History of India


History of India

The history of India is one of the oldest in the world. First of all, it should be noted that India's "historic" territory is not limited to the present borders, but encompasses the whole subcontinent, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The specialists in India have the habit of dividing the country into two parts: the North and the South. Northern India consists of the Indus and Ganges Basins (the Indo-Ganges Plain), South India is formed by the giant Deccan Plateau (see Geography of India). The northern alluvial plains formed an environment conducive to the development of what have been called Indus and Ganges civilizations. The Indus flows from north India to southwestern Pakistan. The Ganges crosses North India from the Himalayas to the Gulf of Bengal.

Relief map of India

Relief map of India

Paleolithic India

The oldest objects were found in northern Pakistan and are two million years old. The Thar desert (at the Indo-Pakistan border) is an archaeological high-place. Many 400,000-year-old tools have been found there. Geological studies have shown that this desert was a wetland between -140,000 and -25,000 years ago and was undoubtedly a suitable place for hunting.

Neolithic India

Excavations at Mehrgarh, on the edge of the Indus system, made it possible to find colonies of human settlements. It seems that there were two periods of occupation. The first period between the VIIIth and the VIth millennium BC and another between the 5th and the 4th millennium BC The first period saw the development of a primitive agriculture, workshops of manufacture and of commercial networks. The second period was characterized by a probable tectonic event. Around 1500 a large quantity of silt was deposited on the lands of Mehrgarh. The use of pottery spread more widely and granaries were increasingly used. The found brick walls suggest the erection of important buildings. The work of copper and ivory made its appearance.

In the valley of the Ganges, sites dating from the 7th millennium BC were found. In the peninsula itself, the first settlements appeared at the beginning of the third millennium BC These settlers were semi-nomadic and headed zebu herds.

The urbanization of the Indus Valley

Around -5000 BC, the Indo-Pakistan border saw the development of many colonies. These communities were based on the cultivation of wheat and barley, the raising of goats and cattle, and the work of copper and bronze. By the middle of the fourth millennium these communities began to spread in the valley of the Indus by establishing relations between them. This phenomenon lasted about 500 years and resulted in an urbanization of society. The Harrapa site is one of the best representatives.

On the recovered pottery, archaeologists noted the presence of religious paintings and writing-like inscriptions, even though the term seems inappropriate. This long process allowed the birth of the Indus civilization that historians date from around -2500 BC

At that time the Indus cities, of variable size, were spread over an area at least as large as that of present-day Pakistan. The building material used was mainly brick. The stone was rarely used. The cultural uniformity of the Indus civilization probably coincided with a political and administrative unity, probably very powerful in view of the extent of the Indus system. However, the very structure of this political and social system is still the subject of hypotheses. The few sites outside the Indus system served as ports or trading towns to the Persian Gulf.

The favorable geographical position of the Indus valley allowed the cultivation of rice, dates, melons, leguminous plants, etc. Cotton was also grown for textile making. Livestock was mainly cattle, goats, sheep and pigs. The camels the donkeys were used as beasts of burden. Copper and bronze were widely used for the manufacture of tools. Other metals (gold, silver, lead) were more rarely used. The pottery was mass-produced.

This use of various materials necessarily provoked the establishment of commercial relations with other peoples living outside the Indus Valley, notably with Mesopotamia. These relations have probably necessitated the development of means of communication. The writing used then remains surrounded by mystery even if the experts agree that it was not of Indo-European origin. It is more akin to the Dravidian languages ​​still spoken in the south of India. The writing consisted of signs read from right to left but it is not known whether they were of ideographic, logographic or other type.

religion was already typically Indian. It is assumed that the faithful prayed to a Great God and a Great Mother. The attributes of these two divinities are comparable to those of the Hindu divinities Shiva and Parvati. It is likely that some animals, such as the bull and the tiger, were worshiped. Traces of funeral rites have been discovered. It seems that the inhabitants buried their dead and believed in a life after death.

The decline of the civilization of the Indus and the arrival of the Aryans

The decline of the Indus system occurred in several stages over at least one hundred years between a period estimated at -2000 and -1750 years. The experts are still discussing the exact causes that caused it. Four hypotheses stand out: a profound environmental change; a tectonic alteration that would have resulted in significant flooding or drying out; invasions from the west; or a devastating agent as an epidemic disease.

The main change in the cultural environment of the peoples of the Indus valley was the arrival of the Aryans. These peoples came from the steppes of the Caspian Sea region. (It should be pointed out that the term Aryan is used here in its original meaning and has nothing to do with the use of the Nazis to describe the so-called "superior race").

It seems certain that they were present at the border of the Indus system about -2000 years ago. Gradually they conquered the cities of the Indus and sank into the Indian peninsula to the east and south. From the age of 1,000 years onwards, the founding principles of Hinduism emerged thanks to the predominance of the Brahman caste. It was at this time that the Vedas, sacred texts of Hinduism, were written in Sanskrit. There are four Vedas: the Rigveda, the Yajurveda, the Samaveda and the Atharvaveda.

Sacred literature developed between -800 and -500 years ago. The texts served as a basis for religious life, of course, but also for social life, which reinforced the power of the Brahmans, who alone were able to learn the Vedas. It is between -500 and -300 years that the two great Hindu epics are written: the Mahabharata and the Ramayana. These texts are based on legends and historical facts but these are very difficult to date due to the many rewrites.

This period also saw a political evolution since the notion of clans and tribes was gradually abandoned in favor of that of kingdom and more broadly of state. The king was no longer merely a warlord, but the incarnation of authority and power over the territory. This authority is affirmed by great ceremonies, and it becomes hereditary. This new social hierarchy reinforces the power of the aristocracy and priests. The latter, relying on the Vedas, divide society into class: Brahmins (priests), Ksatriyas (aristocracy), Vaishyas (ordinary people) and the Shudras (servants). It seems that the Shudras were non-Aryans serving the upper classes. They were not, however, considered slaves.

After gradually invading northern India, the Ganges valley and much of the Deccan, the Aryans shared 16 main states. The political system was monarchical or oligarchical. Political and social changes were accompanied by a questioning of religious traditions. Many sects made their appearance. Only two of them developed sufficiently to assume the status of major religion: Buddhism and Jainism. They were both opposed to the sacrifices of animals and preached non-violence.

In the 6th and 5th centuries BC. The most powerful states are fighting to take control of the Ganges. Bimbisara, king of Magadha, emerged victorious from this confrontation and seized the access routes to the delta of the Ganges and therefore trade routes. He was one of the first rulers of India to develop an effective administration. Ajatasatru, son of Bimbisara, reinforces the power of the Magadha in the lower valley of the Ganges. At his death in -459, the dynasty lost its influence and was replaced by that of the Mahapadma Nanda.

Alexander The Great

In 327 Alexander the Great, after taking possession of the kingdom of the Achaemenids in Persia, crossed the Indus and seized Gandhara. But these troops, at the end of their forces, refused to venture farther. Alexander nevertheless established a certain number of Greek colonies, which improved the trade towards Asia Minor. It is with the arrival of Alexander that the history of India begins to be dated with precision.

The Maurya Empire

Between -325 and -321 Chandragupta overthrows the Nanda and leads often violent campaigns in northern and central India. Thus it is the first empire of India. Chandragupta will go as far as fighting the Seleucids in Iran. These provinces will be ceded to him after the signing of a treaty.

Kautilya, Prime Minister of Chandragupta, writes in Sanskrit his famous work on political and economic life: Arthasasthra. He describes ideal government and develops economic theories. He advocated, for example, the irrigation and settlement of land not cultivable by the Sudra. The application of this principle will cause large population movements.

According to the Jainas, Chandragupta converted to Jainism and abdicated in favor of his son Bindusara. The latter ascends the throne in -297. It extends the empire to the south of India as far as Karnataka. Ashoka, son of Bindusara, takes the succession in about -273. Ashoka is known for the impressive number of decrees he wrote. In -260 he waged a bloody war against the Kalinga. This confrontation will mainly result in Ashoka's awareness of the non-violence preached by Buddhism. After his conversion, he will send missions to Sri Lanka.

The empire Maurya reached its peak. The cohesion of the empire was maintained by the control of the administration. The empire is divided into four great provinces, themselves divided into districts. The village is the administrative base. Ashoka felt very close to her people and always sought to know her opinion. Ashoka died in -232. The empire then declined very rapidly and in less than half a century the empire was reduced to the valley of the Ganges. The reason for this disintegration remains controversial. This may be the consequence of Ashoka's conversion to Buddhism, which would have provoked the anger of the Brahmans. But a sudden weakness in the economy seems to be a more probable reason. Expenses related to the maintenance of the army and administration on an increasingly large territory would have drained the coffers considerably. On the other hand, agricultural production would not have followed demographic development.

In -185 the last Maurya, Brhadratha is assassinated by Pusyamitra, a Brahmin who will found the Sunga dynasty. These control the gangetic India while Demetrius, king of Bactria between -190 and -167, storms Northwest India. The Sunga are in turn overthrown by the Kanva (from -73 to -25) and the Bactrians are driven out by the Saka. The latter arrived in India driven by the Huns of Central Asia. Then the Kushana push the Saka to the south. These successive waves of invaders continued until the second century of our era. After ascending the throne in 78, Kanishka led the Kushana Empire to its peak. The kingdom essentially occupies the north and extends south along the Ganges valley. The influence of the empire also extended to Central Asia, but the successors of Kanishka were unable to maintain the cohesion of the territory. In the 3rd century it was dislocated under the blows of the Sassanides who came from Persia.


The area of Tamil influence is called Tamilakam. It is divided into 13 districts. At the time of the Maurya the three main leaders of Tamilakam are the Pandya (in Madurai), the Chera (coast of Malabar) and the Chola (in Thanjavur). These three families were frequently at war with each other but also with Sri Lanka. Significant economic and cultural exchanges took place and the sangam literature knew its golden age. Eventually the area fell to the Kalvar from the north of Tamilakam. These were overthrown by the Chalukya and Pallava in the 5th century.

The Empire of the Gupta

Map of the Gupta Empire

Map of the Gupta Empire

a Gupta period is considered to be the classical age of India in cultural and philosophical terms. The dynasty was founded by Chandragupta I in 320. It is not clear whether this date corresponds to its accession to the throne or to the independence of its territory. Still, he left power to his son Samudragupta in 330. He decided to expand the empire and won many battles. He makes Pataliputra (now Patna) the capital of his kingdom. These conquests would have gradually eliminated the oligarchies and small regional kingdoms of central India and the Ganges valley. Chandragupta II succeeded his father in 380. Although he won a major campaign against the Shaka, his reign remained more associated with his cultural achievements than with his military talents. The first threats of invasion of the Northwest will arrive during the reign of Kumara Gupta (415-455). It is the Huns who are the most menacing and who penetrate deeply into India. Skanda Gupta (455-467) managed to maintain the cohesion of the kingdom until his death when severe family dissension deteriorated the situation. In the middle of the sixth century the kingdom no longer has anything of past grandeur and the lands of northern India and central India are in the hands of the Huns. This arrival of the Huns provokes the arrival of tribes of Central Asia which in turn chase the Indians from North to the South. This important population movement is breaking India's commercial ties with Asia and the large revenues they have generated.

The Age of Small Kingdoms

The many kingdoms inherit the Gupta territory. Among the most important are those of Valabhi, Gujarata, Maukhari, Orissa. At the beginning of the 7th century Sasanka took control of a large part of the Ganges valley where it conflicted with the Maukhari and the Puspabhuti. The latter are led by Harsa (606-647). This period is well known because of the accounts of the Chinese Buddhist monk Hsuan-Tsang. Harsa seizes Kannauj of which he makes the capital of his kingdom. He then led without success a military campaign against Pulakesin II, king of the Chalukya, in the north of Deccan. On the other hand, it has less difficulty in seizing land to the east (Magadha, Vanga, Orissa). Harsa never succeeded in building an empire worthy of the name, but he died with the reputation of a great leader.

After the disappearance of Harsa, the kingdom of Kannauj is experiencing a period of decline. The eighth century saw the arrival of the first Arabs in Sindh. They quickly lost control, but in 724 they established themselves permanently by appointing a representative governor of the caliph.

In the Deccan, the Chalukya control the greater part of the region and dominate the other kingdoms (Nala, Ganga, Kadamba ...). The Chalukya dynasty reached its peak during the reign of Pulakesin II (610-642). He spread his kingdom to the south by attacking the Kadamba, the Alupa and the Ganga, and then to the north where he fought the Lata, the Malava and the Gurjara. His great victory is the one won against Harsa. He also launched a big offensive in the south against the powerful Pallava. This struggle lasted decades. It was during the reign of Pulakesin II that the parsis (practitioners of Zoroastrianism) fleeing Islamic persecution in Persia would find refuge in India. In the middle of the eighth century, the Rastrakuta took advantage of a weakening of the Chalukya to take their place. The Eastern Chalukya, who knew how to avoid conflicts, managed to maintain themselves and confront the Rastrakuta.

To the south, the peninsula is also divided into small kingdoms. The Chera, the Chola, the Pandya and the Pallava are the main dynasties of the time. Narratives in Sanskrit and Tamil tell us that the Pallava became dominant in the sixth century. The dynasty reached its zenith during the reign of Mahendravarman (600-630). At war with the Chalukya, he will lose the first battles. He will be avenged by his successor, Narasimhavarman I Mahamalla (630-668), when this one will take the city of Vatapi. Narasimhavarman is still distinguished by sending a naval expedition to Sri Lanka to help King Manavamma. As the Rastrakuta challenged the power of the Chalukya further north, the Ganga and Pandya allied themselves with the Pallava. There followed a long war at the end of which, at the end of the ninth century, the Pallavas lost most of their power.

The 9th century saw the appearance of the Chola which was the most powerful dynasty of South India. King Vijayalaya established the capital of his kingdom at Thanjavur. In the 10th century the Chola annexed what remains of the Pallava empire to the north and attack the Pandya in the south. Parantaka (907-953) consolidates the kingdom by pushing the borders towards the north where it runs up against the Rastrakuta and to the south where it severely beats the Pandya and the Ganga.

The Chola empire, however, experienced a less favorable period after the death of Parantaka. Rajaraja (985-1014) reaffirms the supremacy of the Chola by attacking the Pandya and Sri Lanka. They develop a large naval fleet that allows them to conquer the Maldives, the Malabar Coast and Sri Lanka. They were thus in control of the commercial shipping routes to South-East Asia and Arabia.

In 1014 Rajendra succeeded his father until 1044. In 1021 he launched an ambitious military campaign along the east coast of the peninsula as far as Bengal and Ganges. In 1025 he won a brilliant naval battle in Southeast Asia against the Srivijaya kingdom. The succession of Rajendra will be less brilliant and the power Chola declined gradually in the twelfth and thirteenth century in favor of the Pandya in the south and the Hoysala in the west. The Hoysala were originally subject to the Chalukya in the Halebid region of Karnataka. It was in the twelfth century that they took their independence by consolidating their kingdom under the impulse of Visnuvardhana. They mostly clash with the Yadava in the south during the reign of Ballala II (1173-1220) and the Chola in the east. It was the Turks who eroded the Hoysala kingdom in the fourteenth century until the establishment of the Vijayanagara empire.

This period of history saw a revival of Brahmanism. Temples are becoming more and more important. The simple structure of the beginning becomes more complex and the ground surface extends. This architectural development is accompanied by a magnificence of the murals and sculptures that decorate the temples. Monasteries and temples were real learning centers. Indian mathematicians were far ahead of their time. The Indian numerical system, which invented the zero, was adopted by the Arabs who brought it to the West. Aryabhata, a great astronomer of the end of the fifth century, calculated to the fourth decimal place and asserted that the Earth was round.

The Tripartite War

The term tripartite war refers to the conflict between three great dynasties: the Gurjara-Pratihara, the Pala and the Rastrakuta. The Pratihara and the Pala shared the north of India and the Rastrakuta had just taken control of the north of Deccan. They clashed for control of the Ganges valley.

Vatsaraja, king Pratihara, enters into conflict with Dharmapala (770-810), King Pala for control of Kannauj. Dhruva, king Rastrakuta between 780 and 793, attacks his two neighbors and declares himself victor. Dharmapala quickly resumed Kannauj because of the troubles Rastrakuta knew in the south of their kingdom. Nagabhata II (793-833), succeeds Vatsaraja and reverses the situation. But Kannauj quickly falls back into the hands of the Rastrakuta led by King Govinda III (793-814). However, the power of the Pratihara in the region was restored by Bhoja (836-885). The power of the Pratihara was no longer questioned until the last heir of the dynasty in 1027.

The Pala retain control of eastern India until their decline between the ninth and tenth centuries. The Rastrakuta are faced with attacks from the south and internal rebellions. They fight in particular the Chalukya of the East and the Chola. The decline of the Rastrakuta began suddenly in the 10th century in favor of the Taila. Taila II (973-997), who claimed Chalukya ancestry, founded the Chalukya dynasty. At the end of the tenth century they rubbed against the Chola in the south. These clashes were more violent during the reign of Somesvara I (1043-1068). The Last Chalukya manage to keep more or less control of the west of the Deccan. After a period of strong instabilities, they were definitively overthrown during the reign of Somesvara IV by the Yadava in 1189. The Yadava kingdom knew its apogee during the reign of Simhana (1210-1247). He campaigns against the Paramara and the Caulukya in the north. The Yadava declined in the fourteenth century, stifled by the Turks in the north and the Hoysala in the south.

The Rajput

Rajasthan and central India witnessed the appearance of small kingdoms led by the Rajput (Sanskrit rajaputra, "son of a king"). The Pratihara, Paramara, Cauhan and Caulukya were the four main Rajput dynasties. In the eleventh century the Caulukya who occupied Gujarat, tried to annex Rajasthan to the north. Kumarapala (1143-1172) led the battle and consolidated his kingdom while spreading Jainism in western India. The Paramara, after being freed from the yoke of the Rastrakuta, underwent the assaults of the Caulukya in 1143. The dynasty lasted but very weakened. It finally succumbed to the Turks in 1305. The Cauhan dominated the region of Jaipur. In the eleventh century they founded the city of Ajmer and succeeded in taking Delhi in the twelfth century. King Prithviraj III remains in history to be the one who resisted the first Turkish wave in a famous battle at Tarain in 1191. He lost however the second battle of Tarain the following year against these same Turks.

Turkish Waves

Economic and political relations were close between Punjab, led by Jayapala of the Hindu Shahiya dynasty, and Afghanistan. But in 977 a Turk was appointed governor of the Afghan city of Ghazni. The latter carried out raids against the Punjab that his son Mahmud pursued after his accession to power in 998. In 1026 he sacked the temple of Somnath in Gujarat.

The Turks gradually take control of Northeast India around Lahore. After the death of Mahmud of Ghazni in 1030 the border stabilizes. The Rajput dynasties are emerging (see above). But in the twelfth century the Turks Ghurid, driven from the regions they occupied, penetrated into northern India. Muhammad of Ghur seized the Penjab and Lahore in 1185 and then overthrew the Cauhan during the second battle of Tarain in 1192. In 1193 Delhi falls.

Muhammad of Ghur returns to Afghanistan with his war treasure leaving the management of the new territories to his general and slave Qutb-ud-Din. The latter then proclaimed himself Sultan of Delhi and inaugurated the Mamluk dynasty, known as the Slaves. Among the Muslims of the time, the status of slave was honorable and allowed individuals from poor families to obtain positions of trust from the leaders.

The Sultanate of Delhi

Qutb-ud-Din quickly took control of Varanasi in 1194, Kannauj in 1198 and Kalinjar in 1202. In 1206 Muhammad of Ghur was assassinated in Lahore. In 1210 Qutb-ud-Din dies leaving the foundations of a Muslim state in India. Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish took the succession by getting rid of the son of Qutb-ud-Din. It is he who consolidates the sultanate of Delhi by defending the borders of the West, controlling the noble Muslims settled in India and stifling the Hindu kingdoms. When he died in 1236, the Muslim state he left was the most powerful of those who disputed the control of northern India. Delhi affirms its independence vis-à-vis Ghazni. Designated to succeed him, Raziyya, daughter of Iltutmish, takes the head of the sultanate. But his reign will be short-lived (4 years). She is driven from power by the Muslim nobles offended by the idea that a woman runs the country. There followed a factional struggle that lasted for about ten years.

Map of the Sultanate of Delhi

Map of the Sultanate of Delhi

It is the slaves of Iltutmish's family (nicknamed the Forty) who will succeed in keeping the cohesion of the sultanate. One of them, Ghiyas-ud-Din Balban, will rise to the highest level with Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud (1236-1266) and who will in turn become Sultan in 1266 until 1287. This period was marked by the resurgence of the Hindu Rajput rulers and the attacks of the Mongols in the west. Having succeeded in securing the security of his sultanate, Balban preferred to strengthen his dominion over the governors of the Muslim provinces rather than engage in long and costly battles against the Hindus. This policy of consolidation enabled Balban's successors to embark on a more expansive policy. Balban's successors proved incapable of avoiding internal conflicts. After clashes between Jalal-ud-Din Firuz factions in the Khalji dynasty, he took power in 1290. His reign was short-lived since he was assassinated six years later by his nephew Ala-ud- Din Khalji (1296-1316). It decides to tackle the dual task of centralizing the state and proceeding with its expansion. In 1299 he attacked the Yadava and his Devagiri capital, which he assaulted in 1296. In 1299 he annexed Gujarat and then attacked Rajasthan between 1301 and 1312, thus opening the road to the south. In 1307 Malik Kafur, one of the lieutenants of Ala-ud-Din, enslaved the Yadava kingdom. In 1310 he plundered the Pandya kingdom and permanently annexed Devagiri in 1313. Ala-ud-Din practiced an opening towards the non-Turkish aristocrats and introduced Hindus into political decision-making.

Several dissensions mark the succession of Ala-ud-Din in 1316. Malik Kafur is assassinated and it is Qutb-ud-Din Mubarak Shah, the third son of the sultan, who assumes power. He was himself assassinated in 1320 by one of his generals, Khusraw Khan, a converted Hindu. After four months at the head of the sultanate he is killed by Ghazi Malik who ascends the throne under the name of Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq (1320-1325) thus inaugurating the Tughluq dynasty. Despite the brevity of his reign he seized Bengal, independent since the death of Balban. On his return from this victorious campaign he was accidentally killed near Delhi. His son Muhammad ibn Tughluq naturally took the succession (1325-1351). This reign marks the apogee of the sultanate but also its decline. In 1327 Muhammad ibn Tughluq succeeded in annexing the three great Hindu kingdoms of the south and made Devagiri his second capital. He moves there to ensure the perfect control of this rich region. But very soon major troubles developed in the North, in the West and in Bengal. The Sultan is forced to return to quell the rebellion. He even succeeded in repelling the Mongols who had almost reached Delhi but he could not prevent the southern provinces from splitting into several independent states, including that of the Vijayanagar founded in 1336. Muhammad ibn Tughluq gradually lost his possessions in South India and can not prevent the founding of the Bahmani state at Deccan in 1347.

In 1351 his cousin Firuz Shah ascended the throne and led several campaigns more or less successful. Unlike his predecessors, Firuz Shah granted more autonomy to the nobles in order to avoid rebellions, but this had the effect of a loss of influence of the sultan in the political and economic decisions. In 1388, on the death of Firuz Shah, the sultanate is on the verge of implosion. The sons and grandsons of Firuz confront each other, leaving the Muslim and Hindu nobles to organize and assert their autonomy. In 1394, not having been able to separate, the partisans of the two pretenders to the throne trigger a civil war that will last three years. This weakening will allow Timur Lang (Tamerlane), already in possession of a vast empire in Central Asia, to enter India and seize Delhi in 1398. He defeated the army of the Sultanate and ransacked city ​​without mercy. In the 15th century the grip on North India was diluted and power was divided between different states.

The last Tughluq died in 1413. Khirz Khan then founded the Sayyid dynasty. The last Sayyid conveyed power in 1451 to Bahlul Lodi. In 1479 the latter annexed the neighboring Jaunpur after his victory over Mahmud Sharqui. Bahlul Lodi reigned from 1451 to 1489. His two successors, Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517) and Ibrahim Lodi (1517-1526) attempted to maintain this expansionist policy. Sikandar for example led campaigns against Bihar and made Agra its capital in 1504 to serve as a bridgehead to Rajasthan in particular. Ibrahim Lodi was even more autocratic than his predecessors. He had to watch several Afghan rebellions and face the Mughals led by Babur. In 1524 the latter took Lahore and defeated the sultan's armies. Ibrahim Lodi is killed near Delhi in 1526.

The Bahmani Dynasty

This dynasty arose out of a conflict between certain Muslim nobles and the sultan of Delhi. This rebellion ended in 1347 with the foundation of the sultanate Bahmani to the Deccan by Hasan Gangu. He ascends the throne under the name of Bahman Shah and establishes his capital at Gulbarga. Hasan Gangu will spend most of his reign to consolidate his kingdom. Upon his death in 1358 his son Muhammad Shah took over and decided to attack the Hindu kingdoms of Vijayanagar and Telingana. He used artillery extensively, which enabled him to beat armies much larger than his own. The Vijayanagar resisted better than the Telingana, who had to pay a heavy price after their defeat in 1363. Muhammad Shah succeeded in establishing solid foundations before he died in 1375.

His reign was also marked by the massive arrival of immigrants from Persia. These new arrivals soon had political influence and the founders of the Bahmani Sultanate (who called themselves the Deccanis) quickly became resentful towards these immigrants. His son, Mujahid, was assassinated in 1378 by his cousin himself assassinated by the followers of Mujahid who brought another of his cousins, Muhammad II, to the throne. His reign is especially marked by a period of peace and intellectual and artistic development. He died in 1397.

Succession is marked by conflicts of interest and family rivalries. It is finally Firuz, the cousin of Muhammad II, who ascends to the throne under the name of Firuz Shah Bahmani. To counterbalance the growing power of newcomers, he appointed Hindus to important positions and married Hindu women, including a princess Vijayanagar. The result will be a peace between the two kingdoms that will end ten years later with a war that will see the defeat of Firuz.

The consequences are such that he is obliged to abdicate in 1422 in favor of his brother Ahmad who becomes Sultan Shihab-ud-Din Ahmad. His first act is to move the capital of the sultanate of Gulbarga to Bidar. Conflicts broke out at the northern borders with the Malwa and Gujarat states. Allied with the Khandesh, Shihab-ud-Din Ahmad led unsuccessfully attacks against them in 1430. Ahmad designates his eldest son to succeed him. He ascended the throne in 1436 under the name of Ahmad II. Important conflicts between the nobles break out. In 1438, the armed forces composed exclusively of new arrivals won an important victory against the Khandesh. The newcomers succeeded in convincing the Sultan that the Deccanis were responsible for the defeats against Gujarat in 1430. The two factions eventually killed each other in 1446. The sultan restored order by restoring the key positions to new arrivals.

The Bahmani continue to face major problems with the Telingana and the Malwa. The successors of Ahmad II, Humayun (from 1458 to 1461) and Ahmad III (1461 to 1463), allied themselves with Gujarat against the Malwa. The kingdom is administered brilliantly by Mahmud Gawan. It was in his time that the Bahmani sultanate knew its maximum extension. When Muhammad III ascended the throne in 1463, Mahmud Gawan was appointed vizier. He launched a series of victorious campaigns in the west thus giving the commercial control of the west coast to the Bahmani. At the same time it strengthens the central power. It reformed the administration of the four provinces centered around the cities of Daulatabad, Mahur, Gulbarga and Bidar. He divides them in two to reduce the power of the governors. These remakes attracted the enmity of the nobles who plot against him and succeeded in convincing Muhammad III to execute it in 1481. This elimination provoked a wave of dissatisfaction among the new arrivals who left the capital following Yousouf Adil Khan, right arm of Mahmud Gawan. When Muhammad III died in 1482 the leader of the conspirators, Malik Naib, was appointed regent at the accession of Shihab-ud-Din Mahmud but was assassinated in 1486 because of his unpopularity. The Sultan then sought the support of the newcomers and had executed a large number of Deccanis who had attempted to assassinate him. But these troubles had the effect of the cohesion of the kingdom. In 1490 the provinces were virtually no longer controlled by the central government. Little by little the kingdom is divided into five states: the Ahmadnagar, the Bijapur, the Golconda, the Berar and the Bidar. There is always a sultan but he has only a secondary role. Moreover, when he died in 1538, the power passed into the hands of Amir Barid, son of the former prime minister of the Bidar, Qasim Barid. These states managed to ally themselves to fight the Vijayanagar and inflicted a severe defeat to Talikota in 1565. In 1574 the Ahmadnagar annexed the Bidar and then took an ascending position on the others. But in the end, it was the states of Bijapur and Golconda that came out the best, since they were the most southerly. The other states had indeed to undergo the assaults of the Mughals and were gradually annexed. At the end of the seventeenth century, the Bahmani sultanate had definitely ceased to exist.

The Vijayanagar Empire

The kingdom of Vijayanagar was founded in 1336 by two of the brothers Sangama, Harihara and Bukka. These had been captured by the Sultanate of Delhi in 1327 and then converted to Islam. They were sent back to the Deccan as governors of the Kampili. There they reconverted to Hinduism and proclaimed their independence.

Harihara ascended the throne in 1336 and made Vijayanagar its capital. For ten years the Sangamas extended their territory. In 1344 the Hoysala kingdom was defeated by the armies of Bukka and annexed to the kingdom Vijayanagar. This progression stops with the creation of the Sultanate Bahmani in 1347. Bukka succeeded his brother in 1356 and engaged a series of campaigns against the Bahmani. Beaten in 1359, he is obliged to pay a heavy tribute to the sultanate.

The Vijayanagar kingdom was at that time divided into provinces ruled by the Sangama brothers or their sons. Bukka, wishing to assert his power, had his nephews replaced by his partisans. Bukka's son, Harihara II, maintained this policy after his accession to the throne in 1377, which had the effect of creating conflicts of interest in the provinces. But he succeeded, however, in extending the frontiers of the kingdom, in maintaining order and in restraining the Bahmani. In addition, access and control of the eastern and western coasts gave the Vijayanagar a dominant commercial position. The death of Harihara II in 1404 gives rise to a struggle of succession between his sons. Devaraya I was finally crowned in 1406. He reorganized the army by developing the cavalry and the use of the archers. He died in 1422 leaving the succession to Ramcandra then Vijaya. Their short reigns will be marked by severe military defeats against the Bahmani and the loss of Reddi territories.

In 1432 Devaraya II ascended the throne. It takes over the lost territories and leads the countryside to the south in Sri Lanka and Kerala. It was during his reign that the Vijayanagar empire experienced its greatest extension. The son of Devaraya II, Mallikarjuna, succeeded in 1446. This new period saw the diminution of the central power and the loss of certain territories in favor of the Bahmani and the state of Orissa. This weakening is reinforced by the fact that when Mallikarjuna died in 1465, one of his cousins, Virupaksha, took power. This usurpation is not accepted by the descendants of Mallikarjuna and by some provincial governors. They retreated south of the kingdom they ruled in semi-independence. The Vijayanagar lose control of the western coasts after the Bahmani attack led by Mahmud Gawan.

In 1485 Virupaksha is assassinated by one of his sons in turn killed by one of his brothers. A small clan leader, Saluma Narasimha, takes advantage of the confusion to take control of the kingdom and set up his own dynasty. At his death in 1491 he left the reins of power to his prime minister, Narasa Nayaka, after having appointed him regent. The eldest son of Saluma Narasimha is murdered and his brother is crowned as Immadi Narasimha in 1492. But the latter has no control over power. He is almost imprisoned by Narasa Nayaka who manages to rebuild the kingdom despite the sling of some provincial governors.

At his death in 1503, it was his son who took his suite under the name of Vira Narasimha. He ordered the execution of Immadi Narasimha in 1505 and usurped the throne by installing the Tuluva dynasty. Krishna Deva Raya succeeds his brother in 1509. He is considered the greatest king Vijayanagar. To strengthen centralization he appoints Brahmans and non-nobles to important posts. He won military victories against the Bahmani states and against Orissa. Moreover, it manages to maintain good relations with the Portuguese who take more and more importance. Finally, he develops culture and the arts.

Before dying in 1529, Krishna Deva Raya appointed her half-brother Achyuta Deva Raya to succeed him. The latter managed to repel the enemies of the Vijayanagar kingdom who continued their attacks. After a few years of reign he is imprisoned by his Prime Minister Rama Raya with whom he had agreed to share power. But he was quickly freed under the pressure of his supporters who organized revolts. A short civil war ensued. His reign ended in 1542 without the borders moving, but the internal confrontations considerably weakened the central power.

Rama Raya manages to take effective control of the country and causes Sadasiva, the nephew of Achutya, to ascend the throne. This period is marked by various alliances between Rama Raya and the leaders of the Bahmani states. In 1548 he helped that of the Ahmadnagar against the Bidar and in 1557 he allied himself with the Bijapur against the Golconda. Because of these defeats, Ahmadganar and Golconda decided to form an alliance to end the Vijayanagar. In 1564 they succeeded in uniting the five Bahmani states under the same banner. In 1565 the Bahmani crushed Vijayanagar forces during the famous Battle of Talikota. The big cities of the Vijayanagar empire are sacked and the great temples are destroyed. Rama Raya is imprisoned and executed. His brother Tirumala manages to escape with the king in the South.

The kingdom is therefore not dead, and Tirumala settled at Penukonda to rebuild the army. In 1570 he usurped power and ascended the throne by inaugurating the Aravidu dynasty. In 1572 his son Sriranga succeeded him and pursued the policy of reconstruction. But the nobles have become aware that their interest lies more in the creation of small states rather than the re-establishment of a central power. Sriranga died without descent in 1585 and left the throne to his brother Venkata II.

In the 1580s a series of wars allowed the Vijayanagar to recover certain territories, but Venkata spent most of his reign to subdue the rebellions, especially that of the Nayaka of Madurai in 1601. Thanks to their good relations with Venkata, Portuguese established a Jesuit mission in 1607 and the Dutch were authorized to build a fort in Pulicat. In 1614 the nephew of Venkara, Sriranga II, ascended to the throne but was assassinated four months later with all his family by a part of the nobles. There is only one survivor, Rama Deva Raya, who regains the throne after a long civil war in 1617.

His reign was marked by incessant factional struggles until his death in 1630. His successor Venkata III faced the growing power of governors and provincial leaders. The Bahmani states of Bijapur and Golconda take advantage of this weakness. Venkata's own nephew allied himself with Bijapur but returned to the throne when his uncle died in 1642 under the name of Sriranga. In 1645 the combined forces of Bijapur and Golconda detonated the Vijayanagar forces and put an end to what remained of the empire. Sriranga died in 1672.

The Moghul Empire

The beginnings of the Mughal empire in India began with the conquests of a descendant of Timur, Zahir-ud-Din Muhammad Babur. He came from Central Asia in 1504 to attack Kabul and Ghazni in Afghanistan and Samarkand in 1511. He realized that India could serve as a breeding ground for his empire. Between 1519 and 1524 he rushed to the Punjab. Victorious he continues his route to Delhi then controlled by Ibrahim Lodi. The armies of the sultanate of Delhi do not resist the artillery of Babur and Delhi falls in 1526. Babur decides to attack the Rajput which threaten its power. In 1527 he beat the armies of Rana Sanga in Khanua. At the same time he must fight the forces of the Sultan of Bengal in the east. In 1529 he won the battle of Ghagra but failed to assert his power over this region. It will be his last blow. Babur died in December 1530.

Map of the Mughal Empire

Map of the Mughal Empire

His son Humayun succeeded him. His reign begins badly as he runs into the East Afghans led by Sher Khan of the Suri dynasty. He fails to hold the Malwa and the Gujarat which he had nevertheless conquered. He was beaten again at the battle of Chausa in June 1539. In the aftermath he lost Agra and Kannauj. Obliged to retreat more and more he exiles to Iran in 1543 to seek help.

Meanwhile, Sher Khan, who became Sher Shah, expands and strengthens his empire. He died in May 1545 during the siege of Kalinjar by transmitting power to his son Islam Shah. Less brilliant than his father, his reign is marked by short intrigues and insurrections. His son Firuz ascended the throne in 1553 but was immediately assassinated by his uncle. The cohesion of the Suri empire is no longer assured and its partition is inevitable.

Returning to Kabul, Humayun took advantage of the situation. In December 1554 he crossed the Indus, captured Lahore in February 1555, then Delhi and Agra in July. After 12 years of exile Humayun ascends the throne of Delhi. There he died in January 1556. His son Akbar was then proclaimed emperor. The government is entrusted to the regent Bayram Khan. Akbar, as soon as he came to power, reconquered the territories lost by his father. In November 1556 he beat the Suri at Panipat. In March 1560 he resigned Bayram Khan. Pursuing his policy of conquests, he conquered the Malwa and the city of Chunar in 1561 and successfully attacked Rajasthan. In 1562, in order to strengthen his alliance with them, he married a Princess Rajput.

Now a monarch with almost absolute power, Akbar decides directly on the main political orientations. One of the most important decisions was to abolish in 1563 the discriminatory laws against which Hindus were victims. He understood the need to entrust the defense of the empire to all ethnic and religious representations. He therefore appointed clan chiefs to control the border areas. The Muslim Orthodox will vainly attempt to oppose these liberal laws. Akbar decides to throw all his strength into the conquest of Rajasthan which still resists him. Its control would ensure total control over northern India. In 1568 he plundered Chittor, capital of the Mewar. His victory at Ranthambor in 1569 enabled him to control the greater part of Rajasthan. Akbar then turned to Gujarat and Bengal. The first falls in 1573. To celebrate this victory, Akbar founds the city of Fatehpur Sikri and in fact its capital. Bengal is annexed in 1576.

During the years 1580 and 1590 Akbar ensures control of the borders of the northwest. He annexed Kashmir in 1586 and the Ahmadnagar kingdom in 1595. At his death in October 1605 Akbar the Great left a powerful empire consisting of 15 provinces that stretched all over northern India.

Jahangir, son of Akbar, ascends the throne. He must quickly subdue a rebellion led by his eldest son. In 1606 the Shah Abbas I of Iran besieged Qandahar but the armies of Jahangir make it retreat. In 1613 Prince Khurram (future Shah Jahan) was appointed Supreme Commander of the Armies. He is sent to the Mewar to take control of it which is done in 1615 when Rana Amar Singh recognizes the authority of the Mughals. In 1622 Abbas attacked again. Prince Khurram is sent there but he rebels against Jahangir and the fortress of Qandahar falls.

Khurram then tries to capture Fatehpur Sikri but, beaten, he is obliged to flee to Deccan and then to Bengal. All his plans for conquests failed one after the other, so that he surrendered in 1626. His father pardoned him and appointed him governor of Balaghat. Jahangir died in November 1627. When he ascended the throne, Prince Khurram took the name of Shah Jahan. To stifle any dispute it makes kill all potential contenders. From the beginning of his reign, Shah Jahan faced rebellions, including Khan Jahan Lodi, governor of Deccan, and Hindus Jujhar Singh. This lack of control over the Deccan forces Shah Jahan to ally with the Bijapur. This treaty temporizes the advance of the Mughals towards the south and allows the Bijapur and the Golconda to conquer the Hindu provinces of the South. The Mughals took advantage of this to reconquer Qandahar in 1638 and to strengthen the borders of the East. In 1648 Shah Jahan moved the capital from Agra to Delhi. After this date relations between the Mughals and the Bahmani states of the Deccan deteriorate. In 1656 they attacked the Bijapur and in 1657 the Golconda.

The reign of Shah Jahan is also marked by a great architectural development of Agra. In 1631, after the death of his wife, he decided to build a mausoleum. This will be the Taj Mahal. In 1657 Shah Jahan falls ill. There followed a struggle of succession between his sons, of whom Aurangzeb emerged victorious in 1659. He imprisoned his father in the fort of Agra where he died in February 1666 and proclaimed himself emperor. For more than ten years he totally controls the empire and adds territories. He goes back on the policy of opening his predecessors to non-Muslims and advocates for a return of fundamental Islamist values. He forbade the Hindus, for example, to build new temples and even to destroy Hindu teaching sites. They are raising taxes considerably to finance their military campaigns. Thus, in the early 1670s, severe regional disturbances arose, notably in Punjab with the Sikhs and in the Mewar with the Rajputs who had received the support of Akbar, one of the sons of Aurangzeb. This war ended prematurely in June 1681 because Aurangzeb left in pursuit of Akbar who in the meantime allied himself with the Marathes of the Deccan. In 1686 and 1687 he annexed the Bijapur and the Golconda in order to isolate the Marathas. He captured their Sambhaji king and had him executed in 1689. But despite all his efforts Aurangzeb will never succeed in eliminating the Marathi resistance. He died on February 20, 1707.

The new emperor is called Bahadur Shah. From the beginning of his reign he tries to regain control of the Rajput states but without great success. He also faces the threat of the Marathes in the Deccan and the Sikhs in the Punjab. The latter are taken by Banda Bahadur and they quickly take control of the Delhi region. Many peasants converted to Sikhism to support Banda in his struggle. He is crowned and strikes money. Bahadur Shah will never be able to crush the Sikh movement. Banda was captured only in 1715 by the governor of Punjab and executed with hundreds of his followers in Delhi.

On the death of Bahadur Shah in February 1712, the coffers of the Mughal empire were empty. The royal princes and the most powerful nobles tore themselves apart for the succession. It is finally Prince Jahandar Shah who ascends to the throne but the real power is in the hand of the vizier Zulfiqar Khan. The latter is convinced that the survival of the empire requires reconciliation with the Rajputs and Marathas. He is returning to a policy of appeasing the Hindus and trying to reform the economy. But in 1713 Farrukh-Siyar, supported by brothers Sayyid Abdullah Khan and Husayn Khan, overthrew Jahandar Shah and Zulfiqar Khan. It was under his reign that the Sikh revolt was definitively stifled.

In 1719 the emperor was deposed by the Sayyid brothers following political dissensions. In eight months the brothers succeeded three princes on the throne. The third, Muhammad Shah, emancipates himself and remains in his place when a powerful group of nobles overthrows the Sayyid brothers in 1720. From then on, state politics is governed only by the personal interests of these nobles. which has the effect of precipitating the decline of the Mughal empire. The various provinces are redefining their links with the central power of Delhi. This general weakening benefited Nadir Shah, king of Iran, who invaded India in 1738. In 1739 he took Delhi, imprisoned Muhammad Shah and massacred the local population. The Marathas also took advantage of them to take over, among others, the Malwa. Punjab is occupied by the forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali, one of Nadir Shah's lieutenants. Muhammad Shah died in April 1748.

In 11 years, four princes succeeded him: Ahmad Shah (1748-1754), Alamgit II (1754-1759), Shah Jahan III (1759) and Shah Alam II. This period is marked by the struggle between the Marathas and the Afghans for the control of northern India in general and of Delhi in particular. On January 14, 1761, the forces of Ahmad Shah Abdali defeated Marathes forces in Panipat, which put an end to their dreams of expansion. In the meantime, the Sikhs succeeded in regaining control of the Punjab. Timur Shah succeeded Ahmad Shah Abdali in 1772.

The marathes

Marathas are groups of peasant-warriors who in the 17th and 18th centuries formed the only power capable of rivaling that of the Mughals. The most important of these clans is that of the Bhonsles.

Map of the Marathi Empire

Map of the Marathi Empire

The first great figure was Marathi Shivaji Bhonsle, whose power emerged in the 1660s. In 1664 he captured Surat which was then the most important port controlled by the Mughals. Shivaji signed a peace treaty with Aurangzeb, but he had him imprisoned in 1666 while in Agra. He manages to escape and takes its territorial expansion campaigns until his death in 1680. His son Sambhaji succeeded him but he was captured and executed by the Mughals in 1689. His brother Rajaram who took over the reins of power. He entrenched himself for eight years in the fortress of Senji besieged by the Mogholes armies.

In 1708 Sahu succeeds Rajaram. His reign marks a turning point because he sees the rise of power of the peshwas who are the Brahman prime ministers. The first important peshwa is Balaji Visvanath. It is at the origin of the renewal of the Marathi power. He and his successor, Baji Rao, bureaucratized the Marathi state and took a model on the Mughals.

Marathas develop an effective network of trade and finance. They also increase their influence on the seas to such an extent that they threaten the European colonies.

The Bhonsle lineage is split. The main branch remains at the heart of the Deccan at Satara while the other two leave for Kolhapur and Nagpur. The Kolhapur branch, which had refused to recognize the authority of Sahu, negotiated with the Mughals. They later allied themselves with the English during the Anglo-Marathic wars. The Nagpur branch, led by Raghuji Bhonsle and loyal to the authority of Satara invaded Bengal in 1742 and Bihar in the 1750s.

Other clans are under the authority of Satara. The most important are the Gaikwad, the Sindhia and the Holkar. The Gaikwad, also under the authority of the Dabhade lineage, took advantage of the dissensions between the Peshwa and the Dabhad to consolidate their position, especially after the death of Sahu. They negotiate with the peshwas and obtain a territory in Gujarat with Baroda as capital. They later allied themselves with the East India Company.

The Holkar emerged in the 1730s and it was under Ahalya Bai that they reached their peak by controlling the main trade routes. The Sindhia consolidated their power under Mahadaji Sindhia after the Battle of Panipat in 1761. He intervened at the Mughal court of Shah Alam II and extended his influence over much of northern India. But this influence both interferes with the Indian Company and the Peshwas. Daulat Rao Sindhai, the successor of Mahadaji, was defeated by the English in 1803 and was to surrender his territories.

European expansion in India

When he disembarked at Calicut in 1498, the Portuguese navigator Vasco de Gama firmly re-established the links between Europe and India. It was his successors Francisco de Almeida and Alfonso de Albuquerque who built the foundations of the Portuguese Empire in India. They built forts and took Goa in 1510, Malacca in Southeast Asia in 1511 and Ormuz in 1515. These conquests were aimed at controlling commercial traffic on the Indian Ocean.

This Portuguese rule came to an end in 1580 when Portugal was annexed to Spain. The Spanish military fleet (the Invincible Armada) was itself defeated in 1588, which opened the way to the Indies to England and Holland. The Dutch first arrived in 1595. Their sole objective was to establish a profitable trade route, especially by treating spices. They first went to Indonesia and then only to India. The Dutch had a monopolistic view of the spice trade, which required the elimination of rivals. They first got rid of the Portuguese who had regained their independence and then of the English which they excluded from Indonesia after the destruction of the factories of Amboyna in 1623. The Dutch then can create the Dutch Company of the East Indies to organize the trade .

The commercial destinies of the English were from the beginning entrusted to the East India Company alone in 1600. It consisted of a powerful group of merchants attracted by the promises of wealth.

Like its Dutch competitor, the main objective of the Compagnie des Indes is the spices of Indonesia and secondly those of India. The English and the Dutch therefore clash from the start. In 1623 the Dutch destroyed the English factories of Amboyna and massacred the occupants.

In India, the English had established an embassy in the court of the emperor Mughal Jahangir but ran into Portuguese maritime power.

In 1612 the British victory of Swally Hole against the Portuguese alters the deal. Sir Thomas Roe signed an agreement with the Mughals. This allows the English to build fortified places to ensure the safety of their merchant ships in exchange for naval military aid. Thanks to this treaty, and after the massacre of Amboyna, the English decide to carry all their efforts of conquest on India.

Unlike the Dutch who play on the rarity of their luxury goods, the English are playing on the volume of goods to increase their profits. The British company soon became more profitable than its Dutch competitor, since it employed only a limited number of armed forces to control a smaller area.

The Company, on the other hand, has difficulties in England. King Charles I supported a rival company and Oliver Cromwell put an end to the monopoly until 1657. In 1698, after their accession to power, the Whigs created a new company but it would never succeed in imposing itself in front of the old one. In 1702 the government decided to merge.

In India the Company experienced a major setback in 1690 after attacking the Aurangzeb Moghol emperor. The same year Job Charnock founded Calcutta. The Company strengthens its most important places. At the end of the seventeenth century, the English power concentrated on Madras, Calcutta and Bombay.

France is the third largest commercial force in India. His first attempts at installation were slowed down by the Portuguese. The first company worthy of the name was created by Colbert under Louis XIV in 1664. In 1674 Pondicherry, in the South of India, is ceded to them by a local raja. They also obtained Chandernagor in the same way north of Calcutta in 1692. Initially the company mixes political ambition and commercial interests. It was under the impulse of François Martin that trade really took off from 1774.

In 1693 the Dutch took Pondicherry, which they returned to French four years later after the Treaty of Ryswick. However, commercial development was halted and the company was virtually dismantled. In 1720 it was rebuilt and new counters were opened (Mahé in 1722, Karikal in 1725 and Yanaon in 1739).

The Franco-British struggles

While things seem calm in India, the war is raging in Europe. It was not long before the Franco-British struggle crystallized in India. The English decide to break the commercial links between France and Asia. In 1741 Joseph-François Dupleix was appointed governor. In September 1746, the Count of La Bourdonnais captured Madras and the English admiral Boscawen was defeated at Pondicherry in 1748. The two belligerents then signed a peace treaty at Aachen. The French make Madras in exchange for territories in North America.

Dupleix exploited the political turmoil in the Deccan to try to ruin the English trade in South India by establishing a kind of protectorate.

But this interference irritates the shareholders of the French company and in 1754 Dupleix is ​​recalled to France, replaced by Charles Godeheu. The latter has the task of signing treaties with the English. He gives them back Madras. But in 1756 the Seven Years' War broke out in Europe. General Lally, Baron de Tollendal, was sent to India. After a series of victories in 1758, he collided with the forces of Robert Clive who took Chandernagor to the French and Calcutta to the nawab of Bengal during the Battle of Plassey. Lally-Tollendal was defeated at Wandiwash in January 1760 and capitulated in Pondicherry after eight months of siege in January 1761. The French threat to British interests was definitely rejected.

English expansion

On June 20, 1756, the nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah, attacked Calcutta and seized it after four days of siege. The forces of Robert Clive stationed at Deccan are sent there and take again the city on January 2, 1757. Clive, who should have left again to Madras to fight the French, decides to stay in Calcutta. He signed a treaty with Siraj-ud-Daulah and took Chandernagor to the French.

Map of the English expansion

Map of the English expansion

On 23 June 1757 he broke with Siraj and triggered the Battle of Plassey during which Siraj was beaten. The latter is arrested, executed and replaced by Mir Jafar, backed by Clive.

In 1759 he confronted the pretender to the Mughal throne (the future Shah Alam II) in Patna. It also rejects the Dutch who will no longer be able to win in the region. At the height of his glory, Clive left Calcutta for England on February 25, 1760. This British domination of a rich region suddenly gave the British merchants great power. A struggle of influence was established between the Company and the nawab. Mir Jafar is overthrown by Mir Qasim who reaffirms his authority. But both sides are short of money. Nawab no longer collects property taxes and the Company no longer receives subsidies. The confrontation is inevitable and intervenes in 1763. After some battles, Mir Qasim fled to Avadh. He returned the following year with the emperor Mughal Shah Alam II but was definitely beaten in Buxar. The British now control the whole of Bengal.

In London, Clive took control of the Company and was appointed governor. He returned to India in May 1765. The political situation was confused. The Mughal emperor is at the boot of the English and Mir Jafar has been restored. Upon his arrival Clive decided to give Bengal a status in its own right. The influence of the Moghul Emperor Shah Alam is still important even if his effective power is reduced to its congruent portion. Clive does not want to eliminate it completely. It negotiates and obtains the collection of taxes in Bengal and Bihar. He entrusts this task to a general collector, Muhammad Rida Khan. The nawab retains the judiciary but is now totally dependent on the Company. Bengal is therefore run by the British who act on behalf of the emperor using Indian personnel. But we can not yet speak of a colony. The administration is Mughal, the laws applied to the country are those of the Islamic code, the language used by the officials is Persian.

Clive reinforces his power within the Company. He created a trading company which holds a monopoly on salt.

Robert Clive left Calcutta in February 1767. The enrichment of English merchants living in India reached a peak. They almost all trade for their own account and undermine the economy of Bengal. They have enormous means to put pressure on their Indian rivals and arrange with the administration to monopolize the trade in certain products.

In 1772 Warren Hastings was appointed governor. It very quickly puts in place reforms. The Company takes responsibility for the collection of taxes and the Indian tax collectors are replaced by British. It also sets up a network of courts to replace those of the nawab. The law remains the Islamist law but is now administered by English at least incompetent in the matter. In practice it is often the assessors of the English judges who render decisions.

In 1773 the British Parliament passed the Regulating Act, which made Hastings the Governor General of Fort William in Bengal and the Superintendent of Madras and Bombay. His term of office went from one to four years. It also provides for the creation of a supreme court to deal with the legal problems of the English living in India and the creation of a council headed by Hastings and four persons appointed by decree. Hastings has no right of veto on the board and he will often be put in a minority. The struggle between the Governor General and the Council will last for years.

At the same time as the Regulating Act, the government voted a £ 1.4 million loan to the company.

In 1784 Parliamentarian William Pitt passed a bill reforming the privileges of the Indian Company. The directors remain in charge of trade but the political decisions are now taken by a Board of Control whose president becomes in a way the prime minister of India. The Governor General may be dismissed by the Crown and the Company must be audited every 20 years from 1793. The Government will also benefit from these audits to reduce the power of the company.

Relations with Mysore and the Marathas

When Warren Hastings was appointed governor in 1772 the British and the state of Mysore led by Hyder Ali have already clashed. Hastings must also face the Marathas and their demands.

In 1780 the second war with Mysore was declared. Hyder Ali and the Marathi, united by their common interests, took Madras to the India Company and controlled Karnataka. Hastings sends troops and in 1781 the military balance is restored. Hyder Ali died in 1782. His son Tipu Sultan signed the Mangalore Treaty, which ended the war and restored the status quo.

In theory, the Pitt Act of 1784 prohibits the Company from engaging in confrontations with neighboring states. However, it can not avoid the third war of Mysore in 1790. Tipu Sultan lost half of its territory as a result of this confrontation. In 1792 the English realized that only total control of India would prevent these wars and ensure the security of trade. This feeling is reinforced by the threat of the French who support the kings and the local princes.

In 1798 Lord Wellesley was appointed Governor General with the mission of extending British rule. Upon his arrival he attacked Tipu Sultan and triggered the fourth war of Mysore. The English armies take Srirangapatnam, the capital of the state of Mysore. Tipu Sultan is killed during the confrontation. Mysore is divided between the Company and a Hindu prince whom Wellesley raises to the throne.

The governor general then turned to the state of Avadh in northern India. The death of its leader, Asaf-ud-Daulah, in 1797, had triggered a war of succession. Moreover, Afghans threatened to invade neighboring Punjab. Wellesley is negotiating with the new nawab of Avadh so that it allows the English troops to position itself on its territory to protect it in exchange for a financial contribution. But when he wants to abdicate in favor of his son and the English refuse, he denounces the treaty. But it's too late. Wellesley annexed half of the state in 1801.

The Marathas then constituted the last bastion of resistance to the English extension. In 1800 dissensions linked to problems of succession arise and weaken the power Marathi. Wellesley then took advantage of the opportunity. He signed the treaty of Bassein on December 31, 1802 with one of the parties in the presence what allows him to station troops in Pune. This action provoked the second war Marathe that the British end up gaining difficulty in 1805. Lord Wellesley is however recalled and replaced by Lord Minto.

English domination

Lord Minto strengthens the north-western borders because the Russian threat is pressing. Diplomatic missions are sent to Afghanistan, Persia and Punjab. Only the latter state, led by the Sikhs of Ranjit Singh, negotiates with the English. The treaty of Amritsar was signed in 1809.

Map of the English domination of India

Map of the English domination of India

Lord Hastings was appointed Governor-General in 1813. He faced the Gurkha of Nepal, who had several times repulsed the armies of Bengal. The two parties signed the Kathmandu Treaty in 1816. In exchange for Nepal's independence, the British had access to the mountains and made Shimla their summer capital.

In 1813, on the occasion of the audit and renewal of its concession, the East India Company lost its trade monopoly and India was declared a British territory. 1818 marks an important turning point in the history of India. For the first time Britain dominates almost all of India.

This domination made it urgent to organize a coherent Indian policy that only Bengal had. At the initiative of William Pitt, Lord Cornwallis had reorganized the administration of Bengal in particular by anglicizing it, increasing salaries and reducing corruption. His most important reform was the collection of taxes.

This Bengal model served as a reference for the other regions, but it undergoes modifications as it develops. In the south, Sir Thomas Munro used the model of government but profoundly changed that of taxes. In the West, Mountstuart Elphinstone had to reconcile the Marathas with the English administration. That is why he allowed the nobles to keep their lands and some of their privileges. In the north, Sir Charles Metcalfe tried to preserve as much as possible the autonomy of the villages.

The administration was therefore largely influenced by the Indian model even though it was totally locked by the British. The Governor-General had replaced the Emperor, but the Company had taken care to preserve the splendor which surrounded it.

In England the debate was raging between those who wanted India to be regarded as a commercial exploitation area managed by the India Company, those who demanded that the government in India be responsible for settlers and colonized, and those who tried to to assert French human rights.

The true reformer of India remains Lord Bentinck. It introduces realistic administrative reforms but respecting local traditions. It makes English the administrative and judicial language. He is also responsible for balancing the accounts of the Company in India for the audit of 1833. From a social point of view Bentinck confirms the prohibition of sati (ritual immolation of Hindu widows) and fiercely fights thugs, organized criminal gangs that kill and rob in the name of the goddess Kali.

India passes from a hereditary state under Mogul influence to a colonized state under western influence.

The First Afghan War

British India was bordered to the northwest by the Sikh kingdom of Ranjit Singh, which had annexed Kashmir in 1819. Beyond the borders of the Sikh state was Afghanistan whose political situation suddenly changed in the 1830s The British, who had hitherto been neutral, began to take an interest in it because of the advance of the Russian armies in Central Asia. The English considered Afghanistan to be a bridgehead for an enemy power and thus threaten their supremacy in India.

In 1836 Lord Auckland was appointed Governor-General. He is in charge of getting ahead of the Russians in Afghanistan. His goal is to place on the throne Shah Shoja the Afghan king in exile. In 1839 the English occupy Kabul but the restoration of Shah Shoja is problematic because of its unpopularity. The British decided to use force and imposed themselves as a force of occupation. In 1841 a revolt upset the English garrison. After the Russian threat had subsided, the new governor, Lord Ellenborough, decided to evacuate Kabul.

This war had the effect of provoking the anger of the clan leaders who controlled the state of Sindh. The armies of Auckland, bypassing the Punjab held by the Sikhs, had indeed crossed Sindh in defiance of a treaty signed seven years earlier. In 1843, after defeating the resistance, the British annexed the Sindh.

The annexation of Punjab

The Punjab, controlled by the Sikhs, reached its peak under Ranjit Singh. After expanding its territory to the north-west and south-west, it signed the treaty of Amritsar with the English in 1809 and stops its progress towards the south-east. Ranjit Singh then had a powerful army well trained.

In 1839 Ranjit Singh died. For six years, the kingdom fell into recession. In December 1845, the leaders decided to cross the border and declare the first Anglo-Sikh war. Intense and bloody fighting ensued and led to the victory of the English in February 1846. Both parties signed the Treaty of Lahore which granted the cession of Kashmir to England, which sold it to the Hindu king Gulab Singh. Britain however renounces annexing Punjab in order not to provoke the Sikhs still very numerous. But in 1848 a revolt erupted and led to the second Anglo-Sikh war, even more bloody than the first. In March 1849, the English crushed the Sikh revolt and permanently annexed the Punjab.

The Westernization of India

Lord Dalhousie was appointed governor-general in 1848. He was convinced of the superiority of Western culture over the Indian culture, promoted English education and imposed the English administration as much as possible. He practices the edoctrine of the interruption which concerned the Hindu states whose leaders had no heirs. In such cases, the Hindu law allowed the designation of a new king by adoption, but Dalhousie decided that such a choice should now be approved by the British government. The latter has the power to interrupt the succession at the head of a state and therefore to annex it purely and simply. This is what will happen in Satara in 1848, in Jhansi in 1853 and in Nagpur in 1854.

The revolt of the sepoys

On May 10, 1857, in Meerut, the Indian soldiers of the Bengal army (the sepoys) decided to release their comrades imprisoned after refusing to use the new cartridges. The latter were coated with pig fat and bovine fat, which was obviously unacceptable to Muslim or Hindu soldiers.

This revolt broke out at the time of Westernization of India. The British were increasingly hostile to local traditions and the gap between the English officers and the sepoys continued to widen.

The mutineers killed the English officers and headed for Delhi 65 km away where no English soldiers were stationed. The Indian garrison of Delhi joins the movement and the city falls to the hands of the mutineers. They put the Mogul Emperor Bahadur Shah II at their head.

The mutiny spread to Kanpur and then to Lucknow. But lack of organization and distractions prevent the mutineers from being truly effective. On 20 September 1857 the English resumed Delhi after the surrender of the Mughal emperor. On 1 March 1858, Sir Colin Campbell captured Lucknow and Sir Hugh Rose took control of the Gwalior on 20 June. This last battle ended the Great Mutiny.

The repression is bloody and pitiless. Thousands of Delhi's inhabitants are being killed without any further trial. The order was restored by the first Viceroy of the Indies, Charles Canning, appointed in 1858. The army was obviously completely reorganized. While there were 1 English soldier for 5 Indian soldiers before the mutiny, the ratio is reduced to 1: 2. English battalions are stationed in all major cities.

The establishment of the British raj

On August 2, 1858, the English Parliament passed the Government of India Act, which passed on the power of the East India Company to the British Crown. Government control in India is entrusted to the Viceroy and civil servants are brought together under the administration of the Indian Civil Service (ICS).

Lord Canning announced that the kings and princes of the Indian states were free to choose their heir if they agreed to take the oath of allegiance to the British Crown. A third of the territory is thus administered by vassals. The new policy put in place advocates non-intervention in religious matters in order to avoid any risk of mutiny.

The British who live and work in India are gradually isolating themselves in their cantonments and private clubs, avoiding as much as possible contact with the indigenous population.

The Great Mutiny has cost dear to India and the Indian government has to bring money back to the caisses. The main source of income is the labor of the land, followed by that of the trade in opium and then that generated by the salt tax.

The British developed the economy by extending the railway network. From 300 kilometers of railways in 1858 to 8000 in 1869 and to 56,000 in 1914. This gigantic network allows the rapid delivery of commodities and raw materials to the ports where the goods are exported to England. But this economic policy has the effect of destroying crafts and indigenous industry.

The coal mines of Bihar and Orissa are beginning to be intensively exploited in order to feed the locomotives. The production went from 50000 tons in 1868 to more than 20 million tons in 1920.

The main plantations are those of tea and coffee. In 1871, the 300 tea plantations listed cover 12,000 hectares and production is soon exceeding that of China. In 1877 Queen Victoria became Empress of the Indies.

The Second Afghan War

Lord Lytton, the Viceroy of the day, was instructed by Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli to carry out an interventionist policy in Afghanistan. England is indeed worried by the advance of the Russians in Central Asia. Lytton sends a mission to Afghanistan, but Shir Ali, the leader of the country, refuses to let her enter her territory. Yet Shir Ali receives Russian General Stolyetov in Kabul in 1878. This is too much for Lytton who launched an offensive on Afghanistan on November 21, 1878. Shir Ali fled and settled in exile. Soon the British army occupied Kabul and signed a treaty with Yaqub Kahn the son of Shir Ali on 26 May 1879.

In exchange for the protection of the British army, Yaqub Khan agreed that the British ambassador would manage foreign relations. But the latter, Sir Louis Cavagnari, was assassinated on September 3, 1879. In retaliation, the British deposed Yaqub Khan and left the throne vacant until July 1880.

In 1893 Lord Lansdowne, Vice-King between 1888 and 1894, sent a diplomatic mission to Kabul to begin negotiations on the delimitation of the Indo-Afghan borders. The line of demarcation was drawn in 1896 and brought certain tribes into British territory.

The annexation of Burma

In 1852 the Second Anglo-Burman War had left the kingdom of Ava in Burma, independent of the English power. The relations between King Mindon and the English merchants are cordial. But in 1879 Thibaw, son of Mindon, ascended the throne and refused to renew the treaty binding his kingdom and England and turned to France with which he signed a treaty in January 1885.

Lord Dufferin, Vice-King between 1884 and 1888, decided to send 10,000 troops to Burma in November 1885 and set off the third Anglo-Burman War. Quick and inexpensive in human lives the conflict ended with the annexation of the kingdom of Ava on 1 January 1886.

The emergence of the Indian nationalist movement

The first nationalist movements emerged in response to the consolidation of British power and the increasing influence of Western culture in India.

Educated Indians who had a position with the Indian Civil Service were rather rare. One of them, Surendranath Banerjea, is dismissed because of his nationalist activities. He founded a newspaper, an association and convened the first Indian national conference in 1883 in Calcutta. Other associations, led by people like Mahadev Ranade, Krishna Gokhale, Gangadhar Tilak, appear at the same time in other provinces.

Tilak is the leader of the revolutionary movements. He turns to an Orthodox Hinduism and seeks inspiration there. Tilak's obsession is to restore Swaraj, that is to say, the autonomy of the country.

In 1885 two nationalist currents emerged: the Indian National Congress and the Muslim movement. The first meeting of the Congress is organized by a former British official of the ICS, Allan Hume, in Bombay on 28 December 1885. It brings together 73 representatives of the Indian provinces. Almost three-quarters are English-speaking Hindu Brahmins. A list of grievances is addressed to the British government asking for political and economic reforms. Dadabhai Naoroji, three times President of Congress, believes that the poverty of the Indian people is due to the British exploitation of India which he considers to be plunder.

The British, however, totally ignore Congress and its claims. They regard these movements as those of a tiny minority of extremists. Congress, however, became more and more influential and saw the number of its delegates increase each year (1248 in 1888).

The first partition of Bengal

At the beginning of the twentieth century the British have more and more difficult to administer Bengal because of its size and the number of inhabitants. In 1905 the Viceroy Lord Curzon decided to cut Bengal in two by creating a Hindu zone to the west and a Muslim zone to the east with Dacca as capital. Congress condemns this partition and supports the Bengalis who regard this separation as a crime against their mother country. The latter decide to boycott English products and wear only traditional clothing made in India. This protest movement has the effect of boosting the local economy.

As the Congress calls for swaraj, the Muslim League is created in 1906 in Dhaka. Muslims support the partition of Bengal and condemn the boycott.

1906 marks the victory of the Liberal Party in England. John Morley, Secretary of State for India, embarked on a series of reforms. Advocating racial equality, he appointed a Muslim councilor and a Hindu councilor. He succeeded in placing an Indian on the Executive Council of the Viceroy and voted the Indian Councils Act in 1909 which allows the election of Indian representatives on the provincial councils. In 1910, 135 Indians were thus elected.

But in India, the Vice-King Lord Minto, does everything to prevent or slow down the implementation of the reforms. The Indian representatives are still allowed to debate during the vote.

In 1907 the annual meeting of the Congress was marked by dissension between liberals and revolutionaries. Tilak's supporters are campaigning for a boycott while the moderates fear an escalation of violence. The Congress split into two. It will not regain its cohesion until nine years later.

Bengali terrorism reached its peak between 1908 and 1910. The period was marked by the imprisonment of Tilak between 1908 and 1914.

In 1910 Morley appointed the liberal Lord Hardinge as the new Viceroy. On taking office, Hardinge proposed reuniting Bengal. On December 12, 1912, during a trip to India, King George V, revoked the partition of Bengal, announced the creation of a new province and decided to move the capital of British India from Calcutta to Delhi. These decisions provoke the fury of the Muslims. Lord Hardinge narrowly escapes an attack in 1912. He now faces both Hindu and Muslim terrorist movements.

The First World War and its Consequences

In August 1914, Lord Hardinge announced India's entry into the war. The princes and leaders of the Congress, from Tilak to Gandhi, support the Viceroy. Only the Muslims attached to the Ottoman caliph, allied to the Germans, hesitated over the course to be taken.

More than one million Indian combatant and non-combatant troops are sent to the front.

Indian independents hope that this support will be rewarded at the end of the war. Three divisions are sent to the front in France. The Indian soldiers gained the respect of the English officers but at the price of very heavy losses.

Edwin Montagu, the Secretary of State for India, announces on 20 August 1917 the opening of the administration to the Indians with a view to a greater involvement of the Indians in the government. His discussions with Vice-King Chelmsford will lead to the Montagu-Chelmsford Report, which will serve as a basis for the Government of India Act of 1919. But the return to India is painful. The English behave as if nothing had happened and the Indians are treated again as natives.

War did not stop terrorist activities. The Sikhs engaged in a revolutionary struggle after hundreds of Sikhs returned to Canada to immigrate and rejected because of their origin. Muslims turned to Afghanistan and called for holy war against the British. The death of Gokhale in 1915 weakened the moderate line of Congress and allowed the return of Tilak to the front of the stage. In 1916 the Congress and the Muslim League signed a joint program, but this alliance did not withstand a year of tensions and disagreements.

In early 1919, emergency measures taken in India during the war were prolonged despite opposition from Indian leaders. Gandhi calls for disobedience. It is followed by the nationalist leaders Punjabi who are arrested on April 10 in Amritsar. Their partisans, during a protest march, are taken under the fire of English arms and perish in numbers. General Dyer is sent to re-establish order.

On 13 April, 10,000 men, women and children gathered at the Jallianwala Bagh despite the ban. Dyer ordered his men to block the protesters and then ordered them to fire. For 15 minutes, the English soldiers machine-gunned the crowd, killing several hundred people and causing more than 1,000 wounded. The governor of Punjab supports Dyer and enacts martial law throughout the province. The Viceroy nevertheless ordered the opening of an investigation and relieves Dyer of his functions. The latter will be welcomed as heroes in England.

The massacre of the Jallianwala Bagh triggers a wave of nationalistic feeling among the more moderate.

Gandhi launched his first passive resistance movement, the satyagraha, on August 1, 1920. He called for a boycott of English products, but also schools, elections, courts, in short, everything that was English.

The march towards independence

The British feel that it is time to bring about reforms. They are in parts brought by the Montagu-Chelmsford Laws. Elections were held in 1920 to allow more Indians to enter the Executive Council of the Viceroy. The Imperial Legislative Council is divided into two chambers: the Legislative Assembly and the Council of State. These reforms, however, can not prevent the sometimes violent conflicts between Hindus and Muslims.

A year after launching his first satyagraha, Gandhi finds that the British raj is still as powerful. He decided to call for a boycott of taxes. In February 1922, some of his supporters (the satyagrahis) killed policemen. Gandhi is arrested and sentenced to 6 years in prison.

Within the Congress, Motilal Nehru, observing the relative failure of Gandhi's passive resistance policy, created a new movement, the Swaraj Party. He thought it would be more effective to interfere with English policy in the Legislative Assembly. 40 deputies of the Swaraj Party are elected in 1923 but their number will always remain insufficient to really disrupt the debates.

Gandhi was released from prison in February 1924. He understood that independence could not be achieved without the support of the Indian people as a whole and was committed to defending the cause of the untouchables by allowing them to enter the temples. He himself decides to live in an ashram in asceticism. Most congressional leaders are aligned with Gandhi's policy, although at the same time some are looking for more pragmatic solutions, which will create ambivalence in Congress policy.

In 1930 Gandhi and the Congress mobilized the peasants and organized a march to protest against the monopoly on the exploitation of salt by the English. But the young congressional leaders believe that these nonviolent actions do not move things fast enough and advocate violence. The most famous of these activists is Subhas Chandra Bose. Admirer of Hitler, it will be elected to the presidency of the Congress in 1938 and 1939 to the great disgrace of Gandhi. Arrested by the English, he fled to Afghanistan and then to Germany in 1941.

It is Jawaharlal Nehru, the son of Motilal, who emerges among the contemplative heads of the Congress and seems to be the most suited to succeed Gandhi. He was elected leader of the movement in 1929. At 41 years he is the youngest president. He is voting for the resolution of the Purna Swaraj which calls for a complete liberation of India.

The main problem, however, remains the sometimes violent clashes between Hindus and Muslims, especially in northern India. After retreating, Mohammad Ali Jinnah returns to the head of the Muslim League and modernizes it. Faced with the partiality of the majority Hindu Congressmen and convinced that they become second-class citizens, more and more Muslims are demanding the creation of an Islamist state that would bring together the provinces where they dominate, namely the northern provinces west and east of Bengal. In 1933 a group of students proposed that this country be baptized Pakistan (Terre des Purs). Jinnah would not support this idea until March 1940 after the Lahore conference.

To try to solve inter-community problems, the British organize a round table in England. The first session was held in November 1930 without the Congress representatives held in India. But without them no reform is possible. This is why a second session was organized in September 1931 with Gandhi as the sole representative of the Congress. No result. A third meeting begins in November 1932. This resulted in the creation of Orissa, separated from Bihar, and that of Sindh, the first province governed by Muslims. Burma is separated from India. In 1935 the British Parliament voted a new Government of India Act. It provides for the establishment of separate electoral systems for Muslims and other minorities (Sikhs, Christians, Europeans ...). Congress, and especially Gandhi, are offended by this formula because the untouchables are placed in these minorities. After a hunger strike Gandhi succeeded in abolishing this constitutional project.

The Second World War and its Consequences

On September 3, 1939, England declared war on the Axis forces. Vice-King Linlithgow announces that India will participate in the war effort. But this unilateral statement provoked the anger of Nehru and Gandhi who refused to give their support without counterparts. Faced with the refusal of the English to cede Nehru calls the ministers of Congress elected to the provincial councils to resign. Jinnah exults and affirms that these resignations put an end to the tyranny of Congress. The Muslim League takes advantage of the situation to get closer to the British to whom it supports while Congress is moving away from it more and more.

For the Muslim League it becomes clear that the future British plans for the future of India will have to include the creation of a Muslim state bringing together in a single entity the states of the northwest and those of the east.

In October 1940 Gandhi launched his campaign against the war. His closest disciple is imprisoned and Nehru who openly called for desertion is sentenced to four years of detention. Thousands of Congress supporters will also be incarcerated.

At the end of 1941, Japan joined forces with Germany. Churchill, fearing a Japanese invasion of India, promised Indian leaders, in return for their support, a new status for India to gain independence. But Nehru and Gandhi refuse these proposals because they anticipate, in order to meet Muslim aspirations, that the provinces that would like to be separated from India. Gandhi launches a new protest campaign: the "Quit India" movement. He asked the British to leave India immediately and to let the Indians negotiate peacefully with the Japanese. The English answer is not long in coming. Gandhi and congressional leaders are arrested. The English resistance was prosecuted and many Indians lost their lives.

In 1943, Field Marshal Wavell was appointed Vice-King and decreed martial law. At the end of the war he organized an encounter between Hindus and Muslims, but the gulf that separated them was now too great to envisage a reconciliation.

In England the new Prime Minister Clement Atlee appoints Lord Pethick-Lawrence as head of the Indian Office. Pethick-Lawrence is a friend of Gandhi and is in charge of finding a solution to the Hindu-Muslim conflict. Great Britain now feared to find herself in the midst of a civil war.

The Independence of India

In 1946 Pethick-Lawrence went to New Delhi. He proposes to the Congress and the Muslim League that the country be divided into three groups. Group A would include the majority Hindu provinces, and group B would include the Muslim majority provinces (Punjab, Sindh, Northwestern provinces and Baluchistan) and group C would be the Muslim part of Bengal. These groups would remain partly dependent on a central power that would be in charge of foreign affairs, defense and communications.

Carte de l'Inde juste après l'indépendance

Carte de l'Inde juste après l'indépendance

But the Punjab poses a big problem because of the massive presence of the Sikhs who also claim an independent state. But diplomats do not have the time or the means to negotiate with the Sikhs.

Jinnah and Nehru agreed to the British proposals first, but a disagreement between the two men drove the plans of partition to the water. In August 1946 Jinnah called the Muslim nation to rise. Violent and bloody clashes in Calcutta will kill more than 10,000 people. The civil war will last one year, killing thousands of Hindu and Muslim victims.

In March 1947 Lord Mountbatten was appointed Vice-King. Its mission is to pass power into the hands of the Indians as soon as possible. Fearing a hasty departure from the English he decided to partition Punjab and Bengal. Gandhi refused the idea of ​​dividing India and proposed to Lord Mountbatten that Jinnah be appointed to the presidency of the new unified Indian state. But Nehru and the congressional leaders are opposed to it.

In July 1947 the British Parliament voted the Indian Independance Act, which was to make the partition between India and Pakistan effective on the night of 14-15 August 1947. Pakistan will thus consist of two territories separated by thousands of kilometers. Border commissioners have only one month left to find a compromise. When they announce the results of their work, millions of people, Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs, cross the new borders in search of refuge. At least 500,000 people will be killed in inter-communal massacres.

In the aftermath of August 15, Nehru became Prime Minister. Gandhi refuses the positions proposed to him and prefers to start campaigning for peace in Bengal and Bihar. Back in Delhi he was assassinated by a Hindu extremist on January 30, 1948.

The score, however, remains imperfect. It was agreed that the princely states would have the choice of joining Pakistan or India. Of the 570 principalities, only 3 refused to choose: those of Junagadh, Hyderabad and Kashmir. India forcibly reclaimed the first two in September 1948 and incorporated them into the Indian Union. Kashmir, headed by a Hindu Maharaja but inhabited by 75% Muslims, initially tries to remain independent, but in October 1947 nearby Pakistan launched an attack. India then proposes to the maharaja to protect it in exchange for its integration with the Indian Union. The first Indo-Pakistani war was thus declared. In 1949 a line of demarcation was drawn. It will never cease to be contested by the two opposing forces.

On January 26, 1950, India officially became a Federal Republic. The Indian constitution adopts an English parliamentary system with a House of the People (Lok Sabha) and a Council of State (Raya Sabha). The members of the Lok Sabha elect the Prime Minister. Nehru held this office until his death in 1964. The President of the Republic has only honorary powers.

The Indian federation is headed by a central power located in Delhi. Each province has a government and an assembly. Very quickly, under pressure from the southern states, the provinces were reorganized along the linguistic borders. Nehru refuses however the creation of a Sikh province fearing a new partition of Punjab. Through non-alignment policy, Nehru manages to get economic aid from both blocks.

The Legacy of Nehru

Nehru died on 27 May 1964. Congress chose Lal Bahadur Shastri to succeed him as Prime Minister. Since taking office Shastri must resolve a new crisis with Pakistan led by Mohammad Ayub Khan. The Pakistanis, supported militarily by the United States, break the borders of Sindh and Kashmir. The United Nations intervenes and obtains a ceasefire with a withdrawal behind the initial borders. But in August, Pakistan, persuaded of the weakness of the Indian army, launched a new attack in Kashmir. Indian tanks are rushing to Lahore and are on the verge of shaving it when a new ceasefire is signed on September 23, 1965. Britain and the United States decide to impose a military embargo on both countries.

January 10, 1966 Shastri and Ayub sign a treaty in Tashkent in Uzbekistan under Soviet auspices. But the next day Shastri dies and the chords do not survive him. Indira Gandhi, the daughter of Nehru, is elected to the head of the Congress by beating her rival Morarji Desai.

The Indira Gandhi Era

Indira Gandhi is pursuing his father's policy of non-alignment. In the first year of her mandate she traveled to the United States and the Soviet Union to seek economic and financial assistance.

In 1967 the Indian economy was undermined by several years of depression. Indira Gandhi decides to devalue the rupee. The decision is unpopular and the Congress loses many seats in the general elections organized the same year. The majority of the party is retained but Ms. Gandhi is forced to share her power with her rival Desai, whom she appoints as Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance.

The President of the Republic, a Muslim, died in 1969. Indira Gandhi sees it as a good opportunity to consolidate his power by electing his candidate. She disregards the advice and desires of the old guard of the Congress, which earned her her exclusion for indiscipline on November 12, 1969. But far from dismantling, she rallies the other party members behind the concept of "New Congress". It provoked new elections at the end of 1970 that it won overwhelmingly with an overwhelming majority.

In December 1970 the first general elections were held in Pakistan. Mujibur Rahman wins them but General Yahya Khan invalidates the results and imposes martial law. Majipur Rahman calls for the independence of East Pakistan. To answer only Yahya Khan massacre the population of Dhaka and arrest Rahman. From his cell, Rahman calls on the people of East Pakistan and his followers to rise up and proclaim the independence of Bangladesh (Land of Bengalis). In eight months 10 million people take refuge in East Pakistan. India intervenes and penetrates without resistance in East Pakistan. Dacca falls in December 1971. Emajipur Rahman is released by the Pakistani president by Ali Bhutto and in January 1972 he is appointed prime minister of nascent Bangladesh.

This victory of India over Pakistan strengthens the country's dominance over Southeast Asia. The popularity of Indira Gandhi is at the highest. In 1971 it signed a treaty of cooperation with the Soviet Union and in 1972 it launched the atomic program. The first Indian H bomb exploded in the Rajasthan desert in May 1974.

But if Indira Gandhi succeeds in foreign policy, his record in domestic politics is catastrophic. A series of unpopular measures provoked strikes and demonstrations that reached their climax just before the 1975 elections in Gujarat. At the same time, the High Court of Justice of Allahabad condemns Indira Gandhi for electoral fraud but she refuses to resign despite the threats of civil disobedience brandished by the opposition. On 26 June 1975 she persuaded the President of the Republic Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed to declare a state of emergency over the country. She ordered the arrest of Desai as well as that of many old figures of the struggle for independence. Very soon she gagged the press and named her son Sanjay as an advisor. In two years the main leaders are put in prison or assigned to residence and all the protest movements are severely repressed.

In July Indira Gandhi proposes its economic program in 20 points. It aims to reduce inflation, revive the economy and combat corruption. These measures will prove to be effective but at the same time it takes a series of unpopular measures such as wage freezes and especially forced sterilization of women with more than two children. Despite this wave of discontent, it holds general elections in 1977 and frees political prisoners. But these elections proved catastrophic for the Congress. Indira Gandhi loses his seat of deputy and the Janata Party of Desai and Narayan becomes majority.

It is therefore Morarji Desai who becomes Prime Minister at the age of 80 years. It restores freedoms but is unable to put in place a coherent economic policy. Inflation starts again at a gallop. Fraud, the black market and corruption are weakening the country. In 1978 Indira Gandhi created his own party: Congress (I), I for Indira. In November she is elected under this label at the Lok Sabha but Desai sues her several times in court and succeeds in having her expelled from the parliament and sent to imprison her briefly.

In July 1979, faced with his inability to carry out reforms and to revive the economy and threatened a motion of censure at the Lok Sabha, Desai resigned. Charan Singh succeeded him but resigned in his turn a few months later. Faced with this political impasse, the President of the Republic Reddy pronounces the dissolution of the parliament in 1979.

In January 1970, the general election led to the overwhelming victory of Indira Gandhi. His son Sanjay appears more and more like his successor. But on June 23, 1980 he killed himself on the plane he was piloting and left the empty place to his brother Rajiv, then pilot of the line.

This return to power is tainted by serious problems of inter-communal conflicts, particularly in Punjab, where Sikhs feel increasingly isolated from the rest of the population. In an attempt to appease the Sikhs' resentment, Indira Gandhi appointed one of their own to the Ministry of the Interior and elected another, Zail Singh, to the Presidency of the Republic in 1982. But these symbolic promotions do not diminish the wave of anger in Punjab.

Sikh land claims are becoming more radical and the independence leaders are demanding the creation of a Sikh state in its own right. The extremists entrenched themselves in the Golden Temple at Amritsar, sacred place of the cult Sikh. The government of Indira Gandhi seems unable to stem the wave of violence in Punjab. That is why on 5 June 1984, in the run-up to the January 1985 elections, she launched Operation Blue Star against the Golden Temple. The assault of Indian troops and tanks lasted four days and killed hundreds on both sides.

October 31, 1984 Indira Gandhi is assassinated by two of her Sikh bodyguards. The result is a wave of anti-Sikh riots that will kill hundreds of people. The following day President Zail Singh appointed Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister.

The political and economic transition

As soon as he took office Rajiv Gandhi organized a general election, which he won at the head of the Congress (I) in December 1984. His main objective was to modernize the economic life of India. It removes import restrictions and opens many sectors to the private sector. Although the USSR continues to supply military equipment to India, Rajiv Gandhi turns to the United States to develop the technology and computer sectors.

In terms of domestic politics, India finds itself involved in the problems of riots in Sri Lanka where Tamil separatists are demanding an autonomous territory. In 1987 Rajiv Gandhi signed a treaty with the President of Sri Lanka. He pledged to prevent Tamil terrorists (the Tigers) from using the territory of India, including Tamil Nadu, as a base and sending an interposition force to Sri Lanka. But it is becoming more and more involved in the fighting and India decides its withdrawal in the late 80s.

Despite its overwhelming majority in Lok Sabha, Congress (I) has to face many opposition parties and accusations of corruption. The popularity of Rajiv Gandhi begins to decline. In the general elections of 1989, the Congress (I) lost an absolute majority and found itself in a minority faced with the alliance of the BJP (the Hindu nationalist party) of L.K. Advani and the Janata Dal of V.P. Singh. He was appointed Prime Minister in December 1989.

By deciding to open many posts for the lower castes Singh very quickly becomes unpopular with the high castes which accuse him of wanting to recover votes. Within his own party, Singh has to face the protesters led by Chandra Shekhar who will eventually leave the party.

This rise in nationalism is causing renewed tensions between communities. The Hindu fundamentalists, led by L.K. Advani, gather in Ayodhya. They demanded the destruction of a mosque built by the Mughals and which, according to them, was built on the foundations of an ancient Hindu temple. The government of VP Singh is obliged to intervene to avoid the catastrophe. On October 23 Advani was arrested by the police. From then on, the coalition between the BJP and the Janata Dal shattered and Singh resigned on 7 November 1990 after the vote of a motion of censure.

Political instability

Chandra Shekhar, supported by Congress (I), succeeds VP Singh. But with only 60 seats, his party is too weak to cope with political imbroglios. He resigned in March 1991 and resumed general elections.

On May 21, while in Tamil Nadu for his election campaign, Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated during the suicide attack of a Tamil separatist. Sonia Gandhi, her widow, declines the proposal made to her to follow her husband. The Congress (I) elects Narasimha Rao as its President. He wins the elections and forms a new government on June 20, 1991. The second party remains the Advani BJP whose influence in the northern states is enormous. Religious claims have not disappeared and violence between Hindus and Muslims is increasing. Advani always calls for the destruction of the mosque of Ayodhya. The Hindu fundamentalists passed into action on December 6, 1992, and triggered a bloody wave of riots. In March 1993 more than 300 people were killed by bomb attacks. The BJP is becoming more and more powerful and weakened the Congress. In 1996, he was severely beaten during the general elections. The leader of the BJP, Atal Behari Vajpayee becomes Prime Minister. But the Congress remains a must in the votes of confidence. In June 1996 he succeeded in overthrowing the BJP. Deve Gowda, at the head of a coalition, succeeded Vajpayee but on 30 March 1997 the Congress withdrew from the alliance and elected I.K. Gujral, which in turn was overthrown on 28 November 1997.

In 1998, a new coalition re-elected Vajpayee as Prime Minister. The epoch is marked by a renewal of international tensions. Early in 1999, Hindu extremists and high castes were murdered. National parliamentarians disapprove of Vajpayee's position. In the face of these national and international crises, the President of the Republic, K.R Narayanam, provoked new general elections. In October 1999, the BJP obtained a majority on the Lok Sabha. For the third time, A.B. Vajpayee was elected Prime Minister.

See also:

Geography of India

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