India, or Bharat, the fifth largest and the second populated country in the world, is one of the few countries which can boast of an ancient, deep-rooted and diverse culture, which stretches back to 5000 years. In ancient times, India was known as 'Bharata Varsha', the country of the legendary king of Puranic times called Bharat, and was believed to be a part of the island continent called 'Jambu Dvipa'. Geologically speaking, India formed part of the Gondwana land and was attached to Antarctica and Australia, before it was liberated from the Antarctica complex about 135 million years ago and started drifting towards the north and finally joining South Asia about 45 million years ago. The Siwalik foothills of the north-western Himalayas served as home to the fossil primate genus known as Ramapithecus, which lived some 14 million years ago. Researches have also found that a species resembling the Australopithecus lived in India some 2 million years ago. Some anthropologists believe that the Chotanagpur region witnessed the transformation of Homo Erectus to Homo Sapiens. This claim is based on the findings of hand axes and blades in the region of Pathalgarwa and the discovery of Harappan pottery in the nearby areas. Early Civilisations
Extensive archaeological excavations carried out at Mohenjodaro in the present Pakistan in 1922 brought to light the existence of a highly sophisticated and urbanized culture known as the Harappan Civilization in India, which dominated the north-western part of the Indian Subcontinent. It is believed that this civilisation covered an area of 1600 km from east to west and 1100 km from north to south, which exceeds the area occupied by contemporary civilisations like the Egyptian and Mesopotamian Civilisations. This civilisation is generally dated from about 2600 to 2000 B.C. However, Carbon-14 analysis of the structures at Mehrgarh near the Bolan Pass has indicated that the people of this place were growing wheat and barley and tending sheep and goat as early as 5000 B.C. Archaeologists have by now discovered more than 800 sites related to the Harappan Civilisation. Most scholars believe that the Harappan Civilisation was decayed as a result of the 'problems of ecology'. The next most important phase in the Indian history came centuries later with the advent of Aryans from the northwest of India. The Aryan migration to India was gradual and spread over many centuries. There is a difference of opinion about the original home of the Aryans. The different suggestions given by different scholars vary considerably in terms of geographic position in the world. Bal Gangadhar Tilak suggested that the Arctic region could be the home of Aryans. P.Giles suggested Hungary, Austria, Bohemia or the Valley of Danube as the possible home of Aryans, while Max Muller suggested Central Asia, Penka suggested Germany or Scandinavia, Edward Mayer suggested Plateau of Pamir and Dr B.K.Ghosh and Gordon Childe suggested South Russia. There are others who vouch for an Indian origin of the Aryans, like Ganganath Jha (origin from Brahmarishi Desh), D.S.Kala (hilly region of Himalayas and Kashmir), Avinashchandra Das (Saptasindhu Pradesh) and Rajbali Pandey (Madhya Desh). The Aryans developed a remarkable culture, popularly known as Vedic culture, which was markedly different from the Harappan Culture. The Vedic period is divided into the Rig Vedic Period (1500-1000 B.C.) and the Later Vedic Period (1000-600 B.C.). The Vedic period can be considered as the foundation stone for the Indian culture in all its multitudinous aspects. It laid the foundation for the Hindu Dharma and produced a host of religious and secular texts, which constitute a very important part of the religious heritage of India. The Vedas, Upavedas, Upanishads, Brahmanas, Aranyakas and the Dharmashastras were produced during these times. The institution of gotra and the caste system appeared in the later Vedic times. From this period onwards, India...
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