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"Himachal Pradesh has a history that is worth knowing about. It will also help you understand what made Himachal Pradesh what it is today."
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Kangra Fort,  Himachal Pradesh
Kangra Fort, Himachal Pradesh

Pre History & Early History

The history of Himachal Pradesh dates back to around two million years. At this point of time, people lived in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh. These original inhabitants of Himachal, the Kols and the Mundas, were forced by the people of the great Indus valley civilization to move up to the hills. The Indus valley civilization prospered here between 2250 and 1750 BC. The second wave of migrants to the state saw Mongoloid, like Bhota and Kiratas coming in. However, the most important lot of people entered the area only afterwards in the third wave of migration. These were Aryans from Central Asia. The Aryans contributed immensely in making the culture of the Himachal as it is today.

The Mauryans

In earlier times, as per the great epic of Mahabharata, small republics called Janapadas constituted the area of Himachal Pradesh. These Janapadas belonged to the Audumbras, Trigarta, Kuluta, Kulindas, Yugandhar and Gobdika. Later, the Mauryans came into prominence with Chandragupta capturing most of the small republics. His grandson, Ashoka, not only increased the boundaries of the kingdom but also introduced Buddhism. Numerous stupas were constructed during his reign. Out of these, the one in Kullu valley even found a mention in the chronicle of the Chinese traveller Hiuen Tsang (630-45AD).

Rule Of Harsha

With the collapse of the Gupta Empire, the entire area fell into the hands of small local chieftains known as the thakurs or ranas. However, in the seventh century Harsh rose to power and brought almost all the small kingdoms under his control.

The Rajputs

In the middle of the 7th century, after the death of Harsha, political upheaval again took over in the most of the area. The Rajputs of Rajasthan fought amongst themselves and drove the defeated party up to the hills. Here, the Rajputs established small principalities for themselves. Principal amongst these were the states were Kangra, Nurpur, Suket, Mandi, Kutlehar, Baghal, Bilaspur, Nalagarh, Keonthal, Dhami, Kunihar, Bushahar, Sirmour.

Foriegn Invaders & The Mughals

These newly established states functioned independently till the time foreign invaders set their eyes on the area. Mahmud of Gaznavi ransacked the fort of Kangra in 1009. Soon, other invaders like Muhammad Tughlaq, his son Firoz Shah Tughlaq, Timur and Sikander Lodi marched in and captured many other fort. This period saw the rise of the Sen dynasty of Mandi which became powerful owing to its great king Ajbar Sen.

The Mughals too made their presence felt in the early 16th century but finally broke up giving way to other rulers of the hill to establish themselves.

Rise of Sansar Chand

Seventeenth century saw more fight between the hill rulers. However, it was Sansar Chand of the famous Katoch dynasty who became extremely powerful by the second half of the 18th century. Sansar Chand plundered many places, nonetheless, he was a great patron of arts and crafts. He ruled Kangra for around half a century and had the states of Chamba, Suket, Mandi, Bilaspur, Guler, Jaswan, Siwan and Datarpur.

This period also saw the rise of the Gurkhas, Sikhs and the East India company. The Gurkhas took over areas under the control of Sansar Chand forcing him to hide in his own fort. Sansar Chand remained there for around four years till Maharaja Ranjit Singh came to his rescue.

Anglo Gorkha War & Anglo Sikh War

The might of Ranjit Singh was tremendous for the Gurkhas and hence they moved their attention towards the south. This movement brought them into direct conflict with the British. The British further moved the Gorkhas out of the hill states east of Sutlej.

After the Anglo Gorkha war, the border demarcating the area of the British and the Sikh became highly sensitive. For a time, both the British and the Sikh avoided an encounter with each other, however, after the demise of Ranjit Singh, the Khalsa army walked into the territory of the British. This resulted into a war wherein a number of hill rulers supported the British to take revenge from the Sikhs. But even at the end of the first Anglo Sikh war, these rulers did not get back their kingdom (which was taken over by the Sikhs).

The British Period & Struggle For Independence

The revolt of the 1857 did not see much participation from the people of the hill. They preferred to stay away from the revolt and infact some of the rulers even extended help to the Britishers. Few exceptions here included the ruler of Bushahr.

Between the year 1858 and 1914, the hill states of Chamba, Mandi and Bilaspur prospered under the British rule and even supported the latter during the first world war. The important states that contributed their men and money for the first world war included Kangra, Siba, Nurpur, Chamba, Suket, Mandi and Bilaspur.

After 1914, things began to change and the people came out to participate in the freedom movement of India.

Post Independence

Himachal Pradesh became a part C state on 26th January 1950 and a Union Territory on 1st November, 1956. In between, Bilaspur was made a part of it in 1950. Kangra and other hill states were merged into the Union territory of Himachal Pradesh in the year 1966. Finally, four years later, in 1970, through the the State of Himachal Pradesh Act, Himachal Pradesh became the eighteenth state of India.

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