Eight Most Fascinating Kings from the History of India

In school, History was considered to be the most boring  subject. While history has been dreaded by most of the people, there is something about it that is often very fascinating. The kings, the luxury, the wars… Yes, those are very amusing, not only for a history lover but for everyone of us. Here is an account of some rulers from the womb of history, in chronological  order,  that is bound to fascinate you… To make it more interesting, it is in the form of riddles, with answers in the end.

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1. He was the first ruler to unify most of the India, into a state. He was the grandfather of Ashoka and the founder of Mauryan empire. When he brought the Mauryan empire into existence, he was just 20 years old.

By the end of his reign, he had conquered and subjugated almost the whole of the Indian subcontinent. From Bengal in the east to Afghanistan and Balochistan in the west, from Himalayas in the North to the Deccan in the South – ran his empire! It was the largest empire yet seen in the history of India.

He is well known in Greek and Latin accounts, by the names – Sandrokottos and Androcottus.

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Chandragupta Maurya

Ruled from 324 –  297 BCE.

2. This man, has been the theme of movies and Television soaps.. With an empire that stretched from the Hindu Kush mountains in Afghanistan to the modern state of Bangladesh in the east, except present day Tamil Nadu and Kerela, his empire consisted of the entire Indian Subcontinent!

He did a formidable task by conquering the kingdom of Kalinga, which none of his ancestors could do. And in that victory, he saw his defeat. He was left so heartbroken after seeing the havoc, that he vowed never to fight a war again. Prompted by the importance of “ahimsa” in it, he embraced Buddhism.

As a ruler he was much loved by his people. He earned the sobriquet “Piyadassi” (Pali word for ‘Priyadarshi’) which means “one who treats everyone with love and affection”.

chakravarti-samrat-ashoka

Yes, of course…

Ashoka – The Great!

He ruled from 268- 232 CE.

3. This ruler is known for two reasons.. First,  because of his conquest with Mohammad Ghori, the ruler of Ghor and Second, because of his bollywood-like love story with Sanyukta, the daughter of Jai Chand, a fellow ruler.

As history records, he assumed the reign of administration at the age of 16. He famously defeated the Turkish invader Mohammad Ghori at Tarain in A.D. 1191. The very next year he again fought Ghori at the same place, but was defeated.

 

His life and achievements have been recorded in a long poem “Prithviraj Raso” composed by his court poet Chandra Bardai,which narrates a heroic-cum-dramatic story of killing of Mohammad Ghori by a blind Prithviraj. However, this story is not corroborated by history. (It is not hard to guess, Chandra Bardai was his court poet, so his love for Prithviraj demanded that the sad end of Prithviraj must be given a heroic form.)

The poem also tells the story of his love for Sanyukta, the Daughter of Jai Chand, the Rajput King of Kannuaj. He eventually managed to abduct her, inviting the wrath of Jai Chand.

The Elopement of Prithviraj with  the daughter of Jaichand was the reason of his (Jai Chand’s) refusal to lend him military support. And Jaichand’s refusal to help Prithvi Raj III in the battle of Tarain was a major reason for the Chauhan king’s defeat at the hands of Ghori, in the second battle of Tarain in 1192 A.D.

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The Rajput Hero – Prithviraj Chauhan or Prithviraj-III

Ruled between  1168-1192 AD.

4. This person came to invade India. He was the ruler of Ghurid Sultanate during 1173–1202, along-with his brother, and then from 1202-06, solely.

He is credited with laying the foundation of Muslim rule in South Asia, that lasted for several centuries. He reigned over a territory which spread over parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.

The most striking feature of this person is that He had no offspring (Oh wait, this is not a striking feature, many people don’t have one). His peculiarity lies in the fact that he treated his Turkic slaves as his sons, who weretrained both as soldiers and administrators and provided with the best possible education.

In 1206,  having settled the affairs in India, he left the ‘Ministry of Indian Affairs’  in hands of his slave Qutb-ud-Din Aibak. (Qutb-ud-din  built the Quwwat-ul-islam Mosque in Delhi, the Adhai-din-ka-jhopra in Ajmer and started the Construction of Qutb Minar, but could not finish it.)

In Indian folklore, his death was caused by Prithviraj Chauhan  but this is not borne out by historical documents and Prithviraj died much earlier before his death.

This is the ruler of Ghor…

Mu’izz ad-din Muhammad

Better known as Mohammad Ghori.

5. Here comes the Gem of Tughlaq dynasty, a learned man, who became the centre of much ridicule because of his impractical policies and administrative measures, which nearly ruined the empire. Historians find it difficult to decide whether he was a genius whose policies were ahead of the times or a mad man. He has often been called a “mixture of opposites” and “the wisest fool in the history”.

Figuratively speaking he launched three missiles, which backfired badly at him. These were : Shifting of the capital from Delhi to Devgiri (now in Maharashtra and Devgiri was renamed ‘Daulatabad’)), Imposing tax in Ganga-Yamuna doab and changes made to Token Curency.

His empire included Delhi, Gujarat, Malabar, Afghanistan.

His first missile was : People of Delhi were ordered to shift to new capital, which was very far from Delhi and many died of exhaustion. After sometime he felt he could not effectively control North India from Daulatabad, so he ordered people to shift back to Delhi. This brought even more misery!

The second was, To maintain his large army he imposed additional taxes in the fertile  Ganga-Yamuna valley. This may be called his bad luck because his move coincided with famine in the region and was widely resented. Some farmers abandoned their lands, some ran away and some broke into revolt. The Sultan tried to correct his mistake by establishing a department to provide loan to farmers but it was too late. The missile had already ruined his estate.

The third was – Earlier the currency was made of Silver. But he introduced currency made of cheap metals, such as bronze. This move failed miserably because bronze was cheap to get and people began minting coins at home! Soon the empire was flooded with counterfeit coins, creating utter chaos.

It can be said that the missiles were good enough but were launched at the wrong timing and created a havoc that led to his downfall.

Muhammad Bin Tughlaq

Ruled from A.D. 1324 – A.D. 1351.

6.  This  man  again, needs no introduction, he has also been the subject matter for many movies and soaps.

Defeated in battles at Chausa and Kannauj in 1539-40 by the forces of Sher Shah Suri, his father,  Mughal emperor Humayun fled westward to Sindh.

In A.D. 1542 at the Rajput Fortress of Umerkot in Sindh (in modern-day Pakistan), where his parents had been given refuge by the local Hindu ruler Rana Prasad, he was born.

In 1556, Humayun, with his arms full of books, was descending the staircase from his library when the muezzin announced the Azaan (the call to prayer). It was his habit, wherever he heard the summons, to bow his knee in holy reverence. Trying to kneel, he caught his foot in his robe, tumbled down several steps and hit his temple on a rugged stone edge. He died three days later.

His 13-year-old son was enthroned by Bairam Khan, his General. He was proclaimed Shahanshah (Persian for “King of Kings”). Bairam Khan ruled on his behalf until he came of age.

akbar Indian king

Jalalluddin Muhammad Akbar

Or simply ‘Akbar – the great

He ruled from A.D.  1556- A.D. 1605.

He created a powerful military system and instituted effective political and social reforms. By abolishing the sectarian tax on non-Muslims (Jaziya) and appointing them to high civil and military posts, he was the first Mughal ruler to win the trust and loyalty of the native subjects.

7. This Mughal Emperor succeeded Shah Jahan.  During his reign, the Mughal Empire temporarily reached its greatest extent.

As an Emperor, he banned alcoholism, gambling, servitude, music, nautch and narcotics in the Mughal Empire- Well, yes he was a killjoy! He was known to be of a more austere nature than his predecessors.

When he ascended the throne, the treasury was not only empty but the kingdom was bankrupt (Since all the State treasury was duly wasted by his father in making the Taj Mahal). In order to get things back in order, this Emperor never drew a state salary from the royal treasury.

He was a very honest man, he earned his livelihood by selling caps and his own hand-written copies of the Quran. Well. such height of ‘sense of duty’ was yet unprecedented and still is!

Aurangzeb Alamgir (popularly ‘Auranzeb’)

He ruled between 1658-1707.

8. It is said that he was hunting in the forest with a French friend. He came face to face with a tiger. His gun did not work, and his dagger fell on the ground as the tiger jumped on him. He reached for the dagger, picked it up, and killed the tiger with it. That earned him the name “the Tiger of Mysore”.

He introduced a new Mauludi lunisolar  calendar, new coinage, and seven new government departments  during his reign, and made military innovations in the use of rocketry. He had a Navy too!

In the Fourth Mysore war, he had to fight the British East India Company. The British force consisted of around 50,000 soldiers and his only 30,000 soldiers. When the British force broke in he was advised to escape from secret passages by his french military advisers but he replied, “One day of life as a Tiger is far better than thousand years of living as a Sheep”. Eventually he died defending his capital.

He  has been officially recognized by the Government of India as a freedom fighter.

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The ‘Tiger of Mysore’ is Tipu Sultan

He  ruled from A.D. 1782-1799.