Swift Horses Sharp Swords: A story of valour, ruthless conspiracies and epic catastrophes

"The crucial mistake which the Hindu kings committed was not to have a forward policy under which they would have taken battles to the enemy’s lands, across the Khyber Pass."

By Amit Agarwal:

It gives me immense pleasure to state that my book on Indian medieval history titled “Swift Horses Sharp swords: Medieval battles which shook India” has been received well in the market.  

Though the book tells the story of the roots and trail of the invasions into India in the early medieval era starting from the 8th century till the 14th century, it starts with the Indus Valley civilization of ancient India and discusses the glory and progressiveness of the Hindu civilization.  

The book, thus, can be loosely divided into three discrete parts. The first part has chapters on the rise of Hinduism and Buddhism and how India had tremendous influence over the Silk Road and South-East Asia. A full chapter was devoted to the history of holy Swastika. This section is included to show the meteoric rise of India in ancient times and create a striking contrast to show the decline and savagery in the medieval era.

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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. It begins with the first Islamic conquest by Arabs and ends with Mohammed Ghori’s invasion, resulting in the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate which remained in power for four centuries.

The underlying factors and conditions of the crushing defeats are examined in detail. The crucial mistake which the Hindu kings committed was not to have a forward policy under which they would have taken battles to the enemy’s lands, across the Khyber Pass. Instead, they kept on allowing the invaders to come to the Indian plains of Punjab and Sindh where the Turkish cavalry had the maximum efficiency.

Otherwise, there was no dearth of individual bravery on the part of Indian warriors and there is hardly an instance where a Hindu king fled from the battlefield. They continued to display great heroism and posed resolute resistance. The strategy and tactics on the battlefield remain our Achilles’ heel, even to this day. The book also has a full-fledged chapter on Kashmir which tells its complete but abridged hair-raising 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 came to be used to count the number of dead. It also examines the use of horses and elephants on the battlefield.

Elephants, especially, were costly to maintain and often proved to be a liability on the battlefield. Still, they remained the status symbol of the Indian kings and even in the 16th century, Vijayanagara kings employed them in the battle of Tallikota, much to the delight of Islamic sultans.

Even though India was the richest country of that era, it somehow failed to invest in military technology. It draws a significant lesson here that weakness in defence would outdo all the progress in arts, architecture and business.

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A lesson that even today holds true. On the other hand, Turks, despite being poor, remained invested in new technology and invented sturdy Chainmail armour, solid tree saddle and metallic stirrup. They were the first ones in the world to use packaged dried meat that just had to be boiled and added with salt and it was ready to eat. Turks could even fire 6 arrows per minute accurately while on the galloping horse. Their horses were sturdy and the best in the world who could cover 100 km per day which enabled them to come from Ghazni in Afghanistan to Panipat in Northern India in just 10 days. They had just 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 has an epic sweep of the horrific events, which changed the trajectory of the history of India forever, and introduced it to a strange alien religion whose brutality the country had never experienced before. 

It also deals with the certain weaknesses of Hindu society and pin-points “Dharmayudda” and “Caste system” as the other major reasons for the defeat at the hands of the invaders. It also has some unique topics like temple economy, ethnic fractionalisation and Buddhist connections to the Silk Road. 

The book contains the stories of the unsung heroes like Bappa Rawal, Jaipal, Suheldev, Pulkeshin and Nayaka Devi among others who won the day at critical moments and stopped a complete annihilation of Bharat; and sadly, about whom very few know.

There are sad tales of how, over the years, Hindus have been conditioned to revere the brutal Islamic warriors as great Sufis, saints, and secular Kings, despite them killing and raping millions of Hindus because of their fanaticism and intolerance. I have been particularly honest to not shy away from the brutality that was unleashed during the invaders’ rule in medieval India.

I have also brought interesting anecdotes, ruthless conspiracies and epic catastrophes of the era while presenting not just a linear view of history but an integrated look with sociological and strategic observations. I incorporated an engaging style, crisp and sharp walking through the history and relating the historical events with contemporary knowledge of game theory, chaos and scatter/randomness, without compromising on the historical accuracy.

The content is from authentic sources, narrated seamlessly to keep the readers’ interest alive till the very end. Numerous illustrations, whether they be maps, data and charts, were also included to give it a well-defined look. 

This is a history book with a difference to tell what went wrong with Indian warriors to lose battle after battle for centuries and what were the strengths due to which we escaped being annihilated. What important lessons can be drawn which are still relevant? 

It is well known that in the last two millennia, 46 out of 48 thriving civilizations like Egyptian, Persian, Greek and Roman bit the dust due to rampant invasions. Ours is one of the remaining two, yet still not immune to incessant pressures to undermine it. The book is hence a sincere attempt to reclaim our rich civilization, lest we end up in the museums.

The book has garnered 92 verified reviews on Amazon with healthy 4.4 ratings. The book is available on Amazon at the following link: 

I sincerely request everyone to give the book a good look and a gentle read.