Contemporary India is a diverse and dynamic polity and society. It is a country of contrasts — and home to the second largest population in the world. Many different languages and dialects are spoken among a population of more than 1.1 billion people. India has a rich and fascinating culture which is shaped by several different religious traditions as well as the linguistic diversity of the country. Indian society is far from uniform and is heterogeneous. As well as extensive cultural variety there are important regional and class differences that help give Indian society its multi-layered character. Indian society is also marked by a system of social stratification known as caste which accords different groups high and low social status. Contemporary India has been decisively shaped by its history. Traders, visitors and invaders brought their own culture and priorities to India. The transition to self-rule in 1947 after a decisive struggle with the British Raj brought with it important changes. Most notably, Indian nationalists adopted universal suffrage and socialist-style economic planning. Since 1991, reforms have been made to this economic system which have created opportunities for business and investors, but also posed challenges as some economic inequalities have increased, notably between states of the federation.
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