The Indian subcontinent is a southern region and peninsula of Asia, mostly situated on the Indian Plate and projecting southwards into the Indian Ocean from the Himalayas. Geologically, the Indian subcontinent is related to the land mass that rifted from Gondwana and merged with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago. Geographically, it is the peninsular region in south-central Asia delineated by the Himalayas in the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east. Politically, the Indian subcontinent includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Sometimes, the geographical term 'Indian subcontinent' is used interchangeably with 'South Asia', although that last term is used typically as a political term and is also used to include Afghanistan. Which countries should be included in either of these remains the subject of debate.
|Area||4.4 million km2 (1.7 million sq mi)|
|Population||1.710 billion (2015)|
According to Oxford English Dictionary, the term "subcontinent" signifies a "subdivision of a continent which has a distinct geographical, political, or cultural identity" and also a "large land mass somewhat smaller than a continent". It is first attested in 1845 to refer to the North and South Americas, before they were regarded as separate continents. Its use to refer to the Indian subcontinent is seen from the early twentieth century. It was especially convenient for referring to the region comprising both British India and the princely states under British Paramountcy.
The term Indian subcontinent also has a geological significance. Similar to various continents, it was a part of the supercontinent of Gondwana. A series of tectonic splits caused formation of various basins, each drifting in various directions. The geological region called "Greater India" once included Madagascar, Seychelles, Antarctica and Austrolasia along with the Indian subcontinent basin. As a geological term, Indian subcontinent has meant that region formed from the collision of the Indian basin with Eurasia nearly 55 million years ago, towards the end of Paleocene.
The geographical region has historically simply been known as "India" (in antiquity referring to the Indus Valley region, not the entire subcontinent). Other related terms are Greater India and South Asia. And the terms "Indian subcontinent" and "South Asia" are sometimes used interchangeably. There is no globally accepted definition on which countries are a part of South Asia or the Indian subcontinent. The less common term "South Asian subcontinent" has seen occasional use since the 1970s.
Geologically, the Indian subcontinent was first a part of so-called "Greater India", a region of Gondwana that drifted away from East Africa about 160 million years ago, around the Middle Jurassic period. The region experienced high volcanic activity and plate subdivisions, creating Madagascar, Seychelles, Antarctica, Austrolasia and the Indian subcontinent basin. The Indian subcontinent drifted northeastwards, colliding with the Eurasian plate nearly 55 million years ago, towards the end of Paleocene. This geological region largely includes Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. The zone where the Eurasian and Indian subcontinent plates meet remains one of the geologically active areas, prone to major earthquakes.
The English term "subcontinent" mainly continues to refer to the Indian subcontinent. Physiographically, it is a peninsular region in south-central Asia delineated by the Himalayas in the north, the Hindu Kush in the west, and the Arakanese in the east. It extends southward into the Indian Ocean with the Arabian Sea to the southwest and the Bay of Bengal to the southeast. Most of this region rests on the Indian Plate and is isolated from the rest of Asia by large mountain barriers.
Using the more expansive definition – counting India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and Maldives as the constituent countries – the Indian subcontinent covers about 4.4 million km2 (1.7 million sq mi), which is 10% of the Asian continent or 3.3% of the world's land surface area. Overall, it accounts for about 45% of Asia's population (or over 25% of the world's population) and is home to a vast array of peoples.
NASA images of the Indian subcontinent during day and night.
The Indian subcontinent is a natural physical landmass in South Asia, geologically the dry-land portion of the Indian Plate, which has been relatively isolated from the rest of Eurasia. Given the difficulty of passage through the Himalayas, the sociocultural, religious and political interaction of the Indian subcontinent has largely been through the valleys of Afghanistan in its northwest, the valleys of Manipur in its east, and by maritime routes. More difficult but historically important interaction has also occurred through passages pioneered by the Tibetans. These routes and interactions have led to the spread of Buddhism out of the Indian subcontinent into other parts of Asia. And the Islamic expansion arrived into the Indian subcontinent in two ways, through Afghanistan on land and to Indian coast through the maritime routes on the Arabian Sea.
Whether called the Indian subcontinent or South Asia, the definition of the geographical extent of this region varies. Geopolitically, it had formed the whole territory of Greater India. In terms of modern geopolitical boundaries, the Indian subcontinent comprises the Republic of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, besides, by convention, the island nation of Sri Lanka and other islands of the Indian Ocean, such as the Maldives. The term "Indian continent" is first introduced in the early 20th century, when most of the territory was part of British India.
The Hindu Kush, centered on eastern Afghanistan, is the boundary connecting the Indian subcontinent with Central Asia to the northwest, and the Persian Plateau to the west. The socio-religious history of Afghanistan are related to the Turkish-influenced Central Asia and northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent, now known as Pakistan. Others state Afghanistan being a part of Central Asia is not an accepted practice, and it is "clearly not part of the Indian subcontinent".
This list includes dependent territories within their sovereign states (including uninhabited territories), but does not include claims on Antarctica. EEZ+TIA is exclusive economic zone (EEZ) plus total internal area (TIA) which includes land and internal waters.
This greater India is well defined in terms of topography; it is the Indian sub-continent, hemmed in by the Himalayas on the north, the Hindu Khush in the west and the Arakanese in the east.
The 2005 Kashmir earthquake occurred at 08:50:39 Pakistan Standard Time on 8 October in Pakistan-administered areas of Kashmir. It was centered near the city of Muzaffarabad, and also affected Pakistan's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and Indian-administered Jammu and Kashmir. It registered a moment magnitude of 7.6 and had a maximum Mercalli intensity of VIII (Severe). The earthquake also affected countries in the surrounding region where tremors were felt in Afghanistan, Tajikistan and Chinese Xinjiang. The severity of the damage caused by the earthquake is attributed to severe upthrust. It is considered the deadliest earthquake to hit South Asia since the 1935 Quetta earthquake.Chapati
Chapati (alternatively spelled chapatti, chappati, chapathi, or chappathi), (pronounced as IAST: capātī, capāṭī, cāpāṭi), also known as roti, safati, shabaati, phulka and (in the Maldives) roshi, is an unleavened flatbread originating from the Indian subcontinent and staple in India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, East Africa and the Caribbean. Chapatis are made of whole wheat flour known as atta, mixed into dough with water and optional salt in a mixing utensil called a parat, and is cooked on a tava (flat skillet).It is a common staple in the Indian subcontinent as well as amongst expatriates from the Indian subcontinent throughout the world. Chapatis were also introduced to other parts of the world by immigrants from the Indian subcontinent, particularly by Indian merchants to Central Asia, Southeast Asia, East Africa, and the Caribbean islands.Cuisine of the Indian subcontinent
Cuisine of the Indian subcontinent includes the cuisines from the Indian subcontinent comprising the traditional cuisines from Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the Maldives.Decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent
The decline of Buddhism in the Indian subcontinent refers to a gradual process of dwindling and replacement of Buddhism in India, which ended around the 12th century. According to Lars Fogelin, this was "not a singular event, with a singular cause; it was a centuries-long process."The decline of Buddhism has been attributed to various factors, especially the regionalisation of India after the end of the Gupta Empire (320–650 CE), which led to the loss of patronage and donations as Indian dynasties turned to the services of Hindu Brahmins. Another factor were invasions of north India by various groups such as Huns, Turco-mongols and Persians and subsequent destruction of Buddhist institutions such as Nalanda and religious persecutions. Religious competition with Hinduism and later Islam were also important factors.
The total Buddhist population in 2010 in the Indian subcontinent – excluding that of Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan – was about 10 million, of which about 7.2% lived in Bangladesh, 92.5% in India and 0.2% in Pakistan.Delhi Sultanate
The Delhi Sultanate (Persian:دهلی سلطان, Urdu: دہلی سلطنت) was a Muslim sultanate based mostly in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526). Five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90), the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). The sultanate is noted for being one of the few states to repel an attack by the Mongols (from the Chagatai Khanate), and enthroned one of the few female rulers in Islamic history, Razia Sultana, who reigned from 1236 to 1240.Qutb al-Din Aibak, a former Turkic Mamluk slave of Muhammad Ghori, was the first sultan of Delhi, and his Mamluk dynasty conquered large areas of northern India. Afterwards, the Khalji dynasty was also able to conquer most of central India, but both failed to conquer the whole of the Indian subcontinent. The sultanate reached the peak of its geographical reach during the Tughlaq dynasty, occupying most of the Indian subcontinent. This was followed by decline due to Hindu reconquests, states such as the Vijayanagara Empire and Mewar asserting independence, and new Muslim sultanates such as the Bengal Sultanate breaking off.During and in the Delhi Sultanate, there was a synthesis of Indian civilization with that of Islamic civilization, and the further integration of the Indian subcontinent with a growing world system and wider international networks spanning large parts of Afro-Eurasia, which had a significant impact on Indian culture and society, as well as the wider world. The time of their rule included the earliest forms of Indo-Islamic architecture, increased growth rates in India's population and economy, and the emergence of the Hindi-Urdu language. The Delhi Sultanate was also responsible for repelling the Mongol Empire's potentially devastating invasions of India in the 13th and 14th centuries. However, the Delhi Sultanate also caused large scale destruction and desecration of temples in the Indian subcontinent. In 1526, the Sultanate was conquered and succeeded by the Mughal Empire.Ground meat
Ground meat, called mince or minced meat outside of North America, and keema or qeema (Hindustani: क़ीमा (Devanagari), قیمہ (Nastaleeq), (pronounced [ˈqiːmaː])) in the Indian subcontinent, is finely chopped by a meat grinder or a chopping knife. A common type of ground meat is ground beef, but many other types of meats are prepared in a similar fashion, including pork, lamb, and poultry. In the Indian subcontinent, both mutton and goat meat are also minced to produce keema.Hijra (Indian subcontinent)
Hijra is a term given to eunuchs, intersex people, and transgender people who are part of the Hijra community in the Indian subcontinent. Also known as Aravani, Aruvani, Jagappa, or Chhakka, the hijra community in India prefer to call themselves Kinnar or Kinner, referring to the mythological beings that excel at song and dance.
Hijras are officially recognized as third gender in countries in the Indian subcontinent, being considered neither completely male nor female. Hijras have a recorded history in the Indian subcontinent from antiquity onwards as suggested by the Kama Sutra period.
Many hijras live in well-defined and organised all-hijra communities, led by a guru. These communities have consisted over generations of those who are in abject poverty, rejected by, or flee, their family of origin. Many work as sex workers for survival.The word "hijra" is a Hindustani word. It has traditionally been translated into English as "eunuch" or "hermaphrodite", where "the irregularity of the male genitalia is central to the definition." However, in general hijras are born male, only a few having been born with intersex variations. Some Hijras undergo an initiation rite into the hijra community called nirwaan, which refers to the removal of the penis, scrotum and testicles.Since the late 20th century, some hijra activists and non-government organizations (NGOs) have lobbied for official recognition of the hijra as a kind of "third sex" or "third gender", as neither man nor woman. Hijras have successfully gained this recognition in Bangladesh and are eligible for priority in education. In India, the Supreme Court in April 2014 recognized hijras, transgenders, eunuchs, and intersex people as a 'third gender' in law. Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh have all legally accepted the existence of a third gender, with India and Nepal including an option for them on passports and certain official documents.Hindu mythology
Hindu mythology are narratives found in Hindu texts such as the Vedic literature, epics like Mahabharata and Ramayana, the Puranas, the regional literatures like Periya Puranam. Hindu mythology is also found in widely translated popular texts such as the Panchatantra and Hitopadesha, as well as Southeast Asian texts.Hindu mythology does not often have a consistent, monolithic structure. The same myth typically appears in various versions, and can be represented differently across socio-religious traditions. These myths have also been noted to have been modified by various philosophical schools over time and particularly in the Hindu tradition. These myths are taken to have deeper, often symbolic, meaning, and have been given a complex range of interpretations.History of India
Anatomically modern humans are thought to have arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. Settled life, which involves the transition from foraging to farming and pastoralism, began in South Asia around 7,000 BCE. The domestication of wheat and barley, rapidly followed by that of goats, sheep, and cattle, has been documented at Mehrgarh, Balochistan. By 4,500 BCE, settled life had become more widely prevalent, and eventually evolved into the Indus Valley Civilization, an early civilization of the Old world, contemporaneous with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. It flourished between 2,500 BCE and 1900 BCE in what today is Pakistan and north-western India, and was noted for its urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage, and water supply.In the beginning of the second millennium BCE climate change, with persistent drought, lead to the abandonment of the urban centers of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Its population resettled in smaller villages, and, in the north-west, mixed with Indo-Aryan tribes, who moved into the area in several waves of migration, also driven by the effects of this climate change. The Vedic period was marked by the composition of the Vedas, large collections of hymns of some of the Aryan tribes, whose postulated religious culture, through synthesis with the preexisting religious cultures of the subcontinent, gave rise to Hinduism. The caste system, which created a hierarchy of priests, warriors, and free peasants, but which excluded indigenous peoples by labeling their occupations impure, arose later during this period. Towards the end of the period, around the sixth century BCE, a second urbanisation took place with the consolidation of small kingdoms (janapadas) into larger states called mahajanapadas. This renewed urbanisation led to the rise of new ascetic or Śramaṇa movements, including Jainism and Buddhism, which challenged the orthodoxy of rituals, and gave rise to new religious concepts.Most of the Indian subcontinent was conquered by the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. From the 3rd century BCE onwards Prakrit and Pali literature in the north and the Tamil Sangam literature in southern India started to flourish. Wootz steel originated in south India in the 3rd century BCE and was exported to foreign countries. During the Classical period, various parts of India were ruled by numerous dynasties for the next 1,500 years, among which the Gupta Empire stands out. This period, witnessing a Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known as the classical or "Golden Age of India". During this period, aspects of Indian civilisation, administration, culture, and religion spread to much of Asia, while kingdoms in southern India had maritime trade with the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In many parts of Southeast Asia, Indian cultural influence led to the establishment of Indianised kingdoms (Greater India).The most significant event between the 7th and 11th century was the Tripartite struggle centred on Kannauj that lasted for more than two centuries between the Pala Empire, Rashtrakuta Empire, and Gurjara-Pratihara Empire. Southern India saw the rise of multiple imperial powers from the middle of the fifth century, most notably the Chalukya, Chola, Pallava, Chera, Pandyan, and Western Chalukya Empires. The Chola dynasty conquered southern India and successfully invaded parts of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bengal in the 11th century. In the early medieval period Indian mathematics, including Hindu numerals, influenced the development of mathematics and astronomy in the Arab world.Islamic conquests made limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Sindh as early as the 8th century, and the Delhi Sultanate was founded in 1206 CE by Central Asian Turks who ruled a major part of the northern Indian subcontinent in the early 14th century, but declined in the late 14th century. This period also saw the emergence of several powerful Hindu states, notably Vijayanagara, Gajapati, and Ahom, as well as Rajput states, such as Mewar. The 15th century saw the advent of Sikhism. The early modern period began in the 16th century, when the Mughal Empire conquered most of the Indian subcontinent. The Mughals suffered a gradual decline in the early 18th century, which provided opportunities for the Marathas, Sikhs and Mysoreans to exercise control over large regions of the subcontinent.From the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, large areas of India were annexed by the British East India Company of the British Empire. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, after which the British provinces of India were directly administered by the British Crown and witnessed a period of rapid development of infrastructure, economic decline and major famines. During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched, led by the Indian National Congress, which was later joined by other organisations. The Indian subcontinent gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, after the British provinces were partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan and the princely states all acceded to one of the new states.History of Indian cuisine
The history of Indian cuisine consists of cuisine from the Indian subcontinent, which is rich and diverse. As a land that has experienced extensive immigration and intermingling through many millennia, the Indian subcontinent has benefited from numerous food influences. The diverse climate in the region, ranging from deep tropical to alpine, has also helped considerably broaden the set of ingredients readily available to the many schools of cookery in India. In many cases, food has become a marker of religious and social identity, with varying taboos and preferences (for instance, a segment of the Jain population consume no roots or subterranean vegetable; see Jain vegetarianism) which has also driven these groups to innovate extensively with the food sources that are deemed acceptable.
One strong influence over Indian foods is the longstanding vegetarianism within sections of India's Hindu and Jain communities. At 31%, slightly less than a third of Indians are vegetarians.History of the horse in the Indian subcontinent
The horse has been present in the Indian subcontinent from at least the middle of the second millennium BC, more than two millennia after its domestication in Central Asia. The earliest uncontroversial evidence of horse remains on the Indian Subcontinent date to the early Swat culture (around 1600 BCE). Claims of stray finds date to earlier times, as early as the middle of the third millennium, but these are not generally accepted. The topic is of some importance to the dating of Indo-Aryan migration to the Indian subcontinent.
Ashva (a Sanskrit word for a horse) is one of the significant animals finding references in several Hindu scriptures.Islamic rulers in the Indian subcontinent
Beginning in the 13th century, several Islamic states were established in the Indian subcontinent in the course of a gradual Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent. This process culminated in the Mughal Empire, which ruled most of India during the mid-16th to early-18th centuries. The Islamic rule gradually declined due to the dominance of Maratha Empire and several other rebellions (case during the entire period of Mughal rule past Akbar). The eventual end of the period of Islamic rule of India is marked by the two main events Indian Rebellion of 1857 and the beginning of British rule, although Islamic rule persisted in Hyderabad State and other minor princely states until Union of India in 1948. However, most Islamic rules had started to wane in the 17th and 18th century before that.List of tallest buildings and structures in the Indian subcontinent
This list of tallest buildings in the Indian subcontinent ranks skyscrapers and structures in the Indian subcontinent based on official height.
The tallest building is Palais Royale, Mumbai which is located in the Indian city of Mumbai. The tallest self-supported structure is the 350 metre Lotus Tower located in Colombo city in Sri lanka. The tallest guyed structures are two 471 metre radio masts of the Indian Navy of INS Kattabomman for VLF-transmissions, which are located in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu.Mehndi
Mehndi is a form of body art originating from the Indian subcontinent, in which decorative designs are created on a person's body, using a paste, created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis). Dating back to ancient India, mehndi is still a popular form of body art among the women of the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East.
Mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Hindu Vedic ritual books. It was originally used for only women's palms and sometimes for men, but as time progressed, it was more common for men to wear it. Haldi (staining oneself with turmeric paste), as well as mehndi, are Vedic customs, intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centered on the idea of "awakening the inner light". Traditional Indian designs are representations of the sun on the palm, which, in this context, is intended to represent the hands and feet. Mehendi has a great significance in performing classical dance like Bharatnatyam.
There are many variations and designs. Women usually apply mehndi designs to their hands and feet, though some, including cancer patients and women with alopecia occasionally decorate their scalps. The standard color of henna is brown, but other design colors such as white, red, black and gold are sometimes employed.Practiced mainly in the Indian subcontinent, mehndi is the application of a temporary form of skin decoration, popularized in the West by Indian cinema and the entertainment industry, the people in Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives also use mehndi. Mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are called henna tattoos.
Mehndi in Indian tradition is typically applied during special Hindu weddings and Hindu festivals like Karva Chauth, Vat Purnima, Diwali, Bhai Dooj and Teej. In Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet and sometimes on the back of their shoulders too, as men have it applied on their arms, legs, back, and chest. For women, it is usually drawn on the palm, back of the hand and on feet, where the design will be clearest due to contrast with the lighter skin on these surfaces, which naturally contain less of the pigment melanin. Some Muslims in the Indian subcontinent also apply Mehndi during festivals such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
Alta, Alata, or Mahur is a red dye used similarly to henna to paint the feet of the brides in some regions of India, for instance in Bengal.
Likely due to the desire for a "tattoo-black" appearance, some people add the synthetic dye p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) to henna to give it a black colour. PPD may cause severe allergic reactions and was voted Allergen of the Year in 2006 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society.Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent
Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent mainly took place from the 12th to the 16th centuries, though earlier Muslim conquests made limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Pakistan as early as the time of the Rajput kingdoms in the 8th century. With the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Islam spread across large parts of the subcontinent. In 1204, Bakhtiyar Khalji led the Muslim conquest of Bengal, marking the eastern-most expansion of Islam at the time.
Prior to the rise of the Maratha Empire, which was followed by the conquest of India by the British East India Company, the Muslim Mughal Empire was able to annex or subjugate most of India's kings. However, it was never able to conquer the kingdoms in the upper reaches of the Himalayas, such as those of modern Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Sikkim, Nepal and Bhutan; the kingdoms of the extreme south of India, such as Travancore and Tamil Nadu; or the kingdoms in the east, such as the Ahom Kingdom in Assam.Outline of South Asian history
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to the history of South Asia:
History of South Asia – South Asia includes the contemporary political entities of the Indian subcontinent and associated islands, therefore, its history includes the histories of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Afghanistan, Bhutan, and the island nations of Sri Lanka and the Maldives.Outline of ancient India
The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to ancient India:
Ancient India is the Indian Subcontinent from prehistoric times to the start of Medieval India, which is typically dated (when the term is still used) to the end of the Gupta Empire. Ancient India was composed of the modern-day countries of Afghanistan (some portions), Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, India, Nepal and Pakistan.Persian language in the Indian subcontinent
The Persian language in the Indian subcontinent, before the British colonized the Indian subcontinent, was the region's lingua franca and a widely used official language. The language was brought into the Indian subcontinent by various Turkic and Afghan dynasties, in particular the Turko-Afghan Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Dynasty. Persian held official status in the court and the administration within these empires and it heavily influenced many of the local languages, particularly the Urdu dialect of Hindustani.
Evidence of Persian's historical influence there can be seen in the extent of its influence on the languages of the Indian subcontinent. Many of these areas have seen a certain influence by Persian not only in literature but also in the speech of the common man. Persian exerted a strong influence on Balochi, which is an Iranian language and Urdu, and a relatively strong influence on Pashto (another Iranian language), Punjabi and Sindhi. Other languages like Hindi, Marathi, Gujarati, Rajasthani and Bengali also have a sizeable amount of loanwords from Persian.
Persian's official status was replaced with English in 1835 by British East India Company. After 1843, English gradually replaced Persian in importance in the Indian subcontinent as the British had full suzerainty over the Indian subcontinent.South Asian ethnic groups
The ethno-linguistic composition of the population of South Asia, that is the nations of India, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, Maldives and Sri Lanka is highly diverse. The majority of the population fall within two large linguistic groups, Indo-Aryan and Dravidian. Indian society is traditionally divided into castes or clans, not ethnicities, and these categories have had no official status since independence in 1947, except for the scheduled castes and tribes which remain registered for the purpose of affirmative action. In today's India, the population is categorized in terms of the 1,652 mother tongues spoken.
These groups are further subdivided into numerous sub-groups, castes, and tribes. Indo-Aryans form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in Indo-Gangetic Plain (North India, East India, West India, Central India), Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nepal, Sri Lanka and the Maldives. Dravidians form the predominant ethno-linguistic group in southern India and the northern and eastern regions of Sri Lanka, and a small pocket in Pakistan. Certain Iranian speaking peoples also have a significant presence in South Asia, the large majority of whom are located in Pakistan, with heavy concentrations in Balochistan, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Dardic peoples form a minority among the Indo-Aryans. They are classified as belonging to the Indo-Aryan language group, though sometimes they are also classified as external to the Indo-Aryan branch. They are found in northern Pakistan (Northern Areas and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa) and in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Minority groups not falling within either large group mostly speak languages belonging to the Austroasiatic and Tibeto-Burman language families, and mostly live around Ladakh and Northeast India, Nepal, Bhutan and the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh. The Andamanese (Sentinel, Onge, Jarawa, Great Andamanese) live on some of the Andaman Islands and speak a language isolate, as do the Kusunda in central Nepal, the Vedda in Sri Lanka, and the Nihali of central India, who number about 5000 people. The people of the Hunza valley in Pakistan are another distinct population. They speak Burushaski, a language isolate.
The traditions of different ethnic groups in South Asia have diverged, influenced by external cultures, especially in the northwestern parts of South Asia and in the border regions and busy ports, where there are greater levels of contact with external cultures. This is particularly true for many ethnic groups in the northeastern parts of South Asia who are ethnically related to peoples of the Far East. The largest ethno-linguistic group in South Asia are the Indo-Aryans, numbering around 1 billion, and the largest sub-group are the native speakers of Hindi languages, numbering more than 470 million.
These groups are based solely on a linguistic basis and not on a genetic basis.