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India is a country in Southern Asia.
The Republic of India was created in its modern form in the year 1947 on independence from Britain. It is one of several nations which formerly constituted the British Indian Empire, the others being Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Nepal and Sri Lanka. In 1961, the city-state of Goa, the last part of the sub-continent still subject to European colonial rule, was annexed into India in a brief war with Portugal, the colonial power. India's post-colonial independence has been marked by frequent wars and border clashes, with Communist China, Portugal, and most notably Pakistan and Bangladesh. There is ongoing enmity with Pakistan over the northernmost state of Kashmir, which, uniquely for India, has a Moslem majority whose ethnicity is, arguably, more Pakistani than Indian. India has an overwhelmingly Hindu identity, but is explicitly a secular state with no one religion allowed official status.
The Hindu religion is polytheistic and syncretic, in that it honours a pantheon of deities who have been incorporated into the religion over a period of thousands of years. The emphasis of the religion is on righteous and reflective daily living - Sanatama Dharma - combined with prayer and meditation on the lives and doings of the Deities. For those who are interested, the Other Wiki offers a useful article on the Hindu religion. Other faiths honoured include Jainism, Sikhism, Buddhism, Islam and Christianity (a legacy of French, Portuguese and British colonial rule).
The capital city is New Delhi, which in-series is the home city of Raj. Raj is representative of the affluent ruling elite of the country and would have been fortunate to live a privileged and sheltered upbringing as part of the relatively small affluent upper middle classes. He is also a practicing and believing Hindu, to a certain value of the words "practicing" and "believing".
As noted on the Superman article, India has its own thriving comic-book industry boasting superheroes such as Shaktimaan and Nagraj. Heroes from the DC and Marvel universes also appear in local Indian manifestations tailored to local tastes. Anyone interested in seeing how India's Superman differs from his American version should be advised that DC and Marvel characters' use in India is generally pirated - unauthorised by the copyright owners. Therefore they have taken surprising directions there which American readers might find strange and sometimes even distasteful.
References in The Big Bang Theory
Raj Koothrappali comes from India and dislikes everything of it.
- Fun fact: There is actually a Caltech in India. The Calcutta Technical Institute offers university-degree courses in science and engineering. It even calls itself Caltech (although given the modern spelling of Kalkota, its email addresses are "@kaltech")
- The Sacred Cow thing: apparently oxen (castrated bulls used as beasts of burden) are not sacred at all to anyone. Whether their meat may be eaten is a subject of debate within Hinduism, but at least it offers Raj a "get-out-of-jail-free" card the next time Howard calls him on eating beef. Apparently eating beef was freely permissible in India as late as three or four centuries ago, but has become a strong social taboo, as well as a religious one, in fairly recent times.
- Hinduism has a creation myth in which all matter was contained in a Cosmic Egg suspended in absolute void, which at the fiat of the Creator God suddenly shattered and gave birth to all things which Are, in the merest blink of an eye. Arguably the Egg breaking was one truly Big Bang.
- One of the created things was our world, taking the form of the Cosmic Turtle Khurmarajah, which in some versions of the myth carries the world-mountain upon which is balanced our (flat) Earth. Other versions of the myth hold that the flat Earth is carried on the back of four (or five) world-supporting elephants, which in turn stand on the back of the Cosmic Turtle as it swims through space. Hmm. Raj K, the cosmologist and astronomer, might have trouble reconciling this aspect of his religion to his scientific world-view. But he'd have absolutely no trouble in relating to Terry Pratchett's scifi/fantasy novels.
- "Sacred cows make the best hamburgers" - attributed to Mark Twain. Raj might agree.