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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