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Old August 26th, 2017, 12:50 PM   #1
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Indian empires - why were so ephemeral?


Both Indie and China are densely-populated state with sophisticated culture and ancient origin. Both countries are ethnically and religiously diversified. Despite its resemblances, histories of two states were quite different. China during most of its history has one unified centralized empire, meanwhile India was mix of many kingdoms, constantly fighting about hegemony. Indeed, some Indian rulers (Mauryan, Gupts, Mughals) succeeded to united greater part of Indian peninsula under his scepter, however all of these empires were ephemeral and quickly broke up into number of smaller warring states. Why?
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Old August 26th, 2017, 01:07 PM   #2

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I am by no means an expert on the subject, but I wil say that the "diveristy" is not comparable. China is overwhelmingly Han Chinese. India today has 22 official languages, 2000 dialects, 122 languages overall, and 220 that have dissapeared in the last 50 years.

There are dozens of ethnicities.

It is home to the wetttest, coldest, highest, and humidest places in earth. It has vast deserts seaprating people. Like Africa, it has a disease belt that sharply separates populations.

China today is 91.59% Han.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 01:11 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Troodon View Post
Both Indie and China are densely-populated state with sophisticated culture and ancient origin. Both countries are ethnically and religiously diversified. Despite its resemblances, histories of two states were quite different. China during most of its history has one unified centralized empire, meanwhile India was mix of many kingdoms, constantly fighting about hegemony. Indeed, some Indian rulers (Mauryan, Gupts, Mughals) succeeded to united greater part of Indian peninsula under his scepter, however all of these empires were ephemeral and quickly broke up into number of smaller warring states. Why?
Don't know much about China but what you say about India is mostly true, especially with regards to NW regions like present day Pakistan. I think since this region of South Asia was the most invaded, people assume that all of India was always fragmented. There were definitely exceptions to this general trend.South India was dominated by the Cholas and Chalukyas for the longest time, I think around 600 years. However, there was no chance for any one Indian group to dominate all others and impose their language/culture etc leading to a unified "Indian" identity. No group was that much more powerful than the other.

Last edited by Vayu; August 26th, 2017 at 01:13 PM.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 01:18 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by cachibatches View Post

It is home to the wetttest, coldest, highest, and humidest places in earth. It has vast deserts seaprating people. Like Africa, it has a disease belt that sharply separates populations.

China today is 91.59% Han.
Which disease belt? I'm Indian and I haven't heard of this lol.

Maybe some remote places in Sunderban areas but most India doesn't really have a "disease belt"
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Old August 26th, 2017, 01:31 PM   #5

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Which disease belt? I'm Indian and I haven't heard of this lol.

Maybe some remote places in Sunderban areas but most India doesn't really have a "disease belt"
Please remember that I started off saying that I am not an expert.

I read that India, like Africa, had bad malaria problems in ancient times, and that Indians too developed sickel cell anemia as a coping mechanism.

http://www.malariasite.com/malaria-india/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4510747/


I cannot soruce it at the moment, but I read that one of the reasons that India was so hard to conquer from without was that once invaders hit that malarial belt, they died. This served to widely separate people and explains why India is so heterogeneous.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 01:56 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by cachibatches View Post
Please remember that I started off saying that I am not an expert.

I read that India, like Africa, had bad malaria problems in ancient times, and that Indians too developed sickel cell anemia as a coping mechanism.

http://www.malariasite.com/malaria-india/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4510747/


I cannot soruce it at the moment, but I read that one of the reasons that India was so hard to conquer from without was that once invaders hit that malarial belt, they died. This served to widely separate people and explains why India is so heterogeneous.
If at all India was hard to conquer, it was because the wealth of the kingdoms, along with a strong martial tradition (in the time period we are talking about) , the best weapons in the world (wootz steel), large numbers of war elephants and massive hosts of infantry (many wielding longbows like the Welsh). However this is more pertinent to an empire like the Guptas and Mauryas and not the small status quo fiefdom types that were prevalent in the Northwest areas of present day Pakistan.

There is no record of invaders dying from disease except for Alexanderine accounts which needed an excuse for him not taking on Magadha at its prime.

India is not quite as tropical as people think and North India is basically extremely fertile farmland in its entirety.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 02:05 PM   #7

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" It is the commonest fallacy of present discussions to speak of India as if it were the home of a strongly-coherent united race. It makes me sick when I hear the Secretary of State saying of India, “She will do this and she will do that.” India is an abstraction, represented by a handful of politically-minded classes who have no means of intercourse with each other except in the English language, who have no real contact with the masses, who are incapable of giving them the guidance they require, and are animated in the main by very great hostility to this country. India is no more a political personality than Europe. India is a geographical term. It is no more a united nation than the Equator."


This speech was published as part of India: Speeches by the Rt. Hon. Winston S. Churchill (London: Thornton Butterworth, 1931), pp. 163-70. Winston Churchill had served in British India in the army. He knew his subject well.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 02:22 PM   #8

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After nearly 200 years of unleashing the most efficient war machine the world had seen that mulched a diverse sub-continent [more varied then Europe, as large but with twice the population] this is what [below] the British military might integrated by force of arms. A collage of peoples most of whom were unaware of each others existence. English was the language that allowed them have intercourse with each other.

Click the image to open in full size.



The environment is also staggeringly diverse. Sibi in Pakistan is one of the driest places on earth and Cherrapunchi in India is one of the wettest places on earth.

Sibi

Click the image to open in full size.



Cherrapunji

Click the image to open in full size.


And then there is everything in between. In terms of climate, flora, fauna and peoples.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 02:44 PM   #9
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Perhaps one of the reasons India empires didn't last long may be the lack of ruthlessness by the Indian rulers. It seems to Indian conquers did not seem to exterminate the conquered dynasty, and as a result the when the hold of the ruling dynasty weakened, the original kingdoms re-established themselves.

In China, at least in the Warring State Period, the conquered dynasties were exterminate, so when China experienced periods of disunity, where the central government broke apart, the previously conquered units didn't reappear, the new kingdoms were not along the lines of the previous kingdoms. In Indian, the individual kingdoms retained their identities.

It helped in China that a single ethnic group, dominated. The majority of Chinese shared a common language, writing, and social values. In India, although most of India shared a common religion, the languages of India could be quite different, the Dravidinian like Tamil and Indo-European language like Hindi from completely different family groups. And with the invasion of Muslims, significant parts India did not even share common writing script, and had a religion quite different from the predominate Hinduism. Also, I think Islam and Hinduism had greater differences between each other than Daoism, Taosim, Buddhism had with each other, at least as those religions were practiced in China.

India was more like Europe - within each region a common culture dominated, but politically fragmented. In Europe, the empires were even more temporary than India- Napoleon, Hittler tried to create an united Europe, but ultimately failed. Both India and Europe's nobility seem more firmly established, with entrenched rights that rulers in both regions could not easily remove - they could resist unification better. The Chinese government was more centralized, and the rights of Chinese nobility less established, making it easier to unify.
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Old August 26th, 2017, 02:45 PM   #10
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There are two important factors.

1)Chinese emperor was believed to be son of heaven, chosen to rule by deities. Has India developed similar ideology of divine mandate of power? I ask, because I'm not expert in Indian history.
2)Chinese emperors turned conquered lands into provinces, ruled by officials, appointed by emperor himself. Emperor sent his official to province and dismiss him, where he only pleased. Disloyal official could be so easily removed out of office and power. Meanwhile, indian emperors, generally allowed to subjected kings to remain power, as long, as they fulfill vassal's duties. Such system was very delicate. People at the peripheries of empire probably were more attached with local chiefs, than remove emperor.
Coming to power weak rulers could quickly lead to disintegration of empire, by breaking up once subjected kingdoms.
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