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History of Ancient India

Though India is a modern nation, the thread of Indian civilization has more than a 5000, year-old historical legacy. In fact, Indian and Chinese civilizations are the only two ancient civilizations which have flowed continually to the present day, without any disruption of link, and are still living, thriving and progressing towards their glorious future. Here we will dwell into the history of ancient India.
 

History of India

The Enigmatic Valley
The first recorded history of the land mass in ancient India, dates back to the Indus Valley Civilization, which flourished in the north-western part of the Indian sub-continent. Many of the excavate spots of the Indus Valley Civilization like Mohenjodaro and Harappa are now in Pakistan. They are reminiscent of history of ancient India.

Some of the influences of Indus Valley Civilization are still found in Hindu religious motifs. Though their script remains undeciphered till today, their art and architecture manage to reveal the existence of a very evolved and complex culture in ancient India .

The town planning of Indus valley cities like Mohenjodaro, Harappa and Dholavira was quite immaculate, and those unknown town planners of yore could have given their twenty-first century counterparts a run for their money. Ruins at Lothal also reflect their trading prowess in ancient India. This highly evolved culture, passed on from the History of ancient India, was enigmatically eroded and eventually dwindled into oblivion. Historians have cited various reasons for the destruction of Indus Valley Civilization, which range from ecological changes to widespread epidemic, to an Aryan invasion. Aryans were a nomadic and pastoral tribe from Central Asia who came to India during the second millennium BC, and eventually settled here and made it their home. Indus Valley Civilization, is a connecting link to the history of ancient India.

Aryans and the Age of Vedas
They eventually rose much beyond their pastoral lineage, and created a great civilization. Though they imbibed the Indus Valley influences, but they also created their own ideas on philosophy, art, culture and science, etc. which they expressed through an ornate language called Sanskrit. After a few centuries of their settlement in India, the Aryans composed the Vedas and the epics, which are still the philosophical and cultural fulcrum of modern day India. The period during which the sacred Vedic texts were written is known in the Indian history as the Vedic period, which lasted from 1800-500 BC. Sanskrit was the language of the intelligentsia during the Vedic period, though common people of those times were largely unfamiliar with it.

Buddhism and Jainism
During this time the caste system also got firmly entrenched in the ancient Indian, and slowly it took oppressive forms, which led to grievances among the multitude of lower castes who were exploited by the caste system. Buddhism and Jainism, both of which emerged during the sixth century BC, addressed those grievances effectively and thereby gave an alternative religious platform to many people who were disillusioned with Brahmanical Hinduism. Both of the religious streams attacked the establishment and power structures prevalent in the history of ancient India, and attained considerable popularity in ancient India, which amply reflected ancient India's essentially pluralistic socio-cultural character, which is being open to new ideas, value systems and faiths.

The Age of Empires
The political map of ancient India was comprised of several states. In the history of ancient India, some were monarchies, some were republics, many of them were warring against each other. The concept of a single nation governed by a paramount power was simply not there. Some of the important empires of the ancient India were the Maurya Empire (322BC-185 BC), Gupta empire (320BC -600AD), etc. which through their imperialistic endeavors, managed to somehow extend a pan-Indian influence. In ancient India, Chandragupta Maurya (he ruled from 322BC -298 BC) and Ashoka the Great (273 BC-232 BC) were the most important rulers of the Mauryan dynasty, whereas Samudragupta (335-380AD) and Vikramaditya (375-415 AD) were important rulers of the Gupta dynasty. As we trace the history of ancient India Chandragupta Maurya became a follower of Jainism in his later days, Ashoka became an ardent Buddhist and spread Buddhism and non violence since his post-Kalinga invasion. However, the Gupta period saw the revival of Brahmannical Hinduism in the Indian society.

If the Mauryan Empire can be credited with initiating a process of political and economic cohesiveness in the ancient Indian society (one of the instruments was through a uniform currency across its annexed states, which dotted throughout India), the Gupta period(despite its imperialistic designs), is more renowned for its cultural growth in the realms of ancient India. The Gupta period is known as the 'Golden Age' of Indian history, as during this time, Indian society reached the heights of arts, literature and science, which was unprecedented in the history of ancient India. The famous poet Kalidasa, mathematical geniuses like Aryabhatta and Varahamihira, and a social revolutionary like Vatsyana(the author of Kama Sutra) were all products of Gupta Age, as is the rock cut temples of Ajanta and Ellora, which doesn't fail to create an aura of amazement and wonder even among its twenty-first century visitors

Following the Greek invasion during the Mauryan period, the ancient India, specially during the period between the Mauryan and Gupta dynasties, was also subjected to a number of invasions by warring tribes and warlords. They include Sakas, Huns and many others. However their invasions, though threatened or ransacked the sovereignty of many Indian states, also helped the Indian society at large to get exposed to outside influences and eventually assimilate them in its multi-layered cultural fabric. After the decline of the Gupta Empire, the powerful feudal governors in various provinces declared their independence, which paved the way for feudal era and the middle ages. A period of uncertainty and political turmoil gripped northern India. After the Gupta era, the only notable rule in the north India was that of Harshavardhana(604-647 AD), in the history of ancient India, who ruled from Kannauj. He was an able and just king and was a great patron of literature and Buddhism.

The Deccan Happenings
Meanwhile as we trace the history of ancient India, in Deccan, the Pallava, Chola and Pandyas dynasties ruled from the fourth century AD to the fifteenth century AD. Pallavas rose into prominence in the fourth century AD and their reign lasted till the ninth century AD, when they were overthrown by the Cholas. The Chola rule lasted till the thirteenth century. In the thirteenth century, the Pandyas became the dominant political force in the south India. Pandyas' rule came to an end in the fifteenth century AD.

However, it would be wrong to say that the Pandyas and Cholas emerged as political powers in the ninth and the thirteenth century respectively. Pandayas and Chola Kingdoms ruled in the second century BC in ancient India. too, but they regained political prominence again in the ninth century and the thirteenth century respectively. In the first innings (BC days), Cholas ruled over today's Thanjavur and Tiruchirapally, whereas Pandyas ruled over the present day Tirunelvelli and Madurai.

The Chola, Pandyas and the Pallava kings were patrons of art and literature, and Cholas excelled in trade and commerce. The Nayanar and Alvar saint poets belonged to the Pallava period as are the shore temples at Mahabalipuram. Chola reign was known for its exquisitely crafted bronzes, a prominent example of which is the 'Dancing Nataraja.' .

Overall, the south India of ancient times was largely unaffected by the political upheavals taking place in the north.

 

Last Updated On: 2011/08/18

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rehana

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Posted on 2012-01-14nice brief information

neethika

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Posted on 2012-01-02no pictures

heather

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Posted on 2011-11-03do u have any facts about ancient india with the dates in the fact?!?!?!?

Srishti Aggarwal

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Posted on 2011-10-18I like history