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Rai dynasty

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Rai dynasty
489–632
Map of Sindh (Rais), c. 550–600 CE.[1]
GovernmentMonarchy
History 
• Established
489
• Disestablished
632
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Hind (Sasanian province)
Brahmin dynasty of Sindh
Today part ofSindh, Pakistan

The Rai dynasty (c. 489–632 CE) was a polity of ancient Sindh.[2] All that is known about the dynasty comes from the Chach Nama; recent scholarship has tried to corroborate the existence of the dynasty from contemporary coin finds but such attempts remain speculative and unconvincing.

Scholarship

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Pre-Islamic Sindh has been the subject of voluminous scholarship concerning the eve of Arab conquests. Under the British Raj, as colonial bureaucrats mined the Chachnama to justify their invasion of Khairpur citing the tyranny of the Muslim rulers, the Rai dynasty received some attention.[3][a] In modern scholarship, the dynasty has attracted sparse attention except from a few numismatists.[5]

Background

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Coinage attests to the indirect influence of Sasanians over Sindh since the reign of Shapur II.[6][b] In the last Sassanian mints discovered from the region—of Peroz I (r. 459–484)—a new Brahmi legend "Ranaditya Satya" appears on the reverse, which was probably the name of an eponymous local ruler.[6][c] Sometime soon, Sindh appears to have fallen off the orbit of Sassanians who were reeling under Hephthalite invasions.[6] The Rai dynasty's origin might have laid in this power vacuum.[5]

Sources

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Sindh, as a region, had no extant written histories until the late-medieval era and our knowledge of the Rai dynasty remains rudimentary.[4] No definitive epigraphic or archaeological evidence, pertaining to the dynasty, can be located.[4][d]

The lone literary source remains Chach Nama — allegedly, a Persian translation (c. 13th-century) of an undated Arabic text.[2][3] Though the accuracy of this claim — and hence, historical accuracy of the Chach Nama — remains disputed among scholars,[e] its narrative has influenced multiple Persian and Oriental histories of the region including Tarikh i Sind (17th c.), Tuhfatul karaam (18th c.), and British Gazettes.[4]

Rulers

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The Rais reigned for a period of 144 years c. 489 – 632 A.D. They allegedly had familial ties with other rulers of South Asia including Kashmir, Kabul, Rajasthan, Gujarat etc.[12] However, their origins remain unknown.[f]

Rai Diwaji, Rai Sahiras I, and Rai Sahasi I

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Nothing is known about the first three kings; their names are mentioned in a single line in the Chachnama, where Wazir Buddhiman describes the territorial expanses and administrative structure of Rais under Rai Sahiras II to Chach.[2][13]

Rai Sahiras II

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The Chachnama in its opening verses note Rai Sahiras II to be famed for his justice and generosity; his coffers overflowed with wealth.[12] The kingdom was divided into four units, each under a governor or a vassal.[14] The southern unit extended from the coasts of Arabian Sea to Lohana and Samona—including Nerun and Debal port—and had its capital at Brahmanabad.[14] The central unit spanned across the areas around Jankan and Rujaban to the Makran frontier; it had Sewistan as its capital.[14] The western unit extended over a vast area—Batia, Chachpur and Dehrpur—of western Sindh; Iskalanda was the capital.[14] The northern unit was centered around Multan, adjoining Kashmir.[14]

Sahiras II is said to have met his death while attempting to ward off an invasion by the Sassanian King of Nimroz into Kirman; he battled till death despite much of his forces deserting the battle. Makran and other unknown territories were lost in the conflict.[2][14][13]

Rai Sahasi II

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Under his regime, the kingdom exhibited socioeconomic prosperity; Sahasi II is praised as a benevolent ruler who chose to abide by his counsel.[13] He was married to Sohman Devi.[12]

During his regime, Chach, a poor learned Brahmin was inducted under minister/chamberlain Ram in the epistolary office.[12] He impressed Sahasi II with his expertise and rose through the ranks quickly, eventually becoming his personal secretary after Ram's death.[12][13] As Chach gained access to the interiors of palace, Devi became enamored of him and proposed to marry him but met with Chach's rejection; Chachnama explains that he did not wish to incur the King's wrath and swerve further away from the scriptural ideals of a Brahminic life.[12][13] Yet, Chach accepted her request for providing company and their relationship blossomed.[12]

Sahasi II, ignorant of Chach's ways, continued to let him gain unprecedented control in the affairs of the state until his natural death.[12]

Usurpation

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On Sahasi II's death, Devi proposed that Chach usurp the throne.[12] He conceded to Devi's plan, albeit unwillingly, and the news of Sahasi II's death was withheld from public; in the meanwhile, the familial claimants to the throne were incited against each other in a fatal internecine warfare.[12][g] Then Devi proclaimed that Sahasi II, though recovering, was unable to hold court and had appointed Chach as the caretaker ruler for his lifetime.[12][13] The elites were lured into supporting the coverup and Chach ruled as the de facto King for about six months.[13]

However, the news of the King's death had somehow made way to Sahasi II's brother—Rai Mahrit, then ruler of Chittor—who claimed the throne and mounted a military offensive against Chach.[12][13] Chachnama portrays Chach to have been ambiguous about the morality of taking on a legitimate successor before being coaxed by Devi, who had shamed his masculinity.[2][12] Having secured a freak victory,[h] Chach commissioned triumphal arches and held public feasts winning over the masses; soon, Devi had him declared as the heir to the throne, being a man of unsurmountable intellect and bravery, and would marry him with the approval of the court.[2][12][13]

Thus the Brahman dynasty was established, in what is portrayed in Chachnama, as the intrigues of a femme fatale working in conjunction with a willing-yet-ethical apprentice.[2][12] Chach would later have to subdue protracted resistance from Bachhera, a relative of Sahasi II and the governor (or vassal) of Multan province.[13]

Notes

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  1. ^ Alexander Cunningham proposed an alternate chronology (? – >641 A.D.) — primarily on the basis of local coin-finds and equating Sindhu with the Sin tu kingdom, as described in the Great Tang Records on the Western Regions — identifying the first two Rais as Toramana and Mihirakula, and the latter three as Tegin Shah, Vasudeva, and an anonymous successor.[4]
  2. ^ Abundant Sasanian mints but with significant variations —in typology, style, and especially, denomination— have been excavated from Sind.[6] Literary sources do not record Sasanian activity and details thereof in these frontier regions.
  3. ^ Two series of Peroz's coin (first crown and third crown) are observed in Sindh. Only in the second, does this legend appear replacing the two attendants of the fire temple![6]
  4. ^ Alexander M. Fishman and Ian Todd speculate a series of gold dinars and silver dammas found in the region — similar to the Ranaditya Satya mints, in deriving from Sassanian coinage but bearing different legends and different crown patterns — to have been minted by the Rais.[5] The legends might be read as Sri Shahi Rasra(…), Sri Jayataka, Sri Harsharuka, and Sri Bharharsha some of which match, albeit roughly, with speculative reconstructions obtainable from the Chachnama — Diwaj > Diwaditya > Devaditya alias Ranaditya (?), Sahiras I > Shahi Rasra(…) (?), Sahsi I > ?, Sahiras II > Sri Harsha (?), and Sahsi II > ?.[5][7] Pankaj Tandon does not find the attribution convincing.[8]
  5. ^ Chachnama purports to be a Persian translation by `Ali Kufi (13th-century) of an undated, original Arabic text which is not extant anymore. Manan Ahmed rejects Kufi's assertion and hypothesizes it to be an original work that drew on then-extant histories to imagine an alternative romantic-nationalist past of Sindh. In contrast, Irfan Habib and Jaakko Hämeen-Anttila emphasizes on unique features of the text that would have been impossible without a literal translation and rejects Asif's doubts on the veracity of the events described in Chachnama,[9][10] as does André Wink criticizing Asif's intensely source-critical approach.[11]
  6. ^ Chintaman Vinayak Vaidya held the Rais to be descendants of Mauryas and hence, Shudra, by caste.[4] This descent was proposed on the basis of Rai Mahrit, then ruler of Chittor claiming to be Sahasi II's brother. Rulers of pre-Sisodia Rajasthan usually claimed a descent from Mauryas and this identification went perfectly with Xuanzang's noting the King of Sin-tu to be a Sudra.
  7. ^ The claimants were asked to meet the frail King, one by one. In reality, Devi had each of them imprisoned and claimed that it was the King who had them imprisoned out of a quarrel with some other claimant. Thus, it was necessary to kill him to gain King's trusts, and freedom.
  8. ^ Chach challenged Mahrit to a one-on-one combat, claiming his Brahmin origins had precluded learning the skills of cavalry. However, in the combat, Chach mounted a horse and beheaded Mahrit. Mahrit's forces went into a disarray receiving the news of his death.

References

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  1. ^ Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (1978). A Historical atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 26, 145 map XIV.1 (i). ISBN 0226742210.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Wink, Andre (1996). Al Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World. BRILL. pp. 133, 152–153. ISBN 90-04-09249-8.
  3. ^ a b Asif 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Mirchandani, B. D. (1985). Glimpses of Ancient Sind: A Collection of Historical Papers. Sindh: Saraswati M. Gulrajani. pp. 25, 53–56.
  5. ^ a b c d Fishman, A. M.; Todd, I. J.; Pieper, W. (2021). "Recently Discovered Gold, Silver and Copper Coins of pre-Islamic Sindh and the Yashaditya Series". Numismatische Zeitschrift. 127: 389–392.
  6. ^ a b c d e Schindel, Nikolaus; Alram, Michael; Daryaee, Touraj; Pendleton, Elizabeth (2016). The Parthian and Early Sasanian Empires: adaptation and expansion. Oxbow Books. pp. 126–130. ISBN 9781785702105.
  7. ^ Habib, Irfan (2012). "Linguistic Materials from Eighth-century Sind: An Exploration of the Chachnama". In Jafri, S.Z.H (ed.). Recording the Progress of Indian History: Symposia Papers of the Indian History Congress, 1992–2010. Delhi: Primus Books. pp. 80–81, 86.
  8. ^ Tandon, Pankaj (2022). "Research on the Guptas and (Iranian) Huns, 2014–2020" (PDF). In Alram, Michael; Bodzek, Jaroslaw; Bursche, Aleksander (eds.). The Survey of Numismatic Research 2014–2020. Vol. II. International Numismatic Council.
  9. ^ Habib, Irfan (June 2017). "Book Review: Manan Ahmad Asif, A Book of Conquest: The Chachnåma and Muslim Origins in South Asia". Studies in People's History. 4 (1): 105–109. doi:10.1177/2348448917694235. ISSN 2348-4489. S2CID 165517641.
  10. ^ Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko (2018-10-02). "A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia". Islam and Christian–Muslim Relations. 29 (4): 536–538. doi:10.1080/09596410.2018.1522158. hdl:20.500.11820/0c6e731b-6baf-4caa-a86b-d6b626bc2f1c. ISSN 0959-6410. S2CID 150269490.
  11. ^ Andre Wink. Review of Asif, Manan Ahmed, A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia. H-Asia, H-Net Reviews. May, 2017.
  12. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Asif, Manan Ahmed (2016). A Book of Conquest: The Chachnama and Muslim Origins in South Asia. Harvard University Press. pp. 65, 81–82, 131–134. ISBN 9780674660113.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Baloch, N. A., ed. (1983). Fathnamah I-Sind: Being the Original Record of the Arab Conquest of The Sind. Islamabad, Pakistan: Institute of Islamic History, Culture and Civilization: Islamic University.
  14. ^ a b c d e f Siddiqi, Iqtidar Husain (2013). Indo-Persian Historiography Up to the Thirteenth Century. Primus Books. p. 31.