The History of India: March 2012 The History of India: March 2012

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Vijaynagar Empire - The Last Hindu Empire of South India

The Beginning:
The Vijayanagara Empire was founded in 1336 AD by the two brothers Harihara I and Bukka Raya I with the purpose of stemming the tide of rising Muslim power in South India. The empire lasted till 1660 AD, though it lost most of its power after its defeat and destruction in 1565 AD by the combined forces of the Deccan sultanates in the Battle of Tallikota.

Before the rise of the Vijayanagara Empire by 1336 AD, the Hindu kingdoms of the Deccan, the Yadava Empire of Devagiri, the Kakatiya Kingdom of Warangal, the Pandyan Empire of Madurai, and the tiny kingdom of Kampili had all been defeated by Alla-ud-din Khilji and subsequently Muhammad bin Tughluq, the Sultans of Delhi. Harihara and Bukka were treasury officers of in the court of the  last Kakatiya king Prataparudra of Warangal. The then Delhi Sultan, Muhammad bin Tughluq, captured and converted the brothers to Islam and sent them back to put down the rebellion of the Hoysala kingdom. The brothers successfully completed the task but came under the influence of Vidyaranya, the sage of Sringeri monastery, who reconverted the brothers to Hinduism and guided them to establish the kingdom of Vijayanagar to safeguard Hindu religion. He later served as a mentor and guide to three generations of kings who ruled over the Vijayanagar empire.

Folklore has it that when the brothers were travelling with Vidyaranya, they witnessed a rabbit chasing a dog. Vidyaranya seeing the miracle, planned to establish the kingdom there. He identified a muhurat (auspicious time) at which the foundation stone needed to be laid so that the new empire would last for the coming 2000 years. The sage instructed the two brothers that he would stand on the next hilltop, observe the celestial star positions and blow the shankha (conch) on hearing which they should lay the foundation stone. After some time, Harihara and Bukka heard the sound of a shankha and laid the foundation stone. But soon after there was a second blow of the shankha. When Vidyaranya returned he asked them for which sound they laid the stone, to which they replied, the first one. To their dismay, the guru told them that the first blow of conch was by a traveling begger.Vidyaranya calculated the horoscope for the time at which the first sound was heard.  Based on his calculations he predicted that the empire would last for only 200 years. The Vijaynagra empire declined after its defeat in 1565 to the Deccan Sultanates, 229 years after its establishment.

The Rise:

Over its existance the Vijayanagra empire was ruled by four dynasties - Sangama Dynasty, Saluva Dynasty, Tuluva Dynasty and Aravidu Dynasty.

Over the next two centuries after its establishment the Vijayanagar empire dominated all of southern India, and was probably stronger than any other power in the subcontinent. The empire during that period served as a  tide breaker against invasion from the Muslim Sultanates from Northern India and remained in a state of constant cconflict with the five Deccan Sultanates- Bijapur, Golkonda, Ahmadnagar, Bidar, and Berar, that established themselves in the Deccan to the north of it. 

The empire reached the peal of its power and prosperity during the reign of Tuluva king,Krishnadevaraya. Krishnadevaraya, who ruled 1509 - 1529 AD, was a great administrator, general, patron of art, music, dance and literature and an accomplished poet himself in Telugu. Telugu people especially consider him as the greatest king ever to rule the Āndhradeśa (Telugu land) and his reign is considered as Swarnayuga (Golden period or Zenith) in the cultural and literary history of Telugus. During his reign he repeatedly defeated the five Deccan Sultanates . The highlight of his conquests occurred on May 19, 1520 where he secured the fortress of Raichur from Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur after a difficult siege. His empire extended over the whole of South India.

Under the Vijayanagra empire Kannada and Telgu literature flourished. Poets, scholars and philosophers wrote in Kannada, Sanskrit and Telugu and covered a wide breadth of subjects including religion, biography, fiction, music, grammar, poetry and medicine. The Kannada poets and scholars of the empire produced important writings supporting the Vaishnava Bhakti movement. Kumara Vyasa, the most notable of Brahmin scholars wrote Gadugina Bharata, a translation of the epic Mahabharata. This work marks a transition of Kannada literature from old Kannada to modern Kannada. This period was also the age of Srinatha, the greatest of all Telugu poets, who wrote books like Marutratcharitamu and Salivahana-sapta-sati.

Narsimha Statue in Vijaynagar
Vijayanagara architecture was a combination of the Chalukyan, Hoysalan, Pandyan and Cholan styles. This mingling of the South Indian styles resulted in a richness not seen in earlier centuries, a focus on reliefs in addition to sculpture that surpasses that previously in India. Another component of the Vijayanagara style sculpture is the carving of large monoliths such as the Sasivekalu (mustard) Ganesha and Kadalekalu (ground nut) Ganesha at Hampi, the Gommateshvara Bahubali statues in Karkala and Venur, and the Nandi bull in Lepakshi. While the empire is well known for its monuments in the regal capital, Vijayanagara, it also built many temples in other areas of South India.

The Decline:
After Krishnadevaraya's death, the kingdom passed to Achyuta Raya, upon whose demise in 1542, the throne came to his nephew Sadashiva Raya, who was then a minor. Rama Raya, son-in-law of Krishnadevaraya, appointed himself regent and ruled the empire having confined Sadashiva Raya. During his rule, the Deccan Sultanates were constantly involved in internal fights and requested Rama Raya on more than one occasion to act as a mediator. This enabled Rama Raya to play one Sultan against the other and push north of Krishna river and expand his domains utilizing the disunity of the Deccan Sultans.Over the period the Sultans became suspicious of Rama Raya's intents and their fears brought them together to form an alliance. Intermarraige between Sultanate families also helped solve internal differences between the Muslim rulers. This consolidation of Muslim power in the northern Deccan resulted eventually in the Battle of Talikota. 

On January 26, 1565 the Deccan Sultanates of Ahmednagar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda formed a grand alliance and met the Vijayanagara army at Talikota. The army of Vijayanagara was routed Rama Raya was killed. Hiis head was annually covered with oil and red pigment and exhibited in Ahmednagar till 1829. The victorious armies pillaged the capital and completely destroyed the city of Vijayanagara which never recovered from the onslaught. With this, the last significant Hindu state in the Deccan came to an end. Tirumala Raya, the sole survivor left Vijayanagar with treasure on back of 550 elephants to Penukonda. 

Monday, March 19, 2012

The Birth of Satyagraha: Gandhi's Fight for Indian Rights in South Africa

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
The Gandhian era is divided into two parts - (i) From 1893-1914 (South Africa) & (ii) From 1915-1948 (India). The twenty years of struggle in South Africa were Gandhi's first experiment in political field and had long term impact on his philosophy and leadership.

In 1890-91 some 150,000 emigrants were settled in South Africa,most of which resided in Natal district.The white population resented their presence and the British government there encouraged the xenophobia by a series of oppressive measures designed to prevent the immigration of Asiatics.Through systematic persecution the life of the Indians were made intolerable.They were burdened with overwhelming taxes and subjected to most overwhelming police ordinances and exploitation of all sorts. In 1893 Gandhi arrived in Pretoria to deal with an important case. He was not familiar with the situation in South Africa but from the very beginning he started experiencing the difference between European society and the particular African sociey. In Natal and particulary in Dutch Traansval he was thrown out of hotels and trams, insulted, beaten and kicked.He could have returned to India but was bound by a contract of one year. But when he was about to leave he learnt that the South African Government was planning to pass a Bill depriving the Indians of their franchise.The Indians were helpless as they were unorganized and leaderless. Gandhi felt that it was his duty to defend them. He decided to continue his stay for another month, however he remained there for twenty years fighting for the rights of the Indians.

Then began an epic struggle between courage on one side and governmental power and brute force on the other.As a lawyer he took up the task to prove the illegality of the Asiatic Exclusion Act from the point of view of law and despite stiff opposition he won the case. Gandhi wanted to establish the principle that Indians were citizens of the British Empire and therefore entitled to equality under the law. Finally the Natal Act that was passed in 1897 met his demand of equal electoral rights for British subjects including Indians. This was his first victory on the African soil. He formed an association for educating the Indians known as Indian Congress in Natal. In 1904 he founded the  Phoneix Ashram near Durban. It was an agricultural colony built on Tolstoian lines where the inmates led a simple life and renounced materialism.

In 1906 was planning to draft a bill that that would spell absolute ruin for the Indians.The proposed ordinance required all Indian men,women and children over eight ,to register with the authorities,submit to finger printing and accept a certificate which they had to carry with themselves all the time. A person who failed to register could be imprisoned,fined or deported from Transval. This was highly objectionable to all the Indians and Gandhi decided to oppose it with all his strength. However in due course Transval adopted the Asiatic Registration Act on 31st July 1907.The Indians termed it as Black Act and prepared to offer satyagraha.They refused to get themselves registered failing which they were served notice to register or leave Transval. Refusing to do either, they were arrested and and brought before a magistrate in 1908.This was Gandhi's first term in jail. As a leader he asked for heaviest sentence from the judge as he was the leader of the movement. For the finance of the resistance movement Indians and Europeans in South Africa and Indians from India contributed considerable sums. Suggestions poured in on Gandhi to raise the entire question of Indian disabilities in South Africa and to mobilize the whole Indian community of the continent. But he decided that it was against the principles of Satyagraha to expand or to shift one's goal in the middle of the battle. The issue was of the right of the Indians to live in and enter the Transval only. Gandhi's sentence ended in 1908,but since civil resistance against the registration and emigration continued he was again sentenced to three month imprisonment on  25th February 1909.

Without relenting the Government was planning to extend the act to other parts of South Africa and the satyagraha movement was gaining ground.Gandhi decided to lobby in London.His trip to England made the South African Indian question a major imperial concern.

However,a third issue was added to the whole scenario when on 14th March 1913,a Justice of the Cape Colony Supreme Court ruled that only Christian marriages were legal in South Africa.This invalidated Hindu,Muslim and Parsi marriages and turned all Hindu wives into concubines without rights.This was highly unacceptable and a direct onslaught on the vanity of all Indian women. For the first time large number of women joined the resistance movement. The struggle grew in strength and the satyagraha was being seen as highly successful. Finally showing a reconciliatory gesture the government opened it's doors for negotiations. General Smuts and Gandhi finally exchanged letters after prolonged negotiations on 30th June 1914 which stated that Hindu,Moslem and Parsi marriages are valid, Indians could move  freely from one province to another and that three pound tax on unindentured labour in Natal was abolished.The settlement was a compromise which satisfied both the sides. Gandhi regarded the agreement as the Magna Carta of South African Indians. The victory was vindication of civil resistance. It was the victory of the moral force. "It is a force which if became universal,would revolutionize social ideals and do away with despotisms", Gandhi wrote in Indian Opinion.

The purity of Gandhi's methods made it difficult for General Smuts to oppose him. Victory came to Gandhi not when Smuts had no more strength to fight him but when he had no more heart to fight him.
Thus ended an era which taught the world the importance of civil disobedience and removed fear of governmental authority from people's mind. Mahatma Gandhi's credentials as a leader became well established and the scene of his fight against oppression and colonialism shifted to India.

Written by:
Shama Sonali
Asst. Professor, Dept. of Political Science,
Ranchi University,

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dandi March, the Beginning of Civil Disobedience and Mass Movement in Modern India

At midnight on 31st December, 1929, the Indian National Congress raised the tricolor for the first time on the banks of Ravi in Lahore and on 26th January 1930, led by Mahatma Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, it publicly issued the Declaration of Independence, or ‘Purna Swaraj’. But with the coming of these revolutionary events, the Congress was also in a dilemma. A new anti-government campaign was needed to unite the people of India and lay the foundations of a mass movement against the British Raj. By feburary, 1930 Gandhi’s mind was set to start a civil disobedience movement targeting the British salt tax. The 1882 Salt Act gave the British a monopoly on the collection and manufacture of salt, limiting its handling to government salt depots and levying a salt tax. Even though salt was freely available to those living on the coast (by evaporation of sea water), Indians were forced to purchase it from the British government. The choice of salt tax for satyagraha was ingenious on part of Gandhi and the Congress Working Committee for a number of reasons:
  • The salt tax affected almost every Indian, irrespective of class, caste or religion
  • Being an item of daily use salt was expected to resonate more with the masses than abstract demands of greater constitutional rights
  • The Salt tax represented around 8% of the British Raj tax revenue
Gandhi felt that the protest would be meaningful to the lowliest Indian and would also build unity between the Hindus and Muslims by fighting for a cause that affected both the communities equally. Explaining his choice Gandhi had said “There is no article like salt, outside water, by taxing which the state can reach even the starving millions, the sick, the maimed and the utterly helpless. The tax constitutes, therefore, the most inhuman tax, the ingenuity of man can devise.” However, the British establishment did not take the treat of a salt tax resistance seriously. Lord Irwin, the Viceroy of India, wrote to London that “At present the prospect of a salt campaign does not keep me awake at night”.
From February, 1930, the preparations for the salt satyagraha began in ernest. The salt satyagraha would begin on March 12th from Sabarmati Ashram and end in Dandi with Gandhi breaking the Salt Act on April 6th. Gandhi chose April 6th to launch the mass breaking of the salt laws for a symbolic reason—it was the first day of "National Week", begun in 1919 when Gandhi conceived of the national hartal (strike) against the Rowlatt Act. The 24 day march of 390 km would pass through 4 districts and 48 villages. The route of the march was planned so as to maximize the recruitment potential for the march. Gandhi’s talks and events at each of the villages were scheduled and publicized in Indian and foreign press. On March 2nd, Gandhi wrote to Lord Irwin, laying down a 11 point Charter of Demands in his letter. These included a considerable reduction in the Pound-Sterling-Rupee exchange rate, curtailing of military budget, a fifty percent reduction in land revenue, preservation of indigenous textile machinery, abolition of Salt Tax and releasing political prisoners. Lord Irwin, however held the salt protest in disdain and ignored the demands laid down by Gandhi in his letter. As a result, on 12th March 1930, the salt satyagraha march to Dandi was set in motion.
Gandhi on Dandi March
On 12th March 1930 at 6:10 am Gandhi came out of his room, calm and composed. He offered prayers, looked at his watch and exactly at 6:30 am commenced his march with 78 volunteers. Following the commencement of his epic Dandi March, a tremendous wave of enthusiasm swept over the entire country. In cities like Clacutta, Madras, Bombay, Lahore, Delhi, Peshawar, Nargur, Ahmedabad and Allahabad, the ‘Satyagraha Day’ was celebrated by taking out processions, holding public meetings and unfurling of the tricolor. Meanwhile thousands of men, women and children accompanied the marching column for a few miles and thousands lined the route and showered flowers, coins, currency notes and kum kum at the satyagrahis. According to The Statesman, the official government newspaper which usually played down the size of crowds at Gandhi's functions, 100,000 people crowded the road that separated Sabarmati from Ahmedabad. At each of the stopovers across the route, Gandhi held public meetings with the villagers, emphasized the importance of salt and criticized the salt tax levied by the government. Each night the satyagrahis slept in the open, asking of the villagers nothing more than simple food and a place to rest and wash. Gandhi felt that this would bring the poor into the battle for independence, necessary for eventual victory.

Each day thousands of volunteers and prominent leaders like Sarojini Naidu joined the march. Foreign journalists closely followed the Dandi march and made Gandhi a household name in Europe and America. The New York Times wrote almost daily about the Salt march, including two front page articles on 6th and 7th April. When Gandhi reached Dandi on 5th April, he was greeted by a crowd of more than 50,000 people. The following morning, after a prayer, Gandhi raised a lump of salty mud and declared, "With this, I am shaking the foundations of the British Empire." He then boiled it in seawater, producing illegal salt. He called upon all his followers to likewise begin making salt along the seashore, "wherever it is convenient" and to instruct villagers in making illegal, but necessary, salt.
The effects of the salt march were felt across India. Millions broke the salt laws by making salt or buying illegal salt. What began as a salt satyagraha quickly grew into a mass movement of civil disobedience. British cloth and goods were boycotted, unpopular forest laws were defied in the Maharashtra, Carnatic and Central Provinces, Gujarati peasants refused to pay tax, under threat of losing their crops and land. As a reaction the British government imprisoned over 60,000 people in less than a month. The campaign also had a significant effect on changing world and British attitudes toward Indian independence and caused large numbers of Indians to join the fight for the first time. The satyagraha against the salt tax continued for almost a year, ending with negotiations with Viceroy Lord Irwin and the Second Round Table Conference.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Chronological History of Major Events of Ancient India

Date: (Era) - Event
  1. 7000 BC - 2600 BC: (Mehrgarh Era) - Mehrgarh is located near the Bolan Pass in modern day Baluchistan and is one of the most important archeological sites of the Neolithic Era. It is the earliest site of farming and herding in South Asia. The earliest settled portion of Mehrgarh was a small farming and pastoralist village dated between 7000-5500 BC. Early Mehrgarh residents lived in mud brick houses, developed granaries and made copper tools, cultivated six-row barley, wheat, jujubes and dates, and herded sheep, goats and cattle. Residents of the later period (5500 BCE to 2600 BCE) put much effort into crafts, including flint knapping, tanning, bead production, and metal working. The site was occupied continuously until about 2600 BC, when it was abandoned. Mehrgarh is increasingly seen as a precursor to the Indus Valley Civilization.
  2. 3500 BC - 1900 BC: (Indus Valley Civilization) - Indus Valley Civilization Rises and Declines: The Indus Valley was the home of one of the four ancient civilizations of the world, namely Egypt, Mesopotamia, S Asia and China. The civilization extended along the Indus river in parts of Pakistan and Punjab extending into the Ghaggar-Hakra River valley and the Ganges-Yamuna Doab. Covering an area of around 1.2 million sq. km it was the largest civilization of the ancient world.
  3. 1500 BC - 700 BC: (Vedic Period) - The Veds are Written: The migration of the Aryans from the west deeper into the sub-continent triggered the Vedic Age. The period gets its name from the four Vedas that were written during this time - Rig Ved, Yajurved, Samved and Atharvaved. The period is broadly divided into the Early Vedic Period and the Late Vedic Period. In the early Vedic period various Aryan tribes migrated eastwards into the subcontinent. The people of the early Vedic age were semi-nomadic and had on large herds of domesticated cattle and farm animals. The tribes were divided into four varnas (castes) of Brahmins, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Shudra. The transition from the early to later Vedic period was marked by the increase in agriculture as the dominant economic activity and decline of cattle hearding. This also led to the settling down of various Aryan tribes and emergence of various empires. The Vedic Period formed a platform for the rise of Hindu principles and indeed, the whole religion. It also contributed to Indian philosophy and literature.
  4. 800 BC: (Late Vedic Period) - Budhayana writes Sulabh Sutra which contains the first statement of the Pythagoras Theorem. The Sulabh Sutra contains a list of Pythagorean triples discovered algebraically, a statement of the Pythagorean theorem, and a geometrical proof of the Pythagorean theorem for an isosceles right triangle.
  5. 700 BC - 300 BC: (Period of the Mahajanapadas) - The Mahajanapadas are Formed: Large, fortified urban centers, known as the 16 Mahajanapadas ("great countries"), arise in Northern India. Vedic texts also talk about several 'Janas' or tribes of the Indo-Aryans living in a semi-nomadic tribal state and fighting among themselves and with other Non-Aryan tribes for cows, sheep and green pastures. These early Vedic Janas later coalesced into the Janapadas. Each of these Janapadas was named after the Kshatriya tribe (or the Kshatriya Jana) who had settled therein. The Buddhist and other texts only incidentally refer to sixteen great nations (Solasa Mahajanapadas) which were in existence before the time of Buddha.
  6. 400 BC: (Period of the Mahajanapadas) - Panini composes Ashtadhyayi which gives formal production rules and definitions to describe Sanskrit grammar. It is the earliest known work on linguistics in human history. Panini's work observes and constructs language in a manner which has no parallel in Greek or Latin traditions. The rules that he defines in Ashtadhyayi are said to be compete and define the Sanskrit morphology fully, ie, without any redundancy.
  7. 684 BC - 321 BC: (Period of the Mahajanapadas) - Rise and Fall of Magadh Empire: The Magadh empire formed one of the 16 Mahajanpadas. The core area of the kingdom was today's Bihar and parts of West Bengal. Over a period of 300 years it was ruled by Haryanka, Shishunaga and the Nanda dynastys. The Haryanka rulers Bimbisar (558 BC - 491 BC) and his son Ajatashatru (ruled 491 - 461 BC) expanded the boundries of the kingdom through marriage alliances and wars. In his war against Vaishali, Ajatshatru is said to have employed a kind of armored chariot (scythed chariot with swinging mace and blades on both the sides), which is said to be the first global precursor of modern day tanks.The great religions of Buddhism and Jainism were founded in the Magadh empire. Also the two of India's greatest empires, the Mauryan Empire and the Gupta Empire were founded out of Magadh. The last ruler of Shishunaga Dynasty, Kalasoka was assassinated by Mahapadma Nanda in 424 BC, the first of the so-called Nine Nandas (Mahapadma and his eight sons). The Nanda Dynasty ruled for about 100 years.The Magadha Empire was finally taken over by the Mauryas.
  8. 599 BC - 527 BC: (Period of the Mahajanapadas) - Life and Times of Mahavir: Lord Mahavir was the 24th and the last Tirthankar of the Jain religion. He eas born in 599 BC as a prince in the kingdom of Vaishali, now part of Bihar. He renounced worldly pleasures and became a monk at the age of 30, left his family and royal household and gave up his worldly possessions, including clothing. He spent the next 12 years in meditation understanding the path to Moksha. At the end he realized perfect perception, knowledge, power, and bliss. This realization is known as keval-jnana. After this he spent the rest of his life travelling basre foor across India preaching to the people the truth he had realized. The ultimate objective of his teaching is how one can attain the total freedom from the cycle of birth, life, pain, misery, and death, and achieve the permanent blissful state of one's self. This is also known as liberation, nirvana, absolute freedom, or Moksha.After teaching his message and offering guidance to the public for thirty years, Lord Mahavira attained Nirvan in 527 BC, at the age of seventy-two. 
  9. 563 BC - 483 BC: (Period of the Mahajanapadas) - Life and Times of Buddha: Lord Buddha was born Siddhartha Gautam as a prince of the Sakhya clan in Lumbini, Nepal. At the age of 29, after witnessing the suffering and plight of the human life around him, he left the princely conforts to search for truth and enlightenment. After much wandering, Gautam was famously seated under a pipal tree - now known as the Bodhi tree - in Bodh Gaya, India, when he vowed never to arise until he had found the truth. After a reputed 49 days of meditation, at the age of 35, he is said to have attained Enlightenment and was henceforth known as Buddha (the enlightened one). For the remaining next 45 years of his life, Buddha travelled across the Gangetic plains teaching his message to a wide set of people. Buddhism, based on his teachings, is today one of the largest religions of the world.
  10. 500 BC: (Kingdom of Pratipalapura) - The Kingdom of Pratipalapura in Guntur district of Andhra Pradesh appears to be the earliest known kingdom in South India.
  11. 327 BC: (Period of the Mahajanpadas) - Alexander Invades India: After his conquest of Persia Alexander made his way into India. King Ambhi, ruler of Taxila, surrendered the city to Alexander without any resistance. However, Alexander's army was given stiff resistance in the Battle of Hydaspes (Jhelum River) by the armies of king Porus of the Paurava kingdom. This was the first time that the Macedonians saw war elephants and suffered severe losses. After his victory over Porus, Alexander ventured further east conquering lands along the Indus river. However, his spies brought back news of the existance of the powerful Magdha Empire under the Nanda Dynasty eastwards in the Ganges planes. According to Plutarch, the Magdha army numbered 200,000 infantry, 80,000 cavalry, 8,000 chariots, and 6,000 war elephants, which was discouraging for Alexander's men and stayed their further progress into India."As for the Macedonians, however, their struggle with Porus blunted their courage and stayed their further advance into India. For having had all they could do to repulse an enemy who mustered only twenty thousand infantry and two thousand horse, they violently opposed Alexander when he insisted on crossing the river Ganges also, the width of which, as they learned, was thirty-two furlongs, its depth a hundred fathoms, while its banks on the further side were covered with multitudes of men-at‑arms and horsemen and elephants. For they were told that the kings of the Ganderites and Praesii were awaiting them with eighty thousand horsemen, two hundred thousand footmen, eight thousand chariots, and six thousand fighting elephants. And there was no boasting in these reports." - Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Life of Alexander. Facing mutiny Alexander turned back at the Beas river.
  12. 321 BC - 185 BC: (Mauryan Empire) - Mauryan Empire is Established: The Mauryan empire was found by Chandragupta Maurya who overthrew the Nanda dynasty and, taking advantage of the disruptions of local powers in the wake of the withdrawal westward by Alexander's armies, rapidly expanded his kingdom westwards. By the end of 320 BC, Chandragupta Maurya fully conquered Northwestern India. At the peak of its powers, with an area of 5,000,000 sq km, the Mauryan empire was one of the world's largest empires in its time, and the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent. In the north it extended along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas and to Assam in the east. In the west it included Pakistan, Balochistan, south eastern parts of Iran and much of Afghanistan.The Empire was expanded into India's central and southern regions by the emperors Chandragupta and Bindusara, but it excluded a small portion of unexplored tribal and forested regions near Kalinga (modern Orissa), till it was conquered by Ashoka. Its decline began 60 years after Ashoka's rule ended, and it dissolved in 185 BC with the foundation of the Sunga Dynasty in Magadha. Under the Mauryans the Indian sub-continent saw a period of peace and prosperity never seen before and never seen after probably till the times of Akbar. The Mauryan India also saw a period of social and religious reforms and development in science and technology. Chandragupta Maurya's embrace of Jainism increased social and religious renewal and reform across his society, while Ashoka's embrace of Buddhism has been said to have been the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across all of India.
  13. 370 BC - 283 BC: (Mauryan Empire) - Chanakya writes Arthashastra the first known treatise on statecraft, economic policy and military strategy. Chanakya, the advisor of Chandragupta Maurya, is known as the father of modern day political science.
  14. 300 BC - 300 AD: (The Sangam Period of South India) - Writing of the Sangam Litrature: The Sangam period extended from roughly 300 BC to 300 AD, when the earliest works of Tamil literature were composed (Sangam literature). The Tamil Sangams were assemblies of Tamil scholars and poets that, according to traditional accounts, occurred in the remote past. Overall three assemblies are described. The legend has it that the first two of which were held in cities since "taken by the sea", and the third of was held during the 5th century BC in the present-day city of Madurai.The works in Sangam literature deal with love, war, governance, trade and bereavement. This collection contains 2381 poems composed by 473 poets, some 102 of whom remain anonymous.
  15. 300 BC - 1279 AD: (The Sangam Period of South India) - Establishment of the Chola Empire: The Chola dynasty was a Tamil dynasty which ruled over varying territory in Southern India upto the 13th century.The heartland of the Cholas was the fertile valley of the Kaveri River. The history of the Cholas falls into four periods: the early Cholas of the Sangam literature, the interregnum between the fall of the Sangam Cholas and the rise of the medieval Cholas under Vijayalaya (848 AD), the dynasty of Vijayalaya, and finally the Later Chola dynasty of Kulothunga Chola I from the third quarter of the 11th century AD.
  16. 230 BC - 220 AD: (The Sangam Period of South India) - Establishment of the Satvahana Dynasty: Satvahanas, with holdings in parts of Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra, started out as feudatories to the Mauryan dynasty, but declared independence with its decline. A reference to the Sātavāhanas by the Greek traveler Megasthenes indicates that they possessed 100,000 infantry, 1,000 elephants, and had more than 30 well built fortified towns. The Satvahanas were patrons of Buddhism and are known to have developed the Buddhist stupas of  Sanchi and Amravati. The Satavahana empire colonized southeast Asia and spread Indian culture to those parts. Mahayana Buddhism, which may have originated in Andhra (northwestern India being the alternative candidate), was carried to many parts of Asia by the rich maritime culture of the Satvahanas.

1600s: Heera Raja and The Nagvanshis of Chotanagpur

Excerpts and Adaptations from the Book: The Nagvanshis of Chotanagpur, by Dr Sudha Sinha (Reader, Ranchi College, Ranchi University).

The Nagvanshis were the rulers of Chotanagpur since the beginning of the Christian era. The first Nagvanshi ruler was Phani Mukut Rai born in 64 AD. He was the adopted son of Madra Munda, the Partha Raja of Sutiambe. It is said that when Phani Mukut Rai was found near a tank as a newborn, a hooded kobra (Nag) was protecting him. Perhaps this was the reason why he and his successors were called the Nagvanshis. Phani Mukut Rai ruled from 83AD to 162 AD. Till date, four Nagvanshavalis are available that prove that the Nagvanshis ruled over Chotanagpur plateau in India for close to two thousand years, from the 1st century to 1951 when the Zamindari was abolished. (This would put the Nagvanshis among the top dynasties that ruled the longest in the world, which include the Dulo clan in Bulgaria, The Imperial House of Japan and Hong Bang dynasty of Korea).

Till the reign of Akbar, Chotanagpur had not come under the suzerainty of the Mughals and the Nagvanshi rulers had been ruling over this region as independent rulers. Akabar was informed of a rebel Afghan sardar, Junaid Kararani, was taking shelter in Chotanagpur. Besides, the emperor also got information of diamonds being found in this area. Consequently, Akbar ordered Shahbaz Khan Turbani to attack Kokhra (the then seat of Nagvanshi kings and capital of Chotanagpur). At that time Raja Madhu Singh, the 42nd Nagvanshi king was ruling at Kokhra. Consequently Kokhra was subdued by the armies of Akbar and a sum of rupees six thousand was fixed as its annual revenues payable to the Mughals.

By the advent of the reign of Jahangir, Nagvanshi Raja Durjan Sal had come to power in Chotanagpur. He refused to pay the rent fixed by the Emperor Akbar. Jahangir ordered Ibrahim Khan (governor of Bihar) to attack Kokhra. The details of this invasion are mentioned in Jahangir’s memoirs, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri. There was also another reason behind the invasion. This was the acquisition of the diamonds found in the bed of the river Sankh in the region. Due to its diamonds Chotanagpur was also known as Heera Nagpur and its Raja Durjan Sal, being an expert of diamonds, was known as Heera Raja among the people. Thus to subdue the Raja of Chotanagpur and to acquire valuable diamonds, Jahangir decided to invade Chotanagpur.

On getting orders from the emperor, Ibrahim Khan marched against Kokhra in 1615 AD. He entered the Nagvanshi territories easily with the help of his guides. The Nagvanshi Raja Durjan Sal found himself beleaguered himself within the hills and vales. He fled and was at last found in a cave with some of his family members. He was arrested and all diamonds which were in the possession of Durjan Sal and his family were captured by Ibrahim Khan. Twenty four elephants also fell into the hands of Ibrahim Khan. After this, Kokhara was subdued and the diamonds found there were sent to the Imperial court. After his defeat and arrest, Durjan Sal offered as ransom jewels, gold and silver to the value of crores of rupees, but Ibrahim Khan did not release him and took him as a captive to Patna. From there he was sent to the Imperial court and subsequently imprisoned in the fort of Gwalior.

According to Nagvanshi traditions and Col. Dalton, Raja Durjan Sal’s confinement lasted twelve years. Ultimately, the very diamonds which had caused the misfortune of Durjan Sal secured him his release and former prosperity. It so happened that from some place, two very large diamonds were brought to Emperor Jahangir’s court. A doubt arose in the mind of the Emperor over the genuineness of one of them. As no one in his court was able to confirm or relieve his suspicion, the Heera Raja was brought to the Imperial court from his incarceration. When the two diamonds were brought before him, he without any hesitation pointed out the fake one. To prove it to the court and the Emperor, he requested two rams to be brought to the court. He then tied the two diamonds on the horns of the two rams and made them fight each other. As a result of the fight, the fake diamond shattered but there was no scratch on the pure one. The Emperor was so impressed and pleased with Durjan Sal that he not only released him but also restored the prosperity taken from him in addition to his kingdom.

The generous Durjan Sal further begged the Emperor to release the other Rajas who had been his companions in prison and his prayer was granted. Being pleased with Durjan Sal, Jahangir conferred the title of ‘Shah’ on the Kokhra ruler. On his return to Chotanagpur, Durjan Sal assumed the title of Maharaja and changed his surname. Most probably from that time ‘Shah’ was added with the names of the Nagvanshi kings. The reign of Durjan Sal lasted for about thirteen years. He died in 1639 or 1640 AD.

The Sacrifice of Rani Padmavati

The story of Rani Padmini / Padmavati of Chittor is a blend of historic facts and folklore. It is the story of the courage, medieval chivalry and sacrifice exhibited by the Rajput warriors, both men and women.

Though the historic facts behind the story can only be clearly ascertained of Ala-ud-Din’s conquest of Chittor in 1303 with the defeat of the king Ratan Singh (as told in Khaza’inul Futuh (English title: A Treasury of Victory: The Campaigns of Ala-ud-din Khilji) by Amir Khusrau), I will tell the story as narrated in Khuman Raysa, the great chronicle of the Guhilot and Sisodia Rajputs (recompiled during 1572-1597 during the reign of Maharana Pratap Singh) and as it exists in today’s folklore.

In 1296, Ala-ud-Din Khilji the nephew as well as son-in-law of Jalal-ud-Din Khilji (Sultan of Delhi and the first emperor of the Khilji dynasty), killed his uncle and marched on to Delhi with his head on a pike and proclaimed himself king. Then he started the process of consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate which over time would make him the most powerful ruler in the history of the sub-continent and the second unifier of the Indian subcontinent after the Mauryan Emperor Ashoka. At the peak of his rule, he dreamt of becoming a world conqueror and prefixed the title of Sikandar Sani which means the Second Alexander. He is also known as one of the very few emperors in history who repeatedly defeated the plundering and warring Mongol armies.

Fort of Chittor
During that time, Mewar was the strongest Rajput kingdom and a bitter opponent of the Delhi Sultanate. The seat of Mewar was the formidable fort of Chittor, the largest fort in the sub continent. The fort had been constructed in the 7th century AD by the Mauryans and had never been sacked in its history. Spread across 700 acres the fort was situated on a hill top and was extremely well fortified.

During Ala-ud-Din’s reign the king of Mewar was Rana Ratan Singh. He married Rani Padmini whose beauty and wit was famous across the Rajputana. In his marriage, Ratan Singh also received a large dowry as a gift from his father in law. Two of Ratan Singh’s brothers, Raghav and Chetan, who were also his courtiers, demanded a part of the dowry from the king. Angered by their demands Ratan Singh expelled them from his court and banished them from Mewar. Sulking after this humiliation, Raghav and Chetan made their way towards Delhi with the aim of trying to incite Ala-ud-din Khilji to attack Chittor. There in the Sultan’s court, Raghav and Chetan praised the beauty of Padmavati to the extent that Ala-ud-Din’s lust was aroused. He had been planning to conquer Mewar for a long time but his desire to take Padmavati as his mistress proved to be the deciding factor that shifted his immediate focus towards Mewar and the fort of Chittor.

It was January 1303 when Ala-ud-Din marshaled his army, marched south, and laid siege to Chittor. But seeing the fort and realizing that the breaching its defenses would be a near impossible task Ala-ud-Din came up with a devious plan. He sent an emissary to Ratan Singh that he would return to Delhi with his army if allowed a glimpse of the famous beauty of Rani Padmavati. Trying to avoid a war, Ratan Singh agreed, however consented only to allow Ala-ud-Din to look at Padmavati’s reflection in a mirror.

The sultan came with his most trusted and experienced generals who, while they waited keenly examined the fort’s defenses in order to prepare for their attack on Chittor. Meanwhile on seeing Rani Padmavati’s reflection Ala-ud-Din was awed by her beauty and his desire for her increased. On the way back to his camp, he was escorted by Ratan Singh to the gate of the fort. There, Ala-ud-Din’s soldiers ambushed and captured the king. He was taken as a prisoner to the sultan’s camp. The sultan then sent message to Rani Padmavati and the nobles of Mewar demanding Padmavati in exchange of Ratan Singh.

Rani Padmavati discussed the proposal with her uncle and his son, Gora and Badal, who were also the leading generals in Ratan Singh’s army. Together they came up with an ingenious plan. A message was sent to Ala-ud-Din that Padmavati, along with her serving maids and her retinue would come to his camp in the morning. When dawn arrived, 200 palanquins left the gates of Chittor. Each palanquin was carried by four men from the Rajput army disguised as palanquin bearers. Inside each palanquin sat four more men carrying swords and other weapons for themselves and their disguised friends. Gora and Badal had handpicked the fiercest warriors and were leading the assault themselves. When the procession reached Ala-ud-Din’s camp the Rajputs jumped out from the palanquins and attacked the sultan’s unsuspecting soldiers. Though the Rajputs suffered heavy losses and both Gora and Badal perished, Rana Ratan Singh was rescued and
returned safely to the fort. Ala-ud-Din then lay seize to the fort.

By August, after a long drawn seize, the resources within the fort decreased and Ratan Singh planned an all out suicide attack on the would-be invaders as they could hold out no longer. The womenfolk then resident within that fort decided to collectively committed suicide rather than risk personal dishonor at the hands of the victorious invading army. On 26th August, 1303, a huge pier was lit within the fort and Rani Padmavati, along with other noblewomen belonging to the court committed Jauhar. The Rajput men then wore saffron turbans as a mark of performing saka, rode out to meet Ala-ud-Din’s army in battle and perished to the last man.

The first written version of the legend appeared nearly 250 years after the event in a long narrative poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The epic poem was written in Awadhi around 1540 AD during the rule of Sher Shah Suri.

The Second Battle of Panipat and the Stray Arrow that Changed History

On November 5th, 1556 as the Samrat of Dilli, Hemu's armies faced the young challenger Akbar and his Mughal warriers across the plains of Panipat, it seemed as if the march of Indian history paused and watched with a bated breath. For today promised two future paths which would be very different from each other. On one side stood a potential resurgence of Hindu empire in India and on the other stood a permanent  establishment of Mughals. But to understand how this crossroad of Indian history came to be we need to look a little further back.

After the death of Sher Shah Suri in 1545, his son Islam Shah Suri was crowned emperor. Though he was a strong king, his untimely death in 1554 opened the doors for infighting and power struggle within the Sur dynasty. His successor, his son Firuz Shah Suri, who was aged only twelve was murdered by Sher Shah's nephew Muhammad Mubariz Khan, who then ascended the throne as Muhammad Adil Shah. He appointed Firuz Shah's competent wazir Hem Chandara (Hemu) as his own wazir. As Adil Shah whiled away his time in wine, opium, singing and dancing, it was left to Hemu to manage the affairs of the State.Sensing a weak ruler in Delhi, many of the Afgan governors refused to pay taxes. Ibrahim Shah Suri, the governor of Agra, revolted and overthrew Adil Shah from Delhi. At the same time Sikandar Shah Suri and Muhammad Khan Suri the governors of Punjab and Bengal respectively declared their independence. Adil Shah was left ruling small portions of land near Agra and Bihar. Leading Adil Shah's armies Hemu went from region to region crushing rebellions of various Afghan governors. In December 1555 Hemu routed the Bengal forces under Muhammad Shah, who was killed in the battle. Meanwhile, Humayun sensing opportunity to retake Delhi placed the command of his armies in the hands of Bairam Khan and marched from Kabul. Bairam Khan led Humayun's armies to victory against Sikandar Suri in Punjab and facing any further resistance, on 23 July 1555, Humayun once again sat on Babur's throne in Delhi.But the victory was short lived. Nine months later, as the thirteen year old Akbar and Bairam Khan were camped in Kalanor with the mughal armies chasing after Sikandar Suri, Humayun slipped down the steep stairs of his library and died of a fractured skull. As Stanley Lane Pool remarks " Humayun tumbled through life and tumbled out of it".

Hemu / Raja Vikramaditya
For the next seventeen days, as Akbar and Bairam Khan made preparations for return to Delhi, Humayun’s death was kept a secret from the empire. Mulla Bekasi , who resembled Humayun, was dressed up as the emperor every day and shown to the public (Jharokha Darshan) from the palace terrace. It was only on 11th February 1556, when the khutba was read in Akbar’s name from the Delhi mosques that the death of Humayun was made public. Meanwhile Akbar was formally crowned emperor on 14th February in Kalanor. He stood on a wooden platform and received oaths of fealty from his loyal amirs, generals and other nobles. Bairam Khan had expected initial threats to Akbar’s rule either from treachery from within Delhi or in the form of Sikandar Sur in the west. However, trouble came unexpectedly from the eastern part of the realm. Sensing opportunity to seize Delhi, Hemu marched with his army from Chunar and reached Delhi via Etawah, Kalpi and Agra. At Agra, the Mughal governor, Iskandar Khan Uzbeg offered some resistance but was soon overwhelmed. Hemu captured Agra with its huge trove of war equipments and treasure. On the heels of the retreating army, Hemu marched on to Delhi. Tadri Beg, the governor of Delhi sent messengers to Akbar in Kalanor and prepared for battle. Hemu and Tadri Khan’s armies met outside Delhi. Sir Jadunath Sarkar writes about the battle of Tughlaqabad as follows: “The Mughal army was thus drawn up. Abdullah Uzbeg commanded the van, Haider Muhammad the right wing, Iskander Beg the left and Tadri Beg himself the center. The van and the left wings attacked and drove the enemy forces before them and followed far in pursuit. In the assault the victors captured 400 elephants of Hemu’s and killed over 3000 of his Afghan warriors. Imagining victory already gained many of Tadri Beg’s followers dispersed to plunder the enemy camp and he was left in the field thinly guarded. All this time Hemu had been holding 300 of his choice elephants and a force of select horsemen as a reserve in the center. He promptly seized the opportunity and made charge upon Tadri Beg.” Tadri Beg panicked. Abandoning over 1000 iraqi horses, over 150 war elephants and an unprotected Delhi, Tadri Beg fled westwards to join with Akbar's advancing army. Hemu renamed Raja Vikramaditya, crowned himself king. He distibuted the captured treasures among his Afghan and Rajput nobles, had coins stuck in his name and held court from the imperial canopy. 

The Second Battle of Panipat
Then Hemu advanced from Delhi to meet with Akbar's forces. Remembering Babur's strategic use of his artillary to defeat Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat, Hemu sent his park artillary including large field guns, cannon, rockets and moartars in advance escorted by a relatively weak vanguard towars Panipat. In the narrow passages of Panipat he planned to block the advance of Akbar and Bairam Khan's forces and force them to either turn back or attempt a suicidal frontal attack.Sensing the move, Bairam Khan sent a part of his force at neck breaking speed, which made a surprise attack on Hemu's artillary before his main army could arrive and captured almost all of Hemu's artillary. However, Hemu's army arrived before Bairam Khan and Akbar could catch up with the rest of their forces and started launching massive attacks on the Moghul vanguard army. Akbar's vanguard was barely able ot hold on till help arrived. The two main foces finally met on the battlefield on 5th November 1556. The strength of Hemu's army was predominantly in its elephants. Their huge stature and built combined with effective war training made them lethal killing machines. These elephants were furnished with chain mail and defensive armour and daggers and sabers were attached to their tusks. Despite their size, they were of the most amazing swiftness and agility. Musketeers and bowmen were seated on their back. Hemu's army had around 1500 of these war elephants and a fighting strength of around 50,000 cavalry. He put them under three commands - the right wing under Shadi Khan Kakar, the left under his sister's son Ramya while sitting on his famous elephant 'Hawai' he commanded the center. The Mughal army which was smaller in number with around 25,000 horsemen. The main cavalry of the Mughal army rode forward in a two pronged attack to relieve its vanguard. They were supported by the archers and muskeeters who followed. The central army was made up of the remaining cavalry of around 4000 men. The two pronged attack initially halted Hemu's advances but soon the battle tide turned. The two flanks were slowly driven inwards and Hemu's well desciplined elephants pushed forward despite many wounds. The Mughal army's flanks were driven back towards the center. Then Hemu attacked the central flank himself leading a charge of elephants and cavalry. The Mughals deployed a strategy of meeting the elephants with a shower of arrows in a hope of making them turn around and stampede. Though this was not successful, one of such stray arrows pierced Hemu's left eye and he collapsed unconcious. This decided the fate of the battle. Hemu's army, seeing him fall, scattered to save their lives and were chased and decimated by the Mughals. Hemu himself was captured and brought to Akbar and Bairam Khan. 

According to Abul-Fazl Hemu was beheaded  by Bairam Khan on the battlefield. His head was sent to Kabul and the trunk was hung at the gates of Delhi. There it was left to rot till only bones remained. Within a few hours the Mughal army regrouped around mounts of war spoils and a pyramid of over ten thousand severed heads of Hemu's warriors. This was an age old practice of the Mughal warriors, followed by Babur and going way back to Timur and Genghis Khan. 

With this victory Akbar firmly established himself as the Emperor of India and started an consolidation process which saw him become the richest and the most powerful emperor of the world in that period.

The Lion King of India - Sher shah Suri

Sher Shah Suri
The Indian history of the first half of the 16th century is the story of the Afgan-Mughal contest for dominance and power in the sub continent. In 1526 Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi, the Sultan of Delhi, in the first battle of Panipath marking the advent of Mughal empire in India. However the Afghan chieftains were not completely destroyed. Disarrayed and discontent to an alien rule they required the guidance and charisma of a strong leader. This they found in the form of Sher Shah Suri.

Sher Shah was born Farid in Haryana. At an early age his father Hasan took him to Sasaram in Bihar where he had been awarded a small jagir. In his childhood days Farid was ill treated by his step-mother and at the age of 22 left his household to travel and study in Jaunpur. After the death of his father Farid took possession of his paternal jagir and in 1522 got into the service of Bahar Khan, the ruler of Bihar. He rose quickly in the court of Bahar Khan and was soon appointed his deputy. He also became the tutor and mentor of Bahar Khan's minor son. Once, hunting in the forest, Farid killed a full grown tiger with his bare hands and was awarded the title of Sher Khan by Bahar Khan. But in a few years Sher Khan fell out of favour with Bahar Khan and joined Babur's camp in 1527-28. On the death of Bahar Khan, Sher returned to Bihar as its governor and guardian to the minor prince. After becoming the governor of Bihar, he began reorganizing the administration efficiently. In course of four years he organised a well disciplined, one of the largest and most efficient army and became the recognized ruler of Bihar. In the same time the Fort of Chunar came into his possession. The Lord of Chunar had been killed by his eldest son, who had rebelled against his father. His widow however married Sher Shah and gave the fort to him. 

Sher Shah's Empire
As Humayun focused his armies towards western India in order to defeat Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, Sher Khan in a surprise attack on Bengal annexed a large part of its territory. In 1530s as Humayun attacked and defeated Bahadur Shah of Gujarat, many of the defeated Afghan generals fled and joined Sher Shah as he was increasingly perceived as the new rising Afgan leader. Strengthened by his acquisitions in 1537 Sher Khan attacked Bengal and besieged its capital Gaur. Humayun on his return journey from Gujarat made his way towards east but instead of joining forces with the Sultan of Bengal, besieged the Fort of Chunar. There he was unable to conquer it for over six months while Sher Shah was able to utilize the time for capture of Gaur. Unable to capture Chunar, Humayun moved his forces towards Bengal and entered Gaur in July 1538. However, Sher Khan avoided direct confrontation with Humayun's forces and moved his forces to plunder Mughal territories in Bihar, Jaunpur and Kannauj. Finnaly the Mughal and Afghan armies met on the plains of Buxar in June 1539. Here the Mughar armies met with a heavy defeat and most of the Mughal soldiers were killed or captured by Sher Shah's army. Humayun himself escaped by hiding in the water skin of a water carrier and was carried across the Ganges. The victory over the Mughal ruler widened Sher Khan's empire which now extended from Kannauj in the west to the hills of Assam in the east. To legalize what he had gained, he now assumed the royal title of Sher Shah and ordered the Khutba to be read and the coins to be minted in his name. The next year Humayun retried to capture lost territories and met Sher Shah's armies in Kannauj. Commanding a demoralized and badly trained army, Humayun was again defeated on 17th May, 1540 in the Battle of Kannauj. The defeat marked the end of the empire created by Babur and heralded the arrival of Sur dynasty which ruled India unto 1557. 

Apart from being a great military leader, Sher Shah Suri, was an extremely able administrator. He introduced a tax collection system, built roads along with resting areas for travelers, dug wells, improved the jurisdiction, founded hospitals, established free kitchens, organized mail services and the police. His management proved so efficient that even one of the greatest rulers of human history, the Mughal Emperor Akbar, organized the Indian subcontinent on his measures, and the system which lasted until the 20th century. He is widely considered to have built the civil and administrative structures which were later used and developed further by Akbar. To Sher Shah Suri are attributed four key achievements:

  1. Introduction of an Effective Monetary System: Sher Shah introduced the tri-metal coinage system which later came to characterize the Mughal coinage system. He also minted a coin of silver which was termed the Rupiya that weighed 178 grains and was the precursor of the modern rupee. The same name is still used for the national currency in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Mauritius, Maldives, Seychelles among other countries.
  2. Development of Roadways: For military and trade movement, Sher Shah connected the important places of his kingdom by a netwrok of excellent roads. The longest of these, called the Sadak-e-Azam or the "Badshahi Sadak" (renamed "Grand Trunk Road" by the British) survives til this day. This road is the longest highway of Asia and extends over 1500 Km from Sonargaon in Eastern Bengal to the Indus. All the roads were flanked by shade giving trees and there were sarayes (traveller's inns) all along the routes. 
  3. Administrative Subdivision of Empire:  The Sur empire was divided into forty-seven separate units called sarkars. Each of these was further subdivided into. Each paragana had its own administrative system with its own Ami , lawkeeper, treasurer and account keepers. Over the next higher administrative unit, the sarkar, were placed a Shiqdar-I-Shiqdaran and a Munsif-I-Munsifan to supervise the work of the paragana officers. To keep a tab on the performance of his officers, Sher shah had panned to rotate them across the empire every two or three years. Every branch of the administration was subject to Sher Shah's personal supervision.
  4. Development of the First Postal System: The sarayes developed along the road network also served as post offices. Sher Shah Suri established the foundations of a mounted post or horse courier system, wherein conveyance of letters was also extended to traders. This is the first known record of the Postal system of a kingdom being used for non-State purposes, i.e. for trade and business communication. 

Sher Shah Suri died from a gunpowder explosion during the siege of Kalinjar fort on May 22, 1545 fighting against the Chandel Rajputs. Had it not been for his untimely demise the Sur dynasty would not have declined and perished and the Mughal empire may never have been re-established. 

The Sher Shah Suri Tomb (122 ft high) stands in the middle of an artificial lake at Sasaram, a town that stands on the Grand Trunk Road, his lasting legacy.

Post Independence Integration - The Taking of Hyderabad

The Nizam of Hyderabad
One of the few princely states that resisted integration into the Indian Union was the State of Hyderabad. Theb state of Hyderabad had a Muslim ruler and a mostly Hindu population (~85%). It was located in the south-central region of the Indian subcontinent, and was ruled, from 1724 until 1948, by a hereditary Nizam. In 1947, under the rule of the then Nizam, Osman Ali Khan, it was the oldest existing Muslim Empire in India. Although landlocked, with an area of over 200,000 sq. km and a population of over 16 million, Hyderabad was self sufficient in food, cotton and coal. The Nizam owend over 10% of the land of the state and most of the rest was owned by large landlords and very rich nobles. The bulk of the population, both Muslims and Hindus, worked as factory hands, artisans, labourers and pesants. The Nizam had ascended the throne as far back as in 1911 and was one of the richest men in the world. 

In 1946-47, the Nizam was determined to continue his rule over the state after the British left. In his discussions with the viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, the Nizam emphasized that if pressed into signing the Instrument of Accession he would seriously consider joining Pakistan. Such an alternative if realized would cut the young nation into two halves. Experts pointed out that India might be able to live with its two arms in the Northwest and the Northeast cut off but may not survive without its midriff. 

Princely State of Hyderabad
In the conflict the Indian Union was supported by the Hyderabad State Congress which pressed hard for Hyderabad to meger with the rest of India. Its leaders organized protests, rallies and courted mass arrests. The Nizam was supported by Ittihad-ul-Muslimeen (meaning 'Unity of Muslims') party which in 1946-47 was getting increasingly radicalized by its new leader, Kasim Razvi. Under him, the Ittihad had developed a militia called the 'Razzakars' whose armed members demanded an independent Hyderabad. 

The Nizam's ambitions gained strength from the support of the Conservative Party of Britain. Even Winston Churchill stood in support of the Nizam and speaking in the House of Commons argued that Britain had a personal obligation not to allow one of its frinedly states that had declared its sovereignity to be strangled, starved out or actually overborne by violence. The Nizam and specially the Razzakars found further strength from the support shown by Pakistan. Jinnah had declared to Mountbatten that if Congress attempted to take over Hyderabad, every Muslim in the subcontinent would rise to defend it. 

On 15th August, 1947, the same day India became independent, the Nizam declared the independence of Hyderabad. Alarmed by the idea of an independent Hyderabad in the middle of India,  the Indian government offered Hyderabad a 'Standstill Agreement' which made an assurance that the status quo would be maintained and no military action would be taken. Under the agreement multiple discussions were held between Indian representative, K M Munshi and the Nizam's dewan, Mir Laik Ali. However no common grounds could be reached. By March, 1948 the Razzakar militia had grown in strength to over 1 lakh and the real power in Hyderabad had passed to Kasim Rizvi. The Razzakars saw the entire struggle in communal light while the Congress on the other hand saw it as a fight between democracy and autocracy. As months passed the tension grew as there were rumurs of arms supply to Hyderabad from Pakistan and the flood of Hindu refugees kept flowing into adjoining Inidian provinces. 

On 24 August 1948, Hyderabad formally asked the Secretary General of the new United Nations Organization for its Security Council, under Article 32 of theUnited Nations Charter, to consider the "grave dispute, which, unless settled in accordance with international law and justice, is likely to endanger the maintenance of international peace and security." This provoked the Indian Union to take military action before the UN could intervene. 

Razzakar Units
On 13th September 1948 Indian troops invaded Hyderabad from all points of the compass in a campaign code named"Operation Polo" because at that time, Hyderabad state had some 17 polo grounds, the largest number in India. The fighting lasted four days and was mostly between the Indain army and the Razzakars. Around 32 Indian soilders were killed in the operation while the losses suffered by Hyderabad state forces and Irregular forces combined were 1,863 killed, 122 wounded, and 3,558 captured. On 17th September the Nizam spoke on the radio calling on the people of Hyderabad to live in peace and harmony with the rest of the people of India. 

For his final accesstion to India, the Nizam was rewarded with the designation of Rajpramukh (governor) of the newly formed state of Hyderabad but resigned from this office when the states were re-organized in 1956 on linguistic basis and large parts of Hyderabad state went to Bombay State, Andhra Pradesh and Gujarat. Many officials and members of the royal family fled and re-settled in Pakistan where they now live.

Razvi was placed under house arrest and tried under Indian laws on seditious activities and inciting communal violence. He was jailed 1948-1957. He agreed to migrate to Pakistan as a condition of his release from prison.His family had been residing there since 1949.

TIME Correspondent Robert Lubar, together with a LIFE reporter and photographer, set out in a hired 1935 Ford to have a look at the war between India and Hyderabad. The Indian army had undertaken a "police action" (which it also called a "mission of mercy") against Hyderabad, whose predominantly Hindu population was ruled by a stubborn Moslem Nizam. The would-be war correspondents sped 180 miles toward the front, found that the war was over by the time they got there. All in all, it had been one of the shortest, happiest wars ever seen. Cabled Lubar: 

Everyone is satisfied. The aggressive section of Indian public opinion has been appeased. Hyderabad, which was never really out of India, is now indisputably part of India. There have been no terrible outbreaks of communal violence. The Nizam, who capitulated in four days and 13 hours, satisfied the demands of his ego for at least a token fight. Said Lieut. General Sir Maharaj Rajendrasinghji, the Indian generalissimo: "It is not our job to hurt anybody who is law-abiding." This presumably included the Hyderabad army. There were no casualty reports (by the best available count, twelve Indian soldiers were killed). 

Just the same, eager Indian war correspondents sent back reports which turned up under headlines like NIZAM'S FORTRESS TOWNS FALL LIKE NINEPINS. The reports failed to mention that the fortresses had been built in the 15th Century. 

"He Is Sorry." At the Hyderabad border we were greeted by Hindu peasants who were obviously all for the Indian "invaders." At Naldrug camp, where we breakfasted, soldiers were gathered around a radio listening to a rebroadcast of the Nizam's surrender speech. A soldier translated the gist to me: "He is sorry. He wants to be friends."

Post Independence Integration - The Joining of Travencore

In 1946-47 around 565 princely states existed in India. Some like Kashmir, Mysore and Hyderabad were larger than many European nations while others were tiny jagirs of a few villages. Within two years of independence more than 500 of these princely states were dissolved into fourteen new administrative units of India. During this period only six states resisted integration one of the first being Travancore.

Travancore was strategically located at the extreme south tip of the subcontinent (now mostly parts of Kerela). It had the most highly educated populace in India, a well established and thriving maritime trade and large deposits of monazite from which is extracted thorium used for production of atomic energy and atom bombs. Travancore also had a strong maritime warfare history. Its sinking of the Dutch fleet in 1741 is apparently the only naval defeat ever inflicted by an Asian country on an European power. With its capital in Trivandrum, it was ruled by the Travancore Royal Family. Travancore Royal family descended from the Chera Dynasty and had ruled since the 1700s.

Kingdom of Travancore
In 1947 Travancore was ruled by Sree Chithira Thirunal, the Maharaja of Travancore. His dewan was Sir C P Ramaswamy Aiyar, a brilliant lawyer who had held that post for the past sixteen years. Even as early as February, 1946 Sir C P had made clear his views that once the British left, Travancore would become a perfectly independent country. In his quest for independence Sir C P found support with the politicians in London who foresaw an independent Travancore as a crucial source of monazite for the imminent Cold War. The Travancore government had already signed an agreement with the British government for supply of monazite. Travancore's bid for independence was also supported by Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League. In June 1947, Jinnah wrote to Sir C P a wire welcoming Travancore's decision for independence and emphasizing keenness in establishing a long lasting relationship between Travancore and Pakistan. Empowered by these developments, in July the dewan wrote to the government of Madras that Travancore was taking steps to maintain its independent entity and that it was ready to sign a treaty between the Sovereign State of Travancore and the Dominion Governments of both India and Pakistan.

Sir CP Ramaswamy Aiyar
While the Maharaja and his dewan were keen on establishing an independent state, a large majority of the people had strong pro-India nationalist feelings. Both, Congress and the Communist Party of India had strong presence in the State. In July, the dewan went to Delhi and met with Lord Mountbatten clearly expressing Travancore's decision on maintaining independence. Port the meeting V P Menon tried to persuade Sir C P to sign the Treaty of Accession. However, Sir C P remained adamant and said that he would prefer to negotiate with the Indian nation. Clearly laying Travancore's position, Sir C P returned to Travancore, his mind firmly set on independence.

On 25th July, 1947 while on his way to a music concert in Trivandrum, Sir C P was attacked by a knife wielding member of the Kerela Socialist Party, knifed in the face and body and had to be rushed off for emergency surgery. The impact of this was immediate. The Congress party turned the heat on Travancore ffor accession and the Maharaja immediately gave in. On July 30th the Maharaja wired the viceroy his decision to accede to the Indian Union.

Had it not been for the freak incident, the geo-political landscape of our country today may have been different.