Swift Horses Sharp Swords

Swift Horses Sharp Swords

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Limited edition with author's signature and handmade bookmark. The book is an unprejudiced insider view of one of the bloodiest conquests of the world. While many Indian history books are written to suit the agenda of invaders, this is an honest attempt to present history as it actually happened, bereft of any bias or animosity. The book presents a comprehensive integration of history with engineering, mathematical and management fundamentals. It relates the historical events with…

The book can be divided into three discrete parts. The first part deals with ancient India and  its glory. It also has chapters on the rise of Hinduism and Buddhism and how India had  tremendous influence over the Silk Road and South-East Asia. A chapter was devoted to the  history of Swastika and Aryan migration theory. Maybe this book is about the medieval era,  so the author might not have wanted to devote much space to this issue. Probably this section  is included to show the meteoric rise of India in ancient times and create a contrast to show  the decline in the medieval era. 

Second section deals with the Arabic and Turkish invaders from the 7th century till the 12th  century and why Indian kings and warriors were defeated. These factors and underlying  conditions are examined in detail. The crucial mistake which they committed was not to have  a forward policy under which they would have taken battles to their lands, across the Khyber  Pass. Instead, they allowed the invaders to come to the Indian plains of Punjab and Sindh  where their cavalry had the maximum efficiency. Otherwise, there was no dearth of  individual bravery on the part of Indian warriors. There is hardly an instance where a king  fled from the battlefield. The strategy and tactics on the battlefield remain our Achilles’ heel,  even to this day. The book has full-fledged chapter on Kashmir which tells us its complete  but abridged history. 

The third part primarily deals with the overall analysis and interesting anecdotes. One chapter  delineates the penchant of the invaders to create pyramids of human heads with horrific  details. Another chapter dealt with how geometric mean is used to count the number of dead.  It also examines the use of horses and elephants on the battlefield. Elephants were especially  costly to maintain and often proved to be a liability. Still, they remained the status symbol of  the Indian kings and even in the 16th century, Vijaynagara kings employed them in the battle  of Tallikota. 

Additionally, even though India was the richest country, it failed to invest in military  technology. On the other hand, Turks remained invested in new technology and invented  sturdy Chainmail armour, solid tree saddle and metallic stirrup. They even used packaged  meat that had to be just boiled and added with salt. Due to this Turks could accurately even  fire 6 arrows per minute while galloping on the horse. Their horses were sturdy and the best  in the world who could cover 100 Kms per day which enabled them to come in just 10 days  from Ghazni in Afghanistan to Panipat. Further, they had only one rule that there was no rule  on the battlefield or outside. They employed every trick in the book to win at any cost.  The book is a gripping work of early Indian medieval history, which tells the story of the  roots and trail of the invasions into India. It begins with the first Islamic conquest by Arabs  and ends with Ghori’s invasion, resulting in the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate which  was in power for four centuries. This book has an epic sweep of the horrific events, which  changed the trajectory of the history of India forever, and introduced it to a strange religion  whose brutality the country had never experienced before. It tells the story of great heroism  and resolute resistance by the Indian Kings and warriors. 

It also dwells upon the weaknesses and cites “Dharmayudda” and “Caste system” as the  major reasons for our defeat in hands of the invaders. For me, the value in this book lies in its 

depth of historical research and its honesty to not shy away from the brutality that was  unleashed during the invaders’ rule in medieval India. It also discussed some topics like  temple economy, ethnic fractionalisation and Buddhist connections to the silk route, which  were new to me.  

The book is full of interesting anecdotes, ruthless conspiracies and epic catastrophes. The  writing is crisp and engaging. The content, language and flow keep the readers’ interest alive  till the very end. Most of the content is from authentic sources, narrated in a flawless manner.  It’s quite comprehensive in the vastness of time frame covered, the chapter headings are  interesting and the ensuing material is indeed informative. The illustrations whether it be  maps, data and charts give it a well-defined look. I did like his engaging style, crisp and sharp  walking through the details of history and relating to the historical events with contemporary  knowledge (e.g. game theory, chaos, scatter/randomness etc.) 

The book has certain weaknesses too. It is 500 pages strong and could have been easily  divided into two books. The author has also unnecessarily waded into the controversial Aryan  invasion theory as there are new shreds of evidence to debunk it completely. He has given the  disclaimer in the end in this regard which should have been given at the start. There are few  formatting, repetition and typo errors which should be corrected soon. 

Overall, it is a history book with a difference to tell what went wrong with Indian warriors to  lose battle after battle for centuries. What lesson we can learn which are still relevant.  Overall, I found the book to be stimulating, informative and wanting to explore a few more  topics and that is exactly the beauty of any book, of wanting to know more about the subject.

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One thought on “Swift Horses Sharp Swords

    A fantastic and powerful book by the author. It takes us back to the time of invasions and critically examines the origins and trajectory of Islamic invasions into India.

    The book is informative and analytical. It is full of maps, tables and graphs to analyse it clinically.

    Recommended for everyone

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