Why Hindu Kings lost the battle with Muslim Invaders?

Western wars appear to have been a matter of almost unrelieved barbarity. Practically no restraints were observed in methods of war, there was little discrimination between combatant and non-combatant and torture, slavery, death and confiscation of property awaited conquered forces and population. Barbaric practices often accompanied a victory in war.

Most noteworthy of these western wars was the insistence that prisoners, if they were Christians captured by Christians, could no longer be slaved. It is worth noting that non-combatants were  exempted from cruelty only if they happened to be fellow religionists.

Rules of war in Hindu civilization

Hindu civilization had understood that under certain circumstances wars become inevitable. But it had framed such rules of war that wars were almost impossible to be waged. 

The Rig Veda, the oldest text of the world ruled, ‘Do not poison the tip of your arrow’, ‘Do not attack the sick or old’, ‘Do not attack a child or a woman’ and ‘Do not attack from behind’ and said that a warrior will go to hell if he broke any of the rules.

There was neither night fighting nor ambuscades. All fighting was in the daytime when the sun had well risen, the opposing camps were pitched near each other and both sides slept securely. At sunrise,
the soldiers of both armies mingled at the tank, put on their armor, ate their rice, chewed their betel, gossiped and chatted together.

At the beat of the drum either side drew apart and formed its ranks. It was creditable to be the first to beat the drum, and no attack was allowed until the other side had beaten theirs.

Righteous war

In his book The Wonder that was India, Arthur Llewellyn Basham says on Hindu rules of war, ‘According to Arthashastra there are three types of conquest—righteous conquest, conquest for greed and demonic conquest— The first was a conquest in which the defeated king was forced to render homage and tribute, after which, he or a member of his family was reinstated as a vassal. The second was a victory in which, an enormous booty was demanded, and a large portion of enemy territory was annexed. The third involved political annihilation of the kingdom and its incorporation in that of the victor.

The latter two types are generally disapproved by all sources except their mention in Arthashastra. Thus, the Mahabharata declares, ‘A king should not attempt to gain unrighteously, for who reveres the king who wins unrighteous victory? Unrighteous conquest is impermanent and does not lead to heaven.


These rules of war continued to be practised by Hindu kings even when attacked by foreign invaders such as Alexander, Turks, Mughals, Persians and Afghans. The noble rules of war practised by Hindu kings were one of the reasons for their setback in the wars against the invaders who practised barbaric rules. How the Hindu kings adhering to their noble rules of war was a handicap against those who did not have such rules is captured in various western discourses.

[Source: Hindu Buddhist Ideals for conflict negotitation,VIF edition]

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: