The Goris of Central Asia: A Close Look!
Gor (Gur) was a hilly province lying east and south of Hirat and south of Garjistan and Guzgan. The language of this region was different from that of Khurasan or Iran. Up to the 10th century, the people of “Gor” had been “infidels” i. e. either Buddhists, Christians or Hindus, but they were later converted to Islam. In 1020, Masaud Ghaznavi, the Governor of Hirat, reached Gor with his army.
When the Selzuk Empire began to break up with the death of Sinjar, the Goris took advantage of the situation and under the leadership of the brothers Gyasuddin and Shahabuddin set up a vast empire. Although this empire did not last long in Gor proper, it succeeded in laying the foundations of the Muslim rule in India which was to last for centuries and which has left its imprint on every aspect of Indian life.
Gyasuddin Mohamed Gori:
In the east the Gori Kingdom spread up to Balakh and Chitral. In the west it reached Khurasan and became the rival of the Khwarezmshah. The Goris had many advantages over the Khwarezmshah. While the latter had to depend on Turkish mercenaries, the former had with them hill tribes like themselves and while the Khwarezmshah was a vassal of the infidel Karakhitai, the Goris were independent Muslim Sultans.
The hopes of the Muslims of Central Asia rested with the Goris. At this time there were only three powerful forces in Central Asia—the Goris, the Karakhitai and the Khwarezmshah. The Khwarezmshah, though a vassal of the Karkhitai, tried his best to overthrow the Goris; and in this he ultimately succeeded, although it was Chengiz Khan who reaped the benefit from his efforts. Both Gor and Khwarezm had natural, defence being encircled by impassable deserts and impregnable Hindu Kush mountains respectively. The Ghaznavis had opened up the route to India and it was followed by the Goris.
Gyasuddin’s uncle had ousted the descendents of Mahmud Ghaznavi. Shahabuddin occupied Ghazni, and by winning over the queen of Ucch to his side was able to enter India and conquer Multan and Sind.
In 1178, he attacked Gujrat, but did not succeed in taking it. Unsuccessful in Gujrat, he turned eastwards.
He had already conquered Ghazni and the Punjab. At this time Delhi was protected by the Sarhind Fort, which marked the boundary of the Ghauhan Empire. Shahabuddin faced Prithwiraj Chauhan in 1191 and was repulsed. The following year he returned and again faced Prithwiraj on the same field.
This time Prithwiraj was captured and killed. Shahabuddin pushed forward and succeeded in taking Ajmer: he then returned to Ghazni. In 1194, Shahabuddin, returned at the head of a large army, as he was determined to conquer the kingdom of Kannauj spreading from Delhi to Mithila. Jai Chand was defeated and died on the battlefield of Chandaur. Muslim rule had thus established itself in India.
But the Goris were not so fortunate in their own homeland. While they were looting the temples of the infidels in India, they themselves were being subjected to several blows by the Karakhitai infidels in their homeland.
Four years after the conquest of Kannauj Gyasuddin’s brother, Bahauddin Sham, seized Balakh and proclaimed Gyasuddin’s sovereignty over it. The Kwarezmshah, Takash, was not only a vassal of an infidel emperor, but had incurred the displeasure of the Caliph, who, though not very power- full, was still important as the religious head of the Islamic world. At the request of the Caliph, Gyasuddin attacked Takash with the result that the latter turned to the Karakhitai for help.
The Karakhitai army crossed the Vakhshu, ravaged Guzgan and demanded the surrender of Balakh. At this time the Goris were in difficulties, as their general Shahabuddin was busy in India, and Gayasuddin himself was suffering from rheumatism and had to be carried about on shoulders. But the Goris managed to survive the crisis and succeeded in inflicting a defeat on the Karakhitais.
After Takash, Mohammed became the Khwarezmshah in 1197, but a dispute arose regarding the succession, for the son of Malik Shah, Hindu Khan, claimed the throne of Khwarezm. The Goris supported Hindu Khan’s claim and began to ravage the Khwarezmian towns. Just at this time, Gayasuddin died, to the great relief of Mohammed Shah.
On his return from India in 1203, Shahabuddin decided to teach the Khwarezmians a lesson. Mohammed Khwarezmshah left Merv and took shelter in Khwarezm, where he flooded all approaches to the area by breaking open the dams. In spite of this within forty five days Shahabuddin managed to defeat Mohammed near Karasu. He then advanced to take Garaganj, but its citizens to a man, rose in defence of the city. They were aided by, the Karakhitai. Shahabuddin beat a hasty retreat, but the Karakhitai pursued him and he was surrounded in Andkhud.
A fierce battle now began and raged for two weeks. Shahabuddin Gori, the conqueror of India, was completely routed by the infidels, but was saved by Osman of Samarkand, who came to his aid, because as a Muslim, he did not-want a Muslim Sultan to become a prisoner in the hands of the infidels.
Shahabuddin was given his personal freedom and allowed to return to Ghazni. “The star of religion” (this is the meaning of the word Shahabuddin) had set and Shahabuddin was forced to conclude a peace treaty with the Khwarezm Shah on the most humiliating terms. With the exception of Hirat, the whole of Khurasan fell into the hands of Mohammed Khwarezmshah.
In 1205, the Governor of Balakh attacked Khwarezm without the orders of his Sultan, and was badly defeated. He was taken prisoner along with ten of his commanders and all of them were executed. It was natural that the Sultan who had unfurled the banner of Islam in India should rush to avenge their death, but the Khwarezmshah managed to occupy Ghazni, and Shahabuddin was rendered helpless.
In India, it is not Shahabuddin who is so well known as is his Governor, the Slave, Kutubuddin Aibek.
In 1206, Shahabuddin was preparing to attack the Karakhitai, when he met his death on the 13th of March at the hands of a Hindu assassin.
Mahmud Gori (1206-09):
After Shahabuddin, his nephew Mahmud Gori came to the throne. As he had not inherited the abilities of either his father or his uncle, he was ousted from Ghazni as a result of a revolt led by his Turkish slaves. In India, Kutubuddin had already declared himself an independent ruler. The Khwarezmshah took advantage of the weakness of the Gori monarch to seize Balakh on the plea of saving it from the hands of Karakhitai.
The Governor of Termiz handed over the city to the Karakhitai Governor, Osman. In December, Khwarezmshah invaded and occupied Hirat. Mahmud was .allowed to retain his original homeland, Gor, but had to accept the suzerainty of the Khwarezmshah. Thus did Gori power decline as rapidly as it had arisen, while the boundaries of Mohammed Khorezmshah’s kingdom extended as far as the borders of the Hindu Kush.
There were now only two forces in Central Asia—the Karakhitai and their vassal, the Khwarezmshah.