Why were Indian kingdoms defensive against British?

Discussion in 'Military History' started by Simple_Guy, Feb 1, 2014.

  1. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    All the battles forming the British Raj in India were fought inside the target Indian states. You don't hear about attacks by Indians on Calcutta, Bombay, Madras. Why was it so?
     
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  3. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    There was no 20th century nationalism back then.
    State mindedness was pervasive in the politico-military setup.

    Why have we not taken any action on Pakistan's sinisterism?
    Mind you, future generations would be opening similar threads with that question .. except that it would be in past tense then.

    I think we're a bit reactive and stagnated as a civilization. We've lost agility (whatever tiny bit of it was there).
    We don't scout, we don't critically study foreign ideas, people or forces and we don't change or reform easily.

    Just my thoughts.

    Regards,
    V
     
  4. Ray

    Ray The Chairman Defence Professionals Moderator

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    Something like Advani still hoping and hedging his bet that Modi fails and he becomes the PM! ;)
     
  5. The Messiah

    The Messiah Bow Before Me! Elite Member

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    What we love is to be deluded idiots and fight amongst ourselves.
     
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  6. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    I was looking for military causes. The western writers seem to think a lack of staff officers in Indian armies was a drawback.

    From Comte de Modave in 1776: "The army of an Indian prince does not form a regular whole as among us. The different bodies which compose them have no connection with one another. No staff officer, particular, or general is seen among them."
     
  7. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    Infighting was common in the chivalrous medieval age, in not just India but the Central Asia and elsewhere (places that originated attacks).
    While that works for nomadic and war driven economies, it doesn't for a defensive agrarian civilization that was always called 'A Golden Bird'.
     
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  8. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    Majority of Indian Kingdoms didn't keep standing armies and dedicated cavalry units till the passing of Gupta Age and even immediately after that.
    Increasing feudalism and clan states meant that the default setup of military power was a de-centralized one.
    That helps in resisting an already occured invasion, but not in avoiding one in the first place.
     
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  9. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    Even modern Psychology recognizes three types of centers through which individual humans/ cultures / collectives, exist/ react .

    Thinking Centre ( perceptive,secretive,isolated,responsible,versatile & scattered)
    Instinctive Centre ( purposeful, perfectionist, receptive,self confident,decisive, willful & confrontational)
    Feeling Centre ( generous,demonstrative, people pleasing, image conscious,expressive & self absorbed )

    Our civilization is based more on the Thinking + (strong) Feeling Centre whereas the Western civilizations are on the Instinctive + ( weak) Feeling Centre

    Western ethics generally aims at teaching how to act: Eastern ethics at forming character. A good character will no doubt act rightly, or refrain from action, according to circumstances.

    Throughout recorded history, India has had a strong tradition of yogis, rishis, wandering forest philosophers. We thus imbibed the thinking mode as these wandering learned men had great appeal among the masses.

    The dominant philosophy was DHARMA.

    DHARMA (duty) to be fully what one is . Ideal: justice made alive. To follow the path described in the teachings . To do what the circumstances demand of one. (All.)

    No human being remains untouched by these three centres ( akin to sat , rajas & tamas gunas in our philosophy)

    Since individuals make a society / civilization it is the dominant centre they embrace that makes for their outlook / conduct.

    There is no equilibrium possible in embracing these centres. One always embraces a dominant one at the cost of the other
    ( which gets reduced in value)

    Armies were meant only to defend, rarely to expand and enhance one's Kingdom. Even battles were fought according to certain conventions ( rules of engagement), prisoners were never ill treated, ladies, children & the elderly accorded amnesty. Aberrations did exist but were reviled & looked down upon.

    Even the gory act of war fighting was raised to divine level as death of a soldier in battle would earn him a direct place in heaven even though he may not be a regular worshipper or bhakt, gyani, dhyani or learned in holy scriptures
     
    Last edited: Feb 2, 2014
  10. Maharaj

    Maharaj Regular Member

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    Is this really true?
    I read that the Rashtrakuta Empire and Pratihara Empire had huge armies in the 9th and 10th century.
    Even the Arab travelers were impressed by the military might of both Indian Dynasties.
    I would even say that the Pratihara Empire and Rashtrakuta Empire were more powerful than
    the Gupta Empire.
     
  11. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    All this was in Ancient India.

    After the Islamic invasions the "aberrations" were the norm. Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs, Mughals, Afghans, Jats, were all masters of raiding with their swarms of cavalry. And these raids extended to hundreds of kilometers from their bases.

    So if Indian armies could invade and ravage each others kingdoms....why not against the British?
     
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  12. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    Good observation !

    The British came as traders ( East India Company)
    And like all traders were initially adept at fawning & ingratiating themselves to their customers ( Indians)
    Eventually with their expansionist designs & uncanny ability to see innumerable '-----s in their host countries armour' they started keeping armed guards to protect their ware.

    All sea faring nations ( Britain was one ) tend to produce hardy Captains / leaders of men as history proves it.
    Long sea voyages,controlling mutinies on board, having rationed potable water, rationing food , the use of sword ( cutlass ) / weapons against likely pirate attack made them truly vicious fighters. Since the crew was from the same ethnicity & worked with their masters on a foreign land ( India) they bonded well as a survival instinct.

    Robert Clive's initial victory in Madras Presidency can be attributed to a/m causes achieved with a handful of troops.

    Later as they expanded & spread their influence they paid heed to :-

    Organizing ability ( better than the kingdoms) - use of locals as guards / sepoys
    Non discriminatory Approach - initially enrolled any one fit & healthy in their Company ( not on caste / colour / creed)
    Attraction of Uniform - gave uniforms to build a sense of identity
    Fair , just & honest - the officers were fair , just & honest in their dealings with the local troops ( read books on the Raj)
    Learnt local language & customs - spoke hindustani, avoided use of beef etc
    Married local women - innumerable instances
    Used modern methods, prevalent in Europe for war fighting ( e.g. the in three's formation was for musket drill, the rifles were muskets which were muzzle loaded, the front row would fire then get on their knees on orders while the second row would fire, the first one would be cleaning the muzzle & reloading
    the second would go down on their knees & the third would open fire & similar cycle would repeat.
    Hardy Officers - Entire leadership of the British came from boys with a public school background ( sporty, disciplined, good riders, admired by their men ) and most of them were from the country side ( not many from strictly urban areas ), which means they loved the outdoors, had respect for hard labour & were robust to withstand Indian climatic conditions.

    For any Indian kingdom this was a formidable combination of Leader/ Group/ Situation backed by good organization, man management & fighting skills.

    After a few victories their reputation carried them rather actual battles with small kingdoms.

    As they gobbled up smaller rival Kingdoms they exploited basic human nature of envy, jealousy, hatred & pride /ego to the hilt.

    Within a century the juggernaut from a small scale trading enterprise had become an Empire .
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2014
  13. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    The very fact that it took a century, negates most of the points you listed.

    Hardiness of Indian warriors was far superior, most of them had adopted European style armies, and European officers. And all the battles the two sides fought were pretty tough.

    The reason for not taking offensive actions against British territory, despite all the hordes of cavalry, is baffling.
     
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  14. pkroyal

    pkroyal Regular Member

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    India was not a monolithic Nation before the advent of the British. Nearly 562 small & large kingdoms dotted its landscape, mughal dominance in many parts had broken the will of the people, arrival of the British in some ways was a welcome distraction from the yoke of the Mughals / Muslim rulers.

    The Mughal empire was waning ( due to variety of reasons) and smaller Kingdoms in South from where the British expanded did not have large armies, some had just 80 -100 under fed, ill clothed men to fight for them. When a rival smaller Kingdom was attacked / gobbled up, the opposing Kingdom watched with glee and never came to its rescue because of reasons I have already enumerated earlier.

    Thus with uncanny fighting ability , regional internecine conflicts and word of mouth publicity they managed to gradually subjugate larger Kingdoms. Since the peasantry was already oppressed because of Muslim/ Mughal rule there was no mass uprising against the British

    Empires take years to build, regional dominance is possible in shorter time frame.
     
  15. TrueSpirit1

    TrueSpirit1 The Nobody Banned

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    @Simple_Guy Many Indians were psychologically disadvantaged due to their perception about Britishers' skin complexion. This led to a sort of sense of awe & indirect/passive reverence which manifested itself as a form of inertia in Indian kingdoms against them.

    Above all, the fact that Brits were not the Jihadi types (evangelists or fanatic crusaders) helped them a lot. Religious fanaticism was one thing which went against the French (Dupleix & his predecessors in South India).

    Most alliances among Indian kingdoms were weaved in the name of DharmaYudhh but they was no such case against the evolved Britishers (when compared with Central Asian barbarians).

    Further, British had a way with the Indians. They understood us like no one else did. They leveraged our administration / bureaucratic ability, imbibed the Indian hardiness & battle-readiness by having natives form a significant % of their troop (cannon-fodder), paid them regular, fair salaries & installed a sense of pride, code of honour & loyalty among native troops, & treated them in a professional manner while not letting fear or favour cloud their judgement. Such handling is rare in India even today except for the last surviving bastion of British professionalism, i.e. Indian Armed Forces. But, even that is deteriorating due to the way we intrinsically are.

    They respected our spiritual traditions, rarely interfered with religious / esoteric ways, introduced progressive Western ideas that appealed to both Brahman intellectuals as well peasant class alike & exploited our class / caste / regional divides to the hilt.

    Further, by late 18th century, musket warfare had evolved to an extent that cavalry could no longer dominate the battlefield. British infantry were more of a resolute force to reckon with, than the withering Mughal artillery was, in that era. And, they had more experience + expertise with modern, evolving artillery being a naval superpower, relying on sea-lanes for their survival unlike the situation in Indian subcontinent or Central Asia.
     
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  16. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    I was talking about standing armies and more specifically standing cavalries.
    Huge armies have been plenty in India, be it ancient age or medieval.
     
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  17. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    Technology also has a role to play (though it is not the sufficient criteria to absolve native Kingdoms).
    Native armies/hordes were technically inferior and far less organized in warfare than the British.
    Also, the European Gunpowder technology had not replicated down to the grassroots yet. Matchlocks and rifles were still limited amongst the traditional armies and even rarer among the other unruly hordes or rebels.

    Other reasons that are more ideological and conceptual; have been touched earlier.

    Regards,
    Virendra
     
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  18. Virendra

    Virendra Moderator Moderator

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    India didn't have a clean transition from Mughals to British. There were Marathas in the interim.
    Of course they couldn't fully create an empire but had partial success.
    When Mughals were weakening, whatever strength was left in the people got broken by :
    a) Frequent droughts and famines
    b) Marathas raids
     
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  19. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    The transition was clean in east India.....after defeat of Mughal Nawab of Bengal. After defeating Tipu sultan the British became dominant in the south.

    Third place they expanded was from Bombay. This was right in the middle of the maratha confederacy but they were busy in their internal quarrels. They even invited the British to help in these fights! And worse was the numbers of muslim mercenaries they employed.

    From Armies of India:

     
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  20. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    Greatest defeat revisited by descendant of Scottish officer

     
  21. Simple_Guy

    Simple_Guy Regular Member

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    By the way this Hector Munro had won the Battle of Buxar in Bihar.

    900 European and 7000 Indian troops, supported by 20 field-guns.

    Against them 50,000 strong army of Mir Kasim, nawab of Awadh, and Mughal emperor Shah Alam. And if that was not enough they also had a whole brigade of modern troops under the German mercenary 'Samru'.
     

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