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Friday, 7 October 2011

South India - Introduction

Dateline: Circa 900AD-Circa 1600AD
After the decline of the Gupta empire the country had disintegrated into a number of smaller kingdoms. Soon certain kingdoms would emerge more dominant and control a greater area. In the north the new invaders set up the Delhi Sultanate. Southern India however remained unaffected by such developments and instead had its own set of warring kingdoms. South India would remain essentially unchanged during the period of Islamic rule in the country, since it was not exposed to the new culture in the way the North was. Hence it remains till today, an example of the pre-Sultanate ideas in India. In this section we shall look at South India economy, society, art etc. with special reference to two Southern kingdoms, Chola and Vijayanagar.
Dateline: Circa 900AD-Circa 1600AD
After the decline of the Gupta empire the country had disintegrated into a number of smaller kingdoms. Soon certain kingdoms would emerge more dominant and control a greater area. In the north the new

South India - Art and Architecture

South India developed its own distinct architectural style which was essentially Indian for they had not been exposed to foreign techniques as North India had. The earlier system of carving temples out of rock had now ended and the trend was to build free standing structures. A Chola temple had a shrine which was approached by one or more halls. Outside there was a tall pyramidal structure known as the shikara , which was richly decorated. The temples was then surrounded by an enclosed courtyard. The entrance gates of these courtyards were also fine works of art in themselves, modelled after the shikara's ,they often were more elaborate then the shikhara . The temples of this period had a new floor plan, a star shaped one as opposed to their earlier rectangle. The star shaped floor plan gave more room for such artistic works then the earlier rectangular one, and this was perhaps the reason it was adopted. A temple consisted of the shrine room, ante chamber and various halls and aisles,

South India - Society

The centre of all social activity during the Chola period was the temple. A temple was either constructed by the king or else it was built by the village through revenue collection and donations from the trade guilds. The temple was where the assemblies were held and where schooling was done. A new concept of Devadasis (female servants of Gods) came about with women becoming actively involved in the running and management of the temple. They joined the temple at a very young age, and the more talented were selected for training in the dance form of Bharatanatyam, which involved very difficult training.
The caste system had by now become a marked feature of the society. The Brahmins (priests) had by now established themselves as the most privileged section of society. They had tremendous political influence and were exempt from tax. The remaining caste strictures were all essentially the same as before, although the concept of untouchable castes had further spread, they were not even allowed to enter the temples. The Brahmins in fact were strong supporters of the caste system, because they knew that their position depended on the disunity of the rests of the castes. Castes were also related to economic activity, and one could acquire privileges normally given to another caste by performing similar work.

South India - Vijayanagar Economy

The economy of the Viajaynagar empire was essentially unchanged from that of the Chola period. Blacksmiths and carpenters were now in great demand and hence occupied a higher social scale. Meanwhile the guilds continued to have a considerable influence on the economy. The guilds themselves were hierarchical with artists guilds working under merchant guilds, who were now powerful distributors who could influence the functioning of the artists guilds considerably. The economic power of the merchant guilds was considerable and they began commanding political influence as well. Any taxation policy would first have to be cleared with the guild leaders, who were also to some extent representatives of public opinion. The system of credit was controlled by temples who lent money to those who required it and often invested in various development project. Those who could not pay back their dues would have their land taken over by the temple. The temple was often the single largest land owner and consumer of a village, the hub of village economic activity, providing various employment opportunities. Their economic influence forged a closer link between them and the monarchy.

South India - Vijayanagar Government

The kingdom of Viajaynagar was ruled by a monarchy, which in theory was supposed to be hereditary. However the environment during the Viajaynagar empire was very turbulent, there was significant opposition to their rule in South India as well as from the Delhi Sultanate in North India. Hence only a strong king could survive who also possessed military and diplomatic skills. Weaker kings were almost always overthrown, as is evident from the fact that the Viajaynagar empire had three different ruling dynasties.
The king ruled as an autocrat and although he was advised by a council of ministers he was not bound to consult them or to accept their recommendations. He had complete authority and even the highest minister remained in power only as long as he commanded the kings favour. There was however an administrative machinery in order to govern the large empire. A central government with a number of departments was put in place and had a well organized secretariat with its own officer. The treasury was divided into two, one through which all the states income and expenditure was routed and the other which was a reserve, to which the kings continuously added and could fall back on in times of need. The major expenditure was in

South India - Rise of Vijayanagar

After the decline of the Chola power, South India once again disintegrated into a number of smaller kingdoms. Among these, Viajaynagar emerged as the dominant power in South India. The Viajaynagar empire which would last for about 300 years would become a centre for Hindu culture and would result in its survival today in South India, for in North India a more composite culture would develop as a result of the blending elements of Hindu and Islamic ideas. The kingdom was founded by HariHara who built the magnificent city of Vijaynagara (City of Victory) in 1343, after which the kingdom was named.
The Viajaynagar era has often been described as a period of revival of Hinduism in Southern India, but this is not entirely correct. Viajaynagar was not a kingdom which attempted to spread Hinduism or check the spread of Islam. It did not form alliances with other Hindu kingdoms to defeat the new Islamic rulers of the North India. Viajaynagar kings were great patrons of religious institutions and the arts and as a result during their reign Hindu traditions continued undisturbed. They were able to instill in South Indians a tremendous sense of religion and values, which was instrumental in the survival of Hindu culture in South India even today, despite enduring 200 year of European rule.

South India - Chola Economy

The Chola kingdom had a strong and well developed economy. Villages were completely self sufficient and were able to satisfy most of the needs of the villagers. They grew their own food, manufactured their own clothes and had their set of craftsmen and other professionals to full cater to the majority of their requirements. Hence there was no major surplus for everything was used within the village itself. This however began to change with the growth of towns and foreign trade. The demand for commodities went up and villages then began producing surplus goods for sale, with the monetary system entering the rural economy.
Guilds continued to be an important part of industry and were centered mainly In the towns. Besides manufacturing there was now the new concept of merchant guilds, who specialized in the procurement and distribution of goods. With the flourishing foreign trade of that time there was tremendous internal as well as external demand for goods and hence they formed a vital part of the economy. They were actively supported by the state, which would assist them if they faced difficulty in negotiations with a foreign country. The state however did not interfere directly with the functioning of the guilds. The guilds were

South India - Chola Government

The Chola system was headed by a king, who was the highest power in the state. Religion and culture played an important part in the Chola administration, with considerable energies of the state being used in building temples and patronizing priests. An interesting development was the cult of the god-king. Deceased Chola kings were often depicted on temples and were worshipped by the people. The king in the Chola form of government was assisted by an assembly of councillors and the rajguru (priest of the royal family). There does not appear to have been any regular ministerial councils.
The administrative set up of the Chola period was a well organized one. Although the kings word was law, before it could be implemented it would have to be written down. The entire kingdom was divided into a number of provinces known as mandalams . These were divided into districts or valanadus . The districts were then further divided into groups of villages known as kurram, naddu or kettam . A big village would sometimes be administered as a single unit, and such a unit would be known as a taniyur . The Chola villages retained the administrative machinery as it was during the Gupta period, and in fact one remarkable feature of the Chola period was the amount of autonomy given to the village government. While

South India - Rise of the Cholas

After the decline of the Gupta empire, the main kingdoms vying for control over southern India were the Pallavas, Pandayas and the Cholas. The Cholas after years of bitter struggle emerged as the dominant force and set up a southern empire. Their rivals however would continue to be a source of trouble and the years in power are characterized by one of almost eternal conflict.
The Chola dynasty began in 1907, with Parantaka I coming to power and establishing their presence. During his reign the Cholas made some substantial gains as well as sustained some crushing defeats. During the next thirty years following his death there was further erosion of the Chola power. However soon luck began favoring them, and whilst the other southern powers were locked in conflict the Cholas once again recovered and in fact extended their empire, making them the dominant force of south India This was achieved by the Chola king Rajaraja I. He would be succeeded by his son Rajendra, and their reign stabilized and extended the empire. The Chola dynasty would remain a powerful kingdom until 1200AD when the decline of their empire, would pave the way for Mughal expansion into south India.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

British India - Advent of the Europeans

India's trade relations with European countries goes back all the way to the days of the Greeks. There was a thriving trade between the two countries along a number of routes. However there existed some monopolies. The Arabs controlled the goods on their way to Asia and the Italians controlled the goods en-route to Europe. Although there were so many middlemen in this trade, it still remained remarkably profitable.
The western European nations noticed this and were keen to get into the trade business. However, attempting to break the existing monopolies of the Arabs and the Italians proved to be very difficult. They began to search for another route to the spice islands of India and Indonesia. In 1492 Columbus set out to discover India but ended up discovering America instead. In 1498 Vasco da Gama of Portugal discovered a new route to India. He landed at Calicut and the goods he took back with him were sold for sixty times the cost of the trip. These

Religion In Ancient India

The predominant religion in ancient India was Hinduism. The roots of Hindu religion can be traced back to the Vedic period. Hinduism is believed to be the oldest of major religions and originated in northern India. Early Aryan, or Vedic, culture was the early Hinduism whose interaction with non-Aryan cultures resulted in what we call Classical Hinduism. It is interesting to note that much of ancient, classical and modern Indian culture has been greatly shaped by Hindu thought.

The Mahabharata and Ramayana, both sacred Hindu texts, served as India's main motivating base for a great deal of literary, artistic and musical creations in subsequent millennia. The Epic Period was a golden era in Indian philosophical thought because of the tolerance of different opinions and teachings. The most popular form of Indian medicine, Ayurveda, was developed by Vedic saints and Jyotish, Hindu astrology, is the most popular form of astrology in India today. Yoga, an internationally-famous system of meditation, is one of six systems of Hindu thought.

East India Company

East India Company was formed by British traders to trade with India. They set up godowns to store the goods they traded in. The protection of these godowns served as a good excuse to build forts and maintain armies at such centers.
[Image] During this time disorganized kingdoms were fighting amongst themselves. The British took the golden opportunity to benefit from these internal quarrels and helped one king against another. In this bargain the British gained more power and wealth. The British trained Indian soldiers and employed them in their army. This army was far better trained and disciplined than the armies with small Indian kings who were just struggling to survive. Gradually the British succeeded in capturing very large parts of India. They made treaties with kings who accepted the authority of the British. They were kings only in name. The British very cleverly managed to collect huge wealth from the people and the kings.
[Image] Likewise, even the weavers of fine cottons and silks were compelled to see their cloth only to British traders at prices decided by them. Anybody found selling his cloth to a trader other than the British was severely punished. Also, no duty was charged on British goods coming to India. On the other hand, Indian exports to Britain were subjected to high imported duty. The India cottage industry also suffered at the hands of the British traders. India had a large handloom industry. But the British by now had started a very big cotton textile mills in England. They needed a lot of cotton for these mills, so cotton was purchased here at a very low price and sent to England and in return huge quantities of cloth was sold in India. The result was that the big weaver class in India became unemployed. People had to buy costlier British cloth. Such were the ways of the British to amass wealth in India to be sent back to England. Thus the Indian farmers, weavers, traders, kings, Nawabs, craftsmen were all unhappy and this discontent led to the mightiest revolts in 1857 which was also joined by Sanyasis, Fakirs, disbanded soldiers and British soldiers too.
[Image] The British conquered India with the help of Indian soldiers, but did not treat them properly. They were denied higher positions in spite of their abilities. The Indians were also traded as slaves to other British colonies. The company was indifferent to education and so the old system of education suffered under the British rule. After this revolt the Company’s place was taken by the British government directly which too was very harsh with Indians. In 1857, power was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown and India became a British colony. India fought a total of 111 wars and with Indian money and troops, British-India finally saw peace.
[Image] The British introduced modern technology with the intention to sell manufactured goods like textiles and machines for profit. In the process of trying to make a profit and exploiting India, the British did of course benefit India. They built railways throughout India in order to make everything readily accessible. They established Law Courts, civil services and transport systems. They also established factories, schools and universities to introduce western ideas and to incorporate the idea of democracy. Missionaries came to India and spread Christianity. This was all done in the name of Britain’s economy.

The Mughal Empire - Introduction

Dateline: 1526AD-1857AD
India had been without a major empire for almost a thousand years now, it had not been since the Gupta Dynasty that an all India empire had been created. The Mughal Dynasty was the last great empire of Indian history. Such was their greatness that not only did they leave a lasting impact on Indian history, the English word Mogul (derived from Mughal) means a powerful person. The Mughals were a remarkable dynasty, and at their peak they produced a successive set of capable rulers. It was also during their reign that some of the finest monuments of India were built, most notably one of the seven wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal.
The Mughal dynasty was founded by Babur, who was a ruler of a kingdom near Persia (modern day Iran). Babur a Turk, was related to the great Mongol conqueror, Chengiz Khan and the Turkish invader Timur. The increasing power of the Uzbeks of Central Asia, was a cause for Babur to want to leave his country. The Delhi Sultanate around this time existed merely in name, and the political scene was in total disarray. The Sultan in power was Ibrahim Lodi, but the nobles commanded a major portion of power. The entire system was very unstable, and finally it cracked. Daulat Khan, a powerful noble who was dissatisfied with Ibrahim Lodi actually requested Babur to come and invade India. Babur had long cherished a desire to

The Mughal Empire - Economy

By the time of the Mughals, cities had grown in importance. The expanding economy now needed urbanization and a fixed market in order to succeed. Earlier, there were usually weekly markets where people from surrounding regions would congregate at a particular place on a particular day. Once the economy started growing, many trade centres developed which soon grew into prosperous cities. Many Indian cities of that time, according to travelling foreigners, were better than those in Asia and Europe. Communication and transport facilities had also improved during the time of the Mughals and Sher Shah. There were several metalled highways reaching various places of the empire. River transport was also important, especially those which were navigable throughout the year. River transport was a cheap and fast way of transporting goods over long distances. Bridges were also constructed to speed up the movement of land transport. Such initiatives and conditions were important contributing factors to the development of the economy.
Agriculture continued to remain an important part of the economy, but the crops and techniques still remained largely unchanged. Irrigation was largely absent although some areas did have access to canals and water works. A variety of food and cash crops were grown. The textile industry was booming and hence there was tremendous demand for cotton and silk which were important cash crops. Tobacco, introduced sometime in 1604 also became an important cash crop. One negative aspect of the Mughal administration was that they did not make any major efforts in agricultural development. Hence the citizens

The Mughal Empire - Shah Jehan

After the death of Jehangir, there was a power struggle amongst the sons of Jehangir, in which Shah Jehan emerged as the emperor. Shah Jehan was in South India at the time of his father's death and speedily rushed to the north and proclaimed himself the emperor. Shah Jehan had a fairly stable rule, with a few rebellions and conquests from which he emerged largely successful. He was able to expand the Mughal territories deep into the South. However, in some areas like the North West Frontier, the Mughal army was defeated repeatedly which lowered the prestige of the Mughal Empire. Shah Jehan's reign was a return to that of the great Mughal kings like Babur and Akbar. An able military commander and man of tremendous cultural ambition. Shah Jehan is perhaps best remembered as being the best builder of the Mughal period, creating some of the finest structures, which blended the distinct Indian and Persian styles into a coherent whole. His most famous building is the mausoleum he made for his wife Mumtaz Mahal, which is called the Taj Mahal.

The Mughal Empire - Society

The society of the Mughal period can roughly be categorized into the rich, middle and poor class. The difference between the richest sections of society and the poorest was very wide. At the top of the social and economic ladder was the king followed by his nobles. This class lived in extraordinary luxury with abundant resources at their disposal. They lived a life of reckless festivity, grand banquets, lavish homes and often had inflated egos. Their food and dress was very costly, and their homes were huge palatial structures. Both indoor and outdoor games were popular with this class, for they had the time and resources to be able to indulge in them. An unfortunate aspect was that as a result of their tremendous wealth, many of them squandered away their money and lives in vice and temptations. Towards the close of the Mughal empire, many of the emperors were no longer interested in running the empire, instead they were more keen on enjoying the wealth they possessed as kings. The Mughal empire was very successful and hence very rich, and it took a strong king not to get tempted with all the luxuries and stay focussed on ruling the empire.
The middle class was a relatively new development, one that would grow and become an important force during British India. They were usually merchants, industrialists and various other professionals. While not being able to afford the extravagance of the rich class, they led comfortable and perhaps more sensible lives. Many middle class families were also very well off and were able to indulge in some luxuries. Below

The Mughal Empire - Government

The Mughal empire provided a system of government that shared many ideas with the Sultanate as well as bringing in some new ideas of its own. It also incorporated many Indian ideas as well. The empire was essentially still military in nature, with every officer of the Mughal state a member of the army. The emperor was an autocrat and had unlimited freedom in making laws. Although he had a council of ministers, he was not bound to consult them, and his word was law. The only restriction was that he had to follow the guidelines set forth in the scriptures and Islamic traditions. However, a powerful emperor could often violate these as well. The great Mughal kings can best be described as benevolent despots, who ruled fairly and justly. Most of them did involve their ministers in decision making. They also attempted to improve the lives of their subjects, although there was no socialistic work in their times.
The administrative system of the Mughal Empire was largely the work of Akbar, for the early two Mughal kings (Babur and Humayun) did not really get the chance to implement much of a system. Akbar's task was simplified for he inherited some measure of Sher Shah's system of organization. During Akbar's time the system worked very well, but it began to deteriorate during the time of his successors. As mentioned earlier, all officers were members of the army. Each officer was assigned a specific responsibility, and was

The Mughal Empire - Art and Architecture

Art and Architecture flourished under the Mughals. The uncertainty of the Sultanate period was over, and the new ideas from that period had been successfully absorbed. Now under the patronage of the powerful Mughal emperors, great works in art and architecture began in all parts of the empire.
Painting made some significant advances during the Mughal period. Painting was a popular expression of art during the Mughal period, and in fact a Mughal school of painting developed during the time, since the Mughal period had a distinctive style. The finest painting of the Mughal period are the Padshanamth and the Khandan-i-Timura. The Mughal paintings often covered scenes from the court and help our understanding of how the court functioned. These paintings also provide us with information on what the emperors and their nobles looked like. Many famous artists came and took up residence in the court of Akbar, during whose time Mughal art reached its peak. A large number of artists were Hindus, which is an example of Akbar's cosmopolitan approach to the empire. The painters amongst that time excelled in portraits, painting of animals, book covers and illustrations as well as the art of miniature paintings amongst many others. Akbar was extremely fond of art and gave much support and encouragement. After his death, Mughal art continued to flourish under Jehangir who was a

The Mughal Empire - Literature

There was tremendous literary activity during the Mughal period, because with the return of a stable and prosperous empire, there was once again patronage for their work. Languages like Persian, Sanskrit, Hindi and Urdu saw tremendous creative activity as did many vernacular languages.
Persian literature received a lot of attention as it was the court language. A vast number of works were written during the period of the Mughals. Broadly one can divide them into three categories, historical works, translations ,poetry and novels. Our understanding of the Mughal period was greatly enhanced by these books, and most of the historical works of this period provide us with a fairly reliable source of information. The important historical works written in this time were Ain-I-Akbari , and Akbarnamath by Abul Fazl, the Ta'rikh-I-'Alfi by Mulla Daud. Jehangir possessed a keen interest in literature, and his autobiography is one of the finest amongst the Mughal emperors. During his reign important historical works like Ma'asir-I-Jahangir , the Igbalnamah-I-Jahangiri and the Zubud-ut-Tawaikh were written.
Many important works in translation were also written during this period, with the translation of the epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana taking place. Many of the Vedas were also translated and several

The Mughal Empire - Akbar

Akbar was one of the greatest emperors of the Mughal dynasty. It was during the reign of Akbar that the rule of the Mughals truly began, for both Babur and Humayun had ruled for extremely short and interrupted periods. Akbar was a minor at the time of his father's death, and was under the guardianship of Bairam Khan. Soon after succeeding to the throne Akbar had to firmly establish Mughal authority and regain the territories it had lost. His enemies challenged his rule and another historic battle was fought at Panipat, one in which Akbar emerged victorious and firmly established the Mughal power as the dominant power in India. Akbar was still under the guardianship of Bairam but now wished to become a full fledged king in his own right. Bairam while providing invaluable service had begun behaving in a high handed manner which had resulted in many enemies. In 1560 Akbar expressed his desire to take over, to Bairam, who reluctantly agreed and prepared to leave the

The Mughal Empire - Aurangzeb

Aurangzeb emerged as the successor after a violent power struggle in which he killed his brothers and imprisoned his father. During his long fifty year reign' the Mughal empire began declining, and despite his devotion to duty he could not prevent its fall.
Aurangzeb was a zealous Muslim. He implemented religious and administrative policies influenced largely by his religious leanings than by what was perhaps more appropriate for the situation. His love for his religion tended to get a bit extreme, and his efforts to spread the religion in India were often violent and militant. Aurangzeb was a completely different emperor then any of his predecessors had been. He was given to an austere and simple life. Aurangzeb brought several changes to the set up. He discontinued the practice of Jharoka-darshan followed by the earlier Mughals, in which the emperor would come out into the balcony of his palace every morning to receive the salute from his citizens. He also dismissed the court musicians and banned music, a ban that had limited effect. He prohibited the sale of alcohol and other artificial intoxicants. He also set up a department to look after public morals and make sure the people were living in strict accordance of the moral code from the holy books. Aurangzeb had hence moved

The Mughal Empire - Jehangir

After the death of Akbar, his son Salim succeeded to the throne at the age of thirty-six and took the title of Jehangir. Shortly after his succession he tried to win over the hearts of all his people and announced a series of concessions. Prisoners were given pardons and his opponents received an amnesty and were forgiven. Jehangir's rule was opposed in its early stages by his own son Khusrav. Khusrav had gotten along very well with his grand father Akbar and was a popular prince amongst the royal family. He became ambitious and began coveting the throne. Shortly after Jehangir's succession, Khusrav left the empire to prepare for his attack. He returned and attacked the empire, which was easily able to fend off the attack. Jehangir who personally marched to the battle with a large army was greatly disturbed by the whole episode. Khusrav was taken a prisoner and after being severely reproached and humiliated by Jehangir in the open court, he was imprisoned. In 1611 Jehangir married Nur Jehan, a woman of exquisite beauty with tastes for Persian literature, poetry and arts. Her entry into the life of Jehangir would have a tremendous impact on his rule. One of the dominating traits of her character was ambition, and soon she ensured that her father and brother became important nobles of the court.

Maratha Rulers

The Marathas The tale of the Marathas' rise to power and their eventual fall contains all the elements of a thriller: adventure, intrigue, and romanticism. Maratha chieftains were originally in the service of Bijapur sultans in the western Deccan, which was under siege by the Mughals. Shivaji Bhonsle (1627-80), a tenacious and fierce fighter recognized as the "father of the Maratha nation," took advantage of this conflict and carved out his own principality near Pune, which later became the Maratha capital. Adopting guerrilla tactics, he waylaid caravans in order to sustain and expand his army, which soon had money, arms, and horses. Maratha Rulers : Shivaji led a series of successful assaults in the 1660s against Mughal strongholds, including the major port of Surat. In 1674 he assumed the title of "Lord of the Universe" at his elaborate coronation, which signaled his determination to challenge the Mughal forces as well as to reestablish a Hindu kingdom in Maharashtra, the land of his origin. Shivaji's battle cries were swaraj (translated variously as freedom, self-rule, independence), swadharma (religious freedom), and goraksha (cow protection). Aurangzeb relentlessly pursued Shivaji's successors between 1681 and 1705 but eventually retreated to the north as his treasury became depleted and as thousands of lives had been lost

The Mughal Empire - Sher Shah's Reign

Although Babur had established the Mughal power as a dominant force in India, many of the left over forces from the Delhi Sultanate did not accept the Mughal as their ruler. Discontent began rising and soon they rallied around an Afghan known as Sher Shah. Sher Shah had a very humble background but rose to several important posts under various rulers. His father had been a landlord of a region called Sasaram which Sher Shah inherited upon his death. Originally known as Farid, he acquired the name Sher Khan, when under the service of Bahar Khan Lohani, a ruler of a kingdom in Bihar, he had single handedly killed a tiger. The king was so impressed that he also appointed Sher Shah, his deputy and the tutor of his minor son, Jalal Khan. Unfortunately for Sher Shah his enemies poisoned his master's mind against him and he was forced to leave his service. He also lost the Sasaram jagir of his father. Sher Shah however moved on and impressed by the success of the Mughals saw a future with them, and so joined Babur. He was of valuable assistance to Babur and as a reward for his services Babur got the Sasaram jagir restored to Sher Shah. Shortly afterwards Sher Shah left the Mughal service and returned to Bihar and went back to the kingdom where he had worked earlier, becoming the deputy governor and guardian of the minor heir Jalal

British Empire in India

India -Company Rule, 1757-1857 The British Empire in India - A multiplicity of motives underlay the British penetration into India: commerce, security, and a purported moral uplift of the people. The "expansive force" of private and company trade eventually led to the conquest or annexation of territories in which spices, cotton, and opium were produced. British investors ventured into the unfamiliar interior landscape in search of opportunities that promised substantial profits. British economic penetration was aided by Indian collaborators, such as the bankers and merchants who controlled intricate credit networks. British rule in India would have been a frustrated or half-realized dream had not Indian counterparts provided connections between rural and urban centers. External threats, both real and imagined, such as the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1815) and Russian expansion toward Afghanistan (in the 1830s), as well as the desire for internal stability, led to the annexation of more territory in India.Political analysts in Britain wavered initially as they were uncertain of the costs or the advantages in undertaking wars in India, but by the 1810s, as the territorial aggrandizement eventually paid off, opinion in London welcomed the absorption of new areas. Occasionally the British Parliament witnessed heated debates against expansion,

The Mughal Empire - Humayun The Mughal Empire - Humayu

After the death of his father Babur, Humayun succeeded to the throne of India, at the age of twenty-three. His succession was not a smooth one, he faced many hostile forces including some members of the royal family. The prevailing system of the time did not have the concept of the eldest son succeeding his father, and hence it was not uncommon to see brothers fighting amongst one another to capture the throne. Humayun's court was also full of nobles who were vigorously planning and plotting against him. His army was full of diverse nationalities with conflicting interests. Many Indian kings like the Rajputs, although defeated still remained a threat to the empire. In such times the need of the hour was for a ruler who was a capable military commander, possessed diplomatic skills and had political wisdom. Sadly Humayun lacked these qualities, and perhaps proved to be his own worst enemy. Humayun was an intellectual man, interested in culture etc. and was devoid of the qualities

Decline of the Mughal Empire

The death of Aurangzeb in 1707 was the end of the Mughal empire's greatness. A war of succession would break out amongst his sons, and eventually the empire was divided up between them. Large parts of the empire had already declared independence during the time of Aurangzeb, and such developments increased after his death. The Mughal empire, which had once been one of the greatest empires of Indian history slowly declined to become just an empire in name, with a small area under its command. The empire would drag on for another 150 years, with a series of inconsequential kings, collectively referred to as the later Mughals. The Empire could perhaps have been saved had someone like Akbar succeeded Aurangzeb, but the later Mughals were failures as emperors. Most of them were given more to the luxuries and pleasures of life, and had little interest in rescuing their declining empire. The court of the Mughals was now overrun with nobles and was an active ground of intrigue and treachery. The nobles keen on advancing their own power, would raise one puppet king after the other to the throne. Over time most of the empire had broken up into small kingdoms and only a small region in the north was left under its control. Thus in such a chaotic state, the time was once again ripe for a foreign invader to come in and

History of India

History of IndiaIndia is a land of ancient civilization. India's social, economic, and cultural configurations are the products of a long process of regional expansion. Indian history begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are usually described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic age. Hinduism arose in the Vedic period.

The fifth century saw the unification of India under Ashoka, who had converted to Buddhism, and it is in his reign that Buddhism spread in many parts of Asia. In the eighth century Islam came to India for the first time and by the eleventh century had firmly established itself in India as a political force. It resulted into the formation of the Delhi Sultanate, which was finally succeeded by the Mughal Empire, under which India once again achieved a large measure of political unity.

Ancient India

The History of India begins with the Indus Valley Civilization and the coming of the Aryans. These two phases are generally described as the pre-Vedic and Vedic periods. The earliest literary source that sheds light on India's past is the Rig Veda. It is difficult to date this work with any accuracy on the basis of tradition and ambiguous astronomical information contained in the hymns. It is most likely that Rig Veda was composed between 1,500 B.C. and 1,000 B.C. In the fifth century, large parts of India were united under Ashoka.

The 6th Century B.C. was a period of great tumult in India. The kingdom of Magadha, one of the 16 great Janapadas had become paramount over other kingdoms of the Ganges Valley. This period also saw the emergence of various heterodox sects in India. This was the time when Buddhism and Jainism emerged as popular protestant movements to pose a serious challenge to Brahmanic orthodoxy.

Vedic Age

Duration: 1500 BC to 500 BC

The Vedic Period or the Vedic Age refers to that time period when the Vedic Sanskrit texts were composed in India. The society that emerged during that time is known as the Vedic Period, or the Vedic Age, Civilization. The Vedic Civilization flourished between the 1500 BC and 500 BC on the Indo-Gangetic Plains of the Indian subcontinent. This civilization laid down the foundation of Hinduism as well as the associated Indian culture. The Vedic Age was followed by the golden age of Hinduism and classical Sanskrit literature, the Maurya Empire and the Middle Kingdoms of India.

Vedic Texts
Linguistically, the texts belonging to the Hindu Vedic Civilisation can be classified into the following five chronological branches:

Indus Valley Civilisation

Duration: 3300 BC to 1700 BC

Indus Valley Civilization was an ancient civilization that thrived in the Indus and Ghaggar-Hakra river valleys, now in Pakistan, along with the northwestern parts of India, Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. The civilization, which is also known as Harappan Civilization, lasted from 3300 BC to 1700 BC. The discovery of the Ancient Indus River Valley Civilization was made, when the Harappan city, the first city of Indus Valley, was excavated.

The first description of the ruins of Harappa is found in the Narrative of Various Journeys in Balochistan, Afghanistan and Punjab of Charles Masson. It dates back to the period of 1826 to 1838. In 1857, the British engineers accidentally used bricks from the Harappa ruins for building the East Indian Railway line between Karachi and Lahore. In the year 1912, J. Fleet discovered Harappan seals. This incident led to an


Harshavardhana was an Indian Emperor, who ruled over the northern parts of India for a period of more than forty years. His empire was spread over the states of Punjab, Bengal, Orissa and the entire Indo-Gangetic plain, lying to the north of the Narmada River. Get more information of the life history of King Harsha Vardhan with this biography:

King Harshavardhana was born in 590 BC to Prabhakar Vardhan. His elder brother was Rajyavardhan, the king of Thanesar. He was instrumental in consolidating the small republics and small monarchical states that had sprung up in North India after the downfall of the Gupta dynasty. Harsha Vardhan united the small republics from Punjab to Central India and they accepted him as their king in 606 AD. Though Harsha was only sixteen years old when he ascended the throne, he proved himself to be a great vanquisher as well as a competent administrator.

Chandragupta Maurya

Chandragupta Maurya was the founder of the Maurya Empire in India. He is credited with bringing together the small fragmented kingdoms of the country and combining them into a single large empire. As per the Greek and Latin accounts, King Chandragupta Maurya is known as Sandracottos or Andracottus. During his reign, the Maurya Empire stretched from Bengal and Assam in the East, to Afghanistan and Balochistan in the West, to Kashmir and Nepal in the North and to the Deccan Plateau in the South. Read on this biography cum life history of Chandragupta Maurya to know more about the great king:

Conflicting Views about His Lineage
Chandra Gupta Maurya was born in 340 BC. However, there is not much information about his ancestry. Some of the historians believe that he was an illegitimate child of a Nanda prince and his maid, Mura. Others believe that Chandragupta belonged to Moriyas, a Kshatriya (warrior) clan of a little ancient republic of Pippalivana, situated between Rummindei (Nepali Tarai) and Kasia (Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh). Two other views are that he belonged either to the Muras (or Mors) or to the Kshatriyas of the


Asoka was one of the most powerful kings of the Indian subcontinent. A ruler of the Mauryan Empire, Ashoka ruled over the country from 273 BC to 232 BC. The reign of Emperor Asoka covered most of India, South Asia and beyond, stretching from present day Afghanistan and parts of Persia in the west, to Bengal and Assam in the east, and Mysore in the south. However, the Battle of Kalinga changed King Asoka completely. From a power hungry emperor, he turned into a Buddhist follower and started preaching the principles of Buddhism throughout the world. Read on this biography to know more about the life history of 'Ashoka the Great':

Early Life
Asoka was born in 304 BC, to Mauryan Emperor Bindusara and a relatively lower ranked queen, Dharma. The legend associated with the emperor goes that his birth had been predicted by Buddha, in the story of 'The Gift of Dust'. Buddhist Emperor Ashoka had only one younger sibling, Vitthashoka, but, several elder half-brothers. Right from his childhood days Ashoka showed great promise in the field of weaponry skills

Ancient India Facts

According to Greek philosophers slavery did not exist in ancient India. Aryabhatta, the great astronomer and scientist, discovered zero. The number system was also invented in ancient India. The Indus valley civilization was one of the most advance civilizations in terms of town planning etc. During the ancient period there were many famous and important centers of learning in India- Taxila and Nalanda, where thousands of students from all over studied different subjects. The earliest school of medicine known to humans is Ayurveda. Ayurveda was developed mainly by Charaka, the great Indian physician, during ancient times. It is the only system which takes the holistic view of the person being treated. India was known as golden bird because of her wealth. The later invaders came to India in search of wealth. Bhaskaracharya, the great astronomer and mathematician of ancient India, was the first person to calculate the time taken by the earth to orbit the sun. It was during the 6th century that Budhayana first calculated the value of pie and explained the concept of Pythagoras theorem. It is interesting to note that ancient India was so advanced in science and mathematics that Algebra, trigonometry and calculus all came from India. In the 11th century Sridharacharya propounded the Quadratic equations. Ancient Indians had a well

Ancient India Government

In the beginning of the Vedic age people did not have a settled life and were nomads but with development in agriculture people started to settle down in groups. The organization was mainly tribal and the head of the tribe was supposed to be the raja or the King, though the concept of King had yet not developed. With the passage of time large kingdoms started to grow and by the 6th century BC there were 16 Mahajanapadas (Kingdoms).

There were many small republics also in ancient India. These republics had some elements of democracy in their administration. The king (raja) was the supreme head of the legislative, executive and judiciary branches. He was assisted in administration by a number of officials. The members of the council of minister could give advice to the king, but final decisions were left to the king. The ministers and other officials were directly appointed by the king.

Ancient India Geography

India and its surrounding countries are so similar in culture and climatic conditions that the region is sometimes called the Indian sub-continent. In ancient times the geography of India was a little different than what it is today. In the northern part of India stand the Himalayan Mountains and the Hindu Kush stand in the North West. The southern region of India is surrounded by three bodies of water. They are the Arabian Sea to the south west; the Indian Ocean on the southern side and to the southeast lay the Bay of Bengal.

In ancient times, India was much more extended to the North West and west (consisting of parts of modern Pakistan and Afghanistan). The Himalayas lay to the north as they are today. In ancient period there were many other rivers besides the preset ones. The most important of them was River Saraswati, which is not traceable now. The geography of India is one of great extremes, encompassing desert, mountains, forest, and jungle. All of these environments are susceptible to unpredictable periods of flood, drought, and monsoon.

Art in Ancient India

Each era is unique in its distinctive culture. In the same way Indian art forms have continuously evolved over thousands of years. In ancient India, various art forms like paintings, architecture and sculpture evolved. The history of art in ancient India begins with prehistoric rock paintings. Such rock paintings can be seen in the Bhimbetaka paintings, belonging to the prehistoric age. Thereafter, an advanced town planning is seen in Harappa and Mohenjodaro, with their centrally planned cities indicating a highly developed architecture. Another remarkable example of sculpture from Harappan civilization comes in the form of the dancing girl from Mohenjodaro.

The use of symbolic forms in India is as old as the Harappan seals. The fire altars of the Vedic period, with their astronomical and mathematical significance also play an important role in the evolution of the later temples. It was followed by a period in the history of Indian art that is important for rock-cut caves and temple architecture. The Buddhists initiated the rock-cut caves, Hindus and Jains started to imitate them at Badami, Aihole, Ellora, Salsette, Elephanta, Aurangabad and Mahabalipuram. The rock-cut art has

Chhatrapati Shivaji

Chatrapati Shivaji Maharaj was the founder of the Maratha Empire in western India. He is considered to be one of the greatest warriors of his time and even today, stories of his exploits are narrated as a part of the folklore. King Shivaji used the guerrilla tactics to capture a part of, the then, dominant Mughal empire. Read this biography to get more information on the warrior and his life history:

Early Life
Shivaji was born on 19th February 1630, to Sahaji and his wife, Jijabai, in the Shivneri Fort, situated almost 60 km to the north of Pune. He was named as Shiva, after the local Goddess Shivai, to whom his mother Jijabai had prayed for a son. After being defeated by the combined forces of the Mughals and Adil Shah, Sahaji was offered a jagir near the present-day Bangalore. However, he was allowed to keep his holdings in Pune. So, Sahaji left his son Shivaji to manage the Pune holdings, under the care of his mother Jijabai.

Shah Jahan

Shah Jahan, also known as Shahbuddin Mohammed Shah Jahan, was a Mughal Emperor who ruled in the Indian Subcontinent from 1628 to 1658. He was the fifth Mughal ruler, after Babur, Humayun, Akbar and Jahangir. Shah Jahan succeeded the throne after revolting against his father, Jahangir. The period of Shah Jahan's rule in India is regarded as the golden age of Indian architecture. He is credited with constructing numerous beautiful monuments throughout the landscape of India. However, the most brilliant monument is the 'Taj Mahal' of Agra, which he built in the memory of his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal.

The exquisite "Peacock Throne', which he got built for himself, is believed to be worth millions of dollars by modern estimates. Shah Jahan is also the founder of the modern city of Delhi. During that time, the city was known as Shahjahanabad. Get more information on the biography as well as life history of Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan:

The Great King Akbar

Emperor Akbar, also known as Akbar the Great or Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar, was the third emperor of the Mughal Empire, after Babur and Humayun. He was the son of Nasiruddin Humayun and succeeded him as the emperor in the year 1556, when he was only 13 years old. One of the most successful emperors of the Mughal Empire, Akbar also made significant contribution in the field of art. Apart from commencing a large collection of literature, he also commissioned a number of splendid buildings during his reign. This biography of King Akbar will provide you more information on his life history:

Early Life
Akbar was born on 15th October 1542, to Emperor Humayun and his recently wedded wife, Hamida Banu Begum. The Rajput Fortress of Umarkot in Sind, where Humayun and Hamida were taking refuge, became the birthplace of this great emperor. In 1540, Humayun was forced into exile by Afghan leader Sher Shah and Akbar spent his childhood in Afghanistan, at his uncle Askari's place. His youth was spent in running and fighting, rather than learning to read and write. However, this could never impair his interest in art,

Medieval Indian History

After the death of Harsha the Rajputs came into prominence on the political horizons of North India. The Rajputs were known for their bravery and chivalry but family feuds and strong notions of personal pride often resulted into conflicts. The Rajputs weakened each other by constant wrangling. The disunity among Rajputs allowed the foreigners (Turks) to enter India. The defeat of Prithvi Raj Chauhan (the greatest Rajput warrior of the time) at the hands of Mohammad Ghori, in the battle of Tarain 1192, marked a new chapter in the history of India.

After the death of Mohammad Ghori, Qutub-Uddin Aibak (Ghori's lieutenant in India) founded the Slave Dynasty. With this the Delhi Sultanate came into being. Aibak was followed by his slave, Iltutmism, who was succeeded by his daughter, Razia (1236 - 1239). Razia sat on the throne of Delhi for a short while. The Slave dynasty was followed by the Khalji, Tughlaq, Sayyids and Lodi dynasty. Some of the notable among the Sultanate rulers were Balban, Alauddin Khalji and Mohammad Bin Tughlaq.

Economic History of India

Indus valley civilization, which flourished between 2800 BC and 1800 BC, had an advanced and flourishing economic system. The Indus valley people practiced agriculture, domesticated animals, made tools and weapons from copper, bronze and tin and even traded with some Middle East countries.

Agriculture was the main economic activity of the people in the Vedic age but with the second urbanization a number of urban centers grew in North India. This gave a major fillip to trade and commerce. The ancient Indians had trade contacts with far off lands like the Middle East, the Roman Empire and the South East Asia. Many Indian trading colonies were settled in other countries.

Most of the Indian population resided in villages and the economy of the villages was self-sustaining. Agriculture was the predominant occupation of the populace and satisfied a village's food necessities. It also provided raw materials for industries like textile, food processing and crafts. Besides farmers, other

India Timeline

Indian timeline takes us on a journey of the history of the subcontinent. Right from the ancient India, which included Bangladesh and Pakistan, to the free and divided India, this time line covers each and every aspect related to the past as well as present of the country. Read on further to explore the timeline of India:

Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka (9000 BC to 7000 BC)
The earliest records of the Indian history exist in the form of the Rock Shelters of Bhimbetka. These shelters are situated on the southern edge of the central Indian plateau, in the foothills of the Vindhyan Mountains. There are five groups of rock shelters, each of them adorned with paintings that are believed to date from the Mesolithic Period right through to the historical period.

Mughal Empire

The Mughal rulers in IndiaIn the early sixteenth century, descendants of the Mongol, Turkish, Iranian, and Afghan invaders of South Asia--the Mughals--invaded India under the leadership of Zahir-ud-Din Babur. Babur was the great-grandson of Timur Lenk (Timur the Lame, from which the Western name Tamerlane is derived), who had invaded India and plundered Delhi in 1398 and then led a short-lived empire based in Samarkand (in modern-day Uzbekistan) that united Persian-based Mongols (Babur's maternal ancestors) and other West Asian peoples. Babur was driven from Samarkand and initially established his rule in Kabul in 1504; he later became the first Mughal ruler (1526-30). His determination was to expand eastward into Punjab, where he had made a number of forays. Then an invitation from an opportunistic Afghan chief in Punjab brought him to the very heart of the Delhi Sultanate, ruled by Ibrahim Lodi (1517-26). 
Babur, a seasoned military commander, entered India in 1526 with his well-trained veteran army of 12,000 to meet the sultan's huge but unwieldy and disunited force of more than 100,000 men. Babur defeated the Lodi sultan decisively at Panipat (in modern-day Haryana, about ninety kilometers north of Delhi). Employing gun carts, moveable artillery, and superior cavalry tactics, Babur achieved a resounding victory.

The Coming of Islam

Islam in India   The Delhi SultanateIslam was propagated by the Prophet Muhammad during the early seventh century in the deserts of Arabia. Less than a century after its inception, Islam's presence was felt throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Iran, and Central Asia. Arab military forces conquered the Indus Delta region in Sindh in 711 and established an Indo-Muslim state there. Sindh became an Islamic outpost where Arabs established trade links with the Middle East and were later joined by teachers or sufis (see Glossary), but Arab influence was hardly felt in the rest of South Asia (see Islam, ch. 3). By the end of the tenth century, dramatic changes took place when the Central Asian Turkic tribes accepted both the message and mission of Islam. These warlike people first began to move into Afghanistan and Iran and later into India through the northwest. Mahmud of Ghazni (971-1030), who was also known as the "Sword of Islam," mounted seventeen plundering expeditions between 997 and 1027 into North India, annexing Punjab as his eastern province. The invaders' effective use of the crossbow while at a gallop gave them a decisive advantage over their Indian opponents, the Rajputs. Mahmud's conquest of Punjab foretold ominous consequences for the rest of India, but the Rajputs appear to have been both unprepared

British Invasion in India

British in India -The Coming of the Europeans The quest for wealth and power brought Europeans to Indian shores in 1498 when Vasco da Gama, the Portuguese voyager, arrived in Calicut (modern Kozhikode, Kerala) on the west coast. In their search for spices and Christian converts, the Portuguese challenged Arab supremacy in the Indian Ocean, and, with their galleons fitted with powerful cannons, set up a network of strategic trading posts along the Arabian Sea and the Persian Gulf. In 1510 the Portuguese took over the enclave of Goa, which became the center of their commercial and political power in India and which they controlled for nearly four and a half centuries. British Invasion Economic competition among the European nations led to the founding of commercial companies in England (the East India Company, founded in 1600) and in the Netherlands (Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie--the United East India Company, founded in 1602), whose primary aim was to capture the spice trade by breaking the Portuguese monopoly in Asia. Although the Dutch, with a large supply of capital and support from their government, preempted and ultimately excluded the British from the heartland of spices in the East Indies (modern-day Indonesia), both companies managed to establish trading "factories" (actually warehouses)

British Empire in India

India -Company Rule, 1757-1857 The British Empire in India - A multiplicity of motives underlay the British penetration into India: commerce, security, and a purported moral uplift of the people. The "expansive force" of private and company trade eventually led to the conquest or annexation of territories in which spices, cotton, and opium were produced. British investors ventured into the unfamiliar interior landscape in search of opportunities that promised substantial profits. British economic penetration was aided by Indian collaborators, such as the bankers and merchants who controlled intricate credit networks. British rule in India would have been a frustrated or half-realized dream had not Indian counterparts provided connections between rural and urban centers. External threats, both real and imagined, such as the Napoleonic Wars (1796-1815) and Russian expansion toward Afghanistan (in the 1830s), as well as the desire for internal stability, led to the annexation of more territory in India.Political analysts in Britain wavered initially as they were uncertain of the costs or the advantages in undertaking wars in India, but by the 1810s, as the territorial aggrandizement eventually paid off, opinion in London welcomed the absorption of new areas. Occasionally the British Parliament witnessed heated debates against expansion,

Independence of India

India Political Impasse and Independence: The Congress neither acknowledged the Muslim League's performance, albeit poor, in the elections nor deigned to form a coalition government with the League, a situation that led to the collapse of negotiations and mutual trust between the leaders. Mohammad Ali Jinnah, a Western-educated Muslim lawyer, took over the presidency of the moribund Muslim League and galvanized it into a national force under the battle cry of "Islam in danger." Jinnah doubted the motives of Gandhi and Nehru and accused them of practicing Hindu chauvinism. He relentlessly attacked the Congress-led ministries, accusing them of casteism, corruption, and nepotism. Skillfully, he succeeded in unifying various regional Islamic organizations and factions in Punjab and Bengal under the umbrella of the Muslim League.
Electoral gains by the Congress in 1937 were rendered ephemeral as its leaders ordered provincial ministries to resign in November 1939, when the viceroy (Victor Alexander John Hope, Marquis of Linlithgow--1936-43) declared India's entrance into World War II without consulting Indian leaders. Jinnah and the Muslim League welcomed the Congress withdrawal from government as a timely opportunity and

India Independence Movement

The civil war was a major turning point in the history of modern India. In May 1858, the British exiled Emperor Bahadur Shah II (r. 1837-57) to Burma, thus formally liquidating the Mughal Empire. At the same time, they abolished the British East India Company and replaced it with direct rule under the British crown. In proclaiming the new direct-rule policy to "the Princes, Chiefs, and Peoples of India," Queen Victoria (who was given the title Empress of India in 1877) promised equal treatment under British law, but Indian mistrust of British rule had become a legacy of the 1857 rebellion. Many existing economic and revenue policies remained virtually unchanged in the post-1857 period, but several administrative modifications were introduced, beginning with the creation in London of a cabinet post, the secretary of state for India. The governor-general (called viceroy when acting as the direct representative of the British crown), headquartered in Calcutta, ran the administration in India, assisted by executive and legislative councils. Beneath the governor-general were the provincial governors, who held power over the district officials, who formed the lower rungs of the Indian Civil Service. For decades the Indian Civil Service was the exclusive preserve of the British-born, as were the superior ranks in such other professions as law and

Gupta Empire

India- Gupta and Harsha The classical AgeGupta age - The Classical Age refers to the period when most of North India was reunited under the Gupta Empire (ca. A.D. 320-550). Because of the relative peace, law and order, and extensive cultural achievements during this period, it has been described as a "golden age" that crystallized the elements of what is generally known as Hindu culture with all its variety, contradiction, and synthesis. The golden age was confined to the north, and the classical patterns began to spread south only after the Gupta Empire had vanished from the historical scene. The military exploits of the first three rulers--Chandragupta I (ca. 319-335), Samudragupta (ca. 335-376), and Chandragupta II (ca. 376-415)--brought all of North India under their leadership. From Pataliputra, their capital, they sought to retain political preeminence as much by pragmatism and judicious marriage alliances as by military strength. Despite their self-conferred titles, their overlordship was threatened and by 500 ultimately ruined by the Hunas (a branch of the White Huns emanating from Central Asia), who were yet another group in the long succession of ethnically and culturally different outsiders drawn into India and then woven into the hybrid Indian fabric.Under Harsha Vardhana (or Harsha, r. 606-47), North India was reunited briefly, but neither

Deccan and South Indian Kingdoms

Deccan Indian Kingdoms : During the Kushana Dynasty, an indigenous power, the Satavahana Kingdom (first century B.C.-third century A.D.), rose in the Deccan in southern India. The Satavahana, or Andhra, Kingdom was considerably influenced by the Mauryan political model, although power was decentralized in the hands of local chieftains, who used the symbols of Vedic religion and upheld the varnashramadharma . The rulers, however, were eclectic and patronized Buddhist monuments, such as those in Ellora (Maharashtra) and Amaravati (Andhra Pradesh). Thus, the Deccan served as a bridge through which politics, trade, and religious ideas could spread from the north to the south. Farther south were three ancient Tamil kingdoms--Chera (on the west), Chola (on the east), and Pandya (in the south)--frequently involved in internecine warfare to gain regional supremacy. They are mentioned in Greek and Ashokan sources as lying at the fringes of the Mauryan Empire. A corpus of ancient Tamil literature, known as Sangam (academy) works, including Tolkappiam , a manual of Tamil grammar by Tolkappiyar, provides much useful information about their social life from 300 B.C. to A.D. 200. There is clear evidence of encroachment by Aryan traditions from the north into a predominantly indigenous Dravidian culture in

The Mauryan Empire :

The Mauryan Empire : Although Indian accounts to a large extent ignored Alexander the Great's Indus campaign in 326 B.C., Greek writers recorded their impressions of the general conditions prevailing in South Asia during this period. Thus, the year 326 B.C. provides the first clear and historically verifiable date in Indian history. A two-way cultural fusion between several Indo-Greek elements--especially in art, architecture, and coinage--occurred in the next several hundred years. North India's political landscape was transformed by the emergence of Magadha in the eastern Indo-Gangetic Plain. In 322 B.C., Magadha, under the rule of Chandragupta Maurya, began to assert its hegemony over neighboring areas. Chandragupta, who ruled from 324 to 301 B.C., was the architect of the first Indian imperial power--the Mauryan Empire (326-184 B.C.)--whose capital was Pataliputra, near modern-day Patna, in Bihar.ituated on rich alluvial soil and near mineral deposits, especially iron, Magadha was at the center of bustling commerce and trade. The capital was a city of magnificent palaces, temples, a university, a library, gardens, and parks, as reported by Megasthenes, the third-century B.C. Greek historian and ambassador to the Mauryan court. Legend states that Chandragupta's success was due in large measure to his adviser

Harappa , Harappan Culture in India

Harappa : The earliest imprints of human activities in India go back to the Paleolithic Age, roughly between 400,000 and 200,000 B.C. Stone implements and cave paintings from this period have been discovered in many parts of the South Asia (see fig. 1). Evidence of domestication of animals, the adoption of agriculture, permanent village settlements, and wheel-turned pottery dating from the middle of the sixth millennium B.C. has been found in the foothills of Sindh and Baluchistan (or Balochistan in current Pakistani usage), both in present-day Pakistan. One of the first great civilizations--with a writing system, urban centers, and a diversified social and economic system--appeared around 3,000 B.C. along the Indus River valley in Punjab (see Glossary) and Sindh. It covered more than 800,000 square kilometers, from the borders of Baluchistan to the deserts of Rajasthan, from the Himalayan foothills to the southern tip of Gujarat (see fig. 2). The remnants of two major cities--Mohenjo-daro and Harappa--reveal remarkable engineering feats of uniform urban planning and carefully executed layout, water supply, and drainage. Excavations at these sites and later archaeological digs at about seventy other locations in India and Pakistan provide a composite picture of what is now generally known as Harappan culture (2500-1600

Buddhism And Ancient Buddhism in India

Buddhism in India began with the life of Siddhartha Gautama (ca. 563-483 B.C.), a prince from the small Shakya Kingdom located in the foothills of the Himalayas in Nepal. Brought up in luxury, the prince abandoned his home and wandered forth as a religious beggar, searching for the meaning of existence. The stories of his search presuppose the Jain tradition, as Gautama was for a time a practitioner of intense austerity, at one point almost starving himself to death. He decided, however, that self-torture weakened his mind while failing to advance him to enlightenment and therefore turned to a milder style of renunciation and concentrated on advanced meditation techniques. Eventually, under a tree in the forests of Gaya (in modern Bihar), he resolved to stir no farther until he had solved the mystery of existence. Breaking through the final barriers, he achieved the knowledge that he later expressed as the Four Noble Truths: all of life is suffering; the cause of suffering is desire; the end of desire leads to the end of suffering; and the means to end desire is a path of discipline and meditation. Gautama was now the Buddha, or the awakened one, and he spent the remainder of his life traveling about northeast India converting large numbers of disciples. At the age of eighty, the Buddha achieved his final passing away (parinirvana ) and died, leaving a thriving

India Religion

IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO KNOW THE RELIGIONS IN INDIA without understanding its religious beliefs and practices, which have a large impact on the personal lives of most Indians and influence public life on a daily basis. Indian religions have deep historical roots that are recollected by contemporary Indians. The ancient culture of South Asia, going back at least 4,500 years, has come down to India primarily in the form of religious texts. The artistic heritage, as well as intellectual and philosophical contributions, has always owed much to religious thought and symbolism. Contacts between India and other cultures have led to the spread of Indian religions throughout the world, resulting in the extensive influence of Indian thought and practice on Southeast and East Asia in ancient times and, more recently, in the diffusion of Indian religions to Europe and North America. Within India, on a day-to-day basis, the vast majority of people engage in ritual actions that are motivated by religious systems that owe much to the past but are continuously evolving. Religion, then, is one of the most important facets of Indian history and contemporary life.


India as a country has been bestowed with several nomenclatures. Right from unity in diversity to birthplace of Hinduism and Sanskrit, the land has always been admired and revered for its rich cultural legacy and variety that it offers. India is a story, a legend, folklore and an anecdote in itself. It needs no introduction, no specific mention. It has continued to thrive for centuries and there are bright chances of it being the next super power. The country has always nourished numerous cultures, traditions and religions. All the major religions thrive in India and none of them have ever felt insecure or unprotected. That’s the beauty of the land.

Go to any part of rich India and you will find numerous temple and shrines and all of them contain their own unique stories. We have always believed in beautiful and fascinating description of Indian Gods and Goddesses. Many stories have been told and retold in different fashions about how particular God originated in a particular place. All the descriptions of deities are believable and they convey just one message of Good winning over the evil. Gods in Indian religion have always fought monsters and even

Indian Kingdoms, Indian Empires

LEARN ABOUT ANCIENT INDIA KINGDOMS, INDIAN RULERS & ANCIENT INDIAN EMPIRES From their original settlements in the Punjab region, the Aryans gradually began to penetrate eastward, clearing dense forests and establishing "tribal" settlements along the Ganga & Yamuna ( Jamuna ) plains between 1500 and ca. 800 B.C. By around 500 B.C., most of northern India was inhabited and had been brought under cultivation, facilitating the increasing knowledge of the use of iron implements, including ox-drawn plows, and spurred by the growing population that provided voluntary and forced labor. As riverine and inland trade flourished, many towns along the Ganga became centers of trade, culture, and luxurious living. Increasing population and surplus production provided the bases for the emergence of independent states with fluid territorial boundaries over which disputes frequently arose.
The rudimentary administrative system headed by tribal chieftains was transformed by a number of regional republics or hereditary monarchies that devised ways to appropriate revenue and to conscript labor for expanding the areas of settlement and agriculture farther east and south, beyond the Narmada

History of India


INDIA IS A LAND of ancient civilization, with cities and villages, cultivated fields, and great works of art dating back 4,000 years. India's high population density and variety of social, economic, and cultural configurations are the products of a long process of regional expansion.
In the last decade of the twentieth century, such expansion has led to the rapid erosion of India's forest and wilderness areas in the face of ever-increasing demands for resources and gigantic population pressures--India's population is projected to exceed 1 billion by the 21st century.Such problems are a relatively recent phenomenon. Rhinoceros inhabited the North Indian plains as late as the sixteenth century. Historical records and literature of earlier periods reveal the motif of the forest everywhere. Stories of merchant caravans typically included travel through long stretches of jungle inhabited by wild beasts and strange people; royal adventures usually included a hunting expedition and meetings with unusual beings. In the Mahabharata and the Ramayana , early epics that reflect life in India before 1000 B.C. and 500 B.C., respectively, the forest begins at the edge of the city, and the heroes regularly spend periods of exile wandering far from civilization before returning to rid the world of evil. 

Sunday, 2 October 2011

The Delhi Sultanate - Introduction

Dateline: 1206AD-1526AD
With the dawn of the second millennia, Indian history entered a phase of volatility, with new ideas and religions making an appearance. India which had largely developed indigenously over the past thousand years of its history, would become a centre for invaders from Central Asia and Persia. Such events were significant because the invaders would bring with them a new set of ideas which would have a lasting impact on Indian culture. Until the rise of the Mughal Empire in 1526, North India and South India would have separate kingdoms. The North would be ruled by the new Sultans who formed the Delhi Sultanate whereas the South would be divided amongst many kings, out of which the Chola dynasty would emerge as the dominant force. The Mughal empire would however, once again reunite the two parts of the country.
In 1000 AD, the peaceful balance of power in North India was shattered by an invasion of an Afghan conqueror, Mahmud of Ghazni. Over the next 25 years he would launch 17 campaigns and each campaign was one of massive plunder. The kingdom of Ghazni in Afghanistan was adjacent to Punjab, separated by the Hindu Kush mountains. The lush, fertile plains of Punjab lay below them, and the temptation to

The Delhi Sultanate - The Slave Dynasty

This was the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate period, it was the foundation dynasty of the period. It was founded by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, who declared himself the Sultan after the death of his master, Muhammed of Ghur. Most of the nobles supported him, although he faced a brief contest with Taj-ud-din. Eventually Qutub-ud-din-Aibak emerged as an Indian Sultan, with Taj-ud-din remaining an Afghanistan Sultan.
Qutub-ud-din-Aibak was a strong, fair and able king. He is reported to rarely have lost a battle was known for delivering fair justice to his citizens. He attempted to bring peace and prosperity to his citizens in a turbulent time. He was a devout Muslim and built several mosques. His rule was very brief lasting just a few years. He is the person who started the construction of the Qutab Minar in Delhi, which was completed by his successor. After his death a

The Delhi Sultanate - Decline

The Delhi Sultanate began to disintegrate following the death of Muhammed bin Tughlaq. His successor Firuz Shah, was not able to rescue the Tughlaq dynasty from its decline and eventually it too was overthrown. In fact he made the crucial mistake of reviving the jagir (land grant) system, which further strengthened the power of the nobles. A number of factors like weak successive dynasties and foreign invasions led to the end of the Sultanate.
One of the most famous invaders of the time was Amir Timur. Seeing the chaotic situation in the country the feared military leader invaded India. The Sultanate rulers fought to defend their empire but their struggle was in vain, they were comprehensively defeated and forced to flee. Timur then descended into the city of Delhi and for several days indulged in plunder and destruction. Timur however had no intention of remaining in India, and after

The Delhi Sultanate - Art and Architecture

The Sultanate period brought to India new styles of art and architecture which were soon absorbed into the existing set up. A number of factors were responsible for events to move in such a direction. The existing Indian styles and the new ideas had many common features, which allowed them to adapt to one another. For instance both the temple and mosque had large open courtyards. Also many temples were converted in mosques by the foreign invaders, and this created a blend of Indian as well as foreign styles.
The Sultanate introduced two new architectural ideas, the dome and the pointed arch. The dome was an important decorative structure in Islamic buildings, and soon was implemented in other structures as well. The pointed or true arch that was introduced during this period, was completely different from the type of arches that were being constructed within the country earlier. The

The Delhi Sultanate - Literature

The rise of Persian speaking people to the throne naturally resulted in the spread of the Persian language in India. It was the official language and soon literary works in the language began to appear. Initially Persian literature talked about topics which were familiar to those from Persia. Gradually however as more Indians learnt the language, the literary works began to have a more Indian theme. Amir Khusrav was a noted writer of the period, who was one of the first writers to write Persian literature about events concerning India. His inspiration came from events he saw around, his work soon grew to be appreciated and he became a court poet. He inspired many other Indians to take to writing in Persian.
Sanskrit continued to remain an important language of the time, and despite the increasingly influence of Persian, it was able to hold its ground. Many preferred Sanskrit poets as they were more established and experienced then those that worked in the new languages. A centre for Sanskrit learning opened at Mithila (north Bihar). It preserved the tradition of classical Sanskrit literature and kept it alive. Sanskrit was however beginning to lose its popularity as an intellectual language, and the Brahmans struggled to find patrons to keep it alive.

The Delhi Sultanate - Religion

The Sultanate time was a period of great transformation in religious ideas. Not only was the new religion of Islam making significant inroads into the country, Hinduism was also going through a period of re-thinking with the Bhakti movement. To complete the picture even Islam was going through such a movement, with the Sufi saints.
Hinduism ll had the two main sects of Vaishnavas (worshippers of Lord Vishnu) and Shaivas (worshippers of Lord Shiv). A Bengal school teacher, Chaitanya was an active personality in the Vaishnavas ect and travelled across the country teaching as many people as he could about its teachings. Islam meanwhile was also divided into two main sects, Sunni and Shia . There was conflict between the two as the Sultans were Sunnis and were keen on rooting out the Shia power in India, which had survived in some areas.
The Bhakti movement began with the aim to reform Hinduism and make it a religion to which the common people could relate to. It sought to end the undue influence the priests had over the religion and stressed on the idea of Bhakti (personal devotion to God). Bhakti saints travelled far and wide and spread their

The Delhi Sultanate - Society

The society of this time was going through some changes, with a fusion between Islamic culture and the Indian culture of the time. Many Indians were embracing the new religion and this resulted in a new variant of the religion, one that absorbed many Indian ideas and beliefs as well. The caste system went through some interesting changes. The Hindus continued to follow the caste system that had been existing. As for the Muslims the situation was a little different. Islamic society did not formally recognize caste. However with the entry in India, many Indian ideas were being incorporated and the caste system was one of them. The development of the caste system in Islamic society started with divisions based on ethnicity. The highest caste was the Ashraf which include the Turks, Afghans and the Persians. The next highest caste were upper class Hindu converts. After this there was the usual division of occupation castes and sub castes. Marriages were usually held within caste boundaries. The foreign settlers ,although initially attempting to preserve a unique identity, were slowly absorbed into Indian society as they adopted the same dress and food and married outside their community.
Religious rituals of the two religions however remained more or less distinct and did not really join in the

The Delhi Sultanate - Government

The new entrants brought to India a completely new form of governance. The Sultanate rulers were far more autocratic then any previous Indian ruler. They had an immense amount of freedom and their word was law, though technically they were bound to follow the law of the Quaran (the Islamic holy book). The Sultan was able to maintain control of his empire largely through military strength. The Sultan was the commander of the armed forces, the chief law maker and the final court of appeal. These powers essentially meant that he was the supreme controller of the state. Another striking difference between the new kings and previous ones, was that the concept of hereditary monarchy did not exist, a power struggle inevitably broke out. Whoever succeeded would have to have the backing of the nobles, a class of people who were important king makers. Another unique trend in the Sultanate period, which led to so many dynasties and so many kings in a relatively short period, was that if a dynasty was weak, the nobles or generals of the army would overthrow it and set up a new one. Before the Sultanate era, the king was always a member of the royal family, although weak kings were mere puppets in the hands of their nobles. In the Sultanate period however, the nobles would overthrow the ruler and the most powerful amongst

The Delhi Sultanate - Economy

India was a prosperous country during the period. We have accounts of the massive amount of wealth Mahmud of Ghazni had made off with, and even invaders post- Sultanate made off with massive loots. However, the state did not follow a coherent economic policy to guide and develop the economy, except for some isolated cases amongst certain kings. Agriculture still remained the major occupation of the people although many industries had now come up in urban and rural areas. India still retained the industrial organization of the past, and the guilds were still active, surviving the sweeping changes that had knocked out other systems. The guilds continued to do useful work and remained an integral part of the economy. Large scale industry to the extent to which we know it today did not exist. Manufacturers dealt directly with traders, although they did do some retail sales at events like fairs. Important industries of the period were, the textile industry especially the manufacture of cotton, woolen and silk cloth, the dyeing industry, the metal, stone and brick work industries and the sugar industries. Other important industries of the period were shoe making, manufacture of arms, scents, liquor amongst many others. Every town would have a market-place where traders and merchants would come together. Fairs were also an important meeting ground. Inns also became popular market places as they were frequented by travelling gypsies who would