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Of Arms and the Man

Lt. Gen. J.F.R. Jacob

By E. Jaiwant Paul
Roli Books, New Delhi, 2005, pp. 144, price not stated.


Weapons have always intrigued mankind, because mankind has always been intrigued by war. The author further refers to an old quotation—”War is a joyous thing... can anyone who has tasted that pleasure, fear death”. These thoughts belong to the heroic Homerian era, long long past. War is no longer a joyous thing.   A.E. Housman wrote: Now no more of winters biting. Filth in trench from fall to spring Summers full of sweat and fighting For the Kesar or the King.   And Wilfred Owen: What passing bells for these who died as cattle? Only the monstrous anger of the guns... The shrill demented Choir of wailing Shells... Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.   The book is a well produced, well printed and superbly illustrated treatise on weapons and armour of a by-gone era of early and medieval warfare. The author cites examples from the Rig veda, the Mahabharata and Kautilya. There are illustrations of early Buddhist iconography from Bharut and Sanchi. He traces the development of weapons during the Kushan, Gupta and Pala periods. The author deals at length with the weaponry of the warrior Rajputs and cites examples from Todd’s Annals of Rajasthan.   He is fascinated by Rajput chivalry, dwelling in some detail on the Battle of Tarain fought in 1191 between Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammad Ghori. The battle was joined as the Rajputs sounded the attack by blowing conch shells from the backs of elephants. The Afghanis mounted on horses and camels broke and fled before the Rajputs. Ghori and Prithviraj met in single combat, Ghori, severely wounded, fled. The rout of Ghori’s Army was complete. Ghori returned with a larger army. Jaichand Raja of Kanauj allied himself with Ghori. Prithviraj engaged Ghori at Tarain. This time victory went to Ghori. The author maintains that Prithviraj was not killed at Tarain but was captured, taken to Afghanistan and blinded. Legend has it that Prithviraj, though blinded, was able to fire an arrow through Ghori’s chest. The author mentions that when passing through Ghazni with its mud fort he espied two tombs one purported to be of Sultan Ghori and the other of Prithviraj Chauhan. He watched as Afghans stamped on the grave of Prithviraj. The author wants the remains buried there to be brought back to India, where they belong.   The author goes into details regarding the differences of the medieval swords of North ...

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