Oh, East is East, and West is West,
And never the twain shall meet,
Till earth and sky stand presently,
At God’s great judgment seat.
– wrote Rudyard Kipling in “Ballad of East and West.”
India was called the “Jewel in the Crown of the British Empire.” Since ancient times, India had approximately 20 percent of the world’s population, speaking over 1,000 different languages and dialects.
India drew its name from the Indus River, which came from the old Persian name “Hindus,” derived from the old Sanskrit word “Sindhu,” meaning “large body of trembling water,” as the river cascaded from the Himalayas to the Indian Ocean.
Evidence of habitation dates back to 3300 B.C., with a Harappan civilization from 2600 to 1900 B.C. Famous Iron Age Vedic kingdoms were the Magadha (1200-321 B.C.), and Lord Mahavira (599-527 B.C.), during the time of Gautama Buddha. Alexander the Great crossed the Indus River in 326 B.C. to conquer India, but after the Battle of the Hydaspes his army mutinied, refusing to fight further east across the Hyphasis River.
Chandragupta Maurya founded India’s great Maurya Empire, 322-298 B.C. His Machiavellian royal advisor, Chanakya, strategically fanned hostilities between various Indian kingdoms allowing Chandragupta to take control.
The Golden Age of India was during the Gupta Empire 320-550 A.D. Marco Polo traveled from Europe across India on his way to China in 1271, where he worked for Yuan Emperor Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan.
In 1398, an heir of Genghis Khan was Timur, or Tamerlane, called the “Sword of Islam.” He conquered into India, killing an estimate 17 million. Tamerlane’s autobiographical memoir, “Malfuzat-i-Timuri,” composed in the Chaghatai Mongol language and translated into Persian by Abu Talib Husaini, stated: “About this time there arose in my heart the desire to lead an expedition against the infidels, and to become a ghazi, for it had reached my ears that the slayer of infidels is a ghazi, and if he is slain he becomes a martyr. It was on this account that I formed this resolution, but I was undetermined in my mind whether I should direct my expedition against the infidels of China or against the infidels and polytheists of India. …”
Tamerlane continued: “In this matter I sought an omen from the Qur’an, and the verse I opened upon was this, ‘O Prophet, make war upon infidels and unbelievers, and treat them with severity’ (Sura 66:9). My great officers told me that the inhabitants of Hindustan were infidels and unbelievers. In obedience to the order of Almighty Allah I ordered an expedition against them.”
Tamerlane slaughtered over 100,000 in Delhi, India, instructing soldiers to return with a head in each hand, and piling them into pyramids of severed heads. The Malfuza-i-Timuri recorded that at Hardwar, Tamerlane’s Muslim troops: “Displayed great courage and daring; they made their swords their banners, and exerted themselves in slaying the foe (during a bathing festival on the bank of the Ganges). They slaughtered many of the infidels, and pursued those who fled to the mountains. So many of them were killed that their blood ran down the mountains and plain, and thus (nearly) all were sent to hell. The few who escaped, wounded, weary, and half dead, sought refuge in the defiles of the hills. Their property and goods, which exceeded all computation, and their countless cows and buffaloes, fell as spoil into the hands of my victorious soldiers.”
French historian and member of the French Academy, Rene’ Grousset (1885-1952) published in his original edition of “L’Empire Des Steppes”: “Mongols were mere barbarians who killed simply because for centuries this had been the instinctive behavior of nomad herdsmen. … To this ferocity Tamerlane added a taste for religious murder. He killed from Qur’anic piety. (‘Il tuait par piete coranique’) He represents a synthesis, probably unprecedented in history, of Mongol barbarity and Muslim fanaticism, and symbolizes that advanced form of primitive slaughter which is murder committed for the sake of an abstract ideology, as a duty and a sacred mission.”
Will Durant wrote in “The Story of Civilization: Our Oriental Heritage” (1935, p. 459): “The Mohammedan conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. The Islamic historians and scholars have recorded with great glee and pride the slaughters of Hindus, forced conversions, abduction of Hindu women and children to slave markets and the destruction of temples carried out by the warriors of Islam during 800 A.D. to 1700 A.D. Millions of Hindus were converted to Islam by sword during this period.”
Innovations from India went east to Mongolia and China and west to Persia and Europe. These included numerical characters, such as zero, decimals, textiles, cloth, dyes, incense clock, and the games of chess.
Along the trade routes, an estimated 2 million were killed by Muslim raiders, called “thugs,” together with Hindu followers of Kali. They would join unsuspecting caravans and travel with them for a while, pretending to be their friends. After gaining their trust, thugs would distract their victims, sneak up from behind and strangle them to death with a noose or handkerchief. Thugs were careful to make sure every traveler in the group was buried so that their deeds would not be exposed.
When Muslims finally cut off all land trade routes from Europe to India and China, Europeans looked for a sea route, beginning the Age of Discovery.
Columbus thought he had sailed to India in 1492, so he named the inhabitants “Indians,” and the Caribbean Sea, the “West Indies.” In 1498, Portuguese explorer Vasco de Gama finally reached the southern coast of India, colonizing the province of Goa. They encountered Christian churches in southern India which traced their origins back to the Apostle Thomas. These churches continued early Christian traditions until the Portuguese efforts to “latinize” their liturgy with European religious traditions.
In 1526, Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane, founded the Muslim Mughal (Mogul) Empire in Northern India. The Muslim Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan built the Taj Mahal in 1653, as a tomb for his third wife Mumtaz Mahal. Legends persist that to prevent another building from being built which could rival its beauty, Shah Jahan had all the workers’ hands cut off.
In the Punjab area of India, modern-day Pakistan, Sikhism began during the time of Guru Nanak (1469-1539). Shah Jahan waged war on Sikh and Hindu cities, killing thousands. A contemporary record, Badshah Nama, Qazinivi & Badshah Nama, Lahori stated: “When Shuja was appointed (by Shah Jahan) as governor of Kabul he carried on a ruthless war in the Hindu territory beyond Indus. … The sword of Islam yielded a rich crop of converts. … Most of the women (to save their honor) burnt themselves to death. Those captured were distributed among Muslim Mansabdars (noblemen).”
Notable resistance against India’s Muslim rulers was led by Hindu leader Shivaji Maharaj (1627-1680), the Sikh Guru Gobind Singh (1666-1708), and the Sikh order of Khalsa in 1699. The Mughal Empire ended in Northern India in 1739, when Persian Shi’a Muslim Shah, Kouli-Kan, sacked Delhi.
Yale President Ezra Stiles wrote May 8, 1783: “The widespread dominion of the imposter of Mecca, with his successors, the Caliphs and Mamelukes, down to Kouli-Kan, who dethroned his prince, and plundered India of two hundred million sterling – these were all founded in unrighteousness and tyrannical usurpation. … Indifferent to the great cause of right and liberty … belligerent powers prevailed – a (Seljuk Turk) Tangrolopix or a Mahomet … tyranny being the sure portion.”
Beginning in 1739, Zakaria Khan was the Muslim Governor of Lahore, Punjab. He offered rewards for Sikh scalps. Hundreds of Sikhs were brought to the horse market in Lahore and executed, resulting in the market being named “Shahidganj” – “the place of the martyred.” Frustrated at Sikh resilience, Governor Zakaria Khan asked his men: “From where do the Sikhs obtain their nourishment? I have debarred them from all occupations, … They do not farm, nor are they allowed to do business or join public employment. I have stopped all offerings to their Gurdwaras. No provisions or supplies are accessible to them. Why do they not die of sheer starvation?”
Zakaria Khan killed an additional 7,000 Sikhs in 1746 as they were attempting to escape to the Himalayas.
The next Muslim Governor of Lahore, Punjab, was Mu’in ul-Mulk. He had a special military unit of 900 soldiers whose job it was to hunt down Sikhs. An eye witness reported: “Mu’in appointed most of the gunmen to the task of chastising the Sikhs. They ran after these wretches up to 67 kilometers (42 mi) a day and slew them wherever they stood up to oppose them. Anybody who brought a Sikh head received a reward of ten rupees per head. … Sikhs who were captured alive were sent to hell by being beaten with wooden mallets. At times, Adina Beg Khan sent 40-50 Sikh captives from the Doab. They were as a rule killed with the strokes of wooden hammers.”
One account stated that Sikh women were: “Put to grind grain in the prison … given merciless lashing. … As their children, hungry and thirsty, wailed and writhed on the ground for a morsel, the helpless prisoners in the clutches of the tyrants could do little except solace them with their affection. Wearied from crying, the hungry children would at last go to sleep.”
In 1757, Muslim ruler Ahmad Shah Abdali, considered the founder of the modern state of Afghanistan, conquered all the way to the Hindu city of Mathura, the birthplace of Krishna. The chronicle Tarikh-I-Alamgiri recorded: “Abdali’s soldiers would be paid 5 Rupees (a sizeable amount at the time) for every enemy head brought in. Every horseman had loaded up all his horses with the plundered property, and atop of it rode the girl-captives and the slaves. The severed heads were tied up in rugs like bundles of grain and placed on the heads of the captives. … Then the heads were stuck upon lances and taken to the gate of the chief minister for payment. It was an extraordinary display! Daily did this manner of slaughter and plundering proceed. And at night the shrieks of the women captives who were being raped, deafened the ears of the people. … All those heads that had been cut off were built into pillars, and the captive men upon whose heads those bloody bundles had been brought in, were made to grind corn, and then their heads too were cut off. These things went on all the way to the city of Agra, nor was any part of the country spared.”
Abdali massacred an additional 30,000 Sikhs on Feb. 5, 1762, as they tried to escape east to the Hariyana desert. Francois Gautier wrote in “Rewriting Indian History” (1996): “The massacres perpetuated by Muslims in India are unparalleled in history.”
European countries established colonies in India, notably Dutch, French and Danish. These were eventually driven out by the British.
The British East India Company was founded in 1600 and traded in valuable commodities such as tea, cotton, silk, indigo (blue) dye, salt, saltpetre (needed for gunpowder) and opium, which they forcibly imported into China, causing the Opium Wars. The British East India Company introduced the planting of tea from China into India.
The British East India Company strategically fanned hostilities between various Indian kingdoms, supplying them with arms and ammunition. After the kingdoms were devastated, the British East India Company could conquer both sides. This tactic was repeated till they controlled most of India by 1757.
A hundred years later, in 1857, there was a rebellion in Northern and Central India. This led to the British Crown taking direct control of India in 1858 and dissolving the East India Company. Queen Victoria began using the title Empress of India in 1876.
The introduction of the English language positioned India to become a global economic power later in the 20th century. Over a million Indians served with the British during World War I, fighting in East Africa, on the Western Front, Egypt, and against the Ottoman Empire in Mesopotamia.
In the 1930s, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi campaigned for reforms, then began a non-violent movement for independence, earning him the unofficial title as Father of the Nation. Over 2.5 million Indians served under British command during World War II, in Europe, North Africa and South Asia.
In 1947, Britain granted independence, partitioning the land into two states: India – majority Hindu; and Pakistan – majority Muslim.
During the era of British rule, Rudyard Kipling was born in India on Dec. 30, 1865, in the city of Mumbai, which the British called Bombay. His grandparents on both sides were Methodist ministers. At the age of 5, Rudyard Kipling was sent back to England for schooling. Poor eyesight ended young Kipling’s hopes of a British military career and in 1882, at the age of 16, Kipling returned to India as a journalist. He wrote for The Civil and Military Gazette in Lahore, and in 1886, published his first collection, “Departmental Ditties.”
At the age of 22, Kipling published numerous collections of stories:
- “Plain Tales from the Hills”
- “Soldiers Three”
- “The Story of the Gadsbys”
- “In Black and White”
- “Under the Deodars”
- “The Phantom Rickshaw”
- “Wee Willie Winkie”
In 1889, Kipling left India and traveled to Rangoon, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Japan, finally landing in San Francisco. Kipling traveled across the United States to New York, where he met Mark Twain. Kipling fell in love with his friend’s sister, Caroline Balestier. Rudyard and Caroline married in 1892 and settled in Vermont, where two of their children were born.
Rudyard Kipling wrote captivating stories, such as:
- “The Jungle Book” (1894)
- “Kim” (1901)
- “The Man Who Would Be King” (1888)
- “Gunga Din” (1890)
- “Mandalay” (1890)
- “Baa Baa Black Sheep” and “Georgie Porgie”
- “Captains Courageous” (1897)
In 1896, Kipling moved his family back to England. In 1898, they began what would become a yearly winter holiday in South Africa. There Kipling gained first-hand knowledge of the Boer War.
Kipling declined King George V’s offer of knighthood, Poet Laureate and Order of Merit, though he accepted the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1907.
Kipling’s daughter Josephine died of pneumonia at age six. Kipling’s son John was killed in World War I at the Battle of Loos in 1915. He was 18 years old.
In “Recessional” (1897), Kipling wrote:
Far-called, our navies melt away;
On dune and headland sinks the fire:
Lo, all our pomp of yesterday
Is one with Nineveh and Tyre!
Judge of the Nations, spare us yet.
Lest we forget – lest we forget!
In “The Conundrum of the Workshops,” Rudyard Kipling wrote:
Now, if we could win to the Eden Tree where the Four Great Rivers flow,
And the Wreath of Eve is red on the turf as she left it long ago,
And if we could come when the sentry slept and softly scurry through,
By the favour of God we might know as much – as our father Adam knew!
In “The Last Chantey,” Rudyard Kipling wrote:
Then cried the soul of the stout Apostle Paul to God:
‘Once we frapped a ship, and she laboured woundily.
There were fourteen score of these,
And they blessed Thee on their knees,
When they learned Thy Grace and Glory under Malta by the sea!’
Ronald Reagan, upon ending his term as president of the United States, gave a speech, Dec. 13, 1988, in which he quoted Rudyard Kipling: “As I prepare to lay down the mantle of office … I cannot help believe that what Rudyard Kipling said of another time and place is true today for America: ‘We are at the opening verse of the opening page of the chapter of endless possibilities.’ Thank you, and God bless you.”
A poem titled “If” was written by Rudyard Kipling in 1895, and first published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910:
If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or, being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;
If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with triumph and disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on”;
If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings–nor lose the common touch;
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man my son!
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