Who was Mahmud Ghazni?

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Mahmud Ghazni

Muhammad Ghazni was also known as Mahmud of Ghazni. He was a significant ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire as he was the founder of the Turkic Ghaznvaid Dynasty. He was the first king in the history of India to be accredited with the title of “Sultan”. Ghazni remained the religious leader of the land that he controlled and his empire comprised the vast territories of Central Asia and Persia. In this blog, we will delve into the details of who this Ghaznavid emperor was and know about his role in India.

Overview of Muhammad Ghazni
NameYamin ad-Dawlah Abdul-Qasim Mahmud ibn Sabuktegin
Born2nd November, 971 in Ghazna ( Southeast Afghanistan)
Known AsFirst Sultan in History
FounderFounder of the Ghaznavid Empire.
Died30th April 1030 in Ghazna

Early Life of Muhammad Ghazni

Muhammad Ghazni was born on 2nd November, 971 CE in Ghazna (present-day Ghazni in the Southeast of Afghanistan). At the time of his birth, he was named Yamin ad-Dawlah Abdul-Qasim, Mahmud ibn Sabuktegin. 

  • His father’s name was Abu Mansur Sabuktegin who was a former slave of the Samanid Dynasty.
  • Since the rule Samanid dynasty was growing weak in the regions of Uzbekistan, Ghazni’s father took control of Ghazni, his hometown in 977. 
  •  Later, his father expanded his rule but gave his inheritance to his son Ismail, leaving Mahmud ibn Sabuktegin with only military power. 

Rise to Power

Taking revenge, Muhammad marched and challenged the rule of his brother Ismail. He won the confidence of the court of Ismail in 998 and took the Crown and throne for himself, sentencing lifetime house arrest for his brother.

Also Read: Bahmani Kingdom (c.1347-1525 CE): Origin, Rulers, Administration, & Decline

Role in India

Ghazni’s expeditions into India were motivated by a combination of factors. His conquests aimed to consolidate his power, accumulate wealth and spread Islam in the region. The wealth and resources of India, particularly its temples and palaces, enticed the ambitious ruler.

The First Invasion:

In 1001 CE, Ghazni launched his first invasion of India and targeted the Hindu Shahi kingdom located in the Punjab region. The Hindu Rajput kings refused their defeat at the hands of a threat from Afghanistan leading to war. His army comprised Horse cavalry as compared to the infantry and elephant cavalry of the Rajput kings.

Battle with Jaypala

  • He fought a battle against Jayapal of the Pala Dynasty in 1001 CE.
  • The battle was fought with a combination of infantry and cavalry.
  • Jaypala was defeated and his capital Waihind/Peshawar suffered great devastation at the hands of Ghazni’s army.
  • Anandpal/Anantpal was the successor of Jayapala and continued the fight against Turkic reigns.

Battle with Anandpal

  • Anandpal’s forces were spread all over Punjab and Indus region.
  • Ghazni has to pierce the wall of the army of Anandpal and enter Punjab.
  • In 1006 CE, in a furious battle, Ghazni conquered the Upper Indus region from Anandpal.
  • Consequently, Anandpal lost the war and suffered a huge loss of both territory and finances.
Ghazni and his Army

Subsequent Campaigns:

Over the next two decades, Ghazni repeatedly embarked on expeditions into India gradually expanding his influence and control. His military prowess combined with his political and military power allowed him to defeat various Indian rulers, including the Rajputs. Ghazni focused on weakening his adversaries and exploiting rivalries between local powers to ensure the success of his campaigns.

Annexation of Lahore and Multan:

  • In 1015 CE, Ghazni expanded his territory by annexing Lahore and up to the Jhelum River.
  • Anandpal’s alliance with the Muslim Sultan also had to surrender and Mahmud conquered Multan accordingly.
  • After annexing Punjab, Lahore and Multan along with eastern Afghanistan, he did not stop further and conquered three more regions of Gangetic plains.

Expansion in Gangetic Plain

  • In the Gangetic Valley, he made expeditions in the years 1019 CE and 1021 CE.
  • With the support of some feudatory kings, he defeated local Rajput rulers at Bulandshahar and subsequently proceeded towards the Himalayan foothills by 1015 CE.
  • In this procession, he defeated Chandela Rulers, who was supported by the Rajput king of Gwalior.
  • The intent of annexing these areas was only to plunder the wealth of these wealthy states and use this plunder against his enemies. 

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Mahmud Ghazni and Somanth Attack

  • Mahmud Ghazni attacked Gujrat in 1025- 1026 CE. 
  • In his vengeful invasion to plunder wealth, he attacked the Somnath Temple.
  • It is believed, that Somnath Temple was always crowded with 1,00,000 pilgrims and 1000 Brahmans. Hundreds of dancers and vocalists would entertain the gathering every day. 
  • The garbhagriha consisted of the Linga, a pillar stone which was covered with rare jewels and gems candelabra.
  • Ghazni with the intention of looting all the wealth, robbed the Somnath Temple. 
  • According to some sources, because of this destruction and robbing, he rewarded troop plunderers with treasure worth one million pounds. 

Mahmud of Gahzni’s Legacy

Ghazni’s conquests garnered substantial attention from historians and chroniclers, who documented his expeditions in various historical accounts. These records provide valuable insights into the political and cultural dynamics of medieval India.

  • He patronised poets like Firdausi, who wrote Shshnmah and Alberuni, who wrote Kitab-i-Hind.
  • He built libraries, grand mosques, universities and palaces in Ghazni making it the Capital City of Central Asia. 

How did Mahmud Ghazni Die and Ghurid Rule Rose?

Sultan Mahmud Ghazni died at the age of 58, on 30th April 1030 CE. He was struck with Malaria and further complications of Tuberculosis (TB).

  • The sultan was a weak ruler despite he plundered huge amounts of wealth and acquired territories.
  •  The Ghurid Empire, although coming from a least developed region, rose to power in Western Afghanistan.
  •  By the 12th Century, they were able to capture the city of Ghazni and defeated the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram Shah.
  • The Ghurids destroyed the city of Ghazni and marked the beginning of the Ghruid Empire, defeating the Ghaznavid Empire.

In conclusion, Muhammad Ghazni’s expeditions into India during the 11th century were driven by a desire for power, wealth, and the spread of Islam. His military victories, looting of riches, and architectural patronage left a destructive impact on the region’s history. He was labelled as the pioneer of the Islamic faith because of his destruction of Somnath. He opposed any Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Ismalis beliefs and for centuries he was a legend in the eyes of Muhammadans.

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