by Sanderson Beck
This chapter has been published in the book INDIA & Southeast Asia to 1800.
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The pre-Aryan Harappan civilization in the Indus valley seems to have had many feminine and egalitarian qualities, but unfortunately, without writing, little is known of their history and beliefs. Floods and over-grazing may have made them more vulnerable to conquest. The invasion of white-skinned Aryan conquerors of the dark natives in India is documented in the Veda scriptures of the Hindus. Powerful religious beliefs similar to the Iranians' were used to justify the establishment of a caste system based on skin color and occupations. Hindu society was dominated by the Brahmin priests and Kshatriya warrior-kings, supported by artisan, merchant, and farming Vaishyas, all of whom exploited the labor of the natives. Aryan ways were patriarchal and violent.
Yet somehow in India the western religion combined with the eastern methods of yoga and meditation to develop a remarkable spiritual philosophy and ascetic way of life based on inner awareness and renunciation of the world. The sages of the Upanishads left teachings that written would inspire millions with their mystical wisdom. The doctrines of karma and reincarnation explained how spiritual justice transcends one lifetime, and the mystical methods offered seekers a path of liberation from the cycle. An ethical life of nonviolence was only the first step in such an awesome endeavor, while renouncing worldly success made the society more inward than other materialistic cultures.
The practice of nonviolence by Parshva was developed into a major religion by the noble Mahavira, whose extraordinary ascetic disciplines and spiritual awareness attracted devoted followers. Adding chastity to the ethical disciplines of nonviolence, truthfulness, not stealing, and freedom from possession, Mahavira established a religious community that spread Jainism. Yet the extremity of the asceticism, which some believed required nudity, did not become as popular as a similar but more moderate religion founded in the same era by Siddartha the Buddha.
The life of Siddartha Gautama and his teachings as the Buddha have inspired millions of people seeking peace and enlightenment to live more ethically. His renouncing princely wealth and power to become an ascetic only to discover that a moderate path between the extremes of strictness and luxury was the most successful approach to spiritual awareness is an archetypal story of great significance. The four noble truths of the Buddha are: 1) life is painful; 2) pain is caused by craving; 3) stopping craving stops pain; and 4) the way to stop craving is by correct understanding, intention, speech, action, livelihood, attention, concentration, and meditation. The Buddha by his counseling prevented a war between the Kolyas and the Shakyas. The Buddha refused to discuss speculative and metaphysical questions as irrelevant to ending suffering and finding enlightenment. He overcame attempts by Devadatta to cause a schism in the Buddhist community and refused to harm him even after Devadatta tried to kill him.
The teachings of the Buddha offered a practical way to reduce social harm as well as personal suffering. The Buddha diagnosed the psychological causality of attachment in his theory of dependent origination. Ethical behavior is an important part of the Buddhist quest for enlightenment. The Buddha's leadership of the community that formed around his doctrines set an example of wisdom. His teachings were passed on orally and then in writing in numerous dialogs analyzing human consciousness and ethical conduct. One of the greatest Buddhist works on ethics is the poeticDhammapada, which emphasizes compassion, self-mastery, and awareness. The Questions of King Milinda has the Hellenistic Bactrian king, who converted to Buddhism, ask many difficult questions, which are answered by Nagasena. Thousands of people were profoundly influenced by Buddha's teachings in his own lifetime, and Buddhism spread throughout India in the next five centuries, influencing the policies of kings as well as individual seekers. Although the injustices of war and the caste system were certainly not eliminated, there can be little doubt that efforts to practice Buddhist compassion by so many greatly improved the ethics of Indian society.
After he killed his father to become king of Magadha, Ajatashatru was influenced by the Buddha, built a new capital at Pataliputra, and sponsored the first Buddhist council. Nonetheless he was followed by murderous kings, who were eventually replaced by the Nanda dynasty. Although Indian culture developed a rich literature, they were more interested in spiritual truths than historical events. Thus little is known about political history in India except for Alexander's brief invasion in 326 BC which was described by Greek historians. According to them Indians never marched outside of their country for war. Some kingdoms defended themselves against the Macedonian army, while others who surrendered were killed for refusing to fight fellow Indians. Alexander experienced the fiercest military resistance to his conquests in India and was nearly killed there himself. Indian philosophers and naked Jainas discussed justice and other issues with the aggressive Greeks and influenced Pyrrho, who later founded the Skeptical school of philosophy. This warfare stimulated Chandragupta to raise an army that enabled him to unite India in the Mauryan empire. The 500 elephants he provided in a treaty helped Seleucus to hold his west Asian empire against other Greeks.
The Mauryan empire was inherited by Ashoka in 273 BC. Though before his conversion to Buddhism he was responsible for many people being killed and deported, Ashoka's implementation of Buddhist teachings made him one of the greatest monarchs of all time. He ruled with wisdom and compassion as he renounced war, promoted justice, and tolerated all religious faiths. The Mauryan dynasty had ended by about 187 BC when Bactrian Greeks invaded and were driven back. After the Greeks took over the Punjab, King Menander was also converted to Buddhism. Aryan conquests had gradually spread south, and Buddhism followed centuries later. The island of Sri Lanka was converted to Buddhism and became a stronghold of that religion.
The Hindu Dharma Sutras described the ethical duties of the four castes and the four stages of life as the celibate student, married householder, forest retreat, and the final renunciation. The Laws of Manu offered ethical counsel as well as law codes, such as avoiding eating meat because of the principle of nonviolence. Other principles included truthfulness, not stealing, purity, and self-control. The main duty of the Brahmin is to teach, the Kshatriya to protect, the Vaishya to trade, and the Sudra to serve.
The Artha Shastra by Kautilya gave political advice and lowered the ethical standards of the sacred traditions. Although Kautilya claimed to teach justice in pursuing power and wealth (artha), he recommended the use of war and the employment of spies and deceit for calculated advantage. Kautilya valued wealth above all, thinking that could be used to buy everything else.
The fourth value of Hindu culture after liberation (moksha), justice (dharma), and wealth (artha) was pleasure (kama). The Kama Sutra by Vatsyayana presented views on how pleasure can be attained, particularly erotically. Sexual morals varied, some abstaining from adultery; others considered it a risk worth taking. The attitudes of ancient India toward sexuality seemed to be quite practical and open-minded.
As a minority view, materialists did exist in ancient India. Although they emphasized worldly pleasures, they did teach ethical values; one Carvaka was even martyred for opposing the violence of the great Bharata war, according to the epic Mahabharata.
Of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy the Nyaya emphasized logic and discerning knowledge. Yet ethical living was important in the process of spiritual liberation. Vaishesika focused on individual responsibility for one's actions (karma). Liberation was achieved by freeing the soul from the body. Progress was mainly by virtue (dharma).
Mimamsa also emphasized dharma and soul transcendence, and they recommended prayers, rituals, and sacrifices as methods. Humans are free, but dharma supports the universe. Mimamsa focused on making one's action (karma) virtuous (dharma). Its complementary school was Vedanta, which suggested meditation and liberation by awareness as taught in the Upanishads, the end of the Vedas.
The Samkhya and Yoga schools also worked as a pair. Samkhya taught how to discern the spirit and soul from nature, the field of knowledge and manifestation, in order to attain independence. Samkhya's ethics differentiated the good (sattva) from the passion of activity (rajas) and ignorance (tamas). Yoga was the practical method used for achieving independence and is brilliantly outlined in the classic text by Patanjali called the Yoga Sutras. The ethical foundation is found in the first two steps of restraint (not injuring, not lying, not stealing, not lusting, and not possessing) and the observances (cleanliness, contentment, discipline, self-study, and surrender to the Lord). Physical postures and breath control then prepare one for the psychological steps of withdrawal from the senses by attention, concentration, and meditation. The value of these disciplines is still demonstrated by the yoga many practice in the world today.
In the Bhagavad-Gita Krishna also taught various yogas for increasing spiritual awareness, although his justification of the war and urging of Arjuna to fight in battle can be questioned. The wisdom in this famous book is extensive and includes how not to be attached to the fruits of action by practicing ways of action, knowledge, intuition, renunciation, devotion, and meditation. The qualities of goodness, emotion, and ignorance are differentiated, and the liberation beyond all of them is held up as the ultimate goal.
The imaginative literature of ancient India excelled in two great epic poems and in folktales. In the Ramayana by Valmiki virtue is exemplified by the noble couple Rama and Sita. In their adventures every man and woman could find nearly ideal behavior portrayed in challenging circumstances, as Rama survives exile and regains his kingdom in the great monkey war, while his wife Sita endures captivity by the enemy and a difficult reconciliation.
Vyasa's tremendous Mahabharata depicts two quarreling families and culminates in a great war between them for the kingdom. Justice (dharma) is indicated this time by Vidura and the oldest Pandava brother Yudhishthira, whose weakness for gambling though puts the Pandavas in a difficult position. The war is nearly fatal for the entire human race, but in the epilog Yudhishthira and his enemies are reconciled in heaven. Although nonviolence (ahimsa) is exalted as the highest virtue, the heroes of this war epic have difficulty practicing it.
The Jataka tales present Buddhist teachings set in stories of the Buddha's previous lives as humans, spirits, and animals. The lessons illustrate his sermons and show how karma can work from life to life. In them the power of goodness is very uplifting, and virtue always triumphs. The Panchatantra contains animal fables with more worldly messages, demonstrating how creatures can survive the danger of being eaten in a competitive world by cleverness and cooperative friends.
India had a favorable balance of trade with the Roman empire in the first century CE, but they had their own internal conflicts under the Satavahana kingdom. In the northwest, Iranian kings known as the Pahlavas were driven out by Scythians led by Kanishka (r. 78-101), who supported Buddhism and founded the Shaka era. Buddhist philosophers such as Parshva and Ashvaghosha were favored at his court. The new greater vehicle of Buddhism called Mahayana emphasized the bodhisattva saint who helps others, and this doctrine was explained in the Surangama Sutra, which warned of allurements from sex and ego. Ashvaghosha wrote the earliest Sanskrit drama, and his poem Buddhacharita described the life and teachings of the Buddha. His Awakening of Faith in the Mahayana distinguished suchness (bhutatathata) from the cycle of birth and death (samsara). He taught compassion for all beings and thus criticized the prejudices and inequities of the caste system. Prajnaparamita was translated into Chinese in 179 CE and discussed perfect wisdom. The bodhisattvas renounced their heavenly reward in order to serve the whole world.
Nagarjuna in the 2nd century CE founded the Madhyamika (Middle Path) school of Mahayana Buddhism, and some of his followers split off into the Yogachara philosophy. Nagarjuna discussed ethics in his Suhrllekha, recommending the transcendental virtues of charity, patience, energy, meditation, and wisdom, and he warned against being fettered by attachment to religious ceremonies, wrong views, and doubt. The Buddhist Text of the Excellent Golden Light advised kings to avoid fighting but to punish criminals. Buddhist Vasubandhu in the 4th century taught that only consciousness exists, and thus we create our own reality.
Buddhism took hold on the island of Sri Lanka, but there the Mahayana doctrine was suppressed in the 3rd century CE. The outstanding Tamil epic poem The Ankle Bracelet (Silappadikaram) was written about 200 CE by Prince Ilango Adigal. In this romantic story the faithful wife Kannaki proves that her executed husband did not steal the anklet, and the causes of the tragedy are explained as karmic effects from previous lives. This story inspires people to be more ethical and spiritual, and Kannaki came to be worshipped as a goddess of chastity in Sri Lanka and southern India. Sri Lanka remained Buddhist, and in the 5th century Buddhaghosha translated texts and explained the conduct, concentration, and wisdom of Buddhism in his Visuddhimagga.
The Jain philosopher Kunda Kunda of the Digambara sect also taught about karma and how one can be freed from it by meditating with pure thought, releasing desire and aversion. In The Perfect Law (Niyamsara), Kunda Kunda described the five vows of non-injury, truth, non-stealing, chastity, and non-possession.
Gupta empire replaced tribal customs with the caste system, ruled over vassals, and suffered invasions from the White Huns in the 5th century. Harsha-vardhana (r. 606-47) gained control over northern India and promoted Hindu culture. The Chalukyas had a wide empire, but Muslim Arabs encroached in the west. The Tamil classic, The Kural by Tiru Valluvar contains moral proverbs on the traditional Hindu goals of dharma (virtue or justice), artha (success or wealth), and kama (love or pleasure). The mystical Vedanta philosopher Shankara emphasized non-dualism and elucidated Hindu scriptures. In the Crest-Jewel of Wisdom Shankara explained spiritual psychology.
Indian drama was analyzed by Bharata in the Natya Shastra. Early plays by Bhasa introduced the court jester, and The Little Clay Cart portrays aristocrats and merchants, enabling audiences to see ethical consequences of various actions. Plays of the great Kalidasa contain mythic elements with heavenly nymphs. The title character in Shakuntala becomes the mother of India's founding emperor Bharata. Rakshasa's Ring by Vishakhadatta portrayed the political manipulations of prime minister Chanakya, also known as Kautilya, in the court of Chandragupta. The powerful ruler Harsha not only patronized the arts, but he also wrote plays himself. Bhavabhuti in the early 8th century was the court poet in Kanauj. His plays portray courtly love and romance. These plays from India show that in a period of many centuries when few plays have remained from any other culture, theater could still entertain and enlighten many people. Indian literature also described the consequences of actions by karma, and the Puranas, especially the popular Srimad Bhagavatam, portrayed the examples of the divine in human incarnations as Vishnu becomes Krishna.
Hindu religion regained strength during the two and a half centuries preceding the Muslim invasions that began about 1000. This era saw much fighting between Hindu kingdoms, and even some Jains as soldiers justified killing enemies. The Brahmin caste was favored by law and dominated religion, education, and land ownership. Most women worked in the home or in the fields. The erotic art found on temples indicates a less puritanical attitude toward sexuality among Hindus as Buddhism declined and Tantra methods were developed.
Tibet was influenced by Buddhism from the 6th century and adopted it as the state religion in 791, though conflicts remained between Buddhists and the followers of the native Bon-po religion. The Tibetan Book of the Dead explains how to become liberated from reincarnation by being aware as one dies. Atisha (982-1054) came to Tibet from India in 1042 and reformed Tantric practices by introducing celibacy and a higher morality among the priests; he wrote a book on enlightenment and founded the Katampa order. The Kagyupa school had a series of teachers that included Naropa (1016-1100), Marpa (1012-96), Milarepa (1040-1123), Lharje (1077-1152), whose book listed yogic precepts, and Tusum Khyenpa (1110-93), who founded the black-hat Karmapa order in 1147.
In 1000 Muslims led by Ghazni ruler Mahmud invaded India and looted immense treasure. A Pala empire in Bengal dominated the east until the Muslims conquered them in the early 13th century. Ghuzz Turks under Muhammad Ghuri attacked the Gujarat kingdom in 1178 and overcame organized Hindu resistance by 1192. In 1221 Mongols led by Genghis Khan crossed the Indus into the Punjab. In the south the Cholas fought the Pandyas and the Chalukyas. Buddhism remained strong in Sri Lanka under king Vijayabahu (r. 1055-1110). Hemachandra (1088-1172) converted Gujarat's Chalukya king Kumarapala to Jainism, and Bijjala was a Jain king. His minister, the Shaivite Basava (1106-67), argued against violence and caste prejudice. Sri Lanka king Parakramabahu I (r. 1153-86) used heavy taxation to rebuild Pulatthinagara and Anuradhapura that had been destroyed by the Cholas, and he developed trade with Burma. In the 13th century the Hoysalas fought the Pandyas for empire as Chola power decreased. The Sufi poet Amir Khusrau described how Islam used the sword to triumph over Hindu idolatry. By 1300 invading Mongols, now Muslims, had taken over Delhi and subjugated the Hindus under Islamic law.
'Ala-ud-din Khalji (r. 1296-1316) expanded and centralized the Delhi Sultanate. After winning a struggle for power, Tughluq invaded and annexed Bengal. His son Muhammad bin Tughluq (r. 1325-51) caused famine and rebellion with his heavy taxes and lived in luxury, favoring Muslims over Hindus. Traveler Ibn Battuta brought gifts and was made a judge. Firuz Shah (r. 1351-88) lowered taxes and sponsored public works while independent Bengal prospered under Sikander (1359-89). Another civil war for power in Delhi brought on the devastating invasion by Timur's Tatars in 1398. Gujarat, Malwa, Jaunpur, and others were independent as the Sayyid dynasty of sultans ruled Delhi from 1414 until the Afghan Buhlul Khan took over in 1452. Sultan Sikander Shah (r. 1489-1517) was succeeded by his son Ibrahim, but he was overcome by Babur's Mughal invasion in 1526. The Muslims placed themselves above the Hindu castes and taxed heavily the "infidels" they ruled. Barani served in the government under Muhammad bin Tughluq but was imprisoned by Firuz Shah. He wrote a history of the Delhi sultanate up to 1357 and a book on government in which he expressed his aristocratic ideas that justified discrimination against Hindus. Shaikh Hamadani described the strict laws that Muslim rulers imposed on non-Muslims.
The Rajput states were independent in the 15th century. Mewar became the most powerful and called on Babur. Malwa struggled against Gujarat. In the east, Bengal succumbed to Muslim rule. Gujarat's Ahmad Shah (1411-43) fought the Bahmani kingdom and built Ahmadabad. Mahmud Begarha ruled Gujarat 1458-1511 and protected the Bahmani king, and his son Muzaffar II fought against the Rajputs. Kashmir suffered changes and was ruled mostly by Muslims. Tibet remained Buddhist; the Gelugpa order was founded in 1409, and the Karmapas controlled Lhasa until 1517. The Muslim Bahmani kingdom in the Deccan lasted from 1347 to 1527 amid much political violence.
Brothers Harihara and Bukka converted to Islam in order to govern Kampili; later they renounced that religion and declared their independence, founding the Vijayanagara kingdom in 1336. Bukka I (r. 1356-77) began fighting the Bahmanis in 1358, and he tolerated all religions. His son Harihara II (r. 1377-1404) expanded the Vijayanagara kingdom. Devaraya II (r. 1422-46) centralized the state by controlling the chiefs. After a period of decline, Virupaksha was overthrown in 1485 by Narasimha Saluva. Krishna Deva Raya (r. 1509-29) encouraged trade with the Portuguese to gain horses and strengthened Vijayanagara.
On Sri Lanka regional rulers struggled for power, and Parakramabahu VI (r. 1411-65) was the last king to rule the entire island. They survived invasions by Muslims in 1323, by Chinese explorer Zhenghe in 1406 and 1411, and by Vijayanagara about 1432. Portuguese ships began arriving at Calicut in 1498 and used their naval power to control the spice trade. In 1509 Viceroy Almeida defeated a Muslim fleet near Diu, and Albuquerque conquered Goa the next year. The Portuguese built a fort at Columbo in Sri Lanka in 1518.
Kabir was a Muslim weaver who used a Hindu mantra as well as Sufi methods of spirituality. He emphasized the direct experience of God through meditation, prayer, charity, and fasting without rituals, ceremonies, or philosophical doctrines. He criticized caste distinctions, the eating of meat, and all violence. His poems inspired many to seek God, and his blending of Hindu and Islamic mysticism foreshadowed Nanak's new synthesis. Chaitanya (1486-1533) became a devotee of Krishna and popularized the bhakti practice of the Vaisnavas. He sang and danced in ecstasy and persuaded Orissa king Prataparudra not to invade Bengal.
Nanak (1469-1539) was from a Hindu family, married, and had two sons before he had an enlightening experience in November 1496. He declared, "There is no Hindu; there is no Muslim." Like Kabir, he did not recognize caste distinctions. He preached to both Hindus and Muslims and began traveling in 1499. He taught praising God, charity for all, purification by bathing, serving humanity, and constantly praying to God. Sikander Lodi had him arrested at Delhi for preaching in public, but singing in jail got him released. He traveled to Mecca and returned to witness Babur's invasions of the Punjab which he criticized as butchery. A wealthy devotee donated land, and he spent the rest of his life in Kartarpur with his disciples. He emphasized the oneness of God and recommended repeating the divine name and surrendering to the will of God. He taught that all people are equal and warned against the selfishness of lust, anger, avarice, attachment, and pride. By practicing the discipline of loving meditation the grace of God can liberate one from the cycle of karma and reincarnation. He did not consider himself an avatar or prophet but the Guru of the Sikh religion. He named Angad as his successor.
Babur was from Farghana and conquered Samarqand, Kabul, and Qandahar before invading India in 1519. His army killed 15,000 at the battle of Panipat near Delhi in 1526. His son Humayun helped him defeat the Rajputs, and in 1529 the Mughal army overcame Bihar's army of 100,000 men. Babur died in 1530 and was succeeded by Humayun, who invaded Gujarat. Sher Khan became governor of Bihar and invaded Bengal in 1537. Sher Khan become Shah by overcoming Humayun, who fled as far as Iran. Sher Shah organized the Mughal empire into 47 sarkars with two officers each, writing Hindi and Persian. He promoted farming, reformed tariffs, built roads, administered justice, disciplined soldiers, and paid fair salaries to reduce corruption. He was killed taking a fort in 1545 and was succeeded by his son Islam Shah, who tried to kill those he suspected of taking his throne. Humayun promised to promote the Shi'a faith and got 14,000 Persian soldiers, but he turned on the Persians over Qandahar and captured Kabul in 1553. Islam Shah died the next year, and Sikander Shah won the power struggle and took Delhi in 1555. Like his father Babur, Humayun cut down on opium and renounced alcohol in order to invade India. His Mughal archers defeated Sikander's massive cavalry, but the victorious Humayun died in January 1556.
Akbar (r. 1556-1605) was only 13 years old when he began ruling the Mughal empire. He defeated his rivals and married a Hindu princess in 1562. He ended the forced conversion and enslavement of prisoners and the discriminatory jiziya poll tax on non-Muslims. As he matured, Akbar curtailed his philandering and hunting. His army conquered Gujarat in 1573 and Bengal the next year as he steadily expanded the Mughal empire. Officers were ranked in a feudal hierarchy. Akbar patronized the study of various religions and formed his own Divine Faith based on ethical and rational mysticism from all religions. His palace and a few disciples were affected by his unorthodox ideas and practices, but his imperial policy was universal toleration. Muslims resented his appointing Hindus and rebelled by proclaiming his brother Hakim emperor at Kabul in 1580, but they were defeated. Akbar moved his capital to Lahore in 1585 and maintained peaceful relations with the Uzbeks and Persians. His Deccan campaign began in 1591 with diplomacy but turned to invasion in 1595. After Prince Murad died, Akbar himself led the army in 1600; but while he was invading Khandesh, his son Salim revolted. The Empress made peace between them in 1604, and Salim succeeded as Jahangir (r. 1605-27).
Emperor Jahangir promised to uphold Islamic law and tried to ban wine, cannabis, and tobacco. His son Khusrau rebelled but was captured and blinded. Jahangir married the Persian widow Nur Jahan, and she became very influential. Bengal was annexed as a Mughal province in 1613. Prince Khurram campaigned in Rajasthan, the Himalayas, and the Deccan. When Jahangir was ill in 1621, Khurram had Khusrau secretly killed. Khurram got money from Gujarat and challenged the Emperor, but he was defeated and agreed to govern the Deccan. Nur Jahan had hopes for Shahryar; Prince Parwiz tried to challenge him but died of alcoholism in 1626.
After Jahangir died, vizier Asaf Khan supported Khurram; they blinded Shahryar, and Khurram became Emperor Shah Jahan (r. 1628-58). He spent about 29 million rupees on building projects, including the famous Taj Mahal as a mausoleum for his wife. Yet he wasted much more money and lives on warfare. Famine followed a devastating war in 1629. His army attacked the Portuguese at Hughli, killing and enslaving thousands. Shah Jahan was an orthodox Muslim and prohibited construction of temples and churches or conversion to Hinduism or Christianity. Prince Muhammad Shuja governed Bengal 1639-59, and Prince Aurangzeb governed the Deccan. The Mughals fought the Persians over Qandahar with huge losses. When Shah Jahan became ill in 1657, his four sons fought over the empire.
Aurangzeb (r. 1658-1707) cleverly won the civil war, which impoverished the empire and caused a famine. He sent Mir Jumla to govern Bengal, and he made war on Assam. Aurangzeb was devoted to Islam, and his intolerant policies persecuted Hindus, resulting in constant war against rebels and the ruination of the Mughal empire. Even his son Akbar revolted with the Rajputs. The most resistance by the Marathas was in the Deccan, and Aurangzeb moved his court there in 1695. Living in tents, the Emperor fought them until 1706. The imperial treasury was depleted and could not pay its large army, while Mughal aristocrats became morally degenerate. Many people became robbers during the chaos of war and the injustice of religious persecution.
Kashmir led by the Chak tribe struggled against the Mughals but was annexed in 1586. Emperor Shah Jahan replaced the oppressive Kashmir governor Itiqad Khan in 1632 but ordered Zafar Khan to attack western Tibet. During the reign of Aurangzeb, Kashmir had twelve Mughal governors. Sonam Gyatso (1543-88) ruled Tibet and was given the title Dalai Lama by the Mongol Altan Khan, whom he converted. The Mongols intervened in Tibet briefly; but the fifth Dalai Lama became an independent ruler and did much to unify Tibet before he died in 1682.
In southern India the Vijayanagara kingdom suffered power struggles and hired Muslim soldiers. Emperor Shah Jahan urged the Bijapur sultan Muhammad 'Adil Shah to annex Vijayanagara, and he did so in 1649 with help from Shahji. Shahji's son Shivaji Bhonsla (1627-80) became the Maratha leader of the rebellion with 10,000 cavalry and 60,000 infantry. Shivaji raided Puna in 1663, and the next year his Marathas carried off much wealth from the port of Surat. After Aurangzeb sent an army against his fortress at Purandhar, Shivaji made a treaty with the Mughals in 1665 and, after he was detained and escaped, another treaty in 1668; but the Emperor's edict to destroy Hindu temples and schools the next year incited more rebellion. Shivaji crowned himself king in 1674, appointed eight military commanders as ministers, instilled discipline in his army, and practiced religious toleration. After Shivaji's death, his son Shambhaji deposed his brother Rajaram. Shambhaji plundered the country, avoided the Mughal army, and made a treaty with the English at Bombay, but he was captured and killed in 1688. Rajaram led the Maratha resistance until he died in 1700. A large Maratha army continued the struggle against Aurangzeb's imperial forces.
In northern Sri Lanka the Hindus resisted encroachment by Portuguese Christians, but in the south Bhuvanekabahu (r. 1521-51) sold cinnamon to the Portuguese. Sitavaka's Mayadunne (r. 1521-81) favored Muslim traders and fought Kotte and the Portuguese, who put the Catholic convert Dharmapala (r. 1551-97) on the Kotte throne. Mayadunne's son Rajasimha (r. 1581-93) defeated Kandy in 1581, but the Portuguese took over Sitavaka in 1593. Kandy king Senerath (r. 1604-35) made a treaty with the Portuguese in 1617, but the Portuguese built forts at Trincomalee in 1623 and Batticaloa in 1628. Senerath's son Rajasimha II (r. 1635-87) turned to the Dutch in 1636, and they drove the Portuguese off Sri Lanka by 1658. Governor Rycloff van Goens projected Dutch power by occupying forts and declaring monopolies.
In India the Portuguese established footholds near Madras and at Hughli, but they made Goa their capital and tried to monopolize or control the ocean trade. On land Catholic missionaries like Francis Xavier made converts; but their intolerance alienated Hindus and Muslims. The Dutch arrived and blockaded Goa in 1603. Emperor Jahangir gave the English trading exemptions in 1618, and the English built a factory at Hughli in 1651. The Portuguese gave Bombay to the English in 1661. India exported cotton and imported gold and silver. The English captured 14 Mughal ships at Surat during the 1688-90 war. The Mughal empire allowed the English to collect taxes on their land at Calcutta in 1698.
In the late 16th century Tulsidas wrote his great poem deifying Rama called Ramacaritamanasa. He removed the blemishes on the characters of Rama and Sita from the ancient story so as to make them even more ideal role models for men and women. The story of Rama was presented in long plays, and the worship of Rama and Krishna were the basis of the growing Bhakti movement of religious devotion. Ekanatha elucidated the ethical ideas that Jnanadeva had found in the Bhagavad-Gita. Tukaram wrote thousands of poems and urged Hindus to be heroic in order to overcome the misery they suffered under the Mughal domination. Ramdas Samarth suggested that the Hindus needed to develop their intellect in order to overcome the Mughals, and he advised Shivaji. Ramdas taught self-awareness through meditation on God with active work.
The third Sikh Guru, Amar Das (1552-74) appointed three women to be preachers and recommended monogamy and widow remarriage. After the fourth Guru Ram Das died in 1581, he was succeeded by his son Arjun, who transformed the religion into a government that collected taxes. He collected the writings and hymns of the Sikh Gurus into the Adi Granth. Because Arjun helped fleeing Prince Khusrau, Emperor Jahangir had Arjun tortured and put to death in 1606. His son Hargobind was only eleven years old, but he was recognized as Guru. Hargobind spent years under house arrest but then was given political authority in the Punjab. Hargobind organized a Sikh army and fought the Mughals from 1634 to 1640. Tegh Bahadur became the ninth Guru in 1664. He challenged Aurangzeb's law against non-Muslim temples and schools and was beheaded for refusing to convert in 1675. His son Gobind Singh proclaimed the Sikh nation in 1699 and declared war against the Mughals. The Sikhs were defeated in 1704; Gobind Singh escaped, but he was assassinated in 1708.
The Mughal empire continued to decline because of power struggles and factions. Bahadur Shah won the throne in a civil war but died in 1712. Banda Bahadur led a Sikh revolt against the Mughals until he was killed in 1716. Two Sayyid brothers helped Farrukh Siyar become emperor; their intrigues led to another civil war that made Muhammad Shah emperor (r. 1719-48) but brought their own downfall in 1720. Nizam-ul Mulk ruled the Deccan and co-existed with rival Marathas led by Peshwa Baji Rao I (1720-40). Jai Singh governed Malwa for the Mughals and paid off the Marathas. Persia's Nadir Shah invaded and sacked Delhi in 1739 but then left, enabling 'Ali Muhammad Rohilla (r. 1721-48) with 40,000 Afghans to expand his territory. Peshwa Balaji Rao (r. 1740-61) tried to lead the various Maratha groups. The Sikhs were organized into eleven communities but suffered heavy losses in 1746 at Lahore.
Ahmad Shah Abdali of Afghanistan invaded India eight times between 1747 and 1767. Mughal emperor Ahmad Shah (r. 1748-54) tried to govern from Delhi through Safdar Jang, the eunuch Javid, and Imad-ul-mulk but was imprisoned by Imad. Marathas under Balaji Rao hired mercenaries, adopted western warfare methods, allowed chiefs to attack Hindus, and made temporary alliances during this chaotic period of Afghan invasions, Sikh struggles, and Muslim efforts to retain the Mughal empire or establish their own independent states. After Mughal emperor Alamgir II was assassinated in 1759, Ahmad Shah Abdali invaded again. The Maratha army plundered Delhi the next year, but the Afghans captured Delhi and with their Mughal allies severely defeated the Marathas at Panipat in 1761. The Maratha confederation broke apart under regional leaders. The Afghan troops insisted on going home and were harassed by Sikhs, who took over the Punjab. Najib tried to govern in Delhi while the Jats and Sikhs competed for the Doab. Shah Waliullah (1703-62) was an influential Islamic theologian who translated the Qur'an into Persian.
Joseph Dupleix developed French trade in India, but he failed to take Fort St. David from the English in 1747. Salabat Jang gave the French a lease in the Deccan in 1750, but the next year Robert Clive and the English captured Arcot. French power in India faded in 1761 when they surrendered Pondicherry. Nizam 'Ali of Hyderabad became a faithful ally of the English, and Muhammad 'Ali of Madras borrowed much money from them. After Bengal nawab Siraj attacked Calcutta in 1756, Clive's forces won it back and made Mir Jafar nawab in 1757. Conflicts over taxes caused Mir Jafar to be removed and re-installed, and the English army won an important victory over Awadh's Shuja-ud-daula at Buxar in 1764. Clive returned as governor the next year and tried to arrange dual government between the nawabs and the English East India Company. While the Company was making money and paying large dividends, in 1770 Bengal suffered a devastating famine in which about ten million people died. Warren Hastings was appointed governor of Bengal in 1771 and tried to employ more Indians in the revenue administration. In 1774 he became governor-general but was often opposed by his council. Controversial scandals later led to Hastings' impeachment trial in England, but he was acquitted.
In southern India the British made a treaty with Mysore's Haidar 'Ali but did not keep their agreement to defend him when he was attacked by the Marathas. Later Haidar made an alliance with the Deccan's Nizam 'Ali and the Marathas, defeating the English advance on Puna. In 1781 British forces defeated Haidar and Maratha Mahadji Sindia, and by 1784 treaties had restored conquered territories and released prisoners. The Maratha army invaded Mysore in 1786, but Haidar's son Tipu made a treaty and paid six million rupees. After Tipu attacked Travancore, the English and their allies went to war with Mysore, which surrendered in 1792 and lost half its territory, paying 33 million rupees. Cornwallis was governor-general 1786-93 and implemented various reforms in the Company, but he opposed hiring Indians except in low positions. Cornwallis fixed rents with the permanent settlement in 1793. Some zamindars (landlords) had to sell because they were set too high, and absentee landlords had little connection with the peasants. Cornwallis instituted a British judicial system and abolished legal fees. John Shore governed for five years with restraint using diplomacy.
In the north battles continued between Sikhs, Jats, Marathas, Rohillas, and Muslim supporters of Emperor Shah 'Alam II. In 1774 Awadh's Shuja-ud-daula and the English annexed most of Rohilkhand. Afghanistan's Timur Shah invaded India five times. After Mughal commander Najaf Khan died in 1782, Maratha chief Mahadji Sindia took power in Delhi. The Sikhs frequently raided the region. Ghulam Qadir's Rohillas committed atrocities and blinded Shah 'Alam, but Sindia put Ghulam to death. By 1792 Sindia had Maratha paramountcy over the Rajputs and Jats, but he died two years later. Sikhs suffered civil war, and Shah Zaman's Afghans invaded until they went home in 1799. Young Ranjit Singh took over Lahore, won many victories, avoided fighting the British, and formed a Sikh confederacy. In 1809 he made a treaty with the British, agreeing on the Sutlej River as their boundary. Shah Shuja ruled Afghanistan 1803-09 but had to flee and take refuge with Ranjit Singh and then the British. Ranjit Singh's Sikh armies failed to conquer Kashmir but finally captured Multan in 1818.
Dzungar Mongols invaded Tibet in 1717, but Chinese emperor Kangxi sent forces that drove the Dzungars out of Tibet in 1720. Councilor Pholhanas resigned but returned with troops from Tsang to defeat and kill the leaders of the anti-Chinese faction at Lhasa. Pholhanas was a popular leader and was proclaimed king of Tibet in 1740. Narbhupal Shah (r. 1716-42) governed the Gurkhas in western Nepal. His son Prithvi Narayan Shah conquered Kathmandu in 1768 and united Nepal. Tibet discouraged foreigners and came into conflict with Nepal in 1788; four years later a Manchu army helped the Tibetans defeat the Gurkhas and invade Nepal. In 1814 the British went to war with the Gurkhas over Tarai, but the 1817 treaty made Nepal a British ally.
The Dutch East India Company continued to exploit Sri Lanka with monopolies that fixed prices. Discontent of cinnamon peelers erupted in a major revolt in 1757, and Kandyans joined them until the Dutch captured the capital in 1765. Buddhists had visited Burma and Thailand to improve their education, but only the top caste could be ordained monks. The 1795 French invasion of Holland caused the Dutch to turn Sri Lanka over to the English, and they made it their colony of Ceylon in 1802, taking over the monopolies of the pearl fisheries, cinnamon, salt, and tobacco. The British fought the Kandyans for two years until General Maitland took a defensive posture in 1805. The English introduced jury trials and land grants to Europeans. Their troops finally took Kandy in 1815 and gained sovereignty in a treaty, but they had to agree to protect the Buddhist religion. Governor Brownrigg revived the government-imposed labor requirement.
The indigenous cultures of Southeast Asia were influenced by both China and India. Burma adopted Theravada Buddhism and dominated the Mons, who occasionally rebelled. Burmans also attacked their neighbors; King Hsinhpyushin destroyed Ayudhya in 1767, and under Bodawhpaya (r. 1782-1819) they took over Arakan in 1785. Burma lost parts of its empire to the British by wars in 1825 and 1852. Burma's King Mindon (r. 1853-78) made peace and ruled wisely as he revived Buddhism.
Sukhothai chief Ramkhamhaeng (r. 1283-1317) established the written Thai language. Ramadhipati founded Ayudhya in 1350 and was the first king of Siam with Hindu laws. Boromaraja I (r. 1370-88) took over Sukhothai, and Boromaraja II (r. 1424-48) conquered the Khmers at Angkor. Siam's Trailok (r. 1448-88) enforced strict laws and became a monk in 1465. Burma invaded Siam in 1564 and dominated it until 1586. Siam's King Narai (r. 1657-88) tolerated European missionaries and merchants until 1687. Boromokot (r. 1733-58) promoted Buddhism. After Ayudhya was destroyed in 1767, Taksin organized Siamese forces and defeated the Burmans in 1775. His general founded a new dynasty in Siam as Rama I. Rama III (r. 1824-51) made a commercial treaty with the English, and Rama IV (r. 1851-68) opened up trade to all Europeans. He and his son Rama V began modernizing Siam.
Cambodia struggled against Chinese imperialism from the third century CE. Jayavarman II (r. 802-50) began the Angkor era as the Khmer god-king. Buddhism spread into Cambodia during the 13th century. Jayavarman VIII (r. 1243-95) reinstituted the Hindu caste system, but Theravada Buddhism won royal favor under Indravarman III (r. 1295-1308). Siam's army often invaded Cambodia, which became a vassal state in 1603. The Vietnamese began intervening in 1698. Cambodia suffered between these neighboring powers until the French took over portions of Vietnam and Cambodia, recognizing Siam's control over western Cambodia in the treaty of 1867. Souligna-Vongsa ruled a united Laos 1637-94, but a civil war caused it to be divided into Vientiane, Luang Prabang, and Champassak by 1713. Vientiane's king Chao-Anou went to war against Siam, which devastated Vientiane in 1828.
Vietnam was part of the Chinese empire for more than a millennium. Buddhism spread in Vietnam, which became independent of China in 939 CE. The Vietnamese fought off the Mongol invasions, but in the 15th century they were dominated once again by Chinese Confucian culture. King Le Thanh Tong (r. 1460-98) used the Chinese examination system and bureaucracy, adopting Mahayana Buddhism. In 1570 Vietnam was divided between the Trinh and the Nguyen families. They fought for half a century after 1620 but then had peace for a century. In 1773 three Nguyen Van brothers from Tay-son led a socialist revolt that overcame the Trinh family in the north but in 1801 was defeated by Nguyen Anh, who reunited Vietnam as Emperor Gia Long. His son Minh Mang (r. 1819-41) applied Confucianism, persecuted Christians, and rejected European trade. Tu Duc (r. 1847-83) was also a pious Confucian, but he was forced to cede provinces to France in 1862 and 1874.
Paramesvara developed the port of Melaka, allied with China,
and converted to Islam in 1414. The Portuguese conquered Melaka
in 1511. Malayans suffered several attacks by Acheh from 1537
until they defeated the Achinese navy in 1629. The Dutch took
over Melaka in 1641 and made it a military base. Johor prospered,
but its last king was assassinated in 1699. In the second half
of the 18th century, the British gained most of the Malayan commerce
because their superior ships controlled trade from India and sold
armaments. Raffles made Singapore a British port in 1819. In 1824
a treaty recognized English control over Malaya and the Dutch
over most of the islands. In the 19th century many Chinese immigrated
into Malaya. In 1874 the British resolved Malayan conflicts in
the Pangkor Treaty.
The Srivijaya kingdom practiced Buddhism on the island of Sumatra during the middle ages. Javanese culture in Bali developed Hindu religion, shadow theater, gamelan music, and batik textiles. Javanese king Kertanagara (r. 1268-92) conquered the Malayu in southern Sumatra and Bali. Kertarajasa (r. 1293-1309) founded the new kingdom of Majapahit in Java, and Majapahit king Hayam Wuruk (r. 1350-89) annexed the kingdom of Srivijaya. From the 13th century Muslim merchants brought Islamic culture, and Ali Mughajat Shah founded the sultanate of Acheh on northern Sumatra about 1515. In the 16th century the Portuguese tried to use naval force to control commerce in the region, but the Dutch company began competing with them in the 17th century with Batavia as their capital. The Dutch also had to borrow to pay for military expenses. Three Javanese wars of succession ended in 1757, and the Dutch gained sovereignty over Java. European conflicts brought the French-appointed Daendels and then the English Raffles to govern Java until 1816. The Dutch regained control, but 200,000 died in the failed Javanese rebellion in 1825-30. In the next half century the Dutch exploited export crops to transfer 832 million guilders out of Java despite famines in the 1840s. Gradually in the 1860s most of the compulsory labor programs were ended, but sugar and coffee systems were prolonged. On Sumatra the Dutch took control of Acheh in 1874.
On the first voyage around the world Magellan was killed in 1521, and Legazpi began settlements on the Philippine islands in 1565. Despite Spanish invasions the southern islands remained Muslim, but others converted to Christianity. From 1593 to 1815 Spain required all commerce from the Philippines to go through Acapulco, Mexico. Spaniards and the Dutch battled over trade until they made a treaty in 1648. Spaniards claimed the Mariana Islands in 1669 and conquered the Chamorros. In the Philippines corrupt alcalde-mayors were allowed to engage in trade and business from 1751 until 1844. The British navy sacked Manila in 1762 and stayed for two years while native Filipinos rebelled against unpopular Spanish overlords. The Philippines fought an expensive war against Muslim raiders between 1778 and 1793. The Philippines prohibited foreigners from retail business in 1828. In the 1840s Filipinos began to struggle for racial equality. By 1863 the Philippines had free public education. In 1869 a new Spanish constitution brought to the Philippines universal suffrage and a free press. In 1872 striking workers were joined by some mutinying soldiers; thirteen were executed while others were imprisoned or fled.
The English began a penal colony at Sydney in 1788. Aborigines had been living in Australia for thousands of years, gathering food, but new diseases wiped out most of them. English convicts were paid with rum and became farmers along with settlers. Irish convicts rebelled and were punished in 1804. Captain Bligh tried to ban alcohol and was deposed in 1808. Macquarie governed New South Wales from 1810 to 1822. Bigge made a study and advised moving the convicts out of the towns, a policy implemented by Governor Darling (1825-31). The British explored and claimed all of Australia. A shortage of women increased homosexuality and prostitution. Maconochie experimented with humane treatment of prisoners on Norfolk Island. Transportation of convicts to New South Wales ended in 1840 and to Tasmania in 1853. Squatters developed sheep farming despite a recession in the 1840s. After 1850 deviant women were put in a lunatic asylum instead of prison. The discovery of gold in 1851 led to much immigration. Diggers protested the license fees and agitated for manhood suffrage. In 1855 striking stonemasons in Melbourne began demanding an eight-hour day, which Victoria adopted in 1874. Chinese immigrants worked hard but were persecuted. Australia gained male suffrage in 1858. Land was made easier to purchase. Isolated on the land, some bush rangers turned to robbery. Factional politics caused provincial governments to change often. The province of Victoria led the trend by establishing free and compulsory public schools in 1872.
About a thousand years ago the Maoris came to the islands the Dutch named New Zealand in 1642. Captain Cook visited in 1769, followed by other Europeans taking sealskins and timber, then traders and whalers. Maoris occasionally attacked and ate Europeans they killed. A few missionaries from Australia began arriving in 1814. Chief Hongi visited London in 1820 and came back with 300 muskets that enabled him to defeat other tribes in civil wars that lasted until 1832. Wesleyan and Anglican missionaries arrived. The flax trade grew but was overtaken by timber and whaling. Some Europeans found protection by marrying Maori women, and some tribes were united in 1835. E. G. Wakefield promoted the sale of land to capitalist settlers. British consul Hobson made a treaty with fifty chiefs at Waitangi in 1840 that ceded sovereignty to the English and promised Maori rights; two years later New Zealand was a colony. George Grey learned Maori and governed liberally, promoting education, but his 1852 constitution favored European land-owners. Maoris wanted to be ruled by a king and resented the loss of their communal land to Europeans, who by 1858 outnumbered them. A Maori uprising began in 1860 and lasted until 1872. Superior British weapons enabled them to confiscate much rebel land. A gold rush started in 1860 that greatly increased settlement on the South Island. In the early 1870s New Zealand borrowed money to build railways, roads, bridges, and telegraphs.
Polynesians many centuries ago made voyages to various islands. The British first contacted the sexually uninhibited Tahitians in 1767, and Captain Cook visited three times. In 1789 the crew of the Bounty mutinied and returned to Tahiti; some helped Pomare I conquer the island, and others fled to Pitcairn Island. Missionaries had little success until Pomare II converted in 1812. The Christian Tahitians won a civil war and in 1819 imposed puritanical laws. The French used force to protect Catholics in 1838 and took over Tahiti five years later. Wesleyan missionaries came to Fiji in 1835. Fijians made efforts to govern themselves but ceded sovereignty to the British in 1874. The Tonga chief accepted the Methodist religion in 1831 and ruled as King George Tupou until 1893. Missionaries started coming to the Samoan Islands in 1828 and eventually converted most of the natives. The British and Americans were influential, and in 1860 Samoans adopted the Vaimauga code of laws. Conflict over the kingship was mediated by the American and British consuls in 1873.
Captain Cook was killed on Maui in 1779. Kamehameha through force became the chief of the Hawaiian Islands in 1795 and appointed some haole (white) sailors as governors. After he died in 1819, his favorite wife Kaahumanu persuaded his son Kamehameha II to abandon the kapu (taboo) traditions that discriminated against women. Missionaries began their work in 1820. Kamehameha II died of measles in London in 1824. Kaahumanu wanted to be a Christian and urged laws against vices. By the 1830s Hawaii had more than a thousand schools teaching 50,000 people to read. Kamehameha III proclaimed religious toleration and human rights in 1839, and the next year the Government had a constitution and public schools. Hawaii's independence was recognized by Britain, France, and the United States. Land titles of the King, chiefs, and commoners were settled, giving the Government land to sell at low prices. Hawaii developed a booming sugar industry and exported rice and coffee. In 1875 they made a reciprocal treaty on duty-free trade with the United States.
Civilization in ancient India must have had a worthy beginning in the Harappan culture of the Indus valley to be able to sustain such spiritual values after the Aryan invasion of the subcontinent established a racist culture based on an increasingly rigid caste system. Thanks to Hindu sages, Mahavira, and the Buddha, ancient India offered outstanding ethical and spiritual teachings. Although worldly politicians still exploited people and caused suffering in local wars, the emphasis on the virtue, justice, and duty they called dharma had a profound affect on their religions, relationships, and literature. In methods and teachings that enhance spiritual transcendence in realization of the soul, India is yet to be surpassed. Buddhism, a unique religion without a god, would spread throughout Asia in future centuries and offer spiritual teaching and methods of psychological insight that would benefit hundreds of millions of people.
The development of Mahayana Buddhism in India from the first century spread its excellent ethics. This Buddhism would move east into China and north into Tibet; but after a few centuries Hinduism regained its prevalence over most of India, imposing its caste system but still enlightening with its ancient spiritual philosophy. The rich culture of India also allowed theater to flourish with its dramatic lessons for human experience. In the middle ages devotion became the most popular expression of Hindu religion. Theravada Buddhism survived mostly on the island of Sri Lanka, and Jainism with its nonviolent ethics could still be found in India. Yet as with the rest of the world, in India kingdoms still struggled for power using violent methods. Such conflicts became worse with the conquests of the Muslims after 1000. The sultans in Delhi dominated much of northern India and imposed higher taxes on non-Muslims. The invasion by Timur and his Tatars in 1398 plundered Delhi and weakened the sultanate. Political struggles caused conflicts not only between Muslims and Hindus but among them as well. The poet Kabir and Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion, offered a mystical synthesis of Hinduism and Islam in order to help reconcile the religious division.
Babur's invasion from Afghanistan founded the Mughal empire of India in 1526 and would dominate most of India for the next two centuries. The Muslims imposed their Persian culture and a feudal system with themselves above the Hindu castes. Akbar continued the Mughal expansion and decreed a policy of religious tolerance, but his personal search for a universal religion had little influence. Emperor Shah Jahan was less tolerant and wasted human and material resources in wars. Aurangzeb fought a civil war to win the throne, and his taxes and persecution of Hindus provoked growing resistance and wars that brought about the decline of the Mughal empire amid the decadent lifestyles of the aristocratic Muslims. Shivaji led the Maratha resistance, but their military methods did not offer a better alternative to Mughal domination. Thus these frequent wars devastated India. Some Hindus found consolation in a devotional form of religion. Sikhs followed the leadership of their guru and gradually grew from a cult into a religion with political power. Tibet continued its Buddhist culture and was isolated enough to survive, while Sri Lanka suffered from the economic exploitation by the Portuguese and Dutch. The embattled Mughals declined as they fought the Marathas, the Sikhs, and invasions by Persians and Afghans. In the 18th century these groups also fought each other and the British, as most of India suffered from endemic warfare.
The British conquest of India was for the economic exploitation
by the English East India Company, but it was accomplished by
means of the powerful British military and administrative government.
Operating from Calcutta, Madras, and Bombay, the Company gradually
extended its political domination and economic exploitation by
taking control of one kingdom after another. Because the Mughals,
Marathas, Rajputs, and Sikhs often fought each other, India had
no national unity to withstand the British, who had eliminated
their French and Dutch rivals. The Chinese helped protect Tibet
from the Gurkhas. Although the English instituted some reforms
and brought western culture, their making sepoys fight wars in
Burma and Afghanistan and the annexations of various kingdoms,
the Punjab, and Awadh on top of the impoverishment of Indians
by mercantilism along with fears of religious domination erupted
in a desperate mutiny and revolt in 1857. Yet the violence and
criminal behavior of the rebels did not win over enough people,
and the British Government took over from the Company and reimposed
their domination with some reforms based on the lessons learned.
Yet India was opened to private exploitation, and the European
settlers had more racist attitudes after the mutiny. Efforts by
Rammohun Roy and other reformers gradually developed modern education
for Indians, women's rights, and eventually national identity,
but by 1875 India had a long way to go to develop a successful
Southeast Asia was influenced by both China and India, and in the 13th century invading Mongols brought Islam, especially to Indonesia. These influenced their religions and culture, but the regions developed independent nations in Burma, Siam, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, and Malaya until the Europeans began struggling for domination in the 17th century. Buddhist Burma developed a little empire, often attacking the Mons and Siam, until they lost territory to British imperialism in the 19th century. Siam (Thailand) survived the Burman invasion of 1767, and a new dynasty of Rama kings began to modernize the country and trade with Europeans. Cambodia and Laos suffered from wars with their neighbors Siam and Vietnam which prevented the revival of their ancient Angkor era. Vietnam became independent of China politically in 939 but was influenced by Confucian culture as well as Buddhism. An attempted socialist revolt in the late 18th century was overcome by the traditional Nguyen dynasty, which tried to be independent but had to cede territory to French imperialism. The Malay peninsula struggled with commercial competition between the Portuguese, Dutch, and the English.
Sumatra, Java, and the Indonesian islands also were dominated by the commercial interests of Muslims, Portuguese, and especially the Dutch, who gained control in the 18th century and exploited it in the 19th century. The southern islands of the Philippines became Muslim and remained so after the Spaniards converted most Filipinos to Christianity. The development of public education helped Filipinos struggle against Spanish domination and for more rights. As a British penal colony, Australia was an experiment that grew out of that and developed education, labor unions, and democratic government. The British also took over New Zealand from the Maoris and tried to offer them rights under their cultural domination. The Polynesian islands lost their paradisal innocence to lusty European sailors and puritanical missionaries. Devastated by diseases, most converted to Christianity and were commercialized by western culture.
By 1875 India and much of Southeast Asia and the Pacific islands were under British imperialism, while most of the rest were dominated by the Dutch, French, and Spanish. Even the United States was beginning to influence the Hawaiian islands. People were learning from each other, but the unethical use of force was still an unresolved problem, especially in international politics.
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