Historical Places


Ahichhatra: originally Ahikshetra in Bareilly district of Uttar Pradesh was once the capital of Panchalas.

Aihole: in Karnataka contains chief sites of Chalukyan architecture— nearly 50 structural stone temples important in the development of Hindu architecture and sculpture.

Ajanta Caves: 106 km north of Aurangabad in Maharashtra State. These are rock-cut Buddhist caves, 29 in number. These caves represent a record of unique painting, sculpture and architecture of the period from about the 2nd century BC to about 7th century AD.

Amaravati: is the legendary capital of Svarga. Also a historical site near modern Vijaywada, believed to have flourished under the Satavahana dynasty.

Arikamedu: was a sea-port near Pudducherry in Chola times.

Ayodhya: a few miles from modern Faizabad, near Lucknow, was capital of the Kosala and the Solar kings of ancient India. Rama was the most prominent among them.

Badami (or Vatapi): in Karnataka is well-known for Chalukyan sculpture found in the cave temples here. These are groups of Hindu temples dating back to 7th or 8th century and are examples of pure Dravidian architecture. Besides cave temples and rock-cut pillared halls, there is also the famous Malegitti Sivalaya temple.

Belur: in Karnataka is famous for its elaborately sculptured Cheena Kesava temple of the Hoysala period.

Bhubaneswar: in Odisa is known for ancient temples viz., Rajarani; Lingraja; Brahmesvara.

Bodh Gaya: is situated six miles south of Gaya in Bihar State on the western bank of the Lilajan river and connected by two metalled roads. It is famous as the place where Buddha got enlightenment. There are modern monasteries, rest houses and museum.

Chidambaram: a town 240 km south of Chennai known as Tillai in ancient time, was once the capital of the Chola kingdom. Its temples are among the oldest in India and are gems of Dravidian architecture. It is famous as the abode of Natraja, the Dancing Siva.

Daulatabad: near Aurangabad in Maharashtra State is famous for rockcut 12 century fortress near the tomb of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb.

Elephanta Caves: on the island of the same name near Mumbai harbour are rock-cut caves of the 7th and 8th century.

Ellora Caves: about 24 km north-west of Aurangabad in Maharashtra State are about 34 caves excavated in the face of a hill.

Fatehpur Sikri: 37 km from Agra in Uttar Pradesh was the city founded by Akbar in 1569 but abandoned soon after. The place contains a number of places, shrines, mosques. The most notable among them is Buland Darwaza, 53 m high and built to commemorate the conquest of Khandesh.

Halebid: in Karnataka, 14 km from Belur, is well-known for its elaborately sculptured temples of the Hoysala period. The monuments rank among the masterpieces of Hindu art.

Hampi: in Karnataka, 11 km from Hospet railway station, is the ruined capital of the Vijayanagar Empire.

Harappa: in Montgomery district of Punjab, now in West Pakistan, is known for excavations carried out here showing signs of Indus Valley Civilization.

Junagadh: in Gujarat is one of the most ancient cities of India. It is situated below the Girnar Hill. The temples on the Hill are known for their architecture and paintings.

Kalibangan: in Rajasthan where recent excavations brought to light the varied achievements of Indus Valley Civilisation—town planning and use of burnt bricks.

Kanauj: Capital of Harshavardhan.

Kanchipuram: or the “Golden City”, 72 km south-west of Chennai is known for Kailashnath temple. It was the capital of successive dynasties of Hindu rulers.

Kanheri: 32 km from Mumbai is known for its Buddhist caves dating back to the 1st century AD.

Kanyakubja: or modern Kannauj is an ancient city. It was the cultural centre of northern India from the seventh century to the time when the Muslims came.

Kapilvastu: a small ancient kingdom in the north of India; associated with Mahatma Buddha.

Khajuraho: in Chhattarpur in Madhya Pradesh is famous for its group of highly ornate mediaeval Hindu temples.

Kusinagar: in the district of modern Gorakhpur, is the place where Buddha died.

Lothal: ancient town, situated on the sea-plain of former Saurashtra, 720 km south-east of Mohenjo-Daro. The excavation made here represent the Indus Valley Civilization.

Madurai: popularly known as the “City of Festivals”, was till the 14th century the capital of the Pandyan kingdom which had sea-borne trade with Rome and Greece. It is famous for Minakshi temple.

Mamallapuram (now Mahabalipuram): Situated 85 km from Chennai, it is known for rock-cut temples, monolithic figures and carvings of the 7th and 8th centuries AD. The chief points of interest here are the Five Rathas or temples modelled as chariots—“Arjuna Ratha”, “Draupadi Ratha”, “Dharamraja’s chariot” etc. Also famous for Shore temple.

Mandu: In Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the largest mediaeval city sites. It has extensive remains—fortifications and palaces—a synthesis of Hindu and Muslim styles in architecture and painting; Jama Masjid (of Mandu).

Mithila: was the home of the three scholar sages—Gargi, Maitreya and Kapila. It was the capital town of Raja Janak’s territory.

Mohenjo-daro: in the Larkana district of Sind (now in Pakistan) is the site of excavation revealing pre-Aryan Indus Valley Civilization.

Nalanda: in Bihar was the seat of an ancient Buddhist University. It contains a group of Buddhist temples and monasteries.

Palitana: in Saurashtra is famous for its holly hill Shatrunjaya. It is the most sacred place for Shvetambara Jains.

Pandharpur: is in Sholapur district (Maharashtra State). It stands on Bhima river and is one of the most sacred places of pilgrimage in the State.

Prabhas Patan: (or Som Nath) in Gujarat State is the site of the famous Som Nath temple which was destroyed by Mahmud Ghazni.

Pragjyotishpur: was the capital of an ancient tribal kingdom in Kamarupa or modern Assam. (It is the new capital of Assam State).

Rajgir: 10 km south-west of Nalanda by road is an important place of pilgrimage for Buddhists. It was the capital of Bimbisara in ancient times. The Buddha preached at Rajgir, and so did Mahavir, the great preceptor of the Jains.

Sanchi: in Madhya Pradesh is famous for the largest and the most wellpreserved Buddhist Stupa (33 m in diameter and 12.8 m in height).

Sarnath: near Varanasi is the place where the Buddha delivered his first sermon after he became the “Enlightened One”. The place is known for Buddhist temples and remains.

Seringapatam: in Karnataka was the ancient capital of Tipu Sultan. (Now known as Seringapatnam.)

Somnathpuram: in Karnataka is known for temples of Hoysala period, Kesava temple.

Sravanabelgola: in Karnataka is famous for its Jain temples and the colossal statue of Gomateswara—19.8 m high erected in 983, the tallest monolithic in the world.

Srirangam: an island on the Cauvery river two miles north of Tiruchirapalli. It contains one of the largest temples in south India of the Vijayanagar period.

Sringeri: in Karnataka is a place of pilgrimage on the banks of Tung river where the great philosopher Sankara founded one of the principal maths (monasteries).

Tamralipti: A flourishing sea port in ancient India.

Tanjore: was the capital of Cholas. It is situated in the delta of the Cauvery in Tamil Nadu. Also known for Brihadeeswara temple.

Taxila: ancient capital of Gandhara and one of the most renowned cities of ancient north-west India.

Tirupati: in Andhra State, situated about 160 km to the north-west of Chennai is one of the holiest places in South India. This hill temple of Sri Venkateswara is an example of early Dravidian architecture and is one of the finest in the south.

Ujjain: known to be the seat of king Vikrama, is situated on the Sipra in Madhya Pradesh. It is one of the seven sacred cities also known as Avanti. The Oriental Museum here has some valuable manuscripts and pieces of sculpture. Mahakaleshwar temple here is known as a pilgrimage centre.

Vaishali: in the district of Muzaffarpur in Bihar was the capital of famous Vaishali kingdom in ancient times. It was the capital Lichchavis also.

Vatapi: Refer Badami.

Vikramasila: was a great Tantrik University established by the Pala King Dharampala in 810. It was a hotbed of moral corruption, socery and idolatry. In 1198, the soldiers of Ikhtiar Khilji raised the structure to the ground and killed all the monks in the university.

Reforms & Movements in World History

French Revolution: It was brought about in 1789 by the revolutionary teachings of French philosophers namely, Rousseau, Voltaire and Montesquieu. In those days in France, the Clergy enjoyed privileges at the expense of the people. Rousseau preached the gospel of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity”. The revolt spread when a mob stormed the Bastille Prison in Paris. King Louis XVI was executed in 1793 and the Queen Marie Antoinette also suffered death later. Napoleon emerged as Emperor of France.

Russian Revolution: It came about in 1917 during Czar Nicholas’s regime. The people in his time were very poor and the Czar suppressed them ruthlessly. A full-scale revolt broke out in 1917 when the Soviet Council of Workers sprang into action. The army refused to fire at the revolutionaries and rather sided with them. Bolsheviks came to power. Czar Nicholas was executed and Lenin emerged as the strong man of Russia.

Magna Carta: It was the Charter of Liberties which King John II was forced to sign in 1215. It meant to put a check upon the arbitrary Powers of the King. The most important principle that it laid down was that Englishmen should be governed by definite laws and not by the whims or the will of a despotic ruler. Magna Carta was said to be “the foundation-stone of the rights and liberties of the English people”.

Renaissance: It was a transitional movement in Europe between the mediaeval and the modern which brought back the classic ideals in literature, painting and architecture. It began in the 14th century and attained its highest glory in the 15th and 16th century.

Glorious Revolution (England): It is so called due to its bloodless character and far-reaching consequences. The Glorious Revolution of 1688 ended the despotic rule of the Stuarts in England, reduced monarchy to a sort of crowned Presidency in a free state, vested sovereignty in the Parliament and led to far-reaching and permanent changes in the English system of Government.

The Bill of Rights: was the name given to a law declaring the rights and liberties of British subjects and settling the question of succession to the British Crown, passed by Parliament in 1689. The significance of the bill lies in that it not only clarified the existing law but also placed monarchy in England on a constitutional basis. It liberated British subjects from arbitrary government.

Industrial Revolution, England: Period beginning in the second half of the eighteenth century, during which power-driven machines replaced handwork as a result of rapid growth of applied science—watt and steam power.

American Civil War: Fought by the settlers in America against the sovereignty of British Empire under the leadership of George Washington in 1776-83. America became independent.

Crusades, The: Military expeditions undertaken by some Christian Nations to ensure the safety to pilgrims visiting the Holy sepulchre and to retain in Christian hands the Holy Places (1095-1217). First Crusade was undertaken by Godfrey of Bouillon.

Reformation Movement in Germany: A great religious movement of the 16th century, under the leadership of Martin Luther; resulted in the establishment of protestantism. From Germany it spread to other European countries.

Human Rights Charter: The General Assembly of the U.N. adopted Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. The Declaration recognised the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family. The work of drafting the Human Rights Charter was mostly done by Rene Cassin, Nobel Peace Prize winner of 1968.

Nazism: the cult of the Nazis or of the National Socialism of Hitler in pre-war Germany, which believed in the superiority of the German or Nordic race and treated the peoples of other races, particularly the Jews, in a cruel manner.

The Spanish Armada: was a great fleet sent by Philip II of Spain, leader of Catholic Europe, to invade England in 1588. The British defeated the Armada and thus established their supremacy over the seas.

Post-Independence History of India

The history of the Republic of India began on 26 January 1950. The country had earlier become an independent dominion within the British Commonwealth on 15 August 1947.

At the time of granting independence, the Muslim-majority northwest and east of British India was separated into the Dominion of Pakistan, by the partition of India. The partition led to a population transfer of more than 10 million people between India and Pakistan and the death of about one million people. Jawaharlal Nehru became the first Prime Minister of India and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel became the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Home Affairs. The new Constitution of 1950 made India a secular and a democratic State.

Assassination of Mahatma Gandhi: The celebrations of independence had hardly died down when on 30 January 1948, a radical minded Hindu, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Gandhiji at Birla House, just before his evening prayers.

Refugee Problem: The Indian government had to stretch itself to the maximum to give relief to and resettle and rehabilitate the nearly six million refugees from Pakistan. By 1951, the problem of the rehabilitation of the refugees from West Pakistan was fully tackled.

However, the task of rehabilitating and resettling refugees from East Bengal was made more difficult by the fact that the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal continued for years. While nearly all the Hindus and Sikhs from West Pakistan had migrated in one go in 1947, a large number of Hindus in East Bengal had stayed on there in the initial years. However, as violence against Hindus broke out periodically in East Bengal, there was a steady stream of refugees from there year after year until 1971. Providing them with work and shelter and psychological assurance, remained a continuous and a difficult task.

Because of linguistic affinity the resettlement of the refugees from East Bengal could take place only in Bengal and to a lesser extent in Assam and Tripura. As a result, a very large number of people who had been engaged in agricultural occupations before their displacement were forced to seek survival in semi-urban and urban contexts as the underclass.

Political Integration of India: At the time of independence, India was divided into two sets of territories—the first being the territories of “British India”, which were under the direct control of the Governor-General of India, and the second being the “Princely States”, the territories over which the Crown had suzerainty, but which were under the control of their hereditary rulers. In addition, there were several colonial enclaves controlled by France and Portugal. The political integration of these territories into India was a declared objective of the Indian National Congress, which the government of India pursued over the next decade. Through a combination of factors, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel convinced the rulers of almost all of the hundreds of princely States to accede to India. Having secured their accession, they then proceeded to, in a step-by-step process, secure and extend the central government’s authority over these States and transform their administrations until, by 1956, there was little difference between the territories that had formerly been part of British India and those that had been part of princely States. Simultaneously, the government of India, through a combination of diplomatic and military means, acquired de facto and de jure control over the remaining colonial enclaves, which too were integrated into India.

The process, however, was not as successful in relation to the former princely State of Jammu & Kashmir, the accession of which to India was disputed by Pakistan, the State of Hyderabad, whose ruler was determined to remain independent, and the States of Tripura and Manipur, where active secessionist movements existed.

The Instruments of Accession were limited, transferring control of only three matters—Defence, Communication and External Affairs—to India, and would by themselves have produced a rather loose federation, with significant differences in administration and governance across the various States.

The first step in the process of complete merger, carried out between 1947 and 1949, was to merge the smaller States that were not seen by the government of India to be viable administrative units either into neighbouring provinces, or with other princely States to create a “princely union”. The bulk of the larger States, and some groups of small States, were integrated through a different, four-step process. In return for agreeing to the extinction of their States as discrete entities, the rulers were given a privy purse and guarantees similar to those provided under the Merger Agreements.

First General Elections: Democracy took a giant step forward with the first general election held in 1951-52 over a four-month period. These elections were the biggest experiment in democracy anywhere in the world. The elections were held based on universal adult franchise, with all those twenty-one years of age or older having the right to vote. There were over 173 million voters, most of them poor, illiterate, and rural, and having had no experience of elections. The big question at the time was how would the people respond to this opportunity.

Reorganisation of States: Potti Sreeramulu’s fast-unto-death, and consequent death for the demand of an Andhra State in 1953 sparked a major re-shaping of the Indian Union. Pt Nehru appointed the States Reorganization Commission, upon whose recommendations, the States Reorganization Act was passed in 1956. Old states were dissolved and new States created on the lines of shared linguistic and ethnic demographics. The separation of Kerala and the Telugu-speaking regions of Madras State enabled the creation of an exclusively Tamil-speaking State of Tamil Nadu. On 1 May 1960, the States of Maharashtra and Gujarat were created out of the Bombay State.

Post-Nehru India: Jawaharlal Nehru died on 27 May 1964. Lal Bahadur Shastri succeeded him as Prime Minister. In 1965 India and Pakistan again went to war over Kashmir, but without any definitive outcome or alteration of the Kashmir boundary. The Tashkent Agreement was signed under the mediation of the Soviet government, but Shastri died on the night after the signing ceremony. A leadership election resulted in the elevation of Indira Gandhi, Nehru’s daughter, as the third Prime Minister.

Birth of Naxalism: The CPM had originally split from the united CPI in 1964 on grounds of differences over revolutionary politics, (equated with armed struggle) and reformist parliamentary politics. A section of the party, consisting largely of its younger cadres and inspired by the Cultural Revolution then going on in China, accused the party leadership of falling prey to reformism and parliamentary politics and, therefore, of betraying the revolution. They argued that the party must immediately initiate armed peasant insurrections in rural areas, leading to the formation of liberated areas and the gradual extension of the armed struggle to the entire country. To implement their political line, the rebel CPM leaders launched a peasant uprising in the small Naxalbari area of northern West Bengal. The CPM leadership immediately expelled the rebel leaders accusing them of left-wing adventurism, and used the party organization and government machinery to suppress the Naxalbari insurrection. The breakaway CPM leaders came to be known as Naxalites and were soon joined by other similar groups from the rest of the country. The Naxalite movement drew many young people, especially college and university students, who were dissatisfied with existing politics and angry at the prevailing social condition.

India goes nuclear: India achieved a major success in terms of a breakthrough in science and technology when the Atomic Energy Commission detonated an underground nuclear device at Pokhran in the deserts of Rajasthan on 18 May 1974. The Indian government, however, declared that it was not going to make nuclear weapons even though it had acquired the capacity to do so. It claimed that the Pokhran explosion was an effort to harness atomic energy for peaceful purposes and to make India selfreliant in nuclear technology.

Green Revolution and Operation Flood: India’s long-standing food crisis was resolved with greatly improved agricultural productivity due to the Green revolution. The government-sponsored modern agricultural implements, new varieties of generic seeds and increased financial assistance to farmers that increased the yield of food crops such as wheat, rice and corn, as well as commercial crops like cotton, tea, tobacco and coffee. Increased agricultural productivity expanded across the States of the IndoGangetic plains and Punjab. Under Operation Flood, government encouraged production of milk and improved rearing of livestock across India. This enabled India to become self-sufficient in feeding its own population, ending two decades of food imports.

Emergency: Economic and social problems, as well as allegations of corruption caused increasing political unrest across India, culminating in the Bihar Movement. In 1974, the Allahabad High Court found Indira Gandhi guilty of misusing government machinery for election purposes. Leading strikes across India, that paralyzed its economy and administration, Jay Prakash Narayan even called for the Army to oust Mrs. Gandhi. In 1975, Mrs. Gandhi advised President Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare a state of emergency under the Constitution, which allowed the Central government to assume sweeping powers to defend law and order in the nation. Many civil liberties were suspended and elections postponed at national and State levels. Non-Congress governments in Indian states were dismissed, and nearly 1,000 opposition political leaders and activists were imprisoned and programme of compulsory birth control was introduced.

Although, India’s economy benefited from an end to paralyzing strikes and political disorder, many organs of government and many Congress politicians were accused of corruption and authoritarian conduct. Police officers were accused of arresting and torturing innocent people.

Post Emergency: Mrs. Indira Gandhi called for general elections in 1977, only to suffer a humiliating electoral defeat at the hands of the Janata Party, an amalgamation of opposition parties. Morarji Desai became the first non-Congress Prime Minister of India. The Desai administration established tribunals to investigate Emergency-era abuses, and Indira and Sanjay Gandhi were arrested after a report from the Shah Commission. But in 1979, the coalition crumbled and Charan Singh formed an interim government. The Janata Party become intensely unpopular due to its internecine warfare, and the fact that it offered no leadership on solving India’s serious economic and social problems. Ultimately, the Janata Party split in to its original constituents. The January Sangh emerged in its new avatar as Bhartiya Janata Party.

Indira Gandhi and her Congress party splinter group, Congress (Indira) were swept back into power with a large majority in January 1980. But the rise of an insurgency in Punjab jeopardized India’s security. In Assam also there were many incidents of communal violence between native villagers and refugees from Bangladesh, as well as settlers from other parts of India. When Indian forces, undertaking Operation Blue Star, raided the hideout of Khalistan militants in the Golden Temple—Sikhs’ most holy shrine— in Amritsar, in June 1984, the inadvertent deaths of civilians and damage to the temple building inflamed tensions in the Sikh community across India. Northeast India was also paralyzed owing to the ULFA’s clash with government forces.

On 31 October 1984, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s own Sikh bodyguards assassinated her, and anti-Sikh riots erupted in Delhi and parts of Punjab, causing the deaths of thousands of Sikhs.

Post Indira Gandhi: After the assassination of Mrs Indira Gandhi, the Congress party chose Rajiv Gandhi, her older son, as the next Prime Minister. The Parliament was dissolved and Rajiv led the Congress party to its largest majority in history (over 415 seats out of 545 possible) in the general elections, reaping a sympathy vote over his mother’s assassination.

Rajiv Gandhi initiated a series of reforms—the license raj was loosened, and government restrictions on foreign currency, travel, foreign investment and imports decreased considerably. This allowed private businesses to use resources and produce commercial goods without government bureaucracy interfering, and the influx of foreign investment increased India’s national reserves. Rajiv’s encouragement to science and technology resulted in a major expansion of the telecommunications industry, India’s space program and gave birth to the software industry and information technology sector.

In 1987, India brokered an agreement between government of Sri Lanka and rebel LTTE, and agreed to deploy troops for peacekeeping operation and to disarm the Tamil rebels. Butm the Indian Peace Keeping Force became entangled in outbreaks of violence—ultimately ending up fighting the Tamil rebels itself, and becoming a target of attack from Sri Lankan nationalists.

Rajiv Gandhi’s image as an honest politician was shattered when the Bofors scandal broke, revealing that senior government officials had taken bribes over defence contracts with the Swedish manufacturer. As the Defence minister in Rajiv Gandhi’s government, Mr V.P. Singh had unearthed the Bofors scandal, and was sacked from the party and office. Becoming a popular crusader for reform and clean government, he led the Janata Dal coalition to a majority in 1989 elections. He was supported by BJP and the Leftist parties from outside. Becoming Prime Minister, Singh started to implement the controversial Mandal commission report, to increase the quota in reservation for low caste Hindus. The BJP protested these implementations, and took its support back, following which he resigned. Chandra Shekhar split to form the Janata Dal (Socialist), supported by Rajiv’s Congress. This new government also collapsed in a matter of months, when Congress withdrew its support.

Post Rajiv Gandhi: On 21 May 1991, while former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi campaigned in Tamil Nadu on behalf of Congress (I), a Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) female suicide bomber assassinated him and many others. In the elections, Congress (I) won 244 Parliamentary seats and put together a coalition, returning to power under the leadership of Mr P.V. Narasimha Rao. This Congress-led government, which served a full 5-year term, initiated a gradual process of economic liberalisation and reform, which opened the Indian economy to global trade and investment. India’s domestic politics also took new shape, as traditional alignments by caste, creed, and ethnicity gave way to a plethora of small, regionally-based political parties.

In 1992, India was rocked by communal violence between Hindus and Muslims that killed over 10,000 people, following the Babri Mosque demolition by Hindu extremists in the course of the Ram Janmabhoomi dispute in Ayodhya. The final months of the Rao-led government in the spring of 1996 suffered the effects of several major political corruption scandals, which contributed to the worst electoral performance by the Congress Party in its history as Bharatiya Janata Party emerged as largest single party.

Era of Coalitions: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged from the May 1996 national elections as the single-largest party in the Lok Sabha but without enough strength to prove a majority on the floor of the Parliament. Under Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the BJP coalition lasted in power 13 days. With all political parties wishing to avoid another round of elections, a 14-party coalition led by the Janata Dal emerged to form a government known as the United Front. A United Front government under former Chief Minister of Karnataka H.D. Deve Gowda lasted less than a year. Congress (I) withdrew support in March 1997.

Inder Kumar Gujral replaced Deve Gowda as the consensus choice for Prime Minister of a 16-party United Front coalition. In November 1997, the Congress Party again withdrew support for the United Front. New elections in February 1998 brought the BJP the largest number of seats in Parliament (182), but this fell far short of a majority. On March 20, 1998, the President inaugurated a BJP-led coalition government with Mr Vajpayee again serving as Prime Minister.

First Sikh Prime Minister of India: In January 2004, Prime Minister Vajpayee recommended early dissolution of the Lok Sabha and general elections. The Congress Party-led alliance won an surprise victory in elections held in May 2004. Manmohan Singh became the first Sikh Prime Minister of India.

First Female President of India: In 2007, Ms Pratibha Patil became India’s first female President. Long associated with Nehru–Gandhi family, Pratibha Patil was a low-profile Governor of Rajasthan before emerging as the favoured Presidential candidate.

2009 Elections: In the 2009 General Election, the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance won a convincing and resounding 262 seats, with Congress alone winning 206 seats. Mr Manmohan Singh was re-elected as the Prime Minister.

2014 Elections: On 16 May 2014, ending the BJP’s 10-year political ‘vanvaas’, Narendra Damodardas Modi scripted a never-before win for the party, helping it cruise to power on its own steam at the Centre by breaking a three-decade old trend of fractured mandates. BJP attained a comfortable majority of 282 seats on its own.


Louis Mountbatten: (15 August 1947 to 20 June 1948)
(The first Governor-General of Free India)

C. Rajagopalachari: (21 June 1948 to 25 January 1950) (The first Indian Governor-General of Free India).


  • Dr Rajendra Prasad: (1950-62) The first President of the Indian Republic.
  • Dr S. Radhakrishnan: (1962-67) The Philosopher-President of India.
  • Dr Zakir Hussain: (13 May 1967 to 3 May 1969) The first President of India to have died while in office.
  • V.V. Giri: (24 August 1969 to 23 August 1974) The first President to be elected in contest against a Congress nominee.
  • Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed: (24 August 1974 to 11 February 1977) The fifth President of the Republic of India.
  • Neelam Sanjiva Reddy: (25 July 1977 to 24 July 1982) The sixth President of the Republic of India.
  • Zail Singh: (25 July 1982 to 24 July 1987) The first Sikh and seventh President of the Republic of India.
  • R. Venkataraman: (25 July 1987 to 24 July 1992) The eighth President of the Republic of India.
  • Shankar Dayal Sharma: (25 July 1992 to 24 July 1997) The ninth President of the Republic of India.
  • K.R. Narayanan: (25 July 1997 to 24 July 2002) The tenth President of the Republic of India.
  • A.P.J. Abdul Kalam: (25 July 2002 to 24 July 2007) The 11th President of the Republic of India.
  • Pratibha Devisingh Patil: (25 July 2007 to 24 July 2012) The 12th President of the Republic of India and first woman to become President of India.
  • Pranab Mukherjee: (25 July 2012 to 24 July 2017) The 13th President of the Republic of India.
  • Ram Nath Kovind (25 July 2017 to ____ ) The 14th and current President of the Repulic of India.


  • Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan: (1952-1962)
  • Dr Zakir Hussain: (1962-1967)
  • Varahagiri Venkatagiri: (1967-1969)
  • Gopal Swarup Pathak: (1969-1974)
  • B.D. Jatti: (1974-1979)
  • Justice Mohammad Hidayatullah: (1979-1984)
  • R. Venkataraman: (1984-1987)
  • Dr Shanker Dayal Sharma: (1987-1992)
  • K.R. Narayanan: (1992-1997)
  • Krishan Kant: (1997-2002)
  • Bhairon Singh Shekhawat: (2002-2007)
  • Mohammad Hamid Ansari: (2007-2017)
  • Muppavarapu Venkaiah Naidu: (2017-______ )

Constitutional Reforms during British Rule

The Regulating Act, 1773: The rapacity of the officers of the Company forced the British government to pass the Regulating Act in 1773 the main purpose of which was to give a legalised working constitution to the East India Company’s dominion in India.

Pitt’s India Act, 1784: It was a measure for centralisation of the Company under the control of the British Parliament.

Permanent Settlement: It was the most important revenue system introduced by Lord Cornwallis (1786-93). It placed the Indian Revenue System on a scientific basis. It was introduced simultaneously in Bengal, Bihar and Odisa. It ensured a regular flow of income to the State.

Charter Act of 1833: Under this Act, the title of Governor General of India was substituted for that of Governor General of Bengal.

Doctrine of Lapse: Lord Dalhousie (1848-56) laid it down as a principle that on the death of a ruling prince without direct descendants, the British Government should refuse to sanction the adoption of an heir and declare the dominions of the deceased as “lapsed to the sovereign power by total failure of heirs natural”. This is known as “Doctrine of Lapse”. Mysore State was not annexed under the Doctrine of Lapse.

Queen’s Proclamation of 1858: The most important sequel to the great revolt of 1857 was the end of the East India Company’s rule in India. On 1 November 1858, Queen Victoria issued a proclamation announcing that the Government of India had been taken over directly by the Crown. The proclamation replaced the Court of Directors by a Secretary of State.

The Governor-General who was henceforth to be a representative of the Crown was redesignated as the Viceroy. (The first Viceroy of India was Lord Canning.) The proclamation assured Indians that there would be no interference with their religious beliefs and practices and that they would be accorded equal treatment. The Indian princes were assured that their existing territories would be preserved, and the policy of annexation came to an end. The Proclamation has been described as the Magna Carta of India.

It may be of interest to note that Queen Victoria did not like Lord Stanley’s (afterwards the Earl of Derby and the first Secretary of State for India) original draft containing 75 sections of the Act of 1858 and directed him to frame it “Bearing in mind that it is a female sovereign who speaks to more than a hundred millions of Eastern people on assuming the direct government over them and after a bloody war (of 1857) giving them pledges, which her future reign is to redeem, and explaining the principles of her Government. Such a document should breathe feeling of generosity, benevolence and religious toleration, and point out the privileges which the Indians will receive in being placed on an equality with the subjects of the British Crown, and the prosperity following in the train of civilization.”

The new Proclamation was thus drafted in accordance with the Queen’s sentiments and its assumption on 1 November 1858, was looked upon by the people of India as the Charter of their Rights.

For the next sixty years (till 1917), the Queen’s Proclamation of 1858 remained the basis of British policy in India. Between 1858 and 1917 the pace of constitutional reform was slow. Some of the important measures introduced during this period were:

The Indian Councils Act of 1861: This piece of legislation was aimed at securing better understanding between the rulers and the ruled. The Act made important changes in the constitution and working of the Viceroy’s Executive Council. It enabled the Viceroy to associate Indians with legislative business. It also vested legislative powers in the governments of Bombay and Madras. In a way it paved the way for complete internal autonomy which was to follow in 1935.

Ilbert Bill: This Bill was prepared in 1883 by Mr C.P. Ilbert, the Law member during the Viceroyalty of Lord Rippon, for the purpose of abolishing “judicial disqualification based on race distinction”. According to Criminal Procedure Code of 1873, no Magistrate or Sessions Judge could try a European British subject unless he was himself of European origin.

Minto-Morley Reforms or the Indian Councils Act of 1909: In 1906, the Viceroy, Lord Minto recommended certain constitutional changes to Lord Morley, the Secretary of State for India in London. These recommendations provided the basis for the Indian Councils Act of 1909, also referred to as the Minto-Morley reforms. In terms of the Act, the size of the Legislative Councils was enlarged. In the new set-up, the official majority was replaced by a majority of nominated members. But although the official majority was done away with, yet elected members remained in a minority. The membership of Councils was enlarged, but it was made clear that the new system did not mean introduction of a parliamentary system. The reforms introduced a sort of “benevolent despotism”. Perhaps the worst feature they embodied was the institution of separate electorate for the Muslims. They also gave importance to vested interests like land-holders, the merchant class etc by conceding separate representation to them.

Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms or Government of India Act, 1919 (introduction of Dyarchy): It was passed by the British Parliament in December 1919. The measure made many important changes in the administration of India. In place of the Imperial Legislative Council, a bicameral legislature was set up in New Delhi. A system of direct elections was introduced, although franchise remained very much restricted. The lawmaking powers of the Central Legislature were increased. Central and State subjects were separated. The size of the provincial legislative councils was considerably enlarged. It introduced dyarchy in the provinces which meant a further sub-division of subjects in the State list into (i) reserved subjects to be dealt with by the Governor and his nominees and (ii) transferred subjects to be dealt with by the Governor and his ministers.

Controversy between the Orientalists and the Anglicists in the time of Lord William Bentinck: The controversy between the Orientalists and the Anglicists during the time of William Bentinck had two connected problems: one related to the medium of education and the other to the diffusion of education among the masses i.e., whether education should be confined to the upper classes only or the masses should also be included in the scheme to be adopted.

The Orientalists wanted that the teaching should be confined to the traditional learning of the Hindus and the Muslims, as enshrined in Sanskrit and Arabic languages. While the Anglicists wanted education to be extended to English language and literature and to the learning of western science.

The Anglicists pleaded that English provided Indians, speaking different mother-tongues, with a common language which could be used for a common purpose. English, they asserted, could also be an instrument of inter-communication between all parts of India and could thus help in the development of Indian unity and in strengthening the consciousness of Indian nationality.

Although Bentinck had decided in favour of English, some prominent Indian citizens pressed for the cultivation of Indian languages, pointing out the feasibility of teaching through one’s own language and the beneficial effects on the development of Indian literature.

The cause of spoken language, however, received a setback and English was recognised as the medium of higher education.

As stated by Dr Tara Chand in “History of the Freedom Movement in India, Vol. II, page 194”: “The Orientalists who urged the use of Sanskrit and Arabic were, unfortunately, advocating a lost cause, for these languages, however rich in literature and philosophy, and however revered for their sacred contents, were practically ruled out. They were not spoken languages of any considerable group of Indians; their knowledge was confined to a very small number, and they required prolonged labour for attaining proficiency in them, for which neither the rulers nor the ruled were prepared.”

REFORMS AND REGIMES (During the British period in Indian History)

Reforms, Movements, Conferences etc. During the Regime of
Agrarian Reforms Curzon
Ancient Monuments Preservation Curzon
Cabinet Mission Wavell
Census, First Rippon
Communal Award Wellingdon
Congress Resolution for complete independence Irwin
Cripps Mission Linlithgow
Doctrine of Lapse Dalhousie
Dyarchy Chelmsford
Enlargement of Legislative Councils Dufferin
Factory Act Rippon
Female Infanticide, Prohibition of William Bentinck
Government of India Act, 1935 Wellingdon
INA Trial Wavell
Indian Councils Act Minto-II
Indian Independence Act Mountbatten
Jallianwala Bagh Tragedy Chelmsford
Local-Self Government Rippon
Minto-Morley Reforms Minto-II
Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms Chelmsford
Non-cooperation Movement Chelmsford
Partition of Bengal Curzon
Partition of Bengal revoked Hardinge-II
Partition of India Mountbatten
Permanent Settlement Cornwallis
Poona Pact Wellingdon
Provincial Autonomy Linlithgow
Queen Victoria’s Proclamation Canning
Quit India Linlithgow
Round Table Conference, First Irwin
Round Table Conference, Second Wellingdon
Round Table Conference, Third Wellingdon
Rowlatt Acts Chelmsford
Sati, Prohibition of William Bentinck
Sedition Committee Chelmsford
Separate Electorate Wellingdon
Separate Representation for Muslims Minto-II
Sepoy Mutiny Canning
Subsidiary Wellesley
Thuggee, Suppression of William Bentinck
Transfer of India’s capital from Calcutta to Delhi Hardinge-II
Vernacular Press Act, Repeal of Rippon


India’s Freedom Movement


Background and Causes: The rapid expansion of British dominion in India, changes in the administrative set-up and mode of existence in those days disturbed the placid current of Indian life and produced commotion in different parts of the country.

The revolt of 1857 was a combination of political, economic and socioreligious causes. It was a national upsurge which was directed to achieve freedom from foreign domination. Lord Dalhousie’s high-handed Doctrine of Lapse abolishing the titles and pensions of the Indian chiefs agitated the Indian rulers. There was a general feeling of annoyance and discontent among Indian masses against their foreign masters. This hatred was mingled with alarm at the spread of Christianity.

Passing of the Widow Remarriage Act in 1856 was regarded by the Hindus as undue interference with their social and religious life. As a reaction to foreign rule, a sense of pride in India’s glorious past had been revived and people had come to feel that the foreigners were usurpers and intruders. Even in the ranks of the Indian army there was dormant unrest. Indian sepoys were becoming increasingly impatient of the haughtiness of English Officers. In short the whole nation was in ferment. Then a rumour spread that greased cartridges supplied to Indian soldiers contained the fat of cows and pigs. This outraged the religious feelings of Hindu and Muslim sepoys.

The Revolt: On 29 March 1857, the 34th Regiment was on parade in Barrackpore. Suddenly, Mangal Pandey, a sepoy, broke the ranks calling upon his fellow countrymen to rise in revolt against the British. He shot and killed two British Officers. The Indian soldiers present refused to obey their British masters’ orders to arrest Mangal Pandey. The latter was, however, arrested, tried and hanged. The news spread to all cantonments in the country and very soon a countrywide revolt broke out. On 10 May 1857 soldiers in Meerut refused to touch the new cartridges. Greased cartridges was the most important issue that led to the Revolt of 1857. The soldiers along with groups of civilians, went on a rampage shouting “Maro Firangi Ko”. They broke open jails, murdered European men and women, burnt their houses and marched towards Delhi. Very soon the revolt spread like wild fire all over northern India. The heroine of this first war of independence for India was Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, one of the most courageous and capable leaders of the mutiny. She fought the British forces strongly but fell. Among other notable figures who fell fighting were Nana Saheb, the adopted son of the last Peshwa and Tantya Tope, the brave commander of Nana Saheb’s forces.

The Result: The leaders of the revolt and their followers were fired with revolutionary zeal but they lost the war mainly because of lack of unity of purpose, effective organization, and a unified system of leadership. As against them, the British were well-organised and better-equipped and fought under one command. Thus the British were able to survive the most serious challenge to their rule in India. But the lessons of the revolt were not lost upon them.


The revolt of 1857 failed not because it lacked national spirit or patriotism but because it lacked adequate organisation and military power. The 1857 movement, however, generated greater awareness among the people about freedom; it was an important step forward towards germinating the seeds of a more effective nationalism in the years to come.

Soon thereafter, the country passed through a period of renaissance and reawakening. A number of factors gave impetus to the gradually growing national movement in the country. Some of these factors were as follows:

  • Religious Awakening: A number of prominent religious organisations such as Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, and Ram Krishna Mission and religious leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Pt Ishwar Chand Vidyasagar, Dayanand Saraswati, Ram Krishna Paramhansa and Vivekanand generated a strong feeling of pride among the people in their motherland and culture. They inculcated among the people patriotism and inspired them to fight for freedom.
  • The Influence of Western Education: The spread of Western education through English language broadened the outlook of Indians and brought them very close to the western concepts of nationalism, liberty, and freedom. This aroused among the Indians a spirit of nationalism.
  • Emergence of Indian Press: The emergence of a good number of nationalist newspapers in the nineteenth century revealed to the people the evils inherent in British imperialism. The press as well as popular literature awakened patriotism among the people who grew restless against foreign domination.
  • Economic Exploitation: The policy of the Britishers to discourage industrial growth in the country so that India might continue to be a good market for their imported goods caused great frustration in the country. Secondly, agriculture also remained neglected at the hands of the Britishers causing economic misery to the people whenever the monsoon failed. Indians were growing more and more conscious of their persistent economic exploitation by the foreign rulers.

These were some of the factors that set the pace for a national movement to start in India. The first sign of political organisation in India was the formation of the Indian Association by Surendranath Banerjee in 1876.

Indian National Congress: Very soon the need for an all-India organisation to give shape to the national urges of the people was felt. This led to the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1885. The organisation owed its origin to the inspiration provided by Surendranath Banerjee and A.O. Hume, a retired British Civil Servant, who suggested forming an organisation “for the mental, moral, social and political regeneration of the people of India”.

The first session of the Indian National Congress was held in Bombay in December 1885 under the Presidentship of Mr Woomesh Chandra Bonnerjee.

To begin with, the Congress was a moderate organisation committed to the use of constitutional means only for securing certain rights for Indians. From 1885 to 1905, the organisation remained in the hands of moderates as its leaders who were not prepared to lay down their lives for the motherland. They thought that their duty was only to highlight the weaknesses of the government and administration. During this period the party leadership pressed modest demands through prayers, appeals, petitions, deputations, etc. It avoided all extra-constitutional or agitational approach. Although the character of the Congress was moderate in its initial stages, it did in those days a great amount of spadework in national awakening, political education, uniting Indians and in creating in them the consciousness of a common Indian nationality.

Growth of Militant Nationalism 1906-1918: The activities and the programmes of the Indian National Congress from 1885 to 1905 indicated that most of the Congress leaders believed in constitutional methods for securing the favour of the Government and redressing their grievances.

They drew inspiration from the spirit of British liberalism. In the early stages the moderates in Indian National Congress sought political progress through boycotting the legislature and judiciary.

Swadeshi Movement (1905): After the year 1905, however, Indian nationalism entered a new phase. Militant nationalism attracted the youth throughout the country. At the Benares session of the Congress (1905) there was a feeling of revolt in the younger blood under the inspiring leadership of Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bipin Chander Pal.

There were certain valid reasons for the rise of extremism at this stage. Some of these were: the failure of reforms introduced by the Government under the Indian Councils Act, 1892; economic misery caused by foreign domination, successive famines and crop failures; unemployment; Indians’ humiliation abroad; revival of Hinduism; influence of western political concepts of liberty, equality and fraternity which brought revolution in France; and, at the top of it all, revolutionary leadership provided by Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Babu Bipin Chander Pal.

Revolutionary Organisations: Many revolutionary organisations sprung up during 1905-13. The most important of them were:

Anushilan Samiti of Dacca: It was organised by Pulin Bihari Dass in 1905. It was the most important terrorist party with its centres in both Bengals. Its revolutionary activity comprised of violence, dacoity, assassinations, training in arms and making of bombs.

Anushilan Samiti of Calcutta: was founded by Barendra Kumar Ghose (brother of Aurobindo Ghose) in 1905. Though outwardly this organisation was meant for promoting social welfare and physical exercises, its real object was to paralyse the government.

The aims and objects of the two Anushilan Samitis were the same. Both employed identical means for realisation of their goals—achieving freedom by violence.

Even the newspapers during that period as Sandhya and Yugantar preached the gospel of blood and fire and advocated that “force must be met by force”.

Abhinav Bharat Society: was a secret terrorist organisation founded by V.D. Savarkar in 1906 with similar aims. It played an important role in Maharashtra.

Ghadr party: came into existence on 1 November 1913. It was founded by Lala Har Dayal who was in the U.S.A. at that time. It was violently antiBritish. He also founded the Yugantar Ashram. A paper called Ghadr was also started and circulated not only in America but also among Indians settled in other countries.

Komagata Maru case: It was an offshoot of the revolutionary activities abroad. Komagata Maru was a Japanese ship in which a number of Sikhs from India travelled to enter British Columbia in Western Canada. The Canadian authorities refused them permission to land and the ship had to return. It arrived back at Budge Budge near Calcutta, on September 29, 1914. It was arranged to send the passengers to Punjab by a special train which aroused suspicion and most of them refused to entrain for fear of being taken in custody by force. Troops were called and the men gathered around their leader Baba Gurdit Singh. Some of them marched towards Calcutta. Then suddenly shooting started. It was night by that time and the next morning rest of the Sikhs were sent by train to the Punjab. It all happened under suspicion by the Government that the party belonged to a most dangerous revolutionary movement.

The Surat Split (1907): The rise of extremists in Indian politics had its repercussions on the Congress party also. The Benares session of the Congress (1905) had already shown the widening gulf between the moderates and the extremists in the organisation. The Calcutta session next year (1906) showed that both the moderates and the extremists were heading fast towards a complete breach. And this actually happened in the Surat Congress (1907). The Surat session was greatly disturbed by rowdyism, confusion and disorder and police had to intervene to restore order. After the 1907 session, the moderates decided to have no truck with the extremists. The Congress organisation thus remained in the hands of the moderates; it, however, lost its popularity. Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai and Babu Bipin Chander Pal—were the real leading personalities in Indian politics during those years.

They commanded a massive following throughout the country.

Thus the difference between the “Moderates” and the “Extremists” led to a split in the Congress at its session held in 1907 at Surat.

The period 1907-14 saw a series of terrorist movements in the country through underground organisations with their network all over the country. Revolutionaries tried to blow up the train in which the Lieut-Governor of Bengal was travelling. Mr Allen, district magistrate of Dacca, was shot at but somehow he could survive. An attempt on the life of Sir Andrew Frazor was made in November 1908. The Hindus of Bengal burnt many places causing huge loss to the Government. In March 1908, riots broke out in Tinnevelly and many buildings were set on fire. Official records were consigned to flames. Such revolutionary activities generated a lot of anti-British feeling among the Indians and the Government launched rigorous measures to eliminate terrorism in the country. Stringent laws were passed; terrorists were arrested and imprisoned; their leaders were externed to other countries; many youths were sentenced to death; and curbs were placed on public meetings and processions.

The Government relaxed its ruthless policy of repression against the terrorists following the outbreak of the First World War. The Government diverted its attention to war. Besides, it urgently needed the help of Indians to face the war.

Reunion of the two wings of Congress: The efforts, which were being made since 1907 to unite the two wings of the Congress, succeeded in the Lucknow session of the Congress in 1916. The extremists were admitted to the Congress at this session.

This was briefly followed by a Home Rule Movement spearheaded by Tilak and Mrs Annie Besant. She had joined the Congress in the year 1915. The movement strengthened further the cause of self-government and highlighted the necessity of involving the general public for attaining the goal of independence. The movement grew very popular among the younger generation and was an important step forward in the direction of preparing people psychologically to get ready for a fight to achieve freedom.

Lucknow Pact (1916): It was executed between the Congress and the Indian Muslim League in 1916.

The war between Turkey and Britain aroused anti-British feelings among Muslims and paved the way for co-operation with the Congress.

Both Congress and the Muslim League, in their session at Lucknow in 1916, concluded the famous agreement known as the Lucknow Pact which included the recognition of separate electorates.

In the Lucknow session of the Congress, the Home Rule Leagues were able to demonstrate their political strength.

The Gandhian Era of Non-Cooperation (1918 to 1935): The finest period of the Indian Naitonal Congress was from 1918 to 1947 when Mahatma Gandhi dominated the Indian political scene. The period is also referred to as the “Gandhian era” in the history of the Congress. In India’s struggle for freedom, it was the most intense and eventful phase culminating in India’s throwing off the foreign yoke in 1947.

Gandhiji entered the Indian political scene at a very opportune time. There was a void in Indian politics. Gokhale had died in 1915. Tilak also died in 1920. Lajpat Rai was a constitutionalist. The Congress thus needed imaginative leadership supported by a dynamic political philosophy. Gandhiji’s entry into Congress at this crucial phase provided it not only a leadership of the highest order but also the political philosophy of non-violent Satyagraha which in later years became the most potent weapon to drive the Britishers out of this country.

Rowlatt Act: A sedition committee appointed by the Government in 1918 with Justice Rowlatt as chairman made certain recommendations for curbing seditious movements in the country. On the basis of these recommendations, the Rowlatt Act was passed giving unbridled power to the Government to arrest and imprison suspects without trial and crush civil liberties. The Act caused a wave of anger in all sections of the people throughout the country. People saw in the Act Government’s determination to deny them the right to self-determination and liberty.

The Act aroused Gandhiji’s conscience against the British Government and he decided to launch a fight against the measure. He gave a call for Satyagraha against the Act on 6 April 1919. His call for hartal met with a remarkable success all over the country. Gandhiji was arrested at Palwal on 8 April 1919. This led to a further intensification of the agitation at Delhi, Ahmedabad and the Punjab.

Following some disorders and disturbances at certain places, Gandhiji suspended the Satyagraha on 18 April 1919.

Jallianwala Bagh Massacre (April 1919): The arrest of Dr Kitchlu and Dr Satyapal on 10 April in connection with the Satyagraha caused serious unrest and agitation in Punjab. The people of Amritsar, who took out a procession to protest against their arrest and demand their release, faced heavy police firing. This made the crowd also violent who killed five Europeans and set several buildings on fire. General Dwyer, the Lt-Governor of Punjab, decided to teach Indians a lesson. The whole of Amritsar was converted into a military camp. A public meeting was announced on 13 April 1919 in the Jallianwala Bagh. Thousands of people assembled there. Before the meeting could start, General Dwyer ordered heavy firing on the crowd. This killed hundreds of innocent men, women, and children. At least 1200 were wounded and left unattended.

The massacre was a turning point in Indo-British relations almost as important as the mutiny of 1857; it lit the flame of liberty and inspired people to launch a more unrelenting fight for freedom. The tragedy provided much strength to Gandhiji’s mission to launch a campaign against the British, which ultimately led to their exit from India. This incident, in other words, proved to be a milestone in India’s struggle for freedom.

On 13 March 1940, Sardar Udham Singh, an Indian patriot hailing from Punjab, shot down Sir Michael O’Dwyer, the Lt Governor of Punjab at the time of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, while he was addressing a meeting in Caxton Hall, London. Lord Zitland, the Secretary of State for India, who was also one of the perpetrators of that heinous slaughter, escaped with bullet wounds.

Udham Singh mounted the gallows on 31 July 1940, with a smile on his face, proud and conscious of the fact that he had fulfilled his pledge to the people and avenged national humiliation.

Shaheed Udham Singh’s remains (ashes) were brought back from London to India on 19 July 1974, to enable the people of this country to pay homage to the great martyr after 34 years.)

Swaraj Agitation: The Reforms of 1919 having failed to fulfil the aspirations of the people of India, Indian National Congress launched an agitation for ‘Swaraj’ or Self-Government under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi.

Non-cooperation Movement: The Calcutta session of Congress in September 1920 gave a new dimension to the national freedom movement. It passed a resolution moved by Gandhiji to launch a non-cooperation movement against the British for attainment of Swaraj. The movement received support from a large number of Muslims also. The policy of progressive, non-violent cooperation adopted by Gandhiji turned out to be a unique technique in political agitation not tried elsewhere.

The non-cooperation movement envisaged:

  • surrender of titles and honorary offices and resignation from nominated posts in local bodies;
  • refusal to attend Government darbars and other official and semiofficial functions held by the Government officials in their honour;
  • gradual withdrawal of children from schools and colleges, owned, aided or controlled by government and in place of such schools and colleges, establishment of national schools and colleges in various provinces;
  • gradual boycott of British courts by lawyers and litigants and establishment of private arbitration courts by their aid, for the settlement of private disputes;
  • refusal on the part of military, clerical and labouring classes to offer themselves as recruits for service in Mesopotamia;
  • withdrawal by candidates of their candidature for election to the reformed Councils and refusal on the part of the voters to vote for any candidate who may despite the Congress advice offer himself for election;
  • boycott of foreign goods; and
  • adoption of Swadeshi in piece-goods on a vast scale.

The movement caught the imagination of the masses and spread like wild fire through the length and breadth of the country. Top-ranking lawyers such as Motilal Nehru and C.R. Das gave up their legal practice and actively joined the movement. Tukli and Charkha became the symbols of the movement and could be seen in every home. Charkha appeared on the national flag also. Khadi soon replaced European clothes. Large quantities of foreign goods were consigned to flames and a number of educational institutions set up by Congress gave a new direction to education. The non-cooperation movement led to a complete boycott of Prince of Wales when he visited India in 1921. This infuriated the British Government and it tried to beat back the noncooperation movement by passing the Seditious Meeting Act and arresting under it thousands of Indians. Except Gandhiji, all prominent Congress leaders were put behind the bars.

Chauri Chaura Incident (1922): Gandhiji got ready to face the repressive measures of the British Government with a call for civil disobedience movement in Bardoli and a no-tax campaign at Guntur. Before the civil disobedience could be started, a strong mob at a place called Chauri Chaura in Gorakhpur district of Uttar Pradesh clashed with police which had opened fire on it. The mob retaliated by burning down a police station and killing 22 policemen. This went against Gandhiji’s strict injunction to avoid adoption of violent methods and he abruptly called off the agitation. Thus, the Non-cooperation Movement was immediately withdrawn after the ChauriChaura incident.

Khilafat Movement: After World War I, peace was concluded between the Allied Powers and Turkey by the Treaty of Sevres (1920). This treaty imposed on Turkey terms which spelt disintegration of the Ottoman empire and undermined the Caliphate which was the backbone of the movement towards Pan-Islamism, popular among Muslims everywhere. This was resented by the Indian Muslims. There was a widespread feeling among them that the peace concluded with Turkey was not only unjust but also antiIslamic. Mahatma Gandhi who was at that time waging a non-violent struggle against British rule in India, threw his weight on the side of the Muslims in this matter, and condemned the machinations of British imperialism. He thus won over the Muslims to the cause of India’s freedom struggle. He started a country-wide non-cooperation movement in which both Hindus and Muslims participated whole-heartedly.

Swaraj Party: Gandhiji’s decision to suspend the non-cooperation movement caused sudden frustration among the masses. His decision came in for severe criticism by his colleagues such as Moti Lal Nehru, C.R. Das and N.C. Kelkar. They formed a new party—Swaraj Party—and emphasised the need for entering the legislative councils by contesting elections in order to wreck the legislature from within. The Swarajists did not consider that Satyagraha was an effective method of political struggle. They were for giving a fight to the bureaucratic government in the legislature. In the elections held in 1923, the Swarajists captured 45 out of 145 seats. In the provincial elections, the Swarajists got few seats but in the central provinces they secured a clear majority. In Bengal, they were the largest party. For a considerable time, the Swarajists followed vigorously the policy of undiluted opposition. But after the death of C.R. Das in 1925, the Swarajists drifted towards a policy of co-operation with the government. This led to dissension within the party and it vanished in the year 1926. It should be conceded that the Swaraj Party emerged at a time when a great despondency had overtaken the people following the suspension of civil disobedience movement by Gandhiji. The Party rescued the people from the mood of bewildered frustration and made them aware of the role they could play in the governance of the country.

Simon Commission: The activities of the Swarajist Party had induced the British Government to have a second look at the working of the dyarchy (See Montagu-Chelmsford Reforms) in the country. Under the provisions of the Government of India Act 1919, the British Government appointed the Simon Commission in November 1927, to inquire into the working of the system of government, the growth of education, and development of representative institutions in British India. All the members of the Commission were whites and it had no Indian member. Indians felt greatly insulted and humiliated by this. Political leaders of all parties decided to boycott the Commission. Wherever the Commission went there were cries of “Simon Go Back”. It was while leading a demonstration against the Simon Commission in Lahore that a fatal lathi-blow was dealt to Lala Lajpat Rai.

Nehru Committee Report (1928): The Committee was set up under the Chairmanship of Motilal Nehru to determine the principles of the Constitution before actually drafting it. The Chief architects of the report were Pt Motilal Nehru and Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru. The recommendations evoked a lively debate concerning the goal of India—Dominion status or independence.

Lahore Congress: At its annual session held in Lahore in December 1929, under the presidentship of Pt Jawaharlal Nehru, the Indian National Congress passed a resolution declaring complete independence to be the goal of the national movement.

Historic Dandi March: To work towards the achievement of the goal, Gandhiji again drew up a civil disobedience plan. Along with his 79 trained followers, he started his famous march from Sabarmati Ashram on 12 March 1930, for the small village Dandi to break the Salt Law. Gandhiji covered a distance of 387 km in 24 days and all along the route thousands of people greeted him and took vow to shake the roots of the British Empire through a non-violent movement. On reaching the seashore Gandhiji broke the Salt Law by picking up salt from the seashore. This march of Gandhiji is known in the history as Dandi March. Following this, reports about violation of Salt Law, Sedition Law and Forest Laws by people in other parts of the country started flowing in. Another round of boycott of foreign goods and picketing of liquor shops was witnessed on a massive scale all over the country. Even the ladies came out in large numbers to take part in this civil disobedience movement that shook the British Government. Soon thereafter followed extremely repressive measures such as mass arrests, lathi charges, police firing, gagging the Indian press; the Government tried to crush the movement in all possible ways. But despite all this, the movement continued. About 100000 people went in jails.

First Round Table Conference (1930): The first Round Table Conference held in London on 12 November 1930, was totally boycotted by the Indian National Congress. The Conference, which was inaugurated by His Majesty the King and presided over by Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald, aimed at abridging the gulf between the Government and the Congress leaders on basic issues so that the non-cooperation movement might come to an end. The Conference was attended by 89 delegates from British India and 16 delegates of Indian States who were all yesmen of the Government. Three principles were suggested by Prime Minister MacDonald as the basis of discussions at the Conference. Firstly, a federation for India; secondly, full responsibility to the provinces with necessary safeguards; and thirdly, partial responsibility at the Centre with certain limitations. But as the Congress boycotted the Conference as a part of its programme of non-cooperation, nothing substantial came out of it. In the words of Subhas Chandra Bose, the Conference offered India two bitter pills—safeguards and federation. To make the pills eatable, they were sugarcoated with responsibility.

Mr Jawaharlal Nehru made the following remarks about it: “We are all agreed that the Round Table Conference and its various productions are utterly useless to solve even one of India’s problems. As I conceive it, the Round Table Conference was an effort to consolidate the vested interests of India behind the British Government so as to face the rising and powerful national and economic movements in the country which threaten these interests. Essentially, in international parlance, it was a fascist grouping of vested and possessing interests, and fascist methods were adopted in India to suppress the national movement. And because the mere preservation of all these vested interests in India cannot solve our economic ills—whether those of the masses or even of the middle classes—the effort is foredoomed to inevitable failure.”

Gandhi-Irwin Pact and Second Round Table Conference: Early in the year 1931, two moderate statesmen, Sapru and Jayakar, initiated efforts to bring about rapprochement between Gandhiji and the Government. Their efforts resulted in six meetings between Gandhiji and Lord Irwin, the then Viceroy, that finally led to the signing of a pact between the two on 5 March 1931. This pact is known as Gandhi-Irwin Pact. In terms of the Pact, the civil disobedience movement was withdrawn and Gandhiji agreed to attend the Second Round Table Conference. At the Conference held in September 1931, Gandhiji demanded the establishment of a responsible Government immediately. The communal issue, raised by the delegates of minorities, however, became more predominent than the national issue. Gandhiji attended this Second Round Table Conference as the sole representative of the Indian National Congress. Gandhiji’s voice as the sole representative of national interest appeared lonely. The Conference was closed on 11 December 1931, without any concrete results and Gandhiji had to return to India in disgust without achieving anything.

Poona Pact: In 1932, British Prime Minister Ramsay MacDonald gave the Communal Award which conceded separate electorates on communal basis. Besides, the Award was not fair to Hindus and its main aim was to divide Indians. It was based on undemocratic principles and had no historical basis.

The Award created immense dissatisfaction among the Hindus. At Calcutta session of the Congress, the Award came in for severe criticism. The Award was characterised as one that would lead to a special kind of despotic government. It would be tyranny of one community over another and it was this despotism which the Communal Award sought to install. Gandhiji staked his life to get the award annulled and went on a fast unto death. Ultimately the fast ended in the Poona Pact which repudiated the Award. The leaders of the various groups and parties among Hindus and Dr B.R. Ambedkar on behalf of the Harijans signed the Poona Pact.

Government of India Act, 1935: The Simon Commission completed its work in 1930 and submitted a report which formed the basis of the Government of India Act, 1935. This Act introduced provincial autonomy, abolished dyarchy in the provinces, making ministers responsible to the legislatures and Federation at the Centre, where Defence, External Affairs and Ecclesiastical matters were left in the hands of the Governor-General and all other subjects were transferred to the Ministers responsible to the Legislature.

Although the Congress opposed this Act, yet it contested the elections and formed ministries first in six provinces and then in two more when the new Constitution was introduced on 1 April 1937. The Muslim League formed a ministry in Bengal. Punjab too came to have a non-Congress ministry. The Congress High Command exercised a great hold upon the ministries of each province. A sub-committee formed by the Congress Working Committee maintained regular touch with the Congress Party in all the provincial legislatures.

The Congress Ministers rendered valuable service to the people during their term of office. They acted as the true servants of public. They won immense popularity through their hard work in the fields of public health, education and rural uplift. The Congress ministries passed a number of public welfare laws.

The Muslim leaders were, however, not happy with the Congress rule which they described as tyrannical. According to the Muslim League leader, Mr Jinnah, the Congress was drunk with power and was oppressive against Muslims.

Congress Ministries Resign: The Second World War broke out in Europe on 3 September 1939, that brought Britain also within its fold. Without consulting the Indian leaders, the Viceroy declared India also as a belligerent country. This evoked sharp criticism from Indians and the Congress took the stand that India could not associate herself in a war said to be for democratic freedom when the very freedom was denied to her. The Congress demanded that India should be declared an independent nation. Then only would the country help Britain in the war. The Viceroy in his reply dated October 17, 1939, rejected the Congress demand as impracticable and took the stand that the Government could think over the entire constitutional scheme after the war. The Congress condemned the Viceroy’s reply and the Congress ministries everywhere resigned on 22 December 1939. The provinces under the Congress again came under bureaucratic rule. Jinnah was happy over this and he called upon the Indian Muslims to celebrate the resigning day of Congress Ministries as the day of deliverance. Later, Jinnah built up a demand for Pakistan.

August Offer: On 8 August 1940, the Viceroy came out with certain proposals, known as ‘August Offer’ declaring that the goal of British Government was to establish Dominion Status in India. It accepted that framing of a new Constitution would be the responsibility of the Indians. It also laid down that full weight would be given to the views of minorities in the Constitution. Maulana Azad, President of the Congress, rejected the August Offer which aimed at bringing the Congress in the War. The Muslim League, however, welcomed the Offer as it ensured that no further Constitution would be adopted without the prior approval of Muslims. The League declared that the most difficult problem of India’s future Constitution could be solved only by a partition of India. In brief, the August Offer failed in gaining Indians’ cooperation for war and, in fact, further widened the gulf between the Congress and the Britishers as well as between the Congress and the Muslim League.

Individual Civil Disobedience or Individual Satyagraha: The Congress Working Committee decided to start individual civil disobedience on 11 October 1940. Vinoba Bhava was the first Satyagrahi who was arrested on 21 October followed soon by many more including Nehru and Patel.

Cripps Mission: In 1942, a realisation dawned upon the British Government that it could not ignore the Indian problem any further. The war situation had worsened for the Britishers with Japanese advance to India’s borders. By 7 March 1942, when Rangoon fell, Japan had occupied the whole of South East Asia. Calcutta was threatened and refugees had to get out of that great city. Indians were happy at the reverses of the British army. Subhas Chandra Bose openly asked Indians in his broadcasts from Berlin not to trust the British Government. In England too, public opinion was building up for a reconciliation with India. President Roosevelt of the USA. and the Chinese ruler, Chiang-Kai-shek, also pressurised the British Government to enlist the co-operation of Indians in the war by assuring them of independence after the war was over. On top of it all, Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru made vigorous efforts for a compromise between the Congress and the British Government.

All these factors impelled or rather compelled the British Government to send Sir Stafford Cripps on a mission to India to resolve the deadlock and to unite the Indian people against the Japanese menace.

Sir Stafford Cripps arrived in India on 22 March 1942, and had a series of interviews with prominent leaders of this country. After prolonged negotiations with Indian leaders, Cripps put forward his proposals envisaging that:

  • India should be given the status of a Dominion after the war;
  • during the war period, the Defence portfolio would remain in the hands of the Viceroy and except that all other subjects would be transferred to representative Indians;
  • after the termination of the war, a Constituent Assembly would be set up to decide the future of India.

It was a package deal which the Indian leaders were asked to accept or reject as a whole. The Cripps proposals, however, did not satisfy the Indians. These proposals amounted to opening the door to the possibility of an indefinite number of partitions. There was widespread frustration in the country because of the proposals. No party agreed to accept these proposals and the Cripps Mission thus ended in failure.

Quit India Movement: With the failure of the Cripps Mission, the British Government started painting a tainted picutre of India by giving an impression to the world outside that India was not fit for immediate freedom as it was a divided house. This added to the growing frustration in India. In the meantime, Japanese threat to India increased. Its attack on Bengal seemed ready. This gave rise to a new strategy in the mind of Gandhiji. He thought that there would be no cause left for Japan to attack India if the British immediately left this country. He proposed the passing of a “Quit India” resolution by the Congress demanding an immediate transfer of power to India. The failure to accept this demand would mean launching of a non-violent agitation against the British. Consequently, the Congress Working Committee passed the “Quit India” resolution at its meeting held on 14 July 1942. The Working Committee appealed to the Britishers for the transfer of power failing which it would start a non-violent movement under the leadership of Gandhiji. A meeting of the All-India Congress Committee confirmed the above resolution on 7 August 1942. The British Government acted swiftly. Before the movement could start all the Congress leaders, including Gandhiji, were put behind the bars within hours. The Congress was declared an illegal organisation and its offices were seized and locked. A revolutionary upsurge swept the country thereafter from one corner to the other and the Government used its entire machinery to crush the rebellion by ruthless measures and wholesale arrests without trial. As one historian has described, the mass-scale arrests of Congress leaders was immediately followed by “rule by ordinances, firings, lathi-charges…even bombings from airplanes were reported from some places. At some places, people driven to desperation retorted in kind, attacking railways and the police…More than 2000 unarmed and innocent people were shot down and about 6000 were injured by the people and military. Tens of thousands were wounded by lathis, about 15,000 jailed and about a million and a half of rupees were imposed as collective fines.”

In short, everywhere Government repression was very harsh and a police state was established to deal with the danger which constituted the gravest threat to the British Rule since the rebellion of 1857. At last, the Government succeeded in crushing the movement. Although the movement failed, it created a history in the Indian struggle for freedom.

As Dr Ishwari Prasad, a renowned historian, has put it, “The August Revolution was the revolt of the people against tyranny and oppression and can be compared with the fall of Bastille in the history of France and with October Revolution of Russia. It was a curious mixture of violence and non-violence. Its sustaining impulse was hatred of the British as the rulers of the land. Its objective was ‘Quit India’ and methods were violence and sabotaging the administrative machinery. It was symbolic of a new confidence and a new stature that the people had attained… All talk of Dominion status was consumed in the fire of the revolt. India would have nothing short of independence. Quit India had come to stay.”

Gandhiji’s Fast: Pained by the attitude of the British Government, Gandhi undertook a 21-day historic fast inside the jail. His condition deteriorated after 13 days and all hopes for his life were given up. But as a result of his inner moral strength and spiritual stamina he survived and completed his 21-day fast.

Wavell Plan: The war situation in Europe improved in the beginning of the year 1945. India’s goodwill was, however, needed as the war against Japan was expected to last for about two years. The situation within the country was worsening day by day as a result of deteriorating economic situation and famines. The British Government was compelled to come forward with some sort of plan to satisfy the Indians After consultations with the British Government on the Indian problem, Lord Wavell and Mr Amery, the Secretary of State for India, issued a statement known as Wavell Plan. The Plan, which chiefly concerned Viceroy’s Executive Council, proposed certain changes in the structure of the Council. One of the main proposals was that the Executive Council would be constituted giving a balanced representation to the main communities in it, including equal representation to Muslims and Hindus. Soon after the Wavell Plan was issued the members of the Congress Working Committee were released from jails. A conference of 22 prominent Indian leaders called at Simla to consider the Wavell Plan, reached no decision. What scuttled the conference was Mr Jinnah’s unflinching stand that Muslims approved only by the Muslim League should be included in the Executive Council. Communalism thus again became a stumbling block. For the Britishers, however, the dissension between the Congress and the Muslim League was a source of happiness.

Struggle for Freedom—New Phase: The struggle for freedom entered a decisive phase in the year 1945-46. Two important events—the INA trial and the Naval Mutiny—during this period completely turned the scale against the British Government and, at the top of it all, the coming of the Labour Party in Power in England finally set the pace for the fulfilment of Indians’ dream for freedom.

INA Trial: To elucidate, despite the best efforts of the Congress to win the legal battle the trial of Indian National Army (INA) prisoners at the Red Fort of Delhi in November 1945 led to their outright conviction on the charge of waging war against the King Emperor. The pressure of the Indian public opinion against this conviction, however, soon mounted high. This shook the British Government and it was compelled to suspend the sentences imposed on the INA convicts. Further, disaffection spread fast among the soldiers. The chief defence advocate during the INA trial was Bhulebhai Desai. Other defence lawyers were Sir Tej Bahadur Sapru, Jawaharlal Nehru and Asaf Ali.

Naval Mutiny: In 1946, the navy in Bombay openly rebelled against the British as a political measure. The Britishers for the first time seriously realized that with this awakening among the Indians and revolt in armed forces, it could not perpetuate its hold on India anymore.

The Labour Party came to power in England in the year 1945 by defeating the Conservatives by a sweeping majority.

The new Labour Prime Minister, Mr Atlee took a very realistic view of the situation in India. He sent a delegation to India to report to him on the Indian situation. The delegation expressed the view that the granting of freedom to India could not be put aside any further. Consequently, in a statement made in the House of Commons, Mr Atlee recognised the unity among the people of India, despite certain divisions, for achieving independence which could no more be ignored. Indians alone, he said, could now solve the social and economic problems which they were faced with. On 14 February 1946, he announced a proposal to send a Cabinet Mission to India for making an endeavour to help India achieve freedom as speedily and fully as possible.

Cabinet Mission: The Cabinet Mission, which consisted of Lord Pathick Lawrence, Sir Stafford Cripps, and Mr A.V. Alexander, arrived in India on 23 March 1946, and met the Indian leaders to negotiate handing over power. The mission met leaders of the Congress and the Muslim League but could not arrive at an agreed solution. Consequently, it drafted its own plan for the future political set-up of India.

Its recommendations were as follows:

  • There should be a Union of India comprising British India and the Indian States;
  • The federal centre should have control over defence, foreign affairs and communications;
  • The Provinces should form three groups (a) Group of the Hindu majority provinces—Bombay, Central Province, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madras, Orissa, Delhi, Ajmer-Marwar and Coorg; (b) Group of the Muslim majority provinces—Punjab, NWFP, Baluchistan and Sind; (c) Group of Bengal and Assam;
  • A Constituent Assembly should be set up to draft a Constitution for the Union and after that it should break up into three groups to frame the Constitution for the Group of Provinces;
  • Any Province could withdraw from any Group after the first general election and the entire set-up might be revised after 10 years.

The Mission also recommended that an interim Government should be formed by the major political parties.

The Commission rejected demand of the Muslim League for division of India i.e., creation of Pakistan. It gave certain valid reasons for rejecting this demand.

The Muslim League accepted the proposal but criticised it particularly on the issue of Pakistan. The Congress only agreed to the proposal for the formation of a Constituent Assembly and declined the offer to join the interim government proposed by the Mission. On persuasion by Lord Wavell, however, the Congress joined the interim government along with the Muslim League but the latter adopted an obstructionist policy from the beginning.

Constituent Assembly: The elections to the Constituent Assembly were held in July 1946. In the Muslim electorate, the Muslim League secured 73 out of 78 seats. The Congress won 199 out of 210 seats. The Muslim League, however, stuck to its negative policy and announced its decision to boycott the Assembly before it could even hold its first meeting fixed for December 9, 1946. A conference of the representatives of the Muslim League and the Congress called in London to sort out the differences between the two led to no agreement. The Congress challenged the right of the Muslim League to remain in the interim government as it did not attend the Constituent Assembly’s meeting.

The Constituent Assembly commenced its business with Dr Rajendra Prasad as its Speaker. But the non-participation of the Muslim League in the Assembly disrupted the working of the interim government itself. The Cabinet Mission’s objective thus failed to materialise.

The mischievous drama played by the Muslim League eventually bore fruits for it. It made certain Congress leaders say openly that let the Muslim League be granted Pakistan. This, they argued, would at least enable the Congress to keep in its hands peaceful progress of the rest of the country. Thus, the possibility of creation of Pakistan, discouraged by the Cabinet Mission, began gaining a new lease of life. For Mr Jinnah this was a decisive political gain and he had all reasons to feel happy about it. The Muslims too were in the grip of communal feelings fanned by Mr Jinnah and they rallied around him in support of his demand for a separate Pakistan.

The Mountbatten Plan: The formula for transfer of sovereignty to Indians worked out next was the Mountbatten Plan of 3 June 1947. It offered a key to the political and constitutional deadlock created by the refusal of the Muslim League to join the Constituent Assembly formed to frame the Constitution for India. It laid down detailed principles for the partition of India and the speedy transfer of political power in the form of Dominion Status to the newly born Dominions of India and Pakistan. Its acceptance by the parties concerned resulted in the birth of Pakistan.

The Indian Independence Act, 1947: The Indian Independence Bill, 1947 containing the main provisions of the Mountbatten Plan of 3 June 1947, was rushed through the British Parliament in the short period of 12 days (4 July to 16 July). It received the Royal assent on 18 July 1947 and passed as the Indian Independence Act 1947.

The Act laid down detailed measures for partition of India and speedy transfer of the political power to the newly born governments of India and Pakistan. It contained the following main provisions:

  1. The Constitution framed by the Indian Constituent Assembly will not apply to the Muslim-majority provinces.
  2. The Muslim-majority provinces will themselves decide the question of a separate Constituent Assembly.
  3. The question of the division of Bengal and the Punjab will be decided by their respective Legislative Assemblies. They will also decide about the Constituent Assembly they want to join.
  4. The Sind Legislative Assembly will separately decide about the Constituent Assembly it wants to join.
  5. There will be a referendum in the provinces of N.W.F. and Baluchistan to decide which of the Constituent Assembly each province would like to join.
  6. A referendum will be held in the Sylhet district of Assam to decide whether it wants to join India or Pakistan.
  7. A Boundary Commission will be appointed to decide the final lines of demarcation between India and Pakistan.
  8. Power would be transferred to Indian hands by the 15th August 1947.
  9. British paramountcy would lapse and the Princely States would be free to join India or Pakistan or to proclaim their independence.

Contribution of Sardar Patel

Sardar Patel, the iron man of India, who was appointed as Home Minister and Deputy Prime Minister of India in 1947 on attainment of independence, was a great administrator who integrated all the princely States with the Indian Union. When India was declared independent on 15 August 1947, there were more than 550 States in the country being ruled by Indian Princes as hereditary monarchs. Sardar Patel handled this tricky problem adroitly and steered India clear of possible balkanisation by all available means, e.g., appeal, tact and even pressure. He appealed to the patriotism and of the Indian princes, made them conscious of the utter futility of bids to establish independent Kingdoms, and where necessary (as in the case of Junagadh and Hyderabad) used strong-arm methods to achieve the great objective of India’s political unification.

Coming of Europeans to India

Stories of India’s wealth heard from travellers and other sources tempted the European nations to discover the sea routes to India for trade. The Portuguese were the pioneers in this effort. In 1498, Vasco da Gama discovered the sea route to India and reached Calicut. His discovery made the Portuguese to be the first among the European nations to trade with India and found settlements along the coasts. Following them were the Dutch, the English, the Danes and the French. Eventually the English and the French were left in the field to contend for the Indian Trade. Not content with trade only their ambitions took a turn to achieve political power and the conditions that followed the decline of the Mughal Empire offered them a golden opportunity to fish in the troubled waters.

The Western Impact: A new India emerged after the fall of the Mughal Empire. Within a hundred years (1757-1857), the country was transformed politically, economically and socially. Western manners and ideals gradually took place of Mughal fashions and way of life. After 1838, Persian was no longer important as official language, being gradually replaced by English. The introduction of English greatly influenced the intelligentsia.

The practice of sati was prohibited in 1829. Grown-up girls were not now debarred from going to schools. The evils like thuggee, female infanticide and human sacrifices were suppressed. The western contact changed the superstitious outlook of the Indian people. They started adapting themselves to the western style of living, eating and dressing.

Opening of railway lines, post offices and introduction of telegraph communication system brought distant places and people within quick reach. The most significant impact was the change brought about in the economic life of the people. The old order crumbled down. The indigenous trade declined. The vast multitude of people were thrown out of work. For instance, cotton manufacture which was the most widespread industry of all and which afforded employment to about eighty lakh people throughout the country received a serious set-back as the British fabrics flooded the world markets which has so long been India’s customers. To add to the misery of Indian manufacturers, the Indian market itself was inundated with “Englishmade” cloths. The Indian economy was practically reduced to the position of importer of manufactured goods.

The East India Company: The (English) East India Company was incorporated in 1600 to trade with India by a Charter given to it by Queen Elizabeth I. In 1615, the Company built the first factory at Surat with the permission of Jehangir secured through Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador to James I.

In the beginning, the East India Company had to face the Dutch’s opposition, the rivalry of the French traders and the declining Mughal rulers of the land. Dupleix, the ablest Governor-General of the French possessions in India, wanted to drive the English out of India and to set up a strong French empire here. But the arrival of Clive on the scene dashed all his hopes. Robert Clive crushed the aspirations of the French by defeating them in different encounters.

The crowning achievement of Clive was in the battle of Plassey in 1757 in which he defeated Siraj-ud-Daulah, the Nawab of Bengal and laid the foundation of the Company’s power in Bengal. The conquest was complete in the Battle of Buxar in 1764. Bengal was the first province in India to be conquered by the English. It was Lord Wellesley (1789-1805) who made the East India Company the paramount power in India.

Subsidiary Alliance

In order to safeguard and further the interests of the British Empire, Lord Wellesley, Governor-General of India (1798-1805), followed the policy of subsidiary alliances with regard to the Indian powers, which implied that the Indian powers “were to make no wars and to carry on no negotiations with any other State without the knowledge and consent of the British Government. The greater principalities were each to maintain a native force commanded by British officers. The lesser principalities were to pay a tribute to the paramount power. In return the British Government was to protect them, one and all, against foreign enemies of every sort”. Later, the feeble princes were bowed off the mansad into well-pensioned retirements.

The first Indian ruler of a State who joined the Subsidiary Alliance was the Nizam of Hyderabad.

Advent of Muslims in India

The Arabs were the first Muslims to come to India. They conquered Sind and Multan in 712 But they could not set up their kingdom in India. About three hundred years later (997-1030) Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni led a series of plundering raids, about 17 in number. He attacked and defeated Jaipal, the king of Punjab in 1001, attacked and conquered Lahore in 1021 and put it under the control of a Muslim governor. In 1025, he attacked and plundered Som Nath Temple in Kathiawar. These Muslim incursions did not, however, produce any serious effect in the vast interior of the sub-continent. The Muslim invaders soon became a spent force and for about a hundred years, India remained immune from any foreign invasion. In 1186, Mohd. Ghori appeared on the scene. He occupied Lahore in 1186. In 1191 he was defeated by Prithvi Raj Chohan at the Battle of Tarain near Thaneswar but next year he returned and fought a desperate battle on the same battlefield in which he completely defeated the Hindus. Thus commenced the Muslim rule in India.

Delhi Sultanate

The dynasties which ruled from Delhi till the coming of the Mughals in the 16th century were the Slaves, the Khiljis, the Tughlaqs, the Sayyids and the Lodis. This phase of Indian history is known as the Sultanate period. Under Altmash and Balban, they extended their sway over practically the whole of north India. Ala-ud-din, a powerful monarch of Khilji dynasty was able to carry the Muslim arms to the extreme South of India. But the Sultanate rapidly disintegrated after the death of Mohammed Tughlaq.

Although the impact of Islam was quite distinct, yet it could not bring about any violent change in Indian life. After the storm and stress of invasions, a general feeling of mutual harmony and tolerance in different spheres of life was generated.

The architectures of that period harmoniously blended Indian and Islamic traditions as represented at Jaunpur, Lakhnauti and Mandu. At the same time, traditional Hindu architecture did not lag behind as represented by Chittorgarh structures, Surya Temple at Konarak, magnificent temples and palaces of Hoysala period at Halebid, Belur and Somnathpur and of the Vijayanagar period at Hampi, Kanchipuram, Srirangam, Tadpatri and Vellore.

The Mughals

The foundation of the Mughal rule in India was laid by Babur in 1526. Babur was a descendant of Chingez Khan and Timur. He defeated Ibrahim Lodi in first Battle of Panipat and established Mughal dynasty which lasted till the establishment of British rule in India.

Akbar, the greatest of the Mughals, embarked upon a policy of recovery and expansion. He extended his sway over an area stretching from Kandhar in the west to Dacca in the east and from Srinagar in the north to Ahmednagar in the south. He consolidated his conquests by establishing a system of civil government which none of his predecessors could do. He thus turned a mere military occupation into a well-ordered empire. He was a great organiser, warrior, statesman and patron of art and literature. His court was adorned by soldiers, statesmen, scholars and singers.

Secularism during the reign of Akbar: Akbar was the real founder of the Mughal Empire and the first Muslim ruler who divorced religion from politics. He removed all individual distinctions based on race and religion and broad-based his government on the willing support of the people. He not only brought about political integration of the greater part of the country by his policies based on secularism but also converted the alien kingdom into something like a national empire. He was able to see through the Indian situation correctly and wisely attempted to win over the leading Rajputs by friendly persuasion wherever possible. He promoted the national outlook both in politics and culture.

Din-i-Ilahi was a new religion promulgated by Akbar in 1581. It contained elements adopted from all religions.

The Mughal Empire reached the zenith of its expansion under Aurangzeb. But he died a defeated man and contributed, more than any one else, to the fall of the Mughal Empire. He thought and acted in terms of an Islamic State and considered it his duty to wage Jihads against the unbelievers. He also encouraged large-scale conversions, and re-imposed the hated jaziya and pilgrim tax on the Hindus.

The Hindus were thus convinced that the Mughal Empire under Aurangzeb was an Islamic and not a national State. The policies followed by Aurangzeb ultimately led to the rise of Marhattas under Shivaji, transformation of the Sikhs into a martial brotherhood and the estrangement of the Rajputs.

Main causes which led to the downfall of the Mughal Empire in India:

  1. The Mughal Empire had become too big and unwieldy and could not be effectively governed from a single centre.
  2. Aurangzeb’s policy of religious intolerance was largely responsible for the downfall of the Mughal Empire. The government was a personal despotism and lacked popular support.
  3. The successors of Aurangzeb were not competent rulers. They were only ornamental figureheads. Most of them were worthless debauchees who cared little about the welfare of the State. They were more dependent on unscrupulous ministers.
  4. The rivalry, intrigues and corruption gave rise to administrative chaos. There were fratricidal or patricidal struggles for the throne. The nobility under the later Mughals were mostly selfish, parasitical and treacherous.
  1. Attacks of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali left the Mughal Empire only in Delhi and surrounding areas.
  2. The Mughal Empire had “shallow roots” and therefore collapsed with a dramatic suddenness within a few decades after Aurangzeb’s death.

Nadir Shah’s invasion of India: Nadir Shah invaded India in 1739 after the death of Aurangzeb. His invasion so dislocated the central Mughal authority that the Punjab easily passed into the hands of the Sikhs. The invasion of Nadir Shah also sealed the fate of the Mughal Empire and cleared the way for the rise of the Marathas.

Mughal Influence on Indian Architecture: The Mughal style of architecture has had a decisive influence on Indian architects from the 17th century onwards. This is evident in the widespread use of the curvilinear roof combined with arches, pavilions and domes. This is, however, not to say that the Indian architects became mere copyists of the Mughals. In fact they so absorbed and assimilated the foreign influence that they made it subserve their own inventive powers and genius. An example of this synthesis of the two styles are the Hawa Mahal of Jaipur. In this structure, perforated screens, domes, curvilinear roofs, arch-shaped openings are all non-Hindu elements, but the over-all design reflects the style of the temple towers in Odisa and Tamil Nadu.

History – Eras & Dynasties

The Eras

a) Vikram Era—58 BC, b) Saka Era—78 AD, c) Kalachuri Era—248 AD, d) Gupta Era—319-20 AD, e) Harsha Era—606 AD, f) Nevari Era of Nepal—October 20, 879 AD. g) Kollane Era of Malabar—825 AD, h) Chalukya-Vikramaditya Era—1075 AD, i) Ilahi Era started by Akbar—1556 AD.

Alexander’s Invasion (326 BC)

Alexander, son of Philip, King of Macedonia (Greece), crossed the Indus in 327 BC After defeating Porus near Jhelum and subjugating other tribes he reached Beas from where he retreated as his army refused to proceed further. At that time India was divided into a number of independent kingdoms. The most powerful kingdom in Northern India was that of Magadha ruled by Nanda Dynasty with its capital at Pataliputra (modern Patna). Alexander had to face stiff resistance from the small monarchies and republics. He returned by way of the Indus and died on his way to Babylon in 323 BC at the age of 33. Greek rule in north-west India came to an end soon after his death.

The invasion of Alexander did not produce any major political effect. It however, opened the land route from Europe to India. At the same time, it paved the way for the political unity of India.

Sunga dynasty

This dynasty was established by Pushyamitra Sunga in about 185 BC after slaying the last prince of the Maurya dynasty named Brihadratha. Sunga dynasty is said to have lasted for 112 years until 73 BC.

The reign of Pushyamitra appears to mark a violent Brahmanical reaction against Buddhism, which had enjoyed much favour in the time of Ashoka. Pushyamitra also repelled the invasion of Greek king, Demetrios, son of Euthydemos.

The capital of this dynasty was Pataliputra.

Satavahana dynasty

This dynasty, called ‘Andhras’ in Puranas, mentions the name of thirty kings whose rule lasted for a period of about four centuries and a half. The first king of the line was Simuka who probably ruled for 23 years from about 235 BC to 212 BC. He is said to have destroyed the Kanvas. The capital of this dynasty was Pratishthana (now Paithan) on the upper Godavari.

Maurya Dynasty (322-185 BC)

Chandra Gupta Maurya (322-289 BC) was the founder of the Maurya dynasty and also founder of the first historical Empire in India. With the help of his wise and able tutor (afterwards Minister)—Kautilya or Chanakya— he drove the Greeks out of the Punjab and conquered Magadha. He also defeated Seleucus in 305 BC Megasthenes, the Greek Ambassador sent by Seleucus came to his court and wrote the book “Indica” which gives valuable information about that period.

Ashoka, the Great (273-232 BC) the most famous king of Maurya dynasty and one of the greatest kings in history; conquered Kalinga in 261 BC, but this battle killed the ‘soldier’ in him and he embraced and preached Buddhism. He was the first Indian King to speak directly to the people through his inscriptions.

The Ashokan inscriptions, in the form of 44 royal orders, were composed in Prakrit language, and written in Brahmi script (from left to right) throughout the greater part of the empire. But in the north-western part, they appear in Kharosthi script (from right to left), and in Kandhar in Afghanistan, they were written even in Aramaic, in Greek script and Greek language.

The Mauryan period constitutes a landmark in the system of taxation in Ancient India. The Samaharta was the highest officer in charge of assessment, and the Sannidhata was the Chief custodian of the State treasury and store-house.

The punch-marked silver coins, which carry the symbols of the peacock, and the hill and crescent, formed the imperial currency of the Mauryas.

The Mauryas introduced stone masonry on a wider scale.

In the Mauryan period, burnt bricks were used for the first time in northeastern India, the Maurya structures made of burnt-bricks have been found in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh Houses were made of both bricks and timber. Megasthenes speaks through Indica that there were wooden structures at the Maurya capital ‘Patliputra’.

The Maurya empire was finally destroyed by Pushyamita Sunga, a brahmana general in Mauryan army, by killing Brihadarth, the last Mauryan King, in 185 BC. The Sungas ruled in Patliputra and Central India and they performed several Vedic sacrifices in order to mark the revival of the brahmanical way of life. They were succeeded by the Kanvas who were also brahmans.

Kushan Dynasty (AD 120 to AD 162)

Kushans were a war-like tribe driven out by the Chinese from their country. They came to India in the Ist century AD. Kanishka was the third and the greatest king of Kushan dynasty; was a great conqueror; became a patron of Buddhism and was the only ruler of India who had his territory even in Central Asia beyond the Pamirs. Kushans were the first rulers in India to issue gold coins on a wider scale. Along with the Sakas, they strengthened the idea of the divine origin of Kingship. They also introduced Satrap system of government.

Gupta Dynasty (AD 320-550)

The Imperial Guptas ruled for about 200 years (AD 320-550) and founded a powerful empire. It was the golden period of the Hindus. The founder of this powerful kingdom was Chandra Gupta-I (AD 320-330). He started the Gupta Era. The other famous kings of the Gupta dynasty were Samudra Gupta (AD 330-375) and Chandra Gupta II, popularly known as Vikramaditya (AD 375-413).

The Imperial Guptas freed the country from foreign domination and the country made much progress politically, intellectually and culturally during their reigns.

Chandra Gupta I (AD 320-330): Founded a powerful kingdom. Started the Gupta Era.

Samudra Gupta (330-375): son and successor of Chandra Gupta I; one of the most powerful and the ablest of the Hindu kings; a great military genius, a great scholar, poet and musician; known as the Indian Napoleon on account of his great conquests.

Chandra Gupta II (Vikramaditya) (AD 375-413): was as brave as his father Samudra Gupta; defeated the Saka rulers of Malava, Gujarat and Kathiawar and thus wiped away the last trace of foreign rule from India; visit of Fahein, the first Chinese pilgrim; art and literature flourished; great personages who lived during his period include Kalidasa—poet and dramatist, known as the Shakespeare of India; Aryabhatta, Varahamihira and Brahmagupta—the greatest mathematicians and astronomers of their times; Kumarila Bhatta and Shankaracharya—the great preachers of Hinduism and Dhanwantri—a great physician. A Gupta inscription from Allahabad district suggests that decimal system was known in India at the beginning of 5th century AD.


The Huns (5th century AD) were a wild and fierce nomadic tribe of Central Asia who invaded India in the middle of the 5th century.

Their attack destroyed the Gupta power and many small kingdoms were set up in the country. The Hun Power came to end in AD 450 and many of the Huns embraced Hinduism.

Chalukya Dynasty (AD 450-1189)

The Chalukya dynasty was founded by Chulik, the barbarian Gujar chieftain. The greatest of the Chalukyas was Pulakesin II (608-642), a contemporary of Harsha. Pulakesin II defeated Harsha when the latter attempted to invade the Deccan. Chalukyas and Pallavas were hereditary enemies and the two royal houses carried on a ceaseless struggle for supremacy. Pulakesin II was defeated and probably slain by Narasimhavarman, the Pallava king of Kanchi. By the end of the twelfth century, the Chalukya empire was split up among the Hoysalas of Mysore, the Yadavas of Devagiri, and the Kakatiyas of Warangal.

Hoysala Dynasty (AD 1006-1343)

Hoysala was a dynasty of Mysore which came from the ruins of Chaulakyan empire. It is also at times spoken of as the Later Chaulakya dynasty, or the feudatories of Chaulakyas. Its traditional founder was Sala (1006), a Jain. His capital was Dorasamundra, now Halebid.

The Hoysalas attained great prominence under Vishnuvardhana. They are notable for having raised unique temples especially the Chenna Kesava temple built in 1133 at Belur.

It was one of the most powerful dynasty in the Deccan. Their shortlived dominion was shattered in 1310 by the attack of Malik Kafur and Khawja Haji, the generals of Ala-ud-din Khilji who ravaged the kingdom and sacked the capital.

Vardhana Dynasty (AD 606-647)

Harsha Vardhana (AD 606-647): was the king of Thanesar who conquered nearly the whole of Northern India and established a strong empire. He was the last great Hindu king of Northern India.

The famous Chinese pilgrim Hiuen-Tsang visited India (630-44) during his reign.

Banabhatta was the court poet of Harsha and was the source of information about him. He wrote Harshacharitra, Harsha’s biography and Kadambri.

Harsha himself was a poet and dramatist. The three Sanskrit dramas attributed to him are: Ratnavali, Priyadarsika, and Nagananda.

During his reign, the high officers of the State were not paid in cash but they were assigned “jagirs” in return of their services. He moved his capital from Thanesar to Kanauj.

He was defeated by Pulakesin-II of the Chalukya dynasty.

The last Buddhist empire in India was that of Harshavardhana. Information regarding time of Harsha is contained in the books of Kalhana.

The Rajputs (AD 650-1200)

After the death of Harsha, the brave Rajputs established their rule in the whole of Northern India and formed several petty independent kingdoms. These kingdoms lasted for about 500 years and then succumbed to the Muslim invaders one by one. The well known Rajput rulers of this period were: Prithvi Raj Chohan, the king of Delhi and Ajmer (Chand Bardai, the author of Prithvi Raj Raso, lived during his time). He defeated Mohammed Ghori in 1191 at the battle of Tarain but next year Mohammed Ghori defeated and killed him. Jai Chand Rathor was the last and most famous king whom Mohammed Ghori defeated and killed in 1194. Bihar was ruled by Palta dynasty and Bengal by Sena dynasty. In 1199 Mohammed Bakhtiar Khilji swept away both of them. The Chandel Rajputs ruled the Bundelkhand kingdom. In 1203 Qutab-ud-din Aibak conquered it. Sisodia dynasty founded by Bapa Rawal was ruling in Mewar with Chittor as its capital. Mewar rose to great power under Rana Kumbha (15th century). The Rana defeated the Muslims and erected the Tower of Victory at Chittor to commemorate this victory. Rana Sangram Singh (Sanga) and Rana Pratap belonged to this dynasty. Mirabai, the celebrated devotee to Lord Krishna was the daughterin-law of Rana Kumbha.

Rashtrakutas, Pratiharas, and Palas (AD 700-1200)

These dynasties were involved in ‘tripartite struggle’ between themselves. The object of political ambition of all was to conquer and hold the city of Kanauj, which had become the symbol of imperial power.

Rashtrakutas: The famous king of this dynasty was Amoghavarsha. His long reign (814-80) was distinguished for patronage of Jaina religion and of regional literature. His main problem was the rebellious feudatories. In 753, they brought the first Chaulakya dynasty to an end but by the end of the tenth century, Chaulakyas brought the Rashtrakuta dynasty to an end.

Pratiharas: were descendants of the Gujara people of Rajasthan in Western India. The Arabs conquered Sind in 712 but their attempts at further conquests were resisted both by Pratiharas and Rashtrakutas. After successfully resisting the Arabs, the pratiharas ruled over a large part of Rajasthan and also captured Kanauj.

Palas: Who controlled most of Bengal and Bihar, was the third power involved in the three-sided conflict between Rashtrakutas and Pratiharas over the control of Kanauj. The king of Palas was Gopala who attained renown from the fact that he was not the hereditary king but was elected. He established the Pala dynasty but it was his son Dharampala who made it a force in north Indian politics.

Chola Dynasty

The Chola dynasty was an ancient Tamil kingdom on the lower coast of India along the banks of the river Cauvery. They were the leading power of the south. Cholas reached zenith of their power under Rajaraja I, the Great (985-1014). He conquered the territories of the Cheras, Pandyas, Vengi, Kalinga and even Ceylon and the Laccadive and Maldive Islands. Temple architecture was the most developed under Cholas. The great Siva temple at Tanjore, the masterpiece of Chola architecture, was built by him. Village autonomy was a unique feature of the administrative system of Cholas. Their power ultimately declined in the 13th century when their territory was divided between the Hoysalas of Mysore and the Pandyas of Madura. Karikal the greater King of Cholas founded the new capital at Puhar.

Bahmani Kingdom (1346-1526)

It was a Muslim Kingdom established in the Deccan during the reign of Mohammad Tughlak and founded in 1347 by Zafar Khan, a brave soldier.

The most important person of this kingdom was Mahmud Gawan, a Persian who was a minister for a long time. He was put to death by the king and after that this kingdom began to decline and was split up into five independent States, viz., (1) Bidar (2) Berar (3) Ahmednagar (4) Bijapur (5) Golkonda. Even after this disintegration, the States continued their wars with the Hindu kingdom of Vijayanagar and at last, in 1565 they combined (except Berar) and destroyed the Vijayanagar Kingdom at the Battle of Talikota.

Vijayanagar Kingdom (1336-1565)

It was a Hindu Kingdom in the Deccan, situated to the south of Bahmani kingdom from the Krishna to Cape Comorin, and founded during the reign of Mohammad Tughlak by two Hindu brothers Hari Har and Bukka Raya in 1336 in order to check the tide of Muslim conquests. The most famous Raja of this kingdom was Raja Krishna Dev, the last great Hindu ruler of Southern India (1509-1529). He was a very learned man, capable ruler and a great warrior, who often defeated the Muslims. The last king of this dynasty was Ram Raja. In 1564-65 a fierce battle was fought at Talikota between the Hindus and the Muslims in which Ram Raja and about one lakh Hindus were killed. Muslims were victorious and this ended the Vijayanagar kingdom.

The Marathas

The Marathas rose to power during the second half of the seventeenth century. Their rise is considered to be an important factor in the Indian political life. The Marathas were then the strongest of the indigenous powers. They aspired after India’s sovereignty. Under Shivaji (1627-80) they became a great power. Under Peshwas, during the weak rule of Aurangzeb’s successors, they made a bold bid to build up a Hindu Padshahi. Baji Rao was the ablest of the Peshwas whose policy was to strike at the very heart of the Mughal power. He conquered Gujarat, Malwa and Bundelkhand and advanced as far as Delhi. But he died in 1740 leaving the reins of affairs in the hands of his son Balaji, the third Peshwa who at best was a reckless person. The Maratha power under him extended from one end of India to the other and was at its zenith but in the intoxication of success, he failed to win over the Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs. Just at that time when the Marathas were master of nearly the whole of India, a Muslim coalition headed by Ahmed Shah Abdali inflicted a crushing defeat to the Peshwa’s forces at Panipat in January 1761. The Marathas lost, but neither side gained control of India. The field was left clear to a body of foreign traders viz., the English East India Company. The strongest among the Marathas was Chhatrapati Shivaji.

The Sikhs

The Sikh community was founded as a religious sect by Guru Nanak during the religious revival of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1707), the tenth and the last Guru of the Sikhs, transformed the religious sect into a military brotherhood. In the confusion and disorder that followed the invasion of Nadir Shah and Ahmed Shah Abdali, they increased their military strength and became a strong power.

Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the greatest Indian ruler of his time and founder of the Sikh rule in the Punjab. Born in 1780 at Gujranwala, he occupied Lahore in 1799 at the age of 19 and made it his capital. He conquered Amritsar in 1802, occupied Ludhiana and after incessant wars, annexed Kangra, Attock, Multan, Kashmir, Hazara, Bannu, Derajat and Peshawar. He died on the 27th June 1839. His empire at that time included the Punjab and Kashmir and touched the base of the Afghan hills.

The Sikh power was, however, broken by the British after the death of Ranjit Singh. The British annexed the kingdom of the Sikhs.

Buddhism, Jainism & Bhakti Movement

These two non-Brahmanical systems of religion came to the fore in the middle of the sixth century AD Buddhism was founded by a Kshatriya Prince, Siddhartha born in 567 BC at Lumbini village in the Nepalese Terai. Siddhartha, afterwards known as the Buddha, was the son of Suddhodana, Raja of Kapilvastu. The founder of Jainism is unknown. Mahavira, a contemporary of Buddha, was the preceptor of Jainism. He was the twentyfourth and the last of the Jain teachers called Tirthankaras. Born at Vaisali, the capital of Videha (Modern Bihar), he too, like the Buddha, belonged to the Kshatriya clan of eastern India.

The two faiths shared the belief in the transmigration of soul, but rejected the authority of the Vedas. Both condemned animal sacrifices.

“While Jainism carried the doctrine of non-violence to the extreme and prescribed rigid asceticism for salvation, Buddhism advised the middle path and abhorred the mortification of the flesh as much as indulgence in sensual pleasures.”


The five doctrines of Jainism are: (1) Not to tell lies, (2) to speak the truth, (3) to observe continence, (4) not to acquire property and (5) not to cause injury to any one. The last one was added by Mahavira. The first four relate to his predecessor, Parsvanath.

Tri-ratna: The aim of existence according to Jainism is to attain, through the tri-ratna (three jewels) of (1) right intentions, (2) right knowledge and (3) right conduct, an absolutely stainless life.

Jainism recognised the existence of the gods but placed them lower than the Jina (the conqueror, used for Mahavir). It did not condemn the varna system as Buddhism did. Jainism attached the utmost importance to noninjury to living beings and prohibited the practice of war and even agriculture.

The names of two Jain tirthankaras—Rishabha and Arishtanemi, are found in Rigveda.

The Vishnu Purana and the Bhagvat Purana describe Rishabha as an incarnation of Narayan.

Jainism had 24 tirthankaras, all Kshatriyas and belonging to the royal family. Parsvanath and Mahavir were 23rd and 24th tirthankara respectively.

Syadvada (saptabhanginaya): According to Jainism, all our judgement are necessarily relative, conditional and limited. Absolute affirmation and absolute negation both are wrong. ‘Saptabhanginaya’ means dialetic of the ‘seven steps’ or ‘the theory of seven field judgement’.

Anekantavada: The Jain metaphysics is a realistic and relativistic plurism. It is called Anekantavada or the doctrine of the manyness of reality. Matter (pudgala) and Spirit (Jiva) are regarded as separate and independent realities.

Jain Councils:

  • First council was held at Patliputra about 300 BC under leadership of Sthulabhdra. Jain canons were compiled in this council.
  • Second council was held at Valabhi in the 5th century AD by the Svetambaras under the leadership of Devardhi Kshamasramana and the 12 Angas and 12 upangas were finally compiled here in Ardha Magadhi language.

Jainism popularised ‘Prakrit’ language. Mahavir Swamy preached in Ardhamagdhi.


Buddha laid stress on the Four Noble Truths viz., (i) existence is suffering; (ii) suffering is born of desire and desire unfulfilled leads to rebirth; (iii) when desire ceases, rebirth ceases and that is the highest good (nirvana), and (iv) the cessation of desire is attained by purity in deed, word and thought, the observance of the ten commandments and the pursuit of the Noble Eight-fold Path. The ten commandments are “not to kill, steal, or commit adultery; not to lie, speak ill of other people, indulge in fault-finding or profane language; to abstain from covetousness and hatred and to avoid ignorance.” The Eight-fold Path consists of right belief, right thought, right speech, right action, right means of livelihood, right execution, right remembrance and right meditation.

Buddha was strongly opposed to religious rituals, ceremonial worship, sacrificial system, and the idea of caste system. His preachings were mainly in regard to purity of thought and conduct.

His famous first sermon, the Dharma-chakra-Pravartana or Setting in Motion the Wheel of Law, was delivered in the Deer Park at Sarnath near Banaras (Varanasi).

The crux of early Buddhism was renunciation of desire.

Buddhism became a global religion due to efforts of king Ashoka. To preach Buddhist doctrines, Ashoka sent his son Mahendra and his daughter Sanghamitta to Ceylon (Sri Lanka).

Buddha preached in the language of the people and did not harp on the caste system. Buddhism became very popular in India during Buddha’s time.

Gautam Buddha (563 BC-483 BC) left home at the age of 29, attained Nirvana at the age of 35 at Bodh Gaya, under a Pipal tree, delivered his first sermon at Sarnath in Banaras and attained Mahaparinirvana at Kusinagar at the age of 80 in 483 BC.

Five great events of Buddha’s life and their symbols:

  • Birth: Lotus and Bull
  • Great Renunciation: Horse
  • Nirvana: Bodhi tree
  • First Sermon: Dharmachakra or wheel
  • Parinirvana or death: Stupa


  • The Vinaya Pitaka: (i) It deals with rules and regulations which the Buddha promulgated, (ii) It describes in detail the gradual development of Sangha, (iii) It also gives an account of the life and teaching of Buddha.
  • The Sutta Pitaka: It contains (i) discourses delivered by Buddha himself on different occasions (ii) discourses delivered by Sariputta, Ananda, Moggaland and others, (iii) the principles of religion.
  • The Abhidhamma Pitaka: It contains the profound philosophy of the Buddhas’s teachings and investigates mind and matter, to help the understanding of things as they truly are.

The Sutta Pitaka is divided into 5 Nikayas (groups):

  • The Digha Nikaya.
  • The Majjhima Nikaya.     
  • The Samyutta Nikaya.
  • The Anguttara Nikaya.
  • The Khuddaka Nikaya.

Buddhism does not recognise the existence of god and soul (atman).

The first human statues worshipped in India were probably those of the Buddha.

Hinayana and Mahayana: Hinayana and Mahayana are the two divisions of Buddhism. Mahayanism came into existence in the time of Kanishka.

The Buddhism which ignored the Divine (worship of gods and goddesses) was known in later times as the Hinayana or Lesser Vehicle of salvation, while the modified religion which recognised the value of prayer and acknowledged Buddha as the incarnation of an eternal heavenly Buddha was called the Mahayana, or the Greater Vehicle.

Death of Buddha: Buddha died in 483 BC. at the age of 80 under a sal tree at Kusinagara (modern Kasia) in the Gorakhpur district of U.P. Relics of Buddha are preserved in a Stupa. Buddha is said to be the last historical incarnation of Vishnu.

Buddhist Councils: The first Buddhist Council was held at Rajagriha shortly after Buddha’s death. A second Council was held at Vaisali in which the disciples of Buddha divided into two sections viz., Sthavirvadins and Mahasanghikas; a third at Pataliputra (during the reign of Ashoka), 236 years after his death, and a fourth Council was held at Srinagar (Kashmir) under the patronage of Kanishka, the Kushan king. It was presided by Vasumitra. Harshavardhana summoned two Buddhist Assemblies in the year 643 AD— one at Kanauj (the fifth one) and the other at Prayag, the sixth one.

Buddhist literature: was written in Pali language.

Emperor Ashoka and Buddhism: According to authoritative historical accounts, Emperor Ashoka became a convert to Buddhism after the battle of Kalinga in which there had been a great bloodbath. Disgusted with the spectacle, Ashoka became a lay Buddhist and ordered that royal-hunts be stopped. He appointed officials to proclaim and propagate Buddhist doctrine among the people and to act as censors of religion and morals. He got Buddhist doctrine inscribed on stone and such inscriptions were affixed all over his dominions. He also sent Buddhist missionaries to foreign countries. The famous Greek ruler Menander was converted to Buddhism.

Coins made of metal appear first in the age of Gautam Buddha. The earliest are made largely of silver though a few of coppers also appear. They are called ‘punch-marked’ because pieces of these metals were punched with certain marks such as hills, trees, fish, bull, elephant, crescent etc. The earliest boards of these coins have been found in eastern Uttar Pradesh and Magadha, although some early coins are also found in Magadha.

Buddhist period: During the age of Lord Buddha, there were 16 large States called ‘mahajanapadas’. Magadha, Kosala, Vatsa and Avanti were the most powerful.

The earliest capital of Magadha was at ‘Rajgir’ which was called ‘Girivraja’ at that time.

Magadha came into prominence under the leadership of Bimbisara, who belonged to the ‘Haryanka’ dynasty.

Magadha’s most serious rival was Avanti with its capital at Ujjain. Its king Chanda Pradyota Mahasena fought Bimbisara, but ultimately the two thought it wise to become friends.

Bhakti Movement

Bhakti Cult was a socio-religious movement revived in India during the 15th and 16th century AD. The new schools of religion gathered momentum as a result of Islamic influence. The belief in one God and the democratic spirit of Islam served as a potent factor in the evolution of Bhakti movement. Its main purpose was to bring reform in Hindu religion and check conversions to Islam. The saintly reformers preached a non-ritualistic and unflinching devotion to a personal God to attain salvation. They pointed out the absurdity of the caste system and preached a religion open to all without any distinction of caste or creed. Another attempt of some of the reformers was to bridge the gulf between the Hindus and Muslims. The teachings of Kabir and Guru Nanak were particularly directed toward that end.

The great exponents of the Bhakti Cult were: Ramanuja in the south, Ramanand and Kabir in Uttar Pradesh, Namdeva, Ramdas and Tukaram in Maharashtra, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Bengal, Jaidev in Orissa and Guru Nanak in the Punjab.

History – Ancient Civilizations

Indus Valley Civilization

According to the carbon-dating process, the Indus Valley Civilization appears to have flourished between 2500 to 1700 BC, though at some places it may have lasted till later. This period is known as pre-historic period. It belongs to the Chalcolithic Age. Archaeological excavations for the remains of the Indus Valley Civilization have been carried out at many places. Two big cities discovered in the beginning were Harappa in the Montgomery district of what is now West Punjab in 1921, situated on the bank of river Ravi, and Mohenjodaro in the Larkana District of Sind in 1922. In India, important sites connected with the Indus Valley Civilization are Ropar in Punjab and Kalibangan in Rajasthan. Yet another site of this civilization discovered in India is Lothal in Gujarat State on the sea-plain of former Saurashtra, 720 km south-east of Mohenjodaro. It was an ancient port city of the Indus Vallley people. The excavations made here represent the Harappan culture. The discovery of a dockyard here measuring 710 feet by 125 feet (found blocked) proves maritime trade with Mesopotamia and other countries. It is the best example of maritime activity during the Harappan period.

Mohenjodaro, on the bank of river Indus, is the largest known Indus Valley period city.

Recent excavations at Dholavira in Kachchar (Gujarat) have further illuminated Indian history with revelations of an extensive Harappan city in the Rann of Kutch.

Dholavira, an ancient city, was most conspicuous for its aesthetic architecture, a unique water harnessing system and its storm-water drainage system. A large well and a bath were also excavated.

From archaeological excavations at Indus Valley sites it appears the people belonging to that era cultivated barley, wheat, peas, melons, sesame etc. The large number of earthen spindles found in the remains go to show that the people knew how to spin both cotton and woollen threads.

From the statues and carvings, we can make out that women put on skirts, and the men wore a band of cloth round their loins, and sometimes put on wrappers covering their left shoulder and passing below the right shoulder. They also sported beards and whiskers. Both men and women wore ornaments like finger-rings, necklaces, armlets etc. made of gold, silver, ivory, shell, bone, copper or terracotta. Women also used anklets, girdles, earstuds, nose-studs etc. The ornaments of the poor people were made of copper, shells and bones. People had domesticated the humped bull (zebu), buffalo, pig, elephant, horses and dogs. Available evidence suggests that among wild animals the Indus Valley people were familiar with tigers, bears, rhinoceros etc. The Harappans were the earliest people to produce cotton.

According to eminent archaeologists, the supreme god of the Indus Valley people was the Pipal God. A form similar to that of the Great God Siva of the Hindus has also been repeatedly found.

The people worshipped trees. The large number of steatite seals and other carvings discovered in the excavations show that art had made great progress. This is also borne out by the excellent finish of some stone-images found among the ruins.

The area in which the Indus Valley Civilization flourished had at least two big cities and more than 100 towns and villages. The big cities were Harappa and Mohenjodaro. These cities appear to have been well planned with broad streets up to 33 ft. in breadth. The roads cut each other at right angles. The people used burnt bricks with gypsum and mud-plaster. Most of the houses had bathrooms and the cities had a well laid out drainage system. In every house, big jars were fixed in the floor for storage of grains. In Mohenjodaro, there was a great communal bath with a 30’ x 23’ x 8’ tank in the middle. The town had a good system of water supply built round a large number of wells.

The area occupied by the Aryans was then called Sapt Sindhu (Frontier Province and Punjab as before partition).

The Indus Valley civilization was primarily urban. The system of governing was probably kingship.

A very interesting feature of this civilisation is that Iron was not known to the people.

The Rigveda speaks of a battle at a place named Hariyumpiya which has been identified with Harappa.

Language: Malati J. Shendge in his book “The Language of Harappans” says that the language of the Indus Valley Civilization was “Akkadian”, and not proto-Dravidian, as is generally believed. The earliest script was noticed in 1853 and complete script discovered by 1923.

The Indus script has not been deciphered so far.

Similarity with the Sumerian and Mesopotamian Civilizations: According to the historians, there were close commercial and cultural contacts between the Indus Valley and the Sumerian civilization. The Valley of the Indus has been referred to in Sumerian myths as Dilbun. The similarities between the Indus Valley Civilization and the civilizations which developed in Sumeria and Mesopotamia were the use of burnt bricks, copper and bronze vessels, the potter’s wheel, pictorial seals etc. They had a flourishing trade with each other and each one of them had a fairly well developed pattern of urban life. Mesopotaminans called the Indus region Meluha.

Difference with the Vedic Civilization: The Indus Valley people had not learnt to domesticate horses but those who lived in the Vedic age did make use of the horse. The use of armour was likewise a Vedic practice unknown to the Indus people. Whereas the latter lived mostly in towns and cities, the Vedic people were for the most part pastoral. They lived mostly in the countryside. They knew the use of iron which was not known to the inhabitants of the Indus Valley. The two civilizations worshipped different gods.

The Indus Empire—Latest Discoveries: In 1921, when the archaeological discoveries of Harappa and Mohenjodaro were made, it was thought that the Indus Valley Civilization was confined to Punjab and Sind only. Later, archaeological discoveries, however, traced it as far east as Alamgirpur in Uttar Pradesh, and as far north as the foothills of the Himalayas. Excavations at Lothal, further proved that the civilization extended to the shores of Gujarat. Lothal was an outpost for sea trade with the contemporary West Asian civilizations.

Recent excavations at many sites on or near the banks of the Krishna river show that this civilization percolated as far south as the Krishna valley. A scholar suggests that the civilization influenced culture in this region even in the post-Harappan period. It may have extended even further south.

The latest excavations show that the extent of the Harappan empire may have been widely spread throughout the country. As such, many theories as to its race and language are likely to become obsolete. With so many claims about deciphering of the mysterious Harappan script, the geography of the Indus people may have yet to be finally drawn!

Earliest evidence of agricultural communities: Earliest evidence before the emergence of Harappan civilisation comes from a place called Mehrgarh, near the Bolan Pass. Radiocarbon dates indicate that people here were growing wheat and barley and tending sheep and goats in 5000 BC. The Harappans were the earliest people to produce Cotton.

Vedic or Aryan Civilization

The location of the original home of the Aryans still remains a controversial point. Some scholars believe that the Aryans were native to the soil of India and were living in the Punjab or in the Ganga-Jamuna valley.

According to popular belief, the Aryans are supposed to have migrated from Central Asia in the course of a great nomadic movement that spread from the Mongolian Steppes in the east to the eastern shores of the Mediterranean in the West. It is not definitely known when the Aryans first came to India.

The group that came to India first settled in the present Frontier Province and the Punjab—then called Sapta Sindhu. They lived here for many centuries and gradually pushed into the interior to settle in the valleys of the Ganges and the Yamuna.

While according to Bal Gangadhar Tilak, the Aryans came from Arctic region, according to Max Muller they came from Central Asia. Ganganath Jha claims they are original inhabitants of India or Brahamrishi Dish. According to D.S. Kala, Aryans came from Himalayan region or Kashmir.

It is presumed that the Rig Veda was composed while the Aryans were still in the Punjab.

The Aryans were skilful farmers. They knew the art of domesticating animals. They were engaged in trade and knew maritime navigation.

The religious books of the Aryans show their culture at the highest perfection. The most important of these books are the Vedas—four in number: (i) the Rig Veda (collection of lyrics), the oldest, it contains 1028 hymns, divided into 10 mandals. The hymns were recited by Hotri. (ii) the Yajur Veda (book of sacrificial prayers). Its hymns were recited by Adveryu. (iii) the Sama Veda (book of chants). All verses (excluding 75) were taken from Rig Veda and recited by Udgatri and (iv) the Atharva Veda (book of magical formula). It contains charms and spells to ward off evils and diseases; the Upanishads—Philosophical treatises; the Epics— the Ramayana and the Mahabharata; the Puranas—18 in number; the Shastras or the Darshanas—six in number and the Manu Simriti.

Rig Veda contains tribal assemblies such as the Sabha, Samiti, Vidath and Gana, Sabha was committee of few privileged and important individuals.

The Aryans or the Hindus were divided into four groups called castes: (i) Brahmanas, (ii) Kshatriyas, (iii) Vaishyas and (iv) Sudras.

To lead an ideal life they had divided human life into four stages (Ashrams): (i) Brahamcharya Ashram, (ii) Grahastha Ashram, (iii) Banprastha and (iv) Sanyas Ashram.

Gradually, changes of far-reaching importance occurred in the social system of Aryans. The caste system became more rigid and the sacrificial side of religion was greatly developed by the Brahmanas. The privileges of the Brahmanas and growing complexities of their rituals, however, did not last long and the struggle against Brahmanism found expression in two new faiths—Jainism and Buddhism.

Aryans in the Rigvedic Period: The Aryans in the Rig vedic period were a highly organised patriarchal society. Marriage was a recognised institution and it was looked upon as a sacrament which could not be broken by any means. Women occupied a place of honour in society and had freedom to choose their marriage-partners. As a rule people were monogamous though those in the higher strata of society sometimes practised polygamy also. Widows were allowed to remarry, particularly when they had no male progeny. The father was the head of the family, which was the basic unit of the social structure. It has not been conclusively established whether the Aryans in the Rig vedic age believed in or observed the caste-system, but they did look down upon the non-Aryans or the original inhabitants of the land whom they described as dasyus or asuras. As compared to the Aryans, the latter were short-statured and dark-skinned. They spoke a different language and worshipped other gods. The Aryans deified natural phenomenon like fire, wind, water etc. and worshipped them. They had an elaborate code of rituals and sacrifices. They performed several types of Yajnas to propitiate the elemental forces.

It is believed that the Aryans of the Rig vedic period were settled in what are now known as the Shivalik Hills. As has been said earlier, the basic social unit was the family. Families were further organised into Kulas or clans, Janapads or cantons and then into the Rashtra or the nation. The system of government prevailing in the age was monarchic. The king was the protector of his people and also led them in the battlefield. He had ministers to help him in running the administration. He was also advised in the task of government by sabhas and samitis—assemblies of representatives elected by the people.

The king did not maintain any army. In times of war he mustered a militia whose military functions were performed by different tribal groups called Vrata, Gana, Grama and Sardha.

The later Vedic people were acquainted with 4 types of pottery: (i) black and red ware, (ii) black slipped ware, (iii) painted grey ware and (iv) red ware.

The Red ware was the most popular type of pottery in later vedic period. It has been found almost all over western Uttar Pradesh. However, the most distinctive pottery of the period is known as Painted Grey Ware. It consisted of bowls and dishes, which were used either for rituals or for eating or for both, but by the upper orders.

The Vedic people continued to produce Yava (barley) but during later vedic period, rice (vrihi) and wheat became their Chief crops. For the first time, the vedic people came to be acquainted with rice in doab and its remains recovered from Hastinapur belong to the 8th century BC.

During later Vedic period, popular assemblies i.e. Sabha and Samiti continued to hold the ground but their character changed. They came to be dominated by princes and rich nobles. Women were no longer permitted to sit on the Sabha and it was now dominated by nobles and brahmanas. The Vidath was completely disappeared during this period.

The institution of gotra appeared in later Vedic period.

The later vedic texts mention only three asramas (stages of life)— brahmacharya, grihastha and vanaprastha. The last and the 4th stage (samyasa) had not been well established in later vedic times.

Foreign Countries Influenced by Indian Culture in the Ancient Period

India in the ancient past was a great maritime and colonial power. According to researches made by eminent Indian and foreign historians, ancient Indians extended the frontiers of India to include several countries in the Far East. Traces of Indian culture can be found even to-day in the following countries/regions (the ancient Indian names are given in brackets in each case): Vietnam (Champa), Java (Yavadwipa), Sumatra (Suvarnadwipa), Borneo (Varunadwipa), Cambodia (Kamboja), Sri Lanka (Tamraparni), Myanmar (Indradwipa), Malaya (Malaya Desha) etc.