Ancient Indian Warfare


War was the chief means by which territory was annexed or rulers defeated in ancient India, which was divided into multiple kingdoms, republics and empires. Often one empire predominated or different empires co-existed. The Vedic literature (1500 – 1000 BCE), the two epics Ramayana and the Mahabharata (1000 - 600 BCE), Kautilya's Arthashastra (c. 4th century BCE) and Banabhatta's Harshacharita (c. 7th century CE), all key texts regarding warfare in ancient India, testify to this. Troops were recruited, trained and equipped by the state (maula). There were many communities and forest tribes (atavika) that were known for their military skills and prized as such. Such people lived by the profession of arms (ayudhjivi). Villages providing soldiers were called ayudhiya. Mercenaries (bhrita) also existed in large numbers as did corporate guilds of soldiers (shreni) and they were recruited whenever required.

More about: Ancient Indian Warfare


  • 543 BCE - 492 BCE
    King Bimbisara begins Magadha kingdom's conquests by annexing the kingdom of Anga in eastern India.
  • 530 BCE
    Persia conquers the Indus Valley.
  • 492 BCE - 460 BCE
    Bimbisara's son and successor Ajatashatru defeats the Kosala kingdom after a long war.
  • 484 BCE - 468 BCE
    The 16-year long war between Vaishali and Magadha. The latter, under Ajatashatru, wins.
  • 414 BCE - 396 BCE
    The Magadha king Shishunaga annexes the kingdom of Avanti, ending the dynastic rule of the Pradyotas.
  • c. 346 BCE - c. 324 BCE
    Magadha's king Mahapadma Nanda makes massive conquests in north and eastern India including Kosala.
  • 327 BCE - 326 BCE
    Alexander's campaign in northern India.
  • May 326 BCE
    Battle of Hydaspes where King Porus of the Paurava kingdom met a disastrous defeat at the hands of Alexander the Great.
  • 320 BCE
    Chandragupta Maurya seizes the throne of Magadhan and expands the kingdom over northern and central India.
  • 305 BCE
    Emperor Chandragupta signs a treaty with Seleucos I, establishing borders and giving the Punjab to Chandragupta in return for 500 war elephants.
  • 297 BCE - c. 273 BCE
    Chandragupta's son, Bindusara, rules and expands the Mauryan Empire.
  • c. 260 BCE
    Ashoka conquers Kalinga. The bloodshed makes him remorseful, and he turns towards non-violence.
  • c. 200 BCE
    Beginning of the Greco-Bactrian conquests in India.
  • 186 BCE
    Demetrios wins a decisive battle in Gandhara, beginning the Yona (or Greek era) in India.
  • c. 165 BCE
    The Greco-Bactrian king Eucratides invades India.
  • 133 BCE - 123 BCE
    Magadha king Vasumitra defeats the Indo-Greeks at the banks of the Indus.
  • c. 100 CE
    By the end of first century CE, Scythians (Sakas) manage to establish their sway in central and south-eastern India.
  • 106 CE - 130 CE
    The Satavahana king Gautamiputra Shatakarni defeats the Shakas and establishes his empire centred in present-day Andhra Pradesh and Telangana states.
  • 127 CE - 150 CE
    The Kushana emperor Kanishka conquers Kashmir, defeats Parthians, reaching the kingdom of Magadha. He crosses the Pamir mountains and defeats the Chinese under General Pan Yang and annexes Kashgar, Khotan and Yarkand.
  • 165 CE - 195 CE
    The Satavahana king Yajnashri Shatakarni uses his navy to subdue seafaring peoples on the eastern coast.
  • c. 335 CE - c. 380 CE
    Regarded as the "Indian Napoleon", the Gupta emperor Samudragupta, ruling from Magadha, subdues kings in nearly all corners of India and annexes kingdoms adjacent to Magadha.
  • 395 CE - 400 CE
    The Gupta emperor Chandragupta II Vikramaditya defeats Shakas and thereby gains access to the commercially important seaports on the western coast.
  • 450 CE
    India is invaded by the White Huns across the Hindu Kush.
  • 455 CE - 457 CE
    The Gupta emperor Skandagupta Kramaditya defeats the Huns.
  • 484 CE - 510 CE
    The Huns conquer western and central India and fight a battle with the Guptas. The Gupta general Goparaja dies in the encounter.
  • 510 CE - 540 CE
    The Huns are defeated by King Baladitya of Magadha and later by King Yashodharman of Malwa.
  • 618 CE
    The Vatapi Chalukya king Pulakeshin II defeats Emperor Harshavardhana of Sthanishvara-Kanyakubja on the banks of the Narmada river.
  • 635 CE
    The Vatapi Chalukya king Pulakeshin II destroys the navy of the Konkan Mauryas off the coast of Elephanta island (near present-day Mumbai).
  • 642 CE
    The Pallava king Narasimhavarman conquers Vatapi. Pulakeshin II dies defending his city.
  • 712 CE
    An Arab invasion takes place under Mohammad bin Qasim (695 - 715 CE). He conquers Sindh (now in Pakistan).
  • 738 CE
    The Chalukya rulers of Gujarat decisively defeat the Arabs.
  • 750 CE - 1000 CE
    A struggle for the control of most of the Indian subcontinent takes place among three empires: the Pratiharas, the Palas and the Rashtrakutas. No one power emerges triumphant.
  • 949 CE
    Battle of Takkolam in which the Cholas were utterly routed by the Rashtrakutas.
  • 985 CE - 1014 CE
    In southern India, Raja Raja I Chola conquers parts of the present-day states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu, Karnataka (north-western areas), northern Sri Lanka and the Maldives.
  • 991 CE
    Turkic forces under Sultan Sabuktigin defeat a confederacy of north Indian rulers in Jalalabad (present-day Afghanistan).
  • 994 CE
    Raja Raja I Chola destroys the fleet of the Later Chera/Kulashekhara king Bhaskara Ravivarman I off Kandalur Salai (modern day Valiasala).
  • 1008 CE
    Turkic forces under Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni defeat a confederacy of north Indian rulers at Waihind (near Peshawar, present-day Pakistan).
  • 1014 CE - 1044 CE
    Rajendra I Chola completes the conquests of present-day states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu and Sri Lanka. His armies march across north India making conquests, and his navy conquers areas in Southeast Asia.
  • 1052 CE
    Battle of Koppam where the Western Chalukyas of Kalyani kill the Chola King Rajadhiraja on his elephant. His younger brother Prince Rajendra II gets crowned on the battlefield, assumes command and defeats the enemy. n
  • 1192 CE
    Battle of Tarain when, effectively employing horse archers, the Turkic armies of Shahabuddin Mohammad of Ghur destroy the Rajput armies of Prithviraja III Chauhan.