Sunday, April 26, 2009

Key Dates of Indian Elections History

India, the world's largest democracy, holds a general election in April and May.Here is a timeline of key dates in India's election history:

1947- 1952

  • Shri Jawaharlal Nehru, one of the founding fathers of independent India, becomes the country's first prime minister. His appointment starts a long period of political dominance of the Congress party and the country's most powerful dynasty, the Gandhi-Nehru family.

1952- 1957

  • India held its first national elections under the Constitution in 1952, where a turnout of over 60% was recorded.
  • Shri Jawaharlal Nehru leads Congress to a clear victory in the country's first ever general election and began a second term as Prime Minister.


  • Prime Minister Nehru led the Congress to major election victories in 1957 and 1962
  • Nehru leads Congress and retains the prime ministership, which he held until his death in 1964.
  • From May 27, 1964 - January 24, 1966 Shri Gulzari Lal Nanda and Shri Lal Bahadur Shastri held the post of prime ministership for small periods.


  • Nehru's daughter Mrs. Indira Gandhi leads Congress to another victory and becomes the country's only female prime minister.
  • She wins another election victory in 1971 -- the year India trounced Pakistan in the third war between the two countries since 1947.


  • Mrs. Indira Gandhi imposes a State of Emergency, which critics says gave her near dictatorial powers.
  • Indira called for elections in 1977, only to suffer a humiliating electoral defeat at the hands of the Janata Party.
  • Shri Morarji Desai, an ageing supporter of Mahatma Gandhi's philosophies, becames the first non-Congress Prime Minister.
  • 28 July 1979 Morarji Desai  Dismissed by President following a no-confidence motion.
  • 28 July 1979, Shri Charan Singh formed an interim government. The Janata party had become intensely unpopular due to its internecine warfare, and the fact that it offered no leadership on solving India's serious economic and social problems.


  • Mrs. Indira Gandhi re-elected again, but is assassinated four years later by her Sikh bodyguards after a suppression of Sikh separatism that culminated in the storming of the Golden Temple.


  • Shri Rajiv Gandhi, Indira's son and a former commercial pilot, becomes India's youngest prime minister and leads Congress to victory.
  • Gandhi is voted out five years later after becoming embroiled in the Bofors scandal, a defence deal, of which he was posthumously cleared in 2004.


  • Power came to Rajiv Gandhi former finance and defence minister, Shri Vishwanath Pratap Singh. Singh led the Janata Dal coalition to a majority.
  • V.P. Singh resigned on 10 November 1990 because he started to implement the controversial Mandal commission report, to increase the quota in reservation for low caste Hindus and BJP protested these implementations, and took its support back.
  • Shri Chandra Shekhar  split to form the Janata Dal (Socialist) and came in power, supported by Rajiv's Congress. This new government also collapsed in a matter of months, when congress withdrew its support.


  • In the 1991 elections, Congress (I) won 244 parliamentary seats and put together a coalition, returning to power under the leadership of  Shri P. V. Narasimha Rao. This Congress-led government, served a full 5-year term.


  • The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) emerged from the May 1996 national elections as the single-largest party in the Lok Sabha but without enough strength to prove a majority on the floor of that Parliament.
  • Under Prime Minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee   , the BJP coalition lasted in power 13 days.
  • With all political parties wishing to avoid another round of elections, a 14-party coalition led by the Janata Dal emerged to form a government known as the United Front. A United Front government under Shri H. D. Deve Gowda  lasted less than a year.
  • On April 21, 1997 Shri Inder Kumar Gujral  replaced Deve Gowda as the consensus choice for Prime Minister of a 16-party United Front coalition.
  • In November 1997, the Congress Party again withdrew support for the United Front. New elections in February 1998 brought the BJP the largest number of seats in Parliament (182).
  • On March 20, 1998, the President inaugurated a BJP-led coalition government with Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee   again serving as Prime Minister.

2004-till date

  • The BJP loses to Congress despite presiding over healthy economic growth. Its "India Shining" campaign fails to resonate with voters.
  • Sonia Gandhi, the Italian-born widow of Rajiv Gandhi, leads a Congress victory, but steps aside to let Dr. Manmohan Singh  become prime minister, ending sniping about her nationality

List Of Prime Ministers of India

More articles to read:

Friday, April 24, 2009

Prehistoric India

The Indian prehistoric era is one of the most fascinating and intriguing eras to read about. Though there is speculation about when it originated, historians quote the approximate period from 200000 B.C to about 3500 - 2500 B.C. It is estimated that the first humans to set their foot in the Indian sub continent between 200000 B.C and 40000 B.C. Pre historic India has been divided into four major eras. These are: Stone Age, Paleolithic Era, Mesolithic Era and Neolithic Era. The Bronze Age is also mentioned here though it comes after these four eras. Further information about Indian prehistory is given below. 
Stone Age
The Stone Age was the era when early man used stones for functional and useful purposes. The Stone Age is further classified into three categories which are the Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic Age and Neolithic Age. These divisions have been made on the basis of the kind of stone tools that were used during these times. 
Paleolithic Age
The Paleolithic Age lasted till about 8000 B.C. In this age, man was essentially a food gatherer. He learnt to make weapons out of stones and also mastered the skill of hunting animals. The crude weapons were slowly carved properly and were made sharp and pointed. These special weapons were made by shredding the sides of a stone with a heavier stone. Man also learnt how to create fire and make use of it. He learnt to control fire, which helped him to improve his way of living. 
Mesolithic Age
The Mesolithic Age lasted from 8000 B.C - 4000 B.C. In this age the size of the groups grew to form small communities. The number of mouths to feed increased and needed constant nurturing for continuation. The tools improved and became more refined and sharp. There was a drastic change in the food and clothing of man. The tools were modified and now the sharp stones were attached to strong tree branches using ropes and vines. These new weapons or hand axes could be flung on animals from a safe distance. Apart from this, farming techniques were developed and man began to grow crops. Man also learnt to draw and paint and the evidence is found in the form of cave paintings found in India. 
Neolithic Age 
Neolithic (New Stone Age) settlements in the Indian sub-continent are not older than 4000 BC. The Neolithic Age lasted from 4000 B.C - 2500 B.C and is known as the last stage of the Stone Age era. The main features of this age were the finely flaked weapons and small tools made of stone that were used for day to day work. This age also saw domestication of cows, horses and other poultry and farm animals. Their products were used for dairy and meat items. The wheel, which was a very important invention, was created during this age. Shortly after this age around 1800 B.C, tools were made of copper and bronze and were used for many practical purposes.
Bronze Age
The Bronze Age is the era when metals were used and improvised for making tools and other weapons. This age came immediately after the Neolithic Age and aided in the development of the metallurgy industry. It came into being in 3500 B.C in the Middle East. The Bronze Age in India is roughly estimated to have begun around 3300 B.C. It almost coincided with the beginning of the Indus Valley Civilization. People living in Indus Valley produced bronze, copper and tin thus developing new techniques of metallurgy.
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Thursday, April 23, 2009

Charaka - Father of medicine

Charaka, sometimes spelled Caraka, born c. 300 BC in a Maga Brahmin family was one of the principal contributors to the ancient art and science of Ayurveda, a system of medicine and lifestyle thought to be developed about 5000 years ago in Ancient India. Acharya Charak has been crowned as the Father of Medicine

According to Charaka's translations health and disease are not predetermined and life may be prolonged by human effort and attention to lifestyle.

The following statements are attributed to Charaka: A physician who fails to enter the body of a patient with the lamp of knowledge and understanding can never treat diseases. He should first study all the factors, including environment, which influence a patient's disease, and then prescribe treatment. It is more important to prevent the occurrence of disease than to seek a cure.

These remarks appear obvious today, though they are often not heeded, and were made by Charaka, in his famous Ayurvedic treatise Charaka Samhita. The treatise contains many such remarks which are held in reverence even today. Some of them are in the fields of physiology, etiology and embryology. Charaka was translated into Persian and Arabic in the eighth century, and is still used today. Most of what is known about Indian medical science derives from this text and two others, the Susruta Samhita and the Ashtangahridaya Samhita.

Charaka was the first physician to present the concept of digestion, metabolism and immunity. According to him a body functions because it contains three dosha or humours, namely, bile, phlegm and wind. These dosha are produced when dhatus, namely, blood, flesh and marrow, act upon the food eaten.

For the same quantity of food eaten, one body, however, produce dosha in an amount different from another body. That is why one body is different from another. For instance, it is weightier, stronger, and more energetic.

Further, illness is caused when the balance among the three dosha in a human body is disturbed. To restore the balance he prescribed medicinal drugs. Although he was aware of germs in the body, he did not give them any importance.

Charaka also knew the fundamentals of genetics. For instance, he knew the factors determining the sex of a child. Agenetic defect in a child, like lameness or blindness, he said, was not due to any defect in the mother or the father, but in the ovum or sperm of the parents -an accepted fact today.

Charaka Samhita regarded disease as originating either inside the body or from outside. It also covers bodily structure and function, the cause, symptoms, and prognosis of disease, and the effect of disease on the body. Charaka describes more than 600 drugs of animal, plant, and mineral origin, along with formulas for medicines and instructions for making them.

Charaka also studied the anatomy of the human body and various organs. He gave 360 as the total number of bones, including teeth, present in the body. He wrongly believed that the heart had one cavity, but he was right when he considered it to be a controlling centre. He claimed that the heart was connected to the entire body through 13 main channels. Apart from these channels, there were countless other ones, some big and some small, which supplied not only nutrients to various tissues but also provided passage to waste products. He also claimed that any obstruction in the main channels led to a disease or deformity in the body.

However, there is nothing known about Charaka as a person. It is said that he was the son of a sage who travelled from place to place on foot to cure the suffering masses.

Related Article : Sushruta---Father of Surgery

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Chanakya - Indian Machiavelli

One of the greatest figures of wisdom and knowledge in the Indian history is Chanakya. Chanakya (c. 350-283 BCE) was an adviser and a prime minister to the first Maurya Emperor Chandragupta (c. 340-293 BCE), and architect of his rise to power.

Chanakya, also known as Kautilya or Vishnugupta, was born in Pataliputra, Magadh (modern Bihar), and later moved to Taxila, in Gandhar province(now in Pakistan). He was a professor (acharya) of political science at the Takshashila University and later the Prime Minister of the Emperor Chandragupta Maurya. He is widely believed to be responsible for the creation of Mauryan empire, the first of its kind on the Indian subcontinent.

He is regarded as one of the earliest known political thinkers, economists and king-makers. He was the man to envision the first Indian empire by unification of the then numerous kingdoms in the Indian sub-continent and provide the impetus for fights against the Greek conqueror Alexander. In Jawaharlal Nehru's Discovery of India, Chanakya has been called the Indian Machiavelli.

His famous work called Arthashastra is a classic example of statecraft and politics and is read in Europe even today. It is arguably the first systematic book on economics. It discusses monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations and war strategies in detail. It basically consists of the principles of politics and how the state works. An able ruler has to be a ruthless leader to make sure that the state works smoothly and efficiently. He believed in four ways Enticement, Sowing dession, Punishment or war. He was the master of shrewd act of diplomacy.

Another book attributed to Chanakya was Nitishastra which is also known as Chankya Niti. Many of his nitis or policies have been compiled under this book. Nitishastra is a treatise on the ideal way of life, and shows Chanakya's in depth study of the Indian way of life.

The legends associated with Chanakya are very interesting and provide a testimony of his greatness.


• When Chanakya was born he had a full set of teeth, which is a sign that he would become a king or an emperor. But since he was born in a Brahmin family, it was considered inappropriate. Thus, his teeth were broken and it was predicted that he would make another person a king and rule through him.
• Even as a child, Chanakya had the qualities of a born leader. His level of knowledge was beyond children of his age.
• Chanakya was thrown out of the court of King Nanda as he was a blunt man and spoke his mind clearly. Chanakya swore he would take revenge.
• Chanakya comes across Chandragupta as a young child. Even at that age, he was a born leader and showed the qualities of an able Emperor. He was the guiding force behind Chandragupta and the vital person who made him an able Emperor.
• Chanakya adds poison in little amounts daily in Chandragupta's food in order to make him immune to poison, lest some enemy tries to poison him.
• However Chandragupta was unaware about this and once gave a little food to his wife who was in the ninth month of pregnancy. She didn't survive but Chanakya cut open her belly and took out the baby.
• This baby grew up to become an able emperor named Bindusara. He had a minister named Subandhu who did not like Chanakya. He told Bindusara that Chanakya had killed his mother.
• Without assessing facts, Bindusara confronted Chanakya. On knowing the whole story, he felt ashamed at his hasty actions and begged for forgiveness. He asked Subandhu to go and apologize and make Chanakya come back.
• Subandhu was very cunning and on the pretext of going to apologize to Chanakya, he killed him. Thus, ended the life of a great person like Chanakya just because of political rivalry.

His main philosophy was "A debt should be paid off till the last penny; An enemy should be destroyed without a trace". He seemed to have lived - and died - by his philosopy.

More to read : Sushruta---Father of Surgery, Bhaskaracharya

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Chail - World's Highest Cricket Ground

Chail (former summer capital of Patiala) is 43 km from Shimla. Three km from the village is the world’s highest cricket ground (2,444 metres) built in 1893. (The Maharaja of Patiala had a penchant for cricket and had a vast stretch of land flattened in the Himalayan terrain for cricket.) The ground has the world's highest cricket pitch. Chail Cricket ground has brought fame to India by becoming the highest cricket ground in the whole world.

This cricket ground of Chail has been existing since the times of Maharaja Bhupendra Singh who had established it. It has always been known by the name of a cricket ground because the Maharaja used to play friendly matches with the Britishers.

This ground is also used as polo ground. There is a well maintained Basket Ball court and the same cricket ground is used for playing football as the ground also has goal posts. In one corner of the ground there is a historic tree on which the local students have constructed a beautiful tree house.

It is established in the cantonment area of army and hence it is as such is out of bounds to common tourists and locals. The place is very cool and picturesque.

For many years, the cricket ground merited a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records. Though the record has not been broken, Guinness Book has decided to delete the documentation because no competitive cricket is being conducted there. Today, the local lads use the venue for inter-school matches or the nearby contingent of the Indian military holds its sports meet and march-pasts. The sprawling grounds are well-kept with manicured lawns. Huge trees of deodar and pine surround the playground in a mute standing ovation.

More to read : World's Highest Battle field

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Nalanda - First Great University

Nalanda is the name of an ancient university in Bihar, India. The site of Nalanda is located in the Indian state of Bihar, about 55 miles south east of Patna. The ancient seat of Buddhist learning in India, the ancient university of Nalanda is believed to be one of the first great universities in recorded history. There are many versions of what the term Nalanda means. One is that Nalam means Lotus and Da means to give. Both combined together, Nalanda means Giver of Lotus. Since Lotus is supposed to represent knowledge, Nalanda means Giver of Knowledge.

This Buddhist centre of learning, the university of Nalanda flourished between 427 CE and 1197 CE due to patronage of kings like Harshavardhana and Pala kings of Pala dynasty. Some parts of Nalanda university were constructed by the great Mauryan emperor Ashoka the Great e.g. the Sariputta Stupa. The Gupta Dynasty also patronized some monasteries.

Nalanda was the largest residential centre of learning that the world had ever known. The library was located in a nine storied building. The ruins of Nalanda University occupy an area of 14 hectares. There were thousands of students and teachers. In its heyday it accommodated over 10,000 students and 2,000 teachers. The university was considered an architectural masterpiece, and was marked by a lofty wall and one gate. Nalanda had eight separate compounds and ten temples, along with many other meditation halls and classrooms. On the grounds were lakes and parks.

The subjects taught at Nalanda University covered every field of learning. The courses offered at Nalanda included the study of scriptures of Mahayana and Hinayana Schools of Buddhism, Brahminical vedic texts, Philosophy, logic theology, grammer, astronomy, mathematics and medicine. Its importance as a monastic university continued until the end of the 12th century. It attracted pupils and scholars from Korea, Japan, China, Tibet, Indonesia, Persia and Turkey. Nalanda eventually developed into the greatest ancient centre of Buddhist learning.

The scholar Dharmakirti (ca. 7th century), one of the Buddhist founders of Indian philosophical logic, as well as and one of the primary theorists of Buddhist atomism, taught at Nalanda. Other forms of Buddhism, like the Mahayana followed in Vietnam, China, Korea and Japan, found their genesis within the walls of the ancient university. Hiuen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim spent three years at Nalanda. He has left a detailed note about the university, its curriculum, activities and other accounts. The Tibetan pilgrim Dharmasvamin was here in 1234 and has left a gripping account of the monastery's destruction by the Muslims.

National Archaeological Museum: Opposite to the university gate is the small National Archaeological Museum. The unique collection of Hindu and Buddhist bronzes, unspoilt statue of Buddha, copper plates, coins, stone inscriptions can be viewed here.

Silao: Lying between Nalanda and Rajgir, the small village of Silao is famous for its local sweet-made “Khaja”.

Sheesh Mahal: Being at the Sheesh Mahal (Glass Palace) implies getting stunned with the view of one of the best work of glass-mosaic decoration of the country.

In 1193, the Nalanda University was sacked by Bakhtiyar Khalji, a Turk; this event is seen by scholars as a late milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. Nalanda is no longer inhabited. Today the nearest habitation is a village called Bargaon. The Nalanda Museum contains a number of manuscripts, and shows many examples of the items that have been excavated.

Related article: Takshila : World's first University

Friday, April 10, 2009

Indian History

India is home to one of the richest and the most ancient civilizations in the world, which existed over 5,000 years ago. This civilization originated in the Indus River Valley, hence the name given to it was Indus Valley civilization. It is the origin of many of the ideas, philosophies and movements which have shaped the destiny of mankind. The civilization with its main cities Mohenjadaro and Harappa flourished for over eight centuries. Its people thought to be Dravidians, whose descendants still inhabit the far south of India. This civilization declined around 1500 B.C., probably due to ecological changes.

Aryan and Greek Invasions: The country was influenced by many invasions, the Arya or Aryans (1500BC) as they are known today, are the first invaders.  As they settled in the middle Ganges River valley, they adapted to antecedent cultures. They spoke a group of languages which have become known as Indo-European. They settled in the region to the north west of India, known as the Punjab. With time, the Aryans were engaged in struggle with the dark skinned people or Dasyus. The Dasyus were the Dravidians. The superiority of the Aryans resulted in the Dravidian submission.

The second great invasion into India occurred around 500 BC, when the Persian kings Cyrus and Darius, pushing their empire eastward, conquered the prized Indus Valley. After centuries of obscurity, doubt and conjecture, India came into the full light of recorded history with the invasion of Alexander the Great of Macedonia in 327 BC. Although Alexander crossed the Indus and defeated an Indian king, he turned back without extending his power into India.

Maurya and Gupta PeriodsIn the 4th and 5th centuries A.D., northern India was unified under the Gupta Dynasty. This period, known as India's Golden Age.

India's first imperial dynasty, founded by Chandragupta Maurya.Maurya dynasty reached its peak around 260 BC under the Emperor Ashoka, the most famous figures in Indian History. In the fifth century, large parts of India were united under Ashoka. He also converted to Buddhism, and it is in his reign that Buddhism spread to o ther parts of Asia. It is in the reign of the Mauryas that Hinduism took the shape that fundamentally informs the religion down to the present day. Successor states were more fragmented.

The Gupta period has been described as the golden age of Indian history and under their rule of northern India, arts, including poetry and literature, flourished. The exquisite Ajanta and Ellora caves were excavated in this period. Gupta period extended from 320AD to 480AD. But in 455 AD the Huns invaded India from the north and destroyed the Guptan Empire. Again India was split into small kingdoms until the Muslim invasions around 1000 AD.                                                

Muslim Invasions: The Medieval Period in Indian history began with the Muslim Invasions.In the 10th and 11th centuries, Turks and Afghans invaded India and established sultanates in Delhi. From the 11th to the 15th centuries, southern India was dominated by Hindu Chola and Vijayanagar Dynasties. During this time, the two systems--the prevailing Hindu and Muslim--mingled, leaving lasting cultural influences on each other. In the early 16th century, descendants of Genghis Khan swept across the Khyber Pass,  defeated Ibrahim Lodi the last ruler of the Delhi Sultanate at the battle of Panipat  and established the Mughal (Mogul) Dynasty, which lasted for 200 years.

The golden era of the Mughal period was under the rule of Akbar the great.

European InvasionsThe Portuguese were the first Europeans to settle in India, in Goa, in the fifteenth century (1498). The Europeans arrived even before the Mughals. The Dutch East India company was chartered in 1602 and they established spice trade and factories in Cochin, Nagapatinam and Agra. They did not have any military ambitions for India. In 1613, the British East India Company, a trading company, started its first trading post in Gujarat.

Meanwhile around 1644, the French established trade with India. Pondicherry was the hub of French settlements. Other French factories and settlements were at Surat, their first trading post in 1666, then Masulipatanam, Karikal, Chandernagore in Bengal and Mahe at the Malabar coast. The struggle for establishing supremacy in trade resulted in wars between the English and the French in the Deccan. 

In 1757, at the Battle of Plassey, Robert Clive, an employee of the British East India Company, defeated the Nawab of Bengal, Siraj-ud-Daulah and established their political sovereignty in India. It was an important step towards the eventual British dominance of the country

The conquest of India, which could be said to have begun with the Battle of Plassey (1757), was practically completed by the end of Dalhousie's tenure in 1856. It had been by no means a smooth affair as the simmering discontent of the people manifested itself in many localized revolt during this period. However, the Mutiny of 1857, which began with a revolt of the military soldiers at Meerut, soon became widespread and posed a grave challenge to the British rule. The revolt was controlled by the British within one year, it began from Meerut on 10 May 1857 and ended in Gwalior on 20 June 1858. Britain then ruled India with local rulers for over three hundred years.

Indian IndependenceA national movement for independence was created. Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, Subhas Chandra Bosh, Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Mahamana, Sardar Ballabh Bhai Patel, Sarojini Naidu, Chander Shekhar Azad were the notable people of the movement. But the most relevantverent leader of the movement was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, Gandhi worked with Jawaharlal Nehru, the secretary of the Indian National Congress and  transformed the Indian National Congress political party into a mass movement to campaign against the British colonial rule. After several years of struggle, Britain decided to quit India. 

On August 15, 1947, India became a dominion within the Commonwealth, with Jawaharlal Nehru as Prime Minister. Enmity between Hindus and Muslims led the British to partition British India, creating East and West Pakistan, where there were Muslim majorities. India became a republic within the Commonwealth after promulgating its constitution on January 26, 1950.

Brief Timeline of Indian History

Ancient India History: The Indus Valley Civilisation, Harrapa | Aryans and the Vedic Age | Rise of Religions and Emergence of the State | The Gupta Age | The Southern Kingdoms

Medieval India History: The Muslim Invasion | Mughal empire | The Marathas

Modern India History: Coming of the Europeans | East India Company | India's freedom struggle

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