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Military History of India: Camels in Indian Warfare


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Military History of India

Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Camels in Indian Warfare

Camel mounted units of the Indian Army (13 and 17 Grenadiers) carried
out cross-border raids and captured Pakistani territory along the
international border in Rajasthan during the 1965 and 1971 wars. The 13
Grenadiers were the Bikaner and Jaisalmer Princely States' contribution to
the Indian Army, and further traced their ancestry to the medieval armies
of those Rajput States which had been using camels in warfare for
centuries. The above miniature painting portrays a medieval Rajput camel
rider bearing arms like the bow and arrow, as well as sword and shield on
his camel, which is accoutered in traditional gorbandh and has a doubleseated saddle.
In the ancient Vedic texts of India the Sanskrit word for camels is ushtra,
which over the centuries evolved into uttra (Prakrit) and unta
(Apabhramsa). Camel bone remains have been found in the Bronze Age
civilization spread across the plains from the Sindhu to the Saraswati
River in North India. Daimabad in Maharashtra has a camel depicted on a
pottery fragment from the chalcolithic Jorwe culture (1300 BCE).
The Markandeya Purana says that the camel is born out of the feet of


Sculptural representations of the camel are found in the Rajasthani temples of Merta. The Goraksha Samhita says that Goddess Kalakarni has a camel as her vehicle. A 9th century Pratihara panel from Mandor (West Rajasthan) shows a cart drawn by a camel. but a camel will not. A depiction of camels in warfare occurs at Nadol (South Rajasthan) where a memorial tablet shows a camel-rider with sword (1673 CE). Images of Unta Devi are also found in Orissa. For example. also has a camel as her mount. cover long distances without water. Kula Devi of the Jadeja Rajputs who ruled Kutch for centuries. Both horses and camels have to be trained extensively before they can be used in battle. are much hardier. while mule and camel corps in ancient Indian armies were called Ushtra-Vami and used for transport. and a well-trained horse will charge and trample over infantry.blogspot. and Hemadari assigns a camel mount to Vikata Gauri. Horses were trained to stand firmly before artillery fire and charge into armies wielding firearms. Kiradu. disregarding sword cuts. Camels in the Dhola-Maru romance theme are represented in many other temples and forts across Rajasthan. a camel rider is depicted in one of the friezes of the Sanchi stupa (Sunga period). From the ancient period. In later times Ustravahini Devi or Unta Devi. Camels of the Jaisalmer breed are trained to race and can cover 100 miles in a single night. Camel cavalry and artillery A Rajput miniature painting depicts camels with mounted lancers in the background of a hunting scene. is the family deity (Kula Devi) of the Pushkarna Brahmins. and a force of camels formed part of the Pratihara army. and flights of arrows. But in general camels are considered less intelligent and cannot do certain vital tasks. but in the regions where they were bred. camel cavalry was known from early times. Camels can bear greater loads than horses. Badoli. Panini in Ashtadhyayi calls camel riders Ushtra-sadi.html 2/6 . particularly Rajasthan. The Goddess Mahamaya. while http://horsesandswords. This latter Goddess has been mentioned in the Harsanatha temple at Sikar (Rajasthan) built by the Chauhan Vigraharaja II (973 CE). and can be as fast. It becomes apparent that camels generally were used for transport. spear thrusts.10/7/2014 Military History of India: Camels in Indian Warfare Brahma and the only God with a camel as his mount is Virupaksha. Chittor.

camel herders. with greater range and firepower. and shepherds. named the Ganga Risala. With their ability to bear loads. came into use. The development of firearms gave a boost to the deployment of camels in warfare. The most famous of the active war camel units was the Bikaner Camel Corps. and each state maintained camel breeding herds (tolas). However a Rajput warrior from the 14th century. and to have slain in battle the Muslim governor of Patan (Gujarat). camels in addition provided an elevated and mobile platform for delivering artillery fire. Camel breeds and the camel trade http://horsesandswords. When firing. Rajasthani camels were utilized for transport service in the 19th century Sindh and Afghan campaigns of the British. named Pabuji Rathod. is worshiped as a deity by rural Rajputs. he was said to have made improvements in the use of camels. These served as a kind of mobile light artillery till the early decades of the 19th century when horse-drawn galloper guns. the camels were made to kneel and their legs were tied together. A kind of swivelgun shown above was first used in Asian armies and was alternatively called zamburak or shutarnal (shutar is the Persian term for camel derived from the Avestan and Sanskrit Ushtra). particularly when their utility became apparent in resisting the Turk invaders. Pabuji's story reflects the growing power of the Rathod clan in Western India during the late 14th century when the Delhi Sultanate had fragmented and the Rathods had formed a large independent Hindu Kingdom in Marwar. In the Kingdoms of Rajasthan and 3/6 .blogspot. protected cows. after Maharaja Ganga Singh who was its founder.10/7/2014 Military History of India: Camels in Indian Warfare camels would shy away even from distant fire. camel mounted troops continued to be used for patrolling and policing down to the 20th century. Horses are also easier to group together into formations. The Rajputs prized horses above all.

Such foreign breeds were less resistant to heat and Indian camel breeds from Baluchistan westwards began to be used by Mughal armies primarily for until the European domination of the sea trade ended the importance of those land routes... The two camels are probably the twinhumped Bactrian breed and are carrying naggada beaters.. Jadunath Sarkar wrote in his History of Aurangzib: "The worst oppressors of the peasants. and in the interiors of the peninsula. were the tail of the army. plundered and beat the country people most mercilessly.html 4/6 . Baloch camel traders are shown as forming the long tail of Aurangzeb's army that caused so much devastation in the Deccan Wars late in the 17th Century. and unattached Afghans searching for employment.Particularly the Beluchi camel-owners who hired out their animals to the army. the dry conditions make the use of camels for transport and as fast couriers essential. While different breeds of Indian and foreign camels were traded and utilized in the armies of Indian Kingdoms.blogspot.10/7/2014 Military History of India: Camels in Indian Warfare An illustrated folio of the Akbarnamah depicting the 16th century Mughal siege of Champaner in Gujarat. Such conditions worsen in the countries on India's western borders. the purity and distinct characteristics of Indian breeds were maintained at least in Rajasthan and Gujarat. http://horsesandswords.. and camels were the only means to carry the annual burden of the extensive medieval trade to and from India. particularly the west and northwest." Across many parts of India.. however.

html 5/6 . but today northern Marwar is included in the breeding ground of the Bikaneri breed while camels bred in southern Marwar are considered part of the Jaisalmeri breed.. Health and Medicines Abbott buys Piram al's ge ne rics busine ss for billions . which was five tim e s its re ve nue s in 2008. Jaisalmeri.10/7/2014 Military History of India: Camels in Indian Warfare Camels of the Mewar breed are noted for their ability to carry loads across the hilly terrain. One unique facet of camel breeding in India is that communities associated with this task.blogspot. bones. Camels of the Marwar breed were considered distinct in the past and the state of Jodhpur had camel sowars in its army.A proce ssion today in the city of Udaipur. Camels are used for ploughing and drawing water in Jaisalmer. Camel grazing is also more environmentally friendly than in other livestock.. Camel meat in general is not acceptable to most other communities in Rajasthan and Gujarat.A R ajput m iniature from the Jam m u hills.6 billion. training. and the community has accumulated a vast pool of knowledge on camel characteristics. and camel products like milk. and hair. and Mewari. are an important part of the local economy. Royal Splendour Me war R oyalty ce le brate s R ajput m ilitary he ritage . shows the e x iste nce of tige rs in that part of India from which the y are today e x tinct. In this miniature painting Mewari camels bear Rajput nobles out on a hunt in the forested Aravalli range. http://horsesandswords. do not eat its flesh which is common for camel pastorals in other parts of the world. intestine.Afte r ge ne rics m ak e r R anbax y was sold by its prom ote rs for $4. but today the National Research Center on Camel recognizes four distinct breeds: Bikaneri. The m iniatu.. once the capital of the Kingdom of Me war. date d circa 1750. Kutchi. In the past camels were bred in many states. and disease treatment. The Raika grooms come seated on a camel for their weddings. Posted by Airavat at 8:51 AM Reactions: Newer Post funny (0) interesting (0) Home cool (0) Older Post My Blog List Wild Boar Hunt Tige rs in Jam m u . ce le brate s the 472nd birth annive rsary of Maharana Pratap also k nown. like the Raika and Rabari.