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Understanding India’s Demography, From Population to Literacy and Sex Ratio

Indian Demography

Discovering India

Understanding India’s Demography, From Population to Literacy and Sex Ratio

Demographic features are an essential tool to measure a country’s development objectives.

One gets a wide range of results when it comes to the Indian demography and allied features, thanks to the country’s great diversity. While population is top of the mind for most people, other demographic indicators also provide a good idea about the direction in which India is headed. We take a closer look.

(Read-India’s Geography: Get To Know The Country’s Distinct Regions)


India’s population is 1,210,854,977 (over 1.2 billion) according to figures from the 2011 Census. This includes 623,270,258 males (approximately 623.27 million) and 587, 584, 719 females (approximately 587.58 million). The 2011 population was up by over 181 million from the figure of 1,028,737,436 (over 1.02 billion) in the 2001 Census.

India’s population density was 382 per square km in 2011, a significant rise from the figure of 325 in 2001. Bihar, with a density of 1,102 was the most populous state. The National Capital Territory (NCT) of Delhi was the most populous Union Territory (UT) with 11,297 people per square km.

The most populous state in India is Uttar Pradesh, with nearly 200 million people. Sikkim is the country’s least populous state and has a little over six lakh people (607,688).


Devanagari InScript Text (Source- Wikimedia Commons)

Hindi in the Devanagari script is the official language of India. However, English too can be used for official purposes, including transaction of business in Parliament. The use of English is also permitted in any communication between the Centre and a state which has not adopted Hindi as its official language. Communication between ministries and departments of the central government can be in Hindi or English.

The Eighth Schedule of the Indian Constitution recognises 22 languages. Fourteen of these languages were included in the Constitution originally. More languages were added over the years through three Constitutional Amendments. Sindhi was included in 1967; Konkani, Manipuri and Nepali were added in 1992 while Bodo, Dogri, Maithili and Santhali languages were included in 2003.

Here is the list (in alphabetical order) of the languages recognised by the Constitution:

  1. Assamese
  2. Bengali
  3. Bodo
  4. Dogri
  5. Gujarati
  6. Hindi
  7. Kannada
  8. Kashmiri
  9. Konkani
  10. Maithili
  11. Malayalam
  12. Manipuri
  13. Marathi
  14. Nepali
  15. Odia
  16. Punjabi
  17. Sanskrit
  18. Santhali
  19. Sindhi
  20. Tamil
  21. Telugu
  22. Urdu


India’s literacy rate is 74.04% according to the 2011 Census, up from the figure of 65% a decade earlier. The rate is higher for males at 82.14% compared to females, 65.46%. Kerala continues to top the list of states with the highest literacy rate of 93.91%. The lowest figure is for Bihar, which has a rate of 63.82%.

The Census defines a literate as any person above seven years of age who can “both read and write with understanding in any language”. A person who can only read but not right is not counted as a literate. Before the 1991 Census, children below the age of five were necessarily treated as illiterates. In the 1991 Census, where it was decided that children below the age of seven years would be treated as illiterates, since this is the age at which children generally achieve the ability to read and write with understanding. The 2001 and 2011 Census continued with this definition. Incidentally, the Census does not consider formal education as a pre-requisite for being counted as a literate.

(Read- When Nature Seems To Hold All The Answers For A Restless Mind)

 Quick Facts:

  • Lakshwadweep had the highest literacy rate for men at 96.11% followed closely by Kerala at 96.02%; the lowest rate for men was recorded by Bihar at 73.39%
  • Kerala recorded the highest literacy rate for women at 91.98% while Rajasthan had the lowest at 52.66%
  • The total number of illiterates came down from 304,146,862 in 2001 to 272,950,015 in 2011 (a decline of 31,196,847 persons)
  • In this decrease in the total number of illiterates, females (17,122,197) out number males (14,074,650)
  • Females (110,069, 001) also out number males (107,631,940) in the total number of literates added during this decade

Sex Ratio

(Source- Wikimedia Commons)

Sex ratio is defined as the number of females per thousand males and is a key social indicator. According to the 2011 Census, this ratio stands at 943. This was an improvement on the 2001 data, which recorded 933 females for every 1,000 males.

Interestingly, the sex ratio in the rural areas (949) is higher than the figure for urban areas (929). In 2001, urban areas had an even lower sex ratio of 900.

Quick Facts:

  • Kerala with a sex ratio of 1,084 and Puducherry with 1,037 are two states where the number of women is more than the number of men
  • Haryana recorded the lowest density when it came to the population of females in a state with a sex ratio of 879
  • Among Union Territories, Daman and Diu had the lowest sex ratio of 618

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