The History of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are generally described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic periods. The earliest literary source that sheds light on India's past is the Rig Veda. It is difficult to date this work with any accuracy on the basis of tradition and ambiguous astronomical information contained in the hymns. It is most likely that Rig Veda was composed between 1,500 B.C. and 1,000 B.C. In the fifth century, large parts of India were united under Ashoka.
The 6th Century B.C. was a period of great tumult in India. The kingdom of Magadha, one of the 16 great Janapadas had become paramount over other kingdoms of the Ganges Valley. This period also saw the emergence of various heterodox sects in India. This was the time when Buddhism and Jainism emerged as popular protestant movements to pose a serious challenge to Brahmanic orthodoxy.
This period was followed by the Mauryas of whom the most famous was Ashoka the Great. The boundaries of his empire extended from Kashmir and Peshawar in the North and Northwest to Mysore in the South and Orissa in the East - but his fame rests not so much on military conquests as on his celebrated renunciation of war.
For the next four hundred years (after the great Mauryas), India remained politically disunited and weak. It was repeatedly raided and plundered by foreigners. Stability was restored by the Guptas. The Gupta age was the period of peace and prosperity and witnessed an unprecedented flowering of art, literature and the sciences. This period also saw the beginning of Hindu temple architecture.
After the Guptas there was only a brief afterglow, in the time of Harshavardhana of Kannauj. A Chinese traveler, Huen-tsang visited India from (629 - 645 A.D.) during the reign of Harshavardhana. His account gives us an opportunity to note the changes that had taken place in the lives of the Indian people since the days of the Guptas.
Each era is unique in its distinctive culture. In the same way Indian art forms have continuously evolved over thousands of years. In ancient India, various art forms like paintings, architecture and sculpture evolved. The history of art in ancient India begins with prehistoric rock paintings.
India and its surrounding countries are so similar in culture and climatic conditions that the region is sometimes called the Indian sub-continent. In ancient times the geography of India was a little different than what it is today. In the northern part of India stand the Himalayan Mountains and the Hindu Kush stand in the North West.
In the beginning of the Vedic age people did not have a settled life and were nomads but with development in agriculture people started to settle down in groups. The organization was mainly tribal and the head of the tribe was supposed to be the raja or the King, though the concept of King had yet not developed.
The predominant religion in ancient India was Hinduism. The roots of Hindu religion can be traced back to the Vedic period. Hinduism is believed to be the oldest of major religions and originated in northern India. Early Aryan, or Vedic, culture was the early Hinduism whose interaction with non-Aryan cultures resulted in what we call Classical Hinduism.
According to Greek philosophers slavery did not exist in ancient India. Aryabhatta, the great astronomer and scientist, discovered zero. The number system was also invented in ancient India. The Indus valley civilization was one of the most advance civilizations in terms of town planning etc. During the ancient period there were many famous and important centers of learning in India- Taxila and Nalanda, where thousands of students from all over studied different subjects.
Asoka was one of the most powerful kings of the Indian subcontinent. A ruler of the Mauryan Empire, Ashoka ruled over the country from 273 BC to 232 BC. The reign of Emperor Asoka covered most of India, South Asia and beyond, stretching from present day Afghanistan and parts of Persia in the west, to Bengal and Assam in the east, and Mysore in the south.
Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya Empire in India. He is credited with bringing together the small fragmented kingdoms of the country and combining them into a single large empire. As per the Greek and Latin accounts, King Chandragupta Maurya is known as Sandracottos or Andracottus.
Harshavardhana was an Indian Emperor, who ruled over the northern parts of India for a period of more than forty years. His empire was spread over the states of Punjab, Bengal, Orissa and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain, lying to the north of the Narmada River.
Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient civilization that thrived in the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys, now in Pakistan, along with the northwestern parts of India, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The civilization, which is also known as Harappan Civilization, lasted from 3300 BC to 1700 BC. The discovery of the Ancient Indus River Valley Civilization was made, when the Harappan city, the first city of Indus Valley, was excavated.
The Vedic Period or the Vedic Age refers to that time period when the Vedic Sanskrit texts were composed in India. The society that emerged during that time is known as the Vedic Period, or the Vedic Age, Civilization. The Vedic Civilization flourished between the 1500 BC and 500 BC on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent.