Indian History and Culture 1300-1526 AD by K M Munshi, founder Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan

  • This precis tells-Did Khilji/Tughluq rule all of India, Timur invasion, what is common between Timur and Vasco da gama, Religious Life then, Impact of Islam, Religious life & Language/Literature and did Muslim ruler of Bengal support Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.


Shri V Balachandran (ex-Special Secretary Cabinet Secretariat) wrote in The Tribune Chandigarh Neglecting cultural czar Munshi’s efforts This goaded me to do a precis of Foreword of 11 Volumes of The History and Culture of Indian People. We present precis of Volume 6. 

Respected K M Munshi was an educationist, freedom fighter, founder of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan (1938), author and worked closely with Sardar Patel. He initiated the writing of The History and Culture of the Indian People. The books are a masterpiece & my constant reference book. Shri R.C. Mazumdar was General Editor. Of volume 6, A.D. Pusalker and A.K. Majumdar were Assistant Editors.  


K M Munshiji said, “That although efforts to prepare this massive history-writing had started in 1938, it could assume concrete shape only in 1944 with generous help from GD Birla and the Shri Krishnarpan Charity Trust.”


Precis is split in parts. Each part has a number and title that represents content. Let us hope these books become part of the mainstream educational system. 


Part 1 covered period 1000-1300 and includes state of Indian society around 1000, why did it survive the earlier 2,000 years, status of Sanskrit, social impact of Muslim invasions, why lower strata of society adopted Islam, South Indian kings, rise of Desabhashas and Bhakti.


Part 2 covers period 1300 to 1526. It tells did Khilji/Tughluq rule all of India, Timur invasion, what is common between Timur and Vasco da gama, Religious Life then, Impact of Islam, Religious life and Language Literature and did Muslim or Hindu ruler of Orissa support Chaitanya Mahaprabhu.


My only contribution is doing a precis of the preface. This piece is courtesy the publisher, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan Mumbai.


The Delhi Sultanate (period 1300-1526) Preface by Dr R.C. Mazumdar 

Vide a letter dated April 13, 1960 Dr Munshi said that on account of heavy pressure of work, he could not write a detailed foreword. So we are presenting excerpts from Preface written by General Editor, Dr R.C. Majumdar. For sake of consistency the title remains the same except the period. Excerpts from Preface.


I Did Khilji/Tughluq rule all of India, Timur’s invasion     

“The popular notion that after the conquest of M Ghori, India formed a Muslim Empire under various dynasties is hardly borne out by facts. It was ‘Ala-ud-din Khilji who the first time established Muslim suzerainty over nearly the whole of India. But his actual sovereignty did not extend beyond the Vindhyas, save in the Western Deccan during the last three years of his rule.


The Tughluqs who succeeded the Khiljis made an attempt to revive the empire and exercise sovereignty over it but failed. The empire of M bin Tughluq, which included the southernmost part of India as a province under his governor, broke up within a decade of his accession (1325), and before another decade the Turkish empire passed away for ever.


Thus barring these 2 short-lived empires which lasted for less than 20 and 10 years, there was no Turkish Muslim empire. The Delhi Sultanate continued in name but shorn of power and prestige, it was reduced to a phantom by the Timur invasion at the end of the 14th century.

Temple at Warangal Fort, AP was destroyed by the army of M B Tughluq in 1323. Pic by Monidipa Bose. 

Among the States that arose from the ruins of these two empires, 6 were really powerful. 3 were ruled by Muslims i.e. Bahmanis of Deccan, Gujarat in the west and Bengal in the east. Vijaynagara in south India, Mewar in Rajputana and Orissa were ruled by Hindus. The remnants of the Sultanate and Muslim states of Jaunpur and Malwa, occasionally played an important role. Wars between these states weakened all powers. The Delhi Sultanate had a brief revival of power under the Lodis, and its quarrels with petty States in the north-west paved the way for the Mughal conquest under Babur.


The political disintegration and lack of a central authority were mainly responsible for the 2 great calamities that befell India in the shape of foreign invasions.

Hampi. India was saved from complete destruction due to patronage of the Vijayanagara rulers.

Timur, a Turkish autocrat had two objects in invading India, first to put Islam on a firm footing by destroying the kafirs and second to plunder the fabulous wealth and valuables of the infidels. Timur let loose the horrors of barbaric warfare on the plains of India. The climax was reached in the cold-blooded massacre of 1,00,000 Hindu prisoners outside the plains of Delhi.

Disfigured column. A temple in Ajmer became Adhai din ka Jhopda around 1192. 

A century later India was visited by the Portuguese, fleet under Vasco da Gama. For nearly 2 centuries he and his followers brought untold miseries upon the people living in the coastal regions, and Portuguese became a byword for cruelty in India.


Historians have generally failed to point out the strong resemblance between the two. Both were inspired the same motives-acquisition of wealth and promotion of religion.


Their victories exposed the serious defects in the defence system of India, caused by manifold developments in the technique of warfare, both by land and sea, in countries far beyond the frontiers of India. Both these lessons were lost upon men and rulers of India.


However, the silver lining. The rise of Independent States meant more courts and thereby the centres of patronage. It led to the development of provincial styles which increased both the variety and productivity in art and architecture.


II History writing then 

Although the political history of the 14-15th centuries is marked by the same lack of political cohesion that characterized the history of India since the fall of the Gurjara-Pratihara empire in the 10th century a.d,, yet the historical pictures of these two periods are not exactly the same. For that we must thank Muslim historians.


A serious drawback of all historical writers of the period is that their vision seldom extended beyond the court, the capital, the rulers etc. Special mention must be made of Ibn Natutah, who lived in India for 13 years and travelled widely across the country. Thus, his account of Indian life is held with a high degree of authenticity.


III Religious life and Language Literature then

It was the age of mystic saints like Ramananda, Kabir, Chaitanya and Nanak whose noble lives and religious teachings may be looked at as the richest legacy of the period. Though their direct influence over India as a whole, may not have been very considerable, their teachings have permeated the very texture of Indian life.


Partly as a result of patronage of many of the saints, but mainly in consequence of the gradual process of evolution, the major spoken languages of India had a phenomenal development and produced a rich literature.

Jami Masjid, Mandu completed 1454. Left colonnade with pillars. Right pic is Hindu style brackets supporting the 3rd row of pillars.

IV Impact of Islam

Muslims settled in India in large numbers but kept themselves severely aloof from the normal current of the social and religious life of the country. Unlike earlier invaders, the Muslims did not form with the Hindus a single type of homogenous culture. So, two distinct but important communities and cultures stood face to face and India was permanently divided.


Political necessities during the last phase of British rule underlined the importance of alliance between the two communities and this was sought to be smoothly brought about by glossing over the differences and creating an imaginary history of the past in order to depict relations between the two in a much more favourable light then it actually was.


A fear of wounding the susceptibilities of the sister community haunts the mind of Hindu politicians and historians. But history is no respecter of persons or communities and must always strive to tell the truth. Ignorance of the actual relationship between Hindus and Muslims, an ignorance deliberately encouraged by some, may ultimately be found to have been the most important single factor which led to the partition of India.


The above policy clearly brought out the differences which stood as barriers between Hindus and Muslims. These are primarily on account of religious bigotry by Muslims and social bigotry by Hindus. These differences are generally sought to be explained or minimised for e.g. the oppressive acts of bigoted Muslim rulers like Firuz Tughluq and Sikander Lodhi.


So also the end of Hindu rule and destruction of temples and monasteries by Muslims, very nearly extinguished Hindu culture. India was saved from this disaster of complete destruction by the patronage of the rulers of Vijayanagara and Mithila (Bihar).

Megheshwar Mandir Bhubaneswar, attributable 12-13th century.

V Persecution of Chaitanya

The patronage of literature in spoken languages by a few Muslim rulers is only redeeming feature in general of Muslim attitude to Hindu culture. The high development of literature and philosophy of the Chaitanya school of Vaishnavism is regarded as a sign of revival during this period. Remember that out of hundreds of Muslim rulers and officers in Bengal, only three Husain Shah, his son Nusrat Shah and his general Paragal Khan are known to have patronised Bengali poets whose flattering of their Muslim patrons is disgusting to modern taste.


Persecution of Chaitanya and his followers in the hands of the officers of Husain Shah must be remembered. Note that of the 24 years he remained in his mortal frame after he renounced the world, he hardly spent a year in dominion of Muslim rulers but lived for 20 years in the Hindu kingdom of Orissa.

Sun Temple Konarak built 1250 AD

After the 13th century notable specimens of Hindu art are to be found only in the Hindu States of Vijayanagara and Mewar. Hindu culture did not flourish under Islam.” End of quote.  


The above excerpts are courtesy and copyright the publisher the Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Kulapati K.M. Munshi Marg, Mumbai-400007, India. eSamskriti has obtained permission to share from the Editorial Advisory Board of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan.


To read full Foreword visit the Bhavan site and HERE (shall be uploaded shortly)

To buy book The History and Culture of Indian People at Bhavan’s Online Store or on Amazon

To subscribe to the Bhavan’s Journal  To read on Culture

To read Vande Mataram (English translation by Sri Aurobindo)


Also read

1. About Vijayanagar Kings/Empire

2. The story of Islamic Imperialism in India

3. Sacking the Subcontinent Taimur

4. Album Adhai din ka Jhopda

5. Album Mandu-Hindu origins of many monuments in Mandav seems clear

6. All you wanted to know about Hampi 

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