History of India
According to the Indo-Aryan migration hypothesis, the Aryans, a nomadic people, possibly from Central Asia or northern Iran migrated into the north-west regions of the Indian subcontinent between 2000 BCE and 1500 BCE.
Their inter-mingling with the earlier Dravidian cultures apparently resulted in classical Indian culture as we know today.
The births of Mahavira and Buddha around 550 BCE mark the beginning of well-recorded Indian history.
For the next 1500 years, India produced its classical civilisation, and is estimated to have had the largest economy of the ancient world between the 1st and 15th centuries AD, controlling between one third and one fourth of the world's wealth up to the time of the Mughals, from whence it rapidly declined during European rule.
Incursions by Arab and Central Asian armies in the 8th and 12th centuries were followed by inroads by traders from Europe, beginning in the late 15th century. By the middle of the 19th century (1858), the British Crown had assumed political control over virtually all of India. Indian armed forces in the British army played a vital role in both the World Wars.
Nonviolent resistance to British colonialism led, by Mohandas Gandhi, Vallabhbhai Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru brought independence in 1947. The subcontinent was partitioned into the Secular Democratic Republic of India and the smaller Islamic Republic of Pakistan. A war between the two countries in 1971 resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. In the 21st century, India has made impressive gains in economic investment and output, and stands as the world's largest democracy with a population exceeding 1 billion, is self sufficient in terms of food, and is a fast-growing, economically strong country.
Human civilizations in India are some of the earliest recorded, and were equal contemporaries of civilizations in ancient Mesopotamia and Egypt. India's history essentially includes all of the Indian subcontinent, including the more recent nations of Pakistan and Bangladesh. India is also inalienably linked with the history and heritage of the other geographically South Asian nations like Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bhutan, and India's culture, economy and politics has influenced, and has been influenced in turn, by the history and culture of the nations in South East Asia, East Asia and Central Asia, such as Bali, Cambodia, Thailand, Burma, China, Tibet, Persia and Afghanistan, over thousands of years.
After Arab incursions into India during the early part of the 2nd Millenium AD, similar quests for access to India's fabled wealth strongly influenced the history of medieval Europe, after the landing of Vasco Da Gama. Christopher Columbus discovered America whilst seaching for a new route to India, and the British Empire gained much of its resources after the incorporation of India as the 'Jewel in the Crown', from the 1700s to 1947.
Late Neolithic cultures sprang up in the Indus Valley region between 6000 BC and 2000 BC (see below), and in southern India between 2800 BC and 1200 BC.
The Bronze Age
Indus Valley Seals
The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, road-side drainage system and multi-storeyed houses. The earliest historic references to India may be those to the Meluhha in Sumerian records, possibly referring to the Indus Valley civilization. When compared to the contemporary civilizations of Egypt and Sumeria, the Indus Civilization possessed unique urban planning techniques, covered the largest geographical area, and may have been a single state, as suggested by the amazing uniformity of its measurement systems.
The Mohenjo-daro ruins were once the centre of this ancient society. Indus Civilization settlements spread as far south as present-day Bombay, as far east as Delhi, as far west as the Iranian border, and as far north as the Himalayas. Among the settlements were the major urban centres of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Dholavira, Ganweriwala, Lothal, Kalibanga and Rakhigarhi. At its peak, some archaeologists opine that the Indus Civilization may have had a population of well over five million.
To date, over 2,500 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region to the east of the Indus River in Pakistan along what is claimed by many to be the Saraswati River mentioned in the Vedas. It is thought by some that geological disturbances and climate change, leading to a gradual deforestization may ultimately have contributed to the civilization's downfall.
Archaeological resources suggest that the diverse geography of ancient India was increasing in the amount and specialization of faunal remains around 2400 to 1500 BC. This specialization suggests that the Indus Valley Civilizations were dependent upon the alluvial soils of the rivers, which produced high yield crops. By 2600 BC, the presence of a state level society is evident, complete with hierarchical rule and large scale public works. These include accomplishments such as irrigation, warehouses for grain, public streets, and brick-lined drainage systems for sanitation. Around the mid 2nd millennium BC, the region of the Indus River basin, in which approximately two-thirds of currently known sites were located dried up, and the sites were abandoned.
In addition to the principle texts of Hinduism, (the Vedas), the great Indian epics, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the latter of which constitutes the longest poem in the world after the Kyrgyz Manas, are said to have their ultimate origins during this period, from an oral tradition of unwritten Bardic recitation. The Bhagavad Gita, another primary text of Hinduism, is contained within the Mahabharata.
Early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part, to Ochre Coloured Pottery, archaeologically. The kingdom of the Kurus marks flowering of the Vedic civilization, corresponding to the Black and Red Ware and the beginning of the Iron Age in Northwestern India begins, around 1000 BC, likely also contemporary with the composition of the Atharvaveda. Painted Grey Ware spread over much of Northern India marks the Middle Vedic period, followed by a wave of urbanization that occurred across the Indian sub-continent, from Afghanistan to Bengal, in the 6th century BC. A number of kingdoms and oligarchies, often called republics, emerged across the Indo-Gangetic plain and the northern part of South India during this period. 16 of them, called Mahajanapadas (great lands), are referred to in the ancient literature of the period.
Hindu rituals at that time were complicated and conducted by the priestly class. It is thought that the Upanishads, late Vedic texts dealing mainly with incipient philosophy, were first composed early in this period. The educated speech at that time was Sanskrit, while the dialects of the general population of northern India were referred to as Prakrits. In 537 BC, Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment and founded Buddhism, which was initially intended as a supplement to the existing Vedic dharma. Around the same time period, in mid-6th century BC, Mahavira founded Jainism.
Both religions had a simple doctrine, and were preached in Prakrit, which helped it gain acceptance amongst the masses. While the geographic impact of Jainism was limited, Buddhist nuns and monks eventually spread the teachings of Buddha to Central Asia, East Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.
Alexander created garrisons for his troops in his new territories, and founded several cities in the areas of the Oxus, Arachosia, and Bactria, and Macedonian/Greek settlements in Gandhara and the Punjab. The regions included the Khyber Pass - a geographical passageway south of the Himalayas and the Hindu Kush mountains - and the Bolan Pass, on a trade route connecting Drangiana, Arachosia and other Persian and Central Asian kingdoms to the lower Indus plain. It is through these regions that most of the interaction between South Asia and Central Asia took place, generating intense cultural exchange and trade.
The first Nanda, the Mahapadma Nanda has been described as the destroyer of all the Kshatriyas. He defeated Ikshvakus, Panchalas, Kasis, Harhayas, Kalingas, Asmakas, Kurus, Maithilas, Surasenas, Vitihotras, etc.,. He expanded his territory till south of Deccan. The last of the Nandas was Dhana Nanda. Plutarch tells that Chandragupta Maurya had stated that Nanda was hated and despised by his subject on account of the wickedness of his disposition. The bloody fight between the Nandas and the Mauryas overthrew the dynasty of Nandas.
The Nandas who usurped the throne of the Shishunaga dynasty were of low origin. Some sources state that the founder, Mahapadma , was the son of a Shudra mother, others that he was born of a union of a barber with a courtesan. Nandas were the first of a number of dynasties of northern India who were of non-kshatriya origin.The Nandas are sometimes described as the first empire builders of India. They inherited the large kingdom of Magadha and wished to extend it to yet more distant frontiers. To this purpose they built up a vast army consisting of 20,000 cavalry, 200,000 infantry, 2,000 chariots and 3,000 elephants. But the Nandas never had the opportunity to use this army against the Greeks, who invaded India at the time Dhana Nanda, since Alexander's campaign terminated in the Punjab.
The Nandas made the methodical collection of taxes by regularly appointed officials a part of their administrative system. The treasury was continually replenished, the wealth of the Nandas being well-known. The Nandas also built canals and carried out irrigation projects. The possibility of an imperial structure based on an essentially agrarian economy began to germinate in the Indian mind. But further development of the Nandas was cut short by Chandragupta Maurya and his mentor Chanakya. Chanakya dethroned Dhana Nanda in a battle of wits and replaced him with Chandragupta Maurya, a young adventurer. Dhana Nanda was murdered which finally signaled the advent of the Mauryan era in 321 B.C.
The kingdom was inherited by his son Ashoka The Great who initially sought to expand his kingdom. In the aftermath of the carnage caused in the invasion of Kalinga, he renounced bloodshed and pursued a policy of non-violence or ahimsa after converting to Buddhism. The Edicts of Ashoka are the oldest preserved historical documents of India, and from Ashoka's time, approximate dating of dynasties becomes possible. The Mauryan dynasty under Ashoka was responsible for the proliferation of Buddhist ideals across the whole of East Asia and South-East Asia, fundamentally altering the history and development of Asia as a whole. Ashoka the Great has been described as one of the greatest rulers the world has seen.
The earliest of these is the Pandya kingdom in southern Tamil Nadu, with its capital at Madurai. The Indo-Greek Kingdoms following the conquests of Alexander the Great ruled much of Gandhara from 180 BC to 10 CE. Around the same time in southern India, the Dravidian Pandyan kingdom began to take shape. An important source for the geography and history of that period is the Greek historian Arrian.
Their origins are largly unknown, however the Chinese traveller I-tsing provides the first evidence of the Gupta kingdom in Magadha. The Vedic Puranas are also thought to have been written around this period. The empire came to an end with the attack of the Huns from central Asia. A minor line of the Gupta clan continued to rule Magadha after the disintegration of the empire. These Guptas were ultimately ousted by the Vardhana king Harsha, who established an empire in the first half of the seventh century that, for a brief time, rivalled that of the Guptas in extent.
Figure in Sassanian dress North-western India,
probably Punjab Hills Late 6th/early 7th century Sandstone
History of South India
The Mughal EraMughal Empire
Other Mughal Architecture
Company RuleColonial India and European Colonies in India
The Dutch did not have a major presence in India. The towns of Travancore were ruled by the Dutch. However they were more interested in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and their prize of the Dutch East Indies (now Indonesia). They were responsible for training the military of the princely state of Kerala. In 1845, the Danish colony of Tranquebar was sold to the United Kingdom.
By the 1850s Britain controlled most of the Indian sub-continent, which included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. From 1830, the defeat of the Thugs played a part in securing establishing greater control of diverse Indian provinces for the British.
The Indian rebellion of 1857 in the north, led by mutinous Indian soldiers, was crushed by the British. It is also called the first war of Indian independence. In the aftermath all political power was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown, which began administering most of India directly. It controlled the rest through local rulers.
Since independence, India has fought three major wars and one minor war with Pakistan (see Indo-Pakistani Wars). The Indo-Pakistani War of 1947 started over the control of Kashmir. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1965 was also fought over Kashmir. In 1971, India hosted refugees from erstwhile East Pakistan and helped the Bangladeshi freedom fighters (Mukti Bahini) with resources and training during the Bangladesh Liberation War. During the final stages of that war, India became directly involved in the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, which ultimately resulted in Pakistan's defeat and the independence of Bangladesh. India also fought a border war with China in 1962 (see Sino-Indian War).
As well as being a declared nuclear state, India has an advanced space program designed to benefit the country economically, rather than merely create prestige. In the 1990s, following economic reform from the socialist-inspired economy of post-independence India, the country began to experience rapid economic growth, as markets opened for international competition and investment. In the 21st century, India is an emerging economic power with vast human and natural resources, and a huge knowledge base. Economists predict that by 2050, India will be among the top three economies of the world.
History of India