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THE STORY OF INDIA

 

Different parts of India have different histories and legends. Indians in  different parts of the country look at their past from a different point of view than Indians in other parts of India. Indian history has a past of over thousands of years. The Hindus record their religious history at over millions of year. They believe that the world is created and destroyed every few million years. Religious Hindus and some Hindu historians record their present history at over 7000 years. This belief is different from the accepted general history which claims Indian history to be shorter than 5000 years In genera l Indian history different kingdoms were established in different parts of India, some by foreign invaders. The first known invaders of India were Aryans (also mentioned sometimes as Indo-Aryans). It is believed that the Aryans arrived in north India somewhere from Iran and southern Russia at around 1500 B. C. The Aryans fought and pushed the local people called Dravidians southwards. The Aryans are referred to in Indian history as fair skinned people who pushed the dark skinned Dravidians southwards.

The north Indians are considered to be the descendants of the Aryans and the south Indians are considered descendants of the Dravidians. Even today the most basic division of the Indian society is of north Indian Aryans and south Indian Dravidians. But this division isn't proper. Many Indians emigrated from one part of India to other parts of India and not all local people of north India were pushed southwards by the Aryans. Some stayed and served the Aryans and others moved to live in the forests and the jungles of north India. There were also other foreign immigrations and invaders who arrived mainly in north India. Many Dravidians consider themselves as original Indians and their culture as the original culture of India. They also feel that their culture is discriminated by the north Indians ).

After the Aryans many others invaded India. Alexander the Great and other Greeks arrived in India. The ancient Persian Empire expanded its boundaries up to India. But the Persian Empire like Alexander the Great, didn't arrive to the center of present India but to present day Pakistan and up to the borders of present India. But there were other Greeks who arrived in India and established kingdoms in India. Others to arrive in ancient India were Scythians, Kushans and Huns. These invaders also established some kingdoms in India. At a much later period there were Muslim invaders - Turks, Arabs, Afghans and others. And of course the Europeans - Portuguese, Danish, Dutch, French and English. In between Indians also established their own kingdoms and empires. These different kingdoms fought among themselves to expand their kingdom boundaries. But never in Indian history was there a kingdom that ruled the whole of India. These different kingdoms that were established in different parts in India created different aspects of Indian history for different regions of India.

Different regions of India adore different heroes and empires from India's past. For example people from Maharashtra in west India adore the Maratha Empire which was created in Maharashtra and ruled over large parts of India in the 17th and 18th century. Their most respected hero is Shivaji who created the Maratha Empire. People of Tamil Nadu have their own Tamil originated heroes and empires like the Chola Empire that ruled south India and some parts of north India between the 9th to 13th century. For some period the Cholas also reigned over parts of south Asia, including Sri Lanka, and some islands now parts of Malaysia and Indonesia. At other periods in Indian history other empires were established from Tamil Nadu among them the Pandya Empire and the Pallava Empire.

Two famous empires from Bihar in north-east India were Gupta and Maurya Empires, which ruled most of north India and large parts of south India. One of the Mauryan Emperors, Asoka, had perhaps the largest Indian Empire which covered almost the whole of present India. The Maurya Empire existed somewere between 4th century B. C. till 1st century B. C. The Gupta Empire existed between 4th century A. D. till 7th century A. D.

There were many other empires which were established at different periods in different parts of India and reigned over large parts of India. In south India the Vijayanagar Empire was established in the 14th century. In central India the Bahmani Empire was also established in the 14th century. Alongside with the empires, there were also small kingdoms which ruled on small parts of India. In present day Rajasthan there were many such kingdoms and their rulers belonged to the Rajput caste. The Rajputs even today symbolize the warrior castes of India. These kingdoms sometimes were completely independent and at other times acted as autonomies of bigger empires. Some of these kingdoms came into existence after a collapse of bigger empire and sometimes after a mutiny in a bigger empire. The Bahmani Empire broke up into five kingdoms. The world famous Moghul Empire from the Delhi-Agra region collapsed into many small kingdoms and into Maratha Empire.

The Moghuls are perhaps the most famous of the Indian Empires which ever existed. At their height they controlled the whole of north India, present day Pakistan and large parts of south India. In their empire they had many kings and rulers who were subjected to them. In west India, there were many local rulers who were subjected to the Moghul Empire. These rulers of West India were called Maratha (or Maharatha). Till the Moghul Empire, different Maratha rulers acted sometimes as independent rulers and at other times subjected to different larger kingdoms or empires including the Moghuls.

When Aurangzeb attained the Moghul throne, the empire began its first step towards collapsing. Aurangzeb was a religious and fanatic Muslim. He tried to enforce Islam and Islamic law on his citizens. As a result the Marathas under the leadership of Shivaji revolted and declared independence. Shivaji was also nominated emperor of the Marathas. The Marathas enlarged their empire by taking control over more Moghul territories and other rulers territories.

After Shivaji’s death in 1680 the Maratha people had lot of interior crisis. Sometimes the different Maratha parties acted as one power and at other times as separate independent powers sometimes fighting each other. After Aurengzeb’s death in 1707 the Moghuls started collapsing into separate independent kingdoms even though there was always a acting Moghul Emperor. In this period of chaos in the Moghul and Maratha empires, some European powers – English, French, Dutch, Danish and Portuguese - began controlling Indian territories.Among these European powers the Portuguese arrived first in India in 1498 via sea after they had circled the whole of the African continent. The Portuguese had to circle the whole of African continent because in those days the Muslim Ottoman Empire of Turkey which ruled the middle east caused lots of problems to European Christian merchants who tried to pass through their land. Therefore the Europeans tried to find other routes to reach India. Columbus tried to get to India while sailing westwards from Europe. Columbus presumed that because the earth is round he would eventually get to India while sailing westwards, instead he found the continent of America whose existence was not known then to the Europeans. Columbus thought that he had arrived in India and called the natives Indians.

The Europeans came to India because of commercial reasons. The Indian sub-continent was then world famous for its spices. Local rulers leased to the Europeans, land so that they could build factories. Later on the Europeans got permits from local leaders to build forts around their factories. The Europeans then established forces to protect their interests. The next step of the European was occupying Indian land with these armies and so one of the European powers, the British, became the rulers of India.

The British control of India was a result of several factors. The Portuguese who along with their business tried to enforce Roman Catholicism on Indian (including the Syrian Christians) were defeated by local rulers sometimes in collaboration with Protestant European powers. But still the Portuguese remained in India with small pockets. Their main center in India was Goa. The Dutch and the Danes left India for their reasons. The two main European powers that remained in India were British and French. These two powers tried different ways to control India and to defeat each other.

The kingdoms of India, especially in north India, sought with the collapse of the Moghul Empire, patronage of another Empire. The French and the British both tried to fill this place. The British succeeded more than the French in convincing the local leaders. But not all Indian rulers were interested in British patronage or British rule on Indian soil. The Sikhs in north India, Marathas rulers in west India and kingdom of Mysore in south India were among those who opposed the British rule.

The British succeeded in defeating the Indian rulers (some of whom got also French assistance against the British) and became the rulers of India. But the French like the Portuguese remained in India with small pockets and both these powers remained in India even after the British left India in 1947.

The British ruled India via two administrative systems. One was ‘Provinces’ and the other ‘Princely States’. Provinces were British territories completely under British control. Princely States were states in British India with local ruler or king with honorary titles like Maharaja, Raja, Maharana, Rana, Nizam, Badshah and other titles meaning king or ruler in different Indian languages. These rulers were subjected to the British Empire.During India's independence in 1947 there were 562 Princely States and 11 Provinces.

RELIGIONS IN INDIA

India known as the land of spirituality and philosophy, was the birthplace of some religions, which even exist today in the world.

The most dominant religion in India today is Hinduism. About 80% of Indians are Hindus. Hinduism is a colorful religion with a vast gallery of Gods and Goddesses. Hinduism is one of the ancient religions in the world. It is supposed to have developed about 5000 years ago. Later on in ancient period other religions developed in India.

Around 500 BC two other religions developed in India, namely, Buddhism and Jainism. Today only about 0.5% of Indians are Jains and about 0.7% are Buddhist. In ancient times Jainism and specially Buddhism were very popular in India. Indians who accepted Buddhist philosophy spread it not only within the Indian sub-continent but also to kingdoms east and south of India.

These three ancient religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, are seen as the molders of the India philosophy. In 'modern' period new religions were also established in India.

One comparatively new religion in India is Sikhism and it was established in the 15th century. About 2% of Indians are Sikhs. There were other attempts to create new religions in India but they did not always succeed. For example, a Moghul emperor, Akbar, who reigned between 1556 - 1605, tried to establish a new religion, Din- E- Elahi, but it did not survive. There are other religious philosophies whose believers see themselves as a separate religion, but they do not always get this recognition. For example Lingayat of south India see themselves as a different religion, while others see them as a sect of Hinduism. There are also some tribal communities who demand to be recognized as separate religion from Hinduism. In the 19th century some Hindu reformers tried to remodel Hinduism to adjust it to modern period.

Along with the religions that developed in India, there are followers of non- Indian religions. The largest non-Indian religion is Islam. They are about 12% of India's population. Christians are more then 3% of India's population. There are also Zoroastrians who even though make less then 0.01% of India's population, are known around India. There are also a few thousand Jews in India. Judaism and Christianity  arrived in India before it arrived in Europe.

  Europeans in India (Analysis)

India was a British colony. The British left behind them in India a strong imprint of their philosophy and culture and even today it is evident that English which is a foreign language is the most important and respected language in India. But the British were not the only Europeans to arrive in India and have their imprint.

Since ancient period even before the beginning of the Christian era there were relations between Europeans and Indians. The main Europeans to arrive in ancient India were Greeks. The Greeks are referred to in ancient Indian history as Yavanas. Even the most famous ancient Greek conqueror, Alexander the Great, arrived in India. But actually he arrived up to the present India-Pakistan border. But there were other Greeks who arrived in India and established kingdoms. Many of these Greek communities later on adopted Hinduism and integrated in the Indian caste system. Even today there are communities in Kashmir who claim to be of Greek origin. Not all Greeks arrived in India to conquer it. There were also Greek scientists who arrived in India for scientific research, especially in astronomy and mathematics.

Later on other Europeans arrived in India because of commercial reasons. The Indian sub-continent was then world famous for its spices. But when the Muslim Ottoman Empire of Turkey ruled the Middle East, they caused lots of problems to European Christian merchants who tried to pass through their land. Therefore the Europeans tried to find other routes to reach India. And so accidentally Christopher Columbus found the continent of America. Columbus tried to get to India while sailing westwards from Europe. Columbus presumed that because the earth is round he would eventually get to India while sailing westwards, instead he found the continent of America whose existence was not known then to the Europeans. Columbus thought that he had arrived in India and called the natives Indians.

From the 15th century the European representatives arrived in India, namely English, French, Dutch, Danish and Portuguese. Among these European powers the Portuguese arrived first in India in 1498 via sea after they had circled the whole of the African continent. These representatives arrived in India after they received from their country rulers charter to do business with India.

These Europeans at first requested from the local rulers permission to trade in their entities. Later on they requested from the local rulers permission to build factories. After they built factories they requested to build forts around these factories to defend them from pirates and other dangers. Then they requested to recruit local Indians to serve as guards and soldiers in these forts and so on they slowly created their own armies. And so one of the European power's representative, the British East India Company, became the ruler of India.

The British control of India was a result of several factors. The Portuguese, who along with their business tried to enforce Roman Catholicism on the Indians were defeated by local rulers sometimes in collaboration with Protestant European powers. But still the Portuguese remained in India with small pockets. Their main center in India was Goa. The Dutch, who had holds in south India and the Danes, who had holds in east India, left India for their own reasons. The two main European powers that remained in India were British and French. These two powers tried different ways to control India and to defeat each other. Each of these European powers sometimes collaborated with local Indian rulers to defeat the other European power. Eventually the British became the rulers of India. But the French like the Portuguese remained in India with small pockets and both these powers remained in India even after the British left India in 1947.

The British East India Company was actually a trading company and it received from the British crown charter to trade with the Indian sub-continent. They arrived in India for spice trade in 1600. Like other European powers that arrived in India, they at first requested from the local rulers permission to trade in their entities. The British East India Company was more sophisticated than other Europeans who arrived in India. This company offered different sophisticated agreements to the different Indian ruling families, which made them the actual managers of the Indian kingdoms. They sometimes used their army against local rulers and annexed their territories with the result that there was lot of embitterment among the Indians against the British. After the 'Indian Mutiny' of 1857, the British Crown took back the charter from the East India Company and ruled India directly through a Viceroy. The British gave India independence in 1947, but its last soldier left India eventually in 1950. The French also left India in 1950. The Portuguese were the last to leave India in 1961.

Even though the European powers arrived in India for commercial reasons, they also started converting local Indians to Christianity. Of the five European powers the Portuguese were most enthusiastic to baptize Indians. The Portuguese inspired by the Pope’s order to baptize people around the world not only fought wars against the local Indian rulers, but also they tried to enforce their Roman Catholic prayers on Syrian Christians who were in India (millennia) before the modern European powers arrived in India .After many wars the Portuguese were defeated by local rulers and they had only one big pocket of control in India, Goa. Goa was made the capital of Portuguese colonies in the eastern hemisphere. The Portuguese not only fought the Indian rulers, but they also fought against other European powers in India especially Dutch and English. Many Portuguese churches in Kerala were converted into English and Dutch churches after they were captured by these powers.

The English missionaries started acting in India at a much later period. The British arrived in India in 1600 and they allowed the missionaries to enter their territory only from 1813. The British allowed different churches to establish missionaries in their territory. The missionaries didn't only spread Christianity, but they also did humanitarian deeds giving the needy the basic necessities of life like food, clothes and shelter. The missionaries also built schools in India and many of them exist even today and have Christian or European originated names.

The British church missionaries succeeded less than the Portuguese in converting Indians to Christianity, but unlike the Portuguese who tried to enforce (impose) Christianity, these Protestant converts were voluntary. The Portuguese were also aware of the Indian custom according to which the wife followed her husband’s faith and therefore married their men to Indian women. Most of the Portuguese baptized Christians in India have Portuguese oriented surnames, like Fernandez, De Silva, De Costa and others.There is also an Anglo-Indian community in India, who are also descendants from European (English) fathers and Indian mothers, but these relations between English men and Indian women started because of romantic reasons. The Anglo-Indians are mostly Christians and have adopted English as their first language. According to the Indian Constitution, two seats in the Indian Parliament are reserved for the Anglo-Indian community members.

 The Creation of Modern Indian identity

The building of (modern) Indian identity began sometime in the beginning of the 19th century during the British rule over the Indian sub-continent. Before its independence in 1947, India was never one nation but always a collection of different entities and cultures with no sense of identity. In different parts of India different cultures, manners and languages existed. Different rulers ruled different parts of India. Some of them were foreigners. The only features common to the large portion of India's residents were some of the Hindu religious customs and taboos like caste system, child marriages and other religious oriented customs.

The building of the Indian identity actually began as a social reform movement with an intention to change the traditional Hindu/Indian society. The Indian independence issue was not at first the main issue. From the Indian point of view the British were just another foreign ruler over India. Later on a general feeling of an oppressed nation subjected to a foreign power arose among the Indians including the non-Hindus.

The new Indian identity was a combination of the intentions of the Indians to change the traditional Indian society and the nationalist Indian feeling which, developed later on because of the British oppression of the Indians.  (ADAPTED)