Medieval India

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Medieval India refers to a long period of the history of the Indian subcontinent between the "ancient period" and "modern period". Definitions of the period itself vary widely, and partly for this reason, many historians now prefer to avoid the term completely.[1]

One definition, used in the rest of this article, includes the period from the 8th century[2] to the 16th century, essentially the same period as the Middle Ages of Europe. It may be divided into two periods: The 'early medieval period' which lasted from the 6th to the 13th century and the 'late medieval period' which lasted from the 13th to the 16th century, ending with the start of the Mughal Empire in 1526. The Mughal era, from the 16th century to the 18th century, is often referred to as the early modern period,[3] but is sometimes also included in the 'late medieval' period.

An alternative definition, often seen in those more recent authors who still use the term at all, brings the start of the medieval period forward, either to about 1000 CE, or to the 12th century. The end may be pushed back to the 18th century, making the period in effect that between the start of Muslim domination (at least in northern India) and British India. Or the "early medieval" period is begun in the 8th century, ending with the 11th.[4]

The use of "medieval" at all as a term for periods in Indian history has often been objected to, and is probably becoming more rare (there is a similar discussion in terms of the history of China).[5] It is argued that neither the start nor the end of the period really mark fundamental changes in Indian history, comparable to the European equivalents.[6] Burton Stein still used the concept in his A History of India (1998, referring to the period from the Guptas to the Mughals), but most recent authors using it are Indian. Understandably, they often specify the period they cover within their titles.[7] The critic Peter Hardy argues that Muslim historiography on medieval India is often motivated by Islamic apologetics, which tries to justify "the life of medieval Muslims to the modern world".[8]

Early medieval period

The start of the period is typically taken to be the slow collapse of the Gupta Empire from about 480 to 550,[9] ending the "classical" period, as well as "ancient India",[10] although both these terms may be used for periods with widely different dates, especially in specialized fields such as the history of art or religion.[11] At least in northern India, there was no larger state until perhaps the Delhi Sultanate, or certainly the Mughal Empire,[12] but there were several different dynasties ruling large areas for long periods, as well as many other dynasties ruling smaller areas, often paying some form of tribute to larger states. John Keay puts the typical number of dynasties within the subcontinent at any one time at between 20 and 40,[13] not including local rajas.

  • Pratihara dynasty, was the last largest dynasty of northern India which rivaled Gupta empire in extent and ruled most part of India from 6th century up-to 11th century. they were successful for stopping Muslim conquests of India for nearly 400 years. and destroyed Muslim armies according to the Arab accounts. their capital was kannuaj and were the first Rajput empire. they can be differentiated from other kingdoms as they were called Imperial Pratiharas.
  • Rashtrakuta dynasty, was a Kannada Dynasty ruling large parts of the Indian subcontinent between the 6th and the 10th centuries and one who built World Heritage center Ellora, Maharashtra.
  • Eastern Chalukyas, 7th to 12th centuries, a South Indian Kannada dynasty whose kingdom was located in the present-day Andhra Pradesh they were the descendants of Western Chalukyas.
  • Pallava dynasty, rulers of Telugu and some Tamil areas from the 6th to 9th centuries.
  • Pala Empire, the last major Buddhist rulers, from the 8th to 12th centuries in Bengal. Briefly controlled most of north India in the 9th century.
  • Chola Empire, a South Indian empire which ruled from Tamil Nadu and extended to include South-east Asian territories at its height. From 9th century to 13th century.
  • Empire of Harsha, a brief period of control of most of north India, from 601 to 647, under Harsha of the Vardhana dynasty.
  • Western Chalukya Empire, ruled most of the western Deccan and some of South India, between the 10th and 12th centuries. Kannada-speaking, with capital at Badami.
  • Kalachuri dynasty, ruled areas in Central India during 10th-12th centuries.
  • Western Ganga dynasty, was an important ruling dynasty of ancient Karnataka, often under the overlordship of larger states, from about 350 to 1000 AD. The large monolithic Bahubali of Shravanabelagola was built during their rule.
  • Eastern Ganga dynasty, was a royal dynasty ruling Odisha region who are descendants of Kannada Western Ganga Dynasty and Tamil Chola Empire. They have built famous Konark Sun Temple and Jagannath Temple, Puri.
  • Hoysala Empire, a prominent South Indian Kannadiga empire that ruled most of the modern day state of Karnataka between the 10th and the 14th centuries. The capital of the Hoysalas was initially located at Belur but was later moved to Halebidu.
  • Kakatiya Kingdom, a Telugu dynasty that ruled most of current day Andhra Pradesh, India from 1083 to 1323 CE.
  • The Sena dynasty, was a Hindu dynasty that ruled from Bengal through the 11th and 12th centuries. The empire at its peak covered much of the north-eastern region of the Indian subcontinent. The rulers of the Sena Dynasty traced their origin to the south Indian region of Karnataka.

Late medieval era

Early modern era

The start of the Mughal Empire in 1526 marked the beginning of the early modern period of Indian history,[3] often referred to as the Mughal era. Sometimes, the Mughal era is also referred to as the 'late medieval' period.

  • Mughal Empire, was an imperial state founded by Babar, who had Turco-Mongol origin from Central Asia. The empire ruled most of the Indian subcontinent from 16th to 18th century, though it lingered for another century, formally ending in 1857.
  • Maratha Empire, was an imperial power based in modern-day Maharashtra in western India. Marathas replaced the Mughal rule over large parts of India in the 18th century, but lost the Anglo-Maratha Wars in the early 19th century, and became rulers of Princely States.
  • Kingdom of Mysore, was a Kannada kingdom have been founded in 1399 in the vicinity of the modern city of Mysore. Fully independent after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1646, reduced in size by the British, but ruled until 1947.
  • Nayak dynasty of Kannada, Telugu, Tamil kings ruled parts of south India after the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1646. Their contribution can be seen in Ikkeri, Sri Ranga, Madurai, and Chitradurga.
  • Sikh Empire,[14] was a major power in the Northwestern part of the Indian subcontinent, which arose under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in the Punjab region. They were usurped by the British East India Company between early and mid 19th century, following the British victory in the Anglo-Sikh wars.


  1. ^ Keay, 155 "... the history of what used to be called 'medieval' India ..."; Harle, 9 "I have eschewed the term 'medieval', meaningless in the Indian context, for the years from c. 950 to c. 1300 ..."
  2. ^ Stein, Burton (27 April 2010), Arnold, D., ed., A History of India (2nd ed.), Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, p. 105, ISBN 978-1-4051-9509-6
  3. ^ a b "India before the British: The Mughal Empire and its Rivals, 1526-1857". University of Exeter.
  4. ^ Ahmed, xviii
  5. ^ Keay, 155 "... the history of what used to be called 'medieval' India ..."
  6. ^ Rowland, 273
  7. ^ Examples: Farooqui; Radhey Shyam Chaurasia, History of Medieval India: From 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D., 2002, google books; Satish Chandra, Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals, 2004 (2 vols), google books; Upinder Singh, A History of Ancient and Early Medieval India: From the Stone Age to the 12th century, 2008, google books
  8. ^ A Textbook of Historiography, 500 B.C. to A.D. 2000 By E. Sreedharan, p. 457, referencing Peter Hardy
  9. ^ Rowland, 273; Stein, 105
  10. ^ Not for Burjor Avari, who ends "ancient India" at 1200. Avari, 2
  11. ^ For architecture, see Michell, 87-88. For "classical hinduism", see the note at Outline of ancient India.
  12. ^ Keay, xxii-xxiii
  13. ^ Keay, xx-xxi
  14. ^ Zubair, Syed (4 November 2012). "Before India". Deccan Chronicle.


  • Avari, Burjor, India: The Ancient Past: A History of the Indian Subcontinent from C. 7000 BCE to CE 1200, 2016 (2nd edn), Routledge, ISBN 1317236734, 9781317236733, google books
  • Farooqui, Salma Ahmed, A Comprehensive History of Medieval India: From Twelfth to the Mid-Eighteenth Century, 2011, Pearson Education India, ISBN 8131732029, 9788131732021, google books
  • Harle, J.C., The Art and Architecture of the Indian Subcontinent, 2nd edn. 1994, Yale University Press Pelican History of Art, ISBN 0300062176
  • Keay, John, India: A History, 2000, HarperCollins, ISBN 0002557177
  • Michell, George, (1977) The Hindu Temple: An Introduction to its Meaning and Forms, 1977, University of Chicago Press, ISBN 978-0-226-53230-1
  • Rowland, Benjamin, The Art and Architecture of India: Buddhist, Hindu, Jain, 1967 (3rd edn.), Pelican History of Art, Penguin, ISBN 0140561021

Further reading

  • Satish Chandra; Historiography, Religion and State in Medieval India, Har-Anand Publications, 2010.
  • Elliot and Dowson: The History of India as told by its own Historians, New Delhi reprint, 1990.
  • Elliot, Sir H. M., Edited by Dowson, John. The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period; published by London Trubner Company 1867–1877. (Online Copy: The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period; by Sir H. M. Elliot; Edited by John Dowson; London Trubner Company 1867–1877 – This online Copy has been posted by: The Packard Humanities Institute; Persian Texts in Translation; Also find other historical books: Author List and Title List)
  • Gommans, Jos J. L. (2002), Mughal Warfare: Indian Frontiers and Highroads to Empire, 1500-1700, Routledge, ISBN 0-415-23989-3.
  • Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra; Pusalker, A. D.; Majumdar, A. K., eds. (1960). The History and Culture of the Indian People. VI: The Delhi Sultanate. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
  • Majumdar, Ramesh Chandra; Pusalker, A. D.; Majumdar, A. K., eds. (1973). The History and Culture of the Indian People. VII: The Mughal Empire. Bombay: Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.
  • Misra, R. G. (1993). Indian resistance to early Muslim invaders up to 1206 AD. Meerut City: Anu Books.
  • Sarkar, Jadunath. (1997). Fall of the Mughal Empire: Vol. 1-4. Hyderabad: Orient Longman.
  • Sarkar, Jadunath. (1975). Studies in economic life in Mughal India. Delhi: Oriental Publishers & Distributors.; (1987). Mughal economy: Organization and working. Calcutta, India: Naya Prokash.
  • Srivastava, A. L. (1970). The Mughal Empire, 1526-1803 A.D. ... Seventh revised edition. Agra: Shiva Lal Agarwala & Co.
  • Srivastava, A. L. (1975). Medieval Indian culture. Agra: Agarwala.
  • Wink, André (2004). Indo-Islamic society: 14th - 15th centuries. Volume 3 of Al-Hind Series. BRILL. ISBN 9004135618. Retrieved 24 April 2014.
  • Wink, André (1996). Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic Worlds Vol 1. E. J. Brill. ISBN 0-391-04173-8.
Primary Sources
  • Babur, ., & Thackston, W. M. (2002). The Baburnama: Memoirs of Babur, prince and emperor. New York: Modern Library.
  • Muḥammad, A. K., & Pandit, K. N. (2009). A Muslim missionary in mediaeval Kashmir: Being the English translation of Tohfatu'l-ahbab.
  • V. S. Bhatnagar (1991). Kānhaḍade Prabandha, India's Greatest Patriotic Saga of Medieval Times: Padmanābha's Epic Account of Kānhaḍade. Aditya Prakashan. ISBN 978-81-85179-54-4.
  • Jain, M. The India They Saw : Foreign Accounts (4 Volumes) Delhi: Ocean Books, 2011.


  • Online Copy: The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians. The Muhammadan Period; by Sir H. M. Elliot; Edited by John Dowson; London Trubner Company 1867–1877 – This online Copy has been postesd by: The Packard Humanities Institute; Persian Texts in Translation; Also find other historical books: Author List and Title List
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