Known as the Land of Kings, Rishis (saints) and magic, INDIA is also a land of ancient civilizations, with cities and villages, cultivated fields, and great works of art dating back 4,000 years. The history of India and its civilization dates back to at least 6500 BC which perhaps makes the oldest surviving civilization in the world. India has been a meeting ground between the East and the West. Indian history can be broadly divided into five phases:
(i) The Vedic Period or the Period of Saraswati (Harappan) civilization (6500 BC to 1000 BC):
Indian history dates back to 3000 BC. Excavations in Punjab and Gujarat reveal that the Indus Valley civilisation was a highly developed urban civilisation. In fact the two cities of Harappa and Mohenjodaro, situated on two sides of the river Ravi, are known to have been built on a similar plan. But that only meant a new wave of urbanisation was taking place along the Ganges around 1500 BC. This has been recorded in the Rig Veda – the earliest known literary source composed in this period that sheds light on India’s past.
(ii) Golden period of Indian History (500 BC to 800 AD):
It was the time when a new thinking emerged in the form of Buddhism and Jainism to challenge Hindu orthodoxy. Great rulers including Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka the Great, Chandra Gupta I reigned during this period. Not only was Ashoka a great ruler, he was one of the most successful propagators of Buddhism in the country. After Ashoka’s death in 232 B.C. the empire began to disintegrate and the country was repeatedly raided and plundered by foreign invaders, leaving India disunited and weak for the next 400 years. The period of Chandra Gupta I is considered the golden period in Indian history when art and culture flourished and the country prospered.
(iii) Mughal influence in India (1000 AD to 1700 AD):
The first Muslim invasions of the country started with the Mahmud of Gazni, who plundered the sub-continent for its riches between 1001 and 1025. The Khilji, Tughlaq, Sayyid and Lodi dynasties extended their rule for a considerable period. In 1525, Babur, a descendant of Timur, as well as Genghis Khan invaded Punjab and eventually founded the Mughal empire in India. His rule was followed by his subsequent generations till the advent of the British.
(iv) British period in India (1700 AD to 1947 AD):
The British came as traders to India after Portuguese trader Vasco da Gama landed at Calicut, sailing via the Cape of Good Hope in 1498. The disintegration of the Mughal empire, fighting among the Maratha rulers and inability of the various rulers across the country to unite against a common enemy saw the British consolidate their position in the country. However, the 19th century saw a revival of national pride and social reform and the Indians led by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi devised a unique strategy for India’s freedom struggle based on non-violence and civil disobedience and the British agreed to transfer power on August 15, 1947, the day that is now celebrated as India’s Independence Day.
(v) Modern India (1947 to till date):
Today India is the largest democracy in the world. The country has emerged as the leading economic and scientific super-power. The political system of the country has seen several changes — some controversial, but nevertheless educational. Reforms in the country never cease. However the country had and still has its share of problems too — terrorism being one of them. India presently is ranked 43rd in the Global Competitiveness Index rankings.