Formal Name: Republic of India (The official, Sanskrit name for India is Bharat, the name of the legendary king in the Mahabharata). Short Form: India. Term for Citizen(s): Indian(s).

In many ways it was a Western idea of India that helped forge India into a nation. Indians have traditionally had stronger loyalties to their region, caste and religion than they did to the nation of India. A sense of nationalism only really developed as a response to British colonialism and did not really become widely embraced until after independence.

By contrast there has always been a fascination with “India” in the West. Westerners in fact gave India its name. India is named after the Indus river. The Roman historian Pliny gave the Indus its name. The mystique of India attracted Alexander the Great and Marco Polo. Columbus was looking for it when he discovered America.

The Indus Valley civilization, one of the world's oldest, flourished during the 3rd and 2nd millennia B.C. and extended into northwestern India. Aryan tribes from the northwest infiltrated the Indian subcontinent about 1500 B.C.; their merger with the earlier Dravidian inhabitants created the classical Indian culture. The Maurya Empire of the 4th and 3rd centuries B.C. — which reached its zenith under Ashoka — united much of South Asia. The Golden Age ushered in by the Gupta dynasty (4th to 6th centuries A.D.) saw a flowering of Indian science, art, and culture. Islam spread across the subcontinent over a period of 700 years. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established the Delhi Sultanate. In the early 16th century, the Emperor Babur established the Mughal Dynasty which ruled India for more than three centuries. [Source: CIA World Factbook =]

European explorers began establishing footholds in India during the 16th century. By the 19th century, Great Britain had become the dominant political power on the subcontinent. The British Indian Army played a vital role in both World Wars. Years of nonviolent resistance to British rule, led by Mohandas GANDHI and Jawaharlal NEHRU, eventually resulted in Indian independence, which was granted in 1947. Large-scale communal violence took place before and after the subcontinent partition into two separate states - India and Pakistan. The neighboring nations have fought three wars since independence, the last of which was in 1971 and resulted in East Pakistan becoming the separate nation of Bangladesh. =

India's nuclear weapons tests in 1998 emboldened Pakistan to conduct its own tests that same year. In November 2008, terrorists originating from Pakistan conducted a series of coordinated attacks in Mumbai, India's financial capital. Despite pressing problems such as significant overpopulation, environmental degradation, extensive poverty, and widespread corruption, economic growth following the launch of economic reforms in 1991 and a massive youthful population are driving India's emergence as a regional and global power. =

Early History of India

Whereas human settlement in India dates back to roughly 400,000 to 200,000 B.C., extensive urbanization and trade appear to have begun in the Indus River Valley around 3000 B.C. with the Harappan civilization. From this period until the termination of British colonial rule in 1947, numerous empires ruled various portions of South Asia, often assimilating a rich array of peoples and each adding its own contribution to an increasingly rich tapestry of cultures, ideas, and technologies. Indeed, many of India’s current political, cultural, and economic traits have been influenced by historical events and trends, many of which pre-date European contact. [Source: Library of Congress, 2004 *]

Among the most influential early empires were the Aryans, who migrated from Persia to northwestern India around 2000 B.C. and brought a new pantheon of anthropomorphic gods, an early form of Sanskrit language, a tiered social system essentially based on ethnicity and occupation, and religious texts that are an important part of living Hindu traditions. *

From 326 B.C. to around 200 B.C., the Mauryan Empire emerged as India’s first imperial power and ruled its areas with a highly centralized and hierarchical administration. For the next few hundred years, North and South India experienced a succession of ruling powers. From 320 A.D. to 550 A.D., most of North India was ruled by the Gupta Empire, which in contrast to the Mauryan Empire maintained a decentralized form of government, using numerous regional and local officials to govern vast territories with an array of local political, economic, and social arrangements. As under the Aryans, Gupta authority was religiously legitimized, and it was in this period called the Classical Age that the multiple components of Hindu culture became crystallized into a more unified system of thought. *

From the disintegration of the Gupta Empire to the mid-thirteenth century, various regional kingdoms emerged, and conflicts among them often led to their defeat but rarely to their total annihilation. As a result, no highly centralized government emerged in South India, and South Indian villages and districts enjoyed much greater local autonomy than those in North India. During this period, South India engaged in flourishing trade with Arabs and Southeast Asia, which facilitated the diffusion of Indian mathematical concepts to the Middle East and Indian art, literature, and social customs to Southeast Asia. *

Islamic influence in South Asia emerged around 711 as Arabs conquered part of Sindh (now in Pakistan), and by the tenth century Punjab came under the control of Turkic ruler Mahmud of Ghazni. By the thirteenth century, much of India had been periodically conquered, but rarely held for long, by a steady succession of Turkic rulers collectively referred to as the Delhi Sultanate or Mughal emperors. The most prominent Mughal ruler was the astute and religiously tolerant Akbar, who ruled from 1556 to 1605. Akbar oversaw substantial political and geographic consolidation by using locally established warriors and powerful zamindar landlords to control local populations and collect revenues. But over time, the administrative capacities of later Mughal rulers suffered from bloated and excessively corrupt bureaucracies and huge, unwieldy armies. *

European economic competition in India began soon after the Portuguese arrived in 1498, and by the early 1600s it was manifested in the establishment of commercial companies, such as England’s East India Company, that attempted to capture the spice trade. In order to gain competitive advantages over each other, European powers also engaged in commercial and administrative alignments with Mughal power holders. By the late eighteenth century, the British had defeated French and Mughal forces to become the preeminent military and economic power in India. *

The British used Indian assistance in various commercial and military matters, which enabled upward mobility for some Indians. The British also adopted numerous local economic and political arrangements that were established by the Mughals, and this practice maintained and exacerbated various forms of social stratification. A major turning point in the colonial occupation occurred with the Indian-led Sepoy Rebellion of 1857 to 1858, which seriously threatened British rule and led to a marked shift in colonial attitudes and practices. Although the British made some legal and administrative adjustments to placate Indians, colonial attitudes toward Indians shifted from cultural engagement—albeit to change Indians with Western ideas and technology—to insularity and xenophobia. *

Books: India, a History by John Keay (HarperCollins); V.S. Naipaul wrote in the brilliant India: A Wounded Civilization.

Later History of India

By the 1920s, various Indian groups became active in attempting to end colonial rule, and the Indian National Congress Party, which had been established in 1885, eventually became the most prominent. Led by Mohandas Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, the Congress Party promoted non-violence and self-sufficiency and thus garnered respect and support among both Indians and some British. But the Congress Party generally failed to attract Muslims, who often felt culturally and physically threatened by Hindus, and in 1906 the All-India Muslim League was established. The British periodically jailed Congress Party leaders for their social movement activities, but among the increasingly restive Indian population the British found Congress to be an easier group with which to negotiate than more militant Indian groups. Rising civil disobedience and World War II eventually rendered India too costly and difficult to administer, and the British granted independence in 1947. [Source: Library of Congress *]

In some ways, the victory was bittersweet, as the country emerged with numerous political, social, and economic difficulties. On Independence Day (August 15, 1947), the country was partitioned into India and Pakistan, which led to massive migration of Hindus and Muslims and substantial communal conflict. Furthermore, the British had left India with a rudimentary industrial and scientific base; tremendous poverty; a large and growing population; social cleavages along caste and economic lines; and contentious territorial boundaries that have led to armed conflicts with Pakistan (1947 to 1949, 1965, 1971), China (1962), and numerous insurgent groups. *

In spite of such difficulties, the nation can count a number of successes. With the exception of martial law from 1975 to 1977, India has maintained a democratic political system. Building on the British-established education system, India developed an educational infrastructure that has trained one of the world’s largest scientific and technical populations. Using Green Revolution agricultural technologies, the country has become self-sufficient in food production. Moreover, a combination of socialist planning and free enterprise from the 1950s to the 1970s led to substantial industrialization with the goal of making India economically self-sufficient. *

In the 1980s and 1990s, socialist economic planning and import substitution industries were slowly replaced by liberalization measures, a large middle class emerged, information technology developed into an important economic sector, and at times economic growth has been impressive. India has also become somewhat influential in international political and economic matters and appears set to continue those trends. *

Numerous problems remain, however, such as substantial poverty, large income gaps between wealthy and poor, a large mass of people who lack the skills to participate in the new economy, and numerous insurgencies that threaten the nation’s territorial integrity. Some social issues remain unresolved, and the rise of Hindu nationalism has become a particularly contentious topic in both Indian society and politics. Indeed, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) led by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee was in power from 1998 to 2004, and the BJP is often associated with Hindu nationalism. Furthermore, some observers believe the nation is facing difficulties in the political capacity to address these problems. Intense multiparty political competition over numerous economic and social issues has resulted in often-fragile coalitions of political parties, and no single political party has held a parliamentary majority since 1989. The government changed nine times from December 1989 to the elections in May 2004 in which the Indian National Congress returned to power under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Thus, increasing pluralism of political parties, growing diversity in interest-group representation, and substantial ideological divisions among parties are significant obstacles in policy implementation. *

Themes in Indian History

"History." wrote one Indian Muslim scholar, " is the knowledge of the annals and traditions of prophets, caliphs, sultans, and of the great men of religion and of government. Pursuit of the study of history is particular to the great ones of religion and of government who are famous for the excellence of their qualities or who have become famous among mankind for their great deeds. Low fellows, rascals unfit people of unknown stock and mean natures, of no lineage and low lineage, loiterers and bazaar loafers—all of these have no connection with history."

Ancient and medieval India never completely came under one sovereign umbrella, and even in the heyday of the Mauryas the extreme South remained outside the Imperial sphere. This lack of political unity, despite the fact that the Indian subcintinet was arguably and a geographical and cultural unit, is seen as one of the shortfalls of its history, and, therefore. In many ways dynastic wars and territorial aggrandizements characterize the long period more than achievements in religion, art, and literature. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942].

Akhilesh Pillalamarri wrote in The National Interest: “South Asia is like a world unto itself. Also known as the Indian subcontinent, its particular geography and climate have always led to it having distinct sets of histories and cultures. Currently, over a fifth of the world’s population lives on a landmass almost the size of Europe excluding Russia—it contains deserts, polar-like conditions, rainforests, plains, hills, and temperate forests. In short, South Asia is a microcosm of the world. [Source: Akhilesh Pillalamarri, The National Interest, May 8, 2015 ]

“Therefore, it should come as no surprise that its history is complex, with empires, states, and independent cities often coexisting together in the region. South Asia’s historical political configuration bears more resemblance to Europe’s than China’s: a recurring theme in South Asian history has been the difficulty of creating and maintaining empires that span the entire subcontinent, with smaller, regional states being the norm. As in traditional Hinduism's idea of reincarnation, empires are born to die, only to give rise to new empires, which then fall, in a never-ending cycle.”

What It Means to Be Indian

Those "who wear cotton clothes, use the decimal system, enjoy the taste of [curried] chicken, play chess, or roll dice, and seek peace of mind or tranquility through meditation," writes historian Stanley Wolpert, "are indebted to India." India's deep-rooted civilization may appear exotic or even inscrutable to casual foreign observers, but a perceptive individual can see its evolution, shaped by a wide range of factors: extreme climatic conditions, a bewildering diversity of people, a host of competing political overlords (both local and outsiders), enduring religious and philosophical beliefs, and complex linguistic and literary developments that led to the flowering of regional and pan-Indian culture during the last three millennia. [Source: Library of Congress *]

The interplay among a variety of political and socioeconomic forces has created a complex amalgam of cultures that continue amidst conflict, compromise, and adaptation. "Wherever we turn," says Wolpert, "we find . . . palaces, temples, mosques, Victorian railroad stations, Buddhist stupas, Mauryan pillars; each century has its unique testaments, often standing incongruously close to ruins of another era, sometimes juxtaposed one atop another, much like the ruins of Rome, or Bath." *

India's "great cycle of history," as Professor Hugh Tinker put it, entails repeating themes that continue to add complexity and diversity to the cultural matrix. Throughout its history, India has undergone innumerable episodes involving military conquests and integration, cultural infusion and assimilation, political unification and fragmentation, religious toleration and conflict, and communal harmony and violence. *

A few other regions in the world also can claim such a vast and differentiated historical experience, but Indian civilization seems to have endured the trials of time the longest. India has proven its remarkable resilience and its innate ability to reconcile opposing elements from many indigenous and foreign cultures. Unlike the West, where modern political developments and industrialization have created a more secular worldview with redefined roles and values for individuals and families, India remains largely a traditional society, in which change seems only superficial. Although India is the world's largest democracy and the seventh-most industrialized country in the world, the underpinnings of India's civilization stem primarily from its own social structure, religious beliefs, philosophical outlook, and cultural values. The continuity of those time-honed traditional ways of life has provided unique and fascinating patterns in the tapestry of contemporary Indian civilization.*

Indian Civilization

India is one of the oldest continually inhabited regions in the world. It has had a continuous civilization since 2500 B.C., when the inhabitants of the Indus River valley developed an urban culture based on commerce and sustained by agricultural trade. This civilization declined around 1500 B.C., probably due to ecological changes and the arrival of Aryan (Indo-European-speaking) invaders, who began pouring through Afghanistan into northern India. A thousand years of instability followed, as one invading group after another contended for power. During this period, Indian village and family patterns, along with Brahmanism—the ancient form of Hinduism—and its caste system became well established. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, Gale, 2008]

According to a book on culture: “Indian civilization is based on the cultures of peoples as varied as the country's geography. The first Indians lived in the Indus Valley civilization that flourished along the Indus River in modern-day Pakistan, from 2500 to 1600 b.c.e. Remains from the Indus Valley civilization that have been recovered by archeologists, scientists who study the physical remains of ancient cultures, indicate that the society was quite advanced, with well-built brick houses, buildings for storing grain, paved roads, a written language, and a citadel, or a fortress from which a city is ruled and protected. These peoples, called Dravidians, were invaded by a nomadic tribe called Aryans who eventually settled throughout present-day northern India. The cultures of these two different societies combined and created the Hindu religion, which has been the dominant cultural force in India for thousands of years and heavily influenced the habits of dress practiced by Indians. The blending of various cultures has become the hallmark of Indian civilization up to the present day. [Source: Fashion, Costume, and Culture: Clothing, Headwear, Body Decorations, and Footwear through the Ages, Gale Group, Inc., 2004]

“Over the years, nomadic tribes and other invading peoples have continued to shape Indian civilization. The Mauryan Empire, which flourished in 250 b.c.e. and dominated northern India for about 140 years, had a large army, complex tax system, and an organized government. After witnessing the brutality of war, Emperor Ashoka, the last Mauryan leader, converted to Buddhism, a religion that encourages people to be accepting of differences among them and to live together peacefully. Ashoka's peaceful teachings and kindness continue to influence life in India.

“The second great empire in Indian history was the Gupta Empire, which lasted from 319 to 550 c.e. The Guptas encouraged learning, especially in the arts and sciences. Under Gupta rule the world was discovered to be round and the mathematical concept of zero came into being. Another great change in Indian life occurred from the eighth to the sixteenth century when Muslims slowly invaded India and eventually conquered it to create the Mogul Empire, which ruled all of India and other areas for approximately two hundred years, from about 1500 to 1700 c.e. The Muslims strongly influenced the peoples of India; many converted to the Muslim religion and began wearing clothes that conformed to the Muslim religion's dress code. The Moguls did tolerate other religions, and they created a peaceful advanced society that fostered the arts and sciences.”

Diverse People of India

Churchill once said, "India is an abstraction. India is no more a political personality than Europe...no more of a united nation than the equator." The economist John Kenneth Galbraith described India as a "functioning anarchy."

India's ethnic, linguistic, and regional complexity sets it apart from other nations. To gain even a superficial understanding of the relationships governing the huge number of ethnic, linguistic, and regional groups, the country should be visualized not as a nation-state but as the seat of a major world civilization on the scale of Europe. The population is not only immense but also has been highly varied throughout recorded history; its systems of values have always encouraged diversity. The linguistic requirements of numerous former empires, an independent nation, and modern communication are superimposed on a heterogeneous sociocultural base. [Source: Library of Congress, 1995 *]

Almost 8 percent of the population belongs to social groups recognized by the government as Scheduled Tribes, with social structures somewhat different from the mainstream of society. Powerful trends of "regionalism" — both in the sense of an increasing attachment to the states as opposed to the central government, and in the sense of movements for separation from the present states or greater autonomy for regions within them — threaten the current distribution of power and delineation of political divisions of territory. *

It is no surprise that story of the elephant and the five blind men—each feeling a different part of the elephant and having a completely different idea what an elephant is like—was originally a Jain story that originated in India. The easiest way to comprehend India as a whole it break it down into manageable pieces.

"Despite some intermarriages among the elites of the cities, Indians still largely remain endogamous, and a Bengali is easily distinguished from a Punjabi," wrote novelist Shasji Tharoor in the New York Times. "So pluralism emerges from the very nature of the country. It is a choice made inevitable by India's geography, reaffirmed by its history and reflected in its ethnography."

You can often tell where somebody is from by the way they are dress (See Clothes, Saris) and by their name (See Names). With that information one can surmise what a person eats, and other information. According to the Kama Sutra even sexual preferences vary from place to place: “The women of the central countries dislike pressing the nails and biting, the women of Aparitka are full of passion, and make slowly the sound, ‘Seeth.’”

Religion in India

According to te Middle Ages Reference Library: The religions of India are as vital a part of that country's history as Catholicism was in the story of medieval Europe. First among those religions was Hinduism, which grew out of the beliefs brought by Indo-European invaders. Later, India became home to a second great faith, Buddhism, which became the religion of the Mauryan Empire (324–184 b.c.). However, the other great Indian dynasty of ancient times, the Gupta Empire (c. a.d. 320–c. 540), embraced Hinduism. In the Middle Ages, India became the battleground of a third religion as invaders poured in from the Muslim world. [Source: Middle Ages Reference Library, Gale Group, Inc., 2001]

“Of the Chinese traveler Hsüantsang (shooy-AHND ZAHNG; 602–664). Hsüan-tsang had come as a pilgrim to visit the many holy sites associated with the founder of Buddhism, an Indian prince named Siddhartha Gautama (si-DAR-tuh GOW-tuh-muh ;c. 563–c. 483 b.c.), whose followers called him the Buddha or "Enlightened One." Yet Buddhism never gained a lasting hold on the nation of its birth, even though it shared many common roots with Hinduism.

“Both religions accepted reincarnation, the idea that human beings are reborn many times as a way of working out their karma, or the results of their actions. To Hindus, this meant that a person would be reincarnated as a member of a higher or lower caste (KAST; social group), depending on their actions in a past life. People of the higher castes enjoyed great wealth and privilege while the bottom rungs of society were condemned as "Untouchables." Whereas most modern Americans would consider this situation as unjust, Hindus considered this a completely fair result of karmic forces.

“Buddhism, by contrast, offered the possibility that one could escape the endless cycles of reincarnation by achieving enlightenment. This gave it great appeal among the lower castes and with descendants of the land's original inhabitants, many of whom had spread southward into southern India and the island of Ceylon (seh-LAHN; now Sri Lanka) after the Indo-European invasion. Buddhism also rejected the Hindu gods and the rituals associated with them.

“There may have been disagreement over religious issues between adherents of Hinduism and Buddhism, but the two had much in common; it would be hard, however, to imagine two faiths more different than Hinduism and Islam. Hinduism is polytheistic, meaning that it has many gods, with statues of each; Islam, with its prohibition of religious images and its declaration that "there is no god but Allah," is completely iconoclastic and monotheistic. Hinduism places people in castes; Islam treats all Muslim men (if not women) as equals. Hindus believe that people die many times, whereas Muslims believe they die only once.

“The two worlds had been in contact since ancient times, with extensive trade links between ports in India and Yemen. In fact, it was this relationship that would bring Indians and Arabs into conflict after a group of Arab sailors were shipwrecked on Ceylon. Some of the sailors died, and the local ruler put their widows and children on a boat along with gifts and letters of goodwill to Hajjaj (hah-ZHAZH; 661–714), ruler over the eastern lands of the Caliphate (the domain ruled by the Muslim leader). However, pirates near the Sind, in what is now Pakistan, attacked the boat, captured the wives and children, and stole the gifts. Hajjaj demanded that the ruler of the Sind help him obtain the release of the prisoners and their possessions, and when the nobleman refused, Hajjaj sent an invading force under his son-in-law Qasim (kah-SEEM). [Source: Middle Ages Reference Library, Gale Group, Inc., 2001]

“Qasim gained control over the entire Sind in 712, then conquered the neighboring Punjab (POON-jahb) region in the following year. The Muslims proved themselves able administrators, quickly making peace with local officials, who they placed in administrative positions to help them run the government. With the exception of taxes imposed to pay for their military and government, the Arabs interfered little with local affairs, and as they had done with Christians and Jews in other lands, they allowed the Hindus to continue practicing their religion in a limited form.

India: the Land of Sacred Places

India has been called the land of sacred places. Hinduism and Buddhism began in India. Buddha said that India was the home of "all mountains, all rivers, holy lakes, places of pilgrimage, the dwellings of rsis, cow pens and temples of the gods are places which destroy sin." A traveler to Kashmir once remarked that there was "not a space as large as a grain of sesame seed without a place of pilgrimage.” [Source: "The Creators," by Daniel Boorstin]

"The main interest in Hindu Indians in the past," wrote historian Daniel Boorstin, "was not in the rise and fall of historical empires but in the rulers of a mythical golden age. This tantalizes the modern historian to chronicle India before the coming of the Muslim kings, for he must piece together his chronology from folklore, from a few scattered monuments, from the writing of foreign travelers...The lack of historical recorded reveals not merely the Hindu preoccupation with the transcendent and the eternal, but also the widespread sense that social life was changeless and repetitive."

Traditionally Indians have had a stronger link to their community and region rather than religion. There is a long history of the Hindu majority living under minority Muslim rulers. The most well known of these are the Mughals.

Kingdoms and Invasions in India

The political map of ancient and medieval India was made up of innumerable kingdoms with fluctuating boundaries. In the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., northern India was unified under the Gupta Dynasty. During this period, known as India's Golden Age, Hindu culture and political administration reached new heights. [Source: Countries of the World and Their Leaders Yearbook 2009, Gale, 2008]

India has a history or being repeatedly invaded. India's abundant resources and valuable arable land made it a target for foreign invaders: the Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Huns, Turks, Muslims, Mongols, Mughals, Portuguese, French and finally the British. V.S, Naipaul described Indian history as "a million mutinees." Most of the conquest and migrations came from the northwest or west. No significant conquests or migrations came from the east.

Over the thousands of years of its history, India has been invaded from the Iranian plateau, Central Asia, Arabia, Afghanistan, and the West; Indian people and culture have absorbed and modified these influences to produce a remarkable racial and cultural synthesis. In the eigth century, the first of several waves of Islamic invaders appeared in the northwest, and Islam gradually spread eastward and southward, reaching its territorial and cultural peak under the Mughal (or Mogul) dynasty.

According to the Middle Ages Reference Library: “Arabs were unable to retain control over the Sind and Punjab, and during the next 250 years, numerous dynasties competed to control parts of India. In the 800s, a dynasty called the Palas ruled in the east, but in the 900s they were replaced by the Rajputs (RAHZH-pootz). The Rajputs' name means "sons of kings," and they claimed descent from the gods. In fact they apparently descended from the intermarriage of Indians and invaders, particularly Huns and Scythians (SITH-ee-unz), a group from what is now Ukraine who entered India in about a.d. 100. The local Hindu princes considered them barbarians, but submitted to their leadership in a mysterious "fire ceremony" atop Mount Abu in northwestern India. [Source: Middle Ages Reference Library, Gale Group, Inc., 2001]

“In the south, the Cholas (KOH-lahz), a Tamil dynasty, replaced the Pallavas as the dominant power in about 850. They conquered the Deccan Plateau and Ceylon, and engaged in trade with China. In the early 1000s, they would even extend their rule into the Ganges valley, becoming the first kingdom of southern India to expand so far northward. Though they maintained power until 1279, their impact was limited from the standpoint of world history.

India Divisions and the North and South Divide

India has been called a land of divisions.According to the Middle Ages Reference Library: “India is a vast land, with a variety of climatic zones, but its enormous population has long been concentrated in a fertile strip of land created by the Indus River in the west and the Ganges (GAN-geez) in the east. This was the center of both Mauryan and Gupta power, and mountain ranges to the north—the world's highest—had long protected the land. Only once had India been successfully invaded, when the Indo-Europeans, a group with roots in what is now southern Russia, entered in about 1500 b.c. [Source: Middle Ages Reference Library, Gale Group, Inc., 2001]

“The Indo-Europeans had completely transformed Indian society, but no more invaders came for a full two thousand years. Then in about a.d. 500, the Gupta Empire—which had brought about a golden age, a time of advancements in learning seldom equaled in the ancient world—faced another invasion from the north. Their attackers were the same force that had helped bring down the Western Roman Empire: the Huns, or Hunas as they were called in this part of the world. The Vindhya Mountains form a partial barrier between northern and southern India. The Western and Eastern Ghats, long ranges of hills, parallel the coasts and border most of the southern portion of the peninsula. These mountains have tended to isolate southern India from the north and the conquests and migrations that took place there.

“Though northern India fell into a state of anarchy after 540, the south remained relatively protected. Geography made the difference: south of the lush Indus-Ganges region was the Thar Desert, and below that the enormous Deccan Plateau, an extremely dry, hot region. Because of these barriers, southern India had developed along different lines than the north.

“In their Sanskrit language and their Caucasian features, the people of the north showed that they were descendants of the Indo-Europeans. The people of the south, by contrast, were much darker-skinned, and the dominant language, Tamil (TAH-meel), bore no relation to the languages of Europe or Iran. After about 300, the Pallava (PAH-luh-vuh) dynasty of Hindu kings, who possibly had northern origins, ruled the south.

“The Pallavas reached their peak in the two centuries following 550, a period that saw outstanding achievements in art and architecture as well as settlements in the islands off Southeast Asia. During the Pallava high point, central India remained splintered into a number of small states; but order returned to the north, for a time at least, under the rule of the Buddhist king Harsha (ruled 606–47).

Hindu and Muslim Realms Influence Each Other

According to the Middle Ages Reference Library: The Arab and Muslim worlds would have a great influence on India during the Middle Ages, but the influence went both ways. During the glory days of the Gupta Empire, Indian medicine had been the most advanced in the world, and in the early Middle Ages, numerous doctors from India were invited to work in Baghdad. A number of them served as chief physicians in hospitals, while others translated works of medicine, science, and philosophy from Sanskrit into Arabic. [Source: Middle Ages Reference Library, Gale Group, Inc., 2001]

“Indians also shared their advances in the realm of mathematics. One of their greatest achievements was the numeral zero, and this made possible the decimal system and other benefits of the highly practical "base-10" system in use throughout the world today. Indeed, the numbers 0 through 9 are themselves a gift of Indian mathematicians, who taught their system to the Arabs. Europeans adopted it during the Crusades, replacing the hopelessly cumbersome Roman numeral system, but they incorrectly called the numerals "Arabic"—a name that stuck.

“Not all Indian contributions to the Arab world were quite so serious in nature. The game of chess first originated in India, then spread to the Arab world, as did a number of stories that went into the Thousand and One Nights. Indian music also influenced its Arabic counterpart. Both use five-note scales: for Westerners accustomed to the eight-note octave scale, this gives Indian and Arabic music an exotic sound.

“Babur (reigned 1526–30) was the first of the Mughals to proclaim himself emperor of India. Akbar (reigned 1556–1605), Babur’s grandson, first attempted to establish a national state by teaming with Hindu rajahs (kings). His successors, Shah Jahan and Aurangzeb, left their marks in the form of massive palaces and mosques, superb fortresses, and dazzling mausoleums (like the Taj Mahal at Agra).

Disasters and Famines in India

In 1630, it is believed, 5 million people died in Indian from an El Niño-induced drought and famine. India's earliest recorded famine, in 1669 and 1670, killed an estimated 3 million people. An 18-month drought in India in 1769-1770 left 3 million dead. Between 1876 and 1878 it is estimated that nearly six million people died when cholera and mass starvation ensued after torrential rains ruined crops in the south and the monsoon failed to appear in the north. Over five million people died between 1896 and 1897 when a severe drought was followed by famine and disease.

According to the Guinness Book of Records, the world's largest kitchen was the field kitchen set in Ahmadnagar, Maharashtra for a famine in April 1973. It served 1.2 million meals a day. A flood in Morvi, India on August 11, 1979 killed 15,000 people. Part of this was the world’s worst dam burst disaster: the collapse of the Machhu River dam due to flooding, which killed 5,000 people in Morvi.

In some cases, colonial powers made things worse. Nick Robins of Bloomberg wrote: When drought struck Bengal in 1769, the East India company “raised taxes and refused to intervene; contemporaries estimated that as many as 10 million people died in the resulting famine. Back in London, the East India Company’s shares slumped in response to the conflict in South India. This provoked a wider credit crisis, forcing the company’s directors to beg the government for a bailout in the summer of 1772. The East India Company’s centrality to Britain’s commercial and imperial ambitions meant that it was the original “too big to fail” corporation. [Source: By Nick Robins, Bloomberg, March 12, 2013]

There was a terrible famine in Bengal in 1943 that for the most part was artificial and could have been avoided if boats impounded by the British to keep them out of the hands of the Japanese could have been used to deliver rice. Three million people perished in Bengal at a rate of about 30,000 a week. The streets of Calcutta were filled with the dead and the dying. The harvest had been plentiful but food had been stockpiled for the Allied troops, who were expecting a Japanese invasion. At the time people were straving in Calcutta rice was being exported from Bombay. Some historians believe the famine was allowed by the British to happen to cripple the Indian independence movement.

Great Things that Came from India

Smelting ore probably began in China or India and made its way westward. Much of the copper in ancient civilization in Mesopotamia, the Middle East, Egypt, Phoenicia, Greece and Rome came from Cyprus, whose name is the source of the word copper. To melt copper out the rock it is necessary to keep a fire at least 1981°F (1083°C). This was most likely done in ancient Copper Age sites by continuously blowing a fire through tubes made from wood, bamboo or reeds. Archaeologists recreating the process need about an hour of constant blowing to produced several copper pellets the size of BBs. Producing copper for an ax using this method would take several weeks.

Cucumbers were known in ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. They originated in the foothills of the Himalayas in northern India, where they have been cultivated for more than 3,000 years. Blue India dye is derived from a blue powder extracted from the “indigofera” plant. The dye was known to the Greeks and Romans and used by Egyptians to dye mummy cases.

Arabic numbers and the concept of zero originated in India. Indian scholars, who are said to have developed geometric theorems before Pythagoras did in the sixth century B.C. and were using advanced methods of determining the number of mathematical combinations by the second century B.C. By the fifth century A.D., Indian mathematicians were using ten numerals and by the seventh century were treating zero as a number. These breakthroughs, Nehru said, "liberated the human mind . . . and threw a flood of light on the behavior of numbers." The conceptualization of squares, rectangles, circles, triangles, fractions, the ability to express the number ten to the twelfth power, algebraic formulas, and astronomy had even more ancient origins in Vedic literature, some of which was compiled as early as 1500 B.C. The concepts of astronomy, metaphysics, and perennial movement are all embodied in the Rig Veda (see The Vedas and Polytheism). Although such abstract concepts were further developed by the ancient Greeks and the Indian numeral system was popularized in the first millennium A.D. by the Arabs (the Arabic word for number, Nehru pointed out, is hindsah , meaning "from Hind (India)"), their Indian origins are a source of national pride. [Source: Library of Congress *]

Technological discoveries have been made relating to pharmacology, brain surgery, medicine, artificial colors and glazes, metallurgy, recrystalization, chemistry, the decimal system, geometry, astronomy, and language and linguistics (systematic linguistic analysis having originated in India with Panini's fourth-century B.C. Sanskrit grammar, the Ashtadhyayi). These discoveries have led to practical applications in brick and pottery making, metal casting, distillation, surveying, town planning, hydraulics, the development of a lunar calendar, and the means of recording these discoveries as early as the era of Harappan culture (ca. 2500-1500 B.C.; see Harappan Culture). *

Written information on scientific developments from the Harrapan period to the eleventh century A.D. (when the first permanent Muslim settlements were established in India) is found in Sanskrit, Pali, Arabic, Persian, Tamil, Malayalam, and other classical languages that were intimately connected to Indian religious and philosophical traditions. Archaeological evidence and written accounts from other cultures with which India has had contact have also been used to corroborate the evidence of Indian scientific and technological developments. The technology of textile production, hydraulic engineering, water-powered devices, medicine, and other innovations, as well as mathematics and other theoretical sciences, continued to develop and be influenced by techniques brought in from the Muslim world by the Mughals after the fifteenth century. *

Book: Stewart, Melissa, Science in Ancient India . New York: Franklin Watts, 1999.

Influences of India on Southeast Asia

India had a large cultural impact on Southeast Asia. Rugged mountains separated Laos, Thailand, Burma and Cambodia from China. As a consequence they were influenced more by Hinduism and Buddhism which came from India. Hindu kingdoms arose in Burma, Thailand, Malaya, Cambodia, southern Vietnam, southern Borneo, Sumatra, Java, Bali and Lombok.

Ports on India’s eastern coast dominated trade with Southeast Asia. Indian-Hindu culture spread throughout Southeast Asia. Hinduism is still alive on Bali. The scripts used in Thailand and Cambodia were derived from Sanskrit. A Sanskrit-derived writing was used in the Philippines until the Spanish replaced it with the Roman alphabet.

On the side of Southeast Asia that faced India the influence of India was stronger than the influence of China. At the way stations and ports here, Indian traders brought heir ideas about Hinduism and Indian culture. Later some of these traders took up residence at the ports and communities of Hindus were established. As these communities grew their ideas about religion became more entrenched and were more widely disseminated. Khmer Civilization at Angkor Wat began as Hindu Civilization.

The Pallava kingdom ruled much of south India from A.D. 350 to 880, as the Indian culture arrived in Southeast Asia. In addition to religion, style of dance, its stories, architecture and gaudy color schemes were introduced. The First written language for much of Southeast Asia was Pali, a derivative of Sanskrit. Many written languages in Southeast Asia were based on it. The first Hindus arrived as traders, while the first Chinese came as merchants and colonizers. Strong independent empires established themselves in Burma, Thailand and Cambodia. Vietnam on the other was controlled, at war or recovering from a war with China.

Sources of Ancient Indian History

Rama Shankar Tripathi wrote in the “History of Ancient India”: Ancient Indian literature, varied and rich in many respects, is singularly deficient in history. There is no work in all the literary treasures of the Hindus, Buddhists and Jains comparable to the Book of Kings or the Annals of Livy or the Histories of Herodotus. This is not because India’s past is barren of deeds worthy of remembrance. On the other hand, the ages were filled with heroic achievements, great upheavals and dynastic vicissitudes, but, strangely enough, these events did not find any systematic record with due regard to chronology. Whether this curious neglect of an important branch of literary activity was due to a lack of proper historical sense, or to the indifference of the religious orders, that controlled and developed the literatures, towards the fleeting mundane affairs of life, there is no gainsaying that the historian of ancient India suffers greatly from the initial difficulty of the want of genuine works of historiography. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

The most striking feature, when compared with modern history, is the meagreness of our materials and the wide range over which they lie scattered. Accordingly, the historian must work like a miner with the pick and shovel of his perseverance and critical judgment to get at the gold of facts without the dross of courtly exaggerations and poetic embellishments. Quite often rocks intervene in the shape of conflicting claims, utter absence of dates, or prevalence of several eras at different periods and places, and it is only after overcoming these difficulties that we can achieve the object of building a connected and consistent account of ancient India. And here we must also bear in mind that the North is the predominant factor in our history, having been the centre of large empires that rose like waves in the sea and soon broke up into nothing. Albemni said: "The Hindus do not pay much attention to the historical order of things; they are very careless in relating the chronological succession of things, and when they are pressed for information and are at a loss not knowing what to say, they invariably take to tale-telling” (Sachau, Albertmi’s India, Vol. II, p. 10).

The sources of early Indian history may broadly be divided into two classes, literary and archaeological, which are either indigenous or foreign. Literary sources Non-Historical Works: The earliest literature of India is purely of a religious kind. The patience and industry of a multitude of scholars have, however, succeeded in extracting from it useful bits of history. For instance, the Vedas — specially the Kigveda — have furnished us with fragments of historical information relating to the progress of the Aryans in India, their internal divisions and wars with the “Dasyus” and other cognate topics. Similarly, the Brahmanas (e.g., Aitareya, Satapatha, Taittirlya) and the Upanisads, like the Brihadaranyaka and Chandogya, as also the Buddhist Pi takas, Nikayas, Ja takas, etc., and Jain canonical works (e.g., Kalpa Sutra, Uttardjjhayana Sutra) incidentally embody historical traditions that may be utilised with profit. Modern research has further demonstrated how such non-historical sources as the Gargi-Samhita, an astronomical work, or the dramas of Kalidasa and Bhasa, or even the chance illustrations of grammatical rules by Panini in the Astadhyayi, or by Patanjali in the Mahdbhasja, sometimes afford us welcome light on dark corners of history. But valuable and trustworthy as these casual references are, they are far too meagre to satisfy our curiosity.

So-called Historical Literature: Epics — the Ramdyana and the Mahabhdrata — represent the first notable attempts of the ancient Hindus in this direction. No doubt, they give interesting pictures of the then religious and social conditions, but as chronicles of political events they seem lamentably full of tale-telling and chronological aberrations. Next come the Puranas, eighteen in number, which are said to have been recited by the Suta Lomaharsana or his son (Sauti) UgraSravas. Normally, they should deal with five set subjects, (a) Sarga (primary creation), (b) Pratisarga (re-creation after periodical dissolution of the universe), (d) Vamda (genealogies of gods and Risis), (d) Manvantara (groups of mahayuga “great ages” in a Kalpa or aeon, in each of which the first father of mankind was Manu), (e) V am ianucarita (histories of old dynasties of kings). Of these, the last topic alone is important for the purpose of history, but it is found in the Matsya, Vayu, Visnu, Brahmanda, Bhagavata and Bhavisya only out of the extant Puranas. Thus, most of these “collections of ‘old world’ legends” have got no historical value whatsoever. Even the rest contain much that is manifestly mythological and altogether confused from the chronological point of view. They sometimes treat contemporaneous dynasties or rulers as successive, or omit some of them entirely (e.g., the Puranas are silent about the Kushans, Indo-Greeks Indo-Parthians, etc.). No dates are given, and even names of kings are not unoften inaccurate (cf. the list of Andhra kings). Notwithstanding these defects, the Puranas certainly transmit scraps of historical data, and it would not be fairTo disparage their authority roundly. Among other early productions relevant to our purpose, we may particularly mention Bana’s [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Harsacarita, Sandhyakaranandi’s Rdmacarita, Padmagupta’s Navasdhasatikacarita, Bilhana’s Vikramdnkaaevacarita, and Jayaratha’s Prithvirdja-vijaya. Unhappily, however, these works preserve very little historical matter, and are more of literary pieces, being full of elaboration, metaphor, and imagery. The only work in Sanskrit, which can be described as a near approach to history, as we understand it, is the Rdjatarangini of Kalhana. It was begun in 1 148 A. D., and is based on writings of previous chroniclers as well as on royal charters and laudatory inscriptions. Kalhana’s account of Kashmir for a few centuries immediately preceding his time is quite reliable, but for the earlier period he too is unfortunately subject to strange lapses. In addition to these, we cannot omit to consider the evidence of some southern, chiefly Tamil works (e.g., the Nandikkalambakatn, Ottakkuttan’s Kulottungan-Pillaittamil., Jayagondar’s Kalingattu-pparani, Rdjaraja-Jolan-Uld, ColavamSa-caritam, etc.); the Ceylonese chronicles, the DlpavamJa (fourth century A.D.), and the Mahavariisa (sixth century A.D.); and such Prakrit compositions as Vakpati’s Gaudavaho and Hemacandra’s jK umdrapdlacarita\ all of which demand a cautious and critical use. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Ancient Foreign Historical Sources

Not less valuable than the above sources are the accounts of foreign writers or travellers, whose knowledge of India was based either on hearsay or on actual stay in the country for a short time. To this category belong men of several nationalities — Greek, Roman, Chinese, Tibetan, and Muslim. The earliest reference to India is made by Herodotus who deposes to the political connection of North-western India with the Achaemenian empire in the fifth century B. C. Next, Alexander’s hurricane campaign in the Punjab and Sind formed the subject matter of a number of Greek and Roman works by Quintus Curtius, Diodoros Siculus, Arrian, Plutarch, and others; and the value of their testimony can best be judged from the fact that but for them we should have known nothing about the Macedonian invasion, so thoroughly have Indian writers maintained silence regarding this memorable episode. The Indika of Megasthenes, the Seleucid ambassador at the Maurya court, is another important source of information about the institutions, geography and products of India. It is now lost to us, but fragments are still preserved in the form of quotations by later authors, such as Arrian, Appian, Strabo, Justin, etc. Similarly, the Veriplus of the Erythrean Sea and Ptolemy’s Geography furnish geographical data of interest.[Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Like the classical (Greek and Roman) works, Chinese literature is also of great help in reconstructing ancient Indian history. There are numerous notices in it regarding the movements of the predatory Central Asian tribes that profoundly affected the destinies of India; and above all, we have the excellent narratives of Fa-hian (399-4x4 A. D.) 1, Yuan Chwang (629-45 A. D.) 2, and I-tsing (c. 673-95 A. D.) — three of the most distinguished pilgrims, who visited India in search of knowledge and with the desire to worship at the sites hallowed by the memory of the Buddha. Further, the works of the Tibetan Lama Taranatha, the Dulva and Tangyur, etc. may also be profitably consulted.

Then come the Muslim authors, who inform us how step by step the armies of Islam conquered India and introduced another vigorous factor into Indian polity. The most celebrated of such writers was Alberuni, a man of versatile intellect and a scholar of Sanskrit. He followed in the train of Mahmud’s invasions, and wrote in 1030 A. D. the Tahktk-i-Hind — a mine of information on India and her peoples. Still earlier Muslim writers were A1 Biladuri, Sulaiman (Silsilat-ut-Tawarlki b), and A1 Mas‘udi (Muriij-ul-Zahdb). Among other Muslim works, we may mention : Hassan Nizami’s Taj-ul-Maasir, Mirkhond’s Rau^at-us-Safd, Khond Mir’s Habib-us-Siyar, Firishta’s Tarikb-i-Firisbta, Nizamuddin’s Tabaqdt-i-Akbari, Minhajuddin’s Tabaqat-iNastrt, A1 Utbi’s Tarikh-i-Yamim, Ibn-ul-Athir’s AlTarikh-ul- Kamil.

The observations and writings of these foreigners are particularly valuable not only for the light they throw on the political events, society, manners, geography, and religion of ancient India, but also because they establish synchronisms in the troubled sea of Indian dates. Indeed, the identification of Sandrakottos with Candragupta Maurya has been regarded on almost all hands as the sheet-anchor of Indian chronology.

Archeological Sources of Ancient India History

Inscriptions: Where the literary sources are reticent or obscure, inscriptions fortunately come to our rescue. Many thousands of them, the earliest belonging to about the fourth or fifth century B. C. have been unearthed, and perhaps a large number still await the archaelogist’s spade. They are found engraved on rocks, pillars, stone tablets, metal plates, caves, etc., and are couched in the languages current at different periods and localities — Sanskrit, Pali, mixed dialects, or the languages of Southern India, vi^., Tamil, Telugu, Malayalam, and Kanarese. Some of them are of considerable literary merit too, being either in prose or verse or a combination of the two. The majority of inscriptions are in the Brahmi script, written from left to right; but a good number are also incised in Kharosthi running, like Arabic and Persian, from right to left. Their decipherment, which is a marvel of scholarship, reveals that their object is to record a donation, public or private, or to commemorate a great event, or the exploits of a conqueror. The edicts of Asoka, containing his ethical exhortations, are, of course, a class by themselves. The subject-matter of inscriptions is indeed very varied. There are even Sanskrit plays (e.g., at Dhar and Ajmer) and musical rules (e.g., at Kudimiyamalai, Pudukotta State) recorded on stone. The importance of these documents can hardly be over-emphasised. They are extremely useful in fixing dates, and often regulate and supplement what we learn from literature and other sources. For instance, in the absence of such epigraphic evidence the veil of oblivion would hang heavily even on rulers like Kharavela or Samudragupta 1, and our knowledge of the mediaeval Hindu dynasties would be altogether incomplete. Sometimes foreign inscriptions, too, unexpectedly lend us aid. Thus, the Boghaz-Koi (Asia Minor) inscriptions, which mention Vedic gods, probably testify to the movements of Aryan tribes. We have elsewhere referred to the contact of India with ancient Iran, and curiously it is confirmed by inscriptions discovered at Persepolis and Naksh-i-Rustam 2. Similarly, inscriptions throw a flood of light on the political and cultural relations between India and the Far East in early times.

Coins: The next guides, we may appeal to, are coins. Like the inscriptions, they corroborate the information derived from literature, and often modify or amplify it. They are of various metals — gold, silver, copper, or alloy, and contain legends or simple marks. Those with dates are doubdess very valuable for the framework of Indian chronology, but even undated and anonymous ones yield fruitful results when we carefully consider their fabric and type. Coins are almost our sole evidence with regard to the Indo-Scythian and Indo-Baktrian kings — Indian authors having completely ignored the latter except Menander. Coins shed remarkable light on the existence of ganas (autonomous communities) in ancient India, and also on the religious predilections of certain monarchs (e.g., of Kaniska) and their personal accomplishments (e.g., of Samudragupta). The purity of the metal undoubtedly reflects the economic conditions of the time, and the provenance of the coins helps us in fixing the limits of a kingdom. But the latter must be applied cautiously. For the discovery of Roman coins in South India would by no means indicate an extension of Roman power or political influence in India. It only recalls the famous lament of Pliny over the drain of Roman gold to this country in exchange for articles of luxury and spices, etc. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Monuments: Last, are the monuments. They are not directly concerned with political history, but these temples. Stupas, and monasteries (vihdras) vividly depict the artistic achievements and religious devotion of the people and princes alike. The monumental remains in foreign lands open to us a rather unknown chapter of India’s ancient glory. Shrines, dedicated to Siva, on the Dieng plateau (Java), and the vast panorama of bas-reliefs on the walls in the colossal temples at Boro-Bodur and Prambanam (central Java), as also the remarkable ruins at Angkor Vat and Angkor Thom (Kambuja), reveal the hand of Indians, and show that they had migrated to the Far East and spread their power and culture there. Even for purposes of chronology, the evidence of monuments cannot be entirely despised, for experts have demonstrated how important conclusions follow a close study of the stratification of buildings. Further, it may not be out of place to add here that sculptures and paintings (e.g., at Ajanta) occasionally illumine our path where we might otherwise have walked with faltering steps. [Source: “History of Ancient India” by Rama Shankar Tripathi, Professor of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Benares Hindu University, 1942]

Major Rulers of South Asia in the 11th to 16th Centuries

Dynasty, Ruler, Muslim dates A.H., Christian dates A.D. [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Early 5th c.–612 Early 11th c.–1215
Wettin Muhammad 11–40 632–61
Abu cAli ?–451 ?–1059
Muhammad After 451–? 1059–?
Hasan ?–493 ?–1100
Husayn I 493–540 1100–46
Suri 540–44 1146–49
Sam I 544 1149
Husayn II 544–56 1149–61
Muhammad 556–58 1161–63
Muhammad 558–69 1163–73
Muhammad (ruler in Ghazna) 569–99 1173–1203
Muhammad 599–602 1203–6
Mahmud 602 1206
Sam II 609–10 1212–13
[Atsiz, vassal of Khwarazmshah 610–11 1213–14]
[Muhammad, vassal of Khwarazmshah 611–12 1214–15]
Bamiyan, Tukharistan, Badakhshan 540–612 1145–1215

Delhi Sultanate
602–962 1206–1555
Mu'izzi (Shamsi slave kings) Qutb al–Din Aybak 602–7 1206–10
Aram Shah 607 1210–11
Iltutmish 607–33 1211–36
Firuz Shah I 633–34 1236
Radiyya Begum 634–37 1236–40
Bahram Shah 637–39 1240–42
Mascud Shah 639–44 1242–66
Mahmud Shah I 644–64 1246–66
Balban/Ulugh Khan/Ghiyath al–Din (joint rule) 664–86 1266–87
Kay Qubadh 686–89 1287–90
Kayumarth 689 1290
Khalji Firuz Shah II 689–95 1290–96
Ibrahim Shah I 695 1296
Muhammad Shah I 695–715 1296–1316
cUmar Shah 715–16 1316
Mubarak Shah 716–20 1316–20
Tughluq Tughluq Shah I 720–25 1320–25
Muhammad Shah II 725–52 1325–51
Firuz Shah III 752 1351
[Ghiyath al–Din Mahmud (puppet ruler for rebel leader) 752–89 1351–87]
Muhammad Shah III/Firuz Shah III (joint rule) 789–790 1387–88
Tughluq Shah II 790–91? 1388–89?
Firuz Shah Zafar 791? 1389?
[Abu Bakr Shah (in Delhi) 791–93 1389–91]
[Muhammad Shah III (in provinces and then Delhi) 793–96 1391–94]
Sikandar Shah I 796 1394
Mahmud Shah II (1st reign) 796–97 1394–95
[Nusrat Shah (in Firuzabad) 797–804 1395–1401]
Mahmud Shah II (2nd reign) 804–15 1401–12
Sayyid Khidr Khan 817–24 1414–21
Mubarak Shah II 824–37 1421–34
Muhammad Shah IV 837–47 1434–43
Alam Shah 847–55 1443–51
Lodi Bahlul 855–94 1451–89
Sikandar II 894–923 1489–1517
Ibrahim II 923–32 1517–26
Suris Shir Shah Sur 947–52 1540–45
Islam Shah 952–61 1545–54
Muhammad V 961 1554
Ibrahim Khan III 961–62 1554–55
Ahmad Khan Sikandar Shah III 962 1555

Regional Rulers of South Asia in the 12th to 16th Centuries

Dynasty, Ruler, Muslim dates A.H., Christian dates A.D. [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Governors/Sultans of Bengal
594–984 1198–1576
Governors for Delhi Sultans Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji 594–603 1198–1206
cAli Mardan (1st reign) 603 1206–7
Muhammad Shiran Khan 603–4 1207–8
Iwad (1st reign) 604–7 1208–10
cAli Mardan (2nd reign) 607–10 1210–13
Iwad (2nd reign) 610–24 1213–27
Mahmud 624–26 1227–29
Bilge Khan 626–29 1229–32
Mascud Jani 629–30 1232–33
Aybak Khita'I 630–33 1233–36
A'or Khan Aybak 633 1236
Toghril Toghan Khan 633–42 1236–44
Temur Qiran Khan 642–45 1244–47
Mascud Jani (1st reign) 645–49 1247–51
Yuzbak 649–55 1251–57
Balban Yuzbaki (1st reign) 655–57 1257–59
Mascud Jani (2nd reign) 657 1259
Balban Yuzbaki (2nd reign) 657 1259
Muhammad Arslan Khan Sanjar 657–63 1259–65
Tatar Khan 663–66 1265–68
Shir Khan 666–70 1268–72
Toghril 670–80 1272–81
Governors of Balban line 681–984 1282–1576

Sultans of Kashmir
739–996 1339–1588
Shah Mir Swati line Shah Mir Swati 739–43 1339–42
Jamshid 743–45 1342–44
cAli Shir 745–55 1344–54
Shirashamak 755–75 1354–74
Hindal 775–92 1374–90
Sikandar 792–813 1390–1410
cAli Mir Khan 813–23 1410–20
Shahi Khan 823–75 1420–70
Hajji Khan 875–76 1470–72
Hasan Shah 876–89 1472–84
Muhammad Shah (1st reign) 889–92 1484–87
Fath Shah (1st reign) 892–904 1487–99
Muhammad Shah (2nd reign) 904–10 1499–1505
Fath Shah (2nd reign) 910–22 1505–16
Muhammad Shah (3rd reign) 922–34 1516–28
Ibrahim Shah (1st reign) 934–35 1528–29
Nadir Shah 935–36 1529–30
Muhammad Shah (4th reign) 936–43 1530–37
Shams al–Din 943–47 1537–40
Isma'il Shah (1st reign) 947 1540
[Mirza Haydar Dughlat (Mughal governor) 947–58 1540–51]
Nadir Shah (2nd reign) 958–59 1551–52
Ibrahim Shah (2nd reign) 959–62 1552–55
Isma'il Shah (2nd reign) 962–64 1555–57
Habib Shah 964–68 1557–61
Ghazi Khan Chak line Ghazi Khan Chak 968–71 1561–63
Husayn Shah 971–78 1563–70
Muhammad cAli Shah 978–87 1570–79
Yusuf Shah 987–94 1579–86
Ya'qub Shah 994–96 1586–88

Regional Rulers of South Asia in the 15th and 16th Centuries

Sultans of Gujarat
806–991 1403–1583
Muhammad Shah I 806–10 1403–7
Muzaffar Shah I 810–14 1407–11
Ahmad Shah I 814–46 1411–42
Muhammad Shah II 846–55 1442–51
Jalal Khan 855–62 1451–58
Dawud Khan 862 1458
Fath Khan 862–917 1458–1511
Muzaffar Shah II 917–32 1511–26
Sikandar 932 1526
Mahmud Shah II 932 1526
Bahadur Shah (1st reign) 932–41 1526–35
[Mughal occupation 941–42 1535–36]
Bahadur Shah (2nd reign) 942–43 1536–37
Mahmud Shah III 943–62 1537–54
Ahmad Shah III 962–68 1554–61
Muzaffar Shah III (1st reign) 968–80 1561–73
[Mughal occupation 980–91 1573–83]
Muzaffar Shah III (2nd reign) 991 1583
Sharqi Sultans of Jaunpur
796–888 1394–1483

Sultans of Malwa
804–969 1402–1562
Ghuri Amid Shah Dawud 804–9 1402–6
Hushang Shah 809–38 1406–35
Muhammad Shah Ghuri 838–39 1435–36
Mascud Khan 839 1436
Khalji Mahmud Shah I 839–73 1436–69
Ghiyath al–Din 873–906 1469–1501
Nasir al–Din Shah 906–16 1501–10
[Mahmud Shah II (vassal of Sultans of Gujarat) 917–37 1511–31]
Independent rulers 939–69 1533–62
Sultans of Ma'bar or Madura
734–79 1334–77

748–934 1347–1528
Ahsanabad (Gulbarga) Zafar Khan 748–59 1347–58
Muhammad I 759–76 1358–75
Mujahid 776–80 1375–78
Dawud I 780 1378
Muhammad II 780–99 1378–97
Ghiyath al–Din Tahamtan 799 1397
Dawud Shah II 799–800 1397
Firuz Shah 800 1397
Muhammadabad (Bidar) Ahmad I 825–39 1422–36
Ahmad II 839–62 1436–58
Humayun Shah 862–65 1458–61
Ahmad III 865–67 1461–63
Muhammad III 867–87 1463–82
Mahmud Shah 887–924 1482–1518
Nominal sultans under control of chief minister, Amir cAli Barid 924–34 1518–28

Faruqi Rulers of Khandesh
784–1009 1382–1601

Barid Shahi
892–1028 1487–1619
cAdil Shahi
895–1097 1489–1686
Yusuf cAdil Khan 895–916 1489–1510
Isma'il 916–41 1510–34
Mallu 941 1534–35
Ibrahim I 941–65 1535–58
cAli I 965–87 1558–79
Ibrahim II 987–1035 1579–1626
Muhammad 1035–66 1626–56
cAli II 1066–83 1656–72
Sikandar 1083–97 1672–86
Nizam Shahi
895–1046 1490–1636
Ahmad Nizam Shah Bahri 895–915 1490–1509
Burhan I 915–61 1509–54
Husayn I 961–72
Murtada I 972–97 1565–89
Husayn II 997–98 1589–90
Isma'il 998–99 1590–91
Burhan II 999–1003 1591–95
Ibrahim 1003–4 1595
Bahadur [Mughal capture of Ahmadnagar] 1004–9 1595–1600
Murtada II 1009–19 1600–10
Burhan III 1019–41 1610–32
Husayn III 1041–43 1632–33

cImad Shahi
896–982 1491–1574
Fath Allah Darya Khan 890 1485
cAla al–Din 890–939 1485–1533
Darya 939–69 1533–62
Burhan 969–82 1562–74

Qutb Shahi
901–1098 1496 –1687
Sultan Quli Khwass Khan Baharlu 901–50 1496–1543
Yar Quli Jamshid 950–57 1543–50
Subhan 957 1550
Ibrahim 957–88 1550–80
Muhammad Quli 988–1020 1580–1612
Muhammad 1020–35 1612–26
cAbdullah 1035–83 1626–72
Abu'l Hasan 1083–98 1672–87

926–99 1520–91


Dynasty, Ruler, Muslim dates A.H., Christian dates A.D. [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Babur 932–36 1526–30
[Kamran (in Kandahar) 936–60 1530–40]
Humayun (1st reign) 937–47 1530–40
[Suri Sultans of Delhi 947–62 1540–55]
Humayun (2nd reign) 962–63 1555–56
Akbar I 963–1014 1556–1605
Jahangir 1014–37 1605–27
Dawar Baksh 1037 1627–28
Shah Jahan I 1037–68 1628–58
[Murad Bakhsh (in Gujarat) 1068 1657]
[Shah Shuja (in Bengal) 1068–69 1657–59]
[Dara Shikoh (in Agra) 1068–69 1657–59]
Aurangzeb 1068–1118 1658–1707
[Aczam Shah (in northern India) 1118 1707]
[Kam Baksh (in Deccan) 1118–20 1707–9]
Shah cAlam I Bahadur 1118–24 1707–12
[cAzim al–Shacn Muhammad cAzim (claimant) 1124 1712]
Jahandar 1124 1712–13
Farrukh–siyar 1124–31 1713–19
Rafic al–Darajat 1131 1713–19
Shah Jahan II 1131 1719
Niku–siyar Muhammad 1131 1719
[Ibrahim] 1132–33 1720]
Muhammad Shah 1131–61 1719–48
Ahmad Shah Bahadur 1161–67 1748–54
Alamgir II 1167–73 1754–59
[Shah Jahan III 1173 1759]
Shah Alam II (1st reign) 1173–1202 1759–88
Bidar Bakht 1202–3 1788
Shah Alam II (2nd reign) 1203–21 1788–1806
Akbar II 1221–53 1806–37
Bahadur Shah II 1253–74 1837–58

Regional Rulers of South Asia in the 18th to 19th Centuries

Dynasty, Ruler, Muslim dates A.H., Christian dates A.D. [Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art]

Nawabs of Bengal
1116–1274 1704–1858
Murshid Quli Khan 1116–38 1704–25
Shuja Khan 1138–51 1725–39
Sarfaraz Khan 1151–53 1739–40
cAliwirdi Khan 1153–69 1740–56
Mirza Mahmud 1169–70 1756–57
Mir Jacfar (1st reign) 1170–74 1757–60
Mir Qasim cAli 1174–77 1760–63
Mir Jacfar (2nd reign) 1177–78 1763–65

Nawabs of Awadh
1134–1272 1722–1856
Sayyid Muhammad Amin Sacadat Khan Bahadur 1134–52 1722–39
Abu Mansur Khan 1152–67 1739–54
Haydar 1167–89 1754–75
Asaf al–Dawla 1189–1212 1775–97
Wazir cAli 1212–13 1797–98
Sacadat cAli Khan 1213–29 1798–1814
Haydar I 1229–43 1814–27
Haydar II 1243–53 1827–37
Muhammad cAli 1253–58 1837–42
Amjad cAli Thurayya Jah 1258–63 1842–47
Wajid cAli 1263–72 1847–56

Nizam of Hyderabad
1137–1367 1724–1948
Chin Qilich Khan 1132–61 1720–48
Nasir Jang 1161–64 1748–51
Muzaffar Jang 1164–65 1751–52
Salabat Jang 1165–75 1752–62
Nizam cAli Khan 1175–1218 1762–1803
Sikandar Jah 1218–44 1803–29
Farkhanda cAli Khan 1244–73 1829–57
Mir Mahbub cAli I 1273–85 1857–69
Mir Mahbub cAli II 1285–1329 1869–1911
Mir cUthman cAli Khan Bahadur Fath Jang 1329–67 1911–48

Rulers in Mysore
1173–1213 1760–99
1160–1393 1747–1973

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Ministry of Tourism, Government of India, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, and various books, websites and other publications.

Last updated September 2020

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