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The Arab Conquest of Sind

The Arab Conquest of Sind

  • The Arab governor of Iraq, Hajjaj Bin Yusuf, under the pretext of acting against the pirates, sent two military expeditions against Dahar, the ruler of Sind, one by land and the other by sea.
  • Both were defeated and commanders killed.
  • Hajjaj then sent, with the Caliph’s permission, a full-fledged army, with 6000 strong cavalry and a large camel corps carrying all war requirements under the command of his son in-law, a 17-year-old Muhammad Bin Qasim.

Muhammad Bin Qasim

  • Muhammad Bin Qasim marched on the fortress of Brahmanabad where Dahar was stationed with a huge army.
  • Dahar’s wazir (Prime minister) betrayed him, which was followed by the desertion of a section of his forces.
  • The predecessors of Dahar, the Brahmin rulers of Sind, had usurped power from the earlier Buddhist ruling dynasty of Sind and, with the patronage of Dahar Brahmins, had occupied all higher positions.
  • This led to discontentment and therefore Dahar lacked popular support.
  • In this context it was easy for Muhammad Qasim to capture Brahmanabad.
  • Qasim thereupon ravaged and plundered Debal (Port) for three days.
  • Qasim called on the people of Sind to surrender, promising full protection to their faith.
  • He sent the customary one-fifth of the plunder to the Caliph and divided the rest among his soldiers.
  • The Arab conquest of Sind has been described as a “triumph without results” because it touched but a fringe of the country, which, after Qasim’s expedition had a respite from invasions for about three centuries.

Mahmud of Ghazni

  • In the meantime, the Arab empire in Central Asia had collapsed with several of its provinces declaring themselves independent.
  • One of the major kingdoms that emerged out of the broken Arab empire was the Samanid kingdom which also splintered, leading to several independent states.
  • In 963 Alaptigin, a Turkic slave who had served Samanids as their governor in Khurasan, seized the city of Ghazni in eastern Afghanistan and established an independent kingdom.
  • Alaptigin died soon after.
  • After the failure of three of his successors, the nobles enthroned Sabuktigin.
  • Sabuktigin initiated the process of southward expansion into the Indian sub-continent.
  • He defeated the Shahi ruler of Afghanistan, Jayapal, and conferred the governorship of the province on Mahmud, his eldest son.
  • When Sabuktagin died in 997, Mahmud was in Khurasan.
  • Ismail, the younger son of Sabuktagin had been named his successor.
  • But defeating Ismail in a battle, Mahmud, aged twenty-seven, ascended the throne and the Caliph acknowledged his accession by sending him a robe of investiture and by conferring on him the title Yamini-udDaulah (‘Right-hand of the Empire’).

To Arabs and Iranians, India was Hind and the Indians were ‘Hindus’. But as Muslim communities arose in India, the name ‘Hindu’ came to apply to all Indians who were not Muslims.

Mahmud’s Military Raids

  • Mahmud ruled for thirty-two years.
  • During this period, he conducted as many as seventeen military campaigns into India.
  • He targeted Hindu temples that were depositories of vast treasures.
  • Though the motive was to loot, there was also a military advantage in demolishing temples and smashing idols.
  • The Ghaznavid soldiers viewed it also as a demonstration of the invincible power of their god.
  • The religious passions of Mahmud’s army expressed itself in slaughter of ‘infidels’ and plunder and destruction of their places of worship.
  • However, there is little evidence of any large scale conversion of people to their faith.
  • Even those who became Muslims to save their lives and properties, returned to their original faith when the threat of Ghaznavid invasion ceased.
  • After defeating the Shahi king Anandapala, Mahmud went beyond Punjab, penetrating deep into the Indo-Gangetic plain.
  • Before reaching Kanauj, Mahmud raided Mathura.
  • In later historiography, of both the British and Indian nationalists, Mahmud is notorious for his invasion of the temple city of Somnath (1025) on the seashore in Gujarat.
  • Many scholars argue that these plundering raids were more of political and economic character than of religious chauvinism.
  • Desecration of temples, vandalising the images of deities were all part of asserting one’s authority in medieval India.
  • Mahmud’s raids and his deeds fit this pattern, though their memories went into the creation of communal divide.
  • This apart, the plundering raids of Mahmud were meant to replenish the treasury to maintain his huge army.
  • The Turks relied on a permanent, professional army.
  • It was built around an elite corps of mounted archers who were all slaves, bought, trained, equipped, and paid in cash from the war booty taken alike from Hindu kingdoms in India and Muslim kingdoms in Iran.
  • Persian sources contain exaggerated claims about the wealth seized from these raids.
  • For instance, it is claimed that Mahmud’s plunder of the Iranian city of Ray, in 1029, brought him 500,000 dinars worth of jewels, 260,000 dinars in coins, and over 30,000 dinars worth of gold and silver vessels.
  • Similarly, Mahmud’s raid on Somnath (1025) is believed to have brought in twenty million dinars worth of spoils.
  • Romila Thapar points out that those who had suffered from these predatory invasions seemed to maintain a curious silence about them, as Hindu and Jain sources available on Somnath expedition do not corroborate the details or viewpoints found in Arab chronicles.
  • Such plundering raids were economic and iconoclastic in nature, and communal character was attributed to them later.
  • They represented the kinds of disasters that were inseparable from contemporary warfare and the usual plundering nature of rulers of the medieval period.
  • The history of the Ghaznavid dynasty after the death of Mahmud is a story of endless clashes over succession between brothers, cousins, and uncles.
  • There were, however, exceptions like Sultan Ibrahim who ruled for over forty-two years and his son Masud who ruled for seventeen years.
  • The ever-hanging threat from Ghuris from the north and the Seljuq Turks from the west proved to be disastrous for the kingdom.
  • The later rulers of Ghaznavid dynasty could exercise their authority only in the Lahore region and even this lasted only for three decades.
  • In 1186 Ghuri prince Muizz-ud-din Muhammad invaded Punjab and seized Lahore.
  • The last ruler Khurav Shah was imprisoned and murdered in 1192.
  • With his death the Ghaznavid house of Mahmud came to an end.

Al-Beruni, mathematician, philosopher, astronomer, and historian, came to India along with Mahmud of Ghazni. He learned Sanskrit, studied religious and philosophical texts before composing his work Kitab Ul Hind. He also translated the Greek work of Euclid into Sanskrit. He transmitted Aryabhata’s magnum opus Aryabattiyam (the thesis that earth’s rotation around its axis creates day and night) to the West. He was the inter-civilizational connect between India and the rest of the world.

Muhammad Ghori

  • If Ghaznavid invasions were intended for loot, the Ghurids enlarged their scope to establish garrison towns to ensure the regular flow of plunder and tribute.
  • Muizzuddin Muhammad of the Ghori dynasty, known generally as Muhammad Ghori, invested in territories he seized.
  • Through the 1180s and 1190s Ghori established garrisons in the modern provinces of Punjab, Sind, and Haryana.
  • These centres of military power soon attracted the in-migration of mercenaries in search of opportunities.
  • These mercenaries were recruited to organize fiscal and military affairs of the Sultanate.
  • The Sultan’s military commanders in north India were drawn from his elite military class.
  • Specially trained in warfare and governance these slaves were different from agrestic (related to land\field labour) and domestic slaves.
  • Lahore, then Uchch and Multan were initially considered significant centres of power.
  • In 1175 Ghori headed for the city of Multan which he seized from its Ismaili ruler.
  • The fort of Uchch fell without a fight.
  • The Chalukyas of Gujarat inflicted a crushing defeat on Muhammad Ghori at Mt. Abu (1179).
  • After this defeat Ghori changed the course of his expedition, consolidating his position in Sind and the Punjab.

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