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History of India
The History of India covers thousands of years and discusses many diverse languages, cultures, periods, and dynasties. Indian civilization began in the Indus Valley and some literature survives from that time. More is known of the time after the Persian Empire conquered India.
- 1 Stone age
- 2 Bronze Age
- 3 Vedic civilization
- 4 Persian and Greek invasion
- 5 The Magadha empire
- 6 Early middle kingdoms
- 7 Late Middle Kingdoms
- 8 Islamic sultanates
- 9 Colonial era
- 10 Republic of India
- 11 Related pages
- 12 References
- 13 More reading
- 14 Other websites
Remains (stone tools and a skull) in central India show presence of an early species of man, Homo erectus. Archeologists think they lived in India between 200,000 and 500,000 years ago. This period is known as the paleolithic era.
Modern humans (Homo sapiens) settled in the Indian subcontinent at least 12,000 years ago. At that time the last ice age had just ended and climate became warm and dry. First settlements of human beings in India are found in Bhimbetka, a place near Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh, India). Mesolithic people lived on hunting, fishing and food gathering.
Neolithic agriculture sprang up in the Indus Valley region around 7000 years ago, in the lower Gangetic valley around 5000 years ago. Later, in South India, agriculture spread southwards and also into Malwa around 3800 years ago.
The Bronze Age in the Indian subcontinent began around 5300 years ago with the early Indus Valley Civilisation, which included cities such as Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Lothal, and Kalibanga. The civilization was based on the Indus River and its tributaries, extending into the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley, the Ganges-Yamuna Doab, Gujarat, and southeastern Afghanistan. Today, the civilization's old territory is split between India and Pakistan. In Pakistan, the provinces of Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan overlap with ex-Indus Valley territory. In India, the provinces Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan also share territory with the Indus Valley Civilization.
The first cities on the Indian subcontinent were part of the Indus Valley Civilisation. They made the Indus Valley Civilization similar to early Mesopotamian civilisations and Ancient Egypt. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley, the Harappans, developed new techniques in metallurgy and handicraft (carneol products, seal carving), and produced copper, bronze, lead, and tin.
The mature Indus civilization flourished from about 4600 to 3900 years ago. The civilization included urban centers such as Dholavira, Kalibanga, Ropar, Rakhigarhi, and Lothal in modern-day India, and Harappa, Ganeriwala, and Mohenjo-daro in modern-day Pakistan. The cities were built of brick, with roadside drainage system and multistoried houses.
During the later period of this civilisation, signs of a gradual decline began to emerge. By about 3700 years ago, most of the cities were abandoned. However, the Indus Valley Civilisation did not disappear suddenly. Some parts of the Indus Civilization may have survived in the smaller villages and isolated farms.
The Vedas are the oldest teachings of India, though the transmission of these teachings was mainly oral until around the 5th century. There are four Vedas, and the first one is the Rigveda. As per Rigveda the whole regions in which the Aryans were first settled in India was called as the Land of 7 Rivers or SaptaSindhawa .The other three are Samveda, Yajurveda and Atharvaveda. The Vedas have verses in praise of gods and others. They also have other information. At that time, the society was pastoral.
After the Rigveda, society became more agricultural. People became divided into four classes depending on the type of the work. Brahmins were priests and teachers. Kshatriyas were the warriors. Vaishyas did agriculture, trading and commerce. The shudras were the general working class. A common misconception is that the Vaishyas and Shudras were generally looked down upon, and treated badly by Brahmins and Kshatriyas, which was true for the later part of the Vedic age. But was untrue for the earlier part. This type of social division is called the Varna system in Hinduism.
Persian and Greek invasion
Around the 5th century BC, north-western parts of India faced invasion by the Achaemenid Empire and by the Greeks of Alexander the Great. A Persian way of thinking, administration and lifestyle came to India. This influence became bigger during the Mauryan dynasty.
From around 520 BC, the Achaemenid Empire’s Darius I ruled large part of northwestern parts of the Indian subcontinent. Alexander later conquered these areas. Achaemenid rule lasted about 186 years. In modern times, there are still traces of this Greek heritage to be found in parts of northwestern India.
Greco-Buddhism (also spelled as Græco-Buddhism) is a combination of the cultures of Greece and Buddhism. This mixture of cultures continued to develop for 800 years, from the 4th century BC until the 5th century AD. The area where it happened is modern day’s Afghanistan and Pakistan. This mixture of cultures influenced Mahayana Buddhism and spread of Buddhism to China, Korea, Japan and Tibet.
The Magadha empire
The Magadha formed one of the sixteen kingdoms in ancient India. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganges. Its first capital was Rajagriha (modern Rajgir) then Pataliputra (modern Patna).
Magadha expanded to include most of Bihar and Bengal, followed by much of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Odhishaa. The ancient kingdom of Magadha is mentioned in Jain and Buddhist texts. It was also mentioned in the Indian epics Ramayana and Mahabharata, . The state of Magadha, possibly a tribal kingdom, is recorded in Vedic texts much earlier than 600 BC.
Magadha played an important role in the development of Jainism and Buddhism, and two of India's greatest empires, the Maurya Empire and Gupta Empire, originated from Magadha. These empires saw advances in ancient India's science, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy. This was the Indian "Golden Age".
Early middle kingdoms
The Satavahanas came to power from around 230 BC. They are also called Andhras. For about 450 years, many Satavahanas kings ruled most parts of the southern and central India.
For about 350 years, from the years 35-405, Saka kings ruled India. They ruled the western and central parts of India. These areas are in today's states of Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. There were 27 independent rulers, collectively known as the Kshatrapas.
Indo-Scythians came to India from Siberia passing through several places like Bactria, Sogdiana, Kashmir and Arachosia. Their coming to India continued from the 2nd century BC to the 1st century BC. They defeated the Indo-Greek rulers of India, and ruled India from Gandhara to Mathura.
The Gupta dynasty reigned from around 320 to 550 AD. The Gupta Empire covered most of North-central India, and what is now western India and Bangladesh. Gupta society was ordered in accordance with Hindu beliefs. The time of the Gupta Empire is seen as the Golden Age of India. Historians place the Gupta dynasty alongside the Han Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and Roman Empire as a model of a classical civilization.
By the first half of the fifth century, a group of people known as Huns had settled in Afghanistan. They became powerful. They made Bamiyan as their capital city. They started attacking northwestern parts of India. Skandagupta, an emperor of the Gupta dynasty fought back and kept them away for some years. At last the Huns won and could enter most parts of northern India. With this the Gupta dynasty came to an end. Most of north India became badly affected by this invasion. However, Huns could not go up to the Deccan Plateau and the southern parts of India. These parts remained peaceful. No one knows definitely about the fate of Huns after the end of the sixth century. Some historians believe that they mixed up fully with the Indian people of that time.
Late Middle Kingdoms
In the history of India, Middle kingdoms of India covers a period beginning from around the 6th-7th century. In South India, Chola kings ruled Tamil Nadu, and Chera kings ruled Kerala. They also had trading relationships with the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east. In north India, Rajputs ruled in many kingdoms. Some of those kingdoms continued for hundreds of years.
After the collapse of the Gupta Empire, it was Harsha of Kanauj (a place now in Uttar Pradesh state of India) who united the northern parts of India in one kingdom. After his death several dynasties tried to control north India and ruled from time to time from 7th century till the 9th century as described in some of the sections below. Some of these dynasties were the Pratiharas of Malwa and later Kannauj; the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan.
The Pratiharas, Palas, and Rashtrakutas
The Pratihara kings ruled kingdoms in Rajasthan and some other parts of northern India from the 6th century to the 11th century. The Palas ruled the eastern part of India. They ruled over areas which are now parts of the Indian states of Bihar, Jharkhand, and the west Bengal, and of Bangladesh. The Palas ruled from 8th century to the 12th century. In the southern parts of India, Rashtrakutas of Malakheda (Karnataka) ruled the Deccan during the 8th-10th centuries after the end of Chalukya rule. All these three dynasties always tried to control the entire north India. During all this time lasting for three to four hundred years, the Chola kings were growing in power and influence.
In the 6th century several Rajput kingdoms came into being in Rajasthan. Many other Rajput kings ruled in different parts of north India. Some of these kingdoms continue to survive for hundreds of years during different periods of the history of India.
In 1336, two brothers named Harihara and Bukka founded the Vijayanagara Empire in an area which is now in Karnataka state of India. The most famous king of this empire was Krishnadevaraya. In 1565, rulers of this empire were defeated in a battle. But, the empire continued for about next one hundred years.
A number of kingdoms of south India had trading relations with the Arabs in the west, and with Indonesia and other countries of the east.
Islam spread across the Indian subcontinent over a period of 500 years. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established sultanates in Delhi. In the early 16th century, descendants of Genghis Khan swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which lasted for 200 years. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, southern India was dominated by Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties. During this time, the two systems—the prevailing Hindu and Muslim—mingled, left lasting cultural influences on each other.
The Delhi sultanate was a Muslim kingdom based mostly in Delhi. It ruled large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526) Five dynasties ruled over Delhi Sultanate. They are the mamaluk, khilji, tughlaq, sayyid and the lodi dynasties. The mamluk dynasty was started by Qutbuddin Aibak. He was a slave and thus this dynasty is also called Slave Dynasty. Qutubuddin Aibak also made Qutub minar. His son in law, Iltutmish became the ruler after Qutubuddin aibak. He completed the qutub minar.
The Kingdom of Mysore
The Kingdom of Mysore was a kingdom of southern India. People known as Wodeyars founded this kingdom in the year 1400. Later on, Hyder Ali and his son, Tipu Sultan, fought with the Wodeyar rulers. They also fought with the forces of the British Raj, but were defeated. Under the British Raj, Wodeyar kings continued to rule a large part of Karnataka. When India became independent on 15th August 1947, Wodeyars’ kingdom chose to become a part of India.
Guru Nanak founded Sikhism and his followers were called Sikhs. The power of Sikhs continued to increase in the northwestern part of India. The Sikhs became rulers of large part of the northwestern India. This is called the Sikh Kingdom or Empire. Ranjit Singh was the most famous ruler of the Sikh Empire. He expanded the borders of the Sikh Empire and at the time of his death, this empire covered areas of Punjab, and present day Kashmir and parts of Pakistan. The Sikhs and forces of the British Raj fought many wars. Till Maharaja Ranjit Singh was alive, Britishers were not able to cross the Sutlej river. After his death, the they took over the entire Punjab after battles with disorganised Sikh troops.
For a short period, a person named Ahmed Shah Durrani the founder of Afghanistan ruled some parts of northwestern India. Historians have named his rule as the Durrani Empire. In 1748, he crossed the Indus River and attacked Lahore, now a part of Pakistan. He also attacked many parts of Punjab. Then, he attacked Delhi. At that time, Delhi was the capital of the Mughal Empire. He took many valuable things from India. This included the Peacock Throne of Shah Jahan and the famous diamond named Kohinoor.
Colonial period means the time when Western countries ruled India. Western countries also ruled many other countries of Asia, Africa, and South America.
Starting in the 1600s the British East India Company began a very profitable trading empire in India, centered in Bengal. In the mid-1700s Robert Clive (1725-1774) led the Company to an expanded influence in India with victories over the French, the Bengalis, and the Mughals. With a victory at the Battle of Plassey in 1757 Clive became the first British Governor of Bengal.
In the hundred years after the battle, the East India Company conquered the entire subcontinent of India. They did this by trade, political intrigue, and direct military action. The British were very efficient administrators of their domains. But in 1857 the Indian Mutiny almost destroyed the Company's rule of India. Afterward the British government took control away from the Company. In 1858, India became a part of the British Empire and Queen Victoria became the empress of India.
For ninety years the British ruled India and Burma as a unified territory under the British king or queen. It was divided into eight provinces each with a governor. These provinces were Burma, Bengal, Madras, Bombay, UP, Central Provinces, Punjab, and Assam. A Governor-General (Viceroy) in Calcutta was head of the government.
The way the British conquered India was often divide and rule. In the end, many kingdoms were defeated by the British and the riches taken. For example, many of the Royal Crown Jewels were taken from previous kingdoms in India- including the Koh-I-Noor diamond (one of the worlds largest diamonds) and also stole many other large diamonds and gold.
During famines and floods many people died because the government did not help enough. Any Indian not able to pay the British taxes could be forced into prison and/or publicly beaten. Political opponents were jailed and sometimes killed for speaking out against colonial rule. After taking much of India's natural resources for hundreds of years, England was criticized for not protecting Indians during the partition of India and Pakistan. During the partition of India and Pakistan, millions of Indians and Pakistanis died.
The British also did good things. They built railroads, telegraphs and telephones, improved trade, standardized laws, and water supplies. Many of these things were done to help improve commerce in India and taxes provided to England. They created the Indian Civil Service for administering rules and regulations. They also tried to eliminate practices like burning widows.
The British ruled India primarily for the economic benefit of Britain. India produced cheap raw materials for British industry. Indians had to buy British manufactured goods and profits went back to Britain.
Many people in India wanted to be free from British rule. The struggle for independence was long and difficult. Many people protested against the British, and the British tortured many. They had long promoted divisions among the various Indian rulers and religions. The most important leader of the Hindu majority was Mohandas K. Gandhi. Gandhi believed in a non-violent opposition towards the British.
Because Hindus and Muslims fought each other, India was divided into two countries: Pakistan and India. Pakistan was also divided, decades later. India won its independence, along with Muslim Pakistan, and became a free country on August 15, 1947. Pakistan won independence on 14 August, some hours before India.
Republic of India
On 15 August 1947, British Indian Empire was partitioned into two countries, India (Hindustan) and Pakistan. With this the British Raj in the Indian subcontinent ended. On 26 January 1950, Hindustan adopted a constitution. From that day, Hindustanis became the Republic of India or Indians.
During last 60 years, Republic of India has seen different stages in its national life. Some of them are as follows:
- It fought three wars against Pakistan, and one war against China. Wars with Pakistan were fought in 1947, 1965, and 1971. In 1999, it had a limited skirmish in Kargil. The war with China was fought in 1962. In 1971, the Republic of India also helped Bangladesh in its freedom struggle.
- Under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru (the first Prime Minister of India), India had adopted a socialist economy. Some economists think it was a mixed economy. In a mixed economy, socialism and capitalism continue together. During this period, lasting for several years up to end-1980s, India could rapidly develop its infrastructure, science and technology.
- By the early 1990s, India had changed its economic policies. It started several reforms to attract more capital from other countries. Local businessmen and industrialists also got more freedom to carry out their activities.
- In 1974, India had already detonated its first nuclear bomb. It repeated the same in 1998. With this, it became a nuclear power.
Presently (As of 2018[update]), India is currently the fifth largest economy in terms of gross GDP. It is the 4th largest economy of the world when accounting for purchasing power parity. Some economists think that in coming decades, India’s economy will become still larger.
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