India, located in the Asian sub-continent, has the world’s second largest population with 1.2 billion people and is the world’s largest democratic country. An ancient civilization, Indian history dates back more than 4,000 years and has been influenced by numerous invading forces and colonial powers including Alexander the Great, Muslim Turks and Afghans, as well as the Portuguese and British empires.
Today, India continues to be primarily an agricultural nation but also has growing industrial, manufacturing and high-tech sectors. India is both a modern, nuclear nation as well as a stratified and structured society with 360 million people living in poverty. This contradiction continues to create social and political challenges. Nonetheless India remains a nation of great political and economic importance.
India is an ethnically diverse country with Indo-Aryans and Dravidians comprising more than 90% of the population. Ethnicity is not the predominant factor that distinguishes Indians. Religion, socioeconomic status, education and rural/urban differences all contribute to the stratification of Indian society. In particular, the Hindu caste system, though legally abolished, divides society through an established and rigid hierarchy of status. The caste system is segmented from top to bottom with intellectuals and leaders on the high end, followed by warriors, farmers and merchants, laborers, and at the lowest extreme, untouchables. This system makes social and economic mobility very difficult.
More than three hundred languages are spoken in India. Hindi is spoken by almost 40% of Indians. English is commonly spoken among the educated. In addition to Hindi and English there are fourteen other “official” languages in India.
More than 80% of Indians practice Hinduism while another 14% are Muslims. The remainder is Christian, Buddhist, Sikh and Jainist. India’s spiritual roots run deep, as it is the birthplace of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
Arrival in U.S.
Asian Indians are prominent as an educated, middle class subset of immigrants. Asian Indians immigrate to the U.S. by choice. They leave India primarily in search of improved economic opportunities, not for cultural, political or religious reasons. They bring with them the desire to adapt into the professional world while maintaining a great sense of cultural identity. The U.S. accepts around 40,000 Indian immigrants a year.
A larger number of immigrants are “sponsored” by relatives living here and go directly into the work force rather than going to school. Once immigrants become citizens, they can sponsor relatives to come to America. Other Indians in the U.S. acquire H-1B visas given mostly to professionals. This has become very common in the technology industries that recruit Indian professionals to fill labor shortages.
The Indian population first arrived in Minnesota in significant numbers in the 1980s. The Indian population is now estimated at 10,000 with large numbers living in Eden Prairie.