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History of India

aspect of history
India was the motherland of our race, and Sanskrit the mother of Europe's languages: she was the mother of our philosophy; mother, through the Arabs, of much of our mathematics; mother, through the Buddha, of the ideals embodied in Christianity; mother, through the village community, of self-government and democracy. Mother India , in many ways, the mother of us all. - Will Durant .

The history of India begins with evidence of human activity of Anatomically modern humans, as long as 75,000 years ago, or with earlier hominids including Homo erectus from about 500,000 years ago.




  • In his diary, Hsuan Tsang has recorded that India was divided into five divisions or to use his language, there were ‘five Indies': (1) Northern India, (2) Western India, (3) Central India, (4) Eastern India and (5) Southern India and that these five divisions contained 80 kingdoms.... It is true that when Hsuan Tsang came, not only the Punjab but what is now Afghanistan was part of India and further, the people of the Punjab and Afghanistan were either Vedic or Buddhist by religion.


  • The age in which true history appeared in India was one of great intellectual and spiritual ferment. Mystics and sophists of all kinds roamed through the Ganga Valley, all advocating some form of mental discipline and asceticism as a means to salvation; but the age of the Buddha, when many of the best minds were abandoning their homes and professions for a life of asceticism, was also a time of advance in commerce and politics. It produced not only philosophers and ascetics, but also merchant princes and men of action.


  • Nothing should more deeply shame the modern student than the recency and inadequacy of his acquaintance with India. Here is... an impressive continuity of development and civilization from Mohenjo-daro, 2900 B.C. or earlier, to Gandhi, Raman and Tagore; faiths compassing every stage from barbarous idolatry to the most subtle and spiritual pantheism; philosophers playing a thousand variations on one monistic theme from the Upanishads eight centuries before Christ to Shankara eight centuries after him; scientists developing astronomy three thousand years ago, and winning Nobel prizes in our own time; a democratic constitution of untraceable antiquity in the villages, and wise and beneficent rulers like Ashoka and Akbar in the capitals; minstrels singing great epics almost as old as Homer, and poets holding world audiences today; artists raising gigantic temples for Hindu gods from Tibet to Ceylon and from Cambodia to Java, or carving perfect palaces by the score for Mogul kings and queens—this is the India that patient scholarship is now opening up, like a new intellectual continent, to that Western mind which only yesterday thought civilization an exclusively European thing.”


  • In the present context, the link between history-writing and actual politics is extra-ordinarily strong. Witness the crucial role of the Aryan invasions theory in the secularist and casteist/Ambedkarist ideologies, as earlier in the missionary and colonial ideologies. In fact, I can not think of any situation in world history where history-writing was so intertwined with both long- term political philosophy and short-term political equations. This is partly because an unusually large chunk of India's history is fundamentally under debate, either because it has not yet been mapped (so many unknowns may be decided on overnight once the Indus script is conclusively deciphered), or because it has been questioned for ideological reasons even while well-established (like the denial of Islam's utterly destructive role). Nowhere else can so much be read into history according to one's ideological compulsions, because nowhere else is so much history so undecided and disputed.
    • Elst, Koenraad (1991). Ayodhya and after: Issues before Hindu society.


  • The effort to read the problem of India in the set terms of Marxism is rather an exercise in ingenuity than a serious intellectual contribution to socialist advance.
    • Harold Laski, Communism (London, 1927), p.194. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 3


  • Indians of old were keenly alive to the expansion of dominions, acquisition of wealth, and the development of trade, industry and commerce. The material prosperity they gained in these various ways was reflected in the luxury and elegance that characterized the society... The adventurous spirit of the Indians carried them even as far as the North Sea, while their caravans traveled from one end of Asia to the other.
  • Indian society has no history at all, at least no known history. What we call its history, is but the history of the successive intruders who founded their empires on the passive basis of that unresisting and unchanging society. The question, therefore, is not whether the English had a right to conquer India, but whether we are to prefer India conquered by the Turk, by the Persian, by the Russian, to India conquered by the Briton.” England had to fulfill a double mission in India: One destructive, and the other regenerating - the annihilation of old Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia. Arabs, Turks, Tartars, Moguls, who had successively overrun India, soon became Hinduised, the barbarian conquerors being, by an eternal law of history, themselves conquered by the superior civilization of their subjects. According to him the British were the first conquerors who were superior, and therefore inaccessible to Hindu civilization. They destroyed it by breaking up the native communities, by uprooting the native industry, and by levelling all that was great and elevated in the native society. The historic pages of their rule in India, report hardly anything beyond that destruction. “The work of regeneration hardly transpires through a heap of ruins. Nevertheless, it has begun.
    • Karl Marx, “The Future Results of British Rule in India”, vide The Newyork Daily Tribune, 22 July 1853, cited by D.P. Singhal in his Presidential Address to the Indian History and Culture Society, 1981, Proceedings, P.155. Quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 3


  • Generally speaking, the men who hitherto have written on the affairs of India, were a set of liars.
    • Strabo, The Geography of Strabo : Volume I


  • “Those who expect from a people like the Hindus a species of composition of precisely the same character as the historical works of Greece and Rome commit the very gregarious error of overlooking the peculiarities which distinguish the natives of India from all other races, and which strongly discriminate their intellectual productions of every kind from those of the West. Their philosophy, their poetry, their architecture, are marked with traits of originality; and the same may be expected to pervade their history, which, like the arts enumerated, took a character from its intimate association with the religion of the people. It must be recollected, moreover,… that the chronicles of all the polished nations of Europe, were, at a much more recent date, as crude, as wild, and as barren, as those of the early Rajputs.” ... “My own animadversions upon the defective condition of the annals of Rajwarra have more than once been checked by a very just remark: ‘When our princes were in exile, driven from hold to hold, and compelled to dwell in the clefts of the mountains, often doubtful whether they would not be forced to abandon the very meal preparing for them, was that a time to think of historical records?’ ”... “If we consider the political changes and convulsions which have happened in Hindustan since Mahmood’s invasion, and the intolerant bigotry of many of his successors, we shall be able to account for the paucity of its national works on history, without being driven to the improbable conclusion, that the Hindus were ignorant of an art which has been cultivated in other countries from almost the earliest ages. Is it to be imagined that a nation so highly civilized as the Hindus, amongst whom the exact sciences flourished in perfection, by whom the fine arts, architecture, sculpture, poetry, music, were not only cultivated, but taught and defined by the nicest and most elaborate rules, were totally unacquainted with the simple art of recording the events of their history, the character of their princes and the acts of their reigns?” [The fact appears to be that] “After eight centuries of galling subjection to conquerors totally ignorant of the classical language of the Hindus; after every capital city had been repeatedly stormed and sacked by barbarous, bigoted, and exasperated foes; it is too much to expect that the literature of the country should not have sustained, in common with other interests, irretrievable losses.”
    • James Tod, Annals and Antiquities of Rajasthan, Routledge and Kegan Paul (London,l829,1957), 2 vols., I quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 3

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