Brahmana Hindu Shahis of Afghanistan
Hindu Kshatriyas held sway over the Kabul region of Afghanistan from as far back as the fourth century C. E. Allahabad Prashasti of the Gupta Emperor Samudragupta (335-375 CE) refers to these rulers by the phrase "Daivaputra Shahi-Shahanshahi-Shaka-murundahi". The Chinese traveler Xuanzang who crossed through Afghanistan in 630 CE found an able king of Kshatriya caste ruling over his extensive kingdom of Kapisa. He was powerful enough to bring under his control ten independent principalities. During that time Buddhism was on the wane and (Brahmanism on the ascendant, just as in the rest of India.
India had pushed back or completely indigenized various foreign invading hordes, without a trace of their ethnic origins. Knowledge about Turkish ethnicity of these Ksahatriya rulers in this frontier region of India was surviving because of their continuous rule there. Their ethnicity may be debated but they were Hindus of Kshatriya varna.
During the Early Medieval history (700-1000 CE) there were two dynasties in Kabul: the (Kshatriya – Turk) Hindu dynasty, and the (Brahmana) Hindu dynasty which replaced it. Both used the title of Shahi. Details about these rulers have been assembled over a period of time from chronicles, coins and stone inscriptions by persevering researchers as no consolidated account of their history has become available.
- 1 The varna of Shahis of Kabul
- 2 Ethnicity of the Brahmana Shahis
- 3 Defence of Zabul by Kshatriya Shahis
- 4 Islamic kingdoms in the Shahi neighbourhood
- 5 Bhimadeva
- 6 Jayapaladeva
- 7 See also
- 8 References
The varna of Shahis of Kabul
That the kings of Shahi dynasty, replaced by Kallar, were indeed Kshatriyas is uncontested. There are no universally recognized appellations for referring to the pre-Kallar and post- Kallar dynasties. But (Turk) Hindu Shahis and (Brahmana) Hindu Shahis, respectively, is quite common and clearly understood
Efforts were made, earlier also, to apportion the Kshatriya varna to Kallar's Brahamana successors on the basis of their name-endings, marriage alliances and even their ‘terrible valour’ at the battlefield. All these arguments were deemed untenable. However, in 1973, Yogendra Misra projected the view that according to Rajatarangini Hindu Shahis (meaning here post-Lagaturman kings) were also Kshatriyas.
Ethnicity of the Brahmana Shahis
C.V. Vaidya is definitely of the opinion that the Hindu Shahis* were Brahmanas. He has further highlighted that "the Mohyals who are a sub-sect of Sarasvata Brahmnas ... claim with justice and propriety that Jaipal and Anandapal were Mohyal Brahmanas." D.B. Pandey has expressed the view that, in the present state of our knowledge, the Hindu Shahis* were Brahma-Kshatras, who discarded the priestly profession for martial pursuits."
Defence of Zabul by Kshatriya Shahis
At some stage the Hindu kingdom of Kapisha had split up. Its western part formed a separate state called the kingdom of Zabul. On the west it shared border with Iran. Sistan formed the frontier province of Zabul. It can be surmised that it was a family division because there were consanguineous and political relationships between the states of Kabul and Zabul.
In 700-701, Abdur Rehman bin Mohammed bin Ashta was dispatched with forty thousand men to retrieve the Muslim honour. He was able to collect considerable booty but failed to have any territorial gains – thus incurring the displeasure of Hajjaj. Exasperated by the threats of super session he determined to carry arms against his master and, in order to strengthen his power, conducted a treaty with the enemies of faith (Rutbil) that the latter would afford him asylum in the event of the failure of his campaign against the caliph. After some initial successes, Abdur Rehman was at the end compelled to seek the protection of his Hindu ally. Sustained political intervention of the Rutbil brought the Islamic expansion to a halt and he had made Sistan an ‘ill-omened frontier’ for the Arabs. In folklore Rutbil became the hero of many Arab stories of holy wars on the frontier of Hind. Gradually, the Arabs - the ruling caliphs - ceased to be a powerful political force and Rutbils ruled in comparative peace for another one hundred and fifty years.
Islamic kingdoms in the Shahi neighbourhood
The Samanids and the Saffarids
In theory, the caliph as the successor of the Prophet was the fountainhead of all political authority. Kings and all tribal chiefs were subordinate to him and his sanction alone could provide legal basis for their authority. With the waning of political might of the caliphate, its governors in Khurasan set up their own strong kingdom – the Samanid dynasty (c. 819-1005) – controlling regions west and north of Koh Hindu Kush up to Balkh. Under the loosely centralized feudal government of the Samanids, Transoxiana and Khurasan prospered with a notable expansion of industry and commerce. Samanids were great art patrons and they turned Bukhara and Samarkand in to famous cultural centres, rivaling Baghdad.
The Brahmana Hindu Shahi Dynasty of Kabul
According to The Mazare Sharif Inscription of the Time of the Shahi Ruler Veka, recently discovered from northern Afghanistan and reported by the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations, Islamabad, Veka (sic.) conquered northern region of Afghanistan ‘with eight fold forces’ and ruled there. He established a Shiva temple there which was inaugurated by Parimaha Maitya (the Great Minister). He also issued copper coins of the Elephant and Lion type with the legend Shri Vakkadeva.
Nine principal issues of Bull and Horseman silver coins and only one issue of corresponding copper coins of Spalapatideva have become available. As many as five Elephant and Lion type of copper coins of Shri Vakkadeva are available and curiously the copper issues of Vakka are contemporaneous with the silver issues of Spalapati.
It is a reasonable surmise that recognizing the qualities, as a commander and administrator, of Vakkadeva his sovereign Spalaptideva of Kabul groomed him as a cadet prince and let him issue copper coins to be used as small change with his own silvers, in the whole kingdom. He ceased to issue his own copper coins. Spalapatideva continued as a Vazir and anointed this ‘tried in war veteran’ (jang aazmooda) as the king. Vakkadeva took the name Samantadeva and issued Bull and King-on-Elephant silver commemorative coins on his coronation. His Bull and Horseman silver coins gained popularity far and wide among the mercantile classes. His name ‘became so celebrated that we find it upon the coins of successors, down to the Mohammadan conquest of Delhi in 1192 and the coins of Rai Pithora. E. Thomas describes Samantadeva as the greatest of the earlier (Brahmana) Hindu Shahis.
Kabul Town not attacked
On his way back from Balkh, Yaqub is stated to have attacked Kabul. "Whether the word Kabul stands here for the city in particular or Kabul valley in general, is not clearly stated. The sequence of events, however, suggests that latter was probably the case". (Abdur Rahman). As we know, Shahis had a governor in Northern Afghanistan. Invasion of this province was an attack on (the state of) Kabul and the idols, say from the Shiva temple established by Vakkadeva would verily be ‘idols from Kabul’. There is no indication of a direct battle between Yaqub and the king of Kabul, which event could not go unreported.
It was some time during this period that the Shahis shifted their capital from Kabul to Udabhandapura.
Kamalavarman attacks Ghazni
Reliable evidence has now become available indicating that this oft-quoted narration by ‘Ufi was short of the ‘whole truth’. Kamlu did not stop in his tracks by Fardaghan's ingenious propaganda. Tarikh-i-Sistan illuminates the history of this period differently. Amr-i-Lais's pre-occupation with affairs in Khurasan and the provocative action of his newly appointed governor of Ghazni, prompted two Indian Kings (Rai of Hindustan), whose names reported in very corrupt form have been restored as Ashta and Tormana, to take firm retaliatory measures. They combined their forces and launched a united invasion of Ghazni. Fardaghan is said to have opposed the Hindu army. The Tarikh does not tell us whether the city of Ghazni was actually occupied by the victors at this stage or the name Ghazni stands for the province of Zabulistan, and not the city of Ghazni. The news of this invasion reached Amr when he was in Gurgan on his way to his last encounter with Ismail. In April 900 Amr was decisively defeated and sent as a prisoner to Baghdad where he breathed his last. He must have passed through Gurgan only a couple of months before his defeat. Thus Kamlu's invasion of Zabulistan can safely be placed in the beginning of 900 at the latest.
Having successfully dealt with the Saffarids, Ashta (the governor of Kabul) appears to have stayed back and maneuvered a ‘palace coup’. He seized the Shahi throne at Udabhandapura, dislodging his brother Kamalavarman but the state of Kashmir intervened. Rajatarangini records that Prabhakaradeva the Koshadhyaksha (Superintendent of Treasury) led a victorious expedition against the Shahi power at the town of Udabhandapura and bestowed the kingdom of the rebellious Shahi (ajna atikrami Shahi – a Shahi violator of order) upon Tormana, Lalliya's son and gave him the new name Kamaluka. This may have happened in 903 during the reign of child king Gopalavarman (r. 902-904) ruling under the guardianship of his mother Sugandha.
Kamaluka has been identified as Kamalavarman, son of Lalliya (Samantadeva). He was succeeded by his son, Bhimadeva.
Hindu rule at Ghazni
During the reign of Kamalavarman, the Saffarid rule weakened precipitately and ultimately Sistan became a part of the Samanid Empire. Disorder generally prevailed and the control of Zabulistan changed hands frequently. Taking advantage of the situation, the Shahis stepped up activities on their western frontier. The result was the emergence of a small Hindu power at Ghazni, supported by the Shahis. "The authorities either themselves of early date or enshrining early information mention Lawik" who was a pagan (Hindu) as the ruler at Ghazni, before this place was taken over by the Turkish slave governor of the Samanids.
By the middle of the tenth century Turkish slaves began to acquire power in the Samanid realm, as they were holding principal offices in the court and kingdom. One of these, Alaptagin, a former Hajib or Door Keeper, defeated the superior royal army near Khulm Pass and decided to carve out an independent kingdom for himself. He first took over Bamian ‘the country of infidel (Hindu) Shir Barak’. He next turned to Ghazni where Lawik, its ruler, submitted after a prolonged siege of four months. Alaptagin thus became the undisputed master of Ghazni but he died soon thereafter and his son Abu Ishaq succeeded him in 963.
Substitution of Hindu potentates of Bamian and Ghazni by an emerging Turkish power posed a serious threat for the Shahi kingdom which acted with ‘remarkable alacrity’ at this stage. The Lawik was sent back to Ghazni with a huge army which ousted the Turks and sent Abu Ishaq flying to Bukhara. The Shahis had secured their western frontier – for the time being. But the gathering storm had not blown away.
Bhimadeva and Kashmir
End of Bhimadeva
The Shahi state had successfully managed to ward off danger from the strong neighbouring kingdom of the Samanids for more than a century. That Muslim kingdom was gradually decaying but its ambitious Turk officers were acquiring power and setting up personal fiefdoms, menacing the Hindu states south of Koh Hindu Kush. Though ruling with grandeur, unmolested by any neighbouring kingdom, Bhimadeva was getting old and must have been weighing his options in the matter of succession, because he did not have a male heir. The Shahi kingdom was strong and prosperous but not easy to govern - and protect. He could not count either on the Lawiks or his grand daughter Didda of Kashmir for this onerous responsibility. He selected the allied kingdom of Punjab for this honour and probably installed a successor in his own life time for the succession seems to have been without ‘contest or convulsion’.
With Jayapala, a new dynasty started ruling over the former Shahi kingdom of south- eastern Afghanistan and the change over was smooth and consensual. On his coronation, Jayapala used the additional name-suffix deva from his predecessor's dynasty in addition to the pala name-ending of his own family. (With Kabul lost during the lifetime of Jayapaladeva, his successors – Anandapala, Trilochanapala and Bhimapala - reverted to their own family pala-ending names.) Jayapala did not issue any coins in his own name. Bull and Horseman coins with the legend Samantadeva, in billon, seem to have been struck during Jayapala's reign. As the successor of Bhima, Jayapala was a Shahi monarch of the state of Kabul, which now included the Punjab. Minhaj-ud-din describes Jayapala as "the greatest of the Rais of Hindustan."
From the beginning Jayapala followed an aggressive and pro-active policy towards the Turks. As stated earlier, Abu Ishaq had been evicted from Ghazni and the Lawiks were installed there with Shahi help. In 965, Abu Ishaq regained Ghazni with assistance from the Samanid ruler Abu Mansur and the Lawik fled to ‘Hind’ once again to seek help from the Shahis. Ultimately, Sabuktagin descended the throne of Ghazni in 977. He soon added Bust, Dawar, Qusdar, Tukhristan and Ghur to his dominions. Conflict with ‘Hind’ could not have been postponed for two long.
Jayapaladeva again attacks Sabuktagin
Jayapaladeva determined to fight once more and regain his position. He collected a large army and Sabuktagin advanced to face him. It was a fierce battle in which Jayapala was defeated. He lost more territory but continued to rule from Waihind and Peshawar.
Sabuktagin then became more involved in the affairs of the Samanid state and left the Shahis in peace. He became very powerful in the Samanid Kingdom by virtue of his strong and disciplined army. Sabuktagin died at Balkh in 997 at the age of fifty six. After a struggle for succession with brothers, his son Mahmud ascended the throne of Ghazni in 998. Mahmud first consolidated his position on his western front, even if he had to challenge the authority of his Samani over-lord. Soon he had control over Herat, Balkh, Bust and Khurasan. Recognising his power, the Caliph of Baghdad acknowledged him as a sovereign in his own right and conferred high sounding titles on him. The Ghaznavids had thus acquired a status equal to their former masters – the Samanids. The balance of power had been gradually tilting in favour of Ghazni.
- "John Faithful Fleet, (1838) Gupta Inscriptions, Calcutta, p. 8."
- "Thomas Watters, On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India, Vol. I, pp. 122-23. (The capital town of Kapisha was situated 60 miles north of Kabul.)"
- "In this discussion, views of E. Thomas, H. M. Elliot, Alexander Cunningham and C. V. Vaidya are note worthy. (The omnibus word ‘caste’ cannot adequately denote different divisions in Hindu society. Varna system was the traditional four tiered classification of Hindus into Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. People were advised that it was best to marry within one's own varna.)"
- "Yogendra Mishara, The Hindu Shahis of Afghanistan and the Punjab AD 865-1026, p. 4."
- "C. V. Vaidya, History of Mediaeval Hindu India, Vol. III, p.21"
- "D.B. Pandey, The Shahis of Afghanistan and the Punjab, p. 80."
- "Abdur Rahman, Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis: "In about AD 680, the Rutbil was a brother of the Kabul Shah. In AD 726, the ruler of Zabulistan (Rutbil) was the nephew of Kabul Shah. Obviously the Kabul Shahs and the Rutbils belonged to the same family" – pp. 46 and 79, quoting Tabri ,I,2705-6 and Fuch, von W."
- "See: H. M. Elliot and John Dowson, The History of India as Told by Its Own Historians, Vol. I, p. 429 and Vol. II, p. 416-417; André Wink, Al Hind, pp. 121-123; K. A. Nizami, ed. Politics and Society during the Early Medieval Period, Vol. II, p.37 ff
- "C. V. Vaidya, History of Mediaeval Hindu India, Vol. III, pp. 8-13; and others."
- "See R. T. Mohan, AFGHANISTAN REVISITED … Appendix – A, pp. 162-163. "
- "D. W. Macdowall, "The Shahis of Kabul and Gandhara" Numismatic Chronicle, Seventh Series, Vol. III, 1968, pp. 189-224, see extracts in R. T. Mohan, AFGHANISTAN REVISITED … Appendix –B, pp. 164-68"
- "Harichand Vaid, Gulshane Mohyali, (Lahore, 1923), II, p. 182."
- "Elliot and Dowson, The History of India …, Vol. II, pp. 422-23."
- "E. Thomas, ‘On the Kings of the Dynasty of the Hindu Kings of Kabul’, Numismatic Chronicle, Vol. IX, 1848, p. 18f."
- "Abdur Rahman, The Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis, pp. 101-103"
- "The Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis, p. 102."
- "Abdur Rahman, The Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis, pp. 110-116 quoting Tarikh-i-Sistan, pp. 255-56. Also, André Wink, Al Hind, I, p. 125: "Muslim control of Zamindwar remained imperfect until the end of ninth century, and in Ghazni the Saffarid governor was again expelled by two Indian princes in 890-900 CE" "
- "M. A. Stein, Tr. Kalhana's Rajatarangini, V. 232-33."
- "C. E. Bosworth, ‘Notes on Pre-Ghaznavid History of Eastern Afghanistan, Islamic Quarterly, Vol. XI, 1965."
- "M. A. Stein, Tr. Kalhana's Rajatarangini, VI. 176-78."
- 'Raizada Harichand Vaid, Gulshane Mohyali, II, pp. 83 and 183-84."
- "H. G. Raverty, Tr. Tabaqat-i-Nasiri of Maulana Minhaj-ud-din, Vol. I, p. 82"