History of India
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This article is about the history of the Indian subcontinent prior to the partition of India in 1947.
For the modern Republic of India, see History of the Republic of India. For Pakistan and
Bangladesh, see History of Pakistan and History of Bangladesh.
"Indian history" redirects here. For other uses, see Native American history.
Part of a series on the
History of India
Chronology of Indian history
Prehistoric India and Vedic India
Religions, Society, Mahajanapadas
Economy, Spread of Buddhism,
Chanakya, Satavahana Empire
The Golden Age
The Classical Age
Art, Philosophy, Literature
Islam in India
Delhi Sultanate, Vijayanagara Empire,
Music, Guru Nanak
Zamindari system, Warren Hastings,
Mangal Pandey, 1857
British Indian Empire
Hindu reforms, Bengal Renaissance,
Independence struggle, Mahatma Gandhi Subhas
• Outline of South Asian history
• History of Indian subcontinent
Stone age (7000–3000 BC)[show]
Bronze age (3000–1300 BC)[show]
Iron age (1700–26 BC)[show]
Middle Kingdoms (1–1279 AD)[show]
Late medieval age (1206–1596 AD)[show]
Early modern period (1526–1858 AD)[show]
Other states (1102–1947 AD)[show]
Colonial period (1505–1961 AD)[show]
Kingdoms of Sri Lanka[show]
The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Homo sapiens, as long as 75,000
years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago.
Indus Valley Civilisation, which spread and flourished in the northwestern part of the Indian
subcontinent from c. 3300 to 1300 BCE in present-day Pakistan and northwest India, was the
first major civilisation in South Asia.
A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban
culture developed in the Mature Harappan period, from 2600 to 1900 BCE.
This Bronze Age civilisation collapsed before the end of the second millennium BCE and was
followed by the Iron Age Vedic Civilisation, which extended over much of the Indo-Gangetic
plain and which witnessed the rise of major polities known as the Mahajanapadas. In one of
these kingdoms, (Magadha), Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born in the 6th or 5th century
BCE and propagated their Shramanic philosophies.
Most of the subcontinent was conquered by the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries
BCE. After the collapse of the Maurya Empire the Satavahana dynasty of south India and the
Sunga Empire of eastern India ruled the major part of India in the 2nd century BC. Various parts
of India ruled by numerous Middle kingdoms for the next 1,500 years, among which the Gupta
Empire stands out. Southern India saw the rule of the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas, and Pandyas.
This period, witnessing a Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known as the classical or
"Golden Age of India". During this period, aspects of Indian civilisation, administration, culture,
and religion (Hinduism and Buddhism) spread to much of Asia, while kingdoms in southern
India had maritime business links with the Roman Empire from around 77 CE. From the 8th to
the 10th century the Rashtrakuta Dynasty of south India the Pratihara Dynasty of northwestern
India and the Pala Empire of eastern India dominated South Asia.
From the 11th century to the
12th century peninsular India was dominated by the Western Chalukya Empire and the Chola
Muslim rule started in some parts of north India in the 13th century when the Delhi Sultanate
was established in 1206 CE.
During the reign of Alauddin Khilji and Muhammad bin Tughluq
the Delhi Sultanate ruled the major part of northern India in the early 14th century and raids were
conducted into southern India. After the death of Muhammad bin Tughluq the Delhi Sultanate
declined and its territories were confined to some parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. The 15th
century saw the emergence of several powerful Hindu kingdoms like the Vijayanagara Empire in
south India, the Gajapati Kingdom in eastern India and Rajput kingdoms in northwestern India.
The northern Deccan was ruled by the Bahmani Sultanate and parts of the Indo-Gangetic Plain
was still ruled by the Delhi Sultanate.
Mughal rule came from Central Asia to cover most of the
northern parts of the subcontinent in the 16th century. Mughal rulers introduced Central Asian
art and architecture to India. In addition to the Mughals and various Rajput kingdoms, several
independent Hindu states, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, the Maratha Empire, Eastern Ganga
Empire and the Ahom Kingdom, flourished contemporaneously in southern, western, eastern and
northeastern India respectively. The Mughal Empire suffered a gradual decline in the early 18th
century, which provided opportunities for the Maratha Empire to exercise control over large
areas in the subcontinent.
Beginning in the late 18th century and over the next century, large
areas of India were annexed by the British East India Company. Dissatisfaction with Company
rule led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, after which the British provinces of India were 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 natives irrespective of caste, creed or religion, the
leading party being Indian National Congress which was later joined by Muslim League as well.
The subcontinent gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, after the British
provinces were partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan and the princely states all
acceded to one of the new states.
• 1 Periodisation
• 2 Prehistoric era
o 2.1 Stone Age
o 2.2 Bronze Age
• 3 Vedic period (1500–500 BCE)
o 3.1 Vedic society
• 4 Ancient Indian literature (500 BCE-700 CE)
o 4.1 Sanskritization
• 5 Formative period (800-200 BCE)
• 6 Haryanka dynasty (600-400 BCE)
o 6.1 Mahajanapadas (600-300 BCE)
o 6.2 Upanishads and Shramana movements
o 6.3 Persian and Greek conquests
o 6.4 Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE)
o 6.5 Satavahana Dynasty (230 BC-220 CE)
• 7 Epic and Early Puranic Period - Early Classical Period & Golden Age (ca. 200 BCE–
o 7.1 Northwestern hybrid cultures
o 7.2 Kushan Empire
o 7.3 Roman trade with India
o 7.4 Gupta rule - Golden Age
• 8 Medieval and Late Puranic Period - Late-Classical Age (500–1500 CE)
o 8.1 Northern India
o 8.2 Rashtrakuta Empire (8th-10th century)
o 8.3 Pala Empire (8th-12th century)
o 8.4 Chola Empire (9th-13th century)
o 8.5 Western Chalukya Empire (10th-12th century)
o 8.6 The Islamic Sultanates
o 8.7 Delhi Sultanate
o 8.8 Vijayanagara Empire (14th-16th century)
o 8.9 Early modern period (1500-1850)
o 8.10 Mughal Empire
o 8.11 Post-Mughal period
8.11.1 Maratha Empire
8.11.2 Sikh Empire (North-west)
8.11.3 Other kingdoms
• 9 Colonial era (1500-1947)
o 9.1 Company rule in India
o 9.2 The rebellion of 1857 and its consequences
o 9.3 British Raj (1858-1947)
o 9.4 The Indian independence movement
• 10 Independence and partition (1947-present)
• 11 Historiography
• 12 See also
• 13 Gallery
• 14 Notes
• 15 References
• 16 Sources
• 17 Further reading
o 17.1 Historiography
• 18 Online sources
• 19 External links
James Mill (1773-1836), in his The History of British India (1817),
distinguished three phases
in the history of India, namely Hindu, Muslim and British civilisations.
has been criticised, for the misconceptions it has given rise to.
Another periodisation is the
division into "ancient, classical, medieaval and modern periods".
seem to follow Mill's periodisation,[note 1]
, while Flood
follow the "ancient,
classical, medieaval and modern periods" periodisation.
Different periods are designated as "classical Hinduism":
• Smart calls the period between 1000 BCE and 100 CE "pre-classical". It's the formative
period for the Upanishads and Brahmanism[note 2]
, Jainism and Buddhism. For Smart, the
"classical period" lasts from 100 to 1000 CE, and coincides with the flowering of
"classical Hinduism" and the flowering and deterioration of Mahayana-buddhism in
• For Michaels, the period between 500 BCE and 200 BCE is a time of "Ascetic
, whereas the period between 200 BCE and 1100 CE is the time of
"classical Hinduism", since there is "a turning point between the Vedic religion and
• Muesse discerns a longer period of change, namely between 800 BCE and 200 BCE,
which he calls the "Classical Period":
...this was a time when traditional religious practices and beliefs were reassessed. The brahmins
and the rituals they performed no longer enjoyed the same prestige they had in the Vedic pariod".
According to Muesse, some of the fundamental concepts of Hinduism, namely karma,
reincarnation and "personal enlightenment and transformation", which did not exist in the Vedic
religion, developed in this time:
Indian philosophers came to regard the human as an immortal soul encased in a perishable body
and bound by action, or karma, to a cycle of endless existences.
According to Muesse, reincarnation is "a fundamental principle of virtually all religions formed
The period of the ascetic reforms saw the rise of Buddhism and Jainism, while Sikhism
originated during the time of Islamic rule.
(until ca. 1750
(until ca. 1750
(ca. 2500 to 1500
Early Vedic Period
BCE) Vedic Period
(1600–800 BCE) Vedic period
(from 1200 BCE)
(ca. 1000 BCE -
Late Vedic period
(from 850 BCE)
(800–200 BCE)Ascetic reformism
(ca. 500-200 BCE)
Epic and Puranic
(ca. 500 BCE to
(ca. 200 BCE-
(ca. 200 BCE-300
Epic and Puranic
(ca. 100 CE - 1000
(ca. 320-650 CE)
(ca. 650-1100 CE)
(ca. 1000-1750 CE)
Islamic rule and
Islamic rule and
CE) Modern Age
(ca. 1500 CE to
(ca. 1750 CE -
(from ca. 1850)
(from ca. 1850)
Main article: South Asian Stone Age
Further information: Mehrgarh, Bhimbetka rock shelters, and Edakkal Caves
Bhimbetka rock painting, Madhya Pradesh, India (c. 30,000 years old)
Stone age (5000 BCE) writings of Edakkal Caves in Kerala, India.
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 500,000 and 200,000 years ago.
Tools crafted by proto-humans that have been
dated back two million years have been discovered in the northwestern part of the subcontinent.
The ancient history of the region includes some of South Asia's oldest settlements
some of its major civilisations.
The earliest archaeological site in the subcontinent is the
palaeolithic hominid site in the Soan River valley.
Soanian sites are found in the Sivalik region
across what are now India, Pakistan, and Nepal.
The Mesolithic period in the Indian subcontinent was followed by the Neolithic period, when
more extensive settlement of the subcontinent occurred after the end of the last Ice Age
approximately 12,000 years ago. The first confirmed semipermanent settlements appeared 9,000
years ago in the Bhimbetka rock shelters in modern Madhya Pradesh, India. Early Neolithic
culture in South Asia is represented by the Bhirrana findings (7500 BCE)in Haryana, India &
Mehrgarh findings (7000 BCE onwards) in Balochistan, Pakistan.
Traces of a Neolithic culture have been alleged to be submerged in the Gulf of Khambat in India,
radiocarbon dated to 7500 BCE.
However, the one dredged piece of wood in question was
found in an area of strong ocean currents. Neolithic agriculture cultures sprang up in the Indus
Valley region around 5000 BCE, in the lower Gangetic valley around 3000 BCE, and in later
South India, spreading southwards and also northwards into Malwa around 1800 BCE. The first
urban civilisation of the region began with the Indus Valley Civilisation.
Main article: Indus Valley Civilisation
"Priest King" of Indus Valley Civilisation
The Bronze Age in the Indian subcontinent began around 3300 BCE with the early Indus Valley
Civilisation. It was centred on the Indus River and its tributaries which extended into the
Ghaggar-Hakra River valley,
the Ganges-Yamuna Doab,
The civilisation is primarily located in modern-day India (Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab and
Rajasthan provinces) and Pakistan (Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan provinces). Historically part
of Ancient India, it is one of the world's earliest urban civilisations, along with Mesopotamia and
Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley, the Harappans, developed new
techniques in metallurgy and handicraft (carneol products, seal carving), and produced copper,
bronze, lead, and tin.
The Mature Indus civilisation flourished from about 2600 to 1900 BCE, marking the beginning
of urban civilisation on the subcontinent. The civilisation included urban centres such as
Dholavira, Kalibangan, Rupar, Rakhigarhi, and Lothal in modern-day India, and Harappa,
Ganeriwala, and Mohenjo-daro in modern-day Pakistan. The civilisation is noted for its cities
built of brick, roadside drainage system, and multistoried houses.
Vedic period (1500–500 BCE)
Main article: Vedic Civilisation
See also: Vedas and Indo-Aryans
A map of North India in the late Vedic period.
The Vedic period is characterised 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 in India
and next to some writings in Egypt and Mesopotamia are the oldest
in the world. The Vedic period lasted from about 1500 to 500 BCE,
laying the foundations of
Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society. In terms of culture, many regions of
the subcontinent transitioned from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age in this period.
Historians have analysed the Vedas to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper
Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves
of Indo-Aryan migration into the subcontinent from the north-west.
Vedic people believed
in the transmigration of the soul, and the peepul tree and cow were sanctified by the time of the
Many of the concepts of Indian philosophy espoused later like Dharma, Karma
etc. trace their root to the Vedas.
The swastika is a major element of Hindu iconography.
Early Vedic society consisted of largely pastoral groups, with late Harappan urbanisation having
After the time of the Rigveda, Aryan society became increasingly
agricultural and was socially organised around the four varnas, or social classes. In addition to
the Vedas, the principal texts of Hinduism, the core themes of the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and
Mahabharata are said to have their ultimate origins during this period.
remains, today, the longest single poem in the world.
The events of Mahabharata happened in
a later period than Ramayana.In fact, there are references of Ramayana in Mahabharata.
early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part, to the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture
in archaeological contexts.
Ancient Indian literature (500 BCE-700 CE)
This period was the classical age of ancient Indian literature. During this period Jainism and
Buddhism emerged in India. Hinduism developed new ideas during this period. Indian literature
prospered in north India and south India. The famous Tamil Sangam literature flourished during
this period. A lot of great scholars emerged in northern and southern India like Chanakya,
Thiruvalluvar, Sushruta Samhita, Nagarjuna, Aryabhata, Varāhamihira, Kālidāsa,
Tirunavukkarasar, Brahmagupta and many more who wrote on topics like economics, ethics,
medicine, religion, mathematics, philosophy and poetry. The ancient Indian medicine the
Ayurveda medicine also emerged during this period.
Main article: Sanskritization
Since Vedic times, "people from many strata of society throughout the subcontinent tended to
adapt their religious and social life to Brahmanic norms", a process sometimes called
It is reflected in the tendency to identify local deities with the gods of the
The Kuru kingdom
corresponds to the Black and Red Ware and Painted Grey Ware cultures
and to the beginning of the Iron Age in northwestern India, around 1000 BCE, as well as with the
composition of the Atharvaveda, the first Indian text to mention iron, as śyāma ayas, literally
"black metal." The Painted Grey Ware culture spanned much of northern India from about 1100
to 600 BCE.
The Vedic Period also established republics such as Vaishali, which existed as
early as the 6th century BCE and persisted in some areas until the 4th century CE. The later part
of this period corresponds with an increasing movement away from the previous tribal system
towards the establishment of kingdoms, called mahajanapadas.
Formative period (800-200 BCE)
During the time between 800 and 200 BCE the Shramana-movement developed, from which
originated Jainism and Buddhism. In the same period the first Upanishds were written.
Haryanka dynasty (600-400 BCE)
Main article: Haryanka dynasty
The Haryanka dynasty was the second ruling dynasty of Magadha, an ancient kingdom in India,
which succeeded the Barhadratha dynasty. According to the Puranas, the second ruling dynasty
was the Shaishunga dynasty, but an earlier authority, Ashvagosha in his Buddhacharita refers to
Bimbisara, who is mentioned as a ruler of the Shaishunaga dynasty in the Puranas, as a scion of
the Haryanka-kula. According to another Buddhist text, the Mahavamsa, Bimbisara was not
the founder of this dynasty, as he was anointed king by his father at the age of fifteen.
According to Turnour and N.L. Dey, the name of the father of Bimbisara was Bhatiya or
Bhattiya, but the Puranas refer him as Hemajit, Kshemajit, Kshetroja or Ksetrauja and the
Tibetan texts mention him as Mahapadma. The reign of this dynasty probably began in 684
BCE. Initially, the capital was Rajagriha. Later, it was shifted to Pataliputra, near the present day
Patna in India. This dynasty was succeeded by the Shishunaga dynasty.
Mahajanapadas (600-300 BCE)
The Mahajanapadas were the sixteen most powerful kingdoms and republics of the era, located
mainly across the fertile Indo-Gangetic plains, there were a number of smaller kingdoms
stretching the length and breadth of Ancient India.
Main articles: Mahajanapadas and Haryanka dynasty
In the later Vedic Age, a number of small kingdoms or city states had covered the subcontinent,
many mentioned in Vedic, early Buddhist and Jaina literature as far back as 1000 BCE. By 500
BCE, sixteen monarchies and "republics" known as the Mahajanapadas—Kashi, Kosala, Anga,
Magadha, Vajji (or Vriji), Malla, Chedi, Vatsa (or Vamsa), Kuru, Panchala, Matsya (or
Machcha), Shurasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara,and Kamboja—stretched across the Indo-
Gangetic Plain from modern-day Afghanistan to Bengal and Maharastra. This period saw the
second major rise of urbanism in India after the Indus Valley Civilisation.
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 languages 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 Gautama Buddha. These four were Vatsa, Avanti,
Kosala, and Magadha.
Upanishads and Shramana movements
Nalanda is considered one of the first great universities in recorded history. It was the centre of
Buddhist learning and research in the world from 450 to 1193 CE.
Main articles: History of Hinduism, History of Buddhism, and History of Jainism
See also: Gautama Buddha and Mahavira
Further information: Upanishads, Indian Religions, Indian philosophy, and Ancient universities
The 9th and 8th centuries BCE witnessed the composition of the earliest Upanishads.:183
Upanishads form the theoretical basis of classical Hinduism and are known as Vedanta
(conclusion of the Vedas).
The older Upanishads launched attacks of increasing intensity on
the ritual. Anyone who worships a divinity other than the Self is called a domestic animal of the
gods in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. The Mundaka launches the most scathing attack on the
ritual by comparing those who value sacrifice with an unsafe boat that is endlessly overtaken by
old age and death.
Increasing urbanisation of India in 7th and 6th centuries BCE led to the rise of new ascetic or
shramana movements which challenged the orthodoxy of rituals.
Mahavira (c. 549–477 BCE),
proponent of Jainism, and Buddha (c. 563-483), founder of Buddhism were the most prominent
icons of this movement. Shramana gave rise to the concept of the cycle of birth and death, the
concept of samsara, and the concept of liberation.
Buddha found a Middle Way that
ameliorated the extreme asceticism found in the Sramana religions.
Around the same time, Mahavira (the 24th Tirthankara in Jainism) propagated a theology that
was to later become Jainism.
However, Jain orthodoxy believes the teachings of the
Tirthankaras predates all known time and scholars believe Parshva, accorded status as the 23rd
Tirthankara, was a historical figure. The Vedas are believed to have documented a few
Tirthankaras and an ascetic order similar to the shramana movement.
Persian and Greek conquests
See also: Achaemenid Empire, Greco-Buddhism, Indo-Greek Kingdom, Alexander the Great,
Nanda Empire, and Gangaridai
Asia in 323 BCE, the Nanda Empire and Gangaridai Empire in relation to Alexander's Empire
In 530 BCE Cyrus the Great, King of the Persian Achaemenid Empire crossed the Hindu-Kush
mountains to seek tribute from the tribes of Kamboja, Gandhara and the trans-India region.
520 BCE, during the reign of Darius I of Persia, much of the northwestern subcontinent (present-
day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan) came under the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire.
The area remained under Persian control for two centuries.
During this time India supplied
mercenaries to the Persian army then fighting in Greece.
Under Persian rule the famous city of Takshashila became a centre where both Vedic and Iranian
learning were mingled.
The impact of Persian ideas was felt in many areas of Indian life.
Persian coinage and rock inscriptions were copied by India. However, Persian ascendency in
northern India ended with Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia in 327 BCE.
By 326 BCE, Alexander the Great had conquered Asia Minor and the Achaemenid Empire and
had reached the northwest frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. There he defeated King Porus in
the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered much of the
Alexander's march east put him in confrontation with the Nanda Empire of Magadha
and the 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 River)
and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, and
learning about the might of Nanda Empire, was convinced that it was better to return.
The Persian and Greek invasions had important repercussions on Indian civilisation. The
political systems of the Persians were 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 northwest 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
Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE)
Main article: Maurya Empire
Further information: Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara, and Ashoka the Great
The Maurya Empire under Ashoka the Great.
Ashokan pillar at Vaishali, 3rd century BCE.
The Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE), ruled by the Mauryan dynasty, was a geographically
extensive and powerful political and military empire in ancient India. The empire was
established by Chandragupta Maurya in Magadha what is now Bihar.
The empire flourished
under the reign of Ashoka the Great.
At its greatest extent, it stretched to the north to the natural boundaries of the Himalayas and to
the east 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 extensive unexplored tribal and forested regions
near Kalinga which were subsequently taken by Ashoka.
Ashoka ruled the Maurya Empire for 37 years from 268 BCE until he died in 232 BCE.
During that time, Ashoka pursued an active foreign policy aimed at setting up a unified state.
However, Ashoka became involved in a war with the state of Kalinga which is located on the
western shore of the Bay of Bengal.
This war forced Ashoka to abandon his attempt at a
foreign policy which would unify the Maurya Empire.
During the Mauryan Empire slavery developed rapidly and significant amount of written records
on slavery are found.
The Mauryan Empire was based on a modern and efficient economy and
society. However, the sale of merchandise was closely regulated by the government.
there was no banking in the Mauryan society, usury was customary with loans made at the
recognized interest rate of 15% per annum.
Ashoka's reign propagated Buddhism. In this regard Ashoka established many Buddhist
monuments. Indeed, Ashoka put a strain on the economy and the government by his strong
support of Buddhism. towards the end of his reign he "bled the state coffers white with his
generous gifts to promote the promulation of Buddha's teaching.
As might be expected, this
policy caused considerable opposition within the government. This opposition rallied around
Sampadi, Ashoka's grandson and heir to the throne.
Religious opposition to Ashoka also arose
among the orthodox Brahmanists and the adherents of Jainism.
Chandragupta's minister Chanakya wrote the Arthashastra, one of the greatest treatises on
economics, politics, foreign affairs, administration, military arts, war, and religion produced in
Asia. Archaeologically, the period of Mauryan rule in South Asia falls into the era of Northern
Black Polished Ware (NBPW). The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are primary written
records of the Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Asoka at Sarnath, is the national emblem of
Satavahana Dynasty (230 BC-220 CE)
Main article: Satavahana Dynasty
The Satavahana dynasty was a royal south Indian dynasty based from Amaravati in Andhra
Pradesh as well as Junnar (Pune) and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra. The territory of the
empire covered much of India from 230 BCE onward. The Satavahanas are credited for
establishing peace in the country, resisting the onslaught of foreigners after the decline of the
Maurya Empire. Sātavāhanas started out as feudatories to the Mauryan dynasty, but declared
independence with its decline. They are known for their patronage of Hinduism and Buddhism
which resulted in Buddhist monuments from Ellora (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) to
Amaravati. The Sātavāhanas were one of the first Indian states to issue coins struck with their
rulers embossed. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade as well as the
transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to the southern tip of India. The
rulers of the Satavahana Dynasty played a crucial role to protect a huge part of India against
foreign invaders like the Sakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas. In particular their struggles with the
Western Kshatrapas went on for a long time. The great rulers of the Satavahana Dynasty
Gautamiputra Satakarni and Sri Yajna Sātakarni were able to defeat the foreign invaders like the
Western Kshatrapas and stop their expansion. In the 3rd century CE the empire was split into
Epic and Early Puranic Period - Early Classical Period &
Golden Age (ca. 200 BCE–700 CE)
Main article: Middle Kingdoms of India
Ancient India during the rise of the Sunga and Satavahana empires.
The Kharavela Empire, now in Odisha.
Kushan Empire and Western Satraps of Ancient India in the north along with Pandyans
and Early Cholas in southern India.
The time between 200 BCE and ca. 1100 CE is the "Classical Age" of India. It can be divided in
various sub-periods, depending on the chosen periodisation. The Gupta Empire (4th-6th century)
is regarded as the "Golden Age" of Hinduism, but a host of kingdoms ruled over India in these
The Satavahana dynasty, also known as the Andhras, ruled in southern and central India after
around 230 BCE. Satakarni, the sixth ruler of the Satvahana dynasty, defeated the Sunga Empire
of north India. Afterwards, Kharavela, the warrior king of Kalinga,
ruled a vast empire and
was responsible for the propagation of Jainism in the Indian subcontinent.
The Kharavelan Jain empire included a maritime empire with trading routes linking it to Sri
Lanka, Burma, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Borneo, Bali, Sumatra, and Java. Colonists from
Kalinga settled in Sri Lanka, Burma, as well as the Maldives and Maritime Southeast Asia. The
Kuninda Kingdom was a small Himalayan state that survived from around the 2nd century BCE
to the 3rd century CE.
The Kushanas migrated from Central Asia into northwestern India in the middle of the 1st
century CE and founded an empire that stretched from Tajikistan to the middle Ganges. 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 and contemporaries of the Kushans who ruled the
northern part of the Indian subcontinent and the Satavahana (Andhra) who ruled in central and
Different dynasties such as the Pandyans, Cholas, Cheras, Kadambas, Western Gangas, Pallavas,
and Chalukyas, dominated the southern part of the Indian peninsula at different periods of time.
Several southern kingdoms formed overseas empires that stretched into Southeast Asia. The
kingdoms warred with each other and the Deccan states for domination of the south. The
Kalabras, a Buddhist dynasty, 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 northwestern 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, was founded when the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded the region in 180
BCE, extending his rule over various parts of present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. Lasting for
almost two centuries, the kingdom was ruled by a succession of more than 30 Greek kings, who
were often in conflict with each other.
The Indo-Scythians were a branch of the Indo-European Sakas (Scythians) who migrated from
southern Siberia, first into Bactria, subsequently into Sogdiana, Kashmir, Arachosia, and
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 the 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 was
contemporaneous with the Gupta Empire, expanded into the region of present-day Balochistan in
Pakistan, where the mingling of Indian culture and the culture of Iran gave birth to a hybrid
culture under the Indo-Sassanids.
Main article: Kushan Empire
The Kushan Empire expanded out of what is now Afghanistan into the northwest of the
subcontinent under the leadership of their first emperor, Kujula Kadphises, about the middle of
the 1st century CE. By the time of his grandson, Kanishka, (whose era is thought to have begun
c. 127 CE), they had conquered most of northern India, at least as far as Saketa and Pataliputra,
in the middle Ganges Valley, and probably as far as the Bay of Bengal.
They played an important role in the establishment of Buddhism in India and its spread to
Central Asia and China. By the 3rd century, their empire in India was disintegrating; their last
known great emperor being Vasudeva I (c. 190-225 CE).
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, during the reign of Augustus and following his
conquest of Egypt, which had been India's biggest trade partner in the West.
The trade started by Eudoxus of Cyzicus in 130 BCE kept increasing, and according to Strabo
), by the time of Augustus, up to 120 ships set sail every year from Myos Hormos on
the Red Sea to India. So much gold was used for this trade, and apparently recycled by the
Kushans for their own coinage, that Pliny the Elder (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.
The maritime (but not the overland) trade routes, harbours, and trade items are described in detail
in the 1st century CE Periplus of the Erythraean Sea.
Gupta rule - Golden Age
Main article: Gupta Empire
See also: Chandra Gupta I, Samudragupta, Chandra Gupta II, Kumaragupta I, and Skandagupta
Further information: Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma, and Vatsyayana
Meghadūta, Abhijñānaśākuntala, Kumārasambhava, Panchatantra, Aryabhatiya, Indian
numerals, and Kama Sutra
Queen Kumaradevi and King Chandragupta I, depicted on a coin of their son Samudragupta,
The Classical Age refers to the period when much of the Indian subcontinent was reunited under
the Gupta Empire (c. 320–550 CE).
This period has been called the Golden Age of India
and was marked by extensive achievements in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic,
literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy that crystallized the elements
of what is generally known as Hindu culture.
The decimal numeral system, including the
concept of zero, was invented in India during this period.
The peace and prosperity created
under leadership of Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavors in India.
The high points of this cultural creativity are magnificent architecture, sculpture, and painting.
The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu
Sharma, and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields.
and political administration reached new heights during the Gupta era. Strong trade ties also
made the region an important cultural centre and established it as a base that would influence
nearby kingdoms and regions in Burma, Sri Lanka, Maritime Southeast Asia, and Indochina.
The Gupta period marked a watershed of Indian culture: the Guptas performed Vedic sacrifices
to legitimize their rule, but they also patronized Buddhism, which continued to provide an
alternative to Brahmanical orthodoxy. The military exploits of the first three rulers—
Chandragupta I (c. 319–335), Samudragupta (c. 335–376), and Chandragupta II (c. 376–415) —
brought much of India under their leadership.
They successfully resisted the northwestern
kingdoms until the arrival of the Hunas, who established themselves in Afghanistan by the first
half of the 5th century, with their capital at Bamiyan.
However, much of the Deccan and
southern India were largely unaffected by these events in the north.
Medieval and Late Puranic Period - Late-Classical Age
Main articles: Middle Kingdoms of India, Badami Chalukyas, Rashtrakuta, Eastern Ganga
dynasty, Western Chalukyas, Rajput kingdoms, and Vijayanagara Empire
Pala Empire under Dharmapala Pala Empire under Devapala
Chola Empire under Rajendra Chola c. 1030 C.E.
The Kanauj Triangle was the focal point of empires - the Rashtrakutas of Deccan, the Gurjara
Pratiharas of Malwa, and the Palas of Bengal.
The "Late-Classical Age"
in India began after the end of the Gupta Empire
and the collapse
Harsha Empire in the 7th century CE
, and ended with the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in
the south in the 16th century, due to pressure from Islamic invaders
to the north.
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. 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.
North Western Indian Buddhism weakened in the 6th century after the White Hun invasion, who
followed their own religions such as Tengri, and Manichaeism. Muhammad bin Qasim's invasion
of Sindh in 711 CE witnessed further decline of Buddhism. The Chach Nama records many
instances of conversion of stupas to mosques such as at Nerun
In 7th century CE, Kumārila Bha aṭṭ formulated his school of Mimamsa philosophy and defended
the position on Vedic rituals against Buddhist attacks. Scholars note Bha a's contribution to theṭṭ
decline of Buddhism.
His dialectical success against the Buddhists is confirmed by Buddhist
historian Tathagata, who reports that Kumārila defeated disciples of Buddhapalkita, Bhavya,
Dharmadasa, Dignaga and others.
Ronald Inden writes that by 8th century BCE symbols of Hindu gods "replaced the Buddha at the
imperial centre and pinnacle of the cosmo-political system, the image or symbol of the Hindu
god comes to be housed in a monumental temple and given increasingly elaborate imperial-style
Although Buddhism did not disappear from India for several centuries after
the eighth, royal proclivities for the cults of Vishnu and Shiva weakened Buddhism's position
within the sociopolitical context and helped make possible its decline.
From the 7th to the 9th century, three dynasties contested for control of northern India: the
Gurjara Pratiharas of Malwa, the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan. The Sena
dynasty would later assume control of the Pala Empire, and the Gurjara Pratiharas fragmented
into various states. These were the first of the Rajput states, 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 Gurjar
Rajput of the Chauhan clan,
Prithvi Raj Chauhan, was known for bloody conflicts against the advancing Islamic sultanates.
The Shahi dynasty ruled portions of eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir from
the mid-7th century to the early 11th century.
The Chalukya dynasty ruled parts of southern and central India from Badami in Karnataka
between 550 and 750, and then again from Kalyani between 970 and 1190. The Pallavas of
Kanchipuram were their contemporaries further to the south. With the decline of the Chalukya
empire, their feudatories, the Hoysalas of Halebidu, Kakatiyas 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.
The Chola Empire at its peak covered much of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia.
Rajaraja Chola I conquered all of peninsular south India and parts of Sri Lanka in the 11th
century. Rajendra Chola I's navies went even further, occupying coasts from Burma to Vietnam,
the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Lakshadweep (Laccadive) islands, Sumatra, and the
Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia and the Pegu islands. Later during the middle period, the
Pandyan Empire emerged in Tamil Nadu, as well as the Chera Kingdom in parts of Kerala and
Tamil Nadu. By 1343, last of these dynasties had ceased to exist, giving rise to the Vijayanagar
The ports of south India were engaged in the Indian Ocean trade, chiefly involving spices, with
the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east.
Literature in local
vernaculars and spectacular architecture flourished until about the beginning of the 14th century,
when southern expeditions of the sultan of Delhi took their toll on these kingdoms. The Hindu
Vijayanagar Empire came into conflict with the Islamic Bahmani Sultanate, and the clashing of
the two systems caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign cultures that left lasting cultural
influences on each other.
Rashtrakuta Empire (8th-10th century)
Main articles:Rashtrakuta Dynasty
At its peak the Rashtrakuta Empire ruled from the Ganges River and Yamuna River doab in the
north to Cape Comorin in the south, a fruitful time of political expansion, architectural
achievements and famous literary contributions. The early kings of this dynasty were Hindu but
the later kings were strongly influenced by Jainism.During their rule, Jain mathematicians and
scholars contributed important works in Kannada and Sanskrit. Amoghavarsha I was the most
famous king of this dynasty and wrote Kavirajamarga, a landmark literary work in the Kannada
language. Architecture reached a milestone in the Dravidian style, the finest example of which is
seen in the Kailasanath Temple at Ellora. Other important contributions are the sculptures
of Elephanta Caves in modern Maharashtra as well as the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain
Narayana temple at Pattadakal in modern Karnataka, all of which are UNESCO World Heritage
Sites. The Arab traveler Suleiman described the Rashtrakuta Empire as one of the four great
Empires of the world. The Rashtrakuta period marked the beginning of the golden age of
southern Indian mathematics. The great south Indian mathematician Mahāvīra (mathematician)
lived in the Rashtrakuta Empire and his text had a huge impact on the medieval south Indian
mathematicians who lived after him.
Pala Empire (8th-12th century)
Main articles: Pala Empire
The Pāla Empire (Bengali: পাল সামর্াজয্ Pal Samrajyô) was an Indian imperial power, during
the Classical period of India, that existed from 750–1174 CE. It was ruled by a Buddhist dynasty
from Bengal in the eastern region of the Indian subcontinent, all the rulers bearing names ending
with the suffix Pala (Modern Bengali: পাল pāl), which means protector. The Palas were often
described by opponents as the Lords of Gauda. The Palas were followers of
the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism. Gopala was the first ruler from the dynasty. The
empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. Dharmapala extended the empire into
the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent. The Pala Empire can be considered as the golden
era of Bengal. Never had the Bengali people reached such height of power and glory to that
extent. The rulers of the Pala Empire supported the Universities
of Vikramashila and Nalanda which became the premier seats of learning in Asia. The Nalanda
University which is considered one of the first great universities in recorded history, reached its
height under the patronage of the Pala Empire.The empire of pala was considered as the mostly
known imperial empire during the times of ancient India.
Chola Empire (9th-13th century)
Main articles: Chola dynasty
Medieval Cholas rose to prominence during the middle of the 9th century C.E. and established
the greatest empire South India had seen. They successfully united the South India under their
rule and through their naval strength extended their influence in the Southeast Asian countries
such as Srivijaya. They dominated the political affairs of Lanka for over two centuries through
repeated invasions and occupation. They also had continuing trade contacts with the Arabs in the
west and with the Chinese empire in the east. Rajaraja Chola I and his equally distinguished
son Rajendra Chola I gave political unity to the whole of Southern India and established the
Chola Empire as a respected sea power. Under the Cholas, the Tamil country reached new
heights of excellence in art, religion and literature. In all of these spheres, the Chola period
marked the culmination of movements that had begun in an earlier age under the
Pallavas. Monumental architecture in the form of majestic temples and sculpture in stone
and bronze reached a finesse never before achieved in India.
Western Chalukya Empire (10th-12th century)
Main articles: Western Chalukya Empire
The Western Chalukya Empire (Kannada:ಪಶಚಮ ಚಾಲುಕಯ ಸಾಮಾರಜಯ paśchima chālukya sāmrājya)
ruled most of the western Deccan, South India, between the 10th and 12th centuries. The
Western Chalukyas developed an architectural style known today as a transitional style, an
architectural link between the style of the early Chalukya dynasty and that of the later Hoysala
empire. Most of its monuments are in the districts bordering the Tungabhadra River in central
Karnataka. Well known examples are the Kasivisvesvara Temple at Lakkundi, the Mallikarjuna
Temple at Kuruvatti, the Kallesvara Temple at Bagali and the Mahadeva Temple at Itagi. This
was an important period in the development of fine arts in Southern India, especially in literature
as the Western Chalukya kings encouraged writers in the native language of Kannada, and
Sanskrit. Great scholars like Basava and Ramanuja and great mathematicians like Bhāskara II
emerged in southern India during this period. The greatest kings of the Western Chalukya
Empire were Vikramaditya VI and Somesvara I.
The Islamic Sultanates
Main articles: Muslim conquest of India, Islamic Empires in India, Bahmani Sultanate, and
See also: Rajput resistance to Muslim conquests and Growth of Muslim Population in Mediaeval
Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur, has the second largest pre-modern dome in the world after the Byzantine
After conquering Persia, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate incorporated parts of what is now
Pakistan around 720. The Muslim rulers were keen to invade India,
a rich region with a
flourishing international trade and the only known diamond mines in the world.
In 712, Arab
Muslim general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered most of the Indus region in modern day
Pakistan for the Umayyad empire, incorporating it as the "As-Sindh" province with its capital at
Al-Mansurah, 72 km (45 mi) north of modern Hyderabad in Sindh, Pakistan. After several wars,
the Hindu Rajas like the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya II of the Chalukya dynasty and
Nagabhata of the Pratihara Dynasty defeated the Arabs at the Battle of Rajasthan, halting their
expansion and containing them at Sindh in Pakistan.
Many short-lived Islamic kingdoms
(sultanates) under foreign rulers were established across the north western subcontinent over a
period of a few centuries. Additionally, Muslim trading communities flourished throughout
coastal south India, particularly on the western coast where Muslim traders arrived in small
numbers, mainly from the Arabian peninsula. This marked the introduction of a third Abrahamic
Middle Eastern religion, following Judaism and Christianity, often in puritanical form. Later, the
Bahmani Sultanate and Deccan sultanates, founded by Turkic rulers, flourished in the south.
The Vijayanagara Empire rose to prominence by the end of the 13th century as a culmination of
attempts by the southern powers to ward off Islamic invasions. The empire dominated all of
Southern India and fought off invasions from the five established Deccan Sultanates.
empire reached its peak during the rule of Krishnadevaraya when Vijayanagara armies were
The empire annexed areas formerly under the Sultanates in the
northern Deccan and the territories in the eastern Deccan, including Kalinga, while
simultaneously maintaining control over all its subordinates in the south.
It lasted until 1646,
though its power declined after a major military defeat in 1565 by the Deccan sultanates. As a
result, much of the territory of the former Vijaynagar Empire were captured by Deccan
Sultanates, and the remainder was divided into many states ruled by Hindu rulers.
Qutub Minar is the world's tallest brick minaret, commenced by Qutb-ud-din Aybak of the Slave
Main article: Delhi Sultanate
In the 12th and 13th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded parts of northern India and
established the Delhi Sultanate in the former Rajput holdings.
The subsequent Slave dynasty
of Delhi managed to conquer large areas of northern India, approximately equal in extent to the
ancient Gupta Empire, while the Khilji dynasty conquered most of central India but were
ultimately unsuccessful in conquering and uniting 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 intermingling of the local speakers of
Sanskritic Prakrits with immigrants speaking Persian, Turkic, and Arabic under the Muslim
rulers. The Delhi Sultanate is the only Indo-Islamic empire to enthrone one of the few female
rulers in India, Razia Sultana (1236–1240).
A Turco-Mongol conqueror in Central Asia, Timur (Tamerlane), attacked the reigning Sultan
Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi.
army was defeated on 17 December 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked,
destroyed, and left in ruins, after Timur's army had killed and plundered for three days and
nights. He ordered the whole city to be sacked except for the sayyids, scholars, and the other
Muslims; 100,000 war prisoners were put to death in one day.
Vijayanagara Empire (14th-16th century)
Main articles: Vijayanagara Empire
The Empire was established in 1336 by Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of Sangama
Dynasty. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts by the southern powers to
ward off Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. The empire is named after its capital
city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a World Heritage
Site in Karnataka,India. The empire's legacy includes many monuments spread over South India,
the best known of which is the group at Hampi. The previous temple building traditions in South
India came together in the Vijayanagara Architecture style. The mingling of all faiths and
vernaculars inspired architectural innovation of Hindu temple construction, first in the Deccan
and later in the Dravidian idioms using the local granite. South Indian mathematics flourished
under the protection of the Vijayanagara Empire in Kerala. The south Indian mathematician
Madhava of Sangamagrama founded the famous Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics in
the 14th century which produced a lot of great south Indian mathematicians like Parameshvara,
Nilakantha Somayaji and Jye hadevaṣṭ in medieval south India. Efficient administration and
vigorous overseas trade brought new technologies such as water management systems for
irrigation. The empire's patronage enabled fine arts and literature to reach new heights
in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit, while Carnatic music evolved into its current form. The
Vijayanagara Empire created an epoch in South Indian history that transcended regionalism by
promoting Hinduism as a unifying factor. The empire reached its peak during the rule of Sri
Krishnadevaraya when Vijayanagara armies were consistently victorious. The empire annexed
areas formerly under the Sultanates in the northern Deccan and the territories in the eastern
Deccan, including Kalinga, while simultaneously maintaining control over all its subordinates in
the south. Many important monuments were either completed or commissioned during the time
of Krishna Deva Raya.
Early modern period (1500-1850)
Extent of the Mughal Empire in 1700.
Taj Mahal, built by the Mughals
Main article: Mughal Empire
In 1526, Babur, a Timurid descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan from Fergana Valley (modern
day Uzbekistan), swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, covering
modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh.
However, his son Humayun was
defeated by the Afghan warrior Sher Shah Suri in the year 1540, and Humayun was forced to
retreat to Kabul. After Sher Shah's death, his son Islam Shah Suri and the Hindu king Samrat
Hem Chandra Vikramaditya, who had won 22 battles against Afghan rebels and forces of Akbar,
from Punjab to Bengal and had established a secular Hindu rule in North India from Delhi till
1556. Akbar's forces defeated and killed Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat on 6 November
The Mughal dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600; it went into a slow decline
after 1707. The Mughals suffered sever blow due to invasions from Marathas and Afghans due to
which the Mughal dynasty were reduced to puppet rulers by 1757. The remnants of the Mughal
dynasty were finally defeated during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also called the 1857 War of
Independence. This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority
were ruled over by the Mughal emperors, most of whom 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, several smaller states rose to fill the power vacuum and themselves were
contributing factors to the decline. In 1737, the Maratha general Bajirao of the Maratha Empire
invaded and plundered Delhi . Under the general Amir Khan Umrao Al Udat, the Mughal
Emperor sent 8,000 troops to drive away the 5,000 Maratha cavalry soldiers. Baji Rao, however,
easily routed the novice Mughal general and the rest of the imperial Mughal army fled. In 1737,
in the final defeat of Mughal Empire, the commander-in-chief of the Mughal Army, Nizam-ul-
mulk, was routed at Bhopal by the Maratha army. This essentially brought an end to the Mughal
Empire. In 1739, Nader Shah, emperor of Iran, 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.
The Mughals were perhaps the richest single dynasty to have ever existed. 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 Empire - which fought an increasingly weak
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 jizya
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
a unique Indo-Saracenic architecture. It was the erosion of this tradition coupled with increased
brutality and centralization that played a large part in the dynasty's downfall after Aurangzeb,
who unlike previous emperors, imposed relatively non-pluralistic policies on the general
population, which often inflamed the majority Hindu population.
Main articles: Maratha Empire, Kingdom of Mysore, Hyderabad State, Nawab of Bengal, Sikh
Empire, Rajputs, and Durrani Empire
Further information: Shivaji, Tipu Sultan, Nizam, Nawab of Oudh, Ranjit Singh, and Ahmad
Political map of Indian subcontinent in 1758. The Maratha Empire (orange) was the last Hindu
empire of India.
Main article: Maratha Empire
The post-Mughal era was dominated by the rise of the Maratha suzerainty as other small regional
states (mostly late Mughal tributary states) emerged, and also by the increasing activities of
European powers (see colonial era below). There is no doubt that the single most important
power to emerge in the long twilight of the Mughal dynasty was the Maratha Empire.
Maratha kingdom was founded and consolidated by Shivaji, a Maratha aristocrat of the Bhonsle
clan who was determined to establish Hindavi Swarajya (self-rule of Hindu people). By the 18th
century, it had transformed itself into the Maratha Empire under the rule of the Peshwas (prime
ministers). Gordon explains how the Maratha systematically took control over the Malwa plateau
in 1720-1760. They started with annual raids, collecting ransom from villages and towns while
the declining Mughal Empire retained nominal control. However in 1737, the Marathas defeated
a Mughal army in their capital, Delhi inteslf, and as a result, the Mughal emperor ceded Malwa
to them. The Marathas continued their military campaigns against Mughals, Nizam, Nawab of
Bengal and Durrani Empire to further extend their boundaries. They built an efficient system of
public administration known for its attention to detail. It succeeded in raising revenue in districts
that recovered from years of raids, up to levels previously enjoyed by the Mughals. The
cornerstone of the Maratha rule in Malwa rested on the 60 or so local tax collectors
(kamavisdars) who advanced the Maratha ruler '(Peshwa)' a portion of their district revenues at
By 1760, the domain of the Marathas stretched across practically the entire
The defeat of Marathas by British in three Anglo-Maratha Wars brought end to
the empire by 1820. The last peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the Third
Sikh Empire (North-west)
Harmandir Sahib or The Golden Temple is culturally the most significant place of worship for
Main article: Sikh Empire
See also: History of Sikhism
The Punjabi kingdom, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity that governed
the region of modern-day Punjab. The empire, based around the Punjab region, existed from
1799 to 1849. It was forged, on the foundations of the Khalsa, under the leadership of Maharaja
Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) from an array of autonomous Punjabi Misls. He consolidated many
parts of northern India into a kingdom. He primarily used his highly disciplined Sikh army that
he trained and equipped to be the equal of a European force. Ranjit Singh proved himself to be a
master strategist and selected well qualified generals for his army. In stages, he added the central
Punjab, the provinces of Multan and Kashmir, the Peshawar Valley, and the Derajat to his
kingdom. His came in the face of the powerful British East India Company.
At its peak, in
the 19th century, the empire extended from the Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north,
to Sindh in the south, and Himachal in the east. This was among the last areas of the
subcontinent to be conquered by the British. The first and second Anglo-Sikh war marked the
downfall of the Sikh Empire.
There were several other kingdoms which ruled over parts of India in the later mediaeval period
prior to the British occupation. However, most of them were bound to pay regular tribute to the
The rule of Wodeyar dynasty which established the Kingdom of Mysore in
southern India in around 1400 CE by was interrupted by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the
later half of 18th century. 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 Mysore
receiving some aid or promise of aid from the French.
The Nawabs of Bengal had become the de facto rulers of Bengal following the decline of
Mughal Empire. However, their rule was interrupted by Marathas who carried six expeditions in
Bengal from 1741 to 1748 as a result of which Bengal became a vassal state of Marathas.
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 and declared 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.
Around the 18th century, the modern state of Nepal was formed by Gurkha rulers.
Colonial era (1500-1947)
Main article: Colonial India
In 1498, Vasco da Gama successfully discovered a new sea route from Europe to India, which
paved the way for direct Indo-European commerce.
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
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 controlled
various coastal regions of southern and eastern India during the ensuing century, they eventually
lost all their territories in India to the British islanders, with the exception of the French outposts
of Pondichéry and Chandernagore, the Dutch port of Travancore, and the Portuguese colonies of
Goa, Daman and Diu.
Company rule in India
Main articles: East India Company and Company rule in India
Map of India in 1857 at the end of Company rule.
In 1617 the British East India Company was given permission by Mughal Emperor Jahangir to
trade in India.
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.
The Nawab of
Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah, the de facto ruler of the Bengal province, opposed British attempts to
use these permits.
The First Carnatic War extended from 1746 until 1748 and was the result of colonial competition
between France and Britain, two of the countries involved in the War of Austrian Succession.
Following the capture of a few French ships by the British fleet in India, French troops attacked
and captured the British city of Madras located on the east coast of India on 21 September 1746.
Among the prisoners captured at Madras was Robert Clive himself. The war was eventually
ended by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle which ended the War of Austrian Succession in 1748.
In 1749, the Second Carnatic War broke out as the result of a war between a son, Nasir Jung, and
a grandson, Muzaffer Jung, of the deceased Nizam-ul-Mulk of Hyderabad to take over Nizam's
throne in Hyderabad. The French supported Muzaffer Jung in this civil war. Consequently, the
British supported Nasir Jung in this conflict.
Meanwhile, however, the conflict in Hyderabad provided Chanda Sahib with an opportunity to
take power as the new Nawab of the territory of Arcot. In this conflict, the French supported
Chandra Sahib in his attempt to become the new Nawab of Arcot. The British supported the son
of the deposed incumbent Nawab, Anwaruddin Muhammad Khan, against Chanda Sahib. In
1751, Robert Clive led a British armed force and captured Arcot to reinstate the incumbent
Nawab. The Second Carnatic War finally came to an end in 1754 with the Treaty of Pondicherry.
In 1756, the Seven Years War broke out between the great powers of Europe, and India became
a theatre of action, where it was called the Third Carnatic War. Early in this war, armed forces
under the French East India Company captured the British base of Calcutta in north-eastern
India. However, armed forces under Robert Clive later recaptured Calcutta and then pressed on
to capture the French settlement of Chandannagar in 1757. This led to the Battle of Plassey on 23
June 1757, in which the Bengal Army of the East India Company, led by Robert Clive, defeated
the French-supported Nawab's forces. This was the first real 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.
This was combined with British victories over the French at
Madras, Wandiwash and Pondichéry that, along with wider British successes during the Seven
Years War, reduced French influence in India. Thus as a result of the three Carnatic Wars, the
British East India Company gained exclusive control over the entire Carnatic region of India.
The British East India Company extended its control over the whole of Bengal. After the Battle
of Buxar in 1764, the company acquired the rights of administration in Bengal from Mughal
Emperor Shah Alam II; this marked the beginning of its formal rule, which within the next
century engulfed most of India and extinguished the Moghul rule and dynasty.
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 in Bengal, often with zamindars
set in place. 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.
The Hindu Ahom Kingdom of North-east India first fell to Burmese invasion and then to British
after Treaty of Yandabo in 1826.
The rebellion of 1857 and its consequences
Main article: Indian rebellion of 1857
The Indian rebellion of 1857 was a large-scale rebellion by soldiers employed by the British East
India in northern and central India against the Company's rule. The rebels were disorganized, had
differing goals, and were poorly equipped, led, and trained, and had no outside support or
funding. They were brutally suppressed and the British government took control of the Company
and eliminated many of the grievances that caused it. The government also was determined to
keep full control so that no rebellion of such size would ever happen again. It favoured the
princely states (that helped suppress the rebellion), and tended to favour Muslims (who were less
rebellious) against the Hindus who dominated the rebellion.
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 number of provinces; the John Company's lands
were controlled directly, while it had considerable indirect influence over the rest of India, which
consisted of the Princely states ruled by local royal families. There were officially 565 princely
states in 1947, but only 21 had actual state governments, and only three were large (Mysore,
Hyderabad and Kashmir). They were absorbed into the independent nation in 1947-48.
British Raj (1858-1947)
Main article: British Raj
The British Indian Empire at its greatest extent (in a map of 1909). The princely states under
British suzerainty are in yellow.
When the Lord Curzon (Viceroy 1899-1905) took control of higher education and then split the
large province of Bengal into a largely Hindu western half and "Eastern Bengal and Assam," a
largely Muslim eastern half. The British goal was efficient administration but Hindus were
outraged at the apparent "divide and rule" strategy." When the Liberal party in Britain came to
power in 1906 he was removed. The new Viceroy Gilbert Minto and the new Secretary of State
for India John Morley consulted with Congress leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale. The Morley-
Minto reforms of 1909 provided for Indian membership of the provincial executive councils as
well as the Viceroy's executive council. The Imperial Legislative Council was enlarged from 25
to 60 members and separate communal representation for Muslims was established in a dramatic
step towards representative and responsible government. Bengal was reunified in 1911.
Meanwhile the Muslims for the first time began to organise, setting up the All India Muslim
League in 1906. It was not a mass party but was designed to protect the interests of the
aristocratic Muslims, especially in the north west. It was internally divided by conflicting
loyalties to Islam, the British, and India, and by distrust of Hindus.
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
and the Indian famine of 1899–1900 in which 1.25 to 10 million
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.
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.
The Indian independence movement
Main articles: Indian independence movement and Pakistan Movement
See also: Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Indian independence activists
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and Muhammad Ali Jinnah, Bombay, 1944.
The numbers of British in India were small, yet they were able to rule two-thirds of the
subcontinent directly and exercise considerable leverage over the princely states that accounted
for the remaining one-third of the area. There were 674 of the these states in 1900, with a
population of 73 million, or one person in five. In general, the princely states were strong
supporters of the British regime, and the Raj left them alone. They were finally closed down in
The first step toward Indian self-rule was the appointment of councillors to advise the British
viceroy, in 1861; the first Indian was appointed in 1909. Provincial Councils with Indian
members were also set up. The councillors' participation was subsequently widened into
legislative councils. The British built a large British Indian Army, with the senior officers all
British, and many of the troops from small minority groups such as Gurkhas from Nepal and
Sikhs. The civil service was increasingly filled with natives at the lower levels, with the British
holding the more senior positions.
From 1920 leaders such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began highly popular mass
movements to campaign against the British Raj using largely peaceful methods. Some others
adopted a militant approach that sought to overthrow British rule by armed struggle;
revolutionary activities against the British rule took place throughout the Indian sub-continent.
The Gandhi-led independence movement opposed the British rule using non-violent methods
like non-cooperation, civil disobedience and economic resistance. These movements succeeded
in bringing independence to the new dominions of India and Pakistan in 1947.
Independence and partition (1947-present)
Main articles: Partition of India, History of the Republic of India, History of Pakistan, and
History of Bangladesh
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 within the subcontinent, 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 foreign Raj, although Gandhi called for
unity between the two groups in an astonishing display of leadership. The British, extremely
weakened by the Second World War, promised that they would leave and participated in the
formation of an interim government. The British Indian territories gained independence in 1947,
after being partitioned into the Union of India and Dominion of Pakistan. Following the
controversial division of pre-partition Punjab and Bengal, rioting broke out between Sikhs,
Hindus and Muslims in these provinces and spread to several other parts of India, leaving some
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 (which gained independence on 15 and 14 August 1947
In 1971, Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan and East Bengal, seceded from