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For the past 5000 years, India has been conquered by horses, not by “Aryans”, Greeks, Muslims or the British

I think I've by now found conclusive evidence that India was mauled in the battlefield by men on HORSES. It was the horse that defeated India. Without horses, foreign invaders would have comprehensively failed to defeat India, being always outnumbered by Indians.

India is uniquely placed among all nations of the world. It has a repeated history of losing in war against a pitiably small force. India's size and population has always drawfed its enemies, but they've always manage to conquer it pretty easily.

The horse was the most effective vehicle to deliver lethal force during the agricultural era (particularly before the invention/"discovery" of the gun). It was the nuclear weapon of that age. The horse can be compared to the the Patton tank in WWII. It gave invaders a significant competitive advantage over slow moving Indian armies in which the elephant played a significant role.

But India never had war-worthy horses; it could not produce them domestically. It was therefore forced to import them at great cost

While the debate about the "aryans" is unresolved, it is likely they had access to war worthy horses, which gave them a comparative advantage over the north Indians  3500 years ago. The Greeks definitely did have horses, and the Muslim invaders had horses. Even the British were particularly good at horses. In each case, India lost wars mainly due to its inability to produce and therefore intuitively manage horses. Natural horse riders would do well in such wars; Indians were not natural horsemen.

As such there was simply no option for Indians but to import horses – at great cost. All attempts to breed high quality domestic horses failed miserably, even in the British India era. As a result even the British in India had to import horses from Arabia, Australia and South Africa.

There are arguments that the horse was known even in the Indus Valley Civilisation. I'm not convinced about this, but even if this is true, the issue is the WAR QUALITY of the indigenous horse. It was clearly unsuitable for war; more like a pack mule. It served some purposes, but not the vital purposes of defeating the enemy in war. 

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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16 thoughts on “For the past 5000 years, India has been conquered by horses, not by “Aryans”, Greeks, Muslims or the British
  1. ysv_rao

    Im afraid with this article and ill informed Aryans Invasion Theory post, Mr. Sabhlok is living in a time warp of a 100 years. All these theories have been thoroughly disproven.

    Fact of the matter is even as equestrian culture was pretty strong in India, it may have better from a free market standpoint to import horses rather than rear them! Just as today one prefers imported cars.

    Also while these Muslims and Greeks did invade India , the latter atleast failed to conquer it.
    Greeks successfully did away with Middle East , Central Asia which are rich in horses but stopped short in India where Alexander pitifully struggled against a two bit chief of a republic on the frontier Porus and thought no more of India.

    Arabs similarly defeated the more equestrian Persians and Central Asians but were unsuccessful in India ultimately. The Sindh invasion was ultimately a failure. Within a generation they were beaten back and Arabs restricted to a sliver along the coast. With the battle of Rajasthan, the Arab schemes for India were thoroughly squashed.

    It was the Turks who were ultimately successful but Turks were successful pretty much every where else.

    It is the courage and valor of Hindus ie the real Aryans who protected their religion even if their tactics were a bit rusty as Zoroastrianism and Central Asian religions once patronized by the mighty Persian empires went the way of the dodo.

    I don’t have time to correct the various misinformation and inaccuracies of the Aryan invasion theory. Please look up the work of Koenraad Elst, Sitaram Goel( please note while they don’t think highly of Hindutvadis like yourself, at the same time they don’t dismiss them of being devils with two horns as you rabidly imagine).

    This is the last I post on this topic as I don’t like to post on moderated blogs. If you wish to discuss this further, you may visit my blog (unlike some people who pretend to be free speech and moderate their blogs, I don’t moderate mine…Come one, come all!)

     
  2. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    I’m not claiming any aryan “invasion”. But the idea that Sanskrit or Rig Veda is indigenous is totally fictitious. 

    That horses gave a crucial advantage in war is well understood. That’s the point I’m making. 

    Horse has been the most significant variable in India’s history. Simplistically speaking, he who had the horse and mastered it ruled India.

     

     
  3. ysv_rao

    “Horse has been the most significant variable in India’s history. Simplistically speaking, he who had the horse and mastered it ruled India.”

    Sorry no. Did you even read my post or do you just bull doze through counter arguments as usual? The horse didn’t make any difference whatsoever , at the most it did on the short term such as the Hunas and Shakas who were eventually driven out.

    Even in intra India conflicts, horse doesn’t make that much of a difference. Rashtrakutas were mostly an infantry based army and even with this they routinely defeated the famous cavalries of Gurjara Pratiharas(which were admired by Arabs) Same goes for the cavalry Chalukyas and the elephant corps Cholas.

    If the every one else had better horses, we had the elephant which terrified the heck out of Muslims and Greeks. It was only by trial and error that the latter figured out how to frighten elephants. Even so the Muslims quickly incorporated elephants in their military when they had the chance.

    There is no evidence that Rg Veda or Sanskrit came from abroad. The Vedic dieties evolved in India because they were there the longest. They evolved into the Puranic dieties. There is no dichotomy between Puranic and Vedic Hinduism. It probably started with the marriage of Shiva and Parvathi and the decline of sense based philosophies as espoused by Indra, Kama, Agni etc who symbolically are either destroyed or play secondary roles in the Shiva Purana.

    THe first book of Zend Avesta roughly corresponds with the battle of Ten Kings in the Rg Veda. This is strong circumstantial evidence of Aryan immigration FROM India.

     
  4. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    Have you read what I’ve written either on this topic (e.g. horse) or the IMPOSSIBILITY of the “out of India” hypothesis? There is clear evidence that Sanskrit (proto-Indo-aryan) and Rig Vedic gods and other conceptions came from far afield – in central middle East. Do read my compilation on the latter published earlier today. That also includes material on the horse, which shows that the Mughals ran a cavalry of 300,000 war horses.

    To deny the pivotal advantage in the agricultural era to WAR-worthy horsemen would involve a denial of basic facts. Like denying the advantage of the nuclear weapon in modern war. A basic understanding of Alexander’s cavalry tactics would show why he defeated everyone – including Porus. It is impossible for elephants to go up the Hindu Kush and defeat foreign forces. It is quite obvious and easy for foreign forces with extremely superior war horses to defeat vast numbers of elephant backed forces. India’s history is a long sequence of defeats to agile armed forces from the West. And they knew what made them successful: the horse. That’s why the horse was four times more expensive in India than in the West, and remained the hallmark of the political elite.

     
  5. Prakash

    < is typically my go to guy for ancient Indian genetics.

    The best theory that we have as of now is almost all of India is an admixture of ANI and ASI. These string mingled around 4000 to 2000 years ago. But there is also evidence that ANI were also living in India a lot before the Indus valley civilization.

    From

    “On the contrary, a recent study that searched for West Eurasian groups most closely related to the ANI ancestors of Indians failed to find any evidence for shared ancestry between the ANI and groups in West Eurasia within the past 12,500 years (although it is possible that with further sampling and new methods such relatedness might be detected). An alternative possibility that is also consistent with our data is that the ANI and ASI were both living in or near South Asia for a substantial period prior to their mixture.”

     
  6. Sagar M

    “””——————————-I think I’ve by now found conclusive evidence that India was mauled in the battlefield by men on HORSES. It was the horse that defeated India. Without horses, foreign invaders would have comprehensively failed to defeat India, being always outnumbered by Indians.———————————“””

    Six waves of foreign invaders invaded India – Greeks, Scythians, Kushans, Huns, Arabs, Turks and British.

    Greeks even after fall of Mauryas could not proceed beyond Punjab.

    Scythians were confined to some parts of Sindh, Kathiawar and Malwa.

    Kushans too could not cross beyond Mathura.

    Huns were soundly defeated and had to content with Western Punjab .

    Arabs were confined to Sindh.

    – Note that Kushans, Scythians, Huns and Arabs had the finest cavalries in the world – yet they were checked and eventually annihilated.

    All these above five set of invaders FAILED to conquer majority of India’s territories and population – precisely because Indians fought and preserved their independence.

    Turks managed to conquer many pockets across India but not till time of Akbar could they actually rule majority of India and Indians. And that happened only because Indians cooperated with Mughals – due to Akbar’s policy of co-opting Indians into Mughal rule and religious tolerance.

    Once Aurangzeb reversed Akbar’s policies, Mughal Empire fell into pieces in merely thirty years. Marathas conquer greater part of India.

    British could conquer India because they subverted all their enemies before they went to war with them. And that happened because Indians have fallen on scale of morals and ethics.

    “”””””————————–India is uniquely placed among all nations of the world. It has a repeated history of losing in war against a pitiably small force. India’s size and population has always drawfed its enemies, but they’ve always manage to conquer it pretty easily.———————————“”””””

    Most of accounts of Indian defeats were written by alien invaders and they often exaggerated numbers of their enemies while gave smaller figures for their own forces.

    —————–_”””””””The horse was the most effective vehicle to deliver lethal force during the agricultural era (particularly before the invention/”discovery” of the gun). It was the nuclear weapon of that age. The horse can be compared to the the Patton tank in WWII. It gave invaders a significant competitive advantage over slow moving Indian armies in which the elephant played a significant role. But India never had war-worthy horses; it could not produce them domestically. It was therefore forced to import them at great cost.”””’————————–

    There was import of horses in some parts of India but that cannot be applied to whole of India. India had indigenous war horse breeds in Western India (like Marwari and Kathiawari) and there were localized breeding of horses in many parts of India. It was arrival of British which effectively destroyed horse breeding in India.

    And besides, greater part of India is unfit for cavalry operations —- horses cannot be deployed in forests, mountains and plains dotted with swamps and rivers. Hence to say that horses gave Mughals and British their victory in India makes no sense. Mughal and Brits won because they were better in their strategy – which points to larger intellectual factor rather than purely military factors.

    ——————“”””””””””””””””While the debate about the “aryans” is unresolved, it is likely they had access to war worthy horses, which gave them a comparative advantage over the north Indians 3500 years ago. The Greeks definitely did have horses, and the Muslim invaders had horses. Even the British were particularly good at horses. In each case, India lost wars mainly due to its inability to produce and therefore intuitively manage horses. Natural horse riders would do well in such wars; Indians were not natural horsemen. As such there was simply no option for Indians but to import horses – at great cost. All attempts to breed high quality domestic horses failed miserably, even in the British India era. As a result even the British in India had to import horses from Arabia, Australia and South Africa.————————“”””””””””””””””””””””

    Greeks armies were based on infantry formations (so were Romans). Muslim invaders had horses, but so did their successful Indian opponents like Rajputs of Western India. But how did Muslims having cavalry succeed in conquering areas like swampy Ganges Basin and mountainous Northern Deccan which were areas unsuitable for cavalry operations?

    British are not a cavalry nation like Mongols. Their armies too were infantry oriented. And kindly check history to see if British had won any battle in India due to their cavalry charge. In fact did Brits win any of their wars in India by use of mere military force?

    —————–“””””””””””There are arguments that the horse was known even in the Indus Valley Civilization. I’m not convinced about this, but even if this is true, the issue is the WAR QUALITY of the indigenous horse. It was clearly unsuitable for war; more like a pack mule. It served some purposes, but not the vital purposes of defeating the enemy in war.—————“”””””””””””

    Do not confuse pony with horse. In medieval India, you can buy a pony for 15 Rs while a local thoroughbred like Marwari cost 500 rupees. Imported ones from Arabia and Central Asia cost 1000 rupee per mount (though in their breeding grounds in West Asia and Central Asia, they cost only as much as a native Indian thoroughbred.

    Greatest horsemen in Indian history are Marathas. Mounted on their ponies, they defeated and destroyed Mughals, extended their empire from Delhi to Bellary and terrorized the sub-continent for a century. Even Mongols were mounted on ponies but defeated Persians, Arabs and Russians who had heavy cavalry.

    To conclude, Indians were quite successful in keeping enemies at bay for most part of history. Disasters that happened during last eight hundred years were due to decline of Indian intellect and not due to any lack of horses.

    You may ask what is this “decline of intellect”? When a people lack the ability to respond successfully and creatively to challenges and crises, that means there is a stagnation of intellect.

     
  7. Sanjeev Sabhlok

    You did amuse me “Indians were quite successful in keeping enemies at bay for most part of history”. Well, India is noted for a history of being ruled by a tiny miniscule number of people, and its religion/s being changed/ dominated by a miniscule number of people – most of who came from across the Khyber pass.

    And your citation of Marwari horse (which was bred very recently, nothing to do with horses 4000 years ago), did amuse me. But note that it reiterates the point about the significance of horses. These animals were important enough to be bred even in India (although all attempts to breed genuinely superior breeds have failed).

    Note that having a horse/pony would never be enough in itself, but a good horse/pony gave people a superlative advantage in war. I am providing a stylistic fact, not something that explains all battles.

     
  8. Prem Chand

    “Turks managed to conquer many pockets across India but not till time of Akbar could they actually rule majority of India and Indians. And that happened only because Indians cooperated with Mughals – due to Akbar’s policy of co-opting Indians into Mughal rule and religious tolerance.”

    Actually the various Turkish dynasties conquered much of North India except Rajputana long before the Mughals came into picture. Their conquest was facilitated by fast transport provided by horses. Note that before Akbar, the emperors who conquered large parts of India did so only nominally. They subjugated the smaller kingdoms, forced them to pay a tribute, and then let them be. They couldn’t micromanage the vassal states due to lack of fast transport. This may have contributed to the disunity of which the invading Turks took advantage.

     
  9. Sagar M

    What do you mean by ruling a country?

    Ruling a country means controlling most or whole of a country’s people and area. Greeks, Shakas, Kushans, Huns and Arabs could not do it. Nor could Turks do it in-spite of their control of key cities and pockets in Northern India and Deccan.

    Only ones who could make most of Indians obey were Mughals from Akbar to Shah Jahan and Brits. Let us calculate —

    Mughal supremacy of India begins from 1570 and ends in 1710 — 140 years.

    As for Brits – from 1803 to 1947, they ruled most of India and her people — 145 years.

    So India suffered a foreign rule for 285 years and we have a recorded history of 2600 years. But the very fact that she survived three centuries of alien rule proves that the India is a worthy nation.

    Some parts of India (some parts) have a history of being ruled by a minuscule number of alien invaders. Mainly Punjab, Sindh and Gandhara. Please note that these areas neither represents majority of India, either area wise or population wise.

    Modern day Pakistan suffered longest periods of alien rule in Indian history. If any area of South Asia needs to feel ashamed and guilty that they have let themselves be trampled and exploited by aliens, then it is the folks from modern day Pakistan and Afghanistan.

     
  10. Sagar M

    Yes, horse was important in many areas of India where landscape was flat and open. But what exactly constitutes a genuinely superior breed?

    Mughal armies were mounted on imported horses from Central Asia, Persia and Arabia. Yet they failed miserably against Marathas mounted on local ponies.

    Arabs had finest horses and largest cavalry forces in 8th century, yet failed to overcome Rajasthanis mounted on Marwari horses.

    Reason No 1 for victory or defeat in war is due to quality of leadership. The side that has better leadership always win the war. Quality of military material (like horses and guns) have a role, but even strongest armies will lose if they dont have good leadership.

     
  11. Sagar M

    It was not merely Rajasthan that kept Turks at bay – most of Madhya Pradesh, whole of Kathiawar Jharkhand and Chattisgarh too remained unsubdued and continued under Hindu rule.

    Turks had full control over only undivided Punjab/Haryana/Ganga-Yamuna Doab/Rohilkhand in west and undivided Bengal in east. In the zone that lie in between – Middle Ganges Basin (includes Avadh, Purvanchal and Bihar areas) , Turkish authority was limited only to cities while Hindu chiefs held sway in countryside.

    “””””””Their conquest was facilitated by fast transport provided by horses. Note that before Akbar, the emperors who conquered large parts of India did so only nominally. They subjugated the smaller kingdoms, forced them to pay a tribute, and then let them be. They couldn’t micromanage the vassal states due to lack of fast transport. This may have contributed to the disunity of which the invading Turks took advantage.”””””””””

    You are contradicting yourself. One hand you say that Turkish conquest of North India was due to fast transport while one other hand you say that they could not control vassal states due to lack of fast transport!

    BTW – I don’t see the logic behind the argument that Turkish horsemen swept across Gangetic plains like a whirlwind. That is not possible due to geographic reasons. Ganges Basin (states of UP, Bihar and Bengal) is a land full of rivers and before mid 19th century, full of marshes and forests.

    If cavalry had to dash across the vast expanse that lay between Delhi and Dacca, then that area should be flat and open country with no physical barriers like rivers, swamps and jungles.

    Turks could capture many parts of North India because of disunity of Indians and also because of the fact that Turks were better than Indians in their overall approach to war and politics. But equally true is the limitation of Turkish political and military policy which is evident from the fact that they failed to control bulk of area and population they laid claim on.

     
  12. Sagar M

    Ideas of Aryan Invasion Theory as well as Vedic Period are not based on material evidence. If Aryans had invaded India, why is it that there is no archaeological or biological evidence for that?

    You can easily prove when Greeks invaded India or when Mughals came to India. Can you do the same with ‘Aryans’? Could you even prove that something called “Vedic” period ever existed?

    There is no eyewitness account or written evidence about what happened before 600 BC – that is when India’s recorded history begins.

    Past before 600 BC had been reconstructed with aid of sciences like archaeology, anthropology, population genetics, paleo-zoology, paleo-botany and geology. Evidences obtained from these sciences do not support arrival of horse borne Aryans nor do we find trace of any Vedic culture that was centered on horses.

    There is a controversy about whether bones found at Harappan sites are those of horses or onagers (wild donkeys). But even if those were horse bones, they constitute only a fraction of animal fossils (2 percent) excavated from Harappan sites.

    But what is conclusively established is that horse breeding became widespread in Western India after 2000 BC (when a climate change caused desertification of Western India). Climate is now more suitable for rearing horses and wide open space means more room for cavalry warfare.

    By time of Alexander’s invasion of India, cavalry constituted nearly 20 percent of armed forces of Indian princes. But note that Greeks too had cavalry at the same proportion.

    But with arrival of Shakas and Kushans, horses became even more important and since then we find that rulers in Western India (where cavalry played crucial role in battle due to geographical reasons) kept equal number of cavalry and infantry. And this trend continued till British paramountcy was established in early 19th century. When British established police force and regular army that was based on infantry, demand for war horse went down rapidly. Some breeds went extinct and some other breeds deteriorated due to lack of husbandry.

     
  13. Prem Chand

    “You are contradicting yourself. One hand you say that Turkish conquest of North India was due to fast transport while one other hand you say that they could not control vassal states due to lack of fast transport!”

    I should have made myself clear. In the case of Turks, they could not conquer the South and some rural areas in the North due to geographical obstacles (the Deccan is more difficult to traverse and somewhat less prosperous than the North). However, they had conquered the nerve centre of the North- its cities and rich temples which was enough.

    “But what exactly constitutes a genuinely superior breed?”

    For our purposes, superiority can be measured as speed. There is a general misconception that the Vedic people were horse-back riders but they weren’t. They only used the horses by yoking them to chariots. Chariots were faster than the ox wagons used by Indus Valley people (which gave the Vedic people a relative advantage to spread their culture and language far and wide) but slower than horse back riding. As for material evidence, there is not scant archaeological evidence to support either the into India or out of India scenarios, but we know one of these two events definitely happened. Besides, there is no material evidence to support the idea that chariots were ever used inside India, but we find chariots mentioned in numerous texts like Mahabharata as well! Lack of material evidence can be explained easily that we are talking about ~4000 years of buried artifacts which may have been easily washed away by floods and change in river courses. To conclude, the lack of material evidence really cannot be used as an argument against Aryan migration into India and in favour of OIT.

    “I don’t see the logic behind the argument that Turkish horsemen swept across Gangetic plains like a whirlwind.”

    Alexander crossed the treacherous lands with his cavalry all the way from Macedonia to Punjab. Would it be so difficult for the Turks to cross the lush Indo-Gangetic plains? The marshes could have been avoided by taking circuitous routes and the rivers could be crossed on large boats in the dry season even with horses.

    “But what is conclusively established is that horse breeding became widespread in Western India after 2000 BC (when a climate change caused desertification of Western India).”

    It is very likely that this culture of horse-breeding came to India from the Middle-east/Central Asia when we consider the importance of horses there. There is no evidence that horse-breeding was invented more than once in the ancient world.

     
  14. Prem Chand

    Sorry, I made a typo. The correct sentence is: “As for material evidence, there is scant archaeological evidence to support either the into India or out of India scenarios, but we know one of these two events definitely happened.”

     
  15. Sagar M

    “””””””””””””I should have made myself clear. In the case of Turks, they could not conquer the South and some rural areas in the North due to geographical obstacles (the Deccan is more difficult to traverse and somewhat less prosperous than the North). However, they had conquered the nerve centre of the North- its cities and rich temples which was enough.”””””””””””””””””””””””””

    Turks were successful in marching and conquering land as far as Bangladesh, but could not control areas near their fortified bases in North Indian cities due to geographical reasons? There is something wrong with that idea.

    But even then, it does not deny the heroic courage of masses who made sure that Turks could not enjoy their possessions in peace.

    Turks could not conquer South India due to active resistance by Hoysalas and their heirs Vijayanagara Empire. Turks did conquer and rule Maharashtra in the form of Bahmani Sultanate.

    There is no such a thing as geographical obstacles for someone determined to conquer. In fact nowhere in world history was an invader deterred by geography.

    Deccan was less prosperous? Amount of looted gold taken to North India by Malik Kafur was so great that even value of currency fell in North. Also Vijayanagara Empire was described as the strongest and richest of all Indian kingdoms (by none other than Babur!)

    “””””””””””””’Alexander crossed the treacherous lands with his cavalry all the way from Macedonia to Punjab. Would it be so difficult for the Turks to cross the lush Indo-Gangetic plains? The marshes could have been avoided by taking circuitous routes and the rivers could be crossed on large boats in the dry season even with horses.”””””

    Have you ever been to Terai region in Indo-Nepal border? Whole of Ganges Basin looked like Terai region – a mosaic of forests, marshes, tall grass and fields intersected by streams and rivers before arrival of British.

    Horse cannot gallop at full speed if ground is uneven and full of obstacles. In such a country, horses too will be slowed down and will be of no use. You have a superb Arab charger with you but the creature is moving at same pace of a man thanks to topography. So where is the advantage?

    Problem is not travelling with horses. Problem is can you use cavalry tactics in areas that are marshy, riverine and wooded. Answer is no. Turks captured Ganges Basin due to their infantry and not cavalry. Besides, Turks also had good infantry and engineering corps too. They were skilled in various branches of military and had a rather balanced military force. Its not that Indians did not have all these things, but Indians suffered from dull intellect and hence worst leadership.

    Indians basically have a trouble in admitting two things. One is that if India survives to this day, it’s due to valiant resistance put up by majority of its inhabitants, passively or actively. Two, we had to suffer catastrophes because of our own stupidity. Second reason is even more important. But who in the world would admit that he did a mistake!

    Rather than admitting this simple truth and trying to be wiser, Indians always opt for long winded explanations about national misfortune (which fortunately never fails to put anyone to sleep).

     
  16. PB

    This is true. Majority of Hindus (as RSS says all Indians are Hindus) have always been weak. Its because of their mindset, preaching, “Ahimsawad”, and simply praising stone gods (which is super primitive and only giving in to fear). In simple words inculcation of DUAL STANDARDS (praise devi BUT kill or stalk or rape woman even in 21st century…..wow, so Holy it is). As far as I have read history, India has always given-in to invasions, It is a well known fact that Babur came with only 500 hundred soldiers, WoW. The only valour and chivalry for protecting human pride and principles in history is either in Sikhs (always sacrificed themselves for truth and secularism), Marathas (sacrificed for ancesteral pride) or some Rajputs. But majority of “Dhoti & Ahimsawadi” Indians have always been first to run away/give-in to foreign invasions and but also first to take the credit of victory and deny the credit to the real fighters (i call them real humans).The tragedy of this country is that the people who actually gave up their lives for independence (freedom-fighters) are sidelined, but “Charkha-People” took the credit became the government themselves. India will further go down into hell pit and that is for sure, unless they start crediting the real heroes.

     

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