What was life like in British India?

This is really a very very great quest , while working over topic " ANCIENT INDIA VEDIC SCIENCE AND MATHEMATICS SYSTEMS" , I had found much more than expected . I am working on this topic from last 5 years but did'nt got any platform to present it , so recently I just started my blog

An Indian Inside

I will be writing much more about this topic in my blog , so do follow it if u r interested.

So coming on the question

As stated by Britishers, India was a land of rat , cats and dogs , it is a land of black magic , land of uncivilized people , uneducated one etc etc

Real name of India was

Bharat

Arya-vart { land of Aryas{ Arian race }, Arian race was considered to be most intellectual and smart race }

India or Hindustan name were given by brtishers and Portuguese.

In actual India was

Most Intelligent nation

Most prosperous nation

Most intellectual nation

High Strategic significant nation

High exporting nation

Full of jewels and Gold

Highest currency value nation

Even before Britishers came to India , India started dividing . Earlier India was country combine of

India {today}

Pakistan

Afghanistan

Iran

Iraq

Myanmar

Bangladesh

Nepal

Bhutan

From past history because or western invasion of Muslim kings , dynasties and looters India started dividing and was losing his wealth .

Muhmmad ghajni looted India , when he went back to his state he did'nt took taxes from his public for about 4years , every thing was build and managed by treasuries of Kings looted from India.

Somantha temple , Ahmdabad, Gujrat , India

This somnath temple was destroyed 17 times by western invaders, because this temple was made from gold completly and was full of gems and treasures. The was completly destroyed13 times and was rebuild15 times in Indian history . Last time it was rebuild and rehabilitated by Indian Govt in 1950 with the efforts of India' s first home minister Sardar vallabh bhai patel { the present form } .

When it come to India before Britishers

When Britishers came to india , they saw a very unique thing that is UNITY , since India was a vibrant country , having several religion , language, believes and ethic , There was nothing to unite them . So LORD MACAULAY was given charge to find a way , so that they can divide and rule because they want to rule India because of its treasures of knowledge and prosperity.

Lord Macaulay gave his report to queen in which he stated that

" Bharat has 16 thousands{16,000} school level institutions named as GURU KUL , in which every children is bid to study 22 subjects like MATHS , PHYSICS, CHEM, BIOLOGY, ASTRONOMY , VEDAS etc from age to 5 to 16 .

After then 16k schools they have 2200 college level institutions in which selected students are allowed to study specific subject of his interest , and after college they have 1200–1300 super specialist institutions in which student study their subjects in more deep .

The most fascinating thing is that , they dont have any examinations , only teachers which they them as " ACHARYA " , advice the student according to his performance for the subject .

He also mentioned that he did'nt found any begar in India .

He also mentioned that 3 things are always free in India

Education

Food

Health

About health he also deeply spoken about ayurveda and Sith { another very famour traditional medication method } .

India was so prosperous that gold was the standard of trade .

India contribute 23% to world' s GDP when Britishers arrived in India. But they left us with 2.3% portion of world's Gdp .

India was the biggest exporter .

India contribute 65% of Silk route and 90–93% of spices route.

India was most knowledgeable country whether it is science , maths or sprituality.

Whole trigonometry was developed in India

1. Sin

2. Cosine

3. Tan etc

4. 0 was derived by indian Sage ARYABHATTA

In totality india was ruined by Britishers for their benefits. The jewel KOHINOOR in crown of queen Elizabeth was exported , actually looted from Karnataka, India .

The world LOOT in eng dictionary , is an Hindi world LOOT , which mean is to steal.

When britishers came to India , India was like


My grandfather who is no more told me this.

His uncle was a temple trustee for the local temple in the late 20s. The villagers wanted to celebrate the annual temple festival with fireworks and they procured some raw materials for the same. All hell broke loose. The police registered a case and initiated action for prosecution of the trustee on the charge of possessing explosives!! Those were the early days of independence movement. The police considered the fire works as explosives.

Our family was shaken and deeply disturbed. Family's prestige was at stake. My grandpa told us that they tried to reason with the police inspector but he wouldn't listen and was bent upon proceeding with the case . Someone even tried to negotiate with the inspector a bribe of twenty tolas of gold ( 220 gms apprx). But the inspector wouldn't relent. ( at least one should appreciate the incorruptibility here)

To these worried men, someone brought some useful information that the district collector, a white ICS, would be passing through the nearby village road the next day on his way to taluk head quarters. These men and a group of villagers gathered with garlands and some dry fruits and waited on the road. There came a dignified and authoritative looking white officer riding his BSA motor bike . He pulled over on the road side and asked in broken local lingo what was the commotion about. They garlanded him and offered the eatables and explained him that they were peace loving agriculturists and lived by family honour, far removed from any notion of violence. And that they were only preparing fireworks for the festivities and absolutely innocent of any kind of explosives. But the local inspector was harassing them by booking a false case against them that would badly hurt the family honour.

The white man somehow saw the truth in their disclosure. No one would have dared to come in front and say lies to the authority must have been his inner feeling.Whatever, he asked them to see him in the local court. Those days the district collector was also a first class magistrate. He heard them fully and the police inspector. He drew his own conclusion and announced that the inspector was absolutely lacking in diligence to distinguish fireworks from explosives and correctly gauze the motives of the people he booked. The uncle was acquitted of all charges and the police inspector was chided for lacking in the required prudence and diligence. The village celebrated with full fervor. And my grandpa told this story with all admiration for the fairness of the collector and his able situation appraisal capability to see through the truth uninfluenced by the subordinate staff. He was full of awe, praise and respect. He affirmed that was justice well done !!

Encouraged by this experience, my grandpa, in the WWII times boldly confronted a tahsildar for booking a case while a cart of grain was being transported from the fields to our village home.Those were the times of serious shortage food. Grain was rationed and possession of more than the prescribed quantity was deemed hoarding. The tahsildar, an Indian, wouldn't listen to reason that a farmer would need to transport the grain to stock at home. A case was booked and the cart of grain seized. My grandpa made a trip to the district head quarters and met the collector, a white man. My grandpa argued that he being the head of a big family with quite a few farmers under him, would need sufficient grain to not only feed them but also for seeding the next crop. One cannot deprive him of that right. The collector heard him patiently and ordered to release the grain cart and it seems he even said sorry for the over zealous approach of the civil administration!!

He told these stories and their small victories fighting injustice and how a white man stood fair not only in colour but in justice as well. My grandpa lived another 25 years post independence and always rued how incompetent and unjust our rulers have turned out compared to the earlier administration. He had extensive dealings in land matters and civil court issues. So he was fully aware of the decline of honesty in post independence administration and used to vocally express that. These are some I heard from him. With such goodwill only a white man never felt threatened about his security to travel alone on a motor bike on a desolated road in an alien country. And that's how a small number of about only a thousand officers could administer the country from Khyber pass to Burma. They used our own guys who did their dirty work willingly and crawled when asked to bend.

Though our Bollywood likes to show the British officers as some kind of rapacious villainy characters, in general, the villagers have a very positive view of British administration. The continued awe and respect many have for the IAS officers even today stems from that rooting.

Sans political masters, the ICS officers were quite powerful those days yet they remained mostly above reproach. It is said the ICS was an experiment in India by the enlightened Ox-Bridge educated, which in fact was said to be superior to the then prevailing public administration in Britain. They couldn't implement their new ideas there due to the political situation but found an opportunity to implement in nascent India.

Despite gross corruption and incompetence of our 2nd rung post independence politicians, if our country still runs means, it owes much to the strength of administrative systems established then.


Short Answer first -

The term ‘British India' can broadly cover a long period of 350 years, starting from the early 1600s when East India Company ships landed on coastal India, until 1947. However, I have covered the 90 year period call the ‘British Raj' from 1857–1947.

They were the best of times - This period witnessed the creation and explosive growth in Infrastructure that came to define modern India (and Pakistan, Bangladesh) - Major Urban Centers, Hill Stations, Cantonments, Railroads, Major Highways, Bridges, Communication system (Post, Telegraph, Telecom), Irrigation system (Canals), Legal system, Major Universities and Colleges, Institutions, Archaeological Department, Political system, Bureaucracy, Armed forces, Police forces, and even some of the largest Business and Industrial Groups. There prevailed an air of intellectual curiosity, and many bright people and ideas from Europe flowed into India. The great Middle Class of India which numbers around 300 million today has roots in this period. People could own land or transfer ownership while being protected by law. First time in thousands of years, the lowest castes got an opportunity to improve their lot and were covered by law rather than customs. Lastly, India managed to escape from the clutches of a foreign power after hundreds of years.

They were the worst of times - OTOH this period witnessed the most savage massacre of Indian rebels at the hands of the British after the 1857 Rebellion was suppressed. Over a 100,000 were butchered, many blown directly from the cannons. In 1919, General Reginald Dyer ordered his troops to fire on a peaceful demonstration that left over 1,000 dead. The British introduced Indenture system which was sort of Debt Bondage under which they sent 3.5 million Indian laborers to far away colonies like Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica, Fiji, etc. Around 200,000 Indian soldiers died in the 2 World Wars fighting for the British Indian Army. The Partition in 1947 lead to the largest population migration in the human history with 15 million people getting uprooted and anywhere from 200,000 to 2 million killed in riots. There was widespread discrimination against Indians, including the elite Indians, and mingling with the natives was strongly discouraged. Though the caste divide has been ingrained in the subcontinent for thousands of years, the British rule formalized and accentuated the divide. However, the most shocking part of this period was the reckless management that was a major cause of several Famines and lead to anywhere from 30 million to 50 million people dying of starvation or subsequent epidemic.

So how was life in this 90 year period? It depended on who you were. If you were one of the top ranking British officials or one of the 1,000 odd British Civil servants, you literally lived like a king. The remainder of British officials, soldiers, businessmen lived a very comfortable life too as a superior. The rulers of the Princely states lived luxurious lives too, some of them living like Sheikhs of the Middle East. The minority elite Indians who got access to Western education and worked closely with the British lived a life full of opportunities too. Then there was the newly emerging Middle Class comprising of thousands of Zamindars and Jagirdars, Moneylenders, Government Clerks, Army men, Railway employees, Supervisors, Engineers, Lawyers, Academics, Printers, small businessmen catering to the British, who were living in urban centers lived reasonably comfortable lives. However, the bottom 90% Indians or more were tied to agriculture, toiled in the fields, often looking up towards the sky for rains, worrying about debt, the village moneylender, and worst case starvation and disease.

Yes, that was the short one :-)

Now the long answer. Just to warn you, this turned out to be much longer than I had planned for. Appreciate any feedback on what can be removed. (Bonus: it comes with pictures) -

British India (1857 - 1947) - During this period, the Provinces (called Presidencies or Presidency towns earlier) were collectively referred to as British India. The major provinces were Bengal, Madras, Bombay, United Provinces, Central Provinces, Punjab, Assam, and Burma.

Then there were 600 odd Princely states or Native states in the Indian subcontinent with major ones being Hyderabad, Mysore, Travancore, Jammu and Kashmir, Baroda, Gwalior. The British Crown had suzerainty over 175 of these Princely states that were generally the largest and most important. The remaining approximately 400 states were influenced by Agents answerable to the provincial governments of British India. Wonder why they were called Princely states? After all, their rulers had the native titles of Raja, Raje, Rana, Rao, Rawal, Sardar, Sardesai, Deshmukh, Thakur and none of these translate to the word Prince. It was meant to keep them a level or two below the Queen!


99% of those who experienced the British rule probably aren't there on Quora. So you'll have to rely on secondary accounts like mine.
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Only about 15% of India's population lived in the cities in those days. The villagers rarely saw a "gora".
I had asked my Grandfather a similar question when I was a kid. He was born in 1928 and hence was in his prime when the final struggle was going on. He lived in Darshnal, a small village 20 kms away from the city of Solapur, Maharashtra.
Guess how many whites he has seen in his life?
Zero till date.
It was not as though the Britishers were there with guns in hands, manning every police station in India, ruling us by brute force.
Most of the dirty work was dutifully carried out by our own urban educated brothers.
This is a gist of what he told me: "I felt happy on 15 August 1947..Heard Nehru's speech on radio but did not understand a word since it was in English. Nothing much changed in the villages. All big things anyway used to happen in cities. Life went on."
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That is it. To poor village folks like him who earn their bread daily, British rule and then Independence hardly meant anything at all. The story is different for Punjabis, Sindhis and Bengalis of course.
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So, should a conclusion be drawn that huge majority of India was either mourning the partition or was largely indifferent when Nehru proclaimed India's tryst with destiny from the Red fort? (come to think of it, maybe this is why he gave the speech in English..so that no one would understand him!)
This thought frightens me.
I asked this question to my paternal grandfather and from what I understood, life was pretty good in big towns and cities as compared to life in India post independence. My grandfather was born in what you could call an upper middle class family. My great-grandfather was an Accounts Officer in the Military Accounts Department in the Indian Civil Services, equivalent to a Central Group 'A' Civil-service today. My great-great-grandfather was a grain trader/merchant who had his own shop. They used to live in the city of Rawalpindi, Punjab now in Pakistan after the partition.
My grandfather said that life in those days was a lot better than post-independence. He said in particular that law and order in British India was respected and effectively enforced. Crime rates were also very low. It was the British Raj that brought modern amenities to India like the schools and universities, Railways, postal services, telegrams, electricity, canal irrigation systems, sewerage drainage, and water supply systems, etc.
My grandfather had done a small stint in the Military Accounts Department himself as a clerk and had the opportunity to work with a couple of British officers and said that they were very congenial.
At the end of the the day, they were not exactly the ruthless and mean white men that the Bollywood movies portray. They were just officers posted in an overseas location.
I also had a chance to interact with my maternal grandmother who came from a Zamindar(land owner) background from the district of Dera Ghazi Khan, Western Punjab now also in Pakistan. When I asked her about her life in the village, she did not mention the interference of the British in the day to day affairs. The Zamindars were the higher authorities in those days at the village level. The administration of the British in the villages was limited to a British District Officer/ Magistrate who enforced the law.
The movies probably exaggerate the relentless attitude of the British officers to bring out the patriotic element in the viewing audience. In all probability, the violence must have been some form of law enforcement.
However, this is just a view from the lives of two people and there could be different views. Also this view is geographically restricted to the province of Punjab and maybe life was different elsewhere.
However, in all reality the population of the British officers was so less that they probably did not go out looting and plundering on the streets. Sure, the British Crown had policies of high taxation and a general attitude to deplete the resources of the colony, but I don't think it was any different than the policies in the previous governments of the Princely states.

A real life story from British India, as told by my grandfather:

Once, during his school days, a teacher gave some homework for the class to do and he didn't do it. The next day, at school, the teacher was checking everyone's homework and punishing whoever had not done it. When my grandfather's turn came, he said this:

Teacher: Show me your homework.
He: Sir, I've done it but forgot my notebook at home (thinking that he will be spared of punishment).
Teacher: Okay, go to your home, get it and show to me.

After an hour, when the teacher was taking junior level class, he called my grandfather there.

Teacher: Show me your homework.
He: Sorry Sir, I didn't do it.

The teacher, obviously got angry and took his cane to punish him. My grandfather held his cane, saying that he should be punished in his class, not in front of the juniors.

During those days there used to be some kind of jury, who were mostly British, in schools to discuss any such teacher-student arguments. The matter went to the jury and after hearing the matter, they agreed that if teacher has to punish, it should be done in his class, and not in any other class.

This is one of the many interesting stories my grandfather used to tell me.

This gives us lesson that even if we have made a mistake, it should not stop us from raising our voice against something which we feel is wrong.


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