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Did the Great Flood of Indian legend actually happen? Why did the Buddha walk to Sarnath to give his first sermon? How did the Europeans map India? The history of any country begins with its geography. With sparkling wit and intelligence, Sanjeev Sanyal sets off to explore India and look at how the country’s history was shaped by, among other things, its rivers, mountains a Did the Great Flood of Indian legend actually happen? Why did the Buddha walk to Sarnath to give his first sermon? How did the Europeans map India? The history of any country begins with its geography. With sparkling wit and intelligence, Sanjeev Sanyal sets off to explore India and look at how the country’s history was shaped by, among other things, its rivers, mountains and cities. Traversing remote mountain passes, visiting ancient archaeological sites, crossing rivers in shaky boats and immersing himself in old records and manuscripts, he considers questions about Indian history that we rarely ask: Why do Indians call their country Bharat? How did the British build the railways across the subcontinent? What was it like to sail on an Indian Ocean merchant ship in the fifth century AD? Why was the world's highest mountain named after George Everest?


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Did the Great Flood of Indian legend actually happen? Why did the Buddha walk to Sarnath to give his first sermon? How did the Europeans map India? The history of any country begins with its geography. With sparkling wit and intelligence, Sanjeev Sanyal sets off to explore India and look at how the country’s history was shaped by, among other things, its rivers, mountains a Did the Great Flood of Indian legend actually happen? Why did the Buddha walk to Sarnath to give his first sermon? How did the Europeans map India? The history of any country begins with its geography. With sparkling wit and intelligence, Sanjeev Sanyal sets off to explore India and look at how the country’s history was shaped by, among other things, its rivers, mountains and cities. Traversing remote mountain passes, visiting ancient archaeological sites, crossing rivers in shaky boats and immersing himself in old records and manuscripts, he considers questions about Indian history that we rarely ask: Why do Indians call their country Bharat? How did the British build the railways across the subcontinent? What was it like to sail on an Indian Ocean merchant ship in the fifth century AD? Why was the world's highest mountain named after George Everest?

30 review for Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography

  1. 4 out of 5

    Riku Sayuj

    The author repeatedly claims uniqueness to his book by saying it is about ‘the history of India’s geography’. The introduction detailing out this objective for the book makes a case that this is an interesting way to look at Indian history and, to be honest, it is. However the rest of the book, except for the first chapter, barely acknowledges this supposed orientation. There is nothing that distinguishes this from the other books on Indian history that I have read, except that the author is cle The author repeatedly claims uniqueness to his book by saying it is about ‘the history of India’s geography’. The introduction detailing out this objective for the book makes a case that this is an interesting way to look at Indian history and, to be honest, it is. However the rest of the book, except for the first chapter, barely acknowledges this supposed orientation. There is nothing that distinguishes this from the other books on Indian history that I have read, except that the author is clearly nationalistic in outlook, has a penchant for wild theories, and is always willing to give priority to a good story over confusing details, in the interest of brevity or maybe, bias. The book reads like a standard, if stylized, history. And for that, there are many better books out there.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rajat Ubhaykar

    The Land of Seven Rivers is an oversimplified, inaccurate history of India with a pronounced nationalistic tilt (Sanyal seems to believe in the Out of India theory, though he is not confident enough to proclaim this outright). His writing is substandard and lacks the nuance essential to good history. (I would recommend John Keay's India: A Brief History for an unbiased, accessible, almost poetically written history of India) I find it difficult to understand what Sanyal set out to achieve with th The Land of Seven Rivers is an oversimplified, inaccurate history of India with a pronounced nationalistic tilt (Sanyal seems to believe in the Out of India theory, though he is not confident enough to proclaim this outright). His writing is substandard and lacks the nuance essential to good history. (I would recommend John Keay's India: A Brief History for an unbiased, accessible, almost poetically written history of India) I find it difficult to understand what Sanyal set out to achieve with this book. The subtitle claims it to be A Brief History of India's Geography, but that it most certainly is not. It reads more like a collection of random, often interesting, facts laid down chronologically; facts that have more to do with the various phases of urbanization in India than geography. Geography, at best, provides a background to historical events in this narrative. The Saraswati river (predictably) makes many appearances in the book, as Sanyal traces the historical evolution of Indians’ geographical knowledge through textual sources like the Vedas, Mahabharata and Ramayana. Another major theme in this book is India’s trade links with other cultures and places, through which India exported its culture and civilization. Sanyal writes about this with typical nationalistic pride that is tinged with nostalgia for the glory days. However, what’s most annoying is how Sanyal constantly marshals silly parallels between India’s past & present in a bullheaded attempt to prove India's civilizational continuity (not that I deny it). He also makes up wild theories without providing any source for the same, which totally ruined his credibility for me. He constantly attempts to buttress his point that Indians were not an ahistorical people, as most Western scholars are wont to assert. In this, I partly agree with him. However, if one compares our sporadic, hagiographic record-keeping to the almost obsessive, detached documentation of ancient China, we fare poorly. Sanyal's primary argument to prove Indians' historical consciousness is the Ashoka edicts and how succeeding dynasties (Guptas, Tughlaqs as well as the British) inscribed their names on various edicts and hence saw themselves as the inheritors of an ancient civilization. And lastly, he has a massive boner for the lion, both as an animal and as a signifier of royal authority that has followed India down the centuries and today graces India’s official emblem. The Land of Seven Rivers ultimately is a book that believes in the questionable motto: “Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” Please avoid. There are much better history books out there.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Ashish Iyer

    Probably one of the best book i have come across. What i admired about this book is that it is not written like those leftist writers who shoved their narratives on your face. This book gives various perspectives to think about. This clears many many misconceptions on Indian history. What we learn in our schools are nothing but a bunch of lies. Wrote in such an interesting way that you can finish the book in one go! This book actually create more interest in Indian history, which was completed d Probably one of the best book i have come across. What i admired about this book is that it is not written like those leftist writers who shoved their narratives on your face. This book gives various perspectives to think about. This clears many many misconceptions on Indian history. What we learn in our schools are nothing but a bunch of lies. Wrote in such an interesting way that you can finish the book in one go! This book actually create more interest in Indian history, which was completed disappeared earlier by our boring school texts. The author intertwines geography and history in a very beautiful way. The book doesn't take you much in detail. But the way it has been written is amazing. You will gain a lots of information and most of the time be surprised. A great book about Indian history which is readable, authentic and unbiased. Every page has some interesting facts about India which are exciting and insightful. Surely a book to read to understand how India has reached today where she has. It was fun reading this book. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Wish this kind of books was there in our schools and colleges. Love it. Highly recommended for everyone. Now i have eyes on other book of his, the ocean of churn. Hope the author keep writing books like this.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Shahine Ardeshir

    The title of this book is what hooked me: "A brief history of India's geography". The problem is that the book doesn't live up to it: There is nothing brief about the history it covers, and there's less and less geography as it progresses. The biggest problem for me was that Sanjeev Sanyal took too much. He starts as early as the Harappan civilization, and ends in modern-day India. In eight chapters, it's impossible to do justice to such a vast span of history in a country as old and diverse as I The title of this book is what hooked me: "A brief history of India's geography". The problem is that the book doesn't live up to it: There is nothing brief about the history it covers, and there's less and less geography as it progresses. The biggest problem for me was that Sanjeev Sanyal took too much. He starts as early as the Harappan civilization, and ends in modern-day India. In eight chapters, it's impossible to do justice to such a vast span of history in a country as old and diverse as India. So for me, he bit off way more than he could chew. Also, the book becomes less and less centred around geography and becomes a series of interesting facts mish-mashed together in historical time periods. So while the content itself has interesting moments, it has no flow and ends up being repetitive in its style and unending in its direction. A great idea for a book, but a misleading title for this one. Not worth a read at all, in my opinion.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Saju Pillai

    Confused attempt at Indian history. Too much of an 'Out of India' bias, a proper hardon for lions, random backward & forward skipping over large tracts of time and in general losing the plot entirely in the second part of the book hurts the otherwise adequate writing. Readers looking for a more robust, yet eminently readable book on Indian history will be well advised to read John Keay's 'India a History'. A slight nit, the back cover of my edition has an appreciative quote from Amish Tripathi (o Confused attempt at Indian history. Too much of an 'Out of India' bias, a proper hardon for lions, random backward & forward skipping over large tracts of time and in general losing the plot entirely in the second part of the book hurts the otherwise adequate writing. Readers looking for a more robust, yet eminently readable book on Indian history will be well advised to read John Keay's 'India a History'. A slight nit, the back cover of my edition has an appreciative quote from Amish Tripathi (of the Shiva trilogy) - quoting verbatim "A fascinating new look at Indian history and civilization". Sadly there is nothing new or fascinating about this book, but more ironically we have Amish a poor writer and confuser of history patting the back of a significantly better writer with a superior hold on history. I would keep my eye out for new attempts by Sanjeev Sanyal.

  6. 5 out of 5

    ANUSHKRITI

    Batch 2018-2020 | M.Tech UDM Group No_G15 Submitted by : Akanksha Dewan |Ananyo Bandyopadhyay | Anushkriti | Apurva J. Sinkar | Apurva Sethia | Disha Khanna Land of the Seven Rivers By Sanjeev Sanyal The book 'Land of the Seven Rivers' is a unique attempt to present a historical narrative analysing the geography of land over a period of time. Sanjeev Sanyal embarks to investigate India and take a glance at how the nation's history was moulded by its streams, mountains and urban communities. He naviga Batch 2018-2020 | M.Tech UDM Group No_G15 Submitted by : Akanksha Dewan |Ananyo Bandyopadhyay | Anushkriti | Apurva J. Sinkar | Apurva Sethia | Disha Khanna Land of the Seven Rivers By Sanjeev Sanyal The book 'Land of the Seven Rivers' is a unique attempt to present a historical narrative analysing the geography of land over a period of time. Sanjeev Sanyal embarks to investigate India and take a glance at how the nation's history was moulded by its streams, mountains and urban communities. He navigates through remote mountain passes, visits antiquated archaeological destinations, crosses streams in flimsy vessels and drenches himself in old records and original copies. This is a book more for the general reader or explorer searching for a connection however not excessively requesting prologue to the authentic foundation to contemporary India. Land of the Seven Rivers is an approachable book that winds through the recognizable scene of the historical backdrop of the Indian sub-continent. It talks extensively about the culture, growth, progress and geography of India. The Aaryans made it to the land through the Hindu-Kush mountains via Khaibar bypass. But the Indian sub-continent certainly existed since long ago. It was called the “SaptaSindhu” area; “Sapta” meaning seven, and Sindhu is amongst one of the most important rivers in the history of Indian sub-continent. It is stated that the Indian civilization shaped at the banks of these rivers and grew to what it is now. Scholars often refer that the words Hindu and India are rooted in Sindhu. Cultures have historically evolved along the banks of rivers as they facilitate the needs of a society to form and expand. The seven rivers Indus, Brahmaputra, Krishna, Saraswati, Ganga, Narmada and Cauvery (Kaveri) played a crucial role in the Indus Valley Civilization. The book has made an attempt to describe the vast intellect of Indians since historic times. It refers to many examples which reflect the fact that India had a strong history and has shown integrity similar to country states. Following examples highlight the point: A column conveying "a statement by Emperor Ashoka from the third century BC" is one of "two Ashokan columns that Sultan Feroz Shah Tughlaq got transported from Topara close to Ambala, Haryana to the city of ‘New Delhi’ of its time and another pillar in the Qutub complex, New Delhi, which is pure iron piece and has not rusted since 15th century, with carving devoted to the Hindu god “Vishnu” and has conquests stories of a king named, Chandra. To link with the history, the Islamic kings allowed the pillar to stand. Another association that India has to its past – is the proportion 5:4 that was utilized in the town planning of Harappan cities in the 3000 BC. The advanced urban planning of Harappan civilisation cannot be beaten till date. The city of Dholavira in Gujarat is 771 meters by 617 meters. Thousand years later, a similar proportion is seen in Hindu writings like the Shatapatha, Brahmana and Shulbha Sutra that uses the same proportion in building fire-altars for Vedic purposes. The Iron Pillar of Delhi is designed in a similar proportion: the length of the column is 7.67 meters while the segment over the ground is 6.12 meters (a proportion of 5:4). A third illustration is the customary Indian system of measurements and weights that to some extent looked like those utilized by the Harappan people. The distinction was about 1.8 percent – which is fairly good for a time interval of four thousand years. Even in the field of trade, India had successfully flourished with different parts of the world. This custom of trade continued for many years, till the eighteenth century, until the plunder by the East India Company after the Battle of Plassey in 1857 began, which overturned trade drastically and is continuing till today. Maybe a strong basis behind why India remained a peace-lover yet social superpower for centuries lies within its capacity to understand different cultures and societies. In the course of the narrative, we come across the greater part of the points of interest one would expect: the Vedas, Ashoka, the Ramayana and Mahabharata, the different urban communities of Delhi, the Mughals, the British and their mapmakers, partition, and in addition the ascent of another India manifested by the formation and rapid growth of Gurgaon, a focal point for the call-centre industry, south of Delhi and identified by shining office towers, metro-stations, shopping centres, lavish lodgings and a large number of occupations and businesses. There are some inquisitive by-routes along the way. Sanyal cites from ongoing hereditary testing that recommends that despite the fact that there are hereditary linkages amongst Europeans and North Indians, the specific variations of the qualities found in the two spots point to the two populaces parting from basic predecessors in the district of the Persian inlet no less than 8,000 years ago – considerably sooner than customary records of an Aryan attack from Central Asia around 1,500 BC would propose. There was no Aryan intrusion bringing the Vedic religion and the author infers that his sense is that the Harappans were a multi-ethnic culture, rather like India today. The Rig Vedic individuals could well have been a piece of this foaming blend. As indicated by Sanyal, the Land of the Seven Rivers is "an attempt to write a brief and eclectic history of India’s geography. It is about the changes in India’s natural and human landscape, about ancient trade routes and cultural linkages, the rise and fall of cities, about dead rivers and the legends that keep them alive" (p. 3). As this depiction proposes, it is particularly an impressionistic study and to consider it a past filled with India's geology is fairly misrepresented. Topographical perspectives are considered and alluded to – waterways, streets, the working of urban communities and so on – yet they are not incorporated into the story: they are episodes to be noted as are others of a non-geological nature. There is minimal genuine endeavour to arrange the occasions inside a geological setting as far as the relief of the land, the varieties of soil or atmosphere, the sorts and profitability of agribusiness, the frameworks of water system or land residency and their relationship to social and political structures. Obviously, one ought not be too hard on the author here for he doesn't profess to have embarked to give a precise topographical treatment of Indian history. Or maybe, as he concedes, the book centres around to some degree a distinctive arrangement of inquiries such as whether there is any fact in antiquated legends about the Great Flood; for what reason do Indians call their nation Bharat; what do the legends enlighten us concerning how Indians saw the geology of their nation in the Iron Age; for what reason did the Buddha give his first sermon at Sarnath, simply outside Varanasi; what was it like to sail on an Indian Ocean merchant ship in the fifth century AD. As will be obvious, this is a light-contact specific survey of Indian history for the general reader by an author who, as an expert market analyst, is a long way from being a specialist in Indian history. This has a few benefits. The book covers an extensive variety of material in a way that does not cause exhaustion or overpower the reader in the manner in which that more point by point narratives of India usually do. Sanyal skips deftly amongst districts and civilisations, and his fairly innocent composed style will be agreeable to numerous readers new to the material exhibited. A satisfying element of the book is the space it gives to the expansions of Indian civilisation into South East Asia – into nations like Vietnam, Thailand, and Java – matters which regular records of this scope frequently disregard and which yet delineate for the writer a move that happened in the attitude of Indians, from a hazard taking entrepreneurial culture that drove shippers to establish new Indian settlements abroad, by around 1000 AD, a less flexible and closed civilisation significantly; less open to the potential outcomes of movement and exchange beyond India. The way to India's ongoing monetary and social resurgence has been, contends Sanyal, its recuperation of its prior soul of disclosure and exchange and correspondence with whatever remains of the world – as spoken to by the "Indian diaspora", some 25-30 million in number, which because of globalization and innovation… would now be able to look after business, individual and social connections with India in ways that would have been incomprehensible an age back. Land of the Seven Rivers is, in short, an impressionistic study of the long range of Indian history, starting with the early people entering India from the Persian Gulf and coming full circle in the ascent of an advanced, sparkling, and progressively urban India as the sub-continent enters the 21st Century. Lacking required investigation or the sort of detail that can open to the reader genuine bits of knowledge into the lives and issues going up against Indians of past occasions, it is a book for the general explorer inquisitive to learn more about his country ; in terms of both its historical and geographical context.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Siddhant

    A clear North Indian bias. South India ignored, except for the coasts, Hampi and Kishkhindha. For all the author cares about it, the North-east probably doesn't even exist. The author's more concerned about the continuities of Indian civilization: the chakra, the lion, people adding their names to Ashokan pillars, and Indians having a sense of civilizational identity and history. A few parts, for example those about the Saraswati and the Trigonometric survey, are thought-provoking and might lead A clear North Indian bias. South India ignored, except for the coasts, Hampi and Kishkhindha. For all the author cares about it, the North-east probably doesn't even exist. The author's more concerned about the continuities of Indian civilization: the chakra, the lion, people adding their names to Ashokan pillars, and Indians having a sense of civilizational identity and history. A few parts, for example those about the Saraswati and the Trigonometric survey, are thought-provoking and might lead to a serious bout of googling/wiki-ing. The title and cover-info are misleading, and I wouldn't suggest this book if one wants to know about the history of India's geography or Indian history or Indian geography. Also, not funny or entertaining; bland. Do not expect a Bill Bryson.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Gita Madhu

    We live on the ground floor and, to our right, is an empty flat. The other day, the absentee landlady was over as she’s getting the flat all dolled up so she can rent it out. She popped in on us with a friend and we chatted. It so happened that she and her friend both used to be school teachers and her friend had just recently dropped out of teaching because, as she put it: schools are now full of the upwardly mobile lower classes who want to and can pay for what they consider “good educatio We live on the ground floor and, to our right, is an empty flat. The other day, the absentee landlady was over as she’s getting the flat all dolled up so she can rent it out. She popped in on us with a friend and we chatted. It so happened that she and her friend both used to be school teachers and her friend had just recently dropped out of teaching because, as she put it: schools are now full of the upwardly mobile lower classes who want to and can pay for what they consider “good education”. Of course, her words were coloured by a certain distaste. And I was not disturbed by her reaction as I’d already witnessed worse in the mid-2000s. Around that time, as I was teaching part-time at a slightly upper middle-class school, I observed that teachers were required, on some rotational basis, to put in time, after hours, to teach the children of the very poor from the neighbourhood. It must have been overwhelming for these good ladies, from very middle-class backgrounds, to have to put in face to face time with a horde of snotty-nosed, mostly quite literally speaking, kids. And these teachers were all wives and mothers in a very Indian system where family often still implies extended family too. Their normal days are unbelievably challenging: getting up before dawn, preparing a packed lunch for themselves, husbands, kids, elders and all those who also live with them, attending to a million and one tiny chores that ensure smooth running, handling a work day filled to the brim with noisy kids, the endless notebooks to correct, lessons to be prepared and homecoming is back to the grind after a short nap. I really really do not blame them for being cloistered and having a Marie Antoinette attitude to the poor. This is just to put into perspective what those years were like. So there was a huge movement, rather low-key, where, on the one hand schools were, semi-voluntarily, throwing open their doors to the huge numbers of the children of the very poor and entirely illiterate. On the other hand, scattered people took initiatives on their own and taught on the roadside, in slums and at construction sites. We had to leave the country to earn a living. When we returned after 5 years, we stayed rather close to where we had, before we left. Now school buses, filled with children from humbler backgrounds, in school uniform, with school bags, congregated outside schools, past noon. The streets, in those hours, were teeming with bright eyed bushy tailed kids from shacks and whatnot, hopping and skipping their way to school. Youths, even those working as labour, were to be seen reading newspapers. Today, most youngsters, male and female, have studied till the tenth standard, at least. And, more importantly, today, those, who used to be most disadvantaged, can and do send their kids to what they consider the better schools. Some even dare seek the best. They do not go after hours. They attend along with everyone else. Parents and guardians sometimes pay bribes and the infamous donations to get their child a seat in such and such school. Obviously there is heartburn. Status Quo never likes being shuffled around. But it’s happened and there’s no going back. And you will find a beautiful and moving and inspiring passage about this transition in Sanjeev Sanyal’s Land of the Seven Rivers: A Brief History of India's Geography, towards the end of the chapter titled The Contours of Modern India, under the sub-heading Urban villages, Slums and the New Middle Class. "out of this messy process of migration, social climbing and urban evolution a new India is emerging dominated by new middle class children of migrants..." I would ask you to buy this book if you are an Indian and want to know more about your history and geography and enjoy reading, for it is excellently written. I would read passages aloud in school. And, if you’re not Indian, it’s time you read about us in a book written by an Indian.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Adithya Jain

    This is the best book on Indian history that I have ever come across. Although it is a narrative of India's geography and history, objective and straightforward, you'll never get bored. The fact that the author has gone through a lot of material and has been at the various places mentioned in the book, is evident from the detailed narrative. The narrative can be a little pacy at times, but the author never ceases to amaze you by the facts that he brings out in this book. You'll enjoy it thourough This is the best book on Indian history that I have ever come across. Although it is a narrative of India's geography and history, objective and straightforward, you'll never get bored. The fact that the author has gone through a lot of material and has been at the various places mentioned in the book, is evident from the detailed narrative. The narrative can be a little pacy at times, but the author never ceases to amaze you by the facts that he brings out in this book. You'll enjoy it thouroughly if you are a history enthusiast. Well I'm one and I've already set it apart for reading it again. A wonderful book and worth a read any day.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Abhinav Agarwal

    "Five millennia, one history, one nation, one helluva book." Short review: This book is a second, much grander and a much better attempt by the author to answer one question. This time around though, he goes deeper and farther back in the history of the land of seven rivers - India, presents us with his findings, and posits that India has had a sense of history - one that not only goes back several unbroken thousand years, but has found echo in successive empires and invaders seeking to associate "Five millennia, one history, one nation, one helluva book." Short review: This book is a second, much grander and a much better attempt by the author to answer one question. This time around though, he goes deeper and farther back in the history of the land of seven rivers - India, presents us with his findings, and posits that India has had a sense of history - one that not only goes back several unbroken thousand years, but has found echo in successive empires and invaders seeking to associate themselves with this history. As the author travels through the country - in time as well as geography - we are treated to some long-forgotten incidents that should have been part of our curricula, as well as fascinating insights into such endeavours as the mapping of the country by the colonials, which itself was a source of competitive advantage in a manner of speaking. The second question, which the author attempted to answer in his first book, but with less than middling success, is why India went into decline a thousand years ago. The answer, my friend, is blowin in the wind, and you need to turn the pages to find it. The truth is out there in the hardcover. A must read. Makes it to my best books I have read in 2013. See my full review at http://blog.abhinavagarwal.net/2013/0...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kaśyap

    This is very short work that provides a glimpse of the long history of Indian civilization, beginning with the first humans entering India from the Persian Gulf, the rise and the decline of Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization, the second wave urbanisation in the central Ganga plains, the devastating Turkish invasions, and then through the millennia culminating in the rise of a modern urban India in the 21st Century. The only problem is that the title is a misnomer. This is not a history of India's Geo This is very short work that provides a glimpse of the long history of Indian civilization, beginning with the first humans entering India from the Persian Gulf, the rise and the decline of Sindhu-Saraswati Civilization, the second wave urbanisation in the central Ganga plains, the devastating Turkish invasions, and then through the millennia culminating in the rise of a modern urban India in the 21st Century. The only problem is that the title is a misnomer. This is not a history of India's Geography. It is rather a story of the idea of Bharata, a land with over two millennia of consciousness of itself as a unique civilization, and its continuity . And the author manages to write a good entertaining narrative with a good flow despite the vast time period it covers.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Akhila

    Awesome book! I always wanted to understand how our mythological world & the scientific world links together and this is the book that explains all that & more! Are the RigVedic people & the Harappan people the same? What is it to be Indian, what is our 'collective memory', genetics, tectonics, cartography - this breadth this book covers is amazing!! Really interesting read! Awesome book! I always wanted to understand how our mythological world & the scientific world links together and this is the book that explains all that & more! Are the RigVedic people & the Harappan people the same? What is it to be Indian, what is our 'collective memory', genetics, tectonics, cartography - this breadth this book covers is amazing!! Really interesting read!

  13. 4 out of 5

    Arathi Mohan

    Got this book as a birthday gift from a dear friend. She had thoroughly enjoyed reading it and knew that I would too. This book proved to be a crash course of all the social science classes learnt in high school. Never a dull moment in the book. With interesting chapter names like "Of Genetics and Tectonics" and "Trigonometry and Steam", it is a well-paced read with nice anecdotes. It is neither geography nor history. Indeed, it is the story of the evolution of civilization over the centuries. A Got this book as a birthday gift from a dear friend. She had thoroughly enjoyed reading it and knew that I would too. This book proved to be a crash course of all the social science classes learnt in high school. Never a dull moment in the book. With interesting chapter names like "Of Genetics and Tectonics" and "Trigonometry and Steam", it is a well-paced read with nice anecdotes. It is neither geography nor history. Indeed, it is the story of the evolution of civilization over the centuries. Although it starts with the supercontinent theory and the origins of man, later it shifts focus to the region and people that would come to be known as India. The author sketches all the major civilizations that have occupied Indian territories - the Indus civilization, the Mauryan empire, the golden age of Guptas, the might of the Southern Cholas, the rocky outcrops of Vijayanagara, the coming of the Mongols (Mughals) and finally, the Europeans. The book ends on a speculative note, what the future holds for the Indian civilization.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ankur Sharma

    one of most interesting book that i have read till the day, open up the whole world of possibilities and takes a peculiar view on he history of india. the most important partb of the book is when author discuss our origin as indians. it shows pan india view of the author. the possibilities are endless a must read for each lover of history and geography.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Dinkar Sitaram

    Really good and well written. Includes a review of recent genetic evidence as well as an interesting theory about the relationship between Sanskrit and Avestan

  16. 5 out of 5

    Himanshu

    The Land of seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal is a wonderful Read. It has beautifully linked the interconnection between history and geography and how one reinforces another.Sanjeev has come up with some major themes during the course of the book.(1)Growth of Indian civilisation has been continuous and not haphazard ( from urbanisation In harrapan period whose many facets are still preserved and used in the modern India, inscriptions on Ashokan Pillar where later kings also wrote about their own ac The Land of seven Rivers by Sanjeev Sanyal is a wonderful Read. It has beautifully linked the interconnection between history and geography and how one reinforces another.Sanjeev has come up with some major themes during the course of the book.(1)Growth of Indian civilisation has been continuous and not haphazard ( from urbanisation In harrapan period whose many facets are still preserved and used in the modern India, inscriptions on Ashokan Pillar where later kings also wrote about their own achievements, inscriptions of different kings near Sudarshan Lake, importance of ratio 1.25 in our civilisation which is preserved from the time of Harrapa and many more examples) (2) Cyclicity of events( Eg: Arabs,when they were dominating sea trades, came to western coast of India and later mixed with the native population and Mopillas are their descendants. And now they are going to Arab nations for economic reasons to complete this circle) and ( 3) Importance of Lion in Indian civilisation ( From Ashokan Pillars to later only reserved for royal hunting during Mughal period to Singapore getting its Name when a Malayan tiger was mistakenly understood as Lion by Prince of Srivijaya kingdom to finally Indian government adopted it as part of our official emblem) . The chapters about Harrapan civilisation, following Saraswati and how earlier civilisation moved eastward owing to drying up of Saraswati are thought provoking. Specially the chapter about voyages of Indian traders as well as of Vasco Digama and Zheng He is a fascinating read, which also makes us understand the importance of cartography and its pertinence which again came to the fore during the Indian-Chinese Tension during late 1950s and culminated into a full fledged war. The book is full of interesting anecdotes. Will mention one here:: The author met two Swedish citizen during his visit of Zanzibar. Their ancestors were Gujrati Muslims and Settled in Zanzibar in late 19th century though later forced to move out due to racial tension in 1960s. Now these two Swedish had come back to rediscover their roots. Though they had never visited India, they were communicating to each other in kutchhi language( language of Kutch region of Gujarat ) and still enjoying gujarati snacks!! And the book is full of such interesting anecdotes. After reading it, one can understand the author’s painstaking journey of 2.5 years for writing this book and he virtually takes you to these places of history with his powerful writing. The only negative I can recall is about lesser emphasis given to the southern kingdoms except the Cholas and and the Vijaynagram ( though southern coastal regions are exhaustively covered) and rushing during the 1700-1947 period. There are few books which make me sad at the completion of it because the journey which you were living with the book comes to an end. This is right their at the top. Highly recommended for reader who are interested in the history and geography of India.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sandeepan Mondal

    This book is highly recommended if you are inquisitive about how India's geography influenced its history and vice-versa. The author has done good research using mostly contemporary sources about topics which are contentious like the origin & decline of harappan civilization and out-of-India migration theories (as opposed to Aryan invasion theories). The author has also touched upon how tectonic and seismic forces shaped the world we live in today. This book makes for a fast read and the author This book is highly recommended if you are inquisitive about how India's geography influenced its history and vice-versa. The author has done good research using mostly contemporary sources about topics which are contentious like the origin & decline of harappan civilization and out-of-India migration theories (as opposed to Aryan invasion theories). The author has also touched upon how tectonic and seismic forces shaped the world we live in today. This book makes for a fast read and the author has touched upon many aspects of the Indian influence in south-east Asia mostly, which are accurate according to the latest research in various journals and books. The reader is advised to go through the bibliography at the end of this book and read a few books from which the author has drawn his conclusions. This book should not be treated as an academic book (for UPSC aspirants) or a history book (like John Keay's India: A history). All in all, an engaging read which succeeds in amusing the reader and firing up his imagination with respect to major happenings in India's past.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Piyush Behera

    Though Initially grudging to go for this one, I started this after the suggestion from one of my childhood pals. The initial pages though dint let my spirits down, there are theories regarding many questions which I thought to be at first inane which emerged to be the most settling issues in the hindsight. The book answers many a questions in a narrative way, binding very essence, coursing through the very historical rationality. History shall be like a story and should never be learned in rote Though Initially grudging to go for this one, I started this after the suggestion from one of my childhood pals. The initial pages though dint let my spirits down, there are theories regarding many questions which I thought to be at first inane which emerged to be the most settling issues in the hindsight. The book answers many a questions in a narrative way, binding very essence, coursing through the very historical rationality. History shall be like a story and should never be learned in rote memory which I first learned with Ramachandra Guha has also been exemplified over here. Nonetheless, four stars for this riveting and grappling read...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rahul Adusumilli

    The author's own attempts at summarizing his book are hilarious. I didn't care for the first chapter that dealt with genetics and I'm not concerned with accuracy. I only care that he managed to dish up some anecdotes I haven't heard before. Has little to do with physical geography. The title should read "A brief history of India's settlements."

  20. 4 out of 5

    Siddharth Singh

    Apart from a a few typos, this is a thoroughly entertaining book!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Sriram Venugopal

    A view of Indian civilization from Vedic times to current through geographic lens. How Indias geography has changed through the times from Vedic Islamic and colonial invaders, partition, etc. Author has used documented evidences of foreign travellers during those times. How cartography played a major role in British invasion, what led to the decline of Indian economic prowess during the last 700-800 years. The author has stuck to the geography and where the evidences are available. A nice accoun A view of Indian civilization from Vedic times to current through geographic lens. How Indias geography has changed through the times from Vedic Islamic and colonial invaders, partition, etc. Author has used documented evidences of foreign travellers during those times. How cartography played a major role in British invasion, what led to the decline of Indian economic prowess during the last 700-800 years. The author has stuck to the geography and where the evidences are available. A nice account and a different perspective of the Indian civilization as a whole.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Ayush Mishra

    This unique book on the history of geography breaks some myths, fills many gaps and gives a holistic picture of our civilization from days of Indus Valley Civilization to the current times. For people with NCERT Background like me, many of the things told here may be a revision of past with a new angle, new perspective brought to the table. Coming from an author who doesn't have a background of either History or Geography, maybe helped in keeping the narrative less academic and more like a long ci This unique book on the history of geography breaks some myths, fills many gaps and gives a holistic picture of our civilization from days of Indus Valley Civilization to the current times. For people with NCERT Background like me, many of the things told here may be a revision of past with a new angle, new perspective brought to the table. Coming from an author who doesn't have a background of either History or Geography, maybe helped in keeping the narrative less academic and more like a long civilizational story. A must read book if you are a history stickler (like I am).

  23. 5 out of 5

    Yogi Travelling

    An amazing book!! Very highly recommended for anyone that wants to learn about what shaped India, as well as its civilization... I actually finished this book on the plane to India... The book looks at the geography of India and how it played a crucial role in its development... I felt like I was reading a version of 'Guns, Germs and Steel' that only focused on the subcontinent of India... ...In the NE of the subcontinent, are the Himalyas... This high mountain range kept China from invading the co An amazing book!! Very highly recommended for anyone that wants to learn about what shaped India, as well as its civilization... I actually finished this book on the plane to India... The book looks at the geography of India and how it played a crucial role in its development... I felt like I was reading a version of 'Guns, Germs and Steel' that only focused on the subcontinent of India... ...In the NE of the subcontinent, are the Himalyas... This high mountain range kept China from invading the country... There were a few times when the Chinese had to give up their raid due to the weather in the mountains... In the NW of the subcontinent is where all the invasions have taken place, from the middle east.... From Alexander the Great, to the Aryans, to the Mughal Emperors... (It is also from here where the first settlers from the migration from Africa settled in the Subcontinent to form the first Civilization) The British Invasion occured from the coast of Calcutta... From the East Indian Trading Company The author presents 3 complelling events that have shaped Indian Civilization: 1 - Indus Valley Civilization, around the legendary Sarasvati River 6000 years ago... 2 - Movement of the Civilization to the Ganges River, 4000 years ago after the drying up of the Saravati... 3 - Development of Calcutta in the 1800s, that led to British occupation and later to India's independence... It was this last event that brought education, literacy and ingenuity to the country.... India has always been a passive people, it has been this 'passivity' that allowed their continual conquest by the many empires over the millennia... Winston Churchill, after the British occupation of India once said, "India is a geography. It's borders are no more than the equator." ... To the active eye, passivity will always be overlooked But if you look at India, even after the many conquests over its people, it's 'still' here - and it's growing rapidly!! I am reminded of the fact that since the beginning of time, every "developed" civilization has been overcome by an "undeveloped" civilization - all these civilizations have been undeveloped / developed from the "outside"... However in the case of India, it's undevelopment has led to it's development, but where this transformation was led from the foundation that has been "established", on the 'inside'... Remarkable story... I will leave the reader with this last thought from my review of "The Tao of Physics" - It is for science in the East, where the observer and the observed is 'one'... While for science in the West, the observer and the observed is 'two'.... ... Life itself is a science - and we are seeing it unfold

  24. 4 out of 5

    Manu

    Geography through the lens of history, the other way, or both! Whichever way one interprets it, the perspective it offers simply by traversing the length of time from "Gondwana to Gurgaon" is quite amazing. In trying to unravel the broad contours as well as nuances of an ancient civilisation that continues to thrive, the author covers varying domains - beginning with genetics and tectonics and continuing on to trade, politics, cartography and so on. As the title suggests, the specific area aroun Geography through the lens of history, the other way, or both! Whichever way one interprets it, the perspective it offers simply by traversing the length of time from "Gondwana to Gurgaon" is quite amazing. In trying to unravel the broad contours as well as nuances of an ancient civilisation that continues to thrive, the author covers varying domains - beginning with genetics and tectonics and continuing on to trade, politics, cartography and so on. As the title suggests, the specific area around the seven rivers gets most of the focus. One reason is probably that, the events and transformation that this region has witnessed is relatively much higher than the rest of the country. But in many contexts, the author has given hat tips to other relevant regions/kingdoms. e.g. Vijayanagara, Chola, Muziris. He has also covered population influx and exodus at different points in history, and the influences of both, in India as well as in other geographies. In terms of history, while it might be arguably selective, the author does cover the Harappa civilisation, the movement of civilisation from the Indus to the Gangetic plains, the Mauryas, Guptas, the dynasties preceding the Mughals, different emperors of the Mughal empire, the British and even the politics and policies of contemporary India that continues to create new contours. It is fascinating to see the change in GDP (global share) and population growth through history, and understand the reasons behind them. The author seems to have traveled quite a bit, and the personal anecdotes about various historically important sites are a very good touch, lending authenticity and character. One other thing I was really impressed by is the absolutely accurate (from what I have seen around me in Bangalore) description of a cycle that a village goes through as it becomes urban, and gentrifies. What I liked most was how, through comparisons of events past and present, the author shows the circularity of history. Like the wheel in our national emblem, we have cycles a civilisation goes through - absorbing, rejecting, morphing - and identities it creates for itself and its citizens. I am not a fan of the concept of a nation state, but this book does a great job of giving perspectives on how it exists, and why.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Maurya

    A brilliant book on India's history with an important caveat - you must already know India's history! What I mean is that if you've never read India's history and are looking for an introduction then there are better options available. This book is just too short to do justice to a topic as broad and sweeping as the full history of India. However if you're already more or less conversant with Indian history then this book is fascinating for some of the lesser known facets and trends that it unco A brilliant book on India's history with an important caveat - you must already know India's history! What I mean is that if you've never read India's history and are looking for an introduction then there are better options available. This book is just too short to do justice to a topic as broad and sweeping as the full history of India. However if you're already more or less conversant with Indian history then this book is fascinating for some of the lesser known facets and trends that it uncovers. For example, the book gives as much time to Lachit Borphukan, who gave the Mughals their first decisive defeat, as to Shivaji. Of course given Lachit Borphukan was from the North East my history book in school chose to remain mum about this thrilling and important battle. Similarly the section on Sydney Wignall, a Welsh mountaineer who had been recruited by the Indian army to spy on the Chinese, was very intriguing (Spy On The Roof Of The World: Espionage and Survival in the Himalayas has consequently joined my reading list). The author also teases out some trends (but sometimes also force-fits them) among the various dynasties and kingdoms in India - this is vastly more entertaining than a chronological laundry list of events. One of his theories that benefits from this method, is that Indians had a collective consciousness of belonging to the geographical entity that we now think of as India. However as with any book of this nature keep an eye out for speculation parading as fact (especially when it supports some pet theory of the author). Examples are Koreans being descended from an Indian princess (never proved), Thailand having Hindu influence since it has more Bramha temples than India (that's a fact but misleading since Bramha isn't traditionally worshipped in India) etc. But these were minor cribs in an otherwise fine work. At the very least it has now set me up for a lot of follow up reading...time to get to it...

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ajay

    Its always fun to read Sanjeev Sanyal books. Read it last year along with Ocean of churn which i considered the sequel of this book.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Abhishek Gupta

    This book is a must read for those who want not only to kmow india’s past, but also to feel and experience it. In many chapters this book criticizes the established assumptions on history and geography of India for eg It rejects the theory that It was Aryans who were responsible for end of harappan civilization . After reading this book , I found that history is nothing but opinions on past based on manipulated facts . Different historians gives different knowledge of history and the irony is tha This book is a must read for those who want not only to kmow india’s past, but also to feel and experience it. In many chapters this book criticizes the established assumptions on history and geography of India for eg It rejects the theory that It was Aryans who were responsible for end of harappan civilization . After reading this book , I found that history is nothing but opinions on past based on manipulated facts . Different historians gives different knowledge of history and the irony is that all of them prove their theories by using same set of facts. On the positive side , this book gives insights of hidden treasures in India and neighboring countries. It makes us feel proud of India as a nation , not only in modern times but also in ancient and medieval times. One may visualize actual events happenings in the tourist places for which they are known for. Sanjeev sanyal , in this book , shows how India is unchanged since ancient times for eg he has shown similarities in trade route jams by bullock carts in ancient times to trade route jams by trucks and carts in modern times. It also brings out the opinion that Human nature then and now is fundamentally same for eg though other historians defy possibilities of Harappan being a military state , but sanjeev sanyal , argues that the structures found in harappan sites are of militaristic nature. According to him aggression and defense are basic nature of humans . This book while discussing the modern India seems to be highly inspired by Ramchandra guha’s “India after Gandhi” .It looks like a summary of Guha’s book. All in all , This book articulates beautifully the Timeline of India from stone age to 21st century. The hardwork by the author in collecting the 1st hand information commands respect , though many of his opinions and conceptions of history are debatable.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Nick

    An absolutely great read. This is how the history books should be written. Without using too much history jargon or heavy/drab academic language, Sanjeev Sanyal puts together a delightful and informative read. This book should not be considered as some in-depth analysis of a particular topic or time, rather a broad sweep at history while connecting it with places. It could be considered a 5000 ft high broad view, which although doesn't give you a detailed info but it does cover a lot of ground. An absolutely great read. This is how the history books should be written. Without using too much history jargon or heavy/drab academic language, Sanjeev Sanyal puts together a delightful and informative read. This book should not be considered as some in-depth analysis of a particular topic or time, rather a broad sweep at history while connecting it with places. It could be considered a 5000 ft high broad view, which although doesn't give you a detailed info but it does cover a lot of ground. If somebody is starting in history (Indian), before moving on to various detailed and specific accounts, they must start from this and writer's other book 'Ocean of Churn'. Do not be mistaken, it has a treasure trove of knowledge which would not only delight you but also invoke interest and surprise. This book starts with the migration of humans from Africa and after that, it is mostly focused on North India. South India has representation in this book but comparatively less than North. However, the writer had made up to this by writing another book Ocean Of Churn which is heavily focussed on South. One more thing that makes this book different is that, unlike some of the history writers, the writer has actually traveled to the places mentioned in the book. It connects various events in history with geography and also tries to answer some of this questions in terms of geography and other natural events. For e.g. Why Buddha choose an unknown Sarnath for his sermons rather than Varanasi which was one of the greatest places of learning? This is worthy of every penny of the price!!

  29. 5 out of 5

    Anirban

    For a history nerd like me this book was Godsend. Concise, to the point and fast, it read like a edgy fictional saga, telling the story of a family called Bharat. The chapters began in a time not too far back, merely around 750 million years, and ended with the monstrosity of ugliness called Modern Cities. And, along the way Mr. Sanyal broke down some well taught myths in our history classes. Ashoka was not the meek peace loving man, without worldly ties as we are taught to believe. Neither does For a history nerd like me this book was Godsend. Concise, to the point and fast, it read like a edgy fictional saga, telling the story of a family called Bharat. The chapters began in a time not too far back, merely around 750 million years, and ended with the monstrosity of ugliness called Modern Cities. And, along the way Mr. Sanyal broke down some well taught myths in our history classes. Ashoka was not the meek peace loving man, without worldly ties as we are taught to believe. Neither does he spare modern historians fantasizing about Bahadur Shah Zafar being a modern Indian Renaissance man. The author, free of bias doesn’t stops calling the spade a spade, without romanticizing plunderers and pushing builders of civilization into obscurity. But, the biggest USP of the book, according to me would be the search for the mythical River Saraswati which the author manages to find. And even the main focus on the geography of the land, rather than date based history works wonder for the books. For the first time, atleast for me, the historical names had a location attached to it, instead of just being associated with dates. Overall this book left me with a satisfied smile on my face, making me wish that the history taught in our schools could be much more like this.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Shekhar

    Very interesting facts about India which I have not known until now even though I have lived and been to the places mentioned in this book. Starting from the Harappan civilization to the Gupta period to the Mughals to the domination in South East Asia to the colonial rule, being accountable to more than 1/3 of world GDP at one stage to more than 10% until the end of 19th century, I came across many facts about India that astonishes me. Did we have a nationhood in the past or did India as an idea Very interesting facts about India which I have not known until now even though I have lived and been to the places mentioned in this book. Starting from the Harappan civilization to the Gupta period to the Mughals to the domination in South East Asia to the colonial rule, being accountable to more than 1/3 of world GDP at one stage to more than 10% until the end of 19th century, I came across many facts about India that astonishes me. Did we have a nationhood in the past or did India as an idea only came into being about 2 centuries ago is well answered. The traditions that continue for more than 3000 years made me simply nod with acceptance. Until 1850s Madras was the largest city in India and Calcutta was the second largest, how Delhi lost its importance and Bombay was still a small city leased at £10 per month by East India Company is astonishing. How the coming up of Suez Canal changed the prominence of Mumbai and how cartography played a major role in the sudden change of India's importance from 16th century is well drafted. Overall a good book to read if one is interested in India and her past.

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