Tuesday, August 15, marks India Independence Day, 76 years since Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru lifted the Indian flag above the Lahori Gate in Delhi, signifying the end of British rule. Indians celebrate their independence yearly with parades, flag hoisting events, dressing in saffron, white, and green (the colors of the flag), and cultural activities. The world’s largest democracy and second most populous country, roughly one-sixth of the world, or 1.37 billion people, live in India.
Known for its iconic monuments such as the Taj Mahal, the Mahabodhi Temple, and the Ellora Caves, India is among the top 10 countries for UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The country’s food, culture, and diverse geography, ranging from snow-capped mountains to plains to deserts, are just a few reasons why more than 10 million tourists visit each year.
“Satyameva Jayate” or “Truth alone triumphs,” is part of a mantra from the Hindu scripture Mundaka Upanisha and was adopted as the country’s national motto in 1950. India is the original birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, and Jainism and home to the Indus Civilization, one of the oldest in human history. Artifacts found in India date the Indus’ presence to 2600 BCE, but India’s current republic status only goes back to 1947 when the country gained independence from Great Britain.
The two countries began as trading partners when the English East India Company came to India for spices in the 1600s. As the potential for economic revenue grew, so did British involvement in local Indian politics and East India Company’s role as an agent for British Imperialism, leading to more than 100 years of British rule. The British took close to $45 trillion (today’s value) of the country’s wealth before Indians finally gained their independence on August 15, 1947. Today, the Republic of India is governed by a federal democracy split into three branches−the executive, judicial and legislative.
The country and its citizens’ contributions are too great to list. But here is a small sample of Indians who have had an impact.
- Mahatma Gandhi Lawyer, anti-colonial nationalist, and political ethicist; Gandhi used nonviolent resistance to help India gain independence from British rule.
- Sarojini Naidu The “Nightingale of India” was a political activist, poet, and feminist and the first female president of the Indian National Congress.
- Sachin Tendulkar Regarded as one of the greatest cricket batsmen ever, Sachin’s career spanned over two decades. He is the only player to score 100 international centuries.
- B. R. Ambedkar The “founding father of the Republic of India” is the architect of the Indian Constitution and served as the country’s first Law of Minister.
- Indira Gandhi The “Iron Lady of India” was the first and only female Prime Minister of India.
- Shah Rukh Khan An actor, producer, and tv personality, the “King of Bollywood” has appeared in more than 80 films.
- Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman He won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930 for his pioneering work on the scattering of light, and he was the first Asian to receive a Nobel Prize in the sciences.
- Priyanka Chopra Actress, model, and singer, Priyanka was Miss World 2000 and is one of India’s highest-paid actresses.
- Brahmagupta A mathematician and astronomer, Brahmagupta is credited with computing zero and providing the formula for the area of a cyclic quadrilateral.
- Virat Kohli Indian cricketer and former national team captain, Virat is considered one of the greatest all-format batsmen and has the most social media followers (215.09 million) of any Indian.
Happy Indian Independence Day!
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