11:36 am - Tuesday October 24, 2017

Indian History

» Indus Valley Civilization » Maurya & Gupta Empire » The Southern Kingdoms
» Sultanate of Delhi » The Mughal Empire » The Marathas, Europeans and The British Raj
» The Freedom Movement » Modern India  


The earliest Indian history dates back to stone ages of 400000 – 200000 BC. The earliest settlers in India can be classified into two classes, namely Paleolithic man and Neolithic man. Paleolithic man lived on flesh of animals, wild fruits and vegetables. Historians suggest that Paleolithic man belonged to the Negrito race and was short, dark skinned and flat nosed. Remains of implements used by the Paleolithic man were discovered in Rajastan, Gujarat, Bihar, and southern India.

Remains of Neolithic men belonging to the new Stone Age are found all over India. The Neolithic civilization was well advanced over the Paleolithic man. They cultivated land, grew corn and fruits, domesticated animals, made pottery and used fire. They lived in caves and decorated their caves with painting, constructed boats and went to the sea, spun cloths and buried their dead.

Copper age and Iron Age succeeded Stone Age. The Indus valley civilization is a splendid example of that period.

Indus Valley Civilization

Archeological excavations in Mohanjo-Daro, Harappa (now in Pakistan) and trial excavations in Sind, Baluchistan, Punjab, Gujarat and Rajastan proved that a highly civilized community flourished in that area around 3000 BC. This civilization was contemporary to the Egyptian, Assyrian, and Babylonian civilizations. Known as Indus Valley Civilization, it flourished more than 1000 years. The civilization was advanced with well-planned cities and buildings built with baked bricks. The streets were laid at right angles with covered drains. Buildings and location were arranged for the different strata of the society. There were public buildings such as the Great Bath at Mohanjo-Daro and huge granaries. Several metals such as copper, bronze, lead and tin were in use.

They domesticated animals including camel, goats, water buffalo and fouls. The Harappans cultivated grains such as wheat and barley. Cotton and woolen cloths and earthen vessels were in use. They traded with other parts of India and other contemporary civilizations. The Harappan society was divided according to professions. Indications are there that there was a proper government and the people worshipped deities in male and female forms.

By 1700 BC, the Harappan culture was on the decline probably due to repeated flooding or the propagation of the desert. It is also said that invading barbarians could be the reason for declining the Harappan culture. When Aryans arrived in 1500 BC the Harappan culture was partially wiped out.


1500 BC had seen the arrival of Aryans to India. They established small agrarian communities throughout Punjab and adopted the agricultural life style prevailed in the area. The horse that came with the Aryans lead to the formation of cavalry and the rapid spread of the Aryan culture through out North India. The Aryans developed a rich tradition and composed Vedas. The caste system evolved during this period. Originally castes were a division of occupation but later transformed to depend on birth. Some Historians say that the caste system was existing among the natives and Aryans only adapted to it. During the 6th century BC Buddhism and Jainism emerged in India. These two religions preached non-violence, tolerance and self-discipline. As land became property and the society divided on
occupation and caste, conflicts and disorders cropped up. Organized power to deal with these problems lead to formation of village councils, states and even vast empires.

Alexander The Great

In 327 BC Alexander of Macedonia conquered a large part of the northwest India. He entered India through the Hindukush. As a great ruler, he developed good relations with the local authorities while establishing his garrisons. While returning back due to the pressure of his war weary soldiers, he left these areas to be ruled by Greek governors. Chandragupta Maurya fought the Macedonians and defeated them. Gradually these states were lost out to Indian states. But the contact between the two cultures put a lasting influence on Indian art and architecture.


Mauryan Empire

The dissatisfaction against foreign rulers started appearing in 320BC. The early uprisings were crushed by the successors of Alexander. But the uprising continued under a new leader named Chandragupta Maurya. After raising an army and persuading Indians to support his sovereignty he founded Maurya Empire. He went to war with Alexander’s representatives and defeated Seleukos and added a large territory of the Macedonian Empire to Mauryan Empire.

The successor of Chandragupta was his son Bindusara who reigned from 300BC to 273BC. He was a very strong ruler and maintained a friendly relation with the Hellenic west established by his father. Bindusara had many sons and when he died, Asoka, one of his sons, took over.

Asoka, the greatest emperor of all, accessed to the throne four years after his father’s death and ruled India for 36~37 years. Asoka suppressed a fresh revolt in Taxila and conquered Kalinga. Even though victorious, the Kalinga war was a turning point in Asoka’s life. The misery and bloodshed of the war awakened his feelings of repentance and sorrow. It made him devoted to the practice of ‘Dharma’ ultimately changing his State policies. He embraced Buddhism and spread the teachings of Buddha to his subjects through inscriptions on rocks and pillars, in local dialects, throughout the country. During his reign Buddhism flourished in West Asia and in his southern neighboring countries.

The Mauryan Empire broke up after the death of Asoka in 232BC and divided among his sons. Altogether there were ten kings in the Mauryan dynasty. The disintegration of Maurya Empire invited invaders from central Asia seeking fortunes in India.

The Mauryan economy was agrarian. The state owned huge farms, farm labors and slaves for cultivation. Income for the state was from taxes levied on agriculture, land, trade and industrial products such as handicrafts. Industries such as arms, agricultural implements, ships for river navigation, weaving, handicrafts and cloth industry flourished during this period.

Gupta Empire

The Gupta Empire in 4th century AD is considered as the golden age of Indian history. The Guptas ruled India for more than two centuries. Chandragupta I was the first in the Gupta Dynasty to assume the imperial title of ‘Supreme King of Kings’. He strengthened
his position by a matrimonial alliance with Lichchhavis.

The greatest of all Gupta kings was Samudragupta whose campaign expanded the empire in all directions. Samudragupta was succeeded by Chandragupta II who was also known as Vikramaditya (380 – 413AD). He continued the policy of world conquest pursued by his predecessor by military activity and political marriages. Kumaragupta and Skandagupta succeeded him. Skandagupta was able to repel initial conquests by white Huns. But after his death the Huns spread rapidly towards the close of 5th century and the early 6th century. After the fall of Gupta Empire, north India broke into smaller kingdoms and never was really united until the arrival of Moslems.

During the Gupta Era, classical art forms emerged and treatises on grammar, mathematics, astronomy, medicine etc. were written. ‘Kamasutra’, the great work on the art of love, was created during this period. Science and literature registered considerable progress. The great Kalidasa (literature) and Aryabhata (astronomy) lived in this era. The famous Ajanta and Ellora caves were created during this period. Even though the rulers followed orthodox Hinduism, peaceful co-existence of religions was recorded by Chinese travellers like Fa Hien.


The Southern Kingdoms

While turmoil was brewing up and kingdoms were rising and falling in the north, the south India remained comparatively calm and stable. The Pallavas, Cholas and Pandyas shared the power in the Tamil Country. Cheras ruled Kerala and Chalukyas reigned Karnataka. Towards the close of the second century AD, after the death of ‘Gauthamiputra Satkarni’ the Satavahana Empire broke up into pieces and continued to rule the Andras until ‘Ikshvakus’ took over.

The Pallavas had risen to power in the far south with Kanchi (present Kanchipuram) as capital some where in the 4th century. In the 6th century, Simhavishnu vanquished all his southern neighbors including the ruler of Ceylon and seized the country of Cholas. A great struggle between the Pallavas and their archenemy Chalukyas erupted during the time of Simhavishnu. The struggle continued for generations. By the first half of the 8th century, Chalukyas took over Kanchi. By the end of 9th century AD Aditya Chola defeated Aparajita Pallava and took possession of his kingdom.

During the reign of Pallavas, Kanchi became a great center of Brahmanical and Buddhist learning. Many of the famous temples were built during this era. The Pallava artists from Kanchi might have helped to build great temples in Cambodia and Java.

The Chalukyas rose to power in Karnata or the Canarese speaking country in the 6th century AD with Vatapi (present Badami) as capital. The real founder of the dynasty was Pulikesin I who performed ‘aswamedha yaga’ to access to power. His sons extended the empire in all directions. Pulikesin II (609-642) consolidated his power in Maharastra and conquored nearly the whole of Deccan. By 753 AD, Vikramaditya II, the Chalukya king was overthrown by Dandidurga and laid foundation for a new empire called Rastrakutas.

The Rastrakutas Empire extended from south Gujarat, Malva and Baghalkhand in the north to Tnajore to the south. In 973 Tailia II, a descendent from the early Chalukyas, overthrew the dynasty.

By 850 AD, Cholas had risen to power and ruling the south Tamil Country from Tanjore. Under Rajaraja I (985-1018) and his son Rajendra Chola I (1018-1048) Cholas conquered the whole of Tamil Country. They went as far as Ganges and asserted their power over Ceylon, Nicobar Islands, parts of the Malay peninsula and the Indian Archipelego. Rajendra defeated Manipala I of Bengal. He also vanquished Chalukyas at Musangi. The Chola Empire declined after Rajendra Chola Kulathunga. The Pandyas annexed the southern part of the empire. In the country between Godavari and the Ganges rose the empires of Kalinga and Orissa.

Pandyas occupied the present Madurai and Thirunelveli District with part of old Travancore. They excelled in trade and learning. A Pandya king sent an emissary to the Roman Emperor Augustus in the first century BC. The Pandya kingdom rose to fame during the 13th century. Kafur conquered the kingdom in early 14th century. Vijayanagara Empire absorbed it after a brief period.

In 1328 Hoysala Empire fell to Mohamed Bin Tughluq. After the withdrawal of Tughluq, Vijayanagar Empire and Bahmani Sultanate were founded in the south.

Vijayanagar Empire : This kingdom of Hindu alliance was founded in 1336 with capital at Hampi to counter the Muslim power. Vijayanagar Empire grew to be the strongest and wealthiest Hindu kingdom for two centuries. Under the rule of Bukka I, almost all of south India was under its rule.

Bahmani Sultanate : The Muslim Bahmani kingdom was founded in 1345 with capital at Gulbarga and later at Bidar north of the Vijayanagar Empire. By 15th century the Bahmani Sultanate was split up into five separate kingdoms with capitals Berar, Ahmednagar, Bijapur, Golconda and Ahmadabad.

The feud between the neighbours stirred up many bloody battles inflicting defeats on each other. But by 1482 Vijayanagar Empire improved as a result of disintegration of Bahmani Sultanate. In 1520 king Krishnadevaraya of Vijayanagar conquered Bijapur. The empire reached its peak over the following years. But the decline also started with it. A number of uprisings divided the empire internally while the Muslim Sultanates formed a new alliance. In 1565 the Sultanate coalition defeated Vijayanagar army in Talikota. As a result, the power of the region was passed on to Muslim rulers or local Chieftains. But ultimately, Aurengaseb defeated Bahmani rulers and their kingdoms were annexed to the Mughal Empire.


Delhi Sultanate

Mohamed of Ghur’s expedition in 1175 against Multan and subsequent invasion of Gujarat, Peshawar and Lahore and his victory over Rajputs in 1192 laid foundations of Muslim domination in India. Qtub-ud-din Aibak, his slave general annexed different parts of North
India during the years followed.

Qutub-ud-din Aibak : After the death of Mohamed of Ghur, Aibak declared himself as the Sultan of Delhi. He also occupied the throne of Gazni for forty years after defeating Yildiz. But the people drove him out owing to his excesses. This confined him to Delhi and was assassinated in 1210. Qutub-ud-din Aibak built Qutub Minar in Delhi, a land mark in history.

Iltutmish : Aram Baksh succeeded him as Sultan Aram Shah. But Iltutmish of Ilbari deposed him and accented to the throne. He brought control over different rebellious parts of the Sultanate. Before his death in 1236, he captured Mundawar, Malwa and Ujjain and defeated Malik of Bengal, Yildiz and Qabacha.

Rukh-ud-din Firoze Shah who succeeded Iltutmish was a misfit and was dethroned and killed in Nov. 1236. The Amirs and Nobles accepted Razzia, daughter of Iltutmish, to the throne. But being a woman she had a tough time and rebellious nobles put her to death in 1240.

Muiz-ud-din Bahram and Ala-ud-din Masud are the rulers who succeeded Razzia. Both were regarded as worthless and incompetent. During their reign Mongols plundered Punjab.

Nasir-ud-din Mahmud : By 1246, the Amirs and Maliks crowned Nasir-ud-din Mohamed, a younger son of Iltutmish. Since he spent most of his time in prayers, his minister, Giyas-ud-din Balban was running the country.

Giyas-ud-din Balban : After the death of Nasir-ud-din, Gias-ud-din accented to the throne. He strengthened the army and subdued rebellions. Balbans’s strong army helped him to check the Mongol advances to India. He died in 1287 after a reign of 22 years.

The rulers who succeeded Balban were weak and unworthy. In1290, Jalal-ud-din Firoz Shah deposed Muiz-ud-din Khaliqubad,grandson of Balban and established Khalji Dynasty.

Jalal-ud-din Khalji was 70 when he became Sultan. He was a peace-loving sultan. During his reign ala-ud-din, his nephew and son-in-law, marched into Devagiri and defeated Raja Ramachandradeva. Ala-ud-din returned with an enormous booty. The treacherous Ala-ud-din lured the Sultan into a trap and killed him.

Ala-ud-din Khalji : In 1296, immediately after the murder of Sultan, Ala-ud-din proclaimed himself as the Sultan of Delhi. To
safeguard his throne, he eliminated the supporters of former Sultan.

Ala-ud-din fought with the Mongols and defeated them. He strengthened his army and took up military expeditions and annexed Gujarat, Ranthanbhor and Mewar. His passion for the beautiful queen Padmini lead to the siege of Chitor. When finally Chitor fell, the queen burned herself to death. Ala-ud-din conquered Deccan under the command of Malik Kafur. His expedition between 1307 and 1311 took him up to Cape-Comorin, the southern tip of India. Thus the whole of India was under the Sultanate of Delhi.

Qutub-ud-din Mubarak : Ala-ud-din died in 1316. His son Qutub-ud-din Mubarak ruled India till 1320. In 1320, one of Khursarv’s Parvari (low caste convert) associates stabbed him to death. After his death Khursrav ascended to the throne as Nassir-ud-din Khursrav Shah. His brief reign of four month was enough to alienate the Alai nobles who under the leadership of Ghasi Malik defeated and beheaded him in Delhi.

Ghiaz-ud-din Tughluq : Since there were no male descendants for Ala-ud-din, The nobles persuaded Malik to sit on the throne under the name of Gias-ud-din Tughluq. He introduced many reforms on all walks of life and administration. He crushed the rebellions in Deccan and Bengal. In 1325 he died from the collapse of a wooden structure built by his son Jauna.

Mohamed Bin Tughluq : After the death of Gias-ud-din, his son Jauna declared himself as the Sultan under the name of Mohamed Bin Tughluq. During his reign, the boundaries of Delhi Sultanate stretched from Peshwar in the north to Madurai in the south and Sind in the west to Assam in the east.

Mohamed Bin Tughluq was a learned ruler but lacked practical judgement. His well intentioned reforms created confusion and hardships. He shifted his capital to Devagiri, the centre of his empire. But because of inadequate arrangements, the capital was moved back. He introduced token coins in copper and brass at par with silver and gold coins in value. Improper management lead to counterfeiting and as a result, the token coins were withdrawn. He died in 1351.

Feroz Shah Tughluq who succeeded Mohamed Bin Tughluq was a weak personality and could not contain the rebellions those broke out in the Sultanate. After the death of Feroz Tughluq, civil wars broke out in the Sultanate. During Nasar-ud-din Mohamed Tughluq’s reign (1394-1412), the Mongol leader Timur invaded India and captured Delhi. Mohamed came back to Delhi when Timur returned after 15 years. In 1414, Khizi Khan Sayyid occupied the throne. He was succeeded by the Lodis. Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of Delhi. In 1526, b>Babur defeated him at the first battle of Panipat and established the rule of Mughuls in India ending the Sultanate of Delhi.


Mughal Empire

Babur : A descended on his father’s side from Timur and on his mother’s side from Chingiz Khan, Babur was the founder of Mughal empire in India. He defeated Ibrahim Lodi in Panipat on April 1527 and occupied Delhi and Agra. He suppressed Afghans
in 1527. The Afghans of Bengal and Bihar were brought to their knees in 1529. When he died on 26th Dec.1530, his kingdom spread across Oxus to Gorga and from Himalayas to Gwalior.

Humayun : Three days after the death of Babur, his son Humayun ascended to the throne. He was a weak ruler and in-spite of earlier success in his expeditions against the Afghans and the ruler of Gujarat, Afghan Chief Sher Khan dethroned his in 1539 and placed himself in Delhi as Sher Shah. Humayun returned to Delhi after 15 years with the help of the ruler of Iran and recovered most of the territory he lost before his death in Jan.1556.

Akbar The Great : Akbar was only 13 when he was declared ‘Padsha’. In the 40 years that followed he used power and diplomacy to sub due his opponent and the Rajputs . By 1595 his empire spread from Himalaya to Narmada and from Hudukush to Brahmaputra.

Akbar was the greatest of all Mughals. He was a man of culture and wisdom with a sense of fairness. Unlike his predecessors he integrated Hindus into his empire and used them as advisers and administers. His deep interest in religious matters made him eventually to formulate a religion called ‘Deen Ilahi’, combining best parts of all religions he had studied.

Jahangir : Akbar’s son Salim succeeded him after his death as Emperor Jahangir. Despite many challenges, his empire remained more or less same as what Akbar had left behind. Jahangir preferred to spend most of his time in Kashmir. He died in 1627 while returning to Kashmir.

Shahjahan : After the death of Jahangir, his son Shahjahan succeeded him and secured his position by deposing all possible contenders to the throne. Shahjahan ruled india from Agra. It is during his reign that many monuments of the Mughal Era were built.

Aurangaseb : In 1658, after imprisoning his father Shahjahan, Aurangaseb accented to power. He devoted his resources to strengthen his military and expand his empire. Aurengaseb marched into Deccan and annexed Bijapur and Golconda. Like Mohamed Bin Tughluq, he shifted his capital to Aurangabad. He was an ardent follower of Islam. Levying heavy taxes to fund the military had generated dissatisfaction among the people.

The Decline of Mughals : The empire was facing challenges from the Marathas and the British. The inflated taxes and religious intolerance weakened the grip of Mughal Empire. The empire stared disintegrating with the death of Aurangaseb in 1707. Within three decades of Aurangaseb’s death. the Mughal Empire was split into numerous independent or semi-independent states. Nadirshah of Iran sacked Delhi in 1739 and exposed the fragility of the power of Mughals.

The empire rapidly shrank in extent being reduced only a small district around Delhi.Yet Mughal emperors ruled India until 1857.The imperial dynasty became extinct with Bahadur Shah II who was deported to Rangoon by the British on suspision of assisting the sepoy mutineers. He died there in 1862.


The Marathas

The rise of the Maratha power played an important role in the second half of the 17th century. In the Middle Ages, the Marathas upheld the national cause under the Yadavas of Devagiri. But with the defeat of Ramachandradeva by Ala-ud-din Khalji, they lost their independence. But in the 17th century they were organised into a national state.

Shivaji : Shivaji was the hero of the Maratha national movement. He was born in 1627 (or 1630) and his mother Jiji Bhai groomed him by infusing high and inspiring ideas of heroism, spirituality and chivalry into Shivaji’s mind. In 1646 he captured the fortress of Torna. Since then he raided, sacked acquired and annexed many forts and territories. With cunning planning and shrewdness, he always outwitted his enemies and opponents. In 1674 Shivaji crowned himself king at Rajgarh. He died on 14th April 1680 at the age of 53 (or 50).

Shivaji, a born leader who could throw a spell over all who came in contact with him, elevated himself by his unusual bravery and diplomacy. He brought together the Maratha race that was scattered through many Deccani kingdoms. The Maratha nation that he built up defied the Mughal Empire during and after Aurangaseb’s reign. It remained the dominant power in the 18th century. The Maratha power competed with the English for supremacy in India until it was finally crushed in the time of Lord Hastings.

The Europeans

India had commercial relations with the west from time immemorial. By 7th century AD, Arabs were dominating India’s sea-borne trade. The geographical discoveries of the late 15th century produced far-reaching consequences on the trade relations of different countries.

The Portuguese : The discovery of a new route to India by Vasco da Gama who landed in Calicut on the 17th of May 1498 brought the merchants of Portugal to India. Alfonso de Albuquerque came to India in 1503. He laid the foundation for Portuguese power in India. When he died in 1515, Portuguese were left as the strongest naval power in the west cost of India.

A number of important settlements were gradually established near the sea by the successors of Albuquerque. These were Diu, Daman, Salsette, Bassein, Chaul and Bombay, Goa, San Thome near Madras, Hugli in Bengal and a major part of Ceylon. But they lost their authority over the places due to many reasons except Goa, Daman and Diu those they held until 1961.

The Dutch : With a view to getting direct access to the spice markets in the Southeast Asia, the Dutch formed the Dutch East India Company in 1602. In 1605 they captured Amboyna from the Portuguese. They conquered Jakarta in 1619 and captured Malacca in 1641. They got possession of the last of Portuguese settlements in Ceylon.

Commercial interest drew Dutch to India as well. They established factories in Gujarat, Bengal, Bihar, Orissa and the Coromandal coast. But they confined themselves to Malay Archipelago while the English, their trade rivals, concentrated in India.

The English : The completion of Drake’s voyage around the world in 1580 and the victory over the Spanish Armada encouraged some English sea captains to undertake voyages to the eastern waters. A major step towards England’s commercial prosperity was taken up on 31st December 1600 by giving the monopoly over eastern trades to The East India Company. They arrived early in the 17th century and established trading posts along the coasts. In 1668 Bombay was transferred to the company by Charles II, who got it from the Portuguese as part of the dowry of his wife Catherine of Braganza, at an annual rental of ten Pound Sterling. They have started factories in many places and many commercial treaties were signed with local rulers. Thus the British made their presence felt but entirely on commercial

The French : Though the desire for eastern traffic was displayed itself at a very early period, the French were the last to come to India. By 1668 the French established their first factory at Surat followed by another at Machilipatnam in 1669. In 1673 the French obtained a small village from the Muslim Governor of Valikondapuram and laid the foundation of Pondicherry.

The European rivalry between the Dutch and the French adversely affected the French in India. They gradually lost their influence and abandoned their factories at Surat, Machilipatnam and Bantam. Later with turn of tide, they occupied Mauritius in 1721, Mahe on the Malabar Coast in 1725 and Kariakal in 1739.

The British Raj

The rivalries developed among the European countries influenced the policies of their counter parts in India.
They allied with the local rulers for consolidating their positions in India. Though initially commercial, they developed territorial and political ambitions and manipulated local rivalries and enmities to their advantages. The British were the ultimate winners in this political manoeuvre.

In the period between 1740 and 1765, they steadily increased their influence politically, militarily and commercially. They engaged the French in battles and ultimately defeated them. Their victory over the Nawab of Bengal in 1757, in the battle of Plassey established their supremacy in the east cost. In 1765 they concluded a treaty with Bengal where the entire management of administration should be left with a minister who would be nominated by the British and could not be dismissed without their consent. This practically kept the control of Administration in their hands while the Nawab remained merely a figurehead. They gradually extended their rule over the entire subcontinent either by direct annexation or acting as suzerain for local rulers.

Unlike former rulers of India, the British continued its commercial activities monopolising on all trades. India gave a major boost to the Industrial Revolution by being the provider of cheap raw material and capital. India was a large captive market for British Industry.

By the middle of 19th century, the major part of the subcontinent was under direct British rule while many local rulers were retained as subsidiaries of the British Empire. This left them completely to the mercy of the Company administratively and militarily. By 1757 India became the British Empire achieved by unrestrained and unscrupulous methods employed by the British with the only intention to expand the Empire by any means.


The Freedom Movement

The rapid expansion of the British Empire and the means employed to annex and expand, forced changes in the generations old, well-accustomed life style of Indians and resulted in commotion in different parts of the country. Many minor uprisings were recorded
between 1816 and 1855. The last and most severe was the revolt of 1857 -1859 in which many grief-stricken princely rulers, landed aristocracy and peasantry rallied against the British.

The revolt was the out come of changes in political, socio economical, religious and military.The revolt shook up the mighty fabric of the British Empire to its very foundations. The empire was able to resolve the mutiny in 1859. Even though the revolt was not an organised National Movement or War of Independence, it exposed the weakness of British Empire and changed the political outlook in India. It also ended the East India Company rule in India as the British Crown took over.

The construction of a vast railway network to facilitate transport by the British also brought the peoples of India in easy reach of each other and helped to spread the idea of Indian unity. As it was impossible for a few foreigners to administer a vast country like India, the British engaged the local elite to help them. They set up an educational system to serve the purpose. But it also helped the Indians to familiarise with the intellectual and social values of the West. Ideas of democracy, individual freedom and equality gained momentum among Indian thinkers like Raja Rammohan Roy, Bankim Chandra and Vidyasagar. The leadership of freedom movement was passed on to this class and Indian National Congress was formed in 1885.

Opposition to British rule began to increase at the turn of the century. The Indian National Congress began to push for a measure of participation in the Government of the country. An unpopular attempt to partition Bengal in 1905 resulted in mass demonstrations against it. Launching of the Swedeshi Movement brought the freedom movement to the common man by leaders like Bala Gangadhar Tilak and Aurabindo Ghose. But Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, the most charismatic leader of the century, mobilised the people into an invincible force against the British in the freedom struggle.

Mahatma Gandhi : Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbander on October 2, 1869. Educated in London, he returned to India to practice law. In 1893 he went to South Africa on a job assignment. During the 20 years he was in South Africa, Gandhi struggled for the elementary rights for Indians. He preached passive resistance. He was jailed many times and in 1914 he was able to achieve many concessions from South African Government. After completing his contract in South Africa, Gandhi returned to India.

Back in India, Gandhi became a leader in the struggle for home rule. He launched his movement of passive resistance against the British gaining millions of followers. A demonstration against Rowlett Acts, which gave sweeping powers to the colonial authorities, resulted in a massacre of Indians in Amritsar by British soldiers. When the British Government failed to amend the act, Gandhiji proclaimed an organised campaign of non co-operation. People boycotted public offices, government agencies schools etc. His ‘swaraj’ movement advocated the boycott of British goods and revival of cottage industries. He lived a spiritual and ascetic life of prayers, fasting and meditation and advocated non-violence. Gandhi became the international symbol of free India. And people called him ‘Mahatma’.

In 1921 Indian National congress gave Gandhiji complete executive authority including the power to nominate his successor. In 1922 he was again arrested and imprisoned. After his release in 1924, Gandhiji withdrew from active politics and concentrated on communal unity. But he was again drawn in the main stream of freedom movement. In 1930 Gandhiji proclaimed a new campaign calling on the Indian masses to refuse to pay tax for salt. In the campaign he marched to the sea with thousands of followers and made salt by evaporating seawater in defiance to the British. In 1931 he ceased the campaign after British heeded to his demands. During his campaigns he fasted for long periods several times and fast was an effective measure against the British.

In 1934, Mahatma formerly resigned from politics being replaced as leader of Indian National Congress by Jawaharilal Nehru. He travelled throughout India preaching ‘Ahimsa’. In 1935 British granted India limited home rule. In 1939 Gandhiji again returned to
active politics because of the pending Federation of Indian principalities with the rest of India.

By 1944 the Indian struggle for independence reached its final stages. The British Government had agreed to independence and initiated a number of constitutional moves to effect the transfer of power. Because of various developements, partitioning of the country was inevitable to achieve freedom. Mahatma was against partitioning the country but he ultimately has to agree.

After the partition, millions of people were forced to move to and from India and Pakistan and communal riots errupted. Mahatma pleaded to the people to live in communal harmony and fasted till the riots ceded. On January 30, 1948, as he was on his way to his evening prayer meeting, a Hindu fanatic, Nathuram Godse assassinated him. Mahatma Gandhi was the most remarkable and charismatic leader of the 20th century, perhaps in history.


Modern India

India achieved independence on August 15, 1947 and adopted the system of parliamentary democracy. India also remained within the British Commonwealth Nations. India became a Republic on 26th January 1950. The Indian Constitution adopted safeguards to protect its entire people from all forms of discrimination on grounds of caste, creed, race, religion, or sex. It guarantees to all its Citizens freedom of speech and expression, the right to assemble peacefully, freedom of conscience and worship, subject to general consideration of public security and morality. Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden.

Indian Union

The President is the Head of State who is elected for five years by the members of an Electoral College consisting of the elected members of Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabhs and the Legislative Assemblies.

There is also a Vice-President elected for five years by the members of Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.

Indian Parliament consists of two houses, the Houses of people known as the Lok Sabha and the Council of States known as Rajya Sabha.

Lok Sabha has 543 elected members representing the whole country. Members are elected directly by the people through the universal adult franchise. The Lok Sabha elects its own Speaker and Deputy Speaker.

The Rajya Sabha has 238 representatives of states who are elected by the elected members of the Legislative Assembly of each State.Twelve members are nominated by the President on the ground of having special knowledge in literature, science etc. Vice-President is the ex-officio chairman of the Rajya Sabha.

There is a Council of Ministers headed by the Prime Minister to aid and advice the President. The President appoints the Prime Minister. Normally the Prime Minister will be the leader of the majority Party in the Lok Sabha. The President appoints other ministers on the advice of the Prime Minster.

The Rajya Sabha is not subjected to dissolution. But one-third of the members will retire on expiration of every second year. The Lok Sabha unless dissolved will continue for five years. Both the Houses should meet at least twice in every year. Every legalisation requires the approval of both Houses.

The President’s assent is required before a Bill becomes law. He can withhold his assent and return the bill with his suggestions. But if the Bill is passed again by both Houses the President cannot withhold his accent.

Legislative Assembly : Members to the State Legislative Assembly or Vidhan Sabha are also chose by universal adult franchise. The Governor heads the State Assembly and is appointed by the President. The Chief Minister, the leader of the majority party, is the head of the State Government. The Governor appoints other Ministers on Chief Minister’s recommendation.

Elections are conducted under the supervision of the Election Commission, an autonomous body. An independent Judiciary is the guardian and interpreter of the Constitution. Supreme Court is the highest tribunal in the country while High Courts are for the States.

The Civil Services execute Government policies fairly and freely. Service executives are selected on merit by annual entrance examinations those are open to all.

India Today

Since Independence India made considerable progress in agricultural productions and industrialization. India is now one of the top 10 industrial powers in the world. Under the leadership of Jawaharlal Nehru, the country followed a policy of non-alignment. India made long strides in development of space technology, computer science and many other scientific and industrial fields.