Humanities 210 MIC/WIC- Cora Agatucci
Cultures & Literatures of Asia

India Timeline 2 :

Muslim & Mughal Empires
(9th - early 18th c.)

Asian Timelines Table of Contents Literary & Cultural History
Learn more about selected Indian topics by clicking the links embedded in these timelines.
And if you find inaccuracies, bugs, or other relevant websites, please let me know:
The timeline pages are under construction and probably always will be...

Muslim Invasions & the Sultanate of Dehli

800-900 Kashmir’s Hindu/Buddhist culture is destroyed and temple buried by invading Muslims
10th century Parsis (Indian Zoroastrians) flee to India to escape persecution in Persia (Iran)
In the 10th century, new or Modern Indo-Aryan languages emerged, comprising the modern languages of the northern and central parts of the Indian subcontinent. Hindu, a direct descendant of Sanskrit through Prakrit and Apabhramsha, became a stable language by the 10th century, successively influenced and enriched by Dravidian, Turkish, Farsi, Arabic, Portuguese, and English. Bengali is also descended from Sanskrit.
1000-1025 The Muslim ruler Mahmud of the Western Asian province of Khorasan launches 17 consecutive expeditions across the Afghan frontier into India, with frequent victories over the disunited Indians. By 1025, Mahmud had sacked several important western Indian cities and annexed the Punjab to his empire.
By the 11th century, Islam had become a major force in India, and these 2 very different religions began to clash: Hinduism (open, tolerant, inclusive practices from idol worship to meditation, hierarchical, absorptive and adaptive) vs. Islam (doctrinaire, proselytizing, exclusive worship of one transcendent god: Allah, egalitarian, rigid).
Gita Govinda, 12th century: Important for later Indian literature were the first traces in the vernacular languages of the northern Indian cults of Krishna and of Rama. The Krishna story developed in Sanskrit from the Mahabharata through the Bhagavata-Purana, to the 12th-century poem by Jaydev (Jayadeva) called the Gitagovinda (The Cowherd's Song). From this song emerged an influential tradition, after ca. 1400, of religious love poems of the cult of Radha-Krishna and a religious-erotic literary tradition.

In the following excerpt from the Sanskrit verse Gita Govinda by Jayadeva Goswami', one of Radha's companions and confidantes pleads with Radha on Krishna's behalf. He has sent her as His own messenger to beseech Radha: "Speak to her of my desolation in separation from her."

Cool moon rays scorch Him,
Threatening death,
Love's arrow falls and He laments His weakness
Wild flower-garlanded Krishna suffers in your desertion, friend.



Muslim ruler Muhammad of Ghur began his campaigns of conquest in India over the next 3 decades, subjugating all of the Indo-Gangetic plain west of Benares (now Varansi) and considered the real founder of Muslim power in India by most historians.

Muslims, though greatly outnumbered, defeat the Hindu confederacy, and Pirthviraj, the last Rajput King of Delhi, dies defeated.

Vernacular Literatures of India (from ca. 1200): The first true works of "literature" (that is, composed first in writing, rather than transcribed from orature) in most of the main indigenous languages of India emerged from ca. 1200 – 1500. Many were vernacular versions of the Sanskrit epics Ramayana, Mahabharata, and Bhagavata-Purana. Some were designed to celebrate unorthodox religious beliefs, such as the Caryapadas (Tantric verses of the 12th century that are the earliest surviving works in Bengali), and the Lilacaritra (circa 1280, a Marathi prose account of the words and deeds of the founder of the Mahanubhava sect). Jain romances in the Kanada language (ca. 10th century) and in Gujarati (ca. 13th century) recounted lives of the Jain saints, though re-creating popular Sanskrit and Pali tales and themes. Rajastani bardic tales of chivalry and heroic resistance to the first Muslim invasions, such as the epic poem Prithiraja-raso by Chand Bardai of Lahore (ca. 12th century) were also composed.

12th -
15th c.

Qutub-ud-Din Aibak founded an independent Islamic state in northern India, which endured until 1288. (see photo of Qutab Minar, Delhi, India, a 288 foot tower built by Qutb-ud-Din Aybak, the first Muslim ruler to choose Delhi as his capital; The tower was completed in the early 13th century.)
Sultanate of Delhi--under the successive reigns of the Khalifis (1290-1316), the Tughlak Sultans (1320-1412), and the Lodi Sultans (1451-1526) of Delhi, extended its power and flourished. Persian replaced Sanskrit as the language of administration & refined literature. India underwent a transformation in the clash and fusion of cultural traditions of Muslims and indigenous Hindus. Native Hindu culture concentrates in Southern Indian Kingdoms, like the Vijaynagar and Deccan. Sufi Muslims (wandering mystics, including the dervishes) seek personal union with God, react against impersonal abstract divinity; and try to spread Islam to masses; the Sufis gain popular following and spread Islam to Southeast Asia.
1221 First Mongol invasion of India by Chinggis (Genghis) Khan
By 13th c. Buddhism nearly disappears from India; though Tantric Buddhism flourished (and continues to do so today) in Tibet.

By 1350, India and China were undergoing crisis and change: both cultural centers were under alien rule essentially hostile to native traditions.


Important religious literatures developed from 13th to 15th centuries:, associated with regional philosophies and religious sections: e.g., Tamil texts devoted to the medieval Hindu Shaiva siddhanta sect; the vacanas or "sayings" of Basava and other Lingayats texts in Kannada language; and Tantric Buddhist texts of northeast India which later evolved into genres such as the mangala-kavya (poetry of an auspicious happening) of Bengal, addressed to deities such as Manasa (a snake goddess) and local forms of the female divine principle called Devi.
1398 By the time Mongol conqueror Tamerlane led his armies into India, he met little organized resistance, finding the Delhi sultanate torn by revolutionary strife and internal turmoil. Tamerlane sacked and destroyed Dehli and massacred its inhabitants, then withdrew from India.
1469-1545 Life and Hindu reformist teachings of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism.

The Mughal Empire

1483 – 1530 Babur, founder of Mughal dynasty in India, climaxed a series of raids by conquering North India in 1526. Babur traced his descent to Tamerlane and Mongol khans though he was probably descended from Turkic warriors (Timor) By 1530, Babur controlled a large part of the Indian mainland. During his rule, the Mughal emperor cultivated the arts and music, and established a policy of toleration for Hindu majority.
From 1500 – (to 1800) A stream of reworkings of traditional Sanskrit epics continued at the same time that the use of Urdu and Persian literary forms arose. In the 16th century, Jagannath Das wrote an Oriya version fothe Bhagavata, and Tuncattu Eruttacchan, the "father of Malayalam literature," wrote other re-creations of traditional epic literature.
Bhakti literature (from late 15th century) expressed significant movement in Indian religious and intellectual life, perhaps deriving from the enthusiasms of the Sufi mystics. "...[I]in some parts of India in the fifteenth century...established clergy held a stranglehold on scriptures, their interpretations and the spirituality in general. Such privy knowledge was reserved for high caste only and was denied to common people of lower castes....During such oppressing times, a Brahmin named Ramanujam started what was later known as Bhakti movement. He preached spirituality to the lowest caste and encouraged them to practise it while going about their daily lives. Kabir was one such disciple" (An Introduction to Bhakti movement's Role and Kabir's Poetry, trans. Surinder Jain).

baagon naa jaa re naa jaa

Do not go to the garden of flowers!
O friend! go not there;
In your body is the garden of flowers.
Take your seat on the thousand petals of the
lotus, and there gaze on the infinite beauty.
Kabir (1398-1448? or 1518?) Trans. Rabindranath Tagore

Bhakti implies a personal devotion to a god far different from ritualized Hindu Brahmanism; it denotes an intense personal longing comparable to lovers’ desire and can be conceptualized as all forms of human love. Bhakti sentiment remained the same, even as the deity-recipient of the verse varied: e.g., early Sikh gurus Nanak and Arjun wrote bhakti hymns in Punjabi language to their concepts of deity, forming part of the Adi Granth (First or Original Book), the sacred scripture of the Sikhs; while Rajasthani princess and poet Mira Bai (1498-1547) addressed her bhakti lyric verse to Krishna (see examples in English and Indian script, Colorado State Univ.)

"The 15th Century Telugu poet Annamayya or Annamacatya, left a corpus of some 14,000 padaris addressed to the god Verikatesvara at Tiruppati. These poems mark a revolutionary shift in sensibility in South Indian Bhakti poetry..." Earlier Tamil Bhakti poetry (e.g., viraha) featured a love devotee longing for the usually absent deity. "'Emotion' in these Tamil poems reflects a state of melting down, loss of self, and the frustation of a goal never fully acheived. By way of contrast, 'mood' in the Annamayya corpus is discursive and present-oriented in the context of a deepening subjectivity - both of the poet and of the god he worships....Annamayya's voice - that of a new elite active both in state-building and in the temple economy - may be said to articulate, for the first time, the ethos of a newly integrated individualism at a moment of cultural and institutional expansion. "Mood" is the defining feature of this voice" with a "new perspective on...divine presence, accessible through a kind of yoga and the exploration of meditative moods..".(A Science of Mood: Telugu Poems from Tirupati and Kalahasti (David Shulman, Hebrew University of Jerusalem).



Vasco da Gama, royal navigator of Portugal, led expedition around the Cape of Good Hope and across the Indian Ocean in search of a new route to the Far East. Da Gama sailed into Calicut harbor on the Malabar Coast in 1498, and the Portuguese gain a monopoly on Indian maritime trade for the next century..

Portuguese conquer Goa (India) and Malacca (Malaysia)



Akbar (Babur's grandson), with a vision of united India, expanded the Mughal Empire (a "gunpowder" empire over northern India and eastern Persia, conquering the Punjab, Rajputana (modern Rajastan), Gujarat, and adding Bengal (1576), Kashmir (1586-1592), Sind (1592), and subjugating the Muslim kingdoms of the Deccan (1598-1601).

Akbar promoted alliance and trade, encouraged tolerance and eclecticism, ceased oppression of Hinduism, and enacted social reforms. For women, Akbar’s reforms included encouraging widow remarriage & opposing sati (or suttee, the immolation of widows in their husbands’ funeral pyres); and discouraging child marriage, purdah, and abuses against prostitutes.(See lecture on Mughal India, Univ. of Alberta; and links to several photos of Fatehpur Sikri, and views inside this "Moghul ghost town built 400 years ago by the Emperor Akbar.")

Urdu: From the 14th – 16th centuries with successive invasions of Persians and Turks, and governance by Muslim rulers, came the influence of Persian and Islamic cultures in Indian literatures, especially that written in a relatively new langauge Urdu. Urdu is similar to Hindu, their differences stemming from their vocabulary sources, scripts, and religious traditions. While Hindi vocabulary derives mainly from Sanskrit, Urdu contains many words of Persian and Arabic origin; Hindi is written in the Devanagari script, and Urdu in a Persian Arabic script. Hindi is spoken mainly by Hindus; Urdu is used predominantly by Muslims—in contemporary India as well as throughout Pakistan (Urdu is the official language of Pakistan today).
1612 British East India Company successfully negotiated with Mughal emperor Jahangir the opening of a trading post at Surat, on the Gulf of Khambhat. The British and the Dutch East India Company began activity in India in the early 17th century, breaking Portugal’s monopoly on Indian maritime trade. Both tried to control the balance of power among Indian states in favor of European economic and political interests. The British recruited mercenary Indian soldiers (Sepoys), and drew local administrators from the native population as the steadily expanded their sphere of influence and operations; and the British had eliminated the Dutch as a serious competitive force in India by the end of the 17th century.
1628-1658 Under the reign of Shah Jahan, grandson of Akbar, the Mughal Empire reached the peak of its cultural splendor, epitomized by the Taj Mahal. Shah Jahan "laid the foundations of the seventh city of Delhi, Shahjahanabad," which later came "to be known as Old Delhi." In 1658, however, Shah Jahan was driven from the throne by his son Aurangzeb, who took the title of Alamgir ("Conqueror of the World") and murdered his three brothers in his treacherous and aggressive quest for power.
Early 17th c. Dutch East India Company breaks the Portuguese monopoly on Indian maritime trade, and the English entered the race for Far Eastern markets through a private firm known as the English East India Company.
1659-1707 Under Emperor Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire declined. His campaigns against the Deccan, the Marathas, a Scytho-Dravidian people, inflicted numerous defeats on Aurangzeb’s armies. The Mughal emperor’s hostility to Sikhs transformed them into professional warrior caste. In the course of his reign, which ended in 1707 with his death in exile, the Sikhist faith obtained a strong foothold in India. After Aurangzeb, the Mughal Empire ceased to be an effective state, and political fragmentation which Aurangzeb caused, opened India to foreign intervention and economic exploitation, especially by the British.

India Timeline 1:  Early India (to CE 8th c.)
India Timeline 2
TOP of this page Muslim & Mughal Empires (9th - early 18th c.)
URL of this webpage:
India Timeline 3:
The British Raj (late 17th - early 20th c.)
India Timeline 4:
Independence of India & Pakistan (20th c.) & India Timelines Sources

Asian Timelines: India China Japan
  were first prepared by Cora Agatucci, in 1998. 
They are slowly being updated in Winter 2001.  Please bear with me.

Other Online HUM 210 Course Resources:

HUM 210 Syllabus Course Plan Assignments Student Writing 
Asian Film Asian Links: India China Japan

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If you're interested in other world literatures and cultures, visit these course websites:
Hum 211 - Culture and Literature of Africa 
Eng 109 - Western World Literatures (late 18th-late 20th centuries)