India’s long history, with the exception of Aśoka’s (c. 302-c. 232
India’s long history, with the exception of Aśoka’s (c. 302-c. 232
The one thousand years between 500 and 1526
Petty squabbles and interprincipality rivalries for territorial control characterized the approximately one-thousand-year period from 500 to 1526
Harṣa’s Empire, c. 640
During the ninth century North India witnessed a fierce three-way struggle between three dynasties–the Prātihara of Rajputana, the Pāla of Bengal, and the Rāṣṭrakūṭa of the Deccan–that left general chaos and disunity in its wake well into the tenth century. On the periphery of India a new power flexed its muscle in the form of the Central Asian Turks. Their Muslim emirate of
Muslim invasions continued during the twelfth century, led by Maḥmūd’s successor, Muḥammad of
In 1296 the ruthless monarch՚Alā՚ al-Dīn Muḥammad
The rise of the new Hindu kingdom of
After Tamerlane’s disastrous invasion, the central Gangetic Valley and south-central and southwestern India fell under the control of turbulent Muslim rulers. The Hindus took advantage of the situation and emerged as leading powers in eastern and western India, most notably in Orissa and Mewar. Intermittent warfare continued between the two powers until two great events of the sixteenth century ended the chaos of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries and changed the course of Indian history. In 1498
The medieval period in South Asia was dominated by three outside forces that revealed the inherent weakness of the Hindus against less numerous but better trained and equipped mounted invaders. Turkic Muslims, Central Asian Mongols, and European Portuguese traders exerted an influence that forever altered the course of history in India, a history dominated by superior military skill and prowess.
Before the time of written records, wars were waged between tribal units using clubs, spears, and knives to vindicate offenses. Rarely were wars waged to acquire territory or gain some economic advantage. During the ancient period in India battles were close-formation skirmishes fought by the kṣatriya
Weapons during the medieval age were generally the same as those used in ancient warfare. These included quivers (bhastrā) slung from a shoulder, broad-bladed swords (khadga), heavy broadswords (niṣṭrimśa), spears (śakti), javelins (śūla), reverse-curved swords, ancient slings (gophaṇa), curved throwing sticks (vālāri kāmbi), and sharpened throwing discs (jah) thrown horizontally or dropped vertically upon attackers.
Head and body
Horse harnesses were primitive at best. A leather
Years of civil strife left Indian armies poorly equipped. The infantry, made up of peasants, farmers, Jats, Gujratis, and various robbers, used bamboo staffs and, at best, rusty swords. The bow and arrow, much relied upon as a primary weapon, could not pierce the armor worn by Central Asian Turkic forces. The Hindu rajas relied heavily on herds of war elephants to demoralize enemy ranks and disperse cavalry. Turkic forces, however, used steel-clad warriors mounted on superb, agile horses. These were kept in reserve in the center of battle, behind the front line of attack, and were used to decide the final outcome.
Cālukya and Cōla Dynasties, c. 1030
Hindus generally expended their energy pursuing Turkic horsemen who harassed them with firepower, counterattacked, and forced them into hopeless flight and slaughter. The Turkic nomadic invaders used a composite two-piece bow considered the most fearful weapon on the battlefield. Hindus possessed nothing that matched the success of the composite bow. They used mounted bowmen as light troops to harass the enemy, whereas Turks used heavy armor-clad cavalry equipped with long spears in mass charges.
Military superiority gave the Turks the advantage over the Hindus. Turkish horses were superior in speed, endurance, intelligence, and dependability in hostile
The Muslim forces utilized various weapons developed by superior
Delhi Sultanate, 1236-1398
The organization of standing armies in India since the third century
In South India there was a clear militarization of the state into military camps. The huge and effective fourteenth century Vijayanagar army was organized by a governmental department called the Kandāchāra and led by a dandanāyaka, or commander-in-chief. However, there was a notable absence of discipline among the military personnel.
Muslim invaders maintained a well-organized and effective army unlike anything they confronted in India. Muslim forces relied heavily upon superior leadership, seasoned troops of high quality, highly developed military science, and great metallurgical skill. Morale was of the highest nature, supported by a firm brotherhood and religious zeal that rationalized war and conquest in the name of religion. Primary goals were booty and destruction of heathen places of worship.
The backbones of the Delhi Sultan’s army were cavalry and war elephants, the latter adopted from the Hindus. The effect of one
Muslim and Mongol organizational skills, complete mobility, and superior horses and weaponry overwhelmed Hindu forces governed by tradition and lack of discipline. Although Hindu rajas commanded close to one million men, lack of discipline made them vulnerable to highly structured outside forces.
Military tactics were heavily governed by the Artharva
Pre-Islamic India was, however, well fortified, with walls built of stone, brick, or wood, and protected by slopes and bastions. Towers projected a short distance from the
Turk, Muslim, and Mongol strategy revolved around hit-and-run tactics, the defeat and humbling of a raja into vassalship, the utilization of his kingdom as a base for further advances into India, and the eventual annexation of the territory. The strategy of nibbling away at border provinces allowed a deeper penetration of the subcontinent. Success was directly dependent upon a well-established line of communications with Central Asia, which provided fresh reinforcements and supplies to accomplish deeper penetration. Together with social solidarity, a brotherhood of equality, lust for loot, and a fiery Islamic zeal against the infidel, the invaders quickly overcame Hindu resistance. Rapid movement necessitated a strong cavalry, which paralyzed Hindu armies with sharp decisive blows that frustrated their battle plans and evacuation.
Unlike Muslim solidarity, interclan and intercaste Hindu feuding and stress upon tradition in military affairs led directly to their final demise at the hands of Bābur’s forces at the Battle of
Muslim military science and government of the thirteenth century was guided by the Ādāb-ul-Mulūk wa-kifāyat
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India and South Asia: Ancient
The Mughal Empire