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India is known for one of the most ancient civilizations in the world. The first

major civilization here flourished for about one thousand years since 2500 BC

along the Valley of Indus River. The great cities of this civilization were

Mohenjodaro and Harappa which is now in Pakistan. Later invaders swept south

from central Asia between 1500 and 2000 BC and took control of northern India

thereby pushing the original Dravidian inhabitants to south of country.

By 6th century BC, the Magadh dynasty ruled the Northern plains. It was also the

time when Buddhism and Jainism emerged and challenged Hindu orthodoxy.

The Magadh dynasty rule was followed by the rule of Chandragupta Maurya

(322-298 B.C.), one of India’s greatest emperors. The golden period was under

the reign of Ashoka the Great who extended his empire from the Kashmir and

Peshawar in the North to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East. Ashoka

was not only a great ruler, but he was also one of the most successful

propagators of Buddhism not only in India but even in other countries. After his

death in 232 B.C. the empire began to disintegrate and weak and that was the

time when country was raided and plundered by foreign invaders, leaving India

disunited for the next 400 years. After going through a gloomy phase, India had

stability again under the rule of Chandra Gupta I (380-412 A.D.). His rule is

considered to be the golden period in Indian history as there are all round

development, art and culture flourished and the country prospered.


Unlike the North of India, South India remained untouched by impact of what was

going in Northern part. South India also saw the rise and fall of many empires

which included the Cholas whose rule extended beyond India to Sri Lanka and

other parts of South East Asia, the Pandyas, the Pallavas and the Chalukyas.

Under the various rulers of these dynasties, arts and craft in the South flourished

also saw the emergence of diverse styles of architecture and the grandest

architectural accomplishments in the South – the most notable being the

delicately crafted Chola bronzes. These were then followed by the Great Hoysala

and the Vijaynagar empires which are among the greatest Hindu empires.

The Muslim Invasions

Mahmud of Gazni was the first Muslim invader who came to India and plundered

the country between 1001 and 1025 for its treasures. Later it was Mohamed

Ghori who defeated Indian rules, Prithviraj Chauhan, and left Qutub-ud-din, in

charge of the territory. Qutub-ud-din is famous for constructing Qutub Minar in

Delhi which remained tallest building in the city for ages. His rule was followed by

other Muslim dynasties; Khilji, Tughlaq, Sayyid and Lodis. It was during this

period also known as Delhi Sultanat, the Muslim rulers introduced Islamic

concepts of society and governance to most of the sub-continent, though the

South remained largely untouched.

In 1525, Babur, a descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan invaded Punjab and

founded the Mughal empire in India which rules for many centuries. After his

death, his son Humayun. Humayun became the rules but he was ousted by

Afghan chieftain Sher Shah. Sher Shah is known for building the Grand Trunk

road spanning from Peshawar in the west to Patna in east. Humayun was again

able to resum power after Sher Shah’s death. After Humayun, it was his his son

Akbar who consolidated power and extended the great empire across North India

and parts of South India. Akbar is also considered to be one of the most

intelligent and best administrator ruler. Akbar was succeeded by Jahangir,

followed by his son Shah Jahan who is best known for giving the world, Taj

Mahal, the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid. Shah Jahan was succeded by

Aurangzeb who was the last powerful Mughal Emperor. Although Mughals ruled

for few more generations, but the empire had started becoming weaker. Bahadur

Shah Zafar was the last Mughal ruler. After a revolt in 1857-58, Bahadur Shah

Zafar was deposed by the British government, who then took control of the


British Rule

Since ages, immense wealth of India had attracted foreign traders. The

Europeans came to India for commercial purpose. One of the first Europeans to

come to India was the Portuguese trader Vasco da Gama who landed at Calicut,

sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1498. The Portuguese were followed by the

French, the Dutch and the English. By the end of 18th century, the Britishers

established themselves as the formidable power in India. They did not only rule


the country but also brought olutionary changes in the social, economic and

political life of the country.

Toward Independence

After Mughal Empire became weak, India was being ruled by various rulers who

were busy in fighting among themselves and could not pose any serious

challenge to English. Britishers had consolidated their position. However, Indians

in 19th century started to feel frustrated by oppressive policies of British. The

frustration led to great revolt or also known as first war of independence in 1857.

Although the frustration was building up for quite some time but it was

introduction of a new rifle and cartridge by the British Army that helped spark the

revolt. The cartridges which soldiers had to bite off, allegedly had pork and beef

which offended the religious sentiments of both Hindus and Muslims. The Indian

soldiers in the army reached Delhi and proclaimed Bahadurshah Zafar the

sovereign rulers of India and fought under his leadership. The revolt was

eventually quelled by British soon.

Since then, there was no looking back for the Indians who wanted social reform

and freedom from foreign rule. The Indian National Congress was founded on

28th December, 1885 and soon became the largest and most prominent Indian

public Organization. The Congress party led the Indian Independence movement

besides other leaders and organizations. It had more than 15 million members

and 70 million Indians participated in its struggle against British rule in India. The

movement gained momentum with the arrival of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

who devised a unique strategy for India’s freedom struggle based on non-

violence and civil disobedience. After various movements, British agreed to

transfer power on August 15, 1947, that is now celebrated as India’s

Independence Day.