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A dizzying culture of a thousand contradictions where entire worlds collide, Indians are masters at steering the chaotic into the productive.

The Indian National Congress (INC) and its leaders organized many protests which, from 1919 onward, progressively became mass movements drawing gigantic crowds across the country. The increasingly popular Congress party called for national independence and self-determination based on Gandhi’s Swaraj concept and would finally put an end to British rule in 1947. Offering an original approach in a bipolar world, India gradually became more influential on the world stage during the 20th century.

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Structured into a parliamentary and federal republic, India was governed by the INC and the Nehru family during its first few decades of existence. The governments led by Jawaharlal Nehru (1947–1964) and later his daughter, Indira Gandhi, (1966–1977; 1980–1984) faced numerous crises resulting from the partition of pre-1947 India into Pakistan and modern-day India, and laid the foundations for the model and political ideology of the Union of India. Starting in the 1990s, the influence of the INC began to wane as political groups representing the religious, cultural, linguistic, and social plurality of the Indian nation gained ground. From 1947 until the mid-1970s, India pursued a policy of economic planning and public investment to build the industrial sector and create the infrastructure required for future development. In the same period, an ambitious program of agrarian reform allowed the country to become self-sufficient in food production despite the population doubling between 1947 and 1980 (350–700 million). Welcoming foreign investment since the early 1990s, India has become a world leader in biotechnology and IT services. Thanks to Jawaharlal Nehru, a promoter of non-alignment and diplomatic principles derived from Gandhism, India began to play an important role in international relations during the Cold War. The country, now the largest producer of films in the world, has benefited from its diaspora community to export its products and disseminate its cultural heritage in numerous countries.

Did you know?

The stylized circle in the middle of the Indian flag originally represented a traditional spinning wheel—a reference to Gandhi and the boycott on British textiles. It was replaced in 1947 by the current symbol: the Ashoka chakra.