Home > Britain, History, India > Indian History – Blind At Birth?

Indian History – Blind At Birth?

Unchallenged rule by Mughals and the British Raj over India, lasted for about 350 years. Cholas ruled longer than that. Why is Modern Indian history so besotted with Mughals and British Raj.

Tandava Nataraja at Rijksmuseum's Asian Art Collection. The Dancing Shiva - Probably a Chola Bronze.  |  Image source and courtesy - rijksmuseum.nl

Tandava Nataraja at Rijksmuseum’s Asian Art Collection. The Dancing Shiva – Probably a Chola Bronze. | Image source and courtesy – rijksmuseum.nl

Research recently revealed that the Rijksmuseum’s monumental bronze statue of Shiva was cast in solid bronze. The thousand year-old temple statue was X-rayed, along with the lorry transporting it, in the most powerful X-ray tunnel for containers of the Rotterdam customs authority. It is the first research of its kind on a museological masterpiece.

At 153 cm x 114.5 cm, the Rijksmuseum’s Shiva is the largest known bronze statue from the Chola Dynasty (9th to 12th century) kept in a museological collection outside of India. Given its weight (300 kg), the statue has always been suspected of not being hollow, as has been common practice in Europe since the Greek Antiquity. As part of an earlier investigation, an X-ray was taken of the statue in a Rijksmuseum gallery in 1999 while visitors were evacuated as a precaution against radiation. Unfortunately, the equipment used at the time (280 KeV) was not powerful enough to determine anything definitively. The Rotterdam X-ray tunnel of the Rotterdam customs authority offered a solution.

Complete surprise

The Rijksmuseum renovation project has provided conservators and curators the opportunity to carry out in-depth research on special pieces from the Rijksmuseum collection, including this masterpiece from the Asian Art Collection. The statue was created ca. 1100 in South India. Each temple had its own set of bronze statues which were carried through the city during major temple festivals. This gives the statues their name: utsavamurti, which is Sanskrit for ‘festival images’. Chola bronzes were considered masterpieces of Indian bronze casting.

Anna Ślączka, curator of South Asian Art, comments, ‘We had expected that the statue itself would prove to be solid, but it was a complete surprise to discover that the aureole and the demon under Shiva’s feet are also solid.’ (via Dancing Shiva X Rayed – rijksmuseum.nl.).

Curious … & Interesting

The Mughals from Babur (First Battle of Panipat – 1526) to Aurangzeb (died on 3 March 1707), ruled for less than 200 years. Even with the largest State treasury of its time.

With a fugitive Humayun, deposed by Sher Shah Suri (from 1540-1555) in between.

Within 50 years of Aurangzeb’s death, after the Battle of Plassey (1757), the British gained power. With the Battle of Buxar (1764), the British gained the dewani of Bengal.

For the British, the dewani of Bengal gave untold riches and the start of a global monopoly over gunpowder. Bengal which was the largest manufactory of gunpowder elements in the world was the keys to an Empire. For the British, making money in India was as easy as shaking a pagoda tree.

For India it was ‘hello famines’. A 100 years of wars with the British followed. The Bengal Famine of 1770 (1769-1773) is much written and analysed.

Lost – even before they began

Within 200 years, the British lost India.

British rule really started somewhere between the defeat of Tipu Sultan (1800) and the annexation of Punjab after the death of Ranjit Singh (1840). By 1947, the British story was over – and they were out of India. To be charitable, take it that British misrule lasted from Battle of Plassey (1757) to Indian Independence (1947).


But the Cholas ruled over an equally large empire.

Even though Cholas rule started somewhere in 2nd century BC, their peak was  from 940 AD to 1279 AD – nearly 350 years. And what does Modern Indian history know or how important are the Cholas to modern Indian history?

This statue is just a pinhole peek into the technological advancements in the Chola period.

  1. January 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Do you mean, the cholas ruled over other dhesams?

  2. January 20, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    Very good question. If we take Mauryas, Guptas, Vijayanagara etc we get 300-400 year rules everywhere but the focus of the narrative somehow always goes to “rule by foreigners”!

  3. January 22, 2012 at 12:18 am
    From mid 9th century to early 13th century, they ruled over most of SE Asia (Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia, etc.), upto the Ganges in the North.

    The dates leave a lot to be desired. Early history is corrupted by the Aryan Invasion Theory and the corollary of Dravidian Conquest by Aryans stupidity. Instead if we look at Dharma = Bharattantra, like I mentioned earlier, the Silappadhikaaram is about Bharattantra winning over Pattini (the idea of vengeful justice), Vibheeshana as an early god of chaatar-varnashrama, Indian history will read differently.

  4. January 22, 2012 at 12:31 am
    Mughals were from Kabul-Ferghana region – part of India. Ranjit Singh was the last Indian ruler of Afghanistan, till the British lost it (1840).

    Of course their rule was based on Desert Bloc principles, which is why they won quick, but hard-fought victories – and lost their kingdoms quickly. The Lodis, Khiljis too were from the Afghanistan region.

    In victory, the Lodis, Khiljis, Mughals were foreigners. When these rulers lost their kingdoms, they were transformed into Indians, defeated by ‘foreign’ invaders.

    So, this entire idea of ‘foreign’ invasions is misnomer – colonial myth.

    Most of these Afghan victories were based on their ease of raising vast cavalry corps, the most vital and expensive element of medieval warfare. Many of these Afghan rulers started life as horse-traders.

    Afghan word comes from Ashvakan, which refers to horses. Afghans were known horse breeders – which finds classical allusions in Mahabharata also.

  5. May 26, 2012 at 11:15 pm

  6. May 27, 2012 at 5:57 am

  7. August 7, 2012 at 10:43 am

    One must agree that the Cholas, Pandyas, Vijayanagara empires were more remarkable and successful than the Mughals or the British. But, the lack of concentration shall not be named as pseudo-secularism. It is simply lack of proper archaelogical details. For instance, if you take the mughals, they had the practice of writing diaries: Babur has undoubtably expressed his love for Indian mangoes, and that has been archived in some artefacts dug out by the archeologists. But if you take the other Indian rulers, they have constantly been on fierce warfare with each other. Upon conquest, they ruined the defeatants forts and palaces. This destroyed a way huge form of legacy we are in dearth of now. But, they refrained from destroying the temples, though built by their enemies; and any carvings, sculptures, and wall-scripts left behind in these temples are the only source for us to understand these rulers. That too went into the mughal hands and a few only got salvaged.
    Any historian would say the Cholas or Vijayanagara were more flourishing than Mughals. But, only thing, they lack substantiation through artefacts.

  8. panduranghari
    August 7, 2012 at 9:38 pm

    Why are these treasures still overseas? Why can they not be demanded(not requested) back?

  9. November 20, 2012 at 3:43 am

  10. Ramani
    November 20, 2012 at 7:33 am

    Congress which is ruling India since Independence ants to deny India their pride , they want to people to believe that it was their party and leaders which gave India its birth !

  11. November 20, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Google Translate: A witness to the greatness of the Chola kings

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