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The Republic of India Is a South Asian country bounded by the Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and the Bay of Bengal on the south, southwest, and southeast, respectively. It share borders with Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. It is separated from the island country of Sri Lanka, to the southeast, by the Palk Strait, a distance of less than twenty miles. The Maldives are a few hundred miles to the south.

The Andaman Islands, an archipelago in the Bay of Bengal, are part of India, although a few of them in the north are in Myanmar. People have lived on the Andaman Islands for thousands of years, possibly as early as the Middle Paleolithic era. The ethnic Andamanese people lived in isolation until the mid-1700s. Although there are 572 islands in the archipelago, only about a dozen of them are open to tourists, as many are reserved tribal areas. The Nicobar Islands, in particular, are open only to Indian nationals who are on official research or government business, except for approved traders.

India is the second most populated country in the world, after China. India's constitution recognizes 22 languages, but more than 1,600 are in use in India. Its most common languages fall within the Into-Aryan or Dravidian language groups. Although India has no national language, Hindi is the language of its government, and the most commonly spoken language in India. There have been attempts to promote Hindi as the official language of India, and to phase out the use of English, but English remains a popular second language among Indians, and many educated Indians use English as their first language. English is also commonly used in business and education. Although India has an overall literacy rate of nearly 75%, literacy rates in rural areas are just over 15%.

The Indian subcontinent was the center of the Bronze Age Indus Valley Civilization, from 3300-1300 BC, which was one of the earth's earliest human civilization. The oldest writings that are associated with Hinduism were written in the following millennium, and India's caste system was devised about 1000 BC. Buddhism originated in India between the 6th and 4th Centuries BC, although it declined in India during the Middle Ages. Jainism also originated in India, although the date is uncertain. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism, and Zoroastrianism were introduced to India during Medieval times.

India is a secular state today, in which all religions are treated fairly by law and custom. Approximately 80% of the population identifies as Hindu, but many other religions are active in India, including Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, and other religions. Zoroastrianism and Judaism have been historically significant in India, but account for relatively small numbers of adherent today. The roots of Hinduism in India go back more than 5,000 years.

Most marriages in India are arranged by the families, as this arrangement is common among Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, and Buddhists in India. Although currently illegal, a dowry still plays into many arranged marriages, particularly among more conservative families. It is suspected that the financial burden of providing for a daughter's dowry plays strongly into the high rate of abortion of female fetuses. Divorce is uncommon, and widows are not expected to remarry.

Officially, the caste system in India has been abolished. However, caste still carries a significant influence among the people of India, influencing both marriage and job prospects. In some more traditional regions of India, those who married outside of their caste have been murdered. Hindus believe that by living a moral and righteous life, a person can improve his chances of being reincarnated into a higher caste.

In India, women are entitled to own property, to vote, and to run for political office, although women are still underrepresented in the national parliament. Although the professions are male-dominated, women are making progress in business, particularly in the urban areas of the country. In 1938, Kerala was the first state to recruit female police offices, and an all-female police station was established in Kerala in 1973.

The government of India is a parliamentary republic in which multiple political parties are active. Since achieving independence from Britain in 1950, India has undergone periods of political turbulence, including the assassination fo Indira Gandhi in 1984, yet it stands as a relatively stable nation. Its separation from Britain did not come before the region was partitioned into two states: India and Pakistan, and its territorial disputes with Pakistan have led to for wars, as well as a nuclear rivalry during the late 1990s. India was defeated in a brief border war with China in 1962, and relations between the two countries remain tense. India still has unresolved boundary issues with Pakistan and China.


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