*1. India is about 1/3 the size of the
United States, yet it is the second
most populous country in the world,
with a population of 1,166,079,217.
India is the seventh largest country in
the world, at 1.27 million square
*2. India is the largest democracy in
The Kumbh Mela (or Grand Pitcher Festival)
is a huge Hindu religious festival that takes
place in India every 12 years. In 2001, 60 million
people attended, breaking the record for the
world’s biggest gathering. The mass of people
was photographed from space by a satellite.
Many Indians find toilet paper repellent and
consider it cleaner to splash water with the left
hand in the appropriate direction. Consequently,
the left hand is considered unclean and is never
used for eating.
* 5. To avoid polluting the elements (fire, earth, water, air), followers
of Zoroastrianism in India don’t bury their dead, but instead leave
bodies in buildings called “Towers of Silence” for the vultures to pick
clean. After the bones dry, they are swept into a central well.
* 6. It is illegal to take Indian currency (rupees) out of India.
* 7. India leads the world with the most murders (32,719), with Russia
taking second at 28,904 murders per year.
* 8. India has one of the world’s highest rates of abortion.
* 9. More than a million Indians are millionaires, yet most Indians live
on less than two dollars a day. An estimated 35% of India’s population
lives below the poverty line.
* 10. Cows can be found freely wandering the streets of India’s cities.
They are considered sacred and will often wear a tilak, a Hindu
symbol of good fortune. Cows are considered one of humankind’s
seven mothers because they offer milk as does one’s natural mother.
* 12. Rabies is endemic in India. Additionally, “Delhi Belly” or diarrhea
is commonplace due to contaminated drinking water.
* 13. Many Indian wives will never say their husband’s name aloud, as
it is a sign of disrespect. When addressing him, the wife will use
several indirect references, such as “ji” or “look here” or “hello,”
or even refer to him as the father of her child.
* 1 4. A widow is considered bad luck—otherwise, her husband
wouldn’t have died. Elderly women in the village might call a widow
“the one who ate her husband.” In some orthodox families, widows
are not allowed near newlyweds or welcomed at social gatherings.
* 15. India is the birthplace of chess. The original word for “chess” is
the Sanskrit chaturanga, meaning “four members of an army”—
which were mostly likely elephants, horses, chariots, and foot
*18. The earliest cotton in the world was spun and woven in
India. Roman emperors would wear delicate cotton from
India that they would call “woven winds.” Mogul emperors
called the fabrics “morning dew” and “cloth of running
*19. In ancient and medieval India, suttees, in which a
recently widowed woman would immolate herself on her
husband’s funeral pyre, were common.
*20. The Himalayas—from the Sanskrit hima, meaning
“snow,” and alaya, meaning “abode”—are found in the
north of India. They extend 1,500 miles and are slowly
growing taller, by almost an inch (2.5 cm) a year. Several
ancient Indian monasteries are found nestled in the
grandeur of these mountains.
*21. India is the world’s largest producer of dried beans,
such as kidney beans and chickpeas. It also leads the world
in banana exports; Brazil is second.
*22. In India, the fold and color of clothing are
viewed as important markers of social classification.
Additionally, a woman will be viewed as either a
prostitute or a holy person depending on the
manner in which she parts her hair.
With 150,000 post offices, India has the largest
postal network in the world. However, it is not
unusual for a letter to take two weeks to travel just
In India, grasping one’s ears signifies
repentance or sincerity
Indians hold prominent places both
internationally and in the United States. For
example, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems
(Vinod Khosla), the creator of the Pentium chip
(Vinod Dahm), the founder/creator of Hotmail
(Sabeer Bhatia), and the GM of Hewlett-Packard
(Rajiv Gupta) are all Indian.
Alexander the Great of Macedon (356-323
B.C.) was one of the first important figures to
bring India into contact with the West. After his
death, a link between Europe and the East would
not be restored until Portuguese explorer Vasco
da Gama (1460-1524) landed in Calicut, India, in
*28. The British Raj, or British rule, lasted from 1858 to
1947 (although they had a strong presence in India since
the 1700s). British influence is still seen in Indian
architecture, education system, transportation, and
politics. Many of India’s worst famines are associated
with British rule in India.
*29. Every major world religion is represented in India.
Additionally, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism
all originated in India.
*30. About 80% of Indians are Hindu. Muslims are the
largest minority in India and form approximately 13% of
the country’s population. In fact, India has the third
largest population of Muslims in the world, after
Indonesia and Pakistan.
Mumbai (Bombay) is India’s largest city, with a
population of 15 million. In 1661, British engineers built
a causeway uniting all seven original islands of Bombay
into a single landmass.
Mohandas K. Gandhi (1869-1948) is known around
the world as Mahatma, which is an honorific title
meaning “Great Soul” in the ancient Indian language of
Sanskrit. He devoted his life to free India from British
rule peacefully and based his campaign on civil
disobedience. His birthday, October 2, is a national
The lotus is sacred to both Hindus and Buddhists. The
Bahá'í house of worship in Delhi, known as the “Lotus
Temple,” is shaped like a lotus flower with 27 gigantic
“petals” that are covered in marble.
The banyan, or Indian fig tree, is considered
a symbol of immortality and is mentioned in
many Indian myths and legends. This selfrenewing plant is India’s national tree.
Marigold flowers are used as decoration for
Hindu marriages and are a symbol of good
fortune and happiness.
*37. The official name of India is the Republic of India. The
name “India” derives from the River Indus, which most
likely is derived from the Sanskrit sindhu, meaning “river.”
The official Sanskrit name of India is Bharat, after the
legendary king in the epic Mahabharata.
*38. Introduced by the British, cricket is India’s most popular
sport. Hockey is considered the national sport, and the
Indian field hockey team proudly won Olympic gold in 1928.
*39. Indians made significant contributions to calculus,
trigonometry, and algebra. The decimal system was
invented in India in 100 B.C. The concept of zero as a
number is also attributed to India.
*40. The national fruit of India is the mango. The national
bird is the peacock, which was initially bred for food.
*41. Most historians agree that the first recorded account of
plastic surgery is found in ancient Indian Sanskrit texts.
* 42. India experiences six seasons: summer, autumn, winter,
spring, summer monsoon, and winter monsoon.
* 43. India is the world’s largest tea producer, and tea (chai) is
its most popular beverage.
* 44. The Taj Mahal (“crown palace”) was built by Mughal
Emperor Shah Jahan (1592-1666) for his beloved wife Mumtaz
Mahal (1593-1631). This architectural beauty has been called
“marbled embroidery” for its intricate workmanship. It took
22,000 workmen 22 years to complete it.
* 45. The first and greatest civilization in ancient India
developed around the valley of the Indus River (now Pakistan)
around 3000 B.C. Called the Indus Valley civilization, this early
empire was larger than any other empire, including Egypt and
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