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chapter 2 Warfare in Medieval India Harshavardhana was the last of ancient northern India’s great Hindu rulers. After his death in ad 647 northern India disintegrated into many smaller kingdoms. According to the Chinese traveler Hsüan-tsang, three powerful Hindu kingdoms, Kapisi to the north, Sindhu or Sindh to the south, and Tsao-Kutaor or Tsay-li in between, dominated the westernmost region.1 The territory of these and other Hindu kingdoms in western India also included much of modern-day Afghanistan.2 Thus, the small westernmost kingdoms of Kabul and Zabulistan first bore the brunt of the Arab incursions from ad 606–47.3 Soon after, the larger kingdom of Sindh also began to feel pressure from the Arabs.The Arab push into Sindh resulted in the first recorded clash between the Indians and the Arabs. As had the Macedonians, the Arab invaders kept numerous accounts of their expeditions into India, the most detailed being the Chach-Nama, an Arabic account of the Sindh conquest translated into Persian by Muhammad Ali bin Abu Bakr Kufi.4 During the reign of the Umayyad caliph Mu’awiyah I (661–80) the Arabs launched a successful series of offensives against Sindh. Al-Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq, appointed Muhammad Kasim as the commander of his armies in Sindh and made elaborate arrangements to ensure the success of the campaign . Al-Hajjaj ordered 6,000 Syrian warriors to join Muhammad’s forces. After further preparation, Muhammad advanced into Sindh and toward Debal , the capital of the Hindu ruler Dahir, which he captured after a brief struggle. He then moved on to the banks of the Indus, where Dahir confronted him on the opposite bank in 712. The stage was thus set on the banks of the Indus for yet another confrontation between an Indian army and an invading foreign army. The similarities between this battle and the battle of the Hydapses are amazing. Like Alexander, Muhammad too successfully effected a river crossing, and, like Porus, Dahir also dispatched a contingent of troops (probably cavalry) to meet this attack. Muhammad easily dealt with this small force, and the two armies finally faced each other near the fortress of Raor. Unfortunately, the Chach-Nama is scant on battle-related details. It appears that, like Porus before 23 Warfare in Medieval India him, Dahir, mounted on his elephant, led a charge against the Arab forces. However, the Arabs were prepared for an elephant charge, as they set fire to Dahir’s howdah with naphtha balls or arrows and killed Dahir when he dismounted. In true Indian tradition, Dahir’s remaining army fled to Raor, which then fell to Muhammad’s victorious forces. The Arab conquest of Sindh was one of the last victories in the Arabs’ efforts to spread the influence of Islam. Soon afterward the Abbasids (c. 750– 1258), who began a new caliphate based in Baghdad, pushed aside the Umayyads . The Arab governor of Masurah, or Sindh, isolated from these events, managed to survive the Abbasid takeover and ruled independently of the caliph ’s control. With the passage of time, the Arabs in Sindh soon ceased to be a major political or military force and began to coexist peacefully with the Rajput kingdoms to the east. The Gurjara Pratihara dynasty, founded by Nagabhatta (reigned 725–40), revived to some extent the glory of Kanauj, the former capital of Harshavardhana in the heart of the Gangetic Plain.This dynasty survived until Mahmud of Ghazni overthrew it in 1018–19.5 Most of northern India, however, was fragmented into more than a hundred smaller kingdoms under rulers who called themselves Rajputs. The Rajputs emerged around the seventh century after the Gupta Empire collapsed. They were descended from the Huns and the central Asian tribes that invaded and settled India following the collapse of Guptan power.6 Initially , fourclans, the Pratiharas or Pariharas, the Chauhans, the Solankis, and the Paramaras, emerged.The Rajput clans perceived themselves as Kshatriyas (warriors) descended from a mythical hero who emerged from a huge sacri- ficial fire at Mount Abu. What made the Rajputs stand out from the rest of Indian society was not their foreign origins but their fanatical attempts to assert their Kshatriya status. Over time, other Indian groups followed their example and claimed descent from the solar and lunar races, establishing themselves as Rajputs in various parts of western and central India.7 The clan remained the central focus of all the Rajputs...


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