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This article is about India prior to the Partition of India in 1947. For the modern Republic of India, see History of the Republic of India.

The archaeological record in India (encompassing the territory of the modern nations of the Republic of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) shows first traces of Homo sapiens from ca. 34,000 years ago. The Bronze Age civilization emerged contemporary to the civilizations of the Ancient Near East, from circa 3300 BC, with the Indus Valley Civilization reaching its mature phase from around 2600 BC. The Vedic period in the Iron Age saw the rise of major kingdoms known as the Mahajanapadas, in which Mahavira and Gautama Buddha were born during the 6th century BC. The Indian subcontinent was first united under the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BC.

After the collapse of the Maurya Empire in the 2nd century BC, Middle kingdoms of India were formed. From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as ancient India's "Golden Age." While the north had larger, fewer kingdoms, south India had several dynasties such as the Chalukyas, Cholas, Pallavas and Pandyas, which overlapped in time and territory. Science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings. Following invasions from Central Asia between the tenth and twelfth centuries, much of north India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty. Mughal emperors gradually expanded their kingdoms to cover large parts of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, several indigenous kingdoms, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, flourished, especially in the south. After the collapse of the Mughal Empire in the 18th century, most of India was conquered by the British East India Company in the 19th century. After the Indian Rebellion of 1857, India was ruled by the British Raj from 1858.

During the first half of the twentieth century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organisations. India gained independence in 1947, after being partitioned into the Republic of India and Pakistan. The two nations immediately engaged in wafare, with East Pakistan gaining independence as Bangladesh in 1971 after the Bangladesh Liberation War.

Pre-historic era[edit]

Bhimbetka rock painting

Isolated remains of Homo erectus in Hathnora in the Narmada Valley in Central India indicate that India might have been inhabited since at least the Middle Pleistocene era, somewhere between 200,000 to 500,000 years ago.[1][2] The Mesolithic period in the Indian subcontinent covered a timespan of around 25,000 years, starting around 30,000 years ago. Modern humans seem to have settled the subcontinent towards the end of the last Ice Age, or approximately 12,000 years ago. The first confirmed permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago in the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in modern Madhya Pradesh. Early Neolithic culture in South Asia is represented by the Mehrgarh findings (7000 BCE onwards) in present day Balochistan, Pakistan. Traces of a Neolithic culture have been found submerged in the Gulf of Khambat, radiocarbon dated to 7500 BCE.[3] Late Neolithic cultures sprang up in the Indus Valley region between 6000 and 2000 BCE and in southern India between 2800 and 1200 BCE.

The Bronze Age[edit]

The Bronze Age on the Indian subcontinent began around 3300 BC with the beginning of the Indus Valley civilization. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus Valley, the Harappans, developed new techniques in metallurgy and produced copper, bronze, lead and tin.

Indus Valley Civilization[edit]

[[:image:Lothal_conception.jpg|thumb|268px|An ancient Indus-Valley city (Lothal) as envisaged by the Archaeological Survey of India.]]

The irrigation of the Indus Valley, which provided enough resources to support major urban centers such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro (in modern day Pakistan) around 2500 BC, marked the beginning of the Harappan Civilization. It was centred on the Indus River and its tributaries, including the Ghaggar-Hakra River,[4] and extended into the Ganges-Yamuna Doab,[5] Gujarat,[6][7] and northern Afghanistan.[8]

The civilization is noted for its cities built of brick, road-side drainage system and multi-storied houses. Among the settlements were the major urban centres of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro, as well as Dholavira, Ganweriwala, Lothal, Kalibanga and Rakhigarhi. To date, over 2,500 cities and settlements have been found, mainly in the general region to the east of the Indus River in Pakistan. It is thought by some that geological disturbances and climate change, leading to a gradual deforestation may ultimately have contributed to the civilization's downfall.

Vedic Civilization[edit]

The Vedic Civilization is the Indo-Aryan culture associated with the Vedas, which are some of the oldest extant texts, orally composed in Vedic Sanskrit. Most scholars today postulate a Indo-Aryan migration into India,[9] proposing that early Indo-Aryan speaking tribes migrated into the north-west regions of the Indian subcontinent in the early 2nd millennium BCE. The nature of this migration, the place of origin of the Proto-Indo-Iranian speakers, and sometimes even the very existence of the Aryans as a separate people are debated, a phenomenon termed the 'Indigenous Aryan debate' by Edwin Bryant.

Early Vedic society was largely pastoral. After the Rigveda, Aryan society became increasingly agricultural, and was socially organized around the four Varnas. In addition to the principal texts of Hinduism (the Vedas), the epics (the Ramayana and Mahabharata) are said to have their ultimate origins during this period.[10] Early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part, to the presence of Ochre Coloured Pottery in archaeological findings. The kingdom of the Kurus corresponds to the Black and Red Ware culture and the beginning of the Iron Age in Northwestern India, around 1000 BC (roughly contemporaneous with the composition of the Atharvaveda, the first Indian text to mention Iron, as śyāma ayas, literally "black metal"). Painted Grey Ware cultures spanning much of Northern India marks the Middle Vedic Mahajanapadas.

The 16 Mahajanapadas of the Iron Age[edit]

The Mahajanapadas were the sixteen most powerful kingdoms and republics of the era, located mainly across the fertile Gangetic plains, however there were a number of smaller kingdoms stretching the length and breadth of India

During the Iron Age, a number of small kingdoms or city states covered the subcontinent, many mentioned during Vedic literature as far back as 1000 BC. By 500 BC, sixteen monarchies and 'republics' known as the MahajanapadasKasi, Kosala, Anga, Magadha, Vajji (or Vriji), Malla, Chedi, Vatsa (or Vamsa), Kuru, Panchala, Machcha (or Matsya), Surasena, Assaka, Avanti, Gandhara, Kamboja — stretched across the Indo-Gangetic plains from modern-day Afghanistan to Bangladesh. Many smaller clans mentioned within early literature seem to have been present across the rest of the subcontinent. The largest of these nations were Magadha, Kosala, Kuru and Gandhara.[citation needed] Some of these kings were hereditary, other city states elected their rulers. There is some controversy about how closely the political entities of this period can be represented by those mentioned in the Vedas, and ancient epics of India. The educated speech at that time was Sanskrit, while the dialects of the general population of northern India were referred to as Prakrits.

Hindu rituals at that time were complicated and conducted by the priestly class. It is thought that the Upanishads, late Vedic texts dealing mainly with incipient philosophy, were first composed early in this period. Upanishads had a huge effect on Indian philosophy, and were contemporary to the development of Buddhism and Jainism, indicating a golden age of thought in this period. It was in 537 BC, that Gautama Buddha gained enlightenment and founded Buddhism, which was initially intended as a supplement to the existing Vedic dharma. Around the same time period, in mid-6th century BC, Mahavira founded Jainism. Both religions had a simple doctrine, and were preached in Prakrit, which helped it gain acceptance amongst the masses. While the geographic impact of Jainism was limited, Buddhist nuns and monks eventually spread the teachings of Buddha to Central Asia, East Asia, Tibet, Sri Lanka and South East Asia.

Recorded history from this period of fragmented states is sparse. The Mahajanapadas were roughly equivalent to the ancient Greek city-states of the same period in the Mediterranean, producing philosophy which would eventually form the basis of much of the eastern world's beliefs, just as ancient Greece would produce philosophy that much of the western world's subsequent beliefs were based on. The period effectively ended with the onset of Persian and Greek invasion, and the subsequent rise of a single Indian empire from the kingdom of Magadha.

Persian and Greek invasion[edit]

Alexander's conquests reached the northernmost edge of India, around the Indus river in modern day Pakistan, which was slightly further than the Achaemenid Empire

Much of the northwestern Indian Subcontinent (present day Eastern Afghanistan and most of Pakistan) was ruled by the Persian Achaemenid Empire from c. 520 BC during the reign of Darius the Great. The Achaemenids used the Aramaic script for the Persian language. After the end of Achaemenid rule, the use of Aramaic in the Indus plain diminished, although inscriptions from the time of Emperor Asoka indicate that it was still in use two centuries later. Other scripts, such as Kharosthi (a script derived from Aramaic) and Greek became more common after the arrival of Alexander.

Alexander the Great conquered Asia Minor and the Achaemenid Empire, reaching the north-west frontiers of the Indian subcontinent in 334 BC. There, he defeated King Puru in the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered much of the Punjab. However, Alexander's troops refused to go beyond the Hyphases (Beas) River near modern day Jalandhar, Punjab. Great altars were erected to mark the eastern most extent of Alexander's empire on the east bank of the Beas. He also set up a city named Alexandria nearby and left many Macedonian veterans there; he himself turned back and marched his army southwest.

The Persian and Greek invasions had important repercussions for Indian Civilization. The political systems of the Persians would have an influence on later Indian political philosophy, including the administration of the Mauryan dynasty. A melting pot of Indian, Persian, Central Asian and Greek culture was created in the modern regions of Afghanistan and western Pakistan, producing a hybrid culture. Greco-Buddhism, sometimes spelled Græco-Buddhism, is the cultural syncretism between the culture of Classical Greece and Buddhism, which developed in the area corresponding to modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan, between the 4th century BC and the 5th century AD. Greco-Buddhism especially influenced the artistic development of Mahayana Buddhism, and was mainly centered about the area of Gandhara, or modern Afghanistan.

The Magadha empire[edit]

Amongst the sixteen Mahajanapadas, the kingdom of Magadha rose to prominence under a number of dynasties. According to tradition, the Haryanka dynasty founded the Magadha Empire in 684 BC, whose capital was Rajagriha, later Pataliputra, near the present day Patna. This dynasty was succeeded by the Shishunaga dynasty which, in turn, was overthrown by the Nanda dynasty in 424 BC. The Nandas were followed by the Maurya dynasty.

Maurya dynasty[edit]

Map depicting the largest extent of the Mauryan Empire in dark blue, and allied or friendly areas in light blue

In 321 BC, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya, under direct patronage of the genius of Chanakya, founded the Maurya dynasty after overthrowing the reigning king Dhana Nanda to establish the Maurya Empire. Most of the subcontinent was united under a single government for the first time under the Maurya rule. Mauryan empire under Chandragupta would not only conquer most of the Indian subcontinent, but also push its boundaries into Persia and Central Asia, conquering the Gandhara region. Chandragupta Maurya is credited for the spread of Jainism in southern Indian region.

Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara, who expanded the kingdom over most of present day India, barring Kalinga, and the extreme south and east, which may have held tributary status. Bindusara's kingdom was inherited by his son Ashoka the Great who initially sought to expand his kingdom. In the aftermath of the carnage caused in the invasion of Kalinga, he renounced bloodshed and pursued a policy of non-violence or ahimsa after converting to Buddhism. The Edicts of Ashoka are the oldest preserved historical documents of India, and from Ashoka's time, approximate dating of dynasties becomes possible. The Mauryan dynasty under Ashoka was responsible for the proliferation of Buddhist ideals across the whole of East Asia and South-East Asia, fundamentally altering the history and development of Asia as a whole. Ashoka's grandson Samprati adopted Jainism and helped spread Jainism.

The Sunga Dynasty was established in 185 BC, about fifty years after Ashoka's death, when the king Brihadratha, the last of the Mauryan rulers, was murdered by the then commander-in-chief of the Mauryan armed forces, Pusyamitra Sunga. The Kanva dynasty replaced the Sunga dynasty, and ruled in the eastern part of India from 71 BC to 26 BC. In 30 BC, the southern power swept away both the Kanvas and Sungas. Following the collapse of the Kanva dynasty, the Satavahana dynasty of the Andhra kindgom replaced the Magadha kingdom as the most powerful Indian state.

Northwestern hybrid cultures[edit]

Silver coin depicting the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius (r.c. 205-171 BC).

A series of hybrid cultures formed in the region of northwestern India, around modern Afghanistan and Pakistan, due to remnant kingdoms left by Persian and Greek conquests, who were later supplanted by invading nomads from central Asia. These cultures often dominated the area of the silk route where trade and culture from India, China and Persia met, gaining influence from cultures throughout the world, and spreading Indian developments to other countries connected along the trade route. Their rulers adopted Buddhism and Hinduism, and their culture influenced north Indian styles.

The Indo-Greek Kingdom, founded when the Greco-Bactrian king Demetrius invaded India in 180 BC, covered various parts of northwest and northern India from till around 10 AD, and was ruled by a succession of more than thirty Greek kings, often in conflict with each other. The Indo-Scythians are a branch of the Indo-European Sakas (Scythians), who migrated from southern Siberia into Bactria, Sogdiana, Kashmir and finally into Arachosia and then India from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century BCE. The Indo-Parthian Kingdom (also known as Pahlavas) controlled all of Bactria and extensive territories in Northern India, after fighting many local rulers such as the Kushan Empire ruler Kujula Kadphises, in the Gandhara region. The Sassanid empire of Persia, who were close contemporaries of the Guptas, began to expand into the north-western part of ancient India (now Pakistan), where they established their rule. The mingling of Indian and Persian cultures in this region gave birth to the Indo-Sassanid culture.

Early middle kingdoms — the golden age[edit]

Several empires of the early middle kingdoms

The middle period was a time of notable cultural development. The Satavahanas, also known as the Andhras, were a dynasty which ruled in Southern and Central India starting from around 230 BC. Satakarni, the sixth ruler of the Satvahana dynasty, defeated the Sunga dynasty of North India. Gautamiputra Satakarni was another notable ruler of the dynasty. Kuninda Kingdom was a small Himalayan state that survived from around the 2nd century BC to roughly the 3rd century AD. The Kushanas invaded north-western India about the middle of the 1st century AD, from Central Asia, and founded an empire that eventually stretched from Peshawar to the middle Ganges and, perhaps, as far as the Bay of Bengal. It also included ancient Bactria (in the north of modern Afghanistan) and southern Tajikistan. The Western Satraps (35-405 CE) were Saka rulers of the western and central part of India. Kshatrapas were contemporaneous with the Kushans who ruled the northern part of the Indian subcontinent, and the Satavahana (Andhra) who ruled in Central India.

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

Gupta dynasty[edit]

Famous ancient fresco from the Ajanta Caves, made during the Gupta period

In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Dynasty unified northern India. During this period, known as India's Golden Age, Hindu culture, science and political administration reached new heights. Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II were the most notable rulers of the Gupta dynasty. The Vedic Puranas are also thought to have been written around this period. The empire came to an end with the attack of the Huns from central Asia. After the collapse of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century, India was again ruled by numerous regional kingdoms. A minor line of the Gupta clan continued to rule Magadha after the disintegration of the empire. These Guptas were ultimately ousted by the Vardhana king Harsha, who established an empire in the first half of the seventh century.

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

Late Middle Kingdoms — the classical age[edit]

Chola architecture, Thanjavur temple
Sculpture from a temple at Khajuraho, Rajput period

Later during the middle period, the Chola kingdom emerged in northern Tamil Nadu, and the Chera kingdom in Kerala. The ports of southern India were involved in the Indian Ocean trade, chiefly involving spices, with the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east. In the north, the first of the Rajputs, a series of kingdoms which managed to survive in some form for almost a millennium until Indian independence from the British. This period produced some of India's finest art, considered the epitomy of classical development, and the main spiritual and philosophical systems of India continued to be Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. This period began with the resurgence of the north during Harsha's conquests around the 7th century, and ended with the fall of the Vijaynagar Empire in the South, due to pressure from the invaders to the north in the 13th century.

King Harsha of Kannauj succeeded in reuniting northern India during his reign in the 7th century, after the collapse of the Gupta dynasty. His kingdom collapsed after his death. From the 7th to the 9th century, three dynasties contested for control of northern India: the Pratiharas of Malwa and later Kannauj; the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan, while the Cholas were flourishing in the south. The Sena dynasty would later assume control of the Pala kingdom, and the Pratiharas fragmented into various Rajput states. The Chalukya Empire ruled parts of southern and central India from 550 to 750 from Badami, Karnataka and again from 970 to 1190 from Kalyani, Karnataka. The Pallavas of Kanchi were their contemporaries to the south. Whilst the northern concept of a pan-Indian empire had collapsed at the end of Harsha's empire, the ideal instead shifted to the south.

The first recorded Rajput kingdoms emerged in Rajasthan in the 6th century, and Rajput dynasties later ruled much of northern India. One Rajput of the Chauhan dynasty, Prithviraj Chauhan, was known for bloody conflicts against the encroaching Islamic Sultanates. The Shahi dynasty ruled portions of eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir from the mid-seventh century to the early eleventh century.

With the decline of the Kalyani Chalukya empire, their feudatories, Hoysalas of Halebidu, Kakatiya of Warangal, Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri and a southern branch of the Kalachuri divided the vast Chalukya empire amongst themselves around the middle of 12th century. Literature in local vernaculars and spectacular architecture flourished till about the beginning of the 14th century when southern expeditions of the sultan of Delhi took their toll on these kingdoms. By 1343 A.D., all these kingdoms had ceased to exist giving rise to the Vijayanagar empire. Southern Indian kingdoms of the time expanded their influence as far as Indonesia, controlling vast overseas empires in Southeast Asia. The Hindu Vijayanagar dynasty came into conflict with Islamic rule (the Bahmani Kingdom) and the clashing of the two systems, caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign culture that left lasting cultural influences on each other. The Vijaynagar Empire eventually declined due to pressure from the first Delhi Sultanates who had managed to establish themselves in the north, centered around the city of Delhi.

The Islamic sultanates[edit]

Qutub Minar in Delhi, commenced by Qutb-ud-din Aybak of Slave dynasty.

After the Arab-Turkic invasion of India's ancient northern neighbour Persia, expanding forces in that area were keen to invade India, which was the richest classical civilization, with the only known diamond mines in the world. After resistance for a few centuries by various north Indian kingdoms, short lived Islamic empires invaded and spread across the northern subcontinent over a period of a few centuries. Prior to Turkic invasions, Muslim trading communities flourished throughout coastal South India, particularly in Kerala, where they arrived in small numbers through trade links via the Indian Ocean with the Arabian peninsula, however, this marked the largescale introduction of western religion into the primarily dharmic culture of India, often in puritanical form. Bahmani Sultanate and Deccan sultanates flourished in the south.

Delhi sultanate[edit]

In the 12th and 13th centuries, Arabs, Turks and Afghans invaded parts of northern India and established the Delhi Sultanate at the beginning of the 13th century, from former Rajput holdings. The subsequent Slave dynasty of Delhi managed to conquer large areas of northern India, approximate to the ancient extent of the Guptas, while the Khilji Empire was also able to conquer most of central India, but were ultimately unsuccessful in conquering most of the subcontinent.

The Mughal era[edit]

Approximate extent of the Mughal dynasty in the 17th century
Taj Mahal, built by the Mughals

During the Mughal era, the dominant political forces consisted of the Mughal Empire, its tributaries, and the rise of its successor states, including the Maratha confederacy, who fought an increasingly weak and disfavoured Mughal dynasty. In 1526, Babur, a Timurid (Turco-Persian) descendant of Timur, swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which lasted for over 200 years. The Mughal Dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600; it went into a slow decline after 1707 and was finally defeated during the Indian rebellion of 1857. This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority were ruled over by the Mughal emperors, some of whom showed religious tolerance, liberally patronising Hindu culture, and some of whom destroyed historical temples and imposed taxes on non-Muslims. During the decline of the Mughal Empire, which at its peak occupied an area slightly larger than the ancient Maurya Empire, several smaller empires rose to fill the power vacuum or themselves were contributing factors to the decline. The Mughals were perhaps the richest single dynasty to have ever existed.

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 Zazia Tax from non-M uslim pilgrims. The Mughal Emperors married local royalty, allied themselves with local Maharajas, and attempted to fuse their Turko-Persian culture with ancient Indian styles, creating unique Indo-Saracenic architecture. It was the erosion of this tradition coupled with increased brutality and centralisation that played a large part in their downfall after Aurangzeb, who unlike previous emperors, imposed relatively non-pluralistic policies on the general population, that often inflamed the majority Hindu population.

Post-Mughal regional kingdoms[edit]

India in 1760 A.D.

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

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

The Punjabi kingdom, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity that governed the region of modern day Punjab. This was among the last areas of the subcontinent to be conquered by the British. The Anglo-Sikh wars marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire. Around the 18th century modern Nepal was formed by Gorkha rulers, who conquered the Kathmandu valley. During later colonial rule, Nepal was made a puppet state of Great Britain, rather than annexed like other princely states.

Colonial era[edit]

During the colonial era, India, along with several ancient nations in Asia, Africa and South America, was targeted by expansionist European powers, and was eventually attempted to be incorporated as a vassal territory governed largely by the British Crown. Vasco da Gama's discovery of a new sea route to India in 1498 paved the way for European commerce with India.[11] The Portuguese set up bases in Goa, Daman, Diu and Bombay. The British established their first outpost in South Asia in 1619 at Surat on the northwestern coast of India, arriving in the wake of Portuguese and Dutch visitors.[12] The French set up base along with the British in the 17th century. They tried to occupy large parts of southern India. However, subsequent wars with the British led to the loss of almost all of their commercial posts. They did, however, retain the trade-posts of Pondicherry and Chandernagore. The Dutch maintained trade-posts in the towns of Travancore.

The British Raj[edit]

Robert Clive, 1st Baron Clive, became the first British Governor of Bengal.
The extent of the British Empire, with India and Burma shown in purple

The British East India Company had been given permission by the Mughal emperor Jahangir in 1617 to trade in India.[13] 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.[14] The Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah, the de-facto ruler of the Bengal province opposed British attempts to misuse these permits. This led to the Battle of Plassey in 1757 in which the British Company army led by Robert Clive defeated the Nawab. This was the first foothold that the British acquired in India. Clive became the first Governor of Bengal in 1757.[15] After the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the Company acquired the civil rights of administration in Bengal from the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, begining their rule in India.[16]

The British monopolized the trade of Bengal. They introduced a land taxation system called the Permanent Settlement which among other things forced the farmers to produce cash crops, and led to the decline of Indian handicraft industry and skilled workforce. By the 1850s Britain controlled most of the Indian sub-continent, which included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. In general, their policy was of Divide and Rule by which they took advantage of the enmity fostering between various princely states.

The British Rule was unpopular due to their scant regard for Indian traditions and culture. The first major pan-Indian movement against the British rule resulted in the first War of Independence in 1857, also known as the Indian mutiny. The movement was soon crushed by the British. In the aftermath all power was transferred from the East India Company to the Crown, which began administering most of India directly. It controlled the rest through local rulers. The last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Burma and the Mughal empire abolished.

The Indian Independence movement[edit]

Gandhi and Nehru in 1937

The first step toward Indian independence and western-style democracy was taken with the appointment of Indian councillors to advise the British viceroy,[17] and with the establishment of provincial Councils with Indian members the councillors' participation was subsequently widened in legislative councils.[18] Beginning in 1920, Indian leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi transformed the Indian National Congress into a mass movement to campaign against the British Raj. Revolutionary activities against the British rule also took place is some parts of India. The movement eventually succeeded in bringing a unified democratic nation-state to the people of the Indian subcontinent, by means of parliamentary action and non-violent resistance and non-cooperation. India gained independence in 1947, after being partitioned into the Republic of India and Pakistan.Following the division, rioting broke out between Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims in several parts of India, including Punjab, Bengal and Delhi, leaving some 500,000 dead.[19] 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.[19]

Post-1947 history of the subcontinent[edit]


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  8. ^ Kenoyer, Jonathan (15 September 1998). Ancient Cities of the Indus Valley Civilization. USA: Oxford University Press. pp. p96. ISBN 0195779401.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  9. ^ Mallory, J.P. (1989). In Search of the Indo-Europeans: Language, Archaeology and Myth (Reprint edition (April 1991) ed.). London: Thames & Hudson. pp. p 43. ISBN 0500276161. The great majority of scholars insist that the Indo-Aryans were intrusive into northwest India 
  10. ^ Valmiki (March 1990). Goldman, Robert P, ed. The Ramayana of Valmiki: An Epic of Ancient India, Volume 1: Balakanda. Ramayana of Valmiki. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. pp. p. 23. ISBN 069101485X. 
  11. ^ "Vasco da Gama: Round Africa to India, 1497-1498 CE". Internet Modern History Sourcebook. Paul Halsall. June1998. Retrieved 2007-05-07.  Check date values in: |date= (help) From: Oliver J. Thatcher, ed., The Library of Original Sources (Milwaukee: University Research Extension Co., 1907), Vol. V: 9th to 16th Centuries, pp. 26-40.
  12. ^ "Indian History - Important events: History of India. An overview". History of India. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  13. ^ "The Great Moghul Jahangir: Letter to James I, King of England, 1617 A.D." Indian History Sourcebook: England, India, and The East Indies, 1617 CE. Internet Indian History Sourcebook, Paul Halsall. June 1998. Retrieved 2007-05-07.  From: James Harvey Robinson, ed., Readings in European History, 2 Vols. (Boston: Ginn and Co., 1904-1906), Vol. II: From the opening of the Protestant Revolt to the Present Day, pp. 333–335.
  14. ^ "KOLKATA (CALCUTTA) : HISTORY". Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  15. ^ Rickard, J. (1 November 2000). "Robert Clive, Baron Clive, 'Clive of India', 1725-1774". Military History Encyclopedia on the Web. Retrieved 2007-05-07.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  16. ^ Prakash, Om. "The Transformation from a Pre-Colonial to a Colonial Order: The Case of India" (PDF). Global Economic History Network. Economic History Department, London School of Economics and Political Science. pp. 3–40. Retrieved 2007-05-07. 
  17. ^ Mohsin, K.M. "Canning, (Lord)". Banglapedia. Asiatic Society of Bangladesh. Retrieved 2007-05-07. Indian Council Act of 1861 by which non-official Indian members were nominated to the Viceroy's Legislative Council. 
  18. ^ "Minto-Morley Reforms". Jin Technologies. June 1 2003. Retrieved 2007-05-07.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  19. ^ a b Symonds, Richard (1950). The Making of Pakistan. London: Faber and Faber. pp. p 74. OCLC 1462689. ASIN B0000CHMB1. at the lowest estimate, half a million people perished and twelve million became homeless 

Further reading[edit]

  • Allan, J. T. Wolseley Haig, and H. H. Dodwell, The Cambridge Shorter History of India (1934)
  • Chandavarkar, Raj. The Origins of Industrial Capitalism in India: Business Strategies and the Working Class in Bombay 1900-1940 (1994)
  • Cohen, Stephen P. India: Emerging Power (2002)
  • Daniélou, Alain. A Brief History of India (2003)
  • Das, Gurcharan. India Unbound: The Social and Economic Revolution from Independence to the Global Information Age (2002)
  • Keay, John. India: A History (2001)
  • Kishore, Prem and Anuradha Kishore Ganpati. India: An Illustrated History (2003)]
  • Kulke, Hermann and Dietmar Rothermund. A History of India. 3rd ed. (1998)
  • Majumdar, R. C., H.C. Raychaudhuri, and Kaukinkar Datta. An Advanced History of India London: Macmillan. 1960. ISBN 0-333-90298-X
  • Majumdar, R. C. The History and Culture of the Indian People New York: The Macmillan Co., 1951.
  • Mcleod, John. The History of India (2002)
  • Rothermund, Dietmar. An Economic History of India: From Pre-Colonial Times to 1991 (1993)
  • Smith, Vincent. The Oxford History of India (1981)
  • Spear, Percival. The History of India Vol. 2 (1990)
  • Thapar, Romila. Early India: From the Origins to AD 1300 (2004)
  • Wolpert, Stanley. A New History of India 6th ed. (1999)
  • Talib, Gurbachan (1950). Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947. India: Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee.  Archived April 30, 2006, at the Wayback Machine. [1] Archived August 27, 2003, at the Wayback Machine. (A free copy of this book can be read from any 3 of the included "Online Sources" of this free “Online Book”)

See also[edit]

External links[edit]