India’s population will (probably) overtake China’s in 2028. According to UN estimates, India will become the most populous country in the world in just 14 years’ time, when it will have about 1.45 billion inhabitants. India’s population is likely to reach about 1.6 billion in the 2060s, before decreasing to about 1.5 billion by the end of the century.
India was once an Island
India was once a continent. More than 100 million years ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, most of what is now India was an island. It had broken off from an ancient supercontinent referred to as Gondwanaland by paleogeographers (named after Gondwana, a forested area of central India), and was moving slowly northwards.
A Multilingual Country
India has, arguably, greater linguistic diversity than any other large country. The precise number of languages spoken in India is probably over 1,000, but it is often hard to define when one language begins and another ends. The 1961 census of India listed 1,652 languages, though some of these may have effectively been dialects, and a few languages have died out since then. The big six languages – Hindi, Bengali, Telugu, Marathi, Tamil and Urdu – are each spoken by more than 50 million people. A total of 122 languages are each spoken by more than 10,000 people.
Hub of Megacities
India has three of the world’s top ten megacities – one more than China. According to the UN, Delhi is now the second-largest urban agglomeration in the world, with Mumbai ranked seventh and Calcutta tenth. The population of Delhi and its immediate urban hinterland is now over 22.65 million, and is only surpassed by Tokyo. Six other Indian cities – Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune and Surat – feature in the UN’s top 100 urban agglomerations.
India prides itself on being the world’s largest democracy (Chinese voters do not directly elect their country’s rulers), and precisely 417,037, 606 people voted at the last parliamentary election in 2009 – a turnout of slightly under 60%. There were 830,866 polling stations, including one, in the western state of Gujarat which had a single voter, a temple caretaker.
Second highest population of Muslims
India has the second (or third) highest population of Muslims in the world.Even though less than 15% of Indians are Muslim, the country’s enormous population means that by this measure it outranks all Muslim-majority countries, except Indonesia and possibly Pakistan. (There are almost exactly the same numbers of Muslims in Pakistan as in India).
Most Indian Films are not Bollywood
India has the world’s largest film industry. More than 1,100 movies are produced, on average, each year – that’s slightly ahead of Nigeria, twice as many as the American film industry and ten times as many as Britain produces. Most of the Indian films are not, as is often supposed, products of Bollywood, the nickname given to Mumbai’s Hindi movie industry which is responsible for roughly 200 films a year. Almost as many films are made each year in both Tamil and in Telugu, the two most widely spoken southern Indian language – and Chennai and Hyderabad are major film productions centres. However, India comes only sixth in terms of cinema box office receipts – behind the USA, China, Japan, UK and France
India is the world’s biggest producer and consumer of mangoes. For many people, the greatest delight of the hot Indian summer is the profusion of mangoes – officially India’s national fruit. There are several hundred varieties of Indian mango, of which more than 30 are commercially available. More than 40% of the world’s annual output of mangoes are grown in India, far ahead of the competition from China, Thailand and Bangladesh.
India is more obsessed with breaking records than any other country. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, India ranks third behind the USA and the UK in the number of records claimed each year. Among the recent additions was the largest gathering of people (891) dressed like Mahatma Gandhi.
There are more road deaths in India than any other country in the world. This is a statistic that won’t surprise many visitors, for whom the roads of India are often terrifying. Officially about 115,000 people die on Indian roads each year – though a recent British Medical Journal study suggests that the true number of fatalities is closer to 200,000.