History of South Asia: A Chronological Outline


2300-1750 BCE Indus River Civilization  
  • Development of urban grain-growing civilization on the Indus River;
  • Two main cities: Harappa and Mohenjo-daro;
  • Undeciphered proto-Dravidian script;
  • Destroyed by climate, invasion of non-Indus peoples
ca. 1750-1000 BCE Aryan Migration  
  • Migration into northwest India of nomadic herding tribes from Iranian plateau;
  • Indo-European language;
  • Oral religious traditions preserved in Vedas, oldest of which, the Rig Veda, predates migration
ca. 900 BCE Brahmanism  
  • Early Hinduism characterized by rituals belief in reincarnation, dharma, karma and division of society into four classes (varnas)
500 BCE Buddhism; Jainism
326 BCE

Invasion of Alexander the Great

324-200 BCE

Mauryan Empire

  • Domination of North India by Chandragupta, extended to south by grandson, Ashoka.
250 BCE Development/Diffusion of Sanskritic culture  
  • Major texts of Hindu tradition take shape: Mahabharata, Ramayana, codification of laws, grammar, science, arts;
  • Gods Shiva, Vishnu major figures;
  • Spread of Sanskritic culture to South India
200 BCE Invasions of North India  
  • Invasions by Central Asian tribes: Bactrian Greeks; Sakas; Kushans, who establish a dynasty, ca.78 BCE-200 CE
  • Matured Hindu tradition expressed in poetry, drama [Kalidasa]; art, temple architecture; philosophy [Vedanta]; new fonts of devotional [bhakti] worship.
320-500 CE Gupta Empire  
  • Guptas dominate North India at beginning of 'classical' period.
ca. 455-528 CE Invasion of Huns  
  • Successive invasions of Huns and other Central Asian tribes destroy Gupta empire.
ca. 650-1335 Rajput Dynasties (North India);
Regional Dynasties (South India)
  • Warlike clans appear in Rajasthan
711 Arabs take Sind  
  • Pallava dynasty dominates south; continuing conflict with Cholas, with Cheras, Pandyas
997-1027 Raids of Mahmud of Ghazni
  • Invasions of Muslims from Central Asia lead to political dominance of Muslims in North India and introduction of Persian culture, Islamic religion into South Asia.
1192-1526 Delhi Sultanate  
  • Turko-Afghan chieftains establish sultanate at Delhi; dominate North India
1336-1646 Vijayanagar Empire  
  • Rise of Hindu kingdom in South India;
  • Independent of Muslim rulers until destruction of capital city in 1565.
1498 Portuguese traders in India
1526-1858 Mughal Empire  
  • Mughal empire unifies North and parts of South India under its rule;
  • Amalgam of Persian and Indian culture created in its courts and territories.
1700 European traders in India  
  • Establishment of trading outposts in India:
    Dutch (1609); English (1612); French (1674)
1757 Battle of Plassey  
  • Victory over Nawab of Bengal gives East India company control of Bengal and begins expansion of British power in India.
  • Political dominance of British introduces Western culture, language, methods of government, technology into urban administrative centers.
1947 Partition: India and Pakistan  
  • Independence from British rule and Partition of British India into modern countries of India and Pakistan (East and West)
1971 Bangladesh  
  • War between East and West Pakistan results in separation of Pakistan into two states: Pakistan and Bangladesh
Consultants: Leonard A. Gordon, Senior Research Scholar, and Judith Walsh, Research Scholar, South Asia Institute, Columbia University

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