History of India in 15 minutes


Around 70,000 years ago humans left Africa for the first time and arrived in India via the great coastal migration. Their direct descendants can be found in the Andaman Islands even today. The next people to populate India were a small group so successful that their numbers quickly multiplied and soon swamped all traces of the previous coastal migration. They domesticated the cow and grew wheat barley and jujubes. The next wave of settlers came from Central Asia and between four to two thousand years ago the two groups began to mix. Today’s Indians are the descendants of this prehistoric intermingling. In 1921archaeologists discovered the ruins of a lost Bronze Age civilization in the Indus Valley They found great cities with careful town planning and drainage systems This was the Indus Valley Civilization older than the great pyramids and at its peak home to up to five million people. Most of the people were craftsmen and merchants whose trade network stretched all the way to Sumer in today’s Iraq. Hundreds of seals used by these traders to stamp their goods have been found. The seals contain a form of writing but the Indus script has not been deciphered so far Eventually the civilization went into decline perhaps because of climate change the Indus Valley cities were abandoned and their existence vanished out of memory then around 1500 BC a new society emerged. The people cleared forests to graze cattle and made tools out of iron Their kings road horse-drawn chariot called Rathas to battle while the priests or Brahmins appeased the gods through ritual sacrifices at fire altars The sages of this period composed the Vedas, hymns to ancient gods. Many of these hymns are attributed to women scholars Three and a half thousand years later the Vedas are still in use today The language of the Vedas is Sanskrit, mother to the languages of northern India and itself related to the languages of Europe Vedic india stretched from the Hindu Kush to the plains of the Ganges and was divided into many kingdoms and republics One kingdom the kuru witnessed a dynastic struggle that culminated in a legendary war. This war would be the inspiration for the Mahabharata, an epic poem as gods and heroes that continues to influence India even today. In the 5thcentury BC a host of thinkers arose with new ideas that challenged the authority of the priests and their rituals One of them was a young prince who had renounced his kingdom to seek out the truth He discovered that desire is the cause of suffering and letting go of desire was the path to inner peace He became known as the Buddha the enlightened one and his message spread across India in 326 bc the undefeated army of Alexander the Great reached India’s doorstep. They won a fierce battle against King Porus in the Punjab but to the east, a young adventurer Chandragupta Maurya had seized power He drove Alexander’s successors out of India and established the Mauryan empire His grandson Ashoka expanded the empire from the Khyber to Bengal. Shaken by his brutally destructive victory against the kingdom of Kalinga he became a Buddhist and dedicated his life to the welfare of his subjects. Ashoka issued edicts bearing the message of peace, compassion and justice all across his empire These edicts were written in Brahmi, the ancestor of all the writing systems used in India today. By this time the general population spoke various Prakrit languages that would evolve into the modern languages of India but in the deep south the Tamil language had already developed classical literature The three kingdoms of the Tamil country traded extensively with the Roman Empire exchanging Indian spices for gold After the fall of the Mauryan Empire a nomadic tribe expanded from Central Asia into northern India forming the Kushan empire Under emperor Kanishka they embraced Buddhism and exported it to China via the famed Silk Road. The decline of theKushan Empire was followed by the rise of the Gupta dynasty and a period of peace and prosperity followed. This was the Golden Age of India. The Gupta period produced cultural high points such as the classical Sanskrit plays of kalidasa Chaturanga – the precursor to the game of chess and the world’s first manual on sex the Kama Sutra the mathematician-astronomer Aryabhata proposed that the Earth revolves around the Sun and accurately calculated the circumference of the earth but India’s greatest contribution to the world was the Hindu number system and the use of zero – The foundation of all modern science A renewed Hinduism based on devotion rather than ritual emerged under the Guptas The cults of Shiva and Vishnu became prominent The Gupta Empireeventually declined and broke up into many kingdoms that waged war against each other no ruler of this period was able to create and control a great empire. in the tenth century the chola dynasty under Raja raja broke the deadlock and conquered all of southern India The Cholan Navy dominated the Bay of Bengal and invaded Sri Lanka and parts of Southeast Asia. The chola kings built great temples to Shiva that also became the centres of economic and cultural life Around the same time the temple towns of the north were under attack by Turkic Raiders led by Mahmud of Ghazni 150 years later another Muslim ruler Mohammed Ghori raised vast armies that over ran the Northern Plains His defeat of the Rajput King pretty Rajan 1192 laid the foundations of Muslim rule in India Qutub ud-din Aybak a former slave of Ghori became the first Sultan of Delhi the Delhi Sultanate would give India the tradition of sufi saints, the Urdu language, music and poetry and for a brief period – its first female Empress under Alauddin Khilji they repulsed the Mongol empire and under the Tughlaq dynasty the Sultanate expanded into southern India The weakening of the southern kingdoms paved the way for the rise of Vijayanagara the last great empire of the south the Vijaynagara rulers built monumental temples were patrons of carnatic music as well as literature in the Kannada Telugu and Tamil languages In the North the nomadic warlord Timur sacked belly and massacred its people. This attack severely weakened the Sultanate and many regional Sultanates, Rajput Princedoms and the Ahom kingdom of the Northeast emerged. In the Punjab Guru nanak founded the sikh religion The final blow for the Sultanate came when Babur a descendant of Timur and Genghis khan defeated the last sultan of delhi at Panipat Although outnumbered five-to-one Babur had the advantage of gunpowder and cannons This battle marked the beginning of a new era the Mughal empire Babur’s grandson Akbar was a great ruler who united his subjects both by conquest and by tolerance. He started an experimental religion Din-i-Ilahi by blending ideas from all religions He reorganized the administrative departments and abolished the sectarian tax on Hindus. By the time of his death India had the largest GDP in the world the Mughals embarked on great building projects constructing magnificent Gardens forts and tombs including the Taj Mahal built by the Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his beloved Queen Mumtaz incidentally it was Shah Jahan’s third son with Mumtaz – Aurangzeb, who imprisoned Shah Jahan and seized the throne Aurangzeb ruled with an iron fist The empirereached its greatest extent but was plagued with revolts and religious the empire Aurangzeb’s greatest enemy was Shivaji Bhonsle, a leader of the Hindu Maratha people who broke away from Mughal rule and established the Maratha Empire After Aurangzeb’s death the Mughal emperors became vassals of the Maratha prime minister or Peshwa Provincial governors or nawabs declared independence as did the Sikhs and the kingdoms of Mysore and Hyderabad but waiting patiently on the sidelines were the European powers It was the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama who first landed in India in 1498, almost 30 years before the Mughals The Dutch, Danish French and British trading companies soon followed Wary of the growing influence of the British East India Company the nawab of Bengal had 146 british prisoners locked up in a small cell. Only 23 survived the night This incident led to the battle of Plassey where company troops led by Robert Clive defeated the Nawabs forces The emboldened East India Company went on to defeat the Mysore kingdom, the Sikhs the Marathas and the French to emerge as the dominant power in India The company troops were mostly made up of Indian soldiers called Sepoys In 1857 the company issued cartridges greased with the fat of cows and pigs This infuriated both Hindu and Muslim sepoys causing a mutiny. They were joined by local rulers including the last Mughal emperor and the rebels almost succeeded in driving the british out of india. The rebellion however lacked a central leadership and was brutally suppressed a year later the East IndiaCompany was dissolved and India was directly governed by the crown Independent local kingdoms became British protectorates called princely states The British Raj had begun Indian social reformers campaigned for women’s education and the abolishment of widow immolation and child marriages The british-built universities, schools and hospitals and a network of railways that connected the country. This brought the different regions of India together and the sense of a common national identity emerged. But all of this came at a heavy price India was made to grow cash crops like indigo, tea and cotton which were processed into finished goods in Britain only to be dumped back into Indian markets Millions died in famines as food was diverted to supply Britain’s war efforts in Europe. India’s share of world gdp fell from almost twenty-three percent in 1700 less than four percent The Indian National Congress was first formed to obtain a greater share in the government for Indians but faced with opposition from the British the party began campaigning for total independence in 1919 British troops opened fire on a peaceful gathering at jallianwala bagh in the Punjab killing at least 379 men, women and children. This event triggered a nationwide movement for independence although there were attempts at armed revolution India’s freedom struggle would be marked by the nonviolent resistance led by Mahatma Gandhi When World War 2 broke out, Britain declared war on India’s behalf and sent two million Indians to battle. Subhas Chandra Bose’s army of Indian prisoners of war raised with German and Japanese help unsuccessfully tried to challenge Britain’s hold on India but the war in Europe had diminished Britain’s economic and military strength to control India and India finally became independent on the fifteenth of August 1947 owing to vociferous demands for a separate Muslim homeland india was partitioned into a Hindu majority India and a Muslim Pakistan 14 million Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were displaced in what was to be the largest mass migration in human history Thousands would die in violent riots along the way. Under Jawaharlal Nehru the first Prime Minister India adopted a mixed socialist economy and chose to remain non-aligned in the cold war Dr ambedkar wrote India’s Constitution the longest in the world which declared India to be a secular Democratic Republic Sardar Patel led the integration of 565 princely states into the Union of India. Disputes over the Himalayan border escalated into a war with China in which the ill prepared Indian forces were defeated India and Pakistan went to war over the Kashmir region in 1965 this time India prevailed Pakistan launched another attack on India in 1971 but was defeated again and forced to grant independence to Bangladesh Nehru’s daughter and India’s first woman Prime Minister Indira Gandhi authorized the country’s successful nuclear weapons program The Green Revolution allowed India to feed a population of 500 million ending two decades of food imports India’s highly regulated economy however remained sluggish with rampant corruption This changed with the liberalisation reforms of 1991 that created a large urban middle class and transformed India into one of the world’s fastest growing economies tHE 90s were also a decade of strife A militant insurgency started in the muslim-majority Kashmir region Comunal violence erupted across India when a Hindu mob demolished a mosque built by Babur on the site believed to be the birthplace of the Hindu god Rama In 1998 both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear weapons tests. The next year India repulsed Pakistan’s attempt to infiltrate Kashmir in the Kargil war – the only instance of direct conventional warfare between nuclear States Peace still continues to elude the two nations India welcomed its billionth baby in May 2000 and is expected to become the world’s most populous nation by 2022 in December 2016 India’s GDP surpassed that of Britain for the first time in 150 years making it the sixth largest in the world However problems like the black market economy, domestic insurgencies and economic inequality still persist Today India is a member of the g20 and BRICS and is campaigning for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi has launched a crackdown on corruption and red tape and seeks to increase India’s geo political clout. Indian movies food and spiritual teachings reflect India’s growing soft power as does a large and prominent Indian diaspora population So this was the history of India. 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