India country profile
India is the world's largest democracy and according to UN estimates, its population is expected to overtake China's in 2028 to become the world's most populous nation.
As a rising economic powerhouse and nuclear-armed state, India has emerged as an important regional power.
But it is also tackling huge, social, economic and environmental problems.
Home to some of the world' s most ancient surviving civilizations, the Indian subcontinent - from the mountainous Afghan frontier to the jungles of Burma - is both vast and diverse in terms of its people, language and cultural traditions.
Republic of India
Capital: New Delhi
Population 1.3 billion
Area 3.1 million sq km (1.2 million sq miles), excluding Kashmir
Major languages Hindi, English and more than 20 other official languages
Major religions Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism
Life expectancy 64 years (men), 68 years (women)
President: Pranab Mukherjee
Pranab Mukherjee was elected India's 13th president in July 2012.
A veteran of the Congress party, he has served as finance, foreign and defence minister in a political career spanning over five decades.
India's presidency is largely ceremonial but can play a significant role if, for example, no party wins an outright majority in national elections.
Prime Minister: Narendra Modi
Hard-line Hindu nationalist Narendra Modi stormed to power on a surge of popular expectation and anger at corruption and weak growth.
Despite Mr Modi's polarising image, his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) scored an unprecedented landslide victory in the May 2014 parliamentary elections.
It was the first time in 30 years that a single party had won a parliamentary majority on its own.
Mr Modi fought his campaign on his record as chief minister of the economically successful state of Gujarat, promising to revitalise India's flagging economy.
But his time as chief minister of Gujarat was overshadowed by accusations that he did too little to stop the religious riots in 2001 which saw more than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, killed.
India has a burgeoning media industry, with broadcast, print and digital media experiencing tremendous growth.
There are more than 180 million TV households, many of them using satellite or cable. FM radio stations are plentiful but only public All India Radio can produce news.
The press scene is lively with thousands of titles. There are more than 462 million internet users.
Some key dates in India's history:
2500 BC - India has been home to several ancient civilisations and empires.
1600s - The British arrive in India and establish trading posts under The British East India Company - by the 1850s they control most of India.
1858 - The British Raj: India comes under direct British government rule.
1920 - Independence Struggle: Nationalist leader Mahatma Gandhi heads a campaign of non-violent protest against British rule which eventually leads to independence.
1947 - Partition: India is split into two nations both gaining independence, secular but Hindu-majority India and Muslim-controlled Pakistan. Both countries fight the first of three wars over Kashmir.
1950 - India becomes a republic. The Indian National Congress becomes the dominant party.
1962 - India and China fight a brief border war.
1971 - India and Pakistan go to war over East Pakistan, leading to the creation of Bangladesh.
1974 - India conducts its first underground nuclear test.
1990s - Government initiates a programme of economic liberalisation and reform, opening up the economy to global trade and investment.
2000 - India's population tops 1 billion.
2014 - Hindu nationalist BJP party scores biggest election victory by any party in 30 years.