Author Topic: Nepalese cavalry  (Read 517 times)

Andreas Johansson

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Nepalese cavalry
« on: September 08, 2019, 08:47:24 AM »
We (mostly Patrick and Duncan, act'ly) have on occasion spoken about the Nepalese allies allowed in Tibetan army lists, and the fact they changed from foot archers to cavalry, to the improvement of history but detriment of the tabletop performance of the army.

I chanced upon a description of Nepalese cavalry, albeit of some centuries later, which Duncan has presumably seen - he was the one who linked me to the piece - but might interest others:

Quote
The Khiljīs (Khaljīs) had been a minor vassal dynasty on the eastern frontier of the Mamlūk Sultanate of Delhi before taking control of the Sultanate in the late 13th century. In the Tabaqāt‑i Nāṣirī, which was written in the mid‑13th century Delhi Sultanate, the author Minhāj‑i Sirāj‑i Jūzjānī described an unsuccessful campaign by the Muslim army of Muḥammad‑i Bakhtiyār, the Khaljī ruler of Lakhanawtī north of Bengal, against a populous part of what he referred to as Tibbat (Tibet).17 This event took place in 1205–6 AD and the enemies were the inhabitants of the Nepal valley. The author also based his account upon a first‑hand description of this campaign which he heard thirty‑nine years later when visiting the area from which the Muslim army had set out.18 Jūzjānī described Nepalese (Tibbati) military equipment in detail and, according to Raverty’s translation, their defensive elements were made of bamboo. Unfortunately Raverty mistranslated bargustuwān as “body armour”. So the text should read as follows:

    “The whole of the defensive arms of that host (the Nepalese) were of pieces of the spear bāmbū, namely, their cuirasses (jawshan) and horse armour (bargustuwān), shields and helmets, which were all slips of it, crudely fastened and stitched, overlapping [each other]; and all the people were Turks, archers, and [furnished with] long bows”.

In a note relating to the term “spear bamboo”, Raverty stated that he had gone back to a number of original manuscript texts and then explained that:

    “The bāmbū referred to in the text is the male bāmbū —the young shoots, probably, used for spear shafts— for which the hollow bāmbū is not adapted... therefore, their armour, shields, etc., must have been of pieces of the male bāmbū overlapping each other”.

It thus appears that the armour, including the Nepalese horse armour, was a form of lamellar or scale protection and was clearly made of the same organic material used for the shafts of traditional Arab and, to a lesser extent, Persian spears rather than being made of metal or leathe

Source: David Nicolle, Horse Armour in the Medieval Islamic Middle East

So, does anyone make figures like this? :)
  • Andreas Johansson
Lead Mountain 2020
Bought: 123 infantry, 53 cavalry, 2 chariots, 39 other
Finished: 129 infantry, 29 cavalry, 3 chariots, 27 other, 8 bases redone

Dangun

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Re: Nepalese cavalry
« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2019, 01:39:20 PM »
Doesn't pass the sniff test with flying colours.

Given the well attested military technology (metal armour) in the area preceding this period, and in parallel geographies in the same period, I think we should consider that the source might be in error.

I obviously have no idea. But, I think you might want to have a closer look at the original and translation, before hanging your hat on that.

Duncan Head

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Re: Nepalese cavalry
« Reply #2 on: September 08, 2019, 04:04:33 PM »
This event took place, if it did take place at all, in a sort of "dark age" of Nepalese history between the Licchavi and Malla dynasties where sources are very poor and the region may have been divided between petty kings. I can't immediately find any confirmation of it in general summary works on Nepalese history.

I rather share Nick's scepticism. Occasional pieces of bamboo armour are known from Japan and China but are not common. I would not be surprised to find it used by remote forest tribes in the Nepal-Tibet region who  might not have easy access to iron, but such groups are unlikely to be fielding cavalry on barded horses.

But as for figures, surely any in lamellar armour woud do - just paint as bamboo rather than metal?
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: Nepalese cavalry
« Reply #3 on: September 08, 2019, 05:56:17 PM »
It's not too hard to imagine "some Nepalese soldiers had bamboo armour" morphing into  "the entire Nepalese army had bamboo armour" across 39 years.

I have no actual plans to make a Nepalese force, but bamboo cataphracts is the sort of oddity wargamers tend to love, so one sort of expects there'd be dedicated figures if the description had made it into an Osprey or a WRG publication.
  • Andreas Johansson
Lead Mountain 2020
Bought: 123 infantry, 53 cavalry, 2 chariots, 39 other
Finished: 129 infantry, 29 cavalry, 3 chariots, 27 other, 8 bases redone

Dangun

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Re: Nepalese cavalry
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2019, 01:42:49 AM »
It's not too hard to imagine "some Nepalese soldiers had bamboo armour" morphing into  "the entire Nepalese army had bamboo armour" across 39 years.

I hope I didn't state the case too strongly... it just smells a little fishy.

I think sometimes wargamers (like me) want to read into a translation, precision that just isn't there. The translator often just doesn't share our particular interests. It might be less of an issue with Greek and Latin where we have lots of translators and translations to look at. But in the obscurer languages it can be a source of frustration. In Chinese whether the numerous synonyms for armour get translated as chainmail or ringmail or just armour, lead to all manner of conclusions. But sometimes its not translated precisely, even before you get to the question as to whether it was composed precisely. In this particular example, and I know ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about the language concerned, I immediately wondered how adjectives work. How would the sentence, "the Nepalese cavalry had bamboo spears and armour," get translated back into Nepalese?

That said, I do kind of want such things to be true.  :) It reminds me of what the defenders turned out in the British invasion of Tibet.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2019, 01:47:10 AM by Dangun »
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Andreas Johansson

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Re: Nepalese cavalry
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2019, 06:11:22 AM »
Juzjani's book's written in Persian, not Nepalese, and the translation is corrected by Nicolle, who does care about armament details, so I'd like to think we can trust it to accurately convey what the original says.

If what Juzjani says is correct in the first place is, of course, a different question.
  • Andreas Johansson
Lead Mountain 2020
Bought: 123 infantry, 53 cavalry, 2 chariots, 39 other
Finished: 129 infantry, 29 cavalry, 3 chariots, 27 other, 8 bases redone

Jim Webster

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Re: Nepalese cavalry
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2019, 06:50:00 AM »
I immediately wondered how adjectives work. How would the sentence, "the Nepalese cavalry had bamboo spears and armour," get translated back into Nepalese?

.
There I can help, or google translate can, it translates as

नेपाली घोडचढीमा बाँस भाला र हतियार थियो
Nēpālī ghōḍacaḍhīmā bām̐sa bhālā ra hatiyāra thiyō

which proves that I can be 100% accurate and no help whatsoever  :-[
  • Jim Webster