This article throws light upon the top thirteen rulers of the Karakhani.
Ruler #1. Shatuk Karakhan (955):
All that is known of him is that he was the first Khan to become a convert to Islam and that he was alive in 955.
Ruler #2. Bogra Khan I (993):
He was the grandson of Musa, the son of Shatuk. By this time the Samani dynasty had grown extremely weak so that it was not a difficult task for Bogra Khan to take Antarved. One of the nobles of the Samanian court, Abu Ali, showed great interest in bringing Bogra Khan to Antarved in the expectation that the area south of the Amu river would be given to him.
The peasants, too, had become so disgusted with the Samanian rulers that they welcomed the Khan. Among the reasons for the impasse into which the Samanians had fallen was that while their income was dwindling their expenses rose.
Muslim historians prefer to call Bogra, Uigur Khan. His capital was in Balasagun, and Kashgar, Khotan, Taras, Utrar and Karakoram were all under him. He was a contemporary of that Samanian ruler, Nuh III, who had treated Phaik, the governor of Kirat, with severe cruelty when he had taken part in a revolt. Phaik tried to avenge himself on Nuh with the help of Bogra Khan.
Having been entrusted with the defence of Samarkand, Phaik opened the gates of the city to the Karakhanis. Nuh fled to Bokhara, and Bogra succeeded in taking that city, thereby becoming the master of the whole of Antarved. The climate of this place, however, did not suit him and after covering a few stages on his way to Balasagun in 993 he suddenly died.
Nuh now succeeded in regaining control of Bokhara, but as his nobles were bent on treachery, he turned for help to Subuk Tagin Ghaznavi whose commander was Mahmud Ghaznavi. With their help Nuh was able to subdue the rebel towns of Hirat, Neshapor and Tus, but later on Nuh and Subak Tagin fell apart.
After Bogra Khan came Ilik Nasr (993-1012) whose control extended over Antarved alone.
Ilik was succeeded by his brother Tugan who probably ruled over both Antarved and Saptanada. Probably Eastern Turkestan did not accept him as their Khan, but his brother Kadir Khan Yusuf was something more than a mere Governor of Kashgar and Yarkand.
In 1017 when the Khitans from the East occupied Saptanada, Tugan advanced against them with a large army and drove them out. Within three months, however, he had to suffer defeat. While the strength of the Karakhanis was declining owing to growing internal strife, Mahmud Ghaznavi was becoming more and more powerful, but as he was a staunch supporter of Tugan, the Karakhanis did not apprehend any danger from him. He died in 1025.
Tugan had a brother, Arsalan Khan Mohammed, also known as Abu Mansur Mohammed. It is difficult to say whether he became the chief Khakan of the Karakhanis or just a provincial Governor. He too was a good friend to Mohammed. The story goes that Mahmud asked for the hand of his daughter for his son Masaud.
She was received with great honour when she arrived, but on the very first night this Turkish bride is said to have assaulted her husband. Although Turks, Subuk Tagin and his son had mixed closely with the Sogdhians. They were greatly influenced by Persian culture and were patrons of the famous Persian writers Firdausi and Barauni. Socially, however, they were undoubtedly Turks.
Kadir Khan Yusuf was the son of Ali Tagin, nephew of Bogra. Regarding him it is also difficult to state whether he was the Khan of the Karakhani Empire or a Governor of Kashgar Province. On coin minted in Bokhara in 1012, Kadir Khan’s title is given as Arsalan Khan. In 1016 a quarrel ensued between him and Tugan Khan which led to war, but Mamun, the ruler of Khwarezm acted as mediator and patched up their differences.
It is said that Kadir first became the ruler of Samarkand and later extended his control over Kashgar and Khotan. He was a zealous propagandist of the Islamic faith and in course of time, as revealed by the coins of that period, he became the master of the whole of Eastern Turkestan. This makes it clear that long before his death Tugan had lost control of Eastern Turkestan and that his rule was confined to Saptanada and Antarved.
Ruler #3. Arsalan Khan Sulaiman:
The elder son of Kadir Khan was Bogra Taimun who assumed the title of Arsalan Khan and ruled over Eastern Turkestan and Saptanada. The second son of Kadir, Igan Taimun Mohammed, took the title of Bogra Khan and began to rule over Tuls (Auliya Ata) and Ispfajab.
The brothers became allies and attacked their kinsmen in Antarved but did not meet with much success. Later, the two brothers quarrelled and Arsalan Khan parcelled out his kingdom among his friends keeping only Kashgar and Balasagun for himself. This did not however, help to restore peace among the brothers and in 1056, Bogra Khan gained the upper hand and cast Arsalan into prison.
Bogra Khan II did not reign for long, as within fifteen months of his coming to power he was poisoned by his wife who was anxious to place her younger son, Ibrahim on the throne.
Ibrahim (1059) did not rule very long either, as he was killed in the battle with the ruler of Baraskhan, Yanal Taimun.
Internal strife and jealousy of the ruling Khans was a regular feature of the life of the Nomads. Most of them lived a life of hardship, while the Khan amassed vast wealth for himself and his family. This naturally gave rise to bitterness. In the face of external enemies they would unite, but the seeds of strife always remained dormant.
Describing some of the practices of the Turkish Nomads, a Russian historian writes: ‘The divisions among them were a source of constant strife. No major step could be taken to put an end to this, because many of those involved were members of the royal family and their services, were needed when danger threatened. Another practice amongst them was to form regiments of soldiers and keep them among the slaves of the royal court without however treating them as slaves.
These soldiers could always be relied upon in time of need. Such slaves were slaves only in name as they were given a good education and trained to assume important responsibilities. The father of Mahmud Ghaznavi, Subuk Tegin, was brought up as a “slave” of this kind while the first Turkish Sultan of Delhi, Kutubuddin, had also been a similar slave in the Gori dynasty. Many of these slaves married in the royal family.’
Ruler #4. Bogra Khan Haroun:
It is not clear who succeeded as chief of the Karakhani tribe after the death of Bogra Khan Haroun, though it may have been Arsalan Khan Ali, the father of Ilik Nasr. Among the nomads, all property including theirs kingdom, was looked upon as belonging to the family. That is why nomadic kingdoms were divided into parts, each one of which was ruled over by different members of the ruling family.
This often resulted in the local rulers defying the authority of the centre. Constant friction and strife were inevitable in such conditions and they led to a quick change of rulers. That is why it is difficult also to ascertain who exactly exercised central authority.
Many Karakhani coins have been found, but the use of different titles on the same or similar coins makes it difficult to say whether they were issued by the same or different rulers. The problem is rendered even more complex by reason of the fact that different members of the ruling dynasty in east and west Turkestan issued their own coins.
Ruler #5. Ilik Nasr:
The Samani commander, Phayak, had taken shelter with Ilik Nasr Khan when Nuh and Subuk Tagin joined hands to drive the Karakhanis out of Antarved. Nuh’s successor, Mansur was a coward, while Subuk’s heir, Mehmud Ghaznavi, was a great warrior. In 996, the Karakhani attacks started. Nuh, who was in control of only a small part of Antarved, dared not facing Ilik alone so he sent for Subuk Tagin, who arrived with a large army, which included the Emirs of Guzar and Swagnan.
Subuk Tagin gradually managed to take over the control of the Samani Empire and succeeded in having his agent installed as the Minister. He then decided to come to terms with the Karakhanis. By this time Subuk Tagin had become master of the entire Vakhshu valley, and even Khurasan had slipped out of Nuh’s hands.
In 999, Phayak died. Ilik Khan wanted no Samani territory to be existing between his kingdom and Mahmud’s. Mansur was made blind and sent to Bokhara and Abdul Malik II was now installed as the Emir. As the threat of Ilik Khan’s attack on Bokhara grew imminent, there was a commotion in the town.
The people were asked to take up arms and fight, but the Samanis had become unpopular. As feudal rulers and as Sunnis, they looked down upon the common people with contempt. They, therefore, tried to crush the Shiya movement, which at this time reflected the democratic aspirations of the oppressed nation.
It was for this reason that the people decided to side with Ilik who was thus helped to enter the town and to loot the treasury of the Samanis. Abdul Malik and other members of the royal family were sent as prisoners to Uzgand, while Ilik Khan’s agents were appointed as governors of Bokhara and Samarkand.
The first great Iranian Muslim dynasty had now come to an end. During the period of their rule Persian culture and art had flourished, but regardless of this fact the people, who, after their conversion to Islam gave greater importance to Islam than to national sentiments, welcomed the Karakhanis, saying: “After all they are also Muslims!”
Ruler #6. Ibrahim Bari Tagin (1041):
Bari Tagin, who till 1041 had been a vassal of Bogra Khan, took advantage of the weakness of the Ghaznavis and declared himself independent. Samarkand coins, dated 1046, bear the inscription: “Imaduddaula Tajulmillat Saif-Khilafatulla Tamgach Khan Ibrahim.” Bogra Khan had also used the Chinese Imperialist title of Tamgach Khan. Bari Tagin, in addition to assuming this title, styled himself “King of the east and China”, while his son called himself, “Sultan of the east and China“, although neither of them was able to extend his territory beyond the Antarved. Ibrahim (Bari Tagin), owed his success to the internal strife in which the Karakhanis were embroiled.
Ruler #7. Ibrahim II (Son of Ilik) (1059):
Ibrahim Tamgach Khan was an extremely devout Muslim, and his father had also lived a simple life. Ibrahim Tamgach Khan did not draw any allowance for himself from the royal treasury, nor did he tax any Muslim without the consent of the priests. A priest once said to him that he was not worthy to be a Sultan, whereupon he immediately decided to renounce his kingdom and it was only with great difficulty that he was persuaded to remain as ruler.
The Karakhanis were a more cultured race than the Selzuks, because they had come into contact with civilised peoples like the Chinese and the Uigurs. Tamgach Khan first turned his attention to restoring peace throughout his kingdom.
Criminals were given no quarter. On one occasion some criminals hung a challenge on the gates of the town, which read; “We are like onions. The more you trim us the more we shall grow.” Tamgach had the following inscribed below this: “I am the gardener. The more you grow the more I shall strive to root you out.”
On one occasion, the Khan asked his courtiers to find a bandit chief. “I will spare his life so that he may serve me and collect men for me.” Such a man was found. He had four sons, all of whom were gorgeously apparelled. At the bidding of the Sultan he collected three hundred bandits to serve under him.
But the Sultan had arrested all of them and they, together with their leader and his sons, were put to death. This created such a panic in the area that no one even dared picking up a dropped coin off the streets.
Another story told about him is this. He fixed the price of meat and declared that no one might charge more. The butchers offered him a purse of a thousand dinars and requested him to increase the price. The Sultan accepted the purse and agreed to increase the price, but at the same time issued a proclamation that anyone found purchasing meat would be sentenced to death. The butchers beat a retreat and agreed to sell at the ‘ price that had originally been fixed. The Khan said to them “Did you think I would sell my people for a thousand dinars?”
Ibrahim, came into conflict with the Mullahs too, because they oppressed the people and he had one of the most famous of them, Mullah Imam Kasim, put to death. This, however, made him even more popular with the people.
Before he died, Ibrahim placed his son Shamsulmulk, on the throne but his second son immediately revolted. The two brothers fought against each other in Samarkand and Bokhara. Shamsulmulk managed to- emerge victorious from the conflict.
There is record of one Ibrahim having died in 1079 in the battle against Alp Arsalan, but it is unlikely that he was Tamgach Khan Ibrahim.
Ruler #8. Shamsulmulk (1068-80):
The war with the Selzuks continued during his reign. In 1072, Alp Arsalan the Selzuk, invaded Antarved, but he was assassinated that very year by the keeper of his fortress. In the winter of the same year, Shamsulmulk conquered Termiz and entered Balakh. Ayaz, the son of
Arsalan, who had been governor of Balakh, fled from the city and some of his soldiers attacked the Turkish army to cover their retreat. Shamsulmulk threatened to set fire to the city, but out of pity for the supplications of the citizens, agreed to spare it, exacting instead a huge sum from its inhabitants.
In 1073, Ayaz returned to Balakh and made an unsuccessful attempt to reoccupy Termiz, losing a large part of his army in the process. The following year, Malik Shah Selzuki managed to occupy Termiz and launched an attack against Samarkand. Shamsulmulk was forced to sue for peace. At the intervention of the famous Selzuk minister Nizamulmulk, peace was negotiated between the two and Malik Shah returned to Khurasan.
Shamsulmulk was also engaged in wars with Tugral Karakhan Yusuf and Bogra Khan Huroun, the sons of the Kashgar Khan Kadir Yusuf. But with them too agreement was ultimately reached. Shamsulmulk agreed to hand over to them Fargana as well as the part of Antarved lying beyond the Sir Darya. Khojend was accepted as the limit of his territory.
Like his father, Shamsulmulk was famous for his sense of justice and fair play. He lived the life of a nomad taking up his quarters in Bokhara during the winter only. He saw to it that his soldiers did not oppress the people. All the Karakhani rulers did their best to beautify the towns and some of the buildings erected by Shamsulmulk, such as the royal guest houses built near Khurjung village and in A1 Kutal, on the route from Samarkand to Khojend, are considered the finest of this period.
Shamsulmulk could not get on well with his Mullahs either, and in 1071, he had one of them executed in Bokhara.
Ruler #9. Khijr Khan (1080):
After Shamsulmulk, his brother Khijr assumed control of the kingdom. Not very much is known about Khijr, except that during his reign Samarkand prospered greatly and that he was a learned man and a great patron of arts. He arranged contests for poets and awarded fabulous prizes to the winners. He probably ruled for one year only and was succeeded by his son Ahmed.
Ruler #10. Ahmed (1095):
During the reign of Ahmed, the quarrel with the Mullas took such a serious turn that it gave an opportunity to the Selzuks to intervene. Soon after he assumed power, Ahmed ordered the execution of his Chief Priest and his Minister. But the new Minister excited the wrath of the people because of his oppressive nature. One of the condemned priests appealed for help to the Selzuk, Malik Shah, who gladly gave it and succeeded in taking Bokhara (1079).
The Selzuk army marched to Samarkand, where with the help of its people Malik Shah succeeded in taking Ahmed prisoner. Continuing his victorious march he reached Uzgand and as his prestige had risen by now to great heights, the Karakhani Khan of Kashgar immediately accepted his over-lordship and started issuing coins in his name. Appointing a governor to rule over Samarkand, Malik returned to Khurasan.
The Jikli tribe which formed a part of the Karakhani army had aided Malik Shah, but for some reason they became dissatisfied with the treatment meted out to them by him and the moment he left Samarkand they revolted and attacked the city. He returned to Samarkand and was helped by the circumstances that the army of Yakub who was now ruling over Samarkand, revolted against the latter and joined hands with Malik.
He then proceeded to Uzgand, but finding that the Karakhani rulers were deeply embroiled in their internecine quarrels, he felt that he could safely return to Khurasan after appointing Ahmed as the ruler on his behalf.
Ahmed had, however, come under the influence of the Shiyas during his sojourn in Iran. This aroused the ire of his priests, who excited the army to revolt against him. In the end, Ahmed was taken prisoner, made to stand his trial as a heretic, and the court ordered his execution.
The rebels placed Ahmed’s cousin, Masoud Khan on the throne, but he only ruled for a short time.
Kadir (1095-1102) became the next ruler, but he was immediately faced with a revolt led by the governor of Khurasan, Sanjar Selzuk in the course of which he was killed.
By 1097 Burkiyaruk Selzuk was ruling over the whole of Antarved and he appointed Suleiman Tagin, Mahmud Tagin and Haroun Tagin, as governors of Antarved one after another. They were all of Karakhani families and Suleiman Tagin was the grandson of Tamgach Khan Ibrahim.
Ruler #11. Mahmud Tagin (1102-1130):
Suleiman Mahmud Tagin was sent from Merv and he assumed the title of Arsalan Khan when he took over the reins of administration. Before long, he had to deal with the rebellion of Shagir Beg, a Karakhani prince, but with the help of Sanjar, he succeeded in crushing the revolt. After this, peace reigned in Antarved for thirty years.
Arsalan was a great builder of monuments and his contribution to the architecture of Bokhara and other places, was greater than that of any Karakhani ruler.
To prove his devotion to Islam, Arsalan launched a crusade against the Kipchiak “infidels“. As the nomads in their Buddhist and Christian periods, had been priest-ridden, they continued to maintain a large number of priests even after their conversion to Islam. Arsalan Khan was a devotee of the Samani priest of Bokhara, ‘Namdaposh’ (felt-wearer), who lived for years on fruits and herbs.
Although a great patron of Sufis and saints, Arsalan came into frequent conflict with the Mullas. Unlike the Sufis or the Buddhist priests, the Mullahs were both selfish and bigoted. Imam Saffar Khan was as pompous as his father, and he too brought charges of heresy against the Sultan, whereupon Sanjar, Tagin’s protector, ordered his banishment to Merv.
During his last days Arsalan was afflicted with paralysis. He, therefore, placed the administration in the hands of his young son. A revolt of the priestly order, led by Ashraf, who claimed descent from Ali, was suppressed by the young ruler with the help of Sanjar.
Arsalan soon regretted having sought the help of Sanjar, and tried to get him assassinated, but the plot was foiled. Sanjar took possession of Samarkand and, being furious with Arsalan, said: “I put this nameless person on the throne; I banished his rivals to Khurasan and supported him with my army for seventeen years. But all this time he oppressed the people, he killed the descendents of the Prophet, he destroyed the families of our ancient nobility and on the slightest suspicion, he ordered the execution of people and confiscated their wealth.”
By the time the Sultan returned to Balakh, Arsalan died and was buried in the compound of the school which he himself had helped to build.
Sanjar did not consider it wise to take over the administration of Antarved himself because, for centuries it had been ruled over by the Turks. He, therefore, put Abul Muzaffar Ibrahim, a brother of Arsalan, on the throne. Thus the Karakhani rulers of Antarved were reduced to the status of puppets of the Selzuks. Abul Malik Hasan, known as Hasan Tagin, also ruled for some time as a powerless puppet.
Rukunu Jalaluddin Mohammed, the son of Arsalan, also sat for a few days on the Karakhani throne and as a favourite of Sanjar he was made ruler of Kashgar after Sanjar had conquered the place.
Sanjar’s victory over Kashgar welded the whole of Muslim Asia into one Empire, but, just at this time, a powerful new race of people, the Karakhitais appeared from the east, and ousting the Muslim rulers brought Central Asia under the domination of “infidels” for a century.
Ruler #12. Tugral Karakhan Yusuf (1059-74):
After Ibrahim, Tugral Karakhan Yusuf, a grandson of Kadir Khan Yusuf, ruled for sixteen years. His brother, Bogra Khan Harun shared the responsibilities with him. Both of them fought against Shamsulmulk Nasr, ruler of Antarved, but ultimately came to a settlement with him accepting Khojend as the border between the two kingdoms.
Ruler #13. Tugral Taimun (1074):
He was the son of Tugral Yusuf, and ruled for only two years. Bogra Khan III Harun, ruled over Kashgar, Balasagun and Khoton for twenty-one years. Bogra Khan had been a Viceroy under has brother when Autarved passed into the hands of another branch of the Karakhani family. It was at that time that he wrote the first Turkish work of Poetry “Kudatkubilik” (1069). Other Poems must have been composed earlier but they were not written down. .
In 1073, Malk Shah Selzuki occupied Samarkand and advanced as for as Ujgand. Bogra Khan accepted his suzerainty. When Malk Shah left for Samarkand there was a revolt in the country and the people sought the aid of the Khan of Kashgar’s brother and Yakub Taimun, the ruler of Atabash. Yakub attacked Samarkand but when Malik Shah faced him he fled to Atabash, from where he proceeded to fight his own brother.
Bogra Khan seized Atabash and threw Yakub into prison, whereupon Malik Shah went to Ujgand and demanded that Yakub be handed over to him. Bogra refused to do so. The Selzuki army now surrounded Kashgar utlimately taking Bogra Khan captive. Meanwhile, Malik Shah came to terms with Yakub and persuaded him to continue the battle against Tugral. The outcome of this battle is not known, but Bogra Khan must have escaped from his captivity, because he is known to have ruled over Kashgar till the end of the 11th century.
From these events it is difficult to determine if there was actually any one Khan who was accepted as the ruler of all the Karakhanis. There were constant quarrels in the ruling family, the members of which were in the habit of consigning one another to prison. The common people of the tribe joined the fight in order to get a share of the loot, without caring who they fought for. But greed for wealth even among their topmost nobles was a source of constant strife.
Kadir Khan II Jibril (1103), the grandson of Bogra Khan Mohammed, was probably the last of the Karakhani Khans and it was from him that the Karakhitais seized the kingdom. In 1102, Jibril’s star was at its zenith, because he not only succeeded in occupying Antarved, but the territory of the Selzuks across the Amu. He also took Termiz, but was killed soon after while fighting against Sinjar.