cities is after independence (India, history). In colonial times, India had to export food (wheat, rice, tea, spices) and plants for industry (cotton, jute) to Europe; the population, therefore, had to live in the countryside. Immediately after independence, millions of displaced people poured into the cities who had left the Islamic regions that had passed to Pakistan; then, while a process of modernization of agriculture was underway to acquire self-sufficiency in the food sector, India also wanted to develop large industries in the main cities, which began to receive immigrants from the countryside. Agriculture is now quite advanced and produces enormous quantities of cereals, legumes, peanuts, sugar cane, tea, jute, cotton, spices, fruit; three quarters of the lands belong to very large owners.

The mineral resources (coal, iron, bauxite, chromium, petroleum, precious stones) are substantial, and are partly exported, partly processed by the local industry: steel, mechanical, chemical, textile. The IT sector has also developed considerably in the last twenty years. In short, the resources are not scarce, and can support the strong increase in population. The great natural and artistic beauties can feed significant tourist flows. However, infrastructure is lacking (even if the railway network is highly developed) and, above all, wealth is concentrated in a few hands.

Not only in the countryside, but in many cities, extreme poverty is a normal condition for hundreds of millions of people.

India Modernization