India is a land of ancient civilizations with rich cultural heritage as well as achieved multi-faceted socio-economic progress of regional expansion since Independence. As per total area, India is the 7th largest country in the world which occupies about 3.28 million sq. km of vast geographical expanse and it is bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and thus the Arabian Sea on the west.
GEOGRAPHY OF INDIA
Located in the continent of Asia, India is one of the ancient civilizations in the world with a kaleidoscopic variety, rich cultural heritage as well as achieved multifaceted socio-economic progress since Independence. As per total area, India is the 7th largest country in the world which occupies about 3.28 million sq. km of vast geographical expanse and it is bounded by the Great Himalayas in the north, it stretches southwards and at the Tropic of Cancer, tapers off into the Indian Ocean between the Bay of Bengal on the east and thus the Arabian Sea on the west.
India is located in the northern hemisphere and the Tropic of Cancer (23°30’N) passes almost halfway through the country. India is the second-largest populated country after China and has a population of more than one hundred and thirty-eight crores as per the year 2020 census. The country comprises a wide variety in climate, Vegetation, Wildlife, Culture, and Language. The Northern Plains, the Great Indian Thar desert, the lofty and huge snow-covered mountains, the uneven surface of the plateaus, the coasts on the two major seas, and the islands represent a diversity of landforms. The world’s largest delta (The Ganges Brahmaputra Delta) is located in India. The Ganges Brahmaputra Delta is also referred to as Ganges Delta, Sunderban Delta, or Bengal Delta.
The Capital of India is Delhi and the Country is politically divided into 28 states and 8 Union Territories, as well as seven countries, which share the boundaries with India. In the North-West there lies Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the North, the country is bounded by China, Bhutan, and Nepal. In the East, the country is bounded by Myanmar and Bangladesh. In the South-East and South-West there lies Sri Lanka and the Maldives which share the water borders. The northern part of India is mentioned as the Subcontinent and the Southern part of India is mentioned as the Peninsular Region. To the southwest and southeast of the mainland, lies Lakshadweep island with capital Kavaratti and the Andaman and Nicobar islands with capital Port Blair is located in the Arabian Sea and the Bay of Bengal respectively. Indira Point which is located in the Great Nicobar tehsil, the Southernmost point of India’s Territory got submerged in seawater during the 2004 Tsunami which is famous for its red and white lighthouse.
As discussed earlier, India represents a diversity of landforms like mountains, plateaus, plains, coasts, and islands which give the country a distinct geographical entity. The northernmost part of the Himalaya is called the Great Himalaya or Himadri. The word ‘Himalaya’ refers to ‘abode of snow’ and the World’s highest peaks are located in this range. The Middle Himalaya is called Himachal which lies to the south of Himadri.
To the south of the Himalayas lies the Northern plains and in the northern plains the Himalayan ranges are generally level and flat, due to the alluvial deposits laid down by the rivers– the Indus, the Ganga, the Brahmaputra, and their tributaries, these Himalayan ranges are formed.
In the western part of India lies the Great Indian desert is known as the Thar desert which is a dry, hot, and sandy stretch of land. To the south of the northern plains lies the Peninsular plateau and this region comprises numerous hill ranges and valleys. The World’s oldest hill that’s Aravali hills, border it on the northwest side. Narmada and Tapi are the main west-flowing rivers of this region that drain into the Arabian Sea at the end.
The Western Ghats are commonly mentioned as Sahyadris hills which border the plateau in the west and the Eastern Ghats provide the eastern boundary. This plateau is rich in minerals like iron ore and coal. To the West of the Western Ghats and the East of Eastern Ghats, the Coastal Plains are present. The western coastal plains are very narrow and steep whereas the eastern Coastal plains are much broader as compared to western ghats. The rivers Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Kaveri finally drain into the Bay of Bengal. The Sunderban Delta is the world’s largest delta formed where the Ganga and Brahmaputra flow into the Bay of Bengal.
Lakshadweep Islands with its capital Kavaratti is located in the Arabian Sea. These are coral islands located off the coast of God’s own country Kerala. The Andaman and Nicobar Islands with its capital Port Blair is located to the southeast of the Indian mainland in the Bay of Bengal. Indira point, which is India’s final point, is located on this Island.
HISTORY OF INDIA
The earliest period of Indian History is best known only through the archaeological evidence of humans in the western part of South Asia dates back two million years. Around 30,000 years ago, stone age hunters and gatherers inhabited the sites in the Indus Valley. Dependence on wild resources has been gradually shifted to domestic plants and animals between 8000 BCE and 6500 BCE. Highly organized urban settlements spread throughout northern regions (present-day Pakistan and north India) during the period between 5000 and 2000 B.C.E. Till 1920 nothing was known to the world about this civilization when the Archaeological Department of India administered excavations within the Indus valley where the ruins of the two old cities referred to as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were discovered. Archaeological excavation has been carried out in the year 2020 in the trenches at the site of Dhaba in the Middle Son River Valley of Central India has found evidence of long-term human occupation in this region between 80,000 years ago and 65,000 years ago.
Chronologically, Indian History has been classified into three periods
- Ancient India (Pre-historic to 700 CE)
- Medieval India (700 CE – 1857 CE)
- Modern India (or) Freedom Struggle of India (After 1857)
Indus Valley Civilization
The history of India begins with the birth of the Indus Valley Civilization, also known as the Harappan Civilization, and the coming of the Aryans. The first traces of planned and permanent settlements of human communities in the Indus valley flourished around 2600 BCE., in the western part of South Asia. Indus Valley was home to the most important of the four ancient urban civilizations – Egypt, Mesopotamia, India, and China. Till 1920 nothing was known to the world about this civilization when the Archaeological Department of India administered excavations within the Indus valley where the ruins of the two old cities referred to as Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro were discovered, which had an advanced system of ancient urban and sanitary planning with wide paved streets and buildings flourishing economic system. The people of the Indus valley civilization lived in well-planned towns and well-designed houses made of baked bricks as well as practiced agriculture, domesticated animals, silver ornaments, toys, pottery wares, made tools and war weapons from copper, bronze, tin and they even traded with some Middle East countries. Indus Valley Civilization went into a sudden decline around 1500 BCE, mainly due to natural calamities.
Nomadic Indo-European tribes called the Aryans entered India through the Khyber Pass of the Hindu Kush mountain around 1500 BCE after the collapse of the Indus Valley Civilization. The Aryans originated from the area of the Caspian Sea in central Asia and they soon started penetrating the east, flourishing along the Ganga and Yamuna Rivers.
Vedic Era: Beginning of Religious History In India
The Vedic age began with the arrival of Aryans and it was divided into two periods — the Early Vedic Period (1500 BCE – 1000 BCE) and the other is Late Vedic Period (1000 BCE – 600 BCE). By 1000 BCE the Aryans learned the usage of Iron ore and slowly a more ordered, settled society evolved. Tribes became Kingdoms, Aryans became priests, rulers, warriors & merchants. The native people became slaves, laborers & artisans. Vedic civilization is one of the most influential eras in India flourishing along the river Saraswati named after the Vedas, which depict the early literature of the Hindus. Later on, the society became more agrarian stratified into the Caste System. The Vedic period is one of the most important times for the Hindu Religion. The First 4 Vedas (Rigveda, Samveda, Yajurveda, Atharvaveda) are considered as the oldest Sanskrit literature & are the main religious texts that form the basis of the Hindu Religion. The two greatest epics of this era are the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, still held in great reverence by the followers of Hinduism.
Lord Gautam Buddha whose original name was Siddhartha Gautam was born in 560 BC and died at the age of eighty in 480 BC. The place of his birth was a grove referred to as Lumbini, near Kapilavastu, located at the foot of Mount Palpa in the Himalayan region within Nepal. Gautam Buddha was the founder of Buddhism – a religion based on spiritualism and even today, most people worldwide follow Buddhism culture, and his teachings spread throughout much of southern and eastern Asia. During his lifetime, Mahajanapadas, which were the sixteen great powers, existed in the 7th and early 6th centuries BC. Sakyas of Kapilavastu and the Licchavis of Vaishali were the most important republics at that time.
Invasion of Alexander
Around the 5th Century, the Persians captured the extreme North-Western parts of India. In 326 BC the north-western part of India faced invasion by the Achaemenid Empire and by the Greeks of Alexander the Great after destroying the Persian Empire. Alexander the Great crossed the river Indus and advanced towards Taxila, In the winter of 326 BC, the Battle of Hydaspes was fought between Alexander the Great and King Porus, who ruled a region lying between the Hydaspes(Jhelum River) and the Acesines(Chenab River). In this fierce battle, the Indians defeated noteworthy ‘attempts of war’, which was the use of elephants, which was something that the Macedonians had never seen before. Later Alexander made Porus an ally, because of his bravery and appointed him as Satrap, taking over all the Porus’s territory lands that he did not previously own. The Persians and the Greeks had little effect on Indian civilization. Later on, various Indian kingdoms had begun to conquer one another but in 322 BC the first-ever great empire arose (Mauryan Empire).
The Mauryan Empire (322 BC – 185 BC)
Mauryan Empire was founded by Chandragupta Maurya in 322 BC and its capital city was Pataliputra (modern Patna) one of the largest cities in the ancient world. The period of the Mauryan Empire (322 BC-185 BC) was marked as a new epoch in the history of India covering most of the Indian regions spanned across Central and Northern India as well as some areas of modern-day Iran. After the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BC his empire split up. Seleucus I – the son of Antiochus, a general of Philip II of Macedonia, the father of Alexander the Great, participated in the conquest of the Persian empire as one of Alexander’s officers, and he commanded the Macedonian infantry against King Porus of India in battle on the Hydaspes River in 323 BC. After splitting up the Empire in 323 BC Seleucus took the eastern part and attempted to reclaim the Indian provinces once ruled by Alexander. This allowed Chandragupta Maurya to liberate the country from the yoke of the Greeks and then occupied the provinces of Punjab and Sindh. It was a period when politics, art, trade, and commerce elevated India to a glorious height as well as established good contact with the outside world. Chandragupta Maurya with the assistance of his chief minister Kautilya raised his army, overthrew the Nanda power in Magadha Empire, present-day eastern India, and founded a glorious Mauryan empire in 322 BCE. Kautilya is sometimes called Chanakya. Kautilya is well known for writing the Arthashastra, a treatise about leadership and government. Chandragupta rapidly expanded his power towards the west across central and western India by defeating and conquering the satraps left by Alexander the Great, and by 317 BCE the empire had fully occupied the north-western part of India.
Chandragupta Maurya, ruled the Mauryan Empire from 324 BC-301 BC, covering the entire territory from the Hindu Kush to Bengal, extended over Afghanistan, Balochistan. In his empire, the valleys of Nepal and Kashmir were also included. In 298 BC Chandragupta got interested in religious belief and left his throne to his son Bindusara. Under his rule, the entire empire was running smoothly maintaining its lands as well as he conquered the Highland of Deccan during his reign of 30 years and gave his throne to his son Ashoka (third leader of the Mauryan Empire) in 272 BC. The most important event of Ashoka’s reign was the conquest of Kalinga (a region on the central-eastern coast of India – modern Odisha) which proved to be the turning point of his life. In this Kalinga War (260 BC) Ashoka witnessed terrible manslaughter, suffering, and destruction with this he made a resolve not to wage war anymore. He was drawn to the teachings of Buddha, turned to Buddhism and its tenet of nonviolence. He devoted his life to the conquest of men’s hearts by the law of duty or piety and evolved a policy of Dharma Vijaya, ‘Conquest by Piety’. Ashoka emerged not only as the most famous king of the Mauryan dynasty in history but also regarded as one of the greatest kings of India by erecting large stone pillars or on rocks inscribed with Buddhist edicts throughout his kingdom to teach the people how to live.
The Lion Capital, originally found atop the Ashoka Column at Sarnath, established in 250 BC was adopted as the official national emblem of the Republic of India in 1950. The Lion Capital is mounted on a circular abacus. The capital has sculptures of four Asiatic lions—symbolizing power, courage, pride, and confidence, as well as the circular abacus, which has sculptures of a bull, a horse, a lion, and an elephant, separated by intervening spoked chariot-wheels. After Ashoka’s death, his family continued to reign, suffering an economic decline and political instability as the empire began to break apart. The last Mauryan ruler, Brihadratha, was assassinated by his commander in chief—a man named Pushyamitra Shunga who went on and founded the Shunga Dynasty in 185 BC in Magadha.
Indo-Greeks in India
After the decline of the Mauryan Empire, northern India was split into several kingdoms. The Indo-Greek or the Graeco-Indian Kingdom was ruled from 180 BC to the beginning of the first century CE. The Kingdom started when the Graeco-Bactrian king Demetrius(son of Euthydemus I) invaded the Indian subcontinent around 180 BC and he conquered modern southern Afghanistan and parts of Punjab. The most famous Indo-Greek ruler was King Menander I Soter (165 BCE- 145 BCE) also known as Minedra, Minadra, or Milinda who conquered most of northern India around 160 BC and had his capital at Sangala in Punjab (present-day Sialkot), extended his empire covering from Kabul river valley in the west to the Ravi River in the east, and from Swat valley in the north to Arachosia (present-day Helmand in Afghanistan). Many coins (silver and copper coins) have been unearthed, found near eastern Punjab were to be inscribed in Greek and Kharosthi, are the most numerous and furthest widespread among all the Indo-Greek kings. The influence of Greeks was mostly felt in art and sculpture, particularly the Gandhara School of art. ‘Milinda Panho’- contains the conversation that took place between Buddhist philosopher Nagasena and Indo-Greek ruler Menander I of Bactria (around 100 BC) was written in the Yuga Purana, In that Nagasena, describes Milinda as a wise, learned, and able king. Later on, Milinda converted to Buddhism to patronize the faith, which expired in 130 BC. After Milinda’s death, Zoilus I Dikaios (who belonged to the dynasty of Euthydemus I) ruled the kingdom by occupying the areas previously held by Menander I. The last Indo-Greek king was Strato III, who ruled the Punjab region until 10 CE and ended their rule with the invasions of the Indo-Scythians (Sakas).
Middle kingdoms of India
Indo-Scythians – Indo-Scythians(Saka) were a gaggle of nomadic Iranian peoples of Saka and Scythian origin who migrated southward into western and northern South Asia from the middle of the first century BC to the 4th century AD.
The Indo-Parthian Kingdom – The Indo-Parthian Kingdom, also referred to as the Suren Kingdom was founded by the Gondopharid branch of the House of Suren, ruled from 19 CE to 226 CE, covering parts of eastern Iran, various parts of Afghanistan, and the northwest regions of the Indian subcontinent (most of modern Pakistan and parts of northwestern India).
Kushan Empire – Kushan Empire was ruled for about two centuries (30 CE-240 CE), established its authority over the northwest frontier of India. The most famous among the Kushan kings was Kanishka the Great, who was the fourth in the Kushan dynasty, ruled from a period of 125 CE-162 CE. The development of the Gandhara School of Art was the most notable achievement of Kushan rule and they played a vital role in the spread of Buddhism to Central Asia and China.
The Western Kshatrapas or Western Satraps – The Western Kshatrapas were the Saka (Indo-Scythians) rulers of the western and central parts of India. Western Satraps were ruling for about 350 years i.e.,(35 CE-405 CE). The power of the Western Satraps has begun to decline in the 2nd century CE after the Saka rulers were defeated by the Emperor Gautamiputra Satakarni of the Satavahana dynasty and after this, the Saka Kingdom was ultimately destroyed in the 4th century CE by Chandragupta II of the Gupta Empire.
Gupta Empire (320 CE-550 CE)
Gupta Empire was an ancient Indian empire founded by King Sri Gupta in 275 CE covering most of the Indian regions that spanned across Central and Northern India with their center of power at Prayag (U.P). The Gupta Empire period (320 CE-550 CE) is considered “The Golden Age of India” by historians because of the extensive inventions and discoveries in Hindu arts, literature, political administration, science & technology, logic, mathematics, astronomy, religion, and philosophy. The first famous king of the Gupta dynasty was Ghatotkacha’s son Chandra Gupta I took the throne in 320 CE and began the Gupta Era. Along with Chandragupta I, the most notable rulers of the empire were Samudragupta, Chandragupta II alias Vikramaditya, and Kumaragupta I. The turning point in the lifetime of Chandragupta I was his marriage. He married Kumaradevi, the daughter of the chief of the Lichchhavis(Nepal), as a dowry he received Pataliputra, which helped him in extending the kingdom from the River Gange to Allahabad in 321 CE. King Gupta and his SON Ghatotkacha are described as Maharaja (“great king”), while subsequent king Chandragupta I is called Maharajadhiraja (“king of great kings”) which was inscribed on Allahabad Pillar.
After the death of Chandra Gupta I the throne was given to his son Samudra Gupta in 335 CE. During his reign (335 CE-375 CE), most of the regions in India were directly or indirectly under his control – from kingdoms in Nepal and Punjab in the north to the Pallava kingdom at Kanchipuram in the southeast as well as the independent territory of Simhala (Sri Lanka). He was a great military genius, commanded a military campaign across the Deccan, and also subdued the forest tribes of the Vindhya region(central India) referred to as atavika rajyas. Historian A V Smith (Irish Indologist and Art Historian) called Samudragupta “Napoleon of India” due to his extensive military conquests. The places and the territories conquered by Samudragupta were – Ganga Yamuna doab, Nine Naga Rulers and their territories, Eastern Himalayan states (Nepal, Assam, Bengal, some parts of Punjab, etc.,), 12 rulers of Eastern Deccan and south India, Sakas of western India and Kushana rulers of north-west India and Afghanistan.
Samudragupta was succeeded by his son – Chandragupta Ⅱ alias Vikramaditya(“the Sun of Power”) ruled from 376 CE – 415 CE. During Chandragupta Ⅱ’s reign, the Gupta empire has been reached its peak by expanding territories through conquests as well as by marriage alliances which helped him to control the Vakataka kingdom in central India and also it was an added advantage to conquer Gujarat, Malwa, and Kathiawar which was under the rule of Saka’s at that time(409 CE). Later on, Gupta extended his control to the western sea coast which was famous for trade and commerce with the countries of the west, and established a second capital at Ujjain. His court at Ujjain was illustrious by the fact that it had been graced by nine famous scholars referred to as the Navaratnas (Nine Jewels) – Kalidas, Amarsinh, Dhanvantari, Varahminhira, Vararuchi, Ghatakarna, Kshapanaka, Velabhatt, and Shanku. Among these men, Kalidasa (the greatest Sanskrit poet and dramatist) was mainly known for his subtle exploitation of the shringara (romantic) element in his verse. A Chinese scholar and traveler, Faxien visited India and wrote a detailed account of its people’s lives in his diary and published it afterward. In 415 CE Kumaragupta I the son and successor of Chandragupta II took the throne and during his reign, he laid the foundation of Nalanda University which emerged as an institution of international reputation. After the death of Skandagupta (son and successor of Kumaragupta I), his family continued to reign, the Gupta empire suffered an economic decline and their loss of control over much of western India after 467 CE.
In 460 CE, a fierce and warlike people referred to as Huns had settled in Afghanistan and its capital city was Bamiyan. The Alchon Huns under Toramana, the leader of the Huns and his successor Mihirakula, who was a cruel, barbarian and one of the worst tyrants, broke through the Gupta defenses in the northwestern parts of India but at that time the Gupta dynasty fought back and kept them away for a few years. In 480 CE the Huns returned and were successful in covering most of the Gupta Empire. It appears from inscriptions that although the Gupta’s power was much diminished by the Huns, they continued to resist. In 528 CE the Hun invader Toramana was defeated and put an end to Hun’s reign in India by two native powerful Kings, Yasodharman of Malwa and Narasimha Gupta Baladitya of the Gupta empire. Another factor that led to the fall of the Gupta empire was the rise of feudatories.
Harsha Empire (606 CE-647 CE)
After the downfall of the Gupta Empire, the next great ruler in Indian history was king Harsha also known as King Harshavardhana from Vardhana Dynasty. King Harshavardhana was born in 590 CE to King Prabhakaravardhana of Sthaneshwar (Thanesar, Haryana) the founder of the Pushyabhuti Dynasty or the Vardhana Dynasty. King Harshavardhana was an Indian Emperor, who ascended the throne at Thanesar(present-day Haryana) and Kannauj(present-day Uttar Pradesh) after his brother’s death. Ruled the empire from 606 CE-647 CE, covering much of North and Northwestern India, extended East till Kamarupa, and South until Narmada River; and eventually made Kannauj (in the present Uttar Pradesh state) his capital and was considered as one of the most prominent Indian emperors in the 7th century AD. In 620 A.D. Harshavardhana invaded the Chalukya kingdom in the Deccan, to expand his Empire into the southern peninsula of India which was then ruled by south Indian Emperor Pulakesin II. In this battle (so-called Battle of Narmada) Pulakesin II defeated Harshavardhana on the banks of Narmada in (618 CE- 619 CE). Harshavardhana is well known for his religious toleration, strong administrative capabilities, and also maintained diplomatic relations with China. During his reign, his biography Harshacharita (“Deeds of Harsha”) was written by Sanskrit poet Banabhatt and also a Chinese traveler Xuanzang visited India (the court of Harsha) and has given a vivid description of the king, praising his justice and generosity. After Harsha’s death, once again, India became a land of several kingdoms. Several dynasties tried to control north India and ruled from the 7th century till the 9th century — the Pratiharas of Malwa and later Kannauj; the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan.
India’s medieval history includes the period from the first half of the sixth century up to the Sixteenth century and it is divided into two periods: “Early Medieval Period” and “Late Medieval Period”. The early Medieval Period- lasted from the 6th-13th Century CE whereas the Late Medieval Period- lasted from the 13th-16th century CE, ending with the start of the Mughal Empire in 1526. Medieval history of India is renowned for deriving tons of its characters from Islamic kingdoms extending across almost three generations, Early medieval India included several kingdoms and dynasties under indigenous rulers who tried to control India — the Pratiharas of Malwa and later Kannauj (6th century CE-1036 CE), the Palas of Bengal(8th-12th Century CE), the Rashtrakutas of the Deccan(753 CE-982 CE), the Chalukyas(7th century CE-1244 CE), the Eastern Ganga(5th century CE-1434 CE), the Western Ganga(400 CE-999 CE), the Sena(1070 CE-1230 CE), the Kakatiya(1083 CE-1323 CE), the Hoysala(1187 CE–1343 CE), the Pallavas(600 CE to 897 CE), the Pandyas (12th century CE-14th century CE), the Cholas(848 CE-1279 CE).
The Chola Empire was established in the 3rd century BCE (datable references to the Chola are the inscriptions left by Ashoka, of the Maurya Empire) but the rise of the medieval Cholas begins in the mid-9th century CE until the beginning of the 13th century. The heartland of this empire was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River and the country south of the Tungabhadra was united as one state for three centuries (907 CE-1215 CE). Under King Rajaraja Chola I and his successors Rajendra Chola I, Rajadhiraja Chola, Virarajendra Chola, and Kulothunga Chola I, the dynasty became a military, economic and cultural power in South Asia and South-East Asia, and the Chola empire is one of the longest-ruling dynasties in the world’s history. During the period (1010 CE-1153 CE), the Chola king Rajaraja I began to expand his territories stretched from peninsular South India including Sri Lanka in the south to as far as to the north of the Godavari-Krishna river basin in Andhra Pradesh, up to the Konkan coast in Bhatkal, the entire Malabar Coast (the Chea country) in addition to Lakshadweep, and the Maldives. Rajendra Chola led an armed expedition to North India that touched the river Ganges and defeated the Pala ruler of Pataliputra, Mahipala. In 1025 CE, the Cholas successfully invaded the cities of Srivijaya of Malaysia and Indonesia, as the chole invasion over Srivijaya was short and only meant to plunder the wealth but after the invasion, the Cholas began to lost almost all of their overseas territories by 1070 CE. From 1070 CE till 1279 CE the Cholas would still rule some portions of Southern India and almost all of Sri Lanka but by the beginning of the 13th century, the Chola dynasty went into decline with the rise of the Pandyan dynasty.
The Rise of Islam in South-Asia
The initial entry of Islam into South Asia was Arab traders who came in the eighth century CE after the Prophet Muhammad’s death and settled in many of the seaports along the western and southern coasts of India. In 711 CE a small Arab expedition to Balochistan and Sindh, under the command of the seventeen-year-old general Muḥammad bin Qāsim for Umayyad caliphate rule. In this expedition, the Arabs conquered Sindh(southern Pakistan) and Multan. With the assistance of local allies, Qāsim founded a state that survived for nearly three centuries and after Qāsim’s death, the ferocious leader Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni (971 CE-1030 CE), led a series of raids deep into India against Rajput kingdoms, and plundered Hindu temples, and established a base in Punjab for future incursions. In 1024 CE, Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the southern coast of Kathiawar along the Arabian Sea, where he sacked the city of Somnath and its renowned Hindu temple and returned home in 1026 CE.
Muslim Invasion in India
Muhammad Ghori was born in 1149 in the Ghor region (present-day Afghanistan) who was the Sultan of the Ghurid Empire invaded India in 1175 CE, ruled until 1206 CE, and was credited with laying the foundation of Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent, which lasted for several centuries covering parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Northern India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan. In 1191 CE, Ghori proceeded towards the Indian Sub-continent through the Khyber Pass in modern-day Pakistan and was successful in reaching Punjab, captured a fortress, Bathinda in present-day Punjab, and marched towards Delhi. At that time the brave Rajput chief of northern India was Prithvi Raj Chauhan who defeated him in the First Battle of Tarain, in 1191 CE. In 1192 CE, Muhammad Ghori made preparations and came again to avenge his defeat, this time a furious battle was fought in Tarain, in which the Rajputs army was eventually defeated and Prithvi Raj Chauhan was captured. However, the Second Battle of Terrain proved to be a decisive battle that led to the establishment of the Sultanate of Delhi.
The Delhi Sultanate
The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic empire based mostly in Delhi that ruled over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206 CE–1526 CE), covering large parts of the territory in modern-day India, Pakistan, Bangladesh as well as some parts of southern Nepal. Five dynasties ruled in Delhi, There were: the Mamluk dynasty or Slave Dynasty (1206 CE–1290 CE), the Khilji dynasty (1290 CE–1320 CE), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320 CE–1414 CE), the Sayyid dynasty (1415 CE–1451 CE), and the Lodi dynasty (1451 CE–1526 CE).
The Mamluk Dynasty or The Slave Dynasty (1206 CE–1290 CE)
The Mamluk dynasty was started by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who ruled the Subcontinent for almost 84 years. Qutb al-Din Aibak was a former slave of Muhammad of Ghori, thus this dynasty is also known as the Slave Dynasty. He was the first Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate and also was the first Muslim dynasty that ruled the Indian Sub-Continent. He also initiated the construction of Delhi’s earliest Muslim monuments, the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque, and the Qutub Minar(238 feet high stone tower). Aibak reigned as the Sultan of Delhi for four years (1206 CE to 1210 CE), he did not make any fresh conquests because his entire attention was devoted to the establishment of law and order and strengthening his army. Aibak died in 1210 CE and was buried near the Anarkali bazaar in Lahore. People used to call him “Lakh Baksh” meaning “giver of lakhs” because of his generosity to his people and also gave liberal donations for charity when he was the Sultan of the Sultanate of Delhi. After the Aibak died, the second Sultan was Aram Shah who assumed power in 1210 CE, but he was assassinated in 1211 CE by Aibak’s son-in-law, the third Sultan was Shams ud-Din Iltutmish, who himself was a slave of Qutub-ud-din Aibak. Shams ud-Din Iltutmush ruled for around 26 years from 1211 CE to 1236 CE and was responsible for setting the Sultanate of Delhi on strong footings. At the time of Qutubbudin’s death, Iltutmish was the governor of Badaun. During his reign, Iltutmish shifted the capital from Lahore to Delhi and he devoted the first 8 years of his reign to secure the throne from rivals and defeated Muslim amirs (nobles), Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha of Multan and Tajuddin Yildoz of Ghazni, who had declared themselves contenders of Delhi in 1220 CE. Mongols invaded India but they were defeated at the Battle of Indus by Genghis Khan in 1221 CE. Later on, Iltutmish saw the decline of Lahore and the rise of Delhi and gradually Delhi became the greatest center of learning and culture in India. As Qutb al-Din Aibak initiated the construction of the Qutub Minar near Mehrauli in Delhi but died without completing it and later it was completed by his son-in-law, Iltutmish in the year 1231-32 CE. The Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam) Mosque which was built by Aibak, has now become a UNESCO world heritage site. Although Iltutmish had many sons all of them were incompetent. So, he appointed his daughter Razia Sultana as his successor. Raziya is the first and the last woman ruler of medieval India ruled from 1236 CE to 1240 CE. She initially managed to impress the nobles and administratively handled the Sultanate well but was defeated and killed by the powerful nobleman Malik Altunia whom she agreed to marry. Following Iltutmish’s death, the Delhi Sultanate saw a succession of weak rulers, power shifted from Razia Sultana to many others, until Ghiyas ud-Din Balban came to power and ruled from 1266 CE to 1287 CE. Balban started the era of strong centralized government and also increased the power and position of the sultan but didn’t try to extend his empire although he had a strong army. During Balban’s reign, Mongols again invaded India in 1279 and 1285 but were defeated and driven away. In 1286 the Mongols reappeared to avenge their defeat, this time a furious battle was fought Prince Muhammad was killed and in 1286 CE Balban expired. He was succeeded by his grandson, 17-year-old Muiz ud-Din Qaiqabad, who appointed Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji as the commander of the army. Khalji eventually murdered Qaiqabad and seized the throne, thus ending the Mamluk dynasty and starting the Khalji dynasty of Delhi Sultanate.
The Khalji or Khilji Dynasty (1290 CE–1320 CE)
The Khilji Dynasty was a Turko-Afghan dynasty founded by Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji, the second dynasty to rule Delhi covering large parts of the Indian sub-continent for nearly three decades between 1290 CE to 1320 CE. Jalal ud-Din Firuz Khalji ruled for 6 years before he was murdered in 1296 CE by his nephew Juna Muhammad Khalji and proclaimed himself as the Sultan in 1296 CE. Juna Muhammad Khalji later came to be known as Ala al-din khilji, began his military career as governor of Kara province, from where he led two short raids on Malwa & Bhilsa in 1292 CE and Devagiri in 1294 CE, which were only meant to plunder the wealth and loot. During his reign of 20 years, he fought many battles conquering Gujarat, Ranthambore, Chittor, Malwa, and Deccan. Mongols invaded the Indian sub-continent several times but were successfully repulsed. After the Mongols withdrew, Ala al-din Khilji continued expanding Delhi Sultanate into South India, he became the first Muslim ruler whose empire covered almost the whole of India with the help of generals such as Malik Kafur and Khusraw Khan, he started collecting large war booty (Anwatan) from those they defeated, which helped strengthen the Khilji rule. Among the spoils was the Warangal loot — the famous Koh-i-Noor diamond, one of the largest known diamonds in human history. After Ala-ud-din died in 1316 CE, his army general Malik Kafur was born in a Hindu family and later converted to Islam to assume power. Malik Kafur lacked the support of Persian and Afghan nobility and was killed. The last Khilji ruler was Ala-ud-din’s 18-year-old son Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah Khilji, who ruled for four years before he was killed by Wazir Khusro Khan. After a few months of Wazir Khusro Khan’s rule, Ghazi Malik of Turkic origin with the help of Punjabi Khokhar tribesmen launched an attack, defeated, and killed Khusro Khan to assume power in 1320 CE, thus beginning the Tughluq dynasty of Delhi Sultanate.
The Tughlaq Dynasty (1320 CE-1414 CE)
The Tughlaq dynasty was a Muslim dynasty of Turko-origin founded by Ghazi Malik, rechristened himself as Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq after assuming the throne. The third dynasty to rule the Delhi sultanate covered large parts of the Indian sub-continent from 1320 CE- 1414 CE. Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq ruled for five years and built a town six kilometers east of Delhi, with a fort considered more defensible against the Mongol attacks, named it Tughlaqabad. During his reign, he attempted to improve the state’s finances and pursued a policy to encourage agriculture and liberalized administration in certain respects. According to some historians such as Vincent Smith, Ghiyath al-Din was killed by his son Juna Khan in 1325 CE while other historians were like, Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq was returning after concluding his military campaign in Bengal in 1325 CE, Prince Juna Khan raised a wooden pavilion at Afghanpur village near Delhi to welcome the Sultan but the pavilion, under which the sultan was coming, collapsed suddenly crushing the sultan under its debris. After assuming power in 1325 CE Juna Khan rechristened himself as Muhammad bin Tughlaq and ruled for around 26 years (1325 CE-1351 CE). Muhammad bin Tughlaq was an intellectual with extensive knowledge of the Quran, a profound scholar of Persian, a critic, poetry, and the most remarkable sultans of Delhi. During Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s rule, Delhi Sultanate reached its peak in terms of geographical reach, covering most of the Indian subcontinent. Muhammad bin Tughlaq founded a new city and named it Jahanpannah (meaning, “Protection of the World”), which connected older Delhi with Siri. Later, he ordered that the capital of his Sultanate be shifted from Delhi to Deogir (present-day) in Maharashtra (renaming it to Daulatabad). Daulatabad was arid and did not have enough drinking water to support the new capital due to this reason Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s move failed. So, he shifted back the capital again to Delhi within 2 years. Revolts against Muhammad bin Tughlaq has begun in 1327 CE. The Vijayanagara Empire originated in southern India and was liberated from Delhi Sultanate’s rule as a direct response to attacks from the Delhi Sultanate. In 1336 CE, the Tughlaq’s army was defeated by Kapaya Nayak of the Musunuri Nayak and reconquered Warangal from the Delhi Sultanate. In 1339 CE the eastern regions led by Hindu kings had revolted and declared independence from Delhi Sultanate. Muhammad bin Tughlaq died in March 1351 CE while trying to chase and punish people who were rebelling against the Delhi Sultanate in Gujarat and Sindh. At the time of his death, the geographic control of the Delhi Sultanate had shrunk to the Vindhya range (now in central India). After Muhammad bin Tughluq’s death, Mahmud Ibn Muhammad ruled for fewer than a month. Thereafter, Feroze Shah Tughlaq 45-year old nephew of Muhammad bin Tughluq succeeded the throne and ruled around 37 years (1351 CE-1388 CE). Feroze Shah Tughlaq tried to regain the kingdom boundary by waging a war with Bengal and Orissa(Jajnagar) but was unsuccessful in both. Feroze Tughlaq did not contribute much to expanding the territories of the empire but his reign was a period of quiet development for the people. Feroze Shah Tughlaq died in 1388 CE, a civil war broke out among his successors, Tughlaq Khan assumed power but died in the conflict in 1389 CE. The civil war continued for the next 5 years, 3 sultans ruled the empire (Abu Bakr Shah, Muhammad Shah, Ala-ud-din Sikandar Shah). The last rulers of this dynasty both called themselves Sultan from 1394 to 1398: Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughlaq (1394 CE-1412 CE), the grandson of Feroze Shah Tughlaq assumed power, who ruled Delhi, and Nasir ud-Din Nusrat Shah Tughlaq (1394 CE-1398 CE), another relative of Feroze Shah Tughlaq assumed power, who ruled Firozabad (few miles from Delhi). Each with a small army, the two sultans claimed to be rightful rulers of South Asia. Battles occurred every month between the two sultans from 1394 CE till 1398 CE. In 1938 CE Nasir ud-Din Nusrat Shah Tughlaq died and from there onwards Nasir ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughlaq (1394 CE-1412 CE) was ruling the Tughlaq empire. In 1398 CE Timur the great Mongol leader of Central Asia invaded India.
During the reign of the last king Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Shah Tughluq, a Turco-Mongol leader Timur (Tamerlane) invaded India in 1938 CE, defeated four armies of the Sultanate, crossed Indus, captured Multan, and just walked over to Delhi without much resistance. Timur had no intention of ruling India. So, he looted the lands he crossed, collected wealth, captured women, enslaved people then plundered and burned Delhi. With the entire loot, he returned to Samarkand (City in southeastern Uzbekistan). Tughlaqs continued to reign till 1412 CE.
The Sayyid Dynasty (1415 CE-1451 CE)
The Sayyid dynasty was a Turkic dynasty that ruled Delhi Sultanate from 1415 CE to 1451 CE. After the Timur invasion and plunder, Delhi Sultanates were left in shambles and a little bit about the rule was known to the Sayyid dynasty. Sayyid Khizr Khan was the first ruler of the Sayyid dynasty ruled from 1414 CE-1421 CE, assumed power by claiming to be representing Timur. Sayyid Khizr Khan’s successor was Mubarak Khan, who rechristened himself as Mubarak Shah tried to regain the territories lost in Punjab, but was unsuccessful. According to Schimmel, the Sayyid dynasty is failing powers, Islam‘s history in the Indian subcontinent underwent a profound change. Khizr Khan was the governor of Multan under Firuz Shah Tughlaq’s rule but later when Timur invaded India, Khizr Khan joined Timur’s army and was again appointed as the governor of Multan, Lahore under Timur’s army. In 1414 CE Khizr Khan conquered the city of Delhi and started the Sayyids rule. Khizr Khan was succeeded by his son – Mubarak Shah ruled the dynasty from (1421 CE-1434 CE). He was a wise man of great vision, but the nobles were revolting against him. Muhammad Shah was a nephew of Mubarak Shah, who ruled from 1434 CE-1445 CE. Ala-ud-din Alam Shah was a weak ruler but ruled from 1445 CE-1451 CE. In 1451 CE Alam Shah surrendered Delhi to Bahlul Lodi and went to Budaun where he spent the rest of his life. The Sayyid dynasty was displaced by the Lodi dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate in 1451 CE.
The Lodi Dynasty (1451 CE-1526 CE)
The Lodi dynasty belonged to the Pashtun (Afghan) Lodi tribe that ruled the Delhi sultanate from 1451 CE to 1526 CE. Bahlul Lodi started the Lodi dynasty and was the first ruler, who ruled from 1451 CE-1489 CE. Initially, Bahlul Lodi began his reign by attacking the Muslim-controlled Kingdom of Jaunpur to expand the influence of the Delhi Sultanate and was partially successful through a treaty. Thereafter the region from Delhi to Benares (Bengal province), was under the control of the Delhi Sultanate. Later in 1486 CE, Bahlul Lodi placed his eldest surviving son Barbak Lodi on the throne of Jaunpur. After Bahlul Lodi’s death on July 17 1489 his son, Nizam Khan assumed power, rechristened himself as Sikandar Shah Ghazi Lodi, and ruled from 1489 CE-1517 CE. Sikandar Shah Ghazi Lodi was one of the better-known rulers of this dynasty, expelled his brother Barbak Shah from Jaunpur, installed his son Jalal Khan as the ruler, then proceeded east to make claims on Bihar. Sikandar Shah Ghazi Lodi led a campaign of destruction of temples, particularly around Mathura, and also moved his capital & court from Delhi to Agra. During his rule, Sikandar launched buildings with Indo-Islamic architecture in Agra. He was an honest administrator who abolished corn duties and patronized trade and commerce and was also a patron of learning and ordered Sanskrit work in medicine to be translated into Persian. After Sikandar Lodi died in 1517 CE, the throne was ascended to his son Ibrahim Lodi and was the last Lodi Sultan of Delhi who ruled from 1517 CE-1526 CE. Ibrahim Lodi had the qualities of an excellent warrior, but he was very strict with the nobles, rash and impolitic in his decisions and actions. For most of his reign, he was mostly engaged in warfare with the Afghans and the Mughals. After being assured of the cooperation of Daulat Khan Lodi, Governor of Punjab and Alam Khan, an uncle of Sultan Ibrahim Lodi asked the ruler of Kabul, Babur to invade India. Ibrahim Lodi was thus killed during a battle at Panipat in 1526 CE by Babur’s army. After the death of Ibrahim Lodi, the Lodi dynasty also came to an end. Meanwhile, another empire arose in the South – the Vijayanagara Empire. Thus came the ultimate collapse of the Delhi Sultanate and paved the establishment of the Mughal Empire in India.
Vijayanagara Empire originated in the Deccan Plateau region in southern India as an immediate response to attacks from the Delhi Sultanate. Vijayanagara Empire was established in 1336 CE by the brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya I of the Sangama dynasty and lasted until 1646 CE. According to legends, In 1326 CE Muhammad bin Tughluq defeated and killed the king of Kampili. Among those taken prisoners were the brothers of the Sangama dynasty, Hukka (Harihara I), and Bukka (Bukka Raya I), both were treasury officers of the Kampili dynasty, who were forced to convert to Islam. Some years later the brothers were sent to crush a rebellion in the South. Instead, the brothers laid the foundation of an independent kingdom in the region between the river Krishna and Tungabhadra, denying any subordination to the Tughlaqs in 1336 CE. Harihara I was crowned king in 1346 CE and later his brother Bukka Raya I ruled after him, i.e., 1357 CE-1377 CE. The Vijayanagara Empire is named after its capital city of Vijayanagara (City of Victory) located on the south bank of the Tungabhadra River, whose ruins surround the modern era Group of Monuments at Hampi site, now a World Heritage Site in Karnataka, India. During the early decades of Sangama rulers, the capital city grew with extraordinary rapidity and became one of the biggest cities in the world of the 15th and 16th centuries. The main reason why the city flourished and expanded is due to the development of major irrigation works during the 15th century under Emperor Deva Raya and Emperor Krishna Deva Raya in the early 16th century. The rising powers of the Vijayanagara empire brought it into a clash with many powers and they frequently fought wars with the neighboring Muslim Kingdom-Bahmani.
Another name for the Vijayanagara Empire was Karnata Empire (Karnata Rajya), used in some inscriptions and literary works. The most famous king of the Vijayanagara Empire was Krishnadeva Raya who ruled from 1509 CE-1529 CE. Initially, Krishnadevaraya faced many obstacles but he was an astute king who hired both Hindus and Muslims into his army. During Krishnadevaraya’s reign, the Vijayanagara kingdom reached the pinnacle of its glory and was successful in all the wars he waged. The empire extended by covering the entire gained territories which were formerly under the control of Sultanates in the northern Deccan, such as Raichur and Gulbarga from the Bahmani Sultanate, they also gained the territories in the eastern Deccan from wars with Sultan Quli Qutb Shahi of Golkonda, and the Kalinga region from the Gajapatis of Orissa. Many monuments were commissioned during the time of King Krishnadevaraya’s rule. He encouraged trade with the western countries and also had a cordial relationship with the Portuguese who at that time established trade centers on the West Coast of India. He wasn’t only a great warrior but also a playwright and an excellent patron of learning. Telugu literature flourished during his rule, the most famous writer in the Prabandha style was Manucharitamu. King Krishnadevaraya was an accomplished Telugu scholar, who wrote the celebrated Amuktamalyada (“One who wears and gives away garlands”). Krishnadeva Raya and his successors encouraged Painting, Sculpture, Dance, and Music during their rule.
After the death of Krishnadeva Raya in 1529 CE, the decline of the Vijayanagara kingdom began, at that time the throne was ascended to Achyuta Deva Raya (brother of Krishna Deva Raya). Later on, the throne was ascended to Aliya Rama Raya in 1542 CE. In January 1565 CE, the Sultanates to the north of Vijayanagara were united and attacked Aliya Rama Raya’s army, in a war known as the Battle of Talikota. There are several theories about the battle, one among them is, In the battle, Vijayanagara’s army was winning the war, but suddenly two Muslim generals-state Hermann Kulke and Dietmar Rothermund (who weren’t from Vijayanagara, but recently served as mercenaries) of the Vijayanagara army switched sides and turned their loyalty to the Sultanates, captured Aliya Rama Raya and beheaded him on the spot. The Sultanates’ army later plundered Hampi and reduced it to a ruinous state but it had never been re-occupied. After the death of Aliya Rama Raya in the Battle of Talikota, the throne was ascended to Tirumala Deva Raya(son-in-law of Krishnadeva Raya) in 1565 CE. Tirumala Deva Raya started the Aravidu dynasty, founded a new capital of Penukonda to replace the destroyed Hampi, and attempted to reconstitute the remains of the Vijayanagara Empire. Tirumala Deva Raya and his successors ruled the dynasty but later it collapsed in 1614 CE, and the final remains lasted until 1646 CE, from continued wars with the Bijapur sultanate and others. During this era, many kingdoms in South India became independent and separated from Vijayanagara, these include the Mysore Kingdom, Keladi Nayaka, Nayaks of Madurai, Nayaks of Tanjore, Nayakas of Chitradurga, and the Nayak Kingdom of Gingee.
The Bahmani Sultanate (also called the Bahmanid Empire or the Bahmani Kingdom) was the first independent Persianate Muslim empire of the Deccan in South India. The Bahmani kingdom was established by some nobles of the Deccan who revolted against the repressive policies of Sultan Muhammed Tughlaq. In 1347 CE, ruler Hasan Gangu rechristened himself as Abdul Muzaffar Ala-Ud-Din Bahman Shah, founded the Bahmani dynasty, and became the king. Before the establishment of this kingdom, Hasan was the Governor of Deccan and a commander on behalf of Tughlaq. This dynasty lasted for about 180 years and had 18 rulers. Most of the rulers of the Bahmani Kingdom were often at war with the neighboring Hindu kingdom Vijayanagara. At the height of its glory, the Bahmani kingdom extended covering the entire territory from north of the Krishna river up to Narmada and stretched east-west from the coasts of the Bay of Bengal to the Arabian Sea. After Ala-Ud-Din Bahman Shah, his son Mohammed Shah I ascended the throne and made Bidar the capital of the kingdom in 1429 CE.
The most distinguished figure of the Bahmani kingdom was Mahmud Gawan, who ruled as regent until Muhammad Shah reached the age. Mahmud Gawan, who was the principal minister of the state – Amir-ul-ulmra for over two decades fought many wars, subdued many kings, and annexed many territories to the Bahmani kingdom. Mahmud Gawan is known for setting up the Mahmud Gawan Madrasa, a center of religious as well as secular education Within the kingdom and also improved the administration, organized finances, reformed the revenue system, disciplined the army, and also removed corruption. A man of character and integrity was held in high esteem by the Deccanis group of nobles, especially Nizam-ul-Mulk, and their machinations led to his execution. With this, started the decline of the Bahmani empire, which came to an end with the death of its last king Kaleemullah Shah Bahmani in 1527 CE. In the early 16th century, the south Indian Emperor Krishnadevaraya of the Vijayanagara Empire defeated the last remnant of Bahmani Sultanate power after which the Bahmani Sultanate collapsed. Thereafter, Bahmani Empire got split into five regional independent Kingdoms collectively known as the “Deccan Sultanates” namely- Ahmadnagar Sultanate, Bijapur Sultanate, Berar Sultanate, Bidar Sultanate, and Golconda Sultanate.
The Mughal Empire (1526 CE-1857 CE)
The Mughal dynasty, Mughal also spelled Mogul, Persian Mughūl (“Mongol”), was a Muslim dynasty of Turkic-Mongol origin, that ruled most of northern India from the early 16th century to the mid-18th century. For about two centuries, the Mughals expanded their territory from the outer fringes of the Indus basin in the west, Kashmir in the north, and northern Afghanistan in the northwest as well as in the east they extended up to the highlands of present-day Assam & Bangladesh and the uplands of the Deccan Plateau in South India. Mughal Empire was an early modern, rich and glorious one, which was one of the greatest empires in South Asia and during their rule, the whole of India became united under one rule and had a very prosperous culture. They were responsible for setting up an efficient public administration, laying out infrastructure, Justice for the common man, and promoting the arts. A large number of monuments that exist in India even today are from the Mughal period. Among the Mughal, the UNESCO World Heritage Sites are Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, Red Fort, Humayun’s Tomb, Lahore Fort, and the Taj Mahal (described as the “jewel of Muslim art, which is one of the universally admired masterpieces of the world’s heritage”). Until the founders of the Mughal empire invaded India, many Muslim and Hindu kingdoms split throughout India.
Babur (1526 CE-1530 CE)
In 1526 CE the Mughal empire is conventionally said to have been founded by Babur, who was descended from the Turkic conqueror Timur (Tamerlane) on his father’s side and Chagatai, second son of the Mongol ruler Genghis Khan, on his mother’s side, who reigned the empire from 1526 CE-1530 CE. In the year 1526 CE Babur, a warrior chieftain from Fergana Valley (modern-day Uzbekistan), employed aid from the neighboring Safavid and Ottoman empires to defeat the Delhi Sultanate-Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat. Later on the following year (in 1527 CE) he overwhelmed the Rajput confederacy under Rana Sanga of Mewar in the Battle of Khanwa, and also he defeated the Afghans of what are now eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bihar states in the Battle of Ghagra in 1529 CE. Before his death, until 1530 CE he controlled all of northern India from River Indus on the west to Bihar on the east & from the south of Himalayas to Gwalior. Babur died at Agra in 1530 CE, after that his son Humayun ascended the throne.
Humayun (1530 CE-1556 CE)
After Babur’s death, the throne was ascended to his son, Humayun, who ruled from 1530 CE-1556 CE but because of his instability, the empire became evident and was forced into exile in Persia by rebels. Humayun ruled India for nearly a decade but in the year 1539 CE a battle was declared at Chausa by Afghan warrior Sher Shah Suri in which Humayun was defeated by Sher Shah Suri, and Humayun was forced to retreat to Kabul but he finally got sheltered in the court of Persia, at that time the Emperor was Shah Tahmasp. By 1540 CE Sher Shah Suri occupied the throne and made himself ruler of much of northern India and his reign proved to be a landmark in the Sub-Continent. During his reign, he established an efficient public administration, set up a revenue collection system based on land measurement, and Justice was provided from the common man. Under his rule, the Grand Trunk road from Delhi to Kabul was built. The establishment of diplomatic ties between the Mughals and Safavid Courts during Humayun’s exile in Persia led to increasing Persian cultural influence in the Mughal Empire. The restoration of Mughal rule in some parts of India began after Humayun’s triumphant return from Persia by defeating Afghans in 1555 CE. Unfortunately, Humayun died in 1556 CE and the throne was ascended to his son Akbar.
Akbar (1556 CE-1605 CE)
Akbar was born in Rajput Amarkot Fort in Rajputana to Humayun and his wife Hamida Banu Begum, a persian princess in 1542 CE. Abu’l-Fath Jalal-ud-din Muhammad Akbar popularly known as Akbar the Great, was the third Mughal emperor, who ruled the empire from 1556 CE to 1605 CE. After his father’s death (Humayun) the throne was ascended to Akbar, under a regent, Bairam Khan, who helped the young emperor expand and consolidate the Mughal Empire in India. The Second Battle of Panipat was fought between the Hemu and the Mughals in 1556 CE, in which the Mughals won the battle under the leadership of Bairam Khan. Bairam Khan was the regent up to 1560 CE. In 1562 CE, Akbar discontinued the practice of enslaving the defeated soldiers in the battle. Later on, in the following years i.e., in 1563 CE pilgrimage tax and 1564 CE, the discriminatory jizya tax was abolished. Akbar rapidly expanded the empire in all directions and controlled almost the entire Indian subcontinent through warfare & diplomacy. Akbar was regarded as the most illustrious ruler of the Mughal Empire as he set up the empire’s various institutions and created a new rule that is elite loyal to him, implemented a modern administration & encouraged cultural developments and increased trade with the European trade companies. Akbar waged a war and captured Gujarat in 1574 CE and Bengal in 1576 CE. Akbar allowed freedom of religion at his court and attempted to resolve socio-political & cultural differences in his empire by establishing a new religion in 1582 CE named Din-i-ilahi or Tauhid-i-ilahi. In 1586 CE Akbar waged a war on Kashmir, captured it, and later captured Odisha in 1592 CE & Baluchistan in 1595 CE. As a strong personality and a successful general, Akbar gradually enlarged the Mughal Empire in developing a strong & stable economy, leading to commercial expansion and greater patronage of culture. He was a great patron of art & culture and was fond of literature. Created a library of over 24,000 volumes written in many languages like Sanskrit, Urdu, Persian, Greek, Latin, Arabic, and Kashmiri. Akbar established a library at Fatehpur Sikri, exclusively for Women, and decreed that education for both Hindus & Muslims should be established throughout the realm. Akbar’s court at Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri became centers for arts, letters, and learning. Lahore Fort is one of the most famous construction marvels of Akbar. The course of Indian history was significantly influenced by Akbar’s reign and under his rule, the Mughal Empire tripled in size and wealth, covering the entire territory from Afghanistan to the Bay of Bengal and southward to modern-day Gujarat state and the northern Deccan region (peninsular India). Akbar fell ill with an attack of dysentery and died on 27 October 1605, after which his body was buried at his mausoleum (Akbar’s Tomb) in Sikandra, Agra and the throne was later ascended to his son Muhammad Salim(Jahangir).
Jahangir (1605 CE-1627 CE)
After Akbar died in 1605 CE, the throne was ascended to his son Nur-ud-din Muhammad Salim. After assuming power in 1605 CE, Prince Salim rechristened himself as Jahangir (meaning-“Conqueror of the World”), was the fourth Mughal Emperor, who ruled for around 22 years (1605 CE-1627 CE). Jahangir was born in 1569 CE to Akbar and one of his wives, Marian-uz-Zamani (an Indian Rajput princess). Jahangir thus proved to be a fairly successful ruler, because he continued his father’s administrative system as well as his tolerant policy towards Hinduism. Jahangir was married to a Persian woman, whose name was Mehr-un-Nisa (rechristened herself as Nur Jahan(Light of the World)) in 1611 CE. She was the widow of Sher Afgan and was witty, intelligent, and beautiful, which was what attracted Jahangir. So, he handed over the complete reins of administration to her. Because of her, Persian culture became even more influential in the Mughal realms. During his rule, the empire continued to be a war state attuned to conquest and expansion. Jahangir’s most irksome opponent was the Rana of Mewar, Amar Singh, who finally surrendered to Khurram’s forces in 1613 CE. The Mughals waged a battle in the northeast, with the Ahoms of Assam, whose guerilla strategy gave the Mughals a hard time. In 1615 CE, Jahangir’s army under Khurram defeated their principal adversary, the Raja of Kangra. In contrast to Akbar, Jahangir came into conflict with the non-Muslim religions (Hindus, Christians, and Jews) notably the Sikh guru Arjan, whose execution was the first of many conflicts between the Mughal empire and the Sikh community. Mughal’s influence has been increased after his victories in the Southern part of India. Art, literature, and architecture flourished under Jahangir’s rule. But in 1620 CE, Jahangir fell sick and so ensued the familiar quest for power, Nur Jahan married her daughter to Shahryar (Jahangir’s youngest son from his other queen), in the hope of having a living male heir to ascended the throne when Jahangir died. Jahangir was died in 1627 CE near Sarai Saadabad in Bhimber, after which his body was buried at his elegant mausoleum (Tomb of Jahangir) in Shahdara Bagh, Lahore, and the throne was later ascended to his third son Prince Khurram (Shah Jahan).
Shah Jahan (1628 CE-1658 CE)
After Jahangir died in 1627 CE, the throne was ascended to his third son Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram. After assuming power in 1628 CE, Prince Khurram rechristened himself as Shah Jahan (meaning-“Emperor of the World”), was the fifth Mughal Emperor, who ruled for around 30 years (1628 CE-1658 CE). Shah Jahan was born on 5 January 1592 to Jahangir and his wife, Jagat Gosain (an Indian Rajput princess). In 1632 CE, the Portuguese were defeated by Shah Jahan near Hugli. Under the rule of Shah Jahan, the Mughal Empire reached the peak of its cultural glory. Shah Jahan is best remembered for his architectural achievements and his reign was named “The Golden Age of Mughal Architecture”. Many monuments were commissioned by the Muslim emperors, especially during the time of Shah Jahan’s rule, the UNESCO World Heritage Site Taj Mahal, which is known to be one of the finer examples of Mughal architecture, and the other World Heritage Sites include Humayun’s Tomb, Fatehpur Sikri, the Red Fort, the Agra Fort, Jama Masjid, and the Lahore Fort. Taj Mahal in Agra, the very much known monument, in which Shah Jahan entombed his beloved wife, Mumtaz Mahal. Shah Jahan’s relationship with Mumtaz Mahal has been heavily adapted into Indian art, literature, and cinema. The royal treasury was owned by him and several precious stones such as the Kohinoor, which is worth around 23% of the world’s GDP and he has thus often been regarded as the wealthiest Indian in history. By ending the Nizam Shahi dynasty, Shah Jahan extended the Mughal empire territories towards the Deccan and forced the Adil Shahis and Qutb Shahis to pay tribute. In September 1657 CE, Shah Jahan fell seriously ill and the throne was ascended to his younger son Aurangzeb. Shah Jahan recovered from illness in 1658 CE but was imprisoned at Agra Fort until his death in 1666 CE by Aurangzeb.
Aurangzeb (1658 CE-1707 CE)
The liberal Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Shah Jahan, became regent in 1658 CE, as a result of his father’s illness. There was a bloody war of succession among his four sons in which his third son, Aurangzeb became successful with the support of the Islamic orthodoxy, and seized the throne. Aurangzeb defeated Dara Shikoh in 1659 CE and had him executed. Later Shah Jahan was fully recovered from his illness in 1658 CE, but Emperor Aurangzeb declared him incompetent to rule, imprisoned Shahjahan at Agra Fort from July 1658 CE until his death in January 1666 CE. After his death, he was buried beside his wife’s grave in the Taj Mahal. Muhi-ud-Din Muhammad commonly known as Aurangzeb(meaning-“Ornament of the Throne”), rechristened himself as Alamgir (meaning-“Conqueror of the World”), was the sixth Mughal Emperor, who ruled over almost the entire Indian subcontinent for around 49 years (1658 CE-1707 CE) and was widely considered to be the last effective ruler of the Mughal Empire. Aurangzeb compiled the Fatawa-e-Alamgir, a collection of Islamic law, and was one among the few monarchs throughout the Indian subcontinent who have fully established Sharia law & Islamic economics. Aurangzeb was an accomplished military leader, whose rule has been the subject of praise, even though he was described as the most controversial ruler in Indian History. He was noted for his religious piety, memorized the entire Quran, studied hadiths, and also stringently observed the rituals of Islam. Sikh guru Tegh Bahadur, leading to the militarization of the Sikh community was also executed by Aurangzeb. He did not enjoy a luxurious life, constructions of small mosques were covered by his earnings. During his reign, the empire gained total political strength once again and became the world’s largest economy by surpassing Qing China. He ruled over almost the entire Indian subcontinent but after his death in 1707 CE, “many parts of the empire were in open revolt”. After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 CE, the Mughal empire started collapsing. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar was deposed in 1857 CE by the British East India Company and exiled to Rangoon in Burma (now in Myanmar) following the War of 1857 after the fall of Delhi to the company troops. After the death of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Mughal dynasty also came to an end.
Sikhism was founded by Guru Nanak Dev in the Punjab region of India in 1469 CE and was coined by Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth guru who formalized their religious practices. The Khalsa tradition was initiated by Guru Gobind Singh Ji on 30 March 1699 after his father, Guru Tegh Bahadur Ji, was beheaded during the war with the Islamic ruler of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb and it also played a vital role in the history of Sikhism. In 1699 CE, Guru Gobind Singh commanded Khalsa Sikhs to wear the Five Ks(five items) at all times. They are Kesh(uncut hair), Kangha (a wooden comb), Kara (an iron bracelet), Kachera (a pair of cotton shorts(tieable undergarment)), and Kirpan (a sword). Khalsa Sikhs celebrate the birth of the order every year i.e., Baisakhi Day. In 1783 CE, the Sikhs captured the Red Fort of Delhi from the Mughals. The Sikh Empire(Sikh Khalsa Raj) was established in the northern part of the Indian Subcontinent (modern-day Punjab), formed under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1799 CE. Maharaja Ranjit Singh was also known as ‘Sher-e-Punjab’ or ‘Lion of Punjab’. The empire existed from 1799 CE when Maharaja Ranjit Singh captured Lahore to 1849 CE until the British Empire. The formation of this empire began with the capture of Lahore by Maharaja Ranjit Singh, from its Afghan ruler, Zaman Shah Durrani by defeating them in the Sikh-Afghan War and on 12 April 1801, Ranjit Singh was proclaimed as Maharaja of Punjab (unified political state). Ranjit Singh rose to power in a very short period and began to modernize his army, using the latest training practices as well as weapons and artillery. In the 19th century, the Sikh empire was at its peak, the empire extended its territories from the Khyber Pass in the west to western Tibet in the east, and from Kashmir in the North to Mithankot (South Punjab) in the South. From 1799 CE to 1849 CE, the empire was divided into four provinces: Lahore (which became the Sikh Capital) in Punjab, Multan, Peshawar, and Kashmir. After the death of Ranjit Singh, the empire was weakened by internal divisions among the ascendents. In 1845 CE & 1846 CE a war was fought between the Sikhs and the East India Company in Punjab (First Anglo-Sikh War), which resulted in defeat and partial subjugation of the Sikh Kingdom. After the defeat in the Second Anglo-Sikh War (which was a military conflict) in 1849 CE, the empire was dissolved into several separate native states.
Chatrapati Shivaji was born in the hillfort of Shivneri near the city of Junnar. The great Maratha hero, Chatrapati Shivaji has established the Maratha Empire or Maratha Confederacy in Western India (Deccan), to fight with the Mughals who were ruling India at that time. The empire formerly existed from 1674 CE to 1818 CE and this empire’s reign ended with the defeat of Peshwa Bajirao II at the hands of the East India Company. Shivaji had motivated, also combined the common man with his armed forces to fight against the domination of Mughal emperor Aurangzeb by ingraining wisdom of pride and nationality in them. At a young age, Shivaji showed his spirit towards his Kingdom which overran several forts near Pune. The regular element of his campaigns was the use of guerilla warfare, raising a strong army and Navy, and also building and renovating forts. Shivaji Maharaj is considered one of the greatest warriors of his time and even today, many stories of his exploits are narrated as a part of folklore. In the 18th century, the Maratha Empire was at its peak which encompassed a large portion of the Indian subcontinent. In 1775 CE, a war was fought between the East India Company and the Marathas, leading to the First Anglo-Maratha War in which the Marathas emerged victoriously. In 1785 CE the Marathas came into conflict with Tipu Sultan and his Kingdom of Mysore, which led to the Maratha-Mysore War, and the war ended in 1787 CE, in which the Marathas were defeated by Tipu Sultan. But later in 1791-1792 CE, large areas of the Maratha Confederacy suffered massive population loss due to the drought (i.e., Doji bara famine). In the 1790s the Marathas soon allied with the East India Company against Mysore in the Anglo-Mysore Wars. In the first two Anglo-Mysore Wars, the British had suffered defeats against Mysore. In 1799 CE the Maratha cavalry eventually helped the British to conquer Mysore in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. After the British conquest, the Marathas launched frequent raids in the Mysore region to plunder their wealth, which they justified as compensation for past losses to Tipu Sultan. After that, the Marathas remained the pre-eminent power in India until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars (1805–1818), which resulted in the East India Company seizing control of most of the Indian subcontinent.
The Decline of the Mughal Empire
After the death of Aurangzeb in 1707 CE, the Mughal empire started collapsing. Hyderabad was founded by Muhammad Quli Qutb Shah of the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda in 1591 CE and 1687 CE, the city was annexed by the Mughals. Following a brief Mughal rule, in 1724 CE, Mughal governor Nizam Asaf Jah I seized control of Hyderabad and founded the Asaf Jahi dynasty, also known as the Nizams. Hyderabad served as the imperial capital of the Asaf Jahi Dynasty from 1769 CE to 1948 CE. Both the Kingdom of Mysore and Hyderabad became princely states in British India in 1798 and 1799 respectively. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah Zafar was already old when the throne was ascended to him. During this time, the Empire was already facing several challenges from the Marathas and the British East India Company. The grip of the Mughal Empire was weakened due to religious intolerance and inflated taxes. Later the empire was split into numerous independent states. In the year 1739, Nadirshah of Iran sacked Delhi. Even though the Mughal empire was collapsing, they managed to rule at least some parts of India until the 1850s. The last Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah was deposed in 1857 CE by the British East India Company and exiled to Rangoon in Burma (now in Myanmar) after the fall of Delhi to the company troops. After the death of Bahadur Shah Zafar, the Mughal dynasty also came to an end.
This marks the end of the Medieval era of Indian history. The British supreme power over the nation has been increasing gradually and gave birth to the Indian struggle for freedom.
People from all over the world were very keen to visit India in ancient times. Firstly, the Persians immigrated to India followed by the Greeks- Alexander the Great to conquer India but went back after a battle with King Porus. Then came the Iranians, Parsis, and the Rise of Islam in South-Asia. Chengis Khan, the Mongolian, had no intention of ruling India but looted the lands he crossed, collected wealth, captured women, and enslaved people then plundered and burned Delhi. He-en Tsang from China visited India in pursuit of knowledge and was very interested in visiting the ancient Indian universities of Nalanda and Takshila. Christopher Columbus always wanted to find a marine route to India which he was unsuccessful in but resulted in the “discovery” of the Americans in 1492 CE. Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama became the first European who ultimately discovered the sea route from Europe to India rounding Africa’s Cape of Good Hope in 1498 CE and forming a base at Goa in 1510 CE. Before reaching the trading post of Calicut, India, Da Gama made numerous stops in Africa. The French came and established their colonies in Puducherry, India in 1673 CE. Even today one can explore the french culture in Puducherry.
Lastly, the Britishers came and actively used the strategy of “divide-and-rule” to rule over India for about two centuries and brought revolutionary changes in the country’s social, political, and economic life. The East India Company was formed in 1600 CE to trade with India and established a trading base in 1639 CE. In 1662 CE, the English King married a Portuguese princess and was given Bombay (modern-day Mumbai) as dowry. Later in 1668 CE, it was sold to the East India Company. In the late 17th century, the Dutch were declined, and the French replaced them and established a base at Pondicherry in 1673 CE. In the meantime, Both French & English became bitter rivals and began to interfere in Indian politics in the 18th century. The war between Britain and France began in 1756 CE. Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah waged a war and captured the British base at Calcutta (known as the Black Hole of Calcutta). In the mid 17th century Robert Clive (1725-1774) led the East India Company sent a force to recapture Calcutta, but he was not at all satisfied with Calcutta and decided to take the whole of Bengal. The Battle of Plassey was fought in 1757 CE, as it was a great victory for Robert Clive. After the Battle of Plassey defeat, the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-Ud-Daula, was replaced with Mir Jafar by Robert Clive (in the battle one of the commanders of the Bengali army, named Mir Jafar, changed sides and helped Clive’s army). In 1765 CE the Company began to rule Bengal directly and it took several decades for the East India Company to conquer the entire subcontinent of India. In the 1790s the Marathas soon allied with the East India Company against Mysore in the Anglo-Mysore Wars. In the first two Anglo-Mysore Wars, the British had suffered defeat against Mysore. In 1799 CE the Maratha cavalry eventually helped the British to conquer Mysore in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War. After the British conquest, the Marathas launched frequent raids in the Mysore region to plunder their wealth, which they justified as compensation for past losses to Tipu Sultan. Until their defeat in the Second and Third Anglo-Maratha Wars (1805–1818), the Marathas remained the pre-eminent power in India which resulted in the East India Company seizing control of most of the Indian subcontinent except the Northwest. Between 1819 CE to 1839 CE, there were revolts in parts of India but most of it was at peace. In 1829 CE the custom of suttee (which involved a widow throwing herself onto her husband’s funeral pyre) was abolished. Outside British control was a powerful Sikh kingdom, formed under Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s leadership in 1799 CE. In 1845 CE & 1846 CE a war was fought between the Sikhs and the East India Company in Punjab (First Anglo-Sikh War), which resulted in the Sikh’s defeat and eventually partial subjugation of the Sikh Kingdom. After the defeat in the Second Anglo-Sikh War (which was a military conflict) in 1849 CE, the empire was dissolved into several separate native states and by March 1849 CE the East India Company took control of all of Punjab.
The Indian Mutiny of 1857
The Indian Rebellion of 1857 was a widespread but ultimately unsuccessful rebellion, uprising occurred across northern and central India in 1857–59 against the rule of the British East India Company, which functioned as a sovereign power on behalf of the British Crown. The rebellion began in late March 1857 a sepoy named Mangal Pandey attacked British officers at the military garrison in Barrackpore, who was then arrested and executed by the British in early April. On 10 May 1857, the rebellion began in the form of a mutiny of sepoys of the Company’s army in the garrison town of Meerut, 64 Km northeast of Delhi (modern-day Old Delhi). The main centers of revolt were Delhi, Agra, Cawnpore, Lucknow, Jhansi, Kanpur, and Gwalior. It is variously termed as a Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian Mutiny, the Revolt of 1857, & the first war of Independence. The rebellious forces gave a stunning blow to the British under the commands of Kanwar Singh in Bihar & Bakht Khan in Delhi. Nana Sahib was proclaimed as the Peshwa, and the brave leader Tantya Tope led his troops in Kanpur. The ruler of Jhansi, Rani Lakshmibhai led her troops in the heroic battle with the British. All the brave sons of India fought together to throw out the British, but the revolt was controlled by the British within one year, it began at Meerut on 10 May 1857 and ended in Gwalior on 20 June 1858. For over a year the British struggled to retain their rule in India during a bloody, often cruel campaign, betrayed exceptional cruelty, inflicted on both sides. Both the cities Delhi and Lucknow were laid waste in the fighting. After the outbreak of the mutiny in Meerut on 10 May 1857, the rebels had captured the North-Western Provinces and Awadh (Oudh) on 30 May 1857. With help from reinforcements, Kanpur was captured by mid-July 1857, and by the end of September 1857, Delhi was captured. The rebellion proved to be an important watershed in the history of both the Indian and British Empires, which led to the dissolution of the East India Company. In 1858 CE, the rebellion came to an end, the East India Company lost control of India. On 1 September 1858, the control was transferred to the British government to reorganize the army. On 1 November 1858, Queen Victoria decreed that India would be governed by and in the name of the British Monarch through a Secretary of State. In 1862 CE, Bahadur Shah Zafar died in Burma, bringing the Mughal dynasty to an end. In 1877 CE Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India at Delhi and thus gave the British government unlimited supreme powers to intervene in the internal affairs of the Indian states. Thereafter, the Indians were administered directly by the British government in the new British Raj. People at that time were disgusted with British rule and the desire for independence did not die, which gave rise to the birth of the Indian National Movement.
Formation of Indian National Congress (INC)
In 1876 CE, the foundation of the Indian National Movement was laid by Suredranath Banerjee with the formation of the Indian Association at Calcutta (modern-day Kolkata). The main aim of the association was to represent the views of educating the middle-class people, inspire the Indian community to take the value of united action. Indian National Congress was formed under the initiative of retired Civil Service officer Allan Octavian Hume (A.O.Hume) in 1883 CE. The birth of the Indian National Congress (INC) in 1885 CE marked the entry of educated Indians into politics. The first session of the Indian National Congress was held in Bombay (modern-day Mumbai) from 28th to 31st December 1885 under the president-ship of Womesh Chandra Banerjee (W.C.Banerjee) and the session was attended by 72 delegates, representing each province of India. Congress included several well-known political figures some of them are Dadabhai Naroji, Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and Mohammed Ali Jinnah. Dadabhai Naroji, a member of the Indian National Association, was elected as president of the party in 1886 CE and was the first Indian Member of Parliament in the British House of Commons (1892 CE-1895 CE). Mohammed Ali Jinnah was also a member of Congress favoring Hindu–Muslim unity for achieving self-government later he became the leader of the Muslim League and was instrumental in the creation of Pakistan. In 1905 CE the Congress was transformed into a mass movement by Suredranath Banerjee during the partition of Bengal and the freedom movement was reached out by launching of the “Swadeshi Movement” by great leaders such as Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Aurobindo Ghose. In 1906 CE, the Congress session was held in Calcutta, presided by Dadabhai Naroji, which gave a call for the attainment of “Swaraj” (self-governance) elected by the people within the British Dominion. In 1909 CE, the British Government announced certain reforms in the structure of the government in India known as Morley-Minto Reforms but as a disappointment, they did not make any noticeable advancements towards the establishment of a representative government. The strength of the National movement was rested because the special representation of the Muslim was seen as a threat to the Hindu-Muslim unity. King George V made two official announcements in Delhi: firstly, the partition of Bengal in 1905 CE was annulled, and secondly, the capital of India had to be shifted from Calcutta to Delhi on 12 December 1911. In 1915 CE, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi returned to India from South Africa and soon emerged as the leader of the nationalists. Gandhi became the president of Congress with the help of the moderate group led by Gokhale. Disregarding the reforms announced in 1909 CE, the activists waged a virtual war against the British, which was led by great leaders like Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, and Bipin Chandra Pal. In 1919 CE, the Rowlatt Act was passed which empowered the government to put people in jail without trial. The Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 13 April 1919, where thousands of unarmed peaceful people were gunned down on the order of General Dyer was one of the most inhuman acts of British rule in India.
Jallianwala Bagh Massacre
On 13 April 1919, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre also called the Massacre of Amritsar incident took place, which was one of the most inhuman acts of British rule in India. People of Punjab gathered on the auspicious day of Baisakhi at Jallianwala Bagh in Amritsar in the Punjab region of India, to lodge their protest peacefully against the arrest of their leaders Dr. Saifuddin Kitchlu and Dr. Satya Pal by the British Indian Government. In response to the gathering, the British commanding Brigadier-General Reginald Dyer surrounded the Bagh with his soldiers. As the Bagh was completely enclosed by walls and had only one exit. General Dyer ordered his troops to block the exit and then ordered his army to fire into a crowd of thousands of innocent unarmed people even though some protestors were trying to flee. The troops kept on firing until their ammunition was exhausted, which resulted in killing several hundreds of people and over 1200 people being wounded. Many people jumped into a well in a desperate attempt to save themselves from the bullets showered by the British soldiers. This incident marked a turning point in India’s modern history, which left a permanent Scar on Indo-British relations. During the rule of the British, the British Viceroy had asserted that the British aimed to help India progress but multiple problems arose without the consultation of Indian leaders. The First major instance was the First World War (1914 CE-1918 CE), where Britain launched an attack on Germany on behalf of India, disregarding the Indian people’s decision, and during both the world wars (Even the Second World War) millions of Indian soldiers were at the forefront of the British Indian Army. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi (1869 CE-1948 CE), a lawyer for a time, lived in South Africa and became the leader of the Indians in South Africa returned to India in 1915 CE, and soon emerged as the leader of the Congress. At that time Gopal Krishna Gokhale was a key leader of the Congress Party best known for his restraint and moderation. During this struggle, Mahatma Gandhi had developed the novel technique of non-violence (ahimsa) agitation for the first time, which he called Satyagraha – (devotion to the truth). Great leaders like Jawaharlal Nehru and Subhash Chandra Bose also emerged in this struggle and advocated the adoption of complete independence as the goal of the National Movement.
The Champaran Satyagraha in Bihar of 1917 CE was the first Satyagraha movement led by Gandhi in India. The peasantry was forced to grow Indigofera, a cash crop for Indigo dye whose demand had been declining over two decades, and was forced to sell their crops to the planters at a fixed price. The farmers who were unhappy with this issue appealed to Gandhi and by this nonviolent protest, Gandhi took the administration by surprise and won the concessions, which is considered a major achievement in the history of the Indian Independence Movement.
In 1918 CE, the British Raj had increased the taxes of the Kheda region (a city in the Indian state of Gujarat) by 23% while it was hit by Chappania famine and others leading to cholera and plague. The peasants of Kheda signed a petition demanding relief from taxes for this year to be scrapped in wake of the famine. Meanwhile, Sardar Vallabhbhai Jhaverbhai Patel along with Gandhi and his supporters organized a major tax revolt. The government in Bombay rejected the charter and warned them that if the peasants did not pay the taxes, the lands and property would be confiscated and may be arrested. The revolt was astounding in terms of discipline and unity. A vast majority of Kheda’s farmers remained firmly united in the support of Patel, even when all their personal property, land, and livelihood were seized. For five months, the administration refused but finally, at the end of May 1918 CE, the Government gave way to important provisions and relaxed the conditions of payment of revenue tax until the famine ended.
The Khilafat Movement is known as the Indian Muslim movement. In 1919 CE, following World War I, Gandhi sought political cooperation from Muslims in supporting the Ottoman Empire in his fight against British imperialism. Before the initiative, there were many communal disputes and religious riots between Hindus & Muslims in British India. The British government promised Gandhi that if you support the British with resources and by recruiting Indian soldiers to fight the war in Europe on the British side then in return we would like to help the Indians with swaraj (self-government) after the end of World War I. Instead of self-government, the British government offered minor reforms which made Gandhi disappointed, and soon he announced his satyagraha (civil disobedience) intentions, but the British officials made their counter move to block Gandhi’s movement by passing the Rowlatt Act. According to the Rowlatt Act, the British government can treat civil disobedience participants as criminals and they can even arrest anyone for “preventive indefinite detention, incarceration without judicial review”. At this time Gandhi felt that Hindu-Muslim co-operation was necessary for political progress against the British, but it led to mixed results. Initially, Gandhi got strong support from Muslims but later, the Hindu leaders including Rabindranath Tagore were largely against recognizing or supporting the Sunni Islamic Caliph in Turkey. Gandhi’s support for the Khilafat movement also helped him sideline Muhammad Ali Jinnah, who had announced his opposition to the satyagraha non-co-operation movement. Jinnah began creating his independent support and later went on to lead the demand for West and East Pakistan. By the end of 1922 CE, the Khilafat movement had ended.
The Non-Cooperation Movement was launched on 4 September 1920 under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress (INC), marking a new approach with the aim of self-governance and obtaining full independence (Purna Swaraj). Gandhi, who was a preacher of non-violence, was horrified after a series of events such as the Rowlatt Act of 18 March 1919, the Jallianwala Bagh massacre of 13 April 1919, and other violence in Punjab, lost all faith in the constitutional methods of the British government and declared that it would be a “sin” if we cooperate with the British government. So, he planned to withdraw the nation’s cooperation with the British Government. The first Indian to use non-cooperation was Satguru Ram Singh, who boycotted British merchandise and services. Gandhi expanded his nonviolent non-cooperation platform to include the swadeshi policy – the boycott of foreign-made goods, especially British goods. In addition to boycotting British products, Gandhi urged the people to boycott British industries, educational institutions, and law courts. Linked to this was his advocacy that instead of British-made textiles khadi (homespun cloth) be worn by all Indians. Gandhi exhorted Indian people to spend time each day spinning khadi in support of the independence movement. Indian Muslims who had participated in the Khilafat movement gave their support to the non-cooperation movement to restore the status of the Khilafat (Khilafat movement) in Turkey. The Non-Cooperation Movement was a great success as it got massive encouragement from millions of Indian nationalists as well as was a shock to British authorities. Unity in the country was strengthened and many educational institutions were constructed as well as Indian goods were encouraged. On 4 February 1922 CE, a massacre took place at Chauri Chaura, a small town in the Gorakhpur district of the United Provinces in British India, in which a police officer had attacked some volunteers, the whole crowd of peasants gathered there went to the police station. Later the mob set fire to the police station with some 22 policemen inside it. Gandhi did not want the movement to degenerate into a contest of violence, victimizing civilians in between. So, after the Chauri Chaura incident, the Non-cooperation movement was withdrawn. Although Gandhi single-handedly stopped the revolt, he was arrested along with the other leaders on 10 March 1922. On 18 March 1922, Gandhi was imprisoned for 6 years, which led to suppression of the movement. While Gandhi was in prison, the Indian National Congress split into two factions, one led by Chitta Ranjan Das and Motilal Nehru and the other led by Chakravarti Rajagopalachari and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Gandhi’s commitment to non-violence was redeemed, between 1930 CE to 1934 CE, revolted in the Salt Satyagraha which made India’s cause famous worldwide and ended up in success.
The Indian Statutory Commission is also known as Simon Commission’, was a group of seven Members of Parliament under the chairmanship of Sir John Simon. The commission was sent to India in November 1927 to suggest further constitutional reforms in the structure of the Indian Government. According to Montagu–Chelmsford Reforms in 1919 CE, the British Government stated that a commission would be appointed and sent to India after ten years to examine the progress of the government scheme and operations of the constitutional reforms. The Commission was strongly opposed by many Indians along with Nehru, Gandhi, the Muslim League (led by Mohammed Ali Jinnah), and Indian National Congress because it contained seven members of the British Parliament but they did not include any Indian member and the Government showed no intention of accepting the demand for Swaraj. One among the seven members was the future leader of the Labour Party Clement Attlee, who became committed to self-government for India. However, the commission was supported by B.R.Ambedkar and Periyar E.V.Ramasamy and the protest against the Simon Commission became infamous. In February 1928 CE, the protest was led by the Indian nationalist Lala Lajpat Rai also called Sher-e-Punjab (Lion of Punjab), against the Commission in the Legislative Assembly of Punjab. On 30 October 1928, the protesters were chanting “Simon Go Back” and waving black flags when the Commission arrived in Lahore. In order to make way for the Commission, the police superintendent James A.Scott ordered the police to baton charge the protesters, and Rai was personally assaulted. Lala Lajpat Rai was sustaining severe injuries and died a few weeks after the baton charge.
Civil Disobedience Movement
The Civil disobedience Movement was initiated under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and it was launched in the Congress Session of December 1929. During this session, it was decided that India would celebrate 26th January as Independence Day all over the country. Meetings were held all over the country and the Congress tricolor was hoisted on 26th January 1930. The British Government tried to repress the movement and resorted to brutal firing, killing hundreds of people, thousands were arrested along with Gandhiji and Jawaharlal Nehru. In March 1930, Gandhi launched a new Satyagraha against the tax on salt. The civil disobedience movement commenced with the famous salt march to Dandi from 12 March 1930 to 6 April 1930, where Gandhi along with 78 volunteers marched around 388 kilometers from Sabarmati Ashram at Ahmedabad to Dandi, Gujarat. Gandhi broke the salt laws after reaching Dandi. Gandhi recruited women to participate in the salt tax campaigns but asked them to get permission from their guardians and the boycott of foreign products gave many women a new self-confidence. Thousands of women volunteers joined the Salt March to defy the British salt taxes and it was considered illegal on salt mining as it was solely a government monopoly. The salt satyagraha led to a widespread acceptance of the Civil Disobedience Movement across the country. In order to consider the reforms by the Simon Commission, the First Round Table Conference was held in London, from 12 November 1930 to 19 January 1931. The conference was attended by Indian princes, the Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha, and many others but it was boycotted by the Indian National Congress. However, nothing came of it and the British realized that without the participation of congress no real constitutional changes would occur in the country. The viceroy, Lord Irwin made efforts to persuade Congress to join the Second Round Table Conference. A settlement between Mahatma Gandhi and Viceroy Lord Irwin wherein the government agreed to release all political prisoners against whom there were no charges of violence and in return, the congress should suspend the civil disobedience movement. On 13 February 1931, the Viceroy Lord Irwin, inaugurated New Delhi as the new capital of the country. A special session of the Indian National Congress was held at Karachi (known as Karachi Congress Session) from 26 March 1931 to 31 March 1931, presided over by Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel and the main motto of the session was, laying down the policy of the nationalist movement on social and economic problems facing the country as well as the fundamental rights to the people irrespective of caste and religion. At the session, it was decided that Congress would participate in the Second Round Table Conference (7 September 1931-1 December 1931). Gandhi attended the Second Round Table Conference in London and the main purpose was to discuss the constitutional reforms of India but nothing came out of this conference too. It created distrust towards the British government and the Civil Disobedience Movement was revived. During this time, Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev, and Rajguru were arrested on the charges of throwing a bomb in the Central Assembly Hall (which is now Lok Sabha) in Delhi, to demonstrate against the autocratic alien rule. All three were sentenced to death in the Lahore conspiracy case and ordered to be hanged on 24 March 1931. The schedule was moved forward by 11 hours and all the three were hanged to death on 23 March 1931 at 7:30 pm in the Lahore jail. The Third Round Table Conference was assembled on 17 November 1932. Only 46 delegates attended, the Labour Party from Britain and the Indian National Congress refused to attend this conference. The Father of the Indian Constitution as well as the representative leader of the untouchables Dr. B.R. Ambedkar attended all the Round Table Conferences.
Quit India Movement
The Quit India Movement, also known as August Movement, was launched by Mahatma Gandhi at the Bombay session (Gowalia Tank Maidan Park) of the All India Congress Committee on 8 August 1942, during World War II (was a global war that lasted from 1 September 1939 to 14 August 1945. It involved the vast majority of the world’s countries—including all of the great powers), demanding an end to British rule in India. After the failure of the Cripps Mission in late March 1942 by the Indian government to secure full Indian cooperation and support for their efforts in World War II. The Quit India speech made by Mahatma Gandhi in Bombay at the Gowalia Tank Maidan on 8 August 1942 on the eve of the Quit India Movement, best described his ‘Do or Die’ call to force the British to leave India. A mass protest was launched by the All-India Congress Committee demanding what Gandhi called “An Orderly British Withdrawal” from India. The British refused to grant immediate independence, but it could happen only after the war had ended. According to John F. Riddick, from 9 August 1942 to 21 September 1942, the Quit India Movement was followed, by large-scale violence by destroying 550 post offices, 250 railway stations, 70 police stations, burning or damaging 85 other government buildings, 2,500 instances of telegraph wires being cut, and also damaged many rail lines. The greatest level of violence has occurred in Bihar. The Government of India deployed 57 battalions of British troops to restore order and the government-held Gandhi responsible for these acts of violence. However, all the leaders of INC, including Gandhi were arrested and imprisoned without trial until 1945 CE. The Congress was banned and the army was brought out to suppress the movement. Due to weak coordination and the lack of support the campaign was effectively crushed.
Meanwhile, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was elected as a congress president in 1938 CE. But By 1939 CE, senior leaders in the Congress party supported Gandhi forcing Bose to resign as the president of the party and was eventually ousted from the party. In July 1940 CE, Bose was arrested by the Bengal government over a small protest and was later house arrested under a strict police watch. In January 1941 CE, Bose escaped from India in dramatic cloak-and-dagger fashion, heading northwestward into Afghanistan. The Indian National Army (INA) had been formed in 1942 CE from the Indian prisoner of war (POWs) of the British Indian army captured by the Japanese in the Battle of Singapore. After arrival in Singapore, Bose enlisted Indian civilians, chiefly Tamil ones, in Malay and Singapore, and with the help of Japan, Bose not only fought with the British forces to free Andaman and Nicobar Islands but also entered the north-eastern border of India. Although the Japanese military at that time exercised firm control over the islands in 1945 CE Japan was defeated. Netaji proceeded from Japan through an airplane to a place of safety but met with an accident and it was revealed that he died in that air crash. Bose’s most famous quote was – “Give me blood and I will give you freedom”, where he urges the people of India to join him in his freedom movement. Inquilab Zindabad was the slogan used by INA, which was coined by Maulana Hasrat Mohani.