Indic history is filled with glorious empires, righteous kings & queens, and cultural achievement. From the Ikshvaku dynasty (the Solar Dynasty of Bhagvan Shri Ram) to the Mauryas to the Marathas, the subcontinent’s sagas are recorded in the pages of Itihaasa and Purana.
Thus, Indic history can be divided into the Vedic, Puranic , Ancient, Medieval, Colonial, and Modern. The fame of its kings, wealth of its regions, and beauty of its culture remain common themes throughout the annals of Indian history.
- Majumdar, R.C. Ancient India.New Delh: MLBD. 2003
- Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India. New Delhi: Rupa.1999
Table of Contents
d. Late Antiquity
The Indian Subcontinent is bounded in the North by the Himalayas (“Abode of Snow”), the Pariyatra Parvata (Hindu Kush) to the West, the Rakshapura Parvata( Arakan Range), and the Indian Ocean to the South. It is further bounded by the Purva and Apara Samudras (Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal respectively). Internal ranges include the central Vindyachala and Satpura Ranges and the Eastern and Western Ghats. The main passes from the North are the Khyber, Khunjerab, and Hunza; from the West, the Bolan, and from the North East, the Jelep La and the Nathu La.
Major River Systems include the famous Ganga-Yamuna system of North-Central India, the Sindhu-Sarasvati (Indus River system) of the North-West, the Brahmaputra of the North-East, the Godavari, Krishnaveni, and Kaveri of the South, and the Narmada-Tapti of Central India.
The name India originates in the Sapta-Sindhu, or the then seven rivers of modern five river Punjab (Pancha aapa). While the ancient names were the Sindhu, Vitasta, Asikni, Parusni, Vipas, Satadru, and Sarasvati, the modern five are Indus, Beas, Jhelum, Ravi, and Sutlej. Other ancient rivers whose existence is still to be confirmed beside the Sarasvati are the Iravati and the Drishadvati. Nevertheless, mythological or modern, this sacred geography is what imbues the mindset and worldview of the Indic world and Dharmic Civilization.
- SarDesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview: Boulder,Colorado. 2008. p.2-15
- Majumdar, R.C. Ancient India.New Delhi: MLBD. 2003
Bharata of the Ikshvakus (Jada Bharata, Namesake of Bharatvarsha)
Bharata of the Kurus (Shakuntalaputra)
Chanakya & Chandragupta Maurya
King Udayana of Vatsa (Vatsaraja)
Raja Purushottam (Porus)
Vikramaditya Panwar (Vikramarka Paramara) of Ujjain
In 22-10 Kalidasa mentions the nine Gems of scholars
adorning the court of Vikrama. viz.
1. Dhanvantari. 2. Kshapanaka 3. Amarasimha. 4. Sanku.
5. Vetalabhatta. 6. Ghatakarpara. 7. Kalidasa. 8.
Varahamihira and 9. Vararuchi.
Salivahana Panwar of Ujjain
Samudra Gupta “Ashokaditya”
Chandra II “Vikramaditya” & Prabhavati Gupta
Skanda Gupta “Kramaditya”
The Powerful Palas
The Paramount Rashtrakutas
- Dhruva Dharavarsha
- Indra III
- Govinda III
The Heroic Pratiharas
- Nagabhata I & II
- Mihira Bhoja
Raja Raja Chola
Raj Suhel Dev
Bhartuh of Avadh
Rani Rudrama Devi
Veera Ballala III
Harihara & Bukka Raya
Krishna Deva Raya
Venkatapati Deva Raya
The Early Sisodias
- Rana Kumbha (Kumbhakarn Singh)
- Rana Sangha (Sangram Singh)
- Rana Udai
Baji Rao I
Balaji Baji Rao II
Ibrahim Gardi Khan
Guru Gobind Singh
Jassa Singh Ahluwalia
Maharaja Ranjit Singh
Hari Singh Nalwa
Sher Singh Attariwala
Prithvi Narayan Sah
Nana Saheb & Tatya Tope
Jhansi ki Rani
Naga Rani Gaidinliu
Alluri, Sitarama Raju
Bal Gangadhar Tilak
Subhas Chandra Bose
Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi
Sardar Vallabhai Patel
The Nehru-Gandhi Family
Bhimrao Ramji Ambedkar
Indic Civilization’s history begins with Vedic cosmology. While modern science is obviously a long way from validating it, all other civilizations begin their narrative with their Sacred and Cultural History. Therefore, the history of Indic/Dharmic Civilization naturally begins with the Vedas. This is because Vedic or non-Vedic, Astika or Nastika, all the great native philosophies and Dharmic sampradayas of Bharata khanda begin as descendants of or in direct reaction to the Vedas. Even our great personalities are inter-twined, such as Rishabha of the famed Ikshvaku Dynasty, who is also the first Tirthanka of the Jina (Jain) tradition. Sakyamuni Buddha is himself of Kshatriya background, hailing from the Sakya clan of modern Nepal. The Vedas are also discussed by the Sikh Gurus, themselves Punjabi Khatris, and they propounded the protection of Dharma as well, only interpret it differently.
According to Vedic cosmology, a single day of Brahma is 4.2 Billion earth years. This day is divided into 14 Manvantaras, each 306 million years, and with a presiding Indra and namesake Manu. The first was Manu Svayambhu (self-born). The current one is the seventh and is called Vaivasvata, meaning born from Vivasvan (the Solar deity). His original name was Satyavratha (lover of truth). He was in fact the king of the ancient dravida desa (modern Kerala & Tamil Nadu) in the preceding manvantara, and was rescued by Lord Vishnu as Matsya Avatara. The tradition holds that Manu then re-established Dharmic Civilization in the Sapta-Sindhu (modern Punjab).
Each Manvantara also has presiding Saptarishis, that change (though not mutually exclusive from each other) in each era. For example, the Saptarishis of Svayambhuva Manvantara, the first one, were Atri, Angirasa, Pulaha, Kratu, Pulastya, Marichi, and Vasishta. In the present time, the Saptarishis are Vasishta, Vishwamitra, Atri, Jamadagni, Bharadvaja, Gautama, and Kashyapa. These famous Sages adorn not only sacred history and legend, but also epic and even modern geography. Vasishta was the preceptor of Bhagvan Sri Ram at Kosala (Avadh). Vishwamitra’s sons are said to have been the progenitors of the Andhras. And Maharishi Kashyapa is the namesake for the modern state known as the Crown of India, Kashyapa-Mira (Kashmir).
That is the value of learning this sacred history. Not because it means rejecting modern history or scientific archaeology, but because we understand the significance of these lands and traditions to our identity. Above all, it is because if we don’t know where we are from, we don’t know where we are going. As the recipients and compilers of the Vedas, these Saptarishis are the progenitors of our civilization. And the values of Satya, Rta, and Dharma are the foundation of our way of life and connect us to our relatives and neighbours, whatever their panth (religion) may be. These values make Indic Civilization and Society inclusive and welcoming, while expecting duty and loyalty in return.
Civilization of the Indus-Sarasvati
Known to us today as the Indus-Valley Civilization or Harappan Civilization, the polity that boasts famous sites such as Lothal and Mohenjo-Daro has increasingly aligned with the Indic tradition of Civilization beginning along the banks of the now-legendary Sarasvati River. When it later dried up, the Vedic peoples then sought refuge in the West, crossing the Indus, and the East, in the Ganga-Yamuna doab. Interestingly, modern science has identified a dry river system along the Ghaggar-Hakra bed, precisely in between the Indus and Gangetic systems. With the Aryan Invasion Theory having lost favour, the colonial Dravidian divide now appears to have been breached. Perhaps it is no accident that the Pauranic traditions considers Vaivasvata Manu as hailing from…Dravida desa.
The colonial based paradigm dates the IVC to a little after the last Ice Age, with clear signs around 6000-5000 BCE, and urban culture reaching its high point from 2600 BCE to 1300 BCE. Per this framework and the tendentious Aryan Invasion Theory (AIT), the Vedas are dated to 1200-1000 BCE. Regardless of the theory and dating, all parties agree that the Sindhu-Sarasvati was the first significant urban civilization with sophisticated city planning (from streets to sewer systems) anywhere in the ancient world. Major sites beyond Mohenjo-Daro in Sindh and Harappa in Punjab are Dholavira (Kutch), Kalibangan (Rajasthan), Lothal (Gujarat), Mehrgarh (Balochistan), and Shortughai (Afghanistan).
There is also a high degree of continuity between the Indus Valley Civilization and modern Indic Civilization. Aside from the famous Pasupathi (Siva seal) in a yogic pose, there is also the Mother Goddess Figurine, as well as assorted jewelry, such as bangles. S.R. Rao also claimed to have decoded the common script that was in use at the time, and asserts the use of a Sanskritic language.
Dasarajanya War (The War of Ten Kings)
Phases of Vedic Civilization
- Madhya desa
- SarDesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview: Boulder, Colorado. 2008.p.2-48
- Mahanirvana Tantra, By Arthur Avalon.Published by Forgotten Books. 1913
- Kota, Venkatachalam Paakayaaji (Pandit). Chronology of Ancient Hindu History Part I. Vijayawada: AVG. p.121-133
- Majumdar, R.C. Ancient India.New Delhi: MLBD. 2003
There are three major sources of genealogy in Indic history: the Puranas, the Buddhist Avadhanas, and the Jain Canon . The Puranas list 153 kings from Vaivasvata Manu to the Mahabharata war. They then continue through the Mauryas, the Andhras, and the Panwar Dynasty of Vikramaditya of Ujjain.
There are 18 Puranas in the Sanatana Dharmic tradition that chronicle not only events concerning the divine and sacred, but also the very historical chronologies of royal dynasties. It is not only the legendary lunar lineage that is recounted, but also the dynasties of the Mauryas, Sungas, Kanvas, Andhra Satavahanas, and Guptas. This coalescing with the modern western historical paradigm demonstrates the centrality of the Puranas to helping understand our past. From the legendary wolf that nursed Rome’s Romulus and Remus to the mythical Xia Dynasty of China, myth has been the starting point in even the “modern, rational” Western and the very atheist Chinese worlds. There is no reason the Indic world should be an exception here. If the History of the Kings of Britain can begin with Britannicus from the Trojan War, if the Iliad with all its Greek gods can be a reference for the Hellenes, surely we can begin our story with Bharata and his antecedents. Therefore, this section commences with our Epic history described in the Ramayana, Mahabharata, and supporting Puranas.
Siege of Lanka
Suryavamsa & Chandravamsa
- Sagara & Bhagiratha
Divodasa of Kasi (Varanasi)
Bharatavarsha on the eve of the Kurukshetra
Sons of Vishwamitra
- SarDesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview: Boulder, Colorado. 2008.p.30
From the hazy past of semi-myth and legend we arrive at the confirmed history of our ancient past. Astika or Nastika, Atheist or Gnostic, this is the history as confirmed or theorized by modern science. Here we find not only the Pauranic King lists illuminating, but also the Jatakas and Avadhanas of the Buddhist tradition. Along with the Vinayapitaka, these texts shed significant light on the political situation of the Buddha’s era–particularly republics such as the Vrijjis & mighty Licchavis of Nepal–as well famous Buddhist Emperors such as Ashoka. Adherents of Jina Dharma (Jains) echo the Hindu Chronology as well as the Dharmic Concept of Chakravartins (Wheel-turners of Dharma, and Universal Rulers). They assert 12 such Emperors in number. Aligning modern science with recorded tradition is a difficult task, but is nevertheless a necessary one. As the famous saying goes, there are liars, damn liars, and statisticians. Therefore, just as the scientific method helps us hold tradition to account, so to does tradition ensure that science isn’t misused to misportray.
This era is also notable for the rise of two of the four Dharmic faiths, Bauddha and Jina Dharmas. Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautama‘s life and deeds are recorded in many texts, notably in the Book of the Great Decease. He was born to Queen Mahamaya and the Sakya Aristocrat Suddhodana of Kapilavastu. While Lumbini, Nepal was his birthplace, Gaya in modern Bihar is where he attained Nirvana. His teachings were recorded two centuries later as the three baskets (Tripitakas). A schism later occurred at the fourth buddhist sangha held by Kanishka, leading to Mahayana and Theravada (Hinayana) Buddhism. Mahayana spread to China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam and Theravada spread primarily to Sri Lanka and South East Asia. Key Buddhist texts for history include the Avadanas, and the Mahavamsa along with 500 Jatakas,
Jina Mahavira, the 24th of the Jain Tirthankaras, and his life are recorded in Jain texts, such as the Jain canon of the Svetambaras (45 texts).Thus, whether we commence this “Ancient” period from the beginning of the Kaliyuga in 3102 BCE, or the end of the Epic Age currently in vogue, running from approximately 800BCE to 600 CE, it is here that a less debatable understanding of our history comes to the fore.
While the 16 Mahajanapadas (great-clan-feet) are the famous configuration of states from the Afghan borderlands to Bengal in the East and Maharashtra in the South, the Andhra, Chola, Chera, and Pandya polities also figure significantly even in this early period. Indeed, while the earlier number was 16, a total of 56 desas are generally mentioned, as early as the eve of the Mahabharata War (3139 BCE per Kali Yuga dating, or circa 500 BCE per current paradigm). From the ascensions of Pareekshita and Janamajeya down to the Karkota Dynasty of Kashmir, the Puranas and recognized histories such as the Rajatarangini present an unbroken kinglist, frequently spanning the length and breadth of the Subcontinent.
Notable events per the current paradigm include the rise of Magadha under the Saisunagas, Nandas, and Mauryas, the defeated Invasions of Semiramis, Cyrus, and the failed invasion of Alexander. The successful defense of India under the Andhra Satavahana dynasty (notably Gautamiputra) against the Sakas and under the Gupta dynasty (notably Skanda Gupta) against the Hunas. Above all however, is the highwater mark that the native Classical Indic Civilization reached. The arts and industry all flowered, international trade was booming, and venerated Devabhasha proved to be a language of kavya and elite conversation, by the skill of such poets as Kalidasa and Bhavabhuti. Indeed, the court of King Vikramaditya Panwar of Ujjain (circa 58 BCE) was legendary for the cultural accomplishments of its navaratnas (nine courtly gems). Indeed, descendants of the Sakas such as King Rudradaman famously penned poetry in the most chaste Sanskrit. From the political unity of the Mauryas, which had close relations with Lanka, to the cultural golden age under the Guptas & Panvaras, the accomplishment of this era serves as the true “sheet anchor” of our history.
Assyrian War & the Defeat of Semiramis
Death of Cyrus & halting of Darius
Battle of the Jhelum (Hydaspes) & Retreat of Alexander
- Saisunaga Dynasty
- Nanda Dynasty
- Maurya Dynasty
- Sunga Dynasty
- Kanva Dynasty
Andhra Satavahana Empire
- Rajuvula to Nahapana to Rudradaman
Andhra-Ikshvakus & Pallavas
- SarDesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview: Boulder, Colorado. 2008.p.30-116
- Majumdar, R.C. Ancient India.New Delhi: MLBD. 2003
- Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India. New Delhi: Rupa.1999
d. Late Antiquity
This period saw the rise of the famous Rajput clans of India. The distinct regional linguistic traditions of Kannada and Telugu also begin to diverge from the earlier prominence of Prakrit. The 7th Century is also notable for other factors, such as the Kannauj Triangle, where three Pan-India Powers, the Pratiharas of Gujarat, the Palas of Bengal, and the Rashtrakutas of Karnataka all engaged in a tripartite contest for Paramountcy, a contest repeatedly won by the lords of the Dakshinapatha (Deccan).
This also a glorious age famous for the defeat of the Arab invasions. After multiple wars in Afghanistan, and three wars on Sindh (the first two were defeated), they were driven out by concerted effort of the more powerful kingdoms of middle India. It is important to recognize that due to these losses,the Arabs gave up any further attempt at invading India, and it would be 300 years before such invaders made another attempt under the Persianized Turks. Indeed, Sindh itself would be under the native Sindhis Soomros within 2 generations, and the emirs of Multan and Mansura were permitted to survive under condition of tribute. Indeed, the former would pay homage in person to the Paramount King of India at the time, Rashtrakuta ruler Govinda III. The Pratihara and Chalukya empires shine brilliantly in this coordinated effort, and the names Nagabhata, Mihira Bhoja, Avanijanasraya, Bappa Rawal, Lalitaditya (of Kashmir), and Yashovarman (of Kannauj) should be remembered for all time.
Further South, this period would be characterized by the ascendancy of both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, with a cross-cauvery rivalry between the Chalukyas and the Pallavas that would crescendo with the death of Pulakesin II (who had defeated Harshavardhana) followed by the storming of Kanchipuram in revenge. Indeed, Kannada arms in that period would span the breadth of the subcontinent reaching as far as Nepal and Bengal (where the Kannada origin Sena dynasty would supplant the Buddhist Palas). While their Rashtrakuta vassals would unseat them for 200 hundred some odd years to provide for an interregnum, the Chalukyas would be back to establish eastern and western dynasties in Andhra and Karnataka respectively, leaving deep cultural impressions on both. The puissant Pallavas would engage in great building programs before ultimately being replaced by the legendary Chola Empire, which would soon cast wide imperial shadows in both India and South-east Asia.
In the Northeast, the distinct identity of the Assamese people would form under the Ahoms. They established their rule in the region known as Kamarupa, and gave their name to a great culture and people would would prove their tenacity and skill in war in the coming millennium.
Wars of Harsha Vardhana
Arab-Afghan Wars & The Fall of Zabul
- Sahi Partial Reconquest
Arab-Rajput Wars & The Defeat of the Caliphs
- Invasions of Sindh
- Battles of Rajasthan
- Naval Engagements
- Panvara, Chalukya, and Chandella
The Vardhanas & the Harsha Charita
The Kannauj Triangle:
- The Powerful Palas
- The Heroic Pratiharas
- The Paramount Rashtrakutas
Maitrakas of Vallabhi
Rise of the Ahoms
- SarDesai, D.R. India: The Definitive History. Westview: Boulder, Colorado. 2008.p.82-127
- Keay, John. India: A History.New York: Grove Publications.2000.p.155-230
- Majumdar, R.C. Ancient India.New Delhi: MLBD. 2003
- Basham, A.L. The Wonder that was India. New Delhi: Rupa.1999
The Medieval period is one of great heroism and sacrifice. Indeed, Dharma was tested very severely in all corners of India. Our ancestors not only fought bravely, but also adapted and frequently went on the offensive. Kings such as Jayapala, Krishna Deva Raya, Maharana Pratap, and Chhatrapati Shivaji all made their marks in the defense of Dharma. While the Arab invasions had been defeated by the Rajputs and other great Kshatriya dynasties of India, the medieval period would bring with it the composite bow and a fleet-footed central asian horse that would wreak havoc not only in India, but in the rest of Asia and borderlands of Europe.
While the Buddhist Sahis would regain parts of Afghanistan for Indic Civilization from the Arabs, the conversion of the Turks Alptigin and Sabuktigin would combine murderous central asian cavalry tactics with religious motivation. The Hindu Sahis under Jayapala would fight a valiant war against the invaders. Indeed, the first of the great Sahis would actually go on the offensive to take back parts of Afghanistan during the closely fought Battle of Laghman. Climate, however, would later conspire against him, and the cold weather put his non-winter clothed army in an impossible position. Jayapala was forced to ask for terms from Sabuktigin, and had to give up the very strategically positioned forts that guarded the gates to India. The stage was set for the infamous pirate-raider Mahmud of Ghazni in 1000 CE. The now diminished Jayapala relocated from Kabul to the Salt Range. From his new capital at Nandana he continued his desperate but unsuccessful resistance, and soon abdicated and immolated himself. Indeed, his son Anandapala and grandson Trilochanapala would carry on the effort so bravely and resolutely, that even the Arab chroniclers of Ghazni were forced to speak honourably of their valour and nobility.
While Mahmud’s atrocities from Somnath to Mathura are well-known, less known is the successful resistance by Vidyadhara of Kalinjar and the furious march of Bhoja Paramara. Indeed, Mahmud’s raids were as much about avoiding battle as giving it, and he refused battle when challenged by the lord of Dharanagara. Even less known is the battle of Bahraich that defeated the invading army of occupation under Mahmud’s successor Masud. An enormous Rajput confederacy converged upon the invaders and wiped out the army of occupation in entirety. Indeed, they would reverse the Ghaznavid gains in the Punjab and would have taken back Mulasthana (Multan), had it not been for petty politics and internal dissensions.
Nevertheless, about 100 years later, the Ghorids brought the Turks back on the scene. While Mohd. Ghori would be defeated at the first battle of Tarain by Govindaraja Tomar, he would win the second in 1192 against the former’s liege lord Prithivraj Chauhan in a treacherous night attack after pleading for peace. The fleet footed all cavalry Turk armies poured in and by 1206, they had set up the Delhi Sultanate (1208-1526).
While there were periodic revolts in the North and un-subduable Rajput kingdoms like Mewar, resistance in the South was stout and determined. The Kakatiya dynasty of Andhra was particularly redoubtable having fought 5 wars (winning 2 of them) before being uprooted. The tragedy was that a Confederation of the South was never formed by the Seunas, Kakatiyas, Hoysalas, and Pandyas. Having failed to hang together, they ultimately were hanged separately. Nevertheless, a mere 3 years after the disastrous fall of Warangal, these Telugu-Turk Wars would continue following the successful popular revolt led by the Musunuri Nayaks and their Reddi Dynasty confederates. After liberating Andhra they would rule for 50 and 100 years respectively.
In Tamil Nadu, Vira and Sundara Pandya would (wisely and refreshingly) put aside their family feud and fight an innovative guerrilla struggle that would drive out the Turk army under Malik Kafur. While the Pandyas would eventually be replaced by an island of Turk Tyranny known as the Sultanate of Madurai, the exploits of the Telugus, Tamilians, and Kannadigas (under Veera Ballala) would set the stage for the rise of that mighty wall of Dharma, the City of Victory.
Vijayanagara stands as a brilliant epoch in the history of Indic Civilization. The founders, Harihara and Bukka Raya, were brothers hailing originally from Warangal and Kampili successively, and were brought back into the fold of Dharma by Acarya Vidyaranya. The city they founded would serve as a citadel for the Classical Culture of Indic Civilization. The dozen wars it fought with the persianized Bahmanis would have many close calls, many victories, and end in the crumbling of the sultanate into a hydra of five quarreling states (Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar, Qutb Shahis of Golkonda, Adil Shahis of Bijapur, Imad Shahis of Berar, & Barid Shahis of Bidar). For two centuries the city of Virupaksha would stand as a haven for refugees from both North and South in a sea of destruction, and attain its noontide under Krishna Deva Raya. Even after the disastrous battle of Talikota and the pillage of that great metropolis, the Rayas would continue their fight from Penukonda, Udayagiri, and Chandragiri, before petty quarreling nayakdoms undercut them.
In the Northwest, Babur would arrive around 1519 and consider Vijayangara the most powerful in India, when taking stock of the scene. Having defeated Ibrahim Lodi at the First Battle of Panipat in 1526, he would be opposed by Rana Sangram Singh who assembled a Rajput Confederacy to face him at Khanua in 1527. While the Rajputs had won the earlier engagements, a desperate and besieged Babur suddenly found religion and relied on a combination of artillery, musketman, and cavalry flank attacks to win the battle, and lay the foundation for his dynasty.
While the Mughal Invaders would not truly take root until after Akbar defeated Raja Hemachandra, and bound the Kacchwahas and other unwilling Rajputs in forced marriage alliances, the Sisodias would refuse to bow. Under Maharana Pratap, Mewar would resolutely fight to preserve its independence, as would the foremost state of the North East. The Mughal Invader Akbar was frustrated. Despite his military and economic power “bent on destroying one individual, who was saved not only by his personal heroism and bravery but also because the people regarded him as their own and shared his love of freedom and refusal to surrender“. Indeed, through his guerrilla war, the Maharana regained most of Mewar before his death.
Assam was another land of great patriots. While Bengal had fallen to the Delhi Sultans, and even had its own independent offshoot (the Sharqis), with a brief Hindu interregnum under Raja Ganesh, the land of the Ahoms remained free. Despite Turk and Mughal invasions reaching the double digits, through bravery, strategy, innovative tactics and will to fight, the indomitable Assamese resistance reached its successful highwater mark under the intrepid Lachit Borphukan.
Inspired by the legacy of the dissolved Vijayanagara Empire, the Marathas made a bid to liberate their homeland under Shivaji Bhonsle. Indeed, through their 27 year Liberation War they would do precisely that at great cost and many lives (including his successor, Sambhaji). It is nevertheless an inspirational story of a dynasty of kings (and queens, such as Tarabai) dedicated to driving out oppressive foreign Imperialists from the subcontinent, and made possible by the pragmatic use of Ganimi Kava (enemy tactics) where necessary, combined with native traditions. Like a mortar and pestle, the deccan cavalry tactics and extensive fort system envisioned by Jijabai putra himself would ground the invading Mughal army into dust. By the time of Shahuji II, this task had been accomplished and the Chhatrapati’s great dream of Hindavi Swarajya (Indic Rule/Native Rule) resonated with Indic people of all religions. Indeed, as the Deccani Muslims learned from their lower class treatment by Pardesis (outsider, Central Asian/Mideast Migrants), no one treats you as well as your own coethnics, and thus, great men like Ibrahim Gardi Khan flocked to the Maratha Banner and would shed blood shoulder to shoulder with their Indic brethren at Panipat III. Truly, if the rule of the Chhatrapatis accomplished the task of breaking the Mughal Invaders and liberating Maharashtra, the Peshwas under Baji Rao I and Balaji Baji Rao would take forward the dream of liberating the Indian Subcontinent itself, and very nearly achieve it.
After fall the of Sahis, Punjab would rise again centuries later under the banner of the Akal Takht. Sikh Dharma began under Guru Nanak, who was born in 1469 at Talwandi (Nankana), near Lahore. In a time of turbulence, he very wisely emphasized devotion over rituals, and exhorted his followers to “live an ethical life, help the poor, and protect the weak against the oppression and cruelty“. He went on four journeys, one of which was to Sri Lanka. 9 other Gurus succeeded him, the most important being Guru Har Gobind (transformed the Sikhs to a warrior panth), Guru Tegh Bahadur (Hind di Chadar), and Guru Gobind Singh (established the Khalsa & initiated the Panj Pyare). With the founding of the Khalsa and the chaos of the Punjabi plains due to the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Durrani, the Sikhs who rebelled agains the Mughals could and would strike out on their own. While the first leader after the Gurus was the heroic Banda Bahadur, it was Kapur Singh who diluted the Mughals around Lahore and the formation of the 12 Sikh misls as a federation, that would set the stage for pushing out the Afghans and restoring Punjab to Dharmic rule. The greatest of all temporal leaders however would be the legend known as Sher-e-Punjab, who would go on to found an Empire.
Siege of Multan (circa 1100 CE)
Wars of the Chola Maritime Empire
Palnati Yuddham (Andhra Kurukshetra)
First Siege of Chittor
- First Warangal
- Third Warangal & Sally of Prataparudra
- Fourth Warangal: Siege & Sack
Pandya Guerilla War
Andhra Liberation War
Second Siege of Chittor
Talikota (a.k.a Raksha-Tangadi)
Naval Battle of Chaul
Third Siege of Chittor
Assam War of 1668
27 Year Maratha Liberation War
Pillage of Ghaznavi
- Later Pratiharas
- Chandella Dynasty
- Chauhans of Ajmer & Ranthambore
- Solankis of Gujarat
- Guhilots, Ratan Singh & Rani Padmini
Delhi Turk Invaders
- Slave Dynasty
- The Khiljis
- The Tughluqs
- The Lodis
Yadavas of Devagiri (Seunas)
The Musunuris Nayaks & the Confederation of the Andhras
Deccan Turks: Hassan Gungu to the Nizam
- Deccani Shahis
- Asaf Jahs
- Pepper Politics & Medicine Mania
- Goa Inquisition
Affairs in Bengal
Kingdom of Assam
- Kumbhakaran Singh
- Sangram Singh
- Maharana Pratap
Later Rajput Clans
- Panipat I and II
- Descent: Death of Dara &Tyranny of Aurangzeb
- Later Mughals
Chhatrapati Shivaji & the Maratha Empire
Rise of the Khalsa
- Guru Gobind Singh
Nepali Sah Dynasty
- SarDesai, D.R. India:The Definitive History.Westview: Boulder.2008.p.127-203
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012. p.36-168
- Keay, John. India: A History. New York: HarperCollins. 2000.p.231-347
While the Marathas made a valiant effort at not only rolling back the Mughals but driving out the British, history ultimately would delay the dream of Hindavi Swaraj for another two centuries. Unlike the cowardice of the Nizam of Hyderabad (who was the first “princely ruler” to become a subsidiary ally of the British East India Company), the tenacious Marathas would fight three wars. Indeed, had it not been for Third Panipat in 1761, the British “Mahratta Ditch” around their exploitative colony of Bengal would have proven ineffectual. In fact, had the close fought Panipat III been a Maratha victory, Sadashiv Bhau had orders to then place Vishwasrao on the throne of Delhi and to drive out the British from Vanga. Alas, fortune had other plans. In the end, Madhavrao was later followed by overtly unqualified Peshwas who sought out British help to claim their authority over the rest of the Maratha Confederacy (Holkars of Indore, Scindias of Gwalior, Gaekwads of Baroda, and Bhosles of Nagpur) that served so well. Time and again, despite the barbhai (council of 12 brothers) defeating the British in the First Anglo-Maratha War, attempts would be made to support the candidacy of another. When the Confederacy dissolved in 1800, the British saw their chance, and using the claim of Bajirao II, defeated the Marathas in the remaining two wars, and then discarded the usefully subverted Peshwa by 1818, when he was no longer needed.
Contrary to the colonial narrative, European and especially British Colonial Rule was not conducted “in a fit of absentmindedness“. From the beginning with Da Gama towards the end with Dalhousie, empire was very much on the mind of the evangelical Imperialists. The barbaric Goa Inquisition and depradations of the Piratical Portuguese on various temples are part of this very single-minded and exploitative legacy under the ironic names of civilization, progress, and love. While Nepal fortunately managed to retain its independence due to the leadership of Prithvi Narayan Sah and others, Lanka (then Ceylon) endured the triple tyranny of the Portuguese, Dutch and British in succession. The tactics used by the French via Dupleix and De Bussy also contravened Indic laws of war, and demonstrated how foolish it is to trust foreigners before one’s own civilizational brethren. As such, rather than technology–where India proved more advanced in a number of cases–there were structural advantages of theater, distance, and seapower, and above all persistent power politics. What’s more, neither was there little resistance nor did the subcontinent easily fall into the hands of westerners. Indeed, as the Keralite Kingdom of Travancore proved through their defeat of the Dutch, with the right leadership, unity, and thinking, colonial powers could be and were undone.
While the victory of Marthanda Varma at the Battle of Colachel was one of the few bright lights in the era, the built in advantages of seapower and professional institutions of the various European Trading Companies (rather than personalized armies and personality cults), along with savvier diplomacy and more subversive politics, won the day. Without a better, more inclusive organization within, and less trusting commercial and technical endeavours without, how can victory be possible? Appeals to “jati dharma” and “kulaachaara” as a cure all are of no use here, as Saamaanya Dharma comes before both, and the very purpose of Dharma is to adapt to changed circumstances as needed. Indeed, while the British expertly played their racial card with defeated European competitors to pull them from the officer echelons of Maratha and Sikh armies on the eve of war, Indic lieutenants and politicians continued to cut off the nose to spite face. Nothing embodied this more than the Peshwa’s turning on the un-submissive Angres and destroying the painstakingly built Maratha Navy with the help of the British EIC of all parties. This ensured the structural advantage of seapower was once again out of Indic hands.
In any event, the other pleasant patch in this period was the Empire of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. After a millennium, with close calls under Hemu and Rana Sangha, Sher-e-Punjab was finally able to break the power of the Persianized Turco-Afghans with the defeat of the Durranis. Indeed, Sikh arms would go deep into Afghanistan and strike fear in the form of Baghmar Hari Singh Nalwa. While this ferocious warrior is remembered by Pashtuns today with the formidable line “Raghe Hari Singh”, he died fighting at Jamrud, successfully defending it from the Afghans against terrible odds. While the gates of Bharat were finally sealed by Maratha endurance and Sikh power respectively, the backyard was wide open with the death of Ranjit Singh. Again, the lack of institutional orientation and personal politics and unrestrained envy made a mess of succession, and the British imposed oppressive conditions following two brief but brutal Anglo-Sikh Wars in 1845 and 1849. Whether the sheer number of invaders, the structural advantages of seapower/distant power base, or fate itself proved the undoing is open for debate, but as the battles of Chillianwala, expertly led by Sher Singh Attariwala demonstrated, it was not due to lack of effort, determination, skill or other such qualities.
As the War of 1857 would convincingly demonstrate, unity of purpose is always and everywhere the key determinant for victory, and is possible only with common values and common loyalties–whatever one’s background. In fact there had been previous revolts at Vellore, Bareilly in 1816, and Chota Nagpur, along with the vanvasi Santhal rebellion in 1855-57. While Tatya Tope and Jhansi ki Rani sacrificed themselves for the cause (Nana Saheb was rumoured to have escaped to Nepal), many more preferred their lives of purposeless ease. Selfish ahankaris, thin-skinned/ incompetent gyaanis, parochial and casteist elites all continue to prove through their unrepentant boorishness that unless there is something in it for the little guy, he won’t be in it when the fight breaks out (though, even he should know better than to appeal to outsiders assistance). Above all it shows that while personal bravery is important, discretion is the better part of valour for the battle is won before the fight even starts.
As shown in the prelude to Plassey, “The details of that intervention also showed the English morality of the time, which was not shy of corruption, double-dealing, and forgery emphasized the ends, whatever the means.“. As the gullibly grateful Mughal Farruksiyar found out from the firman he gave the British after a favour, war is a continuation of politics and politics . Therefore, enemies must be read by their interests not their personal rapports. When Child’s War was fought only in 1688, how could the Mughal imperialist think the company whose director advocated the “establishment of British dominance in India and not over it” would have changed? Perhaps the greater lesson here is the danger of trading with one’s enemies. What is the price? Read the words of a Britisher himself:
“Horace Walpole, a noted contemporary politician and author, said ‘We have outdone the Spaniards in Peru. They were at least butchers on principle. however diabolical their zeal. We have murdered, deposed, plundered, usurped–nay, what think you of the famine in Bengal, in which three millions perished, being caused by a monopoly of the provisions by the servants of the East India Company’” [1, 222].
While the ill-fated First War of Independence would end in ashes at Gwalior, the Second War 90 years later under Bengal’s Subhas Chandra Bose would be merely a Pyrrhic victory for the British. Unity of Purpose had at last been provided by the INA (Indian National Army), and the mutinies thereafter in the Navy paved the way for the INC (Indian National Congress) to manage India to freedom and a rediscovery of common values.
Siege of Srirangapatnam
Palkhed Campaign & the Battle of Kharda
Battle of Bhopal
Plassey & Buxar
- Treaty of Salbhai
Bobbili War & Battle of Padmanabham
- Siege of Multan
Vellore Rebellion & Arcot
First War of Independence
- Siege of Laknau
- Siege of Delhi
Battle of Saragarhi
World War I
Jallianwala Bagh 1918
Mopplah Massacre & Rebellion
World War II & the Indian National Army
Marthanda Varma & the Defeat of the Dutch
Marathas under the Peshwa
Admiral Angre & the Maratha Navy
Empire of Ranjit Singh
Company Rule & the First War of Independence
Independent Kingdom of Nepal
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose & the Second War of Independence
- SarDesai, D.R. India:The Definitive History.Westview: Boulder.2008.p.194-308
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012. p.168-270
- Keay, John. India: A History. New York: HarperCollins. 2000.p.348-447
As the partition of India would prove, whatever one’s religion, a common sense of civilization and culture is critical to the vibrancy and prosperity of a people. The legacy of subverted sepoys and useful idiots would continue even in the lead up and aftermath of Independence in 1947. When people exchange their self-respect for the aesthetics of an loyalty to one foreign master or another, rather than take pride in native heritage, unity is not possible.These ranks include not only partition advocates and Caldwell racial theory acolytes, but also selfish and self serving potentates and princes. If the unprovoked massacres by the Mopplahs in 1922 and Direct Action Day leaders of 1946 set the stage for partition, the bloodbath in the aftermath of August 14-15th, 1947 would demonstrate the human cost of civilizational identity crisis. If you don’t know where you are from, you don’t know where you are going, and you quarrel with your own.
In fact, violence would only continue with the First Indo-Pakistan War in 1947 over Kashmir and Operation Polo in 1948. The common people of Hyderabad state had been under the oppressive rule of the Nizam and his traitorous Doras. A peasant revolt by the masses had to face the inhuman violence and atrocities of Kasim Rizvi’s Razakars. Their depradation on civilians and especially women remain notorious, and did not even spare patriotic Muslims like Shoaibullah Khan who advocated integration with the Republic of India. Those who prided themselves on descent from those outside the subcontinent insulted and usurped the land, wealth and freedom of the native Marathis, Telugus, and Kannadigas, even denying them the dignity of language. When the ravenous Rizvi threated to genocide the majority, Sardar Patel swiftly countered that “Swords will be met with swords”. And they were, when in October 1948, in mere days, the Liberation of Hyderabad was achieved. Indeed, the Integration of 571 princely states into India by Sardar Patel is a testament to his statesmanship, foresight, and abilities as an administrator.
Despite visions of modernity and global leadership, the legacy of Jawaharlal Nehru remains less certain, particularly in Himalayan matters. Due to his involvement of the UN, the majority of Jammu&Kashmir would be retained by India, with Pakistan holding the remainder. Starting in the mid 1950s, however, China would surreptitiously begin encroaching on India’s Aksai Chin while faking good faith. Rather than taking Sardar’s warning seriously, Nehru would captivated by Panchsheel, Chou En Lai, and Hindi-Chini Bhai Bhai. Double dealing Communists proved to be dushmans instead. While racist socialist sympathizers attempted to blame Nehru and his forward policy to this day, China’s previous road-building through Aksai Chin and ambiguity over maps and claim lines, belie the lie. In fact, it is more likely that Mao had baited Nehru into giving him a pretext for war. While Nehru’s defence minister, V.K. Krishna Menon thought his Liberation of Goa (which would finally remove the Piratical Portuguese from Goa after 500 years) would be sufficient proof of power, the reality is unlike the wooly-headed socialist satyagrahis, the Chinese were battle-hardened strategic thinkers and no-nonsense imperialists. While the disastrous 1962 defeat that followed due to lack of preparation, lack of strategic thinking, and lack of seriousness is known to every Indian, less obvious is whether they have learned to put aside their petty egos to learn from it. While some measure of roshan was recovered in the 1967 Cho La incident and and the 1988 Operation Chequerboard faceoff, the tarnish of 1962 remains a lesson in what not to do.
It’s Delhi Sultanate delusions still driving it, and encouraged by Chinese success, Pakistan started an unprovoked war by testing the ground first in the Rann of Kutch, then by initiating Operation Gibraltar, which commenced the 1965 Indo-Pakistan War. Despite its generous NATO armoury, Pakistan’s offensive was ground down by India, which would then take the initiative into enemy territory. Jinnah’s country would be left with mere days of ammunition and fuel, leading it to plead for intervention, when India was poised to sever its North-South connectivity. With a US-USSR backed settlement returning the Haji Pir pass to Pakistani occupation, India’s strategic gains would be suckered away in Superpower politics. The honorably feisty hero of Jawan and Kisan, Lal Bahadur Shastri would die soon after in tragic circusmtances.
Indira Gandhi, previously positioned by her father to be Congress President, then took the reigns of power. Her term in office would prove to be as mixed as her father’s, despite being a study in contrasts. His dreamy visions of peaceful internationalism would be diametrically opposite to her hardnosed realpolitik. While she wasn’t above propping up anti-national Razakars and Khalistanis to preserve her vote-share, a policy that would later lead to her undoing, her heavy-handedness preserved economic and political sovereignty at home while cutting down rivals abroad.
“It was in Indira’s time that India became the third largest reservoir of skilled scientific and technical manpower, the fifth military power, the sixeth member of the nuclear club, seventh in the race for space, and the tenth industrial power.” (SarDesai, 351)
The fruit of this was seen in her 1971 Victory over Pakistan. The Indian Army liberated Bangladesh (then East Pakistan) in the process. Her policy of arming the Mukhti Bahini, Bengali insurgents, followed by direct Indian involvement, ended the Pakistani army’s genocide of 3 million Bengalis and rape of 200,000 women. Like Tashkent however, the Simla agreement gifted away strategic gains in the perennial name of “aman ki asha”. The crop of this overly generous policy would be reaped in the Khalistani and Kashmir insurgencies that would follow, the first of which would take her life. While the Emergency remains her most heavily criticized policy, it was the involvement of unqualified members of her family that most clouds her legacy, to this day.
Post-Indira, India would see the rise and tragic fall of Rajiv Gandhi. The consequences of the Sri Lanka Civil War would not leave this Indian PM untouched, in the aftermath of the IPKF Mission of 1987. However, his patronage of evangelical elements in the Congress Party, such as Jagdish Tytler, and the horror they unleashed on Sikhs in 1984, following the Assassination of Indira, remains a terrible stain, which all right thinking Indians must seek to clear.
While the various Janata Governments before and after him would be characterized by muddle, it was his Congress successor, P.V.Narasimha Rao, who would leave a lasting legacy for India. From liberalization, to containing the Kashmir Insurgency, to Nuclear status, to its Look East Policy, Modern India very much bears the Modern Chanakya’s imprint. The Janata governments that followed him would in turn be replaced by the first NDA government under Atal Behari Vajpayee, another consequential Prime Minsterial term. Pokharan II in 1998 and the Kargil War in 1999, most characterize his time in office. While it ironically set the stage for ten years of UPA misrule, his term is generally remembered positively. It will be interesting to see if the current incumbent, Prime Minister Narendra Modi will learn from that predecessor’s mistakes while capitalizing on his successes
In the wake of tragedy, the newly created state of Bangladesh went on to oscillate between democratic secularism under Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s Awami League and Ziaur Rehman’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which leans to conservative and extreme religious elements, having assasinated the former. Despite the tragic state of Dharma practicioners there since 1947, the tolerant vein in the country continues to flow, however constrained. This Janus-faced nature of the polity expressed itself in the female successors of both this leaders. Sheikh Hasina and Khalida Zia exchanged power in the 1990s and 2000s. Mujibur Rehman’s daughter appears to have the upper hand now, and Bangladesh has improved significantly in developmental indicators. Indeed, the East Pakistani self-respect movement over native language and 1971 crisis demonstrate the importance of language, culture, and the civilizational substrate. It will be interesting to see, and bode well if, the Awami League’ succeeds in its project for a prosperous Bangladesh that effectively combines religion with civilizational rootedness and cultural self-confidence.
Elsewhere, that beautiful pearl off the diamond of India known as Ceylon (Sinhala), would become independent. Its great political families would also return to the Dharma. Politicians such as Bandaraike would dominate the landscape in the years to come, as that nation would return to its ancient name of Lanka. More tragically, ethnic Sinhalese and ethnic Tamils would break out into clashes over language and culture. A truly unfortunate holdover of history, this eventually became a fratricidal and bloody war starting in the 1980s.
Due to the valour of her people, the prestige of her Gorkhas, and the mountain fastness of her terrain, Nepal had remained independent when the rest of the subcontinent was in slavery. Nevertheless, Post-1947 would see relations between Nepal and India ebb and flow. While its nadir occurred during Rajiv Gandhi’s personalized tenure, they remain on the rebound today. The proud kingdom’s royal dynasty periodically followed a policy of triangulation between India and China. The tragic and horrendous mass murder of the royal family by Prince Dipendra paved the way for its Civil War in the 2000s. The subsequent peace deals between the Maoists and the Nepali Congress turned the world’s last Hindu kingdom into a secular republic, causing many to wonder what the consequences may be for the traditional culture there. Nevertheless, due to its martial heritage, the land of Sita, Siddartha Gautama, and Guru Gorakhnath remains a place of Dharma to this day. As the hero of India’s 1971 War, General Sam Manekshaw would say, “If a man says he is not afraid of death he is either lying, or he is a Gorkha”.
Further east, Bhutan’s relations with India is somewhat similar but more cooperative. The Bhutanese Royal family has, in a laudable manner, emphasized Gross National Happiness over Gross Domestic Product. Having worked closely with India to preserve Bhutan’s territory and traditional way of life, its future is valuable to the security of the subcontinent and Dharma.
Uprising in Telangana and Operation Polo
1948 India-Pakistan War
1962 Sino-Indian War
1965 India-Pakistan War
1967 Cho La Incident
1971 India-Pakistan War / Bangladesh War of Liberation
Sri Lanka Civil War
Siachen Conflict Operation Meghdoot
Operations Brasstacks & Chequerboard
Nepal Civil War
Sri Lanka Civil War
Sardar Patel & the Integration of India
Lal Bahadur Shastri
INC in the 80s & 80s
First NDA Government
Nepal Palace Revolution
UPA I & II
Second NDA Government
- SarDesai, D.R. India:The Definitive History.Westview: Boulder.2008.p.306-404
- Rao, P. Ragunadha. History and Culture of Andhra Pradesh: From the Earliest Times to 1991. New Delhi: Sterling Publishers, 2012. p.267-346
- Keay, John. India: A History. New York: HarperCollins. 2000.p.485-534