Why didn't Marathas rule Delhi officially?

Why didn't Marathas rule Delhi officially?

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During the peak era of Peshwa(Maratha), they were the most dominant power in India and had most of the area under their control. But they didn't control Delhi directly even after capturing it.

The Marathas had gained control of a considerable part of India in the intervening period (1707-1757). In 1758 they occupied Delhi, captured Lahore and drove out Timur Shah Durrani,[8] the son and viceroy of the Afghan ruler, Ahmad Shah Abdali. This was the high-water mark of the Maratha expansion, where the boundaries of their empire extended in the north to the Indus and the Himalayas, and in the south nearly to the extremity of the peninsula. This territory was ruled through the Peshwa, who talked of placing his son Vishwasrao on the Mughal throne.[10] However, Delhi still remained under the nominal control of Mughals, key Muslim intellectuals including Shah Waliullah and other Muslim clergy in India who were alarmed at these developments. In desperation they appealed to Ahmad Shah Abdali, the ruler of Afghanistan, to halt the threat.

Why didn't they place Maratha Emperor on Delhi throne and ruled directly? What was the rationale behind it?

I think the answer to this question has been already given by Bajirao Peshwa 1. He raided Delhi on 29 march 1737.He also had a chance to capture Delhi but he didn't. In his letter he stated that अमर्यादा झालियाने राजकारणाचा दोर तुटतो meaning 'Politics gets affected because of overdoing'. There might be a possibility that Rajputs,Sikhs or jaats get offended if Delhi was captured by Marathas in 1737 or 1758. So, Shahu Maharaj had a policy not touch throne of Delhi. Marathas used to get one fourth of tax from the Mughal territory according to 12 April 1752 treaty, for the security of the empire. Anyhow Marathas were on the higher side.

Could be either of two reasons - 1. out of respect of moughal empire (which is unlikely as they were blamed for melting Silver from Red Fort) 2. fearing repercussion from all muslims who would rise against Hindu power i.e. unite against maratha to take revenge thus leading costly wars

When you read historical accounts (Siyar-ul-mukhatarin or History of Marattha) you will know that Maratha rose to power with support from Nizam who did nothing to oppose them. IN turn marattha didn't molest Nizam in deccan but focussed more on northern territory.

The Truth Behind the Maratha Empire in India

A new film in India sparked a debate about the nature of the Maratha Empire.

One of India’s favorite pastimes is having acrimonious debates about its history. These debates are often reductionist, failing to appreciate the complexity and nuance of past events and the different sociopolitical milieus of pre-modern India. Too often, commentators read their own biases into Indian history, either to overemphasize the sectarian and religious aspects of interstate warfare or to anachronistically find a progressive vision of tolerance in some medieval ruler or the other’s kingdom.

For the past few weeks, India’s latest historical debate has focused around the legacy of the Maratha Empire (1674-1818), triggered by a new Bollywood film, Bajirao Mastani. The Maratha Empire was founded by the Maratha warrior-hero Chhatrapati (Emperor) Shivaji, in response to the chaos and misrule that prevailed in the Deccans in the late 17th century. This occurred as the Mughal Empire expanded into southern India. Hindu nationalists revere the Maratha Empire, which originated among a Hindu warrior people of the western Deccan peninsula. Their reverence stems from the fact that it was this state that reversed centuries of steadily increasing Muslim political control over the subcontinent. By the mid 18th-century, it was the largest state in South Asia and the Mughal emperors in Delhi were its puppets. Bajirao Mastani follows the life and career of Bajirao Ballal Balaji Bhat, the Peshwa, or prime minister, of the Maratha Empire from 1720 to 1740. While Bajirao was an extremely successful general who won 40 battles, he faced social difficulties on the home front due to his second marriage to a Muslim woman named Mastani.

The Indian subcontinent in 1760. Source: Charles Colbeck – The Public Schools Historical Atlas by Charles Colbeck. Longmans, Green New York London Bombay. 1905. University of Texas Libraries

The film itself is very well-made, with outstanding visuals and is well worth a watch for anyone interested in Indian history and early modern warfare techniques in the subcontinent. One can observe, for example, that firearms were relatively rare, despite being present in the subcontinent ever since the 15th century. Gunpowder was chiefly used for artillery, which was widely used. The Maratha navy was also successful in fending off European navies with cannons for half a century. But, at this point in Indian history, the cavalry clearly had the upper hand, more so than poorly armed and trained infantry and elephant units, which had limited utility in battle despite always being sought out. The Maratha cavalry contributed to the success of the empire by raiding swiftly and deeply into Mughal territory and leaving with their booty before the Mughal army could catch them. Their dependence on horses and the lack of firearms in the infantry, however, proved to be a difficulty when facing European armies armed with muskets.

This raiding tendency of the Marathas is what sparked a debate about the Maratha Empire in the wake of the film’s release. Detractors of the Maratha Empire allege that the Marathas only wanted a kingdom for themselves, and thus their kingdom was “never Hindu,” which ignores the fact that the dominant religion of the ruling class of any Indian state at this time was a major part of that state’s character, regardless of how the religion was interpreted or applied in a political sense.

Further criticisms of the Maratha Empire allege that they were the “Mongols” of South Asia, who only campaigned for chauth, a fourth of the revenue of other kingdoms, whether Hindu or Muslim. Maratha raids against Bengal in 1742 and Jaipur in 1750 are especially criticized because these led to the deaths of many Hindus. But all this misses the point. Of course, like any other kingdom in the 18th century, the Maratha Empire meant to preserve itself, even if it meant fighting Hindus and allying with Muslims. The patchwork of states to emerge from the declining Mughal Empire at the time was so complex that it was inevitable that alliances of convenience between states of different religious denominations were the norm. There is no doubt that the Marathas, like all Hindu states, were influenced by Islamic practices, art, architecture, and warfare, and that later, Hindu nationalist historians exaggerated their Hindu credentials.

Yet there is no doubt that the imposition of the jizya tax on Hindus and the demolition of several important Hindu temples during the reign of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb (who reigned from 1659-1707) would not have occurred under Maratha rule, thus incentivizing many Hindus to defect from the Mughal Empire during or after Aurangzeb’s reign. Unquestionably, the Marathas were consciously Hindu and interested in establishing Hindu political power in the subcontinent. Though, like the Christian states of Iberia during the reconquista, they were also interested in fighting and allying with whomever suited their needs at the time.

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The Maratha commitment to establishing a traditional Hindu state in the subcontinent is evidenced by the enormous effort they took to coronate Shivaji and officially found the Maratha Empire in 1674. This came at a time when grand Hindu imperial coronations were rare, due to most rajas being the rulers of smaller states or under Mughal control. During the coronation, Shivaji housed and fed 50,000 guests including Brahmins (Hindu priests) from all over India, had himself weighed against seven metals and various valuable spices, all before bathing in water brought over from the Ganges river, sacred to Hindus. Finally, he was declared lord of the umbrella (Chhatrapati, his title), a traditional symbol of kingship for great Hindu and Buddhist rulers, in imitation of the gods Varuna and Vishnu, signifying that the world was encompassed under the great king’s umbrella. Thus, by intent and symbolism, it is clear that the Marathas were clearly establishing an empire steeped in Hindu culture and symbolism, if not formally so in a political manner.

What are the causes of the Decline and Fall of the Mughal Empire ?

No empire in history is survived forever. The Mughal Empire of India was no exception. It declined for various reasons. The following were the main causes of its decline.

The Vastness of the Empire:

The Mughal Empire is growing in size from the time of Akbar. With the conquest of the South by Aurangzeb, it covered almost all India from Kashmir to river Kaveri and from Kabul to Chittagong it became too vast to be governed from one center at the command of one man. Communications were difficult. Distances were enormous. The Empire therefore began to sink under its own weight.

Over-Centralized Administration:

There were no systems of democratic decentralization in those days. The provincial Government looked to the emperor for orders. The burden of administration grew with the growth of the Empire. Its success depend only the ability of the Emperor. If the Emperor’s person declined or his policy turned wrong, the Empire was bound to suffer.

Responsibility of Aurangzeb:

The stability of the Emperor depended on the support of the people. India was primarily a land of the Hindus. Without their loyalty and court-operation, stability was impossible. Akbar realized this need from the beginning of his rule. He won over the Hindus by his liberal policies. He employed them in higher services. Some of them were given highest positions. His successors followed that wise policy. As long as the people were loyal, the empire was strong.

But Aurangzeb reversed his system. His religious regulations became painful to Hindus. As a result, the majority population withdrew their court-operation. Their revolt broke out. The Jats, Bundelas, and Satnamis heralded an era of unrest. Aurangzeb’s religious policy weakened the foundation of the empire.

Similarly, his Rajput policy proved disastrous. The strongest supporters of the empire became its worst enemies Rajput war threw the Empire into turmoil, pointing to serious consequences.

Finally, Aurangzeb’s Deccan policy sounded the death-knell of the Mughal Empire. The Maratha War in the Deccan continued till the death of Aurangzeb. His absence from the north for long 26 years was his biggest blunder. The Empire lost men and money endlessly. It also lost its power and prestige. Administration declined in Northern India .provincial rulers felt bold to defy the center. In the long run, the Deccan the saw the death of the Emperor as well as the decline of the Empire. It is said that as the Spanish Uicer killed Napoleon, the Deccan Uicer killed Aurangzeb.

Wars of Succession:

The Mughal Dynasty suffered from a grave internal was the problem of succession. Sons revolted against fathers to capture the throne. Brothers fought the wars of succession.Jahangir, as prince Salim, revolted against his father Akbar. Shah Jahan revolted against Jahangir. Aurangzeb revolted against Shah Jahn. The fratricidal wars among the brothers were of a more serious nature. Shah Jahn killed his brother. Aurangzeb came to the throne by killing his brothers.

After him, the wars of succession came in quick interval. The disease became more serious. For a Mughal Prince, there were only two alternatives, namely, either the throne or the coffin. As they fought rapid wars, the Empire lost its vitality quickly. No Emperor among the later Mughals could rule in peace.

Weak Successors:

The first six Mughal Emperors from Babar to Aurangzeb are described as the great Mughals. The Emperors after Aurangzeb are called the latter Mughals. These later Mughal Emperor are weak and worthless. They could not save the Empire from rapid decline.

Aurangzeb was succeeded by his son Bahadur Shah. He came to the throne after the bloody battle with other brothers. He was too old to rule effectively, and died within five years. The next emperor Jahndar Shah came to the throne by killing his three brothers. He was a worthless man. He ruled at the advice of a dancing girl named Lal Kumari. The contemporary historian Khafi Khan wrote: “In the brief reign of Jahnder, violence had full sway. It was a fine time for minstrels and singers and all the tribes of dancers and actors.” This emperor was killed within a year by his nephew, Farrukhsiyar. Another useless man, Farrukhsiyar became a puppet in hands of two Sayyid Brothers who became the Kingmakers. Within a short time, Farrukhshiyar was blinded and killed pitilessly by the kingmakers. More unworthy men were made Emperors. The story of such tragedies continued. The Mughal Empire broke down because of such successors.

Weakness of the Nobility:

The Mughal nobles of earlier times formed a brave class of royal supporters. They were good fighters and advisers. But degeneration gradually set in . the later Mughal nobility showed the worst vices of court life. They became lazy and luxurious. Wealth and power changed their character for the worst.

Some of them became too selfish. Some dream of independence. Most of them spent time in plots, conspiracies, and court intrigues. The emperors were too weak to control them. Instead, they became puppets in hands of powerful and ambitious nobles.

Worst of all, the nobility got divided into fictions. Grouped as Turanis, Iranis, and Hindustanis, and they quarreled among themselves. A degenerated nobility was largely responsible for the decline of the Empire.

Weakness of the Army:

When rulers and the nobles became unworthy of their position, the Mughal army too became weak and inefficient. Days were gone when the soldiers of Babar could suffer extreme hardship only the Indian soil. The armies of the later Mughals had no vigor, courage or capability for bigger military role. Their generals became lazy and pleasure loving. Though big in size, the Mughals army could not show its strength in the Rajput or the Maratha war even under Aurangzeb. The Inspiration, which was seen among the Jats, Bundelas, Sikhs, Rajputs and Marathas, was not seen among the Mughals. The military weakness became a potential cause of the decline of the Mughals Empire.

Independence of Provincial Rulers:

Under the later Mughals, the bigger subhas, or provinces virtually became independent. Provinces like Oudh and Bengal passed under powerful rulers to paid nominal respect to Delhi. But, in reality, they ruled their provinces like independent kingdoms. The emperors helplessly saw the reduction of their territory to a very small area around Delhi.

5 Battles That Massively Changed The Course Of Indian History

Wars have always been an integral part of human history. The bloodshed the world over has led to the inception of new kingdoms, new religions and individual greats, who not only brought changes in regime, but also paved the way for much-needed change in the socio-political orders of countries. And India’s history is certainly no exception.

Wars have always been associated with the destruction of one and the rise of another and in India, some wars were so crucial that they scripted the fate of the country’s history. If Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Samundragupta, Harshvardhana, Prithviraj Chauhan and Akbar were among the rulers who saved India from outside invasions there were many who weren't up to the task. Porus, despite fighting valiantly and almost defeating Alexander The Great when the latter invaded India in 326 BC, couldn't defend the border from foreign invaders.

Post 1000 AD, India’s vulnerability to tough opponents became evident, which is why most of the wars that followed always brought about changes in regime. Whether it was Chandragupta’s advance against Greek Commander Seleucus Nictor in 305 BC, or Samundra Gupta’s conquest of the south up to Sri Lanka, which got him known as ‘Napoleon of India’, these are rare examples when Indian kings successfully tried to conquer foreign lands.

1. Second Battle of Tarain

This war took place in Tarain in 1192 between Delhi's King Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammed Ghori, the Sultan of Ghor. Ghori had been invading and looting India for three decades when he challenged Prithviraj in the First Battle of Tarain in 1191. The great Rajput king defeated him.

According to text books, humiliated after his defeat, Ghori returned to Afghanistan, but came back in 1192 with a bigger army and challenged Chauhan once again. This time, due to the lack of unity between the Rajput confederation, Chauhan was short on support from other Rajput kings, resulting in a massive defeat for Chauhan, the last Hindu king on the throne of Delhi.

The war established Islam in India, because unlike other Islamic invaders who used to loot India and return to their lands, Ghori stayed put. He established an empire and before returning to Ghor, left Qutub-ul-Din Aibak, the man who laid the foundation of Qutub Minar in Delhi, as his regional governor. Later this event led to the foundation and rise of the Delhi Sultanate.

2. First Battle of Panipat

This war took place between the invader Babur from Fargana, and Delhi’s Sultan Ibrahim Lodhi in 1526. Many books, including Babur's biography, claim Babur was invited to attack India by Lodhi’s brother, Sikander Lodhi, and Mewar's King Rana Sanga, who thought that war with Babur would weaken the Sultan enough to defeat him. But like Ghori, Babur was mesmerized with the riches of the beautiful India, and didn’t leave after defeating the Sultan. Instead, he laid the foundation of the Mughal Empire.

Babur, later in 1527, defeated Rana Sanga in the Battle of Khanwa. But the Mughal rule was cemented in the Second Battle of Panipat in 1556, when his grandson Akbar defeated Hemu, the last hope of Hindu rule over Delhi.

3. Battle of Plassey

This battle established the British as one of the contenders, along with the Marathas, the Jats and many others as successors to the Mughal empire. The war took place on 23 June 1757, between the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daulah and the British. Tensions escalated between the two when the British fortified Fort William in Calcutta without the permission of the Nawab. According to NCERT books, the Nawab was fed up with the continuous interference of the British in his rule, and took this opportunity to vent his anger. He destroyed the fortification.

But soon the British got help of Madras Province. Robert Clive, the British Commander, was scared of being outnumbered by the Nawab's army. Therefore, he bribed Mir Jaffer, one of the commanders of the Nawab’s army, along with many other key commanders. As a result, a majority of the 40,000 soldier army of the Nawab didn’t fight, and surrendered meekly at Plassey. The Nawab lost to an army of just three thousand soldiers.

This war made Britain's dream of ruling India more accessible, and they realised it by defeating all other contenders to the Mughal throne - the Marathas, the Mysore ruler Tipu Sultan, and many others in future.

4. Third Battle of Panipat

This war, between the Marathas and Afghan invader Agmad Shah Abdali, took place on 14th January 1761. The war is considered to be one of the most decisive battles in Indian history because it didn’t decide who would become the successor of the Mughals in India, but who would not. The Marathas, under the leadership of the Peshwa’s brother Sadashiva Rao Bhau, lost their war despite having twice the number of soldiers against Abdali.

According to A Comprehensive History of Medieval India, the major cause of Maratha defeat was the lack of support from other Indian regional kings like the Rajputs, Sikhs, Jats and even the Nawab of Awadh. Panipat was thousands of miles away from their capital in Pune, and it resulted in soldiers dying of hunger. Maratha supply lines were cut by Abdali and his Indian allies. Out of compulsion, Bhau had to fight at Panipat. Initially, the ferocity of the Maratha attack was such that it took the Afghans by surprise, but soon the law of averages caught up and the Afghans dominated and defeated the Marathas.

This defeat opened the gates of India to the British. A few years later, the British waged war against the Maratha empire and completely destroyed it by 1818 in the third Anglo-Maratha war.

5. Battle of Buxar

The battle took place on 22 October, 1764 at Buxar, roughly 130 km west to of Patna, between the British, led by Hector Munro, and the combined forces of Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II, Shuja-ud-Daula, the Nawab of Awadh, and Mir Qasim, the Nawab of Bengal. The Indian side had a massive army of almost 40,000 troops, whereas the British had only 10,000 soldiers in their ranks. But the Indian side lost. Some believe this was due to the increasing rift between Mughal Emperor Shah Alam II and the Nawab of Awadh.

As a result of the defeat, the treaty of Allahabad was signed, and the Mughal Emperor became the prime victim. Apart from being the pensioner of the British, he remained confined in Allahabad, had to give Diwani Rights of revenue collection of the Bengal Province, comprising today’s Bihar, Jharkhand, Odisha, West Bengal and parts of Uttar Pradesh, to the British.

After Buxar, the British never looked back. The victory gave the British great confidence and they became a force to reckon with. Till the 1857 revolt, they defeated all their potential enemies including the Marathas, Tipu Sultan and the Sikhs, resulting in the complete subjugation of the Indian subcontinent under the British rule.

Mughal-Maratha War (1680 to 1707)

Between the deaths of Shivaji and Aurangzeb (1680 to 1707), the Mughals and Marathas constantly met with strife over the territory that each wanted in the name of their religions. Both had large armies of men that would in the 30-year war continue to establish and re-establish dominance in the area. Traditionally, the Narmada river was the dividing line between Deccan, the Marathas’ stronghold, and the North, the Mughals’ (Keay 2000, p. 357). Shivaji left his son Sambhaji in a strong position to continue developing the Empire, which he did. He led the troops to victory time and time again, and was only defeated after one of his men betrayed his position to Aurangzeb. Sambhaji was executed in 1689. His half brother, Rajaram, took up leadership for the next 11 years. He continued the legacy that his father and brother set, but after nearly two decades of fighting, spoke with Aurangzeb about a cease-fire. The vindictive Mughal emperor refused, and the wars continued.

It would appear that even Aurangzeb, in his later years, realised that the war was fruitless, but he maintained his position. With every defeat, the Mughal reputation and authority both took hits. While, to the contrary the Marathas were seen as a guiding light for many people. Upon invading certain areas, for example Hyderabad, they established a ‘protection racket’ against the Mughal armies and revenue collectors (Keay 2000, p.357-9). In this way, Marathas were highly regarded among the citizens for their ability to save them from violence and poverty, while the Mughals were increasingly painted in a villainous image. Despite having given up hope of winning the wars, Aurangzeb prolonged them for many years, then later planned his retreat.

Mughal emperor Aurangzeb hunting, with the army as a background, painted by Bhavanidas (Media Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art).

Aurangzeb died in 1707, an event which completely changed the dynamics of the war because all of his approximate 17 heirs were of age to ascend the throne (Keay 2000, p.359). It is rumored that Aurangzeb requested that his empire be divided among his sons (Sunidhi). But instead, succession wars ensued among Mughal royalty, diverting their attentions from their external threats, whereby the Marathas were able to cross the Narmada river and successfully take a large amount of the Mughal territory. In a similar way to how Aurangzeb took to the throne, Bahadur Shah I defeated his brother on the same battle ground. The new Mughal emperor, Bahadur Shah I, released Shahuji, grandson of Shivaji, from prison, who boldly took the Maratha throne (Keay 2000, p. 363). Shortly thereafter, the Marathas also experienced a succession war as Shivaji’s aunt challenged him on behalf of her son. Bahadur Shah I began attempts to unify the empire contrary to Aurangzeb’s decentralised system. But he was unsuccessful, and revolts from the Rajput and Sikh nobility arose for the proper authority to manage their lands. His death, after a mere five years in power, sparked yet another expensive competition for the throne (Keay 2000, p.364).

How the British Ascended in India 200 Years Ago

The British didn’t come to South Asia and immediately become the predominant power.

British rule in South Asia began in Bengal between 1757 and 1765 as the British East India Company won battles, and was eventually given the legal right to collect revenue from that region by the powerless Mughal government. British power also expanded in South India, especially after their defeat of Tipu Sultan, the ruler of Mysore in 1799.

Yet the British did not become the dominant power in India until the conclusion of the Third Anglo-Maratha War, which took place between 1817 and 1818. It was only after that the settlement of 1818 that British ascendancy in India truly began.

The Hindu Maratha Empire was founded by the warrior Shivaji Bhonsle in 1674 in what is today the state of Maharashtra. Its power grew as bands of Marathas fought the Mughals, whose empire has grown weak after the death of Aurangzeb in 1707, and the Persian invasion of Nader Shah in 1739. The Marathas, moreover, utilized guerrilla tactics that proved to their advantage against large and divided Mughal armies. By the middle of the 18th century, the Marathas had emerged as the most powerful entity in India, and frequently allied with the British against South Indian states such as Hyderabad and Mysore, which were both closer to the French.

Even though the Maratha Empire lost the Third Battle of Panipat to the Afghans in 1761, it still remained the dominant power in India, and occupied Delhi from between 1770 to 1803, officially as the agents of the Mughal Empire, though in reality the converse was closer to the truth. In addition, the Marathas dominated much of the rest of India, including Odisha and the Rajput states.

It was during this time that the Maratha state became more of a confederacy than an empire, as its successful generals carved out new territories for themselves, and established dynasties, such as the Holkars and Sindhias, in addition to the peshwas, the title of the hereditary prime ministers who had become the de facto rulers of the empire during the course of the 18th century. It was these divisions between Maratha chiefs, as well as the competing ambitions of the Marathas and British, the region’s two greatest powers, that made war hard to avoid. Often, during a succession crisis among a Maratha family, one side or the other sought the help of the British, a circumstance the precipitated the First Anglo-Maratha War (1775-1782), which was largely inconclusive. However, the Marathas fared worse in the subsequent Second Anglo-Maratha War of 1803-1805.

Even in 1800, the Maratha Empire controlled most of western, central, and north India, and had a population estimated to be around 168,160,000, including territory it administered on the behalf of the Mughals, the greatest in the world after the Qing Empire of China if it had acted in a strategic and united manner, it could have held its own in the subcontinent. In terms of military technology, it was not as a particular disadvantage, and moreover the British were preoccupied with fighting Napoleon. Nonetheless, the British were in a stronger position because of their ability to better monetize revenue from their now-substantive Indian territories, their perfecting of military drilling, and their ability to use divisions among their enemies to their advantage.

The Second Anglo-Maratha War was in fact “caused by the peshwa Baji Rao II’s defeat by the Holkars (one of the leading Maratha clans) and his acceptance of British protection by the Treaty of Bassein in December 1802.” The refusal of other Maratha rulers, including the Sindhias and the Bhonsles of Nagpur (a secondary branch of the still nominally ruling Maratha royal family descended from Shivaji), to accept British interference lead to war, and Maratha defeat. Delhi and most of north India passed into British hands in 1803, as well as the protectorate of the Mughal family, still nominally the rulers of much of India, a legal fiction that both the Maratha and British maintained.

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In a sense, the final, Third Anglo-Maratha War was a clean-up operation, though until the war had concluded, the British were far from being the subcontinent’s paramount power. Initially, they entered Maratha territory to fight bandits known as pindaris, but ultimately came to fight several Maratha clans, including the peshwas, Bhonsles, and Holkars. The Sindhias, when threatened by war, instead signed a treaty with the British, becoming the princely state of Gwalior.

According to Percival Spear in The Oxford History of Modern India, 1740-1947, at this time, most other central and western Indian states previously tributary to the Marathas made subsidiary treaties with the British, including Bhopal, Jaipur, Udaipur, and Jodhpur. However, the territories ruled by the peshwas in western Maharashtra were annexed and became part of the Bombay Presidency, directly ruled by the British.

The Maratha polity ultimately had too many constituent components jostling for self-preservation for the state to hold together, especially when British protection seemed to provide more stability than the constant clashes of the main Maratha clans, however competent they were in commanding their own particular armies and fiefs. Moreover, many of the non-Maratha states under Maratha influence, such as the Rajput states, “were happy in their relief from Marathas and Pathans.” It remains interesting to speculate what would have become of the Maratha state had its component parts not had to deal with British interference.

As described by Spear, the settlement of 1818 led to the complete dominance of the British throughout India, except for the northwest where the Sikh Empire still thrived, leaving “the principal surviving Indians states… islands in a sea of British territory, or fenced in…” It “restored the unity of India to a degree more effective than had exited under the Mughals [due to the apparatus of a modern state and transportation], the main difference being….[that] as the Mughal power wrecked itself in trying to stretch to Cape Comorin [at the southernmost tip of India], the British power was to strain itself in trying to reach Kabul [formerly a Mughal stronghold].”

Bastar’s Bhumkaal Rebellion and its Forgotten Legacy

The Bastar region of Chhattisgarh only finds occasional mention in the mainstream media, that too, for being a part of India’s dangerous ‘Red Corridor’ of Maoist insurgency. But this tribal resistance to authority is not a recent phenomenon. One of the fiercest tribal revolts against the British Raj was mounted here. Led by a charismatic tribal leader named Gunda Dhur, it was the Bastar Revolt of 1910.

Bastar, in South Chhattisgarh, is covered in thick forests inhabited by the Gond, Dhurwa, Halba, Bhatra and other tribes. The Indravati River, a tributary of the Godavari, made the land cultivable and the region habitable. The tribes maintained little or no contact with the rest of the world they worshipped forest deities and lived off the land. Their lives were unchanged for over a millennium. Politically, rulers came and went but these tribal communities remained unaffected.

In the 14th century, the Kakatiya Dynasty, headquartered in present-day Warangal, established its rule over Bastar. Later, the Kingdom of Bastar paid tribute to the Delhi Sultanate, the Mughals and later the Marathas, who were happy to leave this forest kingdom untouched. But this changed with the coming of the British East India Company and the British Raj in the 19th century. Slowly and steadily, the British made inroads into the lives of the local people and it resulted in a deep, simmering resentment that spread to the remotest villages.

Simmering Discontent

The biggest trigger for resentment was the Indian Forest Act of 1878, which had a direct impact on the tribals, whose livelihood depended on forest produce. This legislation divided forests across India into three categories – reserved, protected and village forests. The richest part of the forest came under direct government control and was designated ‘reserved forest’ land. Suddenly, tribal communities who had lived in symbiotic harmony with the forest, became ‘trespassers’. The ‘protected forest’ areas were partially controlled by the government while the areas categorised as ‘village forest’ were leftover forestlands.

This segregation didn’t go down well peasants and tribals in India. In fact, a previous attempt to control the forests had led to the Santhal Revolt of 1855, in the Jharkhand region. Now, this tribal wrath extended to Bastar. Sadly, the tribals did not understand why they were suddenly allowed to visit their ‘own land’. And there was more to come.

In 1905, the colonial British government wanted to reserve almost two-thirds of the forests and stop shifting cultivation, foraging and hunting by the local people. Also, free labour (begar) was expected from those who wanted to work in reserved forests. Land rents were already a huge bone of contention and now there was brutish police exploitation too.

Then came a terrible famine in 1907-08, the second devastating famine since the one in 1899-1900. Despite these conditions, in 1908, contractors were given access to reserved forests, to take timber and wood for the construction of railway sleepers. The tribals’ main source of livelihood was thus commercialised and they were pushed to destitution. In addition, locally made country liquor, traditionally brewed by tribals, was also declared illegal. This turned Bastar into a simmering cauldron of resentment.

Rise of the Dhurwas & Gunda Dhur

The Dhurwa tribe of the Kanker forest was worst hit because the reservation of forests first took place there. As resentment grew, there was talk of a revolt. Just like chapattis, lotus flowers and gun cartridges were symbols of the 1857 Revolt, mango twigs, a lump of soil, arrows and chillies were circulated among Bastar’s villagers to rally them to the cause. Finally on 2nd February 1910, the Bastar Rebellion, also known as the Bhumkaal Rebellion, broke out under the leadership of Gunda Dhur, a tribal leader from Nethanar village.

At the beginning of the revolt, Gunda Dhur and his followers looted the granaries of Pushpal bazaar village in Bastar and redistributed food to the poor. This was followed by a series of guerrilla attacks on the houses of officials and sahukars in Jagdalpur, the capital of Bastar. The Jagdalpur police station and missionary schools were also attacked.

The rebellion quickly spread to 46 of the 84 parganas (administrative divisions) of the Bastar Kingdom and, for two to three days, the British were wiped out from Bastar. But the tables soon turned. The British sent in additional troops to suppress the rebellion. They also bribed one of the rebel leaders, Sonu Manjhi, who was promised a handsome sum and a position of power if he helped them.

With the help of Sonu Majhi, British troops surrounded the tribal camp and there was no way out. The final show of resistance took place in Alinargaon village, where a large number of tribal fighters were killed. Gunda Dhur escaped under the cover of darkness, never to be seen again.

Despite the charismatic leadership of Gunda Dhur, the rebellion had not been systematically and strategically planned and this became a critical factor for its defeat. Neither did it systematically spread from one region to another nor did the leadership attempt to consolidate control over their areas of influence. Lack of investment, both material and strategic, in arms was another limitation.

Following the revolt, British troops marched into the villages and punished the families of the rebels. As a result, most villages were deserted and people migrated to the jungles to take refuge. It took three to four months for the British to regain control of the region. Despite persistent efforts to track him down, Gunda Dhur was never found. But the Bhumkaal Rebellion of 1910 had its desired effect – the forest area which was to be reserved was reduced to almost half that which had been proposed.

Gunda Dhur has since emerged as an immortal hero of the tribals. Stories about him still circulate in the region and folk songs woven around his bravery are sung in the Kanker forest area, with every child identifying himself as an incarnation of Gunda Dhur! After India’s Independence, the state government recognised and instituted a state-level sports award in his name. Also, during the 2014 Republic Day celebrations, the official state tableau of the Government of Chhattisgarh was themed on the life of Gunda Dhur and his struggle to crush British dominance in the region. It may have taken more than a century, but this brave tribal leader was finally given his due.

Cover Image: Gunda Dhur via

Vishal Singh is a student of Ramjas College, University of Delhi, and a national level quizzer with a penchant for independent research in history.

When the Harmandir Sahib Disappeared from Devotees

The Sri Harmandir Sahib of Amritsar, also called the Golden Temple, is not only the spiritual centre of the Sikhs, it has also witnessed a long series of struggles, the most devastating of which took place in 1762 CE. It was an incident that shook the Sikh community and changed the history of Punjab forever.

The holiest shrine of the Sikhs, the Sri Harmandir Sahib, had been built in 1589 CE by the fifth Sikh Guru Arjan Dev Ji. But, at the end of the period of the ten Sikh Gurus (1469-1708), and after the execution of Sikh Commander Baba Banda Singh Bahadur in 1716 CE, the temple was desecrated many times by the provincial Mughal governors of Lahore, merely to flex their political muscle.

When the Sikhs were competing with the Mughal Governors in Punjab, they had no idea that the worst was still to come – a new rival in the form of the Afghans.

Abdali Desecrates The Harmandir Sahib

After the assassination of Iranian ruler and conqueror Nader Shah in 1747 CE, not only his reign ended but his large empire even began to get disintegrated. Many of his generals established independent kingdoms in the territory he captured. One of these was Ahmad Shah Abdali, also known as Ahmed Shah Durrani, who founded the Durrani Empire in present-day Afghanistan.

Ahmad Shah soon realized that he needed vast resources to run his new kingdom. As a result, he planned to plunder India, whose prosperity he had witnessed while assisting Nader Shah in campaigns in the subcontinent.

The new and ambitious Afghan Emperor raided India many times between 1748 CE and 1767 CE. The country was then ruled by the Mughals, whose power had greatly dwindled. During these raids, Ahmad Shah captured most of the territory west of the Indus. He also sacked and plundered the cities of Lahore, Sirhind, Delhi, Mathura and Vrindavan in North India.

Amid the bloodbath and chaos, Afghan forces kidnapped and enslaved women, including royal Mughal women, as they swept across India, plundering town after town. At this time, most of the Sikhs who were officially prosecuted by the Mughal governors, had no choice but to take asylum in the foothills of the Shivaliks, where they were living to escape the wrath of the Mughals, who had ordered their persecution. But in 1757 CE, on learning of Ahmad Shah’s retreat along with the wealth he had stolen, the Sikhs decided to secure the booty to utilize it for future missions.

The Afghan army was not familiar with the area they were also battle-weary from constant raids and were ill-prepared for another engagement. The Sikhs were able to loot vast quantities of wealth from the Afghan soldiers, first near Ambala city and then in the Majha region. They also freed the people who had been enslaved by the enemy.

Ahmad Shah Abdali was taken aback by the swift and sudden Sikh attack, and also by their might. He was told that their holiest shrine was in Amritsar, and decided to use it as bait. He thought that if he attacked the Sri Harmandir Sahib, Sikh forces would rush to Amritsar to protect it. Once they had converged there, Afghan forces could attack and weaken them.

The canny Afghan ruler sent forces to attack the Sri Harmandir Sahib. The Afghan army destroyed the sanctity of the holy sarovar (the tank of Gurdwara) by filling it with the entrails and blood of slaughtered cows. Not only this, they further aimed to destroy the shrine itself, but before they could, the revered Sikh Baba Deep Singh Ji along with Sikh troops of the Shaheedan Misl (one of the 11 sovereign Sikh states) appeared on the scene fighting the Afghan forces to protect the shrine.

It was a small Sikh contingent but they fought vigorously and valiantly, and put up a tough fight. Although Baba Deep Singh was killed in the battle, the Sikhs managed to drive away the Afghans. Abdali went back to Afghanistan, leaving behind a considerable force at Lahore.

Next, former Mughal Governor Adina Beg aligned with the Sikhs. He also took the help of Maratha forces stationed in the region under General Raghunath Rao. In March 1758 CE, after a prolonged siege, the united Maratha-Sikh army captured Sirhind from the Afghans and plundered the town.

Their next target was Lahore, which was attacked by the united army under Maratha chief Dattaji Rao Scindia and the chief of the Sukerchakia Misl, Charat Singh, grandfather of the Maharaja of Punjab Ranjit Singh. By April 1758 CE, the Lahore fort fell to the united Sikh-Maratha front.

The Historic Blunder of Raghunath Rao

Raghunath Rao didn’t want to stop in Punjab he wanted to secure the frontier of India further north-west. So he led his forces till present-day Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (now in Pakistan), to win it from the Afghans who themselves had got it from the local powers in the area. Here, he took a drastic step that many consider a historic blunder, a landmark in both Maratha and Sikh history.

Rao appointed Adina Beg, who had earlier served the Mughals, as Governor of Punjab, ignoring Sikh leader Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, owing to prior commitments and also because he knew that Sikhs if given power to govern, they would exert their complete authority over the region independent of the allegiance to the Marathas. Moreover, Adina Beg had much more experience in administrative matters.

Naturally, the Sikhs were furious. They considered Punjab their homeland and were still hurting from constant persecution by the Mughals. They couldn’t accept being ruled by a Mughal governor, yet again.

After the Marathas left Punjab, Adina Beg knew the Sikhs were plotting to overthrow him. So, to stamp his authority in the region, he arrested and killed several Sikhs. He even attacked Ram Rauni, the fortress of the Ramgarhia Sikhs in Amritsar. Here too many Sikhs lost their lives. Not long after, though, Adina Beg took ill and died in September 1758 CE, and a Maratha, Sabaji Bhonsle, succeeded him as the new Governor.

But most of the big Maratha names, like Raghunath Rao and Dattaji Rao Scindia had either left North India or died in battle. This allowed the Sikhs to continue their guerilla warfare against the Maratha provincial governors.

Third Battle of Panipat

During his fifth invasion of the Indian subcontinent in 1760 CE, Ahmad Shah Abdali returned with a stronger army than before. At this point, Punjab was in Maratha control. But, after Raghunath Rao’s retreat, there wasn’t any capable leader of his stature to provide central leadership in the North-West, to stop the Afghans. Although the Marathas tried to negotiate with the Sikhs, the latter did not come forward to help for their recent experiences.

Thus, Ahmad Shah Abdali easily won back all his lost territory. He effortlessly passed through Punjab, and went straight to Panipat, where he was stopped by the Maratha army of the Peshwa’s Dewan, Sadashivrao Bhau. The standoff lasted months. Sadashivrao sought the help of the Rajputs, Jats and Sikhs but they turned him down as he refused to accede to their demands.

Despite the reluctance of most Sikhs, the chief of the Phulkian Misl, Sardar Ala Singh (who later founded the princely state of Patiala), supplied foodgrains and logistical support to Maratha camps, in exchange for money. But he couldn’t keep it up for long and, without food and water, the Marathas ended the siege. This resulted in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 CE, in which the Marathas were defeated.

However, after the battle, Ahmad Shah Abdali was no longer interested in prolonged sieges and battles in India. He had already amassed a considerable treasure and decided to restrict himself to the western boundary of the Sutlej River in Punjab.

Sikh Challenge to Afghans

During the Third Battle of Panipat, along with soldiers, many women and children had also been killed and others enslaved by the Afghans, to be taken to Kabul. But the Dal Khalsa, the common assembly of Sikhs, organized a Sarbat Khalsa or a meeting of Sikhs in Amritsar, to thwart these plans.

The Afghan troops were by now exhausted and a much-weakened force due to the enormous losses sustained in various battles. So the Sikhs, under the leadership of Dal Khalsa chief Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, attacked them and were able to rescue their captives. This not only helped them to counter the retreating Afghans but earned the goodwill of the people.

Ahmad Shah Abdali was preoccupied with a rebellion back home and in the same year, 1761, the Sikhs not only defeated the remaining Afghan forces in the battles of Gujranwala and Sialkot but even captured the city of Lahore and pronounced Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia as Sultan-ul-Qaum (King of the Nation).

Afghans Take Revenge

In early 1762 CE, Afghan forces under Ahmad Shah Abdali returned to India with the sole intention of halting the growth of Sikh power. Abdali, to retain his kingdom in Punjab, was determined to defeat the Sikhs and he called for reinforcements. His army launched an assault on Sikh soldiers stationed in Kup Kalan village (in present-day Sangrur District in Punjab) on 5th February 1762 CE. When the soldiers get to know about this attack they decided to encircle all the non-combat Sikhs which included women, children and elderly people, believed to be around 40,000 to protect them.

The day ended with one of the worst defeats for the Sikhs, with the massacre of 10,000-20,000 both soldiers and non-combats. Even if these numbers are exaggerated, it is certain that it was a bloodbath, an incident known as Vadda Ghallughara (‘Larger Holocaust’ in Punjabi), in Sikh history. Given that the Sikh population was not very large at the time, the casualties were very alarming for the community.

But Ahmad Shah Abdali didn’t stop there. On 10th April 1762 he returned to the Sri Harmandir Sahib, which he had desecrated in 1757 CE, with a much more vengeful plan. This time, he not only damaged the temple, he filled the entire complex with gunpowder and then blew it up. Symbolically, he had spiritually ‘destroyed’ Sikhism itself.

Towards Sikh Rule

Although the Ghallughara massacre and demolition of the Sri Harmandir Sahib massive setbacks for Sikhs, but they were ready to rise once again. A month later, in May 1762, the remaining Sikh army defeated an Afghan contingent in the Battle of Harnaulgarh near Sirhind. Although the battle wasn’t a major one, but the victory helped Sikhs to keep their morale that they can still overcome.

After few months, on the occasion of Diwali, Sikhs under the leadership of Jassa Singh Ahluwalia gathered at the site, where their holiest shrine stood and was now empty. How heartbreaking it would be for the community but celebrating Diwali meant not only to morally encourage the community but also was a power statement that Sikh hasn’t given up even yet.

In just a few months, many Sikhs joined to be a part of the volunteer force of Sikhs which would rout the Afghans permanently from their homeland. The Sikhs defeated an Afghan army in the Battle of Sialkot, in 1763 CE. Even Baba Ala Singh of Patiala joined the war with his Sikh counterparts, promising military support to them to prove this support.

In 1764 CE, a well-equipped force of 40,000 Sikhs attacked Sirhind and won the battle by killing Zain-ud-din Khan, a former Mughal General who had been appointed Governor of Sirhind by Ahmad Shah Abdali. They butchered other leading Afghan officers, and the Nishan Sahib, the holy flag of the Sikhs, was hoisted in the region between Sutlej and the Yamuna, an area divided among the Sikh Misls. The Sikhs vowed never to allow another invader to step onto the soil of Punjab. Ahmad Shah Abdali never returned.

In April 1765 – some claim it was in October 1764 while others claim it was in November 1763 – the Sikhs gathered in Amritsar and the Jathedar of the Dal Khalsa, Baba Jassa Singh Ahluwalia, laid the foundation stone of the new Sri Harmandir Sahib, which was to be built according to a replica of the original structure, on the same land.

A main gateway to the sanctum, called the Darshani Deorhi, a parikrama or causeway, and the sanctum was completed in 1776 CE, while the path around the sarovar was completed in 1784 CE.

The desecration and later the demolition of the Sri Harmandir Sahib were brutal and deeply painful chapters in the history of the Sikhs but the resilience of the community and their unwavering determination to rise again, even stronger than before, are inspiring lessons for future generations.

Aashish Kochhar is a history enthusiast from Amritsar who studies at Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.

India Timeline

India has a rich historical legacy. This mystical country has seen the earliest civilizations and has preserved evidence of the same till today. Many cultures came and left behind their impact on Indian history. India was invaded many times by foreign rulers and has preserved their cultural heritage too. One finds a cultural and historical mish mash of various ethnicities and religions in India co-existing very harmoniously and beautifully. This timeline of Indian history tries to capture the vast history of India in a few pages. So check out the ancient India time line.

3000 BC: Beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization
2500 BC: Establishment of the cities of Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro in the Indus Valley
2000 BC: Decline of the Indus Valley Civilization
1600 BC: India is invaded by the Aryans from the west who drive away the Dravidians
1100 BC: With the discovery of iron, Indo-Aryans start using iron tools
1000 BC: One of the earliest Holy Scripture, Rig-Veda is composed
750 BC: Indo-Aryans rule over 16 Mahajanapadas (16 Great States) in northern India, from the Indus to the Ganges
700 BC: Beginning of the caste system, with the Brahmans taking the highest class
600 BC: The Upanishads are composed in Sanskrit
543 BC: Bimbisara of Bihar conquers the Magadha region in the northeast
527 BC: Prince Siddhartha Gautama attains enlightenment and becomes the Buddha
500 BC: The ascetic prince Mahavira establishes Jainism in northern India
493 BC: Bimbisara dies and is succeeded by Ajatashatru
461 BC: Ajatashatru expands the Magadha territory and dies shortly afterwards
327 BC: Alexander the Great of Macedonia invades the Indus valley, fights the famous battle with Porus
304 BC: Magadha king Chandragupta Maurya buys the Indus valley and establishes the Maurya dynasty with Pataliputra as the capital
300 BC: Ramayana, a famous epic is composed
300 BC: Chola dynasty establishes his kingdom over southern India with capital in Thanjavur
290 BC: Chandragupta's son Bindusara, extends the empire to the Deccan region
259 BC: Mauryan emperor Ashoka converts to Buddhism and sends out Buddhist missionaries to nearby regions
220 BC: Maurya dynasty expands to almost all of India
200 BC: Mahabharata, another famous epic is composed
200 BC: Andhras occupy the east coast of India
184 BC: Maurya dynasty ends and marks the beginning of Sunga dynasty
150 BC: Patanjali writes the "Yoga Sutras"
100 BC: Bhagavata Gita is composed
78 BC: End of Sunga dynasty
50 AD: Thomas, an apostle of Jesus, visits India
50 AD: The first Buddhist stupa is constructed at Sanchi
200 AD: The Manu code puts down the rules of everyday life and divides Hindus into four major castes (Brahmins, warriors, farmers/traders, non-Aryans)
300 AD: The Pallava dynasty is established in Kanchi
350 AD: The Sangam is compiled in the Tamil language in the kingdom of Madurai and the Puranas are composed
380 AD: Two giant Buddha statues are carved Buddhist monks in the rock at Afghanistan
390 AD: Chandra Gupta II extends the Gupta kingdom to Gujarat
450 AD: Kumaragupta builds the monastic university of Nalanda
499 AD: Hindu mathematician Aryabhatta writes the "Aryabhattiyam", the first book on Algebra
500 AD: Beginning of Bhakti cult in Tamil Nadu
528 AD: Gupta Empire sees a downfall due to continuous barbaric invasions
550 AD: Chalukyan kingdom is established in central India with capital in Badami
600 AD: Pallava dynasty governs southern India from Kanchi
606 AD: Harsha Vardhana, a Buddhist king builds the kingdom of Thanesar in north India and Nepal with capital at Kannauj in the Punjab
625 AD: Pulikesin extends the Chalukyan Empire in central India
647 AD: King Harsha Vardhana is defeated by the Chalukyas at Malwa
650 AD: Pallavas of Kanchipuram are defeated by the Chalukyas
670 AD: Pallavas establish themselves at a new city at Mamallapuram
750 AD: Gurjara - Pratiharas rule the north of India and the Palas establish themselves in eastern India
753 AD: Rashtrakutas, a Chalukya dynasty, expands from the Deccan into south and central India
775 AD: Chalukyas defeat the Rashtrakutas and move the capital at Kalyani
800 AD: Many kingdoms are created in central India and in Rajastan by Rajputs
846 AD: Cholas get back their independence from the Pallavas
885 AD: Pratihara Empire reaches its peak and extends its empire from Punjab to Gujarat to Central India
888 AD: End of the Pallava dynasty
985 AD: Rajaraja Chola extends the Chola Empire to all of south India and constructs the temple of Thanjavur
997 AD: Mahmud of Ghazni raids northern India
998 AD: Mahmud of Ghazni conquers the area of Punjab
1000 AD: Chola king Rajaraja builds the Brihadeshvara Temple in Thanjavur
1019 AD: Mahmud Ghazni attacks north India and destroys Kannauj, which is the capital of the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire
1050 AD: Chola Empire conquers Srivijaya, Malaya and the Maldives
1084 AD: Mahipala raises the Palas to the peak of their power
1190 AD: Chalukya Empire is split among Hoysalas, Yadavas and Kakatiyas

1192 AD: Mohammad of Ghori defeats Prithvi Raj, captures Delhi and establishes a Muslim sultanate at Delhi
1206 AD: The Ghurid prince Qutub-ud-din Aibak becomes the first sultan of Delhi
1250 AD: Chola dynasty comes to an end
1290 AD: Jalal ud-Din Firuz establishes the Khilji sultanate at Delhi
1325 AD: The Turks invade and Muhammad bin Tughlaq becomes sultan of Delhi
1343 AD: The southern kingdom builds its capital at Vijayanagar (Hampi)
1345 AD: Muslim nobles revolt against Muhammad bin Tughlaq and declare their independence from the Delhi sultanate. The Bahmani kingdom is established in the Deccan.
1370 AD: Vijayanagar kingdom takes over the Muslim sultanate of Madura in Tamil Nadu
1490 AD: Guru Nanak Dev Ji establishes Sikhism and the city of Amritsar
1497 AD: Babur, a ruler of Afghan, becomes the ruler of Ferghana and establishes the Mughal dynasty in India
1530 AD: Babur dies and his son Humayun succeeds as the next Mughal emperor
1540 AD: Babur's son Humayun loses the empire to Afghan Leader Sher Shah and goes into exile in Persia
1555 AD: Mughal king Humayun comes to fight Sher Shah and regains India
1556 AD: Humayun dies and his son Akbar becomes one of the greatest rulers of India
1605 AD: Akbar dies and is succeeded by his son Jahangir
1611 AD: East India Company is established in India by the British
1617 AD: Jahangir's son, Prince Khurram receives the title of Shah Jahan
1627 AD: Shivaji establishes the Maratha kingdom
1631 AD: Shah Jahan succeeds Jahangir and builds the world famous Taj Mahal
1658 AD: Shah Jahan's son Aurangzeb seizes power
1707 AD: Aurangzeb dies, destabilizing the Mughal Empire

1751 AD: Britain becomes the leading colonial power in India
1757 AD: British defeat Siraj-ud-daulah at the Battle of Plassey
1761 AD: Marathas rule over most of northern India
1764 AD: Britain expands to Bengal and Bihar
1769 AD: A famine kills ten million people in Bengal and the East India Company does nothing to help them
1773 AD: Warren Hastings, governor of Bengal establishes a monopoly on the sale of opium. Regulating Act passed by the British.
1793 AD: Permanent Settlement of Bengal
1799 AD: British defeat Tipu Sultan
1829 AD: Prohibition of Sati by law
1831 AD: Administration of Mysore is taken over by East India Company
1848 AD: Lord Dalhousie becomes the Governor-General of India
1853 AD: Railway, postal services & telegraph line introduced in India
1857 AD: First War of Indian Independence also known as Revolt of 1857 or Sepoy Mutiny
1858 AD: British Crown officially takes over the Indian Government
1877 AD: Queen of England is proclaimed as the Empress of India
1885 AD: First meeting of the Indian National Congress
1899 AD: Lord Curzon becomes Governor-General and Viceroy of India
1905 AD: The First Partition of Bengal takes place
1906 AD: Muslim League is formed
1912 AD: The Imperial capital shifted to Delhi from Calcutta
1919 AD: The cruel Jallianwalla Bagh massacre takes place due to protests against the Rowlatt Act
1920 AD: Non-cooperation Movement launched
1922 AD: Chauri-Chaura violence takes place due to Civil Disobedience Movement
1928 AD: Simon Commission comes to India and is boycotted by all parties
1930 AD: Salt Satyagraha is launched as an agitation against salt tax. First Round Table Conference takes place
1931 AD: Second Round Table Conference takes place and Irwin-Gandhi Pact is signed
1934 AD: Civil Disobedience Movement is called off
1942 AD: Cripps Mission is formed Quit India Movement is launched Indian National Army is formed.
3rd June 1947 AD: Lord Mountbatten's plan for partition of India comes into light
15th August 1947 AD: Partition of India and Independence from the British rule

The early Congress movement

The first Congress Party session, convened in Bombay city on December 28, 1885, was attended by 73 representatives, as well as 10 more unofficial delegates virtually every province of British India was represented. Fifty-four of the delegates were Hindu, only two were Muslim, and the remainder were mostly Parsi and Jain. Practically all the Hindu delegates were Brahmans. All of them spoke English. More than half were lawyers, and the remainder consisted of journalists, businessmen, landowners, and professors. Such was the first gathering of the new India, an emerging elite of middle-class intellectuals devoted to peaceful political action and protest on behalf of their nation in the making. On its last day, the Congress passed resolutions, embodying the political and economic demands of its members, that served thereafter as public petitions to government for the redress of grievances. Among those initial resolutions were calls for the addition of elected nonofficial representatives to the supreme and provincial legislative councils and for real equality of opportunity for Indians to enter the ICS by the immediate introduction of simultaneous examinations in India and Britain.

Economic demands by the Congress Party started with a call for the reduction of “home charges”—that part of Indian revenue that went toward the entire India Office budget and the pensions of officials living in Britain in retirement. Dadabhai Naoroji (1825–1917), the “grand old man” of the Congress who served three times as its president, was the leading exponent of the popular economic “drain” argument, which offered theoretical support to nationalist politics by insisting that India’s poverty was the product of British exploitation and the annual plunder of gold, silver, and raw materials. Other resolutions called for the reduction of military expenditure, condemned the Third Anglo-Burmese War, demanded retrenchment of administrative expenses, and urged reimposition of import duties on British manufactures.

Hume, who is credited with organizing the Congress Party, attended the first session of the Congress as the only British delegate. Sir William Wedderburn (1838–1918), Gokhale’s closest British adviser and himself later elected twice to serve as president of the Congress, and William Wordsworth, principal of Elphinstone College, both appeared as observers. Most Britons in India, however, either ignored the Congress Party and its resolutions as the action and demands of a “microscopic minority” of India’s diverse millions or considered them the rantings of disloyal extremists. Despite the combination of official disdain and hostility, the Congress quickly won substantial Indian support and within two years had grown to number more than 600 delegates. In 1888, when Viceroy Dufferin on the eve of his departure from India dismissed the Congress Party as “microscopic,” it mustered 1,248 delegates at its annual meeting. Still, British officials continued to dismiss the significance of the Congress, and more than a decade later Viceroy Curzon claimed, perhaps wishfully, that it was “tottering to its fall.” Curzon, however, inadvertently helped to infuse the Congress with unprecedented popularity and militant vitality by his own arrogance and by failing to appreciate the importance of human sympathy in his relentless drive toward greater efficiency.

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