Beginning about 30,000 years ago, stone-age hunters and gatherers inhabited sites in the area. During the period between 5000 and 2000 B.C, highly organized urban settlements spread throughout northern regions (present-day Pakistan and north India). Trade and communication networks linked these settlements to one another and to other distant ancient cultures.
Around 2600 B.C, regional cultures were united into a culturally integrated network in the Indus Valley region. Settlements in this civilization extended over a 650,000 square kilometres region. The people of the region shared a number of cultural characteristics, including planned urban developments, the use of a script, standardized weights, and craft technologies.
The Indus Valley culture began to decline around 1500 B.C, and around that time, the so-called Indo-Aryan culture began to dominate the region. An Indo-European language, Sanskrit, which is to Greek and Latin, began to supplant the much older Dravidian language group (which is still spoken in the southern parts of the country). The philosophical thoughts and rituals of those periods formed one important basis for the religion we now call "Hinduism", and its many variations such as Jainism and Buddhism, throughout millennia, in addition to the more recent arrival of Islam.
Because of its strategic location and hospitable terrain, India has attracted more than its share of newcomers for centuries, first the Greeks, then Arabs, Mongols, and finally the Europeans. Each has left its mark on her culture. Cuisine, art, architecture and music, creating a rich tapestry that is India today.