• Friday, February 28, 2020

Saka and Jauhar, the sole reason for the repeated defeats and downfall of Rajputs?

Discussion in 'Military History & Tactics' started by War Thunder, Feb 12, 2020.

  1. War Thunder

    War Thunder SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    3,476
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Ratings:
    +8 / 4,672 / -1
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    United Arab Emirates
    Ok so I've been divided on this practice previously. While it made sense to preserve the honor from women's perspective in dire situations.
    It was also the very reason almost all Rajput battles will end up in loss for the one's defending their home, because the fate for women and children was already known. The men will be demoralized from the get go and the moment there is a "possibility of loss", the jauhar would have already taken place, this ensuring the loss.
    While if we look at the history there are so many times where a loss was converted to victory through tactics and military genius.

    Not to forget this kind of practice had more to do with manly ego and their control over women (who were considered lesser beings), and thus attaching their honor with the women. The men will ensure the jauhar takes place (forcing their women into it at occasions) before they embark on saka and not a side by side thingy as movies will have people believe.

    Here is one account of the event from a first hand witness.

    One account of jauhar comes from a person we can be certain saw its aftermath within a few hours of the ritual’s completion. This is from the Baburnama, composed by the emperor himself. After defeating Rana Sanga in 1527, Babur set out consolidating and recapturing territories that had been part of the sultanate. Among the foes he overcame was Medini Rao, who held the fort of Chanderi in Central India. On January 29, 1528, Babur’s forces attacked the well-guarded fort. After his artillery made no impression on the citadel’s stone walls, he concentrated on a vulnerable spot where a conduit had been constructed to supply water to the fort. Once this location was taken, Rajput resistance melted away. Babur writes:

    “The reason so many were hastening from the ramparts was that they had realised they were going to lose and, having put their wives and womenfolk to the sword and resigning themselves to death, came out stripped to fight... Two or three hundred infidels entered Medini Rao’s quarters where they killed each other almost to the last one by having one man hold the sword while the others willingly bent their necks. And thus most of them went to hell. Through God’s grace such a famous fortress was conquered within two or three gharis without standards or drums and without any fighting in earnest.”


    Personally, I would rather have those women trained in Archery and warfare and either have them as active participants in the battle, provided they would die if their men lose anyway, or escape the field and live to fight back and carry the legacy.
    I know some of them were trained, but what was the point of it when the end was to jump into fire instead of being able to use that learning.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
    • Thanks Thanks x 10
  2. Juggernaut_is_here

    Juggernaut_is_here FULL MEMBER

    Messages:
    1,380
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2017
    Ratings:
    +7 / 1,411 / -4
    Country:
    India
    Location:
    Germany
    quality thread...would contribute:

    first thoughts...Rajputs are an unprecedented bunch as they were an all cavalry warrior ethnic groups originating from agricultural civilizations...rather than from pure nomadic civilizations (which is what they had to face).....at any given time the whole of North India probably had at most 50,000 good war horses on hand..whereas the combined stable strength of the various nomadic confederacies from Afghanistan onwards till Mongolia would number in several million (probably even closer to 10 million) ....

    You can see a strange pattern even in the evolution of the Mongols ..As long as they were connected to the Eurasian steppes, they would just disappear to fight another day when the going got tough...This would mean the destruction of their enemies was a question of when rather than if...but later Mongols in Syria would just dismount from their horses and make a last stand when the goings got tough (getting inevitably wiped out in the process)


    You can see the same thing among rajputs too (them being part descendants of Parthians,Scythians,Kidarites,Alchon Huns who got cut off from extensive Centra Asian grasslands)



    another way of looking at this ...I divide the cavalry age in 3 parts starting from 400 AD (right about the dawn of the Huns as a force on the border of the Roman Empire) till 1881 AD (the last Central Asian Khanates being wiped out by the Russian Empire)


    400 AD to 900 AD: Rise of Nomadic Horselords ..still there was a chance in this age for non-nomadic civilizations to inflict crushing defeat on the steppe warlords

    900 AD to 1400 AD: Absolute high age of nomadic warfare...Genghis Khan,Mongol depredations and Tamer lane happned in this age

    1400 AD to 1900AD: slow but sure decline of the nomadic walords...especially after 1800 AD with the invention of explosive artillery shells


    strange suicidal Mongol tactics when they got cut off from the steppes:




    You can see the Mongol refusal to retreat even in Ain Jalut itself:





    These are my initial thoughts before i refine them
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  3. LeGenD

    LeGenD ELITE MEMBER

    Messages:
    9,492
    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2006
    Ratings:
    +28 / 9,043 / -0
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Astute observation, friend.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 2
  4. Max

    Max SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    7,638
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2014
    Ratings:
    +7 / 9,929 / -10
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    it was always small Rajput firfdoms vs Sultan of Conqured Afghanistan and parts of eastern Iran and Tajikistan etc.

    Never equals to begin with. So Rajputs always were aware of the outcomes in advance.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 3
  5. Joe Shearer

    Joe Shearer PROFESSIONAL

    Messages:
    20,009
    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2009
    Ratings:
    +115 / 32,370 / -4
    Country:
    India
    Location:
    India
    Good in patches; I am a little disappointed on two points, in spite of the excellent analysis that it seems to be. Let me explain before you kill me.
    1. You completely ignored the period from 600 BC, from the time of Cyrus and then Darius, who faced trouble with the Scythians; strange, because you have traced the antecedents of the Rajputs to these congeries of tribes very accurately.
    2. You have perhaps misunderstood that Rajput society was pastoral, not agricultural. There was a horse society among certain sections of the population, and it was in much later times that the social structure became quite so agricultural. In any case, the horsemen and the farmers were certainly not the same.
    My thruppence.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 4
  6. TheGreatMaratha

    TheGreatMaratha BANNED

    Messages:
    453
    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2019
    Ratings:
    +1 / 327 / -1
    Country:
    India
    Location:
    India
    I personally feel that Rajputs were just too honorable for those times. They used to go in open battle even with small numbers having resigned themselves to their fate. I think they considered dying a lost cause as more honorable than winning a battle. Thus they didn't have any tactics as such. Their only tactic was to go head-on on to the enemy. They didn't adapt to the changing times as they followed Hindu code of conduct while fighting.

    Late Professor H. H. Wilson (1786-1860) also said: “The Hindu laws of war are very chivalrous and humane, and prohibit the slaying of the unarmed, of women, of the old, and of the conquered. At the very time when a battle was going on, the neighboring cultivators might be seen quietly pursuing their work, – ” perhaps ploughing, gathering for crops, pruning the trees, or reaping the harvest.” Chinese pilgrim to Nalanda University, Hiuen Tsiang affirms that although there were enough of rivalries and wars in the 7th century A.D. the country at large was little injured by them.

    https://factslegend.org/ancient-indian-warfare-ideology-weapons-and-diplomacy-part-ii/
    https://www.sanskritimagazine.com/indian-religions/hinduism/hinduism-code-ethics-war/
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dharma-yuddha
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  7. War Thunder

    War Thunder SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    3,476
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Ratings:
    +8 / 4,672 / -1
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    United Arab Emirates

    Wouldn't it then make more sense to train their women and have them fight alongside their men to add to the numbers instead of torching them alive and doing the work of the enemy and make the whole process of conquest super easy for them?
     
  8. Max

    Max SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    7,638
    Joined:
    Nov 3, 2014
    Ratings:
    +7 / 9,929 / -10
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Yes this may help a bit but as i said what were the chances of small fiefdoms against full grown empire who used to come from west? i don't think they ever had fair chance even with adding all the able women.

    The big factor of Rajput defeat was internal divide, not bcoz women were not allowed to fight.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  9. War Thunder

    War Thunder SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    3,476
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Ratings:
    +8 / 4,672 / -1
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    United Arab Emirates


    They were facing overwhelming odds on most occasions. That's understood, and they never adapted to the changes in the warfare required to meet and stand against the cavalry.
    Pike/lance/Phalanx formations for example for foot soldiers and keeping them close to friendly walls. That's there too. Not to forget extreme disunity and division instead of standing together against a common foe. The very reasons Turks could not carry on past Vienna, yet Sub-continent ended up like a cake walk.

    But the question still remains, will it not make more sense for them to train those women to fight instead of torching them alive, and giving up before things even started.

    The mongol cavalries could do little when capturing forts and scaling walls. All the Rajputs had to do was to man those walls and fortifications with good and trained numbers. Add to them with women archers.
    Morale and tactics are the two main ingredients in winning a battle when you are fighting against a huge army. Both go down the drain when you gather up your women next to fires and that fear/emotional hurt, and sorrow exists in every trooper who is out there to fight for you.


    The Rajputs could easily be linked to the culture of Samurai, the concept of Bushido, and the Japanese in those times in general. Except the Japanese would learn and improve from battle to battle. They were never easy to defeat except till the age of gun powder.
    Yet the application of that honor and code worked in favor of the Japanese, and against the Rajputs due to the later having more to do with manly ego and insecurity.
    The Japanese focused on overcoming the ego (I've been a student of Bushido for quite some time now), while the Rajput and other cultures in India as a whole reveled into it.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 4
  10. Juggernaut_is_here

    Juggernaut_is_here FULL MEMBER

    Messages:
    1,380
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2017
    Ratings:
    +7 / 1,411 / -4
    Country:
    India
    Location:
    Germany
    Yes i tend to discount horse warfare pre-300 AD out of my modelling...mainly because of the lack of iron stirrups
    May be i should include them in my future observations...Incidentally, I am kind-of half convinced that the Shakya Clan of the Buddha was a splintered scythian tribe that found its way into the mountainous territories of the eastern subcontinent...Mainly because of rampant sister/cousin marriages among his forefathers as well as the architectural style of stupas...they heavily take on royal burial mounds of the Scythians on the steppes

    I should have made a distinction between subcontinental pastoralism and agriculture (though both were far removed from the comprhensive nomadic lifestyles prevalent contemporarily on the other end of the Khyber Pass)...and the Rajputana region was probably far drier and bigger before the onset of modern irrigation in 20th century


    frame worthy observations..I hope i have something to contribute in light of these comments in the near future

    By the way have you read Hagakure and the Book of Five Rings? I kind of fell in love with the Samurai culture the moment I saw a documentary on Miyamoto Mushashi...the Japanese seem to be provide the best template for all non-European peoples regarding a lot of things



    But whole regions were devastated by wars and the elites wiped out in several instances in the pre-Islamic age ..and I am not just talking of Ashoka's conquest of Kalinga

    Right now I am reading a fascinating book called "How the Brahmins won:from Alexander to the Guptas".....All indications point to the fact that the Indo-Greek invasions (post Alexander) and the Scythian invasions were just as catastrophic as the Middle age invasions of the Turks...Yuga Purana attests to that fact...Subcontinent did see extensive periods of Total Warfare pre-Islamic age..So why was there not any changes in tactics? why did warfare become highly regimented and ornamental?


    My theory is that there was a lack of invasions from the North West post-Harsha till Ghaznavi...roughly 350 years...yes we know there was the Arab invasion, but Arabs are not exactly Central Asian horselords...even if they had high quality steeds, they were certainly not numerous...This 350 years of relative peace led to comparative stasis in military equipment, tactics and training...kind of like the Kingdom of Hungary before the Battle of Mohacs
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2020
  11. SIPRA

    SIPRA SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    6,525
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2019
    Ratings:
    +4 / 9,928 / -0
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    I read somewhere that in medieval Hindu armies, caste structure also seriously hindered with the meritocracy. In contrast, in Muslim armies, often a bought up slave could rise to become commander, within a short time. Another reason, that author gave was excessive use of opium by most of the Rajput commanders, even during the battles.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  12. Juggernaut_is_here

    Juggernaut_is_here FULL MEMBER

    Messages:
    1,380
    Joined:
    Aug 19, 2017
    Ratings:
    +7 / 1,411 / -4
    Country:
    India
    Location:
    Germany

    vestiges of Scythian use of hemp fire to get into "mystical" state before battle
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  13. SIPRA

    SIPRA SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    6,525
    Joined:
    Mar 31, 2019
    Ratings:
    +4 / 9,928 / -0
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    Pakistan
    Well, that author mentioned opium, not cannabis.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  14. War Thunder

    War Thunder SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    3,476
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Ratings:
    +8 / 4,672 / -1
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    United Arab Emirates
    Not both books in their entirety but excerpts and knowledge coming from them in the shape of videos and articles. I'm not a book person although my brain is hard wired to keep seeking knowledge. So probably its time I started with reading and not just listening to audio books most of the time if I find them interesting.

    Japanese of the old are definitely are the best template and example for all honor based conservative Asian cultures. They take the basic ideas and convert them into a complete way of life. Too bad they lost most of it thanks to modernization post gun powder age and then the destruction and mental subjugation from WWII.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 1
  15. War Thunder

    War Thunder SENIOR MEMBER

    Messages:
    3,476
    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Ratings:
    +8 / 4,672 / -1
    Country:
    Pakistan
    Location:
    United Arab Emirates
    Ok so here is more stuff to add to the OP post.


    No fight to the death, just a tame surrender: Why jauhar was a bad military tactic
    By Mughal accounts, women always die before men. And the Rajput forces accept defeat and get busy dying long before required.


    "Jauhar in the Baburnama
    One account of jauhar comes from a person we can be certain saw its aftermath within a few hours of the ritual’s completion. This is from the Baburnama, composed by the emperor himself. After defeating Rana Sanga in 1527, Babur set out consolidating and recapturing territories that had been part of the sultanate. Among the foes he overcame was Medini Rao, who held the fort of Chanderi in Central India. On January 29, 1528, Babur’s forces attacked the well-guarded fort. After his artillery made no impression on the citadel’s stone walls, he concentrated on a vulnerable spot where a conduit had been constructed to supply water to the fort. Once this location was taken, Rajput resistance melted away. Babur writes:

    “The reason so many were hastening from the ramparts was that they had realised they were going to lose and, having put their wives and womenfolk to the sword and resigning themselves to death, came out stripped to fight... Two or three hundred infidels entered Medini Rao’s quarters where they killed each other almost to the last one by having one man hold the sword while the others willingly bent their necks. And thus most of them went to hell. Through God’s grace such a famous fortress was conquered within two or three gharis without standards or drums and without any fighting in earnest.”

    A few things stand out about Babur’s account. First, he mentions no death by fire, instead indicating the soldiers killed the women. Second, his account of the saka, or suicide assault by Rajput males, reveals its essentially ritual nature. The Rajputs do not attempt to inflict maximum casualties on their foes. Instead, they make it easy for the Mughals by discarding their armour.

    A disproportionate response
    Normally, one would expect a resolve to fight to the death to make it harder for the enemy to win. In the Rajput case, however, at least the occasion Babur cites, the suicide impulse hastened the Mughal victory. If one presumes the honour system of the Rajputs dictated that the worst fate of all was for the women in a besieged fort to be captured, it would cause soldiers to surrender too early, for, if they waited too long, the enemy might enter the fort leaving insufficient time to kill all the women. Abu’l Fazl’s description of Chittorgarh’s capitulation after Rao Jaimal’s death matches Babur’s account of the unexpectedly easy victory at Chanderi. The Rajput forces accept defeat and get busy dying long before it is required. As a military strategy, the practice of jauhar and saka seems gravely sub-optimal.
     
    • Thanks Thanks x 2