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Taj Mahal in sunset light, Agra, India

History and Culture of India

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Early History

To talk about the history of India, we need to go way back in time, as the earliest human remains that have been found in South Asia are dated 30,000 years-old. Yet scientists believe that the first humans arrived at least 25,000 years prior to that. It wouldn’t be until 7000 BCE that settlements would begin, becoming widely spread across the region by 4,500 BCE. 

The Indus Valley civilization, which existed at the same time as Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia continued to evolve from 2,500 to 1,900 BCE. This society that existed in what is now known as Pakistan and north-western India developed its own urban planning, sewage, and water supply systems. 

Cases of drought would then lead settlers to move to different parts of the Valley, while waves of migration from other parts of the world also populated the area. 

Between 1500 and 500 BCE the varna system came into existence based on the Vedas (religious texts dividing the population into social classes) which would eventually turn into the caste system, describing a hierarchy within the civilization. This would also lead to Hinduism becoming one of the region’s main religions, which continues to this day. 

Doegarh Mahal
Doegarh Mahal

The Maurya Empire

Founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BCE, the Maurya Empire conquered most of the Indo-Gangetic Plain. This empire, which would remain in power until 185 BCE, led to the development of trade and agriculture in South Asia. It was also when the arts, such as architecture, had an impactful moment in time. After the fall of the Maurya Empire, the Shunga Empire would be formed in the north and north-east of the region. This would eventually lead to the classical period of India. 

Old Mosque in New Delhi
Old Mosque in New Delhi

Classical Period

This Golden Age, spanning between 300 and 500 AD is at a time when India is ruled by several empires and dynasties such as the Gupta Empire. However, it’s also when there’s developments in culture, religion, and administration, which eventually reach other parts of Asia, the Middle East, and the Mediterranean. 

Details of Kapaleeswarar temple, Chennai, India
Details of Kapaleeswarar temple, Chennai, India

Medieval Period

During this time, the territory had several different cultures, languages, and religions, though Buddhism was the predominant one. This is the period also when the game of Chaturanga would be created, eventually becoming what we now call Chess. Mathematics, including Hindu numerals, were part of what would result in the Middle East’s developments of exact sciences such as Math and Astronomy.

Several invasions by Turkic Islamic peoples also led to a shift in the main religions of the area, with Buddhism declining in favor of Islam. The introduction of gunpowder also resulted in these Islamic groups gaining power through trade. During the time of the Turkic raids, the Hindu Shahis of Afghanistan and the Bhati rulers of Multhan came together to attempt to end the slave raids. However, they were defeated in 977. Bhati lands shifted south until the Jaisalmer state was founded in 1156. That same year the Bhati Rajput ruler Jaisal built the Jaisalmer Fort which is one of the oldest and largest in the world to continue to exist and be visited. 

In 1459 Rao Jodha founded Jodhpur and began the construction of Mehrangarh Fort on a hill known as Bhakurcheeria, the mountain of birds.

Ahilya Fort
Ahilya Fort

Modern Era

Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama finally discovered the route connecting Europe and India six years after Christopher Columbus thought he’d done so. This resulted in trading posts throughout the region. 

After the Portuguese came Dutch, French and British explorers who controlled coastal areas in the 1600s. Eventually most of these would be under the purview of British rule as part of the East India Company which acted as a de facto power of the monarchy. One of the places where the East India Company had a base of operations in the country was the Rambagh Palace in Jaipur, Rajasthan, which was built in 1853. This palace belonged to Jaipur royalty and would eventually host the British Raj. 

Several rebellions against the East India Company took place in the 1800s, until it was ultimately dissolved. India would continue to be ruled by the Crown, under the British Raj.

India Gate
India Gate

Twentieth and Twenty-first Centuries

A nationwide effort toward independence, led by non-violent leader Mahatma Gandhi, surged after the Great War. The All-India Muslim League later leading their own efforts towards their own separate Muslim-majority nation state. This resulted in the partitioning of India and Pakistan in 1947. After the death of Gandhi in 1948, a memorial was erected in Delhi called Raj Ghat. 

In 1950, India became the democratic country it continues to be since the adoption of the constitution. 

Since 1991, liberal economic reforms have resulted in the country evolving into one of the fastest growing economies in the world, it’s even been included in the G20. 

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Taj Mahal in sunset light, Agra, India



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