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History of India - Classical Age

After the collapse of the Gupta Empire in the 6th century, India was ruled by numerous regional kingdoms. From the mid-seventh to the mid-thirteenth centuries, regionalism was the dominant theme of political or dynastic history of South Asia. A minor line of the Gupta clan continued to rule Magadha after the disintegration of the empire until ultimately ousted by the Vardhana king Harsha, who established an empire in the first half of the seventh century.

The White Huns established themselves in Afghanistan by the first half of the fifth century, with their capital at Bamiyan. They were responsible for the downfall of the Gupta dynasty but much of the Deccan and southern India were largely unaffected.

The classical age in India began with the resurgence of the north during Harsha's conquests around the 7th century and ended with the fall of the Vijayanagar Empire in the South due to pressure from the invaders to the north in the 13th century. This period produced some of India's finest art, and the development of the main spiritual and philosophical systems in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism.

King Harsha of Kannauj succeeded in reuniting northern India during his reign in the 7th century but his kingdom collapsed after his death. From the 7th to the 9th century the Pratiharas of Malwa and later Kannauj, the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan contested for control of northern India. The Sena dynasty would later assume control of the Pala kingdom, and the Pratiharas fragmented into various states. These were the first of the Rajputs, a series of kingdoms which managed to survive in some form for almost a millennium. The Shahi dynasty ruled portions of eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir from the mid-seventh century to the early eleventh century while the northern concept of a pan-Indian empire had collapsed at the end of Harsha's empire.

The Chalukya Empire ruled parts of southern and central India from 550 to 750 from Badami, Karnataka and again from 970 to 1190 from Kalyani, Karnataka. The Pallavas of Kanchi were their contemporaries further to the south. With the decline of the Chalukya Empire, their feudatories, Hoysalas of Halebidu, Kakatiya of Warangal, Seuna Yadavas of Devagiri and a southern branch of the Kalachuri divided the vast Chalukya Empire amongst themselves around the middle of 12th century. Later during the middle period, the Chola kingdom emerged in northern Tamilnadu, and the Chera kingdom in Kerala. By 1343 A.D., all these kingdoms had ceased to exist, giving rise to the Vijayanagar Empire. Southern Indian kingdoms of the time expanded their influence as far as Indonesia, controlling vast overseas empires in Southeast Asia. The ports of southern India were involved in the Indian Ocean trade, chiefly involving spices, with the Roman Empire to the west and Southeast Asia to the east. Literature in local vernaculars and spectacular architecture flourished till about the beginning of the 14th century when southern expeditions of the sultan of Delhi took their toll on these kingdoms. The Hindu Vijayanagar dynasty came into conflict with Islamic rule (the Bahmani Kingdom) and the clashing of the two systems, caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign culture that left lasting cultural influences on each other. The Vijaynagar Empire eventually declined due to pressure from the first Delhi Sultanates who had managed to establish themselves in the north, centered on the city of Delhi by that time.