People have been living in India for thousands of years. The first civilization developed in the Indus Valley. In the 8th century Islam started spreading to India and in the 13th century a kingdom was set up around Delhi.
The Mughals, a powerful group of Muslims, took control of India in about 1500. Within a century, its kingdom spread to all of India.
When the age of exploration began towards the end of the 15th century European navigators came to India. The Portuguese Vasco da Gama was the first explorer to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in his quest to reach southern and southeastern Asia. As time went on, British influence in India grew stronger and stronger. By the middle of the 18th century the Mughals had lost their power and the British East India Company not only controlled trade but also governed most of India.
Vasco da Gama sails around the Cape of Good Hope
During the next hundred years Indians started rebelling against the British leaders. They were defeated in an open conflict and in the middle of the 19th century Great Britain decided to rule India directly.
At the beginning of the 20th century the nationalist movement in India became very strong. Most Indians thought the British did not treat them well, even though they built railway lines and factories. In 1920 Mahatma Gandhi became the leader of the Indian independence movement. He convinced his fellow Indians that the best way to fight the British was to protest in a peaceful way and not to use violence.
After World War II Great Britain agreed to grant India full independence. In 1947, the subcontinent was divided into two countries: India, with a Hindu majority and Pakistan, a land of Muslims. Shortly afterwards fighting broke out between these two religious factions. In 1971 East Pakistan became Bangladesh. Up to the present day the relations between India and Pakistan have been tense. One of the main conflicts is Kashmir, a province in the north, which is claimed by both countries.