A Snapshot of India Across Five Millenia (2020, 1020, 20, 980 B.C. and 1980 B.C.)

The last year was not one of the most desirable years, to be precise. 2020 is a year which would be remembered for years due to the onslaught of the SARS-COVID-19 pandemic. In India, it has certainly been worse – since it had seen the death toll rising to the second highest in the world. This large problem is coupled with the protests against various government acts, be it Citizenship Ammendment Act or the three farmer bills. These protests did not only restrict itself as a protest but led to mass anarchy and riots. On top of that, the second and parts of third quarter was spent in a lockdown which led to a macroeconomic disaster, which worked in tandem with the existing problem of transportation of migrant labour. However, today we are not going to delve into political discussions. In this article, I am about to show a time lapse of snapshots from India and what happened in this subcontinent over the last five millennia in the exact year.

One millennium ago, it was 1020 AD. To assess how you would live in India during this time, imagine a seat belt drawn across India from the borders of Nepal, through Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and ending in the Sindhudurg district of Maharashtra (the southernmost district bordering Kerala). To the west of this seat-belt, would be the areas Mahmud of Ghazni invaded ransacked and plundered. Mahmud first arrived in the year 1008 and carried out sixteen invasions, while defeating the Indian Confederacy – a conglomerate kingdom of Kannauj, Ajmer, Delhi and three others. In each invasion of his, he would be satisfied with the enormous wealth so that he doesn’t attack again. And he did attack again. He finally demolished the Somnath Temple in Gujarat in the year 1025. Things certainly did not look rosy in the year 1020.

You would believe why did I ask you to picturize the imaginary seat belt? This is because on the east side of the seat-belt, you would experience a polar opposite India. King Rajendra had been the king of the Chola Empire for six years since his coronation in 1014, back then. He had stretched his kingdom all the way to modern day Bengal parallel to the East Coast. He had even established maritime trade with a lot of places in South East Asia. If you were living as a merchant during this phase, you would have struck gold. India was the global leader in terms of GDP back then – and most of the contribution is shouldered by the southern kings. Also, just like in modern days, your geographical location and societal position would determine your lifestyle.

Let’s take a step back and check what happened during the year: 20 A.D. Not a lot is taught in schools about this period save for two things. One, it belongs to the classical ancient period and two, it is marked by the beginning of the Mauryas and the last king of the Guptas. However, we need to dig into the details to find out what happened in India during this time. New languages broke away from old language branches. The Magadhan language broke off into the Proto-Odia (proto refers to ancient) and proto-Gauda Kamarupa which further got divided into Bengali and Assamese later on after the fifth century. However, we are to talk about 20 A.D. and all we know is, languages are breaking from their branches. Hence, one might be correct to assume a lot of literary translation took place during this time. Sangam literature, for example, flourished.

India, right now, had almost one-quarter to one-third (25 to 33%) of the worldwide GDP and was a behemoth of sorts when it came to global economy. In comparison, the current U.S.A. controls only 16% of the global GDP. The most dominant kingdom during this time were the Satvahana kingdom who ruled in the places of Amravati in modern day Andhra Pradesh to Prathisthan or Paithan in Maharashtra. Although even Satvahana kingdom was on the decline at this point of time. In its earlier heydays, the Satvahana kingdom was a strong one which faced several attacks from the Saka and the Yavana kingdoms. This was a time where Hinduism and Buddhism were the dominant religions and existed in tandem with each other. Buddhists texts written during this time period was later taken back to China by Xuanzang (Anglicised name: Hiuen Tsang).

In 980 B.C., the rivers started changing routes. Nothing specific regarding this particular year is known to common Indians. History during this time is approximated in century and not an exact date unless an extremely well-known incident happened that year. Either that, or unless there is enough materials to prove their dates for eg. carbon dating for humans and other living beings. We also know what happened during that phase more or less. Four kingdoms out of sixteen Mahajanapadas or “Union of Republics” were famous during this age. They were the Panchala, Kuru, Kosala and Videha. 980 B.C. would be classified as the Iron Age of India. Hastinapur and Indraprastha were the leading states where new weaponries were being formed.

1980 B.C. Surprisingly, we have more data about what happened during 1980 B.C. rather than 980 B.C.  This was a year which marked the decline of the Harappan civilization. Entire cities of Mohenjo Daro and Harappa which were formed and had thrived since millennia were now on the verge of both geological and environmental collapse. Since these sites are in modern-day-Pakistan, we can also check what happened in today’s India. Skeletons are found in Adichanallur in the year 2018 which date back to this time. This was also the time when proto-Indo-Iranian literature broke away to form two distinct languages i.e. the precursor to the northern Indian languages. In the south, Proto-Dravidian language were spoken, a kind of Tamil which is as intelligible to today’s Tamil as today’s Tamil to an average person living in Lucknow. In short, the concept of India as a multifaceted linguistic being was being formalized during this phase. Across five millennia, if our nation has taught us anything, it is to endure and move ahead despite any circumstance.

Was it worth reading? Let us know.