At the heart of South Asia, India is the second-most populous country in the world after China. It is a peninsula bounded by the Indian Ocean to the south, the Arabian Sea to the west, and the Bay of Bengal to the east. The northern border is defined by the Himalayan mountain range. India is a country of wide cultural diversity and religious tolerance, with more than 122 regional languages. Hinduism, Islam, Sikhism, Christianity, Jainism and Buddhism as just some of its national religions.
Midnight’s Children charts the turbulent history of India and its challenging journey towards independence. From 1858 until 1947, India was under colonial rule as part of the British Empire, following around one hundred years of governance by the British East India Trading Company. The British Raj covered all regions of present-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Burma; at the turn of the 20th century British India consisted of eight provinces, each overseen by a British Governor: Burma, Bengal, Madras, Bombay, Uttar Pradesh, Central Provinces, Punjab and Assam.
During this period India saw rapid development of its infrastructure and technologies. Railways, roads and telegraph links were built. However while these projects were funded by Indian revenues, very little skilled employment was made available for Indians. The colonisation led to much hostility among Indian people, and pockets of civil unrest became widespread across the country.
A growing Independence movement developed, headed by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawarhalal Nehru of the Indian National Congress. They encouraged Indians to resist British rule using non-violent protest. The movement led to the independence of India in 1947. Although Gandhi sought a united India, partition along Hindu/Muslim lines soon followed, and the separate Islamic state of Pakistan was born on 14 August 1947. In 1971, following a civil war, the area that was known as East Pakistan seceded as independent Bangladesh.
A detailed history of India >>
Mumbai, formerly Bombay, is the most populous city in India, with a population of approximately 14 million. Lying on the West Coast of India, the city is the capital of the Maharashtra region and boasts a deep natural harbour.
Originally formed of seven islands that were home to communities of fishermen, during the mid-18th century Bombay was developed by the British with large land reclamation projects, aimed at merging all seven islands into a single land-mass.
It soon developed as a significant trading port, a commercial and entertainment centre, and the base of the Indian National Congress during the Indian Independence Movement.
Mumbai's history as a major trading centre has led to a diverse range of cultures, religions and cuisines coexisting in the city. It offers a cosmopolitan and diverse lifestyle, with a variety of food, entertainment and night life. It is also the birthplace of Indian cinema and the Bollywood Film Industry, producing around 150–200 films every year.
Despite its extensive development, Mumbai is also home to Dharavi, one of the largest slums in Asia. Prior to the late 19th century, Dharavi was predominantly mangrove swamps inhabited by communities of Koli Fishermen. However as the swamps dried up Dharavi's fishing town was deprived of its traditional livelihood and levels of poverty began to rise. The newly drained marshes provided space for new communities to move in, and migrants flocked to the area, putting extra strain on supplies and santitation facilities. An urban redevelopment plan is planned for the Dharavi area, with housing, schools, parks and roads to serve the 57,000 families residing in the area.
The Sundarbans delta is home to the largest mangrove forest in the world. The name Sundarban can be literally translated as "beautiful jungle" or "beautiful forest" in the Bengali Language. The delta lies at the mouth of the River Ganges and spreads across part of West Bengal in India and the western coastline of Bangladesh.
Crossed by a complex network of tidal waterways, mudflats and small islands of mangrove forests, the area is known for its diverse wildlife, being home to a large variety of species of birds and animals. The most famous of these is the Bengal Tiger.