We always talk of glorious and golden past of India.. We have heard stories about India being the oldest civilisation dating back to nearly 5000 BC or more.. But I always wondered whether India really existed, the way it is today or was it ruled by hundreds of kings with their small kingdoms? Hence I decided to do little research, of course thanks to Google.. The data which I will present is all available on the internet and hence my contribution is very minuscule but thought of compiling it for my benefit..
I have restricted myself to period starting 500 BC till around 1200 CE..
Let us look at different empires / dynasties that were ruling in India and the spread of their kingdom..
The kingdoms were the political entities in India from the 3rd century BCE to the 13th century CE.. The period begins after the decline of the Maurya Empire and the corresponding rise of the Satavahan dynasty beginning with Simuka, from 230 BCE.. The Middle Period lasted for about 1500 years and ended in the 13th century, with the rise of the Delhi Sultanate..
This period encompasses two eras:
Classical India, from the Maurya Empire up until the end of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century CE, and early Medieval India from the 6th century onwards.. It also encompasses the era of classical Hinduism, which is dated from 200 BCE to 1100 CE.. From 1 CE until 1000 CE, India’s Economy is estimated to have been the largest in the world, having between one-third and one-quarter of the world’s wealth..
From 600 BCE to 300 BCE, withnessed the rise of Mahajanapadas, which were sixteen powerful and vast kingdoms and oligarchic republics.. These Mahajanapadas evolved and flourished in a belt stretching from Gandhara in the northwest to Bengal in the eastern part of the Indian Subcontinent and included parts of the trans- Vindhyan region.. These sixteen great kingdoms and republics – Anga, Assaka, Avanti, Chedi, Gandhara, Kashi, Kamboja, Kosala, Kuru, Magadha, Malla, Matsya, Panchala, Surasena, Vriji and Vatsa – this period saw the second major rise of urbanism in India after the Indus Valley Civilisation.. Later these sixteen kingdoms coalesced into four major ones by 500/400 BCE, and these four were Vatsa, Avanti, Kosala, and Magadha..
The Maurya Empire (322–185 BCE) was the first empire to unify India into one state, and was the largest on the Indian subcontinent. The empire was established by Chandragupta Maurya assisted by Chanakya in Magadha (in modern Bihar) when he overthrew the Nanda Dynasty..
Chandragupta’s son Bindusara succeeded to the throne around 297 BCE. Bindusara was succeeded by Ashoka, whose reign lasted for around 37 years until his death in about 232 BCE..
The Shungas of the Shunga’s Empire originated from Magadha and controlled areas of the central and eastern Indian subcontinent from around 187 to 78 BCE.. The dynasty was established by Pushyamitra Shunga who overthrew the last Maurya emperor.. Its capital was Pataliputra but later emperors, such as Bhagabhadra also held court at Vidisha, modern Besnagar in Eastern Malwa..
The Śātavāhanas were based from Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh as well as Junnar (Pune) and Prathisthan (Paithan) in Maharashtra.. The territory of the empire covered large parts of India from the 1st century BCE onward..
The Kushan Empire expanded out of what is now Afghanistan into the northwest of the Indian subcontinent under the leadership of their first emperor, Kujula Kadphises, about the middle of the 1st century CE.. By the time of his grandson, Kanishka the great, the empire spread to encompass much of Afghanistan and then the northern parts of the Indian Subcontinent at least as far as Saketa and Sarnath near Varanasi (Banaras)..
Gupta Empire – Golden Age
Classical India refers to the period when much of the Indian subcontinent was united under the Gupta Empire (c. 320–550 CE).. This period has been called the Golden Age of India; and was marked by extensive achievements in science, technology, engineering, art, dialectic, literature, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion and philosophy that crystallised the elements of what is generally known as Hindu Culture.. The Gupta period produced scholars such as Kalidasa, Aryabhatta, Varahamihira, Vishnu Sharma and Vatsyayana who made great advancements in many academic fields.. The great Nalanda University was also established by them.. The Gupta period marked a watershed of Indian culture.. The military exploits of the first three rulers – Chandragupta I, Samudragupta and Chandragupta II – brought much of India under their leadership..
The Vākāṭaka Empire originated from the Deccan in the mid-third century CE. Their state is believed to have extended from the southern edges of Malwa and Gujarat in the north to the Tungabhadra River in the south as well as from the Arabian Sea in the western to the edges of Chhattisgarh in the east.. They were the most important successors of the Satavahanas in the Deccan and contemporaneous with the Guptas in northern India..
Samudragupta’s 4th-century Allahabad pillar inscription mentions Kamarupa (Western Assam) and Devaka (Central Assam) as frontier kingdoms of the Gupta Empire.. Davaka was later absorbed by Kamarupa, which grew into a large kingdom that spanned from Karatoya river to near present Sadiya and covered the entire Brahmaputra valley, North Bengal, parts of Bangladesh and, at times Purnea and parts of West Bengal..
The Pallavas, during the 4th to 9th centuries were, alongside the Guptas of the North, great patronisers of Sanskrit development in the South of the Indian Subcontinent.. The Pallava reign saw the first Sanskrit inscriptions in a script called Grantha.. This dynasty was restricted to current Andhra Pradesh..
Kadambas originated from Karnataka was founded by Mayurasharma in 345 CE.. The Kadamba fame reached its peak during the rule of Kakusthavarma, a notable ruler with whom even the kings of Gupta Dynasty of northern India cultivated marital alliances.. This dynasty was mainly in Karnataka and parts of Maharashtra..
The Indo-Hephthalites (or Alchon Huns) were a nomadic confederation in Central Asia during the late antiquity period.. The Alchon Huns established themselves in modern-day Afghanistan by the first half of the 5th century.. Led by the Hun military leader Toramana, they overran Northern regions of the Indian subcontinent.. Toramana’s son Mihirakula, a Saivite Hindu, moved up to near Pataliputra to the east and Gwalior to central India.. The Huns were defeated by alliance of Indian rulers, Maharaja Yasodharman of Malwa and Gupta Emperor Narasimhagupta in the 6th century.. Some of them were driven out of India and others were assimilated in the Indian society..
Harsha ruled northern India from 606 to 647 CE. He was the son of Prabhakarvardhana and the younger brother of Rajyavardhana, who were members of the Pushyabhuti dynasty and ruled Thanesar, in present-day Haryana.. After the downfall of the prior Gupta Empire in the middle of the 6th century, North India reverted to smaller republics and monarchical states..
The Chola empire emerged as a major power during the reign of Raja Raja Chola I and Rajendra Chola I who successfully invaded parts of Southeast Asia and Sri Lanka in the 11th century.. This dynasty was mainly in present Tamilnadu, Kerala and Sri Lanka..
The Chalukya Empire ruled large parts of southern and central India between 6th and 12th centuries.. During this period, they ruled as three related yet individual dynasties. The earliest dynasty, known as the “Badami Chalukyas”, ruled from Vatapi (modern Badami) from the middle of the 6th century.. This dynasty was mainly in Maharashtra, Karnataka & Andhra Pradesh..
Founded by Dantidurga around 753, the Rashtrakuta Empire ruled from its capital at Manyakheta for almost two centuries.. At its peak, the Rashtrakutas ruled from the Ganges River and Yamuna River doab in the north to Cape Comorin in the south, a fruitful time of political expansion, architectural achievements and famous literary contributions..
The Gurjara-Pratiharas were instrumental in containing Arab armies moving east of the Indus River.. Nagabhata I defeated the Arab army under Junaid and Tamin during the Caliphate campaigns in India.. Under Nagabhata II, the Gurjara-Pratiharas became the most powerful dynasty in northern India..
The Pala Empire was founded by Gopala I.. It was ruled by a Buddhist dynasty from Bengal in the eastern region of the Indian subcontinent to Haryana in the North.. The Palas reunified Bengal after the fall of Shashanka’s Gauda Kingdom..
Medieval Cholas rose to prominence during the middle of the 9th century C.E. and established the greatest empire South India had seen.. They successfully united the South India under their rule and through their naval strength extended their influence in the Southeast Asian countries..
To summarise, the different dynasties ruled as under
Majajanapadas 500 – 345 BCE
Nanda Dynasty 345 – 322 BCE
Maurya Dynasty 322 – 185 BCE
Shunga Dynasty 185 – 75 BCE
Kanva Dynasty 75 – 30 BCE
Kushan Dynasty 30 – 230 CE
Satavahan Dynasty 30 – 220 CE
Gupta Dynasty 200 – 550 CE
Chalukya Dynasty 543 – 753 CE
Harsha Dynasty 606 – 647 CE
Karakote Dynasty 724 – 760 CE
Arab Invasion 720 CE
Tripartite Struggle 760 – 973 CE
(Gurjara Pratihara, Pala, Rashtrakuta)
Chola Dynasty 868 – 1251 CE
2nd Chalukya Dynasty 973 – 1187 CE
Hence if we try to recapture the whole history, it is apparent that because of the Maurya Empire and then later Gupta Empire, the India did exist.. May be geographical bounderies were not that specific but culturally it was much bigger with Afghanistan, Burma, Nepal also in the fold..
The wealth India possessed at that time must have attracted invaders wanting to get some booty.. Even though Muhammad bin Qasim was the first Muslim Invader in 712 CE, the real invasion started nearly 300 years later, around 1000 CE with the great plunderer of all, Mahmud Ghazni.. However the Muslim Invasion and later Muslim Rule is a big chapter in the history of India and we would look at the same at greater length in next article..
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