(Last Updated on : 19/02/2009)
Tracing down the legendary lineage of India, its dynasties, its rulers, its kings, its emperors, it can be stated assuredly that the country has served as a land of myths, jewels, coins, invasions, lores, subjugations, triumph, cruelty, victory, traps, or even gallantry. It is also acknowledged in world history and its annals that India forever has been deemed as a land of the Orient, with hundreds of foreign kings or dynasties losing their way within the vast Indian soil, enamoured to that extent to never return to their lands. Indian ancient history provides facts to their readers about the very first traces of civilisation through the stellar and staying `far ahead of their times`, being established by the Indus Valley Civilization and its population being scattered in places like Harappa and Mohenjodaro (presently in Pakistan). Significant enough, when establishing the concept of Indian rulers and its ruling dynasties, it is witnessed that Indus Valley was indeed not the forefather and harbinger to the concept of India being ruled by one single royal family of class. As such, it can thus be made quite clear that the perspective of rulers ruling in India, rather the system of monarchy had developed much later. Indian history bears the chronicles of the first ever incursion into India by the Indo-European Aryan race, a race which was to forever create an impact upon the mass Indians and their maturation to the present times. The Aryans indeed had ushered in an innovative era of governance, political system, architecture, societal relations, manner of communication, literature, language, religion, virtually overhauling the entire Indian system of ruling.
The pre-Christian era in India indeed had witnessed much to be touted a realm with distinctive features and differences. However, the hardcore system of ruling and rulers in India had begun with the parent Magadha Empire (545 B.C. - 550 B.C.), which virtually had conquered the whole of India, with able assistance from its children empires like the Mauryan Empire (321-184 BCE) or the Gupta Empire (280-550 BCE). The hard core system of an overall betterment for Indian citizens and subjects was perfectly borne by the exceedingly legendary Mauryan kings like Chandragupta Maurya (324-301 B.C.), Bindusara (301-273 B.C.) and Ashoka the Great (273-232 B.C.). Gupta emperors, a comparatively later arrival into the Magadhan realm, were also rich to have enlarged and extended their territory, during which relations with foreign nationals had reached peak heights. India was known to have achieved its very own Golden Age under Indian rulers like Chandra Gupta I (305-335), Samudra Gupta (335-370), Chandragupta Vikramaditya (375-415) or Skanda Gupta (455-467). Magadha Empire also had contained various other prominent ruling dynasties under its belt, with the Shishunaga Dynasty containing rulers ruling India like Bimbisara (544 - 491 B.C.), the founder of the first Magadhan empire and his successor Ajatashatru (491 - 461 B.C.). The Satavahana Dynasty brought to and end the ancient era in Indian ruling under rulers like Simuka (c. 230 - 207 B.C.) or Gautamiputra Satakarni (106 130). Indian rulers were to next step onto the medieval era and its extensive twists, turns and invasions, yet once more altering and metamorphosing the system of ruling in India.
From this period onwards, India started to remain a constant and ceaseless witness to extraordinary and outstanding dynasties, who were to conquer India and its preceding empire, only to establish themselves as the Supreme Being. The basic and fundamental concept of rulers ruling India began to gather momentum and honour, with the already accomplished factor of the most powerful and moneyed family to turn royal and majestic and govern his countrymen and subjects. The fast replacement of centralised form of government by monarchical rule and its tactics to unfamiliar invasions by air, land or water, or the warring strategies adopted by the upcoming Indian rulers, primarily governed their degree of excellence, popularity or overseas fame. In addition to such promising prospects, Indian rulers were also judged by their disposition with their subjects in general, irrespective of their caste, creed, class or religion. Hindu empires and emperors were predominant during this time, with separate religious advent to occur and influence much later.
The first major and substantial Hindu dynasty to rule India during the beginnings of its Medieval period, was the Chola Dynasty, which was further sub-divided into the Sangam Cholas and the prominent Chola rulers like Vijayalaya Chola (848 - 881), founder of the Chola Empire, Rajaraja Chola I (985 - 1014), esteemed as the greatest of the Chola kings, Rajendra Chola I (1012 - 1044) or Rajadhiraja Chola I (1018 - 1054). Chola rulers of India are largely respected to have extended their empire towards various south-east Asian countries. The system of rulers ruling in India can primarily be judged under the header of which ruler and his empire had come to India and with what fundamental intention. As such, India has remained witness to umpteen takeovers and subjugations, but extremely rare instances of rulers in India have actually thought earnestly about Indian diversification or the guaranteeing of the country`s future. Based upon this very theory, the next in line amongst the prudent Indian rulers was the Kushana Dynasty with rulers like Vima Kadphises (c. 105 - 127), known as the first great king of Kushana empire, or Kanishka I (127 - 147).
The Chalukya Dynasty divided into the Chalukyas of Badami and Chalukyas of Kalyani, had ruled India efficiently under rulers of the several descending Vikramadityas. However, the whole of India was shaken with a severe jolt by the unprecedented powerful ruler Harsha Vardhana (606 - 648), single-handedly ruling India over a period of 40 years. Incidentally, he was the last non-Muslim emperor of the unified north India. The Rashtrakuta Dynasty under Indian rulers like Dantidurga (735 - 756), Govinda II (774 - 780), or Amoghavarsha (814 - 878) was yet another instance of smooth ruling of India. The Chalukyas and the Rashtrakutas, in this context, are very first instances of efficient and well-organised ruling of south India, with the much-later legendary Vijayanagara Empire supplying an undying resource of Indian rulers to prominence and distinction. Some of the star examples of rulers of the Indian Vijayanagara Empire include Harihara I (Deva Raya) (1336-1343), Harihara II (1379-1399), Deva Raya I (1406-1412), Mallikarjuna (1452-1465), Krishna Deva (1509-1530).
These Indian rulers clubbed into the ancient and medieval period of Indian history, possessed their umpteen modes of ruling and administering the country with supreme poise and élan. These out-and-out Hindu empires and rulers had been successful to hold their sway and supremacy for their stipulated time periods, which enjoyed their share of ups and downs, consequentially fading away into oblivion. They however, were never forgotten, with painstaking endeavours being made on every historian`s and researcher`s part to chronicle every moment of `living history`. The system of Indian rulers and ruling in India had completed its significant share of existing in the pre-Christian and post-Chriatian era, the culmination of which witnessed the gradual arrival of the Islamic rulers and their dynasties in the Medieval period, which further clashed with the consecutive Hindu rulers of India, like Maratha warriors, Suri Dynasty or the Maharanas of Mewar from Rajasthan. The Islamic rulers had been overpoweringly triumphant to wholly eclipse their predecessors and their style of ruling, which can very much be witnessed in the administration of the Delhi Sultanates or the Mughal Empire.
Delhi Sultanate basically holds within its chronology the various invading rulers invading India from parts of Persia, Turkey or Afghanistan, with the foremost aim to conquer the Oriental country and annex it to their own territorial integrity. They never for once possessed the intention to themselves become an Indian ruler, which perhaps has reduced them into much topics of mockery and contempt. Yet, sieving from these, Indian rulers under the Slave Dynasty (also referred to as Mamluk Dynasty) like Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210), Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (1211-1236), Raziyyat ud din Sultana (hugely popular as Razia Sultana) (1236-1240); Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji (1290-1296), Ala ud din Khilji (1296-1316), one of the greatest of the Delhi Sultans, under the Khilji Dynasty, deserve the most proud mention in terms of regional extension or architecture. Delhi Sultanate however was later to witness its curtain call after extensive epochs of ruling under such rulers arriving to India, with the Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526). Lodis had for themselves legendary Indian rulers like Sikandar Lodi and Ibrahim Lodi.
Leaving aside the almost downsized rulers and dynasties in ancient India, time had arrived for India to witness the path-breaking and destiny-defining Mughal Empire and their momentous style of ruling and rulers. Indeed, the more is stated about the Mughal Empire, the more they seem to be enwrapped in an enigma of bewitching splendour. Every aspect of the Mughal rulers ruling in their colossal Indian states, were unique and unbeatable to the innate concept. This Indian ruling dynasty virtually had conquered the whole of India, beginning with Emperor Babur (1526-1530) and culminating in Bahadur Shah II (1837-1857). However, this information seems to be completely incomplete, without mentioning the in-between authoritative and legendary Indian rulers like Humayun, Akbar, Jahangir or Shah Jahan. However, when it comes to territorial integrity, equality amongst every class of subjects, smooth movement of education, religious customs, architectural splendour or self-styled intellect, the name of Jalal ud din Muhammad Akbar (1556-1605) stands out in absolute prominence in the section of capable Indian rulers.
In such a promising and proud concept to reckon with, the Mughal Empire was absolutely caught off guard and taken by surprise with the voracious invading Hindu Suri Dynasty (1540-1555), who in fact had totally seized the Mughals after defeating Humayun. The Suri Dynasty contained valorous and intimidating Indian rulers like the celebrated and legendary Sher Shah, Islam Shah Suri and Adil Shah. The Mughals were however to resist not only the Suris, but the gradually arriving Maratha Empire (1674-1818), under the exceedingly respected and dreaded Indian rulers like Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj or Chhatrapati Sambhaji. This was precisely the period when India was witnessing the rise of several powerful empires, both Hindu and Muslim, neither of who were willing to accept a secondary position under one single ruling dynasty and its subsequent Indian ruler. As such, the Mughals had a real tough time to administer smoothly under various dynasties like: The Peshwas (under able rulers of India like Baji Rao I, Baji Rao II and Nana Sahib), the major Muslim vassals like the Nawabs of Bengal, Nawabs of Oudh, or the Nizams of Hyderabad.
The Mughal rulers however had dominated amongst all these acceding ruling empires, the Indian administration thus being divided into a provincial basis with the Mughals ruling from their base of Delhi and Agra and the various other secondary dynasties ruling from their respective princely states. Such a method however was not always acknowledged with bowed head and folded hands, just like what had occurred with the ruling Indian rulers like the Maratha Empire or the Suri Dynasty and of course the Sesodia Maharanas of Mewar of Rajasthan (who indeed had comprises men like Maharana Pratap Singh and Rani Padmini, the first ever gallant woman to have committed the jauhar custom). These Hindu rulers from India never did accept a defeat lying down, combatting till their last drop of blood. However, there still existed a basic underlying difference amongst these Indian rulers and their mode of ruling their beloved India.
For instance, it was a customary Hindu custom for the king`s subjects and court members to address their emperor with blessed terms like Maharajah or Rajaji, whereas, their Islamic counterpart addressed their emperor with the titles like Jahapana or `Baadshah-e-Sultan. Once more, due to each other`s religions differing to the basic core, Muslim rulers and Hindu rulers of India stood at difference in several other respects of everyday life, cuisine, style of worship or even addressing their subjects. All of these mastering and further over-mastering of Indian ruling was to receive their ultimate shock and awe, after which every aspect of India remained just only to be shattered with the arrival of the Europeans, especially the British Empire. Such a bright and dazzling scenario of Indian rulers and Indian ruling suddenly altered into complete darkness and gloominess with the advent of the British Raj under the initial British East India Company, which later was however to be transferred. The British Empire made a stylistic arrival, just as is said - "They came, they saw, they conquered" and entirely overhauled the long-established system of ruling, especially the method of Indian rulers.
The East India Company and its officers bonded and established a pact with the Mughals, who by that time was already in the process of dwindling and staggering. A gradual, slow and unnoticed manner of British conquering of India began to be witnessed in the ushering in of the Viceroys, Governor Generals, Council Generals of a state (a state, incidentally, was also a fresh concept by the British, who began the system of dividing) replacing the rulers of India under the three ruling Presidency towns of Calcutta, Bombay and Madras. Every Maharaja, Sultan or a local vassal chief were forced to accede and accept the dominion of the Britishers, who very much enjoyed their sadistic style of ruling India. Indian administration as a whole was also being overhauled, with a centralised form of government being followed from their capitals of Calcutta and New Delhi (later), much like in present Indian democracy. The story of East India Company and their history of ruling and consequent downfall and the accession of Her Highness Queen Victoria to the Indian monarch throne, who had annexed India under her direct control from Great Britain, remains to be told and devoted in a different context, which is the ultimate history of the Indian Independence Movement of 200 extensive years. The bottom line in this Indian ruling and Indian rulers context is that the erstwhile long established fact of Indian emperors and kings were replaced entirely by the British Raj. They were also fundamental to have brought in various modes of government, the majority of which are followed and espoused in the present Republic of India, declared under the Indian Constitution as a "sovereign socialist secular democratic republic", post the country`s attainment of Freedom and Swaraj on 15th August 1947.