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The Coming of the Europeans A.D. 1498-1707

europeans

MORE than two centuries before Aurungzeb’s death and even before the coming of Babur, a new kind of invader had appeared in India. Instead of thundering down on horseback from the Himalayan passes, he arrived on the coast by ship. Instead of plunder, he sought trade. Instead of wanting to conquer the subcontinent, he wanted to conquer the seas around it. This invader’s name was Vasco da Gama. He had sailed his small fleet all the way around Africa from his homeland of Portugal in southwest Europe. In 1498, just six years after Columbus discovered America, he landed at the South Indian port of Calicut. “Why have you come?” someone asked him. “For Christians and spices,” he replied. The captain’s brief answer summed up a great deal of history. Throughout the Middle Ages, Europe had depended on the East for Silk, precious stones and spices‚ such as cloves and — most prized of all — pepper. Supplies had come from India across Moslem territory. Deliveries had always been uncertain, but after the Turks took Constantinople in 1453, they became even more so. The Turks held up shipments and demanded money to let them pass. If this toll was paid, the price of the goods had to be raised. If it was not paid, the Turks would not allow the shipment to go through. Eastern goods became scarce in Europe and this sent the price still higher. It soon became plain that anyone who could bring the products of Asia directly to Europe would make a fortune. The Portuguese, as the foremost seafarers of Europe, were the first people to try to get around the Turkish blockade by setting up a sea route to India. There were other reasons, too, behind da Gama’s voyage. The pope and the European kings feared …

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The Moguls Take Over A.D. 1504-1605

MOGUL

THE name “Mogul” comes from the Arabic word for “Mongol.” Babur, the founder of the Mogul dynasty, was probably descended from both Timur and the mightiest of all Mongol conquerors, Genghis Khan. His early story was much like that of Genghis. Born a minor prince in what is now Soviet Turkistan, he was driven from his throne while still a child. He spent years wandering about with a few hundred ragged, half-starved followers. In 1504, he captured Kabul and began to dream of conquering the richer lands south of the Khyber Pass. In 1519, he made a start by seizing a border province. In 1524, on the invitation of the Afghan nobles, he invaded the Punjab. His army was ridiculously small for such an ambitious venture, but the weakness of the Delhi Sultanate favoured him. In 1526, he defeated the sultan in battle at the ancient town of Panipat and so became master of North India. The Battle of Panipat showed how important firearms could be in deciding the outcome of a battle. Babur had only eight thousand troops to Sultan Ibrahim’s fifty thousand men and one thousand elephants. He also had cannon and crude muskets. By clever tactics he forced the sultan’s army into a solid mass and then ordered his men to fire. Twenty thousand of the enemy fell dead, including the sultan. The following year, Babur beat back a combined attack by the Hindu princes of the neighbouring Rajputana. This victory ended the Hindu’s last hope of chasing the Moslems out of North India. In 1530, Babur died. His intelligent but lazy son Humayun had to flee the country when one of his provincial governors rebelled against him. Humayun’s son Akbar turned out to be the strongest and also the greatest of all the Mogul rulers. AKBAR, …

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The Coming of Islam A.D. 711 – 1526

delhi sultanate

IN 711‚ when other Moslem forces were invading distant Spain, Arab soldiers fought their way to the mouth of the Indus River and captured the area called Sind. There they stopped. Nearly three centuries passed before Moslems again menaced India. In 998, a Turk named Mahmud, the amir of Ghazni in Afghanistan, burst through the Khyber Pass with an army of Turkish horsemen to sweep across the Punjab in the first of seventeen raids. Not even the savage, pagan Huns had been as bloodthirsty as these civilized sons of Islam. They hated the Hindus with a special hate. Believing in one God and in the equality of all men, they abominated the Indians for their countless gods and idols and their caste system. In a frenzy of righteousness they slew thousands upon thousands of Indians, smashing their temples and demolishing their cities. The Hindus fought back bravely, but their slow-footed elephants could not keep up with the Turks’ fast horses. They were hindered, too, by the custom which decreed that only members of the warrior caste could fight. Sometimes, when the Hindu defenders of a stronghold saw that the end was near, they carried out a dreadful rite called jauhur. They placed their wives and children on top of a huge pile of wood and set fire to it. Then, as their families were burned alive, they marched forth from the gates, carrying their swords, to meet certain death. The fearful raids of Mahmud “the imagebreaker” were followed by a large-scale Moslem invasion toward the end of the next century. In 1191, Mohammed Ghori, an Afghan not only raided India but occupied it. By destroying Buddhist universities and massacring their priests, he wiped out Buddhism in the land where it began. Soon he controlled most of the north. When a …

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