Over 1.3 billion people live in India, making it the 2nd most populous country in the world. From the vast deserts of Rajasthan and the blissful beaches of Goa to the vibrant Keralan tea plantations and the busy metropolitan cities of Mumbai and Kolkata. With such a huge diversity of landscapes, religion and culture, these India facts have the power to energise your senses. Have you ever wondered what the national language of India is? or Where Bollywood ranks on the world stage for film production? Discover more about this fascinating country with these top 25 facts about India.
9 interesting facts about India's people
With a population of nearly 1.4 billion, India's people are as diverse as its landscape and history.
1. India's only female prime minister was assassinated
Indira Gandhi was India's first and only female prime minister. She was the daughter of Jawaharlal Nehru – India's first prime minister– not the child of leader Mahatma Gandhi as her surname might suggest. She served from 1966-1977 and was re-elected in 1980 before being assassinated in 1984 while still in office.
2. Mother Teresa's sari is still symbolic
Mother Teresa first donned her famous sari in 1948; it's now the uniform for nuns in her order, the Missionaries of Charity. Born in Macedonia in 1910, Mother Teresa – also known as Saint Teresa of Calcutta – was a Roman Catholic nun and missionary. She devoted her life to helping the poor in the city of Calcutta, although her methods were considered controversial by some.
3. Indian weddings are a colourful occasion
A woman may be forbidden from housework while any colour from the bridal mendhi (henna) is on her hands. Indian weddings are often colourful extended occasions that can last for anything from 3 days to a full week. The ceremonies start with the Ganesh pooja, Usually, a private ceremony that takes place with the couple and their close families to honour good fortune, followed by the mendhi ceremony the next day where henna patterns are painted on the bride and her female friends and family. That evening, there's often the sangeet- a musical night to welcome all the wedding guests, with the main ceremony and reception happening on the third day.
4. The country is third in the world for billionaires
India now boasts 6,884 ultra-high-net-worth individuals with assets over US $30 million and claims to have 140 billionaires- ranking the country third in the world for billionaires, behind the USA and China.
5. The majority of the population is Hindu
Nearly 80 percent of India's population are Hindu, 15 percent are Muslim and millions more are Sikh, Jain or Christian.
6. Not just one national language
In India, there isn’t one national language- the constitution states there are 23 official languages. While Hindi is the most widely spoken and the language of the central government in India, no language is more official than the others. According to the constitution, each of the 22 local languages (plus English) are of equal importance.
7. The sari is over 5000 years old
The sari dates back to at least 3000 BCE. Sari wearers often choose the colour of their garment based on the occasion. Red is often worn by brides to symbolise fertility and prosperity.
8. Improvement in literacy
India has an adult literacy rate of nearly 75 percent. While the country has made significant improvements over the years, it has yet to meet the worldwide average literacy rate of 86.5 percent.
9. The origins of chess
It is claimed that the game of chess originated in India some 1,500 years ago. It is said to be based on the 7th-century war game called chaturanga that flourished in northwestern India at the time.
7 impressive economic facts about India
Emerging as one of the fastest growing major economies in the world, India is expected to be one of the top 3 economic powers in 10-15 years.
1. India is the third-largest economy
In terms of purchasing power (comparing economic productivity and standards of living), India is the world's third-largest economy.
2. Closed currency restrictions
The Indian rupee is a closed currency- there are harsh restrictions on bringing the currency in and out of the country. Visitors must arrive with cash and exchange their money at the airport or bank currency booth, or use an ATM to withdraw rupees once in the country.
3. Bollywood shines on the world stage
Bollywood is the world's largest producer of films, surpassing Nollywood (Nigerian Cinema) and even Hollywood. On average, Bollywood produces between 1,500-2,000 feature films a year.
Are you curious to know more about the inner workings of the Bollywood industry? Head to Mumbai to partake in a Film City Bollywood experience.
4. The powerhouse of Indian Railways
Indian Railways is one of the top employers on the planet. With a staggering 1.4 million employees, India's state-owned railway network operates a huge, extensive network that extends across the country for hundreds of thousands of miles. Each day roughly 23 million passengers are transported on this extensive network.
5. Newspapers to millions
India is the second-largest market of newspapers in the world- over 100,000 publications and 1300 million readers.
6. Outsourcing experts
Roughly 67 percent of the world’s outsourcing is done in India. The Indian IT industry is valued at US 150- billion.
7. Nalanda International University is one of the world's most ancient
In rural Bihar, Nalanda, one of the world's most ancient universities is being rebuilt. It was first established as a centre of learning in the 5th century CE when a large Buddhist monastery stood on site. The new Nalanda International University is set to be completed in 2021/22- offering post-graduate courses on a wide variety of subjects.
The university is located in the rural area of Bihar, we recommend staying in comfort while you explore history.
6 fun facts about India's food/beverage scene
India's cuisine made of local spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits has influenced other cuisines from around the world- from Europe to the Caribbean.
1. Oldest cuisine in human history
Indian cuisine may be the oldest continuously prepared cuisine in known human history. Of course, what we know at home as "Indian food" varies widely from place to place in the country itself. From the Portuguese-inspired dishes of Goa to the tandoori ovens of the Punjab, there's a wealth of different dishes to discover on a trip to the country.
2. Dabbawallahs deliver a staggering amount of lunches
Normally, Mumbai's foodservice network known as dabbawallahs delivers over 200,000 lunch boxes by bike and train from home to office daily. Unfortunately, the pandemic has drastically impacted their services- with many students and workers staying at home. In an intricate system, each person receives the correct tiffin box filled with hot food prepared by their family, and in the afternoon the empty boxes are picked up and returned home again. There's even a movie based on the phenomenon, 2013's The Lunchbox.
Discover Mumbai by local transport and taste a dabbawallah lunch for yourself.
3. Tea dating back to 750 BCE
Tea had been growing in India for centuries before the British began its commercial cultivation. The first recorded mention of tea in the country dates back to 750 BCE, and it was reportedly also consumed as a vegetable dish, fried in oil with garlic. When the British arrived in the 18th century, they began growing tea on a commercial scale to reduce their reliance on buying tea from China.
4. Alcohol is banned in some states
Alcohol consumption is banned in five Indian states; the drinking age varies from 18 to 30 in the others. If you're travelling to Gujarat, Bihar, Nagaland or the Union Territory of Lakshadweep know that you won’t be able to buy alcohol. In addition, many states practice "dry days" on major religious holidays, when it's forbidden to sell alcohol.
5. Britain's favourite dish has Indian roots
Chicken tikka masala has become one of Britain’s national dishes- some say it has overtaken Fish and Chips. Although there are discrepancies about how this favoured curry came to be in the UK- whether it was created in the ’70s by a Bangladeshi chef in Glasgow or simply inspired by butter chicken- the tikka part of the dish originated some 5,000 years ago in India.
6. Asia's largest wholesale spice market
Khari Baoli in Delhi is Asia's largest wholesale spice market. It's been in operation since the 17th century and is named after the street on which it's situated.
Wondering how to tackle the largest spice market in Asia? There's no need to be overwhelmed- you can always get a guide to navigate the labyrinth with you.
3 wild nature facts of India
Supporting more than 8% of the world's biodiversity, India's raw beauty can be seen from its coastline to its forests.
1. It is home to the wettest inhabited place on earth
The state of Meghalaya, northeast India's "abode of clouds", is the wettest inhabited place on earth. The forested region has an average rainfall of 12,000 mm (470 inches) of rain every year. That's nearly 33mm of rain per day. Meghalaya's forests are home to a vast array of plant and animal species, including the Himalayan black bear, the pangolin (scaly anteater) and the zebra-striped hoopoe bird.
2. White tigers are only found here
White tigers are only found among Indian tigers. White tigers a type of Bengal tiger created through a variant in pigmentation. They often grow into larger animals than their orange-coloured cousins.
When you're in the province of Rajasthan and want to spot these majestic Bengal tigers in the wild, head to Ranthambore National Park to check it off your bucket list.
3. The Bengal tiger is its national animal
The Bengal tiger is India's national animal. It was adopted as India's symbolic animal in 1972. Corbett Tiger Reserve has the largest population of Bengal tigers for visitors hoping to catch a glimpse closely followed by Bandipur National Park in Karnataka.
Our 25 India facts emerged from all reaches of this enormous country- from its people and culture to natural landscapes and economic triumphs, India certainly is full of wonder.