Satellite image of South AsiaSouth Asia is the most densely populated region in the world, with 342 people per square kilometre (886 per square mile). It includes eight countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. The region is bounded to the south by the Indian Ocean and to the north by the great mountain range of the Himalayas. There are more than 2000 ethnic groups in South Asia, with their numbers ranging from hundreds of millions (as in the case of the Indo-Aryan peoples of northern India) to small tribal groups. With 1.2 billion people, India is by far the most populous country in the region.
Rising steeply in the north of India are the mountains of the Himalaya and Karakoram ranges. Northwestern India is mostly desert. In the south lies the Deccan Plateau, a high wedge of land between the hills called the Western and Eastern Ghats. Running between the Himalayas and Deccan is the Ganges Valley, one of the most intensely cultivated regions in the world, with fields of rice, wheat, millet and sugar cane as well as pasture. The summer monsoon winds bring heavy rains from the Indian Ocean to the southwest, drenching a land dry for the rest of the year.
In 1960, Sirivamo Bandaranaike of Sri Lanka became the world's first female elected head of state.
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