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The Indian prehistoric era is one of the most fascinating and intriguing eras to read about. Though there is
speculation about when it originated, historians quote the approximate period from 200000 B.C to about 3500 2500 B.C. It is estimated that the first humans to set their foot in the Indian sub continent between 200000 B.C
and 40000 B.C. Pre historic India has been divided into four major eras. These are: Stone Age, Paleolithic Era,
Mesolithic Era and Neolithic Era. The Bronze Age is also mentioned here though it comes after these four eras.
Further information about Indian prehistory is given below.

Stone Age
The Stone Age was the era when early man used stones for functional and useful purposes. The Stone Age is
further classified into three categories which are the Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic Age and Neolithic Age. These
divisions have been made on the basis of the kind of stone tools that were used during these times.
Paleolithic Age
The Paleolithic Age lasted till about 8000 B.C. In this age, man was essentially a food gatherer. He learnt to
make weapons out of stones and also mastered the skill of hunting animals. The crude weapons were slowly
carved properly and were made sharp and pointed. These special weapons were made by shredding the sides of
a stone with a heavier stone. Man also learnt how to create fire and make use of it.

Mesolithic Age
The Mesolithic Age lasted from 8000 B.C - 4000 B.C. In this age the size of the groups grew to form small
communities. The number of mouths to feed increased and needed constant nurturing for continuation. The
tools improved and became more refined and sharp. There was a drastic change in the food and clothing of man.
The tools were modified and now the sharp stones were attached to strong tree branches using ropes and vines.
These new weapons include hand axes could be flung on animals from a safe distance. Apart from this, farming
techniques were developed and man began to grow crops. Man also learnt to draw and paint and the evidence is
found in the form of cave paintings found in India.
Neolithic Age
The Neolithic Age lasted from 4000 B.C - 2500 B.C and is known as the last stage of the Stone Age era. The
main features of this age were the finely flaked weapons and small tools made of stone that were used for day to
day work. This age also saw domestication of cows, horses and other poultry and farm animals. Their products
were used for dairy and meat items. The wheel, which was a very important invention, was created during this
age. Shortly after this age around 1800 B.C, tools were made of copper and bronze and were used for many
practical purposes.
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is the era when metals were used and improvised for making tools and other weapons. This age
came immediately after the Neolithic Age and aided in the development of the metallurgy industry. It came into
being in 3500 B.C in the Middle East. The Bronze Age in India is roughly estimated to have begun around 3300
B.C. It almost coincided with the beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization. People living in Indus Valley
produced bronze, copper and tin thus developing new techniques of metallurgy.


The Indus Valley Civilization is one of the world's earliest urban civilizations. The civilization is believed to
have existed during the period 3300 to 1700 BCE. It flourished during 2600 - 1900 BCE in the Indus and
Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys primarily in what is now Pakistan and western India, extending westward into
Balochistan. The mature phase of this civilization is known as the Harappan Civilization, after the first of its
cities to be excavated, Harappa. Excavation of Indus Valley Civilization sites has been ongoing since the 1920s.
The Indus Valley Civilization (or Harappan Civilization) was a Bronze Age civilization and spread over some
1,260,000 km, which makes it the largest ancient civilization.
The first excavation happened by chance in the year 1856. Around six miles from the river Ravi, railway
construction workers came upon a small crumbling hill of fire-baked bricks in the foothills of the Himalayas.
They quickly appropriated these bricks for the railway line's ballast. Along with the bricks, the also found
certain steatite (soapstone) seals. Archaeologists, notably Sir John Cunningham, were quick to confirm their
antiquity. This started a number of amazing excavations and discoveries in the region during which
archaeologists unearthed the remains of an ancient civilization, which had its epicenter in the plains of the
Indus. Since most of the excavations were close to the river Indus, it came to be known as the Indus Valley
As the history of the Indus Valley Civilization goes, it is proposed that some 5000 years ago, nomadic people
from Sumeria (modern day Iran) made their way into northwest India by means of the Mula Pass across the
Himalayas, near modern Karachi. There they found a fabulously rich land, fertilized by five great rivers, namely
Indus, Ravi, Beas, Chenab and Sutlej, which in the present forms the modern-day Punjab. Compared to the
deserts of Iran, this area was God's blessed land, with ample supply of water, fodder and fuel. Clay was
available in plenty in the riverbeds for making bricks, and so was wood to burn the bricks. Over a period of a
thousand years, these immigrants spread over an area of half a million square miles, which gave rise to the
Indus Valley Civilization

Around 1800 BCE, signs of a gradual decline of the Indus Valley Civilization began to emerge, and by around
1700 BCE, most of the cities were abandoned. In 1953, Sir Mortimer Wheeler proposed a theory that the
decline of the Indus Valley Civilization was caused by the invasion of 'Aryans', an Indo-European tribe from
Central Asia. He cited a group of 37 skeletons, as evidence, which were found in various parts of MohenjoDaro. He also cited the passages in the Vedas which referred to the battles and forts. However, the theory was
soon rejected by scholars, since the skeletons belonged to a period after the city's abandonment and none were
found near the citadel. Further examinations of the skeletons by Kenneth Kennedy in 1994 revealed that the
marks, which were considered to be caused by aggression on the skulls were actually caused by erosion. Most
of the contemporary scholars believe that the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization was caused by drought
and a decline in trade with Egypt and Mesopotamia. It has also contemplated that immigration by new peoples,
deforestation, floods, or changes in the course of the river may have led to the collapse of the Indus Valley

The Vedic period (or Vedic age) was a period in history during which the Vedas were composed. The Vedas are
the oldest available scriptures of Hinduism.
The followers of the Vedas were the Aryans, who organized themselves in individual tribal, kinship units, the
jana. The jana was ruled over by a war chief. These tribes spread quickly over northern India and the Deccan. In
a process that is not well understood, the basic social unit of Aryan culture, the jana, slowly developed from an
organization based on kinship to one based on geography.
The jana became a janapada, or nation and the janarajya, or tribal kingdom, became the jana-rajyapada, or
national kingdom. So powerfully ingrained into Indian culture is the janapada, that Indians still define
themselves mainly by their territorial origins. All the major territories of modern India, with their separate
cultures and separate languages, can be dated back to the early janapadas of Vedic India.
The earliest history of the Aryans in India is called the Rigvedic Period (1700-1000 BC) after the religious
praise poems that are the oldest pieces of literature in India. In this early period, their population was restricted
to the Punjab in the northern reaches of the Indus River and the Yamuna River near the Ganges.
They maintained the Aryan tribal structure, with a raja ruling over the tribal group in tandem with a council.
Each jana seems to have had a chief priest; the religion was focused almost entirely on a series of sacrifices to
the gods. The Rigvedic peoples originally had only two social classes: nobles and commoners. Eventually, they
added a third: Dasas (or slaves).
By the end of the Rigvedic period, social class had settled into four rigid castes: the chaturvarnas, or "four
colors." At the top of the chaturvarnas were the priests, or Brahmans. Below the priests were the warriors or
nobles (Kshatriya), the craftspeople and merchants (Vaishya), and the servants (Shudra), who made up the bulk
of society. These economic classes were legitimated by an elaborate religious system and would be eventually
subdivided into a huge number of economic sub-classes which we call "castes." Social class by the end of the
Rigvedic period became completely inflexible; there was no such thing as social mobility.
In the early centuries of Later Vedic Period or Brahmanic Period (1000-500 BC), the Aryans migrated across the
Doab, which is a large plain which separates the Yamuna River from the Ganges. It was a difficult project, for
the Doab was thickly forested; the Aryans slowly burned and settled the Doab until they reached the Ganges.
While the Rig Veda represents the most primitive religion of the Aryans during the Rigvedic Period, the religion
of the Later Vedic period is dominated by the Brahmanas, or priestly book, which was composed sometime
between 1000 and 850 BC. Later Vedic society is dominated by the Brahmans and every aspect of Aryan life
comes under the control of priestly rituals and spells. Besides The Vedas, the great religious and literary works
of The Upanishads, The Puranas, The Mahabharata, and The Ramayana all come from this period. In history as

the Indians understand it, the Later Vedic Period is the Epic Age; the great literary, heroic epics of Indian
culture, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, though they were composed between 500 and 200 BC, were
probably originally formulated and told in the Later Vedic Period. Both of these epics deal with heroes from this
period and demonstrate how Aryan cultural values, as we can understand them from the Rig Veda, are being
transformed by mixing with Indus cultures.
The religious beliefs which characterized the Vedic Period are considered much older, it was during this time
that they became systematized as the religion of Sanatan Dharma (which means `Eternal Order) known today
as Hinduism (this name deriving from the Indus (or Sindus) River where worshippers were known to gather,
hence, `Sindus, and then `Hindus). The underlying tenet of Sanatan Dharma is that there is an order and a
purpose to the universe and human life and, by accepting this order and living in accordance with it, one will
experience life as it is meant to be properly lived. While Sanatan Dharma is considered by many a polytheistic
religion consisting of many gods, it is actually monotheistic in that it holds there is one god, Brahma (the Self),
who, because of his greatness, cannot be fully apprehended save through the many aspects which are revealed
as the different gods of the Hindu pantheon. It is Brahma who decrees the eternal order and maintains the
universe through it. This belief in an order to the universe reflects the stability of the society in which it grew
and flourished as, during the Vedic Period, governments became centralized and social customs integrated fully
into daily life across the region.
In the 6th century BCE, the religious reformers Vardhaman Mahavira (549-477 BCE) and Siddhartha Gautama
(563-483 BCE) broke away from mainstream Sanatan Dharma to eventually create their own religions of
Jainism and Buddhism. These changes in religion were a part of a wider pattern of social and cultural disorder
which resulted in the formation of city states and the rise of powerful kingdoms (such as the Kingdom of
Magadha under the ruler Bimbisara). Increased urbanization and wealth attracted the attention of Cyrus, ruler of
the Persian Empire, who invaded India in 530 BCE and initiated a campaign of conquest in the region. Ten
years later, under the reign of his son, Darius I, northern India was firmly under Persian control (the regions
corresponding to Afghanistan and Pakistan today) and the inhabitants of that area subject to Persian laws and
customs. One consequence of this, possibly, was an assimilation of Persian and Indian religious beliefs which
some scholars point to as an explanation for further religious and cultural reforms.

During the life time of Lord Gautam Buddha, sixteen great powers (Mahajanpadas/Mahajanapadas) existed in
the 7th and early 6th centuries BC.
Among the more important republic
were the Sakyas of Kapilavastu and the
Licchavis of Vaishali. Besides the
republics, there were monarchical
states, among which the important ones
were Kaushambi (Vatsa), Magadha,
Kosala and Avanti. These states were
ruled by vigorous personalities who
had embarked upon the policies of
enlargement and absorption of
neighbouring states. However, there
were distinct signs of the republican
states while those under the monarchs
were expanding.
The political structure of the ancient
Indo-Aryans appears to have started
with semi-nomadic tribal units called
"Jana". Early Vedic texts attest several

Janas or tribes of the Aryans, living in semi-nomadic tribal state, fighting among themselves and with other
Non-Aryan tribes for cows, sheep and green pastures. These early Vedic Janas later unite into Janapadas of the
Epic Age.
The term "Janapada" literally means the foothold of a tribe. The fact that Janapada is derived from Jana points
to an early stage of land-taking by the Jana tribe for a settled way of life. This process of first settlement on land
had completed its final stage prior to the times of Buddha and Panini. The Pre-Buddhist North-west region of
Indian sub-continent was divided into several Janapadas demarcated from each other by boundaries. In Panini,
Janapada stands for country and Janapadin for its citizenry. These Janapadas were named after the tribes or the
Janas who had settled in them. By circa 600 BCE, many of these Janapadas had further evolved into larger
political entities by the process of land-grabbing which eventually led to the formation of kingdoms known in
Buddhist traditions as the Mahajanapadas or the great nations (Sanskrit: Maha = great, Janapada = country).
The Buddhist and other texts only incidentally refer to sixteen great nations (Solasa Mahajanapadas) which
were in existence before the time of Buddha. They do not give any connected history except in the case of
Magadha. The Buddhist Anguttara Nikaya, at several places, gives a list of sixteen nations:

1. Kasi
2. Kosala
3. Anga
4. Magadha
5. Vajji (or Vriji)
6. Malla
7. Chedi
8. Vatsa (or Vamsa)
9. Kuru
10. Panchala
11. Machcha (or Matsya)
12. Surasena
13. Assaka
14. Avanti
15. Gandhara
16. Kamboja
The Jain Bhagvati Sutra gives slightly different list of sixteen Mahajanapadas viz: Anga, Banga (Vanga),
Magadha, Malaya, Malavaka, Accha, Vaccha, Kochcha (Kachcha), Padha, Ladha (Lata), Bajji (Vajji), Moli
(Malla), Kasi, Kosala, Avaha and Sambhuttara.
The author of Bhagvati has a focus on the countries of Madhydesa and of fareast and south only. He omits the
nations from Uttarapatha like the Kamboja and Gandhara. The more extended horizon of the Bhagvati and the
omission of all countries from Uttarapatha clearly shows that the Bhagvati list is of later origin and therefore
less reliable.
The main idea in the minds of those who drew up the Janapada lists was basically more tribal than geographical,
since the lists include names of the people and not the countries. As the Buddhist and Jaina texts only casually
refer to the Mahajanapadas with no details on history, the following few isolated facts, at best, are gleaned from
them and other ancient texts about these ancient nations.


Persia held dominance in northern India until the conquest of Alexander the Great in 327 BCE. One year later,
Alexander had defeated the Achaemenid Empire and firmly conquered the Indian subcontinent. Again, foreign
influences were brought to bear on the region giving rise to the Greco-Buddhist culture which impacted all
areas of culture in northern India from art to religion to dress. Statues and reliefs from this period depict
Buddha, and other figures, as distinctly Hellenic in dress and pose (known as the Gandhara School of Art).
Following Alexanders departure from India, the Maurya Empire (322-185 BCE) rose under the reign of
Chandragupta Maurya (322-298) until, by the end of the third century BCE, it ruled over almost all of northern
Chandraguptas son, Bindusara reigned between 298-272 BCE and extended the empire throughout the whole
of India. His son was Ashoka the Great (lived 304-232, reigned 269-232 BCE) under whose rule the empire
flourished at its height. Eight years into his reign, Ashoka conquered the eastern city-state of Kalinga which
resulted in a death toll numbering over 100,000. Shocked at the destruction and death, Ashoka embraced the
teachings of the Buddha and embarked on a systematic programme advocating Buddhist thought and principles.
He established many monasteries and gave lavishly to Buddhist communities. His ardent support of Buddhist
values eventually caused a strain on the government both financially and politically as even his grandson,
Sampadi, heir to the throne, opposed his policies. By the end of Ashokas reign the government treasury was
severely depleted through his regular religious donations and, after his death, the empire declined rapidly.
The country splintered into many small kingdoms and empires (such as the Kushan Empire) in what has come
to be called the Middle Period. This era saw the increase of trade with Rome (which had begun c. 130 BCE)
following Augustus Caesars conquest of Egypt in 30 BCE (Egypt had been Indias most constant partner in
trade in the past). This was a time of individual and cultural development in the various kingdoms which finally
flourished in what is considered the Golden Age of India under the reign of the Gupta Empire (320-550 CE).
The Gupta Empire is thought to have been founded by one Sri Gupta (`Sri means `Lord) who probably ruled
between 240-280 CE. As Sri Gupta is thought to have been of the Vaishya (merchant) class, his rise to power in
defiance of the caste system is unprecedented. He laid the foundation for the government which would so
stabilize India that virtually every aspect of culture reached its height under the reign of the Guptas. Philosophy,
literature, science, mathematics, architecture, astronomy, technology, art, engineering and religion, among other
fields, all flourished during this period, resulting in some of the greatest of human achievements. The Puranas of
Ved Vyasa were compiled during this period and the famous caves of Ajanta and Ellora, with their elaborate
carvings and vaulted rooms, were also begun. Kalidasa the poet and playwright wrote his masterpiece
Shakuntala and the Kamasutra was also written, or compiled from earlier works, by Vatsyayana. Varahamihira
explored astronomy at the same time as Aryabhatta, the mathematician, made his own discoveries in the field
and also recognized the importance of the concept of zero, which he is credited with inventing. As the founder
of the Gupta Empire defied orthodox Hindu thought, it is not surprising that the Gupta rulers advocated and
propagated Buddhism as the national belief and this is the reason for the plentitude of Buddhist works of art, as
opposed to Hindu, at sites such as Ajanta and Ellora.

Medieval History of India

For a period that has come to be so strongly associated with the Islamic influence and rule in India, Medieval
Indian history went for almost three whole centuries under the so-called indigenous rulers, that included the
Chalukyas, the Pallavas, the Pandyas, the Rashtrakutas, the Muslims rulers and finally the Mughal Empire. The
most important dynasty to emerge in the middle of the 9th century was that of the Cholas.
The Palas
Between 8th and 10th centuries A.D., a number of powerful empires dominated the eastern and northern parts of
India. The Pala king Dharmpala, son of Gopala reigned from the late 8th century A.D. to early 9th century A.D.
Nalanda University and Vikramashila University were founded by Dharmpala.
The Senas
After the decline of the Palas, the Sena dynasty established its rule in Bengal. The founder of the dynasty was
Samantasena. The greatest ruler of the dynasty was Vijaysena. He conquered the whole of Bengal and was
succeeded by his son Ballalasena. He reigned peacefully but kept his dominions intact. He was a great scholar
and wrote four works including one on astronomy. The last ruler of this dynasty was Lakshamanasena under
whose reign the Muslims invaded Bengal, and the empire fell.
The Pratihara
The greatest ruler of the Pratihara dynasty was Mihir Bhoja. He recovered Kanauj (Kanyakubja) by 836, and it
remained the capital of the Pratiharas for almost a century. He built the city Bhojpal (Bhopal). Raja Bhoja and
other valiant Gujara kings faced and defeated many attacks of the Arabs from west.
Between 915-918 A.D, Kanauj was attacked by a Rashtrakuta king, who devastated the city leading to the
weakening of the Pratihara Empire. In 1018, Kannauj then ruled by Rajyapala Pratihara was sacked by Mahmud
of Ghazni. The empire broke into independent Rajput states.
The Rashtrakutas
This dynasty, which ruled from Karnataka, is illustrious for several reasons. They ruled the territory vaster than
that of any other dynasty. They were great patrons of art and literature. The encouragement that several
Rashtrakuta kings provided to education and literature is unique, and the religious tolerance exercised by them
was exemplary.
The Chola
It emerged in the middle of the 9th century A.D., covered a large part of Indian peninsula, as well as parts of Sri
Lanka and the Maldives Islands.
The first important ruler to emerge from the dynasty was Rajaraja Chola I and his son and successor Rajendra
Chola. Rajaraja carried forward the annexation policy of his father. He led armed expedition to distant lands of
Bengal, Odisha and Madhya Pradesh.
The successors of Rajendra I, Rajadhiraj and Rajendra II were brave rulers who fought fiercely against the later
Chalukya kings, but could not check the decline of Chola Empire. The later Chola kings were weak and
incompetent rulers. The Chola Empire thus lingered on for another century and a half, and finally came to an
end with the invasion of Malik Kafur in the early 14th century A.D.

The Cheras
From early pre-historic times, Tamil Nadu was the home of the four Tamil states of the Chera, Chola, Pandya
and Pallavas. The oldest extant literature, dated between 300 BC and 600 AD mentions the exploits of the kings
and the princes, and of the poets who extolled them. Cherans, who spoke Tamil language ruled from the capital
of Karur in the west and traded extensively with West Asian kingdoms.
The Pallavas
The 7th century Tamil Nadu saw the rise of the Pallavas under Mahendravarman I and his son Mamalla
Narasimhavarman I. After the fall of the Satavahanas, they began to get control over parts of Andhra and the
Tamil country. Later they had marital ties with the Vishnukundina who ruled over the Deccan. It was around
550 AD under King Simhavishnu that the Pallavas emerged into prominence. They subjugated the Cholas and
reigned as far south as the Kaveri River. Pallavas ruled a large portion of South India with Kanchipuram as their
capital. Dravidian architecture reached its peak during the Pallava rule. Narasimhavarman II built the Shore
Temple which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Pandyas
Pallavas were replaced by the Pandyas in the 8th century. Their capital Madurai was in the deep south away
from the coast. They had extensive trade links with the Southeast Asian maritime empires of Srivijaya and their
successors. As well as contacts, even diplomatic, reaching as far as the Roman Empire. During the 13th century
Marco Polo mentioned it as the richest empire in existence. Temples like Meenakshi Amman Temple at Madurai
and Nellaiappar Temple at Tirunelveli are the best examples of Pandyan Temple architecture. The Pandyas
excelled in both trade as well as literature and they controlled the pearl fisheries along the South Indian coast,
between Sri Lanka and India, which produced some of the finest pearls in the known ancient world.

MODERN INDIA (AD 1206 TO 1950)

Delhi Sultanate (1206 AD 1526 AD)

Slave Dynasty
Kilji Dynasty
Tuglaq Dynasty
Sayyid Dynasty
Lodi Dyanasty

Delhi Sultanate (12061526)

In the 12th and 13th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded parts of northern India and established the Delhi
Sultanate in the former Hindu holdings. Historian Dr.R.P. Tripathi noted, "The history of Muslim sovereignty in
India begins properly speaking with Iltutmish."
The subsequent Slave dynasty of Delhi managed to conquer large areas of northern India, while the Khilji
dynasty conquered most of central India but were ultimately unsuccessful in conquering and uniting the
subcontinent. The Sultanate ushered in a period of Indian cultural renaissance. The resulting "Indo-Muslim"
fusion of cultures left lasting syncretic monuments in architecture, music, literature, religion, and clothing. It is
surmised that the language of Urdu (literally meaning "horde" or "camp" in various Turkic dialects) was born
during the Delhi Sultanate period as a result of the intermingling of the local speakers of Sanskritic Prakrits
with immigrants speaking Persian, Turkic, and Arabic under the Muslim rulers. The Delhi Sultanate is the only
Indo-Islamic empire to enthrone one of the few female rulers in India, Razia Sultana (12361240).

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi, Nasir Al-Din Mahmum Tughluq, in the winter of 13971398
A Turco-Mongol conqueror in Central Asia, Timur (Tamerlane), attacked the reigning Sultan Nasir-u Din
Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi. The Sultan's army was defeated on 17
December 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left in ruins, after Timur's army
had killed and plundered for three days and nights. He ordered the whole city to be sacked except for the
sayyids, scholars, and the "other Muslims" (artists); 100,000 war prisoners were put to death in one day. The
Sultanate suffered significantly from the sacking of Delhi revived briefly under the Lodi Dynasty, but it was a
shadow of the former.
Mughal Empire
In 1526, Babur, a Timurid descendant of Timur and Genghis Khan from Fergana Valley (modern day
Uzbekistan), swept across the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal Empire, which at its zenith covered
modern day Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Bangladesh. However, his son Humayun was defeated by the
Afghan warrior Sher Shah Suri in the year 1540, and Humayun was forced to retreat to Kabul. After Sher Shah's
death, his son Islam Shah Suri and the Hindu emperor Hemu Vikramaditya, who had won 22 battles against
Afghan rebels and forces of Akbar, from Punjab to Bengal and had established a secular rule in North India
from Delhi till 1556 after winning Battle of Delhi. Akbar's forces defeated and killed Hemu in the Second Battle
of Panipat on 6 November 1556.
Akbar's son, Jahangir more or less followed father's policy. The Mughal dynasty ruled most of the Indian
subcontinent by 1600. The reign of Shah Jahan was the golden age of Mughal architecture. He erected several
large monuments, the most famous of which is the Taj Mahal at Agra, as well as the Moti Masjid, Agra, the Red
Fort, the Jama Masjid, Delhi, and the Lahore Fort. The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its territorial
expanse during the reign of Aurangzeb and also started its terminal decline in his reign due to Maratha military
resurgence under Shivaji. Historian Sir. J.N. Sarkar wrote, "All seemed to have been gained by Aurangzeb now,
but in reality all was lost." The same was echoed by Vincent Smith: "The Deccan proved to be the graveyard not
only of Aurangzeb's body but also of his empire".
The Mughal dynasty was reduced to puppet rulers by 1757. The remnants of the Mughal dynasty were finally
defeated during the Indian Rebellion of 1857, also called the 1857 War of Independence, and the remains of the
empire were formally taken over by the British while the Government of India Act 1858 let the British Crown
assume direct control of India in the form of the new British Raj.
Maratha Empire (16741818)
The post-Mughal era was dominated by the rise of the Maratha suzerainty as other small regional states (mostly
late Mughal tributary states) emerged, and also by the increasing activities of European powers. There is no
doubt that the single most important power to emerge in the long twilight of the Mughal dynasty was the
Maratha confederacy. The Maratha kingdom was founded and consolidated by Chatrapati Shivaji, a Maratha
aristocrat of the Bhonsle clan who was determined to establish Hindavi Swarajya. Sir J.N. Sarkar described
Shivaji as "the last great constructive genius and nation builder that the Hindu race has produced". However, the
credit for making the Marathas formidable power nationally goes to Peshwa Bajirao I. Historian K.K. Datta
wrote about Bajirao I: He may very well be regarded as the Second founder of the Maratha Empire.
By the early 18th century, the Maratha Kingdom had transformed itself into the Maratha Empire under the rule
of the Peshwas (prime ministers). In 1737, the Marathas defeated a Mughal army in their capital, Delhi itself in
Battle of Delhi (1737). The Marathas continued their military campaigns against Mughals, Nizam, Nawab of
Bengal and Durrani Empire to further extend their boundaries. Gordon explained how the Maratha
systematically took control over new regions. They would start with annual raids, followed by collecting
ransom from villages and towns while the declining Mughal Empire retained nominal control and finally taking
over the region. He explained it with the example of Malwa region. Marathas built an efficient system of public
administration known for its attention to detail. It succeeded in raising revenue in districts that recovered from
years of raids, up to levels previously enjoyed by the Mughals. For example, the cornerstone of the Maratha rule

in Malwa rested on the 60 or so local tax collectors who advanced the Maratha ruler Peshwa a portion of their
district revenues at interest. By 1760, the domain of the Marathas stretched across practically the entire
subcontinent. The north-western expansion of the Marathas was stopped after the Third Battle of Panipat
(1761). However, the Maratha authority in the north was re-established within a decade under Peshwa
Madhavrao I. The defeat of Marathas by British in third Anglo-Maratha Wars brought end to the empire by
1820. The last peshwa, Baji Rao II, was defeated by the British in the Third Anglo-Maratha War. With the defeat
of the Marathas, no native power represented any significant threat for the British afterwards.
Sikh Empire
The Punjabi kingdom, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity that governed the region of
modern-day Punjab. The empire, based around the Punjab region, existed from 1799 to 1849. It was forged, on
the foundations of the Khalsa, under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh (17801839) from an array of
autonomous Punjabi Misls. He consolidated many parts of northern India into a kingdom. He primarily used his
highly disciplined Sikh army that he trained and equipped to be the equal of a European force. Ranjit Singh
proved himself to be a master strategist and selected well qualified generals for his army. In stages, he added the
central Punjab, the provinces of Multan and Kashmir, the Peshawar Valley, and the Derajat to his kingdom. This
came in the face of the powerful British East India Company. At its peak, in the 19th century, the empire
extended from the Khyber Pass in the west, to Kashmir in the north, to Sindh in the south, running along Sutlej
river to Himachal in the east. This was among the last areas of the subcontinent to be conquered by the British.
The first Anglo-Sikh war and second Anglo-Sikh war marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire.