Ancient India

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*Ancient India History map depicting names of important historical places of Ancient India, Ancient India map, ancient india cultures and facts of ancient india.

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Period of Indian history can be marked as the ancient period



The history of the country of India can be traced from the human activities of the age dating back to the past 75, 000 years. Some remains of the extinct species of Homo Erectus dates back to the past 5, 00, 000 years though. However, Indus Valley Civilization, spread in the north western side of the nation during the period of c. 3300 BC to 1300 BC being India's first civilization, is marked as the main beginning of the ancient history of India. Starting from that period till the end of the Golden Age is roughly marked as the country's ancient history.

Different divisions of India's ancient history



The ancient period in the Indian history can be broadly categorized into the following heads:
  • Pre-historic Period
  • Early Historic Era
  • The Golden Age

Has the pre-historic age in India got any sub-divisions?



This age of the Indian history is mainly sub-divided into two parts, which are discussed below:
  1. Stone Age: The period starts from the age of Homo erectus and continues till the starting of the Indus Valley Civilization. Homo erectus remains including crafted tools found near the Narmada Valley prove that the central part of India was inhabited during the period dating back in between the past 5, 00, 000 years and 2, 00, 000 years. The oldest archaeological site was found near the river valley of the Soan River, which is a site of Palaeolithic Hominid. The Neolithic Age featured by extensive settlements followed the Mesolithic Age. The findings of Mehrgarh, dating back to 7000 BC near Balochistan in Pakistan represents the early South Asian Neolithic culture. This culture even gets reflected from the remains of the civilization of Indus Valley, which was the earliest urban civilization of India.

  2. Bronze Age: The earlier part of the Indus Valley Civilization, which is even known as the Mohenjodaro - Harappa Civilization dating back to 3300 BC marks the beginning of the Bronze Age. Originating from the banks of the river Indus and its tributaries, primarily, the civilization was located in the present day Gujarat, Haryana, Rajasthan and Punjab states of India and some parts of Pakistan. The archeological findings of this civilization prove the handcrafted and metallurgical techniques developed by the Harappans who were the inhabitants of that region. The civilization of Mohenjodaro and Harappa reached its matured stage during the period in between 2600 BC to 1900 BC. Known for its improved brick multi-storied establishments and modernized drainage system, the civilization includes some famous urban centers in India like Dholavira, Kalibangan, Lothal, Rakhigarhi and Rupar.

Different sub-divisions of the early historic era



Following are the different sub-divisions of India's early historic period:
  1. Vedic period: Lasting from around 1500 BC to 500 BC, this historical period gained its name from the sacred text of Hindus, the Vedas. Vedic Civilization marked the foundation of Hindu religion and its association with Indian culture. The Rig-Vedic period witnessed the social as well as agricultural development of the Aryan society. It was during this early historical time that the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the two great Sanskrit epics came into existence. The starting of the Iron Age in India's north western side portrayed the Kuru's association with the painted red, black and grey wares dating back to about 1000 BC. Those grey painted wares flourished more in between the period of 1100 BC and 600 BC. The later part of this era was associated with the Mahajanapadas, the sixteen kingdoms.

  2. Mahajanapadas: Mahajanapadas, meaning "Great kingdoms", was a combination of sixteen small republics and monarchies stretched over the region from Afghanistan to Bangladesh on the Indo-Gangetic plains. The early Jaina and Buddhist texts of 1000 BC have the names of those Janapadas mentioned in them. The sixteen Mahajanapadas formed by 500 BC are as follows:
    • Anga
    • Assaka
    • Avanti
    • Chedi
    • Gandhara
    • Kamboja
    • Kasi
    • Kosala
    • Kuru
    • Magadha
    • Malla
    • Matsya or Machcha
    • Panchala
    • Surasena
    • Vajji or Vriji
    • Vatsa or Vamsa
    However, by the time of 500 BC or 400 BC, during the period of Gautama Buddha, these sixteen monarchies were combined to make four big kingdoms of Avanti, Magadha, Kosala and Vatsa. This period of Mahajanapadas was featured with languages like Prakrit, which was the spoken language of northern India and Sanskrit, the educated speech. Apart from that, the different rituals of Hinduism were conducted by the class of priests. Gautama Buddha attained enlightenment in 537 BC.

  3. Greek and Persian conquests: Cyrus, the Persian King of the Achaemenid Empire conquered the country in 530 BC. During their rule of two centuries, Takshashila emerged as a major hub of learning. Persian ascendancy towards the northern part of the country was checked by the Great Alexander's Persian conquest in 327 BC. These invasions had remarkable influence over Indian civilization.

  4. Period of Maurya Empire: Ruling India in between the time of 322 BC and 185 BC, the Maurya Empire is regarded as the first main kingdom in the ancient history of India who was geographically extensive as well as politically powerful. Founded in Magadha by Chandragupta Maurya, the empire had military strength as well. However, the empire flourished most during the 37 years' rule of Ashoka the Great from 268 BC to 232 BC. Apart from an efficient and modern socio-economic society, this period of Indian history even witnessed the massive development of slavery. The Ashokan inscriptions and the Arthashastra written by Kautilya are the main written records of this period.

Information about the Golden Age in India



The Golden Age in the ancient history of India included the rule of the following dynasties:
  1. Satavahana Empire: The decline of the Maurya dynasty marked the emergence of the Satavahanas. Established by King Simuka, this dynasty was spread over a huge area of western as well as southern part of the country. Though this empire ruled India from 50 BC to 250 AD, still it earned its fame during the reign of Satakarni I. Besides the flourishing of Buddhism, their rule was featured with great works of art as well as architecture. Many Buddhist Chaityas, Stupas and Viharas were constructed in the country during this period.

  2. Kushan Empire: Among the several kingdoms emerging during the period in between 185 BC and 300 AD, Kushans were the biggest. It was during this period that India witnessed a rise in the country's foreign trade, art and culture. Originating from Turkistan in China, the Kushans established their empires in Peshawar and Taxila. Numerous foreigners migrated to India during the period from 200 BC to 100 AD. Kanishka who was the third emperor of this dynasty made the empire flourish most.

  3. Gupta Dynasty:
    Being one of the largest empires in the world, who had military and political strength, the rule of the Gupta Empire is said to be India's Golden Age. Though the empire was established by Srigupta I, a Magadhan ruler, Chandragupta laid the foundation of this great dynasty as well as combated foreign invasions. Some of the other prominent rulers of this dynasty were Samudragupta, Chandragupta II, Kumargupta I and Skandagupta. In spite of his heroic efforts, it was during the time of Skandagupta that the Gupta dynasty failed to survive the repeated Hun invasions.

The history of India is shrouded in antiquity. The country has been thought of as a nation of philosophers with a well-developed and even idyllic society.

Excavations of sites belonging to the Harappan era show that the people lived in brick houses in towns with excellent drainage. One of the oldest scriptures in the world is the four volume Vedas that many regard as the repository of national thoughts that anticipated some of the modern scientific discoveries. Despite formidable barriers in the form of the mighty Himalayas and oceans, India also received a succession of foreigners, many of them carrying swords and guns. But nearly all of them stayed on. Out of these waves of immigration has emerged the composite culture of India and made it a land of unity in diversity. India became a land of assimilation and learning, a land of change and continuity. According to the one school of thoughts, the Aryans were among the first to arrive in India, which was inhabited by the Dravidians. Others who came here included Greeks, Persians, Mughals and even British, Portuguese and French. Over the years there have been many major ruling dynasties like the Shakas, the Kushans, the Maurayas and Guptas. Nearly every major religion in the world is represented in India. It is also the land of Lord Buddha, Lord Mahavira and Guru Nanak Dev, the founders of Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.

Last Updated on : 17 October 2011