India is huge. Much larger than Europe, it is a continent in its own right, where east and west, north and south are only parts of the country which each have their own dramatic history. Still, as today's India is (more or less) one big country, we do need to write some sort of a history for it. And so we start at the beginning.
200 million years ago - Continental drift
It all started when a little piece of Africa detached itself from the motherland and drifted away. It crashed with the Eurasian continent, and the Himalayas were created. This all happened in the Mid-Permian period.
500,000 years ago - Human Society
Gradually, homo sapiens began seeping into the land. They spread and multiplied the way stone-age people have done all over the world - slowly, but steadily. The Bhimbetka Caves are part of the legacy they left us. Time went on, and gradually, the people advanced.
4-5000 years ago (2700 BC) Indus Valley Civilization
At the approximate same point as first civilisations all over the world popped up like puffballs, the people of the Indus valley started irrigating the land and founded the city systems of Harappa and Mohenjo-daro along India's great rivers.
Parallelly, the Dravidian people began their own culture in the South of India.
3000 years ago (1000 BC) The Vedic Period
The Harappan Civilization dwindled and fell, and Aryans arriving from the North gradually took over. Their culture became the dominant one in northern India, and gradually dissipated southwards. They brought the caste system into the land.
The great epics of India were composed at this time. The
Mahabharata came to be about 800 BC, as did the first version of the Ramayana. The Upanishads were written down in 550 BC.
2,500 years ago (500 BC) New Age
Two new religions based on Hinduism were established: Siddartha Gautama developed his teachings which became Buddhism, and Rishabha created Jainism. These two religions gained so much popularity that they would come to dominate India until Shankaracharya revived Hinduism about a thousand years later.
2,300 years ago (300 BC) Foreign Rulers
The people of India experienced their first military invasion when Alexander the Great concluded his conquest of most of the known world. Sadly for Alex, he gained a kingdom, but lost a horse.
Native king Chandragupta Maurya threw out the Greeks and united all of Northern India. Asoka was another great emperor who further united India and later spread the Buddha's religion across it. However, the shortlived Mauryan empire did not survive Ashoka.
Waves upon waves of invaders entered the weakened India from the north. Bactrian Greeks were followed by Parthians, Shakas, and Kushans. They each brought their culture into a country which would eventually absorb them.
2,000 years ago (65 BC) New Links
The Satavahana created a kingdom in the Deccan in the middle of India. This provided a link between north and south, which had previously been isolated.
Before most of Europe had even heard of Christianity,
the Malankara church was established in Southern India, reputedly by Saint Thomas the Apostle.
320 AD - The Golden Age
Chandra Gupta I made a new bicentennial dynasty filled with glory. Science and art flourished, creating fertile soil for the Kamasutra, the Panchatantra, and other great works. The Gupta empire fell when the Hunas invaded from the North. The country fell into centuries of chaos. Eventually, many Small Kingdoms emerged out of the rubble.
1000 AD - Islam arrives
Although little kingdoms of Islam already existed, it was with the arrival of the Turks that it really made an impact. Starting in 1000 AD, Mahmud of Ghazni raided the country 17 times. Later Muhammad of Ghur conquered the kingdom of Delhi and established the Delhi Sultanate.
1206 - The Slave Dynasty
Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a general and former slave, was placed in charge of the empire. He decided to go independent, and created the Mamluk or Slave dynasty. The Golden hordes of the Mongols kept threatening the borders.
1290 - Things fall apart
The slaves fell out with each other, and the Khiljis, originally a tribe from Afghanistan, overturned the governement. They drove out the Mongols, but ruled only for thirty years. Now the Tughlaqs rebelled and took over. They ruled, expanded, and fell, when in 1398 Timur of the Mongols sacked the capital. Once more, India became divided into smaller kingdoms.
Meanwhile, the Sikh religion was created and spread. And the south was experiencing the Golden Age of the Vijayanagara Empire.
1526 - Mughal Emperors
Babar, the king of Kabul, founded the Mughal Empire. For three hundred years, this dynasty ruled India. They did not remain Afghan for long, however, but became Indians by assimilation. The Mughals were reknowned for their splendid buildings and art - it was during this time the Taj Mahal was built. However, many of the emperors were also strict Muslims who persecuted other religions.
The Mughals were weakened through fights against the Marathas, but the warring parties were both eventually replaced by the British.
1803 - British India (see also A Chronology of the British in India)
The British East India Company had been doing trade with India since 1600. At the battle of Plassey in 1757, they won the rule over several northern provinces. In 1803, the Duke of Wellington defeated the Marathas, and thus got total control over the country. The Company's rule was so harsh that the Indians soon revolted. They were soon defeated, and the British Crown took over the governing. Queen Victoria became Empress of India.
1885 - Struggle for independence
India was become a proper colony as their cotton industry was destroyed and they were forced to import goods from Britain. In The Indian National Congress was formed in 1885 and became the strongest voice for Indian independence. The British preferred not to hear, though. In 1919, General Dyer massacred a great number of people who were protesting the Rowlatt or Black Act, which allowed the governmenet to imprison people without a trial.
1920 - Non-cooperation
began his movement of peaceful non-cooperation
. He told the Indians to weave their own cloth and produce their own salt
. India got some form of independence in 1930
, but they wanted total freedom.
1942 - Quit India
The Congress assembled in Bombay passed a resolution asking the British to Quit India. In return, the British outlawed the Congress and arrested all the major leaders. Not happy with the peaceful attempts, Subhash Chandra Bose went abroad to get military help from Germany or perhaps Japan.
'Eighteen languages, 500 dialects, some 30 religions, a million Gods and Goddesses, 300 million individuals, an infinity of castes and sub castes, and a population (that is) practically illiterate and half of which (are) beggars or thieves... Good luck, sir! Such a nation is ungovernable! It'd take you centuries to get anywhere!'.
Lord Bevin, personal emissary of Winston Churchill, to Gandhi.
1947 - Freedom and partition
Unable to cope with the strong anti-British sentiments now dominant in the entire Indian people, Britain gave up and ceased to be an empire on August 14
. At the same time, Pakistan
was created as a pure Muslim state. Jawaharlal Nehru
became the first prime minister of the country.
To Lord Beven in 1947, Gandhi replied: 'India has eternity before her.'