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Varna and Jati aka ‘Caste’ System Was Hugely Damaging to Indians: 9

October 2, 2018 2 comments

In the previous part of this series, I said that the jati system was the principal reason why group cohesion among Indians is, and always been, so poor and why tiny foreign armies could conquer and rule large parts of India without any resistance from local population. Part of the reason, as explained in yet another part, was that the jati system destroyed the ability of Indians to imagine an objective reality or care about history which was not somehow part of some sad lie about the relative position of their jati in the overall social system.

Some readers might think that all of this is a bit confusing. What does, for example, the inability to imagine an objective reality, focus on rote learning and mindless obedience have to do with consistently losing wars against tiny foreign armies for multiple centuries. Traditional Chinese culture was also focused on rote learning and mindless obedience, but somehow China never got invaded and colonized to a level even remotely close to that of India. And weren’t the Chinese a famously insular society- at least since middle part of the Ming Dynasty.

And this is a good place to introduce something which I will talk about over next couple of posts. It involves comparing India to post- Roman Empire Italy (5th Century AD onward) and China (Song dynasty onward) to highlight what made the former much more susceptible to successful foreign invasions than the later two. We shall also talk about why successful military campaigns by Mahumd of Ghazni occurred almost 300 years after the initial rapid spread of Islam in Middle-East and Persia. Why didn’t successful Muslim invasions occur in the 7th or 8th century AD?

One thing I often wondered about, many years ago, concerned the delay of almost 300 years between the initial large-scale Muslim conquests in late 600s and early 700s AD and the first successful Muslim invasions of mainland India. Why could Arab and other converts conquer most of modern-day Spain and a good part of coastline of Black Sea 300 years before conquering even a small part of India? Why were they able to steamroll the Sasanian Empire of Persia within a few years but not make any progress in India though they reached present-day Sindh in 710 AD.

One might think that given the dismal performance of later Hindu rulers against Muslim invaders, they could just have walked over and conquered the whole of North India within a few years. And yet.. they could not. But why? The short answer is that they tried repeatedly and got their asses kicked, also repeatedly. Long story short, by 776 AD the Muslim presence in the Indian subcontinent excluding Sindh had effectively ended, and even there it was treading water by end of that century. So how could local kings of that era do, with ease, what multiple generations of later Hindu rulers could not?

Once again, a scarcity of written records from that era hampers the quest for a more thorough understanding of events. It is however clear that the Muslims invaders of that era encountered large-ish Indian kingdoms with very large armies, and in some cases navies, which proved more than a match for them. The Indian kingdoms and armies of that era were able to successfully counter the invaders and drive them out pretty quickly. Nor was this the first time, India faced invaders from the west. The Huna people (Indian version of Huns) tried to invade India in 5th and 6th century AD. After initial success and territory gains, they too were defeated and assimilated.

My point is that there are multiple instances of Indian kingdoms being able to successfully fight determined, numerous and well-equipped foreign invaders prior to 11th century. So why is the record of Hindu kings against foreign invaders between about 1000 AD (Prithviraj Chauhan) and 1600 AD (Shivaji) generally dismal? To be fair, Hindu kings in peninsular India did far better against Muslim invaders than their Northern counterparts- even during that period. But why?

The conventional explanation, as provided by “credentialed” losers.. I mean experts, is that use of mounted archers by Muslim invaders after 11th century AD against the supposedly elephant-centered army of Hindu kings resulted in the later losing battle after battle. While this might sound like a good explanation to the layman, it is hilarious bad. For one, using mounted archers or cavalry of any sort to invade kingdoms that are not small requires a pretty significant logistics chain and planning. Since Indians knew the lay of the land far better than invaders, foreign invaders would have faced serious problems if the local population resisted.

But there is much more. Composite bows and horse archers are not wonder weapons, especially in countries with a serious rainy season (excess moisture fucks up natural composite bows) and less than optimal conditions for horses. The rate of death of imported horses from diseases such as Babesiosis has always been pretty high in India. To put it another way, there are only some parts of India (NW plains) where one could use Calvary with abandon. Also, the mounted archer theory does not explain how Muslim rulers were able to keep ruling the areas they conquered.

And there is always the question of why massed longbow archers were uncommon in armies of Hindu kings after 8th-9th century AD. It should also be noted that there were not many large or even medium-sized kingdoms in India (especially Northern plains) after 7th century. Why? Since we are already at over 900 words, I am going to write about my explanation for why things went that way in India after 8th century AD by comparing it an equally divided ‘nation’ known as Italy.

Specifically, I will go into some detail about how a highly divided and medium-sized region such as the Italian Peninsula could successfully defend itself against multiple attempts at invasion by foreigners professing a different religion, including the much larger Ottoman Empire at its peak. What did they do differently to succeed at something which evaded India for almost 500 years?

What do you think? Comments?