The second-most-populous country in the world (and the most populous democracy), the federal union of India is divided into 28 states and eight "union territories", which are essentially fledgling states overseen by the national government. The Parliament of India has the sole power to create new states and union territories (or merge old ones). The people of India speak a wealth of languages—22 are listed in the country's constitution, and more than 450 have been cataloged—and state boundaries are typically determined by the primary language spoken in the region.
Organization of state and territorial governments in India
All of the states and unions in India technically have three capitals. The first is the administrative capital, which is home to the executive government offices. Second is the judicial capital, where the territorial high courts are located. The third is the legislative capital, where the state assembly meets. A given city can serve multiple roles—for example, the city of Patna is the administrative, legislative, and judicial capital of the state of Bihar—but many states do divide these roles between two or (in the state of Goa) even three different cities. A few states and territories also alternate between two different cities for their legislative capital, depending upon the season.
Each individual state has an elected head of government, the Chief Minister, who serves a five-year term, as well as an elected legislature. Three of the five territories: Puducherry, Jammu and Kashmir, and the National Capital Territory of Delhi have a similar form of government. The remaining five territories are overseen by the national government, which appoints administrative leaders.
Largest and smallest states in India by size and population
The state of Rajasthan in Northern India has the largest land area of all the states with more than 342,269 square kilometers. Broken down by population, the largest Indian state is Uttar Pradesh, which is home to more than 199 million people. Conversely, India's least populous state is Sikkim (610,577), making it the only full state with a population of less than 1 million. The smallest state by area is Goa, which has a total area of just 3,702 square kilometers.
India's states are very diverse linguistically, with multiple official languages throughout. These include Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Nepali, Kannada, and other languages. Many states even have multiple official languages, usually a primary region-specific language alongside English and/or Urdu.
List of former states of India
India's history also includes several states that no longer exist, typically due to realignments that occurred between 1949 and 1960, as a newly independent India established its governmental systems. These include the following:
- Ajmer State — Merged with Rajasthan in 1956
- Andhra State — Merged with part of Hyderabad State in 1956 to form Ummadi Andhra Pradesh
- Bhopal State — Merged with Madhya Pradesh in 1956
- Bilaspur State — Merged with Himachal Pradesh in 1954
- Bombay State — Split into Gujarat and Maharashtra in 1960
- Cooch Behar State — Merged with West Bengal in 1949
- Coorg State — Merged with Mysore State in 1956 and renamed to Karnataka in 1973
- East Punjab — Merged into Punjab in 1956
- Easter States Union — Dissolved in 1948, incorporated into Orissa, Bihar, and Madhya Pradesh. Some former ESU land is now part of Chhattisgarh
- Hyderabad State — Split in 1956 and merged into Andhra State, Mysore State, and Bombay State
- Jammu and Kashmir State — Split into Jammy and Kashmir territory and Ladakh territory in 2019
- Kutch State — Absorbed into Bombay State in 1956, now part of Gujarat
- Madhya Bharat — Merged into Madhya Pradesh in 1956
- Madras State — Parts absorbed into Andhra State, Mysore State, and Kerala 1953-1956, remainder renamed Tamil Nadu in 1969
- Mysore State — Renamed Karnataka in 1973
- Patiala and East Punjab States Union — Absorbed into Punjab State in 1956, currently part of modern-day Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh
- Saurashtra — Absorbed into Bombay State in 1956, now part of Gujarat
- Travancore-Cochin — Merged to form Kerala in 1956
- Ummadi Andhra Pradesh — reorganized in 2014
- Vindhya Pradesh — Merged into Madhya Pradesh in 1956