It is an irony of fate that the Rajput’s who were a paragon of rare bravery, chivalry, courage and valour lost to the Turk invaders who came from barren, destitute and distant lands.
Several reasons are assigned to this phenomenon.
These reasons may be grouped under the following seven heads:
I. Political causes.
II. Military causes.
III. Religious causes.
IV. Social causes
V. Geographical causes.
VI. Administrative causes.
VII. Economic causes.
I. Political Causes:
(1) Lack of a powerful central authority:
There was no powerful central authority in India that could have offered strong resistance to the invaders as did the Magadha empire at the time of Alexander’s invasion. India at that time was divided into a number of independent Rajput states.
(2) Disunity among the Rajput rulers:
As stated by Dr. Iswari Prasad, “State fought against state for leadership and there was no paramount power which could effectively hold them together by any principle of unity or cohesion.” There were tough mutual fights among Rajputs states, particularly among the Chauhans and the Rathors, the Chandelas and the Chalukyas and the Pratiharas, Palas and the Rashtrakutas. According to Chandbardai, “Ninety out of a hundred of Prithviraj’s ‘Samantas’ (chiefs) fell in his conflicts with Jai Chand on account of his carrying away Samyukta.”
(3) Lack of political insight:
Even a series of Muslim invasions did not produce a single Rajput ruler with political insight to visualize as to what would happen to all of them, one by one, if the foreign inroads were not faced and checked unitedly.
(4) Neglect of the frontiers:
The Rajput rulers failed to evolve any frontier policy and could not forget their internal feuds and rise above personal prejudices to save the frontier states being crushed under the foreign soldiers.
The army of a Rajput ruler was constituted by collecting the armies of the feudal chiefs. The soldiers demonstrated more loyalty to their feudal chief than to the ruler. Feudal system led to the weakening of the power of the king.
II. Military Causes:
1. Interior war art:
In the words of Dr. V.A. Smith, “Hindu Kings though fully equal to their assailants in courage and contempt of death, were distinctly inferior in the art of war and for that reason lost their independence.”
2. Lack of appropriate military strategy:
The Rajput army advanced with all the wings together—the right, the centre and the left. The Turks used a special strategy with their two units—one advanced guard and other the reserve. The advance guard was meant to test their strength and to find out the weak areas. The reserve was thrown into the battle fray after the Rajput’s had exhausted their resources.
3. Lack of offensive:
The Rajput’s mostly fought defensive battles with the foreign invaders and this was not the appropriate way of winning a battle.
4. Outdated weapons and war strategies:
The Rajput’s did not try to find out the latest techniques and weapons used in foreign lands.
5. Swordsmen versus archers:
The Turkish archers shooting arrows from their horses were more than a match for the Rajput soldiers with their swords which could become effective only if they could reach close to the enemy.
6. Elephants versus horses:
The Rajput’s depended to a considerable extent upon the elephants. The elephants were easily struck with fear with the swiftness of the horses’ movements and the war cries. They ran helter- skelter spreading fear and disorder in their own camp. The strength of the Turks lay in their efficient cavalry.
7. Lack of military leadership:
Military leadership is quite different from bravery and chivalry. The Rajput rulers and their commanders did not have the requisite capacity to infuse zeal in their armies. On the other hands, the Turk invaders could easily arouse the battle cry ‘to do or die’.
8. Overdependence on the ruler:
Usually the soldiers of the Rajput rulers had the impression that after the death or disappearance of the Raja, they could not face the enemy. The disappearance of the Raja even for a short while created panic in the army. The disappanee of Anand Pal for a while when his elephant was hit by an arrow caused panic in his army and his army lost heart and consequently battle against Mahmud of Ghazni.
Lane-poole has described the fate of the war as, “Anand Pal’s elephant took fright, the rumour ran that the Raja was fleeing from the field, vague suspicions and distrust spread about, and a general stampede ensued. Instead of retreating before a vivacious army, in an instant Mahmud found himself pursuing a panic stricken crowd.”
9. Only Rajput’s in the army:
Only Rajput’s had the duty to fight. Other classes were indifferent. Thus too much dependence on the Rajput’s was one of the weaknesses of the military organisation.
III. Religious Causes:
1. Ghazi spirit of the Muslim army:
A Ghazi is one who gives his life in defence of Islam. According to Lane-poole, “The very bigotry of their creed (Muslims) was an instrument of self preservation.” For the Muslim soldiers, the fight against the Rajputs i.e. the Hindus, was a ‘Jihad’ (Holy war)—a crusade to protect as well as to spread their religion. The soldiers were thoroughly convinced that if they died for their religion they would go to paradise. If they won, they would get all the pleasures of the world, besides being the protectors of their religion.
2. No unitary ideology of the Hindus:
Hinduism had no unified ideology to bind them together to the extent the Muslims had.
3. Impact of Buddhist religion:
The Buddhist concept of Ahimsa did a great harm to the martial spirit of the Hindus. It made the Hindus timid and peace-loving.
IV. Social Causes:
(1) Decaying society:
The caste system had divided the Hindu society and injected the venom of hatred, humiliation, inequality, prejudices and untouchability. On the contrary, Islam had infused a spirit of brotherhood. It has been observed, “The fellowship of equal brotherhood in Islam surpassed in unity and strength in the world.”
(2) Superstition of the Hindus:
In the words of V.C. Vaiya, “Superstition acted like a double-edged sword towards the fall of Hindu India, While the Muslims believed that victory was bound to come to them, the Hindus believed that they were bound, to be conquered by the Muslims in ‘Kaliyug’, such a superstition demoralized and discouraged the Hindus.”
(3) Slave system of the Muslim rulers:
The slaves maintained by the Muslim rulers were very faithful to their masters. They were provided adequate opportunities to hold high offices according to their ability. They were always ready to die for their masters.
V. Administrative Factors:
The Rajput rulers did not set up an efficient spy system to be adequately acquainted themselves with the overall position of their adversaries. It is also very unfortunate that sometimes Rajput officials proved treacherous as they let out some of the military secrets to the enemy.
VI. Geographical Factors:
Some historians have suggested that the hot climate of India sapped the strength and vigour of the Indian soldiers. The Muslim soldiers came from cold regions and were habitually hardy and sturdy. They were not bothered by the Indian heat as they were used to face climatic harshness. ‘Heat or cold,’ they thought they were their to conquer and that was the only thing that mattered to them. The Muslim rulers had excellent recruiting grounds in lands beyond the Afghan hills. From there they could constantly bring new recruits to fight against the Hindus.
VII. Economic Factors:
Large number of soldiers of the Turk invaders were attracted by the wealth of India. They, therefore, fought with full zeal. As already stated, religious fantacism was also there. Thus the two factors combined together to infuse vigour in them. The wealth of the temples had a great attraction for the Muslim invaders. These temples however, were not properly protected. It, therefore, became easy for the invaders to plunder these places and this demoralised the people.
We may close the discussion with the observations made by some prominent historians. According to Dr. Iswari Prasad, “There was no dearth of military talent or fighting skill in the country, for the Rajput’s 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.”
Sir Jadunath Sarkar is of the view that complete equality and social solidarity, fatalism that sprang from an absolute reliance on god and freedom from drunkenness of Muslim soldiers were primarily responsible for the success of the Turks. According to Prof. K.A. Nizami, “The real cause of the defeat of the Indians lay in their social system and the invidious caste distinctions, which rendered the whole military organization rickety and weak.”
R.C. Datt has emphasized that the Hindus had reached the last stage their political, religious and social decline at that time and therefore became an easy prey to the invading Turks. Dr. A.L. Srivastva observes that the absence of political unity, social divisions and moral degeneration of the Hindus and the superiority of the Turks in military organisation, skill and resources were responsible for the success of the Turks.
Dr. K.S. Lai lists these reasons for the defeat of the Rajput’s: Social division and rivalry between different groups, the absence of an efficient spy system and defective and out-dated military skill. He has further observed that it was very much easy for the Muslims to get traitors from a society which was so unjustly divided. This was one of the reasons why all important cities of North India were lost to the invader within fifteen years.
Sardar K.M. Panikkar assigns the responsibility of the defeat of the Hindus on their lack of contact with the outside world and their declined culture.
Prof. A.B.M. Habibullah writes, “Rajput recklessness has an element of romance in it but is of little practical wisdom.”
Dr. U.N. Ghoshal thinks that want of leaders with sufficient skill was the primary reason of the failure of the Rajput’s.