A Brief History of Ancient India

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India has a rich and remarkable history that goes back farther than most of us could imagine. The cultural and religious heritage of this amazing ancient civilization is profound. Many of the current Indian, Pakistan, and Iraqi customs have their origins in this rich history. It is difficult for many of us westerners to understand the richness of culture and history found in this remarkable place, but it is evident that this ancient culture holds many lessons for us in the younger world.

The first archeological discovery of Ancient India was the Indus Valley Civilization. Archeologists discovered two cities, Harappa and Mohenjo-Dara along the Indus River in what is now known as Pakistan. This civilization was among the most advanced ancient civilizations. The archeologists discovered multi-level housing developments as well as city wide plumbing. The rise and fall of this civilization was somewhere between 3200 and 1600 BCE.

Cultural Exchange

Between 2300 and 2000 BCE, there was a cultural exchange between the Indus Valley Civilization and Mesopotomia, which is now known as present day Iraq. This cultural exchange induced some of the more structural cultural beliefs in present day India.

Early Invasions

Somewhere around 1600 BCE the Aryans invaded the Indus Valley Region, and near the same time, the early Vedic period of Indian Civilization began. During the Late Vedic Period (1000 BCE) the Aryan culture began to merge with the Indus Valley culture and this marks the beginning of the Indian caste system. Around 800 BCE, the Brahmans, or the priestly caste, emerges. Around this time the Upanishads, a group of historical Hindu writings, were written and introduced to the culture.

The Buddha

Gautama Siddharta Buddha was born in 563 BCE, and died in 483 BCE. Gautama Siddharta was the founder of Buddhism (the canonization of Buddhist scriptures happened in 250 BCE). Mahavira, the founder of Jainism was born in 540 BCE, so this time period was especially relevant to the religious trends in India that are still prevalent today.

Darius of Persia

Darius of Persia conquered the Indus Valley between 517 and 509 BCE, and the Indus Valley became a province of the Persian Empire and in 326 BCE, Alexander the Greats’ Armies occupied the Valley.

India’s Independence

In 323 BCE, Alexander the Great died, giving the Indus Valley opportunity to become an independent state. Chandragupta Maurya takes this opportunity and founds the first Indian Empire. This empire conquered all of India by 184 BCE. In the last two thousand years little has changed in the structure of India.