The Arab rule was established in Sindh in 712 A.D. This led to a series of changes in North India during 1100-1300 AD.
The reason for these changes can mainly be attributed to the increasing Turkish attacks in North India.
The Umayyads ruled the Arab lands during the period of 661-750 AD. Their rule was followed by the Abbasids in 750 AD who changed the dominance of the military in Arab administration. The civil wars for succession of this last great Caliph Harun al Rashid shook the foundations of the Abbasid Empire.
This gradual decline of the Abbasid Empire gave way to the emergence of a number of small independent kingdoms during the 10th Century AD, the Jahirids, the Safavids, the Buwayhids, Qara-Khanids and the Samanids. The Turkish slaves rose to prominence in the administration and army due to the patronage of Caliph al-Mu’tasim (833-842 AD).
These Turks brought with them loot and plunder. Their main method of warfare was a combination of rapid advances and retreats accompanied with lightning raids. This method was successful to a large extent as they used horses.
In India, the arrival of the Turks was overlooked on the northern frontiers as there was a power struggle growing on in North India due to the breakup of the Gurjara-Pratihara Empire.
The state was a product of the acculturation of the Turkish tribesman in the institutions of settled societies. Considerable changes were seen in the Turkish organization and direction after they came into contact with the Mongols.
In the 10th century AD, these Ghaznavids became a prominent force in central Asia and defenders of Islam from the Central Asian tribes.
The new class of soldiers emerged during this time known as the Ghazi. Ghazi was a missionary as well as a fighter as their battle was against Turks, most of who worshipped the forces of nature and were heathens in the eyes of the Muslims. The Ghazi acted as an auxiliary unit and made up for his pay by plunder done by him during raids.
Alaptgin, the Samanid governor and slave of the Turkish origin, established an independent kingdom at Ghazni.
Abu Mansur Sabuktigin (942-997 AD) was Alaptgin’s slave and married his daughter. He later founded the Ghaznavid dynasty on the ruins of the declining Abbasid Caliphate.
The Ghaznavids rose to prominence under the reign of Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030 AD).
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni is considered to be a great Islamic hero by medieval historians for his role in protecting and preserving Islam from the constant attacks of the Central Asian Tribes that invaded the region.
He was the son of Sabuktigin, the founder of Ghaznavid dynasty. Mahmud of Ghazni took over his father’s reigns after defeating Ismail in the Battle of Ghazni. Mahmud of Ghazni declared himself as Sultan.
He declared himself free from the protection of Samanid dynasty. Under the reign of Mahmud of Ghazni, the Ghazi spirit was raised by many folds. He was responsible for the renaissance of the Iranian spirit. Mahmud of Ghazni is considered to the predecessor of the Delhi sultanate in India.
The proud Iranians had never accepted the Arabic language and culture. The Samanid state had also encouraged the Persian language and literature.
A high water mark in the Iranian Renaissance was reached with Firdausi’s Shahnama. There was a resurgence of Iranian patriotism and Persian language and culture now became the language and culture of the Ghaznavids Empire.
During this period, the Turks not only became Islamized but also Persianized.
Mahmud of Ghazni invaded Indian kingdoms frequently and plundered Indian cities and temples. He took away huge quantity of wealth from India and killed her people in thousands.
He made the Shahi kingdom out of existence which had been guarding the north frontiers against foreign invaders. Mahmud also made Punjab and Afghanistan a part of the Ghazni kingdom. But he did not establish an Islamic rule in India.
The invasions and battles of Mahmud of Ghazni laid the foundations of the Delhi Sultanate in India.
Battle of Peshawar was fought on 27 November 1001 between the Ghaznavid army under the leadership of Mahmud of Ghazni and the Hindu Shahi army of Jayapala, near Peshawar . This was a part of series of incursions that became an annual feature of Mahmud of Ghazni. Jayapala was defeated and captured by Mahmud of Ghazni.
In 1015 Mahmud unsuccessfully attacked Kashmir.
In 1018 he attacked Mathura and defeated a coalition of rulers there while killing a ruler called Chandrapala.
In 1021 Mahmud supported the Kannauj king against Chandela king Gauda, who was defeated. That same year Shahi Trilochana Pala was killed at Rahib and his son Bhima Pala succeeded him. Lahore (modern Pakistan) was annexed by Mahmud.
Mahmud besieged Gwalior where he was given tribute in 1023.
Mahmud attacked Somnath in 1025, and its ruler Bhima Deva I fled. The next year, he captured Somnath and marched to Kachchh against Bhima Deva.
Mahmud attacked the Jat people of Jud in 1025.
Somnath Temple Raids
India was the proverbially wealthy land that had always appeared rich and attractive from the barren land of Central Asia. To keep his constant loot and plunders Mahmud of Ghazni looked at India as place to fill his empty coffers time and again. These raids on Hindu temples not only provided him with quantities of wealth but also strengthened his position as a staunch follower of Islam and an iconoclast.
The concentration of wealth and the prestige that Somnath temple held was renowned. The major item of trade at Veraval port was horses which might have acted as an additional factor for Mahmud of Ghazni to attack the Somnath temple.
In 1026, Mahmud of Ghazni raided Samantha temple desecrated the temple and broke the idol of lingam installed in the Somnath temple. Mahmud of Ghazni took with him loot of 2 million dinars that was gained from the Somnath temple raids.
The subsequent raids of Mahmud into India were aimed at plundering the rich temples and cities of northern India in order to continue his struggle against his enemies in Central Asia. For his plundering raids into India the Ghazis came handy to him. Mahmud also posed as a great Shikan or ‘destroyer of the images’ for the glory of Islam.
The Ghaznavid conquest of the Punjab and Multan completely changed the political situation in north India as the Turks had crossed the chains of mountains defending India’s north-west.
Death of Muhmad gave rise to Seljuk Empire. The Seljuk Empire reduced the extent of Ghaznavid Empire to Ghazni and Punjab. Though there were more raids none were as threatening and as powerful as the previous ones. Meanwhile the condition of North India also changed with rise of many small states.
Significance of Muhmud Ghazni’s Invasion
Exposition of India’s military weakness.
Exposition of India’s political disunity.
Weakening of the economic condition of India as Mahmud carried huge wealth out of the country.
Great setback to Indian art and sculpture owing to destruction of idols and temples.
Opening of India to foreign attacks.
Opportunity for Islam to set its foothold in India
Growing of the feeling of hatred and fear among the Hindus towards the Muslims.
Arrival of Muslim saints, called the Sufis, providing impetus to greater Hindu-Muslim interaction.
Al-Biruni was an Iranian scholar who visited India around 1017 CE to explore Indian culture and Hinduism.
He was very well connected with nobility and was sought to conduct research and study to uncover certain findings by nobility and rulers.
Al-Biruni is regarded as one of the greatest scholars of the medieval Islamic era and was well versed in physics, mathematics, astronomy, and natural sciences, and also distinguished himself as a historian, chronologist and linguist.
Al-Biruni book ‘Tahquiq-e-Hind’ is a very valuable source of information on economic, political, religious and social conditions prevailing in contemporary India. He studied Sanskrit in India to study religious texts, philosophical and religious books of the Hindus.
Al Biruni’s Account of India
Religious Conditions: The sole right of reading and interpreting the religious scriptures vested with the Brahmins. Idol worship was prevalent in India.
Political Conditions: According to Al Biruni India was a fragmented state. It was fragmented on basis of dynasties that were jealous of each other and infighting prevailed amongst them. Another important finding was that feeling of nationalism lacked amongst the Indians.
Legal System: The criminal system was corrective and some sections of society like Brahmins were exempted from capital punishment.
Economic Conditions: The living conditions in India were far better than the people of other places like Iran. The king or ruler was not the owner of all lands. Though he collected the taxes and appropriated them according to the needs of his subjects.
Philosophical Conditions: Al Biruni was highly impressed with the Indian philosophy. The religious texts like Bhagvada Gita, Upanishads were some of the scriptures that mesmerized him.
Written History: Indians had little written history as elucidated by Al Biruni.
Social Conditions: According to Al Biruni Indian society was a caste based society. The society was socially very vibrant and caste distinctions were prominent in Indian society. Child marriage, prohibition on widow remarriage , ‘Sati’ and ‘Jauhar ’ were prevalent in India during the time.
Science of India: Alberuni was among the first scholar to study Indiaandthe Hindu scientific literature. Alberuni was impressed by most of the Indian knowledge of astronomy, meteorology, arithmetic and geography which he mentioned in Kitab al-Hind. He discussed all the five siddhantas on the Indian astronomy.
Firdausi (940-1020 AD) was Persian poet who penned down the Shahnameh. Shahnameh is a long epic poem written between 977 and 1010 AD and is the national epic of Iran. Shahnameh consisting of some 50,000 couplets and is lauded to be the largest epic poem ever written by a single poet.
The Shahnameh gives a chronological account of the prehistory and history of Iran, beginning with the creation of the world and the introduction of civilization and ended with the Islamic conquest of Persia.
Evaluation of Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud of Ghazni was the person who was the precursor of the Delhi Sultanate in political and military terms. He was the first Turk to attack Multan and went inroads in India. Later he made incursions into the Ganga-Yamuna doab.
He was the first Turk to realize the importance of temples and the vast amount of wealth stored in them. He was the first one that used the temple’s wealth to conquer and consolidate his empire.
From 1010 to 1026; his invasions were directed towards temple-towns like Thaneshwar, Mathura, Kannauj and Somnath. This led to the breakdown of Indian kingdoms as they significantly depended on temples for their economy.
This ultimately resulted in the breakdown of Indian resistance and exposed its weakness to Turks. These invasions by Mahmud of Ghazni paved way for more Turkish conquests and ultimately paved the way for the establishment of Delhi Sultanate.
Changes in 12th Century
Towards the middle of the 12th century, another group of Turkish tribesmen who were partly Buddhist and partly pagan, shattered the power of Seljuk Turks. Two new powers Khwarizmi empire based in Iran and Ghurid empire based on Ghur in North-west Afghanistan rose to power contenting against each other .
With the former being powerful limited left no option for Ghurids but to look for expansion towards India.
In 1173 AD Shahabuddin Muhammad known Muhammad Ghori ascended the throne of Ghazni. In a short time, Muhammad Ghori realized that he could gain a lot more by attacking India than in Central Asia. So he redirected his expansionist ambitious ideas towards India.
Muhammad Ghori’s titles included Burshikan (idol breaker) and Jahan-i-Soz (one who sets the world on fire). His main objective was to popularize Islam in India.
His campaigns were well organized with an objective to establish an empire in India. He left generals behind to govern the territories that he conquered in India. His invasions resulted in the permanent establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.
Punjab and Sind Conquests
Muhammad Ghori led his first successful expedition in India in 1175 AD against Multan. In the same campaign he captured Uchch from the Bhatti Rajputs.
Muhammad Ghori launched a campaign against the Ghaznavid possessions in Punjab and conquered Peshawar and Lahore with it in 1179-80 AD and 1186 AD respectively. By the year 1190 AD Multan, Sindh and Punjab were under Muhammad Ghori’s control.
While Ghori was over -running Multan, Prithviraja became the king of Ajmer. The young ruler embarked on the career of conquest. He invaded Bundelkhand are and defeated the Chandela rulers in a battle near Mahoba. He next invaded Gujarat but the Gujarat ruler Bhima II who had earlier defeated Muizzuddin Muhammad also defeated Prithviraj. This forced Prithviraj to turn his attention towards Punjab and the Ganga valley.
First Battle of Tarain
The first battle of Tarain was fought between Muhammad Ghori and Prithviraj Chauhan in 1191 AD. The trigger for the battle was the capture of fort of Bhatinda by Muhammad Ghori.
Prithviraj Chauhan marched to Bhatinda and in the middle met the army of Muhammad Ghori at Tarain. A fierce battle was fought and Prithviraj Chauhan emerged victorious out of the battle of Tarain.
Prithviraj Chauhan succeeded in stopping the Ghorian advance towards Hindustan in the first battle of Tarain.
Second Battle of Tarain
After the humiliating defeat of Muhammad Ghori in the first battle of Tarain he started planning revenge on Prithviraj Chauhan. On reaching Lahore Muhammad Ghori sent an envoy to Prithviraj Chauhan to demand his submission.
Prithviraj Chauhan sent an appeal to all Rajput rulers to assist him against Muhammad Ghori but everyone refused.
A fierce battle was fought in Tarain. Muhammad Ghori had learnt a lot from his previous mistakes and now was able to match the well disciplined army of Rajputs. He had divided his contingent into 5 units and tricked the Rajputs and surrounded them from the rear and flank side. This led to panic among the disciplined Rajputs army causing them to retreat.
A large number of Indian soldiers lost their lives. Prithviraj escaped but was captured near Saraswati. The Turkish army attacked and captured Ajmer. Prithviraj was allowed to rule over Ajmer for sometime. Soon after Prithviraj was executed on a charge of conspiracy and his son succeeded the throne.
Following a rebellion, Ghori’s army recaptured Ajmer and installed a Turkish general. Prithviraj’s son moved to Ranthambore and founded a new powerful Chauhan Kingdom.
A victory in the second battle of Tarain boosted the morale of Muhammad Ghori and he followed up this victory by defeating Jayachandra in the Battle of Chandawar .
Evaluation of Muhammad Ghori
The objective of Muhammad Ghori’s entry into India was to gain wealth for conquests and consolidation of his empire.
The initial phase of Muhammad Ghori’s invasions was with the military objective to gain control over Punjab and Sind, the gateway to India.
His intelligence in strategy making can be understood by the fact that he decided to enter the Indus plains through the Gomel Pass and not through the more common Khyber Pass further north. It was a much easier route that majority of his predecessors overlooked. By 1182 AD Peshawar, Uchh and Multan and Lahore became a part of his empire.
The next in the line of his conquests were the Rajput kingdoms which he occupied within a short time with large scale military operations. With this move Muhammad Ghori now controlled parts even in the Gangetic plains.
The Chauhan Rajputs faced the major brunt of Muhammad Ghori as they ruled the territory from Ajmer to Delhi the next natural frontier . Bhatinda was besieged in 1191 AD by Muhammad Ghori which gave a lot of confidence to the Ghorian army and hence they attacked the Chauhan garrisons only to be defeated in the first battle of Tarain.
In the following year 1192 AD, Muhammad Ghori returned with a larger force to retaliate against the earlier defeat. At the Tarain fierce battle was fought between the armies of Prithviraj Chauhan and Muhammad Ghori. This battle was won by Muhammad Ghori and he inflicted a humiliating defeat on Prithviraj Chauhan.
Muhammad Ghori returned to his projects in Central Asia to tackle his weakening position in central Asia after having secured a significant territory in India. He left Indraprastha (now Delhi) under the command of Qutbuddin Aibak with a significant army under Aibak’s command. This marked the beginning of the Delhi Sultanate’s rule in India.
Ghaznavid Dynasty: Role in Formation of Delhi Sultanate
The Turkish conquest of India brought radical changes in the political and socio-economic conditions of people in India.
The most important and visible political change was to replace the feudal, multi-centered polity by a centralized state in India. In the new system the king enjoyed practically unlimited powers. The Delhi Sultanate’s was the first such system that manifested Turkish centralized polity.
The most important economic change that was brought by the Turks was the introduction of the Iqta system.
The keystone of revenue collection during the Sultanate was the Iqta. The Iqtas, transferable revenue assignments were first seen in operation in the Abbasid ruled areas and were popularised by the Seljuk rulers who updated them according to their own requirements.
Under the Iqta system, the officers of the king were assigned territories to realise revenue and maintain their troop.
Muqti was the title given to the holders of such assignments. Unlike the previous system wherein the land grantees had acquired rights of ownership, the Turkish Iqta-holders were regularly transferred and their tenure was normally for 3 to 4 years.
The Turks led to the unification of Indian administration by the use of centralization and the Iqta system. The Iqta system made the assignee dependent on the central authority to a far greater extent than it was possible under the earlier Indian polity.
This helped the Turks in establishing an all-India administration by bringing the chief cities and the great routes under the control of the government of Delhi. Iqta system provided the base for a despotic state and acted as a means for extracting the agricultural surplus.
The Turks had brought with them the tradition of living in the cities and the large surplus produce of the countryside found its way into the cities in the form of state taxes leading to a considerable urban economic growth. Turks also brought with them the Persian wheel which helped greatly in increasing the agricultural production.
Some Important Points
Utbi was the court historian of Mahmud of Ghazni.
Al-Biruni was the first Muslim who studied Puranas.
The coins of Mahmud Ghazni struck in India with arabic and Sanskrit legends on observe and reverse respectively.
Coins issued by Ghori has an image of Goddess Lakshmi while on the opposite side of the coin Kalma was inscribed in Arabic.