Mahmud of Ghazni
|Emir of Ghazna|
|Reign||998 – 1002|
|Successor||Himself as sultan|
|Sultan of Ghazna|
|Reign||1002 – 1030|
|Predecessor||Himself as emir|
|Issue||Jalal al-Dawla Muhammad
Shihab al-Dawla Masud
Izz al-Dawla Abd al-Rashid
|House||House of Sabuktegin|
|Born||2 November 971
Ghazna (now in Afghanistan)
|Died||30 April 1030
Yamīn-ud-Dawla Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd ibn Sebüktegīn (Persian: یمینالدوله ابوالقاسم محمود بن سبکتگین), more commonly known as Mahmud of Ghazni (محمود غزنوی; 2 November 971 CE – 30 April 1030 CE), also known as Mahmūd-i Zābulī (محمود زابلی), was the most prominent ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire. He conquered the eastern Iranian lands and the northwestern Indian subcontinent (modern Afghanistan and Pakistan) from 997 to his death in 1030. Mahmud turned the former provincial city of Ghazna into the wealthy capital of an extensive empire which covered most of today's Afghanistan, eastern Iran, and Pakistan, by looting the riches and wealth from the then Indian subcontinent. He was the first ruler to carry the title Sultan ("authority"), signifying the extent of his power, though preserving the ideological link to the suzerainty of the Abbasid Caliphate. During his rule, he invaded and plundered parts of Hindustan (east of the Indus River) 17 times.
- 1 Early life and origin
- 2 Early career
- 3 Reign
- 4 Patron of the arts and poetry
- 5 Political challenges
- 6 Attitude towards religious freedom
- 7 Destruction of Somnath Temple
- 8 Regional attitudes towards Mahmud's memory
- 9 Legacy
- 10 Family
- 11 See also
- 12 Footnotes
- 13 References
- 14 External links
Early life and origin
Mahmud was born on Thursday, 10th of Muharram, 361 AH/ November 2, 971 CE in the town of Ghazna in Medieval Khorasan (modern southeastern Afghanistan). His father Sabuktigin was a Turkic Mamluk who founded the Ghaznavid dynasty. His mother was the daughter of a Persian aristocrat from Zabulistan.
In 994, Mahmud joined his father Sabuktigin in the capture of Khorasan from the rebel Fa'iq in aid of the Samanid Emir, Nuh II. During this period, the Samanid Empire became highly unstable, with shifting internal political tides as various factions vied for control, the chief among them being Abu'l-Qasim Simjuri, Fa'iq, Abu Ali, the General Bekhtuzin as well as the neighbouring Buyid dynasty and Kara-Khanid Khanate.
Mahmud took over his father's kingdom in 998 after defeating and capturing Ismail at the Battle of Ghazni. He then set out west from Ghazni to take the Kandahar region followed by Bost (Lashkar Gah), where he turned it into a militarized city.
Mahmud initiated the first of numerous invasion of North India. On November 28, 1001, his army fought and defeated the army of Raja Jayapala of the Kabul Shahis at the battle of Peshawar. In 1002, Mahmud invaded Sistan and dethroned Khalaf ibn Ahmad, ending the Saffarid dynasty. From there he decided to focus on Hindustan to the southeast, particularly the highly fertile lands of the Punjab region.
Mahmud's first campaign to the south was against an Ismaili state first established at Multan in 965 by a da'i from the Fatimid Caliphate in a bid to carry political favor and recognition with the Abbasid Caliphate; he also engaged with the Fatimids elsewhere. At this point, Jayapala attempted to gain revenge for an earlier military defeat at the hands of Mahmud's father, who had controlled Ghazni in the late 980s and had cost Jayapala extensive territory. His son Anandapala succeeded him and continued the struggle to avenge his father's suicide. He assembled a powerful confederacy which faced defeat as his elephant turned back from the battle in a crucial moment, turning the tide into Mahmud's favor once more at Lahore in 1008 bringing Mahmud into control of the Shahi dominions of Udbandpura.
Following the defeat of the Rajput Confederacy, after deciding to retaliate for their combined resistance, Mahmud then set out on regular expeditions against them, leaving the conquered kingdoms in the hands of Hindu vassals annexing only the Punjab region. He also vowed to raid and loot the wealthy region of northwestern India every year.
In 1001 Mahmud of Ghazni had first invaded modern Afghanistan and Pakistan. Mahmud defeated, captured and later released the Shahi ruler Jayapala, who had moved his capital to Peshawar (modern Pakistan). Jaya Pala killed himself and was succeeded by his son Ananda Pala. In 1005 Mahmud of Ghazni invaded Bhatia (probably Bhera) and in 1006 he invaded Multan at which time Ananda Pala's army attacked him.The following year Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and crushed Sukha Pala, ruler of Bathinda (who had become ruler by rebelling against the Shahi kingdom). In 1013, during Mahmud's 8th expedition into eastern Afghanistan and Pakistan, the Shahi kingdom (which was then under Trilochana Pala, son of Ananda Pala) was overthrown.
In 1014 Mahmud led an expedition to Thanesar. The next year he unsuccessfully attacked Kashmir. In 1018, he attacked Mathura and defeated a coalition of rulers there while also killing a ruler called Chandra Pala. In 1021 Mahmud supported the Kannauj king against Chandela Ganda, who was defeated. That same year Shahi Trilochana Pala was killed at Rahib and his son Bhima Pala succeeded him. Lahore (modern Pakistan) was annexed by Mahmud. Mahmud besieged Gwalior, in 1023, where he was made a payment. Mahmud attacked Somnath, in 1025, and its ruler Bhima Deva I fled. The next year, he captured Somnath and marched to Kachch against Bhima Deva. That same year Mahmud also attacked the Jat people of Jud.
The Indian kingdoms of Nagarkot, Thanesar, Kannauj, Gwalior, and Ujjain were all conquered and left in the hands of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist kings as vassal states and he was pragmatic enough not to shirk making alliances and enlisting local peoples into his armies at all ranks. Destroying the temples and monuments, would destroy the will power of the Hindus attacking the Empire since Mahmud never kept a permanent presence in the northwestern subcontinent; Nagarkot, Thanesar, Mathura, Kannauj, Kalinjar(1023) and Somnath all submitted or were raided. Mahmud's armies stripped the temples of their wealth completely and then destroyed them at Maheshwar, Jwalamukhi, Narunkot and Dwarka. During the period of Mahmud invasion, the Sindhi Swarankar Community and other Hindus who escaped conversion fled from Sindh to escape sectarian violence.
Patron of the arts and poetry
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Mahmud brought whole libraries from Rayy and Isfahan to Ghazni. He even demanded that the Khwarizmshah court send its men of learning to Ghazni.
The notable poet Ferdowsi, after laboring 27 years, went to Ghazni and presented the Shahnameh to Mahmud. There are various stories in medieval texts describing the lack of interest shown by Mahmud in Ferdowsi and his life's work. According to historians, Mahmud had promised Ferdowsi a dinar for every distich written in the Shahnameh (60,000 dinars), but later retracted and presented him with dirhams (20,000 dirhams), the equivalent at that time of only 200 dinars.
The last four years of Mahmud's life were spent contending with the influx of Oghuz Turks from Central Asia, the Buyid dynasty and rebellions by the Seljuk Empire. Initially the Seljuks were repulsed by Mahmud and retired to Khwarezm but Togrül and Çagrı led them to capture Merv and Nishapur (1028–1029). Later they repeatedly raided and traded territory with his successors across Khorasan and Balkh and even sacked Ghazni in 1037. In 1040 at the Battle of Dandanaqan, they decisively defeated Mahmud's son, Mas'ud I resulting in Mas'ud abandoning most of his western territories to the Seljuks.
Sultan Mahmud died on 30 April 1030. His mausoleum is located in Ghazni, Afghanistan.
- 994: Gained the title of Saif ad-Dawla and became Governor of Khorasan under service to Nuh II of the Samanid Empire in civil strife
- 995: The Samanid rebels Fa'iq (leader of a court faction that had defeated Alptigin's nomination for Emir) and Abu Ali expel Mahmud from Nishapur. Mahmud and Sabuktigin defeat Samanid rebels at Tus.
- 997: Kara-Khanid Khanate
- 999: Khorasan, Balkh, Herat, Merv from the Samanids. A concurrent invasion from the north by the Qarakhanids under Elik Khan (Nasr Khan) ends Samanid rule.
- 1000: Sistan from Saffarid dynasty
- 1001: Gandhara: Sultan Mahmud defeats Raja Jayapala at Peshawar; Jayapala subsequently abdicates and commits suicide.
- 1002: Seistan: Imprisoned Khuluf
- 1004: Bhatia (Bhera) annexed after it fails to pay its yearly tribute. in 1004 CE
- 1005-6: Multan: Fateh Daud, the Ismaili ruler of Multan revolts and enlists the aid of Anandapala. Mahmud massacres the Ismailis of Multan in the course of his conquest. Anandapala is defeated at Peshawar and pursued to Sodra (Wazirabad).
Ghor and Muhammad ibn Suri then captured by Mahmud, made prisoner along with his son and taken to Ghazni, where Muhammad ibn Suri died. Appoints Sewakpal to administer the region. Anandapala flees to Kashmir, fort in the hills on the western border of Kashmir.
- 1005: Defends Balkh and Khorasan against Nasr I of the Kara-Khanid Khanate and recaptures Nishapur from Isma'il Muntasir of the Samanids.
- 1005: Sewakpal rebels and is defeated.
- 1008: Mahmud defeats the Rajput/Indian Confederacy (Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Kannauj, Delhi, and Ajmer) in battle between Und and Peshawar, and captures the Shahi treasury at Kangra, Himachal Pradesh.
- Note: A historical narrative states in this battle, under the onslaught of the Gakhars, Mahmud's army was about to retreat when King Anandapala's elephant took flight and turned the tide of the battle.
- 1010: Ghor; against Amir Suri
- 1010: Multan revolts. Abul Fatah Dawood imprisoned for life at Ghazni.
- 1012-1013: Sacks Thanesar
- 1012: Invades Gharchistan and deposes its ruler Abu Nasr Muhammad.
- 1012: Demands and receives remainder of the province of Khorasan from the Abassid Caliph. Then demands Samarkand as well but is rebuffed.
- 1013: Bulnat: Defeats Trilochanpala.
- 1014: Kafiristan attacked
- 1015: Mahmud's army sacks Lahore, but his expedition to Kashmir fails, due to inclement weather.
- 1015: Khwarezm: Marries his sister to Abul Abbas Mamun of Khwarezm who dies in the same year in a rebellion. Moves to quell the rebellion and installs a new ruler and annexes a portion.
- 1017: Kannauj, Meerut, and Muhavun on the Yamuna, Mathura and various other regions along the route. While moving through Kashmir he levies troops from vassal Prince for his onward march, Kannauj and Meerut submitted without battle.
- 1018-1020: Sacks the town of Mathura.
- 1021: Raises Ayaz to kingship, awarding him the throne of Lahore
- 1021: Kalinjar attacks Kannauj: he marches to their aid and finds the last Shahi King, Trilochanpaala, encamped as well. No battle, the opponents leave their baggage trains and withdraw from the field. Also fails to take the fort of Lokote again. Takes Lahore on his return. Trilochanpala flees to Ajmer. First Muslim governors appointed east of the Indus River.
- 1023: Lahore. He gains tribute from Kalinjar and Gwalior: Trilochanpala, the grandson of Jayapala, is assassinated by his own troops. Official annexation of Punjab by Ghazni. Also fails to take the Lohara fort on the western border of Kashmir for the second time.
- 1024: Ajmer, Nehrwala, Kathiawar: This raid was his last major campaign. The concentration of wealth at Somnath was renowned, and consequently it became an attractive target for Mahmud, as it had previously deterred most invaders. The temple and citadel were sacked, and most of its defenders massacred.
- 1024: Somnath: Mahmud sacked the temple and is reported to have personally hammered the temple's gilded Lingam to pieces and the stone fragments were carted back to Ghazni, where they were incorporated into the steps of the city's new Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) in 1026. He placed a new king on the throne in Gujarat as a tributary. His return detoured across the Thar Desert to avoid the armies of Ajmer and other allies on his return.
- 1025: Marched against the Jats of the Jood mountains who harried his army on its return from the sack of Somnath.
- 1027: Rey, Isfahan, Hamadan from the Buyids Dynasty.
- 1028, 1029: Merv, Nishapur lost to Seljuq dynasty
Mahmud's campaigns seem to have been motivated by religious zeal against Buddhists, Jains and Hindus. The wealth plundered from the Rajput Confederacy and his Indian campaigns went a long way towards meeting those ends. By 1027, Mahmud had accomplished this as well as looting most of modern-day North-Western India as well as obtaining formal recognition of Ghazni's sovereignty from the Abbasid Caliph, al-Qadir, as well as the honorific titles of Wali Amir al-Muminin ("Friend of the Amir al-Mu'minin") and Yamin al-Dawla wa Amin al-Milla ("Right Hand of the State and Keeper of the Community").
Attitude towards religious freedom
Mahmud, according to several contemporary accounts, considered himself a Ghazi who waged jihad on the Hindus. His plunder of Hindu temples and centers of learning is noted later in the article. Al-Biruni writes:
In the interest of his successors he constructed, in order to weaken the Indian frontier, those roads on which afterwards his son 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.
Various historical sources such as Martin Ewans, E.J. Brill and Farishta have recorded the introduction of Islam to Kabul and other parts of Afghanistan to the conquests of and Mahmud:
The Arabs advanced through Sistan and conquered Sindh early in the eighth century. Elsewhere however their incursions were no more than temporary, and it was not until the rise of the Saffarid dynasty in the ninth century that the frontiers of Islam effectively reached Ghazni and Kabul. Even then a Hindu dynasty the Hindushahis, held Gandhara and eastern borders. From the tenth century onwards as Persian language and culture continued to spread into Afghanistan, the focus of power shifted to Ghazni, where a Turkish dynasty, who started by ruling the town for the Samanid dynasty of Bokhara, proceeded to create an empire in their own right. The greatest of the Ghaznavids was Muhmad who ruled between 998 and 1030. He expelled the Hindus from Gandhara, made no fewer than 17 raids into northwestern India,
He encouraged mass conversions to Islam, in India as well as in Afghanistan
Attack on 'Kafiristan':
Another crusade against idolatry was at length resolved on; and Mahmud led the seventh one against Nardain, the then boundary of India, or the eastern part of the Hindu Kush; separating as Firishta says, the countries of Hindustan and Turkistan and remarkable for its excellent fruit. The country into which the army of Ghazni marched appears to have been the same as that now called Kafirstan, where the inhabitants were and still are, idolaters and are named the Siah-Posh, or black-vested by the Muslims of later times. In Nardain there was a temple, which the army of Ghazni destroyed; and brought from thence a stone covered with certain inscriptions, which were according to the Hindus, of great antiquity.
Massacres of Ismailis: In 965 CE, Multan was conquered by Halam b. Shayban, an Ismaili da’i. Soon after, Multan was attacked by the Ghaznavids, destabilizing the Ismaili state. Mahmud invaded Multan in 1005 CE, conducting a series of campaigns during which the Ismailis of Multan were massacred.
"Of the mercenaries, not an insubstantial number were Indians and, presumably, Hindus. Indian soldiers under their commander, referred to as Suvendhary, remained royal to Mahmud. They had their own commander, the sipasalar-i-Hinduwan, lived in their own quarter in Ghazni and continued with their religion. When the Turkish commander of the troops rebelled, the command was given to a Hindu, Tilak, and he is commended for his loyalty. Complaints are made about the severity with which Muslims and Christians were killed by Indian troops fighting for Mahmud in Seistan."
It was further noted:
"Ghaznavid coins issued in north-western India have bilingual legends written in Arabic and Sharda scripts. Some carry Islamic titles together with the portrayal of the Shaiva bull, Nandi, and the legend shri samanta deva.The reference in the latter remains ambiguous. A dirham struck at Lahore carried a legend in the Sharda script and a rendering in colloquial Sanskrit of the Islamic Kalima..."
"[H]is (Mahmud's) expeditions against India were not motivated by religion but by love of plunder."
Destruction of Somnath Temple
Mahmud conquered and destroyed thousands of Hindu temples during his raids including the famous Somnath Temple, which he destroyed in 1025 AD, killing over 50,000 people who tried to defend it. The defenders included the 90-year-old clan leader Ghogha Rana. Mahmud had the gilded lingam broken into pieces and had them made into steps for his mosque and palace.
The following extract is from “Wonders of Things Created, and marvels of Things Existing” by Zakariya al-Qazwini, a 13th-century Arab geographer. It contains the description of Somnath temple and its destruction:
Somnath: celebrated city of India, situated on the shore of the sea, and washed by its waves. Among the wonders of that place was the temple in which was placed the idol called Somnath. This idol was in the middle of the temple without anything to support it from below, or to suspend it from above. It was held in the highest honor among the Hindus, and whoever beheld it floating in the air was struck with amazement, whether he was a Musulman or an infidel. The Hindus used to go on pilgrimage to it whenever there was an eclipse of the moon, and would then assemble there to the number of more than a hundred thousand.
When the Sultan Yaminu-d Daula Mahmud Bin Subuktigin (Mahmud of Ghazni) went to wage religious war against India, he made great efforts to capture and destroy Somnath, in the hope that the Hindus would then become Muhammadans. As a result thousands of Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam. He arrived there in the middle of Zi-l k’ada, 416 A.H. (December, 1025 A.D.). “The king looked upon the idol with wonder, and gave orders for the seizing of the spoil, and dinars."
Historians including Romila Thapar, A.K Majumdar and Richard M. Eaton have questioned the iconoclastic historiography of this incident. Thapar quoted Majmudar:
"But, as is well known, Hindu sources do not give any information regarding the raids of Sultan Mahmud, so that what follows is based solely on the testimony of Muslim authors."
Thapar also argued against the prevalent narrative :
"Yet in a curiously contradictory manner, the Turko- Persian narratives were accepted as historically valid and even their internal contradictions were not given much attention, largely because they approximated more closely to the current European sense of history than did the other sources."
Historian Richard M. Eaton termed Ghaznavi's attacks as a part of "political economy" for "materiel reasons" rather than anything to do with religion.
Regional attitudes towards Mahmud's memory
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In Afghanistan and Pakistan Mahmud is celebrated as a hero and a great patron of the arts, architecture, literature, and Persian revivalism as well as a vanguard of Islam and a paragon of virtue and piety who established the standard of Islam in India. The military of Pakistan has named its short-range ballistic missile in the honour of Mahmud of Ghazni, the Ghaznavi Missile. In addition to this, the Pakistan Military Academy, where cadets are trained for becoming Officers of the Pakistan Army also gives tribute the Mahmud of Ghazni by naming one of its twelve companies; Ghaznavi Company.
In modern Pakistan he is hailed as a conquering hero who established the standard of Islam upon heathen land, while in India he is a raiding iconoclastic invader, bent upon the loot and plunder of a peaceful Hindu population. In India, Mahmud is therefore seen as a ruthless invader who plundered the temples of India and caused long lasting damage. His attacks on Mathura, Gandhara and Somnath are seen as decisive events in the history of North India and a sign of its subjugation to Islamic invasions. The fact that Mahmud never tried consolidating his conquests choosing instead to target a different region and different temples on each of his invasions is seen as evidence that he was interested in loot.
Iranians remember him as an Orthodox Sunni who was responsible for the revival of the Persian culture by commissioning and appointing Persians to high offices in his administration as ministers, viziers and generals. In addition Iranians remember him for the promotion and preference of Persian language instead of Turkish and patronage of great nationalist poets and scholars such as Ferdowsi and Al-Biruni as well as his Lion and Sun flag which was once a flag symbol in the Imperial state of Iran.
Mahmud of Ghazni, under his reign the region broke away from the Samanid sphere of influence. While he acknowledged the Abbasids as caliph as a matter of form, he was also granted the title Sultan as recognition of his independence.
By the end of his reign, the Ghaznavid Empire extended from Ray in the west to Samarkand in the north-east, and from the Caspian Sea to the Yamuna. Although his raids carried his forces across the South Asia, only a portion of Punjab and Sindh in modern-day Pakistan, came under his semi-permanent rule; Kashmir, the Doab, Rajasthan and Gujarat remained under the control of the local Hindu dynasties.
The booty brought back to Ghazni was enormous, and contemporary historians (e.g. Abolfazl Beyhaghi, Ferdowsi) give descriptions of the magnificence of the capital, as well as of the conqueror's munificent support of literature. He transformed Ghazni, the first centre of Persian literature, into one of the leading cities of Central Asia, patronizing scholars, establishing colleges, laying out gardens, and building mosques, palaces, and caravansaries. He patronized Ferdowsi to write the Shahnameh; and, after his expedition across the Gangetic plains in 1017, of Al-Biruni to compose his Tarikh Al-Hind in order to understand the Indians and their beliefs.
On 30 April 1030, Sultan Mahmud died in Ghazni, at the age of 59. Sultan Mahmud had contracted malaria during his last invasion. The medical complication from malaria had caused lethal tuberculosis. During his rule, universities were founded to study various subjects such as mathematics, religion, the humanities, and medicine. Islam was the main religion of his kingdom. Persian spoken in the empire was made to the official language.
The Ghaznavid Empire was ruled by his successors for 157 years. The expanding Seljuk Turkish empire absorbed most of the Ghaznavid west. The Ghorids captured Ghazni in 1150 A.D., and Mu'izz al-Din (also known as Muhammad of Ghori) captured the last Ghaznavid stronghold at Lahore in 1187. The Ghaznavids went on to live as the Nasher Khans in their home of Ghazni until the 20th century.
The Song Dynasty customs inspector Zhao Rugua (趙汝适) wrote a two-volume work about the countries and people of the known world (according to the Chinese) called the Zhufan Zhi (諸蕃志, "Description of the Barbarous Peoples," c. 1225). The first volume has an entry for Ghazni which reads:
The king's arms reach down to below his knees. He has an [sic] hundred chargers, every one full six feet high, also some dozen head of mules, three feet high, which, on excursions, he rides alternately with the horses. His bow pulls several piculs, so that five or seven ordinary men cannot string it. When he is on horseback, he carries an iron mace weighing full fifty catties. ... [A]ll the people of the west fear him.
Sultan Mahmud was born on 2 November 971 AD in Ghazni to first Ghaznavid Sultan Sebüktigin, Yusuf Sebüktigin being his younger brother. He was married to a woman named Kausari Jahan and had twin sons Mohammad and Ma'sud, who succeeded him one after the other, while his grandson by Mas'ud, Maw'dud Ghaznavi was also ruler of the empire but many of 18th century books nullify such claims.His sister Sitr-i-Mu'alla was married to Dawood bin Ataullah Alavi also known as Ghazi Salar Sahu, whose son was Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud
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- 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, publisherBritish Library
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