Sikandar Shah Miri

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
(Redirected from Sikandar Butshikan)

Sikandar Shah
Sultan of Kashmir
Sultan al-Eazim
7th Sultan of the Shah Mir Sultanate
Reign1389–1413 CE
SuccessorAli Shah
Sikandar Shah Miri
HouseShah Miri dynasty
ReligionSunni Islam

Sikandar Shah (Sikandar Butshikan – "Sikandar, the Iconoclast")[1] was the sixth sultan of the Shah Miri dynasty of Kashmir from 1389 to 1413.[2]


The only contemporaneous source that exists is the Rajatarangini (lit. Flow of Succession of Kings) by Jonaraja.[3][4] Jonaraja was the Brahmin court-poet of Sikandar's successor Zain-ul-Abidin and was commissioned to continue Kalhana's Rajatarangini.[4] One manuscript of his work—edited between 1561 and 1588 by an anonymous person using information from other sources—emends certain portions of the text in the margins; he is conventionally called Pseud. J. (and the work, Ps-JRT) in scholarship.[4]

Extant Persian sources, including ⁠Baharistan-i-shahi (anon.), Tohfatu'l-Ahbab (anon.) and Tarikh-i-Kashmir corpus, were written relatively later and drew from recensions of Rajatarangini(s) but they provide considerable additional information.[2] These were later used by authors starting from Abul Fazl, the first chronicler from outside Kashmir and Nizamuddin Ahmad to independent Persian chroniclers to colonial historians and Kashmiri Pandits, with different ideological proclivities, to produce varying strands of histories suiting different sociopolitical goals.[5]


The Shah Miri dynasty likely descended from Khasa chieftains of Panjgabbar valley; Shah Mir himself was the first to settle in Kashmir.[6][7][a] He began to serve in the royal court of the fledgling Deva Dynasty and before long, became the prime-minister of Suhadeva.[6][8] Soon, he leveraged a power-vacuum in the wake of a crippling Mongol raid to help Rinchan, a Buddhist from Ladakh, usurp the throne and after his death, waged a successful war against widow Kota Rani to claim the kingdom for himself.[2][7]

The Shah Mirs actively patronaged Islam (esp. Sufism) and led to the formation of a new social order that chipped away at Brahminic Hinduism.[8][7] A contemporary Shaivite mystic Lal Ded borrowed from Sufism and local cults to attack core tenets of Brahminism and likely, serviced conversion to Islam among the lower strata of society.[8][b] By Sikandar's time, a considerable section of the populace had already adopted Islam.[8] Nonetheless, the Kings continued to actively patronage Hinduism: Alaud'din had commissioned a Hindu Matha and Qutubu'd-Din had held royal yajnas.[6][8]

Birth and Ascension[edit]

Sikandar was the great-grandson of Shah Mir; he was the eldest child of Qutubu'd-Din and Queen Sura (var. Subhata), and was born sometime around 1380.[2][4] Because he was a minor at the time of his father's death—9 August 1389—, his mother had to act as a regent for a while.[2][4] During her regency, Sura consented to Prime Minister Rai Magre (var. Uddaka), who was also her cousin, burning his own daughter and son-in-law Muhammad, son of a fellow minister Sahaka, on charges of conspiring against Sikandar.[4][9] Magre went on to poison Haybat, Sikandar's younger brother and even Sahaka.[4] Sikandar, sensing a possible usurpation of the throne by Magre, chose to exert himself as the ruler c. 1391.[4]

Military campaigns[edit]

Except for a successful invasion of Ladakh under the command of Rai Magre, Sikandar did not annex any new territory.[2] Soon after this victory, Magre instigated a rebellion and assassinated Sobha's (Sikandar's first wife) brother[c] before turning against Sikandar with his proteges.[4][9] The rebellion was ably suppressed with aid from Laddaraja's men without even resorting to warfare and Magre was imprisoned, whence he committed suicide.[4][9][d] Palas —probably, a Persian tribe— who aided Magre were brutally suppressed too.[4]

In December 1398, Timur had camped on the banks of the Indus river and ordered Sikandar to pay tribute.[2][10] Despite Sikandar's meek acceptance fearing a military fallout, the order was eventually waived by Timur himself upon being judged to be way above Sikandar's financial capacity.[2][10] While the two did not meet, they shared a mutual admiration and Timur gifted a pair of male and female elephants to Sikandar.[2][4][e] Sikandar was ecstatic on receiving them.[4]

C. 1400, a successful war was waged against Firuz, the Hindu Shahi ruler of Ohind (var. Udabhandapura and Sahibhanga) after he refused to recognize Sikandar's suzerainty.[2][4] Sikandar went on to marry Firuz's daughter Mera whilst giving away one of his daughters from Sobha for marriage to Firuz.[2][4] Another successful campaign was mounted against Pala Deo (var. Billadeva), the Rajah of Jammu, after he refused to pay taxes; Jasrath Khokhar was installed as a vassal and Sikandar again entered into a matrimonial alliance with his daughter whilst giving away another of his daughters from Sobha for marriage to Pala Deo.[2][4]


The overall economic condition was decent.[4] Jonaraja remarks that the Goddess of Fortune found an abode in Sikandar — "the pleasure of [his] welfare elude[d] verbal description."[4] A welfare state was installed; oppressive taxes were abolished while free schools and hospitals (Daru'l-Shifa) were opened for public use.[2][11] Waqfs were endowed to shrines and numerous Sufi preachers from Central Asia were provided with jagirs and installed in positions of authority.[2][f] Land holdings were allotted to vast sections of society including scholars, religious figureheads and the poor.[2][11] The office of Shaikhu'l-Islam was established to provide monetary stipends and alms to the needy, pilgrims, travelers, physicians, scholars and other deserving people.[11][12] Sharia was enacted into local law — music, dance, gambling, and intoxicants were prohibited.[2]

Suppression of Hindus[edit]

Jonaraja argues that Sikandar's rule terminated Kashmir's long-standing tolerant culture.[2][13][14][15] So do Baharistan-i-shahi and Tohfatu'l-Ahbab, which note that Sikandar cleansed Kashmir of all heretics and infidels. Sikandar is epithetized as ''butshikan", the "idol-breaker."[16][11] Hasan Ali provides the most detailed narrative.

Sikandar commenced the destruction of Hindu and Buddhist shrines till, in the words of Jonaraja, no idol remained, even in the privacy of peoples' homes.[4][17] Jonaraja mentions temples at Martand (Sun God), Vijayesvara (Shiva), Cakradhara (Vishnu), Suresvari (unknown), Varaha (Vishnu), and Tripuresvara (unknown) to have been destroyed by Sikandar.[4][17] Hasan Ali adds three temples at Parihaspore, the Tarapitha temples at Iskander Pora, and a neighbouring Maha Shri Temple.[11] Pseud. J notes of a colossal statue of Buddha being razed and melted to produce coins.[4][17]

Ruins of the Martand Sun Temple, razed by Sikandar.[6] The extensive damage seen in the photo (1868) is also a product of several earthquakes.[18]

Afterwards, Sikandar's focus fell on abolishing caste system. All Brahmins unwilling to cede their hereditary caste privileges were taxed with Jizya.[4][g] In contrast to Jonaraja, who mentions Sikandar's successor (Ali Shah) as having initiated forced conversions for the first time, Hasan Ali notes of forced conversions under Sikandar's tenure; he is stated to have massacred all those who had refused to convert.[4][11][h]

Motivations and analysis[edit]

Upon a literary reading of Rajatarangini, Sikandar's zeal behind the Islamisation of society is attributable to Mir Muhammad Hamadani — an orthodox Sufi preacher —[i] who advocated the creation of a monolithic society based on Islam as the common denominator to the extent of prohibiting any maintenance of kafir shrines.[10][7][6][19] In particular, a Brahman neo-convert — Suhabhatta (var. Suhaka Bhatt and Saifuddin) who served as Sikandar's counsel — was accused of instigating the King into "[taking] delight day and night in demolishing the sculptures of the gods."[7][17][4][j] Notably, in Baharistan-i-shahi, both Sikandar and Suhabhatta play equal roles, with particular significance accorded to Sikandar's religious conviction.[11]

Chitralekha Zutshi, Richard G. Salomon and others reject the idea only religious motives lay behind Sikandar's actions and call for a nuanced contextual reading of Rajatarangini, a work that was commissioned by Sikandar's successor, who wished to bring back the Brahminical elite into the royal fold and establish Sanskrit as an integral part of a Sultanate that strove to be cosmopolitan.[20][21][22] According to Zutshi and Salomon, Sikandar's policies were guided by realpolitik[22] and, like with the previous Hindu rulers, were essentially an attempt to secure political legitimacy by asserting state power over Brahmans and gaining access to wealth controlled by Brahminical institutions.[20] J. L. Bhan notes the sole extant example of sculpture (see below) from Sikandar's reign to challenge simplistic notions of religious persecution.[23]

Walter Slaje disagrees about such proposed absence of religious motivation, in part, given the differential rituals of destruction undertaken by Hindu and Muslim kings with the latter rendering sites inoperable for long passages of time by massive pollution or outright conversion.[17][6] Slaje however concludes that the fierce opposition of Hindus to Muslim rulers, including Sikandar, primarily stemmed from their aversion to the slow disintegration of caste society under Islamic influence; Jonaraja explicitly mocks Hamadani's rejection of hereditary caste hierarchies.[17][6] Mohammed Ishaq Khan emphasizes on the centrality of caste in understanding Jonaraja's reception of Shah Miri — he notes that even Hindu figures like Lal Ded had found no place in the Rajatarangini(s) and other Pandit corpus of history, until recent times.[8]

Fringe revisionist scholars completely reject the narratives of persecution and accuse the Brahman chroniclers of wanton bias and myth-making, stemming from their personal jealousy at losing socio-economic dominance.[24][1][4][19]

Art and architecture[edit]

The locality of Nowhatta was constructed by Sikandar and his royal palace was established at the town center.[2][11] He constructed the Jamia Masjid at Srinagar—considered to be the finest example of Indo-Saracenic archirecture in Kashmir—,[k] and two other mosques at Bijbehara and Bavan.[2] The two-storied Bavan mosque was enclosed by a garden and doubled as Sikandar's spring-resort.[2] Sikandar also commissioned a new burial ground—Mazar-i-Salatin, on the bank of Jhelum near Zaina Kadal locale in downtown Srinagar—for the royals and elite.[11]

Jamia Masjid. Built in 1394 CE by Sikandar.

Numerous scholars arrived from Central Asia in his court: Sayiid Ahmad of Isfahan drafted a commentary on a Firazi text and also wrote epistles, Sayyid Muhammad Khawari wrote a commentary on Lum'at ul-I'tiqaad as well as another work (Khwar Nameh) of unknown genre, and Muhammad Baihaqi composed poems eulogizing Sikandar.[11] The first stone sculpture of Kashmir—a four-armed Brahma, argued to be one of the finest in the history of the subcontinent—was sculpted by son of a Buddhist Sanghapati in 1409 and dedicated to Sikandar.[25]

Personal life[edit]

Sikandar is believed to have had a puritanical temperament, and abstained from wine, festivities, and music — in tune with the laws decreed for his subjects.[2] Among his closest confidants were Suhabhatta, Sankara (chief physician), and Laddaraja.[4]

Issues, death, and succession[edit]

Sikandar was married to at-least three women: Mera; an unnamed daughter of Pala Deo; and, Sobha about whom Jonaraja does not provide any details.[4][l] He had at least five sons—Firuz (adopted by Sobha; sent alongside Hamadani, in his return journey to Iran), Shadi Khan (adopted by Sobha), Mir Khan (from Mira), Shahi Khan (from Mira), and Muhammad Khan (from Mira)—, and at least two daughters (both adopted by Sobha).[4][m] Sobha is understood to have been likely infertile.[4]

Sikandar is claimed to have met a prolonged and painful death[n], seemingly from elephantiasis, in April 1413.[4][o] After his death, Sikandar's eldest son Mir was anointed as the Sultan, having adopted the title of Ali Shah.[4] Two years later, Mir was succeeded by Shadi Khan, who adopted the name Zain-ul-Abidin.[7][1]


Under Ali Shah's regime, Suhabhatta became the Prime Minister and the de facto ruler; Jonaraja claims that persecution increased manifold with forced conversions becoming commonplace, Hindu customs being banned, and Brahmans being prohibited to leave the territory despite being forced into unemployment.[4] A regime of tolerance was however re-introduced under Zain-ul-Abidin, with Suhabhatta dead from tuberculosis; Hindu artists were provided with state-patronage, temples were rebuilt, Brahmans-in-exile were brought back, taxes reduced, and neo-Muslims were allowed to convert back.[2][7][3][14][4][p] Tohfatu'l-Ahbab, writing in the 16th century, blamed the poor state of Islam in the valley on Zain.[16]

Despite these reverses, the Islamisation of elite politics meant very few caste groups other than Brahmans took the opportunity of re-conversion and a largely irreversible change set-in in post-Sikandar Kashmir.[7][17][14] The Hindus receded into relative political unimportance, with Pandit nobles being last prominent in the court of Hasan Shah, Zain's grandson.[19] Nonetheless, Hinduism flourished among the masses even a century after Sikandar's death.[19][q]


  1. ^ Jonaraja notes Shah Mir to be the grandson of one Kuru Shah. He had (apparently) received a divine premonition from Mahadevi about Kashmir being the rightful territory of his lineage.
  2. ^ Ded was critical of untouchability, idol-worship etc.[8] She will in turn influence equally influential Sufi Rshis like Nund et al., who were more proactive to the cause of Islam.[8] All of these figures continue to remain influential among both Hindus and Muslims of modern Kashmir.
  3. ^ Named as Khunjyaraja.
  4. ^ Magre's soldiers had gathered at Vallamatha (unknown - doubtful whether any of the recensions preserved the name) for a scheduled faceoff at Pampore but dispersed after mistaking herds of cattle on the other bank of Jhelum as Sikandar's cavalry. Magre was chased by Sikandar himself and caught at Vitastapura.
  5. ^ This episode presents one of the few episodes where Jonaraja's account can be corroborated by Persian sources. Jonaraja had held Timur to have gifted the elephants out of fearing Sikandar, despite being powerful enough to have had Delhi razed to ashes!
  6. ^ Among them the most prominent were: Sayyid Hasan Shirazi, appointed as the Qazi of Kashmir; Sayyid Jalaluddin, a saint from Bukhara; and Baba Haji Adham, a logician from Balkh.[2] Baharistan-i-shahi provides detailed information about these figures.[11]
  7. ^ The tax was set at two pals of silver.[4] Jonaraja snarks at those Brahmins who left their "superior class" in lieu of some material gains.[4]
  8. ^ The zunnars of all these dead men weighed three ass-loads, when taken for incineration.[11]
  9. ^ Son of the famed Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (1314-1384) of the Kubrawiya order who had migrated from Huttalàn (present-day Tajikistan) to Shibu'd-Din's Kashmir in the wake of Timurid invasions. Ali Hamadani is believed to have played the most significant role in the propagation of Islam in Kashmir.
  10. ^ Hamadani went on to marry Suhabhatta's daughter after the death of his first wife (Bibi Taj Khatun).[2]
  11. ^ The architect was one Khwaja Sadru'd-Din from Khorasan.
  12. ^ Hasan speculates that Shobha might be the unnamed daughter of Pala Deo that is, SIkandar had two wives. It is likely implausible since Sikandar had bequeathed one of Shobha's (adopted) daughter to Deo!
  13. ^ Hasan gets these details wrong: he was not an expert in Sanskrit and had to mostly depend upon Dutt's error-ridden translation, which in the opinion of Slaje, "[is] completely unsuitable for purposes of research."[4]
  14. ^ To Jonaraja (as in the case of Kalhana), Kashmir was an "ethical space" dictated by karma. The tyrants always met unhappy deaths, if not assassinated. However, Jonaraja is careful to assert that the God of Death was angered not at him but at Suhabhatta; he had to merely atone for the sins of his subject.
  15. ^ A chronogram in Tarikh-i Hassan reports the year as 1417.[11]
  16. ^ Jonaraja—ever true to casting Kashmir as an ethical space—remarks that Mera's god-gifted purpose laid in saving Kashmir from Sikandar's depredations.
  17. ^ The biographer of the Nūrbakshī shaykh, Mir Shams-al Din Iraqi who visited Kashmir in 1487 CE, wrote: "Such atheistic and idolatrous practices continue to be observed in the houses of scholars, theologians and leading personalities of this land (Kashmir). They observe all the festivals and feasts of infidels and polytheists. The family members of the elders and leading persons of this land, especially their womenfolk, do not do anything without the permission of the infidels and permission of astrologers. In fact, in all activities of daily life like eating, drinking, sleeping, rising from sleep, travel and rest, astronomers and polytheists have a role to play."


  1. ^ a b c Obrock, Luther James (2015). Translation and History: The Development of a Kashmiri Textual Tradition from ca. 1000-1500 (Thesis). UC Berkeley.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Hasan, Mohibbul (2005). Kashmīr Under the Sultāns. Aakar Books. pp. 59–95. ISBN 978-81-87879-49-7.
  3. ^ a b Slaje, Walter (2004). Medieval Kashmir and the Science of History. South Asia Institute, University of Texas at Austin.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj Slaje, Walter (2014). Kingship in Kaśmīr (AD 1148‒1459) From the Pen of Jonarāja, Court Paṇḍit to Sulṭān Zayn al-'Ābidīn. Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis - 7. Germany. pp. 28–29, 36, 155–173, 185–189, 201–203, 213–215. ISBN 978-3869770888.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  5. ^ Zutshi, Chitralekha (7 July 2014). "A Literary Paradise : The Tarikh Tradition in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Kashmir". Kashmir's Contested Pasts: Narratives, Sacred Geographies, and the Historical Imagination. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199450671.003.0003. ISBN 978-0-19-945067-1.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Slaje, Walter (2019). "What Does it Mean to Smash an Idol? Iconoclasm in Medieval Kashmir as Reflected by Contemporaneous Sanskrit Sources". Brahma's Curse : Facets of Political and Social Violence in Premodern Kashmir. Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis - 13. pp. 30–40. ISBN 978-3-86977-199-1.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h AHMAD, AZIZ (1979). "Conversions to Islam in the Valley of Kashmir". Central Asiatic Journal. 23 (1/2): 3–18. ISSN 0008-9192. JSTOR 41927246.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Khan, Mohammad Ishaq (1 June 1986). "The impact of Islam on Kashmir in the Sultanate period (1320-1586)". The Indian Economic & Social History Review. 23 (2): 187–205. doi:10.1177/001946468602300203. ISSN 0019-4646. S2CID 144039616.
  9. ^ a b c Salomon, Richard; Slaje, Walter (2016). "Review of Kingship in Kaśmīr (AD1148–1459). From the Pen of Jonarāja, Court Paṇḍit to Sulṭān Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn. Critically Edited by Walter Slaje with an Annotated Translation, Indexes and Maps. [Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis 7], SlajeWalter". Indo-Iranian Journal. 59 (4): 393–401. doi:10.1163/15728536-05903009. ISSN 0019-7246. JSTOR 26546259.
  10. ^ a b c Ogura, Satoshi (2015). "INCOMPATIBLE OUTSIDERS OR BELIEVERS OF A DARŚANA?: REPRESENTATIONS OF MUSLIMS BY THREE BRAHMANS OF ŠĀHMĪRID KAŠMĪR". Rivista degli studi orientali. 88 (1/4): 179–211. ISSN 0392-4866. JSTOR 24754113.
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Pandit, Kashinath (1991). Baharistan-i-shahi: A chronicle of mediaeval Kashmir. Kolkata: Firma KLM Pvt. Ltd.
  12. ^ Ahmad, Khalid Bashir (2017). "Malice". Kashmir: Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative. London: SAGE. p. 32. doi:10.4135/9789353280253. ISBN 9789386062802.
  13. ^ Slaje, Walter (2019). "A Glimpse into the Happy Valley's Unhappy Past: Violence and Brahmin Warfare in Pre-Mughal Kashmir". Brahma's Curse : Facets of Political and Social Violence in Premodern Kashmir. Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis - 13. p. 5. ISBN 978-3-86977-199-1.
  14. ^ a b c Witzel, Michael (September 1991). The Brahmins of Kashmir (PDF).
  15. ^ Accardi, Dean (2017), Zutshi, Chitralekha (ed.), "Embedded Mystics: Writing Lal Ded and Nund Rishi into the Kashmiri Landscape", Kashmir: History, Politics, Representation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 247–264, ISBN 978-1-107-18197-7, retrieved 3 February 2021
  16. ^ a b Zutshi, Chitralekha (2014). "Garden of Solomon : Landscape and Sacred Pasts in Kashmir's Sixteenth-Century Persian Narratives". Kashmir's Contested Pasts : Narratives, Sacred Geographies, and the Historical Imagination. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199450671.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Slaje, Walter (19 August 2019). "Buddhism and Islam in Kashmir as Represented by Rājataraṅgiṇī Authors". Encountering Buddhism and Islam in Premodern Central and South Asia. De Gruyter. pp. 128–160. doi:10.1515/9783110631685-006. ISBN 978-3-11-063168-5. S2CID 204477165.
  18. ^ Bilham, Roger; Bali, Bikram Singh; Bhat, M. Ismail; Hough, Susan (1 October 2010). "Historical earthquakes in Srinagar, Kashmir: Clues from the Shiva Temple at Pandrethan". doi:10.1130/2010.2471(10). {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  19. ^ a b c d Hamadani, Hakim Sameer (2021). The Syncretic Traditions of Islamic Religious Architecture of Kashmir (Early 14th –18th Century). Routledge. pp. 58–60, 118. ISBN 9781032189611. While medieval Muslim hagiographic and historical accounts may have exaggerated Sikander's destruction of non-Muslim religious sites in a classical representation of religious piety, the tendency of some writers in the twentieth century CE to shield the Sultan from these iconoclastic activities is not historically correct, especially given the evidence from the period coming from writers of different religious backgrounds.
  20. ^ a b Zutshi, Chitralekha. "This book claims to expose the myths behind Kashmir's history. It exposes its own biases instead". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  21. ^ Obrock, Luther James (2015). Translation and History: The Development of a Kashmiri Textual Tradition from ca. 1000-1500 (Thesis). UC Berkeley.
  22. ^ a b Salomon, Richard; Slaje, Walter (2016). "Review of Kingship in Kaśmīr (AD1148–1459). From the Pen of Jonarāja, Court Paṇḍit to Sulṭān Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn. Critically Edited by Walter Slaje with an Annotated Translation, Indexes and Maps. [Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis 7], SlajeWalter". Indo-Iranian Journal. 59 (4): 393–401. doi:10.2307/26546259. ISSN 0019-7246.
  23. ^ Bhan, Jawahar Lal (2010). Kashmir Sculptures: An Iconographical Study of Brāhmanical Sculptures. Vol. 1. Delhi, India: Readworthy Publications. pp. 68–69.
  24. ^ Zutshi, Chitralekha. "This book claims to expose the myths behind Kashmir's history. It exposes its own biases instead". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  25. ^ Bhan, Jawahar Lal (2010). Kashmir Sculptures: An Iconographical Study of Brāhmanical Sculptures. Vol. 1. Delhi, India: Readworthy Publications. pp. 68–69.