“India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe’s languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India is in many ways the mother of us all.” − Will Durant, American historian.

India is a huge country that consists geographically of the entire Indian Peninsula and portions of the Asian mainland. It is also one of the founding civilizations of human history. With human settlement appearing approximately 9,000 years ago, it was the only civilization able to successfully defend itself against the Mongols and Alexander the Great. But it was not until the 3rd century BC that India, united under Asoka the Great, entered into its Golden Age. This was the time that Hinduism and Buddhism were born, in addition to huge advances in mathematics, art, language, and astronomy.

India’s golden period of independence came to an end by the 16th century, when countries like the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, France and Portugal began to establish themselves around the country. By 1856, the entire country became part of the British East India Company, essentially making it part of the British Empire for the next 100 years. While India attempted to throw off the shackles of colonialism in its First War of Independence in 1857, it was unsuccessful.

The citizens of India continued to push hard against British rule during the first half of the 20th century. Through Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent civil disobedience campaign, which was supported by millions, India finally gained its independence in 1947, along with Pakistan. It became a republic and drew up its own constitutions in 1950 Today, India is a member of the United Nations, is one of the few nuclear nations in the world, and has reinvented itself through economic reforms, making it one of the fastest growing economies in the world.

In a nutshell, India is a vast and diverse country of contrasts and extremes. The natural beauty of the countryside seems at odds with the grime of its cities. The  unimaginable wealth of its upper classes clashes with the extreme poverty of its lower classes, and seductive Bollywood actresses fly in the face of India’s socially conservative values. An ancient, mystical, and spiritual land, it continues to intoxicate intrepid travelers from all over the world.

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