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A civilization in Civilization Revolution 2
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The Indian subcontinent is the home to one of the world's oldest and most influential civilizations. From about 5000 BC, increasing numbers of settlements of subsistence agriculturalists began to appear throughout the Indus Valley; by 2600 BC some of these villages grew into urban centers, forming the basis for the early Harappan civilization, the peer of contemporary Egyptian and Babylonian civilizations. It was around this period that Hinduism, the world's oldest religion, began to take form. Unlike the Egyptians and Babylonians, however, a central state failed to form in India until a much later period. It was not until the Mauryan Period (325-185 BC) that the first Indian empire ruling most of the subcontinent took shape.
Chandragupta Maurya was the warrior who carved out much of the territory that would form the Mauryan Empire. It was under Chandragupta's grandson Asoka (272-232 BC), however, that the Mauryan Empire reached its height, covering the entire subcontinent except for the southern tip. Asoka's India possessed an elaborate administrative and tax-collecting system, and trade flourished due to his construction of roads. Asoka converted to Buddhism during his rule and gave up violent conquest in order to live a moral life. His ethical teachings can still be found inscribed on pillars and rockfaces across India today.
The disintegration of the Mauryan empire a century later gave rise to a number of feuding kingdoms and these divided kingdoms were unable to stand against a rising threat from the west. The first Arabic raids in the subcontinent were made along the western coast and in Sind during the 7th and 8th centuries. By the 12th century most of the subcontinent was under Muslim rule.
The Muslim states were themselves supplanted by the Islamic Mughul Empire (1526-1761 AD), founded by Zahir-ud-Din Muhammad Babur (1526-1530 AD). Babur was a Mongol, a fifth-generation descendant of Timur and a 14th-generation descendant of Genghis Khan. In a lightning series of campaigns commencing in 1511 AD, he overran the Punjab and Hindustan. Akbar the Great (1556-1605 AD), his grandson, continued the conquest of the subcontinent, overrunning Gujarat, Bengal and Rajasthan. At its zenith, the Mughal realm commanded resources unprecedented in Indian history and covered almost the entire subcontinent.
The 16th and 17th centuries also saw the establishment and expansion of European trading organizations in the subcontinent, principally for the procurement of rare resources. By 1740, the Portuguese, Dutch, English, and French had all founded colonial trading posts within India. Through the East India Company (which was backed by the full power of the British navy), Britain soon came to dominate all trade with India.
By this time the Mughal Empire was on the verge of collapse. Through a clever combination of shrewd diplomacy, bribery, and military force the British soon won control of the rich province of Bengal, and continued their territorial expansion from there. By 1850, the entire subcontinent was controlled by the British either directly or through puppet native rulers.
The Indian National Congress held its first meeting in December 1885 in Bombay even as Indian troops were fighting in upper Burma under the British flag. Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948), later known as Mahatma ("Great-Souled"), was recognized throughout India as the spiritual leader of a nationwide movement for independence. Fatally weakened by two world wars and under increasing pressure from the United States, in 1947 Britain granted India its independence.
India today is the world's largest democracy, with a population estimated at over a billion and is one of the world's rising powers.
Several of the world's most popular religions had their foundation in India. Hinduism, the traditional religion of India, remains the world's most popular polytheistic religion. As well, the original Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, began his teachings in India.
Hindi and Urdu, two of the most prominent languages of the many dozens that are spoken in India, are actually nearly the same language. The key difference is the manner in which they are written. Urdu uses a Persian script that at a glance appears similar to Arabic while Hindi draws more from Sanskrit alphabets and vocabulary.