India is a very diverse country with many different religions, hundreds of languages and climate varying from tropical to snowbound.
The Himalayas (Himalayas means home of snow) are the highest range of mountains in the world and were formed by collision between the great plates of the earth's crust.
The Deccan Traps, in west-central India, were produced the earth's largest lava flows.
The Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka, inscribed on the World Heritage site in 2003, includes four hundred rock shelters decorated with rock art; evidence of human habitation dates back to the Stone Age.
It is said that there are remains of a "lost city" in the Bay of Cambay, twenty-five miles off the coast of the Gujarat State. It is thought that such a city may have pre-dated the Indus Valley civilization.
Early civilization of the Indus Valley produced the great cities of Harappa and Mohenjo Daro.
Cotton cloth appears to have been produced for the first time in Mohenjo Daro in the third millennium BC.
The practice of yoga dates back to the Indus Valley civilization. Yoga and meditation are techniques used to attain Enlightenment.
The study of mathematics in India dates back to ancient times.
The Sumerians and the Phoenicians were the first Western traders in India. Merchants bought Indian spices: cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. The value of many spices was higher in weight than that of gold.
One of the Jain pilgrimage centres (Sravanabelagola) is the site of a seventeen metre high statue of a Jain religious figure - said to be the world's tallest monolithic statue.
The River Ganges is a sacred river and thought to wash away sins.
Emperor Ashoka was converted to Buddhism in 262 BC. He sent out missionaries, among them his brother who was sent to Sri Lanka.
In the sixteenth century Bobur from Fergana (Uzbekistan), a descendant of Genghis Khan and Timur (Tamburlaine), invaded India, beginning the great Moghul Empire.
The Taj Mahal, the tomb Shah Jehan built for his wife, took twenty-two years to build employing twenty thousand labourers.
The Se Cathedral built in Goa Velha in 1619 is the largest Christian church in Asia.
India's largest mosque is the Jama Masjid in Delhi. It can hold over twenty-five thousand worshippers.
The Koh-i-Noor, one of the world's most famous diamonds, is set in one of the crowns of the British crown jewels.
Indian independence from the UK was granted in 1947 and the separate Muslim state of Pakistan (which initially included present-day Bangladesh) was created.
India is a member of the Commonwealth.
Jawaharlal Nehru was the first Prime Minister of India; his daughter Indira Gandhi and her son Rajiv Gandhi also served as Prime Minister.
In 1986 Indira Gandhi was assassinated by a Sikh bodyguard. In 1984 she had ordered the army into the Golden Temple of Amritsar, the Sikh's holiest shrine, in search of illegal arms.
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated in 1991.
The Portuguese occupation of Goa continued until 1961, when India claimed the territory.
During the accident at a chemical plant in Bhopal (1984) poisonous gas clouds escaped killing over three thousand people and badly injuring two and a half thousand.
In 1993 around eleven thousand people were killed in an earthquake in Latur.
In 2001 an earthquake measuring 7.7 on the Richter scale killed over twenty thousand people in Gujarat, leaving six hundred thousand homeless.
On 26 December 2004, a quake occurred under the sea near Aceh in north Indonesia (8.9 on the Richter scale); this produced tsunamis causing flooding and destruction in Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Thailand, Seychelles, Sri Lanka and the east coast of Africa (Kenya and Somalia).
In 2008 the Indian government declared a national calamity following floods in eastern India. The flooding was caused when the River Kosi burst its banks.
Coordinated attacks by gunmen left over 170 people dead in Mumbai in November 2008.