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Indian History

Mahmud Ghazni

  • 25 Nov 2022
  • 9 min read

For Prelims: Muhamad Ghazni, Fall of Gazanavids and rise of Ghurids, Plunder of Somnath Temple.

For Mains: Muhamad Ghazni and the Plunder of Somnath temple.

Who was Mahmud Ghazni?

  • Sabuktigin's son was Mahmud of Ghazni, renowned as the first independent ruler of Ghazni.
  • Mahmud Ghazni continued the Ghazi invasions starting in 999 CE.
  • The title “Mahmud Ghazni” is not found on his coins which simply designate him as Amir Mahmud.
  • Fight with Jayapal:
    • He fought a furious battle against Jayapal (Pala Dynasty) in 1001 CE.
      • It was a battle of cavalry and skillful military tactics.
    • Jayapal was severely routed by Mahmud’s forces and his capital of Waihind/Peshawar was devastated.
    • Jayapal was succeeded by his son Anandapal/Anantpal who continued to challenge Turkish raids in his territory.
  • Fight With Anandapal:
    • Before entering Punjab, Mahmud still had to contend with Anandapal’s forces near the Indus.
    • After a tough interface his army conquered the upper Indus in 1006 CE.
    • Anandapal lost the battle and himself suffered much financial and territorial loss.
    • This was his last resistance to Mahmud.
  • Annexation of Lahore and Multan:
    • However, in 1015 CE, Mahmud even annexed Lahore to extend his empire up to the Jhelum River.
    • Multan which was ruled by a Muslim Sultan was also conquered despite Anandapal’s alliance with him.
    • This is how Mahmud made his way towards India by conquering eastern Afghanistan and then Punjab and Multan.
    • After Punjab he made three expeditions in the Gangetic plains for acquisition of wealth.
  • Expedition to Gangetic Plain:
    • He made two more raids in the Ganga valley in 1019 and 1021 CE.
    • Next in line was his aim to acquire wealth through his raids in the Gangetic plains.
    • The first one was to break a Rajput alliance in the Gangetic valley.
    • Towards the end of 1015 CE he marched along the Himalayan foothills and defeated a local Rajput ruler at Baran or Bulandshahr with the help of some feudatory rulers.
    • Mahmud defeated both the Hindu Shahi as well as the Chandela rulers.
    • The Rajput king of Gwalior had provided help to the Hindu Shahi emperor against Mahmud.
    • Such expeditions in north India were not aimed at expanding Mahmud’s empire beyond Punjab.
      • They were only to plunder the wealth of the states on one hand and make the upper Ganga doab as a neutral territory without any powerful local stronghold on the other.
      • The wealth looted and earned from plunders in India helped him against his enemies in central Asia.
  • Others:
    • Mahmud’s last major raid was on Somnath temple in Saurashtra on the western coast of Gujarat in 1025 CE.
    • However, Mahmud’s desire to conquer Kashmir remained unfulfilled with the defeat of his forces in 1015 CE due to unfavorable weather conditions and this was his first defeat in India.
    • He even extended his empire in Iran and additionally got more recognition from the Khalifa at Baghdad.
    • He was a bold warrior who had great military capabilities and political achievements.
    • He had turned the small state of Ghazna/Ghazni/Ghaznin into a vast and wealthy empire comprising most parts of the present-day Afghanistan, eastern Iran and north-western parts of the Indian subcontinent.
  • Death of Mahmud Ghazni:
    • When Mahmud Ghazni acquired malaria during one of his expeditions in April 1030, he was 58 years old. Due to further issues, He contracted tuberculosis, which caused his death.

How did the Ghaznavids in Central Asia and India fall, and the Ghurids rise?

  • Despite the wealth plundered from India, Mahmud was unable to become a good and capable ruler.
  • He built no lasting institutions in his state and his rule outside Ghazni was tyrannical.
  • An unexpected rise of Ghurids at a small and isolated province of Ghur located between Ghaznavid empire and that of the Seljuqids was an unusual development in the 12th century.
    • It was one of the least developed regions of the present-day territory of Afghanistan.
    • It lay west of Ghazni and east of the Herat province in the fertile valley of the Herat/Hari River in western Afghanistan. Since it was a hilly tract of land, the main occupation was mostly cattle-rearing or agriculture.
    • It was “Islamicized” by Ghaznavids in the late 10th and the early 11th century.
  • The Ghurid rulers or the Shansabanids were humble pastoral chieftains. They tried to make themselves supreme in the middle of the 12th century by intervening in Herat when its governor had rebelled against the Seljuqid king named Sanjar.
  • The Ghaznavids felt threatened by this act of the Ghurids, they captured and poisoned the brother of the Ghauri emperor Alauddin Hussain Shah.
  • Subsequently, he captured Ghazni (city) by defeating the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram Shah.
  • The city of Ghazni was plundered and thoroughly destroyed.
  • For the same reason Alauddin was given the title of Jahan Soz (“world burner”).
  • This marked the fall of Ghaznavids and the rise of Ghurids.

What is the occurrence of Somnath Plunder?

  • In 1025-26 CE, Mahmud undertook his final invasion of Gujarat and consolidated his successes with the plunder of the very wealthy Somnath temple.
  • It is claimed that 100,000 pilgrims would congregate there at any given time, 1,000 Brahmanas would service the temple and look after its treasures, and hundreds of dancers and singers would perform in front of the temple's gates.
  • The well-known Linga, a pillar-stone with brilliant jewels and illuminated gems candelabra, was in the garbhagriha.
    • It was mirrored in the lavish hangings that decorated the shrine and were embroidered with precious stones in the shape of stars.
  • He continued his laborious march from Multan to Anhalwara and then on to the coast, battling and killing along the way, until he finally arrived at the temple fortress that the waves of the Arabian Sea had washed.
  • He and his soldiers stormed the walls, killing roughly 50,000 Hindus, undeterred by the overwhelming strength of the men serving as guards and in service to the shrine.
  • The invader-troops plunderer's who accompanied him on his vengeful journeys to India and beyond received a reward of a million pounds' worth of treasure when the temple-gates were raised at Ghazni.
  • Mahmud of Ghazni was hailed as a pioneer of the Islamic faith, who opposed the Hindu belief-system, in the eyes of every Muhammadan for nearly nine centuries as a result of the destruction of Somnath.
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