This is our story – a sad story written by small men but redeemed by the bravery of ordinary men who stood up to fight and who died with their heads held high.
After the fall of the Gupta Empire (319 CE to late 500 CE) India did not have a strong central government. An empire or a strong central government is able to maintain a strong standing army that is able to protect the boundaries of the nation. After its fall India always had small principalities that ruled, sometimes efficiently but more usually inefficiently creating within their small principalities, a state of constant unrest that pushed their kingdoms to ruin – financial, social, cultural etc. The arts and economy suffered. This made it difficult for successive kings to maintain large standing armies.
These small principalities were ruled by small, petty men who spent more time in their ‘harems’ than in affairs of the state. These petty men – the inheritors of the wealth of Gupta Empire (Golden age of India) spent away all that they inherited – such was their perfidy that by the time the muslim invaders arrived, India did not have a single King strong enough with an army large enough to stand against the invaders.
The invasions followed the same pattern – the invading muslim jihadi army would set up base at the first ‘settled’ territory they had captured. form their every autumn (after monsoons were over) they would set out to wage war against one small raja. the raja would send out calls of help but he would be refused as his fellow small men, ruling their own smaller kingdoms enjoyed seeing this raja be defeated. They celebrated his defeat and instead of helping sought common ground with the invader muslim. This they did in hope that they could get some scarps from the defeated kingdom – territory or gold or men. Litte did they realize the nature of their enemy – the jihadi, who hid his real jihadi motivation behind his capriciousness.
When Mohammed Bin Qasim invaded Sindh and Raja Dahir stood before him, many of Dahir’s feudal lords refused to ally with him to fight Qasim. This suited Qasim well enough. After defeating Dahir and dismantling his kingdom, Qasim went on to conquer the petty rajas, the feudal lords who had refused to help Dahir. Each of these men had hoped for scraps of Dahir’s Sindh but they themselves were eaten and destroyed by the invader jihadi – one by one.
Prithvi Raj Chauhan had ruled over a large kingdom but when Muʿizz al-Dīn Muḥammad ibn Sām (Muhammad Ghori) invaded he managed to defeat him once (1st Battle of Tarrain) but by the time Ghori returned many of his feudal lords ruling various small principalities had hoped Prithviraj Chauhan would be defeated by Ghori. They refused to come to help Prithviraj and he was defeated in the 2nd Battle of Tarrain. Before Jayachand of Kannauj and other feudal lords could rejoice in Prithviraj’s defeat, Ghori turned on them and destroyed their kingdoms one by one. Such was the suicidal ineptness of these petty small men that they were unable to mount a joint resistance against Ghori.
Same was the story of Rajputana – deeply divided and feudal in nature, these rajas were brave individually but they lacked organized resistance & numbers. Bravery cannot alone win wars. Some allied with the invaders (sultanate & mughal periods saw rajputs as mercenaries and as allies of the muslim rulers & invaders)
It was not the rajas who fought the invader – it was the people who fought. But this was a war of attrition. No large organized resistance was seen until the rise of Marathas under the legendary Shivaji Maharaj. His rise saw the establishment of Hindawi Swaraj and overthrow of the muslim rule. By the time the English conquered Bengal, the Marathas ruled over 3/4 of India. But once again the curse of small men struck – and marathas were split into a confederacy of small lords (peshwas) who were more interested in seeing their competing small petty raja fall down than stand up together to resist the big invader – the white european.
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