A Walk Through the Ages: The History of India
Unlike the great dynasties of ancient Egypt and China, the civilization of Ancient India is still somewhat of a mystery. The cities of this vast empire – which flourished in the Indus River valley thousands of years ago – did not leave much behind: no weapons, temples, or artwork that we could use to tell their story. But what we do know about Ancient India is fascinating. At Toppr, we’ve made an effort to simplify the beautiful history of India. Here we go.
If we were to look at the chronological order, then Indian History can be divided into three periods – Ancient India, Medieval India and Modern India.
It’s crucial to understand that proto-humans (Homo erectus) existed in the Indian subcontinent 20 lakh years (2 million years) ago, and Homo sapiens were present since 70,000 BC. But these people were primarily only hunters.
Statically, the first inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent were tribals like Nagas (North-East), Santhals (East-India), Bhils (Central India), Gonds (Central India), Todas (South India), etc. Most of these tribes were speakers of the Austric, pre-Dravidian languages, such as Munda and Gondvi. Dravidians and Aryans were apparently immigrants who came to the sub-continent later.
We can study ancient India under other periods like Paleolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Chalcolithic period, which are all based on the type of stone/ metal tools people used then. We have tried to define numerous events of all periods under a single umbrella along with some famous personalities or dynasties of that period. Hope you will enjoy going through the archives of Indian history. [You can also read about the history of International Women’s Day here.]
History of India – Paleolithic Period (2 million BC – 10,000 BC)
- Tools were made from lime stone
- Ostrich Eggs were created
- Important Paleolithic sites: Bhimbetka (M.P), Hunsgi, Kurnool Caves, Narmada Valley (Hathnora, M.P), Kaladgi Basin
History of India – Mesolithic Period (10,000 BC – 8,000 BC)
- Drastic changes in climate happened
- Process of domestication of animals started
- Microliths were found at Brahmagiri (Mysore), Narmada, Vindya, Gujarat
History of India – Neolithic Period (8000 BC – 4,000 BC)
- Agricultural processes evolved
- Wheels were discovered
- Inamgaon, a form of village, came into existence
- Crucial Neolithic Sites : Burzahom(Kashmir), Gufkral(Kashmir), Mehrgarh(Pakistan), Chirand(Bihar), Daojali Hading(Tripura/Assam), Koldihwa(UP), Mahagara(UP), Hallur(AP), Paiyampalli(AP), Maski, Kodekal, Sangana Kaller, Utnur, Takkala Kota.
- NB: Megalithic Sites: Brahmagiri, Adichanallur
History of India – Chalcolithic Period (4000 BC – 1,500 BC)
- This was the much-talked-about Copper Age and was a crucial part of the Bronze Age. (Bronze = Copper + Tin)
- Indus Valley Civilization (BC 2700 – BC 1900).
- Cultures got created at Brahmagiri, Navada Toli (Narmada region), Mahishadal (W.Bengal), Chirand (Ganga region)
[Read about the Education Culture in India here.]
History of India – Iron Age (BC 1500 – BC 200)
- This Vedic Period (Arrival of Aryans i.e. BC 1600 – BC 600) lasted for nearly 1000 years and basic books of Hinduism like Vedas were conceptualized, but must have been written down later.
- The beginnings of Jainism and Buddhism
- Mahajanapadas, the major civilization after Indus Valley, happened on the banks of river Ganga
- Magadha empire – Bimbisara of Haryanka Kula
- Sisunga dynasty – Kalasoka (Kakavarnin)
- Nanda empire – Mahapadma-nanda, Dhana-nanda
- Persian – Greek: Alexander 327 BC
History of India – Mauryan Empire (321-185 BC)
Important rulers like Chandra Gupta Maurya, Bindusara, and Asoka of Mauryan Empire created history.
Post-Mauryan Kingdoms (Middle Kingdoms)
- Sunga (181-71 BC), Kanva (71-27BC), Satavahanas (235-100BC), Indo-Greeks, Parthians (19-45AD), Sakas (90BC-150AD), Kushanas(78AD)
- South Indian Kingdoms – Chola, Chera, Pandyas (BC 300)
Gupta Kingdom (300AD – 800AD): Classical Period
One of the most important rulers of Gupta Period was Samudra Gupta (Indian Napoleon).
Post Guptas or Contemporary Guptas
- Harshvardana, Vakatakas, Pallavas, Chalukyas. Also, Hunas, Maitrakas,Rajputs, Senas and Chauhans.
Medieval India (AD 700 – AD 1857)
- AD: 800-1200: This was the era of the tripartite struggle – Prathiharas, Palas, and Rashtrakutas
- Attack of Muhammed Bin Kassim (AD 712)
- Rise of Islam and Sufism
- Mohammed Ghazni (AD 1000-27)
- Mohammed Ghori (AD 1175-1206)
Mughals (AD 1526 – AD 1857)
- Great Mughals
- Later Mughals
Modern India (AD 1857 +)
- First War of Indian Independence (1857)
- Creation of the Indian National Congress (1885)
- Creation of the Muslim League (1906)
- Non-Co-operation Movement (1920)
- Civil Disobedience Movement (1930)
- Quit India Movement (1942)
- Partition of India (1947)
- Constitutional Development of India (1946 – 1950)
- Economic Development of India
- Wars – India-Pak – Formation of Bangladesh; India- China
- New Economic Policy of 1991
- Nuclear, Space and Defense Development
History of India: The Ancient Times!
India is a land of ancient civilization. It’s social, economic, and cultural configurations are the products of a long process of regional expansion. Our history begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are usually described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic age. Hinduism arose in the Vedic period.
Known to be the land of epics and legends, two of the world’s greatest epics find their birth in Indian settings – the Ramayana, depicting the exploits of Lord Ram, and the Mahabharata detailing the war between Kauravas and Pandavas, both descendants of King Bharat.
The fifth century saw the unification of India under Ashoka, who had converted to Buddhism, and it was in his reign that Buddhism spread in many parts of Asia. In the eighth century, Islam came to India for the first time and by the eleventh century, it had firmly established itself in India as a political force. It resulted in the formation of the Delhi Sultanate, which was finally succeeded by the Mughal Empire, under which India once again achieved a large measure of political unity.
It was in the 17th century that the Europeans came to India. This coincided with the disintegration of the Mughal Empire, paving the way for regional states. In the contest for supremacy, the English emerged ‘victors’. The Rebellion of 1857-58, which sought to restore Indian supremacy, was crushed; and with the subsequent crowning of Victoria as Empress of India, the incorporation of India into the empire was complete. It was followed by India’s struggle for independence, which we got in the year 1947.
Let’s check out the turning points and a few highlight of ancient India. Right from the ancient India, which included Bangladesh and Pakistan, to the free and divided India, this timeline covers each and every aspect related to the past.
The Beginning: The Indus Valley Civilization
The History of India begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization, more precisely known as the Harappan Civilization. It flourished around 2,500 BC, in the western part of South Asia, what today is Pakistan and Western India. The Indus Valley was home to the largest of the four ancient urban civilizations of Egypt, Mesopotamia, India and China. Nothing was known about this civilization till the 1920s when the Archaeological Department of India carried out excavations in the Indus valley wherein the ruins of the two old cities, viz. Mohenjodaro and Harappa were unearthed. The ruins of buildings and other things like household articles, weapons of war, gold and silver ornaments, seals, toys, pottery wares, etc., show that some four to five thousand years ago a highly developed civilization flourished in this region.
The Indus valley civilization was basically an urban civilization and the people lived in well-planned and well-built towns, which were also the centers for trade. The ruins of Mohenjodaro and Harappa show that these were magnificent merchant cities – scientifically laid, and well looked after. They had wide roads and a well-developed drainage system. The houses were made of baked bricks and had two or more storeys.
Medieval Indian History
After the death of Harshavardhana, an Indian emperor who ruled North India, the Rajputs came into prominence on the political horizons of North India. The Rajputs were known for their bravery and chivalry but family feuds and strong notions of personal pride often resulted in conflicts. The Rajputs weakened each other by constant wrangling.
Emperor Akbar, also known as Akbar the Great or Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, was the third emperor of the Mughal Empire, after Babur and Humayun. He was the son of Nasiruddin Humayun and succeeded him as the emperor in the year 1556 when he was only 13 years old.
Shah Jahan, also known as Shahbuddin Mohammed Shah Jahan, was a Mughal Emperor who ruled in the Indian Subcontinent from 1628 to 1658. He was the fifth Mughal ruler, after Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir. Shah Jahan succeeded the throne after revolting against his father, Jahangir.
Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the founder of the Maratha Empire in western India. He is considered to be one of the greatest warriors of his time and even today, stories of his exploits are narrated as a part of the folklore. King Shivaji used the guerrilla tactics to capture a part of, the then, dominant Mughal empire.
The History of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. As we already know, these two phases are generally described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic periods. The earliest literary source that sheds light on India’s past is the Rig Veda. It is difficult to date this work with any accuracy on the basis of tradition and ambiguous astronomical information contained in the hymns.
Modern Indian History
Even though India is the oldest nation in the world as per history, it has been unique at every stage. Our country’s past is one of the most complicated of its kind in the world. Every region in the nation has its own separate history. Whether we talk about Delhi in the north, Kamrupa in the east, or Tamil Nadu in the south, all of them have a historical background, but they are still joined by a common bond.
During the late 16th and the 17th Centuries, the European trading companies in India competed with each other ferociously. By the last quarter of the 18th Century, the English had outdone all others and established themselves as the dominant power in India. The British administered India for a period of about two centuries and brought about revolutionary changes in the social, political and the economic life of the country.
Firstly, the European presence in India goes back to the sixteenth century, and it was very early in the eighteenth century that the Mughal Empire started to disintegrate, thus paving the way for regional states. To prove their supremacy, the English emerged victors and their rule started with conquests at the battlefields of Plassey and Buxar. The important event is the Rebellion of 1857-58, which restored the Indian supremacy, but was eventually crushed, with the following crowning of Victoria as the Empress of India.
During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and later joined the Muslim League. So, by the beginning of the twentieth century, a nationalist movement had emerged; and by 1919-20, Mohandas Karamchand (‘Mahatma’) Gandhi had come to the forefront and he was virtually the undisputed leader of this movement. He was certainly the most well-known and formidable architect of the freedom movement. There were devastating incidents like the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and other similar events, which made Gandhi lead a series of protests. His willpower grew and created a huge following. He also had called for a nation-wide non-cooperation movement and boycott of all British goods and services. Mahatma Gandhi revived Indian virtues again, breathing new life into them, during India’s freedom struggle against British Colonialism. An ardent believer in communal harmony, he dreamt of a land where all religions would be the threads to form a rich social fabric.
After the period of “Great Depression” in 1930, the British government increased the taxes in India and as a result, Indians paid unfair taxes on items like salt. Because of this, movements such as “Salt March” or “the Dandi Satyagraha” happened. The march took place from Sabarmati to Dandi. In fact, Gandhi even cooked salt and was eventually arrested, which made Indians very furious, leading to a nation-wide agitation.
It also attracted the attention of the whole world, with the atrocities perpetrated by the British government being witnessed by the whole world. About sixty thousand people were imprisoned and, as result, the government withdrew the levy.
Then the popular “Quit India” movement happened, and it was followed by massive boycotts and civil disobedience. Many citizens were arrested in the protests, which completely disrupted the British trade, especially around the Indian Ocean.
These changes were the reason behind the call for independence in 1947. All the strong successive campaigns resulted in driving the British out of India in 1947. But they still managed to divide the country and lead to the partition, which created the Muslim-majority state of Pakistan.
The first prime minister of free and government of India was Jawaharlal Nehru, who took to the office from 1947 until his death in 1964. India has always been a blooming parliamentary democracy, apart from that short period of two years from 1975-77, when an internal emergency was suddenly imposed by the then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and constitutional liberties were suspended.
The history of India is intriguing, isn’t it? Hope you enjoyed reading this article. We’ll make sure that we keep you updated with more such informative pieces in our upcoming posts.
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