Artisans From South Asia
South Asia is one of the most densely populated areas in the world with cities bursting at the seams and alive with activity. Diversity is found around every corner — even the land varies with each mile — and is part of the hustle and bustle of everyday life. Religion permeates nearly every facet of society in South Asia. The region is noted for its extraordinary temples and shrines. India, with more than one billion people, is largely a Hindu nation. Hindu society is based on a caste system that ranks people according to the social position allotted to them at birth. Islam is also practiced in India, as it is in Bangladesh and Pakistan. Sri Lanka is predominantly Buddhist. With the abundance of so many strong beliefs in the region, conflict is not uncommon. South Asian countries have endured much foreign and domestic struggle, from the nonviolent protests of Mohandas Gandhi that led to Indian independence to the Pakistan-India War that led to the creation of Bangladesh. Pakistan and India continue to dispute control of Kashmir, the territory just north and adjacent to the two nations. Exports from South Asian countries include chemicals and ceramics, while agriculture provides work for many in fields of rice, jute, tea, and sugar. Tourism is also increasingly important as the influx of international travelers has stimulated local economies. The December 2004 tsunami devastated the eastern shores of South India and Sri Lanka, destroying many villages and killing thousands.