A Brief History of India

Ancient India

By 6,500 BC farming began, and later the people invented pottery, used bronze tools, spun cotton, and traded with other cultures. Water buffalo pulled carts.

Aryans from central Asia invaded in two-wheeled chariots.

By 1,000 BC they learned to use iron. A settled society evolved. Tribes became kingdoms with priests and rulers. The subdued people became slaves, evolving into the caste system. The Hindu religion emerged.

By 600 BC rice was widely cultivated.

Buddha was born around 483 BC.

In 322 BC Chandragupta Maurya founded a great empire. The greatest Mauryan ruler, Asoka, was appalled by the suffering caused by war. He converted to Buddhism.

India faced nomad invaders from Central Asia. The Empire reached its peak, trading with the Roman Empire and encouraging the arts, mathematics, astronomy, and medicine.

India in the Middle Ages

The Gupta Empire broke up in the early 6th century. Huns invaded, ruling for 30 years. India once again became a land of warring kingdoms.

In the 10th century, the king conquered Sri Lanka and the Maldives. During this prosperous empire, merchants organized guilds and trade thrived.

In the 12th century the Turks conquered large parts of Northern India. Later, the Mongols invaded. In the early 15th century, independent Sultanates appeared.

The Mughal Empire in India

The Afghanistan ruler created an efficient civil service, ended taxes on non-Muslims, and gave Hindus jobs. Persian literature and painting flourished.

European Imperialism in India

The Portuguese arrived in 1498 to export spices. In the 17th century, the English and Dutch came, later joined by the French.

The French and English became bitter rivals and interfered in Indian politics. An English force overthrew the Bengali ruler, and India became a British colony. In 1835 English became the official language and the East India Company of Britain took control of Punjab.

The Indian Mutiny

In the 1857-8 mutiny, the Indians massacred the British. The East India Company lost control to the British government.

India in the Late 19th Century and Early 20th Century

The British became more respectful of Indian culture. They created a network of railways.

In 1905 the British divided Bengal to make it easier to rule, provoking boycotts of British goods. Indians were enraged by the Amritsar massacre, in which 379 people died.

Gandhi became the leader of the struggle for independence. In 1920 he campaigned for non-cooperation with the British, a boycott of British textiles and schools, and an end to the government's monopoly on salt production.

Indian Independence

In 1942 the National Congress demanded that the British leave India. The British imprisoned their leaders. India became independent and Gandhi was murdered.

In 1950 India became a secular state. Prime Minister Nehru initiated a 'mixed economy' of state-owned industry and private enterprise.

India in the Late 20th Century

India fought wars with China and Tibet and later exploded a test atomic bomb.

In 1973 Indian industry entered a recession. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency and arrested her opponents. To combat population explosion, she led a mass sterilization program.

Sikhs in Punjab demanded independence in the 1980s. Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated.

In the 1990s the Indian economy was growing.

Source: A Brief History of India
Copyright © Tim Lambert

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