In her book The Tale of the Horse: A History of India on Horseback, Yashaswini Chandra follows the trail of the animal into and within India until the decline of ‘the age of the horse’ with the onset of colonial rule and mechanisation. It maps both the history of horses in India and their role in shaping Indian history. Informed by a range of sources and spanning a vast swathe of the subcontinent and greater Asia, this monograph presents an account of how horses influenced identities, migration, economies, warfare, literature, art and culture in these parts. In this talk, she focuses on the south Indian side of this history from the medieval period onwards. She discusses the growing importance of cavalry warfare in the region and the resulting increase in the sea trade in horses from the Middle East. She interrogates the testimonies of foreign travellers who denounced horse breeding in the south, highlighting the role of the horse in the rise and fall of the Bahamani sultanate and the Vijayanagara empire. She traces the changes in the horse cultures of the south as various successor states, the Mughals and the Marathas took over different parts. Local breeds of horses emerged over time and the continued significance of the horse was also reflected in livestock fairs and folk traditions.
The Speaker: Yashaswini Chandra has a PhD from SOAS University of London, and her research bridges history and art history. Her recent book, titled The Tale of the Horse: A History of India on Horseback (New Delhi: Pan Macmillan India [Picador India imprint, 2021]), is based on her interest in animal history. She is an affiliated fellow of the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), New Delhi.