India is home to one of the richest and the most ancient civilizations in the world, which existed over 5,000 years ago. This civilization originated in the Indus River Valley, hence the name given to it was Indus Valley civilization. It is the origin of many of the ideas, philosophies and movements which have shaped the destiny of mankind. The civilization with its main cities Mohenjadaro and Harappa flourished for over eight centuries. Its people thought to be Dravidians, whose descendants still inhabit the far south of India. This civilization declined around 1500 B.C., probably due to ecological changes.
Aryan and Greek Invasions: The country was influenced by many invasions, the Arya or Aryans (1500BC) as they are known today, are the first invaders. As they settled in the middle Ganges River valley, they adapted to antecedent cultures. They spoke a group of languages which have become known as Indo-European. They settled in the region to the north west of India, known as the Punjab. With time, the Aryans were engaged in struggle with the dark skinned people or Dasyus. The Dasyus were the Dravidians. The superiority of the Aryans resulted in the Dravidian submission.
The second great invasion into India occurred around 500 BC, when the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius, pushing their empire eastward, conquered the prized Indus Valley. After centuries of obscurity, doubt and conjecture, India came into the full light of recorded history with the invasion of Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 327 BC. Although Alexander crossed the Indus and defeated an Indian king, he turned back without extending his power into India.
Maurya and Gupta Periods: In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., northern India was unified under the Gupta Dynasty. This period, known as India's Golden Age.
India's first imperial dynasty, founded by Chandragupta Maurya.Maurya dynasty reached its peak around 260 BC under the Emperor Ashoka, the most famous figures in Indian History. In the fifth century, large parts of India were united under Ashoka. He also converted to Buddhism, and it is in his reign that Buddhism spread to o ther parts of Asia. It is in the reign of the Mauryas that Hinduism took the shape that fundamentally informs the religion down to the present day. Successor states were more fragmented.
The Gupta period has been described as the golden age of Indian history and under their rule of northern India, arts, including poetry and literature, flourished. The exquisite Ajanta and Ellora caves were excavated in this period. Gupta period extended from 320AD to 480AD. But in 455 AD the Huns invaded India from the north and destroyed the Guptan Empire. Again India was split into small kingdoms until the Muslim invasions around 1000 AD.
Muslim Invasions: The Medieval Period in Indian history began with the Muslim Invasions.In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established sultanates in Delhi. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, southern India was dominated by Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties. During this time, the two systems--the prevailing Hindu and Muslim--mingled, leaving lasting cultural influences on each other. In the early 16th century, descendants of Genghis Khan swept across the Khyber Pass, defeated Ibrahim Lodi the last ruler of the Delhi Sultanate at the battle of Panipat and established the Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty, which lasted for 200 years.
The golden era of the Mughal period was under the rule of Akbar the great.
European Invasions: The Portuguese were the first Europeans to settle in India, in Goa, in the fifteenth century (1498). The Europeans arrived even before the Mughals. The Dutch East India company was chartered in 1602 and they established spice trade and factories in Cochin, Nagapatinam and Agra. They did not have any military ambitions for India. In 1613, the British East India Company, a trading company, started its first trading post in Gujarat.
Meanwhile around 1644, the French established trade with India. Pondicherry was the hub of French settlements. Other French factories and settlements were at Surat, their first trading post in 1666, then Masulipatanam, Karikal, Chandernagore in Bengal and Mahe at the Malabar coast. The struggle for establishing supremacy in trade resulted in wars between the English and the French in the Deccan.
In 1757, at the Battle of Plassey, Robert Clive, an employee of the British East India Company, defeated the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah and established their political sovereignty in India. It was an important step towards the eventual British dominance of the country
The conquest of India, which could be said to have begun with the Battle of Plassey (1757), was practically completed by the end of Dalhousie's tenure in 1856. It had been by no means a smooth affair as the simmering discontent of the people manifested itself in many localized revolt during this period. However, the Mutiny of 1857, which began with a revolt of the military soldiers at Meerut, soon became widespread and posed a grave challenge to the British rule. The revolt was controlled by the British within one year, it began from Meerut on 10 May 1857 and ended in Gwalior on 20 June 1858. Britain then ruled India with local rulers for over three hundred years.
Indian Independence: A national movement for independence was created. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bosh, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Mahamana, Sardar Ballabh Bhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Chander Shekhar Azad were the notable people of the movement. But the most relevantverent leader of the movement was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Gandhi worked with Jawaharlal Nehru, the secretary of the Indian National Congress and transformed the Indian National Congress political party into a mass movement to campaign against the British colonial rule. After several years of struggle, Britain decided to quit India.
On August 15, 1947, India became a dominion within the Commonwealth, with Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister. Enmity between Hindus and Muslims led the British to partition British India, creating East and West Pakistan, where there were Muslim majorities. India became a republic within the Commonwealth after promulgating its constitution on January 26, 1950.
Brief Timeline of Indian History
Ancient India History: The Indus Valley Civilisation, Harrapa | Aryans and the Vedic Age | Rise of Religions and Emergence of the State | The Gupta Age | The Southern Kingdoms
Medieval India History: The Muslim Invasion | Mughal empire | The Marathas