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All about Ancient India History

Located in the continent of Asia, India covers 2,973,193 square kilometers of land and 314,070 square kilometers of water, making it the 7th largest nation in the world with a total area of 3,287,263 square kilometers. Surrounded by Bhutan, Nepal, and Bangladesh to the North East, China to the North, Pakistan to the North West and Sri Lanka of the South East coast.

India is a land of ancient civilizations. India’s social, economic, and cultural configurations are the products of a long process of regional expansion. Indian history begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are usually described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic age. Hinduism arose in the Vedic period.

The fifth-century saw the unification of India under Ashoka, who had converted to Buddhism, and it is in his reign that Buddhism spread in many parts of Asia. In the eighth century, Islam came to India for the first time and by the eleventh century had firmly established itself in India as a political force. It resulted in the formation of the Delhi Sultanate, which was finally succeeded by the Mughal Empire, under which India once again achieved a large measure of political unity.

It was in the 17th century that the Europeans came to India. This coincided with the disintegration of the Mughal Empire, paving the way for regional states. In the contest for supremacy, the English emerged ‘victors’. The Rebellion of 1857-58, which sought to restore Indian supremacy, was crushed; and with the subsequent crowning of Victoria as Empress of India, the incorporation of India into the empire was complete. It was followed by India’s struggle for independence, which we got in the year 1947. Here is a brief timeline about the history of India:

Ancient India History

The History of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are generally described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic periods. The earliest literary source that sheds light on India’s past is the Rig Veda. It is difficult to date this work with any accuracy on the basis of tradition and ambiguous astronomical information contained in the hymns. Indus valley civilization, which flourished between 2800 BC and 1800 BC, had an advanced and flourishing economic system. The Indus valley people practiced agriculture, domesticated animals, made tools and weapons from copper, bronze, and tin, and even traded with some Middle East countries.

The Indus Valley Civilization

A long time ago, in the eastern world, there rose a few civilizations. The main reasons for the rise of these urban civilizations were access to rivers, which served various functions of human beings. Along with the Mesopotamian civilization and the Egyptian civilization, rose the Indus Valley civilization spanning Northwest India and modern-day Pakistan. The largest amongst the three civilizations, the Indus Valley civilization flourished around 2600 BC, at which time agriculture in India started flourishing. The fertile Indus valley made it possible for agriculture to be carried out on a large scale. The most well-known towns of the Indus Valley in today’s date are Mohenjo Daro and Harappa. Unearthing these two towns showed excavators glimpses into the richness of the Indus Valley civilization, evidenced in ruins and things like household articles, war weapons, gold and silver ornament – and so on. The people of the Indus Valley civilization lived in well-planned towns and well-designed houses made of baked bricks. In an era of developments and prosperity, civilization, unfortunately, came to an end by around 1300 BC, mainly due to natural calamities.

Vedic Civilization

The next era that India saw was that of the Vedic civilization, flourishing along with the river Saraswati, named after the Vedas, which depict the early literature of the Hindus. The two greatest epics of this period were the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, still held in great reverence by the followers of Hinduism.

Buddhist Era

Next came the Buddhist era, during the time of the Mahajanapadas which were the sixteen great powers, during the 7th and the 6th centuries BC. Prominent powers at the time were the Sakyas of Kapilavastu and the Licchavis of Vaishali. Buddha, whose original name was Siddhartha Gautam, was born in Lumbini near Kapilavastu and was the founder of Buddhism – a religion based on spiritualism. He died at the age of 80 in 480 BC but his teachings spread throughout southern and eastern Asia and are followed across the world today.

The Invasion of Alexander

When Alexander invaded India in 326 BC, he crossed the Indus river and defeated the Indian rulers in battle. Noteworthy of the Indians’ attempts at war, was the use of elephants, something that the Macedonians had never seen before. Alexander then took over the lands of the defeated kings.

The Gupta Dynasty

The Gupta period has been referred to as the Golden Age of Indian history. When Chandragupt I received the gift of Pataliputra in dowry when he married the daughter of the chief of the ‘Licchavis’, he started to lay down the foundation of his empire, which extended from the river Ganges or the Ganga to the city of Allahabad. He ruled for 15 years and was also referred to as the ‘king of kings’ for his strategic conquests and the flourishing state of India.

Harshavardhana

The last of the ancient kingdoms in India was by the king Harshavardhana, who ascended the throne at Thanneshwar and Kannauj after his brother died. While successful in a few of his conquests, he eventually got defeated by the Chalukya Kingdom of Deccan India. Harshavardhana was well-known for establishing relations with the Chinese, and also for having high religious tolerance and strong administrative capabilities.

Medieval Indian History

The medieval history of India is renowned for deriving a lot of its character from Islamic kingdoms. Extending across almost three generations, medieval India included a number of kingdoms and dynasties:

  1. The Chalukyas
  2. The Pallavas
  3. The Pandyas
  4. The Rashtrakutas
  5. The Cholas

The Cholas were the most important rulers at this time, the 9th Century AD. Their kingdom covered a large part of South India, including Sri Lanka and the Maldives. While the rulers ruled bravely and carried out the annexation of multiple territories in India, the empire came to an end in the 14th Century AD with an invasion by a man named Kafur Malik. The monuments from the Chola Dynasty are still intact and are known for their rustic charm.

The next major empire was that of the Mughals, preceded by a rise in Islamic rulers. The invasion of Timur was a significant point in Indian history before a Hindu revival movement called the Bhakti movement, came to be. Finally, in the 16th Century, the Mughal empire started to rise. One of the greatest empires of India, the Mughal empire was a rich and glorious one, with the whole of India united and ruled by one monarch. The Mughal Kings were Babar, Humayun, Sher Shah Suri (not a Mughal king), Akbar, Jehangir, Shah Jahan, and Aurangzeb. They were responsible for setting up efficient public administration, laying out infrastructure, and promoting the arts. A large number of monuments in India today exist from the Mughal period. The death of the last Mughal King, Aurangzeb, sowed the seeds of disintegration within India. Influencers of Islamic architecture in India, the Mughal kings are still looked back in awe.

Akbar

Emperor Akbar, also known as Akbar the Great or Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, was the third emperor of the Mughal Empire, after Babur and Humayun. He was the son of Nasiruddin Humayun and succeeded him as the emperor in the year 1556 when he was only 13 years old.

Shah Jahan

Shah Jahan, also known as Shahbuddin Mohammed Shah Jahan, was a Mughal Emperor who ruled in the Indian Subcontinent from 1628 to 1658. He was the fifth Mughal ruler, after Babur, Humayun, Akbar, and Jahangir. Shah Jahan succeeded the throne after revolting against his father, Jahangir.

Chhatrapati Shivaji

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the founder of the Maratha Empire in western India. He is considered to be one of the greatest warriors of his time and even today, stories of his exploits are narrated as a part of the folklore. King Shivaji used guerrilla tactics to capture a part of, the then, dominant Mughal empire.

Modern Indian History

During the late 16th and the 17th Centuries, the European trading companies in India competed with each other ferociously. By the last quarter of the 18th Century, the English had outdone all others and established themselves as the dominant power in India. The British administered India for a period of about two centuries and brought about revolutionary changes in the social, political, and economic life of the country.

However, the zenith of colonization was achieved when the British arrived in the early 1600s as traders. Capitalizing on the disintegration that existed in India after the Mughal rule, the British actively used the strategy of ‘divide-and-rule’ to rule over India for over 2 centuries. While the British had come in earlier, they only achieved political power in 1757 AD after the Battle of Plassey.

They took a keen interest in the resources that India had to offered and have been looked back at as plunderers of India’s wealth of resources – as they took cotton, spices, silk, and tea, amongst numerous other resources. While they did lay out a massive chunk of India’s infrastructure, by also bringing the Indians steam engines, it is seldom looked back at as an equal relationship. The British Raj was divisive and pit Indians against one another, on the basis of religion; and also mistreated the laborers. The Indians were essentially slaves of the British rule and were working hard without any returns on their work. This, naturally, led to multiple mutinies; and prominent freedom fighters came to the forefront. Different ideologies of thought believed that there were different ways of gaining freedom; however, they all had one common goal – freedom.

The British queen had asserted that the aim of the British was to help India progress – however, multiple problems arose without the consultation of Indian leaders. One important instance of this was when in the First World War, Britain launched an attack on Germany on behalf of India, even though India did not wish for that to happen; and millions of Indian soldiers were at the forefront of the British Indian Army during both the world wars – further fuelling the Indian resistance. Over a million Indian soldiers were killed in both World War

Location:

Southern Asia, bordering the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal, between Burma and Pakistan

Geographic coordinates:

  20 00 N, 77 00 E

Map references:

Asia

Area:

  • Total: 3,287,263 sq km; Country comparison to the world: 7 land: 2,973,193 sq km
  • Water: 314,070 sq km
  • Area – comparative: slightly more than one-third the size of the US
  • Land boundaries: total: 14,103 km
  • Border countries: Bangladesh 4,053 km, Bhutan 605 km, Burma 1,463 km, China 3,380 km, Nepal 1,690 km, Pakistan 2,912 km
  • Coastline: 7,000 km
  • Maritime claims: territorial sea: 12 nm contiguous zone: 24 nm exclusive economic zone: 200 nm continental shelf: 200 nm or to the edge of the continental margin

Climate:

  • Current Weather: varies from tropical monsoon in south to temperate in north
  • Terrain: upland plain (Deccan Plateau) in the south, flat to rolling plain along the Ganges, deserts in west, the Himalayas in north
  • Elevation extremes:
    • Lowest point: Indian Ocean 0 m
    • Highest point: Kanchenjunga 8,598 m

Natural resources:

Coal (fourth-largest reserves in the world), iron ore, manganese, mica, bauxite, rare earth elements, titanium ore, chromite, natural gas, diamonds, petroleum, limestone, arable land

Land use:

  • Arable land: 48.83%
  • Permanent crops: 2.8%
  • Other: 48.37% (2005)
  • Irrigated land: 558,080 sq km (2003)
  • Total renewable water resources: 1,907.8 cu km (1999)
  • Freshwater withdrawal (domestic/industrial/agricultural): Total: 645.84 cu km/yr (8%/5%/86%) per capita: 585 cu m/yr (2000)

Natural hazards:

Droughts; flash floods, as well as widespread and destructive flooding from monsoonal rains; severe thunderstorms; earthquakes, volcanism: Barren Island (elev. 354 m, 1,161 ft) in the Andaman Sea has been active in recent years

Environment – current issues:

Deforestation; soil erosion; overgrazing; desertification; air pollution from industrial effluents and vehicle emissions; water pollution from raw sewage and runoff of agricultural pesticides; tap water is not potable throughout the country; the huge and growing population is overstraining natural resources

Environment – international agreements:

Antarctic-Environmental Protocol, Antarctic-Marine Living Resources, Antarctic Treaty, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Climate Change-Kyoto Protocol, Desertification, Endangered Species, Environmental Modification, Hazardous Wastes, Law of the Sea, Ozone Layer Protection, Ship Pollution, Tropical Timber 83, Tropical Timber 94, Wetlands, Whaling signed, but not ratified: none of the selected agreements

Geography:

Dominates South Asian subcontinent; near important Indian Ocean trade routes;

Kanchenjunga, the third tallest mountain in the world, lies on the border with Nepal

India covers 3,287,263 sq km, which extends from the Himalayas, the world’s highest mountains, to the southern tropical rain forests. It is the seventh-largest country in the world and the mountains and sea that surround India separate it from other parts of Asia. In the shape of a triangle, India’s topography is greatly varied in that there although there are deserts and rain forests, much of its land is comprised of fertile river plains and high plateaus. Some of the main rivers that flow through India are the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and the Indus. These rivers start in the high mountains and carry down rich alluvial soil to the plains below, thus creating the fertile river plains.

Four distinct regions can be found in India – mountains, plains, the desert, and the southern peninsula. The mountainous region is comprised of the Himalayas, a mountain range that has some of the highest peaks in the world. They have rivers that increase and decrease in amount with the snowfall. During the monsoon season, the heavy water coming out of them causes frequent flooding. On one side of India, the heights make them impassable, whereas in the east the ranges are considerably lower. The plains are made up of basins by three main rivers in India – the Indus, the Ganga, and the Brahmaputra. Flat alluvium (rich soil deposited by rivers) is abundant and this area is considered to be one of the largest areas of it in the world. In addition to that international distinction, this area is also considered to be one of the most heavily populated areas in the world. The desert areas in India are split by land that is rocky and comprised of limestone ridges. The last region, the peninsula, has mountains surrounding it, with coastal areas on the other side of the mountains.

The climate in India is characterized as tropical-monsoon. Seasonal winds determine the climate. There is a north-east monsoon that is known as the winter monsoon and it goes across the land to the sea. The south-west monsoon is called the summer monsoon as it comes from the sea and blows across the land. This monsoon brings the highest amount of rainfall to the country.

India is the seventh-largest country in the world. It has the world’s second-largest population. Located entirely in the northern hemisphere it is bound by Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar, and Bangladesh. The Arabian Sea, the Indian Ocean, and the Bay of Bengal border its coastline.

The mainland has three well-defined geographical regions, the mountain zone of the Himalayas, the Indo-Gangetic plain, ( formed by the basins of three great rivers Indus, Ganga, and the Brahmaputra), and the southern peninsula of the Deccan Plateau.

The main river systems are the Himalayan rivers like Ganga and Brahmaputra which are snow-fed; the peninsular rivers like the Godavari, Krishna, and Mahanadi; and the coastal rivers.

India has a rich variety of vegetation and animal life, with special types of flora and fauna.

The climate of the country varies from region to region. In some places, including the coastal areas, the climate is almost uniform throughout the year. There are quite a few places in the country which have a moderate climate, such as towns in the North of the country or Bangalore in the South. On the other hand, most areas are very hot in the summer.

The Indian seasons can be divided as follows:

  • March to June: Summer
  • July to October: Monsoon
  • November to February: Winter

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