FROM HIGH ATOP the Himalaya, snow-melt flows down the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Indus Rivers, nourishing a fertile plain that has sustained civilisations for more than 4,000 years. Harappans, Aryans, Greeks, Huns, Muslims, Portuguese, and French, among others, all settled and shaped the Indian subcontinent, perhaps none with greater impact than th British.
By the mid-1800s Indians were chafing under Britain's imperial yoke, although their resistance lacked unity and direction. Not until Mohandas Gandhi assumed leadership of the Indian National Congress in 1920 did the drive for independence become a truly mass movement.
What sort of nation should an independent India become? Some Muslims considered life amid the Hindus intolerable and demanded a separate Islamic state(the future Pakistan). The British agreed to partition, but Gandhi warned, "You will have to divide my body before you divide India."
VOL. 191, NO. 5 MAY 1997 NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC