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Indian history

11 Solved Questions with Answers
  • 2018

    2. Assess the importance of the accounts of the Chinese and Arab travellers in the reconstruction of the history of India. (2018)

    Reconstruction of Indian history of the ancient and medieval era is a daunting task owing to lack of chronological records, and subjectivity in the interpretation of archaeological and literary sources.

    In this context, accounts of foreign travellers, who were eye witnesses to the events that occurred at that time, become an important source to corroborate other sources of history.

    Chinese Accounts

    Accounts of Fa-hien, Hsuan Tsang, and I-tsing have proved to be a valuable source of information on the Gupta period and the years following the end of Gupta rule. They provided vital information about:

    • Socio-economic conditions in India - For example, Fa-hien mentions about the Chandalas (untouchables) living outside the village. This shows that untouchablility was prevalent in the society as early as 5th Century AD.
    • Existing political conditions - For example, Hsuan Tsang’s account shows that during Harsha’s reign (7th Century AD), Pataliputra was in a state of decline and on the other hand, Prayag and Kannauj in the doab had emerged important.
    • Nature of Buddhist doctrines, rituals, and monastic institutions in India - For example - Hsuan Tsang and I-tsing provided vivid accounts of Nalanda.

    Arab Accounts

    • Arab travellers such as the merchants - Sulayman, Abu Zaid, etc. provided vivid accounts on Indian culture and science, which are valuable sources for the study of early medieval Indian history.
    • Abu Zaid noted that most Indian princes while holding court, allowed their women to be seen unveiled – highlighting that there was no system of purdah (veiling) in upper class women in early medieval India.
    • Arab travellers also provide information about the socio-economic condition through their description of trade contacts and the wealth which was exclusively derived from the trade with India.
    • Arab travellers of the period like Al-Beruni and Ibn Battuta had direct personal contacts with the people of Indian subcontinent which enabled them to give detailed first hand information in their accounts about the economic, social and other activities of the people.

    Though there are issues associated with the reliability of the accounts provided by these travellers owing to their personal biases, still they are key sources for finding out the missing links in the reconstruction of Indian history.

  • 2017

    2. Clarify how mid-eighteenth century India was beset with the spectre of a fragmented polity? (2017)

    The first half of the eighteenth century witnessed decline and disintegration of the mighty Mughal Empire and rise of virtually independent regional powers. Lack of strong central authority and emergence of regional power weakened the political structure that led to rise of foreign power.

    Factors that could be considered to play potent role in fragmented polity were–

    • The Mughal court saw a host of weak emperors in succession, emperors who were incapable to command the glorious empire and would rather indulge in wasteful extravagance of pomp and show. Courtrooms became kingmaker’s ground for treachery and war of succession became recurrent.
    • A number of powerful kingdoms such as Bengal, Avadh, Hyderabad and Mysore arose and became virtually independent from the Mughal Empire. 
    • The weakened Mughal Empire was challenged by Marathas time and again. Marathas captured vast swathes of territory in northern and central India.
    • The remaining illusion of continued domination of Mughal power was shattered by Nadir Shah’s (Shah of Persia) invasion of India in 1739.
    • Afghan ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali also made frequent inroads into Punjab and finally took over Delhi in 1756-57. Marathas, who were considered as only contender to fill the power vacuum in Delhi, were defeated by Abdali's forces in the Third Battle of Panipat (1761). The war didn’t decide who will rule India but who would not.

    After these series of events, the Mughal Empire ceased to exist as an all-India empire in practice. The British took advantage of the entire situation. They defeated the forces of Bengal in Battle of Plassey and finally combined forces of Bengal, Awadh and Mughal were crushed in Battle of Buxar.

  • 2018

    3. Throw light on the significance of thoughts of Mahatma Gandhi in the present times. (2018)

    Gandhian thoughts underline the most humane way to resolve many of the problems that plague our times, as can be ascertained from the list given below:

    Gandhian Thoughts

    Significance

    Non-violence

    The ideal of non-violence needs to guide the approach of individuals as well as nations and world-organizations, as violence initiates a vicious circle of repression and injustice.

    Satyagraha

    The moral framework of resistance which marked satyagraha is especially pertinent in the times when to be quiet or to collaborative seem to be the only dominant choice in face of any injustice.

    Swaraj

    In the age of markets laden with products based on generating and gratifying instinct of social approval and when public-imagination is becoming increasingly vulnerable to demagogues, the idea of Swaraj which had economic, social, spiritual and political connotations continues to be significant.

    Eliminating Untouchability

    Caste disrimination has still not ceased to be a feature of Indian-public life. Gandhian ideal of social consciousness to eliminate it needs to be taken forward.

    Women Emancipation

    With glass-ceiling still far from being shattered in the public sphere, the Gandhian thought of women emancipation continues to hold relevance.


    Gandhian thoughts about compassion, punctuality and sanitation are the other ideals that continue to hold value in our times marked by strife, procrastination in public and private lives and casual attitude towards hygiene.

    Ultimately, all ideals and thoughts of the Mahatma were reached by him via a process of life long experimentation with truths and this makes Gandhian thoughts most significant in what is also being called by a few as post-truth era.

  • 2016

    3. Explain how the upraising of 1857 constitutes an important watershed in the evolution of British policies towards colonial India. (2016)

    The Revolt of 1857 gave a severe jolt to the British administration in India and made its re-organization inevitable. The Government of India’s structure and policies underwent significant changes after the Revolt.

    Changes in Administration: By the Act of Parliament of 1858, the power to govern India was transferred from the East India Company to the British Crown. The authority over India was now to be exercised by a Secretary of State for India aided by a Council.

    The Indian Council Act of 1861 enlarged the Governor’s Council for the purpose of making laws, which was known as the Imperial Legislative Council.

    Provincial Administration: The British had divided India for administrative convenience into provinces, three of which- Bengal, Bombay and Madras-were known as Presidencies. The Presidencies were administered by a Governor and his Executive Council of three, who were appointed by the Crown.

    Changes in the army: The domination of the army by its European branch was carefully guaranteed. The proportion of Europeans to Indians in the army was raised. The crucial branches of artillery, tanks and armored corps were put exclusively in European hands. The Indians were strictly excluded from the higher posts.

    Divide and Rule: Immediately after the revolt they suppressed Muslims, confiscated their lands and property on a large scale, and declared Hindus to be their favorite. After 1870, this policy was reversed and an attempt was made to turn Muslims against the nationalist movement. The Government cleverly used the attraction of government service to create a split between the educated Hindus and Muslims.

    Relations with Princely States: Loyalty of Princely States was now rewarded with the announcement that their right to adopt heirs would be respected and the integrity of their territories guaranteed against future annexation.

    The officials became hostile to the educated Indians when the latter began to organise a nationalist movement among the people and founded the Indian National Congress.

    The lands of most of the talukdars of Awadh were restored to them. The zamindars and landlords were now hailed as the traditional and ‘natural’ leaders of the Indian people. Their interest and privilege were protected and they, in turn, became the firm supporters of British rule in India.

    Hence, in essence, uprising in 1857 was an important mark from which the British government started consolidating its hold over India, with an aim of having long lasting empire.

  • 2017

    3. Why did the ‘Moderates’ fail to carry conviction with the nation about their proclaimed ideology and political goals by the end of the nineteenth century? (2017)

    The moderates were not against the British rule per se and had strong belief in sense of justice and goodness of the British rule. They pursued the policy of gradualism and constitutionalism. Constitutional reforms, administrative re-organisation and protection of civil rights were high on agenda and methods of prayers, petition and protest were followed.

    Moderates met limited success in later stages due to various reasons–

    • The political jargons used by the moderates were alien to uneducated masses. There was also lack of political faith in the masses. Thus people largely remained aloof.
    • It was gradually realised that the British didn’t concede to any of the major demands of the moderates.
    • Indian Council Act 1892 was criticised. Moves such as further amplification of repressive laws under IPC and reduction in number of members in Calcutta Corporation didn’t go down well with progressive elements in INC.  
    • Political ideologies of the moderates were blamed to be inefficient. Methods followed by moderates were described as political mendicancy. The result was emergence of a more militant school of thought.

    However, the role of moderates can also not be negated. They were first to create national awakening among Indians and prepared a solid ground for mass oriented national movement at later stages that followed.

  • 2016

    4. Discuss the role of women in the freedom struggle especially during the Gandhian phase. (2016)

    The freedom struggle in India symbolized a cauldron in which various sections of society contributed according to their potential to create a flavor of nationalism. In this context the role of women is very significant. The role of women in national movement evolved through various stages during which they were awarded different roles. Initially stages, the literati portrayed Indian women as ‘Mother’ and linked it to ‘Bharat Mata’ (in Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s Anand Nath). The reform movements of 19th century presented the image of Ideal mother, Ideal wife and Ideal sister.

    Women’s active participation in mass movements began with the Swadeshi Movement in 1905 and only grew in later movements. Gandhiji accorded special role to women in NCM and CDM. He glorified their strength despite accepting their biological and social limitations. During Gandhian struggles the image of women changed from motherhood to sisterhood. To inspire confidence in them, Gandhiji presented examples of Sita and Damayanti. Some of women leaders during Gandhian struggle are as follows:

    • Anusuya Ben — Accompanied gandhiji in his tours and actively participated in 1918 Ahmedabad Textile milk strikes.
    • Sarojini Naidu — Led the raid on Dharasana salt works during civil movement following gandhiji arrest along with his son Manilal.
    • Mridula Sarabai — A Gandhian who worked with Vanara Sena (Organised by Indira Gandhi).
    • Besant — Helped Gandhiji organised Rowlatt Satyagrahs through Home Rule Leagues.

    In addition to these Gandhian leaders, women also participated in freedom struggle in other capacities:

    • Revolutionary Extremists — Kalpana Dutta (Chittagong Armoury raid), Bina Das/shot Bengal governor point blank, Durga Bhabhi/member of HSRA) etc.
    • Women during Quit India Movement — Usha Mehta (Congress Radio), Sucheta Kriplani/Underground movement) etc.
    • Indian National Army’s Rani Jhansi regiment led by Lakshmi Swaminadhan (Sehgal).

  • 2016

    5. Highlight the difference in the approach of Subhash Chandra Bose and Mahatma Gandhi in the struggle for freedom. (2016)

    Mahatma Gandhi and Subhash Chandra Bose were both legendary personalities, gigantic in their political moral and ethical stature. Both played crucial roles in the freedom movement. They were both internationalists and humanists as well as secular in their approach and anti-social in their outlook. In spite of their common thought process, there were glaring differences in their approach. They are as follows:

    • Subhash Chandra Bose was a radical socialist meaning that he wanted to change the existing socio-economic situation whereas Gandhi was a conservative.
    • The young members, of INC including Bose demanded complete self-rule without any compromise while the senior members were okay with dominion status for India within British rule.
    • Bose had a strong revolutionary urge to achieve freedom while Gandhi believed in passive resistance.
    • Bose proposed the idea of complete Independence from the British rule. He wanted Swaraj based on all out struggle. Gandhi on the other hand believed in the concept of Struggle-Truce-Struggle. Gandhi was in favour of trusteeship theory and aspired village to be self-sustained economy.
    • Bose was a strong supporter of Fascism which was obvious in his strong belief that India needed a political system which was a mix of fascism and communism. Gandhi on the other hand was an anti fascist who did not propagate any such extreme political system.
    • Bose was open to the idea of taking foreign assistance to achieve freedom as seen in the formation of Indian national Association while Gandhi was completely against any such idea.

    Despite their ideological defferences both Gandhi and Bose spoke highly of each other. There were occasions when Bose praised Gandhi for his success in involvement of women in freedom struggle. Even Gandhi while differing from Bose’s extreme methods had utmost admiration for his unique effort for India’s freedom, mainly his struggle for freedom from outside India. Cue must be taken from these two great leaders’ tolerance and respect towards each other even after serious difference of opinion.

  • 2018

    11. The Bhakti movement received a remarkable re-orientation with the advent of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu. Discuss. (2018)

    Indian social set-up during the medieval period was based on Brahmanism characterized by rigid caste division, rituals and methods of prayer. Bhakti Movement was a reformative movement characterized by intense devotion or love for God. The movement focused to reform Indian society which was shadowed by Brahmanical dominance.

    Bhakti Movement started from South India in the form of Vaishnavite and Shaivaite sect, commonly known as Alvars and Nayanars respectively. Early 16th century was marked by rise of Bhakti Saint Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu in Eastern India. He was a Vaishanavit Saint and an ardent follower of Lord Krishna. According to his followers, he was an incarnation of Lord Krishna.

    Chaitnaya Mahaprabhu preached love, compassion, and non-violence. Though he was a Brahmin, he condemned caste system and emphasized on equality for all. According to him true worship lay in love and devotion. Bhakti Movement is known to transcend the practice of strict rituals and religious practices. Chaitanya Mahaprabhu is known to have revolutionized and re-oriented Bhakti Movement, giving it impetus through simplicity in teachings, propagating Bhakti ideas through his disciples, instructing them to write books, and overall making it a mass movement

    The very first mandate by Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to his disciples was to go to each house and ask people to chant ‘Hari Bol’. By this, he propagated amongst people the practice of ‘Nama Simaran’ as a mode of devotion and love for God. Further, he propagated his message of ‘Hari Bol’ through ‘Sankirtan Mandali’. In these Mandalies, devotees used to chant, sing and dance. Through Sankirtan, chanting of Hari Bol and combined dance and chant, Mahaprabhu brought people from different caste, creed, religion and sex together.

    The message of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu or Gaudiya School of thought is now propagated through ISKCON Movement across the world. It has participation of devotees from around the world. In other words it can be said that Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu not only revolutionized Bhakti movement but also universalized it.

  • 2017

    12. Examine how the decline of traditional artisanal industry in colonial India crippled the rural economy. (2017)

    When the Britishers took over, traditional Indian artisans ruled the world and supplied about a quarter of all manufactured goods produced in the world as famously quoted by Peter, the Great that ‘commerce of India was the commerce of world!’

    Nationalist economists proposed that with the beginning of British rule in mid-eighteenth century, the process of deindustrialization started for the traditional artisanal industry. The various reasons for that were:

    • The traditional artisanal industry lost its many patrons, like rulers, zamindars etc. after the coming of colonial rule.
    • The colonial rule flooded Indian market with cheaper manufactured goods against which Indian handicrafts lost the competition.
    • The colonial rule also opened Indian markets with zero import tax which went in favour of British manufactured goods. Moreover, Indian goods were severely restricted in foreign markets due to various regulations and taxes leading to loss of market.
    • The artisans also suffered at the hands of colonial power by having to agree to exploitative terms. The English carried on the put-out system of manufacture where the artisan was supplied with the materials and the finished product was brought at a low price. The English also procured raw cotton from peasants, at a low price and sold it at exorbitant rates to the artisans. Thus, the artisan suffered both as a buyer and a seller.
    • With the advent of railways in mid-nineteenth century onwards the process of deindustrialization was further fastened by colonial economic and commercial penetration into the hinterlands of India.

    This not only eroded the prosperous income base for millions of Indian artisans but eroded the labour productivity of Indian agriculture due to crowding and the twin pillars of traditional Indian rural economy were completely crumbled.

    Thus, in a short span of just 200 years (1757-1947) the entire rural economy which was self-sustained and prosperous for ages was completely crippled.

  • 2018

    13. Why indentured labour was taken by British from India to other colonies? Have they been able to preserve their cultural identity over there? (2018)

    Indentured labour was a system of bonded labour that was instituted following the abolition of slavery throughout British Empire in 1833 as newly free men and women refused to work for low wages on sugar, tea plantations and rail construction projects in British colonies of West Indies, Fiji, Mauritius and Ceylon.

    • In 19th century people were recruited as indentured labor from regions like Eastern Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Central India and dry districts of Tamil Nadu as these regions experienced many changes such as -
    • Decline of cottage industries, rising land rents and clearing of land for mines and plantations.
    • All this affected lives of poor as they failed to pay their rents and became deeply indebted – forcing them to migrate in search of work to escape poverty and famine.
    • India’s large population provided the British Empire with a steady source of work force. Thus, British exploited both the vulnerability and readily available large population.

    Once placed in British colonies, festivals such as Muharram, Holi served as a placental link to preserve their cultural Identity.

    • In Trinidad, the annual Muharram procession was transformed in to carnival ‘Hosay’ for Imam Hossain drawing a large crowd.
    • The protest religion of RASTAFARIANISM popularized by Bob Marley reflects social and cultural links with Indian migrants to Carribean.
    • Chutney music became popular in Trinidad.
    • Bollywood kept alive the cultural identity among indentured labor.
    • A rigid caste system of Indian society melted as indentured people identified more with ‘Indianness’, promoting fraternal feeling.
    • Initiatives such as ’Know India Programme’ are conscious efforts by Government of India to ensure a continuum of new generations with Indian ethos.

    However, the Sri Lankan 13th Amendment to constitution is reminder that the quest to preserve their culture continues in some places. By and large, indentured labour have been able to retain their cultural heritage and renew their links with India both as potent act of resistance and a powerful affirmation of their distinctness.

  • 2017

    13. Highlight the importance of new objective that got added to the vision of Indian independence since the twenties of the last century. (2017)

    The ‘twenties of the last century’ was the watershed moment for the Indian national movement. With emergence of new scenarios and actors the movement became a true mass movement.

    This decade started on the backdrop of Russian Revolution and emergence of communism as an alternative to Imperialism which presented a new ray of hope for the colonies undergoing struggle for independence. With the rise of socialists and communists in India, the issues of peasants and workers became an important objective of Indian independence.

    Mahatma Gandhi returned to India in 1915 and with some initial experiments on limited scale in Champaran, Kheda and Ahmedabad, finally in the early twenties he was all set to take the leadership of Indian National Movement and this changed the vision of Indian independence.

    • Starting with Non Cooperation Movement in the early twenties, he led Civil Disobedience Movement in early thirties and finally Quit India in early forties. In these years, Indian national movement transformed from the movement of few middle class elites, to a mass movement.
    • The objectives of Independence became Swaraj and Sarvodaya where the fruit of independence was to be tasted by the last man standing in the row and not mere the transfer of power from one set of white elites to another Indian elites.
    • After twenties the goal of political independence was gradually broadened by the constructive programmes where the issues of untouchability and Hindu- Muslim unity were also considered as important goals.
    • Fundamental Rights and Economic Policy was shaped during Karachi resolution of 1931.

    Hence the vision of Indian independence was broadened in scale and scope after the twenties of last century.

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