The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India - Part 1

  • By Pingali Gopal
  • May 25 2021
  • Part one presents background and about the attackers, settlers up to the start of the Mughal period and their atrocities.

A three-part summary of Sita Ram Goel’s book The Story of Islamic Imperialism in India.

A Snapshot of Islamic Rulers of India (post-independence definition)

The Attackers 

The Arabs: Muhammad bin Qasim (695-715)

The Turks:

1. The Ghaznavids: Mahmud Ghazni (999-1030)

2. The Ghurids: Muhammed Ghori (1149-1206)

Timur (1336-1405): Turco-Mongol descent. Warlord. A late attacker but goes back.

The Settlers

1. The Delhi Sultanate: Established Islamic Empire centred at Delhi (1206–1526)

2. Mamluk dynasty (1206–1290): Turkic slave soldiers

3. Khalji dynasty (1290–1320): Turko-Afghans

4. Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414): Turkic

5. Sayyid dynasty (1414–1451) (claimed descendants of the Prophet’s daughter Fatima)

Lodi dynasty (1451–1526): Afghans.

Mughal period (1529-1857)

1. Babur (1483-1530): Descendent of Timur and Genghis Khan- Mongol origin. Settled in India in 1526 coming from Uzbekistan and ruled for 4 years.

2. Humayun

3. Akbar (1542-1605) Ruled from 1556 to 1605 (49 years- the best period of the entire Indic civilization if we believe our eminent historians)

4. Jahangir

5. Shah Jahan

6. Aurangzeb (1658-1707) Another 49 years with maximum apologists working for him in the modern scholarship

7. 13 kings followed with progressive weakening of the Empire ending with the 20th in the line- Bahadur Shah Zafar the second (1837-1857).

Some Regional Dynasties

1. Kashmir: Shah Mir Dynasty 14th century (Turkish or Persian)

2. Bahmani Sultanate (1347-1527) founded by a Persianate slave. The Sultanate breaks up as Deccan Sultanates (Between Krishna River and the Vindhyas)

3. Bengal Sultanate (1352–1576): Indo-Turkic, Arab, Abyssinian and Bengali Muslim elites.

Deccan Sultanates

1. Bijapur Sultanate (the Adil Shahi dynasty): Georgian-Oghuz Turkic slave

2. Golkonda Sultanate (the Qutb Shahi dynasty): Turkmen origin

3. Ahmadnagar Sultanate: Hindu lineage

4. Bidar Sultanate: (Barid Shahi dynasty) a Turkic noble

5. Berar Sultanate: Hindu lineage

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The Background

Sita Ram Goel (1921 -2003) along with his friend and mentor Ram Swarup (1920-1998) were great ‘intellectual Kshatriyas’ of modern India. Many reformers in pre-independent India, though with their hearts in the right place, accepted the colonisers’ view of ‘Hinduism’ and the need to reform it. Raja Ram Mohan Roy’s critique of Hinduism and his trying to purify it into the true Upanishidic form without any rituals or ‘idolatry’ was an example of one such reform. He accepted the colonial view that Hinduism in its original form was pure but later additions corrupted it. This was simply a Protestant critique of Catholic Christianity reflecting as Indian experience and solutions.

There was never a systematic attempt to look at Islam and Christianity from a Hindu angle; they were either feeble or did not get prominence the way they should have. Amongst many reasons, it could be the difficulty in fighting power structures. Unfortunately, even after independence, our thinkers and political figures could not develop an independent view of India based on indigenous cultural traditions. We simply persisted with the stories the colonials told us regarding our ‘religions’, ‘social systems’, or our ‘character.’

To this added the peculiar idea of secularism in our political thinkers ably assisted by left-oriented influential academia setting our intellectual discourses. This secularism meant appeasing the minorities and liberalism as abusing the majority Hindus by constantly shaming them. One of the exercises of such secularism was to whitewash the Islamic history of its brutalities. The Hindu contributions to Indian historical narratives became footnotes even as Islamic positives soared high into the skies. Our textbooks highlighted the ‘molehills of munificence’ of the Islamic rulers and suppressed the ‘mountains of malevolence,’ as Sita Ram Goel says.

What was terrible about this project was the urge and need to identify contemporary Indian Muslims with the Islamic invaders of the past. Our thinkers could not set a narrative of detaching the present Muslims from the crimes of the Islamic invaders. In this far better method, there would have been no need to falsify our history and at the same time carrying the country forward with better harmony. The lies and whitewashings of the past caused immense damage to both Indian Hindus and Muslims unfortunately.

Unfortunately, the Muslim intellectuals also became a part of this exercise, especially the Aligarh school of historians. Falsifying and distorting the history of the Islamic invaders has damaged both Muslims and Hindus; the fissures have only deepened across decades.

Sita Ram Goel and Ram Swarup were a few of the great intellectuals who took a different approach. Instead of assessing Hinduism from the point of view of other religions, one of their important exercises was to reverse the gaze from the point of view of Hinduism. Their books are uncomfortable to those steeped in the values of Indian secularism. This includes both the so-called right and the left wings. The Indian brand of secularism finally ends up hurting everyone paradoxically and as Jakob De Roover points out (Europe, India, and the Limits of Secularism), even breeds ‘Hindu Fundamentalism’; a word which is almost an oxymoron.

What follows is a summary in three parts of a book written by Sita Ram Goel ‘The Story of Islamic Imperialism’, first published in 1982. This was primarily in response to NCERT guidelines to writers of history textbooks. The book counters the faulty guidelines and gives a view of the Islamic invasions absent in our history textbooks. The book is important for all of us to understand what India had to bear in the past without making anyone in the present guilty or angry. Indians do not give importance to history the way westerners do, but a correct idea of history is certainly important for future building.

Introductory Words of Sita Ram Goel- In the Name of National Integration

Secularists and socialists in India today (progressive, liberal, and large-hearted) are in ideological blindness towards the violent waves of Islamic imperialism. The latter has carved out Pakistan and Bangladesh; decreased the Hindu population in these countries, and today demands a greater share in India.

Islamic imperialism disputes that the age-old Hindu society constitutes the core of the Indian nation. Secularists and socialists picture Hindu society as a heterogeneous mass divided by race, religion, sect, caste, class, and language but united by only a shared slavery under colonial rule. The deeper unity holding Hindu society, which even the British were aware of, is unfortunately absent from their perception. This class has inherited from the British the moral responsibility to protect the ‘Muslim minority’.

The moral tirade condemning Hindus and exonerating the Muslims peaks during any communal riots. National integration means today that a meek Hindu society must integrate with a militant Muslim ideology. The only Hindu unity now is a consciousness of a common history, particularly the history of freedom struggles against Islamic and British imperialism. Fortunately, Hindu society still takes pride in its great past when it made major contributions to the spiritual, cultural, philosophical, and scientific wealth of humankind. It also cherishes the memory of its great sages, seers, saints, scientists, scholars, soldiers, and leaders. This common consciousness prevents Hindu society from accepting the foreign Muslims as native dynasties at par with Indian kings. It refuses to see the resistance against Islamic and colonial forces as that of petty local chieftains.

An influential Muslim component of the ‘composite nation’ has serious objections to this Hindu view of history. They do not take pride in any period of pre-Islamic Indian history, disowning it as an era of darkness. They rarely acknowledge Hindu rebels and revolutionaries fighting for freedom. But they insist that Hindus should honour the revivalists of Islamic imperialism (Shah Walliullah and Syed Ahmad Barelvi), separatists (Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and the Ali Brothers), murderers of Hindus (the Moplahs), or secessionists (Mohammed Ali Jinnah) as freedom fighters.

Mosque Qutub Minar Complex made from ruins of Hindu/Jain temples.

Muslim Indians are indifferent towards the Sanskrit, Prakrit, and vernacular literature of ancient and medieval India. Indian philosophies, sciences, spiritual traditions, architecture, sculpture, and other arts also do not matter much. However, music retains some appreciation, simply because there never was any Islamic music, and many Indian musicians are converts to Islam. However, Hindus need to appreciate Muslim culture, Muslim architecture, miniature paintings, Urdu poetry and accept as national heritage even the compositions of Hindu-haters like Amir Khusru and Muhammad Iqbal.

The ruling class for a long period could not see any justice in the Hindu consciousness of its pre-Islamic past, nor any injustice in the Muslim insistence on glorifying an inglorious period in Indian history. The solution for preventing ‘communal strife’ and encourage ‘national integration’ is to dilute Hindu history and glorify or whitewash Islamic history, unfortunately. Now, the NCERT books join the Communist and Muslim historians to present a warped picture.

NCERT Guidelines and The Problems

In 1982, the NCERT, under instructions from the Ministry of Education, passed guidelines to revise history textbooks radically. This was to promote social cohesion and national integration. Some like abandoning reference of ancient, medieval, and modern history as Hindu, Muslim, and British periods respectively or dropping ‘Aryan’ as a racial category are good. Surprisingly, the guidelines continue with the Aryan invasion theory.

The rest of the recommendations are with the twin purpose of decimating Hindu heritage and whitewashing Islamic destruction. There is a warning against the use of myths as history aiming at the Ramayana, the Mahabharata, and the entire corpus of Purana literature. These represent the crux of Indian civilization and represent the strongest points to unite the country into a single Bharatvarsha. Another recommendation is to forbid over-glorification of the country’s past. Specifically, the Gupta Age can no longer be the ‘golden period of Hinduism’, a period where Hindu spirituality, art, literature, science, and philosophy attained a peak.

For medieval historya recommendation that Muslim rulers are not ‘foreigners’ except for ‘early invaders who did not settle here’ opens a pandora’s box of contradictions. The earliest Muslim invaders were the Arabs occupying Sindh and Multan in the early 8th century. Later, the Turks ousted them, who in the second wave occupied Afghanistan and large areas of Punjab starting 963 CE. Mohammed Ghuri in 1186 CE overthrew them and led the third wave of Muslim invaders occupying Haryana and parts of UP by 1194-95 CE. His generals had conquered Bihar, Bengal, and parts of Bundelkhand by the time of his assassination in 1206 CE. Finally, the Shamsi dynasty established at Delhi in 1210 CE followed by other several Muslim dynasties.

1206 or 1210 CE is the decisive time when Muslim rulers settled in Delhi and became ‘natives’ from foreigners. ‘Here’ implies only the area of India after the Partition; the present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan become thus ‘foreign’ lands from the second decade of the 8th century onwards! The Arabs and the Turks recognized Sindh, Afghanistan, the North-West Frontier Province, and the Punjab beyond the Satlaj as clearly Hind. Babur launched his invasions from foreign lands but later settled here. The guidelines, arbitrarily drawing a distinction between ‘early invaders who did not settle here’ and the ‘Muslim rulers who did’ make Babur (1483-1530) a ‘native’ conveniently.

In 1210 CE, Delhi, not even a metropolitan city, was comparatively a small town under the Ajmer Chauhans. Can we not similarly convert foreign invaders into native rulers from the dates on which the bigger and more important cities later came under Muslim occupation? Bigger places like Multan, Kabul, Peshawar, and Lahore do not have the honour because they happen to be in a foreign land today.

The guidelines are for clearly the British rulers who came from a foreign homeland and took the plunder back to a defined home. Whether the loot stays in India or abroad, it does not make a difference so long as looting the conquered population remains a primary occupation of the conqueror. The logic for Ghaznavi and Muhammad Ghuri as foreign applies equally to the Mamluks, the Khaljis, the Tughlaqs, the Lodis, the Surs, and the Mughals who brought the loot to Delhi from many other parts of India.

Muslim rule was a prototype of the succeeding British rule. No Muslim ruler ever learnt or spoke an Indian language except in the last days when Muslim power had collapsed. Arabic, Persian, Turkish, and later English had the pride of place. The positions of power and privilege were always for Muslims of Arabic, Turkish, Persian, or even Abyssinian descent, as they were for the white men. Their whole lifestyle had as little of the Indian in it as the lifestyle of the latter-day British.

In fact, the British rulers were kinder to Indians as compared to the medieval Muslim rulers in terms of iconoclasm, conversions, inter-faith marriages, and allowing reverse criticism without inflicting violence. Muslim rulers of India cannot be native rulers because they settled down ‘here’ or because today’s Muslims, considering themselves as the descendants of those Muslim rulers, demand this. This is a gross distortion of Indian history. Appeasement cannot dictate the definition of good history.

The controversial guidelines further tell that Aurangzeb cannot have the reference of being a ‘champion of Islam’ and to stop over-glorification of Shivaji in Maharashtra textbooks. However, contemporary Muslim historians recorded Aurangzeb as a strong champion of Islam which involved destroying many Hindu temples. This remains a distortion of history in the name of national integration.

Another NCERT fiat says that the characterisation of the medieval period as a dark period of conflict between Hindus and Muslims remains forbidden. Historians also cannot identify Muslims as rulers and Hindus as subjects. For Islam, it was a dazzling period indeed. Islam acquired an empire over a large country full of unrivalled riches. The monuments, arts and crafts, calligraphy and illustrated manuscripts, Persian poetry, and prose, and so on together become an exhibition of Islamic heritage in India. This presents a picture of peace and prosperity in medieval India.

The fact was that, for Hindus, as documented by contemporary Muslim historians (like Tarikh-i-Wassaf), this period was a prolonged spell of darkness that ended only when the Marathas, Jats, and the Sikhs broke the back of Islamic imperialism in the middle of the 18th century. They describe the killing of Hindus, capturing women and children for their harems and their slave trade, and plundering towns and temples for riches.

Nalanda University was destroyed by M B Khilji.

Plea for a Perspective

The Aligarh school, Communist historians, along with NCERT guidelines propagates that the Muslim invaders settling in India were no more foreigners. They go on to say:

The medieval period was not a conflict period between Hindus and Muslims. Hindus fighting with other Hindus, Muslims fighting other Muslims, Hindus and Muslims joining hands to fight a common enemy implied that both were similarly struggling for power and there was no distinction regarding their motives or missions.

In medieval India, on the eve of the Islamic invasion, India was witnessing several Hindu princes fighting among themselves. The Islamic invaders took advantage of this situation. However, Hindu resistance wore out every Islamic empire. A new invader intervened every time and continued Islamic imperialism till the British came. Sometimes, a weakened Islamic leader invited some Hindu power or outside powers like Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali for help.

Sita Ram Goel says that Hindu princes fighting among themselves does not make Islamic invaders non-imperialists; Hindus joining hands with Muslim princes does not make the Islamic invaders patriots. The Hindu princes were fighting for their homes and national honour. The Muslim princes were trying to retain imperialist power. The mutual strife among Muslim princes still makes them enemies of the same stock for the native Hindus. Also, Hindu princes, at war with each other, do not put them on par with Islamic invaders from abroad.

The British appeared in the early eighteenth century when the Mughal empire was disintegrating under pressure from the Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs, and the Jats. The British, the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French had fluctuating power equations. It was a chaotic situation where every participant was fighting simultaneously on several fronts. The combinations of alliances among various powers, foreign and native, in the long-drawn-out drama from the middle of the 18th century to the middle of the 19th are difficult to understand.

Later, in the freedom struggle, different factions like the liberals, constitutionalists, extremists, agitationists, Gandhians, revolutionaries, the leftists and the rightists of the Indian National Congress, the Hindu Mahasabha, and the Hindu princes (some with British and some secretly with national struggle) had varied and complex equations of friendliness and antipathy with each other. The Muslim League and the Communist Party confused and ridiculed the freedom struggle and supported the British in the final round. With so many characters and so many roles, we are still clear that the British were imperialists despite the freedom fighters fighting among themselves or some Hindu princes collaborating.

Guidelines wanting British rulers as not foreigners or the British period as not of conflict would look nightmarish. However, in the field of medieval Indian history, we are deep into this nightmare. A Comprehensive History of India sponsored by the Indian History Congress starts the history of Delhi Sultanate from the rise of Prophet Muhammad and deals with the Muslim rule in India as an integral part of the larger Muslim Empire spread over Asia, Africa, and Europe. This edition pronounces that Muhammad Ghuri executed Prithviraj Chauhan for sedition in 1192 CE!

There is a deep perversion in the name of secularism and ‘scientific’ interpretation of history to finally gather votes from a ‘minority’ bank. The medieval period under Muslim rule was a period of continuous conflict between Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus were fighting for the freedom and preservation of their cultural heritage. The Muslims were simply imperialists trying to dominate the Hindus.

Adhai Din Ka Jhopda Ajmer made from ruins of a Hindu/Jain Temple. 

The Nature of Conflict in Medieval India

One NCERT guideline exhorts that ‘no exaggeration of the role of religion in political conflicts is permitted’. The Hindu view of medieval Indian Muslims, though scarce, is evident in the literature of that era. They describe the killing of cows, violating chastity of women, demolishing of temples, physical abuse or killing of Brahmins, making Hindus eat beef, selling people into concubinage and slavery, and plundering of properties. The records of Vijayanagara, the Marathas, and the Sikhs leave no doubt that the defence of Hindu Dharma was uppermost in the minds of its political and spiritual leaders. Hindu poets extolled the heroes and made pleas to save the cows, Brahmins, women, and the temples.

Muslim historians of medieval India also left detailed accounts of the encounters between Hindus and Muslims. The dominant themes are of Muslims martyred; kafirs converted or despatched to hell; cities sacked; citizens massacred; Brahmins killed or forced to eat beef; temples razed and mosques raised on their sites; idols broken and placed on the steps of mosques; booty carried away on animals and heads of Hindu prisoners; maidens presented to the sultans, Muslim generals and nobles; and people sold into slavery. Every war against the Hindus was a jihad as enjoined by the Prophet.

There is never pity, regret, or reflection over the cruel deeds. The same Muslim historians also narrate many wars fought between Muslim princes but purely on political and economic terms. These are recorded history by Muslim historians in a systematic manner available as manuscripts, critical editions, in original as well in translations, in major world languages, in archives and libraries all over the civilised world.

Differences arise only on the interpretation of these facts and the passing of value judgements. The orthodox or fundamentalist Muslim historians agree with the medieval Muslim historians. The colonial historians have mostly compiled the data available in the sourcebooks without making any value judgements. Many secularists have accused the British historians and now the ‘communal’ Hindu historians of deliberately presenting Muslim rule in India in a prejudicial manner to alienate Muslims.

The influential Aligarh school puts a defence of medieval history by first dissociating Turkish imperialism with Islam. The barbarism of Turks had nothing to do with their conversion to Islam. Secondly, there was allegedly an ‘exaggeration’ by the Muslim medieval historians wanting to please their royal patrons. Another argument of this school is that India, still a Hindu majority country at the end of the long Muslim domination, proves that the use of force for religious purposes was an exception rather than the rule. Hence, one should correctly treat the conflicts as political and not religious. The Muslim sultans were interested in building their own empires like the Hindu rajas throughout history.

Communist historians, in support of the Aligarh school, also make a formidable offensive against Hindu society, culture, and Dharma into Islamic defence. Taking the well-known exploiter-exploited paradigms and selective scriptural readings they explain the brutalities of Turks as nothing unusual by focussing on theories of always existing upper-caste exploitation of lower castes, beef-eating in Vedic times, and rich hoarding by priests in the temples. 

Islam had brought with it a message of social equality and brotherhood which worked a miracle on Hindu society. Hindu reformers took up the Muslim message in a struggle for a casteless and classless Indian society. The socialists, the secularists, and the Hindu modern colonised intellectuals share this Communist psychology to rewrite history showing Islamic invaders in medieval India favourably. The politicians share this psychology to consolidate its Muslim vote-bank.

A Hindu school of historians unfortunately does not exist to take up the task of interpreting medieval Indian history. The fact was that the medieval period was largely a period of Hindu-Muslim conflict and that religion played a dominant role in it.

There is more to India than the Taj-West. 

Islam Was the Culprit

The Aligarh school keeps telling that Islam would have had a brighter record in India had the Arabs brought it instead of the terrible Turks. Nehru swallowed this lie and relayed it through his books. The average Hindu is ignorant about Islamic Arab imperialism ever since the city of Yathrib became Medina after the conversion of its pagan citizens and the massacre of the Jews.

What the Prophet did in Arabia and what the Arab armies did in Syria, Iraq, Iran, North Africa, Sicily, Spain, and Sindh, closely resemble what the Turks did in India. The Chachnama and the Futuhul-Buldan of Al Biladuri describe graphically the killing, loot, and plunder of Muhammad bin Qasim at Rawar, Brahmanabad, and Askalanda in Sindh. His armies killed thousands of men, sold two hundred thousand prisoners as slaves, converted many by force, and imposed heavy taxes on those who did not convert.

The Pathans hated the Turks and fought them tooth and nail throughout the medieval period. But they followed the Turks faithfully in their treatment of the Hindus. Tarikh-i-Daudi written in Jahangir’s reign and Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh written by Badauni describes the deeds of Sikandar Lodi (1458-1517), especially in the destruction of Mathura, Narwar, and many other places. Restrictions on Hindu practices, distributing stone images of ‘devas’ as meat-weights to butchers, destroying temples, and raising mosques were common in these descriptions.

The Hindu converts to Islam behaved no better, if not worse, than the much-maligned Turks. The Aligarh historians deny the story of Kalapahar and his exploits in Bengal and Orissa. However, Amir Khusru clearly documents the deeds of Malik Kafur, a convert, who Alauddin Khilji was extremely fond of. Kafur, in his famous expedition to the South in 1310-1311 CE, laid a trail of destruction at Madurai, Brahmastapur (modern Chidambaram), Srirangam, and Kannanur killing people, taking slaves, destroying temples before beating a retreat in the face of stiff resistance.

Suhabhatta’s deeds, the chief minister of Sikandar Butshikan of Kashmir (1389-1413 CE), another convert, is clear in the Rajataringini of Jonaraja. He instigates the king to break down the images of Gods at many places and in later persecution of Brahmins- many committing suicides when they could not flee. Suhabhatta maintained that he was only doing his duty towards Islam.

The Aligarh apologists paint the Turks as barbarians. How then do we explain the glaring contradiction in the behaviour of many Turkish kings who were fearsome fiends when dealing with Hindus but became benevolent monarchs when dealing with Muslims? For example, Muhammad Nazim, a modern historian in The Life and Times of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna speaks glowingly about the most hated Mahmud Ghaznavi as a benevolent king full of charity, love of literature and a builder of museums and libraries. Similar are the descriptions of later Jalaluddin Khalji (1220-1296) and Firuz Shah Tughlaq (1309-1388) as great patrons of learning and a builder of new cities. But for Hindus they were monsters.

The ’inherent barbarism’ of Turks detaching it from Islam cannot explain their atrocities. Nehru says simultaneously that the Turks were Buddhists before they converted to Islam! This implies either Buddhism brutalised the Turks or perhaps even failed to humanise them.

Even if the Turk was a born barbarian, some medieval Muslim historians were not Turks. They were Arabs and Persians whom the Aligarh group credit with the quintessence of Islamic culture. Why did these medieval Muslim historians credit their patrons with crimes which the latter had not committed, or exaggerate the scale of some minor misdemeanours? The atrocities do not reveal the crudities of an individual or group of people but roots to an inhuman and imperialist ideology masquerading as a religion.

Mahakaleshwar Mandir, Ujjain was destroyed by Iltutmish. 

The Magnitude of Islamic Atrocities

Will Durant says that the Mohammedan conquest of India was the bloodiest in history. Pre-Islamic Hindu wars had time-honoured conventions like not killing Brahmins, Bhikshus, cows, agricultural fields, women, non-combatants, and civil populations. Taking people for slavery or destroying temples was unknown. The martial classes who clashed, mostly in open spaces, had a code of honour.

Islamic imperialism came with a different code. It required its warriors to fall upon the helpless civil population after a decisive victory on the battlefield. Killing cows and Brahmins, taking prisoners as slaves, destroying temples, mass killing of non-combatants, plundering human habitations, and calculating the war booty as a measure of success was part of this code. They did all this as mujahids (holy warriors) and ghazis (kafir-killers) in the service of Allah.

In 1000 CE, Mahmud Ghaznavi defeated Jaipal of the Hindu Shahiya dynasty of Kabul, for long the doorkeeper of India in the Northwest. He progressively stormed Bhatiya (1004), Nagarkot (1008), Thanesar (1011), Nandana (1013), Mahaban (1018), Kanauj, Shrawa, Munj, and the famous Somnath. His trail was of extensive killing and destruction of temples. He threw the chief idol of Thanesar into the public square at Ghazni. The Tarikhi-Yamini by Utbi describes water streams completely discoloured with blood unfit for drinking.

At Munj, the Brahmins fought to the last man after throwing their wives and children into fire. The booty amounted to nearly three hundred thousand dirhams; also, were a huge number of prisoners, each sold for two to ten dirhams. Merchants came from far-off to buy these slaves from Ghazni even as ‘the fair and the dark, the rich and the poor co-mingled into one common slavery.’ The fragments of Shivalinga at Somnath turned as steps at Jama Masjid in Ghazni, Mecca, Medina, and Baghdad.

Invasion of India by Islamic imperialism renewed by Muhmmad Ghuri in the last quarter of the 12th century. After the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan in 1192 CE, Ghuri took Ajmer by assault. Later, he ransacked Kanauj, Asni, Varanasi, and Sarnath. The Taj-ul-Masir of Hasan Nizami and the Kamil-ut-Tawarikh of Ibn Asir describes the same pattern of the killing of men and priests, plunder, prisoners as slaves, and destruction of temples and Buddhist shrines.

Ghuri’s lieutenant Qutbuddin Aibak was also busy meanwhile. Hasan Nizami writes about a brutal suppression of a Hindu revolt at Kol (Aligarh) in 1193 CE. In 1194, Aibak destroyed 27 Hindu temples in Delhi and built the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque with their debris. Aibak’s victories included Anahilwar Patan (1196 CE) and Kalinjar (1202 CE) with similar tales of destruction. Aibak destroyed the Sanskrit College of Visaladeva and laid the foundations of a mosque which came to be known as Adhai Din ka Jhompada.

A free-lance adventurer, Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji, moved east. In 1193 CE, his most famous exploit was the complete destruction of one the largest and the long-standing Nalanda University to rubble. In 1200 CE, he sacked the university town of Odantpuri in Bihar and massacred the Buddhist monks in the monasteries. Badauni records in Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh his exploits.

Shamsuddin Iltutmish of the Slave (Mamluk) dynasty succeeded Aibak at Delhi in 1234 CE. He destroyed an ancient temple at Vidisha and the Mahakal temple at Ujjain. Muslim power in India suffered a serious setback after Iltutmish. Muslim power continued to decline till the Khaljis revived it after 1290 CE.

Jalaluddin Khalji, leading an expedition to Ranthambhor in 1291 CE destroyed Hindu temples at Jhain on the way. His nephew Alauddin came to power after murdering Jalaluddin in 1296 CE. He plundered Vidisha, Surat, Cambay, and Somnath. Idols fragments for use of steps in mosques was an all too common theme in the exploits. Alauddin captured Kamala Devi, the queen of Gujarat, and became a part of his harem in Delhi.

The Tughlaqs revived Muslim power after the death of Alauddin Khalji in 1316 CE. Firuz Shah Tughlaq led an expedition to Orissa in 1360 CE. He ransacked the temple of Jagannath at Puri and desecrated many other Hindu shrines as clearly described in Sirat-i-Firuz Shahi which he himself dictated. Later, he attacks Jajnagar where ‘women with babies and pregnant ladies were haltered, manacled, fettered and enchained, and pressed as slaves into service in the house of every soldier.’ He broke the idols at Jvalamukhi and mixes them with cow flesh to hang around the necks of Brahmins. The principal idol went to Medina as a trophy.

The climax came during the invasion of Timur in 1399 CE. He starts by quoting the Quran in his Tuzk-i-Timuri: ‘O Prophet, make war upon the infidels and unbelievers, and treat them severely.’ He continues:

‘My great object in invading Hindustan had been to wage a religious war against the infidel Hindus [so that] the army of Islam might gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the Hindus.’

Starting with Kator on the border of Kashmir, he successively attacked Bhatnir, Sarsuti, and Loni in Haryana to reach Delhi and fight with the Tughlaq army. His Tuzk-i-Timuri records cutting off heads of thousands of infidels; looting of treasures, properties, and grains; setting fire to houses and buildings; taking men and the wives and children of slain warriors as prisoners, and plundering villages across Haryana while moving towards Delhi. Before the battle with the Tughlaq army, on the advice of Amirs, he ordered the killing of 100,000 Hindu prisoners captured till that point as leaving them alone would be dangerous. His Tuzk-i-Timuri proclaims proudly that even a man of learning Maulana Nasiruddin Umar who ‘had never even killed a sparrow’ killed fifteen idolaters under Timur’s orders.

The chronicle describes the loot and plunder of Delhi spread over three days as nearly 15,000 Turks went on a rampage. The spoil was so great that each man secured from fifty to a hundred prisoners, men, women, and children. The other booty was immense in rubies, diamonds, garnets, pearls, gold, silver, gems, and jewels. They however spared the Muslims to a large extent.


First Published in and Here

Author is a Neonatal and Paediatrician Surgeon based in Warangal

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