“There are some parts of the world that, once visited, get into your heart and won’t go. For me, India is such a place. When I first visited, I was stunned by the richness of the land, by its lush beauty and exotic architecture, by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colours, smells, tastes, and sounds… I had been seeing the world in black and white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant technicolour.”
The words of Keith Bellows, award winning journalist, author, and former editor-in-chief of National Geographic Traveler sum up India. There’s a lot to learn about this incredible country and its incredible people. To get started here’s ten fascinating fact.
National symbols and the national anthem – The Indian national flag is a horizontal tricolour of deep saffron at the top, white in the middle and dark green at the bottom, all in equal proportions. In the centre of the flag is the Ashoka Chakra, a 24-spoke wheel, in navy blue, which is a depiction of the Buddhist Dharmachakra. A short clip about the wheel and its law can be seen by clicking here.
Big flag fact: Flying at a height of 207 feet, the 60 foot wide and 90 foot long national flag at the centre of Rajiv Chowk (Connaught Place), is India’s biggest. For more flag facts check out what the Flag Foundation of India has to say.
India is a union of 29 states and seven territories – On the 2nd June 2014 Telangana split from Andhra Pradesh to become the newest of India’s 29 states. Each state has its own Chief Minister who serves a five year term. If you want to know who’s in charge where, click here.
There’s an awful lot of people here – With 1.4 billion people India is the second most populous country in the world. The United Nations estimates that by 2028 India will have taken the crown from China to become the world’s most populous country.
A lot of different languages are spoken – No-one really knows how many languages are spoken in India, but it’s sad to be well over a thousand. Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu – the big six languages – are each spoken by more than 50 million people.
But to cater for all the different tongues there are 22 official languages. Are you ready for the list? There’s Assamese, Bengali, Bodo, Dogri, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Kashmiri, Konkani, Maithili, Malayalam, Manipuri, Marathi, Nepali, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Santhali, Sindhi, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu.
India is the world’s largest democracy – In the 2014 national elections over 814 million people were eligible to vote. That’s more people than the entire population of Europe. A staggering 930,000 polling stations were established for the month long election, which was won by Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (or BJP for short).
There are 32 UNESCO World Heritage sites – UNESCO list 35 World Heritage sites including the Taj Mahal in Agra, the Hill Forts of Rajasthan and The Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus in Mumbai. Seven of India World Heritage sites as classed as natural wonders and include the Western Ghats, the Great Himalayan National Conservation Park Area and the Sundarbans National Park. And there’s one mixed cultural and natural wonder, Khangchendzonga National Park.
The home of religion and spirituality – The last census of India, taken in 2011, found that just over 80% of Indians are Hindus, 13.4% are Muslims, 2.3% are Christians, 1.9 are Sikhs and 0.8% are Buddhists. Jainism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Baha’i Faith are also practiced. A mere 727,588 people, less than 0.1% of the population, stated no religion. Find out more about religion and spirituality from the Census of India.
The wettest place in the world – Mawsynram, a village in India’s north-eastern state of Meghalaya claims to be the wettest place in the world with a reported average rainfall of 11,872 mm (467.4 inches) every year. The nearby village of Cherrapunji (also spelt Cherrapunjee and Charrapunji) disputes this. It claims to be even wetter.
Braille like markings on money – Next time you pick up an Indian note, make sure you feel it carefully. India is one of only five countries in the world that have Braille-like markings on notes to make it easier for the blind. Isn’t that just brilliant?
Finally, this little list wouldn’t be complete without a few words about chai – Chai (tea) is India’s national drink. It’s easy to find. Tea stalls exist on almost every street corner. To make sure that there is enough milk to go round there are over 80 million cows and buffaloes in milk.