History of India
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|History of India|
|Outline of South Asian history|
Anatomically modern humans are thought to have arrived on the Indian subcontinent between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. Settled life, which involves the transition from foraging to farming and pastoralism, began in South Asia around 7,000 BCE; during this period, domestication of wheat and barley, rapidly followed by that of goats, sheep, and cattle occurred. By 4,500 BCE, settled life had become more widely prevalent, and eventually evolved into the Indus Valley Civilization. Considered a cradle of civilisation, the Indus Valley civilisation, which spread and flourished in the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent from 3300 to 1300 BCE, was the first major civilisation in South Asia. A sophisticated and technologically advanced urban culture developed in the Mature Harappan period, from 2600 to 1900 BCE. Indus Valley Civilisation was noted for developing new techniques in handicraft, carnelian products, seal carving, metallurgy, urban planning, baked brick houses, efficient drainage systems, water supply systems and clusters of large non-residential buildings. This civilisation collapsed at the start of the second millennium BCE and was later followed by the Iron Age Vedic Civilisation.
In the beginning of the second millennium BCE climate change, with persistent drought, led to the abandonment of the urban centers of the Indus Valley Civilisation. Its population resettled in smaller villages, and, in the north-west, mixed with Indo-Aryan tribes, who moved into the area in several waves of Aryan migration, also driven by the effects of this climate change. The Vedic period was marked by the composition of the Vedas, large collections of hymns of some of the Aryan tribes, whose postulated religious culture, through synthesis with the preexisting religious cultures of the subcontinent, gave rise to Hinduism. The era saw the eventual emergence of Janapadas (monarchical, state-level polities), and social stratification based on caste, which created a hierarchy of priests (Brahmins), warriors (Kshatriyas), merchants (Vaishyas) and laborers (Shudras). The Later Vedic Civilisation extended over the Indo-Gangetic plain and much of the Indian subcontinent, as well as witnessed the rise of major polities known as the Mahajanapadas (large, urbanised states). In one of these kingdoms, Magadha, Gautama Buddha and Mahavira propagated their Śramaṇic philosophies during the fifth and sixth centuries BCE.
Most of the Indian subcontinent was conquered by the Maurya Empire during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. From the 3rd century BCE onwards Prakrit and Pali literature in the north and the Tamil Sangam literature in southern India started to flourish. Wootz steel originated in south India in the 3rd century BCE and was exported to foreign countries. During the Classical period, various parts of India were ruled by numerous dynasties for the next 1,500 years, among which the Gupta Empire stands out. This period, witnessing a Hindu religious and intellectual resurgence, is known as the classical or "Golden Age of India". During this period, aspects of Indian civilisation, administration, culture, and religion (Hinduism and Buddhism) spread to much of Asia, while kingdoms in southern India had maritime business links with the Middle East and the Mediterranean. Indian cultural influence spread over many parts of Southeast Asia, which led to the establishment of Indianised kingdoms in Southeast Asia (Greater India).
The most significant event between the 7th and 11th century was the Tripartite struggle centred on Kannauj that lasted for more than two centuries between the Pala Empire, Rashtrakuta Empire, and Gurjara-Pratihara Empire. Southern India saw the rise of multiple imperial powers from the middle of the fifth century, most notably the Chalukya, Chola, Pallava, Chera, Pandyan, and Western Chalukya Empires. The Chola dynasty conquered southern India and successfully invaded parts of Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Bengal in the 11th century. In the early medieval period Indian mathematics, including Hindu numerals, influenced the development of mathematics and astronomy in the Arab world.
Islamic conquests made limited inroads into modern Afghanistan and Sindh as early as the 8th century, and the Delhi Sultanate was founded in 1206 CE by Central Asian Turks who ruled a major part of the northern Indian subcontinent in the early 14th century, but declined in the late 14th century. This period also saw the emergence of several powerful Hindu states, notably Vijayanagara, Gajapati, and Ahom, as well as Rajput states, such as Mewar. The 15th century saw the advent of Sikhism. The early modern period began in the 16th century, when the Mughal Empire conquered most of the Indian subcontinent, becoming the biggest global economy and manufacturing power, with a nominal GDP that valued a quarter of world GDP, superior than the combination of Europe's GDP. The Mughals suffered a gradual decline in the early 18th century, which provided opportunities for the Marathas, Sikhs, Mysoreans and Nawabs of Bengal to exercise control over large regions of the Indian subcontinent.
From the late 18th century to the mid-19th century, large areas of India were annexed by the British East India Company of the British Empire. Dissatisfaction with Company rule led to the Indian Rebellion of 1857, after which the British provinces of India were directly administered by the British Crown and witnessed a period of rapid development of infrastructure, economic decline and major famines. During the first half of the 20th century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched, led by the Indian National Congress, which was later joined by other organisations. The Indian subcontinent gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1947, after the British provinces were partitioned into the dominions of India and Pakistan and the princely states all acceded to one of the new states.
- 1 Prehistoric era (until c. 3300 BCE)
- 2 Bronze Age – "First urbanisation" (c. 3300 – c. 1800 BCE)
- 3 Climate change, de-urbanisation, and Indo-Aryan migrations (c.1800 – 1500 BCE)
- 4 Iron Age - Vedic period (c. 1500 – c. 600 BCE)
- 5 "Second urbanisation" (c. 600 – c. 200 BCE)
- 6 Classical to early medieval periods (c. 200 BCE – c. 1200 CE)
- 6.1 Early classical period (c. 200 BCE – c. 320 CE)
- 6.2 Classical period (c. 320 – c. 650 CE)
- 6.3 Early medieval period (c. 650–1200 CE)
- 7 Late medieval period (c. 1200 – 1526 CE)
- 8 Early modern period (c. 1526–1858 CE)
- 9 Modern period and independence (after c. 1850 CE)
- 10 Historiography
- 11 See also
- 12 References
- 13 Further reading
Prehistoric era (until c. 3300 BCE)
Hominins expansion from Africa is estimated to have reached the Indian subcontinent approximately two million years ago, and possibly as early as 2.2 millions years before the present. This dating is based on the known presence of Homo erectus in Indonesia by 1.8 million years before the present, and in East Asia by 1.36 million years before present, as well as the discovery of stone tools made by proto-humans in the Soan River valley, at Riwat, and in the Pabbi Hills, all in present-day Pakistan. Although some older discoveries have been claimed, the suggested dates, based on the dating of fluvial sediments, has not been independently verified.
The oldest hominini fossil remains in the Indian subcontinent are those of Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis, from the Narmada Valley in central India, and are dated to approximately half a million years ago. Older fossil finds have been claimed, but are considered unreliable. Reviews of archaeological evidence have suggested that occupation of the Indian subcontinent by hominins was sporadic until approximately 700,000 years ago, and was geographically widespread by approximately 250,000 years before the present, from which point onward archaeological evidence of proto-human presence is widely point.
Archaeological evidence has been interpreted to suggest the presence of anatomically modern humans in the Indian subcontinent 78,000–74,000 years ago, although this interpretation is disputed.
More extensive settlement of the Indian subcontinent occurred the Neolithic period after the end of the last Ice Age approximately 12,000 years ago. The first confirmed semi-permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago in the Bhimbetka rock shelters in modern Madhya Pradesh, India. The Edakkal Caves are pictorial writings believed to date to at least 6,000 BCE, from the Neolithic man, indicating the presence of a prehistoric civilisation or settlement in Kerala.
Neolithic agricultural cultures sprang up in the Indus Valley region around 5000 BCE, in the lower Gangetic valley around 3000 BCE, represented by the Bhirrana findings (7570–6200 BCE) in Haryana, India, Lahuradewa findings (7000 BCE) in Uttar Pradesh, India, and Mehrgarh findings (7000–5000 BCE) in Balochistan, Pakistan; and later in Southern India, spreading southwards and also northwards into Malwa around 1800 BCE. The first urban civilisation of the region began with the Indus Valley Civilisation.
Bronze Age – "First urbanisation" (c. 3300 – c. 1800 BCE)
Indus Valley Civilisation
|Indus Valley Civilisation|
The Bronze Age in the Indian subcontinent began around 3300 BCE. Along with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, the Indus valley region was one of three early cradles of civilisation of the Old World. Of the three, the Indus Valley Civilisation was the most expansive, and at its peak, may have had a population of over five million.
The civilisation was primarily located in modern-day India (Gujarat, Haryana, Punjab, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir states) and Pakistan (Sindh, Punjab, and Balochistan provinces), while some sites in Afghanistan are believed to be trading colonies. A total of 1,022 cities and settlements had been found by 2008, mainly in the general region of the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra Rivers, and their tributaries; of which 616 sites are in India and 406 sites are in Pakistan; of these 96 have been excavated.
The Mature Indus civilisation flourished from about 2600 to 1900 BCE, marking the beginning of urban civilisation on the Indian subcontinent. The civilisation included urban centres such as Dholavira, Kalibangan, Ropar, Rakhigarhi, and Lothal in modern-day India, as well as Harappa, Ganeriwala, and Mohenjo-daro in modern-day Pakistan.
Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river valley, the Harappans, developed new techniques in metallurgy and handicraft (carneol products, seal carving), and produced copper, bronze, lead, and tin. The civilisation is noted for its cities built of brick, roadside drainage system, and multi-storeyed houses and is thought to have had some kind of municipal organisation.
Linguists hypothesized that Dravidian-speaking people were spread throughout the Indian subcontinent before a series of Indo-Aryan migrations. In this view, the early Indus Valley civilisation is often identified as having been Dravidian. Cultural and linguistic similarities have been cited by researchers Henry Heras, Kamil Zvelebil, Asko Parpola, and Iravatham Mahadevan as being strong evidence for a proto-Dravidian origin of the ancient Indus Valley civilisation. Linguist Asko Parpola writes that the Indus script and Harappan language "most likely to have belonged to the Dravidian family". The Brahui population of Balochistan has been taken by some as the linguistic equivalent of a relict population, perhaps indicating that Dravidian languages were formerly much more widespread and were supplanted by the incoming Indo-Aryan languages.
Climate change, de-urbanisation, and Indo-Aryan migrations (c.1800 – 1500 BCE)
|Spread of IE-languages|
This time was one of great upheaval for ecological reasons. Prolonged failure of rains caused acute water shortage in large areas, causing the collapse of sedentary urban cultures in south central Asia, Afghanistan, Iran, and India, and triggering large-scale migrations. Inevitably, the new arrivals came to merge with and dominate the post-urban cultures.
During the late period of the Indus Valley Civilisation, signs of a gradual decline began to emerge, and by around 1700 BCE, most of the cities were abandoned. As of 2016[update] many scholars believe that drought and a decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia caused the collapse of the Indus Civilisation. The Ghaggar-Hakra system was rain-fed, and water supply depended on the monsoons. The Indus valley climate grew significantly cooler and drier from about 1800 BCE, linked to a general weakening of the monsoon at that time. The Indian monsoon declined and aridity increased, with the Ghaggar-Hakra retracting its reach towards the foothills of the Himalaya, leading to erratic and less extensive floods that made inundation agriculture less sustainable. Aridification reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation's demise, and to scatter its population eastward.
On the steppes, the vegetation changed, driving "higher mobility and transition to the nomadic cattle breeding."[note 1][note 2] Indo-Aryan tribes started to enter the Indian subcontinent, leading to new cultures in north-west India.
The Indus Valley Civilisation did not disappear suddenly, and some elements of the Indus Civilisation may have survived, especially in the smaller villages and isolated farms. According to historian Upinder Singh "the general picture presented by the late Harappan phase is one of a breakdown of urban networks and an expansion of rural ones". The Indian Copper Hoard Culture is attributed to this time, associated in the Doab region with the Ochre Coloured Pottery.
Iron Age - Vedic period (c. 1500 – c. 600 BCE)
The Vedic period is named after the Indo-Aryan culture of north-west India, although other parts of India had a distinct cultural identity during this period. The Vedic culture is described in the texts of Vedas, still sacred to Hindus, which were orally composed in Vedic Sanskrit. The Vedas are some of the oldest extant texts in India. The Vedic period, lasting from about 1500 to 500 BCE, contributed the foundations of several cultural aspects of the Indian subcontinent. In terms of culture, many regions of the Indian subcontinent transitioned from the Chalcolithic to the Iron Age in this period.
Historians have analysed the Vedas to posit a Vedic culture in the Punjab region and the upper Gangetic Plain. Most historians also consider this period to have encompassed several waves of Indo-Aryan migration into the Indian subcontinent from the north-west. The peepal tree and cow were sanctified by the time of the Atharva Veda. Many of the concepts of Indian philosophy espoused later, like dharma, trace their roots to Vedic antecedents.
Early Vedic society is described in the Rigveda, the oldest Vedic text, believed to have been compiled during 2nd millennium BCE, in the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent. At this time, Aryan society consisted of largely tribal and pastoral groups, distinct from the Harappan urbanisation which had been abandoned. The early Indo-Aryan presence probably corresponds, in part, to the Ochre Coloured Pottery culture in archaeological contexts.
At the end of the Rigvedic period, the Aryan society began to expand from the northwestern region of the Indian subcontinent, into the western Ganges plain. It became increasingly agricultural and was socially organised around the hierarchy of the four varnas, or social classes. This social structure was characterised both by syncretising with the native cultures of northern India, but also eventually by the excluding of some indigenous peoples by labeling their occupations impure. During this period, many of the previous small tribal units and chiefdoms began to coalesce into Janapadas (monarchical, state-level polities).
In the 14th century BCE, the Battle of the Ten Kings, between the Puru Vedic Aryan tribal kingdoms of the Bharatas, allied with other tribes of the Northwest India, guided by the royal sage Vishvamitra, and the Trtsu-Bharata (Puru) king Sudas, who defeats other Vedic tribes—leading to the emergence of the Kuru Kingdom, first state level society during the Vedic period.
The Iron Age in the Indian subcontinent from about 1200 BCE to the 6th century BCE is defined by the rise of Janapadas, which are realms, republics and kingdoms—notably the Iron Age Kingdoms of Kuru, Panchala, Kosala, Videha.
The Kuru kingdom was the first state-level society of the Vedic period, corresponding to the beginning of the Iron Age in northwestern India, around 1200–800 BCE, as well as with the composition of the Atharvaveda (the first Indian text to mention iron, as śyāma ayas, literally "black metal"). The Kuru state organised the Vedic hymns into collections, and developed the orthodox srauta ritual to uphold the social order. Two key figures of the Kuru state were king Parikshit and his successor Janamejaya, transforming this realm into the dominant political and cultural power of northern Iron Age India. When the Kuru kingdom declined, the centre of Vedic culture shifted to their eastern neighbours, the Panchala kingdom. The archaeological Painted Grey Ware culture, which flourished in the Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh regions of northern India from about 1100 to 600 BCE, is believed to correspond to the Kuru and Panchala kingdoms.
During the Late Vedic Period, the kingdom of Videha emerged as a new centre of Vedic culture, situated even farther to the East (in what is today Nepal and Bihar state in India); reaching its prominence under the king Janaka, whose court provided patronage for Brahmin sages and philosophers such as Yajnavalkya, Aruni, and Gargi Vachaknavi. The later part of this period corresponds with a consolidation of increasingly large states and kingdoms, called mahajanapadas, all across Northern India.
In addition to the Vedas, the principal texts of Hinduism, the core themes of the Sanskrit epics Ramayana and Mahabharata are said to have their ultimate origins during this period. The Mahabharata remains, today, the longest single poem in the world. Historians formerly postulated an "epic age" as the milieu of these two epic poems, but now recognise that the texts (which are both familiar with each other) went through multiple stages of development over centuries. For instance, the Mahabharata may have been based on a small-scale conflict (possibly about 1000 BCE) which was eventually "transformed into a gigantic epic war by bards and poets". There is no conclusive proof from archaeology as to whether the specific events of the Mahabharata have any historical basis. The existing texts of these epics are believed to belong to the post-Vedic age, between c. 400 BCE and 400 CE.
"Second urbanisation" (c. 600 – c. 200 BCE)
During the time between 800 and 200 BCE the Śramaṇa movement formed, from which originated Jainism and Buddhism. In the same period, the first Upanishads were written. After 500 BCE, the so-called "Second urbanisation" started, with new urban settlements arising at the Ganges plain, especially the Central Ganges plain. The foundations for the Second Urbanisation were laid prior to 600 BCE, in the Painted Grey Ware culture of the Ghaggar-Hakra and Upper Ganges Plain; although most PGW sites were small farming villages, "several dozen" PGW sites eventually emerged as relatively large settlements that can be characterized as towns, the largest of which were fortified by ditches or moats and embankments made of piled earth with wooden palisades, albeit smaller and simpler than the elaborately fortified large cities which grew after 600 BCE in the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.
The Central Ganges Plain, where Magadha gained prominence, forming the base of the Mauryan Empire, was a distinct cultural area, with new states arising after 500 BCE[web 1] during the so-called "Second urbanisation".[note 3] It was influenced by the Vedic culture, but differed markedly from the Kuru-Panchala region. It "was the area of the earliest known cultivation of rice in South Asia and by 1800 BCE was the location of an advanced Neolithic population associated with the sites of Chirand and Chechar". In this region, the Śramaṇic movements flourished, and Jainism and Buddhism originated.
Upanishads and Śramaṇa movements
Around 800 BCE to 400 BCE witnessed the composition of the earliest Upanishads. Upanishads form the theoretical basis of classical Hinduism and are known as Vedanta (conclusion of the Vedas).
Increasing urbanisation of India in 7th and 6th centuries BCE led to the rise of new ascetic or Śramaṇa movements which challenged the orthodoxy of rituals. Mahavira (c. 549–477 BCE), proponent of Jainism, and Gautama Buddha (c. 563–483 BCE), founder of Buddhism were the most prominent icons of this movement. Śramaṇa gave rise to the concept of the cycle of birth and death, the concept of samsara, and the concept of liberation. Buddha found a Middle Way that ameliorated the extreme asceticism found in the Śramaṇa religions.
Around the same time, Mahavira (the 24th Tirthankara in Jainism) propagated a theology that was to later become Jainism. However, Jain orthodoxy believes the teachings of the Tirthankaras predates all known time and scholars believe Parshvanatha (c. 872 – c. 772 BCE), accorded status as the 23rd Tirthankara, was a historical figure. The Vedas are believed to have documented a few Tirthankaras and an ascetic order similar to the Śramaṇa movement.
The period from c. 600 BCE to c. 300 BCE witnessed the rise of the Mahajanapadas, sixteen powerful and vast kingdoms and oligarchic republics. These Mahajanapadas evolved and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Bengal in the eastern part of the Indian subcontinent and included parts of the trans-Vindhyan region. Ancient Buddhist texts, like the Anguttara Nikaya, make frequent reference to these sixteen great kingdoms and republics—Anga, Assaka, Avanti, Chedi, Gandhara, Kashi, Kamboja, Kosala, Kuru, Magadha, Malla, Matsya (or Machcha), Panchala, Surasena, Vriji, and Vatsa. This period saw the second major rise of urbanism in India after the Indus Valley Civilisation.
Early "republics" or Gaṇa sangha, such as Shakyas, Koliyas, Mallas, and Licchavis had republican governments. Gaṇa sanghas, such as Mallas, centered in the city of Kusinagara, and the Vajjian Confederacy (Vajji), centered in the city of Vaishali, existed as early as the 6th century BCE and persisted in some areas until the 4th century CE. The most famous clan amongst the ruling confederate clans of the Vajji Mahajanapada were the Licchavis.
This period corresponds in an archaeological context to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture. Especially focused in the Central Ganges plain but also spreading across vast areas of the northern and central Indian subcontinent, this culture is characterized by the emergence of large cities with massive fortifications, significant population growth, increased social stratification, wide-ranging trade networks, construction of public architecture and water channels, specialized craft industries (e.g., ivory and carnelian carving), a system of weights, punch-marked coins, and the introduction of writing in the form of Brahmi and Kharosthi scripts. The language of the gentry at that time was Sanskrit, while the languages of the general population of northern India are referred to as Prakrits.
Many of the sixteen kingdoms had coalesced into four major ones by 500/400 BCE, by the time of Gautama Buddha. These four were Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala, and Magadha. The life of Gautama Buddha was mainly associated with these four kingdoms.
Early Magadha dynasties
Magadha formed one of the sixteen Mahā-Janapadas (Sanskrit: "Great Realms") or kingdoms in ancient India. The core of the kingdom was the area of Bihar south of the Ganges; its first capital was Rajagriha (modern Rajgir) then Pataliputra (modern Patna). Magadha expanded to include most of Bihar and Bengal with the conquest of Licchavi and Anga respectively, followed by much of eastern Uttar Pradesh and Orissa. The ancient kingdom of Magadha is heavily mentioned in Jain and Buddhist texts. It is also mentioned in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and Puranas. The earliest reference to the Magadha people occurs in the Atharva-Veda where they are found listed along with the Angas, Gandharis, and Mujavats. Magadha played an important role in the development of Jainism and Buddhism. The Magadha kingdom included republican communities such as the community of Rajakumara. Villages had their own assemblies under their local chiefs called Gramakas. Their administrations were divided into executive, judicial, and military functions.
Early sources, from the Buddhist Pāli Canon, the Jain Agamas and the Hindu Puranas, mentions Magadha being ruled by the Haryanka dynasty for some 200 years, c. 600–413 BCE. King Bimbisara of the Haryanka dynasty led an active and expansive policy, conquering Anga in what is now eastern Bihar and West Bengal. King Bimbisara was overthrown and killed by his son, Prince Ajatashatru, who continued the expansionist policy of Magadha. During this period, Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, lived much of his life in Magadha kingdom. He attained enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, gave his first sermon in Sarnath and the first Buddhist council was held in Rajgriha. The Haryanka dynasty was overthrown by the Shishunaga dynasty. The last Shishunaga ruler, Kalasoka, was assassinated by Mahapadma Nanda in 345 BCE, the first of the so-called Nine Nandas, which were Mahapadma and his eight sons.
The Nanda Empire, at its greatest extent, extended from Bengal in the east, to the Punjab region in the west and as far south as the Vindhya Range. The Nanda dynasty was famed for their great wealth. The Nanda dynasty built on the foundations laid by their Haryanka and Shishunaga predecessors to create the first great empire of north India. To achieve this objective they built a vast army, consisting of 200,000 infantry, 20,000 cavalry, 2,000 war chariots and 3,000 war elephants (at the lowest estimates). According to the Greek historian Plutarch, the size of the Nanda army was even larger, numbering 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 war chariots, and 6,000 war elephants. However, the Nanda Empire did not have the opportunity to see their army face Alexander, who invaded north-western India at the time of Dhana Nanda, since Alexander was forced to confine his campaign to the plains of Punjab and Sindh, for his forces mutinied at the river Beas and refused to go any further upon encountering Nanda and Gangaridai forces.
Persians and Greeks in northwest South Asia
In 530 BCE Cyrus the Great, King of the Persian Achaemenid Empire crossed the Hindu-Kush mountains to seek tribute from the tribes of Kamboja, Gandhara and the trans-India region (modern Afghanistan and Pakistan). By 520 BCE, during the reign of Darius I of Persia, much of the north-western Indian subcontinent (present-day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan) came under the rule of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, as part of the far easternmost territories. The area remained under Persian control for two centuries. During this time India supplied soldiers to the Achaemenid army for the Second Persian invasion of Greece (480–479 BCE). Under Persian rule the famous University of Ancient Taxila became a centre where both Vedic and Achaemenid learning were mingled. Persian ascendency in North-western South Asia ended with Alexander the Great's conquest of Persia in 327 BCE.
By 326 BCE, Alexander the Great had conquered Asia Minor and the Achaemenid Empire and had reached the northwest frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. There he defeated King Porus in the Battle of the Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and conquered much of the Punjab. After gaining control of the former Achaemenid satrapy of Gandhara, including the city of Taxila, Alexander advanced into Punjab, where he engaged in battle against the regional king Porus, whom Alexander defeated in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC, but was so impressed by the demeanor with which the king carried himself that he allowed Porus to continue governing his own kingdom as a satrap. Although victorious, Battle of the Hydaspes was also the most costly battle fought by the Macedonians. Alexander's march east put him in confrontation with the Nanda Empire of Magadha and the Gangaridai of Bengal. According to the Greek sources, the Nanda army was five times larger than the Macedonian army. His army, exhausted and frightened by the prospect of facing larger Indian armies at the Ganges River, mutinied at the Hyphasis (modern Beas River) and refused to march further East. Alexander, after the meeting with his officer, Coenus, and after learning about the might of the Nanda Empire, was convinced that it was better to return.
The Persian and Greek invasions had repercussions in the north-western regions of the Indian subcontinent. The region of Gandhara, or present-day eastern Afghanistan and north-west Pakistan, became a melting pot of Indian, Persian, Central Asian, and Greek cultures and gave rise to a hybrid culture, Greco-Buddhism, which lasted until the 5th century CE and influenced the artistic development of Mahayana Buddhism.
The Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE) unified most of the Indian subcontinent into one state, and was the largest empire ever to exist on the Indian subcontinent. At its greatest extent, the Mauryan Empire stretched to the north up to the natural boundaries of the Himalayas and to the east into what is now Assam. To the west, it reached beyond modern Pakistan, to the Hindu Kush mountains in what is now Afghanistan. The empire was established by Chandragupta Maurya assisted by Chanakya (Kautilya) in Magadha (in modern Bihar) when he overthrew the Nanda dynasty.
Chandragupta rapidly expanded his power westwards across central and western India, and by 317 BCE the empire had fully occupied Northwestern India. The Mauryan Empire then defeated Seleucus I, a diadochus and founder of the Seleucid Empire, during the Seleucid–Mauryan war, thus gained additional territory west of the Indus River. Chandragupta's son Bindusara succeeded to the throne around 297 BCE. By the time he died in c. 272 BCE, a large part of the Indian subcontinent was under Mauryan suzerainty. However, the region of Kalinga (around modern day Odisha) remained outside Mauryan control, perhaps interfering with their trade with the south.
Bindusara was succeeded by Ashoka, whose reign lasted for around 37 years until his death in about 232 BCE. His campaign against the Kalingans in about 260 BCE, though successful, led to immense loss of life and misery. This filled Ashoka with remorse and led him to shun violence, and subsequently to embrace Buddhism. The empire began to decline after his death and the last Mauryan ruler, Brihadratha, was assassinated by Pushyamitra Shunga to establish the Shunga Empire.
Under Chandragupta Maurya and his successors, internal and external trade, agriculture, and economic activities all thrived and expanded across India thanks to the creation of a single efficient system of finance, administration, and security. The Mauryans built the Grand Trunk Road, one of Asia's oldest and longest major roads connecting the Indian subcontinent with Central Asia. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of peace and security under Ashoka. Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the sciences and of knowledge. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism has been said to have been the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India. Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist missionaries into Sri Lanka, Southeast Asia, West Asia, North Africa, and Mediterranean Europe.
The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary written records of the Mauryan times. Archaeologically, this period falls into the era of Northern Black Polished Ware. The Mauryan Empire was based on a modern and efficient economy and society. However, the sale of merchandise was closely regulated by the government. Although there was no banking in the Mauryan society, usury was customary. A significant amount of written records on slavery are found, suggesting a prevalence thereof. During this period, a high quality steel called Wootz steel was developed in south India and was later exported to China and Arabia.
During the Sangam period Tamil literature flourished from the 3rd century BCE to the 4th century CE. During this period, three Tamil dynasties, collectively known as the Three Crowned Kings of Tamilakam: Chera dynasty, Chola dynasty and the Pandyan dynasty ruled parts of southern India.
The Sangam literature deals with the history, politics, wars, and culture of the Tamil people of this period. The scholars of the Sangam period rose from among the common people who sought the patronage of the Tamil Kings, but who mainly wrote about the common people and their concerns. Unlike Sanskrit writers who were mostly Brahmins, Sangam writers came from diverse classes and social backgrounds and were mostly non-Brahmins. They belonged to different faiths and professions like farmers, artisans, merchants, monks, priests and even princes and quite a few of them were even women.
Around c. 300 BCE – c. 200 CE., Pathupattu, an anthology of ten mid-length books collection, which is considered part of Sangam Literature, were composed; the composition of eight anthologies of poetic works Ettuthogai as well as the composition of eighteen minor poetic works Patiṉeṇkīḻkaṇakku; while Tolkāppiyam, the earliest grammarian work in the Tamil language was developed. Also, during Sangam period, two of the Five Great Epics of Tamil Literature were composed. Ilango Adigal composed Silappatikaram, which is a non-religious work, that revolves around Kannagi, who having lost her husband to a miscarriage of justice at the court of the Pandyan dynasty, wreaks her revenge on his kingdom, and Manimekalai, composed by Sīthalai Sāttanār, is a sequel to Silappatikaram, and tells the story of the daughter of Kovalan and Madhavi, who became a Buddhist Bikkuni.
Classical to early medieval periods (c. 200 BCE – c. 1200 CE)
The Great Chaitya in the Karla Caves. The shrines were developed over the period from 2nd century BCE to the 5th century CE.
The time between the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century BCE and the end of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century CE is referred to as the "Classical" period of India. It can be divided in various sub-periods, depending on the chosen periodisation. Classical period begins after the decline of the Maurya Empire, and the corresponding rise of the Shunga dynasty and Satavahana dynasty. The Gupta Empire (4th–6th century) is regarded as the "Golden Age" of Hinduism, although a host of kingdoms ruled over India in these centuries. Also, the Sangam literature flourished from the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE in southern India. During this period, India's economy is estimated to have been the largest in the world, having between one-third and one-quarter of the world's wealth, from 1 CE to 1000 CE.
Early classical period (c. 200 BCE – c. 320 CE)
The Shungas originated from Magadha, and controlled areas of the central and eastern Indian subcontinent from around 187 to 78 BCE. The dynasty was established by Pushyamitra Shunga, who overthrew the last Maurya emperor. Its capital was Pataliputra, but later emperors, such as Bhagabhadra, also held court at Vidisha, modern Besnagar in Eastern Malwa.
Pushyamitra Shunga ruled for 36 years and was succeeded by his son Agnimitra. There were ten Shunga rulers. However, after the death of Agnimitra, the empire rapidly disintegrated; inscriptions and coins indicate that much of northern and central India consisted of small kingdoms and city-states that were independent of any Shunga hegemony. The empire is noted for its numerous wars with both foreign and indigenous powers. They fought battles with the Mahameghavahana dynasty of Kalinga, Satavahana dynasty of Deccan, the Indo-Greeks, and possibly the Panchalas and Mitras of Mathura.
Art, education, philosophy, and other forms of learning flowered during this period including small terracotta images, larger stone sculptures, and architectural monuments such as the Stupa at Bharhut, and the renowned Great Stupa at Sanchi. The Shunga rulers helped to establish the tradition of royal sponsorship of learning and art. The script used by the empire was a variant of Brahmi and was used to write the Sanskrit language. The Shunga Empire played an imperative role in patronising Indian culture at a time when some of the most important developments in Hindu thought were taking place. This helped the empire flourish and gain power.
The Śātavāhanas were based from Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar (Pune) and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra. The territory of the empire covered large parts of India from the 1st century BCE onward. The Sātavāhanas started out as feudatories to the Mauryan dynasty, but declared independence with its decline.
The Sātavāhanas are known for their patronage of Hinduism and Buddhism, which resulted in Buddhist monuments from Ellora (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) to Amaravati. They were one of the first Indian states to issue coins struck with their rulers embossed. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade as well as the transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to the southern tip of India.
They had to compete with the Shunga Empire and then the Kanva dynasty of Magadha to establish their rule. Later, they played a crucial role to protect large part of India against foreign invaders like the Sakas, Yavanas and Pahlavas. In particular, their struggles with the Western Kshatrapas went on for a long time. The notable rulers of the Satavahana Dynasty Gautamiputra Satakarni and Sri Yajna Sātakarni were able to defeat the foreign invaders like the Western Kshatrapas and to stop their expansion. In the 3rd century CE the empire was split into smaller states.
Northwestern kingdoms and hybrid cultures
The Northwestern kingdoms and hybrid cultures of the Indian subcontinent included the Indo-Greeks, the Indo-Scythians, and the Indo-Parthians.
- The Indo-Greeks were a hybrid culture straddled across multiple Indo-Greek kingdoms. Lasting for almost two centuries, the kingdoms were ruled by a succession of more than 30 Indo-Greek kings, who were often in conflict with each other. The Indo-Greeks reached their height under Menander I (reigned 155–130 BCE), who drove the Greco-Bactrians out of Gandhara and beyond the Hindu Kush, becoming a king shortly after his victory. His territories covered Panjshir and Kapisa in modern Afghanistan and extended to the Punjab region in the Indian subcontinent, with many tributaries to the south and east. Menander I embraced the Buddhist faith, as described in the classical Buddhist text Milinda Panha. After his conversion, he became noted for being a leading patron of Buddhism.
- The Indo-Scythians were descended from the Sakas (Scythians) who migrated from southern Siberia to Pakistan and Arachosia to India from the middle of the 2nd century BCE to the 1st century BCE. They displaced the Indo-Greeks and ruled a kingdom that stretched from Gandhara to Mathura. The power of the Saka rulers started to decline in the 2nd century CE after the Scythian Western Satraps were defeated by the south Indian Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni of the Satavahana dynasty. Later the Saka kingdom was completely destroyed by Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire from eastern India in the 4th century.
- The Indo-Parthians were ruled by the Gondopharid dynasty, named after its eponymous first ruler Gondophares. They ruled parts of present-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northwestern India, during or slightly before the 1st century CE. For most of their history, the leading Gondopharid kings held Taxila (in the present Punjab province of Pakistan) as their residence and ruled from there, but during their last few years of existence the capital shifted between Kabul and Peshawar. These kings have traditionally been referred to as Indo-Parthians, as their coinage was often inspired by the Arsacid dynasty, but they probably belonged to a wider groups of Iranic tribes who lived east of Parthia proper, and there is no evidence that all the kings who assumed the title Gondophares, which means "Holder of Glory", were even related. The Indo-Parthians are noted for the construction of the Buddhist monastery Takht-i-Bahi.
Trade and travels to India
- The spice trade in Kerala attracted traders from all over the Old World to India. Early writings and Stone Age carvings of Neolithic age obtained indicates that India's Southwest coastal port Muziris, in Kerala, had established itself as a major spice trade centre from as early as 3,000 BCE, according to Sumerian records. Jewish traders from Judea arrived in Kochi, Kerala, India as early as 562 BCE.
- Thomas the Apostle sailed to India around the 1st century CE. He landed in Muziris in Kerala, India and established Yezh (Seven) ara (half) palligal (churches) or Seven and a Half Churches.
- Buddhism entered China through the Silk Road transmission of Buddhism in the 1st or 2nd century CE. The interaction of cultures resulted in several Chinese travellers and monks to enter India. Most notable were Faxian, Yijing, Song Yun and Xuanzang. These travellers wrote detailed accounts of the Indian subcontinent, which includes the political and social aspects of the region.
- Hindu and Buddhist religious establishments of Southeast Asia came to be associated with the economic activity and commerce as patrons entrust large funds which would later be used to benefit the local economy by estate management, craftsmanship, promotion of trading activities. Buddhism in particular, travelled alongside the maritime trade, promoting coinage, art, and literacy. Indian merchants involved in spice trade took Indian cuisine to Southeast Asia, where spice mixtures and curries became popular with the native inhabitants.
- The Greco-Roman world followed by trading along the incense route and the Roman-India routes. During the 2nd century BCE Greek and Indian ships met to trade at Arabian ports such as Aden. During the first millennium, the sea routes to India were controlled by the Indians and Ethiopians that became the maritime trading power of the Red Sea.
The Kushan Empire expanded out of what is now Afghanistan into the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under the leadership of their first emperor, Kujula Kadphises, about the middle of the 1st century CE. The Kushans were possibly of Tocharian speaking tribe; one of five branches of the Yuezhi confederation. By the time of his grandson, Kanishka the Great, the empire spread to encompass much of Afghanistan, and then the northern parts of the Indian subcontinent at least as far as Saketa and Sarnath near Varanasi (Banaras).
Emperor Kanishka was a great patron of Buddhism; however, as Kushans expanded southward, the deities of their later coinage came to reflect its new Hindu majority. They played an important role in the establishment of Buddhism in India and its spread to Central Asia and China.
Historian Vincent Smith said about Kanishka:
He played the part of a second Ashoka in the history of Buddhism.
The empire linked the Indian Ocean maritime trade with the commerce of the Silk Road through the Indus valley, encouraging long-distance trade, particularly between China and Rome. The Kushans brought new trends to the budding and blossoming Gandhara art and Mathura art, which reached its peak during Kushan rule.
H.G. Rowlinson commented:
The Kushan period is a fitting prelude to the Age of the Guptas.
Classical period (c. 320 – c. 650 CE)
Gupta Empire – Golden Age
|Gupta Empire – Golden Age|
Classical India refers to the period when much of the Indian subcontinent was united under the Gupta Empire (c. 320–550 CE). This period has been called the Golden Age of India; and was marked by extensive achievements in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy that crystallised the elements of what is generally known as Hindu culture. The Hindu-Arabic numeral system, a positional numeral system, originated in India and was later transmitted to the West through the Arabs. Early Hindu numerals had only nine symbols, until 600 to 800 CE, when a symbol for zero was developed for the numeral system. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavours in India.
The high points of this cultural creativity are magnificent architecture, sculpture, and painting. The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhata, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma, and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields. The Gupta period marked a watershed of Indian culture: the Guptas performed Vedic sacrifices to legitimise their rule, but they also patronised Buddhism, which continued to provide an alternative to Brahmanical orthodoxy. The military exploits of the first three rulers – Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II – brought much of India under their leadership. Science and political administration reached new heights during the Gupta era. Strong trade ties also made the region an important cultural centre and established it as a base that would influence nearby kingdoms and regions in Burma, Sri Lanka, Maritime Southeast Asia, and Indochina.
The latter Guptas successfully resisted the northwestern kingdoms until the arrival of the Alchon Huns, who established themselves in Afghanistan by the first half of the 5th century, with their capital at Bamiyan. However, much of the Deccan and southern India were largely unaffected by these events in the north.
The Vākāṭaka Empire originated from the Deccan in the mid-third century CE. Their state is believed to have extended from the southern edges of Malwa and Gujarat in the north to the Tungabhadra River in the south as well as from the Arabian Sea in the western to the edges of Chhattisgarh in the east. They were the most important successors of the Satavahanas in the Deccan, contemporaneous with the Guptas in northern India and succeeded by the Vishnukundina dynasty.
The Vakatakas are noted for having been patrons of the arts, architecture and literature. They led public works and their monuments are a visible legacy. The rock-cut Buddhist viharas and chaityas of Ajanta Caves (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) were built under the patronage of Vakataka emperor, Harishena.
Samudragupta's 4th-century Allahabad pillar inscription mentions Kamarupa (Western Assam) and Davaka (Central Assam) as frontier kingdoms of the Gupta Empire. Davaka was later absorbed by Kamarupa, which grew into a large kingdom that spanned from Karatoya river to near present Sadiya and covered the entire Brahmaputra valley, North Bengal, parts of Bangladesh and, at times Purnea and parts of West Bengal.
Ruled by three dynasties Varmanas (c. 350–650 CE), Mlechchha dynasty (c. 655–900 CE) and Kamarupa-Palas (c. 900–1100 CE), from their capitals in present-day Guwahati (Pragjyotishpura), Tezpur (Haruppeswara) and North Gauhati (Durjaya) respectively. All three dynasties claimed their descent from Narakasura, an immigrant from Aryavarta. In the reign of the Varman king, Bhaskar Varman (c. 600–650 CE), the Chinese traveller Xuanzang visited the region and recorded his travels. Later, after weakening and disintegration (after the Kamarupa-Palas), the Kamarupa tradition was somewhat extended until c. 1255 CE by the Lunar I (c. 1120–1185 CE) and Lunar II (c. 1155–1255 CE) dynasties. The Kamarupa kingdom came to an end in the middle of the 13th century when the Khen dynasty under Sandhya of Kamarupanagara (North Guwahati), moved his capital to Kamatapur (North Bengal) after the invasion of Muslim Turks, and established the Kamata kingdom.
The Pallavas, during the 4th to 9th centuries were, alongside the Guptas of the North, great patronisers of Sanskrit development in the South of the Indian subcontinent. The Pallava reign saw the first Sanskrit inscriptions in a script called Grantha. Early Pallavas had different connexions to Southeast Asian countries. The Pallavas used Dravidian architecture to build some very important Hindu temples and academies in Mamallapuram, Kanchipuram and other places; their rule saw the rise of great poets. The practice of dedicating temples to different deities came into vogue followed by fine artistic temple architecture and sculpture style of Vastu Shastra.
Pallavas reached the height of power during the reign of Mahendravarman I (571–630 CE) and Narasimhavarman I (630–668 CE) and dominated the Telugu and northern parts of the Tamil region for about six hundred years until the end of the 9th century.
Kadambas originated from Karnataka, was founded by Mayurasharma in 345 CE which at later times showed the potential of developing into imperial proportions, an indication to which is provided by the titles and epithets assumed by its rulers. King Mayurasharma defeated the armies of Pallavas of Kanchi possibly with help of some native tribes. The Kadamba fame reached its peak during the rule of Kakusthavarma, a notable ruler with whom even the kings of Gupta Dynasty of northern India cultivated marital alliances. The Kadambas were contemporaries of the Western Ganga Dynasty and together they formed the earliest native kingdoms to rule the land with absolute autonomy. The dynasty later continued to rule as a feudatory of larger Kannada empires, the Chalukya and the Rashtrakuta empires, for over five hundred years during which time they branched into minor dynasties known as the Kadambas of Goa, Kadambas of Halasi and Kadambas of Hangal.
The Indo-Hephthalites (or Alchon Huns) were a nomadic confederation in Central Asia during the late antiquity period. The Alchon Huns established themselves in modern-day Afghanistan by the first half of the 5th century. Led by the Hun military leader Toramana, they overran Northern regions of the Indian subcontinent.
Toramana's son Mihirakula, a Saivite Hindu, moved up to near Pataliputra to the east and Gwalior to central India. Hiuen Tsiang narrates Mihirakula's merciless persecution of Buddhists and destruction of monasteries, though the description is disputed as far as the authenticity is concerned. The Huns were defeated by alliance of Indian rulers, Maharaja (Great King) Yasodharman of Malwa and Gupta Emperor Narasimhagupta in the 6th century. Some of them were driven out of India and others were assimilated in the Indian society. The victory against the Alchons Huns is also described in the Mandsaur pillar inscription of Yashodharman and Mandsaur stone inscription of Yashodharman-Vishnuvardhana.
(L. 5.)— And, again, victorious over the earth is this same king of men, the glorious Vishnuvardhana, the conqueror in war; by whom his own famous lineage, which has the Aulikara-crest, has been brought to a state of dignity that is ever higher and higher. By him, having brought into subjection, with peaceful overtures and by war, the mighty kings of the east and many (kings) of the north, this second name of "Supreme King of Kings and Supreme Lord", pleasing in the world (but) difficult of attainment, is carried on high.
The Buddhist monastery of Ghoshitarama in Kausambi was probably destroyed by the Alchon Huns under Toramana.
Empire of Harsha
Harsha ruled northern India from 606 to 647 CE. He was the son of Prabhakarvardhana and the younger brother of Rajyavardhana, who were members of the Vardhana dynasty and ruled Thanesar, in present-day Haryana.
After the downfall of the prior Gupta Empire in the middle of the 6th century, North India reverted to smaller republics and monarchical states. The power vacuum resulted in the rise of the Vardhanas of Thanesar, who began uniting the republics and monarchies from the Punjab to central India. After the death of Harsha's father and brother, representatives of the empire crowned Harsha emperor at an assembly in April 606 CE, giving him the title of Maharaja when he was merely 16 years old. At the height of his power, his Empire covered much of North and Northwestern India, extended East until Kamarupa, and South until Narmada River; and eventually made Kannauj (in present Uttar Pradesh state) his capital, and ruled until 647 CE.
The peace and prosperity that prevailed made his court a centre of cosmopolitanism, attracting scholars, artists and religious visitors from far and wide. During this time, Harsha converted to Buddhism from Surya worship. The Chinese traveller Xuanzang visited the court of Harsha and wrote a very favourable account of him, praising his justice and generosity. His biography Harshacharita ("Deeds of Harsha") written by Sanskrit poet Banabhatta, describes his association with Thanesar, besides mentioning the defence wall, a moat and the palace with a two-storied Dhavalagriha (White Mansion).
Early medieval period (c. 650–1200 CE)
Early medieval India began after the end of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century CE. This period also covers the "Late Classical Age" of Hinduism, which began after the end of the Gupta Empire, and the collapse of the Empire of Harsha in the 7th century CE; the beginning of Imperial Kannauj, leading to the Tripartite struggle; and ended in the 13th century with the rise of the Delhi Sultanate in Northern India and the end of the Later Cholas with the death of Rajendra Chola III in 1279 in Southern India; however some aspects of the Classical period continued until the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in the south around the 17th century.
From the fifth century to the thirteenth, Śrauta sacrifices declined, and initiatory traditions of Buddhism, Jainism or more commonly Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism expanded in royal courts. This period produced some of India's finest art, considered the epitome of classical development, and the development of the main spiritual and philosophical systems which continued to be in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
In the 7th century CE, Kumārila Bhaṭṭa formulated his school of Mimamsa philosophy and defended the position on Vedic rituals against Buddhist attacks. Scholars note Bhaṭṭa's contribution to the decline of Buddhism in India. In the 8th century, Adi Shankara travelled across the Indian subcontinent to propagate and spread the doctrine of Advaita Vedanta, which he consolidated; and is credited with unifying the main characteristics of the current thoughts in Hinduism. He was a critic of both Buddhism and Minamsa school of Hinduism; and founded mathas (monasteries), in the four corners of the Indian subcontinent for the spread and development of Advaita Vedanta. While, Muhammad bin Qasim's invasion of Sindh (modern Pakistan) in 711 CE witnessed further decline of Buddhism. The Chach Nama records many instances of conversion of stupas to mosques such as at Nerun.
From the 8th to the 10th century, three dynasties contested for control of northern India: the Gurjara Pratiharas of Malwa, the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan. The Sena dynasty would later assume control of the Pala Empire; the Gurjara Pratiharas fragmented into various states, notably the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal, the Tomaras of Haryana, and the Chauhans of Rajputana, these states were some of the earliest Rajput kingdoms; while the Rashtrakutas were annexed by the Western Chalukyas. During this period, the Chaulukya dynasty emerged; the Chaulukyas constructed the Dilwara Temples, Modhera Sun Temple, Rani ki vav and their capital Anhilwara (modern Patan, Gujarat) was one of the largest cities in the Indian subcontinent, with the population estimated at 100,000 in 1000 CE.
The Chola Empire emerged as a major power during the reign of Raja Raja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I who successfully invaded parts of Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka in the 11th century. Lalitaditya Muktapida (r. 724 CE–760 CE) was an emperor of the Kashmiri Karkoṭa dynasty, which exercised influence in northwestern India from 625 CE until 1003, and was followed by Lohara dynasty. Kalhana in his Rajatarangini credits king Lalitaditya with leading an aggressive military campaign in Northern India and Central Asia.
The Hindu Shahi dynasty ruled portions of eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir from the mid-7th century to the early 11th century. While in Odisha, the Eastern Ganga Empire rose to power; noted for the advancement of Hindu architecture, most notable being Jagannath Temple and Konark Sun Temple, as well as being patrons of art and literature.
The Chalukya Empire ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. During this period, they ruled as three related yet individual dynasties. The earliest dynasty, known as the "Badami Chalukyas", ruled from Vatapi (modern Badami) from the middle of the 6th century. The Badami Chalukyas began to assert their independence at the decline of the Kadamba kingdom of Banavasi and rapidly rose to prominence during the reign of Pulakeshin II. The rule of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Karnataka. The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the ascendancy of Badami Chalukyas. A Southern India-based kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers. The rise of this empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called "Chalukyan architecture". The Chalukya dynasty ruled parts of southern and central India from Badami in Karnataka between 550 and 750, and then again from Kalyani between 970 and 1190.
Founded by Dantidurga around 753, the Rashtrakuta Empire ruled from its capital at Manyakheta for almost two centuries. At its peak, the Rashtrakutas ruled from the Ganges River and Yamuna River doab in the north to Cape Comorin in the south, a fruitful time of political expansion, architectural achievements and famous literary contributions.
The early rulers of this dynasty were Hindu, but the later rulers were strongly influenced by Jainism. Govinda III and Amoghavarsha were the most famous of the long line of able administrators produced by the dynasty. Amoghavarsha, who ruled for 64 years, was also an author and wrote Kavirajamarga, the earliest known Kannada work on poetics. Architecture reached a milestone in the Dravidian style, the finest example of which is seen in the Kailasanath Temple at Ellora. Other important contributions are the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka.
The Arab traveller Suleiman described the Rashtrakuta Empire as one of the four great Empires of the world. The Rashtrakuta period marked the beginning of the golden age of southern Indian mathematics. The great south Indian mathematician Mahāvīra lived in the Rashtrakuta Empire and his text had a huge impact on the medieval south Indian mathematicians who lived after him. The Rashtrakuta rulers also patronised men of letters, who wrote in a variety of languages from Sanskrit to the Apabhraṃśas.
The Gurjara-Pratiharas were instrumental in containing Arab armies moving east of the Indus River. Nagabhata I defeated the Arab army under Junaid and Tamin during the Caliphate campaigns in India. Under Nagabhata II, the Gurjara-Pratiharas became the most powerful dynasty in northern India. He was succeeded by his son Ramabhadra, who ruled briefly before being succeeded by his son, Mihira Bhoja. Under Bhoja and his successor Mahendrapala I, the Pratihara Empire reached its peak of prosperity and power. By the time of Mahendrapala, the extent of its territory rivalled that of the Gupta Empire stretching from the border of Sindh in the west to Bengal in the east and from the Himalayas in the north to areas past the Narmada in the south. The expansion triggered a tripartite power struggle with the Rashtrakuta and Pala empires for control of the Indian subcontinent. During this period, Imperial Pratihara took the title of Maharajadhiraja of Āryāvarta (Great King of Kings of India).
By the 10th century, several feudatories of the empire took advantage of the temporary weakness of the Gurjara-Pratiharas to declare their independence, notably the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal, the Tomaras of Haryana, and the Chauhans of Rajputana.
The Pala Empire was founded by Gopala I. It was ruled by a Buddhist dynasty from Bengal in the eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. The Palas reunified Bengal after the fall of Shashanka's Gauda Kingdom.
The Palas were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism, they also patronised Shaivism and Vaishnavism. The morpheme Pala, meaning "protector", was used as an ending for the names of all the Pala monarchs. The empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. Dharmapala is believed to have conquered Kanauj and extended his sway up to the farthest limits of India in the northwest.
The Pala Empire can be considered as the golden era of Bengal in many ways. Dharmapala founded the Vikramashila and revived Nalanda, considered one of the first great universities in recorded history. Nalanda reached its height under the patronage of the Pala Empire. The Palas also built many viharas. They maintained close cultural and commercial ties with countries of Southeast Asia and Tibet. Sea trade added greatly to the prosperity of the Pala Empire. The Arab merchant Suleiman notes the enormity of the Pala army in his memoirs.
Medieval Cholas rose to prominence during the middle of the 9th century C.E. and established the greatest empire South India had seen. They successfully united the South India under their rule and through their naval strength extended their influence in the Southeast Asian countries such as Srivijaya. Under Rajaraja Chola I and his successors Rajendra Chola I, Rajadhiraja Chola, Virarajendra Chola and Kulothunga Chola I the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South-East Asia. Rajendra Chola I's navies went even further, occupying the sea coasts from Burma to Vietnam, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Lakshadweep (Laccadive) islands, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia and the Pegu islands. The power of the new empire was proclaimed to the eastern world by the expedition to the Ganges which Rajendra Chola I undertook and by the occupation of cities of the maritime empire of Srivijaya in Southeast Asia, as well as by the repeated embassies to China.
They dominated the political affairs of Sri Lanka for over two centuries through repeated invasions and occupation. They also had continuing trade contacts with the Arabs in the west and with the Chinese empire in the east. Rajaraja Chola I and his equally distinguished son Rajendra Chola I gave political unity to the whole of Southern India and established the Chola Empire as a respected sea power. Under the Cholas, the South India reached new heights of excellence in art, religion and literature. In all of these spheres, the Chola period marked the culmination of movements that had begun in an earlier age under the Pallavas. Monumental architecture in the form of majestic temples and sculpture in stone and bronze reached a finesse never before achieved in India.
Western Chalukya Empire
The Western Chalukya Empire ruled most of the western Deccan, South India, between the 10th and 12th centuries. Vast areas between the Narmada River in the north and Kaveri River in the south came under Chalukya control. During this period the other major ruling families of the Deccan, the Hoysalas, the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri, the Kakatiya dynasty and the Southern Kalachuris, were subordinates of the Western Chalukyas and gained their independence only when the power of the Chalukya waned during the latter half of the 12th century.
The Western Chalukyas developed an architectural style known today as a transitional style, an architectural link between the style of the early Chalukya dynasty and that of the later Hoysala empire. Most of its monuments are in the districts bordering the Tungabhadra River in central Karnataka. Well known examples are the Kasivisvesvara Temple at Lakkundi, the Mallikarjuna Temple at Kuruvatti, the Kallesvara Temple at Bagali, Siddhesvara Temple at Haveri, and the Mahadeva Temple at Itagi. This was an important period in the development of fine arts in Southern India, especially in literature as the Western Chalukya kings encouraged writers in the native language of Kannada, and Sanskrit like the philosopher and statesman Basava and the great mathematician Bhāskara II.
Early Islamic intrusions into the Indian subcontinent
The early Islamic literature indicates that the conquest of the Indian subcontinent was one of the very early ambitions of the Muslims, though it was recognised as a particularly difficult one. After conquering Persia, the Arab Umayyad Caliphate incorporated Sindh and Multan, along with parts of modern-day Afghanistan, by 720 CE.
The book Chach Nama chronicles the Brahmin dynasty's period, following the demise of the Rai Dynasty and the ascent of Chach of Alor to the throne, down to the Arab conquest by Muhammad bin Qasim in the early 8th century CE, by defeating the last Hindu monarch of Sindh, Raja Dahir.
In 712 CE, Arab Muslim general Muhammad bin Qasim conquered Sindh and Multan for the Umayyads, incorporating it as the "As-Sindh" province with its capital at Al-Mansurah. After several incursions, the Hindu kings east of Indus defeated the Arabs during the Umayyad campaigns in India, halting their expansion and containing them at Sindh in Pakistan. The south Indian Chalukya Empire under Vikramaditya II, Nagabhata I of the Pratihara dynasty and Bappa Rawal of the Guhilot dynasty repulsed the Arab invaders in the early 8th century.
Several Islamic kingdoms (sultanates) under both foreign and, newly converted, Rajput rulers were established across the Northwestern South Asia. From the 10th century, Sindh was ruled by the Rajput Soomra dynasty, and later, in the mid-13th century by the Rajput Samma dynasty. Additionally, Muslim trading communities flourished throughout coastal south India, particularly on the western coast where Muslim traders arrived in small numbers, mainly from the Arabian peninsula. This marked the introduction of a third Abrahamic Middle Eastern religion, following Judaism and Christianity, often in puritanical form. Mahmud of Ghazni in the early 11th century raided mainly the north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent 17 times, but he did not seek to establish "permanent dominion" in those areas. While Suhaldev of Shravasti, who is said to have defeated and killed the Ghaznavid general Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud in the early 11th century.
The Kabul Shahis ruled the Kabul Valley and Gandhara (modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan) from the decline of the Kushan Empire in the 3rd century to the early 9th century CE. The Shahis are generally split up into two eras: the Buddhist Shahis and the Hindu Shahis, with the change-over thought to have occurred sometime around 870 CE. The kingdom was known as the Kabul Shahan or Ratbelshahan from 565 CE to 670 CE, when the capitals were located in Kapisa and Kabul, and later Udabhandapura, also known as Hund, for its new capital.
The Hindu Shahis under Jayapala, is known for his struggles in defending his kingdom against the Ghaznavids in the modern-day eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan region. Jayapala saw a danger in the consolidation of the Ghaznavids and invaded their capital city of Ghazni both in the reign of Sebuktigin and in that of his son Mahmud, which initiated the Muslim Ghaznavid and Hindu Shahi struggles. Sebuk Tigin, however, defeated him, and he was forced to pay an indemnity. Jayapala defaulted on the payment and took to the battlefield once more. Jayapala, however, lost control of the entire region between the Kabul Valley and Indus River.
Before Jayapala's struggle began, he had raised a large army of Punjabi Hindus. When Jayapala went to the Punjab region, his army was raised to 100,000 horsemen and an innumerable host of foot soldiers. According to Ferishta:
The two armies having met on the confines of Lumghan, Subooktugeen ascended a hill to view the forces of Jayapala, which appeared in extent like the boundless ocean, and in number like the ants or the locusts of the wilderness. But Subooktugeen considered himself as a wolf about to attack a flock of sheep: calling, therefore, his chiefs together, he encouraged them to glory, and issued to each his commands. His soldiers, though few in number, were divided into squadrons of five hundred men each, which were directed to attack successively, one particular point of the Hindoo line, so that it might continually have to encounter fresh troops.
However, the army was hopeless in battle against the western forces, particularly against the young Mahmud of Ghazni. In the year 1001, soon after Sultan Mahmud came to power and was occupied with the Qarakhanids north of the Hindu Kush, Jayapala attacked Ghazni once more and upon suffering yet another defeat by the powerful Ghaznavid forces, near present-day Peshawar. After the Battle of Peshawar, he committed suicide because his subjects thought he had brought disaster and disgrace to the Shahis.
Jayapala was succeeded by his son Anandapala, who along with other succeeding generations of the Shahis took part in various unsuccessful campaigns against the advancing Ghaznavids but were unsuccessful. The Hindu rulers eventually exiled themselves to the Kashmir Siwalik Hills.
Late medieval period (c. 1200 – 1526 CE)
The late medieval period is defined by the disruption to native Indian elites by Muslim Central Asian nomadic clans; leading to the Rajput resistance to Muslim conquests. The growth of Hindu and Muslim dynasties and empires, built upon new military technology and techniques. The rise of theistic devotional trend of the Bhakti movement and the advent of Sikhism.
Growth of Islam
Like other settled, agrarian societies in history, those in the Indian subcontinent have been attacked by nomadic tribes throughout its long history. In evaluating the impact of Islam on the sub-continent, one must note that the northwestern Indian subcontinent was a frequent target of tribes raiding from Central Asia. In that sense, the Muslim intrusions and later Muslim invasions were not dissimilar to those of the earlier invasions during the 1st millennium. What does however, make the Muslim intrusions and later Muslim invasions different is that unlike the preceding invaders who assimilated into the prevalent social system, the successful Muslim conquerors retained their Islamic identity and created new legal and administrative systems that challenged and usually in many cases superseded the existing systems of social conduct and ethics, even influencing the non-Muslim rivals and common masses to a large extent, though the non-Muslim population was left to their own laws and customs. At the same time it must be noted that overwhelming majority of Muslims in India are Indian natives converted to Islam. This factor also played an important role in the synthesis of cultures.
The growth of Muslim dominion resulted in the destruction and desecration of temples and monasteries dedicated to Indian religions (especially politically important temples of enemy states), many cases of forced conversions to Islam, payment of jizya tax, and large-scale loss of life for the non-Muslim population. During the Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent, Indian-origin religions have been persecuted by Muslim rulers. Muslim rulers massacred Hindus, Jains, and Buddhists, while attacking temples and monasteries, while also forcing them to convert including on the battlefield. There was a widespread practice of raids, seizure, and enslavement of families of Hindus, who were then sold in Sultanate cities or exported to Central Asia. Most of the great temples in Northern Indian subcontinent were destroyed during Muslim rule. Will Durant calls the Muslim conquest of India "probably the bloodiest story in history". Although at first disruptive for the Indian elites, the Delhi Sultanate largely left its vast non-Muslim subject population to its own laws and customs.
Rajput resistance to Muslim conquests
Before the Muslim expeditions into the Indian subcontinent, much of North and West India was ruled by Rajput dynasties. The Rajputs and the south Indian Chalukya dynasty were successful in containing Arab Muslim expansion during the Umayyad campaigns in India; but later, Central Asian Muslim Turks were able to break through the Rajput defence into the Northern Indian heartland. However, the Rajputs held out against the Muslim Turkic empires for several centuries. They earned a reputation of fighting battles obeying a code of chivalrous conduct rooted in a strong adherence to tradition and Chi.
The Rajput Chauhan dynasty established its control over Delhi and Ajmer in the 10th century. The most famous ruler of this dynasty was Prithviraj Chauhan. His reign marked one of the most significant moments in Indian history; his battles with Muslim Sultan, Muhammad Ghori. In the First Battle of Tarain, Ghori was defeated with heavy losses. However, the Second Battle of Tarain saw the Rajput army eventually defeated, laying the foundation of Muslim rule in mainland India.
The Mewar dynasty under Maharana Hammir defeated and captured Muhammad Tughlaq with the Bargujars as his main allies. Tughlaq had to pay a huge ransom and relinquish all of Mewar's lands. After this event, the Delhi Sultanate did not attack Chittor for a few hundred years. The Rajputs re-established their independence, and Rajput states were established as far east as Bengal and north into the Punjab. The Tomaras established themselves at Gwalior, and Man Singh Tomar reconstructed the Gwalior Fort which still stands there. During this period, Mewar emerged as the leading Rajput state; and Rana Kumbha expanded his kingdom at the expense of the Sultanates of Malwa and Gujarat. The next great Rajput ruler, Rana Sanga of Mewar, became the principal player in Northern India. His objectives grew in scope – he planned to conquer the much sought after prize of the Muslim rulers of the time, Delhi. But, his defeat in the Battle of Khanwa, consolidated the new Mughal dynasty in India. The Mewar dynasty under Maharana Udai Singh II faced further defeat by Mughal emperor Akbar, with their capital Chittor being captured. Due to this event, Udai Singh II founded Udaipur, which became the new capital of the Mewar kingdom. His son, Maharana Pratap of Mewar, firmly resisted the Mughals. Akbar sent many missions against him. He survived to ultimately gain control of all of Mewar, excluding the Chittor Fort.
The Chittor Fort is the largest fort in the Indian subcontinent. The fort became a symbol for Rajput resistance due to it being sacked three times during the 15th and 16th centuries by Muslim armies. In 1303 Alauddin Khalji defeated Rana Ratan Singh; in 1535 Bahadur Shah, the Sultanate of Gujarat defeated Bikramjeet Singh; and in 1567 Akbar defeated Maharana Udai Singh II, who left the fort and founded Udaipur. Each time the men fought bravely rushing out of the fort walls charging the enemy, but lost. Following these defeats, Jauhar was committed thrice by many of the wives and children of the Rajput soldiers who died in battles at Chittorgarh Fort. The first time was led by Rani Padmini, wife of Ratnasimha, who was killed in the battle in 1303, and later, by Rani Karnavati in 1537.
The historian R.P. Tripathi noted:
The Delhi Sultanate was a Muslim sultanate based in Delhi, ruled by several dynasties of Turkic, Turko-Indian and Pathan origins. It ruled large parts of the Indian subcontinent from the 13th century to the early 16th century. In the 12th and 13th centuries, Central Asian Turks invaded parts of northern India and established the Delhi Sultanate in the former Hindu holdings. The subsequent Slave dynasty of Delhi managed to conquer large areas of northern India, while the Khalji dynasty conquered most of central India while forcing the principal Hindu kingdoms of South India to become vassal states. However, they were ultimately unsuccessful in conquering and uniting the Indian subcontinent.
The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-Muslim" fusion of cultures left lasting syncretic monuments in architecture, music, literature, religion, and clothing. It is surmised that the language of Urdu was born during the Delhi Sultanate period as a result of the intermingling of the local speakers of Sanskritic Prakrits with immigrants speaking Persian, Turkic, and Arabic under the Muslim rulers. The Delhi Sultanate is the only Indo-Islamic empire to enthrone one of the few female rulers in India, Razia Sultana (1236–1240).
During the Delhi Sultanate, there was a synthesis between Indian civilization and Islamic civilization. The latter was a cosmopolitan civilization, with a multicultural and pluralistic society, and wide-ranging international networks, including social and economic networks, spanning large parts of Afro-Eurasia, leading to escalating circulation of goods, peoples, technologies and ideas. While initially disruptive due to the passing of power from native Indian elites to Turkic Muslim elites, the Delhi Sultanate was responsible for integrating the Indian subcontinent into a growing world system, drawing India into a wider international network, which had a significant impact on Indian culture and society. However, the Delhi Sultanate also caused large-scale destruction and desecration of temples in the Indian subcontinent.
The Mongol invasions of India were successfully repelled by the Delhi Sultanate. A major factor in their success was their Turkic Mamluk slave army, who were highly skilled in the same style of nomadic cavalry warfare as the Mongols, as a result of having similar nomadic Central Asian roots. It is possible that the Mongol Empire may have expanded into India were it not for the Delhi Sultanate's role in repelling them. By repeatedly repulsing the Mongol raiders, the sultanate saved India from the devastation visited on West and Central Asia, setting the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, learned men, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from that region into the subcontinent, thereby creating a syncretic Indo-Islamic culture in the north.
A Turco-Mongol conqueror in Central Asia, Timur (Tamerlane), attacked the reigning Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi. The Sultan's army was defeated on 17 December 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left in ruins after Timur's army had killed and plundered for three days and nights. He ordered the whole city to be sacked except for the sayyids, scholars, and the "other Muslims" (artists); 100,000 war prisoners were put to death in one day. The Sultanate suffered significantly from the sacking of Delhi revived briefly under the Lodi Dynasty, but it was a shadow of the former.
Bhakti movement, Sikhism and Himalayan Buddhism
The Bhakti movement refers to the theistic devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism and later revolutionised in Sikhism. It originated in the seventh-century south India (now parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala), and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards, reaching its zenith between the 15th and 17th century CE.
- The Bhakti movement regionally developed around different gods and goddesses, such as Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Shakti goddesses), and Smartism. The movement was inspired by many poet-saints, who championed a wide range of philosophical positions ranging from theistic dualism of Dvaita to absolute monism of Advaita Vedanta.
- Sikhism is based on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the first Guru, and the ten successive Sikh gurus. After the death of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, became the literal embodiment of the eternal, impersonal Guru, where the scripture's word serves as the spiritual guide for Sikhs.
- Buddhism in India flourished in the Himalayan kingdoms of Namgyal Kingdom in Ladakh, Sikkim Kingdom in Sikkim, and Chutiya Kingdom in Arunachal Pradesh of the Late medieval period.
The Vijayanagar Empire was established in 1336 by Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of Sangama Dynasty, which originated as a political heir of the Hoysala Empire, Kakatiya Empire, and the Pandyan Empire. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts by the south Indian powers to ward off Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. It lasted until 1646, although its power declined after a major military defeat in 1565 by the combined armies of the Deccan sultanates. The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a World Heritage Site in Karnataka, India.
In the first two decades after the founding of the empire, Harihara I gained control over most of the area south of the Tungabhadra river and earned the title of Purvapaschima Samudradhishavara ("master of the eastern and western seas"). By 1374 Bukka Raya I, successor to Harihara I, had defeated the chiefdom of Arcot, the Reddys of Kondavidu, and the Sultan of Madurai and had gained control over Goa in the west and the Tungabhadra-Krishna River doab in the north.
With the Vijayanagara Kingdom now imperial in stature, Harihara II, the second son of Bukka Raya I, further consolidated the kingdom beyond the Krishna River and brought the whole of South India under the Vijayanagara umbrella. The next ruler, Deva Raya I, emerged successful against the Gajapatis of Odisha and undertook important works of fortification and irrigation. Italian traveler Niccolo de Conti wrote of him as the most powerful ruler of India. Deva Raya II (called Gajabetekara) succeeded to the throne in 1424 and was possibly the most capable of the Sangama dynasty rulers. He quelled rebelling feudal lords as well as the Zamorin of Calicut and Quilon in the south. He invaded the island of Sri Lanka and became overlord of the kings of Burma at Pegu and Tanasserim.
The Vijayanagara Emperors were tolerant of all religions and sects, as writings by foreign visitors show. The kings used titles such as Gobrahamana Pratipalanacharya (literally, "protector of cows and Brahmins") and Hindurayasuratrana (lit, "upholder of Hindu faith") that testified to their intention of protecting Hinduism and yet were at the same time staunchly Islamicate in their court ceremonials and dress. The empire's founders, Harihara I and Bukka Raya I, were devout Shaivas (worshippers of Shiva), but made grants to the Vaishnava order of Sringeri with Vidyaranya as their patron saint, and designated Varaha (the boar, an Avatar of Vishnu) as their emblem. Over one-fourth of the archaeological dig found an "Islamic Quarter" not far from the "Royal Quarter". Nobles from Central Asia's Timurid kingdoms also came to Vijayanagara. The later Saluva and Tuluva kings were Vaishnava by faith, but worshipped at the feet of Lord Virupaksha (Shiva) at Hampi as well as Lord Venkateshwara (Vishnu) at Tirupati. A Sanskrit work, Jambavati Kalyanam by King Krishnadevaraya, called Lord Virupaksha Karnata Rajya Raksha Mani ("protective jewel of Karnata Empire"). The kings patronised the saints of the dvaita order (philosophy of dualism) of Madhvacharya at Udupi.
The empire's legacy includes many monuments spread over South India, the best known of which is the group at Hampi. The previous temple building traditions in South India came together in the Vijayanagara Architecture style. The mingling of all faiths and vernaculars inspired architectural innovation of Hindu temple construction, first in the Deccan and later in the Dravidian idioms using the local granite. South Indian mathematics flourished under the protection of the Vijayanagara Empire in Kerala. The south Indian mathematician Madhava of Sangamagrama founded the famous Kerala School of Astronomy and Mathematics in the 14th century which produced a lot of great south Indian mathematicians like Parameshvara, Nilakantha Somayaji and Jyeṣṭhadeva in medieval south India. Efficient administration and vigorous overseas trade brought new technologies such as water management systems for irrigation. The empire's patronage enabled fine arts and literature to reach new heights in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Sanskrit, while Carnatic music evolved into its current form.
Vijayanagara went into decline after the defeat in the Battle of Talikota (1565). After the death of Aliya Rama Raya in the Battle of Talikota, Tirumala Deva Raya started the Aravidu dynasty, moved and founded a new capital of Penukonda to replace the destroyed Hampi, and attempted to reconstitute the remains of Vijayanagara Empire. Tirumala abdicated in 1572, dividing the remains of his kingdom to his three sons, and pursued a religious life until his death in 1578. The Aravidu dynasty successors ruled the region but the empire collapsed in 1614, and the final remains ended in 1646, from continued wars with the Bijapur sultanate and others. During this period, more kingdoms in South India became independent and separate from Vijayanagara. These include the Mysore Kingdom, Keladi Nayaka, Nayaks of Madurai, Nayaks of Tanjore, Nayakas of Chitradurga and Nayak Kingdom of Gingee – all of which declared independence and went on to have a significant impact on the history of South India in the coming centuries.
For two and a half centuries from the mid 13th century, politics in Northern India was dominated by the Delhi Sultanate, and in Southern India by the Vijayanagar Empire. However, there were other regional powers present as well. After fall of Pala empire, the Chero dynasty ruled much of Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand from 12th CE to 18th CE. The Reddy dynasty successfully defeated the Delhi Sultanate; and extended their rule from Cuttack in the north to Kanchi in the south, eventually being absorbed into the expanding Vijayanagara Empire. In the north, the Rajput kingdoms remained the dominant force in Western and Central India. Their power reached its zenith under Rana Sanga, who was the Rana of Mewar and head of a powerful Hindu Rajput confederacy in Rajputana; during whose time Rajput armies were constantly victorious against the Sultanate armies.
In the south, the Bahmani Sultanate, which was established either by a Brahman convert or patronised by a Brahman and from that source it was given the name Bahmani, was the chief rival of the Vijayanagara, and frequently created difficulties for the Vijayanagara. In the early 16th century Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar Empire defeated the last remnant of Bahmani Sultanate power. After which, the Bahmani Sultanate collapsed, resulting it being split into five small Deccan sultanates. In 1490, Ahmadnagar declared independence, followed by Bijapur and Berar in the same year; Golkonda became independent in 1518 and Bidar in 1528. Although generally rivals, they did ally against the Vijayanagara Empire in 1565, permanently weakening Vijayanagar in the Battle of Talikota.
In the East, the Gajapati Kingdom remained a strong regional power to reckon with, associated with a high point in the growth of regional culture and architecture. Under Kapilendradeva, Gajapatis became an empire stretching from the lower Ganga in the north to the Kaveri in the south. In Northeast India, the Ahom Kingdom was a major power for six centuries; led by Lachit Borphukan, the Ahoms decisively defeated the Mughal army at the Battle of Saraighat during the Ahom-Mughal conflicts. Further east in Northeastern India was the Kingdom of Manipur, which ruled from their seat of power at Kangla Fort and developed a sophisticated Hindu Gaudiya Vaishnavite culture.
Early modern period (c. 1526–1858 CE)
The early modern period of Indian history is dated from 1526–1858 CE, corresponding to the rise and fall of the Mughal dynasty. This period witnessed the cultural synthesis of Hindu and Muslim elements reflected in Indo-Islamic architecture; the growth of Maratha and Sikh imperial powers over vast regions of the Indian subcontinent with the decline of the Mughals; and came to an end when the British Raj was founded.
In 1526, Babur, a Timurid descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan from Fergana Valley (modern day Uzbekistan), swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which at its zenith covered much of South Asia. However, his son Humayun was defeated by the Afghan warrior Sher Shah Suri in the year 1540, and Humayun was forced to retreat to Kabul. After Sher Shah's death, his son Islam Shah Suri and his Hindu general Hemu Vikramaditya had established secular rule in North India from Delhi until 1556. After winning Battle of Delhi, Akbar's forces defeated Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat on 6 November 1556.
The famous emperor Akbar the Great, who was the grandson of Babar, tried to establish a good relationship with the Hindus. Akbar declared "Amari" or non-killing of animals in the holy days of Jainism. He rolled back the jizya tax for non-Muslims. The Mughal emperors married local royalty, allied themselves with local maharajas, and attempted to fuse their Turko-Persian culture with ancient Indian styles, creating a unique Indo-Persian culture and Indo-Saracenic architecture. Akbar married a Rajput princess, Mariam-uz-Zamani, and they had a son, Jahangir, who was part-Mughal and part-Rajput, as were future Mughal emperors. Jahangir more or less followed his father's policy. The Mughal dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600. The reign of Shah Jahan was the golden age of Mughal architecture. He erected several large monuments, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal at Agra, as well as the Moti Masjid, Agra, the Red Fort, the Jama Masjid, Delhi, and the Lahore Fort.
It was the second largest empire to have existed in the Indian subcontinent, and surpassed China to be become the world's largest economic power, controlling 24.4% of the world economy, and the world leader in manufacturing, producing 25% of global industrial output. The economic and demographic upsurge was stimulated by Mughal agrarian reforms that intensified agricultural production, a proto-industrializing economy that began moving towards industrial manufacturing, and a relatively high degree of urbanization for its time.
The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its territorial expanse during the reign of Aurangzeb and also started its terminal decline in his reign due to Maratha military resurgence under Shivaji. Historian Sir. J.N. Sarkar wrote "All seemed to have been gained by Aurangzeb now, but in reality all was lost." He was less tolerant than his predecessors, reintroducing the jizya tax and destroying several historical temples, while at the same time building more Hindu temples than he destroyed, employing significantly more Hindus in his imperial bureaucracy than his predecessors, and opposing Sunni Muslim bigotry against Hindus and Shia Muslims. However, he is often blamed for the erosion of the tolerant syncretic tradition of his predecessors, as well as increasing brutality and centralisation, which may have played a large part in the dynasty's downfall after Aurangzeb, who unlike previous emperors, imposed relatively less pluralistic policies on the general population, which may have inflamed the majority Hindu population.
The empire went into decline thereafter. The Mughals suffered several blows due to invasions from Marathas, Jats and Afghans. In 1737, the Maratha general Bajirao of the Maratha Empire invaded and plundered Delhi. Under the general Amir Khan Umrao Al Udat, the Mughal Emperor sent 8,000 troops to drive away the 5,000 Maratha cavalry soldiers. Baji Rao, however, easily routed the novice Mughal general and the rest of the imperial Mughal army fled. In 1737, in the final defeat of Mughal Empire, the commander-in-chief of the Mughal Army, Nizam-ul-mulk, was routed at Bhopal by the Maratha army. This essentially brought an end to the Mughal Empire. While Bharatpur State under Jat ruler Suraj Mal, overran the Mughal garrison at Agra and plundered the city taking with them the two great silver doors of the entrance of the famous Taj Mahal; which were then melted down by Suraj Mal in 1763. In 1739, Nader Shah, emperor of Iran, defeated the Mughal army at the Battle of Karnal. After this victory, Nader captured and sacked Delhi, carrying away many treasures, including the Peacock Throne. Mughal rule was further weakened by constant native Indian resistance; Banda Singh Bahadur led the Sikh Khalsa against Mughal religious oppression; Hindu Rajas of Bengal, Pratapaditya and Raja Sitaram Ray revolted; and Maharaja Chhatrasal, of Bundela Rajputs, fought the Mughals and established the Panna State. The Mughal dynasty was reduced to puppet rulers by 1757. Sikh holocaust of 1762 took place under the Muslim provincial government based at Lahore to wipe out the Sikhs, with 30,000 Sikhs being killed, an offensive that had begun with the Mughals, with the Sikh holocaust of 1746, and lasted several decades under its Muslim successor states.
The remnants of the Mughal dynasty were finally defeated during the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and formally taken over by the British.
In the early 18th century the Maratha Empire extended suzerainty over the Indian subcontinent. Under the Peshwas, the Marathas consolidated and ruled over much of South Asia. The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending Mughal rule in India.
The Maratha kingdom was founded and consolidated by Chatrapati Shivaji, a Maratha aristocrat of the Bhonsle clan. While, Venkoji, Shivaji's half-brother founded the Thanjavur Maratha kingdom. However, the credit for making the Marathas formidable power nationally goes to Peshwa Bajirao I. Historian K.K. Datta wrote that Bajirao I "may very well be regarded as the second founder of the Maratha Empire".
By the early 18th century, the Maratha Kingdom had transformed itself into the Maratha Empire under the rule of the Peshwas (prime ministers). In 1737, the Marathas defeated a Mughal army in their capital, in the Battle of Delhi. The Marathas continued their military campaigns against the Mughals, Nizam, Nawab of Bengal and the Durrani Empire to further extend their boundaries. By 1760, the domain of the Marathas stretched across most of the Indian subcontinent. The Marathas even discussed abolishing the Mughal throne and placing Vishwasrao Peshwa on the Mughal imperial throne in Delhi.
The empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar (modern-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Pakistan [note 4]) in the north, and Bengal in the east. The Northwestern expansion of the Marathas was stopped after the Third Battle of Panipat (1761). However, the Maratha authority in the north was re-established within a decade under Peshwa Madhavrao I.
Under Madhavrao I, the strongest knights were granted semi-autonomy, creating a confederacy of Maratha states under the Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, the Bhonsales of Nagpur and the Puars of Dhar and Dewas. In 1775, the East India Company intervened in a Peshwa family succession struggle in Pune, which led to the First Anglo-Maratha War, resulting in a Maratha victory.
Charles Metcalfe, later acting Governor-General of India, wrote in 1806:
The Sikh Empire, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity that governed the Northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent. The empire, based around the Punjab region, existed from 1799 to 1849. It was forged, on the foundations of the Khalsa, under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) from an array of autonomous Punjabi Misls of the Sikh Confederacy.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated many parts of northern India into an empire. He primarily used his Sikh Khalsa Army that he trained in European military techniques and equipped with modern military technologies. Ranjit Singh proved himself to be a master strategist and selected well-qualified generals for his army. He continuously defeated the Afghan armies and successfully ended the Afghan-Sikh Wars. In stages, he added central Punjab, the provinces of Multan and Kashmir, and the Peshawar Valley to his empire.
At its peak, in the 19th century, the empire extended from the Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south, running along Sutlej river to Himachal in the east. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the empire weakened, leading to conflict with the British East India Company. The hard-fought first Anglo-Sikh war and second Anglo-Sikh war marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire, making it among the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to be conquered by the British.
There were several other kingdoms that ruled over parts of India in the later medieval period prior to the British occupation. However, most of them were bound to pay regular tribute to the Marathas.
The rule of the Wodeyar dynasty, which established the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India in around 1400 CE, was interrupted by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the later half of the 18th century. Under their rule, Mysore fought series of wars against the Marathas and British or their combined forces. The Maratha–Mysore War ended in April 1787, following the finalizing of treaty of Gajendragad, in which, Tipu Sultan was obligated to pay tribute to the Marathas. Concurrently, the Anglo-Mysore Wars took place, where the Mysoreans used the Mysorean rockets. The Fourth Anglo-Mysore War (1798–1799) saw the death of Tipu Sultan and further reductions in Mysorean territory. Mysore's alliance with the French was seen as a threat to the British East India Company, and Mysore was attacked from all four sides. The Nizam of Hyderabad and the Marathas launched an invasion from the north. The British won a decisive victory at the Siege of Seringapatam (1799). Tipu was killed during the defence of the city. Much of the remaining Mysorean territory was annexed by the British, the Nizam and the Marathas. The remaining core, around Mysore and Seringapatam, was restored to the Indian prince belonging to the Wodeyar dynasty, whose forefathers had been the actual rulers before Hyder Ali became the de facto ruler. The Kingdom of Mysore became a princely state of British India in 1799.
Hyderabad was founded by the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda in 1591. Following a brief Mughal rule, Asif Jah, a Mughal official, seized control of Hyderabad and declared himself Nizam-al-Mulk of Hyderabad in 1724. The Nizams lost considerable territory and paid tribute to the Maratha Empire after being routed in multiple battles, such as the Battle of Palkhed. However, the Nizams maintained their sovereignty from 1724 until 1948 through paying tributes to the Marathas, and later, being vessels of the British. Hyderabad State became princely state in British India 1798.
The Nawabs of Bengal had become the de facto rulers of Bengal following the decline of Mughal Empire. However, their rule was interrupted by Marathas who carried out six expeditions in Bengal from 1741 to 1748, as a result of which Bengal became a tributary state of Marathas. On 23 June 1757, Siraj ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal was betrayed in the Battle of Plassey by Mir Jafar. He lost to the British, who took over the charge of Bengal in 1757, installed Mir Jafar on the Masnad (throne) and established itself to a political power in Bengal. In 1765 the system of Dual Government was established, in which the Nawabs ruled on behalf of the British and were mere puppets to the British. In 1772 the system was abolished and Bengal was brought under direct control of the British. In 1793, when the Nizamat (governorship) of the Nawab was also taken away from them, they remained as the mere pensioners of the British East India Company.
In the 18th century the whole of Rajputana was virtually subdued by the Marathas. The Second Anglo-Maratha War distracted the Marathas from 1807 to 1809, but afterwards Maratha domination of Rajputana resumed. In 1817, the British went to war with the Pindaris, raiders who were based in Maratha territory, which quickly became the Third Anglo-Maratha War, and the British government offered its protection to the Rajput rulers from the Pindaris and the Marathas. By the end of 1818 similar treaties had been executed between the other Rajput states and Britain. The Maratha Sindhia ruler of Gwalior gave up the district of Ajmer-Merwara to the British, and Maratha influence in Rajasthan came to an end. Most of the Rajput princes remained loyal to Britain in the Revolt of 1857, and few political changes were made in Rajputana until Indian independence in 1947. The Rajputana Agency contained more than 20 princely states, most notable being Udaipur State, Jaipur State, Bikaner State and Jodhpur State.
After the fall of the Maratha Empire, many Maratha dynasties and states became vassals in a subsidiary alliance with the British, to form the largest bloc of princely states in the British Raj, in terms of territory and population. With the decline of the Sikh Empire, after the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1846, under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar, the British government sold Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh and the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, the second largest princely state in British India, was created by the Dogra dynasty. While in Eastern and Northeastern India, the Hindu and Buddhist states of Cooch Behar Kingdom, Twipra Kingdom and Kingdom of Sikkim were annexed by the British and made vassal princely state.
After the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, Polygar states emerged in Southern India; and managed to weather invasions and flourished until the Polygar Wars, where they were defeated by the British East India Company forces. Around the 18th century, the Kingdom of Nepal was formed by Rajput rulers.
Early modern Indian traders
Early modern Indian traders to West Asia and Eastern Europe were active between the 14th and 18th centuries. During this period, Indian traders settled in Surakhani, a suburb of greater Baku, Azerbaijan. These traders built a Hindu temple, which suggests commerce was active and prosperous for Indians by the 17th century.
Further north, the Saurashtra and Bengal coasts played an important role in maritime trade, and the Gangetic plains and the Indus valley housed several centres of river-borne commerce. Most overland trade was carried out via the Khyber Pass connecting the Punjab region with Afghanistan and onward to the Middle East and Central Asia. Although many kingdoms and rulers issued coins, barter was prevalent. Villages paid a portion of their agricultural produce as revenue to the rulers, while their craftsmen received a part of the crops at harvest time for their services.
European exploration and colonialism
Western explorers and traders
In 1498, a Portuguese fleet under Vasco da Gama successfully discovered a new sea route from Europe to India, which paved the way for direct Indo-European commerce. The Portuguese soon set up trading posts in Goa, Daman, Diu and Bombay. After their conquest in Goa, the Portuguese instituted the Goa Inquisition, where new Indian converts and non-Christians were punished for suspected heresy against Christianity, and were condemned to be burnt. Goa became the main Portuguese base until it was annexed by India in 1961.
The next to arrive were the Dutch, with their main base in Ceylon. They established ports in Malabar. However, their expansion into India was halted, after their defeat in the Battle of Colachel by the Kingdom of Travancore, during the Travancore-Dutch War. The Dutch never recovered from the defeat and no longer posed a large colonial threat to India.
In the words of the noted historian, Professor A. Sreedhara Menon:
A disaster of the first magnitude for the Dutch, the battle of Colachel shattered for all time their dream of the conquest of Kerala.
The internal conflicts among Indian kingdoms gave opportunities to the European traders to gradually establish political influence and appropriate lands. Following the Dutch, the British—who set up in the west coast port of Surat in 1619—and the French both established trading outposts in India. Although these continental European powers controlled various coastal regions of southern and eastern India during the ensuing century, they eventually lost all their territories in India to the British, with the exception of the French outposts of Pondichéry and Chandernagore, and the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu.
Expansion of the British East India Company rule in India
|British East India Company|