Indian people

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This article is about the people of India. For information on the population of India, see Demography of India. For other uses, see Indian.
Indian people
Indian peoples.jpg
Total population
c. 1.21 billion
(Indian citizens: c. 1.21 billion; Indian ancestry: c. 12-20 million)[1][2]
Regions with significant populations
 India 1,210,193,422
 United States 3,443,063[3]
 Burma 3,100,000
 Saudi Arabia 2,450,000[4]
 Malaysia 2,400,000[5]
 United Arab Emirates 1,500,000[6]
 United Kingdom 1,412,958[7]
 South Africa 1,300,000[8]
 Canada 1,250,000[9]
 Mauritius 871,000
 Qatar 855,000
 Australia 686,256[10]
 Philippines 610,000
 Kuwait 580,000
 Singapore 476,560
 Bangladesh 500,000
 Trinidad and Tobago 468,524
 Oman 450,000
   Nepal 400,000
 Fiji 340,000
 Réunion 330,000
 Guyana 327,000
 Bahrain 310,000
 Suriname 185,000
 Italy 160,296[11]
 New Zealand 150,000[12]
 Indonesia 125,000
 Netherlands 120,000 (Includes Indo-Surinamese)
 Germany 76,093[13][14]
 Portugal 70,000[15]
 South Korea 55,000[16]
 Ireland 36,986[17]
 Norway 10 506[18]
Languages of India, including: Assamese • Bengali • Bodo • Bihari • Bhojpuri • Dogri • English • Gujarati • Hindi • Kashmiri • Kannada • Konkani • Maithili • Malayalam • Manipuri • Marathi • Nepali • Odia • Punjabi • Rajasthani • Sanskrit • Santhali • Sindhi • Tamil • Telugu • Tulu • Urdu
Hinduism · Islam · Christianity · Sikhism · Buddhism · Jainism · Zoroastrianism · Judaism · Irreligion

Indian people or Indians are citizens of India, the second most populous nation containing 17.50%[19] of the world's population. "Indian" refers to nationality, not ethnicity or language. The Indian nationality consists of many regional ethno-linguistic groups, reflecting the rich and complex history of India. India hosts all major ethnic groups found in Indian Subcontinent. The diaspora populations with Indian ancestry, as a result of emigration, are somewhat widespread most notably in the UAE, Southeast Asia, United Kingdom, North America, Australia, South Africa and Southern Europe. Population estimates vary from a conservative 12 million to 20 million diaspora.[1][2]


The name Bharat (भारत) has been used as a self-ascribed name by people of the Indian subcontinent and the Republic of India.[20] The designation Bhārata appears in the official Sanskrit name of the country, Bhārata Gaṇarājya. The name is derived from the ancient Vedic and Puranas, which refer to the land that comprises India as Bhārata varṣam and uses this term to distinguish it from other varṣas or continents.[21] The Bhāratas were vedic tribe mentioned in the Rigveda, notably participating in the Battle of the Ten Kings.[22] India is named after mythological Emperor Bharata who is descendant of Bharata tribe, scion of Kuru Dynasty who unified Indian Subcontinent under one realm.[23]

उत्तरं यत्समुद्रस्य हिमाद्रेश्चैव दक्षिणम् ।
वर्षं तद् भारतं नाम भारती यत्र संततिः ।।
"The country (varṣam) that lies north of the ocean and south of the snowy mountains is called Bhāratam; there dwell the descendants of Bharata."[24][25]

While the word Indian and India is derived from Greek Ἰνδία (Indía), via Latin India. Indía in Koine Greek denoted the region beyond the Indus (Ἰνδός) river, since Herodotus (5th century BC) ἡ Ἰνδική χώρη, hē Indikē chōrē; "the Indian land", Ἰνδός, Indos, "an Indian", from Old Persian Hinduš and medieval term Hindustani.[26] The name is derived ultimately from Sindhu, the Sanskrit name of the river Indus, but also meaning "river" generically.[27]


Main articles: History of India and Greater India
Map of Mauryan Empire 3rd century BC
Buddhist rock-cut architecture 2nd century BC.

The Indian people established during ancient, medieval to early eighteenth century some of the greatest empires and dynasties in South Asian history like the Maurya Empire, Satavahana dynasty, Gupta Empire, Rashtrakuta dynasty, Chalukya Empire, Chola Empire, Karkota Empire, Pala Empire, Vijayanagara Empire, Maratha Empire and Sikh Empire.The first great Empire of the Indian people was the Maurya Empire which conquered the major part of South Asia in the 4th and 3rd century BC during the reign of the Indian Emperors Chandragupta Maurya and Ashoka alongside their senior advisor, Acharya Chanakya, the pioneer of the field of political science and economics in India. The next great ancient Empire of the Indian people was the Gupta Empire. This period, witnessing a Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known as the classical or "Golden Age of India". During this period, aspects of Indian civilization, administration, culture, and Hinduism and Buddhism spread to much of Asia, while Chola Empire in the south had flourishing maritime trade links with the Roman Empire during this period. The ancient Indian mathematicians Aryabhata, Bhāskara I and Brahmagupta invented the concept of zero and the Hindu decimal system during this period.[28] During this period Indian cultural influence spread over many parts of Southeast Asia which led to the establishment of Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia.[29]

Maratha Empire: Territory under Maratha control in 1760 (yellow), without its vassals.

During the early medieval period the great Rashtrakuta dynasty dominated the major part of the Indian subcontinent. from the 8th to 10th century and the Indian Emperor Amoghavarsha of the Rashtrakuta Dynasty was described by the Arab traveler Sulaiman as one of the 4 great Kings of the world.[30] The medieval south Indian mathematician Mahāvīra (mathematician) lived in the Rashtrakuta dynasty and was the first Indian mathematician who separated astrology from mathematics and who wrote the earliest Indian text entirely devoted to mathematics.[31] The greatest maritime Empire of the medieval Indians was the Chola dynasty. Under the great Indian Emperors Rajaraja Chola I and his successor Rajendra Chola I the Chola dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South-East Asia.[32][33] The power of the Chola empire was proclaimed to the eastern world by the expedition to the Ganges which Rajendra Chola I undertook and by the occupation of cities of the maritime empire of Srivijaya in Southeast Asia, as well as by the repeated embassies to China.[34]

During the late medieval period the great Vijayanagara Empire dominated the major part of southern India from the 14th to 16th century and reached its peak during the reign of the south Indian Emperor Sri Krishnadevaraya[35] The medieval Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics flourished during this period under such well known south Indian mathematicians as Madhava (c. 1340-1425) who made important contributions to Trigonometery and Calculus, and Nilakhanta (c. 1444-1545) who postulated on the orbitals of planets.[36] The Mughal Empire unified much of Indian sub-continent under one realm. Under the Mughals India developed a strong and stable economy, leading to commercial expansion and greater patronage of culture. This marked a huge influence in the Indian society.[37] The Mughal Empire balanced and pacified local societies through new administrative practices[38][39] and had diverse and inclusive ruling elites,[40] leading to more systematic, centralised, and uniform rule.[41] Newly coherent social groups in northern and western India, such as the Marathas, the Rajputs, the Pashtuns, the Jats and the Sikhs, gained military and governing ambitions during Mughal rule, which, through collaboration or adversity, gave them both recognition and military experience.[42][43][44][45]

The Marathas and Sikhs emerged in the 17th century and established the Maratha Empire and Sikh Empire which became the dominant power in India in the 18th century.[46] The Maratha Empire is credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule in India.[47][48][49][50] The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the north[51] and Bengal and Andaman Islands in the east.[52]


Main articles: Culture of India and Greater India

India is one of the world's oldest civilizations.[53] The Indian culture, often labeled as an amalgamation of several various cultures, spans across the Indian subcontinent and has been influenced and shaped by a history that is several thousand years old.[54][55] Throughout the history of India, Indian culture has been heavily influenced by Dharmic religions.[56] They have been credited with shaping much of Indian philosophy, literature, architecture, art and music.[57] Greater India was the historical extent of Indian culture beyond the Indian subcontinent. This particularly concerns the spread of Hinduism, Buddhism, architecture, administration and writing system from India to other parts of Asia through the Silk Road by the travellers and maritime traders during the early centuries of the Common Era.[58][59] To the west, Greater India overlaps with Greater Persia in the Hindu Kush and Pamir Mountains.[60] During medieval period, Islam played significant role in shaping Indian cultural heritage[61] Over the centuries, there has been significant integration of Hindus, Jains, and Sikhs with Muslim culture across India[62][63]


Goddess Lakshmi on gold coinage issued under Gupta Empire, ca.380.AD
Holi is major Indian festival celebrated every spring.

India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, collectively known as Indian religions.[56] Indian religions, also known as Dharmic religions are a major form of world religions along with Abrahamic ones. Today, Hinduism and Buddhism are the world's third- and fourth-largest religions respectively, with over 1 billion followers altogether,[64][65][66] and possibly as many as 1.5 or 1.6 billion followers.[64][67] Throughout India's history, religion has been an important part of the country's culture. Religious diversity and religious tolerance are both established in the country by the law and custom; the Constitution of India has declared the right to freedom of religion to be a fundamental right.[68]

Atheism and agnosticism have a long history in India. The Cārvāka school originated in India around the 6th century BCE.[69][70] It is one of the earliest form of materialistic and atheistic movement in ancient India.[71][72] Sramana, Buddhism, Jainism, Ājīvika and some schools of Hinduism consider atheism to be valid and reject the concept of creator deity, ritualism and superstitions.[73][74][75] India has produced some notable atheist politicians and social reformers.[76]

According to the 2011 census, 79.8% of the population of India practices Hinduism and 14.2% adheres to Islam, while the remaining 7.37% adheres to other religions, mostly Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Christianity.[77] Zoroastrianism and Judaism each has several thousands of Indian adherents, and also have an ancient history in India.[78] India has the largest population of people adhering to Zoroastrianism and Bahá'í Faith in the world, even though these two religions are not native to India.[79] Many other world religions also have a relationship with Indian spirituality, such as the Bahá'í Faith which recognises Buddha and Krishna as manifestations of the God Almighty.[80] Despite the strong role of religion in Indian life, atheism and agnostics also have visible influence along with a self-ascribed tolerance to other people. According to the 2012 WIN-Gallup Global Index of Religion and Atheism report, 81% of Indians were religious, 13% were not religious, 3% were convinced atheists, and 3% were unsure or did not respond.[81]

Traditionally, Indian society is grouped according to their caste. It's a system in which social stratification within various social sections defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups are often termed jāti or castes. Within a jāti, there exists exogamous groups known as gotras, the lineage or clan of an individuals.[82] Caste barriers have mostly broken down in cities but still exists in some form in rural areas.[83]

Hinduism is the majority in most states; Kashmir and Lakshadweep are Muslim majority; Nagaland, Mizoram and Meghalaya are Christian majority; Punjab is a Sikh majority with Hindus 37%. It is to be noted that while participants in the Indian census may choose to not declare their religion, there is no mechanism for a person to indicate that he/she does not adhere to any religion. Due to this limitation in the Indian census process, the data for persons not affiliated with any religion may not be accurate. India contains the majority of the world's Hindus, Zoroastrians, Sikhs, Jains and Bahá'í. Christianity is widespread in the Northeast India, parts of southern India, particularly in Kerala and among various populations of Central India. Muslims are the largest religious minority. India is also home to the third-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan.[84][85][86]


Indian bride in traditional wedding attire.

Historically, India had a prevailing tradition of the joint family system or undivided family. Joint family system is an extended family arrangement prevalent throughout the Indian subcontinent, particularly in India.[87] The family is headed by a patriarch, the oldest male, who makes decisions on economic and social matters on behalf of the entire family. The patriarch's wife generally exerts control over the household, minor religious practices and often wields considerable influence in domestic matters. A patrilineal joint family consists of an older man and his wife, his sons and unmarried daughters, his sons’ wives and children. Family income flows into a common pool, from which resources are drawn to meet the needs of all members, which are regulated by the heads of the family.[88] However, with urbanisation and economic development, India has witnessed a break up of traditional joint family into more nuclear families and the traditional joint family in India accounted for a small percent of Indian households.[89][90]

Arranged marriages have been the tradition in Indian society. Marriage is considered a union of the two families rather than just the individuals, the process involved in an arranged marriage can be different depending on the communities and families. Recent survey study found that fewer marriages are purely arranged without consent and that the majority of surveyed Indian marriages are arranged with consent.[91] The study also suggested that Indian culture is trending away from traditional arranged marriages, they find that the marriage trends in India are similar to trends observed over last 40 years where arranged marriages was previously common, particularly in China and Japan.[92]


India's clothing styles have continuously evolved over the course of history. Cotton was first cultivated in Indian subcontinent around 5th millinim BC.[93] Dyes used during this period are still in use, particularly indigo, red madder and turmeric.[94] Silk was woven around 2450 BC and 2000 BC.[95][96] In 11th-century BC Rig-veda mentions dyed and embroidered garments known as paridhan and pesas respectively and thus highlights the development of sophisticated garment manufacturing techniques during this period.[97] In the 5th century BCE, Greek historian Herodotus describes the richness of the quality of Indian textiles.[98] By the 2nd century AD, muslins and silk manufactured in India were imported by the Roman Empire and was one of the major exports of ancient India to other parts of the world along with Indian spices.[99]

Traditional Indian clothing greatly varies across different parts of the country and is influenced by local culture, geography and climate. Women traditionally wear Sari, Gagra Choli, Phiran, Shalwar Kameez and Gharara with Dupatta worn over head or shoulder to complete the outfit. Men traditionally wear Kurta, Achkan, Kameez, Phiran and Sherwani for upper garment, lower garment includes Dhoti, Churidar, Shalwar, and Lungi. Pagri is usually worn around head to complete the outfit. In urban centres, people often wear western clothing and variety of other contemporary fashion.[100]


Main article: Indian cuisine
Vegetarian thali with naan, daal, raita & shahi paneer

Indian food varies from region to region. Staple foods of Indian cuisine include a variety of lentils (dal), whole-wheat flour (aṭṭa), rice and pearl millet (bājra), which has been cultivated in Indian subcontinent since 6200 BCE.[101][102] Over time, segments of the population embraced vegetarianism during Śramaṇa movement[103][104] while an equitable climate permitted a variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains to be grown throughout the year. A food classification system that categorised any item as saatvic, raajsic or taamsic developed in Yoga tradition.[105][106] The Bhagavad Gita prescribed certain dietary practices. During this period, consumption of various types of meat became taboo, due to being considered sacred or impure.[107][108] Indian cuisines use numerous ingredients, deploy a wide range of food preparation styles, cooking techniques and culinary presentation depending on geographical location.[109]

Theater, Dance and Music[edit]

Main articles: Music of India and Dance in India
Kathakali one of classical theater forms of India

The oldest preserved examples of Indian music are the melodies of the Samaveda (1000 BC) that are still sung in certain Śrauta sacrifices; this is the earliest account of Indian musical hymns.[110] The Samaveda, and other Hindu texts, heavily influenced India's classical music tradition, which is known today in two distinct styles: Hindustani music and Carnatic music. Both the Hindustani and Carnatic music systems are based on the melodic base known as Rāga, sung to a rhythmic cycle known as Tāla. These principles were refined in the nātyaśāstra (200 BC) and the dattilam (300 AD).[111]

The nātyaśāstrais an ancient Indian treatise on the performing arts, encompassing theatre, dance and music. It was written during the period between 200 BCE and 200 CE in classical India and is traditionally attributed to the Sage Bharata.[112] Natya Shastra is incredibly wide in its scope. While it primarily deals with stagecraft, it has come to influence music, classical dance, and literature as well. It covers stage design, music, dance, makeup, and virtually every other aspect of stagecraft.

Indian drama and theatre has a long history alongside its music and dance. One of the earliest known theatre play is Mṛcchakatika composed by Śudraka. Followed by Bhāsa's Swapnavāsavadatta and Pancharātra. Most notable works are Kalidasa's Abhijñānaśākuntala, Vikramorvaśīya and Mālavikāgnimitra. Harsha's Ratnavali, Priyadarsika, and Naganandam, other notable ancient dramatists include Śhudraka, Bhavabhuti, and Asvaghosa.[113]

Contribution & discoveries[edit]

Indian people have played a major role in the development of the philosophy, sciences, mathematics, arts, architecture and astronomy throughout history. During ancient period, notable mathematics accomplishment of India included Hindu number system with decimal place-value and a symbol for zero, interpolation formula, fibonacci's identity,theorem, the first complete arithmetic solution (including zero and negative solutions) to quadratic equations.[114] chakravala method, sign convention, madhava series, sine and cosine in trigonometric functions can be traced to the jyā and koti-jyā [115] Notable military invention includes war elephants, crucible steel weapons popularly known as damascus steel and mysorean rockets.[116] Other notable inventions during ancient period includes chess, cotton, sugar, fired bricks, carbon pigment ink, ruler, lac, lacquer, stepwell, Indigo dye, snake and ladder, muslin, ludo, calico, wootz steel, Incense clock, shampoo, palampore, chintz, prefabricated home are some examples.

Indian cultural aspects, religions, philosophy, arts and architecture has developed over several thousand years and has spread through much of the Asia in peaceful manner.[59] Many aspects of Indian cultural civilization such as Sanchi Stupa, Taj Mahal and Mahabodhi Temple are UNESCO World Heritage sites today.[117]

In modern times, Indian people have continued to contribute to mathematics, sciences and astrophysics. Among them are Satyendra Nath Bose, Srinivasa Ramanujan, Jagadish Chandra Bose, Meghnad Saha, Homi J. Bhabha, Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis and notable Nobel Prize recipients C. V. Raman, Har Gobind Khorana, Venkatraman Ramakrishnan and Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar who is notable for currently accepted theory on the later evolutionary stages of massive stars, including black holes.[118]

National personification[edit]

Bharat Mata (Hindi, from Sanskrit भारत माता, Bhārata Mātā), Mother India, or Bhāratāmbā (from अंबा ambā 'mother') is the national personification of India as a mother goddess. She is usually depicted as a woman clad in an orange or saffron sari holding a flag, and sometimes accompanied by a lion.

The image of Bharat Mata formed with the Indian independence movement of the late 19th century. A play by Kiran Chandra Bandyopadhyay, Bhārat Mātā, was first performed in 1873.[119]

Indian diaspora[edit]

Although population groups originating in different parts of the Indian subcontinent and within the international borders of the modern country of India had been migrating to south east Asia, far east Asia, central Asia, north Africa and even along the European mediterranean coast, the Indian diaspora generally socio-politically or historically refers to those whose families or themselves migrated to other parts of the world after the British Empire established itself in India. Population estimates vary from a conservative 12 million to 20 million diaspora.[1][2][120][121]


Main article: British Indian

The British Indian community had grown to number over one million. According to the 2001 UK Census, 1,053,411 Britons had full Indian ethnicity (representing 1.8% of the UK's population). An overwhelming majority of 99.3% resided in England (in 2008 the figure is thought to be around 97.0%). In the seven-year period between 2001 and 2009, the number of Indian-born people in the UK increased in size by 38% from 467,634 to around 647,000 (an increase of approximately 180,000).[122]


Main article: Indo-Canadians

There are over 1 million Indian people in Canada, the majority of which live in Greater Toronto and Vancouver. Nearly 4% of the total Canadian population is of Indian ancestry, a figure higher than both the United States and Britain.

South Africa[edit]

Main article: Indian South Africans

More than a million people of Indian descent live in South Africa, concentrated around the city of Durban.


Main article: Indians in Tanzania

About 40,000 people of Indian origin live in Tanzania mostly in the urban areas.

United States[edit]

Main article: Indian American

According to the American Community Survey of the U.S. Census Bureau, the Indian American population in the United States grew from almost 1.67 million in 2000 to 3.1 million in 2010 which comprises as the third-largest Asian American community in the United States after Chinese Americans and Filipino Americans.


Recent genome studies appear to show that South Asians are descendants of two major ancestral components, one component restricted to South Asia and the other component shared with Central Asia, West Asia and Europe.[123][124]

See also[edit]


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