Centuries prior to the current assault on the civilization by the Afghans and Osama bin Laden’s fundamentalist Muslims, two other sultans from Afghanistan had unleashed their wrath and hatred of kafirs (infidels) in the Indian subcontinent. After one thousand years the Indians still seem to have memory of the assaults as though they occurred but recently. These two infamous Muslim invaders were from Ghazni in the 11th century and Ghor in the 12th century. This is the story of Mahmud of Ghazni and Muhammad of Ghor.
Mahmud of Ghazni
By late 10th century the Muslim presence in Sindh had deteriorated to two insignificant families in control of Multan and Mansurah. Kabul and surrounding neighborhood was under the control of Hindu kings from the middle of 9th century. A dynasty called the Shahis flourished here and extended their kingdom upto Panjab in the east. Then in the year 870 Kabul was lost to invading Muslims. A Turkic slave, Aptigin by name, had amassed power and occupied Ghazni, an important town on the Kabul-Kandahar road, in the year 963. Aptigin’s son Sabuktigin succeeded him in the year 977. He was anxious for religious war with the Hindus and ravaged the provinces of Kabul and Punjab. Shahi dynasty under King Jayapala still controlled the area west of Jalalabad and thus part of what is known as Kabul valley. He resisted the onslaught gallantly but had to sue for peace when the weather turned hostile during the treacherous winter of Afghanistan. Sabuktigin with his later to be infamous son, Mahmud, gorged on the Hindu population with butchery and sorcery, the likes of which had not been seen before in the subcontinent. Jayapala gathered a large army with the help of neighboring kingdoms and mounted a counter attack. The Ghazni forces were more mobile and superior riders compared to the slower elephant-mounted Indians. They were routed and the Khyber Pass and countless number of elephants and other booty fell into the hands of Sabuktigin. The invaders had a foothold on the Indian soil and controlled the gateway, the Khyber Pass, to the vast Indian subcontinent.
After the death of Sabuktigin his son, Mahmud succeeded him. He was to be to India what a Satan was to Islam. Grotesquely ugly in appearance Mahmud controlled a vast empire and had ambitions of expanding further east into the heartland of India. With the god given right of every Muslim to root out idolatry as an excuse, he started his assault into India. He resolved on a pattern of yearly incursion into India with the charade of spreading Islam to the infidels. However, he had heard of the fabled wealth of India and was in dire need of capital to maintain his large armed forces and entourage. The religious mission quickly changed to indiscriminate looting and murdering of Hindus with large caravans of bounty marching back to Ghazni after each monsoon. The first assault was on November 27, 1001. A concurrent, though biased, account of the assault was kept by his faithful secretary al-Utbi and later a more reliable account was given by historian Ferishta. It was during his second invasion near Peshawar the much-weakened King Jayapala suffered a crushing defeat of enormous proportions. Following this the proud king abdicated his throne to his son Anandapala and committed suicide by climbing onto his own funeral pyre.
Mahmud continued his raid into India on a regular basis (a total of seventeen times over twenty-seven years, from 1001-1027) and the Shahis were the only kings to oppose him, but with little success. Large assortments of loot including precious jewels and pearls, tons of gold and silver were hoarded on thousands of elephants and transported to Ghazni. The Indians headed for the hills with the sound of advancing troops of the Muslim army and there was no significant opposition to the ugly marauder. City after city, year after year felt the wrath of Ghaznivads. Pillaging of the cities was invariably followed by rape and murder.
Then in the year 1008 it was the turn of Mathura with its well-endowed temple of Lord Krishna. Before razing it to the ground and plundering it, Mahmud is said to have marveled at the sheer beauty of the architecture and imagined it would take him two hundred years to build a similar magnificent mosque. However, he had no difficulty in desecrating and looting the temple of tons of gold, silver and precious stones before burning it. The taste of blood and booty had practically blinded him so much so that even the Muslim sympathetic, sycophant historians felt uncomfortable writing about his ruthless murderous rampage.
The Shiva temple of Somnath was one of his last targets. Somnath in Gujarat (Saurashtra) had a fortified temple with its most sacred and celebrated lingam. The people, however, were pacifists and defenseless. In 1025, Mahmud with only cavalry and camels crossed the Thar Desert and surprised the residents of Somnath. When the soldiers scaled the walls with ladders all they found inside were defenseless worshippers. Fifty thousand devotees praying to the lingam and weeping passionately with hands clasped around their necks were massacred in cold blood. The marauders looted twenty million dirhams-worth of gold and silver. Mahmud himself took great pleasure in destroying the stone lingam, after stripping it off its gold ornaments. Bits of the lingam were sent back to Ghazni and incorporated into the steps of its new mosque to be trampled and perpetually defiled by the faithful.
Eventually Anandapala’s empire shrank to a small part of northeast Punjab. His son Trilochanapala even lost that last bit of land and became a refugee in Kashmir. In his zeal to accumulate wealth, Mahmud neglected to administer to the lands he had conquered. He finally died in the year 1030 but not before he transformed Ghazni into a worthy capital from the looted wealth. India breathed a collective sigh of relief. Mahmud had two sons born on the same day to two different wives and a dispute ensued after his death. This manner of horrific bloodbath and murderous plots before each succession was to become common practice among the Muslim rulers of India for the rest of their history. The reign of Masud was insignificant and eventually the Ghaznivads lost their famed capital of Ghazni to invading Turks. Lahore served as their capital for next several decades. One hundred fifty years later Lahore was the first city to fall to the next Turkish terrorist from Afghanistan, namely, Muhammad of Ghor.
Aptigin –> Sabuktigin –> Mahmud of Ghazni –> Masud
Muhammad of Ghor
The Ghaznivads had little influence in India by the late 12th century when an ambitious sultan from Ghor, another man of Turkish descent in Afghanistan, showed expansionist intentions. Muhammad in his earlier attempts had a great setback when he tried to imitate the crossing of Thar Desert and assault on Gujarat by Muhammad of Ghazni. However, this time his debauch was stopped by the defenders of Somnath and Muhammad met with a decisive defeat. After easily overpowering the Sindh region, he turned his attention now to eastern Panjab and Rajastan. Muhammad had already taken Lahore in 1186 and now was impinging on Chauhan’s territory. He met with an able and worthy opponent in the Rajput dynasty of Chauhan. Their hero, Prithviraj was the legendary king who had eloped with the daughter of king of Kanauj while coming off age. This story is even today alive in the folklore of Panjab and Rajastan. The confrontation of 1191 almost resulted in Muhammad losing his life, if not for a Khalji warrior who bravely fought off the Hindus and rescued his leader. Prithviraj’s vassal, Govinda-raja by name, inflicted a deep gash on the arm of Muhammad though he lost his front teeth while taking a blow from the sword of the Muslim. When Muhammad retreated Prithviraj did not give chase and basked in his victory. This was a tactical error that would come back to haunt him later.
Muhammad, however, was not to be discouraged by a single defeat. Middle of next year in 1192, Muhammad was back with a large force of 120,000 horses attacking the Rajputs again. Muhammad arranged a fake truce and while the Rajputs were celebrating, thinking that they had won again, the Ghorid sultan double crossed the Hindus and massacred them in a surprise attack. This second battle at Tarain lasted all day, wearing out the Rajput soldiers, when waves after waves of well-trained horsemen attacked the weary Rajputs. Eventually the mighty army of Prithviraj succumbed to the superior tactics of the Arabian horsemen. Govinda-raja was slain and his body could be recognized only because of its missing teeth. Prithviraj was taken prisoner and then executed. Most of the Rajput women jumped into their own funeral pyres and the brave soldiers fought on till they were killed in the battlefield. Such was the honor of Rajputs.
Within a matter of three years most of the Ganga belt had capitulated to Muslim forces. There hardly was any resistance to their advance. By the thirteenth century the conquest of the North India was almost complete with the Muslims in control as far east as Bengal and Assam. The Muslim faithful unleashed a rule of terror with relentless massacre of Hindus, unimpeded. Blood ran in the holy River Ganga and many Indians were forcibly converted to Muslim faith with the threat of death or unfair taxes. The Battle of Tarain was a turning point in Indian history. A land that had been protected by Hindu Kush Mountains on its northwest frontier now was a thoroughfare for invaders and marauders. The whole of North India was under Muslim rule for the next six hundred and fifty years until the British usurped them. The permeation of Hindu society by Islam had begun at full throttle.
Like his predecessor Mahmud of Ghazni, Muhammad of Ghor was not interested in occupying and ruling the land of India. Ostensibly Muhammad’s goal was to expand territory and submission of Hindus to Islam but he too strayed from his ideology when he tasted the opulence that was India. The main focus was to plunder and pillage and transfer as much wealth as possible to his motherland Ghor in Afghanistan. The seemingly insatiable Muhammad bequeathed the control of the land he had gained to be ruled by his subordinates, the first of whom was his slave who had fought beside him. His name was Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the founder of the so-called Slave Dynasty that ruled North India for the next eighty-four years.
Next: The Sultanates of Delhi