CHAPTER 5: The Age of Conflict (circa 1000-1200)
The period from 1000 to 1200 saw rapid changes both in West and Central Asia and in north India. It was these developments which led to the incursion of the Turks into northern India towards the end of the period.
By the end of the ninth century, the Abbasid Caliphate was in decline. Its place was taken by a series of states ruled by Islamized Turks. The Turks had entered the Abbasid empire during the ninth century as palace-guards and mercenary soldiers. Soon they emerged as the king-makers. As the power of the central government declined, provincial governors started assuming independent status, though for some time the fiction of unity was kept up by the Caliph formally granting the title of amir-ul-umra (Commander of Commanders) on generals who were able to earve out a separate sphere of authority. These new rulers assumed the title of ‘Amir’ at first and of ‘Sultan’ later on.
The continuous incursion of the Turkish tribesmen from Central Asia, the mercenary character of the Turkish soldiers who were prepared to switch loyalties and abandon an unsuccessful ruler without much thought, the strife between different Muslim sects and between different regions made the period a restless one. Empires and states rose and fell in rapid succession. In this situation, only a bold warrior and leader of men, a person who was as adept in warfare as in with standing intrigues could come to the surface.
The Turkish tribesmen brought with them the habit of ruthless plunder. Their main mode of warfare consisted of rapid advance and retreat, lightning raids and attacking any loose body of stragglers. They could do this both because of the excellent quality of their horses and their hardihood so that they could cover incredible distances on horseback.
Meanwhile, the break-up of the Gurjara-Pratihara empire led to a phase of political uncertainty in north India and a new phase of struggle for domination. As a result, little attention tvas paid to the emergence of aggressive, expansionist Turkish states on the north-western border of India.
Towards the end of the ninth century, Trans-Oxiana, Khorasan and parts of Iran were being ruled by the Samanids who were Iranians by descent. The Samanids had to battle continually with the non-Muslim Turkish tribesmen on their northern and eastern frontiers. It was during this struggle that a new type of soldiers, the ghazi, was born. The battle against the Turks, most of whom worshipped the forces of nature and were heathens in the eyes of the Muslims, was a struggle for religion as well as for the safety of the state, Hence, the ghazi was as much a missionary as a fighter. He acted as a loose auxiliary of the regular armies and made up for his pay by plunder. It was the resourcefulness of the ghazi and his willingness to undergo great privations for the sake of the cause which enabled these infant Muslim states to hold their own against the heathen Turks. In course of time, many heathen Turks became Muslims, but the struggle against renewed incursions of the non- Muslim Turkish tribes continued. The Islamised Turkish tribes were to emerge as the greatest defenders and crusaders of Islam. But the love of plunder went Side by side with the defence of Islam.
Among the Samanid governors was a Turkish slave, Alaptigin, who, in course of time, established an independent kingdom with its capital at Ghazni. The Samanid kingdom soon ended and the Ghaznavids took over the task of defending the Islamic lands from the Central Asian tribesmen.
It was in this context that Mahmud ascended the throne (998-1030) at Ghazni. Mahmud is considered a hero of Islam by medieval Muslim historians because of his stout defence against the Central Asian Turkish tribal invaders. The ghazi spirit, therefore, further increased during his reign. Secondly, Mahmud was closely associated with the renaissance of the Iranian spirit which grew rapidly during this period. The proud Iranians had never accepted the Arabic language and culture. The Samanid state had also encouraged the Persian language and literature. A high watermark in the Iranian renaissance was reached with Firdausi’s Shah Namah. Firdausi was the poet -laureate at the court of Mahmud. He transported the struggle between Iran and Turan to mythical times and glorified the ancient Iranian heroes. There was a resurgence of Iranian patriotism and Persian language and culture now became the language and culture of the Ghaznavid empire, so much so that Mahmud himself claimed descent from the legendary Iranian king, Afrasiyab. Thus, the Turks became not only Islamised but Persianised. It was this culture that they were to bring with them to India two centuries later.
While Mahmud played an important role in the defence of the Islamic states against the Turkish tribes and in the Iranian cultural renaissance, in India his memory is only that of a plunderer and a destroyer of temples. Mahmud is said to have made 17 raids into India. The initial raids were directed against the Hindushahi rulers who at the time held Peshawar and the Punjab. He also fought against the Muslim rulers of Multan who belonged to a Muslim sect to which Mahmud was bitterly opposed. The Hindushahi rulers had been battling against the Ghaznavids ever since the time of Mahmud’s father. The Hindushahi kings, whose territories had earlier extended from the Punjab to modern Afghanistan, had been quick to see the danger to them of the rise of an independent state based on Ghazni. The Hindushahi king, Jayapala, had invaded Ghazni in alliance with the son of the former governor of Ghazni under the Samanid ruler. But Jayapala had to suffer defeat. He had renewed the fight the following year but was again defeated. Mahmud took an active part in these battles as a prince.
When Mahmud ascended the throne, he took the offensive against the Hindushahis. The Muslim rulers of Multan joined Jayapala in the struggle that followed. In 1001Jayapala was defeated and taken prisoner, but was released. However, he decided to enter a funeral pyre because he thought he had disgraced himself. His son, Anandapala succeeded him to the throne. A decisive battle between Mahmud and Anandapala was fought in 1008-09 at Waihind (near Peshawar) the Hindushahi capital. The Muslim ruler of Multan also supported Anandapala Although the Indian forces were more numerous and includes the Khokhars, a brave war-like tribe living in the Punjab, the cavalry charge of Mahmud’s mounted archers carried the day. For all practical purposes, the Punjab now passed into the hands of the Ghaznavids though the Shahi kings were allowed to rule over some portions of their former empire as vassals and continued till 1020Multan was also subdued following the battle of Waihind.
The subsequent raids of Mahmud into India were aimed at plundering the rich temples and cities of northern India in order to continue his struggle against his enemies in Central Asia. He also did not want to give time to the princes in India to regroup and to combine against him. Mahmud’s raids into India alternated with battles in Central Asia. For his plundering raids into India the ghazis came handy to him. Mahmud also posed as a great but shikan or “destroyer of the images” for the glory of Islam. Mahinud raided Thanesar near Delhi. His most daring raids, however, were against Kanauj in 1018and against Somnath in Gujarat in 1025In the campaign against Kanauj, he sacked and plundered both Mathura and Kanauj and returned via Kalinjar in Bundelkhand loaded with fabulous riches. He was able to do all this with impunity due to the fact that no strong state existed in north India at that time. No attempt was made by Mahmud to annex any of these areas. Mahmud marched from Multan across Rajputana in order to raid the fabulously rich temple at Somnath without encountering any serious resistance on the way. This was his last campaign in India outside the Punjab. He died at Ghazni in 1030.
It is not correct to dismiss Mahmud as just a raider and plunderer. The Ghaznavid conquest of the Punjab and Multan completely changed the political situation in north India. The Turks had crossed the chain of mountains defending India from the north-west and could make a deeper incursion into the Gangetic heartland at any time. The reason why they were not able to extend their conquests into the area for 150 years is to be found in the rapid changes which took place in Central Asia as well as in north India during the period.
Following the death of Mahmud, a powerful empire, the Seljuk empire, came into being. The Seljuk empire included Syria, Iran and Trans-Oxiana and contended with the Ghaznavids for the control of Khorasan. In a famous battle, Masud, the son of Mahmud, was completely defeated and had to flee, to Lahore for refuge. The Ghaznavid empire now shrunk to Ghazni and the Punjab. Although the Ghaznavids continued to make plundering raids into the Gangetic valley and Rajputana, they were no longer in a position to pose a serious military danger to India. Simultaneously, a number of new states arose in north India which could counter the Ghaznavid raids.
The Rajput States
The rise of a new section called the Rajputs and the controversy about their origins has already been mentioned. With the break-up of the Pratihara Empire, a number of Rajput states came into existence in north India. The most important of these were the Gahadavalas of Kanauj, the Paramaras of Malwa and the Chauhans of Ajmer. There were other smaller dynasties in different parts of the country, such as the Kalachuris in the area around modern Jabalpur, the Chandellas in Bundelkhand, the Chalukyas of Gujarat, the Tomars of Delhi, etc. Bengal remained under the control of the Palas and, later under the Senas. The Gahadavalas of Kanauj gradually squeezed the Palas out of Bihar and made Banaras a second capital. Meanwhile, the Chauhans who had established themselves at Ajmer were gradually extending their empire towards Gujarat, as well as towards Delhi and the Punjab. This seems to have brought them into conflict with the Gahadavalas. It was these rivalries which made it impossible for the Rajput rulers to join hands to oust the Ghaznavids from the Punjab. In fact, the Ghaznavids felt strong enough to make raids even up to Ujjain.
The basis of Rajput society was the clan. Every clan traced its descent from a common ancestor, real or imaginary. The clans generally dominated a compact territory. Sometimes, these settlements were based on units of 12 or 24 or 48 or 84 villages. The chief would allot land in the villages to his sub-chiefs who, in turn, would allot it to individual Rajput warriors for the maintenance of their family and the horses. Attachment to land, family and honour was a characteristic of the Rajputs. Each Rajput state was supposed to be ruled over by the ruler in conjunction with his chiefs who were generally his blood brothers. Though their fiefs were opposed to be held at the pleasure of the ruler, the Rajput notion of sanctity of land did not permit their resumption by the ruler, except in special circumstances such as rebellion, absence of an heir, etc.
The Rajput organisation of society had both advantages and disadvantages. One advantage was the sense of brotherhood and egalitarianism which prevailed among die Rajputs. But the same trait made it difficult to maintain discipline among them. Feuds which continued for several generations were another weakness of the Rajputs. But their basic weakness was their tendency to form exclusive groups, each claiming superiority over the others. They were not prepared to extend the sense of brotherhood to non-Rajputs. This led to a growing gap between the Rajput ruling groups and the people most of whom were non-Rajputs. The Rajputs form only about ten per cent of the population in Rajasthan even today. The proportion of the Rajputs to the total population of the areas they dominated could not have been much higher during the 11th and 12th centuries. The Rajputs treated war as a sport. This and struggle for land and cattle led to continuous warfare among the various Rajput states. The ideal ruler was one who led out his armies after celebrating the Dassehra festival to invade the territories of his neighbours. The people, both in the villages and in the cities, suffered the most from this policy.
Most of the Rajput rulers of the time were champions of Hinduism, though some of them also patronised Jainism. They gave rich donations and grants of land to the brahmanas and the temples. The Rajput rulers stood forth as protectors of the privileges of the – brahmanas and of the caste system. Thus, the system of charging a lower rate of land revenue from brahmanas continued in some Rajput states till their merger in the Indian Union, In return for these and other concessions, the brahmanas were prepared to recognise the Rajputs as descendants of the old lunar and solar families of the kshatriyas which were believed to have become extinct.
The period after the eighth century and particularly between the tenth and twelfth centuries, may be regarded as marking a climax in temple-building activity in north India, Some of the most magnificent temples that we have today can be traced back to this period. The style of temple construction which came into prominence was called the nagara. Though found almost all over India, the main centres of constructions in this style were in north India and the Deccan. Its main characteristic feature was the tall curved spiral roof over the chief deity room called the garbhagriha or the deul. The main room was generally a square, though projections could be made from each of its sides. An anteroom (mandapa) was added to the sanctum mid sometimes the temple was enclosed by high walls which had lofty gates. The most representative temples of this type are the group of temples at Khajuraho in Madhya Pradesh and at Bhubaneshwar in Orissa. The Parsvanath temple, the Visvanatha temple and the Kandarya Mahadeo temple at Khajuraho illustrate this style in its richest and most finished fonn. The rich and elaborate carvings on the walls of the temples show that the art of sculpture had attained its height. Most of these temples were built by the Chandellas who ruled the area from the beginning of the ninth to the end of the thirteenth century.
In Orissa, the most magnificent examples of temple architecture of the time are the Lingaraja temple (11th century) and the Sun temple of Konark (13th century). The famous Jagannatha temple at Puri also belongs to this period.
A large number of temples were built at various other places in north India — Mathura, Banaras, Dilwara (Abu) etc. Like the temples in south India, temples in north India also tended to become more and more elaborate. They were the centres of social and cultural life. Some of them, such as the temple of Somnath, became extremely wealthy. They ruled over many villages and took part in business activities. The Rajput rulers also patronised arts and letters. Many books and plays were written in Sanskrit during the period under their patronage. Vastupala, the famous minister of the Chalukyan ruler Bhima in Gujarat, was a writer and a patron of scholars and the builder of the beautiful Jain temple at Mt. Abu.
Ujjain and Dhara, the capitals of the Paramara rulers, were other famous centres for Sanskrit learning. Many works were written, in Apabhramsha and Prakrit which represented the languages of the region. The Jain scholars made significant contributions in this direction, the most famous among them being Hemachandra who wrote both in Sanskrit and Apabhramsha. With the revival of brahmanism. Sanskrit supplanted Apabhramsha and Prakrit among the upper classes. However, literature in these languages, which were nearer to the spoken languages continued to be produced. The modern north Indian languages, such as Hindi, Bengali and Marathi began to emerge out of these popular languages during this period.
After the Ghaznavid conquest of the Punjab, two distinct patterns of relations between the Muslims and the Hindus were at work. One was the lure for plunder which resulted in raids into the Gangetic valley and Rajputana by the successors of Mahmud. The rulers of the Rajput states put up a stout resistance against these raids and won victories against the Turks on a number of occasions. The Ghaznavid state was no longer a very powerful state and the gaining of a number of victories against it in local battles only made the Rajput rulers more complacent. At the second level, Muslim traders were allowed, even welcomed in the country, since they helped in strengthening and augmenting India’s trade with the Central and West Asian countries and thus increasing the income of the state. Colonies of Muslim traders sprang up in some of the towns in north India mainly in Punjab. In the wake of these came a number of Muslim religious preachers called the Sufis. The Sufis preached the gospel of love, faith and dedication to the one God. They directed their preachings mainly towards the Muslim settlers but they influenced some Hindus also. Thus, a process of interaction between Islam and Hindu religion and society was started. Lahore became a centre of Arabic and Persian languages and literature. Hindu generals, such as Tilak, commanded the Ghaznavid armies in which Hindu soldiers also were recruited.
These two processes might have continued indefinitely but for another Large-scale change in the political situation in Central Asia. Towards the middle of the twelfth century, another group of Turkish tribesmen, who were partly Buddhist and partly pagan, shattered the power of the Seljuk Turks. In the vacuum, two new powers rose, to prominence, the Khwarizmi empire based on Iran and the Ghurid empire based on Ghur in north-west Afghanistan. The Ghurids had started as vassals of Ghazni, but had soon thrown off its yoke. The power of the Ghurids increased under Sultan Alauddin who earned the title of the world burner (jahan-soz) because during the middle of the 12th century, he ravaged Ghazni and burnt it to the ground in revenge for the treatment that had been meted out to his brothers at Ghazni. The rising power of the Khwarizmi empire severely limited the Central Asian ambition of the Ghurids. Khorasan, which was the bone of contention between the two, was soon conquered by Khwarizm Shah. This left no option for the. Ghurids but to look for expansion towards India.
In 1173, Shahabuddin Muhammad (1173-1206) (also known as Muizzuddin Muhammad bin Sam) ascended the throne at Ghazni, while his elder brother was ruling at Ghur. Proceeding by way of the Gomal pass, Muizzuddin Muhammad conquered Multan and Uchch. In 1178he attempted to penetrate into Gujarat by marching across the Rajputana desert. But the Gujarat ruler completely routed him in a battle near Mount Abu and Muizzuddin Muhammad was lucky in escaping alive. He now realised the necessity of creating a suitable base in the Punjab before venturing upon the conquest of India. Accordingly, he launched a campaign against the Ghaznavid possessions in the Punjab. By 1190 Muizzuddin Muhammad had conquered Peshawar, Lahore and Sialkot and was poised for a thrust towards Delhi and the Gangetic doab.
Meanwhile events had not been standing still in north India. The Chauhan power had been steadily growing. The Chauhan rulers had defeated and killed a large number of Turks who had tried to invade Rajasthan, most probably from the Punjab side. The Chauhans had captured Delhi (called Dhillika) from the Tomars around the middle of the century. The expansion of the Chauhan power towards the Punjab brought them into conflict with the Ghaznavid rulers of the area.
While Muizzuddin Muhammad (called Muhammad Ghuri in history books) was over-running Multan and Uchch, a young lad, barely i 1 years old ascended the throne at Ajmer. He was Prithviraja who has been the subject of many legends and stories. From the age of 16the young ruler embarked upon a career of conquest. Overcoming the oppositions of his relations, he overran many small states in Rajasthan. He invaded the Bundelkhand area and defeated the Chandella rulers in a battle near Mahoba. It was in this battle that the famous brothers, Alha and Udal, died fighting to save Mahoba. However, Prithviraja did not try to annex the country. He next invaded Gujarat, but the Gujarat ruler, Bhima II who had earlier defeated Muizzuddin Muhammad, defeated Prithviraja also. This forced Prithviraja to turn his attention towards the Punjab and the Ganga valley.
Thus, a battle between these two ambitious rulers, Muizzuddin Muhammad and Prithviraja was inevitable. The conflict started with rival claims for Tabarhinda. In the battle which was fought at Tarain in 1191 the Ghuri forces were completely routed, Muizzuddin Muhammad’s life being saved by a young Khalji horseman. Prithviraja now pushed on to Tabarhinda and conquered it after a siege of 12 months. Little attempt was made by Prithviraja to exist the Ghurids from the Punjab. Perhaps, he felt that this was another of the recurrent Turkish raids and that the Ghurid ruler would be content to rule over the Punjab. This gave Muizzuddin Milhammad time to regroup his forces and make another bid for India the following year. He rejected the proposal said to be made by Prithviraja to leave him in possession of Punjab.
The second battle of Tarain in 1192 is regarded as one of tire turning points in Indian history. Muizzuddin Muhammad had made careful preparations for the contest. It is said that he marched with 120000 men, including a force of heavy cavalry fully equipped with steel coats and armour and 10000 mounted archers. It is not correct to think that Prithviraja was negligent of the affairs of the state and awoke to the situation when it was too late. It is true that at that time Skanda, the general of the last victorious campaign, was engaged elsewhere, As soon as Prithviraja realised the nature of the Ghurid threat, he appealed to all the rajas of northern India for help. We are told many rajas sent contingents to help him, but Jaichandra, the ruler of Kanauj, stayed away. The legend that this was because Prithviraja had abducted Jaichandra’s daughter, Sanyogita, who was in love with him, is not accepted by many historians now. The story was written much later as a romance by the poet, Chand Bardai and includes many improbable events. There had been an old outstanding rivalry between the two states. Hence, it is not surprising that Jaichandra stayed away.
Prithviraja is said to have fielded a force of 300000 including a large body of cavalry and 300 elephants. The strength of the forces on both sides may be exaggerated. The numerical strength of the Indian forces was probably greater, but the Turkish army was better organised and led. The battle was mainly a battle between cavalry. The superior organisation skill and speed of movements of the Turkish cavalry and their mounted archers ultimately decided the issue. A large number of Indian soldiers lost their lives; Prithviraj escaped, but was captured near Saraswat (Modern Sirsa). The Turkish armies captured the fortress of Hansi, Saraswati and Sarnana. Then they attacked and captured Ajmer. Prithviraja was allowed to rule over Ajmer for some time, for we have coins of this period giving the date and the legend “Prithvirajadeva” on one side and the words “Sri Muhammad Samon the other.
Soon after, Prithviraja was executed on a charge of conspiracy and Prithviraja’s son succeeded him. Delhi also was restored to its ruler. But this policy was reversed soon after. The Tomara ruler of Delhi was ousted and Delhi was made a base for further Turkish advance into the Ganga valley. Following a rebellion, a Muslim army recaptured Ajmer and installed a Turkish general there. Prithviraja’s son moved to Ranthambhor and founded a new powerful Chauhan kingdom there.
Thus, the Delhi area and eastern Rajasthan passed under the Turkish rule.
Between 1192 and 1206, Turkish rule was extended over the Ganga-Jamuna doab and its neighbouring area and Bihar and Bengal were also overrun. In order to establish themselves in the doab, the Turks had first to defeat the powerful Gahadavala kingdom of Kanauj. The Gahadavala ruler, Jaichandra, was reputed to be the most, powerful prince in India at the time. He had been ruling the country peacefully for two decades. Perhaps, he was not a very capable warrior because he had earlier suffered a reverse at the hands of the Sena king of Bengal.
After Tarain, Muizzuddin returned to Ghazni, leaving the affairs, in India in the hands of his trusted slave Qutbuddin Aibak. During the next two years, the Turks overran parts of upper doab, without any opposition from the Gahadavalas. In 1194, Muizzuddin returned to India, crossed the Jamuna with 50000 cavalry and moved towards Kanauj. A hotly contested battle between Muizzuddin and Jaichandra was fought at Chandawar near Kanauj. We are told that Jaichandra had almost carried the day when he was killed by an arrow and his army was totally defeated. Muizzuddin now moved on to Banaras which was ravaged, a large number of temples there being destroyed-. The Turks established their hold over a huge territory extending up to the borders of Bihar.
Thus, the battles of Tarain and Chandawar laid the foundations of the Turkish rule in north India. The task of consolidating the conquest thus won proved, however, to be an onerous task which occupied the Turks for almost 50 years. We shall study this in a subsequent chapter.
Muizzuddin lived till 1206. During this period, he occupied the powerful forts of Bayana and Gwalior to guard the southern flank of Delhi. A little later, Aibak conquered Kalinjar, Mahoba and Khajuraho from the Chandella rulers of the area.
With their base in the doab, the Turks launched a series of raids in the neighbouring areas. Aibak defeated Bhima II, the ruler of Gujarat. Anhilwara and a number of other towns were ravaged and plundered. Though a Muslim governor was appointed to rule the place, he was soon ousted. This showed that the Turks were not yet strong enough to be able to rule over such far-flung areas.
The Turks, however, were more successful in the east. A Khalji officer, Bakhtiyar Khalji, whose uncle had fought at the battle of Tarain, had been appointed in charge of some of areas beyond Banaras. He had taken advantage of this to make frequent raids into Bihar, which was at the time in the nature of a no-man’s-land. During these raids, he had attacked and destroyed some of the famous Buddhist monasteries of Bihar, Nalanda and Vikramasila which had no. protector left. He had also accumulated much wealth and gathered many followers around him. During his raids, he also collected information about die routes to Bengal. Bengal was a rich prize because its internal resources and flourishing foreign trade had given it the reputation of being fabulously rich.
Making careful preparations, Bakhtiyar Khalji marched with an army towards Nadia, a pilgrim centre where the Sena ruler, Lakshmana Sena, had gone on a visit. Moving very stealthily, the Khalji chief disguised himself as a horse-merchant and a party of 18 persons entered Nadia. He was not detected because Turkish horse-merchants had become a common sight in those days. Reaching the palace, Bakhtiyar Khalji made a sudden attack and created a great confusion. The Sena ruler, Lakshmana Sena, had been a noted warrior. However, taken by surprise and thinking that the main Turkish army had arrived-he slipped away by a backdoor and took refuge at Sonargaon. The Turkish army must have been near, for they soon arrived and over-powered the garrison. All the wealth of the ruler, including his wives and children, were captured. These events are placed in 1204Bakhtiyar then marched to the Seila capital, Lakhnauti and occupied it without any opposition, the Sena ruler tidying moved to Soriargdan in south Bengal. Lakshmana Sena and his successors continued to rule south Bengal from there for many years.
Although Bakhtiyar Khalji was formally appointed the governor of Bengal by Muizzuddin, he virtually ruled it as an independent ruler But he was not to enjoy his position for long. He foolishly undertook an expedition into the Brahmaputra valley in Assam, though writers say that he wanted to lead an expedition into Tibet. The Magh rulers of Assam retreated and allowed the Turkish armies to come in as far as they could. At last the tired and exhausted armies found they could advance no further and decided to retreat. They could find no provisions on the way and were constantly harassed by the Assamese armies. Tired and weakened by hunger and illness, the Turkish army had to face a battle in which there was wide river in front and the Assamese army at the back. The Turkish armies suffered a total defeat. Bakhtiyar Khalji was able to come back with a few followers with the help of some mountain tribes. But his health and spirits were broken; one of his own amirs stabbed him while he was in bed, mortally sick.
While Aibak and the Turkish and Khalji chief were trying to expand and consolidate the Turkish gains in India, Muizzuddiri and his brother were trying to expand the Ghurid empire into Central Asia. The imperialistic ambitions of the Ghurids brought them into headlong conflict with the powerful Khwarizmi empire. In 1203 Muizzuddin suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Khwarizmi ruler. This defeat came as a blessing in disguise to the Ghurids for they had to bid good bye to their Central Asian ambitions and to concentrate their energies exclusively on India. This- paved the way for the emergence after some time of a Turkish state based exclusively in India. In the immediate context, however, the defeat of Muizzuddin emboldened many of his opponents in India to rebel. The Khokhars, a warlike tribe in western Punjab, rose and cut off the communications between Lahore and Ghazni. Muizzuddin led his last campaign into India in 1206 in order to deal with the Khokhar rebellion. He resorted to large-scale slaughter of the Khokhars and cowed them down. On his way back to Ghazni, he was killed by a Muslim fanatic belonging to a rival sect. .
Muizzuddin Muhammad bin Sam has often been compared to Mahmud Ghazni. As a warrior, Mahmud Ghazni was more successful than Muizzuddin having never suffered a defeat in India or in Central Asia. He also ruled over a large empire outside India. But it has to be kept in mind that Muizzuddin had to contend with larger and-better organised states in India than Mahmud. Though less successful in Central Asia, his political achievements in India were greater. But it was Mahmud’s conquest of the Punjab which paved the way for Muizzuddin’s successes in north India. Considering that the conditions facing the two were very different, useful comparison can be made between the two. The political and military motives of the two in India were also different in important respects.
Neither was really concerned with Islam. Once a ruler submitted, he was allowed to rule over his territories unless, for some other reasons, it was necessary to annex his kingdom in part or whole. Hindu officers and soldiers were used by Mahmud as well as by Muizzuddin. But neither scrupled to use the slogans of Islam for their purposes and to justify their plunder of Indian cities and temples.
The defeat of the leading states of north India within a short space of about 15 years by the Turkish armies also needs some explanation. It may be stated as an axiom that a country is conquered by another only when it suffers from social and political weaknesses, or becomes economically and militarily backward compared to its neighbours. Recent research shows that the Turks did not have any superior weapons at their disposal as compared to the Indians. The iron-stirrup- which had changed the mode of warfare in Europe, as we have noted earlier, had spread in India from the 8th century onwards. The Turkish bows could shoot arrows to a longer distance, but the Indian bows were supposed to be more accurate and more deadly, the arrowheads being generally dipped in poison. In hand to hand combat the Indian swords were considered to be the best in the world. The Indians also had the advantage of elephants. Perhaps the Turks had horses which were swifter and sturdier than the horses imported into India.
Thus, the superiority of the Turks was more social and organisational. The growth of feudalism, i. e. rise of the local landed elements and chiefs had weakened the administrative structure and military organisation of the Indian states. The rulers had to depend more on the various chiefs who rarely acted in coordination and quickly dispersed to their areas after battle. On the other hand, the tribal structure of the Turks and the growth of the iqta and khalisa systems enabled the Turks to maintain large standing armies which could be kept in the field for a long time. The Indians were not accustomed to move as an organised body of horsemen which covered long distances and manoeuvred and fought. Perhaps the Rajputs also lacked mounted archers, or heavily armed cavalry. But for these factors, the Rajput states, many of which had greater human and physical resources at their disposal than the Ghaznavid and Ghurid empires, would not have suffered defeat or would have been able to recover if they had been defeated in a battle.
In terms of personal bravery or fighting spirit, the Rajputs were in no way inferior to the Turks, despite the ghazi spirit of the latter. Caste was certainly divisive, but it did not prevent people from the lower castes (ku-varna) from taking to soldiering so that the armies fielded by the Rajput rulers were always larger than those of their opponents. But as we have shown, numbers or personal bravery did not decide the issue, but organisation and leadership. The Rajputs put up a stout and prolonged resistance to the incursions of Arab and Turks, but at no time did they take the offensive and try to push the Arabs or Turks from the strategic lands they had occupied. Thus, they allowed the frontier areas of India, especially Afghanistan and Punjab, which were the outer bastions of the Ganges heartland to remain in hostile hands. It is in this sense that the Rajputs have been accused of lacking a “strategic vision”.