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September 11, 2011

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Home > 2011 Issues > September 11, 2011

Bihar the pivot of all political battles in India

By VK Singh

BIHAR is the epicentre of all great nationalist movements in India. Chandragupta Maurya founder of the Maurya Dynasty (320 -185 BC) was considered as the liberator of India as he freed India from the rule of Greek Empire. Originating from the kingdom of Magadha in the Indo-Gangetic Plains (modern Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Bengal) in the eastern side of the Indian subcontinent, the empire had its capital city Pataliputra (modern Patna). With an area of 5,000,000 sq km, it was one of the world's largest empires of its time and the largest ever in the Indian subcontinent. At its greatest extent, the empire stretched to the north along the natural boundaries of the Himalayas, and to the east stretching into what is now Assam. To the west, it conquered beyond modern Pakistan, annexing Balochistan, south eastern parts of Iran and much of what is now Afghanistan, including the modern Kandahar Province. The population of the empire is estimated between 50-60 million (lower) which makes Mauryan Empire the most populous empire before Christ era. Mauryan Empire was home to over one third of world humanity. The higher estimates of Mauryan Empire population is over 100 million which easily makes it the biggest empire in terms of percentage of world population under any single empire ever. Ashoka the greatest Mauryan emperor was instrumental in giving the Indian nation its geographical shape.

Under Chandragupta and his successors, both internal and external trade, agriculture and economic activities, all thrived and expanded across India through the creation of a single and efficient system of finance, administration and security. Megasthenes the Greek traveller to India gave praise worthy references of the capital town Patliputra which was governed by Samities (Committees). In that period, groups formed by peoples’ representatives were called Gana, which thereby assembled to form Sabha (Legislatures) and Samities’ (Committees).

Mauryan India also enjoyed an era of social harmony, religious transformation, and expansion of the science and of knowledge. Ashoka embraced Buddhism which preached and advocated a casteless society, obedience to teachers and parents, kindness to all, charity, truthfulness, purity of thought, moral values, non- violence, and righteous conduct. The moral teachings of Buddha were expected to elevate the character and personality of every person, irrespective of religious sect to which he belonged. Ashoka has been given credit for converting a local sect. into a world religion. He has been instrumental in giving the foundation of the reign of social and political peace and non-violence across India. Ashoka started to win territories by adopting the Buddhist method of cultural nationalism which is known as the ‘Dhamma’. Ashoka’s edicts refer to the Greeks, Kambojas, and Gandharas as peoples forming a frontier region of his empire. They also attest to Ashoka's having sent envoys to the Greek rulers in the West as far as the Mediterranean. The edicts precisely name each of the rulers of the Hellenic world of that time, such as Amtiyoko (Antiochus), Tulamaya (Ptolemy), Amtikini (Antigonos), Maka (Magas) and Alikasudaro (Alexander) as recipients of Ashoka’s proselytism. The edicts also accurately locate their territory “600 yojanas away” (a yojanas being about seven miles), corresponding to the distance between the centre of India and Greece, roughly 4,000 miles, Ashoka sponsored the spreading of Buddhist ideals into Sri Lanka, South-east Asia, West Asia and Mediterranean Europe.

Bihar remained an important place of power, culture and education during the next one thousand years. The Gupta Empire, which again originated from Magadha in 240 CE, is referred to as the Golden Age of India in science, mathematics, astronomy, religion and Indian philosophy. The peace and prosperity created under leadership of Guptas enabled the pursuit of scientific and artistic endeavours. In the Gupta Era (319-20 AD) the Nalanda Mahavihar which is considered as the oldest university of the world was formed and functioned. Students from China, Japan and other parts of the world studied there as it was an internationally recognised place of learning. Hiuen Tsang a Chinese pilgrim visited India during the reign of Harshavardhana. He went to Nalanda, the great Buddhist university in Bihar, where he spent at least the next two years. He was in the company of several thousand scholar-monks, whom he praised. Xuanzang studied logic, grammar, Sanskrit, and the Yogacara School of Buddhism during his stay at Nalanda. The Vikramshila and Nalanda universities in Bihar were among the oldest and best centres of education in ancient India.

Licchavis ruling from their capital at Vaishali (Bihar) is considered the oldest democracy of the world and was a federation of democratic republics. Anga, Magadha and Licchavis were the democracies existed in the state of Bihar at that time.

In the years 1553–56 Pashtun Dynasty ruler 'Adil Shah' took the reigns of North-India and made ‘Chunar’ his capital. He deputed ‘Hemu’ the Hindu General, also known as ‘Hemu Vikramaditya’ as his Prime Minister and Chief-of-Army. Hemu fought and won 22 battles continuously against Afghan rebels and Akbar's forces at Agra and Delhi and established 'Hindu Raj' in Delhi, after a foreign rule of 300 years. During 1557–1576, Akbar, the Mughal emperor, annexed Bihar and Bengal to his empire.

Babu Kunwar Singh of Jagdishpur and his army, as well as countless other persons from Bihar, contributed to the India's First War of Independence (1857), also called the Sepoy Mutiny by some historians. Resurgence in the history of Bihar came during the struggle for India's Independence. It was from Bihar that Mahatma Gandhi launched his pioneering civil-disobedience movement, Champaran Satyagraha. Brahmins in Champaran had earlier revolted against indigo cultivation in 1914 (at Pipra) and 1916 (Turkaulia) and when Pandit Raj Kumar Shukla took Mahatma Gandhi to Champaran and the Champaran Satyagraha began. Bihar made an immense contribution to the Freedom Struggle, with outstanding leaders like Swami Sahajanand Saraswati, Dr Rajendra Prasad, Shri Krishna Sinha, Dr Anugrah Narayan Sinha, KB Sahay, Brajkishore Prasad, Mulana Mazharul Haque, Jayaprakash Narayan, Thakur Jugal Kishore Sinha, Satyendra Narayan Sinha, Ram Dulari Sinha, Basawon Singh, Rameshwar Prasad Sinha, Yogendra Shukla, Baikuntha Shukla, Sheel Bhadra Yajee, Pandit Yamuna Karjee and many others who worked for India's freedom relentlessly and helped in the upliftment of the underprivileged masses. Khudiram Bose, Upendra Narayan Jha "Azad", Prafulla Chaki and Baikuntha Shukla were active in revolutionary movement in Bihar.

When Smt Indira Gandhi was found guilty of violating electoral laws by the Allahabad High Court, Jayaprakash Narayan called for Indira to resign, and advocated a programme of social transformation which he termed Sampoorna Kranti, to restore democratic values and democracy in India. In 1974, he led the student's movement in the State of Bihar which gradually developed into a popular people's movement known as the Bihar movement. It was during this movement that JP gave a call for ‘Peaceful Total Revolution’. After Indira Gandhi revoked the Emergency on January 18, 1977 and announced elections, it was under JP's guidance that the Janata Party (a vehicle for the broad spectrum of the anti-Indira Gandhi opposition) was formed. The Janata Party was voted into power, and became the first non-Congress party to form a government at the Centre.

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