“It was the swiftness,” the cab driver remarked when we were engaged in a discussion on the Vikings and their dominance starting from late eighth century. “The Vikings could invade lands across the coasts and later into the mainland, and succeed. It was primarily due to swiftness of attacks against the defensive and rather slow reactions of natives,” he opined. He was sure that the other Europeans were not as swift as them. Vikings were seafarers, and took advantages of their ship-building know-hows and swift attack strategy to defeat and conquer a large part of Europe and the north of Asia.
I was listening to him with full eagerness while trying to recollect the historical incidents during the same period of time, the late eighth century, when Muslim invaders started overrunning the Indian subcontinent from west. Of course, the comparison should end here. The Vikings never promoted their religion as forceful evangelists. It was the longing for new land to cultivate and the desire for freedom from the local feudal lords. On the other hand, Muslim invaders targeted religious places, institutions and order at the first place – religious intervention was an integral part of their conquest.
To give another example, the Vikings used sea routes and brought new technologies to the new lands. On the other hand, Muslim invaders stuck to the land route though used swift attack techniques to harass and subdue the unmindful civilisation during that period. Nobody will deny the use of the new warfare tools by Ẓahīr-ud-Dīn Muḥammad, who later became the first Mughal Emperor Babur, a few centuries later. Of course, the same negligence to the development of oceanic warfare led to the conversion of India into a colony of British in the sixteenth century; however, the strength of India in the ocean had been lost since long. In short, it’s mostly barbarian guerrilla attacks, as we may term those as the acts of terrorism today, led to the weakening of the western front of the Indian subcontinent.
Today’s spectacle of the Viking village near Copenhagen demands revisiting many villages in India even at present times – a transportation in time and civilisational evolutionary path. As I was getting amazed by interacting with the actor-inhabitants in the Viking village, I was wondering how the other invasion turned India to a stagnant natural open-air museum for centuries. Of course, British also played their part later – shall deliberate in one of my next posts.