has been inhabited by human beings since the dawn of civilization. It has a rich
and varied history which can be divided into several distinct
Prehistory and Protohistory
About 2 million years ago man lived in the foothills of Himachal Pradesh,
viz in the Bangana valley of Kangra, Sirsa valley of Nalagarh and Markanda
valley of Sirmour. The foothills of the state were inhabited by people from
Indus valley civilization which flourished between 2250 and 1750 B.C. People of
Indus valley civilization pushed the original inhabitants of Ganga plains who
were known as Kolorian people towards north. They moved to the hills of Himachal
Pradesh where they could live peacefully and preserve their way of
In the Vedas they have been referred to as Dasas, Dasyus and
Nishadas while in later works they have been called Kinnars, Nagas and Yakshas.
The Kols or Mundas are believed to be the original migrants to the hills of
present day Himachal.
The second phase of migrants came in the form of
Mongoloid people known as Bhotas and Kiratas. Later on came the third and most
important wave of migrants in the form of the Aryans who left their Central
Asian home. These laid the base of history and culture of Himachal Pradesh.
History up to Harsha
According to the
Mahabharta the tract which forms the present day Himachal Pradesh was
made up of number of small republics known as Janpadas each of which
constituted both a state and cultural unit.
the most prominent ancient tribes of Himachal who lived in the lower hills
between Pathankot and Jwalamukhi. They formed a separate state in 2
Trigarta: The state lay in the foothills drained by
three rivers, i.e. Ravi, Beas and Satluj and hence the name. It is believed to
have been an independent republic.
Kuluta: The kingdom of
Kilita was situated in the upper Beas valley which is also known as the Kully
valley. Its capital was Naggar.
Kulindas: This kingdom covered
the area lying between the Beas, Satluj and Yamuna rivers, i.e. the Shimla and
Sirmour hills. Their administration resembled a republic with members of a
central assembly sharing the powers of the king.
Chandragupta slowly subdued most of the republics of Himachal by show of
strength or use of force though he usually did not rule them directly. Ashoka,
the grandson of Chandragupta extended his boundaries to the Himalyan region. He
introduced Buddhism to this tract. He built many stupas one of which is in the
After the collapse of Gupta empire and
before the rise of Harsha, this area was again ruled by petty chiefs known as
Thakurs and Ranas. With the rise of Harsha in the early 7th century, most of
these small states acknowledged his overall supremacy though many local powers
remained with the petty chiefs.
A few decades after Harsha's death (647 A.D.) many Rajput
states ascended in Rajsthan and Indus plains. They fought amongst themselves and
the vanquished moved to the hills with their followers, where they set up small
states or principalities. These states were Kangra, Nurpur, Suket, Mandi,
Kutlehar, Baghal, Bilaspur, Nalagarh, Keonthal, Dhami, Kunihar, Bushahar,
The small hill kingdom enjoyed a large degree of
independence till the eve of Muslim invasions in northern India. States of the
foothills were devastated by Muslim invaders from time to time. Mahmud Ghaznavi
conquered Kangra at the begining of the 10th centuary. Timur and Sikander Lodi
also marched through the lower hills and captured several forts and fought many
Later on as the Mughal dynasty began to break up; the rulers of
the hill states took full advantage. The Katoch rulers of Kangra availed of this
opportunity and Kangra regained independence status under Maharaja Sansar Chand
who ruled for nearly half a centuary. He was one of the ablest administrators of
the region. After he took formal possession of Kangra fort, Sansar Chand began
to expand his territory. The states of Chamba, Suket, Mandi, Bilaspur, Guler,
Jaswan, Siwan and Datarpur came under the direct or indirect control of Sansar