Useful Notes: India

"We owe a lot to the Indians, who taught us how to count, without which no worthwhile scientific discovery could have been made."
Albert Einstein

"India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most instructive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only."
Mark Twain

A really long story made short - India, officially known as Republic of India (Hindi: भारतीय गणराज्य, Bhartiya Gaṇrajya), is the world's largest and most complex democracy. Also birthplace of Indus, one of the five earliest civilizations in the world which together formed the foundation of human culture, along with Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica.

Arguably, the concept of India, i.e. a geographical entity as a whole begins in the 4th century BCE, when most of the subcontinent came under the Maurya Empire, ruled by King Chandragupta Maurya with his adviser, Chanakya. The empire was formed, uniting the many fragments of the subcontinent, presumably as a defense against the Greek/Macedonian invasion led by Alexander the Great. This theory is given credence because Chanakya, the purported architect of Chandragupta's rise to power, viewed the Greek conquest as an attack on Indus culture. Chanakya is today regarded as one of the greatest war strategists of all time, and the tale of his cunning tactics and ploys against the Greeks (both Alexander and his successors) have grown into legend, at least in India where the Arthashastra, attributed to him, is regarded as a proto-Machiavellian work of Realpolitik. Some commentators consider it even more cynical than The Princenote . Greek and Roman histories however hold that Chandragupta's empirical ambitions was spurred by the Succession Crisis in the wake of Alexander's death, and Greek and Indian scholars often interacted with each other during this period. A key facet is the development of Buddhist and Jain sculpture which was inspired by Greek aristans. The recovery of Mauryan era artifacts likewise shows inscriptions in Pali (the ancient Indian script) alongside Greek, suggesting a level of diplomatic contact and exchange between the Mauryans and the Hellenistic Kingdoms.

The Mauryan Empire lasted a few more generations, reaching the height of its territorial extent, military power, and cultural achievement under Chandragupta's grandson, Ashoka the Great. Ashoka is perhaps most famous for being (we think) a Buddhist and (possibly) a pacifist (after having done a lot of killing and conquering...), but he made more lasting contributions in the form of the usual good-monarch business (lawgiving, fair dispensation of justice, efficient administration, etc.) Of course, no empire can last long, and the Mauryan Empire soon broke up into what would later be termed the Middle Kingdoms of India; most of the kingdoms co-existed in peace, and trade routes started by Maurya flourished over the next 1,500 years. Ashoka also played a major role in proseltyzing Buddhism and in the course of the eventual rise of Hindu (or rather Vedic) kingdoms, Buddhism would decline in India but spread across China and Japan and generally flourish outside its country of origin. Every now and then, a new empire would rise and run most of the subcontinent for a few generations, but nobody really cared other than the nobles doing the ruling and fighting, as these political distinctions did comparatively little to affect the economic activity on the ground, which is good because during the classical to medieval period, India was considered the wealthiest economy in the world. India was the center of the spice trade and was linked to the Silk Route. Traders from across the world came to India, including the Arab scholars Al-Beruni (who brought Indian mathematics to the Middle East and managed to spread it westwards), Ibn Batuta and of course Marco Polo who came all the way to South India, to Mylapore (present day Chennai) and wrote about the wealth of the Southern Kingdoms. India also held monopoly on the diamond trade until the discovery of diamonds in Brazil in the 1700s, the crown jewels of virtually every European royal family was adorned with diamonds from the mines of India, especially Kollur in Golconda. This is true of the two most famous diamonds in the world, the Hope Diamond and the Koh-I-Noor.

India's wealth did not go unnoticed for long and the northern parts of India were subject to repeated raids from the Arabs and the Mongols. The Arab Sultans started making in-roads into India between 800-1400, starting several small kingdoms often inter-marrying with local rulers and allying with them to carve territory. Some of these rulers were highly notable, including Razia Sultana, the daughter of Alauddin Khilji who became the only female Sultan of India who ruled on her own. There was also Sher Shah Suri, an Afghan warlord who revived the ancient capital of Pataliputa (modern day Bihar) and ruled for five years (between the reigns of Humayun and Akbar) but in that time, extended the Grand Trunk Road, built a Post Office and invented the Rupee, the currency of the Indian subcontinent. Eventually, political unity would come about with the rise of the Mughal Empire, who would at their height grow to unify well over 80% of the subcontinent. Unlike earlier Arab rulers or other foreign rulers before (and after), the Mughals under Akbar started assimilating into Indian culture and traditions. Akbar famously abolished the tax for non-Muslims and promoted Hindus into high positions in the government and started a much admired policy of religious co-existence that would later be cited by nationalists as an inspiration for a plural society that formed part of secular Indian nationalism. This era of the Mughals brought about an architectural and cultural Renaissance comparable to Florence under the Medici, or France under Louis XIV. From this period dates monuments such as Humayun's Tomb, Fatehpur Sikhri, Buland Darwaza and under Akbar's grandson, Shahjahan, the Old Delhi quarter and of course the Taj Mahal, India's most iconic monument. The Mughals also promoted infrastructure, relative order and created a system of vassals and alliances. This was not always peaceful of course because the Mughals, however benign and tolerant they were, were still The Empire.

Rebellions sprang against their hegemony and within Punjab, regional rebellion also led to the rise of Sikhism (along with Hinduism, Buddhism and Islam, the major religion of the Indian subcontinent) whose Gurus often battled against the Mughal armies. Of course, the Mughals had a tendency to be their own worst enemies what with the Deadly Decadent Court and their fratricidal policy of succession. Much like the Ottomans, princes competed against each other for the right of succession and brothers would often kill their siblings and imprison their fathers when they became old. Jahangir, Shahjahan and Aurangzeb came to power in this manner, and while the first two are still respected, Aurangzeb has a deeply ambivalent reputation across India, since he repudiated his ancestors policy of religious toleration (his brother Dara Shikoh, who he killed, translated the Gita into Persian for instance) and launched a policy of religious persecution and oppression. Under Aurangzeb, the Mughals reached the peak of their military power and territorial expansion. This sparked a strong resistance in the South that would eventually evict the Mughals from large portions of the Deccan Plateau, forming the Maratha Confederacy, a state on the border between The Empire and The Federation internally. The Mughals would also decline in the North under later rulers. Most humiliatingly of all, they would be sacked by the Persian conqueror Nader Shah who came to Delhi and left with the Peacock Throne and the Koh-I-Noor diamond note . Numerous petty wars and kingdoms broke out across the North and the South. All of this occurred to a backdrop of warfare well on par with the Thirty Years' War, which thoroughly wrecked the golden age of before and the emergence of other petty states like Mysore in the vacuum. After well over a century of conflict, both sides still warily eyed each other, looking for the chance to finish the other off.

The East India Company, originally chartered by Elizabeth I had previously come into contact with the Mughal Emperors and initially conducted themselves in the interest of trade. The arrival of the Dutch, Portuguese and the French East India Companies as well as the great deal of instability caused by the above mentioned power vaccuum, led them to begin forming an army to protect their interests. These actions in turn got the side-eye of local Nawabs and rulers, who allied with the French or other regional heads to fight the English, often in proxy wars of European conflicts such as the Seven Years' War and The American Revolution. A good example is Tipu Sultan who, incredibly was an ally of Revolutionary France. However, from the victory of Robert Clive at the 1757 Battle of Plassey to the Mutiny, a century later, ... the British East India Company established unquestioned hegemony over all remaining Indian kingdoms, going from strength to strength with the only true challenge finally coming from the local sipahis they had brought into their ranks.

Under British Colonial Rule, first under the East India Company and then directly under the Crown, two hundred and fifty years of capital-F-Foreign rule began. Initially, the East India Company was allowed to govern more or less by itself, which resulted in such lovely policies such as abusive tax-collecting (with collectors often torturing people to pay up like a proto-mafia Loan Shark), aggressive missionary activity, destruction of rural infrastructure, imperialism and annexation violating treaties that the Company formerly agreed to. The East India Company also farmed opium in India with which it tried to open up China's market. The resulting flare up was the Indian Mutiny. This event achieved two things. It resulted in the elimination of the Mughals, the brutal and violent conquest of Delhi, and the end of any future local military threat (this was the last time Indian rulers took command in battle and the last time locals actually mounted military resistance against the Crown). It also resulted in the crown abolishing the EITC and ruling directly and *far* more cautiously. Britain created a modern, united, well-developed system of rule, with railways, telegraph and court systems - but the entire infrastructure was specifically designed to exploit the resources of the country, with only a minimal regard as to the consequences for the Indian people (although it also a great deal of regard for avoiding doing things that unnecessarily antagonised the people, e.g. rampant Christian proselytism; also, if doing something nice for the locals would also benefit the British or would cost them nothing, the authorities were often if not usually more than happy to do it). With that, right up until independence, there was also exactly zero interest (actually scratch that, minimal interest with zero support from the crown) in fixing social problems such as casteism, illiteracy, gender and income inequality, etc that civilizations were attempting to overcome around the world; any progress made on those fronts was either made in spite of the government or because something the government found expedient happened to lead to progress tangentially. Indeed, the British often encouraged these inequalities by establishing ethnic identities by special categories and quotas, which further spread religious divides. While the Raj became increasingly Indianized in terms of bureaucracy, true representative rule was never really put into place; the world's largest population was ruled without any direct way of voicing its wishes in government. This is known as "The Drain" in Indian history, when India's wealth and resources were harnessed—recklessly—by the British for their own ends. Britain then proceeded to popularize this image of the 'Poor India' around the world, emphasizing that such a country of "savages" was unfit to rule itself. The British rule was also marked by periodic famines in India, which came about because of the laissez faire attitude to liberal capitalism. As Franklin D. Rooseveltnote , noted, "Every year the Indian people have one thing to look forward to, like death and taxes. Sure as shooting, they have a famine. The season of the famine, they call it."

India's independence struggle caught global attention after World War One. Several Indian freedom fighters had supported calls for Indian soldiers to enlist in the hopes for Dominion Status and autonomy. Despite the great numbers of Indian soldiers who died for the Crown, the British didn't uphold their side of the bargain. Then after the war, the events of the Jalianwalla Bagh massacre happened, where British General Dyer ordered a contingent to fire on protestors in a crowded area. The resulting violence, brutal crackdown, martial law in Amritsar and grotesque acts of torture earned condemnation across India and the world (even by arch-imperialist Winston Churchill in Parliament). Around this time, a lawyer returning from South Africa, named Mahatma Gandhi (though still called Mohandas Karamchand at the time) was making his voice heard in India. To protest this massacre, he called for the Non-Cooperation Movement, a large scale boycott of Indian goods that electrified public opinion and earned Gandhi worldwide attention. Later events such as the Civil Disobedience movemement and the iconic Salt March, and several other agitations exposed the absurdity and arbitrary nature of English rule behind the propaganda of the Empire.

Despite his immense importance however, Britain's withdrawal from India wasn't quite as simple as Gandhi's love impressed them so much they left in peace" and more a result of a number of diverse factors, such was WW2's significant impact on Britain's army and economy, anti-British riots beginning to break out around the country, growing dissent among the Indian Army during WW2, who were becoming increasing antagonistic towards the Allies (unsurprising, since they were now caught in a situation where they were fighting against an oppressive regime for an oppressive regime - nearly 100,000 Indian soldiers eventually defected over to the INA; the pro-Japanese, anti-British Resistance movement, and some PO Ws were actually recruited voluntarily by the Japanese; both these forces inevitably went on to fight the Allies in Southeast Asia) plus, having just witnessed the results of a totalitarian government, the world was much less willing to buy the idea of British rule being for "India's own good".

The tragedy of the Partition came as a result of the rather messy creation of India and Pakistan as separate states a full year earlier than planned. The British got their dignified exit, but at the expense of a few million people who were displaced and impoverished by the war and mass exodus that soon followed. In retrospect the two-state solution was a bad idea, Britain had also had to speed the de-colonisation process up as they were quite literally teetering on the edge of bankruptcy and unable to shoulder the costs of administering the colony any more - a direct result of the US' unwillingness to loan them any more money In Support Of Imperialism (in the bad sense) after the War's end, and likewise a direct consequence over their decade long policies of organizing communities on ethnic and religious lines, (which also resulted in partitions and messy independence struggles in Ireland and British Palestine). It goes without saying that the East India Company, and its successor The Rajnote , had done much to play India's Muslim (e.g. the Mughal Empire and its secessionist kingdoms) and Hindu (e.g. the Maharatta Confederacy) realms - and people - against each other for the better part of a century, passing laws to 'preserve' their differences and the caste system (to counter the melding of culture and castes/classes in the century or two of strife and social mobility that marked the disintegration of the Mughal Empire) to ensure the region would be easier to govern.

Things took a rapid turn for the worse when Muhammad Ali Jinnah, India's most prominent Muslim leader, put forward a charming theory that Hindus and Muslims must live in separate countries, divided by religion. India being a region of numerous faiths, the situation spiraled out of control rapidly, escalating into full-scale communal riots that left hundreds of thousands dead. The new Indian Muslim state was called 'Pak(i)stan', an acronym of its constituent provinces of the Punjab, Afghan Province, Kashmir, Sind, and Baluchistan (but not Bangladesh, aka 'East Pakistan'). The Partition occurred on the 15 August 1947. Eventually, with Indian military support, Bangladesh gained its own independence from Pakistan after a rather bloody revolution. In spite of the goal of Pakistan as a separate Muslim state, the fact remains that a large number of Muslims remained in India and as of 21st Century, India ranks among the top three Muslim populations in the world, with 172 million residing in India and calling it home (greater than the total populations of Russia and Japan). It's only in proportion to the 900+ million Hindu population that Muslims constitute a "minority" in India.

Obtaining total Independence from Britain on August 15th, 1947, India was divided into what is now modern India, Pakistan, Portuguese occupied Goa (which was later conquered and integrated into India—not that most Goans had any problem with it),note  Bangladesh (which broke off from Pakistan in '71 with India's help), Bhutan (which remains independent), and Sikkim (which was an Indian protectorate from independence to 1975, at which point it was admitted as a state). A much-overlooked fact is that because of the structure of the British Raj, India had to fight for considerable swaths of territory (Kashmir aside). The country at the time was divided into a whopping five hundred plus now-independent Princely States (which Britain had governed and taxed indirectly through traditional Indian monarchs) and, deciding not to expend the vast resources that would be necessary to make a smooth transition, Britain took an attitude of "you guys sort it out among yourselves" and withdrew without establishing the new government.

Meanwhile, the Herculean task of uniting the princely states fell to Home Minister Vallabhai Patel, his Constitutional Advisor V.P. Menon, and (more controversially) the Britain-appointed Viceroy Luis Mountbatten. While the parts of the subcontinent under direct British rule immediately became part of the Union of India (as it was called before it became a republic in 1950), the Princely States themselves had the option of joining India, joining Pakistan, or remaining independent. Majority-Muslim states on the border with Pakistan tended to join Pakistan without controversy, while most others chose to join India. However, several princely states refused to follow the obvious patterns, the most notable of which are Kashmir, Junagadh, and Hyderabad, all instances where the ruling elite was a different religion from the majority of the population in the state. Kashmir, where the ruler was Hindu and the people Muslim, is quite possibly the biggest political can of worms in the world today besides the Arab-Israeli Conflict and (historically, perhaps) The Troubles. The other two major instances involved a Muslim ruler over a majority-Hindu state: Junagadh's Muslim prince decided to join Pakistan despite not bordering it at all, leading India to essentially lay siege to the territory, and eventually the prince fled. Hyderabad's Muslim ruler decided he didn't much care to be part of India or Pakistan, and Hyderabad had to be integrated by force of arms.

A lot of the problems that nobody got around to rectifying before independence are still there now, most notably a high rate of illiteracy in the more rural areas, which both the government and private organizations are fighting to change. Sixty years of quick, accelerated development later, India today is the world's largest democracy, maintaining the second largest military in the world, a nuclear superpower, and the only nation that has U.N permission to trade in nuclear fuel without having signed the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

For a country that has only had six decades of actual modern development, it says a lot about how fast the nation is moving forward, especially when Americans today are concerned that Indians are surpassing them in the IT sector. Poverty is extremely widespread still, with 41% of the nation falling below the poverty line (and an equal percentage of malnourished children), and the nation containing a third of the world's poor. It is trying to deal with these problems, but it remains a slow climb.

(Note: A lot of the pages below are unfinished, so just go ahead and create/expand them if you think you can.)
The History Of India
  • Indus Valley Civilization: One of the most ancient civilizations in the world.
  • The Vedic Age: Indo-Aryan tribes moved into the Indus valley, and then, all of northern India. They brought the Sanskrit language, which is comparable to Latin in Europe in terms of the influence it had on India. It also is a distant relative of most European languages such as English, French, Russian etc.
  • The Mauryan Empire - Macedonian Invasion, The Battle Of Hydaspes, Unity under Mauryan Rule, decline into the Middle Kingdoms
  • The Middle Kingdoms - Growth of Economy, The Mughal Expansion, Prithviraj Chauhan, Discovery by Vasco Da Gamma, Arrival of the British
  • Formation Of The Raj - Annexation by East India Company, Rule until 1857, The Sepoy Mutiny (India's First War For Independence)
  • The Raj - The Colonial Rule, Popularization of the "Savage" India through British Media, The JWB Massacre, The World Wars, Bhagath Singh, Mahatma Gandhi
  • The Largest Democracy - Independence in 1947, the partition into India and Pakistan, important events from 1948 - present

Indian Cities

Indian Culture
  • Hindu Mythology - The truth about it, not the unresearched crap you see in movies
  • Indian Languages - 22 officially recognized languages, 250+ minor languages, 4000+ variations and dialects...
  • Bollywood - The Hindi Film Industry, nicknamed after its U.S counterpart.
  • The Otherwoods - Because not all Indian movies are Bollywood.
  • Filmi Music - Ever wonder why Indian movies have so many songs and musical numbers?
  • Cricket Rules - Cricket, Cricket, Cricket. What is it?
  • Type Caste - And just like everywhere else, Indians have their own type of racism. The one particular aspect of the nation's history people want to forget, but can't.
  • Mad Dogs And Englishmen - India's climate

Misrepresentations of India in International Media
  • Sim Sim Salabim - What does India looks like? It's full of snake charmers and flying carpets, of course!
  • Indian Accents - You are to be teaching me very good English, Masterji!
  • Bollywood Nerd - All Indians are absolute geniuses!
  • Operator from India - No, wait, all Indians work in Call Centers!
  • Kali Is The Goddess Of Death - Apparently, Indians worship death and want to destroy the world.

Indian Food & Cuisine - Contrary to popular belief, it's not all spices and pepper.
  • South Indian Food - Kerala, Tamil Nadu, and other Southern States
  • North Indian Food - Punjab, Kashmir, Rajasthan, etc.
  • Other Cuisines Of India - Eastern, Western, and North Eastern India

Law Enforcement, Military and Politics

Transport And Communications
  • Indian Railways - The Railway department of the government holds the Guinness Book distinction of being the world's largest commercial or utility employer.
  • Indian Roads - Ah, the roadways of India. Or, alternately, your worst nightmare.

The People Of India
  • Unity In Diversity - Hundreds of religions and languages, how do they coexist?
  • Indian Accents
  • Type Caste

It Happens Only In India
  • The Land Of Festivals - India is known as the Land Of Festivals. Read this to find out why.
  • Indian Culture Shock - a popular trope used in Indian films, which is now spreading to Hollywood.

India in popular culture
  • The most ancient erotica guide Kama Sutra was written in India.
  • The fairy tale The King Who Would Be Stronger Than Fate.
  • Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book and naturally all adaptations of this story, like Jungle Book take place in India. Kipling's other stories, like The Man Who Would Be King, Kim and Just So Stories are also often set in this country.
  • A Passage to India by E.M. Forster is a novel about the relationship between Britain and India in the last days of the British Raj.
  • The Great Game by Peter Hopkirk is about the rivarly between Tsarist Russia and the British Empire to gain power in India.
  • Laurel and Hardy: The film Bonnie Scotland sends Laurel & Hardy to India, where they become part of the British colonial army.
  • Gunga Din is an 1939 adventure movie with Cary Grant set in colonial India.
  • Elephant Boy is a 1937 British adventure movie starring Sabu, who takes care of elephants in India.
  • George Orwell's debut, Burmese Days, is an autobiographical account about the British colonial police in India, where he was once a member. Orwell wrote down his disgust about the way they treated the local people there.
  • Gandhi (1982), a Biopic about Mahatma Gandhi which won the Oscar for Best Picture that year.
  • The second Indiana Jones film Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) has Indiana and his companions crash land in India and get involved in freeing the local population from a local evil cult.
  • The Simpsons: Apu Nahasapeemapetilon and his wife Manjula hail from India. In the episode The Simpsons S 17 E 17 Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore the Simpsons family visit India.
  • Tintin: Tintin visits India halfway Tintin: Cigars of the Pharaoh and is still in the country at the start of Tintin The Blue Lotus. He visits the country again briefly in Tintin Tintin In Tibet.
  • Astérix: Asterix, Obelix and Cacofonix visit India in Asterix and the Magic Carpet.
  • Suske en Wiske: In 1960 author Willy Vandersteen travelled to South East Asia. It inspired several stories, including the albums De Gouden Cirkel, De Wilde Weldoener and De Junglebloem, which are set (sometimes partially) in India.
  • Ripping Yarns: The episode "Roger of the Raj" is set in the time of The Raj.
  • Some of the Sandokan books are partially or completely set in India immediately before and during the Raj, with the fourth having the Mutiny of 1857 as its backdrop.
  • Ravi Shankar is the most famous Indian musician in the world. He made traditional sitar music famous in the West.
  • The Beatles were influenced by Indian culture, music and philosophy from 1965 on, when they filmed Help!. On Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the tracks "Norwegian Wood", "Love You To" and "Within Without You" have George Harrison play a sitar. Harrison's first solo album Wonder Wall Music is predominantly instrumental Indian music.
  • The Kinks :"See My Friends" (1965) and "Fancy", from the 1966 album Face to Face, is one of the first Western rock songs to add Indian themes and instrumentation.
  • The Yardbirds: The track "White Summer" on Little Games has an Eastern music sound, exemplified by an oboe and an Indian-percussion tabla. During "Glimpses" a sitar plays.
  • The Paul Butterfield Blues Band has a 13 minute instrumental titled "East-West" (1966), incorporating Indian influences.
  • The Rolling Stones: Their song "Paint It, Black", from Aftermath (1966) and the song "Gomper" features Brian Jones on sitar.
  • The Byrds: Their singles "Eight Miles High" and "Why" have Indian influences.
  • John Coltrane: Was very much inspired by Arabian and Indian folk music later in his career and used these sounds in his own work.
  • Cornershop: A British indie rock who assimilated Asian instruments such as the sitar and dholki in their music, including the hit song "Brimful of Asha".
  • Pather Panchali is a renowned classic of world cinema.
  • Of course, all Bollywood Movies take place in India and Pakistan.
  • The comedy Monsoon Wedding (2001), which won a Golden Lion in Venice, is about romantic entanglements during a traditional Punjabi Hindu wedding.
  • Roald Dahl's The Wonderful Story Of Henry Sugar has several stories. The title story is about a man who learns who to see without using his eyes from a man from India...
  • Part of Eat, Pray, Love is set in India, where the protagonist meets a guru.
  • Sita Sings the Blues is a 2008 animated film about Hindu mythology.
  • The Return of Hanuman is a 2007 spin-off movie centered around the Hindu god Hanuman.
  • Roadside Romeo is a 2008 Bollywood animated feature.
  • Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children is a book about the history of India.
  • The track "New Delhi" from The Rise And Fall by Madness is about a character dreaming he is India.
  • Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov's "Song Of India" from the opera "Sadko" is a dreamy piece about the mystery of the orient. It has been covered by many big band musicians too.

The Indian flag
The flag's saffron, white and green stripes symbolize courage and sacrifice, peace and truth, and faith and chivalry, respectively; at the center is the Ashoka Chakra, the personal symbol of Emperor Ashoka, one of India's greatest rulers, symbolizing the eternal wheel of law and order.

Alternative Title(s):

Useful Notes On India