Having a good understanding of ancient history timeline is the most essential in studying history. The knowledge of chronology of empires and major events serves as an anchor for all the knowledge we acquire about history. It provides the context to remember everything else. We highly recommend memorizing this timeline.
The major events of ancient history, chronologically are :
- Stone Age (Up to 2000 BC)
- Indus Valley Civilization ( 2500-1750 BC)
- Vedic Civilization (1500 BC – 500 BC)
- Age of Mahajanpadas (500 BC – 250 BC)
- Mauryan Empire (Around 250 BC)
- Kushan Empire (200 BC – 200 AD)
- Sangam Age in South India (300 BC – 300 AD)
- Gupta Empire (300 AD – 450 AD)
- Era of King Harsha (600 AD – 650 AD)
- Pallavas, Chalukyas and Pandyas in South India (600 AD – 850 AD)
- Chola Empire ins South India (850 AD- 1250 AD)
- Kannauj Triangle and Feudal Elements (650 AD – 1192 AD)
Ancient History Timeline
Up to 2000 BC
Evolution of humans from hunter-gatherer to a settled society with domestication of animals, agriculture and permanent settlements occured in this period. Although towards the end of stone age, Indus valley developed in north west India, stone age was prevalent in other parts of the subcontinent. This age is further divided into paleolithic, mesolithic, neolithic, chalcolithic and megalithic periods.
2500 BC – 1750 BC
Indus Valley civilization aka Harappan civilization flourished in Punjab and Sindh region of Indian subcontinent. It was the first urban civilization and the Harappan are also known to have trade links with Mesopotamian culture (modern Iran-Iraq). Unfortuanately the Harappan script has not yet been deciphered and things like decline of Indus Valley civilization still remain a mystery.
1500 BC – 500 BC
The most significant part of ancient Indian history, the Vedic civilization, thrived in region of Sapta Sindhwa (river Sindhu and its 6 tributaries). This period is usually categorised in two phases i.e. 1500 BC – 1000 BC as Rigvedic, and 1000BC – 500 BC as a later Vedic period. In about ten centuries, the Vedic culture evolved from a simple pastoral society to a more complex, settled society.
500 BC – 250 BC
Age of Mahajanpadas
After Harappan culture, Mahajanpadas represent the second urban civilization in Indian subcontinent. The small ‘Janas’ in Vedic period evolved into ’Janapadas’, which later became Mahajanpadas. This phase also witnessed the rise of numerous Heterodox sects, including Buddhism and Jainism. Consequently, we see the decline of Vedic culture in this period.
Mauryan Empire is distinctly known by its founder Chandragupta Maurya and his teacher Kautilya. This later became the first pan-Indian empire under the rule of King Ashoka. This period is also marked by the spread of Buddhism into Sri Lanka and South East Asia under the patronage of Ashoka.
200 BC – 200 AD
Pacifist policy of king Ashoka and his weak successors gave rise to the period of numerous foreign invasions around 200 BC. These included Greeks, Sakas, Parthians and Kushanas. Interestingly, many of the invaders settled in subcontinent (in north and north-west region). This era also witnessed the rise and fall of serveral weak dynasties in other parts of India, Satavahanas in Deccan being significant of them.
300 BC – 300 AD
Sangam Age in South India
The megalithic culture in South later evolved into 3 major kingdoms around 200 BC i.e. Chearas, Cholas and Pandyas. Sangam literature, developed during this period is a primary source of information about this age. Hence, this is also called as Sangam Age.
300 AD – 450 AD
Under the leadership of Samudragupta, a second pan Indian empire was established around 360 AD. The stability provided by the rule also led to the revival of Vedic culture and Sanskrit in this era. Large number of literatures were written in this age including those of Kalidasa’s. The Guptas are also known for having issued a large number of gold coins. Vakatakas, who ruled in the Deccan (succeeding Satavahanas), were contemporaries of Guptas.
600 AD – 650 AD
The Era of King Harsha
King Harsha of Vardhan dynasty is considered as the last great Hindu ruler of ancient India. He is also known for the unification of North India under one rule. The famous Chinese traveller, Yuan Schwang (Hieun Tsang), visited during his era. The feudal elements became prominent after the period of king Harsha.
600 AD – 850 AD
Pallavas, Chalukyas and Pandyas in South India
South of the Deccan, numerous small states rose and died from 300 AD to 600 AD. Eventually, by the beginning of 7th century, Chalukyas of Badami, Pandyas of Madurai and Pallavas of Kanchi emerged as three major kingdoms. We witness a lot of cultural advancement during this age. Temple architecture evolved from early rock cut temples to ratha temples to eventually Dravidian temple architecture.
850 AD – 1250 AD
Chola Empire in South India
This phase of South Indian history was dominated by the Chola empire. These Cholas are also called Imperial Cholas to avoid confusion with Cholas of Sangam age. These rulers were mostly Saivite followers and are responsible for the spread Indian culture in South East Asian countries. Dravida architecture reached its zenith under the patronage of Cholas.
650 AD – 1192 AD
Kannauj Triangle and Feudalism
Numerous regional empires dominated this phase of Indian history. Three major kingdoms i.e. the Rashtrakutas of Deccan, Palas of Bengal and Gurjar Pratiharas of Malwa region constantly fought for the control of Kannauj region. Several other feudal kingdoms like Rajputs, Chandellas, Kakatiyas also rose to power and fought in this period. Unfortunately, this served as an invitation to the foreign invasions.
The timeline mentioned here lists the major events of India’s ancient history. Our purpose here is to focus more on listing the sequence of events than trying to give the exact date for them. We’ve tried to give a more consolidated chronology of events than being encyclopedic. You may visit Wikipedia page for a more detailed timeline. However, that is not required from an exam view-point.