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:
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,
founded the religion of Buddhism, a profoundly influential work of human
thought still espoused by much of the world. In the same another religion
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.
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.
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 :
- 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.
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 :
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
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
Pala and Sena: 730-1197 A.D.
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
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.
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
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 :
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.
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
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
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
Kakatiyas of Warangal :
Telgu language and literature flourished under Kakatiyas. They also built
many forts . The last king Prataprudra defeated
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.
Khilji, defeated this kingdom between 1308-1312.