India is the cultural unit now made up of the modern states of Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. At the time of the Buddha, India was called Jambudãpa, the Rose-Apple Land (A.I,35).
He described India fairly accurately as being ‘broad in the north and narrow in the south’ (D.II,235) and as having high mountains on its northern margin, i.e. the Himalayas (Vin.IV,197). He described India’s general environment like this, ‘Few in number are the pleasant parks, pleasant groves, pleasant stretches of land and lakes, while more numerous are the steep rugged places, unfordable rivers, dense forest thickets of scrub and thorns and inaccessible mountains’ (A.I,35).
The Buddha lived all his life in that area of northern India then called the Middle Land, the wide flat valley of the Ganges and Yamunà Rivers. Buddhism flourished in India for about a thousand years and then went into a long period of decline, finally dying out in the 13th century. In the 1950’s a movement began, mainly amongst intellectuals and untouchables led by Bhimrao Ambedkar, to revive Buddhism. Since then the Buddhist population of India has grown from almost nothing to over 35 million in 2008 (about 3.25% of the total population).