HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY to MY MOTHER – INDIA
“Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we will redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance…. We end today a period of ill fortune, and India discovers herself again.”
On 15 August 1947, India attained freedom from the British Rule. Every year, August 15 is celebrated as the Independence Day in India. This national festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm all over the country.
The Independence Day of any country is a moment of pride and glory. On this special occasion, rich tributes are paid to the freedom fighters who sacrificed their lives and fought to free their motherland from the clutches of the oppressors – British who ruled the country.
I LOVE MY MOTHER INDIA ! I AM PROUD TO BE AN INDIAN ! JAI HIND ! JAI BHARAT MATA ! VANDE MATARAM ! HAPPY INDIPENDENCE DAY INDIA ! JAI HO !
India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters. I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage. I shall always strive to be worthy of it. I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy. To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion. In their well being and prosperity alone, lies my happiness.
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Know more about INDIAN History .
The Ancient History of My INDIA
Discovery of Ancient City of Mahenjodaro and Harappa
The year was 1922. Initial forays in delving into India’s past began when Dr R D Banerjee found the ancient city of Mohenjodaro (literally, `city of the dead’) in Larkana district of Sindh, now in Pakistan.
A little later, archeological remains of another city, quite similar in planning and age, were dug up by Sir Daya Ram Sawhney in Harappa, in the Montgomery district of the Punjab. Sir John Marshall, who was the then chairperson of the Archeology department, decided this was a thing well worth looking into. Under his supervision, teams of archeologists worked in other areas of the Sindh and Baluchistan provinces of present Pakistan. What they came up with astounded the world.
¤ The Marvelous Town Planning of Mohenjodaro
The chief feature of Mohenjodaro, that amazes all curious spectators, is its superb town planning. The streets, which divided the city into neat rectangular or square blocks, varied in width but always intersected each other at right angles.
Mohenjodaro was obviously a cosmopolitan city, the capital of the civilization or something, with people of different races mingling with the local populace.
¤ The Indus Valley Civilization
It is without a doubt that the civilization one of the most important finds in the world of archeology. In one stroke the age of Indian history was pushed back by more than a millennium, deep into 3000BC. This effectively exploded the myth that everything in India before the coming of the Aryans was enveloped in the supreme darkness of one primeval swamp. Here was a civilization that was not only well-developed, but actually far more sophisticated than that of the Aryans.
The Indus Valley Civilization said its last hurray roughly in 2200 BC. The beginning and end of the Indus Valley Civilization are both a matter of debate. Obviously there must have been a lead up to it. Suddenly, out of the blue, a people could not have emerged complete with their perfect town planning, neat houses, lovely jewellery and loads of make-up. So where did they come from? and then having come, just where did they disappear?
Popular theory which is accepted by the man on the street is that the people of the civilization (commonly referred to as the Harappans) were chased out by the Aryans and went down south. The present South Indians are their descendants. Recent research also threw up evidence that the Aryans’ descendants actually still survive as santals (tribals) in various jungle areas in India.
¤ The Settlement of Aryans
It took the tall, beautiful, long limbed Aryans surprisingly little time to get used to their new home. Initially, they settled in the area of Sapt-Sindhu, which included Punjab, Kashmir, Sindh, Kabul and Gandhara (Kandhar). The chief sources of this period which have come down to us are The Vedas and the Epics, the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, which through their stories and hymns tell us about the expansion of the Aryans. It took them about a thousand years to bring the entire northern region under their control. Then they turned their attention to the south. The epic Ramayana is a symbolic tale which tells of the Aryan expansion to the south – the good, almost godly, aryaputra (an Aryan’s son) king Rama surging forth to finish off the evil Dasyu (that was what the Aryans called the natives) Ravana.
¤ Aryans Political System
The political system of the Aryans in their initial days here was amazingly complex, though quite ingenious. They hung around together in small village settlements (which later grew to kingdoms) and the basis of their political and social organization was, not surprisingly, the clan or kula.
Groups of kulas together formed a Grama or village, which was headed by a Gramina. Many villages formed another political unit called a Visya, headed by a Visyapati. The Visyas in turn collected under a Jana, which was ruled by a Rajana or king. However, the precise relationship between the grama, the visya and the jana has not been clearly defined anywhere.
¤ The King Was The Supreme Power
The king was yet to become that the all-powerful monarch that he eventually became. Although he lived as befitted a king, he was supposed to work in tandem with the people’s wishes.
So everything was very proper and democratic. This was obviously speedily amended. As one Jana swallowed another and kingdoms arose out of their ashes, the king became increasingly the despot that we are all more familiar with. Women seemed to have had it good at this time, but then through almost all of the ancient period of Indian history women continued to command respect and considerable pull in society. Although by the time of the Mahabharata their position had fallen enough for them to be treated as a man’s property, as is evinced by the episode where Yudhistra gambles away his wife.
¤ No Rigidity In Caste System
The caste system (see Varna system) as is known now does not seem to have evolved yet. and even when it did, it was not the rigid thing it became by the time of the Guptas but was a loose social system where people could move up and down the social scale. Aryan’s worshipped nature gods – they prayed to the Usha (Dawn), Prajapati (The Creator), Rudra (Thunder), Indra (Rain), Surya (Sun) and so on. These gods and goddesses were appeased by prayers and sacrifices.
As time went this idyllic life among the beautiful wooded country with a benevolent monarch, a democratic senate and an open social system failed to survive. Power won over all else.
¤ Period of Social Reform
By the sixth century BC things had become complicated and rigid enough for socio-religious reformers like the Buddha and Mahavira to want change. The priestly class, as happened the world over, became increasingly the real masters in the socio-economic-political scheme of affairs. Rituals became rigid, sacrifices elaborate and religion increasingly expensive.
¤ Rising of Diverse Religions
Buddhism and Jainism were instant hits with the populace and became powerful clannish minorities while the bulk of the people remained with Aryanism. Not for long, however. As the two new religions which had extremely charismatic leaders and very zealous followers caught the people’s imagination, the influence of both faiths spread enough for kings to profess and actively promote them.
While the Buddha was expounding on the metaphysics of life, kings were going about the usual business of going after more power, more money and more land. A fierce battle of domination (upon which, it is said, that the Mahabharata might have been based; see Indraprastha under Delhi History) was waging, of which Magadha (roughly the region of the present Bihar) emerged as the clear leader.
¤ Bimbisara- The Magadhan Ruler of Sisunga Dynasty
The first important Magadhan king who emerges into the limelight was Bimbisara (544-491 BC) of the Sisunga dynasty. He was an extremely polished diplomat and crafty statesman.
¤ Assasination of Bimbisara
Apparently Bimbisara was assasinated by his impatient son Ajatsatru, who was a good friend of the Buddha’s cousin Devadutta. This Devadutta, not to be judged by his cousin’s credentials, was very much a blot on his family name and talked Ajatsatru into killing his father in the first place.
However, there is evidence that his crime weighed on Ajatsatru’s mind, and in the end he confessed his crime to the Buddha before converting to Buddhism. Apart from this, Ajatsatru was very much his father’s son and continued his imperialist policies. One particularly bitter, acrimonious and prolonged rivalry went on between him and the Lichchavi dynasty that ruled Vaishali (in Bihar), which he eventually managed to conquer.
Ajatsatru was obviously a colorful character and a man of sentiment. There are tales of his passionate affair with the chief courtesan of Vaishali, called Amrapali. Then, when the Buddha attained parinirvana (nirvana from all births and bonds), Ajatsatru insisted upon a part of his relics be buried in a stupa (shrine) that he got erected in Rajgriha. He said, “The lord was a kshatriya (the warrior caste of the Varna system), so am I. Therefore I am worthy of a share of his relics upon which I will erect a stupa.”
¤ The Fading Glory of Sisunga Dynasty
The Sisunga dynasty faded fast after Ajatsatru; having produced two rulers with force enough for twenty, the dynasty bowed out. The last recorded ruler of the family was Kakavarna who was put to death by Mahapadmananda, of the Nanda dynasty which followed the Sisungas.
The Nandas could never be popular rulers despite their airs of magnificence and immense wealth (which they amassed by huge taxation). They were of lowborn sudra stock and hence had the odds stacked against them right from the start. By now the kings had become the more familiar despots and were becoming increasingly unapproachable.
The Nanda who unwittingly became the most famous of the entire dynasty was Dhanananda. He started his own downfall by insulting a certain unsightly looking Brahmin, who unfortunately for Dhanananda, turned out to have surprising vision, intellect and Machiavellian cunning. ¤ Chanakya – The Man With Master Mind
This Brahmin was called Chanakya. This was time (around 326BC) when Alexander came visiting India’s northwest borders along Taxila where the king, called Ambhi, laid out the red carpet for him. There was an active concern among all except the king Dhanananda himself that Alexander would come all the way to Magadha. The first thing that Chanakya tried to achieve was to raise a confederacy against the foreign invader. Though this attempt, to a large extent failed, what it did manage was to bring Chanakya into political limelight of the day. He made many friends in high places, which set him off on a bigger goal – to overthrow the Nandas.
One of the main reasons the confederacy against Alexander never got going was that Magadha, as the most powerful kingdom and the obvious leader for the rest to follow, simply refused to fall in. Dhanananda apparently not only flatly refused to spend good cash on a mad project like this, but also managed to offend Chanakya so thoroughly by his insolent behavior that the Brahmin went away convinced that the king deserved to be overthrown. It was a good thing that Chanakya’s concerns were in vain; Alexander never did come all the way to Magadha; in fact, he didn’t even get close. Long before that summer set in and his armies started grumbling, while he himself fell ill (this illness would eventually be the end of the great king in 323BC, at a tragically early age of 32).
So the Greek armies turned around after leaving Seleucus Nikator as Alexander’s general in the region. The Greeks established a colony along the border who eventually mingled with the local populace, thus forming a new stock of people. This meant not only political, but also cultural and social exchange with the Greek which influenced Indian warfare, painting and sculpture (a whole school of art called Gandhara School of art come up of the amalgam), trade and economy. While we, in turn, influenced their science, astronomy, art and philosophy.
In these exciting times, Chanakya was going about with a single-minded focus to find a replacement for Dhananada. This he found in young Chandragupta Maurya (324-298BC).
¤ Mauryan Dynasty
The dynasty that Chandragupta and Chanakya established in Magadha together, the Mauryan dynasty, was the first real dynasty of Indian history. The first among the Mauryas, however, is quite a mystery figure in history and not much is known about him. Descriptions of his good looks have led some to conclude that he had Greek blood in him. and since he was supposed to have come from the North, certainly he was of the hills. Much hair splitting has happened over him, his credentials to the throne, his family, even his name; with one of the theories claiming that he was actually the son of Dhanananda mistress called Mura, and hence the name Maurya
. However, all this is up there in the realm of conjecture, since we are never likely to know the truth about Chandragupta Maurya’s background. His mentor himself doesn’t throw any light on his origins; indeed, if he was in fact low born, Chanakya’s attempts would have been more in the direction of hushing them up. He was on the look out for a shrewd, intelligent young man who had a certain genius for battle as also ruling, suffice is that he got him.
Together they both made a formidable team and stayed together till the end of Chandragupta’s reign, when Chanakya lived to see the early half of his successor Bindusara’s (298-273BC) reign too. There’s sufficient evidence to prove that elaborate planning and much intrigue went to shake the Nandas out of the Magadha throne.
After Magadha was taken, Chanakya and Chandragupta had most of their allies summarily disposed off and integrated their kingdoms into one strong Mauryan empire. His successor Bindusara although known as Amitraghat (slayer of foes) was neither a conqueror nor a military man.
¤ Ashoka The Great
Ashoka Piyadassi Maurya (269-232BC) was perhaps Buddhism’s most famous convert. He has caught the imagination of many as the cruel king who suddenly, after one battle, saw the light and became an avowed non-violent. The truth was a little more complicated than that.
Ashoka’s conversion had been building for sometime before the famous battle of Kalinga (present Orissa) which is supposed to have knocked the wastefulness of war into him – ever since his younger brother Tissa converted to Buddhism. and he wasn’t really a cruel king, even though he did put all his brothers to death to come to the throne – but then that was no different from what any other aspiring king would have done, and no doubt any of his brothers in similar circumstances would have done the same.
Nevertheless, Ashoka’s reign has remained unique all through our Indian history. Under him, for the first time, almost the entire regions of present-day India were united under one central authority. Ashoka made Buddhism the state religion for having found peace in it. He wanted others to find it as well, although no conversions were forced upon the people.
Next, Ashoka propounded his celebrated philosophy of Dhamma, which was a something like a correct moral code of conduct meets metaphysics. It has been suggested that Ashoka abandoned all violence so thoroughly that he even disbanded the army. This, however, was not true; for certainly the tone of some of the edicts that he has left strewn all over India, in which he warns troublemakers in the northwest border regions, is very much that of a king in control and ready to back up word with force. Ashoka also sent Buddhist missionaries abroad to spread the light; the most famous of these was sent to then Ceylon (Sri lanka), under his own son Mahindra and daughter Sanghamitra.
After Ashoka the Mauryan dynasty fizzled out surprisingly quickly. of Ashoka’s sons, one Tivara died in his lifetime, another Kunala established an independent kingdom in the Kashmir region. Mahindra was, of course, appointed to carry out the more esoteric side of his father’s concerns. The successor then was Jaloka, who succeeded when Ashoka died in 232Bc. He was physically very weak and died after just eight years. Confusion reigned for some years after his death, which was ended by Pushyamitta Sunga (184-149BC) taking over.
¤ The Post Maurya Period
In the post Maurya period, three dynasties jostled, came and went with astonishing speed on the Magadhan throne.
According to traditional sources, they were apparently Dasyus (as opposed to Aryans) from south India. Even in Ashoka’s time, this dynasty had risen to quite a bit of prominence along the southwest regions.
¤ Kushana Dynasty
The next important dynasty to step into the scene were the Kushanas, about whom not much is known, so much so that there is controversy even over the date of accession of their most important king Kanishka.
Scholars have used imaginative ways to come up with as disparate dates as 78BC to down to 248AD. Most probably he ruled sometime in the first century AD. Kanishka has been greatly associated with Buddhism and his reign made the religion popular again.
¤ Gupta Dynasty
After the Kushanas, India saw political unity only under the second great dynasty of ancient Indian history after the Mauryas, the Guptas.
The imperial Guptas were great conquerors, efficient administrators and renowned patrons of the arts, science and culture. What’s more, they lasted pretty long too; they had at least six strong rulers before the dynasty petered off, which meant greater stability than any kingdom had ever known in Indian sub-continent. Their reign is called the Golden Age of ancient Indian history.
There is evidence, the first traces ever, of fundamentalism as the staunchly Aryan Guptas set about reviving the older religion. It is in this era also that we see the beautifully simple and free-spirited Aryan philosophy settling down into a more rigid mould of a religion that we now call Hinduism. There could be reasons for this, though.
For when the Guptas came on the scene India had just seen a long line of Indo-Greek, Indo-Bactrian, Indo-Parthian, in short Indo-anything except Indo-Indian rulers. and even then they had to continuously wage bitter battles to keep foreign invaders like the Sakas off their backs. So naturally they reached deep back to their roots so to speak, in reaction against all things foreign. To revive the glory of the `old’ culture, which had been obscured by the so-called foreign rulers, must have been a matter of pride for them. In this, however, came certain downs. For example the caste system came back with a vengeance but no longer as the flexible loose social structure of the early Aryan days, but a strict code that later became such a curse for India.
¤ Great Rulers of Gupta Dynasty
If one turns a blind eye to this, the Guptas were obviously what the doctor ordered for the country then. For a dynasty which was so well documented we know surprisingly little about the rise of the Guptas. The first Gupta king was apparently Chandra Gupta I (320-335AD), though not much is known about him.
Next in line was Samudra Gupta (335-375AD) who, by all accounts, seemed to have been nothing short of a genius. He appears to have come to the throne brimming with an amazing appetite for conquest. Considering that he defeated kings all over northern and southern India (in all about twenty-four of them) one wonders when did he get the time to govern the kingdom. So, it is not really a surprise to learn that he did not. He came up with a rather clever plan to keep the newly acquired territories as annexed lands; which meant that he retained the old kings as vassals to keep the administration going. So, effectively his kingdom was like a loose federation, where everyone knew who the boss was while the actual ruling was handed over to other more competent authorities.
The conqueror was just one facet to the charismatic Samudra Gupta. Court poets would, of course, have us believe that he was nothing short of a Narcissus to look at. However, he must have been unquestionably a magnetic personality which he used to great effect as a statesman. He was a skilful diplomat who had excellent relations with not only foreign rulers but also his vassal-kings, surely a much more difficult task to achieve. Due to his ingenious ideas of government, Samudra Gupta could establish a really powerful empire which stood solid as a rock for many years to come. He was also a great scholar and was especially fond of poetry and spiritual studies.
He was followed by his elder son Rama Gupta (375-380AD) who was a bit of blot on that proud family’s good name. Apparently he was having immense trouble with the central Asian Saka invaders who refused to budge from borders of the empire and threatened to come in. Rama Gupta sued for peace, and the Saka king agreed on one condition that his queen Dhruvadevi be surrendered to him. Which was okay with Rama Gupta, but not his younger brother Chandra Gupta who, disguised as the queen, entered the Saka camp and killed their king. After this Chandra Gupta also killed his brother and married Dhruvadevi and succeeded the throne.
He came to be called Chandra Gupta Vikramaditya (380-413AD) and was an excellent ruler. The story does not change much from Samudra Gupta’s time. Conquests (though not many since Samudra Gupta had pretty much already conquered all there was to conquer), able administration, the arts flourishing, literature being produced in huge quantities, relations with foreign kings being excellent… and God was in his heaven and all was right with the world. Vikramaditya’s main achievement was that he managed to quash the stronghold of the Saka might (called the Saka Satraps) in India. Fa-Hien the famous Chinese Buddhist traveller-student came to India during his rule.
Next in line were Kumara Gupta (413-455AD) and Skanda Gupta (455-468AD). They were considerably troubled by foreign invasions, especially the latter who had to contend with the Huns. The Huns, though finally defeated by Skanda Gupta, seemed to have had remarkable tenacity, for they continued to invade Gupta territory with unfailing regularity.
The period between 458-540AD saw five Gupta rulers and the slipping away of the reigns of a once-powerful kingdom away from their hands. The Guptas were the last great dynasty to rule India till the Delhi Sultanate came along much later, and certainly they were the end of great Aryan rulers.
¤ Harsha Vardhana — The Rulere of Vardhana Dynasty
The final important ruler of Ancient Indian history was Harsha Vardhana (606-646AD), who ruled not from Magadha but Thanesar (in modern Haryana area) of the Vardhana dynasty. He was a Buddhist and convened many Buddhist assemblies. The second Chinese traveller to come to India, Huien Tsang, arrived during his reign.
The south presented a medley of dynasties around the time of Harsha Vardhana. There were the Pandyas (in regions of Mudurai, Travancore and Tinnevelly), the Chalukyas (in present Maharashtra region) and Pallavas (in modern Tamil Nadu region), who had this terrific battle of supremacy going constantly. Pulakesan II (610-642AD) was the ablest of the Chalukyan kings and for a time managed to keep the Chalukyan flag flying above the others. But strictly for a time being.
This was also the time (around 650AD) when the Rajputs suddenly appeared on the scene out of nowhere (See Medieval Indian History for more on them). Another major dynasty called Rashtrakutas, which had been around during the days of the Guptas too, suddenly saw an upsurge in power in 750BC in the present Karnataka region. Their dynasty spills over to very early Medieval period and then fizzles out.
In 800AD thus we leave India in a state of chaos, out of which order was made only somewhere in 1192AD.
The Modern History of My INDIA .
¤ European Influence Over India
The period from 1707AD, the year when Aurangzeb died, to 1857, the year of the Indian Uprising, saw the gradual increase of the European influence in India. The Europeans had been filtering into India for a long time before they actually decided to set up shop here. Even though the British got away with the jackpot, the real pioneers to reach India were the Portuguese.
¤ Portuguese Rule
Religious fervor forgotten, the Portuguese eventually settled down to a very prosperous trade in spices with India. The Muslim rulers in Delhi and then the Mughals never really warmed up to the idea of a foreign power continuing trade on the seas under their imperial noses. What’s more, they were not exactly very honest traders too, since they thought that no word that was given to an infidel need be kept. So much so that the word phirangi, or foreigner in colloquial, came to be a hissing and a byword among locals. In fact in Goa, where the Portuguese ruled, intolerance levels ran high and even the building of Hindu temples was banned.
Alberquerque (1509-1515), who was the second Portugese viceroy in India, encouraged mixed marriages with the sole object of creating a mixed race who were Portuguese Catholics, and who would be bound by race and culture to the Portuguese. They were known as Luso-Indians at one time and now simply as Goans. One of main reasons why Portugal was never able to go anywhere further than Goa was that Spain took over the country in 1580AD.
¤ Advent of Dutch
The Dutch came shipping in the East for the first time in 1595. However, they did not come to India initially, and established themselves at the helm of things in the spice trade in Jakarta. India came into the picture for them purely as a route to Europe, as part of a great Asian trade route that they developed which went through Ceylon and Cape Town.
¤ French Invaders
Although the French King Loius XII had granted letters of monopoly to French traders in 1611, it wasn’t until December 1667 that a French company was actually set up in India. This was at Surat (in Gujrat) with Francis Caron as its Director-General. Soon, in 1669, another French company came up in Masulipatnam, thanks to a grant by the king of Golconda which exempted the French from paying import and export duty. In 1672, Caron’s place was taken by Francis Martin, who is regarded as the real founder of the French.
¤ English Formed East India Company
The English formed their East India Company on the last day of 1600 and entered the East Indies hand in hand with the Dutch. Their foes were common – the Portuguese and Catholic Spain – and this brought them closer. However, familiarity breeds contempt, and soon the English realized that the Dutch were not willing to share their space in Spice Islands (East Indies) with them.
Things became grim enough for the British to finally run away and find refuge in India. It was this success of the Dutch to hang on, with characteristic tenaciousness to the Spice Islands that finally made the British to settle on India as the second-best; because spices in India were essentially only in the south where the local rulers and other Europeans already had a monopoly.
of course, they ran into trouble in their very first step, so to speak, with the Portuguese. However, here the British luck turned; perhaps the Raj was destined, after all. As said earlier, the Portuguese were not winning any popularity contests in India, and then with Spain coming into the scene they were hard pressed for resources. Finally what won the east was that old trump card of the British, their naval supremacy.
¤ Declining of Mughal Regime
Post Aurangzeb the decline of the Mughals was shockingly swift (See Medieval Indian History). A confused state of affairs reigned supreme in India before the British finally took control. It is hardly surprising that the more insular Brits thought it was their divine right or the Whiteman’s burden to set the house in order for the natives who seemed to be their own worst enemies.
Powerful nobility was ruling the day at the Mughal court whose grandiose and power had fallen into disarray and disgrace. Nautch girls, poetry and wine flowed; unfortunately so did the gold from the coffers of the treasury. Clearly it was that twilight zone; when dynasties just linger on for want of anything or anyone better.
¤ Invasion of Nadir Shah
Then there were the inevitable, though disastrous, invasions. The first of these was led by the famous Persian king Nadir Shah in 1739. At this time the court in Delhi was busy fighting the Marathas and one of their best generals, Nizam-ul-Mulk was in war against them.
Nizam met Nadir when the latter arrived near Delhi and succeeded in changing his mind about sacking Delhi by offering him a booty of Rs 50,00,000. However, here again court politics had the upper hand; one of Nizam’s rival generals convinced Nadir he was settling for too little and the fabulous riches of Delhi were to be seen to be believed. So Nadir marched over to Delhi in time to have a khutba read in his name. Unfortunately, around this time a rumour started doing the rounds that Nadir was dead, which was not only celebrated by the inhabitants of Delhi, but everyone got bold enough to actually attack a few Iranian soldiers.
The result was that on March 11, 1739 an order went forth from Nadir Shah, and yet another one of those terrible massacres that Delhi was a regular witness to took place. The areas of Chandini Chowk, the fruit market, the Dariba bazaar and the buildings around Jama Masjid were burnt to cinders. Each and every inhabitant of the area was killed as an example. The people of Delhi will still point at the Khooni Darwaza (Blood Gate) in the old city and tell you about the massacre which happened here as if it were only yesterday. The royal treasury was sacked and its contents seized. When Nadir Shah left Delhi after 57 days of staying here, he also took along the fabulous Peacock Throne of the Mughals with him. and along with it also the final vestiges of the Mughal pride.
¤ Afghans Invaded Delhi With Ahmad Shah Abdali
The next invasion that rocked Delhi was led by the Afghans, with Ahmad Shah Abdali, an ex-general of the same Nadir Shah, as their commander. Abdali led as many as seven invasions into India between 1748-1767.
After the plundering that Delhi received by Nadir Shah, the Mughals seemed to have just given up. Abdali was all over the place ransacking Lahore, Punjab and so on, but it seemed like the Delhi court couldn’t care less. It was left to the powers-that-be, the Marathas, to face the Abdali challenge. He promptly reduced the Marathas to the powers-that-had-been in the third and final battle of Panipat on January 13, 1761.
That was one of the reasons why the British found India completely at a loose end when they came here – most of the rising powers had been ground to dust by invading armies before they could amount to anything.
¤ Abdali Captured Delhi
In January 1757 a carnage of the Nadir Shah vintage was repeated. After pillaging Delhi the Afghans marched on to overrun most of Northern India. It is said that following the ransacking of the cities of Mathura, Brindaban and Gokul, for `seven days the waters of the Jamuna flowed of a blood-red colour.’
Abdali returned in 1764, driven once again by a hunger not for power but for gold. His sixth invasion had the Sikhs (who had by then carved out a kingdom under the famous Maharaja Ranjit Singh) up in arms. The determined Sikh power had put up a stiff challenge not only for Abdali, but were the main reason why the Marathas were never able to be very successful up north. When Abdali invaded India for the last time in 1767, they managed to inflict defeat on him and the Sikhs took Lahore and Central Punjab. However the areas from Peshwar up remained with Abdali.
It was an India exhausted with war and battle; an India badly in need, and indeed glad, of someone who could take charge. She had gone around a circle in the cycle of history. It was a great leap too – from the cultured, sophisticated and erudite civilisation under the Mughals to the power hungry and superstitious dark ages of the late 18th and 19th century. The status of women in society fell like never before: Huge weddings which were a drain to the bride’s family took place; oppression reared its nasty head in the form of a rigid caste system (even with the Muslims); and Sati, the Rajput ritual of a widow being cremated with her dead husband, and so on which were never a part of Indian ‘culture’ became so now.
No, we were not putting on out best faces for the phirangis.
¤ British Rises To Power
Against this troubled backdrop the British rise to power was slow, but remarkably steady. Slow because the path was far from smooth; first there were the French to deal with. The commercial rivalry that cropped up with such a vengeance amongst the British and the French had roots in the prevailing political situation in Europe, and even then as long as the French carried on business in a small way in India the British left them to themselves.
The real trouble started between 1720 and 1740, when the French company’s trade with India increased by about ten-fold to come up to half the volume that the English company was generating at that time. Now the stakes were just too much for each to ignore the other – especially taking in the factor that this Indian trade amounted for more than ten percent of Mother England’s revenue.
This was the time when the War of Austrian Succession (1740-48) had broken out in Europe, following Fredrick the Great of Prussia’s seizure of Silesia in 1740. The French and British found themselves in opposing camps in this war. Later, during the Seven Years War too (1756-63) both were at loggerheads with each other, supporting rival camps. These two wars of Europe, by Europe and for Europe in the end totally changed the balance of power as India knew it.
¤ The War Between French and English Arose
Between 1746-48 the French and English finally came to blows in the first Carnatic War (1746-48) in the Deccan. There were two more of these skirmishes and they were to seal the fate of the French company as far as India was concerned. The first Carnatic War was merely an echo of the Austrian War of Succession as said earlier. The fight was over Madras and though the French captured it, it was given back to the English as part of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle of 1748.
What had happened in the meanwhile was that the British and the French had got their fleets upto the Indian mainland, an important development as the balance of power was now shifting fast in the favor of the Europeans. and Dupleix, the French governor of the time, decided that this power could be used to gain a support base within the country.
¤ Dupleix The French Governor
Dupleix was a very shrewd and resourceful character, with great diplomatic skills, and his understanding of local politics was formidable, though flawed by a hyper temperament which made him extremely difficult to work with. The perfect opportunity came in 1748 when the Nawab of Arcot (in present Tamil Nadu) died and the question of who would succeed him arose.
Dupleix was so successful in his intrigue that he succeeded in enthroning a Nizam of his choice, Chanda Sahib. The new Nizam was supported by the old Nawab’s grandson Muzzafar Jung and backed up by French troops under the able command of De Bussy.
Dupleix was succeeded by Godeheu, who sued for peace with the British. By the new treaty both the French and the British agreed not to interfere in Indian internal matters and went back to their old positions. But though the British got a town the French agreed to give up everything they had taken so far. Godeheu was denounced for having “signed the ruin of the country and the dishonor of the nation,” but the damage was done. The British emerged much stronger after the second Carnatic War.
The third and final phase of this Anglo-French war for supremacy was brought on by the Seven Years War in the shape of the third Carnatic War (1756-63). However, despite some heroics by French generals like De Bussy and Lally, the British were able to decisively beat the French who eventually lost practically everything they had in India. With the close of the third Carnatic War, the French were finished as far as India was concerned. Thanks to their superior sea-power, greater resources and steadier support from Europe, the English were able to vanquish the dream of dominion de l’empire de la France in India forever.
¤ The Revolt of 1857
Since then the story of the British rise to power in India became sort of predictable. Except for one small hiccup in 1857 during the Indian Uprising. Debate has continued and will always go on about whether 1857 was actually the first Indian War of Independence or simply a mutiny. Well, a little of both, we conclude. It was far too limited in its scope and aims to be dignified as the first Indian War of Independence; but nor was it that restricted that one can dismiss it as just a mutiny.
There is enough evidence to support the fact that the Uprising had been planned for months before the actual outbreak. What the revolutionaries did, apart from the fact that they failed to spread the word beyond Central India and Delhi, was that the Uprising did not go according to plan. It broke out before the appointed date; if D-day had gone according to schedule the Uprising would have broken out in many areas simultaneously, and then it would have been very difficult for the British to control it. However, as things were, trouble broke out sporadically in various places in May 1857 and there was little, if any, co-ordination about the whole thing. So, the British were able to curb it with relative ease.
¤ Cultural Revolution In Progress
For a long time before 1857, a cultural revolution had been in progress in Indian society. As a result of this Sati was banned, new religions like the Arya Samaj were formed, education for women was encouraged and a whole new breed of intellectuals – mostly from Bengal – came to the forefront.
¤ Indian National Congress
So was born the party that must surely have given the British government much cause to regret that they had ever thought it up at all. For, much to the British government’s chagrin, the Indian National Congress took its job seriously. In its early phase, which is called the phase of the Moderates (1885-1905), the Congress was thoroughly loyal to the British.
Understandably, the man on the road was hardly aware they were alive. and nor, if their attitude is anything to go by, was the British government.
¤ The Policies of British Government Leads To Dissatisfactions
In 1907 there was split in the Congress as those members who were unsatisfied with the scheme of affairs under the Moderates, including popular leaders like Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, parted company with them. This hardly helped their cause because for the next eight years the Congress, for all contents and purposes, went into hibernation.
This was the time when extreme nationalists came into the scene, especially after the controversial partition of Bengal into west and east Bengal in 1905 by the highly unpopular and obnoxiously highhanded Lord Curzon. The decision evoked sharp reactions from all over India and there was violent agitation against it.
October 16, 1905, the day on which the partition came into effect, was observed as a day of mourning and fasting throughout Bengal. Rabindranath Tagore, the famous Nobel-laureate and writer, spoke out against it through a passionate poem. This was the time when the Swadeshi movement was first launched; that is, Indians burnt foreign clothes, cigarettes, soap and anything made across the seas in huge bonfires and turned to Indian made articles instead. Many factories manufacturing indigenous clothes, textiles and whatever else was required were set up. Lots of earnest young leaders of Bengal took up the task of educating people. On August 15, 1906, a national council of education was introduced under the educationist Aurobindo Ghose.
The government came down heavily on the demonstrations, choosing to break up meetings, insult leaders and beat up peaceful protestors. In 1907, leaders Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh were deported from the Punjab. In 1908, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested and sentenced to six years imprisonment. Aurobindo Ghose was arrested, prosecuted and though acquitted, chose to retire to Pondicherry.
The agitation to oppose the partition of Bengal (although the partition was reverted in 1911) saw the coming of age of Indian nationalism. India was together like never before and the country was bristling with nationalistic fervor. However, the idea of independence from the British was still not an option that nationalists were considering.
¤ Home Rule Movement Started
When Great Britain was deeply enmeshed in the World War I, India’s national movement though intermittent continued to throw up surprises. One of them was the Home Rule Movement. In December 1915, Tilak, who was one of the first nationalist leaders with a following and deep understanding of the grassroots of India, voiced the thought of Home Rule (instead of `swadeshi’, that being a word the British were wary about). It was for the first time that someone had mentioned the word Home Rule as being the goal for the Indian National Movement. On April 28, 1916, the Home Rule League was set up with its headquarters in Poona (Pune). Tilak went on a whirlwind tour of the country, appealing to everybody to unite under the banner of Home Rule League. Anne Besant of the Theosophical Society fame also assisted him in this task.
Under face of this attack, the government fell back to that old reliable – stricter laws. Laws were formulated to prevent agitations, to prevent `undesirable aliens’ from entering India, propaganda came under government control, and so on.
The importance of the Home Rule movement was that for the first time the independence of India came to be clearly the goal of the Indian national movement. The public at large was first an audience and then terrorist nationalists who bombed parliaments and blew up railways, and they must have further scared the middle class away from the movement. and history will tell you no movement for independence was ever a success without the involvement of the bourgeoisie. So, while the idea of freedom was gaining ground, the populace at large was not really involved.
and then, as Jawaharlal Nehru would later say, Gandhi came.
Suddenly everything changed. The man dressed in a dhoti, kurta and pugri with a lathi in hand (initially) and mingled with elegantly dressed British-Indian moderates. He was not a rabble-rouser; he would have been loath to do a Demosthenes. Nor was he anyone’s idea of a charismatic leader. Just a short, thin, shrivelled man, with what Sarojini Naidu called `Mickey Mouse ears’ and a twinkle in his eyes. He talked of peace. of loving his enemies, not of bombs or murders. of non-violence, ahimsa. That was his only weapon; and, as the British were to find out to their expense, boy did it work!
When Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi came back to India from South Africa at the age of 49, he had already built a tremendous reputation for himself as a political leader. Almost immediately upon docking in Bombay, he was offered to lead the national Movement.
Gandhi, however, begged out, opting to travel and know the country thoroughly first. The first causes he chose to associate with were minor local affairs and it would almost seem that the nationalist leaders of the time did not know what to think of this almost too-mild, too-moral and too-impractical maverick.
During 1917-18, hectic political moves were being made by a worried British government. One of the results of this was the Rowlatt Act proposed by Justice Rowlatt. Among other things this act gave the courts the right to try political cases without a jury and provincial governments, apart from the centre, the power of internment without trial. Gandhi, in his typical style, said that the Rowlatt Act raised issues of trust and self-respect, and hence should be met by a moral response in shape of a hartal, or a traditional Indian way of protest involving cessation of activities for a day.
¤ The Massacre At Jallianwallah Bagh
The flash-point came in Punjab. On April 12, 1919, General Dyer, who had taken over the troops in Punjab the day before, prohibited all meetings or gatherings. So of course a public meeting was announced to be held the very next day, April 13, in Jallianwallah Bagh (a park enclosed on all sides with only a single narrow entrance) at 4.30pm. We all know what happened that day.
The brutality of the Jallianwallah Bagh tragedy shocked the country. It also woke up the moderates.
What was more important was that it brought Gandhi out in the open.
¤ The Beginning of Non Co-operation Movement
In 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, the Indian National Congress launched the first of his innovative movements of protest, the Non Co-operation Movement. It involved surrender of all titles, honorary offices and nominated posts in local bodies.
The hugeness of the idea of Non Co-operation amazed every political leader in India, who started realising that Gandhi was not so meek after all. The idea captured popular imagination and suddenly, in one sweep, the National Movement was taken to every man on the street.
People came out in their thousands to support Gandhi and his movement. The government machinery did not actually break down, but came under visible strain.
Unfortunately, in the time when the movement was showing signs of real success, an incident occurred in Chauri Chaura, in which a mob of 3000 people killed 25 policemen and one officer. Similar tragic events had happened earlier on November 17, 1921, in Bombay and on January 13, 1922, in Madras. Gandhi, who was the last of the ethical political leaders, immediately withdrew his movement. and got arrested in the bargain, on March 13, 1922. However, the Mahatma did get his way, the Rowlatt Act was repealed.
Gandhi was severely criticised almost everywhere for disassociating himself from the Non Co-operation Movement; for certainly the moment he went, so did the masses. This was not the first difference of opinion that was to happen in the Congress about Gandhi’s actions. Many more such occasions were to crop up, though everyone invariably gave in to the Mahatma. Gandhi was already the invisible ruler of the country.
A committee was set up in 1927 to review the status of Indian affairs by the British government, under Sir John Simon. So far, so good. However, the committee did not include even a single Indian, a situation which convinced the Congress that action was called for.
This was time when young radicals like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose were insisting on total independence being the goal for the Congress. The new Viceroy Lord Irwin had got the Labour government in London to agree to a declaration that dominion status was the goal of British policy and a round table conference was called to consider the next step. After coming out one of his famous thinking breaks, Gandhi was for the offer. But the mood in the country was totally contrary to this. So rather than let the radical element take over, Gandhi decided to control the situation by leading a non-violent movement himself.
¤ The Demand of Complete Independence – Purna Swaraj
At midnight, on December 31, 1929, Jawaharlal Nehru unfurled the Tricolor on the banks of the river Ravi in Punjab and the Congress called for complete Independence, purna swaraj. January 26, 1930, was declared as Independence Day. From February 14 to 16, 1930, the Congress Working Committee met at Gandhi’s famous ashram in Sabarmati and vested Mahatma Gandhi with launching his Civil Disobedience movement “at a time and place of his choice.”
On February 27, the plan of agitation was announced. The entire nation was in ferment. Everyone was waiting in eager suspense about what would the Mahatma do next; none more than the British government, though not so eagerly, one presumes.
On March 12, 1930, accompanied with 78 colleagues of the Sabarmati Ashram, Mahatma Gandhi embarked on a 60-mile march to the sea coast of Dandi. He intended to defy the Salt tax, paid indirectly by every peasant. The first instinct of the government was to let him walk as much as he wanted, and ignore him. However, the Gandhi magic worked. Soon protests, hartals, processions were taking place all over India. Gandhi was arrested on May 5, 1930, and his place was taken by Abbas Tyabji as the leader of the movement. When Tyabji was arrested, Sarojini Naidu, the famous nightingale of India, replaced him. All over India, the mood was ablaze, the atmosphere tense and the people were on the streets. Louis Fischer wrote about the Civil Disobedience: “The British beat the Indians with batons and rifle butts. The Indians neither cringed nor complained nor retreated. That made England powerless and India invincible.”
¤ First Round Table Conference
When the first Round Table Conference was held in London from November 12, 1930 to January 19, 1931, it turned into a failure for not a single Congressman attended. The British now appealed to the Congress to work with them. Lord Irwin also declared that Mahatma Gandhi and the other members of the Congress Working Committee would be freed soon to consider the matter “freely and fearlessly.”
The Mahatma was persuaded to meet Irwin and the result was the Irwin-Gandhi pact under which the Civil Disobedience Movement was withdrawn and a second Round Table Conference with Congress participation was agreed upon. This peace did not last long. Gandhi attended the Second Round Table conference in London in 1931 as the sole representative of the Congress. He demanded control foreign and defence affairs, and there was complete deadlock over the matter of minorities, thanks to Muhammad Ali Jinnah, His Highness the Aga Khan and Dr Bhim Rao Ambedkar. Gandhi returned to India on December 28, 1931 empty handed.
By May 1934, the Civil Disobedience Movement was completely withdrawn.
During the second World War the Congress decided that India should co-operate with Britain on the understanding that complete independence be granted to India after that. The British, however, stuck to the policy of `no change during war and whatever you want will be discussed after that’. This attitude did not exactly ease the minds of the Congress members as to the intentions of the government. Now also was visible a wide open split between Jinnah’s Muslim League and the Congress’ aims and demands. Early in 1940 Jinah declared Pakistan as the goal of the league.
After the fall of France in 1940, Gandhi declared, “We do not seek independence out of Britain’s ruin.” The British reply to this was an offer that an Indian constituent assembly as well as Dominion status would be discussed `after the war’. The offer was spurned. The result? A deadlock which was not to unlock till 1947.
Gandhi, with his usual skill for the innovative, now rallied the country and Congress behind him with his Quit India movement. The threat was the launch of a Civil Disobedience movement which could have coincided with the Japanese advances from the far-east towards India. “After all,” he said, “this is open rebellion.”
The movement was launched on August 8, 1942 in Bombay. Gandhi declared: “I want freedom immediately, this very night, before dawn, if it can be had. You may take it from me that I am not going to strike a bargain with the Viceroy for ministers and the like… Here is the mantra, a short one, that I give you… Do or die. We shall either free India or die in the attempt.”
¤ Independence Was Just Ahead
From 1942 onwards it was quite clear that independence of India was only a matter of time now.
New Delhi, the new capital of India, was hardly seven years old then. The British did not live long in the beautiful New Delhi they created. Thus, again fulfilling the age-old prophecy about those who build Delhi don’t live in it for long.
In 1946, Lord Mountbatten arrived in Delhi amid a buzz of political activity. The British, following their World War II concerns, wanted to basically wash their hands off India. Also, the Indians wanted to get back what was rightfully theirs. However, there were too many emotional ties – the British and the Indians went too far back together for the British to just pack up and leave. They had a responsibility. Unfortunately Mountbatten, although a favorite with the Indians because of his youthful good looks, was the wrong man for the job. He was in such a hurry to get back to England that he seemed to just go along with the first proposal that found favor with both the Congress and the Muslim League without taking into account what the people really wanted.
¤ Partition of India
The rest is history. Partition, one of the worst mass movements of people in recent history after that of the Jews in the World War II, happened. Two republics were born from one nation on August 15, 1947 – Pakistan and India.
Gandhi, the father of the nation, did not join the celebration that followed. He was in Bihar working in riot torn areas, praying for peace. For him independence, in the shape that it came, meant failure. With this in mind, Gandhi withdrew from active politics.
Accusations by Hindu fundamentalists that he had sided with the Muslims in giving away Pakistan too easily dogged Gandhi since the day the state of Pakistan was declared. On January 30, 1948, a Hindu fundamentalist called Nathu Ram Godse shot and killed the man who was the Mahatma.