30000 BCE Jan 1
, India

According to consensus in modern genetics, anatomically modern humans first arrived on the Indian subcontinent from Africa between 73,000 and 55,000 years ago. However, the earliest known human remains in South Asia date to 30,000 years ago. Settled life, which involves the transition from foraging to farming and pastoralism, began in South Asia around 7000 BCE. At the site of Mehrgarh presence can be documented of the domestication of wheat and barley, rapidly followed by that of goats, sheep, and cattle. By 4500 BCE, settled life had spread more widely, and began to gradually evolve into the Indus Valley civilisation, an early civilisation of the Old World, which was contemporaneous with Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. This civilisation flourished between 2500 BCE and 1900 BCE in what today is Pakistan and north-western India, and was noted for its urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage, and water supply.


Indus Valley (Harappan) Civilisation

3300 BCE Jan 1 - 1300 BCE Jan
, Pakistan

The Indus Valley Civilisation, also known as the Harappan Civilisation, was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. Together with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, it was one of three early civilisations of the Near East and South Asia, and of the three, the most widespread. Its sites spanned an area from much of Pakistan, to northeast Afghanistan, and northwestern and western India. The civilisation flourished both in the alluvial plain of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, and along a system of perennial monsoon-fed rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the Ghaggar-Hakra, a seasonal river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.

The term Harappan is sometimes applied to the Indus civilisation after its type site Harappa, the first to be excavated early in the 20th century in what was then the Punjab province of British India and is now Punjab, Pakistan. The discovery of Harappa and soon afterwards Mohenjo-daro was the culmination of work that had begun after the founding of the Archaeological Survey of India in the British Raj in 1861. There were earlier and later cultures called Early Harappan and Late Harappan in the same area. The early Harappan cultures were populated from Neolithic cultures, the earliest and best-known of which is Mehrgarh, in Balochistan, Pakistan. Harappan civilisation is sometimes called Mature Harappan to distinguish it from the earlier cultures.

The cities of the ancient Indus were noted for their urban planning, baked brick houses, elaborate drainage systems, water supply systems, clusters of large non-residential buildings, and techniques of handicraft and metallurgy. Mohenjo-daro and Harappa very likely grew to contain between 30,000 and 60,000 individuals, and the civilisation may have contained between one and five million individuals during its florescence. A gradual drying of the region during the 3rd millennium BCE may have been the initial stimulus for its urbanisation. Eventually it also reduced the water supply enough to cause the civilisation's demise and to disperse its population to the east.

Although over a thousand Mature Harappan sites have been reported and nearly a hundred excavated, there are five major urban centres: (a) Mohenjo-daro in the lower Indus Valley (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1980 as "Archaeological Ruins at Mohenjodaro"), (b) Harappa in the western Punjab region, (c) Ganeriwala in the Cholistan Desert, (d) Dholavira in western Gujarat (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2021 as "Dholavira: A Harappan City"), and (e) Rakhigarhi in Haryana.

Iron Age in India

Iron Age in India

1800 BCE Jan 1 - 200 BCE
, India

In the prehistory of the Indian subcontinent, the Iron Age succeeded Bronze Age India and partly corresponds with the megalithic cultures of India. Other Iron Age archaeological cultures of India were the Painted Grey Ware culture (1300–300 BCE) and the Northern Black Polished Ware (700–200 BCE). This corresponds to the transition of the Janapadas or principalities of the Vedic period to the sixteen Mahajanapadas or region-states of the early historic period, culminating in the emergence of the Maurya Empire towards the end of the period. The earliest evidence of iron smelting predates the emergence of the Iron Age proper by several centuries.



1500 BCE Jan 1 - 1000 BCE
, India

The Rigveda or Rig Veda ("praise" and veda "knowledge") is an ancient Indian collection of Vedic Sanskrit hymns (sūktas). It is one of the four sacred canonical Hindu texts (śruti) known as the Vedas.The Rigveda is the oldest known Vedic Sanskrit text. Its early layers are among the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language. The sounds and texts of the Rigveda have been orally transmitted since the 2nd millennium BCE. The philological and linguistic evidence indicates that the bulk of the Rigveda Samhita was composed in the northwestern region (see Rigvedic rivers) of the Indian subcontinent, most likely between c. 1500 and 1000 BCE, although a wider approximation of c. 1900–1200 BCE has also been given.The text is layered consisting of the Samhita, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and Upanishads. The Rigveda Samhita is the core text, and is a collection of 10 books (maṇḍalas) with 1,028 hymns (sūktas) in about 10,600 verses (called ṛc, eponymous of the name Rigveda). In the eight books – Books 2 through 9 – that were composed the earliest, the hymns predominantly discuss cosmology, rites, rituals and praise deities. The more recent books (Books 1 and 10) in part also deal with philosophical or speculative questions, virtues such as dāna (charity) in society, questions about the origin of the universe and the nature of the divine, and other metaphysical issues in their hymns.Some of its verses continue to be recited during Hindu rites of passage celebrations (such as weddings) and prayers, making it probably the world's oldest religious text in continued use.

Vedic Period

Vedic period

1500 BCE Jan 1 - 600 BCE
, Punjab

The Vedic period, or the Vedic age, is the period in the late Bronze Age and early Iron Age of the history of India when the Vedic literature, including the Vedas (ca. 1300–900 BCE), was composed in the northern Indian subcontinent, between the end of the urban Indus Valley civilisation and a second urbanisation, which began in the central Indo-Gangetic Plain c. 600 BCE. The Vedas are liturgical texts which formed the basis of the influential Brahmanical ideology, which developed in the Kuru Kingdom, a tribal union of several Indo-Aryan tribes. The Vedas contain details of life during this period that have been interpreted to be historical and constitute the primary sources for understanding the period. These documents, alongside the corresponding archaeological record, allow for the evolution of the Indo-Aryan and Vedic culture to be traced and inferred.

The Vedas were composed and orally transmitted with precision by speakers of an Old Indo-Aryan language who had migrated into the northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent early in this period. The Vedic society was patriarchal and patrilineal. Early Indo-Aryans were a Late Bronze Age society centred in the Punjab, organised into tribes rather than kingdoms, and primarily sustained by a pastoral way of life.

Around c. 1200–1000 BCE the Aryan culture spread eastward to the fertile western Ganges Plain. Iron tools were adopted, which allowed for the clearing of forests and the adoption of a more settled, agricultural way of life. The second half of the Vedic period was characterised by the emergence of towns, kingdoms, and a complex social differentiation distinctive to India, and the Kuru Kingdom's codification of orthodox sacrificial ritual. During this time, the central Ganges Plain was dominated by a related but non-Vedic Indo-Aryan culture, of Greater Magadha. The end of the Vedic period witnessed the rise of true cities and large states (called mahajanapadas) as well as śramaṇa movements (including Jainism and Buddhism) which challenged the Vedic orthodoxy.

The Vedic period saw the emergence of a hierarchy of social classes that would remain influential. Vedic religion developed into Brahmanical orthodoxy, and around the beginning of the Common Era, the Vedic tradition formed one of the main constituents of "Hindu synthesis".


1100 BCE Jan 1 - 400
, Shri Ahichhatra Parshwanath Jain Shwetambar Tirth

Panchala was an ancient kingdom of northern India, located in the Ganges-Yamuna Doab of the Upper Gangetic plain. During Late Vedic times (c. 1100–500 BCE), it was one of the most powerful states of ancient India, closely allied with the Kuru Kingdom. By the c. 5th century BCE, it had become an oligarchic confederacy, considered one of the solasa (sixteen) mahajanapadas (major states) of the Indian subcontinent. After being absorbed into the Mauryan Empire (322–185 BCE), Panchala regained its independence until it was annexed by the Gupta Empire in the 4th century CE.


800 BCE Jan 1 - 468 BCE
, Madhubani district

Videha was an ancient Indo-Aryan tribe of north-eastern South Asia whose existence is attested during the Iron Age. The population of Videha, the Vaidehas, were initially organised into a monarchy but later became a gaṇasaṅgha (an aristocratic oligarchic republic), presently referred to as the Videha Republic, which was part of the larger Vajjika League.

Gold carving depiction of the legendary Ayodhya at the Ajmer Jain temple.

Kingdom of Kosala

600 BCE Jan 1 - 400 BCE
, Ayodhya

Kingdom of Kosala was an ancient Indian kingdom with a rich culture, corresponding the area with the region of Awadh in present-day Uttar Pradesh to Western Odisha. It emerged as a small state during the late Vedic period, with connections to the neighbouring realm of Videha. Kosala belonged to the Northern Black Polished Ware culture (c. 700–300 BCE), and the Kosala region gave rise to the Sramana movements, including Jainism and Buddhism. It was culturally distinct from the Painted Grey Ware culture of the Vedic period of Kuru-Panchala west of it, following independent development toward urbanisation and the use of iron.

During the 5th century BCE, Kosala incorporated the territory of the Shakya clan, to which the Buddha belonged. According to the Buddhist text Anguttara Nikaya and the Jaina text, the Bhagavati Sutra, Kosala was one of the Solasa (sixteen) Mahajanapadas (powerful realms) in 6th to 5th centuries BCE, and its cultural and political strength earned it the status of a great power. It was later weakened by a series of wars with the neighbouring kingdom of Magadha and, in the 5th century BCE, was finally absorbed by it. After collapse of the Maurya Empire and before the expansion of the Kushan Empire, Kosala was ruled by the Deva dynasty, the Datta dynasty, and the Mitra dynasty.

Second Urbanisation

Second Urbanisation

600 BCE Jan 1 - 200 BCE
, Ganges

Sometime between 800 and 200 BCE the Śramaṇa movement formed, from which originated Jainism and Buddhism. In the same period, the first Upanishads were written. After 500 BCE, the so-called "second urbanisation" started, with new urban settlements arising at the Ganges plain, especially the Central Ganges plain. The foundations for the "second urbanisation" were laid prior to 600 BCE, in the Painted Grey Ware culture of the Ghaggar-Hakra and Upper Ganges Plain; although most PGW sites were small farming villages, "several dozen" PGW sites eventually emerged as relatively large settlements that can be characterized as towns, the largest of which were fortified by ditches or moats and embankments made of piled earth with wooden palisades, albeit smaller and simpler than the elaborately fortified large cities which grew after 600 BCE in the Northern Black Polished Ware culture.

The Central Ganges Plain, where Magadha gained prominence, forming the base of the Maurya Empire, was a distinct cultural area, with new states arising after 500 BCE during the so-called "second urbanisation". It was influenced by the Vedic culture, but differed markedly from the Kuru-Panchala region. It "was the area of the earliest known cultivation of rice in South Asia and by 1800 BCE was the location of an advanced Neolithic population associated with the sites of Chirand and Chechar". In this region, the Śramaṇic movements flourished, and Jainism and Buddhism originated.

Prince Siddhartha Gautama learning archery

The Buddha

500 BCE Jan 1
, Lumbini

Gautama Buddha was an ascetic and spiritual teacher of South Asia who lived during the latter half of the first millennium BCE. He was the founder of Buddhism and is revered by Buddhists as a fully enlightened being who taught a path to Nirvana (lit. vanishing or extinguishing), freedom from ignorance, craving, rebirth and suffering.

According to Buddhist tradition, the Buddha was born in Lumbini in what is now Nepal, to highborn parents of the Shakya clan, but abandoned his family to live as a wandering ascetic. Leading a life of begging, asceticism, and meditation, he attained Nirvana at Bodh Gaya. The Buddha thereafter wandered through the lower Gangetic plain, teaching and building a monastic order. He taught a middle way between sensual indulgence and severe asceticism, a training of the mind that included ethical training and meditative practices such as effort, mindfulness, and jhana. He passed away in Kushinagar, attaining paranirvana. The Buddha has since been venerated by numerous religions and communities across Asia.

Torana gateway at Sanchi hill

Nanda Empire

345 BCE Jan 1 - 322 BCE
, Pataliputra

The Nanda dynasty ruled in the northern part of the Indian subcontinent during the 4th century BCE, and possibly during the 5th century BCE. The Nandas overthrew the Shaishunaga dynasty in the Magadha region of eastern India, and expanded their empire to include a larger part of northern India. Ancient sources differ considerably regarding the names of the Nanda kings, and the duration of their rule, but based on the Buddhist tradition recorded in the Mahavamsa, they appear to have ruled during c. 345–322 BCE, although some theories date the start of their rule to 5th century BCE.

The Nandas built on the successes of their Haryanka and Shaishunaga predecessors, and instituted a more centralised administration. Ancient sources credit them with amassing great wealth, which was probably a result of introduction of new currency and taxation system. Ancient texts also suggest that the Nandas were unpopular among their subjects because of their low status birth, excessive taxation, and their general misconduct. The last Nanda king was overthrown by Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Maurya Empire, and the latter's mentor Chanakya.

Modern historians generally identify the ruler of the Gangaridai and the Prasii mentioned in ancient Greco-Roman accounts as a Nanda king. While describing Alexander the Great's invasion of north-western India (327–325 BCE), the Greco-Roman writers depict this kingdom as a great military power. The prospect of a war against this kingdom, coupled with the exhaustion resulting from almost a decade of campaigning, led to a mutiny among Alexander's homesick soldiers, putting an end to his Indian campaign.

Ashoka the Great was the 3rd Priyadarśin (Emperor) of the Mauryan Empire in India. | ©JFoliveras

Maurya Empire

322 BCE Jan 1 - 185 BCE
, Patna

The Maurya Empire was a geographically extensive ancient Indian Iron Age historical power in South Asia based in Magadha, having been founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE, and existing in loose-knit fashion until 185 BCE. The Maurya Empire was centralized by the conquest of the Indo-Gangetic Plain, and its capital city was located at Pataliputra (modern Patna). Outside this imperial center, the empire's geographical extent was dependent on the loyalty of military commanders who controlled the armed cities sprinkling it. During Ashoka's rule (ca. 268–232 BCE) the empire briefly controlled the major urban hubs and arteries of the Indian subcontinent excepting the deep south. It declined for about 50 years after Ashoka's rule, and dissolved in 185 BCE with the assassination of Brihadratha by Pushyamitra Shunga and foundation of the Shunga Empire in Magadha.

Chandragupta Maurya raised an army, with the assistance of Chanakya, author of Arthasastra, and overthrew the Nanda Empire in c. 322 BCE. Chandragupta rapidly expanded his power westwards across central and western India by conquering the satraps left by Alexander the Great, and by 317 BCE the empire had fully occupied northwestern India. The Mauryan Empire then defeated Seleucus I, a diadochus and founder of the Seleucid Empire, during the Seleucid–Mauryan war, thus acquiring territory west of the Indus River.

Under the Mauryas, internal and external trade, agriculture, and economic activities thrived and expanded across South Asia due to the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration, and security. The Maurya dynasty built a precursor of the Grand Trunk Road from Patliputra to Taxila. After the Kalinga War, the Empire experienced nearly half a century of centralized rule under Ashoka. Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism and sponsorship of Buddhist missionaries allowed for the expansion of that faith into Sri Lanka, northwest India, and Central Asia.

The population of South Asia during the Mauryan period has been estimated to be between 15 and 30 million. The empire's period of dominion was marked by exceptional creativity in art, architecture, inscriptions and produced texts, but also by the consolidation of caste in the Gangetic plain, and the declining rights of women in the mainstream Indo-Aryan speaking regions of India. The Arthashastra and the Edicts of Ashoka are the primary sources of written records of Mauryan times. The Lion Capital of Ashoka at Sarnath is the national emblem of the Republic of India.

Vettuvan Koil, Kalugumalai, Tuticorin. Pandya kingdom, 8th century CE

Pandya dynasty

300 BCE Jan 1 - 1300
, Korkai

The Pandya dynasty, also referred to as the Pandyas of Madurai, was an ancient dynasty of South India, and among the three great kingdoms of Tamilakam, the other two being the Cholas and the Cheras. Existing since at least the 4th to 3rd centuries BCE, the dynasty passed through two periods of imperial dominance, the 6th to 10th centuries CE, and under the 'Later Pandyas' (13th to 14th centuries CE). The Pandyas ruled extensive territories, at times including regions of present-day South India and northern Sri Lanka through vassal states subject to Madurai.

The rulers of the three Tamil dynasties were referred to as the "three crowned rulers (the mu-ventar) of the Tamil country". The origin and the timeline of the Pandya dynasty are difficult to establish. The early Pandya chieftains ruled their country (Pandya Nadu) from the ancient period, which included the inland city of Madurai and the southern port of Korkai. The Pandyas are celebrated in the earliest available Tamil poetry (Sangam literature"). Graeco-Roman accounts (as early as 4th century BCE), the edicts of Maurya emperor Ashoka, coins with legends in Tamil-Brahmi script, and Tamil-Brahmi inscriptions suggest the continuity of the Pandya dynasty from the 3rd century BCE to the early centuries CE. The early historic Pandyas faded into obscurity upon the rise of the Kalabhra dynasty in south India.

From the 6th century to the 9th century CE, the Chalukyas of Badami or Rashtrakutas of the Deccan, the Pallavas of Kanchi, and Pandyas of Madurai dominated the politics of south India. The Pandyas often ruled or invaded the fertile estuary of Kaveri (the Chola country), the ancient Chera country (Kongu and central Kerala) and Venadu (southern Kerala), the Pallava country and Sri Lanka. The Pandyas fell into decline with the rise of the Cholas of Thanjavur in the 9th century and were in constant conflict with the latter. The Pandyas allied themselves with the Sinhalese and the Cheras in harassing the Chola Empire until it found an opportunity for reviving its frontiers during the late 13th century.

The Pandyas entered their golden age under Maravarman I and Jatavarman Sundara Pandya I (13th century). Some early efforts by Maravarman I to expand into the ancient Chola country were effectively checked by the Hoysalas. Jatavarman I (c. 1251) successfully expanded the kingdom into the Telugu country (as far north as Nellore), south Kerala, and conquered northern Sri Lanka. The city of Kanchi became a secondary capital of the Pandyas.The Hoysalas, in general, were confined to Mysore Plateau and even king Somesvara was killed in a battle with Pandyas. Maravarman Kulasekhara I (1268) defeated an alliance of the Hoysalas and the Cholas (1279) and invaded Sri Lanka. The venerable Tooth Relic of the Buddha was carried away by the Pandyas. During this period, the rule of the kingdom was shared among several royals, one of them enjoying primacy over the rest. An internal crisis in the Pandya kingdom coincided with the Khalji invasion of south India in 1310–11. The ensuing political crisis saw more sultanate raids and plunder, the loss of south Kerala (1312), and north Sri Lanka (1323) and the establishment of the Madurai sultanate (1334). The Pandyas of Ucchangi (9th–13th century), in the Tungabhadra Valley were related to the Pandyas of Madurai.

According to tradition, the legendary Sangams ("the Academies") were held in Madurai under the patronage of the Pandyas, and some of the Pandya rulers claimed to be poets themselves. Pandya Nadu was home to a number of renowned temples, including the Meenakshi Temple in Madurai. The revival of the Pandya power by Kadungon (7th century CE) coincided with the prominence of the Shaivite nayanars and the Vaishnavite alvars. It is known that the Pandya rulers followed Jainism for a short period of time in history.

Portrait of Rajaraja I and his guru Karuvurar at Brihadeeswarar Temple.

Chola Dynasty

300 BCE Jan 1 - 1279
, Uraiyur

The Chola Dynasty was a Tamil thalassocratic empire of southern India and one of the longest-ruling dynasties in world history. The earliest datable references to the Chola are from inscriptions dated to the 3rd century BCE during the reign of Ashoka of the Maurya Empire. As one of the Three Crowned Kings of Tamilakam, along with the Chera and Pandya, the dynasty continued to govern over varying territories until the 13th century CE. Despite these ancient origins, the rise of the Chola, as the "Chola Empire," only begins with the medieval Cholas in the mid-9th century CE.

The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River. Still, they ruled a significantly larger area at the height of their power from the later half of the 9th century till the beginning of the 13th century. They unified peninsular India, south of the Tungabhadra, and held as one state for three centuries between 907 and 1215 AD. Under Rajaraja I and his successors Rajendra I, Rajadhiraja I, Rajendra II, Virarajendra, and Kulothunga Chola I, the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural powerhouse in South Asia and South-East Asia. The power and the prestige the Cholas had amoung political powers in South, South-eastern, and eastern Asia at its peak is evident through their expeditions to the Ganges, naval raids on cities of the Srivijaya empire based on the island of Sumatra, and their repeated embassies to China. The Chola fleet represented the zenith of ancient Indian maritime capacity.

During the period of 1010–1153 CE, the Chola territories stretched from the Maldives in the south to the banks of the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh as the northern limit. Rajaraja Chola conquered peninsular South India, annexed part of the Rajarata kingdom in present-day Sri Lanka, and occupied Maldives islands. His son Rajendra Chola further expanded the Cholar territory by sending a victorious expedition to North India that touched the river Ganges and defeating the Pala ruler of Pataliputra, Mahipala. By 1019, he also completely conquered the Rajarata kingdom of Sri Lanka and annexed it to the Chola empire. In 1025, Rajendra Chola also successfully invaded the cities of Srivijaya empire, based on the island of Sumatra. However, this invasion failed to install direct administration over Srivijaya, as the invasion was short and only meant to plunder the wealth of Srivijaya. However, the Chola influence on Srivijava would last until 1070, when the Cholas began to lose almost all of their overseas territories. The later Cholas (1070–1279) would still rule portions of Southern India. The Chola dynasty went into decline at the beginning of the 13th century with the rise of the Pandyan dynasty, which ultimately caused their downfall.

The Cholas succeeded in building the greatest thalassocratic empire in the history of India, thereby leaving a lasting legacy. They established a centralized form of government and a disciplined bureaucracy. Moreover, their patronage of Tamil literature and their zeal for building temples has resulted in some of the greatest works of Tamil literature and architecture. The Chola kings were avid builders and envisioned the temples in their kingdoms not only as places of worship but also as centers of economic activity. A UNESCO world heritage site, the Brihadisvara temple at Thanjavur, commissioned by the Rajaraja Chola in 1010 CE, is a prime example for Cholar architecture. They were also well known for their patronage to art. The development of the specific sculpturing technique used in the 'Chola bronzes', exquisite bronze sculptures of Hindu deities built in a lost wax process was pioneered in their time. The Chola tradition of art spread and influenced the architecture and art of Southeast Asia.

Shunga period stupa at Sanchi.

Shunga Empire

200 BCE Jan 1 - 320
, Pataliputra

The Shungas originated from Magadha, and controlled areas of the central and eastern Indian subcontinent from around 187 to 78 BCE. The dynasty was established by Pushyamitra Shunga, who overthrew the last Maurya emperor. Its capital was Pataliputra, but later emperors, such as Bhagabhadra, also held court at Vidisha, modern Besnagar in Eastern Malwa.

Pushyamitra Shunga ruled for 36 years and was succeeded by his son Agnimitra. There were ten Shunga rulers. However, after the death of Agnimitra, the empire rapidly disintegrated; inscriptions and coins indicate that much of northern and central India consisted of small kingdoms and city-states that were independent of any Shunga hegemony. The empire is noted for its numerous wars with both foreign and indigenous powers. They fought battles with the Mahameghavahana dynasty of Kalinga, Satavahana dynasty of Deccan, the Indo-Greeks, and possibly the Panchalas and Mitras of Mathura.

Art, education, philosophy, and other forms of learning flowered during this period including small terracotta images, larger stone sculptures, and architectural monuments such as the Stupa at Bharhut, and the renowned Great Stupa at Sanchi. The Shunga rulers helped to establish the tradition of royal sponsorship of learning and art. The script used by the empire was a variant of Brahmi and was used to write the Sanskrit language. The Shunga Empire played an imperative role in patronising Indian culture at a time when some of the most important developments in Hindu thought were taking place. This helped the empire flourish and gain power.

Kuninda Kingdom

200 BCE Jan 2 - 200
, Himachal Pradesh

The Kingdom of Kuninda (or Kulinda in ancient literature) was an ancient central Himalayan kingdom documented from around the 2nd century BCE to the 3rd century, located in the southern areas of modern Himachal Pradesh and far western areas of Uttarakhand in northern India.

Depiction of Cherman Perumal Nayanar - Brihadisvara Temple, Thanjavur

Chera Dynasty

102 BCE Jan 1
, Karur

The Chera dynasty was one of the principal lineages in and before the Sangam period history of the state of Kerala and the Kongu Nadu region of Western Tamil Nadu in southern India. Together with the Cholas of Uraiyur (Tiruchirappalli) and the Pandyas of Madurai, the early Cheras were known as one of the three major powers (muventar) of ancient Tamilakam in the early centuries of the Common Era.

The Chera country was geographically well placed to profit from maritime trade via the extensive Indian Ocean networks. Exchange of spices, especially black pepper, with Middle Eastern and Graeco-Roman merchants are attested in several sources. The Cheras of the early historical period (c. second century BCE - c. third century CE) are known to have had their original centre at Vanchi and Karur in Kongu Nadu and harbours at Muchiri (Muziris) and Thondi (Tyndis) on the Indian Ocean coast (Kerala). They governed the area of Malabar Coast between Alappuzha in the south to Kasaragod in the north. This also included the Palakkad Gap, Coimbatore, Dharapuram, Salem, and Kolli Hills. The region around Coimbatore was ruled by the Cheras during the Sangam period between c. 1st and the 4th centuries CE and it served as the eastern entrance to the Palakkad Gap, the principal trade route between the Malabar Coast and Tamil Nadu. However the southern region of the present-day Kerala state (The coastal belt between Thiruvananthapuram and southern Alappuzha) was under Ay dynasty, who was more related to the Pandya dynasty of Madurai.

The early historic pre-Pallava Tamil polities are often described as a "kinship-based redistributive economies" largely shaped by "pastoral-cum-agrarian subsistence" and "predatory politics". Old Tamil Brahmi cave label inscriptions, describe Ilam Kadungo, son of Perum Kadungo, and the grandson of Ko Athan Cheral of the Irumporai clan. Inscribed portrait coins with Brahmi legends give a number of Chera names, with the Chera symbols of the bow and the arrow depicted in the reverse. The anthologies of early Tamil texts are a major source of information about the early Cheras. Chenguttuvan, or the Good Chera, is famous for the traditions surrounding Kannaki, the principal female character of the Tamil epic poem Chilapathikaram. After the end of the early historical period, around the 3rd-5th century CE, there seems to be a period where the Cheras' power declined considerably.

Cheras of the Kongu country are known to have controlled western Tamil Nadu with empire in central Kerala in early medieval period. Present-day central Kerala probably Kongu Chera kingdom detached around 8th-9th century AD to form the Chera Perumal kingdom and Kongu chera kingdom(c. 9th- 12th century AD). The exact nature of the relationships between the various branches of Chera rulers is somewhat unclear.The Nambutiris asked for a regent of the Chera king from Punthura and were granted the prime minister hailing from Punthura. Hence the Zamorin holds the title 'Punthurakkon' (King from Punthura).After this, the present Kerala parts and Kongunadu became autonomous. Some of the major dynasties of medieval south India - Chalukya, Pallava, Pandya, Rashtrakuta, and Chola - seems to have conquered the Kongu Chera country. Kongu Cheras appear to have been absorbed into the Pandya political system by 10th/11th century AD. Even after the dissolution of the Perumal kingdom, royal inscriptions and temple grants, especially from outside Kerala proper, continued to refer the country and the people as the "Cheras or Keralas".

The rulers of Venad (the Venad Cheras or the "Kulasekharas"), based out of the port of Kollam in south Kerala, claimed their ancestry from the Perumals. Cheranad was also the name of an erstwhile province in the kingdom of Zamorin of Calicut, which had included parts of present-day Tirurangadi and Tirur Taluks of Malappuram district in it. Later it became a Taluk of Malabar District, when Malabar came under the British Raj. The headquarters of Cheranad Taluk was the town of Tirurangadi. Later the Taluk was merged with Eranad Taluk. In the modern period the rulers of Cochin and Travancore (in Kerala) also claimed the title "Chera".

Satavahana Dynasty | ©Biswarup Ganguly

Satavahana Dynasty

100 BCE Jan 1 - 200
, Maharashtra

The Satavahanas, also referred to as the Andhras in the Puranas, were an ancient South Asian dynasty based in Deccan. Most modern scholars believe that the Satavahana rule began in the late second century BCE and lasted until the early third century CE, although some assign the beginning of their rule to as early as the 3rd century BCE based on the Puranas, but uncorroborated by archaeological evidence. The Satavahana kingdom mainly comprised the present-day Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, and Maharashtra. At different times, their rule extended to parts of modern Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Karnataka. The dynasty had different capital cities at different times, including Pratishthana (Paithan) and Amaravati (Dharanikota).

The origin of the dynasty is uncertain, but according to the Puranas, their first king overthrew the Kanva dynasty. In the post-Maurya era, the Satavahanas established peace in the Deccan region and resisted the onslaught of foreign invaders. In particular their struggles with the Saka Western Satraps went on for a long time. The dynasty reached its zenith under the rule of Gautamiputra Satakarni and his successor Vasisthiputra Pulamavi. The kingdom fragmented into smaller states by the early 3rd century CE.

The Satavahanas were early issuers of Indian state coinage struck with images of their rulers. They formed a cultural bridge and played a vital role in trade and the transfer of ideas and culture to and from the Indo-Gangetic Plain to the southern tip of India. They supported Hinduism as well as Buddhism and patronised Prakrit literature.

Kushan Empire

Kushan Empire

30 Jan 1 - 375
, Pakistan

The Kushan Empire was a syncretic empire, formed by the Yuezhi, in the Bactrian territories in the early 1st century. It spread to encompass much of modern-day territory of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India, at least as far as Saketa and Sarnath near Varanasi (Benares), where inscriptions have been found dating to the era of the Kushan Emperor Kanishka the Great.

The Kushans were most probably one of five branches of the Yuezhi confederation, an Indo-European nomadic people of possible Tocharian origin, who migrated from northwestern China (Xinjiang and Gansu) and settled in ancient Bactria. The founder of the dynasty, Kujula Kadphises, followed Greek religious ideas and iconography after the Greco-Bactrian tradition, and also followed traditions of Hinduism, being a devotee of the Hindu God Shiva. The Kushans in general were also great patrons of Buddhism, and, starting with Emperor Kanishka, they also employed elements of Zoroastrianism in their pantheon. They played an important role in the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and China.

The Kushans possibly used the Greek language initially for administrative purposes, but soon began to use the Bactrian language. Kanishka sent his armies north of the Karakoram mountains. A direct road from Gandhara to China remained under Kushan control for more than a century, encouraging travel across the Karakoram and facilitating the spread of Mahayana Buddhism to China. The Kushan dynasty had diplomatic contacts with the Roman Empire, Sasanian Persia, the Aksumite Empire and the Han dynasty of China. The Kushan Empire was at the center of trade relations between the Roman Empire and China: according to Alain Daniélou, "for a time, the Kushana Empire was the centerpoint of the major civilizations". While much philosophy, art, and science was created within its borders, the only textual record of the empire's history today comes from inscriptions and accounts in other languages, particularly Chinese.

The Kushan Empire fragmented into semi-independent kingdoms in the 3rd century AD, which fell to the Sasanians invading from the west, establishing the Kushano-Sasanian Kingdom in the areas of Sogdiana, Bactria and Gandhara. In the 4th century, the Guptas, an Indian dynasty also pressed from the east. The last of the Kushan and Kushano-Sasanian kingdoms were eventually overwhelmed by invaders from the north, known as the Kidarites, and then the Hephthalites.

Vakataka Dynasty

Vakataka Dynasty

250 Jan 1 - 500
, Deccan Plateau

The Vakataka dynasty was an ancient Indian dynasty that originated from the Deccan in the mid-3rd century CE. Their state is believed to have extended from the southern edges of Malwa and Gujarat in the north to the Tungabhadra River in the south as well as from the Arabian Sea in the west to the edges of Chhattisgarh in the east. They were the most important successors of the Satavahanas in the Deccan and contemporaneous with the Guptas in northern India. The Vakataka dynasty was a Brahmin dynasty.

Little is known about Vindhyashakti (c. 250 – c. 270 CE), the founder of the family. Territorial expansion began in the reign of his son Pravarasena I. It is generally believed that the Vakataka dynasty was divided into four branches after Pravarasena I. Two branches are known, and two are unknown. The known branches are the Pravarapura-Nandivardhana branch and the Vatsagulma branch. Gupta Emperor Chandragupta II married his daughter into Vakataka royal family and, with their support, annexed Gujarat from the Saka Satraps in 4th century CE. The Vakataka power was followed by that of the Chalukyas of Badami in Deccan. The Vakatakas are noted for having been patrons of the arts, architecture and literature. They led public works and their monuments are a visible legacy. The rock-cut Buddhist viharas and chaityas of Ajanta Caves (a UNESCO World Heritage Site) were built under the patronage of Vakataka emperor, Harishena.

Pillar with multi-headed lions. Kailasanathar Temple, Kanchipuram

Pallava Dynasty

275 Jan 1 - 897
, South India

The Pallava dynasty was a Tamil dynasty that existed from 275 CE to 897 CE, ruling a significant portion of southern India also known as Tondaimandalam. They gained prominence after the downfall of the Satavahana dynasty, with whom they had formerly served as feudatories.

The Pallavas became a major power during the reign of Mahendravarman I (600–630 CE) and Narasimhavarman I (630–668 CE), and dominated the southern Telugu Region and the northern parts of the Tamil region for about 600 years, until the end of the 9th century. Throughout their reign, they remained in constant conflict with both the Chalukyas of Badami in the north, and the Tamil kingdoms of Chola and Pandyas in the south. The Pallavas were finally defeated by the Chola ruler Aditya I in the 9th century CE.

The Pallavas are most noted for their patronage of architecture, the finest example being the Shore Temple, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Mamallapuram. Kancheepuram served as the capital of the Pallava kingdom. The dynasty left behind magnificent sculptures and temples, and are recognised to have established the foundations of medieval South Indian architecture. They developed the Pallava script, from which Grantha ultimately took form. This script eventually gave rise to several other Southeast Asian scripts such Khmer. The Chinese traveller Xuanzang visited Kanchipuram during Pallava rule and extolled their benign rule.

Chandra Gupta Maurya entertains his bride from Babylon

Gupta Empire

320 Jan 1 - 467
, Pataliputra

The time between the Maurya Empire in the 3rd century BCE and the end of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century CE is referred to as the "Classical" period of India. It can be divided in various sub-periods, depending on the chosen periodisation. Classical period begins after the decline of the Maurya Empire, and the corresponding rise of the Shunga dynasty and Satavahana dynasty. The Gupta Empire (4th–6th century) is regarded as the "Golden Age" of Hinduism, although a host of kingdoms ruled over India in these centuries. Also, the Sangam literature flourished from the 3rd century BCE to the 3rd century CE in southern India. During this period, India's economy is estimated to have been the largest in the world, having between one-third and one-quarter of the world's wealth, from 1 CE to 1000 CE.

The Mahadeva temple at Tambdi Surla, Goa, built by the Kadambas of Goa

Kadamba Dynasty

345 Jan 1 - 540
, North Karnataka

The Kadambas (345–540 CE) were an ancient royal family of Karnataka, India, that ruled northern Karnataka and the Konkan from Banavasi in present-day Uttara Kannada district. The kingdom was founded by Mayurasharma in c. 345, and at later times showed the potential of developing into imperial proportions. An indication of their imperial ambitions is provided by the titles and epithets assumed by its rulers, and the marital relations they kept with other kingdoms and empires, such as the Vakatakas and Guptas of northern India. Mayurasharma defeated the armies of the Pallavas of Kanchi possibly with the help of some native tribes and claimed sovereignty. The Kadamba power reached its peak during the rule of Kakusthavarma.

The Kadambas were contemporaries of the Western Ganga Dynasty and together they formed the earliest native kingdoms to rule the land with autonomy. From the mid-6th century the dynasty continued to rule as a vassal of larger Kannada empires, the Chalukya and the Rashtrakuta empires for over five hundred years during which time they branched into minor dynasties. Notable among these are the Kadambas of Goa, the Kadambas of Halasi and the Kadambas of Hangal. During the pre-Kadamba era the ruling families that controlled the Karnataka region, the Mauryas and later the Satavahanas, were not natives of the region and therefore the nucleus of power resided outside present-day Karnataka.

The hunter offers the mother parrot to the king of Kamarupa, from a Tuti-nama (Tales of a Parrot): Fifth Night

Kamarupa Kingdom

350 Jan 1 - 1140
, Assam

Kamarupa, an early state during the Classical period on the Indian subcontinent, was (along with Davaka) the first historical kingdom of Assam.

Though Kamarupa prevailed from 350 CE to 1140 CE, Davaka was absorbed by Kamarupa in the 5th century CE. Ruled by three dynasties from their capitals in present-day Guwahati, North Guwahati and Tezpur, Kamarupa at its height covered the entire Brahmaputra Valley, North Bengal, Bhutan and northern part of Bangladesh, and at times portions of what is now West Bengal, Bihar and Sylhet.

Though the historical kingdom disappeared by the 12th century to be replaced by smaller political entities, the notion of Kamarupa persisted and ancient and medieval chroniclers continued to call a part of this kingdom Kamrup. In the 16th century the Ahom kingdom came into prominence and assumed for themselves the legacy of the ancient Kamarupa kingdom and aspired to extend their kingdom to the Karatoya River.

Bhutanatha temple complex, at Badami

Chalukya Dynasty

543 Jan 1 - 753
, Badami

The Chalukya Empire ruled large parts of southern and central India between the 6th and the 12th centuries. During this period, they ruled as three related yet individual dynasties. The earliest dynasty, known as the "Badami Chalukyas", ruled from Vatapi (modern Badami) from the middle of the 6th century. The Badami Chalukyas began to assert their independence at the decline of the Kadamba kingdom of Banavasi and rapidly rose to prominence during the reign of Pulakeshin II. The rule of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of South India and a golden age in the history of Karnataka. The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the ascendancy of Badami Chalukyas. A Southern India-based kingdom took control and consolidated the entire region between the Kaveri and the Narmada rivers. The rise of this empire saw the birth of efficient administration, overseas trade and commerce and the development of new style of architecture called "Chalukyan architecture". The Chalukya dynasty ruled parts of southern and central India from Badami in Karnataka between 550 and 750, and then again from Kalyani between 970 and 1190.

The Mehrangarh Fort was built in medieval India during the reign of Jodha of Mandore

Early Medieval Period

550 Jan 2 - 1200
, India

Early medieval India began after the end of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century CE. This period also covers the "Late Classical Age" of Hinduism, which began after the end of the Gupta Empire, and the collapse of the Empire of Harsha in the 7th century CE; the beginning of Imperial Kannauj, leading to the Tripartite struggle; and ended in the 13th century with the rise of the Delhi Sultanate in Northern India and the end of the Later Cholas with the death of Rajendra Chola III in 1279 in Southern India; however some aspects of the Classical period continued until the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in the south around the 17th century.

From the fifth century to the thirteenth, Śrauta sacrifices declined, and initiatory traditions of Buddhism, Jainism or more commonly Shaivism, Vaishnavism and Shaktism expanded in royal courts. This period produced some of India's finest art, considered the epitome of classical development, and the development of the main spiritual and philosophical systems which continued to be in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

"King Harsha pays homage to Buddha", a 20th-century artist's imagination

Pushyabhuti dynasty

606 Jan 1 - 647
, Kannauj

The Pushyabhuti dynasty, also known as the Vardhana dynasty ruled in northern India during 6th and 7th centuries. The dynasty reached its zenith under its last ruler Harsha Vardhana (c. 590–647 CE), and the Empire of Harsha covered much of north and north-western India, extending till Kamarupa in the east and Narmada River in the south. The dynasty initially ruled from Sthanveshvara (in modern Kurukshetra district, Haryana), but Harsha eventually made Kanyakubja (modern Kannauj, Uttar Pradesh) his capital, from where he ruled until 647 CE.

Guhila Dynasty

728 Jan 1 - 1303
, Nagda

The Guhilas of Medapata colloquially known as Guhilas of Mewar were a Rajput dynasty that ruled the Medapata (modern Mewar) region in present-day Rajasthan state of India. The Guhila kings initially ruled as Gurjara-Pratihara feudatories between end of 8th and 9th centuries and later were independent in period of the early 10th century and allied themselves with the Rashtrakutas. Their capitals included Nagahrada (Nagda) and Aghata (Ahar). For this reason, they are also known as the Nagda-Ahar branch of the Guhilas.

The Guhilas assumed sovereignty after the decline of the Gurjara-Pratiharas in the 10th century under Rawal Bharttripatta II and Rawal Allata. During the 10th-13th centuries, they were involved in military conflicts with several of their neighbours, including the Paramaras, the Chahamanas, the Delhi Sultanate, the Chaulukyas, and the Vaghelas. In the late 11th century , the Paramara king Bhoja interfered in the Guhila throne possibly deposing a ruler and placing some other ruler of the branch.

In the mid-12th century, the dynasty divided into two branches. The senior branch (whose rulers are called Rawal in the later medieval literature) ruled from Chitrakuta (modern Chittorgarh), and ended with Ratnasimha's defeat against the Delhi Sultanate at the 1303 Siege of Chittorgarh. The junior branch rose from the village of Sisodia with the title Rana and established the Sisodia Rajput dynasty.

Jainism-related cave monuments and statues carved into the rock face inside Siddhachal Caves, Gwalior Fort.

Gurjara-Pratihara Dynasty

730 Jan 1 - 1036
, Ujjain

The Gurjara-Pratiharas were instrumental in containing Arab armies moving east of the Indus River. Nagabhata I defeated the Arab army under Junaid and Tamin during the Caliphate campaigns in India. Under Nagabhata II, the Gurjara-Pratiharas became the most powerful dynasty in northern India. He was succeeded by his son Ramabhadra, who ruled briefly before being succeeded by his son, Mihira Bhoja. Under Bhoja and his successor Mahendrapala I, the Pratihara Empire reached its peak of prosperity and power. By the time of Mahendrapala, the extent of its territory rivalled that of the Gupta Empire stretching from the border of Sindh in the west to Bihar in the east and from the Himalayas in the north to areas past the Narmada in the south. The expansion triggered a tripartite power struggle with the Rashtrakuta and Pala empires for control of the Indian subcontinent. During this period, Imperial Pratihara took the title of Maharajadhiraja of Āryāvarta (Great King of Kings of India).

By the 10th century, several feudatories of the empire took advantage of the temporary weakness of the Gurjara-Pratiharas to declare their independence, notably the Paramaras of Malwa, the Chandelas of Bundelkhand, the Kalachuris of Mahakoshal, the Tomaras of Haryana, and the Chauhans of Rajputana.

Atisha was a Buddhist teacher, who helped establish the Sarma lineages of Tibetan Buddhism.

Pala Empire

750 Jan 1 - 1161
, Gauḍa

The Pala Empire was founded by Gopala I. It was ruled by a Buddhist dynasty from Bengal in the eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. The Palas reunified Bengal after the fall of Shashanka's Gauda Kingdom.

The Palas were followers of the Mahayana and Tantric schools of Buddhism, they also patronised Shaivism and Vaishnavism. The morpheme Pala, meaning "protector", was used as an ending for the names of all the Pala monarchs. The empire reached its peak under Dharmapala and Devapala. Dharmapala is believed to have conquered Kanauj and extended his sway up to the farthest limits of India in the northwest.

The Pala Empire can be considered as the golden era of Bengal in many ways. Dharmapala founded the Vikramashila and revived Nalanda, considered one of the first great universities in recorded history. Nalanda reached its height under the patronage of the Pala Empire. The Palas also built many viharas. They maintained close cultural and commercial ties with countries of Southeast Asia and Tibet. Sea trade added greatly to the prosperity of the Pala Empire. The Arab merchant Suleiman notes the enormity of the Pala army in his memoirs.

Kailasanath Temple at Ellora, Maharashtra

Rashtrakuta Dynasty

753 Jan 1 - 982
, Manyakheta

Founded by Dantidurga around 753, the Rashtrakuta Empire ruled from its capital at Manyakheta for almost two centuries. At its peak, the Rashtrakutas ruled from the Ganges River and Yamuna River doab in the north to Cape Comorin in the south, a fruitful time of political expansion, architectural achievements and famous literary contributions.

The early rulers of this dynasty were Hindu, but the later rulers were strongly influenced by Jainism. Govinda III and Amoghavarsha were the most famous of the long line of able administrators produced by the dynasty. Amoghavarsha, who ruled for 64 years, was also an author and wrote Kavirajamarga, the earliest known Kannada work on poetics. Architecture reached a milestone in the Dravidian style, the finest example of which is seen in the Kailasanath Temple at Ellora. Other important contributions are the Kashivishvanatha temple and the Jain Narayana temple at Pattadakal in Karnataka.

The Arab traveller Suleiman described the Rashtrakuta Empire as one of the four great Empires of the world. The Rashtrakuta period marked the beginning of the golden age of southern Indian mathematics. The great south Indian mathematician Mahāvīra lived in the Rashtrakuta Empire and his text had a huge impact on the medieval south Indian mathematicians who lived after him. The Rashtrakuta rulers also patronised men of letters, who wrote in a variety of languages from Sanskrit to the Apabhraṃśas.

Portrait of Rajaraja I and his guru Karuvurar at Brihadeeswarar Temple.

Medieval Chola dynasty

848 Jan 1 - 1070
, Pazhayarai Metrali Siva Temple

Medieval Cholas rose to prominence during the middle of the 9th century CE and established one of the greatest empires of India. They successfully united South India under their rule and through their naval strength extended their influence in Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka. They had trade contacts with the Arabs in the west and with the Chinese in the east.

Medieval Cholas and Chalukyas were continuously in conflict over the control of Vengi and the conflict eventually exhausted both the empires and led to their decline. The Chola dynasty merged into the Eastern Chalukyan dynasty of Vengi through decades of alliances and later united under the Later Cholas.

Typical Western Chalukya dravida Vimana at Siddesvara temple in Haveri, Karnataka

Western Chalukya Empire

973 Jan 1 - 1189
, Basavakalyan

The Western Chalukya Empire ruled most of the western Deccan, South India, between the 10th and 12th centuries. Vast areas between the Narmada River in the north and Kaveri River in the south came under Chalukya control. During this period the other major ruling families of the Deccan, the Hoysalas, the Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri, the Kakatiya dynasty and the Southern Kalachuris, were subordinates of the Western Chalukyas and gained their independence only when the power of the Chalukya waned during the latter half of the 12th century.

The Western Chalukyas developed an architectural style known today as a transitional style, an architectural link between the style of the early Chalukya dynasty and that of the later Hoysala empire. Most of its monuments are in the districts bordering the Tungabhadra River in central Karnataka. Well known examples are the Kasivisvesvara Temple at Lakkundi, the Mallikarjuna Temple at Kuruvatti, the Kallesvara Temple at Bagali, Siddhesvara Temple at Haveri, and the Mahadeva Temple at Itagi. This was an important period in the development of fine arts in Southern India, especially in literature as the Western Chalukya kings encouraged writers in the native language of Kannada, and Sanskrit like the philosopher and statesman Basava and the great mathematician Bhāskara II.

Captured Indian Raja brought to Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni

Ghaznavid Campaigns

1000 Jan 1
, India

In 1001 Mahmud of Ghazni first invaded modern day Pakistan and then parts of India. Mahmud defeated, captured, and later released the Hindu Shahi ruler Jayapala, who had moved his capital to Peshawar (modern Pakistan). Jayapala killed himself and was succeeded by his son Anandapala. In 1005 Mahmud of Ghazni invaded Bhatia (probably Bhera), and in 1006 he invaded Multan, at which time Anandapala's army attacked him. The following year Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and crushed Sukhapala, ruler of Bathinda (who had become ruler by rebelling against the Shahi kingdom). In 1008-1009, Mahmud defeated the Hindu Shahis in the Battle of Chach. In 1013, during Mahmud's eighth expedition into eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Shahi kingdom (which was then under Trilochanapala, son of Anandapala) was overthrown.

Delhi Sultanate

Delhi Sultanate

1206 Jan 1 - 1526
, Delhi

The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic empire based in Delhi that stretched over large parts of South Asia for 320 years (1206–1526). Following the invasion of the subcontinent by the Ghurid dynasty, five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–1290), the Khalji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451), and the Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). It covered large swathes of territory in modern-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh as well as some parts of southern Nepal.

The foundation of the Sultanate was laid by Ghurid conqueror Muhammad Ghori, who routed the Rajput Confederacy led by Ajmer ruler Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192 CE near Tarain, after suffering a reverse against them earlier. As a successor to the Ghurid dynasty, the Delhi Sultanate was originally one among a number of principalities ruled by the Turkic slave-generals of Muhammad Ghori, including Yildiz, Aibak and Qubacha, that had inherited and divided the Ghurid territories amongst themselves. After a long period of infighting, the Mamluks were overthrown in the Khalji revolution, which marked the transfer of power from the Turks to a heterogeneous Indo-Muslim nobility. Both of the resulting Khalji and Tughlaq dynasties respectively saw a new wave of rapid Muslim conquests deep into South India. The sultanate finally reached the peak of its geographical reach during the Tughlaq dynasty, occupying most of the Indian subcontinent under Muhammad bin Tughluq. This was followed by decline due to Hindu reconquests, Hindu kingdoms such as the Vijayanagara Empire and Mewar asserting independence, and new Muslim sultanates such as the Bengal Sultanate breaking off. In 1526, the Sultanate was conquered and succeeded by the Mughal Empire.

The sultanate is noted for its integration of the Indian subcontinent into a global cosmopolitan culture (as seen concretely in the development of the Hindustani language and Indo-Islamic architecture), being one of the few powers to repel attacks by the Mongols (from the Chagatai Khanate) and for enthroning one of the few female rulers in Islamic history, Razia Sultana, who reigned from 1236 to 1240. Bakhtiyar Khalji's annexations involved large-scale desecration of Hindu and Buddhist temples (contributing to the decline of Buddhism in East India and Bengal), and the destruction of universities and libraries. Mongolian raids on West and Central Asia set the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, intelligentsia, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from those regions into the subcontinent, thereby establishing Islamic culture in India and the rest of the region.

Medieval City of Vijayanagara, a reconstructed ancient market place and plantation at the royal center Hampi

Vijayanagara Empire

1336 Jan 1 - 1641
, Vijayanagara

The Vijayanagara Empire, also called the Karnata Kingdom, was based in the Deccan Plateau region of South India. It was established in 1336 by the brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya I of the Sangama dynasty, members of a pastoralist cowherd community that claimed Yadava lineage. The empire rose to prominence as a culmination of attempts by the southern powers to ward off Turkic Islamic invasions by the end of the 13th century. At its peak, it subjugated almost all of South India's ruling families and pushed the sultans of the Deccan beyond the Tungabhadra-Krishna river doab region, in addition to annexing modern day Odisha (ancient Kalinga) from the Gajapati Kingdom thus becoming a notable power. It lasted until 1646, although its power declined after a major military defeat in the Battle of Talikota in 1565 by the combined armies of the Deccan sultanates. The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a World Heritage Site in Karnataka, India. The wealth and fame of the empire inspired visits by and writings of medieval European travelers such as Domingo Paes, Fernão Nunes, and Niccolò de' Conti. These travelogues, contemporary literature and epigraphy in the local languages and modern archeological excavations at Vijayanagara has provided ample information about the history and power of the empire.

The empire's legacy includes monuments spread over South India, the best known of which is the group at Hampi. Different temple building traditions in South and Central India were merged into the Vijayanagara architecture style. This synthesis inspired architectural innovations in the construction of Hindu temples. Efficient administration and vigorous overseas trade brought new technologies to the region such as water management systems for irrigation. The empire's patronage enabled fine arts and literature to reach new heights in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, and Sanskrit with topics such as astronomy, mathematics, medicine, fiction, musicology, historiography and theater gaining popularity. The classical music of Southern India, Carnatic music, evolved into its current form. The Vijayanagara Empire created an epoch in the history of Southern India that transcended regionalism by promoting Hinduism as a unifying factor.

HH Sri Chamarajendra Wadiyar X was a ruler of the Kingdom (1868 to 1894)

Kingdom of Mysore

1399 Jan 1 - 1948
, Mysore

The Kingdom of Mysore was a realm in southern India, traditionally believed to have been founded in 1399 in the vicinity of the modern city of Mysore. From 1799 until 1950, it was a princely state, until 1947 in a subsidiary alliance with British India. The British took Direct Control over the Princely State in 1831. It then became Mysore State with its ruler remaining as Rajapramukh until 1956, when he became the first Governor of the reformed state.

The kingdom, which was founded and ruled for most part by the Hindu Wodeyar family, initially served as a vassal state of the Vijayanagara Empire. The 17th century saw a steady expansion of its territory and during the rule of Narasaraja Wodeyar I and Chikka Devaraja Wodeyar, the kingdom annexed large expanses of what is now southern Karnataka and parts of Tamil Nadu to become a powerful state in the southern Deccan. During a brief Muslim rule, the kingdom shifted to a Sultanate style of administration.

During this time, it came into conflict with the Marathas, the Nizam of Hyderabad, the Kingdom of Travancore and the British, which culminated in the four Anglo-Mysore Wars. Success in the First Anglo-Mysore war and stalemate in the Second was followed by defeats in the Third and the Fourth. Following Tipu's death in the fourth war in the Siege of Seringapatam (1799), large parts of his kingdom were annexed by the British, which signalled the end of a period of Mysorean hegemony over South India. The British restored the Wodeyars to their throne by way of a subsidiary alliance and the diminished Mysore was transformed into a princely state. The Wodeyars continued to rule the state until Indian independence in 1947, when Mysore acceded to the Union of India.

The arrival of Vasco da Gama at Calicut, by Roque Gameiro, 1900

First Europeans reach India

1498 May 20
, Kerala

Vasco de Gama's fleet arrived in Kappadu near Kozhikode (Calicut), in Malabar Coast (present day Kerala state of India), on 20 May 1498. The King of Calicut, the Samudiri (Zamorin), who was at that time staying in his second capital at Ponnani, returned to Calicut on hearing the news of the foreign fleet's arrival. The navigator was received with traditional hospitality, including a grand procession of at least 3,000 armed Nairs, but an interview with the Zamorin failed to produce any concrete results. When local authorities asked da Gama's fleet, "What brought you hither?", they replied that they had come "in search of Christians and spices." The presents that da Gama sent to the Zamorin as gifts from Dom Manuel – four cloaks of scarlet cloth, six hats, four branches of corals, twelve almasares, a box with seven brass vessels, a chest of sugar, two barrels of oil and a cask of honey – were trivial, and failed to impress. While Zamorin's officials wondered at why there was no gold or silver, the Muslim merchants who considered da Gama their rival suggested that the latter was only an ordinary pirate and not a royal ambassador. Vasco da Gama's request for permission to leave a factor behind him in charge of the merchandise he could not sell was turned down by the King, who insisted that da Gama pay customs duty – preferably in gold – like any other trader, which strained the relation between the two. Annoyed by this, da Gama carried a few Nairs and sixteen fishermen (mukkuva) off with him by force.

Depiction of a Portuguese gentleman in the Moghul Empire

Portuguese India

1505 Jan 1 - 1958
, Kochi

The State of India, also referred as the Portuguese State of India or simply Portuguese India, was a state of the Portuguese Empire founded six years after the discovery of a sea route to the Indian subcontinent by Vasco da Gama, a subject of the Kingdom of Portugal. The capital of Portuguese India served as the governing centre of a string of military forts and trade posts scattered all over the Indian Ocean.

Mughal Empire | ©Edwin Lord Weeks

Mughal Empire

1526 Jan 2 - 1857
, Agra

The Mughal Empire was an early-modern empire that controlled much of South Asia between the 16th and 19th centuries. For some two hundred years, the empire stretched from the outer fringes of the Indus river basin in the west, northern Afghanistan in the northwest, and Kashmir in the north, to the highlands of present-day Assam and Bangladesh in the east, and the uplands of the Deccan Plateau in South India.

The Mughal empire is conventionally said to have been founded in 1526 by Babur, a warrior chieftain from what is today Uzbekistan, who employed aid from the neighboring Safavid and Ottoman empires, to defeat the Sultan of Delhi, Ibrahim Lodhi, in the First Battle of Panipat, and to sweep down the plains of Upper India. The Mughal imperial structure, however, is sometimes dated to 1600, to the rule of Babur's grandson, Akbar. This imperial structure lasted until 1720, until shortly after the death of the last major emperor, Aurangzeb, during whose reign the empire also achieved its maximum geographical extent. Reduced subsequently to the region in and around Old Delhi by 1760, the empire was formally dissolved by the British Raj after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

Although the Mughal empire was created and sustained by military warfare, it did not vigorously suppress the cultures and peoples it came to rule; rather it equalized and placated them through new administrative practices, and diverse ruling elites, leading to more efficient, centralised, and standardized rule. The base of the empire's collective wealth was agricultural taxes, instituted by the third Mughal emperor, Akbar. These taxes, which amounted to well over half the output of a peasant cultivator, were paid in the well-regulated silver currency, and caused peasants and artisans to enter larger markets.

The relative peace maintained by the empire during much of the 17th century was a factor in India's economic expansion. Burgeoning European presence in the Indian Ocean, and its increasing demand for Indian raw and finished products, created still greater wealth in the Mughal courts.

The emperor Jahangir investing a courtier with a robe of honour, watched by Sir Thomas Roe, English ambassador to the court of Jahangir at Agra from 1615 to 1618, and others

East India Company

1600 Aug 24 - 1874
, Delhi

The East India Company was an English, and later British, joint-stock company founded in 1600 and dissolved in 1874. It was formed to trade in the Indian Ocean region, initially with the East Indies (the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia), and later with East Asia. The company seized control of large parts of the Indian subcontinent, colonised parts of Southeast Asia and Hong Kong. At its peak, the company was the largest corporation in the worldgue. The EIC had its own armed forces in the form of the company's three Presidency armies, totalling about 260,000 soldiers, twice the size of the British army at the time. The operations of the company had a profound effect on the global balance of trade, almost single-handedly reversing the trend of eastward drain of Western bullion, seen since Roman times.

Originally chartered as the "Governor and Company of Merchants of London Trading into the East-Indies", the company rose to account for half of the world's trade during the mid-1700s and early 1800s, particularly in basic commodities including cotton, silk, indigo dye, sugar, salt, spices, saltpetre, tea, and opium. The company also ruled the beginnings of the British Empire in India.

The company eventually came to rule large areas of India, exercising military power and assuming administrative functions. Company rule in India effectively began in 1757 after the Battle of Plassey and lasted until 1858. Following the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the Government of India Act 1858 led to the British Crown assuming direct control of India in the form of the new British Raj.

Despite frequent government intervention, the company had recurring problems with its finances. The company was dissolved in 1874 as a result of the East India Stock Dividend Redemption Act enacted one year earlier, as the Government of India Act had by then rendered it vestigial, powerless, and obsolete. The official government machinery of the British Raj had assumed its governmental functions and absorbed its armies.

Maratha Confederacy

Maratha Confederacy

1674 Jan 1 - 1818
, Maharashtra

The Maratha Confederacy was founded and consolidated by Chatrapati Shivaji, a Maratha aristocrat of the Bhonsle clan. However, the credit for making the Marathas formidable power nationally goes to Peshwa (chief minister) Bajirao I. In the early 18th century, under the Peshwas, the Marathas consolidated and ruled over much of South Asia. The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending Mughal rule in India. In 1737, the Marathas defeated a Mughal army in their capital, in the Battle of Delhi. The Marathas continued their military campaigns against the Mughals, Nizam, Nawab of Bengal and the Durrani Empire to further extend their boundaries. By 1760, the domain of the Marathas stretched across most of the Indian subcontinent. The Marathas even attempted to capture Delhi and discussed putting Vishwasrao Peshwa on the throne there in place of the Mughal emperor.

The Maratha empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu in the south, to Peshawar in the north, and Bengal in the east. The Northwestern expansion of the Marathas was stopped after the Third Battle of Panipat (1761). However, the Maratha authority in the north was re-established within a decade under Peshwa Madhavrao I.

Under Madhavrao I, the strongest knights were granted semi-autonomy, creating a confederacy of United Maratha states under the Gaekwads of Baroda, the Holkars of Indore and Malwa, the Scindias of Gwalior and Ujjain, the Bhonsales of Nagpur and the Puars of Dhar and Dewas. In 1775, the East India Company intervened in a Peshwa family succession struggle in Pune, which led to the First Anglo-Maratha War, resulting in a Maratha victory. The Marathas remained a major power in India until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars (1805–1818), which resulted in the East India Company controlling most of India.

Company Rule in India

Company Rule in India

1757 Jan 1 - 1858
, India

Company rule in India refers to the rule of the British East India Company on the Indian subcontinent. This is variously taken to have commenced in 1757, after the Battle of Plassey, when the Nawab of Bengal surrendered his dominions to the Company; in 1765, when the Company was granted the diwani, or the right to collect revenue, in Bengal and Bihar; or in 1773, when the Company established a capital in Calcutta, appointed its first Governor-General, Warren Hastings, and became directly involved in governance. The rule lasted until 1858, when, after the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and consequent of the Government of India Act 1858, the British government assumed the task of directly administering India in the new British Raj.

The expansion of the company's power chiefly took two forms. The first of these was the outright annexation of Indian states and subsequent direct governance of the underlying regions that collectively came to comprise British India. The annexed regions included the North-Western Provinces (comprising Rohilkhand, Gorakhpur, and the Doab) (1801), Delhi (1803), Assam (Ahom Kingdom 1828) and Sindh (1843). Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, and Kashmir were annexed after the Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1849–56 (Period of tenure of Marquess of Dalhousie Governor General). However, Kashmir was immediately sold under the Treaty of Amritsar (1850) to the Dogra Dynasty of Jammu and thereby became a princely state. In 1854, Berar was annexed along with the state of Oudh two years later.

The second form of asserting power involved treaties in which Indian rulers acknowledged the company's hegemony in return for limited internal autonomy. Since the company operated under financial constraints, it had to set up political underpinnings for its rule. The most important such support came from the subsidiary alliances with Indian princes during the first 75 years of Company rule. In the early 19th century, the territories of these princes accounted for two-thirds of India. When an Indian ruler who was able to secure his territory wanted to enter such an alliance, the company welcomed it as an economical method of indirect rule that did not involve the economic costs of direct administration or the political costs of gaining the support of alien subjects.

Nawab Jassa Singh Ahluwalia

Sikh Empire

1799 Jan 1 - 1849
, Lahore

The Sikh Empire, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity that governed the Northwestern regions of the Indian subcontinent. The empire, based around the Punjab region, existed from 1799 to 1849. It was forged, on the foundations of the Khalsa, under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780–1839) from an array of autonomous Punjabi Misls of the Sikh Confederacy.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated many parts of northern India into an empire. He primarily used his Sikh Khalsa Army that he trained in European military techniques and equipped with modern military technologies. Ranjit Singh proved himself to be a master strategist and selected well-qualified generals for his army. He continuously defeated the Afghan armies and successfully ended the Afghan-Sikh Wars. In stages, he added central Punjab, the provinces of Multan and Kashmir, and the Peshawar Valley to his empire.

At its peak, in the 19th century, the empire extended from the Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south, running along Sutlej river to Himachal in the east. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the empire weakened, leading to conflict with the British East India Company. The hard-fought First Anglo-Sikh War and Second Anglo-Sikh War marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire, making it among the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to be conquered by the British.

Mahatma Gandhi

Indian Independence Movement

1857 Jan 1 - 1947
, India

The Indian independence movement was a series of historic events with the ultimate aim of ending British rule in India. It lasted from 1857 to 1947. The first nationalistic revolutionary movement for Indian independence emerged from Bengal. It later took root in the newly formed Indian National Congress with prominent moderate leaders seeking the right to appear for Indian Civil Service examinations in British India, as well as more economic rights for natives. The first half of the 20th century saw a more radical approach towards self-rule by the Lal Bal Pal triumvirate, Aurobindo Ghosh and V. O. Chidambaram Pillai.

The last stages of the self-rule struggle from the 1920s was characterized by Congress' adoption of Gandhi's policy of non-violence and civil disobedience. Intellectuals such as Rabindranath Tagore, Subramania Bharati, and Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay spread patriotic awareness. Female leaders like Sarojini Naidu, Pritilata Waddedar, and Kasturba Gandhi promoted the emancipation of Indian women and their participation in the freedom struggle. B. R. Ambedkar championed the cause of the disadvantaged sections of Indian society.

Indian Rebellion of 1857

Indian Rebellion of 1857

1857 May 10 - 1858 Nov 1
, India

The Indian rebellion of 1857 was a large-scale rebellion by soldiers employed by the British East India Company in northern and central India against the company's rule. The spark that led to the mutiny was the issue of new gunpowder cartridges for the Enfield rifle, which was insensitive to local religious prohibition. The key mutineer was Mangal Pandey. In addition, the underlying grievances over British taxation, the ethnic gulf between the British officers and their Indian troops and land annexations played a significant role in the rebellion. Within weeks after Pandey's mutiny, dozens of units of the Indian army joined peasant armies in widespread rebellion. The rebel soldiers were later joined by Indian nobility, many of whom had lost titles and domains under the Doctrine of Lapse and felt that the company had interfered with a traditional system of inheritance. Rebel leaders such as Nana Sahib and the Rani of Jhansi belonged to this group.

After the outbreak of the mutiny in Meerut, the rebels very quickly reached Delhi. The rebels had also captured large tracts of the North-Western Provinces and Awadh (Oudh). Most notably, in Awadh, the rebellion took on the attributes of a patriotic revolt against British presence. However, the British East India Company mobilised rapidly with the assistance of friendly Princely states, but it took the British the remainder of 1857 and the better part of 1858 to suppress the rebellion. Due to the rebels being poorly equipped and having no outside support or funding, they were brutally subdued by the British.

In the aftermath, all power was transferred from the British East India Company to the British Crown, which began to administer most of India as a number of provinces. The Crown controlled the company's lands directly and had considerable indirect influence over the rest of India, which consisted of the Princely states ruled by local royal families. There were officially 565 princely states in 1947, but only 21 had actual state governments, and only three were large (Mysore, Hyderabad, and Kashmir). They were absorbed into the independent nation in 1947–48.

Madras Army

British Raj

1858 Jan 1 - 1947
, India

The British Raj was the rule of the British Crown on the Indian subcontinent; it is also called Crown rule in India, or Direct rule in India, and lasted from 1858 to 1947. The region under British control was commonly called India in contemporaneous usage and included areas directly administered by the United Kingdom, which were collectively called British India, and areas ruled by indigenous rulers, but under British paramountcy, called the princely states. The region was sometimes called the Indian Empire, though not officially.

As "India", it was a founding member of the League of Nations, a participating nation in the Summer Olympics in 1900, 1920, 1928, 1932, and 1936, and a founding member of the United Nations in San Francisco in 1945.

This system of governance was instituted on 28 June 1858, when, after the Indian Rebellion of 1857, the rule of the British East India Company was transferred to the Crown in the person of Queen Victoria (who, in 1876, was proclaimed Empress of India). It lasted until 1947, when the British Raj was partitioned into two sovereign dominion states: the Union of India (later the Republic of India) and the Dominion of Pakistan (later the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh). At the inception of the Raj in 1858, Lower Burma was already a part of British India; Upper Burma was added in 1886, and the resulting union, Burma was administered as an autonomous province until 1937, when it became a separate British colony, gaining its own independence in 1948. It was renamed Myanmar in 1989.

Partition of India

Partition of India

1947 Aug 14
, India

The partition of India in 1947 divided British India into two independent dominions: India and Pakistan. The Dominion of India is today the Republic of India, and the Dominion of Pakistan is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The partition involved the division of two provinces, Bengal and Punjab, based on district-wide non-Muslim or Muslim majorities. The partition also saw the division of the British Indian Army, the Royal Indian Navy, the Royal Indian Air Force, the Indian Civil Service, the railways, and the central treasury. The partition was outlined in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Raj, i.e. Crown rule in India. The two self-governing independent Dominions of India and Pakistan legally came into existence at midnight on 15 August 1947.

The partition displaced between 10 and 20 million people along religious lines, creating overwhelming calamity in the newly-constituted dominions. It is often described as one of the largest refugee crises in history. There was large-scale violence, with estimates of the loss of life accompanying or preceding the partition disputed and varying between several hundred thousand and two million. The violent nature of the partition created an atmosphere of hostility and suspicion between India and Pakistan that affects their relationship to this day.

Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi served as prime minister for three consecutive terms (1966–77) and a fourth term (1980–84).

Republic of India

1947 Aug 15
, India

The history of independent India began when the country became an independent nation within the British Commonwealth on 15 August 1947. Direct administration by the British, which began in 1858, affected a political and economic unification of the subcontinent. When British rule came to an end in 1947, the subcontinent was partitioned along religious lines into two separate countries—India, with a majority of Hindus, and Pakistan, with a majority of Muslims. Concurrently the Muslim-majority northwest and east of British India was separated into the Dominion of Pakistan, by the partition of India. The partition led to a population transfer of more than 10 million people between India and Pakistan and the death of about one million people. Indian National Congress leader Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India, but the leader most associated with the independence struggle, Mahatma Gandhi, accepted no office. The Constitution adopted in 1950 made India a democratic country, and this democracy has been sustained since then. India's sustained democratic freedoms are unique among the world's newly independent states.

The nation has faced religious violence, casteism, naxalism, terrorism and regional separatist insurgencies. India has unresolved territorial disputes with China which in 1962 escalated into the Sino-Indian War, and with Pakistan which resulted in wars in 1947, 1965, 1971 and 1999. India was neutral in the Cold War, and was a leader in the Non-Aligned Movement. However, it made a loose alliance with the Soviet Union from 1971, when Pakistan was allied with the United States and the People's Republic of China.


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