Monday, 22 April 2013

History of India – Revisiting the Golden Era

The history of India is a magnum opus stretched over 5,000 years of time. This vast time witnessed the evolution of India through many phases of ancient, medieval and modern history. The oldest civilization in the world, India or the land of hundred kingdoms saw the rise and fall of many dynasties.
These kings were the Maharajas who served their kingdoms instead of ruling them; patronized the religious beliefs and built colossal temples, forts and palaces in honour of the faith. Under their rule, everyone in general used to be a part of their kingdom’s prosperity. Emperor Ashoka was one such king under whose rule, the whole India unified. He patronized Buddhism and commissioned the rock edicts and pillars at different places of Buddhist renown. Lion Capital, the national emblem of India is also Mauryan Emperor Ashoka’s contribution to the country. Mahabodhi Temple at Bodhgaya is also one of his contributions to the ancient Indian architecture, besides numerous rock edicts.
Under the aegis of such righteous rulers, India prospered on the economic, artistic and philosophical fronts. There was a time, when the name of Hindustan evoked the image of a high soaring golden bird in the western world. It can be easily said that the best of the world belonged to India at that time. This all drew the many foreign powers in this colorful country like a magnet.
Mahmud of Ghaznavi was the first foreign power who attacked India and looted its riches in the eleventh century. Mohammed Ghori and others followed him. The Tughlaqs and later Mughals too asserted the onset of the Islamic era in India by invading the weakening Hindu kingdoms. In fact, the famous architectural gems like Qutub Mahal, Agra Fort, Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Humayun Tomb were constructed under Islamic rule. Akbar and Shah Jahan, two of the prominent rulers belonged to the Mughal dynasty.
At the same time, the many European natives based on their fascination, took up the sea route to India. Out of all the sea voyagers, Vasco Da Gama stood out to be the first European explorer to discover the spice route and reach India, the land of spices and other bounties. Dutch, French and British later followed the similar route for trading. Dutch, French and Portuguese established colonies in specific regions of India, whereas British moved ahead on the route to fulfill their ambitions of controlling India. They established the East India Company and changed the whole equation of ruling here. The weak Mughal establishment in the 17th century and the rising prominence of British traders brought the Indian throne under its Monarchical rule.
Later, this phase became the prime cause for Independence revolution. The first revolution under the legendary leaders like Rani Lakshmibai of Jhansi, Tantya Tope, Mangal Pandey infused the wave of self rule under the leadership of the surviving Mughal emperor, Bahadurshah Zafar II.
This incident paved the foundation for the later freedom activists like Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, Mahatma Gandhi, Subhash Chandra Bose and thousands of other participants to continue their freedom struggle. During this phase, many of them lost their lives; but the flame of freedom was kept alive until August 15, 1947, when India had its tryst with destiny. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru on the Red Fort Pavilion read his first speech as the first Prime Minister of India. This was a little glimpse of India’s long lost history. In the next post, we will throw some light on the historical travellers to India.