Yamīn ad-Dawlah Abul-Qāṣim Maḥmūd Ibn Sebüktegīn, more commonly known as Mahmud of Ghazni (Persian: محمود غَزنوی / Maḥmūd-e Ġaznawī) 2 November 971 – 30 April 1030), was the most prominent ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire. In the name of Islam, he conquered the eastern Iranian lands and the northwestern Indian subcontinent 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, Pakistan and northwestern India.
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 Caliph. During his rule, he invaded and plundered parts of Hindustan (east of the Indus River) 17 times.
Mahmud was born in 971 AD in the town of Ghazna in Medieval Khorasan (in what is now south-eastern Afghanistan). His father, Abu Mansur Sabuktigin, was a Turkic slave-soldier of theSamanid Emirs of Bukhara. His mother was the daughter of a Persian aristocrat from Zabulistan.
In 994, Mahmud joined his father Sebuktigin in the capture of Khorasan from the rebel Fa'iq in aid of the Samanid Emir, Nuh II. During this period the Samanid state 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 Behtuzun as well as the neighbouring Buyids and Qarakhanids. Mahmud took over his father's kingdom in 998. 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.
In 1001, Mahmud initiated the first of numerous invasion of northern India. On 28 November, his army fought and defeated Jayapala's army at Peshawar. In 1002, Mahmud invaded Sistan, dethroned Khalaf I, last of the Saffarid amirs, and ended the Saffarid dynasty. From there he decided to focus on Hindustan to the southeast, particularly the highly fertile lands of the Punjab region since south eastern Khorasan(where he was from) was mostly mountains,dry deserts and the fertile lands had been poorly harvested and gone to waste during the reign of the previous rulers. It should be noted that Punjab was well known for itsmangos, oranges, bananas and other tropical fruits that Khorasan lacked and instead was famous for pomegranates and watermelons. It suggests that this has been the main reason for Afghans invading India because the fruit as well as rice, sugar, wheat, and other products exported to the Middle East and Central Asia generated more income than anything else for the rulers.
Mahmud's first campaign to the south was against the Ismaili Fatimid Kingdom at Multan in a bid to curry political favor and recognition with the Abbassid Caliphate; he also engaged with the Fatimids elsewhere. At this point, Raja Jayapala of the Kabul Shahi dynasty 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 Hindu Shahi dominions of Updhanpura.
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 annexingonly the Punjab region. He also vowed to raid India every year.
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 them would destroy the will power of the Hindus attacking the Empire since Mahmud never kept a permanent presence in the subcontinent; Nagarkot, Thanesar, Mathura, Kannauj, Kalinjar and Somnath were all thus raided. Mahmud's armies stripped the temples of their wealth 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.
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 Turkic tribes from Central Asia, the Buyid Dynasty and rebellions by Seljuqs. 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-ud-daula and became Governor of Khorasan under service to Nuh II of the Samanids 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: Qarakhanid Empire
- 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: Seistan
- 1001: Gandhara: Sultan Mahmud defeats 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 Shia 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 Amir Suri then captured by Mahmud, made prisoner along with his son and taken to Ghazni, where Amir Suri died. Appoints Sewakpal to administer the region. Anandapala flees to Kashmir, takes refuge in the Lohara fort in the hills on the western border of Kashmir.
- Note: A historical narrative states in this battle, under the onslaught of the Gakhar tribe, Mahmud's army was about to retreat when Jayapala's son King Anandapala's elephant took flight and turned the tide of the battle.
- 1010: Ghor; against Mohammad ibn Sur
- 1010: Multan revolts. Abul Fatah Dawood imprisoned for life at Ghazni.
- 1011: Thanesar
- 1012: Joor-jistan: Captures Sar(Czar??)-Abu-Nasr
- 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 :Kafirstan attacked
- 1015: Ghaznis expedition to Kashmir fails. Fails to take the Lohara fort at Lokote in the hills leading up to the valley from the west.
- 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.
- 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 fails to conquer 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 Buyid (Daylami) Dynasty.
- 1028, 1029: Merv, Nishapur lost to Seljuk Turks
Mahmud's campaigns seem to have been motivated by both religious zeal against both the Fatimids Shiites and non-Muslims; Buddhists, Jains and Hindus. His principal drive remained the Ismaili Shiites, Buyid Iran as well as favor and recognition of independence from the Abbassid Caliphate. 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 capturing most of modern-day North-Western India as well as obtaining formal recognition of Ghazni's sovereignty from the Abbasid Khalifah, al-Qadir Billah, as well as the title of Yameen-ud Daula.
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 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.
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 personally broke the gilded lingam to pieces. He took them back to his homeland and placed them in the steps leading to the newly built Jamiah Masjid, so that they would be stepped upon by those going to the mosque to pray.
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:
: 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."
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 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, Al-Biruni and Ferishta 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 titleSultan as recognition of his independence.
By the end of his reign, the Ghaznavid Empire extended from Kurdistan 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 the Punjab and Sindh in modern-day Pakistan, came under his permanent rule; Kashmir, the Doab, Rajasthan and Gujarat remained under the control of the local Rajputdynasties.
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., andMuhammad 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.
Friedrich Hirth, one of the translators of Zhao's work, believes this was based on some embellished tale about Mahmud that was brought to China by Arab merchants.
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 (According to Buzurg of Shahriyar, he had 9 wives and close to 56 children with up to 32 women) 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. Mahmud, although being an orthodox (Sunni) in his beliefs, married his only sister Sitr-i-Mu'alla to Abu Hasan Mamun, a Shi'a scholar whose son was Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud. His lover was a Turkish slave Malik Ayaz and their relationship inspired poems and stories.