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Somnath Temple

Somnath Temple

      India's History : Medieval India : Ghazni sacks Somnath Temple     

Ghazni sacks Somnath Temple

Somnath is about 5km from Veraval and had a checkered history. It is believed that the
Somnath temple here was originally built by Somraj, the Moon God himself, out of gold,
and then rebuilt by Ravana in silver and then by Krishna in Wood, then by Bhimdev in
stone. Somnath is also known by several other names -- Deo pattan, Prabhas Pattan or
Pattan Somnath, which it acquired during its long and eventful history. Somnath was
once the most revered shrine in the country, for it had one of the twelve pre-eminent
Jyotirlingas (the glowing Lingas), which held a special significance for the Hindus.
Somnath's glory and fame are legendary. It is said that people from the remotest
parts of the country came to worship at the shrine; revenues collected from ten
thousand villages was spent on the maintenance of the temple. Two thousand
Brahmins (priests) served the idol and a golden chain attached to a huge bell plate
announced the commencement of prayers.

Somnath rose and fell many a time and the amazing drama of the iconoclast's
zeal for its desecration and the devout Hindu's passionate desire for its restoration
continued till the 15th century, when the Hindus finally gave up in sheer despair
and built a new temple nearby.

Northern India had ceased to attract Mahmud, for the spoils of its most
wealthy temples were already in his treasury. But the rich and prosperous
province of Gujarat was still untouched, and on October 18, 1025, he started
from Ghazni with his regular troops and thirty thousand volunteer-horsemen
for the temple of Somnath, situated at the distance of a bow-shot from the
mouth of the Saraswati, by the side of which the earthly body of Lord
Krishna had breathed its last.

Ghazni Mohammed descended on Somnath in 1024 when the temple was
so prosperous that it has 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and 300 barbers
to shave the heads of visiting pilgrims. There is a description to this effect
by Al Biruni, an Arab traveller. After a two-day battle, Ghazni Mohammed
carted off its fabulous wealth and also destroyed the temple, thus setting a
precedent of Muslims destroying the temple and Hindus rebuilding it, for it
was razed again in 1297, 1394 and finally in 1706 by Aurangzeb, the
Mughal emperor who was notorious for such acts.

Mahmud entered the temple and possessed himself of its fabulous wealth. `
Not a hundredth part of the gold and precious stones he obtained from
Somnath were to be found in the treasury of any king of Hindustan.'
Later historians have related how Mahmud refused the enormous
ransom offered by the Brahmans, and preferred the title of `Idol-breaker’
(But-shikan) to that of `Idol-seller' (But-farosh). He struck the idol with
his mace and his piety was instantly rewarded by the precious stones that
came out of its belly. This is an impossible story. Apart from the fact that
it lacks all contemporary confirmation, the Somnath idol was a solid
unsculptured linga, not a statue, and stones could not have come out of
its belly. That the idol was broken is unfortunately true enough, but the
offer of the Brahmans, and Mahmud's rejection of the offer, is a fable
of later days. The temple, which stands today, was built in the traditional
pattern on the original site by the sea, thanks to the efforts of Sardar
Vallabhbhai Patel.

Battle of Tarain

      India's History : Medieval India : First Battle of Tarain     

Victory of Prithiviraj Chouhan

In the turbulent times of the 12th century, when Islam was bent on taking
over India, and Mohammad of Ghur (from Afghanistan) marched beyond
the Punjab, Prithviraj III of Ajmer advanced to oppose the Muslim invaders
with a large army. It included one hundred and fifty Rajput princes and
their forces, including Rawal Mathan Singh of Mewar. Islam had been
seeking the conversion of the world at the point of the sword. . Ghori
decided to extend the boundary of his kingdom and also gain wealth,
through conquests. To realize his ambition, he made his first incursion
into India in 1175. After subduing the Ismaili Muslim heretics of
Multan, he made an unsuccessful advance into Gujarat in 1178.

Nevertheless he became successful in seizing Peshawar and building
a fort at Sialkot in 1181. With the help of the ruler of Jammu, Jaidev
he put an end to the rule of Ghaznavids in Punjab and captured Lahore
in 1186 A.D. With this the way was opened for him to push his
conquests further into India. But he now had to face the formidable
Rajputs led by the enigmatic Prithviraj Chauhan, ruler of Delhi and Ajmer.

For the defense of the country's north-west frontiers and what may
be called the "Gateway" of India, the Chauhan ruler had strongly
fortified the bordering towns of his kingdom. Muhammad Ghori first
attacked Bhatinda and laid siege to the city in 1189. Historical evidences
show that Prithviraj Chauhan was not prepared for this attack made in
a sudden and deceitful manner. Hence the army defending the city was
defeated and it laid down its arms after the defeat.

Muhammad Ghori left a garrison under the command of Ziauddin to
defend the fort, and he himself prepared to back when the Chauhan
ruler arrived at the head of a huge army to recapture the fort. So
Ghori had to stay his departure in order to face Prithviraj. The
rival armies met at Tarain, near Thaneshwar. In face of the
persistent Rajput attacks, the battle was won as the Muslim
army broke ranks and fled leaving their general Mahmud
Ghori as a prisoner in Pritiviraj's hands.

Mahmud Ghori was brought in chains to Pithoragarh - Prithviraj's
capital and he begged his victor for mercy and release. Prithviraj's
ministers advised against pardoning the aggressor. But the chivalrous
and valiant Prithviraj thought otherwise and respectfully released the v
anquished Ghori.

Scenes of devastation, plunder and massacre commenced, which lasted
through ages during which nearly all that was sacred in religion or
celebrated in art was destroyed by these ruthless and barbarous
invaders. The noble Rajput, with a spirit of constancy and
enduring courage, seized every opportunity to turn upon his
oppressor. But all was of no avail; fresh supplies were pouring in,
and dynasty succeeded dynasty.

Battle of Tarain

      India's History : Medieval India : Second Battle of Tarain     

Defeat of Prithiviraj Chouhan

On his return to Ghazni, Ghori made hectic preparations to avenge the defeat.
He proceeded towards India with a large force numbering 120000 mounted
men. When he reached Lahore, he sent his envoy to Prithviraj to demand
his submission, but the Chauhan ruler refused to comply. Prithviraj saw
through Ghori's stratagem. So he issued a fervent appeal to his fellow
Rajput chiefs to come to his aid against the Muslim invader. About 150
Rajput chiefs, both big and small, responded favourably. Except the
ruler of Kannauj Raja Jaichand who met Ghori an divulged he secrets
of Chauhan's planning of war.

Whatever army could be mustered, Prithviraj proceeded with it to
meet Muhammad Ghori in Tarain where a year before he had inflicted
a crushing defeats on his adversary. Ghori divided his troops into five
parts. While he deployed four parts to attack the Rajputs on all four
sides, the fifth part was kept as reserve. As the sun declined, Ghori
led a final charge with his reserve army. The final charge came as a
last straw for the brave Rajputs. Khande Rao, the able general of
Prithviraj, was killed. The enthusiasm of Prithviraj also dampened
against these reverses. He abandoned his elephant and rode out of
the battlefield in order to prepare his defenses for another round of
attack. But he was pursued and killed by the Afghan troops in a
village near Sambhal U.P.

In some popular legends woven around the bravery of Prithviraj,
it is said that Ghori did not killed Prithviraj but blinded him. Subsequently,
Prithviraj discharged a Shabdbhedi (an arrow which travels in a path
created by sound waves) arrow, on being challenged by Ghori to do so
. The arrow hit Ghori and subsequently he was killed. Yet there is
no historical evidence to substantiate it.

The seriousness of this defeat for India cannot be exaggerated. The
victory of Mohammad of Ghur was decisive, and laid the foundation
of the Sultanate of Delhi and, for Hinduism, the period was critical.

After this defeat, the role of the kings of Mewar became clear: They
accepted this responsibility of defence in preference to the life of
relative security of a slave. And so began centuries of war with
the Muslims, lasting until the Mughal dynasty began to fall apart
after the death of Emperor Aurangzeb (1707).

Slave Dynasty

      India's History : Medieval India : Qutbuddin establishes the Slave/Mamluk Dynasty     

Slave Kings

The success of slaves such as these has made many scholars praise the
medieval Muslim slave system as being marvellous, asserting that it
provided unlimited scope for rise so much so that a slave could even
become a king. This is not a correct assessment. Slaves were not
captured to be made kings; they were not purchased to be made
kings. They were abducted, captured, or purchased to serve as
domestics, guards, troopers etc. They were sold to make money.
‘Slave’ and ‘king’ are contradictory terms. If a few slaves could
become kings, it was not because the system provided them with s
uch opportunities but mainly because of their ability to indulge in
unscupulous manipulations, muster armed band of followers, and
strike for the throne at an appropriate moment. The Delhi Sultanate
ruled by the kings after Muhammad of Gaur upto 1296 has been
called the "Slave Dynasty" as many rulers were former slaves.
But having freed themselves to rule independently, this term is
historically incorrect.

The reign of Qutbuddin

Qutbuddin Aibak, who rose to be the first slave-sultan of Hindustan,
was purchased, early in life, by Fakhruddin, the chief Qazi of Nishapur
who appears to have been a great slave trader. Through his favours and
along with his sons, Aibak received training in reciting the Quran and
practising archery and horsemanship. Expenditure on such instructions
used to be regarded as an investment by slave merchants: a trained slave
fetched a better price in the market. After the Qazi’s death his sons sold
Aibak to a merchant who took him to Ghazni and sold him to Sultan
Muizzuddin. Though ugly in external appearance, Aibak’s training had
endowed him with “laudable qualities and admirable impressions”. He c
ultivated his compatriots by being most liberal with the “Turkish guards,
the slaves of the household.” Thereby he won their affection and support.
Merit raised him to the position of Amir Akhur (Master of the Horse Stables).
He was deputed to campaign in India extensively, a task he accomplished
with determination and success. In course of time, loyalty and signal services
to Sultan Muizzuddin secured him the post of vice-regent in Hindustan. In
accordance with Muizzuddin’s desire, Tajuddin Yaldoz, another slave
of the Sultan,  married his daughter to Aibak. Aibak extended Muslim dominions in
India by undertaking expeditions on behalf of his master. The Sultan
seems to have desired that Aibak should succeed him in Hindustan,
and after the death of the Sultan, he ascended the throne of Hindustan at
Lahore in 1206 and ruled up to 1210.

Qutbuddin, had however, commenced his architectural career even
before he chose to become the sultan. The mosque was essential to
the Islamic emphasis on cong regational prayer, while the burial of
the dead, as opposed to cremation, introduced the tomb to India.

The earliest of these Islamic structures are to be seen in the Qutub
complex and the incorporation of many Hindu elements is due to
the ready availability of building material and the use of local
craftsmen. Qutbuddin raised the Quwwat-ul-Islam (might of Islam)
mosque, which is the earliest extant mosque in India. Within its
spacious courtyard he retained the 4th century Iron Pillar, probably
the standard of an ancient Vishnu temple. The pillar has puzzled
scientists, as its iron has not rusted in all these centuries.

AD 1206 - 1290
1206 - 1210     Qutbuddin Aibak
1210 - 1211     Âram Shah
1211 - 1236     Iltutmish Shams ad Din
1236     Fîruz Shah I
1236 - 1240     Radiyya Begum
1240 - 1242     Bahram Shah
1242 - 1246     Masud Shah
1246 - 1266     Mahmud Shah I
1266 - 1287     Balban Ulugh Khan
1287 - 1290     Kay Qubadh
1290     Kayumarth

Foundation of the Qutab Minar


The great monument of Qutab Minar got completed by the Sultan in
1231-1232 AD. However the work on Minar was started by Qutabuddin
in 1199, celebrating the advent of Muslim dominance in Delhi. To
Qutabuddin, the tower marked the eastern extremity of the Islamic
faith, casting the shadow of God over east and west.

Mongol Invasion : Genghis Khan

      India's History : Medieval India : Mongol invasion under Genghis Khan     

The Mongols

From out of the wastes of central Asia they had swept, a savage
force for which the world was utterly unprepared. They swept like a
wildly wielded scythe, hacking, slashing, obliterating all that lay in
their path, and calling it conquest.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan was born in the early 1160's (it has been argued between
1162 and 1167, but recently agreement has been made for 1167), the
son of the Kiyat-Borjigid chieftain Yisugei. He was named Temujen
because, at the time of his birth, his father had captured a Tatar chieftain
of the same name. Legend says that the newborn Temujen had a bloodclot
in the palm of his hand, an omen that he was destined to be a hero.

When Temujen was a boy, his father was poisoned by a group of Tatars,
and the Kiyat tribe broke up and scattered, abandoning their chief's family
and leaving Temujen's mother, Ho'elun, to raise her children alone.
Accounts of Temujen glorify him as intelligent, brave, and an adept
fighter, even from an early age, and as such a potential threat to the
leaders of other tribes of the steppe. As a young man, despite extreme
hardships, he repeatedly met perils and endured crises through force of
character and willpower.

In 1189, after he was elected the new leader of the Kiyat, he embarked
on a series of military campaigns to unify the peoples of the steppe. In
1206, after a series of skilful victories, Temujen was acknowledged as
supreme leader of the steppe at a khuriltai, a traditional meeting of tribal
leaders to decide upon the future military and state matters. He was given
the title of Genghis Khan meaning "emperor of all emperors" or
"oceanic ruler". Genghis Khan's campaigns and those of his d
escendants led to the creation of an immense empire that stretched
from Hungary to Korea.

According to legend, Genghis Khan passed through the Ordos area
during his final battle campaign and was so taken with the beautiful
grasslands that he dropped his horsewhip. When attendants went to
fetch it, Genghis told them to let it be and expressed a desire to be
buried in the Ordos grasslands. The attendants buried the horsewhip
on the spot and erected a ceremonial stone mount over it. Since the
early Qing dynasty (1614-1911), there has been a shrine to Genghis
 Khan's memory located at the site where this event is purported
to have occurred.


Temuchin's first major patron was Toghrul, of the Keraits, who
he saw as an adopted father. Toghrul was probably the stronges
t leader amongst the Mongolian tribes at that point, although he
was constantly under threat both externally and from family infighting.
When Temuchin's wife Börte was abducted by the Merkits,
Toghrul and Jamuka (Temuchin's blood brother, his "anda",
and eventually his enemy) helped rescue her (1183/84).

But not everything went Temuchin's way, with a major defeat
in 1187 leading to almost a ten year gap in his life history, until
1196. That year Temuchin successfully attacked the Tartars.
He then rescued Toghrul from exile, who was given the Chin
title "Wang Khan". Jamuka declared against Temuchin in 1201,
when he was elected "Gurkhan". In 1202 Temuchin exterminated
the Tartars, and that year Wang Khan broke with Temuchin.
Thus, and perhaps inevitably, Genghis was at war with the Keraits.

In 1203 Wang Khan died, and Genghis assumed his title of King
of the Keraits. Jamuka was betrayed to Temuchin, and died in
1205. Thus the stage was set for Temuchin to be elected
"Genghis Khan", over all of the Mongolian tribes, in 1206.
In 1209, the Uighurs submitted to Genghis, leaving him free
to concentrate on the Chin and to refuse to pay tribute to them.
Eventually, after many battles and even a withdrawal to Mongolia,
Genghis destroyed Zongdu in 1215. This was the Chin capita
l (later to become Beijing), so the Chin capital moved south to
Nanking (Kaifeng).

Treacherously, and somewhat stupidly, soldiers of Sultan
Muhammad of Khwarazm killed ambassadors from Genghis,
forcing him to declare war on that Islamic empire in 1219.
Genghis won in 1221. His Empire stretched from the
Korean peninsular almost to Kiev, and south to the
Indus. It was the largest land empire ever seen. Genghis was
thus now able to focus his time on establishing an effective
administration of the Mongol Empire, whilst keeping internal
strife under check and setting his succession in place.

He died in August 1227 (the cause is not certain), having
named one of his sons Ogödei Kha'an his principal successor.
Ogödei is remembered by history as probably the most
principled of the sons, explaining Genghis' choice.

Legacy to Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan has become a symbol of a Mongolia trying to
regain its identity after many long years of Communism. Genghis
Khan's face appears on Mongolian banknotes and vodka labels.

Attached: Somnath Temple
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