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

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,800 ratings  ·  374 reviews
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
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published November 15th 2012 by Penguin Global
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Maitri Das Some parts not fully but the author makes distinction when he's taking about the rivers in Pakistan which were earlier a part of India before partitio…moreSome parts not fully but the author makes distinction when he's taking about the rivers in Pakistan which were earlier a part of India before partition. (less)
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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
Rajat Ubhaykar
Sep 20, 2016 rated it did not like it
Shelves: history, geography
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
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 ...more
Shahine Ardeshir
Jan 06, 2013 rated it did not like it
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
Saju  Pillai
Oct 25, 2013 rated it it was ok
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
Aug 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
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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
Jan 20, 2013 rated it it was ok
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 ...more
Gita Madhu
Sep 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Land of the Seven Rivers A Brief History of India
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
Adithya Jain
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, culture
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
Abhinav Agarwal
Aug 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"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
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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! ...more
Arathi Mohan
Sep 17, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Feb 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
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
Ankur Sharma
Feb 18, 2013 rated it really liked it
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.
Dinkar Sitaram
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Sandeepan Mondal
Jun 24, 2014 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Piyush Behera
May 03, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Rahul  Adusumilli
Sep 29, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: india, history
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."
Siddharth Singh
Dec 18, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Apart from a a few typos, this is a thoroughly entertaining book!
Sriram Venugopal
Jun 10, 2020 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Yogi Travelling
Dec 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: asia, india, history
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
Vivek Tejuja
Apr 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
It is not easy to write a book which is solely based on geography or for that matter history. What is most difficult is when the two get combined in a book. More so when the country in question is India, with its diversity and centuries of culture and history, which can still be seen in most places, if only you would look at it closely enough. I have always been intrigued by our country’s cultural subtext and how we came to be as a nation. The thought would be there and I wanted to read more on ...more
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: review
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
Jun 07, 2016 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
Jul 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
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.
Abhishek Gupta
May 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 30, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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. ...more
Feb 23, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2017, indian, non-fiction
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 ...more
Apr 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
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 ...more
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Sanjeev Sanyal is an economist, urban theorist and writer. He grew up in Sikkim, Kolkata and Delhi before heading off to Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar. He spent the tumultuous summer of 1993 in South Africa as it transitioned from apartheid, and then extensively travelled through Guatemala as it emerged from civil war. These experiences made him a keen observer of rapidly changing societies, an inter ...more

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In these strange days of quarantine and isolation, books can be a mode of transport. We may have to stay home and stay still, but through t...
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“Geography is not just about the physical terrain, but also about the meaning that we attribute to it. Thus, the Saraswati flows, invisibly, at Allahabad.” 9 likes
“Like India, China turned inward and slipped into centuries of decline. Technological superiority could not save China from the closing of the mind. For a while, it seemed that the Indian Ocean would revert to the Arabs but that was not to be.” 1 likes
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