Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent

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The Muslim conquests in the Indian subcontinent mainly took place from the 13th to 16th century, though earlier Muslim conquests include the invasions into modern Pakistan and the Umayyad campaigns in India, during the time of the Rajput Kingdoms in the 8th century.

Mahmud of Ghazni, the first ruler to hold the title Sultan, who preserved an ideological link to the suzerainty of the Abbasid Caliphate, invaded and plundered vast parts of Punjab and Gujarat, starting from the Indus River, during the 10th century.[1][2]

After the capture of Lahore and the end of the Ghaznavids, the Ghurid Empire ruled by Muhammad of Ghor and Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad laid the foundation of Muslim rule in India. In 1206, Bakhtiyar Khalji led the Muslim conquest of Bengal, marking the easternmost expansion of Islam at the time. The Ghurid Empire soon evolved into the Delhi Sultanate ruled by Qutb al-Din Aibak, the founder of the Mamluk dynasty. With the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, Islam was spread across most parts of the Indian subcontinent.

In the 14th century, the Khalji dynasty, under Alauddin Khalji, temporarily extended Muslim rule southwards to Gujarat, Rajasthan and the Deccan, while the Tughlaq dynasty temporarily expanded its territorial reach till Tamil Nadu. The break up of the Delhi Sultanate resulted in several Muslim sultanates and dynasties to emerge across the Indian subcontinent, such as the Gujarat Sultanate, Malwa Sultanate, the Bahmani Sultanate and the wealthy and powerful Bengal Sultanate, a major trading nation in the world.[3][4] Some of these were however followed by Hindu re-conquests and resistance from the native powers and states such as the Kamma Nayakas, Vijayanagaras, Gajapatis, Cheros and Rajput states.

Prior to the full rise of the Mughal Empire founded by Babur, one of the gunpowder empires, which annexed majority of all the ruling elites of South Asia, the Sur Empire ruled by Sher Shah Suri conquered large territories in the northern parts of India. Akbar gradually enlarged the Mughal Empire to include a huge portion of the subcontinent, but the zenith was reached at the end of the 17th century when the reign under emperor Aurangzeb witnessed the full establishment of Islamic sharia through the Fatawa-e-Alamgiri.[5][6]

The Mughals suffered a massive decline in the early 18th century, mostly after their defeat in the Mughal-Maratha Wars[7] the attack of Jat ruler Suraj Mal on Agra[8] and from the Afsharid ruler Nader Shah's invasion, an unexpected attack that demonstrated the weakness of the Mughal Empire.[9] This provided opportunities for the powerful Mysore Kingdom, Nawabs of Bengal and Murshidabad, Maratha Empire, Sikh Empire, Nizams of Hyderabad to exercise control over large regions of the Indian subcontinent.[10] The Maratha empire was the dominant force of the subcontinent after the Mughals.

After the Battle of Plassey, Battle of Buxar, and the long Anglo-Mysore Wars, the East India Company ended up seizing control of the entire Indian subcontinent. By the end of the 18th century, European powers, mainly the British Empire, commenced to extend political influence over the Indian subcontinent, and by the end of the 19th century, much of the Indian subcontinent came under European colonial domination, most notably the British Raj.

Early Muslim presence[edit]

Islam in South Asia existed in communities along the Arab coastal trade routes in Sindh, Bengal, Gujarat, Kerala, and Ceylon as soon as the religion originated and had gained early acceptance in the Arabian Peninsula, though the first incursion by the new Muslim successor states of the Arab World occurred around 636 AD or 643 AD, during the Rashidun Caliphate, long before any Arab army reached the frontier of India by land.

Shortly after the Muslim conquest of Persia, the connection between the Sindh and Islam was established by the initial Muslim missions during the Rashidun Caliphate. Al-Hakim ibn Jabalah al-Abdi, who attacked Makran in the year 649 AD, was an early partisan of Ali ibn Abu Talib.[11] It was reconquered by the usurper Chach of Alor in 631. Ten years later, it was described to be "under the government of Persia" by Xuanzang who visited the region. Three years later however, when the Arabs invaded, it was regarded as the "frontier of Al-Hind".[12] During the caliphate of Ali, many Hindus of Sindh had come under the influence of Shi'ism[13] and some even participated in the Battle of Camel and died fighting for Ali.[11] Under the Umayyads (661–750 AD), many Shias sought asylum in the region of Sindh, to live in relative peace in the remote area. Ziyad Hindi was one of those refugees.[14]

Arab naval expeditions[edit]

Uthman ibn Abi al-As al-Thaqafi, governor of Bahrain and Oman, sent out ships to raid Thane, near modern-day Mumbai, while his brother Hakam sailed to Broach and a third fleet sailed to Debal under his younger brother Mughira either in 636 or 643 AD. According to one source, all three expeditions were failed,[15] however, another source states Mughira was defeated and killed at Debal.[16] These expeditions were sent without the Caliph Umar's consent, and he rebuked Uthman, saying that had the Arabs lost any men the Caliph would have killed an equal number of men who participated from Uthman's tribe in retaliation.[15][17][18][19]

Rashidun Caliphate and the Indian frontier[edit]

Arab campaigns in the Indian Subcontinent.
  Desert areas (Registan Desert and Thar Desert)
  Kingdom of Sindh (c. 632– 712 CE)
  Maitraka Kingdom (c.475–c.776 CE)

The kingdoms of Kapisa-Gandhara in modern-day Afghanistan, Zabulistan and Sindh (which then held Makran) in modern-day Pakistan, all of which were culturally and politically part of India since ancient times,[20] were known as "The Frontier of Al Hind". The first clash between a ruler of an Indian kingdom and the Arabs took place in 643 AD, when Arab forces defeated Rutbil, King of Zabulistan in Sistan.[21] Arabs led by Suhail b. Abdi and Hakam al Taghilbi defeated a local army in the Battle of Rasil in 644 AD at the Indian Ocean sea coast,[22] then reached the Indus River. Caliph Umar ibn Al-Khattab denied them permission to cross the river or operate on Indian soil and the Arabs returned home.[23]

Abdullah ibn Aamir led the invasion of Khurasan in 650 AD, and his general Rabi b. Ziyad Al Harithi attacked Sistan and took Zaranj and surrounding areas in 651 AD[24] while Ahnaf ibn Qais conquered the Hepthalites of Herat in 652 AD and advanced up to Balkh by 653 AD. Arab conquests now bordered the Kingdoms of Kapisa, Zabul and Sindh in modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Arabs levied annual tributes on the newly captured areas, and leaving 4,000 men garrisons at Merv and Zaranj retired to Iraq instead of pushing on against the frontier of India.[25] Caliph Uthman b. Affan sanctioned an attack against Makran in 652 AD, and sent a recon mission to Sindh in 653 AD. The mission described Makran as inhospitable, and Caliph Uthman, probably assuming the country beyond was much worse, forbade any further incursions into India.[26][27]

This was the beginning of a prolonged struggle between the rulers of Kabul and Zabul against successive Arab governors of Sistan, Khurasan and Makran in modern-day Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Kabul Shahi kings and their Zunbil kinsmen blocked access to the Khyber Pass and Gomal Pass routes into India from 653 to 870 AD,[28] while modern Balochistan, Pakistan, comprising the areas of Kikan or Qiqanan, Nukan, Turan, Buqan, Qufs, Mashkey and Makran, would face several Arab expeditions between 661 and 711 AD.[29] The Arabs launched several raids against these frontier lands, but repeated rebellions in Sistan and Khurasan between 653 and 691 AD diverted much of their military resources in order to subdue these provinces and away from expansion into Al Hind. Muslim control of these areas ebbed and flowed repeatedly as a result until 870 AD. Arabs troops disliked being stationed in Makran,[30] and were reluctant to campaign in the Kabul area and Zabulistan due to the difficult terrain and underestimation of Zunbil's power.[31] Arab strategy was tribute extraction instead of systematic conquest. The fierce resistance of Zunbil and Turki Shah stalled Arab progress repeatedly in the "Frontier Zone".[32][33]

Umayyad expansion in Al Hind[edit]

Muawiyah established Umayyad rule over the Arabs after the first First Fitna in 661 AD, and resumed expansion of the Muslim Empire. After 663/665 AD, the Arabs launched an invasion against Kapisa, Zabul and what is now Pakistani Balochistan. Abdur Rahman b. Samurra besieged Kabul in 663 AD, while Haris b Marrah advanced against Kalat after marching through Fannazabur and Quandabil and moving through the Bolan Pass. King Chach of Sindh sent an army against the Arabs, the enemy blocked the mountain passes, Haris was killed and his army was annihilated. Al-Muhallab ibn Abi Sufra took a detachment through the Khyber pass towards Multan in Southern Punjab in modern-day Pakistan in 664 AD, then pushed south into Kikan, and may have also raided Quandabil. Turki Shah and Zunbil expelled Arabs from their respective kingdoms by 670 AD, and Zunbil began assisting in organizing resistance in Makran.[22]

Battles in Makran and Zabulistan[edit]

Arabs launched several campaigns in eastern Balochistan between 661 and 681 AD, four Arab commanders were killed during the campaigns, but Sinan b. Salma managed to conquer parts of Makran including the Chagai area,[34] and establish a permanent base of operations in 673 AD.[35] Rashid b. Amr, the next governor of Makran, subdued Mashkey in 672 AD,[36] Munzir b. Jarood Al Abadi managed to garrison Kikan and conquer Buqan by 681 AD, while Ibn Harri Al Bahili, conducted several campaigns to secure the Arab hold on Kikan, Makran and Buqan by 683 AD.[37][38] Zunbil saw off Arab campaigns in 668, 672 and 673 AD by paying tribute, although Arabs occupied the areas south of Helmand in 673 AD permanently[35][39] Zunbil defeated Yazid b. Salm's army in 681 AD at Junzah, and Arabs had to pay 500,000 dirhams to ransom their prisoners,[40] but the Arabs defeated and killed[vague] Zunbil in Sistan in 685. The Arabs were defeated in Zabul in next invaded Zabul in 693 AD.[41][vague][failed verification]

Al Hajjaj and the East[edit]

Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf Al Thaqifi, who had played a crucial role during the Second Fitna for the Umayyad cause, was appointed the governor of Iraq in 694 AD, further extended to Khurasan and Sistan in 697 AD. Al-Hajjaj also sponsored Muslim expansion in Makran, Sistan, Transoxiana and Sindh.[42][43]

Campaigns in Makran and Zabul[edit]

Arab hold on Makran had weakened when Arab rebels seized the province, and Hajjaj had to send three governors between 694 and 707 AD before Makran was partially recovered by 694 AD.[32] Al Hajjaj also fought Zunbil in 698 AD and 700 AD. The 20,000 strong army led by Ubaidullah ibn Abu Bakra was trapped by the armies of Zunbil and Turki Shah near Kabul, and lost 15,000 men to thirst and hunger, earning this force the epithet of the "Doomed Army".[44][45] Abd al-Rahman ibn Muhammad ibn al-Ash'ath led 20,000 troops each from Kufa and Basra[46] in a cautions but successful campaign in 700 AD, but when he wanted to stop during winter, Al-Hajjaj's insulting rebuke[47] led to mutiny.[48] The mutiny put down by 704 AD, and Al-Hajjaj granted a 7-year truce to Zunbil.

Umayyad expansion in Sind and Multan[edit]

Muhammad ibn Qasim's Campaigns in Sindh.
  Desert areas (Registan Desert and Thar Desert)
  Kingdom of Sindh (c. 632– 712 CE)
  Maitraka Kingdom (c.475–c.776 CE)
  Ummayad Caliphate (c.710 CE)

Raja Dahir of Sindh had refused to return Arab rebels from Sindh[16][49] and furthermore, Meds and others.[50] Meds shipping from their bases at Kutch, Debal and Kathiawar.[50] in one of their raids had kidnapped Muslim women travelling from Sri Lanka to Arabia, thus providing a casus belli[50][51] against Sindh Raja Dahir[52] when Raja Dahir expressed his inability to help retrieve the prisoners. After two expeditions were defeated in Sindh[53][54] Al Hajjaj equipped an army built around 6,000 Syrian cavalry and detachments of mawali from Iraq,[55] six thousand camel riders, and a baggage train of 3,000 camels under his Nephew Muhammad bin Qasim to Sindh. His Artillery of five catapults were sent to Debal by sea[55] ("manjaniks").

Conquest of Sindh[edit]

Muhammad bin Qasim departed from Shiraz in 710 AD, the army marched along the coast to Tiaz in Makran, then to the Kech valley. Muhammad re-subdued the restive towns of Fannazbur and Armabil, (Lasbela)[56] finally completing the conquest of Makran then the army met up with the reinforcements and catapults sent by sea near Debal and took Debal through assault.[55] From Debal the Arabs moved north along the Indus, clearing the region up to Budha, some towns like Nerun and Sadusan (Sehwan) surrendered peacefully[55] while tribes inhabiting Sisam were defeated in battle. Muhammad bin Qasim moved back to Nerun to resupply and receive reinforcements sent by Hajjaj.[55] The Arabs crossed the Indus further South and defeated the army of Dahir, who was killed.[57][58] The Arabs then marched north along the east bank of the Indus after the siege and capture of Rawer. Brahmanabad, then Alor (Aror) and finally Multan, were captured alongside other in-between towns with only light Muslim casualties.[55] Arabs marched up to the foothills of Kashmir along the Jhelum in 713 AD,[59] and the stormed on Al-Kiraj (probably the Kangra valley)[60] Muhammad was deposed after the death of Caliph Walid in 715 AD. Jai Singh, son of Dahir captured Brahmanabad and Arab rule was restricted to the Western shore of Indus.[61] Sindh was briefly lost to the caliph when the rebel Yazid b. Muhallab took over Sindh briefly in 720 AD.[62][failed verification][63]

Last Umayyad campaigns in Al Hind[edit]

Early Arab conquest of what is now Pakistan by Muhammad bin Qasim for Umayyad caliphate rule c. 711 CE.

Junaid b. Abd Al Rahman Al Marri became the governor of Sindh in 723 AD. Secured Debal, then defeat and killed Jai Singh[62][failed verification][64] secured Sindh and Southern Punjab and stormed Al Kiraj (Kangra valley) in 724 AD.[60][65] Junaid next attacked a number of Hindu kingdoms in what is now Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh aiming at permanent conquest, but the chronology and area of operation of the campaigns during 725–743 AD is difficult to follow because accurate, complete information is lacking.[60] The Arabs moved east from Sindh in several detachments[15] and probably from attacked from both the land and the sea, occupying Mirmad (Marumada, in Jaisalmer), Al-Mandal (perhaps Okhamandal in Gujarat) or Marwar,[66] and Dahnaj, not identified, al-Baylaman (Bhilmal) and Jurz (Gurjara country—north Gujarat and southern Rajasthan).[67] and attacking Barwas (Broach), sacking Vallabhi.[68] Gurjara king Siluka[69] repelled Arabs from "Stravani and Valla", probably the area North of Jaisalmer and Jodhpur, and the invasion of Malwa but were ultimately defeated by Bappa Rawal and Nagabhata I in 725 AD near Ujjain.[70] Arabs lost control over the newly conquered territories and Sindh due to Arab tribal infighting and Arab soldiers deserting the newly conquered territory[71] in 731 AD.

Al Hakam b. Awana Al Kalbi recovered Sindh, and in c733 AD, founded the garrison city of Al Mahfuza ("The Well Guarded") similar to Kufa, Basra and Wasit, on the eastern side of a lake near Brahmanabad.[60] Hakam next attempted to reclaim the conquests of Junaid in Al Hind. Arab records merely state that he was successful, Indian records at Navasari[72] details that Arab forces defeated "Kacchella, Saindhava, Saurashtra, Cavotaka, Maurya and Gurjara" kings. The city of Al Mansura ("The Victorious") was founded near Al Mahfuza to commemorate pacification of Sindh by Amr b. Muhammad in c738 AD.[60] Al Hakam next invaded the Deccan in 739 AD with the intention of permanent conquest, but was decisively defeated at Navsari by the viceroy Avanijanashraya Pulakeshin of the Chalukya Empire serving Vikramaditya II. Arab rule was restricted to the west of Thar desert.

Last days of Caliphate control[edit]

When the Abbasid Revolution overthrew the Umayyads in 750 AD after the Third Fitna, Sindh became independent and was captured by Musa b. K'ab al Tamimi in 752 AD.[73] Zunbil had defeated the Arabs in 728 AD, and saw off two Abbasid invasions in 769 and 785 AD. Abbasids attacked Kabul several times and collected tribute between 787 and 815 AD and extracted tribute after each campaign. Abbasid Governor of Sindh, Hisham (7 in office 768–773 AD) raided Kashmir, recaptured parts of Punjab from Karkota control,[74] and launched naval raids against ports of Gujarat in 758 and 770 AD,[75] which like other Abbasid Naval raids launched of 776 and 779 AD, gained no territory. Arabs occupied Sindian (Southern Kutch) in 810 AD, only to lose it in 841 AD.[76] Civil war erupted in Sindh in 842 AD, and the Habbari dynasty occupied Mansurah, and by 871, five independent principalities emerged, with the Banu Habbari clan controlling in Mansurah, Banu Munabbih occupying Multan, Banu Madan ruling in Makran, with Makshey and Turan falling to other rulers, all outside direct Caliphate control.[77] Ismaili missionaries found a receptive audience among both the Sunni and non-Muslim populations in Multan, which became a center of the Ismaili sect of Islam. The Saffarid Dynasty of Zaranj occupied Kabul and the kingdom of Zunbil permanently in 871 AD. A new chapter of Muslim conquests began when the Samanid Dynasty took over the Saffarid Kingdom and Sabuktigin seized Ghazni.

Later Muslim invasions[edit]

After the Decline of the Caliphate, Muslim incursions resumed under later Turkic and Central Asian dynasties like the Saffarid Dynasty, and the Samanid Dynasty with more local capitals, who supplanted the Abbasid Caliphate and expanded their domains both northwards and eastwards. Continuous raids from these empires in the north-west of India led to the loss of stability in the Indian kingdoms, and led to establishment of Islam in the heart of India.

Ghaznavid Sultanate[edit]

Ghaznavid Empire at its greatest extent in 1030 AD.

Under Sabuktigin, Ghaznavid Empire found itself in conflict with the Kabul Shahi Raja Jayapala in the east. When Sabuktigin died and his son Mahmud ascended the throne in 998, Ghazni was engaged in the North with the Qarakhanids when the Shahi Raja renewed hostilities in east once again.

In the early 11th century, Mahmud of Ghazni launched seventeen expeditions into Indian subcontinent. In 1001, Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni defeated Raja Jayapala of the Hindu Shahi Dynasty of Gandhara (in modern Afghanistan), in the Battle of Peshawar and marched further west of Peshawar (in modern Pakistan) and, in 1005, made it the center for his forces.

Writing c. 1030, Al Biruni reported on the devastation caused during the conquest of Gandhara and much of northwest India by Mahmud of Ghazni following his defeat of Jayapala in the Battle of Peshawar at Peshawar in 1001:

Now in the following times no Muslim conqueror passed beyond the frontier of Kabul and the river Sindh until the days of the Turks, when they seized the power in Ghazna under the Sâmânî dynasty, and the supreme power fell to the lot of Nasir-addaula Sabuktagin. This prince chose the holy war as his calling, and therefore called himself al-Ghazi ("the warrior/invader"). In the interest of his successors, he constructed, to weaken the Indian frontier, those roads on which afterwards his son Yamin-addaula Mahmud marched into India during a period of thirty years and more. God be merciful to both father and son! 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. This is the reason, too, why 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, Benares, and other places. And there the antagonism between them and all foreigners receives more and more nourishment both from political and religious sources.[78]

During the closing years of the tenth and the early years of the succeeding century of our era, Mahmud the first Sultan and Musalman of the Turk dynasty of kings who ruled at Ghazni, made a succession of inroads twelve or fourteen in number, into Gandhar – the present Peshwar valley – in the course of his proselytizing invasions of Hindustan.[79]

Fire and sword, havoc and destruction, marked his course everywhere. Gandhar which was styled the Garden of the North was left at his death a weird and desolate waste. Its rich fields and fruitful gardens, together with the canal which watered them (the course of which is still partially traceable in the western part of the plain), had all disappeared. Its numerous stone built cities, monasteries, and topes with their valuable and revered monuments and sculptures, were sacked, fired, razed to the ground, and utterly destroyed as habitations.[79]

The Ghaznavid conquests were initially directed against the Ismaili Fatimids of Multan, who were engaged in an ongoing struggle with the provinces of the Abbasid Caliphate in conjunction with their compatriots of the Fatimid Caliphate in North Africa and the Middle East; Mahmud apparently hoped to curry the favor of the Abbasids in this fashion. However, once this aim was accomplished, he moved onto the richness of the loot of Indian temples and monasteries. By 1027, Mahmud had captured parts of North India and obtained formal recognition of Ghazni's sovereignty from the Abbassid Caliph, al-Qadir Billah.

Ghaznavid rule in Northwestern India (modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) lasted over 175 years, from 1010 to 1187. It was during this period that Lahore assumed considerable importance apart from being the second capital, and later the only capital, of the Ghaznavid Empire.

At the end of his reign, Mahmud's empire extended from Kurdistan in the west to Samarkand in the Northeast, and from the Caspian Sea to the Punjab in the west. Although his raids carried his forces across Northern and Western India, only Punjab came under his permanent rule; Kashmir, the Doab, Rajasthan, and Gujarat remained nominal under the control of the local Indian dynasties. In 1030, Mahmud fell gravely ill and died at age 59. As with the invaders of three centuries ago, Mahmud's armies reached temples in Varanasi, Mathura, Ujjain, Maheshwar, Jwalamukhi, Somnath and Dwarka.

Ghurid Empire[edit]

Map of the Ghurid dynasty at its greatest extent in the early 13th century under Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad.

Mu'izz al-Din better known as Shahāb-ud-Din Muhammad Ghori was a conqueror from the region of Ghor in modern Afghanistan. Before 1160, the Ghaznavid Empire covered an area running from central Iran east to the Punjab, with capitals at Ghazni on the banks of Ghazni river in present-day Afghanistan, and at Lahore in present-day Pakistan. In 1160, the Ghurids conquered Ghazni from the Ghaznavids, and in 1173 Muhammad Bin Sām was made governor of Ghazni. In 1186 and 1187 he conquered Lahore in alliance with a local Hindu ruler, ending the Ghaznavid empire and bringing the last of Ghaznavid territory under his control, and seemed to be the first Muslim ruler seriously interested in expanding his domain in the sub-continent, and like his predecessor Mahmud initially started off against the Ismaili kingdom of Multan that had regained independence during the Nizari conflicts, and then onto booty and power.

In 1191, he invaded the territory of Prithviraj III of Ajmer, who ruled his territory from Delhi to Ajmer in present-day Rajasthan, but was defeated at the First Battle of Tarain.[80] The following year, Mu'izz al-Din assembled 120,000 horsemen and once again invaded India. Mu'izz al-Din's army met Prithviraj's army again at Tarain, and this time Mu'izz al-Din won; Govindraj was slain, Prithviraj executed[81] and Mu'izz al-Din advanced onto Delhi. Within a year, Mu'izz al-Din controlled North-Western Rajasthan and Northern Ganges-Yamuna Doab. After these victories in India, and Mu'izz al-Din's establishment Delhi as the capital of his Indian provinces, Multan was also incorporated as a major part of his empire. Mu'izz al-Din then returned east to Ghazni to deal with the threat on his eastern frontiers from the Turks of the Khwarizmian Empire, whiles his armies continued to advance through Northern India, raiding as far as Bengal.

Mu'izz al-Din returned to Lahore after 1200. In 1206, Mu'izz al-Din had to travel to Lahore to crush a revolt. On his way back to Ghazni, his caravan rested at Damik near Sohawa (which is near the city of Jhelum in the Punjab province of modern-day Pakistan). He was assassinated on 15 March 1206, while offering his evening prayers. The identity of Ghori's assassins is disputed, with some claiming that he was assassinated by local Hindu Gakhars and others claiming he was assassinated by Hindu Khokhars, both being different tribes.

The Khokhars were killed in large numbers, and the province was pacified. After settling the affairs in the Punjab. Mu'izz al-Din marched back to Ghazni. While camping at Dhamayak in 1206 AD in the Jehlum district, the sultan was murdered by the Khokhars[82]

Some claim that Mu'izz al-Din was assassinated by the Hashshashin, a radical Ismaili Muslim sect.[83][84]

According to his wishes, Mu'izz al-Din was buried where he fell, in Damik. Upon his death his most capable general, Qutb-ud-din Aybak, took control of Mu'izz al-Din's Indian provinces and declared himself the first Sultan of Delhi Sultanate.[citation needed]

Delhi Sultanate[edit]

Delhi Sultanate reached its zenith under the Turko-Indian Tughlaq dynasty.[85]

Muhammad's successors established the first dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate, while the Mamluk Dynasty in 1211 (however, the Delhi Sultanate is traditionally held to have been founded in 1206) seized the reins of the empire. Mamluk means "slave" and referred to the Turkic slave soldiers who became rulers. The territory under control of the Muslim rulers in Delhi expanded rapidly. By mid-century, Bengal and much of central India was under the Delhi Sultanate. Several Turko-Afghan dynasties ruled from Delhi: the Mamluk (1206–1290), the Khalji (1290–1320), the Tughlaq (1320–1414), the Sayyid (1414–51), and the Lodhi (1451–1526). During the time of Delhi Sultanate, the Vijayanagara Empire resisted successfully attempts of Delhi Sultanate to establish dominion in the Southern India, serving as a barrier against invasion by the Muslims.[86] Certain kingdoms remained independent of Delhi such as the larger kingdoms of Punjab, Rajasthan, parts of the Deccan, Gujarat, Malwa (central India), and Bengal, nevertheless all of the area in present-day Pakistan came under the rule of Delhi.

The image, in the chapter on India in Hutchison's Story of the Nations edited by James Meston, depicts the Bakhtiyar Khilji's massacre of Buddhist monks in Bihar, India. Khilji destroyed the Nalanda and Vikramshila universities during his raids across North Indian plains, massacring many Buddhist and Brahmin scholars.[87]

The Sultans of Delhi enjoyed cordial, if superficial, relations with Muslim rulers in the Near East but owed them no allegiance. They based their laws on the Quran and the sharia and permitted non-Muslim subjects to practice their religion only if they paid the jizya (poll tax). They ruled from urban centres, while military camps and trading posts provided the nuclei for towns that sprang up in the countryside.

Perhaps the most significant contribution of the Sultanate was its temporary success in insulating the subcontinent from the potential devastation of the Mongol invasion from Central Asia in the 13th century, which nonetheless led to the capture of Afghanistan and western Pakistan by the Mongols (see the Ilkhanate Dynasty). Under the Sultanate, "Indo-Muslim" fusion left lasting monuments in architecture, music, literature, and religion. In addition it is surmised that the language of Urdu (literally meaning "horde" or "camp" in various Turkic dialects) was born during the Delhi Sultanate period as a result of the mingling of Sanskritic Hindi and the Persian, Turkish, Arabic favoured by the Muslim invaders of India[citation needed].

The Sultanate suffered significantly from the sacking of Delhi in 1398 by Timur, but revived briefly under the Lodi Dynasty, the final dynasty of the Sultanate before it was conquered by Zahiruddin Babur in 1526, who subsequently founded the Mughal Dynasty that ruled from the 16th to the 18th centuries.


Tīmūr bin Taraghay Barlas, known in the West as Tamerlane or "Timur the lame", was a 14th-century warlord of Turco-Mongol descent,[88][89][90][91] conqueror of much of western and central Asia, and founder of the Timurid Empire (1370–1507) in Central Asia; the Timurid dynasty survived until 1857 as the Mughal dynasty of India.

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi, Nasir-u Din Mehmud, in the winter of 1397–1398

Informed about civil war in South Asia, Timur began a trek starting in 1398 to invade the reigning Sultan Nasir-u Din Mehmud of the Tughlaq Dynasty in the north Indian city of Delhi.[92] His campaign was politically pretexted that the Muslim Delhi Sultanate was too tolerant toward its "Hindu" subjects, but that could not mask the real reason being to amass the wealth of the Delhi Sultanate.[93]

Timur crossed the Indus River at Attock (now Pakistan) on 24 September. In Haryana, his soldiers each killed 50 to 100 Hindus.[94]

Timur's invasion did not go unopposed and he did meet some resistance during his march to Delhi, most notably with the Sarv Khap coalition in northern India, and the Governor of Meerut. Although impressed and momentarily stalled by the valour of Ilyaas Awan, Timur was able to continue his relentless approach to Delhi, arriving in 1398 to combat the armies of Sultan Mehmud, already weakened by an internal battle for ascension within the royal family.

The Sultan's army was easily defeated on 17 December 1398. Timur entered Delhi and the city was sacked, destroyed, and left in ruins. Before the battle for Delhi, Timur executed more than 100,000 "Hindu" captives.[88][92]

Timur himself recorded the invasions in his memoirs, collectively known as Tuzk-i-Timuri.[88][92][95][96] Timur's purported autobiography, the Tuzk-e-Taimuri ("Memoirs of Temur") is a later fabrication, although most of the historical facts are accurate.[97]

Historian Irfan Habib writes in "Timur in the Political Tradition and Historiography of Mughal India" that in the 14th century, the word "Hindu" (people of "Al-Hind", "Hind" being "India") included "both Hindus and Muslims" in religious connotations.[98]

When Timur entered Delhi after defeating Mahmud Toghloq's forces, he granted an amnesty in return for protection money (mâl-e amâni). But on the fourth day he ordered that all the people of the city be enslaved; and so they were. Thus reports Yahya, who here inserts a pious prayer in Arabic for the victims' consolation ("To God we return, and everything happens by His will"). Yazdi, on the other hand, does not have any sympathy to waste on these wretches. He records that Timur had granted protection to the people of Delhi on 18 December 1398, and the collectors had begun collecting the protection money. But large groups of Timur's soldiers began to enter the city and, like birds of prey, attacked its citizens. The "pagan Hindus" (Henduân-e gabr) having had the temerity to begin immolating their women and themselves, the three cities of Delhi were put to sack by Timur's soldiers. "Faithless Hindus", he adds, had gathered in the Congregation Mosque of Old Delhi and Timur's officers put them ruthlessly to slaughter there on 29 December. Clearly, Yazdi's "Hindus" included Muslims as well.[99]

However, Timur purportedly states in his own autobiography that, during the 15-day massacre of Delhi, "Excepting the quarters of the sayyids, the 'ulama and the other Musalmans (Muslims), the whole city was sacked", thereby implying that Timur differentiated between the Muslims and non-Muslims during his sack of the city.[100]

Timur left Delhi in approximately January 1399. In April he had returned to his own capital beyond the Oxus (Amu Darya). Immense quantities of spoils were taken from India. According to Ruy Gonzáles de Clavijo, 90 captured elephants were employed merely to carry precious stones looted from his conquest, so as to erect a mosque at Samarkand – what historians today believe is the enormous Bibi-Khanym Mosque. Ironically, the mosque was constructed too quickly and suffered greatly from disrepair within a few decades of its construction.

Regional sultanates[edit]

Kashmir was conquered by the Shah Mir dynasty in the 14th century. Regional kingdoms such as Bengal, Gujarat, Malwa, Khandesh, Jaunpur, and Bahmanis expanded at the expense of the Delhi Sultanate. Gaining conversions to Islam was easier under regional Sultanates.[101]

Deccan Sultanates[edit]

The term of Deccan Sultanates[102] was used for five Muslim dynasties that ruled several late medieval Indian kingdoms, namely Bijapur Sultanate,[103] Golkonda Sultanate,[104] Ahmadnagar Sultanate,[105] Bidar Sultanate,[106] and Berar Sultanate[107] in South India. The Deccan Sultanates ruled the Deccan Plateau between the Krishna River and the Vindhya Range. These sultanates became independent during the break-up of the Bahmani Sultanate, another Muslim empire.[108]

The ruling families of all these five sultanates were of diverse origin; the Qutb Shahi dynasty of Golconda Sultanate was of Turkmen origin,[109] the Barid Shahi dynasty of Bidar Sultanate being founded by a Turkic noble,[110] the Adil Shahi dynasty of Bijapur Sultanate was founded by a Georgian-Oghuz Turkic slave[111] while Nizam Shahi dynasty of Ahmadnagar Sultanate and Imad Shahi dynasty of Berar Sultanate were of Hindu lineage[112] (Ahmadnagar being Brahmin[112] and Berar being Kanarese[112]).

Mughal Empire[edit]

Mughal Empire in Early 18th century

India in the early 16th century presented a fragmented picture of rulers who lacked concern for their subjects and failed to create a common body of laws or institutions.[citation needed] Outside developments also played a role in shaping events. The circumnavigation of Africa by the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama in 1498 allowed Europeans to challenge Muslim control of the trading routes between Europe and Asia. In Central Asia and Afghanistan, shifts in power pushed Babur of the Timurid Dynasty (in present-day Uzbekistan) southward, first to Kabul and then to the heart of Indian subcontinent. The dynasty he founded endured for more than three centuries.


Babur and the Mughal Army at the Urvah valley in Gwalior.

A descendant of both Genghis Khan and Timur, Babur combined strength and courage with a love of beauty, and military ability with cultivation. He concentrated on gaining control of Northwestern India, doing so in 1526 by defeating the last Lodhi Sultan at the First battle of Panipat, a town north of Delhi. Babur then turned to the tasks of persuading his Central Asian followers to stay on in India and of overcoming other contenders for power, like the Rajputs and the Afghans. He succeeded in both tasks but died shortly thereafter in 1530. The Mughal Empire was one of the largest centralised states in premodern history and was the precursor to the British Indian Empire.

Babur was followed by his great-grandson, Shah Jahan (r. 1628–1658), builder of the Taj Mahal and other magnificent buildings. Two other towering figures of the Mughal era were Akbar (r. 1556–1605) and Aurangzeb (r. 1658–1707). Both rulers expanded the empire greatly and were able administrators. However, Akbar was known for his religious tolerance and administrative genius while Aurangzeb was a pious Muslim and fierce advocate of more orthodox Islam.


The Mughal Empire in 1700

While some rulers were zealous in their spread of Islam, others were relatively liberal. The Mughal emperor Akbar, an example of the latter established a new religion, Din E Elahi, which included beliefs from different faiths and even build many temples in his empire. He abolished the jizya twice. In contrast, his great-grandson Aurangazeb was a more religious and orthodox ruler.

In the century-and-a-half that followed the death of Aurangzeb, effective Muslim control started weakening. Succession to imperial and even provincial power, which had often become hereditary, was subject to intrigue and force. The mansabdari system gave way to the zamindari system, in which high-ranking officials took on the appearance of hereditary landed aristocracy with powers of collecting rents. As Delhi's control waned, other contenders for power emerged and clashed, thus preparing the way for the eventual British takeover.

Durrani Empire[edit]

Ahmad Shah Durrani and his coalition defeated the Maratha Empire, during the Third Battle of Panipat and restored the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II.[114]

Ahmed Shah Abdali – a Pashtun – embarked on a conquest in South Asia starting in 1747.[115] In the short space of just over a quarter of a century, he forged one of the largest Muslim empires of the 18th century. The high point of his conquests was his victory over the powerful Marathas in the Third Battle of Panipat, which occurred in 1761. In the Indian subcontinent, his empire stretched from the Indus at Attock all the way to the eastern Punjab. Uninterested in long-term of conquest or in replacing the Mughal Empire, he became increasingly pre occupied with revolts by the Sikhs.[116] Vadda Ghalughara took place under the Muslim provincial government based at Lahore to wipe out the Sikhs, with non-combatant women, children and old men being killed, an offensive that had begun with the Mughals, with the Chhota Ghallughara,.[117] His empire began to unravel decade before his death in 1772.

Decline of Muslim rule in Indian subcontinent[edit]

Maratha Empire[edit]

Maratha Empire at its zenith in 1760 (yellow area) stretching from the Deccan to present-day Pakistan. The Marathas even discussed abolishing the Mughal throne and placing Vishwasrao Peshwa on the Mughal imperial throne in Delhi.[118]

There is no doubt that the single most important power to emerge in the long twilight of the Mughal dynasty was the Maratha Confederacy (1674–1818).[119] The Marathas are responsible, to a large extent, for ending Mughal rule in India.[120] The Maratha Empire ruled large parts of India following the decline of the Mughals. The long and futile war bankrupted one of the most powerful empires in the world. Mountstuart Elphinstone termed this a demoralizing period for the Muslims as many of them lost the will to fight against the Maratha Empire.[121][122][123] Maratha empire at its peak stretched from Tamil Nadu (Trichinopoly) "present Tiruchirappalli" in the south to the Afghan border in the north.[124][125][126] In early 1771, Mahadji, a notable Maratha general, recaptured Delhi and installed Shah Alam II as the puppet ruler on the Mughal throne. In north India, the Marathas thus regained the territory and the prestige lost as result of the defeat at Panipath in 1761.[127] However regions of Kashmir, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Western Punjab, were captured by Marathas between 1758 and 1759, remained in Afghan rule before ascension of Sikh power.[128] Mahadji ruled the Punjab as it used to be a Mughal territory and Sikh sardars and other Rajas of the cis-Sutlej region paid tributes to him.[129] A considerable portion of the Indian subcontinent came under the sway of the British Empire after the Third Anglo-Maratha War, which ended the Maratha Empire in 1818.

Sikh Empire[edit]

Sikh Empire, established by Ranjit Singh in North-west India.

In northwest India, in the Punjab, Sikhs developed themselves into a powerful force under the authority of twelve Misls. By 1801, Ranjit Singh captured Lahore and threw off the Afghan yoke from North West India.[130] In Afghanistan Zaman Shah Durrani was defeated by powerful Barakzai chief Fateh Khan who appointed Mahmud Shah Durrani as the new ruler of Afghanistan and appointed himself as Wazir of Afghanistan.[131] Sikhs however were now superior to the Afghans and started to annex Afghan provinces. The biggest victory of the Sikh Empire over the Durrani Empire came in the Battle of Attock fought in 1813 between Sikh and Wazir of Afghanistan Fateh Khan and his younger brother Dost Mohammad Khan. The Afghans were routed by the Sikh army and the Afghans lost over 9,000 soldiers in this battle. Dost Mohammad was seriously injured whereas his brother Wazir Fateh Khan fled back to Kabul fearing that his brother was dead.[132] In 1818 they slaughtered Afghans and Muslims in trading city of Multan killing Afghan governor Nawab Muzzafar Khan and five of his sons in the Siege of Multan.[133] In 1819 the last Indian Province of Kashmir was conquered by Sikhs who registered another crushing victory over weak Afghan General Jabbar Khan.[134] The Koh-i-Noor diamond was also taken by Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1814. In 1823 a Sikh Army routed Dost Mohammad Khan the Sultan of Afghanistan and his brother Azim Khan at Naushera (Near Peshawar). By 1834 the Sikh Empire extended up to the Khyber Pass. Hari Singh Nalwa the Sikh general remained the governor of Khyber Agency till his death in 1837. He consolidated Sikh hold in tribal provinces. The northernmost Indian territories of Gilgit, Baltistan and Ladakh was annexed between 1831 and 1840.[135]

Impact on India, Islam and Muslims in India[edit]

Considering the complex history of the Muslim conquests of India, their recollection and legacy is indubitably controversial.

20th-century American historian Will Durant wrote about medieval India, "The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history."[136]

In contrast, there are other historians such as American historian Audrey Truschke and Indian historian Romila Thapar, who claim that such views are unfounded or exaggerated.[137][138]

Conversion theories[edit]

Considerable controversy exists both in scholarly and public opinion as to how conversion to Islam came about in Indian subcontinent, typically represented by the following schools of thought:[139]

  1. Conversion was a combination, initially by violence, threat or other pressure against the person.[139]
  2. As a socio-cultural process of diffusion and integration over an extended period of time into the sphere of the dominant Muslim civilization and global polity at large.[140]
  3. That conversions occurred for non-religious reasons of pragmatism and patronage such as social mobility among the Muslim ruling elite[139][140]
  4. That the bulk of Muslims are descendants of migrants from the Iranian plateau or Arabs.[140]
  5. Conversion was a result of the actions of Sufi saints and involved a genuine change of heart.[139]

Hindus who converted to Islam however were not completely immune to persecution due to the caste system among Muslims in India established by Ziauddin al-Barani in the Fatawa-i Jahandari,[141] where they were regarded as an "Ajlaf" caste and subjected to discrimination by the "Ashraf" castes.[142] Critics of the "religion of the sword theory" point to the presence of the strong Muslim communities found in Southern India, modern day Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, western Burma, Indonesia and the Philippines coupled with the distinctive lack of equivalent Muslim communities around the heartland of historical Muslim empires in South Asia as refutation to the "conversion by the sword theory".[140] The legacy of Muslim conquest of South Asia is a hotly debated issue even today. Not all Muslim invaders were simply raiders. Later rulers fought on to win kingdoms and stayed to create new ruling dynasties. The practices of these new rulers and their subsequent heirs (some of whom were born of Hindu wives of Muslim rulers) varied considerably. While some were uniformly hated, others developed a popular following. According to the memoirs of Ibn Battuta who traveled through Delhi in the 14th century, one of the previous sultans had been especially brutal and was deeply hated by Delhi's population. His memoirs also indicate that Muslims from the Arab world, Persia and Turkey were often favored with important posts at the royal courts suggesting that locals may have played a somewhat subordinate role in the Delhi administration. The term "Turk" was commonly used to refer to their higher social status.[citation needed] However S. A. A. Rizvi[143] points to Muhammad bin Tughlaq as not only encouraging locals but promoting artisan groups such as cooks, barbers and gardeners to high administrative posts. In his reign, it is likely that conversions to Islam took place as a means of seeking greater social mobility and improved social standing.[144]


Aurangzeb's Deccan campaign saw one of the largest death tolls in South Asian history, with an estimated 4.6 million people killed during his reign, Muslims and Hindus alike.[145] An estimated of 2.5 million of Aurangzeb's army were killed during the Mughal–Maratha Wars (100,000 annually during a quarter-century), while 2 million civilians in war-torn lands died due to drought, plague and famine.[146][145]

Expansion of trade[edit]

Islam's impact was the most notable in the expansion of trade. The first contact of Muslims with India was the Arab attack on a nest of pirates near modern-day Mumbai to safeguard their trade in the Arabian Sea. Around the same time many Arabs settled at Indian ports, giving rise to small Muslim communities. The growth of these communities was not only due to conversion but also the fact that many Hindu kings of south India (such as those from Cholas) hired Muslims as mercenaries.[147]

A significant aspect of the Muslim period in world history was the emergence of Islamic Sharia courts capable of imposing a common commercial and legal system that extended from Morocco in the West to Mongolia in the North East and Indonesia in the South East. While southern India was already in trade with Arabs/Muslims, northern India found new opportunities. As the Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms of Asia were subjugated by Islam, and as Islam spread through Africa – it became a highly centralising force that facilitated in the creation of a common legal system that allowed letters of credit issued in say Egypt or Tunisia to be honoured in India or Indonesia (sharia has laws on the transaction of business with both Muslims and non-Muslims[citation needed]). To cement their rule, Muslim rulers initially promoted a system in which there was a revolving door between the clergy, the administrative nobility and the mercantile classes. The travels of explorer Muhammad Ibn-Abdullah Ibn-Batuta were eased because of this system. He served as an Imam in Delhi, as a judicial official in the Maldives, and as an envoy and trader in the Malabar. There was never a contradiction in any of his positions because each of these roles complemented the other. Islam created a compact under which political power, law and religion became fused in a manner so as to safeguard the interests of the mercantile class. This led world trade to expand to the maximum extent possible in the medieval world. Sher Shah Suri took initiatives in improvement of trade by abolishing all taxes which hindered progress of free trade. He built large networks of roads and constructed Grand Trunk Road (1540–1544), which connects Chittagong to Kabul. Parts of it are still in use today. The geographic regions add to the diversity of languages and politics.

Cultural influence[edit]

The divide and rule policies, two-nation theory, and subsequent partition of British India in the wake of Independence from the British Empire has polarised the sub-continental psyche, making objective assessment hard in comparison to the other settled agricultural societies of India from the North West. Muslim rule differed from these others in the level of assimilation and syncretism that occurred. They retained their identity and introduced legal and administrative systems that superseded existing systems of social conduct and ethics. While this was a source of friction it resulted in a unique experience the legacy of which is a Muslim community strongly Islamic in character while at the same time distinctive and unique among its peers.

The impact of Islam on Indian culture has been inestimable. It permanently influenced the development of all areas of human endeavour – language, dress, cuisine, all the art forms, architecture and urban design, and social customs and values. Conversely, the languages of the Muslim invaders were modified by contact with local languages, to Urdu, which uses the Arabic script. This language was also known as Hindustani, an umbrella term used for the vernacular terminology of Hindi as well as Urdu, both major languages in South Asia today derived primarily from Sanskrit grammatical structures and vocabulary.

Muslim rule saw a greater urbanisation of India and the rise of many cities and their urban cultures. The biggest impact was upon trade resulting from a common commercial and legal system extending from Morocco to Indonesia. This change of emphasis on mercantilism and trade from the more strongly centralised governance systems further clashed with the agricultural based traditional economy and also provided fuel for social and political tensions.

A related development to the shifting economic conditions was the establishment of Karkhanas, or small factories and the import and dissemination of technology through India and the rest of the world. The use of ceramic tiles was adopted from architectural traditions of Iraq, Iran, and Central Asia. Rajasthan's blue pottery was a local variation of imported Chinese pottery. There is also the example of Sultan Abidin (1420–1470) sending Kashmiri artisans to Samarqand to learn book-binding and paper making. Khurja and Siwan became renowned for pottery, Moradabad for brass ware, Mirzapur for carpets, Firozabad for glass wares, Farrukhabad for printing, Sahranpur and Nagina for wood-carving, Bidar and Lucknow for bidriware, Srinagar for papier-mache, Benaras for jewellery and textiles, and so on. On the flip-side encouraging such growth also resulted in higher taxes on the peasantry.

Numerous Indian scientific and mathematical advances and the Hindu numerals were spread to the rest of the world[2] and much of the scholarly work and advances in the sciences of the age under Muslim nations across the globe were imported by the liberal patronage of Arts and Sciences by the rulers. The languages brought by Islam were modified by contact with local languages leading to the creation of several new languages, such as Urdu, which uses the modified Arabic script, but with more Persian words. The influences of these languages exist in several dialects in India today.

Islamic and Mughal architecture and art is widely noticeable in India, examples being the Taj Mahal and Jama Masjid. At the same time, Muslim rulers destroyed many of the ancient Indian architectural marvels and converted them into Islamic structures, most notably at Varanasi, Mathura, Ayodhya and the Kutub Complex in New Delhi.

Migration of Hindus[edit]

Copper Inscription by one of the Baise (22) King of Doti, Raika Mandhata Shahi on Saka Era, 1612 AD

Few groups of Hindus including Rajputs were entering what is today Nepal before the fall of Chittor due to regular invasions of Muslims in India.[148] After the fall of Chittorgarh in 1303 by the Alauddin Khilji of the Khalji dynasty, Rajputs from the region immigrated in large groups into what is today Nepal due to heavy religious persecution. The incident is supported by both the Rajput and Nepalese traditions.[149][150][151][148][note 1] Indian scholar Rahul Ram asserts that the Rajput immigration into what is today Nepal is an undoubted fact but there can be questions in purity of blood of some leading families.[154] Historian James Todd mentions that there was a one Rajasthani tradition that mentions the immigration of Rajputs from Mewar to Himalayas in the late 12th century after the battle between Chittor and Muhammad Ghori.[155] Historian John T Hitchcock and John Whelpton contends that the regular invasions by Muslims led to heavy influx of Rajputs with Brahmins from the 12th century.[156][157]

The entry of Rajputs in central region of what is today Nepal were easily assisted by Khas Malla rulers who had developed a large feudatory state covering more than half of the Greater Nepal.[148] The Hindu immigrants including Rajputs were mixed into the Khas society quickly as a result of much resemblance.[148] Also, the Magar tribesmen of the Western region of what is today Nepal welcomed the immigrant Rajput chiefs with much cordiality.[158]


Iconoclasm under the Delhi Sultanate[edit]

Iconoclasm under the Delhi Sultanate
Kakatiya Kala Thoranam (Warangal Gate) built by the Kakatiya dynasty in ruins; one of the many temple complexes destroyed by the Delhi Sultanate.[159]
Artistic rendition of the Kirtistambh at Rudra Mahalaya Temple. The temple was destroyed by Alauddin Khalji.
Rani ki vav is a stepwell, built by the Chaulukya dynasty, located in Patan; the city was sacked by Sultan of Delhi Qutb-ud-din Aybak between 1200 and 1210, and it was destroyed by the Allauddin Khilji in 1298.[citation needed]
Pillar and ceiling carvings with a damaged madanakai at Hoysaleswara Temple. The temple was twice sacked and plundered by the Delhi Sultanate.[160]

Historian Richard Eaton has tabulated a campaign of destruction of idols and temples by Delhi Sultans, intermixed with instances of years where the temples were protected from desecration.[159][161][162] In his paper, he has listed 37 instances of Hindu temples being desecrated or destroyed in India during the Delhi Sultanate, from 1234 to 1518, for which reasonable evidence is available.[163][164][165] He notes that this was not unusual in medieval India, as there were numerous recorded instances of temple desecration by Hindu and Buddhist kings against rival Indian kingdoms between 642 and 1520, involving conflict between devotees of different Hindu deities, as well as between Hindus, Buddhists and Jains.[159][166][167] He also noted there were also many instances of Delhi sultans, who often had Hindu ministers, ordering the protection, maintenance and repairing of temples, according to both Muslim and Hindu sources. For example, a Sanskrit inscription notes that Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq repaired a Siva temple in Bidar after his Deccan conquest. There was often a pattern of Delhi sultans plundering or damaging temples during conquest, and then patronizing or repairing temples after conquest. This pattern came to an end with the Mughal Empire, where Akbar the Great's chief minister Abu'l-Fazl criticized the excesses of earlier sultans such as Mahmud of Ghazni.[163]

In many cases, the demolished remains, rocks and broken statue pieces of temples destroyed by Delhi sultans were reused to build mosques and other buildings. For example, the Qutb complex in Delhi was built from stones of 27 demolished Hindu and Jain temples by some accounts.[168] Similarly, the Muslim mosque in Khanapur, Maharashtra was built from the looted parts and demolished remains of Hindu temples.[169] Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji destroyed Buddhist and Hindu libraries and their manuscripts at Nalanda and Odantapuri Universities in 1193 AD at the beginning of the Delhi Sultanate.[170][171]

The first historical record in this period of a campaign of destruction of temples and defacement of faces or heads of Hindu idols lasted from 1193 through 1194 in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh under the command of Ghuri. Under the Mamluks and Khaljis, the campaign of temple desecration expanded to Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and continued through the late 13th century.[159] The campaign extended to Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu under Malik Kafur and Ulugh Khan in the 14th century, and by the Bahmanis in the 15th century.[170] Orissa temples were destroyed in the 14th century under the Tughlaqs.

Beyond destruction and desecration, the sultans of the Delhi Sultanate in some cases had forbidden reconstruction of damaged Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples, and they prohibited repairs of old temples or construction of any new temples.[172][173] In certain cases, the Sultanate would grant a permit for repairs and construction of temples if the patron or religious community paid jizya (fee, tax). For example, a proposal by the Chinese to repair Himalayan Buddhist temples destroyed by the Sultanate army was refused, on the grounds that such temple repairs were only allowed if the Chinese agreed to pay jizya tax to the treasury of the Sultanate.[174][175] In his memoirs, Firoz Shah Tughlaq describes how he destroyed temples and built mosques instead and killed those who dared build new temples.[176] Other historical records from wazirs, amirs and the court historians of various Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate describe the grandeur of idols and temples they witnessed in their campaigns and how these were destroyed and desecrated.[177]


In 1193, the Nalanda University complex was destroyed by Afghan KhaljiGhilzai Muslims under Bakhtiyar Khalji; this event is seen as the final milestone in the decline of Buddhism in India. He also burned Nalanda's major Buddhist library and Vikramshila University,[178] as well as numerous Buddhist monasteries in India. When the Tibetan translator, Chag Lotsawa Dharmasvamin (Chag Lo-tsa-ba, 1197–1264), visited northern India in 1235, Nalanda was damaged, looted, and largely deserted, but still standing and functioning with seventy students.

Mahabodhi, Sompura, Vajrasan and other important monasteries were found to be untouched. The Ghuri ravages only afflicted those monasteries that lay in the direct of their advance and were fortified in the manner of defensive forts.

By the end of the 12th century, following the Muslim conquest of the Buddhist stronghold in Bihar, Buddhism, having already declined in the South, declined in the North as well because survivors retreated to Nepal, Sikkim and Tibet or escaped to the South of the Indian sub-continent.


Ruins of the Surya Temple at Martand, which was destroyed due to the iconoclastic policies of Sikandar Butshikan, photo taken by John Burke in 1868

The Martand Sun Temple was built by the third ruler of the Karkota Dynasty, Lalitaditya Muktapida, in the 8th century AD.[179] The temple was completely destroyed on the orders of the Muslim ruler Sikandar Butshikan in the early 15th century, with demolition lasting a year. He ruled from 1389 to 1413 and is remembered for his strenuous efforts to convert the Hindus of Kashmir to Islam. These efforts included the destruction of numerous old temples, such as Martand, prohibition of Hindu rites, rituals and festivals and even the wearing of clothes in the Hindu style. He is known as "Butcher of Kashmir" and among the most hated figures among Kashmiri Hindus.[180]


The city flourished between the 14th century and 16th century, during the height of the Vijayanagara Empire. During this time, it was often in conflict with the kingdoms which rose in the Northern Deccan, and which are often collectively termed the Deccan Sultanates. The Vijaynagara Empire successfully resisted Muslim invasions for centuries. But in 1565, the empire's armies suffered a massive and catastrophic defeat at the hands of an alliance of the Sultanates, and the capital was taken. The victorious armies then razed, depopulated and destroyed the city over several months. The empire continued its slow decline, but the original capital was not reoccupied or rebuilt.


Around 1024 AD, during the reign of Bhima I, Mahmud of Ghazni raided Gujarat, and plundered the Somnath temple. According to an 1169 inscription, Bhima rebuilt the temple. This inscription does not mention any destruction caused by Mahmud, and states that the temple had "decayed due to time".[181] In 1299, Alauddin Khalji's army under the leadership of Ulugh Khan defeated Karandev II of the Vaghela dynasty, and sacked the Somnath temple.[181] The temple was rebuilt by Mahipala Deva, the Chudasama king of Saurashtra in 1308. It was repeatedly attacked in the later centuries, including by the Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.[182][self-published source?] In 1665, the temple, was once again ordered to be destroyed by Mughal emperor Aurangzeb.[183] In 1702, he ordered that if Hindus had revived worship there, it should be demolished completely.[184]

Ruins of Nalanda University
Sri Krishna Temple in Hampi
Somnath temple in ruins, 1869
Somnath temple in ruins, 1869
Front view of the present Somnath Temple
Front view of the present Somnath Temple
The Somnath temple was first attacked by Muslim Turkic invader Mahmud of Ghazni and repeatedly rebuilt after being demolished by successive Muslim rulers.

See also[edit]

Notes and references[edit]


  1. ^ Scottish scholar Francis Buchanan-Hamilton doubts the first tradition of Rajput influx to what is today Nepal which states that Rajputs from Chittor came to Ridi Bazaar in 1495 A.D. and went on to capture the Gorkha Kingdom after staying in Bhirkot.[152] He mentions the second tradition which states that Rajputs reached Palpa through Rajpur at Gandak river.[149] The third tradition mentions that Rajputs reached Palpa through Kumaon and Jumla.[153]


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  2. ^ Anjum 2007, p. 234.
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  4. Gopal Mandir is devoted to the blue God Krishna who is the divine herdsman, the lover of milkmaids and the eighth embodiment of Lord Vishnu, the preserver of the Universe. The marble-curled around structure is a superior example of Maratha architecture. Lord Krishna's two feet tall statue is carved in silver and is placed on a marble-inlaid altar with silver-plated doors. Mahmud of Ghazni had taken these doors from the famous Somnath Temple in Gujarat to Ghazni in Khorasan in 1026 AD. The Afghan trespasser, Mahmud Shah Abdali, later took the gates to Lahore, from where Shrinath Madhavji Shinde today popularly known as The Great Maratha Mahadji Scindia reacquired them. The Scindia ruler later established them in Gopal Mandir, bringing to a halt the doors’ long journey. Bayajibai Shinde, Maharaja Daulat Rao Scindia's queen, built the temple in the 19th century. Its location in the middle of the market area right in the heart of the city adds to its popularity. Mosque and Tomb of the Emperor Soolta Mahmood of Ghuznee, publisher British Library


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