India is one of the world’s most fascinating and culturally rich places thanks to its enormous cuisine and vibrant patchwork of history. From its unbelievable linguistic makeup to ancient cities and food habits, there’s a lot we can learn from this magnificent country. Whether you’re planning to visit or have travelled there before, some of these facts about India are sure to surprise you.
7 of the Most Interesting Facts About India
1. India is home to one of the oldest inhabited places in the world
The ancient city of Varanasi located in Uttar Pradesh is one of the oldest inhabited cities on the planet. Located off the banks of the River Ganges, it is an intensely spiritual place and famous for its deep Buddhist roots. In fact, it’s thought that Varanasi is where Buddha gave his first sermon in 528 BC titled “The Setting in Motion of the Wheel of Dharma.”
2. India is extremely linguistically rich
When it comes to languages, India is one of the most linguistically diverse nations on earth. While Hindi is the most commonly spoken language with around 530 million speakers; there are a whopping 122 other main languages in use throughout the country including Bengali, Marathi and Urdu. On top of that, there are more than 1,500 other recognized languages in use. Moreover, when it comes to English speakers by numbers, India ranks second only to the United States. Approximately 125 million people speak English in India compared to the entire United Kingdom’s population of just 67 million.
3. Snakes and Ladders originated in India
Originally known as Moksha Patamu and now commonly known as Snakes and Ladders, this famous board game has its roots in India. It was created to teach moral lessons about karma and originated in ancient India. In the more than 2,000 years since its inception, its become one of the most recognizable and popular board games in the world.
4. It is home to more than 30 UNESCO sites
Thanks to thousands upon thousands of years of history, India is home to a huge patchwork of UNESCO World Heritage Sites; 32, in fact. Among them are of course the iconic Taj Mahal, the Buddhist monuments of Sanchi, Jaipur’s Jantar Mantar and the Mountain Railways. There is also a plethora of natural sites such as the Great Himalayan National Park, Manas Wildlife Sanctuary and the Western Ghats.
5. India represents all major world religions
Despite around 80% of Indians identifying as Hindu, all major world religions are largely represented in India. From the vibrant Christian communities of Kerala and Goa; to the rich Jewish history of Fort Kochi; and even countless Parsi fire temples throughout Mumbai; and the more than 300,000 mosques throughout the country; India is incredible religiously diverse.
6. India has the largest vegetarian population in the world
Even though not all Hindus are vegetarian, and not all Indians are Hindu, vegetarianism is still an integral part of Indian culture through and through. It’s estimated that anywhere between 20%-40% of Indians are vegetarian. Thankfully, India also boasts one of the most diverse cuisines in the world loaded with countless vegetarian staples.
7. It’s home to the world’s largest human gathering
The Kumbh Mela, an enormous Hindu pilgrimage, holds the title for the world’s largest human gathering. Taking place tri-annually, this holy journey rotates between various cities. However, the Allahabad pilgrimage which takes place every 12 years, is the largest. In 2013, 100 million Hindus gathered to bathe in the Ganges creating the largest human gathering in the world.