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Indian History

History of India and its civilization dates back to at least 6500 BC which perhaps makes the oldest surviving civilization in the world. India has been a meeting ground between the East and the West. Through out its history many invaders have come to India but Indian religions allowed it to adapt to and absorb all of them. All the while, these local dynasties built upon the roots of a culture well established. India has always been simply too big, too complicated, and too culturally subtle to let any one empire dominate it for long. Based on archeological findings, Indian history can be broadly divided into five phases:

1.Saraswati (Harappan) civilization: 6500 BC - 1000 BC or also called 'Vedic period' in history of India.

2. Golden period of Indian History:  500 BC - 800 AD

3. Muslim influence in India:  1000 AD- 1700 AD

4. British period in India:  1700 AD - 1947 AD

5. Modern India: 1947 - till date

Vedic period and Golden Period of Indian History

South Indian dynasties

Ancient Indian History (Vedic Period)

Earliest historical evidence from Mehargarh  (north-west Indian sub-continent) shows beginning of civilization in India at around 6500 B.C. It is the earliest and largest urban site of the period in the world. This site has yielded evidence for the earliest domestication of animals, evolution of agriculture, as well as arts and crafts. The horse was first domesticated here in 6500 B.C. There is a progressive process of the domestication of animals, particularly cattle, the development of agriculture, beginning with barley and then later wheat and rice, and the use of metal, beginning with copper and culminating in iron, along with the development villages and towns. It has been  suggested by some historians that an 'Aryan Invasion' of Indian subcontinent took place around 1500-1000 B.C. However, current archeological data do not support the existence of an Indo Aryan or European invasion into South Asia at any time in the pre or proto-historic periods (David Frawley). The people in this tradition were the same basic ethnic groups as in India today, with their same basic types of languages.

Two important cities were discovered: Harappa on the Ravi river, and Mohenjodaro on the Indus during excavations in 1920. The remains of these two cities were part of a large civilization and well developed ancient civilization, which is now called by historians as 'Indus Valley Civilization', or 'Saraswati Civilization'. Later Harappan (Sarasvati) civilization 3100-1900 BC shows massive cities, complex agriculture and metallurgy, sophistication of arts and crafts, and precision in weights and measures. They built large buildings, which were mathematically-planned. The city planning in those ancient cities is comparable to the best of our modern cities. This civilization had a written language and was highly sophisticated.  Some of these towns were almost three miles in diameter with thousands of residents. These ancient municipalities had granaries, citadels, and even household toilets. In Mohenjodaro, a mile-long canal connected the city to the sea, and trading ships sailed as far as Mesopotamia. At its height, the Indus civilization extended over half a million square miles across the Indus river valley, and though it existed at the same time as the ancient civilizations of Egypt and Sumer, it far outlasted them. This Sarasvati civilization was a center of trading and for the diffusion of civilization throughout south and west Asia, which often dominated the Mesopotamian region. 
Mehrgarh, Harappa, Mohenjodaro, Kalibangan and Lothal are peripheral cities of the great Sarasvati civilization with more than 500 sites along its banks awaiting excavation.

The year 4500 B.C. marks Mandhatr's defeat of Druhyus, driving them to the west into Iran. 4000-3700 B.C. was the Rig Veda period. In 3730 B.C. the 'Battle of Ten' Kings - occurred. That was the age of Sudas and his sage advisors, Vasistha and Visvamitra. From 3600 to 3100 B.C. was the late Vedic age during which Yajur, Sama, and Atharva Vedas were composed. 3100 B.C. is the probable date of the Mahabharata, composed by Vyasa. At this time, a tectonic plate shift resulted in river Yamuna which was a tributary of river Saraswati shifted its course and Saraswati became smaller. It was the beginning of 'Kali Yuga'. In 1900 B.C., another tectonic plate shift made Saraswati lose Sutlej. This dried up Sarasvati, causing massive exodus of people towards the Ganga valley in east, whence arose the classical civilization of India. Post-Harappan civilization 1900-1000 BC shows the abandonment of the Harappan towns owing to ecological and river changes but without a real break in the continuity of the culture. There is a decentralization and relocation in which the same basic agricultural and artistic traditions continue, along with a few significant urban sites like Dwaraka. This gradually develops into the Gangetic civilization of the first millennium BC, which is the classical civilization of ancient India, which retains its memory of its origin in the Saraswati region through the Vedas.

David Frawley and other modern scholars propose:

1. 6500-3100 BC, Pre-Harappan, early Rig Vedic 
2. 3100-1900 BC, Mature Harappan 3100-1900, period of the Four Vedas.
3. 1900-1000 BC, Late Harappan, late Vedic and Brahmana period 
Buddha and Mahavira
The sequence of development in the literature does not parallel a migration into India but the historical development of civilization in India from the Sarasvati to the Ganges'. In the 5th century BC, Siddhartha Gautama founded the religion of Buddhism, a profoundly influential work of human thought still espoused by much of the world. In the same another religion called Jainism was founded by

Around 500 BC, when the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius, pushing their empire eastward, conquered the ever-prized Indus Valley. The Persians were in turn conquered by the Greeks under Alexander the Great, who came as far as the Beas River, where he defeated king Porus and an army of 200 elephants in 326 BC. The tireless, charismatic conqueror wanted to extend his empire even further eastward, but his own troops (undoubtedly exhausted) refused to continue. Alexander returned home, leaving behind garrisons to keep the trade routes open.

Golden period of Indian History

The Mauryan Empire :

Although Indian accounts to a large extent ignored Alexander the Great's Indus campaign in 326 B.C., Greek writers recorded their impressions of the general conditions prevailing in South Asia during this period. A two-way cultural fusion between several Indo-Greek elements-especially in art, architecture, and coinage--occurred in the next several hundred years. North India's political landscape was transformed by the emergence of Magadha in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plain.

As the overextended Hellenistic sphere declined, a king known as Chandragupta swept back through the country from Magadha (Bihar) and conquered his way well into Afghanistan. This was the beginning of one India's greatest dynasties, the Maurya. In 322 B.C., Magadha, under the rule of Chandragupta Maurya, began to assert its hegemony over neighboring areas. Chandragupta, who ruled from 324 to 301 B.C., was the architect of the first Indian imperial power-the Mauryan Empire (326-184 B.C.)--whose capital was Pataliputra, near modern-day Patna, in Bihar.

Situated on rich alluvial soil and near mineral deposits, especially iron, Magadha was at the center of bustling commerce and trade. The capital was a city of magnificent palaces, temples, a university, a library, gardens, and parks, as reported by Megasthenes, the third-century B.C. Greek historian and ambassador to the Mauryan court. Legend states that Chandragupta's success was due in large measure to his adviser Kautilya, the Brahman author of the Arthashastra (Science of Material Gain), a textbook that outlined governmental administration and political strategy. There was a highly centralized and hierarchical government with a large staff, which regulated tax collection, trade and commerce, industrial arts, mining, vital statistics, welfare of foreigners, maintenance of public places including markets and temples, and prostitutes. A large standing army and a well-developed espionage system were maintained. The empire was divided into provinces, districts, and villages governed by a host of centrally appointed local officials, who replicated the functions of the central administration.

Ashoka, was the most trusted son of Bindusara and grandson of Chandragupta . During his father's reign, he was the governor of Ujjain and Taxila. Having sidelined all claims to the throne from his brothers, Ashoka was coroneted as an emperor. He ruled from 269 to 232 B.C. and was one of India's most illustrious rulers. Under the great king Ashoka the Mauryan empire conquered nearly the entire subcontinent, Ashoka extended the Maurya Empire to the whole of India except the deep south and the south-east, reaching out even into Central Asia.

 Ashoka's inscriptions chiseled on rocks and stone pillars located at strategic locations throughout his empire--such as Lampaka (Laghman in modern Afghanistan), Mahastan (in modern Bangladesh), and Brahmagiri (in Karnataka)--constitute the second set of datable historical records. According to some of the inscriptions, in the aftermath of the carnage resulting from his campaign against the powerful kingdom of Kalinga (modern Orissa), Ashoka renounced bloodshed and pursued a policy of nonviolence or ahimsa, espousing a theory of rule by righteousness. His toleration for different religious beliefs and languages reflected the realities of India's regional pluralism although he personally seems to have followed Buddhism. Early Buddhist stories assert that he convened a Buddhist council at his capital, regularly undertook tours within his realm, and sent Buddhist missionary ambassadors to Sri Lanka. His rule marked the height of the Maurya empire, and it collapsed only 100 years after his death.

Under his reign Buddhism spread to Syria, Egypt, Macedonia, Central Asia, Burma. For propagation of Buddhism, he started inscribing edicts on rocks and pillars at places where people could easily read them. These pillars and rocks are still found in India, spreading their message of love and peace for the last two thousand years. To his ideas he gave the name Dharma. Ashoka died in 232 BC. The capital of Ashoka pillar at Sarnath is adopted by India as its national emblem. The "Dharma Chakra" on the Ashoka Pillar adorns our National Flag. 

Kushan Dynasty :

After the disintegration of the Mauryan Empire in the second century B.C., South Asia became a collage of regional powers with overlapping boundaries. India's unguarded northwestern border again attracted a series of invaders between 200 B.C. and A.D. 300. The invaders became "Indianized" in the process of their conquest and settlement. Also, this period witnessed remarkable intellectual and artistic achievements inspired by cultural diffusion and syncretism. The Indo-Greeks, or the Bactrians, of the northwest contributed to the development of numismatics; they were followed by another group, the Shakas (or Scythians), from the steppes of Central Asia, who settled in western India. Still other nomadic people, the Yuezhi, who were forced out of the Inner Asian steppes of Mongolia, drove the Shakas out of northwestern India and established the Kushana Kingdom (first century B.C.-third century A.D.). The Kushana Kingdom controlled parts of Afghanistan and Iran, and in India the realm stretched from Purushapura (modern Peshawar, Pakistan) in the northwest, to Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh) in the east, and to Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh) in the south. For a short period, the kingdom reached still farther east, to Pataliputra. The Kushana Kingdom was the crucible of trade among the Indian, Persian, Chinese, and Roman empires and controlled a critical part of the legendary Silk Road. Kanishka, who reigned for two decades starting around A.D. 78, was the most noteworthy Kushana ruler. He converted to Buddhism and convened a great Buddhist council in Kashmir. The Kushanas were patrons of Gandharan art, a synthesis between Greek and Indian styles, and Sanskrit literature. They initiated a new era called Shaka in A.D. 78, and their calendar, which was formally recognized by India for civil purposes starting on March 22, 1957, is still in use.

The Classical Age - Gupta Empire and Harsha :

Gupta age - Under Chandragupta I (320-335), empire was revived in the north. Like Chandragupta Maurya, he first conquered Magadha, set up his capital where the Mauryan capital had stood (Patna), and from this base consolidated a kingdom over the eastern portion of northern India. In addition, Chandragupta revived many of Asoka's principles of government. It was his son, however, Samudragupta (335-376), and later his grandson, Chandragupta II (376-415), who extended the kingdom into an empire over the whole of the north and the western Deccan. Chandragupta II was the greatest of the Gupta kings and called Vikramaditya. He presided over the greatest cultural age in India. From Pataliputra, their capital, he sought to retain political preeminence as much by pragmatism and judicious marriage alliances as by military strength. The greatest writer of the time was Kalidasa. Poetry in the Gupta age tended towards a few genres: religious and meditative poetry, lyric poetry, narrative histories (the most popular of the secular literatures), and drama. Kalidasa excelled at lyric poetry, but he is best known for his dramas. The Indian numeral system--sometimes erroneously attributed to the Arabs, who took it from India to Europe where it replaced the Roman system--and the decimal system are Indian inventions of this period. Aryabhatta's expositions on astronomy in 499 A.D. gave calculations of the solar year and the shape and movement of astral bodies with remarkable accuracy. In medicine, Charaka and Sushruta wrote about a fully evolved medical system. Indian physicians excelled in pharmacopoeia, caesarean section, bone setting, and plastic surgery including skin grafting.

The Guptas fell prey, however, to a wave of migrations by the Huns, a people who originally lived north of China. Beginning in the 400's, the Huns began to put pressure on the Guptas. In 480 AD they conquered the Guptas and took over northern India. Western India was overrun by 500 A.D., and the last of the Gupta kings, presiding over a vastly diminished kingdom, perished in 550 A.D. Over the decades Huns gradually assimilated into the indigenous population and their state weakened.

Harsha Vardhana :

The northern and western regions of India passed into the hands of a dozen or more feudatories. Gradually, one of them, Prabhakar Vardhana, the ruler of Thanesar, who belonged to the Pushabhukti family, extended his control over all other feudatories. Prabhakar Vardhan was the first king of the Vardhan dynasty with his capital at Thanesar now a small town in the vicinity of Kurukshetra in the state of Haryana. After the death of Prabahakar Vardhan in 606 A.D., his eldest son, RajyaVardhan, became king of Kananuj. Harsha ascended the throne at the age of 16 after his brother Rajya Vardhana was killed in a battle against Malwa King Devigupta and Gauda King Sasanka..

 Harsha, quickly re-established an Indian empire. From 606-647 AD, he ruled over an empire in northern India. Harsha was perhaps one of the greatest conquerors of Indian history, and unlike all of his conquering predecessors, he was a brilliant administrator. He was also a great patron of culture. His capital city, Kanauj, extended for four or five miles along the Ganges River and was filled with magnificent buildings. Only one fourth of the taxes he collected went to administration of the government. The remainder went to charity, rewards, and especially to culture: art, literature, music, and religion.
The most significant achievements of this period, however, were in religion, education, mathematics, art, and Sanskrit literature and drama. The religion that later developed into modern Hinduism witnessed a crystallization of its components: major sectarian deities, image worship, bhakti (devotion), and the importance of the temple. Education included grammar, composition, logic, metaphysics, mathematics, medicine, and astronomy. These subjects became highly specialized and reached an advanced level.

Because of extensive trade, the culture of India became the dominant culture around the Bay of Bengal, profoundly and deeply influencing the cultures of Burma, Cambodia, and Sri Lanka. In many ways, the period during and following the Gupta dynasty was the period of "Greater India," a period of cultural activity in India and surrounding countries building off of the base of Indian culture.

The history of the Kingdom of Kanauj after the death of Harshavardhana can be said to have been uncertain till the year 730 AD, when Yashovarman is said to have ruled till 752 AD. This was followed by the Ayudha dynasty which comprised three kings. The first was Yajrayudha who is said to have ruled in about 770 AD. After Ayudhs, Prathihara King Nagabhatta II annexed Kannauj. North and north west part of India after Harsha Vardhana was mostly controlled by Pratihara Kings while Central India and part of South was mostly under Rashtrakutas dynasty (753-973 AD ). Pala Kings (750-1161 AD) ruled the Eastern part of India (present Bengal and Bihar).

Pala and Sena: 730-1197 A.D.

The Pala empire was founded in 730 AD. They ruled over parts of Bengal and Bihar. Dharmapala (780-812 AD) was one of the greatest kings of the Pala dynasty. He did much to restore the greatness of Pataliputra. The Nalanda university was revived under their rule. The Palas had close trade contacts and cultural links with South-East Asia.

In the early twelfth century, they were replaced by the Sena dynasty. In early 13th century, Tughan Khan defeated the Sena king, Laxman. After this defeat the Nalanda University was destroyed.

Pratiharas 750-920 AD

The greatest ruler of the Pratihara dynasty was Mihir Bhoja. He recovered Kanauj (Kanyakubja) by 836, and it remained the capital of the Pratiharas for almost a century. He built the city Bhojpal (Bhopal). Raja Bhoja and other valiant Gujara kings, faced and defeated many attacks of the Arabs from west. Between 915-918AD, attack by a Rashtrakuta king, to the weakening of the Pratihara Empire and also who devastated the city of Kannauj. In 1018 AD, Mahmud of Gazni sacked Kannauj then ruled by Rajyapala Pratihara. The empire broke into independent Rajput states.

Rashtrakutas 753-973 A.D.

Dantidurga laid the foundation of Rashtrakuta empire. The Rashtrakuta's empire was the most powerful of the time. They ruled from Lattaluru (Latur), and later shifted the capital to Manyaketa (Malkhed).

Amoghavarsha (814-880 A.D) is the most famous Rashtrakuta kings. His long reign was distinguished for its royal patronage of Jainism and the flourishing of regional literature. Indra III, great-grandson of Amoghvarsha defeated the Pratihar king Mahipala. Krishana III was the last great king of Rashtrakuta dynasty. Rashtrakutas were great patrons of art and architecture. Krishana I, built the Kailasa Temple at Ellora. The caves at Gharapuri (Elephanta near Mumbai) were also built by this dynasty.

 The South Indian Rulers

During the Kushana Dynasty, an indigenous power, the Satavahana Kingdom (first century B.C.-third century A.D), rose in the Deccan in southern India. The Satavahana, or Andhra, Kingdom was considerably influenced by the Mauryan political model, although power was decentralized in the hands of local chieftains, who used the symbols of Vedic religion and upheld the varnashramadharma. The rulers, however, were eclectic and patronized Buddhist monuments, such as those in Ellora (Maharashtra) and Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh). Thus, the Deccan served as a bridge through which politics, trade, and religious ideas could spread from the north to the south. Further south were three ancient Tamil kingdoms- Chera (on the west), Chola (on the east), and Pandya (in the south)--frequently involved in internecine warfare to gain regional supremacy. They are mentioned in Greek and Ashokan sources as lying at the fringes of the Mauryan Empire.

Peninsular India was involved in an eighth-century tripartite power struggle among the Chalukyas (556-757) of Vatapi, the Pallavas (300-888) of Kanchipuram, and the Pandyas (seventh through the tenth centuries) of Madurai. Their subordinates, the Rashtrakutas, who ruled from 753 - 973 AD, overthrew the Chalukya rulers. Although both the Pallava and Pandya kingdoms were enemies, the real struggle for political domination was between the Pallava and Chalukya realms.

The Satvahana Dynasty :

The Satvahanas (also known as Andhras) established their kingdom in the Deccan after the decline of Maurya Empire. The kingdom was in the present Maharashtra state. The founder of the Satvahana dynasty was Simuka in 40 B.C. Satakarni I was the most distinguished ruler of this dynasty. Satakarni I allied with powerful Marathi chieftain and signaled his accession to power by performing ashvamedhas (horse-sacrifice). After his death, the Satvahana power slowly disintegrated under a wave of Scythian invasion. The Satvahana dynasty lasted until the 3rd century AD.

Pallava dynasty:

They established a capital at Kanchipuram (Tamil Nadu state) and came to hold sway in the south. They were defeated by the Guptas in about 360 AD but continued to rule until the Cholas finally conquered their lands. They ruled from the 4th century to the 9th century although some remnants survived till 13th century. The dynasty was at its peak under Mahendra-Varman I (600-630 AD), when architecture flourished, notably in temples such as Mahabalipuram. During the 7th and the 8th centuries, this dynasty ruled over a region extending from center of Andhra Pradesh far to the Kaveri River; Later, in the 9th century, the Pallava themselves were definitely conquered by the Chola from Tanjore and became their vassals.

Pandya (around 200s B.C to 1378 AD):

 They were the longest ruling dynasty of Indian history. They ruled the southern most part of India and the capital of the Pandya kings was Madurai (Tamil Nadu). First Indian Ambassador from Pandya Dynasty is sent to Rome. (26 BC). The dynasty extended its power into Kerala (southwestern India) and Sri Lanka during the reigns of kings Kadungon (ruled 590- 620 A.D), Arikesar Maravarman (670-700 A.D), Varagunamaharaja I (765-815A.D), and Srimara Srivallabha (815-862 A.D). Pandya influence peaked in Jatavarman Sundara's reign 1251-1268 A.D. After forces from the Delhi sultanate invaded Madurai in 1311, the Pandyas declined into merely local rulers.

Chalukya Dynasty 425 - 753 AD and 973 - 1190 AD:

  After Satvahan, the next great empire in the Deccan was the Chalukya empire. Pulakesin I, first ruler of the Chalukya dynasty. Pulakesin II was the greatest ruler of the Chalukya dynasty. He consolidated his authority in Maharashtra and conquered large parts of the Deccan. His greatest achievement was his victory against Harshvardhan in 620. However, Pulakesin II was defeated and killed by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman in 642. His capital Vatapi was completely destroyed. His son Vikramaditya was also as great a ruler. He renewed the struggle against Pallavas and recovered the former glory of the Chalukyas. In 753A.D, his great grandson Vikramaditya II was overthrown by a chief named Dantidurga. Chalukyas constructed many temples at Aihole. Some Ajantha caves were also built during this period.

During Rashtrakutas rule, the Chalukyas were a minor power. For 200 years, they survived the Rashtrakutas. In 973 AD Tailap Chalukya of the Kalyani branch gained power and restored the Chalukyan rule. They gained supremacy for about 200 years to be partitioned into: Yadavs of Deogiri, Kaktiyas of Warangal and Hoysalas of Belur.

Yadavas of Devagiri :

Yadavas extended their authority over a large territory. Their capital was situated at Chandor (Nasik district). They built the Deogiri fort in 11th century. Marathi language received the status of a court language in Yadava rule. The Yadava king Singhana was great patron of learning Sant Dnyaneshwar belonged to this age. In 1294, Alla-ud-din Khilji laid four sieges to Deogiri. Finally, the Yadavas were defeated and the strong fort of Deogiri fell into the hands of Muslim rulers. The riches of Deogiri were looted. By 1310 the Yadav rule came to an end.

Kakatiyas of Warangal :

Telgu language and literature flourished under Kakatiyas. They also built many forts . The last king Prataprudra defeated Allaudin Khilji when he was first attacked in 1303. In 1310, after another war, he agreed to pay heavy tributes to Malik Kafur (Alladin's general.) In 1321 Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq marched with a large army, and took Prataprudra as a prisoner to Delhi. Prataprudra died on the way to Delhi. Thus ended the glorious rule of Kaktiyas.

Hoysalas of Belur-Halebid :

King Sala was the founder of Hoysala dynasty. Hoysalas built as many as 1500 temples. The style of their architecture became famous as the Hoysala style. Most famous are the temples of Belur and Halebid with intricate carvings. Allaudin Khilji, defeated this kingdom between 1308-1312.

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