India explained in 20 maps

1. Population of some Indian States rivals that of Brazil

Population of some Indian States rivals that of Brazil

What better way to start this series of maps of India than looking into the country’s population? Indians represent 17.6% of the human race, that’s right almost every 5th person in the world is Indian. There are so many people there that the entire population of countries match just individual states. And not just any countries, but huge ones in their own right like Brazil, Mexico and Philippines to names just a few.

2. Population density

Population density

Source: CC-by-sa Arun Ganesh, National Institute of Design Bangalore

India’s population density is one of the highest in the world. Sure, there are some countries with higher densities, but with the exception of Bangladesh, India is the most densely populated bigger sized country. If we apply that density to the entire world, 54 billion people would be huddling for space 🙂 As can be seen on the map, its northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and West Bengal are extremely populated, with densities running up to around 1000 people per square kilometer.

3. Fertility – births per women

Fertility - births per women

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Now this map could just uncover something that you might not have known – there are vast areas of India where the fertility rates are actually surprisingly low. Much of the south cone of the country actually has fertility rates similar to European countries. Large parts of Kerala can be compared to Germany, which based on projections will face demographic problems unless that fact changes or it accommodates substantial numbers of immigrants.

The same is happening in India, where many people from northern states are migrating to the South. The very fact that the North still has much higher fertility rates is set to propel India’s population over China’s by as early as 2022 according to some reports.

4. Languages of India
Languages of India

As in much else, India is extremely diverse when it comes to languages as well. While Hindi is the most spoken language in the country, it is by no means as prevalent as North Indians might think. Especially in the south, many people do not understand or speak Hindi at all. That goes for all levels of society including the educated.

The map above only shows languages that had more than 10,000 million speakers in the 2001 census and its geographic distribution is not exact with all of them.

Just to give you an example, on one of my recent train rides, I was chatting away with three of my fellow passengers. Two were from Madhya Pradesh and one was from Tamil Nadu, which is in the south. Among many things we discussed, we touched upon language and to my big surprise, the guy from Tamil Nadu did not speak Hindi at all, even though he was highly educated and frequented Agra to conduct business.

5. Illiteracy issues

Illiteracy issues

Understandably with such an enormous population, anytime when we bring absolute numbers into the discussion, the figure will be startling. Having said that, the estimated number of illiterate people is over 300 million people. Let that sink in for a moment… That almost matches the entire population of USA!

Obviously this is an issue in dire need of addressing. While India was ruled by the British, literacy was stagnating and only after the country gained independence in 1947 progress really started. It went from slightly lower than 20% in 1947 to 74% in 2011. China on the other hand has managed to increase its literacy rate to 95% from a very similar base of 20% back in the 1950s.

6. India has one of the biggest Muslim population in the World

India has one of the biggest Muslim population in the World

There is no way to talk about India, without touching upon religion. Hinduism is the prevalent belief system which just shy of 80% of the population adheres to. What’s perhaps more interesting is however the fact that India is home to the third or by this point perhaps even the second biggest number of Muslims in the world. Christians, Budhists, Jains and Sikhs add up to another 5%.

7. Human development Index lagging far behind developed

Human development Index lagging far behind developed

8. What Indians are googling about their states

What Indians are googling about their states

Now this goes into the category of fun maps of India! It’s created based on what Indians are usually searching about on Google when looking up the phrase “Why is ‘state name’….”. For example: “Why is Gujarat a dry state”. Google suggestions enable you to view most searched for terms and it seems like many an Indian would like to know why alcohol is banned in Gujarat. Well, looks like mister Gandhi has some explaining to do :).

9. Indian cities are set to become monstrously big

Indian cities are set to become monstrously big

India is still largely rural and what that means for the future are some enormously big cities! Currently urbanization rates stand at around 30%, but are set to increase with every passing year. A study published by the University of Toronto, forecasts that by 2050 the population of Mumbai will increase to 42 million, New Delhi to 36 mln and Kolkata to 33 mln.

10. Mumbai is the biggest city in India and the second largest in the world

India explained in 20 maps


Mumbai, formerly Bombay is the Maharashtra state and India’s financial capital. The population was estimated to be 22 million in 2015. Delhi ranked the second among the top 10 largest cities in India metropolis and the national capital with a population of 18,686,902 as reported in 2016. Bangalore, officially called Bengaluru, is the Karnataka’s capital and the third populous Indian city with a population of 11,556,907 (2016). Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh’s capital as well as one of the top 10 largest cities in India, the city’s population is 10.1 million (2016). Ahmedabad city population is 66,342,236 (2016). Chennai is Tamil Nadu’s capital with a population of 8.2 million (2016). Kolkata is West Bengal’s capital that is considered among the most vital Indian cities. With a population of 5 million, it has been a center of culture, education and industry. Surat ranks 8th in India’s most populated city. According to the census in 2016, the population was 6 million. Pune is Maharashtra’s second biggest city. With a population of 5.9 million, it is home to Hindi, Marathi and English speaking people. Jaipur is Rajasthan’s capital founded by Maharaja Sawai Jai Singh II in 1727. It has a population of 3,548,512.

11. Where are all baby girls?

Where are all baby girls?

2011_Census_sex_ratio_map_for_the_states_and_Union_Territories_of_India_Boys_to_Girls_0_to_1_age_group.svgThese statistics might imply there is something rotten in certain states of India. The common Indian saying “raising a daughter is like watering your neighbor’s garden” illustrates a bit where the roots of the issue lie. “May god give you eight sons”, a traditional Hindu wedding blessing and the notorious sex determination ads that used to be run by clinics saying “Invest only Rs. 500 now and save your precious Rs. 50,000 later” or posters distributed by an ashram in Udaipur with the message “Don’t throw away, give them to us” just further cement the deep rooted preference for sons in the Indian culture and honestly sound like a freaking horror story.

While there is no absolutely clear scientific consensus as to what the normal sex ratio of boys to girls is at birth, it is thought to be somewhere around 105 boys for every 100 girls. In India it stood at 109 in 2011 when the last census was carried out. In Haryana and Punjab that ratio shoots up to 120 boys per 100 girls. What does this point to? Female infanticides and selective abortions unfortunately.

And why you might ask would sons be so preferred to daughters that parents would commit such atrocious acts? Dowry and other material gains… In India, the bride’s family traditionally needs to pay dowry to the groom’s family. After the wedding, the woman joins the husband’s family and more or less becomes their daughter. Although dowry has been banned by law in India back in the 1960s, the practice is still very much alive and kicking.

12. Polluted cities

Polluted cities

As I have previously so subtly put it in my India is spectacularly dirty blog post, the country has a massive problem with all sorts of environmental degradation. According to WHO’s monitoring of air quality around the world, a whooping 6 out 10 most polluted cities in the world are in India. What a traveler will be confronted by the most are the scenes of trash lying around absolutely everywhere. Let’s all just hope that the Swachh Bharat clean up initiative launched by the Government of India will truly have some tangible effects.

13. The partition of India

The partition of India

When India came to be as a modern country back in 1947, there were a few hick ups. As in 14 million people displaced and 200,000 to 2,000,000 killed kind of hick ups. The British Indian Empire was basically divided into two sovereign stats: Dominion of Pakistan and Union of India.

In the time before the partition finally materialized, riots and subsequent migration of people on an enormous scale happened. Hindus and Sikhs were heading to India and Muslims where heading for Pakistan and what would later become an independent country, Bangladesh. As you might imagine, these wounds are still not healed, illustrated by constant tensions between India and Pakistan, both nuclear nations by the way.

13.  Cuisine


By now you’re probably thinking this guy is just bashing India. Well the thing is, you don’t need to focus on any of the aspects I’ve highlighted thus far, on your trip to India. But the fact is, India is a big country with big and real problems and travel is as much about understanding the bigger picture as it is about sightseeing, at least for me it is.

But now, for something India can easily be praised and celebrated for – FOOD! From street food to glorious upscale restaurant, Indian cuisine has so much to offer. Different regions serve up different dishes as well, so make sure you check out this map and try as many delicacies as possible.

And just because I cant help myself – I traveled to India six times and got various degrees of food poisoning on each occasion. While I still firmly believe Indian cuisine is one of the best in the world, don’t be surprised if you shit your way through the place, as one of my friends so eloquently put it :).

15. Moving abroad 

India: Moving abroad

Indian diaspora can be found all over the world and in some countries, like Qatar where I live, they actually outnumber the locals. Back when I was still with BQ magazine, a local business publication, we collected data for a number of nationalities residing in Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and the UAE. The results were astonishing, highlighting that Indians are the biggest group of nationalities both in Qatar and Kuwait, while in Kuwait and Bahrain they come second, only behind the locals.

16. Defecating in the open

India: Defecating in the open

You might say now that’s just disgusting, but it is what it is. And it mostly is lack of proper infrastructure. According to a report published in Hindustan Times, people are to be shamed by publicly circulating photos of individuals relieving themselves in the open. I personally believe the Government needs to first take care of proper infrastructure and launch awareness campaigns, starting from suitable education early on in schools.

The following case illustrates what I mean by the need of education and awareness. Anil Prajapati, chairman of the Gujarat Sanitation Development Organisation was quoted saying by BBC on why people still don’t want to use public toilets in Ahmedabad: “Some of these people fear that there are witches inside or that their children will be kidnapped”.

While I do agree witches are a legitimate concern, I think there are way cooler places for them to hang out 😉

17. Sometimes more people show up at an event in India than there are people in the Netherlands

Sometimes more people show up at an event in India than there are people in the Netherlands

Crowds are definitely India’s forte, you just cant take that away from it. Nobody does crowds better, nor does anybody know how to queue better. Standing in line in India is more like trying to order a drink in a packed bar. There’s just no room for being shy, in fact there is no personal space to talk of. The Indian queue is called the ass to dick formation, as another of my friends again very eloquently put it.

As seen on the map, the 2013 Kumbh Mela is the largest gathering of people that ever occurred in history, with an estimated 30 million people attending in one single day. It’s a Hindu pilgrimage that occurs every 12 years in one of the four holy sites. People traditionally come to bathe in the holy rivers.

18. Immunization of children in India still a big problem

Immunization of children in India still a big problem

There is work to be done, let’s just hope they don’t start emulating that part of the US society which believes immunizations are bad.

19. Dowry deaths in India

Now, what’s a dowry and what’s a dowry death? A dowry is basically a financial transaction in the direction from the bride’s family to the groom’s family. A dowry death is something that happens when a woman is murdered or driven to commit suicide by her husband and/or his family while trying to extort a dowry from her family.

Dowry is something that is still very much a part of the Indian culture and the above map illustrates where dowry deaths are most prevalent in India. For example in India’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh this means that around 2500 women were killed or committed suicide due to dowry in 2012.

20. Bollywood still has some catching up to do

Bollywood still has some catching up to do

Bollywood is huge, there is no doubt about it and not only in India, but increasingly so in other part of the world as well. While its top grossing movies currently cant even begin to compare with Hollywood’s top success stories, its major stars are earning top dollars. In fact according to Forbes, 3 out of 7 top paid actors in 2015 come from India: Amitabh Bachchan, Salman Khan and Akshay Kumar.

However India is not only Bollywood, which mainly refers to the Mumbai based, Hindi language cinema production. The southern part of the country has a strong movie production industry in its own right, with Telugu (Tollywood) and Tamil (Kollywood) movies grossing not that far behind their more famous northern brother.


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