What would India have looked like today, if the British never colonised us?

It is not wrong to say that history is disoriented, and not all of it is believable. While a lot of history might have gone undocumented or misinterpreted, a major part of Indian history has also been meddled with. We cannot point fingers at specific entities or individuals who might have done this intentionally; but most of the countrymen are smart enough to comprehend who must have benefitted from keeping the country ignorant.

When it comes to Indian history, the British colonisers occupy a major share in it. As children, we are taught that the British colonisers were the bad people who forcefully took over our country. There were a number of brave men who fought for our freedom, and won it for us over great losses of their own lives. While we all accept this version of history with pretty much no question, there is this share of Indians who also call the British colonisers a boon to the nation. Their argument arises from the assumption that before colonisation, India was in fact just a collective name for fragments of areas. The rulers within the country kept battling each other and ensured that the country stayed astray from the path of progress. These theorists propose that it was the British who combined India and gave it an identity as a country, and gave it its present shape.

For these people who like to assume that India was a fragmented nation before the British colonization, here is a little clarification. The very basic strategy employed by the British to conquer India was ‘divide and rule.’ What did they need to divide if we were already available in pieces?

To put it in more technical terms, India was under the rule of a single dynasty named the Marathas, who consolidated the country at the time of a rise of East India Company. They conquered Tiruchirapalli in the south, Delhi in the north, Peshawar in the west and Bengal in the east, clearly defining the boundary of India way back in 1758. However, the East India Company overtook the rule after the defeat of the Marathas in the Third Anglo Maratha war. Though that momentary victory led to the British conquering entire India, eventually the rebels from the same dynasty pioneered the downfall of the British Empire in India. Nana Sahib, a Maratha descendant led the 1857 revolt, which closed down the East India Company. Also, the Peshwa descendants were the leaders who formed the Congress which played a major role in ending the British stronghold in India.

What we can infer from the above fact is that it was not the British who consolidated the country. The inception of that was done by the Marathas. However, the Mughals too had made an attempt in conquering the length and breadth of the nation and had succeeded up to a large extent. Except for the extreme south, the Mughal Empire extended almost along the entire country in the 18th century.

Not only the rulers and dynasties, there is evidence that India was a consolidated nation before colonisation in religion as well. The prominent one being Adi Shankara, the establisher of Advaitha in India. The saint established four of his ‘mathas’ or missions, in the four corners of India. He also defined his debates from Kashmir to Kanyakumari, and that could never have happened if the strategic boundary of India never existed that long ago. We’re speaking of 15 centuries in the past, mind you!

Keeping the political and religious evidences aside, we can still rely on the fact that India was a consolidated nation before colonization. Through geographic evidence, of course. Being surrounded by the Himalayas in the north, the Indian Ocean in the south, Bramhaputra and the Bay of Bengal in the east and River Sindhu and the Western Ghats in the west – India could never have asked for a better boundary definition. The Indian civilization has been always as simple to define as ‘from the Himalayas to the Hindu Maha Sagar.’ There have been diversities for sure, but India has always been a vast country – and some diversities are inevitable. But the core spirit in terms of geography, food habits, etymology of language, religion and lifestyles have all remained the same for ages now. All diversities are only one essence in many forms.

It was NOT the British who consolidated India. India was always meant to be one nation – by rulers (starting from Asoka), by religion, and most importantly by nature. For those who like to believe that an outside entity that colonised the country was actually responsible for our unification, the rest of the nation pities you. Perhaps such intellectuals need a little more time and expertise figuring out what their assumptions are based on. If the British had never attacked India, the nation would still have been in the same form as it is today – or even better!

Trisha Jay