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HISTORY OF INDIA
500,000 to 50,000 BCE - Paleolithic India: Stone-Age archeological sites have been excavated in Rajasthan, Gujarat, areas in present day Pakistan and else where in various regions of India. Deccan College, Karnataka University among many other institutions did a Human Origins Research project in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute of USA and found archaeological evidence in form of Stone-Age implements and tools that inform us about the thinking process of early humans who manufactured the simple implements. They did excavations in the Isampur Quarry in Hunsgi Valley and in Baichbal Valley that resulted in hundreds of Stone-Age tools. Stone-Age implements and tools were excavated at the Ridge near main gate of University of Delhi in 1956.
20,000 BCE – Bhimbetaka Cave Paintings: Near Pachmarhi Hills about 25 miles south of the city of Bhopal in Madhya Pradesh State is the site of earliest cave paintings in India.
9,000 BCE - The first agricultural activity in the Indus River Valley was about the same time when similar human evolution took place in Egypt, Mesopotamia and Persia.
7,000 BCE - The excavations at Mehrgarh in North-West India revealed the earliest Neolithic culture in Indian Sub-Continent dating from 7,000 BCE.
4,000 to 2,000 BCE - The blooming of Indus Valley Civilization in the sites at Harappa, Mohan Jo Daro (in present day Pakistan); and in Lothal in Gujarat, Ropar in Punjab and Kalibangan in Rajasthan in India.
2,000 to 1,000 BCE - Late Harappan culture sites have been discovered in the vicinity of New Delhi at Mandoli, Bhorgarh, Kharkhari-Nahar, and Nachauli.
2,000 to 1,500 BCE (ca) - In the Aryan early Vedic period between 2000 and 1500 BCE the earliest hymns of Rig-Veda were composed in a grammatically complex and poetic form of Sanskrit language. The Aryans in this period did not have a written language because the script evolved much later. The early Aryan society was not divided in to fixed castes by birth, and there is literal evidence of only three classes in the society, i.e. warriors and/or aristocrats, teachers and/or priests, and the rest were in a common class. This flexible social order is very clear from a quote: “a bard am I, my father is a leech and my mother grinds corn”. There were no marriage restrictions between the three classes and there were no taboos about eating with one another. Once the Aryans came in close contact with the native “Dasa” folk, they started to use the Sanskrit word “Varna” for caste that literally means color, probably because the native population had a darker skin color in comparison with the Aryans. Gradually the divisions in the social order became more rigid and further classifications within the castes developed, like “Jati” that literally means birth. At this point Varna and Jati became hereditary and one could not change caste within a lifetime and society was divided into castes and sub-castes according to occupations. This division became a strict social order and the only change to this came when the first reform movements in Vedic society evolved with the teachings of Buddha, Mahavira and some other others. Monogamy was the normal order in Vedic society with some exceptions for Polygamy among ruling and aristocratic families. Polyandry seems to have been an accepted behavior in certain regions only in the later period when the events mentioned in the two epics Mahabharat and Ramayan would have occurred. There is ample evidence in Vedic literature that Aryans dreaded incestuous relationships and marriage within related groups was strictly forbidden. The upper castes like the Brahmans, Kshatriyas and the Vaishyas had access to learning but the privilege of teaching was restricted to Brahmans. Brahmans specifically but to a lesser extent Kshatriyas and Vaishyas were considered “Dvija” or twice born, the first birth being from the mother’s womb and the second birth was when the process of education started with the ceremony of “Yagyopavitra”. The parents of the “Shishya” or scholar brought him to the “Ashram” of the “Guru” who recited a secret Vedic hymn in the ear of the scholar and as a sign of this ritual the “Guru” put a multi-thread string around the neck from the left side and hanging around the torso, going down on the right hand side. The Shishya would always put the “Yagyopavitra” string on throughout his life, even after the education period was over. The education comprised of Vedic literature, Arithmetic, Grammar, prosody and warfare techniques for the Kshatriyas. At the time of marriage the Dvija person would take the “Yagyopavitra” string around his right thumb when accepting gifts from the bride’s parents. The Aryan religious philosophy was based on natural elements that they could not control. These elements like rain and thunder or fire were considered divine and were organized in male or female divinity. “Indra” was the male divine attribute symbolizing strength, warfare, thunder and rain. “Agni” the male god of fire was held in very high esteem and was considered the purest of all the five elements. Fire was used in the marriage ritual in the earliest Aryan period as it is used in present day India. “Surya” was the sun god. “Savitri” was the sun god also and the “Gayatri Mantra” was dedicated to him. Gayatri Mantra – “Om Bhur Bhav Swaha tatsav turvareniyam bhargo devasya dhimahi dhiyoyo nahah pracho dayaat” - has been perhaps the most recited and popular Vedic hymn from the earliest periods to the present day. “Soma” was the god of intoxicating fruit juice. Varuna was the patriarchal god of the planet Uranus who occupied a lofty seat in the heavens. “Yama” the god of death was also very prominent. Performing of “Yagya” was the most important religious ritual and involved sacrifice of incense, dried fruits and grains. The Shakti (Power) god Rudra or Shiva and goddess Kali may have their origin in the pre-Aryan Harrappan culture. In the middle of this early Vedic period the theory of “Karma” or deeds developed and the rebirth in next life was believed to be dependent on the good or bad deeds of the previous life. Though there were so many gods and goddesses, Atma, the soul was considered part of the 'Paramatma'. Paramatma, the universal, eternal collective conciousness, was the devine energy that pervades every thing in the universe and Atma, the individual soul is not separate from that.
1,500 to 1,000 BCE (ca) - Middle Vedic Period was between 1500 to 1000 BCE. This period is regarded as the time frame in which later hymns of Rig-Veda, the Sama, Yajur and Atharva Vedas, the Brahmanas, Aranyakas, Upanishads and Puranas were composed. Sama Veda laid down an elaborate system of music, dance, drama and the method of ritual chanting of hymns. The Sama Veda is purely a liturgical collection of melodies (saman). The hymns in the Sama Veda, used as musical notes, were almost completely drawn from the Rig Veda and have no distinctive lessons of their own. Hence, its text is a reduced version of the Rig Veda. As the Vedic Scholar David Frawley puts it, “if the Rig Veda is the word, Sama Veda is the song or the meaning, if Rig Veda is the knowledge, Sama Veda is its realization, if Rig Veda is the wife, the Sama Veda is her husband”. Most of the basic codes of the classical vocal as well as instrumental music and dance forms like Bharat Natyam, Kathakalli, Odissi, Kathak etc. of various regions of India originated from Sama Veda. The Atharva Veda consists of spells and charms prevalent at the time of its composition, and portrays a clearer picture of the Vedic society.The Yajur Veda is also a liturgical collection and was composed to meet the demands of a ceremonial religion. The Yajur Veda practically served as a guidebook for the priests who execute sacrificial acts muttering simultaneously the prose prayers and the sacrificial formulae (yajus). It is similar to ancient Egypt’s “Book of the Dead”. There are no less than six complete recessions of Yajur Veda - Madyandina, Kanva, Taittiriya, Kathaka, Maitrayani and Kapishthala. The last of the Vedas, this is completely different from the other three Vedas and is next in importance to Rig-Veda with regard to history and sociology. A different spirit pervades this Veda. Its hymns are of a more diverse character than the Rig Veda and are also simpler in language. In fact, many scholars do not consider it part of the Vedas at all.
1,000 to 500 BCE (circa) - Upanishads, Mahabharat and Ramayan: The Upanishads form the core of Indian philosophy. Most of the core beliefs of Hinduism are dealt in great detail in these compositions. The concept of the “Karma” (action & its effects), the “Punarjanma” (re-incarnation of soul), the “Atma” (soul), the eternal energy “Om”, and the “Brahman” (Absolute) are all explained in Upanishads. The Vedic ideas of self-realization, Yoga (union with the universal soul) and meditation are also dealt in these compositions. The word Upanishad is comprised of three Sanskrit roots: “Upa” means near, “ni” means down and “sad” means to sit. Upanishads literally mean to sit down near the “Guru” or teacher. The Teachers usually resided away from the society in the quiet solitude of forest “Ashrams” or hermitages. Indologists generally believe that most of these deep philosophic hymns to have been composed between 800 and 400 BCE, though some may have added later. The Indian tradition, according to Shri Sarwapalli Radhakrishan (Sanskrit scholar, philosopher and independent India’s first Vice President), puts the total number of Upanishads to be 108. Mughal prince, Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of emperor Shahjahan, commissioned 50 of the Upanishads to be translated in to Persian language in 1656-57. In 1801 Anquetil Duperron translated these into Latin under the title, “Oupnekhat”. Later another European translation of 52 Upanishads was done from another source. In India, in the state of Bengal, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, the great Indian religious reformer, translated the Upanishads from Sanskrit in to English in 1832. In the 20th century many more translations were done in English. The thirteen Upanishads that are singled out as presenting the core teachings are the Chandogya, Kena, Aitareya, Kaushitaki, Katha, Mundaka, Taittriyaka, Brihadaranyaka, Svetasvatara, Isa, Prasna, Mandukya and the Maitri Upanishads. One of the oldest and longest of the Upanishads, the Brihadaranyaka has the popular hymn: Asato maa sadgamayah! Tamaso ma jyotirgamayah! Mratyorma amratam gamayah! Or "From the unreal lead me to the real! From darkness lead me to light! From death lead me to immortality!" Mahabharat and Ramayan were probably also composed in the later part of this period but events described in these epics may have occurred around or before 1000 BC. The most important part of the epic Mahabharat is the Bhagwat Gita - a dialogue between Bhagwan Krishna and Arjuna, the most accomplished warriour among the Pandav brothers on the nature of Atma. There were two lifestyles described by Bhagwan Krishna - the householder or one who lives in the material world interacting in the daily activities but observing that all his/her actions confirm to Dharma or the righteous way, and the other lifestyle was that of a renunciate, who gives up material life to devote fully to seek the Moksha or ending of the cycle of life and death. Bhagwan Krishna describes the value of both paths but prescribes the worldly lifestyle adhering to Dharma for Arjun.
900 BCE-124 CE - Chera Dynasty in Kerala: The ancient Tamil ‘Sangam’ literature has the earliest references to Chera Dynasty rulers who ruled areas on the Malabar coastal areas but the name of the present day Kerala State is not mentioned in these Tamil texts. A rock edict on one of Emperor Ashoka’s pillars mentions the word Kerala for the first time. These rulers were named as Cheral, Kuttuvan, Azhiyan, Irumporai and Athan at various times. Pathirruppaththu, the 4th book in Ettuthokar anthology mentions following among many other Chera Dynasty rulers: Nedum Cheralathan, Palyane Chel Kezhu Kuttuvan, Kalankai Kanni Narmudi Cheral, Kadal Pirakottiya Vel Kezhu Kuttuvan, Attu Kottu Pattu Cheralathan, Chelva Kadunko Azhi Athan, Thakadur Erintha Perum Cheral Irumporai and Kudako Ilam Cheral Irumporai. The sons of Uthiyan Cheralathan and Viliyan Nallini were the first two rulers. The 3rd, 4th and 5th rulers were sons of Nedum Cheralathan. Manikilli, the Chola dynasty princess, was the mother of the 4th ruler who is also known as Chenkuttuvan. Archaeological research has found epigraphic evidence regarding these early Chera Dynasty rulers. The Pugalur (Aranattarmalai) inscription mentions 3 generations of Chera Dynasty rulers: Adam Cheral Irrumporai; his son, Perumkadungo; and his son, Ilamkadungo. There kingdom at times extended into the Tamil Nadu side of the Sahya Mountains. These early Chera rulers had territories from Karur in Tamil Nadu to Muziris on the coast of Arabian Sea. They had commercial links with the Satavahana rulers in the north and also had a flourishing trade with Romans and Greeks. Literary as well as archaeological evidence reveals that there was considerable exchange of gold and coins. The Romans paid in gold for ‘Kari’ (Pepper) and various precious stones. In archaeological sites on the Malabar coast as well as in the districts of Coimbatore, Namakkal, Karur in Kerala State and Salem in Tamil Nadu State have unearthed a large number of Roman coins. The history of Chera rulers between 3rd and 8th centuries CE is even less known. The Chera rulers were Vaishnav Hindus who took the title of Perumal during this period. Kulasekara Alwar ruled in 8th century and is believed to be a devotional Vaishnav poet. In the Aihole inscription, Pulakesin II mentions the conquest of Chera kings and creating a prosperous Pallava kingdom from behind the forts of Kanchi to south of Kaveri River. They seem to have alternately allied and fought against Pallava rulers. They continued their rule over territories partly in Kerala and Tamil Nadu until 994 when Rajaraja Chola conquered Bhaskara Ravi Varman Thiruvadi, the Chera ruler. After this the Chera Dynasty went in decline for some period although there were minor skirmishes with Cholas who generally controlled most territories in Kerala also. Rama Varma Kulasekhara (1090 to 1102 CE) was the last Chera ruler who had to move his capital from Mahodyapuram to Kollam when the former capital was destroyed by Cholas. From the remnants of Chera dynasty later the Venad rulers emerged.
600 BCE (circa) - Zarathustra, the prophet of the religion named after him was probably born either in Mazar-i-Sharif or somewhere in Bactria. His name literally means ‘yellow camel’. Zarathustra was originally a priest of a sacrificial cult, “Mithra”. At the age of 30 he had a vision of God through “Vohu Manah” or “good mind” and named him as “Ahura Mazda” or the “supreme and wise lord”. The book of his teachings of Zarathustrian religion is called “Avestha”. It was composed in a language that was in use in Persia since about 1000 BC. He was persecuted for his beliefs and finally sought asylum in the court of King Vishtaspa. This king is mentioned in the religious epics called the ‘Gathas’. With the advent of Islam in eighth century CE, the Zarathustrians (called Parsi in India) were persecuted in Persia and had to seek asylum in India. They settled near the port city of Surat in Gujarat on the Arabian Sea coast initially. In the 19th century the British East India Company gave incentives to Parsis (Zoroastrians) to move to Bombay (Mumbai). About 75% of Parsis in India live in Mumbai. They are a small and very progressive minority in India that has made great contributions in the social, political and industrial development of the country.
566 BCE (circa) - Birth of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha at Lumbini near Kapilavastu, the capital of his father in Himalayan foothills. By early first millennium the Buddhist religion in India was almost completely merged in to Vedic religion with Buddha being considered as the ninth Avataar (Reincarnation) of Vishnu.
544 -493 BCE (circa) - Bimbisar became the ruler of Magadha (Bihar), he is supposed to have lived to a very old age of more than 80 years. Bimbisar must have been born about 573 BC.
540 BCE (circa) (March/April) - Birth of Vardhaman Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankar and founder of modern Jain religion at Kshatriyakund near Patna in Bihar. (Jains believe he was born in 599 BCE)
521-485 BCE - Darius I rules Persia, conquers vast territories from Middle East Asia up to Egypt and regions west of Indus River in modern day Pakistan. He started building Persepolis.
500 BCE (circa) - Pre-Buddhist India. Magadha, Kosala and Vatsa were the territorially large Janapadas (kingdoms) while in Himalayan foothills were the Samghas or Janas (republics) run by aristocratic families like the Sakyas of Kapilvastu, Mallas of Pava and Kusinara of Kushinagar, Lichchhavis of Vesali (Vaishali) and the Videhas of Mithila. The republics generally evolved from the various tribes.
493 BCE (circa) - Ajatashatru murdered his father, Bimbisar, to usurp the throne of Magadha. His capital was at Rajgraha (Rajgir), he later built a fort at Pataligram that finally evolved into the fabulously affluent capital of Pataliputra as described by Megasthenes, the Greek ambassador.
486 BCE (circa) - Mahaparinirwana (demise) of Sakyamuni Buddha at Kusinagar in East Uttar Pradesh.
486-465 BCE - Ahasuerus (Xerxes) that literally meant “ruler of heroes” son of Darius ruled Persia and its foreign territories.
468 BCE (circa) - ‘Kevala, (demise) of Mahavira, the twenty-fourth Jain Tirthankar in Pavapuri at the age of 72 years.
465-334 BCE - Artaxerxes I, II & III followed Xerxes on the throne of Persia and continued the construction of Persepolis. In about 338 BC during the reign of Artaxerxes III construction of the ceremonial capital was completed.
461 BCE - Death of Ajatshatru. All 5 rulers that followed him usurped the throne by killing their fathers.
413 BCE - People of Magadha deposed the last descendent of Ajatshatru and crowned his viceroy, Shishunaga as the next ruler. His Shunga dynasty lasted about half a century only.
463 BCE (circa) - Mahapadma Nanda ascends the Magadha throne. He was probably of low caste origin and not a Kshatriya.
356 BCE - Birth of Alexander in the royal family of Phillip of Macedon. He succeeds his father at a young age of 20 and immediately recovers the Greek territories conquered earlier by the Achaemenid emperors of Persia. In Egypt he is recognized as a Pharaoh after he conquers that region. This emboldens him to march east towards Persia.
334 BCE - Alexander of Macedon conquers Persia and orders the destruction of Persepolis as a revenge for the destruction of the Greek Acropolis earlier by the Persians. End of the glorious Persian Empire. Persia becomes a Greek vice-royalty.
327 BCE - Alexander of Mecedon entered the Indian provinces of Achaemenid empire in the western plains of Indus River. The battle with an Indian provincial ruler, Porus, proved very difficult. Alexander won with great difficulty. The areas won by the Greek were Gandhar, parts of Punjab up to the Bias River, a tributary of Indus. After a discontent in the army, he returned to Persia sailing down the Indus river where he met further resistance. On the way back in Mali, Alexander was struck by an enemy arrow and later died before reaching back home.
321 BCE - End of Nanda Dynasty. All through these dynastic changes Magadha remained the predominant kingdom in India.
322 BCE - Chandragupta Maurya founded the Maurya dynasty. He belonged to the Vaishya caste (traders and landlord farmers).
310 BCE (circa) - Vishnugupta who authored the Arthashastra under the name of Chanakya or Kautilya inspired Chandragupta to revolt against the last Nanda ruler. His origin is not clear, he may have been born in Takshila or somewhere in present day Uttar Pradesh.
315 BCE - Magasthenes comes to the court of Chandragupta Maurya as ambassador of the Greek viceroy in Persia, Seleucus Nikator. He wrote the Indika that described the geography, life of people, cities, politics and administration during the reign of Chandragupta Maurya. A Greek princess was married to Chandragupta Maurya.
300 BCE (circa) – 1279 CE - Chola dynasty: This was not only one of the oldest of south Indian dynasties but also the most enduring, it lasted until 1279 CE. Although there are various references to early Chola Dynasty rulers in the ancient Tamil ‘Sangam Literature’ there is very little historical evidence about the origins of this very influential kingdom in southern India. The early Chola rulers were based in the fertile valley of the Kaveri River. Karikala Chola seems to be the most important king among the early rulers. Rajaraja Chola, who reigned from 985 to 1014 CE and Rajendra Chola, who ruled from 1014 to 1044 were the two most remarkable leaders in the medieval Chola period. Kulothunga Chola I, who ruled from 1070 to 1120 was the greatest leader in the Chalukya Chola period that continued until 1279 CE. Under these remarkable and very foresighted rulers the Dynasty gained immense power and prestige. They were one of the most powerful and effective military, economic and cultural power in Asia of their period. The Chola Empire covered a vast region stretching across the Indian Ocean up to the Islands of Maldives in the south and in the north their power reached across the Godavari River in Andhra Pradesh. Rajaraja Chola subdued almost entire peninsular southern India and controlled northern areas of the island of Sri Lanka as well as the islands of Maldives. Rajendra Chola dispatched a victorious army to the northern India that subdued the might of the Mahipala, the Pala ruler of Pataliputra in present day Bihar. He also sent an armada to control the kingdoms of the Malay Archipelago. With the rise of Hoysala Dynasty and the resurgence of Pandya might during the 12th century, the Chola Dynasty started faltering and eventually ended some time in the 13th century. During their long reign the Chola rulers patronized Tamil literature, Dravidian sculpture and temple architecture leaving behind an everlasting legacy. Economy flourished during their reign. They were the pioneers in the centralized form of government administration and developed a very efficient and disciplined bureaucracy.
297 BCE - Chandragupta Maurya abdicates the throne in favor of his son, Bindusar Amitraghata (destroyer of foes). According to Jain chronicles, Chandragupta renounced the worldly life and wandered to Shravanbelagola in Karnataka in southern India where he fasted unto death in the Jain tradition.
268 BCE - Death of Bindusar (almost the entire sub-continent was under Mauryan rule by this time except Kalinga in present day Orissa).
268-231 BCE - The reign of Devanamapiya Piyadasi Ashoka. Perhaps the greatest ruler of the Mauryan Dynasty and one of the most remarkable leaders in the history of India. He had rock edicts on stone pillars erected all over India, Pakistan and Afghanistan regions. Because of the inscriptions on these pillars a lot of the history of Mauryan period could be explained. Many later monarchs used these pillars to inscribe about the period of their rule.
260 BC - Conquest of Kalinga in eastern India had a profound effect on the conqueror, the Emperor Ashoka, who pledged to give up the path of violence and become a Buddhist. He sent Buddhist emissaries to countries in middle east, Greece and Egypt. Buddhism became widespread in central, south-east and far east Asia to a great extent because of his efforts.
250 BCE (circa) - Third Buddhist Council held at Pataliputra (Present day Patna in Bihar)
231-185 BCE - Decline of Mauryan empire followed immediately after Ashoka. Seven Mauryan Rulers (Kunala/Dasaratha 232-225, Samprati 225-215, Salisuka 215-202, Devadharma/ Devavarman 202-195, Satamdhanu/Satadhanvan 195-187, Brihadratha 187-185) followed in quick succession.
185 BCE - Shunga Dynasty – Founder: Pushyamitra Shunga was a Brahmin from Ujjain region in western India who was a senior official in the service of Maurya rulers. He assassinated the last Maurya ruler and usurped the Maghadha Empire. Throughout his reign he was constantly occupied with wars against rulers in Deccan in the south, Indo-Bactrian rulers in the northeast and the rulers of Kalinga in Orrisa in the east. Shunga dynasty lasted about 50 years only. Shunga rulers managed to patronize art, architecture and culture despite the wars on all frontiers. They contributed to the Buddhist complex in Sanchi in central India. Kanva Dynasty replaced the Shunga rulers but neither of these held sway in the north-west of the sub-continent. This area saw a series of foreign invaders some of them settled and mingled with local Vedic, Buddhist and Jain cultures.
200 BCE-10 CE - Indo-Bactrian Rulers: Demetrius I invaded and may have ruled parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan and some regions in Indian Punjab. There were many rulers in the Indo-Bactrian Dynasty who at some point ruled territories as far east as Pataliputra, the modern day city of Patna in Bihar State. Menander I, who was referred to as Milinda in Sanskrit and Pali languages, is most well known among the Indo-Bactrian rulers. He ruled from 155 to 130 BC (circa) and his territories could have extended quite far east of Mathura prominent city near Agra. A Buddhist text called Milinda Panha mentioned that Milinda converted to Buddhism after his famous question and answer session with a Buddhist sage, Nagasena. Nagasena may be another name used by the great Buddhist scholar, Nagarjuna. Coins of Menander I have also been found in many regions in India and Pakistan. Strato II is believed to be the last of Indo Bactrian rulers who may have ruled from 25 BC to 10 CE.
230 BCE – circa 250 CE - Satavahana Dynasty: Aitarya Brahmana from 8th century BCE mentions that the Satavahana Dynasty rulers were descendents of the Hindu sage Vishwamitra. This Brahman dynasty is referred to as Satavahana, Satakarnis, Andhras and Andhrabhritya in the ancient Hindu scriptures, the Puranas and on their coins. Under the Mauryan rulers they must have been a feudatory territory. Fragments of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka’s 6th Piller Edict (238 BCE) preserved in the British Museum have Brahmi language inscriptions mentioning that Satavahana ruler were feudal rulers under Emperor Ashoka who introduced Buddhism in their territory. After the death of Mauryan Emperor Ashoka and the gradual decline of Mauryan Empire they proclaimed sovereignty. The Greek traveler Megasthanes mentions that this kingdom possessed 100,000 infantry, 1000 elephants and more than 30 very well fortified towns. They were powerful enough to withstand many military raids from Central Asia. There is some evidence that they also had some naval presence probably to protect the commerce with Indian colonies in southeastern Asia. Abū Rahman Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Bīrūnī (September 15, 973 to December 13, 1048) who accompanied Mahmud of Ghazni to India in his book ‘Kitabu’l Hind’ refers to a language called ‘Andhri’ that was spoken in southern India. Around 230 BCE Simuka conquered vast territories in present day Maharashtra, Malwa and some other parts of Madhya Pradesh. Kanha or Krishna succeeded him on the throne in 207 BCE and extended the Kingdom further towards the west and south. He ruled until 189 BCE. There must have been quick successions after him because the next ruler of significance was Satakarni I who ruled from about 180 BCE during a long reign of 56 years in 124 BCE. He conquered the region of Malwa in Madhya Pradesh from Sunga Dynasty rulers. He led successful military campaigns as far as present day Bihar and Orissa States. Kharavela, the Kalinga ruler of Kalinga mentioned him in his ‘Hathigumpha inscription. He moved his capital to Paithan in Maharashtra State and extended his territories in southern India. The Puranas mention that thirty rulers of this line ruled western, central and southern India. A lot of coins and inscriptions of this dynasty’s rulers have been found in archeological excavations in various regions of India. Other prominent rulers of this dynasty were Hala (20 BCE to 24 CE), Gautamiputra Satakarni (106-130 CE), Vashishtiputra Pulumayi (130-158) and Vashishtiputra Satakarni Sri Yajna Satakarni (170-199 CE). Four or five more rulers followed Sri Yajna Satakarni until the end of this dynasty sometime around 250 CE.
200 BC (circa) - Jyotisha-Vedanga and Surya-Prajnapti, the first major expositions on Astronomy were composed in this period.
300 BC - 79 CE - Saka Dynasty: Saka were initially a tribal people (Hiung-nu, Wu-sun and Yueh-chi) who originated in the plains west of China in central Asia. When ever they did not have enough grass to feed their herds they would occasionally invade China not only for feeding their cattle but also to loot the wealth of the more cultured and prosperous Chinese. The Chinese emperor Shi Huang Ti built a wall for protection from the constant invasions of these nomadic tribes in last half of the 3rd century BCE. Between 25 and 57 the emperor Kuang Wu Ti founded the later Han Dynasty and strengthened the great Chinese wall. This forced the nomadic people to migrate westward. They settled in region between Aral Sea and Caspian Sea as well as in northern Iran. They displaced the inhabitants of these regions who were forced to migrate into Bactria, Kashmir and northern Pakistan regions. These displaced people are referred to the Sakas or Scythians. The First Saka king in the Indian territory is generally believed to be Maues or Moga who in about 80 BCE established his kingdom in Gandhara (northern Pakistan). Azes succeeded him and defeated Hippostratos, the last of the Greek governors in northern India. Azes II succeeded him. Later Gondophernes came to power and became famous because St. Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Prophet Jesus Christ is supposed to have traveled from Israel to his court sometime in the first half of 1st century CE soon after the passing away of Prophet Jesus Christ. The Saka organized their kingdom very efficiently in the tradition of ancient Persian rulers. The combination of five Yueh-Chi tribes finally once again defeated the Sakas and drove them out of their kingdom to establish the Kushan Dynasty.
50 BCE - 100 CE - Roman trade flourishes with southern India.
58 BCE - Vikram Samvat Hindu Indian Calendar starts.
38 BCE to 16th century CE - Pandyan Dynasty was one of three prominent ruling clans that reigned over southern India from pre-historic times until the end of the 15th century CE. The other two dynasties were the Chola and Chera of Kerala. The Pandyan rulers governed initially from Korkai, a seaport near the cape of the Indian peninsula in the period around 600 BCE but their famous capital in later period was Madurai. The earliest reference to Pandya Kingdom was found in the Nedunj Cheliyan I epigraph in the Minakshipuram records (Purananuru, Pattu paatu and Padirrupattu) that assigned their era to be starting from second from the 2nd to the 1st centuries BCE. Although this record does not clarify the precise time periods of Pandyan origins, it does give a lot of information on the events during this early period. This record mentions the gift of rock-cut beds to a Jain religion ascetic. Punch marked coins have also been found that date from about the same period. Pandyas along with Cholas, Cheras and Satiyaputras are mentioned in inscriptions on Ashoka Pillars (13th rock edict at S. Dhammika) from 273 to 232 BCE. Emperor Ashoka proclaims that he ordered Buddhist missionary monks to visit these friendly kingdoms although they were under his domain. Periplus of the Erythraean Sea (circa 60 to 100 CE) describes the riches of a ‘Pandian Kingdom’ that was situated very far away. The Chinese historian Yu Huan in 3rd century CE text ‘Weilue’ also mentioned the ‘Kingdom of Panyue’. The Chinese literature of 3rd century CE also mentions Pandya Kingdom that was very far away from the kingdoms of northern India and in the south part of the country. He also noted that the people of Pandyan kingdom were about similar in height as the Chinese. Around 13 CE Nicolaus, the Greek historian, met in Damascus with the Pandyan Kingdom’s ambassador to the court of Roman Emperor Caesar Augustus. Another Pandyan ruler sent an emissary to the court of Roman Emperor Julian in about 361 CE. In Alagankulam at the mouth of Vaigai River in the southeast of Madurai a Roman Trading Center was located. Pandyan kingdom also had seafaring contacts with the Ptolemaic Egypt and through them with Rome by around 1st century CE. Pearls, Shells, Ivory and Spices formed the bulk of exports from Pandyan Kingdom while they imported glass, gold, wine and horses. In the 3rd century CE they had trading contacts with the Chinese. Nedunj Cheliyan I is the first Pandyan King mentioned in Sangam Literature recovered so far. He ruled from Korkai at the mouth of the River Tamraparni (now called Vaigai). He invaded the Kingdom of Kudal (later renamed as Madurai) that was ruled by Akutai, an independent chieftain. He was honored with the title of ‘Aariyap Padaikadantha Pandyan (the king who conquered the Aryan army) after he defeated an invading army from the Deccan. He again received the honorary title of ‘Ollaiyur Thantha Pudappandian’ when he expanded the Pandyan Kingdom by conquering Ollaiyur (near modern day Pudukkottai). Nedunj Cheliyan I and his successor were poets who contributed to the ‘Purananuru’ collection. His successor Nedunj Cheliyan II had the title of Pasumpun Pandyan. He defeated the chieftain Evvi II in the north of Vaigai River and the chieftain Atiyan who ruled the territory of Aayi. These two defeated rulers became his army commanders and helped him expand the kingdom further west in Kongu region. When he conquered all the land up to the coast of Arabian Sea he received the title of ‘Vidambalamba Ninra Pandyan’ or the Pandyan king whose kingdom’s borders were washed by two seas. His successor was Mudukudumi Peruvaludhi who is known to have performed ‘Yagyas’ with the help of Brahman Priests following the traditions of the rulers of northern India. Nedunj Cheliyan III is hailed by most historians as the greatest of early Pandyan kings. He advanced into the enemy territories of the Cholas and the Cheras provoking his enemies to unite against him. They fought a pitched battle in Talaialanganam (now in Thanjavur or Tanjore district) in which he defeated them. This victory enabled him to expand his kingdom even further. At least four other Pandyan kings followed him. Musiri Mutriya Cheliyan among these became famous because he conquered Musiri on the Arabian Sea. Ukkirap Peruvaludi is known because a famous Tamil poet, Tiruvalluvar, composed a very important literary work ‘Tirukkural’. Kadungon established the first Pandyan Empire in the post Sangam Literature era in 560 CE after he defeated the Kalabhras. He ruled for 30 years until 590 CE. A list of rulers starting from Kadungon was inscribed on rock pieces that were found on Vaigai Riverbed. According to this list Marvarman Avani Culamani ruled from 590 to 620; Cezhiyan Cendan from 620 to 640; Arikesari Maravarman Nindraseer Nedumaaran from 640 to 674; Kochadaryan Ranadhiran from 675 to 730, Arikesari Parankusa Maravarman Rajasinga from 730 to 765; Parantaka Nedunjadaiyan from 765 to 790; Rajasingam II from 790 to 800; Varagunan I from 800 to 830; Sirmara Srivallabha 830 to 862; Varaguna II from 862 to 880; Parantaka Viranarayana 862 to 905 and Rajasimha III from 905 to 920. After this period the Mauryan Dynasty went in decline because the rising power of Chola Dynasty rulers. Pandyan revival started with Maravarman Sundara Pandya who ruled from 1216 to 1238. Sundaravaraban Kulasekaran II ruled from 1238 to 1240 followed by Maravaramban Sundara Pandya II who ruled from 1241 to 1251. The golden age of Pandyan Empire started with the rule of Jatavarman Sundara Pandyan who expanded his empire in to the Telugu region and conquered the northern half of the island of Sri Lanka soon after he was crowned in 1251. He and his successors promoted extensive trading relationship with the Empire of Sri Vijaya on the island of present day Sumatra in Indonesia. During the period after their hay day in 13th century the Pandya rulers had to face conflicts with Pallavas, Cholas, Hoysalas and finally the Delhi Sultanate. Vira Pandyan IV was the last Pandyan ruler of the medieval period who ruled from 1309 to 1345. Malik Kafur, a commander of Sultan Allauddin Khalji, sacked Madurai in 1311. Khusrav Khan, another Islamic Sultanate commander, invaded Madurai in 1314. Ulugh Khan, who was later crowned as Muhammad bin Tughlak, was the next Islamic invader to attack the Madurai in 1323 and established himself as the Sultan of Madurai governing the areas in the neighborhood of present day Madurai. The Pandyas sought the assistance of Vijayanagar Empire rulers to defeat the Madurai Sultanate. Kumara Kampanna Udaiyar, the general of Vijayanagar army defeated the Islamic invaders of Madurai in 1378. The Vijayanagar rulers appointed Nayaks to govern the Madurai region. The Nayak (governors of Vijayanagar Empire) soon asserted themselves to establish their own dynasty. Later Pandyan rulers were insignificant although for the name sake the dynasty continued until the beginning of 16th century.
20 BCE - 60 CE (circa) - Kujula Khadphises founded his kingdom in Kabul and Kashmir. He died at an old age of 80 and his son Vima Khadphises succeeded him.
78 - 144 (circa) - Kushan Dynasty: There is no definite evidence that Kanishka I, the most famous Kushan ruler was directly related to Khadphises I & II. He was certainly of central Asian origin as is evident from a portrait of his that was excavated in Mathura, northwest of Agra. He expanded the Kushan territory and under him the kingdom flourished. He is especially praised for the cultural development of northern India. Beginning of the Indian Era “Saka Samvat” in 78 CE (e.g. Year 2000 = 1922 Saka Samvat) is related to his period of reign. The Kushan kingdom expanded up to Varanasi in the east and up to Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh. Mathura became almost a second capital of Kushan kingdom. The vast collection of excavated artifacts from his period in the general region of Mathura that are preserved in Mathura Museum of the Archeological Survey of India prove his profound impact on this region. Kushan rulers are believed to be great patrons of Buddhist religion. The fourth Buddhist Council was held during the reign of Kanishka I. For the first time statues of Buddha were sculpted in this period and the Mahayana sect of Buddhism developed.
144 – 300 (circa) - The Later Kushan Dynasty lasted another 150 years at least after Kanishka I but its power most probably dwindled with time. Later kings were Vasishka I, Huvishka I, Vasudeva I, Kanishka II, Kanishka III and Vasudeva II.
275-901 (circa) - Pallava Dynasty ruled from Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu & Andhra Pradesh: The Pallava Dynasty was most probably established by Simhavarman in 275 CE. Their caste origins are also not very clear. They claimed to be ‘Brahma-Kshatriyas’ (a mixed caste between Brahmans and Kshatriya). King Mahendravarman I had a title of ‘Samkirnajati’ that literally means ‘mixed caste’. They were feudatory governors of Andhra Satavahana Rulers initially and asserted their sovereignty after the decline of Amaravati based Satavahanas. The Pallava capital city was Kanchipuram that was established around 4th century CE. Mahendravarman I, who ruled from 571 to 630 CE and Narasimhavarman I, who succeeded him from 630 to 668 CE were two Pallava rulers that established the Pallava might and also patronized the amazing achievements in the fields of art and architecture. The Pallava Dynasty dominated the Telugu and northern areas of Tamil speaking regions of India for about 6 centuries until the dusk of 9th century CE. During this long period of rule the Pallavas were almost constantly in rival conflicts with the other two Tamil kingdoms of Chola and Pandyas. The Chola kings finally ended the Pallava rule in southern India. Pallava Dynasty was the driving energy behind the magnificent Dravidian architecture in the Mahabalipuram on the coast of Bay of Bengal and in the sculptures and temple architecture in the town of Kanchipuram. The Chinese pilgrim Hiuen Tsang spent some time in the temple town of Kanchipuram and praised the benign rule of Pallava kings as well as their patronage of the grand temple projects. The founder of the Zen school of Buddhism, Bodhidharma is believed to be a prince belonging to the Pallava Dynasty according to some sources. Skandavarman (after 300 CE) is described as the first ruler of early Pallava Dynasty rulers. The territory of Pallavas under him reached the Krishna River in present day Andhra Pradesh in the north. Samudragupta of the Gupta Dynasty defeated his successor, Vishnupgopa in about 350 CE. In 436 CE during the reign of Simhavarman IV the power and prestige of Pallava was restored when he recovered territories in the Krishna River region in the north. The history of Pallava kings from Vishnugopa’s period was immortalized in Sanskrit language inscriptions on copper plates. The second and glorious phase of Pallava Era was initiated by the crowning of Simha Vishnu in 555 CE. He ruled until 590 CE and laid the solid foundations for the dynasty that continued to rule large chunks of southern India until the reign of Aparajita Varman, who ruled from 882 to 901 CE.
320 –335 (circa) - Chandra Gupta I established the Gupta Dynasty in Pataliputra in the Magadha region. His origin is not very clear, most probably he belonged to a hereditary, wealthy landlord’s family that gradually acquired political power. He married Kumaradevi, a princess from the old established Lichchhavi royal family. This matrimonial alliance could have been especially planned to get the acceptance of the general population as someone of royal heritage. His coins depict him with Kumaradevi on one side and Lakshmi, the goddess of luck, wealth and prosperity on the other side. His territory extended from the entire Magadha area to the regions of Saketa and Prayag (present day Allahabad) in eastern Uttar Pradesh. An elaborate eulogy to him and his son was inscribed on an older Ashoka Pillar that was excavated in Allahabad. This inscription gives a detailed account of his rule. He is famous for holding a big conference of nobles and aristocrats to declare the succession of his son, Samudra Gupta to the throne in 335 CE (circa).
335-375 (circa) - In the eulogy inscribed on an older Ashoka Pillar and found near Allahabad in eastern Uttar Pradesh, there is a long list of Gupta Dynasty kings who succumbed to Samudra Gupta’s triumphant march through the country. From this list it one gets the impression that he conquered all territory up to the coast of Bay of Bengal in the east and to the city of Kanchipuram south of present day Chennai in Tamil Nadu. In the west nine kings of Aryavarta west of Ganges were forced to pay tribute. Even kings of Assam and Bengal are mentioned as being subjugated by him. There could be some exaggeration in this listing of kings but even if some of it were true, it was quite impressive. It could be that all these kingdoms were not directly ruled by Samudra Gupta, some may have had a friendly alliance while others may have paid tribute and ruled their kingdoms independently. The eulogy describes him as a lover of poetry and music. His coins depict him playing a “Vina” (lute).
375-415 (circa) - Chandra Gupta II (Vikramaditya – the sun of prowess): The most impressive, chivalrous and heroic of all the Gupta kings was certainly Chandra Gupta II (Vikramaditya – Sun of Prowess), third in direct line from the founder of the dynasty. A play called “Devi-Chandra-Guptam” written about 200 years later describes the rivalry among the brothers after the death of Samudra Gupta. His brother Rama Gupta ascended the throne initially but was defeated by a Saka king in a battle and forced to offer his queen, Dhruvadevi, to the victor. Chandra Gupta II was extremely bitter and disgusted by his brother’s actions and decided to take revenge. He disguised himself as a queen, sneaked into Saka king’s apartment and murdered him. After rescuing Dhruvadevi he killed his brother and married Dhruvadevi. Coins of his reign depict him with Dhruvadevi. In the courtyard of Qutb Jami Mosque in southern New Delhi there is an iron pillar from his period that has not rusted until now. The inscription on that pillar conveys that Chandra Gupta II had that pillar molded out of an alloy of various metals and erected in a Vaishu Temple as a Dhwaja, a temple flag post. There may have probably been a Garuda bird on top of that pillar, which is missing. A cavity on top of the pillar indicates the place where that bird sculpture may have been placed. Chandra Gupta II led a successful campaign against the Saka rulers gaining control of all of western India. Special silver coins were issued to commemorate this victory. This victory over all of north and west India gave him access to seaports on the Arabian Sea coast and control over the trade with Mediterranean Sea. The old Satavahana territory of Deccan ruled by the Vakataka Dynasty also came into Gupta territory by a marital alliance in which a daughter of Chandra Gupta II married the Vakataka ruler. There were other marital alliances with rulers in Deccan to gain their allegiance. His reign is also very famous for its excellence in the arts and culture. The famous Sanskrit poet, Kalidas was one of his prominent courtiers. The Chinese traveler, Fa-Hsien traveled through his territories and other parts of India from 405 to 411 and described the country as very prosperous and affluent. Gupta period is referred to as the Golden Age in the field of art, architecture, culture and literature.
399-414 - Chinese Buddhist Traveler, Fa Hien, made a pilgrimage to places related to Buddha and wrote detailed chronicles of his long journey from China to India.
415-454 (circa) - Reign of Kumara Gupta, the son of Chandra Gupta II: He managed to maintain peace and prosperity in his empire but Bactria was occupied by the Hun invaders who threatened to cross the Hindu Kush Mountains in Afghanistan to enter the plains of Indus and Ganga Rivers. The Chinese and Indian rulers could resist the Huns to some extent. This could be the reason why they galloped west to Europe which they furiously attacked and were comparatively more successful in that region.
454-467 (circa) - Skanda Gupta was next in the Gupta Dynasty. He also battled valiantly against the mighty Hun invaders but he was quite weakened with the breaking away of his feudatories. The Gupta realm was shaken by the Huns and domestic strife resulting in the gradual decline of their power.
467-550 (circa) - The later rulers of Gupta Dynasty: were Kumara Gupta II (467-477), Buddha Gupta (477-496), Chandra Gupta III ‘?’ (496-500), Vainya Gupta (500-515), Narasimha Gupta (510-530), Kumara Gupta III (530-540) and Vishnu Gupta (540-550). By end of fifth century the Huns were successful in gaining control of vast territories in northern India. The Gupta empire was fractured into small kingdoms. The Huns in India were somewhat like viceroys of the Hun overlord who ruled from his capital in Bamiyan in present day Afghanistan and his territories extended from Khotan in the east to Persia in the west.
550-600 - The Great Sanskrit Poet, Kalidas lived in Ujjain at the court of the Gupta Dynasty ruler, Raja Vikramaditya. Among his many works the most famous are “Kumarasambhava”(episode of the marriage of Lord Shiva and Parvati), “Raghuvamsa” (The epic poem describes the history of the Rajas: Dileepa, Raghu, Aja, Dasharatha, Sri Rama, Lava and Kusha. ), “Ritusamhara”(it is a small poetic work describing 6 seasons), “Shakuntala” and “Meghaduta”, that are his poetic works. ‘Malavikagnimitra’ (love episode of Agnimitra and Malavika), ‘Vikramorvashiya’ (describes the love of Raja Pururava and the heavenly damsel Urvashi) and ‘Abhijnana Shakuntala’ are his celebrated plays. The episode of Shakuntala is mentioned in the Adiparva Chapter of the great epic Mahabharata. This is definitely the most celebrated literary work of Kalidas that has been translated into many international languages. Kalidas must have traveled extensively because he describes the entire sub-continent from Gandhara (Afghanistan & north Pakistan) to southern India in his various poetic and theatrical works.
543-757 - The Chalukyas Dynasty ruled a large territory in the central and southern India from the 6th to 12th centuries from their capital city of Badami. They rose to prominence during the reign of Pulakesi II. After his death one part of the family separated and ruled the areas in eastern Deccan from their capital of Vengi until about 11th century. In the west the Rashtrakuta Dynasty eclipsed the Chalukyas of Badami until descendents of Chalukyas revived their dynasty once again in late 10th century. They ruled from their capital city of Basavakalyan until end of 12th century. The rise of the Chalukyas marks an important milestone in the history of southern India and a golden age in the history of the region of Karnataka State. The political atmosphere in South India shifted from smaller kingdoms to large empires with the rise of Badami Chalukyas. For the first time in history, a southern Indian kingdom conquered and consolidated the entire region between the Rivers Kaveri and the Narmada. The rise of this empire coincided with the birth of efficient administration, rise in overseas trade and commerce, and the development of a new style of architecture called Vesara. Around the 9th century, patronized the growth of Kannada as a language of literature in the Jaina Puranas, Veerashaiva Vachanas and the Brahmanistic traditions. In the 11th century the Eastern Chalukyas patronized the Telugu literature.
602 -643 - Hsuan-Tsang or Xuan Tsang was born in 602 CE. In the reign of Sui Dynasty from 589 to 618 and in the period of Tang Dynasty from 618 to 906, the Chinese had developed many great monasteries where the residents devoted their lives to learning of Buddhist literature. Hsuan-Tsang traveled between 627 and 643 CE and wrote detailed descriptions of the places he visited and the various religious and other literature that he collected. During his childhood already he was ordained as a Buddhist priest at the Temple of Heavenly Radiance in Hangchow. Soon he was promoted to the Temple of Great Learning in Chang-an where the monks used to translate the sacred books from India. He was inspired by the learned monks to travel to India to acquire more Buddhist books. This journey in those days was extremedly dangerous. Hsuan-Tsang traveled between 627 and 643 CE. His detailed account provides the first reliable information about Central Asia and India. He traveled from China to Tashkent, Samarkand and Balkh to the great center of learning at Takshila in modern day northern Pakistan. Later he passed by Multan, Sindh to the very important center of Hindu religious learning at Ujjain in central India. Then he passed by Ajanta caves where he saw the Buddhist monks still working on the later period caves with beautiful sculptures and elaborate paintings depicting the Bodhisatvas - the previous incarnations of Buddha. These monks cut in to the side of a mountain deep inside to create whole halls for prayer - the Chityas and the residential quarters called Viharas. Later he traveled to Nasik that was another ancient center of religious learning in India on his way to Kanchipuram in the modern, southern Indian state of Tamilnadu. From there he traveled northwards along the eastern coastal regions towards Bihar. Here he took a detour to visit Assam in far eastern India. Returning from Assam he visited the great Buddhist pilgrimage center of Bodhgaya where Buddha had achieved enlightenment. He spent considerable time in the great center of learning at Nalanda, where the Buddha himself had taught earlier. From Nalanda he went to a famous Hindu religious pilgrimage and learning center of Ayodhya that was reputed to be the birthplace of Ram, the incarnation of Vishnu. On his return journey to China he went past Khotan in central Asia.
606-647 - Harsha or Harsha Vardhan established the last great Indian empire in 590 and ruled the entire plains of Yamuna and Ganges rivers in the north of the Narmada River until 647. He was a Shiva worshiper but tolerated Buddhism and Jainism also. His father was Prabhakar Vardhan who was a ‘Surya’ or Sun worshiper. Rajya Vardhan, his elder brother ruled from his capital of Thanesar. At its peak his kingdom covered the present day states of Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, parts of Gujarat, parts of Madhya Pradesh, Uttaranchal, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Orissa. Northern India was fragmented into small kingdoms and republics after the downfall of Gupta Dynasty. Harsha Vardhan united this huge territory into one great kingdom at the tender age of 16 years, when he was acknowledged as the Emperor of this vast region in April 606 CE by all rulers and chieftains. Xuanzang (also written as Hiuen Tsang), the famous Chinese Buddhist pilgrim who traveled through his empire from 630 to 644 CE mentions in his travel chronicles that the Harsha Vardhan was a Vaishya (Hindu commercial caste) but does not write about the origin of his family. The British Archaeologist, Alexander Cunningham wrote in 1871 that Xuanzang must have been confused between Vaishya (the Hindu commercial caste and ‘Bais’ the Rajput sub-caste. Thomas Watters, another British historian contradicts Cunningham’s assertion and points out that Xuanzang was long enough in the territory to be familiar with the antecedents of the most prominent Emperor at that time. The Chinese traveler stayed in this territory for such a long period that he could master the difficult Sanskrit language. He surely must have learnt all the intricacies of the Hindu caste system. He probably specifically mentioned that Harsha was of Vaishya caste because this was quite unusual. Mostly the kings were of Kshatriya caste. Xuanzang also traveled to southern India later and wrote about that region as well as its rulers. In 641 CE Emperor Harsha Vardhan sent an Ambassador to China and the Chinese Emperor reciprocated this gesture with the sending of Li Yibiao and Wang Xuahze who most probably traveled through Tibet. Their historic journey is immortalized in the inscriptions in ‘Rajgriha’ (Rajgir) and Bodhgaya in Bihar State. Apart from his achievements on the battlefield, Emperor Harsha Vardhan was also a reputed author of three famous plays: Nagananda, Ratnavali and Priyadarsika. Bana, a Sanskrit Poet wrote a poetic historical account of his reign in ‘Harsha Charita’.
671-695 - Chinese Buddhist Pilgrim I-Ching or Yi Jing (originally named Zhang Wen Ming) left for India from Canton in China by sea during the rule of Tang Dynasty in 671 and arrived in India in 673 CE. After visiting the sacred Buddhist sites in Magadha (present day Bihar State), he resided at the great Nalanda monastery for ten years (676-685) and devoted himself to the study of Buddhist scriptures. He left India in 685 for the city of Shri Bhoja (or Sri Boja, known as Shri Vijaya, i.e. Palembang in Sumatra Island of Indonesia), which at that time was very much under the cultural influence of India and was a great center of Vajrayana Buddhist Philosophy. Here he devoted himself to the translation of Buddhist Sanskrit texts. In 689 I-tsing returned to China to obtain assistance for his translations. He then returned to Sri Vijaya, and remained there for five more years, returning to China in 695 during the reign of the well-known patron of Buddhism, the Empress Wu Zetian. Thus, I-tsing's stay abroad roughly covers a period of twenty-five years (671-695). He received much acclaim on his return. Like his predecessor Hiuen-tsang, I-tsing devoted the remaining years of his life to the translation of Buddhist works. He died in 713 AD at the age of 79, during the reign of the Chinese Emperor Zhongzong.
735 - The First Zarathustrian Refugees from Persia seek shelter on the Arabian Sea coast of Gujarat. The first Parsi (Zarathustrian) refugees who came to India were originally from Khorasan and after their arrival in India they established the towns of Sanjan and Navsari in Gujarat State. These towns were named after their place of origin, that is, the towns of Sanjan near Merv in present day Turkmenistan and Sari town in present day Mazandaran in Iran. The British colonialists offered incentives to Parsi craftsmen and traders to migrate to Bombay (Mumbai) when they were developing this city as a great British trading center in 19th. and early 20th. century.
753 - Rise of Rashtrakuta empire.
820 - Demise of Adi Shankaracharya who traveled all over India and preached Advaita or ‘non-dualism’ of divinity quoting from Vedas, Upanishads and other ancient literature. The texts of his teachings are still available and are popular as Advaita Vedanta.
985 - The most creative period in literature, art and culture in Tamil areas under the Chola king, Rajaraja I.
960-1200 (circa) - The most prosperous and creative period in Bundelkhand in Madhya Pradesh under the Chandela Dynasty. The Shaivite, Vaishnavite, Jain and Buddhist Temples built in Khajuraho.
999-1025 - Mahmud of Gazni raided various temple-towns and secular sites on at least 17 occasions. His most profitable loot was the sacking of the famous Somnath Temple in Gujarat on the coast of Arabian Sea. He died on April 21, 1030.
1138-1236 - Khwaja Muinuddin Chistie founded the Chistie order of Sufi mystics in India. He was born in Sistan province of Persia in 1138, after traveling widely in Middle East and Central Asia as well as performing the Haj, he arrived in India in 1196. He settled in Ajmer where he passed away in 1236. He is still the most popular Sufi saint in India and is commonly known as “Garib Nawaz”.
1173-1237 - Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki was born in 1173 in a town called “Aush” in Transoxia. He traveled to Ajmer where he became a disciple of Khwaja Muinuddin Chistie. He died in 1237 and is buried in south Delhi.
1177-1199 - A Sufi saint, Sheik Abul Hasan Ali Bin Usman al-Hujwiri al-Jullabi al-Ghaznavi, popularly known as Data Ganj Baksh came to Punjab during the raids of Mahmud of Ghazni. He belonged to the Sufi order established by Al-Juniad. In India he composed the first treatise on Sufism called Kashf-ul-Mahjab. Data Ganj Baksh,s mausoleum at Pak Pattan is still a pilgrimage center for hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis.
1179-1266 - Baba Fariduddin Ganj Shakkar was the disciple of Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki and the third in lineage of Chistie order established by Khwaja Muinuddin Chistie of Ajmer. He was born in Khetwal village in Multan province of Pakistan and lived in Pak Pattan, Pakistan. Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, was influenced by his philosophic poems and writings. He died in 1266.
1191 - First Battle of Taraori between Muizuddin Muhammad bin Sam of Ghur and an allied army headed by Prithviraj Chauhan. Muhammad of Ghur was wounded in this battle and had to retreat.
1192 - Second Battle of Taraori: Muhammad of Ghur returned to fight Prithviraj Chauhan and was successful this time. Raja Jai Chand of Kannauj was the father-in-law and bitter rival of Prithviraj Chauhan. He invited Muhammad of Ghur to attack India to take revenge. Before returning to Ghur Muhammad appointed his former slave, Qutub Uddin Aibak as his governor in the Indian territories in 1199.
1200 - Vijayanagara Dynasty founded in south India.
1206 - Muhammad of Ghur is murdered. Qutub Uddin Aibak proclaims himself Sultan of Delhi laying the foundation of Mamluk (Slave) Dynasty, the first Islamic dynasty in Delhi. He died in 1210 before completing Qutb Minar in the Qutb Jami Mosque.
1211-1236 - Shamsuddin Iltumish, son-in-law of Qutb Uddin, defeated the son of Qutb Uddin, Aram Shah, to become the second Islamic ruler of Delhi. He was a very able administrator. He sought assistance of Jewish merchants to teach his courtiers about the code of etiquette in the Baghdad. The Jewish merchants accompanied his courtiers to Baghdad and returned with a Khutba declaring Iltutmish the Sultan of India.
1236 - 1240 - Razia Sultana, the favorite and eldest daughter of Sultan Iltutmish made history as the world's first female Islamic ruler. The eldest son of Iltutmish died young while he was serving as governor in the Bengal province. Iltutmish was not impressed by his younger son, Ruknuddin Firoz Khan and did not want him to be placed on the throne of Delhi. The powerful courtiers nonetheless chose to crown him in 1236. He remained Sultan for a brief period of about six months when majority of the 40 important courtiers finally decided to obey the last wishes of Iltutmish and declrare his favorite daughter, Razia, the Sultana of Delhi. Though she remained on the throne of Delhi for a short time of about 4 years, she was considered one of the most effective Mamluk dynasty rulers both for her administrative skills as well as for her military capabilities. Mumluks were a unique caste of slaves of varied ancestry but very often Kipchak Turks. Though they were slaves, their status was often regarded as free men. As such they were allowed to carry arms and often became formidable commanders of various armies. Qutub ud Din Aibak was a slave of Sultan Muhammad of Ghur, who commanded his victorious army in India. Sultan Iltutmish was a slave of Sultan Qutub ud Din Aibak but rose to become his successor on the throne of Delhi. Taking over as the Sultana (female Sultan) must have have been a revolutionary step in early 13th. century CE India. Her sister, Sazia, was also a very accomplished woman of her time although she did not indulge in politics and warfare. Razia Sultana died in a battlefield and it is not certain where she was buried. Some historians claim that she was buried in Delhi while others claim that she was buried near the battlefield where she died.
1238-1325 - Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia, another very popular Sufi saint of the Chistie order was born in Badayun, east of Delhi in 1238. He became a disciple of Shaikh Fariduddin Ganj Shakkar of Pak Pattan (Pakistan). He arrived in a village near the old fort of Delhi at the age of 18 in 1256 and remained there until his demise in 1325. His mausoleum is in the area where he lived and the entire area is known after him as Nizamuddin. It is one of most revered sites of Chistie Sufi order in India. Every year at his death anniversary hundreds of thousands of people from all over the country come to his mausoleum to pay their respects. At this time there are festivities that include recital of spiritual songs called Qawalis. The texts of most of the Qawalis sung here were written by Hazrat Amir Khusrav, who was one of his most prominent disciples and is buried just near his mausoleum. Hazrat Nasiruddin who is famous as Raushan Chirag Delhi (illuminated lamp of Delhi) was his successor in the Chistie Sufi lineage. He died in 1356 and is buried in south Delhi in a locality known as Chirag Delhi.
1253-1325 - Yaminuddin Muhammad Hasan ‘Amir Khusrow Dehlavi’ served as a courtier to seven Sultans of Delhi. He was born in Patiali village in Uttar Pradesh but spent much of his life in Delhi. He composed hundreds of playful riddles, songs and poems in Hindi, Urdu and Persian languages. Many of his devotional songs are still sung in Sufi celebrations in the Qawwali form in India and Pakistan. He was popularly called ‘Tutiye Hind or the ‘singing bird of India’. Amir Khusrow was a great poet and musician as well as a Sufi philosopher and a very respected courtier of many Sultans of Delhi. In later years of his life he was a devoted disciple of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia and is buried just south of the tomb of his master.
1240-1286 - The ineffective rulers of the Slave Dynasty of Delhi. A series of ineffective Sultans ruled after Qutubuddin Aibak, Iltutmish and Razia Sultana. Muizuddin Bahram (1240-1242), Masud Shah (1242-1246) and Nasiruddin Mahmud Shah (1246-1266). The last of these was a devout Muslim. He spent all his time in prayers while his Prime Minister, Ulugh Khan Balban governed the Sultanate. After his death he proclaimed himself Sultan Ghiyasuddin Balban (1266-1286). Balban was a good administrator and military commander. After him the Slave Dynasty came to an end.
1290 - Marco Polo who sailed to the southern coast of India, on his way back from China, had following comment about southern India: "Men and women, they are all black, and go naked, all save a fine cloth worn about the middle.” He traveled with Nicolo Polo, his father and Maffeo Polo, his uncle to China. Later he served as a courtier of Kubilai Khan in China for over 20 years. He came to India at its east coast of Malabar, where he visited the tomb of Apostle Thomas in present day Chennai. In India he traveled along the coast line from east to Calicut in Kerala, Thane in present day Mumbai and Khambat in Gujarat State. From Gujarat he went to Sindh in present day Pakistan.
1290 – Giovanni de Marignolli was born in a Florence Noble Family sometime before 1290. He traveled to Beijing in China, countries of southeast Asia, India and eastern Europe during the period when the golden horde was settled on the Volga River. In India he visited the tomb of Saint Thomas in present day Chennai in Tamilnadu State.
1290-1320 - Khalji Dynasty: Jalaluddin Firuz Khalji who was of Afghan descent established the Khalji Dynasty. He was a trusting and mild mannered ruler. His son-in-law and nephew, Alauddin led the army of Sultan to conquer Devagiri. After returning from Devagiri with enormous wealth that he looted in the campaign, he had the Sultan murdered and proclaimed himself Sultan Alauddin Khalji in 1296. Alauddin Khalji’s most able general was killed in one of the battles with Mongols. He finally managed to defeat them and started on a massive expansion of the Sultanate by conquering Gujarat, Ranthambhor and the mighty fort city of Chittor in Mewar region of Rajasthan. After these campaigns he ordered his commander, Malik Kafur to subdue the Deccan, which no earlier Islamic ruler had ever dared to do. Malik Kafur had converted to Islam from a low Hindu caste and rose through the military ranks to become a formidable commander. The Yadava King of Devagiri, the Kakatiya ruler of Warangal, the Hoysalas of Dorasamudra, Madwa the center of Pandhya territory were all attacked and looted. He even reached the southern most tip of India Cape Camorin (which has been now given its original name of Kanya Kumari). Kafur returned with untold riches - gold, precious stones and horses. The defeated rulers were obliged to pay heavy tributes. Thus, the whole of India was for a short period nominally under the Sultan of Delhi. Alauddin Khalji died in 1316 when Malik Kafur ruled for about one month. He was replaced with Alauddin’s son, Qutbuddin Mubarak, who was the next Khalji Sultan until 1320 when his nobles killed him.
1304 – 1368 or 1369 - Shams al-Din Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Ibrahim ibn Yusuf ibn Battuta al-Lawati al-Tanji was born on February 24, 1304. Al-Tanji in his name denotes his place of birth, Tangier. He was the most widely traveled Islamic scholar of his time. His travels took him Mecca in present day Saudi Arabia, almost all countries of the present day middle east, much of southern Europe from Andalusia in Spain to eastern Europe. He returned to his native Morocco where he wrote a famous book describing his travels called the ‘Rihla’. He reached the banks of River Indus on the first day of the Islamic month of Muharram, the first day of the year 734 A. H. that corresponds to September 12, 1333. Already at the boundary of the sub-continent of India he was immensely impressed by the wealth of the country. His account of India covers the largest part of his book, well over 100 pages in its English translation. Muhammad bin Tughlak was the Sultan of northern India ruling from his capital in Delhi. The Sultan developed a liking for Ibn Battuta almost at their first encounter because of his knowledge of ‘Maliki’ school of Islamic jurisprudence of the Sunni Muslims that he acquired in various Arab institutions. He was appointed as a ‘Qadi’ or the Islamic judge of Delhi, the capital city. The other reason for his appointment as a judge could be because of the suspicion of the native Islamic converts who had revolted against his father earlier. Sultan was so much influenced by Ibn Battuta that he commissioned a ship to sail from Calicut to Arabian countries to recruit more scholars for high level appointments in his Sultanate. Ibn Battuta describes the Lalkot Fort near present day Qutub Minar area in quite much detail. As a high level official he traveled in various regions of India.
1320-1414 - Tughlak Dynasty: Ghiasuddin Tughlak who was formerly the governor of Punjab and Northwest Provinces under the last Khalji Dynasty Sultan established the Tughlak Dynasty. He ruled until 1325 when he died in a mysterious ‘accident’. This accident could have been arranged by his son, Jauna, who wanted to replace his father. Jauna took the title of Muhammad bin Tughlak. He expanded the kingdom from Peshwar in the north to Madurai in the South and from Sindh in the west to Assam in the east. The capital was moved to Devagiri in his reign but the plan did not function and capital was restored back in Delhi. Many historians refer to him as the mad sultan. He died in 1351 and was succeeded by his cousin, Firoz Shah Tughlaq. He built a new capital in Delhi area and it is popularly known as Firoz Shah Kotla. He ruled until his death in 1388. Chaos and anarchy followed his death, until Nasiruddin Muhammad became the Sultan in 1394. During his reign the fierce Mongol, Temur Lane ransacked north India including the capital Delhi in 1398. The Sultan fled before Temur’s attack and returned to find a completely barren capital. He ruled until his death in 1414 and the dynasty ended with him.
1321-1324 – Friar Jordanus visited Thane (in present day Mumbai) and wrote in his memoirs that the town had a Muslim governor. He also mentioned that four Christian priests were martyred in Thane about 200 years before the arrival of Portuguese in India. He was the first European traveler to India who mentioned Mango fruit of India in his travel diaries.
1321-1331 – Friar Odoric was a Franciscan monk from the town of Pordenone in northern Italy who traveled and wrote very detailed accounts of his experiences in the regions of present day Iran, India, Indonesia, China, Nepal and Russia. He left Italy on his journey sometime in 1318 through Constantinople, Trebizond, Hormuz in Iran, Thane and Malabar coast of India, Sumatra and Java in Indonesia to finally reach Peking in China where he remained for about three years until 1328. On his return journey he was the first European to visit Lhasa in Tibet. From Tibet he traveled westward to Kabul in Afghanistan, Khorasan and Tabriz in Iran to finally return to Venice in Italy. He was accompanied by an Irish monk named Friar James. Friar Odoric claimed in his memoirs to have baptized about 20,000 persons into Christianity. He was in western India and northern China between 1321 and 1328. He was the only religious traveler to the Orient who meticulously recorded the account of his voyage giving a rare glimpse into a little known region in Europe. Although Friar Odoric was a Christian monk, it is very fascinating that he treated the religious and cultural customs of the places he visited with great tolerance, respect and of course curiosity. He mentioned such spectacular information as mountains of salt, impenetrable deserts, mice that were as big as dogs, trees that produced bread, magic fish, sensational pearls, gigantic tortoises, hens covered in wool and women equipped with fangs among lots of other unusual things. After returning to Italy he dictated his memoirs and these were translated in European languages for wide distribution. He died in 1331.
1414-1451 - Sayyid Dynasty: Khidr Khan Sayyid became Sultan of Delhi after the fall of Tughlaq Dynasty in 1414 and ruled until 1421. Mubarrak Shah II followed him and was Sultan until 1435. Muhammad Shah IV was Sultan for the next ten year until 1445. The last Sultan of Sayyid Dynasty was Aladdin Alam Shah who ruled for six years until 1451. The reign of this dynasty is generally considered as an interim period because these rulers were at best mediocre.
1420 – Nicolo Conti, another Italian traveler visited the Vijayanagar Empire in southern India and on his return dictated his travel account to the secretary of the Roman Catholic Pope in Latin language. The original Latin version is lost but its initial translations in Portuguese and later in Italian language are still available.
1440-1518 - Kabir, the frank and critical Hindu religious philosopher and reformer (1440 to 1518). Kabir – (1440 to 1518), also known as Kabira, was an Indian mystic who preached an ideal of seeing all of humanity as one. He was known to be a weaver and later became famed for scorning religious affiliation and was seen as a threat to the elite in the Islamic as well as Hindu religious hierarchy. His philosophy and idea of loving devotion to God are expressed in metaphor and language originate from both the Hindu Vedanta and Bhakti streams as well as Islamic Sufi ideals. Kabir is also considered one of the early northern Indian Sants (saints) and reformers. Swami Ramananda initiated him. His greatest work is the Bijak, or Seedling, a compilation of his idea of the Fundamental One. This collection of poems demonstrates his universal view of spirituality. His poems are still very popular all over India and are taught in schools. Guru Nanak included his poems in the holy book “Guru Granth Sahib”.
1443-1444 – Abdur Razzak, the Persian Ambassador in the court of the rulers of Calicut (Kerala) and the Vijayanagar Empire. His memoirs describe the plot to kill the king of Vijayanagar by his brother and the subsequent war between the Vijayanagar and Sultan Alauddin’s army. This war resulted in a stalemate and Deva Raya finally agreed to pay tribute to the Sultan against a pledge by the Sultan that he would not attack his territories.
1451-1526 - Lodi Dynasty: Buhlul Khan Lodi was an able Afghan nobleman and commander. He established the Lodi Dynasty with the support of his fellow minister Hamid Khan when Alam Shah voluntarily abdicated the throne in his favor on April 19, 1451. Buhlul Khan extended his territories over Gwalior, Jaunpur and upper Uttar Pradesh. He died on July 17, 1489 and was succeeded by his second eldest son Nizam Shah who took the title of Sultan Sikandar Shah Lodi. He extended his kingdom from Punjab to Bihar, made a treaty with Alauddin Husain Shah of Bengal. He founded a new town called Sikandara near Agra in 1504 to control the local chieftains of Etawah, Biyana, Koli, Gwalior and Dholapur. This area was later chosen by the Mughal emperor Akbar for his mausoleum. Akbar’s mausoleum is still popularly known as Sikandara. Sikandar Shah Lodi was an able administrator and was kind to his subjects. He died on November 21 1517. The last Lodi ruler was Sultan Ibrahim Lodi who was not very popular. Some nobles crowned his younger brother, Jalal Khan, as Sultan in Jaunpur. Ibrahim had his younger brother murdered to pave his way to the Lodi throne. Daulat Khan Lodi, a relative of Ibrahim Lodi who was the governor of Punjab with its capital in Lahore (now in Pakistan) and Sultan Ibrahim Lodi’s own uncle, Alam Khan invited Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur to invade India. Babur was delighted as he had already tried four times to conquer India with limited success. On Friday, the April 20, 1526, Babur won the historic first battle of Panipat in which Sultan Ibrahim Lodi was killed. With this victory he ended the Lodi Dynasty’s rule in India and founded the world famous Mughal dynasty that lasted until the British established colonial rule in India.
1469-1708 - Guru Nanak – the founder of Sikh religion was born in 1469 and grew up to become an accountant to the Muslim governor of Sultanpur. He had a vision of God and the presence of God in the human soul. His teachings were written down in a series of verses that make up the central teachings of the sacred scriptures, called the Adi Granth., the first four Gurus of Sikhism established most customs and rituals of Sikhism. The fourth Guru, Ram Das (1574-1581) founded the city of Amritsar as a place of Sikh pilgrimage. Guru Arjan, who led the Sikh community as Guru from 1581 to 1606, assembled the verses of Guru Nanak and the first four Gurus into the anthology, Adi Granth. Mughal Emperor Jahangir had him arrested in 1606 when he grew suspicious of his increasing influence over the region and finally tortured him to death. With increasing hostility and cruelty of the Mughal Emperors, Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Guru, added a forth doctrine to the initial 3 doctrines of Sikhism: “Nam” or unity of God, “Sabad” or spoken word in meditation and “Guru” or the combined teachings of all Gurus. This fourth doctrine was “Khalsa” or Brotherhood of Sikhs, that gives a profound sense of community by a symbolic rite that starts with the believer drinking sweetened water that has been stirred with a dagger. After this ceremony the name “Singh” is added to the given name of the believer and the believer is required to wear uncut hair tied in a knot under a turban, a comb, a steel bracelet, a lion cloth and carry a symbolic steel dagger. Guru Gobind Singh passed away in 1708. After him the Sikh holy book, Guru Granth Sahib, replaced the position of Sikh Gurus.
1483 to 1526 - Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, the founder of the Mughal Dynasty in India, was born on February 14, 1483 in Ferghana in modern day Uzbekistan Republic. He was the 7th. descendent of Tamerlane on his father's side (Babur called him Timur Beg in his memoirs). On his maternal side he was 11th. descendent of Chenghis Khan (his clan was called Chagatai). His father, Umar Sheikh Mirza, died on 8 June 1494, when Babur was only 11 years of age. Babur was eldest of 3 sons and 5 daughters of Umar Sheikh Mirza. Babur's mother, Kutlaqnigar Khanim and his grand-mother, Aisan Daulat Begum, both came from very learned and cultured families. These 2 ladies were perhaps the most influential persons in Babur's life, he consulted them for every important deciscion. He lernt Turki, his native language and Persian from these two ladies. Babur wrote his memoirs called Baburnama in Turki language. It was translated in Persian language and illustrated under the patronage of Emperor Akbar. Babur also composed poetry that was compiled in an anthology called the Rampur Diwan. Babur was very much influeced by the Sufi saint, Khwaja Ubaidullah Arharil, who was present at his birth. In October 1504 Babur captured the cities of Kabul and Ghazni after two short lived victories over Samarkand. From 1519 onwards, Babur made 5 successive attempts to conquer India under the Afghan Lodi Dynasty. Each time he returned with fabulous riches from the loot of Hindu temples and cities in the Lody province of Punjab. Information on this period is not available from Babur directly because he did not make any entries in his memoirs from 1520 to 1525. Other contemporary accounts mention his expeditions to Kandahar, Balkh and Badakshan also. Before the battle of Panipat, Daulat Khan, the governor of Punjab and an uncle of the Sultan Ibrahim Lodi betrayed the Lodi Emperor and invited Babur to India. On 20 April 1526 Babur won the battle of Panipat, about 43 miles north of Delhi, killing Sultan Ibrahim Lodi. Babur used the canons for the first time in northern India. Babur rode to Delhi after the victory, while he sent his eldest son, Humayun, to Agra to control the treasury in that city. The widow of Raja Vikramaditya of Gwalior, who died fighting with Sultan Ibrahim Lodi, offered Humayun, the famous Kohinoor diamond against his promise to save their lives and possessions. On 17 March 1527 Babur won the battle of Khanua near present day Fatehpur Sikri against the combined armies of Rajputana under Maharana Sangram Singh of Chittorgarh. 1529 he suppressed the revolt of remaining Afghans in Bihar and Bengal. Charles V in Europe and Sultan Sulaiman of Constantinople were his contempories. Babur settled in Agra where he laid down many beautiful gardens on the eastern bank of River Yamuna. Two of these gardens are still partially existing. Aram Bagh was the garden with many pavillions where Babur lived and died on 26 December 1530. Emperor Babur was buried in a mausoleum that was never completed, it is situated just near the Aram Bagh. It is popularly called Chowburji because it is a square building with 4 minarets at its 4 corners, quite similar in architecture to the tomb of Itmad-ud-Daulah near by. Sometime in 1544, Bibi Mubarika, the senior Queen of Emperor Babur accompanied his body after it was exhumed from his original grave in Chowburji to his favorite garden in Kabul.
1483-1586 - Surdas was born in 1483 CE in the present day State of Uttar Pradesh in northern India. He was blind by birth and suffered a miserable childhood as a consequence of his blindness. This was a period when most of northern India was under the influence of a mass philosophic movement called ‘Bhakti’ movement. The major proponents of this movement apart from the poet Surdas were Tulsidas, Kabir, Guru Nanak and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Bengal. When he was about six years old a group of devotional singing hermits passed by his home. It is believed that he left his home for good when he joined these wandering hermits. His spiritual transformation came at the age of eighteen when he first met his ‘Guru’, the great Hindu saint, Shri Vallabhacharya on the banks of the River Yamuna. From his spiritual teacher Surdas learnt the philosophy of Shuddha Advaita (pure non-dual divinity) and the Hindu ‘Bhakti’ philosophy of Vaishnav Hindus (followers of the incarnation of Lord Vishnu). In the tradition of ‘Bhakti’ movement, Surdas memorized the entire Bhagvat Gita and would recite from it to large crowds of devotees of Lord Krishna. It is believed that there were more than 100,000 verses in his best known work, the ‘Sur Sagar’ (the melody ocean of Surdas) but only about 5000 verses of this most popular Hindi language work in poetry have survived. His other poetic works were ‘Sur Saravali’ and ‘Sahitya Lahiri’. His compositions were in the ‘Braj Bhasha’, the dialect of Hindi language spoken in the region of Mathura, Vrandavan, Bharatpur and Agra. Surdas remained unmarried throughout his rather long life and made his living singing ‘Bhajans’ or devotional songs in praise of Lord Krishna. Some of his most famous poems are: (1) ‘Maiyya mori mein nahi maakhan khayo, Bhor bhayo gayyana ke pache, madhuban mohe pathayo’ or My mother, I did not eat the butter, you sent me early morning to herd the cows’ (2)‘Prabhu more avagun chit na dharo’ or ‘O Lord! Please do not heed to my faults’ (3) ‘Akhiyan hari darshan ki pyasi’ or my eyes are thirsty for a vision of Hari or God. The first of these poems is perhaps the most popular even now. He passed away in 1586. His poems are a regular part of the Hindi literature curriculum in schools and colleges of India even today. Many of his poems have been sung by famous Indian singers like Ms. Lata Mangeshkar and others.
1486-1534 - Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started the Bhakti movement in Bengal and influenced many Vaishnav Hindus. He was an ascetic Vaishnava monk and social reformer in the regions of Bengal and Orissa in India as well as in Bangladesh. Bhakti Yoga of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is based on loving devotion to Lord Krishna as mentioned in the Hindu scriptures of Bhagwata Purana and Bhagwat Gita. He promoted the worship of Krishna and His consort, Radha with ecstatic chanting of ‘Mahamantra’ – Hare Rama Hare Krishna’. His followers are called Gaudiya Vaishnavas. He is believed to be of fair complexion and that gave him the popular name ‘Gaura’. He was born under a ‘Neem’ tree and that gave him another popular name of ‘Nimai’. There are three main sources of the account of his life, all of which were originally written in Bengali language – ‘Chaitanya Bhagwata’ of Vrindavana Das Thakur, ‘Chaitanya Charitamitra’ of Krishnadasa Kaviraja Goswami and ‘Chaitanya Mangala of Lochan Das Thakur. To perform the ‘Shraddha’ memorial ceremony for his late father he went to the Hindu pilgrimage center of Gaya. There he met Ishwara Puri, his Guru. He received his initiation with the ‘Gopala Krishna Mantra’. After his return from Gaya he became a very popular leader of the Vaishnava Hindus of Nadiya. From that time onwards he was one of most revered and popular Bhakti movement leaders.
1469 to 1524 - Vasco-da-Gama, the famous Portuguese sailor, was born in the village of Sines in the province Alentejo in southern Portugal bordering Algarve. Some historians believe that he was born in 1469. His father, Estevao-da-Gama, was employed in the court of King Emanuel, who gave the task of finding the sea route to India. Estevao died before he could begin the work. On 8 March 1497 Vasco-da-Gama led a fleed to 4 ships with a total crew of 170 men from Lisbon. After some dangerous encounters in coastal east Africa, he landed on 27 May 1498 in in the port of Pantathalayani, 6 kilometer or about 4 miles from Kappad, in Calicut region of the modern Kerala state. A stone inscription marks the site of his landing in India. This coastal region near modern day Kochi city was part of the Kingdom of Malabar, then ruled by Zamorins, pronounced in Malyalam language as Samoothiris. The King Zamorin welcomed Vasco-da-Gama and arranged a grand procession with 3000 armed Nairs for his reception at his court. But the poor quality and value of the gifts that Vasco-da-Gama bought for the king, did not impress King Zamorin. The explorer's request for trading the commodities that he had with him was not granted because the Malabar King wanted gold in return as was the normal exchange protocol at the time. Vasco-da-Gama did not have any gold and this created a strain in their relationship. The region was rich in spices and textiles. Despite this Vasco-da-Gama returned with precious cargo that was worth about 60 times the cost of the expedition. He sailed from India on 29 August 1498 but only 2 fo the 4 original ships with about 60 sailors returned back to Portugal in July or August 1499. King Emanuel rewarded Vasco-da-Gama and his family with the perpetual title of Dom (Lord). He himself was awarded the title of the Admiral of the Indian Seas and his feudal rights to Sines were re-confirmed. The colonization of Mozambique by the Portuguese followed because of this pioneering expedition. On 12 February 1502 Vasco-da-Gama commanded the second expedition to India with a fleet of 15 ships and 800 men, with the object of enforcing his will on the Indian Kingdom. He reached India in October 1502 and started by capturing the Arab vessels in the Arabian Sea. Zamorin was willing to sign a treaty with Vasco-da-Gama but the negotiations failed because the Zamorin did not want to expell the Arab traders who paid in gold for the commodities. Vasco-da-Gama bombarded the coastal houses and captured several vessels before sailing to Cochin (modern day Kochi) on his way back to Portugal. In the Indian Ocean his armada captured many rich Arab vessles and looted the commodities on them. He return to Portual in September 1503 with silk and gold among many other riches. He was sent for the 3rd. time to India to replace the Portuguese Viceroy, Eduardo-de-Menezes in 1524. Shortly after arriving in Goa in September 1524, he contracted Malaria and died on 24 December 1524. He was buried in St. Francis Church in Fort Kochi. In 1539 his body was taken back to Portugal and buried in the Jeronomos Monastery in Lisbon.
1500 - A group of British merchants under the Chairmanship of Lord Mayor formed an association in London to trade with India – The British East India Company.
1508-1556 - Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun, full title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Jam-i-Sultanat-i-haqiqi wa Majazi, Sayyid al-Salatin, Abu'l Muzaffar Nasir ud-din Muhammad Humayun Padshah Ghazi, Zillu'llah, was born on March 6, 1508 in Kabul. He was groomed to be the successor, although Babur divided his kingdom between his sons at his death. Best teachers were employed to teach Humayun the Turki, Persian and Arabic literature. The territories in Hindustan that Humayun inherited were the least secure because the Pashtun followers of Lodi dynasty had never fully reconciled with their defeat in the battle of Panipat. Humayun faced the revolt of the Rajputs on one side while the Pashtuns were being led by the charismatic governor of Bihar, Sher Shah Suri. Four days after the demise of Babur, Humayun was crowned the Emperor of India on December 30, 1530. The first challenge to his rule came from Sultan Bahadur, the ruler of Gujarat, who had acquired weaponry from the Portuguese. In return the Portuguese got a foothold in coastal pockets of Gujarat. Humayun launched a massive campaign in Malwa, Champaner and Mandu very successfully. But Sultan Bahadur slipped away and Humayun did not pursue him. Soon Humayun was forced to return to Agra because Sher Shah took the opportunity when Humayun was away to lay siege on the Mughal capital. Humayun managed to push Sher Shah back and regain Agra. Sher Shah attacked Bengal and took control of the province with all its riches. Finally he challenged Humayun at the Battle field of Chausa near Varanasi. Both sides were quite confident of victory but they decided to sign a treaty under which Sher Shah would become the governor of Bihar and Bengal. Humayun and Mughal troops lost sight of the enemy after the treaty. Sher Shah attacked the Mughal army encampments and killed many while they were asleep. Humayun himself had to run for his life. He fell off his horse while crossing the Ganga River and a boatman gave him an inflated leather sack to enable him to swim across the river. Sher Shah followed Humayun and took Agra. Humayun fled to Lahore but Sher Shah followed him to Punjab. Humayun managed to escape but the empire was now fully in control of Sher Shah, who established his capital in the old fort of Delhi. Humayun crossed the Thar desert to Umarkot where the local Raja gave him shelter hoping to get his assistance in protecting him from his neighboring rulers. While in Umarkot his 15 year old wife, Hamida Banu Begum, gave birth to their first child who was named Badruddin (born in Badr or full moon night) on October 25, 1542 (4th day of Rajab in 949 AH). After some time Humayun had to flee further west when the Raja of Umarkot realized that Humayun could not assist him. Now the only refuge was outside the Mughal Empire in Persia. The journey to Persia was treacherous and the infant prince could not have survived it. It was decided that Maham Anga, the governes and Jauhar, a noblemen employed in the royal household would take care of the price while they sought assistance from Persia. Jauhar hid the prince in a villager's hut when Humayun's brothers were chasing them. They were found when some villager accepted a monetary reward for informing their hideout. Akbar was then kept in Kabul until Humayun returned with an army commanded by a Shia, Bairam Khan. On arrival in Persia in 1544 the Shah Tahmasp initially treated Humayun as an equal but later their relations deteriorated when the Mughal refugee showed no signs of organzing an army to win back the Indian empire. After an assurance from Humayun that he would give Kandahar to the Shah, Humayun managed to get a sizable army to start his comeback. On March 21st., 1545 Humayun's army laid siege of Kandahar. Humayun, had to patiently wait for his brothers to surrender. Having won Kandahar, Humayun, pressed on to Kabul which it took amidst popular jubilation on November 4, 1545. Kamran managed to escape. Humayun pardoned his other brother, Askari, but put him under house arrest. Hamida Banu Begum and Humayun finally united with their son after a painful separation of many years. To evade the evil, the son's name and date of birth were changed. His new name was Abul Fath Jalauddin. He was given his popular name, Akbar, by his maternal grandfather, Sheikh Ali Akbar Jami. Kamran was soon arrested, the courtiers wanted him to be killed but Humayun decided to have him blinded and sent to Mecca for pilgrimage where he died in 1557. Askari was also exiled and sent to Mecca, he died on his way in Damascus in 1558. Humayun settled in the old fort of Delhi after regaining his empire. His reign was cut short by a sudden accident on Friday, January 24, 1556. He was descending on a spiral stairway in the library of his old fort when he heard the call to prayers by the muazzin, distracted by this, his garment got entangled with his foot, he stumbled and was seriously injured. Three days later on January 27, 1556, he succumbed to his injuries. His name Humayun literally means “the lucky one”. Ironically his life was a complete contrast to this, because he was constantly chased by bad luck throughout his entire life.
1526-1857 - Mughal Dynasty: Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur (died 1530) to Bahadur Shah Zafar (dethroned and exiled to Burma in1857). With his victory in the first battle of Panipat in 1526, Babur established the Mughal Dynasty in India. Babur founded his capital in Agra where he laid many Gardens with trees imported from northern Pakistan and Afghanistan. Of these only one, Aram Bagh, is still fully preserved, another garden, Zuhra Bagh, is partially preserved. He died in 1530 and was succeeded by his very intellectual but administratively incapable son, Humayun. Sher Shah Suri defeated Humanyun to establish an interim dynasty that lasted until 1556 when Humayun regained the Indian Empire with the assistance of Shah Tahmasp of Persia. The eldest son of Humayun, Akbar became one of the greatest monarchs of Indian history because of his inclusive and tolerant policies. The 4th Mughal Emperor Jahangir inherited a prosperous empire. The 5th Mughal Emperor Shahjahan expanded the empire further and undertook a massive architectural project in building the new capital of Shahjahanabad (Old Delhi). He is most famous for his love with Arjumand Bano Begum. He gave her the title of Begum Mumtaj Mahal. The Taj Mahal mausoleum was built for her. His son, Aurganzeb, led a furious but futile campaign against the Maratha rulers of central India. He usurped the throne by killing his three brothers and putting his own father, Emperor Shahjahan, in imprisonment in his palaces in Agra Fort. After Aurangzeb the later Mughal rulers gradually lost all their territory and might. The last Mughal Emperor was Bahadur Shah Zafar who was chosen as the leader of the freedom fighters of the ‘First war of Indian Independence’ in 1857. After the British suppressed this uprising against them, they arrested Bahadur Shah Zafar, presented the chopped off heads of his sons to him on a platter and then exiled him to Rangoon in Burma. He died as a prisoner on November 7, 1862 in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar (formerly Burma). He was a famous Urdu language poet and his poetry is still popular in India and Pakistan.
1532-1623 – Tulsidas: Tulsidas is perhaps the most popular Indian poet, philosopher and saint because of his Awadhi dialect narration of the original Sanskrit language Ramayan. He is one of the most read poets of the ‘Bhakti’ (devotion) movement of Hindu philosophy. The Hindu sage Valmiki of the post Vedic period composed the Sanskrit language Ramayan. This composition of Tulsidas is not a literal translation of the original Sanskrit Ramayan that was composed by the sage Valmiki. Tulsidas is believed to have been born in a Sarayuparina Brahman family in Rajpur village in Banda District of Uttar Pradesh in Samvat 1589 of the Hindu lunar calendar that corresponds to 1532 CE of the Gregorian calendar. Mughal Emperor Humayun was the ruler of most of northern India at that time. During his unusually long life of 91 years he witnessed the rule of Sher Shah Suri along with his descendents and the Mughal Emperors Akbar and Jahangir. He passed away in 1623 at Assi Ghat in Varanasi. Atmaram Shukla Dube, his father and Hulsi, his mother, named him Tulsidas. They commonly called him Ram Bola. As customary in the medieval times his parents arranged his marriage to Ratnavali, the daughter of another Brahman, Dinbandhu Pathak, at a very young age. The young couple was passionately in love. Soon after their marriage they had a son whom they called Tara. The son died in infancy and his death led Ratnavali to dissatisfaction with material life. One night she went to her parent’s house without informing Tulsidas. When he went to fetch her back she is supposed to have reprimanded him for loving her ‘dirty’ physical body instead of devoting his attention to divine love that would lead to ‘Nirwan’ or salvation from the cycle of rebirths in material life. After her separation from Tulsidas, Ratnavali is believed to have devoted her life to Lord Ram. This inspired him to devote his life to Ram the incarnation of Lord Vishnu, the preserver among the Hindu trinity. He studied with various scholars of the Vairagi Vaishnav cult initially at Varaha Kshetra on the banks of the Ghagra tributary of Ganga River near the famous Hindu pilgrimage center of Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. It is believed that because of philosophic differences with Vairagi Vaishnav ascetics of Varaha Kshetra he moved to Varanasi that was a prominent center of the followers of Shakti cult of Shiva. In Varanasi he settled at Assighat on the banks of River Ganga. His philosophy was influenced by the ‘Sadguna’ (gracious qualities of the Supreme personal God) of the ancient Hindu philosopher Ramanuja through his teachings by a later scholar Swami Ramanand and by the ‘Nirguna’ (the neuter impersonal Brahman) teachings of another ancient Hindu saint Adi Shankaracharya. Following Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, another Hindu saint of eastern India, Tulsidas promoted the Bhakti (devotion) form of spiritual practice. Like the saints Kabir and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, and in the tradition of earlier saints like Sakyamuni Siddhartha Gautam Buddha and Vardhaman Mahavira, Tulsidas also wandered through various cities and towns of India. Although he did not find any inconsistency between devotion to Shiva of the Shakti cult and Ram of the Bhakti cult, the latter remained his main inspiration throughout his long life. Ramcharit Manas that is popularly named Tulsi Ramayan after him is his most popular literary and philosophic work. The first three chapters of Tulsi Ramayan up to ‘Aranyakand’ were composed in Varaha Kshetra and the rest of this epic poem was written in Varanasi. A beautiful temple in white marble called ‘Tulsi Manas Mandir’ very near to the other famous Durga temple was built in 1964 in Varanasi to commemorate Tulsidas. Scenes from Ramayan are sculpted in relief on the walls of this temple along with various verses from this popular epic poem. An original manuscript of ‘Ayodhya Kand’ chapter in the handwriting of Tulsidas is preserved in Rajapur in Banda District. Another manuscript of ‘Bal Kand’ chapter in the handwriting of this famous poet is preserved in Ayodhya. Some other manuscripts are preserved in Varanasi. An autograph of Tulsidas is stored in Malihabad village of Lucknow district but it has not been definitely proved to be authentic by scholars. Benimadhav Das, a deciple of Tulsidas lived with the famous poet and wrote ‘Gosai Charitra’, his biography, but unfortunately no copies of this valuable literary work survived after his death in 1642. The Nagari Pracharani Sabha, an organization that promotes Hindi literature published an authentic Ramayan and all facts of life of Tulsidas that could be verified by experts were mentioned in its introduction. Nabhaji was another poet who met Tulsidas and wrote Bhagatmala about Ramayan. F. S. Growse of the Indian Civil Service published the first English language translation of Ramcharit Manas of Tulsidas in Kanpur in 1891. The ‘Hindi Sahitya ka Itihas’ (History of Hindi Literature) written by Acharya Ram Chandra Shukla deals with the life and works of Tulsidas as well as the immense influence Tulsidas had on Hindi literature. Ramcharit Manas is the most recited Hindu philosophic work in India. Families in northern India organize the uninterrupted recitation of Ramayan that is usually accompanied with Harmonium and Tabla musical instruments. This celebration is popularly called ‘Akhanda Ramayan’ and usually continues for a few days and nights. Apart from this famous literary work he also wrote five other longer and elaborate works as well as six shorter poems. All of them mainly deal with the various aspects of the Lord Ram. Dohavali with 573 ‘Doha’ and ‘Sothra’ verses is the largest of his other literary works. Another work by Tulsidas called Ram-Satsai has many compositions in common with Dohavali. Kavitavali or Kabitta Ramayan is another of his works that utilizes the Kavitta, Ghanakshari, Chaupai and Savaiya literary meters in Awadhi dialect. It has seven ‘Kand’ or chapters that deal with Lord Ram as a ruler. The other work called Gitavali also has seven ‘Kand’ in which the tender aspects of the character of Lord Ram are delineated. In the Vinaya Patrika or the book of petitions the initial 43 hymns are devoted to the minor deities in the court of Lord Ram and also to the attendants of Lord Ram. The remaining of the total 279 hymns are dedicated to Lord Ram. The 40 rhymes of ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ composed by Tulsidas are part of daily prayer ritual of many Hindus even today. This composition praises Hanuman, the attendant of Lord Ram. Krishna Das, an American singer, who is a disciple of a Hindu ascetic, Neem Karoli Baba, has chanted the entire ‘Hanuman Chalisa’ in one of his music CDs. Many scholars do not believe that the ‘Krishnavali’ or ‘Krishna Gitavali’ consisting of 61 songs to honor Lord Krishna in the dialect of the region of Kannauj in Uttar Pradesh is also a composition of Tulsidas. Among his minor works the most prominent is ‘Vairagya Sandipani’ or the ‘Kindling of Continence’ that describes the qualities of a holy man, his nature and how he could attain the true peace. Tulsidas was very well known in his lifetime. It is believed that Mughal Emperor Akbar met him. The Kachhawaha Rajput Maharaja Man Singh of Amber, one of the most important courtiers of Emperor Akbar, is also believed to have met him and to have been immensely influenced by Tulsidas. His writings became so popular already in his lifetime that phrases from his works were used in common dialogue not only in various dialects of Hindi but also of Urdu language. No other literary work has been so popular in India for such a long period like the works of Tulsidas.
1540 - Fort St. George, Madras: Francis Day built a fortified factory called Fort St. George near present day Chennai in Tamil Nadu.
1542-1605 - Abul Fath Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar was born on October 25, 1542 in Umarkot in present day Sindh province of Pakistan. The young prince Akbar spent the first years of his life as a hostage, in Kabul in the household of his uncle, Kamran. His governess Maham Anga and caretaker Jauhar took care of him as good as they could but he did not receive formal education in his early years. After the reunion with his parents in 1545, Hamida Banu Begum and Humayun employed the best tutors to teach him but the young prince liked painting more than learning other subjects. His favorite teachers were the two famous painters who were invited by Humayun from Persia in 1550, Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdus Samad. Despite best efforts Akbar did not learn to read and write but surprisingly he had very good memory. He was very fond of hunting and horseriding. He was only 13 years and 3 months of age when he was crowned the Mughal Emperor of India on February 14, 1556 in Kalanaur, on the Pakistan border in Punjab. Initially he ruled under the guardianship of Bairam Khan. The Mughal rule in India was very fragile as there were many provincial threats looming. Akbar raided Sikandar Shah Suri in Punjab early in his reign successfully. But while Akbar was out in Punjab, a Hindu ruler commanding a mighty army took control of the capital, Delhi. Akbar with his commander, Bairam Khan immediately returned to face this biggest hurdle of infant reign. The battle (2nd battle of Panipat) on November 5, 1556 was initially going in Hemu's favor but his army dispersed when an arrow hit Hemu in his eye. At the end of the day Emperor Akbar saved his capital. Just after being crowned Emperor Akbar delegated his mother, Hamida Banu Begum, to supervise the construction of the mausoleum of Emperor Humayun in Delhi in 1562. He moved his capital to Agra in 1558 where he demolished a brick fort of Lodi rulers called Badalgarh. Emperor Akbar's historian, Abul Fazl, mentions that the site was chosen because of the natural protection on the eastern side by Yamuna River. He states in Akbar Nama that there were about 500 buildings in Agra Fort. There were two moats surrounding the high battlements of Agra Fort. The outer moat was filled with water from the Yamuna River and inner moat was dry. There were originally three gates of the fort to enter from land and one water gate in the moat leading out to the river in the east. Only two gates are now used. The gate in the south is open to public while the western gate leads to the area of the fort still under military. Many buildings of the fort were demolished by his grandson, Emperor Shahjahan, to be replaced with beautiful white marble palaces. During the last years of Mughal rule, the Jats destroyed and looted many palaces in the fort. Finally the British removed the beautiful baths and had them transported to England. For many years Emperor Akbar did not have a male heir to the throne and he used to visit holy saints to ask them for their blessings. In the red sandstone quarry and village called Sikri, a Sufi saint named Sheikh Salim Chistie used to live among the stone cutters. He belonged to lineage of the Sufi saint, Khwaja Muinuddin Chistie of Ajmer in Rajasthan. Emperor Akbar sought his blessings and the Sufi saint correctly predicted that he would have three sons. When his chief queen, a Hindu Rajput princess from Amber, became pregnant, Emperor Akbar decided to move with her to the village of Sikri to reside close to the Sufi saint. Gradually the construction of one of the finest Mughal capitals in India started in the tiny village of Sikri. Akbar was keenly interested in learning about other religions. He invited Hindu, Jain and Buddhist scholars to teach him about their religious philosophies. From Goa he invited Jesuit priests to teach him about Christianity. Three separate Jesuit missions with multiple priests came to Sikri to inform the Mughal Emperor about their faith. He also learnt about Jewish religion. This inter-religious communication influenced Emperor Akbar's architecture in Sikri. There is very little Islamic architecture in this Mughal capital, except in the Jama Masjid. Even there the mausoleum of the Sufi saint is blended with Buddhist and Jain Torana arches. In 1569 Emperor Akbar's first son was born in Sikri and was named Salim after the Sufi saint. Later two other sons, Murad and Daniel were also born in Fatehpur Sikri. Early in his reign, Akbar had a matrimonial alliance with the ruler of Amer, Maharaja Bharmal. His son Baghwant Das became an important commander of the Mughal Army. Kunwar Man Singh already as a prince led many important campaigns for Emperor Akbar. Later as Maharaja Man Singh, he commanded the Mughal Army in its most important campaigns in Afghanistan, Bihar, Bengal, Assam, Rajputana and Deccan. The most important of all the campaigns was that of Gujarat because of the maritime trade revenue from the Portuguese that it fetched for the Mughal empire. Emperor Akbar became immensely popular because of his extremely liberal religious policies. The hated tax called Jaziya on non-Islamic subjects was abolished. Emperor Akbar left an impressive legacy in architecture. In 1570 the fort of Ajmer was built. Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador of King James I of England, met with Emperor Jahangir in this fort. In 1583 the fort of Allahabad was built at the confluence of Yamuna and Ganga Rivers. In 1566 the fort of Lahore was built on top of the ruins of an ancient fort in Punjab. The almost half century of Mughal Emperor Akbar's rule in India was one of most prosperous periods in medieval history. Emperor Akbar built his own mausoleum that is popularly called Sikandara in 1600. He died in Agra on October 26, 1556 and was buried in Sikandara according to his wishes. Emperor Akbar is among few monarchs who are referred to as 'the great'.
1556-1627 - Abdur Rahim Khan Khana, also known as Rahim, was born in Lahore in 1556. He was the son of a famous Mughal commander, Bairam Khan and step son of Emperor Akbar because the Emperor married the widow of his trusted commander, Bairam Khan after he was murdered in central India. He translated the Memoirs of the 1st Mughal Emperor Babur from Turkish to Persian. He was scholar of Sanskrit and a well known poet in Hindi language. Despite being a Muslim, Rahim is better known for his Hindi couplets. Many of his poems are part of school curriculum in India. Abdul Rahim Khan Khana was one of the nine Navratnas (the nine ‘jewel’ courtiers) in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar. He was a great admirer of Indian civilization. He was also an excellent poet and an Astrologer. His command over Sanskrit was exceptional considering the fact that he was not an Indian native but of Iranian origin. Two of his works are masterpieces on the subject of Astrology- Khet Kautukam and Dwawishd Yogavali. These two books still act as books of reference for people interested in Astrology in India. He built a tomb for his wife in 1598. He was also buried in this tomb near the mausoleum of Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia when he died in 1627.
1569-1627 - Nur-al-din Muhammad Salim Jahangir, full title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Khushru-i-Giti Panah, Abu'l-Fath Nur-ud-din Muhammad Jahangir Padshah Ghazi Jannat-Makaani, was a child of many prayers, he was born on September 20, 1569 in the village of Sikri, where his father Emperor Akbar was building a new capital. His mother was Jodha Bai, the daughter of the Hindu Rajput Maharaja Bharmal of Amer. Her maiden name was Rajkumari Hira Kunwari. His name 'Nur-al din' means the light of faith while his royal title 'Jahangir' means conqueror of the world. As his two elder brothers died in child birth, Prince Salim, was the darling of his parents. His childhood name was taken from the Sufi dervish's name and the emperor used to call him 'Sheikhu Baba'. He was provided the best possible education. Emperor Akbar was devoted to the Sufi Saint Sheikh Salim Chistie. The saint's daughter was Prince Salim's foster mother. The close and affectionate relationship between Emperor Akbar and his son did not last very long. As Jahangir grew older, he became impatient to take over the Mughal throne. At one point Prince Salim openly revolted against his father but Emperor Akbar took control of the capital and the prince had to flee for his life. He took shelter in the fort of Allahabad. Emperor Akbar wished his eldest grandson, Prince Khusrau to succeed him. But just 8 days after the demise of Emperor Akbar, Prince Salim forcefully took the Mughal throne on November 3, 1605. A year later Prince Khusrau Mirza was finally defeated, blinded and imprisoned in Agra Fort. The 5th Guru of Sikh religion, Arjun Devji, had assisted Prince Khusrau and this resulted in the persecution of Sikhs under Emperor Jahangir, who otherwise followed the tolerant, religious philosophy of his father towards all other faiths. He continued the expansion of the empire with the help of the rulers of Rajputana with whom he signed treaties. He was a keen observer and wrote his autobiography called Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri (also called Jahangirnama). He was also a great patron of art and literture. An artist named Abul Hasan painted a life size portrait of Jahangir in 1617 in Mandu. This portrait was purchased in an auction by a museum in a Persian Gulf country. He married many wives both Hindu and Islamic but the most influential among them was the Persian, Mehr-un-Nissa, who was given a title of Nur Mahal (light of the palace) initially and later the more lofty title of Nurjahan (light of the universe). She was married to an Afghan soldier, Sher Afghan, who died at an early age. Some historians speculate that Emperor Jahangir had a hand in his killing but there is no contemporary documentation to prove that. In later years Jahangir suffered from his addiction to alcohol and drugs. In this period Nurjahan was virtually the empress of India. He died in 1627 on his way back to Lahore from Kashmir and was buried in Shahadara area of Lahore. A mausoleum was built for him during the reign of his 3rd. eldest son, Prince Khurram, who succeeded him to the Mughal throne.
1580-1583- The First Jesuit mission to the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar came to Fatehpur Sikri in 1580 and remained there for three years. The leader of this mission was Friar Rudolf Acquaviva, the son of the ninth Duke of Atri, who mentioned that Emperor Akbar believed that the doctrines of the Christian Trinity and the Hindu Incarnation did not match well with ‘Din-i-Ilahi’, the eclectic religion that he thought would be acceptable to many people in his empire. The most interesting personality among these Jesuit missionaries was Friar Francis Henriques who was born in Persia around 1538 and was educated in Ormuz. He converted into Christianity from his original Islamic faith and joined the Jesuit society in Bassein in 1556 (the year of coronation of Emperor Akbar). Anthony Monserrate from Vich in Spain was the third member of this mission. Father Montserrat had unprecedented access to the private household of Mughal Emperor Akbar. In his memoirs he describes in great detail the economic and political power of the senior ladies in the palace of the Emperor. When Emperor Akbar personally lead the Mughal Army to suppress a rebellion in Kabul in 1570, Afghanistan, the political charge of the capital city of Delhi was formally handed over to his mother, Hamida Banu Begum. He also described the arrangements that were made when Gulbadan Banu Begum, daughter of the first Mughal Emperor Babur and the aunt of the Emperor Akbar organized a Haj Pilgrimage for the ladies of the imperial Mughal palace. He described in detail his endeavors to convert the Mughal Emperor into Christianity and his frustration on not being able to convince the Mughal Emperor. Friar John Correia-Afonso researched the letters sent by members of this Jesuit mission to the court of Emperor Akbar and recorded them in a book.
1580-1587 - Ralph Fitch was a merchant who joined a group of fellow merchants - John Newbery, John Eldred, William Leedes who was a jeweler by trade and James Story who was a painter on a journey to Mesopotamia, the Persian Gulf, countries around the Indian Ocean, India and Southeast Asia. This journey was financed by the Levant Company that was chartered in 1580 during the reign of Queen Elizabeth I for trading with the countries of the Orient. Their journey started in February 1583 in Tyger with their initial destinations being Tripoli in present day Libya and Aleppo in Syria. In Syria they went on a boat down the River Euphrates to Fallujah, Baghdad and finally to Basra in present day Iraq. They were on this part of the journey from May to July 1583. John Eldred parted company with the rest of the group in Basra to trade. Fitch and the rest of the group sailed down the Persian Gulf to Ormuz where the Venetian merchants had them arrested and sent them as prisoners to the Portuguese colony of Goa on the west coast of India. They were bailed out by the intervention of the Jesuit monk, Thomas Stevens who was educated in New College at Oxford and one other monk. Thomas Stevens was the first Englishman who arrived in India by the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope in Southern Africa. James Story, the painter decided to join the Jesuit mission in Goa. The others remained in Goa under the watch of Portuguese from October 1583 to April 1584 when they finally managed to escape. Traveling north through central India this group of British merchants finally reached the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar at Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. In his memoirs Ralph Fitch mentioned: “Agra and Fatehpor are two very great cities, either of them much greater than London and very populous”. There is some speculation that Ralph Fitch carried a letter from Queen Elizabeth I addressed to the Mughal Emperor Akbar. John Newbery was robbed and murdered on his return journey via Lahore in Punjab in present day Pakistan. Fitch traveled further along the Yamuna and Ganga Rivers to visit the present day cities of Varanasi, Patna and Kuchbihar in Bengal. He then went to Chittagong in present day Bangladesh before traveling further to Rangoon in Burma and reached Thailand in January 1587. After traveling in the region of the Gulf of Malacca he retraced the same route back home. He arrived in London on April 29, 1591 where he was welcomed as an important consultant by the founders of the British East India Company because of his knowledge of India. He died in 1611.
1591 – The second Jesuit mission arrived in the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar in Lahore and remained there for one year.
1592-1666 - Prince Shahab-ud-din Muhammad Khurram, the third eldest son of Mughal Emperor Jahangir and his Rajput Queen Manmati, was born on January 5, 1592 in Lahore. On ascending the Mughal throne he took the title: Al-Sultan al-'Azam wal Khaqan al-Mukarram, Malik-ul-Sultanat, Ala Hazrat Abu'l-Muzaffar Shahab ud-din Muhammad Shah Jahan I, Sahib-i-Qiran-i-Sani, Padshah Ghazi Zillu'llah, Firdaus-Ashiyani, Shahanshah—E--Sultanant Ul Hindiya Wal Mughaliya, but popularly he is referred to as Shahjahan. Khurram meaning joyful in Persian language was the name selected by his grandfather, Emperor Akbar. He received a well rounded education and grew up to be a great patron of literature, art and architecture. His first marriage was to Kandhari Begum. Her mausoleum is in the southern part of the Taj Mahal complex. Already in his youth, Prince Khurram proved his administrative and military skills. Emperor Jahangir appointed him as the commander of Mughal army that was entrusted with the task of expanding the empire in the central and southern India. Prince Khurram and Emperor Jahangir had both met their future favorite queens at Meena Bazaar, a mock market that used to be organized by aristocratic and royal ladies to celebrate Nauroz, the Persian new year. Both the ladies came from a highly learned and cultured Persian Shia family of Mirza Ghiyas Beg. Mehr-un-Nisa’s father, Mirza Ghiyas Beg was an important courtier of Akbar and was honored with the title of Itmad-ud-Daulah, the one trusted by God, when he was appointed the treasurer of the empire by Jahangir. Prince Khurram was betrothed to Arjumand Bano Begum on April 5, 1607. There is sufficient historical evidence to believe that the delay in his marriage to his favorite queen, Arjumand Bano Begum, was linked to the desire of his father, Emperor Jahangir, to marry her aunt Mehr-un-Nisa. Merh-un-Nisa was married to Sher Afghan, a very able Afghan commander. Most probably Emperor Jahangir, had Sher Afghan murdered in order to marry Mehr-un-Nisa although there is no concrete proof of this in contemporary historical documents. Mehr-un-Nisa probably came to know of the conspiracy behind her husband’s murder and refused to marry the Mughal Emperor for quite a long time. She finally relented under pressure from her family members and married him in May 1611. One year later on May 10, 1612, Prince Khurram was finally allowed to marry his beloved Arjumand Bano Begum, for whom he later built the world’s most beautiful mausoleum, the Taj Mahal. Emperor Jahangir honored Mehr-un-Nisa with the title of “Nur Mahal” or the light of the palace. Later he enhanced the title to “Nur Jahan” or the light of the universe. Prince Khurram was very ambitious and impatient to rule, although he was not the eldest son. From 1622 to 1625 he revolted unsuccessfully against his father, Emperor Jahangir. Consequently he had to seek refuge with various provincial governors and rulers. During this period he stayed for some time in the Jag Mandir, a palace on an Island in Pichola Lake, that the Maharana of Udaipur specially built in white marble for him. The idea of extensive use of white marble in his later architectural projects could have been inspired from his sojourn in Udaiplur. His father-in-Law, Asaf Khan, finally arranged an honorable peace treaty between the Mughal prince and emperor. Three year later in 1628 Emperor Jahangir died in Lahore where he was buried. With the assistance and active support of the powerful Persian Shia family of Arjumand Bano Begum, the Mumtaj Mahal, Shah Jahan was able to suppress the legitimate right of his elder brothers to proclaim himself the next Mughal Emperor. Prince Khurram gave Arjumand Bano Begum the title of ‘Mumtaj Mahal’ or the crown of the palace’. She remained Prince Khurram’s most trusted advisor and favorite queen throughout her short life. She was 19 when they married. Most of her life she was by her husband’s side mostly in camps near battlefields and was mostly pregnant. Following were the 14 children of Mumtaj Mahal:
On March 30, 1613 she gave birth to a daughter, Huralnissa Begum, her first born. She was just over three years old when she died on June 14, 1616.
The second child was again a daughter, Jahanara Begum, who never married and became the most important lady in the royal household after her mother’s death. She sponsored the constructions of many buildings and gardens in the new capital of Shahjahanabad. The famous Chandni Chowk Bazaar, the Mughal royal shopping mall, was her idea. She was influenced by the Sufi philosophy and a devotee of the famous Sufi saint Khwaja Nizamuddin Aulia. She died on September 16, 1681 and is buried in a simple, elegant but beautifully carved grave enclosure near the shrine complex of the Sufi saint in Delhi.
On March 30, 1615, her first son, Shahzada Dara Shikoh was born. His name was selected from Persian and meant ‘possessor of glory’. Dara Shikoh grew up to be a very learned and scholarly person who studied Persian, Arabic and the ancient Indian language, Sanskrit. He patronized the translation of 52 Upanishads from original Sanskrit to Persian language. All earlier translations of the Upanishads in to European languages were done from this masterpiece of Hindu philosophic literature. Dara Shikoh was liberal in his religious philosophy and was very much influenced by Sufism. He was Shah Jahan’s favorite son and was groomed to be the next Mughal Emperor. In the war of succession that followed Shah Jahan’s illness in 1657, the third eldest son, Aurangzeb defeated and killed him on September 8, 1659.
Her fourth child was Shahzada Muhammad Sultan Shah Shuja Bahadur, who was born on July 3, 1616. He was appointed the governor of eastern provinces of Bengal and Orissa. Dara Shikoh’s army defeated him in the battle of succession, and he retreated back to Bengal. After Aurangzeb defeated and killed Dara Shikoh, Shah Shuja tried once again to challenge his younger brother but was again defeated. He retreated back to Bengal and finally decided to go in exile to Mecca but the entire family was murdered on the way.
The fifth child was again a daughter, Roshanara Begum, who was born on September 3, 1617. She was quite influential during the reigns of Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. In Agra she patronized the construction of the Jama Masjid, which has a unique zigzag pattern created by inlay of white marble in red sandstone background on the three main domes. A locality near this Friday mosque in Agra is named after her, the Roshan Mohalla. She died in Delhi in 1671 and is buried in the garden she patronized in her life time called Roshanara Bagh.
The sixth child of Mumtaj Mahal was Mohinuddin Muhammad Aurangzeb, who defeated and killed all his brothers, imprisoned his own father and usurped the throne. He took the title of Alamgir. He was born on November 3, 1618 in Dahod.
The seventh child of Mumtaj Mahal, Shahzada Sultan Umaid Baksh, was born on December 18, 1619. He died in infancy in March 1622.
The eighth child, Surayya Banu Begum, was born on June 10, 1621 and also died in infancy on April 28, 1628.
The ninth child, Shahzada Sultan Murad Baksh, was born on September 8, 1624. Aurangzeb defeated him in the battle of succession and killed him on December 14, 1661.
The tenth child, Shahzada Sultan Luftallah, was born on November 4, 1626 and died in infancy on May 14, 1628.
The eleventh child, Shahzada Sultan Daulat Afza was born on May 9, 1628 and also died in infancy.
The twelfth child, Husnara Begum, was born on April 1630 and did not survive beyond her infancy.
The thirteenth child, Gauhara Begum, was born on June 17, 1631 and lived to a ripe old age of 75. She died in 1706.
The fourteenth child, also a daughter, was still born when Arjumand Bano Begum, the Mumtaj Mahal died delivering her on June 17, 1631 at a battle camp near Burhanpur in central India on the north-eastern border of Maharashtra state.
The contemporary chroniclers narrate that Shah Jahan was so heart broken at her death that he remained alone in his palace for a long time and even contemplated abdicating the Mughal throne. When he immerged from his seclusion his hair and beard had turned gray.
Mumtaj Mahal was temporarily buried on the day of her death in Burhanpur. A little more than six months later her body was exhumed and transported to be buried in a garden of the palace of Maharaja Jai Singh of Amber. Emperor Shahjahan requested the Maharaja to give him the palace complex in return for other landed properties, when the 5th Mughal emperor chose this site for building the mausoleum for his beloved queen. On January 8, 1632 Begum Mumtaj Mahal was again temporarily buried in a red sandstone enclosure very close to the white marble mausoleum in the northwest side of the garden of the Taj Mahal. This enclosure can still be seen in the garden of Taj Mahal. On March 4, 1633 the locality of Taj Ganj was established for all the construction workers to live near the site. There is some confusion about the main architect of the Taj Mahal. It was most probably designed by a committee consisting of several persons including the emperor himself. Ustad Ahmad Lahori was one of the specialists in construction who served Emperor Shah Jahan between 1624 and 1635. He was honored with the title of Nadir-al-Asr or wonder of age. Amanat Khan who was originally from Persia worked on the calligraphy inside the central chamber and elsewhere in the building according to an inscription on the main gate during the years 1635 and 1636. On December 19, 1637 Shah Jahan honored him for his calligraphy work. In 2004 a team of researchers from the Archaeological Survey of India discovered the names of 670 previously unknown persons who specialized in various artistic areas. These names were inscribed in the vaults in the foundation of the Taj Mahal. Apart from these names there is sufficient evidence to believe that Ismail Khan from Turkey (or of Turkish origin from central Asia) was the designer of the dome of the Taj Mahal. Qazim Khan was from Lahore and specialized in the casting of solid gold finial on top of the dome. A local lapidary from Delhi was the chief sculptor and the specialist for mosaic work. Muhammad Hanif was given the task of supervising the thousands of masons. Mir Abdul Karim and Mukkarimat Khan of Shiraz in Persia were the paymasters for the thousands of specialists and ordinary construction workers who were employed by Shah Jahan. Apart from these few there were sculptors from Bukhara (in Uzbekistan), calligraphers from Syria and Persia, specialists in inlay of semi-precious stones in marble from South India and stone cutters from Baluchistan (frontier province of Pakistan). There was a man who specialized in the construction of turrets. There was another specialist for carving flowers from marble slabs. In all there were thirty seven men who had special talents and formed a creative nucleus in the monumental task of building the Taj Mahal. The ordinary labor force of about twenty thousand was employed mostly from various cities in North India. The materials required for the building were imported from all over India and some from various countries in Asia. The white marble was from Makrana, a region in the kingdom of Mirza Raja Jai Singh I of Amber. There are original firman with seal and signature of Emperor Shah Jahan that confirm that Emperor Shah Jahan asked Raja Jai Singh I to expedite the delivery of marble. More than 1000 elephants were used to transport the marble pieces and also for lifting huge pieces of marble over a seven mile long ramp. Jasper stone came from Punjab. Jade and crystal came from China. The turquoise stone came from Tibet. The Lapis Lazuli came from Afghanistan. Sapphire was imported from Sri Lanka. The Cornelian came from Arabia. Various shades of Agate were available in India. The total cost of the construction of the mausoleum surpassed Rupees forty million (about one million dollars) in the period of Emperor Shah Jahan when one could buy one gram of gold for Rupees 1.3. Originally there was a solid gold screen around the grave of Mumtaj Mahal. This screen was replaced with a larger and very beautifully carved white marble screen that we see at present in 1642. The marks of the pillars of the golden screen can still be seen on the floor around the grave of Begum Mumtaj Mahal. This suggests that the construction of main building may have been finished by 1642. On January 31, 1647 the best friend of Arjumand Bano Begum and another queen of Emperor Shahjahan, Sati-un-Nisa died. She must also have been temporarily buried somewhere. In early 1649 a red sandstone mausoleum was built just outside the western gate to the southern courtyard of Taj Mahal where Sati-un-Nisa is buried. Across the road on its southern side is the Fatehpuri Mosque built with brick and mortar that was later laminated with red sand stone like all peripheral buildings of the Taj Mahal. The tomb of Akbarabadi Begum, the other queen of Emperor Shahjahan, is on the southeast corner of the southern courtyard. Both the mausoleums for Sati-un-Nisa and Akbarabadi Begum are referred to as the Saheli Burj or the towers for the girl friends of Begum Mumtaj Mahal. Ustad Ahmad died in 1649. The year 1648 is inscribed on the main gate of Taj Mahal and many historians and archaeologists of the Archaeological Survey of India believe that the entire complex of Taj Mahal must have been complete in 1648. According to this construction the Taj Mahal took 17 years to complete. The Emperor Shah Jahan himself died on January 31, 1666 and his body was carried on a boat through the river gate in the moat of Agra Fort. The body was transferred in the night in absolute secrecy through the Khizri Gate of Agra Fort over the Yamuna River to the tomb of Mumtaj Mahal through the riverside entrance to Taj Mahal that is now closed. Emperor Aurangzeb feared that there could be a revolt against him in Agra if people found out that the beloved Emperor had passed away in captivity. Shah Jahan was still very much beloved by the local population in Agra even at the time of his death.
The total length of the Taj Mahal complex from the south gate of the southern courtyard to the north wall of Taj Mahal on the banks of River Yamuna is 579.2 meters or 1900.3 feet. The width of the complex from its eastern wall to the western one is 304.8 meters or 1000 feet. This entire area has seven very conspicuous elements:
The Darwaza or the main gate to enter into the gardens in front of the mausoleum; the Mughal Charbagh or the garden that is divided in four parts that is in front of the Taj Mahal; the Masjid that was constructed for the royal family and their guests to pray when they visited the mausoleum; the Mehman Khana that was built to maintain symmetry with Masjid on the western side of mausoleum and finally the main white marble mausoleum that is the focus of attention of every visitor immediately after one enters the red sandstone main gate of the Taj Mahal. In the middle of the garden is a white marble platform with a fountain pool, where most visitors to this tomb like to be photographed.
All royal mausoleums built by Mughal Emperors had a Charbagh Garden around them or the mausoleum was placed in the middle of the garden with four divisions. In Taj Mahal’s design the main mausoleum was placed in the north of the Charbagh. The reason for this change in tradition was probably esthetical. By this placement it is reflected in the still waters of Yamuna River. The site was chosen at a specific location where even the River makes a symmetrical U-curve flowing from the northwest towards the mausoleum and flowing away from the mausoleum towards the northeast. The other advantage was that there was no building behind the mausoleum. In the bright moon light when the white marble of Taj Mahal shines, the building appears to be suspended because the gardens in front are dark and there is only open sky behind the building. There were two entrances designed in the Taj Mahal. In the north there are two stairways in the red sandstone platform leading to a gate opening on to banks of River Yamuna. The boats could come right up to the River gate bringing the royal visitors during the reign of Emperor Shahjahan and even subsequently. This entry is now closed. The other entry in to the Charbagh is through the massive red sandstone main gate of the Taj Mahal that in itself is a very impressive building. It is 151 feet wide, 117 feet deep and 100 feet high. One gets just a glimpse of white marble mausoleum as one approaches the gigantic arch in the main gate. As one proceeds further inside gradually more and more of the mausoleum is visible. When one is standing in the middle of the interior of this main gate, the entire mausoleum is beautifully framed in the northern arch of this gate. From the main gate to the red sandstone platform on which the white marble mausoleum is standing the total distance is 1000 feet. The entire area between the main gate and the mausoleum is covered by the Charbagh that is 1000 feet wide also.
The red sandstone platform at the end of Charbagh is 970 feet 7 inches wide and 364 feet 10 inches deep. This platform is about four feet higher than the garden level. There are three buildings on this Chameli Farsh red sandstone platform. The mosque is on its western side, in the center is the main mausoleum and on its eastern side is the ‘Mehman Khana’ guest house.
From the top of this red sandstone platform another white marble platform rises further 5.79 meters or 19 feet higher. This white marble platform is 57 meters or 187 feet long and its width is exactly the same. On the southern side of this white marble platform there are two stairways leading up to it. At each of the four corners of this platform are four minarets with three balconies jutting out regular levels in each of them. These minarets are 40.2 meters or 132 feet high. They were planned to be slightly leaning outwards. In case of an earthquake they would fall away from the mausoleum and not on it. From this white platform one climbs another 3 feet over the white marble steps in front of the mausoleum’s entrance. The total height of the mausoleum from the bottom of the 19 feet high white marble platform to the top of metal finial crowning the main dome is 74.2 meters or 243 feet 6 inches. On the roof of the Taj Mahal the dome rests on a drum shaped structure that is 39 feet tall. From the bottom of this drum to the top of the metal finial crowning the dome it is 44.4 meters or 145 feet 8 inches high. The metal finial on top of the dome alone is 32 feet 5.5 inches tall.
The foundations of the Taj Mahal are also very special. Shah Jahan had wells dug on the River bank below the Chameli Farsh platform. The walls of these wells have masonry arches on top. The Chameli Farsh Platform of Taj Mahal is resting on these arches. There are two domes in the Taj Mahal to reduce the weight of the dome and to harmonize the height of the dome inside the monument with its interior and its height outside with the exterior architecture of the mausoleum. On the roof of the Taj Mahal there is stairway leading into the empty space between the two domes. Entry to the roof of the Taj Mahal is closed to public. The Taj Mahal was used by officers of the English East India Company for a considerable period as a private club. On the roof of the mausoleum one can still see marks left behind by roller skates used by the British. The East India Company Governor General, William Bentinck once proposed the marble of Taj Mahal and other Mughal monuments to be sold in Europe for building material. The English Parliament considered the proposal but found it to be financially not feasible because marble from Italy, Bulgaria and other European sources was cheaper.
SHAHJAHANABAD (mid seventeenth century): Before the construction of Taj Mahal at Agra, the fifth Mughal Emperor, Shahjahan, started the construction of the Red Fort of Delhi and Jama Masjid as the focal points of his new capital, Shahjahanabad. His daughter, Jahanara Begum, patronized the construction of Chandni Chowk Bazaar. It was the Mughal aristocratic shopping mall. This was a walled city with many gates piercing it. Only a few of the original gates and some portions of the wall around this city still exist.
Shah Jahan is best remembered for his grand and majestic construction projects. He ruled initially from Agra Fort where he demolished most of the red sandstone palaces of Emperor Akbar’s period on its eastern side and replaced them with very beautifully decorated white marble ones. The decoration in the palaces was done with very elegant carvings as well as beautiful floral and geometrical motifs created with inlay of semi-precious stones in white marble. In Agra Fort’s Diwan-i-Khas or the hall of private audience, there is the following couplet in Persian inlaid with black marble in white marble background that aptly describes the grandeur of the Shah Jahan’s palaces:
“Agar Firdaus bar rue Zamin-ast, Hamin asto Hamin asto Hamin ast” - If there is paradise on earth, it is here, it is here, it is here.
Emperor Shahjahan was contemporary to Louise XIV, the Grand Monarch of France, “Roi-Soleil” – the sun around whom the planets (the ministers) of the court revolved. Both were grand builders. The construction at Versailles Palaces was undertaken at the same time as Taj Mahal and the new Mughal Capital “Shahjahanabad” were being built. Both had a fascination for beautiful women and both had one queen who influenced them overwhelmingly.
Shah Jahan was successful in his military campaigns to extend the empire in central and southern India. In the northeast the Persian governor was forced to surrender the fort of Kandahar in 1638. He also conquered Badakhshan and even Balkh remained in Mughal Empire for about one year. The Persian rulers regained Kandahar in 1649. In 1657 Shah Jahan was struck by a serious illness. His four surviving sons fought a series of bloody battles for the succession to Mughal throne. Aurangzeb finally immerged the winner. He imprisoned Shah Jahan in Musammam Burj Palace in Agra Fort where Jahanara, his daughter took care of him until his death on January 22, 1666. He was still popular among the local population of Agra at the time of his death. Fearing a revolt, Aurangzeb ordered his body to be carried out of the fort in the night through a gate opening into the moat. His body was carried over the River Yamuna to be buried beside his favorite queen in the mausoleum built exclusively for her.
1594 – The third Jesuit mission led by Father Jerome Xavier came to the court of Mughal Emperor Akbar.
1600 – The British East India Company: Queen Elizabeth I granted a charter to the governor at a company of merchants (The British East India Company) to trade freely with the countries of the east.
1605- JEAN-BAPTISTE TAVERNIER, Baron of Aubonne, was born in Paris in the year 1605. His father Gabriel had to flee from Antwerp to Paris in 1575 with his family that included his brothers Melchior and Nicolas because they were protestant Christians and were being persecuted in their native town. Tavernier traveled widely in his seven ‘Voyages’. He visited India during the reign of Mughal Emperor Shahjahan whose reign, his architectural accomplishments and his domains are vividly described in his travel memoirs.
1611 – East India Company sets up factories on the east coast at Masaulipatam.
1612 – British Captain Best defeated the Portuguese fleet near Surat in Gujarat.
1615 – Sir Thomas Roe: As ambassador of King James I, Sir Thomas Roe, arrived in the court of Jahangir at Ajmer/Pushkar to secure Mughal permission to establish British factories in Ahmedabad, Broach and Agra. Later a factory was built in Surat with Mughal permission.
1625-1688 – Francois Bernier was born in Joué-Etiau (Anjou) in France in 1625. He was orphaned in his infancy and was brought up by his uncle. He acquired a short course medical degree from the school at Montpellier that allowed him to practice medicine but not on French citizens. In 1655 he left France on a twelve year journey that took him to Palestine, Cairo in Egypt, Arabia and Ethiopia. He arrived in Surat in present day Gujarat State in 1658. He reached the Mughal court in Agra and was attached to noblemen of Mughal Prince Dara Shikoh, the eldest son of Emperor Shahjahan. The history of the downfall of Prince Dara Shikoh is described in fascinating detail in his memoirs. Bernier later served as a personal medical doctor of the Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb. Having the royal patronage allowed him to travel widely in India.
1639 – Fort St. George constructed in Madras (Chennai), Tamil Nadu by the British East India Company.
1639 – 1717 – Niccolao Manucci was an Italian traveler who spent almost his entire adult life in India in the courts of Mughal Emperors Shahjahan and Aurangzeb. He had close contacts with many personalities of the Mughal royal family and based on the personal knowledge gained from these contacts he wrote the ‘Storia do Mogor’ in three different European languages. Francois Catrou, a French historian borrowed his original manuscript to write ‘Histoire générale de l’empire du Mogul’ in 1715.
1661 – Portuguese Princess Catherine of Braganza marries King Charles II and brings the territory of present day Mumbai as dowry to the English. The British East India Company obtains the territory from Charles II. East India Company started offering incentives to skilled craftsmen and merchants to come to Bombay from Surat and other cities in Gujarat.
1707-1857 – Decline of Mughal Empire and the rise in fortune of British East India Company.
1650 – Gabriel Boughton an employee of the Company obtained a license for trade in Bengal. An English factory was set up in 1651 at Hugli. Aurangazeb attacked the English settlements and, captured their settlements at Patna , Cassim Bazar, Masaulipatam and Vizagapatanam. British sign a peace treaty with Aurangzeb under humiliating conditions imposed by him.
1690-1717 – Job Charnock established a factory in Bengal in 1690 but eminent Indian historians have proved that he was not the founder of Calcutta (Kolkata) city. Fort William was constructed in 1698 to fortify the factory. Sultanati, Kalikata and Gobinpore villages were developed to establish the city of Calcutta (Kolkata). Mughal Emperor Farukhsiyar permitted duty free trade with British East India Company. Rupee Coins were minted in Bombay (Mumbai) for circulation in India.
1722 -1833 – Raja Ram Mohan Roy was born in Radhanagore in Bengal on May 22, 1772. He is famous as the founder of the ‘Brahmo Samaj’, one of the first Indian socio-religious reform movements. His life work had profound impact in politics, public administration, education and Hindu religious reform. His most remarkable achievement was his pioneering effort to abolish the horrible custom of ‘Sati’ in which the widows were very often forced to virtually commit suicide by burning themselves alive on the funeral pyre of their husband. The word ‘Hinduism’ was introduced by him in English language in 1816. With cooperation of Dwakanath Tagore, he founded the ‘Brahmo Samaj’ in 1828 prior to his journey to England. This effort led to the development of an important Hindu spiritual and reform movement that attracted many important personalities of Bengal into its fold. The movement became known as Bengal Renaissance. He was bored with the traditional landlord lifestyle of his family already as a youth. He traveled widely before he finally came back to manage the family property. Later he worked as a money lender in Calcutta. He was an employee of the British East India Company from 1803 to 1814. He also published Journals in Bengali, Hindi, English and Persian languages. The most popular of his journals was Samvad Kaumudi that dealt with important issues of his time like freedom of press, induction of Indians into higher ranks of government service and separation of the executive from the judiciary. He worked tirelessly for the women’s rights including the right of the widows to remarry and own property in their own name. He also actively opposed polygamy, a system that was quite prevalent and common in his time. He also supported development of widespread education system that would also be available to women.
1748 – First Anglo-French War.
1757 – The Battle of Plassey: Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah ordered the British East India Company to demolish the fortifications of Calcutta that were constructed as a protection against the Nawab of Bengal. When the British did not agree to demolish the fortifications, Nawab Siraj-ud-Daulah attacked Calcutta successfully in 1756. The British claimed that the Nawab ordered the arrest of 146 British in a dungeon made famous as the ‘Black Hole’ of Calcutta, where most of them perished. Historians later believe that the real number of British in the room was about 69 and that the Nawab may not have ordered their arrest. Robert Clive was sent from Britain in 1757 to recover Calcutta. He landed in Madras (Chennai) where he assembled an army to fight against the Nawab of Bengal. The Battle of Plassey was never fought. Robert Clive managed to bribe the Nawab’s uncle, Mir Jafar, and influenced him to order a substantial number of Nawab’s troops to lay their weapons without fighting. This battle that was never fought laid the foundations of British Empire in India.
1780-1839 – Maharaja Ranjit Singh established a short lived kingdom in Punjab. Most Mughal Emperors persecuted the Sikhs. Between 1747 and 1769 the Afghans invaded Punjab on 9 different occasions. The Sikhs developed the ‘Khalsa’ Sikh Brotherhood to defend themselves from constant suppression. In the beginning of 18th century there were 12 different ‘Misls’ or territories defended by a chieftain. Each of these territories was separately and loosely administrated by the head of each Misl. There were bitter rivalries between the heads of the Misls. At the age of 12 years in 1792 Ranjit Singh became the head of the Misl of Sukerchakia. He immediately started uniting the different Misls and conquered the ancient royal city of Lahore in 1799. Ranjit Singh was proclaimed the Maharaja of Punjab in 1801 at Lahore in a magnificent ceremony by a descendent of the founder of Sikh religion, Guru Nanak Sahab. He had established a rich and flourishing kingdom in the almost 40 years of his reign before he passed away in 1839. At the time of his death the Sikh kingdom stretched from fertile five river valleys to Ladakh covering the Punjab foothills of Himalayas and the Himalaya as well Karakoram ranges in Kashmir. He provided equal opportunities of high offices at his court and in local administration to members of the Sikh, Hindu and even Muslim communities. He left behind seven sons with different queens but none of them were worthy of sitting on the throne of the late Maharaja Ranjit Singh, the Lion of Punjab. The Hindu Dogra brothers were also fighting for supremacy against the various Sikh successors of the late Maharaja. Kharak Singh, Nau Nihal Singh and Sher Singh followed on the Punjab throne in quick succession between 1839 and 1843, each dying a violent death. The British were also eyeing the fertile and strategic territory of Punjab. Finally Dalip Singh, the only remaining son of Maharaja Ranjit Singh was crowned at the tender age of only 7 years. The British Governor General, Lord Hardinge declared war against Punjab in 1845. The British won the 1st Anglo-Sikh war by bribing some of the Sikh nobles. They appointed Henry Lawrence as the British Representative at the court of Lahore that remained nominally under Maharaja Dalip Singh. Gulab Singh Dogra had also sided with the British and as a reward for his loyalty he was recognized as the Maharaja of Kashmir. In the common folk of Punjab there was bitter resentment against the British. In 1948 there was a mutiny in the city of Multan and that led to the 2nd Anglo-Sikh war. The British waged a fierce campaign against their rivals in Punjab and managed to subdue all revolting elements by capturing their weapons and ammunition by 1846. The East India Company’s Governor General, Lord Dalhousie, officially annexed the entire territory of Punjab and merged it into British Crown territories on March 29, 1849. The company officers felt that Rani Jindan, Maharaja Dalip Singh’s mother, would provoke him in to revolting against the British and they decided to separate the mother from the son. Dr. John Login was appointed the guardian of the young Maharaja who was exiled to Fatehgarh, a remote village. All the influence around the young king was Christian at Fatehgarh and he finally converted to Christianity and was allowed to travel to London. After arriving in London in 1854 he was quickly assimilated into the royal family household as is evident from photographs, sketches and portrayals of him in Osborne. In 1861 Dalip Singh returned to India to get his mother back to London. She had been also exiled to live in Nepal. She died in London in 1863. While Dalip Singh was on the ship back to London he was attracted to Bamba Muller whom he married in 1864. They lived in Elveden Hall in Suffolk and enjoyed a British aristocratic life for many years. In later years he reverted to Sikh faith because he felt betrayed by the British and conspired with Irish Fenians and Russian revolutionaries in a bid to regain his throne. But his efforts did not have any significant results and he died in 1893 while staying in Paris, about 2 years after his last meeting with Queen Empress Victoria.
1790-1792 – Third Mysore War expands British influence in southern India.
1804 – Richard Wellesley, Earl of Mornington, completes massive British territorial acquisitions in the fourth Mysore War and second Maratha War.
1814-1816 – Gorkha War.
1824-1826 – First Burmese War.
1824-1883 Swami Dayanand Saraswati was born in 1823 in a Brahman family in the village of Tankara near Morvi in the Kathiawar region of Gujarat state. His original name was Moolshankar. He was brought up in a relatively prosperous life that allowed him the study of Sanskrit language, the ancient Hindu Veda philosophic texts and other Hindu religious books. He later became the disciple of a Hindu scholar, Swami Virjanand who was living in the Hindu pilgrimage center of Mathura. His Guru (teacher) inspired him to devote his entire attention to the study of the ancient Hindu philosophy of the Vedas. He later established the ‘Arya Samaj’, a reform movement that distinguished itself from the earlier reform movements like Brahmo Samaj of Raja Rammohan Roy by not comparing the Hindu philosophy with Christianity and Islam but remain strictly true to the philosophy of Vedas. ‘Arya Samaj’ has following of a large segment of Hindu society in India and among the Indian Diaspora abroad.
1828 – The English language replaced Persian as the official language of India as part of administrative reforms by Lord William Bentinck.
1835 – Lord William Bentinck, the controversial Governor General of the East India Company, proposed to the British Government to dismantle the marble from the Taj Mahal and other Mughal monuments to be shipped to London for use as building material in Britain. The British Government found the proposal to be economically not very lucrative because marble as a building material was available in Italy and Bulgaria among other European countries at a cheaper price and the shipping costs from these places were much less. Thereby the Taj Mahal was saved from being destroyed. His other reforms were quite remarkable. He discontinued the Mughal coinage and issued the East India Company coinage. The custom of “Satee” or voluntary self-immolation by the widow on the cremation pyre of her husband was abolished. Very often the widows were influenced and even coerced into performing this heinous act of self immolation. There were sometimes cases where widows were physically thrown into the burning funeral pyre of the husband. Raja Rammohan Roy from Bengal had been long advocating the abolition of Sati custom. Under Bentinck the English replaced Persian as official language. Persian had been the official language already in Sultanate period and the Mughal maintained it as the official language. Bentinck made English language the Lingua Franca of India.
1836-1886 – Swami Ramkrishna Paramhamsa was born with the name of Gadadhar Chattopadhyay on February 18, 1836 in the Kamarpukur village of Hooglee district of West Bengal state. His father, Kshuddhiram and mother, Chandramani were very poor and had difficulty making ends meet. Being born in a Brahman caste family he was asked by his parents to participate in the Yagyopavitra (a ceremony to start the spiritual life and receive a thread band that one wears across the torso). After the main part of the ceremony is complete the child is asked to go to someone to receive alms (charity). Gadadhar decided that he would receive alms from a lady in the village who belonged to a low caste. The parents and the family were shocked but Gadadhar was adamant. After his father passed away, Ramkumar, his elder brother finally allowed him to accept the alms from the lady of low caste. Ramkumar followed in his father’s profession of a Brahman priest. He later moved to Calcutta (Kolkata) to establish a Sanskrit school but kept working as a Purohit (Brahman priest that performs child naming, marriage and other religious ceremonies for Hindu families). Rani Rushmoni was born in a poor family and was married to Babu Rajachandra Das, a rich landlord of Janbazaar Kolkata. After her husband passed away, she took over the management of the family properties. As customary in the Indian society of early nineteenth century she led a very simple, austere and pious life as a Hindu widow. She used her immense wealth for many good charitable causes. She patronized the ‘Imperial Library’ that is now renamed as the ‘National Library of India’ and also gave money for the establishment of ‘Hindu College’ that is now renamed as the ‘Presidency College’. It is said that she had a divine revelation that inspired her to establish a Hindu temple dedicated to Kali, an incarnation of the Hindu mother Goddess on the banks of Hooglee River in the ‘north 24 Parganas’ region near Kolkata. She appointed Ramkumar as the chief priest of the newly founded Dakshineshwar Kali Temple. Gadadhar inherited the position of the chief priest of Dakshineshwar Kali Temple after his elder brother, Ramkumar, passed away. He took over the position of the chief priest and performed the various daily rituals as required. At the same time he continued his spiritual quest. He became a disciple of a wandering monk named ‘Totapuri’ who initiated him in the ‘Advait Vedant’ or non-dual final Veda philosophy of Hinduism. It is said that he was so engrossed in his spiritual practices that the local people insisted that his mother find a bride for him and divert his attention to material aspects of human life also. Chandramani finally succumbed to pressure from the society and got Gadadhar married to a five year old girl. Gadadhar influenced the bride to follow his spiritual path and it is believed that she also became a deeply spiritual lady. During his nightly meditations he is believed to have had the revelation of Kali, the mother Goddess. His fame started spreading far and wide under his spiritual name of Swami Ramkrishna Paramhamsa. Soon he had thousands of disciples. Although he practiced the profession of a temple priest, his teachings influenced Hindus to give up the mere rituals and seek the divinity in all human beings irrespective of their caste or religion. It is believed that he also practiced certain Christian and Muslim (Sufi) spiritual practices apart from Hindu tantric spiritual practices. By the time he passed away on August 16, 1886 his Ramakrishna Mission had a very large following including many very prominent disciples. The most prominent of his disciples was Swami Vivekanand (born on January 12, 1863 and died July 4, 1902) who was the first Hindu philosopher to attend an international symposium in the United States. He was invited to address the World Parliament of Religions at the World Fair in Chicago in 1893 where he impressed his audiences by addressing them as ‘brothers and sisters’ instead of the customary ‘ladies and gentlemen’. He later addressed large audiences in Memphis, St. Louis, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York and Boston.
1839-1842 – The First Afghan War.
1845-1846 – The First Sikh War.
1848-1849 – The Second Sikh War. Punjab annexed into the British Indian territories.
1852 – The Second Burmese War.
1853 – On Saturday, April 16, 1853 at 3.35 PM the first train from Thane entered the terminal point at Bori Bunder. Later Victoria Terminus was built at this railway station. The name of the Terminus was changed to Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus in independent India.
1856 – Kingdom of Nawab of Awadh annexed into the British Indian territories.
1857 – The last Mughal Emperor: Bahadur Shah Zafar. Bahadur Shah II the last Mughal Emperor of Delhi ascended the Mughal throne at the age of 62. He was the son of Akbar Shah with his Hindu wife, Lal Bai and was born in 1775. Urdu and Persian poetry was flourishing in India at this time and Bahadur Shah II was himself a poet of considerable reputation. He composed under the pen name of ‘Zafar’. Some of the famous poets of this era were Mirza Ghalib, Zauk, Momin and Daagh. Their poetry has remained popular even in the twenty-first century. The fighters in India’s ‘First war of independence’ in 1857 chose him as their nominal leader. The British were enraged by his defiance and after suppressing the first struggle for India’s freedom, they beheaded his male children and presented their heads on a platter to Bahadur Shah II. In 1858 he was exiled to imprisonment in Rangoon (now Yangoon). He died in the jail on November 7, 1862 in Yangon (formerly Rangoon) in Myanmar (formerly Burma). His poetry is still popular in India and Pakistan. His couplet “Do Gaz Zamin bhi mil nak saki kuye yaar main” became prophetic when he was buried in Burma away from ‘Kuye Yaar’ or the neighborhood of the beloved.
1857 – Gadar was the “Sepoy Mutiny” according to British and the “First War of Independence” according to Indian historians. Transfer of power from the British East India Company and proclamation of Queen Victoria as the Empress of India. With the exile of Bahadur Shah II ‘Zafar, to Rangoon in Burma, the Mughal Dynasty officially ended in India.
1858 – Rani Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi died fighting the army of British East India Company in Gwalior on June 18, 1858.
1869-1948 – Mahatma Gandhi – India’s beloved leader and the father of the nation. Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in Porbandar, Gujarat on October 2, 1869 in a ‘Vaishya’ or merchant caste family. His parents sacrificed their utmost to send him to England to study law from 1888 to 1891. His uncle sent him to South Africa in 1893 to help a Gujarati merchant, who was a friend of the family, to fight a civil suit there. He worked against racial discrimination in South Africa until 1915 when he returned to India. His name has become synonymous with “Ahimsa” or the philosophy of non-violence that he developed and very strictly followed. Coupled with this philosophy was his very simple and almost austere lifestyle that impressed hundreds of thousands of Indian to follow his example as much as they could. This had a profound impact in India’s struggle for freedom from the British. Initially he built an Ashram in Sabarmati near Ahmedabad and soon became deeply involved in India’s freedom struggle. His first initiative in this struggle was the ‘Swadeshi Andolan’ in which he exhorted the people in India to give up wearing clothes made with fabric made in Britain. He led this non-violent revolution by personal example. He started spinning his own cotton yarn that was woven to make indigenous garments. Even the elite in the freedom struggle followed his example and started wearing only Khadi or hand-spun cloth only. After independence most leaders of the Indian National Congress continued using only Khadi garments. The Dandi Salt March, in which thousands of Indians walked 400 kilometers or about 248 miles from Sabarmati Ashram on March 12 to reach Dandi on April 6, 1930 to extract salt as an act of civil disobedience, was an important step towards India’s independence. After many ups and downs on August 8, 1942 in the Gowalia Tank Maidan near Kemp’s Corner, there was a historical gathering of Indian National Congress in which there was a declaration of ‘Bharat Chodo Andolan’ or ‘Quit India Movement’. The people of India endearingly addressed him as Mahatma (Great Soul) Gandhi and Bapu (Father). He was imprisoned many times by the British for civil disobedience in South Africa and later in India. He did not wish the country to be partitioned on religious basis. After independence he worked very hard for harmony between Hindus and Muslims at a time when there were horrible massacres being perpetrated in Bengal and Punjab.About 17.10 PM on January 30, 1948 Mahatma Gandhi left for his regular scheduled evening prayer meeting in Birla House in New Delhi after ending a prolonged conversation with the home minister, Sardar Vallabh Bhai i Patel about his political differences with the Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Leaning on the shoulders his two grand-nieces, Abha and Manu, he was about to climb on the stage, when a thick-set man, Nathuram Godse, approached him to touch his feet. Abha was in his way and he briskly pushed her aside to shoot the Mahatma at point blank range three times. Mahatma Gandhi fell to the ground. His last words were “Hey Ram”. These words adorn his memorial, the Raj Ghat, at the site where his earthly remains were cremated. The two grand-nieces helped his limp body to be carried to a room nearby where Sardar Patel felt his pulse for a sign of life. In about 10 minutes a medical physician, Dr. D. P. Bhargava, reached him only to announce that the Mahatma was already dead for 10 minutes. The funeral procession of Mahatma Gandhi was the largest New Delhi had witnessed until then, with millions of people lining the streets to pay their last homage to the “Father of the Nation”. On the Raj Path (Kingsway) one could only see the heads of millions of mourners waiting to pay their last homage to the most famous leader of India’s freedom struggle.
1878-1881 – The Second Afghan War.
1880-1936 - Munshi Prem Chand was born on July 31, 1880 in the Lambati village in Pandepur town near Varanasi in a Kayastha family to Munshi Ajaib Lal, a postal clerk, and his wife Anandi. His parents named him Dhanpat Rai "master of wealth" while his uncle, Mahabir, a rich landowner, called him Nawab (the Urdu translation of Raja). He chose the pen name Premchand sometime after he started to write. His early education was at a local Madarsa under a Maulvi, where he studied Urdu. Premchand's parents died young - his mother when he was seven and his father when he was sixteen or seventeen and still a student. He could not take his Intermediate (pre-university) examination because of his father's sudden death. With his parents dead, Prem Chand had to shoulder the responsibility of taking care of his step-mother and his step-siblings. The next year when he took his intermediate examination, he was successful, scoring second division (more than 45% marks) but he was unable to enter college. He was lucky to get employment as a teacher in a school in the town of Chunar near Varanasi. He worked as a teacher from 1899 to February 8, 1921, when he resigned from his job following a call by Mahatma Gandhi to not co-operate with British government. He was already writing stories that were considered socialist and anti-British government. It was a very difficult decision for Prem Chand because he was not feeling well, he had two young kids at home to take care of apart from his wife who was pregnant. Government jobs like that of a teacher were very desirable jobs. His wife agreed with his decision to resign. While working as a teacher he took classes to acquire a Bachelor of Arts degree. Prem Chand's became interested in literature when he developed a friendship with Munshi Dayanarayan Nigam, the editor of the Urdu magazine Zamana. His first works were written in 1904 under the pseudomymn, Nawabrai. He was married at a young age of only fourteen years to a girl from a neighboring village, but the marriage was a failure. The girl returned to her village when he left the village in 1899 to take the job as a teacher. Several years later, in 1909, he married a young widow named Shivrani Devi. This was quite a revolutionary move at that time because in the Hindu society at that time widows used to be almost forced out the society. They had to shave their head, put on only white clothes to mourn their dead husband until they themselves passed away and very often they were even sent away from their homes to live in Ashrams in holy cities like Mathura, Vrindavan or Varanasi. They were also not supposed to use any make up or wear bangles. Prem Chand had to face the wrath of his family members and professional peers when he married a widow.
After resigning as a teacher in a government school, he decided to serve the cause of Independence by writing for the columns of Urdu dailies of Gorakhpur - Tehkik and Swadesh but he was not very successful. He later settled in Varanasi for a short while. Not finding a job there, four months after resigning his teaching position, he went to Kanpur where he applied and got a job with Marwari Vidyalaya, a private school. This job also did not work for him either because of difference of opinions with the manager and principal of the school. Returning to Varanasi he first became the editor of a magazine called Maryada and soon found a good job as a principal of Kashi Vidyapith School. He later tried running a commercial printing press but did not make much profit from the project. He then accepted another position as editor of the magazine called Madhuri. Some time later he moved to Lucknow to start his own monthly magazine called Hans that was printed in Varanasi. In 1932 he returned to Varanasi to start another weekly magazine called Jagaran. These two business deals did not work financially well for Prem Chand. To pay back the loans taken to establish the two weekly magazines, he took up a paid position as script writer for the Ajanta Cinetone Movie Production Company in Mumbai. He wrote the script for the film Mazdoor. The British banned this film because of its socialist and anti-British content. The culture of the film industry did not suit Prem Chand and he decided to return to Varanasi. In the film industry he created a very good reputation and Himanshu Roy, the founder of Bombay Talkies tried his best to convince Prem Chand to remain in Mumbai. But in Mumbai his health also started deteriorating. Soon after returning to Varanasi, he passed away on October 8, 1936.
It is remarkable that despite so many difficulties in personal and professional life, Prem Chand found time to become a prolific writer of hundreds of short stories, novels and plays.
When Munshi Prem Chand's first collection of short stories was published in 1907, it was promptly proscribed by the British, and later burnt. This encouraged the young writer to work on more socially conscious literary works. Three years later Prem Chand struck back with Soz-e-Watan, another collection of short stories. He was promptly summoned by the District Judge. Prem Chand was severly warned, and once again all the copies of his book were assigned to the flames. The authorities did not realize that whenever they tried to silence him, he was drawn even more into the Freedom Struggle against the British.
Among Prem Chand's early influences was Mahatma Gandhi, but later on he was inspired more by socialism, although in an interview before his death, he categorically denied that he was a communist. Every author is a product of his times, and usually there are more than one influences upon his work, and thus it is not surprising that Prem Chand's work reflected the struggle between Marxism, Gandhian philosophy and Capitalism.
When Prem Chand started writing, Urdu literature was popular, not many authors wrote in Hindi. Prem Chand, having studied Persian and Urdu, also wrote initially in these languages. But once he switched to Hindi, he became a pioneering and extremely successful writer in Hindi language. His most acclaimed of works are: Sevasadan, Rangmanch, Godaan, Gaban, and Nirmala. In Nirmala (1925) he vividly portrayed the evils of the dowry system. Godaan (1936), was published in the year of his death is a moving portrayal of a poor peasant. Mukti Marg was the struggle between a landlord and a poor shepherd. He utilized his talent in writing to portray the plight of the downtrodden and poor in his short stories like Kafan. At the start of 20th century he put in word his keen observation of the social, economical and political changes sweeping the Indian sub-continent. Although he did not benefit financially from his voluminous literary work, he remained an idealist right up to the end of his life. Literature was not mental luxury and a matter of word-play for Prem Chand. He was convinced that literature had a social role and it could remain significant only if it zealously guarded its relevance to life. In this endeavor he was influenced by Tolstoy and later on Gorky struck sympathetic chords in his artistic pshyche. He never believed in the theory of art for art’s sake. And yet he believed that fiction could have an impact on the psyche of the reader only if it had a satisfactory ‘form’. This was the reason why he was dissatisfied with the state of Urdu fiction which at that time had a penchant for narratives centering around mysterious adventures in the land of fantasy. Prem Chand wanted to bring fiction closer to reality and wanted literature to reflect the tensions of a changing society.
Despite the wealth of his writings, Prem Chand remained financially unsuccessful. His books are sold more after his death than during his own life time. In post-independent India Munshi Prem Chand's short stories, novels and plays are an important part of school and college curriculum in north India.
His first important novel Seva Sadan (The House of Service) narrates the story of a prostitute. She tries to come out of her predicament but her efforts to lead a respectable life are resisted by the orthodox society. Prem Chand depicts the hypocrisy of the so-called pillars of society who can sacrifice their orthodox principles if they can have a session with her in bed. These same people mouth moral platitudes in public. He portrays reality in a vivid manner but conceives of an ideal community which gives a new direction to the life of a fallen woman and allows her to live a meaningful life. This steak of idealism in the work of Prem Chand has been criticized by scholars but we should not lose sight of the fact that the book was published in 1916 when the nation was struggling to have a better tomorrow and idealism went with the mood of the people.
His next great novel Premashram (The Abode of Love) was published in 1920. In this novel he presented moving pictures of life in the villages and towns of north India. He wrote about the life of the peasants, their tears and smiles, struggles, despair, hopes and aspirations. The novel presents a gallery of characters which are curious mixtures of a good and evil. Two brothers, however, dominate the entire fictional scene. Gyanshankar, the younger one is selfish, crafty and scheming. He is the symbol of evil and is absolutely indifferent to human suffering. His elder brother, Premshankar, is a sharp contrast to him. He is an idealist and visionary. He wants to make the life of the peasants easier and establishes an ashram which recognizes the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. Here too we find idealism giving resonance to a realistic portrayal of life.
Another of his great novels is Rangbhumi (Arena or The Stage). It has an epic canvas and depicts several themes. The villages and towns of northern India form the backdrop for the activities of characters who represent humanity in its various hues. The central character is Surdas, a blind beggar who runs after vehicles begging for small coins. He owns a patch of land which is used for grazing the cattle of the village. Mr. John Sewak wanted to purchase his land because he wants to establish a cigarette factory. Surdas does not want to sell the land, wants to keep it for the village community and unconsciously develops into the leader of a challenge to the spirit of industrialism. He is unsuccessful in his efforts and ultimately the factory is established. The organic life of the village community is destroyed. The factory brings with it numerous evils like liquor, gambling, obscenity. For the first time, the village women are molested by outsiders. Surdas goes to the city and tries to rouse the conscience of the people against the injustice done to him and other villagers. He ultimately dies in a fire which destroys his hut. Here we find Prem Chand moving towards stark realism. All sections of society come to life on this broad canvas and dozens of memorable characters are created. It is truly a saga of Indian life.
His last great novel, Godaan (The Cow-Offering) was published in 1936, a year before his death. It formed the pinnacle of Prem Chand’s work as a writer. It is a novel of epic dimensions. Hori is the central character of the novel but he is surrounded by a large number of characters which operate against a very broad background representing almost all aspects of Indian life. Village life with its struggles, its love of its own identy, its poverty and despair, oppression by the landlords, kindness and greed of various characters, is presented with vividness and élan. The city is also portrayed. The empty lives of rich people, their hypocrisy, love of luxury, their indifference to moral values are all presented with a great amount of vitality. The dramatic and the epic mingle in a satisfying fictional fabric which can be compared to Tolstoy’s War and Peace. The irony is implicit in the title of the novel. Like the traditional Indian peasant, Hori the central character, also nurses a desire to own a cow which he considers as an earthly representation of Goddess Lakshmi (the goddess of wealth and prosperity). He is able to own one, but loses her due to the evil machinations of his own brother. At the end of the novel the status of Hori undergoes a change. He loses his land and becomes a landless laborer. He dies while working on the construction of a road. At his death the sharks of the society want his wife to offer a cow to the priest for the peace of the departed soul. She had saved one rupee and twenty five paise and she keeps this money in the out-stretched hands of her dead husbands and says: “This is the price of the cow.” The concentrated pathos and the irony of the situation is expressed by these words. The entire novel is dominated by this meaningful symbol which keeps emerging as a counterpoint amidst the din of diverse themes. In this novel the idealist in Prem Chand has vanished completely and the author emerges as an unalloyed realist.
Premchand wrote about three hundred short stories and fourteen novels, as well as many essays and letters, plays and translations. Many of Prem Chand's stories have been translated into English, Russian and many other languages. Some are admittedly pedestrian and were written in response to urgent requests from the editors of journals. Some however, are outstanding social documents informed by an artistic purpose. Kafan (the Shroud) tells the story of two idle and worthless poor villagers with stark realism. They are unmoved by the sad plight of a dying lady who is the wife of one of the characters of this moving short story. Idgah (The place where the prayers of Id festival of Muslims are held) presents the tender feelings of a child for his grandmother. He goes to the fair on the festive occasion of Id, resists the temptation of purchasing sweets and balloons, and purchases, instead, a pair of tongs which may help his grandmother in the kitchen. Bare Ghar ki Beti (The Daughter of a Cultured Family) presents the picture of a home whose people believe in traditional values. Tensions gradually appear and there is misunderstanding between a woman and her husband’s younger brother. The basic humanity of the woman, however, saves the traditional family from collapse and the two are reconciled. Mate Ram Shashtri is satire on quacks who are social parasites. Poos ki Raat (the Night of Winter), Sawa Seer Gehun (A Kilo and Quarter of Wheat) and Thakur ka Kuan (Thakur’s well) present themes based on village life. Taken together, his stories present the vast panorama of Indian life with vividness, strength and passion.
Prem Chand wrote two dramas. The background of the first, Sangram (The Struggle) is the national movement. The second, Karbala, is based on the magnificent sacrifice of Hasan and Hussain (Nephews of the prophet of Islam) which is commemorated every year by the Muslims all over the world. The theme has a relevance to the present day Indian situation. It has a distinct message of inter-religious harmony. The dramas have been overshadowed by the excellence of Prem Chand’s fiction and it is as a writer of short stories and novels that Prem Chand will be remembered.
Prem Chand established and edited two magazines. Hans (The Swan) was a monthly magazine and Jagaran (the Awakening) was published weekly. He handed over the former to Bharatiya Sahitya Parishad, a trans-Indian Organization established by Gandhijee and K.M. Munshi. Parishad was wound up later because the guiding spirits behind it were often in jail. Hans came back under Prem Chand’s care and continued to be published even after his death. Jagran could not continue because the British government was hostile to the revolutionary nature of the magazine and wanted its proprietor to furnish securities.
During his lifetime his fame had transcended national barriers and his works were translated into many European languages. Today his major works are available in English, Russian, German and Japanese translations. Satyajit Ray made a film based on Prem Chand’s story entitled ‘Shatranj Ke Khilari.’ It depicts the decadence of life during the reign of the Nawabs of Oudh. It has also an element of bitter satire and irony. The people are more interested in the intricate game of chess, in the false and unreal kings and prime ministers than in vital issues facing life. Mrinal Sen has directed a film based on his story Kafan. The language of the film is Telugu. This shows that Prem Chand is relevant to the whole of India and the picture of life presented by him is real in every linguistic context. His novels Godaan and Gaban have also been made into films. The film Hira-Moti based on Prem Chand’s story of two bullocks was very popular and presented intimate glimpses of peasant life.
The message, however, does not overwhelm the form in Prem Chand’s literature. He lived during stirring times and he could not but chronicle its pressures and tensions. His fiction, however, is not reportage. It is dominated by an artistic consciousness, which give point and meaning to the vision of life presented in his fiction. He did not believe in the theory of art for art’s sake, and art for him was not only an artistic creation but also an instrument of social change.
1889-1964 - Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru, a prominent freedom fighter in the Indian National Congress Party (INC), later became free India's first Prime Minister. He was born on November 14, 1889 in Anand Bhawn, the residence of his father, Pundit Motilal Nehru, a Saraswat, Kashmiri Brahman, who had moved to Allahabad, an ancient city referred to in antiquity as Prayag. The city is located at the confluence of the rivers Yamuna and Ganga as well as a mythical river Saraswati. Motilal Nehru developed a flourishing legal practice in the city and became actively engaged in INC for India's freedom from British rule. Jawaharlal was his eldest son followed by two sisters, Vijay Laxmi (married name: Pundit) and Krishna (married name: Hat. He was initially tutored at home by English and Scottish tutors before being sent to London at the age of 13 to study at the private Harrow School. He earned a graduate degree in Natural Science from Trinity College at Cambridge followed by Bar-at-Law at Inner Temple in London before coming back home in 1912. He married Kamala Kaul in 1916 and a year later had their first and only child, Indira Priyadarshini. Motilal and later his son, Jawaharlal were both very influenced and impressed by the charismatic leader, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He was imprisoned for participating in various freedom movement campaigns and wrote interesting letters about Indian and world history to his daughter Indira. These letters were later compiled in to books by Mrs. Vijaya Laxmi Pundit. In 1928 Jawaharlal was elected the President of INC. In 1929 he presided over the Lahore session of the party where full independence from British rule was declared as the ultimate aim of the party. In 1931 Pundit Motilal Nehru passed away and Jawaharlal became more involved in the INC and also closer to Mahatma Gandhi. Though Mahatma Gandhi did not endorse Jawaharlal as his successor, by 1935 it was pretty obvious that he would be heading the party and through it the nation not only to its independence but also subsequent to it. Before independence in 1947 differences between INC and Muslim headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah came to the fore. The British decided to create two Muslim majority areas into a separate predominently Muslim country, not envisaging a mass exchange of populations in the two countries. The partition resulted in the world's greatest exodus from the two newly independent nations accompanied by slaughter of hundreds of thousands on both sides. At the time of partition the non-Muslim population of Pakistan was about 25% of which Hindus and Sikhs comprised the main component followed by Christians and Zarathustrians. In 2014, religious minorities total just 9 million among 183 million Pakistanis. The biggest groups are Christians and Hindus, each of which accounts for less than 2 percent of the population. Smaller are the numbers of Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Bahá'ís, Jews and Ahmadi Muslims. Shiite Muslims make up about a quarter of Pakistanis, but they, too, find themselves increasingly persecuted by dominating Sunni factions.
Jawaharlal Nehru became the 1st. Prime Minister of free India and chose a mixed economic model for the country's development. Great achievements were made in the fields of land reform, irrigation, medicine and public health services, education, science and technology. In international relations Nehru led the path of Panchsheel (5 virtues) by signing an agreement in 1954 with China, which was only partially successful. The other achievement of Nehru was the international non-alligned movement. The Indo-China war in 1962 was a major blow to Nehru personally. The nation was not expecting a war with China and was ill prepared for it. He never fully recovered from the shock. At 2 pm on May 27, 1964 he passed away after suffering a major heart attack earlier in the day. The funeral path from Rastrapati Bhawan to Shantivan bank of Yamuna River was choked with hundreds of thousands of mourners on the next day when his earthly remains were cremated.
1895 - 1982: Vinayak Narahari Bhave, popularly known as Acharya Vinoba Bhave in Gagoda village of Kolaba District of Maharashtra State on September 11, 1895. His father, Narahari Shambhurao Bhave, was a strong believer of western learning and science while his mother, Rukminibai led an austere, ascetic and altruistic life - these qualities of his mother influenced Vinoba Bhave very much. He was a great scholar, social reformer and freedom fighter. He spent one full year in the study of Arabic language and the original Quran because he believed that he could not understand Muslims without knowing their about their religion. In 1916 in his 20s he was torn between leading an ascetic life in the Himalayas or joining the violent revolutionary movement for India's independence that was spreading from Bengal. At this time he came across an article in a magazine on a lecture on "Ahimsa" by Mahatma Gandhi. This article showed him the way forward in his life and he joined the Ashram of Mahatma Gandhi and was soon admired by the Mahatma for his qualities. In 1940 Mahatma Gandhi chose Vinoba Bhave over Jawaharlal Nehru to lead the movement against British War Policies. Like Mahatma Gandhi he was also a scholar of Bhagwad Gita, which he preached even while in imprisonment for his activities in India's freedom struggle. Vinoba Bhave emphasized on one aspect of the Lord Krishna's teachings in Bhagwad Gita in his talks and that is the great importance of self help. He taught that Gita teaches that the lowest, the weakest and the least cultured person can lift him/herself up. Gita grasps such persons and leads them step by step from the backwardness. It teaches that by making "Karma" or actions pure, the lowest and weakest person can achieve the highest state of human perfection. Already in his youth he was drawn in to the Ahimsa and Swaraj movements led by Mahatma Gandhi. Hand spinning of cotton like Mahatma Gandhi was another activity that he indulged himself and also asked his followers to practice. He had a firm belief that spinning of cotton would lead India's masses out of the cycle of poverty. His other famous movements were Bhoodan (Gift of land), Sampattidan (Gift of Wealth) and Jeevandan (Gift of Life). Of these his Bhoodan movement was very successful and received full support of the Indian government. Acharya Vinoba Bhave is famous for "Padyatra" or long intercity walks through India's villages during which he would stop in locations where there were rich landlords and asked them to donate some of their land holdings to the poor villagers who worked on these fields. When Mahatma Gandhi was assassinated on January 30, 1948 in New Delhi, his followers looked to Vinoba Bhave for future direction. Vinoba Bhave at this important juncture in the history of India advised Mahatma's followers that India had reached its aim of "Swaraaj" or independence and it was now time for working towards "Sarvodaya" or the welfare of all in the Indian society. On April 18, 1951 on the third day of his "Padyatra" through Telangana region of Andhra Pradesh Vinoba Bhave was on his mission of "Sarvodaya" in a very troubled region where a communist guerrilla warfare was going on for quite some time. He wanted to find a solution to the problem but refused police escort offered by the government. With a small company of his followers he went to the village on foot. In a meeting in the village he was confronted by 40 families of landless "Harijan" (name given to untouchables by Mahatma Gandhi) who told that they were supporting the communist fighters because they had no hope. Vinoba Bhave was deeply disturbed but could not think of a solution because he could not ask the government that it take land away from landlords and give it to the poor. Late that afternoon when Vinoba Bhave held a prayer meeting the crowd grew to thousands of villagers from neighboring villages. Not expecting any solution he said to the landlords: "Brothers, is there anyone among you who can help the Harijan friends?" To his surprise, a prominent farmer of one of the villages stood up and offered to give one hundred acres of his land. Vinoba Bhave could not believe what he heard but he was even more surprised when the Harijans said that they required only 80 acres and would not take any more than that. At the end of 7 weeks, he collected 12,000 acres himself from rich and some not so rich farmers. His followers collected another 100,000 acres after he left. With this event began the "Bhodan" movement of Vinoba Bhave in which he walked thousands of miles across India and millions of acres of farming land and property was transferred under his blessings. This movement was very successful and there was a lot of publicity in the Indian news media about it. Even in the western countries, Vinoba's efforts attracted attention of journalists. There were articles on Bhoodan in the "New York Times", the "New Yorker Magazine" and there was even a portrait of Vinoba on the cover the "Time" magazine. By 1954 Vinoba and his followers were able distribute more than a million acres of land. About half a million families benefited from this program. After 1954 an even more ambitious project took off called "Gramdaan" in which whole villages were donated and transferred to poor people. By 1970s more than 160,000, more than a third of all villages of India were transferred under "Gramdaan". Though all these donations did not fully materialize, the project was quite successful. Acharya Vinoba Bhave passed away in Paunar village on November 17, 1982. He was posthumously awarded Bharat Ratna in 1984.
1897-1945 – Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose was a very popular leader of the Indian National Congress who opposed Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent approach to achieve freedom from the British. He formed the Indian National Army to fight against the British and actively sought assistance from Germany and Japan for his cause. His death is a mystery that has been examined by many commissions of inquiries by the Government of India. He is believed to have died in an airplane crash in Formosa (Taiwan) in 1945. He is considered as a national hero especially in Bengal. The international airport of Kolkata has been recently named after him.
1905 – Partition of Bengal: Lord Curzon ordered the partition of Bengal to create an eastern state with majority Muslim population.
1906-1931 – Chandra Shekhar Azad, martyr for India’s freedom, was born in 1906 in Bhavra and grew up in Varanasi. Early in his youth he was fascinated by and obsessed with the freedom movement against the British. He was involved in the Kakori Conspiracy (1926), the attempt to blow up the Viceroy’s train in 1926, the Assembly bomb incident, the Delhi Conspiracy, the shooting of Saunders at Lahore in 1928 and the Second Lahore conspiracy. In 1931 while he was in Alfred Park in Allahabad when somebody informed the police to receive a monetary award for help in his arrest. He fought valiantly until the last bullet in his pistol. Then he used the last bullet to shoot himself in the temple rather than surrender to the British police in 1931.
1907-1931 – Bhagat Singh (Shahid-i-Azam) was born in 1907 in Banga village of Lyallpur in the Pakistan part of Punjab. His family was very patriotic and they were active in the Gadar Party. He wanted to kill Mr. Scott, the British Superintendent of Police who ordered the Batton Charge that killed the great freedom fighter, Lala Lajpat Rai. By misidentification he killed his assistant, J. P. Saunders. He was declared guilty of murder and hanged in 1931. He remained defiant right up to the moment when he was hanged. The two other young freedom fighters who were his companions were Rajguru and Sukhdev.
1913 – RABINDRANATH TAGORE (1861-1941), India’s first Nobel Laureate: Rabindranath Tagore was the first Indian ever to receive a Nobel Prize. Popularly known as Gurudev, India’s Poet Laureate Tagore, was born on May 7, 1861 in Calcutta. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in recognition of his work Geetanjali, a collection of poems, in 1913. Tagore wrote many love lyrics. Geetanjali and Sadhana are among his important works. The poet, dramatist and novelist is also the composer of India’s National Anthem. In 1901 he founded the famous Santiniketan which later came to be known as Vishwabharati University. Outraged by the massacre at Jalianwala Bagh in Amritsar, Rabindranath Tagore gave up British knighthood. He traveled widely all over the world and gave lectures in many important universities and organizations abroad. The Tagore family was also in the forefront of the early modern art movement in India and were pioneers in the Bengal School of modern art.
1916 – Home Rule League: On April 11, 1916, Mrs Annie Besant (1847-1933), head of the Theosophical Sociely of India, established the Home Rule League with autonomy for India as its goal.
1917 - 1984 - Indira Priyadarshini Gandhi, was the only child of India's first Prime Minister, Jawaharlal Nehru. For most of Jawaharlal Nehru's time as prime minister, she was his close advisor, house keeper and travel companion. She was born in the family's ancestral home, Anand Bhawan, in Allahabad on November 19, 1917. She had a lonely childhood as Jawaharlal Nehru was often away on various campaigns and other party work or imprisoned by the British for long periods. Her contact with her father was mostly through correspondence, most of which was compiled in to books by her aunt, Mrs. Vijaya Laxmi Pundit. Her mother was ill most of the time, she later passed away at an early age as a result of Tuberculosis. Her early education was by private tutors at home until she passed her high school examination in 1934. Jawaharlal Nehru admitted her Modern School, a local public in Allahabad. Motilal Nehru did not approve of the choice and took advantage of Jawaharlal's absense while imprisoned to admit her to St. Cicilia's, a British school. In 1926 her mother was diagnosed with Tuberculosis. Doctors suggested that she be sent to Switzerland. Indira went with her to Geneva and became her primary caretaker as Jawaharlal Nehru had to come back to India. She was admitted to L'Ecole International in Geneva during her time there. The period in Geneva was very pleasant and interesting for Indira as she was fascinated by the foreign language, culture and the country. 1927 Kamala returned to India and Indira was admitted to St. Mary's School but was also tutored at home in Hindi, the national language. At 12 years of age Indira founded the 'Monkey Brigade' inspired by the Vanar Sena (army of monkeys that helped Ram in the Hindu epic Ramayan). About 1000 children attended the Monkey Brigade, among them Firoz Gandhi, a Zarathustrian young boy. The two became good friends. Firoz was also liked by the Nehru family and became frequent visitor to Anand Bhawan. On January 1, 1931 both Motilal and son, Jawaharlal were already in prison when phone rang at Anand Bhawan and Indira was warned that her mother would be arrested the next morning at 5 am. Indira felt lonely and disheartened although her two aunts were at home. Kamala remained in prison in Lucknow for 26 days. She was released along with Motilal and Jawaharlal Nehru because Motilal Nehru's health was deteriorating. He passed away on February 5, 1931. By end of 1931 Kamala's health began deteriorating and she was sent to a sanitarium in northern India. Jawaharlal was fearing that Indira would be again left alone if he were imprisoned again, sent her to an unusual school in Poona (now Pune) run by a young couple, Jehengir and Coonverbai Vakil who combined the modern western learning methods with ancient Hindu learning traditions. At 14 Indira was the oldest in the school. Mrs. Vakil taught her the art of batik painting, dancing and drama. She also became secretary of the literary society. Indira protested against British attempts to divide the religious groups in India's legislative assembly by supporting Mahatma Gandhi's fast against this measure. Gandhi was imprisoned just a few miles away. She went to see him in his cell. After finishing her studies in Poona, she was sent to study at the newly established Vishwa Bharati University at Shantiniketan. It was during her admission interview with Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore that she acquired the name Priyadarshini. She had to abruptly leave Shantiniketan because her mother became seriously ill again. She was first sent to Bhowali Senatorium in Himalaya mountains. In 1935 she was getting worse and Indira accompanied her to Lausanne in Switzerland for treatment. On February 28, 1936 Kamala Nehru passed away. Jawaharlal who had been released from prison because of her health was by her side in her last moments. In 1937 she went to Britain to study history, public and social administration, and anthropology at Somerville College at Oxford. Firoz was studying at the School of Economics in London. Indira was in London at the time of German Blitz air raids. She volunteered for the Red Cross driving an ambulance and looking after the air-raid victims. In 1940 Indira suffered from lung ailments and was sent to be treated by a Swiss, Dr. Auguste Rollier. She was stranded in Portugal for about 2 month while trying to reach London. In 1941 she managed to reach Britain and from there back to India without completing her studies in Oxford. The university later conferred on her an honorary degree. The disclosure about her affair with Firoz and her desire to marry him was not welcome news for Jawaharlal Nehru. The economic gap between the two was immense. Firoz was a Parsi (Zarathustrian) from a poor family in Gujarat while Nehrus were India's most famous aristocrats in Allahabad. Firoz Jehangir Gandhi was born in Bombay Presidency on September 12, 1912. He grew up in Bharuch where the family had their ancestral home, which still exists. Finally on March 26, 1942 they were married at Anand Bhawan in a Hindu marriage ceremony. On August 20, 1944 Rajiv was born. Two years later on December 14, 1946 Sanjay was born. After independence the family settled at Anand Bhawan. Firoz became editor of National Herald. He was elected a member of the provincial assembly until 1952 when he ran for member of India's parliament from Rai Barely in Uttar Pradesh. In 1957 he was re-elected from Rai Barely. He suffered a heart attack in 1958 followed by another one two years later and died in Willington Hospital on September 8, 1960. He was cremated and ashes interred at the Parsi cemetery in Allahabad. In 1966 she was elected prime minister for the first time. Some of the major landmarks of her rule was the splitting of Congress in to conservatives under Morarji Desai and progressives under Indira Gandhi. In 1969 the Morarji Desai faction left the Party. She nationalized the 14 major Indian banks on July 19, 1969. These banks had 70% of India's deposits in their accounts. She nationalized 6 more banks in 1980. The Imperial Bank had already been nationalzed in 1955 making it the State Bank of India. In 1971 Indira Gandhi abolished the Privi Purses and Titles of former rulers of princely states of India by passing an amendment of India's constitution. In the elections in West Pakistan and former East Pakistan on December 7, 1970, Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's Awami League Party won 160 out of the total 162 seats from east Pakistan in the Pakistan National Assembly. If the Assembly would have been convened Awami League would have had the absolute majority to rule on the strength of its own elected members. The military dictator, General Yahya Khan and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto conspired to violently suppress the aspirations of the people of East Pakistan. On March 26, 1971 Awami League started the non-cooperation movement, this day later became significant as Bangladesh Independence Day. The Pakistani Army under General Tikka Khan started a systematic massacre of 35,000 Bengali intellectuals. About 3 million Bangladeshis were killed in the 9 month struggle. Another 9 million were forced to flee and seek refuge in neighboring India. At 5.40 pm on December 3, 1971 General Yahya launched an air-raid operation called 'Operation Chengiz Khan' in which about 50 Pakistani airforce planes bombed 11 Indian Air Force stations in north-western India including in Agra. In anticipation of this Indian government had covered the entire white marble Taj Mahal monument with rags and plants to camoeflag it. That same evening Indira Gandhi addressed the nation and ordered an appropriate response to the Pakistani aggression. Indian military launched a counter offensive both in west and east Pakistan and took large chunks of territory in west Pakistan. On December 16, 1971 the allied forces of Bangladesh and India defeated Pakistani army forcing the surrender of largest number of prisoners of war since World War II. India's position in Kashmir was also consolidated as a result of this war.
Equal pay of men and women was another achievement of Indira Gandhi government. Though Indira Gandhi undertook many populist measures that seemed like socialist, she was according to most India specialists non-idealogical. The greatest blemish on her record came when she declared emergency in India from June 25, 1975 to March 21, 1977. Many opposition political leaders were arrested during this time. That year INC under Indira Gandhi's leadership lost the national elections. In 1980 her party won a landslide majority. The 1983 Operation Bluestar to remove the followers of Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale from the Golden Temple was perhaps the most controversial political act during her period. On October 31,1984 two of her own sikh bodyguards shot and killed her in the garden of her official residence at 1 Safdarganj Road in New Delhi.
1919 – The Third Afghan War.
1919 – The Jalianwala Bagh Massacre: A Peaceful meeting of people from Amritsar city and its neighboring areas was held on the Baisakhi Festival Day, April 13, 1919, in a courtyard surrounded by buildings on all sides with only one entry/exit point. Brigadier-General Reginald Edward Harry Dyer (born 1864, ironically at Murree in the Punjab province), commander of 45th Infantry Brigade at Jalandhar, ordered the shooting of the unarmed peaceful protest gathering. According to the estimate of Brigadier-General Dyer, given during an official inquiry, 379 people were killed and over 1200 wounded. Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya made a personal inquiry to raise the issue in the central legislative council and found that over 1000 people were killed. Rabindra Nath Tagore renounced the British Knighthood in protest against this brutality. People all over India were enraged by this brutal act of General Dyer.
1930 – Raman, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata – Nobel Prize Winner in Physics: Raman, Sir Chandrasekhara Venkata (born on Nov. 7, 1888 at Trichinopoly, India—died on Nov. 21, 1970 at Bangalore), Indian physicist whose work was influential in the growth of science in India. He was the recipient of the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1930 for the discovery about the change in wavelength of the deflected light when it passes a transparent material. This phenomenon is now called Raman scattering and is the result of the Raman effect. After earning a master’s degree in physics at Presidency College, University of Madras, in 1907, Raman became an accountant in the finance department of the Indian government. He joined the University of Calcutta in 1917 as professor of physics. Studying the scattering of light in various substances, in 1928 he found that when a transparent substance is illuminated by a beam of light of one frequency, a small portion of the light emerges at right angles to the original direction, and some of this light is of different frequency than that of the incident light. These so-called Raman frequencies are equal to the infrared frequencies for the scattering material and are caused by the exchange of energy between the light and the material. Raman was knighted in 1929 and received the Bharat Ratna, highest honor awarded by Indian government, in 1954. In 1934, Raman was appointed the director of the newly established Indian Institute of Science in Bangalore, where two years later he continued as a professor of physics. In 1947, he was appointed as the first National Professor by the new government of Independent India. He retired from the Indian Institute of Science in 1948 and a year later he established the Raman Research Institute in Bangalore, serving as its director and remained active there until his death on 1970, in Bangalore, Karnataka, at the age of 82. In 1961 he became a member of the Pontifical Academy of Science. He contributed to the development of nearly every Indian research institution in his time, founded the Indian Journal of Physics and the Indian Academy of Sciences, and trained hundreds of students who found important posts in universities and governments of India and Myanmar (Burma). CV Raman is the uncle of Nobel Prize Physics winner Dr. Subramanyan Chandrasekhar. India celebrates National Science Day on the 28th February of every year. It is on this day that Dr.CV Raman discovered Raman effect in 1928.
1943 – Famine in Bengal kills millions.
1947 – The last British Governor-General and Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten who continued in this position until 1948 declared India’s independence at midnight on August 15, 1947. Jawaharlal Nehru who became the first Prime Minister of India declared: “Long years ago we made a tryst with destiny, and now the time comes when we shall redeem our pledge, not wholly or in full measure, but very substantially. At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance. It is fitting that at this solemn moment we take the pledge of dedication to the service of India and her people and to the still larger cause of humanity……….To the nations and peoples of the world we send greetings and pledge ourselves to cooperate with them in furthering peace, freedom and democracy. And to India, our much-loved motherland, the ancient, the eternal and the ever-new, we pay our reverent homage and we bind ourselves afresh to her service. JAI HIND.” Chakravarthi Rajagopalachari was the first and last Indian Governor General of India between 1948 and 1950. On January 26, 1950 the constitution of independent India was proclaimed. In 1950 Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected India’s first President along with Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan as Vice-President of India.
1947-2007 – Presidents of India
1. Rajendra Prasad, January 26, 1950 to May 13, 1962
2. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, May 13, 1962 to May 13, 1967
3. Zakir Hussain, May 13, 1967 to May 3, 1969 (First Muslim President of India)
4. Varahagiri Venkata Giri, Acting, May 3, 1969 to July 20, 1969 (Acting)
5. Muhammad Hidayat Ullah, Acting, July 20, 1969 to August 24, 1969 (Acting)
6. Varahagiri Venkata Giri, August 24, 1969 to August 24, 1974
7. Fakhruddin Ali Ahmad, August 24, 1974 to February 11, 1977
8. Bassappa Danappa Jatti, acting, February 11, 1977 to July 25, 1977 (Acting)
9. Neelam Sanjiva Reddi, July 25, 1977 to July 25, 1982 (First Scheduled Caste President of India)
10. Giani Zail Singh, July 25, 1982 – July 25, 1987 (First Sikh President of India)
11. Ramaswami Venkataraman, July 25, 1987 – July 25, 1992
12. Shankar Dayal Sharma, July 25, 1992 – July 25, 1997
13. Kircheril Raman Narayanan, July 25, 1997 –July 25, 2002
14. Dr. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam, July 25, 2002 – July 25, 2007
15. Shrimati Pratibha Devisingh Patil, July 25, 2007 – July 25, 2012
16. Pranab Mukherjee, July 25, 2012 to July 23, 2017
17. Ram Nath Kovind, July 24, 2017 to present
Prime Ministers of India
1. Jawarhar Lal Nehru, 4 terms from August 15, 1947 to May 27, 1964, Indian National Congress
2. Gulzarilal Nanda, Interim Prime Minister from May 27, 1964 to June 9, 1964, Indian National Congress
3. Lal Bahadur Shashtri, from June 9, 1964 to January 11, 1966, Indian National Congress
4. Gulzarilal Nanda, Interim Prime Minister from January 11, 1966 to January 24, 1966, Indian National Congress
5. Indira Gandhi, January 24, 1966 – March 24, 1977, Indian National Congress, the first female to hold this office.
6. Morarji Desai, March 24, 1977 – July 28, 1979, Janata Party
7. Chaudhari Charan Singh, July 28, 1979 – January 14, 1980, Janata Party
8. Indira Gandhi, January 14, 1980 to October 31, 1984, Indian National Congress (assassinated by her Sikh bodyguards at her residence in Delhi)
9. Rajiv Gandhi, October 31, 1984 to December 2, 1989, Indian National Congress (Congress Indira) – (assassinated by Tamil Tiger suicide bomber in Tamilnadu on May 21, 1991)
10. Vishwanath Pratap Singh, December 2, 1989 to November 10, 1990, Janata Dal
11. Chandra Shekhar, November 10, 1990 to June 21, 1991, Janata Dal
12. P. V. Narasimha Rao, June 21, 1991 to May 16, 1996, Congress (Indira)
13. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, May 16, 1996 to June 1, 1996, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
14. H. D. Dave Gauda, June 1, 1996 to April 21, 1997, Janata Dal
15. Inder Kumar Gujaral, April 21, 1997 to March 19, 1998, Janata Dal
16. Atal Bihari Vajpayee, March 19, 1998 to May 22, 2004, BJP
17. Man Mohan Singh, May 22, 2004 to May 26, 2014, Congress (Indira) (First Prime Minister of India belonging to Sikh religion)
18. Narendra Damodardas Modi, May 26, 2014 to present, BJP
1947-48 – The first Pakistan-India War started when ‘Islamic tribal folk’ backed by Pakistani Army infiltrated into Kashmir. The Maharaja of Kashmir ceded the territory to India and Indian troops rushed to rescue the territory. The United Nations brokered a cease-fire. Pakistan renamed the territory it occupied during this aggression as ‘Pakistan occupied Kashmir’ (PoK) while the larger eastern part of Kashmir remained with India. Later Pakistan handed over a large chunk of PoK to China that still occupies it.
1950 – On January 26, 1950 the constitution of India was promulgated. Dr. Rajendra Prasad was elected the first President of India. Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was elected as the first Vice-President of India.
1950 – Tibet occupied by China: In October 1950 the Chinese troops marched into Tibet.
1951 – Tibet-China Treaty: Dalai Lama was forced under duress to sign a treaty that accepted Tibet as being part of China, for the first time in its 2000 year old history.
1954 – Panchsheel Agreement: India under Jawaharlal Nehru signed an agreement with China under Mao accepting that Tibet is a region of China. The friendship treaty had five points that included respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each other. The Chinese started intruding into Indian territory just months after signing the treaty.
1954 – France hands over its four territories in India: The Union Territory of Pondicherry is situated on the Coromandel Coast of the Bay of Bengal, about 160 kilometers or 99 miles south of Chennai. It is bound by the South Arcot District of Tamil Nadu on three sides. This is the political head quarters of four separate and unconnected Union Territories: Pondicherry – surrounded by Tamil Nadu, Karaikal – 150 kilometers south of Pondicherry and also surrounded by Tamil Nadu, Yanam is a 30 square kilometer or 19 square mile area in the east Godavari District of Andhra Pradesh and Mahe that is surrounded on three sides by Kunnur District of Kerala State and on the west by the Arabian Sea. The French handed over these territories to the Government of India on November 1, 1954. The French ruled these territories for about 300 years and it is today a living monument of the French culture in India.
1959 – The flight of His Holiness, the Dalai Lama from Lhasa, Tibet: Three mortar shells were heard on March 17, 1959 while His Holiness was in Norbulingka, his winter palace in Lhasa. The communist Chinese government of Chairman Mao had backed out of all promises of regional autonomy and religious freedom very soon after signing the agreement with the government of Dalai-Lama. Earlier, the Chinese army had “invited” him to a military camp about 2 miles away. Immediately a 37-man entourage was planned for his flight from Tibet because his personal safety could no longer be guaranteed. Dressed as common soldier, His Holiness sneaked out of his palace at 10 PM. The long and dangerous trek across Himalayan mountains and across a 500 meter or 1640 feet wide stretch of Brahmaputra River took 13 days to complete. It was very risky because of the danger of being caught by the Chinese and also because of the natural hazards. On March 30, 1959 the fourteenth Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, reached the safety of Indian Territory. He has been in Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh ever since. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.
1961 – Independence of Goa: After independence of India in 1947 the new Indian government demanded that the Portuguese hand over this colony to India. The Portuguese rejected this demand and the ‘Resolution 1541’ of the United Nations General Assembly in 1960 asked the Portuguese to relinquish their control over Goa. The Indian government launched military action under ‘Operation Vijay’ with 40000 troups on December 11, 1961. The military conflict lasted 26 hours before the Portuguese garrison finally surrendered. On December 19, 1961 the Portuguese territories of Goa, Daman & Diu were declared independent. Daman & Diu were two enclaves surrounded by Gujarat State and the Arabian Sea. Most nations of the world recognized the former Portuguese territories as part of India immediately. Portugal recognized the independence of these territories after the Carnation Revolution in that country in 1974. These territories were split on May 30, 1987 when Goa became India’s 25th State. Daman & Diu were retained as Union Territories.
1962 – China attacked India on its north-eastern and north-western frontiers on October 20, 1962. The Chinese People Liberation Army launched an all out offensive on an ill prepared Indian Army on this day. Indian government under Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru was caught off guard because it never expected the ‘friendly’ China to attack India. After a very successful campaign and fearing US intervention, on October 24, 1962, the Chinese offered a unilateral ceasefire and withdrew to borders they deemed correct. They still retain the vast areas that they occupied in this war. The border demarkation dispute continued in to 21 century.
1965 – The second India Pakistan War started in April 1965 with skirmishes in the salty marshlands of Rann of Kachch in Gujarat/Sindh. In August it spread to Kashmir and Punjab. In September there were air assaults on each other’s territory. The USA and Britain were successful in opposing the threats of intervention by China. The UN arranged a cease-fire and withdrawal of troops to pre-August positions. In January 1966, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shashtry and President Ayub Khan signed a peace treaty in Tashkent, USSR (now Uzbekistan).
1968 – Hargobind Khorana, born in Raipur, Punjab (now in Pakistan) in 1922 was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1968. He earned his doctoral degree in Chemistry from Liverpool University and joined the University of Wisconsin as a Faculty Member in 1960. His major breakthrough in the field of Medicine was in the interpreting of the genetic code and analyzing its function in protein synthesis for which he was rewarded the Nobel Prize.
1971 – Third India Pakistan War: There was a violent civil war in the East Pakistan when the leader of Awami League, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was elected in East Bengal by an overwhelming majority. General Yahya Khan took over the political power as President of Pakistan in a military coup d’etat and appointed General Tikka Khan to suppress the uprising in east Pakistan. Because of the brutality of General Tikka Khan’s army, about 10 million people sought refuge in India to save their lives. Finally India intervened to assist the Mukti Bahini, a popular army of Bengali volunteers to win their independence from Pakistan. Pakistan launched a war with air strikes in Kashmir, Punjab and elsewhere in India. India occupied the eastern part that later declared its independence from Pakistan on December 6, 1971. By mid-December 1971 a UN sponsored cease-fire was arranged after defeat of the Pakistan military in which Pakistan lost its eastern half. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan while Bangladesh elected Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as its Prime Minister. Finally in 1972 Prime Ministers Indira Gandhi and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto signed the Shimla Peace Treaty to formalize the ending of war between the two nations. In 1974 Pakistan recognized the independence of Bangladesh.
1974 – India conducts its first nuclear explosion at Pokharan in Rajasthan.
1979 – Mother Teresa (1910-1997) received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She was born in Skopje in Yugoslavia of Albanian parentage. Her birth name was Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu. She joined the Irish Order of “The Sisters of Loretto” at Dublin in 1928 and came to Calcutta in 1929 as a missionary. She was deeply affected by the misery of the abandoned and the destitute children in Calcutta. Concern for the poor and the sick prompted her to found a new congregation, the Missionaries of Charity. Having become an Indian citizen, Mother Teresa served the cause of dying, destitute, lepers and drug addicts, through “Nirmal Hriday” (meaning Pure Heart), the main center of her activity in Calcutta. Her selfless service and unique devotion; not only to helpless fellow-Indians but also to the cause of world peace, earned her and India the first Nobel Peace Prize.
1983 – Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, a Nobel Prize Winner in Physics and one of the greatest astrophysicists of modern times was born on October 19, 1910 in Lahore, (now in Pakistan) to parents Chandrasekhara Subrahmanya Ayyaa, a civil servant and his wife, Sita Balakrishnan. Being the nephew of the great, C. V. Raman, a Nobel Prize winner in Physics, the young Chandrashekhar’s interest in the subject came naturally to him. In 1930, at the age of 19, he completed his degree in Physics from Presidency College, Madras and went to England for postgraduate studies at the Cambridge University. Chandrasekhar was noted for his work in the field of stellar evolution, and in the early 1930s he was the first to theorize that a collapsing massive star would become an object so dense that not even light could escape it; now known as the Black hole. He demonstrated that there is an upper limit (known as ‘Chandrasekhar Limit’) to the mass of a White dwarf star. His theory challenged the common scientific notion of the 1930s that all stars, after burning up their fuel, became faint, planet sized remnants known as white dwarfs. But today, the extremely dense neutron stars and black holes implied by Chandrasekhar’s early work are a central part of the field of astrophysics.Initially his theory was rejected by his peers and professional journals in England. The distinguished astronomer, Sir Arthur Eddington, publicly ridiculed his suggestion that stars could collapse into such objects (black holes). Disappointed, and reluctant to engage in public debate, Chandrasekhar moved to America and in 1937 joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Chicago and remained there till his death. At Chicago, he immersed himself in a personalized style of research and teaching, tackling first one field of astrophysics and then another in great depth. He wrote more than half a dozen definitive books describing the results of his investigations. More than 100,000 copies of his highly technical books have been sold. He also served as editor of the Astrophysical Journal, the field’s leading journal, for nearly 20 years. He presided over a thousand colloquia; and supervised Ph.D. research for more than 50 students.Chandrasekhar was a creative, prolific genius whose ability to combine mathematical precision with physical insight changed the humanity’s view of stellar physics. In addition to his work on star degeneration, he has contributed significantly towards many disparate branches of physics, including rotational figures of equilibrium, stellar interiors, radiative transfer of energy through the atmospheres of stars, hydro magnetic stability and many others. He won the Nobel Prize in 1983 and received 20 honorary degrees, was elected to 21 learned societies and received numerous awards in addition to the Nobel Prize, including the Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society of London; the Royal Medal of the Royal Society, London; the National Medal of Science, the Rumford Medal of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences; and the Henry Draper Medal of the National Academy of Sciences. NASA’s premier X-ray observatory was named the Chandra X-ray Observatory in his honor. He and his wife, Lalitha became American citizens in 1953. This genius passed away on 21 August 1995 in Chicago, Illinois, USA.
1984 – Rakesh Sharma from Hyderabad, India became the first Indian to go into space aboard Soviet spacecraft Soyuz T-11. He returned to earth after a weeklong space journey on April 11, 1984.
1984 – Assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi: Satwant Singh and Beant Singh, two of her Sikh bodyguards assassinated Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in the garden of her home at 1 Safdarjung Road, New Delhi, on October 31, 1984. She was walking in garden towards Peter Ustinov, the British actor and journalist. He was making a documentary for the Irish Television. Before she could reach the venue of the interview she was shot by the two body guards. The other body guards opened fire on them and killed one of them and wounded the other. She was cremated on November 3, 1984, near Raj Ghat and her cremation place was named Shakti Sthal. After her death, anti-Sikh pogroms engulfed New Delhi and spread across the country, killing many Sikhs and leaving tens of thousands homeless. This created a gulf between the two communities of India. Sikhs form a very important community that has a majority population in Punjab but is very influential in many other parts of India. They are very patriotic and join the Indian military services in great numbers. Even after the murder of Indira Gandhi there are many Sikhs in very prominent positions in the Indian National Congress party that is headed by Sonia Gandhi. Prime Minister Man Mohan Singh belongs to this community also.
1991 – Assassination of Rajiv Gandhi: Rajiv Gandhi, the president of the Indian National Congress party, arrived at Meenambakam airport at Madras (now Chennai) from Visakapatnam at 8.30 PM on May 21, 1991. At the airport he addressed the waiting members of the press very briefly and by 9 PM he left in a bulletproof Ambassador car by road for Sriperembudur, located 48 kilometers or 30 miles southwest of Madras on the Madras-Bangalore national highway. His motorcade comprised of 14 vehicles, mostly carrying Congress leaders, journalists and police personnel. On the way to Sriperembudur, where he was to address an election rally in support of the Congress candidate Maragatham Chandrasekhar, a veteran in the party and a senior MP since December 31, 1984, he stopped his motorcade wherever crowds of Congress party workers and sympathizers were lined up and addressed them. The motorcade arrived at Sriperembudur at 10.10 PM and stopped near the Indira Gandhi statute, located at the junction connecting the Tiruvellore-Bangalore and Madras-Bangalore highway, which was just 500 meters or 1640 feet from the proposed public meeting site, to garland the statute and pay his respects to his deceased mother. He then drove to the venue of the meeting and got out of his car, just 20 meters from a specially constructed stage. The size of the venue was about 300 meters or 984 feet by 200 meters or 656 feet and later it became clear that the organizers had failed to obtain necessary permission, either from the District Collector or from the Superintendent of Police to conduct a rally. It was an open, flat piece of ground. When Rajiv Gandhi alighted from the front of the car and started waving and responding to the cheering women who had assembled in an enclosure specially constructed for them towards the left side of a pathway leading to the stage. Senior police officials, including R K Raghavan, who later became the Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation, surrounded Rajiv Gandhi to form a security shield. R K Raghavan, IGP (Inspector General of Police – Forest cell) was in charge of the election arrangements at Sriperumbudur on May 21 and he was assisted by DIG Chengai Anna Range and SP Chengai-Anna East of the Tamil Nadu police. The path to the stage was laid with a red carpet and the nearly 20 organizers of the meeting were lined up to offer silk scarves (ponnadai) as a mark of traditional welcome. Furthermore, as per the arrangements, only three persons were to garland Rajiv Gandhi, and those three garlands had already been security checked. No one else was supposed to go near Rajiv Gandhi to garland him. On the eastern side of the path was the public enclosure and it was duly barricaded. Rajiv Gandhi started walking towards the stage. Two Congress party workers preceded ahead on either side of the carpet, sprinkling flowers from two baskets – these too, had been physically examined by Raghavan. Rajiv Gandhi shook hands with members of the crowd as he walked towards the stage. When he was about five meters or 16.4 feet from the stage, he received silk scarves from four persons – one being Latha Kannan, a lady Congress worker, whose daughter Kokila recited a Hindi song in his honor. Suddenly, a young bespectacled woman, about 25 years old with a sandalwood garland in her hand, popped up in the line to greet Rajiv Gandhi. Some eyewitness had seen this women moving towards Rajiv Gandhi and bending down, to pay respects, by touching his feet. At that very moment, at 10.18 PM, a shuddering loud explosion was heard. Though there was a heavy concentration of policemen and Congress workers around Rajiv Gandhi, immediately after the loud explosion, he was thrown about 1.75 meters or 5.8 feet to the left, inside the barricade. According to some eyewitness reports, the explosion produced a flash of light about 3 meters or 10 feet high, which lasted for a few seconds, followed by a thick pall of smoke. The blast created a forceful impact, throwing people about, and in all, along with Rajiv Gandhi, 18 persons were killed, including nine policemen, and 33 persons, including 12 policemen were injured.
1998 – Professor Amartya Sen wins Nobel Prize for Economics: AMARTYA SEN was born in Santiniketan, India, on November 3, 1933. He studied at Presidency College in Calcutta, India, and at Trinity College, Cambridge. He is a Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics & Philosophy at Harvard University. He was also the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. He has served as President of the Econometric Society, the Indian Economic Association, the American Economic Association and the International Economic Association. He was formerly Honorary President of OXFAM and is now its Honorary Advisor. He is an Indian citizen. He was Lamont University Professor at Harvard also earlier, from 1988 to 1998, and prior to that he was the Drummond Professor of Political Economy at Oxford University and a Fellow of All Souls College. Earlier he was Professor of Economics at Delhi University and at the London School of Economics. Amartya Sen’s books have been translated into more than thirty languages, and include Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970), On Economic Inequality (1973, 1997), Poverty and Famines (1981), Choice, Welfare and Measurement (1982), Resources, Values and Development (1984), On Ethics and Economics (1987), The Standard of Living (1987), Inequality Reexamined (1992), Development as Freedom (1999), and Rationality and Freedom (2002), among others. His research has ranged over a number of fields in economics, philosophy, and decision theory, including social choice theory, welfare economics, theory of measurement, development economics, moral and political philosophy, and the economics of peace and war. His last book, The Argumentative Indian, was published by Penguin Books in London, and also by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in New York and this will be followed by a book to be published by Norton in 2006, called Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny. Amartya Sen has received honorary doctorates from major universities in North America, Europe, Asia and Africa. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Philosophical Society. Among the awards he has received are the “Bharat Ratna” (the highest honor awarded by the President of India); the Senator Giovanni Agnelli International Prize in Ethics; the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award; the Edinburgh Medal; the Brazilian Ordem do Merito Cientifico (Grã-Cruz); the Presidency of the Italian Republic Medal; the Eisenhower Medal; Honorary Companion of Honor (U.K.); and the Nobel Prize in Economics.
1998 – Sonia Gandhi was elected the President of the Indian National Congress. Sonia Antonia Maino was born to the Roman Catholic couple, Stephano and Paola Maino in the village of Luciana, a tiny village 50 kilometers or 31 miles from Vicenza in Italy. She grew up in Orbassano near Turin. Her mother and two sisters lived in Orbassano. In 1964 she was attending the Bell Educational Trust English Language School in Cambridge when she met Rajiv Gandhi who was studying in Trinity College of the University of Cambridge. She moved to India to live with her famous mother-in-law, Indira Gandhi in New Delhi, India. She married Rajiv in a simple ceremony in 1969. They had two children, Rahul (born 1970) and Priyanka (born 1972). She acquired Indian citizenship in 1983. Long after the horrible assassination of her husband, Rajiv, in 1991 and after declining repeated requests for entering the Indian national political arena, in 1998 she finally agreed to stand for the post of the President of Indian National Congress. One year later she was elected from the traditional Congress parliamentary district of Amethy as a member of parliament. She was also elected from Bellary in Karnataka. In 2004 she led the Congress party to nationwide victory but short of majority in the Lok Sabha or the lower house of parliament. She was elected the President of the 15-party coalition called the ‘United National Alliance’ on May 16, 2004. Aware of the vicious protests of some opposition parties, she declined to head the Indian government as Prime Minister and requested a former Finance Minister, Mr. Manmohan Singh, to take up the role of Prime Minister. She remained as President of Indian National Congress and of the UPA one of the most influential Indian persons. She was chosen as the 3rd most powerful woman in the world by the Forbes Magazine in 2004.
1998 – India tests atomic bomb and missile delivery system
1999 – Pakistan initiates the Kargil War with co-operation of terrorists: Pakistan started this proxy war around April 1999 by sending regular troops along with terrorists to high peaks in winter to occupy strategic positions so that in Spring when the snow melts they could block the highway to Srinagar valley and occupy the whole of Kashmir. When the Indian Army detected the infiltrators they launched a massive operation to push them back and in the process lost about 450 soldiers. The short war finally proved to be a big debacle for Pakistan. To save face and lay the blame on the Prime Minister, General Parvez Musharraf, the brain behind this war, put the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif, behind bars after a bloodless coup and declared military rule in Pakistan. Later Nawaz Sharif was released from jail and allowed to live in Saudi Arabia under a deal between the two countries. In September 2007 the Supreme Court of Pakistan issued a judgment declaring his forced exile unconstitutional and illegal. Subsequent to this judgment Nawaz Sharif flew from London to Pakistan where he was arrested and put on a plane bound for Saudi Arabia.
2007 – Pratibha Patil, 72 years old, was elected the 1st female President of India on July 21, 2007. She will take over as the next President on July 25, 2007.
2007 – Mr. Mukesh Ambani became the richest Indian (depending on valuation of his assets he may be the richest man in the world) in October 2007. Mr. Mukesh Ambani at 50 years is Chairman of Reliance Industries Group that owns Reliance Industries, Reliance Petroleum, IPCL and Reliance Industrial Infrastructure Limited. His net worth has been estimated at US$ 63.2 billion according to Rediff news service of India but other sources rank him as the fourth richest man in the world and richer than Mr. Lakshmi Mittal. The sudden growth in the fortune of Mr. Mukesh Ambani has been mainly due to the booming stock market in India. The London based Mr. Lakshmi Mittal whose Steel industries group will be the largest in the world is estimated to be worth US$ 32 billion according to Forbes richest people list of 2007. Mr. Anil Ambani, the younger brother of Mukesh Ambani is estimated to be worth US$ 45 billion. Mr. Kushal Pal Singh, the Chairman of DLF Group of Real Estate Developers in India is estimated to be worth US$ 35 billion. The next richest Indian is Mr. Azim Premji, the 62-years old Chairman of Wipro Technologies with a net worth of US$ 13.6 billion. Although he heads one of the world’s most influential information technology companies, he leads a very simple life. He still drives his own Toyota Corolla. He is also one of the most philanthropic Indians.
2007 – Most influential people of Indian origin in the business world: The Fortune Magazine listed Ms. Indra Nooyi, Chairperson & CEO of PepsiCo as the 22nd most powerful business leader in the world. The same magazine listed Mr. Ratan Tata, the Chairman of Tata Group of Industries as the 23rd most powerful business leader in the world. The Tata Group includes Tata Steel, The Taj Group of Hotels, Tata Consultancy Services, wireless and cable industries. The Tata Motors produce India’s most popular Trucks and Coaches as well as a full range of very popular automobiles. They are at present working on bringing a small car for the middle class in India that will cost about US$ 2,500. On December 12, 2007 the Citigroup Inc., the most influential banking organization in USA named the 50-year old, Mr. Vikam Shankar Pandit, who was the head of its investment banking to the position of its CEO. Vikram Shankar Pandit is the son of a pharma representative and businessman from Nagpur in Maharashtra State of India. He came to the United States at the age of 16 for undergraduate studies at Columbia University. This university is a famous educational institution in USA and is home to a prominent Indian academic, the world famous economist, Dr. Jagdish Bhagwati. Dr B. R. Ambedkar who was instrumental in the writing of the Indian Constitution also studied in this university. Vikram Pandit earned a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in electrical engineering before switching to finance and earning a Ph.D. Mentors describe him as a relentlessly hardworking student, the kind who relished challenges. Before coming to Citigroup he headed the investment banking and capital markets division of Morgan Stanley.
November 26, 2008 Ten terrorists belonging to Lashkar-i-Taiba landed by a hijacked boat in Mumbai after killing the captain of the hijacked boat. They shot randomly at 8 different sites in south Mumbai killing about 164 people and wounding another 308 persons in attacks that lasted for four days. The last site to be cleared was the famous, historical wing of the Taj Mahal Hotel at Gateway of India. All but one, Amir Ajmal Kassab, were killed by Mumbai armed police and commandos. Pakistan initially denied that the terrorists were its citizens until in a statement, its Information Minister, Sherry Rehman, acknowledged that they were Pakistani citizens on January 7, 2009. Kassab was tried in a special court for terrorist crimes and found guilty. He was sentenced to death. He appealed against his verdict in Mumbai High Court. A US citizen, Daud Jeelani, son of a Pakistani Diplomat and an american woman from Philadelphia, was convicted in a drug related case. In October 2001 US DEA employed him despite warnings by his ex-wives about him being in contact with terrorist organizations. Under cover of his US government employment and under a changed name of David Coleman Headley, he was able to go to India many times to research for a Pakistani terrorist organization, Lashkar-i-Taiba. The 10 Pakistani terrorists were greatly assisted by this prior information by David Headley. He is now in a US jail, cooperating with US authorities as he had done many times before, in hope of avoiding extradition to India or death penalty.
May 18, 2009 The results of the elections to the 15th Lok Sabha (lower & directly elected chamber of Indian Parliament) were declared. The massive elections were conducted in 5 phases starting on 16 April and ending on 13 May. 714 million people in India were eligible to vote and about 420 million people actually used their right to vote making this the world's biggest democratic election. The majority of the electorate rejected the right wing religious extremism, the anti-economic reform stand of the left-leaning parties as well as the parties based on caste and regional affiliations. Indian National Congress led by Sonia Gandhi won the maximum seats, 206 members of parliament out of a total of 545 in the Lok Sabha. Rahul Gandhi, Sonia Gandhi's son, campaigned very successfully in India's most populous state - Uttar Pradesh - in particular and all over India in general. The new government is again led by the veteran Indian National Congress Leader and economist, Sri Man Mohan Singh. Rahul and Sonia Gandhi resisted offers of ministerial positions. Rahul would work to make the Congress Party a stronger political force in India. Sonia Gandhi will remain the President of the revitalized Congress Party. US President Barak Obama congratulated the people of India: "By successfully completing the largest exercise in popular voting in the world, the elections have strenghtened India's vibrant democracy and upheld the values of freedom and pluralism that make India an example for all of us."
May 2, 2011 - A team of US Navy Seals flew from an Afghan airport with 4 helicopters to attack the hideout of Al-Qaida chief, Osama bin Ladin, in Abbotabad, 61.77 kilometers or 38.36 miles from Islamabad, the capital of Pakistan. Two helicopters carried the raiding team while two other helicopters followed to assist them in case of emergency. The CIA did not inform the Government of Pakistan for fear of the news being leaked to the targets. Around 1 AM they shot Osama bin Ladin near the left eye and chest. Four other persons were also killed in the attack, among them the two courriers who conveyed the propoganda videos to various news channels and possibly a son of the Al-Qaida chief. The seals carried the body of Osama bin Ladin to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. DNA tests were performed to varify the identity before his body was prepared for burial in strict confirmance with Islamic precepts and practices. Subsequently his body was lowered in to the Arabian Sea.
May 13, 2011 - Elections for provincial legislative chambers were held in Assam, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Puduchery and Kerala. These elections were historic because the people rejected the decade old rule of Communist Parties in West Bengal and Kerala. In Tamil Nadu the ruling DMK lost miserably to AIDMK because of corruption charges against high ranking DMK politicians. In Assam the Indian National Congress won 78 of the total 126 seats. In Puducherry also the Congress led coalition was successful in retaining power. The results will give a boost to INC President, Sonia Gandhi and the country's Prime Minister, Man Mohan Singh.
May 26, 2014 - Narendra Damodardas Modi was sworn in as Prime Minister of India. He was born on September 17, 1950 in the small town called Vadnagar in Mehsana district of northern Gujarat. His father, Damodardas Mulchand Modi was a street merchant and his older brother helped out to meet family's expenses by selling tea at a bus terminus. His mother's name was Heeraben Modi. The family belonged to Ganchhi comunity (oil-presser), this community is categorized as other backward classes. He was an average student but was known to spend a lot of time in the library and was quiet profient in debate competitions in school. Already as teenager he became a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad that is a student wing of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu nationalist organization. He was married at 18 years of age but spent very little time with his bride and eventually ended the marriage for all practical purposes. In 1971 he formally joined the RSS. During the emergency ordered by the then Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, he went underground and wrote a book called 'Sangharsh ma Gujarat' or Gujarat in Struggle. In 1978 he earned his B.A. degree in Political Science from Delhi University and went on to earn his M.A. in 1983 from Gujarat University. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in 1987 and rose fast in its heirarchy. He was national secretary of the BJP in 1995 and was elected Chief Minister of Gujarat in 2001. On February 27, 2002 a train compartment filled with Hindu pilgrims returning from the Hindu holy city of Ayodhya was set on fire triggering mass riots in the state. Up to about 2000 people, mostly Muslims were killed in this violence. There were prolonged judicial investigations and legal cases but the Supreme Court of India finally cleared Narendra Modi personally of any wrongdoing. He was re-elected in 2007 and again in 2012. During this prolonged period Modi's projected a more gentler side of his personality and laid more emphasis on economic development in the state. Though poverty levels remained high, the state did develop economically by attracting major industrialists to invest in the state. He was selected to head the BJP's election campaign for Lok Sabha, the lower house of Indian Parliament. On May 16, 2014 the election results were declared giving BJP a single party majority of 283 Lok Sabha members out of a total of 543. With a turnout of 66.38%, BJP alone got 31% of the total votes cast. The leader of the coalition government, the Congress (Indira) could get only 44 of its members elected to the Lok Sabha with a total vote of 19.3%. Sonia Gandhi received 378,107 votes in her Rai Barely constituency leading the next candidate of Socialist Party by 249,765 votes. Rahul Gandhi, the general secretary of the party also won from Amethi receiving 408,651 votes and leading over combined total of four other candidates (from BJP, BSP, AAP and Vanchit Samaj Insaaf Party) by 107,903.
2015 - US President Barak Obama became the first US President to visit India twice and also the first one to attend the Rebublic Day of India celebrations on Raj Path in New Delhi on January 26, 2015 at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
February 10, 2015 - The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) headed by Arvind Kejriwal, the mechanical engineer and former joint commissioner in Indian income tax department won a landslide victory trouncing the ruling party at National level, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), headed by Narendra Modi. Arvind Kejriwal was born in a middle class family in Siwani town in Bhiwani district of Haryana State on August 16, 1968. His father Govind Ram Kejriwal graduated from the Birla Institute of Technology in Mesra as an electrical engineer. Arvind Kejriwal was schooled in Hisar and Sonipat towns of Haryana. He graduated from Indian Institute of Technology at Kharagpur as a mechanical engineer. In 1989 he served in Tata Steel in Jamshedpur. After qualifying through Indian Civil Services examinations he in 1995. He served as joint commissioner for some time. He was disillusioned by the rampant corruption prevalent in the income tax department. Because of his anti-corruption activities he was punished by his department and was forced to pay a heavy fine amounting to Rs. 927,787 without admitting any guilt. By 2012 he was actively involved in the national anti-corruption movement headed by the Maharashtrian, Anna Hazare. In November 2012 he with others launched the AAP. In 2013 he headed the AAP to win 28 seats in Delhi State Assembly with BJP winning 31. With outside help of Congress's 8 members and 1 independent member he formed a coalition government and was Chief Minister of Delhi until February 14, 2014 when his government fell because of not succeeding in appointing a Jan Lokpal (State Anti-corruption Officer). On February 10, 2015 AAP under his leadership won 67 of the total 70 seats. BJP won only 3 seats while Congress and other parties could not get any of their members elected. The important feature of the AAP win in this important election was the margin of victory of AAP candidates, they won 54.3 % of the total votes cast.
October 15, 2017, Vote count of Punjab State Legislative elections declared Indian National Congress under its new Chief Minister, Captain Amrinder Singh, the surprise winner. BJP and Siromani Akali Dal were completely swept away. BJP/SAD in the previous term had 122 seats in the state assembly - in the new assembly the two parties mustered only 18 seats against the Indian National Congress total of 77 seats. Lack of progress, widespread epidemic of drugs and a host of other problems were the reason for BJP/SAD defeat.
March 11, 2017, Uttar Pradesh State election results were declared with BJP and its partners winning the biggest majority in state assembly in the history of the state. BJP coalition won 312 seats, a gain of 265. The winning parties chose one of the most radical Chief Minister, belonging to the RSS wing of BJP, Yogi Adityanath. Almost all slaughter houses in the state are closed putting hundreds of thousands of employees in the jobless category.