Modern History of India


Modern History of India usually referred to British India till Independence, but in a process to understand it better, is to summarize it from start of second millennium. The article is no point of view of history rather is capturing of important events in history and its chronology.

The account of history is taken from various historians and academic platforms and some years of personal research. Since history is no subject of consumption, rather for research. This timeline with little narration in form of storytelling have intent to inject interest for further research for the readers.

Brief of 1001-1175 AD

Indian subcontinent was moreover calm and no major events happened or not much written by historians, more-so there was no significant change in hands of geo-political power to internal or external forces. Central Asian tribes and kingdoms were putting pressure on Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in South Asia. In significant series of raids across Indus and Yamuna river, Mahmud of Ghazni, a Persian Mamluk military commander from modern day Turkey attacked across Indus and Yamuna and retracted each time, so it was not for the purpose to extend his boundaries rather to loot wealthy region across Indus river, current day Pakistan and Punjab who was then ruled by local Hindu rulers.

1203-1526 [ Delhi Sultanate] 323 Years

A more systematic expansion was done by Muhammad Ghori in around 1175 with purpose to establish Islamic kingdom of his own across Indus river. He was the one who actually laid the foundation for the Islamic kingdom around current day Delhi and to form Delhi Sultanate. Two famous Battle of Tarain near current day Karnal-Haryana fought between Prithviraj Chouhan and Muhammad Ghori where Chouhan was victorious in 1191 and Ghori in second 1192. Ghori retracted again but this time he placed his Slave as Sultan.

Delhi Sultanate which experienced five dynasties and all of them were either Turks or Afghan-Turks. Initially their capital was in Lahore then moved to Badayun and finally Delhi which remained for most of its period for about 200 years. In final years they created a new capital in Agra.

1203-1290 [ Mamluk/Slave Dynasty ] 87 Years

After defeating Prithvi Raj Chouhan, Ghori campaigned for short period in areas around Punjab-Sindh and Delhi. Before his return, his one time slave Qutb-ud-din Aibak was placed in Delhi and started the Sultanate. Qutb-ud-din Aibak, Iltutmish and Balban was famous among Slave Dynasty. Razia Sultan, daughter of Iltutmish was the first and only Sultan of Delhi but was for a very short span of time.

Mamluks were overthrown by Jalaluddin Khalji who was well established ruler in Afghan region had earlier served Balban. In series of murder of Mamluk courtmen and without any major war Jalaluddin got better of the last Mamluk Sultan of Delhi and placed himself on Sultanate.

This was also the period when Mongols – successors of Genghis Khan were the most powerful empire in the world and a great push for their expansion were being faced by Turks, Afghans and other middle east kingdoms. Kublai Khan was the Khan by end of this century and had Mongols controlled almost all of Asia and Europe except Indian Peninsula.

1290-1320 [ Khilji Dynasty ] 30 Years

While Jalaluddin was trying to establish himself and busy eliminating old guards of Mamluk Empire who were in revolt, his son-in-law Alauddin Khilji was campaigning in Deccan and on his return to Delhi, he killed Jalaluddin and assumed the Sultanate. Alauddin remained for most of the period of Khilji dynasty and busy throughout fighting with Rajputs and with Mongols who were constantly pushing their conquest in this region. Delhi Sultanate started taking shape with Alauddin’s expansion from current day Afghanistan, Pakistan, Punjab, Delhi Rajasthan upto Awadh in North and Gujrat, Maharastra and Madhya Preadesh in West-Central.

1320-1413 [ Tughlaq Dynasty ] 93 Years

Khilji dynasty were overthrown Ghiasuddin Tughlaq who was once personal guard to Jalaluddin Khilji and played some important role in Khilji’s battle with Mongols. Ghiasuddin was awarded governorship of Multan and when after death of Alauddin Khilji, the later Khiljis were no so efficient, Ghiasuddin conspired and overthrown last Khilji Sultan Khusuru Khan. Tughlaq dynasty was most stable ever since formation of Delhi Sultanate and they expanded upto Bengal in East and Andhra in South. Muhammad bin Tughlaq and his son Firoz shah were the most prominent Sultan of this dynasty, they tried to push for economic and other reforms where they were successful in some areas and were also facing reluctances especially in Bengal and Gujrat.

1398 – Invasion of Timur, It was the time when Tughlaq’s were losing some control over the Sultanate after the death of Firoz Shah there were fighting within family for control over Sultanate and is the time when First successful Mongol invasion happened in 1398 by Timur (from Timurid Empire). Babur was 4th generation grandson of Timur. Timur was not decedent of Genghis Khan but Babur was from Khan lineage. Mughals what we call them today is derived from Mongols.

The capture of Delhi by Timur was horrific as his army massacred almost the population and the wealthy Delhi Sultanate was looted before he returned for his next campaign. The vacuum created by Timur’s invasion and disarray in Delhi city, Sayyed Khizr who was a governor in Multan used title of Timur and started Sayyed Dynasty

1413-1450 [ Sayyed Dynasty ] 37 Years

This was the period when very less been written or came to notice except the period was ruled by four Sultans and none did any better to either regain lost territories or even save the ones who were at the brink of parting away from Delhi Sultanate rule. The Delhi Sultanate reduced to area North and South of Gangetic and Yamuna. Indus region gone out of their hands and later in 1451 the first Afghan-Pashtun ruler from Lodi tribe Bahlul Lodi took control over Delhi Sultanate.

1469 : Birth of Guru Nanak Dev, the first guru and founder of Sikhism in Punjab region

1451-1526 [ Lodi Dynasty ] 75 Years

Lodi’s were also not expansionist and controlled only areas got from Sayyeds but both Sikander and Ibrahim Lodi contained and worked in cultural and infrastructure building. Agra was new Capital of Delhi Sultanate in their time.

Alongside, Delhi Sultanate were never so influential and in control of Southern part of Subcontinent where Vijayanagara Empire was flourishing under Raya’s and their empire reached its peak during the rule of Krishna Deva Raya with constant gain of territories formerly under the Deccan Sultanates in the north and east Deccan as Lodh’s were focused in Northern India. Vijayanagara Empire was the only large kingdom ruled by Hindu ruler ever since Delhi Sultanate started.

Map during Delhi Sultanate
Map during Delhi Sultanate

Parallel to these events in this period:

1453 Byzantine empire (Eastern Roman Empire) taken over by Ottomans (lead by Usman, leader of  Turk tribes) and trade route to India via land route was controlled by them, western European countries started exploring new sea route to India.

In the same period Cristofer Columbus sailed to America in search of India.

1497 : Vasco de Gama a Portuguese first sailed to Malabar coast (Calicut) and Portuguese started coming to Malabar coast for trade of spices. Western Roman Empire was also split by then and countries like Portugal, France, Britain and Spain had extended their trade to Asia. Since Ottomans now having control over the land route, they had opened the sea route circling Africa to South Asia and Indian Peninsula.  They also started building trade posts like Cochin, Calicut, Daman, Diu, Goa etc. These trading companies also had their small armies and fought battles and established themselves in coastal areas and started controlling Indian Ocean trade route.

1526 [ First Battle of Panipat ] : Babur, a Turco-Mongo lineage ruler of Kabul, in his campaign to claim his legacy from Timur’s possession in Punjab region fought his first battle in Punjab in 1524 and in two years’ time, across Indus River came to Delhi and defeated Ibrahim Lodhi in a fierce Battle of Panipat. Ibrahim Lodi was killed in the battle and Babur took control over Delhi Sultanate. Babur merged his areas from Afghanistan to Pakistan-Sindh-Punjab to new territories gained from Lodi empire up to North India and was the end of Delhi Sultanate.

1526 – 1707 [ Mughal Empire ] 180-200 Years.

This was one of the most important events in history of Modern India “First Battle of Panipat” post which there was a complete change in overall approach of governance in this peninsula. It started with Babur merging his territories of Afghanistan and Pakistan to Delhi Sultanate’s Norther India, making the it a formidable Empire in world. The capital and centre of power shifted from Delhi to Agra. It also gave an opportunity to Babur to settle his empire in Indian peninsula away from constant external threat in his home land (current day Uzbekistan).

Soon after taking control, the Mughals started their expansion drive starting with Rajputs, who were had long lasting control over their kingdoms around Rajasthan. Historians suggest the in early Mughal period, religious violence was the factor which triggered to militancy for self-defense in Sikhism. Religious persecution was one of the major conflict point.

While in Southern part, In the same period, Mangalore was captured by Portuguese and sometime later they even captured Islands of current day Mumbai.

1530 : Babur died in the year 1530 and succeeded by his son Humayun, as it usually happened in all dynasties, the family rift of succession didn’t allowed Humayun to settle. Humayun was overthrown by Sher Shah Suri in 1540 who was a Mughal Governor of Bengal and controlled the empire for next 15 years. Humayun who exiled himself in Persia returned to claim his throne after death of Sher Shah Suri and his successor. Bairam Khan helped Humayun to recapture Agra but later Humayun died and Bairam Khan became a sort of de-facto controller and son Akbar succeeded the throne.

BUT, there was one small twist in Akbar’s succession. Once general in Suri’s army named Hemu who had earlier raised his position during incapable last Suri Emperor, used the opportunity after Humayun’s death to recapture Delhi. Suri’s were placed in Bengal and Hemu rapidly started capturing territories after territories from Bengal via Awadh to Agra and finally captured Delhi. Akbar, a teenager then was under protection of Bairam Khan who fought the Second Battle of Panipat [1556] where Hemu was killed and Akbar’s Rule started.

Hemu who is also called Raja Hemu Vikramaditya, had risen from a humble background to accent up to capture Delhi is still considered as brave figure and the battle of Panipat was the one he lost in bad fortune.

1556 – 1605 [ Rule of Akbar ] Mughal India under Jalal-ud-din Akbar developed and started to become a strong and stable economy. Along expansion of territories, art and culture flourished in his regime of 50 years.

1565 : The Vijayanagara Empire of Deccan [ current day Karnataka, TamilNadu, Kerala, Andhra and Telangana ] was a century old Kingdom and in South India, the Mughal Empire was expanding under Akbar and with help of Ahmednagar, Bijapur and Golkunda sultanates in very important Battle of Talikota in year 1565 where long history and the Vijayanagara Empire had to compromise their position and territories in Deccan.

Many ancient dynasties collapsed during the early 14th century like Tamil Pandyas,  Andhra Kakatiyas etc. due to Muslim invasions mostly in Tughlaq era, Hindu rule over South India was preserved and consolidated under Vijayanagara Empire and was large.

The battle caused a political rupture of the Vijaynagara and permanently changed Deccan dynamics of rule. The Kingdom continued but with the interference of Mughals.

1576 : After his accession to the empire, Akbar had steadily settled and developed his relationship with most of the Rajput states who were most powerful in this era and all preceding Mughals never had absolute control on them, with the exception of Mewar, acknowledged as the leading state in Rajasthan. In order to control Mewar an inevitable Battle of Haldighati was fought in the year 1576 between Rana of Mewar, Maharana Pratap, and the Mughal emperor Akbar, led by Man Singh where Mughals were victorious but Rana escaped. Maharana Pratap is most prominent icon Rajasthan culture and is viewed as a celebrated warrior in India.

Akbar established courts at Delhi, Agra, and Fatehpur Sikri and became centres of the arts, literature, and learning. Persian culture started mixing and merge with indigenous Indian elements, and a distinct Indo-Persian culture emerged now called Mughal style art, food and monuments.

Akbar, during his regime annexed West and Central India and expanded further territories ahead Kabul. Rajputana were the most difficult to annex so Akbar had tactical alliances with them and even married to Rajput princess, well known as Jodha Bai who’s son Jahangir (Salim) later became Emperor. The diplomacy of matrimonial alliances in his regime somewhat reduced tussle which in return provides space for trade, culture, art and foreign relations to grow.

Portuguese who were already established in coastal areas where having good relations with Akbar and British were trying to seek permission of trade in this region.

In the same period Sikhism was rapidly spreading in Punjab and Akbar was neutral towards their propagation many gurudwaras were being constructed along The Golden Temple construction started in this era.

The empire in full shape had almost entire subcontinent extended upto Central Asia in North-West and upto Bangladesh in East either in direct control or under confederacy. Gorkha Kingdom [ Nepal ] ruled by Shah family, Small Himalayan Kingdoms, Ahom Kingdom [ Assam and around ] and to some extent of Vijayanagara Kingdom were remaining which Mughals never been able to bring under their empire.

1600 : East India Company [EIC] was formed in England and got permission [ Royal Charter ] from then Queen Elizabeth – I for trade in East Cost Africa, Middle East and Indian Peninsula. The Royal Charter also extended monopoly of trade in these areas. This was a result of England realizing that Portuguese and Dutch were making wealth with trade in this region.

1605 – 1627 : Prince Salim aka Jahangir who was the heir and successor after Akbar’s death in 1605, somewhat continued the expansionist legacy of Akbar and also in his period when East India Company was in tussle with Portuguese. Jahangir initially denied EIC to setup any trading posts, as Portuguese had decent influence in Akbar and Jahangir’s Court. Finally after 10 odd years of tussle with Portuguese, EIC established a trading post in current day Andhra and later a factory in Surat and Agra were established with permit from Jahangir.

Jahangir was responsible for ending a century long struggle with Rajputs but his regime was the start of fresh conquests with Sikhs because of the execution of their fifth Guru Arjan Dev over political egoistic issues, this and subsequent struggle between Mughals and Sikhs, sort of forced Sikhs to transform into a warrior sect.

Jahangir in order to continue the legacy, once Akbar had failed to conquer Kangra fort where Raja of Chamba who was the greatest of all the rajas of hills. Finally Jahangir was successful in capturing Kangra and some parts of current day Kashmir.

Mughal Empire was very strong that time and they had either direct control or under accord over the entire subcontinent and East India Company avoided any conflict with them, rather they kept on applying for trading rights in Mughal and local rulers court and focused on establishing themselves as traders in return of permit fee.

1628 – 1658 : Shah Jahan, the favourite son of Jahangir, not the elder son succeeded the throne, infact there was a series of family murder/killing by Shah Jahan’s father-in-law for his succession and his step brothers were killed. Shah Jahan like his father was son of Hindu mother.

The expansionist policy continues during his reign and being taken forward by his sons. The subcontinent by this time was one of the most rich centre of the arts & crafts, trade and architecture. Shah Jahan was an able emperor and stabilized the kingdom and during his tenure started experiencing new intrusions of trade by British, French and Portuguese.

East India Company [ EIC ] kept establishing trading posts and also started building Forts, Current day Kolkata and Chennai [ Madras ] was then a village and became a sort of Capital of EIC trade. Bengal was the biggest province that time and also very fertile, so EIC focused in this region, similarly they also took lease of current day Mumbai from Portuguese.

In his regime some low intensity struggle with Rajputs and Sikhs continued, Marathas in the west were also showing some signs of revolt alongside deccan but most were for existence rather dominance. Young Shivaji was trying his foothold near Pune and was in conflict with Bijapur Sultanate.

Taking a pause here  to understand deccan which is going to take an important part in coming decades. There were 5 major kingdom/sultanate where Ahmednagar, Bidar, Golkunda and Bijapur was once part of bigger kingdom called Bahmani Sultanate which was result of geo-political vacuum being created after fall of Tughlaq dynasty post invasion of Timur. Further Internal conflicts between various lineages from previous Muslim rulers ended up in these four Sultanates. Vijayanagara empire was holding older legacy in Southern part of deccan which disintegrated after battle of Talikota, finally being taken by Mughals and representatives being deployed. Aurangzeb the most able son of Shah Jahaan was at campaign in Deccan and one by one all either fall or came under suzerainty.

1658 – 1707 [ Rule of Aurangzeb ] : Aurangzeb, in sequence of succession war between four sons of Shah Jahan, killed them all and imprisoned Shah Jahan then enthroned himself.

It was during his regime that Mughal Empire reached its greatest extent and became one of the wealthiest powers the world. Aurangzeb also abandoned the policy of pluralism and religious tolerance which was being followed by his predecessors. He was more inclined towards Islamic codes and policies. His rather conservative measures imposed in society led to rebellions in different regions but he managed to supress most of them. Aurangzeb was an able administrator and in his long tenure he worked towards taxation on trade, army hierarchy and foreign relations. The empire in his tenure became so dominant that he even not willing to acknowledge Ottomans claim to the Caliphate and always disagreed with Ottomans idea of instigating holy war against Christians.

Shivaji with his skills of guerrilla warfare and pushing desire grown Maratha power in Bijapur and Golkunda Sultanate where Shivaji became a sort of de-facto ruler reducing their powers and expanding further in Deccan region. Shivaji’s courage and being the only notable Hindu force that was defying Mughal empire, titled as Chatrapati Maharaj. Aurangzeb used Rajputs against Marathas and even tried to ally with Shivaji but failed as Shivaji sensed some conspiracy to imprison him and his son.

1680 : Chatrapati Shivaji died at the age of 50 and his son continued the legacy but soon being captured by Aurangzeb and executed, but Marathas were now an established force of Deccan which later Peshwas expanded to the extent that they had biggest empire after Mughals.

East India Company were making efforts to gain more and more permits for trade from Mughals and finally in year 1682, East India Company got their permit to govern a small area in Bengal and first governor was appointed by EIC, they created first residency in Bengal [ Fort William – village Kalikata/Kalighata converted to fort and was the name used by EIC ] infact, EIC bought zamindari of three villages and also since they now have permit to govern, they started building their army which was realised by Mughals and the rift started between EIC and Mughals. First Anglo-Mughal war near current day Mumbai was fought and company was defeated badly and had to seek pardon from Aurangzeb and with some fine, Mughals wanted their tax money so with warnings their trading privileges were restored.

1699-1708 : Parallel events of opposition for religious conversion by various Sikh groups lead by the Ninth Sikh Guru Tegh Bahadur became instrumental for the cause. Aurangzeb perceived his popularity as threat and executed him, Guru Tegh Bahadur’s son Guru Gobind Singh further transformed the movement with war his techniques and goes on with numerous war against Mughals and was finally assassinated in 1708, a year after death of Aurangzeb. While he was Guru, in 1699, he founded Khalsa [ A Warrior ] and named Guru Granth Sahib [Religious Scripture] as final eternal Guru.

Within the same era French East India company also tried to gain some foot hold in coastal areas, and except for few areas, British East India company didn’t allowed French’s to establish themselves.

Its very important to understand the political geography of Indian Sub-Continent in this period, which includes current day India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Bhutan. Afghanistan is also included to understand 17th century geography. Since there was no definition of country rather provinces and by the end of Aurengzeb rule, the Mughal expansion can be understood as; West to East: Kabul, Sindh, Lahore, Punjab, Rajputana, Kashmir, Delhi, Agra, Awadh and Bengal. West, Central and South: Gujrat, Deccan [ Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Golkunda, Vijayanagara ] and Gondwana.

Polygars in South [ current Tamil Nadu and Kerala ], Gorkhas [ Nepal ] and Aohms [ Assam and North East India], Burma [ current Myanmar ] were never part of Mughal Empire.

1707 : Aurangzeb died and sudden fall of Mughal Empire

War between sons of Auranzeb succeeded by Bahadur Shah I, since the empire was too big to handle by someone lack in leadership, the empire rapidly start entering into decline where Marathas exploited the opportunity to expand and within next 10-15 years the empire was reduced to City walls of Delhi and around.

1708 : Guru Govind Singh died and succeeded by Banda Singh Bahadur who was in direct fight with Mughals and in 1715 was killed by Mughals

1713 – 1719

Farukh Siyar with help of Sayed brothers killed Jahandar Shah his predecessor who was Emperor only for an year. Farukh Siyar played an important role which gave traction to further sequence of events, he was not competent so had given governorship of Bengal to Murshid Quli Khan and that’s how Nawabi title was first given in Bengal which meant to collect tax and govern in the region for Mughal empire. Alivardi Khan was a famous Nawab who signed treaty with Marathas for peace in leu of money as Marathas then were frequent campaigners in Bengal province for extorting money. Siraj-ud-daula, grandson of Alivardi Khan later succeeded Nawabi of Bengal and played an important role in Battle of Plassey.

This was the same period when the war of succession was underway in Marathas. The sons of Shivaji, Shambahaji and Rajaram had their decedents who wanted control over Maratha empire. Marathas now had absolute control over Konkan coast. Shahuji, son of Shambhaji with help of Balaji Vishwanath who was then a Peshwa consolidated the grip over the Kingdom and also kept fighting with Mughals and Portuguese. The Peshwa Balaji Vishwanath became powerful enough to control Maratha empire which was later expanded by his son Peshwa Baji Rao I.

Farukhsiyar also appointed Asaf Jah the Nizam of Deccan and Mughals in this period had a treaty with Marathas for tax sharing. In a way Asaf Jah was appointed by Mughals but was under sovereignty of Marathas with a policy of compromise with both Rajputs and Marathas.

Why Farukhsiyar is important, is because he issued a “Farman”, exemption of custom duties of imports and exports to East India Company in Bengal and allowed Company to issue permits for local trade, also some land on rent around modern day Calcutta, Madras and Surat.

The “farmaan” issued to East India Company by Farukhsiyar was the first major breakthrough to company for trade and exemption of all duties against annual payment.

1719 Sayed Brothers with the help of Peshwa of Maratha Balaji Vishwanath killed Farukhsiyar and places a proxy in Delhi for some time and finally in same year or so, Muhammad Shah also called ‘Rangeela’  with the help of Asaf Jah killed Sayed Brothers and established himself on Delhi. Later Asaf Jah became powerful and he also fought and defeated Mughals during Muhammad Shah regime and declared Deccan, where he was a Nizam, Independent from Mughals [ * This is the pre-text of Nizams of Hyderabad that continued till Indian Independence]

1719 – 1761 : This was the period of Muhammad Shah (Rangeela) and the Mughal empire had gone through disintegration which started with Deccan gone out of their hands and Marathas expanding their territories under Baji Rao I. By 1725-30 Maratha expanded their territory to Malwa, Gujrat and upto Bundelkhand (current Madhya Pradesh) and areas under Mughals like Awadh, Punjab and Bengal had also sort of declared their Independence from empire and started collecting taxes on their own. In first 30 years of this period, this subcontinent was practically divided among Mughals, Rajputana, Maratha, Awadh, Bengal and Nizam of Deccan along with many small princely estates.

The power and control of Mughals further took a dent when Nadir Shah – Emperor of Iran in year 1739 invaded Delhi and in-spite help being sent by Nizam in the famous battle of Karnal, the region around Delhi was looted and massacred. This resulted the further de-fragmentation and Nadir Shah took proxy control over Delhi to North/West of Indus (current day Pakistan and parts of Afghanistan)

Saadat Khan who was appointed by Muhammad Shah as Governor earlier was further given Nawab title by Nadir Shah and his successor Safdar Jung then Shuja-ud-daulah as Nawab of Awadh. Later Shuja-ud-daulah who played an important role in Battle of Buxar.

In the same period Maraths also campaigned, attacked Delhi, Rajputanas, Awadh and Bengal and ransomed by Peshwa Baji Rao I. Marathas on the other hand were also in direct conflict with Portuguese, Peshwa Baji Rao after having fought several battles with Mughals, Portuguese, Awadh, Nizam and Bengal finally died in 1740 and succeeded by Balaji Baji Rao (also called Nanaji). In the same period there emerged some aligned Maratha powers like Gaikwads of Gujrat, Holkars of Indore, Shindes (now called as Schindhyas) of Gwalior, Bhonsles of Nagpur.

1747-1761 [ Third Battle of Panipat ] : After the death of Nadir Shah in 1747, an Afghan King Ahmed Shah Abdali (who later founded Durrani Empire) was frequently invading Delhi and Afghans started settling down in areas around Delhi – Rohilkhand (current day Rampur, Bareilly, Muradabad). Rohillas under Najib-ud-Daula, once important ally of Mughals, switch side to Abdali and was eying Delhi. Marathas were under treaty with Mughals to protect their territories and kept doing so and were fighting with Abdali. With support of Abdai, Najib-ud-daula was the de-facto ruler of Delhi and Delhi crown was going through frequent change overs in this period and finally Shah Iahan – III was replaced by Shah Alam, a puppet of Marathas, was made Mughal Emperor who remains for next 45 years.

In the year 1761 a very important event in history, Third Battle of Panipat took place between Abdali and Marathas where Abdli was supported by Nawab of Awadh (Suja-ud-Daula) and Rohillas (Najib-ud-Daula). Marathas were comprehensively defeated. In the same year Nanaji died and Mughal empire was restricted only in Delhi.

SO, from the period from the death of Aurenzeb in year 1707 till 1761 (~50 Years) the Mughal empire was completely divided and Marathas expanded and further weakened after death of Balaji Baji Rao (Nanaji). This battle of Panipat where East India company was not a part and had already taken control over Bengal after Battle of Plassey, exploited this situation in later period.

There was a vacuum created in the entire north region due to these events, in the same era Punjab was going through staggered rule by small groups who were in sort of alliance whenever any external threat, but they kept on fighting within as well. Southern region had some other dynamics due to French, Dutch, British and Portuguese influence building up in coastal regions.

Marathas were still strong in West and Central India and they kept on their control over Delhi and maintained Shah Alam as a puppet emperor.

Geo-Political Rise and Fall of Mughals

Battle of Plassey and Buxar : These are very important events in history which changed everything.

Bengal was the biggest province [ current day West Bengal, Bangladesh, Bihar, Orrissa and entire North East except Assam region ] and ruled by Nawabs, after the Farukhsiyar’s farmaan to East India Company the company were in gross misuse of terms of tax evasion and building army. A little before the battle of Panipat, Siraj-ud-Daula the young Nawab of Bengal was not happy with French and British fortification and deployment of troops in Fort William and around areas, so he ordered both to stop and revoked their privileges. Murshidabad was the capital of Bengal province, at the pre-text of Battle of Plassey there were couple of battle being fought between Murshidabad and Fort William. Siraj-ud-daula attacked Fort William, defeated company’s army and kept EIC officials captive. In order to rescue and control their position, Robert Clive was called from Madras with his army and naval fleet. He was made Lieutenant General of Bengal and he started playing divide politics and connived with Siraj-ud-Daula’s opponents. Nawab’s commander Mir Jafar was never happy with Siraj and was looking for his opportuinity, so in year 1757 East India Company decided to attack Murshidabad and the famous Battle of Plassey was fought where Mir Jafar ditched his own side in lieu of promised Nawabi by Clive. In the battle Siraj-ud-Daula was killed and Mir Jafar was planted as proxy Nawab by Robert Clive and East India Company. Robert Clive also took zamindari of a large land in his own name and till he remained in Bengal, made huge wealth of his own.

This is a land mark in Indian history where the largest province Bengal came completely under East India Company with Mir Jafar as proxy nawab and Company strengthening further in Bengal. When Mir Jafar started opposing with local social pressure, he was replaced by Mir Kasim and he too was a puppet. Later Mir Kasim was forced to move his capital from Murshidabad to Munger, he tried to get away from puppetry and asked help from Awadh Nawab Shuja-ud-daulah and so called Mughal emperor Shah Alam II. In the year 1764 the redefining Battle of Buxar happened where on one side, Nawab of Bengal, Awadh and Mughal emperor were defeated badly by the army of East India Company.

These two battles were redefining moments in Modern History of India which resulted, the so called Mughal Emperor was held captive in Allahabad with paid pension, Awadh forced to sign *subsidiary alliance and puppet Nawab placed in Bengal. The East India company took deewani rights [ tax collection rights ] of Bengal and now have absolute control over Bengal and Awadh. By this time the Carnatic wars were also over and Madras and entire coromandel coast line were in company’s control.

Coromandel [ Carnatic ] Wars 1745-1761 : Parallel to the events in Bengal and Awadh, there was a series of wars going on between French East India Company, British East India Company and Carnatic territories. The south eastern coast line on India is called Coromandel coast was then under rule of Tanjore and Arcot who were under Maratha support. There was internal conflicts between entire region for succession in Hyderabad after death of Asaf Jah as well as in Carnatic. French and British companies who had their own local allies, fought each other for control over this region. First carnatic war was not conclusive whereas French dominated in Second war and finally it was third one when Pondicherry went under British control from French was the result of third major Carnatic war which was spread up to Bengal.

These wars were result of English and French completion of Supremacy in Europe termed as “Seven Year war in Europe-1756” and both used local kingdoms who were in turmoil to settle their scores over supremacy. These wars were decisive for British company to realize they can not only trade but rule India.

Robert Clive – First governor of Bengal with help of Marathas and Mysore became famous with his victories. This started a new residency in Madras and control over areas under Nizam of Hyderabad. Bengal was made Presidency.

* Subsidiary Alliance: First Introduced by Robert Clive and later used by EIC governors, broadly this alliance restricts to raise any army, pay war indemnity, all future army support to be given by company, company to get free trade rights and revenue collection. In return pension to be paid.

There were many important events in terms of control of administration post these wars, company was not in good financial health, most of the wealth being extorted were in personal accounts of officials rather the company, so British Parliament came up with regulating act of 1773 for Company’s  affairs in India. First Governor General of Bengal [ Warren Hastings ] was appointed along with a council. Madras and Bombay governors came under Bengal and a Supreme court was established in Fort William for the hearings where Judges were sent from Britain. The act also restricted personal trade rights of the company’s officials.

1761-1799 [ Anglo Mysore Wars ]

By end of Carnatic wars, Kingdom of Mysore [Odeyar’s] was also facing threats from Nizam, Maratha, Tanjor and East India company in which their military commander Haider Ali showed lot of war courage and became powerful like a de-facto ruler. Haider Ali was an ally with French and it was the diplomacy of company (EIC) who were targeting Kingdom of Mysore allied with Marathas and resulted the start of Anglo Mysore wars. After death of Haider Ali, his son Tipu Sultan carried out Mysore struggle with East India Company. Tipu Sultan at one time became so powerful that tried to ally with Napoleon to over throw East India company but the parallel wars in Middle East Asia and America between French and British and their subsequent treaties changed the political alignment in India. There were three major battle between East India Company and Mysore and finally in 1792, then Governor General of Bengal Corwallis allied with Maratha and Nizam and defeated Tipu Sultan. East India company divided Mysore Kingdom. Tipu Sultan kept trying post his defeat for next seven years and finally in year 1799 then Governor General of Bengal with help of Nizam attacked Srirangpattanam  and Tipu Sultan was killed in battle and Mysore was annexed. Richard Wellesely, then Governor General played a very important diplomatic role. Arthur Wellesely most famous British commander, brother of Richard Wellesely was the one who led the final war.

1775-1803 [ Anglo Maratha Wars ]

Maratha and their allies Gaikwads of Gujrat, Holkars of Indore, Schindhyas of Gwalior, Bhonsles of Nagpur was a formidable alliance and were very strong but had some dent in the Third Battle of Panipat in 1761 and there were struggle of succession in Peshwa family after death of Nanaji. Raghunath Rao, brother of Nanaji was claiming Peshwa title and allied with East India company for his claim and that triggered the first Anglo-Maratha war which was sort not conclusive and and Schindhya played important role for Marathas, it ended in a treaty where Raghunath Rao had to abandon his claim and East India company got some extra foot hold in their Bombay presidency in West. Warren Hastings, then Governor General of Bengal also made Maratha agree to help company against Mysore who were ally of French against British.

The next 20 odd years after first Anglo-Maratha war, East India company focused on Mysore and after the annexation of Mysore, Wellesely asked Marathas and their allies to sign a subsidiary alliance exactly on the same lines what they did in Bengal after battle of Buxar. This triggered second Anglo-Maratha war where some of the alliance of Maratha allied with Wellesely and a sort of civil war started in entire region [ Gujrat, Indore, Gwalior, Nagpur and Pune ]. Finally in year 1803 Arthur Wellesely was called from Mysore and second Anglo-Maratha war took place after which various treaties were signed with all Maratha allies and their powers were cut and East India Company established themselves in West and Central India. Now, since the powers of these kingdoms were limited, in next 15 odd years, Company slowly took further control of administration as well and Marathas, once largest empire after Aurangzeb were reduced to their forts. Peshwaship abolished and East India Company used each one of them against them to defeat all of them.

Arthur Wellesely became so popular with these two major campaigns that he even became Prime Minister of England, he was the one who also defeated Napoleon in famous battle of Waterloo.

This was the period when Americans were in civil war for Independence, America was a British colony and Britain was in great debt as a result of Seven Year War in Europe. They use to recover through taxing their colonies and being resisted by Americans. With support of France and Spain, America got their Independence and was the End of First British Colony. Americans declared their independence in 1776 and wars continued and formally ended with various treaties including very famous “The Treaty of Paris” in 1783

Later in the same period 10 years of French revolution concluded with formation of Consulate and finally ended post battle of Waterloo, monarchy in France fell, feudalism ended with creating the path for future republic and individual freedom.

Permanent settlement of Bengal

There use to be zamindars predominantly in Bengal province, who held the right to collect revenue on behalf of the Mughal emperor or representative called as Diwans. In 1770 the devastating famine of Bengal happened and then Governor General Warren Hastings, introduced a system of five-yearly taxation. This led to agrarian crisis, the East India Company Court of Directors first proposed a permanent settlement for Bengal in 1793 by changing the policy then being followed by Calcutta. They divided roles of their officials and administration, judiciary and tax collection were separated.

Definition of Boundries in 19th Century

The Indian sub-continent in current day had boundaries defined among India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Maynmar, Bangladesh and Srilanka. In 18th century was no concept of country in this subcontinent and no borders were properly defined. Various kingdoms kept gaining and loosing territories among themselves. This was the period when British East India company forced various treaties which defined boundaries and still in effect. Treaty of Sugauli defined Indo-Nepal, Treaty of Yandabo defined Indo-Burma and Treaty of Lahore and Amritsar had significance over Independent India as a country. All these were result of Anglo-Burmese,  Sikh, Gorkha, Afghan wars and are very important events in 19th century. Post Anglo-Maratha wars EIC controlled entire subcontinent except Punjab, Sindh, Afghan, Nepal, Aohm and Burma. Bengal being centre of power along with Madras and Bombay presidencies.

1799 Sikh Empire: Post the death of Guru Gobind Singh in 1708, fall of Mughals after death of Aurangzeb in 1709 and reduced Marathas power post third battle of Panipat. Punjab had already transformed into warrior pockets where Sikhs were dominant. The entire region were being controlled by several “misl” [ group ] who use to fight among themselves for local dominance but alongside they were under some sort of mutual agreement to support each other in case of any external threat. Ranjit Singh, head of one of these group, started taking control over each one of them and united all to form Sikh Empire in 1799 and established their capital in Lahore.

1814-16 Anglo Gorkha Wars: Shah’s of Gorkha (Nepal) kingdom ruling from Kathmandu were expanding their territories in Himalayas and on southern side, they were on the boundaries of Awadh. Current day Garhwal, Kumaun and Sikkim were under their control. They were in direct conquest with Sikh Empire across Sutlej and Kali river. East India company were interested in Tibetan trade of wool, pashmina etc. but Shah’s never allowed the company. Finally in 1814 a war started between Gorkhas and EIC with support of some small Himalayan kingdoms. Gorkhas were defeated and the war ended with the Treaty of Sugauli, by virtue, Nepal remained independent but under company’s control, Garwal, Kumaoun and Sikkim included in company’s fully controlled territories. In other words, three current Indian state Himachal, Uttaranchal and Sikkim by this became part of India. Now East India company had absolute control of these Himalayan regions which they started developing for summers, also later Shimla even was made Summer Capital of British India. This treaty also resulted the recruitment of Gorkha people in British military and India still has a dedicated regiment.

1824-26 Anglo Burmese Wars: The current day Myanmar earlier called Burma was under Monarchy they expanded their territories by capturing current day Manipur and further expanded by capturing Aohm dynasty which was almost untouched since about 600 years and never came under any empire. Burmese after expansion were a sort of threat to East India Company as their borders in Bengal presidency became vulnerable, also because French were friends with Burma and then started First Anglo Burmese war, Company was victorious and ended with Treaty of Yandabo which gave control of Manipur and Aohm (Assam). These two states are Indian state as a result of this treaty. Burma came under British rule.

1839-1842 Anglo Afghan War and Annexation of Sindh: Going back in time from here to understand the pre-text of Afghan not being part of Company’s control.

After Nader Shah who once invaded Delhi, Ahmad Shah Abdali was ruler of Afghanistan – Iran and had reduced Maratha power in Third Battle of Panipat post which he had to retreat to Afghan and his dynasty [ Durrani ] was in total control over Afghans. Current day Kashmir was also under Afghan rule of Durranis before 1819.

In 19th Century there was an indirect conflict between British and Russian Monarch over control of Afghanistan, as it was the route to Indian Subcontinent across Indus river. There was no reason of direct engagement with Durranis but it was the political and diplomatic confrontation with Russia triggered the Company to gain control over Afghanistan.

Sindh province was being governed by Amirs [Emir] and were once under alliance with Durranis of Afghan. Sindh was worried about their invasion by Sikhs, so they came under treaty with Company for protection. EIC company were looking for such opportunity and assured support and in return wanted Sindh to support them against Afghans. In-fact EIC included Sikhs also in this treaty for war against Afghans. Ranjit Singh who was in full control over Punjab, in his diplomatic move had already given asylum to Shah Shujah [ once Durrani king struggling for succession on Kabul ]

East India company with Ranjit Singh’s army used Sindh in first Anglo-Afghan war in which Company got initial success but later it turned into a disaster. Afghan War was the first major defeat the company conceded and they finally winded up in 3 years. Afghanistan remained out of their control thereafter but were in constant conflict with British. Sindh was blamed for this defeat and was annexed by East India Company.

1845 Anglo Sikh War: Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the fulcrum of the Sikh Empire and also the only one who managed to keep control of his Empire for 30 years. He knew the art of keeping all the local groups in check and control by alliances of social, political and offensive. He was also in treaty with East India Company over control of territories between Satluj and Indus. The Sikh empire reached its peak when in year 1819 they annexed Kashmir from Afghans. One of his court members Gulab Singh [ who later started Dogra kingdom ] along with his general Zorawar Singh was placed in Kashmir to run the affairs under Sikh empire and Zorawar Singh soon took Laddakh from Gorkha Kingdom under Sikh empire.

Ranjit Singh died after the start of first Anglo Afghan wars in 1839 and then began the struggle of succession between family of Ranjit Singh which gave East India Company a chance to annex Punjab. In 1845 Sikh empire, which was an ally of Company since inception came under war and within a span of four months EIC forces defeated Sikh army who were in complete disarray because of their internal succession struggle.

The Sikh empire was until then one of the few remaining kingdoms in India after the rise of the company and the fall of the Mughal empire. Although the Sikh Army was weakened by the war, resentment at British interference in the government led to the Second Anglo-Sikh War within three years and the end of their story. The proxy ruler, a Kid, Dilip Singh Son of Ranjit Singh was send to England.

Like every war ended with a treaty, in 1846, The Famous Treaty of Lahore followed by Treaty of Amritsar by which, almost entire area under control of Sikhs were annexed, garrisons dismantled and a war indemnity of one crore was imposed. Dogra ruler, Gulab Singh was ruling Jammu, Kashmir and Ladaakh region helped EIC against Sikhs in the war and followed the second treaty where Gulab Singh offered the war indemnity of 75 lacs against rule of Jammu, Kashmir and Ladaakh. Now on it became the Princely State of Jammu and Kashmir an ally and protectorate of East India Company.

1801 – 1857 Parallel events:

Charter Act 1813: After the regulating act of 1773 the charter was renewed and subsequently in 1793 for next 20 years but in 1813 the monopoly to trade by East India Company in this region was completely abolished by British Parliament. Tea and Opium trade was however exempted. Slowly the administrative powers are being taken over by British from the Company.

Religious, Political and Social Reforms: A very notable personality from this period Raja Ram Mohan Roy established Bramho Sabha to counter evil religious practices, he also advocated to bring laws against Sati system, crusaded against Child marriage, polygamy and caste system. Various educational institutions were also initiated by him with British support.

William Bentick, then was the first Governor General of India which now on was an elevated post from Governor General of Bengal who enacted reforms on Indian subjects. He also brought in some reforms in Judiciary, administration and police system, some of which is still followed in India. Persian language was officially removed from all government functioning and replaced by local language and English.

Charter Act 1833: Lease of East India Company was further extended for 20 years but this time all trade monopoly was abolished. All commercial activities of company were taken away and they were reduced to an administrative body only. Now on all territories of East India Company to be governed in name of Crown, all legislative powers of three presidencies were cut and given to Governor General of India. AN IN-FORMAL START OF BRITISH RAJ IN INDIA MORE FORMALISED AFTER THE FIRST INDEPENDENCE STRUGGLE IN 1857.

Policy of Doctrine of Lapse: The policy has the purpose to annex those princely states who were under subsidiary alliance and the ruler is either incompetent of dies without any biological heir. Few annexations were done in early 19th century but after the charter act of 1833, they captured more than 20 princely estates. Surat, Kangra, Satara, Punjab, Jhansi, Nagpur, Arcot and Tanjor were among them. Jhansi was the most famous where the king died without a son and as per policy the estate cannot declare an adopted child or any relative as the heir. Estate is required to relinquish its rights to the throne and surrender his kingdom to the British Crown. In 1853 Jhansi was annexed, but the queen of Jhansi revolted and later became a leading figure during rebel of 1857.

Another famous annexation was Awadh, who were under subsidiary alliance since battle of Buxar. The last Nawab of Awadh Wajid ali Shah was removed without any revolt in 1856. Wajid ali Shah promoted music, dance, arts and literature and legacy continued and still can be seen in that region.

The Indian Rebellion of 1857 or also called First war of Independence was a result of various factors that developed over a period of 20 odd years and not a single event causing the uprise. Its also termed as Sepoy (Sipahi) Mutiny which was the trigger point over the distress of Mangal Pandey hanging, post his revolt on the issue that in the new rifle which British introduced, grease used on these cartridges was derived from beef and pork, which was offensive to Hindus and Muslims. There was also huge civil unrest because of new laws which effected jamindars, talukdars and also among who were annexed amid doctrine of lapse. EIC has been successfully crushing various local revolts since 1840s.

Hanging of Mangal Pandey in Barrackpore where most recruits were from Bihar, Awadh (UP) and the word spread to other regiments. Meerut being a large cantonment the uprising and revolt was spontaneous rather planned. After the outbreak in Meerut, the rebels reached Delhi to seek help from then muted Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar and wanted him to lead the revolt and soon it spread up to Kanpur. The British with help from reinforcements, Kanpur and Delhi within months. However, it took more than year to suppress Jhansi, Lucknow, and especially the Awadh countryside. Bombay and the Madras Presidency remained largely calm with small revolts. Punjab by now was annexed, the Sikh prince was forced helped the British by providing both soldiers and support others estates mostly remain neutral. During the entire period there were lot of killings and atrocities on both sides and ended with mass killings of civilians by British army. The outrageous events was largely criticized in Britain and then started the reorganisation of entire administrative affairs in India by British Parliament passing Government of India Act 1958

Bahadur Shah Zafar was tried for treason and exiled in Rangoon, the formal end of Mughal Dynasty in India.

1858 Government of India Act: British East India Company after 1853 charter act were ruling under patronage of British Parliament was completely dissolved and transferred to British Crown – Queen Victoria. A separate provision in British Parliament, called Secretary of State for India, with counsel of ministers to administer India. The post of Governor General of India was abolished and replaced by Viceroy of India, Charles Canning being the first. THE FORMAL START OF BRITISH RAJ IN INDIAN SUBCONTINENT

Map of British India
Map of British India

1858 The British Raj territories included present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh which continued to be part till Independence in 1947, except for small territories held like Goa by Portuguese and Pondicherry by French. Burma was also part of British India till 1937. Burma was separated from India and directly administered by the British Crown from 1937 until their independence in 1948.

The kingdoms of Nepal and Bhutan, having fought wars with the British, subsequently signed treaties with them and were recognised by the British as independent states. The Kingdom of Sikkim was established as a princely state after the events of Anglo-Gorkha wars. There were some small islands which were British protectorates. Kashmir and Ladaakh was also a princely estate under them but independently being administered by Dogra dynasty.

Next on British India till Independence is under research.. will come soon on this blog. Thanks for reading and write to me at

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