This book offers for the first time a comprehensive study of South Asia in one volume, analyzing not only the riches of the past but also the problems and achievements of the present, placing them where appropriate in their global context. The South Asian region, which comprises the present day states of India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and the Maldives, has long been significant in world affairs. Today more than one out of every five members of the human race lives in the region, and each month their absolute number increases by well over a million. This fifth of mankind embraces enormous diversity: every level of human development from stone-age tribesman to Nobel prizewinner; many levels of wealth from mass poverty to comfortable middle class consumerism; the believers of seven major religions; the bearers of three racial strains; and the speakers of languages in two major families with India alone acknowledging fourteen official languages and 1,652 mother tongues. The international team of contributors presents the world of South Asia in an accessible and enjoyable form, which will appeal to both specialists and general readers. The Encyclopedia is richly illustrated with many photographs, maps, and tables closely interwoven with the text.