Majestic north entrance tower of the Chidambaram Temple
(circa 12th century AD)
India’s civilised history dates back thousands of years. In fact, cave paintings indicate that the first human civilisations settled in areas of India some 9000 years ago. These paintings can be found in Madhya Pradesh. This settlement of ancient man became the Indus Valley Civilisation, situated in the western part of the country. The Vedic Period followed just after 3300 BCE (Before our Common Era). At around 1500 BCE, the civilisation declined, which was thought to be due to changes in the ecology. This was a significant era as it formed the foundation of much of the modern culture of India and was in existence until the 500’s BCE. It was in about 550 BCE that the Mahajanapadas, a group of independent governments, were established. It was only during the fourth and fifth centuries of our Common Era (CE) that the group in the northern territories were united under the rulership called the Gupta Dynasty. This time was known as India’s Golden Age because the cultural and political stability of the country was firmly established during this period, enriching its people. It took only half a century for the Islam religion to extend its reaches over the entire country.
During the 900’s and 1000’s, India was invaded by the Turkish and Afghan soldiers, who eventually went on to set up sultanates in the epicentre of Delhi. The Mogul Dynasty was next, established in the early 1500’s and lasting for two centuries, followed by the Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties. It was only in the early 1600’s that the English began to settle in India. In 1619, an outpost was set up in the coastal area of Surat. Later, Calcutta, Bombay and Madras became the sites of the trading stations of the East India Company.
The British settlers continued to arrive and settle, eventually occupying most of the area in just over 200 years. In 1857, Britain took complete control over the areas once managed by the East India Company. In some areas, local people were elected as rulers who were still under the control of England. But, most areas were directly controlled by the Crown.
Towards the end of the 19th Century and the beginning of the 20th Century, steps started being taken to involve the Indian people in their own government to a far greater degree. The leader in 1920, Mohandas Ghandi, began a series of nonviolent protests and parliamentary resistance initiatives in order to gain independence from British rule. In 1947, India became a dominion and, in 1950, a republic within the Commonwealth.
Since gaining such independence, terrorist attacks have become rife in India. Territorial disputes between India and China and India and Pakistan continue. Despite this violence, India is still one of the world’s fastest growing economies.