Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Three year long botanical study confirms Ramayan is not a myth

Three year long botanical study confirms Ramayan is not a myth - Sanskriti - Indian Culture
By Sanskriti on May 23, 2015

People who belittle Ramayan as a mythology or a mere epic and Lord Ram as a fictitious character should be ready to give up their skepticism. Couple of years ago, two Chennai-based botanists came out with a three-year-long study which establishes that the Ramayan is a true life story authored by Valmiki, incorporating facts, figures, science and environment of the period.

All 182 plants (including flowers, trees, fruits) mentioned in the Ramayan have been found to be true. M Amrithalingam and P Sudhakar, the two botanists working with the CPR Environmental Education Centre, Chennai, said they could confirm the existence of the flora and fauna mentioned by Valmiki in the Ramayan.

“We tracked the route travelled by Lord Ram, Sita and Lakshman from Ayodhya in the north to south as part of their exile to the forest for 14 years. To our surprise, we could identify all the plant species in the Ramayan mentioned by Valmiki along this route,” Amrithalingam told The Pioneer. As a taxonomist, Sudhakar confirmed the plant variety with their Sanskrit and Latin names.

The duo commenced their journey from Ayodhya and reached Chitrakuta’s tropical and deciduous forest. “Valmiki knew his flora, fauna and the geography. What we found was that the same flora and fauna existed in the same places as written in the epic,” pointed out Nanditha Krishna, director, CPREEC, who supervised the project.

According to Krishna, the Ramayan is geographically very correct. “All sites in their route are still identifiable and has continuing traditions. It is not possible for a person to just write something out of his imagination and fit it into local folklore for greater credibility. Valmiki has not erred anywhere while specifying the plant species, flowers and wild animals,” she said.

Sudhakar pointed out that in the Ramayan, Ram, Sita and Lakshman were warned to be cautious while they entered Dandakaranya forests. “This forest had lions and tigers. Now there are no lions in the area. This is because they were killed by poachers over the centuries. But the rocks in the famous Bhimbetka has prehistoric paintings of lion and tigers together which confirm Valmiki’s observation,” he said.

Amrithalingam and Sudhakar journeyed from Dandakaranya to Panchavati and Kishkinda. “We found that Kishkinda has a dry and moist climate which synchronises with what Valmiki has authored,” said Amrithalingam.

Chitrakuta and Dandakaranya regions mentioned in the epic are spread across the modern day Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Andhra Pradesh, according to Krishna. Panchavati, from where Sita was abducted by Ravan, is situated on the banks of River Godavari on modern Maharashtra. “Diverse types of animal and bird species of this region have been mentioned by Valmiki. These include hamsa (swan), karandava (coot), kraunca (pond heron), Mayura (peacock) and sarasa (crane). These are all visible in the region even today,” said Krishna.

Lord Ram in his conversation with Sita and Lakshman speaks about the significance of plants and trees which they come across during their journey. “Even today we have Sthala Vriksha (trees associated with each location) and plants which are worshipped. Tulsi, banyan, punnaga are some examples to substantiate the theory that Ramayana is not just a story but a chronicle,’ said Krishna.

The research took them to Sri Lanka where too they found the flora and fauna which are all mentioned in the Ramayan. Ravan’s botanical garden was known as Ashoka Vana because of the presence of Ashoka trees. “The evergreen Ashoka Vana could be described as a garden where nature is portrayed in all its glory,” said Amrithalingam.

According to Krishna, Valmiki knew what he was writing about. “Unless he was thorough about the topography, geography and ecology of the region, he could not have provided such sharp and precise observation of the time, place and location,” she said. The findings of Amrithalingam and Sudhakar has been published in the format of a book titled “Plant and Animal Diversity in Valmiki’s Ramayan”.
~ Kumar Chellappan


The Myth Of St. Thomas

The Myth Of St. Thomas: Part One
The legend of Thomas’ Martyrdom in the hands of Brahmins has its origin an ignorant and intentional misreading of an inscription.

In an article recently published by Haaretz, it has been claimed that Saint Thomas was murdered by jealous Brahmin priests of Kali with the headline– 72 CE: Thomas the Apostle Is Murdered in India.The official website of Saint Thomas(Santhome) church states-

St Thomas, one of the twelve Apostles of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, walked on the sands of Mylapore and preached the Gospel to the people who embraced Christianity. This great Apostle was martyred on St Thomas Mount, near Mylapore in the year 72 AD and his mortal remains were buried in Santhome in the Church built by him….

The claims are summarised as follows
  • Saint Thomas, one of the twelve apostles of Christ, came to India in 52 AD.
  • He preached gospel and converted a lot of people.
  • The jealous Hindu Brahmin priests killed him by piercing him with spears.
  • His relics are still enshrined in Santhome church in Mylapore, Madras.

The first part of our article concerns itself solely with the third claim. We trace the historical origin and formation of the legend that Saint Thomas was killed by jealous Brahmin priests.

The Portuguese Crusade

As soon as they reached Calicut in 1498, the Portuguese announced that they were looking for spices and “Christians” . In Kerala, the Portuguese encountered Christians who were mostly known as “Syrians” and “Thomas Christians”. 

The search for “Christians” was obviously a justification and legitimization of future conquests. The Portuguese could simply portray their future conquests as a crusade to reconquer lost Christian lands. 

The Portuguese also claimed that conquest of non-Christian lands was an accomplishment that could closely precedent last Judgement. Portuguese historian Ameal sums up the Portuguese age of expansion as follows-

Wherever the Portuguese fleet cast anchor in the past, barbarity disappeared while the idols of tyranny, hatred, and gold were replaced by the cross of Christ. No colonization was more beautiful and noble….

Thus, it is clear that Portuguese conquest/expansion and Christianization went hand in hand.

India and Christianity

The tales of “Thomas in India” were well known throughout Europe in the medieval age. 

Hagiographical Latin works on Saint Thomas such as Flos sanctorum, De miraculis beati Thomae apostoli and Passio Sancti Thomae were well known in literary circles. These Latin works were not a faithful translation of the original Christian apocryphal scripture, Acts of Thomas, but further reworkings of it.

Given this background, it is no surprise that as early as 1507, the Portuguese Viceroy Almeida sent out a preliminary expedition to south to look for the tomb of St Thomas the Apostle . As observed, any discovery of St. Thomas would legitimise their conquests. However, the first mission was a total failure and Portuguese failed to find what they were looking for.

Thomas Legends procured from native “Thomas” Christians

As a part of this grand project, Portuguese writer Duarte Barbosa completed his work “Geographical compendium of Portuguese Asia”(c.1518). He provided his account of the life and death of St. Thomas in India by reproducing the oral stories of the St. Thomas Christians from the region of Kollam(Kerala).

This account of St. Thomas in India, based on the oral stories, was full of myths. Relevant to us, however, is a striking reference on the “martyrdom” of saint Thomas. The miracle worker Thomas transformed himself into a peacock and wandered around. A low caste govi hunter shot at it. The hunter was shocked when the peacock retransformed itself into its original form of Saint Thomas.

Thus,in the earliest legends of Thomas Christians, St. Thomas was killed not by jealous Brahmins but by a low caste hunter who mistook him for a peacock. The legend of transformation of Thomas into peacock prior to his accidental death at the hands of a hunter was also noted centuries earlier by Marco Polo(1296) who collected his legends from the accounts of local Christians.

We pause and ask, why did Barbosa rely on the local accounts of St. Thomas Christians to reconstruct the history and martyrdom of St. Thomas? The Acts of Thomas which talked about martyrdom of Thomas in “India” was an old Apocryphal Biblical text. As noted, the Europeans had their own medieval accounts of Thomas’ martyrdom.

The Portuguese considered St. Thomas Christians as “heretics” and “Nestorians” and would soon force the Catholic religion upon them. Why did the Portuguese adopt late mythical foreign accounts of Hinduised “heretics” and discard their own versions of Thomas legend?

The answer lies in the fact that the Apocryphal text Acts of Thomas(written 3rd century) was never received very well in Christendom. As early as 310 AD, foremost early Christian historian and bishop Eusebius classified apocryphal acts as “heretical works” written by the “wicked and impious”.

Epiphanus of Salamis( 370AD) testified that Acts of Thomas were used by the “heretic Encratites”. After protestant reformations, the Catholics began a counter reformation movement and embraced stricter orthodoxy. The Acts would soon be condemned in the Catholic Council of Trent(1548 AD). Although not translations, the medieval works on saints were still based on Acts. Hence, even these works were considered “unorthodox”.

There is also another reason for discarding the western legends. According to the Acts of Thomas, the body of St. Thomas was taken to the West after his death.Ephraim the Syrian(d.377) mentioned that the body of Thomas was venerated in Edessa(Syria) .

Gregory of Tours (583-594) evoked the Syrian tradition in shifting St.Thomas’s burial from India to Edessa. By 1258,it was taken to Ortona, Italy where the skeleton of St. Thomas is venerated to this day. The Vatican also acknowledged these relics of “Thomas” with “deed of verification” meaning that the Christendom considers it to be the ‘real skeleton’ of St. Thomas.

Even in the widely read Travels of Sir John Mandeville(c.1499), it was stated that Thomas’ body was taken to Edessa(Syria, now Turkey) from India after his death. Had Portuguese adopted the old western legends of Thomas, they could not have claimed any Thomas grave in India. But as we have noted before, this was crucial for legitimization of their conquests.

Geographical expansion of the site

In 1517, Armenian merchants came to the rescue of the Portuguese. They talked about a sepulchre of St. Thomas and persuaded a group of Portuguese returning from Melakka to travel to a site in Mylapore reputed to be St. Thomas’ tomb. When they arrived, what they found were partially ruined temples. Below we quote description of what the Portuguese saw when they arrived at supposed tomb of St. Thomas in Mylapore-

They found a vast expanse covered with buildings, for most part in ruins. Amongst these ancient remains were gopuras, towers, columns, stones covered with sculptures representing foliage, human figures, animals, birds of such exquisite workmanship that they could not have been finer even wrought in silver …

They found that the tomb was visited by heathens(Hindus) and Moors(Muslims), in addition to local Christians. Even Marco Polo had written centuries earlier that the tomb used to be visited by“Saracens(Muslims) and Christians.”

The tomb itself was managed by a Muslim who claimed it to be a tomb of a Muslim saint from Ethiopia. However, the presence of temples at the place of St. Thomas’ martyrdom should not have come as a surprise to Portuguese. Consider a more than century older testimony of Christian monk Odoric of Udine who recalled a visit he had made to this Tomb in 1322.

His church is filled with idols and beside it are fifteen houses of the Nestorians, that is to say Christians, but vile and pestilential heretics…

These Jesuit historians claim that this had been a temple of a Jogi which was appropriated by Thomas himself. But they are only partially correct. It was indeed a temple of a Jogi, but it is the Portuguese, not Thomas, who have appropriated it.They also found footprints which they considered to be those of St. Thomas. However, veneration of footprints is a Hindu-Jain-Buddhist practice.

We have further testimony from Manual Gomes, a Portuguese who took part in the expedition. They saw another tomb, which, they were sure, was that of St. Matthew the apostle and alleged author of canonical gospel.

The Portuguese then began reconstruction of this site, now called “St. Thomas chapel”. The tombs were opened one after the other and their bones exhumed. The Tamil inscription of what had until now been considered “St. Matthew’s Tomb” read as “tane mudaliar” and was found to be that of a Chola ruler. The Portuguese took a massive U turn.

Now, St. Matthew’s tomb became that of Chola ruler who had been a “disciple” of St. Thomas. It did not matter to them that the Chola ruler and St Thomas were separated by a time frame of 12 centuries. The tomb of “St. Thomas” was also exhumed. Among the finds was a wooden shaft of St. Thomas which miraculously survived for 15 centuries.

The Portuguese began their project and built churches all over the place. Retired Portuguese traders and Jesuit priests began to settle in Mylapore. A large number of locals were converted and a Christian colony in Mylapore was now a fact.

Brahminic(Jesuit?) reconstruction of Thomas’ Myth

The tomb of St. Thomas was located on Little Mount(chinna malai) of Mylapore. The Portuguese also constructed a chapel on Big Mount(Periya Malai) to the south east of tomb. One day, during an excavation on the Big Mount, the Portuguese claimed to have come across an exciting find. 

They suddenly found a cross with small “drops of blood” on its surface. They also found an inscription on it. They invited a learned Brahmin named Pingali Suranna to decipher the inscription. Suranna translated it much to the delight of Portuguese which read as follows-

During the time of the Sagamo laws, Thomas the divine man was sent by the Son of God (whose disciple he was) to these countries to lead the people of this nation to the knowledge of God, and he erected a temple and performed miracles and finally, while he was praying on his knees before this cross, he was pierced by a Brahman’s spear and this cross was tinged with his blood for eternal memory…..

It should be mentioned that this version of Thomas’ Martyrdom corresponds to the version Jesuit priests knew from their books such as Acts of Thomas. There is however an important difference. 

In the Acts of Thomas, Thomas was killed by the king because he converted the queen and instructed her not to have any sexual intercourse with the king. It seems Jesuits wanted to implicate Brahmins and localise the myth. It is interesting that Suranna words come across as though from a Jesuit’s mouth.

Now, the Thomas legend underwent major reconstructions. It wasn’t a peacock hunter who accidentally killed Thomas but a Brahmin who intentionally committed the deed. 

The Little mount(cinna malai) was no longer the resting place of Thomas. Thomas was pierced by a spear on the Little mount after which he fled to the Big Mount, finally dying there, clasping the cross. The Big Mount was now the final resting place of Thomas, as it is until today.

One wonders how the Brahmin Suranna was able to read the indecipherable inscription. Brahmins were trained in Vedas and traditional sciences such as mathematics(Ganita), astrology and Ayurveda, but not linguistic epigraphy. The Brahmins with all their knowledge had no idea what Brahmi script was.

Thanks to James Princep the epigraphist who deciphered Brahmi in 1837, we are in a much better position to understand Indian history. Now we now know what was inscribed on the cross, thanks to modern day Epigraphists. The inscription is in Pahlavi. It is dated to circa. 8th century CE. It read-

My Lord Christ, have pity on Afras, son of Chaharbukt the Syrian, who has carved this….

As we see, there is no mention of any St. Thomas, let alone his Martydom. Thus, the legend of Thomas’ Martyrdom in the hands of Brahmins has its origin an ignorant and intentional misreading of an inscription.

It is most likely, that the inscription was brought from Goa and deliberately planted it on the mount. Recently,a similar inscription was found at Goa. We will talk about this in great detail in the next part.

This 'Akbar' Created His Own Shiva Temple For The Public!

This 'Akbar' Is Such A Devout Shiva Bhakt, He's Created His Own Shiva Temple For The Public!
Whenever he was in trouble during younger days, he not only offered prayers at the nearby mosque but also worshiped Hindu deity Lord Shiva. He also visited temples with his friends and now this reverence for God has made 39-year-old Akbar Khan to construct a Lord Shiva temple.

Natesh Ramasamy/flickr

Before dedicating the temple to the public on April 30, Khan has organised invitation prayers of Lord Ganesha, a kalash yatra, a yagna and a bhajan sandhya at Tonk town in Rajasthan, almost 150 kms from here.

Khan cannot precisely remember when he started revering Lord Shiva. Recalling his inclination towards Lord Shiva, he said, "Whenever I was in trouble emotionally or financially, I had always prayed Lord Shiva and all my troubles vanished."

Natesh Ramasamy/flickr

"Allah kaho ya Ram, kya farak padta hai (Whether you say Allah or Ram it does not matter)," he said stressing the need of communal harmony.

The temple named 'Bhooteshwar Mahadev' is located in 100 square meters at Om Vihar Colony. The temple will not only have the idol of Lord Shiva but also have whole Shiva family. "I am thankful to Lord Shiva that he has chosen me for the task. I have constructed the temple without any financial help. There was no temple in Om Vihar Colony," said Khan, who runs a school in the town. "I got the idols from Sikandara in Dausa," he said.


Asked if he had faced any objections from his own community or other communities, he said, "I never faced any kind of objection. With this temple I would like to give a loud and clear message that whether you call Allah or you call Ram both are same. Members of all religion should respect each other's religion," he added.

"We have got idols having heights ranging from 3 feet to 5 feet. We will have idols of Parvati, and Lord Ganesha. Prior to that, we are organising a programme on April 28 to be started by a good number of pandits in which we will offer prayers to Lord Ganesha to come to the temple. This would be followed by a kalash yatra in which 251 women will participate on April 29. Then there would be a bhajan programme and yagna. From April 30 onwards, the temple would be open for the public," Akbar said.

Monday, 25 April 2016

DNA facts

APRIL 25, International DNA Day: 10 unbelievable facts about your DNA you must know

Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA is what makes each of us different from another: Read to know more about the amazing world of DNA.
International DNA Day

Every person is different, every soul unique. But what defines this exclusivity is something that eludes the human eye and only appears under a microscope.

Deoxyribonucleic acid or DNA carries the genetic structure of a living being and each differs from another.

April 25 is celebrated as International DNA Day. In 1953, biologists James Watson, Francis Crick, Maurice Wilkins, Rosalind Franklin and others published a few papers on the structure of DNA in 'Nature', the science journal.

On the 63rd anniversary of the discovery, we bring to you 10 amazing facts about DNA:











Friday, 22 April 2016

Visa to Chinese dissident leader a departure from policy?

India pays China in same coin, issues visa to its 'terrorist' Dolkun Isa

IFTIKHAR GILANI | Sat, 23 Apr 2016-07:00am , New Delhi , dna

Visa to Chinese dissident leader a departure from policy?

Even as China has for the first time publicly offered to meet India "half way" on the vexed boundary dispute, Prime Minister Modi government's anger at Beijing's justification of blocking the proposal at the UN to designate Pakistan-based terror group Jaish-e-Mohammad chief Masood Azhar a terrorist, doesn't seem to be waning away.

In a departure from the past, India has allowed Chinese dissidents – including the World Uyghur Congress leader Dolkun Isa -- from around the world to assemble in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh next week to hold an international conference seeking transition to democracy in the communist country. Dolkun has been dubbed as a "terrorist" by Beijing.

Dharamsala is also home to exiled Tibetan government. Dalai Lama is also expected to attend the conference. So far New Delhi would allow only Tibetans to protest against Chinese government policies. But in recent times, India has given visas to some of the dissident groups active in the neighbouring countries.

Earlier, officials on India and China said the border negotiations reached a stage for the political leadership on both sides to take a decision to reach a solution. In a significant statement, the Chinese foreign ministry has said both countries should "meet each other halfway" to reach a "fair and reasonable" political solution to the border dispute acceptable to both sides. Experts say, this shows Beijing's willingness to make concessions on the vexed issue.

As national security advisor Ajit Doval, who held border talks with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi, concluded his Beijing visit, China said in a statement that both sides had in-depth and candid exchanges on the boundary question, bilateral relations and relevant international and regional issues.

"In the meantime, the two countries should properly manage and handle disputes, strengthen consultations on boundary affairs and well safeguard peace and tranquility in boundary regions so as to create favourable conditions for the development of bilateral relations," the statement said.

External affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup, also said the discussions focused on two broad issues – one, efforts to find a fair, reasonable and mutually acceptable solution to the boundary question and two, maintenance of peace and tranquility in the border areas.

"On the first matter, both sides are discussing a framework and the 19th round carried forward these discussions. On the second issue, both sides agreed that no major incident had taken place in the last several months," Swarup said.

"They discussed various means to strengthen peace and tranquility in the border areas. In this context both sides agreed to establish a hotline between the two armed forces and we will now work out the modalities. While China has a claim on Arunachal Pradesh in eastern sector, India says, Aksai Chin in Ladakh area of Jammu and Kashmir was illegally occupied by China during the 1962 war.

Though, China is yet to react to the visit of leading Chinese dissident to Dharamshala conference, it is bound to develop into another irritant between the two countries. Dolkun Isa, who lives in Germany, has been invited to the conference being organised by the US-based 'Initiatives for China'. Uyghurs and many other Chinese dissidents in exile are expected to attend and discuss democratic transformation in China.

Expressing unhappiness about reports that Dolkun has been given the visa Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said, "What I want to point out is that Dolkun is a terrorist in red notice of the Interpol and Chinese police. Bringing him to justice is due obligation of relevant countries."

When asked about the issue, external affairs ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup said,"We have seen the media reports and external affairs ministry is trying to ascertain the facts."

Isa, who is still in Germany said he had an electronic visa to come to India next week for a pro-democracy conference to be held in Dharamsala. "I haven't decided yet on whether to come to India... I have got an electronic visa. The Chinese government is not happy, India should guarantee my security and free movement," he said. "China has put me on Interpol list since 1997. Most countries have just ignored it. India is a democracy. I don't think I'll be arrested but I don't want any difficulties either." Isa was given asylum in Germany in the 1990s. China had raised a huu and cry earlier, over Isa receiving a rights award in the United States.

Hundreds of people have been killed in unrest in Xinjiang in the past few years. The government blames the violence on Islamist militants wanting to establish an independent state called East Turkestan for ethnic minority Uighurs, a mostly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language and hail from Xinjiang.

The Sunday Times Rich List of Musicians

The Rolling Stones are collectively the richest band in Britain, according to the latest annual Sunday Times Rich List.

Paul McCartney and wife Nancy Shevell remain at the top of the rock music table, with a fortune of £760m, and U2 as a unit come second with £500m.

But Mick Jagger reaches third position on his own with £235m, while colleague Keith Richards is next with £220m. With the addition of Charlie Watts (11th) and Ronnie Wood (24) the band’s total value is £630m. They’re thought to have become wealthier by £40m over the past year.

The combined worth of Queen’s Brian May, Roger Taylor and John Deacon is £335m. 

Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones have amassed £268m between them, and Pink Floyd men Roger Waters, David Gilmour and Nick Mason total £235m. 

Genesis frontman Phil Collins and Peter Gabriel are valued at £155m between them.

The estate of the late David Bowie gives his widow Iman and son Duncan Jones a new entry to the rich list with £90m, while George Harrison’s widow Olivia and son Dhani enter with £220m.

The Sunday Times Rich List is compiled from available sources including land, property, other assets and shares. Bank accounts are not accessible. The 28th list will be published on April 24.

The Sunday Times Rich Top 10 list
1. Sir Paul McCartney and Nancy Shevell – £760m
2. Lord Lloyd-Webber – £715m
3. U2 – £500m
4. Sir Elton John – £280m
5. Sir Mick Jagger – £235m
6. Olivia and Dhani Harrison – £220m
7. Keith Richards – £220m
8. Ringo Starr – £200m
9. Michael Flatley – £198m
10. Sting – £185m

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

The 700-year-old Sino-Malayali link-‘Guli’s Children’

The 700-year-old Sino-Malayali linkDECCAN CHRONICLE. | POOJA NAIR
PublishedApr 19, 2016, 1:30 am IST
UpdatedApr 19, 2016, 6:39 pm IST
First screening at Malabar Christian College.

Dr Joe Thomas

KOZHIKODE: A Malayali family travelled over 5,000 kilometres all the way to China 700 years ago and settled there. The family’s 14th generation now lives in that country and some of the members still have the records of their forefathers and the connection between Kerala and China. 

These facts have been brought out in a 42-minute short film, ‘Guli’s Children,’ directed by Dr Joe Thomas, an IIT- Chennai assistant professor hailing from Kottayam.

He conducted a research spanning over two years and nearly 20,000 km of field work across India and China to explore the links between Kerala and China.
‘Guli’s Children’ (Guli in China is Calicut) will be first screened in Malabar Christian College here at 11 a.m. on April 20 and later in KTDC Raindrops conference hall in Chennai on April 22 . “The film is on the history of the relations between Kerala and China, and Calicut was an important node in the maritime links between China and India,” says Dr Joe.

“I got to see some of the members of the family, who still have the historical records of their forefathers and the connection between Kerala and China,” he says. “I have tried to bring out the cultural-historical ties from the time of the Song, Yuan and Ming dynasties between Kerala and China and locates physical artefacts and also traces the human genealogy that survive to this day,” he adds. He has portrayed Chinese commercial and social- cultural interaction with Southern India that peaked between the 12th and 15th centuries.

A number of Malabar ambassadors from Kozhikode went to China during the 14th and early 15th centuries. There are historical accounts in Chinese works that refer to connections with Kerala (chiefly Calicut, Cochin and Kollam), including works such as Yingyai Shenglan, Ming Shilu and Xingcha Shenglan, to name a few.

Calicut was an important nodal point in China's maritime outreach not only to South Asia but to West Asia and Africa as well. 

Not many people know that the famous Ming General, Zheng He, had erected a monument in Calicut in 1407 (presumed to be on the occasion of the king's coronation) during one of these voyages. 

The film is a work of non-fiction and is basically a visual representation of the research work. Dr Joe said that the real challenge of bringing out the film was to trace out the family who migrated to China long ago.

All-new Mahindra Thar in pipeline for 2018

All-new Mahindra Thar with 1.5-litre diesel engine in pipeline for 2018: Report
March 21, 2016 13:01 IST By Ken Sunny

New Mahindra TharPR handout

Off road enthusiasts rejoice. According to the latest reports, Mahindra engineers are currently working on an all-new Thar, which is expected to debut in 2018. The biggest addition would be an all new 1.5-litre mHawk engine.

According to a MotorOctane report, the new Thar will be a complete departure from the existing vehicle. The new model is expected to get an all-new advanced ladder frame platform, not a monocoque shell. The new engine, the 1.5-litre mHawk, is expected to deliver over 100bhp. The current Thar has been sold with 2.5-litre CRDe engine that develops 104bhp and 247Nm of torque mated to five-speed manual transmission. The downsizing of the engine for a new model is targeted at meeting the upcoming emission norms and also delivering better fuel efficiency.

Being a full blown 4x4 mahcine, the new Thar is expected to get latest technologies that will aid in off-roading. The dual front airbags and ABS can be expected as standard. It remains to be seen how Mahindra is going to update the exterior of Thar. The current silhouette is much appreciated by the off-road enthusiasts and updating without disappointing them will be a big task for Mahindra designers.

Mahindra & Mahindra launched Thar as the success of MM540 in 2010. The affordability and customisation friendly aspect of Thar made it a default choice for the new as well as expert off-road junkies. The company had given a mild update to the vehicle last year with a contemporary dashboard and new seats, while the exterior largely remained unchanged barring tweaks in from bumper.

Mahindra Thar 2018 Price in India, Launch, Features

By Narendra Sharma on March 28, 2016

One of the 4×4 Clubs has rendered as image of the new-generation Thar. Now, this isn’t actually how the Thar might look as it misses out on the seven vertical slats, which is a Mahindra signature. This design of the Thar makes it look appealing and it has a meld of modern and retro looks. The Mahindra on the front grille reminds of the Ford embossing on the F150.

Mahindra is working on an all new Thar which will see the light only by 2018. The new Thar will be a complete departure from the existing vehicle. It will be based on a new platform, which will a derivative of their new generation ladder frames.The Thar has been a consistent performer for Mahindra, as it has distinct markets for both its version which are the DI version and CRDe version. Mahindra had launched a facelift of the Thar last year, where it had added several upgrades like more contemporary looking interiors and also a rear differential lock.

With the adventure driving sport catching up in the country, Mahindra will look at further strengthening their position in this genre and offer a modern product to its loyal customers and also attract new customers in to the Mahindra family.
Mahindra Thar 2018 Engine and Transmission:

The New Mahindra Thar will make use of a new platform which will improve its rigidity. There will also be an all-new engine that will do duty in the Thar. This new engine will be a 1.5-litre unit that will be derived from the mHawk engine. It will churn out around 100bhp of power and around 240Nm of peak torque. This new engine will be a more frugal unit. The new-generation Thar will be torquey and at the same time it will even fuel-efficient. The new crash test norms mean that the Thar chassis will be lighter and this power will be more than sufficient. The currently used 2.5-litre CRDe has about 105bhp of power and 247Nm of torque. The difference between the power output is minor and the engine size is a lot smaller too. This engine is a lot more refined, better NVH and even fuel-efficient. Mahindra Thar’s new-generation will be modern, small and yet torquey. At the moment the only challenge that Mahindra faces is to make this engine to work on a 4×4.
Mahindra Thar 2018 suspension:

The Mahindra Thar 2018’s suspension will be spring and even the rear are likely to get the same treatment. The currently sold Thar has front independent on the higher variants, while the rear are leaf springs. Expect the leaf springs to be replaced this time. The Mahindra Thar 2018 will have much better on the road manners too, when compared to the current Thar.
Mahindra Thar 2018 Safety Features:

The All-New Thar will get a contemporary styling with neater lines but will retain its butchy and rugged looks. This adventure vehicle will also get Airbags and ABS
Mahindra Thar 2018 Launch Date:

The Mahindra Thar 2018 will be launched by mid 2018. The company might build this on theTUV300’s platform. This is the same platform on which even the new Bolero is likely to be made. Mahindra will discontinue the current Thar as it will not be able to meet the 2018/19 crash test regulations.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Karunanidhi - Electoral history

Published: March 21, 2016 01:44 IST | Updated: March 21, 2016 02:04 IST Chennai, March 21, 2016

An unmatched appetite for winning elections

D. Suresh Kumar

The man who has had an invincible run in electoral battles, M. Karunanidhi is as confident as ever.

When Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam president M. Karunanidhi was first elected to the Tamil Nadu Assembly in 1957, from the Kulithalai Assembly constituency in the composite Thanjavur district as an Independent candidate (the DMK was then not a recognised party), Jawaharlal Nehru was India’s Prime Minister.

Now, when the fourth generation of the Nehru family is in politics, the nonagenarian from the Dravidian heartland is still hungry for success in the electoral battlefield. His electoral contemporary since 1957, K. Anbazhagan, DMK general secretary, has retired, paving the way for a possible political baptism of a grandson.

The DMK warhorse’s electoral winning record is perhaps unmatched in the country.
Mr. Karunanidhi had been successful in each of the 12 Assembly elections he had contested. While he represented the rural constituencies of Kulithalai (1957), Thanjavur (1962) and Thiruvarur (2011) for a term each in the Assembly, he was twice elected from Saidapet (1967 & 1971), Anna Nagar (1977 & 1980) and Harbour (1989 & 1991) in Chennai. Voters in Chepauk in the State capital elected him in 1996, 2001 and 2006.

His winning streak would have been another notch higher had he contested in 1984, when his friend-turned-foe and AIADMK founder M.G. Ramachandran, or MGR, famously won lying in a hospital bed in Brooklyn, U.S. Mr. Karunanidhi chose to stay away as he had been elected to the then Legislative Council after resigning as an MLA in 1983 in protest against the attack on ethnic Tamils in Sri Lanka.

Mr. Karunanidhi managed to enter the Assembly even while his party lost on five occasions. Two such victories would stand out. In 1980, when MGR fielded H.V. Hande, a medical practitioner in Anna Nagar, against Mr. Karunanidhi, the DMK president faced his toughest electoral battle. He scraped through by a margin of 699 votes.

The next close call was in 1991 when he was the lone DMK candidate to win, but by a thin margin of 890 votes in Harbour (another candidate won in a by-election), as the AIADMK-Congress combine swept to power on the sympathy wave generated by the assassination of the former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi in Sriperumbudur. But he resigned his membership.

Karuna’s Kutumbam
Gopu Mohan Posted online: Sun May 31 2009, 00:24 hrs

His elder son M.K. Azhagiri and grand-nephew Dayanidhi Maran have got Cabinet berths and younger son Stalin is now Tamil Nadu’s deputy chief minister.

DMK leader M.K. Karunanidhi’s life is the story of a movement and a party that’s now a family affair

This is the story of a patriarch and his kin. Spanning a time frame of over eight decades, this is also a story of their politics and its connection to the future of a party and a movement, two factors that contributed immensely in shaping the destiny of Tamil Nadu.

His story takes you back to Thirukkuvalai, one among hundreds of obscure villages in the then Madras Presidency, to June 3, 1924. The Muthuvel-Anjugam family was a humble rural household. In fact, the birth of the boy who went on to become five-time Chief Minister and ten-time president of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Muthuvel Karunanidhi, was no longer the biggest event by the following morning: a thief who broke into their house stole his thunder.

Fourteen years later, Karunanidhi became the leader of a small group of youngsters, Tamil Students Federation, who grew up with the Self Respect Movement led by Dravidian icon Periyar (The Elder) E.V. Ramasamy. The movement that started in 1925 had given special significance to words to spread its social reform agenda. Even when he was young, Karunanidhi had a way with language that made him special among the backward class’s assertive new generation. By then, he had started an eight-page, handwritten magazine called Manavar Nesan to be circulated at a zero-profit basis among 50 people. This craft became especially useful for the group of elders during the Dravidian movement and also during the birth of its political form, the DMK, in 1949.

His elder sister Shanmugasundarathammal’s son Maran was one of the youngest members of the youth brigade led by Karunanidhi—the second one from the family to enter public life. Karunanidhi married Padmavathy, daughter of musician ‘Pataka’ Sundaram Pillai and sister of singer C.S. Jayaraman, at the age of 20, around the same time he wrote the script of his first movie, Rajakumari.

BY 1967, DMK had drummed up enough support from the masses to install its president C.N. Annadurai as Chief Minister, the first non-Congress Chief Minister. The South Chennai parliamentary seat that he vacated went to Murasoli Maran, the influential second-rung leader of the party and editor of Murasoli, the monthly-turned-weekly-turned-daily that Karunanidhi launched as an 18-year-old.

There are stories that trace dynastic tendencies to that period, alleging that Karunanidhi, the then PWD minister, recommended his nephew Maran’s name as the potential candidate as ‘he was qualified and could speak English’ in the national Capital. However, it is equally true that Maran’s credentials in the party and the movement were as good as anybody else’s.

If the first instance of family promotion was considered automatic, the second one was planned and executed, but ended in a disaster. By the ’60s, when he became one of the leading members of the DMK, much had changed in Karunanidhi’s personal life. Padmavathiammal had died young—of tuberculosis—in 1948, leaving a son, Muthu. Karunanidhi lost his vision in one eye due to a medical condition after which he was advised to wear dark glasses, which became his trademark.

Karunanidhi later married Dayaluammal and had four children—Azhagiri, Stalin, Tamilarasu and Selvi. Around the time he became Chief Minister, he accepted Rajathiammal as his companion. When he was asked to explain his relationship with Rajathiammal in the State Assembly, he said, “She is my daughter Kanimozhi’s mother.” There were not too many questions asked after that.

Karunanidhi became party president and Chief Minister after Anna’s death in 1969. According to old-timers, this promotion came with ample support from matinee idol MG Ramachandran, who became the treasurer. Two years later, even after facing serious charges of corruption, the DMK came back to power, riding on campaigns by Karunanidhi and MGR. The consecutive defeat also pushed Congress to the periphery of state politics.

But soon, there were frictions between the writer and the actor, which prompted Karunanidhi to introduce his first son, Muthu, into the tinsel world as a counter to MGR. When Muthu was launched in home production company Anjugam Pictures’ Pillayo Pillai in 1971, his resemblance to MGR was accentuated by the make-up, mannerisms and acting modelled on the superstar. Those who lived in Chennai then remember Muthu taking out processions across the city on a white horse with a group of ministers in tow.

But his moderate success was not enough to take on the idol status that MGR attained by the ’70s. If anything, his promotion only hastened MGR’s exit from the party to form the Anna DMK (the present-day AIADMK led by Jayalalithaa) that claimed it would restore a non-corrupt government and the party symbolised by Annadurai.

Muthu’s failure as a replacement idol soon pushed him to oblivion. In came M.K. Stalin, Karunanidhi’s third son, who was born on March 5, 1953. Four days later, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin died.

Stalin was active on the sidelines even before Muthu made his movie foray and had campaigned for Maran in the 1969 Lok Sabha elections. Though he was inducted as a member of the party general council, it was Emergency that put this wild child on the political course. By the time Stalin emerged from prison, a year after he was arrested under MISA on January 31, 1976, he attained anti-Emergency credentials that more than carried their weight in gold.

In 1980, the DMK formed its youth wing with Stalin in charge. The same year, elder brother Azhagiri was sent to Madurai to ‘manage the Madurai edition of Murasoli’, though it was later interpreted as a move to avert an imminent clash of interests between the brothers who did not share the best of relations.

If Muthu was moulded after his rival, Karunanidhi groomed Stalin after himself. Stalin became the general secretary of the youth wing. He also acted in a couple of movies, including Ore Ratham (same blood) and Makkal Anayittal (when people decide) in the ’80s, apart from a brief stint on the mini-screen.

Over the years, Stalin toured the state and grew in stature within the party and outside, attracting criticism of family politics. Critics raised several points: Karunanidhi was the seniormost leader of the party; his son was in charge of its youth wing; and nephew Murasoli Maran was the party’s pointsman in New Delhi and its boss’ conscience-keeper.

However, there is no denying that the party did not have a leader to replace Maran at the Centre, and Stalin had his initiation into full-time politics as a member of the Opposition party after MGR’s AIADMK relegated DMK to the fringes for 13 years—between 1976 and 1989.

In the hotly-contested personality politics in Tamil Nadu, Muthu made a brief, dramatic comeback, to join the ruling AIADMK in the ’80s. But he was reported to have a drinking problem and soon faded out of public life, leaving only memories of some songs that he had sung for his own movies. The next time he made news was when a Tamil weekly published a report about Muthu living a life of penury.

Over the years, while in the Opposition, Karunanidhi came to be more in control of the party. The leader’s writ ruled in a party that believed in consensus in decision-making. So when Stalin was elected Mayor of Madras Corporation in 1996, it was seen as an apprenticeship to succeed his father, the then Chief Minister.

The only person capable of upstaging the plan was Maran, who was by then an important leader in Delhi and a minister in the United Front Government. The space was divided well, not leaving any ground for grudges.

Just When the path was cleared for Stalin, Azhagiri returned as a challenger. The elder brother, often portrayed as the hot-headed Sonny Corleone of this Godfather story, never had any post or responsibility in the party or Government. But this didn’t mean he had no control over the party apparatus in the southern region.

In the first three years of this decade, supporters of the brothers clashed on the streets of Chennai and Madurai, and inside the meeting halls of local bodies, seriously undermining the functioning of the cadre-based outfit. This was the first struggle for succession.

After Karunanidhi, Stalin and Maran were arrested under corruption charges in 2001, the then Chief Minister Jayalalithaa put Azhagiri, too, behind bars as an accused in the murder of senior DMK leader and Stalin supporter, T Kiruttinan, two years later. The family then joined hands against the common enemy and this working relationship was crucial in ensuring the DMK-led alliance’s victory in the 2004 elections.

According to a keen observer of the family, the present-day problems began with the death of Murasoli Maran in November 2003. With this, two new power centres evolved in the family: Rajathiammal and her daughter Kanimozhi, and Kalanidhi and Dayanidhi Maran. If there was a singularity in purpose during Murosoli Maran’s time, the new groups reportedly pulled in different directions that eventually led to the bigger crisis.

Dayanidhi Maran’s rise, fall and partial resurrection are part of folklore. If the infamous survey by AC Nielson for the Marans’ daily Dinakaran gave Azhagiri only a meagre two per cent public acceptance as Karunanidhi’s heir, the feud that followed its publication only helped rehabilitate him in the family in a battle of Us vs Them.

Maran’s fall from grace was closely followed by Kanimozhi’s transformation as a politician after years of remaining non-political. Kanimozhi grew up as a public figure without entering politics. She worked as a sub-editor in The Hindu and was also in-charge of a Tamil weekly from the ‘Sun’ stable.

After waiting in the periphery since the UPA victory in 2004, she finally entered active politics when she was made a Rajya Sabha member in 2007, two months after Maran was shown the door. There were strong rumours at that time, most vocally aired by Opposition leader Jayalalithaa, that she would be made the IT and Communications Minister, though that did not materialise. But her residence in CIT Colony in Chennai, which she shares with her mother, became an important address.

For a while, she was seen as Karunanidhi’s answer to the woman-power that Jaya boasted of, and DMK’s plan to organise its first-ever women’s conference at Cuddalore last year was to be her launchpad. But during the meeting, she had to share the limelight with a surprise newcomer: Kayalvizhi, the politically ambitious daughter of Azhagiri.

Karunanidhi’s daughter Selvi, married to the Maran household, was instrumental in their resurrection, as was Stalin. But not many outside the inner circle know the real deal behind the patch-up between the Marans and the Karunanidhi family. Apart from the talk of money changing hands, one of the rumours that gained currency spoke about a regrouping of the core family to keep out Rajathiammal and Kanimozhi from power. Interestingly, Kanimozhi was missing at the time of the reunion, like she was absent when Azhagiri and Maran took oath as Cabinet members on Thursday.

Karunanidhi’s life is a story of a movement, the party and the politics of a state—but finally reduced to a family. Whoever wins this internal struggle will lead the party in the coming days. It will also complete the metamorphosis of the DMK from an ideological entity to one based on dynasty and thus patronage.

In a warm sidelight to the main story, Muthu came back again, this time standing on his own feet as a singer. He has shaken off his past and sung a film soundtrack. His son Arivunidhi, a doctor by profession, has also sung for a film, the audio of which was released by Karunanidhi. Arivunidhi has also floated a trust in the name of Padmavathyammal, which, some say, is part of a grand design for the politics of the future.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

The Bengal Famine

The Bengal Famine: How the British engineered the worst genocide in human history for profit.

“I hate Indians. They are a beastly people with a beastly religion. The famine was their own fault for breeding like rabbits.” -Winston Churchill

The British had a ruthless economic agenda when it came to operating in India and that did not include empathy for native citizens. 

Under the British Raj, India suffered countless famines. But the worst hit was Bengal. 

The first of these was in 1770, followed by severe ones in 1783, 1866, 1873, 1892, 1897 and lastly 1943-44. 

Previously, when famines had hit the country, indigenous rulers were quick with useful responses to avert major disasters. 

After the advent of the British, most of the famines were a consequence of monsoonal delays along with the exploitation of the country’s natural resources by the British for their own financial gain. Yet they did little to acknowledge the havoc these actions wrought. If anything, they were irritated at the inconveniences in taxing the famines brought about.

The first of these famines was in 1770 and was ghastly brutal. The first signs indicating the coming of such a huge famine manifested in 1769 and the famine itself went on till 1773. 

It killed approximately 10 million people, millions more than the Jews incarcerated during the Second World War. It wiped out one third the population of Bengal. 

John Fiske, in his book “The Unseen World”, wrote that the famine of 1770 in Bengal was far deadlier than the Black Plague that terrorized Europe in the fourteenth century. 

Under the Mughal rule, peasants were required to pay a tribute of 10-15 per cent of their cash harvest. This ensured a comfortable treasury for the rulers and a wide net of safety for the peasants in case the weather did not hold for future harvests. 

In 1765 the Treaty of Allahabad was signed and East India Company took over the task of collecting the tributes from the then Mughal emperor Shah Alam II. 

Overnight the tributes, the British insisted on calling them tributes and not taxes for reasons of suppressing rebellion, increased to 50 percent. The peasants were not even aware that the money had changed hands. They paid, still believing that it went to the Emperor.

Partial failure of crop was quite a regular occurrence in the Indian peasant’s life. That is why the surplus stock, which remained after paying the tributes, was so important to their livelihood. 

But with the increased taxation, this surplus deteriorated rapidly. When partial failure of crops came in 1768, this safety net was no longer in place. 

The rains of 1769 were dismal and herein the first signs of the terrible draught began to appear. The famine occurred mainly in the modern states of West Bengal and Bihar but also hit Orissa, Jharkhand and Bangladesh. 

Bengal was, of course, the worst hit. Among the worst affected areas were Birbum and Murshidabad in Bengal. Thousands depopulated the area in hopes of finding sustenance elsewhere, only to die of starvation later on. Those who stayed on perished nonetheless. Huge acres of farmland were abandoned. Wilderness started to thrive here, resulting in deep and inhabitable jungle areas. Tirhut, Champaran and Bettiah in Bihar were similarly affected in Bihar.

Prior to this, whenever the possibility of a famine had emerged, the Indian rulers would waive their taxes and see compensatory measures, such as irrigation, instituted to provide as much relief as possible to the stricken farmers. 

The colonial rulers continued to ignore any warnings that came their way regarding the famine, although starvation had set in from early 1770. Then the deaths started in 1771. 

That year, the company raised the land tax to 60 per cent in order to recompense themselves for the lost lives of so many peasants. Fewer peasants resulted in less crops that in turn meant less revenue. Hence the ones who did not yet succumb to the famine had to pay double the tax so as to ensure that the British treasury did not suffer any losses during this travesty.

After taking over from the Mughal rulers, the British had issued widespread orders for cash crops to be cultivated. These were intended to be exported. Thus farmers who were used to growing paddy and vegetables were now being forced to cultivate indigo, poppy and other such items that yielded a high market value for them but could be of no relief to a population starved of food. 

There was no backup of edible crops in case of a famine. The natural causes that had contributed to the draught were commonplace. 

It was the single minded motive for profit that wrought about the devastating consequences. 

No relief measure was provided for those affected. Rather, as mentioned above, taxation was increased to make up for any shortfall in revenue. What is more ironic is that the East India Company generated a profited higher in 1771 than they did in 1768.

Although the starved populace of Bengal did not know it yet, this was just the first of the umpteen famines, caused solely by the motive for profit, that was to slash across the country side. 

Although all these massacres were deadly in their own right, the deadliest one to occur after 1771 was in 1943 when three million people died and others resorted to eating grass and human flesh in order to survive.

Winston Churchill, the hallowed British War prime minister who saved Europe from a monster like Hitler was disturbingly callous about the roaring famine that was swallowing Bengal’s population. 

He casually diverted the supplies of medical aid and food that was being dispatched to the starving victims to the already well supplied soldiers of Europe. 

When entreated upon he said, “Famine or no famine, Indians will breed like rabbits.” The Delhi Government sent a telegram painting to him a picture of the horrible devastation and the number of people who had died. His only response was, “Then why hasn’t Gandhi died yet?”Winston Churchill

This Independence Day it is worthwhile to remember that the riches of the west were built on the graves of the East. 

While we honour the brave freedom fighters (as we should), it is victims like these, the ones sacrificed without a moment’s thought, who paid the ultimate price. 

Shed a tear in their memory and strive to make the most of this hard won independence that we take for granted today. Pledge to stand up those whose voice the world refuses to hear because they are too lowly to matter. To be free is a great privilege. But as a great superhero once said, “With great freedom comes great responsibility.”

East India Company: The original corporate raiders

The East India Company: The original corporate raiders

For a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant
The Mughal emperor Shah Alam hands a scroll to Robert Clive, the governor of Bengal, which transferred tax collecting rights in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa to the East India Company. Illustration: Benjamin West (1738–1820)/British Library

William Dalrymple
Wednesday 4 March 2015 05.59 GMTLast modified on Friday 10 April 201512.31 BST

One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.

The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century.

There are more Mughal artefacts stacked in this private house in the Welsh countryside than are on display at any one place in India – even the National Museum in Delhi. The riches include hookahs of burnished gold inlaid with empurpled ebony; superbly inscribed spinels and jewelled daggers; gleaming rubies the colour of pigeon’s blood and scatterings of lizard-green emeralds. There are talwars set with yellow topaz, ornaments of jade and ivory; silken hangings, statues of Hindu gods and coats of elephant armour.

The audio long read Listen to William Dalrymple's long read on The East India Company: The original corporate raiders - Podcast

The latest in our audio long reads examines how, for a century, the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia. The lessons of its brutal reign have never been more relevant.

Such is the dazzle of these treasures that, as a visitor last summer, I nearly missed the huge framed canvas that explains how they came to be here. The picture hangs in the shadows at the top of a dark, oak-panelled staircase. It is not a masterpiece, but it does repay close study. 

An effete Indian prince, wearing cloth of gold, sits high on his throne under a silken canopy. On his left stand scimitar and spear carrying officers from his own army; to his right, a group of powdered and periwigged Georgian gentlemen. The prince is eagerly thrusting a scroll into the hands of a statesmanlike, slightly overweight Englishman in a red frock coat.

The painting shows a scene from August 1765, when the young Mughal emperor Shah Alam, exiled from Delhi and defeated by East India Company troops, was forced into what we would now call an act of involuntary privatisation. 

The scroll is an order to dismiss his own Mughal revenue officials in Bengal, Bihar and Orissa, and replace them with a set of English traders appointed by Robert Clive – the new governor of Bengal – and the directors of the EIC, who the document describes as “the high and mighty, the noblest of exalted nobles, the chief of illustrious warriors, our faithful servants and sincere well-wishers, worthy of our royal favours, the English Company”. 

The collecting of Mughal taxes was henceforth subcontracted to a powerful multinational corporation – whose revenue-collecting operations were protected by its own private army.

It was at this moment that the East India Company (EIC) ceased to be a conventional corporation, trading and silks and spices, and became something much more unusual. 

Within a few years, 250 company clerks backed by the military force of 20,000 locally recruited Indian soldiers had become the effective rulers of Bengal. An international corporation was transforming itself into an aggressive colonial power.

Using its rapidly growing security force – its army had grown to 260,000 men by 1803 – it swiftly subdued and seized an entire subcontinent. 

Astonishingly, this took less than half a century. 

The first serious territorial conquests began in Bengal in 1756; 47 years later, the company’s reach extended as far north as the Mughal capital of Delhi, and almost all of India south of that city was by then effectively ruled from a boardroom in the City of London. “What honour is left to us?” asked a Mughal official named Narayan Singh, shortly after 1765, “when we have to take orders from a handful of traders who have not yet learned to wash their bottoms?”

It was not the British government that seized India, but a private company, run by an unstable sociopath

We still talk about the British conquering India, but that phrase disguises a more sinister reality. It was not the British government that seized India at the end of the 18th century, but a dangerously unregulated private company headquartered in one small office, five windows wide, in London, and managed in India by an unstable sociopath – Clive.

In many ways the EIC was a model of corporate efficiency: 100 years into its history, it had only 35 permanent employees in its head office. 

Nevertheless, that skeleton staff executed a corporate coup unparalleled in history: the military conquest, subjugation and plunder of vast tracts of southern Asia. 

It almost certainly remains the supreme act of corporate violence in world history. For all the power wielded today by the world’s largest corporations – whether ExxonMobil, Walmart or Google – they are tame beasts compared with the ravaging territorial appetites of the militarised East India Company. 

Yet if history shows anything, it is that in the intimate dance between the power of the state and that of the corporation, while the latter can be regulated, it will use all the resources in its power to resist.

When it suited, the EIC made much of its legal separation from the government. It argued forcefully, and successfully, that the document signed by Shah Alam – known as the Diwani – was the legal property of the company, not the Crown, even though the government had spent a massive sum on naval and military operations protecting the EIC’s Indian acquisitions. 

But the MPs who voted to uphold this legal distinction were not exactly neutral: nearly a quarter of them held company stock, which would have plummeted in value had the Crown taken over. For the same reason, the need to protect the company from foreign competition became a major aim of British foreign policy.Robert Clive, was an unstable sociopath who led the fearsome East India Company to its conquest of the subcontinent. Photograph: Hulton Archive/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The transaction depicted in the painting was to have catastrophic consequences. As with all such corporations, then as now, the EIC was answerable only to its shareholders. With no stake in the just governance of the region, or its long-term wellbeing, the company’s rule quickly turned into the straightforward pillage of Bengal, and the rapid transfer westwards of its wealth.

Before long the province, already devastated by war, was struck down by the famine of 1769, then further ruined by high taxation. Company tax collectors were guilty of what today would be described as human rights violations. 

A senior official of the old Mughal regime in Bengal wrote in his diaries: “Indians were tortured to disclose their treasure; cities, towns and villages ransacked; jaghires and provinces purloined: these were the ‘delights’ and ‘religions’ of the directors and their servants.”

Bengal’s wealth rapidly drained into Britain, while its prosperous weavers and artisans were coerced “like so many slaves” by their new masters, and its markets flooded with British products. 

A proportion of the loot of Bengal went directly into Clive’s pocket. He returned to Britain with a personal fortune – then valued at £234,000 – that made him the richest self-made man in Europe. 

After the Battle of Plassey in 1757, a victory that owed more to treachery, forged contracts, bankers and bribes than military prowess, he transferred to the EIC treasury no less than £2.5m seized from the defeated rulers of Bengal – in today’s currency, around £23m for Clive and £250m for the company.

No great sophistication was required. The entire contents of the Bengal treasury were simply loaded into 100 boats and punted down the Ganges from the Nawab of Bengal’s palace to Fort William, the company’s Calcutta headquarters. A portion of the proceeds was later spent rebuilding Powis.

The painting at Powis that shows the granting of the Diwani is suitably deceptive: the painter, Benjamin West, had never been to India. Even at the time, a reviewer noted that the mosque in the background bore a suspiciously strong resemblance “to our venerable dome of St Paul”. 

In reality, there had been no grand public ceremony. The transfer took place privately, inside Clive’s tent, which had just been erected on the parade ground of the newly seized Mughal fort at Allahabad. As for Shah Alam’s silken throne, it was in fact Clive’s armchair, which for the occasion had been hoisted on to his dining room table and covered with a chintz bedspread.

Later, the British dignified the document by calling it the Treaty of Allahabad, though Clive had dictated the terms and a terrified Shah Alam had simply waved them through. 

As the contemporary Mughal historian Sayyid Ghulam Husain Khan put it: “A business of such magnitude, as left neither pretence nor subterfuge, and which at any other time would have required the sending of wise ambassadors and able negotiators, as well as much parley and conference with the East India Company and the King of England, and much negotiation and contention with the ministers, was done and finished in less time than would usually have been taken up for the sale of a jack-ass, or a beast of burden, or a head of cattle.”

By the time the original painting was shown at the Royal Academy in 1795, however, no Englishman who had witnessed the scene was alive to point this out. 

Clive, hounded by envious parliamentary colleagues and widely reviled for corruption, committed suicide in 1774 by slitting his own throat with a paper knife some months before the canvas was completed. He was buried in secret, on a frosty November night, in an unmarked vault in the Shropshire village of Morton Say. 

Many years ago, workmen digging up the parquet floor came across Clive’s bones, and after some discussion it was decided to quietly put them to rest again where they lay. Here they remain, marked today by a small, discreet wall plaque inscribed: “PRIMUS IN INDIS.”

Today, as the company’s most articulate recent critic, Nick Robins, has pointed out, the site of the company’s headquarters in Leadenhall Street lies underneath Richard Rogers’s glass and metal Lloyd’s building. 

Unlike Clive’s burial place, no blue plaque marks the site of what Macaulay called “the greatest corporation in the world”, and certainly the only one to equal the Mughals by seizing political power across wide swaths of south Asia. 

But anyone seeking a monument to the company’s legacy need only look around. No contemporary corporation could duplicate its brutality, but many have attempted to match its success at bending state power to their own ends.

The people of Allahabad have also chosen to forget this episode in their history. The red sandstone Mughal fort where the treaty was extracted from Shah Alam – a much larger fort than those visited by tourists in Lahore, Agra or Delhi – is still a closed-off military zone and, when I visited it late last year, neither the guards at the gate nor their officers knew anything of the events that had taken place there; none of the sentries had even heard of the company whose cannons still dot the parade ground where Clive’s tent was erected.

Instead, all their conversation was focused firmly on the future, and the reception India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, had just received on his trip to America. 

One of the guards proudly showed me the headlines in the local edition of the Times of India, announcing that Allahabad had been among the subjects discussed in the White House by Modi and President Obama. 

The sentries were optimistic. India was finally coming back into its own, they said, “after 800 years of slavery”. The Mughals, the EIC and the Raj had all receded into memory and Allahabad was now going to be part of India’s resurrection. “Soon we will be a great country,” said one of the sentries, “and our Allahabad also will be a great city.”

At the height of the Victorian period there was a strong sense of embarrassment about the shady mercantile way the British had founded the Raj. 

The Victorians thought the real stuff of history was the politics of the nation state. This, not the economics of corrupt corporations, they believed was the fundamental unit of analysis and the major driver of change in human affairs. 

Moreover, they liked to think of the empire as a mission civilisatrice: a benign national transfer of knowledge, railways and the arts of civilisation from west to east, and there was a calculated and deliberate amnesia about the corporate looting that opened British rule in India.

A second picture, this one commissioned to hang in the House of Commons, shows how the official memory of this process was spun and subtly reworked. It hangs now in St Stephen’s Hall, the echoing reception area of parliament. I came across it by chance late this summer, while waiting there to see an MP.

The painting was part of a series of murals entitled the Building of Britain. It features what the hanging committee at the time regarded as the highlights and turning points of British history: King Alfred defeating the Danes in 877, the parliamentary union of England and Scotland in 1707, and so on. 

The image in this series which deals with India does not, however, show the handing over of the Diwani but an earlier scene, where again a Mughal prince is sitting on a raised dais, under a canopy. Again, we are in a court setting, with bowing attendants on all sides and trumpets blowing, and again an Englishman is standing in front of the Mughal. But this time the balance of power is very different.

Sir Thomas Roe, the ambassador sent by James I to the Mughal court, is shown appearing before the Emperor Jahangir in 1614 – at a time when the Mughal empire was still at its richest and most powerful. 

Jahangir inherited from his father Akbar one of the two wealthiest polities in the world, rivalled only by Ming China. His lands stretched through most of India, all of what is now Pakistan and Bangladesh, and most of Afghanistan. He ruled over five times the population commanded by the Ottomans – roughly 100 million people. His capitals were the megacities of their day.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, the great Mughal cities of Jahangir’s India are shown to Adam as future marvels of divine design. 

This was no understatement: Agra, with a population approaching 700,000, dwarfed all of the cities of Europe, while Lahore was larger than London, Paris, Lisbon, Madrid and Rome combined. 

This was a time when India accounted for around a quarter of all global manufacturing. 

In contrast, Britain then contributed less than 2% to global GDP, and the East India Company was so small that it was still operating from the home of its governor, Sir Thomas Smythe, with a permanent staff of only six. It did, however, already possess 30 tall ships and own its own dockyard at Deptford on the Thames.An East India Company grandee. Photograph: Getty Images

Jahangir’s father Akbar had flirted with a project to civilise India’s European immigrants, whom he described as “an assemblage of savages”, but later dropped the plan as unworkable. 

Jahangir, who had a taste for exotica and wild beasts, welcomed Sir Thomas Roe with the same enthusiasm he had shown for the arrival of the first turkey in India, and questioned Roe closely on the distant, foggy island he came from, and the strange things that went on there.

For the committee who planned the House of Commons paintings, this marked the beginning of British engagement with India: two nation states coming into direct contact for the first time. 

Yet, in reality, British relations with India began not with diplomacy and the meeting of envoys, but with trade. 

On 24 September, 1599, 80 merchants and adventurers met at the Founders Hall in the City of London and agreed to petition Queen Elizabeth I to start up a company. 

A year later, the Governor and Company of Merchants trading to the East Indies, a group of 218 men, received a royal charter, giving them a monopoly for 15 years over “trade to the East”.

The charter authorised the setting up of what was then a radical new type of business: not a family partnership – until then the norm over most of the globe – but a joint-stock company that could issue tradeable shares on the open market to any number of investors, a mechanism capable of realising much larger amounts of capital. 

The first chartered joint-stock company was the Muscovy Company, which received its charter in 1555. The East India Company was founded 44 years later. No mention was made in the charter of the EIC holding overseas territory, but it did give the company the right “to wage war” where necessary.

Six years before Roe’s expedition, on 28 August 1608, William Hawkins had landed at Surat, the first commander of a company vessel to set foot on Indian soil. 

Hawkins, a bibulous sea dog, made his way to Agra, where he accepted a wife offered to him by the emperor, and brought her back to England. This was a version of history the House of Commons hanging committee chose to forget.

The rapid rise of the East India Company was made possible by the catastrophically rapid decline of the Mughals during the 18th century. 

As late as 1739, when Clive was only 14 years old, the Mughals still ruled a vast empire that stretched from Kabul to Madras. But in that year, the Persian adventurer Nadir Shah descended the Khyber Pass with 150,000 of his cavalry and defeated a Mughal army of 1.5 million men. 

Three months later, Nadir Shah returned to Persia carrying the pick of the treasures the Mughal empire had amassed in its 200 years of conquest: a caravan of riches that included Shah Jahan’s magnificent peacock throne, the Koh-i-Noor, the largest diamond in the world, as well as its “sister”, the Darya Nur, and “700 elephants, 4,000 camels and 12,000 horses carrying wagons all laden with gold, silver and precious stones”, worth an estimated £87.5m in the currency of the time. 

This haul was many times more valuable than that later extracted by Clive from the peripheral province of Bengal.

The destruction of Mughal power by Nadir Shah, and his removal of the funds that had financed it, quickly led to the disintegration of the empire. 

That same year, the French Compagnie des Indes began minting its own coins, and soon, without anyone to stop them, both the French and the English were drilling their own sepoys and militarising their operations. Before long the EIC was straddling the globe. 

Almost single-handedly, it reversed the balance of trade, which from Roman times on had led to a continual drain of western bullion eastwards. 

The EIC ferried opium to China, and in due course fought the opium wars in order to seize an offshore base at Hong Kong and safeguard its profitable monopoly in narcotics. 

To the west it shipped Chinese tea to Massachusetts, where its dumping in Boston harbour triggered the American war of independence.

By 1803, when the EIC captured the Mughal capital of Delhi, it had trained up a private security force of around 260,000- twice the size of the British army – and marshalled more firepower than any nation state in Asia. 

It was “an empire within an empire”, as one of its directors admitted. It had also by this stage created a vast and sophisticated administration and civil service, built much of London’s docklands and come close to generating nearly half of Britain’s trade. No wonder that the EIC now referred to itself as “the grandest society of merchants in the Universe”.

Yet, like more recent mega-corporations, the EIC proved at once hugely powerful and oddly vulnerable to economic uncertainty. 

Only seven years after the granting of the Diwani, when the company’s share price had doubled overnight after it acquired the wealth of the treasury of Bengal, the East India bubble burst after plunder and famine in Bengal led to massive shortfalls in expected land revenues. 

The EIC was left with debts of £1.5m and a bill of £1m unpaid tax owed to the Crown. When knowledge of this became public, 30 banks collapsed like dominoes across Europe, bringing trade to a standstill.

In a scene that seems horribly familiar to us today, this hyper-aggressive corporation had to come clean and ask for a massive government bailout. 

On 15 July 1772, the directors of the East India Company applied to the Bank of England for a loan of £400,000. A fortnight later, they returned, asking for an additional £300,000. The bank raised only £200,000. 

By August, the directors were whispering to the government that they would actually need an unprecedented sum of a further £1m. The official report the following year, written by Edmund Burke, foresaw that the EIC’s financial problems could potentially “like a mill-stone, drag [the government] down into an unfathomable abyss … This cursed Company would, at last, like a viper, be the destruction of the country which fostered it at its bosom.”

The East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773 it was saved by history’s first mega-bailout

But unlike Lehman Brothers, the East India Company really was too big to fail. So it was that in 1773, the world’s first aggressive multinational corporation was saved by history’s first mega-bailout – the first example of a nation state extracting, as its price for saving a failing corporation, the right to regulate and severely rein it in.

In Allahabad, I hired a small dinghy from beneath the fort’s walls and asked the boatman to row me upstream. 

It was that beautiful moment, an hour before sunset, that north Indians call godhulibela – cow-dust time – and the Yamuna glittered in the evening light as brightly as any of the gems of Powis. 

Egrets picked their way along the banks, past pilgrims taking a dip near the auspicious point of confluence, where the Yamuna meets the Ganges. Ranks of little boys with fishing lines stood among the holy men and the pilgrims, engaged in the less mystical task of trying to hook catfish. Parakeets swooped out of cavities in the battlements, mynahs called to roost.

For 40 minutes we drifted slowly, the water gently lapping against the sides of the boat, past the mile-long succession of mighty towers and projecting bastions of the fort, each decorated with superb Mughal kiosks, lattices and finials. 

It seemed impossible that a single London corporation, however ruthless and aggressive, could have conquered an empire that was so magnificently strong, so confident in its own strength and brilliance and effortless sense of beauty.

Historians propose many reasons: the fracturing of Mughal India into tiny, competing states; the military edge that the industrial revolution had given the European powers. 

But perhaps most crucial was the support that the East India Company enjoyed from the British parliament. The relationship between them grew steadily more symbiotic throughout the 18th century. 

Returned nabobs like Clive used their wealth to buy both MPs and parliamentary seats – the famous Rotten Boroughs. In turn, parliament backed the company with state power: the ships and soldiers that were needed when the French and British East India Companies trained their guns on each other.

As I drifted on past the fort walls, I thought about the nexus between corporations and politicians in India today – which has delivered individual fortunes to rival those amassed by Clive and his fellow company directors. 

The country today has 6.9% of the world’s thousand or so billionaires, though its gross domestic product is only 2.1% of world GDP. 

The total wealth of India’s billionaires is equivalent to around 10% of the nation’s GDP – while the comparable ratio for China’s billionaires is less than 3%. 

More importantly, many of these fortunes have been created by manipulating state power – using political influence to secure rights to land and minerals, “flexibility” in regulation, and protection from foreign competition.

Multinationals still have villainous reputations in India, and with good reason; the many thousands of dead and injured in the Bhopal gas disaster of 1984 cannot be easily forgotten; the gas plant’s owner, the American multinational, Union Carbide, has managed to avoid prosecution or the payment of any meaningful compensation in the 30 years since. 

But the biggest Indian corporations, such as Reliance, Tata, DLF and Adani have shown themselves far more skilled than their foreign competitors in influencing Indian policymakers and the media. 

Reliance is now India’s biggest media company, as well as its biggest conglomerate; its owner, Mukesh Ambani, has unprecedented political access and power.

The last five years of India’s Congress party government were marked by a succession of corruption scandals that ranged from land and mineral giveaways to the corrupt sale of mobile phone spectrum at a fraction of its value. 

The consequent public disgust was the principal reason for the Congress party’s catastrophic defeat in the general election last May, though the country’s crony capitalists are unlikely to suffer as a result.

Estimated to have cost $4.9bn – perhaps the second most expensive ballot in democratic history after the US presidential election in 2012 – it brought Narendra Modi to power on a tidal wave of corporate donations. 

Exact figures are hard to come by, but Modi’s Bharatiya Janata party (BJP), is estimated to have spent at least $1bn on print and broadcast advertising alone. 

Of these donations, around 90% comes from unlisted corporate sources, given in return for who knows what undeclared promises of access and favours. The sheer strength of Modi’s new government means that those corporate backers may not be able to extract all they had hoped for, but there will certainly be rewards for the money donated.

In September, the governor of India’s central bank, Raghuram Rajan, made a speech in Mumbai expressing his anxieties about corporate money eroding the integrity of parliament: “Even as our democracy and our economy have become more vibrant,” he said, “an important issue in the recent election was whether we had substituted the crony socialism of the past with crony capitalism, where the rich and the influential are alleged to have received land, natural resources and spectrum in return for payoffs to venal politicians. By killing transparency and competition, crony capitalism is harmful to free enterprise, and economic growth. And by substituting special interests for the public interest, it is harmful to democratic expression.”

His anxieties were remarkably like those expressed in Britain more than 200 years earlier, when the East India Company had become synonymous with ostentatious wealth and political corruption: “What is England now?” fumed the Whig litterateur Horace Walpole, “A sink of Indian wealth.” 

In 1767 the company bought off parliamentary opposition by donating £400,000 to the Crown in return for its continued right to govern Bengal. But the anger against it finally reached ignition point on 13 February 1788, at the impeachment, for looting and corruption, of Clive’s successor as governor of Bengal, Warren Hastings. 

It was the nearest the British ever got to putting the EIC on trial, and they did so with one of their greatest orators at the helm – Edmund Burke.Portraits of Nabobs, or representatives of the East India Company. Photograph: Alamy

Burke, leading the prosecution, railed against the way the returned company “nabobs” (or “nobs”, both corruptions of the Urdu word “Nawab”) were buying parliamentary influence, not just by bribing MPs to vote for their interests, but by corruptly using their Indian plunder to bribe their way into parliamentary office: “To-day the Commons of Great Britain prosecutes the delinquents of India,” thundered Burke, referring to the returned nabobs. “Tomorrow these delinquents of India may be the Commons of Great Britain.”

Burke thus correctly identified what remains today one of the great anxieties of modern liberal democracies: the ability of a ruthless corporation corruptly to buy a legislature. 

And just as corporations now recruit retired politicians in order to exploit their establishment contacts and use their influence, so did the East India Company. 

So it was, for example, that Lord Cornwallis, the man who oversaw the loss of the American colonies to Washington, was recruited by the EIC to oversee its Indian territories. 

As one observer wrote: “Of all human conditions, perhaps the most brilliant and at the same time the most anomalous, is that of the Governor General of British India. A private English gentleman, and the servant of a joint-stock company, during the brief period of his government he is the deputed sovereign of the greatest empire in the world; the ruler of a hundred million men; while dependant kings and princes bow down to him with a deferential awe and submission. There is nothing in history analogous to this position …”

Hastings survived his impeachment, but parliament did finally remove the EIC from power following the great Indian Uprising of 1857, some 90 years after the granting of the Diwani and 60 years after Hastings’s own trial. 

On 10 May 1857, the EIC’s own security forces rose up against their employer and on successfully crushing the insurgency, after nine uncertain months, the company distinguished itself for a final time by hanging and murdering tens of thousands of suspected rebels in the bazaar towns that lined the Ganges – probably the most bloody episode in the entire history of British colonialism.

Enough was enough. The same parliament that had done so much to enable the EIC to rise to unprecedented power, finally gobbled up its own baby. The British state, alerted to the dangers posed by corporate greed and incompetence, successfully tamed history’s most voracious corporation. 

In 1859, it was again within the walls of Allahabad Fort that the governor general, Lord Canning, formally announced that the company’s Indian possessions would be nationalised and pass into the control of the British Crown. Queen Victoria, rather than the directors of the EIC would henceforth be ruler of India.

The East India Company limped on in its amputated form for another 15 years, finally shutting down in 1874. Its brand name is now owned by a Gujarati businessman who uses it to sell “condiments and fine foods” from a showroom in London’s West End. 

Meanwhile, in a nice piece of historical and karmic symmetry, the current occupant of Powis Castle is married to a Bengali woman and photographs of a very Indian wedding were proudly on show in the Powis tearoom. This means that Clive’s descendants and inheritors will be half-Indian.

Today we are back to a world that would be familiar to Sir Thomas Roe, where the wealth of the west has begun again to drain eastwards, in the way it did from Roman times until the birth of the East India Company. 

When a British prime minister (or French president) visits India, he no longer comes as Clive did, to dictate terms. In fact, negotiation of any kind has passed from the agenda. Like Roe, he comes as a supplicant begging for business, and with him come the CEOs of his country’s biggest corporations.

The idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India

For the corporation – a revolutionary European invention contemporaneous with the beginnings of European colonialism, and which helped give Europe its competitive edge – has continued to thrive long after the collapse of European imperialism. 

When historians discuss the legacy of British colonialism in India, they usually mention democracy, the rule of law, railways, tea and cricket. 

Yet the idea of the joint-stock company is arguably one of Britain’s most important exports to India, and the one that has for better or worse changed South Asia as much any other European idea. 

Its influence certainly outweighs that of communism and Protestant Christianity, and possibly even that of democracy.

Companies and corporations now occupy the time and energy of more Indians than any institution other than the family. This should come as no surprise: as Ira Jackson, the former director of Harvard’s Centre for Business and Government, recently noted, corporations and their leaders have today “displaced politics and politicians as … the new high priests and oligarchs of our system”. Covertly, companies still govern the lives of a significant proportion of the human race.

The 300-year-old question of how to cope with the power and perils of large multinational corporations remains today without a clear answer: it is not clear how a nation state can adequately protect itself and its citizens from corporate excess. 

As the international subprime bubble and bank collapses of 2007-2009 have so recently demonstrated, just as corporations can shape the destiny of nations, they can also drag down their economies. 

In all, US and European banks lost more than $1tn on toxic assets from January 2007 to September 2009. 

What Burke feared the East India Company would do to England in 1772 actually happened to Iceland in 2008-11, when the systemic collapse of all three of the country’s major privately owned commercial banks brought the country to the brink of complete bankruptcy. 

A powerful corporation can still overwhelm or subvert a state every bit as effectively as the East India Company did in Bengal in 1765.

Corporate influence, with its fatal mix of power, money and unaccountability, is particularly potent and dangerous in frail states where corporations are insufficiently or ineffectually regulated, and where the purchasing power of a large company can outbid or overwhelm an underfunded government. 

This would seem to have been the case under the Congress government that ruled India until last year. Yet as we have seen in London, media organisations can still bend under the influence of corporations such as HSBC – while Sir Malcolm Rifkind’s boast about opening British embassies for the benefit of Chinese firms shows that the nexus between business and politics is as tight as it has ever been.

The East India Company no longer exists, and it has, thankfully, no exact modern equivalent. Walmart, which is the world’s largest corporation in revenue terms, does not number among its assets a fleet of nuclear submarines; neither Facebook nor Shell possesses regiments of infantry. 

Yet the East India Company – the first great multinational corporation, and the first to run amok – was the ultimate model for many of today’s joint-stock corporations. 

The most powerful among them do not need their own armies: they can rely on governments to protect their interests and bail them out. 

The East India Company remains history’s most terrifying warning about the potential for the abuse of corporate power – and the insidious means by which the interests of shareholders become those of the state. 

Three hundred and fifteen years after its founding, its story has never been more current.

William Dalrymple’s new book, The Anarchy: How a Corporation Replaced the Mughal Empire, 1756-1803, will be published next year by Bloomsbury & Knopf