The History and Culture of the Indian People

The History and Culture of the Indian People is a series of eleven volumes on the history of India, from prehistoric times to the establishment of the modern state in 1947. Historian Ramesh Chandra Majumdar was the general editor of the series, as well as a major contributor. The entire work took 26 years to complete. The set was published in India by the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai.



The Vedic Age

Volume 1: The Vedic Age [Prehistory to 600 B.C.]
  • The history of India is not the story of how she underwent foreign invasions, but how she resisted them and eventually triumphed over them.... To be a history in the true sense...the work must be the story of the people inhabiting a country. It must be a record of their life from age to age presented through the life and achievements of men whose exploits become the beacon lights of tradition...the central purpose of a history to investigate and unfold the values which age after age have inspired the inhabitants of a country to develop their collective will...such a history of India is still to be written. ... I had long felt the inadequacy of our so called Indian histories...for many years, I was planning an elaborate history of India in order... that the world might catch a glimpse of her soul as Indians see it.
    • The History and Culture of the Indian People: Volume 1, The Vedic Age: Foreword, K M Munshi, quoted in in: S. Balakrishna, Seventy years of secularism. 2018.
  • “On the whole ... the language of the first nine Mandalas must be regarded as homogeneous, inspite of traces of previous dialectal differences... With the tenth Mandala it is a different story. The language here has definitely changed.”
    • B.K. Ghosh in The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. I: The Vedic Age edited by R.C. Majumdar, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Publications, Mumbai, 6th edition 1996. Quoted in Talageri, S. (2000). The Rigveda: A historical analysis. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • Max Müller, Weber, Muir, and others held that the Punjab was the main scene of the activity of the Rgveda, whereas the more recent view put forth by Hopkins and Keith is that it was composed in the country round the SarasvatI river south of modem AmbAla.”
    • The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. I: The Vedic Age edited by R.C. Majumdar, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Publications, Mumbai, 6th edition 1996.
  • That age [of the Rigveda] is not known with even an approximate degree of certainty.
    • A.D. Pusalker , The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. I: The Vedic Age edited by R.C. Majumdar, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Publications, Mumbai, 6th edition 1996. quoted in S. Talageri, The Aryan Invasion Theory and Indian Nationalism (1993)
  • "The Bharatas, who gave their name to the whole country, are the most important of the Rigvedic tribes."
  • "The Bharatas appear prominently in the Rigveda in relationship with Sudas and the Tritsus, and are enemies of the Purus. "
    • Quoted from 'The history and culture of Indian people' Vol-1, page-249

The Age of Imperial Unity


The Classical Age

Volume 3: The Classical Age [320-750 A.D.]
  • In the seventh century A.D., these two kingdoms formed parts of India both politically and culturally, being Indian in language, literature and religion and ruled over by kings who bore Indian names.
    • On kingdom of Zabul (Jabala) in Afghanistan.
    • Majumdar, RC . The Classical Age. quoted in Misra, R. G. (2005). Indian resistance to early Muslim invaders up to 1206 A.D. p.32
  • When we remember their wonderful military success in other parts of the world, the comparatively insignificant results the Arabs achieved in India certainly stand out in marked contrast. The cause of this, however, does not lie in the religious and social peculiarities of India as old historians like Elphinstone vainly attempted to establish. The cause lies undoubtedly in the superior military strength and state-organisation of the Indians as compared with most other nations of the time. However incredible this might appear in the light of subsequent events, this is the plain verdict of history. page 175
  • This area was of course quite large, but the point to be noted is that unlike every other religion, whose history is known to us, the field of early missionary enterprise of Islam was almost co- extensive with its political domains, acquired by military force. It is not the gunboats that followed the missionary, but the missionaries that followed the gunboats. (456)
  • It is therefore highly probable that Muslim traders, who frequented the coastal regions, near the important ports, lived there for long or short periods, and some of them might even have settled there on more or less permanent basis. But there is no reliable evidence to show, as has been maintained by some, that they settled in Malabar coast in large numbers in the seventh century A.D. Such a theory is mainly based on the traditions current among the Moplahs, Navayats, and Labbes of South India, but these are on a par with similar traditions current among Christians in the same region which have been rejected by almost all students of history. ... These are all very late traditions and cannot, in any case, be regarded as evidence for large Muslim settlements in Malabar in the seventh century, as contended by some Francis Day, who has recorded some of these traditions current in Malabar and studied the history of the Moplahs, is of opinion that the ‘“Muhammadans obtained no great footing until the ninth century A.D.” (456-7)

The Age of Imperial Kanauj

  • The story of the successful resistance of the tiny states of Kabul and Zabul against the Arabs has not obtained its due place in the history of India. It is worthy of note, however, that they defied the conquerors of the world and ultimately succumbed, not to the political power of the Caliphate, but to the local principalities that arose on its ruins.
  • The older generations of historians like Elphinstone felt surprised at the slow progress of the Islamic conquest of India, and sought to explain it by various hypotheses which have no foundation in fact. The real matter for surprise, however, is that the vestige of Arab authority continued in Sindh for three hundred years. Even according to the testimony of the Muslims, the Pratiharas could have easily conquered Multan that guarded the flank of every possible route which a future Muslim conqueror from the outside would have to follow. That they were deterred from doing this by the fear that the holy images at Multan might be broken by the Muslim ruler of the place, only shows a lack of foresight and states- manship and a deplorable want of rationality on the part of the Hindu leaders. If they had possessed even a general knowledge of the political condition of the lands immediately outside the borders of India on the west, they would have made serious efforts to defend India against the almost inevitable danger of Muslim invasion. The first steps in this direction should have been to drive away the Muslims from the petty principalities which they still held in Sindh and to establish a strong garrison in Multan and other strategic places in the Punjab. The Shahis and the Pratiharas were both powerful ruling dynasties who could have easily accomplished this task. But they did not do so. Either they were ignorant of the new political situation created by the rise of strong Muslim states on the frontiers of India, and of the consequent dangers threatening their country, or they were too parochially minded to take a broad view of the interests of India as a whole. This, however, can hardly apply to the Shahis, who were too near the danger to ignore it and whose own interest, in this case, coincided with that of India. The united stand made at a later date by the Indian chiefs on the invitation of the Shahi rulers proves that a real sense of patriotism was not al- together absent in them. We can, therefore, only conclude that the lack of knowledge of the outside world, or failure to grasp the real significance of contemporary events, was the principal cause of the indifference of the Hindu chiefs to the great danger that was destined to overwhelm them at no distant date.
  • The danger was brought home to the. Shahi rulers by the foundation of the state of Ghazni in the last quarter of the tenth century A.D. Ere long the inevitable conflict broke out and the Shahi rulers were worsted in the fight. Then the horrors of Muslim invasions, inspired by greed and animated by fanatic religious zeal and iconoclastic fury, were let loose on the fair temples and cities of India. She paid dearly for her remissness in the past, but some- how escaped the great doom which had overtaken Persia, Egypt and other countries.

The Struggle for Empire

Volume 5: The Struggle for Empire [1000-1300 A.D.]
  • This period, in my opinion, has not yet been studied from India’s point of view; from the point of view of the trials she passed through; of the sufferings she underwent when foreign elements forced their way into her life-blood; of the manner in which she reacted to the situation; of the means which she found to meet, or to mitigate, the dangers that confronted her; of the ways in which she reconstructed, achieved and fulfilled herself.
  • On Sabuktigin’s death, his son Mahmud, with swift audacity, captured Ghazni, which his father had left to another son. He was a military leader of the highest order, gifted with a rare personality. Developing a marvellous striking power, by A.D. 1000, he extended his sway over considerable parts of Central Asia, Iran and Seistan. Then he turned to India, giving her people a foretaste of total war with which they had not been familiar since the days of the Hunas.
  • The Indian kings, all of whom accepted, at any rate in theory, the law of the Dharmastras as inalienable, waged wars according to certain humane rules. 'Whatever the provocation, the shrine, the Brahmata and the cow were sacrosanct to them. War being a special privilege of the martial classes, harassment of the civilian population during military operations was considered a serious lapse from the code of honour. The high regard which all the Kshatriyas had for the chastity of women, also ruled out abduction as an incident of war.
  • The wars in Central Asia, on the other hand, were grim struggles for survival, for the destruction of the enemies and for appropriating their womenfolk. No code circumscribed the destructive zeal of the conqueror; no canon restrained the ruthlessness of their hordes. When, therefore, Mahmud’s armies swept over North India it saw torrents of barbarians sweeping across its rich plains, burning, looting, indulging in indiscriminate massacre; raping women, destroying fair cities, burning down magnificent shrines enriched by centuries of faith; enforcing an alien religion at the point of sword; abducting thousands, forcing them into unwilling marriage or concubinage; capturing hundreds of thousands of men, women and children, to be sold as slaves in the markets of Ghazni and other Central Asian markets.
  • Delhi, Kanauj, Jejakabhukti sent men and money to help the Shahi kings to defend their frontiers. But the invader swept every- thing before him. All that the three generations of the Shahis, ‘men of noble sentiments and noble bearings’, who, according to Al- Biruni, ‘in their grandeur never slackened in the ardent desire of doing that which is good and rich’, could do was, like heroes of frustrated destiny that they were, fight and die bravely.
  • Mahmud annexed the Punjab, thereby opening the way to the hungry men from the steppes of Central Asia to descend upon this rich and fertile land in search of plunder. Nothing would with- stand the Central Asian raiders eager to plunder and destroy. In a few years, Thaneswar, Mathura, Kanauj and Prabhasa Pattana were smoking ruins. The ruler of Kanauj accepted submission on abject terms. The raids of the Turk were, however, halted in the east by Vidyadhara Chandella at Kalanjara and in the south-west, where after destroying the temple of Somanatha, Mahmud had to beat a hasty retreat through the desert of Sindh for fear of the federated armies of ‘Paramadeva’, whom I would identify with Bhoja Paramara of Dhara (A.D. 1000-1055).
  • However, the destruction and the humiliation inflicted by Mahmud’s raids shocked India’s sense of ancient superiority, bringing into play several political, social and psychological factors. With the Yaminis, the successors of Mahmud, firmly established in the Punjab, the ‘Aryavarta-consciousness’ lost whatever significance it had. The belief that Chaturvarnya was a divinely appointed universal order, characteristic of the land, was shaken; for now a ruling race in the country not only stood outside it, but held it in contempt and sought its destruction.
  • But nothing availed against the repeated and stubborn onslaughts of Sabuktin and Mahmud. The resistance collapsed, and then the horrors of barbarian invasions, fired with the fanatic zeal for demolishing idols and temples, born of the crusading spirit of Islam, were let loose on the fair plains and cities of Hindusthan. It is not possible to recount fully the sad tales of those dark and evil days, as we have no record from the side of the Indians; but the picture depicted by the victors themselves enables us to get a faint echo of the great tragedy which befell India during the first quarter of the eleventh century A.D. It was a tragedy big with future consequences. Not only was India drained of enormous wealth and manpower, but, what was far worse, the Muslims obtained a permanent footing in the Punjab which commanded the highway to her interior.
  • But a still more sublime tragedy was the comparative indifference of the Indian chiefs to this growing menace and the fancied security in which they chose to repose during the period intervening between the death of Mahmud and the next invasion by the Ghuris. Some Indian kings defeated the Muslims, and checked their further aggressive campaigns. One of them even claims to have exterminated the Mlechchhas (Muslims) so that Aryavarta again became true to its name, ie. abode of the Aryas. But this rare evidence of a sense of national consciousness makes it all the more a matter of surprise, that instead of uttering such vain boast the Indian chiefs should not have taken concerted action in removing the thorn in their flesh by driving the Turkish conquerors out of India. Innumerable opportunities offered themselves to render this task a comparatively easy one. The kingdom of Ghazni passed through critical days and was overtaken by many dangers, both internal and external, till the nemesis overtook it, and its beautiful capital city, built on the ruins and plunder of India, perished in flames. But the powerful Indian chiefs, far from taking advantage of any such opportunity during the long period of a century and a half, were more intent upon aggrandising themselves at the cost of their neighbours than turning their whole-hearted attention to the great national task of freeing the Punjab from the yoke of the foreigners of an alien faith.
  • It is legitimate to conclude...that northern India was fully aware of the grave peril caused by the menace of Islam, and her people gave practical evidence of their love for their country and religion by willingly offering to sacrifice their lives in the bleak hills of far distant Afghanistan.
    • DC Ganguly, Struggle for Empire. also quoted in Misra, R. G. (2005). Indian resistance to early Muslim invaders up to 1206 A.D. p.129
  • “India south of the Vindhyas was under Hindu rule in the 13th century. Even in North India during the same century, there were powerful kingdoms not yet subjected to Muslim rule, or still fighting for their independence… Even in that part of India which acknowledged the Muslim rule, there was continual defiance and heroic resistance by large or small bands of Hindus in many quarters, so that successive Muslim rulers had to send well-equipped military expeditions, again and again, against the same region… As a matter of fact, the Muslim authority in Northern India, throughout the 13th century, was tantamount to a military occupation of a large number of important centres without any effective occupation, far less a systematic administration of the country at large.” ....

The Delhi Sultanate

  • Political necessities of the Indians during the last phase of British rule underlined the importance of alliance between the two communities, and this was sought to be smoothly brought about by glossing over the differences and creating' an imaginary history of the past in order to depict the relations between the two in a much more favourable light than it actually was. Eminent Hindu political leaders even went so far as to proclaim that the Hindus were not at all a subject race during the Muslim rule. These absurd notions, which would have been laughed at by Indian leaders at the beginning of the nineteenth century, passed current as history owing to the exigencies of the political complications at the end of that century. Unfortunately slogans and beliefs die hard, and even today, for more or less the same reasons as before, many Indians, specially Hindus, are peculiarly sensitive to any comments or observations even made in course of historical writings, touching upon the communal relations in any way. A fear of wounding the susceptibilities of the sister community haunts the minds of Hindu politicians and historians, and not only prevents them from speaking out the truth, but also brings down their wrath upon those who have the courage to do so. But history is no respecter of persons or communities, and must always strive to tell the truth, so far as it can be deduced from reliable evidence. This great academic principle has a bearing upon actual life, for ignorance seldom proves to be a real bliss either to an individual or to a nation. In the particular case under consideration, ignorance of the actual relation between the Hindus and the Muslims throughout the course of history,—an ignorance deliberately encouraged by some,—may ultimately be found to have been the most important single factor which led to the partition of India. The real and effective means of solving a problem is to know and understand the facts that gave rise to it, and not to ignore them by hiding the head, ostrich-like, into sands of fiction. (p. xxix.)
  • It is thus quite clear that both from purely academic and practical standpoints, the plain duty of a historian of India is to reveal the truth about the communal relations in the past, without being influenced in any way by any extraneous factor. This conclusion is fortified by other considerations. It is now a well-known fact that a few powerful dictators who dominated Europe in the recent past emphasized the need of re-writing the history of their countries to suit their political actions and ideals. This is undoubtedly a great tribute paid to history for its formative influence upon mankind, but cuts at the very root of all that makes history an intellectual discipline of the highest value. There are ominous signs that the same idea is slowly invading democratic countries also, not excluding India. This world tendency to make history the vehicle of certain definite political, social and economic ideas, which reign supreme in each country for the time being, is like a cloud, at present no bigger than a man’s hand, but which may soon grow in volume, and overcast the sky, covering the light of the world by an impenetrable gloom. The question is therefore of paramount importance, and it is the bounden duty of every historian to guard himself against the tendency, and fight it by the only weapon available to him, namely by holding fast to truth in all his writings irrespective of all consequences. A historian should not trim his sail according to the prevailing wind, but ever go straight, keeping in view the only goal of his voyage—the discovery of truth. (p. xxx)
  • These elaborate observations are specially intended to explain the editorial policy of the present series. The first five volumes, dealing with the history of the ancient Hindus, were, comparatively speaking, free from what would be regarded as serious controversial issues at the present day. The present volume, dealing with the beginnings of the Muslim settlement in India on a permanent basis, naturally has to deal with topics which have a direct or indirect bearing on many live issues of today. The number of such issues would go on increasing with each succeeding volume, and volumes IX and X, which deal with the British rule in India, will be full of them, evoking strong sympathies and antipathies which are likely to blur the clear vision of both writers and readers of Indian history. It would be the endeavour of the present editor to follow the three fundamental principles enunciated above: firstly, that history is no respecter of persons or communities; secondly, that its sole aim is to find out the truth by following the canons commonly accepted as sound by all historians; and thirdly, to express the truth, without fear, envy, malice, passion, or preiudice, and irrespective of all extraneous considerations, both political and humane. In judging any remark or opinion expressed in such a history, the question to be asked is not whether it is pleasant or unpleasant, mild or strong, impolitic or imprudent, but simply whether it is true or false, just or unjust, and above all, whether it is or is not supported by the evidence at our disposal. (xxx)
  • This editorial policy is responsible for clearly bringing out in detail those points of difference which stood as barriers between the Hindus and Muslims and served Lo keep them effectively as two separate units in their common motherland. These are primarily the religious bigotry on the side of the Muslims and social bigotry on the part of the Hindus. These differences are generally sought to be explained away or minimised, and even eminent scholars demur to pointed references to the oppressive acts of bigoted Muslim rulers like Firuz Tughluq and Sikandar Lodi even though proved by the unimpeachable testimony of their own confessions. Such an attitude may be due to praiseworthy motives, but is entirely out of place in historical writings. (xxxi)
  • The same attitude is far more strikingly illustrated in another sphere. The end of Hindu ruling dynasties, followed by almost wholesale destruction of temples and monasteries by the Muslim invaders and rulers, very nearly extinguished the Hindu culture by destroying the sources which fed and nourished it. Its further growth was arrested and an almost impenetrable gloom settled over it. It seemed as if the whole course of its development came to a sudden halt. It is not a mere accident that the lamp of the past glory and culture of Brahmanical Hinduism was kept burning only in the Hindu principalities—particularly the tiny State of Mithila in the north and the kingdom of Vijayanagara in the south. Modern Hindu India is indebted to these Hindu kingdoms for having preserved the continuity of Brahmanical culture and traditions, from the Vedic age downwards, which was in imminent danger of being altogether snapped. For it is impossible to deny that India was saved from this irretrievable disaster by the patronage of the rulers of Vijayanagara and Mithila. While the Brahmanical culture was submerged under the sea of Islam from one end of India to the other, it found its last refuge in the two islands at the northern and southern extremities. This plain truth is not fully realized by many historians. (Preface)
  • The period of Husain Shah and his son in Bengal is usually held out as one of the most glowing examples of the Muslim patronage of Hindu culture. The high development of literature and philosophy of the Chaitanya school of Vaishnavism during the period under review is regarded as a sign of Hindu revival during the Medieval Age. It is, however, to be remembered that out of hundreds of Muslims rulers and officers in Bengal only three—Husain Shah, his son Nusrat Shah and his general Paragal Khan—arc known to have patronized Bengali poets whose obsequious flattery to their Muslim patrons is disgusting to modern taste. (Preface)
  • As regards Chaitanya and his followers, their persecution in the hands of the officers of Husain Shah, the most enlightened and liberal Muslim Sultan, has been described in some detail on pp. 632-635. One significant feature of the Chaitanya movement is often ignored. Of the twenty-four years he remained in his mortal frame after he renounced the world and was initiated as a sanyasin, he hardly spent even a year in the dominion of Husain Shah and his Muslim successors, but lived for twenty years in the Hindu kingdom of Orissa. The Vaishnava followers of Chaitanya were persecuted in their homeland during the regime of Husain Shah, and Chaitanya spent practically his whole life as a sanyasin under the patronage of the Hindu ruler of Orissa who became his devoted disciple. By connecting these two facts it will not probably be wrong to surmise that though Chaitanya began his religious life in the Muslim kingdom of Bengal, it did not evidently prove a congenial home to him or to his cult, and both found a safe refuge only in the neighbouring Hindu kingdom. In any case the fact remains that the chief credit for the rise and growth of Chaitanya’s Vaishnavism must go to the Hindu kingdom of Orissa and not to the Muslim kingdom of Bengal. This is a very significant fact in the history of Hindu culture in India during the period under review. (Preface)
  • It may also be noted in this connection that Hindu art practically went out of existence in Muslim States, though in a few places like Gujarat, its influence may be traced in Muslim architecture. After the thirteenth century, notable specimens of Hindu art are to be found only in the Hindu States of Vijayanagara and Mewar. Hindu culture did not flourish under Islam, and the few facts brought forward to prove the contrary may at best be likened to a few tiny oases which merely serve to bring into greater relief the barren desolation of the long stretch of arid desert. (Preface)
  • It is noteworthy, that neither the Hindus nor the Muslims imbibed, even to the least degree, the chief characteristic features of the other's culture which may be regarded as their greatest contribution to human civilization. The ultra-democratic social ideas of the Muslims, though strictly confined to their own religious community, were an object-lesson of equality and fraternity which Europe, and through her the world, learnt at a great cost only in the nineteenth century. The liberal spirit of toleration and reverence for all religions, preached and practised by the Hindus, is still an ideal and despair of the civilized mankind. The Hindus, even with the living example of the Muslim community before their very eyes, did not. relax in the least their social rigidity and inequality of men exemplified in the caste-system and untouchability. Nor did the Muslims ever moderate their zeal to destroy ruthlessly the Hindu temples and images of gods, and their attitude in this respect remained unchanged from the day when Muhammad bin Qasim set foot on the soil of India till the eighteenth century A.D. when they lost all political power. The Hindus combined catholicity in religious outlook with bigotry in social ethics, while the Muslims displayed an equal bigotry in religious ideas with catholicity in social behaviour. As will be shown later, there was no rapprochement in respect of popular or national traditions, and those social and religious ideas, beliefs, practices, and institutions which touch the deeper chord of life and give it a distinctive form, tone, and vigour. In short, the reciprocal influences were too superficial in character to affect mate- rially the fundamental differences between the two communities in respect of almost every thing that is deep-seated in human nature and makes life worth living. So the two great communities, al- though they lived side by side, moved each in its own orbit, and there was as yet no sign that the “twain shall ever meet”’.
    • XVII.C.
  • Muhammad bin Tughluq is generally, and perhaps rightly, regarded as a man of liberal views. The Chinese Emperor asked for his permission to build a temple at Samhal, a place of pilgrimage in the Himalayan hills frequented by the Chinese, which the Muslim army “had seized, destroyed and sacked”. But the Sultan, who accepted the rich presents sent by the Chinese Emperor, wrote to him a reply to this effect: ‘Islam does not allow the furthering of such an aim and the permission to build a temple in a Muslim country can be accorded only to those who pay the jizya.
    • XVII.C.
  • Whether we look at the intrinsic importance of the posts, or the number of them filled up by the subject people, the Hindus were in much worse condition after three hundred years of Muslim rule than the Indians after one hundred and fifty years of British supremacy. Judged by a similar standard, the patronage and cultivation of Hindu learning by the Muslims, or their contribution to the development of Hindu culture during their rule of three hundred years, pale into insignificance when compared with the achievements of the British rule during half that period in the same direction. It is only by instituting such comparison that we can make an objective study of the condition of the Hindus under Muslim rule, and view it in its true perspective. (623)
  • There was a similar contrast between their social rules and regulations which were indissolubly connected with religion. The democratic ideas of the Muslims, leading to a wonderful equality among the brothers-in-faith, offered a strange contrast to the caste- system and untouchability of the Hindus. The Hindu ideas of physical purity differed from those of the Muslims. In social life there was absolute prohibition of intercourse by means of inter-marriage or interdining, and their practices and rituals had little in common. Coming down to concrete details we find that these two lived almost in two different worlds. The Muslims relished beef which was extremely abhorrent to the Hindus. The absence of marriage restriction within certain degrees of consanguinity and of rigid widowhood, as well as easy methods of divorce and remarriage of females among the Muslims, were repugnant to the Hindus. The laws of succession, disposal of the dead, and modes of eating and greeting were different. The Muslims assumed Arabic names, used Arabian calendar of lunar months, and adopted distinctive dresses. Their congregational prayers were radically different from Hindu mode of worship, and music, which was an essential part of Hindu religious ceremonials, was usually forbidden within the precincts, or even in the neighbourhood, of mosques. The intellectual inspiration of the one was supplied by Arabic and Persian, and of the other by Sanskrit literature. The fact that the Muslims turned towards the west and the Hindus towards the east, while offering prayers or worship to God, though by itself of no great significance, very correctly symbolized the orientation of the two cultures. (624-5)
  • Slavery was fairly common, and the matter-of-fact way in which Ibn Batitah refers to the acquisition of slave-girls in lots, and their distribution as ordinary gifts or presents, throws a lurid light on the moral ideas of the time. A sort of communal spirit seems to have prevailed in this matter. The Muslims took delight in enslaving Hindu women en masse from the highest to the lowest rank, and many of them, including even those who once were princesses, were forced to entertain the Muslim court and the nobility with dance and music. Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq made free gifts of them to his relations and the nobility, and sent as presents to the Chinese Emperor ‘“‘one hundred male slaves and one hundred slave songstresses and dancers from among the Indian infidels’. On the other hand, according to Nizam-ud-din, ‘“‘even Musalmans and Sayyid women were taken by the Rajputs and were turned into slave girls. They were taught the art of dancing and were made to join the akharas.’’(582)
  • “The Khalji empire rose and fell during the brief period of twenty years (A.D 1300-1320). The empire of Muhammed bin Tughlaq… broke up within a decade of his accession (A.D. 1325), and before another decade was over, the Turkish empire passed away for ever…

The Mughul Empire

Volume 7: The Mughul Empire [1526-1707]
  • The Mughul rule is distinguished by the establishment of a stable Government with an efficient system of administration, a very high development of architecture and paintings and, above all, wealth and splendour such as no other Islamic State in any part of the world may boast of. (xii-xiii, preface)
  • So far as the Hindus were concerned, there was no improvement either in their material and moral conditions or in their relations with the Muslims. With the sole exception of Akbar, who sought to conciliate the Hindus by removing some of the glaring evils to which they were subjected, almost all the other Mughul Emperors were notorious for their religious bigotry. The Muslim law which imposed many disabilities and indignities upon the Hindus, mentioned in Vol. VI (pp. 617-20), and thereby definitely gave them an inferior social and political status, as compared to the Muslims, was followed by these Mughul Emperors (and other Muslim rulers) with as much zeal as was displayed by their pre-decessors, the Sultans of Delhi. The climax was reached during the reign of Aurangzib, who deliberately pursued the policy of destroying and desecrating Hindu temples and idols with a thoroughness unknown before or since. Such disclosures may not be liked by the high officials and a section of the politicians, but it is the solemn duty of the historian to state the truth, however unpleasant or discreditable it might be to any particular class or community. Unfortunately, political expediency in India during this century has sought to destroy this true historic spirit This alone can explain the concealed, and mostly unsuccessful, attempt to disparage the statements about the Hindu-Muslm relations made in Volume V (pp 497-502) and Vol. VI (pp. 615-636), though these were based mainly on Muslim chronicles and accounts of a Muslim traveller, supported by contemporary Indian literature (xii-xiii, preface)
  • It is very sad that the spirit of perverting history to suit political views is no longer confined to politicians, but has definitely spread even among professional historians (xii-xiii, preface)
  • In the present volume, reference has been made in some detail to the Muslim bigotry in general and the persecution of the Hindus by Aurangzib in particular (pp 233-36, 305-6). Although the statements are based on unimpeachable authority, there is hardly any doubt that they will be condemned not only by a small class of historians enjoying official favour, but also by a section of Indians who are quite large m number and occupy high position in politics and society. It is painful to mention, though impossible to ignore, the fact that there is a distinct and conscious attempt to rewrite the whole chapter of the bigotry and intolerance of the Muslim rulers towards Hindu religion" This was originally prompted by the political motive of bringing together the Hindus and Musalmans in a common fight against the British but has continued ever since. A history written under the auspices of the Indian National Congress sought to repudiate the charge that the Muslim rulers broke Hindu temples, and asserted that they were the most tolerant in matters of religion Following in its footsteps a noted historian has sought to exonerate Mahmud of Ghazni’s bigotry and fanaticism, and several writers in India have come forward to defend Aurangzib against Jadunath Sarkar’s charge of religious intolerance. It is interesting to note that in the revised edition of the Encyclopaedia of Islam, one of them, while re-writing the article on Aurangzib originally written by Sir Wiliam Irvine, has expressed the view that the charge of breaking Hindu temples brought agamst Aurangzib is a disputed point. Alas for poor Jadunath Sarkar, who must have turned in his grave if he were buried For, after reading his History of Aurangzib, one would be tempted to ask, if the temple-breaking policy of Aurangzib is a disputed point, is there a single fact in the whole recorded history of mankind which may be taken as undisputed? A noted historian has sought to prove that the Hindu population was better off under the Muslims than under the Hindu tributaries or independent rulers. “While some historians have sought to show that the Hindu and Muslim cultures were fundamentally different and formed two distinct and separate units flourishing side by side, the late K. M Ashraf sought to prove that the Hindus and Muslims had no cultural conflict.” But the climax was reached by the politician-cum-historian Lala Lajpat Rai when he asserted that “the Hindus and Muslims have coalesced into an Indian people very much in the same way as the Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Danes and Normans formed the English people of today.” His further assertion that “the Muslim rule in India was not a foreign rule” has now become the oft-repeated slogan of a certain political party. I have discussed the question in some detail elsewhere”” and need not elaborate the point any further. (xii-xiii, preface)
  • Babur exempted Muslims from the payment of stamp duties which Hindus alone paid.“ His officers demolished Hindu temples and constructed mosques in their places at Sambhal,3 Chanderi and Ayodhya, and broke to pieces Jain idols at Urva near Gwalior. (306-7)
  • Shah Jahan was an orthodox Muslim. In 1632, while returning from Kashmir, he found that some Hindus of Rajauri, Bhimbar and Gujarat accepted Mushm girls as wives and converted them to their own faith. The emperor stopped such marriages and Muslim women, already married, were seized from their husbands who were fined and, in certain cases, even executed. They could retain their wives only on their embracing Islam. As many as 4,500 such women were recovered. In 1635, it was reported to the emperor that a Muslim girl, Zinab, had been converted, given the new name of Ganga and was taken as a wife by Dalpat, a Hindu of Sirhind. The woman, along with her seven children—one son and six daughters—was taken away and the man was executed 34 Kaulan, a daughter of the qazi of Lahore, had also run away from home, embraced Sikhism and taken shelter with Guru Har Govind, who immortalised her by constructing a new tank at Amritsar named after her, Kaulsar. (311ff)
  • The creation of the Khalsa was an epoch-making event in the religious and political history of the country. It marked the beginning of the rise of a new people, destined to play the role of defenders against all oppression and tyranny. (319)
  • The most powerful monarch of the world relentlessly attempted to destroy one man, and he braved all adversities to emerge triumphant It is related in the Rajasthan chronicles that the Maharana adopted extreme measures to deny the Mughuls all forms of provisions. Death was the penalty for anyone who cultivated land for supplying the Mughul army. The result of this order was that the peasants left Mewar, and the Mughul garrisons had to get their provisions from Ajmer. It is related that a Mughul garrison commander induced a peasant to grow some vegetables for him. At night the Mahdrana went there and executed the man.” The Rajasthan chronicles also tell of many exploits of the Maharana and his officers Of these the most notable was 25 lacs of rupees and 20,000 ashrafis looted from Malwa. On another occasion, Prince Amar Singh attacked a Mughul camp and captured the wife of the Khan Khanan, but after treating her with due honour returned her to her husband... Thus died the greatest hero of medieval India, the bravest of the brave whose sturdy frame was exhausted by almost two decades of constant fighting. (338-9)

The Maratha Supremacy


British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance, Part 1

  • For, generally speaking, both British and Indian writers were, more or less, influenced by personal feelings and prejudices, and few could rise above them in order to produce a real objective study. (xxiii)
  • In general, the historical writings of Englishmen from about the last quarter of the 19th century were, more or less, tinged by the spirit of imperialism which they inherited as a legacy from the British rule in India during the preceding century. The most typical example of such a historical work is furnished by V. A. Smith’s Oxford History of India (1919) on a smaller scale, and The Cambridge History of India, Vols. V(1929) and V1I(1932), on a more comprehensive scale. One may be pardoned for gathering the impression from these books, that they were pro- ducts of men who honestly believed in the doctrine-—‘my country, right or wrong,’—and used the medium of history to defend British imperialism which had by that time come in for a good deal of criticism both in India and abroad. The Cambridge History of India, Vols. V-VI, the last great historical work on modern India written by British historians, looks at India purely from the standpoint of British officials and statesmen. Its attention was mainly directed to, and its interest was primarily concerned with, the British dominion and British administration. While minute details are given on these points, the story of Indians, as such, is almost completely ignored. One may go through the two ponderous volumes without gaining any idea of the great cultural renaissance in India in the 19th century which transformed her from the Medieval to the Modern Age. While reference is made in detail to official transactions or administrative machinery, there is hardly any reference. except by way of casual mention as a part of administrative history, to the great social and religious reforms, literary revival, and political aspirations, which so strongly marked the 19th century. One comes across enthusiastic references to British Governors-General, Governors and even lesser officials, but looks in vain for the names and careers of men like Rammohan Roy, Iswar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra Chatterji, Ramkrishna Paramahamsa, Keshab Chandra Sen, Swami Vivekananda, Dayananda Saraswati, Surendra Nath Banerji, M. G. Ranade, Dadabhai Naoroji. Pherozeshah Mehta, Bal Gangadhar Tilak and a host of others, who will be remembered as makers of Modern India, long after the names of officials, with whose careers the two volumes of Cambridge History abound, have been completely forgotten. (xxiii-xxv)
  • But the errors of Cambridge History are not of omission only. The errors of commission are equally, if not more. grave and serious. Differing in spirit even from the old English historians of British India, it has put forth only the official or imperial view of British transactions in India, without any attempt to discuss the dissentient views, It suppresses truth in many cases where the preservation of good name for the British rulers requires it; worse still, it repeats the official calumny against Indian rulers concocted by the British Government of the day in order to justify their unjust action against them, though a little inquiry would have sufficed to demonstrate the totally unreliable character of the evidence on which the statements of the Government of India were based. Typical instances of the former ate supplied by the accounts given of the annexation of Burma, Awadh, Nagpur, Jhansi, Sindh and the Panjab, as well as dealings of Ellenborough with Sindhia. As regards the latter, it is only necessary to refer to the grounds on which the rulers of Mysore, Coorg, Cachar, and Satara were dethroned, and an armed expedition was sent against Manipur and its Commander-in-chief, Tikendrajit, was hanged. (xxiii-xxv)
  • A modern historian of British India, therefore, finds it absolutely necessary to dispose of a large legacy of falsehood, half-truths, and perversion of facts and judgments, which are new passing current as history. To expose their true nature and seek to establish truth on the basis of facts and reason, is by no-means an easy task. (xxvi)
  • The editor has been a witness to the grim struggle for independence which began with the partition of Bengal in 1905 and continued till the achievement of independence in 1947. He does not pretend to have been a dispassionate or disinterested spectator; he would have been more or less than a human being if he were so. His views and judgments of the English may, therefore, have been influenced by passions or prejudices to a certain extent. Without denying this possibility, the editor claims that he has tried his best to take a detached view of men and things—a task somewhat facilitated by lapse of time. How far this claim is justified, future generations of readers alone would be in a position to judge. (preface, xxxi-xxxiii)

British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance, Part 2

  • The contribution of the British rule to the cleavage between the Hindus and Muslims should be considered in its proper perspective. It must be frankly admitted that the roots of the cleavage lay deep in the soil, and it was already manifest even early in the nineteenth century. The British did not create it, but merely exploited the patent fact to serve their own interests. (325)
  • A number of people including William Wilberforce, sought to refute these arguments by painting in black colors the horrible customs of the Hindus such as sati, infanticide, throwing the children into the Ganga, religious suicides, and above all idolatry. Vivid descriptions were given of the massacre of the innocent resulting from the car procession of Lord Jagannath at Puri, and the Baptists put down the number of annual victims at not less than 120,000. When challenged they had to admit that they did not actually count the dead bodies but arrived at the figure by an ingenious calculation.
    • R. C. Majumdar, The History and Culture of Indian People. Vol. X, 2nd ed., Bombay, 1981, p. 152-153.

Struggle for Freedom

  • Additional difficulties are created by the necessity of dealing with the activities of men like Mahatma Gandhi and Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru who are looked upon by a large section of Indians with veneration, incompatible with dispassionate judgment. A regular propaganda has been kept up to preserve untarnished the halo of glory which contemporaries, in the first flush of enthusiasm, put round their heads. (xxx)
  • Thus the Muslim antagonism to the Freedom Movement of India dates back to its beginning itself. (151ff)
  • Even Muhammad Ali, later regarded as the greatest nationalist leader among the Muslims, admitted in a public speech in 1908 that the interests of the Muslims differed from those of the Hindus and would suffer if they joined the Hindus in their political agitation. He therefore frankly asserted that the Muslims could not be expected to become martyrs to the unity of India and it would be a retrograde step in the political evolution of the Muslims to leave them “at the mercy of an angelic majority” (i.e. of the Hindus)." The spirit of Syed Ahmad dominated the Muslims who, with rare exceptions, regarded themselves as Muslim first and Indian after- wards... It is hardly surprising that Englishmen would exploit the situation and seek by every means to keep up, if not aggravate, the differences between the Hindus and Muslims... (151 ff)
  • The Muslims fully exploited the eagerness of the Hindus for Muslim support in their political struggle against the British, and grew more and more truculent in their attitude, demanding further extension of the principle of communal representation and increase in the appointment of Muslims in all State services. Agitation for all these was carried on not only in India but also in England. A British branch of the Muslim League was opened in London in 1908, with Sir Syed Ameer Ali as Chairman, in order to enlighten public opinion in England regarding the separatist tendencies of the Indian Muslims. In his inaugural address Ameer Ali observed: “It is impossible for them (the Musalmans) to merge their separate communal existence in that of any other nationality or strive for the attainment of their ideals under the aegis of any other organization than their own”. (158ff)

Quotes about the work

  • A standard work of many volumes commissioned in the 1950s to celebrate India's liberation from foreign rule and foreign scholarship.
  • The first volume of the first genuine history of India.... [and that it] is likely to remain for many generations the most important of all histories of India, and, indeed, renders all others obsolete if not superfluous.
    • M.F. Ashley Montagu M.F. Ashley Montagu, Review in: Isis, Vol. 43, No.1 (Apr., 1952), pp. 75-76. in a review in the Isis journal

  • Volume 1: The Vedic Age [Prehistory to 600 B.C.]
  • Volume 2: The Age of Imperial Unity [600 B.C. to 320 A.D.]
  • Volume 3: The Classical Age [320-750 A.D.]
  • Volume 4: The Age of Imperial Kanauj [750-1000 A.D.]
  • Volume 5: The Struggle for Empire [1000-1300 A.D.]
  • Volume 6: The Delhi Sultanate [1300-1526]
  • Volume 7: The Mughul Empire [1526-1707]
  • Volume 8: The Maratha Supremacy [1707-1818]
  • Volume 9: British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance, Part 1 [1818-1905]
  • Volume 10: British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance, Part 2 [1818-1905]
  • Volume 11: Struggle for Freedom [1905-1947]