Many of us in Marcellus are fans of the young Indian historian, Manu Pillai, who has done much to make Indian history interesting and accessible through several bestselling books. Now, as the remaking of India produces more scholars who are researching the country’s history, we have found another equally articulate historian in Anirudh Kanisetti, an editor at the Museum of Art of Photography, Bangalore (click here for more about him and for his ‘Yuddha’ podcasts: His debut publication “Lords of the Deccan: Southern India from the Chalukyas to the Cholas” has received rave reviews and is a terrific read. In this extract, published in The Hindu, Kanisetti describes how in year 618CE, Pulakeshin II, then the most powerful ruler of the Deccan, defeated the then superpower of the sub-continent, Harsha, Great King of Kings of north India.
Pulakeshin’s pre-battle tactical moves are beautifully explained by Kanisetti: “Though little is known about precisely how ancient and medieval Indians fought battles, contemporary manuals describe huge, heavy formations and counter-formations ( vyuhas ) organized according to complex rules. North India, with access to vast amounts of infantry, elephantry and cavalry, was especially suited to this sort of fighting. The Deccan could not muster or feed the same numbers of infantry, nor did it have access to the overland routes of the horse trade, emerging as they did from Central Asia. If Pulakeshin had fought Harsha in north India, his army would easily have been surrounded and crushed. But in 618, to punish Pulakeshin for his audacious move on southern Gujarat, Harsha had to cross the Narmada river into the Deccan — which tilted the odds in Pulakeshin’s favour. With his control over the northern Deccan solidified by his policy of economic and political integration, Pulakeshin could now easily scout out Harsha’s route of attack and contest the northern emperor’s attempts to cross the great river. Even if Harsha’s probably larger army were to cross the Narmada, this unwieldy force of infantry, cavalry and elephants had to enter the thickly forested Vindhya foothills in order to capture or defeat Pulakeshin — potentially negating their advantage in numbers.”
And then the actual battle is narrated in all its wonderfully gory detail: “To the hypnotic beating of battle drums, the elephants were followed by bands of elite hereditary warriors wearing loincloths and minimal armour, also drunk on alcohol.
Harsha’s court poet describes his infantry as wearing topknots and spotted red coats, ears adorned with ivory rings. The north Indian emperor commanded them from the back of his elephant Darpasata, a massive animal whose head was adorned with a ‘crested crown of gold’. But beyond this, there is little we know for certain of the confrontation between the two young emperors. Pulakeshin’s inscriptions, and those of other medieval royals, paint pictures of horrifying battlefield violence. They describe elephants colliding, tusks gleaming with blood. The hulking beasts would attempt to force each other to topple, their senses dulled by alcohol, as their riders stabbed each other with lances. The screams of men trampled underfoot and gored by tusks, the squeals of fallen elephants whose bellies were pierced by the cruel spears of the Chalukya infantry, must have filled the forest.
But eventually, Harsha seems to have realized that he would have to cut his losses…”

If you want to read our other published material, please visit

Note: the above material is neither investment research, nor financial advice. Marcellus does not seek payment for or business from this publication in any shape or form. Marcellus Investment Managers is regulated by the Securities and Exchange Board of India as a provider of Portfolio Management Services. Marcellus Investment Managers is also regulated in the United States as an Investment Advisor.

Copyright © 2022 Marcellus Investment Managers Pvt Ltd, All rights reserved.

2024 © | All rights reserved.

Privacy Policy | Terms and Conditions