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Friday, July 3, 2015

Conquests of Mohammed of Ghor: lessons for the Modern age

When I was completing my Honors degree in Physics at the Kurukshetra University in Haryana, I often used to visit the town of Thanesar which almost adjoins the university. Later I came to know that about 10 miles away from Thanesar is the village of Tarain, where 2 momentous battles took place between the Rajput’s and Mohammed of Ghor also called Mohammed Ghori. Mohammed Ghori's real name was Muizz ad-din-Muhammed.and he was a ferocious warrior.

The Hindu ruler of Delhi and almost all North India was Prithviraj Chauhan. He was a Rajput, but as usual in Hindu politics he was opposed by many. One of the Rajput chieftains opposed to Prithviraj wrote a letter inviting Ghori to invade India. In 1191 Ghori assembled a large force and invaded India.
Before I write further, it is worth noting what Field Marshal Montgomery has written in his History of Warfare.He writes that the Hindus were very brave and had a fatalistic contempt of death, yet lacked strategic sense and poor generalship. He goes on to add that bravery alone is not a requisite for victory. 
Prithviraj Chauhan heard about the advance of Ghori. The proper thing would have been to guard the Khyber Pass, but he showed poor strategic sense and left the pass unguarded. He decided to face the army of Ghori at Tarain, near the town of Thanesar. In 1191, both the Muslim and Hindu army met in battle as to what is known as the First Battle of Tarain.
The Rajput’s had assembled a large force and they launched a massed charge. This was a great effort and Ghori's army was simply swept away. Many Muslims were killed and the Rajput’s were victorious. But here the tolerance of the Hindus came to the fore. They allowed the retreating Muslim army to get away. Even Ghori was spared and allowed to escape. In this as per historians, the Rajput’s showed poor strategic sense.
Ghori escaped and evaluated his defeat. He decided on a different course of battle and reinvaded India in 1192. The Rajput’s were surprised as they assumed that Ghori once he was defeated would not come back. Ghori did come back, but this time he had a different plan for battle. The stage was now set for the Second battle of Tarain.

The Rajput’s had again massed a vast force, but some Rajput’s gone and joined Ghori. The Rajput’s made no attempt to rethink their military doctrine and again launched the massed charge. Ghori had made arrangements to counter this charge and had kept his main cavalry in a flank, away from the central force. As the Rajput’s advanced they carried the day, but just as they thought victory was theirs, the flank of Ghori's horsemen swooped on the Rajput’s. The Hindus were surprised and a massacre commenced. Ghori was not unforgiving and thousands of Rajput’s were killed. Prithviraj tried to escape, but was captured and taken to Kabul, blinded and beheaded.
This was not all; the defeat of the Rajput’s opened up the entire countryside. There was no second line of defense and the son of Ghori with just a few horsemen swept deep into India and reached Nadia in Bengal. In 1193 he captured Bihar and eradicated Buddhism and by 1202 he occupied Bengal. What a great victory. 

There are important lessons from this war and it brought out that the theory of Varna was bad for India and the Hindu policy of tolerance has no place in a military campaign. I wonder whether the Indians will learn from the defeat of Prithviraj by Ghori. This was a momentous moment in Indian history and marked the end of Hindu rule over North India. Henceforth the rulers in Delhi were all Muslims and they continued till the arrival of the East India Company. All this makes sad reading. The Hindu mind was conditioned by the 'Drug" mentality and they never thought of going on the offensive. 
In addition the armed forces were neglected as unity of command was unknown. A class was created and the soldier had a lower status than the Brahmin.. We are following the same principle even now by relegating the soldier to a cog and demeaning him. God save India again !