How Indian was the Mughal Empire ?

This article shall explain how, from the time of Babur to that of Aurangzeb, foreign born nobility always formed the major component of Mughal nobility. No, not descendants of the original bunch who accompanied Babur or Humayun, but fresh recruits or their sons, arriving at every Mughal’s court. This component was very high during the reigns of Babur and Humayun stayed around seventy percent during the reigns of Akbar, Jahangir and Shah Jahan and dipped slightly during the latter part of Aurangzeb’s reign mainly due to the influx of Dakkhani Muslims and Marathas.


Read the complete,  detailed essay at Indiafacts : How Indian was the Mughal empire ?

The ghost of 1857 forever haunted the British Empire

The backbone of the British Empire was the army it created in India. It had one of the best cavalry and armed soldiers amongst all its colonies comprising of Indian and British soldiers. The British Army ensured that the subjects and the slaves lived in constant fear and retribution. Hence, the 1857 ‘War of Independence’ and the 1946 naval ratings  uprisings gave a jolt and rattled the empire to the core ….


Read the full article written by me on Indic Today >>   How the ghost of 1857 rattled the British    


  • Purchase my book on Lachit Barphukan for Rs 250 only at Amazon India.  [ Brahmaputra – The Story of Lachit Barphukan]





Book Review – Urban Naxals.




Title : Urban Naxals – the making of  ‘Buddha In A Traffic Jam’

Author : Vivek Agnihotri

Publisher : Garuda Prakashan

Year : 2018

Rating : 9/10

Naxalism, most of us believe, is something happening in far away jungles – aided by small bands of extremists. Of tribal areas under some extremist rouge elements threatening the Indian state. Every now and then, news comes in of an attack on a CRPF camp or convoy and we all shake our heads in disgust and sadness. But the malaise goes far deeper, and as this book shows, is not limited to just rural areas and far off jungles. Sure , the Urban Naxals are not gun-toting, army camouflage wearing extremists but they are instead the brains and the money bags (the two pillars on which any movement stands) of the fundamentalists in the jungles.

Some years ago, Vivek Agnihotri had released a movie called “Buddha in a traffic jam”. The book is, as the title suggests, a behind the scenes story of how the movie was made and how it finally saw the light of day. One must say, Vivek ji is not only a prolific but also a very brave director. His car gets attacked and damaged just because some students don’t want to see the movie. Last minute cancellations abound at every place. The movie itself remains canned for years because no distributor wants to touch it. Still, the author persevered and has finally given us a gem. Students wanting to do something extreme after failing in one school exam should definitely read this book. ‘Urban Naxals’ makes for an interesting read as far as the movie making is concerned, but for me it was the chapters other than the movie that really piqued my interest.

I sincerely believe that the chapters not dealing with the movie per se, should be published as a separate booklet and reach wide audiences. In these, the author lays bare the ‘pseudo-intellectuals’ who have unfortunately taken pole position when it comes to ideologies in this country. Pertinent questions about their ‘secularism’ and ‘socialism’, which we all ought to be asking, are raised. Vivek Agnihotri is also a very brave author, who minces no words in naming and shaming those threatening the very edifice on which India stands. The book calls out the hypocrisy of communism, especially in the cultural sphere. The book talks about how leftists in India provide ‘intellectual cover’ for the ones operating in the jungles. White washing their crimes by using flowery prose or trying to justify by using age old whataboutery. The book talks about how ‘nationalism’ and ‘patriotism’ is dissed by college and university professors, creating entire generations of deracinated kids. Urban Naxals talks of how college going boys and girls are being brainwashed into taking up the gun against the Indian state. And then of course, this coterie of Urban Naxals does a fine job of shutting out any voices in the mainstream from the opposite spectrum.

Urban Naxals also addresses the other pillar of the movement – money. It names NGOs and other organisations which are essentially fronts for collecting funds to be supplied to the Naxalites ; funding to the tune of hundreds of crores. Innocuous sounding organisations wedded to some or the other leftist ideology. These are the Urban Naxals with money, funding both, the Urban Naxals with brains and the ones with guns.

All in all, a must read and a truly eye opening book. One would think the ‘pseudo-intellectual’ problem in India goes only as far as whitewashing Mughals and regurgitating outmoded socialist ideas. The malaise is far far deeper, as the book depicts.

Last but not the least, a word about the quality of the book itself. Garuda Prakashan has done a fine job with the cover, printing and paper quality. The look and feel of the book is hence very professional and pleasing to the eyes.






From NCERT Jokebook : British became all India power in 1765

In this article, originally published in IndiaFacts website, I take a look at the laughable nonsense in a NCERT textbook passing off as “facts” . Photos of relevant pages have been added and a fact based refutal follows.

This article details how the British could gain supremacy only after fighting many battles against the Marathas over a period of fifty years and not just couple of battles against the Mughals (who by 1765 were in any case non entities)

Read the full article : NCERT Jokebook : British became supreme power in 1765

Shivaji an analysis – by Prof Narhar Kurundkar


Disclaimer : This post has not been written by me. It is reproduction of an essay authored by historian Narhar Kurundkar. It is one of the best analysis of Chhatrapati Shivaji , and originally intended as the Preface to Shrimaan Yogi.

The greatness of Shivaji and his limitations must be understood clearly. It is a fact that he doesn’t have the background of the 17th Century Renaissance enjoyed by any European Ruler. He alone has the broad religious background of the Varakari Movement (which traces its roots to Dnyaneshwar), a Hindu movement. This makes him different from the likes of Cromwell and Napoleon. He was not democratic. Indeed, he entertained no thoughts of mass education or liberation of women or removal of casteism or, for that matter, setting up printing presses (though a section of historians actually believes it strongly that Shivaji had a keen interest in printing presses). He had no thoughts of approving widow marriages or terminating the system of childhood marriages. Indeed, had somebody come up with so heretic an opinion, he would have certainly chopped off his arms and legs. He always went to the Dutch or the British for firearms. A thought of producing it himself didn’t occur to him. Who were these Europeans? And for what purpose had they arrived in India? He could not have had much clue to it. By that time Galileo had invented telescope, Columbus had discovered America and Magellan had completed the first cruise round the globe. And the illustrious Chhatrapati was unaware of these events. Like every great person, Shivaji was a product of his time. To what extent he understood the prevalent current of Time and how far he managed to go ahead of his time will ultimately gauge his greatness.


Five years back, a South Indian author of little fame had written an article in an issue of Hindu. I haven’t studied a better article explaining the greatness of Shivaji. It was titled “How Small Shivaji Was?” Says the author, “Shivaji is the Deity of Maharashtrians. They would not have an iota of reservation in putting him above God. To say that in the entire five thousand years of the history of human civilisation, no other King can hold candle to Shivaji would seem an understatement to them.I do not intend to join this approbatory gang. Rather than evaluating his greatness as a human being, I wish to examine how small he really was.


The first fact to strike is that he created a kingdom. There must have been over 500 Dynasties in India. Each had a founder. One among them was Shivaji. The rest had an opportunity to do so because of the reigning confusion. Vassals of a weak king would declare independence with the central power helpless to prevent it. A powerful general used to dethrone a weak king and raise his own kingdom. This had been the fashion in which a new Power was established. The new king inherited the existing Army and the bureaucratic structure automatically. In Shivaji, we have the one who had to raise everything from nothing, who didn’t have the benefit of a ready strong army; who, on trying to establish himself, had to face the might of Great Powers; who had the neighbouring Bijapur and Golkonda powers still on the rise and the Moghul Empire at its zenith. Shivaji was eating away that Bijapur Empire which had usurped more than half of Nijamshahi and was on its way to consume almost all of Karnataka. Here is somebody who, from the start, never had the might to defeat his rivals in a face-to-face battle, who saw the efforts of 20 years go down the drain in a matter of 4 months; but still fought on to create an empire with 29 years of constant struggle and enterprise. It would be easy to see how small he was once we find which founder to compare to in the annals of Indian history, on this issue.


A Hindu Power has certain distinguishing traits. It is not as if they do not emerge victorious in a war. Victories – there have been many. But their victory does not destroy their opponent. The latter’s territory doesn’t diminish, his might is not erased. The victor’s territory doesn’t expand. Even though victorious, he becomes weaker and stays so. In short, it is plain that they faced total destruction in defeat and weakening in victory. A new chapter in Hindu history is begun with Shivaji wherein battles are won to expand the empire while strength and will power is preserved in a defeat. Secondly, the Hindu Rulers used to be astonishingly ignorant of the border situation. Their enemy would catch them unawares, often marching in over 200 miles in their territory and only then would they wake up to the situation. Whatever may be the outcome of the battle, only theirs would be the land to be defiled. The arrival of Shivaji radically changes this and heralds the beginning of an era of staying alert before a war and unexpected raids on the enemy. Thirdly, the Hindu kings habitually placed blind faith in their adversaries. This saga terminates with Shivaji performing the treacherous tricks. It was the turn of the opponents to get stunned. In the ranks of Hindu kings, the search still going on for somebody to compare with Shivaji on this point.


Shivaji was religious; but he was not a fanatic. Although iron hearted, he was not cruel. He was daring, yet not impulsive. He was practical; but not unambitious. He was a dreamer who dreamt lofty aims and had the firm capacity to convert them into reality. His lifestyle was not simple. Having adopted a choice, rich lifestyle, he was not lavish. He was gracious to other religions. On that account he may be compared to Ashoka, Harsha, Vikramaditya, Akbar. But all of these had great harems. Akbar had the Meenabazar, Ashoka had the Tishyarakshita. Shivaji had not given free reign to his lust. Kings, both Hindu and Muslim, had an overflowing, ever youthful choice taste for collection of women in their prime and diamonds. That was lacking in Shivaji. He had neither the money to spend on sculptures, paintings, music, poetry or monuments nor the inclination. He did not have the classical appreciation needed to spend over 20 crores rupees and hold deprived subjects with strokes of hunter to build a Taj Mahal even as famine was claiming over hundreds of thousands of lives; nor was he pious enough to erect temple after

temple while India was being systematically consumed by the British. He was a sinner; a practical man like the rest of us. Khafi Khan sends him to Hell. I, myself, think that Shivaji must have gone to Hell. He would not have enjoyed the company of the brave warriors who preferred gallant death to preservation of their land. It would have ill suited him to live with the noble kings who would rather indulge in rituals such as Yadnya than expand the army. For the Heaven is full of such personalities. Akbar adopted a generous attitude towards Hindus and has been praised to the skies for that. But, it is an elementary rule that a stable government is impossible if the majority of the subjects is unhappy. Akbar was courteous to them who, as a community, were raising his kingdom and stabilizing it for him. The Hindus he treated well were a majority in his empire and were enriching his treasury through their taxes. The Hindus had no history of invasions. They had not destroyed Masjids. They had not committed genocides of Muslims. They had not defiled Muslim women or imposed forced conversions. These were the people Akbar was generous to. On the contrary, Muslims were a minority community in Shivaji’ s empire. They were not the mainstay of his taxes. They were not chalking out a kingdom for him. Besides, there was a danger of an invasion and Alamgir was imposing Jiziya tax on Hindus. Yet, he treated Muslims well. That was not out of fear but because of his inborn generosity Given this background, I am ready to see Shivaji as small he really is. But who to turn to, to make him smaller? Is there any such standard?”


To round off this discussion, I should like to expand on a couple of issues left unanswered by the above article. Firstly, Shivaji’s expertise as a General is, of course, undisputed. But, besides that, he was also an excellent Governor. He believed that the welfare of the subjects was a responsibility of the ruler. Even though he fought so many battles, he never laid extra taxes on his subjects. Even the expenditure for his coronation was covered by the taxes on the collectors. In a letter he challenges, “It is true that I’ve deceived the enemy. Can you show an instance where I tricked an ally?” This challenge is unanswered. He funded establishment of new villages, set up tax systems on the farms, used the forts to store the farm produce, gave loans to farmers for the purchase of seeds, oxen etc, built new forts, had the language standardized to facilitate the intra-government communication, had the horoscope revised, encouraged purification from Islam to Hinduism. He was not a mere warrior.Secondly, and most important of all, to protect his kingdom, his subjects fought for over 27 years. After Shivaji’s death they fought under Sambhaji. After Aurangzeb killed Sambhaji, they still fought for over 19 years. In this continued struggle, a minimum of 5 lakh Moguls died (Jadunath Sarkar’s estimate). Over 2 lakh Marathas died. Still in 1707, over 1 lakh Marathas were fighting with spears. They didn’t have a distinguished leader to look up to. There was no guarantee of a regular payment. Still, they kept on fighting. In these 27 years, Aurangzeb didn’t suffer a defeat. That was because Marathas simply lacked the force necessary to defeat so vast an army. Jadunath says, “Alamgir won battle after battle. But in the end, after spending crores of rupees, he accomplished nothing apart from weakening his All India Empire and his own death. He could not defeat Marathas”. When the Peshawai ended (A.D.1818), there was an air of satisfaction that a government of law would replace a disorderly government. Sweets were distributed when the British won Bengal in Plassey (A.D.1757). In this light, the above facts demonstrate the extent to which his subjects identified themselves with Shivaji’s Nation and the excellence of Shivaji as its founder.


Savarkar – The Historian

I do not consider myself an expert on Savarkar and his work, but have an avid interest in India’s history. In that capacity, Veer Savarkar’s books are among my favourites when it comes to ‘the way history is told’.

Read my full article about Veer Savarkar’s outlook towards Indian history at  Swarajya Magazine

My books on Lachit Barphukan ; Maratha conquest of Lahore and Attock available at Amazon India


The great Assamese general knew his terrain, the brave river, the Mughals, and his battles well. Aneesh Gokhale follows his hero, this time, on foot in Guwahati, and returns drenched in history.

Read my full article about my trip to Guwahati to learn about Lachit Barphukan at Creatuve India –>  Across Brahmaputra with Lachit Borphukan

My book on Lachit Barphukan can be purchased at Amazon India. Also available is my book on Maratha history – Sahyadris to Hindukush

Marathas & Bengal : Chhatrapati Shivaji as a national hero (IndiaFacts)

An article that has been shared over 19,000 times so far  !

In this article we shall explore how Chhatrapati Shivaji was an inspiration for Bengali patriots from 1857 onwards and how everyone from Tagore and Bipin Chandra Pal to Aurobindo Ghosh eulogized him.


Read the article in full at –> Chhatrapati Shivaji & Bengal

Google Hangouts session on Indian History with Vision India Foundation , IIT D , IIT R students

Some days ago, I was invited for a Google Hangout session by a group of IIT Delhi and IIT Roorkee students, some of them associated with a group named Vision India foundation. It was indeed a privilege and honour for me to interact with them. A big thank you to Shubham Kumar for organizing the whole thing.  A wide variety of topics were discussed, right from what inspired me to write Brahmaputra to why is the general outlook towards Indian history the way it is etc. It was a sort of question answer session. Unfortunately we could not do a video recording, but Ishan Batta very helpfully noted down the questions that were asked during the interaction, so now I can present it in this format. Hope you enjoy reading it.  More like a transcript.
Well so there we are , technology being put to good use here – me sitting in Australia and some of them are  in India, rest of them in the United States. We had to decide not just an appropriate time but appropriate time zone too. Pleasantries get exchanged. A brief intro round follows, participants in the interaction are students, working professionals, students pursuing a PhD etc. After which we try recording the whole thing, but doesn’t work out. Anyways, it is to be a discussion where I answer questions. There are nine – ten of us.  It’s something I am really looking forward too

Q : How did you go about researching for Brahmaputra – The Story of Lachit Barphukan ? 

A : Researching was not very easy, if I have to compare with research for my earlier book, Sahyadris to Hindukush. Reference books are not easy to come by when it comes to Assamese history. But my trip to Guwahati was really helpful, they have this area there called Pan Bazaar which has lots of old well established bookshops. So that’s where I found the best reference books. Also, there is Dept of Historical and Antiquarian Studies near the Guwahati High Court, where I found this awesome book called Tarikh e Ashaam – greatly helped me painting an accurate picture of the times. This was the reading and reference part. I also went to various places in and around Guwahati associated with Lachit Barphukan. So that really helped me in creating an atmosphere in the book that could immerse a person in seventeenth century Assam. And last but not the least, I spoke to Assamese people, both when in Assam and from home. That gave me a good overview of the Tai Ahom customs, culture and most importantly what the name Lachit Barphukan means for the average Assamese person.

Q: We have a narrative for Freedom Struggle . Is there a similar narrative about the counter to Islamic invasions ?

A : Yes, as far back as 736 AD, a grand alliance of Indian kings defeated an Arab invasion which threatened everything from Kashmir to Gujarat. Alliance which included Bappa Rawal , Nagabhatta , Chalukyas of Badami etc. I have written about it in some detail in this DNA Article  . Then we have Raja Suheldev and Battle of Baraich, the efforts of Hemchandra and further in the south we had Vijayanagar Empire , Chhatrapati Shivaji and Maratha empire. Talking of the east we have the Eastern Ganga and Gajapati dynasties of Odisha and ofcourse the Ahoms of Assam. But unfortunately all this is rather ignored.

Q: Why do you think that is the case ?

A : Well , I would say because we have had one particular ideology dominating the discourse for the past sixty – seventy years. The formal study course with regards to history is still centered around Delhi Sultanates etc . I have given talks in schools and colleges, and students are totally ignorant of other facets of  India’s history, even those which affected the whole subcontinent. But fortunately with help of social media , books etc an alternate narrative is slowly forming and becoming popular.

Q: And having a favourable government at centre will definitely help in this.

A : Well let us hope so. So far not much has been done. Anyways, I would concentrate on how can I contribute to building this alternate narrative.

Q: List of books you would suggest for someone wanting to know more about medieval India ? 

A : I have written on Maratha history and Assamese history, so I will limit myself to that.
I found GS Sardesai’s books extremely informative and useful when writing my first book. Also books such as Seir Mutaqherin, and those by Kincaid and Parasnis. On Assamese history , Prof H K Barpujari’s books are quite detailed and extensive. Tarikh e Ashaam, like I mentioned earlier, is also a good contemporary source. S K Bhuyan another name which comes to mind. British authors have also written extensively, on every region in the country and their books are readily accessible today. But, one must be wary of the pro – British slant as also some errors in their work.

Q: Mughal – Assam struggle had nothing to do with Hindu – Muslim. Will that be correct way to put it ? 
A : Actually Ram Singh was leading Mughal armies of essentially Aurangzeb. In the years preceding and following this struggle, he had issued many edicts which were solely aimed at Hindus – such as Jaziya. So Lachit Barphukan, in achieving what he did, definitely protected the Indic way of life and Assamese culture from the depradations of the Mughal empire. He laid the foundations on which kings like Rudra Singha and Rajeshwar Singha could build. So I would say it was a struggle between Assam and Mughals to protect and preserve the age old Indic culture of the North East.

Q : When you started writing , was there an interest in historical fiction which inspired you ?

A : My interest in history, Maratha history, was sparked in large part due to my trekking hobby. I started off wanting to write a story that was entirely fiction, but then as I read more and more on the topic, I realised that a dramatisation of actual events, without playing around with historical facts will appeal more. And thats how I went about writing my first book – Sahyadris to Hindukush.

Q : How do you keep all those facts and references you read together ; and manage to weave it into a book ? 

A : Well, I would say my second book – Brahmaputra – I managed to plan it way I wanted to. Essentially you should be clear about the time period you want the book to fit in, so automatically anything beyond that is not required to be read in detail. Some people follow a set time everyday to write – might work for them, does not work for me . I prefer writing for six – eight hours on one day and then nothing at all for next few days. Helps to note relevant reference books when working on certain chapter. If I felt some part of the story needed more exploring to do reference wise, I would make a note there that more referencing needs to be done and move on. Even my chapters are not written in one order from start  to finish, it all depended on how best my ideas were formed.

Q : Writing as a part time career ? 

A : Well , can’t really say, since I would call mine a “hobby” . But definitely if it is being looked at as a full or part earning source than the question of how much are you capable of earning via your writing and books comes in. It is not easy, since writing a book is just the first step towards earning anything out of it.

Q : Coming back to history, Aneesh do you think Aurangzeb’s motives were religious or purely political ? 

A: I would call it religio – political. Aurangzeb was a pious and devout person. His religious worldview definitely impacted his politics. At a time when people were in general much more religious, it would be hard to separate the two. He passed many religious edicts, which had nothing to do with politics. And he heavily depended on the clergy for his political hold on the far flung empire, passing many laws compliant with the Sharia, but shorn of administrative or political logic.

Many thanks Aneesh, it was a great session interacting with you. Hope we can look forward to more sessions like these and also meeting in person if possible.

Been my pleasure. Thank you.

Aneesh Gokhale’s two books can be purchased at Amazon India