Learn About India
Learn about India with the kids - a little geography, a little condensed history, and lots of interesting and fun facts to keep them interested! You will find worksheets, printables and a "quiz" to build on this section here.
A sacred cow outside a colourful building
A Little Geography
- Located in South Asia, India is the seventh largest country in the world and has the second largest population. Around 1.2 billion people live in India.
- India is a peninsular country, bordered mostly by water: the Arabian Sea towards its southwest, the Bay of Bengal towards its southeast and the Indian Ocean towards its south. The countries bordering India are Bhutan, China and Nepal in the North, Burma and Bangladesh in the East, and Pakistan in the West.
- Hindi is the main language spoken in India, and many people also speak English.
- India has a varied landscape, with mountains, deserts and some of the world's largest rivers. The Ganges river tributaries drain a 1,000,000 square kilometre fertile basin that supports one of the world’s highest densities of people. The river is named after a Hindu goddess called Ganga, and is regarded as being at the heart of Indian culture, tradition and living.
The busy Ganges river
- The highest point in India is Kanchenjunga, situated 8,598 m above sea level. It is the third highest mountain in the world (after Mount Everest and K2).
A Little History
- Archaeologists have discovered more than 1500 settlements around the Indus River valley (now in Pakistan) dating back to about 3,000 BC. What we now know as the Indus River Civilisation flourished for about 1500 years. Discoveries show that the people wrote on clay tablets and lived in brick houses with bathrooms connected to water and sewer systems (the world's first) in well-planned cities. We know that they raised sheep and goats, had soap and medicines and dentists! What we don't know is why the Indus River Civilisation came to an end.
Ruins at Moenjodaro (Pakistan) - Indus Valley Civilisation - photo from Unesco
- Around 1500 BC, the Aryans came to India from central Asia (now Russia). They were a nomadic warrior people who lived in clans, raised horses, loved stories and liked to gamble! They spoke Sanskrit, one of the oldest spoken languages that we know about. They collected their stories, beliefs and ways of life into poems and hymns known as the Vedas (Veda means knowledge). Around 500 BC these Vedas were written down and became the sacred texts of the Hindu religion which is now the dominant religion of India. The Aryans also created two wonderful epic stories, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. You might like to read about the story of Diwali, which comes from the Ramayana.
- Buddhism was founded by Siddharta Gautama around the late 6th century BC. From its beginnings in India, Buddhism spread all over the world.
- By the 4th century BC, India was a land of many kingdoms with different languages and cultures - and wealth. That wealth attracted Alexander the Great of Greece, who was building his empire towards China. He arrived in India in 326 BC and established Greek garrisons and rulers. He died, however, just 3 years later and the people quickly revolted against Greek rule, led by a soldier, Chandragupta Maurya.
- In 322 BC Maurya became king of the state of Magadha in the North of India and founded the Mauryan empire, which he expanded over his lifetime. It was difficult to govern such a large, unruly area, so he divided it up into provinces which were ruled by a prince and the prince's royal family. The greatest Mauryan ruler was Asoka the Great, who expanded the empire greatly during his lifetime (269-232 BC).
- The Gupta Empire took control of much of India in 319 AD, beginning a time of peace, prosperity and advances in science and the arts.
- The first European settlers arrived from Portugal in 1498. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama established trade between Europe and India.
- In 1600, Queen Elizabeth 1 granted the British East India Company exclusive rights to trade with India. In 1757 Robert Clive became the first British Governor of Bengal.
- The British Empire took over the East India Company in 1858 and Queen Victoria claimed the title the Empress of India in 1877.
- Ghandi became the leader of the Indian National Congress party in 1920, campaigning peacefully for independence.
- India gained Independence from Britain in August 1947. In 1948, Gandhi was on his way to morning prayers when he was shot and killed by a Hindu fanatic.
And Some Interesting Facts...
- Elephants have their own spa at the Punnathoor Cotta Elephant Yard Rejuvenation Centre in Kerala, where they can enjoy baths, food and even a massage!
Elephants in Kerala
- Do you enjoy playing snakes and ladders? The game was invented in India as a moral lesson about karma to be taught to children.
- With over 155,015 post offices, India has the world's largest postal network, including a floating post office in Dal Lake, Srinagar!
- India is the most vegetarian-friendly country in the world, with around 20-40% of the population choosing to be vegetarian.
- Shampoo is another invention we can thank India for! The method of using herbs to clean hair originates in India, and the word 'shampoo' is derived from the Sanskrit word 'champu', which means 'to massage'.