History of India – Celebrating India’s Invincible Spirit


As the juggernaut of world history rolled on, many civilisations rose and fell and passed into oblivion but the spirit of India remains eternal and invincible, unscathed by the onslaught of Time. Indian history follows a continuous process of reinvention that can eventually prove elusive for those seeking to grasp its essential character. The history of this astonishing subcontinent dates back to five thousand years ago when the inhabitants of the Indus Valley Civilisation had developed an urban culture based on commerce and sustained by agricultural trade. Amongst the world’s oldest, richest and most diverse cultures, India’s unique ethos is rooted in its ethnic, cultural and religious diversity.

The political map of ancient and medieval India was made up of countless kingdoms with fluctuating boundaries that rendered the country vulnerable to foreign invasions. The Aryans were the first to invade the country. They came out of the North in about 1500 BC and brought with them strong cultural traditions. Persians, Greeks, Chinese nomads, Arabs, Portuguese, British and many others – the list of invaders who ruled India is long. Yet, none could crush the indomitable soul of Bharatvarsha!

Here is a brief account of the History of India, which seeks to articulate the undying magic of the amazing nation that – in the words of American author Mark Twain – ‘all men long to see, and having seen it once, would not give up that glimpse for all the wonders of the world’.

Ancient India:

1. 2500 BC

India’s first major civilisation flourished around 2500 BC in the Indus river valley. This civilisation, which lasted for 1000 years, and is known as the Harappan culture, appears to have been the culmination of thousands of years of settlement.
2. 1500 BC
From around 1500 BC onwards, Aryan tribes from Afghanistan and Central Asia began to filter into northwest India. Eventually, these tribes were able to control the whole of Northern India, and many of the original inhabitants, the Dravidians, were pushed into south India.
3. 7th century BC
As the Aryan tribes spread out across the Ganges plain, in the seventh century BC, many of them were grouped together into 16 major kingdoms.
4. 5th century BC
Gradually these amalgamated into four large states, with Kosala and Magadha emerging to be the most powerful during the fifth century BC.

           The Mauryas:

       Maurya Dynasty

The Mauryas were the first ruling dynasty to control large parts of North India and some parts of South India, as one territorial unit.

Chandragupta Maurya
Chandragupta Maurya
Founded by Chandragupta Maurya with the able guidance of Kautilya, the author of the famous treatise – Arthshastra –

the empire reached its peak under Ashoka. He left pillars and rock-carved edicts, which delineate the enormous span of his territory that covered large areas of the Indian subcontinent.

Following the decline of the Mauryan Empire, a number of powerful kingdoms arose in central and south India, among them Satavahanas, Kalingas and Vakatakas hold precedence. Later on, these regions saw the rise of some of the greatest dynasties of South India in the form of the Cholas, Pandyas, Cheras, Chalukyas and Pallavas. The next dynasty worth a mention is that of the Guptas. Although the Gupta Empire was not as large as the Maurya Empire, it kept North India politically united for more than a century from AD 335 to 455.

Medieval India

The decline of the Guptas in North India and the consequent rise of a large but ineffective number of regional powers made the political situation very fluid and unstable by the ninth century AD. This paved the way for the Muslim invasion of India during the early half of the eleventh century.

Mahmud of Ghazni

These were felt in the form of 17 successive raids to North India, made by Mahmud of Ghazni between 1001 and 1025. These raids effectively shattered the balance of power in North India.

Mohammad Ghori

The next Muslim ruler to invade India Mohammad Ghauri attacked India and after some futile resistance by the local leadership, he founded a foreign empire in India. Under him, large parts of India came under Muslim rule and very soon his successor Qutub-ud-din Aibak became the first of the sultans of Delhi.

Mughal Period:

Defeating Lodis and Sayyids, the Mughals established, what came to be known as the most vibrant era of Indian History.

The most prominent rulers of the Mughal dynasty

The Mughal Empire was massive, covering, at its height, almost the entire Indian subcontinent. The Mughal emperors presided over a golden age of arts and literature and had a passion for

Mughal Empire Map

buildings, which resulted in some of the greatest architecture in India, like the Taj Mahal at Agra. This apart, the large number of forts, palaces, gates, buildings, mosques, baolis (water tank or well) gardens, etc, forms the cultural heritage of the Mughals in India. The Mughals were also instrumental in establishing one of the most efficient administrative setups in India.

Taj Mahal

The decline of the Mughals saw the corresponding rise of Marathas in Western India. In other parts of India, however, a new trend of foreign invasion under the garb of commercial links had started from the 15th century AD onwards – first, with the arrival and gradual takeover of Goa by the Portuguese led by Vasco da Gama – between 1498 and 1510 AD; and then with the arrival, and the setting up of the first trading post at Surat, in Gujarat, by the East India Company.

The Danes and Dutch also had trading posts, and in 1672 AD, the French established themselves at Pondicherry, an enclave that they held even after the British had departed.

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