1 India is home to one of the oldest civilizations on the planet. Only in the last 50 years has India enjoyed true freedom of its people. Invasions of India began with the first Aryan invasion several thousands of years ago. Since then, India and its people have fallen under the rule of invading forces with great regularity. 2 The earliest Indian history is preserved in the ruins of a city called Mohenjo Daro, which lies in present-day Pakistan. Thousands of years ago, citizens of Mohenjo Daro had developed systems of counting, writing, weighing and measuring. They practiced advanced ways of life that were unknown in Europe even as late as the 19th century. The city featured ditches and canals that irrigated local farms. The fate of the people at Mohenjo Daro is unknown. 3 Aryans began invading India about 4,000 years ago. They were the tribes of people from north of India in central Asia. The word "Aryan" is a Sanskrit word meaning "owners of land." They moved into India as other Aryans were moving into Europe. The Aryans in both India and Europe became ancestors of some of today's fair-skinned people in India and Europe. 4 The Aryans found plenty of dark-skinned natives in India. Some of the natives, called Dravidians, moved southward ahead of the Aryans, settling in southern India. Many of their descendants can be still be found there today. Although Aryan influence extended all over India, they never actually conquered southern India and the Dravidians who lived there. 5 During years of Aryan influence, the caste system developed in India. A caste system is a division of society based on wealth, occupation, and/or lineage. The caste system in India has lasted throughout most of its modern history. 6 About 326 BC, Alexander the Great invaded India, although the presence of his armies there lasted a short time. After Alexander's departure, the Maurya Empire was established. It grew to include all of India and parts of central Asia. The most famous of Mauryan rulers was Emperor Asoka. During his rule, Asoka converted to Buddhism and refused to wage war after his conversion. 7 After the rule of Asoka, a time of regular invasions from the likes of Arabs, Greeks, and Scythians began. About 120 AD, the Scythians conquered northern India. They established the Kushan Dynasty. The Gupta Dynasty followed, which started India's "Golden Age." During this time, cities grew in India. Its schools and businesses grew and its people prospered. From about 450 AD, regular invasions of India began. The first Europeans arrived nearly 1,000 years later. 8 The Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama came to India in 1498. Europeans recognized great natural resources of India and potential for trade and profit there. European countries raced to send explorers to India. Among the first European groups to settle in India was the British East India Company. 9 The Company was ruled by the British government. It grew in power for hundreds of years in India. Through battles with natives and ruthless economic tactics, the Company grew to control most of India before native Indians knew what was happening. 10 The Indian people rebelled against the Company in 1857. The revolution failed, but it brought the struggle of Indians and the cruelty of the Company to the attention of British rulers. The British government vowed to do away with the Company. In 1858, Britain assumed control of the land held by the Company. It became known as British India. Later, Britain came to influence most of the rest of India as well. For the next hundred years, Indian resistance to British rule would grow to a breaking point. 11 In 1919 an Indian lawyer named Mohandas K. Gandhi became leader of the Indian National Congress. He led non-violent opposition to British rule and supported Indians. Gandhi became one of the most respected leaders in Indian history. Work of Gandhi and his countrymen helped India to become a free state in 1947. India adopted its own constitution in 1949. Gandhi didn't survive to live in a free India. He was assassinated in 1948. 12 In the years to follow, India used the help of nations around the world to make the life of Indians better. During the 1950s, billions of dollars were spent on improvements in agriculture, industry, and health. Today, India's economy and daily life continues to improve.