A chronology of key events:
India has been home to several ancient civilisations and empires, some dating back to more than 2,000 BC. Culture and religions have flourished over the millennia, and foreign influence has ebbed and flowed.
Indian culture goes back thousands of years
1858 - India comes under direct rule of the British crown after failed Indian mutiny.
1885 - Indian National Congress founded as forum for emerging nationalist feeling.
1920-22 - Nationalist figurehead Mahatma Gandhi launches anti-British civil disobedience campaign.
1942-43 - Congress launches "Quit India" movement.
1947 - End of British rule and partition of sub-continent into mainly Hindu India and Muslim-majority state of Pakistan.
Mahatma Gandhi steered India to independence
1947-48 - Hundreds of thousands die in widespread communal bloodshed after partition.
1948 - Mahatma Gandhi assassinated by Hindu extremist.
1948 - War with Pakistan over disputed territory of Kashmir.
1951-52 - Congress Party wins first general elections under leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru.
1962 - India loses brief border war with China.
1964 - Death of Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru.
India won 1971 conflict over East Pakistan independence
1965 - Second war with Pakistan over Kashmir.
1966 - Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi becomes prime minister.
1971 - Third war with Pakistan over creation of Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan.
1971 - Twenty-year treaty of friendship signed with Soviet Union.
1974 - India explodes first nuclear device in underground test.
1975 - Indira Gandhi declares state of emergency after being found guilty of electoral malpractice.
1975-1977 - Nearly 1,000 political opponents imprisoned and programme of compulsory birth control introduced.
1977 - Indira Gandhi's Congress Party loses general elections.
1980 - Indira Gandhi returns to power heading Congress party splinter group, Congress (Indira).
Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her bodyguards in 1984
1984 - Troops storm Golden Temple - Sikhs' most holy shrine - to flush out Sikh militants pressing for self-rule.
1984 - Indira Gandhi assassinated by Sikh bodyguards, following which her son, Rajiv, takes over.
1984 December - Gas leak at Union Carbide pesticides plant in Bhopal. Thousands are killed immediately, many more subsequently die or are left disabled.
1987 - India deploys troops for peacekeeping operation in Sri Lanka's ethnic conflict.
1989 - Falling public support leads to Congress defeat in general election.
1990 - Indian troops withdrawn from Sri Lanka.
1990 - Muslim separatist groups begin campaign of violence in Kashmir.
1991 - Rajiv Gandhi assassinated by suicide bomber sympathetic to Sri Lanka's Tamil Tigers.
1991 - Economic reform programme begun by Prime Minister PV Narasimha Rao.
1992 - Hindu extremists demolish mosque in Ayodhya, triggering widespread Hindu-Muslim violence.
BJP to the fore
Rajiv Gandhi was killed on the campaign trail
1996 - Congress suffers worst ever electoral defeat as Hindu nationalist BJP emerges as largest single party.
1998 - BJP forms coalition government under Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.
1998 - India carries out nuclear tests, leading to widespread international condemnation.
1999 February - Vajpayee makes historic bus trip to Pakistan to meet Premier Nawaz Sharif and to sign bilateral Lahore peace declaration.
1999 May - Tension in Kashmir leads to brief war with Pakistan-backed forces in the icy heights around Kargil in Indian-held Kashmir.
1999 October - Cyclone devastates eastern state of Orissa, leaving at least 10,000 dead.
Population: 1 billion
2000 May - India marks the birth of its billionth citizen.
2000 - US President Bill Clinton makes a groundbreaking visit to improve ties.
India's Agni missiles have a 2,000 km range
2001 January - Massive earthquakes hit the western state of Gujarat, leaving at least 30,000 dead.
2001 April - 16 Indian and three Bangladeshi soldiers are killed in border clashes.
A high-powered rocket is launched, propelling India into the club of countries able to fire big satellites deep into space.
2001 July - Vajpayee meets Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in the first summit between the two neighbours in more than two years. The meeting ends without a breakthrough or even a joint statement because of differences over Kashmir.
2001 July - Vajpayee's BJP party declines his offer to resign over a number of political scandals and the apparent failure of his talks with Pakistani President Musharraf.
2001 September - US lifts sanctions which it imposed against India and Pakistan after they staged nuclear tests in 1998. The move is seen as a reward for their support for the US-led anti-terror campaign.
Kashmir tensions rise
Kashmir differences scuppered Vajpayee-Musharraf meeting in 2001
2001 October - India fires on Pakistani military posts in the heaviest firing along the dividing line of control in Kashmir for almost a year.
2001 December - Suicide squad attacks parliament in New Delhi, killing several police. The five gunmen die in the assault.
2001 December - India imposes sanctions against Pakistan, to force it to take action against two Kashmir militant groups blamed for the suicide attack on parliament. Pakistan retaliates with similar sanctions, and bans the groups in January.
2001 December - India, Pakistan mass troops on common border amid mounting fears of a looming war.
2002 January - India successfully test-fires a nuclear-capable ballistic missile - the Agni - off its eastern coast.
2002 February - Inter-religious bloodshed breaks out after 59 Hindu pilgrims returning from Ayodhya are killed in a train fire in Godhra, Gujarat. More than 1,000 people, mainly Muslims, die in subsequent riots. (Police and officials blamed the fire on a Muslim mob; a 2005 government investigation said it was an accident.)
PM said parliament attack was "warning to the nation"
2002 May - Pakistan test-fires three medium-range surface-to-surface Ghauri missiles, which are capable of carrying nuclear warheads.
War of words between Indian and Pakistani leaders intensifies. Actual war seems imminent.
2002 June - UK, US urge their citizens to leave India and Pakistan, while maintaining diplomatic offensive to avert war.
2002 July - Retired scientist and architect of India's missile programme APJ Abdul Kalam is elected president.
2003 August - At least 50 people are killed in two simultaneous bomb blasts in Bombay.
2003 November - India matches Pakistan's declaration of a Kashmir ceasefire.
2003 December - India, Pakistan agree to resume direct air links and to allow overflights.
ATAL BEHARI VAJPAYEE
Ex-PM pointed to peace process, economic growth as successes
2004 January - Groundbreaking meeting held between government and moderate Kashmir separatists.
2004 May - Surprise victory for Congress Party in general elections. Manmohan Singh is sworn in as prime minister.
2004 September - India, along with Brazil, Germany and Japan, launches an application for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.
2004 November - India begins to withdraw some of its troops from Kashmir.
2004 December - Thousands are killed when tidal waves, caused by a powerful undersea earthquake off the Indonesian coast, devastate coastal communities in the south and in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.
2005 7 April - Bus services, the first in 60 years, operate between Srinagar in Indian-administered Kashmir and Muzaffarabad in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
Stock exchange, Mumbai: Symbol of economic prowess
2005 July - More than 1,000 people are killed in floods and landslides caused by monsoon rains in Mumbai (Bombay) and Maharashtra region.
2005 8 October - An earthquake, with its epicentre in Pakistani-administered Kashmir, kills more than 1,000 people in Indian-administered Kashmir.
29 October - Bombs kill 62 people in Delhi. A little-known Kashmiri group says it is behind the attacks.
2006 February - India's largest-ever rural jobs scheme is launched, aimed at lifting around 60 million families out of poverty.
2006 March - US and India sign a nuclear agreement during a visit by US President George W Bush. The US gives India access to civilian nuclear technology while India agrees to greater scrutiny for its nuclear programme.
Some two thirds of Indians make a living from agriculture
7 March - 14 people are killed by bomb blasts in the Hindu pilgrimage city of Varanasi.
2006 May - Suspected Islamic militants kill 35 Hindus in the worst attacks in Indian-administered Kashmir for several months.
2006 11 July - More than 180 people are killed in bomb attacks on rush-hour trains in Mumbai. Investigators blame Islamic militants based in Pakistan.
2006 8 September - Explosions outside a mosque in the western town of Malegaon kill at least 31 people.
2006 November - Hu Jintao makes the first visit to India by a Chinese president in a decade.
2006 December - US President George W Bush approves a controversial law allowing India to buy US nuclear reactors and fuel for the first time in 30 years.
2007 18 February - 68 passengers, most of them Pakistanis, are killed by bomb blasts and a blaze on a train travelling from New Delhi to the Pakistani city of Lahore.
India's space programme exemplifies its economic and technical ambition
2007 February - India and Pakistan sign an agreement aimed at reducing the risk of accidental nuclear war.
2007 March - Maoist rebels in Chhattisgarh state kill more than 50 policemen in a dawn attack.
2007 April - India's first commercial space rocket is launched, carrying an Italian satellite.
2007 May - At least nine people are killed in a bomb explosion at the main mosque in Hyderabad. Several others are killed in subsequent rioting.
2007 May - Government announces its strongest economic growth figures for 20 years - 9.4% in the year to March.
2007 July - India says the number of its people with HIV or AIDS is about half of earlier official tallies. Health ministry figures put the total at between 2 million and 3.1 million cases, compared with previous estimates of more than 5 million.
First woman president
2007 July - Pratibha Patil becomes first woman to be elected president of India.
The Mumbai attacks shocked the world and soured ties with Pakistan
2008 July - Congress-led governing coalition survives vote of confidence brought after left-wing parties withdraw their support over controversial nuclear cooperation deal with US. After the vote, several left-wing and regional parties form new alliance to oppose government, saying it has been tainted by corruption.
2008 July - Series of explosions kills 49 in Ahmedabad, in Gujarat state. The little-known group Indian Mujahideen claims responsibility.
2008 October - Following approval by the US Congress, President George W Bush signs into law a nuclear deal with India, which ends a three-decade ban on US nuclear trade with Delhi.
India successfully launches its first mission to the moon, the unmanned lunar probe Chandrayaan-1.
2008 November - Nearly 200 people are killed and hundreds injured in a series of co-ordinated attacks by gunmen on the main tourist and business area of India's financial capital Mumbai. India blames militants from Pakistan for the attacks and demands that Islamabad take strong action against those responsible.
2008 December - India announces "pause" in peace process with Pakistan. Indian cricket team cancels planned tour of Pakistan.
2009 February - India and Russia sign deals worth $700m, according to which Moscow will supply uranium to Delhi.
2009 April - Trial of sole surviving suspect in Mumbai attacks begins.
2009 May - Resounding general election victory gives governing Congress-led alliance of PM Manmohan Singh an enhanced position in parliament, only 11 seats short of an absolute majority.
2009 July - Pakistani, Indian premiers pledge to work together to fight terror irrespective of progress on improving broader ties.
A Dehli court rules that homosexual intercourse between consenting adults is not criminal, overturning a 148-year-old colonial law.