India | Ethnicity, Religion, History, Food, Geography & Facts

India | Ethnicity, Religion, History, Food, Geography & Facts
Posted on 29-01-2022

So we have finally encroached upon the giant: India.

Some of you've been waiting a LOOOOONG time for this episode.

I'm just gonna say straight up:

You all know India is incredibly complex and diverse.

Even Indians have trouble understanding their own country.

Obviously, I won't be able to scratch even the surface in this episode.

But I'll try my best. A lot of you Indian geograpeeps have helped me along the way.

So thank you, and without further ado, let's begin!


♫ It's time to learn Geography! NOW!!! ♫

Hey everybody. I'm your host Barby.

This place doesn't even need much of an introduction.

Everybody has heard of India. It's big. It's loud.

It's colorful, and most importantly it has a plethora of confusing territorial anomalies that I just can't wait to cover. Here we go!!

♫ Political Geography ♫

There's an old saying: India is a place where everyone is in a hurry,

but no one is ever on time.

First of all, India is located in South Asia right on the Indian and Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal.

Bordered by six other countries. So close to seven but that land bridge between Sri Lanka

got wiped away like 600 years ago by a cyclone. India is divided into 29 states and 7 union territories

with the capital New Delhi which acts as its own administrative

unit located in the capital territory

Keep in mind that New Delhi is actually just the name of one of the districts in the capital territory made up of 11.

The largest city however, is actually Mumbai, with New Delhi, Bangalore (or Bengaluru) and Hyderabad

following after. However the four busiest airports are Delhi (Indira Gandhi International), Mumbai (Chhatrapati Shivaji International)

Bengaluru's Kempegowda International and Chennai International in the south.

Ah, you know why I'm smiling

This is my favorite part of any episode

we ever make: territorial anomaly time!!

India is loaded with strange borders and

deliciously complex demarcation lines.

First of all what exactly is a union territory?

In the simplest way I can put this union territories are places that are two distinct to be incorporated into a state

but too small to have their own local governments.

The first one of course is the Delhi National capital territory where the capital lies.

Chandigarh is a post-independent city constructed to replace Lahore as the capital of the Punjab area after it was split up between India and Pakistan.

Then you have the Island territories the smallest one

Lakshadweep and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The Andaman Islands being home to one of the last

uncontacted people groups on the planet:

the Sentinelese tried who have been hostile to visitors and are therefore left alone.

As well as the Nicobar Islands which actually used to be a short-lived colony of Denmark.

Finally the three remaining territories are former European Colony towns and ports:

Dadra and Nagar Haveli, Daman and Diu

which are separated by 200 kilometers across the Gulf of Khambhat.

And the most confusing Union Territory: the French-speaking Puducherry

Which is actually split between four district cities across India:

Karaikal, Mahe, Yanam and Pondicherry.

Pondicherry is strange because it has 11 enclaves within the Tamil Nadu state or in this area you can also find the

experimental hippie-ish

commune with a little bit of controversy (look it up).

Here the Eastern States (also known as the Seven Sisters) are connected by this incredibly narrow 27-kilometer wide pathway known as the Siliguri Corridor.

This pathway is like a crucial artery that completes the India puzzle. Or so you would think?

Now let's discuss the juicy stuff.

Now in the China episode

I already talked about the disputed areas with India such as Aksai Chin and Arunachal Pradesh.

The latter pretty much just belonging to India as it's almost completely inhabited and operated by Indians.

So let's move to the other disputes. Now as of 2015 the Bangladesh episode is already outdated as India and Bangladesh have finally come to

an agreement over the frighteningly

complex former enclave/exclave dispute. In the end India only lost about 40 square kilometers of land to Bangladesh.

And now only a few enclaves and exclaves exist.

Now let's head North.

Now when you try to draw the shape of India you might want to be careful which depiction you use.

Some might use this picture.

Some might use this.

Some might use this

and those that don't really study very well might use this.[hehehe]

The point is the whole area is like the most heavily militarized

diplomatically stressed out region on the planet.

It's already had like four wars in the past half century.

Basically, India, Pakistan (and to some extent China) all want the entire area for themselves although

it's more of like a Pakistan-India thing.

In the China episode we already discussed the Chinese disputes with India

so I won't cover those in this episode if you want to learn more just watch the China episode.

But anyway! This entire area was a former domain known as the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir that was under Royal

Maharaja rulers all the way up until independence.

Currently this place is split up by this fenced off militarized line known as the Line of Control (LoC) between India and Pakistan.

Why is this?

Well in the quickest way I can put this:

Pakistan: Okay the British are out. We get to take your land.

J&K: No, we want to be an independent princely state.

Pakistan: Er..we're supposed to take your land and majority of your people are Muslim.

Just like us. Even though your ruler is Hindu as well.

Soon after...

J&K: Hey India. If you help me, I'll let you secede my territory to your land with autonomy.

India: Deal.

*India beats Pakistan.*

J&K: Ha! your problem now.

I love how Mike played India. He totally represents India.

Oh, and keep in mind Pakistan's capital

Islamabad is less than 80 kilometers away from all that drama.

The Line of control meanders through the mountains until it stops at a point called NJ-9842.

This is where things get really crazy because from there you hit the Siachin glacier (the second longest nonpolar glacier) in the world and this

is pretty much the dead man's zone. After point NJ-9842 you hit the actual ground

position line: a series of military outposts that extend all the way to the Chinese border.

That means everything in this area is ground zero for the Indo-Pak tension.

You know the crazy thing is there's actually literally small towns of normal regular civilians living in these areas high up in the mountains.

Many of which just go about daily life going to work and raising their families.

Otherwise they have a river dispute with Nepal

and various River Islands disputed with Bangladesh.

Outside of all the dispute stuff though

India not only has the world's second largest road network and three of the world's top ten mega cities and their own space program

but they also have a copious abundance of landmarks and notable sites way too many to list.

But some of the ones that you guys the Indian Geograpeeps have told me to mention include places like

the abandoned Dhanuskhodi Ghost City

Golconda Fort

the four Pillars of Charminar

The Ajanta Buddhist art Caves

The Elora Monolithic ruins

Mandu Fortress

The Golden Temple (which feeds over a hundred thousand people a day; for free!)

The Gol Gumbaz mausoleum

The Kalavantin Durg Post

The ruins of Hampi

The Hill Forts of Rajasthan

Shatrunjaya hill (which is basically like a Mecca for Jains)

The temple of the Bodhi tree

Jal Mahal

Bhangarh Fort (the most haunted place in India)

Mohabbat Maqbara

and keep in mind. Just like in China

you can find a great wall of India in Rajsamand.

There's also the Paritala Anjaneya Temple (with the largest statue in India depicting Hanuman)

and over 150 acres the Sri Ranganathaswami Temple

the largest Hindu Temple in the world

And there's also that building with the stuff and that thing and whatever.

We could go on for centuries talking about India's rich constructed domicile

But what it lies on top of is even more fascinating?

♫ Physical Geography ♫

Now don't make this mistake.

I'm going to India. All I need are my sandals and sunscreen.

Welcome to Kargil!

(freezing) Oh crap!

Now as the seventh largest country in land area, India has a wide range of landscapes, climates and elevations

that all contrast from one corner to the other.

First of all, let's talk about the North. India sits on the Indian tectonic plate that essentially smashed into the Eurasian plate

which in return created the largest Mountain range in the world: the Himalayas.

The force is so strong that it's estimated that the Himalayas grow about 2.4 inches

or 6.1 centimeters every year. It's also here we can find Kanchenjunga: the tallest mountain in India or the third in the world, right on the border of Nepal.

Keep your eye on these mountains. These are pretty much the source of most of India's major rivers that give

life to the whole country.

That's why India takes these mountains so seriously.

You can also find the largest natural lake Wular, up in the Jammu & Kashmir area.

Below the Himalayas you reach the North Indian River plains, sometimes referred to as the Indus-Ganga.

This is the most fertile part of India where the most important Rivers like the Ganges and its tributaries flow.

Heading a little south you Reach the Satpura and Vindhya ranges that pretty much divide North India from South India.

On each side you get the Western and Eastern Ghat mountains which in return creates this massive triangle thing called the Deccan plateau.

This place is moderately forced especially in the east and the Chota Nagpur plateau

where you get a section of the swampy Sunderbans that they share with Bangladesh (check out the Bangladesh episode).

Head a little West and you get the dry Thar desert along the border with Pakistan.

As well as the Runn of Kutch (known as the salt desert)

And finally the only active volcanic area would be the Andaman and Nicobar Islands

with Barren Island having actual conical eruptions and Baratang having tame mud Volcanoes

Now here's the thing: although India has a relatively high population density

they do relatively well with maintaining their ecological footing

In fact in 2016 they beat a world record by planting (disputably) 50 million trees in one day.

They've also agreed to reforest about 12 percent of the country by 2030. The most heavily forested area being the Seven Sister states in East India.

Now one of the factors that contributes to this would be the fact that India has the lowest meat consumption in the world with

the highest population percentage of

vegetarians at around 40% (most of whom are lacto-vegetarian that consume milk products)

By the way in India when buying groceries this label means

Vegetarian and this one means


Nonetheless, the remainder of the population does typically eat some kind of animal

protein (mostly in the form of seafood or chicken).

But almost never beef or pork (unless a fewer part of the muslim or Christian minorities scattered throughout the west and east areas).

Now let's talk about the role of Cattle, shall we?

India has more cattle and livestock than anywhere else in the world at around 330 million

And it's interesting because since they have prevalent Hindu traditions, the killing of cows is illegal in many of the states except for a few,

and each state has varying degrees of punishment for committing intentional cow slaughter.

Keyword: Intentional. Cows accidentally get hit by cars all the time.

Once the cows too old to produce milk it typically is released into the open

to die naturally in the wild. "Ideally".

Nonetheless male cattle get it much worse as they are deemed as kind of "useless". Some places use them as draft animals for labour.

Some religious sects use them as sacrifices, but otherwise

They're typically sold to the underground market for beef or hides.

To this day, there are about six times as many female cows as male cattle in India so that means: yeah something's happening to the males.

Nonetheless, India does have the third highest carbon emission rate after China and the US. Fourth if you consider the EU.

However emission per capita they rank pretty low at only about two kilotons per person.

Contrast that with Qatar at about 40.

There are 94 national Parks, 501 Animal Sanctuaries

across the country where you can find some of the national animals like the Peacock,

the Ganges River Dolphin, the King Cobra,

the Indian elephant,

and the highest population of Bengal tigers in the world

which are all highly protected.

India also has the most irrigated land in the world

which allows them to become the number one producer of multiple products like



Lemons (limes?),




milk, butter,



and about 75% of the world's Spices alone come from India.

Speaking of which: food.

Typically you can find the staples: Roti, chapati and Naan in the North.

Idli and Dosa in the south

and everybody eats rice. More commonly commercialized Indian foods

that we in the west grew up knowing like:

Samosas, Tikka Masala

Tandoori and my favorite Indian dish: Palak Paneer.

These usually come to the Northern regions of India.

Mmm seriously India, you took spinach and made it fat.

I love you guys.

Otherwise the West is Mostly known for their chutneys,

and pickled foods as well as beef since there's a high number of Muslims and Christians

The south uses a lot more coconut and has

Some of the best curries like Poriyal, Sambar, Rasam and Tooto.

And the east is known for having the best desserts like Peda, Mishti doi, Rasgulla or Sandesh.

Speaking of which India is so diverse and complex that sometimes even Indian people need translators when going to different states.

It's about to get 10 times more confusing in about 3, ,2 1...

♫ Demographics ♫

Shashi Tharoor once said, "In India we celebrate the commonality of major differences;

we are a land of belonging rather than of blood".

First of all India has a population of about 1.3 Billion people and is the second most populous country in the world after China

with about 18% of the world's population.

About 72% of the country is indo-Aryan and a quarter are dravidian

and the majority of the remainder are Mongoloid Asian and other people groups.

They also use the Indian rupee as their currency. They use the type C, D and M plug outlet

and they drive on the left side of the road.

By the way, technically it's illegal for these banknotes to leave the country.

But you guys have sent me a lot of them for fan mail for fan Friday videos.

So I don't want to go to jail...again. (what)

Now, keep in mind those statistics that I just mentioned are incredibly generalized.

Of the Indo-Aryan and Dravidian communities there are about

two thousand different ethno-linguistic people groups in India with about

645 District indigenous tribes (52 major ones). So obviously we can't cover them all.

But what we do know is that the North is very different from the South.

For one, the North mostly speaks in languages that are all related to the Indo-Aryan branch with languages like

Hindi, Bengali Punjabi and Gujarati.

Whereas the South speaks a completely unintelligible Dravidian branch with languages like

Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada.

Otherwise there's also pockets of Sino-Tibetan in austroasiatic languages spoken in the Far north and East

So how do they communicate with each other?

Great question! Although India does not have an official language there are 22 recognized national languages and of these two are the most prevalent taught

in schools and used by government officials: Hindi and English.

And very often these two are like mixed mid-sentence.

It's weird. Don't be surprised if you hear someone speaking Hindi and then suddenly finishing off in English.

It's like:

*random gibberish in Hinglish*

Now of course let's discuss the one thing

that goes hand in hand with India: Hinduism.

About 80% of India claims to be Hindu or at least part of the hindu practicing community.

Now we don't have time to explain everything about the tenants and multi-layered philosophies and practices of Hinduism.

You want to know? Just talk to a Hindu person.

But basically one thing you do need to know is that Hindu-driven ideologies pretty much dominate most of life in India.

Everything from family to business. You will see colorful

mesmerizing shrines, temples, statues and rituals being performed everywhere, even in public.

And the Bharat Mata (the mother of India) statues are everywhere.

She's like this symbol of India.

The largest Hindu pilgrimage: the Kumbh Mela happens every three years

rotating between four cities in which the adherents bathe in the Ganges river

and enjoy a massive festival with tens of millions of people.

Like seriously, you can practically see it happening from space.

Now a controversial topic in relation to Hinduism would be the caste system.

Which is basically a belief that people are born into a socio-economic

life that they are destined to serve into.

Today however, the system is more fluid and loose from what it used to be from a long time ago.

And thanks to economic reforms anybody with enough drive can kind of move up the social ladder regardless of birth.

Nonetheless, India is home to every major religion in the world.

Even a few jews including the Bnei Menashe, an indigenous group that claim to be

one of the lost tribes of Israel.

In fact Judaism and Christianity actually had a head start in India way before it even kicked off in Europe.

As tradition holds Cochin or Malabar Jews migrated around 1000 BC to trade during the times of King Solomon.

And in 53 AD Thomas the Apostle of Jesus arrived in what is now the state of Kerala to establish the first church in India.

Today, most Christians are found in the Southwest and far East Seven Sisters regions.

India also holds the highest population of Sikhs, Jains and Zoroastrians,

mostly found in the North, and the second largest Muslim population in the world after Indonesia.

Most muslims are populated around the Northwest areas by Pakistan or in the east by Bangladesh.

Oh, and don't forget the Buddhists. in fact Buddhism actually started in India.

Today the Dalai Lama even takes refuge in kiss port in the state of Assam.

Oh that was a lot of information. Ahhhh!!! Okay, so by now

you can probably get a grasp of how incredibly mixed and diversified India's population is.

But what exactly holds the country together?

Well for one, you kind of have to understand Indian history which will take way too long to explain

but in the quickest way I can put it:

Indus Valley;

Maurya and Gupta Empires;

Southern Empires;

Golden age;

Middle Kingdoms;

A ton of new religions come flocking in;

the North fell to the Delhi sultanate;

the South Became the Vijayanagara Empire

Mughal Empire starts;

British East India Company;

Direct British Rule;

Nationalist Movements;

Independent Republic;

Economic liberalization in 1991;

And here, we are today.


Essentially India used to be made up of around 500 smaller royal Princely states,

and when the British came in they kind of exploited them to manage such a huge population.

Along India is a democratic federal republic (and the largest democracy in the world)

the old royal families still exist today and although they have

no political power they hold high positions of influence in their communities across India

So today, technically you could meet someone that would be considered an Indian prince or princess.

Nonetheless, the biggest thing that really united Indians in the past

two centuries would probably be their hatred of British rule. It was kind of like:

Well, this is not cool. Yep.

What do you say you and I work together enough and uh, end this thing?

*friendship noises*

Especially one good thing you could say that came out of imperialism was

that it kind of stopped all the internal squabbling and unified the

groups towards one common goal to get rid of imperialism.

Today Indians are just proud to be Indians.

I mean a Tamil soccer player can get cheered on by a Rajasthani and Punjabi pop Star can sell out tickets in Orissa.

Speaking of which all Indians love movies and music.

India has the second largest film industry in terms of volume pumping out nearly

2,000 films per year

surprisingly Nigeria pumps out more.

However the box office revenues grossed out at only about two billion dollars annually compared to Hollywood at over 10 billion.

But still it's impressive and keep in mind that it's not just Bollywood

but it's also Tollywood, Gollywood, Kollywood, Pollywood and so on.

There's like 20 different woods in India.

And like every movie in India has at least one scene where everybody breaks out in song and there's almost always a happy ending.

Unfortunately mainstream media has also put an aesthetic strain on many of the people as it's almost become an obsession to be light or

fair-skinned causing people to go so far as to buy skin bleaching products.

Some other controversies include things like illiteracy being an issue in many parts of the country (especially in the rural areas).

But I mean come on when your country has literally hundreds of different writing systems. Go figure.

I mean give them a break.

Also, many of you guys (the Indian geograpeeps) have asked me to bring awareness to the fact that India does unfortunately

have some of the highest rates of human trafficking and child slavery.

The government is trying to crack down and culture is slowly being reformed

but for now, it's a sad reality that still does exist.

Hey here at GN, we talk about the good and the bad. I'm just saying.

Otherwise sports do definitely tie everyone together as well.

Especially cricket: the most popular sport (even though they also used to do really well in field hockey).

India also has a lot of their own indigenous sports like:

Dopkhel in Assam,

Bull racing in Kerala in South,

Insuknawr rod pushing in Mizoram;

and Malakhamba the strange pole Yoga gymnastics thing in the South.

Otherwise some notable people from India or of Indian descent might include people like:

Siddhartha gautama or the Buddha;


Ashoka the great;

Prithviraj Chauhan;


Shivaji of the Maratha Empire;

Mahatma Gandhi;

Indira Gandhi;

Subhash Chandra Bose;

Jawaharlal Nehru;

Rabindranath Tagore (first Nobel laureate of Asia);

CV Raman (first Indian scientist to win Nobel);

Satyendra Nath Bose;

Bhagat singh;

Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam;

Shah Rukh Khan;

Amitabh Bachchan;

Aamir Khan;

Salman Khan;

Priyanka Chopra;

Ben Kingsley;

Sundar Pichai (current CEO of Google);

Satya Narayana Nadela (current CEO of Microsoft);

AR Rehman;

Sachin Tendulkar and Mahendra singh Dhoni;

There's also literally millions of other famous people

I missed out on if you want to mention them please there's a comment section below. Use it.

In the meantime we got to finish this info marathon. Shall we?

♫ Friendzone ♫

Now, no surprised India is huge and therefore has a huge international outreach when it comes to diplomacy to almost everyone

except their immediate neighbors.

First of all countries with large population percentages of Hindus and Indians like Fiji, Guyana, Suriname,

Trinidad and Tobago, Mauritius and Malaysia typically stay close to India's roster of go-to friends. They enjoy cordial relations with trade.

Now the UK may have left on a sour note

but they still have a lot of ties to their former colonizer in terms of business and tourism.

India still part of the commonwealth (NOT Commonwealth realm there's a difference).

And the UK has over 1.5 million citizens of Indian descent.

As mentioned in the China episode, China is kind of like India's "I'm only here to do business with you and nothing else" friend

as drama still hasn't been subsided in regards to the territory complex.

Now when it comes to the US things started kind of sour back in the 70s during the Indo-Pak war of 1971

when the US sided with Pakistan, their arch-nemesis.

Today relations have cooled off mostly the US supports

India's move towards democracy and as a key ally in the military conflicts in the Middle East.

When it comes to their best friends however, most of the Indians I talked to have said Russia and Bhutan.

Russia because during the Indo-Pak Wars Russia came in and supported them and ever since then especially has global superpowers.

Bhutan and India signed a treaty of friendship -each country has held a high position of respect for the other-

almost immediately after independence

The two countries have shared interests and a currency pegged system as well. Bhutan even supported the annexation of their cousins in the Sikkim state

into India as it gave a nice buffer of lands from China's stick to their claim.

In conclusion, you will not find anywhere else on Earth like India. Thousands and millions of people inhabiting a colourful majestic green

slightly greedy at times slab of Earth blessed and cursed in so many ways yet wonderfully harmonized

mostly in a unity unlike anywhere else.

In the end, that's In-di-ah!! AAHHH!!!

Stay tuned, Indonesia is coming up next.