India has always been a land of great contradictions. To Alexander the Great, the country was a place of clever naked philosophers and massive armies mounted on elephants – which eventually forced his army to retreat. To ancient Rome, it was a source of luxuries, mainly spices and textiles, paid for in gold—hence the enormous numbers of Roman gold coins excavated in India. At the height of the Mughal empire in 1700, India boasted 24 percent of the world economy—a share virtually equal to Europe’s 25 percent. But then its economy declined. Colonial India was known for its extremes of wealth and poverty, epitomized by the Taj Mahal and famines, maharajas and untouchables, and also for its spirituality: many-armed Hindu gods and Buddhist philosophy, Mahatma Gandhi and Rabindranath Tagore.
Readers will encounter the foundation of Buddhism, Hinduism, the Gupta dynasty, Muslim encounters in India, British rule, Mahatma Gandhi, Indira Gandhi, and much more. A biographical section and an annotated bibliography add reference value to this up-to-date resource on the history of India.