Indian history could be dated way back to 2nd-1st millennia BC known as Vedic Period. Based on literary sources and evidences, the Vedic Period continued till 6th century BC during which the holiest and oldest books of Hinduism- the Vedas were compiled. The earliest archaeological evidences of human inhabitation are from Mehrgarh in 7000 BC in, which later evolved into the "Indus Valley Civilization". The Indus Valley Civilization was characterized by town planning, road planning cutting at 90 degrees, pottery and art but gave no traces of weapons or fortifying the city. The Indus Valley Civilization also known as Harrapan Culture declined around 1900 BC. Various reasons are accorded for this decline but most of historians agree that the decline was probably because of drought, uninhabitable environmental conditions and geological disturbances. This was aggravated by the advent of Aryans who came and settled around the declining Harappan Civilisation. In course of time Aryans or Vedic people settled in most of northern part of India and consequently the original descendants of the Harappan Culture were forced to move to deep south where they gave birth to the Dravidian culture.
The present cultural values and ethos in India has it roots in the Vedic civilization which has its influences till the present times. The influence of Vedas and literature that were written later, like the Upanishads, the Puranas, the great epics — Ramayana and Mahabharata, and the Bhagavad Gita has given a cultural continuity to the Indian culture and tradition. The later literatures are understood to be extension and expansion of the knowledge found in the early Vedas. They are in fact explanations and commentaries written to make the people understand unfolding the verses of Vedas. The ritualism which was simple during Rig-Vedic period got complicated and crystalised during the later vedic period. Today we find that most of the languages spoken or written in north India have its root in Sanskrit, the language spoken and written during the Vedic period which in turn is categorized as one of the Indo-European group of languages. The later philosophies and religion, often considered to be the off-shoot of the Vedic religion enriched the Hinduism greatly. However, Buddhism and Jainism around the middle of first millennium BC, and later Sikhism in much later period questioned the authority, content and teachings of the Vedas and preached to move away from the complex ritualism. These religions are now considered as disctinct religions.
The period between 5th century BC and 5th century AD could chiefly be known as the period of empire building. India saw its first pan- nation empire during the dynasty of Mauryas and considerably continued by the Guptas. The period was also precisely the time when greater advancements in the field of mathematics and astronomy were made. The discoveries made during this period in these fields were centuries later rediscovered in the Western civilisations. It was great mathematician and astronomer, Aryabhata who discovered that the earth’s shape is spherical and it was the earth that revolves around the sun and rotates about is axis and not the vice-versa. Based on his calculations he devised a calendar which was so accurate that it is followed till this day. In the field of religion the period saw slow and steady wading away of Buddhism and Jainism chiefly because of the reasons creeping into the religion against which it stood in the beginning. Buddhism got extinct from India although many neighboring countries adopted and practiced the religion. Jainism, on the other hand got limited within a small regional boundary in the country and got localized in the western part of India. Hinduism, in the meantime, itself tried to reform itself. On the one hand while Buddhism found its place within the Hinduism, on the other hand some of Vedic deities like Agni and Indra - lost their importance and new Puranic deities like Shiva, Vishnu and their other reincarnation gained prominence during the period.
Around 712 A.D or the beginning of the 8th century, Islamic incursion started in India. They came initially as raiders and plunderers but gradually they started settling in India. One dynasty after other ruled over India. However, the most significant dynasty that ruled in India was the Mughal dynasty, who established their empire over all of India. The empire constituted most of modern Pakistan and Afghanistan and went deeper in south India leaving only the eastern and southern extremities of Indian sub-continent. During the muslim rule in India Rajputs gave persistent challenge to their rule. The bravery shown by the Rajputs in resisting invasion of their land found its place in the folk tales, legends and songs of Rajasthan. The most prominent name among the Rajput King was of the ruler of Chittorgarh, Rana Pratap. He chose to remain in exile for year fighting Akbar rather than assuming the supremacy of the Mughals. Eventually, after a long struggle for years, however, the Rajputs were won over. This event in the history gave birth to a new era in the Indian history. The alliance between Rajputs and –Mughals resulted in a long era of peace and progress and remained strong till the end of the rule of Mughal empire. This period of Rajput-Mughal alliance was also the golden period from the point of view of Indian literature, art and architecture. The architectural excellence of this period could be seen in many forts, buildings and monuments of Rajasthan. Taj Mahal is a live example of finest culmination of this period of art and architecture. In the field of language, Urdu and Hindi also took root in during this period. The demographic changes also resulted during the Islamic period and conversion of Hindus to Islam took place; few due to force and others due to persuasion and inducements, and many to escape the harsh caste system prevailing under the Hindu strata. A movement against the oppression of some of the Muslim rulers and complication of Hindu religion resulted in the birth of a new religion- Sikhism which in course of time became a major religion in India. Sikhism was established mainly in Punjab region during the time of Mughal period. There was a constant fluctuation in the relations between the Mughals and the Sikhs. During the time of cordial relation, Akbar helped in building the Golden Temple situated at Amritsar while during the time of Guru Gobind Singh, tenth and the last Guru, relations between the two community turned hostile. The continued conflict and hostility between the the Mughals and the Sikhs became one of the causes for the decline of Mughal empire in India. The rising supremacy of the Marathas in the region of Maharashtra became the other reason for the downfall of the Mughal empire. Shivaji made the Marthas a powerful force to reckon with which was carried on by the Peshwas. There was a time when the Marathas reached a stage to establish a confederacy, although short lived, but was almost as expanded as the Mughal empire. However, third battle of Panipat decisively ended the supremacy of Marathas in north India and cleared a way for a new era in the Indian history, that of British Colonialism.
South India escaped the political upheavals and rivalry and thus had relatively greater period of peace and prosperity and thus became a seat of cultural developments. Not much affected by Islamic rule between the period 500 AD to 1600 AD, Kingdoms of Southern India saw classical period in the history. The prominent dynasties who ruled during the period were the Rashtrakutas, Chalukyas and Vijayanagara empires in the area around modern day Karnataka and the Pallavas, Pandyas and Cholas in present day Tamil Nadu & Cheras in Kerala. The Cholas had a very powerful army and navy at that time due to which they expanded their territory touching Pataliputra in Northern India. They also conquered many countries lying in its periphery and had a great influence spreading to neighbouring countries of Sumatra, Southern Vietnam and Western Borneo. They contributed in building some of the grandest and greatest Hindu and Jain monuments in South and East India.
European traders entered into India on the pre-text of conducting trade and business during the second half of 16th century. The main European settlers in India during the period were the Portuguese, French and the British. Calcutta was made headquarters by the British East India Company 1772 while establishing other centres at Bombay and Madras. The British by applying different political, administrative and economic policies assumed political control of virtually all of India by the end of 19th century. Although, the British tried to uproot other European settlers in India, the French and the Portuguese managed to build and defend their enclaves along the coast for a long time.
Oppressing economic and administrative policies of the British had dissatisfied both the rulers and the ruled in India. As a result, a first war of independence broke out in 1857 which was subsequently suppressed by the British. The war resulted into transfer of power from East India Company to British government and thus India became a part of the British empire.
The constant and continued struggle against the British regime under the leadership of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi and his policy of non-violence and Satyagraha led to independence of India on 15 August 1947. But the independence came with a heavy price and India was divided by the British into a Hindu dominated state and Muslim dominated state of Pakistan. The process of division was equally painful as the land saw one of the most gory bloodshed in the history of any country. This resulted in heavy exodus and migration of people across the boundary of both the newly formed states.
Jawahar Lal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of free India. Under his leadership India adopted a new constitution for its people enriched with democratically-governed polity and centrally planned economy. The country under the umbrella of new policies soon achieved self-sufficiency in manufacturing, heavy industries and food grains. As a by-product of development, India also faced slow growth, shortages of essential things and large-scale corruption during the process. In 1991, New Economic Policy opened the country to the world and new mantras were liberalization, privatization and globalization. India became the hub for Information technology and enabled services, and business process outsourcing industries which threw millions of job to the rising youth population in the country. Even after these reforms, India even till today is predominantly an agrarian economy and about 60% of Indian population derive their livelihood and employment from agriculture.
Border disputes between India, Pakistan and China had been a matter of concern post the independence of India. While India and Pakistan have fought four wars till now out of which three wars were fought over the political control of Kashmir. The war fought in 1971 between the India and Pakistan resulted in formation of Bangladesh. India has seen may insurgency and militancy after independence which are directly or indirectly linked with Pakistan. On the other hand, relation with China has been also bumpy. Both the countries fought war in 1962 over a border dispute. There has been no war since then but there is still military tension between the nations across the border. These security considerations over the borders with China and Pakistan forced India to go nuclear and thus India tested nuclear weapons for its security and safety. India has been trying since then to be accepted on the world platform as a legitimate nuclear power. India also wants a permanent seat in the Security Council due to its strategic importance in the world peace and changing dynamics of the world power.
India is ethically, morally and by sheer principles of Panchsheel is bound to democracy, equality and fraternity with and without its boundaries. It has proudly upheld democratic values, constitutional government and democratic rights in the last 65 years after independence and is leaving no stones unturned to maintain these credentials for the time to come.
Present challenges for the country stands out be manifold. These include taming poverty, over-population and corruption, controlling environmental degradation, insurgency, militancy and terrorism in some parts of the country. But greater than anything else, its biggest concern is to win back the economic prosperity once it has in the past. The young population are the great hopes for the county to achieve its dream.
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