[PDF Notes] Causes of Muslim Success and Rajput Failure in India

Considering the fact that the Rajputs were great warriors, it seems a little strange that they were defeated by the Muslims. Habibullah admits that in individal fighting, the Rajput surpassed the Turks. The view of Elphinstone, Lane-Poole and V. A. Smith was that the success of the Muslims was due to the fact that they came from cold climate and were non vegetarians. That view is no longer accepted.

The soldierly qualities of the Hindus are admitted even by their enemies and consequently that could not be a factor responsible for their failure. It is also not true that non-vegetarians are better fighters than the vegetarians. Moreover, there were a large number of Hindus who were non-vegetarians at the time when the Hindus and Muslims fought against one another. The real causes must be found somewhere else.

(1) A very important cause of Muslim success and Hindu failure was the lack of political unity in the country. There was no one paramount power in the country at that time which could fight against the Muslims. India at that time was a congeries of states. Various parts of the country were ruled by individual rulers. There were mutual jealousies and dissensions among the Rajput Chiefs. It is true that the Rajputs were good warriors but there was too much of a clannish spirit among them.

The Rajput soldiers owed their allegiance to their petty chief and were prepared to fight against other Rajput soldiers under another Rajput Chief. It was in this way that they frittered away their energy. There was no national consciousness among them. The various Rajput princes could not and did not think in terms of India as a whole. They were not prepared to sink their differences in the higher interests of the country and put up a united front against the Muslim invaders. The result was that they were defeated one by one and all their bravery was of no avail.

(2) The military organization of the Rajputs was defective and could not succeed against the Muslims. The Rajput armies were ill-organized and ill-equipped. The trouble with the Hindus was that they were satisfied with what they had. They did not try to keep themselves in touch with the latest developments in military organization and methods of fighting. The result was that they were defeated by the Muslims who were ahead of them in these matters.

The Indians divided their armies into three parts; the right, centre and the left. They almost invariably made a frontal attack on the enemy. The Muslim armies, on the other hand, were divided into five parts. In addition to the right centre and left, they had the Advance Guard and the Reserve. The Reserve was always ready to come to the help of any part of the army which was in difficulty or to give the final blow when the enemy was about to collapse. Moreover, the Hindus put too much reliance on elephants. These “mountain-like elephants” could not stand against the mobile Turkish cavalry.

Once the elephants were frightened, they trampled their own men under their feet and thus proved themselves to be a greater than an asset. The Rajputs fought mainly with their swords while the Muslims were good archers. The Muslims archers from their horses were more than a match for the Rajputs who fought with their swords.

Prof. K. A. Nizami rightly points out that mobility was the key-note of Turkish military organisation at that time. It was the age of the horse. A well-equipped cavalry with tremendous mobility was the great need of the time. Indian military strategy gave greater importance to weight than to mobility. The Rajputs believed in crushing rather than moving rapidly and striking. When the Indian armies headed by elephants came into the battle-field, they were bound to be defeated by swift and easy-moving cavalry of the Muslims.

Sir Jadunath Sarkar also points out that the element of mobility was totally absent from the Indian armies. To quote him, “The arms and horses of these trans-border invaders gave them indisputable military superiority over the Indians. Their provisions also were carried by fast trotting camels which required no fodder for themselves but fed on the roots and leaves of the way-side, while the Banjara pack-oxen of the Hindu commissariat were slow and burdensome.”

(3) The Rajputs looked upon a battle as a tournament in which they tried to show skill, bravery and chivalry. That was not the case with their enemies. They did not find themselves fettered by any rules of the game. They believed that all was fair in war. They were prepared to adopt any tactics which could bring them victory. They believed that end justifies the means and they did not care for the consequences of their actions.

They were prepared to defile a tank or a river from which their enemies got their water-supply. They were prepared to divert the course of a channel to stop the water-supply to the enemy and thereby bring about their surrender. They were prepared to destroy the whole of the neighbouring territory so that the enemy may be starved to submission.

They were always ready to resort to shock-tactics to dishearten and demoralize their enemies. With lightning speed, they fell upon the people and destroyed them with fire and sword. They did this so often that an impression was created that it was impossible to face the Muslims successfully.

(4) Habibullah points out that one great defect of the Rajput military system was that they staked everything on the issue of a single battle. They did not make any distinction between a battle and a war. Lloyd George used to say that while others won battles, he won the war. Unfortunately, the Rajputs could not think in terms of a defeat. If it was a question of defending a fort, they were prepared to ruin themselves while defending it.

If they failed to defend it, they died fighting to a man and their women burnt themselves to death. The result was that after one defeat, nothing was left. It has rightly been said that the Rajputs were notorious for turning a single military defeat in a catastrophe. They should have known that in a war it is sometimes politic to retreat and attack the enemy when the other party is weak.

(5) Another defect in the Rajput military system was that they did not take the offensive against their enemies. To quote Habibullah, “Rarely did the Hindu princes take the offensive, but they bestirred themselves only when the enemy appeared before the strong-hold.” Obviously, this is not the way of winning victory. A policy of defense alone does not help. A defensive policy has to be coupled with an offensive policy. As that was not done by the Rajputs, their people suffered terribly on account of the Muslim invasions.

(6) Dr. Iswari Prasad maintains that the wars between the Rajputs and the Muslims were “a struggle between two different social systems, the one old and decadent and the other full of youthful vigor and enterprise.” The Hindus were divided into many castes. These castes created pride and prejudices. They also created inequality in society. The result was that all the Hindus could not pool their resources against the foreigners. Moreover, out of the four castes the work of fighting was left to only one caste. The people of the three other castes thought that they had nothing to do with the defense of the country and they seemed to be indifferent towards the same.

The result was that about three-fourths of the people of India did not fight against the foreigners. Obviously, the rest of the one-fourth of the population could not be expected to fight against the enemy successfully. Islam is a great brotherhood and this equality among the Muslims was a great I asset in their fight against the Hindus. Equality among Muslims brought unity among them and I they fought shoulder to shoulder against their enemies. It has rightly been said that while the I Hindus had no ideology before them to fight for, the Muslims certainly had one.

They came to India with the fanatical zeal of crusaders. All their fight against the Hindus was a Jihad. They were convinced that if they won, they would become Ghazis and if they died fighting, they would go to Bahisht, or paradise and also get the honours of a Shahid or martyr. It is these beliefs that “led | even the commonest Musalmans to brave risks and cheerfully make sacrifices.” It was with this spirit that the Muslim soldiers, with the cries of Allah-hu-Akbar, were able to defeat the Rajputs. The cries of Har Har Mahadeva of the Hindus were not strong enough to stop the Muslims.

Prof. K. A. Nizami also holds a similar view. According to him, the real causes of the defeat of the Indians lay in their social system and the invidious caste distinctions which rendered the whole military organisation rickety and weak. The caste taboos and discriminations killed all sense of unity. Even religion was the monopoly of a particular section and a majority of the Indians were not allowed to see the inside of a high-caste Indian temple. For the bulk of the people of India, there was hardly anything which could evoke patriotic responses in them when face to face with the Ghurid invaders. They watched with indifference the fate of the Indian governing classes.

No wonder, the towns fell like ripe fruits. Only the forts put up some resistance but they became helpless when the enemy controlled the country-side. If the Indian governing classes had succeeded in enlisting the support of the masses for their defense plans, these forts and fortresses would have served as a fortified base of a very dynamic character by linking up all their striking force to a single state-centre.

However, under the existing social circumstances, these forts became a futile defense and could not protect even their own areas. The casts system played havoc with the military efficiency of the Rajput States. As fighting was the profession of a group, recruitment was confined to particular tribes or castes. The bulk of the population was excluded from military training. The idea of physical pollution made the division of labour impossible among the soldiers. The result was that the same person had to perform all sorts of work-from fighting to fetching of water.

According to P. Saran, “The Post-Gupta period in India was marked by the rise and ascendency of the aristocratic, irrational and exclusive Brahmanism as a result of the reaction which took place against the otherwise democratic and rational but then degenerate Buddhism giving birth to a new ideology in religion which slowly but imperceptibly crept over the social body of Hinduism.

This was the ideology of exclusivist, isolation and planned obedience of the monopolists of sacerdotal authority. It was this ideology that rendered the Indian society and its rulers incapable of defending their frontiers and killed its vitality of assimilating the new-comers.”

(7) Another cause was the failure on the part of the Hindus to realise the implications of the invasions of the Muslims. Their view was that the Turks were like the Sakas, Kushanas and the Hunas. They believed that the Turks would be contented with extending their control over the Punjab alone and not carry their power into the very heart of India.

It was this misunderstanding or wrong conclusion which was responsible for their not taking the Muslim invasions seriously. They ought to have realised the gravity of the situation and marshalled all their resources to meet the enemy. As they did not do so, their failure could be anticipated.

Muhammad Ghori or Muhammad of Ghur

(8) Another cause of the failure of the Hinuds was their general attitude towards others and their own lives. Alberuni tells us that “the Indians believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no religion liek theirs, no science like theirs…. They are by nature niggardly in communicating what they know and they take the greatest possible care to withhold it from men of another caste, from among their own people, still more of course from any foreigner.”

This wrong estimate of themselves blinded the Hindus and they assumed a false sense of superiority which ultimately proved their ruin. Alberuni also tells us that “they (the Hindus) are in a state of confusion, devoid in logical order and in the last instance always mixed up with silly notions of the crowd. I can only compare their mathematical and astronomical knowledge to a mixture of pearls and sour dates, or of pearls and dung, or of costly crystals and common pebbles.

Both kinds of things are equal in their eyes since they cannot raise themselves to the methods of a strictly scientific deduction.” Such people could not stand against the Muslims who came to India as crusaders for their religion and also hoped to get a lot of money and gold.

(9) Another cause of Muslim success was their slave system. Lane-Poole observes: “While a brilliant father’s son is apt to be a failure, the slaves of a real leader of men have often proved the equals of their master.” The Muslim rulers had a large number of slaves and they were given high positions on the basis of their merit.

The result was that these slaves helped their masters to build up an empire in this country. It is these slaves who were responsible for conquering various parts of this country while their masters were busy otherwise. Examples of such slaves were Qutb-” ud-Din Aibak, Iltutmish and Balban.

(10) Critics point out that the blunders of the Indian rulers also helped the Muslims to win. It is true that Jayapala was defeated by Subuktgin and Mahmud but instead of burning himself on a funeral pyre, he should have gone to fight against the enemies and defeated them. It is no part of bravery to kill oneself if one is defeated by the enemy. Raja Dahir of Sindh also made a similar mistake. He should not have gone to fight as an ordinary soldier in the battle.

Like a General, he should have directed the army and not himself become the target of the enemy. The result was that although he was able to establish his reputation as a soldier, he lost the war by allowing himself to be made the target by the enemy. Similar blunders were committed by other Hindu rulers which facilitated the task of conquest of India by the Muslims.

(11) Dr. Buddha Prakash says that the verdict which the historian has to return on the fall of Hindu India is one of suicide rather than murder. According to him, the hand which crippled the nation was its own. In this connection he refers to the rivalry between the Hindus and the Buddhists and the Buddhist monks did not hesitate even to help the Muslim invaders against the Hindus.

He also refers to the burning of the Buddhist library of Nalanda by Hindu fanatics. He also refers to the abduction of Samyogta, daughter of Jaichandra of Kanauj, by Prithviraj and the estrangement of relations between the two rulers and their failure to act together against a common enemy.

Dr. Tarachand points out that an interval of 175 years separated the sack of Somnath by Mahmud and the battle of Tarain which sealed the fate of Hindu India, but the doom was self inflicted. There were warnings of the impending crisis and the Indians had enough time in which they could have set their house in order. However, the Rajahs did not bother and they continued the merry game of toppling one another showing utter unconcern about the happenings in the Punjab and beyond.

Their lack of intelligence was abysmal. On the eve of the Muhammadan conquest, the Hindu principalities were divided, engaged in never-ending feuds and suicidal wars among themselves. In Western India, the Chalukyas, the Paramars and Chauhans fought with one another and also with their neighbours to the East and to the South.

In Central India, the Gohadvadas, Chandellas, Kalachuris with some others thrown in, competed for supremacy. In eastern India, Palas and Senas of Bihar and Bengal were constantly under fire from Gahadvadas of Kanauj and of Gangas of Orissa, The result was that when the Ghurid hammer fell, they were struck down one after another like nine-pins.

Elphinstone explained the causes of the success of the Muslims under Mohammad Ghori in these words: “As his army was drawn from all the war-like provinces between the Indus and the Oxus and has accustomed to contend with the Seljuks and the Northern Hordes of Tatars, we should not expect it to meet much resistance from a people naturally gentle and inoffensive, broken into small states and forced into war without any hopes of gain or aggrandizement.”

Sir Jadunath Sarkar has analysed the causes of Muslim success in these words: “Islam gave to its followers (as H.A.L. Fisher has pointed out) three characteristic virtues which no other religion has inspired so successfully and which imparted to natural soldiers like the Arabs, Berbers, Pathans and Turks, a wonderful military efficiency. These were:

First, complete equality and social solidarity, as regards legal status and religious privileges. Thus, all distinctions of caste and race were swept away and the sect was knit together like the members of one vast family of brothers.

Secondly, fatalism, springing from an absolute reliance on God and the belief that what Allah wills must triumph over every human effort. This bred contempt ‘of death in fighting.

Thirdly, freedom from drunkenness. Wine drinking is a sin according to the Quran and a crime punishable by the state in Muslim countries. On the other hand, wine drinking was the ruin of the Rajputs, Marathas and other Hindu soldiers and made them incapable of far-sighted military planning, conducting surprises and even guarding their own camps with proper precaution.”

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