India and Pakistan: A General and Regional Geography

India and Pakistan: A General and Regional Geography

India and Pakistan: A General and Regional Geography

India and Pakistan: A General and Regional Geography

Excerpt

The lands which until August 15th, 1947, formed the Indian Empire, and are now divided into the Republic of India and the Dominion of Pakistan, were never one country until welded together by British power. At long intervals, indeed, a single dynast secured loose but nearly universal sway; nor did the British themselves administer the sub-continent as a whole, large areas and populations remaining under vassal Indian rulers. But the British connection brought to most of India a common system of administration and law, railways, a common language for the intelligentsia, new forms of economic organisation, new ideals of polity. To the extent that these transcended the fantastically interlocking internal divisions, India became one country; in that lay the British achievement.

Persians and Greeks extended the name Sindhu--'the river'--from the Indus, to which it belonged, to cover such of the land as they knew; and hence the Muslim name Hindustan, properly applied to the area of most firmly based Islamic power in the north. Beyond the Narbada and the Chota Nagpur jungles, which lie across the root of the Peninsula, was the Deccan, the Sanskrit Dakshinapatha or 'Southland'; beyond the Kistna again Tamilnad lived its own life, inheriting the most ancient traditions of Hinduism, perhaps affiliated to the pre-Aryan Indus civilisation, itself contemporary with the early empires of Mesopotamia and Egypt. In Hindu literature the sub-continent as a whole is styled Bharata-Varsha, the land of the legendary King Bharata; but it seems safe to say that there was little feeling of identity over the whole country.

Yet for twenty-five centuries at least the entire area, a few margins and enclaves apart, has received the impress of the complex, hardly definable, but always easily recognisable culture of Hinduism, which indeed, with Buddhism, once stretched beyond the Wn borders to the Hindu Kush. Those regions where the cultural landscape displays few or none of the tokens of Hinduism are for the most part mountainous and arid, mountainous and cold, or mountainous and jungle-clad: the Islamic hill country of the Wn Borderlands, the Buddhist high Himalaya in the N, in the E the hills of the Burma border inhabited by a congeries of spirit- worshipping Mongoloid tribes.

Historically, then, it seems pointless to stress the facts that 'India' was rarely (if ever) a single political entity and that its peoples, in common speech at least, had no one name for the whole. For at least two centuries there has been sufficient definiteness about the idea of 'India' to make . . .

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