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...
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