The “Classical Age” in India began with the Gupta Empire and the resurgence of the north during Harsha’s conquests around the 7th century CE, and ended with the fall of the Vijayanagara Empire in the south in the 13th century, due to pressure from the invaders to the north. This period produced some of India’s finest art, considered the epitome of classical development, and the development of the main spiritual and philosophical systems which continued to be in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism. King Harsha of Kannauj succeeded in reuniting northern India during his reign in the 7th century, after the collapse of the Gupta dynasty. His kingdom collapsed after his death.
From the 7th to the 9th century, three dynasties contested for control of northern India: the Gurjara Pratiharas of Malwa,the Eastern Ganga dynasty of Orissa, the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan. The Sena dynasty would later assume control of the Pala Empire, and the Gurjara Pratiharas fragmented into various states. These were the first of the Rajput states, a series of kingdoms which managed to survive in some form for almost a millennium, until Indian independence from the British. The first recorded Rajput kingdoms emerged in Rajasthan in the 6th century, and small Rajput dynasties later ruled much of northern India. One Gurjar Rajput of the Chauhan clan, Prithvi Raj Chauhan, was known for bloody conflicts against the advancing Islamic sultanates. The Shahi dynasty ruled portions of eastern Afghanistan, northern Pakistan, and Kashmir from the mid-7th century to the early 11th century.
The Chalukya dynasty ruled parts of southern and central India from Badami in Karnataka between 550 and 750, and then again from Kalyani between 970 and 1190. The Pallavas of Kanchipuram were their contemporaries further to the south. With the decline of the Chalukya empire, their feudatories, the Hoysalas of Halebidu, Kakatiyas 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.
The Chola Empire at its peak covered much of the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. Rajaraja Chola I conquered all of peninsular south India and parts of Sri Lanka. Rajendra Chola I’s navies went even further, occupying coasts from Burma to Vietnam, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Lakshadweep (Laccadive) islands, Sumatra, and the Malay Peninsula in Southeast Asia and the Pegu islands. Later during the middle period, the Pandyan Empire emerged in Tamil Nadu, as well as the Chera Kingdom in parts of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. By 1343, last of these dynasties had ceased to exist, giving rise to the Vijayanagar empire.
The ports of south India were engaged 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 until about the beginning of the 14th century, when southern expeditions of the sultan of Delhi took their toll on these kingdoms. The Hindu Vijayanagar Empire came into conflict with the Islamic Bahmani Sultanate, and the clashing of the two systems caused a mingling of the indigenous and foreign cultures that left lasting cultural influences on each other.