HISTORY AND CULTURE OF INDIA
PRE-HISTORIC ERA IN INDIA
India has a rich and vast history, which has given the country a prominent place among the
nations of the world. Its vibrant and varied culture, customs and traditions, world renowed
monuments , has enriched the lives of the people dwelling in it.For better understanding it
has been divided in to three era , namely Ancient history, Medieval history and Modern
Ancient History -STONE AGE
Bhimbetka rock painting
Isolated remains of Homo erectus in Hathnora in the Narmada Valley in Central India
indicate that India might have been inhabited since at least the Middle Pleistocene era,
somewhere between 200,000 to 500,000 years ago.
The Mesolithic period in the Indian subcontinent covered a timespan of around 25,000
years, starting around 30,000 years ago.
The first confirmed permanent settlements appeared 9,000 years ago in the Rock
Shelters of Bhimbetka in modern Madhya Pradesh.
Late Neolithic cultures sprang up in the Indus Valley region between 6000 and 2000
BCE and in southern India between 2800 and 1200 BCE.
Spear heads from the Bronze age Greek Pottery
The Indus Valley Civilization
The Bronze Age on the Indian subcontinent began around 3300 BCE with the
beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization. Inhabitants of the ancient Indus river
valley, the Harappans, developed new techniques in metallurgy and produced
copper, bronze, lead and tin.
The Indus Valley Civilization which flourished from about 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE
marked the beginning of the urban civilization on the subcontinent. The ancient
civilization included urban centers such as Harappa and Mohenjo-daro (in modern
day Pakistan), Dholavira and Lothal (in modern day India).
The Vedic culture is the Indo-Aryan culture associated
with the Hindu sacred texts of Vedas, which were orally
composed in Vedic Sanskrit. Vedas are some of the
oldest extant texts. This period lasted from about 1500
BCE to 500 BCE.
The principal texts of Hinduism (the Vedas), the epics
(the Ramayana and Mahabharata) are said to have
their ultimate origins during this period.
IRON AGE WEAPONS
PERSIAN AND GREEK INVASIONS
Alexander the Great
In 334 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Asia
Minor and the Achaemenid Empire, reaching the north-
west frontiers of the Indian subcontinent.
There, he defeated King Puru in the Battle of the
Hydaspes (near modern-day Jhelum, Pakistan) and
conquered much of the Punjab; however, Alexander's
troops refused to go beyond the Hyphases (Beas) River
near modern day Jalandhar, Punjab.
Alexander left many Macedonian veterans in the
conquered regions; he himself turned back and marched
his army southwest.
The Indian Emperor Ashoka
Map depicting the largest extent of the Mauryan Empire in dark blue, and al ied or friendly areas in light blue
In 321 BCE, exiled general Chandragupta Maurya, under direct patronage of the
genius of Chanakya, founded the Maurya dynasty after overthrowing the reigning
king Dhana Nanda. Chandragupta was succeeded by his son Bindusara. Bindusara's
kingdom was inherited by his son Ashoka the Great who initially sought to expand
In the aftermath of the carnage caused in the invasion of Kalinga, he renounced
bloodshed and pursued a policy of non-violence or ahimsa after converting to
The Edicts of Ashoka are the oldest preserved historical documents of India, and
from Ashoka's time, approximate dating of dynasties becomes possible..
EARLY MIDDLE KINGDOMS — THE GOLDEN AGE
The middle period was a time of notable cultural development. The Satavahanas, also
known as the Andhras, were a dynasty which ruled in Southern and Central India
starting from around 230 BCE. Satakarni, the sixth ruler of the Satvahana dynasty,
defeated the Sunga dynasty of North India.
The Kushanas invaded north-western India about the middle of the 1st century CE,
from Central Asia, and founded an empire that eventually stretched from Peshawar to
the middle Ganges and, perhaps, as far as the Bay of Bengal.
Different empires such as the Pandyan Kingdom, Early Cholas, Chera dynasty,
Kadamba Dynasty, Western Ganga Dynasty, Pallavas and Chalukya dynasty
dominated the southern part of the Indian peninsula, at different periods of time.
Roman trade with India
Roman trade with India started around 1 CE following
thereign of Augustus and his conquest of Egypt, therefore
India's biggest trade partner in the West.
Coin of the Roman emperor Augustus found at the Pudukottai hoard.
In the 4th and 5th centuries, the Gupta Dynasty
unified northern India. During this period, known as
India's Golden Age of Hindu renaissance, Hindu
culture, science and political administration reached
Chandragupta I, Samudragupta, and Chandragupta II were
the most notable rulers of the Gupta dynasty. After the
collapse of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century, India was
again ruled by numerous regional kingdoms.
Famous ancient fresco from the Ajanta Caves, made during the Gupta period.
LATE MIDDLE KINGDOMS — THE CLASSICAL AGE
Hoysala Empire architecture Chola architecture
The classical age in India began with the resurgence of the north during Harsha's
conquests around the 7th century, and ended with the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire
in the South, due to pressure from the invaders to the north in the 13th century.
This period produced some of India's finest art, considered the epitome of classical
development, and the development of the main spiritual and philosophical systems
which continued to be in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.
The Hindu Vijayanagar dynasty[Karnata Rajya] came into conflict with Islamic rule
(the Bahmani Kingdom) and caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign culture
that left lasting cultural influences on each other. The Vijaynagar Empire eventually
declined due to pressure from the first Delhi Sultanates .
THE ISLAMIC SULTANATES
After the Arab invasion of India's ancient western
neighbour Persia, expanding forces in that area were keen
to invade India, which was the richest classical civilization,
with a flourishing international trade and the only known
diamond mines in the world.
After resistance for a few centuries by various north Indian
kingdoms, short lived Islamic empires (Sultanates) got
established and spread across the northern subcontinent over a
period of a few centuries.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, Arabs, Turks and Afghans invaded parts of northern
India and established the Delhi Sultanate at the beginning of the 13th century.
The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-
Muslim" fusion of cultures left lasting syncretism monuments in architecture, music,
literature, religion, and clothing.
The Delhi Sultanate is the only Indo-Islamic empire to stake a claim to enthroning one
of the few female rulers in India, Razia Sultan (1236-1240).
Informed about civil war in India, a Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur began a trek
starting in 1398 to invade the reigning Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughluq
Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi. The Sultan's army was defeated on
December 17, 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left
THE MUGHAL ERA
Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur Akbar the Great
Emperor Jahangir Auranzeb Alamgir I
Coin Humayun's Tomb
Fatehpur Sikri Akbar's Capital Mausoleum, Agra
In 1526, Babur, a Timurid descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan, swept across the
Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire in India, which lasted for over 200
The Mughal Dynasty ruled most of the Indian subcontinent by 1600; it went into a
slow decline after 1707 and was finally defeated during the 1857 war of independence
also called the Indian rebellion of 1857.
This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority were
ruled over by the Mughal emperors, some of whom showed religious tolerance,
liberally patronising Hindu culture, and some of whom destroyed historical temples
and imposed taxes on non-Muslims.
Akbar the Great declared "Amari" or non-killing of animals in the holy days of
Jainism. He rolled back the Jazia Tax for non-Muslims. The Mughal Emperors married
local royalty, allied themselves with local Maharajas, and attempted to fuse their
Turko-Persian culture with ancient Indian styles, creating unique Indo-Saracenic
architecture. It was the erosion of this tradition coupled with increased brutality and
centralisation that played a large part in their downfall after Aurangzeb, who unlike
previous emperors, imposed relatively non-pluralistic policies on the general
population, that often inflamed the majority Hindu population.
POST-MUGHAL REGIONAL KINGDOMS
Forts built by Shivaji
The post-Mughal era was dominated by the rise of the Maratha which was founded
and consolidated by Shivaji. By the 18th century, it had transformed itself into the
Maratha Empire under the rule of the Peshwas. By 1760, the Empire had stretched
across practically the entire subcontinent. This expansion was brought to an end by
the defeat of the Marathas by an Afghan army led by Ahmad Shah Abdali at the Third
Battle of Panipat (1761). The last Peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the
Third Anglo-Maratha War.
Mysore was a kingdom of southern India, which was founded around 1400 AD by the
Wodeyar dynasty. The rule of the Wodeyars was interrupted by Hyder Ali and his
son Tippu Sultan. Under their rule Mysore fought a series of wars sometimes against
the combined forces of the British and Marathas, but mostly against the British with
some aid or promise of aid from the French.
The Punjabi kingdom, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity
that governed the region of modern day Punjab.
Vasco da Gama's maritime success to discover for Europeans a
new sea route to India in 1498 paved the way for direct Indo-
The Portuguese soon set up trading-posts in Goa, Daman, Diu
and Bombay. The next to arrive were the Dutch, the British—
who set up a trading-post in the west-coast port of Surat in
1619—and the French. The internal conflicts among Indian
Kingdoms gave opportunities to the European traders to
gradually establish political influence and appropriate lands.
The British Raj
The British East India Company had been given permission by the Mughal emperor
Jahangir in 1617 to trade in India. Gradually their increasing influence led the de-jure
Mughal emperor Farrukh Siyar to grant them dastaks or permits for duty free trade in
Bengal in 1717. The Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah, the de facto ruler of the Bengal
province, opposed British attempts to use these permits. This led to the Battle of
Plassey in 1757, in which the 'army' of East India Company, led by Robert Clive,
defeated the Nawab's forces. This was the first political foothold with territorial
implications that the British acquired in India.
Clive was appointed by the Company as its first 'Governor of Bengal' in 1757. After
the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the Company acquired the civil rights of administration in
Bengal from the Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II; it marked the beginning of its formal
The East India Company monopolized the trade of Bengal. They introduced a land
taxation system called the Permanent Settlement which introduced a feudal like
structure in Bengal. By the 1850s, the East India Company controlled most of the
Indian sub-continent, which included present-day Pakistan and Bangladesh. Their
policy was sometimes summed up as Divide and Rule, taking advantage of the
enmity festering between various princely states and social and religious groups.
The first major movement against the British Company's high handed rule resulted in
the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also known as the "Indian Mutiny" or "Sepoy Mutiny" or
the "First War of Independence". After a year of turmoil, and reinforcement of the East
India Company's troops with British soldiers, the British overcame the rebellion. The
nominal leader of the uprising, the last Mughal emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, was
exiled to Burma, his children were beheaded and the Moghul line abolished. In the
aftermath all power was transferred from the East India Company to the British
Crown, which began to administer most of India as a colony; the Company's lands
were controlled directly and the rest through the rulers of what it called the Princely
THE INDIAN INDEPENDENCE MOVEMENT
Gandhi And Nehru Bal Gangadhar Tilak Bhagat Singh Val abh Bhai Patel Dr. Ambedkar
The first step toward Indian independence and western-style democracy was taken
with the appointment of Indian councillors to advise the British viceroy, and with the
establishment of provincial Councils with Indian members the councillors'
participation was subsequently widened in legislative councils.
From 1920 leaders such as Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi began mass movements
like Non co-operation movement, Salt Satyagraha, Swadeshi Movement, Civil
Disobedience Movement through his weapons of Satyagraha and non-violence and
campaign against the British Raj.
Revolutionary activities of patriots like Bhagat Singh and many unsung heores against
the British rule took place throughout the Indian sub-continent, these movements
succeeded in bringing Independence to the Indian sub-continent on 15th August 1947.
The foundation for the democratic and secular nation was laid down in the
Constitution of India under the guidance of Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar.
Culture of India
The culture of India has been shaped by the long history of
India, its unique geography and the absorption of customs,
traditions and ideas from some of its neighbors as well as by
preserving its ancient heritages, which were formed during the
Indus Valley Civilization and evolved further during the Vedic
age, rise and decline of Buddhism, Golden age, Muslim
conquests and European colonization.
India's great diversity of cultural practices, languages, customs,
and traditions are examples of this unique co-mingling over the
past five millennia.
India is also the birth place of several religious systems such as
Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, and Sikhism, some of which
have had a large influence in other parts of the world.
The great number of languages in India
have added to the diverse cultures and
traditions at both regional and national
216 languages are spoken by a group of
more than 10,000 people; however there
are many others which are spoken by
fewer than 10,000 people.
All together, there are 415 living
languages in India.
The Constitution of India has stipulated
the usage of Hindi and English to be the
two official languages of communication
for the Union Government.
Languages spoken in India
Purandara Dasa, one of the most
prominent composers of Carnatic music.
The music of India includes multiples varieties of religious, folk, popular, pop, and classical
music. The oldest preserved examples of Indian music are the melodies of the Samaveda.
India's classical music tradition is heavily influenced by Hindu texts. It includes Carnatic
and Hindustani music and is noted for the use of several Raga, has a history spanning
millennia, and, developed over several eras, remains instrumental to the religious
inspiration, cultural expression and pure entertainment. Alongside distinctly subcontinental
forms, there are some similarities with other types of Oriental music.
Odissi dance Bharatnatyam Kathak
Indian dance too has diverse folk and classical forms. Among the well-known folk
dances are the bhangra of the Punjab, the bihu of Assam, the chhau of Jharkhand and
Orissa and the ghoomar of Rajasthan.
Eight dance forms, many with narrative forms and mythological elements, have been
accorded classical dance status by India's National Academy of Music, Dance, and
Drama. These are: bharatanatyam of the state of Tamil Nadu, kathak of Uttar Pradesh,
kathakali and mohiniattam of Kerala, kuchipudi of Andhra Pradesh, manipuri of
Manipur, odissi of the state of Orissa and the sattriya of Assam.
Kalarippayattu or Kalari for short is one of the world's oldest
martial art. It is preserved in texts such as the Mallapurana.
Kalari and other later formed martial arts have been assumed
by some to have traveled to China, like Buddhism, and
eventually developing into Kung-fu.
Other later martial arts are Gatka,Pehlwani,and Malla-
yuddha. There have been many great practitioners of Indian
martial Arts including Bodhidharma who supposedly
brought Indian martial arts to China.
Eastern Indian Martial Arts