Thursday, July 2, 2009

Culture of India

The culture of India has been shaped by the long history of India, its unique geography and the absorption of customs, traditions and ideas from some of its neighbors as well as by preserving its ancient heritages, which were formed during the Indus Valley Civilization and evolved further during the Vedic age, rise and decline of Buddhism, Golden age, Muslim conquests and European colonization. India's great diversity of cultural practices, languages, customs, and traditions are examples of this unique co-mingling over the past five millennium. The various religions and traditions of India that were created by these amalgamations have influenced other parts of the world too.


Close-up of a statue depicting Maitreya at the Thikse monastery in Ladakh, India. India is considered to be birthplace of Dharmic religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism.[1]

India is the birth place of Dharmic religions such as Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.[2][3] Dharmic religions, also known as Indian religions, is a major form of world religions next to the Abrahamic ones. Today, Hinduism and Buddhism are the world's third- and fourth-largest religions respectively, with around 1.4 billion followers.

India is one of the most religiously diverse nations in the world, with some of the most deeply religious societies and cultures. Religion still plays a central and definitive role in the life of most of its people.

The religion of more than 80.4% of the people is Hinduism. Islam is practiced by around 13.4% of all Indians.[4] Sikhism, Jainism and especially Buddhism are influential not only in India but across the world. Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Judaism and the Bahá'í Faith are also influential but their numbers are smaller. Despite the strong role of religion in Indian life, atheism and agnostics also have visible influence.

[edit] Society

[edit] Overview

According to Eugene M. Makar, the traditional Indian culture is defined by relatively strict social hierarchy. He also mentions that from an early age, children are reminded of their roles and places in society.[5] This is reinforced by that many believe gods and spirits have integral and functional role in determining their life.[5] Several differences such as religion divide culture.[5] However, far more powerful division is the traditional Hindu bifurcation into non-polluting and polluting occupations.[5] Strict social taboos have governed these groups for thousands of years.[5] In recent years, particularly in cities, some of these lines have blurred and sometimes even disappeared.[5] Nuclear family is becoming central to Indian culture. Important family relations extend to as far as gotra, the mainly patrilinear lineage or clan assigned to a Hindu at birth.[5] In rural areas it is common that three or four generations of the family live under the same roof.[5] Patriarch often resolves family issues.[5]

Among developing countries, India has low levels of occupational and geographic mobility. People choose same occupations as their parents and rarely move geographically in the society.[6]

[edit] Family

A bride during a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding ceremony.

India for ages has had a prevailing tradition of the joint family system. It’s a system under which even extended members of a family like one’s parents, children, the children’s spouses and their offspring, etc. live together. The elder-most, usually the male member is the head in the joint Indian family system who makes all important decisions and rules, whereas other family members abide by it.

Arranged marriages have the tradition in Indian society for centuries. Even today, overwhelming majority of Indians have their marriages planned by their parents and other respected family-members, with the consent of the bride and groom.[7] Arranged matches were made after taking into account factors such as age, height, personal values and tastes, the backgrounds of their families (wealth, social standing) and their castes and the astrological compatibility of the couples' horoscopes.

In India, the marriage is thought to be for life[8], and the divorce rate is extremely low — 1.1% compared with about 50% in the United States.[9] The arranged marriages generally have a much lower divorce rate. The divorce rates have risen significantly in recent years:

"Opinion is divided over what the phenomenon means: for traditionalists the rising numbers portend the breakdown of society while, for some modernists, they speak of a healthy new empowerment for women."[10]

Although child marriage was outlawed in 1860, it is continued to be practiced in some rural parts of India.[11] According to UNICEF’s “State of the World’s Children-2009” report, 47% of India's women aged 20-24 were married before the legal age of 18, with 56% in rural areas.[12] The report also showed that 40% of the world's child marriages occur in India.[13]

Indian names are based on a variety of systems and naming conventions, which vary from region to region. Names are also influenced by religion and caste and may come from religion or epics. India's population speaks a wide variety of languages.

Woman's role in the society is often to perform household works and pro bono community work.[5] Women and women's issues appear only 7-14% of the time in news programs.[5] In most Indian families, women do not own any property in their own names, and do not get a share of parental property.[14] Due to weak enforcement of laws protecting them, women continue to have little access to land and property.[15] In many families, especially rural ones, the girls and women face nutritional discrimination within the family, and are anaemic and malnourished.[14]

Traditional Hindu art, such as Rangoli (or Kolam), is very popular among Indian women. Popular and influential woman's magazines include Femina, Grihshobha and Woman's Era.

[edit] Animals

Cows depicted in the decorated goppuram of the Kapaleeshwarar temple in Chennai

The varied and rich wildlife of India has had a profound impact on the region's popular culture. Common name for wilderness in India is Jungle which was adopted by the British colonialists to the English language. The word has been also made famous in The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. India's wildlife has been the subject of numerous other tales and fables such as the Panchatantra and the Jataka tales.[16]

In Hinduism, cow is regarded as a symbol of ahimsa (non-violence), mother goddess and bringer of good fortune and wealth.[17] For this reason, cows are revered in Hindu culture and feeding a cow is seen as an act of worship.[18] The slaughtering of cows is banned throughout India except in two states: West Bengal and Kerala. Cows are routinely shipped to these provinces for slaughter, even though it is illegal to transport cows for slaughter across provincial borders.[19] The issue of slaughtering of cows has caused friction between Muslim and Hindu communities in India in the past.[20]

[edit] Customs

Namaste, Namaskar or Namaskaram is a common spoken greeting or salutation in the Indian subcontinent. Namaskar is considered a slightly more formal version than namaste but both express deep respect. It is commonly used in India and Nepal by Hindus, Jains and Buddhists, and many continue to use this outside the Indian subcontinent. In Indian and Nepali culture, the word is spoken at the beginning of written or verbal communication. However, the same hands folded gesture is made wordlessly upon departure. In yoga, namaste is said to mean "The light in me honors the light in you," as spoken by both the yoga instructor and yoga students.

Taken literally, it means "I bow to you". The word is derived from Sanskrit (namas): to bow, obeisance, reverential salutation, and respectand (te): "to you".

When spoken to another person, it is commonly accompanied by a slight bow made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards, in front of the chest. The gesture can also be performed wordlessly and carry the same meaning.

Diwali, a festival of lights, is celebrated by Hindus across India by lighting diyas and making rangolis.

[edit] Festivals

India, being a multi-cultural and multi-religious society, celebrates holidays and festivals of various religions. The three national holidays in India, the Independence Day, the Republic Day and the Gandhi Jayanti, are celebrated with zeal and enthusiasm across India. In addition, many states and regions have local festivals depending on prevalent religious and linguistic demographics. Popular religious festivals include the Hindu festivals of Diwali, Ganesh Chaturthi, Durga puja, Holi, Rakshabandhan and Dussehra. Several harvest festivals, such as Sankranthi, Pongal and Onam, are also fairly popular. Certain festivals in India are celebrated by multiple religions. Notable examples include Diwali which celebrated by Hindus, Sikhs and Jains and Buddh Purnima which is celebrated by Buddhists and Hindus. Islamic festivals, such Eid ul-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and Ramadan, are celebrated by Muslims across India.

[edit] Cuisine

A variety of Indian curries and vegetable dishes.

The multiple families of Indian cuisine are characterized by their sophisticated and subtle use of many spices and herbs. Each family of this cuisine is characterized by a wide assortment of dishes and cooking techniques. Though a significant portion of Indian food is vegetarian, many traditional Indian dishes also include chicken, goat, lamb, fish, and other meats.

Food is an important part of Indian culture, playing a role in everyday life as well as in festivals. Indian cuisine varies from region to region, reflecting the varied demographics of the ethnically diverse subcontinent. Generally, Indian cuisine can be split into four categories: North, South, East, and West Indian. Despite this diversity, some unifying threads emerge. Varied uses of spices are an integral part of food preparation, and are used to enhance the flavor of a dish and create unique flavors and aromas. Cuisine across India has also been influenced by various cultural groups that entered India throughout history, such as the Persians, Mughals, and European colonists. Though the tandoor originated in Central Asia, Indian tandoori dishes, such as chicken tikka made with Indian ingredients, enjoy widespread popularity.[21]

Indian cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines across the globe.[22] Historically, Indian spices and herbs were one of the most sought after trade commodities. The spice trade between India and Europe led to the rise and dominance of Arab traders to such an extent that European explorers, such as Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus, set out to find new trade routes with India leading to the Age of Discovery.[23] The popularity of curry, which originated in India, across Asia has often led to the dish being labeled as the "pan-Asian" dish.[24]

[edit] Clothing

A girl from Tripura sports a bindi while preparing to take part in a traditional dance festival.

Traditional Indian clothing for women are the saris and also Ghaghra Cholis (Lehengas). For men, traditional clothes are the Dhoti, pancha/ veshti or Kurta. Bombay, also known as Mumbai, is one of India's fashion capitals. In some village parts of India, traditional clothing mostly will be worn. Delhi, Mumbai,Chennai, Ahmedabad, and Pune are all places for people who like to shop. In southern India the men wear long, white sheets of cloth called dhoti in English and in Tamil. Over the dhoti, men wear shirts, t-shirts, or anything else. Women wear a sari, a long sheet of colourful cloth with patterns. This is draped over a simple or fancy blouse. This is worn by young ladies and woman. Little girls wear a pavada. A pavada is a long skirt worn under a blouse. Both are often gaily patterned. Bindi is part of the women's make-up. Traditionally, the red bindi (or sindhur) was worn only by the married Hindu women, but now it has become a part of women's fashion.[25] Indo-western clothing is the fusion of Western and Subcontinental fashion. Churidar, Dupatta, Gamchha, Kurta, Mundum Neriyathum, Sherwani,uttariya are among other clothes.

[edit] Literature

[edit] History

The earliest works of Indian literature were orally transmitted. Sanskrit literature begins with the Rig Veda a collection of sacred hymns dating to the period 1500–1200 BCE. The Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata appeared towards the end of the first millennium BCE. Classical Sanskrit literature flourished in the first few centuries of the first millennium CE, as did the Tamil Sangam literature.

In the medieval period, literature in Kannada and Telugu appears in the 9th and 11th centuries respectively,[27] followed by the first Malayalam works in the 12th century. During this time, literature in the Bengali, Marathi, and various dialects of Hindi, Persian and Urdu began to appear as well.

Some of the most important authors from India are Rabindranath Tagore, Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar', Subramania Barathi, Kuvempu, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay, Michael Madhusudan Dutt, Munshi Premchand, Muhammad Iqbal, Devaki Nandan Khatri became well known. In contemporary India, among the writers who have received critical acclaim are: Girish Karnad, Agyeya, Nirmal Verma, Kamleshwar, Vaikom Muhammad Basheer, Indira Goswami, Mahasweta Devi, Amrita Pritam, Maasti Venkatesh Ayengar, Qurratulain Hyder and Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai and others have received critical acclaim.

In contemporary Indian literature, there are two major literary awards; these are the Sahitya Akademi Fellowship and the Jnanpith Award. Seven Jnanpith awards each have been awarded in Kannada, six in Hindi, five in Bengali, four in Malayalam, three each in and Marathi, Gujarati, Urdu and Oriya.[28]

[edit] Poetry

Illustration of the Battle of Kurukshetra. With more than 74,000 verses, long prose passages, and about 1.8 million words in total, the Mahābhārata is one of the longest epic poems in the world.

India has strong traditions of poetry ever since the Rigveda, as well as prose compositions. Poetry is often closely related to musical traditions, and much of poetry can be attributed to religious movements. Writers and philosophers were often also skilled poets. In modern times, poetry has served as an important non-violent tool of nationalism during the Indian freedom movement. A famous modern example of this tradition can be found in such figures as Rabindranath Tagore and K. S. Narasimhaswamy in modern times and poets such as Basava (vachanas) , Kabir and Purandaradasa (padas and devaranamas) in medieval times, as well as the epics of ancient times. Two examples of poetry from Tagore's Gitanjali serve as the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh.

[edit] Epics

The Ramayana and Mahabharata are the oldest preserved and still well-known epics of India; some of their versions have been adopted as the epics of Southeast Asian countries like Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia. In addition, there are five epics in the classical Tamil language -they being Silappadhikaram, Manimegalai, Seevaga-chintamani, Valayaapathi, Kundalakesi. Other regional variations of them as well as unrelated epics include the Tamil Kamba Ramayanam, in Kannada, the Pampa Bharata by Adikavi Pampa, Torave Ramayana by Kumara Valmiki and Karnata Bharata KathaManjari by Kumaravyasa, Hindi Ramacharitamanasa, Malayalam Adhyathmaramayanam.

[edit] Performing arts

[edit] Music

Panchavadyam temple music in Kerala.

The music of India includes multiples varieties of religious, folk, popular, pop, and classical music. The oldest preserved examples of Indian music are the melodies of the Samaveda that are still sung in certain Vedic Śrauta sacrifices. India's classical music tradition is heavily influenced by Hindu texts. It includes Carnatic and Hindustani music and is noted for the use of several Raga, has a history spanning millennia, and, developed over several eras, remains instrumental to the religious inspiration, cultural expression and pure entertainment. Alongside distinctly subcontinental forms, there are some similarities with other types of Oriental music.

Purandaradasa is considered the "father of carnatic music" (Karnataka sangeeta pitamaha).[29][30][31] He concluded his songs with a salutation to Lord Purandara Vittala and is believed to have composed as many as 475,000[32] songs in the Kannada language. However, only about 1000 are known today.[33][29]

[edit] Dance

Odissi dancer Monalisa Ghosh in front of the sun temple in Konark.

Indian dance too has diverse folk and classical forms. Among the well-known folk dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of Jharkhand and Orissa, the ghoomar of Rajasthan, the dandiya and garba of Gujarat, the Yakshagana of Karnataka and lavani of Maharashtra and Dekhnni of Goa. Eight dance forms, many with narrative forms and mythological elements, have been accorded classical dance status by India's National Academy of Music, Dance, and Drama. These are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh, kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, manipuri of Manipur, odissi of the state of Orissa and the sattriya of Assam.[34]

Kalarippayattu or Kalari for short is considered one of the world's oldest martial art. It is preserved in texts such as the Mallapurana. Kalari and other later formed martial arts have been assumed by some to have traveled to China, like Buddhism, and eventually developing into Kung-fu. Other later martial arts are Gatka,Pehlwani,and Malla-yuddha. There have been many great practitioners of Indian martial Arts including Bodhidharma who supposedly brought Indian martial arts to China.

[edit] Drama and theater

Natyacarya Mani Madhava Chakyar as Ravana in Bhasa's Abhiṣeka Nataka Kutiyattam - one of the oldest surviving drama tradition of the world.

Indian drama and theater has a long history alongside its music and dance. Kalidasa's plays like Shakuntala and Meghadoota are some of the older plays, following those of Bhasa. One of the oldest surviving theatre tradition of the world is the 2000 year old Kutiyattam of Kerala. It strictly follows the Natya Shastra[35]. The dramas of Bhasa are very popular in this art form. Nātyāchārya (late) Padma Shri Māni Mādhava Chākyār- the unrivaled maestro of this art form and Abhinaya, revived the age old drama tradition from extinction. He was known for mastery of Rasa Abhinaya. He started to perform the Kalidasa plays like Abhijñānaśākuntala, Vikramorvaśīya and Mālavikāgnimitra ; Bhasa's Swapnavāsavadatta and Pancharātra; Harsha's Nagananda in Kutiyattam form[36][37]

The tradition of folk theater is popular in most linguistic regions of India. In addition, there is a rich tradition of puppet theater in rural India, going back to at least the second century BCE. (It is mentioned in Patanjali's commentary on Panini). Group Theater is also thriving in the cities, initiated by the likes of Gubbi Veeranna[38] Utpal Dutt, Khwaja Ahmad Abbas, K. V. Subbanna and still maintained by groups like Nandikar, Ninasam and Prithvi much DRAMA

[edit] Visual arts

[edit] Painting

The earliest Indian paintings were the rock paintings of pre-historic times, the petroglyphs as found in places like Bhimbetka, some of which go back to the Stone Age. Ancient texts outline theories of darragh and anecdotal accounts suggesting that it was common for households to paint their doorways or indoor rooms where guests resided.

Cave paintings from Ajanta, Bagh, Ellora and Sittanavasal and temple paintings testify to a love of naturalism. Most early and medieval art in India is Hindu, Buddhist or Jain. A freshly made coloured flour design (Rangoli) is still a common sight outside the doorstep of many (mostly South Indian) Indian homes.

Madhubani painting, Mysore painting, Rajput painting, Tanjore painting, Mughal painting are some notable Genres of Indian Art; while Raja Ravi Varma, Nandalal Bose, Geeta Vadhera,Jamini Roy and B.Venkatappa[39] are some modern painters. Among the present day artists, Atul Dodiya, Bose Krishnamacnahri, Devajyoti Ray and Shibu Natesan represent a new era of Indian art where global art shows direct amalgamation with Indian classical styles. These recent artists have acquired international recognition. Devajyoti Ray's paintings have been acquired by the National Fine Arts Museum in Cuba and so have been the works of some of the new generation artists.

Jehangir Art Gallery, Mumbai, Mysore Palace has on display several good Indian paintings.

[edit] Sculpture

Hindu sculptures at the famous Khajuraho temple in Madhya Pradesh.

The first sculptures in India date back to the Indus Valley civilization, where stone and bronze figures have been discovered. Later, as Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism developed further, India produced some extremely intricate bronzes as well as temple carvings. Some huge shrines, such as the one at Ellora were not constructed by using blocks but carved out of solid rock.

Sculptures produced in the northwest, in stucco, schist, or clay, display a very strong blend of Indian and Classical Hellenistic or possibly even Greco-Roman influence. The pink sandstone sculptures of Mathura evolved almost simultaneously. During the Gupta period (4th to 6th century) sculpture reached a very high standard in execution and delicacy in modeling. These styles and others elsewhere in India evolved leading to classical Indian art that contributed to Buddhist and Hindu sculpture throughout Southeast Central and East Asia.

[edit] Architecture

The Umaid Bhawan Palace in Rajasthan, one of the largest private residences in the world.[40]

Indian architecture encompasses a multitude of expressions over space and time, constantly absorbing new ideas. The result is an evolving range of architectural production that nonetheless retains a certain amount of continuity across history. Some of its earliest production are found in the Indus Valley Civilization (2600-1900 BCE) which is characterised by well planned cities and houses. Religion and kingship do not seem to have played an important role in the planning and layout of these towns.

During the period of the Maurya and Gupta empires and their successors, several Buddhist architectural complexes, such as the caves of Ajanta and Ellora and the monumental Sanchi Stupa were built. Later on, South India produced several Hindu temples like Chennakesava Temple at Belur, the Hoysaleswara Temple at Halebidu, and the Kesava Temple at Somanathapura, Brihadeeswara Temple, Thanjavur, the Sun Temple, Konark, Sri Ranganathaswamy Temple at Srirangam, and the Buddha stupa (Chinna Lanja dibba and Vikramarka kota dibba) at Bhattiprolu. Angkor Wat, Borobudur and other Buddhist and Hindu temples indicate strong Indian influence on South East Asian architecture, as they are built in styles almost identical to traditional Indian religious buildings.

With the advent of Islamic influence from the west, Indian architecture was adapted to allow the traditions of the new religion. Fatehpur Sikri, Taj Mahal, Gol Gumbaz, Qutub Minar, Red Fort of Delhi are creations of this era, and are often used as the stereotypical symbols of India. The colonial rule of the British Empire saw the development of Indo-Saracenic style, and mixing of several other styles, such as European Gothic. The Victoria Memorial or the Victoria Terminus are notable examples. Recent creations such as the Lotus Temple, and the various modern urban developments of India, are notable.

The traditional system of Vaastu Shastra serves as India's version of Feng Shui, influencing town planning, architecture, and ergonomics. It is unclear which system is older, but they contain certain similarities. Feng Shui is more commonly used throughout the world. Though Vastu is conceptually similar to Feng Shui in that it also tries to harmonize the flow of energy, (also called life-force or Prana in Sanskrit and Chi/Ki in Chinese/Japanese), through the house, it differs in the details, such as the exact directions in which various objects, rooms, materials, etc. are to be placed.

Indian architecture has influenced eastern and southeastern Asia, due to the spread of Buddhism. A number of Indian architectural features such as the temple mound or stupa, temple spire or sikhara, temple tower or pagoda and temple gate or torana, have become famous symbols of Asian culture, used extensively in East Asia and South East Asia. The central spire is also sometimes called a vimanam. The southern temple gate, or gopuram is noted for its intricacy and majesty.

[edit] Recreation and sports

The annual snake boat race is performed during Onam Celebrations on the Pamba River at Aranmula near Pathanamthitta.

In the area of recreation and sports India had evolved a number of games. The modern eastern martial arts originated as ancient games and martial arts in India, and it is believed by some that these games were transmitted to foreign countries, where they were further adapted and modernized. A few games introduced during the British Raj have grown quite popular in India, field hockey, football (soccer) and especially cricket.

Although field hockey is India's official national sport, cricket is by far the most popular sport not only in India, but the entire subcontinent, thriving recreationally and professionally. Cricket has even been used recently as a forum for diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan. The two nations' cricket teams face off annually and such contests are quite impassioned on both sides. Traditional indigenous sports include kabaddi and gilli-danda, which are played in most parts of the country. Indoor and outdoor games like Chess, Snakes and Ladders, Playing cards, Polo, Carrom, Badminton are popular. Chess was invented in India.

Games of strength and speed flourished in India. In ancient India stones were used for weights, marbles, and dice. Ancient Indians competed in chariot racing, archery, horsemanship, military tactics, wrestling, weight lifting, hunting, swimming and running races.

[edit] Popular media

[edit] Television

Indian television started off in 1959 in New Delhi with tests for educational telecasts.[41] Indian small screen programming started off in the mid 1970s. At that time there was only one national channel Doordarshan, which was government owned. 1982 saw revolution in TV programming in India, with the New Delhi Asian games, India saw the colour version of TV, that year. The Ramayana and Mahabharat were some among the popular television series produced. By the late 1980s more and more people started to own television sets. Though there was a single channel, television programming had reached saturation. Hence the government opened up another channel which had part national programming and part regional. This channel was known as DD 2 later DD Metro. Both channels were broadcasted terrestrially.

In 1991, the government liberated its markets, opening them up to cable television. Since then, there has been a spurt in the number of channels available. Today, Indian silver screen is a huge industry by itself, and has thousands of programmes in all the states of India. The small screen has produced numerous celebrities of their own kind some even attaining national fame for themselves. TV soaps are extremely popular with housewives as well as working women, and even men of all kinds. Some small time actors have made it big in Bollywood. Indian TV has evolved to be similar to Western TV, including stations such as Cartoon Network, Nickelodeon, and MTV India.

[edit] Cinema

Shooting of a Bollywood dance number.

Bollywood is the informal name given to the popular Mumbai-based film industry in India. Bollywood and the other major cinematic hubs (Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu) constitute the broader Indian film industry, whose output is considered to be the largest in the world in terms of number of films produced and number of tickets sold.

Besides the commercial films, India has also produced many critically acclaimed cinema-makers like Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Guru Dutt, K. Vishwanath, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Girish Kasaravalli, Shekhar Kapoor, Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Shankar Nag, Girish Karnad, G. V. Iyer, etc. (See Indian film directors). In fact, with the opening up of the economy in the recent years and consequent exposure to world cinema, audience tastes have been changing. In addition, multiplexes have mushroomed in most cities, changing the revenue patterns.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009



History of India
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History of India
Stone Age 70,000–3300 BCE
• Mehrgarh Culture • 7000–3300 BCE
Indus Valley Civilization 3300–1700 BCE
Late Harappan Culture 1700–1300 BCE
Vedic Civilization 2000–600 BCE
Iron Age 1200–1 BCE
• Maha Janapadas • 700–300 BCE
• Magadha Empire • 545–550 BCE
• Nanda Empire • 550-322 BCE
• Maurya Empire • 321–184 BCE
• Sunga Empire • 185-73 BCE
• Kharavela Empire • 209–170 BCE
• Indo-Scythian Kingdom • 200 BC–400 CE
• Chera Kingdom • 300 BCE–1200 CE
• Chola Empire • 300 BCE–1279 CE
• Pandyan Empire • 250 BCE–1345 CE
• Satavahana Empire • 230 BCE–220 CE
Middle Kingdoms 1CE–1279 CE
• Kushan Empire • 60–240 CE
• Gupta Empire • 280–550
• Kadamba Empire • 345–525
• Pallava Kingdom • 400–900
• Harsha Empire • 590-647
• Pala Empire • 750–1174
• Chalukya Empire • 543–753
• Pratihara Empire • 600–1100
• Rashtrakuta Empire • 753–982
• Western Chalukya Empire • 973–1189
• Yadava Empire • 850–1334
• Hoysala Empire • 1040–1346
• Kakatiya Empire • 1083–1323
Islamic Sultanates 1206–1596
• Delhi Sultanate • 1206–1526
• Deccan Sultanates • 1490–1596
Ahom Kingdom 1228–1826
Vijayanagara Empire 1336–1646
Mysore Kingdom 1399–1947
Mughal Empire 1526–1858
Maratha Empire 1674–1818
Sikh Confederacy 1716–1799
Sikh Empire 1799–1849
Company rule in India 1757–1858
British India 1858–1947
Partition of India 1947
Nation histories
Afghanistan • Bangladesh • Bhutan • India
Maldives • Nepal • Pakistan • Sri Lanka
Regional histories
Assam • Bihar • Balochistan • Bengal
Himachal Pradesh • Orissa • Pakistani Regions
Punjab • South India • Tibet
Specialised histories
Coinage • Dynasties • Economy
Indology • Language • Literature • Maritime
Military • Science and Technology • Timeline
This box: view • talk • edit

This article is about the history of the Indian Subcontinent prior to the Partition of British India in 1947. For the history of the modern Republic of India, see History of the Republic of India. For the histories of Pakistan and Bangladesh see History of Pakistan and History of Bangladesh. Also for South India see History of South India.

The known history of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization, which spread and flourished in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent, from c. 3300 to 1300 BCE. Its Mature Harappan period lasted from 2600-1900 BCE. This Bronze Age civilization collapsed at the beginning of the second millennium BCE and was followed by the Iron Age Vedic period, which extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic plains and which witnessed the rise of major kingdoms known as the Mahajanapadas. In one of these kingdoms Magadha, Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born in the 6th century BCE, who propagated their Shramanic philosophies among the masses.

Later, successive empires and kingdoms ruled the region and enriched its culture - from the Achaemenid Persian empire[1] around 543 BCE, to Alexander the Great[2] in 326 BCE. The Indo-Greek Kingdom, founded by Demetrius of Bactria, included Gandhara and Punjab from 184 BCE; it reached its greatest extent under Menander, establishing the Greco-Buddhist period with advances in trade and culture.

The subcontinent was united under the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. It subsequently became fragmented, with various parts ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next ten centuries. Its northern regions were united once again in the 4th century CE, and remained so for two centuries thereafter, under the Gupta Empire. This period, of Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known among its admirers as the "Golden Age of India." During the same time, and for several centuries afterwards, Southern India, under the rule of the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas, experienced its own golden age, during which Indian civilization, administration, culture, and religion (Hinduism and Buddhism) spread to much of Asia.

Kerala had maritime business links with the Roman Empire from around AD 77. Muslim rule in the subcontinent began in 712 CE when the Arab general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan in southern Punjab,[3] setting the stage for several successive invasions between the 10th and 15th centuries CE from Central Asia, leading to the formation of Muslim empires in the Indian subcontinent, including the Ghaznavid, the Ghorid, the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire. Mughal rule came to cover most of the northern parts of the subcontinent. Mughal rulers introduced middle-eastern art and architecture to India. In addition to the Mughals, several independent Hindu states, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, the Maratha Empire, the Ahom Kingdom and various Rajput kingdoms, flourished contemporaneously, in Western, Southern and North-Eastern India respectively. The Mughal Empire suffered a gradual decline in the early eighteenth century, which provided opportunities for the Afghans, Balochis and Sikhs to exercise control over large areas in the northwest of the subcontinent until the British East India Company[4] gained ascendancy over South Asia.

Beginning in the mid-18th century and over the next century, India was gradually annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the First War of Indian Independence, after which India was directly administered by the British Crown and witnessed a period of both rapid development of infrastructure and economic decline.

During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress, and later joined by the Muslim League. The subcontinent gained independence from Great Britain in 1947, after being partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan.

* 1 Pre-Historic Era
o 1.1 Stone Age
o 1.2 Bronze Age
+ 1.2.1 Vedic period
o 1.3 The Mahajanapadas
o 1.4 Persian and Greek invasions
* 2 Maurya Period
* 3 Early Middle Kingdoms — The Golden Age
* 4 Northwestern hybrid cultures
o 4.1 Roman trade with India
o 4.2 Gupta Dynasty
* 5 Late Middle Kingdoms — The Classical Age
* 6 The Islamic Sultanates
o 6.1 Delhi Sultanate
o 6.2 The Mughal era
* 7 Post-Mughal Regional Kingdoms
* 8 Colonial era
o 8.1 The British Raj
* 9 The Indian Independence movement
* 10 Independence and Partition
* 11 See also
* 12 References
* 13 Further reading
* 14 External links

Pre-Historic Era

Stone Age
Main article: South Asian Stone Age
Further information: Mehrgarh and Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka
Bhimbetka rock painting

Isolated remains of Homo erectus in Hathnora in the Narmada Valley in Central India indicate that India might have been inhabited since at least the Middle Pleistocene era, somewhere between 200,000 to 500,000 years ago.[5][6] Though most traces of the out of Africa migration along the shores of the Indian Ocean seem to have been lost. Due to flooding in the post-Ice Age period, recent finds in Tamil Nadu (at c. 75,000 years ago, before and after the explosion of the Toba volcano) indicate the presence of the first anatomically modern humans in the area. The Mesolithic period in the Indian subcontinent covered a timespan of around 25,000 years, starting around 30,000 years ago. More extensive settlement of the subcontinent occurred after the end of the last Ice Age, or approximately 12,000 years ago. The first confirmed permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago in the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in modern Madhya Pradesh, India. Early Neolithic culture in South Asia is represented by the Mehrgarh findings (7000 BCE onwards) in present day Balochistan, Pakistan. Traces of a Neolithic culture have been found submerged in the Gulf of Khambat in India, radiocarbon dated to 7500 BCE.[7] Late Neolithic cultures sprang up in the Indus Valley region between 6000 and 2000 BCE and in southern India between 2800 and 1200 BCE.

The region of the subcontinent that is now the country of Pakistan has been inhabited continuously for at least two million years.[8][9] The ancient history of the region includes some of South Asia's oldest settlements[10] and some of its major civilizations.[11][12]

The earliest archaeological site in South Asia is the palaeolithic hominid site in the Soan River valley.[13] Village life began with the Neolithic site of Mehrgarh,[14] while the first urban civilization of the region was the Indus Valley Civilization,[15] with major sites at Mohenjo Daro, Lothal and Harappa.[16]

Bronze Age
Main article: Indus Valley Civilization
See also: Economic history of India and Timeline of the economy of India
Ancient Lothal as envisaged by the Archaeological Survey of India.
"Priest King" of Indus Valley Civilization

The Bronze Age on the Indian subcontinent began around 3300 BCE with the beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization. It was centered on the Indus River and its tributaries which extended into the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley,[11] the Ganges-Yamuna Doab,[17] Gujarat,[18] and northern Afghanistan.[19]

The civilization is primarily located in modern day India (Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and Rajasthan provinces) and today's Pakistan (Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan provinces). Historically part of Ancient India, it is one of the world's earliest urban civilizations along with Mesopotamia and Ancient Egypt. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley, the Harappans, developed new techniques in metallurgy and produced copper, bronze, lead and tin.

The Indus Valley Civilization which flourished from about 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE marked the beginning of the urban civilization on the subcontinent. The ancient civilization included urban centers such as Dholavira, Kalibangan, Rupar, Rakhigarhi, Lothal in modern day India and Harappa, Ganeriwala, Mohenjo-daro in modern day Pakistan. The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, road-side drainage system and multi-storied houses.

Vedic period
Main article: Vedic period
See also: Vedas, Ramayana, and Mahabharata
Further information: Indo-Aryan and Aryan
Map of North India in the late Vedic period.

The Vedic period is characterized by Indo-Aryan culture associated with the texts of Vedas, sacred to Hindus, which were orally composed in Vedic Sanskrit. The Vedas are some of the oldest extant texts, next to those of Egypt and Mesopotamia. The Vedic period lasted from about 1500 BCE to 500 BCE, laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society. The Aryas established Vedic civilization all over North India, and increasingly so in the Gangetic Plain.

This period was a result of immigrations of Indo-Aryan speaking tribes who called themselves Arya (ārya, Aryans). They overlaid the existing civilizations of local people whom they called Dasyus. The origin of Aryans are disputed, one stream of thought insists on their origin in Central Asia whereas another stream of thought says that they were already living in India since the times before Indus Valley civilisation as evidenced by some of the writings in Rig Veda. The Out of India theory even claims that Aryans emigrated from India to settle all of Central Asia and Europe. The late 19th century "Aryan Invasion theory" has long been substituted by scholars with a more nuanced theory of migrations, various scenarios of which are being presently researched.

Early Vedic society consisted of largely pastoral groups, with late Harappan urbanization having been abandoned.[20] After the Rigveda, Aryan society became increasingly agricultural, and was socially organized around the four Varnas. In addition to the principal texts of Hinduism the Vedas, the core themes of the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are said to have their ultimate origins during this period.[21] Early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part, to the presence of Ochre Coloured Pottery in archaeological findings.[22]
Vaishali was the capital of "Licchavi," world's second republic only after Arwad.[23]

The kingdom of the Kurus[24] corresponds to the Black and Red Ware and Painted Gray Ware culture and the beginning of the Iron Age in Northwestern India, around 1000 BCE with the composition of the Atharvaveda, the first Indian text to mention iron, as śyāma ayas, literally "black metal." The Painted Grey Ware culture spanning much of Northern India was prevalent from about 1100 to 600 BCE.[22] The later part of this period corresponds with an increasing movement away from the prevalent tribal system towards establishment of kingdoms, called Mahajanapadas.

The Mahajanapadas
Gautama Buddha undertaking extreme ascetic practices before his enlightenment on the bank of river Falgu in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India.
Detail of a leaf with, The Birth of Mahavira (the 24th Jain Tirthankara), from the Kalpa Sutra, c.1375-1400.
Adi Shankara, an Indian philosopher who consolidated the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta by using the Upanishads for reference.
The Mahajanapadas were the sixteen most powerful kingdoms and republics of the era, located mainly across the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains, however there were a number of smaller kingdoms stretching the length and breadth of Ancient India.
The stupa of Sariputta at Nalanda University. "The first great university in recorded history."
Main articles: Mahajanapadas and Magadha Empire
Main articles: History of Hinduism, History of Buddhism, and History of Jainism
See also: Adi Shankara, Siddhartha Gautama, and Mahavira
Further information: Upanishads, Indian Religions, Indian philosophy, and Ancient universities of India

In the later Vedic Age, a number of small kingdoms or city states had covered the subcontinent, many mentioned during Vedic, early Buddhist and Jaina literature as far back as 1000 BCE. By 500 BCE, sixteen monarchies and 'republics' known as the Mahajanapadas — Kasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji (or Vriji), Malla, Chedi, Vatsa (or Vamsa), Kuru, Panchala, Machcha (or Matsya), Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara, Kamboja — stretched across the Indo-Gangetic plains from modern-day Afghanistan to Bengal and Maharastra. This period was that of the second major urbanisation in India after the Indus Valley Civilization. Many smaller clans mentioned within early literature seem to have been present across the rest of the subcontinent. Some of these kings were hereditary; other states elected their rulers. The educated speech at that time was Sanskrit, while the dialects of the general population of northern India are referred to as Prakrits. Many of the sixteen kingdoms had coalesced to four major ones by 500/400 BCE, by the time of Siddhartha Gautama. These four were Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala and Magadha.[25]

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 composed in the later Vedic Age and early in this period of the Mahajanapadas (from about 600 - 400 BCE). Upanishads had a substantial effect on Indian philosophy, and were contemporary to the development of Buddhism and Jainism, indicating a golden age of thought in this period. It is believed that in 537 BCE, that Siddhartha Gautama attained the state of "enlightenment", and became known as the 'Buddha' - the elightened one. Around the same time, Mahavira (the 24th Jain Tirthankara according to Jains) propagated a similar theology, that was to later become Jainism.[26] However, Jain orthodoxy believes it predates all known time. The Vedas are believed to have documented a few Jain Tirthankars, and an ascetic order similar to the sramana movement.[27] The Buddha's teachings and Jainism had doctrines inclined toward asceticism, and were preached in Prakrit, which helped them gain acceptance amongst the masses. They have profoundly influenced practices that Hinduism and Indian spiritual orders are associated with namely, vegetarianism, prohibition of animal slaughter and ahimsa (non-violence).

While the geographic impact of Jainism was limited to India, Buddhist nuns and monks eventually spread the teachings of Buddha to Central Asia, East Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.

Persian and Greek invasions
See also: Achaemenid Empire, Greco-Buddhism, Alexander the Great, Nanda Empire, and Gangaridai
Asia in 323BC, the Nanda Empire and Gangaridai Empire in relation to Alexander's Empire and neighbors.

Much of the northwestern Indian Subcontinent (present day Eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan) came under the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire in c. 520 BCE during the reign of Darius the Great, and remained so for two centuries thereafter.[28] In 326 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor and the Achaemenid Empire, reaching the north-west frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. There, he defeated King Puru in the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered much of the Punjab.[29] Alexander's march East put him in confrontation with the Nanda Empire of Magadha and Gangaridai Empire of Bengal. His army, exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing larger Indian armies at the Ganges River, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, was convinced that it was better to return.

The Persian and Greek invasions had important repercussions on Indian civilization. The political systems of the Persians was to influence future forms of governance on the subcontinent, including the administration of the Mauryan dynasty. In addition, the region of Gandhara, or present-day eastern Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan, became a melting pot of Indian, Persian, Central Asian and Greek cultures and gave rise to a hybrid culture, Greco-Buddhism, which lasted until the 5th century CE and influenced the artistic development of Mahayana Buddhism.

Maurya Period
Main article: Maurya Empire
Further information: Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara, and Ashoka the Great
Maurya Empire under Ashoka the Great

The Maurya Empire (322–185 B.C), ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, was geographically extensive, powerful, and a political military empire in ancient India. The great Maurya empire was established by Chandragupta Maurya and this empire was flourished by Ashoka the Great. At its greatest extent, the Empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it reached beyond modern Pakistan, annexing Balochistan and much of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Herat and Kandahar provinces. The Empire was expanded into India's central and southern regions by the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded a big portion of unexplored tribal and forested regions near Kalinga which was won by Ashoka the Great.

Early Middle Kingdoms — The Golden Age
Ancient India during the rise of Sunga Empire and Satavahana Empire.
Kushan Empire of Ancient India.
Chola Empire under Rajendra Chola c. 1030 C.E.
Badami Chalukya Empire
Main article: Middle Kingdoms of India
See also: Satavahanas, Sunga Empire, Kuninda Kingdom, Pallava, Kushan Empire, Kharavela, Western Satraps, Pandyan Kingdom, Chola Empire, Chera dynasty, Kadamba Dynasty, Western Ganga Dynasty, Gurjara Kingdom, Alupas, and Chalukya Empire

The middle period was a time of notable cultural development. The Satavahanas, also known as the Andhras, was a dynasty which ruled in Southern and Central India starting from around 230 BCE. Satakarni, the sixth ruler of the Satvahana dynasty, defeated the Sunga dynasty of North India. Gautamiputra Satakarni was another notable ruler of the dynasty. Kuninda Kingdom was a small Himalayan state that survived from around the 2nd century BCE to roughly the 3rd century CE. The Kushanas invaded north-western 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. The Western Satraps (35-405 CE) were Saka rulers of the western and central part of India. They were the successors of the Indo-Scythians (see below) and contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, and the Satavahana (Andhra) who ruled in Central India.

Different empires such as the Pandyan Kingdom, Chola Dynasty, Chera Dynasty, Kadamba Dynasty, Western Ganga Dynasty, Pallavas and Chalukya Dynasty dominated the southern part of the Indian peninsula, at different periods of time. Several southern kingdoms formed overseas empires that stretched across South East Asia. The kingdoms warred with each other and Deccan states, for domination of the south. Kalabhras, a Buddhist kingdom, briefly interrupted the usual domination of the Cholas, Cheras and Pandyas in the South.

Northwestern hybrid cultures
The founder of the Indo-Greek Kingdom, Demetrius I "the Invincible" (205–171 BCE).
See also: Indo-Greek kingdom, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthian Kingdom, and Indo-Sassanids

The north-western hybrid cultures of the subcontinent included the Indo-Greeks, the Indo-Scythians, the Indo-Parthians, and the Indo-Sassinids. The first of these, the Indo-Greek Kingdom, founded when the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded the region in 180 BCE, extended over various parts of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lasting for almost two centuries, it was ruled by a succession of more than 30 Greek kings, who were often in conflict with each other. The Indo-Scythians was a branch of the Indo-European Sakas (Scythians), who migrated from southern Siberia first into Bactria, subsequently into Sogdiana, Kashmir, Arachosia, Gandhara and finally into India; their kingdom lasted from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century BCE. Yet another kingdom, the Indo-Parthians (also known as Pahlavas) came to control most of present-day Afghanistan and northern Pakistan, after fighting many local rulers such as the Kushan ruler Kujula Kadphises, in the Gandhara region. The Sassanid empire of Persia, who were contemporaries of the Guptas, expanded into the region of present-day Pakistan, where the mingling of Indian and Persian cultures gave birth to the Indo-Sassanid culture.

Roman trade with India
Main article: Roman trade with India
Coin of the Roman emperor Augustus found at the Pudukottai, South India.

Roman trade with India started around 1 CE following the reign of Augustus and his conquest of Egypt, theretofore India's biggest trade partner in the West.

The trade started by Eudoxus of Cyzicus in 130 BCE kept increasing, and according to Strabo (II.5.12.[30]), by the time of Augustus up to 120 ships were setting sail every year from Myos Hormos to India. So much gold was used for this trade, and apparently recycled by the Kushans for their own coinage, that Pliny (NH VI.101) complained about the drain of specie to India:

"India, China and the Arabian peninsula take one hundred million sesterces from our empire per annum at a conservative estimate: that is what our luxuries and women cost us. For what percentage of these imports is intended for sacrifices to the gods or the spirits of the dead?"
—Pliny, Historia Naturae 12.41.84.[31]

These trade routes and harbour are described in detail in the 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.

Gupta Dynasty
Main article: Gupta Empire
See also: Chandra Gupta I, Samudragupta, Chandra Gupta II, Kumaragupta I, and Skandagupta
Further information: Kalidasa, Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma, and Vatsyayana
Further information: Meghadūta, Abhijñānaśākuntala, Kumārasambhava, Panchatantra, Aryabhatiya, Indian numerals, and Kama Sutra
The Gupta Empire
Kalidasa's Sanskrit play Abhijñānaśākuntala is one of the Legacy of the Gupta Empire.

In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Dynasty unified northern India. During this period, known as India's Golden Age of Hindu renaissance, Hindu culture, science and political administration reached new heights. Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II were the most notable rulers of the Gupta dynasty. The earliest available 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. After the collapse of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century, India was again ruled by numerous regional kingdoms. 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.

The White Huns, who seem to have been part of the Hephthalite group, established themselves in Afghanistan by the first half of the fifth century, with their capital at Bamiyan. They were responsible for the downfall of the Gupta dynasty, and thus brought an end to what historians consider a golden age in northern India. Nevertheless, much of the Deccan and southern India were largely unaffected by this state of flux in the north.

Late Middle Kingdoms — The Classical Age
Main article: Middle Kingdoms of India
See also: Harsha, Western Chalukya Empire, Pratihara, Ahom Kingdom, Pala Empire, Eastern Ganga dynasty, Rashtrakuta Empire, Rajputs, Hoysala Empire, Kalachuri, Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri, Kakatiya dynasty, Madurai Nayak Dynasty, Shahi, and Vijayanagara Empire
Pala Empire under Dharmapala Pala Empire under Dharmapala
Pala Empire under Dharmapala

Pala Empire under Devapala

The classical age in India began with the Guptas and the resurgence of the north during Harsha's conquests around the 7th century, and ended with the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in the South, due to pressure from the invaders to the north in the 13th century. This period produced some of India's finest art, considered the epitome of classical development, and the development of the main spiritual and philosophical systems which continued to be in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The Kanauj Triangle was the focal point of empires - the Rashtrakutas of Deccan, the Pratiharas of Malwa then Kannauj, and the Palas of Bengal.

King Harsha of Kannauj succeeded in reuniting northern India during his reign in the 7th century, after the collapse of the Gupta dynasty. His kingdom collapsed after his death. From the 7th to the 9th century, three dynasties contested for control of northern India: the Pratiharas of Malwa and later Kannauj, the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of Deccan. The Sena dynasty would later assume control of the Pala kingdom, and the Pratiharas fragmented into various states. These were the first of the Rajputs, a series of kingdoms which managed to survive in some form for almost a millennium until Indian independence from the British. The first recorded Rajput kingdoms emerged in Rajasthan in the 6th century, and small Rajput dynasties later ruled much of northern India. One Rajput of the Chauhan clan, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, was known for bloody conflicts against the encroaching Islamic Sultanates. The Shahi dynasty ruled portions of eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir from the mid-seventh century to the early eleventh century. Whilst the northern concept of a pan-Indian empire had collapsed at the end of Harsha's empire, the ideal instead shifted to the south. The Chalukya Empire ruled parts of southern and central India from 550 to 750 from Badami, Karnataka and again from 970 to 1190 from Kalyani, Karnataka. The Pallavas of Kanchi were their contemporaries further to the south. With the decline of the Chalukya empire, their feudatories, Hoysalas of Halebidu, Kakatiya of Warangal, Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri and a southern branch of the Kalachuri divided the vast Chalukya empire amongst themselves around the middle of 12th century. Later during the middle period, the Chola kingdom emerged in northern Tamil Nadu, and the Chera kingdom in Kerala. By 1343, all these kingdoms had ceased to exist giving rise to the Vijayanagar empire. Southern Indian kingdoms of the time expanded their influence as far as Indonesia, controlling vast overseas empires in Southeast Asia. The ports of South India were involved in the Indian Ocean trade, chiefly involving spices, with the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east.[32][33] Literature in local vernaculars and spectacular architecture flourished till about the beginning of the 14th century when southern expeditions of the sultan of Delhi took their toll on these kingdoms. The Hindu Vijayanagar dynasty came into conflict with Islamic rule (the Bahmani Kingdom) and the clashing of the two systems, caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign culture that left lasting cultural influences on each other. The Vijaynagar Empire eventually declined due to pressure from the first Delhi Sultanates who had managed to establish themselves in the north, centered around the city of Delhi by that time.

More than 55% of the epigraphical inscriptions, about 55,000, found by the Archaeological Survey of India in India are in Tamil language and 60% from Tamil Nadu alone [34]

The Islamic Sultanates
Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur, has the second largest pre-modern dome in the world after the Byzantine Hagia Sophia.
Main article: Islamic Empires in India
See also: Bahmani Sultanate and Deccan Sultanates

After the Arab invasion of India's ancient western neighbour Persia, expanding forces in that area were keen to invade India, which was the richest classical civilization, with a flourishing international trade and the only known diamond mines in the world. After resistance for a few centuries by various north Indian kingdoms, short lived Islamic empires (Sultanates) were established and spread across the northern subcontinent over a period of a few centuries. But, prior to Turkic invasions, Muslim trading communities had flourished throughout coastal South India, particularly in Kerala, where they arrived in small numbers, mainly from the Arabian peninsula, through trade links via the Indian Ocean. However, this had marked the introduction of an Abrahamic Middle Eastern religion in Southern India's pre-existing dharmic Hindu culture, often in puritanical form. Later, the Bahmani Sultanate and Deccan Sultanates flourished in the south.

Delhi Sultanate
Qutub Minar is the world's tallest brick minaret, commenced by Qutb-ud-din Aybak of the Slave dynasty.
Main article: Delhi Sultanate

In the 12th and 13th centuries, Turkics and Pashtuns invaded parts of northern India and established the Delhi Sultanate at the beginning of the 13th century, in the former Rajput holdings.[35] The subsequent Slave dynasty of Delhi managed to conquer large areas of northern India, approximate to the ancient extent of the Guptas, while the Khilji Empire was also able to conquer most of central India, but were ultimately unsuccessful in conquering and uniting most of the subcontinent. The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion of cultures left lasting syncretic monuments in architecture, music, literature, religion, and clothing. It is surmised that the language of Urdu (literally meaning "horde" or "camp" in various Turkic dialects) was born during the Delhi Sultanate period as a result of the inter-mingling of the local speakers of Sanskritic prakrits with the Persian, Turkic and Arabic speaking immigrants under the Muslim rulers. The Delhi Sultanate is the only Indo-Islamic empire to stake a claim to enthroning one of the few female rulers in India, Razia Sultan (1236-1240).

A Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur began a trek starting in 1398 to invade the reigning Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi.[36] The Sultan's army was defeated on December 17, 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left in ruins.

The Mughal era
Approximate extent of the Mughal Empire in the 17th century.
Taj Mahal, built by the Mughals
Main articles: Mughal era and Mughal Empire
See also: Babur, Humayun, Akbar the Great, Jahangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb

In 1526, Babur, a Timurid descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan, swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which lasted for over 200 years.[37] The Mughal Dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600; it went into a slow decline after 1707 and was finally defeated during the 1857 War of Independence also called the Indian Rebellion of 1857. This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority were ruled over by the Mughal emperors, most of them showed religious tolerance, liberally patronising Hindu culture. The famous emperor Akbar, who was the grandson of Babar, tried to establish a good relationship with the Hindus. However, later emperors such as Aurangazeb tried to establish complete Muslim dominance and as a result several historical temples were destroyed during this period and taxes imposed on non-Muslims. During the decline of the Mughal Empire, which at its peak occupied an area similar to the ancient Maurya Empire, several smaller empires rose to fill the power vacuum or themselves were contributing factors to the decline. The Mughals were perhaps the richest single dynasty to have ever existed. In 1739, Nader Shah defeated the Mughal army at the huge Battle of Karnal. After this victory, Nader captured and sacked Delhi, carrying away many treasures, including the Peacock Throne.[38]

During the Mughal era, the dominant political forces consisted of the Mughal Empire and its tributaries and, later on, the rising successor states - including the Maratha confederacy - who fought an increasingly weak and disfavoured Mughal dynasty. The Mughals, while often employing brutal tactics to subjugate their empire, had a policy of integration with Indian culture, which is what made them successful where the short-lived Sultanates of Delhi had failed. Akbar the Great was particularly famed for this. Akbar declared "Amari" or non-killing of animals in the holy days of Jainism. He rolled back the Jazia Tax for non-Muslims. The Mughal Emperors married local royalty, allied themselves with local Maharajas, and attempted to fuse their Turko-Persian culture with ancient Indian styles, creating unique Indo-Saracenic architecture. It was the erosion of this tradition coupled with increased brutality and centralization that played a large part in their downfall after Aurangzeb, who unlike previous emperors, imposed relatively non-pluralistic policies on the general population, that often inflamed the majority Hindu population.

Post-Mughal Regional Kingdoms
Main articles: Maratha Empire, Kingdom of Mysore, Hyderabad State, Sikh Empire, and Durrani Empire
See also: History of Sikhism
Further information: Shivaji, Tippu Sultan, Nizam, Ranjit Singh, and Ahmad Shah Abdali
The Maratha Empire in 1760. The last Hindu empire of India.
Harmandir Sahib or The Golden Temple is culturally the most significant place of worship for the Sikhs.

The post-Mughal era was dominated by the rise of the Maratha suzerianity as other small regional states (mostly post-Mughal tributary states) emerged, and also by the increasing activities of European powers (see colonial era below). The Maratha Kingdom was founded and consolidated by Shivaji. By the 18th century, it had transformed itself into the Maratha Empire under the rule of the Peshwas. By 1760, the Empire had stretched across practically the entire subcontinent. This expansion was brought to an end by the defeat of the Marathas by an Afghan army led by Ahmad Shah Abdali at the Third Battle of Panipat (1761). The last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War.

Mysore was a kingdom of southern India, which was founded around 1400 CE by the Wodeyar dynasty. The rule of the Wodeyars was interrupted by Hyder Ali and his son Tippu Sultan. Under their rule Mysore fought a series of wars sometimes against the combined forces of the British and Marathas, but mostly against the British with some aid or promise of aid from the French. Hyderabad was founded by the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda in 1591. Following a brief Mughal rule, Asif Jah, a Mughal official, seized control of Hyderabad declaring himself Nizam-al-Mulk of Hyderabad in 1724. It was ruled by a hereditary Nizam from 1724 until 1948. Both Mysore and Hyderabad became princely states in British India.

The Punjabi kingdom, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity that governed the region of modern day Punjab. This was among the last areas of the subcontinent to be conquered by the British. The Anglo-Sikh wars marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire. Around the 18th century modern Nepal was formed by Gorkha rulers, and the Shahs and the Ranas very strictly maintained their national identity and integrity.

Colonial era
Main article: Colonial India

Vasco da Gama's maritime success to discover for Europeans a new sea route to India in 1498 paved the way for direct Indo-European commerce.[39] The Portuguese soon set up trading-posts in Goa, Daman, Diu and Bombay. The next to arrive were the Dutch, the British—who set up a trading-post in the west-coast port of Surat[40] in 1619—and the French. The internal conflicts among Indian Kingdoms gave opportunities to the European traders to gradually establish political influence and appropriate lands. Although these continental European powers were to control various regions of southern and eastern India during the ensuing century, they would eventually lose all their territories in India to the British islanders, with the exception of the French outposts of Pondicherry and Chandernagore, the Dutch port of Travancore, and the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman, and Diu.

The British Raj
Main article: British Raj

The British East India Company had been given permission by the Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1617 to trade in India.[41] Gradually their increasing influence led the de-jure Mughal emperor Farrukh Siyar to grant them dastaks or permits for duty free trade in Bengal in 1717.[42] The Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah, the de facto ruler of the Bengal province, opposed British attempts to use these permits. This led to the Battle of Plassey in 1757, in which the 'army' of East India Company, led by Robert Clive, defeated the Nawab's forces. This was the first political foothold with territorial implications that the British acquired in India. Clive was appointed by the Company as its first 'Governor of Bengal' in 1757.[43] After the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the Company acquired the civil rights of administration in Bengal from the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II; it marked the beginning of its formal rule, which was to engulf eventually most of India and extinguish the Moghul rule and dynasty itself in a century.[44] The East India Company monopolized the trade of Bengal. They introduced a land taxation system called the Permanent Settlement which introduced a feudal like structure (See Zamindar) in Bengal. By the 1850s, the East India Company controlled most of the Indian sub-continent, which included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their policy was sometimes summed up as Divide and Rule, taking advantage of the enmity festering between various princely states and social and religious groups. During the British Raj, famines in India, often attributed to failed government policies, were some of the worst ever recorded, including the Great Famine of 1876–78, in which 6.1 million to 10.3 million people died[45] and the Indian famine of 1899–1900, in which 1.25 to 10 million people died.[45] The Third Plague Pandemic started in China in the middle of the 19th century, spreading plague to all inhabited continents and killing 10 million people in India alone.[46] Despite persistent diseases and famines, the population of the Indian subcontinent, which stood at about 125 million in 1750, had reached 389 million by 1941.[47]

The first major movement against the British Company's high handed rule resulted in the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the "Indian Mutiny" or "Sepoy Mutiny" or the "First War of Independence". After a year of turmoil, and reinforcement of the East India Company's troops with British soldiers, the British overcame the rebellion. The nominal leader of the uprising, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, was exiled to Burma, his children were beheaded and the Moghul line abolished. In the aftermath all power was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown, which began to administer most of India as a colony; the Company's lands were controlled directly and the rest through the rulers of what it called the Princely states. There were 565 princely states when the Indian subcontinent became independent from Britain in August 1947.[48]

The Indian Independence movement
Main article: Indian independence movement
See also: Mahatma Gandhi
Further information: Freedom fighters of India
Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru in 1937.
Rabindranath Tagore is Asia's first Nobel laureate and composer of India's national anthem.

The first step toward Indian independence and western-style democracy was taken with the appointment of Indian councilors to advise the British viceroy,[49] and with the establishment of provincial Councils with Indian members the councillors' participation was subsequently widened in legislative councils.[50] From 1920 leaders such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began mass movements to campaign against the British Raj. Subash Chandara Bose was another freedom fighter who formed army forces against British rule.Bhagat Singh was also an Indian freedom fighter, considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian independence movement. He is often referred to as Shaheed Bhagat Singh (the word shaheed means "martyr"). Veerapandiya Kattabomman was also another freedom fighter who started his freedom movement against British rule by refusing to pay tax to British Government. Revolutionary activities against the British rule also took place throughout the Indian sub-continent, and these movements succeeded in bringing Independence to the Indian sub-continent in 1947. One year later, Gandhi was assassinated. However, he did live long enough to free his homeland.

Independence and Partition
Main articles: Partition of India and History of the Republic of India
See also: Jawaharlal Nehru, Rabindranath Tagore, and Ramdhari Singh 'Dinkar'

Along with the desire for independence, tensions between Hindus and Muslims had also been developing over the years. The Muslims had always been a minority, and the prospect of an exclusively Hindu government made them wary of independence; they were as inclined to mistrust Hindu rule as they were to resist the Raj. In 1915, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came onto the scene, calling for unity between the two groups in an astonishing display of leadership that would eventually lead the country to independence. The profound impact Gandhi had on India and his ability to gain independence through a totally non-violent mass movement made him one of the most remarkable leaders the world has ever known. He led by example, wearing homespun clothes to weaken the British textile industry and orchestrating a march to the sea, where demonstrators proceeded to make their own salt in protest against the British monopoly. Indians gave him the name Mahatma, or Great Soul, first suggested by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. The British promised that they would leave India by 1947.

British Indian territories gained independence in 1947, after being partitioned into the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan. Following the division of pre-partition Punjab and Bengal provinces, rioting broke out between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in several parts of India, including Punjab, Bengal and Delhi, leaving some 500,000 dead.[51] Also, this period saw one of the largest mass migrations ever recorded in modern history, with a total of 12 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims moving between the newly created nations of India and Pakistan.[51]

See also

* History of South Asia
* History of the Republic of India
* History of Pakistan
* History of Bangladesh
* Indianized kingdom
* Contributions of Indian Civilization
* Economic history of India
* History of Buddhism
* History of Hinduism
* History of Jainism
* History of Sikhism
* Religion in India
* Indian Religions
* Indian philosophy
* Indian maritime history
* Military history of India
* Kingdoms of Ancient India
* Timeline of Indian history
* Historic figures of ancient India
* Indian nationalism
* Harappan mathematics
* Negationism in India - Concealing the Record of Islam
* Muslim conquest in the Indian subcontinent
* Imperialism in Asia#The British in India

India portal

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Further reading

* R.S. Sharma, Aspects of Political Ideas and Institutions in Ancient India, (Motilal Banarsidass, Fifth Revised Edition, Delhi, 2005), ISBN 8120808983. Translated into Hindi and Tamil.
* R.S. Sharma, Sudras in Ancient India: A Social History of the Lower Order Down to Circa A D 600(Motilal Banarsidass, Third Revised Edition, Delhi, 1990; Reprint, Delhi, 2002). Translated into Bengali, Hindi, Telugu, Kannada, Urdu and Marathi (two volumes).
* R.S. Sharma, Perspectives in Social and Economic History of Early India, paperback edn., (Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 2003). Translated into Hindi, Russian and Bengali. Gujrati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu translations projected.
* R.S. Sharma, Material Culture and Social Formations in Ancient India, (Macmillan Publishers, Delhi, 1985). Translated into Hindi, Russian and Bengali. Gujrati, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Tamil and Telugu translations projected.
* R.S. Sharma, Urban Decay in India (c.300-1000), (Munshiram Manoharlal, Delhi, 1987). Translated into Hindi and Bengali.
* R.S. Sharma, Advent of the Aryans in India (Manohar Publishers, Delhi, 2003).
* R.S. Sharma, Early Medieval Indian Society: A Study in Feudalisation (Orient Longman Publishers Pvt. Ltd., Delhi, 2003).
* R.S. Sharma, Looking for the Aryans, (Orient Longman, Madras, 1995, ISBN 8125006311).
* R.S. Sharma, India's Ancient Past, (Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0195687859).
* R.S. Sharma, Indian Feudalism (Macmillan Publishers India Ltd., 3rd Revised Edition, Delhi, 2005).
* R.S. Sharma, The State and Varna Formations in the Mid-Ganga Plains: An Ethnoarchaeological Vew (New Delhi, Manohar, 1996).
* R.S. Sharma, Origin of the State in India (Dept. of History, University of Bombay, 1989)
* R.S. Sharma, Land Revenue in India: Historical Studies, Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi, 1971.
* R.S. Sharma, Light on Early Indian Society and Economy, Manaktala, Bombay, 1966.
* R.S. Sharma, Survey of Research in Economic and Social History of India: a project sponsored by Indian Council of Social Science Research, Ajanta Publishers, 1986.
* R.S. Sharma, Communal History and Rama's Ayodhya, People's Publishing House (PPH), 2nd Revised Edition, September, 1999, Delhi. Translated into Bengali, Hindi, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Two versions in Bengali.
* R.S. Sharma, Social Changes in Early Medieval India (Circa A.D.500-1200), People's Publishing House, Delhi.
* R.S. Sharma, In Defence of "Ancient India", People's Publishing House, Delhi.
* R.S. Sharma, Rahul Sankrityayan and Social Change, Indian History Congress, 1993.
* R.S. Sharma, Indo-European languages and historical problems (Symposia papers), Indian History Congress, 1994.
* R.S. Sharma, Some economic aspects of the caste system in ancient India, Patna, 1952.
* R.S. Sharma, Ancient India, a Textbook for Class XI, National Council of Educational Research and Training, 1980. Translated into Bengali, Hindi, Japanese, Korean, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu and Urdu. Italian and German translations projected. Revised and enlarged book as India's Ancient Past, (Oxford University Press, 2005, ISBN 978-0195687859).
* R.S. Sharma, Transition from antiquity to the Middle Ages in India (K. P. Jayaswal memorial lecture series), Kashi Prasad Jayaswal Research Institute, Patna, 1992.
* R.S. Sharma, A Comprehensive History of India: Volume Four, Part I: the Colas, Calukyas and Rajputs (Ad 985-1206), sponsored by Indian History Congress, People's Publishing House, 1992, Delhi.
* R.S. Sharma, Rethinking India's Past, (Oxford University Press, 2009, ISBN 978-0195697872).
* Allan, J. T. Wolseley Haig, and H. H. Dodwell, The Cambridge Shorter History of India (1934)
* Chandavarkar, Raj. The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India: Business Strategies and the Working Class in Bombay 1900-1940 (1994)
* Cohen, Stephen P. India: Emerging Power (2002)
* Daniélou, Alain. A Brief History of India (2003)
* Das, Gurcharan. India Unbound: The Social and Economic Revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age (2002)
* Elliot, Sir H. M., Edited by Dowson, John. The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period; published by London Trubner Company 1867–1877. (Online Copy: The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period; by Sir H. M. Elliot; Edited by John Dowson; London Trubner Company 1867–1877 - This online Copy has been posted by: The Packard Humanities Institute; Persian Texts in Translation; Also find other historical books: Author List and Title List)
* Keay, John. India: A History (2001)
* Kishore, Prem and Anuradha Kishore Ganpati. India: An Illustrated History (2003)
* Kulke, Hermann and Dietmar Rothermund. A History of India. 3rd ed. (1998)
* Mahajan, Sucheta. Independence and partition: the erosion of colonial power in India, New Delhi [u.a.] : Sage 2000, ISBN 0-7619-9367-3
* R.C. Majumdar, H.C. Raychaudhuri, and Kaukinkar Datta. An Advanced History of India London: Macmillan. 1960. ISBN 0-333-90298-X
* R.C. Majumdar, The History and Culture of the Indian People, New York: The Macmillan Co., 1951.
* Mcleod, John. The History of India (2002)
* Rothermund, Dietmar. An Economic History of India: From Pre-Colonial Times to 1991 (1993)
* Smith, Vincent. The Oxford History of India (1981)
* Spear, Percival. The History of India Vol. 2 (1990)
* Thapar, Romila. Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 (2004)
* von Tunzelmann, Alex. Indian Summer (2007). Henry Holt and Company, New York. ISBN 0-8050-8073-2
* Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India 6th ed. (1999)