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]

 

 

 

 

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

ACROSS BRAHMAPUTRA WITH WARRIOR LACHIT BORPHUKAN

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

The Forgotten King – Hemu

Hemchandra conquered Delhi and Agra . He won twenty two consecutive battles against the Mughals. He was crowned as a monarch and took the title “Vikramaditya”

Read the full article published in DNA : The Forgotten King

Do check out my books at Amazon India

The Curious Case of Jodhpur

How Sardar Patel tore up Jinnah’s “blank cheque” and averted Jodhpur’s possible merger with Pakistan

Read the full article, which was published in DNA – Curious case of Jodhpur

Check out my books on Maratha and Assamese history at Amazon India

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 Indiafacts.org –> Chhatrapati Shivaji & Bengal

Video presentation – Integration of India’s Princely States

1. Integration of India’s Princely States

 

 

The integration of India’s Princely States by the Iron Man of India , Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel is a subject oft ignored by our school syllabi (another unfortunate victim of political vendetta)

Do check out this short 4 minute clip put together by me, showing the various dates on which different Princely States acceded to the Union of India.

I have also authored two books on Maratha and Assamese history , available for purchase on Amazon India 

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

Chapter 3 – Jirga , Kandahar

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Sample pages from  ” Sahyadris to Hindukush “

Chapter 3 — Jirga , Kandahar

 

The dry brown-red cedar leaf crunched under the horse’s hoof, splintering into a hundred pieces with a distinct crackle. Rehmat Khan Barakzai, astride the sturdy Arabian horse, wrapped his keffiyah closer to his face, to protect himself from the chilly autumn winds that had begun to blow across the Afghan city of Kandahar. He looked across the barren landscape, a drab mixture of  grey , light brown and yellow. Here and there, the spruce and deodar trees sprang out of the ground, bereft of leaves, which lay scattered at the  base of their trunks. He scanned the area with the vision of a hawk, his eyes honed in the Pashtun highlands, watching the Afghans, clad in their usual long flowing clothes,go about their daily business. A bearded man carting away some fruit, a man on horseback rushing away to somewhere, few others strolling towards a mosque.Rehmat Khan was annoyed that the person he was waiting for hadn’t yet showed up. He put a hand to his forehead and peered into the distance. Rehmat Khan spotted a lone horseman, slowly making his way towards him. The outline of the pancake shaped kapol which covered his head  could be clearly made out. Finally!, thought Rehmat Khan Barakzai,  even as he raised his right hand and waved it,  signalling to the new comer.
“Taso sanga yay?” asked Barakzai, cheerfully in a loud voice as Mohamadzai came within earshot. “Pakhair” replied  Mohamadzai , his  white teeth glistening in a broad smile. He was well into his fifties, with a rapidly graying  beard and cheeks which had grown infirm with age. There was still a firm determination in his eyes though, a sign of the numerous trials by fire he had to  undergo as Khan of his tribe.
Barakzai gave a sharp jab to this horse with his right heel, and turned towards the dusty road leading to the tomb of Sher-e-Surkh. The old fort at Kandahar towered above them, lording over the Pashtun heartland. The two warlords had been invited to a jirga by the Pir Sabir Shah. Slowly they made their way their horses moving in a rhythmic trot over the barren track. It was customary for the Pashtuns to conduct such jirgas from time to time. These councils, would then decide issues of social and political importance to the Pashtuns. The untimely death of Nadir Shah, the Persian ,had prompted this latest jirga. Sensing that the Afghan lands would fall into disarray one again, Pir Sabir Shah had organized this jirga at the holy place. The Mohamadzai, Popalzai, Barakzai, Jadran, and other Pashtun chieftains had been specially invited.
Before long, the two of them had arrived at the simple sandstone monument that was the tomb of Sher-e-Surkh. Rehmat Khan Barakzai looked at the group of camel hide tents which came in view as they climbed a hillock. Coarse cream coloured fabric, blending into the surrounding plains. Barakzai and Mohamadzai trotted closer to the camp,where the Pir himself was ready to welcome them.

You can purchase and read the full book on Flipkart

Lachit Barphukan – A few interesting anecdotes .

The far flung region of North East India is seldom mentioned in our history books ! One such unsung hero is Lachit Barphukan, the Assamese commander who defeated the huge Mughal armies of Aurangzeb, commandeered by none other than Ram Singh, the Raja of Amer. The Battle of Saraighat is an extremely famous naval battle, fought on the river Brahmaputra, which finally crushed all Mughal hopes. Lachit Barphukan was the hero of that battle, as he rallied his forces against the Mughals even while he himself was very ill and weak. Lachit Barphukan’s undying patriotism and sense of duty is what endeared him to his king, his Prime Ministers and all his soldiers. Today, Lachit’s is a household name across Assam. The mere mention of Lachit Barphukan brings a smile to the lips of the Assamese. Even the receptionist at the nearby Assam Bhavan looked genuinely happy when I spoke to him about Lachit Barphukan. Moreover, when I had visited Guwahati for researching for my book on the great man, I could see genuine admiration for Lachit Barphukan amongst a variety of people, be it rickshawallahs , museum caretakers, school teachers etc. I was instantly reminded of the admiration and adulation Chhatrapati Shivaji evokes in Maharashtra.Many a times, it is the small anecdotes or important remarks made by a person that grant him respect and immortality. Lachit Barphukan is one such person. Here I will describe two incidents from his life which have become folklore now in Assam. Following this are a few statements attributed to Lachit Barphukan, which bring out his qualities as a statesman and commander

1. Momai Kota Garh – ( Garh where uncle was slaughtered)

Perhaps the most well known of anecdotes during the war with the Mughals. Lachit Barphukan had recaptured all the Assamese areas lost to Mir Jumla and Diler Khan by Aug 1667. The city of Guwahati had once again passed into Assamese hands. Lachit Barphukan knew that Aurangzeb would once again send a large force to retake Guwahati – which he did in the form of Ram Singh and his 80,000+ soldiers. Lachit Barphukan’s plan was simple – he intended to fortify and guard the city of Guwahati so as to prevent the Mughals from sailing further east to Gargaon, the capital. All possible resources were thrown into the war effort. By the time Ram Singh reached Dhaka from Agra and began sailing towards Guwahati, the embankments and fortifications were complete – save for one very crucial patch. The person in charge was Lachit’s own maternal uncle. Lachit Barphukan realized that time was short and exhorted his uncle to keep working through the night so that the embankment would be complete. It was afterall , just a question of a few more hours of work. But Lachit’s uncle completely ignored his orders !The next morning, Lachit Barphukan beheaded his own maternal uncle for dereliction of duty and being callous towards defending the Brahmaputra Valley. For Lachit Barphukan, his attitude amounted to treason – punishable by death.* The exact location of the embankment is unknown, but the story itself is very popular as Assamese folklore.


2. The envoys and Ram Singh

A little story which happened during the Mughal invasion of Assam around 1668 : Around that year , Ram Singh had led a huge Mughal army into the Brahmaputra and a few skirmishes with Assamese outposts on the river had followed . Still , it was early days , and both Lachit Barphukan , the Assamese commander and Ram Singh wanted to try out negotiating a settlement instead of plunging headlong into war . So , as part of the talks , Ramcharan and Nim , two Assamese envoys , once reached Ram Singh’s camp bearing Lachit Barphukan’s message . Over there , Ram Singh had a couple of beautiful wooden birds on display , the likes of which neither Ramcharan nor Nim had ever seen ! . Knowing it would be very difficult to obtain these birds elsewhere , Ramcharan requested and begged the Mughals to gift him one . Ram Singh agreed and gifted him two instead ! . On hearing about this , Lachit Barphukan was furious . He immediately summoned Ramcharan and had him bound in iron fetters . Lachit had clearly marked out duties for everyone on the battlefield . He himself was steadfast in his duty of keeping Assam free and expected the same from everyone else . His messenger’s duty was to deliver a message and do nothing more . Accepting the gifts amounted to going against orders and in a way accepting a bribe . Lachit Barphukan had seen how infighting , turncoats and bribes had given Assam to Mir Jumla just five years earlier .He would not let it repeat again .

Quotes attributed to Lachit Barphukan –

“ As for Ram Singh’s request to give him fight for an hour, I would like to say we are prepared to fight as long as there remains a drop of blood in our veins”  

–  Lachit to Ram Singh as told to Firoz Khan

“ Tell your men I am going to die on this spot and I will never think of abandoning my charge. I have bought a slice of earth on Chila Hill which will provide sufficient accommodation for my remains. If I survive, I shall go after all the people have left this place” –

Lachit Barphukan at battle of Saraighat.

“ His majesty has given me supreme command of my army. He has put all faith in me so that I may fight the enemy. Should I now desert the fight and revert to the embraces of my wives and children”

– Lachit Barphukan at Battle of Saraighat on being advised to take rest.

Ref : Lachit Barphukan and His Times – S.K. Bhuyan _________________________________________________________________
© Aneesh GokhaleYou can read more about and purchase my book on Lachit Barphukan here