The Himalayan range in the north acts as the perfect meteorological barrier for the whole country. Despite the country’s size and its varied relief, the seasonal rhythm of the monsoon is apparent throughout. Although much of northern India lies beyond the tropical zone, the entire country has a tropical climate marked by relatively high temperatures and dry winters. However, conditions change upon one’s location. October to February is good months for tourism, due to a temperature range of around 70 to 83 degrees.
The government of India is a combination of the British parliamentary system and the American State system. Similar to the U.S., there are three branches of the government: legislative, executive, and judiciary.
The parliament has two houses: Rajya Sabha and Lok Sabha. The members of the Rajya Sabha are elected by state legislators and serve a six-year term, while the members of the Lok Sabha are elected by a vote and serve for five years. The leader of the majority party is the head of the executive branch. He or she is the Prime Minister. The current Prime Minister is Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
The organization of government at the state level is just like that at the country level. There are 22 states. The villages of India are run according to an ancient democratic system. Voters elect 7 to 15 members, including women, for the "Panchayat." The Panchayat is the governing body of the village. It is responsible for the maintenance and development of the village. Members are elected every five years. This system represents a grassroots political tradition in Indian villages, meaning the everyday people have a chance to govern.
Northern and central India consist of people that speak Indo-European languages such as Hindi, Bengali and Gujerati, while those in Southern India speak languages of Dravidian such as Tamil and Telugu. There are over 15 languages in India, and over 500 dialects spoken, but Hindi and English are the official languages of the country.
Hindi: the language of Songs
Hindi is a direct descendent of Sanskrit. It has been influenced and enriched over the years by Dravidian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic and English. It is a very expressive language and, in poetry and songs, it can convey emotions using the most simplest and gentlest of words.
Over 180 million people in India regard Hindi as their mother tongue, and another 300 million use it as their second language. Hindi also has had great influence in other countries as well. There are over 100,000 speakers of Hindi in the United States, nearly 900,000 in South Africa, and 30,000 in Germany.
Hinduism: About 390 million people or 84% of the population is Hindu, while Sikhism and Jainism are both offshoots of the Hindu religion. They are divided into many different groups. Some, such as priests, are considered to be much better than others, and do belong to the highest caste system. However, many modern Hindus don’t like the caste system, and believe it is wrong to force a man to stay in a certain class simply because he was born into it. principal paths to the ultimate union of the individual soul with the all pervasive spirit. It does not originate from any Holy Book, like many of the European religions; however, its faith is embodied in the Lord's Song, the Bhagavad Gita: "He who considers this (self) as a slayer or he who thinks that his (self) is slain, neither knows the Truth. For it does not slay, nor is it slain. This (self) is unborn, eternal, changeless and ancient it is never destroyed even when the body is destroyed."
Buddhism: Buddhism was born in India around 566 B.C., with the birth of one called the Buddha, or enlightened one. His messages focused on non-violence and he preached that Nirvana could only by attained through the conquest of self. Buddha died around 487 B.C., but the religion of Buddhism flourished and even spread to countries like Egypt, Sri Lanka, and Japan. Although Buddha was an Indian, there are only 200,000 Buddhists in India today.
Islam: Nearly 12 % of the Indian population is Islam. Arab traders brought Islam to India around the seventh century and after them came the Afghans and the Moguls, amongst them was the most enlightened one, Emperor Akbar. Islam has flourished in India throughout the centuries, and Muslims, those who practice Islam, have occupied some of the highest positions in the country. India today is the second largest Muslim country in the world, next to Indonesia.
In addition to extensive cultivable land and valuable stands of time, India has many mineral deposits, including almost all metal ores, especially iron. There are also coal, diamonds, copper and semi-precious stones within the region. The plant life varies from sparse in the arid areas bordering Pakistan, to luxuriant in the southeastern part of the plains region. India has many dense tropical rainforests filled with evergreens, palms, banyans, sandalwood, elephants, walnut trees, orchids and carnivorous plants. Arctic plants grow at high elevations, and lower elevations support subtropical plant life and are densely forested.
India has a wide variety of animals, such as tigers, elephants and rhinoceroses, and several species of apes, antelope and deer. Some of the more exotic animals found in India include the flying squirrels, pythons, and the Bengal Tiger.