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India, The People of India

India’s people inherited a civilization that began more than 4,500 years ago, one that has proven capable of absorbing and transforming the peoples and cultures that over the centuries have come to the subcontinent. India has long supported a large population of great diversity. The people in India’s intricate network of communities speak literally thousands of languages, practice all of the world’s great religions, and participate in a complex social structure that incorporates the caste system, a rigid system of social hierarchy.

India is one of the world’s most populous countries, with a population (2002 estimate) of 1,045,845,226 and an average population density of 330 persons per sq km (856 per sq mi) in 2002. An estimated 72 percent of India’s inhabitants live in rural areas. The population grew by nearly 24 percent between 1981 and 1991, down slightly from 25 percent growth between 1971 and 1981. It is estimated that the rate of growth will slow even further in the coming decades, but India’s population nevertheless is expected to continue to increase. The annual growth rate in 1997 was 1.6 percent.

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