India is a country with a rich history and culture. Home to the Indus Valley civilization and a region of historic trade routes and vast empires, the Indian subcontinent was identified with its commercial and cultural wealth for much of its long history. Four major world religions, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism originated here, while Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Islam and Christianity arrived in the first millennium AD and mingled into the region’s diverse culture. India became a modern nation-state in 1947 after a struggle for independence that was marked by widespread nonviolent resistance. The history of India can be divided into four major segments, the ancient era, the medieval era, the modern era and the post-independence era.
The hallmark of Indian history dates back to the stone age with paintings at the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka in Madhya Pradesh. These paintings symbolise the earliest known traces of human life in India. The first known permanent settlements appeared over 9,000 years ago and gradually developed into the Indus Valley Civilization, dating back to 3300 BCE in western India. It was followed by the Vedic Civilization, which laid the foundations of Hinduism and other cultural aspects of early Indian society. From around 550 BCE, many independent kingdoms and republics known as the Mahajanapadas were established across the country.
The empire built by the Maurya dynasty under Emperor Ashoka united most of South Asia in the third century BCE. From 180 BCE, a series of invasions from Central Asia followed, including those led by the Indo-Greeks, Indo-Scythians, Indo-Parthians and Kushans in the north-western Indian subcontinent. From the third century CE, the Gupta dynasty oversaw the period referred to as “The Golden Age” of Indian history. Among the notable South Indian empires were the Chalukyas, Rashtrakutas, Hoysalas, Pallavas, Pandyas, and Cholas. Science, engineering, art, literature, astronomy, and philosophy flourished under the patronage of these kings. Paintings at the Ajanta Caves in Aurangabad, Maharashtra were made in the 6th century. Following invasions from Central Asia between the tenth and twelfth centuries, much of north India came under the rule of the Delhi Sultanate, and later the Mughal dynasty. Mughal emperors gradually expanded their kingdoms to cover large parts of the subcontinent. Nevertheless, several indigenous kingdoms, such as the Vijayanagara Empire, flourished, especially in the south. In the seventeenth and eighteenth century, the Mughal supremacy declined and the Maratha Empire became the dominant power. From the sixteenth century, several European countries, including Portugal, Netherlands, France, and the United Kingdom, started arriving as traders and later took advantage of the fractious nature of relations between the kingdoms to establish colonies in the country.
During the first half of the twentieth century, a nationwide struggle for independence was launched by the Indian National Congress and other political organizations. Led by Mahatma Gandhi, and displaying commitment to ahimsa, or non-violence, millions of protesters engaged in mass campaigns of civil disobedience. Finally, on 15 August 1947, India gained independence from British rule, but was partitioned, in accordance to wishes of the Muslim League, along the lines of religion to create the Islamic nation-state of Pakistan. Three years later, on 26 January 1950, India became a republic and a new constitution came into effect. The history of India is a mingle between the East and the West. India has always been an invader’s paradise, while at the same time its natural isolation and magnetic religions allowed it to adapt to and absorb many of the peoples who penetrated its mountain passes. No matter how many Persians, Greeks, Chinese nomads, Arabs, Portuguese, Britishers and other raiders had their way into this great country, many of them merged into the society giving rise to a country full of diversity in terms of culture, religion, language and architecture.