Saturday, December 27, 2008

History of India (With Maps)

A Political Map of India Throughout the ages
Basically, here is how the Indian sub-continent has looked over the ages, under various united Empires, or sometimes warring states. Like every other civilisation on the planet, from China to Britian, India has been united at different times under different empires, and has sometimes been in a state of highly divided territories, but has always been considered one land, including the south, which has been the centre of Indian power during some of India's golden ages. Although un-hitorical nationalism and bias has often led various cultures such as the Chinese to interpret history monolithically, as if there was never any outside influence, every culture on this planet is a combination of different ethnic groups, beliefs, sub-cultures, etc - nothing is static or isolated - diversity is the only truth. India had a huge influence on others, especially in the east, in this way too - with Indian mathematicians and astronomers being employed by the Chinese Emperor in ancient times, China's state religion being Buddhism, etc.
Before the first map, it is worth saying that human ancestors have been painting cave pictures in India since 500,000 BC, although Homo sapiens probably came in later during the Ice Age, and it is at the end of the Ice Age, roughy 10,000 BC, that actual civilisation, agriculture, and religion started. Much like China, Japan, Egypt or Greece, India has been known as one land in legend and geography. For the purpose of comparison, I will include both the legendary mythology of the Ramayana and Mahabharata and the archeological history. The accepted history only starts with the first settlements of the Indus Valley Civilization. Before this time, India was a collection of city states based heavily on agriculture.
NOTE: I am mearly providing the Mahabharata kingdoms, etc, to illustrate how the legends tie into real history. If you wish to read scholaristic history, start with the Indus-Valley Civilization, and skip those parts.
Credits : p1ndu
6500 BC? - Ramayana
During the Ramayana epic, this is how India is theorised to have looked, based on geography from the books - a series of different Indian kingdoms with strong trade links, alliances and knolwedge of each other, kind of like the Greek city-state period, exept much, much earlier. The Vedas were said to have passed down for thousands of years through chanting only.
Again, for those who believe the epics, during the time of Krishna, the ancient texts tell us that India was united as one for the first time because of Dharamaraja's empire, or that this may have happened before, with one of the city states being known as the capital of India, and the rest paying tribute. Thus the name Bharat emerged as the name of South Asia, due to the rulership of Bharata. If we are to believe what the epics tell us, then these kingdoms may have been united through tribute, by the legendary Emperor Bharata, whom the subconetinent is named after - however there is no historical evidence of this - in this respect, Bharata is the direct contemporary of China's Emperor Yu - a mythological first Emperor who allegedly started their civilization. India and China, being similar in geography and culture, share a lot in common, although India's ancient history is older.

From here on is accepted history, as confirmed by archeology - please refer to the latest research on the Indus Valley Civilization...
Here begins the archeological history of the subcontient, which started with the first human ventures into farming, permenant settlement and breeding of livestock, with settlements like Mehrgarh, almost 10,000 years ago. During this time, tools fashioned from raw materials, and pottery, began to appear - as it also did in various other early settlments throughout the world. This was triggered by the end of the last Ice Age, in which humans were finally free to flourish. The first civilizations - India, Egypt and Mesopotamia, which were roughly contemporary, all started around river valleys, which ensured fresh water and transport - later Indian civilization would thrive due to the other great rivers of India, such as the Ganges.
World Civilisations

No other cradle of civilization was as extensive in geographical area as the Indus-Valley Civilization, covering an area of two million square kilometers or wider. What makes the IVC even more astounding, apart from the advanced planned urban settelments, is the uniformity of the culture - measurements, bricks, weights, etc, were all stanardised within a very thin margin, suggesting the the Indus Valley Civilization may have been a single state, rather than loose Empire or collection of city-states. At the very least it suggests rigourous trade. Its form of government is unknown - no evidence of kings has been found - suggesting it may not have even been a monarchy, but perhaps a 'republic' or counsil of some sort.

Ships of the IVC sailed as far west as the Persian Gulf and Africa, and probably just as far east - suggesting the earliest globalisation of trade and culture. The port of Lothal is one of the hubs that likely served this purpose. Other major settlements were Harappa, Mohenjo-daro, and Dholavera. At the start of the decade, two mysterous, and apparently huge twin cities of great age were discovered in the IVC style, laying on the bottom of the Gulf of Cambay.

2000 BC - Indus-Valley Civilisation (so far excavated)
For referance, this is what scholars think the Indus-Valley Civilization looked like, from what they have excavated, however, although this area is the size of western Europe, and far bigger than Sumaria or Egypt already, with fully planned cities and massive populations - this dosent take into account that India, due to its large urbanisation and population from ancient times, is built on top of the remains of ancient cities, perhaps suggesting that the IVC extended further. To underline this, ruins are being found underwater off the entire Indian coast, right down to the Deccan, demonstrating that at the very least, there were other settlements in coastal India which did not fall under IVC governance, but likely traded.
The melting of Ice Caps in the Himalayas changed India, drying up some rivers, which may have inspired such stories in the Mahabharata. Others believe the primary cause of the end of Indus Valley Civilization was simple - they were a bronze age economy - and so with the advent of iron, the civilization's trade collapsed. While old theories used to speculate on natural calamity, it now seems that the IVC mearly collapsed due to this shift in economic output.
Recent evidence suggests that Indian people migrated out of the subcontient around this time - the opposite of what was once believed - taking with them early-Vedism that was spread through trade to Sumaria, Babylon, and even Europe and China for some time.

1000 BC - The Mahajanapadas

This is where we move into more recorded history of the sub-continent (which unlike the much poured over Egypt, is still largely undiscovered). Following the collapse of the bronze age, India was divided between many early kingdoms, during the time of the iron age. This period was the one in which much of today's classical Indian culture was formed - Vedic Sanskrit was codified into the Classical Sanskritstill spoken throughout India and Buddhist countries today by the ancient philosopher Panini. Religions such as Buddhism, modern Hinduism, Jainism, and atheist philosophy like Carvaka, were all formed. The epics were written down, and the Upanishads were composed by early philosophers. In comparison, ancient Greece was also going through a similar period - making Indian and Greek thought - eastern and western, that we know today.

One Mahajanapada would soon rise to dominate the rest - Magadha - this kingdom conquered India, for the first time in recorded history - 100 years before Qin Shi Huang did the same in China.

200 BC - The Mauyan Dynasty

From its capital Pataliputra - today known as Patna, the Magadha Empire, under various dynasties, slowly gained power. Then, during the upheaval caused by the failed incursions of Persia and Greece into the edge of northwest India, one Emperor saw an oppertunity to unite the entire subconetienent under a single empire, and took it - Chandragupta Maurya - India's equivalent of the Chinese First Emperor Qin Shi Huang. Pataliputra became the largest in the world at the time - twice the size of Rome. This was the time of the Mauryan Dynasty of the Magadhan Empire.
The kingdom of Magadha gradually subjugated the other 16 Mahajanapadas. During the Shishunaga dynasty, it conquered the fertile Gangalitic plains, which were at the time the centre of Indian economy - during the Nanda dynasty, rule was expanded further. Capitalising on the chaos created by the Persian and Greek invasions of the north, the Maurya dynasty would finally unite the entire subcontinent, under a single highly-centralised state, akin to that of the Persian Empire to the northwest. Thus Chandragupta Maurya became the first emperor of India around 350 BC, around 100 years before the Yellow Emperor of China united a signigficant portion of that state.
The Mauryan Empire was expanded by Asoka the Great - the most famous ancient Emperor of India, when he conquered Kalinga. He was known for exporting Buddhism, martial arts, and other Indian culture, to the world, having major impact on world religion, giving South-East asia, China, Korea and Japan, much culture as it is known today, plus influencing western thought - with early Christianity from 300 years later bearing several Buddhist hallmarks.
When Asoka decided to dediate himself to non-violence, he halted his plans to take the war further, invading the tip of the south and Lanka, instead making them his strong allies/tributaries and sending scholars and priests there, which is when Sri Lanka attained its Buddhist identity as seen today - the oldest Buddhist kingdom in the world.
The Magadhan rule of India would collapse slightly under the Shunga dynasty, and finally fell during the Kanva dynasty, only to be re-established much later by the Guptas. This is pretty much where well-recored Indian history begins, with the first Asoka-brahmi written scripts found on Asoka's legendary rock edicts. The script eventually evolved into every Indian script used today, including the Thai, Lao and Khmer scripts of South East Asia. Although the languages of the south are different from those of the north - their scripts have the same origin.
The Mauryan Empire was the largest empire in the world, in terms of population and economy at least, in its day.

100 BC

Remenants of the Magadhan empire, led by the Shunga dynasty are seen here alongside the Indo-Greco-Persian kindgom that had been established in the north - at this time, there was much sharing of ideas between the early Greek/Persian world of the west, and India. The Indo-Greek kingdom eventually collapsed, but not before creating some of the finest Buddhist and Hindu art.

100 AD - Kushan Invasion

The Kushan Empire managed to intrude on Indian territory, accounting for the collapse of the Indo-Greeks and Indo-Persians, and was subsequently absorbed, enriching India further. These central asian nomads adopted Hinduism and Buddhism, and provided some of the closest contact between neighbouring China and India - leading to the adoption of Buddhism in China, as well as the transport of much philosophy and science between the two - both civilizations would become the two most powerfull of ancient times.

In the first century AD, the Indian subcontinent was the richest area of the world, holding 33% of the world's GDP output. This declined with the rise of China over the next 1000 years - by the 1500s, India and China accounted for 25% each of the world's entire eocnomy - this 50% share was only reduced in the colonial era. (See Angus Maddison - 'The World Economy a Millennial Perspective'). Fabeled tales of wealth attracted the Greek's failed invasion into India, and would be responsible for luring the later Arab and British invasions to what they saw as a mysterious and extreamly rich eastern land.
400 AD - Gupta Period

Yet again a dynasty from the area of Magadha, rose to dominate the subcontinent. This may have been because the Gangalitic plains were some of the most densely populated and fertile areas, who had once been centre of the Mauryans. A culturally influencial period of Indian history - the Guptas and other Indian kingoms wielded massive powers of art, economy and literature at this time.
The Gupta period saw one of India's greatest empires, and the so called 'golden age' of India, when, India was rivalled in economic power and culture only by Rome, Persia and China. Trade and cultural diversity made the states of ancient times powerfull -openess led to innolvation, absorbtion of outside ideas, generation of entirely Indian ones, and the spread of this classical art to South East Asia and Japan, where it can still be see today.

625 AD - Harsha

Around this period the Empire of Emperor Harsha formed, resisting the invasion of the White Huns from the north, through the historic route where all major invasions had taken place. This one Emperor single handedly united the old Gupta territories, like an Indian Alexader or Genghis Khan. The White Huns themselves would be absorbed into India's culture, like many other invaders, and many of them became part of the Rajputs and other north Indian clans, when they married into warrior families. These central-asian warrior clans had a similar effect on India as the Anglo-Saxons, etc, did on Britian, or the Manchu and Mongolian peoples on China - being absorbed, bringing new fighting tactics into an already formiddable martial arts tradition (in ancietn times, long before Harsha, India may have produced the earliest martial arts like Kalaripayattu, which influenced the eastern Shaolin and Karate of today).

900 AD - Cholas

In 900 AD, medieval times are approaching, and with them, the largescale spread of the Islamic faith with the expansion of the Arab Empire into what used to be the Persian Empire - India's old neighbour and occasional enemy. In doing so, some of what was Persia's old Zorostrain culture was absorbed into the Arab Empires, although some more puritanical elements also tried to wipe out this ancient faith, forcing the Parsis to flee to India where they would not be persecuted for their beliefs. This is similar to how the Tibetans today seek refuge in India from Chinese expansion, and demonstrates what a beautifull mix of cultures India contains.
Meanwhile, in India, the Cholas of the Deccan, had managed to create a large empire, including overseas, in Indonesia and South-East asia. They established rule over Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, and many other areas which had been previously assotiated with India through trade and Hindu/Buddhist religion. The Palas, etc, were great kingdoms of the time too, and often fought epic battles with each other - similar to 'warring states' periods in Chinese history.
The dynasties of this period such as the Cholas, were creators of some of India's greatest monuments and temples under such leaders as Raja Raja the Great - who build enough temples out of diamond-hard Indian granite to build the great pyramid of Egypt. Some might say that the temple building program of Raja Raja was one of the world's greatest undertakings, simialr to the greta wal of China - each one lined with thousands of staues - and yet India's mandirs are largely unknown to tourists today.

1050 AD - The Rajputs

With the advent of hostility with the Arab states to the north, the legendary Rajput Kingdoms formed in north India, and its warriors began to combat the invaders. Some of the more interesting conflicts of medieval times occurred here, as the Arab, Turkic, Persian and Central Asian forces desperatly desired the riches of India, which as mentioned earlier, was the largest economy of the world at the time. While much of Indian history is badly recorded due to the non-materialistic philosophy of the Buddhist, Jain and Hindu doctrines, which didnt place importance on the idea of glory, outsides recorded these conflicts, in great detail. Many of the Arab and Turkic nomads and warlords would commit atrocities, similar to how Alexander once did in ancient times, destroying ancient monuments or taking thousands of slaves to Baghdad, and then attempt to justify it as religiously motivated, but the primary cause of the fighting was a desire for the vast economic riches of India

1280 AD

Around the time of 1200 AD was when the first of the Delhi sultanates formed in India, in the form of the 'Slave dynasty' of the north. The Sultan conqueror of this area adopted many slaves as his sons, hence the name of the dynastry. Under the pressure of the many groups of invaders from the north, the Rajput Kingdom shrunk in size into what would later become Rajputana or Rajastan. The Delhi sultanates didnt manage to last long, as they considered themselves detatched from the Indian people - leading to impossibility of maintaining long-term governorship. They quickly fragmented, and the minority was again absorbed itno the general Indian population.

1320 AD - Arrival of Turko-Arabs

Following the Slave dynasty, the Turks of the Khilji Empire managed to extend their rule, into what was to become the first of the Sultanates to govern the majority of north India, (this can be compared in significance to the conquering of the 'Han' Chinese by the Mongols and later the Manchurians).
It is during these times that the sacking of monuments on a large scale began, sometimes out of the need of the invaders to build things from their materials, sometimes just for the iconoclasm which some of the Sultans, believed in or used as a reason. It is important to remember that while some Sultans acted in this way, just as many were fair rulers and patrons of Indic faith and culture. Whatever the reasons were, it is unfortunate that India lost so much ancient history due to such people as Ghazni. In a testiment to their prowess and power, the Rajputs managed to survive, despite being surrounded by a hostile invader, and would eventually play a part in the fragmentation of this dynasty.
1400 AD - The Vijaynagar Empire

The overstretched Sultanate didnt last long in the face of internal frangmentation and resistance to policy that angered the majority of its subjects, leading to the creation of the Vijanagara Empire in the Deccan.
The capital Vijaynagar, was where modern Europeans visited India for the first time, in the form of a Portuguese trading party. The main road of the city Vijanagar was said to be the most opulent place in the world - the Portuguese saw vendors selling precious gems like they were food at the street-stalls, and couldnt believe it, having arrived from Europe, which was poor by comparison. Today the ruins of Hampi in Karnataka mark the site of Vijaynagar city, which was, like other Indian cities such as Pataliputra and Delhi before it, the largest in the world at the time, and a center of global trade.
In addition, the Rajput Maharajas remained standing under the onslaught of yet more northern warlords from Bactria and Afghanistan, building some of the greatest palaces, and some of north-India's finest culture. It was around this time that things like the classical sitar were invented - through a fusion of foriegn stringed instuments, and the ancient Indian ones such as the veena.

1630 AD - Mughal Sultanate

The Mongol Empire of Genghis Khan had conquered much of asia, including China and Persia, forming the largest land empire in the history of the world. But they had not managed to conquer India, perhaps in part due to the resistance of the Rajputs and other dynasties, and in part due to the mountains of the Himalayas and Kush. When his empire fragmented into a few large states - including a shamanistic and Buddhist one in Siberia, a Buddhist Chinese one, and a Persian Muslim one, many of his ancestors thought of replicating the Great Khan's short lived Empire - one such Mongol decendant was the Persio-Mongol Babur - who targeted India. Invading with Mongol speed, he managed to overun the north of India, establishing the Mughal Empire, which his successors like Akbar would later expand to include virtually the entire of modern India.
But unlike the short lived warlords of the Sultanates, the Mughal Emperors applied the same Mongol openess to any culture that they had when conquering the rest of asia - allowing themselves to become absorbed and intigrated with Indian culture, employing the Rajputs and other local Maharajas as their standing army providers, marrying Indian royalty, and becoming patrons of culture. After a lucrative dynasty, the Emperor Aurangzeb began his rule in ignorance of political reality - instead prefering puritanical zealotry to wise state policies. Thus, the Mughal rulership fragmented, due to policies such as the Jizya tax, which offended the majority of Mughal subjects, and led to fragmentation of Mughal ties with the Rajputs and other Maharajas, who provided support.
It was the opulence of the Emperors of India such as Akbar, and their fame travelling to Europe, which painted in the British and European mind the riches of India, attracting European attempts to reach India via ship. It was during one of these attempts at reaching India, that a European explorer discovered the American continent, hence the name 'American Indian' when talking of native American tribes and states.

1800 AD - Marathi Empire, Punjab and Mysore

This was complicated period of Indian history, which saw the end of the rule of the Mughals and the birth of the Marathi Confedracy under Shivaji, who rose agaist the imposition of unfavorable policy on the majority of Indians, by a minority. Other states also rebelled - Punjab under the leadership of Ranjit Singh, the Rajput Maharajas, and Mysore under the leadership of Tippu.
As more Europeans began gaining footholds in the subconenent, the British established rule in Bengal, through negotiation with the weak remnants of the Mughals. Great leaders such as Shivaji fought their attempts to gain territory, but India eventually fell before the old Roman ploy of divide-and-conquer, in which various groups and kingdoms were played against each other, creating resentment that would weaken them in face of British conquest.

1860 AD - The British Raj

The Indian Maharajas who had been played off by the British found themselves mear figureheads in the midst of colonial domination of the subcontienent. Ironically, the British themselves were uniting 'Bharata' under their rule. With the advent of rebellion against this hegemony by their own Indian soldiers, the British assumed direct control over the Indian subcontienent with Queen Victoria declared Empress of India - but had already laid the foundation of their ultimate downfall, by inciting the population.

1947 AD - Swaraj and Partition

India after British departure, circa 1947. The states of Pakistan, Sikkim, Nepal, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Goa, and the Maldives, were not part of the Indian union created. The ruler of Bhutan chose to quit the Indian union as per the partition treaty, in which pricely states had to choose between indepence, or joining the two new states. Pakistan fought a war with India over Kashmir when its Maharaja chose to remain independent, which led to the creation of the current Line of Control

1975 AD

After the reorginisation of serveral new provinces based on linguistics, and the acqisition of Goa from the Portuguese, this is how India looks today. In 1971, Bangladesh declared indepence from Pakistan, creating the modern state of Bangladesh.

That is the end of this guide. Hope you enjoyed reading about the past - history is interesting. Id just like to add, I welcome any questions and discussions, and will try to elaborte for anyone who is interested. Infact please do discuss, because I would love to hear everyone's thoughts on this interesting history. History should be examined in a non-biased and detacted way, no matter what the subject, or it may lead to false ideas like right-wing nationalism, as it has done in many countries with religious extreamism.
A modern state cannot be based on exclusionary ideas like ethnicity or religion, but must be based on ideas of equality and tolerance for any cultural practice - cultural divides are mainly human constructs which have no basis in science - each person is an individual, and cannot be grouped with any other individual. Thus modern India is not based on some idea of this common history, but on the idea of 'unity in diversity' - there is no place for the supression of human expression, as happens in many other states, who base their ideas on a monolithic and glorified view of hsitory and religion