"We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."
"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
A really long story made short - The world's largest and most complex democracy. Also birthplace of Indus, one of the five earliest civilizations in the world which together formed the foundation of human culture, along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica.
Arguably, the concept of India as a whole begins in 4th century BCE, when most of the subcontinent came under the Maurya Empire, ruled by King Chandragupta Maurya with his adviser, Chanakya. The empire was formed, uniting the many fragments of the subcontinent, presumably as a defense against the Greek invasion led by Alexander the Great. This theory is given credence because Chanakya, the architect of Chandragupta's rise to power, viewed the Greek conquest as an invasion on Indus culture. Chanakya is today regarded as one of the greatest War Strategists of all time, and the tale of his cunning tactics and ploys against the Greeks (both Alexander and his successors) have grown into legend.
Chanakya's manipulations struck several blows to the invading Macedonian army, not the least of which was Alexander almost getting killed, twice, during and after the Battle Of Hydaspes, which is a story unto itself (see the Maurya Empire article for more). As a result, India went almost completely unaffected by the Macedonian Conquests.
Although the Empire went into decline after the deaths of Chandragupta and Chanakya, and soon broke up into what would later be termed the Middle kingdoms of India, most of the kingdoms co-existed in peace, and trade routes started by Maurya flourished over the next 1,500 years. This classical period is known as the Golden Age of the country, during which India became the wealthiest economy in the world.  It is estimated that almost one-third of the entire world's wealth was under India's control at the dawn of the 18th century, when the Europeans, most importantly the British, came calling.
Under British Colonial Rule, first under the East India Company and then directly under the Crown, two hundred and fifty years of rapid economic decline followed. Britain created a modern, united, well-developed system of rule, with railways, telegraph and court systems - but the entire infrastructure was specifically designed to exploit the resources of the country, with no regard as to the consequences for the Indian people. The two and a half centuries of brutal, plundering Colonial Rule gave birth to one of the poorest, most struggling economies in the world, with frequent famines, stalled industrial development, poverty and widespread illiteracy. This is known as "The Drain" in Indian history, when the near entirety of India's wealth and resources were annexed and pillaged by the British. Britain then proceeded to popularize this image of the 'Poor India' around the world, emphasizing that such a country of "savages" was unfit to rule itself.
Obtaining total Independence from Britain on August 15th, 1947, India was divided into what is now modern India, Pakistan, Portugese occupied Goa (which was later conquered and integrated into India--not that most Goans had any problem with it), Bangladesh (which broke off from Pakistan in '71 with India's help), Bhutan (which remains independent), and Sikkim (which was an Indian protectorate from independence to 1975, at which point it was admitted as a state). A much-overlooked fact is that because of the structure of the British Raj, India had to fight for considerable swaths of its own territory (Kashmir aside): while the parts of the subcontinent under direct British rule immediately became part of the Union of India (as it was called before it became a republic in 1950), the Princely States, which Britain theoretically governed indirectly through traditional Indian monarchs, now had the option of joining India, joining Pakistan, or remaining independent. Majority-Muslim states on the border with Pakistan tended to join Pakistan without controversy, while most others chose to join India. However, several princely states refused to follow the obvious patterns, the most notable of which are Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad, all instances where the ruling elite was a different religion from the majority of the population in the state. Kashmir, where the ruler was Hindu and the people Muslim, is quite possibly the biggest political can of worms in the world today besides the Arab-Israeli Conflict and (historically, perhaps) The Troubles. The other two major instances involved a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu state: Junagadh's Muslim prince decided to join Pakistan despite not bordering it at all, leading India to essentially lay siege to the territory, and eventually the prince fled. Hyderabad's Muslim ruler decided he didn't much care to be part of India or Pakistan, and Hyderabad had to be integrated by force of arms.
A lot of the problems the British left behind are still there now, most notably a high rate of illiteracy in the more rural areas, which both the government and private organizations are fighting to change. Sixty years of quick, accelerated development later, India today is the world's largest democracy, maintaining the second largest military in the world, a nuclear superpower, and the only nation that has U.N permission to trade in nuclear fuel without having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
For a country that has only had six decades of actual modern development, it says a lot about how fast the nation is moving forward, especially when Americans today are concerned that Indians are surpassing them in the IT sector. Poverty is extremely widespread still, with 41% of the nation falling below the poverty line (and an equal percentage of malnourished children), and the nation containing a third of the world's poor. It is trying to deal with these problems, but it will be a slow climb.
The History Of India
- Indus Valley Civilization: One of the most ancient civilizations in the world.
- The Vedic Age: Indo-Aryan tribes moved into the Indus valley, and then, all of northern India. They brought the Sanskrit language, which is comparable to Latin in Europe in terms of the influence it had on India. It also is a distant relative of English.
- The Mauryan Empire - Macedonian Invasion, The Battle Of Hydaspes, Unity under Mauryan Rule, decline into the Middle Kingdoms
- The Middle Kingdoms - Growth of Economy, The Mughal Expansion, Prithviraj Chauhan, Discovery by Vasco Da Gamma, Arrival of the British
- Formation Of The Raj - Annexation by East India Company, Rule until 1857, The Sepoy Mutiny (India's First War For Independence)
- The Raj - The Colonial Rule, Popularization of the "Savage" India through British Media, The JWB Massacre, The World Wars, Bhagath Singh, Mahatma Gandhi
- The Largest Democracy - Indpendence in 1947, The Partition into India and Pakistan, Important events from 1948 - present
- Hindu Mythology - The truth about it, not the unresearched crap you see in movies
- Indian Languages - 22 officially recognized languages, 250+ minor languages, 4000+ variations and dialects...
- Bollywood - The
IndianHindi Film Industry, nicknamed after its U.S counterpart.
- The Otherwoods - Because not all Indian movies are Bollywood.
- Filmi Music - Ever wonder why Indian movies have so many songs and musical numbers?
- Cricket Rules - Cricket, Cricket, Cricket. What is it?
- Type Caste - And just like everywhere else, Indians have their own type of racism. The one particular aspect of the nation's history people want to forget, but can't.
- Mad Dogs And Englishmen - India's climate
Misrepresentations of India in International Media
- Sim Sim Salabim - What does India looks like? It's full of snake charmers and flying carpets, of course!
- Indian Accents - You are to be teaching me very good English, Masterji!
- Bollywood Nerd - All Indians are absolute geniuses!
- Operator From India - No, wait, all Indians work in Call Centers!
- Kali Is The Goddess Of Death - Apparently, Indians worship death and want to destroy the world.
Indian Food & Cuisine - Contrary to popular belief, it's not all spices and pepper.
- South Indian Food - Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and other Southern States
- North Indian Food - Punjab, Kashmir, Rajasthan, etc.
- Other Cuisines Of India - Eastern, Western, and North Eastern India
Law Enforcement, Military and Politics
- Indians With Iglas - The Indian Military
- Indian Laws - The Police, The Court System, And other organizations.
- The Common Law - India's colonial legal heritage. Everything but family/personal law falls under this tradition.
- The Kashmir Question - If you hear about problems between India and Pakistan, some of them are over Kashmir.
Transport And Communications
- Indian Railways - The Railway department of the government holds the Guinness Book distinction of being the world's largest commercial or utility employer.
- Indian Roads - Ah, the roadways of India. Or, alternately, your worst nightmare.
The People Of India
- Unity In Diversity - Hundreds of religions and languages, how do they coexist?
- Indian Accents
- Type Caste
It Happens Only In India
- The Land Of Festivals - India is known as the Land Of Festivals. Read this to find out why.
- Indian Culture Shock - a popular trope used in Indian films, which is now spreading to Hollywood.
- (No Shit, seriously. Bet you didn't know that one, huh?)