History of India
Main article: History of South Asia
The people of India have had a continuous recorded civilization since 7000
BC, traced to the Mehrgarh complex of the Indus Tradition in northwest
India. This reached its most prosperous phase in 2600 BC in the valleys of
the Sarasvati and Sindh rivers as an urban culture based on commerce and
sustained by agricultural trade. This civilization declined between the 19th
and 17th centuries BC, probably due to ecological changes. See: Indus Valley
Recent data, substantiated by satellite imagery and oceanographic studies,
suggests that the civilisation flourished even as far back as 9000 BC. Prior
to this, there is the Rock art tradition that goes back to 40000 BC in
various sites in India. With the drying up of Sarasvati around 3000 BC
(mentioned in the Vedas), the civilisation migrated eastward & westward
forming towns & cities around the Indus and Ganges rivers.
The Classical Age
The political map of ancient and medieval India was made up of myriad
kingdoms with fluctuating boundaries. In the 4th and 5th centuries, northern
India was unified under the Gupta Dynasty. During this period, known as
India's Golden Age, Hindu culture, science and political administration
reached new heights.
4th century to 9th century in Kanchi
6th century to 12th century
9th century to 13th century
Islam spread across the subcontinent over a period of 500 years. In the 10th
and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established
sultanates in Delhi. In the early 16th century, descendants of Genghis Khan
swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty,
which lasted for 200 years. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, southern
India was dominated by Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties.
Also known as the Vijayanagar Empire, it was founded in 1336 by brothers
Harihara and Bukka. It suffered a major defeat in 1565 but continued for
another century or so in an attenuated form.
British Colonial Period
The first British outpost in South Asia was established in 1619 at Surat on
the northwestern coast. Later in the century, the British East India Company
opened permanent trading stations at Madras, Bombay, and Calcutta, each
under the protection of native rulers.
The British expanded their influence from these footholds until, by the
1850s, they controlled most of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.
In 1857, a rebellion in north India led by mutinous Indian soldiers caused
the British Parliament to transfer all political power from the East India
Company to the Crown. Great Britain began administering most of India
directly, while controlling the rest through treaties with local rulers.
Beginning in 1920, Indian leader Mohandas K. Gandhi (also known as Mahatma
Gandhi) transformed the Indian National Congress party into a mass movement
to campaign against British colonial rule. The movement eventually succeeded
in bringing about independence by means of parliamentary speech, nonviolent
resistance and noncooperation.
On August 15, 1947, India became a dominion within the Commonwealth of
Nations, under the leadership of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru. Violent
clashes between Hindus and Muslims led to the partition of British India,
creating East and West Pakistan, where there were Muslim majorities. India
became a secular republic within the Commonwealth after promulgating its
constitution on January 26, 1950.
After independence, the Congress Party, the party of Mahatma Gandhi and
Jawaharlal Nehru, ruled India under the influence first of Nehru and then
his daughter Indira Gandhi and grandson Rajiv Gandhi, with the exception of
two brief periods in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prime Minister Nehru governed the nation until his death in 1964. He was
succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri, who also died in office. In 1966, power
passed to Nehru's daughter, Indira Gandhi, who served as Prime Minister from
1966 to 1977. In 1975, beset with deepening political and economic problems,
Ms. Gandhi declared a state of emergency and suspended many civil liberties.
Seeking a mandate at the polls for her policies, she called for elections in
1977, only to be defeated by Moraji Desai, who headed the Janata Party, an
amalgamation of five opposition parties.
In 1979, Desai's Government crumbled. Charan Singh formed an interim
government, which was followed by Ms. Gandhi's return to power in January
1980. On October 31, 1984, Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated, and her son, Rajiv
Gandhi, was chosen by the Congress (I)--for "Indira"--Party to take her
place. His government was brought down in 1989 by allegations of corruption
and was followed by V.P. Singh and then Chandra Shekhar.
In the 1989 elections, although Rajiv Gandhi and Congress won more seats in
the 1989 elections than any other single party, he was unable to form a
government with a clear majority. The Janata Dal, a union of opposition
parties, was able to form a government with the help of the
Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the right and the
communists on the left. This loose coalition collapsed in November 1990, and
the government was controlled for a short period of time by a breakaway
Janata Dal group supported by Congress (I), seating Chandra Shekhar as Prime
Minister. That alliance also collapsed, resulting in national elections in
On May 27, 1991, while campaigning in Tamil Nadu on behalf of Congress (I),
Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated, apparently by Sri Lankan Tamil extremists. In
the elections, Congress (I) won 213 parliamentary seats and put together a
coalition, returning to power under the leadership of P.V. Narasimha Rao.
This Congress-led government, which served a full 5-year term, initiated a
gradual process of economic liberalization and reform, which has opened the
Indian economy to global trade and investment. India's domestic politics
also took new shape, as traditional alignments by caste, creed, and
ethnicity gave way to a plethora of small, regionally based political parties.
The final months of the Rao-led government in the spring of 1996 were marred
by several major political corruption scandals, which contributed to the
worst electoral performance by the Congress Party in its history. The
Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged from the May 1996
national elections as the single-largest party in the Lok Sabha but without
enough strength to prove a majority on the floor of that Parliament. Under
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP coalition lasted in power 13
days. With all political parties wishing to avoid another round of
elections, a 14-party coalition led by the Janata Dal emerged to form a
government known as the United Front, under the former Chief Minister of
Karnataka, H.D. Deve Gowda. His government lasted less than a year, as the
leader of the Congress Party withdrew his support in March 1997. Inder Kumar
Gujral replaced Deve Gowda as the consensus choice for Prime Minister of a
16-party United Front coalition.
In November 1997, the Congress Party again withdrew support for the United
Front. New elections in February 1998 brought the BJP the largest number of
seats in Parliament--182--but fell far short of a majority. On March 20,
1998, the President inaugurated a BJP-led coalition government with Vajpayee
again serving as Prime Minister. On May 11 and 13, 1998, this government
conducted a series of underground nuclear tests, prompting U.S. President
Clinton and Japan to impose economic sanctions on India pursuant to the 1994
Nuclear Proliferation Prevention Act.
In April 1999, the BJP-led coalition government fell apart, leading to fresh
elections in September. The National Democratic Alliance-a new coalition led
by the BJP-gained a majority to form the government with Vajpayee as Prime
Minister in October 1999.
40000 BC -- Rock art in Bhimbetka
7000 BC -- The beginnings of the Indus Tradition in Mehrgarh
3300 BC -- Early Mohenjadaro and Harappa
3137 BC -- Traditional date of the Mahabharata War
3102 BC -- Kaliyuga calendar
2600 BC - 1900 BC -- Unified Indus-Sarasvati Civilisation, or Harappan
1900 BC -- Indus-Sarasvati Tradition begins to fragment into regional
500 BC -- Buddhism and Jainism
6676 BC - 5000 BC -- First Age, Krita yuga
5000 BC - 4000 BC -- Second Age, Treta yuga
4000 BC - 3102 BC -- Third Age, Dvapara yuga
3102 BC - 424 BC -- Brihadrathas, Pradyotas, Shishunagas, Nandas
322 BC onwards
322 BC - 183 BC -- Mauryan dyansty
183 BC - 71 BC -- Shunga dyansty
71 BC - 26 BC -- Kanva dynasty
26 BC - 434 BC -- Andhra dynasty
320 - 550 -- Gupta dynasty
606 - 647 -- Harsha of Kannauj
609-642 -- Pulakeshin of the Chalukya dynasty
870-906 -- Aditya Chola
906-953 -- Parantaka Chola I
985-1014 -- Rajaraja Chola I
1014-1042 -- Rajendra Chola I
1206-1520 -- Delhi Sultanate
1526-1707 -- Mughal Empire
1680-1818 -- Maratha Empire
1857-1947 -- British India