History of Islam in India

Ala-ud-din and his Eunuch General

After the so-called Slave Dynasty disintegrated in Delhi following the removal of the last sultan, the paralytic father and his wretched toddler, the Khilji’s were headed to Delhi led by their patriarch, Jalal-ud-din Feroz (also called Feroz Shah I). He was known for his kindness and brought some civility to the citizens of Delhi. For nearly one hundred years the Hindus were relatively spared as the sultans of the slave dynasty were busy resisting the numerous Mongol attacks on Delhi. However, soon after came another Khilji, who had designs of glorifying his stronghold by plunder and conquests of idolater’s territories. His name was Ala-ud-din. He was a nephew and son in law of the old man, Feroz Shah I.

Ala-ud-din’s incursion into Deccan was kept secret from his uncle in 1296. Devagiri was the capital of Yadavas (also called the Seunas), ruled by one Ramachandra. He was surprised by a rapidly moving unit headed by Ala-ud-din and quickly submitted for an enormous ransom. Well-fortified Devagiri was easily sacked and plundered because Ramachandra lacked the courage to fight and defend it. Appeasement for clemency included riches beyond Ala-ud-din’s wildest dreams including a Yadava bride. The kingdom was left intact and Ramachandra’s life spared, with the promise of future co-operation.

News of his nephew’s unauthorized achievement finally reached the sultan. He accepted, against the advice, an invitation by Ala-ud-din to meet him en route on the banks of Ganga. A small party of guards accompanied Feroz Shah I as he sailed downriver to meet his nephew and son in law. The old sultan was slain as soon as he set his foot on the shore. While the severed head was still bleeding, Ala-ud-din was pronounced as the next ruler of Delhi. Before he reached Delhi he dispensed off his co-conspirators, as they were not to be trusted. Though an illiterate Ala-ud-din with a not so remarkable a physique, he proved to be a shrewd administrator. Sindh and Panjab were regained from the Mongol intruders in early 1300 and this effectively slowed the Mongols march and plunder of India. Gujarat and parts of Rajastan and Malwa were also conquered. Rajputs put up a brave fight and the legendary Padmini of Chittor escaped from the grasp of the sultan and committed the honorable jauhar (sati). The sultan had been fascinated and captivated by the Indian beauty and let his guard down thinking he had won her over. Padmini tricked Ala-ud-din and rescued her imprisoned husband and escaped to the safety of the fort at Chittor. When the enraged sultan laid a siege on the fort and defeat was imminent the Rajput women along with Padmini jumped into their own funeral pyre, thus denying the Khilji sultan his desire to make Padmini his prize possession.

Somnath had been rebuilt after Mahmud of Ghazni had plundered it almost 275 years earlier. Ala-ud-din set his sights on Somnath and demolished it again. The replacement lingam was again hammered and pieces of the stone were used on the steps of a mosque in Delhi for the faithful to trample on. Cambay was seized and plundered and here a captured Hindu slave captivated the sultan. His value was one thousand dinars and he quickly espoused Islam. He was also a eunuch of such beauty that the sultan fell for his epicene handsomeness and appointed him his senior commander. His name was Malik Kafur but he was known by his nickname ‘thousand-dinar Kafur’.

Malik Kafur did his king’s bidding in more than one way. An opportunist and a sycophant who knew his effeminate characteristics captivated the sultan, he quickly rose in ranks. Now a fanatical Muslim he took command of the incursions into the South and was instrumental in destruction of many temples. The eunuch lived upto the old adage that ‘one is more passionate about what one hates more than what one loves’. He started with a revisit to Devagiri and routed the Yadavas. He then used the son of Ramachandra to help him launch an assault on the Deccan further south. He attacked the Kakatiyas of Warangal, where the royal treasures included many precious diamonds (as reported by Marco Polo, eighteen years earlier, in 1293), elephants and horses.

Thousand-dinar Kafur’s southern expedition continued in the following years. With the help of Yadavas of Devagiri who provided him with supplies and logistics to attack their southern neighbors, the Hoysalas of Dorasamudra. The Hoysala king did not resist the marching Muslims and even aided them by giving them passage to attack their southern hated neighbors, the Pandyans. Of course, this did not happen before their marvelous temple in Halebid was desecrated and the famous stone idols smashed. Kafur managed to enter Pandyan country in the south without having to fight a single war. He masterfully capitalized on the inevitable hatred of neighboring Hindu kingdoms. In the bargain, he also extracted a handsome ransom of gold, jewels, elephants and horses. Though he was not able to catch the elusive Pandyan king, Sundara Pandya, he did confiscate the gold idols of Madurai, Srirangam and Chidambaram temples.

Historian Barani, who was an eyewitness, recorded Malik Kafur’s triumphant return to Delhi in detail. The campaign had yielded twenty thousand horses, 612 elephants, 241 tons of gold and countless boxes of jewels and pearls. So much wealth had not been seen in Delhi before and there was no historical record of any loot of this magnitude being brought to Delhi in the past.

Ala-ud-din was not known for any building of mosques though he extended some existing ones in Delhi. He built the Siri fort in Delhi. He was not much interested in converting Hindus into the true faith. His one attempt to surpass Aibak’s Qutb minar with a minar of his own, three times as tall was aborted very early and the ruins are seen today next to the Qutb. He tried to control the prices of grain and rice with some initial success but the long-term consequences of price control were disastrous. Ala-ud-din succumbed to illness and died in 1316.

The last of the Khilji sultan was the son of Ala-ud-din, Mubarak by name. This indecent man was called a monster and his deeds were not fit to mention in a decent historical journal. Suffice it to say he had perverse tastes like frolicking with stark naked, abominable prostitutes in the royal terraces and making them pass water on the dignitaries as they entered the courtyard of the palace. In the year 1320, after only 30 years with only Ala-ud-din’s plunder-ridden rule, the Khiljis became history. The inevitable chaos resulted, and after a bloody period of four years, the Khilji empire was overthrown by Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, the son of a slave of Balban of the Slave Dynasty.

Next: Muhammad bin Tughlaq - Maniacal Genius 


More by :  Dr. Neria H. Hebbar

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