Battle of Rajasthan
|Battle of Rajasthan/ Arab Rajput War|
|Commanders and leaders|
|Junayd ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Murri†
Tamim ibn Zaid al-Utbi†
The Battle of Rajasthan was a battle (or series of battles), fought in 738 CE, where a Hindu alliance repelled invading Arab armies, and pushed the Arabs out the areas east of the Indus River. The final battle took place somewhere on the borders of modern-day Sindh and Rajasthan. Arab armies captured Sindh, but further expansion was contained after which the Arab army retreated to the western bank of the Indus river. The Hindu alliance consisted of the north Indian Emperor Nagabhata I of the gurjar Pratihara Dynasty, the south Indian Emperor Vikramaditya II of the Chalukya dynasty and many small Hindu kingdoms in the 8th century. The Muslim conquest of Persia by Arab forces in a short space of time gave Arabs the confidence to invade India which ended in failure.
With the break-up of the Gupta Empire (550 CE), northern India was controlled by warring states, which attempted to fill the vacuum created by the Guptas. Among these were Yasodharman of Malwa, the Maitrakas of Vallabhi, and Emperor Harshavardhana of Thanesar. Emperor Harshavardhana brought the whole of North India under his control in the 7th century. But by the early 8th century North India was once again divided into several kingdoms, the most powerful of which were the Gurjara Pratihara dynasty and the Pala dynasty. Sindh was controlled by the Brahmin King King Dahir of the Rai dynasty, although his kingdom too was convulsed by internal strife.
Meanwhile, Muslims had conquered much of West Asia. The Umayyad Caliphate attempted to conquer the frontier kingdoms of India - Kabul, Zabul, and Sindh - but were repulsed. However, in 712 Umayyad general Muhammad ibn Qasim, the nephew of Al-Hajjaj conquered Sindh. From Sindh, Umayyads attempted to expand into Punjab but were defeated by Lalitaditya of Kashmir and Yasovarman of Kannauj. Outside of Sindh, the Umayyads had not made any substantial gains in India.
Events leading up to the battle
Junayd ibn Abd al-Rahman al-Murri, the successor of Muhammad ibn Qasim, subdued Hindu resistance in Sindh. Then he attacked the smaller kingdoms of Western India in early 730 CE. He divided his large force into two contingents and took several cities in southern Rajasthan, western Malwa, and Gujarat. According to Indian records, al-Murri was only successful against the smaller states in Gujarat, and was defeated at two places. The southern contingent moving south into Gujarat was defeated at Navsari by Avanijanashraya Pulakesi who was sent by Vikramaditya II, ruler of the South Indian Chalukya Empire. The eastern contingent was defeated after reaching Avanti, by its ruler Gurjara Pratihara Nagabhata I. According to Indian records the Umayyad armies were routed at the latter battle.
The Battle of Rajasthan
Gauging at the seriousness of the situation as well as the power of the Arab forces, pratihara king, Nagabhata made pact with Jaysimha Varman of the Chalukya Empire. Jaysimha in turn sent his son Avanijanashraya Pulakesi to support Nagabhata. The two Dynasties of India supplemented the already fighting Hindu Mewar Kingdom, under Bappa Rawal, at the border of Rajasthan.
The battle was fought between 5,000-6,000 Infantry and cavalry facing more than 30,000 Arabs. The Rajputs under Bappa Rawal managed to kill the Arab leader Emir Junaid during the war. This enhanced the morale of the Hindu forces while the Arabs disorganized and demoralized due to their leaders death retreated and were frequently attacked by local forces until they reached the Indus river taking great casualties.
Junayd's successor Tamim ibn Zaid al-Utbi organized a fresh campaigns against Rajasthan but failed to hold any territories there. He would be further pushed across River Indus by the combined forces of the King of Kannauj, Nagabhata C.E. thus limiting the Arabs to the territory of Sindh across River Indus.
In the words of the Arab chronicler Suleiman, “a place of refuge to which the Muslims might flee was not to be found.” The Arabs crossed over to the other side of the River Indus, abandoning all their lands to the Indian kings. The local chieftains took advantage of these conditions to re-establish their independence. Subsequently the Arabs constructed the city of Mansurah on the other side of the wide and deep Indus, which was safe from attack. This became their new capital in Sindh.
Equipment and resources
In the Gwalior inscription it is recorded that Nagabhata I “crushed the large army of the powerful Mlechcha king.” This large army consisted of cavalry, infantry, siege artillery, and probably a force of camels. Since Tamin was a new governor he had a force of Syrian cavalry from Damascus, local Arab contingents, converted Hindus of Sindh, and foreign mercenaries like the Turks. All together the invading army have had anywhere between 50,000-60,000 men. In comparison the Indians had around 30,000-40,000 men.
The Arab chronicler Suleiman describes the army of the Imperial Gurjara Pratiharas as it stood in 851 CE; The king of Gurjara Pratihara maintains numerous forces and no other Indian prince has so fine a cavalry. He is unfriendly to the Arabs, still he acknowledges that the king of the Arabs is the greatest of kings. Among the princes of India there is no greater foe of the Islamic faith than he. He has got riches, and his camels and horses are numerous.
But at the time of the Battle of Rajasthan the Gurjar Pratihars had only just risen to power. In fact Nagabhatta was their first prominent ruler. But the composition of his army, which was predominantly cavalry, is clear from the description. There are other anecdotal references to the Indian kings and commanders riding elephants to have a clear view of the battlefield. The infantry stood behind the elephants and the cavalry formed the wings and advanced guard.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2012)|
The Arabs in Sindh took a long time to recover from their defeat. In the early 9th Century the governor Bashar attempted an invasion of India but was defeated. Even a naval expedition sent by the Caliphs was defeated by the Saindhava clan of Kathiawar. After this the Arab chroniclers admit that the Caliph Mahdi, “gave up the project of conquering any part of India'.”
The Arabs in Sindh lost all power and broke up into two warring Shia states of Mansurah and Multan, both of which paid tribute to the Gurjara Pratiharas. The local resistance in Sindh, which had not yet died out and was inspired by the victories of their Indian neighbors manifested itself when the foreign rulers were overthrown and Sindh came under its own dynasties like the Soomras and Sammas.
In the long term Sindh, becoming a Muslim state led to the spread of Islam in India.
- Panchānana Rāya (1939). A historical review of Hindu India: 300 B. C. to 1200 A. D.. I. M. H. Press. p. 125.
- Saxena, Sunil (2011). "Chapter 1". History of Medieval India. D. P. S. Publishing House. ISBN 978-81-250-3226-7.
- Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of Ancient India: Earliest Times to 1000 A. D.. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 207. ISBN 81-269-0027-X,ISBN 978-81-269-0027-5. "The king of Gurjars maintain numerous faces and no other Indian prince has so fine a cavalry .He has..."