This is INDIA!

What does India mean to you, outside of the textbook clichés, behind the humdrum headlines? Listen to your nation’s pulsing heartbeat, tap into its unnoticed nervous system, peer into the fragments of its soul hardwired into each one of us. Capture the vibrant contrasts, the stunning surprises, the staple of smiles and tears that enriches our lives, and makes it meaningful for us to be Indian. Submit your best photographs that shout out the declaration: “This is India!”

AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A

One flag to drape us all: Lest we forget, India existed only in the minds of its founding fathers till 1947, when it was stitched together under the garb of geographical closeness. Not all states and union territories were in favor of losing their sovereignty to this newly formed country. Hyderabad, where this picture is shot; violently resisted, until it was forcefully brought under the umbrella of India in 1948 when the armed forces coerced the Nizam into surrendering.

AP Photo/Gautam Singh

Its a dog’s life (for most): Sayeed Mohammed, a disabled crab seller, who lives in Mumbai is disadvantaged thrice over: he’s poor, physically challenged, and being a Muslim, he’s part of the minority. His existence may not very different from Rani, the dog he’s interacting with. More than 40 per cent of India, lives on less than Rs 50 a day, with which they can barely feed themselves; let alone buy clothes, get an education or have access to clean drinking water and sanitation.

AP Photo/M. Lakshman

India is a religious and spiritual powerhouse; Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism was born here. Even though India boasts of latest technology and has made giant leaps to modernity its collective psyche still lives in its past. Religious rituals, practices and annual festivals bind Indians together. Hindu Gods number in the thousands; seen here is the head of the elephant God Ganesh after it had been immersed on the sea coast in Chennai.

Matthew Lewis/Getty Images

Cricket: the color that everybody is painted in: There is no country that is so divided by caste, creed, color, religion, culture, language and cuisine as India. But one thing that glues and stitches the masses together inspite all its divisions is cricket. Young men are initiated into the game early on; on the streets, gullies, maidans or any other open space that can be found. Its not just a game or a pass time; its an opium fix that everybody craves, and gets, in dollops.

AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

This ain’t no monkey business: Only 8 per cent of Indian labor force is organized! The rest are in the informal sector, where unemployment is high, and making a buck is difficult. Most of India lives in its villages and when finding work in the fields becomes tough the laborers move to the cities looking for work. This man, in Allahabad, tries his hand at making a living by making his pet monkey perform tricks and entertaining shifting crowds.

AFP PHOTO/ Sam Panthaky

Call me Krishna: In a land of a thousand plus Gods and rich tradition, India without doubt may have the most number of religious and cultural festivals in the world. There’s not a day that goes by without a festival being celebrated in some corner of the country; some are celebrated countrywide and a few, in specific pockets. In the picture Yeshvi Gajjar, 5, dressed as Hindu god Lord Krishna, strikes a pretty pose as part of the Janamashthami (birth day of Lord Krishna) celebrations in Ahmedabad.

AP Photo/Mahesh Kumar A

Pots and potholes: This picture highlights two worrying facts for India; the number of accidents on Indian roads is the highest the world (135,000 die annually) and secondly, India faces a severe shortage of clean drinking water. Lack of proper roads, an inadequate civic sense and inefficient law enforcement meant that we have overtaken China with the worst record when it comes to road accidents according the the WHO. Water is a big worry, especially since 70 per cent of irrigation and 80 per cent of drinking water needs are met through groundwater resources that are rapidly shrinking.

AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool

Where I lay my head is home: According to UN-HABITAT, India is home to 63 per cent of all slum dwellers in South Asia, that’s a staggering 170 million. Nobody really knows the real figure of India’s homeless or those housed in inadequate conditions. That number could be upwards of 75 million. CRY (Child Relief and You) estimated that there are some 11 million children living on the streets, this number was reported in 2006, it could only have gone up. On the streets, they face the threats of gangs, disease and decreased chances of earning a livelihood.

AP Photo/Ajit Solanki

An Indian woman sorts red chillies at a field near Ahmadabad, India, Monday, March 7, 2011. Giving women better access to land, technology and other agricultural resources could reduce the number of hungry people by up to 150 million, said a U.N food agency report, released in Rome on the eve of international women's day.

AP Photo

Everywhere you go in India you will see religion and its symbols. In this photo, a Hindu holy man and woman are both seen carrying a Trishul (a three-speared Buddhist-Hindu symbol). They are seen returning after bathing at Sangam, the confluence of rivers Ganges, Yamuna and mythical Saraswati, in Allahabad, India

AP Photo/Biswaranjan Rout

Running riot: Riots and blockades are aplenty in a country that is transiting rapidly. The reasons for the underlying bubbling of hate and distrust ranges from economic disparity to that of religious disquiet. In this picture shot in Bhubaneshwar, a protestor jumps across burning tires, when hundreds gathered to block traffic and set fires in connection with a temple festival.

AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

Powered up: India’s unquenchable thirst for power continues unabated and there aren’t enough sources to meet its demand. Nearly 300-400 million Indians have no power or suffer from large scale  power cuts (20 per cent of villages are cut-off from the grid). Not only is it unable to meet demand, it also faces issue with theft of power and distribution losses (nearly 30 per cent) due the poor quality of its power infrastructure. There are talks of nuclear power and other non-conventional sources of energy like solar and wind helping boost production and ease the power crisis. But, even that, may not be enough to keep up with the demand.

AP Photo/Prashant Ravi

Tightrope trick: A six-year-old tightrope performer in Patna quickly realizes that making a living in India, is quite literally, a tightrope act. India is second only to Africa when it comes to number of children below 14 years who work in hazardous industries for a living. Although the Constitution of India bans children below 14 from working, many industries (including diamond, fireworks and silk) employ them.

AP Photo/Rajesh Kumar Singh

Urban watering hole: Elephants are synonymous with India and are symbols of pomp, religion, culture and power. India itself is often compared to the elephant, and is commonly referred to as such. Pachyderms can be found in temples, residences of erstwhile kings and national parks. India has the largest number of elephants in Asia.

AP Photo/Altaf Qadri

Get in line: India’s GDP may have grown between 8-10 per cent in the last decade, but the growth has not been equitable, and poverty levels continue to remain high. More than 40 per cent of India’s population are illiterate, lack proper shelter, have no access to proper drinking water or sanitation, and suffer from the absence of proper medical facilities. In this picture, Muslim devotees receive food at the Shrine of Sufi Saint Nizamuddin Awlia in New Delhi.