Swarna Bharati- Bharatiya Arthika Charitra – Book Review


Reputed scholar and author of over 15 books, Sri Khandavalli Satyadeva Prasad’s seminal work in Telugu `Swarna Bharathi- Bharatiya Arthika Charitra’, as the name suggests, is a panoramic work on India’s economic history across 2000 years. It’s an excellent academic work written in simple readable style, therefore is accessible to a general reader.  The extremely well-researched and well-referenced book explains  India’s intellectual prowess in all sectors which directly led to increased production and huge expanse of trade in the first millennium-  namely in agricultural produce like rice and grains, textiles, medicines and spices, precious stones, diamonds, brass and bronze, other metals, wood products,  metallurgy etc all of which contributed to its economic might; Angus Madison’s figures tell us India’s share in world’s GDP was over 30% which is the highest in the world, followed by china till about 11th century CE. Even in 1750CE, India remained Number 1 in world GDP; this was infact the actual `Hindu Growth Rate’. As in the present world, where intellectual property leads to the world economic growth, so it was the same for many millennia. Unfortunately European-centric history that was manufactured by Europeans and Indian Marxists, suppressed these facts; infact in 1st –2nd century, Roman senate tried to restrict imports of Indian fine muslin, as their treasury was getting emptied.   

For millennia, India conducted its international trade and commerce, mainly through its navigational expertise on high seas around the world, its precious products were hailed for their excellent quality; other countries looked forward to the docking of Indian ships in their ports and wore Indian textiles with pride.  The Hindu trade and commerce was thriving as the production- oriented society was seeped in the unwritten rules and the spirit of Dharma, which prioritized social harmony and economic well-being of all. The Hindu kings governed their kingdoms with the same philosophy, which made India’s economy the best in the world, this was in direct contrast with the Islamic and European colonial invaders, who prioritized and perpetuated a war-economy mindset.   

The book discusses the trade and commerce of India through its naval supremacy for nearly 1500 years, the Arabs and Europeans had employed pirates on the high-seas to loot Indian ships. Till 17th century, India was the only naval power on the high seas, due to inventions of spherical trigonometry and astronomy by Arya Bhatta and Varahamihira, they knew the proportions of earth and all its directions; this knowledge was taken by Arabs and they transferred it to the Europeans; first Arabs and then Europeans were searching for the means to attack Indian goods on the ships. It became an urgent necessity for the Europeans to find the nearest sea-route to India. It is also important to note that the system of slavery and slave trade supported the Arab world, and later the European society and trade. 

 The book also discusses how in the last 1000 years, repeated invasions and occupations, first by the Islamists and later by the Christian colonialists, have looted, plundered, impoverished and devastated the nation; and how these unholy forces  wrecked havoc in India’s socio-political, cultural and intellectual landscape, which directly affected India’s economy. While the Islamists entered India with all-out jihad, the European colonial Christian forces including Portuguese, British, French, Dutch etc entered in the form of Trading companies like British East India Company, they obtained trade licenses from the ruling Delhi Sultans, and incrementally occupied the whole of India. British East India Company and later British crown through its parliament, effected several legal and administrative measures which completely broke the back of India’s agricultural system and practices as well as all other trades, levied heavy taxes on Indian produce and products even within India, curtailed exports, while bringing in substandard cheap products from Britain and flooded the Indian markets; British ensured that Indian products were not produced or exported, Indians had to depend on the cheap products from Britain.           

The British first impoverished India by destroying Indian manufactures and skills, then caused huge numbers of famines, almost a major famine in every decade, which created abject poverty. Then they went on to manufacture false narratives that India is a poor country, which Indians repeat to this day. Suffice it to say that the `industrial revolution’ (which itself consisted of smallest instruments like  spinning Jenney, mule, frames only,  even steam engine was a flop in the earlier days), was entirely financed from the loot of Bengal treasury alone, after Clive won the Battle of Plassey in 1757.  The book gives facts and figures of the loot and plunder of India, which went into Lakhs of Pounds even in the 18th century. Between 1757-1814, the EIC plundered 100 crores pound sterlings from India and took them away to British banks; during 19th century, India was looted by over 608 crores pound sterlings. Fearful of quality Indian textiles, especially cotton and calico, the unskilled poor wool-producing British farmers protested against Indian imports even in 19th century, that was the reality of ‘Industrial revolution’ in Britain.  

Apart from various legal measures and brutalities to suppress Indian peasants, artisans, merchants and traders, the British also conducted surveys and explorations to dig and loot minerals, and levy heavy taxation on Indians, by setting up agencies like Survey of India in 1767; Plant Imperialism was practiced by setting up Botanical Gardens in 1786 for export of raw materials and Indian plant products, and import crops like tea, coffee, tobacco etc, which they forced Indian farmers to cultivate for British economic benefit. The railways and steam boats were established which continuously and rapaciously plundered India and exported raw materials by lakhs of tonnes, entirely free of cost. It is strange to note that bulk of `British trade’ was by East India Company in 19th century, whereas it was an insignificant fraction of the overall Indian wealth and trade, it was indeed Swarna Bharati.  British also had setup an elaborate land-revenue system, in which they have established landlords/zamindars who were seen as exploiting the farmers, while the British in-turn exploited the zamindars. Till date, we have a lot of victimhood literature, which presents the landlords as bloodsucking exploiters, while it is actually the British who have impoverished all the working class people, farmers and artisans, and conveniently laid the blame on `upper-castes’; till date all the castes and communities are fighting amongst themselves based on these false histories.    

The book  `Swarna Bharati’ is a treasure house of historical facts and figures and in a single volume gives the entire economic history of India.  It also has an annexure on the loot which happened in the Andhra region by enforcing heavy taxes on farmers, ensuring that they produce commercial crops for British benefit, and starving and depriving people of food crops, all data is taken from the British official records. The great scholar and author Sri Satyadev Prasad had done a great service to Telugus, by writing the book Swarna Bharati in such a lucid manner, so that ordinary reader can grasp India’s economic history, the book has just over 200+ pages with a very attractive cover.  Read together with the same author’s `Chaduvula chettu (inspired from The Beautiful Tree) and Samartha Bharati – Bharatiya Vaignyanika Varasatvam- India’s scientific heritage, all these texts give the ordinary reader an overview of India’s history of the last two millennia, in different sectors. It is highly recommended that the youth, especially students read this wonderful volume to know India’s economic history. Samvit Prakashan deserves a huge applause for making this book available to the readers, this is a book every Telugu must read. 

The book is available at Hindu eShop and Amazon. For copies, contact 8520999582.

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