The history of India is vast and distributed among many eras and ages. The history and culture of India are full of affluence and richness and it certainly has had a great impact on the development of the society what it is today. The Indian subcontinent has been the place of origin to the Indus Valley civilization and vast empires. Indian History has seen the growth of religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism; the beginning of a succession of commanding and influential empires and dynasties for over three millennia across diverse geographic areas of the Indian subcontinent.
The history of India is globally recognized for its cultural and commercial wealth over the past many years. While major religions such as Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism have originated here, Islam, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, and Christianity arrived during the 1st millennium AD and intermingled into the diverse culture of India.
It has also witnessed the rise of Muslim authorities and establishments throughout the medieval period entwined with Hindu politicians. It has also seen the beginning of the privateers and European traders resulting in the commencement of British India; followed by the independence movement resulting in the departure of British rule from India and the ultimate Partition of India along with the formation of the Republic of India. After struggling for independence followed by several nonviolent movements, India assumed the title of a modern nation-state in the year 1947. The Indian history of India can broadly be divided into four significant sections: the ancient age, the medieval age, the modern age, and the post-independence age.
The Ancient Age
The trademark of history of India starts from the Stone Age with various paintings exhibited at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in Central India (Madhya Pradesh). These paintings clearly signify that human life existed in India during the ancient age. Apparently, the first and foremost identified stable settlements emerged over 9,000 years ago and slowly developed into the very popular Indus Valley Civilization that dates back to 3300 BCE in the western part of the Indian subcontinent.
It also includes the prehistoric societies and settlements in the Indian subcontinent and the progress of civilization from the Indus Valley Civilization to the ultimate amalgamation of the Indo-Aryan culture followed by the Vedic Civilization. Many historians believe that the Vedic Civilization laid the fundamentals of Hinduism and various other cultural elements of the early society of India.
The Indus Valley Civilization is considered a structure of civilization. It spread and prospered in the north-western area of the Indian subcontinent between 3300 to 1300 BCE. A refined and technologically developed urban culture progressed in the Mature Harappan period, in between 2600 to 1900 BCE. This civilization failed at the beginning of the second millennium BCE and the commencement of the Iron Age Vedic Civilization thus began.
This era witnessed the symphony of the Vedas, the influential texts of Hinduism, uniting with Janapadas (the realms, state-level polities) and social division basis caste. The later Vedic Civilization widened throughout the Indo-Gangetic plain and the adjoining subcontinent along with witnessing the growth of major polities called the Mahajanapadas. In one of these major kingdoms, Magadha, prominent Princes such as Mahavira and Gautama Buddha propagated their Shramanic values, philosophies, and beliefs during the 5th and 6th centuries BCE.
The majority of the Indian subcontinent was triumphed over by the Maurya Dynasty throughout the 3rd and 4th centuries BCE. Throughout the 3rd century and further, Pali and Prakrit literature flourished in the northern part and the Tamil Sangam literature in the Southern part of the Indian subcontinent. Wootz Steel also originated during the 3rd century in South India and was sold overseas. Then began the era of the Classical period, during which different parts of the Indian subcontinent were ruled over by various dynasties and continued for the next 1,500 years.
Among these dynasties, the Gupta Empire was the most prominent as the period witnessed a Hindu religious, sacred and intellectual renaissance. It is known as the Classical Period or ‘Golden Age of India’ as the characteristics of Indian civilization, culture, administration, and religion (Buddhism and Hinduism) spread to major parts of Asia during this era. The kingdoms in southern India had a nautical business association with the Mediterranean and Middle East countries and the influence of Indian culture spread through different parts of Southeast Asia leading to the foundation of the Indianized Empire in Southeast Asia.
The major event that took place between the 7th and 11th centuries was the ‘Tripartite struggle’ that began in Kannauj and continued for over 2 centuries amongst the Rashtrakuta Empire, the Pala Empire, and the Gurjara Pratihara Empire. Southern India witnessed the growth of several majestic powers from the mid 5th century and the most prominent being the Chola, Chalukya, Chera, Pandyan, Pallava and the Western Chalukya Empires.
The Chola Empire conquered southern India and conquered different areas of Southeast Asia including Maldives, Sri Lanka, and Bengal during the 11th century. During the early medieval period, Indian mathematics influenced the growth of astronomy and mathematics in the Hindu numerals and Arab world.
The Medieval Age
Medieval age started with the visit of Muslim rulers in different parts of northern India during the 13th century; the Delhi Sultanate was established by Central Asian Turks in 1206 CE; however former Muslim conquerors constructed limited inroads into modern Pakistan and Afghanistan at the beginning of the 8th century.
The Delhi Sultanate regulated the major areas of north India during the early 14th century but started declining during the late 14th century. This age has also seen the advent of various powerful and influential Hindu states such as Gajapati, Ahom, Vijayanagara and Rajput states such as Mewar. The 15th century during the medieval period saw the emergence of Sikhism.
The Modern Age
The early modern age started during the 16th century when the Mughal Empires triumphed over most of the Indian subcontinents. The Mughals started suffering a gradual and steady decline during the early 18th century providing various opportunities to the Sikhs, Marathas, and Mysoreans to regulate and exercise their control over major parts of the Indian subcontinent.
Between the late 18th and mid-19th century, major parts of India were occupied by a private company called British East India Company ruled by the British Empire. Dissatisfaction and frustration with the Company rule led to the major Indian Rebellion in the year 1857; post which the British regions of India were directly controlled by the British Crown.
This period witnessed a phase of the rapid growth of infrastructures such as communication, road, and rail network, etc. along with major famines and economic decline. In the first half of the 20th century, a countrywide struggle was launched for independence known as the Independence movement by the leading party ‘the Indian National Congress’ and it was later supported by other organizations too.
At last, India achieved independence on 15 August 1947 from the British rule. It was, however, partitioned, following the wishes and inclinations of the Muslim League on the lines of religion and faith. This led to the creation of Pakistan, the Islamic nation-state.
After three years, on 26 January 1950, India gained the title of a republic country and the new constitution of India came into effect on the same day. Sadly, Indian history, since Independence has been spotted by corruption, poverty, and various other problems that need honest effort from modern politicians to be resolved.
The Indian history is an amalgamation of the East and the West and India have always remained the invader’s delight. Though there have been several foreigners such as Britishers, Portuguese, Arabs, Chinese nomads, Greeks, Persians, and other invaders have had their path into this vast country, several of them mixed with the Indian society giving birth to a country that is diverse in regards to religion, culture, architecture, and language.