History of India
From Academic Kids
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|Indus Valley Civilization|
|History of India|
|History of Pakistan|
|History of Bangladesh|
At Bhimbetka in the present-day state of Madhya Pradesh are found the earliest known traces of human life in India: Stone Age rock shelters decorated with paintings. The first known permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago and developed into the Indus Valley Civilization, which peaked between the 2600 BC and the 1900 BC.
From around the 500 BC onwards, many independent kingdoms came into being. In the north, the Maurya dynasty, which included the Buddhist king Ashoka, contributed greatly to India's cultural landscape. Beginning around 180 BC, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, with the successive establishment in northern India of the Indo-Greek, Indo-Scythian and Indo-Parthian kingdoms, and finally of the Kushan Empire. From the 3rd century onwards the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as India's "Golden Age".
Southern India suffered little or no incursion from foreign lands, which facilitated the establishment of a number of indigenous dynasties. We find reference, in the edicts of the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka, dating to the 5th century BC, of the Chola dynasty that then ruled in the South. They were followed in the next two millenia by the Rashtrakutas, the Pallavas, the Chalukyas, the later or medieval Cholas, the Cheras, the Pandyas the Hoysalas and the Vijayanagara Empire. Science, Art, literature, mathematics, astronomy, engineering, religion, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings.
Following the Islamic invasions in the beginning of the second millennium, much of India was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate, and later, by the Mughal dynasty. Nevertheless, some indigenous kingdoms remained in or rose to power, especially in the relatively sheltered south, where the Hoysala Empire flourished from the 11th to the end of the 13th century AD, followed almost without intermission by the Vijayanagara Empire, which declined with the 16th Century AD.
During the middle of the second millennium, several European countries, including the Portuguese, the French and the English, energised by the European renaissance, ventured abroad and discovered the sea route to India, which had long been the source of many commodities greatly valued in Europe, such as Spices and Silk. Initially interested only in trade with India, the Europeans took advantage of the fracturing of both the Mughal and the Vijayanagara Empires to progressively colonise the country. This process unfolded under the aegis of the merchantile companies chartered out by the European powers. Initial rivalry between the French and the English companies finally ended with the prevalance of the latter, in the second half of 18th Century. By the year 1818, virtually all of present-day India was under the sway of the British East India Company. A failed insurrection in 1857 popularly known as the First War of Indian Independence, resulted in India coming under the direct rule of the British crown.
A prolonged and remarkably non-violent struggle for independence, the Indian independence movement, eventually led by Mahatma Gandhi, regarded as the father of the modern state, followed. India gained independence from British rule on August 15 1947, later becoming a republic on January 26 1950.
As a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, India has had its share of sectarian violence and insurgencies in different parts of the country. Nonetheless, it has held itself together as a secular democracy. India has unresolved border disputes with China, which escalated into a brief war in 1962, and with Pakistan which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, and 1971. India was a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1974, India conducted an underground nuclear test, making it an unofficial member of the "nuclear club", which was followed up with a series of five more tests in 1998. Significant economic reforms beginning in 1991, have transformed India into one of the fastest growing economies in the world.
The prehistory of India goes back to the old Stone age Palaeolithic. While India lies at the eastern limit of the hand axe distribution, there are numerous Acheulean findspots. Hathnora, in the Narmada Valley has produced hominid remains of middle Pleistocene date. Recent finds include a middle palaeolithic quarry in the Kaladgi Basin, southern India. A tradition of Indian rock art dates to 40 or 50,000 years ago.
The early Neolithic is represented by the Mehrgarh culture of the 7th Millennium BCE, in northwest India. Recent data, substantiated by satellite imagery and oceanographic studies, suggests that the civilisation flourished even as far back as the 9th Millennium BCE.
Indus Valley Civilisation
The first known urban society in India was the Indus Valley Civilization, also called the Harappan civilization, which thrived between 2800 BCE and 1800 BCE. It was centered along the Indus River and its tributaries, and extended into the Ganges-Yamuna Doab, Gujarat, and northern Afghanistan. The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick. The language spoken by the Indus Valley people is not known; some scholars speculate it may have been a Dravidian language, while others argue that it was an Indo-Aryan language.
The story of Indus valley civilization, also known as Harappa civilization, is a story of a people intricately tied to their environment. The geography of India is one of great extremes, encompassing desert, mountains, forest, and jungle. All of these environments are susceptible to unpredictable periods of flood, drought, and monsoon. Although India may bear some of the most extreme geological and climatic features, these difficult conditions were also a great asset to the development of its early civilizations. The Himalayas provided a great deal of protection from nomadic and military invasions from the north, and other mountain ranges provided similar protection in the west and east. The water ways of the Indus valley provided an excellent resource for trade and commerce throughout India's history, and were vital to the civilizations throughout the Indus.
As is found with most state level societies, a rise in the cultivation of agrarian resources (specifically specialization), often leads to a surplus with an eventual population increase (making state level societies possible). The scenario of the Indus valley follows much the same principle. Archaeological resources suggest that the diverse geography of ancient India was increasing in the amount and specialization of faunal remains around the era of 2,400 and 1,000 BC. This specialization suggests that the Indus valley civilizations were dependent upon the lush alluvial soil of the Indus River, which produced high yields of cereal grains, and cultivated plant materials. By the time of 2,700 BC, the presence of a state level society is evident, complete with hierarchical rule and large scale public works (irrigation, etc.). Such large scale growth in so small a period of time can be attributed to two factors, an organized civilization which took direct control of its environments, and the unique and rich environmental resources India provided.
Main article: Vedic Civilization
The Vedic Civilization is named for the Vedas, which are the first known writings in Sanskrit. Whether the Vedic peoples originated in India or invaded India from the northwest, and their relation to the Indus Valley Civilization, are the subject of a considerable debate; see Aryan Invasion Theory. Early Vedic society was largely pastoral. Later Vedic society became agricultural, and was organized around the four Varnas, or castes.
Early kingdoms and republics
In the 7th century BCE, a second wave of urbanisation occurred across the Indian sub-continent, spreading from Afghanistan to Bengal. A number of kingdoms and republics emerged across the Indo-Gangetic plain and southern India during this period.
The rise of Magadha
Of the early kingdoms, Magadha, centered in modern-day Bihar with its capital at Pataliputra (Patna), eventually grew to dominate northern India. Much is known about the Hindu Shishunaga dynasty of Magadha thanks to the Puranas (voluminous Hindu texts), the Buddhist Jatakas, and Jain texts. The emperors Bimbisara and Ajatashatru are connected with the life of Gautama Buddha. The Puranas assign it the period 684 BCE - 424 BCE.
The Shishunaga dynasty was followed by the Nanda dynasty that ruled for 100 years.
Rise of Jainism and Buddhism
This period saw the development of two of India's major religions. Gautama Buddha (563 - 483 BCE) was the founder of Buddhism, which later spread to East and Southeast Asia. Mahavira (599 BCE) developed Jainism.
Chandragupta Maurya, a famed Hindu monarch, founded the Mauryan dynasty of Magadha with the help of Chanakya (or Kautilya) the author of the ancient Hindu text on governance and political savvy known as the Arthashastra. Ashoka, one of the greatest rulers of this dynasty, embraced and preached Buddhism after experiencing an epiphany on the bloody battlefield of Kalinga. The mighty empire of the Mauryans began to decline after the death of Ashoka.
Southern Indian kingdoms
South India's earliest monuments were those of a megalithic culture, mostly centered in the Deccan plateau. Since the 6th century BCE, several kingdoms emerged in South India, building irrigation works that allowed for wet-rice cultivation of the river valley lowlands, and supported larger cities. The earliest of these is the Pandya kingdom in southern Tamil Nadu, with its capital at Madurai. Later, the Chola kingdom emerged in northern Tamil Nadu, and the Chera kingdom in Kerala. In the 1st century BCE the Sangam poems of the Pandya kingdom were composed in Tamil. The ports of southern India were involved in the Indian Ocean trade, chiefly involving spices, with the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east.
Northern Indian kingdoms
Between the Maurya and Gupta empires, northern India was ruled by smaller kingdoms. Notable among them were the Satavahanas, who ruled the northern Deccan and western India. The Satavahanas built the rock-cut caves of central India.
The Kushanas, who invaded northwestern India about the middle of the 1st century CE, from Central Asia, and founded an empire that eventually stretched from Peshawar to the middle Ganges and, perhaps, as far as the Bay of Bengal. It also included ancient Bactria (in the north of modern Afghanistan and southern Tajikistan. Their power also extnded into Turkestan and helped spread Buddhism to China.
- Hill, John E. 2003. "Annotated Translation of the Chapter on the Western Regions according to the Hou Hanshu." 2nd Draft Edition. (http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/hhshu/hou_han_shu.html)
- Hill, John E. 2004. The Peoples of the West from the Weilue 魏略 by Yu Huan 魚豢: A Third Century Chinese Account Composed between 239 and 265 CE. Draft annotated English translation.  (http://depts.washington.edu/uwch/silkroad/texts/weilue/weilue.html)
- Smith, V. A. 1908. The Early History of India. Vincent A. Smith. Oxford, The Clarendon Press.
- Ray, Himanshu Prabha, ed. 1996. Tradition and Archaeology: Early Maritime Contacts in the Indian Ocean. Proceedings of the International Seminar Techno-Archaeological Perspectives of Seafaring in the Indian Ocean 4th cent. B.C. – 15th cent. A.D. New Delhi, February 28 – March 4, 1994. New Delhi, and Jean-Fran篩s SALLES, Lyon. First published 1996. Reprinted 1998. Manohar Publishers & Distributors, New Delhi.
The Classical Age
The political map of ancient and medieval India comprised myriad kingdoms with fluctuating boundaries. In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Dynasty unified northern India. During this period, known as India's Golden Age, Hindu culture, science and political administration reached new heights.
After the collapse of the Gupta empire in the 6th century, India was ruled by numerous regional kingdoms.
The first recorded Rajput kingdoms emerged in Rajasthan in the 6th century, and Rajput dynasties later ruled much of northern India, including Gujarat (Solankis), Malwa (Paramaras), Bundelkhand (Chandelas), and Haryana (Tomaras).
The Chalukya Empire ruled parts of southern India from 550 to 750 and again from 970 to 1190.
The Cholas emerged as the most powerful empire in the south in the 9th century and retained their preeminent position until the 13th century.
The Vijayanagar Empire
The brothers Harihara and Bukka founded the Karnataka Empire, also known as the Vijayanagara Empire, in 1336. The Vijayanagara empire prospered during the reign of Krishnadevaraya. It suffered a major defeat in 1565 but continued for another century or so in an attenuated form.
Islam spread across the subcontinent over a period of 1000 years. Prior to Turkish invasions, Muslim trading communities flourished throughout coastal South India, particularly in Kerala. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established the Sultanate of Delhi at the beginning of the 13th century. In the early 16th century, descendants of Genghis Khan swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty, which lasted for 200 years.
The Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties came into conflict with Islamic rule and the clashing of the two systems - prevailing Hindu and the Muslim caused a mingling that left lasting cultural influences on each other. The Mughal rule also saw such influences with Gujarat and Rajasthan contributing towards this.
Main article: Mughal Era
The Maratha Empire
Main article: Maratha Empire
The Maratha Kingdom was founded by Shivaji in 1674 when he annexed a portion of the Bijapur Sultanate. By the 18th century, it had transformed itself into the Maratha Confederacy under the rule of the Peshwa. By 1760, the Empire had stretched across practically the entire subcontinent. This expansion was brought to an end by the Maratha's defeat by an Afghan army at the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761. The last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.
The British established their first outpost in South Asia in 1619 at Surat on the northwestern coast of India, arriving in the wake of Portuguese and Dutch visitors. Later in the century, the British East India Company opened permanent trading stations at Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, each under the protection of native rulers.
Main article: French India
The French set up base along with the British in the 17th century. They occupied large parts of southern India. However subsequent wars with the British, led to the loss of almost all their territory. They however retained the colonies of Pondicherry -(Pondicherry, Karaikal, Yanam, and Mah鮩 and Chandernagore. Pondicherry was ceded to India in 1950.
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.
Main article: British Raj
The British expanded their influence from these footholds until, by the 1850s, they controlled most of the Indian sub-continent, which included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. In 1857, a rebellion in northern India led by mutinous Indian soldiers caused the British Parliament to transfer all political power from the East India Company to the Crown. Britain began administering most of India directly, while controlling the rest through treaties with local rulers. From 1830, the defeat of the Thugs played a part in securing establishing greater control of diverse Indian provinces for the British.
In the late 19th century "British India" took its first steps toward self-government with the appointment of Indian councillors to advise the British viceroy and with the establishment of provincial councils with Indian members; the British subsequently widened participation in legislative councils. Beginning in 1920, the Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi (also known as Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi) transformed the Indian National Congress party into a mass movement to campaign against British colonial rule. The movement eventually succeeded in bringing about independence by means of parliamentary action, non-violent resistance and non-cooperation.
- Sofri, Gianni. 1995. Gandhi and India: A Century in Focus. English edition translated from the Italian by Janet Sethre Paxia. The Windrush Press, Gloucestershire. 1999. ISBN 1-900624-12-5
On August 15, 1947, India became a dominion within the Commonwealth of Nations under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Concurrently the Muslim northwest and north east of British India was separated into the nation of Pakistan. Violent clashes between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs followed this partition. The area of Kashmir in the far north of the subcontinent quickly became a source of controversy (see Terrorism in Kashmir) that erupted into the First Indo-Pakistani War which lasted from 1947 to 1949. Eventually a cease fire was agreed to that left India in control of two thirds of the contested region.
The Indian Constituent Assembly adopted India's constitution, drafted by B. R. Ambedkar, on November 26, 1949. External link to the constitution (http://lawmin.nic.in/coi.htm) India became a secular republic within the Commonwealth after promulgating its constitution on January 26, 1950.
After independence, the Congress Party, the party of Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, ruled India under the influence first of Nehru and then of his daughter Indira Gandhi and of his grandson Rajiv Gandhi, with the exception of two brief periods in the 1970s and 1980s. Prime Minister Nehru governed the nation until his death in 1964. Under Nehru the country launched a policy of industrial expansion based on heavy industries through a number of five year plans. Nehru foreign policy emphasized non-alignment and India was consequently a central member of the Non-Aligned Movement. It started tentative relations with the USSR in response to the United States' burgeoning relationship with Pakistan.
In 1961, after continual petitions for a peaceful handover, India invaded and annexed the Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India. In 1971 India annexed the semi-independent principality of Sikkim.
In 1962 China and India engaged in the brief Sino-Indian War over the border in the Himalayas. The war was a complete rout for the Indians and led to a refocussing on arms build-up and an improvement in relations with the United States.
In 1965 in the Second Kashmir War India and Pakistan again went to war, with India again remaining victorious. In 1971, India intervened in a civil war taking place in Pakistan's eastern Bengal half; the clash resulted in the independence of East Pakistan, which became known as Bangladesh.
In 1966, power passed to Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, who served as Prime Minister from 1966 to 1977. Meanwhile trouble brewed up in the Indian protectorate of Sikkim against the rule of the Chogyal. After a referendum held, the people voted to make Sikkim India's 21st state. On 26 April, 1975, Sikkim formally became a part of India. In 1975, beset with deepening political and economic problems as well as threats to her power, Gandhi declared a state of emergency and suspended many civil liberties, a controversial move that thrust India into a two-year standstill. (See Indian Emergency.) Seeking a mandate at the polls for her policies, she called for elections in 1977, only to suffer electoral defeat at the hands of Morarji Desai, who headed the Janata Party, an amalgamation of five opposition parties.
In 1979, Desai's Government crumbled. Charan Singh formed an interim government, which was followed by Gandhi's return to power in January 1980. On October 31, 1984, assassins killed Indira Gandhi, and the Congress (I) - for "Indira" - Party chose her son Rajiv Gandhi to take her place. His government fell in 1989 amidst allegations of corruption. V.P. Singh and then Chandra Shekhar in turn succeeded as Prime Minister.
After the 1989 elections, although Rajiv Gandhi and Congress won a plurality of seats, he did not succeed in forming a government with a clear majority. The Janata Dal, a union of opposition parties, formed a government with the help of the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the right and of the communists on the left. This loose coalition collapsed in November 1990, and for a short period of time a breakaway Janata Dal group supported by Congress (I) controlled the government, with Chandra Shekhar as Prime Minister. That alliance also collapsed, resulting in national elections in June 1991.
On May 27, 1991, while Rajiv Gandhi campaigned in Tamil Nadu on behalf of Congress (I), assassins, apparently Sri Lankan Tamil extremists, killed him. In the elections, Congress (I) won 213 parliamentary seats and put together a coalition, returning to power under the leadership of P.V. Narasimha Rao. This Congress-led government, which served a full 5-year term, initiated a gradual process of economic liberalisation and reform, which has opened the Indian economy to global trade and investment. India's domestic politics also took new shape, as traditional alignments by caste, creed, and ethnicity gave way to a plethora of small, regionally-based political parties.
The final months of the Rao-led government in the spring of 1996 suffered the effects of several major political corruption scandals, which contributed to the worst electoral performance by the Congress Party in its history. The Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged from the May 1996 national elections as the single-largest party in the Lok Sabha but without enough strength to prove a majority on the floor of that Parliament. Under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP coalition lasted in power 13 days. With all political parties wishing to avoid another round of elections, a 14-party coalition led by the Janata Dal emerged to form a government known as the United Front, under the former Chief Minister of Karnataka, H.D. Deve Gowda. His government lasted less than a year, as the leader of the Congress Party withdrew his support in March 1997. Inder Kumar Gujral replaced Deve Gowda as the consensus choice for Prime Minister of a 16-party United Front coalition.
In November 1997, the Congress Party again withdrew support for the United Front. New elections in February 1998 brought the BJP the largest number of seats in Parliament--182--but this fell far short of a majority. On March 20, 1998, the President inaugurated a BJP-led coalition government with Vajpayee again serving as Prime Minister. On May 11 and 13, 1998, this government conducted a series of underground nuclear tests, prompting United States President Clinton and Japan to impose economic sanctions on India pursuant to the 1994 Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act.
In April 1999, the BJP-led coalition government fell apart, leading to fresh elections in September. The National Democratic Alliance - a new coalition led by the BJP - gained a majority to form a government with Vajpayee as Prime Minister in October 1999.
In January 2004 Vajpayee recommended early dissolution of the Lok Sabha and General elections. The Congress Party-led alliance won a plurality of seats in election held in May 2004, leading to Manmohan Singh becoming Prime Minister.
- 6676 BCE - 5000 BCE -- First Age, Krita yuga
- 5000 BCE - 4000 BCE -- Second Age, Treta yuga
- 4000 BCE - 3102 BCE -- Third Age, Dvapara yuga
- 3102 BCE -- Kaliyuga calendar?
- 3102 BCE - 424 BCE -- Brihadrathas, Pradyotas, Shishunagas, Nandas
- (3102 BCE onwards -- Fourth Age, Kali yuga)
- 40000 BCE -- Rock art in Bhimbetka
- 7000 BCE -- The beginnings of the Indus Tradition in Mehrgarh
- 3300 BCE -- Early Mohenjadaro and Harappa
- 2600 BCE - 1900 BC -- Unified Indus Civilisation, or Harappan Civilisation
- 1900 BCE -- Indus Tradition begins to fragment into regional cultures; possible Aryan invasion
- 500 BCE -- Buddhism and Jainism
Shishunaga Dynasty Onwards
- 684 BCE - 424 BCE -- Shishunaga dynasty
- 423 BCE - 323 BCE -- Nanda dynasty
- 322 BCE - 183 BCE -- Mauryan dynasty
- 183 BCE - 71 BCE -- Shunga dynasty
- 71 BCE - 26 BCE -- Kanva dynasty
- 26 BCE - 434 CE -- Andhra dynasty
- 320 - 550 -- Gupta dynasty
- 606 - 647 -- Harsha of Kannauj
- 609-642 -- Pulakeshin of the Chalukya dynasty
- 870-906 -- Aditya Chola
- 906-953 -- Parantaka Chola I
- 985-1014 -- Rajaraja Chola I
- 1014-1042 -- Rajendra Chola I
- 1206-1520 -- Delhi Sultanate
- 1526-1707 -- Mughal empire
- 1680-1818 -- Maratha empire
- 1857-1947 -- British India
- Economic history of India
- Terrorism in Kashmir
- Timeline of Indian history
- Prehistoric and Early India
- Partition of India
- Free India
- Religions in India: Hinduism--Buddhism--Jainism--Islam--Sikhism--Christianity
- Historical Figures and Topics: Mahabharata--Bimbisara--Ajatashatru--Buddha--Chandragupta Maurya--Ashoka--Kanishka--Chandragupta II--Kumaragupta--Skandagupta--Harsha--Dharmapala--Devapala--Mihira Bhoja--Mahendrapala--Rajaraja Chola--Rajendra Chola--Krishna Deva Raya--Babur--Akbar--Shah jahan--Shivaji--Ranjit Singh--Rani Lakshmi Bai--Lokamanya Tilak--Mohandas Gandhi--Jawaharlal Nehru--Indira Gandhi--Rajiv Gandhi--Narasimha Rao--Atal Behari Vajpayee
- History of Goa
- History of Sikkim
- Dilip K. Chakrabarti, India : An Archaeological History : Palaeolithic Beginnings to Early Historic Foundations (New Delhi, OUP, 2001) ISBN 019565880-9.
- Modern India (http://www.gutenberg.net/browse/BIBREC/BR11212.HTM), by William E. Curtis, Chicago Record-Herald, 1903-04.
- Ranajit Guha, Dominance Without Hegemony: History and Power in Colonial India, Harvard UP 1998
- Sumit Sarkar, Modern India 1885-1947, MacMillan, first published 1983, many reprints
Partition of India and Bengal and Some Myths (http://www.finance.commerce.ubc.ca/~bhatta/partition.html)