The Maurya Empire is the strongest empire in India. It is the first prominent Indian dynasty as well as the largest one in Indian history. Chandragupta Maurya founded it in 322 BCE with the assistance of Chanakya.
It was South Asia's first and largest central power and the world's largest South Asian empire. It's capital city was situated in Pataliputra. The three powerful rulers of the empire were Chandragupta Maurya, Bindusara, and Ashoka.
How was it founded?
Chanakya, also known as Kautilya traveled to Magadha, the capital of the Nanda Empire, where he served as minister for the Nandas. But the Emperor Dhana Nanda of the Nanda Dynasty insulted Chanakya. He swore revenge and said that he would destroy the Nanda Empire. He then went to work as a teacher at Takshashila.
Chanakya motivated Chandragupta and his army to conquer Magadha. Chandragupta recruited many young men from the Magadha and other provinces, collected necessary resources, and prepared for a long series of battles.
The Founder of Mauryan Empire: Chandragupta Maurya
At the time of Alexander the Great’s invasion in northwest India, Chandragupta Maurya conquered Magadha and built the Mauryan Empire with the assistance of Chanakya and his political ideas. Chanakya also became the author of Arthashastra, a book based on economic policies and military strategy.
Note: Ashoka the Great expanded the Mauryan Empire and ruled almost the entire Indian subcontinent. The Mauryan dynasty collapsed after the death of King Ashoka.
The greatest women warriors in Indian history are Rani Velu Nachiyar, Kittur Rani Chennamma, Rani Laxmi Bai, Uda Devi, Onake Obavva, and Keladi Chennamma.
Rani Velu Nachiyar “Veeramangai”
Rani Velu Nachiyar, know as 'Veeramangai' (brave women) by the Tamils, was the Queen of the Sivagana Estate (1780-1790). Velu Nachiyar was the first Indian Queen to pursue a war with the East India Company. She practiced many combat methods and martial arts like Valari, Silambam, including war weapon usage, archery, and horse riding. Velu Nachiyara's husband 'Muthu Vaduganatha Periyavudaya Thevar' was killed in a battle with EIC soldiers.
She formed an alliance with Hyder Ali to campaign against the East India Company. After she found the place where the EIC stored some of their resources; she arranged a suicide attack on that place to blow it up. After that, Velu Nachiyar inherited her husband's kingdom and ruled it for ten years.
Kittur Rani Chennamma
Kittur Rani Chennamma was the Indian queen of Kittur, a princely state in present-day Belagavi District, Karnataka. After death of Rani Chennamms's husband and son, she was left with an uphill task (maintain Kittur's independence from the British).
Rani Chennamma fought fiercely with the support of her deputy, Sangolli Rayanna & her adopted son Shivalingappa. She was defeated and died imprisoned by the British as she led an armed resistance against the British East India Company in 1824.
Her legacy and first victory are still remembered and celebrated in Kittur, during the 'Kittur Utsava' held on 22–24 October every year.
Rani Laxmi Bai “Jansi ki Rani”
Rani Laxmibai, also known as 'Jhansi ki Rani' (the queen of Jhansi), wife of Maharaja Gangadhar Rao, became the Maharani of Jhansi, a Maratha Princely State. She is one of the foremost figures who opposed the British Raj. She became a symbol of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 and opposition to the British Raj. She was wounded and killed in a battle revolting against the British Raj.
Uda Devi was a Dalit warrior of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 who revolted against the British Administration/ East India Company. While the histories only highlighted the upper caste resistance contributions like Jhansi Rani, Dalit resistance like Uda Devi was also fighting the battles for independence from British Raj. Seeing the increasing anger of the Indians with the British rule, Uda Devi reached out to the queen of her district, Begum Hazrat Mahal, and enlisted herself for the war.
The Begum helped Devi form a women’s battalion under her command and prepare for the upcoming battle. She and her husband 'Makka Pasi' were part of the armed force. She unleashed her final attack in full force when she heard that her husband had died in the battle.
Onake Obavva was a brave woman who single-handedly fought Hyder Ali's army with an Onake (pestle) in the kingdom of Chitradurga in Karnataka. Her husband was a guard of the watchtower in the rocky fort of Chitradurga. During the rule of Madakari Nayaka, Chitradurga was attacked by Hyder Ali's troops.
Hyder Ali saw a man entering Chitradurga fort through a hole, which led to sending his soldiers. While fetching water in the pond near the hole, Obavva noticed the army trying to enter the fort through the hole. She used her Onake and attacked them one by one by hitting them on the head and quietly moving the dead without raising suspicions for the rest of the troops.
Later that day, she was found dead, maybe due to shock killing so many/ getting killed by the enemy. Though Obavva's brave attempt saved the fort that time, Hyder Ali captured the Chitradurga fort in 1779.
Keladi Rani Chennamma
Keladi Rani Chennamma was the queen of the Keladi Kingdom in Karnataka. After her husband Somashekhara Nayaka's death in 1677, Chennamma efficiently commanded the administration of the Keladi Nayaka dynasty. From her army base in the kingdom, she resisted the advance of the Mughal troops led by Aurangzeb.
She made a trade agreement with the Portuguese regarding commodities like pepper and rice. She also permitted the Portuguese to establish churches at Chandravara, Mirjan, Honnavara, and Kalyanpura.
She offered shelter to Rajaram Chhatrapati (son of Shivaji), who was escaping from the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb. She fought the war without defeat, and the battle with Mughals ended in a treaty. Keladi was the last kingdom to lose independence to Mysore rulers and consequently to the British.
Some of the best movies to understand Indian history are:
Gandhi, Sardar, Earth, Mangal Pandey: The Rising, The Legend of Bhagat Singh, Bajirao Mastani, Hey Ram, Tenali Raman, Urumi, Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja, Kalapani and Jodhaa Akbar.
- Gandhi (1982) - (IMDb - 8/10)
Gandhi is a biographical movie based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi and his struggles for India’s independence. The movie contains some of the important historical elements of India.
History you learn: The movie helps you to understand more about Gandhi’s life, his non violence independence movement, the 1919 Jallianwala Bagh Massacre in Amritsar, the Salt March in 1930, the end of British rule in 1947, and how Gandhi was assassinated.
Director: Richard Attenborough
Starring: Ben Kingsley, John Mill
- Sardar (1993) - (IMDb - 7.9/10)
The Hindi language biographical drama tells the story of one of the greatest freedom fighters of India , Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s struggles during the fight for India’s independence.
History you learn: The movie portrays the age of the Quit India movement, Indian independence, the proposal of partition of India, and the riots taking place due to this decision. It also depicts how Nehru and Sardar worked together to unite India as an independent nation.
Director: Ketan Mehta
Starring: Paresh Rawal, Annu Kapoor
- Earth (1998) - (IMDb - 7.7/10)
The Hindi movie Earth is a reflection of the political and social conditions that occurred in India at the time of Partition. It portrays the painful social split and its tragic consequences during the Partition.
History you learn: The movie discusses the Partition of India and the tragic situations that happened as a result of this. It highlights the state of uncertainty of India before partition, painful social split, disagreement between main political parties, and helplessness of common people who belong to different religions.
Director: Deepa Mehta
Starring: Amir Khan, Nandita Das
- Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) - (IMDb - 6.6/10)
A Hindi language historical biographical film, directed by Ketan Mehta, talks about the life of an Indian soldier Mangal Pandey, who is known to help start the Indian rebellion of 1857.
History you learn: It helps to learn about the brave life of Mangal Pandey and the spark he created for beginning the Indian Rebellion of 1857. The movie also demonstrates the beginning of the Sepoy Mutiny and also depicts small elements of the Mughal period.
Director: Ketan Mehta
Starring: Amir Khan, Rani Mukerji, Ameesha Patel
- The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002) - (IMDb - 8.1/10)
The Hindi language biographical movie is about a fearless freedom fighter who fights for Indian independence. The film also throws light on the pre-independent period of India along with the important historical events that happened during the independence.
History you learn: It aids you to get a better idea about the life of Bhagat singh, Jallianwala Bagh massacre, Gandhi’s satyagraha policies, the death of Lala Lajpat Rai, the 116-day hunger strike in Lahore Central Jail, and the fearless death of Bhagat Singh.
Director: Rajkumar Santhoshi
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Sushant Singh, Amrita Rao
- Bajirao Mastani (2015) - (IMDb - 7.2/10)
The movie depicts the life of Peshwa Bajirao I, one of the most outstanding leaders of the Maratha Empire, and Mastani, the daughter of Bundela King.
History you learn: The movie portrays the period of the Maratha Empire, along with the fight with the Mughal Empire.
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone
- Hey Ram (2000) - (IMDb - 7.9/10)
Hey Ram is a Tamil movie based on India's partition and its consequences on people.. It is also made available in Hindi language.
History you learn: It has some historical elements like pre-independence period, about Mahatma Gandhi, Godse’s assassination of Gandhi and the Partition of India.
Director: Kamal Hassan
Starring: Kamal Hassan, Vasundhara Das
- Tenali Raman (1956) - (IMDb - 7/10)
The Tamil movie portrays the life of Tenali Rama, a 14th-century poet and member of the court of Krishnadevaraya, the king of the Vijayanagara Empire. It focuses on the king and Tenali’s efforts to save him.
History you learn: It portrays the life of Tenali Raman and also depicts more about the Vijayanagara Empire and king Krishnadevaraya.
Director: B.S Ranga
Starring: Sivaji Ganeshan
- Urumi (2011) - (IMDb - 7.1/10)
Urumi is a Malayalam historical movie that portrays the 16th century period when the Portuguese completely ruled the Indian Ocean. The Hindi, Tamil and Telugu versions of the movie were also released.
History you learn: The movie demonstrates globalization, another side of the explorer Vasco da Gama, his arrival to Kerala, the conquering of the British in different parts of Kerala, and about the Chirakkal kingdom in Kerala.
Director: Santhosh Sivan
Starring: Prithviraj Sukumaran, Genelia D’Souza
- Kerala Varma Pazhassi Raja (2009) - (IMDb - 7.7/10)
The Malayalam historical drama film highlights the legendary king, Pazhassi Raja, who lived in the 18th century. He was a brave warrior who fought until his last breath against the British.
History you learn: The film portrays the fight of Pazhassi Raja against the East India Company, the First Pazhassi Revolt, the life of people during the British Rule, etc.
- Kalapani (1996) - (IMDb- 8.4/10)
It is an epic Malayalam historical film, set in 1915, that focuses on the life of activists during Indian independence. The movie is dubbed in Tamil and Hindi languages.
History you learn: The movie is an excellent historical piece that truly depicts the activists' life during the pre-independence period and the terrible and tragic incidents they had to face in the Cellular Jail located in Andaman and Nicobar Islands at the time of British rule.
Starring: Mohanlal, Tabu, Prabhu
- Jodhaa Akbar (2008) - (IMDb - 7.6/10)
Jodhaa Akbar is a historical drama film that portrays the 16th-century love story of the greatest Mughal emperor Jalaluddin Muhammad Akbar and the Rajput princess Jodhaa Bai.
History you learn: The movie has some historical elements like representation of the Mughal period, touches the history of Babur and Humayun, and talks about Rajput too.
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Starring: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan
Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka, Raja Raja Cholan I, Prithviraj Chauhan I, Krishnadevaraya, Shivaji Bhonsle are the greatest kings & warriors in Indian history.
The founder of the Maurya Empire, Chandragupta Maurya, built one of the largest empires in the Indian subcontinent. Chandragupta was one of the most important personalities in Indian history, laying the foundations of the first government to unite most of South Asia. Under the guidance of Chanakya, he created a new empire based on the principles of statecraft; he built a large army and continued to expand his boundaries until his final years.
The grandson of Chandragupta Maurya, Ashoka was the Maurya dynasty's third emperor; he spread Buddhism across ancient Asia. He was considered one of India's greatest emperors; he expanded the Maurya empire until present-day Bangladesh in the east to Afghanistan in the west. He conquered most of the Indian subcontinent except parts of Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Karnataka.
After the devastating war against Kalinga (Odisa), seeing the deaths of 1000's of people, he converted to Buddhism. Ashoka is known for building the Ashoka pillars to spread his orders about Buddhism.
Raja Raja Chola I, belonging to the Chola dynasty, was the most powerful king in the south. His time was remembered for reinstating the Chola power and ensuring its supremacy in south India and the Indian ocean. His kingdom included parts of Pandya's land, Cher's land, and northern Sri Lanka; he also conquered Lakshadweep and Maldive Islands. Raja Raja Chola I was the greatest devotee of Lord Shiva; he built several temples standing still in modern-day Tamil Naidu. One of the most famous temples he built was Brihadeeswara Temple, popularly known as the Thanjavur Periya Kovil.
Prithviraj Chauhan I was a king from the Chahamana/ Chauhan Dynasty. He ruled Sapadalaksha (traditional territory of the Chauhan dynasty), present-day Rajasthan, Haryana, & Delhi; some parts of Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, and Madhya Pradesh. Soon after Prithviraj became the ruler, he faced rebel from his cousin, Nagarjuna. Prithviraj was defeated in his 'second battle of Tarain'; he was captured & taken to the Chauhan capital Ajmer, killed for rebel against Muhammad.
The emperor of the Vijayanagara Empire, Krishnadevaraya, was the third ruler of the Tuluva Dynasty; he was considered to be its greatest ruler of the Tuluva Dynasty. He controlled the largest empire in India after the decline of the Delhi Sultanate. Leading over the kingdom at its peak, he is recognized as an icon by many Indians. He became the most dominant ruler of the peninsula of India by defeating the Golconda, Bahmani Sultanate, Sultans of Bijapur, and the Gajapatis of Odisha; he was one of the most powerful Hindu rulers in India. His rule was a golden age for Kannada literature and a period of prolific literature in many other languages.
Shivaji Bhonsale, popular known as Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj, was an Indian king and a member of the Bhonsle-Maratha clan. He created an enclave from the declining Bijapur Adilshahi sultanate, which set the beginning of the Maratha Empire. He was formally crowned the Chhatrapati (emperor in the Marathi language) of his realm at Raigad, in 1674.
He engaged in alliances and hostilities with the Sultanate of Bijapur, the Sultanate of Golkonda, Mughal Empire, and European colonial powers throughout his life. He instituted a satisfactory and progressive civil rule with well-structured administrative organizations. He restored ancient Hindu political traditions and court rules and promoted the usage of the Marathi language.
These are some 16 things every Indian should know about our country:
- Not even once in the past 10000 years of history, India invade any country.
- Established in 700BC, Takshila was the world's first university. More than 60 subjects were taught here for over 10,500 students from all over the world.
- Built in the 4th century BC the 'University of Nalanda', was one of the most outstanding achievements of ancient India in education.
- Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language, is the mother of all European languages. Forbes magazine, July 1987 edition reported that Sanskrit was the most suitable language for computer software.
- Ayurveda is the earliest school of medicine perceived to humans, with historical roots in the Indian subcontinent. Charaka, the father of medicine, was one of the main contributors to Ayurveda 2500 years ago.
- 6000 years ago, the art of Navigation originated in the river Sindh. The very word Navigation is descended from the Sanskrit word 'NAVGATIH'. This word 'NAVY" was also derived from Sanskrit word 'Nou'.
- Though images of modern India often exhibit poverty and lack of development; India was the wealthiest country on earth until the British invasion in the early 17th century.
- India invented the Number System; Aryabhatta invented zero.
- The decimal system was manifested in India in 100 BC.
- Budhayana was the first to determine the value of pi; he also explained the concept of the Pythagorean Theorem. Budhayan discovered this in the 6th century, long before the European mathematicians.
- Algebra, calculus, and trigonometry originated from India; Sridharacharys give the quadratic equations in the 11th century. The largest numbers the Romans and Greeks used were 10^6 (which is 10 to the power of 6), whereas Indians used numbers as big as 10^53 (which is 10 to the power of 53) with specific names in 5000 BCE during the Vedic period.
- Bhaskaracharya was the one who calculated time taken by earth to orbit sun in the 5th century itself; the time taken by earth to orbit the sun was 365.258756484 days.
- When all over the world there were only nomadic forest dwellers, Indians established the Harappan civilization in the Sindhu Valley (Indus Valley) 5000 years ago.
- Shatranj/ AshtaPada, the modern say Chess was invented in India.
- Until 1896, India was the only root of diamonds in the world- reported by the Gemological Institute of America.
- 2600 years ago, Sushruta and his health scientist were the first to conduct complicated surgeries like cataracts, cesareans, fractures, artificial limbs, urinary stones, brain surgery, and plastic surgery; with over 125 surgical equipment. Sushruta is acknowledged as the father of surgery.
Note: India is a country with several cultures and vast history, these are only some of the important facts about India which every Indian must know.