India's history includes a series of kingdoms and
empires and an often brutal mix of religions and cultures. Hinduism
and Buddhism, established in 6th century BC, both grew out of this
area. However, Hinduism has had the biggest influence on India.
Islam spread across the subcontinent
over a period of 500 years. In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks
and Afghans invaded India and established sultanates in Delhi. In
the early 16th century, descendants of Genghis Khan swept across
the Khyber Pass and established the Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty, which
lasted for 200 years. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, southern
India was dominated by Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties. During
this time, the two systems--the prevailing Hindu and Muslim--mingled,
leaving lasting cultural influences on each other.
The first British outpost in South Asia was established
in 1619 at Surat on the northwestern coast. Later in the century,
the East India Company opened permanent trading stations at Madras,
Bombay and Calcutta, each under the protection of native rulers.
The British ruled most of India until after World War II.
Then a movement led by Mohandas (Mahatma) Gandhi and others
finally won independence. Beginning in 1920, Mahatma Gandhi transformed
the Indian National Congress political party into a mass movement
to campaign against British colonial rule.
Independence - August 15 - 1947
India became an independent nation within the Commonwealth, with
Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister. Hostility and hate between Hindus
and Muslims led the British to divide British India, creating East
and West Pakistan, where there were Muslim majorities. India became
a republic within the Commonwealth after declaring its constitution
on January 26, 1950.
The 1947 partition provoked the greatest exodus
in human history when 10 million people changed sides. Muslims fleeing
west toward Pakistan and Hindus and Sikhs traveling east towards
India. Horrible mobviolence took place and between 250,000 and 500,000
people were slaughtered and killed before partition was completed.
This set the scene for more than 50 years of mutual hostility and
suspicion between India and Pakistan.
After independence, the party of Mahatma Gandhi
and Jawaharlal Nehru (the Congress Party) ruled India under the
influence first of Nehru and then his daughter and grandson, with
the exception of two brief periods in the 1970s and 1980s.
Prime Minister Nehru ruled the nation until his
death in 1964. He was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri, who also
died in office.
1966: Power passed to Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter.
She was prime minister from 1966 to 1977. In 1975, due to severe
political and economic problems, Mrs. Gandhi declared a state
of emergency and suspended many civil liberties. Seeking
a mandate at the polls for her policies, she called for elections
in 1977, but was defeated by Moraji Desai, who headed the Janata
1979: Desai's Government crumbled. Charan Singh
formed an interim government, which was followed by Mrs. Gandhi's
return to power in January 1980.
October 31, 1984: Mrs. Gandhi was assassinated
and her son, Rajiv, was elected by the Congress Party to take Indira's
place. Rajiv's government was brought down in 1989 by allegations
of corruption and was followed by V.P. Singh and then Chandra Shekhar.
India and Pakistan have fought 3 major wars, including
one in 1971 that led to the creation of Bangladesh. Still to this
day troops continue to fire at each other over the borders almost
daily. Constant threats of incursion and sabotage have led both
countries to expend large proportions of federal resources on their
militaries and both countries now possess nuclear weapons.
India has remained a democracy despite its turbulent
and violent politics, including the assassination of two prime ministers.
Economic development has also been impressive. In the 1990s, the
government abandoned decades of economic isolation and welcomed
foreign investors. As a result, advanced industries such as computer
software development have blossomed, especially with low paid workers.