India Population, Languages ​​and Religion

India Religions

Development and growth

India welcomes, on an area equal to 2.2% of the land, over 17% of the world population and, after the Republic People of China, it is the most populous state; given the intense slowdown in population growth in China, it is expected that within 20 years around India (which has a nearly triple growth rate) become the most populous country on Earth. The average annual increase, very strong in the period 1958-64 (2.3%), and gradually decreased since the early 1970s, also as a result of targeted anti-demographic campaigns, is still quite high (1.54% in 2009), although there are strong variations not only between urban and rural populations, but also between the various federated states. The Indian demographic explosion, not accompanied by a corresponding increase in production, is a relatively recent fact: the improved sanitation conditions have brought down the mortality rate, which was very high (48 ‰) until the first decades of the 20th century. due to frequent famines and epidemics (in the period 1911-21 the Indian population even decreased), to 6.4% in 2008; the average life span of 20 years has risen to 69.25, while about half of the Indian population is under 25. The birth rate up to the 1950s, on the other hand, remained practically unchanged, with the consequence of a constant increase in natural growth; still today it is among the highest in the world (21.76 ‰), even if the fertility rate went from 5 in the early 1980s to 2.72 in 2009; however, the demographic transition seems far from completion. The demographic data starting from the first official census (1901) are significant: 238 million residents in 1901; 279 in 1931; 318.5 in 1941; 360 in 1951; 439 in 1961; 548 in 1971; 685 in 1981; 844 in 1991; 1028 in 2001, 1198 in 2009. Migrations towards foreign countries, although substantial, have never been of a mass character (if we exclude the exchange of population with Pakistan, immediately after independence, which brought 10-12 million Hindu refugees to India and 5- 7 million Muslims in Pakistan); internal migrations are much more relevant and have promoted the growth of huge urban agglomerations.


The average density of the population, of about 403 residents / km 2, shows strong regional differences. Lower values ​​are found in the Himalayan, mountain or desert regions, with a minimum of 14 residents / km 2 in Arunachal Pradesh; highest concentrations are found in the Gangetic plain, and in particular in West Bengal with just under 1000, in Kerala and on the southern coasts; the highest concentrations are obviously found in urban areas and in some of the Laccadive islands. Given the prevalence of rural activities, the majority of the population (71%) lives in the countryside, mostly in villages of 200-400 people with community organization and activities regulated by the village council. Sparse population in the strict sense is present only in the rice-growing areas of Bengal and Malabar.


Although the India has a very ancient tradition of urban life, true urbanization is a recent phenomenon (induced by the productive and infrastructural concentration of the colonial period), discontinuous, highly polarized and, in its dimensions, exasperated. Among the most urbanized states are Maharashtra (with the conurbation of Mumbai), Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, West Bengal, Karnataka, Punjab. In the larger cities, endless expanses of precarious houses (often simple removable shelters) occupy the peripheral areas, as well as squares and gardens within the city, with inhumane living conditions. The most populous urban agglomerations, after Mumbai, are those of Delhi, Kolkata (Calcutta), Chennai (Madras), Bengalooru (Bangalore), Hyderabad, Ahmadabad, with populations between 5 and over 10 million. The transfer, in 1911, of the colonial capital from Calcutta to Delhi, previously the capital several times, confirmed to this city the administrative and cultural function that it still retains with New Delhi, located in the southern sector of the urban agglomeration. Many cities maintain the function of religious centers (besides Benares, od. Varanasi, with very ancient origins, we must remember Madura, in Tamil Nadu, known since the classical age, Hardwar, in Uttar Pradesh, Agra and Hyderabad).

Ethnicities, languages ​​and religion

Under the cultural and in particular religious aspects, the Indian population has only one relative unity and individuality, dating back to the Aryanization process in the ethnic, linguistic and cultural fields; a process that began between 2000 and 1500 BC with a penetration that substantially changed the structure of the northern flat regions, inhabited by Dravidian peoples. In the Deccan, the original populations constituted areas of conservation and refuge, maintaining language, traditional hunting and gathering activities and animist cults; from these groups derive the current Dravidian and lingua munda populations. The Aryans, on the other hand, originally nomadic breeders, settled in the Gangetic plain in small groups (from which the Indian villages would derive), dedicating themselves to the winter cultivation of wheat and barley. The most salient aspects of Indian civilization, including castes, derive from the superimposition of Aryan cultural elements with those of pre-existing populations. More modest Tibetan-Burmese-speaking groups with tribal organization are found on the edge of Tibet and in the mountains of Assam. The Muslim penetration, episodic until around 1000 AD, became more intense with the constitution of the Delhi sultanate and spread to Bengal. With the European penetration, the formation of distinct groups for cultural and religious characters (Christianity) began. For India religion and languages, please check

The choice of Hindī as the national language provoked reactions from the other linguistic groups, in particular Bengali and Tamil, who obtained in 1956, not without contrasts, a political-administrative division based largely on ethnic-linguistic characteristics and a large autonomy ; so alongside states where hindī is the prevailing language (Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh) there are others with different neo-Indian languages, e.g., kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir), panjābī or punjabi (Punjab), gujarāti (Gujarat), marāṭhi (Maharashtra), bengalī (West Bengal), oṛiyā (Orissa), Assamese (Assam). In the Deccan, Dravidian languages ​​prevail, including Telugu (Andhra Pradesh), Tamil, for literature the richest and most ancient (Tamil Nadu, formerly Madras), kannaḍa or Canarese (Karnataka, formerly Mysore) and Malayāḷam (Kerala). Urdū, a form of Hindī with Arabic script and a high percentage of Arabic and Persian expressions, is mainly spoken by Muslim groups. Tibetan-Burmese languages ​​are in use in Nagaland and Meghalaya. Hindī is spoken as the first language by a relative majority (equal, however, to only about 25% of the population, moreover distributed among many linguistic varieties within the Hindī lineage), followed by Telugu, Bengalī, marāṭhī and Tamil and then urdū, gujarāti, kannaḍa, malayāḷam, oṛiyā, panjābī and many other languages ​​(altogether, 1600 linguistic varieties have been reported in India). English (official language with hindī) is widely in use as a language of relationship. Such cultural variety, together with the marked socio-economic imbalances, produces considerable difficulties in achieving full coexistence between the various groups, despite the undoubted progress that has also occurred in this direction, in parallel with the contraction of absolute poverty, which nevertheless affects still seriously, and with the spread of schooling (but 39% of the population is still illiterate). With regard to the school system, however, it should be remembered that higher education in India can count on a very well organized and effective system, which trains highly qualified personnel (a circumstance that clearly contrasts with the difficulty of guaranteeing minimum schooling for students. population as a whole).

80.5% of the population claims to be Hindu; followed at a distance by Muslims (13.4%) and Sikhs (1.9%), of great importance for culture and enterprise, as well as Christians (2.3%, equally divided between Catholics and Protestants). Buddhism (0.8%) survives in the eastern Himalayan valleys, to which it gives a particular aspect (temples, monasteries). The Christian communities date back to the Portuguese presence, but some are of much older origin (Syro-Malankara). Finally, we should mention the Parsis, in Gujarat and in particular in Mumbai, and the Jain (0.4%), followers of the Jain religion (➔ Jainism), which arose more or less simultaneously with Buddhism.

India Religions