India has a glorious past and rich cultural heritage. The past centuries have seen several rulers establishing their empires and dynasties. These rulers were not only great warriors but some way or the other they have contributed to the development of the country.
Let us have a look at some of the most influential rulers of India whose presence can still be felt:
Ashoka (265-238 BC): The last ruler of the Mauryan dynasty, Ashoka is still known for his reign. He played a pivotal role in expanding Buddhism in the country. Following the ‘conquest of Dharma’, he spread the preachings of Buddhism through inscriptions on rock and pillar edicts. One of the finest examples of his contribution is Sarnath, which is also the emblem of the present day India. Ashoka is considered to be one of the ideal rulers of the country. With Ashoka’s death, the empire lost an idealistic ruler and it ended within 50 years.
Samudragupta (335-375 CE): He was considered as an epitome of an “ideal King” and the Gupta era is referred to as the “golden age of India”. Samudragupta was a great warrior and a generous ruler. The qualities of Samudragupta could be proved from the fact that he was chosen as the successor by his father Chandragupta I, although he was not his eldest son. During the reign of both father and son, art and science reached its peak in India. They also formulated a full-fledged currency system with minted gold coins.
Harshvardhan (590-647 AD): Popularly known as Harsha, Harshavardhan ruled North India from his capital in Kanuaj. He is believed to have consolidated central India. The founder of the Empire of Harsha, he was known to have expanded his empire in North and Central India. At the confluence of three rivers (Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati), Harsha began to celebrate a festival every five years. During the celebrations, he donated all his personal belongings. The occasion is said to be the beginning of the Kumbha Mela which is still celebrated in India.
Prithviraj Chauhan (1166-1192 AD): One of the greatest warrior kings in the history of India, Prithviraj Chauhan is known for his valour and heroic nature. The gallantry he showed in the battle of Tarain made him victorious against the Muslim ruler Muhammad Ghori. Although, he was defeated in the second battle of Tarain, Prithviraj Chauhan is still remembered for his gallantry. Interestingly, Prithviraj Chauahn’s elopement with Samyukta, the daughter of Jai Chandra Rathod of Kannauj, is one of the most romantic tales in the history of India.
Razia Sultan (1236-1240 AD): The first and the only woman ruler during the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal era, Razia Sultan was an efficient ruler and a strong Monarch. She succeeded her father Shams-ud-din Iltutmish. During her reign, she tried to improve the infrastructure of the country and built roads, wells and encouraged trade. She also established academic centres, schools and public libraries. The brave and fearless lady is still remembered as one of the strongest women rulers in the history of India.
Krishnadevaraya (1509-1529 AD): The third ruler of the Vijaynagar Empire, Krishnadevaraya was one of the greatest rulers of southern India. During his reign he had defeated many rulers such as the Sultans of Bijapur and Golconda, Bahmani Sultanate and the Raja of Odisha. He is known for his military tactics as it is said that on several occasions, he would change the battle plans instantly and turn a losing battle into a victory. He was a ruler who had faith in different religions and love for several languages and cultures (he had encouraged literature in different languages).
Akbar (1556-1605 AD): One of the greatest Mughal rulers, Jalāl al-Dīn Muḥammad Akbar aka Akbar has ruled the country for almost half a century. With his warfare tactics he had won many battles which resulted in expansion of the Mughal rule in almost the entire Indian subcontinent. He believed in cultural integration as he respected all religions. The reforms and programmes introduced by Akbar in administration and financial systems brought a change in the lives of the people of India. The Patwari system introduced during his reign is still practiced in the Indian subcontinent. The architectural marvels built by Akbar are the gifts to the country and are still admired and recognised worldwide.
Shivaji (1674-80 AD): The founder of the Maratha Empire and popularly known as Chhatrapati Shivaji, he is also considered the greatest King of the empire. Under his rule, which was based on religious toleration, the entire country was united. He was one of the few leaders to lead resistance movement against the Mughals and the Adishahi Sultanate of Bijapur. Shivaji invented and introduced a new technique of fighting known as “Guerrilla Warfare”, which is useful in attacking enemies without the knowledge of their location.
Tipu Sultan (1782-1799 AD): The sultan of Mysore, Tipu Sultan was a famous ruler of southern India in the late 18th century. During his reign, he introduced some innovations such as a Mauludi lunisolar calendar, coinage and a new land revenue system which led to the growth of the Mysore silk industry. He is well-known for his innovative use of rocketry in his military tactics. He used a 2 km missile against the British army during the Third Anglo-Mysore war at the end of the 18th century.
Ranjit Singh (1801-1839 AD): Maharaja Ranjit Singh was the founder of the Sikh Empire in India. The foundation of his empire was based on Khalsa but non-Sikhs too were given commanding positions. Although he suffered an eye loss during childhood, he overcome this barrier and made an empire on his own. The gold and intricate marble work at Harmandir Sahib, the holiest gurudwara was conducted by Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He also built other gurudwaras which are considered sacred temple for the Sikhs worldwide, even today.