Author's note: I came across this post while trawling the net... and was greatly tickled by it. I decided to share it on my blog... so that all my readers can be entertained as well :)
In detailing the past of the Indian sub-continent I will of course be ignoring the thousands of years of culture and ideas that predated the arrival here of the one true faith, as my history books say that the world before Islam was irrelevant. It suffices to know that this region was a cesspit of moral and intellectual decadance. The indigenous people were all savages who lived in trees and worshipped self-crafted figurines. Instead of the invisible man in the sky like rational people.
Thus when the first Muslim conqueror, Mohammad bin Qasim, arrived on these lands looking for a prosperous society to pillage he was sorely disappointed. There wasn't a sign of civilization for kilometers around. He stuck around for a while trying to convince the locals to climb down from the trees and die like men but the language barrier, since the Hindus didn't speak any, ensured that most conversations ended with him being pelted from above with tropical fruit.
It wasn't until the early 11th century (300 years later) that these Brahman and Vedic people managed to build something of a civilization half-worth conquering. So it was that Mahmud Ghaznavi launched his military expedition into the Indian heartland in the summer of 1001. And again in the winter of 1005, having failed the first time around. He tried a third time in 1007, and promised everyone that his attempt in 1009 would be the last but, as we know from his subsequent excursion and defeat in 1011, he wasn't telling the truth.
His failure in 1013 was largely due to the monsoon rains, as his troops were without umbrellas, and critics agree that if not for the poor form of his cavalry in 1015, he would surely have lost in less embarassing terms. Four further attempts from 1017 to 1023 met with the same fate and the lack of the tiniest hint of success was beginning to affect morale. It has been argued that these presistent failures were largely due to poor tactics, as dying in large numbers has not been known to win many wars.
Things were looking even bleaker when he returned to lose a year later when suddenly in 1025, he took the Hindus by surprise by being defeated three consecutive times in the same year. He lost again during an assault in the following year and finally, in 1027, the Hindus gave up. Saying they had better things to do than fight a deranged imbecile every other year and spend months burning the corpses of his men.
Altogether, it took seventeen attempts for Mahmud Ghaznavi to establish the first Islamic empire in the sub-continent. His victory was to be short lived however, as he was much more successful in getting ill than fighting wars. He died having contracted his first terminal illness in 1030. His dynasty tumbled on for another hundred years before the Ghaznavid empire back in Afghanistan came under siege from the Ghauris and relinquished all Indian territories by 1187, when Muhammad Ghauri captured Lahore. As none of the famous attractions of the city like the Anarkali Bazaar, the Shahi Qila or the red light district behind it had yet come into existence, Ghauri died of boredom soon afterwards and left a sprawling collection of conquered territories without any single ruler.
Following these events minor independent kingdoms like the Delhi Sultanate and Mamluk Dynasty started propping up in the early 13th century as seats of consolidated Muslim power in the region. But it wasn't until Tehmur, or Tamerlane or simply Tammy to his friends, dropped in from Central Asia one day to unify these fledgling sultanates under one rule and conquer the length and breadth of India that anything worth writing a poem over occurred. As none of his predecessors can be found in Edgar Allen Poe's work.
The Tehmuri Dynasty would eventually pave the way for the glorious Moghul Empire that would give Indian cinema so many of it's greatest hits. Having plundered all he could from the various kingdoms and states, Tehmur left India as he'd found it, wandering around aimlessly on the back of an elephant.
In Part 2: Babur and the Golden Era of Muslim rule in India. In the mean time, here are some end of chapter revision questions:
"Who attacked India seventeen times?"
"How many times did Mahmud Ghaznavi attack India?"
"Why did Mahmud Ghaznavi attack India seventeen times? Why not eighteen times?"
Note: Arab traders had visited the western coast since 712, but it wasn't until 1001 that the Muslim world began to make its presence felt. Keenly. In that year, Arab armies swept down the Khyber Pass and hit like a storm. Led by Mahmud of Ghazi, they raided just about every other year for 26 years straight. They returned home each time, leaving behind them ruined cities, decimated armies, and probably a very edgy population. Then they more or less vanished behind the mountains again for nearly 150 years, and India once again went on its way.
But the Muslims knew India was still there, waiting with all its riches. They returned in 1192 under Mohammed of Ghor, and this time they meant to stay. Ghor's armies laid waste to the Buddhist temples of Bihar, and by 1202 he had conquered the most powerful Hindu kingdoms along the Ganges. When Ghor died in 1206, one of his generals, Qutb-ud-din Aibak, ruled the far north from the Sultanate of Delhi, while the southern majority of India was free from the invaders. Turkish kings ruled the Muslim acquisition until 1397, when the Mongols invaded under Timur Lang (Tamerlane) and ravaged the entire region. One historian wrote that the lightning speed with which Tamerlane's armies struck Delhi was prompted by their desire to escape the stench of rotting corpses they were leaving behind them.
Islamic India fragmented after the brutal devastation Timur Lang left in Delhi, and it was every Muslim strongman for himself. This would change in 1527, however, when the Mughal (Persian for Mongol) monarch Babur came into power. Afghan princes in India asked for his help in 1526, and he conquered the Punjab and quickly asserted his own claim over them by taking Delhi. This was the foundation of the Mughal dynasty, whose six Emperors would comprise most influential of all the Muslim dynasties in India.
Babur died in 1530, leaving behind a harried and ineffective son, Humayun. Humayun's own son, Akbar, however, would be the greatest Mughal ruler of all. Historians state that Akbar tolerated local religions and married a Hindu princess, establishing a tradition of cultural acceptance that would contribute greatly to the success of the Mughal rule. In reality... he was shrewd enough to understand that without the help of the Rajputs - the warrior clans - he would not be able to expand and hold on to his Empire. In 1605, his son Jahangir, who passed the expanding empire along to his own son Shah Jahan in 1627, succeeded Akbar. Shah Jahan's campaigns in the south and his flare for extravagant architecture (?) necessitated increased taxes and distressed his subjects, and under this scenario his son Aurungzeb imprisoned him, seeking power for himself in 1658.
Unlike his predecessors, Aurungzeb wished to eradicate indigenous traditions, and his intolerance prompted fierce local resistance. Though he expanded the Empire to include nearly the entire subcontinent, he could never totally subdue the Mahrattas of the Deccan, who resisted him until his death in 1707. Out of the Mahrattas' doggedness arose the legendary figure of Shivaji, a symbol Hindu resistance and nationalism. Aurungzeb's three sons disputed over succession, and the Mughal Empire crumbled, just as the Europeans (the Portuguese, the Dutch, the French and the English) were beginning to flex their own imperialistic muscles.
Photograph: Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. Pic courtesy: link.