Indian history confirms that 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. The civilization with its main cities Mohenjadaro and Harappa flourished for over eight centuries in early Indian history.
Aryan and Greek Invasions in Indian History
- 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 northwest of India, known as the Punjab.
- 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.
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Maurya and Gupta Periods in Indian History
- In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., northern India was unified under the Gupta Dynasty. This period is known as India’s Golden Age.
- India’s first imperial dynasty was founded by Chandragupta Maurya. Maurya dynasty reached its peak around 260 BC under an 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 other parts of Asia.
- 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 Gupta Empire.
Muslim Invasions in Indian History
- The Medieval Period in Indian history began with the Muslim Invasions.
- In the 13th century, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established sultanates in Delhi (1206-1526) after the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan by Mohammad Ghori in 1192 AD (second battle of Tarain). However, 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.
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European Invasions in Indian History
- 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, Nagapattinam, and Agra. In 1613, the British East India Company, a trading company, started its first trading post in Gujarat.
- 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.
- 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.
- A national movement for independence was created. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bose, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sardar Ballabh Bhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Chander Shekhar Azad were the notable people of the movement.
- But the most relevant 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.