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Battle of Ghazni, 1515
The battle of Ghazni (1515) saw Babur defeat a rebellion that broke out in the aftermath of the death of his brother Nasir Mirza, who had been the ruler of that city.
During his third occupation of Samarkand Babur left his brother Nasir Mirza in command in Kabul. In the winter of 1514-15, two years after being forced out of Samarkand for the final time, Babur returned to Kabul, where he was greeted by his brother, who surrendered his authority without any problems. In return he was given back his former possessions at Ghazni.
Early in 1515 Nasir Mirza died, and a revolt quickly broke out at Ghazni. The causes of the revolt are unknown, but it involved a surprisingly wide range of people. At the core of the revolt were a group of Mughals, Mongol mercenaries who had rebelled against Babur in the past, but the rebels also included a number of Babur's older retainers, including Mulla Baba of Pashaghar, previously a loyal support of Babur who had been left in command of Kabul during earlier campaigns.
Babur responded by gathering an army and marching on Ghazni. A number of skirmishes were fought, before the two armies formed up for a regular battle (at an unknown location). Just as the battle was about to begin Babur received reinforcements from Kunduz, commanded by Qambar-i-'ali, the son of Qasim Beg. The newly reinforced army defeated the rebels, capturing some of the leaders. Others escaped to Kashghar.
This battle seems to have pacified Babur's Afghan kingdom and eliminated the threat from his Mughal troops who had been unreliable allies ever since Babur had originally captured Kabul.
Exclusive: Inside the U.S. Fight to Save Ghazni From the Taliban
A n ominous orange glow lit up the sky for miles around. It was after midnight on Aug. 11, and the city of Ghazni, less than 100 miles from Kabul, was on fire. Approaching the outskirts of town in a convoy of heavily armored 22-ton vehicles, the team of Green Berets from Operational Detachment Alpha (ODA) Team 1333 took it as the first sign that it wasn&rsquot going to be an easy night.
The group was one of three U.S. Army Special Forces&ndashled units converging on Ghazni to save it from the Taliban, which had laid siege to the city over the previous 24 hours in a surprise attack. And the closer the Green Berets got, the worse it looked. Approaching the city, ODA 1333 had to muscle their massive vehicles around bomb craters and abandoned big-rig trucks that the Islamist insurgents had set up as roadblocks.
The dismal obstacle course wasn&rsquot just proof that the insurgents had the upper hand over the 1,500 Afghan police and soldiers based in the city, even though those forces were flush with sophisticated American-supplied weaponry. The team soon discovered the wreckage-strewn approach to the city had become a shooting gallery for hidden Taliban.
Rocket-propelled grenades and machine-gun fire came screaming in from a tree line to the east&mdashsmall bursts at first, then all at once. Streaks of heavy fire glowed green in the commandos&rsquo night-vision goggles as two- and three-man Taliban teams shot rockets at the Special Forces before vanishing into nearby scrubland. The U.S. forces returned fire with rapid bursts from the .50-caliber machine guns perched atop the vehicles. At one point, one of the men shouted, &ldquoWhere the f-ck are [the airstrikes]?&rdquo Almost on cue, a lumbering AC-130 gun ship circling above began showering 105-mm cannon fire on Taliban positions below. Apache attack helicopters, A-10 attack planes, F-16 fighter jets and MQ-9 Reaper drones also delivered airstrikes. The road into the city &ldquowas just a sh-t show,&rdquo one U.S. soldier tells TIME.
Back in Washington, the war in Afghanistan often seems like an afterthought. According to the Pentagon, combat missions officially ended in 2014, U.S. forces serve only as &ldquoadvisers,&rdquo and peace may be at hand. An unprecedented three-day June cease-fire was followed by secret U.S.-Taliban talks in Qatar in July. &ldquoWe&rsquore seeing the strategy is fundamentally working and advancing us toward reconciliation, even though it may not be playing out the way that we anticipated,&rdquo General John Nicholson, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said on Aug. 22.
But in August, America&rsquos 17-year enemy in Afghanistan, the Taliban, launched a coordinated set of assaults around the country ahead of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha. With echoes of the Tet offensive carried out by the Viet Cong during the Vietnamese New Year in 1968, the Taliban attack targeted vulnerable outposts peppered across seven provinces and claimed the lives of scores of Afghan forces.
The assault on Ghazni, which engulfed nearly all of the city&rsquos 19 districts, was the most orchestrated operation of this nationwide onslaught. And the Taliban&rsquos surprising effectiveness&mdashcapturing districts, nearly toppling a provincial capital and briefly ­cutting off the main north-south highway just 60 miles from the capital&mdashraises troubling questions about the state of the war. The battle was a major test of the Trump Administration&rsquos long-term military strategy, which hinges on defending population centers while ceding much of the remote countryside to the Taliban. It proved that U.S. forces still routinely rush to save Afghan forces struggling to contain a resurgent Taliban. That hard truth suggests the plan to train, advise and assist Afghans so they may one day defend themselves masks the costs the U.S. is still paying nearly two decades into the war, and a year after President Trump announced a new strategy to defeat the enemy. As Ghazni shows, the &ldquoassist&rdquo part is often difficult to distinguish from a traditional American combat mission.
Nine Americans were evacuated from the battlefield by helicopter because of injuries incurred by the Taliban&rsquos multiday barrage of roadside bombs, mortar shells and rockets. At least two soldiers received Purple Hearts after suffering serious wounds. Seven out of 10 armored vehicles in ODA 1333&rsquos convoy were lost to battle damage. The Special Forces team considered themselves lucky: a shoulder-fired rocket had a near miss with a medevac helicopter retrieving an injured soldier.
The carnage in this city of 150,000 shows how devastating the war remains for Afghans. An average of seven Afghan adults and two children were killed every day in the first six months of this year, according to the latest United Nations data, with another 19 civilians injured each day. The figures show 2018 is on track to be the deadliest year of the war. A generation of American military officers who arrived here after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks as fresh-faced lieutenants or majors have lived through the ferocious fighting. Some are now multiple-­tour colonels or generals, with children who have inherited the burden of waging America&rsquos longest war. Most of the soldiers&mdashAmerican and Afghan&mdash­who battled to take back Ghazni were in grade school on Sept. 11 and unable to foresee the countless ways the attacks would shape their lives.
This account of the multiday siege of Ghazni, described to TIME in on-the-ground interviews with dozens of U.S. and Afghan soldiers, commanders and citizens, offers a rare glimpse into the ongoing American military effort in Afghanistan. The extent of the destruction has not been previously reported. The Pentagon doesn&rsquot make the information publicly available, and TIME witnessed it only after gaining approval for an embedded deployment in Afghanistan after months of trying, long before the August offensive began.
The battle for Ghazni didn&rsquot come out of nowhere. The Taliban sensed an opportunity in the widening chaos created by years of war. For several months, five U.S. Special Forces teams, working with some 150 Afghan commandos, had left the area to fight a different threat: a growing Islamic State affiliate known as ISIS-Khorasan, or ISIS-K. An offshoot of the Syria-based terrorist group, it formed in Afghanistan in 2015 and has terrorized towns in eastern Nangarhar province through public executions, assaults on government buildings and suicide attacks.
The effort to repel ISIS-K was one of the largest joint operations ever conducted between U.S. and Afghan special forces. By August 2018, ISIS-K had lost nearly 200 fighters and most its territory. The joint mission did not go unnoticed. Over the summer, the U.S. military received intelligence that the Taliban was aware the Americans and Afghan commandos based around Ghazni were gone, Special Forces sources tell TIME.
The Taliban couldn&rsquot believe their good fortune. Moving weapons and fighters into Ghazni isn&rsquot a difficult task. There are many ways to smuggle materiel into the city, through ancient trading lines or unassuming vehicles that blend in with traffic. Some local officials believe security personnel guarding Ghazni&rsquos perimeter granted the Taliban free entry.
Despite the intelligence tip, the Taliban&rsquos initial attacks on Aug. 10 caught Washington and Kabul flat-footed. An estimated 1,000 Taliban fighters stormed the city and surrounding districts. The insurgents attacked government buildings, assaulted the central prison, destroyed a telecommunications tower and set fire to a local television station. Afghan local police and military officials temporarily lost control of several areas of the city.
U.S. Special Operations Command headquarters scrambled to respond, deploying three 12-man Green Beret teams from 1st Special Forces Group along with their Afghan partnered force from the 2nd Commando Kandak, and conventional U.S. infantry soldiers from 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.
For the men of ODA 1333 and their detachment of around 100 U.S. soldiers and Afghan commandos, the orders sounded straightforward: help secure two Afghan helicopters downed by the Taliban near Ghazni. They knew they would have to take the long way around, because the Taliban had buried so many land mines along the direct road leading into Ghazni that it was impassable. What was usually a 60-mile trip westward from Paktia province would instead cover 160 miles of terrain. The troops loaded up their weapons and clambered aboard hulking RG-33 and M-ATV armored vehicles, which rumbled into the night toward Highway 1, an ancient 300-mile two-lane road that serves as the main artery linking the seat of government in Kabul to Kandahar.
The Taliban knew the Americans were coming and where they were coming from&mdashthere was only one way in. So the militants lay in wait, armed with rocket-propelled grenades, mortars and AK-47s.
The soldiers of ODA 1333 would never reach the downed helicopters. Instead, they spent the next five days fighting hundreds of Taliban fighters in an endless series of running battles that debilitated vehicles and maimed members of their unit. &ldquoI&rsquove never seen that many [rocket-propelled grenades] in my career,&rdquo says the team&rsquos sergeant, who, like others, spoke to TIME on the condition of anonymity.
In the face of recurring attacks, ODA 1333 and their attached units weren&rsquot able to breach the city until some 17 hours later. The soldiers moved to a small makeshift outpost on Ghazni&rsquos outskirts, where U.S. Special Forces teams had been based before the 2014 troop drawdown. Even there, they could find no refuge. Within 25 minutes of arriving, a mortar round arched over the perimeter and crashed through the back wall of a plywood structure where two Afghan soldiers were bedding down. The percussive thump of mortar fire shook the ground under the men, followed by the crack of gunfire over their heads, ODA 1333&rsquos intelligence chief recalls. As the Americans and Afghans scrambled for protective cover, Apache helicopters wheeled low outside the base, hunting for the fighters responsible, blanketing the perimeter with gunfire and briefly quieting the attacks.
By that time, the sun was out and the fighting had died down enough to set up camp. When the Afghan troops were finally able to shed their combat gear, it was clear many of them had been toddlers when the war began in 2001. Some infantry soldiers still had baby faces, unlike the bearded, tattooed Special Forces team members. All were motivated to get back into the fight. The Taliban had not seized control of a provincial capital in Afghanistan since 2015. It wasn&rsquot going to happen again on their watch.
On Aug. 12, ODA 1333 prepared to mount a counter­attack. U.S. Special Forces Team ODA 1212, which arrived overnight, would also push inside the city. The teams would be further aided by 60 additional Afghan commandos and aerial footage from MQ-9 Reaper drones. The goal was to secure the government facilities, police headquarters, prison and district center under attack. The operational plan was coordinated with Afghan forces, which had incurred more than 100 casualties from two straight days of fighting. As they left the outpost and headed into the city, team members could see decomposing corpses in front of burned-out buildings.
For those who lived in Ghazni, the scene was apocalyptic. Gunfire rattled through the air, rockets hissed and airstrikes crashed in the distance. Sami Ahmadi, a 24-year-old English student at Ghazni University, gathered his family and huddled inside his basement for shelter. &ldquoWe were terrified,&rdquo he recalls. &ldquoPolice were killed, their bodies lying in the road.&rdquo
As forces pushed farther into the city, waves of citizens emerged, carrying what they could in their arms to flee the fighting. They were migrating north on foot to seek safety in nearby towns, or even onto Kabul. Behind them, small teams of Taliban were laced through Ghazni&rsquos narrow, serpentine streets.
The insurgents had stormed the prison on the southeastern edge of the city to free captured fighters, but that attempt was ultimately thwarted. Their effort to breach the provincial government building was quashed as well. But the Taliban put up a tough fight in the streets. At one point, as ODA 1333&rsquos convoy inched forward, three Taliban emerged from an alleyway and fired a rocket that slammed into one vehicle&rsquos machine-gunner turret, injuring the Air Force pararescue jumper manning the position. Bits of metal and debris flew into the vehicle. The air was thick and acrid. &ldquoThere was so much smoke and dust,&rdquo says Tamim Ahmed, the team&rsquos Afghan interpreter. &ldquoI couldn&rsquot see straight for a couple minutes.&rdquo
The vehicle&rsquos other gunner turned his weapon on the Taliban fighters, who were dumbfounded they didn&rsquot kill everyone inside the truck. With a burst of fire, the gunner took out all three insurgents. But the pararescue jumper was severely wounded. A young soldier in another vehicle was also hit with shrapnel that would ultimately claim an eye. Neither man has been publicly named, but both later received Purple Heart awards, according to U.S. military officers in Afghanistan. (Despite their perilous mission, the U.S. military officially labels these soldiers as &ldquoadvisers.&rdquo) When a rescue helicopter arrived to evacuate the wounded, a rocket came within 150 feet of hitting it.
It was clear from the nonstop attacks that U.S. forces would have to stay inside Ghazni Provincial Center, a local government headquarters building, to ensure it wouldn&rsquot be overtaken. ODA 1212 split off from 1333 and established a headquarters there with Afghan forces. The soldiers stayed away from open windows and tried to remain hidden on the roof from snipers positioned just outside the facility&rsquos fortified gates, waiting for a clean shot.
Over the following two days, the Taliban switched its focus to Ghazni&rsquos less-defended surrounding areas. Afghan commando and Ktah Khas counter­terrorism teams went house to house, clearing neighborhoods of Taliban fighters. It was the audacity of the Taliban&rsquos tactics in Ghazni that stuck out to U.S. soldiers. ODA 1333 and other teams had been attacked in Ghazni before, but typically in hit-and-runs&mdashTaliban fighters would hang a mortar round or take a pot shot at their enemies, then melt in with the local population. During this siege of Ghazni, the insurgents walked the streets in broad daylight, firing on American armored vehicles, knowing U.S. warplanes were hunting them overhead. &ldquoFrom a military standpoint, it&rsquos not very smart,&rdquo the Special Forces team sergeant says. &ldquoBecause they attack and they usually die. But if they get off what they need to get off, I guess they feel like they win.&rdquo
The Taliban seemed to have a limitless supply of rockets, sometimes firing 20 or 30 at a time. One after another, U.S. vehicles were knocked out of the fight. When that happened, another unit would arrive to hook up a tow rope and drag the vehicle out of the kill zone, all while exposing themselves to enemy fire. The Taliban had all that firepower inside the city, and Afghan and U.S. forces had to deal with it.
But in addition to armor, advanced weaponry and superior training, the U.S. had another major advantage: air dominance. The military said it dropped 73 bombs and missiles in the Ghazni operation. By Aug. 15, a third Special Forces team and additional units had arrived in Ghazni. Thanks to the airstrikes, the Taliban began falling back. The U.S. military said 226 Taliban were killed during the operations.
Typically, both sides declared victory. Even as the fighting drove them from the city, the Taliban bragged that it had sent a clear message to President Donald Trump that &ldquothe conquest of this city signifies the failure of yet the latest American strategy,&rdquo according to a released statement. &ldquoThe experience of Ghazni has proven that no defensive belts of cities can withstand the offensive prowess of the Mujahideen.&rdquo In truth, the strategic value of the Ghazni attack seems to have been the tweets, headlines and video footage that rippled across social-­media feeds, showing armed Taliban brazenly roaming free inside the city center. The message was clear: the Taliban remains a fierce enemy who can strike whenever they choose, regardless of peace talks and hopes of reconciliation.
Rise to Power and Claiming the New Authority of ‘Sultan’
Mahmud of Ghazni was born in AD 971 in the town of Ghazni, Khorasan (which is today in the south-eastern part of Afghanistan). His father, Abu Mansur Sabuktegin, was a Mamluk warrior slave of Turkic origin, and the founder of the Ghaznavid Empire. In AD 977, Sabuktegin succeeded his father-in-law, Alptigin, as the governor of Ghazna. Like his predecessor, Sabuktegin recognised the nominal authority of the Samanid Empire over his domains. This, however, would change when his son Mahmud came to power.
In AD 997, Sabuktegin died of an illness and was succeeded by one of his sons, Ismail. Mahmud was not satisfied with this arrangement, and rebelled against his younger brother. In AD 998, the battle of Ghazni was fought between the two brothers, with Mahmud emerging as the victor, and thus the new ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire. Mahmud decided to break away from the Samanid Empire, which was disintegrating at that time. In addition, the new ruler was a fervent Muslim, and adopted the title ‘Emir’ in deference to the Abbasid caliph, who in turn legitimised Mahmud’s rule. Mahmud also adopted the title ‘Sultan’, which means ‘authority’ in the Arabic language. The adoption of this title was meant to symbolise his power, and also to show his independence from the Samanids.
Mahmud of Ghazni first success from Hutchinson's story of the nations ( Public Domain )
What is the truth about the Somnath temple and Mahmud of Ghazni?
Indian history is a mountain of complexity. Not only does it relate to a HUGE number of kingdoms and rulers but all kinds of interpretations, which only a professional historian can unravel. I am no professional historian, but each time I attempt to take India forward India blocks the way by asserting PRIMITIVE hatred amongst the two religions of Islam and Hinduism.
India likes to remain a medieval nation, and no amount of prodding it to become a modern nation shows signs of being actualised. The BJP, which is in power today, is ENTIRELY there because of its ability to strengthen the Hindu-Muslim divide. People in India feed off the Hindu-Muslim divide.
India seems to be a lost cause.
I don't know whether there is anything of value in my trying to enter this deep and dirty water of the history of India's communal past.
EVEN IF there was the greatest bigotry in the past, that doesn't mean modern India should have anything to do with it. There was the most vicious hatred and internecine killings amongst Christians in Europe, in the past. That doesn't mean modern USA or Europe are obliged to do anything about these ancient killings, apart from have historians study it for the record.
However, there distorted histories cause deep confusions. It is possible that by picking up this topic, I'll merely add to the confusion. I hope not to add to the confusion but to increase clarity. At least the history should be known properly, in all its complexity.
Once again, please be aware that my interest in looking at this issue is not political but objective. It doesn't matter what happened. None of that justifies any hatred/crime today.
Even historians fear to grapple with this issue. It is worthwhile, however, to look at it, to increase one's knowledge.
THIS IS A PLACEHOLDER BLOG POST re: Somnath Temple. I've not formed any view, nor am I in a hurry to do so. I'll keep adding references till one fine day I've got enough information to form a view. Please provide any SCHOLARLY links/ evidence that you are aware of. If not to me, hopefully this info will be of use to beginning students of history in schools and colleges.
Rebuilding by public (NOT government) funds in mid-20th century:
"Patel also pledged the reconstruction of the ancient but dilapidated Somnath Temple in Saurashtra &mdash he oversaw the creation of a public trust and restoration work, and pledged to dedicate the temple upon the completion of work (the work was completed after Patel's death, and the temple was inaugurated by the first President of India, Dr. Rajendra Prasad" [Source]
Romila Thapar's view on the complex history of the temple
Ram Puniyani's views
Mahmud Gazni on way to Somanth encountered the Muslim ruler of Multan (Abdul Fat Dawod), with whom he had to have a battle to cross Multan. In the battle the Jama Masjid of Multan was badly damaged. Further on way he struck compromise with Anandpal, the ruler of Thaneshwar who escorted his army towards Somanth with due hospitality. Gazni&rsquos army had a good number of Hindu soldiers and five out of his 12 generals were Hindus (Tilak, Rai Hind, Sondhi, Hazran etc). Before proceeding to damage the temple he took custody of the gold and jewels, which were part of the temple treasury. After the battle he issued coins in his name with inscriptions in Sanskrit and appointed a Hindu Raja as his representative in Somnath. [Source]
Notes by Manmit Madan on FB
Various historical sources such as Martin Ewans, E.J. Brill and Farishta have recorded the introduction of Islam to Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan to the conquests of and Mahmud:
The Arabs advanced through Sistan and conquered Sindh early in the eighth century. Elsewhere however their incursions were no more than temporary, and it was not until the rise of the Saffarid dynasty in the ninth century that the frontiers of Islam effectively reached Ghazni and Kabul. Even then a Hindu dynasty the Hindushahis, held Gandhara and eastern borders. From the tenth century onwards as Persian language and culture continued to spread into Afghanistan, the focus of power shifted to Ghazni, where a Turkish dynasty, who started by ruling the town for the Samanid dynasty of Bokhara, proceeded to create an empire in their own right. The greatest of the Ghaznavids was Muhmad who ruled between 998 and 1030. He expelled the Hindus from Gandhara, made no fewer than 17 raids into northwestern India,
He encouraged mass conversions to Islam, in India as well as in Afghanistan
Attack on 'Kafiristan':
Another crusade against idolatry was at length resolved on and Mahmud led the seventh one against Nardain, the then boundary of India, or the eastern part of the Hindu Kush separating as Firishta says, the countries of Hindustan and Turkistan and remarkable for its excellent fruit. The country into which the army of Ghazni marched appears to have been the same as that now called Kafirstan, where the inhabitants were and still are, idolaters and are named the Siah-Posh, or black-vested by the Muslims of later times. In Nardain there was a temple, which the army of Ghazni destroyed and brought from thence a stone covered with certain inscriptions, which were according to the Hindus, of great antiquity.
Mahmud, according to several contemporary accounts, considered himself a Ghazi who waged jihad on the Hindus. His plunder of Hindu temples and centers of learning is noted later in the article. Al-Biruni writes:
In the interest of his successors he constructed, in order to weaken the Indian frontier, those roads on which afterwards his son Mahmud marched into India during a period of thirty years and more. God be merciful to both father and son! Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims. This is the reason, too, why Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benares, and other places. And there the antagonism between them and all foreigners receives more and more nourishment both from political and religious sources.
PETER VAN DER VEER
Ayodhya and Somnath: Eternal Shrines, Contested Histores, Social Research, Vol. 59, No. 1, Religion and Politics (SPRING 1992), pp. 85-109 [JSTOR]
This entry was posted in India and tagged in History.
23 thoughts on &ldquo What is the truth about the Somnath temple and Mahmud of Ghazni? &rdquo
> My interest in looking at this issue is not political but objective.
What are you trying to find? I believe everything there is to discuss regarding this topic has already been done to death (short of a time machine).
I often start off placeholder blog posts on issues that interest me. This one has come up repeatedly in discusssions by Hindutva groups, so it would be good to know what actually happened. If you know anything I’ll be grateful if you can share.
You would know the basic accepted facts, I believe. Regardless of the origin of the temple itself, it was an ancient site of pilgrimage and commerce, so there would likely have been a temple, but the wooden construction leaves no traces—we can only state surety about the later stone temple. Mahmud Ghazni did indeed loot and sack the temple—that much is non-controversial. He also did indeed break the idol (whose identity the invading Muslim barbarians may have confounded with Al-Manat, of Satanic Verses fame). He was hailed as a “Ghazi” or Champion of Islam and considered his invasions as holy Al-Jihad. He was felicitated and anointed “Sultan” (of Ghazni) by the Muslim Pope (Caliph). All this is historical fact, attested to by Mahmud’s own chroniclers.
I believe this, by itself, presents a damning case against the Looter from Ghazni. If Hindutvawadis claim this, they’re right. Read, for example, Romila Thapar’s balanced account in Frontline magazine (her account is used by, for example, UPSC). You have a link to it.
The main “controversy” is/was created by ignoramuses like Shri KM Munshi or Hindu supremacists like Shri Rajendra Prasad. Even Sardar Patel and Gandhiji were wise enough to let bygones be bygones and keep government out of religion. Munshiji’s claim that Somnath temple destruction was a landmark of iconoclasm in India is greatly exaggerated, if not outright wrong. Many Hindus in Awadh feel more strongly about Ram Temple/Babri Masjid, hence it may be Munshiji, Patelji and Gandhiji’s Gujarati bias showing. At the time, THERE WAS NO INDIA!
Simultaneously, Muslim apologists point of the “fact” that temple-destruction and looting was a common practice even among Hindu and Jain Kings. This is very likely true. Since temples were the seat of wealth and power, it made sense to destroy a rival’s temples to prove ascendancy of one’s own patron god (and, by implication, the King whose patron that god was). Jain chroniclers seem almost pleased, and gloat, at any rate, that Mahavira was a superior god to Shiva as the latter was not able to protect “his” temple. Before Islam “compressed” the Indian pantheon into “Hinduism,” a disagreement about the primacy of Vishnu or Shiva could have very well led to bloody war! However, I do not see how any of this is even remotely connected to Ghaznavi Lootera’s greed and iconoclastic “Ghazified” zeal. This seems like whataboutery (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whataboutism) to me. The fact that there may be other looters and murderers among Gujaratis does not decrease the guilt of the one in question. Ghaznavi’s motives were NOT solely greed or political power—he was the first encounter of (what is now) India with militant Islamification.
The earlier Muslim population in Gujarat and Kerala (mostly Arab and Persian traders and businessmen) were a peaceful bunch, and local Hindus also paid respect to their God Al-lah, even going as far as giving temple land for Masjids—which were recognised places of worship by Hindu/Jain Kings and accorded all privileges available to temples. This tradition of not only respecting gods one knows about, but also gods of other people, is not unique to India, but was surely evident on a large scale in India. The excellent business reputation of Arabs and moreso Persians also served to bolster their position in Indian society, despite their smaller numbers, and they serve as the basis of ancient Muslim clans in India (like Bohras). Seeing this to be the case, I would say that Mahmud was definitely not a product of his times. Muslims were already present in India and had excellent social relations. Many such Muslims might even have fought the invaders alongside their Hindu neighbours (Romila Thapar gives a poignant example). What Muslim apologists today forget is that in contemporary chronicles, Mahmud is lauded for murdering as many MUSLIM “heretics” (50000 or so), as Hindus (Kafirs). One only wonders what his definition of “heresy” was, but I hazard a guess that Shias, Ismailis and Sunni Arabs who peacefully lived in Gujarat bore the brunt of his purge. His fanaticism was of the Taliban/Al Qaeda variety, i.e., willing even to kill Muslims who didn’t agree completely with his Islam, and surpassed only by his greed.
To summarise, the destruction of Somnath temple is greatly exaggerated by the Gujarati bias of Munshiji, and should be taken together with a general study of iconoclasm under Muslim rulers (which would include in-famous Mughal cases). At the same time, it is impossible to find a more contemptible villain in medieval history than Mahmud of Ghazni, who slaughtered Muslim and Hindu alike in his lust for power and gold.
Thanks for this, Alex. I have no doubt that Ghazni – like many Islamic criminals today – took refuge in a crude interpretation of Islam. My curiosity has been piqued by Puniyani’s statement that 5 of Ghazni’s generals were Hindu. What’s that about? Any thoughts on that?
I am very much inclined to distrust Dr. Puniyani’s theses, considering that not only does he not have any academic credentials regarding medieval history, but he has not published these views in any academic publications also. Amusingly, though I hold antagonistic views towards Ms. Thapar’s communism, while I’m sympathetic towards Dr Puniyani’s message of anti-communalism, yet here I respect Ms. Thapar’s capabilities as a historian, where Dr. Puniyani intends to sacrifice truth at the altar of communal harmony (as Govt of India has been doing for decades).
With that out of the way, I now take Dr. Puniyani’s claim at face value. I’m not the least surprised if Hindu Kings and mercenaries actually let Mahmud pass or even actively fought among his armies for money. At that time, suppose you were a worshipper of Vishnu and had a mortal enmity with blasphemous followers of Shiva—thus when bandit followers of Lah (a more remote, western god) raise an army to destroy the abhorrent Shaivites and cast their false idol on the ground, you would enthusiastically support them! Especially if you got rich in the bargain! It should be understood that there was no “India” at that point, so questions of “Indian” unity or betrayal do not arise. Also, I again say, that Hindus considered Lah to be yet another god worshipped by other people. There would have been any number of Hindus willing to align with followers of a lesser-known god to destroy and loot followers of a god who was a known enemy and rival of one’s own patron god, especially if there was a lot of gold to be made. Since this phenomenon has been seen even in British times (“Indians” fired upon their “brothers” in Jallianwala Bagh), I’d not be surprised if it was true in Mahmud’s times as well. Again, NONE OF THIS EXONERATES MAHMUD, or lessens his guilt. Even if he was a part of a marauding Hindu mob of bandits, HE HIMSELF WAS STILL A BANDIT AND MURDERER. Differently from any Hindus with him, and also from Muslim residents of Gujarat, he was ALSO A MILITANT ISLAMIST (GHAZI), which the Hindus with him were not, neither were the Muslims living in Gujarat.
HOWEVER, I do not know of any reliable history sources for these claims, and as I said earlier, I’m inclined to distrust Dr. Puniyani’s theories as simple attempts to camouflage the hard truth to appeal to Mahmud’s Muslim fans (mostly in Pakistan, many in India just like Hitler has Hindutvawadi “fans”).
The sheer fabrication he repeats regarding Kashi Vishwanath temple “rape case” greatly lessens whatever small credibility he has with me. Such an extraordinary claim requires STRONG historical evidence from SEVERAL sources (like there exists for Ghazni), while he cites who but Dr. Pattabhi Sitarammiah, who has near zero chops as a historian. An alleged “rape” DOES NOT “POLLUTE” A SHIVA TEMPLE SO THAT IT MUST BE DESTROYED.
He again lapses into Whataboutism regarding Hindu Kings destroying each others’ temples, Jain and Buddhist Kings struggling with Hindu rulers, Muslim rulers destroying each others’ mosques, etc. NONE OF THIS HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE MILITANT ISLAM OF MAHMUD AND THE FANATICISM OF AURANGZEB. Standing in a band of murderers DOES NOT absolve one of murder.
Then again, claims about Shivaji respecting Muslim worship and even sponsoring mosques have no bearing on the issue. Hindu Kings, being protectors of religion in their realm, had been known to do this, even offering temple-lands for the purpose, even before the time of Mahmud’s looting expedition. An average (non supremacist) Hindu, even today, has no problems with paying obeisance at various mazaars and Churches. Neither are (non supremacist) Muslims offended by this.
While discussing the conversion of predominantly working classes to Islam (while the landed and priestly classes remained Hindu), Dr. Puniyani omits the major role of Jaziya, which disproportionately affected poor folk who would thus have to convert. In discussing the horrible state of women and untouchables in Manu’s Hinduism, he conveniently omits the EVEN MORE HORRIBLE state of women in Islam, and the PERPETUATION OF UNTOUCHABILITY AND CASTE in Muslims. Barani, in his Fatwa-e-Jahandari, gives a description of Muslim castes in medieval India (before and around the rule of Firuzshah Tughlaq). Do you know what Halalkhor and Lalbegia are? THESE ARE MUSLIM SHUDRAS. Their job is to clean the shit of the Mullahs so that they can lead the other Muslims to jannat. Read Dr Ambedkar’s views on the problems in Muslim society here: http://www.columbia.edu/itc/mealac/pritchett/00ambedkar/ambedkar_partition/410.html Some dalits (Hindu/Buddhist) are more equal than others (Muslim), eh?
All considered, Dr. Puniyani’s work appears little more than Muslim apologist fluff, but I’ll give him benefit of the doubt if he can produce historical evidence to back up his claims and refrain from bringing up the poor status of women and untouchables, which is not exclusive to “Hindu” society.
Alex C. Re:THESE ARE MUSLIM SHUDRAS. Their job is to clean the shit of the Mullahs so that they can lead the other Muslims to jannat.
They must be Brahman converts, who couldn’t leave their practices suddenly. That’s the beauty of Islam, those people who wanted to change Islam have been vanished but Islam remained unchanged. Still advocating absolute equality.
Plundering temples among rival Hindus was far more common in the south than in the North. Especially amongst Tamils whether the “temple” in question was the main tree of a sacred or an elaborate structures that dominated medieval India of the later Cholas.
The reason for this was that South Indians were considered Vratyas by rest of the country ie ethnically Kshatriyas but degraded in status for disagreeing and or revolting against Brahmincal strictures.
We see similar activities by the Marathas during their Reconquista of India and their plundering of temples under Tipu’s reign gave Islamist apologist/hyper secularists such as Girish Karnad the cover they needed . Especially since Tipu Sultan offered to repair said temples and chastised the Marathas for committing such heinous acts.
Keep in mind at this time, Marathas were in the process of expanding their empire and finishing off any remaining vestiges of Muslim tyranny as was the case of Tipu Sultan. And Tipu was getting increasingly desperate with Napolean’s defeats to English(Tipu was allied with the French while Hyder ali , his father. had sent a token regiment to the Americas to fight the British there!). So Tipu was trying his best to make amends with as many potential allies as possible.
And again Marathas per Shastras were considered South Indian.
Coming to the Somnath case, the existence of which was a bone of contention to pious Muslims since the days of Prophet Mohammed. It was considered a sort of sister temple to Kaaba in pre Islamic times and it was believed by Muslims and Hindus that some of dieties that were uprooted by Mohammed escaped and took refuge in Somnath.
The temples large treasury was also a juicy target. So from a material and Islamic POV, Somnath was doomed.
As Mahmoud having Brahmin generals(I believe his name was Tilak) , this was not unique. Tipu Sultan’s ablest generals were Tamil Brahmins. THe backbone of Mughals elite core were Rajputs.
But then again Shivaji and later Marathas also had Muslim generals. There are good number of American Muslims working in CIA,the armed forces and FBI who are proudly fighting Islamic extremism in U.S and abroad.
As with economics it is with war- a question of incentives. To those Hindus serving Muslims and vice versa the notion of being loyal to a mythical Hindu rashtra or Muslim umma was highly unrealistic when their own immediate lives and property was at stake.
Keep in mind, self consciously Hindu Shivaji,Vijayanagar Empire, Maharana Pratap et al arose due to particulary bigoted and tyrannical rulers who loathed Hinduism and wanted to uproot it from the country and turn it into a Islamic despotism.
There were hardly any rebellions against englightened folks such Sher Shah Suri or Akbar who pursued a live and let live policy.
Javed, please spare us the Islam is equality rubbish.
From day 1, there was a clear distinction between Arab Muslims and non Arab Muslims (mawaali). The latter is an abusive word to this very day.
I don’t know if you ever lived in the Middle East. In a way Im glad for the racism of the even the most egalitarian minded Arab Muslims. It is where the delusions of Indian Muslims go to die.
Im sure you are aware of Sayyid,Ashraf and Arzal castes, Im sorry categories in Indian Islam. What are they…
Sayyid descendents of prophet Mohammad
Ashraf are those of Arab, Persian,Pushtun,Turk blood
Arzal are the native Indian converts
In that order. I ask you why this self hatred and groveling to Arabs?
Either way when you go and tell Arabs of your Arab ancestry ,they just laugh and call you a mawaali
When tell them how religious you are Ali, they see your assimilation of Hindu society as proof that you are kaafir and mushrik!
So I ask you what is the point of your lecture? You are only fooling yourself!
YSV Rao, behave like a gentleman. There is no harm in responding politely. Calling any faith as ‘rubbish’ shows your status of thinking. Anyway, I meant to say the same thing you are telling that some people have adopted the faith, but not the teachings completely.
I’m living in Saudi Arabia since 21 years, never came across of any Sayyid/Sayyed among Arabs. They use Alsayyed السيد as the prefix to any name while addressing somebody as we use Mr. Xyz. Even they’ll call you with the same prefix.
Although, in South East Asia (sp. India, Pakistan or Bangladesh) some of the elite converts started using “Sayyed” as their identity for superiority claiming that they’re the descendants of the Prophet PBUH. While, the truth is that there is no descendant of the prophet, since his male children didn’t survive for inheritence. So, these foolish nuts relate them to Bibi Fatima, eldest daughter of prophet married to Ali. This way they are the inherits of Ali not the prophet. Even though, they couldn’t gain the superiority in the community for which they are dying of. No superior treatment is given to any of them anywhere.
I didn’t see any of Ashrafs or Arzals.
For further clarification please go thru Last Sermon given by the Prophet PBUH. An excerpt:
” All mankind is from Adam and Eve. An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab, nor does a non-Arab have any superiority over an Arab a white has no superiority over a black, nor does a black have any superiority over a white [none have superiority over another] except by piety and good action.”
For complete Sermon please visit:
You can observe this phenomenon in every Mosque, even in the most sacred places of Makkah and Madina, where nobody is given priority for his color, nationality, region or wealth. The imam who leads the prayer in Makkah or Madina could be a black from Africa or a Bangali or a Burmese. All Arabs would follow him. Likewise, everywhere in the world. There are the examples of Mahmud (Emperor) and Ayaz (servant) always use to pray side by side, shoulder to shoulder.
Re: Either way when you go and tell Arabs of your Arab ancestry ,they just laugh and call you a mawaali
When tell them how religious you are Ali, they see your assimilation of Hindu society as proof that you are kaafir and mushrik!
These are all your allegations, never observed by anybody in the ME. Rather the facts in my previous comment prove you wrong. No doubt there are few among Muslims who could be called as mushrik, those who go to Dargahs (tombs), where any saint is buried with the intention that those saints will recommend to God and will provide their wishes.
An interesting post and some very spirited discussion in the comments.
As you rightly said, “Indian history is a mountain of complexity … only a professional historian can unravel”. I am not a historian, I am not as erudite as gentlemen in this forum – but in my non-expert non-nuanced non-academic reading of Islamic-Persian texts, Mahmud of Gahzni was nothing but a bloodthirsty genocidal maniac who would be labeled a war-criminal or terrorist in today’s age. I base this on English translations of works by Al-Biruni, Minhaj-i-Siraj and Ishtakhri. His only softer side was his deep love for his slave-boy Malik Ayaz, the founder of Lahore.
I have talked about the destruction of Somnath Temple by various Muslim warlords in a detailed note here.
Destruction of Somnath Temple
Would love to here your views on this.
India was not a ‘country’ is a myth propagated by the british missionary historians and later on by nehru’s marxist historians.. cant believe that Indians still fall prey for that..
Rajesh, I’ve not read your link, but there is absolutely no question of India being a country in the modern sense of the word till 1947. It was a disparate collection of kingdoms, with people who spoke widely different languages, and had no idea about each other. Yes, there was a common culture, but no, there was no India in the modern sense of a nation.
really, no idea of each other? is that why Ramayana has version in every language? Is that why pilgrimages happen from Varnasi to Rameshwaram to Kanyakumari to Amarnath? Is that why no one tells any of the lakhs of people to go to Kumb mela but people automatically go from all over the country? Do you read any of the literature in the ancient times? Tamil poem puranaanuru which was written in the BCE clearly gives the demarcation between Kashmir to Kanyakumari.. same with many other literature..
Bhakti movement spread from the south to the north. If people did not know each other why all these happen? Nation state in the political sense like democracy, passport and visa regime is new but nationhood in the cultural and people sense was always there.. certain cultural symbols and practices can be seen throughout the country in a similar form.. you read the article, there are many other proofs as well.. recently found cities like Lothal are also example of that..
Yes, there was a cultural overlay, and trade, but being politically entirely different, there was no common country. Till TV came in, the vast majority of North Indians considered the whole of South India “Madras”. There was no clue about other languages/ detailed culture. Most North Indians don’t understand that Brahmins in many parts of the country eat meat. And that Brahmins in many parts of India eat beef.
Are you serious? This the reason for ‘not being a country’ ? I travel to Europe extensively. People have no clue about how others live just 200 Kms away in the same country and they dont even understand the same language well.. North Germans find the bavarian German strange.. but Austrians have it in common because of geography. That is the key: GEOGRAPHY..
To say that “politically entirely different” means it is the same everywhere else.. was China united ‘politically’ ? NO. was Europe united? No.. even a small country like Czechoslovakia has to split into Czech and Slovak.. USA became united only 300 years back.. then we are waving in empty space..
Romilla Thapar starts her essay with saying that she presents five different narratives on Somnath. But even according to her, at least three of those narratives are not anywhere near serious pieces of evidence. How can such folklores be allowed to contradict and confuse other evidences?
India did not exist? So did Britain exist or UK? France? Brussels? Germany? Austria? Czeckhoslovakia? Did they all speak the same language? Britain is still an Island one-fifteenth the size of India. That is the scale! It is a sub continent. Do all Australians understand Creole? Does people in London speak like people in Coventry? Pakistan is still trying unsuccessfully to impose Urdu on Sindhis, Baluchis and Punjabis. That is hardly the way for sane argument based on logic for defining nation state. Saurabh where are you from? Rajesh had given the exact answer for this… This tutored, memorised, oft repeated incantations that are so overpoweringly colonial in nature asking to prove the definition of this Nation that was as big as it is now- extending across Asia spanning great mountain systems and rivers for millenia… Which remained like that through out the periods spanned by the Kushanas, Mauryas, Guptas, Marathas, Vijayanagara, Chalukyas, Pallavas (who ventured into far east and established a kingdom as far as Khambhoj(Cambodia). All of them followed one culture, one philosophy or the derivatives of that philosophy which essentially repeated one and the same thing. If till recently people were ignorant about other states and provinces it was because of the lack of communication and lack of infrastructure for which erstwhile govts are responsible. If India was jugaad nation state, responsible leaders should have tried to unite and bond loose ends at the earliest. Isn’t that so? Instead of arguing about the “idea of India”. India is not just an idea. It may be for certain people who have a different idea of what is India? People whose entire generations were born and had survived in this multifarious society knows exactly what India is. It is a living, functioning, real entity. This notion that BJP is creating a Pan Hindu mindset is the most stupidest and weak argument which is another regurgitation of oft repeated narrative of storm in a tea cup Jholawaalas. Brahmins in many part of the country eat beef? Show me one Brahmin or a written account of any Brahmin eating beef willfully as a permitted act as part of his religious belief and especially from a previous generation… In the present generation there might be many who may be doing so. It is like saying that just because few Muslim youngsters might eat pork, or many Muslims consume liquour, they are a discordant lot. No muslim worth his name ever eats pork wilfully and in public. Likewise the Brahmins will not. Even then, if the young do consume beef when the Brahmin community is oh! so orthodox, how would they get the courage to do so? That itself speaks volumes for the liberal attitudes and change in that particular community. So are other communities becoming better and better in out look and attitude. But forcing someone to eat something that is associated with deep rooted aversion and fear of the unknown is surely not of any progressive nature. Where do you hear or see these things? The only instance I had heard is when Jawaharlal Nehru (Kashmiri Pandit) visited a congress leader’s(Christian) home in Kerala where he was supposed to have lunch and beef was prepared due to a special request by his entourage. But to the host’s dismay Nehru refused to eat the beef. When the host persisted, he admitted that even though he had consumed beef earlier during his student days in London, he has given word to Gandhiji that he would not eat beef anymore and since Gandhiji’s death, this is the only word he has been able to keep to sustain his fond memories.
One need to go to the roots of the Hindu- Muslim divide – take corrective steps at the roots to solve the problem.
One thing I don’t understand as a Hindu that the God who couldn’t protect his temple or his followers during Muhammad Gazni and other rulers’ attacks is worshipable?
Unlocking the ancient secret of the levitating Shiva-lingam of the Somnath Temple –
The forgotten crowning achievement of ancient Indian Scientific Thought.
Dr Nishit Sawal.
D.M.[Neurology]-AIIMS, New Delhi.
The Hindu Shiva temple of Shri Somanath located in the Prabhas Kshetra near Veraval in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat, India, is the first among the twelve Jyotirlinga shrines of the God Shiva. The temple is considered very sacred among the Hindus due to the various legends connected to it. Somnath means “Lord of the Soma”, an epithet of Shiva 1. The very mention of this ancient , revered Jyotirlinga brings vivid in the memory of every Indian the infamous raid of Mahmud of Ghazni on the famous temple. Mahmud of Ghazni , taking advantage of the bitter , internecine fighting among the Indian Kingdoms at that time , managed to defeat the Indian Kings and storm Somnath , looting the temple and breaking the famous idol in 1025–1026 A.D2. History chiefly remembers Mahmud of Ghazni for this nefarious deed and even the textbook history of the ancient Somnath temple usually centers around this infamous looting raid.
However another forgotten aspect of the Somnath temple was the floating Shiva-linga in the temple. About it , the famous Persian geographer Zakariyah Al Kazvini wrote the following interesting account 3–
“ Somnath is a celebrated city of India, situated on the shore of the sea and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of the place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnath. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was regarded with great veneration by the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Mussulman or an infidel. The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon, and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand. They believed that the souls of men used to meet there after separation from the body, and that the idol used, at its pleasure, to incorporate them in other bodies, in accordance with their doctrine of transmigration. The ebb and flow of the tide was considered to be the worship paid to the idol by the sea. Everything that was most precious was brought there as offerings, and the temple was endowed with the taxes gathered from more than ten thousand villages. There is a river, the Ganges, which is held sacred, between which and Somnath the distance is two hundred parasangs. They used to bring the water of this river to Somnath every day, and wash the temple with it. A thousand Brahmans were employed in worshipping the idol and attending on the visitors, and five hundred damsels sang and danced at the door – all these were maintained upon the endowments of the temple. The edifice was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak, covered with lead. The shrine of the idol was dark, but was lighted by jewelled chandeliers of great value. Near it was a chain of gold weighing two hundred mans. When a portion, or watch, of the night closed, this chain used to be shaken like bells to rouse a fresh lot of Brahmans to perform worship. When Sultan Mahmud, the son of Sabuktagin, went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnath, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Mohammedans. He arrived there in the middle of Zu-l-ka’da, 416 A. H. (December, 1025 A.D.). The Indians made a desperate resistance. They kept going in to the temple weeping and crying for help and then they issued forth to battle and kept fighting till all were killed. The number of the slain exceeded fifty thousand. The king looked upon the idol with wonder, and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil and the appropriation of the treasures. There were many idols of gold and silver, and countless vessels set with jewels, all of which had been sent there by the greatest personages in India. The value of the things found in the temples of the idols exceeded twenty thousand thousand dinars.
When the king asked his companions what they had to say about the marvel of the idol, and of its staying in the air without prop or support, several maintained that it was upheld by some hidden support. The king directed a person to go and feel all around and above and below it with a spear, which he did, but met with no obstacle. One of the attendants then stated his opinion that the canopy was made of loadstone, and the idol of iron, and that the ingenious builder had skillfully contrived that the magnet should not exercise a greater force on any one side – hence the idol was suspended in the middle. Some inclined toward this explanation, others differed from it. Permission was obtained from the Sultan to remove some stones from the top of the canopy to settle the point. When two stones were removed from the summit, the idol swerved on one side when more were taken away, it inclined still further, until at last it rested on the ground.’
Fig 1. – Photograph of Somnath Temple in 1869.(Photo by permission of
British Library Board – No. 1587)
Thus we see that there the story of floating Shiva-linga of Somnath was true and not merely a writer’s imagination as Al Kazvini , himself a Muslim historian , had described it in detail. History is usually dictated by the victors and the achievements of the vanquished are usually skipped or underplayed. That Al-Kazvini described it in such detail is a testimony to the degree to which this achievement of the vanquished Indians was held in admiration even by the victorious army from Ghazni.
So now we are left to the arduous task of guessing how ancient Hindus had devised such a system which could keep a Shiva-Linga floating in air without the aids of modern science or magnetic superconductors . For this , first we have to understand the origin of the Shiva-linga of Somnath .
The ancient text detailing the war between the various Vedic age Aryan tribes , the Mahabharata , the core kernel of which has been dated by the noted historian Pargiter to around 950 BC , refers to the Prabhasa Kshetra and the legend of the moon worshipping Shiva 2 . Although no temple at Prabhasa is mentioned in the Mahabharata , it is mentioned as a place of pilgrimage . According to a legend narrated in the Shiva Purana (10-11th Century AD ) 4, once Lord Brahma and Lord Vishnu had an argument in terms of supremacy of creation. To test them, Shiva pierced the three worlds as a huge endless pillar of light, the jyotirlinga. The Jyotirlinga shrines are places where Shiva is supposed to have appeared as a fiery column of light . Applying scientific logic , it is clear that the Jyotirlinga shrines are temples where the Shiva-linga is actually a meteorite which appeared as a fiery column of light.
The Skanda Purana (7-10th Century AD ) 5 describes the Sparsa Linga of Somnath as one bright as the sun, the size of an egg, lodged underground. Now this description of size of the Shiva –Linga at Somnath , it being bright as the sun and being lodged underground all tally with it being a meteorite. Meteorites usually appear in a very bright flash as they traverse the atmosphere – hence being compared to the sun in its brightness and since most of the bulk of a meteorite is vaporized in the atmosphere , it’s size would have been comparable to an egg , albeit probably slightly bigger as per testimony of other historical accounts about the floating Shiva-linga. When meteorites crash on earth , most of the meteorite disintegrates with force of impact into dust . Rarely fragments from iron-nickel meteorites survive this fiery journey through the earth’s atmosphere and can be found intact. These fragments may get embedded in the ground 6,7 – probably that is what the Skanda-Purana alludes to when it says that the Sparsa-Linga of Somnath was lodged underground.
Thus a plausible guess would be that the Shiva-Linga of meteorite origin was being worshipped in the Prabhas region by 900 BC and probably it was improvised upon to become the floating Shiva-Linga of Somnath by some ancient genius at a later date.
There is more evidence contained in the historical accounts itself about the Somnath Shiva-linga clearly pointing it to being a Iron-nickel meteorite remnant .The Arab Historian Abulfeda, who wrote at the commencement of the thirteenth century , in his description of the raid of Mahmud Ghazni on the Somnath temple writes that Mahmud lighted a fire around the Somnath Shiva-linga to split it on account of hardness of stone 1. Iron-Nickel meteorites are very hard , harder than common rocks found on earth’s surface and strongly magnetic. Farrington in his article on the constituents of meteorites in the Journal of Geology writes that Nickel-iron meteorites are strongly magnetic , have a specific gravity between 7.6 and 7.9 and are harder than steel 8. Thus during his raid on Somnath , Mahmud must have tried to smash the Shiva-linga using hammers or stones but being very hard , it resisted those efforts. Being in hostile enemy territory with time running short 1, Mahmud would have then turned to the age-old technique of rock splitting using fire and water which worked .
Also the Arab historian Farrukhi Sistani , contemporary of Mahmud Ghazni , wrote that the idol at Somnath was not of an Hindu deity but of a pre-Islamic Arabic Goddess Manat 9. According to other historical descriptions of the idol of Manat , it was aniconic block of black stone . Historians have found no evidence for this and this claim of Farrukhi Sistani is now seen as an effort to enhance Mahmud’s prestige in the Islamic world. However one can glean from this that the Shiva-Lingam at Somanath was also made of black stone, hence the effort of Farrukhi Sistani to refer to it as the idol of Manat. Nickel – iron meteorites with high metallic content are black and strongly magnetic as shown in the picture below.
Fig 2 – Fragment of the nickel-iron meterorite that landed in Sikhote-Alin in Russia in 1947. Note the Black colour.( Photo courtesy H. Raab )
Iron-Nickel meteorites were worshipped in other parts of world too in earlier times . Partly this was because of the fact that the meteorite crashes to the earth in a very spectacular fashion , a bright flash of light streaking across the sky followed by loud noise and a small cloud of dust and vaporized meteor material. The Willamette meteorite In USA has for long been venerated and worshipped by the Clackamas tribe of native American Indians 10.
As to how the ancient Hindu craftsmen had managed to devise a system through which they could keep the Shiva-linga afloat in air without support , one has to understand the following things-
The mechanism used for making the Shiva-linga float was a magnetic levitation mechanism .However magnetic levitation is not an easy task and was probably never achieved in pre-modern world except at Somnath . A glance at a few basics of magnetism can make us realize the obstacles faced by the architects of the levitating Shiva-linga at Somnath. Earnshaw’s theorem prohibits the stable levitation of one magnet by other(s)11. So if one tries to make one magnet ‘hover’ using the magnetic attraction of another, the ‘hover’ magnet will either sits limply on the tabletop or snap quickly to the other one. It is not possible to make a bar magnet levitate in a stable position only through the use of other bar magnets as stipulated in Earnshaw’s theorem.
If we pretend we have a collection of bar magnets arranged in a square, another bar magnet placed in the center of the square will not be in a stable position, and will be pulled (and twisted around) out of the center, and likely towards one of the other magnets:
(It would be best to imagine the bar magnets standing up, i.e. the north pole of the magnet pointing out of the paper/monitor). Using vector calculus, one can show that a levitation device composed of any set of point charges/fixed magnets will have a ‘leak’ and the magnetic levitation will be unstable.
Because of this instability when using static fields, one can only create magnetic levitation with permanent magnets if the magnetic fields are time-varying or the levitating magnet is spinning. This latter possibility is used in the modern toy called the Levitron 12. Magnetic levitation trains which rely on permanent magnets use dynamic feedback to keep the train stable and running. However none of this was probably available at the time when Somnath was built , then how the Shiva-linga at Somnath was kept levitating?
The answer to this lies in their clever use of bismuth as diamagnets . Diamagnets can be levitated in stable equilibrium in a magnetic field, with no power consumption. As to how use of diamagnets allowed the artisans of Somnath to violate the Earnshaw’s theorem , the following points are illustrative. Returning to our square arrangement of magnets, let us now replace the bar magnets in the corners with diamagnets. When the permanent magnet is right in the center of the square, the diamagnets all have ‘effective bar magnets’ of equal strength induced by it:
(Remember: Our bar magnets are still pointing out of the paper/monitor) .When we move the bar magnet from the center, its magnetic field will be weaker in the diamagnets it moves away from and stronger in the diamagnets it moves towards. For instance:
The net result is that the diamagnets closest to the bar magnet push it away very strongly, while the diamagnets far away push it very weakly. This increasing and slackening of force keeps the magnet stably near the center of the system. The ‘leak’ that we had found earlier in our four point charge/bar magnet system has been ‘sealed’ by the varying strength of the diamagnetic response.
In the diagram below , a strong collection of permanent magnets are supported by a wooden frame above the ‘levitation’ area, and provide the ‘lift’ for the levitating magnet. The levitating magnet itself is supported between a pair of plates made of bismuth which — and this is in fact the key point — is a strongly diamagnetic material .13 ( Data from http://www.scitoys.com, http://www.sparkbangbuzz.com).
We can now understand the configuration of the magnets and the diamagnetic material in the ancient Somnath temple in the diagram below . The stack of permanent magnets [ the loadstone canopy as described by Al Kazvini] provided the lifting anti-gravity force to the levitating magnet [ the levitating iron-nickel meteorite Shiva-linga ] , while the diamagnetic plates [ Bismuth ] maintained the position of the levitating magnet and provide its stability. The diamagnetic plates act very much like a pair of fellows escorting a drunk friend home: whenever their friend ‘wobbles’ in their direction, they apply some gentle pressure to direct him back upright!
Fig. 3 – Diagrammatic representation of how bismuth and magnets were used to levitate the Shiva-linga at Somnath temple( Courtesy http://www.scitoys.com, http://www.sparkbangbuzz.com).
Al-Kazvini specifically mentions in his description of the Somnath temple – “The edifice was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak, covered with lead”. That Al Kazvini’s account of Somnath was accurate is also verified by other sources. Al Kazvini described that the original temple stood on teak pillars covered with lead . This is also corroborated by Jaina Texts which mention Hemachandra , the trusted minister of Chaulukyan (Solanki) King Kumarapala (1143-1172 AD) advising Kumarapala to replace the dilapidated wooden temple at Somanath with a stone made one to attain salvation14.
In no other ancient or modern Hindu temple has the usage of lead been described except Somnath . Al-Kazvini specifically stated that the temple stood on pillars coated with lead . Now one may say that probably lead was used to protect the wood from pests , termites etc but Somnath does not have a tropical climate where such measures would be required and even if a protective metal encasing for the teak pillars was required , lead would hardly be the metal of choice. Brass, silver etc would have been the preferred choices. Then why lead was used in the Temple of Somnath . The answer to this is that what Al-Kazvini described was not lead but bismuth. Bismuth is physically similar to lead and is as heavy as lead – hence the confusion between the two in ancient times was very common 15,16,1718,19.
Now as to why Bismuth was used in the Somnath temple , one has to realize that Bismuth is the most strongly diamagnetic metal – a property that was essential for making the Shiva-linga levitate. Although Bismuth and lead may physically be alike , they differ greatly in their diamagnetic properties. Bismuth has a magnetic susceptibility value of -16.6 x 10-5 and lead has a magnetic susceptibility value of -1.8 x 10-5. Magnetic susceptibility value is a measure of the diamagnetic strength of a material , hence bismuth is almost 10 times more strong a diamagnet than lead 20,21.
One also has to keep in mind that since bismuth is a bit brittle , hence the use of teak pillars in the ancient Somnath temple as an internal support for the bismuth and also the fact that bismuth was not as plentiful as other metals and hence not readily available in ancient times . Using teak pillars as internal struts along with bismuth would have cut down the amount of bismuth required for making the Shiva-linga levitate. Another interesting point is that even Ibn Zafir as quoted in M Nazim’s “ The life and times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna” 9 says that the floor of the Somnath temple was also made of planks of teak, the interstices being filled with lead . Again this was not lead but bismuth .
Unlike other metals like silver , it would have been impossible to make the floor of the shrine itself from Bismuth as bismuth is very brittle. Hence the clever builders of the Somnath temples used teak planks for making the floor of the shrine but since they needed more diamagnetic force for levitating the Shiva-Linga , they filled the gaps deliberately left between the teak planks with pieces of bismuth.
Also for making the Shiva-linga levitate , as illustrated in the simplified diagram above , bismuth would be required above as well as below the Shiva-linga. No account is given by Al-Kazvini of the use of lead [ bismuth actually] above the Shiva-linga but one can surmise that either the parasol [ Chattr – a type of ornamental umbrella constructed above the idols of chief deities in Indian temples ] of the Shiva-linga was of bismuth or a perforated low roof made of bismuth [ or more likely of teak covered with bismuth] was employed for providing the diamagnetic force above the Shiva-linga. The Arab historians probably thought it insignificant as they were dazzled with the floating Shiva-Linga and hence it is not mentioned.
Having understood how the builders of the ancient Somnath temple had used the magnetic properties of the iron-nickel meteorite Shiva –linga and the diamagnetic properties of bismuth in making the ancient wonder of the levitating Shiva-linga at Somnath , one now turns to answer the question as to how the Builders of Somnath acquired bismuth – a metal which was known since ancient times but not used very frequently on a large scale in the ancient world. For this we have to understand the high skills of the ancient Indians in the field of metallurgy .
Ancient Indian Metallurgists were way ahead of their time . The process of making Zinc was known to them since 2nd century AD . Nagarjuna [ 166-203 AD] in his book Rasratnakar describes in detail the method of Zinc extraction from its ore. Zawar, Udaipur district, Rajasthan, is now considered to be the oldest site of industrial zinc production in the world. Radiocarbon age determinations of launder wood from the old lead-zinc mines of Zawar Mala yielded an age of 2180+/- 35 years. The method of zinc smelting independently developed and patented by William Champion in 1738 was almost identical to the one used by ancient Indian Zinc smelters 22,23.
Fig 4 – Ancient zinc smelting furnace and a spent retort from Zawar .(Photo courtesy of Geological Survey of India) .
Another testimony of the metallurgical skills of ancient Indians was the “wootz “ steel used in making the fabled Damascus swords 24,25. This riddle has still not been cracked yet with modern scientists just knowing that the ancient Indians used a technique which involved incorporating a high carbon content in the steel and forging and hammering it at a relatively low temperature but the exact process employed by the master ancient steel makers still eludes us.
Thus we see that ancient Indians had attained a very high level of proficiency in their metallurgical skills. Now as to how and where the bismuth used in the ancient Somnath temple was procured , it is pertinent to know the following facts.
Bismuth as a metal is rarely mined and extracted from bismuth ore . The only mines which use bismuth ore as a source of bismuth are the Tasna mines in Bolivia and a few mines in China . Bismuth has always been produced as a by-product of lead smelting from its ore . Crude lead can contain up to 10% of bismuth. Lead has been smelted and used by Indian metallurgists since times immemorial. The open cast lead mine at Rampura-Agucha in Bhilwara district in Rajasthan which are geographically near to Somnath provide evidence of being worked in Mauryan times [3rd century BC] . Bismuth too was known in ancient India , It is mentioned as Capala in the Sanskrit alchemical text Rasa-Ratna-Samuccaya [ 12th-13th century AD] 26, although it is likely that was known much before this date . Concentrated Bismuth-lead deposits are also found at Narda, Neem-ka-Thana tehsil , Sikar district which is not very far from Somnath. It is likely that the builders of Somnath procured the bismuth used in the temple from either of these two ancient mines . Bismuth was probably produced as a by-product of lead smelting by ancient Indian metallurgists. Bar magnets were common in ancient India , being used as toys and in games as well as for other purposes. Susruta – the famous ancient Indian Surgeon who lived around 4th century AD used magnets for removing metallic splinters from wounds. Probably some miners or someone living in the vicinity of lead-bismuth mines made the serendipitous discovery that a bar magnet could be stably levitated using the diamagnetic properties of bismuth. Then they transmitted this information to the priests of Somnath either during a pilgrimage to Somnath or when someone living near the mines and knowing this principle of diamagnetic levitation sought employment at Somnath. Ancient temples in India served as centers of spiritual, administrative and commercial activity providing employment to thousands. The priests at Somnath who must have become aware of the magnetic properties of the iron-nickel meteorite Shiva-linga while handling it during the daily pooja and other ceremonies recognized that using the diamagnetic properties of bismuth , they could make their revered Shiva-linga levitate like a magnet bar . They must have thought it to be a method to honor their chief deity by making his main Siva-linga idol float in the air .
Having enormous financial and other resources at their disposal , they procured the bismuth from the sources mentioned above and thus was made one of the greatest wonders of pre-modern history which had no parallel at that time.
Even its conquerors and the ones who destroyed it stood in awe of this man-made marvel and their historians too transmitted this legend down the generations. History has not given this ancient marvel it’s just due. The ancient architects of Somnath and the justifiably wonder stuck Shiva Devotees who had witnessed and worshipped the amazing spectacle of the Somnath Shiva-linga floating in air are a lot to be envious of.
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Vol. 9, No. 7 (Oct. – Nov., 1901), pp. 623-632.
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the 49th Annual Meeting of the Meteoritical Society. 600: 208.
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luminiferous ether, Trans. Cambridge Phil. Soc. 7, 97-112, 1842.
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21. Nave, Carl L. “Magnetic Properties of Solids”. Hyper Physics.
22. Biswas AK Brass and Zinc Metallurgy in the ancient and medieval world :India’s primacy and the technology transfer to the West Indian Journal of history of Science ,41.2(2006)159-174.
23. Kharakwal JS, Gurjar LK Zinc and brass in Archaeological perspective. Ancient Asia Volume 1 , 139-159 .
24. Srinivasan, S. and Ranganathan, S. (2004) India’s legendary wootz steel: An advanced
material of the ancient world. National Institute of Advanced Studies and Indian Institute of
25. Verhoeven J.D, Pendray A.H, Gibson E.D Wootz Damascus steel blades, Mat. Char
26. Biswas AK Rasa-Ratna-Samuccaya and mineral processing state of art in the 13th Century
AD India. Indian Journal of history of Science 22(1):29-46(1987)
I started reading the original article. Judging by the few opening remarks, I was quite sure the author is going to quote Romila Thapar. That is the ilk. When you want to project a page from history, the author would do well to select excerpts from diverse extracts. To choose from a selected coterie of historians who have a similar belief in History and then say this is “apolitical” reeks of the reverse.
Mahmud must be turning in his hellish grave!!
Seeing the things according to already held notions doesn’t lead to truth.If the territory which was invaded by Mahmud Ghaznavi would’ve been dwelled by some people with superior statecraft, if there would’ve been no internecine wars, Mahmud would never have been successful. We didn’t exist in those days so we shouldn’t see the past in the light of today’s parameters and paradigms. Study of history should be a secular project. The Hindu civilisation was in a state of decline in those days and the Islamic civilisation was in a state of fresh start. The civilisation which is in decline is in a state of split, it has no moorings, it is actually like a rock falling from the top of a mountain-nothing can stop it. Same was the situation of Islamic society when Western colonialism started and one can see that all the Muslim countries crumbled in the hands of Western powers like sand and mud. There were infiltrations from rising Muslim civilisation into the declining Hindu body at the time of Mahmud which ultimately culminated in uniting India under Mughals- Mughal empire was formed which actually was a Hindu universal state- last effort by any declining society. The heydays of Hindu society had already passed when Muslim society was rising. History is a story of conflicts between different narratives in space and time
Now there is awareness in both Islamic and Hindu societies for revival and there is intermingling in terms of space in Subcontinent. Both should understand this otherwise non of the two will be able to revive. Such questions and situations have been successfully handled by the western Society-we should learn from them. The foremost task is not to use history to settle today’s scores.
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Why Historians Believe Raja bhoj killed Mahmud Gazni, with facts and evidence
Most of the people still don’t believe that Raja Bhoj was the King who Killed Mahmud of Gazni, this ignited the urgency to prove the claims of Historians with facts, evidence, and arguments that sound more rational and firmly establish their viewpoint that Raja Bhoj killed Mahmud of Ghazni. After the Desecration of Somnath temple, the army of Ghazni was moving very fast as they were expecting a heavy retaliation from Hindu kings, Goga Ji Maharaj with his handful of Hindu Soldiers,obstructed the path of Ghazni, the fierce battle took place between them in which Goga Ji Maharaj attained martyrdom, Ghazni then thought that if he took the torturous Land route to reach Kabul via Rajasthan then he would have to face the strong resistance of Rajputs of Ajmer whom he had defeated in the past and if he stays in Gujarat then nearby Hindu Kings would soon wage armed warfare against him, so he chooses Arabian sea route to reach the coast of Sindh and from there he could easily reach Kabul via Multan, when Jats of Sindh came to know that Mahmud of Ghazni is arriving in Sindh, they got mobilized very quickly and attacked army of Ghazni, the battle took place at some distance from the banks of Indus River, Jats though lost the battle but they were successful in freeing the women and children from Ghazni’s army, whom the latter have made them as their slave.
Jats lost the battle as they were outnumbered in manpower and also by the use of treacherous means of Ghazni, due to the frequent two battles that took place after demolishing Somnath, the army of Ghazni got exhausted and tired, Ghazni also became very weak and feeble, when spies of Raja Bhoj told him that Ghazni has hidden in the deserts of Sindh, he ordered his army to march to Sindh and from there they reach Kabul where they killed Ghazni in the battle. This was the whole story of the killing of Mahmud of Ghazni
Islamic Historians fabricated a false story that Gazni died due to tuberculosis so that they could hide the terrible and humiliating defeat of Mahmud Gazni, Hindu Historians believe that he was killed by Raja Bhoj and they cite many facts and arguments to prove it which sounds very reasonable. Firstly if Gazni wasn’t killed by Raja Bhoj then why he never came back to raid India, Somnath was destroyed in 1026-27 and as per Islamic records he died in 1030, this seems to be suspicious that despite his most of booties, women were looted in 16th invasion, he still preferred not to invade India, this is contrary to the nature of Gazni, the reality is that he was killed in the battle by Raja Bhoj. see this
Secondly, Mahmud of Gazni also attacked Kashmir but was defeated, he came back again but again he lost to the King of Kashmir, this proves that Gazni even after getting beaten in the battle, he still carried out attacks on the enemy, this was in contrast to his last Somnath invasion since he never came back to India after that invasion. Read this
Thirdly, after this battle and battle of Bahraich in which Raja Bhoj also took part to kill the nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni, Salar Masud, then for the upcoming 160 years no Islamic invader stepped in India to kill Hindus, and attacks from the northwest were stopped. This has happened before also when Bappa Rawal in the 7th century defeated Arabs and gave them such a crushing defeat that Islamic invaders never came to India for nearly 300 years, Same is here in Raja Bhoj’s case as the aftermath of both victories looks very similar. Most of the Islamic Historians have refrained themselves from telling about the triumph of Bappa Rawal over Arabs, same is with the victory of Raja Bhoj, the credibility of Islamic Historians was always questionable.
Fourthly, this battle is still very famous among the people of his Kingdom, they still regard him as their deity and in many local fables, concerts on Raja Bhoj, this execution of Mahmud of Ghazni is told with very charm and the native people of Somnath also acknowledge this battle as exceptional and of distinction that rejuvenated the glory of Somnath temple by Killing the sinner Mahmud Of Ghazni. Look at this
Some of the historical books also talk about the battle of Mahmud of Ghazni and Raja Bhoj, one such book is EARLY HISTORY OF INDIA, SECOND EDITION, PG 410-411, this book claims that Raja Bhoj fought battle with Mahmud of Ghazni but that battle is forgotten, there is another book called RAJA BHOJ, PG 80-82, which also describes that Raja Bhoj was standing with his army to fight with him, but the coward Ghaznvi fled to Sindh. This book also states that Raja Bhoj also defeated Arabs and Islamic invaders in Kandhar, Afghanistan on Page 240-250. In the Bhavishya Puran also his conquest of Afghanistan has been described in detail.
Fifthly, after the break of 160 years, when these Islamic invaders again raided India then they exclusively attacked the Malwa Kingdom and destroyed all the lakes and temples made by him, the very famous Bhojshala which was built by Raja Bhoj was decimated by Islamic Invaders, no other Kingdom at that time faced so much attack from Northwest except Malwa kingdom, the reason for singling out Malwa for the attack was that this was the Kingdom of Raja Bhoj who killed their Mahmud of Ghazni whom they still praise as Idol breaker, they were driven by the 160-year-old antagonism, so they carried out the constant attack on Malwa. There is one myth which is widespread that Gazni defeated Jats two times in a row during 1026-27, the reality is that battle was fought only once in which Jats sacrificed themself to protect the honor of women, they though lost the battle but saved countless women which were sent away from the battlefield i.e on the banks of the Indus river, where women took boats and went away. The most key aspect was that Raja Bhoj had already taken an oath to kill Ghazni and his descendants, he was a man of words, therefore he marched to Sindh and Kabul to kill Ghazni and fulfilled his vows that he has told to the people of Somnath and his Kingdom. know this
Defeat of the Rajputs against the Turks | Indian History
In this article we will discuss about the causes of the defeat of Rajputs against the Turks in India during 11th-12th Centuries.
The Indians checked the rising power of Islam successfully for nearly three hundred years on its north-west frontier of Afghanistan. The Arab invasion had remained limited to Sindh and Multan while the conquest of Afghanistan and Punjab was not easy for the Turks.
The Hindus of those days deserved respect for this achievement that they could fight out and resist for a long duration the power of Islam which had overwhelmed a large part of Asia, Africa and Eurupe by its might. But once their defence in the north-west was broken, the Hindus failed miserably against the Turks.
The defeat of the Hindus against Mahmud of Ghazni in the eleventh century A.D., and again against Muhammad of Ghur in the twelfth century A.D., was shameful and surprising. Of course, the Hindus continued to resist and tried to defend their culture against the onslaughts of the invading and firmly entrenched Islam in India but their defeat against the Turks evokes curiosity.
Many Rajput kingdoms which fought against the Turks were quite extensive, did not lack material and military resources, could put up large armies in battles against their enemies, did not lack strength as well as is clear from the defeat of Muhammad in the battle of Anhilwara and the first battle of Tarain and Rajput soldiers neither lacked courage and chivalry as compared to the Turks.
Yet, the Rajputs were defeated. Historians who have tried to investigate the causes of the defeat of the Rajputs are not unanimous in their opinion and if they have agreed on some they have differed on their emphasis.
There is one practical difficulty as well. Contemporary historians did not throw much light on the causes of the defeat of the Rajputs or that of the success of the Turks. Hasan Nizami and Minhajus Siraj say nothing about them, while the Adabul Harb of Fakhr-i-Mudabbir is only of some help in this respect. It simply gave a hint that feudal organisation of the armies of the Rajputs and the mobility of the Turkish cavalry were responsible for the success of the Turks.
The historians of medieval age did not try to explore these reasons seriously and therefore, are silent about them. Therefore, modern historians have been left with no other alternative except to probe these causes mostly with their commonsense, logic and interpretation of the then circumstances. As such, it is quite natural that their opinions should differ from each other. British historians such as Elphinstone, Lane-Poole and Vincent A.
Smith have ascribed the Indian defeat to the superiority of the Turks who came from the cold climate of the north, were meat-eaters and had experience of fighting against the Seljuk-Turks, while their Hindu opponents were mostly vegetarians, inoffensive and gentle.
But this view is not acceptable. The theory that tells that the non-vegetarian people or people belonging to cold climate are better fighters does not stand the test of scientific examination. The Indian soldiers have proved their courage and strength all through the course of Indian history.
Sir Jadunath Sarkar is of the view that complete equality and social solidarity, fatalism that sprang from an absolute reliance on God and freedom from drunkenness of Muslim soldiers were primarily responsible for the success of the Turks. But the view has not been accepted by modern scholars because the three virtues which he has assigned to the Turks were not present in them in a perfect form.
Professor K. A. Nizami has expressed the view that, “the real cause of the defeat of the Indians lay in their social system and the invidious caste distinctions, which rendered the whole military organization rickety and weak.” Mr Romesh Chandra Dutt has observed that the Hindus had reached the last stage of their political, social and religious decline at that time and therefore, became an easy prey to the invading Turks.
Sardar K.M. Panikkar has assigned the responsibility of the defeat of the Hindus to their lack of contact with the outside world and their culture which had declined. Dr R.C. Majumdar has emphasized on the internal weakness of India and assigned the primary responsibility to the caste-system, revival of Brahamanism and the degraded status of women in Hindu society.
Dr K. S. Lai has observed that social divisions and rivalry between different groups which primarily arose because of the lack of political unity in the country, the absence of an efficient spy -system and defective and outdated military skill were primarily responsible for the defeat of the Hindus. Dr A.L. Srivastava had opined that the absence of political unity, social divisions, rise of Brahamanism, moral degeneration and the superiority of the Turks in military skill, organization and resources were responsible for the success of the Turks.
Thus, we find that various scholars have assigned different reasons for the success of the Turks against the Rajputs and if we sum them up all, then we can accept the following reasons for the success of the Turks:
1. Political weakness was certainly one cause of the defeat of the Indians. Of course, lack of unity of India, or that of even north India under one rule, had been its weakness. But it was not its primary weakness. India could not be united under one rule after Emperor Asoka. Even the mighty Guptas had failed to achieve it. The attempts to unite India under one rule failed even during medieval times. India is a sub-continent.
It was not possible to unite it under one rule till modern times. Besides, though India was divided politically, yet there were many Rajput states at that time which were far more extensive and powerful in material resources in comparison with Muslim invaders. Thus, the division of India into many states cannot be accepted as a valid reason of its defeat.
The primary cause of the weakness of India was that Rajput-states were engaged in constant fighting against each other for power and glory and failed to unite against a common enemy even in the greatest hour of danger to their country, its culture and religion.
Further, the Rajputs failed to foresee the consequences of the success of the Turks in India. Besides, it is also surprising that even a series of crises of foreign invasions failed to produce a single leader of sufficiently commanding political and military talents to unite the Indians of his time.
Some scholars have put the blame of the failure of the Indians on their corrupt bureaucracy. But this view is, mostly, not accepted. The Indian bureaucracy of that time was neither ideal nor totally corrupt.
Besides, we find no treachery on the part of the Indian bureaucracy. If somebody had to be blamed on this account, then, it was not the bureaucracy but the Hindu lower castes who were dissatisfied with the prevalent inequality in Hindu society and the Buddhists.
Another reason of the political weakness of India was the existence of feudalism which, according to Mr R.C. Dutt, “took India in the last stage of her political decline.” Feudal-system of the Rajputs encouraged mutual conflicts and weakened them militarily.
The army of a Rajput king was constituted by assembling the armies of his feudal chiefs. Such an army lacked cohesion, unity of command and military skill. Besides, feudalism mixed with the inequality of casteism, created a strong wedge between the rulers and the ruled, which made their co-operation impossible in resisting foreigners.
2. The prevalent social conditions had also weakened India. Caste system, practice of untouchability, gross social inequality and distinctions and inequitable position of Indian women were the main weaknesses of the Indian society. Political instability and absence of consolidation of India even under a few strong unified states led to its social degeneration.
The revival of Brahamanism further strengthened social inequality. The Rajputs also encouraged it as they were accepted as Kshatriyas because of the support of the Brahamanas. The caste- system became very much rigid and divided the society into antagonistic groups. The position of lower castes and women was reduced to its lowest ebb. Many social evils cropped up under such conditions.
Child marriage, female infanticide, Devadasi system and the practice of Sati among higher castes came in vogue while marriage of widows became nearly impossible. Such a society was incapable of resisting any foreign invader, as the majority of the people became indifferent to the fate and politics of the country.
Dr R.C. Majumdar writes, “No public upheaval greets the foreigners, nor are any organised effort made to stop their progress. Like a paralysed body, the Indian people helplessly look on, while the conquerors march on their corpse.”
Dr K. A. Nizami has also pointed out that the caste system weakened the Rajputs military because the responsibility of fighting was left to particular section of the society i.e. the Kshatriyas.
He writes, “The real cause of the defeat of the Indians lay in their social system and their invidious cast distinctions, which rendered the whole military organisation rickety and weak. Caste taboos and discriminations killed all sense of unity — social or political.”
Dr K.S. Lai also writes that “it was very much easy for the Muslims to get traitors from a society which was so unjustly divided.
This was one of the reasons why all important cities of north India were lost to the invader (Muhammad of Ghur) within fifteen years.” The Muslims, no doubt, faced strong resistance in battles but once a battle was won the rest was easy because there was nobody to challenge them in cities and villages.
He contends that once a city was taken by the Muslims, it was very much difficult for the Hindus to recapture it because the majority of the population preferred to remain under Muslim rule as compared to Hindu rule which was based on unjust social distinctions. Besides, the Hindus did not accept those people in their society who were forced to accept Islam once. Thus, a person who became a Muslim once always remained a Muslim.
3. The deterioration in religion was also responsible for the defeat of the Indians. According to Hinduism, religion truly means duty which makes an individual useful for society and humanity. That is why Hinduism is not based on one prayer, one religious text, one place of worship or even one god, which are usually the primary necessities of practically every popular religion.
This liberalism of Hindus was its greatest strength but, afterwards, became its greatest weakness as well when it had to compete with Islam and Christianity. Besides, the monopoly of the Brahmanas over religion and the Sanskrit language excluded the common people from the knowledge of true religion. It led to the division of Hinduism in different sects and also ignorance about religion among the populace.
That is why true religion was lost, Tantric sects flourished and ritualism and image worship became popular. It demoralised the society and broke up its unity. Therefore, the Hindus failed to accept the challenge of foreign invaders in the name of one religion, one culture and, thereby, one country.
4. The Indians did not try to know and learn from progress achieved in other countries in different fields. The statement of Al Beruni that “The Indians regarded their religion and culture as the best” indicates the attitude of the Indians at that time. Because of this attitude, the Indians remained indifferent towards the politics, military tactics and progress in armaments of the neighbouring countries.
They could not understand the impact of the conquest of India by Islam and neglected the defence of their north-west frontier. Virtually, it meant that the Indians had marred the way of their progress by their attitudes. This weakened them in every field and, thus, became a major cause of their defeat.
5. Indian culture and morality could also not remain immune to these Circumstances and there was all-round degeneration in every field. Dr K M. Panikkar regards cultural degeneration as the foremost cause of the defeat of the Rajputs. Dr A.L. Srivastava also describes it as one important cause of the defeat of the Rajputs.
The growing popularity of Tantric philosophy, the presence of Devadasis in the temples and the corruption existing in the monasteries and viharas were symptoms of growing immorality in religion. The literature and fine arts of this age also suggest the same. The temples and images built then at Puri, Khajuraho, and even in certain temples of Udaipur and Chittor are proofs of it.
Most of them depict the scenes of sexual acts between men and women. The Tantric literature and some other literary books, to, are also of the same nature. That is why, many scholars have described this age as that of cultural degeneration in India and accepted it as one cause of the defeat of the Rajputs.
6. The neglect of the Rajputs towards safeguarding the north-west frontier of India from possible invasions was also one of the causes of their defeat. Even after successful raids of Mahmud of Ghazni, they neither tried to snatch away Punjab from the hands of weak Ghaznavids nor tried to defend the frontier. That gave Muhammad of Ghur an easy access to Punjab which became his firm base to penetrate deeper into India.
7. Economically, India was a rich country. Its agricultural produce, trade and commerce and foreign trade with the countries of the West and South-East Asia had helped in making it rich. The wealth in India, however, was unevenly distributed. Mostly it was concentrated in temples, members of royal families and trading class. This economic inequality then prevalent has been regarded by certain scholars as one inherent weakness of the Indians.
Of course, it was so, but more than that, the cause of the weakness of the Indians had been that they had failed to utilise that wealth to build up their military strength which alone could provide safety to their wealth. Instead, they stored that wealth in temples and palaces of kings, which tempted foreign invaders and also became their easy victims.
Therefore, the political, social, religious, moral and cultural weakness of the Indians and also their increased prosperity in their own way, constituted the causes of their defeat against the Turks.
Dr R.C. Majumdar is very much right when he writes, “The utter and precipitate prostration of such a vast and ancient land endowed with resources far superior and greater to those of her invaders, can be the result mainly of internal decay and not merely of external attacks, which were its effects rather than the cause.”
Dr U.N. Ghoshal has analysed all these causes of the defeat of the Rajputs critically and has observed that many of them have been exaggerated or interpreted adversely. He contends that lack of political unity has been unnecessarily exaggerated and so is the case with the indifference of the people to the fate of this country. The Rajputs fought the Turks stubbornly and resisted them even when the Turks were firmly entrenched here.
It could not be possible without power and co-operation of the people. The same way the deterioration in religion, society, morals and culture, too, has been emphasized out of proportion. Tantric religion, instead of demoralizing people, gave them a popular religion and strengthened their determination to fight against foreign invaders. The Devadasi system in the temples was also not new.
The caste system, though it led to social divisions and distinctions, was yet responsible largely for defending the Hindu culture and society from the inroads of the foreigners. It is wrong to say that the period preceding foreign invasions witnessed deterioration in literature and fine arts. On the contrary, it was a period of progress, particularly in the field of architecture.
The forts, palaces and temples built during the Rajput age surpass all those in number, beauty and strength which preceded them. A few temples and images built at Khajuraho and Puri on the basis of the Kamasutra cannot be accepted as sufficient proofs of deterioration in Indian art. On the contrary, architecture, sculpture, painting, music and dance developed during the Rajput age.
The same way a few books on romance and sex are no proof of deterioration in literature. The Rajatarangini of Kalhan, the Gita-Govinda of Jayadeva and the literary works of Halayudha, Hemchandra, Ganesha, Sridhara, Devana Bhat, etc. were attempted during this age. The degeneration in morals was also nothing new.
It is always there in a prosperous society. Therefore, Dr Ghoshal argues that it is wrong to suggest that Indian society and culture had been in the last stage of decline and was responsible for the defeat of the Indians against the Turks. Ghoshal accepts the political and cultural weakness of India but he contends that it has been grossly exaggerated and therefore, it can not be accepted as the primary cause of the defeat of the Rajputs against the Turks.
The above view of Dr Ghoshal is quite reasonable. Of course, feudal system, division of India and more than that, constant fighting among rival Rajput states were responsible for the weakness of India but these alone did not constitute the primary cause of its defeat.
The same way, it would be wrong to assume that culturally India had reached the last stage of decay and therefore, had no strength to resist foreign invasions. Indian culture, of course, was not in a position of strength but, at the same time, it had not lost its vigour entirely. Otherwise, the resistance of the Hindus against the Muslims could not be possible afterwards which the Hindus certainly maintained even for centuries to come.
8. Therefore, he contends that there was yet another reason of the defeat of the Rajputs. The fate of India was decided by a few battles. Therefore, the primary cause of the defeat of the Rajputs was their military weakness. It is another point as to what reasons led to their military weakness.
All historians agree that the Turks proved far superior as compared to the Rajputs in military organisation, fighting skill, arms and leadership and these constituted the primary reasons of their success in India. Mahmud of Ghazni remained undefeated in India while Muhammad of Ghur, after initial failures, succeeded in defeating all Rajput chiefs whom he fought.
Various reasons have been assigned for the military weakness of the Rajputs. As soldiers, the Rajputs were not inferior to the Turks in any way. But their ideal and the purpose of fighting battles was different from that of the Turks which formed their weakness. The Rajputs observed certain Hindu traditions of warfare and did not mind whether they were able to win the battle or not.
It was against their morality to mix poison in water, to attack suddenly or from behind the enemy, to destroy the agricultural fields in order to check the supply to the enemy or adopt other such methods to win the battle. On the other hand, the Turks fought to win battles and adopted all means, fair or foul, for that purpose.
The same way, the Rajputs prided themselves on their swordsmanship and looked upon a battle as a tournament to display their skill, bravery and chivalry. This attitude went against their success. Professor A.B.M. Habibullah writes, “Rajput recklessness has an element of romance in it but is of little practical wisdom.”
The same way, Dr U.N. Ghoshal has commented, “The Rajputs, in particular, although they were remarkable for their bravery and contempt of death, were inspired by a high sense of chivalry and military honour which made them often unfit for practical success in warfare.” The army organisation of the Rajputs was also based on worn out conceptions.
The Indians did not try to improve their weapons, tactics and other equipment’s as compared to other countries and therefore, they were outclassed in weapons and outmanoeuvred in tactics. The feudal organisation of the Rajput army was also its weakness. While the Turks fought under one command as one unit, the Rajputs failed to achieve that sort of unity in planning and fighting.
The Rajputs, irrespective of all their efforts, could not build up a strong cavalry because, mostly, good horses were to be imported from foreign countries and therefore, depended on their war-elephants both for defence and offence. But, very often, elephants proved a liability rather than an asset, particularly in case of their fleeing from the battlefield. The main weapon of the Rajputs was their sword which was useful only in close battle.
As compared to it, the Turks depended on their swift-moving cavalry and archers. R.C. Smail writes, “They used the bow from the saddle while moving. This gave them an added advantage over the heavy and slow moving Rajput armies.” Professor K. A. Nizami has also pointed out the advantage which the Turks enjoyed because of their cavalry.
He writes, “Mobility was the key-note of Turkish military organisation at this time. It was the ‘age of horse’ and a well-equipped cavalry with tremendous mobility was the great need of the time.” Dr Jadunath Sarkar has also accepted that the Turkish cavalry was the best in the whole of Asia. The fighting tactics of the Rajputs also proved inferior to those of the Turks.
The Rajputs divided their armies into three traditional parts, viz., right, centre and left and they almost invariably made a frontal attack on the enemy, whereas the Turks had two additional parts, viz., the Advance Guard and the Reserve. The Advance Guard was sent to test the strength and find out the weaknesses of the enemy. The Reserve was kept in readiness and thrown into the battle-fray when the enemy had exhausted himself and, thus, played a decisive role in the battle.
The shock tactics viz., the sudden raid followed by the equally swift victorious return home, which was frequently resorted to by both Mahmud and Muhammad was also very much responsible for the success of the Turks as it largely contributed to disheartening and demoralising the Indian people. The Rajputs mostly fought defensive battles.
Except the Hindushahi king Jayapala, no Rajput ruler adoped an aggressive policy in order to break the power of the Turks at their base itself. That “Offence is the best policy,” did not occur to them and that remained their weakness. The Rajputs did not take advantage of their successes also as they could particularly, after the battle of Anhilwara and the first battle of Tarain.
One great weakness of the Rajputs was that they lacked capable leadership. Mahmud faced no military commander of repute, and though Prithviraja was a chivalrous and daring ruler, yet he was no match to Muhammad of Ghur in foresightedness and planning. India produced no remarkable military com­mander in the hour of the greatest danger to its society and culture.
Dr U.N. Ghoshal writes: “In truth, it was not for their social and geographical aloofness but for their want of leaders with sufficient talents that the Indians of the eleventh and twelfth centuries failed to adopt their time-honoured system of warfare (as Shivaji, the Maratha, was destined to do in the seventeenth century) to the requirement of the new situation.” The Rajputs also did not maintain a good spy- system which could help them in knowing the strength, movements, fighting tactics etc. of their enemies and thus, prepare themselves to face them in advance.
9. Yet, another important factor of the defeat of the Rajputs was lack of any emotional ideal for fighting. The Rajputs fought for no higher purpose than that of the safety of their rulers and their kingdoms. Safety of their religion, honour and culture must have inspired them to a certain extent but, it definitely played no major part in provoking their best spirits.
On the contrary, the Turks were inspired by the ideal of bringing glory to their newly accepted faith, viz., Islam. Dr K.A. Nizami has refused to accept this view. He writes, “It would be unhistorical to seek an explanation of this Turkish success in the religious zeal of the Musalmans.” But, there are many others who regard Islam as the primary source of inspiration for the Turks.
Of course, wealth, fame and the desire to extend the empire were, certainly, sources of inspiration for the Turks. But the view, that religion was also an important element, cannot be refuted. Dr A.L. Srivastava writes. “Mere physical strength and military weapons do not constitute the total equipment of an army. An inspiring ideology is as essential as military training and equipment.”
Medieval age was the age of chivalry, romance and religion. In modern times, these have lost their importance. But, then, we have to understand the actions of the people of the medieval age from their attitudes and values of life.
During that age, religion was always an inspiring source for all people, whether they were Hindus, Muslims or Christians. If the Turks too were inspired by their religious zeal then it was neither uncommon nor undesirable. Islam contributed to their success not only in India but elsewhere as well.
Dr U.N. Ghoshal writes, “Another and a still more potent cause of the military superiority of the Turks was, as has been rightly pointed out, their mighty enthusiasm, a sentiment which, it is well to remember, was derived as much from the prospect of plunder of the colossal treasures stored in the Indian temples and palaces as from zeal for their newly acquired religion. That this was the greatest single factor in enabling the Turks to conquer most of the country after a hard struggle of more than three centuries is proved by the parallel example of the Seljuk-Turks of the eleventh and the Ottoman-Turks of the fifteenth century who succeeded in despoiling and eventually destroying the Byzantine Empire in spite of the immunity from the characteristic weaknesses of the Indian political and social system.”
Thus various factors led to the defeat of the Rajputs against the Turks in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. It resulted in the establishment of Turkish rule in India, which added a fresh chapter to Indian history.
Ghazni History, from 683 AD, when the Arab armies brought Islam to the area and attempted to conquer the capital of Ghazni, but the local tribes fiercely resisted. The city was completely destroyed by the Saffarids in 869 and a substantial portion of the local population including Hindus and Buddhists were converted to Islam by Mahmood of Ghazni. After the rebuilding of the city by Yaqub’s brother, the city became the capital of the Ghaznavid (Ghaznawi) Empire from 994 to 1160. It encompassed much of northern India, Persia and Central Asia.
Many iconoclastic campaigns were launched from Ghazni into India. The Ghaznavids took Islam to India and returned with fabulous riches taken from both prince and temple god. The capital was razed in 1151 by the Ghorid Alauddin. The city flourished again but only to be permanently devastated, this time in 1221 by Genghis Khan and his Mongol armies. As it says in the history of Ghani, The city was called into different names in the past such as: Ghaznîn , Sejestan , Ghazna and Ghazni which remained as the current name. As the Ghazny history shows, during the First Anglo-Afghan War, the city was stormed and taken over by the British forces on July 1839. The city was occupied during the battle of Ghazni because of its strategic position.
Throughout the centuries, Ghazni city has been one of the important cities in both economically and strategically to the possession of the capital Kabul. Ghazni history shows that the foriegn invadors have several times tried to invade the city due to the strategic location of Ghanzni to the capital Kabul.
In the 1960s a 15-meter female Buddha was discovered lying on its back and surrounded by empty pillars that once held rows of smaller male Buddhas but some parts of the female Buddha have been stolen. In the 1980s a mud brick shelter and wooden supports were created to protect the sculpture but due to war and poverty the wooden supports were stolen for firewood and the shelter partially collapsed and destroyed.
Ghazni is famous for its minarets which were built by Bahram Shah during the Ghaznavid Empire in the middle of the twelfth century and they are the surviving element of Bahram shah’s mosque.
Shihab al-Din (also Muʿizz al-Din Muhammad ibn Sam), popularly known as Muhammad Ghori (r. 1173-1206 CE), was the Muslim ruler who laid the foundation for the subsequent Islamic ruling dynasties of India which saw its pinnacle later in the Mughal Empire (1526-1857 CE). He ruled a vast area comprising parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Iran, Bangladesh, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan together with his elder brother Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad (c. 1139-1202 CE), which widely came to be known as the Ghurid or Ghorid Empire.
Muhammad Ghori was of Persian origin, however, his exact ethnicity is still debated. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest generals of Islamic and Indian history. Though he was defeated in many battles, notably by Chahamana ruler Prithviraj III (r. 1178-1192 CE) in the First Battle of Tarain in 1191 CE, by Gujrati Chalukya ruler Mularaja II c. 1178 CE and by the rulers of the Khwarazm Empire, he never gave up his conquest and established a vast empire. However, he could not consolidate his empire before he was assassinated in 1206 CE. His main objective was to annex more provinces, and as a shrewd general, he used his religion whenever it became necessary to inspire his forces.
He practised the Sunni faith of Islam and was the one who truly established Islamic supremacy in the Indian subcontinent. Being a very able administrator but without an offspring, Muhammad understood that not only did he require able courtiers to his realm, he would also need some of his closest aides to succeed him and take control of his empire once he is gone. It was also a practice amongst the Islamic rulers to nurture their slaves who would grow on to become some of the closest confidantes of the sultans. In the same way, Muhammad Ghori picked some of his most talented slaves and brought them up with special training generally given to princes. Upon his death, his favourite and most trusted slave Qutb al-Din Aibak took control of the most cherished regions of the rich Indian plains and became the first emperor of the Delhi Sultanate (1206-1526 CE). Taj al-Din Yildiz became the ruler of Ghazni, Nasiruddin Qabacha the ruler of a region centred around Multan, and Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji became the first Islamic ruler of Bengal region.
Early Life & Ascension
Islamic rulers started their invasion of India when a general by the name of Mohammad bin Qasim was sent by the Umayyad Caliph c. 710/711 CE for further conquest and he captured Sindh and Multan (now in Pakistan) from the then Hindu king Raja Dahir. Later on, when the Ghaznavid Dynasty rose to power, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni (r. 999-1030 CE) made his several ferocious raids into India in the early 11th century CE which gave an impetus to the later Ghurids.
The ascension of the Ghurids started from the time when due to the vacuum left by the decline of the earlier Islamic dynasties such as the Samanids, Seljuk Turks, etc., two empires simultaneously rose – the Khwarazm Empire based in Persia and the Ghurids based in Ghor – changing the political landscape of West and Central Asia. The Ghurids started as the vassals of the Ghaznavids before they shattered and toppled the overlordship of the Ghaznavids due to their decline. The Ghurids rose to power during the time of their king Sultan Ala al-Din Husayn (r. 1149-1161 CE) who, in order to avenge his brothers who were killed by a Ghaznavid ruler, ravaged and burned the city of Ghazni which also earned him a nickname 'Jahan-Soz' which roughly translates to 'World Burner'.
Muhammad Ghori was born c. 1149 CE and was the nephew of Sultan Ala al-Din. When Ala al-Din and later his son Sayf al-Din died, Muhammad's elder brother Ghiyath al-Din came to the throne with the support of their nobles. He gave his younger brother many areas to rule Muhammad became the ruler of Ghazni when they captured it in 1173 CE from the Oguz/Ghuzz Turks who had earlier seized it from the Ghaznavids, gradually establishing a solid base there for their further conquests.
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Muhammad Ghori after helping his brother in several campaigns, which secured their positions, turned his eye to India. Firstly, they were under continuous pressure from the Khwarazm Empire in the west, and secondly, Mahmud of Ghazni has already set a precedent of raiding the fabled rich lands of India. So, after ascending the throne of Ghazni in 1173 CE, Muhammad Ghori took the Gomal Pass and conquered Multan and Uchch in the northwest of the Indian subcontinent. Then in 1178 CE, just like Mahmud has done in Gujarat earlier, he crossed the Thar Desert and attacked the Solankis of Gujarat probably to imitate the same feat, only to be completely routed by the Gujarati ruler, which made Ghori change his mind and tactics. He soon abandoned the romanticism of a trans-desert invasion and concentrated his mind on Lahore for a secure base in the Punjab region to further launch his campaigns to India. By 1190 CE, he evicted the Ghaznavids from the Punjab area and conquered Sialkot, Lahore, and then also Peshawar. He then pressed for Delhi and the rich fertile lands of the Ganga-Yamuna Doab.
Two Battles of Tarain
During the same time in India, the Rajput clan of the Chahamanas (also known as the Chauhans) was in the ascendency under their charismatic ruler Prithviraj III. The Chahamanas had already conquered the Delhi region by this time from the Tomars, the erstwhile ruler and Prithviraj himself has made a lot of enemies by his continuous conflicts with the other Hindu rulers of the neighbouring regions. In 1191 CE, Muhammad Ghori took the initiative by storming a fort at Tabarhinda (Bhatinda now in Southern Punjab). Prithviraj's army rushed there to confront him and at a place called Tarain near Thaneswar in Haryana around 150 km from Delhi, Muhammad Ghori's forces were routed and they fled. A few sources (like John Keay's India: A History) also say that the battle was decided by personal combat between Muhammad Ghori and the commander of Prithviraj's army Govind Raja, where Ghori was severely wounded and could escape only due to the bravery of a Khalji warrior. The Chahamana forces did not pursue them in order to finish them off forever, instead, the Ghurid forces were able to escape properly to fight another day.
Muhammad went back to his dominion to recuperate and regroup. He subsequently recruited troops there from various ethnic communities – Turkic, Afghan, Persian etc. – and prepared for the next onslaught. When he invaded again in 1192 CE, it is said that he had a force of around 120,000 soldiers. This battle was a turning point in Indian history and consolidated the Islamic rule in the subcontinent. Though Prithviraj, with his 300,000 soldiers, had a numerical advantage over Ghori, the Rajput force had a lot of organisational problems. The Rajput army came from several different areas and communities, lacking unity. They were a collection of several clans, each unit under an individual clan leader with his own customs, unlike the strict central command of the Ghurid forces who were much better organised and used superior tactics. The Ghurid forces would encircle an enemy from the flanks after letting them penetrate deep into their formations, thereby cutting off their retreat. Also, in this Second Battle of Tarain, Muhammad Ghori made a surprise attack on the Rajputs when they were unprepared and took them by storm. By the time, the Rajputs could gather their arms and organise themselves, Prithviraj's forces were routed. Many lost their lives and Prithviraj himself was later captured and said to have been executed.
Ghurid Forces & Later Campaigns
One of the greatest features of the Ghurid forces was their central command under an able leader. Since the warriors of Central and West Asia have descended from the nomadic tribes of the steppe, where their survival depended on how fast they could ride to hunt down their prey, they were always ready for battle and could move large forces with short notice. Their central Asian horses were also superior, which gave their cavalry the speed and flexibility to launch sudden attacks, crush the enemy, and withdraw in a flash a tactic much effective in battles. Their equipment was light compared to the Rajput army, and the chain of command was organised more efficiently. Their ready army could move quickly and invade without giving the enemy time to prepare.
The Second Battle of Tarain established the Ghurid rule in India with the chief Rajput ruler Prithviraj being beaten and Delhi captured for further incursions into the Indian subcontinent. Soon, the Turkic Ghurid forces captured much of Northern India with important places like Meerut, Ajmer etc. Muhammad Ghori then went back to his Afghan stronghold to help his brother consolidate the west. He left his slave general Aibak in control of Delhi and another of his generals, Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji continued east where he captured Bengal and its adjoining regions. In 1194 CE, Ghurid forces under the command of Aibak also defeated Jayachand of Kannauj, the last independent king of the famous Gahadavala Dynasty which ruled parts of present-day Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
In the meantime, Mohammad Ghori was busy with several campaigns against the Khwarazm Empire. His elder brother died in 1202 CE, leaving him to return to Ghor immediately where he was crowned sultan by the nobles. After his ascension to the throne, he continued facing several assaults from the Khwarazm Empire rulers.
Death & Legacy
Muhammad Ghori faced constant warfare in his lifetime, and after ascension to the throne in 1202 CE, Ghor itself was under threat from the Khwarazm Empire. In 1203/1204 CE, a severe defeat encouraged some of his Indian counterparts to rise in revolt. In 1206 CE, he brutally suppressed a revolt from the Ghakkars or Khokkars, a martial community of Punjab, and left Indian affairs under the able leadership of his slave general Aibak. While returning to Afghanistan, somewhere in the Punjab region, in his camp, he was supposedly murdered by this same Khokkar community, though, it has also been conjectured that he might have been assassinated by a rival Islamic sect.
Muhammad Ghori's campaigns in India and elsewhere left a lasting impression for posterity. He had no offspring and was succeeded by his slave generals, whom he brought up as his own sons with superior martial training and education in order to make them able administrators in future. Qutb al-Din Aibak rose to the most prominent position of the Sultan of Delhi and Hindustan. He was very well trained in the affairs of the state and army, as he had accompanied Muhammad on his various campaigns. When Aibak succeeded to the throne of Delhi, he annexed a huge area of the Indians plains, more than Muhammad would have originally envisaged. He was also a very able ruler who consolidated his empire and proved to be just and generous to his subjects. Unfortunately, he perished shortly in 1210 CE while playing polo. Aibak's legacy can even be witnessed today from the various existing monuments of Delhi. His dynasty is known today as Slave or Mamluk Dynasty.
Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji, his another slave, heralded the Islamic rule in the Bengal region of India. He was followed by several Islamic dynasties and sultans in Bengal. Bakhtiyar Khalji's influence in this region of India has had such impact, that even today folklore says that he captured parts of Bengal just with his few fellow galloping horsemen without much resistance from the local ruler. Though historical evidence does not support the legend, Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji is still remembered with awe and reverence in Bengal today. He, too, perished early while attempting to invade Tibet in 1206 CE, where he was defeated, fell ill, and was later assassinated.
Taj al-Din Yildiz succeeded to the throne of Ghazni, and he would be remembered more in history due to his claim on the throne of Delhi. He was defeated in a battle for the Sultanate by the Mamluk Sultan Shams-ud-din Iltutmish in 1216 CE and put to death later in the same year. Nasiruddin Qabacha, who became the ruler of Multan, also died while fighting Sultan Shams-ud-din Iltutmish in 1228 CE.
Mahmud Of Ghazni Essay
Mahmud of Ghazni, founder of the Ghaznavid Empire, was the son of Sebuk-Tigin, a Turkic slave soldier who rose through military service to lead a small client state of the Abbasid dynasty in Afghanistan. Mahmud assumed control of this state in 997 after defeating a challenge from his brother Ismail.
Although the state he inherited was small, Mahmud moved aggressively to expand his landholdings, launching military expeditions into eastern Iran. Ghaznavid forces conquered Khurasan in 999, which led to the collapse of the Samanid dynasty, and in 1009, the Iranian province of Sijistan also fell. The Ghaznavids defeated their only rivals to power in the eastern Islamic lands, the Khwarazmians, in 1017. Mahmud pushed as far west as the Iranian province of Rayy—ruled by the Buyid confederation based in Baghdad—and conquered it in 1029.
Despite his substantial conquests in eastern and central Iran, Mahmud’s greatest legacy was the expansion of Muslim power eastward into South Asia. Beginning in 1001 Ghaznavid armies campaigned in India, occasionally returning to Iran to beat back incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes from Central Asia. Mahmud went as far south in India as the state of Gujarat, though he was only able to establish firm control over the northern region of Punjab. Although he used Hindu Indian auxiliary troops, Mahmud also ordered or allowed the destruction of Hindu temples. However as a fundamentalist Sunni Muslim, he also ordered the persecution of Shi’i Muslims, both in the Indus Valley and in Rayy, which had been ruled by the Shi’i Buyids. Mahmud’s military successes were balanced out by his patronage of certain Muslim scholars and philosophers, including the famous historian and anthropologist Abu Raihan al-Biruni, who wrote a lengthy and detailed study of the Indian subcontinent.
At its height, during the reign of Mahmud, the Ghaznavid Empire stretched from the Caspian Sea in the west to the Punjab and northern India. After Mahmud’s death in 1030, his son Masud assumed the throne. However the empire’s centralized structure began to disintegrate, as Masud concentrated on further expanding Ghaznavid authority in India while failing to recognize the threat posed by the Seljuk dynasty, which began to move into Ghaznavid lands in Iran. Masud tried to stop the Seljuk advance but was defeated in 1040 at the Battle of Dandanqan and was overthrown the next year. The Ghaznavids remained in power until 1187, though their landholdings were steadily reduced until they included only the city of Ghazna in Afghanistan and small sections of that region.
History of Ghazni Mahumud
Though Mahmud was the eldest son of his father, it is said that in his last days, Subuktagin was not happy with Mahmud. So, when Subuktagin died in 997 AD, his younger son Ismail became the king of Ghazni. Ismail reigned only for a little time. Very soon, Mahmud defeated him and became the king.
- Mahmud began a series of seventeen raids into northwestern India at the end of the 10th century. Nonetheless, he did not attempt to rule Indian Territory except for Punjab, which was his gateway to India.
- His first expedition was directed against the frontier towns in 1000 AD.
- His second expedition was against Jaipala, the Hindushahi king of Punjab whom he defeated in the First Battle of Waihind. Jaipala could not survive the shock of humiliation and he burnt himself to death. He was succeeded by his son, Anandpala in 1002 AD.
- In his sixth expedition, Mahmud defeated Anandpala in the II Battle of Waihind (1008). Anandpala had organized a confederacy of rulers of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Kannauj, Delhi and Ajmer, but the alliance was defeated.
- In his other expeditions, Mahmud plundered Nagarkot, Thaneshwar, Kannauj, Mathura and Somnath.
- His sixteenth expedition was the plunder of Somnath temple (dedicated to Shiva) in 1025 AD, situated on the sea coast of Kathiarwar.
- After looting the Somnath temple, when Mahmud was going back to Ghazni, the Jats had attacked his army. So, to punish the Jats, he returned and defeated them in 1026.
- The objective of Mahmud’s expeditions was to plunder the riches of temples and palaces and was not interested in expanding his empire to India. However, he later annexed Punjab and made it a part of his kingdom, just to have easy access.
- Firdausi (Persian poet, known as Homer of the east) who wrote Shahnama.
- Alberuni (a brilliant scholar from Central Asia) who wrote Tahqiq-I-Hind.
- Utbi (court historian), who wrote Kitab-ud-Yamni.
History of Somnath Temple Gujarat:
The Somnath Temple located in the Kathiarwar region of Gujarat, is one of the twelve Jyotiriings (golden lingas) symbols of the God Shiva. It is mentioned in the Rig Veda. Somnath mean “The Protector of Moon God”. It is known as ‘the Shrine Eternal’, as although the temple has been destroyed six times it has been rebuilt every single time.
The first temple of Somnath is said to have existed before the beginning of the Christian era. The second temple, built by the Maitraka kings of Vallabhi in Gujarat, replaced the first one on the same site around 649 AD. In 725 Junayad, the Arab governor of Sind sent his armies to destroy the second temple.
The Pratihara king Nagabhata II constructed the third temple in 815 AD, a large structure of red sandstone. Mahmud of Ghazni attacked this temple in 1025 AD, and looted it of gems and precious stones. He then massacred the worshippers and had the temple burnt. It was then that the famous Shiva lingam of the temple was entirely destroyed.
The temple and citadel were sacked, and most of its defenders massacred Mahmud personally hammered the temple’s gilded lingam to pieces and the stone fragments were carted back to Ghazni, where they were incorporated into the steps of the city’s new Jamiah Masjid.
The fourth temple was built by the Paramara King Bhoj of Malwa and the Solanki king Bhima of Gujarat between 1026 AD and 1042 AD. The wooden structure was replaced by Kumarpal who built the temple of stone. The temple was razed in 1297 when the Sultanate of Delhi conquered Gujarat, and again in 1394 AD. The Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb destroyed the temple again in 1706 AD.
The present temple is the seventh temple built on the original site. It was completed on December 1, 1995 and the then President of India, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma dedicated it in the service of the nation. The present temple was built by the Shree Somnath Trust which looks after the entire complex of Shree Somnath and its environs.