The Idea of India !

The Evolving Idea of India – Revisiting History

The following write up of mine was published in a publication by IPPAI ­ a Delhi based organisation / think tank . Was also invited to speak at their Goa seminar (IPPAI’s Regulator’s and Policymakers Retreat , Marriot Hotel , Goa) but couldn’t make it unfortunately. Extremely greatful to Pathikrit Payne for having my  write up published.

 I was invited as Chief Guest for the Independence Day function at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Pune) on 15th Aug 2015. I gave a speech there along similar lines. 

What exactly do we understand by the words, ‘the idea of India?’. Although the Republic of India has existed for nearly seventy years, when we speak of India, we always refer to its five­ thousand­ year­ old history and not just its existence as an independent country for the past sixty­ eight years. This is unique, although it has become so routine for us, that we fail to realise this. Ask anyone as to what is the first image that springs to their mind when someone says ‘India’, and it could be anything: Yoga, Ramayan, Ashoka, Chandragupta or perhaps the Taj Mahal, Mahatma Gandhi or even the modern IT revolution. For me the idea of India is the continual thread that joins the hoary past to the 21st century. If this link is broken, the concept of India, as we know, dies with it. As an example, let us apply the same logic to America. What comes to mind when we say USA? Along with the strides in the modern age, perhaps Abraham Lincoln, or may be Christopher Columbus. Nothing further. Although people have lived in America too for over five­thousand years, the prevalent image of USA does not take us much beyond 1492, the year it was ‘discovered’. Thus, the thread which takes us to the age of the Rig Ved is something to be cherished and preserved, because, as we see, the idea of India immediately encapsulates everything, from ancient Ayurved to modern day pharmacy giants, to cite an example. The idea of India can now be expounded into various spheres – cultural, religious, political, historical, etc. I will try and tackle the question from the history point of view and later, delve into how this idea of India also connects with the geography of the country. Our perspective of history should reflect this evolving idea of India. The narrative that is taught or imbued by the lay person is very important in this case. This narrative should reflect positivity and connect people to their past. Unless we feel we are directly connected to our remote and ancient times, we cannot feel proud of it. And the moment our history seems distant and remote, we feel a disconnect with it and the thread taking us there starts to strain. This present shape of India we see is something unique. For we have overcome centuries of domination to build this country by choice and run it with values based entirely on this land. This can be seen in the Ashok Stambh emblem of India and the many Sanskrit slogans of various government departments, to give an example. The last time something similar happened, Chandra Gupta Maurya was around. From the golden age of the Guptas and Mauryas, came a series of events which eventually brought us where we are today. All the  people and events in between are about how our ancestors preserved the idea of India. And about how they did not allow the link to the remote past to break. The sacrifices they made, the defeats they faced and most importantly, their victories. One can draw a loose line from the distant past to the Kingdom of Harshvardhan to the north and to the Rashtrakutas to the south. A line that joins the Gurjara Pratiharas and the Battle of Rajasthan and also weaves through the Delhi Sultanates and the Mughal Empire and the struggles and victories of Shivaji, the Marathas and our freedom fighters to culminate in today’s India. But to feel proud of this history and remember it, we must take a positive view of our land’s past. It is a human tendency to move on and forget the negatives and imbue the positives out of anything. If we regard our history as a series of failures, a sequence of defeats, then obviously at some point we will lose all connect with it. Who wants to associate with failures any way? When this happens, the idea of India which we have built and cherished will begin to suffer. Unfortunately, the way we look at history has for a long time taken very negative overtones. One is hard­ pressed to associate himself with or feel proud of this kind of writing of history. True, it is important to write about mistakes and defeats, but it is equally important that we know about the victories achieved, for these victories in the past are the stepping stones to today’s India. Each victory achieved in politics and on the battlefield by various Indian powers has contributed to the idea of India. In many ways our rendition of history is a reflection of the times. Through the 1970s and 1980s, this defeatist view of history, which went against the idea of India, prevailed. The country also reflected this rather sombre mood with its protectionism and inward looking policies. But as India has opened to the world, we find that people are willing to look afresh at the past, and derive and draw inspiration and positives from it. The evolution of the idea of India is a continuous process, and each age contributes to it in its own way. Thus if the remote past gave us the Vedas, the modern day has given us information technology, all building into the idea of India. So to understand why we are extremely lucky to be born in the India of today, knowledge of the past is essential. Only then can we appreciate that all the ethos that many of our ancestors fought and died for have been upheld by the Indian Republic. Since we are on the topic of history, I will also delve into geography a bit. Or to put in better words: it is history from a geographical perspective. Since the idea of India is not merely a thread that joins us to the remote past but also a line that joins the four corners of the country, it is important that we appreciate and understand this aspect too. Unfortunately, we have a very regional outlook towards studying history. How many of us have heard about the Cholas? Or the fact that they reached South­east Asia? How many of us have heard about the Gajapati Dynasty of Orissa or the Ahoms of Assam? These histories are not merely the histories of Tamil Nadu, Orissa or Assam but should be regarded as the history of India. We must recognise that these men fought for and upheld the idea of India in their own way in these corners of the country. They have helped preserve, expound and continue the thread that leads us to today. The idea of India has evolved in unique ways in all its regions and provinces, and thus the whole is more than the sum of its parts. So I would like to conclude by saying that the idea of India has evolved over a period of time and will continue to evolve. Although changing and adapting to the circumstances, it has a kernel which leads back to the ancient days. Various parts of the country have preserved and defended this ideal, and all of us should be aware of such events and personalities. Only when we realise the enormity of the political achievement that is the Republic of India, from a historical and geographical point of view, can we truly  appreciate the meaning of our Independence Day and Republic Day.

The views expressed are of author and do not necessarily represent the views of IPPAI.

© Aneesh Gokhale

Do current India see themselves as the successor to the Mughal empire (Muslim) or Maratha empire (Hindu)?

This was a question first posted to me on quora .. well here is my answer

This is an extremely good question. And one must understand that it is rhetorical, not literal. The methods of governance today, infact the road to Delhi itself is fundamentally different from that during Mughal and Maratha empire times. Back then, wars were fought, today elections are fought.

So, whether Republic of India is a successor to the Mughal empire or Maratha empire is to be seen in the ethos of political parties. Chronologically, Maratha empire succeeded the Mughal empire. So that way yes, RoI is successor to Maratha empire. But we will leave that and answer question at hand.

An undivided India, would certainly have been Mughal empire and Maratha empire living together, somehow trying to govern the country. Pakistan is most definitely a successor to the Mughal empire. Their more fanciful day dreamers want to a reinstate a – note the word – Mughalistan – across the cow belt, just at it was at time of Mughals. Plus, Pakistan itself was to protect the landed gentry of UP as also the Waderas of Punjab – Sindh, all of whom owed their importance of many generations to the Mughal empire. Add to it the importance given to Islam, and very frankly, the neighbouring country can call itself an ideological successor to the Mughals.

Coming to India. First, one has to recognise the contribution – the long term contributions of Maratha empire to India. In this, we have political , social and cultural influences. Political influence was ofcourse the cutting down to size the 500 yr old Muslim rule in India, and establishing themselves across the huge swathes of Gujarat , Malwa , Bundelkhand. When we see the crucial role played by the surviving Muslim princely states, esp of the Ganga Jamuna doab in the creation of Pakistan, the importance of Maratha empire becomes apparent. Also, because they were successors to Gaikwad , Holkar , Shinde of yore, they readily joined the new Indian Union.

It was Chhatrapati Shivaji who inspired most, if not all, of the freedom fighters from Maharashtra.

Then we have Ahilyabai Holkar, who built temples and ghats across the length and breadth of India, leading to a cultural rejuvenation. Also, the Maratha empire and its egalitarian treatment of women and caste had direct effect on the 19th and 20th century. The foundations laid by Jijabai and Tarabai created an Ahilyabai Holkar and later day an Anandibai Gokhale. The equal treatment of Ramoshis , Bhils and responsibility given to Holkar and Shinde led to Phule and Ambedkar being born in Maharashtra. This too, as we know, deeply influenced Indian contemporary politics.

Then, we have the Sanskrit slogans for all govt deparatments. The Ashok chakra and stambh – taking India back to the days of Ashok. Now, one can debate here, but most definitely , Ashok is far more dharmic and Indian than any Mughal emperor. The promotion of local culture etc etc . Thus, on the eve of independence, India was most definitely a successor to the Maratha empire.

Infact, if we see India’s map, it is more or less the areas (save the NE and outlying Islands) where Marathas had influence over their nearly 200 yrs.

Although one must say, that with appeasement politics in full swing, we might turn Mughal very soon.

Maratha Empire – The Panipat Fixation.

The mention of the word Panipat immediately conjures up three distinct images – after the three major battles at this place in Haryana. First of course is Babur and Lodi, the second of Akbar and Hemchandra and third of the Marathas and Abdali . This is common and correct knowledge. Of the three, the first two are then extolled as the starter and preserver of the Mughal dynasty. There is actually very little thought given to ‘what if’ scenarios viz Hemchandra or Hemu.

Anyways, I want to speak here about the third battle of Panipat and the disproportionate importance it has in our knowledge and understanding of India’s history. There are more pages written about 14th January 1761 than there are on the eighty years preceding it or the forty years following it. Eighty years is the time between Chhatrapati Shivaji’s death (about him, thankfully, cupious amount has been written) and forty years is the time span to 1802. That was the year when the Marathas lost the Second Anglo Maratha War and with it their all India influence. They did not lose it in 1761, which is one of the points of this blog.I, apart from writing, also do public talks on Maratha and Assamese history. I have on several occasions given talks on the Maratha conquest of Punjab or Bundelkhand and traced the politics and military manoeuvres which enabled the Maratha victories. In the talk on Punjab I have not mentioned Panipat and in the talks on Bundelkhand I have taken the entire sweep of time from Shivaji to Rani Laxmibai. After this, the presentation has always been thrown open for questions. Now, it has been my observation that a majority of the questions revolved around Panipat ! I find it perplexing that nobody asks questions pertaining to specifics about either campaign. Talk , post presentation, invariably veers around to discussion about the great defeat at the hallowed battlefield.

Which, basically means that “general knowledge” is by and large limited to 1761. For you can initiate discussions about only those topics which you know about. It was a debilitating defeat, no doubt agreed. But it’s internalisation by us has perhaps caused bigger damage. It has essentially meant that entire generations are totally oblivious of the contributions of Madhavrao Peshwa , Nana Phadnis , Mahadji Scindia and Ahilyabai Holkar – all of whom had an entirely post Panipat career , and who would, if they had not been preceded by the likes of Bajirao and Shivaji, been raised to the highest pedestal. It is only when we agree that Panipat was a large bump in the road, and not a fatal crash that discussion can automatically lead to the four mentioned above. As of today, the totality of Panipat is a given, and hence most articles on the topic quickly jump to a description of the British conquest of India !
Oft seen line — > The disaster at Panipat entirely destroyed the Maratha empire and they no longer exerted the influence they had in earlier years. The British then came to dominate the country and eventually replaced the Mughal empire !
Of the four names mentioned above, missing out on Ahilyabai Holkar because of this “ Panipat = Judgement Day” mentality is a criminal lapse. For it is this queen of central India who gave the much needed cultural and civilizational veneer to the political conquests of a hundred years. In the next few paragraphs, we will take a quick tour of post Panipat Maratha politics and their influence on the Indian subcontinent and finally I will conclude with the real reasons for the Maratha collapse.
After the debacle at Panipat, the Peshwa Nanasaheb breathed his last near the temple built by him on Parvati hill in Pune. Nervous breakdown because of the events of 14th Jan 1761 was most probable cause. He was succeeded by his second son – Madhavrao, the eldest having died at Panipat. So Madhavrao Peshwa began his career as a sixteen year old in 1762 and over a course of ten years, racked up an impressive record on the battle field , which included –
1.Humbling Hyder Ali , the ruler of Mysore at Srirangapatnam and various other places. 2.Giving the Nizam of Hyderabad a sound thrashing at Rakshasbhuvan, where all Maratha soldiers united under the Peshwa
3.Managed to get the better of Maratha chieftains like Raghunathrao and Janoji Bhosale who were causing impediments to him.

In the word’s of Grant Duff, “The fields of Panipat were not more fatal to the Marathas than the early demise of this excellent prince.”

Madhavrao Peshwa died at the age of 27 in 1772 , but not before he had re stamped Maratha authority to the north and the south and proven that even after Panipat the descendants of Shivaji called the shots in Indian politics. Madhavrao died in 1772 and our memory of him died soon after. There is a statue of him at Peshwe Park in Pune, photos of which have been liberally circulated on social media as “Bajirao’s statue” – just goes to show the rot. Liberally shared by well meaning Maharashtrians, rest of the country has not even heard the name !

Post Madhavrao there was tumult at Pune . Raghunathrao had his nephew , and only other contender – Narayanrao killed. But Nana Phadnis ensured that Raghunathrao did not get power and instead ruled as a regent to the infant Sawai Madhavrao (Narayanrao’s son) . In the north , two more Maratha personalities were making a mark – Ahilyabai Holkar and Mahadji Scindia. Check my essay on Ahilyabai Holkar under “Hindavi Swarajya” category on this site for a small intro. Mahadji Shinde ruled Gwalior between 1768 and 1794, the year of his death. He fully resurrected Maratha power in north India. The Jats , Rajputs and Rohillas were roundly defeated in battles by Mahadji Shinde.
Few people know, that Mahadji Shinde brought the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II from Allahabad and re installed him at Delhi. The Mughal continued to rule as a complete puppet of the Marathas. Again, let us bear in mind that this was in 1772, a full eleven years after disappearing at Panipat. While Mahadji Shinde was scoring victories in north India, Nana Phadnis was handling affairs to the south.
The following statement , from a letter sent by Mahadji Shinde to Nana Phadnis perfectly sums up the all – India influence which the two exerted. Bear in mind again, that this letter is dated 1789.
(I have referenced from Marathyancha Itihas – Vol 2 by Khare & Kulkarni )
गेलेली मसलत श्रीमंतांच्या प्रतापी सुधारली आहे . सातार्या प्रमाणे दिल्ली चे हि संस्थान झले आहे .बंदोबस्ताची पैरवी करणे आपल्या कडे आहे . “( महादजी शिंदेंनी नाना फडणवीस लिहिलेले पत्र – ६/१/१७८९ )
Translation : “ Lost influence and power has been recovered to a great extent thanks to Shrimant. Just like Satara, Delhi is also now a sansthan (of Marathas) . To put all this in order is upto us.” [ Letter by Mahadji Shinde to Nana Phadnis] – 6 Jan 1789
Perhaps the crowning glory of the two was the First Anglo Maratha War and the famous battle of Wadgaon. The two post Panipat Maratha stalwarts showed amazing strategic skill and unity to score an unlikely victory. Read about the Wadgaon battle here

The activities of Ahilyabai Holkar ran parallel to the military activities of Mahadji Shinde and Nana Phadnis. She built a great many ghats and temples until the year 1795, the year of her death. The last battle in which all the Maratha soldiers combined was not Panipat in 1761 but Kharda in 1795. Thirty four years after Panipat, that is a generation later, Shindes , Holkars , Gaikwads, Bhosales, the Peshwa and a host of others joined together and attacked the Nizam at Kharda.

You can read about the Battle of Kharda  here.

The battle makes for fascinating reading ! The two battles – Wadgaon in 1779 when the Marathas worsted the British and Kharda and Rakshasbhuvan in 1795 and 1763 when the Marathas got the better of the Nizam should be more widely known, but they aren’t because of the Panipat fixation. Because we take it as a given that Maratha history ends in 1761, there is little attempt to look beyond. Perhaps the recovery wasn’t complete, but certainly it is worth mentioning.

Moreover, the career of Ram Shastri, who provided alongwith Nana Phadnavis a judicial system devolved from the executive is entirely a post Panipat phenomenon. Like the salaried armies of Chhatrapati Shivaji , Ram Shastri was also centuries ahead of his time. This again is missing from most history books.
Actual causes for the fall of the Marathas
Thus we have seen, that Panipat was a bump in the road. And ignorance of post Panipat events is perhaps a bigger defeat than the battle itself. It fits the “secular” narrative that the Hindu empire at the zenith of its power collapsed entirely when faced with a strong adversary. But there is a marked difference between the previous two and this battle. Lodi and Hemchandra simply disappear from history after Panipat I & II . The Marathas do not. They were still the major power to reckon with in India for at least another generation. Which is why, it is correctly said that India passed from hands of Marathas to the British and not from the Mughals to the British.

So what caused the eventual demise ?  1795 marked the high water mark of Maratha politics. But by 1802 the Treaty of Bassein had been signed. Ergo , the years between 1795 and 1802 and the events within them were what brought them down.So the reasons for the final demise were : 

1.Death of all prominent players. A haranguing coincidence, but Mahadji Shinde (1794) , Ahilyabai Holkar (1795) , Sawai Madhavrao (1795) and Nana Phadnis (1800) all died within few years of each other.
2.A devastating drought .
3.Absence of a strong leader in any of the Maratha provinces, and especially at Pune.
4.Inability to go back to the ideals of Shivaji which had enabled the Marathas to fight 27 years against the Mughal empire.
The result of the above four was that in the Second Anglo Maratha War, the British scored an easy victory. And, from 1802 onwards, the power centre shifted from Pune to Calcutta.

© Aneesh Gokhale

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Zahir ud din  Babur arrived from faraway Samarkand in 1526 and annihilated Ibrahim Lodi’s army at Panipat . Lodi was no pushover . What made the difference ? Babur’s guns , the likes of which the Indian sub continent had never seen . Thanks to superior artillery , a person known more for his skills as a poet had managed to conquer Delhi and start the Mughal dynasty ! . The event should have been breaking news all over the land , with kings and princes falling over themselves trying to match or better the Mughal artillery and in the process create a name for Indian artillery as a whole . Sadly , nothing of that sort happened . Indian rulers always ended up being several steps behind top of the line artillery . Even today , we are dependent on the Swedish Bofors guns and there is talk of American Howitzers and Tomahawks being inducted . The year 2026 will mark 500 glorious years of India not being up to speed in this crucial arm of any army . Which is sad , considering the pivotal role artillery has played in many a battle.

Anyways , that is the larger picture . My topic is a short talk on Maratha artillery .

Development of Maratha artillery could be said to have been started with Shivaji . Although involved mainly in guerilla warfare , Chhatrapati Shivaji understood the potency and importance of a strong artillery division . Real life experiences like the siege of Panhala , where the long – range English guns made a huge difference , shaped his opinion . Constrained as he was by a hundred things , he still went out of his way to ensure that his soldiers had access to the best weapons . Be they cannons or cannon balls . Much of this was procured from the Portuguese who had set up factories in Goa , Vasai , Daman and Diu .

Post Shivaji , with the Maratha embroiled in the war of independence with the Mughals , which was a 27 year long guerilla war , artillery and large guns were once more on the back burner . The Marathas neither had the time , nor the money and neither the desire to set up an effective artillery arm during those trying times.
Under Bajirao I , the Marathas finally began foraying into the north . Bajirao’s methods though , put more emphasis on rapid movement of his cavalry , rendering the enemy’s artillery rather ineffective . The Battle of Palkhed is a prime example of this . All this was fine as long as the Marathas were in someone  else’s territory and harassing and evading their way to victory . Bajirao managed to reach Delhi in a few days from Pune , a measure of his cavalry’s capability . In comparison , the Mughal armies in their prime under Akbar and Aurangzeb could manage only around 5 – 8 kos ( 1 kos = 2.25 km ) a day , encumbered as they were with heavy , slow moving guns .
But , as the Marathas went from being invaders to rulers , requiring to hold territory in the vast expanses of the north , artillery became all the more important . The old notions about soldiers considering life in the artillery as something inferior could not continue . Bajirao established a factory for producing cannons in the 1730s .

Even so , the Marathas lacked the expertise to build and operate the latest guns , primarily because they were a product of the industrial revolution in Europe , which the Marathas had no clue about . Still , considering that they had come into contact with British guns as early as 1660s , it is surprising that they hadn’t cracked the code to good artillery even 150 years later ! . Says a lot about both , the Europeans and Marathas . As a result , Maratha artillery divisions continued to be manned by Europeans and if not Europeans , then Arabs , Habshis etc . A Panse or Patwardhan were rare , and no match for a DeBussy or DeBoigne .
Apart from a few sporadic incidents , Marathas continued to be a cavalry – centric army right upto the late 1750s . One change happened though . The superiority of the French artillery , which they saw in action at various places , made them induct Frecnh trained artillery men like Muzzafar Khan . And after him , the famous Ibrahim Khan Gardi . Both DeBussy trained men . Udgir in 1760 marked the first time that the Marathas put up a co ordinated cavalry – artillery attack on the Nizam . The genius of Balwantrao Mehendale ensured a crushing defeat for the Nizam . Sadly , the Marathas never found the time to perfect this new method, and Mehendale died before 14th Jan 1761 . Which is why the Panipat disaster is often blamed on the lack of artillery – cavalry co ordination .

Post Panipat , Madhavrao I went about trying to rebuild the Maratha confederacy . He paid special attention to guns and cannons . A factory for making cannon balls was established at Ambegaon near Otur ( Junnar ) as  also a workshop for producing cannons was set up at Pune in 1769 . The cannon balls were 7 to 20 sher ( 1 sher = 1.25 kg ) . The cannons had colourful names like  Jaywanti , Jwalabhavani etc . They played a part in Madhavrao’s victory over Haider Ali at Seringapatnam .
But , even then , Maratha artillery still lacked both in quality and quantity . Most of the cannon balls were wrought , not cast . The sizes of neither the cannon balls nor the bore of the cannon was standardised . One can one imagine the time and effort spent in creating such custom made artillery . Cannon balls had to be hammered into shape before being put into a cannon . This was damaging to the cannon too , as smooth bore cannons lasted longer . Many cannons burst while being created  , killing the workers around them . As a result , even Madhavrao was forced to buy cannon balls from the British . The Brits , shrewd as they were , never supplied the requisite quantity ! Infact they only supplied only 10 % of what was asked for . By this time , their star was on the ascent in India , and they did not want to give their  ‘ enemy ‘ the sinews of war .
Another issue was the carriages used . They were large , cumbersome and many times overloaded with other things . As a result , a Maratha gun took more than half an hour to get ready for battle ! . Many carriages broke en route . And they never got around to using horses . Maratha guns were always drawn by a huge number of bullocks .
The death of  Peshwa Madhavrao in 1772 was a huge blow to the Marathas . Among other things , it greatly affected the artillery division too .
To the north however , Mahadji Scindia had started making rapid strides in this direction . A certain Count Benoit  DeBoigne was put in charge of the artillery . A division of 10,000 musketeers was also raised . From the late 1780s , Maratha artillery started having a telling effect on the neighbouring Rajput states . Jaipur  , Alwar , Chittor , Ajmer  etc quickly toppled . The nominal hold which Nanasaheb had over the Rajputs was further cemented by Mahadji . The Battle of Patan is a telling example of this . Sadly , Mahadji died in 1794 , leaving his job unfinished . Five years later , Nana Phadnavis passed away at Pune , bringing to an end the Nana – Mahadji combine . Sawai Madhavrao too died in the meantime . Their successors , Daulatrao Scindia and Bajirao – II were not a patch on these stalwarts . The British , with their far superior artillery , annexed whatever was left of the Marathas in 1818 .

Ref : Marathyancha itihas – vol 1,2 ,3 : BG Khare

        Military Systems of the Marathas   – SN Sen
© Aneesh Gokhale


Question by a friend of mine got me started on this topic . Every era and rule leaves some or the other lasting impact on the region it thrives in , and the same is true for Maratha rule of 18th century India . Their domination of the Indian sub continent for around a century shaped politics and social life in many ways .

First and foremost , the rise of Chhatrapati Shivaji himself was nothing short of a miracle . The very fact that someone could challenge the Turkic – Afghan – Mughal hegemony in the country , and win , inspired people as far afield as Assam and Bundelkhand to carry out similar ventures . Shivaji’s success was India’s first step towards self rule .

Next came the 27 year war of independence . An empire fell , largely in part due to the administrative and military set up of Shivaji , and most of India was free of Mughal rule for the large part .

Come 1720 , and Bajirao decided to thrust north . This is an important event , because it shows his intent to keep outsiders out . There had indeed been a debate as to whether Marathas should head north or south . If they had spent the next generation in consolidating south India only , who knows what would have happened to the North ? Perhaps another foreigner at Delhi ? Note that it was Bajirao’s armies in Central India that hastened Nadir Shah’s retreat . In annexing central and north India , the Marathas became the first indeginious power in 800 years to do so .
Towards the south , Maratha activities hastened the exit of the French . Later Maratha activities hastened entry of the British too , but a British – French combination might have led to a Canada type situation in India , or perhaps even an Algeria – Egypt type case , with countries divided where the French and British drew a line .

The battle of Panipat , in which Abdali won a phyrric victory , truly cleared the decks for the Sikh empire to rise . Free of attacks from the Northwest , they went on to build an empire spanning whole of undivided Punjab , KPK , much of J& K .

Apart from this , there was a temple building spree during the days of Ahilyabai Holkar . The scale of this temple building shows the extent of Hindu rule , as well as it’s resurgence . Without political hold , that was not possible .

Finally , the large number of Maratha states in Central and Northern India , like that of Gwalior was a major contributor to the ‘moth eaten ‘ Pakistan of Jinnah . Note the financial help and moral support of the Nawabs and Nizams of the time towards the Pakistan movement . Without the presence of Maratha rule in large parts , ‘Mughalistan ‘ might well have been a reality . ( Mughalistan – pipe dream about re creating Mughal India , cherished by some people ) . After all , the landed Muslim gentry was one of the driving forces of this .

Infact , if the Marathas had focused bit more on uprooting the landed Muslim gentry of Uttar Pradesh , especially that of its western parts , history of India might well have been totally different , British rule not withstanding .

Lachit Barphukan & Religion – A rebuttal to Commie deception.

Its a shame I have to write this, because frankly his religion should be least of our concerns. He fought against an army which represented Uzbek invaders and that is all that should concern us. But instead of recognising the flaw that was the Mughal empire, our secular donkeys issue following statements with regards to Barphukan – Mughal struggle :

  1. Lachit Barphukan was not a Hindu.
  2. He fought against the Hindu Ram Singh.
  3. Most important commander was a Muslim named Ismail Siddiqui.
  4. It was not a Hindu – Muslim struggle. Let us not paint it that way.
  5. Assam was never a part of India. (since definition of India is only as per Oxford dictionary)

So now, let us take the claims one by one.

Yes . He was not a Hindu. Surprised ? 

Technically speaking, he belonged to a religion called Fralung. This religion traces its origins to a God named Lengdon. Lengdon’s two children Khunlai and Khunlung came down to earth and started the Tai Ahom dynasty etc etc. Mythology basically, lets say Fralung mythology. Then all this manifests itself as deities like Ngi Ngau Kham etc. There was even a temple to this God at Charaideo in Assam.

But, there are some aspects of this ‘religion’ which are very close to classical Hinduism. Like for example – ancestor worship. Also there was a definite element of idol worship. Infact, an image of Lengdon was given to the king to signify his royal bearing. Then there was the Lakli calender, which closely resembled the Brihaspati Chakra. Also, there is a claim that Lengdon is Indra – but this is contested and since this is not a lecture on theology, I will not go into it. But why is he associated with Indra of all Gods ? A question to ponder.

Most importantly, adopting certain Hindu customs did not make them apostates. Even today, there are members of the Tai Ahom tribe, who while following many ‘Hindu’ customs, still follow Fralung customs like burial.

Even more important, is that after migrating from Burma, this dynasty adopted and enriched the local culture. They welcomed someone  Shankaradeva, built temples, tanks etc and ensured the well being of the people. So maybe initially they were not Hindu, but certainly did more for Hinduism in the north east than some “Hindus” elsewhere in the country. Also, they adopted more and more customs of classical Hinduism as time passed, till we had kings like Rudra Singha who was as Hindu as you or me.

Another interesting question for the commies to answer — why did this dynasty, at the peak of their power, exposed to so many different ideologies, adopt more customs of Hinduism ? Why not Islam – politically dominant every where else in India ?

For want of a better word – “Indic religion” is a good term to use for Lachit Barphukan specifically. The umbrella under which you will find Buddhism, Jainism perhaps even Sikhism among others. They are intrinsically different from Abrahamic religions and share many things in common. Moreover, in nations like China and Japan, people have been known top officially follow two religions at same time. Within India , is it odd to find Buddha statues in Hindu homes or Jains paying respects at Hindu temples ?

Commies  can think of a religion only in terms of my way or the high way — which is the crux of the problem.

2. He fought against the Hindu Ram Singh. 

Well, this I have mentioned firmly in my book. What’s more, he even prayed at the Hayagriv temple at Hajo. His father also prayed at some temple in the Deccan – when he invaded on behalf of Aurangzeb. But again the secular donkeys forget that while the sword was in Hindu hands, the thought was Mughal. And what did Aurangzeb do in all those territories captured for him by his Hindu mansabdars ? Jaziya is just one example. So, the correct assessment is, he fought against the Mughal empire of Aurangzeb. Again, a common trick of deception perfected by commies – missing the woods for the trees. The whole exercise is of course to absolve the Mughal empire of any wrong.

3. His most important commander was Ismail Siddiqui 

Well, I agree he was an important commander and was instrumental in capturing Guwahati in November 1667. For this he should be known to all and my deepest respects to him. But, he was not the only commander under Lachit Barphukan. As often happens in such cases, his importance has been over blown by many commies. My question is, why does the Muslim fighting for the Hindu (or the Fralung here) always get mentioned like it is something extra special ? Were not the other people who accompanied Siddiqui important ? How many have heard about Miri Sandikoi, who prevented his entire battalion from retreating at Saraighat ? Doesn’t this itself show that such had been the exception and not the norm ?

Coming to his rank , it was Hazarika. Meaning he led contingents of 1000 soldiers. There were ranks for three thousand and six thousand also. So frankly, there were higher ranked officers who also played a very important role in the Assamese victory.

Well, in this we can see another commie gem — He was patriotic and remained true to his king inspite of being Muslim.

And if you have not seen the problem in that statement, well god help you.

4. It was not a Hindu Muslim struggle. 

Well it was not. It was a struggle between people who wanted swarajya and Uzbek invaders. It had as much logic in it as the Indian Freedom Struggle. Maharashtra, Assam, perhaps Bundelkhand have the distinction in having participated and won in not one but two freedom struggles.

Now, will our commies and marxists  agree to this point ?

5. Assam was never a part of India. 

This again comes straight from Marx Tuition Classes. Commies have been trying to fit the Indian “nation” into European definitions and failed. In fact, a nation created on those very communal lines is on verge of falling apart.Pakistan that is. The commie assertion is — no “Indian” power has ruled, and hence it is never part of India. Basically till the British came, Delhi never ruled. Then this leads to usual commie dialogues

India has always been defined in cultural terms. And Assam very well fits in. Narakasur has been mentioned in the Mahabharat, as has been Bhagadatta. Then we have Ulupi and Chitrangada further east. Most important is the Kamakhya mandir at Guwahati. It is a very important Shakti peeth – symbolizing the Yoni. The other important Shakti peeth is in Balochistan ! And likewise there are over fifty spread all over the subcontinent.

This itself should tell us that Assam is culturally integral to India, much like the 12 jyotirlings. Also, the name of Burma was Brahmadesh, and Brahma idols are prevalent in that religion. Kamrup comes from Kamdev. The Yogini Tantra was also composed in Assam. And last but not the least the old name of Guwahati – “Pragjyotishpur” should finish all doubts about its cultural unity with India since ancient times.

well so .. there you go.


Hi friends, the following is an interview of author Aneesh Gokhale, on his second novel ‘Brahmaputra – The story of Lachit Barphukan’ . The novel is generating great reviews and is an excellent follow up to his first novel ‘Sahyadris to Hindukush’.

agAbout the Author :

Aneesh Gokhale, born March 1988, completed his schooling in Pune and is currently working in merchant navy as a navigating officer. He is an avid trekker, hiker and is passionate about  Indian history. He loves reading and writing.

Sahyadris to Hindukush was his first book ( 2012)

Brahmaputra is his second book (2015)

He has also given public talks on numerous occasions , on Maratha and Assamese history in both English and Marathi. His essays and interviews have been published in various newspapers and magazines. In 2015 he was also invited as Chief Guest for Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (Pune) Independence Day celebration.

He can…

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