Roots of Indian Culture
Indus Valley, or Harappan, civilization emerged about 2500 B.C.
as a sophisticated urban society with a system of writing and
measurements. A thousand years later, Aryans brought from the
north a culture and rituals that later became a basis of Hinduism.
About 320 B.C. the Maurya family took power influenced by the
statecraft of Alexander the Great. Their empire peaked between
273 and 232 B.C. under Ashoka, who made Buddhism the state religion.
Pillars and boulders inscribed with his royal edicts still stand.
classical period of Hindu art, literature, and Science (A.D. 320
to 647) took root during the Gupta dynasty, reaching its peak
during the reign of Chandragupta II (A.D. 375 to 415). Building
on the campaigns of his father, Samudragupta, he extended his
influence farther southward. The Gupta rulers promoted Brahmanism,
an early form of Hinduism, throughout their realm. Though the
last strong Gupta king, Skandagupta, held off the invading Huns
in the fifth century, the empire soon collapsed.
One invading force after another
plagued and plundered India from the 5th to the 13th centuries,
an era of political turmoil and shifting boundries. As Islam spread,
a Muslim sultanate was established in Delhi in 1206. lt soon expanded
south, absorbing many Hindu kingdoms, including the domain of
the powerful Yadavas dynasty. In 1526 Babur, a Muslim chieiftain
from Central Asia, defeated the last Delhi sultan and established
the Mogul Empire that would shape the subcontinent for the next
In the 1500s Europeans began vying
Arab merchants for India's sea routes. Europeans established ports
like Goa and Pondicherry and made trade agreements with powerful
Mogul emperors such as Akbar, Ruling from 1556 to 1605, he set
a tone of religious tolerance; his son and grandson presided over
an era glorious in art and architecture. Great-grandson Aurangzeb
expanded the empire, which held as many as 150 million subjects
at its height before ebbing after his death in 1707.
Taking advantage of the lack of
central power in the 1700s, the British East India Company began
taking over much of the subcontinent, manipulating conflicts between
local rulers and imposing taxes. It's strategy is illustrated
by the 1799 partition of the state of Mysore. The company gave
some territory to princely states, gaining political influence
in exchange for protection, and it claimed the rest of the state
for itself. In 1857 sepoys, or Indian soldiers, rebelled against
social and religious indignities. Civil discontent spread the
Indian Revolt, suppressed in 1859.
Britain seized control of the East
India Company's holdings in 1858. Indians became increasingly
critical of British rule and it's inequality. After World War
I, political activist Mohandas Gandhi sent out a cry for independence
through nonviolent disobedience, and millions answered. In 1940
the Muslim League, afraid of a Hindu run government, called for
an independent Muslim state.
After massive riots between Muslims and Hindus in 1946 and 1947,
Indian and British leaders agreed to partition the country; in
August 19th 1947 India and Pakistan gained independence. In 1971
Muslims in East Pakistan broke away to form of Bangladesh.