12 Fabulous Books for Children To Learn About Indian History

1526, 32B.C, 1817, 1930, 1947….. This is what history is all about for most kids. Add some dead as a doorknobs kings and queens, some dilapidated buildings and voila - We have the recipe for how history looks to most school kids in India.

Thankfully, there is hope. There are some excellent books for children ( 8 and above) about Indian history. These books are spot on about historical facts but they bring alive the people behind them. Then history miraculously stops being boring and becomes very interesting.

Our picks have been written by some outstanding authors who love, breathe and understand Indian history.Subhadra Sengupta is an ace writer of history for children. She can make you laugh (history can be funny), think and understand not just the life of rulers but everyday people as well. Roshen Dalal was a teacher at Rishi Valley when she ventured to make history more relatable and less distant through her books. Leila Seth was the former chief justice of India. Can’t think of a better person to author a picture book about the preamble to the Indian constitution than her. Devika Cariappa’s book is filled with archaeological details and the stories behind them.

We hope you like our picks and pick them up from a bookstore or library for children you know.

1. A Children's History of India

This delightful book by Subhadra Sen Gupta details the history of ancient, medieval, British and Independent India. In the first chapter, we learn that India was named after the rose apple or Jamun. Her earliest inhabitants called her Jambudvipa, or island of the rose apple. The book reads more like an interesting story, rather than a dull roster of facts. By the end of the book expect your child to tell you so much about Indian history to delight you.

2. A Bagful of History

Imagine history through the eyes of children who lived during King Ashoka, Emperor Akbar, Raja Raja Chola and the Indian Mutiny. The book has Mughal princesses and a nawab from Lucknow. The narratives read like stories but are rooted in historical details. Sen Gupta takes us time travelling.

3. We The Children of India

This wonderful picture book by Leila Seth, the former Chief Justice of India decodes the preamble to the Indian Constitution. The preamble has rather confusing judicial language. Seth with her words and the book’s illustrator Bindia Thapar with her colourful illustrations makes the preamble so much easier to understand. For instance, this is how Seth explains socialist - an objective the newly made Indian state hoped to achieve- means that the people of the country should produce and share the country’s wealth. Indira Gandhi who was the Prime Minister of the country when the word was added to the Preamble said that socialism meant ‘bettering the life of the people of India’.

4. India Through Archaeology: Excavating History

This brilliant, winner of The Hindu Young World-Goodbooks Award - Best Picture Book is a book to be read slowly and steadily. The book is illustrated by Ashok Rajagopalan and authored by Devika Cariapa. She has taken great care in her research and has then written it in a way that children will be both amazed and filled with understanding. She uses archaeological finds to trace the history of India. Stones, cave paintings, seals, sculptures, rocks, pillars, coins, roads, monuments, old cities are used as a detective would piece the spectacular jigsaw of Indian history. The boo has beautiful photographs from actual sites. This hardbound book is a must-have reference for children in schools and at libraries.

5. Exploring India: Battles and Warriors

5 epic battles are covered in this slim volume by Subhadra Sen Gupta. Each battle and its warriors are fleshed out so well, it might seem like the young reader has a ringside view. Alexander vs. Porus, Ashoka at Kalinga, Rajendra Chola vs Srivijaya, Babur vs Ibrahim Lodhi and Siraj-ud-Daula vs The East India Company. The military genius of Babur’s tiny army against Ibrahim Lodhi’s, the suppression of the Srivijaya empire through swift invasion and the resolve of Ashoka to herald peace after enduring the bloodshed at Kalinga are such great bits of history to learn and enjoy.

6. Exploring India: Unknown Indians

In this book of the Exploring India series, Sen Gupta turns her attention to the lesser-known Indians- minstrels, storytellers, weavers, potters, carvers, ironsmiths, farmers, cooks and poet rebels. The many skilled folks of the Indian subcontinent who helped trade, commerce and culture flourish. This book has a more documentary style that reveals many unknown details of everyday life in ancient and medieval India.

7. Exploring India: Kings and Queens

Two queens and two kings are the focus of this book. Razia Sultan, Nurjahan, Chandragupta Maurya and Krishnadevaraya are the four monarchs showcased in this volume. Their early life, interesting anecdotes about their careers and their reign makes this a very interesting read. The writing style is elegant and interesting. Subhadra Sen Gupta does it again!

8. Let's Go Time Travelling: Life in India Through the Ages

A look at India through the ages. Written in a very informal style, children will enjoy this breezy telling of Indian history. Author Subhadra Sen Gupta writes about the food, clothing, court life, architecture and the status of women in a rather patriarchal age. The illustrations by Tapas Guha will make you laugh out loud and to the peppiness of this book. 

9. Saffron White and Green: The Amazing Story of India's Independence

A comprehensive book about India's freedom struggle with context, Saffron White and Green: The Amazing Story of India's Independence is well worth a read. The book traces the efforts of Indian citizens from the 1850s to 1950 fought and eventually won India's freedom from her powerful colonisers, the British. The journey started by a ragtag band of soldiers, the formation of the Indian National Congress, the partition of Bengal, the role of Gokhale, Tilak and the Khilafat movement leaders is all traced till the formation of the Indian Constitution. A child who reads this book will come to appreciate the long and hard battle India has fought to win her tri-colours.

10. A Flag A Song and A Pinch of Salt: Freedom Fighters of India

19 short biographies of the brave men and women who put their beloved country above all else. Dr.Bhimrao Ambedkar, Abdul Kalam Azad, Annie Besant, Aurobindo Ghose, Birsa Munda, Lajpat Rai, Bhagat Singh, Sarojini Naidu and more. This is yet another wonderful book on Indian History by Subhadra Sen Gupta.

11. The Puffin History of India - Vol: 1

Roshen Dalal was a teacher at the esteemed Rishi Valley School, where she taught history. In the teaching of it, she found the material rather heavy for her students. This got her started on her two volumes on Indian history. In this first volume, she tackles India in the neolithic ages, the start of urban civilization at Harappa, the Vedic periods, the Mauryas, the Kushanas, the Guptas, Khiljis, the Tughlaqs, the Mughals, the Marathas and the British. This might seem a lot but the author covers them in little bundles that introduce but never overwhelm. The book has been reviewed and additions made by one of India's foremost historians Romila Thapar. This book is highly recommended for its well researched and comprehensive format.

12. The Puffin History of India-Vol:2

Roshen Dalal picks up where her first volume of Indian history left till 2002 in contemporary India. She covers ground on the partition of India, the Indian constitution, the Parliament, the Executive and Judiciary; India's first elections, India's prime minister's from Jawaharlal Nehru to Narsimha Rao (their policies and India's development under their governments), India's foreign policy, social change and culture. As with the first book she uses unobtrusive, clear language that engages.