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The Struggle for Empire: The History and Culture of the Indian People (Volume V)

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Item Code: NAI195
Publisher: Bharatiya Vidya Bhawan
Author: R.C. Majumdar
Language: English
Edition: 2001
Pages: 1000 (142 B/W Illustrations)
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 9.5 inch x 6.5 inch
Weight 1.60 kg
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Book Description



One of the objects of the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, the Institution which sponsors this Series, is the "study of the forces, movements, motives, ideas, forms and art of creative energy through I which it expressed it (Indian Culture) in different ages as one continuous process". An attempt has, therefore, to be made, consistently with this object, to present a view of the Age in flowing time.


I do so in all humility. I fully realise my inadequacy to do so for, I have to rely upon whatever little study I have made and whatever I have observed, during the last fifty years, of the collective responses of our people to the events, movements, customs, institutions and values as also to men who have, through their life and teachings, evoked the unseen forces which have shaped the life of India.


The most crucial Age in Indian history began in A.D.' 998, when the Turkish conqueror, Mahmud, captured Ghazni; it ended in A.D. 1292, when the Khalji Chief, Jalal-ud-din, proclaimed himself the Sultan of Delhi. It can, however, be conveniently divided into two periods, the first ending in A.D. 1193, when Mucizz-ud-din Ghari defeated Prithviraja Chahamana of Ajmer in the Battle of Tarain or Taraori and opened the gates of Madhya Pradesh to the foreign invader; the second ending in 1299.


This period, in my opinion, has not yet been studied from India's point of view; from the point of view of the trials she passed through; of the sufferings she underwent when foreign elements forced their way into her life-blood; of the' manner in which she reacted to the situation; of the means which she found to meet, or to mitigate, the dangers that confronted her;' of the ways in which she reconstructed, achieved and fulfilled herself.


Such a study is difficult for two reasons. First, the chronicles written by the proteges of the invaders or their successors throw a dubious but concentrated light on the narrow sector of life which their patrons dominated. This generally leads to the unconfessed impression that the vastly broad sector, which lies in obscurity for want of historical material either did' not exist or does not matter as much.


Secondly, the magnificence of Akbar's achievements in the sixteenth century, by an illusory retrospectively casts a reflected glamour on the period of the Sultanate.. Because the Mughal Empire was an experiment in a national monarchy presided over by a Muslim monarch, one comes to assume, by an easy transition, that the Muslim-dominated Sultanate was the chrysalis from which it sprang.


Unless, therefore, the period is viewed from a right perspective, its true picture cannot possibly emerge; nor would it be possible to assess the factors which, coming into existence during this period, affected the life of the people through the intervening centuries, and which still confront it with unsolved problems.




The year A.D. 1000 was a fateful year for India. In that year, Mahmud of Ghazni first invaded it. That event, in my opinion, divides Ancient from Medieval India.


For over 2000 years before this event, that is, from before the days of king Janamejaya Parikshita, referred to in the Brahmanas, the culture of the dominant classes, developing in almost unbroken continuity, had brought large sections of the people within its fold. It was, however, disturbed on occasions, for instance, by the raids of Alexander; by the influx of the Bactrian Greeks, the Kushanas and the Sakas; by the invasion of the Hunas; by the Arab incursions in Sindh. But these inroads were only temporary episodes; the vitality of the culture and social organization found it easy to absorb most of the alien elements which were left behind in the country after they were closed.


This continuous vitality is a phenomenon, without appreciating which it is difficult to study the epochs of Indian history in continuous time. Several factors have maintained it. Of them, perhaps the most important was the 'Aryavarta-consciousness' which threw up values and institutions of great vigour and tenacity.


It was based on the faith that Bharatavarsha, in its ideal aspect often referred to as Aryavarta, was the sacred land of Dharma, 'the high road to Heaven and to Salvation'; where 'men were nobler than the Gods themselves;" where all knowledge, thought and worship were rooted in the Vedas, revealed by the Gods themselves; where the Dharmasastras prescribed the fundamental canons of personal life and social relations; where Chaturvarnya, the divinely-ordained four-fold order of society, embraced all social groups; where, whatever the dialect of the people, Sanskrit, the language of the Gods, was the supreme medium of high expression.'


The Dharma-Sastras-and by that is meant not only the Smritis beginning with the Manu-smriti, but the Mahabharata2-have played a very big role in the life of the country. Particularly Manu-smriti, as the Dharmasastra of divine origin, has had an all-pervading influence from the time historical memory could reach back to moulding the mind and the life of men, not only in India but in the India beyond the Seas, in Burma, Siam, Annam, Cambodia, 'Java and Bali,


With the Mahabharata and the Ramayana, it has provided ,a background of continuity to the social and moral life; modified customary laws of tribes and communities in different stages of civilization; and built up the Collective Unconscious of our people, that subconscious source of integrative vitality which keeps a people together, leads them to feel and react as one in the face of certain circumstances, and provides the urge to collective action of a curring character.


Century after century, the system, first formulated by the Manusmriti, was accepted throughout the country, never by force of arms, less by royal fiats than the sanction implied in the belief that 'God ' gave it and the ancestors obeyed it'. It was found so acceptable because it had a revealing basis of reality: of a frank recognition of the temperamental inequalities of man; of the predominance of hereditary influences over environments; of the need for a synthetic framework for widely differing social groups in a vast country where culture had been staggered from not only region to region, but often from one group of villages to another. Its fundamental aim was to produce a synthetic urge towards human betterment, which treated economic, social, material, and ethical and spiritual well-being as indivisible; an aim which has yet to be improved upon by any other system.


These values gave continuity to the way of life of even those sections who did not accept the divine origin of the Vedas or Chaturvarnya. They also provided homogeneity to widely differing communities and religious cults and forms. The universal urge which they provided to go on a pilgrimage, generation after generation, to the mountains, rivers, towns of ancient fame, and holy spots and shrines which were conceived as the physical manifestations of the Land of Dharma, also kept alive an emotional awareness of unity and sanctity.


The 'Aiyavarta-consciousness' was mainly religio-cultural in content. Its political significance which, though often belied in practice, exercised considerable influence with the kings of an earlier age in North India when they faced foreign invasion; it is summed up by Medhatithi thus: "Aryavarta was so called because the Aryas sprang up in it again and again. Even if it was overrun by the mlechchhas, they could never abide there for long". The tradition. also had it that whenever a crisis arose, a chakravartin, a worldemperor, would rise in the land and re-establish Dharma. South India, however, which accepted the religio-cultural aspects of 'Aryavarta-consciousness' and Manu's system, knew no such significance, for it had never to face the problem of the mlechchhas till the fourteenth century.


The consciousness in its political aspect had all but disappeared during the few decades which preceded A.P. 1000 on account of the recurring upheavals in North India. The empire of Kanauj, which had stabilised North India for well-nigh 150 years and supported the Shihi kings of the North-West has disintegrated. Now Raghukulabhuchakravarti, 'the World-Emperor of Raghu's race', was merely a symbol of a vanished greatness, ruling over a small territory around Kanauj on the sufferance of his erstwhile feudatories. Some of them, however, like the Chandellas of Jejakabhukti, the Kalachuris of Dahala and the Paramaras of Malava were engaged in struggling to found an empire on the ruins of old one, but with little success.


In Eastern India, the Pilas, the Chandras, the Varmans and the Gailgas fought each other with fluctuating success, struggling to retain whatever they had or to filch what they had not.


The Rashtrakutas, the rivals of the Pratihara-Gurjaresvaras, had faded away; their empire, which for well-nigh two centuries had dominated most of South India, had also been dissolved. The Paramaras of Malava and the Western Chalukyas, both feudatories of the Rishtrakutas, at one time or the other, were locked in a life and death struggle, while Rajaraja Chola (A.D. 985-1014), who ruled over the extreme South, was just emerging as a powerful and wise monarch.




This volume covers the period, roughly speaking, from A.D. 1000 to 1300. But there has been a slight departure from these limiting dates both at the beginning as well as at the end. In the First Chapter the rise of the Ghaznavids has been traced from the very beginning in the latter half of the tenth century A.D. In Chapter V the history of the Delhi Sultanate is brought to a close with the accession of Sultan Jalal-ud-din Firoiz Shah in A.D. 1290. In both the cases the departure has been made with a view to giving a complete account of the Ghaznavids in this volume and of the Khaljis in the next. For a similar reason the history of some Hindu ruling dynasties has been brought down to the fourteenth century A.D. when they were incorporated in the Delhi Sultanate. The most notable instances are the Yadavas of Devagiri, the Kakatiyas of Warangal, and the Hoysalas and the Pandyas of South India. But only a 'very brief outline is given in this volume of their history after A.D. 1300. More detailed account will be given in the next volume in connection with their Muslim conquerors. In some cases all controversial issues have been omitted in this volume and reserved for the next. For instance, the current and generally accepted views of the date of the first invasion of Devagiri by 'Ali-ud-din Khalji and the name of the crown-prince who opposed him have been stated, but different views on both these points will be discussed fully with reference to authorities in the next volume.


This volume deals with the transition period that marks, the end of independent Hindu rule and the beginning of the dominance of Turkish tribes over a large part, if not the whole, of India. Such dominance of foreign peoples, even from the same region in Central Asia, was no new thing in Indian history. Successive waves of Turkish hordes submerged a great "portion of Northern India during the period that intervened between thefa1l of the Maurya and the rise of the Gupta Empire. And all these, like the later Turkish, invaders, came to stay-in this country. Nevertheless they did not mark any turning-point in the history of India, nor any sudden break in the continuity of her history and culture. . For they slowly and silently merged themselves into the population of the country, and became one with them in all respects without leaving, any trace of their separate entity. This was, however not the' case with the and were loyally supported by the Indians from the interior. But nothing availed against the repeated and stubborn onslaughts of Sabuktigin and Mahmud. The resistance collapsed, and then the horrors of barbarian invasions, fired with the fanatic zeal for demolishing idols and temples, born of the crusading spirit of Islam, were let loose on the fair plains and cities of Hindustan. It is not possible to recount fully the sad tales of those dark and evil days, as we have no record from the side of the Indians; but the picture depicted by the victors themselves enables us to get a faint echo of the great tragedy which befell India during the first quarter of the eleventh century A.D. It was a tragedy big with future consequences. Not only was India drained of enormous wealth and man-power, but, what was far worse, the Muslims obtained a permanent footing in the Punjab which commanded the highway to her interior.


But a still more sublime tragedy was the comparative indifference of the Indian chiefs to this growing menace and the fancied security in which they chose to repose during the period intervening between the death of Mahmud and the next invasion by the Ghuris. Some Indian kings defeated the Muslims, and checked their further aggressive campaigns. One of them even claims to have exterminated the Mlechchhas (Muslims) so that Aryavarta again became true to its name, i. e. abode of the Aryas. But this rare evidence of a sense of national consciousness makes it all the more a matter of surprise, that instead of uttering such vain boast the Indian chiefs should not have taken concerted action in removing the thorn in their flesh by driving the Turkish conquerors out of India. Innumerable opportunities offered themselves to render this task a comparatively easy one. The kingdom of Ghazni passed through critical days and was overtaken by many dangers, both internal and external, till the nemesis overtook it, and its beautiful capital city, built on the ruins and plunder of India, perished in flames. But the powerful Indian chiefs, far from taking advantage of any such opportunity during the long period of a century and a half, were more intent upon aggrandising themselves at the cost of their neighbours than turning their whole-hearted attention to the great national task of freeing the Punjab from the yoke of the foreigners of an alien faith.

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