India’s history begins not with independence in 1947, but more than 4,500 years
earlier, when the name
referred to the entire subcontinent, including present-
day Pakistan and Bangladesh. The earliest of India’s known civilizations, the Indus
Valley civilization (about 2500 to 1700 BC), was known for its highly specializedartifacts and stretched throughout northern India. Another early culture
dates from approximately 1500 BC and is considered one of the sources for
India’s predominantly Hindu culture and for the foundation of several important
philosophical traditions. India has been subject to influxes of peoples throughout itshistory, some coming under arms to loot and conquer, others moving in to trade andsettle. India was able to absorb the impact of these intrusions because it was able toassimilate or tolerate foreign ideas and people. Outsiders who came to India duringthe course of its history include the Greeks under Alexander the Great, theKushanas from Central Asia, the Mongols under Genghis Khan, Muslim traders andinvaders from the Middle East and Central Asia, and finally the British and otherEuropeans. India also disseminated its civilization outward to Sri Lanka and much ofSoutheast Asia. Buddhism, which originated in India, spread even farther.