Knowing India

Courtesy and Copyright SIDH  

SIDH produce a yearly planner called Samyojna. Besides being a desk planner it contains useful information about India. Esamskriti has reproduced the information verbatim. It is classified month wise for the period January 2006 to March 2007 and ends with basic information about other calendars. Some of the interesting pieces of information are:
January 2006 The largest cultivable area in the world, March 2006 Indian prosperity as seen by outsiders, July 2006 Historical estimates of Agricultural yields in India, September 2006 The Iron Pillar of Delhi, October 2006 The Sindhu Ganga plane, January 2007 Textiles: The Great Industrial Enterprise of India and February 2007 The Largest irrigated area in the world.

January                   February                   March                                April                          May                 June
July                         August                      September                         October                     November  December               January                    February                            March

January 2006

1. A Vast and Rich Land
India is a vast country. From the northern borders of Kashmir to the southernmost tip at Kanyakumari, our land extends over 3,200 kilometers, and from the eastern boundary of Assam to the western border of Baluchistan, it extends over 3,500 kilometers. Total area of what has historically constituted India is 423 million hectares. Of this about 94 million hectares today fall under Pakistan and Bangladesh, and 329 million hectares in the Indian Union.

In terms of area, India today is the eight largest region in the world, after the Russian Federation (1708 mn hectares), China (960 mn hectares), USA and Territories (936 mn hectares), Canada (922 mn hectares), Brazil (851 mn hectares), Australia (768 mn hectares), and Western Europe (371 mn hectares), but that does not mean that the Indian land is eight in value. On the country, India is one of the richest regions of the world.

2. The Largest Cultivable Area in the World
India is blessed with extraordinary fertility within its relatively compact landmass. In terms of cultivable area, India is in fact the best-endowed country of the world. Three –fifths of our geographical area is cultivable. In most other valuable regions of the world, no more than one-fifth of the lands are cultivable. And the average for the world is only one-tenth.

Measured in terms of cultivable area, India is the richest region of the world. The Indian region commands 190 million hectares of cultivable land, of which 160 million hectares are in the Indian Union. Cultivable area of the USA is 177 million hectares, that of the Russian Federation 126, China 124, Western Europe 77, Australia 56, and Brazil 53 million hectares.

India not only has a larger cultivable area than all other great regions of the world; Indian lands are also the most fertile. And the compact geography of India has always been described in superlative terms.

3. The Sunshine and Warmth of India
Geographically India is not a tropical region. All of India lies to the north of the equator, and 60% of India lies north of the tropic of Cancer. This location should normally make much of India cold, like other countries in the so-called temperate zone. But the great wall of Himalayas effectively screens India from the cold northern winds and at the same time concentrates the monsoon winds blowing up from the warm tropical seas. This unusual geographical feature makes India largely warm and humid, making it almost the ideal place on earth for luxurious growth of crops, and life in general.

The sun shines over almost the whole of India throughout the year, allowing us to grow crops round the year. Almost everywhere in India, and certainly in the fertile plain and river valleys of India, it is possible to grow two crops in a year, and with effort, even three. There is hardly any other region of the world, where this is possible over such a large area. In China, just one crop can be grown a year in the northern half of the cultivable zone, and only in the south can China grow five crops in two years, as is possible in almost the whole of India.

The Land, the Himalayas, the Sun and the Waters in India seem to have combined together in a rare synthesis to make it the richest agricultural region of the world. It is not lightly said that India is called Bharat, because this land is capable of carrying out bharana of the whole world, of feeding the entire earth.

February 2006

1.The Great Coastal Plains
Besides the Sindhu-Ganga plain, which covers a fifth of the geographical area of India and two-fifths of the cultivable lands, there are the coastal plains. Which are also alluvial and equally fertile?

Such unbroken and abundant fertility in such a compact geography is unknown anywhere else in the world.

2. The Abundant Rains
Almost every part of India is drenched in the bounty of the monsoon. Only the Sindhu plain–including Sindh, and parts of Baluchistan, Rajputana, Punjab and North-West Frontier - and extreme southern parts of the eastern coast receive scanty rain. The Himalayas play a crucial role in making the rain winds rise and then forcing them to exhaust their entire moisture over India. Tibet on the other side of Himalayas receives none of it.

Average annual rainfall in the region amounts to 105 cm, which is the largest anywhere in the world for a country of comparable size. The rains pour a total of 4500 billion cubic meters of water over the Indian region. The USA with about 2.5 times the geographical area of the India region receives about the same amount of water. And, the USA is considered to be one of the richest regions of the world in natural endowments. China, with a geographical area somewhat larger than the USA, receives about 6000 billion cubic meters, with average annual rainfall of 63 cm.

Of the rainwaters that India receives annually, about 450 billion cubic meters recharge the groundwater resources, and about 2000 billion cu. M. flows through the rivers of India. The rivers of China carry about 2600 cubic meters of water and those of the USA 1700 billion cubic meters. Thus the bounty that India receives from the rains is comparable to the most bounteous and much larger regions of the world.

March 2006

1.  India Prosperity Seen By Outsiders
The foreigners who came here also greatly struck by the immensity of the sunshine, lands, rivers, animals and people of India. Herodotus, the renowned Greek hostorian, refers to India as “the most populous nation in the known world”. The later accounts of Chinese travelers Fa-Hian and Hiuen Tsiang have the same sense of awe at the immensity and affluence of Indian lands and her people. Medieval Arab observers and the early European travelers also record the large numbers and the great fertility of India.

2.The Grihastha forms the Foundation of Society
The primary responsibility of caring for all aspects of creation in the India civilisational perspective is placed upon the grihastha, the responsible and capable householder. The grihastha, the householder along with his family, and not the individual, forms the basic unit Indian social, economic and moral order.

April 2006

1.The Ganga River
The Sindhu, Ganga and Brahmaputra are amongst the mightiest rivers of the world. But the Ganga is special. It is the physical and spiritual life force of India.

From Gangotri to Gangasagar, the Ganga flows over a distance of 2,525 kilometers. The average flow of the Ganga is 38,000 cubic meters per second, making it the third amongst the greatest rivers of the world, after only the Amazon in South America (100,000 cu. M. per sec.) and the Congo in Africa (43,000 cu. M. per sec.). The Ganga brings 360 million tons of the Himalayan silt every year to the great Indian plains. Only the Huanghe, which is almost a river of mud, and the Mississippi and Changjiang carry more silt.

The Ganga is great not merely in statistics. The river flows slowly and gracefully through the entire heartland of India, steadily endowing it with fertilizing silt and life-giving water. This is the secret of the great fertility of the Indian plains. The heartland of India is born of the Ganga and the Ganga has nurtured it for uncounted millennia.

May 2006

1.The most Populous Country of the World
Having been blessed with such extraordinary natural wealth, it is not surprising that Indian lands have always supported vast multitudes. Indians have been the largest civilisational group in the world till almost the modern times. According to currently accepted scholarship in historical demography, Indian population reminded the highest in the world till 1700 AD, with Chinese being a close second.

Ferishta in circa 1600 AD estimated the Indian population prior to 1100 AD at 600 million, when the total population of the European world according to estimates of western scholars was merely 100 million. Kautilya’s Arthashastra say that a grama should have at least a hundred households, and according to many classical texts, India consists of 5-lakh grama. This means that Indian population in normal times in the classical ages was at least around 50 million households, or about 500 million people, if the Indian ideal of eight children per family is taken seriously.

Indians today constitute only the fourth largest civilisational group in the world, after the Europeans, the Chinese and the Islamic people. Throughout history we have been the major part of humanity. Today we constitute one-sixth of it.

June 2006

1.Other Great Rivers of India
India is an unusual region of the world that is blessed with not one but several great rivers, each of which is individually capable of giving rise to supporting a great civilization on its own. Moving from the south, we have the Sindhu and the five rivers of the Punjab plains; the Yamuna, Sarayu, Gandak, Kosi, the Ganga and Brahmaputra of the heartland; the Narmada and Tapti crossing the Deccan plateau from the east to the west; the Mahanadi crossing the plateau from the west to the east and fertilizing Madhya Pradesh and northern Orissa; Godavari, passing through Maharashtra and Andhra; and Krishna and Kaveri in the South supporting great fertile valleys of Andhra, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. These are the greatest of our rivers. And, there are many more passing through almost every part of India. There is no geographical region of the world of comparable size that has such an abundance of rivers.

2. Woman is the Centre of the Household
The social, economic and moral responsibilities of the grihastha are discharged by all members of the household jointly. But the woman, in the Indian civilisational perspective, is central to the household. The exalted place of the woman in the Indian household, and consequently in the Indian social, economic and moral order has remained unchanged over time.
July 2006
1.Historical Estimates of agricultural Yields in India




Annual Yield Per Hectare




15-18 tons of paddy


South Arcot


14.5 tons of paddy




20 tons of paddy




13.0 tons of paddy




7.5 tons of wheat and other cereals,



British Survey

9 tons of paddy



Gov. of India

4.3 tons of wheat and 5.5 tons of paddy

1. Community and Grama from the Nucleus of the State
The grihashthas form into myriad grouping around the locality, the profession, the kinship community, or the religious faith. In the Indian perspective, all these spontaneous and organic formation of the society are taken to be inherently legitimate participants in public affairs. All these partake of the attributes of the State. In fact, the activities of these groups of the community, the grama and the sampradaya – in their respective domains, and their mutual interactions, constitute public polity in the Indian sense.

Much of what a modern State is expected to do in the sphere of public polity is in India accomplished through these social groupings. Even today the maintenance of public order and provision of social security, two of the most elaborate and expensive function of the modern state, are performed largely by the family, the community, the grama and the sampradaya. That is why India is one of the least policed countries in the world, and yet the rate of violent crime in India is amongst the lowest. The family, community, the grama and the sampradaya also continue to take care of the elderly, the sick and the destitute. These functions in modern State consume almost one-third of the gross national product of nations.

It is true that with the impoverishment of Indian society during the long period of subjugation, the families, the gramas, the communities and the sampradayas are bereft to sufficient resources to carry out these functions with the generosity and care that classical India expects of them. Yet, whatever social security is available to Indian people comes from them. And as we shall see later, these organic grouping of the people have also become the major basis of support for the flowering of Indian enterprise in many spheres.

August 2006

1. Textiles: The Great Industrial craft of India
Different regions of India specialised in specific types of fabrics and had its own specialised techniques of weaving bleaching, dyeing and painting etc.

2. The Splendid Isolation
The impassable Himalayas and the unapproachable seacoasts have together endowed India with remarkable isolation from the rest of the world. That is why the Greeks who entered India with Alexander could insist that they had arrived in a land that had never been conquered by others, and that had never coveted to conquer others.

Such splendid isolation has allowed us to live securely within our vast and fertile lands for millennia and thus develop an extraordinarily sophisticated and rich civilisation that in its grandeur and longevity is unlike any other in the world. The achievements of Indian civilisation have indeed been unmatched both in spiritual and social depth, and material abundance.

September 2006

1. Vegetation and Animals of India
With such rich soils, climate and water, it is not surprising that India supports an extraordinarily great variety of flora and fauna. There are about 45,000 species of plants including shrubs in the country. Of these 35 percent are endemic to India, and are not found anywhere else in the world. This makes India one amongst the countries with highest diversity of vegetation in the world.

India supports 75,000 species of animals, birds and insects. This forms one-twelfth of the known fauna of the earth, though in terms of geographical area, we are only one fortieth of earth. India is also known to be very rich in the variety of microorganisms it supports.

Indians are known to have been proficient in the study of their flora and fauna since very early times. The number of herbs and animals describe in the ancient text of Ayurveda, like Charaka Samhita and the Sushruta Samhita is phenomenal. The ancient medical text of China alone come anywhere near those of India in their knowledge of flora and fauna.

2. The Iron Pillar of Delhi
It is 24.25 feet high, has a diameter of 16.4 inches at the base, weighs 6 tons and has stood for more than 1500 years without any sign of rusting or decay.

October 2006

1. The Sindhu-Ganga plain
The waters that the Himalayas pour into India, through the three great Himalayan rivers, Sindhu, Ganga, Brahmaputra, and their tributaries, bring with them large quantities of life-giving silt. The Sindhu-Ganga plain, the most fertile area of its size in the world, is formed by the silt of the Himalayas.

The Sindhu-Ganga plain is noted for its antiquity, size, fertility, depth and flatness. It extends from the Sindhu delta in the west to the Ganga delta in the east. The entire plain, some 3,000 kilometers long and 250 to 400 kilometers wide, is alluvial. The plain covers about a fifth of the geographical area of India; and the whole of it is cultivable.

An American scholar writing on the eve of Indian independence speaks about this extraordinary plain in the following terms:

“A great part of its soil is renewed every year by floods, and the mud brought down from the hills is so fine that it is reputedly possible to traverse the entire length of the plain ‘without finding a pebble, however small.’ The alluvium, in addition to being remarkably uniform over its entire of approximately 80 million hectares, is extremely thick. The exact thickness has never been ascertained, but boring have penetrated it to a depth of exact thickness has never been ascertained, but boring have penetrated it to a depth of 1,300 feet without reaching a rocky bottom. The plain is also exceptionally flat. It has ‘not a hill, not even a mound to break the monotony of the level surface.’ Agra, halfway between the two deltas and more than 2,000 kilometers by river from the sea. Is only 550 feet above sea level? ‘This flatness makes the rivers flow slowly, thus fertilizing the country thoroughly and affording easy waterways and irrigation channels.’ This is one of the world’s greatest expanses of rich, tillable soil, and thus one of the world’s greatest agricultural regions.”

Today the depth of the alluvium in this plain, especially in the Ganga region, has been measured up to 5000 meters.

2. Mineral Wealth of India
India’s great mineral wealth makes her probably the third most gifted of the world’s regions with respect to industrial capacity. India has abundant, widespread and excellent deposits of iron ore; proven reserves of Iron ore amount to 12 billion tons; at our present level of production these reserves suffice for 300 years. We have 220 billion tons of coal and lignite. Indian coal has somewhat high ash content, but the reserves are large enough to last us for 750 years at the present level of exploitation.

Amongst the newer metals, India has one of the largest deposits of Bauxite, the ore from which Aluminum is produced. Indian reserves of Titanium ore, Illmenite, are in India. Indian deposits of rare Earths are second only of China. We have large Thorium reserves amounting to 360,000 tons; these reserves are sufficient to establish a nuclear energy capacity of 1 million megawatts and sustain it for 240 years.

India has abundant to medium reserve of most of the essential metallic and non-metallic minerals. Only serious lack is that of petroleum, which has not yet been fully explored. The lack of presently proven deposits of petroleum is largely made up by the abundant availability of sunshine, of coal and the minerals required for large scale generation of nuclear power.

November 2006

1. Large Arable Land Per Person
By the current standards of the world, India is not really overpopulated. The number of people per arable hectare of land in India today is almost the same as in Europe, and much less than that in China and Japan. Only very sparsely populated regions of the world like the USA, the former USSR and Australia have considerably lesser people per arable hectare of land than us. And, since we are blessed with perennial rivers and perennial sunshine, and can grow two crops in a year almost everywhere in the country, each hectare of arable land in India is potentially equal to two hectare almost anywhere else in the world.

2. A Land of Abundant Agricultural Yields
European observers of the late eighteenth century have all marveled at the abundance of yields obtained by Indians; and at the great technological skill displayed by them in all aspects of agriculture including ploughing, manuring, watering, selection of seeds, rotation of crops, following and folding of lands, etc.

All available historical information indicates that the Indians were till recently the best agriculturists in the world. The yield reported in the inscriptions and by various observers from different parts of India equal from different parts of India equal the highest possible today.

December 2006

1. Protected and Nurtured by the Himalayas
The key to India’s peculiar geography and extraordinary fertility lies in the Himalayan Ranges. The Himalayas are the loftiest mountain range in the world. From 250 to 400 km wide, this Roof of the World stretches for 2,400 km across the north of India. It boasts of the three highest points on the earth’s surface: Gowri Shankar also known as Mt. Everest at 29,141 fee (8848 m), and Kanchenjunga and K2 at 28,150 feet (8598 m) each. There are fifty Himalayan summits of 25,000 fee (8000 m) or more. The Himalayan range has an average elevation of 19,000 feet (6000 m). The length, breadth and height of Himalayas are unparalleled in the world.

The mighty Himalayas, with great subsidiary ranges curving southward at either end, look on the relief map like a grand wizened benefactor protectively holding the Indian landmass in his outstretched arms. The Himalayas indeed protest and nurture the Indian land with great generosity. All the rain that falls and all the snow that melts, whether on the northern or southern flanks of the Himalayas, is poured into India.

January 2007

1. Textiles: The Great Industrial Enterprise of India
Textiles formed the great industrial enterprise of pre-British India. Up to 1800, India was the world’s leading producer and exporter of textiles; China was a close second.

Spinning of yarn was an activity in which perhaps the whole of India participated. According to an observer from Manchester, Arno Pearse, who visited India in 1930 to study its cotton industry, there were 5 crore spinning wheels (Charkhas) intermittently at work even then. And this simple small wheel was so efficient that till the early decades of the nineteenth century a widowed mother could still maintain a whole family in reasonable manner by spinning on the Charkha for a few hours a day.

Weaving was a relatively more specialized activity. However, the number of those belonging to the weaver castes was smaller in comparison only to those from the cultivating castes. Various estimates indicate that the weaves formed more than 5 percent of the Indian population. Early nineteenth century data for certain districts of South India indicate that there were around 20,000 looms in a district on the average. Arno Pearse in 1930 estimated the number of handlooms operating in India to be in the vicinity of 20 lakhs.

Until as late as 1750, India and China together produced 73% of the world’s total manufacturing output. Out of this, India produced 24 % of the world’s manufacturing output, and China produced 49%.

February 2007

1. Largest Irrigated Area in the World
In every period of Indian history, great kinds of India have constructed great irrigation works. The legendary Karikala Chola of the Sangam period constructed Kallanai, the grand anicut, at the point where the river Kollidam branches off from Kaveri. The anicut is the lifeline of the rich and fertile Kavery valley even today. According to an inscription of 1st Century AD, the Saka Rudradaman of Junagarh got the vast Sudarsana Lake near Ginar Repaired; the Lake is known to have been constructed by the Mauryas. Similar examples can be gleaned from all part of India throughout Indian history. Even today India is the most irrigated region in the world. India has the largest irrigated area, and enough irrigation potential to double it.

2. The Erys of South India
The Indian technical ingenuity in evolving simple techniques that are sophisticated enough to take advantage of the full complexity of the local situation, and meshing these locally adapted techniques into impressively large systems, can be best seen in the tank irrigation system of South India. The whole of South India is dotted with these tanks; a British expert writing in the 1850’s estimated the total number of such tanks in the Madras Presidency to be over 50,000. Another estimate indicated that in the eighteenth there 38,000 tanks in the region that later constituted the Mysore state. The state had an area of around 29,000 square miles. It is, therefore, a fair estimate that there were over a lakh tanks in the whole of South India. These tanks were constructed and maintained by local effort. Together they formed a closely-knit whole so that the outflow from the one at a higher level supplied the one at a lower level, and so on. This chain of tanks was so complete and inter-related within itself that British engineers of the nineteenth century felt that it would have been impossible to add another tank to the chain or to take out one from it.
- Cambridge Encyclopedia of India, Pakistan,
   Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, 1989

March 2007

1. India Excelled in Iron and Steel Making
Iron ore is found in almost the whole of India south of the Sindhu-Ganga plains. And iron smelting was widely practiced throughout this region from the earliest times to almost the present. Iron smelting communities can be found up to even on the northern side of the Kaimur Hills. And one can see slag heaps formed by centuries of iron smelting activity in hundreds of villages in the plateau and peninsula.
Source of European accounts of Indian manufacturer of iron and steel are available. These accounts refer to almost a hundred districts spread all over India. It is estimated that the number of furnances in India towards the latter half of the eighteenth century was over 10,000 and these had the potential to produce 2 lakh tones of iron annually.

Other Calendars

The Hebrew (Jewish) Calendar
The current Jewish calendar is said to have been defined by the Sanhedrin president Hillel II in approximately 359 B.C. it is the official calendar of Israel. Years are counted from the Era of Creation or Era Mundi. A Jewish calendar day beings at sunset. Thus Sabbath beings at sunset on Friday and ends at sunset on Saturday.

Islamic Calendar
The Islamic calendar (or Hijri calendar) is a purely lunar calendar. The Islamic calendar beings with the Era of the Hijra, commemorating the migration of Prophet Mohammed and his followers from Mecca to Medina. The Muslim calendar is believed to have begun on 16 July 622 AD.

Chinese Calendar
The Chinese calendar beings in 2637 BC the year in which the legendary Emperor Huangdi supposedly invented it. This is also a lunar calendar and consists of 12 months which beings at new moon and has 29 or 30 days. Days are measured from midnight to midnight. The day of new moon is the first day of the calendar month.

The New Year starts at a new moon near the winter solistice. An extra month is added to a year seven times during a 19-year period so that the calendar stays in step with the seasons. The Chinese calendar counts years in a cycle of 60 years. Within each 60-year cycle each year is assigned a name consisting of two parts. While the Gregorian calendar is used for civil and administrative purposes the traditional calendar is used for festivals and agricultural activities. 
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