India History

It is known that at least the north-western part of the Indian subcontinent along the Indus Valley was already settled by people seven thousand years ago, who left behind houses and farm-houses in settlements such as Mohenjo-daro (in the province of Sind in Pakistan) and Harappa (in Punjab, Pakistan), and evidence of use of written scripts.  
Around three thousand years ago, the Aryans invaded the subcontinent from Afghanistan, replaced the original settlers, and spread to the south down the west Indian coast and east along the Ganges.  Gradually, local custom, culture and social classes were developed, and religious practices established worshipping various deities.  Different dialects and languages also evolved; among others things, holy texts and hymns in Sankrit were left behind.  Out of all these emerged the caste system and Hinduism.  Like the people before them, the Aryans created many states, often raiding each other; the largest of the states were Kosala and Magadha.
In 326 BC, Alexander the Great’s army reached the Indus Valley , setting up the city of Bucephala.  He stayed for only two years because of a threatened mutiny by his troops.  In 305 BC, a local king, Chandragupta Maurya, who ruled the nearby Magadha dynasty, induced Alexander’s general who succeeded him, Seleucus, to retreat through the Khyber Pass with a gift of 500 elephants.  
Maurya’s grandson, Asoka, expanded the kingdom to include eastern India, introduced a system of administration, promoted Buddhism and build temples and monuments, some of which have remained to this day in places like Ajanta.   His kingdom lasted another 50 years after his death in 232 BC. 
Other foreign invasions followed, by some Greeks from Bactria , a Greek outpost in ancient Persia left from the days of Alexander.   Next came the Kushans, also from Persia .  

However, by the 4 th century, a native kingdom was founded by Chandra Gupta, which lasted for more than two centuries.   During this period, ancient Aryan culture, and Sankrit as a language developed further.

From the 5 th century AD onwards, Buddhism was replaced by Hinduism which had never disappeared.   The next 1,000 years can be summarised as a period when Muslim invaders came from the northwest into India to seize territories and treasures, and brought Islam into the region.   They either fought against Hindu rulers or fought among themselves, and sometimes fought against other groups such as the Tamils.

The Muslims’ initial stronghold was Punjab , but later they managed to spread elsewhere.   The first sultanate of Delhi , called Mamluk Dynasty, was formed in 1211; other Muslim dynasties followed until the sultanate ended in 1526 although their rule was disrupted in 1398 when the Mongol Khan Timur (who enhanced his credentials by claiming to be a descendant of Genghis Khan) sacked the Delhi Sultanate in 1398. 
Elsewhere in the sub-continent, in 1336, the powerful Hindu Vijayanagara Empire was founded in the south below the Krishna River , which runs across the middle of the triangular-shaped peninsula, where beautiful palaces and temples still remain in its capital Hampi; but it was defeated by nearby Muslim states in 1565.   The Muslims were also periodically harassed by the fierce warriors from the Rajasthan deserts.

In the 16 th century, the Mughals from Central Asia took advantage of the fractious conditions and conquered most of India .   The first move was made by Babur (great, great, great grandson of Timur) from Kabul , who captured Delhi in 1526 and later other regions in the north.   His son, and then his grandson, Akbar, continued to expand the territories.   Akbar was able to use war, marriage and political skills to gain the allegiance of the Hindu majority.   He married a Hindu Rajput princess, who bore him his heir, Janhangir.   He removed inequitable tax burdens on Hindus.   He also subdued Hindus and Muslim states, bringing him money for this treasury and women for his harem.   By 1605, most of the subcontinent north of Augangabad was in his empire.   The next century saw Akbar’s heirs squander away the empire.   While his grandson, Shah Jahan, was famous for building the Taj Mahal for his wife, and his son was well-known for imprisonment of his aging father in the Red Fort in Agra in full view of the Taj, they antagonised the Hindu majority by restricting the rights of Hindus and breaking with Hindu allies.

During their rule, the Mughals made significant contributions to the Indian culture by patronising art and literture, and built impressive palaces, fortresses and mosques.

The appearance of the Europeans hastened the decline of the Mughals.   First the Portuguese came in 1498, but they lost to the British by 1612 and managed to keep enclaves such as Goa.   The British formed the British East India Company in 1600, and the French created the French East India Company in 1664.   The two companies clashed in the next 100 years, usually with the aid of local rulers and hired Indian soldiers.   Eventually the British East India Company prevailed and French presence disappeared from India after 1760.

Meanwhile, the Mughal empire was severely shaken after its invasion by the Persians in 1740 who captured Delhi, massacred the population and took away the Mughal’s precious Peacock Throne; but the Persians left.   The weakened empire broke up into states which paid nominal allegiance to the emperor.   The British colonised India over time by defeating local rulers or playing off rival rulers and then setting up compliant regimes.   In addition, the British established strongholds in Bombay, Calcutta and Madras .  

British domination led to resentment of foreign oppression.   This was manifest in 1858, when the Sepoys (Indian soldiers recruited by the British East India Company) rebelled against their British commanding officers throughout India .   The British were nearly defeated, but regained control.   In 1859, the British Government took direct control of India from the British East India Company and proclaimed Queen Victoria the Empress of India.

The late 19 th century saw the emergence of Indian nationalism, prompted by the desire to regain control of the country’s own destiny, and championed by legendary leaders like Mahatma Gandhi.   The issue was complicated by the difference in views of the Hindu and Muslim politicians about the future of a post-British India .   Essentially, the Muslims did not want to stay in a new nation dominated by the Hindu majority.

This split eventually led to the partition of the Indian sub-continent into India and Pakistan in 1947, the subsequent assassination of Gandhi by a Hindu extremist, and the dispute between the two new countries over Kashmir which has lasted to this day.


Last edited Feb 14, 09 8:05 PM. Contributors: Andrew W.

Travel Tips for History of India

Gangtok, Eastern India, India
1) Stay in Tibet Road when you are in Gangtok!!

2) Enjoy the life in Gangtok the locals are among the most friendly people I've ever met.

3) Ask about the history of Sikkim and you'll find your new best friends.

4) If your a bit low because you haven't eaten meat in India for 4 months then find the butcher in Tibet road, next to him there is a small restaurant where they fry up the best beef Momo's and the staff will drink a beer with you if you stay till late

5) Taste a "Hit Beer"... maybe the best in the world, but is sadly not sold outside Sikkims boarders. Its nice and stong.. i think 8% and is "sadly" only served in 750ml bottles :-)
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Cochin, Southwestern India, India
Cochin is the gateway to modern Kerala (India) and the hub of economic activity in the state of Kerala which is one of the unique and interesting places in the world The Malabar coast, long renowned in the ancient in the ancient world for its spices and the link to the far east as far as China had many ancient ports, not all of which have been identified to date. However, Kochi was not one of them. Presence of sand bars which obstructed ship movement and made it unsafe precluded its development as a major port for most of history. The most important port along the Malabar coast was Muziris, present day Kodungallur situated aprox 80 km north of Cochin. A major flood in the 13th century silted Muziris and opened the port of Cochin heralding its new era. At the time of the epic voyage of Vasco de Gama, the prime focus of international trade was Kozhikode, but a dsipute with the Zamorin, the ruler of Kozhikode forced Gama to look elsewhere (Cochin) for trade links. It helped that the Kings of the principality of Cochin (Perumbadappu swaroopam) welcomed the Portuguese literally putting Cochin on the world trade map. It has not looked back since. Kochi, as Cochin is known today, changed hands several times; Portuguese, then Dutch and finally British all leaving their marks on the life and culture of the place. Cochin soon attracted traders from around the world trading communities settled elsewhere in Kerala soon shifted base here. Most of the surface area of the region around Cochin is filled with waterways and backwaters. Tourist attractions Backwater cruises in "kettuvalloms" - house boats Food: a unique blend of old European (prior to the evolution of continental cuisine) and local tastes is unrivalled in taste. Dozens of varieties of fish preparations, appam (a frilly pancake made from fermented rice and coconut milk) being the best example. Culture: Kerala has the greatest concentration of classical arts in whole of Indian subcontinent namely, Kathakali, Mohiniyattam, Koodiyattam. Music: While Kerala has made itls own contribution to Carnatic Music (the south Indian classical music), the real unique aspect of Kerala music is the variety and depth of percussion instruments and rhythms. Afficiandos of percussion music must not miss the percussion orchestras at "Pooram"s which are huge temple festivals. These can also be the opportunity to glimpse the Keral elephants. Elephants: Elephants are revered by the people of Kerala and form essential elements in cultural life and are integral to temple festivities. Ayurveda: Kerala is famous for its exponents of traditional healing system known as ayurveda. While it is excellent for rejuvenating the tired mind and body, travellers will be ill advised if they attempt to cure major illnesses (better take modern medical help) For the traveller who wants to venture off the beaten track, it offers a unique experience which cannot be described. Flip side: Kerala is expensive. Hotel rooms are always full in season due to heavy demand and small supply. Book your flights and hotel rooms at least a year in advance if you dont want to regret! Part of the reason for high prices is a deliberate attempt to discourage the non serious traveller and the back packer. However, a back packer who is willing to do some research and improvise (like the local Indian) can have a lot of value for money Places to visit Fort Cochin and Mattachery [ Jewish synagogue, St Francis church- the first European church in Asia, Dutch palace, Bishop's house - it houses a unique maritime musueum of the Portuguese period, the building itself was built by the Dutch] Best wishes
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Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
If you go here, you need to check out all the historical landscapes and buildings, also, get a guide! They will tell you stories and the history as you go along.
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Kanpur, North-Central Plains, India
You can skip this city if you like...nothing much happening here travel-wise, and the city's history has been overtaken by its status as UP's industrial hub... its an urban mess and quite dirty...
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Khajuraho, North-Central Plains, India
You really have to visit the Kamasutra Temples here, make sure you have a good guide because there's a lot of history that's very interesting!
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