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
Notable indians.jpg
Total population
1,250,000,000 est
17.31% of the world's population
Indian diaspora
Regions with significant populations
India India 1,210,193,422 (2011)
 United States 3,443,0633
 Burma 3,100,000
 Saudi Arabia 2,450,0004
 Malaysia 2,400,0005
 United Arab Emirates 1,500,0006
 United Kingdom 1,412,9587
 Canada 1,200,000citation needed
 South Africa 1,160,000citation needed
 Mauritius 871,000
 Qatar 855,000
 Australia 686,2568
 Philippines 610,000
 Kuwait 580,000
 Singapore 476,560
 Bangladesh 500,000
 Oman 450,000
   Nepal 400,000
 Fiji 340,000
 Réunion 330,000
 Guyana 327,000
 Bahrain 310,000
 Suriname 185,000
 Italy 160,2969
 New Zealand 150,00010
 Indonesia 125,000
 Netherlands 120,000 (Includes Indo-Surinamese)
 Germany 76,0931112
 Portugal 70,00013
 South Korea 55,00014
 Ireland 36,98615
 Norway 10 50616
 Czech Republic 1,469
Languages of India, including: Assamese • Bengali • Bodo • Dogri • English • Gujarati • Hindi • Kannada • Kashmiri • Konkani • Maithili • Malayalam • Manipuri • Marathi • Nepali • Odia • Punjabi • Sanskrit • Santhali • Sindhi • Tamil • Telugu • Tulu • Urdu
Hinduism · Islam · Christianity · Sikhism · Buddhism · Jainism · Zoroastrianism · Judaism · Irreligion

Indian people or Indians also known as Bharatiya are citizens of India, the second most populous nation containing 17.50%17 of the world's population. "Indian" refers to nationality, not ethnicity or race. The Indian nationality consists of many regional ethno-linguistic groups, reflecting the rich and complex history of India. The diaspora populations with Indian ancestry, as a result of emigration, are somewhat widespread most notably in Southeast Asia, United Kingdom, North America, Australia, South Africa and Southern Europe. Population estimates vary from a conservative 12 million to 20 million diaspora.12


The name Bharat (भारत) has been used as a self-ascribed name by people of the Indian subcontinent and the Republic of India.18 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.19 The Bhāratas were vedic tribe mentioned in the Rigveda, notably participating in the Battle of the Ten Kings.20 India is named after mythological Emperor Bharata who is descendant of Bharata tribe, scion of Kuru Dynasty who unified Indian Subcontinent under one realm.21

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."2223

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 Hindustani24 The name is derived ultimately from Sindhu, the Sanskrit name of the river Indus, but also meaning "river" generically.25


Map of Mauryan Empire 3rd century BC
Buddhist rock-cut architecture 2nd century BC.

The Indian people established during ancient and medieval period some of the greatest Dynasties in South Asian history like the Maurya Empire, Satavahana dynasty, Gupta Empire, Rashtrakuta dynasty, Western Chalukya Empire, Chola Empire, Vijayanagara Empire and Maratha 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 with 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 religion (Hinduism and Buddhism) spread to much of Asia, while kingdoms in southern India had maritime business links with the Roman Empire from around AD 77. The ancient Indian mathematicians Aryabhata, Bhāskara I and Brahmagupta invented the concept of zero and the decimal system during this period.26 During this period Indian cultural influence spread over many parts of Southeast Asia which led to the establishment of Indianized kingdoms in Southeast Asia.27

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.28 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.29 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.3031 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.32

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 Krishnadevaraya33 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.34 The Indian Maratha people emerged in the 17th century and established the Maratha Empire under the reign of Shivaji which became the dominant power in India in the 18th century.35

India had a Mughal and a Mysore Empire influence by great Muslim Emperors like Shahabuddin Muhammad Shah Jahan, Mohammad Salim Jahangir, and Tipu Sultan for many centuries. This marked a huge influence in the Indian society.36



India is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism, collectively known as Indian religions.37 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 2 billion followers altogether,383940 and possibly as many as 2.5 or 2.6 billion followers.3841 India is also the birthplace for the Jain, Lingayat, and Ahmadiyya faiths.

India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. Religion still plays a central and definitive role in the life of most of its people.

The religion of 80.5% of the people is Hinduism. Islam is practiced by around 13% of all Indians.42 Sikhism, Jainism and especially Buddhism are influential not only in India but across the world. Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith are also influential but their numbers are smaller. 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.

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. India is also home to the third-largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia and Pakistan. Muslims are the largest religious minority.

Christianity is widespread in the North East states, parts of southern India, particularly Kerala and among the tribal populations of Central India.

Goddess Lakshmi on gold coinage issued under Gupta Empire, ca.380.AD
Table 1: 2001 Religious Data Composition43
Religious Composition Population (%)
Hindus 827,578,868 80.5%
Muslims 138,188,240 13.4%
Christians 24,080,016 2.3%
Sikhs 19,215,730 1.9%
Buddhists 7,955,207 0.8%
Jains 4,225,053 0.4%
Other religions & persuasions 6,639,626 0.6%
Religion not stated 727,588 0.1%
Total 1,028,610,328 100.0%

N.B. "Total" excludes Mao-Maram, Paomata and Purul subdivisions of Senapati District of Manipur state.

The Census of India under the office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner maintains comprehensive lists based on decennial survey across the country and corroborated by digital data regarding the social, economic, geographical and religious indicators in the country. It is the largest such regularised exercise related to tabulating religious information in the world. The latest census figures for religion may be found here.44

Theater, Dance and Music

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

The music of India includes multiple varieties of music. India's classical music tradition, including Carnatic and Hindustani music, has a history spanning millennia and, developed over several eras, it remains fundamental to the lives of Indians today as sources of spiritual inspiration, cultural expression and pure entertainment. Other popular mode of music includes folk, popular, pop, and R&B. India is made up of several dozen ethnic groups, speaking their own languages and dialects, having very distinct cultural traditions.

Dance in India covers a wide range of dance and dance theatre forms, from the ancient classical or temple dance to folk and modern styles.

Some of the best-known hindu deities, Shiva, Durga, Ganesha, Ramayana and Krishna, are typically represented dancing. There are hundreds of Indian folk dances such as Bhangra, Garba and special dances observed in regional festivals. India offers a number of classical Indian dance forms, each of which can be traced to different parts of the country. The presentation of Indian dance styles in film, Bollywood, has exposed the range of dance in India to a global audience.

Caste system

Main article: Caste system in India
Gandhi visiting Madras (now Chennai) in 1933 on an India-wide tour for Harijan causes. His speeches during such tours and writings discussed the discriminated-against castes of India.45

Though Constitution of India gives equal rights to all citizens,4647 traditionally caste system has been existed in India, which is a system of social stratification within various social sections defined by thousands of endogamous hereditary groups, often termed jāti or castes. Within a jati, there exist exogamous groups known as gotras, the lineage or clan of an individual. Caste barriers have mostly broken down in cities but still exists in some form in rural areas.48

The jātis are thought of as being grouped into four varnas:49 Brahmins (priests and scholars), Kshatriyas (rulers and warriors), Vaishyas (merchants and traders) and Shudras (labourers and peasants). Certain groups, now known as "Dalits", find no mention in the Varna System and are supposed to have been added into the System later on as a consequence of political instability around 1000 CE, ostracised as untouchables.5051

Caste is often thought of as an ancient fact of Hindu life, but various contemporary scholars argue that the caste system was constructed by the British colonial regime.52 Between 1860 and 1920, the British segregated Indians by caste, granting administrative jobs and senior appointments only to the upper castes. Social unrest during 1920s led to a change in this policy.5354 From then on, the colonial administration began a policy of positive discrimination by reserving a certain percentage of government jobs for the lower castes.55 After India achieved independence, this policy of caste-based reservation of jobs was formalised with lists of Scheduled Castes (Dalit) and Scheduled Tribes (Adivasi).56

Discrimination against lower castes is illegal in India under Article 15 of its constitution. India tracks violence against Dalits nationwide; in 2011, the crime prevalence rate against Dalits was 2.8 per 100,000.57 Since 1950, the country has enacted many laws and social initiatives to protect and improve the socioeconomic conditions of its lower caste population.58 These caste classifications for college admission quotas, job reservations and other affirmative action initiatives, according to the Supreme Court of India, are based on heredity and are not changeable. These initiatives by India, over time, have led to many lower caste members being elected to the highest political offices including that of president, with the election of K.R. Narayanan, a Dalit, from 1997 to 2002.59

National personification

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.citation needed


Haplogroup F and it's descendant haplogroups.

According to the phylogeographic distribution of haplotypes observed among South Asian populations defined by social and linguistic criteria, the possibility arose of Y-DNA haplogroup F and mtDNA Haplogroup M might have originated in South Asia.60 The presence of several haplogroup F, Haplogroup M and K that are largely restricted to the Indian subcontinent is consistent with the scenario that a coastal of early human migration out of Africa carried ancestral Eurasian lineages first to the coast of the Indian subcontinent, or that some of them originated there.61 Studies based on mtDNA variation have reported genetic unity across various Indian sub–populations.62636465 The Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent from Sintashta culture has been dated about 4,000 ybp.666768 and the Tibeto-Burmans and Austroasiatics possibly from the Himalayan and north-eastern borders of the subcontinent around 4,200 ybp.69

The most frequent mtDNA haplogroups in the Indian subcontinent are M, R and U.70

All major Y chromosome DNA haplogroups in the subcontinent are Haplogroup F's descendant haplogroups R (mostly R2a, R2 and R1a1), L, H and J (mostly J2).71 Haplogroup F itself is found highest in South Asia.72 other notable haplogroups include O3 among Tibeto-Burman speakers, O2a among Austroasiatic speakers, G, P and T.

Arguing for the longer term "rival Y-Chromosome model",60 It is highly suggestive that India is the origin of the Eurasian mtDNA haplogroups which he calls the "Eurasian Eves". According to Oppenheimer it is highly probable that nearly all human maternal lineages in Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe descended from only four mtDNA lines that originated in South Asia 50,000-100,000 years ago.73

Indian diaspora

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 mediterrannean 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.12


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).74


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

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

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.

See also


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