Ancient World


The name Viking brings up the image of seafaring savage warriors who plundered and destroyed regions of Europe. They had also been traders and settlers whose women enjoyed greater freedom and rights



Between the 8th and the 11th centuries, seafaring Vikings expanded from Scandinavia and came to be known across Europe first as warriors, then as explorers and traders. It was the Viking age.
Scandinavia comprises present-day Denmark, Norway and Sweden. Sailing across the Norwegian and the Baltic Seas, the Vikings formed settlements in the Shetland, Orkney, Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland and in North America in Newfoundland, among others.


Norse names like Egilsay, Ormskirk, Meols, Snaefell, Ravenscar, Vinland and more exist to this day. English words like Thursday, which stands for Thor’s day, axle, crook, berserk, skerry, ransack are a few of the Old Norse words.
The Vikings had not left a literary legacy, hence what is known of them comes from archaeological evidence and from Western Europe which was literate and came in touch with them.

The Viking raids began during the reign of Charlemagne, King of the Franks, lending credence to the


theory that their expansion from Scandinavia began with Charlemagne’s use of terror to spread Christianity among the pagans. This in turn led to Viking resistance and desire for revenge.

The other theory is that they simply expanded during a period when the other regions were weak and Viking ships travelled easily, facing little opposition on the seas. The fall of the Roman Empire and the rise of Islam had affected trade between Western Europe and Eurasia, leaving room for the Vikings.
While the Norwegians moved north and westward towards Ireland, Scotland, Iceland and Greenland, the Danes moved to England and France and the Swedes to the east towards Kiev. The Rurik dynasty controlled the regions in Slavic and Finno-Ugric dominated areas of Eastern Europe as well as Kiev in Russia.
Vikings were the ancestors of the Normans who ruled over parts of Northern France during the 10th century. King Harold Godwinson, the last Anglo-Saxon king of England traces his ancestry to Denmark while Sweyn Forkbeard and Cnut the Great became kings of England during the 11th century.
Emissaries from Sweden visited Byzantium during the 9th century and Scandinavians formed a large part of the Varangian Guard, the imperial bodyguard of Byzantium.

Three socio-economic classes, the Thralls, Karls and Jarls comprised Viking society with some mobility between the latter two. Thralls were slaves who worked for the Karls and the Jarls, tending to daily chores and heavy construction.
Karls were peasants owning farms and cattle while Jarls were the wealthy aristocracy, owning large estates and horses and were involved in administration and politics. When Jarls died, sometimes the Thralls in the households were killed and buried next to them. There were also the felag in civil and military.

Women held free status with the paternal aunt, niece and granddaughter having the right to inherit the property of a dead man. An unmarried woman with no male relatives or sons could inherit property and be the head of the family. When she turned 20, an unmarried woman had the right to decide her place of residence, although the clan decided whom she married.

Widows had the same status as unmarried women while married women could divorce and remarry. A free woman could live with a married man and have children with him without marrying him and these children held the same status as those born within a marriage. Women acted as priestesses and oracles, they were poets and rune masters, merchants and medicine women. The introduction of Christianity brought these practices to an end.

The Vikings ate cured, smoked and whey-preserved meat, including beef, mutton, pork, horse meat, sausages, hens, game birds, seafood of whales and walrus among others, bread, porridge, milk products, vegetables, fruits, berries and nuts. They used herbs and spices.
They liked music and played the harp, fiddle, lyre and the lute. Sports was encouraged, involving weapons and combat skills, mountain climbing, swimming, skiing and ice skating, horse fighting and a game similar to hockey. They played board and dice games too.
The Vikings did not stick to a single method of dealing with their dead, they buried them in the ground, or with mounds of earth or stones raised over the graves, they had ship burials and cremation, depending on local customs.

Norsemen sailed the river Volga, trading in furs, tusks, seal fat, which functioned as a sealant for boats, and in slaves. Silver was the primary metal for trade and they bought spices, glass, silk and wine.

Norsemen sailed the river Volga, trading in furs, tusks, seal fat, which functioned as a sealant for boats, and in slaves. Silver was the primary metal for trade and they bought spices, glass, silk and wine.
By the end of the 11th century, Christianity became legitimate, Denmark, Norway and Sweden took their independent identities and administrative centres, market sites and monetary economies emerged under English and German influence.
With the Church disapproving, slavery, which had been a driving force behind Viking raids, fell and raids lessened.

The Vikings wrote on runestones, leaving behind a record of the times. The Norse knew the runor, an alphabet that was not standardised but built on sound. While some runic inscriptions recorded Viking expeditions and the people who took part in them, others recorded those who died in these expeditions. The one by the Dane, Harald Bluetooth records the conquest of Denmark and Norway and Denmark’s conversion to Christianity.
Used in warfare and exploration, the long ships, which have been synonymous with Vikings, were agile and had oars and sails to navigate even without the wind. With a long, narrow hull and shallow draught, they could easily land troops in shallow water.
The knarr were merchant vessels and carried cargo with their broader hulls, deep draughts and fewer oars which were needed only to manoeuvre. The Viking built the beitass which was a spar mounted on the sail so that they could sail against the wind.
HELMETS: Viking helmets did not have horns or wings although they may have been worn for rituals. Their helmets were conical and were of hard leather with wood or metal reinforcement.
SAVAGES: The Viking image of dirty, unclean savages is untrue. They fought in a disordered style of fighting which, it is believed, was done to shock the enemy.
SKULLS AS DRINKING VESSELS: The Vikings did not drink out of the skulls of defeated enemies. The myth emerged from the mistranslation of a poem which referred to drinking horns.

European Huns

Feared nomadic warriors and accurate mounted archers, the European Huns played a role in the decline of the Roman Empire.



The Huns rode the lands of East Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia from the first to the 7th century AD. Originally, they lived to the east of the Volga River in what was then Scythia. Nomadic and pastoral in nature, they were feared warriors known for their horsemanship and accurate mounted archery. They rode horses, giving them speed in their charges and retreating as suddenly as they attacked, leaving their opponents confused.
Not until Attila the Hun were they united under a single king. Rather, they had comprised groups of warrior bands who integrated easily with other tribes to increase their strength.

While some scholars disagree, it is believed that the Huns of Europe were connected to the Xiongnu who lived to the north of China. Tribes from Mongolia are believed to have migrated to the northern parts of Central Asia during the 2nd or 3rd century AD and to Europe during the 4th century.

Both the Huns and the Xiongnu used bronze cauldrons like the people of the Steppes did. But, other practices differed between the two.
While the Xiongnu sported long pony tails, the Huns did not.
The Huns practiced the act of artificially elongating the skulls while the Xiongnu did not.

The Huns came from the eastern side of the River Volga.

From the time that they invaded Europe, the Huns dominated central and south-eastern Europe for 70 years.
Between the Volga and the River Don were the Alani who, like the Huns, were warriors and pastoral people in addition to being well-known horse-breeders.
The Huns overran them when they emerged from beyond the River Volga during the 4th century. Those that survived the slaughter either submitted to the Huns or fled across the Don.

By the 5th century, the Huns were united under King Rua, also known as Rugila. His nephews Bleda and Attila succeeded him on his death.
Between the Rivers Don and Dniester lived the Ostrogoths, that is the Eastern Goths. When the Huns attacked them, most surrendered while the rest fled across the Dniester. The Huns then defeated the Visigoths, that is the Western Goths who lived in Romania. The Visigoths went to the lower Danube and sought Roman asylum with the Eastern Goths and other tribes following them.

Bleda died in 445 AD, and it is not known whether Attila had murdered his brother. Attila took full control and in 447 AD, attacked the Eastern Roman Empire once again. Beset with internal problems, the Empire could not withstand the Huns although Constantinople was saved.


The Huns had now reached the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire by the River Danube. They forced a treaty with the Eastern Roman Empire in 435 AD, earning trading rights and an annual tribute from the Romans. In addition, the Romans gave over refugees from the Huns to execution. The Huns also acted as mercenaries, fighting for the Empire.
In 440 AD, the Romans did not honour the treaty and the Huns attacked them. A truce was signed in 441 AD, but was breached yet again. This time, the Hunnish attack took them close to Constantinople. After a defeat, the Eastern Roman Emperor Theodosius II gave in to Hun demands and they returned richer to their lands.

Bleda died in 445 AD, and it is not known whether Attila had murdered his brother. Attila took full control and in 447 AD, attacked the Eastern Roman Empire once again. Beset with internal problems, the Empire could not withstand the Huns although Constantinople was saved. The Huns wreaked havoc on the Balkans and drove into Greece going up to Thermophylae. In 449 AD, they were forced to retreat because of disease and the Romans agreed to pay a large tribute in gold.
The Huns though were on good terms with the Western Empire. But, when in 450 AD, the Roman Emperor decided to marry off his sister Honoria to a Roman senator, she wrote to Attila for help, sending a ring along with the plea. Choosing to see it as a proposal for marriage, Attila asked for half the Western Roman Empire as dowry. When the Emperor stated that the proposal was not legitimate, Attila sent an emissary to say that he would come to claim her.
In 451 AD, Attila entered Gaul and continued towards the west, going through Paris and laying siege to Orleans. The joint Roman-Visigoth armies clashed with the Huns at the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains in which Attila suffered his only defeat.
In 452 AD, too, Attila made the same demand and entered northern Italy. The Roman Emperor negotiated with him for peace.


The Xiongnu were nomadic pastoral tribes who lived to the north of China. By the end of the 3rd century BC, the tribes joined together and dominated Central Asia up to 2nd century AD, ruling over much of Siberia and Mongolia. Their attacks on China led to the construction of the Great China Wall although it could not fully stop their attacks.
Like the Huns, the Xiongnu too were mounted warriors and archers with the ability to gather hundreds of thousands of warriors for their intrusions into North China. The Chinese chariots were no match for their flexibility and ease of movement.The attacks continued until the Han Emperor Wudi sent his warriors into central China to fight the nomads and build alliances with the Xiongnu’s enemies.
The Xiongnu split eventually and the eastern horde submitted to the Chinese while the western horde moved towards Central Asia. The Tujue, who were the dominant nomad people of Mongolia in the 7th century, claim to be descendants of the Xiongnu. Some of the latter’s customs are similar to Turkish customs. Hence, some historians believe that the western Xiongnu may have been the ancestors of the European Turks, yet others believe that the Xiongnu are the European Huns.

Italy had undergone a famine and if Attila were to attack Rome, he would need supplies from Italy. Further, his troops whom he had left behind to guard home territories were defeated by the Eastern Roman Empire which led him to retreat.
Once again, the Eastern Roman Emperor stopped payment of tribute and Attila prepared to attack Constantinople. But, in 453 AD, he died of a hemorrhage on his wedding night.
The Huns lost their power within a year of Attila’s death and any trace of them disappeared within a few centuries


Ayodhya, the birth place of Lord Rama, is one of the seven important Hindu pilgrimage sites.



Once capital of Kosala kingdom of the Ikshvaku dynasty, Ayodhya was also known as Saket or heaven. Lord Rama’s reign over Ayodhya is considered a golden period and often referred to as Rama Rajya for its good governance, prosperity and happiness.

Situated 8km from Faizabad, it is on the right bank of river Sarayu. Founded by Manu, according to Ramayana, its existence dates back to 9,000 years.

According to other sources, it was founded by King Ayudh after whom it was named. Its first ruler was Ikshvaku, the son of Vaivasvata Manu and the lineage continued to Harischandra, the king epitome of truthfulness. It was his descendant Bhagiratha who through penance to Brahma brought the Ganges down to earth so that he may perform the ceremony for his ancestors.

King Raghu was one of his descendants after whom the dynasty came to be called Raghuvamsa. King Raghu’s grandson was Dasaratha, father of Lord Rama.

It is believed that at Gopratara Tirtha, Lord Rama had entered the waters of river Sarayu to ascend to heaven. Ayodhya is part of Saptapuri, the seven important pilgrimage sites for Hindus.

Five Jain tirthankaras were born in Ayodhya – Rishabhanatha, Ajitanatha, Abhinandananatha, Sumatinatha and Anantanatha, the first, second, third, fourth and 14th tirthankaras. During Buddha’s time, the city was called Saketa and was ruled by King Prasenjit. Saketa flourished during the Mauryan rule although it was attacked by a Greek expedition in 190 BC with Panchala and Mathura allying with the Greeks. Later, it came under the rule of the Deva and Datta kings and the Gupta rulers. Kumaragupta or Skandagupta moved the capital from Pataliputra to what was by now known as Ayodhya. The Huns damaged the city during the reign of Narasimhagupta but were later driven out. In 1226 AD, Ayodhya became the capital of Awadh in the Delhi Sultanate.
It is said Ram Janmabhoomi temple which marked the birthplace of Lord Rama was replaced by a mosque – the Babri Masjid – in 1528 AD by the Mughals. Records state that Hindus and Muslims worshipped at the site; Muslims within the mosque and Hindus outside the fence on a platform. The Vishwa Hindu Parishad launched a movement to reclaim the temple and the matter is under dispute.
Today, Ayodhya is a city in Faizabad district of Uttar Pradesh. According to the 2011 census, its population was 55,890 of which 31,705 were males and 24,185 females. With female sex ratio of 763 to the state’s average of 912 and the nation’s 940, Ayodhya has one of the poorest sex ratios. Yet, literacy rate at 78.15 per cent is higher than that of the state’s 67.68 per cent and the nation’s 74.04 per cent.
Sage Valmiki describes the city of Ayodhya in the Bala Kanda of Ramayana as follows:
The great kingdom of Kosala of Emperor Dasaratha is situated on the banks of the river Sarayu. It is a kingdom that brings joy and is filled with money and cereals. The city is renowned around the world and was built by Manu, the first man and sage-king.
The city’s length is of 12 yojanas, that is, around 120 miles. Its breadth is three yojanas, that is about 30 miles. It enjoys well-designed highways that are kept wet and with flowers strewn all over them. Gateways and archways surround the city. Buildings within the city have well-laid front yards. The city holds within itself machinery, weapons, and craftsmen. A wide fort wall encircles the city like an ornament.
Ayodhya played host to many who eulogised it. It has many fortified areas and its own flag. Dancers and artists walk on its roads and the city is surrounded by gardens, marsh land and mango trees.
Neither trespassers, nor invaders can cross her due to deep moats. The city is filled with horses, camels, cows, and donkeys. Many provincial kings come to the city to pay their dues. Travellers and traders from other countries too come to the city.
Precious gems adorn the buildings. These multi-storey structures fill the city like in Amaravati, the city of Indra.
Ayodhya is a picturesque city in its planning to look like an eight-faced game-board called ashtapadi, with beautiful women moving around the city. Precious gems can be seen heaped about and the seven-storeyed buildings are a beautiful sight.
It is a dense city, packed with houses and no piece of land has gone unutilized. Buildings are constructed on land that is levelled well. Rice is aplenty and drinking water tastes sweet as sugarcane juice.
Great drums fill the city with their drumbeats, so do the mridangam, the cymbals, the veena and other stringed instruments which turn the city into one of the unique cities on earth.
Buildings in Ayodhya well-planned and filled with the best of people. Ayodhya’s archers skilful and they don’t kill a lone being with their arrows, nor do they kill one who does not have a predecessor or a successor in the family, nor a person who is fleeing nor by listening to the target. Hence, their skill and acumen is benevolent. They kill roaring lions, tigers and wild boars with their sharp weapons or with their bare arms. Ayodhya is filled with such archers and fast chariot warriors.
Vedic scholars who fill the city, worship the ritual fire and burn three sacred fire continuously. Brahmins, who are scholars in Vedas and the six vedangas, live in the city. So, do other great souls who are like great saints and donate freely and abide by the truth.

Sveta Hunas – White Huns

Sveta Hunas are said to be the Hephthalites. Believed to be Eastern Iranian in origin, they had attacked India during the period of the Gupta Empire.

Words: Priya Narayan


The White Huns or Sveta Hunas, as they were known in India, are believed to be the Hephthalites with a possibility of having an alliance with the Xionites. By the first half of the 6th century, they controlled territories in Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Pakistan, India and China. It is said that they were the only Huns with fair complexions, hence deriving the name Sveta Hunas.

The name Hephthalites originates from ancient Green sources and they were also known as Ephthalite, Abdel or Avdel. In India though, they were known as Sveta Hunas. The Chinese called them Yada. Older Chinese sources called them Hua or Hudun and describe them as a tribe beyond the Great Wall. Some historians disagree with the idea that the Hephthalites were the Sveta Hunas.

East Iranian Origin
While historians had at one time suggested that the Hephthalites were Turkish descendants, later beliefs state that they were from East Iran. The Hephthalites’ spoken language is said to be an East Iranian language which was different from the Bactrian language written in the Greek alphabet. This was the official language minted on coins. The names of the Hephthalites too were Iranian. After the Hephthalites lost their supremacy, it was the turn of the Central Asian nomads who spoke Turkic languages, which could have led to the belief of their Turkish descent.

It is said that they were not connected to the European Huns and may have called themselves Huns to scare their enemies. These White Huns occupied regions that were far from the European Huns, nor were they nomads.

They were settlers. Unlike the tribes of the European Huns, the White Huns were ruled by a king, they had a constitution and observed justice in their dealings within themselves and with their neighbours.

Nobles were buried rather than cremated. The White Huns also used a Turkic language and royal titles which shows the influence of the Turkic people. They did not recognise Buddhism and often destroyed Buddhist monasteries.

Chinese chronicles though state a theory that they could be the descendants of the tribes who remained behind after people fled from the Xiongnu. The Xiongnu were tribes north of the Great Wall who attacked China frequently. They are believed by some historians to be connected to the European Huns.

History of White Huns
After defeating the Scythians by 425 AD, the White Huns invaded Persian regions. By 485, Persia had become their subject with the defeat of the Sassanid king, Peroz-I. During the wars between 503 and 513, they had to leave Persia and were fully defeated in 557 by Khosrau-I.

During the first half of the 5th century, they were established in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Kunduz in Afghanistan, earlier known as Badian, was their capital. Later, their emperor Mihirakula made his capital in Sialkot of Pakistan, then known as Sakala.

They entered India through the Khyber Pass and Skandagupta, son of Kumaragupta-I defeated the White Huns, in 455 AD.

Attacks by the White Hun kings Toramana and his successor Mihirakula drained the Gupta empire and the dynasty went into decline after Skandagupta’s death in 467 AD.
In 480 AD, the White Huns attacked once again from the northwest and overran most of the Gupta Empire by 500 AD, penetrating north and central India.

Although weakened, the Guptas resisted the Huns and Toramana was defeated by Bhanugupta in 510. A coalition by Narasimhagupta and the Malwa king Yashodharman drove the Huns out of India in 528 AD.

While the Huns were horse-mounted archers, leading to speed of attack, the Gupta armies were disciplined and were believed to have deployed a combination of tactics, using elephants, armoured cavalry and foot archers.

Yudhishthira, the Hun king ruled until 670 when he was replaced by the Kabul Shahi dynasty.

Modern Day
The White Huns are believed to be one of the ancestors of Pashtuns, particularly the Abdali Pashtun tribe. The Pashtun name Abdali or Durrani is said to have descended from the White Huns. It is also believed that they were the ancestors of the Abdal tribe of the Turkmens and the Kazakhs. Although disputed, it is believed that the Rajputs are a mix of the White Huns and the Gurjars.
Hunas in Literature
Kalidasa describes the prowess of Chandragupta Vikramaditya-II as a ruler who had conquered 21 kingdoms. Having conquered the eastern and western regions of India, Vikramaditya went northwards and won over the Parasikas, Hunas and the Kambojas. He then went across the Himalayas and won over the Kinnaras and Kiratas.Kshemendra’s Brihatkathamanjari describes Vikramaditya as having annihilated Mlecchas like the Sakas, Kambojas, Yavanas, Tusharas, Parasikas and the Hunas.The Mahabharata narrates the incident of Viswamitra attacking sage Vasishta’s cow. Tribes allied to Vasishta attacked Viswamitra’s armies and these include the Hunas along with the Sakas, Yavanas, Savaras, Paundras and Kiratas. There was also mention of Khasas, Chivukas, Pulindas, Chinas and other Mlechchas. This list differs from that of the Valmiki Ramayana though in which the Kambojas, Pahlavas, Haritas were mentioned too.On the second day of the Pandava-Kaurava war in Kurukshetra, it is mentioned that with Yudhishthira stood the Parachcharas, Hunas, Pauravakas, Nishadas, Pisachas, Kundavishas, Mandakas, Ladakas, Tanganas, Uddras, Saravas, Tumbhumas, Vatsas, Nakulas. They stood in the Krauncharuma position decided by Dhrishtadyumna, the Pandava general.
The Xionites, also known as Chionites, Huna, Hunni and by other names, are said to be people who spoke Iranian. They arrived from Central Asia to Iran and were influenced by the Kushans and the Bactrians. They posed a threat to the northeastern part of the Sassanid Empire. It is believed that they differed from the Hephthalites. Conjectures are made that the Hephthalites themselves may have been an important tribe of the Xionites. The Xionites followed a form of Buddhism and Shaivism while attributing a living soul to all natural phenomena including plants and inanimate objects.


A wild and fantastic history of the nomads of Mongolia, united by a single ruler who made his mark in countries around the world.

Words: Priya Narayan


Vast stretches of grassland interspersed with hills, plains with horses running wild, the arid soil of the Gobi desert and of course, Genghis Khan, are all characteristic of Mongolia. Mongol Empire was the biggest land empire in history extending from Yellow Sea in eastern Asia to the borders of eastern Europe. At various times it included China, Korea, Mongolia, Persia (now Iran), Turkestan, and Armenia. It also included parts of Burma, Vietnam, Thailand, and Russia. The history of this country is seeped in antiquity as much as it is rich and beautiful.

While most stories go back to the first settlers, Mongolian history dates back 65 million years. The first set of scientifically confirmed dinosaur eggs were found by archaeologists of the American Museum of National History in Mongolia in 1923. Some of these eggs and fossils are up for display at the Central Museum of Mongolian Dinosaurs even today.

Stone tools south of the Gobi desert suggest Homo erectus probably lived here 8,00,000 years ago. There are Paleolithic cave drawings in prominent prehistoric sites, Neolithic farming settlements and encampments of nomadic hunters and fishermen suggest a linear evolution of life in Mongolia.

7th and 8th century Deer Stones, ancient megaliths with carved symbols are found all over central and eastern Eurasia, specifically in Siberia and Mongolia.

Most deer stones stand behind ancient graves; it is believed that stones are the guardians of the dead. There are around 700 deer stones in Mongolia of a total 900 deer stones found in Central Asia and South Siberia.

While Mongols primarily lived as farmers, there were hunters too.

cart01Chinese described Mongols as ‘one who follow trails of their horses according to the growth of the grass and its withering.’ This suggests Mongols though practiced farming never settled around agricultural land or water bodies like people of most other civilizations did. This is perhaps of their nomadic culture. It was not until the 3rd century BCE that most of these nomadic tribes joined to form clans and forge alliances.


“There came into the world a blue-grey wolf whose destiny was Heaven’s will. His wife was a fallow deer. They travelled across the inland sea and when they were camped near the source of the Onon River in sight of Burkhan Khaldun, their first son was born, named Batachikan,” – The Secret History of the Mongols.

One of many important tales of the world, this was perhaps beginning of Mongolian history generations after Temujin was born who came to be known eventually as Genghis Khan, the ruler of the world’s largest empire that encompassed every country that extended in the vast stretch from Korea to Hungary. Known for his ruthlessness and his military strategies, which are still studied by armed forces around the world, Genghis Khan became the infamous conqueror in the history of Mongolia.

Considering the land that Genghis Khan ruled over and the diversity that came with each country in terms of language and religion, it is important to note that Genghis Khan was not only tolerant towards different beliefs in the societies he conquered, but also went a step further and invited leaders of Buddhism, Islam, Christianity and Judaism among other religions to sit in his court and exchange ideas with local shamans and healers.

Over the generations, the empire declined and by the 14th century the Manchu dynasty of Qing started ruling Mongolia. Two centuries later, we would see another descendent of Genghis Khan beginning his conquest in India, Akbar.

One of many important tales of the world, this was perhaps beginning of Mongolian history generations after Temujin was born who came to be known eventually as Genghis Khan, the ruler of the world’s largest empire that encompassed every country that extended in the vast stretch from Korea to Hungary.


1.Genghis Khan had a rough childhood. When he was only 9, the rival Tatars poisoned his father and his own tribe expelled his family, leaving his mother to raise him and his siblings. Each had to hunt for food and theories suggest that Genghis Khan might have killed his half-brother in a dispute over food.
2.Some of Genghis Khan’s most trusted generals were former enemies. In a battle with the Taijut tribe in 1201, Genghis Khan was nearly killed by an arrow. After the war, while addressing the soldiers of the defeated Taijut tribe, Genghis Khan asked which one of them had shot the arrow. One soldier stood up and confessed. Moved by his bravery, Genghis Khan made him an officer in his army. The soldier would eventually become one of the greatest field commanders of the Mongols.
3.While it is impossible to ascertain the figures, historians suggest that Genghis Khan killed as many as 40 million people during his rule. Chinese population dropped by tens of millions during Genghis Khan’s lifetime. Iran, too, lost almost three-fourths of its population. It is believed world population then dropped by 11 per cent during Genghis Khan’s rule.
4.The Mongols weren’t just known for their warfare and military strategies; they also put in place the first international postal systems which consisted of a number of post houses and way stations linked to each other across the empire. Riders often travelled up to 300 km a day to communicate information and transport goods.
5.Genghis Khan had the most mysterious death. While some narratives suggest he died in 1227 from injuries sustained when he fell from a horse, others state malaria as the cause of death. Some even suggest he was murdered while attempting to force himself on a Chinese princess. According to legend, Genghis Khan’s funeral procession slaughtered everyone that came in their way and rode their horses over his grave to conceal it, so secretive was his burial ground.

Priya is a writer and aspiring film maker. She has written for Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – Teens Talk Relationship. She can be reached at


The fascinating history of Hawaii is one of sea voyages on canoes guided by the stars and of the hula dance

Words: Priya Narayan



It was around 1,500 years ago that the Polynesians, expert sailors guided by the stars in the night sky, sailed in canoes, making their way to the islands of Hawaii. They brought with them their traditions and lifestyle that blended into their life on a new island. Settlers from Tahiti followed suit, bringing with them their culture and religion that would shape Hawaii over the next century. Tahitian chiefs and priests introduced, on the one hand, religious practices and social structures and taboos (kapu), and on the other, large public projects to benefit their people – taro terraces, irrigation systems, construction of temples, among others. Hawaii offered them the right environment to settle down and flourish, ending their need for long distance voyaging.

Based on the highly structured hierarchy, the mo‘i or the king held the highest rank and was responsible for the people, followed by his chief advisors, often the high priest or the kahuna nui and the chief minister, kalaimoku. There were multiple chiefs under the king whose position and rank were decided by their genealogy. Ali‘i were chiefs under the king holding various ranks and who often attended to him and even entertained him with stories and games. Commoners or the maka‘ainana formed the largest group in terms of population and a small group of outcasts, the kauwa, born to their positions, formed the bottom of the society.

The kind of life that people lived in Hawaii depended on their position in the social hierarchy. The pleasant climate allowed Hawaiians to live most of their lives outdoors and houses that they built were simple grass or hale houses meant for protection against harsh weather. The size of the house along with the land that a family owned also depended on their social standing. Their clothing was made of plant fibres and consisted of a loincloth (malo) for men, a skirt (pa‘u) for women and a shawl (kihei) for both. They created fishponds, practiced farming, constructed temples and were great healers. Their surroundings provided them with all the food they could possibly need, allowing them free time in which they developed games, art forms and dances.



In 1778, British explorer James Cook arrived in Hawaii and brought with him European technology and weapons for warfare. In the 1780s and 1790s, the chiefs of the land often fought for power, and it was with the help of European technology that King Kamehameha ended the battles and became the sole ruler of Hawaii. His dynasty ruled the land for another century. Cook, however, was killed after he abducted the King of Hawaii, Kalani‘opu‘u and held him as ransom for one of his boats that the Hawaiians had stolen because of the temple idols and the fencing that Cook had taken with him.

After Cook, a number of Eurasians came to Hawaii and brought with them diseases such as influenza, small pox and measles that wiped out more than half the Hawaiian population. Protestant missionaries who came also converted a significant section of the population and western influence continued to grow. Hawaii’s sugar and pineapple plantations fuelled its economy inviting Japanese, Chinese, Filipino and Portuguese immigrants. It wasn’t until 1959 that Hawaii became a state of the US, the last to join the country and the only one that is a string of tropical islands located in Oceania.


Hawaii’s vast ocean floors are just as blue as the skies above, if not bluer. With a grand canyon in the ocean, sea mountains extending to the sky – perfect spots for watching the sun set or for stargazing, a blanket of lush greenery covering the hills, valleys and clear shores of the beaches, and fragrant flowers blooming in every corner of the island, not to forget one of the world’s most active volcanoes, Hawaii is nothing less than an exotic dreamland for travellers.



Hula is the most popular dance of Hawaii known to all around the world whether or not they have visited Hawaii. It is performed for social enjoyment but the chants that accompany the dance communicated epic tales, myths, history and the philosophy of the Hawaiians. Hula’s origins date back to goddess Pele. It is believed that her sister Hi‘iaka performed the dance for her and that the chants in the dance describe the story of Hi‘iaka and Pele.


The Polynesian navigators were highly knowledgeable when it came to seafaring and could sail through the Pacific without any written notes, instruments or charts. They could find their way through the sea based on observation and memory. They studied stars, their rising and setting points, the sequences of star maps and knowledge of star paths based on which they were able to navigate through the waters even if there were only one or two stars in the sky. They acquired the power of priests and could conduct rituals before undertaking any major voyage.
One of the most famous, according to Hawaiian legends, was Mo‘ikeha and all navigators trace their lineage back to him.


Priya is a writer and aspiring film maker. She has written for Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul – Teens Talk Relationship. She can be reached at