Ancient History of North India
The sixth century B.C was a time of turmoil, of political and social transformations in India. It was during this period that Vardhaman Mahavira (599 B.C-527 B.C) founded Jainism while Gautama the Buddha (560 B.C- 480 B.C) propounded Buddhism.
These religions, preached non-violence towards all living creatures, tolerance and self-discipline. In the centuries that followed, the Buddhist monk-missionaries and monks spread their religion to other Asian countries including Sri Lanka China, Japan, Korea, to name a few,where it is practiced till today.
With land becoming property and society being divided on the basis of occupations and castes, conflicts and disorders were bound to arise. Organized power to resolve these issues therefore emerged, gradually leading to the formation of full-fledged state systems, growing into mighty empires.
By the end of the third century B.C, most parts of Northern India were knit together into an empire by Chandragupta Maurya (ruled between 322-298 B.C.).
In 327 B.C, Alexander the Great (356-323 BC), of Macedonia (modern Greece) crossed into northwest India. He conquered a large part of the Indian territory before his disgruntled generals, tired of war, forced him to return home. Alexander left behind Greek governors to rule over Indian territories won by him. These regions gradually got merged with the Indian states owing to wars and political upheavals.
However, the contact between the two cultures left an indelible impact on Indian art. The legendary Gandhara School of Art flourished in the Gandhara region (modern Afghanistan). It was the hallmark of Indo-Greek fusion art.Chandragupta’s son Bindusara (ruled between 298-272 B.C) further extended the Mauryan empire over the entire subcontinent. The greatest Mauryan emperor was Ashoka the Great ( 286 B.C-231 B.C) the watershed of whose political career was the gory, gruesome war of Kalinga (modern Orissa).Overcome by the horrors unleashed by this war, he renounced weapons and violence forever. He became a Buddhist and zealously propagated and promoted the faith without any violence and coercion. He got his messages engraved on rocks and tablets using the local dialects and Brahmi a post-Harappan script.
Following Ashoka's death in 232 BC, the Mauryan empire began to disintegrate. This situation encouraged invaders from Central Asia to enter India in quest of power and fortune. As a result, several small kingdoms came into being, which soon passed into oblivion.
After the gap of a few centuries another mighty empire which arose, was the Gupta empire in the 4th century A.D. In fact this period is considered the golden age of Indian history. This empire lasted for more than two centuries, spanning a large part of the Indian subcontinent, with its administration much more decentralized than that of the Mauryas. By means of wars and matrimonial alliances with the smaller, neighbouring kingdoms, the empire's boundaries kept getting extended further
The Gupta rulers patronized Hinduism which led to the resurgence of orthodox Hinduism. A famous Chinese traveler, Fa Hien, visited India during this period and recorded his experiences in the form of interesting chronicles. The world famous treasure troves of art namely Ajanta and Ellora caves were created during this period.
The Gupta period witnessed the revival of literature and culture. Several important treatises were written on a vast range of subjects-grammar, mathematics, astronomy medicine and erotica (The Kamasutra).The luminaries of this period include Kalidasa the famous playwright who created master pieces in Sanskrit,Varahamihira (505 AD - 587 AD), a famous astronomer and Aryabhatta (476 AD-550 AD), the renowned mathematician and astronomer.At the fag end of the Gupta period, there arose what maybe hailed as the last empire in northern India.Harshavardhan (590–647A.D) had inherited a small state in the upper Ganges valley in the year 606A.D. But by the year 612 AD he had built up a vast army with which he forged nearly the entire territory lying north of the river Narmada into an empire, which he ruled efficiently, for almost 42 years. He was an outstanding military leader, who tasted defeat only once in his lifetime, at the hands of the Chalukya king Pulakesin II when he attempted to invade the Deccan in the year 620 A.D.
Harsha’s capital, Kannauj (modern Uttar Pradesh) was a flourishing centre of art and literature. Harsha himself was a distinguished poet and dramatist. He is well-known for two dramatic compositions Ratnavali and Naganada, written in Sanskrit
Born a Hindu, Harsha later became a devout Buddhist and forbade the killing of animals in his kingdom.His contribution to the society at large, include a number of stupas, monasteries, and several state hospitals to offer health services to the general public. The great Buddhist Convention, organised by Harsha at Kannauj in the year 643 A.D turned out to be a grand event, reportedly attended by 20 kings and thousands of pilgrims from all over the country. The life and times of Harsha are described in the Harsha-Charita, a brilliant literary work by Bana Bhatta, the former’s court poet, and in the Si-yu-ki (Records of the Western world) written by the Chinese scholar- pilgrim, Hiuen-Tsang.
After Harsha's death, the entire northern India once again plunged into anarchy and chaos, after nearly four decades of peace and stability.
The invasions of the Huns (nomadic herdsmen, war-like people from the grasslands of Mongolia who terrorized, ransacked and destroyed much of Asia and Europe between the 3rd and 5th centuries A.D) from the west, signalled the end of this glorious chapter of history, although initially they were defeated by the Guptas. After the decline of the Gupta empire, north India got fragmented into a number of petty kingdoms ruled by Hindu kings. The next wave of unification came only with the Muslims invasions.
History of South India: The Ancient Period
The ancient history of peninsular (south) India revolves around the fortunes of three outstanding and extensive kingdoms: that of the Pandyas, south of Kaveri river with its capital at Madurai; the Cheras centred around Kerala, and the Cholas on the Coromandel (western) coast. However there were several other dynasties that co-existed with these prominent ones, though they were unable to reach the same acme of power and glory.
Were a prominent dynasty in Southern India. Their kingdom, founded in the 6th century BC was spread over the modern districts of Madurai and Tinnevelly. Their original capital was at Kolkoi (on the Thambraparny river in Tinnevelly) and later at Madurai. The Ashokan edicts of 3rd century BC mention this dynasty. The Kongu Ratta inscription of early 5th century AD bear description of the conflict between the Pandyas and the Kongu Rattas. Very little is known about Pandyas before the 7thcentury AD.Around 940 AD, K ing Rajaraja of the Chola dynasty reduced the Pandyas to the condition of tributary dependence. This situation continued for the next two centuries There is historical evidence that the Pandyas had trade as well as maritime relations with countries like Egypt, Rome, China and Malaysia.The Meenakshi Temple,specimen of Pandyan Art
Variously known as the Andhras, Andhrabhrityas and Satakarnis, this dynasty ruled large portions of Central and South India spanning modern day Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh and Andhra Pradesh. The Satavahanas started out as feudatories to the Mauryan Empire of northern India, and declared independence soon after the death of Ashoka (232 BC). They were the first native Indian rulers to issue their own coins with portraits of their rulers, a practice probably borrowed from the Indo-Greek kings who occupied the northwestern parts of the country. The Satavahana kings also made significant contributions to Buddhist art and architecture. The great stupas in the Krishna river valley were built by them, the most famous among them being the stupa at Amaravati in Andhra Pradesh. The Satavahana rulers used Prakrit as their official language. The glory of the Satavahanas began to decline by the 3rd century AD and they were supplanted by a number of not so well-known dynasties.
The earliest reference to the modern state of Kerala is to be found on a rock inscription ascribed to Ashoka the Great. It was then an independent kingdom ruled by various kings belonging to the powerful Chera dynasty (a.k.a Keralaputras) approximately between 900 BC and 198 AD. Infact theirs was the first known powerful dynasty in the region. The Cheras ruled over the area extending from Alleppy to Calicut, in the present day Kerala state with their capital at Vanchi (identified with either Karur or Kochi of modern times).During the reign of the Cheras, trade continued to bring prosperity to Kerala, as spices, ivory, timber and gems were exported to the countries of the Middle East and to southern Europe.
A gold coin of the Chera period
Chalukyas This dynasty rose to power in the Deccan from the 5th to the 8th century AD and again from the 10th to the 12th century AD. They ruled over the area between the Vindhyachal mountains and the river Krishna. The Chalukyas were the arch enemies of the Pallavas, another famous dynasty of the south. A prominent ruler of the Chalukya dynasty was Pulakesin I. He founded the city of Vatapi (modern Badami in Bijapur district of Karnataka) and made it his capital. He is said to have performed Ashwamedha Yagna (horse sacrifice) to attain supremacy as a ruler. The kingdom was further extended by his sons Kirtivarman and Mangalesa who waged many wars against the Mauryan rulers of the neighbouring Konkan region.
The best known specimens of Chalukyan art are the Virupaksha temple, (built by Queen Lokamahadevi in 740 AD to commemorate her husband's victory over the Pallavas), and the Mallikarjuna temple both at Pattadakal, Karnataka.
Pulakesin II, son of Kirtivarman was the greatest ruler of the Chalukya dynasty, who ruled for almost 34 years. During his long reign, he consolidated his powers in Maharashtra and conquered parts of the Deccan stretching from the banks of the Narmada to the region beyond the Kaveri. His greatest achievement was his victory in the defensive war against Harshavardhan (A north Indian emperor with his capital at Kannauj) in the year 620 AD. In 641 AD, the Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang, visited the kingdom and paid glowing tributes to the king for his efficient and just rule. Pulakesin II was defeated and killed by the Pallava king Narasimhavarman in 642 AD. His capital Vatapi was completely destroyed. Pulakesin was succeeded by his son Vikramaditya who was also a noble and just ruler. He renewed the struggle against his enemies and managed to restore the former glory of his dynasty to a certain extent. The Chalukyas were ousted by a chieftain Dantidurga, who laid the foundation of Rashtrakuta dynasty.
The Virupaksha temple, Pattadakal statue of Narasimhavarman
Chalukyas of Kalyani
This empire was founded by descendants of the Badami Chalukya clan. With its centre at Kalyani, Karnataka it flourished between 973-1195 AD. The domains of the Kalyani Chalukyas extended from the Kaveri basin in the south to Gujarat in the north. The empire reached its peak under Vikramaditya VI. The Kalyani Chalukyas promoted the Gadag style of architecture, the magnificent ruins of which still stand in the Dharwad and Haveri districts of Karnataka.
The Pallavas with their capital at Kanchipuram (in the modern state of Tamil Nadu) were a hereditary Hindu dynasty. They ruled between the 4th-9th century AD. Under the Pallavas, their vast kingdom (comprising major parts of modern Tamilnadu) was exposed to increased influence of Sanskrit and the culture associated with it. During this period the cults of Shavaism and Vaishnavism became deeply embedded in the Tamilian culture. Mahendravarman was the most prominent Pallava king who is remembered as the main source of inspiration behind the immortal, exquisite sculpture of the shore temples (shaped like chariots or rathas) at Mahabalipuram, which was once a major, flourishing port. The gorgeous temples at Kanchipuram also testify to the architectural excellence prevalent at that time. Hieun Tsang, who had visited the city of Kanchipuram and stayed there for a w Narasimhavarman, the son of Mahendravarman, ascended the throne in 630 AD. He defeated his arch rival king Pulakesin II in the year 632 AD and burned down the Chalukyan capital Vatapi.
hile, recorded that it was also a flourishing centre of higher education.
Shore Temple at Mahabalipuram The town of Vatapi
The earliest rulers of Karnataka, the Kadambas (325-540 AD) ruled over a major part of the state in addition to parts of Goa and Maharashtra.The Talagunda inscription of 450 AD states that Mayursharma, the founder of the dynasty, was given the name because of the profusion of sacred Kadamba trees which grew around his dwellings Mayursharma had been born a Brahmin, who after completion of Vedic studies went to Ghatikasthana in Kanchipuram for higher studies. Driven by circumstances, he became Mayuravarma, a Kshatriya, having mastered warfare tactics and the use of weaponry. He built up an army and trained them in guerilla warfare. He defeated several chieftains and even compelled the Pallavas to acknowledge his supremacy. His kingdom comprised the hilly region, western coast and Chitradurga district of Karnataka, with its capital at Banavasi (north Kanara district).
The Kadamba kingdom reached its zenith under Kakustha (405-430 AD), who was a great builder. His prominence can be gauged from the fact that Skandagupta (scion of the famous Gupta dyansty) married one of his daughters. King Madhava of the Ganga dynasty married another of his daughters. Such matrimonial alliances helped to foster strong diplomatic ties and friendship with other kingdoms in the vicinity. Subsequently the rule of Ravivarman (485-519 AD) of the same dynasty, proved to be fairly long-lasting. He extended his kingdom up to the river Godavari in the north, Pennar river to south and Kolar in the east. The other kings of this dynasty proved to be weak; hence their rule had no great significance. Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese traveler-monk who also visited Banavasi (a.k.a Konkanapura) recorded that the place was dotted with numerous monasteries, pertaining to both Hinayana and Mahayana sects of Buddhism, where thousands of monks and priests resided. Evidently Buddhism was greatly patronized or was the official religion.
This dynasty ruled what are now the present districts of Kolar, Bangalore, Mysore, Mandya and Tumkur in Karnataka, between the 3rd-10th century A.D. They were Jains by faith. The world famous monolithic statue of Gommateshwara (a.ka. Bahubali) located in Shravanabelagola was erected during the Ganga rule by their commander in chief Chavundaraya. Historical evidence indicates that the Ganga kingdom extended northwards upto Orissa. Interestingly, the building of the famous Jagannath temple at Puri (modern Orissa) is ascribed to Chodaganga Deva, a Ganga ruler.
The origin of the Rashtrakutas is mired in ambiguity. Some records trace its descent to the lineage of Yadu (the clan to which Lord Krishna apparently belonged). A few e Acclaimed by some historians as the largest Indian Empire, the Rashtrakuta clan ruled from Manyaketha in the Gulbarga region of modern Karnataka from 735-982 AD and reached its peak under Amoghavarsha I, often hailed as "Ashoka of South India". The Rashtrakutas came to power after the decline of the Badami Chalukyas and were involved in a three-cornered tussle with the Prathiharas of Gujarat and Palas of Bengal for political control over the Indo-Gangetic plains. The Rashtrakutas have found immortality in the pages of Indian history, through their marvellous rock cut temples of Ellora, in modern day Maharashtra. To them also goes the credit for the promotion and development of the Kannada language and literature. pigraphs claim that their early ancestor was Satyaki of the Yadava clan.
The Tamil kingdom that enjoyed the most uninterrupted prosperity was that of the Cholas. As in case of all other polities in ancient India, the wealth of the Cholas was based upon a thriving agriculture, with two monsoons annually facilitating large scale cultivation of rice, barley and millet. Moreover, excavations at Arikamedu, (near modern Pondicherry) reveal that the Cholas had a flourishing trade with the Roman Empire from the1st century, to the beginning of the 2nd century BC.
By the middle of the 4th century AD, the Chola kingdom was largely eclipsed by the Pallavas who shot into limelight and reigned supreme in the southern part of India for a considerable period of time. However, in the 9th century the Cholas re-emerged as a major political power. The Chola kingdom reached its zenith during the10th and the 11th centuries AD. The Chola kingdom with its capital at Chidambaram was one of the most impressive and well-administered political entities in the region. There was high level of prosperity as indicated by the surviving bronze figurines and statuettes, which rank among the finest specimens of Indian art and sculpture. The exquisitely beautiful temples, centred around Tanjore (Thanjavur) are also the crowning glory of the Chola art and architecture.
The most famous rulers of the Chola dynasty were Rajaraja I (985-1014) who extended the boundaries of his territory to include virtually the entire southern India, Sri Lanka, Lakshadweep and Maldives; and his son Rajendra (1014-42) who defeated the Pala rulers of Bengal and dispatched a naval expedition against the Srivijaya empire that flourished in Sumatra and the Malaya peninsula, which had caused some hindrance to the Chola kingdom’s trade activities with China, that were carried out through the straits of Malacca. During the 12th century the powers of the Cholas steadily declined, and although a series of protracted wars with the Chalukyas ended in victory for the Cholas, their strength was sapped in the long struggle. Part of the Chola kingdom passed into the hands of the Hoysalas, who had formerly been the vassals of the Chalukyas. In 1257, the Pandyas invaded the Chola territories and the next two decades witnessed the death and destruction of the Chola dynasty,
During the 12th century the powers of the Cholas steadily declined, and although a series of protracted wars with the Chalukyas ended in victory for the Cholas, their strength was sapped in the long struggle. Part of the Chola kingdom passed into the hands of the Hoysalas, who had formerly been the vassals of the Chalukyas. In 1257, the Pandyas invaded the Chola territories and the next two decades witnessed the death and destruction of the Chola dynasty, Vishnuvardhana, Ballala II and Ballala III. Jainism as a major religious faith flourished during the Hoysala period. However, Ramanuja the founder of Vaishnavism, came to the Hoysala kingdom to propagate his religion. The Hoysalas greatly patronised both Kannada and Sanskrit literature. They were also great builders and won great esteem as builders of numerous magnificent temples, the ruins of which are still to be found at Belur (the erstwhile capital of the Hoysalas),Halebidu and Somanathapura in present-day Karnataka.
A coin of the Chola Rajaraja I Chidambaram A Nataraja sculpture ofperiod the Chola periodKakatiyas
The Kakatiyas rose to prominence during the 12th and the 13th centuries. As the Chalukyas declined in power, the Kakatiya clan who were their feudatories began to wield considerable power. Early in the 12th century, the Kakatiyas declared independence and began expanding their kingdom. By the end of the century, their kingdom stretched between the Godavari and the Krishna rivers. The empire reached its zenith under Ganapati who was its most outstanding ruler. At the peak of its glory the empire included most of the territory of modern day Andhra Pradesh and parts of Orissa, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh and Karnataka. Ganapati was succeeded by his daughter Rudramamba who was thefirst queen known to have ever ruled in southern India. The Kakatiya dynasty was probably the longest lived Telugu kingdom in history. By the early 14th century, the Kakatiya empire attracted the attention of the Delhi Sultanate under Allauddin Khilji. It paid tribute to Delhi for a few years, but was eventually conquered by the forces of Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1323.
The Kakatiya period is termed as the brightest period of Andhra history. The entire area was under the kings who spoke Telugu and encouraged development of the language. Telugu. They established law and order throughout their territory and the numerous forts built by them played a dominant role in the defence of the realm.
Though Saivism continued to be the religion of the masses, the intellectuals favoured revival of Vedic rituals. They sought to reconcile the Vaishnavites and the Saivites through the worship of Harihara. (Hari=Vishnu, Har =shiva). The Kakatiya rulers greatly patronized the arts and literature. This dynasty was at its best in religious art. The Kakatiya temples, dedicated mostly to Siva, depict a fine blending of both north Indian and south Indian styles. The most important of these temples are those at Palampeta, Hanamkonda and the incomplete one within the Warangal fort.
History of North India: The Medieval India
The medieval period of Indian history commences with the advent of the Muslims in the north-west. Lured by tales of India’s overall plentifulness and the fabulous wealth of the kings and Hindu temples, Mahmud of Ghazni, also known as Ghaznavi (971–1030), first attacked India in the year 1000. He is notorious in Indian history for having plundered, ransacked and razed to the ground, the majestic temple at Somnath, named after Soma, the moon god, not once but seventeen times and carried back the loot to his homeland Ghazni, in what is now modern Afghanistan.
Other raiders from the central Asian region followed in his trail, but these forays were of no great significance. The next momentous event took place in 1192, when, Muhammad of Ghor or Mohammed Ghori (1162-1206) who was a native of Ghor, located in central Afghanistan and who had been expanding his powers in the north-western part of India, rode further inland and captured the city of Ajmer.
Many invaders originally belonged to Afghanistan
In 1193, Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1150-1210), a former slave-turned-general of Ghori, captured Varanasi and Delhi. After Muhammad Ghori died heirless in 1206, Aibak vanquished his opponents and took control of Ghori’s dominions in India. Since he had been a slave, and also since the chain of rulers who succeeded him,had also been slaves for a certain period, the dynasty came to be known as the Slave Dynasty.
After Qutb-ud-din’s sudden demise in 1210, Iltutmish, another slave of Turkish origin, emerged as Sultan, after having overpowered his opponents. Iltutmish married Qutb-ud-din's daughter. Thereafter, all but one of the later sultans of the dynasty were his descendants, including his daughter, Razia, who had a brief stint of four years.
Qutb-ud-din Aibak Allauddin Khiliji Mohammad Bin Tuglaq The most outstanding monument pertaining to this period of history, which has withstood the ravages of time is the Qutub Minar. Its construction was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak, but after his sudden, untimely death, the task was taken ove rand finally completed by Iltutmish,his successor.
The Slave Dynasty was followed by those of the Khiljis (1290-1320), the Tughlaqs (1321-1412), the Saiyyads, whose rule failed to make any significant impact, and the Lodhis (1446-1526), all of whom were of Turkish-Afghan origin.Babur (1483-1530) is regarded as the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. His dynasty was possibly the most famous political (royal) family, in medieval India
Interestingly, Babur who belonged to Farghana (Central Asia), was the scion of two legendary Asian conquerors/warriors - Taimur Lang (a.k.a Taimur the lame) the Turk and Chenghis Khan, the mighty Mongol.
Owing to family feuds and bickering, Babur came away to India with his band of followers.He managed to defeat Ibrahim, the last weakling Lodhi ruler in 1526 at the First Battle of Panipat and took control of the entire region. There was a brief interruption to Mughal rule when Babur's son Humayun (1508-1556) was ousted from Delhi, by Sher Shah Suri (1472-1545), the son of an Afghan jagirdar of Sasaram, Bihar.(His real name was Farid and he had been born in the Punjab).
Having defeated Humayun in the battles of Chausa and Kannauj (both in modern Uttar Pradesh), respectively, Sher Shah assumed power in Delhi, albeit for a short while. He was the masterbrain behind the conceptualization and the construction of the Grand Trunk Road, providing a vital link between Bengal in the east to Peshawar in the west. Besides, he introduced major reforms in the revenue system, which was gradually imbibed by the Mughals.
In January 1556, when Humayun slipped down the steps of his library (in Delhi) and fell to his death, his son Akbar was about thirteen years old. At that point of time, the Mughal empire was confined to Kabul, Kandahar besides parts of Punjab and Delhi. After Humayun’s death, Bairam Khan a trusted lieutenant of Humayun had been appointed as Akbar's guardian. Hemu (Hemchandra), the military chief of the Afghan king Muhammad Adil Shah (based in Chunar, Uttar Pradesh) was seeking to expel the Mughals from India.
Taking advantage of Humayun's death, Hemu marched to Agra and Delhi in a bid to capture the two cities. To foil this move, Bairam Khan (escorting Akbar) marched towards Delhi from Punjab where they had been stationed. On November 5, 1556, the two armies met at Panipat. Inspite of having a smaller army, Akbar was able to inflict a defeat on Hemu and slay him in the battlefield.
Akbar (1542-1605) was the greatest and the most famous of al the Mughal rulers. He consolidated political power and extended his empire over practically the whole of north India and parts of the southern India. He was the epitome of broadmindedness, secularism and liberalism.His son Jahangir (1569-1627), who succeeded Akbar, was a pleasure loving man, but possessed a great sense of aesthetics. To him goes the credit of creating the world famous gardens -- Shalimar and Nishat, near Srinagar in Kashmir. His son Shah Jahan (1592-1666), who succeeded him, followed in his footsteps. His greatest claim to fame is the marvellous architectural masterpieces, created under his stewardship -- the Taj Mahal, besides the Red Fort and the Jama Masjid in Delhi. Aurangzeb (1618- 1707), was the last of the prominent Mughal rulers. He was poles opposite to his illustrious forefather Akbar. A staunch, dogmatic and bigoted Muslim, he was ruthless, even barbaric in his political ambitions and attitudes
Aurangzeb further extended his empire, though he was constantly plagued by the Rajputs and particularly the Marathas, who were the next community to come into political limelight.The non-Brahmin castes in the region of Maharashtra organised themselves into a mighty force under the leadership of the valiant Shivaji Bhonsle (1630-1680), who was master strategist and a fearless warrior. Aurangzeb ChhatrapatiShivaji
He laid the foundation of a well knit, unified Maratha empire (which was perpetually expanding northward) and assumed the title of Chhatrapati (the sovereign /paramount king).
His empire reached its zenith under the tutelage of the Peshwas (who were originally the Brahmin prime ministers of the Maratha rulers) in the 18th century, extending from the river Indus in present-day Pakistan to Orissa in the east and Thanjavur in the south. The Maratha Empire established a protectorate over the incumbent Mughal rulers and commanded the allegiance of numerous Rajput chieftains of Gujarat, Rajasthan and Central India.
When Nadir Shah (1688-1747) of Persia attacked and plundered Delhi in 1739, the declining Mughals were even further weakened; simultaneously, the growth and expansion of the Maratha power too came to an abrupt end. In the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761, the Marathas were defeated by Ahmad Shah Abadali / Durrani (1725-1775) whose homeland was again Afghanistan.
Nadir Shah Kabir Guru Nanak Dev JiDejected, the Marathas nevertheless consolidated their control over central India and the region known as Malwa. In later years, they were to be obliterated from the political map of the country by the British imperial power. Islam as a religion deeply permeated into the then prevailing ideas, faiths, beliefs, lifestyle and cultural traditions of India. This remains evident till date in the language, dress, cuisine, architecture and social customs. Conversely, the languages of the Muslim invaders were transformed by contact and extensive interaction with the local people and Hinduism.The result was the birth of Urdu --the fusion of Persian, Arabic, Turkish and Hindi. The fledgeling language grew and developed in the environs of Delhi over a period of two hundred years (1200-1400).
The synthesis of Hinduism and Islam is best exemplified by the development and flourishing, during this period, of the philosophies of two great seers, Kabir (1398-1518) and Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Drawing heavily from the Hindu Bhakti and the mysticism of Islam’s Sufi cults, the tolerance of Hinduism and the ideas of equality in Islam, they merely advocated simple living, besides a pragmatic approach to life and things. Kabir, the unschooled saint, preached that Ram or Rahim, Krishna or Karim, were merely the different names of the Supreme Divine Being. Guru Nanak (1469-1539) founded Sikhism, a religion which has a fairly strong global presence to this day.
History of South India: The Medieval Period
Relics of Chalukyas of Kalyani Brahma,the creator of the universe
The medieval period in southern part of India saw the rise and fall of numerous kings and their dominions. However mention must be made of the three outstanding ones.
KalachurisThis dynasty which overthrew the Chalukyas of Kalyani in the early part of the 12th century, had a relatively short but stormy rule. According to a record pertaining to the year 1174 , the founder of the family was a person by the name of Soma, who was a disciple of Ashwathama (the heroic character of the Mahabharata). According to legends, he grew a beard and a moustache to conceal his visage, in a bid to escape the wrath of the fiery Parashurama (another famous character of the Mahabharata).
Thereafter his family and kinsmen came to be known as Kalachuris (Kalli meaning a long moustache and churi meaning a sharp knife). However, the later records of the dynasty claim that they descended from Brahma, the Creator of the universe. The Kalachuris were also related to the early Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas by matrimonial alliances. Some scholars believe that they migrated to the south and made Mangalavedhe (Mangalavada) their headquarters. They called themselves Kalanjarapuravaradhisvara, which indicates their central Indian origin. Their emblem was a golden bull. It is likely that they had started out as feudatories of the Chalukyas of Kalyani.
The first prominent ruler of the Kalachuris was Uchita, who was followed by Asaga, Kannam and Kiriyasaga. However under Bijjala I and his son Kannama, the Kalachuris began to wield considerable political power. However Kannama's son Jogama became an influential feudatory of the Chalukya Vikramaditya VI, who was matrimonially connected to the Kalachuri chief. This trend continued right upto the reign of Jogama's son and successor, Permadi. Even though he was a Mahamandalesvara (feudal lord) he enjoyed considerable clout in the royal circles.
Permadi’s son Bijjala II (1130-1167 A.D) succeeded his father as the Mahamandalesvara. He realised that under Vikramaditya's successors the Chalukya empire was growing weaker. This encouraged him to declare his independence. The Chikkalagi inscription refers to Bijjala II as "Mahabhujabalachakravarti (literally: the sovereign with tremendous power in his arms).Some historians identify several Kalachuri ruling families in Tripuri, Gorakhpur, Ratnapur, Rajpur (eastern Gujarat) regions of central India. Dr. P. B. Desai, the renowned historian opines that the Kalachuris did not originally belong to Karnataka. On the contrary they had migrated from central India. There they were known as Katachuris, and they ruled over an empire spanning Malwa, Gujarat, Konkan and Maharashtra. However, one of its rulers, Buddharaja, experienced a crushing defeat at hands of the Chalukya king Mangalesa, which pushed this dynasty into oblivion.
The most outstanding figure that emerged during the reign of the Kalachuris was Shree Basava (also known as Basaveshwara or Basavanna) who was the founder of the Lingayat ( linga = the phallic symbol of Shiva) religious sect in India. He ushered in a massive social transformation by inspiring and encouraging the people belonging to the lower castes to bring about changes in their ideas and thougts by concentrating on and sincerely worshipping Lord Shiva.
Basaveshwara is believed to have been a mystic, an idealist and a statesman. He was also an erudite and scholarly person, overflowing with kindness and compassion for the oppressed and the downtrodden masses. He preached his ideas about a new approach towards God and life by means of Vachanas or the sacred hymns composed by him. Vasava spearheaded the Virasaiva movement, which sought to simplify religion and create a harmonious social order. Throughout his life Basava led a relentless crusade against the caste hierarchy, social inequality, and the heinous practice of untouchability. In the teeth of opposition from orthodox, high-caste Hindus, he endeavoured to stamp out all manner of social evils from of his state.
Image of Krishanadev Raya
Vijaynagara EmpireThis was the most famous empire in the history of southern India. The Vijayanagara empire lasted for three centuries, thus indirectly checking the expansion of Islamic powers in the region. According to legends as well as historical sources, two brothers named Harihara and Bukka (Sons of Sangama,a chieftain at the court of the Hoysala rulers)had founded city of Vijayanagara on the southern bank of the river Tungabhadra in the state of Andhra Pradesh. Two famous sages Madhav Vidyaranya and his brother Sayana became the main source of inspiration for the foundation of a Hindu empire in the region.
Harihar became the first kingdom of the newly founded empire. After his death Bukka succeded him. Bukka sent an emissary to China in 1374 as a diplomatic move. After Bukka's death, Harihara II (son of Harihar) ascended the throne. He expanded his domains by conquering almost the whole of southern India, including Mysore, Kanara, Chingalpet, Trichinopally and Kanchivaram (modern Kanchipuram). A staunch worshipper of Lord Shiva. Harihara II was fairly tolerant towards the followers of other faiths too. He became the first king of the Vijayanagara empire to assume the title of Maharajadhiraj Rajaparmeshwara (the mighty, sovereign, king of kings).In 1486, Vir Narasimha of Chandragiri, (who belonged to theTuluva dynasty) took over the reigns of the Vijaynagar empire. His son Krishanadev Raya has been acclaimed the greatest ruler of Vijayanagara and one of the most famous kings in the history of India. A great warrior, he almost invariably won the wars which he waged throughout his period of kingship. He was known to have treated even his vanquished foes with honour.
During the period 1511-1514, he captured southern Mysore, Shivasamudram fortress and Raichur (karnataka), defeated Gajapati, the erstwhile king of Orissa and captured Udaigiri (Orissa), in that order. Still later, he captured Vishakapatnam and abolished the authority of the rulers of Orissa. His most outstanding achievement was the defeat inflicted on one of the Bahamani rulers, Ismail Adil Shah on 19th March 1520.This landmark event put an end to the Muslim dominance in the southern part of the country.During his later years, Krishnadeva Raya strongly focused on the organization of his empire and improving its administration. In order to maintain friendly relations with foreign powers (who were beginning to gain a foothold in India) particularly the Portuguese, he granted some concessions to the Portuguese governor Alphonsde de Albuquerque. The reign of Krishanadev Raya also witnessed tremendous growth and development in the spheres of literature, music, art and culture. Raya himself was an accomplished poet, musician, scholar and extremely well-versed in Sanskrit, Telugu and Kannada. He patronized many poets and authors notably the Ashtadiggajas (literally: poets of a gigantic stature) of Telugu language.
Ruins at Hampi A gold coin of Vijayanagara Empire
The famous scholar and wit Tenali Rama adorned his court. During this period there was also a spurt in art and architecture. The famous Vithalswami temple and the Hazara temple ( literally a thousand) both at Hampi built during his reign are magnificent specimens of Hindu Temple architecture, executed in the Vijaynagar style of architecture.
The Vijayanagar empire witnessed the arrival of European traders (especially the Portuguese) in India. Krishnadeva Raya encouraged foreign trade which necessitated the use of currency. The coins of the Vijayanagara Empire were chiefly made with gold and copper. Most of the gold coins carried a sacred image on one side and the royal legend on the reverse. Some gold coins bore the images of Lord Tirupati (a.k.a Balaji Venkateshwara).
According to historical records, a rebel chieftain of Daulatabad, near Ellora, Maharashtra, which was under Muhammad Bin Tughalaq, founded the Bahamani kingdom. This chieftain, Allauddin Hassan, who was a man of humble origins, assumed the name of Gangu Bahamani, in memory of his Brahmin mentor. His kingdom comprised parts of present day Karnataka, Maharashtra, and Andhra Pradesh. South of his kingdom lay the Vijayanagara Empire against which it had to fight continuous wars for political reasons.The most remarkable ruler of the Bahamani kingdom was Firuz Shah Bahamani (1397-1422 AD), who fought three major battles against the Vijayanagara Empire without any tangible results. He was a great scholar, well-versed in religious and natural sciences. He wanted to make the Deccan the cultural centre of India.
Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur
According to his court poet Ferhishta, Firuz Shah was a true Muslim his spirit, notwithstanding his vices - fondness for wine and music, both strictly forbidden by Islam. Firuz Shah was compelled to abdicate in favour of his brother Ahmad Shah I, who successfully invaded Warangal and annexed most part of it to his empire. The conquest of Warangal proved to be a shot in the arm of the Bahamanis. The kingdom gradually expanded and reached its zenith under the prime ministership of Mahmud Gawan (1466-1481 AD).
Mahmud Gawan arrived and settled down in Bidar from Persia in the year 1453. A great scholar of Islamic cultural traditions, he established and funded a Madarassa ( college) which was modeled along the lines of the universities of Samarkhand and Khorasan (both in Central Asia)
One of the major problems faced by Gawan was the unending dispute among the Bahamani nobles, who were divided into Deccanis (old timers) and Afaqis or Gharibs (newcomers).Since Gawan himself was a newcomer (of Persian origin), he failed to win the confidence of the Deccanis. His policy of conciliation failed to stem the ongoing strife amongst the noblemen.In 1482, Gawan,a septugenarian was executed by Sultan Muhammad Shah,the last ruler of the undivided Bahamani Empire.
Tomb of one of the Ruins of the Golconda The Charminar,Hyderabad
Qutub The Shahi kings Fort
After Gawan’s death, the raging internal factions grew more intense and various governors declared their independence. The kingdom finally got fragmented into five parts--- the Adil Shahis of Bijapur, the Qutub Shahis of Golconda, the Nizam Shahis of Ahmednagar, the Barid Shahi of Bidar and lastly the Imad Shahis of Berar.The five kingdoms came together to wage a war against the mighty Vijayanagara Empire and inflicted a death-blow to it in 1565. A few years down the line, the Imad Shahi kingdom was conquered by Nizamshahis in 1574 AD; the Barid Shahi kingdom was annexed by Adil Shahis in1619 AD.
These kingdoms continued to play a dominant role in the politics of the region till they were eventually merged in the Mughal empire in the 17th century. After the death of Shivaji, Aurangzeb, the Mughal emperor, marched southwards, finally annexing Bijapur in 1686 A.D and Golconda 1689 A. D; this sounded the death knell of the Bahamani kingdom.The Bahamani period witnessed the upsurge of secularism and communal harmony. Hazrat Banda Nawaz (1321-1422 A.D) the great Sufi saint was patronized by the Bahamani kings and his Dargah located at Gulbarga in Karnataka, is a famous pilgrimage for both Hindus and Muslims alike.
In the field of architecture, the Bahamani rulers evolved a distinct style by drawing heavily from Persian, Turkey, and Arabic architectural styles and blending it with local styles. One of the largest and most famous domes in the world, the Gol Gumbaz at Bijapur and the majestic gateway Charminar (four minarets, char = four) at Hyderabad and the Golconda Fort, near Hyderabad are the hallmarks of Bahamani architecture. The main source of income of the Bahamanis was the cultivated land, with the administration revolving around the assessment and collection of land revenue.The Bahmanis of the Deccan ultimately left behind a rich, composite cultural heritage of Indo-Islamic art, language, besides Islamic faith and traditions.
The History of India: Coming of the Europeans
Coming of the Europeans
Vasco da Gama A canon at Cabo fort, Goa,
a former Portuguese enclave
The period spanning a hundred and fifty years, between the death of the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in 1707 AD, and the Sepoy Mutiny in 1857 witnessed the gradual increase of the European influence in India. This was the time when the Europeans actually got involved in trade and commerce. Prior to this period, Europeans did arrive in India from time to time but these were no more than isolated incidents.
All historians agree that the Portuguese explorer and adventurer Vasco da Gama was the first known European to reach India in 1498. It is believed that Gama had landed at Calicut (modern Kerala) in quest of spices and the famous Calico (fine cotton) cloth. The other Portuguese nationals who accompanied him were motivated by either missionary zeal or trading prospects.
Advent of the Portuguese
The Portuguese eventually settled down to a very prosperous trade in spices with India. The Muslim rulers (including the Mughals) were averse to the idea of a foreign power carrying on commercial activities on the high seas bordering India. In Goa, which had become a Portuguese bastion there were reports of religious intolerance, forced conversions, devastation of Hindu temples and so forth.However Alphonse de Albuquerque (1509-1515), who was the second Portuguese governor in India, encouraged mixed marriages of the Portuguese with the local people, probably imbued with the idea of creating a mixed race of Catholics, who would be racially and culturally linked to Portugal. The invasion of Portugal by Spain in 1580 arrested the further expansion of Portuguese influence.
Advent of the French
French Colonial styleedifice in Chandannagar
Although the erstwhile French ruler Louis XII had granted letters of monopoly to French traders as early as 1611, it was only in 1667 that a French company was set up at Surat (Gujarat) with Francis Caron as its Director-General. In 1669, another French company was set up in Masulipatnam (Andhra Pradesh), after the then king of Golconda, exempted the French from paying import and export duty. In 1672, Caron was succeeded by Francis Martin, who is regarded as the real founder of the French colonialism in India.
Chandannagar was established as a French colony in 1673, when the French obtained permission from the Nawab of Bengal, Ibrahim Khan, to establish a trading post on the right bank of the Hooghly river. It became a permanent French settlement in 1688, and in 1730, Joseph François Dupleix was appointed governor of the city. During his administration numerous brick houses were erected in the town and a fairly large degree of maritime trade was carried on.
In 1756, war broke out between France and Great Britain, and Colonel Robert Clive of the British East India Company and Admiral Watson of the British Navy bombarded and captured Chandannagar (a.k.a Chandernagore) in March 1757. The town's fortifications and many houses were demolished thereafter, and Chandannagar's importance as a commercial center was eclipsed. Chandannagar was restored to the French in 1763, but retaken by the British in 1794 during the Napoleonic Wars. The city was returned to France in 1816. It was governed as part of French India, under a governor-general in Pondicherry until 1950.
The French in Pondicherry
Advent of the Dutch
Tombs at Bheemunipatnam
The Dutch did not come to India at the same time as their other European compatriots. As a matter of fact they established a station for spice trade in Jakarta, Indonesia. India was merely a port of call on their trade route to Europe, which also passed Ceylon( Sri Lanka) and Cape Town (South Africa). Gradually however, the Dutch set up factories and settlements in Cochin (Kerala), Bheemunipatnam (Andhra Pradesh) and Nagapatnam (Tamilnadu) but they did not attempt to gain military power. Interestingly Chinsurah a petty town of Bengal located along the Hooghly river, was a Dutch settlement from 1656 to 1825. It was later exchanged by the Dutch for the British-held Indonesian island of Sumatra in 1825. Mention must be made of a second Dutch colony at Baranagore, near Calcutta, which was mainly a port and loading dock for Dutch ships.
Advent of the ArmeniansBefore Chinsurah became a Dutch colony, it was already home to Calcutta's oldest expatriate community. The Armenians arrived (from their original homeland Armenia ,located in south-western Asia,eastof Turkey) and settled here in the 16thcentury. Their interests, however, were more local than their Dutch counterparts. They settled permanently in Chinsurah as traders, unlike the Dutch who remained predominantly sailors. The Armenians funded the British East India Company to develop the city of Calcutta.They subsequently moved to Calcutta and still have a strong presence here.
Advent of the Danes
The Danish East India Company established a colony called Fredericknagore, in honor of their ruler King Frederick the Vth near Serampore, West Bengal in 1699. Occupied twice by the English during their war with Denmark, Fredericknagore failed as a commercial venture. In 1777, after the Danish company went bankrupt, Serampore became a Danish crown colony. However, Serampore's commercial failure was compensated by its immense success on the cultural front. Since the British banned missionary activities in their territories, Serampore became a safe haven for missionaries in India.
In 1799, Reverend William Carey and two fellow Baptist missionaries established the first printing press in Asia, in Serampore to print copies of the Bible. In 1819, Carey established the Serampore College, the first institution to impart western style higher education in Asia. In 1827, a Royal Charter by the King of Denmark declared it as a university at par with those in Copenhagen and Kiel. In 1845, Denmark ceded Serampore to Britain, thereby ending the nearly 150 years of Danish presence in Bengal.
Advent of the British
The English traders formed their East India Company on December 31,1600 and entered the Asian region along with the Dutch. Their common foes – the Portuguese and the Spaniards – brought them closer. However, soon the English realized that the Dutch were not willing to share their holdings in the East Indies with them. This realization made the British turn to India as an alternative because spices were plentiful in India, where the Dutch had not so strong a presence. Inspite of skirmishes with the Portuguese, they were able to gain a foothold in India.
In the year 1612, the Mughal emperor Jahangir received Sir Thomas Roe, the first ambassador of Britain to India.Roe’s diplomacy with the Mughals was so successful that by a treaty in 1618 the East India Company became their naval aide. By 1674, the city of Bombay comprising seven islands was handed over to the British as part of the dowry of given to the Portuguese princess Catherine de Braganza, who married Charles II of Britain.
The naive Indians could not perceive the strategic threat posed by the East India Company. Right from the beginning The British followed a policy of divide and rule. Through diplomacy and deceit they gained control of revenue collection in the province of Bengal. This indirectly gave them effective control of administration too. The Marathas, the Sikhs and the rulers of Mysore could never unite to confront the formidable foreign adversary and succumbed to their machinations and intrigues.
After Aurangzeb’s demise the decline of the Mughal empire went on a tailspin. Powerful nobility ruled the day at the Mughal court, poetry and wine flowed freely; the hours were whiled away in watching performances of nautch (dancing) girls; clearly it was that twilight hour of a grand empire;
A death blow was dealt to an already tottering empire by the invasion of Delhi by the famous Persian king Nadir Shah in 1739. At this time one of the best Mughal generals, Nizam-ul-Mulk was busy fighting the Marathas. The Khooni Darwaza (The gateway of blood), the ruins of which still stand in Delhi was the site of the genocide, masterminded by Nadir Shah. The invader departed after 57 days, having ransacked the royal treasury, and carrying away with him two fabulous and precious objects - the Peacock Throne and the Kohinoor diamond. After this incident the richness and splendour of the Mughals was eclipsed for ever.
The next to invade Delhi were the Afghans, under the leadership of Ahmad Shah Abdali, an ex-general of Nadir Shah. He led as many as seven invasions into India between the years 1748 and 1767. After the havoc caused by Nadir Shah, it was an extremely easy task for Abdali to ransack Lahore, Punjab and even Delhi once more. It was left to the Marathas, who wielded considerable power, to confront Abdali. The Marathas clashed with Abdali and his forces in the Third battle of Panipat on January 13, 1761, which ended in the defeat of the Marathas.
Abdali returned in 1764, driven by a lust for riches and gold. His previous invasion had the Sikhs (who had by then carved out a kingdom under the famous Maharaja Ranjit Singh) up in arms. When Abdali invaded India for the last time in 1767, the Sikhs managed to defeat him and gain control over Lahore and Central Punjab.
History of India: The Colonial Period
In 1640, the East India Company established an outpost at Madras. In 1661 the company obtained Bombay from Charles II and converted it to a flourishing center of trade by 1668. English settlements developed in Orissa and Bengal. In 1690 Job
Charnock, an agent of the East India Company established a factory in Bengal; almost a decade later the factory was fortified and called Fort William. Three adjoining villages Sutanati, Kalikata and Gobindpore were developed into a single area called Calcutta. Calcutta became a trading centre for East India Company.
Battle of Plassey
Lord Clive Warren Hastings
On June 23rd, 1757 at Plassey, between Calcutta and Murshidabad, the forces of the East India Company under Robert Clive met the army of Siraj-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Bengal. Mir Jafar, one of the Nawab's trusted lieutenants, joined the British; a large number of the Nawab's soldiers were bribed to throw away their weapons, and surrender prematurely. Siraj-ud-Daula was defeated. The Battle of Plassey, which marked the first major military success for British East India Company.
Battle of WandiwashDuring the major part of the1700s the French and English fought a series of battles for supremacy in the Carnatic region. In the Third Carnatic War (a.k.a battle of Wandiwash), the British East India Company defeated the French forces at the ending almost a century of colonial conflict in India
Battle of BuxarIn June 1763 led by Major Adams British army defeated Mir Kasim the Nawab of Bengal. Mir Kasim fled to Patna to seek asylum, from Nawab Shujauddaulah and the (merely a figurehead) Emperor Shah Alam II. After winning the Battle of Buxar, the British obtained the right to collect land revenue in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Next, Robert Clive was appointed the governor and commander in chief of the English army in Bengal in 1765.
Warren Hastings was appointed the Governor of Bengal in 1772. Under the Regulating Act of 1773 passed by British parliament, a Council of four members was appointed, and Hastings was empowered to conduct the Company's affairs with the Council's advice. His task was to consolidate the Company's rule in Bengal. He brought about several administrative and judicial changes. However He faced stiff resistance from the Marathas in the north and Hyder Ali in the south. In 1773 he concluded the Treaty of Benaras with the Nawab of Avadh, in the process blocking alliances between the Marathas and the Nawab of Avadh. Under Warren Hastings the British army took part in the Rohilla War in 1774 which brought Rohilkhand in the company's jurisdiction.
The First Anglo-Mysore War
Hyder Ali Tipu Sultan - the tiger Maharaja Ranjit Singh of the Deccan
With easy success in Bengal, the English concluded a treaty with Nizam Ali of Hyderabad and committed to help the Nizam with the troops in his war against Hyder Ali. In 1767, the Nizam, the Marathas and the British joined forces against Hyder Ali. But Hyder Ali beat the English at their own game by making peace with the Marathas and alluring the Nizam with territorial gains. Allying with the Nizam, Hyder Ali launched an attack on Arcot. The 18 month long fight inflicted heavy losses on the British. The panic-stricken British agreed to a treaty which was signed on April 4, 1769, on the basis of restitution of each other's territories.During the period 1772-1785 the territory of the East India Company included Bengal. Bihar, Orissa, Benaras and Ghazipur, besides the Northern Sircars, the port of Salsette and the harbours of Madras and Bombay.The fast declining Mughal territory included Delhi and surrounding areas. The autonomous territory of Avadh, was bound in an alliance with the East India Company since 1765. The North Western part of India was under the Sikh clans, who controlled region around the river Sutlej. Several Muslim chiefs ruled in North western Punjab, Multan, Sindh and Kashmir. The Marathas dominated over western India, parts of Central India from Delhi to Hyderabad and Gujarat to Cuttack. The Deccan was ruled by Nizam of Hyderabad. Hyder Ali ruled over Mysore. Tanjore and Travancore were ruled by Hindu kings.
Pitt's India Act The British Parliament under Pitt’s India Bill of 1784 appointed a Board of Control, which provided for a joint government of the Company and the Crown. In 1786, through a supplementary bill, Lord Cornwallis was appointed as the first Governor-General, and he became the effective ruler of British India under the authority of the Board of Control and the Court of Directors.
Third Mysore WarThe immediate cause of the war was Tipu Sultan (son of Hyder Ali)‘s attack on Travancore on December 29, 1789 following a dispute over Cochin. The Raja of Travancore was entitled to the protection by the English. Seizing the opportunity, the British, having made a triple alliance with the Nizams and the Marathas, attacked Tipu Sultan.
The war between Tipu Sultan and the allies lasted nearly two years. On January 29, 1791, Lord Cornwallis himself took over the command of the British troops. He captured Bangalore in 1791 and approached Seringapatnam, Tipu Sultan's capital. Tipu fiercely defended the city, forcing Cornwallis to retreat. Tipu Sultan subsequently captured Coimbatore. Lord Cornwallis soon returned to occupy all the forts enroute to Seringapatnam. On February 5, 1792 Cornwallis arrived at Seringapatnam. Tipu sued for peace, following which the Treaty of Seringapatnam was concluded in March 1792. Under the treaty, nearly half of the territory of Mysore got split up between the victorious allies. Tipu Sultan was compelled to pay a huge war indemnity and his two sons were taken hostage.
Fourth Mysore warLord Wellesley became the Governor General of India in 1798. Tipu Sultan tried to secure an alliance with the French against the English in India. Wellesley questioned Tipu’s relationship with the French and attacked Mysore in 1799. The fourth Anglo-Mysore War was of short and decisive.Tipu Sultan died defending his capital, on May 4, 1799.
During the period 1814 to 1826 the British had to fight many wars against Gurkhas (residents of Nepal) in the North and Burmese in the North East. Having incurred several, the British signed peace treaties with both these communities. Between 1817 and 1818 the British had to fight against the Pindaris (a horde of cruel marauders, based in Central India who ravaged and plundered the neighbouring regions as well as some distant areas. They were employed by the Maratha armies as auxiliary forces). The Pindaris were eventually crushed by the British.
During this period, the Sikh power was growing in the North West region of Punjab. Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1780-1839) of Punjab became very powerful. Afraid of his growing powers, the British signed a peace treaty with Ranjit Singh. But after the latter’s demise internal feuds grew among the Sikhs. The British tried to take advantage of this which led to the First Anglo-Sikh War in 1845, followed by a few other battles. The final battle of Sobraon on February 10, 1846. Owing to the treachery of their generals, the Sikhs lost all of these battles. The British were able to capture most of India after defeating Sikhs in the Second Anglo- Sikh War in 1849.
The Sepoy Mutiny
Mangal Pandey Rani Laxmibai of Nana Saheb Jhansi By early 1857, the kingdom of Avadh was annexed by the British, which resulted in the Indian Sepoys of that area losing their privileges. This led to a simmering discontent in the minds of the common people. However an immediate irritant was the introduction of the Enfield rifle, whose bullets had to be bitten, before being loaded into the rifle. Rumours began to spread amongst the Sepoys that the bullets had been smeared in pig and cow tallow.
Naturally many of the Sepoys refused to use the ammunition. A soldier named Mangal Pandey was the first tol lead his fellow soldiers to vehement protest against this sacrilege, and as a consequence were chained or even imprisoned. Incensed by this move of the British, their comrades revolted and freed them. Moreover they brutally killed several British soldiers. This arson and genocide went on for a few months.The sepoys stationed at Meerut were the first to rebel marched towards Delhi. After capturing the city with the help of the local garrison, the rebels proclaimed the Mughal poet-king Bahadurshah Zafar, the sovereign ruler of India. The uprising spread like wildfire across central and Northern India with sepoys and civilians alike taking part in the ransacking and lawlessness. In the tiny kingdom of Jhansi, Rani Laxmi Bai, the teenaged queen (aided by other patriotic nobles like Nana Saheb and Tantya Tope) put up a brave fight to save her kingdom from the British, and lost her life in the process. Shortly after, Cawnpore (modern Kanpur) was captured and Lucknow besieged. The retaliation by the British was violent and brutal. The British recaptured Cawnpore and Delhi in the July-September period of 1857. Lucknow was freed in early 1858As a direct result of the Sepoy Mutiny, the Indian presence in the British army was reduced to almost a half. The Indian regiments which had been allowed to exist separately, were now incorporated into British regiments. Most importantly, India came under direct Crown rule as the British East India Company was dispossessed of its functions and, in 1877, Queen Victoria was crowned Empress of India.
Queen Victoria Raja Ram Mohan Roy Ishwar Chandra Vidysagar
In the year 1853 the first railway became operational between Bombay and Thane and first telegraph line started between Calcutta and Agra. These were a few positive contributions of the British rule in India. Though these were originally meant to improve the mobility and communication of the British troops, eventually they proved very useful for the general public.
In the socio-cultural major changes and transformation took place during this period. Raja Ram Mohan Roy (1772-1833), an erudite, cultured personality, stood firmly against all kinds of social bigotry, orthodoxy, idol worship and superstitions and advocated Western/English education for the common people. In 1828, he founded a society known as the 'Brahmo Samaj' which believed in secularism, equality of all religions and worship of one supreme, formless being. Ram Mohan Roy’s greatest achievement was the abolition of 'Sati' (the burning of a widow on the funeral pyre of her husband) in 1829, in which objective he received unlimited help and cooperation of the then Governor General Lord William Bentinck.
Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891) was a reformer, feminist and thinker. He raised questions and aroused public opinion about social evils like early marriage of girls, polygamy, child widows among others. To him goes the credit of the enactment of the Act of 1856, legalising widow remarriage and the Civil Marriage Act of 1872, restricting bigamy and child marriage and encouraging widow remarriage.
History of Modern India: The Struggle for Freedom
Birth of the Congress
A.O.Hume Bal Gangadhar Tilak B.C.Pal
The credit for the birth of the Indian National Congress is generally given to A.O. Hume, a retired British civil servant who inaugurated it. However there is general consensus on the view that the Congress was a natural and inevitable consequence of various political, economic and social forces.
Mr. Hume collected widespread evidence of the imminence of a “terrible revolution” by the half-starved and desperate population; so he set about to find ways and means to direct the popular impulse into an innocuous channel. He wrote a letter to “Graduates of Calcutta University” on March 1, 1883 and the “Indian National Union” was formed in 1884, for constitutional agitation, on an all-India basis; it was to meet in Pune later that year. This organization was renamed the Indian National Congress.The British Government, which initially patronized this organization, later discovered that it outgrew its plans and promptly withdrew support. After a while, the Congress came to be called the ‘factory of sedition’ and Lord Duff rein termed it as a body representing “microscopic minority” of India’s population. In Bengal which was at the vanguard of progress at this time, there were various political organizations that preceded the Congress. In 1843 was founded the British Indian Society, which was founded in1843 later merged into the British Indian Association. This body had such stalwarts as Rajendralal Mitra, Ramgopal Ghosh, Peary Chand Mitter and Harish Chandra Mukherjee. In Bombay there was the Bombay Association with Jaggannath Sankerset, Dadabhai Naoroji, V.N, Mandlik among others.In December 1884, the Annual Convention of the Theosophical Society was held at Madras and there some leading public figures met and decided to inaugurate an all India national movement. Right from its birth, the Indian National Congress took its job seriously. In its early phase, which is called the phase of the Moderates (1885-1905), the Congress was thoroughly loyal to the British. Its members were British in all aspects. They were a class of elite erudite men. Dadabhai Naoroji, the most prominent among their leaders observed: “Let us speak out like men and proclaim that we are loyal to the backbone; that we understand the benefits the English rule has conferred upon us.”In 1907, there took place a split in the Congress, as there were some members who were dissatisfied with the scheme of affairs under the Moderate leaders. Fiery and spirited leaders like Bipin Chandra Pal, Lala Lajpat Rai and Bal Gangadhar Tilak, parted company with them.
Aurbindo Ghose - The Valiant Lala Lajpat RaiThe Revolutionary whobecame a saint
This was the time when extreme nationalists came to the forefront; this was sparked off by the Partition of Bengal into west and east Bengal in 1905, by Lord Curzon (1899-1905), the Viceroy and Governor-General. He declared that the step would help to improve the administrative of the highly populated region, where the Bengali Hindu intelligentsia exerted considerable influence on both local and national politics. The partition created two provinces: Eastern Bengal & Assam, with its capital at Dhaka, and West Bengal, with its capital at Calcutta (which at that time was the capital of British India). This hastily implemented action outraged the Bengalis. There we widespread agitations acrosss the state. October 16, 1905, the day on which the partition came into effect, was observed as a day of mourning and fasting throughout Bengal. RabindranathTagore, the famous Nobel-laureate and writer, spoke out against this political event by means of a highly inspiring poem: Banglar mati Banglar jal, Banglar bayu, banglar phal, punya houk, heyBhagaban…(roughly translated into English: "May the soil of Bengal, the water and the air of Bengal be hallowed ... ") Tagore himself led hordes of people o the streets, singing the song and tying Rakhi (an ornamental ,colourful chord / strap) on each other's wrists ( to symbolise unity and brotherhood).There was a mass-scale fasting by the people and no food was cooked on that day.
This was the time when the Swadeshi Movement was first launched. Indians all over the country came together in groups, made public bonfires of foreign clothes, cigarettes, soap and anything that came handy. The vowed to use only indigenously manufactured products. A large number of young leaders in Bengal took up the mammoth task of educating people. On August 15, 1906, a National Council of Education was introduced under the educationist and revolutionary, Aurobindo Ghose.The British government came down heavily on these demonstrations and protests. In 1907, leaders Lala Lajpat Rai and Sardar Ajit Singh were deported from the Punjab. In 1908, Bal Gangadhar Tilak was arrested and sentenced to six years imprisonment. Aurobindo Ghose was arrested, prosecuted and when acquitted, escaped to Pondicherry (then a French colony) to escape the clutches of the British. In later years he founded the Aurobindo Ashram - a centre for the evolution of another kind of life which would in the end be moved by a higher spiritual consciousness and embody a greater life of the spirit.
Home Rule Movement
Annie Besant Gandhi and Nehru Rabindranath Tagore
When Great Britain was involved in World War I, India’s national movement though assumed new dimensions. One of them was the Home Rule Movement. On April 28, 1916, the Home Rule League was set up with its headquarters at Pune. Tilak went on a whirlwind tour of the country, appealing to everybody to unite under the banner of Home Rule League. Annie Besant, an Irish lady, who was a member of the Theosophical Society of India, played a key role in this movement.To quell the growing revolutionary fervour and spirit, the British government enforced stricter laws to prevent agitations and meetings. The importance of the Home Rule movement lay in the fact that for the first time, the independence of India clearly became the objective of the Indian national movement. The public at large especially the youth began to indulge in acts of terrorism, bombing parliamentary meetings, blowing up railway lines and picketing shops. It was at this juncture that a new leader appeared on the political horizon.
Debut of GandhiMohandas Karamchand Gandhi, was a barrister who came back to India from South Africa at the age of 49.While in South Africa, he had already built a tremendous reputation for himself as a political leader. Almost immediately after arriving in Bombay, he was offered to lead the national movement. Gandhi opted to travel and know the country thoroughly first and to familiarize himself with the masses.
Rowlatt ActMeanwhile in 1917-18, came the Rowlatt Act, proposed by Justice Rowlatt which. among other things gave the courts the right to try political cases without a jury while provincial governments, apart from the centre, had the power of internment without trial. Gandhi vehemently opposed the Rowlatt Act saying that since it raised issues of trust and self-respect, and hence should be met by a moral response.
Jallianwallah Bagh tragedy
Udham Singh - avenged the Jallianwala Bagh tragedyThis gruesome incident added fuel to the fire of nationalist movement. On April 12, 1919, General Michael O Dwyer, who had taken over the command of the troops in Punjab, the day before, prohibited all public meetings or gatherings.Unfortunately a large number of men women and children had assembled at Jallianwala Bagh, a public garden in Amritsar (which was hemmed in by buildings on all sides and had only a narrow passage way for both entry and exit), on the occasion of Baisakhi (new year celebrations held on 13th April every year) and also to show their resentment against the government policies. Enraged, General Dwyer fired 1600 rounds of ammunition on the crowds, resulting in a stampede and a bloody massacre of thousands of men women and children.
The brutality of the Jallianwallah Bagh tragedy shocked the country. It deeply moved the national leaders who now keenly began to search for newer, more effective ways to express their anguish and displeasure against the government. To show his solidarity with the Indian masses, Tagore rejected the knighthood, earlier conferred upon him by the British government.
Maulana Abul KalamThe Khilafat (opposition) Movement was launched in September 1919 as a communal movement to protect the Turkish Khalifa and save his empire from dismemberment by Great Britain and other European powers. The Ali brothers, Muhammad Ali, Shaukat Ali, Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, and Dr M A Ansari, among others, initiated the Movement.Khilafat conferences were organized in several cities in northern India. Subsequently, the Ali Brothers produced the Khilafat manifesto. The Central Khilafat Committee started a fund to help the nationalist movement in Turkey and to organise the Khilafat Movement at home.
Non Co-operation Movement
In 1920, under the leadership of Gandhi, the Indian National Congress launched his first innovative protest, the Non Cooperation Movement. It involved surrender of all titles, honorary offices and nominated posts in local bodies. People stopped attending government functions and darbars (royal court functions and ceremonies). Parents were requested to withdraw their children from all kinds of government-run educational institutions.
British courts and the army were boycotted. Indians were to stand for elections to any government body or legislature. Ahimsa or non-violence was to be strictly observed.
The Non Cooperation Movement came to an abrupt end, with the Chauri-Chaura incident which took place in Gorakhpur (UP) in 1922. Members of a Congress and Khilafat procession were picketing the local bazaar in a campaign directed both against liquor sales and high food prices.
Being provoked by some policemen, a section of the crowd attacked them. The police opened fire. In retaliation, the entire procession killed 22 policemen and set the police station on fire. A stunned Gandhi decided to withdraw the movement.
In August 1925 a band of young revolutionaries in UP looted official a large amount of cash (which belonged to the government treasury) from a Kakori-bound train on the Saharanpur- Lucknow railway section. The Government arrested a large number of young men and tried them in the robbery case.
Ashfaqualla Khan, Ram Prasad Bismil, Roshan Singh and Rajendra Lahiri were hanged; four others were sentenced to a life term in the penal colony on the Andaman & Nicobar Islands. Chandra Shekhar Azad remained a fugitive but was ultimately shot down in a park at Allahabad.
Civil Disobedience Movement
Launched in 1930 under Gandhi's leadership, it proved to be one of the most important phases of India's freedom struggle. The Simon Commission, constituted in November 1927, by the British Government to prepare and finalize a constitution for India, and consisting of members of the British Parliament only, was boycotted by all sections of the Indian social and political platforms as an 'All-White Commission'. The opposition to the Simon Commission across the country was wide-spread. Massive demonstrations were held in Calcutta on 19 February1928, the day of Simon's arrival in the city.
On 30th October 1928 when the Simon Commission was expected to arrive in Lahore, it was greeted by a sea of black flags and slogans of “Simon, go back". The police lathi-charged the mob, during which, Lala Lajpat Rai (a.k.a. The lion of Punjab) was grievously injured and succumbed to his injuries two weeks later.
Following the rejection of the recommendations of the Simon Commission by the Indians,an All-Party Conference was held at Bombay in May 1928 under the president ship of Dr M A Ansari. The Conference appointed a drafting committee under Motilal Nehru, also a reputed barrister, to draw up a constitution for India. The Nehru Report was accepted by all sections of Indian society barring a section of Muslims. In December 1928, the Indian National Congress pressed the British Government to accept the Nehru Report in to.
The Calcutta Session of the Congress in December 1928 gave an ultimatum to the British Government, that if dominion status was not granted by December 1929, a countrywide Civil Disobedience Movement would be launched. In mid-1929,the British Government, that India would be given dominion status within the British Empire very soon. A few months later, upon assuming office, Lord Irwin, the Governor General, reiterated that the government would usher in some constitutional reforms which would end in granting of dominion status to the Indians. Reacting to this statement, Indian leaders like Gandhi, Tej Bahadur Sapru, Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya and Annie Besant urged the Governor General to devise a more liberal formula so that the entire issue could be sorted out in a peaceful manner.
The leaders demanded the release of all political prisoners. They also urged the British government to convene the proposed Round Table Conference in which the constitutional problems of India were could be discussed.
Meanwhile within the Congress itself young leaders like Subhash Chandra Bose and Jawaharlal Nehru demanded that their aim was not to fight for dominion status but for complete independence. The Congress, at its historic Lahore Session held in December 1929 under the presidentship of Jawaharlal Nehru, adopted a resolution to this effect. It authorised the Congress Working Committee to launch a Civil Disobedience Movement throughout the country. It was decided that 26 January should be observed all over India as the Purna Swaraj (complete independence) Day.
Gandhi, who was called upon to lead the movement, decided to do so in a totally non-violent manner. The violation of the Salt Law was his first step. His famous march from Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad,Gujarat to Dandi (a tiny place on the sea coast of Gujarat in March-April 1930, led to a popular, countrywide movement against the Salt Law. It soon turned into a popular movement. Realising the popularity as well as the intensity of the movement, the government decided to crush it. The Congress Committee was banned. Both Jawaharlal Nehru and Gandhi were imprisoned.
The Final Phase
Bhagat Singh, a young marxist from Punjab, vowed to avenge Lala Lajapt Rai’s death. With the help of Chandrashekhar Azad, Rajguru and Sukhdev, plotted to kill Scott a police officer who had brutally beaten up Lalaji. However instead of Scott, they killed a junior officer named Mr. Sanders, thereby incurring the wrath of the administration. The British, under the Defence of India Act, empowered the police to arrest people and stop processions on the flimsiest pretext.
To protest against this decision, Bhagat Singh and an accomplice, Batukeshwar Dutt threw handouts, and threw a hand grenade duirng an ongoing session in Delhi’s Central Assembly , on 8 April 1929. They cheerfully courted arrest after shouting slogans of "Inquilab Zindabad!" (Long Live, Revolution!). Bhagat Singh was found guilty, and was hanged on 23 March 1931.
On 18 April 1930, young revolutionaries in Bengal (including Preetilata Waddedar and Kalapana Dutt) led by Surya Sen (a.k.a Masterda = teacher,sir) attacked and burned down the British Armory in Chittagong (modern Bangladesh).They fought a heroic battle on the hills of Jalalabad where twelve revolutionaries were killed. On 23 September 1932, Surya Sen masterminded an successful attack on the European Club in Chittagong, which displayed a nefarious sign: Dogs and Indians not allowed. Surya Sen was finally captured on 17 February 1933 and hanged in Chittagong Jail on 8th January,1934.In April 1930, there were violent clashes between the police and the masses in Calcutta. Thousands of people were imprisoned in the course of the Civil disobedience movement (1930-31). While Gandhi was in jail, the first Round Table Conference was held in London in November 1930; it was completely boycotted by the congressmen and therefore, futile. The ban upon the Congress was removed due to the economic hardships caused by the Salt Satyagraha (movement for truth) Gandhi, and other members of the Congress Working Committee, was released from prison in January 1931.
In March of 1931, the Gandhi-Irwin Pact was signed, with the government agreeing to release all political prisoners. Gandhi agreed to discontinue the civil disobedience movement and participate in the second Round Table Conference, which was held in London in September 1931. However, this meet too, ended in failure. In December 1931, a dejected Gandhi returned to India, determined to resume the Civil Disobedience Movement in January 1932.
During the next few years, the Congress and the government were perpetually involved in conflicts and negotiations until the enforcement of the Government of India Act of 1935. In the meantime, the gap between the Congress and the Muslim League was growing with both sides indulging in accusations and mud-slinging. The Muslim League disputed the claim of the Congress to represent all people of India, while the Congress disputed the Muslim League's claim to voice the aspirations of all Muslims.
During World War II the Congress decided that India should co-operate with Britain on condition that complete independence be granted to India after the war was over. Meanwhile the rift between Mohammad Ali Jinnah's Muslim League and the Congress' objectives widened further. Early in 1940, Jinnah publicly declared the creation of Pakistan as the ultimate goal of the League.
On 13th March 1940, more than two decades after the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy, Udham Singh, a revolutionary (who had many contacts in Europe and UK) shot dead Michael O'Dwyer, the masterbrain behind the massacre, during a joint meeting of the East India Association and the Royal Central Asia Society, the venue for which was Caxton Hall in London. Udham Singh was hanged in London on June 12, 1940.
During the on going World War II, after the fall of France in 1940, Gandhi declared, "We do not seek independence out of Britain's ruin." The British replied with the offer that a `constituent assembly as well as Dominion status would be discussed `after the war’.
India’s arbitrary entry into the World War II was strongly opposed by Subhash Chandra Bose, President of the Congress in 1937 and later in1939. Resigning from Congress in 1939 Bose floated a new party, the All India Forward Bloc. In 1941 he dexterously escaped from house arrest in Calcutta, and resurfaced in Germany. In March 1942, the British government, by means of the 'Cripps' Mission attempted to secure Indian cooperation and support for their efforts in thestill raging World War II. The mission was headed by Sir Stafford Cripps, a senior Labour Party politician and government minister in the War Cabinet headed by the premier Winston Churchill.
In India, Cripps parleyed with the Indian leaders. But his failure to present any concrete proposals for greater self-government, the Congress leaders felt that the British were not interested in granting India self-government or respecting Indian public opinion on the war. Offended, the Congress halted all talks with Cripps. The nation guided by Gandhi, vociferously demanded immediate self-government in turn for war support. Finding the British unresponsive, Gandhi gave the clarion call for the British to “ Quit India. ” The movement was launched on August 8, 1942 in Bombay and immediately caught on like wild fire across the country. It was a “Do or Die” attempt on the part of the leaders as well as the masses. There he garnered In 1943, Bose went to Japan, where he helped organize the Indian National Army (a.k.a Azad Hind Fauj) and set up a government-in-exile. Shortly afterwards, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands came under INA control. Pressing forward, the INA traversed Nagaland,finally reaching Manipur. Unfortunately, lack of equipment,ammunitions coupled half-hearted support from Japan, took a heavy toll of the INA soldiers. the INA's efforts ended with the surrender of Japan in 1945. Bose was reportedly killed in an air crash in August 1945. His end is still shrouded in mystery.
The victory of Britain’s Labour Party' in the elections of 1945 was a shot in the arm for the Indian freedom fighters, as the party had long championed the cause of India’s freedom. helped reassess the merits of the traditional policies. While the British were negotiating to transfer power to India, the Muslim League renewed its demand for the formation of Pakistan. Jinnah, who was opposed to sharing power with the Indian National Congress, declared 16 August 1946 as Direct Action Day, which led to communal rioting in many places in the northern part of the country. Thousands of people lost their lives. On 3 June 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy, announced plans for the bifurcation o the British Indian Empire into a secular India, and Islamic Pakistan, which was divided into east and west wings on either side of India.
At midnight on August 14, 1947, India became an independent nation, with Jawaharlal Nehru as its first prime minister. Gandhi, who as dead against the idea of a divided India, spent the day fasting and praying in Calcutta. Muslims in the northwest and northeast of India were assimilated into Pakistan. Violent clashes between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs followed. The area of Kashmir became a source of controversy that erupted into the First Indo-Pakistani War which lasted from 1947 to 1949.India and Pakistan were granted full autonomy, with the King-Emperor crowned as the Head of State of both India and Pakistan, and the Governor General as the King's representative. In 1948, Mountbatten was succeeded by Chakravarti Rajgopalachari, a veteran Congress leader. Mohammed Ali Jinnah assumed charge as Pakistan's Governor General, with Liaquat Ali Khan as Prime Minister.German and Japanese help to fight the British in India.
In March 1942, the British government, by means of the 'Cripps' Mission attempted to secure Indian cooperation and support for their efforts in thestill raging World War II. The mission was headed by Sir Stafford Cripps, a senior Labour Party politician and government minister in the War Cabinet headed by the premier Winston Churchill.
In India, Cripps parleyed with the Indian leaders. But his failure to present any concrete proposals for greater self-government, the Congress leaders felt that the British were not interested in granting India self-government or respecting Indian public opinion on the war. Offended, the Congress halted all talks with Cripps. The nation guided by Gandhi, vociferously demanded immediate self-government in turn for war support. Finding the British unresponsive, Gandhi gave the clarion call for the British to “ Quit India. ” The movement was launched on August 8, 1942 in Bombay and immediately caught on like wild fire across the country. It was a “Do or Die” attempt on the part of the leaders as well as the masses.
In 1943, Bose went to Japan, where he helped organize the Indian National Army (a.k.a Azad Hind Fauj) and set up a government-in-exile. Shortly afterwards, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands came under INA control. Pressing forward, the INA traversed Nagaland,finally reaching Manipur. Unfortunately, lack of equipment,ammunitions coupled half-hearted support from Japan, took a heavy toll of the INA soldiers. the INA's efforts ended with the surrender of Japan in 1945. Bose was reportedly killed in an air crash in August 1945. His end is still shrouded in mystery.
The victory of Britain’s Labour Party' in the elections of 1945 was a shot in the arm for the Indian freedom fighters, as the party had long championed the cause of India’s freedom. helped reassess the merits of the traditional policies. While the British were negotiating to transfer power to India, the Muslim League renewed its demand for the formation of Pakistan. Jinnah, who was opposed to sharing power with the Indian National Congress, declared 16 August 1946 as Direct Action Day, which led to communal rioting in many places in the northern part of the country. Thousands of people lost their lives. On 3 June 1947, Lord Louis Mountbatten, the last British Viceroy, announced plans for the bifurcation o the British Indian Empire into a secular India, and Islamic Pakistan, which was divided into east and west wings on either side of India.
At midnight on August 14, 1947, India became an independent nation, with Jawaharlal Nehru as its first prime minister. Gandhi, who as dead against the idea of a divided India, spent the day fasting and praying in Calcutta. Muslims in the northwest and northeast of India were assimilated into Pakistan. Violent clashes between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs followed. The area of Kashmir became a source of controversy that erupted into the First Indo-Pakistani War which lasted from 1947 to 1949.India and Pakistan were granted full autonomy, with the King-Emperor crowned as the Head of State of both India and Pakistan, and the Governor General as the King's representative. In 1948, Mountbatten was succeeded by Chakravarti Rajgopalachari, a veteran Congress leader. Mohammed Ali Jinnah assumed charge as Pakistan's Governor General, with Liaquat Ali Khan as Prime Minister.
THE HISTORY OF THE INDIAN FLAG
The flag that was first hoisted on August 7, 1906, at the Parsee Bagan Square in Calcutta.
Called the ‘Saptarishi Flag’, this was hoisted in Stuttgart at the International Socialist Congress held on August 22, 1907.
Associated with the names of Dr. Annie Besant and Lokmanya Tilak, this flag was hoisted at the Congress session in Calcutta during the ‘Home Rule Movement’.
In the year 1921, a young man from Andhra presented this flag to Gandhiji for approval. It was only after Gandhiji’s suggestion that the white strip and the charkha were added.
This flag was suggested during the All India Congress Committee session in 1931. However, the Committee’s suggestion was not approved.
On August 6, 1931, the Indian National Congress formally adopted this flag, which was first hoisted on August 31.
Our National Flag, which was born on July 22, 1947, with Nehruji’s words, “Now I present to you not only the Resolution, but the Flag itself”. This flag was first hoisted at the Council House on August 15, 1947.
Painting: Evolution of the art in India
Pre-historic paintings from Bhimbetka,
Inhabitants of the Indian subcontinent have known the art of painting since prehistoric times. The earliest Indian paintings are believed to be those of the Bhimbetka caves in Madhya Pradesh. The walls of these caves have been decorated with animal and human figures. The caves depict paintings belonging to the Paleolithic (10,000 BC), Mesolithic (5000 BC) and the Chalcolithic (2000 BC) periods. These paintings depict the everyday lives of the people who lived during those times. Painted geometric designs and symbols had also been found on pottery items belonging to the Indus valley civilization.
It is evident that painting is a very old tradition in India as ancient texts outline theories of colour and anecdotal accounts, suggest that even centuries ago, it was common for households to paint their doorways, verandahs, courtyards and rooms where guests/visitors stayed. Painting was carried out not merely as art for art's sake, but as a daily religious ritual. It included geometric and floral patterns on drawn on the floor by the womenfolk – variously termed as kolam in the south, rangoli in Maharashtra, alpona in Bengal, and so forth.
Alapana- traditional Rangoli designs Kalamkari painting from Bengal The earliest reference to Indian painting goes back to the Rigvedic period. Panini the famous scholar made a mention of this art between the 8th and the 4th century BC. References to Indian painting are also found in Shukla Yajurveda (a portion of Yajurveda). It is generally assumed that in ancient India, painting was secular in nature and was recognized as a highly venerated art form.Hundreds of years back before the invention of paper, Indians used to write and draw on palm leave. Strips of palm leaf were collected from different trees and then sorted on the basis of their similarity in appearance, colour and texture. These were then dried and stitched together with a string. These paintings were made by making incision with an iron stylus.
Palm leaf illustrations are mainly of two types: simple engravings or illustrations in pure line and engraving with colour fillings. Palm leaf illustrations were executed on the oblong sections of palm leaf. For the purpose of making manuscripts, they were laboriously bound together with a firm thread, passing just through the middle of the leaves.The use of pencils and crayons for drawing were unknown to the indigenous Indian painters. Nib pens were rarely used; but reed pens were employed in folk art. Like their Chinese and Japanese counterparts, the Indian artists mastered the use of brushes which were mainly made from the hair of squirrel’s tail.
The Indian painters often used charcoal, red ochre and carmine, for making their preliminary sketches. These were subsequently rectified, either by painting over it with a thin layer of white and then doing a final drawing, or by using the charcoal sketch as a base upon which the final drawing was directly drawn by brush with black ink. Drawings were done on single sheets or sometimes layers of two or three sheets of ethnic handmade paper pasted together, primed with white, and burnished by agate. In many cases, the artists tended to draw freely on both sides of a paper.
Painting on cloth is exemplified by Kalamkari (an exquisite ancient craft of painted and printed fabrics. The name is derived from Kalam meaning pen, and Kari meaning work, literally pen-work) paintings of Kalahasti and Masulipatnam (Andhra Pradesh).Since only pure vegetable dyes and plant extracts are used, these paintings are distinctly eco-friendly.
There are two distinctly visible streams of paintings in India. One is rooted in religious traditions and nurtured by the patronage of the rich and royal, and carried on mostly by men. The other is rooted in everyday life and folk tradition, and is a bastion of womenfolk. The traditional Indian women produced these works of arts with a dual purpose: utilizing their leisure hours as well as adorning their homes and surroundings. The quintessential Indian painter was trained to work in a highly conceptual manner; the human figures, animals, birds, trees, motifs or any other elements of a composition were readily drawn from memory. The artist observed and retained in his memory, the salient features, characteristics and moods of both animate and inanimate objects and he could, when the need arose, draw from this internalized accumulation.
Also worth mentioning are the Phad painting of Rajasthan. Phad paintings which are predominantly red and green scrolls depicting the life of a famous local hero Pabuji. These are made by the Joshi community of Shahpur, near Bhilwara, and are commonly available in small panels portraying single incidents or characters from the epics. The narrator places the phad against a wall and highlights the relevant portions with a hand held flaming torch.The world famous cave paintings of Ajanta, Bagh (near Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh in central India) and Sittanvasal (near Tiruchirapalli, Tamil Nadu) as also those adorning the walls of temples amply testify to a love of nature, flora and fauna.
Variations occurred in the style and themes of drawings; these depended on the region, period and the social milieu in which the artist worked, and the school adhered to. But irrespective of whether he served Hindu, Muslim or British patrons, the artist strove to maintain his ancestral legacy of sensitivity and acute observation. The Indian artist did not usually belong to the upper classes. Like the work of masons and other artisans in India, the best of painters faded away from this world, unwept and unsung.
Indian paintings provide an aesthetic continuum that extends from the early civilization to the present day. In India, this art form is vivid and lively, refined and sophisticated, bold and vigorous at the same time. Initially, religious in purpose, Indian painting has evolved over the years to become a fusion of various traditions.
MuralsBeginning with the 2nd century BC and continuing into the 6th century AD, the paintings and sculptures in the caves of Ajanta and Ellora, inspired by Buddhism and its compassionate ethos, produced a body of work that is quite unmatched in human history.
A cluster of 29 caves, Ajanta is among the finest examples of some of the earliest Buddhist architecture, cave paintings and sculpture. The paintings that adorn the walls and ceilings of the caves depict incidents from the life of Lord Buddha and the various Buddhist divinities. Among the most interesting paintings are the Jataka tales, depicting diverse stories related to Bodhisattava, a saintly being who ultimately became the Buddha. These elaborate sculptures and paintings retain their beauty and grandeur, despite the ravages of time.
MiniaturesThe Ancient Murals of Ajanta Caves, Maharashtra
The miniature paintings of India are intricate handmade illuminations executed flawlessly with subtle strokes of the brush. The name is derived from its diminutive size and intricate designs. These beautiful paintings came into prominence during the middle ages. The colours used in these paintings were derived from minerals, vegetables, precious stones, indigo, conch shells, pure gold and silver. The 'Miniature' paintings are small in size and scrupulous in detail and fine brushwork. The paintings may well be likened to chamber music
Miniature Paintings have evolved over centuries carrying the influence of other cultures. The miniature artists poured out their innermost emotions on paper, ivory panels, wooden tablets, leather, marble, cloth and walls. . The illustrated manuscripts of Jains and Buddhists, and the Mughal, Rajput, and Deccan miniatures are noted for their brilliant execution and artistic skills. Within the broad category of miniature paintings, there were distinct styles of exquisite workmanship.
Miniatures A Kangra Miniature
A Miniature from the A Masterpiece from From the Kota Bundi School Pahari School the Bikaner School
The Mughal SchoolA Mughal miniatureThis style is a fusion of the Indo-Persian style. The Mughal emperors Akbar and Jahangir were great patrons and connoisseurs of paintings. Akbar considered artists as equivalent to God as according to him they executed pictures, which resembled the exact image of the human beings who were a creation of God. An episode between Jahangir and the English Ambassador Sir Thomas Roe highlights the artistic merit of the Indian painters of that time. Jahangir asked Roe to identify an original European painting placed alongside five copies of it made by the Indian painters. The brilliance and similarity of the paintings completely foxed the English Ambassador!The miniatures and illustrated manuscripts mirror the cultural legacy and spirit of Mughal art. Several manuscripts like Dastan-I-Amir Hamza, Tutinama, Anvar-I-Suhaili, Ramza-Nama, Babur-Nama, Akbarnama, and Tuzuk-I-Jahangiri executed during the Mughal Period are notable for their vivid pictorial documentation. The introduction of Persian styled miniatures by the Mughals, lent a new dimension to the art of painting in India. Not only were Mughal miniatures great masterpieces, they also influenced local miniature schools in Rajasthan and northern India.
Kangra Miniatures This made a mark in the 18th century. Though influenced by the Mughals, the Kangra School retained its distinctiveness. The paintings were naturalistic and employed cool, fresh colors, extracted from minerals, vegetables and produced an enamel-like lustre. Verdant landscapes, brooks, bubbling springs were the recurrent images on the miniatures. (Texts of the Jaideva’s Gita Govinda, Bihari's Satsai, and the Baramasa of Keshavdas also provided endless themes to the artists).
Krishna and Radha as eternal lovers were perpetually portrayed as enjoying every moment of their passionate love. The Kangra miniatures are also noted for portraying the feminine charm with a natural grace. The paintings based on Ragmalas (musical modes) also found patronage in Kangra.
Pahari drawingsThese paintings which evolved between the 17th and 19th centuries, are comparatively calmer, refined, finely drawn and lyrical. These drawings are among the most graceful and appealing in Indian painting. Work of the artist families of Guler and Chamba, chiefly from the 18th century, is remarkable and displays all the best qualifies of Pahari painting, While the style of these two schools is derived from the late Mughal paintings, the mood is not; they are gentle, spontaneous and more lyrical.Rajasthani StylesA number of schools of miniature painting thrive in Rajasthan; to a certain extent, they are a blend of opulent Mughal and indigenous Indian styles. This gradually led to the birth of several distinct schools of miniatures in Rajasthan: The Mewar or Udaipur school, the Bundi school, the Kishangarh school, the Bikaner school, the Jaipur school and the Alwar school.
Bikaner School of ArtInfluenced by the surroundings, these medieval paintings have their own unique style the hills and valleys, deserts, places and forts, gardens, court scenes, religious processions and vignettes from the life of Lord Krishna are recurrent themes of these paintings. The Raagamala paintings and those based on Jaideva’s Geeta Govinda are treasures of this school.
Painting traditions in Bikaner followed closely on the heels of Mughal tradition. Muslim artists settled here brought with them the highly refined and delicate Mughal style... During the late 18th century paintings in Bikaner grew slightly conservative and embraced the flatness and abstractions of the typically Rajasthani style.
Hunting scenes and animal predominate in the miniature paintings of the Kota-Bundi region. Other than Nature, the figures of women portrayed are graceful, with well-proportioned bodies and sharp features. CoIours used are mainly bright, with red prominently appearing n the background. Areas in the vicinity of this region, like Uniara, Indergarh and Sarola were also influenced by the Kota and Bundi kalam.
One of the earliest examples of the Bundi Paintings is the Chunar Ragamala painted around 1561AD. The painting depicts strong influence of the Mughal style. The development of the Bundi School in the early 17th century is unclear but isolated examples of creative brilliance reveal the ongoing development of Bundi style. Wall paintings during the period of the reign of Rao Ratan Singh (1607 – 1631 AD) are significant examples of Bundi Style.
A Mughal Decree in the year 1624 – 25 AD led to the carving of Kota state from the kingdom of Bundi. Kota paintings were spontaneous and calligraphic in execution and emphasized on double lidded eye and marked shading. It is likely that artists travelled freely from state to state and hence the influence of each other’s styles is conspicuous in the paintings.
The Divine duo from the Kishangarh schoolLocated in central Rajasthan, developed a distinct style of painting, which was a result of fusion between the Mughal tradition and regional style. Many Mughal painters, in the early 18th century from Delhi had settled in the region and found patronage under ruler Raj Singh (1706 – 1748 AD). Bhavani Das was a renowned painter who developed a style that bloomed during the reign of Raja Savant Singh (1748 – 1764 AD). The Kishangarh School is best known for its Bani Thani paintings. Bani Thani, was probably a mistress of Savant Singh and herself a singer and a poet. Bani Thani paintings were characterized by exaggerated features – long necks, large almond-shaped eyes, long fingers and the use of subdued colors.
From the Jaipur School
Fierce camel fights, bejewelled women stretching seductively or in various stages of undress; midnight rendezvous of Radha and Krishna; Krishna painting a delicate tattoo on the breast of his sweetheart; the blood and gore of a tiger or boar hunt; the amorous dalliances of Rajput princes and the pomp and ceremony of the Mughal court – Rajasthani miniatures belonging to the Jaipur school, unabashedly celebrate every aspect of life. The paintings are a rich reminder of how both the regal Mughals and the proud Rajputs lived their lives. Mewar/Udaipur School
Mewar is notable for the fact that it resisted the domination of the Mughals for a considerable period and developed a very conservative style. Chawand Ragamala dated around 1605 AD is one of the earliest examples of this school. The flatness, bright colors, and several common motifs showed marked resemblance with the Chaurapanchasika style.
ChaurapanchaashikaThe early 18th century saw the revival of the Mewar style. Several high quality works of art were produced which featured court scenes, religious subjects, and portraitures. In the first half of the 18th century ambitious studies of royal pursuits that used continuous narration were also produced. The late 18th century witnessed the decline of the Mewar School. However in the mid 19th century, Tara, a painter tried to provide some impetus to the Mewar School. He used European traditions in the paintings. Mewar painting continued as a court art till the mid 20th century.
Thus Miniatures served as an effective way of giving vent to myriad moods and emotions. The ragas of the classical Indian music have been a great source of inspiration for the miniatures. Each miniature depicts the charm of a bygone era. The architectural beauty, feminine grace and beauty, several pastoral scenes, are vividly portrayed. The gossamer-veiled women with large nose rings and doe-eyes are indeed breathtaking. At the first glance, an Indian miniature painting appears nothing more than a clutter and tangle of pastoral settings, dominated by masculine and feminine figures. Yet these scenes are not detached visions of artistic expression but provide the basis of Indian music and art forms. Most of them are visual creations of emotional and perceptive concepts that depict the ragas or musical moods of Indian classical music. Miniature painters employed at various royal courts, during the medieval period, discovered the potential of limitless self-expression in their depiction and today there are 130 known sets of such miniatures.
A Tanjore PaintingAlso known as Thanjavur paintings, this is an important form of classical South Indian art, native to the temple town of Tanjore in Tamil Nadu. It may be traced back to the early 9th century, when the Cholas reigned supreme. The hallmark of these paintings are elegance, rich colours, and attention to detail. The commonest themes are Hindu gods and goddesses, besides numerous scenes from Hindu mythology.
These paintings are also notable for their use of semi-precious stones, pearls, glass pieces and gold in the form of the adornment of the figures portrayed. The rich vibrant colors, streaks of gold, semi-precious stones and fine artistic work are some of their characteristics. They add beauty and culture to a variety of surroundings and décor.
A patrachitra Folk Painting Folk Painting of India
Folk paintings are the traditional forms of Indian paintings dating back to an era referred to as 'timeless'. These paintings generally are inherently linked with the cultural setting
which they come from as well as the regional history.
Derived from the Sanskrit words patta (a piece of cloth), chitra (painting or picture), Patachitra is a folk art form drawn on a piece of silk, cotton or any other fabric, portraying traditional motifs and imageries of religion and society. Art work drawn on a piece of silk or cotton or any other fabric portraying traditional motifs of religion and society is called ‘pata’ art. As an art form ‘pata’ may be traced back to ancient times. Though considerably weakened under the impact of modernity, this art from is still practiced by untrained artists and still in great demand. As a folk art it reflects an important aspect of Bengal’s cultural heritage.
Pata art is of two kinds — art on a broad sheet of folded cloth and miniscule art on a short piece of fabric. The fabric in fact forms the base for pata art. Clay, cowdung and some sticky elements are skillfully added to the fabric. When dried, the fabric becomes tough but mellow enough to sustain the stroke of the artist’s brush. When completely dried, the artists draw on it religious motifs including deities Puranic anecdotes and slokas (chants).
Several holy places of the Hindus-Kailash, Vrindaban, Ayodhya commonly appeared in pata art. This art form flourished in Bengal particularly during the Buddhist period. Vignettes of the Buddha’s life and his preachings also find a place in the pata art. From the 8th century onward, the pata tradition was monopolised by the Hindus -Yadu (Krishna’s clan), Yama (god of death), Chandi (a manifestation of Shakti / female power), the ten incarnations Vishnu, deeds of Rama, love life of Krishna, became the predominant themes of Hindu pata art.
The famous Kalighat pata began principally as painting of religious icons, to be sold to the devotees who came to worship at the Kalighat temple, in the heart of Kolkata. Gradually the medium shifted from cloth to paper. The urban experience saw recognisable living characters and stereotypes, being inscribed on the canvas as visual images. Caricatures that lampooned contemporary events and social malaise took the Kalighat pata further away from its original traditional religious connotation and content to a much wider, eclectic and secular expression. This was the time when the craft blossomed into a full-fledged art form.
A painting of the Warli tribe
The arrival of the lithograph and the printing press pushed the Kalighat pata into near oblivion. However, the re-discovery and adaptation of its figurative style by the maestro Nandalal Bose, into a new language of painting has helped the Kalighat pata style to leave an indelible impact on the contemporary Indian art. The popular mytho-religious themes are Mahishasuramardini, Kamale-Kamini, Behula-Lakhindar, Manasa-Chandsadagor, Radha-Krishna, Chaitanyaleela, to name a few.
The celebrated Warli paintings sprung from the life and rituals of the Warli tribe, inhabiting the remote corners of the Western Ghats in Maharashtra. This simple yet vivid painting style is believed to have originated sometime around the 10th century AD However, considering its simplicity of form and figure, it can be assumed to be dating back to the Neolithic period between 2500 BC and 3000 BC.These paintings depict diverse aspects of everyday life, using extremely basic object forms and just one colour – white – on a sober mud base. Their appeal lies in their lack of pretentiousness in conveying profound meanings using elementary object forms. Each painting is usually an entire scene containing various elements of nature including people, animals, trees, hills etc.
Madhubani paintingAlso known as Mithila Art, (because it flourishes in the Mithila region of Bihar), Madhubani is characterized by line drawings filled in by bright colours and contrasts or patterns. This style of painting has been traditionally done by the women of the region, though nowadays men are also getting more and more involved.
These paintings are popular because of their tribal motifs and use of bright earthy colours. The painting work is done on freshly plastered / mud walls. However for commercial purposes, the work is increasingly being executed on paper, cloth, canvas etc.
In keeping with the current concerns regarding the environment, this style of painting is totally eco-friendly. Wads of cotton wrapped around a bamboo stick forms the brush.The pigments are made out of minerals by the artists. The colours are all natural derivatives without even a trace of chemicals. For instance, the colour black is obtained by mixing soot with cow dung; yellow from turmeric or pollen or lime and the milk of banyan leaves; blue from indigo; red from the kusum flower juice or red sandalwood; green from the leaves of the wood apple tree; white from rice powder; orange from palash flowers. The colours are applied flat with no shading and no empty spaces are left.
Figures from nature and mythology are adapted to suit this style of painting. The themes and designs revolve around Hindu deities and entities like Krishna, Rama, Shiva, Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati, the Sun and Moon, the tulasi plant, court scenes, wedding scenes, social happenings etc. A number of floral, animal and avian motifs as well as geometrical designs are used to fill up all the gaps. The skill is handed down from generation to generation and hence the traditional designs and patterns are widely maintained.
Creative Arts of India : Metal Work
Lota- the ubiquitous Ghara- the water Metal Work
The history of Indian crafts is indeed very old, going back to almost 5000 years from present. The first examples of Indian crafts can be found from the ruins of the Indus Valley Civilization (3000 B.C -1700 B.C). The craft tradition in India has revolved around religious beliefs, everyday needs of the common people, as well as the special needs of the patrons and royalty; there was the influence of foreign and domestic trade too.These craft traditions have withstood the ravages of time and numerous foreign invasions and continue to flourish till date, owing to the assimilative nature of Indian culture and broadmindedness of the craftsmen to accept and use new ideas.
Metal Work Bronze images of the Chola period
It is believed that originally metal was derived from meteorites, which were considered sacred; therefore very special objects were made from it. However, it was gradually discovered that metals could be obtained from below the earth’s surface. Working with metals appeared to be veiled in mystery and connected with the occult; the smelting and shaping of metal was a secret ritual and the blacksmith's forge was considered sacred. The blacksmith was seen as a visionary, who could fashion artistic as well as useful objects out of the most unlikely and inflexible of substances. Later, metals were associated with the planets and it was believed that their use could accentuate or minimize planetary influences.
This mystique was transformed into the science of alchemy. As a result of their ability of working with metals, the ancient civilizations gave the master workers predominance over those who lacked these skills.
Over the years, the availability of metals grew and vessels of diverse shapes were developed for different purposes; many of the shapes being derived from nature. The very word patram, for vessels, is derived from the Sanskrit word, patra, the leaf. Also, dried and cleaned shells of gourds have been and are still used by many tribal communities for carrying water. This shape has been imparted to various metal containers.
The earliest metal vessels were large water-pitchers made of brass or copper with a circular mouth. Its narrow neck and rounded contours, ending in a steady base, rendered s it a perfect form, convenient for daily use.
Even today, the shapes of vessels vary from one area to another. For instance the north Indian water-pitcher has a flat base and rises at an angle. The Rajasthani pitcher, however, is rounded and has a very small mouth and narrow neck, to prevent the water from spilling over, as well as to control the flow of water while pouring. The miniscule water-pitcher, the lota, is used for a number of tasks throughout the day. The curving outward lip, the narrow neck and the rounded container with its steady base, makes it one of the most functional and satisfying utility items.
A variety of ritual vessels were also evolved over the years, which in due course, achieved a perfection of form. A metal is used with sensitivity, not only to its burnished form, but also to its sound. The temple bells of India are celebrated for the depth and purity of their tone and also for their elegant architectonic forms. Since bell-metal is considered to be the purest of all materials, it is not only used for ritual purposes, but also for utensils of everyday use. Unlike the people of Europe and the Middle-East, the Indians did not traditionally use glass and porcelain. Naturally therefore, all household requirements – tumblers, glasses, cups, plates, serving dishes and storage containers used to be made of metal.
Down the centuries, innumerable metal techniques were mastered by the Indians. The most important of these are the technique of creating a shape by joining different parts of the vessel. This is done in a subtle manner by creating a ridge, which hides the soldering. This method emphasizes the central portion of the wadhi, the butter dispenser, or the sloping neck of the ghara, the pitcher.
Indian craftsman have been (and still are) experts at creating shapes out of sheet metal. The most complicated shapes are formed by hammer strokes. Water-vessels, lotas, large serving plates, thalis, and table-tops, besides dowry boxes from Gujarat, are traditionally made by alternately heating and hammering the metal. A number of these objects retain the impression of the hammer strokes, which accentuate their forms and textures.
The objects of everyday use are generally not engraved, save decorative pieces and the items used for rituals or ceremonial occasions. The engraving is done by master craftsmen who are capable of reproducing a variety of patterns taken from everyday life. A number of ritual objects, commonplace in south India carry symbols of Vishnu or depict the Dasavtars, the ten incarnations of Vishnu. The ritual vessels used by the worshippers of Shiva carry the lingam (the phallic symbol) or Nandi the bull .
Many others utensils and vessels are adorned with designs and motifs taken from mythology as well as everyday life. These include a long-tailed peacock, the vahana (vehicle or mount) of Kartikeya, Rati, the goddess of love, hamsa, the mythical swan, associated with Saraswati, the goddess of learning.
The art of metal work was linked with the political situation of the country. The concept of state was ushered in during the age of the Mauryan Empire, in the 3rd century B.C. Numerous sculptures from Bharhut and Sanchi (Madhya Pradesh), Mathura (Uttar Pradesh), Amravati (Andhra Pradesh), Vaishali (Bihar), show female figures adorned with an array of jewellery. The amazing, rust proof iron pillars of Vaishali (Bihar) and Delhi, created during the time of Emperor Ashoka, are indeed marvels in the field of metallurgy.
Tribal metal images from Koftgari Bidri ware A brass chemBastar (ChhattisgarhThe Harappan figure of a female dancer, with her carefree stance, is one of the first metal sculptures discovered in India. Even 5,000 years ago, Indian craftsmen had mastered the art of casting. The large image of the Buddha at Sultanganj is possibly the largest surviving metal work of ancient time – a tribute to the skill of Indian craftsmen in melting and casting metal.
Images and idols of numerous deities, (made for the purpose of worship) all over India were earlier made from an alloy known as panchadhatu (five metals). The metals were mixed in the proportion required for the image to be prepared. The basic form was first prepared out of wax, enclosed in clay moulds and fired. In the process of firing, the clay mould was created, the wax melted, leaving a hollow inside the mould. Hot molten metal would be poured into the mould. After the metal cooled, the mould was broken open and the basic solid cast image emerged. Bronze casting is pursued in Madurai (Tamil Nadu), Mysore, Bangalore (Karnataka), Kerala, Mathura and Moradabad (Uttar Pradesh), Vishnupur (West Bengal), Palitana (Gujarat) besides Balasore and Puri in Orissa. However, each region has its own distinctive style. For instance, Palitana is famous for casting Jain images, while the hilly areas of the country mould and cast images of the mother goddess (Devi, shakti) or the mohras (faces, visages) of various deities. The most popular theme in Benaras is the divine couple Radha and Krishna among others deities. The famous brass and copper castings of Moradabad have become a household name across the country and is one of the major export items today. The focus is on decorative and aesthetically pleasing items. The tribal style of metal castings is prepared in Bihar, Bengal, Bastar district of Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Orissa by a community of itinerant metal workers. The images include human beings, animals, birds, deities, besides objects used in the daily lives. The basic structure is first prepared in clay and then covered with threads of wax, which are either smoothed over to give a flat surface, or retained in their original state to produce a wire-like effect. Details of the finer features and decorative designs are then worked with the help of thin threads of wax. The finished wax model is then covered with a thin layer of fine clay, followed by yet another coat of clay mixed with straw. The clay-covered piece is then fired, so that the wax covering melts and gets burnt, thus creating a gap between the inner core and the outer mould. After this, the hot molten metal is poured and the final shape emerges after the mould is broken open. An acid bath cleans the metal and gives it a soft burnished effect.
This is an ancient art in which one metal is encrusted onto another either in the form of wires or as small-shaped metal pieces. Koftgari was originally done with silver and gold wire on iron or steel meant for swords, daggers, and even guns. Today this art exists in Kerala, where complicated designs in silver wire are inlaid on iron metal sheets
BidriThis art form is based on the technique of damascening. This involves inlaying gold and silver into grooves gouged out of a metal surface, often used for making the hilts of swords and daggers. The technique originated with Muslim artists of the Near East and was later adapted by Italian and Spanish craftsmen during the 15thcentury, from whom it spread to the rest of Europe. The art gets its name from the place of its origin in Bidar, near Mysore in the southern state of Karnataka, though it is also practiced at Lucknow (Uttar Pradesh) besides Purnea and Murshidabad in West Bengal.Tanjore plate workOriginally used for making ritual objects, this also involves the process of damascening. Here the basic shape is made out of copper, which is considered an auspicious metal and is used for ritual purposes. Silver medallions carrying repoussee designs of gods and goddesses and their vahanas (mounts) are attached to the surface. Brass decorative rosettes are also sometime attached for accentuating the contrast of color and textures. A number of traditional objects are made by using this method – large wall plates, chembu (a broad-rimmed storage vessel made of brass), the lota, kalash (pitcher), panchapatra (a small container used for storing holy water during rituals) , bowls and cigarette boxes.
A silver panchapat Repousse work
This is largely carried out in the cities of Jaipur, Delhi, Lucknow and Moradabad. Here, a metal is engraved so as to provide depressions in which different colors of lac are heated and fixed to create a surface of variegated colors. In certain cases, the surface is filled with glazes and the pot is fired. When this technique is employed, the colours become lasting.
Repousse workThis method involves embossing a metal sheet by punching and hammering a design from the back, and then polishing it up in front with a chasing hammer, producing a three-dimensional bas-relief surface.This technique is used for making of images used for worship and decorative panels depicting mythological scenes. Tiruchirapally, Madurai, Tanjore and Chennai in the south, Varanasi in the north besides Mumbai, Bhuj and north Gujarat, specialize in this type of work.
Traditional Woodcraft in India
Tipu Sultan's palace - A wooden doorway of amarvellous woodwork humble dwelling
Wood has been used for making articles of utility as well as artistic nature since time immemorial. India exhibits the tradition of exquisite natural beauty and breathtakingly beautiful wooden handicraft. The country’s vast cultural and ethnic diversity has enabled a variety of motifs, techniques and crafts to flourish in various parts of the land. India possesses a tradition of elaborate woodwork for both utilitarian and architectural purposes.
India’s fertile soil causes all types of trees to grow in abundance - which become an unlimited source for the basic raw material needed in this craft -woodcraft. The woods used for ornamental work in India are walnut, and sandalwood, with its delicate natural fragrance is used in Mysore and a few other places in South India. Sal, teak, sheesham, deodar, redwood, rosewood, red cedar, ebony to name a few are extensively used by Indian craftsmen, as they focus on the fine decorative carving and inlay work.
An antique varnished wood craft in Kashmirwooden cabinet
Indian wood workers faithfully uphold and carry out the traditions of their forefathers in terms of style and use of tools. The Indian wood craftsmen have a rather broad canvas – from tiny objects of domestic use, to panels, columns, balconies, friezes doors, partitions, windows, ceilings or even entire houses. In certain old mansions in various parts of the country, beams more than two centuries old, surprisingly show no signs of cracking or deflection under constant load. The craftsmen of bygone ages preserved wood simply but effectively, by rubbing oil of bel (wood apple) on them.
The artists and master craftsmen found wood to be a highly useful and convenient medium. Wood was something on which the carvers could pour forth their ideas about mythology, legend and folklore and even emotions because wood could be easily preserved for posterity. Religious faith thus was handed down to the future generations through tales told in wood.
In the state of Tamilnadu, rathas (chariots), made of wood with exquisite carvings are to found in most of the temples. The archaeological remains of the erstwhile kingdoms of the south like the Cholas of Tanjore and Pandyas of Madurai shed ample light on the diverse styles of woodcraft. In the 19thcentury southern India was famous for carved ebony wood furniture. Royal furniture carved out of ebony is still intact in a number of palaces of the south.
Over the centuries, each region in India developed its unique style of wooden structures, carvings and inlay work. The states of Jammu and Kashmir, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Kerala figure on this list.
Some of the most common motifs engraved wooden items are flower pots, a variety of flowers, parrots, peacocks and pigeons, besides deer, horses and elephants. Inlaying with fine brass wires (tarkashi), has received renewed attention in recent years.
In Uttar Pradesh, Mainpuri is famous for woodwork on ebony or black sheesham inlaid with brass wire. Banaras is known for lacquered toys and miniature utensils for children to play with. Designs such as the fretwork, jali or the anguri work are very popular. Trays, lamps, tea-coasters, cigarette boxes, and tables made of sheesham wood from Saharanpur,are well-known.
Kashmir has been a virtual hotspot of wood (mainly walnut and deodar) carving almost since ancient times. Here the commonest dwelling are lined with wood, their ceilings worked in geometrical patterns and windows possessing lattice work. The crowning glory of Kashmir - the houseboats, and the shikaras are made entirely of a specially treated wood that does not warp in spite of constant contact with the water.
wood Craft in Madhya Pradesh A lacquered box
In Madhya Pradesh the artisans work on different varieties of wood - teak, dhudi, sal and kikar with great sensitivity and skill, turning them into fabulous works of art. The famous wooden articles of Madhya Pradesh are painted and lacquered toys boxes, bedposts, cradle frames and flower vases, to name a few. Gwalior, Sheopur-Kalan, Rewa and Budhni are the main centres of wood lacquering in the state.
In Punjab, wood workers in the city of Hoshiarpur specialize in inlaying wood with ivory. Their intricate designs received patronage from the local royalty, for several hundred years. The outstanding items are basic furniture, trays, and mirror frames.
In modern-day India, the state of Gujarat has become synonymous with the wooden swings which have become a part and parcel of affluent household in the urban areas of India. The frames of these swings, range from unvarnished hewn wood to richly lacquered. The history of woodwork of Gujarati is linked with the Mughals who were great patrons of all art forms.Interestingly, wood was never a locally available material. Hence it was always imported into the state from different timber producing regions. As early as the 12th century and the Gujarati craftsmen made wood integral part of building materials and was extensively used in making columns, ceilings, beam ends, struts (braces), doors, windows and balconies.The palace of the erstwhile Nawab of Palanpur, jharokhas (lattices) flawlessly carved out of wood, majestic havelis (mansions) of Gujarat, made entirely of wood, with carved exteriors and interiors and painted ceilings are some of the examples of traditional wood carving tradition in Gujarat.
Even today, in older towns of Gujarat there stand houses with carved facades. Long beams carry intricate patterns, and balconies just out with carved and perforated patterns on the jangla, the ledge. Stylized animals or human forms worked as carved brackets to support the balconies.
Divine images made of An elephant carved outToys made of wood wood – Orissa of sandalwood
The districts of Saurashtra and Vadodara are renowned for their lacquer work. Some important items of lacquer work include toys, parts of bedstead, low stools and chairs (their seats done in either a mesh of ropes or leather).These are characterized by a colourful, smooth and glossy exterior and often fitted with tiny bells which emit a soft tinkling sound.
Surat has a tradition pf marquetry-work, which is locally called sadeli. This was acquired by the local craftsmen by means of their interactions with West Asia. In this technique different material such as ivory, ebony, sandalwood, metal, having varying textures and colors are used. These materials are made into strips with their width shaped into triangles, square and circles. These are attached together with gum so as to make a geometrical pattern. Next they are sawn into thin pieces, which are pasted on a wooden background, creating intricate geometrical designs. Originally, this technique was used for decorating the doors of palaces; today it is also applied to boxes.Rajasthan is well known for the quality of its wood carving and wooden art pieces as well as for use in furniture. Jaipur, in Rajasthan is known worldwide for its original woodcrafts. There this art has survived mainly due to the royal patronage.
The arid Barmer and Jaisalmer districts of Rajasthan also boast of wood carving traditions. For instance, teakwood is often carved in the form of, or decorated with animal figures, geometric and floral forms. These appear abundantly on rafter ends, pillars and brackets, openwork jali (lattice) screens, windows, doors and door frames.
Wood carving is a major indigenous craft of Orissa. This includes painted wood carvings, plain wood carvings and teak furniture. Wooden boxes, antique trunks, doors made of teakwood are found mainly in Puri. These furniture items are made in different varieties of decorations and painting, using vegetables and mineral colors. Articles in white teak also occur in profusion in Bhubaneshwar and Cuttack.
However, the crowning glory of artistic woodwork in Orissa is its famous sacred trio - the images of Lord Jagannath (Krishna), Balabhadra (his brother) and their sister Subhadra. These images are housed in a majestic shrine named after the lord. According to legends, the divine architect and engineer had supposedly fashioned these images out of driftwood which had been washed ashore by the waves.
Woodwork from Andhra Pradesh is fairly well-known. Kondapalli is known for brightly painted wooden toys, while Etikopakka is known for lacquer ware made of wood.
Karnataka is famous for carvings and exquisitely beautiful decorative pieces made from sandalwood. Sandalwood items like, boxes, trays, key chains, small figurines are not only carved tastefully but they also give exude a subtle fragrance of sandal when rubbed gently. The palace of Tipu Sultan, near Bangalore is a brilliant specimen of wooden architecture.
A bed made of bamboo Cane furniture A brilliant piece of ivory carving
In West Bengal and Kerala the people make extensive use of the wood obtained from coconut trees which grow abundantly in these two states. The traditional houses of Kerala, colloquially known as Nalukettus are made of carved and slotted wood and they strongly resemble the gabled and thatched structures of the Far East.India is the second largest supplier of bamboo in the world. In fact the eastern/ north eastern region of the country extending from West Bengal to Arunachal Pradesh has bamboo groves growing in wild abundance. Bamboo and cane furniture, baskets woven from cane and bamboo strips are some of the famous and popular products from the states of Assam, West Bengal and Tripura.The hallmark of Indian wooden furniture has always been durability, ethnic flavor, elegance and design, attractive colours, unmatched workmanship and subtle elegance which lend a refined look wherever it is placed. Even today, the traditional Indian artisans working with wood, employ the simplest of tools and faithfully adhere to the style of their forefathers-which has helped to keep the traditions alive.
Ivory is a calciferous (dental) substance, which according to chemists, falls somewhere between bone and horn. Obtained mostly from the tusks of elephants, the material is highly suitable for engraving and carving. Hence it has been since ancient times, a cherished medium of artistic expression. Despite the worldwide ban on trading in ivory products, old pieces are still much sought after.
India, with its large elephant population, has long been a centre of ivory work. Ivory carving, described as one of the noblest crafts by Vedic literature, is one of the oldest craft traditions in India, King Solomon of Biblical times is said to have bought Indian ivory and King Darius of Persia used ivory decorations in his palace in the 6th century BC. Along with muslin and frankincense, ivory ranked among the foremost products sourced from India by kings and courts of other countries in ancient times.
A table inlaid with
An ivory comb an ivory chessboard Ivory Arts
The use of ivory in crafts, in India, may be traced back to the Indus Valley civilisation (2300-750 BC). In 1920 excavations in Sindh unearthed animal figurines, diverse ornaments for women’s hair, combs and buttons made of ivory. However, since the region did not have a native elephant population, evidently ivory was acquired from elsewhere for the manufacture of these artefacts.
Female figurines and dolls made of ivory dating from the 6th century BC have been discovered at Champanagar in Bihar. Many fine specimens made of ivory and bone from the period 500 to 200 BC have also been found at Nagra and Maheshwar (Madhya Pradesh). An ivory statue pertaining to the 600-200 BC period has been found in Gujarat. Ivory works of the same period have also been found at Ropar in the Punjab. Stone inscriptions found in the vicinity of the ruins of the Sanchi Stupa (Madhya Pradesh), speak of the flourishing trade in ivory crafts that used to take place at Bidisha (modern Madhya Pradesh) in the 1st century BC. During the Sunga rule (185 BC - 78 BC), ivory craftsmen were engaged to work on the gates of the stupas at Bharhut, Sanchi (both in Madhya Pradesh) and Bodhgaya (modern Bihar). Ivory artefacts dating back to the Sunga period meant for ornamental and decorative purposes have also been found at Chandraketugarh in West Bengal. Ivory crafts were also popular during the Kushan period (1st – 3rd AD), as suggested by the abundance of ivory artefacts found at Taxila and Begram (modern Afghanistan). . In the beginning of the Middle Ages, ivory crafts flourished in Orissa. There the tusks of elephants were used mainly for making legs of thrones, furniture and temple decoration.In Bangladesh (which was a part of India till 1947), the first evidence of ivory crafts were found in the district of Sylhet. The styles of ivory craft underwent some changes after the advent of the Muslims. Ivory continued to be used to make furniture legs, but it was also used to make penholders, back scratchers, hookah parts. Hilts of swords and daggers made of ivory were extremely popular. The Mughals greatly patronised this industry. The Mughal emperor Jahangir mentions in his autobiography that he had a number of ivory craftsmen in his permanent employ. After the influx of European traders in India around the 16th century, ivory craftsmanship was greatly influenced by western art. The British frequently imported elephant tusks from their colonies in Africa to get different products fashioned by the talented Indian craftsmen for export to Europe. Tusks were also collected from tuskers found dead in the Indian jungles and from those maintained by the Indian princes and zamindars. During this time the craft flourished in Jaipur, Kerala, Mysore, Assam and Bengal.Apart from elephant tusks, tusks and bones of other animals not native to the continent, such as the hippopotamus, walrus, narwhal (a whale with a long, twisted tooth, swims in Arctic waters. Narwhals can grow to be about five metres), dugongs (dugongs, or sea cows as they are sometimes called), can grow to about three metres in length and weigh as much as 400 kilograms. They are the only marine mammals in Australia that live mainly on plants. The name sea cow refers to the fact that they graze on the seagrasses, which form meadows in sheltered coastal waters), hornbills and whales were also carved and turned into artistic pieces.
The production methods of ivory are still primitive. Before starting work, the hollow part of the tusk is usually cleaned by boiling it with soda and calcium or by burying it underground for a few days. The crevices of the tusk are filled with liquid wax. Work is commenced only after the task is hard and dry. The artisan saws through a part of the tusk and then traces a design on it with a pencil. The engraving is done with the help of a chisel and a hammer. Delicate work is done with the help of a stone pen while the perforations are done with a drill machine. After the piece has been carved, it is soaked in water. The work is smoothened with the help of sandpaper, ivory dust, fish scales, china clay and chalk powder. In Kerala, leaves of a certain tree are used to make the design smooth and bright. Although ivory has its own natural lustre, craftsmen are wont to use colour. The craftspeople of Harappa used black and red. Egyptians soaked the tusks in red, yellow, violet, green or black dyes.
Over the centuries, the list of popular ivory products has come to include billiard balls, perfume bottles, chessmen, paper knives, and trinket or pan boxes, jewellery items like beads, bead necklaces, bangles and rings.
The ivory carvers of Bengal, Jaipur and Delhi are known for their engraved models of 'ambari hathi' or processional elephant, bullock carts, caskets, book covers, sandals and palanquins. Orissa has had a tradition of offering ivory inlaid furniture to the Jagannath temple at Puri. In Kerala and Karnataka, ivory is used for making miniature shrines with delicate pillars and intricate relief floral work, caskets depicting scenes from myths and legends, besides images of gods and goddesses, including Christian icons and symbols. This traditional craft is still flourishing well. Rajasthan is known for its ivory fans, centre pieces for the dining table, with ornately carved receptacles shaped as flowers and half-opened blossoms, the lids adorned with birds. Craftsmen of Gujarat specialized in carving exquisite human figures besides images of deities.
The ivory-inlaid and veneered furniture that used to be made in Vizagapatam (a.k.a Vishakhapatnam), India, in the 18th and early 19th centuries illustrate the swiftness with which furniture designs were transmitted from cosmopolitan centres to the colonial periphery at that time.
For more than three decades now, the government of India has imposed a ban on sale and purchase of ivory. Hence the profession of ivory craft has almost come to a standstill. The same craftsmen now work on bone. Consequently the artistic pieces possessed by affluent families and wealthy individuals have virtually become antiques, precious collector’s items, worth their own weight in gold!
Earthenware and Pottery
Earthenware and pottery
India has a rich tradition of clay crafts and pottery throughout the country. There is hardly any Hindu festival or ritual, which is complete without the use of earthen lamps or the diya. The terracotta tradition is the continuation of the Indus valley traditions that date back 5000 years. India also has an age-old tradition of clay toys and terracotta figures. Terracotta work is mainly centred in the states of West Bengal, Orissa and Madhya Pradesh.It is estimated that pottery appeared in Bengal, in or around 1500 BC. In an alluvial region like Bengal, fine clay is a distinctive geological feature. The ancient inhabitants of the region exploited this natural resource for making numerous pottery wares. Archaeological sites, such as Pandu rajar dhibi, Mahishadal, Chandraketugarh, Tamralipti, Rajbadidanga, Harinarayanpur and Bangarh (all inWest Bengal) and Mahasthangarh, Gobinda bhita, Bhasu vihara, Raja Harish Chandrer Badi, Mainamati and Paharpur in Bangladesh have produced varieties of potsherds (fragments/broken pieces of pottery).Coming to the brass tacks, pottery may be broadly classified into major sections: The utensils and vessels and secondly the votive terracotta and sculpture. In both these arenas the traditional Indian potters have made substantial contributions .The clay for the earthen vessels are thrown on a hand spun wheel, beaten with a paddle to achieve their final, round bellied shape; they are frequently decorated with slip colours before being baked in kilns.
The majestic terracotta Bankura horse
Ruins of a terracotta temple, Bishnupur(Italian word for “ baked earth”) is hard, semi-fired waterproof ceramic clay used in pottery. The term is also used to refer to items made out of this material and to its natural, brownish orange colour. Down the ages terracotta has been extensively used for sculpture and pottery, besides bricks and shingles. In ancient times, the clay sculptures were dried (baked) in the sun after being shaped. Later, they were left to harden, amidst the ashes of open hearths; finally they were baked in kilns.Bankura district in West Bengal is famous for the Terracotta Temples located in Bishnupur. However the most famous product of this area is the ‘Bankura Horse' fashioned out of terracotta. It is produced exclusively by the artisans of Panchmura, a village, about 8 Km. south-east of the headquarters of the Taldanga block. The long-necked Panchmura Horse is made hollow with some circular vents to facilitate uniform firing in the country kilns. The horse stands on its four legs with the neck held high; the ears and the tail erect. The original function of these terracotta horses were a highly ritualistic one. People would offer them as a token of their devotion to Dharma Thakur, Manasa and several other local deities. These horses have also been offered as tokens of thanks giving, on the tombs of Muslim peers (saints). All in all, the 'Bankura Horse' is widely recognised as a symbol of devotion. It has also become the symbol of matchless rural handicrafts of India.
Blue PotteryThe use of blue glaze on pottery made from Multani mitti, (a.k.a Fuller’s earth), is essentially a foreign art which was imported into India. It was first developed by the skilful Mongol artisans who combined Chinese glazing technology with the decorative arts native to Persia. Over a period of time, this technique travelled southwards to India with the batches of Muslim invaders and rulers around the 14th century. During its infancy, this art was mainly confined to tile-making meant for decorating mosques, tombs and palaces in the Central Asian region. Later, the Mughals began using them in India, in a bid to recreate the beauty and splendour of their favourite edifices which lay, beyond the mountains, in Samarkand. Gradually the blue glaze technique was released from its status as an architectural accessory, when the Kashmiri potters adapted to it with great enthusiasm.Still later, the technique permeated down to the plains of Delhi, and in the 17th century ended up in Jaipur. The rulers of Jaipur greatly encouraged this art form, incorporating it vigorously in their palaces and havelis, some of which remain intact even to this day.
Black and red pottery
Black and red potteryThe items in this category are distinguished by black in the interior and the exterior top, and red on the exterior. These pots are generally made by the inverted firing technique. They are turned on the wheel except a few handmade specimens. The clay is tempered with fine sand. In most pots a slip is applied on both sides but vases are treated with the slip on the exterior and up to the neck on the interior. Some fragments with a smooth and shining surface (due to burnishing) have been discovered. Firing under different conditions has given a few pots a completely black interior and red exterior, while others are partly black and partly red on both sides; the latter are more in number. The common shapes are the tulip-shaped flower pots, bowls, channel-spouted bowls, basins, jars, dishes-on-stands and vase stands. Researches and findings suggest that the Black-and-Red pottery flourished in Bengal around 1500 BC and continued to evolve, well past the Chalcolithic age, into the historical period around the 3rd century BC.
Northern Black Polished Ware
Northern Black Polished WareThis type of pottery occurs in a larger area than any other known ceramics in India. This wide distribution has been ascribed to Mauryan imperialism, the propagation of Buddhism, and to trade routes. The first phase of this kind of pottery spans the 700 BC - 400 BC period and the late phase 400 BC to 100 BC or even later. Northern black polished ware is made of smoothened clay with little tempering material and has a strikingly lustrous surface. The cores of such pots vary from blackish to grey to red in colour. The surface colour ranges from jet black, brownish black to steel blue, pink, silvery, golden, brown, chocolate, violet and deep red.
The commonest type of black-slipped ware includes bowls of different shapes and sizes; the other objects include dishes, jars, spouted jars, dishes-on-stands and bowls- on-stands, vases and miniature vessels. In India prominent sites where NBPW remnants have been unearthed are Mangalkot, Chandraketugarh, Bangarh, and Mahasthan (all in West Bengal) among others.
Roulette potteryThis type of pottery is characterised by thick incurved rims, a contiguous body and base, without any foot stand. It has a smooth shiny surface, displaying a variety of colours and indented concentric circular decoration on the interior surface of the base. The pattern consists of one to three bands of concentric circles; each band containing three to ten rows of closely placed indentations that look like tiny dots, strokes, wedges or triangles.
The remnants of rouletted pottery discovered near Arikamedu near Pondicherry, in southern India have been dated between 2nd - 1stcentury B.C. It is likely that the technique of 'rouletting' was introduced to the area from the Mediterranean region. There are chances that a portion of the pottery might have been imported but the cruder varieties were possibly local imitations. Based on the analyses of clays from the sites that have yielded fragments of rouletted ware, it has been concluded that besides Arikamedu, this type of pottery was also produced in the Chandraketugarh-Tamluk (modern West Bengal) region of the lower Ganges valley, in eastern India.
Dull Red & Grey Ware
Ethnic pottery fromUttar Pradesh
The pottery of this kind has a coarse to medium texture. They are made with the help of the potter’s wheel as well as by hand. In this case the clay is deliberately not smoothened. Painting on these wares is rare and graffiti marks are totally absent. Some of the pieces are decorated with incised and stamped designs. In certain cases mat and basket-like designs are discernible.
Black Pottery of Manipur
Black Pottery of ManipurThe pottery is native to the Ukhrul district of Manipur and are carried out by local inhabitants (including a sizeable Thangkul Naga population). Unlike other Indian states, in Manipur this craft is pursued by both men and women. The pottery is purely functional and mainly black in colour. A major ingredient of this black ware pottery is hard serpent nine rock, which needs to be crushed and mixed with a few other ingredients including clay to mould into pots, traditionally used for cooking. The most incredible aspect is that there is no potter's wheel. The artisans use basic bamboo implements and the appropriate movements of their body to give shape to their creations. The black pottery items include cups, vases, cooking utensils. It is said that the meat cooked in these pots tastes heavenly.
The blackware pottery demonstrates how deeply traditional crafts are linked with nature. Each ingredient—the rock, the clay—is obtained from the immediate environment. A very natural, non-mechanised process completes the process leading to the final products. The tools used, are made of bamboo; the pots are moulded on logs of wood or stone slabs-all natural products.
The Tradition of Textiles in India
The traditional textile of India
India has a diverse and rich textile tradition. The origin of Indian textiles can be traced to the Indus valley civilization. The people of that civilization used homespun cotton for weaving their garments. Excavations at Harappa and Mohenjo Daro, have unearthed household items like needles made of bone and wooden spindles, suggesting that the people would spin cotton at home to make yarn and finally garments. Fragments of woven cotton have also been found at these sites.The first literary information about textiles in India is available in the RigVeda, which refers to weaving. The ancient Hindu epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata mention a variety of fabrics in vogue during those times. The Ramayana refers to the rich garments worn by the aristocracy, and the simple clothes worn by the commoners and ascetics.
Information about ancient textiles of India can also be garnered from the various sculptures belonging to the Mauryan and the Gupta ages as well as from ancient Buddhist scripts and murals. Legends say that when Amrapali, a courtesan who lived in the kingdom of Vaishali (in present day Bihar), went to meet Gautama the Buddha, she was attired in a richly woven sari, which testifies to the technical achievements of the ancient Indian weaver.
India had numerous trade links with the outside world and Indian textiles were popular in other countries of the ancient world. Indian silk was popular in Rome in the early centuries of the Christian era. Several fragments of cotton fabrics from Gujarat have been found in the tombs at Fostat (older areas of Cairo city, the country’s capital). Cotton textiles were also exported to China during the heydays of the silk route.
Silk fabrics from south India were exported to Indonesia during the 13th century. India also exported printed cotton fabrics / chintz to Europe and the Asian countries like China, Java and the Philippines, long before the arrival of the Europeans.
In the 13th century, Indian silk was used as barter for precious commodities from the western countries. Towards the end of the 17th century, the British East India Company traded in Indian cotton and silk fabrics which included the famous Dacca (Bengal) muslin besides substantial quantities of the same fabric made in Bihar and Orissa. The past traditions of the textile and handlooms is still discernible in the motifs, patterns, designs, and weaving techniques, employed by the weavers even today.
Surat in Gujarat was one of the oldest centres of trade in cotton textiles. This textile reached Surat from different parts of India which would be sent back after processing (refining, dyeing, stain removing etc).
Manufacturing of cotton and silk fabrics was the main industry in Surat, which attracted the Dutch as well as the English in the 17th century. During the 16th century, there was a vast market for textiles of Surat in South-East Asia, the Gulf countries and East Africa. During the Mughal period, products like pagdi (turban/headgear) made with golden thread, cloth for sashes and veils, were very well-k
Chintz was a painted or stained calico cloth (Calico is a fabric made from unbleached, often not fully processed, cotton) printed with flowers and other devices in different colours. It was a popular choice for bed covers, quilts and draperies. During the 17th and 18th centuries it was imported to Europe and later produced there. Initially Europeans reproduced Indian designs, gradually adding original patterns.nown.
Long-cloth was also painted in a similar fashion. With the help of wooden blocks, beautiful designs and motifs were printed on cloth. Owing to its ideal location on the river bank, bleaching of cloth was developed as a specialized occupation in Surat.
The crowning glory of Indian textiles was Kinkhab or 'Brocade'. This is a fabric woven out of silver threads, which makes it very expensive. The thread is drawn out of silver and then plated with gold. Therefore, the expensive dresses made with brocade are meant only for special occasions - weddings, religious rituals and ceremonies, attending of durbars or royal courts and such like. For the Mughals this fabric epitomized the refined taste and the high level of indulgence.
The literal meaning of Kinkhab is ‘less dream'. Owing to the high content of silver and gold threads, the texture becomes abrasive to the skin which makes one almost sleepless and hence few or less dreams. The brocade became a rage among the early European settlers in India.An interesting but little-known fact about brocade is that it is woven keeping its reverse side on the loom. To ensure the accuracy of design, a mirror is placed below it. Despite its cost, a large variety of colour combinations, designs and motifs, has made brocade a fairly popular fabric.
The textile known as Patola forms the traditional garb of a Gujarati bride. The term 'Patola' is derived from the Sanskrit word pattal (a spindle shaped gourd). Patan in Gujarat is famous for the manufacture of Patola. Its technique is also complicated. The weft and the warp are dyed separately, before weaving, according to the selected design.
A specimen of Patola art Thereafter, as the weaving takes place, exact intended designs emerge. Because of its complicated manufacturing process, very few designs are available and the Patola are classified according to the designs like Wadi Bhaff which has a flowering creeper motif or 'Nari-Kunjar' in which motifs of female figures and elephants appear. The colours used in the Patola of Patan are so fast that a Patola may get torn or worn out but its design would never fade. It indeed takes a very long time to manufacture a Patola, which makes it very expensive.
The double Ikat Patola originated in Gujarat, Orissa and Pochampalli in Andhra Pradesh. The double Ikat Patola from Orissa and Patan in Gujarat require very intricate weaving. Prices can be astronomical, because a Patola is valued for the purity of its silk.
Tanchoi was brought to India from China by the three (Parsi) brothers named Choi, who settled down in Surat to evolve a unique fabric - a harmonious blend of Indian and Chinese styles. According to a connoisseur, “The tanchoi is a densely patterned heavy fabric with no floats on the reverse; the unused threads are woven into the foundation at the back.
Tanchoi,a precious fabric
Traditionally the face of the fabric has a satin weave ground (warp threads) with small patterns made by the weft threads, repeated over the entire surface.” The designs are usually found interspersed with bands usually on grounds shaded bright blue, purple, green or red. Flying birds, paired cocks and floral sprays between these from the usual uncluttered patterns, while the pallu is filled with the design from edge to edge, usually figuring peacocks, and baskets of flowers, sometimes even hunting scenes.
The Baluchari saree is native to the town of Baluchar in Bengal. It was way back in 1704 AD that the first Baluchar weaving took place. At one stage no gold or silver thread was used in the making of the fabric. The important feature is the white outlining of the motifs like animals, vegetation, miniscule images of human beings, vignettes from the Ramayana, marriage processions, brides in palanquins, horse riders ethnic musicians to name a few. Nowadays Baluchari style sarees are woven using highly mercerised cotton thread and silky threadwork ornament in bold colors. The cloth is very fine with a soft drape.
A typical Baluchari sareeShantipuri saris are named after the village of Shantipur in Nadia District of West Bengal, which is inextricably linked with the “Vaishnava” culture propagated by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. These saris have an exceedingly smooth texture and lend at touch of sophistication to the wearer.
The origin of the word Jamdani is uncertain. According to a popular version, it came from the Persian words jama (cloth) and dana (diapering). In other words Jamdani basically denotes diapered cloth. Another version holds that in Persian the word jam meaning flower and dani a vase or container.
The earliest mention of Jamdani and its development as an industry is to be found in Kautilya's Arthashashtra (book of economics) wherein it is stated that this fine cloth used to be made in Bengal and Pundra (parts of modern Bangladesh). Jamdani is also mentioned in the book of Periplus of the Eritrean Sea and in the accounts of Arab, Chinese and Italian travelers and traders.
Jamdani- the dream fabric
The base fabric for Jamdani is unbleached cotton yarn and the design is woven using bleached cotton yarns so that a light-and-dark effect is created. Alexander the Great in 327 BC mentions “beautiful printed cottons” in India. It is believed that the erstwhile Roman emperors paid fabulous sums for the prized Indian cotton.The dominant feature of the jamdani is its magnificent design which is essentially Persian in spirit. The method of weaving resembles tapestry work in which small shuttles of coloured, gold or silver threads, are passed through the weft. The jamdani dexterously combines intricate surface designs with delicate floral sprays. When the surface is covered with superb diagonally striped floral sprays, the sari is called terchha. The anchal (the portion that goes over and beyond the shoulder) is often decorated with dangling, tassel like corner motifs, known as jhalar.
The most coveted design is known as the panna hazaar (literally: a thousand emeralds) in which the floral pattern is highlighted with flowers interlaced like jewels by means of gold and silver thread. The kalka (paisley), whose origin may be traced to the painted manuscripts of the Mughal period, has emerged as a highly popular pattern. Yet another popular pattern in jamdani is the phulwar, usually worked on pure black, blue black, grey or off-white background colours.
The traditional nilambari, dyed with indigo, or designs such as toradar (literally: a bunch or bouquet) preserved in weaving families over generations are now being reproduced. Other jamdani patterns are known as phulwar, usually worked on pure black, blue black, grey or off-white background colours.
For traditional jamdani weaving, a very elementary pit loom is used and the work is carried on by the weaver and his apprentice. The latter works under instruction for each pick, weaving his needle made from, buffalo horn or tamarind wood to embroider the floral sequence. With a remarkable deftness, the weft yarn is woven into the warp in the background colour from one weaver to the other.The butis (motifs) across the warp, the paar (border) and anchal (the portion that goes over and beyond the shoulder) are woven by using separate bobbins of yarn for each colour. The fine bobbins are made from tamarind wood or bamboo. After completion the cloth is washed and starched.
Jamdani, because of its intricate patterns, has always been a highly expensive product. According to historical accounts, Jamdanis custom made for the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb in the 17th century cost over thirty pounds; evidently the jamdani fabric was essentially meant only for the affluent nobility, in those days.The region in and around Dhaka (now in Bangladesh) became synonymous with this wonder fabric. Trading accounts reveal how the Jamdani travelled to the courts of the Mughals in the 15th - 16th century period. For the Mughals it was fashioned into elaborate angarkhas (upper garment / shirt) worn by both men and women; it also travelled from Dhaka through Agra, to Bukhara, Samarkand and other parts of West Asia. In the centuries that followed Jamdani was procured European export companies which retailed it in cites like Hamburg, London, Madrid, Copenhagen and so forth.There is historical evidence that Himroo style of shawl weaving was brought to Aurangabad (in Maharashtra) by the monarch Mohmmad Bin Tughlak when he shifted his capital from Delhi to Daulatabad. The designs for Himroo involved pull the design threads and master weaver has to weave with two - three coloured threads. Aurangabad's Himroo was used by royal families, and it is said that Himroo was sent to royal families in Delhi also. Popular motifs and designs elephant, peacock, parrot, are used abundantly used on these shawls.
The first Kanjeevaram sari is believed to have been woven around 400 years ago. The origin of this saree can be traced back to the ancient temple town of Kanjeevaram (a.k.a Kanchipuram) in modern Tamil Nadu.
A gorgeousKanjeevaram sareeThe Kanjeevaram saree is characterised by gold - dipped silver/ pure gold threads that are woven onto rich, beautiful, brilliant silk The borders and the pallus carry ornate zari work. The designs involve vertical and horizontal lines as well as checks. The colours range from vibrant orange to mauve to purple, green, maroon, blue and rust.The heavier the silk, the better the quality of the saree. Peacocks and parrots, swans, mangoes and leaves are the commonest motifs. Another important character of these sarees are the vertical sets of caret (triangular) signs/ marks lining the borders; they resemble pinnacles of temples and hence probably the name.
Dhonekhali sarees are woven in near opaque white surfaces with contrasting borders in red, black, purple, and orange, emphasized by a serrated edge motif. Gradually the border was broadened to six or even eight inches, and adorned with a variety of stripes in muga (a kind of raw silk, native of Assam) or zari (fine glittery thread of gold or silver and the embroidery made using them). Known as ‘Maatha Paar’ or ‘Beluaari paar’, these borders are often woven in two colours e.g. black and red. Having a tighter weave than the tangail or shantipuri, it is more hardy and durable.
Dhanekhali, a native of Bengal
Tangail is a village in Bangladesh. This saree has an unusually fine and smooth texture. There is invariably a pattern running through every alternate weft thread. The borders of traditional tangail sarees displayed motifs such as padma (lotus) pradeep (earthen lamp) and the famous “aansh paar’ (fish scales look). Starting with a single colour on the border, the weavers have begun to use two to three colours to render it a ‘meenakari’ effect. The emphasis is on rich warm colours, both vibrant and muted. The focus is on the anchal (the part that goes over and beyond the shoulder) and the border, which may have alternate lines of contrasting shades with an interplay of small paisley, rosette and geometric designs. Tangail sarees are often highlighted with gold or silver thread, which heightens their elegance.
A pretty tangail saree
Tussar (a.k.a Kosa silk), is valued for its purity and texture. It is drawn from cocoons especially grown on arjun, saja or sal trees. Available in natural shades of gold-pale, dark, honey, tawny, beige and cream, Tussar is considered an ideal as well as auspicious wear for marriages, religious ceremonies and other important social functions. (The original rich gold shade Tussar is sometimes dyed, producing colours of a very special hue and depth.)
The resplendent Tussar
Earlier only natural dyes were used which included yellow from the palash (flame of the forest) and kusum flowers, red pollen dust of the rora flower and the deep rose red from lac.But with time the range of colour and motifs have increased dramatically. The commonly available shades are Dhaniya (light green), Mas (deep blue), Kariya (black), Anchi (deep purple), Jamalla (purple), Darra (deep rose red), Katha (maroon), Narangi (orange), Rani (deep Indian pink), Phiroza (turquoise) among others.
The Garad is a type of silk traditionally woven in Bengal. It comprises plain red borders set against a smooth natural ground, with widely spaced motifs (generally paisleys) etched diagonally from the lower border to the waist. This is also regarded as one of the most pure fabrics, hence suited for wearing for special occasions and religious ceremonies. Garad is also very expensive, which makes it a highly coveted item. Kantha - from wasteto wealth The Bomkai, Orissa's pride
The Bomkai threadwork from Orissa features ornate borders and heavily embroidered drapes with touches of Ikat work in some instances and are popular with tourists and locals for their ethnic feel and tribal look. With motifs drawn from the Shakti cult predominant in Orissa's tribal and rural culture for centuries, these sarees are coloured in the subtle hues which are present in nature.
The word kontha in Sanskrit means rags. In Bengal Kantha evolved out of necessity to drape or protect oneself against the cold. It is a brilliant example of the art of recycling. When the silks, muslins and cotton sarees became worn-out, the housewives and other womenfolk, instead of throwing them away, gathered them up in layers and stitched simple but pretty little patterns all over the square/rectangular pieces. These became light blankets which could be used throughout the year.
Another legend relates the origin of kantha to Lord Buddha and his disciples. It is believed that they used to cover themselves with thrown away rags patched and stitched together, in tune with their vows of austere lifestyle. In recent years Kantha embroidery has become so popular and so widely acclaimed, that the medium shifted from useless rags to expensive silks and cottons
Textiles of Assam
A saree made of Muga silk Handloom weaving is Assam's largest and oldest industry. Weaving has been a way of life in Assam since time immemorial. Handlooms of Assam are not confined to a particular group of people or to a particular region. Assam was one of the first places where the practice of rearing silk-worms and culling the silken thread from the cocoons began to be practiced.
Assam’s weavers bring forth diverse varieties of silk namely endi, muga and pala. The most outstanding of the three is muga - royal and exotic. This beautiful fabric combines beauty (owing to its scintillating golden colour) with strength and durability. Unlike other silk fabrics, muga is washable at home. However due to low porosity of the threads Muga can neither be bleached nor dyed. This fabric is extensively used in making Mekhala Chador - the traditional dress of the Assamese women.
Endi derives its name from the castor leaves on which the silkworm feeds. This silk has a yellowish tinge and is available in both rough as well as smooth varieties. It is extensively used in winter for warmth. Pala is obtained from the silk worms that feed on the leaves of the mulberry trees
Textiles of Nagaland
A colourful Naga shawlThe Nagas attach great importance to their costume, worn on ceremonial or festive occasions, besides those for daily use. The designs and colours vary not only from one tribe to another but also from village to village. The designs portray the wearer’s position in society. Simple straight lines, stripes, squares and bands, varying in width, colour and arrangement are the most traditional design and motifs of this region. Naga womenfolk are masters in their choice and combination of colours.
Another variety ofNaga shawlTsungkotepsu, the decorative warrior shawl is typical of the Ao tribe. Exclusively for men, this shawl may be worn only by someone who has taken heads in war or offered a mithun (local bison) as sacrifice.In Naga society, this ritual can be performed only by rich men). The cloth has a median white band on a dark base; on either side of it are horizontal bands of contrasting black, red and white. The median band is black in colour and includes figures of mithun (symbolizing wealth), elephant and tiger (symbolizing valour), human head (representing success in head-hunting) and other motifs like the spear, dao (sickle/scythe like instrument),the rooster,etc. There are several varieties of woven cloths worn by the Angami tribe. The predominant pattern comprising white, red and black bands is called loramhoushu, while black with red and yellow bands called lohe. The Angami priests don the phichu-pfe, which portrays their distinct social status. A kind of black shawl, ideal for rough wear (used by both sexes) is known as ratapfe. Among the Sangtam tribals, the sangtam rongsu shawl is meant exclusively for the valiant warriors. The cloth on a black base has four grey bands at the top and another four bands of the same colour at the bottom. Another decorative shawl woven by this tribe is called supong which is commonly used by the affluent menfolk.
Textiles of Bastsar/Chhattisgarh(The tribal textiles of Bastar region are woven manually. The commonest motifs include animals, birds, huts, bows and arrows flora and vegetation, pitchers, temples and so forth. These textiles are worn by the tribals on important occasions like dances, weddings and religious ceremonies).
Cotton Fabrics are one of the famous and attractive handicrafts made by the Bastar tribesmen. The tribals also churn out a fabric made of kosa silk threads obtained from a kind of worm found on trees in the forest, which are hand woven and hand printed by the tribals themselves, who incidentally trace their antecedents to the medieval, secular saint-poet Kabir, who was a weaver by profession. The hand printing is generally done with the natural vegetable dye extracted from maddaer (aal) trees, found in the forest of Bastar.These fabrics includes cotton saris, dress materials and drapes.
A Chanderi saree
The weaving is done in heavy cotton, with a count between 10 and 20.The pallu and borders are generally tinged with natural hues of brown or terracotta obtained from Indian madder besides black obtained from rusted iron. The dramatic designs are highly attractive and appealing.The central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh is renowned for its Chanderi and Maheshwari sarees. The Chanderi cotton sarees are ideal summer wear. Usually in subtle hues, they possess an air of unmatched sophistication. On the other hand the Chanderi silk sarees generally have a rich gold border and two gold bands on the pallav (the part that goes over and beyond the shoulders). The more expensive sarees have gold checks with lotus roundels all over which are known as butis. The hallmark of Chanderis lies in its reference to nature. The typical motifs are earth and sky, hunting scenes, the tree of life, men and women, birds, fruits, flowers, heavenly bodies.
Paithani-the pride ofMaharashtra
Maheshwari sarees, from the town of Maheshwar, on the banks of the Narmada, available in both cotton and silk are the last words in simplicity. The entire surface of such a saree is either chequered or plain or has stripes, combined with complementary colours. A speciality of this sarees it is reversible border, which makes it wearable on both the sides. of the saree which can be worn either side, is a speciality. Interestingly, the pallav (the portion that goes over and beyond the shoulders) of Maheshwari saree is characterised by three coloured and two white alternating stripes.Maheshwari sarees are rendered in silk also, which are of course more expensive than their cotton counterparts.
A beautiful Maheshwari saree
Among the most breathtakingly beautiful sarees made in India figures the Paithani sarees, woven exclusively in the Paithan region of the western state of Maharashtra.The gold embroidered Paithani sarees with their exquisitely beautiful designs depict the blend of the aesthetic with the symbolic. The Rig Veda mentions a golden, woven fabric and the Greek records mention gorgeous Paithani fabrics from the well-known, ancient trading centre, Pratisthan or Paithan (in Maharashtra).The typical, traditional paithani used to be a plain sari with a heavy zari border and ornamental pallav (the portion that goes over and beyond the shoulder). However, today motifs abound in these sarees: stars, parrots circles, peacocks, flowers asavali (flower and vine), narli (coconut) and paisleys. In the bygone centuries, the zari used in making Paithanis was drawn from pure gold. However, nowadays silver is substituted for gold, in order to make these sarees ore affordable to many people.
The Peshwas (political rulers of Maharashtra) in the 18th century had a special love for Paithani textiles and it is believed that Madhavrao Peshwa is believed to have asked for a huge supply of dupattas dotted with asavali prints, in shades of red, green, saffron, pomegranate and pink.
Interestingly, the Nizam of erstwhile princely state of Hyderabad too is believed to have nurtured a penchant for the Paithanis, which made him undertake several trips to the obscure town of Paithan to secure the fabric for personal use. His daughter-in-law, Niloufer, was instrumental in introducing new motifs to the designs on the borders as well as the pallav (the part that goes over and beyond the shoulders) designs.
India is a land of great diversity, more heterogeneous than any other country in the world.
Four major racial groups have met and merged in India resulting in a complex demographic profile. The pale-skinned Europoid entered from the western mountain passes, encountering settled populations of Dasyu, the dark skinned ones of Rig Vedic description.
The Aryans established a dominant presence in the northwest and the Gangetic plain, but the people of Mongoloid descent remained undisturbed in the Himalayan region and the highlands of the northeast. Their affinity with the southeast Asian world is remarkable and is reflected in the motifs used in the crafts. Though the Mongoloid people influenced the racial pattern of tribes in the eastern provinces of Orissa and Bihar, by and large, they stayed within central India. Southerners in peninsular India might have had a link with Negroid racial elements, as deduced from contemporary populations with dark skins and tightly curled hair. But the only true Negrito are isolated in the Andaman Islands.
The ethnic diversity is reflected in the variety of languages and dialects used in India - 17 major languages and 900 dialects or closely related subsidiary languages. The Indo-European group, particularly the sub-branch of the Indic languages, concentrated as dialects of northwest India and the Gangetic plains, share a linguistic pool with modern French, English, Greek and Persian, indicative of migrations of Europoid people. The Dravidian language family alone consists of 23 languages. Tamil is spoken in TamilNadu, Telugu in Andhra Pradesh, Kannada in Karnataka and Malayalam in Kerala.
Tribal groups of Oraon, Munda and Santhal scattered through the highlands of eastern and central India use the languages of the Austro-Asiatic family, but many of the dialects with only oral traditions have lost.
Less than one per cent of modern India's population - comprising the Mizo, Naga, Lushai and Khasi , to name a few tribes - is inheritor to the languages of the Tibeto-Burman family. Secluded by geography and, later, protected by policy, their ethnological and linguistic identity has survived. Christian missionaries have contributed to the standardization of some of these languages.
Fairs and Festivals India is a country of subcontinental dimensions. It is an ancient civilisation and an inheritor to a rich and diverse cultural tradition. The Fairs and Festivals celebrated across the length and breadth of the land present a fascinating pageant and showcase the resplendence of its arts and crafts tradition. Some festivals are of religious nature, others are linked with the lives of the people, change of seasons and harvesting. There are fairs which in past played an important role in the commercial life of the people and continue to be celebrated with great gusto.
Browse Indian festivals by months
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Baisakhi and other harvest festivals
The word Hindu originally meant people living on the banks of the river Sindhu. Now it has religious-cum-philosophical connotation s. The roots of Hindu Philosophy are the ideas of the Vedas. The Veda s are called Shruti or `that which is heard' and are regarded as revelations to sages passed down orally to disciples and students. Such ideas led to the Samkhya system of philosophy, which is astik (Theist), rational and systematic in its approach. The sage Kapila of 7th century BC is considered to be its founder.
Yoga is a system complementary to Samkhya, dealing with the practical attainment of liberation from worldly ties. Together the two systems are referred to as SamkhyaYoga.
Vedanta refers to the 108 Upanishads which are philosophical musings of the Vedas about the Cause of Creation, Being, Cosmos and so on. Prominent exponents of Vedanta are Shankaracharya and Ramanuja.
In contrast, Charvaka or Lokayata philosophy is a Nastin (Atheist), materialist system, which rejects Shrutis, deities, and even the idea of re-incarnation.
Vaisheshika philosophy has a scientific rather than a metaphysical approach and believes that the world is made up of innumerable but distinct (vishesha) particles. Nyaya is a complementary philosophy trying to arrive at `nyaya' or knowledge, which is `just', or `right'. Bhagavat-Gita, a part of the epic Mahabharata, expounds the synthesis of three yogas or ways of attaining union with the Supreme Self, Gyana-yoga (union through knowledge), Bhakti-yoga (union through devotion) and Karma-yoga (union through action).
In relatively later times, Chaitanyadev, Rammohun Roy and Ramkrishna Paramahamsa have enriched Hindu philosophy in their own ways.
Islam had its genesis outside India, in what is now Saudi Arabia. Followers of this faith are called Muslims. Islam was basically propounded by prophet Mohammad (born around 570A.D. in Mecca), although the belief is that it was brought to the world by Adam and different messengers were sent by God to preach this lesson and Mohammad was the one who came last. In other words, Mohammad gave the final form to an already existing religion. Muslims are also referred to as Mohammedans.
The sacred book of the Muslims is the Quran (from Arabic `to recite'), held to be revelations from Allah, and not the preachings of Prophet Mohammad. Engraved on a tablet in heaven, the Quran has existed from the beginning of time and was revealed to Mohammad himself through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel).
Islam is a monotheistic faith and the acceptance of Allah as the one God, and Mohammad as his prophet, is called Shahda. A Muslim is required to perform the devotional exercise of Namaaz five times a day. In the ninth month of the Muslim calendar, Ramzan, the Muslims have to observe Roza, a strict fast from dawn to dusk on each day of the month. They should visit Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammad, the prophet or Haji, at least once in a lifetime, and this pilgrimage is called Haj. They should donate a portion of their income to the poor, and this is the Zakat. Together, Shahda, Namaaz, Roza, Haji and Zakat constitute the five ingredients of Islam. Muslims worship at Masjids or mosques.
The law of Islam is the Shariah, believed to be based on divine revelations. The majority of the Muslim community are the Sunnis who consider that Mohammad as a prophet can have no successor. For the Shi'a Muslims, the main religious authority is the Imam or priest. Muslims entered India for the first time at the beginning of the 8th century when the Arabs made their inroads. Muslim invaders and settlers, other than the Arab conquerors of Sind, belonged to various Asiatic races, Iranian Persians, Turks, Afghans, other people of mixed descent, and even Mongols. Muslim immigration ended with the establishment of the Mughal dynasty in the 16th century. Increase in Muslim population since then has been by conversion and natural population growth. It was because of the weightage of the Muslim population in undivided India that in 1947, the Partition was effected and Pakistan was born a day before India regained her independence.
Sikh philosophy is a young, indigenous, monotheistic one. Guru Nanak (1469-1539) who was trying to unite Hinduism and Islam, founded the Sikh religious order. The word `Sikh' derives from the Sanskrit word shishya or disciple. Sikh philosophy is a set of ideas developed by ten gurus or teachers and passed on to their shishyas or disciples. It conceives of God as nirakara or formless and also as one. It admits of no idols or superstitions, whether Hindu or Islamic. It recognizes all human beings to be equal. However it retains certain Hindu ideas, such as those of the immortality of the soul, of transmigration and karma. The sacred book of the Sikhs is the Adi Granth or Granth Sahib (completed in 1604), of which the Japji section was written by Guru Nanak himself. The ten Sikh gurus are Nanak, Angad, Amar Das, Ram Das, Arjan, Har Gobind, Har Rai, Har Kishan, Teg Bahadur and Gobind Singh. The tenth and last guru, Gobind Singh, ended the guru system and organized the Sikhs into a military theocracy named Khalsa (Pure). He started the system of pahul or baptism into Sikhism with water stirred by a dagger, after which one would be entitled to use the honorific `Singh'(lion) after his name and carry the five `kakkas' or `K's: kesh (hair tied in a topknot), kanga (comb), kara (steel bangle), `kacha'(undergarment) and `kirpan' (dagger). After Guru Gobind Singh's death, the Sikhs got divided into 12 groups. Collective decisions are taken by the leaders of the groups and taken as coming from God. Gurvani or `the Guru's word' is the literary expression of Sikh philosophy.
Buddhism originated from the teachings of Gautama Buddha, a prince from the Nepalese terai, who relinquished palace life for a life of meditation and spiritual upliftment, emphasized dhamma or right conduct, and organized monks and nuns into monasteries called samghas. The philosophy of Buddhism is to take the Middle Path, avoiding the extremes of getting addicted to worldly pleasures and subjecting oneself to unnecessary rigours. It rejects the idea of God, and stresses on moral progress independent of any God or God like figure. It questions the idea of a permanent or immortal soul, but accepts the idea of transmigration of souls. A most important idea of Buddhism is that of the Four Noble Truths: Suffering exists; it is caused by desire; suffering can cease; and there does exist a path to nirvana or cessation of suffering. This Noble Eightfold Path consists of : Right resolve, Right speech, Right conduct, Right livelihood, Right effort, Right mindfulness, and Right concentration.
Later Buddhism split into two sects, Mahayana and Hinayana (Theravada). Mahayana laid stress on the concept of the Bodhisatta or `one destined to be the Buddha' and also conceived of Eternal Buddhas who resemble gods or deities. Hinayana regarded the Buddha as a man and had a doctrine, Theravada, stressing the salvation of the individual. Later, the interaction of Mahayana philosophy and Hinduism gave rise to Tantric Buddhism or Vajrayana.
Christianity is not native to the Indian soil, although there have been Christian communities in Kerala almost since the founding of the religion by Jesus Christ. Born in Bethlehem, to Mary and Joseph (who was a carpenter), Jesus spread love and mercy to all. In the environment of the Roman Empire, his message acquired a unique force of its own, the powers-that-be had him crucified after he had been betrayed to them by one of his own disciples. But he rose from his tomb and this Resurrection gave new strength to his other followers, who went on spreading his message.
The Christians believe in a trinity of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost. Their Holy Scripture, the Bible, is a collection of 73 books dating from about 9th century B.C. to the end of the 1st century A.D., divided into two sections: the Old Testament which corresponds to the Bible of Judaism and the New Testament which is entirely based on Christ's messages.
Christians worship in what are called churches, praying both alone and in congregations. Although there are many sects and denominations of Christians, the two primary divisions are Roman Catholics and Protestants. The head of the Catholic Church is the Pope at Vatican. The Christian calendar calculates years from Christ's death. 10 years before Christ's death is 10 B.C. and 10 years after is 10A.D.
St Thomas the Apostle is said to have arrived in India in 54 A.D. Later, with the advent of the Portugese, the French and the British in India, there was further Christian influence. In India, Christians are basically converts, although there are descendants of European settlers and Anglo-Indians. In Goa, which had been long a Portugese domain, and the north-eastern states Mizoram and Nagaland, which had been under effective missionary influence, Christians form the majority of the population.
Jainism is an ancient, Indian-born philosophy, dating back to Vedic times. 24 preachers known as `Jinas' (conquerors) or `Tirthankaras' (fordmakers) propounded it across the river of life. Its first founder or `Tirthankara' was one Rishabhadeva mentioned in the Yajur Veda. The 24th and last Tirthankara was Mahavira. It is a Nastik (Atheist) philosophy and does not accept the Vedas to be revelations from God. In fact, it does not believe in a God, though it does believe in re-birth. The ethical doctrines of Jainism are based on the path of liberation, comprising right belief, right knowledge and right conduct. The prescriptions or rules of Jainism are about the way to achieve this liberation.
They apply both to ascetics and householders. The householders have twelve Vratas or codes of conduct, five Anuvratas (small vows) and seven Shilavratas (supplementary vows). If the Anuvaratas are strictly performed, they become Mahavratas (Great vows).
The Jains have two major sects, Digambara (Sky-clad or naked) and Shvetambara (White-clad). Digambara Jains are more austere and go about nude or free from all material trappings and social inhibitions. They allow for voluntary death in order to attain Kavalajnana or final liberation. In the later and less austere sect Shvetambara, people can use a simple white cloth. The difference in the two sects is more in rituals than in doctrines.
Jains believe in Anekantavada, or the theory that reality is many-sided. They subscribe to Syadavada, that is, prefix the word `syad' to every proposition as a check against dogmatism. They do not believe a statement to be complete unless all its varying conditions have been fully stated, and this has led to an expanded form of Syadavada known as Saptabhanginaya.
Zoroastrianism had its genesis in Iran. As they hail from a Pars in south-west Iran, the people who practise this religion are known as the Parsis. In 642, when the last Iranian empire was conquered by the Arabs, most Zoroastrians were forcibly converted to Islam. Others fled the country. Today, of the 1,30,000 Zoarstrians in the world, about 1,00,000 live in India. Although their number has never been very large, and is in fact dwindling, the Zoroastrians or Parsis have retained their identity very strictly. Despite being a small community, they have contributed enormously to India. Dadabhai Naoroji, author of the path-breaking book Poverty and Un-British Rule In India, Jamshedji Tata, the father of Indian steel industry, JRD Tata, prominent industrialist of the House and the father of Indian aviation, are a few examples. Zoroastrianism was founded by the prophet Spitama Zarathustra. It affirms that there is one god, Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord), other gods being manifestations of his qualities. He is the Creator or Ohrmazd. Here the equivalents of angels are the seven Amesha Spentas (beneficient Immortals). Associates of the Amesha Spentas are Yazatas presiding over sun, moon, earth, fire etc. Corresponding to the Indian concept of pitri or forefathers, there is the Avesta Fravashi (Faith and Inspiration). It is supposed that there are two spirits working in this world and one of them is Spenta Mainyu, the spirit of growth and prayers. The word for `soul' in the Avesta is Urva (Chosen).
The holy text of the Zoroastrians is the Avesta, composed in a language belonging to the early Iranaian group of languages and resembling the language of the Vedas. The daily prayer-book the Parsis use everyday is Khordeh Avesta (the smaller Avesta). The Videvat are religious law books laying down codes of conduct and procedures for penance. The Yasna is the handbook of ceremonies, retreats etc, including the 17 cantos of the five Gathas – Abunavaiti, Ushtavaiti, Spenta Mainyu, Voha Khshathra and Vahishtoishti. Visparat is a supplement of the Yasna, glorifying Ahura Mazda. The Yashts is a reservoir of epic and historical happenings involving warriors and kings.
All followers of Zoroastrianism have to wear the Sadra and Kusti, a narrow band round the waist, similar to the upavita of the brahmanas. Aiwayaonhana (which also means stormy sky) is the term used to refer to it in the Avesta. The band is woven out of 72 strands of sheep wool (symbolic of the 72 chapters of the Yasna) and is wound thrice round the waist symbolising the three cardinal tenets of the faith: good thoughts, deeds and words.
Zoroastrianism flourished during the Acharminian dynasty of Cyrus, Darius, Xerexes and others.