Mahmud of Ghazni

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Mahmud of Ghazni (محمود غزنوی; November 971 – 30 April 1030), also known as Mahmūd-i Zābulī (محمود زابلی), was the most prominent ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire. He conquered the eastern Iranian lands, modern Afghanistan, and the northwestern Indian subcontinent (modern Pakistan) from 997 to his death in 1030. Mahmud turned the former provincial city of Ghazna into the wealthy capital of an extensive empire that covered most of today's Afghanistan, eastern Iran, and Pakistan, by looting the riches and wealth from the then Indian subcontinent.

Quotes from [[The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians|The History of India as told by its own Historians]][edit]

  • Somnat - A celebrated city of India, is situated on the shores of the sea, and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnat' When the Sultan Yaminu-d Daula Mahmud bin Subuktigin went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnat, in the hope that Hindus would become Muhammadans. He arrived there in the middle of Zil K'ada AH 416 (December AD 1025). The Indians made a desperate resistance' The number of slain exceeded 50,000.
  • The chief marched out to meet his enemy, and fought for three days with the Musulmans. On the fourth he fled, and sought to get back into the city ; but the Musulmans reached the gate before the fugitives, overpowered them, and disarmed them. A dreadful slaughter ensued, the women were dishonoured, and the property seized. When Bahira saw this destruction, he fled with some trusty followers to the tops of the mountains. Mahmud sent a force in pursuit, which overtook and surrounded the party, and put all the chiefs to the sword. Bahira saw that no hope was left, so he drew a dagger and killed himself. Mahmud remained in Bhdtia until he had settled its affairs, and drawn up rules for its governance. He then returned towards Ghazna, having appointed a representative at Bhatia to instruct the people who had become Muhammadans.
    • About the conquest of Bhatia. Ibn Asir:Kamilu-T Tawarikh, in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. p. 248 Also quoted (in part) in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • Nasiru-d din [Subuktigin] died in the year AH 387 (AD 997) and the command of his troops descended to Mahmud by inheritance, and by confirmation of Nuh, son of Mansur. His victory over 'Abdu-l Malik, when that chieftain was put to flight, added much to his power, and he was confirmed in the government of Khorasan and Sijistan, and he received a robe of honour with the title of Sultan from the Khalif, who also made a treaty with him. In consequence of the complaints of the oppression practised by the descendants of Fakhru-d din Dailami, he marched towards Júrjan and 'Irak, and took the country from them. Afterwards he turned his arms towards Hind, and conquered many of its cities and forts. He demolished the Hindu temples and gave prevalence to the Muhammadan faith. He ruled with great justice, and he stands unparalleled among all the Muhammadan kings.
  • Mahmud was a man of great abilities, and is renowned as one of the greatest champions of Islam.... His influence upon Islam soon became widely known, for he converted as many as a thousand idol-temples into mosques, subdued the cities of Hindustan, and vanquished the Rais of that country. He captured Jaipal, who was the greatest of them, kept him at Yazd (?), in Khurasan, and gave orders so that he was bought for eighty dirams. He led his armies to Nahrwala and Gujarat, carried off the idol (manat) from Somnat, and broke it into four parts. One part he deposited in the Jami Masjid of Ghazni, one he placed at the entrance of the royal palace, the third he sent to Mecca, and the fourth to Medina.
  • 'So he prayed to the Almighty for aid, and left Ghazni on the 10th of Sha'ban 414 H., with 30,000 horse besides volunteers, and took the road to Multan which place he reached in the middle of Ramazan. The road from thence to India was through a barren desert, where there were neither inhabitants or food. So he collected provisions for the passage, and loading 30,000 camels with water and corn, he started for Anhilwara. After he had crossed the desert, he perceived on one side a fort full of people, in which there were wells. people came down to conciliate him, but he invested the place, and God gave him victory over it, for the hearts of the inhabitants failed them through fear. So he brought the place under the sway of Islam, killed the inhabitants, and broke in pieces their images. His men carried away water with them from thence and marched for Anhalwara, where they arrived at the begging of Zi-l Ka'da.
  • The chief of Anhilwara called Bhim, fled hastily, and abandoning his city, he went to a certain fort for safety and to prepare himself for war. Yaminu-d daula again started for Somnat, and on his march he came to several forts in which were many images serving as chamberlains or heralds of Somnat, and accordingly he (Mahmud) called them Shaitan. He killed the people who were in these places, destroyed the fortifications, broke in pieces the idols and continued his march to Somnat through a desert where there was little water.
  • "This temple of Somnat was built upon fifty-six pillars of teak wood covered with lead. The idol itself was in a chamber; its height was five cubits and its girth three cubits. This was what appeared to the eye but two cubits were (hidden) in the basement. Yaminu'd daula seized it, part of it he burnt, and part of it he carried away with him to Ghazni, where he made it a step at the entrance of the Jami'-masjid.
  • Mahmud, as soon as his eyes fell on this idol, lifted up his battle-axe with much anger, and struck it with such force that the idol broke into pieces. The fragments of it were ordered to be taken to Ghaznin, and were cast down at the threshold of the Jami Masjid where they are lying to this day.
  • He now attacked the fort of Bhim, where was a temple of the Hindus. He was victorious, and obtained much wealth, including about a hundred idols of gold and silver. One of the golden images, which weighed a million mishkals, the Sultan appropriated to the decoration of the Mosque of Ghazni, so that the ornaments of the doors were of gold instead of iron.
    • Nagarkot Kangra (Himachal Pradesh) . Hamdu’llah bin ‘Abu Bakr bin Hamd bin Nasr Mustaufi : Tarikh-i-Guzida, in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. III : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. p. 65
  • He several times waged war against the infidels of Hindustan, and he brought under his subjection a large portion of their country, until, having made himself master of Somnat, he destroyed all idol temples of that country'.
  • From that place the Sultan proceeded to a certain city, which was accounted holy by the people of the country. In that city the men of Ghaznin saw so many strange and wonderful things, that to tell them or to write a description of them is not easy' In short, the Sultan Mahmud having possessed himself of the booty, burned their idol temples and proceeded towards Kanauj.....The Ghaznivids found in these forts and their dependencies 10,000 idol temples, and they ascertained the vicious belief of the Hindus to be, that since the erection of these buildings no less than three or four hundred thousand years had elapsed. Sultan Mahmud during this expedition achieved many other conquests after he left Kanauj, and sent to hell many of the infidels with blows of the well tempered sword. Such a number of slaves were assembled in that great camp, that the price of a single one did not exceed ten dirhams.
  • Sultam Mahmud, having entered into the idol temple, beheld an excessively long and broad room, in so much that fifty-six pillars had been made to support the roof. Somnat was an idol cut out of stone, whose height was five yards, of which three yards were visible, and two yards were concealed in the ground. Yaminu-d daula having broken that idol with his own hand, ordered that they should pack up pieces of the stone, take them to Ghaznin, and throw them on the threshold of the Jama Masjid.

Quotes from Tarikh Yamini (Kitabu-l Yamini) by Al Utbi[edit]

  • Sultan Mahmud at first designed in his heart to go to Sijistan, but subsequently preferred engaging previously in a holy war against Hind, and he distributed arms prior to convening a council on the subject, in order to secure a blessing on his designs, of exalting the standard of religion, of widening the plain of right, of illuminating the words of truth, and of strengthening the power of justice. He departed towards the country of Hind, in full reliance on the aid of Allah, who guiding by his light and by his power, bestowed dignity upon him, and gave him victory in all expeditions. On his reaching Purshaur (Peshawar), he pitched his tent outside the city...
  • Swords flashed like lightning amid the blackness of clouds, and fountains of blood flowed like the fall of setting stars. The friends of God defeated their obstinate opponents, and quickly put them to a complete rout. Noon had not arrived when the Musulmans had wreaked their vengeance on the infidel enemies of Allah, killing 15,000 of them, spreading them like a carpet over the ground, and making them food for beasts and birds of prey... The enemy of God, Jaipal, and his children and grandchildren,... were taken prisoners, and being strongly bound with ropes, were carried before the Sultan, like as evildoers, on whose faces the fumes of infidelity are evident, who are covered with the vapours of misfortune, will be bound and carried to Hell. Some had their arms forcibly tied behind their backs, some were seized by the cheek, some were driven by blows on the neck. The necklace was taken off the neck of Jaipal, - composed of large pearls and shining gems and rubies set in gold, of which the value was two hundred thousand dinars; and twice that value was obtained from necks of those of his relatives who were taken prisoners, or slain, and had become the food of the mouths of hyenas and vultures. Allah also bestowed upon his friends such an amount of booty as was beyond all bounds and all calculation, including five hundred thousand slaves, beautiful men and women. The Sultan returned with his followers to his camp, having plundered immensely, by Allah's aid, having obtained the victory, and thankful to Allah... This splendid and celebrated action took place on Thursday, the 8th of Muharram, 392 H., 27th November, 1001 AD.
    • About the defeat of Jaipal. Tarikh Yamini (Kitabu-l Yamini) by Al Utbi, in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. p. 27 Also quoted (in part) in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • The Sultan, contrary to the disposition of man, which induces him to prefer a soft to a hard couch, and the splendour of the cheeks of pomegranate-bosomed girls to well-tempered sword blades, was so offended at the standard which Satan had raised in Hind, that he determined on another holy expedition to that land.
    • Tarikh Yamini (Kitabu-l Yamini) by Al Utbi, in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. p. 33 Also quoted in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • The Sultan himself joined in the pursuit, and went after them as far as the fort called Bhimnagar [Nagarkot, modern Kangra], which is very strong, situated on the promontory of a lofty hill, in the midst of impassable waters. The kings of Hind, the chiefs of that country, and rich devotees, used to amass their treasures and precious jewels, and send them time after time to be presented to the large idol that they might receive a reward for their good deeds and draw near to their God. So the Sultan advanced near to this crow's fruit,^ and this accumulation of years, which had attained such an amount that the backs of camels would not carry it, nor vessels contain it, nor writers hands record it, nor the imagination of an arithmetician conceive it. The Sultan brought his forces under the fort and surrounded it, and prepared to attack the garrison vigorously, boldly, and wisely. When the defenders saw the hills covered with the armies of plunderers, and the arrows ascending towards them like flaming sparks of fire, great fear came upon them, and, calling out for mercy, they opened the gates, and fell on the earth, like sparrows before a hawk, or rain before lightning. Thus did God grant an easy conquest of this fort to the Sultan, and bestowed on him as plunder the products of mines and seas, the ornaments of heads and breasts, to his heart's content. ... After this he returned to Ghazna in triumph ; and, on his arrival there, he ordered the court-yard of his palace to be covered with a carpet, on which he displayed jewels and unbored pearls and rubies, shining like sparks, or like wine congealed with ice, and emeralds like fresh sprigs of myrtle, and diamonds in size and weight like pomegranates. Then ambassadors from foreign countries, including the envoy from Tagh^n Khan, king of Turkistin, assembled to see the wealth which they had never yet even read of in books of the ancients, and which had never been accumulated by kings of Persia or of Rum, or even by Karun, who had only to express a wish and Grod granted it.
    • About the capture of Bhimnagar, Tarikh Yamini (Kitabu-l Yamini) by Al Utbi, in Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. p. 34-35 Also quoted in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • The Sultan again resolved on an expedition to Hind, and marched towards Narain, urging his horses and moving over ground, hard and soft, until he came to the middle of Hind, where he reduced chiefs, who, up to that time obeyed no master, overturned their idols, put to the sword the vagabonds of that country, and with delay and circumspection, proceeded to accomplish his design. He fought a battle with the chiefs of the infidels, in which Allah bestowed upon him much booty in property, horses, and elephants, and the friends of Allah committed slaughter in every hill and valley. The Sultan returned to Ghazna with all the plunder he had obtained.
  • After the Sultan had purified Hind from idolatry, and raised mosques therein, he determined to invade the capital of Hind, to punish those who kept idols and would not acknowledge the unity of Allah. He collected his warriors and distributed money amongst them. He marched with a large army in the year 404 H., 1013 AD during a dark night ... The Sultan returned, marching in the rear of this immense booty, and slaves were so plentiful that they became very cheap; and men of respectability in their native land, were degraded by becoming slaves of common shopkeepers. But this is the goodness of Allah, who bestows honours on his religion and degrades infidelity...
  • The chief of Tanesar was on this account obstinate in his infidelity and denial of Allah. So the Sultan marched against him with his valiant warriors, for the purpose of planting the standards of Islam and extirpating idolatry... The Sultan adopted the stratagem of ordering some of his troops to cross the river by two different fords, and to attack the enemy on both sides; and when they were all engaged in close conflict, he ordered another body of men to go up the bank of the stream, which was flowing through the pass with fearful impetuosity, and attack the enemy amongst the ravines, where they were posted in the greatest number. The battle raged fiercely, and about evening, after a vigorous attack on thepart of the Musulmans, the enemy fled, leaving their elephants, which were all driven into the camp of the Sultan, except one, which ran off and could not be found. The largest were reserved for the Sultan.
    The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously that the stream was discoloured, and people were unable to drink it. Had not night come on and concealed the traces of their flight, many more of the enemy would have been slain. The victory was gained by Allah's grace, who has established Islam forever as the best of religions, notwithstanding that idolators revolt against it. The Sultan returned with plunder which it is impossible to recount - Praise be to Allah, the protector of the world, for the honour he bestows upon Islam and Musulmans!...
    • Thanesar (Haryana). Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. p. 40-41 Also quoted (in part) in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • When Chandal heard of the advance of the Sultan, he lost his heart from excess of fright, and as he saw death with its mouth open towards him, there was no resource to him but flight. The Sultan ordered therefore that his five forts should be demolished from their foundations, the inhabitants buried in their ruins, and imprisoned. The Sultan, when he heard of the flight of Chandal, was sorely afflicted, and turned his horse's head towards Chand Rai, one of the greatest men in Hind, who reigned in the fort of Sharwa [Siraswa].
  • The Sultan summoned the most religiously disposed of his followers, and ordered them to attack the enemy immediately. Many infidels were consequently slain or taken prisoners in this sudden attack, and the Musulmans paid no regard to the booty till they had satiated themselves with the slaughter of the infidels and worshippers of the sun and fire. The friends of Allah searched the bodies of the slain for three whole days, in order to obtain booty... The booty amounted in gold and silver, rubies and pearls, nearly to three thousand thousand dirhams, and the number of prisoners may be conceived from the fact, that each was sold for from two to ten dirhams. These were afterwards taken to Ghazna, and merchants came from distant cities to purchase them, so that the countries of Mawarau-n nahr, Irak and Khurasan were filled with them, and the fair and the dark, the rich and the poor, were commingled in one common slavery.
  • The Sultan then departed from the environs of the city, in which was a temple of the Hindus. The name of this place was Maharatu-l Hind. He saw there a building of exquisite structure, which the inhabitants said had been built, not by men, but by Genii, and there he witnessed practices contrary to the nature of man, and which could not be believed but from evidence of actual sight. The wall of the city was constructed of hard stone, and two gates opened upon the river flowing under the city, which were erected upon strong and lofty foundations to protect them against the floods of the river and rains. On both sides of the city there were a thousand houses, to which idol temples were attached, all strengthened from top to bottom by rivets of iron, and all made of masonry work; and opposite to them were other buildings, supported on broad wooden pillars, to give them strength.
    In the middle of the city there was a temple larger and firmer than the rest, which can neither be described nor painted. The Sultan thus wrote respecting it: - "If any should wish to construct a building equal to this, he would not be able to do it without expending an hundred thousand, thousand red dinars, and it would occupy two hundred years even though the most experienced and able workmen were employed."...
    The Sultan gave orders that all the temples should be burnt with naptha and fire, and levelled with the ground.
    • About the capture of Mathura. Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 44-45 Also quoted (in part) in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • The Sultan advanced to the fortifications of Kanauj, which consisted of seven distinct forts, washed by the Ganges which flowed under them like the ocean. In Kanauj there were nearly ten thousand temples, which the idolaters falsely and absurdly represented to have been founded by their ancestors two or three hundred thousand years ago. They worshipped and offered their vows and supplications to them in consequence of their great antiquity. Many of the inhabitants of the place fled and were scattered abroad like so many wretched widows and orphans, from the fear which oppressed them, in consequence of witnessing the fate of their deaf and dumb idols. Many of them thus effected their escape, and those who did not fly were put to death. The Sultan took all seven forts in one day, and gave his soldiers leave to plunder them and take prisoners.
    • About the conquest of Kanauj (Uttar Pradesh). Elliot and Dowson, Vol. II : Elliot and Dowson, History of India as told by its own Historians, 8 Volumes, Allahabad Reprint, 1964. pp. 44-46 Also quoted (in part) in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.

Quotes from Muslim medieval histories[edit]

  • The city of Taneshar is highly venerated by Hindus. The idol of that place is called Cakrasvamin, i.e. the owner of the cakra, a weapon which we have already described. It is of bronze, and is nearly the size of a man. It is now lying in the hippodrome in Ghazna, together with the Lord of Somanath, which is a representation of the penis of Mahadeva, called Linga.
    • E.C. Sachau (tr.), Alberuni's India, New Delhi Reprint, 1983 p. 117.
  • The linga he raised was the stone of Somnath, for soma means the moon and natha means master, so that the whole word means master of the moon. The image was destroyed by the Prince Mahmud, may God be merciful to him! - AH 416. He ordered the upper part to be broken and the remainder to be transported to his residence, Ghaznin, with all its coverings and trappings of gold, jewels, and embroidered garments. Part of it has been thrown into the hippodrome of the town, together with the Cakrasvamin, an idol of bronze, that had been brought from Taneshar. Another part of the idol from Somanath lies before the door of the mosque of Ghaznin, on which people rub their feet to clean them from dirt and wet.
    • E.C. Sachau (tr.), Alberuni's India, New Delhi Reprint, 1983, p. 102-103
  • 'When Sultan Mahmud ascended the throne of sovereignty, his illustrious deeds became manifest unto all mankind within the pale of Islam when he converted so many thousands of idol temples into masjids. He led an army to Nahrwalah of Gujarat, and brought away Manat, the idol, from Somnath, and had it broken into four parts, one of which was cast before the entrance of the great Masjid at Ghaznin, the second before the gateway of the Sultan's palace, and the third and fourth were sent to Makkah and Madinah respectively.
    • Maulana Minhaj-us-Siraj: Tabqat-i-Nasiri, translated into English by Major H.G. Reverty, New Delhi Reprint, 1970, Vol. I, pp. 81-82.
  • Among the different coins struck in Mahmud's reign one bore the following inscription: "The right hand of the empire, Mahmud Sultan, son of Nasir-ud-Din Subuk-Tigin, Breaker of Idols." This coin appears to have been struck at Lahor, in the seventh year of his reign.
    • Maulana Minhaj-us-Siraj: Tabqat-i-Nasiri, translated into English by Major H.G. Reverty, New Delhi Reprint, 1970, Vol. I,p. 88, footnote 2.
  • The Sultan now received information that there was a city in Hindustan called Thanessar, and there was a great temple there in which there was an idol called Jagarsom, whom the people of Hindustan worshipped. He collected a large force with the object of carrying on a religious war, and in the year AH 402 marched towards Thanessar. The son of Jaipal having received intelligence of this, sent an envoy and represented through him, that if the Sultan would relinquish this enterprise, he would send fifty elephants as tribute. The Sultan paid no heed to this offer, and when he reached Thanessar he found the city empty. The soldiers ravaged and plundered whatever they could lay hands upon, broke the idols and carried Jagarsom to Ghaznin. The Sultan ordered that the idol should the placed in front of the place of prayer, so that people would trample upon it.
    • The Tabqat-i-Akbari translated by B. De, Calcutta, 1973, Vol. I, p. 7
  • From that place [Mahawan] the Sultan advanced to Mathurah, which is a large city containing many temples' and the Sultan completely destroyed the city and burnt the temples. There was one golden idol which was broken up under the orders of the Sultan...Then in accordance with his custom, he advanced with his army towards Hindustan with the object of the conquest of Somnath' there were many golden idols in the temple in the city, and the largest of these idols was called Manat...When he reached Somnath, the inhabitants shut the gate on his face. After much fighting and great struggles the fort was taken, and vast multitudes were killed and taken prisoners. The temples were pulled down, and destroyed from their very foundations. The gold idol Somnath was broken into pieces, and one piece was sent to Ghaznin, and was placed at the gate of the Jami' Masjid; and for years it remained there.
    • The Tabqat-i-Akbari translated by B. De, Calcutta, 1973, Vol. I, p. 11-16
  • Asjadi composed the following qaSida in honour of this expedition: When the King of kings marched to Somnat, He made his own deeds the standard of miracles' 'Once more he led his army against Somnat, which is a large city on the coast of the ocean, a place of worship of the Brahmans who worship a large idol. There are many golden idols there. Although certain historians have called this idol Manat, and say that it is the identical idol which Arab idolaters brought to the coast of Hindustan in the time of the Lord of the Missive (may the blessings and peace of God be upon him), this story has no foundation because the Brahmans of India firmly believe that this idol has been in that place since the time of Kishan, that is to say four thousand years and a fraction' The reason for this mistake must surely be the resemblance in name, and nothing else' The fort was taken and Mahmud broke the idol in fragments and sent it to Ghaznin, where it was placed at the door of the Jama' Masjid and trodden under foot.'....'In the year AH 402 (AD 1011) he set out for Thanesar and Jaipal, the son of the former Jaipal, offered him a present of fifty elephants and much treasure. The Sultan, however, was not to be deterred from his purpose; so he refused to accept his present, and seeing Thanesar empty he sacked it and destroyed its idol temples, and took away to Ghaznin, the idol known as Chakarsum on account of which the Hindus had been ruined; and having placed it in his court, caused it to be trampled under foot by the people...From thence he went to Mathra (Mathura) which is a place of worship of the infidels and the birthplace of Kishan, the son of Basudev, whom the Hindus Worship as a divinity - where there are idol temples without number, and took it without any contest and razed it to the ground. Great wealth and booty fell into the hands of the Muslims, among the rest they broke up by the orders of the Sultan, a golden idol.
    • Muntakhabut-Tawarikh, translated into English by George S.A. Ranking, Patna Reprint 1973, Vol. I, p. 17-28
  • The king, in his zeal to propagate the faith, now marched against the Hindoos of Nagrakote [Nagarkot Kangra], breaking down their idols and razing their temples. The fort, at that time denominated the Fort of Bheem, was closely invested by the Mahomedans, who had first laid waste the country around it with fire and sword.'...'In the year AH 402 (AD 1011), Mahmood resolved on the conquest of Tahnesur [Thanesar (Haryana)], in the kingdom of Hindoostan. It had reached the ears of the king that Tahnesur was held in the same veneration by idolaters, as Mecca by the faithful; that they had there set up a number of idols, the principal of which they called Jugsom, pretending that it had existed ever since the creation. Mahmood having reached Punjab, required, according to the subsisting treaty with Anundpal, that his army should not be molested on its march through his country...'The Raja's brother, with two thousand horse was also sent to meet the army, and to deliver the following message:- "My brother is the subject and tributary of the King, but he begs permission to acquaint his Majesty, that Tahnesur is the principal place of worship of the inhabitants of the country: that if it is required by the religion of Mahmood to subvert the religion of others, he has already acquitted himself of that duty, in the destruction of the temple of Nagrakote. But if he should be pleased to alter his resolution regarding Tahnesur, Anundpal promises that the amount of the revenues of that country shall be annually paid to Mahmood; that a sum shall also be paid to reimburse him for the expense of his expedition, besides which, on his own part he will present him with fifty elephants, and jewels to a considerable amount." Mahmood replied, "The religion of the faithful inculcates the following tenet: That in proportion as the tenets of the prophet are diffused, and his followers exert themselves in the subversion of idolatry, so shall be their reward in heaven; that, therefore, it behoved him, with the assistance of God, to root out the worship of idols from the face of all India. How then should he spare Tahnesur?"...This answer was communicated to the Raja of Dehly, who, resolving to oppose the invaders, sent messengers throughout Hindoostan to acquaint the other rajas that Mahmood, without provocation, was marching with a vast army to destroy Tahnesur, now under his immediate protection. He observed, that if a barrier was not expeditiously raised against this roaring torrent, the country of Hindoostan would be soon overwhelmed, and that it behoved them to unite their forces at Tahnesur, to avert the impending calamity....
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, first published in 1829, New Delhi Reprint 1981, Vol. I, pp. 27-37.
  • Mahmood having reached Tahnesur before the Hindoos had time to take measures for its defence, the city was plundered, the idols broken, and the idol Jugsom was sent to Ghizny to be trodden under foot...Mahmood having refreshed his troops, and understanding that at some distance stood the rich city of Mutra [Mathura], consecrated to Krishn-Vasdew, whom the Hindoos venerate as an emanation of God, directed his march thither and entering it with little opposition from the troops of the Raja of Delhy, to whom it belonged, gave it up to plunder. He broke down or burned all the idols, and amassed a vast quantity of gold and silver, of which the idols were mostly composed. He would have destroyed the temples also, but he found the labour would have been excessive; while some say that he was averted from his purpose by their admirable beauty. He certainly extravagantly extolled the magnificence of the buildings and city in a letter to the governor of Ghizny, in which the following passage occurs: "There are here a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful; most of them of marble, besides innumerable temples; nor is it likely that this city has attained its present condition but at the expense of many millions of deenars, nor could such another be constructed under a period of two centuries."...The King tarried in Mutra 20 days; in which time the city suffered greatly from fire, beside the damage it sustained by being pillaged. At length he continued his march along the course of a stream on whose banks were seven strong fortifications, all of which fell in succession: there were also discovered some very ancient temples, which, according to the Hindoos, had existed for 4000 years. Having sacked these temples and forts, the troops were led against the fort of Munj...The King, on his return, ordered a magnificent mosque to be built of marble and granite, of such beauty as struck every beholder with astonishment, and furnished it with rich carpets, and with candelabras and other ornaments of silver and gold. This mosque was universally known by the name of the Celestial Bride. In its neighbourhood the King founded an university, supplied with a vast collection of curious books in various languages. It contained also a museum of natural curiosities. For the maintenance of this establishment he appropriated a large sum of money, besides a sufficient fund for the maintenance of the students, and proper persons to instruct youth in the arts and sciences...The King, in the year AH 410 (AD 1019), caused an account of his exploits to be written and sent to the Caliph, who ordered it to be read to the people of Bagdad, making a great festival upon the occasion, expressive of his joy at the propagation of the faith.
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, first published in 1829, New Delhi Reprint 1981, Vol. I, pp. 27-37.
  • In this year, that is AH 412, Sultan Mahmud learnt that the people of Hindustan had turned against the Raja of Qanauj' Nand, the Raja of Kalinjar attacked Qanauj because Raja Kuwar (of Qanauj) had surrendered to Sultan Mahmud. As a result of this attack Raja Kuwar was killed. When Sultn Mahmud learnt it, he collected a large army and started towards Hindustam with a view to take revenge upon Raja Nanda. As the army of Musalmams reached the Jumna, the son of Raja Anand Pal stood in the way of Mahmud. The river of Jumna was in spate at this time and it became very difficult for the army to get across. But as chance would have it, eight royal guards of Mahmud showed courage and crossed the river they attacked the army of the Hindis and dispersed it, the son of anand Pal ran away with his chiefs. All the eight royal guards entered a city nearby and they plundered it to their heart's content. They demolished the temples in that place.
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, by Muhammad Qasim Hindu Shah Firishta, Translated from the Urdu version of Tarikh-i-Firishta by Abdul Hai Khwajah, Deoband, 1983, pt. I, p. 125. In Goel S.R. Hindu temples What Happened to them
  • 'About this time the King learned that the inhabitants of two hilly tracts, denominated Kuriat and Nardein, continued the worship of idols and had not embraced the faith of Islam' Mahmood resolved to carry the war against these infidels, and accordingly marched towards their country' The Ghiznevide general, Ameer Ally, the son of Arslan Jazib, was now sent with a division of the army to reduce Nardein, which he accomplished, pillaging the country, and carrying away many of the people captives. In Nardein was a temple, which Ameer Ally destroyed, bringing from thence a stone on which were curious inscriptions, and which according to the Hindoos, must have been 40,000 years old...'The celebrated temple of Somnat, situated in the province of Guzerat, near the island of Dew, was in those times said to abound in riches, and was greatly frequented by devotees from all parts of Hindoostan' Mahmood marched from Ghizny in the month of Shaban AH 415 (AD Sept. 1024), with his army, accompanied by 30,000 of the youths of Toorkistan and the neighbouring countries, who followed him without pay, for the purpose of attacking this temple'...'Some historians affirm that the idol was brought from Mecca, where it stood before the time of the Prophet, but the Brahmins deny it, and say that it stood near the harbour of Dew since the time of Krishn, who was concealed in that place about 4000 years ago' Mahmood, taking the same precautions as before, by rapid marches reached Somnat without opposition. Here he saw a fortification on a narrow peninsula, washed on three sides by the sea, on the battlements of which appeared a vast host of people in arms' In the morning the Mahomedan troops advancing to the walls, began the assault...'
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated into English by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, 4 Volumes, New Delhi Reprint, 1981. p. 38-49
  • The battle raged with great fury: victory was long doubtful, till two Indian princes, Brahman Dew and Dabishleem, with other reinforcements, joined their countrymen during the action, and inspired them with fresh courage. Mahmood at this moment perceiving his troops to waver, leaped from his horse, and, prostrating himself before God implored his assistance' At the same time he cheered his troops with such energy, that, ashamed to abandon their king, with whom they had so often fought and bled, they, with one accord, gave a loud shout and rushed forwards. In this charge the Moslems broke through the enemy's line, and laid 5,000 Hindus dead at their feet' On approaching the temple, he saw a superb edifice built of hewn stone. Its lofty roof was supported by fifty-six pillars curiously carved and set with precious stones. In the centre of the hall was Somnat, a stone idol five yards in height, two of which were sunk in the ground. The King, approaching the image, raised his mace and struck off its nose. He ordered two pieces of the idol to be broken off and sent to Ghizny, that one might be thrown at the threshold of the public mosque, and the other at the court door of his own palace. These identical fragments are to this day (now 600 years ago) to be seen at Ghizny. Two more fragments were reserved to be sent to Mecca and Medina. It is a well authenticated fact, that when Mahmood was thus employed in destroying this idol, a crowd of Brahmins petitioned his attendants and offered a quantity of gold if the King would desist from further mutilation. His officers endeavoured to persuade him to accept of the money; for they said that breaking one idol would not do away with idolatry altogether; that, therefore, it could serve no purpose to destroy the image entirely; but that such a sum of money given in charity among true believers would be a meritorious act. The King acknowledged that there might be reason in what they said, but replied, that if he should consent to such a measure, his name would be handed down to posterity as 'Mahmood the idol-seller', whereas he was desirous of being known as 'Mahmood the destroyer': he therefore directed the troops to proceed in their work'...'The Caliph of Bagdad, being informed of the expedition of the King of Ghizny, wrote him a congratulatory letter, in which he styled him 'The Guardian of the State, and of the Faith'; to his son, the Prince Ameer Musaood, he gave the title of 'The Lustre of Empire, and the Ornament of Religion'; and to his second son, the Ameer Yoosoof, the appellation of 'The Strength of the Arm of Fortune, and Establisher of Empires.' He at the same time assured Mahmood, that to whomsoever he should bequeath the throne at his death, he himself would confirm and support the same.'
    • Tarikh-i-Firishta, translated into English by John Briggs under the title History of the Rise of the Mahomedan Power in India, 4 Volumes, New Delhi Reprint, 1981. p. 38-49
  • After a long time, in AH 400, Allah' conferred the honour of sultanate on Sultan Mahmud Ghazi, son of Subuktigin' Nine men from among the Afghan chiefs' took to his court and joined his servants' The Sultan' gave to each one of them enamelled daggers and swords, horses of good breed and robes of special quality and, taking them with him, he set out with the intention of conquering Hindustan and Somnat....'Rai Daishalim whom some historians have pronounced as Dabshalim or Dabshalam was the great ruler of that country. The Sultan inflicted a smashing defeat on that Raja, demolished and desecrated the idol temples there, and devastated that land of the infidels.
    • Tarikh-i-Khan Jahan Lodi, Translated from the Urdu version by Muhammad Bashir Husain, second edition, Lahore, 1986, pp. 121-22. In Goel S.R. Hindu temples What Happened to them. Tarikh-i-Khan Jahani wa Makhzan-i-Afghani of Khwajah Niamatallah Harwi, translated into Urdu by Muhammad Bashir Husain, second edition, Lahore, 1986.

Quotes about Mahmud of Ghazni[edit]

  • Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions, and like a tale of old in the mouth of the people. Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion towards all Muslims.... Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reach, to Kashmir, Benaras and other places.
    • Alberuni's India, vol. I, p. 22. Also quoted in Jain, Meenakshi (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts.
  • THEY mock’d the Sovereign of Ghaznin: one saith,
    “Ayaz hath no great beauty, by my faith!
    A Rose that ’s neither rosy-red nor fragrant,
    The Bulbul’s love for such astonisheth!”

    This went to Mahmud’s ears; ill-pleas’d he sate,
    Bow’d on himself, reflecting; then to that
    Replied: “My love is for his kindly nature,
    Not for his stature, nor his face, nor state!”
    • Sir Edwin Arnold, in Edmund Clarence Stedman, ed. (1833–1908). A Victorian Anthology, 1837–1895. 1895. From “With Sa’di in the Garden.” I. Mahmud and Ayaz: A Paraphrase on Sa’Di Online text of full poem
  • In the year 997 a Turkish chieftain by the name of Mahmud became sultan of the little state of Ghazni, in eastern Afghanistan. Mahmud knew that his throne was young and poor, and saw that India, across the border, was old and rich; the conclusion was obvious. Pretending a holy zeal for destroying Hindu idolatry, he swept across the frontier with a force inspired by a pious aspiration for booty. He met the unprepared Hindus at Bhimnagar, slaughtered them, pillaged their cities, destroyed their temples, and carried away the accumulated treasures of centuries. Returning to Ghazni he astonished the ambassadors of foreign powers by displaying "jewels and unbored pearls and rubies shining like sparks, or like wine congealed with ice, and emeralds like fresh sprigs of myrtle, and diamonds in size and weight like pomegranates." Each winter Mahmud descended into India, filled his treasure chest with spoils, and amused his men with full freedom to pillage and kill; each spring he returned to his capital richer than before. At Mathura (on the Jumna) he took from the temple its statues of gold encrusted with precious stones, and emptied its coffers of a vast quantity of gold, silver and jewelry; he expressed his admiration for the architecture of the great shrine, judged that its duplication would cost one hundred million dinars and the labor of two hundred years, and then ordered it to be soaked with naphtha and burnt to the ground. Six years later he sacked another opulent city of northern India, Somnath, killed all its fifty thousand inhabitants, and dragged its wealth to Ghazni. In the end he became, perhaps, the richest king that history has ever known. Sometimes he spared the population of the ravaged cities, and took them home to be sold as slaves; but so great was the number of such captives that after some years no one could be found to offer more than a few shillings for a slave. Before every important engagement Mahmud knelt in prayer, and asked the blessing of God upon his arms. lie reigned for a third of a century; and when he died, full of years and honors, Moslem historians ranked him as the greatest monarch of his time, and one of the greatest sovereigns of any age.
  • At that date, the Mohammedan conqueror, Mahmoud of Ghizni, crossed India; seized on the holy city of Somnauth; and stripped of its treasures the famous temple, which had stood for centuries--the shrine of Hindoo pilgrimage, and the wonder of the Eastern world. Of all the deities worshipped in the temple, the moon-god alone escaped the rapacity of the conquering Mohammedans. Preserved by three Brahmins, the inviolate deity, bearing the Yellow Diamond in its forehead, was removed by night, and was transported to the second of the sacred cities of India--the city of Benares.
  • In the year C.E. 1000 the first attack of Mahmud of Ghazni was delivered. The region of Mahmud’s activity extended from Peshawar to Kanauj in the east and from Peshawar to Anhilwara in the South. In this, wherever he went, he converted people to Islam. In his attack on Waihind (near Peshawar) in 1001-3, Mahmud is reported to have captured Jayapal and fifteen of his principal chiefs and relations some of whom, like Sukhpal, were made Musalmans. At Bhera all the inhabitants, except those who embraced Islam, were put to the sword.
    • Lal, K. S. (2012). Indian muslims: Who are they.
  • Mahmud broke temples and desecrated idols wherever he went. The number of temples destroyed by him during his campaigns is so large that a detailed list is neither possible nor necessary. However, he concentrated more on razing renowned temples to bring glory to Islam rather than waste time on small ones. Some famous temples destroyed by him may be noted here. At Thaneshwar, the temple of Chakraswamin was sacked and its bronze image of Vishnu was taken to Ghazni to be thrown into the hippodrome of the city. Similarly, the magnificent central temple of Mathura was destroyed and its idols broken. At Mathura there was no armed resistance; the people had fled, and Mahmud had been greatly impressed with the beauty and grandeur of the shrines. And yet the temples in the city were thoroughly sacked. Kanauj had a large number of temples (Utbi’s ‘ten thousand’ merely signifies a large number), some of great antiquity. Their destruction was made easy by the flight of those who were not prepared either to die or embrace Islam. Somnath shared the fate of Chakraswamin.
    • Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan.
  • No honest historian should seek to hide, and no Musalman acquainted with his faith will try to justify, the wanton destruction of temples that followed in the wake of the Ghaznavid army. Contemporary as well as later historians do not attempt to veil the nefarious acts but relate them with pride.
    • Mohammed Habib, quoted in Elst, K. 2002, Ayodhya: the case against the temple. Ch.10.
  • According to a famous anecdote about the two, the sultan one day asked Ayaz whether he knew of any king greater and more powerful than he was. Ayaz replied, “Yes, I am a greater king than you.” Surprised by the answer, the sultan asked Ayaz for proof. “Because even though you are a king, your heart rules you, and this slave is the king of your heart.” ... Another anecdote about Sultan Mahmud was included by the great Persian poet Sa'di in his collection of verses, Bustan: “Some one found fault with the king of Ghazani, saying, 'Ayaz, his favorite slave, possesses no beauty. It is strange that a nightingale should love a rose that has neither color nor perfume.' This was told to Mahmud, who said, “My love, O sir, is for virtue, not for form or stature.”
    • About Mahmud and his companion Malik Ayaz. Quoted from The Origins and Role of Same-Sex Relations in Human Societies by James Neill

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