The Turkish invaders came to India from outside. They were very few in number.
However, they defeated the brave Rajput’s primarily on account of the defective structure of the Rajput polity.
The Rajput polity had the following main features:
1. Small kingdoms:
The period between 1000-1200 A.D. is usually referred to as the Rajput period of Indian history. During the period several independent states came to be established. There was no strong central authority in India that could weld together into a strong unit. Some of these kingdoms were quite extensive and powerful. Multan and Sindh constituted the two Arab (Muslim) states of India.
In the north-west was the Hindushahi kingdom whose ruler at the time of Mahmud was Jayapala. Kashmir was also an independent state. Others were Rajput states. Among the important ones were the Chauhans of Ajmer and Delhi, the Gahadavallas or Rathors of Kanauj, the Chandellas of Bundelkhand, the Guhilas or Sisodiyas of Mewar, the Paramars of Malwa, the Pratiharas of Kanauj and the Palas of Bengal. The Rashtrakutas of Malkhid (Deccan), the Chalukyas of Kalyani and the Cholas of Tanjore ruled over several parts of South India.
2. Mutual hostility and jealousy:
Mostly all the Rajput kingdoms indulged in warfare with their neighbours. Each powerful Rajput state was inspired by expansionist and imperial ambitions. Because of their internal conflicts none of them could utilize its entire resources nor they could unite themselves against Turkish invaders.
3. Feudal organization:
The political organisation of the Rajputs was based on the feudal system. The king allotted land to the Jagirdars who were the feudal lords or nobles. They paid the king fixed annual revenue and rendered military service in the time of need or any crisis or war.
The Jagirdars or nobles usually belonged to the family of the ruler. They had their own ambitions also. They further allotted some portion of the land to sub-jagirdars. This system proved to be defective. It all depended on the ruler how he exercised his control over the jagirdars and infused in them a sense of loyalty to him.
If there was a weak ruler on the throne, these feudal nobles would tend to declare their independence or would quarrel among themselves due to mutual jealousies. No doubt the Rajputs were brave, courageous, chivalours, loyal and patriotic but they lacked political insight and were too proud to join hands to save a frontier kingdom under the fatal grip of a foreign invader.
Their insensitivity and personal animosity blocked their mind though they were quick to show their generosity and mercy to an unarmed enemy or one who sought their shelter. Since the army of a Rajput ruler was constituted by collecting the armies of his feudal chiefs, it lacked cohesion, unity of command and military skill and strategy.
Rajput Polity Responsible for their Failure:
According to Dr. Ishwari Prasad, “There was no dearth of military talent or fighting skill in the country, for the Rajputs were the finest soldiers scarcely inferior in the qualities of courage, valour and endurance to men of any other country. But they lacked unity and organisation. Pride and prejudice alike forbade obedience to a common leader and in critical moments when concentrated action was essential for a victory, they renewed their individual plans and thus neutralised the advantages they possessed over the enemies.”
There were mutual fights among the Pratiharas of Kanauj, the Palas of Bengal and Rashtrakutas of the Deccan. Constant wars had crippled their strength and resources. They had grown very weak.
Prithviraj Chauhan and Jaichand were great enemies. There may be some exaggeration in the remarks made by Chandbardai “Ninety out of a hundred of Prithviraj’s ‘Sumantas’ chiefs or generals fell in his conflicts with Jaichand on account of his carrying away Samyuka” but the moral of this episode is very clear. All these factors weakened the defence of India.
The Rajput rulers failed to present a united front against an enemy that had made India as a target. Had the Rajput rulers forgotten their differences against the common danger and combined together, the history of India would have been written altogether in a different manner.