By Maria Misra

As it enters its 60th yr of independence, India stands at the threshold of superpower prestige. but India is strikingly assorted from all different worldwide colossi. whereas it's the world’s such a lot populous democracy and enjoys some great benefits of its across the world aggressive high-tech and software program industries, India additionally contends with extremes of poverty, inequality, and political and spiritual violence.


This obtainable and vividly written booklet provides a brand new interpretation of India’s historical past, focusing specific consciousness at the influence of British imperialism on self sustaining India. Maria Misra starts with the uprising opposed to the British in 1857 and tracks the country’s enhance to the current day. India’s extremes persist, the writer argues, simply because its politics relaxation upon a unusual beginning during which conventional rules of hierarchy, distinction, and privilege coexist to a outstanding measure with smooth notions of equality and democracy. The problem of India’s leaders this present day, as within the final sixty years, is to weave jointly the disparate threads of the nation’s historic tradition, colonial legacy, and sleek experience.

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Additional resources for Vishnu's Crowded Temple: India since the Great Rebellion

Sample text

The gun salutes of the imperial durbars were the cause of the most intense status anxieties because the number of salutes a state received effectively marked its relative standing to all the others. These had originally been assigned according to degrees of service rendered during the Rebellion and did not, therefore, reflect relative size, wealth or importance. The King-Emperor had 101, the Viceroy 31, 113 princes received between 9 and 21 and the rest, about 500 of them, received none. The discrepancy between salute status and real status was potentially explosive when states ranging from France-sized Hyderabad to the half-square-mile state of Vejanoness enjoyed exactly the same ‘salutage’.

Within twenty years, however, it was clear that the system of ‘natural rulers’ wasn’t working as intended. Parts of rural India were in a state of subterranean, chronic rebellion, which periodically burst forth into dramatic peasant and ‘tribal’ uprisings, while in the cities the native gentlemen found their authority constantly challenged by groups not included in the charmed circle of ‘natural leaders’. This was partly a problem of legitimacy. While some ‘natural leaders’ could 13 vishnu’s crowded temple boast genuine pedigree, many were of a much more recent vintage, and even Canning admitted that many taluqdars were ‘distinguished neither by birth, good service or connection with the soil’, and had obtained their position largely by ‘usurpation and fraud .

Though the British had ambitions to displace all local and regional authority, the sheer cost of a modern penetrative bureaucracy, the difficulties of raising revenue to finance it, and the alarming experience of the Rebellion, had deterred them. After 1857, in north India especially, the task was to identify reliable sources of local authority who could act as collaborators. This enterprise was, however, presented as the restoration of the old aristocracy. Early in March 1858, about a year after the first outbreak of the Rebellion, the Governor General, Lord Canning, issued a general proclamation confiscating all but five of the landed estates of Oudh – but with the proviso that estates would be restored to those who, whatever their past, ‘now lent hearty support to the British Government in re-establishing order’.

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