Although attempts were made by the Hindus to defend their country, they failed disastrously against the foreign invaders, the Turks. Historians are divided on the issue of the reasons of the defeat of the Rajputs. Moreover, the contemporary chroniclers have not highlighted the causes of defeat of the Rajputs, hence the scholars of modern times have expressed their views of their own accord.
It is really surprising that the Rajputs, who were brave fighters and competent warriors, were defeated by a handful of Muslim foreign invaders. Habibullah affirms that the Rajputs surpassed the Turks in individual fighting’s. Even the enemies of the Rajputs have praised their bravery; therefore, their defeat seems to be very surprising. But if we read between the lines, it would not be difficult for us to understand the reasons of the defeat of the Rajputs against the Turks. The causes of defeat of the Rajputs can be classified as under:
1. Political Reason:
The political condition of India was quite deplorable before the invasion of the Muslims. India was divided into several small principalities after the death of Harsha and various clans of Rajputs ruled over them. There was no unity among them.
They had often invited the foreign invader to crush their neighbour and supported him against his Indian antagonist.
Thus, the lack of political unity in the country was the main reason for the downfall of the Rajputs. Dr. A. L. Srivastava has written in this context, “Each prince had to fight single-handed and he fought for his own kingdom and territory as it was, and not for his country and people. Even in the moments of our greatest crisis, our rulers did not combine to put up a united defence against the invader.”
There was lack of national feeling among the Rajput rulers. The Rajputs were very proud of their clan and always thought of its safety. No doubt, they faced the foreign invader with all their might but they did not pay attention to the invasions made on the other parts of India. They never thought of facing the common enemy jointly. Hence lack of strong central power also contributed to their decline.
The Rajputs lacked in diplomatic manipulations. They considered the battlefield a playground and avoided gaining victory through diplomacy or treachery. They were true to their words whereas their opponent’s chief motive was to gain victory by hook or by crook. It harmed the Rajputs greatly.
The other reason of the political weakness of India was the feudalistic pattern of the army. As there was no harmony among different feudal lords, they weakened the military power of the country. Their mutual conflicts made the northern India a centre of their revolts; hence a rift was created between the rulers and the ruled. It also enabled the Muslims to get victory against the Rajputs.
Dr. Ishwari Prasad, throwing light on the political causes of their defeat, has remarked, “There was no dearth of military talent or fighting skill in the country for the Rajputs were the finest soldiers scarily inferior in the qualities of courage, valour and endurance to men of any other country. But they lacked unity and organization.
Pride and prejudice alike forbade allegiance to a common leader and in critical moments, when concentrated action was essential to achieve a victory; they pursued their individual plans and thus neutralized the advantages they possessed over the enemies.”
C. V. Vaidya has aptly remarked, “It is no wonder that the Ralput kingly families fell before Shahabuddirf as the Germanic States severally fell before Napoleon.
During the twelfth century the responsibility of the safety of the country rested upon the Rajput shoulders. The other castes had no concern with it. Moreover, ‘the general masses were not provided with any political or administrative responsibility; hence they did not cooperate with the rulers at the time of peril, and paved the way for their downfall.
2. Military Reasons:
The military organization of the Rajputs was very defective. The Rajputs did not maintain a permanent army for the safety of their country. The king had to depend on the armies of the feudal lords.
Often they used to send to the battlefield untrained soldiers whom they had recruited hurriedly at the time of war. They were not imbued with a sense of patriotism. The Indian army was a crowd of infantry which lacked in training and equipment.
They did not stand before the cavalry of the Muslims. Dr. K. A. Nizami has also pointed out the advantage of the use of cavalry, “Mobility was the keynote of Turkish military organization at this time. It was the ‘age of horse’ and a well-equipped cavalry with tremendous mobility was the great need-of the time.”
Dr. A.L. Srivastava has written, “Oil army organization was based on outworn conception. They were ill- organized and ill-equipped. Our military leaders did not keep themselves in touch with the development of tactics.”
The Rajputs were ignorant of war tactics. They did not maintain a reserve army whereas Ghori also made use of his reserve arm when he found that the Hindu army was tired due to full day’s conflict and attained victory over the exhausted soldiers. Dr. V. A. Smi has written, “Hindu kings, though fully equal to their assailant’s courage and contempt of death, were distinctly inferior in the art o war and for that reason lost their independence.” In fact the use elephants often barged their own army when they were frightens and obsolete arms proved fatal and led to the defeat of the Rajputs.
The Rajputs did not have any experienced and capable leader who could unite them at the time of danger. They often made defective plans to fight their enemies and failed to make the best use of their power which was in no way less than that of the Muslim soldiers but they had to face defeats due to their own faults.
Dr. Habibullah has pointed out that there was one chief defect in the military system of the Rajputs. They often fought defensive wars and tried to stop the enemy but never waged offensive war; hence they lost battles in the hope of their safety.
Had they tried to attack the Muslims, the result would have been different. The constant defeats created a feeling of disappointment and dejection among the soldiers as well as the commanders, and they began to think that Muslims were invincible. On the other hand, incessant success injected a new energy and vigour among the Muslims and they fought to achieve victory in foreign lands to maintain their existence.
3. Social Reasons:
The social condition of India was equally a contributing factor for the defeat of the Rajputs besides political and military reasons. The Hindu society was disintegrating and plagued by several vices. There was a great caste and class struggle in the Hindu society and the caste system had become quite complicated.
Inter-caste marriages, inter-dining and change of caste were not possible during this time. The untouchables were treated badly and forced to live outside the confines of the city. Dr. Ishwari Prasad has remarked. “The caste system created artificial barriers which prevented the unification of the various groups even for purposes of common defence and safety.”
Several evils emerged in Indian society due to social complexities. Child marriage, polygamy, sati system, female infanticide, devadasi system and other such evils were eating into the vitals of the society like white ants and Indian society was falling prey to superstitions and narrow fatalistic tendencies.
It was not expected of such a society to the able to face the foreign invaders. Dr. R. C. Majumdar has written, “No public upheaval greets the foreigners, nor are any organized efforts made to stop their progress. Like a paralysed body, the Indian people helplessly look on, while the conquerors march on their corpses.”
Whereas the Muslim society was free from all such vices, they did not have caste or class problems. The feeling of brotherhood was very strong among the Muslims. Even the slaves reached the highest post of Sultan due to their ability.
There are various examples in the history of medieval India when the slaves have rendered most wonderful services to their master’s end enhanced their glory. Lanepoole remarks, “While a brilliant ruler’s son is apt to be a failure, the slaves as real leaders of men have often proved the equals of their masters.” Really, slave system was very useful for the Muslims and they were the source of power of the kingdom.
In this context, it can be said that the conflict between the Hindus and Muslims was not a struggle between two different religions but it was a tug of war between two civilizations. The Muslim civilization was fresh and faultless whereas the Hindu society was effete and caste-ridden. Hence people of an effete civilization were defeated by a new and resurgent system.
4. Religious Reasons:
The religious system of India also contributed to the downfall of the Rajputs whereas the religious zeal of the Muslims helped them in getting victory against the Rajputs. Comparatively, Islam was a new religion and its followers were fired by enthusiasm. Expansion o Islam, destruction of ‘infidels’, their idols and temples was the motto o the Muslims.
They declared their wars as ‘Jihad” against the Hindus; they had firm faith that people got favour of God in expansion o Islam and in waging war against the ‘infidels’. Even if they died in this battle, they would attain Heaven and in case of victory the; would be able to plunder the rich cities of India.
Hence they fought against India with a missionary zeal. The theory of non-violence had still not lost ground in Indian society and they were not very eager t wage wars with such vigour as their antagonists used to do. It resulted in the defeat of the Rajputs at the hands of the Muslims.
5. Economic Reasons:
The Rajput rulers loved luxuries’. They used to spend lot money on their requirements and were also involved in mutual conflicts. Owing to this, not only the number of soldiers w decreasing rapidly but the treasury of the king was being emptied day after day. Shortage of wealth also affected the trade agriculture of the country.
But it does not mean that there was shortage of wealth in country. Actually, the gold of India was the chief reason of foreign invasions. It was stored in temples and religious places a was blocked to circulation. The foreigners plundered this wealth enhanced their resources. It also increased their enthusiasm where the emptying of the royal treasuries forced the Rajputs to bow do before the foreign invaders. Thus, economic weakness of the Rajputs was also a significant reason of their defeat.
6. Other Reasons:
Dr. A L. Srivastava writes, “Mere physical strength and military weapons do not constitute the total equipment of an army, inspiring ideology is as essential as military training and equipment The Indian society was caste-ridden, fatalist and had firm faith in non-violence.
Their narrow-mindedness due to superstitions harmed them greatly. C. V. Vaidya also remarks, “Superstition acted like 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 Kaliyyuga. Such a superstition demoralized and discouraged the Hindus.”
The Hindu Shahi kings like Jaipal and Anandpal committed suicide as they were defeated by the Muslims and they thought to themselves that they would never be able to attain victory against their enemies, whereas Ghori made extensive preparations after his defeat in the first battle of Tarain and defeated his enemies in the second battle just after a year. Such way of thinking proved harmful for the Rajputs.
Dr. U. N. Ghoshal writes, “In truth, it was not for their social and geographical aloofness but for wont of leaders with sufficient talents that the Indians of the eleventh and twelfth centuries failed to adopt their time-honoured system of warfare (as Shivaji, the Maratha, was destined to do in the seventeenth century) to the requirement of the new situation.”
Thus, we also feel that lack of competent leadership was also a significant cause of the defeat of the Rajputs against the Muslims. No doubt, Prithviraj was a brave and courageous ruler but he was not so diplomatic and crafty as his antagonist, Muhammad Ghori.
Some European historians like Elphinstone, Lanepoole and V. A. Smith believe that, the Muslims achieved success as they were non-vegetarians and belonged to cold climatic region but this view is not accepted by other historians because there is no justification in the theory that a meat-eater is more powerful in comparison to the vegetarian.
Besides all the reasons referred to above, the rotten political situation of India was chiefly responsible for the defeat of the Rajputs against the Muslims. But Dr. Ishwari Prasad remarks, “It was a devotion to the faith which made them so extraordinarily active, persistent and aggressive in their dealing with non-Muslims.”
Thus, the political weaknesses, religious enthusiasm of the enemy, social complexities, and economic problems combined with various other reasons contributed to the defeat of the Rajputs.