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Ancient History of India

Dates of the Ancient period of Indian History

It is safe to assume the advent of Aryans on Indian soil as the date of the ancient period in India. The prior civilizations of India have been categorized under Prehistoric Indian civilizations. The arrival of the Aryans to India is believed to have taken place sometime around the 2nd millennium BC. This is also the beginning of a period when we receive the earliest forms of literary sources for the study of history.

Phases of Ancient Indian history

The history of ancient India can be best described if it is detailed in phases.

The Vedic Age

This is the earliest period of ancient Indian history. The name has been derived from the Vedas or the sacred texts of the Aryans who had arrived in India. In the beginning this civilization centered in the north and north western parts of India. The Vedic Age can be ideally divided as the early Vedic age and the later Vedic age.

  • Early Vedic Age – the early period of Aryan settlement in the Indian subcontinent as well as the establishment of the civilization can be termed as the early Vedic Age. This period is marked by some important developments.

  • Rigveda – this ancient text was developed during this age. It is a collection Sanskrit hymns that touch almost every aspect of human life. It forms the basic religious text of Hinduism and the sacred chants are in practice even today.

  • Political System – it is difficult to assume whether the unique political system that developed during this period was a left over of the Indus valley civilization or entirely devised by the Indo Aryans themselves. However this system was unique in the developments of various political units of administration like that of a Grama (village), Vish and Jana all of which formed the Rashtra.

  • Administrative System – this was probably the earliest reflection of a republic where the popular opinion of the majority was considered. There were two sections called the Sabha that consisted of elderly people and the Samiti that consisted of younger opinions. It was the joint opinion that was taken in view before implementation by the king.

  • Caste System – though there was a caste system called Varna it was purely a segregation of the people in the basis of their professional pursuits. There were no discriminations in practice on account of that.

  • Religious Practices – there were religious ceremonies and all such practices were followed on the lines of the methods laid down in the Vedas. These ceremonies were seen of a communication between man and the Creator.

  • Later Vedic Age – the Later Vedic Age is defined from a period around 500 BC. This is the period that marks a change in every aspect of life from that of the Early Vedic Age.

  • Mahajanapadas – in the political arena the earlier units disappeared with the rise of the 16 Mahajanapadas. This rise also reflects the power of kingship that developed in the period with strong domination of the Kshatriyas over political and military affairs of the states.

  • Caste System – a strict caste system developed over the years with the two top castes of Brahmins and Kshatriyas were considered superior than the others and enjoyed all social privileges. This was the period when severe caste discrimination was in vogue especially against those who were considered to belong to the lower castes.

  • Religious System – the sanctified religious practices were later replaced by elaborate rituals and expensive ceremonies that were usually out of the reach of ordinary people. The performing of such rituals also made the Brahmins important in society and was considered to be the representatives of God on earth.

Dynasties of Ancient India

There were several dynasties of ancient India that are remembered even today for the number of worthy and efficient kings that each have produced. All of these great men have effectively worked for the welfare of the people as well as the glory of the nation. Some of the important dynasties were as follows

  • Sisunaga Dynasty – Bimbisara
  • Mauryan Dynasty – Chandragupta Maurya, Asoka the Great
  • Satavahana Dynasty – Gautamiputra Satakarni
  • Gupta Dynasty – Chandra Gupta I, Samudra Gupta, Chandragupta II, Kumaragupta I, Skandagupta

Important Kings of Ancient India

The different phases of ancient Indian history have seen Kings who are remembered even today for their political and military accomplishments.

  • Bimbisara – he was the king of the Magadhan Empire from 543 BC. He was the famous king of Magadha under whose rule the kingdom was not only increased in its political expanses but also flourished in several activities like arts and culture.

  • Chandragupta Maurya – the founder of the Mauryan Dynasty he can be given credence for bringing the territories of the Indian subcontinent under one rule. He is also considered to be the true Emperor of India who could have consolidated a huge kingdom with good administrative and military capability.

  • Asoka the Great – son of Chandragupta Maurya he was one of India’s greatest emperors whose reign extended from 304 BC to 232 BC. He is remembered even today for his political achievements as well as his embrace of Buddhism after the Kalinga War. He was responsible for spreading the religion to several countries of the world.

  • Gautamiputra Satakarni – he is known as the greatest of the Satavahana kings after his father Satakarni. The Satavahana Empire was integrated into a strong kingdom under his rule when he defeated several detractors to increase the power of the Satavahana Kingdom.

  • Chandra Gupta I – it was under his rule that the Gupta dynasty saw a rise in its power and glory. He is often described as a Maharajadhiraja which is symbolic of an increase of the power and resources of the kingdom.

  • Samudra Gupta – he is considered to be the greatest of the Gupta kings. There was a great deal of socio-political and cultural activities that took place during his time. It is understood from the sources that he was a keen patron of music and art besides being a good king to his subjects. The period of his rule between 335 AD and 380 AD is also referred to as the Golden Age in Indian history.