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Indian History Timeline

by Philip Greenspun, 2001

  • 3000 - 1700 BC: Harappan civilization in the Indus valley (part of modern Pakistan) with brick-built cities laid out in precisely aligned north-south, east-west grids. Brick and street sizes are standardized throughout the region. These are the last examples of town planning until Maharajah Jai Singh builds Jaipur in the 18th century AD.
  • circa 1100 BC: Rig Veda epic hymn composed. Indian society becoming Aryanized: (1) Sanskit writing, (2) deference to a priesthood (Brahmins), and (3) hierarchical social structure (caste system).
  • circa 950 BC: war described in Mahabharata fought; Pandavas found their new capital at Indraprastra (Delhi).
  • circa 900 to 500 BC: Mahabharata and Ramayana composed
  • circa 500 BC: oral poems and hymns committed to writing
  • circa 450 BC: birth of Siddhartha Gautama, subsequently known as "the Buddha"
  • 327-326 BC: Alexander the Great invades India but his men, weary from eight years of conquest, eventually force him to retreat. Alexander is nearly killed by an arrow while making his way to the mouth of the Indus.
  • 320 - 200 BC: Maurya empire encompasses 80 percent of the subcontinent.
  • 200 BC - 320 AD: India's "dark ages" from the point of view of rulers and politics; a golden age for art, literature, and commerce (for example, 1st century AD is a period of active sea trade with Roman Empire, with fleets sailing annually from the Red Sea)
  • 320 AD: Chndra-Gupta I founds the Gupta dynasty, which is eventually to rule about 60 percent of the subcontinent.
  • 400 AD: Fa Hsien travels from China to India and reports a paradise of Buddhist monasteries and monuments
  • 500-527 AD: Huns raid Northern India and destroy Buddhist temples and monasteries
  • circa 600 AD: Indian influence spreading to Southeast Asia and Indonesia, notably in present-day Vietnam and Cambodia
  • 1192: Muhammad of Ghor defeats combined rajput forces at Tarain, the most decisive battle in the history of India
  • circa 1290: Marco Polo arrives on the southern coasts of India, on his way back from China: "Men and women, they are all black, and go naked, all save a fine cloth worn about the middle. ... [The Hindu south Indians] look not on any sin of hte flesh as a sin."
  • 1296-1312: Muslim invasions from Delhi to the kingdoms of South India
  • 1398: Islamicized Mongols sweep in from Persia and sack Delhi, killing or enslaving all Hindu inhabitants
  • 1525: Babur (Zahir-ud-din Muhammad) conquers Delhi and Agra, inaugurating the Mughal (from "Mongol") empire
  • 1571: Akbar, grandson of Babur, begins construction of Fatehpur Sikri, a new capital just west of Agra
  • early 1600s: struggle for succession among Akbar's son Salim (Jahangir) and Salim's son Khusrau, Akbar's grandson. Khusrau is captured and blinded on his father's instructions. Jahangir takes power.
  • 1631: Shah Jahan, Jahangir's son, loses beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. Begins to construct Taj Mahal, completed in 1643, in her honor.
  • 1639-48: Shah Jahan builds new city at Delhi, including the Red Fort; city was known at the time as "Shahjahanabad" and today is "Old Delhi"
  • 1658: Aurangzeb imprisons his ill father, Shah Jahan, murders his brothers and assumes power. Aurangzeb ceases Shah Jahan's ambitious building program, revives active persecution of Hindus, and dismisses dancers, musicians, and artists.
  • 1707: Aurangzeb dies, aged 90, and is buried in the simplest of Mughal tombs.
  • 1790-2: Third Mysore War expands British influence.
  • 1804: Richard Wellesley, Earl of Mornington, completes massive British territorial acquisitions in Fourth Mysore War and Second Maratha War.
  • 1839: British-led "Army of the Indus" marches into Afghanistan and is horribly defeated.
  • 1858: Lakshmi Bai, the great female Indian military leader, falls to British bullets in Gwalior , thus ending the Great Rebellion (against British rule)
  • 1885: first Indian National Congress founded by Scotsman Allan Octavian Hume
  • 1905: Japan's victory over Russia in Russo-Japanese War convinces Indians that defeating a big European power is possible
  • 1914-1918: Two million Indians serve in World War I on behalf of the British; Mohandas Gandhi returns to India from Africa
  • April 13, 1919: Following some Indian-British tensions in Panjab, General Reginald Dyer brings his troops to a square in Amritsar on a feast day and orders them to fire into the unarmed and peaceful crowd. Hundreds are killed and more than 1000 wounded. Dyer was never disciplined for his conduct. In fact, in England, the Morning Post newspaper raised a subscription on his behalf and presented him with £26,000 (something like 500,000 in 2001 dollars) and a gilt sword as "Defender of the Empire".
  • April 6, 1930: Gandhi begins civil disobedience movement against the salt tax, which had been in place since Mughal times
  • 1943: famine in Bengal kills millions
  • August 17, 1947: border partitioning India and Pakistan is publicly announced, inducing a flood of refugee traffic and violence.
  • January 30, 1948: Mahatma Gandhi assassinated by Nathuran Godse, a Hindu militant angry at the ideas of eliminating the caste system and accomodation with the Muslims.
  • 1950: Chinese invasion of Tibet ignored by India in spire of a treaty guaranteeing Tibetan autonomy.
  • 1961: India annexes Goa, a Portugese possession
  • 1971: East Pakistan secedes and becomes Bangladesh; the Bengalis get support in the ensuing civil war from the Indian Army.
  • 1974: India tests nuclear "device"
  • June 1984: Indian army storms Golden Temple in Amritsar; four months later prime minister Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards. Hindu mobs murder Sikhs in Delhi.
  • 1991: Prime minister Rajiv Gandhi killed by a Tamil bomb.
  • 1998: India tests nuclear bomb and missile delivery system

Text and photos copyright 2001 by Philip Greenspun.

Article created 2001

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