Why Wasn't India United Before?

Aug 2016
753
USA
#1
India seems like a good candidate for one empire to essentially dominate the entire region. Himalayas non-withstanding, it is mostly flat land assumedly easily traversed by armies. There are several large rivers to facilitate trade and transportation all across it. It's not in central Asia and subject to invasion by migrating nomads. During most of its history the region either wasn't touching China or it had the tallest mountain range in the world between itself and it's strongest neighbor. It was right between the middle-east and SE Asia, so it's rulers would've benefited from tariffs on trade between the two areas.

Previous to the British empire, the largest empire in it was the Mauryans, who nearly conquered the entire region.
Why wasn't their success ever repeated?
What allowed them to succeed despite the logistical issues that come with empires existing in the classical era?
 

kandal

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,239
USA
#2
There was no one strong, clever, and ambitious enough to conquer the whole South Asia and hold it long enough to call it an empire. Those who tried it found it tough going and couldn't finish it. Last Moghul emperor Aurangazeb's trials in the South are an example of how difficult the task was.

The Mauryan empire was not really a politically unified empire, since its rulers didn't conquer all the lands that are usually shown as a part of it. Various kingdoms pledged allegiance to the peace doctrine of Maurya Emperor Ashoka. Actually he tried conquest but also found it too hard - his conquest of Kalinga in the South, for example. He gave it up and chose peaceful coexistence.
 
Last edited:
Jun 2017
401
usa
#5
I do not think Indians gave much importance to political unity of the subcontinent. There was always a cultural and spiritual unity and that mattered more. No one was stopped from visiting any spiritual/religious place of another kingdom or taxed for it.
Nation states is a pretty recent phenomenon.
 
Likes: rvsakhadeo
Aug 2010
14,647
Wessex
#6
India was actually much like Europe, there was no particular reason why it should have become unfied, even if quite large parts of it were unified under empires at one time or another. Even if one were thinking in terms of the modern idea of a nation state, India as a whole is not one's obvious idea of a nation, being very diverse; except perhaps in terms of geographical neatness (the subcontinent extemnding into the ocean, but then Europe projects from the Asian continent in much the same way). I would say that it is as result of historical contingencies that India came to be united and Europe didn't, things could easily have turned out otherwise!
 
Last edited:

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
3,872
India
#7
I do not think Indians gave much importance to political unity of the subcontinent. There was always a cultural and spiritual unity and that mattered more. No one was stopped from visiting any spiritual/religious place of another kingdom or taxed for it.
Nation states is a pretty recent phenomenon.
All major nations in the world had been fragmented for most of the history, be it Germany, Italy or Greece. China of 1912-1950 was pretty much like Mughal Empire of 1857, the KMT only ruled government in name, but real control of the country was with regional warlord, it was CCP that united the country under the single government.
 

Devdas

Ad Honorem
Apr 2015
3,872
India
#8
India was actually much like Europe, there was no particular reason why it should have become unfied, even if quite large parts of it were unified under empires at one time or another. Even if one were thinking in terms of the modern idea of a nation state, India as a whole is not one's obvious idea of a nation, being very diverse; except perhaps in terms of geographical neatness (the subcontinent extemnding into the ocean, but then Europe projects from the Asian continent in much the same way). I would sayy that it is as result of historical contingencies that India came to be united and Europe didn't, things could easily have turned out otherwise!
Well, nationalism is all about sense of common historical homeland, common history and culture and political system with two pan-national political parties , that sense actually exists among Indian people. With this, the question of "could not be" should be brushed off.

Although India is diverse, but India has only 12-13 spoken languages by majority of the Indians, Hindi-Urdu together spoken by almost of half of the population. In Europe, major of ethnic group gives a strong sense historical scar from neighbouring ethnic group or world powers of those times, the fight of historical empires often linked to the ethnic group.
 
Likes: Futurist
Aug 2010
14,647
Wessex
#9
I am not denying that India has become a coherent nation state, and that the possibility was there, but national identities are created as a result of complicated processes of history, and things could easily have turned out differently, as they have in Europe; in other words, there is nothing surprising in the fact that the subcontinent was not unified earlier, and it would be wrong to suggest that it was inevitable that it should be unified, or that it would somehow be wrong for it not to be unified.
 

Aupmanyav

Ad Honorem
Jun 2014
4,482
New Delhi, India
#10
India was founded as Aparthid Nation by Vedic Aryans. As soon as they started to assimilate locals into their Fold their nation started to crumble.
There was no Aryan nation in India. They had village republics (Vish) or at the most small kingdoms. All this talk of puranic emperors is the result of imaginative story-telling. Aryans quickly melted in the indigenous population, there were no conflicts. Sure, in the beginning, they tried to foster Vedic rituals, but the indigenous largely rejected them.
.. there is nothing surprising in the fact that the subcontinent was not unified earlier, and it would be wrong to suggest that it was inevitable that it should be unified, or that it would somehow be wrong for it not to be unified.
True, nothing surprising. Depends on how things shape up at any time. What if India was not partitioned? What if different regions of India insisted on their separate identities? Many things could have happened.
 
Last edited:

Similar History Discussions