India is a large country, and it is spread out over two time zones. However, this doesn’t mean that there are two different clocks in operation in the country. So, how many time zones are there in India?
India operates in a single time zone. It is IST (UTC+5:30). This covers the whole of the country and all of the surrounding Indian territories. The time zone was a bit of a compromise, with most of the country falling in UTC+5 and the other bit in UTC+6, so they just split the difference.
Why Does India Have a Single Time Zone?
If you live in the United States, then you will know that the country has several time zones. This is because it falls in multiple geographic time zones, much like India. However, unlike the US, it wouldn’t work to have parts of India operating in different time zones.
The US can easily be split up into multiple time zones because it is sparsely populated. A time zone line very rarely crosses major population zones. This means that most people’s lives are not going to be impacted
You can’t do this with India. It is one of the most densely populated countries in the world. There are people everywhere, and if you decided to split the country up into multiple time zones, then you would be left in a position where towns and cities would be split into different time zones, and things don’t work when that happens.
So, India came up with IST. As we said, this was a compromise between the two geographical time zones that the country was in. IST is split straight down the middle so everybody is happy.
The History of India’s Time Zones
IST is a fairly new time zone for India. It only came about in 1905 and wasn’t formalized until 1947 when the country gained independence. Up until that point, India was running on several rather unique time zones:
- Bombay Time (UTC+4:51)
- Madras Time (UTC+5:21, 14 seconds)
- Port Blair (UTC+06:10, 37 seconds)
- Calcutta Time (UTC+5:53, 20 seconds)
As you can see, there were some pretty weird offsets here, so it isn’t really surprising that the newly independent Indian government wanted to get rid of them pretty sharply. When seconds come into play for a time zone difference (which doesn’t happen anywhere else in the world), it becomes incredibly difficult to compare the times between two different locations in the same country.
So, why did India have all these odd time zones? Well, you can thank the British for that. Their original time zones were designed purely to keep the trains running through India. Over time, they started to adopt unique times for each of the major cities in India. The time in these cities wasn’t relevant to the other places in India (other than sitting in the same geographic time zone). The British claimed that they were trying to experiment and come up with a standard time that could be used across India, but this isn’t really something that came to fruition.
Keeping tabs on all of these different times was exceedingly difficult too, and rarely people did. It didn’t really matter what the time was in Bombay if you lived in Madras. It wasn’t until 1925 that India even came up with ways that they could try and synchronize the time between multiple places in the country, and that was long after they had taken on IST.
Does India Use DST?
India does not use DST, although it has used it several times in the past.
During World War II, India used DST, although one would argue that this wasn’t strictly DST. For some reason, during World War II, India switched to what was known as ‘War TIme’ when all the clocks were put forward by an hour. When the summer rolled around, the clocks rolled back an hour and became IST again. It was a very unique situation.
In addition to this, owing to several wars between India and Pakistan in the 60s and 70s, India has used DST. However, this was mostly to reduce the amount of energy that was being used by the country. They wanted all of the resources put into the war effort.
Other than those incidents, India has not used DST at all. It is unlikely that they will ever switch to DST as there is no need to do so. There is enough sunlight in that part of Asia.
Could India Ever Be In Multiple Time Zones?
No. The country seems to be fairly content sticking with IST. It doesn’t really cause too many issues for the residents of India, with people in both geographic time zones getting a roughly comparable amount of sunlight per day. Plus, as we said, India having multiple time zones just wouldn’t work. There is no way to split the country in a way that would impact only a small number of people. It may have been popular when the country was far less populated, but that time has long since passed.
Do Other Countries Share IST?
While India invented IST, it is not something that is unique to the country. Sri Lanka is also operating on IST, owing to its close proximity to India. However, this isn’t known as IST. Instead, it is called Sri Lanka Standard Time (SLST), and they only made the switch in 2006.
At one point, Nepal also worked on IST. However, nowadays, that is also in its own time zone and is instead UTC+5:45, so it is 15 minutes ahead of India.
All of the other places in that region will use the geographic time zone instead e.g. parts of Russia,
India invented its own time zone; India Standard Time (IST). This is because the country is located in two different geographic time zones, but the high population meant that it would not have been possible to have the country operating on two different clocks. Other than Sri Lanka, India is the only country in the world to be in this time zone.