India is one of the oldest civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety and rich cultural heritage. It has achieved all-round socio-economic progress since its Independence. India has become self-sufficient in agricultural production and is now one of the top industrialized countries in the world and one of the few nations to have gone into outer space to conquer nature for the benefit of the people. It covers an area of 32,87,263 sq. km, extending from the snow-covered Himalayan heights to the tropical rain forests of the south. As the 7th largest country in the world, India stands apart from the rest of Asia, marked off by mountains and the sea, which give the country a distinct geographical entity. Bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and the Arabian Sea on the west.
After colonial rule with small enclaves and trading centers in Portugal began in 1505, it took more than 440 years until independence was achieved through non-violent resistance in 1947 and the Republic of India was founded in 1949 when it joined the Commonwealth of Nations. The partition of India and Pakistan that went hand in hand with independence resulted in one of the largest displacements and refugee movements in human history, killing between 750,000 and one million people. At independence, India was blessed with several leaders of world stature, most notably Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, who were able to galvanize the masses at home and bring prestige to India abroad. The country has played an increasing role in global affairs. India remains one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Apart from its many religions and sects, India is home to innumerable castes and tribes. Today India is divided into 29 states and seven union territories and has 21 other official languages in addition to English and Hindi.
Due to its strategic location on the Silk Road, India has always been closely linked to trade. Trade reached its lowest point during the English colonial era, when the subcontinent was economically exploited. With the invention of machine production of textiles in Europe, one of India's most important export branches collapsed.