One thing to keep in mind about the history of
India is that until the late 1940s, India had never been a unified nation-state--not
even under the British. India has always been a mixture of empires, large and small
kingdoms, varying religions, ethnicities, and languages, as well as having a broad range
of geographic and economic differences. These volatile forces continue to make India an
often violent and strive-ridden place. Most of the larger empires and kingdoms have been
in North India, and the political center of power continues to be there. The three ancient
empires of India, the Harappan-Aryan (ca. 2000-1000 BC), the Mauryan (326-184 BC), and the
Guptan (375-415 AD) prior to the Muslim invasion all existed in the north and northwest
regions of the land.
997 The Turkish sultan Mahmud of Ghazni begins raids into
the Punjab plains, looting Indians cities. Mahmuds Islamic armies destroyed numerous
1175-1193 Muhammad of Ghur raids India. Delhi becomes the new seat of Muslim
dominance of North India. Most Hindus are forced to convert.
1211-1236 Iletmish consolidates Muslim control in Delhi and keeps Ghengis Khan
from invading. He gives Hindus the status of udhinmis or protected (but taxed)
1296-1316 Ala-ud-din-Khalyi achieves greatest extent of the Delhi sultanate. He
taxes the Hindu populace by 50% or more.
1338 Bengal achieves independence from Delhi until the Mongul conquest of the 16th
1351-1388 A period of peace, prosperity, and cultural achievement under the
Muslim leader Firuz. Delhi becomes a garden city full of mosques and famous colleges and
1398 The Central Asian despot Tameriane invades North India, plundering Old
Delhi, killing and enslaving tens of thousands.
April 21, 1526 Babur of Kabul founds the Modhul dynasty in Delhi.
(*) 1556-1605 Akbar the Great builds strong connections with the local Hindu
population, abolishes the heavy taxation of Hindus, ends enslavement and forced
conversions. Akbar begins to adopt a belief system that weaves together Hindu, Sikh, and
Jannist beliefs with Islam.
(*) 1605-1627 Jhangirs reign reaches the height of Indo-Persian cultural
syncretism. The construction of the Taj Mahal begins. A great period of Modhul painting
(*) 1628-1658 Shah Jahan, the most lavish of all Moghul rulers. Jahan begins a
massive building campaign over six new cities, including Jahanabad, the site of the
present Old Delhi. He completes the Taj Mahal. Jahan was noted for jewel encrusting just
(*) 1658-1707 Aurangzeb comes to power. Aurangzeb in ruthlessly orthodox in his
beliefs and he is greatly hated by both his court and the general populace. He appoints
Muslim censors of public behavior in every city, outlaws most Hindu practices, re-imposes
the tax on Hindus, and uses the imperial elephants to crush rebellions including those by
the Sikh population. Aurangzeb spends the last twenty-six years of his rule trying to
conquer the Deccan Plain. The great slaughter exhausts both his forces and the
countryside. In 1707, he writes the famous letter to his son that Bim recalls.
1707-1764 Great period of internal conflicts. Nizan establishes a Muslim dynasty
in mostly Hindu Hyderabad in South India.
1764-1765 The minor Moghul dynasties are defeated by the British army on the
Ganges. The British opt for secondary control, leaving the sultans in control in name
1813 Charles Metcalfe and Thomas Munro establish British control in Delhi.
1833 The English Charter Act opens India to unrestricted British immigration,
commerce, and education.
1857-1858 The Anglo-Indian War. Delhi becomes one of the three major centers of
revolt. The last great Moghul ruler of Delhi, Bahadur Shah II, is deposed on September 20,
1857 by the British.
1870-1890 The first wave of Hindu Indian nationalism arises in Bengal and
Bombay. These movements tend to alienate Muslims. Sir Sayyad Ahmud Khan of Moghul descent
founds the College of Aligarh near Delhi, a major center of Muslim activity. The Muslim
League is formed and takes a broadly pro-British stance.
1911 The British administrative capital is moved from Calcutta to New Delhi. The
Muslim League begins to adopt a self-governing position.
1920s Growing Hindu-Muslim conflict in Bengali and Punjabi regions of
December 1928 Jinnah, the future founder of Pakistan breaks with the Indian
1930 Muhammad Iqbal prospers a new Northwestern Muslim state.
1935-1938 The British government provides for local province rule. In the first
elections, the Muslim League only take 109 seats. Jinnah and others take this as a sign
that Muslims will be displaced by Hindu nationalism. The unites the other Muslim parties
under Jinnahs leadership.
1940-1945 Growing plans for the partition of Pakistan from India in two regions
the Northwest and what will late become Bengaldesh. Gandhi is increasingly
alienated from Muslim leaders over this plan.
May 1944 Gandhi and Jinnah meet for talks, which break down after eighteen days.
August 16, 1946 Muslim "Direct Action" Day or "The Great
Killing" Hundreds of thousands are killed from this point to the winter of
47. February 20, 1947 British government agrees to give up control of India
by June of 1948. Widespread violence breaks out in the Northwestern Frontier regions.
Jinnah, who is now bedridden, learns he has terminal tuberculosis.
April 20 Nehru agrees to let the Muslim League have Pakistan
June 15 Formal declaration of the "two independent dominions." Over
ten million people migrate in one direction of the other between Pakistan and India during
the next few months. Over one million are killed during this migration.
August 14 India declares independence. Hyderabad refuses to join.
1947-1948 First Indo-Pakistan War breaks out over the region of Kashmir. (India
and Kakistan will continue to periodically fight over this region in the 1960s,
1970s and as late as 1999.) Gandhi fasts in protest of the widespread killing of
Muslims. This results in his being condemned by radical Hindu nationalist groups.
January 30, 1948 Gandhi is assassinated by a Hindu nationalist.
September 13, 1948 Indian troops crush Hyderbads resistance, and the
region is formally absorbed into India.