The horse is an important symbol in India’s culture, as shown by the many stories and works we see of Indian royalty and adventurers on horseback. As noted by Mughal chronicler Abu Fazl, “The horse is a means of attaining personal excellence.” Yet the horse isn’t native to India, with thousands of horses imported from Central Asia and the Middle East to meet the demands of India’s riders.
Yashaswini Chandra’s The Tale of the Horse: A History of India on Horseback (Picador India: 2021) uses the horse as a way to discuss and frame India’s history. The book covers caravan trade routes, the Mughal empire, the Rajput horse warriors, and others to outline how India’s politics and economics changed throughout history.
We’re joined again by David Chaffetz, who’s a regular contributor to the Asian Review of Books, and the author of Three Asian Divas: Women, Art and Culture In Shiraz, Delhi and Yangzhou. In this interview, the three of us talk about the central role the horse plays in Indian history, and how understanding the horse may help us to understand the power structures of the subcontinent.
Yashaswini Chandra has a PhD in History of Art from SOAS University of London, where she was also a teaching fellow. She has been visiting faculty at Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, and Ashoka University, Sonipat. She worked for Sahapedia, an open online resource on the arts, cultures and histories of India, for many years, managing the multi-volume documentation of the President’s House in New Delhi and an institutional collaboration with Rupayan Sansthan, Jodhpur. She previously co-edited Right of the Line: The President’s Bodyguard on the household cavalry of the Indian head of state. Yashaswini is an avid horsewoman. She can be followed on Twitter at @Yashaswini_Ch.