SOUTH ASIA—Timeline of Historical Periods


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


  • 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

Classical India

  • Matured Hindu tradition expressed in poetry, drama [Kalidasa]; art, temple architecture; philosophy [Vedanta]; new forms 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


Arabs take Sind

  • Paliava dynasty dominates south; continuing conflict with Cholas, with Cheras, Pandyas


Raids of Mahmud of Ghazni

Muslim India

  • 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.


  • Turko-Afghan chieftains establish sultanate at Delhi; dominate North India


Vijayanagar Empire

  • Rise of the Hindu kingdom in South India;
  • Independent of Muslim rulers until destruction of capital city in 1565.


Portuguese traders in India


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.


European traders in India

  • Establishment of trading outposts in India: Dutch (1609); English (1612); French (1674)


Battle of Plassey

  • Victory over Nawab of Bengal gives East India Company control of Bengal and begins expansion of British power in India.

British India


British Raj

  • Political dominance of British introduces Western culture, language, methods of government, technology into urban administrative centers.
  • Direct British rule over India

Modern South Asia


Independence from British rule/ Partition: India and Pakistan

  • Independence from British rule and Partition of British India into modern counries of India and Pakistan (East and West)


Bangladesh (formerly East Pakistan)

  • 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