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Chandragupta Maurya - The Founder of Mauryan Empire

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Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the Mauryan Empire and the first unifier of India is believed to have lived between 340 BC and 298 BC. He was successful in conquering most of the Indian subcontinent and consolidated power from many small regional kingdoms. The unified Mauryan empire extended from Bengal and Assam in the east, to modern day Afghanistan in the west, to Kashmir and Nepal in the north, and to the Deccan plateau in the south.


Chandragupta is associated with the Nanda dynasty of Magadha (modern day Bihar in eastern India). According to one legend, he was the son of the Nanda king Sarvarthasiddhi and a dasi named Mura, daughter of a Vrishala (Shudra). This indicates that the great king had very humble origins As per another legend, Chandragupta belonged to a Kshatriya clan names Moriya (Maurya) of Pippalivana. Yet another legend connects him to the Shakya clan of Gautam Buddha, a clan which belongs to Surya vamsha (descendants of the Sun god).

Not much is known about the early life of Chandragupta. A few references about his youth are found in some classical Sanskrit literature, as well as some classical Greek and Latin sources in which he is known as Sandrokyptos, Sandrokottos or Androcottus.

Chandragupta's early rise to power was a result of his association with the shrewd and wise Chanakya. Also known as Kautilya, Chanakya was his teacher and later became his Prime Minister and advisor. With Chanakya’s help, Chandragupta Maurya started laying the foundation of the Maurya Empire. The story goes that when Chanakya was thrown out of the Nanda court by the king, he swore revenge. While in Magadha, he met Chandragupta by chance and spotted great military and executive abilities in the young price. Chanakya was impressed by Chandragupta’s personality and intelligence, and immediately took the young boy under his wing to fulfill his silent vow.

Chanakya trained Chandragupta under his guidance and together they planned the destruction of the Nanda Empire.  They were initially rebuffed by the Nanda forces. Regardless, in the ensuing war, Chandragupta faced off against Bhadrasala – commander of Dhana Nanda's armies. He was eventually able to defeat Bhadrasala and Dhana Nanda in a series of battles, ending with the siege of the capital city, Pataliputra, and the conquest of the Nanda Empire around 321 BCE. This laid the foundation for the powerful Mauryan Empire in Northern India by the time Chandragupta was just about 20 years old.

By 317 BC, Chandragupta conquered Macedonian territories (satrapies) in the Northwest of the Indian subcontinent (modern day Pakistan) and defeated generals of Alexander The Great, who were settled in Gandhara (Kamboja Kingdom), today's Afghanistan.

Next, Chandragupta extended the borders of his empire towards Persia after his conflict with Seleucus, circa 305 BC. Seleucus I Nicator, a Macedonian general  of Alexander had reconquered most of Alexander's former empire as far east as Bactria and the Indus. This changed around 305 BC after he entered in a war with Chandragupta. While the exact details of the war are not known, scholars believe that Seleucus fared poorly and ceded large territories west of the Indus to Chandragupta. Then they came to an understanding with each other and contracted a marriage relationship. It is generally thought that Chandragupta married Seleucus’ daughter, or a Greek Macedonian princess, a gift from Seleucus to formalize an alliance. In a return gesture, Chandragupta sent 500 war elephants, a military asset which would play a decisive role at the Battle of Ipsus in 302 BC. In addition to this treaty, Seleucus dispatched an ambassador, Megasthenes, to Chandragupta, and later Deimakos to his son Bindusara, at the Mauryan court at Pataliputra. Later, Ptolemy II Philadelphus, the ruler of  Ptotemaic Egypt and contemporary of Ashoka The Great also sent an ambassador named Dionysius to the Mauryan court.

After annexing Seleuces' eastern Persian provinces, Chandragupta set his sight towards the South. He began expanding his empire beyond the Vindhya mountain ranges and into the Deccan Plateau, except the Tamil kingdoms of Pandya, Chera, Chola, Satyaputra and Kalinga in modern day Orissa.

Chandragupta gave up his throne towards the end of his life and became an ascetic under the influence of Jain saint Bhadrabahu. His son Bindusara succeeded the throne, followed by Emperor Ashoka, who is another prominent figure in Indian history.

Chandragupta moved to the south and stayed at Shravanabelagola in Karnataka during his last days. A small temple marks the cave (Bhadrabahu Cave) where he is said to have died by fasting. Even after two thousand years, the amazing accomplishments of Chandragupta Maurya in unifying India stand out prominently.

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Chandragupta Maurya - The Founder of Mauryan Empire

Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Who was the first Indian woman to be appointed the President of the Indian National Congress? Read about her inspiring life!


Inquilab Zindabad! Long live the revolution! Even today, these famous words evoke Patriotic feelings and a spirit of Nationalism in the heart of every Indian.

 

Bhagat Singh, an Indian freedom fighter is considered to be one of the most influential revolutionaries of the Indian Independence movement. He is remembered in the minds of people as Shaheed Bhagat Singh.

 

Bhagat Singh was born on 28 September 1907 into a Sandhu Jatt  family to Sardar Kishan Singh Sandhu and Vidyavati in a village in the Lyallpur district of Punjab. He came from a patriotic Jatt Sikh family, some of whom had participated in movements supporting the independence of India. Singh, as a teenager, became an atheist and had studied European revolutionary movements. He also became attracted to anarchism and socialism. His father had enrolled him in Dayanand Anglo Vedic High School, an Arya Samajist school due Khalsa high school's loyalism to the British Rule.  At age 13, Singh began to follow Mahatma Gandhi's Non-Cooperation Movement.  In support to this movement, he burned his government-school books and any British-imported clothing. Following Gandhiji's withdrawal of the movement after the violent murders of policemen by villagers from Chauri Chaura, Uttar Pradesh, Singh, felt resentful and discontent with Gandhiji's nonviolence action. He joined the Young Revolutionary Movement and began advocating a violent movement against the British.

 

He studied at the National College in Lahore where he came into contact with other revolutionaries such as Bhagwati Charan, Sukhdev and others. By the age of 16, Bhagat Singh was completely dedicated to the cause of national liberation. Nothing illustrates this better than his attitude to marriage. In 1924, Bhagat Singh was pressurised to get married. Unable to convince his parents of his determination not to marry, Bhagat Singh left his house in Lahore, reached Kanpur and became a member of the organization Naujawan Bharat Sabha.  In the note left behind for his father Bhagat Singh said, 'My life has been dedicated to the noblest cause, that of the freedom of the country. Therefore there is no rest or worldly desire that can lure me now'.

 

In 1928 he came into contact with another famous revolutionary Chandrasekhar Azad. The two combined to form the 'Hindustan Samajvadi Prajatantra Sangha'. In the same year, the British government of India appointed the Simon Commission to enquire into the possibility of granting India the chance to rule itself. That this Commission had no Indian representative made it the focus of popular attack in Lahore. Lajpat Rai was at the head of a demonstration that was asking the Simon Commission to go back to England. The police in retaliation lathicharged the crowd and Lajpat Rai enfeebled by age, died subsequently. To avenge Lajpat Rai's death, Bhagat Singh and his friends, Sukh Dev and Raj Guru decided to kill the British official responsible for the killing, Deputy Inspector General Scott. But they accidently shot Assistant Superintendent Saunders instead, and then went underground.

 

Later, on April 8, 1929, Bhagat Singh threw a bomb in the Central Legislative Assembly and thereafter courted arrest. Bhagat Singh's trial began aon May 7th and in the statement made in court on 6th June, Bhagat Singh said, 'we dropped the bomb on the floor of the Assembly Chamber to register our protest on behalf of those who had no other means left to give expression to their heart-rending agony. Our sole purpose was to make the deaf hear and to give the heedless a timely warning... from under the seeming stillness of the sea of humanity, a veritable storm is about to break out'. On the 15th of June he launched a hunger strike for jail reforms. The trial of the Lahore Conspiracy Case started on 10th July, 1929 and ended on the 7th of October, 1930 with a death sentence for Bhagat Singh for his subversive activities. Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru were hanged on the 23rd of March, 1931. The legendary son of India became Shaheed (martyr) at a tender age of 23. But his famous war cry of “Inquilab Zindabad” lives on!

Shaheed Bhagat Singh

Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai

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Khoob ladi mardani woh toh Jhansi wali Rani thi! ... click here to read the Poem by Subhadra Kumari Chauhan

Rani Lakshmi Bai, the queen of Jhansi, is one of the most respected freedom fighters in the history of Indian freedom struggle. At just 21 years of age, she was a prominent member of the Sepoy Mutiny, also called the Revolt of 1857. The mention of her name evokes the image of a young female warrior riding a horse, while carrying her baby on her back.

Jhansi Rani was born at Varanasi (Kashi) on November 19, 1835 to Moropant Tambe and Bhagirathibai Tambe. Her birth name was Manikarnika, or Manu. Her father worked at the court of Peshwa of Bithur. Because of her father's influence at the court, Manu was fortunate to have the independence that most women could not have at that time. She studied horsemanship, archery, self defense, and even formed her own army of female friends.

Lakshmi Bai was married to Gangadhar Rao, the Raja of Jhansi. They had a son in 1851, but, the child died at four months of age. So, the Raja and Rani of Jhansi adopted Damodar Rao (later renamed Anand Rao). Raja Gangadhar Rao died in 1853. Because Anand Rao was adopted, the British East India Company applied the Doctrine of Lapse whereby a non- biological child could not inherit the kingdom. As per this policy, Anand Rao's claim to the throne was rejected and Jhansi was annexed by the British. In March 1854, the Rani was given a pension of Rs. 60,000 and ordered to leave the palace at the Jhansi fort.

Shortly afterwards, on May 10, 1857 the Sepoy (soldier) Mutiny started in Meerut. It became the starting point of the Indian rebellion against the British. During this rebellion many British soldiers and officers of the East India Company were killed by the sepoys and the British wanted to end the rebellion quickly.

As the movement began to spread throughout India, the British were forced to focus their attention elsewhere, leaving Lakshmi Bai to rule Jhansi. She effectively led her troops against small battles breaking out in Jhansi. Through her leadership, Lakshmi Bai was able to keep Jhansi relatively calm and peaceful. Up to this point, she had been hesitant to rebel against the British, but her hesitation finally ended when British troops attacked Jhansi on 23 March 1858. Rani Lakshmibai along with her army fought nail and tooth against the British. An army of 20,000, headed by the rebel leader Tantya Tope, was sent to aid Jhansi and Lakshmi Bai. However, the British prevailed and Lakshmi Bai’s forces could not hold out any more. The British captured the city but Lakshmi Bai escaped along with the young Anand Rao.

She joined other rebel forces at Kalpi, including those of Tantya Tope. They marched to Gwalior and defeated the army of the Maharaja. Then they occupied a strategic fort at Gwalior. But, on the second day of the fighting, on 18 June 1858, Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai lost her short but well-lived life.

Rani Lakshmibai epitomized courage, wisdom, and women’s empowerment in 19th century India. She will always be a shining beacon in the history of India’s freedom movement.

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Jhansi Rani Lakshmi Bai

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