Military history of India

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The predecessors to the contemporary Army of India were many: the sepoy regiments, native cavalry, irregular horse and Indian sapper and miner companies raised by the three British presidencies. The Army of India was raised under the British Raj in the 19th century by taking the erstwhile presidency armies, merging them, and bringing them under the Crown. The British Indian Army fought in both World Wars.


  • In war the Indians were by far the bravest of all the races inhabiting Asia at that time.
    • Arrian, Anabasis, V, 4. quoted in Will Durant Our Oriental Heritage.
  • While the Greek and Roman historians have not failed to point to Alexander's weaknesses and the difficulties encountered by him, Vincent Smith has extolled him as a hero. Out of the 501 pages of his 'Early Hiostory of India', 70 pages are devoted to Alexander's campaign. ... Basham admits... that 'at least in his approach to Alexander's Indian campaigns, Mookerji is a more impartial historian than the hero-worshipping Smiths and Tarns, who had never been able to view history from the angle for the East.
    • About the Indian campaign of Alexander the Great. BN Puri, , quoted in Devahuti, D., & Indian History and Culture Society. (1980). Bias in Indian historiography. Delhi: D.K. Publications. p. 88-89
  • Its water is dark; its fruit is bitter and poisonous; its land is stony, and its earth is saltish. A small army will soon be annihilated there...
    • Hakim's report about Hind and Sindh to Caliph Uthman who thought about invading North-western India. The Chachnama. Quoted in Misra, R. G. (2005). Indian resistance to early Muslim invaders up to 1206 A.D. p.17
  • At most periods of her history India, though a cultural unit, has been torn by internecine war. In statecraft, her rulers were cunning and unscrupulous. Famine, flood and plague visited her from time to time, and killed millions of her people. Inequality of birth was given religious sanction, and the lot of the humble was generally hard. Yet our overall impression is that in no other part of the ancient world were the relations of man and man, and of man and the state, so fair and humane. In no other early civilisation were slaves so few in number, and in no other ancient lawbook are their rights so well protected as in the Arthasastra. No other ancient lawgiver proclaimed such noble ideals of fair play in battle as did Manu. In all her history of warfare Hindu India has few tales to tell of cities put to the sword or of the massacre of non-combatants…There was sporadic cruelty and oppression no doubt, but, in comparison with conditions in other early cultures, it was mild. To us the most striking feature of ancient Indian civilisation is its humanity.
    • A.L.Basham in his “The Wonder That Was India” quoted in [1] [This article is a major extract from the article "Sita Ram Goel, memories and ideas" by S. Talageri, written for the Sita Ram Goel Commemoration Volume, entitled "India's Only Communalist", edited by Koenraad Elst, published in 2005.
  • The Indian legion is a joke. I believe that if Indians could be used to turn prayer-wheels, they would be the most indefatigable soldiers in the world. But using them in a real life-and-death war is pure madness. They cannot even kill an Englishman.
    • A. Hitler, quoted/attributed in Martin Ros, Jakhalzen van het Derde Rijk, p 59, and in Elst, K. (2010). The saffron swastika: The notion of "Hindu fascism". I.524.
  • "Whatever the provocation, the shrine, the Brahman and the cow were sacrosanct.... War being a special privilege of the martial classes, harassment of the civilian population during military operations was considered a serious lapse from the code of honour. The high regard which all Kshatriyas had for the chastity of women, also ruled out abduction as an incident of war."
    • K.M. Munshi, 'End of Ancient India' in Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan's Journal, vol. IV, no. II, December 29, 1959, pp. 8, 14. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1999). Theory and practice of Muslim state in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 1
  • The most curious thing was the code of war of those days; as soon as the battle for the day ceased and evening came, the opposing parties were good friends, even going to each other's tents; however, when the morning came, again they proceeded to fight each other. That was the strange trait that the Hindus carried down to the time of the Mohammedan invasion. Then again, a man on horseback must not strike one on foot; must not poison the weapon; must not vanquish the enemy in any unequal fight, or by dishonesty; and must never take undue advantage of another, and so on. If any deviated from these rules he would be covered with dishonour and shunned. The Kshatriyas were trained in that way. And when the foreign invasion came from Central Asia, the Hindus treated the invaders in the selfsame way. They defeated them several times, and on as many occasions sent them back to their homes with presents etc. The code laid down was that they must not usurp anybody's country; and when a man was beaten, he must be sent back to his country with due regard to his position. The Mohammedan conquerors treated the Hindu kings differently, and when they got them once, they destroyed them without remorse.
    • Vivekananda, CW 4, THE MAHABHARATA (Delivered at the Shakespeare Club, Pasadena, California, February 1, 1900) quoted in in Shourie, Arun (1993). A secular agenda: For saving our country, for welding it. New Delhi, India: Rupa

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