The late medieval period is defined by the disruption to native Indian elites by Muslim Central Asian nomadic clans; leading to the Rajput resistance to Muslim conquests. The growth of Hindu and Muslim dynasties and empires, built upon new military technology and techniques. The rise of theistic devotional trend of the Bhakti movement and the advent of Sikhism.
Like other settled, agrarian societies in history, those in the Indian subcontinent have been attacked by nomadic tribes throughout its long history. In evaluating the impact of Islam on the sub-continent, one must note that the northwestern subcontinent was a frequent target of tribes raiding from Central Asia. In that sense, the Muslim intrusions and later Muslim invasions were not dissimilar to those of the earlier invasions during the 1st millennium. What does however, make the Muslim intrusions and later Muslim invasions different is that unlike the preceding invaders who assimilated into the prevalent social system, the successful Muslim conquerors retained their Islamic identity and created new legal and administrative systems that challenged and usually in many cases superseded the existing systems of social conduct and ethics, even influencing the non-Muslim rivals and common masses to a large extent, though the non-Muslim population was left to their own laws and customs. They also introduced new cultural codes that in some ways were very different from the existing cultural codes. This led to the rise of a new Indian culture which was mixed in nature, though different from both the ancient Indian culture and later westernised modern Indian culture. At the same time it must be noted that overwhelming majority of Muslims in India are Indian natives converted to Islam. This factor also played an important role in the synthesis of cultures.
The growth of Muslim dominion resulted in the destruction and desecration of politically important temples of enemy states, cases of forced conversions to Islam, payment of jizya tax, and loss of life for the non-Muslim population.
Before the Muslim expeditions into the Indian subcontinent, much of North and West India was ruled by Rajput dynasties. The Rajputs and the south Indian Chalukya dynasty were successful in containing Arab Muslim expansion during the Caliphate campaigns in India; but later, Central Asian Muslim Turks were able to break through the Rajput defence into the Northern Indian heartland. However, the Rajputs held out against the Muslim Turkic empires for several centuries. They earned a reputation of fighting battles obeying a code of chivalrous conduct rooted in a strong adherence to tradition and Chi.
The Rajput Chauhan dynasty established its control over Delhi and Ajmer in the 10th century. The most famous ruler of this dynasty was Prithviraj Chauhan. His reign marked one of the most significant moments in Indian history; his battles with Muslim Sultan, Muhammad Ghori. In the First Battle of Tarain, Ghori was defeated with heavy losses. However, the Second Battle of Tarain saw the Rajput army eventually defeated, laying the foundation of Muslim rule in mainland India.
The Mewar dynasty under Maharana Hammir defeated and captured Muhammad Tughlaq with the Bargujars as his main allies. Tughlaq had to pay a huge ransom and relinquish all of Mewar’s lands. After this event, the Delhi Sultanate did not attack Chittorgarh for a few hundred years. The Rajputs re-established their independence, and Rajput states were established as far east as Bengal and north into the Punjab. The Tomaras established themselves at Gwalior, and Man Singh Tomar built the fortress which still stands there. During this period, Mewar emerged as the leading Rajput state; and Rana Kumbha expanded his kingdom at the expense of the Sultanates of Malwa and Gujarat. The next great Rajput ruler, Rana Sanga of Mewar, became the principal player in Northern India. His objectives grew in scope – he planned to conquer the much sought after prize of the Muslim rulers of the time, Delhi. But, his defeat in the Battle of Khanwa consolidated the new Mughal dynasty in India. However, Maharana Pratap of Mewar, a 16th-century Rajput ruler, firmly resisted the Mughals. Akbar sent many missions against him. He survived to ultimately gain control of all of Mewar, excluding the Chittorgarh Fort.
The Chittorgarh Fort is the largest in India; it is a symbol for Rajput resistance. Chittorgarh Fort was sacked three times during the 15th and 16th centuries by Muslim armies. In 1303 Allauddin Khilji defeated Rana Ratan Singh; in 1535 Bahadur Shah, the Sultanate of Gujarat defeated Bikramjeet Singh; and in 1567 Akbar defeated Maharana Udai Singh II, who left the fort and founded Udaipur. Each time the men fought bravely rushing out of the fort walls charging the enemy, but lost. Following these defeats, Jauhar was committed thrice by many of the wives and children of the Rajput soldiers who died in battles at Chittorgarh Fort. The first time, this was led by Rani Padmini wife of Rana Rattan Singh who was killed in the battle in 1303, and later by Rani Karnavati in 1537.
The historian Dr. R.P. Tripathi noted:
The history of Muslim sovereignty in India begins properly speaking with Iltutmish.
The Delhi Sultanate was a Muslim sultanate based in Delhi, ruled by several dynasties of Turkic, Turko-Indian and Pathan origins. It ruled large parts of the Indian subcontinent from the 13th century to the early 16th century. The context behind the rise of the Delhi Sultanate in India was part of a wider trend affecting much of the Asian continent, including the whole of southern and western Asia: the influx of nomadic Turkic peoples from the Central Asian steppes. This can be traced back to the 9th century, when the Islamic Caliphate began fragmenting in the Middle East, where Muslim rulers in rival states began enslaving non-Muslim nomadic Turks from the Central Asian steppes, and raising many of them to become loyal military slaves called Mamluks. Soon, Turks were migrating to Muslim lands and becoming Islamicized. Many of the Turkic Mamluk slaves eventually rose up to become rulers, and conquered large parts of the Muslim world, establishing Mamluk Sultanates from Egypt to Afghanistan, before turning their attention to the Indian subcontinent.
In the 12th and 13th centuries, Central Asian Turks invaded parts of northern India and established the Delhi Sultanate in the former Hindu holdings. The subsequent Slave dynasty of Delhi managed to conquer large areas of northern India, while the Khilji dynasty conquered most of central India while forcing the principal Hindu kingdoms of South India to become vassal states. However, they 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 (1236–1240).
During the Delhi Sultanate, there was a synthesis between Indian civilization and Islamic civilization. The latter was a cosmopolitan civilization, with a multicultural and pluralistic society, and wide-ranging international networks, including social and economic networks, spanning large parts of Afro-Eurasia, leading to escalating circulation of goods, peoples, technologies and ideas. While initially disruptive due to the passing of power from native Indian elites to Turkic Muslim elites, the Delhi Sultanate was responsible for integrating the Indian subcontinent into a growing world system, drawing India into a wider international network, which had a significant impact on Indian culture and society.
From 1 CE to 1000 CE, the Indian population and economy were stagnant with no growth for a thousand years. During the Medieval Delhi Sultanate era, between 1000 and 1500, India began to experience population and GDP growth for the first time in a thousand years, with the population increasing nearly 50% and the GDP increasing nearly 80% by 1500. In terms of GDP per capita, India’s per-capita income was lower than the Middle East from 1 CE (16% lower) to 1000 CE (about 40% lower), but by the late Delhi Sultanate era in 1500, India’s GDP per capita had increased to being almost on-par with the Middle East.
In the 13th century, the Mongol Empire had invaded and conquered most of Asia and Eastern Europe. However, the Mongol invasions of India were successfully repelled by the Delhi Sultanate. A major factor in their success was their Turkic Mamluk slave army, who were highly skilled in the same style of nomadic cavalry warfare as the Mongols, as a result of having similar nomadic Central Asian roots. It is possible that the Mongol Empire may have expanded into India were it not for the Delhi Sultanate’s role in repelling them.
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.
The Bhakti movement refers to the theistic devotional trend that emerged in medieval Hinduism and later revolutionised in Sikhism. It originated in the seventh-century south India (now parts of Tamil Nadu and Kerala), and spread northwards. It swept over east and north India from the 15th century onwards, reaching its zenith between the 15th and 17th century CE.
The Bhakti movement regionally developed around different gods and goddesses, such as Vaishnavism (Vishnu), Shaivism (Shiva), Shaktism (Shakti goddesses), and Smartism. The movement was inspired by many poet-saints, who championed a wide range of philosophical positions ranging from theistic dualism of Dvaita to absolute monism of Advaita Vedanta.
Sikhism is based on the spiritual teachings of Guru Nanak, the first Guru, and the ten successive Sikh gurus. After the death of the tenth Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, the Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, became the literal embodiment of the eternal, impersonal Guru, where the scripture’s word serves as the spiritual guide for Sikhs.
The Vijayanagara Empire was established in 1336 by Harihara I and his brother Bukka Raya I of Sangama Dynasty. The empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara, whose ruins surround present day Hampi, now a World Heritage Site in Karnataka, India.
The empire’s legacy includes many monuments spread over South India, the best known of which is the group at Hampi. The previous temple building traditions in South India came together in the Vijayanagara Architecture style. The mingling of all faiths and vernaculars inspired architectural innovation of Hindu temple construction, first in the Deccan and later in the Dravidian idioms using the local granite. South Indian mathematics flourished under the protection of the Vijayanagara Empire in Kerala. The south Indian mathematician Madhava of Sangamagrama founded the famous Kerala school of astronomy and mathematics in the 14th century which produced a lot of great south Indian mathematicians like Parameshvara, Nilakantha Somayaji and Jye??hadeva in medieval south India. Efficient administration and vigorous overseas trade brought new technologies such as water management systems for irrigation. The empire’s patronage enabled fine arts and literature to reach new heights in Kannada, Telugu, Tamil and Sanskrit, while Carnatic music evolved into its current form.
The Vijayanagara Empire created an epoch in South Indian history that transcended regionalism by promoting Hinduism as a unifying factor. The empire reached its peak during the rule of Sri Krishnadevaraya when Vijayanagara armies were consistently victorious. The empire annexed areas formerly under the Sultanates in the northern Deccan and the territories in the eastern Deccan, including Kalinga, while simultaneously maintaining control over all its subordinates in the south. Many important monuments were either completed or commissioned during the time of Krishna Deva Raya. Vijayanagara went into decline after the defeat in the Battle of Talikota (1565).
For two and a half centuries from the mid 13th century, politics in Northern India was dominated by the Delhi Sultanate, and in Southern India by the Vijayanagar Empire, which originated as a political heir of the Hoysala Empire and Pandyan Empire. However, there were other regional powers present as well. The Reddy dynasty successfully defeated the Delhi Sultanate; and extended their rule from Cuttack in the north to Kanchi in the south, eventually being absorbed into the expanding Vijayanagara Empire. In the north, the Rajput kingdoms remained the dominant force in Western and Central India. Their power reached its zenith under Rana Sanga, during whose time Rajput armies were constantly victorious against the Sultanate armies. In the south, the Bahmani Sultanate was the chief rival of the Vijayanagara, and frequently created difficulties for the Vijayanagara. In the early 16th century Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagar Empire defeated the last remnant of Bahmani Sultanate power, after which the Bahmani Sultanate collapsed. It was established either by a Brahman convert or patronised by a Brahman and from that source it was given the name Bahmani. In the early 16th century, it collapsed and split into five small Deccan sultanates.
In the East, the Gajapati Kingdom remained a strong regional power to reckon with, associated with a high point in the growth of regional culture and architecture. Under Kapilendradeva, Gajapatis became an empire stretching from the lower Ganga in the north to the Kaveri in the south. In Northeast India, the Ahom Kingdom was a major power for six centuries; led by Lachit Borphukan, the Ahoms decisively defeated the Mughal army at the Battle of Saraighat during the Ahom-Mughal conflicts. Further east in Northeastern India was the Kingdom of Manipur, which ruled from their seat of power at Kangla Fort and developed a sophisticated Hindu Gaudiya Vaishnavite culture.
The early modern period of Indian history is dated from 1526–1858 CE, corresponding to the rise and fall of the Mughal dynasty. This period witnessed the cultural synthesis of Hindu and Muslim elements reflected in Indo-Islamic architecture; the growth of Maratha and Sikh imperial powers over vast regions of the Indian subcontinent with the decline of the Mughals; and came to an end when the British Raj was founded.
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 his Hindu general Hemu Vikramaditya had established secular rule in North India from Delhi till 1556. After winning Battle of Delhi, Akbar’s forces defeated Hemu in the Second Battle of Panipat on 6 November 1556.
The famous emperor Akbar the Great, who was the grandson of Babar, tried to establish a good relationship with the Hindus. Akbar declared “Amari” or non-killing of animals in the holy days of Jainism. He rolled back the jizya tax for non-Muslims. The Mughal emperors married local royalty, allied themselves with local maharajas, and attempted to fuse their Turko-Persian culture with ancient Indian styles, creating a unique Indo-Persian culture and Indo-Saracenic architecture. Akbar married a Rajput princess, Mariam-uz-Zamani, and they had a son, Jahangir, who was part-Mughal and part-Rajput, as were future Mughal emperors. Jahangir more or less followed his 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 era is considered to be “India’s last golden age”. It was the second largest empire to have existed in the Indian subcontinent, and surpassed China to be become the world’s largest economic power, controlling 24.4% of the world economy, and the world leader in manufacturing, producing 25% of global industrial output. India’s GDP growth increased under the Mughal Empire, with India’s GDP having a faster growth rate during the Mughal era than in the 1,500 years prior to the Mughal era. India’s population growth also accelerated under the Mughal Empire, with an unprecedented economic and demographic upsurge that boosted the Indian population by 60% to 253% in 200 years during 1500–1700; the Indian population had a faster growth during the Mughal era than at any known point in Indian history prior to the Mughal era. The economic and demographic upsurge was stimulated by Mughal agrarian reforms that intensified agricultural production, a proto-industrializing economy that began moving towards industrial manufacturing, and a relatively high degree of urbanization for its time.
The Mughals were perhaps the richest single dynasty to have ever existed. During the Mughal era, the dominant political forces consisted of the Mughal Empire and its tributaries and, later on, the rising successor states – including the Maratha Empire – which fought an increasingly weak Mughal dynasty. The Mughals had a policy of integration with Indian culture, which is what made them successful where the short-lived Sultanates of Delhi had failed. This period marked vast social change in the subcontinent as the Hindu majority were ruled by the Mughal emperors, most of whom showed religious tolerance, liberally patronising Hindu culture.
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”. Aurangazeb is considered India’s most controversial king. He was less tolerant than his predecessors, reintroducing the jizya tax and destroying several historical temples, while at the same time building more Hindu temples than he destroyed, employing significantly more Hindus in his imperial bureaucracy than his predecessors, and opposing Sunni Muslim bigotry against Hindus and Shia Muslims. However, he is often blamed for the erosion of the tolerant syncretic tradition of his predecessors, as well as increasing brutality and centralisation, which may have played a large part in the dynasty’s downfall after Aurangzeb, who unlike previous emperors, imposed relatively less pluralistic policies on the general population, which may have inflamed the majority Hindu population.
The empire went into decline thereafter. The Mughals suffered several blows due to invasions from Marathas and Afghans. During the decline of the Mughal Empire, several smaller states rose to fill the power vacuum and themselves were contributing factors to the decline. In 1737, the Maratha general Bajirao of the Maratha Empire invaded and plundered Delhi. Under the general Amir Khan Umrao Al Udat, the Mughal Emperor sent 8,000 troops to drive away the 5,000 Maratha cavalry soldiers. Baji Rao, however, easily routed the novice Mughal general and the rest of the imperial Mughal army fled. In 1737, in the final defeat of Mughal Empire, the commander-in-chief of the Mughal Army, Nizam-ul-mulk, was routed at Bhopal by the Maratha army. This essentially brought an end to the Mughal Empire. In 1739, Nader Shah, emperor of Iran, defeated the Mughal army at the Battle of Karnal. After this victory, Nader captured and sacked Delhi, carrying away many treasures, including the Peacock Throne. 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.
The early 18th century saw the rise of Maratha suzerainty over the Indian subcontinent. Under the Peshwas, the Maratha Empire consolidated and ruled over much of South Asia. The Marathas are credited to a large extent for ending the Mughal rule in India.
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 Northwestern 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. As noted by Charles Metcalfe, one of the ablest of the British Officials in India and later acting Governor-General, wrote in 1806:
India contains no more than two great powers, British and Mahratta, and every other state acknowledges the influence of one or the other. Every inch that we recede will be occupied by them.
The Marathas also developed a potent navy circa 1660s, which at its peak, dominated the territorial waters of the western coast of India from Mumbai to Savantwadi. For a brief period, the Maratha Navy also established its base at the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal. It would engage in attacking the British, Portuguese, Dutch, and Siddi Naval ships and kept a check on their naval ambitions. The Maratha Navy dominated till around the 1730s, was in a state of decline by the 1770s, and ceased to exist by 1818.
The Sikh Empire, ruled by members of the Sikh religion, was a political entity that governed the Northwestern regions of the Indian Subcontinent. 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 (1780–1839) from an array of autonomous Punjabi Misls.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh consolidated many parts of northern India into an empire. He primarily used his highly disciplined Sikh Khalsa Army that he trained and equipped with modern military technologies and technique. Ranjit Singh proved himself to be a master strategist and selected well qualified generals for his army. He continuously defeated the Afghan armies and successfully ended the Afghan-Sikh Wars. In stages, he added the central Punjab, the provinces of Multan and Kashmir, the Peshawar Valley, and the Derajat to his empire.
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. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the empire weakened, leading to the conflict with the British East India Company. The hard-fought first Anglo-Sikh war and second Anglo-Sikh war marked the downfall of the Sikh Empire; making it among the last areas of the Indian subcontinent to be conquered by the British.
There were several other kingdoms which ruled over parts of India in the later medieval period prior to the British occupation. However, most of them were bound to pay regular tribute to the Marathas. The rule of Wodeyar dynasty which established the Kingdom of Mysore in southern India in around 1400 CE by was interrupted by Hyder Ali and his son Tipu Sultan in the later half of the 18th century. Under their rule, Mysore fought a series of wars sometimes against the combined forces of the British and Marathas, but mostly against the British, with Mysore receiving some aid or promise of aid from the French.
The Nawabs of Bengal had become the de facto rulers of Bengal following the decline of Mughal Empire. However, their rule was interrupted by Marathas who carried six expeditions in Bengal from 1741 to 1748 as a result of which Bengal became a tributary state of Marathas.
Hyderabad was founded by the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda in 1591. Following a brief Mughal rule, Asif Jah, a Mughal official, seized control of Hyderabad and declared himself Nizam-al-Mulk of Hyderabad in 1724. It was ruled by a hereditary Nizam from 1724 until 1948. Both Kingdom of Mysore and Hyderabad State became princely states in British India in 1799 and 1798 respectively.
The 18th century saw the whole of Rajputana virtually subdued by the Marathas. The Second Anglo-Maratha War distracted the Marathas from 1807 to 1809, but afterwards Maratha domination of Rajputana resumed. In 1817, the British went to war with the Pindaris, raiders who were based in Maratha territory, which quickly became the Third Anglo-Maratha War, and the British government offered its protection to the Rajput rulers from the Pindaris and the Marathas. By the end of 1818 similar treaties had been executed between the other Rajput states and Britain. The Maratha Sindhia ruler of Gwalior gave up the district of Ajmer-Merwara to the British, and Maratha influence in Rajasthan came to an end. Most of the Rajput princes remained loyal to Britain in the Revolt of 1857, and few political changes were made in Rajputana until Indian independence in 1947. The Rajputana Agency contained more than 20 princely states, most notable being Udaipur State, Jaipur State, Bikaner State and Jodhpur State.
After the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1846, under the terms of the Treaty of Amritsar, the British government sold Kashmir to Maharaja Gulab Singh and the princely state of Jammu and Kashmir, the second largest princely state in British India, was created by the Dogra dynasty.
After the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire, Palaiyakkarar states emerged in Southern India; and managed to weather invasions and flourished till the advent of the British. Around the 18th century, the Kingdom of Nepal was formed by Rajput rulers.
In 1498, a Portuguese fleet under Vasco da Gama successfully discovered a new sea route from Europe to India, which paved the way for direct Indo-European commerce. The Portuguese soon set up trading posts in Goa, Daman, Diu and Bombay. Goa became the main Portuguese base until it was annexed by India in 1961.
The next to arrive were the Dutch, with their main base in Ceylon. They established ports in Malabar. However, their expansion into India was halted, after their defeat in the Battle of Colachel by the Kingdom of Travancore, during the Travancore-Dutch War. The Dutch never recovered from the defeat and no longer posed a large colonial threat to India.
In the words of the noted historian, Professor A. Sreedhara Menon:
A disaster of the first magnitude for the Dutch, the battle of Colachel shattered for all time their dream of the conquest of Kerala.
The internal conflicts among Indian kingdoms gave opportunities to the European traders to gradually establish political influence and appropriate lands. Following the Dutch, the British—who set up in the west coast port of Surat in 1619—and the French both established trading outposts in India. Although these continental European powers controlled various coastal regions of southern and eastern India during the ensuing century, they eventually lost all their territories in India to the British, with the exception of the French outposts of Pondichéry and Chandernagore, and the Portuguese colonies of Goa, Daman and Diu.
In 1617 the British East India Company was given permission by Mughal Emperor Jahangir to trade in India. Gradually their increasing influence led the de jure Mughal emperor Farrukh Siyar to grant them dastaks or permits for duty-free trade in Bengal in 1717.
The Nawab of Bengal Siraj Ud Daulah, the de facto ruler of the Bengal province, opposed British attempts to use these permits. This led to the Battle of Plassey on 23 June 1757, in which the Bengal Army of the East India Company, led by Robert Clive, defeated the French-supported Nawab’s forces. This was the first real political foothold with territorial implications that the British acquired in India. Clive was appointed by the company as its first ‘Governor of Bengal’ in 1757. This was combined with British victories over the French at Madras, Wandiwash and Pondichéry that, along with wider British successes during the Seven Years’ War, reduced French influence in India. The British East India Company extended its control over the whole of Bengal. After the Battle of Buxar in 1764, the company acquired the rights of administration in Bengal from de jure Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II; this marked the beginning of its formal rule, which within the next century engulfed most of India. The East India Company monopolised the trade of Bengal. They introduced a land taxation system called the Permanent Settlement which introduced a feudal-like structure in Bengal, often with zamindars set in place.
As a result of the three Carnatic Wars, the British East India Company gained exclusive control over the entire Carnatic region of India. The Company soon expanded its territories around its bases in Bombay and Madras; the Anglo-Mysore Wars (1766–1799) and later the Anglo-Maratha Wars (1772–1818) led to control of the vast regions of India. Ahom Kingdom of North-east India first fell to Burmese invasion and then to British after Treaty of Yandabo in 1826. Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, and Kashmir were annexed after the Second Anglo-Sikh War in 1849; however, Kashmir was immediately sold under the Treaty of Amritsar to the Dogra Dynasty of Jammu and thereby became a princely state. The border dispute between Nepal and British India, which sharpened after 1801, had caused the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814–16 and brought the defeated Gurkhas under British influence. In 1854, Berar was annexed, and the state of Oudh was added two years later.
After the turn of the 19th century, Governor-General Wellesley began what became two decades of accelerated expansion of Company territories. This was achieved either by subsidiary alliances between the Company and local rulers or by direct military annexation. The subsidiary alliances created the princely states or native states of the Hindu maharajas and the Muslim nawabs.
By the 1850s, the East India Company controlled most of the Indian subcontinent. Their policy was sometimes summed up as Divide and Rule, taking advantage of the enmity festering between various princely states and social and religious groups.
The Indian indenture system was an ongoing system of indenture, a form of debt bondage, by which 3.5 million Indians were transported to various colonies of European powers to provide labour for the (mainly sugar) plantations. It started from the end of slavery in 1833 and continued until 1920. This resulted in the development of large Indian diaspora, which spread from the Indian Ocean (i.e. Réunion and Mauritius) to Pacific Ocean (i.e. Fiji), as well as the growth of Indo-Caribbean and Indo-African population.
History of India, Wikipedia. Retrived 03 September 2017