What were the causes for Hindu defeats? The simple and short answer is ‘Military non-performance of the Hindus’.
To examine the reasons of that non-performance, we have first to understand the nature of war, i.e. the factors that determine the outcome of war.
‘War’ is a three-letter dirty word, involving death and destruction, murder and mayhem, and everything unpleasant and unpalatable. However, it is war, which determines the fates of nations, and their pecking order in the comity of nations. Civilizations rose to their glory and grandeur on the shoulders of war; that was the case with all major civilizations, e.g. Greek, Roman, Christian and Islamic. War has dominated the human affairs right from the dawn of history, which is essentially a chronicle of wars. Those civilizations who could not understand the centrality of war in human affairs fell by the wayside; unfortunately, the Hindu civilization falls in this category. The one unimpeachable lesson of history is that maintenance of the delicate balance of civilizations requires War, or the ‘Threat of War’; that is the only language the world at large understands.
Civilizations rose to their glory and grandeur on the shoulders of war; that was the case with all major civilizations…Those civilizations who could not understand the centrality of war in human affairs fell by the wayside; unfortunately, the Hindu civilization falls in this category.
It is not that the Hindus could never appreciate the importance of war. Actually, one of the very first persons to understand the centrality of war in human affairs, was a Hindu; his name was Chanakya Kautilya. As early as the 4th century BC, Chanakya told everything that needed to be known about war; and he did that in a very blunt and forceful language. If Hindus had paid even part heed to Chanakya’s concepts, they could have gone on to dominate the world. However, the Hindus lost the script and their way very early in their history.
War is central to the issue under discussion by us. Like a computer, war has two aspects, i.e. Software and Hardware, viz.:
Software Factors, or ‘Mind’ Factors
Strategy and Generalship — Tactics
Troops — Skill Levels
The Hardware Factors, or ‘Muscle’ Factors
Number of Troops
Weapons Technology and Quantities
Battle Venue — Distance from home base
War Animals — Horse vs Elephant
For victory in war, it is essential that both the Hardware and Software elements are present in reasonably adequate quantity and even more importantly, in quality. No war can be fought in the absence of either of these elements. However, there can be endless arguments as to which of the above element is more important. All that we can say is that history records many cases in which armies even severely deficient in Hardware but adequate in Software, recorded victory after victory. There are not many cases in which armies short on Software could record victory, even if overflowing with Hardware. The Software factor could also be called morale, though only in a limited sense.
Amongst the Hindus, Prithviraj Chauhan was a general of very high caliber. But, it would be difficult to avoid the conclusion that Prithviraj Chauhan was out-maneuvered and out-foxed by Muhammad Ghauri in 1192 AD.
The primary cause of Hindus going under was their comprehensive defeats by the Muslims in the following two battles:
- 1009 AD; Mahmud of Ghazni vs Anandpal
- 1192 AD; Muhammad Ghauri vs Prithviraj Chauhan.
The first battle showed how vulnerable Hindus were. The second battle demonstrated how easy it was to subdue them for the long term. In the following paragraphs, we examine the Software and Hardware factors of the Hindu and Muslim armies in the context of the above two battles.
Skill Levels: In terms of skill levels of troops, the Muslim armies appeared to have an advantage; they had an edge at least in one respect, i.e. they were better horsemen. The Muslim armies had special columns of ‘mounted archers’, who could fire arrows with precision, whilst at full gallop; Hindu armies had no answer for that.
Generalship: It is generally believed that Muslim generals were of higher caliber. Especially, Mahmud of Ghazni is counted amongst the best generals of the world. Amongst the Hindus, Prithviraj Chauhan was a general of very high caliber. But, it would be difficult to avoid the conclusion that Prithviraj Chauhan was out-maneuvered and out-foxed by Muhammad Ghauri in 1192 AD.
Hindu Mindset: This is the subject at the center of our study. It is a rather complex issue and is discussed in detail in chapters 40 and 41.
Troop numbers: As stated earlier, almost all the Rajput Rulers of North West India contributed their troops for both the battles. That would lead us to conclude that Hindus armies must have had a significant numerical superiority; they could have easily had twice or thrice the numbers of troops when compared to the Muslim armies.
Weapons Technology: At the start of the second millennium AD, Hindu civilization was a very advanced one. There is nothing to suggest that in weapons technology, Hindus could have been in any way less advanced than the Muslims could. As such, weapons of both sides could be considered to be of comparable class. In spite of the known and proven innumerable shortcomings and disadvantages of the elephant, the Hindu commanders, for some inexplicable reason, continued to use the elephant as their major weapon of war.
Battle Venue: Both the above battles, as all other Hindu–Muslim battles, were fought in the very backyard of the Hindus. Hindu armies had an enormous advantage in terms of Supply and Support Systems. Muslims were fighting far away from their home base and were thus at a major disadvantage.
War Animals — Horse vs Elephant
Before the invention of the machine, the horse was the most important weapon of war. It had been used in that role from times immemorial; almost from the beginning of human history. Every famous general has ridden it; and he has ridden nothing else. One common feature of all victorious generals was their unshakable faith in the horse as a weapon of war. The most famous horse of history was Busephelus belonging to the most famous general of history, Alexander the Great.
The horse, the rider, and the sword, constitute the first example of what in modern military terminology is called the ‘Weapon System’. The sword is held (firmly) in the hand of the rider, who is in (firm) touch with the body of the horse, through his legs. Through that physical touch, the horse can read the mind of his rider, including his state of confidence or panic. Thus, the horse can anticipate commands of his master and give a real-time response. This single factor of close and instant interaction of the ‘horse, the rider and the sword’, resulted in achieving innumerable victories.
Hindu armies, though using horses relied excessively on elephants. Hindu commanders used elephants in two ways:The horse is one of the most intelligent animals. It has all the qualities essential for the battlefield, i.e. speed, stamina, agility, flexibility, easy maneuverability and endurance. The greatest factor in favor of the horse is the positive control that the rider has through means of the reins; that ensures total control and instant response, an indispensable requirement in a war situation. In addition, there is the great sense of loyalty of the horse to his master. History records many instances where the horse saved his master from hopeless situations, and in some cases from certain death. In the Indian context, we have the case of the horse named Chetak, who saved his master Rana Pratap from a very tricky situation.
- In large numbers to form offensive phalanxes in the battle line-up.
- As an individual mount of the commander, especially the commander-in-chief, or the king.
In addition to the Hindus, two other countries known to have used elephants in war in a major way were Iran and Carthage of North Africa. Hannibal (3rd century BC) of Carthage used elephants when attacking Europe. However, Hannibal did not ride the elephant himself; he always rode the horse.
For the Muslim commanders, it was horses all the way. In fact, all commanders all over the world used only the horse; these included Alexander, Caesar, Genghis Khan and all others. They might have heard of the elephant, but they knew its limitations as a weapon of war; it was never to be used as a mount for the commander.
Now, as a weapon of war, the elephant lacks almost all the qualities of the horse, which we have detailed earlier. All those attributes are either absent, or highly deficient in the elephant. Its most serious deficiency is the lack of any positive control; the elephant has nothing resembling the rein of the horse. Whatever limited control is there is not by the commander/rider, but through the means of a third party, called mahout in Hindi.
The commander/rider stands isolated in a sort of metal container (called howda in Hindi) on the top of the elephant. The commander has no interaction with the elephant and thus, lacks any type of rapport with it. The commander’s orders to the animal have to be given through the mahout. In the clutter and din of the battle, the mahout may not hear the order or misunderstand it, and sometimes even pretend not to hear. In some exceptional circumstances, the mahout may be bribed by the enemy to let down the commander at a crucial moment of battle. The mahout may try to get the order implemented by the elephant, who may not respond due to the lack of any positive control. There were many instances where elephants went out of control and acted as they wished.
The elephant has no speed, is cumbersome in movement and sluggish in response — all self-destructive attributes in a war situation. It has lot of mass and strength; that often proved delusive in actual war situations. The elephant has no loyalty to the commander/rider and hardly even recognizes him. So, it cannot be expected to save its rider from tricky situations, as horses have reported to have done.
…there is the great sense of loyalty of the horse to his master. History records many instances where the horse saved his master from hopeless situations, and in some cases from certain death.
Now in an actual war situation, the commander cum king stands/sits perched high on the back of the elephant. That might generate a feeling amongst the troops that the commander is isolated from them, and sitting rather safely on a high perch; in other words, not sharing the risks with them. Further, if a mishap were to occur to the commander, it would be almost instantly noticed by the troops; that may demoralize them and result in chaos. That actually happened in at least two cases of crucial battles, as will be seen in later paragraphs.
There is still another serious disadvantage of the elephant. In the earlier days, the sword was the primary and most important weapon of war; warrior’s reputation was known by his skill and mastery of the sword. It is the only weapon useable in close combat situations, which invariably determines the final outcome of war. When the general is sitting on the top of an elephant, he is in no position to use the sword. That is a major drawback and liability.
In spite of the known and proven innumerable shortcomings and disadvantages of the elephant, the Hindu commanders, for some inexplicable reason, continued to use the elephant as their major weapon of war. Towards that end, we list below four major battles that Hindu Commanders fought against the invading forces:
It is noticed from the above that.
- All four invaders were on horseback, and all four emerged victorious.
- All the four defending Hindu Commanders were on elephant, and all four were defeated. Of course, there were also other reasons for the Hindu defeats — riding the elephant was just one of those.
History records the following episodes in respect to the above campaigns:
- 326 BC: Porus employed phalanxes of elephants as a defensive cum offensive shield. Under heavy onslaught of arrows from the Greek cavalry, the elephants panicked and started backing off, stampeding their own forces. In addition, Porus was himself riding an elephant.
- 710 AD: There was a stage in the battle when Hindu forces had an upper hand. Dahar was on his elephant and was consequently rather exposed. An arrow hit Dahar and he was killed; panic spread in the Hindu forces and they retreated.
- 1009 AD: At a crucial stage in the battle, when the Hindus were winning, Anandpal’s elephant got panicky and bolted from the field. That was a signal for panic and the Hindu forces dispersed, pursued by the Muslim cavalry.
Hindu Military Mindset
History tells us that certain races and civilizations were traditionally war-like and aggressive. The Greek, Roman, Christian and Islamic civilizations fall in this category, though at different points of times in history. Then, there were the tribal civilizations like the Mongols/Tartars, Huns and Goths, who spread murder and mayhem all over the world. They established major empires based on their drive for dominance, backed by raw courage.
On the other hand, there was the Hindu civilization, which, came to be (wrongly) considered by the Hindus themselves as non-offensive, docile, tolerant and the accommodating type. Even today, most Hindus like to project themselves as such. Hindu generals for some strange reason never ventured out of their land borders, even when they had the means and the duty to do so. The difference between Hindu civilization and the rest is too stark to be missed by anyone. In this respect, Hindu civilization stands almost alone in its (dubious) splendor, to its great disadvantage and at great cost to itself and its people.
Hindu civilization stands almost alone in its (dubious) splendor, to its great disadvantage and at great cost to itself and its people.
Over the ages, Hindus acquired a number of mindsets, some under the influence of Buddhism; these were to prove their undoing . Hindu generals for some strange reason never ventured out of their land borders, even when they had the means and the duty to do so.It is fashionable for Hindu apologists to project ‘non-invasion of foreign lands’ as a great virtue and an outstanding characteristic of the great Hindu culture and civilization. ‘We never invaded anyone in our 3000 or 5000 years of glorious history’ croak the Hindu leaders. One hears of this argument ad nauseam during TV debates and seminars.
‘How unique, how wonderful is our record of non-invasions,’ say Hindu leaders, with a touch of pride and twinkle in their eyes. Though we may note in passing that the great lord Rama did invade foreign lands. Actually, this viewpoint is nothing but a reflection of the muddled Hindu thinking on military issues.
this viewpoint is nothing but a reflection of the muddled Hindu thinking on military issues.
This reasoning shows lack of the fundamental military principle, i.e. Offence is the best form of Defense; you have to get to your adversary before he can get to you. If you are on the offensive, you have already won half the battle; if you are on the defensive, you start with a great disadvantage. This is how the psychology of war works, and has always worked throughout the ages. Almost every war in history establishes the truth of this dictum. In the vast majority of battles, the party on the offensive won. Muslims won almost every battle as they were always on the offensive, and carried the battle to other people’s land. The great strategist Chanakya, in his Arthshastra, has laid great emphasis on ‘offensive actions’. The capture of (weak) neighboring states has been prescribed as the sacred duty of the king.
Let us examine the international practice on the subject of ‘offensive action’. In chapter 35.1, we have listed some of the famous generals of history. In studying their careers, we find many common features. These generals spent most of their time on horseback, with their sword drawn, ready to strike. Each dawn, they would throw a challenge to a new land and a new country — ‘Submit, or else’, was their clear and crisp message.
They took no quarter and gave none. They marched from land to land, planting their flag and moving on. They went to the enemy’s lair, and seldom allowed him to come to theirs. The military initiative always lay with them. That is why history recognizes and respects these generals. Alexander became the world conqueror, as each week he had a fresh land to conquer. Genghis Khan and Timur became the terror that they were, as they identified their next victim as soon as they had decimated one. Atilla the Hun is famous, because he was always on the offensive. None of the famous generals allowed themselves to be on the defensive.
They took no quarter and gave none. They marched from land to land, planting their flag and moving on
There is the case of the Punic wars; these were fought in 3rd century BC between Rome and Carthage, a country in North Africa. Around 216 BC, General Hannibal of Carthage landed in Europe for some offensive actions. He captured Spain and surrounding territories, and started attacking the mighty Roman Empire. Over a period of some ten years, Hannibal inflicted a series of defeats on the formidable Roman legions. In one engagement alone, he is reported to have killed some 50,000 Roman soldiers, a humongous number those days. Having been bored with his victories, Hannibal went back to Carthage. Now, Roman General Scipio attacked Carthage, and defeated Hannibal decisively in his own den, in the famous battle of Zama in 202 BC. Moral of the story is that Hannibal was winning as long as he was on the offensive; he lost when he adopted defensive posture.
We have earlier quoted the little known Sanskrit shloka (verse) — ‘Veera Bhoga Vasundhra’, i.e. Brave will enjoy the Earth. Those generals were the perfect example of that. They lived for the day, and enjoyed fully the fruit of their labor in the present life, without worrying about the next. That is what human spirit is all about, that is the human DNA. Human spirit is not about first non-performing, and then cooking up reasons for defeat.
Let us now explore Hindu scriptures on their attitude towards offensive actions. We start with the holiest of the holy, the one and only Bhagwad Gita; its central message is somewhat on the following lines:
Tolerate no injustice — never, under no circumstances
Engage in (righteous) war
Kill, or be Killed (nothing in between)
Kill, and enjoy the fruits of earth
If killed (in battle), enjoy the fruits of heaven.
When in an offensive action, you are the winner all the way; if you win, you enjoy the fruits of earth; if you lose and are killed in battle (which you have to be, if you lose), you enjoy the fruits of heaven. This is the message of the great Lord Krishna himself. No other religion is more clear and unambiguous on the imperatives of offensive action. It was after getting this message and direction that Arjuna went on the offensive and emerged victorious. We now take the Hindu’s second most holy book, i.e. the Rig Veda. The Rig lists the innumerable military exploits of Indra, all in the offensive mode. He is shown repeatedly attacking various demons, defeating and killing them; those include the invincible demon Vrtra, for which Indra took help from Vishnu.
The Hindu scriptures are full of tales of gods being on the offensive against the demons, and demons against the gods. In many of those offensive actions, the great lords Vishnu and Shiva play crucial roleThen, there are the two great epics, the Ramayana and the Mahabharta; in these lies the very soul of the Hindus. These epics are, in essence, the glorification of war and offensive actions.
Ravan had abducted just one lady (Sita); Lord Rama lost no time in crossing the seas, and dispatching that abductor to hell.
Rama in Ramayana and the Pandavas (assisted by Krishna) in the Mahabharta, were on the offensive, and both emerged victorious, even against heavy odds. The great goddess Kali is depicted always on the offensive against various types of demons, including the most formidable ones. She shows no hesitation even in drinking their blood. What can be a greater endorsement of ‘offensive actions’ in Hindu scriptures?
In view of the foregoing, it is difficult to see from where the Hindus have picked up their theory of and obsession with ‘no offensive action’. It has no sanction in Hindu scriptures; Hindu culture and tradition revolves around ‘offensive action’. We can keep on quoting example after example from Hindu scriptures, which stress on offensive actions and other imperatives of war. The great Lord Rama himself had gone on the offensive against a foreign land and returned victorious with full honors. Ravan had abducted just one lady (Sita); Lord Rama lost no time in crossing the seas, and dispatching that abductor to hell.
There is no way Hindus can justify their non-invasion of the Afghanistan of the early centuries of 2nd millennium AD.
The Ghaznis and Ghauris routinely abducted hundreds and thousands of Hindu women with a view to dishonor them. Some Rajput clans trace their ancestry to a Suryavanshis of Lord Rama. But, the Rajput ‘Suryavanshi’ blood was not stirred by these wanton acts of the Ghaznis and Ghauris. Not one Rajput ruler followed the example of their ancestor, the great Lord himself, and went to Afghanistan to teach a lesson or two to those upstarts and molesters
There is no way Hindus can justify their non-invasion of the Afghanistan of the early centuries of 2nd millennium AD. Such an invasion was imperative for a variety of reasons, including saving the honor of their women; a most sublime cause, if there is ever one. Even if one Rajput ruler had taken that route, there would have been no need to conduct the abhorrent practice of ‘jahaur’ — mass self-immolation of women on funeral pyres.
Muhammad Ghauri had started nibbling at Indian territories in 1176 AD. By 1186 AD or so, he had incorporated large parts of Punjab up to Bhatinda in his empire. What was the response of Prithviraj Chauhan? Nil; he sat tight in his state. That was the Hindu mindset at work. The fundamental and cardinal military principle is to be always on the lookout for a ‘potential’ threat, and to eliminate it immediately, sometimes even before an actual threat.
Problems do not go away by pretending that these do not exist, or by shutting one’s eyes to reality.
Chanakya’s Arthshastra spells it out explicitly; every successful (foreign) general followed it literally. It was incumbent on Prithviraj to take on Muhammad Ghauri as soon as he saw him taking over Ghazni, and building a power base there. The Vedic dharma required that line of action. There is no way Prithviraj should have allowed Ghauri to take over Indian cities like Peshawar, Multan and Lahore, leave alone the next-door citadel of Bhatinda. Problems do not go away by pretending that these do not exist, or by shutting one’s eyes to reality.
In 1191 AD, Prithviraj had the good fortune to defeat Muhammad Ghauri. However, Prithviraj allowed a wounded Ghauri to get away. If Prithviraj was unable to kill or capture Muhammad Ghauri on the battlefield, it was incumbent on him to pursue the Turko-Afghan to his lair in Lahore or Multan or Peshawar. Actually, Prithviraj should have traveled all the way to Ghazni and Ghur, and smashed Muhammad Ghauri’s power at its very base; from the military point of view, that was the only option. That course would have prevented future upstarts to cast their lustful eyes on this holy land. Hindu history would have developed along entirely different lines.
- The Hindu mind, mostly under the influence of Buddhism and Jainism, came to suffer from a series of pre-conceived concepts and notions, viz.:
- The Hindu mind failed to comprehend the centrality of war in the affairs of men, and in determining the fate of nations and civilizations. They failed to develop a military culture of offensive action (an international norm), essential for the survival as a free and proud nation.
- At some stage, Hindus started suffering from an overdose of ahimsa (non-violence), shanti (peace) and satya (truth) — the ‘ass’ syndrome. This was partly under Buddhist influence, especially the ahimsa part.
- Under the influence of Brahmin priests, Hindu rulers got overtly obsessed with their next-life. If they could assure their after-life, they did not perhaps mind going-under in the present life.
- Hindus also suffered from frequent bouts of bogus morality and phony spirituality. Hindus must understand that they need not and do not have any greater share of these two attributes, than any other people on this earth do.
The above type of mindsets unnerved people from the tasks of life, especially those relating to war; that sapped the national will to fight. To date, Hindus keep on justifying the non-performance of Hindu rulers on the pretext of some non-existent tradition of ‘No offensive action, please; we are Hindus’; in that one sentence, and mindset, lies the cause of Hindu downfall.
The Achilles Heel of the Hindu armies appeared to lie in the arena of pre-determined mindsets and the lack of motivation; in their inability or unwillingness to ‘stand up and fight’; and to fight until victory or death, as dictated by the great Lord Krishna himself in the Bhagwad Gita.