In this article we will discuss about the Invasions of Turks (11th-12th Centuries) and the establishment of Turkish rule in India.
The credit of establishing the Muslim rule in India goes to the Turks. The leadership of Islam was captured from the Arabs first by the Persians and then by the Turks. In the beginning, the Turks were barbaric hordes and their only strength was their power of arms. But, in less than a century, they converted themselves into extremely cultured people and succeeded in preserving the best elements of the Islamic culture even against the onslaughts of the Mongols.
The Turks were new converts to Islam and therefore, proved more fanatical in their religious zeal as compared to the Persians and the Arabs. They also believed in the superiority of their race. Thus, with confidence in the superiority of their race, inspired by their new religion, determined to propagate Islam and relying on the strength of their arms, the Turks conquered a large part of western Asia and, ultimately, moving towards the east penetrated into India.
Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni was the first to penetrate deep into India. He was successful in breaking up the military strength of the Hindus and plundering the wealth of India. But, he did not establish his empire here. The credit of establishing the Muslim empire in India goes to Muhammad of Ghur who followed him after a lapse of nearly 148 years.
Mahmud of Ghazni:
The Yamini dynasty generally known as Ghazni dynasty, claimed its origin from the family of Persian rulers. During the course of Arab invasion, the family fled to Turkistan and became one with the Turks. Therefore, the family has been accepted as Turk. Alptigin founded the independent kingdom of this dynasty. He snatched away the kingdom of Jabul, with its capital Ghazni, from Amir Abu Bakr Lawik in 963 A.D., but he died the same year.
He was succeeded by his son Is-haq who ruled only for three years. Then, the throne was captured by Balkatigin, the commander of the Turkish troops. Balkatigin was succeeded by his slave, Pirai, in 972 A.D. But Pirai was a cruel king. His subjects invited Abu Ali Lawik, son of Abu Bakr Lawik, to invade Ghazni.
Jayapala, the ruler of the neighbourly Hindushahi kingdom, who did not like the rise of a strong Muslim state at his border, also sent his army to help Abu Ali Lawik. But they were defeated by Sabuktigin, son-in-law of Alptigin. The success of Sabuktigin against the enemies of Ghazni enhanced his prestige. He, ultimately, dethroned Pirai and himself became the ruler of Ghazni in 977 A.D.
Sabuktigin was a capable and ambitious ruler. Slowly, he conquered Bust, Dawar, Ghur and a few other nearby places. Towards the east lay the Hindushahi kingdom of east Afghanistan and Punjab. Sabuktigin started attacking its boundaries and occupied a few forts and cities. The Shahi ruler, Jayapala could not ignore these attacks and attempted to crush the rising power of Sabuktigin.
Since then began the long struggle of the kingdoms of Ghazni and Hindushahi which continued till Sultan Mahmud finally extinguished the Hindushahis. Twice Jayapala attacked Ghazni and was supported by certain other Rajput rulers also who sent their contingents to help Jayapala. But both his attempts failed and Sabuktigin succeeded in capturing all the territories which lay between Lamghan and Peshawar.
Thus, the Hindushahi kingdom failed to check the growing power of the Ghaznavids towards the east. However, two conclusions can be drawn out of this conflict between the two.
One, Jayapala knew the danger of the rising power of Islam on his border, tried to check its growth in the very beginning and pursued an aggressive policy for the purpose which we find lacking among other Rajput rulers afterwards. The other, that the Rajput rulers were not indifferent to the rising power of Islam in the west, for which they are often blamed, otherwise, they would not have sent their forces to support Jayapala.
Sabuktigin died in 997 A.D. He nominated his younger son Ismail as his successor before his death But when Ismail ascended the throne, he was challenged by his elder brother, Mahmud who succeeded in capturing the throne of Ghazni just after seven months, in 998 A.D. Mahmud justified his accession, became a powerful ruler, repeatedly attacked India and paved the way of the conquest of India by Islam.
Mahmud was born on 1 November, 971 A.D. He had received a fairly good education and had participated in many battles during the reign of his father. After ascending the throne, Mahmud first consolidated his position in Herat, Balkh and Bust and, then conquered Khurasan.
In 999 A.D., Khalifa Al Qadir Billah accepted him as the ruler of these places and conferred on him the titles of Yamin-ud-Daulah and Amin-ud-Millah. It is said that Mahmud, at this very time, took an oath to invade India every year.
The Causes of the Invasions of Mahmud:
Various reasons have been given by historians which resulted in repeated attacks by Mahmud on India.
1. Mahmud desired to establish the glory of Islam in India. Professor Muhammad Habib has contradicted this view. He says that Mahmud did not possess religious zeal; he was not a fanatic; he was not prepared to follow the advice of Ulema; he was purely a man of this world; and his barbaric deeds, instead of raising the prestige of Islam, destroyed its image before the world. Jafar supports him and so is the case with Professor Nazim and Havell.
Jafar opined that he attacked Hindu temples not because of his religious zeal but because he desired to get their wealth. Nazim contends that if he troubled the Hindu kings and looted their wealth, he repeated the same story with the Muslim rulers of Central Asia. Prof. Havell has expressed the view that he could loot Baghdad the same way as he looted Indian cities if he could get wealth from there.
Thus, these historians have maintained that the primary motive of the invasions of Mahmud was not religious but economic. According to them, he desired to possess the wealth of India. But Utbi, the court historian of Mahmud, described the attacks of Mahmud in India as Jihads (holy wars) to spread Islam and destroy image- worship.
Viewed from the circumstances of that age and the religious zeal of the Turks, who were new converts to Islam, it is quite possible also. Besides, Mahmud not only looted the wealth of Hindu temples but destroyed them and the images of Hindu gods. Therefore, it is mostly accepted that one of the aims of Mahmud was the propagation of Islam and establishing its glory in India.
2. Another aim of Mahmud was to loot the wealth of India. No historian has contradicted this view. Mahmud desired wealth for the sake of wealth. Besides, he needed it also to continue his policy of expansion of the empire. Therefore, the wealth of India was alluring for him and he repeated his attacks to acquire more and more wealth from India.
3. Besides, Mahmud had a political purpose also. The Ghaznavids and the Hindushahis were fighting against each other since the reign of Alptigin and the Hindushahi rulers had attacked Ghazni thrice. It was necessary for Mahmud to destroy this aggressive and powerful neighbour. Therefore, he himself pursued an aggressive policy against it. The success against the Hindushahi kingdom encouraged him to penetrate deeper into India.
4. Like all other great rulers of his age, Mahmud also desired to get fame by his conquests and victories and that also constituted one reason of his attacks on India.
The Condition of India at the Time of the Invasions of Mahmud:
Politically, India was divided. There were many kingdoms which constantly fought against each other for fame and extension of their territories. Many of them were quite extensive and powerful but, because of their internal conflicts, none of them could utilise its complete resources, nor could they unite themselves against Mahmud which constituted their primary weakness. Multan and Sindh constituted the two Muslim states of India.
In the north-west was the Hindushahi kingdom whose contemporary ruler was Jayapala. Kashmir was also an independent state and it had family relations with the Hindushahis. The Pratiharas ruled over Kannauj. Its the then ruler was Rajyapala. Mahipala I ruled over Bengal but his kingdom was weak. There were independent kingdoms in Gujarat. Malwa and Bundelkhand as well. In the South, the later Chalukyas and the Cholas had their powerful kingdoms.
Socially, the division of the Hindus into castes and sub-castes had created sharp differences between sections of the society and therefore, had weakened it. Besides the traditional four castes, there was a large section of the people called Antayaja. The hunters, the weavers, the fishermen, the shoe-makers and the people engaged in like professions belonged to this section.
Their position was lower than that of the Sudras. Yet lower in social status were Hadis, Doms, Chandalas, Bagatu etc. who were engaged in the work of maintaining cleanliness but were forced to live outside cities and villages. They were out-castes and untouchables. The position of the lower castes in the society can simply be imagined when we are told that even the Vaisyas were not allowed to study the religious texts.
Al Beruni wrote that if anyone dared to attempt it, his tongue was cut off. Thus, the position of the lower castes, including the Vaisyas had been lowered very much and the caste-system had become very rigid as well. Such a state of affairs had divided the society into several different antagonistic groups.
The position of woman too had deteriorated much and she was regarded simply as an article of pleasure and enjoyment for man. Child marriages, polygamy among males and the practice of Sati among women of higher castes were becoming quite widespread, while marriages of widows were not permitted. All this had weakened the Hindu society. That is why Islam could get here a large number of converts.
There was deterioration in religion and morals as well. Both Hinduism and Buddhism suffered from ignorance and corruption. The people, particularly the rich and upper classes, engaged themselves in corrupt practices, lost the true spirit of religion or, rather, made it an instrument for the fulfillment of their worldly desires.
The temples and the Buddhist monasteries became centres of corruption. The practice of keeping Devadasis in the temples was also a mode of corruption in the temples. Even educational institutions did not remain free from corruption.
The prevalent corruption in social and religious institutions was both a cause and the result of the corruption prevalent in the Indian society in general. Probably, the common people were yet free from that. But corruption in the educated and ruling classes was sufficient to weaken the country. Such a society lacked the desire and the capacity to resist a strong invader.
The deterioration in society and religion led to deterioration in culture as well. The literature and the fine arts also suffered. The temples of Puri and Khajuraho and the books like the Kutini-Matama and the Samaya-Matraka (the biography of a prostitute) represent the taste of the people of that time.
The Hindus had not attempted to improve their arms and the methods of warfare. They largely depended on their elephants. Sword was still their chief weapon and their policy was yet defensive. They neither cared to build forts in the north-west nor adopted any other means to defend their frontiers. Thus, militarily, too, India was weak.
Politically, socially and militarily India was weak at the time of the invasions of Mahmud. The one primary cause of the weakness of the Indians was that they did not try to know, understand and learn from what was happening or the improvements done in neighbouring countries in political, military, social, religious and cultural fields. They, therefore, became ignorant and also developed a false pride.
The statement of Al Beruni helps us in understanding the contemporary attitude of the Indians about themselves. He wrote, “The Hindus believed that there is no country like theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no religion like theirs, no science like theirs.” Such attitude was the very negation of progress.
He also wrote, “The Hindus did not desire that a thing which has once been polluted should be purified and thus recovered.” Such attitude exhibited the narrow vision of the life of the Indians at that time. Thus, by that time, the Indians had lost their vigour and intelligence. They were not in a position to improve themselves nor did they desire to learn from others.
However, the one thing that India possessed as yet was its wealth. Its agriculture, industries and trade were in a good condition and it had amassed wealth which was concentrated in the hands of upper classes and in the temples. India’s wealth was a temptation for a foreign aggressor. The wealth of India was like the wealth of a weak person which could tempt any strong man to possess it. Mahmud did the same.
The Invasions of Mahmud:
Henry Elliot described that Mahmud invaded India seventeen times. There are no sufficient proofs of that, yet, all historians agree that Mahmud attacked India at least twelve times. His first expedition took place in 1000 A.D. when he occupied a few frontier fortresses. In 1001 A.D., he attacked again. This time Hindushahi king, Jayapala, gave him a battle near Peshawar but was defeated and captured along with his many relations.
Mahmud advanced as far as the capital city of Waihand and then returned to Ghazni after getting good booty. He released Jayapala after getting 25 elephants and 2,50,000 dinars from him. Jayapala could not tolerate his humiliation and burnt himself to death. He was succeeded by his son, Anandapala, in 1002 A.D.
In 1004 A.D., Mahmud attacked Bhera. Its ruler Baji Ray opposed him but was defeated and he killed himself before his capture by the Muslims. In 1006 A.D., Mahmud proceeded to attack the Shia kingdom of Multan. The Hindushahi king, Anandapala, refused to give him passage, fought against him near Peshawar, but was defeated and fled. Mahmud captured Multan in 1006 A.D.
Its ruler, Abu-i- Fath Daud, agreed to pay an annual tribute of 20,000 Dirhams. Mahmud left Nawasa Shah (grandson of Jayapala, who had accepted Islam) as governor of his Indian territories and went back to fight the Seljuq-Turks who were threatening his territories from the north. Daud and Nawasa Shah revolted in his absence and therefore, he came to India in 1008 A.D., defeated them both and annexed all the territories including Multan to his empire.
The Hindushahi kingdom was opposing the Ghaznavids from the very beginning. It had pursued an aggressive policy several times. Besides, it was the only Hindu state which tried to repulse the foreign invaders with the help of other Hindu states. Again, in 1009 A.D., its ruler Anandapala sought support from other Hindu states, collected a large army and proceeded towards Peshawar to challenge Mahmud.
Mahmud fought against him near Waihand and defeated him. Mahmud marched as far as Nagarkot and conquered it. The defeat of Anandapala reduced the strength and the territories of Hindushahi kingdom. Anandapala was forced to accept a treaty with Mahmud who firmly entrenched his power in Sindh and west Punjab. Anandapala shifted his capital to Nandana and tried to build up his lost strength but failed.
He was succeeded by his son Trilochanapala after his death in 1012 A.D. In 1013 A.D., Mahmud attacked Nandana and occupied it. Trilochanapala fled to Kashmir and sought the help of its ruler but Mahmud defeated their combined armies. Mahmud did not attack Kashmir though he plundered the places on its border.
Trilochanapala retired to the Sivalik hills, strengthened his position and also took the help of Vidyadhar, the Chandela ruler of Bundelkhand, but he was again defeated by Mahmud in 1019 A.D. The Hindushahi kingdom was now reduced to the status of a small Jagir. Between 1021-1022 A.D., Trilochanapala was murdered by some unknown person and was succeeded by his son, Bhimapala. Bhimapala died as a petty chief in 1026 A.D., and with him ended the once mighty Hindushahi kingdom of north-western India.
The defeat and decay of the Hindushahi kingdom had encouraged Mahmud to penetrate deeper into India. Besides, the booty which he got in Punjab and Nagarkot had whetted his appetite for Indian wealth. He repeated his raids on India and met no challenge anywhere.
It seemed as if India suffered from paralysis and found itself incapable of fighting against Mahmud, even when he was systematically looting its wealth, dishonouring its women, destroying its temples and images and bringing defame to its people.
In 1009 A.D., Mahmud had defeated the ruler of Narayanpur and plundered its wealth. In 1014 A.D., he attacked Thaneswar, defeated Rama, the chief of Dera and then looted Thaneswar. All the temples and the images of Thaneswar were destroyed, while the principal deity of Chakraswami was taken to Ghazni and placed in a public square for defilement.
In 1018 A.D., Mahmud proceeded to attack Ganga-Yamuna Doab. He first attacked and looted Mathura. The city of Mathura was a beautiful city and a sacred religious place of the Hindus having a thousand temples. Mahmud described its main temple in his Memoirs.
He wrote, “If any one should undertake to build a fabric like that he would expend thereon one lakh packets of a thousand Dinar, and would not complete it in 200 years, and with the assistance of the most ingenious architects.”
There were many huge idols of gold and silver which were studded with costly pearls and diamonds. Mahmud looted the city for twenty days, broke up all the idols and destroyed all the temples. He got enormous booty from Mathura. From Mathura, Mahmud marched to Kannauj.
He encountered resistance from the Hindus at a few places but triumphed over them. Rajyapala, the Pratihara ruler of Kannauj fled and left his capital at the mercy of Mahmud. He looted the city and then destroyed it. He invaded a few more places and then went back to Ghazni.
After the return of Mahmud, Ganda (Vidyadhar) and a few other Hindu chiefs organised a confederacy, attacked and killed Rajyapala who had failed to fight against Mahmud. In 1019 A. D., Mahmud returned to India with a view to punish Vidyadhar. He defeated the Hindushahi ruler. Trilochanapala on the way and reached the border of Bundelkhand, sometimes during 1020-21 A.D.
Vidyadhar faced him with a large army but, for some unknown reason, left the field during the night. Mahmud, who had lost his courage at the sight of so large a force of the Chandelas, felt happy. He ravaged the territories of Vidyadhar and then left. Next year, he came again.
On the way, he forced the ruler of Gwalior to submit and then reached the fort of Kalinjar. The siege of the fort lasted for a long time. Vidyadhar agreed to give Mahmud 300 elephants as tribute and. in return, received the right of governing fifteen fortresses from him.
In 1024. A.D., Mahmud came on his famous expedition to Somanath temple on the coast of Kathiawar. The temple received offerings in different forms from lakhs of devotees daily and had a permanent income from the resources of ten thousand villages It was a beautiful temple and possessed enormous wealth. Its Shiva-linga had a canopy studded with thousands of costly jewels and diamonds.
The chain attached to one of its bells weighed 200 maunds of gold, one thousand Brahamanas were appointed to perform the worship of the linga and 350 males and females were employed to sing and dance before the deity. The temple of Somanath was wonderful but the pride of their priests was unique who claimed that Mahmud could do no harm to their deity and boasted that other deities were destroyed by Mahmud because they had incurred the wrath of god Somanath.
Mahmud proceeded through Multan, reached the capital city of Anhilwara which was left by its ruler Bhima I without offering resistance and reached the temple of Somanath in 1025 A.D. The devotees of the temple offered him resistance but the next day Mahmud entered the temple, looted it and destroyed it afterwards. He returned with a huge booty. He was troubled on the way by his Hindu guides who led his army to a dreary part of the desert. But, ultimately, he reached Ghazni safely with his booty.
Mahmud came back to India for the last time in 1027 A.D. to punish the Jats who had troubled him on his return journey from Somanath. The Jats were severely punished. Mahmud looted their property, killed all males and enslaved their women and children.
Thus, Mahmud attacked India repeatedly. He was never defeated here. He took from India whatever he could and destroyed the rest. Besides engaging himself in loot and plunder, he annexed Afghanistan, Punjab, Sindh and Multan to his empire. Mahmud died in 1030 A.D.
An Estimate of Mahmud’s Character and Achievements:
Mahmud was a courageous soldier and a successful commander. He ranks among those successful generals of the world who have been regarded born- commanders. He possessed the qualities of leadership and knew how to utilise his resources and circumstances in the best possible way. He was a good judge of human nature and assigned work and responsibility to others according to their capacity.
His army consisted of the people of different nationalities like the Arabs, the Turks, the Afghans and even Hindus. Yet, it became a unified powerful force under his command. Thus, Mahmud possessed many virtues. Mahmud was equally ambitious as well. He always attempted to win glory and extend his empire. He had inherited from his father only the provinces of Ghazni and Khurasan.
He converted this small inheritance into a mighty empire which extended from Iraq and the Caspian Sea in the west to the river Ganges in the east and which was, certainly, more extensive than the empire of Khalifa of Baghdad at that time.
It would be wrong to say that Mahmud had succeeded only against the weak and divided Hindu rulers. He had achieved the same success against his enemies in Iran and Central Asia. Therefore, Mahmud ranks among the greatest commanders and empire-builders of Asia.
Mahmud was an educated and cultured person. He was a patron of scholarship and fine arts. He gathered at his court scholars of repute. Al Beruni, the scholar of Turki, Sanskrit, Mathematics, Philosophy, Astrology and History was at his court. The same way Utbi, Farabi, Baihaki, the Iranian poet Ujari, Tusi, Unsuri, Asjadi, Farrukhi and Firdausi, who w ere scholars of repute of his age, were all at his court.
Of course, each of them was a capable person but there is no doubt that the patronage of Mahmud had certainly helped them in enhancing their capabilities. Mahmud established a university, a good library and a museum at Ghazni. He also patronized the artists.
He invited all sort of artists from all parts of his empire, even from foreign countries, and engaged them in beautifying Ghazni. He constructed many palaces, mosques, tombs and other buildings in Ghazni. During his rule, Ghazni became not only a beautiful city of the East but also the centre of Islamic scholarship, fine arts and culture.
Mahmud was a just ruler. He killed his nephew with his own hands when he found him guilty of keeping sexual relations with the wife of another person. He forced prince Masud to present himself in the court and accept the judgement because the prince had failed to pay back the debt of a trader. Many similar stories are known about the sense of justice of Mahmud. Mahmud was successful in maintaining peace and order, protect trade and agriculture and safeguard the honour and property of his subjects within the boundaries of his empire.
Mahmud was a fanatical Sunni Musalman and, what to say of Hindus, he was intolerant even to the Shias. There are many historians like Muhammad Habib who have tried to exonerate him of this charge. But we should also keep in view the opinions expressed by contemporary historians. Al Beruni had criticised his intolerant religious acts. The contemporary’ Muslims regarded him as the champion of Islam and he was titled as Ghazi (slayer of infidels) and the destroyer of images.
The Khalifa honoured him after his successful loot and plunder of the temple of Somanath. The contemporary Islamic world recognized Mahmud as the destroyer of the infidels and the one who established the glory of Islam at distant places like India.
It has been upheld by many scholars that Mahmud destroyed Hindu idols and temples, primarily because of economic reasons. Of course, his one reason was definitely economic. But equally tenable is the view, which was expressed by his contemporaries, that Mahmud engaged himself in these acts because of his religious zeal.
Mahmud desired to acquire wealth or, rather, loved it but, at the same time, spent it also generously. He had agreed to pay Firdausi, his court poet, a golden dinar for every verse composed by him.
But when Firdausi presented before him the Shahnama which consisted of one thousand verses, he offered him one thousand dinars of silver, which Firdausi refused. Of course, he sent one thousand dinars of gold to him afterwards but, by then, Firdausi had died. Professor Brown has observed, “Mahmud tried to acquire wealth by every possible means. Besides that, there was nothing wrong in his character.”
But Mahmud’s greatest weakness was that he was not an able administrator. He did little beyond giving his dominions peace and order. He failed to form a stable empire. His empire existed only during his own life time. As soon as he passed away, the empire was shattered to pieces under his successors. He, thus, failed to establish his empire on certain permanent institutions.
Lane-Poole wrote, “Mahmud was a great soldier and possessed tremendous courage and untiring mental and physical capacity. But, he was not a constructive and far- sighted statesman. We find no laws, institutions or administrative system whose foundations were laid down by him.” He did nothing to consolidate his Indian conquests as well. Thus, Mahmud was, certainly, not a good administrator.
Yet Mahmud was a great Muslim ruler. The Muslim chroniclers regarded Mahmud as one of their greatest kings. In fact, in the history of Islam he was the first ruler who justly deserved the title of Sultan. He ranks among the great rulers of Central Asia. Professor Muhammad Habib writes of him, “Mahmud’s preeminence among his contemporaries was due to his ability and not due to his character.”
Mahmud established an extensive empire, brought peace and prosperity within its boundaries, helped in its cultural progress and established the glory of Islam at distant places. Ghazni became the seat of power of Islam and the centre of its progress in culture including education, scholarship and fine arts. It was all due to the success and achievements of Mahmud.
But, in the history of India, Mahmud was a fanatical Sunni Muslim, a barbaric foreign bandit, a plunderer and wanton destroyer of fine arts. In fact, Mahmud was the ruler of Ghazni and not of India. The Punjab, Sindh and Multan, which formed parts of his empire, served the purpose of bases for his invasions deeper into India. He did not care to administer them well. While penetrating deep into India, he simply desired loot, plunder and conversion.
In his every invasion, wherever he went, he looted whatever he could, destroyed what he could not take along with him including Hindu temples and idols, forced lakhs of people to accept Islam, otherwise killed them, took thousands of beautiful women to Ghazni while thousands others were dishonoured here, burnt hundreds of villages and beautiful cities and destroyed fine pieces of art. Thus, to the Indians of his day, Mahmud was a veritable devil incarnate.
It has been said by many scholars that Mahmud made no permanent impact on India. He came like a strong storm and destroyed everything and then passed off. The Indians soon forgot his raids and atrocities and rebuilt their temples, idols and cities. Of course, the Indians forgot his invasions and therefore, paid a heavy price later on. But, it would be wrong to accept that Mahmud left no permanent mark on Indians and Indian history.
Mahmud broke up the economic and military strength of the Indians and also their morale to resist Muslim invaders. Mahmud never met a serious challenge in India and his constant success against the Indians created fear and a defeatist attitude among the Indians that the Muslims were invincible. This fear persisted for long. The inclusion of Punjab, Multan and Sindh in the Ghaznavid empire made easier the advance of later Muslim invaders into India.
Muhammad of Ghur first entered India to snatch away these places from his enemy Ghaznavid ruler. And the most important achievement of Mahmud was the destruction of the Hindushahi kingdom of Afghanistan.
It paved the way for the conquest of India by the Muslims. Dr D.C. Ganguly writes, “The inclusion of Punjab and Afghanistan in the kingdom of Ghazni made the Islamic conquest of India a comparatively easy process. It was no longer a question of whether, but when, that mighty flood would overwhelm the country as a whole.”
The Successors of Mahmud:
After the death of Mahmud a war of succession ensued between his two sons, Muhammad and Masud, in which Masud emerged victorious and ruled between 1030-1040 A.D. He was defeated by Seljuq-Turks and the throne was offered by his nobles to his brother Muhammad. But, soon after, a son of Masud displaced Muhammad and his son from the throne and occupied it himself.
The Ghaznavid power started to break up during his rule because of the constant pressure of the Seljuq-Turks. Besides, there rose two new powers in Central Asia, viz., the Khwarizms and the Ghurs. Ultimately, the Ghurs captured Ghazni from the hands of the weak Ghaznavids and forced their last ruler Khusrav Shah to seek shelter in Punjab.
Muhammad was from this family of the Ghurs who repeated the adventure of Mahmud of Ghazni in the twelfth century and laid the foundation of Turkish rule in India.
Shahab-Ud-Din Alias Muiz-Ud-Din Muhammad of Ghur:
Ghur is situated at a high altitude of more than ten thousand feet between Ghazni and Herat. Some historians described the Ghur dynasty as Afghans but now it is not accepted. The family was Turk, known as Shansbani and originally belonged to eastern Persia. Primarily, the district of Ghur was agricultural but Ghur was well known in Central Asia for its good horses and steel also which were the most effective means of warfare during those days.
Ghur maintained its independence till the beginning of the eleventh century. In 1009 A.D., however, Mahmud of Ghazni succeeded in defeating the ruler of Ghur who accepted his suzerainty. But with the decline of the Ghaznavids, the rulers of Ghur began to assert themselves and in the beginning of the twelfth century became virtually not only independent but started contending for power against the Ghaznavids.
The contest for power between the royal families of Ghur and Ghaznavids, ultimately, resulted in the destruction of the Ghaznavids. Ala-ud-din Husain of Ghur succeeded in completely devastating the city of Ghazni and earned the nickname of Jahan Soz. Ala-ud-din was succeeded by his son, Saif-ud-din. Saif-ud-din was succeeded by his cousin Ghiyas-ud-din. Ghiyas-ud-din sent his brother Sahab-ud- din alias Muiz-ud-din Muhammad to conquer Ghazni.
Muhammad conquered Ghazni in 1173-74 A.D. This was the very Muhammad who attacked India in the 12th century and succeeded in establishing his empire in India. While his elder brother tried to extend his empire towards the west and came in conflict with the Khwarizm Shah of Persia, Muhammad tried to extend the empire towards the east. Muhammad always accepted his brother Ghiyas-ud-din as his suzerain till his death, though virtually he enjoyed the status of an independent ruler.
The Causes of the Invasions of Muhammad on India:
Muhammad attacked India due to several reasons.
Historians have accepted the following reasons among them:
1. Muhammad was an ambitious ruler. Like all great rulers of his age he wanted to extend his empire for power and glory. He decided to conquer India for the same purpose.
2. The royal families of Ghur and Ghazni were hereditary enemies and, by that time, the Ghaznavids still ruled in the Punjab. Muhammad after the capture of Ghazni desired to annex Punjab as well to his kingdom so that he could finish the remaining strength of his hereditary enemy and also provide security to its kingdom from towards the east.
3. The ambition of the Ghur dynasty of extending their power towards the west was challenged and checked by the rising power of the Khwarizm dynasty of Persia. Therefore, the next alternative before the Ghurides was to proceed towards the east viz.. towards India. Besides, the responsibility of extending the power of the Ghurides towards the west was on the shoulders of Ghiyas-ud-din. Therefore, Muhammad himself decided to conquer India.
4. Probably, Muhammad also desired to acquire wealth from India and also to extend the sway of Islam and these too tempted him to invade India. But, in no case, these were the basic causes of his invasions.
India at the Time of the Invasions of Muhammad of Ghur:
Nearly 148 years had lapsed after the last invasion of Mahmud in 1027 A.D. as Muhammad’s first attack on India took place in 1175 A.D. But, there was not a single remarkable change in the condition of India except changes in the ruling dynasties and territories of their kingdoms.
Politically, India was divided into many kingdoms, both in the North and the South. Many of them were quite extensive and powerful enough to meet the challenge of a foreign invader but their constant fighting against each other for glory and power constituted their primary weakness because it did not allow them either to unite themselves even in the hour of their greatest danger against a foreign enemy or left them free to utilise their complete resources against him.
At that time, Sindh and Multan were ruled by two independent Shia Muslim rulers while Punjab was in the hands of the last Ghaznavid ruler, Khusrav Shah. Khusrav Shah was not a powerful ruler. He had failed to achieve any success in India. Rather, the Chauhana ruler of Delhi had succeeded in snatching away certain places from him. Gujarat and Kathiawar were ruled by the Chalukyas.
Their capital was Anhilwara. The Chalukyas had lost much of their power by fighting against the Chauhanas of Delhi and Ajmer. Their ruler, then, was Mularaja II. Delhi and Ajmer were ruled by the Chauhanas. There the then ruler was Prithviraja III. Prithviraja III was a capable commander and an ambitious ruler. He had successfully fought against his neighbouring kingdoms.
Therefore, he had provoked the jealousy of all of them. He had defeated and disgraced the Chalukyas of Gujarat, snatched away Mahoba from the Chandela ruler Paramaladeva and, by eloping with the daughter of Jayachandra, ruler of Kannauj, had provoked his permanent enmity. Prithviraja III was, no doubt, a chivalrous and daring ruler but he lacked farsightedness and diplomatic shrewdness.
Therefore, he failed to receive any support from any of his powerful neighbours in his fight against the Muslim invader. The Gaha- davalas ruled over Kannauj. Their empire was most extensive in north India at that time and their then ruler was Jayachandra. Chandelas ruled in Bundelkhand while the Palas and the Senas ruled in Bengal. The South was similarly divided politically and was totally indifferent to the fate of north India.
There was no change in Indian society as compared to the conditions of the eleventh century except that a large section of Muslims had settled in many parts of India peacefully. These small colonies of the Muslims were not effective in any way directly in the Indian politics but were certainly useful indirectly as any Muslim invader could get some sympathy and, at times, certain useful information from these colonists. Except this, India had not changed itself socially, culturally or militarily since the days of the invasions of Mahmud.
The Invasions of Muhammad and the Establishment of Turkish Rule in India:
Muhammad first attacked Multan in 1175 A.D. and conquered it easily. Next he annexed Uch and lower Sindh to his territories. In 1178 A.D., Muhammad attacked Gujarat. Mularaja II faced him near Mount Abu and defeated him. This was the first defeat of Muhammad in India. Afterwards, he changed his route to India. He next attempted through Punjab.
Muhammad conquered Peshawar in 1179, attacked Lahore after two years and received huge presents from the last Ghaznavid ruler, Khusrav Shah, conquered Sialkot in 1185 A.D. and attacked Lahore again in 1186 A.D. He imprisoned Khusrav Shah by treachery and occupied the entire territories of Punjab. Khusrav was murdered, later on, in 1192 A.D.
After the capture of Punjab, the boundaries of the kingdoms of Muhammad and Prithviraja III, the Chauhana ruler of Delhi and Ajmer, touched each other.
In 1198 A.D., Muhammac attacked and captured Bhatinda. He was planning to go back when he received the news of the advance of Prithviraja against him with a view to recapture Bhatinda. Muhammad proceeded forward to face him. The enemies met each other in the battlefield of Tarain, 80 miles from Delhi, and the first battle of Tarain took place in 1190-91 A.D.
Muhammad was defeated in the battle. The Hammir-Mahakavya describes that Muhammad was taken prisoner by Prithviraja but left free with grace. But this view is not accepted by historians. Muhammad was wounded and taken to a place of safety by a Khalji noble. The Muslim army was routed and the battle was completely won over by the Rajputs. Prithviraja, thereafter, attacked the fort of Bhatinda but could capture it only after thirteen months. Muhammad could not forget his defeat the battle of Tarain.
Prithviraja had not only humiliated him but had also blocked his way to conquer India. Muhammad prepared himself well, collected a strong force of one hundred and twenty thousand men and then proceeded towards India to avenge his defeat. After the capture of Bhatinda, Muhammad marched again to the plain of Tarain.
Though Prithviraja came with a large army to face him but was decisively defeated. He tried to flee but was taken prisoner. He was taken to Ajmer and, as Professor Hasan Nizami says, he accepted the over lordship of Muhammad but, when found guilty of a conspiracy against Muhammad, was sentenced to death.
Hence the second battle of Tarain, fought in 1192 A.D., proved to be one of the decisive battles of Indian history. It settled the future course of Indian history and as Dr D.C. Ganguly writes: “The defeat of Prithviraja in the second battle of Tarain not only destroyed the imperial power of the Chahamanas (Chauhanas), but also brought disaster on the whole of Hindustan.”
The battle opened the way for the conquest of India by the Muslims. Ajmer and Delhi both were occupied by Muhammad which paved the way for his further conquests in India. Besides, the battle definitely weakened the morale of other Rajput rulers to resist the Muslim invader.
After leaving Qutb-ud-din Aibak as Governor of Delhi and Ajmer, Muhammad went back. Aibak consolidated the Indian conquests of Muhammad, suppressed the revolts of the Chauhanas at Ajmer, made Delhi the capital of Muslim kingdom in India in 1193 A.D. and conquered Meerut, Bulandshahar, Aligarh, etc., in the absence of Muhammad.
Muhammad came back to India in 1194 A.D. This time his target was the kingdom of Kannauj. Jayachandra, the ruler of Kannauj, had enmity with Prithviraja III and therefore, had not helped him against the Turks. Now, he too had to face Muhammad alone. The battle between Muhammad and Jayachandra took place near Chandawar on the river Yamuna, between Etawah and Kannauj.
The Rajputs were defeated and Jayachandra was killed in the battle. Muhammad proceeded as far as Banaras and occupied all the important places of the kingdom of Kannauj, though its conquest was consolidated afterwards slowly and gradually. Now, there remained no other powerful kingdom in north India to resist Muhammad’s armies.
Leaving Aibak again, Muhammad went back. Aibak consolidated his fresh conquests and suppressed the different revolts which took place at Ajmer, Aligarh, etc. Muhammad came back to India in 1195 A.D. This time he conquered Bayana and attacked Gwalior.
Pratihara chief, Sulakshanapal accepted the suzerainty of Muhammad and peace was granted to him. Muhammad entrusted the command of the territories between Rajputana and Doab to Baha-ud-din Tughril and went back. Tughril captured the fort of Gwalior in his absence after one and a half years of fighting.
Muhammad could not come back to India for some next years and the responsibility of consolidating his conquests in India rested on his governors here, particularly on Aibak. A serious revolt in Rajasthan was suppressed by Aibak after much difficulty. Thereafter, Aibak attacked Gujarat and plundered its capital Anhilwara, in 1197 A.D.
Aibak also conquered Badaun, Banaras and Chandawar which were lost to the Turks and, thus, consolidated the conquest of Kannauj. One of the most important conquests of Aibak was that of Bundelkhand. The Chandela ruler, Paramaladeva, was now the only independent Rajput ruler in Central India and the fort of Kalinjar was regarded impregnable.
Aibak attacked it in 1202-1203 A.D. Paramaladeva died during this period of fighting but the Chandelas fought under the leadership of his minister, Ajavadeva. But, ultimately, the Chandelas had to leave the fort, which was occupied by Aibak. Aibak occupied Mahoba and Khajuraho as well.
The conquest of Bengal and Bihar was not attempted either by Muhammad or Aibak but by a petty noble named Ikhtiyar-ud-din Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji. Ikhtiyar-ud-din Khalji began his career as an ordinary soldier and received a few villages as his jagir from his master Hisam-ud-din Aghul Eak, the governor of Oudh. There Ikhtiyar-ud-din collected a small force of his own followers and started raiding the nearby territories of Bihar. To his surprise, he found that nobody tried to oppose him anywhere.
That increased his ambitions. He went on increasing his resources and his soldiers. In 1202-1203 A.D., he attacked Odantapuri and plundered the Buddhist monastery there. Next, he conquered Nalanda and Vikramasila as well. Lakshamana Sena, the ruler of Bengal, took no steps to check him so far and, ultimately, paid the price for his neglect. Ikhtiyar-ud-din attacked Nadia, the capital of Bengal, in 1204-1205 A.D.
He moved so fast that he left the bulk of the army much behind himself and reached the palace-gates with only eighteen horse-men. Lakshmana Sena felt that the Turks had made a surprise attack and fled out of fear. In the meantime, the Turkish army also reached there and Ikhtiyar-ud-din plundered Nadia. East Bengal remained with Lakshmana Sena, while south-west Bengal was occupied by Ikhtiyar-ud-din for Muhammad of Ghur.
He established his headquarters at Lakhnawati. Ikhtiyar-ud-din tried to conquer Tibet also but the expedition failed miserably. He had to return from near the border of Tibet because of geographical hazards. On his return journey, he was troubled by the hill-tribes and the soldiers of the State of Kamrupa.
He could reach Devakot only with one hundred soldiers. There he fell ill and was murdered by one of his own lieutenants, Ali Mardan. But before his death, he had brought Bihar and a large part of Bengal under Turkish control which was not even imagined by Muhammad or Aibak.
When the nobles of Muhammad were extending and consolidating his empire in India, he himself was busy fighting against the Khwarizm Shah of Persia. Muhammad’s elder brother, Ghiyas-ud-din had died in 1202 A.D. and therefore, Muhammad had become the ruler of the entire Ghur empire. Ghiyas-ud-din had always fought against his westernly neighbour, the Khwarizmians.
Muhammad pursued the same policy. But, he was severely defeated by them in 1205 A.D. at the battle of Andhkhud. He could hardly save his life and reached back his capital, Ghur. This defeat of Muhammad gave a setback to his reputation in India as well and it was rumoured that he had been killed. It led to revolts in different parts of India. In the north-west, the Khokars tried to capture Lahore, Muhammad came to India in 1205 A.D. and fought a battle against Khokars between the rivers Chenab and Jhelum.
The Khokars fought fiercely but were defeated and punished mercilessly. After setting right the affairs at Lahore, Muhammad returned to Ghazni. On the way, he was stabbed on 15 March 1206 A.D. at Damyaka on the banks of the river Indus, while he was engaged in his evening prayers.
Whether the assassins were Khokars or fanatical Shias of the heretical Ismaili sect, is not certain. Probably, both had conspired for it and succeeded. The body of Muhammad was carried to Ghazni and buried there.
An Estimate of Sultan Muiz-ud-din Muhammad of Ghur:
While making an assessment of the character and achievements of Muhammad of Ghur, one is usually tempted to compare him with those of Mahmud of Ghazni which sometimes unjustly reduces his importance. But, the status of Muhammad in Indian history, even while comparing him with Mahmud, is unquestionable. Muhammad had no comparison with Mahmud as a military leader.
Mahmud was a born military commander. His even Indian campaign was successful and he had been equally successful in Central Asia. Mahmud, thus, established an extensive and powerful empire and rightly deserved to be the first Sultan of the Islamic world. Muhammad’s military successes are no match to the successes of Muhammad. While Mahmud remained undefeated during his life-time.
Muhammad was badly defeated by his different adversaries three times. Mularaja II, the ruler of Gujarat, Prithviraja III, the ruler of Delhi and Ajmer and Khwarizm Shah, the ruler of Persia defeated him in turn. But the greatness of Muhammad was that none of those defeats could weaken his spirit or check his ambition. He took even’ failure as an experience, realised his weaknesses, removed them and got success in the end.
The successes and conquests of Muhammad brought about more permanent results than the conquests of Mahmud. Professor K.A. Nizami writes, “This ‘hero of three stupendous defeats — Andhkhud, Tarain and Anhilwara,’ as Professor Habib calls him, has to his credit the establishment of one of the greatest empires of the middle ages, and in this he definitely rises above Mahmud of Ghazni.”
Muhammad could understand better the political weaknesses of India at that time and therefore, decided to establish his empire in India. Of course, the conquest of north India was not a walk-over. Muhammad was stoutly resisted everywhere and twice defeated by the Rajputs.
Yet, he did not give up his goal. Mahmud was never defeated, though he attacked India more often than Muhammad. Yet, he did not think of establishing his empire here and limited his vision simply to plunder the wealth of India.
Thus, Muhammad possessed a higher ideal as compared to Mahmud. Muhammad also gave proof of his political farsightedness in dealing with different Rajput rulers. He attempted that the Rajputs should, in no way, be able to put up a common resistance to him and therefore, tried to get the sympathy or support of a few of them. That is why, he did not annex Delhi and Ajmer to his territories just after the second battle of Tarain.
Instead, he handed over the administration of Delhi to the son of Govindaraja and that of Ajmer to the son of Prithviraja III. It was Aibak who annexed them afterwards, when the Muslim power was fairly consolidated in north India. Muhammad neither changed the status of those Hindu chiefs who accepted his suzerainty nor interfered in their administration.
He simply established militan posts here and there and garrisoned them with Turkish troops in order to consolidate his hold over the conquered territories. This helped him in consolidating the Turkish power in India. Muhammad was a good judge of human nature. He could select the best men for his service, assign them responsibility according to their capability and get the best results out of their efforts.
Qutb-ud-din Aibak, Taj-ud-din Yulduz and Malik Bahauddin Tughril, who proved themselves fairly capable and were largely responsible for his successes in India, were trained by Muhammad. Professor A.B.M. Habibullah writes, “If he failed to found a dynasty, he yet trained up a band of men who were to prove more loyal to his ideals and better fitted to maintain his empire.”
The success of Muhammad was largely due to his own strength of character. He possessed a higher ideal from which he refused to deviate even after his initial failures in India and his defeat by Khwarizm Shah. Muhammad planned his attacks and conquests beforehand, changed them whenever necessary, removed his weaknesses when known and did not take unnecessary risks in battles and politics.
After his defeat at Anhilwara, he changed his course of attack on India and once defeated at the battle of Tarain, he came again with complete preparation and even amended his military tactics. As a military commander, he kept his eyes upon all his campaigns.
When he was fighting the Khokars in India, he had not lost touch with his campaigns in Central Asia and was equally interested in the building work of a frontier fortress at the banks of the river Oxus. That is why he was, ultimately, successful in his military campaigns. Muhammad was the real founder of Turkish rule in India and therein lay his greatest achievement and greatness.
Muhammad had no time to look after the administration of his territories in India. Virtually, he remained the ruler of Ghazni and Ghur. The task of administering his Indian conquests was mostly left to his slave and governor of Indian provinces, Qutb-ud-din Aibak. Primarily, his brother, Ghiyas-ud-din, was responsible for making Ghur the centre of culture of his empire.
But, Muhammad was also not indifferent to the cultural progress of his subjects. He patronised scholars like Fakhr-ud-din Razi and Nizami Uruzi. However, his greatest achievement was the establishment of the Turkish empire in India which added a fresh chapter to the Indian history.