Outline of ancient India

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Ancient India refers to the History of India (timeline of Indian history), from the pre-historic times (c. 7000 BCE or earlier) to the start of the Middle Ages (c. 500 CE).[1] The history of India includes:


James Mill (1773–1836), in his The History of British India (1817),[2] distinguished three phases in the history of India, namely Hindu, Muslim and British civilisations.[2][3] This periodisation has been criticised, for the misconceptions it has given rise to.[4] Another periodisation is the division into "ancient, classical, mediaeval and modern periods".[5] Smart[6] and Michaels[7] seem to follow Mill's periodisation,[note 1], while Flood[8] and Muesse[10][11] follow the "ancient, classical, mediaeval and modern periods" periodisation.[12]

Smart[6] Michaels
Muesse[11] Flood[14]
Indus Valley Civilisation and Vedic period
(c. 3000–1000 BCE)
Prevedic religions
(until c. 1750 BCE)[7]
Prevedic religions
(until c. 1750 BCE)[7]
Indus Valley Civilization
(3300–1400 BCE)
Indus Valley Civilisation
(c. 2500 to 1500 BCE)
Vedic religion
(c. 1750–500 BCE)
Early Vedic Period
(c. 1750–1200 BCE)
Vedic Period
(1600–800 BCE)
Vedic period
(c. 1500–500 BCE)
Middle Vedic Period
(from 1200 BCE)
Pre-classical period
(c. 1000 BCE – 100 CE)
Late Vedic period
(from 850 BCE)
Classical Period
(800–200 BCE)
Ascetic reformism
(c. 500–200 BCE)
Ascetic reformism
(c. 500–200 BCE)
Epic and Puranic period
(c. 500 BCE to 500 CE)
Classical Hinduism
(c. 200 BCE – 1100 CE)[15]
Preclassical Hinduism
(c. 200 BCE – 300 CE)[16]
Epic and Puranic period
(200 BCE – 500 CE)
Classical period
(c. 100 – 1000 CE)
"Golden Age" (Gupta Empire)
(c. 320–650 CE)[17]
Late-Classical Hinduism
(c. 650–1100 CE)[18]
Medieval and Late Puranic Period
(500–1500 CE)
Medieval and Late Puranic Period
(500–1500 CE)
Hindu-Islamic civilisation
(c. 1000–1750 CE)
Islamic rule and "Sects of Hinduism"
(c. 1100–1850 CE)[19]
Islamic rule and "Sects of Hinduism"
(c. 1100–1850 CE)[19]
Modern Age
Modern period
(c. 1500 CE to present)
Modern period
(c. 1750 CE – present)
Modern Hinduism
(from c. 1850)[20]
Modern Hinduism
(from c. 1850)[20]

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 India.[22]
  • For Michaels, the period between 500 BCE and 200 BCE is a time of "Ascetic reformism"[23], 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 Hindu religions".[15]
  • Muesse discerns a longer period of change, namely between 800 BCE and 200 BCE, which he calls the "Classical Period". 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.[24]



  • Neolithic Age India Mehrgarh civilization (c. 7000 – 3300 BCE)

Iron Age (c. 1200 – 272 BCE)[edit]

Second Urbanisation[edit]

Classical Age of India[edit]

Middle Ages (c. 500 – 1500 CE)[edit]

Swami Vivekananda was a key figure in introducing Vedanta and Yoga in Europe and USA,[25] raising interfaith awareness and making Hinduism a world religion.[26]

Science and technology in ancient India[edit]

Table of Indian history[edit]

Timetable of Indian History
Timeline and

cultural period

Westcoast Northwestern India

(Punjab-Sapta Sindhu)

Indo-Gangetic Plain Central India

Deccan Plateau

Southern India
Western Gangetic Plain


Northern India

(Central Gangetic Plain)

Northeastern India


South Asian Stone Age (untill c. 3300 BCE) South Asian Stone Age (untill c. 1100 BCE)
Culture Paleolithicum (untill c. 10,000 BCE)
Before 10,000 BCE Bhimbetka rock shelters

(30,000-15,000 BCE)

Sanghao Caves
Culture Mesolithicum (c. 10,000-7,000 BCE) Mesolithicum (c. 10,000-3,000 BCE)
c. 10,000-7,000 BCE
Culture 'Neolithicum (c. 7000-3300 BCE) Mesolithicum (c. 10,000-3000 BCE)
c. 7,000-3,300 BCE Mehrgarh
BRONZE AGE (c. 3300-1100 BCE) NEOLITHIC (c. 3000-1400 BCE)
Culture Early Harappan
3300-2600 BCE Early Harappan
Culture Integration Era
2600-1900 BCE Indus Valley Civilization
Culture Localisation Era/Late Harappan

OCP/Cemetery H

1900-1500 BCE Earliest known rice cultivation[a]
Culture Localisation Era/Late Harappan

OCP/Cemetery H

Early Vedic period

Gandhara grave culture


(c. 1400-1100 BCE)

1500-1300 BCE Indo-Aryan migration
1300-1100 BCE Wandering Vedic Aryans
IRON AGE (c. 1100-300 BCE)
Culture Middle Vedic Period
Gandhara grave culture Black and red ware culture
1100-800 BCE Vedic settlements


Vedic settlements


Culture Late Vedic Period
Gandhara grave culture (Brahmin ideology)[b]

early Upanishads

Painted Grey Ware culture

(Kshatriya/Shramanic culture)[c]

Northern Black Polished Ware

800-600 BCE Gandhara Kuru-Pancala Kosala-Videha
Culture Late Vedic Period


Gandhara grave culture (Brahmin ideology)[d]

early Upanishads

Painted Grey Ware culture

(Kshatriya/Shramanic culture)[e]

Northern Black Polished Ware

 6th century BCE Gandhara Kuru-Panchala Kosala



Adivasi (tribes)
Culture Persian-Greek influences "Second Urbanisation"
Later Upanishads Rise of Shramana movements
Jainism - Buddhism - Ājīvika - Yoga

Later Upanishads

 5th century BCE (Persian rule) Shishunaga dynasty Adivasi (tribes)
 4th century BCE (Greek conquests)

Nanda empire

Culture Spread of Buddhism Pre-history Sangam period
(300 BCE – 200 CE)
 3rd century BCE Maurya Empire Early Cholas

Early Pandyan Kingdom

Satavahana dynasty


Culture Preclassical Hinduism[f] - "Hindu Synthesis"[g] (c. 200 BCE-300 CE)[h][i]
Epics - Puranas - Ramayana - Mahabharata - Bhagavad Gita - Brahma Sutras - Smarta Tradition
Mahayana Buddhism
Sangam period

(300 BCE – 200 CE)

 2nd century BCE Indo-Greek Kingdom Sunga Empire Adivasi (tribes) Early Cholas

Early Pandyan Kingdom

Satavahana dynasty


 1st century BCE Yona Maha-Meghavahana Dynasty
 1st century CE Indo-Scythians


Kuninda Kingdom
 2nd century Pahlava Varman dynasty
 3rd century Kushan Empire Western Satraps Kamarupa kingdom Kalabhras dynasty
Culture "Golden Age of Hinduism"(c. 320-650 CE)[j]
Co-existence of Hinduism and Buddhism
 4th century Gupta Empire Kadamba Dynasty

Western Ganga Dynasty

 5th century Vishnukundina
 6th century Maitraka Adivasi (tribes)
Culture Late-Classical Hinduism (c. 650-1100 CE)[k]
Advaita Vedanta - Tantra
Decline of Buddhism in India
 7th century Maitraka Indo-Sassanids Vakataka dynasty, Harsha Mlechchha dynasty Adivasi (tribes) Pallava
 8th century Kidarite Kingdom Kalachuri
 9th century Indo-Hephthalites (Huna) Gurjara-Pratihara Chalukya
10th century Pala dynasty

Kamboja-Pala dynasty

Culture Islamic rule and "Sects of Hinduism" (c. 1100-1850 CE)[l] - Medieval and Late Puranic Period (500–1500 CE)[m]
11th century (Islamic conquests)
Kabul Shahi
(Islamic Empire)
Pala Empire
Paramara dynasty
Eastern Ganga dynasty
Sena dynasty Adivasi (tribes) Chola Empire

Yadava dynasty

Western Chalukyas

Eastern Chalukyas

Kakatiya dynasty

Hoysala Empire

12th century Chola Empire
13th century Delhi Sultanate
14th century Delhi Sultanate Vijayanagara Empire
15th century Delhi Sultanate
16th century Mughal Empire
17th century Mughal Empire Maratha Empire
Culture Maratha Empire and British Colonisation - Company rule in India'
18th century Maratha Empire Maratha Empire British Maratha Empire/British
Culture British Colonisation - British Raj'
19th century Sikh Empire
Culture British Raj - Independence struggle - Pakistan - India - Bangladesh'
20th century
21stSmall text century

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Michaels mentions Flood 1996[8] as a source for "Prevedic Religions".[9]
  2. ^ Smart distinguishes "Brahmanism" from the Vedic religion, connecting "Brahmanism" with the Upanishads.[21]


  1. ^ Stein 2010, p. 38.
  2. ^ a b Khanna 2007, p. xvii.
  3. ^ Misra 2004, p. 194.
  4. ^ Kulke 2004, p. 7.
  5. ^ Flood 1996, p. 21.
  6. ^ a b Smart 2003, p. 52-53.
  7. ^ a b c Michaels 2004, p. 32.
  8. ^ a b Flood 1996.
  9. ^ Michaels 2004, p. 31, 348.
  10. ^ Muesse 2003.
  11. ^ a b Muesse 2011.
  12. ^ Muesse 2011, p. 16.
  13. ^ a b Michaels 2004.
  14. ^ Flood & 1996 21-22.
  15. ^ a b Michaels 2004, p. 38.
  16. ^ Michaels 2004, p. 39.
  17. ^ Michaels 2004, p. 40.
  18. ^ Michaels 2004, p. 41.
  19. ^ a b Michaels 2004, p. 43.
  20. ^ a b Michaels 2004, p. 45.
  21. ^ Smart 2003, p. 52, 83-86.
  22. ^ Smart 2003, p. 52.
  23. ^ Michaels 2004, p. 36.
  24. ^ Muesse 2003, p. 14.
  25. ^ Georg, Feuerstein (2002). The Yoga Tradition. Motilal Banarsidass. p. 600. ISBN 3-935001-06-1. 
  26. ^ Clarke, Peter Bernard (2006). New Religions in Global Perspective. Routledge. p. 209. ISBN 0-7007-1185-6. 


  • Flood, Gavin D. (1996), An Introduction to Hinduism, Cambridge University Press 
  • Khanna, Meenakshi (2007), Cultural History Of Medieval India, Berghahn Books 
  • Kulke, Hermann; Rothermund, Dietmar (2004), A History of India, Routledge 
  • Michaels, Axel (2004), Hinduism. Past and present, Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press 
  • Misra, Amalendu (2004), Identity and Religion: Foundations of Anti-Islamism in India, SAGE 
  • Muesse, Mark William (2003), Great World Religions: Hinduism 
  • Muesse, Mark W. (2011), The Hindu Traditions: A Concise Introduction, Fortress Press 
  • Smart, Ninian (2003), Godsdiensten van de wereld (The World's religions), Kampen: Uitgeverij Kok 
  • Stein, Burton (2010), A History of India, John Wiley & Sons