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Modern South India - A History from the 17th Century to Our Times

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Item Code: NAP831
Author: Rajmohan Gandhi
Publisher: Aleph Book Company
Language: English
Edition: 2018
ISBN: 9789388292221
Pages: 531
Other Details 9.00 X 6.00 inch
Weight 600 gm
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Book Description

About the Book

The sounds and flavours of the land south of the Vindhyas-temple bells, coffee and jasmine, coconut and tamarind, delicious dosais and appams-are familiar to many, but its history is relatively unknown. In this monumental study, the first in over fifty years, historian and biographer Rajmohan Gandhi brings us the South Indian story in modern times. At heart, the story he tells is one of four powerful cultures-Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu, as well as the cultures-Kodava, Konkani, Marathi, Oriya, Tulu and indigenous-that have influenced them. When the narrative begins at the end of the sixteenth century, the Deccan sultanates of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Golconda and Bidar have combined to defeat the kingdom of Vi jay ana gar a, one of the last great medieval empires of the South. After the fall of Vijayanagara, less powerful nayakas or sultans ruled the region. Competition raged between these rulers and the many European trading companies. By the seventeenth century, only the French and British remained to fight it out, in association with Indian rulers and princely states.

The eighteenth century saw the growth of the kingdom of Mysore, first under Haidar Ali, a military leader who had briefly served the Nawab of Arcot, and then under his son Tipu Sultan, who annexed parts of present-day Tamil Nadu and Kerala. By now the European presence was growing strong and assertive. And with the fall of Tipu in the Fourth Anglo-Mysore War at the end of the eighteenth century, the British East India Company (now the sole European power in South India) consolidated its holdings in the South. In the nineteenth century, power changed hands from the private East India Company to the British monarchy-Queen Victoria became the 'Empress of India' -and Britain continued consolidating its territory. Despite the tumultuous environment, this century also saw a creative outpouring.

The twentieth century saw a change in the relationship between the foreign ruler and the Indian citizenry. No longer content with isolated military campaigns led by rajas or nawabs, Indians expressed their urge for freedom through democratic outlets. National parties such as th~ Indian National Congress and the Muslim League and regional ones like the Justice Party, Andhra Mahajana Sabha, Dravida Kazhagam and others emerged. Prominent South Indian leaders such as Annie Besant, C. Rajagopalachari, E. V. Ramasami Naicker, Varadarajulu Naidu, K. Kamaraj, Annadurai, Kamaladevi, E. M. S. Namboodiripad, Potti Sriramulu and others took the fight to the British while, at the same time, carrying on campaigns to ensure the dignity of all citizens. After Independence, new states were carved out from the former presidencies and princely states along linguistic lines-Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra. The book ends in the present, with a look at the new generation of political leaders who have taken over from dominant personalities like M. Karunanidhi, N. T. Rama Rao, M. G. Ramachandran, J. Jayalalithaa, K. Karunakaran and Ramakrishna Hegde. It also covers some of the most significant figures from other fields such as Narayana Guru, M. S. Subbulakshmi, U. R. Ananthamurthy, Dr Muthulakshmi Reddy and others.

A masterpiece in every sense of the word, Modern South India is a rich, authoritative and magnificent work of history about the South that will be read, debated and reflected upon for years to come.

Rajmohan Gandhi's last two books are Why Gandhi Still Matters: An Appraisa of the Mahatma's Legacy and Understanding the Founding Fathers: An Enquiry into the Indian Republic's Beginnings. He has taught political science and history at Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, lIT-Bombay, Michigan State University and the University of Illinois, where he currently serves as research professor.


Four years ago, in 2014, David Davidar reminded me that after the publication in 1955 of K. A. Nilakanta Sastri's classic work, which began with pre-historic times and ended with the fall of Vijayanagara, not many have tried to convey South India's story in a single study. David next asked if I would attempt a fresh history of the region. At first I quailed. Emboldened, however, by the welcome accorded in the previous year to my history of another large region, the undivided Punjab of the pre-1947 era, I agreed.

Aware of my limitations, I knew I could only dare to confront South India's modern period. Its ancient history was beyond my powers. On the other hand, writing on South India from, say, the European advent to present times might turn out to be, if I proved lucky, a doable project, in fact an exciting one. I plunged into the deep waters of such an exercise.

Readers will find out if what I have emerged with is of interest. If they want a rationale for the account, the Introduction that follows tries to spell it out.

For writing this book, I turned to libraries and archives, newspapers and journals, and published works. I also talked to a great many persons. This book's pages reveal the immense amount I owe to the authors and researchers of studies tapped by me. In most cases, the authors did not seek the broad picture I was after, but their details, often so rich with meaning, have helped me construct it.

Putting the matter slightly differently, if the weaving of this cloth is mine, most of the threads that constitute it were produced by the toil, often inspired, of scores of others.

As must be true for anyone delving into a subject of wide and long-standing interest, I marvelled at the skill and perseverance of previous researchers who went after its different aspects. Their sensitive toil humbled me, apart from also providing knowledge.

A number of these scholars were not Indian by birth. Some were British, belonging to the race that ruled over India and Indians. I do not hold the circumstances of their birth against them. What was dug out was more important than who did the digging.

No matter their nationality, whether it was Indian, British, American, European, Japanese or something else, I deeply thank the scholars, many from earlier centuries, whose information, findings or perspectives I have read and in many cases cited. The bibliography at the end names them.

Libraries or archives I was able to consult include the Tamil Nadu Archives in Chennai; National Archives in New Delhi; British Library in London (which houses the collections of the old India Office Library); and libraries at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan, Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, Indian Institute of Technology, Gandhinagar, Indian Institute of Technology, Bombay, Vemana University, Kadapa, Centre for Development Studies, Thiruvananthapuram, and India International Centre, New Delhi. For these opportunities, I express thanks.

Enormously helpful, too, were conversations with numerous historians, scholars and knowledgeable persons in different parts of southern India. In some cases, the circumstances (and travels) that enabled the conversations were as interesting as the knowledge they shared. These seemed to provide material for a separate book, if only I could put it together! To all of them, my great thanks anyway. These generous helpers included:

Hasanuddin Ahmed, Fatima Attari, N. P. Bhatt, Kesavanarayana Boyanapalli, P.J. Cheri an, Raghu Cidambi, Maria Couto,]. Devika, Ganesh and Surekha Devy, Gopalkrishna Gandhi, Asim Kumar Ghosh, Ashok Gladston, Luis Gomes, Margaret Gonzalves, V. Gopal, Janaki Govindarajan, Venu Madhav and Neeta Govindu, Rajan Gurukkal, Shankar Halagatti, Neelambar Hatti, Gopal Kadikodi, Manorama Kamat, Vaman Kamat, Girish Karnad, C. V. Krishnaswamy, Sanjeev Kulkarni, K. Lakshmi Narayan, Pampayya Malemath, Sunil Mani, Mammen Mathew, Damodar and Shaila Mauzo, K. Ramachandra Murthy, Usha Murthy, (the late) Venkatesh Murthy, S. Muthiah, M. G. S. Narayanan, M. D. and Vinaya Okkund, Nidhin Olikara, Gautam Pingle, Urmila Pingle, Rajendra Poddar, K. S. Radhakrishnan, A. Raghuramaraju, 'Kalki' Rajendran, P. Yenadi Raju, Vakula Ramakrishna, Biju Rao, Kandoba Rao, Pandu Ranga Rao, Ram Mohan Rao, Surendra and Geetha Rao, Vidya Sagar and Deepika Rao, Vikram Rao, D. Chandresekhar Reddy, S. Jaipal Reddy, A. R. Ramachandra Reddy, G. Siva Reddy, Srinivas Reddy, Dr Thummalapally Dharma Reddy, Rev. Dr Packiam Samuel, T. L. Sankar, P. Saraswathi, S. C. Sardeshpande, E. A. S. and Rani Sarma, Vikhar Ahmed Sayeed, A. Sethumadhavan, Vasanthi Srinivasan, V. Sriram, Rahamath Tarikere, Matthew Thomas, A. R. Venkatachalapathy, K. R. and Lakshmi Venugopal, Rafael Vieras, Vijay Kumar of Emesco, T. Vijay Kumar, G. Vijay Mohan, and Mallamma Yalawar and daughter Tejaswani.

To kind helpers somehow unnamed, my apologies! I want to thank them too.

Like all histories, this one, too, is personal and unavoidably selective. I cannot claim that the material I studied added up to a complete or totally fair picture, or that the persons I interviewed are a representative cross-section of knowledgeable South Indians.

In the end, despite a wish to absorb all viewpoints, this book is only one person's understanding of information obtained from a large number of documents or human sources, at times reached by accident or circumstance, and not always because I knew beforehand that they would lead me to the bottom of a subject.

Possible 'subjects' for a South Indian history were so many that I could not possibly deal with them all. What was left out is bound to strike some as being more important than what has been taken up. I would be more than delighted if this effort encourages others in their own studies of South India's modern history, focusing on what is unaddressed here.

Every writer of a South Indian story runs into the challenge of variety (and change) in the spelling of names and places. Bangalore or Bengaluru? Tanjore or Thanjavur? Trivandrum or Thiruvananthapuram? Trichy, Trichinopoly or Tiruchirappalli? Iyer, Iyyer, Aiyer, Aiyar or Ayyar?

Consistency is almost impossible, especially when you also want to cite from earlier texts. There are similar choices when it comes to miles and kilometres. Where a writer cannot be consistent, readers


,I Imagine a traveller in the year 1600 who, starting, say, from Vizag (Vishakhapatnam), sails all the way along South India's lengthy eastern, southern and western shores, and then, after reaching Goa, rides over the peninsula's land, first along a perimeter not very far from the seas and then on an inner 'circle', ending his journey, which perhaps consumes a year or more, in Bengaluru.

What does the traveller take in on this enormous snail-shaped route? The Vizag area, where he starts his southward sail, contains undulating coastal land and, close to it, red or black hills, some reaching up to 5,000 feet, 'whale-backed in outline and appearing to follow one another in procession', as the author of a 1907 gazetteer would put it.! Politically, in 1600, this hilly coastal tract is under a weak regional chief appointed by the Muslim ruler of Golconda (later to become Hyderabad city). This ruler is nominally subject to Delhi's reigning Mughal but belongs to a Deccan confederacy that thirty-five years previously had defeated the grand Vijayanagara Empire to its south. South of Vizag along this Coromandel coast is the major port of Machilipatnam in the delta formed by the river Krishna as it enters the Bay of Bengal.

Small or large ports line the long coast. Perhaps our traveller gets off his boat for a day or two when it enters the natural harbour of Pulicat, where the Portuguese had established a base a century earlier, in 1502. Nine years into the future, in 1609, the Dutch would displace Pulicat's Portuguese.

About 38 miles down the coast from Pulicat is the town of San Thome, set up by the Portuguese in the 1540s. Right next to San Thome is the much older native town of Mylapore, with which Europe and the Arabs have long been familiar. There is no Madras city as yet. Farther south, down a vertically straight section of the continuing coast, is the ancient trading port of Nagapattinam, where the traveller in the year 1600 finds traders from distant places as well as native ones, including Muslims descended from ninth-century Arab immigrants.

Later, after the coastline makes a sudden ninety-degree turn westward, faint outlines of northern Sri Lanka emerge on the horizon to the left of the moving boat. As the boat proceeds through what the future would call the Palk Straits, the island of Pam ban surfaces, barely separated from the peninsula, from where, in the Ramayana, Rama launched his bid to recover a Lanka-confined Sita.

Exporting pearls fished up in adjacent waters, the old port of Tuticorin (Thoothukudi) shows up as the boat continues to sail southwest. Beyond Tuticorin, at Kanyakumari, the Bay of Bengal becomes the Arabian Sea, and our traveller now sails north.

Going past the land where Thiruvananthapuram would rise in the future, he steps ashore at Kochi (Cochin), where the population includes Christians whose forebears may have arrived more than a thousand years earlier. Later, when the traveller walks on land again at the port of Kozhikode (Calicut), he runs into scores of Arab and European traders, finds Malayalam-speaking Muslims with centuries- old ties to India, and hears of Vasco da Gama's visit more than a hundred years previously.

In Kochi, in Kozhikode and all along his northward voyage, he senses green hills not very far from the shoreline to his right. Landing in the port of Mangaluru, he hears new tongues and sees brisk commercial activity. He may not have realized it, but the languages he has so far heard from the peninsula's natives include Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam, Kannada and Tulu, more or less in that order.

When he arrives in Goa, our traveller runs into a flourishing Portuguese-run city, where Konkani and Marathi are among the languages spoken.

His sea travels over, from Goa he starts a land journey to traverse the vast acreage between the two coasts. The expedition is not comfortable or risk-free: the narrow roads are mountainous much of the time, rough all the time, and on occasion attacked by men or animals, and the bumping bullock carts are creaky as well.

Now proceeding in a northeasterly direction, our plucky traveller manages to trek through villages and impressive cities like Bijapur, Gulbarga, Golconda, and Warangal, whose sultans had recently joined hands to defeat Vijayanagara, but are now suspicious of one another and even more of the Mughal in far-to-the-north Delhi.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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