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Early political consolidations took place under the Maurya and Gupta empires; the later peninsular Middle Kingdoms influenced cultures as far as Southeast Asia.In the medieval era, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam arrived, and Sikhism emerged, all adding to the region's diverse culture.

In the late Vedic period, around the 6th century BCE, the small states and chiefdoms of the Ganges Plain and the north-western regions had consolidated into 16 major oligarchies and monarchies that were known as the mahajanapadas.Although at first disruptive for the Indian elites, the sultanate largely left its vast non-Muslim subject population to its own laws and customs.By repeatedly repulsing Mongol raiders in the 13th century, the sultanate saved India from the devastation visited on West and Central Asia, setting the scene for centuries of migration of fleeing soldiers, learned men, mystics, traders, artists, and artisans from that region into the subcontinent, thereby creating a syncretic Indo-Islamic culture in the north.After the 10th century, Muslim Central Asian nomadic clans, using swift-horse cavalry and raising vast armies united by ethnicity and religion, repeatedly overran South Asia's north-western plains, leading eventually to the establishment of the Islamic Delhi Sultanate in 1206.The sultanate was to control much of North India, and to make many forays into South India.In the mid-18th century, the subcontinent came under British East India Company rule, and in the mid-19th under British crown rule.

A nationalist movement emerged in the late 19th century, which later, under Mahatma Gandhi, was noted for nonviolent resistance and led to India's independence in 1947.

Following market-based economic reforms in 1991, India became one of the fastest-growing major economies and is considered a newly industrialised country.

However, it continues to face the challenges of poverty, corruption, malnutrition, and inadequate public healthcare.

In 2016, a survey on World Tourism rankings compiled by United Nations World Tourism Organization, the nation is visited by approximately 14.6 million tourists every year (2016), making it the 8th most visited country in the Asia-Pacific.

In 2017, the Indian economy was the world's sixth largest by nominal GDP and third largest by purchasing power parity.

Buddhism, based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha, attracted followers from all social classes excepting the middle class; chronicling the life of the Buddha was central to the beginnings of recorded history in India.