A Brief History of India

Ancient India

By 6,500 BC the people in ancient India began farming, and later they invented pottery and used bronze tools. Water buffalo pulled carts. The people spun cotton and traded with other cultures. The first Indian civilization arose around 2,600 BC.

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 Aryans as priests and rulers. The subdued people became slaves, evolving into the caste system. The Hindu religion and sacred literature called The Vedas emerged.

By 600 BC rice was widely cultivated in India.

Buddha was born in India about 483 BC, but his religion failed to take root.

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 Kushan Empire reached its peak under King Kanishka. The empire traded with the Roman Empire and the arts thrived. The empire broke up after the king died.

India in the Middle Ages

Chandragupta founded an empire in the 4th century AD, making India prosperous and stable. Mathematics, astronomy, and medicine flourished. This was the age of the great poet Kalidasa. The Gupta Empire broke up in the early 6th century.

In the mid-5th century AD, the warlike Huns invaded from Central Asia, ruling for 30 years. India once again became a land of several kingdoms, which were frequently at war.

In the late 10th century, King Rajaraja I expanded his kingdom, conquering Sri Lanka and the Maldives. The Chola was a prosperous empire with merchants organized into guilds to protect their interests and thriving trade with Southeast Asia and the Arabs.

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 Mughal Empire was founded around 1526. Akbar from Afghanistan was the greatest Mughal ruler, creating an efficient civil service, ending taxes on non-Muslims, and giving Hindus jobs. Persian literature and painting flourished.

European Imperialism in India

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

When the French and English became bitter rivals and interfered in Indian politics, a force led by the Englishman Robert Clive overthrew the Bengali ruler. This ensured that India would become a British colony.

In 1835 English became the official language and in 1849 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 of India and the British government took over.

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

The British became more respectful of Indian culture. However, the Indians’ desire for independence slowly grew.

In the late 19th century the British created a network of railways in India.

In 1905 the British divided Bengal to make it easier to rule, provoking demonstrations and boycotts of British goods. Britain was in decline. Indians were enraged by the Amritsar massacre, where General Reginald Dyer killed 379 people.

The lawyer Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi became the leader of the struggle for independence. In 1920 he launched a campaign of non-co-operation with the British, boycotting British textiles and schools and trying to end the government's monopoly on salt production.

Indian Independence

In 1942 the National Congress demanded that the British leave India. The British responded by imprisoning their leaders, including Gandhi, who was released in 1944.

India became independent on 15 August 1947. Gandhi was murdered on 30 January 1948.

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 two wars with China and Tibet.

In 1974 India exploded a test atomic bomb.

In 1973 Indian industry entered a recession. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared a state of emergency in 1975 and her opponents were arrested. To combat population explosion, she led a mass sterilization campaign.

Sikhs in Punjab demanded independence in the 80s. Two of Mrs. Gandhi's Sikh bodyguards killed her.

In the 1990s the Indian economy was growing.

Source: A Brief History of India
Copyright © Tim Lambert

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