Brief History of India: Located on the Asian mainland, India occupies 2,973,193 square kilometers of land and 314,070 square kilometers of water making it the world’s seventh largest country with a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometers. The South East Coast is flanked by Bhutan, Nepal and Bangladesh to the North East, China to the North, Pakistan to the North West, and Sri Lanka.
India is a land of cultures of old. The social, fiscal, and cultural arrangements of India are products of a long regional expansion process. With the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization and the arrival of the Aryans, Indian history starts. Typically, these two periods are known as the pre-Vedic and Vedic times. In the Vedic period, Hinduism emerged.
Under Ashoka, who had converted to Buddhism, the fifth century saw the unity of India, and it was during his rule that Buddhism spread to many areas of Asia. Islam first came to India in the eighth century and by the eleventh century, it had strongly developed itself as a political power in India. It led to the establishment of the Sultanate of Delhi, which was eventually replaced by the Mughal Empire, in which India once again enjoyed a substantial degree of political stability.
It was in the 17th century in India, that the Europeans arrived. This coincided with the Mughal Empire’s disintegration, opening the way for provincial states. In the dominance game,’ victors’ originated from the English. The 1857-58 Uprising, which attempted to regain Indian sovereignty, was crushed; and the integration of India into the empire was complete with the eventual crowning of Victoria as Empress of India. This was followed by India’s freedom war, which we achieved in 1947. Here is a brief history of India:
Ancient India History
The Indus Valley Civilization
The next era that India saw was that of the Vedic civilization, flourishing along the river Saraswati, named after the Vedas, which depict the early literature of the Hindus. The two greatest epics of this period were the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, still held in great reverence by the followers of Hinduism.
Next came the Buddhist era, during the time of the Mahajanapadas which were the sixteen great powers, during the 7th and the 6th centuries BC. Prominent powers at the time were the Sakyas of Kapilavastu and the Licchavis of Vaishali. Buddha, whose original name was Siddhartha Gautam, was born in Lumbini near Kapilavastu and was the founder of Buddhism – a religion based on spiritualism. He died at the age of 80 in 480 BC but his teachings spread throughout southern and eastern Asia and are followed across the world today.
The Invasion of Alexander
When Alexander invaded India in 326 BC, he crossed the Indus river and defeated the Indian rulers in battle. Noteworthy of the Indians’ attempts at war, was the use of elephants, something that the Macedonians had never seen before. Alexander then took over the lands of the defeated kings.
The Gupta Dynasty
The Gupta period has been referred to as the Golden Age of Indian history. When Chandragupt I received the gift of Pataliputra in dowry when he married the daughter of the chief of the ‘Licchavis’, he started to lay down the foundation of his empire, which extended from the river Ganges or the Ganga to the city of Allahabad. He ruled for 15 years and was also referred to as the ‘king of kings’ for his strategic conquests and the flourishing state of India.
The last of the ancient kingdoms in India was by the king Harshavardhana, who ascended the throne at Thanneshwar and Kannauj after his brother died. While successful in a few of his conquests, he eventually got defeated by the Chalukya Kingdom of Deccan India. Harshavardhana was well-known for establishing relations with the Chinese, and also for having high religious tolerance and strong administrative capabilities.
Medieval Indian History
The medieval history of India is renowned for deriving a lot of its character from Islamic kingdoms. Extending across almost three generations, medieval India included a number of kingdoms and dynasties:
– The Chalukyas
– The Pallavas
– The Pandyas
– The Rashtrakutas
– The Cholas
The Cholas were the most important rulers at this time, the 9th Century AD. Their kingdom covered a large part of South India, including Sri Lanka and the Maldives. While the rulers ruled bravely and carried out the annexation of multiple territories in India, the empire came to an end in the 14th Century AD with an invasion by a man named Kafur Malik. The monuments from the Chola Dynasty are still intact and are known for their rustic charm.
The next major empire was that of the Mughals, preceded by a rise in Islamic rulers. The invasion of Timur was a significant point in Indian history before a Hindu revival movement called the Bhakti movement, came to be. Finally, in the 16th Century, the Mughal empire started to rise. One of the greatest empires of India, the Mughal empire was a rich and glorious one, with the whole of India united and ruled by one monarch. The Mughal Kings were Babar, Humayun, Sher Shah Suri (not a Mughal king), Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. They were responsible for setting up efficient public administration, laying out infrastructure, and promoting the arts. A large number of monuments in India today exist from the Mughal period. The death of the last Mughal King, Aurangzeb, sowed the seeds of disintegration within India. Influencers of Islamic architecture in India, the Mughal kings are still looked back in awe.
Modern Indian History
However, the zenith of colonisation was achieved when the British arrived in the early 1600s as traders. Capitalizing on the disintegration that existed in India after the Mughal rule, the British actively used the strategy of ‘divide-and-rule’ to rule over India for over 2 centuries. While the British had come in earlier, they only achieved political power in 1757 AD after the Battle of Plassey.
They took a keen interest in the resources that India had to offered and have been looked back at as plunderers of India’s wealth of resources – as they took cotton, spices, silk, and tea, amongst numerous other resources. While they did lay out a massive chunk of India’s infrastructure, by also bringing the Indians steam engines, it is seldom looked back at as an equal relationship. The British Raj was divisive and pit Indians against one another, on the basis of religion; and also mistreated the laborers. The Indians were essentially slaves of the British rule and were working hard without any returns on their work. This, naturally, led to multiple mutinies; and prominent freedom fighters came to the forefront. Different ideologies of thought believed that there were different ways of gaining freedom; however, they all had one common goal – freedom.
The British queen had asserted that the aim of the British was to help India progress – however, multiple problems arose without the consultation of Indian leaders. One important instance of this was when in the First World War, Britain launched an attack on Germany on behalf of India, even though India did not wish for that to happen; and millions of Indian soldiers were at the forefront of the British Indian Army during both the world wars – further fueling the Indian resistance. Over a million Indian soldiers were killed in both the World Wars.