Indic Mercantile Collaboration with Abrahamic Invaders

Author's Note:The authors are heartened at the response the article has received, and the meaningful discussion it has initiated. Given the questions they have been receiving on different fora, they would like to provide additional information about what the article is about, and also what it is not about, so as to render subsequent discussions more meaningful. The piece had clearly mentioned that multiple Indic groups had collaborated with the invaders. Our article was not trying to determine which class was the most responsible for India's long slavery. That can be done only after a detailed study of collaboration of other classes have been undertaken. We have just started on that path. So as of now the article or rather the series should only be seen as a documentation of mercantile collaboration, of which there would be plenty of examples produced subsequently. We look forward to engaging with our readers on the basis of this clarity.

This is part 1 of the series on Indic Mercantile collaborations. Here is part 2 of the series.


Considering the invasion of Sind in the eighth century A.D., which was part of political India during that time, India has been colonized for about 1100 years.  During this entire period, the territory controlled by the colonial occupiers has waxed and waned, but the occupiers were present in significant parts of India.  Such long durations of colonisation would not have been possible without large scale internal collaboration.  As Karen Leonard articulates, ``A ruler's authority was strongest where the political order was closely interwoven with the cosmic, religious, and cultural order, that is, where political legitimacy was based on the maintenance of that traditional order.  In Mughal India, with a ruling class which was largely Muslim and initially drawn from outside, economic and political alliances were extremely important to maintenance of the state.’’ [14].  Note that the statement applies for any colonial regime, which is not rooted in the culture of the land.  In other words, a colonial regime cannot last long unless it allies with internal powerful socio-economic groups, which we denote as collaborators. 

The history of internal collaboration has not been documented.  It is, of course, a history of shame; it is a history of pain.  Yet this is precisely why this history needs to be told and retold.  The documentation has lacked because history in India has been viewed through political prisms.  The historians of leftist persuasions have denied that the Islamic conquest of India was an invasion, despite the fact that the conquerors were Arabs, Turks, and Central Asians, and arrived into India from outside.   Their atrocities have been outright denied or significantly suppressed [49], [50] and portrayed as equal to Hindu atrocities on other religions [48].  That the British conquest of India was an invasion has not however been denied, but the brutalities have been substantially diluted.  This happened because of close links between the establishment historians and the Nehruvian Left, which was in turn closely associated with the British establishment.  The historians of the rightist persuasion have not denied the colonial nature of either the Islamic or the British invasion.  They have, however, posited the British conquest as milder than the Islamic one, and have also remained oblivious to the major atrocities the British perpetrated pp. 14-15, [46], [47].  More importantly, they have completely glossed over the internal Indic collaboration with the invaders, Islamist and British.  It is the tale of internal Indic collaborations that we seek to narrate today.

There were four major categories of Indian populace that collaborated with the invaders: the hereditary royalty, the administrative nobility, the martial classes and the business classes, who we refer to as the merchants. The hereditary royalty and the martial classes fed into the military infrastructure that the invaders used to conquer parts of India and also to suppress rebellions; at times, the duo assisted the invaders in their defence in wars and rebellions outside the boundary of India.  The nobility provided administrative support in formulating and executing the policies that enabled the invaders to exploit and suppress the Indians. The stories of all these collaborations need to be documented.  But, in this article we focus on mercantile collaboration with invaders.

The Indic (Hindu, Jains, Sikhs) and the Parsee merchants formed the critical financial backbone of the invading regimes.  They financed the civil and military operations of the invaders.  The finance was direct, in many instances, comprising of loans and tributes; indirect financing was in the form of taxes imposed on trading transactions.  They took control of budding indigenous resistance movements, supplanted the principled leaders whenever they could, with compromised substitutes of their choices, in turn rendering the resistances ineffective.   Since, Indian merchants have been major players in transnational trade comprising India, China, Arabia, Africa, and the Far East, they served as intermediaries between invading regimes in India and powers outside India such as the Europeans.  They utilised their roles as negotiators to acquire benefits for the conflicting parties, but, most importantly, they sought to further their own economic interests, which included averting wars that were essential for the defence of the state, but might disrupt their trading activities.  In the process, they acquired significant influence with the invaders to the extent that they could enthrone and dethrone rulers and their deputies.  They used their influence to further the economic and social interests of their clans and their narrow communities.  In lieu of financial benefits, even the most barbaric and fanatic and tyrannical among the invading rulers, from the Islamists to the Europeans, appeased the wealthy mercantile communities.  For one, the invaders invariably exempted the mercantile communities from political, economic, social and religious persecution they subjected others to.   They frequently extended economic concessions and at times, discriminated in favour of powerful mercantile communities and even against their own communities.  They also arrived at agreements with other political powers, keeping in mind the economic interests of the mercantile community.  The merchants secured all the above by threatening economic strife or relocation en masse whenever they believed that the political choices were contrary to their economic and social interests.  They however, did not even bat an eyelid when other Indic communities were subjected to unspeakable brutalities, powered by their financial muscle. They also actively connived with the invaders while the latter brutally oppressed other Indic communities, through slavery, abduction, rape and forcible conversion.

This model of operation was quite conducive to the interests of the invaders.  They could simply appease small, but powerful, communities which were furthering the interests of the ruling regime, and exploit politically, economically and socially, the rest of the populace which comprised of the disempowered sections of India, namely the lowly peasants, the artisans, and later on, the industrial workers and the middle class.  This is the model which both the Islamists and the Europeans relied on.  This is the model that made wealthy merchants willing accomplices in the crimes of the invaders.  In fact, the merchants are likely to better prosper in an exploitative regime, which is invariably a fitting characteriser for a colonial regime, more often than for an indigenous regime.  For instance, when powerful merchants decided that certain invading regimes were sub-optimal for their avarice as also social interests, they replaced them with a different invading regime, completely oblivious to the repercussions on the commoners.  They never ever rebelled themselves, nor did they fund indigenous rebels even when they wanted to replace regimes.  During replacement of regimes, there is inevitably a period of instability; this is when indigenous rebels have tried to replace the invading regimes altogether.  This is also when the merchants sided with the invaders of their choice and suppressed the rebels that were asserting themselves, taking advantage of the instability associated with the replacement.  This phenomenon has been observed across regions, from Bengal to Sindh and across different mercantile groups.  In fact, there is evidence that merchants preferred to operate under invading regimes as opposed to indigenous tributary rulers.  This is because those indigenous rulers were taxing the merchants more and the peasants less, and the invading overlords behaved just the opposite. 

The above mercantile paradigm can be understood in view of a key age-old characteristic that defines them.  Merchants typically rise by allying with the most powerful to the extent that they can manage, and extract their profit by exploiting those below, and exploitation amplifies with the decrease in social and political power of the groups in question.  This is why they facilitated the invader regimes who were powerful because they were firmly ensconced in power.  Besides, the invader regimes invariably allowed the merchants to exploit the populace to the maximum, far more than any indigenous ruler, rooted in the soil, would permit.  It is also pertinent that whenever the merchants funded political forces within India, they chose those who were colluding with the invaders – this tradition continued from Man Singh of Amber to Mohandas Gandhi.  In contrast, the Indic forces who were resisting invaders always had to struggle for financial resources – this tradition continued from Maharana Pratap through Shivaji to revolutionaries and Subhas Bose.

In fact, we observe that this mercantile characteristic has expressed itself throughout the world and in different time periods:

1)       The earliest of the merchant republics was Carthage that depended heavily on slave labour for agriculture at home, and trade in its ships abroad.  During the first Punic war between Rome and Carthage, the Carthaginian senate was made up of rich aristocracy and merchants, and also led by a leading merchant and aristocrat, Hanno the Great. The senate leaders remained oblivious to all but their mercantile interests in Africa and Spain, and the Senate tried to weaken Carthaginian war effort in the war against Rome. It demobilised the Carthaginian navy, refused to pay the mercenaries of Hamalcar Barca, leading to a mercenary revolt. [1].  Eventually, this led to the loss of Sicily and Sardinia at the hands of a Rome that had recovered from its earlier defeats.  It is important to note that the Roman navy was in fact inferior at the beginning and they had to reverse-engineer a wrecked Carthaganian ship and also bring in Greek naval innovations. If Carthage had pushed their initial naval advantage, they could have probably won. So even technological and military superiority was not enough to stop defeat owing to mercantile compromise motivated by narrow pecuniary interests.

2)       In medieval times, mercantile Venice engineered the destruction of the fellow Christian Byzantime empire during the Fourth Crusade, allied with or adopted a neutral stance vis-a-vis the Ottomans when the Muslim Ottomans and Catholic Spain were fighting a life and death struggle throughout the 16th century.  The merchants on the Rialto put profits above Christendom, as Crowley puts it [2].

3)        The French merchants often supported the revolution there, but motivated again by the narrow group-interests. In contemporary France, power lay in birth alone, and the French nobility relegated the merchants to the lowest of the social strata, the Third Estate, along with the peasants, artisans, industrial workers etc. Besides the parlous condition of the French finances made the merchants, who had lent heavily to the French state, tremble at the thought of the country declaring bankruptcy. So, ironically, it was the slave traders who campaigned for liberty, equality and other noble ideals, while continuing their profession all along [3].

4)      The Jewish merchants sought in vain to secure their own trading interests at the expense of the rest of the Jews. The Rothschilds, Petscheks and the Weinmanns all focused on saving their property from the Nazis, while the Jewish commoners were being expelled and disempowered pp. 114-119, [4]. The head of IG Farben group, Weinberg, long continued in Nazi Germany, making huge concessions, till the Nazis made it impossible for him to operate p. 92, [4].   George Soros has repeatedly adopted anti-Israel stances [5].

Typically, it is the Left in every country that exposes the misdeeds of the wealthy merchants; it was, therefore, expected that the scholarly Left would have, by now, comprehensively dissected the long history of collaboration between the merchants and the invaders.  In contrast the establishment historians of leftist persuasion have sung hosannas to eminent collaborators among the big industrialists, a phenomenon that points to a colossal failure of the Leftist intelligentsia. A fountainhead of Leftist intelligentsia, Bipan Chandra, has described Birla as `the brilliant political leader and mentor of the capitalist class, whose political acumen bordered on that of the genius.’’ p. 99, [15].   The only eminent scholarly exception seems to be the research of Suniti Ghosh, who has meticulously documented the collaboration of the mercants with the British.  But given the ideological prism the Indian Left applies on even the scholarly issues, it is unsurprising that Suniti Ghosh would stay firmly away from mentioning the collusion of big businessmen with the British establishment through the Communist Party of Great Britain (Shapurji Saklatvala, was a nephew of Jamshetji Tata, and also a founder member of the Communist Party of Great Britain, which was the ideological mentor of the Communist Party of India), far less the collaboration of the wealthy merchants with the Islamist invaders.  This isolated and partial examination seems to suggest that the collaboration between the British and industrialists rose in a vacuum, without a historical precedent.  But the incontrovertible truth that would emerge from our documentation is that there exists a long-standing tradition of collaboration of the merchants with invaders, at least from the period of the Delhi Sultanate.  Even during the British period, the merchants continued to collaborate with the Islamists who advocated and eventually succeeded in partitioning India, leading to massive casualties in form of death, rape, and forced human migration of millions.  On the other hand, the scholarly right seems to presume that the invaders succeeded for as long as they did, in spite of a united Indic resistance; they consider only a few Indic collaborators, viewing them as individuals, as exceptions rather than the norms.  In other words, they have remained oblivious to the systemic large scale collaboration of a wide variety of Indic social strata.  It is this deficiency that we seek to redress.

Incidentally, the only nation that has been persecuted as much as the Hindus is the Jews. As already mentioned, extremely wealthy and influential Jewish merchants focused only on saving their wealth; while the Jewish masses were being harassed and hounded out, they collaborated with the oppressors of their nation both actively through their anti-Israel stances and passively through their inaction and indifference. There is therefore a strong similarity between the conduct of the two communities. There is however a stark difference as well.   Many Jewish historians have documented, clinically and ruthlessly, the betrayals perpetrated by their merchants.  The famed Holocaust historian, Raul Hilberg,  has documented the games played by the Rothschilds, Petscheks and the Weinmanns to save their property from the Nazis, and have pointed out that their battle was not a Jewish battle, but separate battles to save their financial interests, and that they wanted to `live through Nazism, if not with Nazism’ pp. 114-119, [4].  The Jewish Right has harshly criticized   George Soros for his anti-Israel stances. [5]

We exclude the Muslim merchants from the purview of the current article on collaboration with invaders.  This is because, first, most of the Muslim merchants during the Islamic regimes did not have Indian origin – they were Arabs, Turks and Persians. Thus, if they were seeking to usher in a rule that was native for them, the charge of betrayal does not apply to them.  There were, however, some Muslim mercantile communities of Indian origin like the Bohras and the Khojas of Gujarat and Sindh. Yet, their cooperation with Muslim rulers in betraying Muslim commoners have a fundamentally different connotation from the collaboration of Indic and even Parsi merchants with Muslim and European rulers in betraying Indic commoners. A common religious heritage was shared in the former case, but not so in the latter one. The exploitation by Muslim rulers of Muslim commoners was limited to economic exploitation alone, religious persecution was naturally exempt.   During the British regime, again, the British rulers economically and politically exploited the Muslim masses, quite like the Hindu masses, but never sought to convert either on a large scale.  And, Muslim merchants such as Currimbhoy and Aga Khan indeed had no problems cooperating with the British who were bombing the Pashtuns in North West Frontier Province.  Even the massacre of the non-violent Khudai Khitmatgar in the streets of Peshawar during the Qissa Khwani bazaar massacre evoked no condemnation from the Muslim merchants. The Muslim merchants thus became party to economic and political exploitation of the Muslim masses by Muslim and European regimes, but rarely to religious exploitation.   Thus, collusion of Muslim merchants with the Muslim and British regimes represent a different phenomenon, from that between the Indic and Parsi merchants, and deserve a separate study. Another important point is that during the British regime the Muslims were largely seeing themselves as a different nation and were seeking their own territory.  So the dynamic of Muslim mercantile collusion with British regime can be best understood by visiting the history of Partition which is beyond the purview of the current series.  Thus, we focus only on the collusion of Indic and Parsi merchants with the invading regimes which undermined the political, social and economic interests of the nation. 

We include the Parsi merchants in our study though technically they can not be described as Indics. This is because they did not share any religious or racial commonality with the invaders who India were blessed with in the last 1200 years. Their ancient religion shared some common features with the Indic religions. They have resided in India for long, ever since they lost their original home to the Muslim Arabs who conquered Iran. So,    ideally they should have become products of the Indian soil.

The demography of invaders and merchants:

There were two major categories of invaders in India: 1) Islamic and 2) Europeans. The Islamic ones comprised of pre-Mughals (Arab invasion of Sind, eighth century AD, Turko-Afghans, eg, Ghazni, Ghori and Delhi Sultanate, 11th century AD to 1524 AD), Mughals (Central Asian Mongols, 1524-1707 AD), Post Mughal (later Mughals, Bengal Nawabs, Hyderabad Nizams, 1707 AD to 1948 AD). The European invasion comprised of the rules of different East India Companies (Portugese, English, Dutch, French, 1510 AD-1857 AD), British crown (1857 AD to 1947 AD).    

Who were the merchants?  We get an insight from Gurcharan Das, who is extremely friendly to business.  ``Indian industry originated with the old merchant castes and they continue to dominate till today.  15 of the 20 largest industrial houses in 1997 were of Vaishya/Baniya trading castes.  8 were Marwaris.  (Similarly, in contemporary Pakistan, most of the 22 families who reputedly own half the nation’s wealth are Kutchi Memons, the leading Muslim trading caste of undivided India.)’’ pp.176-177, [11].  This description gives an indication of the social composition of the mercantile community. The trading castes that Gurcharan Das alludes to essentially reside in the north and west of India, and emerge from the ethnicities of  Marwaris,  Parsis, Sindhis and also the states of Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Madhya Pradesh. The trading castes of these regions overlap significantly, for example among the Punjabis, Khatris comprise of the bulk of the merchants, (the Punjabi Banya castes comprised the bulk of the rest), Khatris also resided in Sindh. Similarly, Bhatias resided in both Sindh and Gujarat. Parsis mostly resided in Gujarat and Bombay, but they have always considered themselves ethnically distinct from Gujaratis and Marathis.   The mercantile groups have historically been concentrated in regions surrounding the trans-national trade route connecting India to Central Asia. Historically, many of these regions were not conducive to large scale agriculture, which probably explains the dominance of mercantile groups in these, at least relatively speaking.  We mark the trans-national trading routes and the surrounding regions from which many of the mercantile castes originated.

In South India, the only major trading community is the Chettiars.  Beyond the groups named so far, there are other segments of the populace whose merchants have collaborated with the invaders in specific periods, particularly, many Bengali merchants accrued substantial wealth by acting as agents of the East India Company during its ascent in the 1790-1850 period.  They disappeared right after, for a variety of reasons, but left behind a trail of persecution, comparable to the merchants of other communities during this period.  This suggests that the mercantile collaboration is rather a class property than an ethnic one; it is just that some ethnicities have greater percentage of merchants and longer mercantile traditions than others.

We would describe the collusions of the principal collaborators among each of these, progressing chronologically as per periods of Indian history. The following table summarizes which groups collaborated with which invaders, the summary will be documented in subsequent pieces.  

In our series of articles, we separately dwell on different periods and different invaders.  We start with the Muslim rule, move on to the Europeans other than the English (Portuguese, Dutch and the French) and subsequently conclude with the English rule.   In each category, we enumerate some sample atrocities of the regimes in question, focussing on the rulers who were substantially assisted by the Indic merchants.  Subsequently, we document the collusion of the Indic merchants with the rulers in question. 

The bulk of the sources we have utilised in our analysis of the merchants, and the corresponding mercantile communities, who collaborated with the Islamic regimes are drawn from the works of individuals who are strongly pro-business (Taknet, Gurcharan Das, Gita Piramal, Timberg, Medha Kudayisiya etc), or from impeccable historians (RC Majumdar, Kalikinkara Dutta, Jadunath Sarkar, Claude Markovitz, Pedro Machado  etc), or from contemporary European travellers, who were mostly neutral (Bernier, Manucci, etc). 

Social basis for symbiosis between the mercantile groups and invaders

Mercantile groups comprise of a minuscule fraction of the population of Indian subcontinent, yet control the bulk of India’s wealth. As Scott Levi points out that in 1965 Marwari financial houses collectively controlled 7.5 billion rupees in assets and Parsi ones controlled 4.7 billion rupees in capital. In 1965 the Marwari and  Parsi populations were respectively at most (or barely exceeded) 20 lakhs and 90,000.  Similarly, the Ismailis in Pakistan, with less than 1% of the country's population, by 1959 controlled over 50% of the country's industrial assets.  The Nattukottai Chettiars dominated the banking and textile trade of South India as early as 1896, with the population of only 10,000 including women, children, and others not directly involved in commercial activities pp. 180-181, [10]. In our series, we would argue that this disproportionate concentration of wealth is a direct outcome of preferential treatment the merchants received from the long-standing invading regimes in India, and the devastation the invader-merchant duo jointly perpetrated on the bulk of the rest of the populace. Such coalitions prosper over long durations, only when they are founded on shared economic and political benefits, and mutually beneficial social characteristics. We will explore the first two in the remainder of the series, in this article we focus on the social characteristics of the mercantile communities and the invaders that ideally suited the needs of each other.

Social insularity of mercantile groups

First, many of the mercantile communities were deeply clannish. They insisted on recruiting into their businesses from only their communities.   

We first consider the Marwari traders.

  • We start with the house of the Jagat Seths, which had emerged from Nagaur at the edge of Marwar and Shekhawati, in Rajasthan. They constituted the biggest business house in all of India in the eighteenth century. They resided in Murshidabad during this period. They were Oswal Jains pp. 6-7, [12], and they mostly hired their employees from their own community, which resided in UP and Rajasthan.  p. xx, [12].  One of the early leaders of the house, Manikchand, for example, preferentially encouraged the Oswals to settle in Murshidabad.  At one time, there were as many as 500 Oswals in Murshidabad and their dwellings were clustered together near the house of the principals.  The inhabitants of Murshidabad named this colony Mahajantoli.  p. 30, [12].  Taknet has written, that wherever the Marwaris settled in British India, they used to invite traders of their community from their home-towns to join their businesses, motivated by their cultural tradition encapsulated in an old Marwari saying, `` The right place for money in is one’s own hand, the right place for a brother is one’s own side.’’ pp 37, [7]. Another old Marwari tradition that reflects the same sentiment is that `Baitno chayan mein huo bhala kairh; ravno baniya mein, huo wala bairhi  - It is proper to sit in the shade, whether the shade be of a thorn tree; it is proper to live amongst one’s brethren even if there is a feud amongst them.’ p. 26, [7]
  • Things did not much improve in the twentieth century either. Another big businessman from Shekhawati, G. D. Birla ``preferred to hire men from his own community.’’ p. 139, [15] Gita Piramal has written, ``There were a few non-Marwaris [in G.D. Birla’s firms], the exceptions that proved the rule....`Those few non-Marwaris who joined the organisation rarely made it to the top’’, said another manager quoted in a magazine’s assessment of G. D. Birla’s managerial strengths done in the sixtees.’’ p. 139, [15].   Apparently one of G. D. Birla’s core tenets were ``select reliable Marwaris, train them in his own way, and then trust them to get on with their job.’’ p. 35, [15].  We learn from Piramal, that ``GD rigidly adhered to these three principles throughout his life.  In time, they came to be handed down from father to son, becoming part of the Birla corporate culture.  Certainly, GD’s favourite grandson, Aditya was a true believer … most of his top ranking executives were Marwaris.’’  p. 35, [15] Thus, Aditya Birla was as clannish as his grandfather, despite being educated at M.I.T. and being born only a few years before independence.
  • That G. D. Birla, had an acute consciousness of his caste, becomes apparent from a letter he wrote to another contemporary big businessman, Walchand, on 26th May 1936, to admonish him on a public position the latter assumed on Jawaharlal Nehru: ``You have rendered no service to your caste men.’’ p. 285, [15] G. D. Birla used to say "...I think caste is what holds this country together. Abolish caste and India is in trouble" p. 152, [15].

The Parsis displayed the exact same preference for their clan. Piramal has written, ``JRD [Tata] was often accused of being Parsi-centric, … `if anything, the trend to hire Parsis is increasing after JRD’ says Francis Menezes … Even the Tata organisation admits that its mid-levels are packed by Parsis.  One executive recruitment agency pegged the figure at 80 per cent.’’  pp. 547-548, [15]  

Claude Markovits has documented that the Sindhi merchants from Hyderabad in Sindh  used to run their firms as `closed shops’, hiring only members of their own caste from their own town, even in firms that operated abroad, to the maximum possible extent that the local laws permitted them. He has written, `` One wonders why the principals of the Sindwork Firms ( in Manila ) were so adamant about wanting to employ only Hyderabadis in their shops, with a few exceptions. They themselves argued that these were the only ones who had the necessary skills and that they could also be trusted more than locally recruited employees. Both arguments actually look slightly doubtful. The skills involved in working in the shops, leaving aside accounting and Sindi correspondence, which obviously could not be entrusted to strangers, were not so specialized that local employees could not have been trained to acquire  them. The argument about trust is not totally convincing either ; disputes  often arose between Hyderabadi employers and their hyderabadi employees, as shown by the evidence of many court cases in the British Consular courts in Egypt and  Morocco. Besides, in strictly economic terms, Hyderabadi employees cost much more than local ones, given the need to pay for the travel and board.’’  pp. 234-235, [20]. 

The Chettiars are also well known for their clannishness.  The Beri Chettis were distinct from the other Tamil castes by being termed a `left hand caste’, which was distinct from other local merchant castes which were `right hand castes’.  Loc. 2953, [40].  The Nattukottai Chettiars lived separately in large fort like mansions; hence the name Nattukottai (land fort) Chettiars.  loc. 2932, [40].  The Beri Chettis, the biggest of the Chettiar bankers and traders with the different East India companies, had a feud with the right hand castes and fought caste wars with them over caste `honour’ involved in contracts with the East India Companies.  To quote [39], ``The riot of 1652 was the first of many occasions when the leading merchants found it expedient to exploit social tensions between the right and left hand castes to advance their economic interests’’, which left the British governors of Madras perplexed as evidenced by their horrified letter to their superiors in London, expressing their confusion over the riot p. 68, [39]. 

The same observation can be made for Khatris and Gujarati trading castes. For example, the founder of the Burdwan Raj family in Bengal, was a Punjabi Khatri, Abu Rai, who had arrived in Bengal in the sixteenth century (very likely in the trail of the Mughal forces). The family used to appoint mostly fellow Khatris (none of whom were from Bengal) as their diwans and other top administrators, connect mostly with other Khatri bankers, and socialize with Khatris . pp. 168, p. 177,   237-238, 241   [41]. Raja Tilakchandra had for example appointed a Punjabi relative and former diwan, Lala Amirchandra, as "sole administrator of his affairs and guardian to his son’’, and was known to be partial to fellow Khatris p. 229, p. 274, [41]. While most of the Hindu zamindars in Bengal used to marry locally, `` The zamindar of Burdwan, on the other hand, usually imported youthful Khatri spouses from outside Bengal. ‘’ p. 242, [41]

As the above evidence shows, there were community businesses, like Marwari businesses, Sindhi businesses, Gujarati businesses,   but there never was a Hindu business, and there is none now either.  Ironically, though, any criticism of individual businessmen of any community is deflected on the grounds that they are `Hindu business’.

Contempt for indigenous plebeians

Second, the merchant communities, by and large, showed a deep disconnect with, and even strong contempt for, the indigenous plebeians. We cite a few instances to elucidate the point.

  • In the Republic of Panama, by mid 1920s the Sindhi merchants from Hyderabad in Sindh had established a complete monopoly over that sale of 'Oriental' goods to the passengers of the ships which crossed the Panama Canal, a trade which was worth 7 million US Dollars. They were the richest of the Indian communities in this Central American Republic and they had forged some political connections. When a new immigration law which threatened to prevent the entry of Indians and other Asiatics came before Parliament in 1926, they submitted a memorandum to the President of the National Assembly, representing themselves as members of the Hindu colony. The memorandum was signed by the manager of two of the largest Firms, and presented a three-pronged argument. Claude Markovits has summarized their arguments as:  "First, regarding the racial aspect, they refuted allegations that they were a 'degenerate' race, stressing, on the contrary, the purity of their blood maintained through strict adherence to the caste system: 'We are proud to belong to a high caste of East Indians which we can safely call an Aristocracy, and from this point of view, we do not permit foreign blood to be introduced.... ' They then proceeded to differentiate themselves from Indians of the coolie class, conceding that ' against this type of Hindu ....exclusion (would) be deemed justifiable from an economic standpoint'. ....In the last part, they considered the moral aspect: ' From this point of view, our behaviour as foreigners correspond exactly to our inborn pride of the caste system, a caste which is moderate in living principles, but without vices....' .... They ended with a plea not to be confused, in the new law, with coolies or third-class migrants....’’pp 240- 242, [20].
  • Marwari landholders and moneylenders often brutally extorted the plebeians of the places they inhabited, much more than local ones. For example, the extractive nature of the relation between the money lenders (many of whom were Marwaris) and the peasants (mostly Koches and Rajbanshis) in Jalpaiguri and British Sikkim exacerbated the 1896-97 famine in the region, with little relief by the moneylenders. p. 122, [25].  The Satara district gazetteer notes that, `` Of all moneylenders, the Marwar Vani has the worst name and is harshest and most unscrupulous in his dealings with his debtor.’’ p. 181, [26] and `` Except Marwari and Gujarati Vanis, the larger moneylenders and landholders to a certain extent from a regard to their good name and from kindly feeling treat their debtors with a certain amount of leniency.’’ p. 182, [26].  In Manipur, the role of the Marwaris in fomenting local famine to enhance profits has been catalogued by Rajendra Kshetri p. 84, [27].
  • Mohandas Gandhi, who was born in a mercantile caste (the same as that of Ambanis) of Gujarat, and who strongly believed in the hereditary caste system, has on a number of occasions revealed a deep contempt for peasants, industrial workers and untouchables, he mostly sought to exclude them from the freedom struggle [22], [23], [24].  

It was probably because of this contempt that the merchant groups felt for the commoners that they could turn a blind eye when the plebeians were being socially, political, and economically persecuted by the invaders. More specifically, while the merchants prospered and became politically influential, the indigenous plebeians were being enslaved, forcibly converted, starved, and their women were being wantonly abducted and raped.

The contempt for the commoners perhaps emerged from the lack of connections the merchants had with any land.  They  were never rooted in any land. There is for example a common Marwari saying, ``Alien land is better than your own home if it gives you money.’’ p. 35, [7]   They were therefore constantly on the move, in search of wealth, and were rarely involved with any of the activities that would bond them to the land.  They never bonded with the lands they moved to either.  In [19], Hall-Matthews points out that ``... [the moneylenders] wanted to hold peasants in thrall via the threat of court eviction orders and extract the entire surplus value of their production.  Marwaris had little interest in the land and rarely permitted or underwrote farm improvements such as well building, which might have enabled peasants to pay off their debts.’’ p. 23, [19].  Similarly, B. R. Nanda points out, citing a Census 1911 report, that the Marwaris were the first to pack up and leave when any epidemic struck the region. p. 4, [13]. Consequently, the merchants merely viewed the land they lived in as a place to make money.  We observe the same attribute in Parsi merchants. Bharat Ratna JRD, Tata, his father RD Tata, his mother Sooni, his brother Jimmy, and his brother Dorab, have all been interred in London. Dorab’s ashes are placed in a London cemetery, though he had died in India p. 556, [15].

Resistance to an invader inevitably emerges from attachment to the land one calls home. Notably, one of the strongest resistance against the invaders emerged from peasant and tribal rebellions, both these communities are deeply attached to their lands.  Let us also recall the last days of  revolutionary Rashbehari Bose, who had spent about thirty years in exile in Japan. A prominent Malayan-Indian barrister of Penang, Nedyam Raghavan, who headed the All-Malayan Indian Independence League, had known Rashbehari Bose closely, starting from March 1942 until Rashbehari retired from public life in July 1943 pp. 228-229 [42]. Nedyam Raghavan has written about the sentiments of Rashbehari Bose in his last days: “Though in failing health, he was full of cheer, full of life. However, he said his health was giving way....With prophetic foresight, he also saw Indian Freedom looming in the distance. He said, before the war ended India would be free. In a feeble voice, not perhaps believing it himself, he added that he would return to a Free India. He did not. He left Singapore. I was afraid for his finances as I knew he had given everything to the Movement. I felt he would be in need; and ventured to send him a cheque. He returned it with many expressions of thanks. No; his needs were few and though he had given all his property to the Movement and was returning to Japan with empty hands, he felt certain that he would be looked after and properly taken care of. He needed no money. It was not long before that we heard that he has left us forever ; but in leaving us, he left behind the cherished memory of a good friend and a great patriot through whose life ran one unbroken purpose – that of winning India’s freedom ” pp-440-441 [42] M. Sivaram, a Reuters journalist in South East Asia, who had known Rashbehari from 1942 onwards has written, ``He spoke of his ambition in life-to die in Free India, in a hermitage somewhere in the Himalayas’’ Loc 796, [42] On the 21st of January, 1945, he passed away in his sleep p. 57, [42], Loc 2563 [43] with a plaque of Bande Mataram overhead and a Tulsi bead in his hand p. 592, [42].  Similarly, Shyamji Krishna Verma, another Indian revolutionary who had lived in Europe for long and died there,  had made prepaid arrangements with the local government of Geneva and St Georges cemetery to preserve his and his wife’s ashes at the cemetery for 100 years and to send their urns to India whenever it became independent during that period. This then were the attachment to the land that dominated the psyche of the leaders of the resistance.

Transnational trading connections

Third, the merchants were a part of the transnational trading networks dominated by Muslim countries and Muslim merchants.  The latter were their colleagues, their partners, their allies.  It was here that they formed partnerships, and not with the plebeians of the lands they lived in.  The transnational trader network, dominated by Muslim merchants, was often hand in glove with the imperialistic powers like the Islamist empires or the European nations, and as such, the merchants favoured partnerships with the groups their partners favoured. Consequently, their socio-economic interests induced a familiarity with the imperialistic Islamists and the Europeans, rather than the small local kingdoms, and predisposed their surrender to the imperialists.

 Even before the Islamic invasions started in India, the collaborations along the transnational trader network had led to the rapid capitulation of Buddhism to Islam in Central Asia and Afghanistan, without even an iota of a resistance. The replacement of Buddhism by Islam along the silk route, where the merchants quickly adopted Islam is chronicled in [29].  Prominent Buddhist traders and nobles along the Silk Road including the Barmakids converted quickly to Islam and served the Abbasid Caliphate [33]. Then, at the start of the Islamic invasion in India, that is, during the Arab conquest of Sind, the Buddhist traders of Nirun and Siwistan, submitted tamely to the Arabs and advised their countrymen to submit too [28]; they had traded widely in the Umayyad Arab empire. Unlike common propaganda, the same sources falsely used to claim that “common Buddhists” welcomed Muslims, in reality the Nirun Buddhists went to a town to convince them to surrender to Muslims but they refused [33].   

Why merchants and invaders could ally?

We can at this point develop a good understanding as to the social basis for the alliance between the merchants and invaders

 Through transnational trade, the merchants and invaders had close economic and political links prior to the invasions. So they were natural allies, to start with, in some sense.  Next,  merchants were socially insular, belonged to communities of small size, were indifference to the plight of the humanity outside their community, and bore severe contempt for commoners. Thus appeasing the merchants would incur low cost for the invaders as they would at best need to secure the welfare, social, political and economic, of a small segment of the populace. In return, the invaders could secure the cooperation of an influential and wealthy group, and use the same to accomplish their political, social and economic goals, by exploiting the bulk of the remaining large section of the populace.

To understand the underlying social cause for preference of the merchants for invaders as opposed to the indigenous regime, we need to note that the animosity between the merchants and the commoners was reciprocal. Examples indicate that the former bore contempt for the latter.   And, the relative prosperity of the merchants – possibly from selling high value foreign imports to the elite who in turn paid for it by their appropriations from the commons – and their exploitative dealings indicated before, rendered the  merchants unpopular with the commons. Note that several peasant rebellions targeted the invading regime, and their mercantile and money-lending intermediaries, equally.

 So the merchants needed regimes that would keep the commoners under tight control, that is, maintain the existing social and economic status quo, which were in favour of the merchants.  Now, let us observe that over the last 1200 years, the three main invasive forces have been broadly two phases of the “Arab” and “Persianate Turko-Islamic”, the Persianised-Turko-Mongol-Islamic and the third of West-European, dominated by the British. In each case the invader had strong religio-racial constructs of their own distinction and had in fact a disincentive to integrate with the local. In fact they saw themselves as extensions of earlier imagined empires or imperialisms whose world-centres and therefore by extension their own, lay outside the geography of India. For the merchants, therefore, such a self-consciously “foreign” invader who however militarily overwhelms and crushes the indigenous unreliable commons is a blessing in both ways: such a force would not identify with the natives to become a commonly united elite-commons force, would remain dependent on the merchants as financial intermediaries, would maintain the mercantile need for direct physical risk-avoidance, would keep the commons politically and militarily emasculated. That is why merchants were so closely bonded to the specifically racist and religiously imperialist forces of Islamic Middle East/Central Asia, and western Europe and its Christianity.  This is also why they funded the wars of the invaders against the indigenous inhabitants of the country.

There are other social causes which cemented the alliance between invaders and Indic merchants, we enumerate those next.

Excessive emphasis on wealth acquisition leading to commoditisation of core human values

Fourth, social stature in mercantile communities was closely linked to acquisition of wealth, and immense social value was associated with the latter. There is an old Marwari saying: `Kodi bin kimat nahin, saga na rakhe sath, huva ja namo hath men, bairi bujhe baat’ - `You are cared for only if you have money; your near and dear ones will be with you in case you have money’. p. 35, [7] Accordingly, in his late 50s, when GD Birla told his elder brother, Rameshwar Das, that he was no longer motivated to pioneer new industries,   RD chided GD, ``If you stop your activities now, your prestige will suffer.  Even your own children may ignore you.’’  Then GD subsequently re-entered the world of business p. 88, [15] Markovits has written that in the Sindhi Bhaiband caste,  ranking between different Bhaiband segments was largely determined by wealth, and ``what better way to display one's wealth and enhance one's prestige in such a mercantile society than  to offer jobs to scions of poorer  families in the community’’ Markovits has conjectured that this was the reason why Sindhis always sought to hire from their community in their home towns, even for the firms that operated abroad  p. 235, [20]. 

It was perhaps because of this excessive import associated with wealth that the concept and sense of commodity was perhaps extended from direct products of economy to more abstract items like people, land, ideology, culture, or sense of indigenous proto-nationhood. All such “commodities” would be devalued and also become tradable in a world that is full of tradable commodities. The mercantile mind from this stage has become a detached exchanger of everything around him as a commodity, from economic goods to people to land to religion to statehood. Thus we see a singular or almost callous detachment from the very people of one's own land, and attachment to an invading force to keep on the main agenda smoothly ongoing – financial profiteering. It is this quality which enables merchants to bolster the invaders, as and when they assess them to be in their own pecuniary interests, without any compunction. It is also this quality which allows the invaders to rely on the merchants, knowing well that their loyalty could be procured through financial rewards.  

As an illustrative example of this commoditisation, we show how G D Birla dealt with social challenges exactly as he would go about sealing a business deal. In 1925, the Birla family in 1925 had arranged a match for Rameshwar Das Birla (GD Birla’s eldest brother) with a Kolavari Maheshwari lady from the United Provinces.  But the Calcutta Maheshwaris expelled the Birlas from the Community in response, as they regarded the UP ones as aliens. p. 3, [15]. G. D. did not seek to defy the community on the ground that such injunctions were regressive and impinging on his family’s private space. Instead, he sought to prove his community wrong applying the same caste and the `purity of blood’  metric which they adhered to.  .He called Pundas from different parts of the country and had them study the geneological ledgers.  Pundas were able to prove that according to orthodox standards, Rameshwar Das’ father in law was a `bisa’ (better than others) Maheshwari.  In other words, the bride was of `good blood’. When the next all-India Maheshwari mahasabha appointed a committee to study the issue, GD ensured that it was packed with his supporters Braj Lal Biyani and Shree Krishna Das Jaju. The dice was thus loaded in his favour.   The Mahasabha gave a verdict that the Kolavars were an integral part of the Maheshwari society.  p. 5, [15]. This was no different from hostile takeover of a company, or securing a favourable decision by packing the boardroom of a company with one’s own clique. Thus, social regulations and caste norms, which he had great faith in, were to him commodities that he could procure  through standard trade practices.

Core religious tenets

Fifth, most of the mercantile groups were deeply religious and subscribed to religious creeds that attached a high premium with the concept of ahimsa or non-violence.  Many of them (possibly with exception of the Sindhis and the Khatris) were Jains and Hindu Vaishnavas.  Some forms of Vaishnavism in North and East India attached high import to Ahimsa, Lord Krishna was worshipped therein as a mischievous child, or even a consort, but rarely as the warrior and statesman that he was seen to be in Mahabharata. Non-violence provided a pliant universalist framework of pacifism which allowed the traders to come across as non-threatening to the networks they sought to belong to, to maximize their pecuniary gains. It is perhaps not a coincidence that early Buddhism have been significantly driven by and attracted the “setthis” and “sarthavaha” leaders. Same goes with Jainas.

The invaders would find this value system of Ahimsa  invaluable for their ends, because the principle of non-violence could be gainfully utilized to avert just wars in defense of the nation and motivate abject surrenders to the invaders.  Once the invader  has assumed control, non-violence on the part of the indigenous populace would impede effective resistance  and  retain the status quo which is in favour of invaders. Note that the merchants rarely insisted that the invading rulers follow the creed of non-violence, yet many times they championed the same as lofty moral goals for the indigenous rulers and the resisting populace. Since the non-violence yardstick did not apply to the invaders, they could secure substantial benefits through unilateral application of violence; this for example is exactly how the British crushed mass dissent and revolutionary movements. Thus, non-violence provided a moral and religious sanction for abject compromises with the invaders.

 It is of course  ironic  that the leaders of  the mercantile groups who adhered to the creed of Ahimsa,   financed invading regimes that  perpetrated worst forms of violence on the indigenous Indic population, which included war, slavery, forcible conversion and destruction of temples. Many times they directly financed the military operations of the invaders against indigenous Hindu regimes. They were also direct participants of slave trade, spanning Africa, Middle East, South America, India, and ivory trade which decimated the wild herds of elephants that roamed the plains of Africa. Even more ironical is that the same individuals often became religious leaders of their communities as well. Lala Lajpat Rai, who was born in a Jain trader (Aggarwal) family has  flagged similar contradictions among  merchants: ``I  was born in a Jain family. My grandfather had an all-covering faith in ahimsa. He would rather be bitten by a snake than kill it. He would not harm even a vermin. He spent hours in religious exercise. To all appearances, he was a very virtuous person, who held a high position in his fraternity and commanded great respect. ....He believed in ahimsa, that perverted ahimsa which forbids the taking of any life under any circumstances whatsoever, but he considered all kinds of trickeries in his trade and profession as not only valid but good. They were permissible according to the ethics of his business. I have known many persons of that faith who would deprive the minor and the widow of their last morsel of food in dealings with them but who would spend thousands in saving lice or birds or other animals standing in danger of being killed.’’ [21].

The mercantile minds likely resolved such contradictions  by maintaining a degree of separation from the actual act of violence, while completely ignoring their role in enabling the same.  They funded commercial hunting, provided ships and finance for slave trade, and employed extremely ruthless means to extract resources from their creditors, but rarely came into contact with the animal products or directly joined the actual acts themselves.  In p. 244, [30], Satya has noted how the Marwaris themselves did not go after their debtors, but sent Rohillas and Pathans [whose methods were extremely ruthless] after them.  Similarly, they traded humongous amounts of ivory, which was obtained by hunters who decimated elephant herds in East Africa, loc. 5176, [32] but there is no record of the merchants hunting the animals themselves. And, they financed military conflicts, but didn’t participate in the actual acts, they also financed regimes that perpetrated the barbarities mentioned in the previous paragraph, but didn’t execute the same themselves.   Thus, the merchants and moneylenders could remain true in letter to their doctrine of non-violence, even while facilitating the worst forms of violence on the hapless peasants and animals.

Social conservatism

The mercantile communities were invariably extremely socially conservative, regardless of their formal education levels. The caste consciousness and the importance of the purity of blood were very high as we have already enunciated. We elaborate on other aspects now.      Piramal has noted that G. D. Birla's attitude remained conservative towards women. He never sought women's emancipation p. 152, [15].  Indeed, in the Bengal council, he opposed extending an extension of suffrage to women p. 60, [34]. He largely represented the values of his contemporary community.  At that time, for example, the Marwari Sanatan Dharma Sabha, used to routinely excommunicate individuals who supported widow remarriage p. 52, [34]. The Marwari Sanatan Dharma Sabha was however based in Calcutta where the remarriage of Hindu widows was legalized more than fifty years back, in 1856 AD, primarily due to the efforts of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. In their defense, the levels of formal education were low in the Marwari society of Birla’s times, Birla himself had received very limited formal education, and did not associate any import to the same. But Sindhis had greater amount of formal schooling than the Marwaris. Yet, they were  as conservative in matters of religion, and gave only limited support to reformist causes, even if some of them, particularly in  Southern Africa, were active Arya Samajists p. 184 , [20].  And, the Parsi community was one of the most well-educated in India at that time; yet, the leading merchants therein appear to be equally conservative. Sir Homi Mody, who was quite well educated and was a leading member of the Tata group,  preached that ``a woman’s place is in the home and the kitchen’’ all his life, even while addressing women’s group, like the Ladies Branch of the National Indian Association p. 10, [44].

This conservatism is closely related to the fact that the merchants are typically conformant of prevailing social values. This social milieu and psyche would thwart the emergence of rebels from the corresponding communities. This is because challenging unjust social and political norms is a defining attribute of a rebel.  Not surprisingly, we observe that the merchants have largely remained loyal to existing political regimes, even when, or especially when, the regimes were run by invaders. It goes without saying then that the invaders would look for exactly this attribute in potential allies.


We  conclude by underlining the outlook with which the information outlined in this article, and to be elaborated upon in the resulting series,  ought to be viewed. 

Religio-ethnic constructs do not usually determine individual choices, pursuit of specific vocations might as our documentations indicate.

· Swami Dayanand Saraswati, a Gujarati Brahmin, promulgated an important reform movement in Hinduism, which led to the emergence of a large number of revolutionaries in North India. the Arya Samaj movement was an important social rebellion of its times, and sought to reconvert the Hindus who had been converted to Islam, which was almost unprecedented at that time. almost all the Hindu revolutionaries who emerged from Punjab had an Arya Samaj background. Arya Samaj also repudiated caste, fostered a large number of inter-caste marriages, notwithstanding the fact that caste consciousness is strong in the state  where its founder was born p. 61, [31] Shyamji Krishnavarma, a Bhanushali from Mandvi in Gujarat,  began the first real Indian Revolutionary publication called `Indian Sociologist’ in London in 1905.  Two of his closest associates were Sirdarsingh Raoji Rana and Madam Bikaji Rustomji Cama.  He also offered scholarships to Indian students who would not accept any post under the British government.  He began the India House, the incubator of many later Revolutionaries, from all over India,  including people like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, Madanlal Dhingra,  and Virendranath Chattopadhyaya.  He offered many more lectureships and scholarships to aspiring Revolutionary students and others to actively spread the message of India, organised the Desh Bhakta Sahba (Society of Patriots) and should properly be called the organiser of the Revolutionaries. [35]

· Regardless of their emphasis on non-violence, the Jain community has given India armed revolutionaries against the British. Two Jain brothers, Moti Chandra and Manik Chandra (or Jai Chandra) killed the Mohant of Nirmaj in 1913, and were sentenced to death for the same. They wrote in a letter to their revolutionary comrades from their death cell they were not afraid of death, they want nothing from life, and that they would remain content in any situation God has destined for them.. Revolutionary Sachin Sanyal has written about these two brothers in his memoirs,describing them as revolutionaries, he has not narrated why the Mohant had to be assassinated, it may be inferred that the Mohant was a British collaborator p. 164, [45]  Next, an Oswal Jain from Mewar in Rajasthan, Bama Shah, funded the military resistance of Maharana Pratap against Akbar, therefore he stands in sharp contrast to another Oswal Jain, Jagat Seth, who had continually funded the later Mughals and the Islamist Bengal Nawabs. Neither Bama Shah nor his immediate ancestors however had any connection to the mercantile profession, Jagat Seth did.

· While many Khatri traders collaborated with the invaders, the Khatris have a redoubtable reputation for scholarship, education and revolutionary thinking.  Many Sikh Gurus were Khatris, the Arya Samaj had a high affiliation among Khatris [37], and one of the editors of the Ghadar (a revolutionary newspaper in US), Ramnath Puri, was also a Khatri [38].

· Coming to the modern times, one of the scholars who challenged the established contemporary intellectual and social norms of his time emerged from a mercantile group of North India. We are referring to Sitaram Goel here. Along with some colleagues, he led the intellectual deconstruction of core principles of Islam, both from the religious and political and angles. This was certainly not an act of conformance, as this was in direct contradiction to the contemporary social norm that considered religions, particularly those followed by minorities in India, as above reproach and critical analysis. Scholars in Europe and USA embarked on a similar endeavor only since 11 September 2001, which would be several decades after Sitaram Goel and Ram Swarup published their scholarly works on Islam and Muslims. Sitaram Goel also published criticisms of Jawahar Lal Nehru, which was again unusual at his time. Further, Koenraad Elst, a colleague of Sita Ram Goel and a product of the same school, has provided valuable insights into mercantile characteristics, and how those compromised the BJP enough to undermine the Ram Janmabhoomi movement that some of its leaders were spearheading [36].  The social resistance that this group have had to battle for this intellectual mission can be assessed from the fact that they have been denied the platform to publish in most eminent venues including in the official mouthpiece of the supposed Hindu nationalist RSS. Goel was definitely an intellectual rebel in his own way.

Broadly speaking, given the large scale collaboration between different powerful segments of the Indic populace and foreign invaders, that becomes evident on any careful study of Indic history, it seems that we are, as a collective, the children of collaboration.  But this would be a natural reality of any nation that has been subjugated for more than a thousand years.  This is because those who resisted the colonials invariably perished early, often without reproducing, and the collaborators flourished with the backing of the invaders.  But we are more than the sum total of our genes; our genes may well determine our physical, anatomical and physiological characteristics, but our souls give us our values.  The soul is not a product of heredity. 

· Otherwise, how can one explain an Aurobindo Ghosh composing the best treatises of Indic philosophy, given that his father was so deracinated that he wanted his son to grow up as an Englishman.  His father had shipped him off to England, where, in his formative years, he knew only European languages and remained uninitiated in even his mother tongue, leave alone other Indic languages. 

· Nor can one explain a Madan Lal Dhingra, who came from a family of Khatri traders, martyring himself with the last words: I believe that a nation held down by foreign bayonets is in a perpetual state of war. Since open battle is rendered impossible to a disarmed race, I attacked by surprise. Since guns were denied to me I drew forth my pistol and fired. Poor in wealth and intellect, a son like myself has nothing else to offer to the mother but his own blood. And so I have sacrificed the same on her altar. The only lesson required in India at present is to learn how to die, and the only way to teach it is by dying ourselves. My only prayer to God is that I may be re-born of the same mother and I may re-die in the same sacred cause till the cause is successful. Vande Mataram!”[16], pp. 79-80, [18]. He was but a son of an influential British stooge.  His father disowned his own son, for the crime of taking up arms against the colonial occupiers; Dhingra’s family continues to deliberately stay away from social events commemorating his martyrdom.  [9]

· Madam Cama came from a family of Parsi traders and collaborators of the British empire.  She, nevertheless, raised the Indian flag for the first time in International Socialist Congress in Stuttgart in 1909, moved a resolution in favour of the Freedom of India with the help of Jean Jaures, Karl Liebknecht, Rosa Luxembourg, and p. 20, [35], edited two revolutionary newspapers, Bande Mataram, and Madan’s Talwar p. 28, [35] and became a mentor for many revolutionaries like Tirumalachari and to an extent, even Lala Hardayal, later on. 

· Lala Lajpat Rai was born a Jain Aggarwal Bania.   He was one of the foremost Arya Samajis of his time, a trade union leader who led the formation of the AITUC in 1920, an extremist leader, who, along with Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Bipin Chandra Pal, encouraged a strong position on the freedom of the country, a stance that was unpalatable to the moderate Congress.  He also helped revolutionaries like Rashbehari Bose and Manabendranath Roy. He fearlessly exposed the hypocrisies of Jain traders including those of his own grandfather.

·  By the theory of genes alone, Subhas Chandra Bose would remain an anomaly.  He was the greatest revolutionaries and anti-imperialistsi that India has ever produced. Yet, his values seem to be in stark contrast to those of his parents, Janakinath Bose and Prabhabati Bose, and even those of the sibling closest to him, Sarat Bose.  Subhas Bose was  ``a bitterly and irremediably anti-British politician,’’  p. 27, [8] (note prepared by British intelligence personnel, M. J. Clauson,  on 15. December, 1932) and an ``implacable foe of British rule in India’’, p. 49, [8].  In contrast, his father, Janakinath Bose, believed that the British rule was benevolent. Janakinath felt a sense of gratitude to the British, for maintaining law and order, creating legislative Council with Indian members and for introducing Indians to the English  language, and literature.  The British rewarded him for his loyalty by appointing him as a government pleader, next, to the Bengal legislative Council in 1912 and finally bestowed on him the title of the Rai Bahadur pp. 11-12, [17].  Prabhabati Bose was obsessed with fair complexion, was herself very fair in skin colour, and could pass for an Italian or even an English woman. She favored the lighter-colored among her children and grandchildren. While choosing a bride for one of her sons, she would put the arm of the  candidate in question side by side with hers, and compare the skin colours on the inside of their forearms.  She would approve of the bridal choice if the prospective bride was fairer than her.  Many, including some in the Bose family suffered a lifelong stigma due to this ranking by colour. p. 14, [17].  Sarat Bose shared none of Subhas’ revolutionary characteristics, as also the proclivity to lead mass resistance against colonial occupiers.   Subhas Bose led the INA in actual war against the British.  Sarat Bose’s conduct was a study in contrast.  During the first INA trial, the Calcutta students organized a mammoth demonstration on November 21 1945.  They invited Sarat Bose to join and lead them, and expected at least him to come, if not the other top Congress leaders. But Sarat Bose did not come, he just sent a letter calling on the students to disperse and 'not to be misled into adventurist actions, instigated by the Communists.' p. 555, [17]. Later on January 6th 1947, Sarat Bose resigned from the Congress working committee, when he felt that he was being excluded from their deliberations concerning transfer of power and partition.  Then on January 13th 1947 Sarat Bose announced the formation of the Azad Hind party at a meeting of the INA personal and others in Calcutta.  Naturally, the party went nowhere pp. 572-573, [17].


We would then be what we choose to be, we are what we make ourselves. After all, we are all born in joy [Amritasya putra], born with a natural divinity which we just need to recognise and resurrect. As the Gita says,

न जायते म्रियते वा कदाचि
न्यायं भूत्वा भविता वा न भूय: |
अजो नित्य: शाश्वतोऽयं पुराणो
न हन्यते हन्यमाने शरीरे || 2.20, [6]

The soul is neither born, nor dies. Once in existence, it does not ever cease to exist. The soul is not born, it is eternal, and it is undying. It is not killed when the body is destroyed.

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[1] Polybius, ``Histories’’, Book 1, Chapters 66, 67

[2] Roger Crowley, ``Empires of the Sea’’

[3] David Davis, ``The Problem of Slavery in the Age of Revolution’’

[4] Raul Hilberg, ``Destruction of the European Jews’’

[5] Daniel Greenfield, ``The Jewish People vs George Soros’’

[6] Ved Vyas, ``Bhagavadgita’’

[7] DK Taknet, ``The Marwari Heritage’’

[8] Nanda Mookherjee: Subhas Chandra Bose: The British Press, Intelligence and Parliament, Jayasree Prakashan, Calcutta 700026, 1981

[9] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, and Dikgaj, ``Did Mahatma Gandhi really oppose Violence?’’

[10] Scott C. Levi, ``The Indian Diaspora in Central Asia and its Trade’’

[11] Gurcharan Das, ``India Unbound’’

[12] JH Little, ``The House of Jagat Seth’’

[13] BR Nanda, ``Life and Times of Jamnalal Bajaj’’

[14] Karen Leonard, ``The 'Great Firm' Theory of the Decline of the Mughal Empire’’, Comparative

Studies in Society and History, Vol. 21(2), April 1979, pp. 151-167, Cambridge University Press

 [15] Gita Piramal, ``Business Legends’’


 [17]  Leonard A. Gordon, Brothers Against the Raj – Biography of Indian Nationalists, Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose

[18] Reginald Massey, ``Shaheed Bhagat Singh and the Forgotten Indian Martyrs’’, Abhinav Publications.

- See more at:

[19] D Hall-Matthews, ``Peasants, Famine, and the State in Western Colonial India’’

[20] Claude Markovits , ``Global World of Indian Merchants’


[22] Dikgaj, Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Latha Isloor ``How Gandhi and Nehrus subverted Hindu grassroot peasant movements in collusion with British and Islamists – Part I’’

[23] Dikgaj, Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Latha Isloor ``How Gandhi and Nehrus subverted Hindu grassroot peasant movements in collusion with British and Islamists – Part II’’

[24] Saswati Sarkar, Shanmukh, Dikgaj, ``The Cow Protection of Mahatma Gandhi – Appeasing Muslims and Bullying Dalits’’

[25] Malabika Chakrabarti, ``The Famine of 1896-97 in Bengal: Availability or Entitlement Crisis’’

[26] James Campbell, ``Gazetteer of the Bombay Presidency, Vol. XIX, Satara district’’

[27] Rajendra Kshetri, ``The Emergence of Meetei Nationalism’’

[28] KS Lal, ``The Legacy of Muslim Rule in India’’, ch. 3.

[29] Johan Elverskog, ``Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road’’

[30] Laxman  Satya, ``Cotton and Famine in Berar: 1850-1900’’

[31] RK Pruthi, ``Arya Samaj and Indian Civilisation’’

[32] Pedro Machado, ``Ocean of Trade’’

[33] Mirza Kalich Beg, ``Chach Namah’’

[34] Medha M. Kudayisya ``The Life and Times of G D Birla’’ 

[35] AC Bose, ``Indian Revolutionaries Abroad: 1905-1922’’

[36] Koenraad Elst, ``BJP vis-a-vis Hindu Resurgence’’, ch. 3,

[37] Nina Puri, ``Political Elite and Society in the Punjab’’

[38] Maia Ramnath, ``Haj to Utopia: How the Ghadar Movement Chartered Global Radicalism and Attempted to Overthrow the British Empire’’

 [39] Kanakalatha Mukund, ``The Trading World of the Tamil Merchant’’

[40] Surendra Gopal, ``Born to Trade: Indian Business Communities in Medieval and Early Modern Eurasia’’

[41] John R.Mclane, ``Land and local kingship in 18th century Bengal’’

[42] Rashbehari Basu – His Struggle for India’s Independence, Editor in chief, Radhanath Rath, Editor Sabitri Prasanna Chatterjee, Biplabi Mahanayak Rashbehari Basu Smarak Samiti

[43] M. Sivaram “The Road to Delhi’’

[44] – P. Mankekar, ``Homi Mody: A Many Splendored Life'', Bombay, 1968.

[45] Sachin Sanyal, ``Bandi Jiban’’

[46] Sita Ram Goel, ``Story of Islamic Imperialism in India’’

[47] Koenraad Elst, ``The British were not guilty of Partition’’

[48] Romila Thapar, ``Cultural Transaction and Early India: Tradition and Patronage’’

[49] Richard Eaton interview to the Tehelka


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