Kate Monk's Onomastikon

(Dictionary of Names)


Capital : Delhi

Size: 1 269 000 sq m Popn: 879 548 000

Modern States

Andra Pradesh, Arunachal Pradesh (North East Frontier Agency), Assam, Bihar, Dhadra and Nagar-Haveli, Goa, Gujerat, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Karnataka, Keraba, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Madras (Tamil Nadu), Uttar Pradesh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Orissa, West Bengal, Punjab, Rajastan, Tripura

British Empire, 1931

Indian administration - North West Frontier Province, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab States, Baluchistan Agency, Rajputana Agency, Central India Agency, Kutch, Kathiawar, States of West India, Hyderabad, Mysore, Bastar, Chota Nagpur, Orissa British rule - Central Provinces, Bombay, Satara, Nilgiris, Ceylon, Sind, Punjab, United Provinces, Bengal, Bihar, Assam and Cachar, Burma Portuguese Enclaves - Diu, Goa French Enclaves - Mah¾ , Karikal, Pondicherry, Yanaon

British Empire C19th

British rule - Punjab, North West Provinces, Oudh, Bihar, Bengal, Sind, Ajmer, Central India Agency, Berar, Bombay, Madras, Assam, Burma Indian rule - Rajputana, Bahawalpur, Kutch, Gujerat, Kathiawar, Hyderabad, Mysore, Cochin, Travancore


The Indus valley was settled by the Harappan civilization which built planned, defensible cities from BC 2500-1500. Aryans from the Iranian plateau invaded and settled the Ganges valley after BC 1500, developing Brahmanism, an early form of the Hindu religion, the caste system and the Sanskrit language. The Sikh and Buddhist religions were founded in the C6th and C5th BC but it was the Hindus who established the Mauryan empire in Northern India. By the reign of Asoka (BC 268-31) it controlled two thirds of India but broke down into smaller kingdoms in the first century BC. North India was reunited by the Gupta dynasty from 320-480 but in AD 500, the Huns took control of the north west.

Other power bases were established in the south and around AD 700, Hinduism had driven out Buddhism although a further religion now arrived with Arab Muslim invasions of the Indus valley beginning in 712. Conflict continued throughout the medieval period and Muslims gained control of the Punjab in the late C10th and established the Sultanate of Delhi in 1206. They managed to repel the Mongol incursions of the C13th and extended the sultanate but the Hindus founded the southern kingdom of Vijayanagara in 1336 and a Brahmani kingdom was founded in the Deccan in 1347 and Tamerlane's invasions in the 1390s limited the Sultanate's power.

The last Muslim invasion of India resulted in the establishment of the Mogul empire when Babur defeated the sultan of Delhi at Panipat in 1526. There was a policy of religious toleration and Hindus had legal rights. Shah Jahan extended the empire to the Deccan in the mid C17th and there were further extensions under Aurangzeb (1658-1707) and persecution of Hindus was now allowed.

The first European contact except for the expedition of Alexander the Great in 327-5 was with Portuguese traders in 1505 who formed bases in Goa and Calicut. They were followed by the Dutch (Cochin, Negapatam, Ceylon, Chinsura), French (Pondicherry, Chandernagore), and British (Bombay, Calcutta, Tellicherry) in 1600 the British East India Company was formed to establish trade links with the subcontinent.

Mogul power weakened in the late C17th and early C18th with the foundation of the Mahratta kingdom of 1674 and the Nizamat of Hyderabad in 1725, the Persian invasion of 1739 and the breakaway of Oudh and Bengal. The Franco-British struggle for influence intensified in the 1740s with Dupleix's successes resisted by Robert Clive who became Governor of Bengal after the British victory over north Indian forces at Plassey in 1757. The East India Company defeated the Moguls at Buxar in 1764 and set up the dewani of Bengal under a prince. In the late C18th, the Company became an administrative body, reorganised by Governor General Warren Hastings, and defeated the main coalition of Indian princes by 1785.

The Maratha, Burmese and Afghan wars gave Britain control of virtually the whole country although some states and territories such as the North-West Frontier Province, Jammu and Kashmir, the Punjab States, the Rajputana Agency, the Central India Agency, the Baluchistan Agency, Hyderabad and Mysore remained under Indian administration. In 1857, anti-British feeling came to a head in the Indian Mutiny which began amongst native troops serving in the British army and developed into a full civil rebellion in the north but the south remained passive. Although the Mutiny was suppressed with the help of loyal Sikhs, the East India Company was dissolved and India became a viceroyalty under the British crown although the autonomy of Indian princes was respected. Under the Indian Councils Act of 1861, the British Raj formed central provincial legislative councils in Bombay and Madras.

An increase in the number of educated Indians led to remewed nationalist feeling with the Indian National Congress being founded in 1885 and the All-India Muslim League in 1906. Unrest over the partition of Bengal in 1905 led to an Indian boycott on British goods and in 1909 Muslims were given separate electorates on all councils. Bengal was reunified after the coronation durbar of George V in 1911 and the capital of British India was transferred from Calcutta to Delhi but riots provoked by the Rowlatt Act which allowed the government to try political cases without juries and the Amritsar massacre of 1819 brought some reforms with Indians being allowed a separate legislature, a share in provincial government and control over some 'transferred' ministries such as education and health.

The lawyer M K Gandhi, who had returned from South Africa in 1915, gained control of Congress, now committed to self-rule, in 1920-2 and the non-cooperation campaign of civil disobedience began, reaching the Indian masses. Congress claimed to represent Indians of all religions but the Muslim minority felt alienated and the Muslim League leader, M A Jinnah, left Congress. Gandhi was imprisoned from 1822-4 after the salt march protesting against the Salt Tax and withdrew from active politics although he continued to be very influential within Congress. Jawaharlal Nehru became President of the Lahore Congress in 1829.

The Government of India Act of 1935 gave Indians control of the federal legislature and allowed provincial parliaments and self-government but the British retained control of defence and external affairs. It was described as 'satanic' by Nehru although the Bombay Congress agreed to the proposals. In the elections of 1937, Congress won 8 of the 11 provinces but the Muslim League was increasingly alienated and its Lahore session of 1940 demanded the religious partition of India.

When the Viceroy declared war in 1939 without consulting Indian leaders, the Congress ministries resigned. Many of their leaders were arrested during the 'Quit India' campaign in 1942 and Congress rejected the British offer of dominion status after WWII. The post-war Labour government realised that the transfer of power was inevitable but the increased unrest of 1946-7 including a naval mutiny and communal riots led to a far more hasty process than had been envisaged. In 1947, British India was partitioned into the independent dominions of India (predominantly Hindu), and East and West Pakistan (mainly Muslim). Border disputes in the Punjab and Bengal led to huge disturbances as refugees moved to their new states and around 500 000 were killed.

Until 1949, India remained under the supervision of the British Governor General, Earl Mountbatten, until the new constitution was drawn up. Former princely states were reintegrated, the old British provinces were restructured to form new states and India became a fully independent federal republic within the Commonwealth under Prime Minister Nehru in 1950. The last French and Portuguese enclaves were given up from 1960-71. Nehru encouraged land reforms, a socialist economic programme, the establishment of heavy industry and government planning and on his death in 1964 was succeeded by Lal Bahadur Shastri.

Border disputes had continued and there was war with Pakistan over Kashmir in 1965 but Congrees remained in power under Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi after Shastri died in 1966. She followed similar policies and made economic and military agreements with the USSR in 1973. India invaded East Pakistan in 1971 and helped to create independent Bangladesh but the 1970s saw accusations of electoral malpractice and led to many political arrests and the declaration of a state of emergency. This was lifted in 1977 and Morarji Desai's Janata Party swept to power although its economic difficulties and internal disagreements led to the landslide victory of Congress and Mrs Gandhi in 1980.

The economy improved but intercaste violence and regional unrest lost Congress some states. The worst problems were in the Punjab where the Sikhs demanded a separate state of 'Khalistan' and in 1984 the invasion of their most holy shrine at the Golden Temple of Amritsar by Indian troops trying to capture their extremist leader Sant Jarnail singh Bhindranwale led to many deaths and troop mutinies. Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh body guards and Hindus killed many Sikhs in retaliation before order was restored under her son, Rajiv Gandhi. He attempted economic reform but was unable to prevent the further deterioration of Hindu-Muslim relations. After a finance scandal involving finance minister VP Singh, a coalition government under R Venkataraman was formed in 1987 but Gandhi continued to lose popularity. VP Singh joined the opposition forces which were united under the Janata Dal (People's Party) and in 1988 formed an electoral pact with fellow communists the Bharatiya Janata Party and the regional Telugu Desam, preventing Congress from gaining a working majority in the 1989 elections.

Singh took over as leader of a minority National Front coalition and immediately tried to calm racial tensions but Muslim separatist violence reupted in Kashmir in 1990 and relations with Pakistan worsened. President's rule was established over Punjab, Jammu and Kashmir and Assam but Singh was weakened by high caste opposition to his introduction of more low caste government and public sector workers and a rebel faction of Janata Dal was formed by Chandra Shekhar. Hindu militancy increased in 1990 and Singh lost power to a new minority government under Chandra Shekhar, supported by Rajiv Gandhi's Congress Party. Racial violence between Hindus and Muslims and the continuing Punjab dispute killed thousands and increased oil prices damaged the economy. Tamil Nadu joined the three other states under direct rule after Shekhar dismissed its government because of the presence of Tamil Tiger rebels from Sri Lanka.

He lost favour with his backers and resigned but remained caretaker premier until the elections of May 1991. This was a tremendously violent campaign, culminating in Rajiv Gandhi's assassination by a suicide bomber from the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. His place as leader was taken by PV Narasimha Rao and the Congress (I) Party and its allies gained the largest single vote, 240 of the 511 seats although the BJP rose to form a state government in Uttar Pradesh. Prime Minister Rao continued to make economic reforms and a split in Janata Dal strengthened his position in 1992. Elections in Punjab in February 1992 gave Congress (I) control of the state assembly and a parliamentary majority although the turnout was only 28% as the main Sikh nationalist party boycotted them. Rao retained links with Russia after the breakup of the USSR and improved relations with China and Israel but internal racial tensions continue to exist.

Although Hindus are the majority, Muslim influence is still strong in India although many of its adherents now live in Pakistan and Bangladesh. Indian Muslim names are mostly of Arabic origin with some Persian (Farsee) borrowings.

This collection of names was compiled by Kate Monk and is ©1997, Kate Monk.

Copies may be made for personal use only.

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