Perfidy Wins Where Valour Failed
The theologians of Islam had laid down, in the opening years of this imperialist ideology, that the kafirs who could not be subdued by force should be subverted by fraud. The prophet of Islam had himself initiated the first lessons in this lore when he practised what came to be known as Siyasat-i-Madinah in later times, that is, to take the kafirs one by one and that too when they are least expecting an attack. One of his famous sayings, sanctified as his Sunnah, was that ‘war is perfidy. This hadis came in handy to Muizzuddin Muhammad bin Sam who is known in Indian history as Muhammad Ghuri.
By the time of Ghori, the Islamic armies of the Arabs and the Turks had struggled successively for nearly 540 years in order to seize the heartland of India, and to convert the whole country into a Dar-ul-Islam. But they had succeeded only in occupying the frontier areas of Kabul, Zabul, the North-West Frontier Province, Multan, and parts of Punjab and Sindh. This was small consolation compared to the victories of Islam elsewhere, and that, too, in a far shorter span of time.
The New Alignment of Forces
The Yaminis (Ghaznavids) had been overthrown in Afghanistan by the new dynasty of Shansabanis (Ghurids) around the time that Vigraharaja (also known as Visaladeva) was consolidating his hold over territories recovered from the Muslim possessions in the Punjab. Prithiviraja II, the successor to Vigraharaja, had placed his maternal uncle, Kilhan, in charge of the fort at Asika (Hansi). His Hansi stone inscription of AD 1168 describes the Hammira (Amir) as a ‘dagger pointed at the whole world. The flag that fluttered at the gateway of this fort, we are told, ‘defied the Hammira, as it were. Another line in this inscription compares Prithiviraja II to Sri Rama, and Kilhana to Hanumana.1
Besides the Chauhans of Delhi and Ajmer, India at that time had two more powerful kingdoms arrayed against the Muslim invader - the Chaulukyas (Solankis) of Gujarat and the Gahadavads of Kanauj. Had these three Hindu powers joined hands, they would have cleared out the barbarians not only from the Punjab, Multan, Sindh and the North-West Frontier Province but also from Afghanistan which had become the launching pad for Islamic aggression. But this they failed to do because each one of them was bidding for an empire at the cost of others. It seems that the earlier vision which had inspired Hindu princes in North India to come together into a confederacy in the face of a common enemy, had also vanished by this time. In the event, the Chauhans were defeated by fraud, and the Gahadavads were taken by surprise. The Chaulukyas also had a taste of what a Muslim victory would mean, though they survived for the time being.
Muhammad Ghuri was installed at Ghazni in AD 1173 by his elder brother, Ghiyasuddin, who had himself ascended the throne at Ghur in AD 1163. The task of conquering India was assigned to Muhammad Ghuri while his brother was extending the Ghurid empire towards the west. The Ghaznavids were still in possession of the provinces they had been able to conquer in north-western India. ‘Muhammad Ghori, writes Dr. Misra, ‘was fully alive to the strength of the forces opposing him and, unlike Mahmud of Ghazni, he relied more on stratagems than on the strength of arms to gain victories against his adversaries.2
It would have been logical for him, to start with, to take the North-West Frontier Province and the Punjab from the Ghaznavids. But this would have alerted the Chauhans beyond the Sutlej. They, too, could have advanced further west to contest for the Ghaznavid possessions. Muhammad Ghuri knew that he could throw out the Ghaznavids whenever he chose. His problem was the three Hindu kingdoms which were blocking his way into the heartland of Hindustan.
Defeat in Gujarat
So Ghuri entered India through the Gomal pass and ‘wrested Multan from the Qaramatih chiefs in AD 1175. Next he ‘intrigued with the wife of the Bhatti Rai of Uch and promised to marry her if she poisoned her husband. Firishta records that ‘she declined the honour for herself but secured it for her daughter, caused her husband to be put to death and surrendered the fort.3 Ghuri’s way to Gujarat now lay open by way of Western Rajasthan. The Chauhans were not likely to mind if the Chaulukyas went down. Prithviraj III who was to become an inveterate foe of Ghuri in later years, had ascended the throne of Ajmer only an year earlier. He was prevailed upon by his Chief Minister, Kadambavasa, not to interfere. On the other hand Mahmud Ghaznavi’s successful raid on Somanath, one hundred and fifty years earlier, had encouraged Ghuri to imagine that Gujarat was an easy prey. He was dreaming of reaching Somanath, and repeating the ‘pious performance’ of Mahmud. Muslim historians had been gloating over Mahmud’s raid throughout the long interval, without remembering the difficulties with which the raider had subsequently secured his escape.
Muhammad Ghuri advanced upon Gujarat in AD 1178 with a large army. Merutuñga writes in his Prabandha-chintamaNi that ‘the mother of young Mularaja, queen Naikidevi, the daughter of Parmardin of Goa, taking her son in her lap, led the Chaulukya army against the Turushkas and defeated them at Gadararaghatta near the foot of Mount Abu. Mularaja II was a minor at that time. Firishta records that the king of Gujarat ‘advanced with an army to resist the Mohammedans and defeated them with great slaughter. They suffered many hardships before they reached Ghazni. In Sanskrit inscriptions of Gujarat, Mularaja is invariably mentioned as the ‘conqueror of Garjanakas [dwellers of Ghazni]. One inscription states that ‘during the reign of Mularaja even a woman could defeat the Hammira [Amir].
Muhammad Ghuri did not lead another expedition against a Hindu prince for the next 12 years. His experience in Gujarat was too traumatic to be forgotten in a fit of megalomania. He employed the interregnum in occupying the Ghaznavid possessions in India till he reached Lahore in AD 1186. Now he stood face to face with Prithiviraja III, the famous Chauhan ruler of Ajmer (AD 1177-1192) whose feudatory, Govindaraja, was stationed at Delhi. Prithviraja-vijaya tells us that the Chauhan ruler was fully alive to the rise of a ‘beef-eating Mlechha named Ghori in the north-west who had captured Garjani [Ghazni].4 Hammira-mahakavya of Nayachandra Suri states that Prithviraja defeated Muhammad Ghuri at least seven times while Prabandha-chintamaNi of Merutuñga and Prithvirajaraso of Chand Bardai put the number of Prithviraja’s victories at twenty-one. Muslim historians - Minhaj, Firishta, and others - on the other hand, mention only two battles between these two rulers, one in AD 1191 and the other a year later. ‘Dasharatha Sharma reconciles these two versions by suggesting that the Ghorid generals began raiding the Chahmana [Chauhan] territories soon after the occupation of Lahore in AD 1186 but were beaten back by the Chahmana forces. Muslim historians have ignored them altogether.5
Defeat at Tarain
It was only in AD 1191 that Muhammad Ghuri ‘caused the forces of Islam to be organised and advanced against the fortress of Tabarhindah (Sirhind) and took that stronghold. This was a frontier fortress held by a Chauhan feudatory. Prithviraja now advanced with his own army and met Muhammad Ghuri at Tarain. ‘Before the onslaught of the Chahmana army, the right and left flanks of the Muslim army broke down and took to flight. The Sultan might have fallen off his horse had not a Khalji youth recognised him and carried him out of the field of battle. The Muslim army, not seeing their leader, fled headlong from the battlefield and did not draw rein till they had reached a place considered safe from pursuit. The Sultan was also brought there in a litter of broken spears. From there, they returned to their own dominion.6 The Rajputs did not press their advantage to a final conclusion. They were satisfied with Sirhind which was recovered soon after.
Dr. Misra observes: ‘Prithviraja could have now easily consummated his victory by chasing and annihilating his routed enemy. But, instead, he allowed the defeated Muslim army to return unmolested. This magnanimity, though in accord with the humane dictums of the Hindu Shastras, was completely unsuitable against a ruthless enemy who recognised no moral or ideological scruples in the attainment of victory. The Hindus lacked the capacity to comprehend the real nature of their ruthless adversaries and the new tactics needed to encounter their challenge to Indian independence.7 The nemesis came next year, in AD 1192, when Muhammad Ghuri who had made ‘sleep and rest unlawful to himself came back with another army in order to avenge his defeat. Hindus had permitted his earlier army to escape without suffering much hurt.
Resort to Deceit
Before he reached Tarain again, Muhammad Ghuri had sent a messenger from Lahore asking Prithviraja ‘to embrace the Musalman faith and acknowledge his supremacy. Firishta reproduces as follows the letter which Prithviraja wrote to him from the field of battle: ‘To the bravery of our soldiers we believe you are no stranger, and to our great superiority in numbers which daily increases, your eyes bear witness. You will repent in time of the rash resolution you have taken, and we shall permit you to retreat in safety; but if you have determined to brave your destiny, we have sworn by our gods to advance upon you with our rank-breaking elephants, our plain-trampling horses, and blood-thirsty soldiers, early in the morning to crush the army which your ambition has led to ruin. The language of this letter is the typical Rajput language - full of kShamabhava (forgiveness) emanating from perfect confidence in one’s own parakrama (prowess).
Now the Sultan tried his stratagem He replied: ‘I have marched into India at the command of my brother whose general I am. Both honour and duty bind me to exert myself to the utmost but I shall be glad to obtain a truce till he is informed of the situation and I have received his answer. The Hindus fell into the trap. Firishta records ‘The Sultan made preparations for battle and when the Rajputs had left their camp for purposes of obeying calls of nature, and for the purpose of performing ablutions, he entered the plain with his ranks marshalled. Although the unbelievers were amazed and confounded, still in the best manner they could, they stood the fight.8 The battle raged upto afternoon, when the Hindus found themselves tired and exhausted. They had not eaten even a breakfast. The fight was finished when Ghuri threw in his reserve division constituted by the flower of his army. The Rajputs were defeated, and suffered great slaughter.
The Muslims now occupied Delhi and marched into Ajmer. Prithviraja who had been made captive and who refused to swear submission, was beheaded and his son was installed as the new king. Rajput resistance was still continuing in the countryside. Ghuri wanted to mollify the patriots by means of a showboy. But that was of no avail. Hariraja, the younger brother of Prithviraja, reoccupied Ajmer in AD 1193. He also planned to attack and take Delhi again. The plan failed because Ghuri had assembled another big army for his march on the Gahadavad kingdom of Kanauj. Hariraja committed suicide. He was too ashamed to live after so many of his people had embraced death in defence of their country and culture, and after he had remained unsuccessful in redeeming his own pledge.
The Gahadvads Give a Good Account
Jayachandra, the Gahadavad ruler of Kanauj, had not only kept aloof from the battles raging to his south and west; he had also rejoiced in the defeat of the Chauhans, the traditional rivals of the Gahadavads in the bid for supremacy over North India. It was his turn to stand up and accept the challenge when Ghuri appeared at the gates of his kingdom with a re-equipped horde in AD 1194. The armies met at Chandawar. ‘The battle was fiercely contested and the Gahadavads led by Jayachandra almost carried the day when the latter seated on a lofty howdah received a deadly wound from an arrow and fell from his exalted seat to the earth. The Muslims were able to plunder Kanauj and Asni where Jayachandra had kept his treasure. But Rajput resistance continued till Jayachandra’s son, Harishchandra, recovered Kanauj, Jaunpur and Mirzapur in AD 1197. ‘Kanauj seems to have stayed independent till the reign of Iltumish who ultimately conquered it from Harish Chandra’s successor, Adakkamalla.9
The main centres of Hindu power in North India had thus collapsed after the defeat of the Chauhans and the Gahadavads. Bihar, which had been a bone of contention between the Gahadavads and the Senas of Bengal, now became a no-man’s-land. Bakhtiyar Khalji, a general of Ghuri, swept through Bihar in AD 1202, and reached Navadvipa, the capital of the Senas, a year later. This was a lightning raid which took the 80 years old Lakshmana Sena by surprise. The Muslim squad had entered Navadvipa in the guise of Muslim merchants to whose visits the Hindus of that city were used. The Sena Raja fled to Sonargaon in East Bengal.
Hindu Resistance Continues
Hindu resistance, however, did not cease. The Muslims had occupied the big cities and the fortified towns. But they had no hold on the countryside which was seething with revolt. The first to deliver a counter-attack were the Mher Rajputs around Ajmer. They rose in AD 1195 and appealed to the Chaulukya ruler of Gujarat for help. The help came. Qutbuddin Aibak, another general of Ghuri, was in charge of Ajmer at that time. According to Hasan Nizami, a contemporary historian, ‘The action lasted the whole day and the next morning that immense army of Naharwala [Anhilawara, capital of Gujarat] came to the assistance of the vanguard, slew many of the Musalmans, wounded their commander, pursued them to Ajmer and encamped within one parasang of the place. Aibak rushed messengers to Ghazni, crying for help. ‘It was only after a very large army was despatched to reinforce him, that Aibak could be rescued.10
Aibak, in turn, invaded the kingdom of Gujarat in AD 1197. The Chaulukyan army again faced the Muslims at the foot of Mount Abu where Ghuri had been defeated in AD 1178. The Muslim army became nervous and dared not attack. ‘It is clear from Hasan Nizami’s account that the army of Islam advanced under the cover of darkness of night and caught the Chaulukyan army unprepared at dawn.11 The Hindus were defeated this time. Anhilawara was occupied and sacked. But the Muslims could not hold Gujarat for long. In the next four years, Bhimadeva II, the Chaulukyan king, recovered the whole of his kingdom from the invaders and was back in Anhilawara in AD 1201. Arnoraja, the Vaghela feudatory of Bhima Deva, met his death in this campaign. But his son, Lavanaprasada, won a singular victory at Stambha, modern Cambay. Sridhara, the governor of Devapattan, inflicted another crushing defeat on the Muslims. ‘How and when this army of occupation was driven out of Gujarat is nowhere mentioned by Muslim historians. It is precisely here that the two inscriptions of Dabhoi and Verawal refer to the heroic struggles of two generals of the Chaulukya king, Lavanaprasada and Sridhara. Dr. Misra concludes: ‘For nearly the whole of the next century, Gujarat remained independent. Perhaps no other Indian dynasty put up a more sustained or successful resistance against the Muslims for a longer period.12
Assam Stays Free
In the eastern theatre, Bakhtiyar Khalji could not conquer East Bengal. The Madanpara and Edilpur inscriptions of Visvarupa Sena and Keshava Sena, the successors of Lakshmana Sena, speak of victories won by them over the yavanas. Hodivala points out that ‘we possess epigraphic evidence of Lakshmana Sena’s descendants having ruled for at least three generations at Vikramapur near Sonargaon in Dacca.13
Blocked by the Senas from East Bengal, Bakhtiyar Khalji advanced into Assam. But his army was destroyed by the king of Kamarupa. He was able to escape with his own life and about a hundred followers. But his army was slaughtered so that he fell sick due to excessive grief and died or was murdered in sick bed by a Muslim rival. ‘The Musalman invasion of the Brahmaputra valley was repeated on several occasions during the next five centuries of Muslim rule over north India, but most of these expeditions ended in disaster and Islam failed to make any inroads into the valley. The present plight of the Hindus of Assam at the hands of Muslim infiltrators is entirely due to that ‘peaceful penetration which was helped in the 20th century, first by the British patrons of the Muslim League and, later on, by vote-hungry Hindu politicians of the ruling party in independent India.
The Correct Perspective
Dr. Misra concludes the ‘history of the epic struggle of the Indians against the attempts of the early Muslim invaders to foist an alien faith, an alien culture and an alien rule over Indian soil with the following words: ‘Beginning with the first Arab expedition against Thana near Bombay in A.D. 636 the Muslims only succeeded in establishing the Delhi Sultanate in AD 1206, that is, after prolonged and relentless efforts lasting as many as 570 years. The magnitude of the resistance offered by Indians can be easily comprehended if we remember that the duration of the effective Muslim rule over northern India, not to speak of the whole of India which was much less, if ever, lasted only 500 years (upto the death of Aurangzeb in AD 1707).14
Ibid., p. 74-75. ↩
Ibid., p. 84. ↩
Ibid., p. 85. ↩
Ibid., p. 90. ↩
Ibid., p. 91. ↩
Ibid., p. 91-92. There are some other Muslim accounts of how the Sultan escaped death. ↩
Ibid., p. 92. ↩
Ibid., p. 93. ↩
Ibid., p. 96. ↩
Ibid., p. 87. ↩
Ibid., p. 88. ↩
Ibid., p. 89. ↩
Ibid., p. 97. ↩
Ibid., p. 101. ↩