Manoshi Sinha is a writer, poet, certified astrologer, avid traveler, and author of 7 books including 'The Eighth Avatar', and 'Blue Vanquisher' - Krishn Trilogy 1 and 2 that delve on Krishn beyond myth
Marcus Garvey, a Jamaican-born political leader and social activist, has rightly said, “A people without the knowledge of their past history, origin and culture is like a tree without roots.” In the true sense of the term, we are a tree without roots. Because we are denied knowledge of our true history. Robert Heinlein, an American author wrote, “A generation which ignores history has no past and no future.” We are a generation that have ignored history in the true sense.
The fighting spirit in Indian warriors started declining after the concept of non-violence gained momentum. Most Indian kings and their subjects lost interest in warfare. Generation after generation, the courage, fearlessness, and valor which otherwise were the key attributes of warriors and soldiers, started to decline. Few Indian rulers gave little importance in maintaining a robust army or upgradation of military infrastructure. Hence, they were taken unawares when Islamic invaders attacked their kingdoms. They could not offer any stiff resistance. Though Bharat was advanced in every field these rulers could not save their respective kingdoms from being looted and plundered by Islamic invaders. They couldn’t save their men from being butchered and women taken away as sex slaves. They couldn’t they save the hundreds and thousands of heritage temples, ancestral buildings and universities from being destroyed by the Islamic plunderers. The concept of non-violence weakened and destroyed the warrior spirit in many an Indian kingdom, which led to their destruction.
But not all kingdoms followed this concept of non-violence. Those rulers who kept a ready army and upgraded their military infrastructure survived the attacks. They offered a stiff resistance. But all of these sagas of valor and victory are not highlighted in our history books. Let us delve on few of our glories.
Lalitaditya Muktapida was the ruler of Kashmir when Junaid, the Arab governor of Sindh, attacked Kashmir following the orders of Caliph Hisham in the 8th century. The Kashmir king defeated Junaid and thus the Arab attempt of plundering Kashmir failed. Lalitaditya Muktapida also subjugated the Turks by attacking their territories. Raja Samgramaraja of Kashmir in the 11th century repulsed several attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni. Plunderer Mahmud could never defeat the Kashmiri king! Besides, Raja Samgramaraja also helped Trilochanpala, the Hindu Sahi ruler of Kabul, with an army against Mahmud of Ghazni. The combined army defeated Sultan Mahmud.
One of the biggest alliances of Indian rulers was witnessed when the Arabs attacked and ransacked cities up to Ujjain before the mid 8th century. The battle was fought between the Arab forces led by Emir Junaid and and an alliance of Indian dynasties led by Gurjar Pratihar king Nagbhat I. The Indian alliance comprised of Gurjar Pratihars, Chalukyas, Rashtrakuta, Guhil, etc. A series of battles was fought between Arabs and Hindus. The final battle was fought in 738 AD in the borders of Rajasthan. The Arabs faced a crushing defeat. After this Muslim plunderers did not think of attacking India for several years, in fact, for more than a century!
Do you know Ghori first attacked the Gujarat region? Gujarat was then ruled by the Chalukya Solanki Rajputs. Naiki Devi was then the Queen Regent; the ruler Mularaja II was a minor. Ghori was badly defeated in the battle that took place in 1178. Firishta, a Persian historian from the 16th century mentions how the ruler of Gujarat defeated the Muslim army “with great slaughter”. Mohammad Ghori was so badly defeated in this expedition that he did not think about attacking India until 1191! Never again did he attack Gujarat in his life!
Assam king Prithu defeated Bakhtiyar Khilji (the plunderer who burnt Nalanda University) in 1206 AD. Prithu badly wounded Khilji and made him bedridden. Ahoms stationed a strong force to counter attacks. The Ahoms defeated the Islamic invaders several times. In 1527 A.D., Rukunuddin Rukun Khan, the general of Nasiruddin Nasrat Shah, the Sultan of Bengal invaded Kamrupa only to be defeated by the Ahoms. Viswa Singha was then the Ahom king of Kamrupa. Hearing about the defeat of Rukun Khan, the Sultan dispatched his general Mit Manik with an army of one thousand horsemen and ten thousand foot soldiers. In this battle, the Ahoms won. Mit Manik was taken prisoner while Rukun Khan fled from the battlefield. The Ahoms captured a large booty including some fire arms. And who isn’t familiar with Ahom general Lachit Borphukan who defeated the Mughals in the Battle of Saraighat in 1671!
Who doesn’t know about Taimur Lang, one of the most barbaric of Islamic invaders who massacred lakhs of Hindus, razed temples to the ground, and looted wealth of temples and civilians! All of this happened on his way from across the Indus River covering Attock towards Delhi. Do you know Taimur could not succeed in plundering India during his return expedition? Around 80,000 men from different communities, ranging from Jats, Gurjars, Rajputs, Brahmins to Ahirs, Valmikis, and hill tribes were part of the troop that attacked Taimur and slaughtered a major portion of his army. Meerut, Haridwar and neighboring areas were saved from being looted and plundered by Taimur. It was Devpala, a Jat who held a Mahapanchayat and made this possible. Mahabali Jograj Singh Gurjar was the Supreme General while 20-year old Rampyari Gurjar was the General of 40,000 women warriors. Together, the men and women warriors wreaked havoc on Taimur in Meerut and Haridwar in 1398, forcing him to flee India.
Mughal army sent by Shah Jahan in 1640 to attack Garhwal failed in the expedition. Rani Karnavati badly defeated them. She also cut the noses of the surviving Mughal soldiers due to which she was called Naak Kati Rani. Her cruel and merciless stance frightened the Mughals and they could never win Garhwal.
Likewise, Rani Bhavashankari, Akbar’s contemporary, made it compulsory to recruit a soldier from every family. She was the ruler of Bhurishhrestha of Bengal. She stationed forces at the border and well maintained her army. She defeated the Pathan Sultan thrice. Even Akbar did not interfere in her sovereignty.
Narasimhadeva from Orissa built the Konark temple after his victory against Islamic rulers. He attacked the Bengal Sultanate’s territories before the Sultan could attack him. During battle, he played one tactic played by the Islamic invaders and he won. It was 1248 AD.
Kapaya Nayaka, a Musunri Nayaka, in the South drove the Tughlaqs out of the Warrangal (then Telangana) territory in 1336 and re-established Hindu supremacy. He could do this with the help of 75 subordinate Nayakas; another best example of unity against a common foreign enemy. He also helped other South Indian kingdoms regain back their kingdoms from the Islamic invaders.
Raja Ganesha, a direct descendant of the Deva dynasty of Bengal, recaptured the throne of Bengal from Islamic rulers in 1414. He establish his superiority and Hindu dominion in a region dominated by the Muslims for over 200 years. According to the book Riyaz-us-Salatin, a chronicle written in Persian language by Ghulam Husain Salim Zaidpuri on the complete history of the Muslim rule in Bengal, nobleman Ganesha killed Shihabuddin and seized the throne. In alliance with another Hindu king Sivasimha of Mithila, Ganesha defeated Ibrahim Shah, a neighboring Sultan.
Prataprao Gurjar, the Maratha Senapati and Morapant Pingle, the first Peshwa led the Maratha army of 20,000 soldiers against Mughals numbering 40,000 at Battle of Salher, Nashik 1672. Though the Marathas were less superior to the Mughals in terms of weaponry and war animals yet in this fierce battle, the Marathas emerged victorious! This battle saw the Mughals decimated for the first time in an open battle! But is there any mention of this victorious battle in our history books?
Tarabai Bhosale (daughter-in-law of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj), who ruled the Maratha Empire from 1700 until 1708, herself led her army into the battlefield and successfully fought against Mughal forces. According to Jadunath Sarkar, a prominent Bengali historian, it was because of the administrative genius and strength of Tarabai that the Maratha Empire survived the awful crisis from 1700 to 1707 – when Mughals tried their best to occupy Maratha territories, but in vain. She valorously defended her territories.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur, General of Guru Gobind Singh’s Khalsa army at the age of 38, led five battles to victory against Mughal and other Islamic forces. This included three battles in 1709 in Sonepat, Samana, and Sadhaura and two battles in 1710 at Chappar Chiri and Rahon. Following victory in Chappar Chiri battle, Banda Singh established his rule in Punjab. By 1710 Banda Singh Bahadur captured almost entire Punjab in the east of Lahore and put an end to Islamic rule in this region.
Rani Chennamma of Keladi fought against Mughal Emperor Aurangzeb’s forces. The battle took place because Chennamma gave shelter to Rajaram Raje Bhonsle, younger son of Chhatrapati Shivaji and facilitated his escape to Jinji Fort. It was the enemy Mughal forces who withdrew in this battle, sensing defeat and begged for a treaty. It was for the first time that the Mughals proposed peace accord with an Indian ruler! She also defeated the Sultan of Bijapur.
Pazhassi Raja, who became the prince regent of the princely state of Kottayam of Malabar at a young age of 21 in 1774 bravely resisted Hyder Ali’s troops using guerrilla warfare techniques. He set up a number of guerrilla bases in the forested mountains of Puralimala and Wayanad, which he and his men were well familiar of. And they started attacking Hyder Ali’s troops in small groups at short intervals. This resulted in casualties in the Mysore army with every attack until Mysore troops reduced to a considerable extent. Hyder Ali entered into alliance with two neighboring chiefs to collectively crush Pazhassi Raja, but in vain. He could never defeat Pazhassi Raja. In later years, he also resisted Tipu Sultan’s troops.
There are countless more examples of victory by Indian warriors against Islamic invaders and rulers, but these are not shown in our history books. Islamic rulers ruled only a part of India not whole but we are made to read they ruled India.
Yes, Islamic invaders and plunderers could also loot and plunder few kingdoms because Bharatiya rulers strictly followed rules of Dharma in warfare. They avoided fighting with an opponent already engaged in a fight with another. They avoided stabbing from behind or hitting below the navel. They took care of the injured at the end of the day. They considered women, prisoners of war, and farmers as sacred. They never pillaged the land or destroyed standing structures in enemy lands. They were merciful if enemies asked for pardon. Battlefield exploits took place only during daytime. This was followed since time immemorial.
History is full of such examples of Dharma followed by Indian Hindu kings. Prithviraj Chauhan pardoned Mohammad Ghori when he asked for pardon though the latter attacked him several times. At one instance Prithviraj saw Ghori fleeing from the battlefield but he did not attack the running enemy. On the final (16th according to few sources) attack, Ghori defeated Prithviraj. Did Ghori pardon Prithviraj? No! He raped the king’s wife Sanyogita in front of him several times and took him prisoner to Ghor where he tortured him to death. Ghori plundered Delhi, slaughtered to death soldiers and civilians, took women as sex slaves, destroyed temples, and the list of atrocities is endless. Had Prithviraj killed Ghori, history would have been different. King Prithu of Assam badly defeated Bhaktiyar Khilji in 1206 AD, but he allowed the Muslim prisoners of war to settle in his kingdom when they sought pardon. That was how Muslim settlement in Assam started. Hindu kings never defied rules of Dharma.
But Islamic invaders and plunderers did the opposite of these very rules of Dharma followed by Hindu kings in warfare. They followed the tactics of treachery, deception and cruelty. They plundered kingdoms, pillaged land, killed the weak and innocent, raped women and took them as slaves, stabbed warriors from behind, destroyed standing structures and temples, and what not! Converting the defeated people to Islam was one of their key strategies. Akbar, deemed ‘the GREAT’ ordered the slaughter of around 40,000 unarmed old men, women and children of Chittorgarh after he captured it on 23 February 1568 as per accounts by Abul Fazl and Badauni, Muslim historians. Rajput women started committing Jauhar only to save themselves from disgrace at the hands of Muslim invaders.
In 1226, Raja Bir Singh of Birsinghpur in Bengal defeated the Turks led by Giasuddin Iwaz Khilji. Facing defeat, the Turks hatched a plan of treachery. To easily subjugate the Hindu army of Raja Bir Singh, Giasuddin Iwaz Khilji used cattle in the battlefield. Each horn of the cows was wrapped with a piece of cloth soaked in flamable liquid. The horns were lit up when the battle was about to begin. The Muslim army followed the cattle that ran berserk towards the Hindu army. As cows were sacred to the Hindus, the Hindu army did not give resistance. Giving a resistance would harm the cows. Using this trick of treachery, Khilji won the second battle.
Afzhal Khan, the ablest of commanders of the Adilshahi army of the Bijapur Sultanate deceived negotiators during meetings. In 1639, he treacherously murdered Kasturi Ranga, the king of Sera, a small South Indian kingdom, during a meeting. Shivaji went to meet Afzhal Khan after equipping himself with weapons hidden from view. Because he knew Afzhal Khan might secretly attack him. In the meeting, Afzhal Khan applied his treacherous tactics and secretly attacked Shivaji during an embrace. Shivaji immediately reciprocated, disemboweling him with the wagh nakh and stabbing him with the bichu. A combat followed. Sambhaji Kavji, Shivaji’s bodyguard killed the heavily injured Afzhal Khan.
A few months before Shivaji’s coronation in 1674, the Sultan of Bijapur Adil Shah sent his general Bahalol Khan with a huge army to attack Maratha territory. The Marathas under Prataprao Gurjar defeated the Bijapuri forces and took Bahalol Khan captive and seized their war material. Shivaji had warned all of his Senapatis and the Sardars to never trust enemies and never let them go free. When Bahalol Khan repeatedly begged Prataprao for pardon and promised never to attack Maratha territory again, Prataprao Gurjar released Bahalol Khan, his troops including the seized war material. Did Bahalol Khan keep his promise? No! Prataprao Gurjar followed rules of Dharma but the Muslim army did not. Bahalol Khan marched towards Maratha territory with a fresh force of 15000 soldiers. As Khan camped unawares, Prataprao Gurjar could not arrange a big army. He had only 1200 soldiers. Ultimately he attained martyrdom at the hands of Bahalol Khan. Later the Marathas defeated Bahalol Khan in the following battle. These are only few examples of how Muslim rulers and generals deceived Hindu warriors.
Moreover, there were internal conflicts between rulers (lack of unity) and even internal conflicts within a kingdom for the throne. Then there were traitors who sided with the foreigners. All of these resulted in subjugation of many Indian kingdoms at the hands of the plunderers and looters, who were merciless and barbaric. And a similar situation still exists. And there is no dearth of traitors even today!
After Islamic invasion and rule, British, like termites damaged our cultural and educational heritage and infused the inferiority and mental slavery syndrome in Indian brains. They drained away our resources and turned India into a poor nation, economically, culturally, and socially. Lakhs of freedom fighters sacrificed their lives for the freedom we enjoy today yet this freedom is attributed to one namesake leader.
Our education syllabus, especially pertaining to History, has been designed in such a manner that we are bound to suffer from the inferiority complex syndrome. These questions will always arise in our minds – Were we always defeated? Why did our ancestors not offer any resistance? Why were we always so easily looted and plundered? These questions are bound to drift us from our rich cultural roots and ancestry, from our historicity and traditions, from our belongingness to the nation.
It is time we know our true historical roots. Jai Hind!
Featured image courtesy: Rohan Bendre and Quora.
Saffron Swords, Manoshi Sinha.