Also See: Major Cities in India
The last Indian census was carried out in 2011. It revealed that the population of India in 2011 was 1,210,193,422.
India is one of only two countries in the world with a population of more than 1 billion people. The second is China, with a population of 1,339,724,852. The next largest country is the United States of America, with a much smaller population of 311 million – around a quarter the size of India.
The rate of population growth in India has slowed considerably in recent years, although it is still growing more quickly than its neigbour China. A recent report from the UN suggests that India’s population will surpass China by 2028, when both India and China will have populations of 1.45 billion.At the time of writing, the Indian Government hasn’t provided an official population estimate for 2012. The CIA Factbook has provided an estimate of 1,205,073,612 for the July 2012 population of India, but this figure is lower than the official Indian statistic provided above, and should be treated with a reasonable amount of caution, as it is calculated based on US Census Bureau estimates using an unknown formula. According to 2013 estimates, the population of India is 1,255,720,200.
Largest city in India
India’s largest city is Mumbai, with a population of 12.5 million, closely followed by Delhi, with a population of 11 million. Overall, there are more than 50 urban areas in India with a population of more than one million people.
Mumbai, which used to be called Bombay, has an official population of 12,478,447, although its wider metropolitan area is much larger – home to 18,414,288 people. It has more than doubled in size in the past forty years – in the 1971 census its population was recorded as 5.9 million – although growth has slowed dramatically in the past decade. Overall population density in the city is 20,482 people per square kilometer so, by Indian standards it is not too densely populated.
Delhi, India's second most populous city is home to 11,007,835 people, and its metro area contains 16,314,838 people. Growth in Delhi is even more rapid than Mumbai’s, and it is likely that it will overtake Mumbai to become the largest city in India within a decade. The city has struggled to keep up with growth, though – more than half of its residents live in slums, and the city’s poverty rate is four times the national average. Contained within Delhi’s boundaries is the city of New Delhi, an enclave city which is the official capital city of India. It has a population of 249,998 people.
Other major cities in India are Bengaluru (pop: 8,425,970), Hyberabad (pop: 6,809,970) and Ahmedabad (pop: 5,570,585).
Largest states in India
There are twenty-eight states in India. Their populations range massively in size – the largest holds almost 200 million people, the smallest just over half a million.
India’s largest state is Uttar Pradesh which, with a population of 199,581,520 in 2011, is larger than most countries in the world. If it were a country in its own right, it would be the fifth largest in the world, sandwiched between Indonesia (237 million) and Brazil (192 million).
Two other Indian states are home to more than 100 million people – Maharashta (pop: 112,372,972) and Bihar (pop: 103,804,637). The smallest state in India is Sikkim (pop: 607,688).
Religion in India
The largest religion in India is Hinduism. Figures from the 2011 census have not yet been released, but at the time of the 2001 census, 80.5% of Indians were Hindus. India’s second religion is Islam – 13.4% of Indians are Muslim. Other major religious groups in India are Christians (2.3%), Sikhs (1.9%), Buddhists (0.8%) and Jains (0.4%).
Data about the number of people without religion or the number of atheists in India is not collected, largely because the Indian concept of religion is rather different to concepts of religions held in much of the rest of the world – for example, the main religions in India are able to embrace atheism among their members. People who claimed no religion are officially recorded under ‘other’ by the census, but with only 0.6% of Indians fitting within this category, it is not clear how accurate this figure is.
Ethnicity in India
Data on ethnicity is not collected in the census. The US based CIA World Factbook estimates that India’s population is divided among the following ethnic groups as follows – Indo-Aryan 72%, Dravidian 25%, Mongoloid and other 3% (based on 2000 data).
Language in India
India is home to hundreds of languages. Twenty three of these are spoken by more than one million people, and almost all of them are officially recognised in some form or another in different parts of the country. Generally they can be broken down into two main linguistic families – Indo-Aryan languages, which are spoken by three quarters of Indians, and Dravidian languages, which are spoken by most of the remaining quarter.
Hindi, which is spoken by 422,048,642 people (41.03%)
(Note, at the time of writing, data on language from the 2011 census has not been released. The language data above is based on the results of the 2001 census).
2011 India Census
The 2011 census was the second largest the world has ever seen – second only to China’s census the previous year. It took place in two phases. The first phase, in April 2010, counted all of the buildings in India, and the second phase collected data about the people of India.
The census was a massive exercise, emplo ying millions of Indians. The total cost of the census came to $439 million which, although it seems massive, was actually considerably cheaper per person than most censuses held around the world – the average census costs over $4 per person, wheras the census in India cost just $.50 per person.
The 2011 census was the fifteenth nationwide census carried out in India. The first was held in 1872, although it was not able to cover all of British-held Indian territory. The first comprehensive nationwide census was carried out under the auspices of Lord Ripon, the British Viceroy of India at the time, and counted a population of 288 million in 1881. Since then, a census has been held every ten years in India.
For more information about the history of the Indian census, I recommend checking out this excellent article on the official Indian census website.