On a rainy day, Leonie desides to visit a local museum about the history of India.

She starts in a room displaying different ancient-looking tools used for farming, as well as simple weapons. There is a big map, where the northwest of India, as well as Pakistan, are coloured to show the territory of the ancient civilization to whom this room is dedicated.

The Indus Valley Civilization was one of the earliest existing civilizations. The time of its existence is also called the pre-Vedic Age. For a society this old, they had quite an advanced and flourishing economic system and also dabbled in agriculture as well as tool and weapon fabrication. Some sources even propose that the Indus Valley Civilization engaged in trade with countries in the middle east.

Continuing, Leonie finds herself in a room with old parchments and books of sorts. She learns that some of these are early, religious Hindu texts, called Vedas, originally stemming from the Vedic Age, which was around 1500 BC to 800 AC.

While these texts had been exchanged by word at the beginning, they were written down later on, so that they were preserved until today.

Buddhist era

In this period, other religions besides Hinduism started to flourish in India as well, namely Buddhism in the 7th to 6th century BC, supported by the Gupta Reign. After its decline though, Buddhism lost a lot of its influence, although the reign of the Buddhist Ashoka, a ruler of the Maurya dynasty in the 3rd century BC, made it gain importance once again for a short period of time.

The first Islam settlers also came in the 8th to 11th century BC.

One of the rooms depicts buildings similar to the old parliament building. Leonie stares in awe at a picture of the glamourous Taj Mahal, gleaming in the early sunlight. Then, she starts reading the information noted under the grand pictures. 

The medieval age saw many different dynasties and kingdoms spreading throughout India, quite a lot inspired by Islamic traditions.

One of the most important ones is the Chola dynasty reigning between the 9th and 14th century in South India, Sri Lanka, and the Maldives. Throughout its prevail, the dynasty annexed many more countries and gained a lot of territory.

It was followed by the Mughal Empire in the 16th to 18th century. By this time, the importance of the Islam had risen in India, splitting the population into Hindus and Muslims. No Empire before or after the Mughal Empire succeeded so well in unifying the whole of India and bringing these two religions together.

Sadly, this unity declined alongside the Mughal Empire and left India split into many different regional states.

After leaving the ancient seeming times behind, Leonie enters a room dedicated to more recent history. She is greeted by a collection of different flags, which all include the Union Jack or the flag of England as well as additional features such as a blue or red background or a sunflower-like symbol in the middle. Instantly, Leonie knows what she will learn about in this room.

In the 18th century, a vigorous fight about supremacy in Africa and Asia evolved between the rich western powers such as Great Britain, the United States of America, or France. In the case of India, this fight was won by the British in the Battle of Plassey (1757), where the British soldiers defeated the last resistance of Indian tribes. Still, the British never ruled over the entirety of India.

The thereby created Indian colony was being controlled by the British raj under the mantra “divide and rule”. Therefore, they effectively promoted religious disagreements between Indians to pit them against each other. While the British rule also had positive effects, such as the development of the Indian Infrastructure, many Indians were being exploited and their resources, especially cotton, spices, silk, or tea were plundered.

With the failed rebellion against the English reign in 1857/58, also known as the “Great Rebellion” or “Indian Mutiny”, India was fully incorporated into the British Empire.

Way to Independence

The Indian Independence movement started to rise in importance after the first World War. Its most popular member and leader was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. He is best known for his belief in and use of passive resistance instead of violence for example in the form of peaceful protests or hunger strikes.

In 1942 the Quit India Movement, which demanded the immediate end of the British rule, started by Gandhi and supported by the Indian congress party, lead to the arrest of thousands including Gandhi himself.1

Still, they reached their goal when the National Congress accepted the Partition of the Colony of India into India, as we know it today, and Pakistan, on 15.8.1947, ending the British rule over both. Thereby, two separate states were created, the majorly Muslim Pakistan and the majorly Hindu India. The partition led to 14 million people being displaced and the death of up to two million.

After finishing her tour, Leonie answers the questions on the back of her information pamphlet about the exhibition. Did you pay attention as well as Leonie?

Ruins of old bath: By Saqib Qayyum – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31519718

Leonie leaves feeling smarter than before. On her way home, she starts reading the book about the exhibition she just visited, eager to suck in all the interesting stories that the past bears.

  1. c.f. India’s Independence westportlibrary.libguides.com [online] https://westportlibrary.libguides.com/IndianIndependence last access: 16.12.2021 []