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Chapter 3 – House of Ghazni – Sultan Mahmud

Disputed succession 997, AH 387

Mahmud had from his boyhood accompanied his father on his campaigns, and had given early indications of a warlike and decided character. He was now in his thirtieth year, and, from his tried courage and capacity, seemed in every way fitted to succeed to the throne; but his birth was probably illegitimate832, and, from his absence at his government of Nishapur, his younger brother, Ismael, was enabled, according to some accounts, to obtain the dying nomination of Sebektegin, and, certainly, to seize on the reins of government, and cause himself to be proclaimed without delay. Not the least of his advantages was the command of his father’s treasures; he employed them to conciliate the leading men with presents, to augment the pay of the army, and to court popularity with all classes by a lavish expenditure on shows and entertainments.

By these means, though still more by the force of actual possession, and perhaps an opinion of his superior right, he obtained the support of all that part of the kingdom which was not under the immediate government of Mahmud.

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The conduct of the latter prince, on this contempt of his claims, may either have arisen from the consciousness of a weak title, or from natural or assumed moderation. He professed the strongest attachment to his brother, and the utmost readiness to give way to him if he had been of an age to undertake so arduous a duty; and he offered that, if Ismael would concede the supremacy to his superior experience, he would repay the sacrifice by a grant of the provinces of Balkh and Khorasan. His offers were immediately rejected; and, seeing no further hopes of a reconciliation, he resolved to bring things to an issue by an attack on the capital. Ismael, who was still at Balkh, penetrated his design, and, interposing between him and Ghazni, obliged him to come to a general engagement. It was better contested than might have been expected from the unequal skill of the generals, but was favourable to Mahmud: Ghazni fell, Ismael was made prisoner, and passed the rest of his life in confinement, though allowed every indulgence consistent with such a situation.

These internal contests, which lasted for seven months, contributed to the success of Elik Khan, who had now established his own influence over Mansur II., by compelling him to receive Faik as his minister, or, in other words, his master.

Dissembling his consciousness of the ascendancy of his old enemies, Mahmud made a respectful application to Mansur for the continuance of his government of Khorasan. His request was abruptly

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rejected, and a creature of the new administration appointed his successor.

But Mahmud was not so easily dispossessed; he repelled the new governor, and although he avoided an immediate conflict with Mansur, who was brought in person against him, he withheld all appearance of concession, and remained in full preparation for defence; when some disputes and jealousies at court led to the dethronement and blinding of Mansur, and the elevation of Abdulmelek as the instrument of Faik.

999, AH 389 Mahmud declares his independence

On this, Mahmud ordered the name of the Samanis to be left out of the public prayers; took possession of Khorasan in his own name; and, having soon after received an investiture from the calif (the dispenser of powers which he himself no longer enjoyed), he declared himself an independent sovereign, and first assumed the title of Sultan, since so general among Mahometan princes833.

Elik Khan, not to be shut out of his share of the spoil, advanced on Bokhara, under pretence of supporting Abdulmelek; and, taking possession of all Transoxiana, put an end to the dynasty of Samani, after it had reigned for more than 120 years.

Mahmud, now secure in the possession of his dominions, had it almost in his own choice in which direction he should extend them. The kingdoms on the west, so attractive from their

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connection with the Mahometan religion and their ancient renown, were in such a state of weakness and disorder that a large portion ultimately fell into his hands without an effort; and the ease with which the rest was subdued by the Seljuks, who were once his subjects, showed how little obstruction there was to his advancing his frontier to the Hellespont.

But the undiscovered regions of India presented a wider field for romantic enterprise. The great extent of that favoured country, the rumours of its accumulated treasures, the fertility of the soil, and the peculiarity of its productions, raised it into a land of fable, in which the surrounding nations might indulge their imaginations without control. The adventures to be expected in such a country derived fresh lustre from their being the means of extending the Mahometan faith, the establishment of which among a new people was in those times the most glorious exploit that a king or conqueror could achieve.

These views made the livelier impression on Mahmud, from his first experience in arms having been gained in a war with Hindus; and were seconded by his natural disposition, even at that time liable to be dazzled by the prospect of a rich field for plunder.

Influenced by such motives, he made peace with Elik Khan, leaving him in possession of Transoxiana; cemented the alliance by a marriage with the daughter of that prince; and, having

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quelled an insurrection of a representative of Sofarides, who had been tolerated in a sort of independence in Sistan, and whom, on a subsequent rebellion834, he seized and imprisoned, he proceeded on his first invasion of India.

His first expedition to India 1001, AH 391

Three centuries and a half had elapsed since the conquest of Persia by the Mussulmans when he set out on this expedition. He left Ghazni with 10,000 chosen horse, and was met by his father’s old antagonist, Jeipal of Lahor, in the neighbourhood of Peshawer. He totally defeated him, took him prisoner, and pursued his march to Batinda, beyond the Satlaj. He stormed and plundered that place835; and then returned with the rich spoils of the camp and country to Ghazni. He released the Hindu prisoners for a ransom, on the raja’s renewing his promises of tribute; but put some Afghans who had joined them to death. Jeipal, on returning from his captivity, worn out by repeated disasters, and perhaps constrained by some superstition of his subjects, made over his crown to his son Anangpal; and mounting a pyre which he had ordered to be

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constructed, set it on fire with his own hands, and perished in the flames.

Second expedition

Anangpal was true to his father’s engagements; but the raja of Bhatia, a dependency of Lahor, on the southern side of Multan, refused to pay his share of the tribute, and resolutely opposed the Sultan, who went against him in person.

1004, AH 395

He was driven, first from a well-defended intrenchment, then from his principal fortress, and at last destroyed himself in the thickets of the Indus, where he had fled for concealment, and where many of his followers fell in endeavouring to revenge his death.

Third expedition

Mahmud’s next expedition was to reduce his dependent, the Afghan chief of Multan836, who, though a Mussulman, had renounced his allegiance, and had formed a close alliance with Anangpal.

The tribes of the mountains being, probably, not sufficiently subdued to allow of a direct march from Ghazni to Multan, the raja was able to interpose between Mahmud and his ally. The armies met somewhere near Peshawer, when the raja was routed, pursued to Sodra (near Vizirabad), on the Acesines, and compelled to take refuge in Cashmir. Mahmud then laid siege to Multan: at the end of seven days he accepted the submission of

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the chief, together with a contribution; and returned to Ghazni.

1005, AH 369 Invasion of the Tartars of under Elik Khan

He was led to grant these favourable terms in consequence of intelligence that had reached him of a formidable invasion of his dominions by the armies of Elik Khan. Though so closely connected with him, the Tartar prince had been tempted, by observing his exclusive attention to India, to hope for an easy conquest of Khorasan, and had sent one army to Herat and another to Balkh, to take possession.

But he had formed a wrong estimate of the vigour of his opponent, who committed the charge of his territories on the Indus to Sewuk (or Suk) Pal, a converted Hindu, and turning, by rapid marches, towards Khorasan, soon forced Elik Khan’s generals to retire to their own side of the Oxus.

Elik Khan was now threatened in his turn, and applied for assistance to Kadr Khan of Khoten, who marched to join him with 50,000 men. Thus strengthened, Elik Khan did not hesitate to cross the Oxus, and was met by Mahmud, near Balkh. On this occasion he brought 500 elephants into the field, and contrived, by his judicious arrangements, that they should not be liable to derange his own line, while they should produce their full effect on the men and horses of the enemy, unaccustomed to their huge bulk and strange appearance. Accordingly the mere sight of them checked the impetuosity of the Tartar charge; on which the

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elephants advanced, and at once pushed into the midst of the enemy, dispersing, overthrowing, and trampling under foot whatever was opposed to them; it is said that Mahmud’s own elephant caught up the standard bearer of Elik Khan, and tossed him aloft with his trunk, in sight of the Tartar king and his terrified fellow soldiers. Before this disorder could be recovered, the armies closed; and so rapid and courageous was the onset of the Ghaznevites, that the Tartars gave way on all sides, and were driven, with a prodigious slaughter, from the field of battle837.

1006, AH 397 Defeated by Mahmud

Elik Khan escaped across the Oxus with a few attendants, and never again attempted to make head against Mahmud.

The Sultan was at first disposed to pursue the enemy; but the advance of winter compelled him to abandon this design; and he did not regain his capital without the loss of some hundreds of men and horses by the inclemency of the season.

Meanwhile Suk Pal had revolted and relapsed into idolatry. Mahmud came unexpectedly upon him, and, making him prisoner, confined him in a fort for life.

Mahmud had been prevented, by the invasion of Elik Khan, from resenting the opposition which he had met with from Anang Pal.

Fourth expedition 1008, AH 399

As he was now at leisure to attend to Indian affairs, he assembled a large army, and set out, in the spring of AD 1008, to resume his operations against the raja.

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But Anang Pal had not been insensible to the risk to which he was exposed. He had sent ambassadors to the Hindu princes far and near, pointing out to them the danger with which all were threatened by the progress of the Mahometans, and the necessity of an immediate combination to prevent the total destruction of their religion and independence. His arguments, which were probably in accordance with their own previous feelings, made an impression on those to whom they were addressed: the rajas of Ujen, Gualior, Calinjer, Canouj, Delhi, and Ajmir entered into a confederacy; and, uniting their forces, advanced into the Panjab, with the largest army that had ever yet taken, the field.

Decisive battle

Mahmud was alarmed at this unexpected display of force; and, instead of meeting the danger with his usual alacrity, he halted in the presence of the enemy, and took up a position near Peshawer, in which he remained on the defensive. During his inaction, the hostile army daily increased: the Hindu women sold their jewels, melted down their golden ornaments, and sent their contributions from a distance, to furnish resources for this holy war: and the Gakkars and other warlike tribes joining their army, they surrounded the Mahometans, who were obliged to in-trench their camp. But Mahmud, though somewhat disconcerted, was far from having lost his courage; and, wishing to profit by the strength of his position, he sent out a strong body of archers to provoke an attack on his intrenchments. The

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result was different from his expectations: the archers were at once repulsed by the Gakkars, who, in spite of the king’s presence, and his efforts, followed them up so closely, that a numerous body of those mountaineers, bare-headed and barefooted, variously and strangely armed, passed the intrenchments on both flanks, and, falling in with astonishing fury among the cavalry, proceeded, with their swords and knives, to cut down and maim both horse and rider, until, almost in the twinkling of an eye, between 3000 and 4000 Mussulmans had fallen victims to their savage impetuosity838.

The attacks, however, gradually abated; and Mahmud at length discovered that the elephant of his antagonist, who had advanced to profit by the confusion, had taken fright at the flights of arrows839, and had turned and fled from the field. This incident struck a terror into the enemy: the Hindus, thinking themselves deserted by their general, first slackened their efforts, and at last gave way and dispersed. Mahmud took immediate advantage of their confusion, and, sending out 10,000 chosen men in pursuit of them, destroyed double

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that number of his enemies before they reached a place of safety.

Temple of Nagarcot

After this providential deliverance, Mahmud allowed the Indians no time to re-assemble: he followed them into the Panjab, and soon found them so effectually dispersed, that he had time to execute one of those schemes of plunder in which he seems to have taken so much delight. It was directed against Nagarcot, a fortified temple on a mountain connected with the lower range of Hemalaya. This edifice, as it derived peculiar sanctity from a natural flame which issued from the ground within its precincts, was enriched by the offerings of a long succession of Hindu princes, and was likewise the depository of most of the wealth of the neighbourhood; so that, according to Ferishta, it contained a greater quantity of gold, silver, precious stones, and pearls, than any ever collected in the royal treasury of any prince on earth.

Such a place might have opposed a successful resistance to any assailant; but the garrison had been drawn off in the late great effort, and Mahmud, on approaching the walls, found them lined by a crowd of defenceless priests, who called loudly for quarter, and offered unqualified submission. Their terms were gladly acceded to, and the conqueror, entering with the principal officers of his court and household, took possession of their accumulated treasures. 700,000 golden dinars, 700 mans of gold and silver plate, 200 mans of pure gold in ingots, 2000 mans of unwrought silver,

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and twenty mans of various jewels, including pearls, corals, diamonds, and rubies, collected since Raja Bhima, in the Hindu heroic ages, are said to have fallen at once into his hands840.

With this vast booty Mahmud returned to Ghazni, and next year celebrated a triumphal feast, at which he displayed to the people the spoils of India, set forth in all their magnificence on golden thrones and tables of the precious metals. The festival was held on a spacious plain, and lasted three days; sumptuous banquets were provided for the spectators, alms were liberally distributed among the poor, and splendid presents were bestowed on persons distinguished for their rank, merits, or sanctity.

1010 Conquest of Ghor

In AH 401, he went in person against the strong country of Ghor, in the mountains east of Herat. It was inhabited by the Afghans, of the tribe of Sur, had been early converted, and was completely reduced under the califs in AH 111.

The chief had occupied an unassailable position, but was drawn out by a pretended flight, (an operation which, though it seems so dangerous, yet, in the hands of historians, appears never to fail,) and being entirely defeated, swallowed poison. His name was Mohammed Sur, and the conquest of his country is the more remarkable, as it was

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by his descendants that the house of Ghazni was overthrown.

In the course of the next year but one, the mountainous country of Jurjistan, or Ghirghistan, which lies on the upper course of the river Murghab, adjoining to Ghor, was reduced by Mahmud’s generals841.

Fifth expedition to India

It must have been some act of aggression that drew Mahmud to Ghor, for, in the same year (AD 1010, AH 401), he again turned to India – which seems to have been the business of his life – took Multan, and brought Abul Fatteh Lodi prisoner to Ghazni.

Sixth expedition

Capture of Tanesar

In the next year he made an expedition of unusual length to Tanesar, not far from the Jamna, where he plundered the temple (a very holy one), sacked the town, and returned with an incredible number of captives to Ghazni, before the Indian princes could assemble to oppose him.

Seventh and eighth expedition

Nothing remarkable occurred in the next three years, except two predatory expeditions to Cashmir; in returning from the last of which the army was misled, and, the season being far advanced, many lives were lost: the only wonder is, that

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two invasions of so inaccessible a country should have been attended with so few disasters.

Conquest of Transoxiana

These insignificant transactions were succeeded by an expedition which, as it extended Mahmud’s dominions to the Caspian sea, may be reckoned among the most important of his reign. Elik Khan was now dead, and his successor, Toghan Khan, was engaged in a desperate struggle with the Khitan Tartars842 which chiefly raged to the east of Imaus. The opening thus left in Transoxiana did not escape Mahmud, nor was he so absorbed in his Indian wars as to neglect so great an acquisition.

1016 AH 407

Samarcand and Bokhara seem to have been occupied without opposition; and the resistance which was offered in Kharizm did not long delay the conquest of that country843.

Ninth expedition to India

The great scale of these operations seems to have enlarged Mahmud’s views, even in his designs on India; for, quitting the Panjab, which had hitherto

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been his ordinary field of action, he resolved on his next campaign to move direct to the Ganges, and open a way for himself or his successors into the heart of Hindostan. His preparations were commensurate to his design. He assembled an army which Ferishta reckons at 100,000 horse, and 20,000 foot, and which was drawn from all parts of his dominions, more especially from those recently conquered; a prudent policy, whereby he at once removed the soldiery which might have been dangerous if left behind, and attached it to his service by a share of the plunder of India.

1017, AH 408

He had to undertake a march of three months, across seven great rivers, and into a country hitherto unexplored; and he seems to have concerted his expedition with his usual judgment and information. He set out from Peshawer, and, passing near Cashmir, kept close to the mountains, where the rivers are most easily crossed, until he had passed the Jamna, when he turned towards the south, and unexpectedly presented himself before the great capital of Canouj.


It is difficult to conjecture the local or other circumstances which tended so greatly to enrich and embellish this city. The dominions of the raja were not more extensive than those of his neighbours, nor does he exhibit any superiority of power in their recorded wars or alliances; yet Hindu and Mahometan writers vie with each other in extolling the splendour of his court, and the magnificence of his capital; and the impression

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made by its stately appearance on the army of Mahmud is particularly noticed by Ferishta844.

The raja was taken entirely unprepared, and was so conscious of his helpless situation, that he came out with his family, and gave himself up to Mahmud. The friendship thus inauspiciously commenced appears to have been sincere and permanent: the Sultan left Canouj uninjured at the end of three days, and returned, some years after, in the hope of assisting the raja, against a confederacy which had been formed to punish his alliance with the common enemy of his nation.

No such clemency was shown to Mattra, one of the most celebrated seats of the Hindu religion. During a halt of twenty days, the city was given up to plunder, the idols were broken, and the temples profaned. The excesses of the troops led to a fire in the city, and the effects of this conflagration were added to its other calamities.

It is said, by some, that Mahmud was unable to destroy the temples on account of their solidity. Less zealous Mahometans relate that he spared them on account of their beauty. All agree that he was struck with the highest admiration of the

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buildings which he saw at Mattra, and it is not improbable that the impression they made on him gave the first impulse to his own undertakings of the same nature845.

This expedition was attended with some circumstances more than usually tragical. At Mahawan, near Mattra, the raja had submitted, and had been favourably received; when a quarrel accidentally breaking out between the soldiers of the two parties, the Hindus were massacred and driven into the river, and the raja, conceiving himself betrayed, destroyed his wife and children, and then made away with himself.

At Munj, after a desperate resistance, part of the Rajput garrison rushed out through the breaches on the enemy, while the rest dashed themselves to pieces from the works, or burned themselves with their wives and children in their houses; so that not one of the whole body survived. Various other towns were reduced, and much country laid waste; and the king returned to Ghazni, loaded with spoil and accompanied by 5500 prisoners846. Having

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Tenth and eleventh expeditions

1022, AH 413

now learned the way into the interior, Mahmud made two subsequent marches into India at long intervals from the present: the first was to the relief of the raja of Canouj, who had been cut off before the Sultan arrived, by the raja of Calinjer in Bundelcand, against whom Mahmud next turned his arms, AD 1023, AH 414, but made no permanent impression, either in this or a subsequent campaign.

Permanent occupation of the Panjab

On the first of these expeditions an event occurred which had more permanent effects than all the Sultan’s great victories. Jeipal II., who had succeeded Anangpal in the government of Lahor, seems, after some misunderstandings at the time of his accession, to have lived on good terms with Mahmud. On this occasion, his ill destiny led him to oppose that prince’s march to Canouj. The results were, the annexation of Lahor and its territory to Ghazni: the first instance of a permanent garrison on the east of the Indus, and

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the foundation of the future Mahometan empire in India.

1024, AH 415

After this, Mahmud’s attention was drawn to Transoxiana: he marched thither in person, crushed a revolt, and subsequently returned to Ghazni.

Since his great expedition to Canouj, Mahmud seems to have lost all taste for predatory incursions, and the invasions last mentioned were scarcely the result of choice. He seems, at this time, to have once more called up his energy, and determined on a final effort which should transmit his name to posterity among the greatest scourges of idolatry, if not the greatest promoters of Islam.

Twelfth expedition


This was his expedition to Somnat, which is celebrated, wherever there is a Mussulman, as the model of a religious invasion.

Somnat was a temple of great sanctity, situated near the southern extremity of the peninsula of Guzerat847. Though now chiefly known in India from the history of Mahmud’s exploit, it seems, at the time we are writing of, to have been the richest and most frequented, as well as most famous, place of worship in the country848.

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To reach this place, Mahmud, besides a long march through inhabited countries, had to cross a desert, 350 miles broad, of loose sand or hard clay, almost entirely without water, and with very little forage for horses.

To cross this with an army, even into a friendly country, would be an exceedingly difficult undertaking at the present day: to cross it for the first time, with the chance of meeting a hostile army on the edge, required an extraordinary share of skill, no less than enterprise.

1024, AH 415

The army moved from Ghazni in September, AD 1024, and reached Multan in October. The Sultan had collected 20,000 camels for carrying supplies, besides enjoining his troops to provide themselves, as far as they could, with forage, water, and provisions. The number of his army is not given. It is said to have been accompanied by a crowd of volunteers, chiefly from beyond the Oxus, attracted by love of adventure and hopes of plunder, at least as much as by religious zeal849.

As soon as he had completed his arrangement for the march, he crossed the desert without any disaster, and made good his footing on the cultivated part of India near Ajmir. The Hindus, if they were aware of the storm that was gathering,

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were not prepared for its bursting on a point that seemed so well protected, and the raja of Ajmir had no resource but in flight. His country was ravaged, and his town, which had been abandoned by the inhabitants, was given up to plunder; but the hill fort, which commands it, held out; and, as it was not Mahmud’s object to engage in sieges, he proceeded on his journey, which was now an easy one; his route probably lying along the plain between the Aravalli mountains and the desert. Almost the first place he came to in Guzerat was the capital, Anhalwara, where his appearance was so sudden that the raja, though one of the greatest princes in India, was constrained to abandon it with precipitation.

Without being diverted by this valuable conquest, Mahmud pursued his march to Somnat, and at length reached that great object of his exertions. He found the temple situated on a peninsula connected with the main land by a fortified isthmus, the battlements of which were manned in every point, and from whence issued a herald, who brought him defiance and threats of destruction in the name of the god. Little moved by these menaces, Mahmud brought forward his archers, and soon cleared the walls of their defenders, who now crowded to the temple, and, prostrating themselves before the idol, called on him with tears for help. But Rajputs are as easily excited as dispirited; and, bearing the shouts ofAllaho Akbar!” from the Mussulmans, who had already begun

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to mount the walls, they hurried back to their defence, and made so gallant a resistance that the Mussulmans were unable to retain their footing, and were driven from the place with loss.

The next day brought a still more signal repulse. A general assault was ordered; but, as fast as the Mussulmans scaled the walls, they were hurled down headlong by the besieged, who seemed resolved to defend the place to the last.

On the third day the princes of the neighbourhood, who had assembled to rescue the temple, presented themselves in order of battle, and compelled Mahmud to relinquish the attack, and move in person against his new enemy.

The battle raged with great fury, and victory was already doubtful, when the raja of Anhalwara arrived with a strong reinforcement to the Hindus. This unexpected addition to their enemies so dispirited the Mussulmans that they began to waver, when Mahmud, who had prostrated himself to implore the Divine assistance, leaped upon his horse, and cheered his troops with such energy, that, ashamed to abandon a king under whom they had so often fought and bled, they, with one accord, gave a loud shout, and rushed forwards with an impetuosity which could no longer be withstood. Five thousand Hindus lay dead after the charge; and so complete was the rout of their army, that the garrison gave up all hopes of further defence, and, breaking out to the number of 4000 men, made their way to their boats; and, though not

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without considerable loss, succeeded in escaping by sea.

Mahmud entered the temple, and was struck with the grandeur of the edifice, the lofty roof of which was supported by fifty-six pillars curiously carved and richly ornamented with precious stones. The external light was excluded, but the temple was illuminated by a lamp which hung down in the centre from a golden chain. Facing the entrance was Somnat, – an idol five yards high, of which two were buried in the ground. Mahmud instantly ordered the image to be destroyed; when the Bramins of the temple threw themselves before him, and offered an enormous ransom if he would spare their deity. Mahmud hesitated; and his courtiers hastened to offer the advice which they knew would be acceptable; but Mahmud, after a moment’s pause, exclaimed that he would rather be remembered as the breaker than the seller of idols, and struck the image with his mace. His example was instantaneously followed, and the image, which was hollow, burst with the blows, and poured forth a quantity of diamonds and other jewels which had been concealed in it, that amply repaid Mahmud for the sacrifice of the ransom. Two pieces of this idol were sent to Mecca and Medina, Medina, to Ghazni, where one was to be seen at the palace and one at the public mosque, as late as when Ferishta wrote his history850.

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The treasure taken on this occasion exceeded all former captures; but even the Asiatic historians are tired of enumerating the mans of gold and jewels.

Meanwhile the raja of Anhalwara had taken refuge in Gundaba, a fort which was considered to be protected by the sea. Mahmud ascertained it to be accessible, though not without danger, when the tide was low; entered the water at the head of his troops, and carried the place by assault, but failed to capture the raja.

Mahmud sets up a raja in Guzerat

Mahmud, thus victorious, returned to Anhalwara, where it is probable that he passed the rainy sea son; and so much was he pleased with the mildness of the climate and the beauty and fertility of the country, that he entertained thoughts of transferring his capital thither (for some years at least), and of making it a new point of departure for further conquests. He appears, indeed, at this time, to have been elated with his success, and to have meditated the formation of a fleet, and the accomplishment of a variety of magnificent projects. His visions, however, were in a different spirit from those of Alexander; and were not directed to the glory of exploring the ocean, but the acquisition of the jewels of Ceylon and the gold mines of Pegu. Mature reflection concurred with the advice of his ministers in inducing him to give up those schemes;

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and as the raja still kept at a distance, and refused submission, he looked around for a fit person whom he might invest with the government, and on whom he could rely for the payment of a tribute. He fixed his eyes on a man of the ancient royal family who had retired from the world, and embraced the life of an anchoret, and whom he probably thought more likely than any other to remain in submission and dependence851.

There was another pretender of the same family, whom Mahmud thought it necessary to secure in his camp, and whom, when he was about to leave Guzerat, the new raja earnestly entreated to have delivered to him as the only means of giving stability to his throne. Mahmud, who, it seems, had admitted the prisoner into his presence, was very unwilling to give him up to his enemy, and he was with difficulty persuaded to do so by the argument of his minister, that it wasnot necessary to have compassion on a pagan idolater.” His repugnance was no doubt increased by the belief that he was consigning the prisoner to certain death; but the

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ascetic was too pious to shed human blood, and mildly ordered a dark pit to be dug under his own throne, in which his enemy was to linger out the days that nature had assigned to him. A fortunate revolution, however, reversed the destiny of the parties, and consigned the anchoret to the dungeon which he had himself prepared852.

Distresses in the desert on his return

Mahmud, having by this time passed upwards of a year in Guzerat, began to think of returning to his own dominions. He found that the route by which he had advanced was occupied by a great army under the raja of Ajmir and the fugitive raja of Anhalwara. His own force was reduced by the casualties of war and climate; and he felt that even a victory, unless complete, would be total ruin to an army whose further march lay through a desert. He therefore determined to try a new road by the sands to the east of Sind. The hot season must have been advanced when he set out, and the sufferings of his followers, owing to want of water and forage, were severe from the first; but all their other miseries were thrown into the shade by those of three days, during which they were misled by their guides, and wandered, without relief, through the worst part of the desert: their

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thirst became intolerable from the toil of their march on a burning sand and under a scorching sun, and the extremity of their distress drove them to acts of fury that heightened the calamity. The guides were tortured, and were believed to have confessed that they were priests in disguise, who had devoted themselves to avenge the disgrace of Somnat: despair seized on every breast: many perished miserably; some died raving mad; and it was thought to be no less than a miraculous interposition of Providence which guided them at last to a lake or pool of water.

At length they arrived at Multan, and from thence proceeded to Ghazni853.

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Mahmud allowed himself no repose after all that he had endured. He returned to Multan before the end of the year, to chastise a body of Jats in the Jund mountains, who had molested his army on its march from Somnat. These marauders took refuge in the islands inclosed by the smaller channels of the Indus, which are often not fordable, and where they might elude pursuit by shifting from island to island. Mahmud, who was on his guard against this expedient, had provided himself with boats, and was thus able, not only to transport his own troops across the channels, but to cut off the communications of the enemy, to seize such boats as they had in their possession, and, in the end, to destroy most of the men, and make prisoners of the women and children.854

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First revolt of the Seljuks

This was the last of Mahmud’s expeditions to India. His activity was soon called forth in another direction; for the Turki tribe of Seljuk, whose growth he had incautiously favoured, had become too unruly and too powerful to be restrained by his local governors; and he was obliged to move in person against them.

Suppressed 1027, AH 418

He defeated them in a great battle, and compelled them, for a time, to return to their respect for his authority855.

Conquest of Persia by Mahmud

This success was now followed by another of greater consequence, which raised Mahmud’s power to its highest pitch of elevation. The origin of the family of Buya, or the Deilemites, has already been mentioned856. They subsequently divided into three branches; and, after various changes, one branch remained in possession of Persian Irak, extending from the frontier of Khorasan, westward to the mountains of Kurdistan, beyond Hamadan. The chief of this branch had died about the time of Mahmud’s accession, leaving his dominions under

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the regency of his widow; and the Sultan was at first disposed to take advantage of the circumstance. He was disarmed by a letter from the regent, who told him that she might have feared him while her warlike husband was alive, but now felt secure in the conviction that he was too generous to attack a defenceless woman, and too wise to risk his glory in a contest where no addition to it could be gained857.

If Mahmud ever evinced this magnanimity towards the widow, it was not extended to her son. This young man’s reign was a continued scene of misgovernment; and the rebellions it at last engendered either obliged him (as some state) to solicit the interposition of Mahmud, or enabled that monarch to interfere unsolicited, and to turn the distracted state of the kingdom to his own profit. He invaded Irak, and ungenerously, if not perfidiously, seized the person of the prince, who had trusted himself in his camp before Rei. He then took possession of the whole territory; and, having been opposed at Isfahan and Cazvin, he punished their resistance by putting to death some thousands of the inhabitants of each city858.

His death, 1030, AH 421

These transactions, which leave so great a stain on the memory of Mahmud, were the last acts of his reign. He was taken ill soon after his return

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to his capital, and died at Ghazni on the 29th of April, AD 1030859.

Shortly before his death he commanded all the most costly of his treasures to be displayed before him; and, after long contemplating them, he is said to have shed tears at the thought that he was so soon to lose them. It is remarked that, after this fond parting with his treasures, he distributed no portion of them among those around him, to whom also he was about to bid farewell860.

and character

Thus died Mahmud, certainly the greatest sovereign of his own time, and considered by the Mahometans among the greatest of any age. Though some of his qualities have been overrated, he appears on the whole to have deserved his reputation. Prudence, activity, and enterprise, he possessed in the highest degree; and the good order which he preserved in his extensive dominions during his frequent absences is a proof of his talents for government. The extent itself of those dominions does little towards establishing his ability, for the state of the surrounding countries afforded a field for a wider ambition than he ventured to indulge; and the speedy dissolution of his empire prevents

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our forming a high opinion of the wisdom employed in constructing it. Even his Indian operations, for which all other objects were resigned, are so far from displaying any signs of system or combination, that their desultory and inconclusive nature would lead us to deny him a comprehensive intellect, unless we suppose its range to have been contracted by the sordid passions of his heart.

He seems to have made no innovation in internal government: no laws or institutions are referred, by tradition, to him.

The real source of his glory lay in his combining the qualities of a warrior and a conqueror, with a zeal for the encouragement of literature and the arts, which was rare in his time, and has not yet been surpassed. His liberality in those respects is enhanced by his habitual economy. He founded a university in Ghazni, with a vast collection of curious books in various languages, and a museum of natural curiosities. He appropriated a large sum of money for the maintenance of this establishment, besides a permanent fund for allowances to professors and to students861. He also set aside a sum, nearly equal to 10,000l. a-year, for pensions to learned men; and showed so much munificence to individuals of eminence, that his capital exhibited a greater assemblage of literary genius than any other monarch in Asia has ever been able to produce.862

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Of the many names that adorned his court, few are known in Europe. Unsuri may be mentioned as the first instance, in Asia, of a man raised to high rank and title for poetical merit alone863; but it is to Ferdousi that we must ascribe the universal reputation of Mahmud as a patron of poetry; and it is to him, also, that his country is indebted for a large portion of her poetical fame.

The history of this poet throws a strong light on Mahmud’s literary ardour; and is improved in interest as well as authenticity by its incidental disclosure of the conqueror’s characteristic foible. Perceiving that the ancient renown of Persia was on the point of being extinguished, owing to the bigotry of his predecessors, Mahmud early held out rewards to any one who would embody in a historical poem, the achievements of her kings and heroes, previous to the Mahometan conquest. Dakiki, a great poet of the day, whom he had first engaged in this undertaking, was assassinated by

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a servant, before he had finished more than one thousand couplets; when the fame of Mahmud’s liberality fortunately attracted Ferdousi to his court. By him was this great work completed; and in such a manner, that, although so obsolete as to require a glossary, it is still the most popular of all books among his countrymen, and is admired even by European readers for the spirit and fire of some passages, the tenderness of others, and the Homeric simplicity and grandeur that pervade the whole. A remarkable feature in this poem (perhaps an indication of the taste of the age) is the fondness for ancient Persian words, and the studious rejection of Arabic. It is said, though not, perhaps, quite correctly, that not one exclusively Arabic word is to be found in the sixty thousand couplets. The poem was from time to time recited to the Sultan, who listened to it with delight, and showed his gratitude by gifts to the poet; but when the whole was concluded, after thirty years of labour, as Ferdousi himself assures us, the reward was entirely disproportioned to the greatness of the work864. Ferdousi rejected what was offered, withdrew in indignation to his native city of Tus,

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launched a bitter satire at Mahmud, and held himself prepared to fly from that monarch’s dominions, if it were necessary, to shun the effects of his revenge. But Mahmud magnanimously forgot the satire, while he remembered the great epic, and sent so ample a remuneration to the poet as would have surpassed his highest expectations. But his bounty came too late; and the treasure entered one door of Ferdousi’s house as his bier was borne out of another. His daughter at first rejected the untimely gift; by the persuasion of Mahmud, she at length accepted it, and laid it out on an embankment, to afford a supply of water to the city where her father had been born, and to which he was always much attached.

The satire, however, has survived. It is to it we owe the knowledge of Mahmud’s base birth; and to it, beyond doubt, is to be ascribed the preservation of the memory of his avarice, which would otherwise long ago have been forgotten865.

Mahmud’s taste for architecture, whether engendered, or only developed, by what he witnessed at Mattra and Canouj, displayed itself in full perfection after his return from that expedition. He then founded the mosque calledthe Celestial Bride,” which, in that age, was the wonder of the East. It was built of marble and granite, of such beauty as to strike every beholder with astonishment866,

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and was furnished with rich carpets, candelabras, and other ornaments of silver and gold. It is probable, from the superiority long possessed by Indian architects, that the novelty and elegance of the design had even a greater effect than the materials, in commanding so much admiration. When the nobility of Ghazni, says Ferishta (from whom most of the above is transcribed), saw the taste of the monarch evince itself in architecture, they vied with each other in the magnificence of their private palaces, as well as in public buildings, which they raised for the embellishment of the city. Thus, in a short time, the capital was ornamented with mosques, porches, fountains, reservoirs, aqueducts, and cisterns, beyond every city in the East.

All writers attest the magnificence of Mahmud’s court, which exhibited the solemnity of that of the califs, together with all the pomp and splendour which they had borrowed from the great king; so that when to all this we add the great scale of his expeditions, and the high equipments of his armies, we must accede to the assertion of his historian, that, if he was rapacious in acquiring wealth, he was unrivalled in the judgment and grandeur with which he knew how to expend it.

As avarice is the great imputation against Mahmud in the East, so is bigotry among European writers. The first of these charges is established

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by facts; the other seems the result of a misconception. Mahmud carried on war with the infidels because it was a source of gain, and, in his day, the greatest source of glory. He professed, and probably felt, like other Mussulmans, an ardent wish for the propagation of his faith; but he never sacrificed the least of his interests for the accomplishment of that object; and he even seems to have been perfectly indifferent to it, when he might have attained it without loss. One province, permanently occupied, would have done more for conversion than all his inroads, which only hardened the hearts of the Hindus against a religion which presented itself in such a form.

Even where he had possession, he showed but little zeal. Far from forcing conversions, like Mohammed Casim, we do not hear that in his long residence in Guzerat, or his occupation of Lahor, he ever made a convert at all. His only ally (the raja of Canouj) was an unconverted Hindu. His transactions with the raja of Lahor were guided entirely by policy, without reference to religion; and when he placed a Hindu devotee on the throne of Guzerat, his thoughts must have been otherwise directed than to the means of propagating Islam.

It is no where asserted that he ever put a Hindu to death except in battle, or in the storm of a fort. His only massacres were among his brother Mussulmans in Persia. Even they were owing to the spirit of the age, not of the individual, and sink into insignificance, if compared with those of

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Chengiz Khan, who was not a Mussulman, and is eulogised by one of our most liberal historians as a model of philosophical toleration.

Perhaps the most odious trait of his religious wars is given incidentally by a Mahometan author, quoted in Price, who states that such was the multitude of captives brought from India, that a purchaser could not be found for a slave at four shillings and seven pence a head.

The Mahometan historians are so far from giving him credit for a blind attachment to the faith, that they charge him with scepticism, and say that he rejected all testimony, and professed his doubts of a future state: and the end of the story, as they relate it, increases its probability; for, as if he felt that he had gone too far, he afterwards announced that the Prophet had appeared to him in a dream, and in one short sentence had removed all his doubts and objections.

It is, however, certain that he was most attentive to the forms of his religion. He always evinced the strongest attachment to the orthodox calif, and rejected all offers from his Egyptian rival. Though he discouraged religious enthusiasts and ascetics, he showed great reverence for men of real sanctity867.

Hardly one battle of importance is described in which he did not kneel down in prayer, and implore the blessing of God upon his arms868.

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Notwithstanding the bloodshed and misery of which he was the occasion, he does not seem to have been cruel. We hear of none of the tragedies and atrocities in his court and family which are so common in those of other despots. No inhuman punishments are recorded; and rebels, even when they are persons who had been pardoned and trusted, never suffer any thing worse than imprisonment.

Mahmud was about the middle size; athletic, and well proportioned in his limbs, but disfigured with the small-pox to a degree that was a constant source of mortification to him in his youth, until it stimulated him to exertion, from a desire that the bad impression made by his appearance might be effaced by the lustre of his actions869.

He seems to have been of a cheerful disposition, and to have lived on easy terms with those around him.

The following well-known story shows the opinion entertained of his severity to military licence, one of the first virtues in a general. One day a peasant threw himself at his feet, and complained that an officer of the army, having conceived a

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passion for his wife, had forced himself into his house, and driven him out with blows and insults; and that he had renewed the outrage, regardless of the clamours of the husband. Mahmud directed him to say nothing, but to come again when the officer repeated his visit. On the third day, the peasant presented himself, and Mahmud took his sword in silence, and wrapping himself in a loose mantle, followed him to his house. He found the guilty couple asleep, and, after extinguishing the lamp, he struck off the head of the adulterer at a blow. He then ordered lights to be brought, and, on looking at the dead man’s face, burst into an exclamation of thanksgiving, and called for water, of which he drank a deep draught. Perceiving the astonishment of the peasant, he informed him he had suspected that so bold a criminal could be no other than his own nephew; that he had extinguished the light lest his justice should give way to affection; that he now saw that the offender was a stranger; and, having vowed neither to eat nor drink till he had given redress, he was nearly exhausted with thirst.

Another example is given of his sense of his duty to his people. Soon after the conquest of Irak, a caravan was cut off in the desert to the east of that country, and the mother of one of the merchants who was killed went to Ghazni to complain. Mahmud urged the impossibility of keeping order in so remote a part of his territories; when the woman boldly answered,Why, then, do you take

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countries which you cannot govern, and for the protection of which you must answer in the day of judgment?” Mahmud was struck with the reproach; and, after satisfying the woman by a liberal present, he took effectual measures for the protection of the caravans.

Mahmud was, perhaps, the richest king that ever lived. On hearing of the wealth of some former dynasty, who had accumulated jewels enough to fill seven measures, he exclaimed,Praise be to God, who has given me a hundred measures.”

Composition of his court and army

As all the subsequent dynasties in India spring from the court or neighbourhood of Ghazni, it is to be regretted that we have so few materials for judging of the state of society and manners in both.

Things were much changed since the time of the Arab conquests, and new actors had come on the stage, widely different from those who had preceded them. Though many Arabs were still employed, both as soldiers and magistrates, even they were only Arabs by descent, while a great portion of the court and army were Turks, and the rest, with almost all the people, were Persians.


The Turks had not come into Ghazni as conquerors. Numbers of Turkish slaves had been brought into the southern countries after the conquest of Transoxiana; and their courage, their habits of obedience, their apparently dependent condition and want of connection with all around them, recommended them to the confidence of absolute monarchs, and led to their general employment.

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Some princes formed bodies of Mamluk (slave) guards, and some employed individuals in offices of trust; so that they already occupied an important place in what had been the Arab empire, and soon after the death of Mahmud brought the greater part of Asia under their dominion.

The house of Ghazni, though Turks themselves, were less under the influence of their countrymen than most of their contemporaries. Alptegin was a single slave, and rose to power as governor of Khorasan: He may have had some Mamluks and other links in his service; but the main body of his army, and all his subjects, were natives of the country round Ghazni. Mahmud himself was born of a Persian mother870, and was in language and manners a Persian; but his increased resources, and the conquest of Transoxiana, would draw more Turks about him, and their importance in the neighbouring countries would give more weight to their example.

The existence of wandering tribes in both nations leads us at first to suppose a resemblance between the Tartars and the Arabs; while the reality would be better shown by a contrast.

From the first mention of the Tartars, in the thirteenth century before Christ, they formed great nations under despotic governments. They fed sheep, on uncultivated but not unfertile plains,

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and were not exposed to the sufferings and privations which fall to the lot of those who follow camels in the desert. They did not live in towns; and the extent of the dominions of their princes kept them from the anxiety arising from close contact with their external enemies.

They had, therefore, nothing to sharpen their intellect, or to give birth to feelings of independence; and, though they were as brave and hardy as the Arabs, they seem to have been made of grosser materials than that fiery and imaginative people: their wars originated in obedience, not in enthusiasm; and their cruelty arose from insensibility, not bigotry or revenge: among themselves, indeed, they were sociable and good-natured, and by no means much under the influence of the darker passions.

Wherever the Arabs conquered, they left indelible traces of their presence; religion, law, philosophy, and literature, all took a new character from them. Their bad qualities, as well as their good, were copied by their subjects and disciples; and wherever we find a Mussulman, we are sure to see a tinge of the pride, violence, and jealousy, with something of the hospitality and munificence, of the early Arab. The Tartars, on the other hand, have neither founded a religion nor introduced a literature; and, so far from impressing their own stamp on others, they have universally melted into that of the nations among whom they settled so that, in manners and in outward appearance,

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there is scarcely a feature left in common between a Tartar of Persia and one of China.

Amidst all these changes of form, there is some peculiarity of genius or temperament, which preserves a sort of national character; and, when improved by the qualities of more refined nations, they exhibit more of the manly and practical turn of Europeans than is found in any other among the nations of the East.


In the present instance, their character took its bias from the Persians, a people very likely to influence all who came into contact with them.

With a good deal of the energy of the Arabs and Tartars, the Persians combine the suppleness and artifice of the Hindus, and a fund of talents and ingenuity peculiar to themselves; and, being a lively and restless people, they have been able (although always depressed by a singularly grievous despotism) to make a figure in the history of the world out of all proportion to their numbers or the resources of their territory.

From the first conquest of their country the Persians must have been employed in all financial and civil business, in which the Arabs were no adepts; and their rapid conversion early opened the way for them to offices of trust and power. Abu Moslem, who placed the Abbassides on the throne, was a Persian of Isfahan; the celebrated Barmecides were Persians of Balkh; and the nation seems before long to have extended its views to the recovery of its independence. Tahir, though an

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Arab, was supported by Persians in his rebellion. The Soffarides, the Buyides, and probably the Samanides871, were Persians; and, at the time we are writing of, Mahmud was the only sovereign not of Persian origin between the Jaxartes and the Euphrates.

Their agreeable manners and refined way of living rendered the Persians models in those respects, even in countries at a distance from their own; and their language, which had been enriched by vast accessions from. the Arabic, became, a little before this time, what it still continues, the main channel of polite literature, and, in some degree, of science, through all the Mahometan part of Asia.

Relation of the different nations to the government

These nations were in various degrees of obedience, and influenced the government in various manners.

The inhabitants of towns and plains (including the Arabs, almost all the Persians, and such of the small bodies of Turks as had long confined themselves to particular tracts) were entirely submissive

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to the Sultan. The mountaineers were probably in every stage from entire obedience to nearly perfect independence. The great Turki hordes (as the Seljuks) were separate communities unconnected with the territory they occupied, which sometimes, in the same generation, was on the Amur and on the Wolga. Their relation to the Sultan depended on the will of their chiefs, and was as fluctuating as might be expected in such circumstances; during the vigorous reign of Mahmud they seem in general to have been submissive.

The small portion of India possessed by Mahmud was so recent an acquisition, that the limits of his authority, both in degree and extent, must have been ill defined. I suppose he was powerful in the plains, and had little influence in the hills.

Their shares in the government may be conjectured from the circumstances of the different nations.

Religion and law were Arabian (though modified in the latter department by local customs); and the lawyers and divines would, in many cases, be from the same country.

The Sultan had a body of guards mounted on his own horses, who, we may conclude, were Mamluks (or Turki slaves); and separate troops of Tartar horse, from beyond the Oxus, no doubt formed an important part of his army. A body of 5000 Arab horse is mentioned on one occasion, and very large bodies of Afghans and Khiljis are often spoken

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of; but we may infer, from various circumstances and analogies, that the bulk of his army was recruited promiscuously from all parts of his dominions, either singly or in small bodies, and was placed under officers of his own selection; that the contingents of particular provinces were under their governors; and that, besides the mountaineers enlisted in the ranks, many tumultuary bodies of that class served under their hereditary chiefs. All general commands were certainly held by the king’s own officers, who, by their names, seem generally to have been Turks.

The number of his regular army is said, at a muster six years before his death, to have amounted to 61,000 good horse; a moderate number for so great a state, and probably increased on occasions by temporary levies.

Though there is no mention of Hindus in Mahmud’s army, a numerous body of Hindu cavalry, under Sewand Rai, is stated to have taken part in the troubles at Ghazni within two months after the Sultan’s death; whence it is obvious that he must, during his lifetime, have availed himself of the services of this class of his subjects without considering their religion as an objection.

Though the Turki nation were still pagans, most, if not all, those in Mahmud’s army were probably Mahometans. The slaves were of course made Mussulmans as soon as they were purchased, and the free men were likely from imitation to embrace the religion of the country they were in. Some

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even of the hordes had begun to be converted; but as the Turks did not, like the Hindus, lay aside their pagan names on conversion, it is not so easy, as in the other cases, to ascertain their religion872.

The civil administration must have been entirely conducted by Persians. The two celebrated vizirs, Abul Abbass and Ahmed Meimendi, were of that nation, and appear to have lived in constant rivalry with the great Turki generals. The former of the two, being more a man of business than learning, introduced the practice of writing all public papers in Persian. Ahmed restored Arabic in permanent documents; such, probably, as charters, and those of the class which in Europe would be written in Latin.

It is owing to this circumstance that, although India was never directly conquered by Persia, the language of business, and of writing in general, is all taken from the latter country. The Persian language is also spoken much more generally than French is in Europe. It likewise furnishes a large proportion of the vernacular language of Hindostan, the basis of which is an original Indian dialect.


832. See Colonel Briggs’s note on Ferishta, vol. i. p. 29.

833. Though not before adopted by the Mussulmans, it is an old Arabic word for a king.

834. 1002.

835. Batinda seems formerly to have been a place of more consequence than its situation, in a sort of desert, would promise. It is said by Colonel Tod to have been the residence of the raja of Lahor alternately with the capital from which he took his title. As the battle at Peshawer was on the 27th of November, Mahmud would reach Batinda towards the end of the cold season, when the rivers of the Panjab, though not all fordable, would offer little obstruction to cavalry.

836. His name was Abul Fatteh Lodi, and he was grandson of Humid Khan Lodi, who had joined the enemies of his faith for a cession of the provinces of Multan and Laghman, and who submitted to Sebektegin after his victory over the Hindus.

837. Ferishta. De Guignes. D’Herbelot.

838. Price, vol. ii. p. 234.

839. In the original this iscannon and musquetry;” and although Colonel Briggs finds a most ingenious solution, which, by a slight change of the diacritical points in the Persian, turns these words intonaphtha balls and arrows;” yet he is staggered by the agreement of all the MSS., and suspects an anachronism in the author. I have adopted the simplest explanation.

840. There are many sorts of man: the smallest, that of Arabia, is 2 lbs.; the commonest, that of Tabriz, is 11 lbs. The Indian man is 80 lbs. (Briggs, note on Ferishta, vol. i. p. 48.)

841. The name of this tract continually occurs in connection with Ghor and the neighbouring countries. Its position appears from Ebn Haukal (Ouseley’s Elm Haukal, pp. 213. 221. 225.); it is very often mistaken by European writers for Georgia; and D’Herbelot, under this impression, derives the title of the prince (which, from the defective writing of the Persians, is made by different authors Sar, Shar, Tshar, and Nishar) from the Russian czar, or from Caesar.

842. From 1012 to 1025. (De Guignes, vol. ii. p. 31.)

843. No previous expedition in the direction of the Oxus is mentioned by any historian after the battle with Elk Khan in 1006; and Ferishta ascribes this invasion to the resentment of Mahmud at the murder of the king of Kharizm, who was married to his daughter; but D’Herbelot (art. Mahmoud) and De Guignes (who quotes Abulfedha, vol. ii. p. 166.) assert as positively that it was to put down a rebellion; and as Ferishta himself alludes to an application to the calif for an order for the surrender of Samarcand in 1012, it is not improbable that Mahmud may have employed that year in the conquest of Transoxiana, especially as there is no mention of his being then personally engaged in any other expedition.

844. A Hindu writer, among other extravagant praises (Colonel Tod, vol. ii. p. 7.), says the walls were thirty miles round; a Mussulman (Major Rennell, p. 54.) asserts that it contained 30,000 shops for the sale of bitel leaf. Some Mahometan writers pay the raja the usual compliment of supposing him emperor of all India; and Ebn Haukal, a century before Mahmud, mentions Canouj as the chief city of India. (Ouseley’s Ebn Haukal, p. 9.)

845. The following extract has been preserved of a letter from Mahmud to the Governor of Ghazni: –Here there are a thousand edifices as firm as the faith of the faithful, most of them of marble, besides innumerable temples; nor is it likely that this city has attained its present condition but at the expense of many millions of deenars; nor could such another be constructed under a period of two centuries.” (Briggs’s Ferishta, vol. i. p. 58.)

846. The whole of this expedition is indistinctly related by Ferishta. He copies the Persian writers, who, adverting to the seasons in their own country, make Mahmud begin his march in spring. Had he done so, he need not have gone so high in search of fords; but he would have reached Canouj at the beginning of the periodical rains, and carried on all his subsequent movements in the midst of rivers during that season. It is probable he would go to Peshawer before the snow set in above the passes, and would cross the Indus early in November. His marches are still worse detailed. He goes first to Canouj, then back to Mirat, and then back again to Mattra. There is no clue to his route, advancing or retiring: he probably came down by Mirat, but it is quite uncertain how he returned. For a good discussion of his marches, see Bird’s History of Gujardt, Introduction, p. 31.

847. Called by the natives Soreth and Kattiwar.

848. It is said that from 200,000 to 300,000 votaries used to attend this temple during eclipses; that 2000 villages had been granted by different princes to maintain its establishments; that there were 2000 priests, 500 dancing women, and 300 musicians attached to the temple; that the chain supporting a bell which worshippers strike during prayer weighed 200 mans of gold; and that the idol was washed daily with water brought from the Ganges, a distance of 1000 miles. The last statement is not improbable from present practices. The numbers, as in all cases in Asiatic writers, must be considered as indefinite. The value of the chain, if in Tubrizi mans (as was probably intended) would be above 100,000l., and if in Arab mans, under 2000l.

849. Ferishta reckons them at 80,000. (Briggs, vol. i. p. 68.)

850. The above is Ferishta’s account, and might be true of some idol in the temple; but the real object of worship at Somnat was not an image, but a simple cylinder of stone. (Professor Wilson, Asiatic Researches, vol. xvii. p. 194, &c.)

851. The person selected is said to have been a descendant of Dabishlim, an ancient Hindu raja, so called by the Persians, to whom his name is familiar as the prince by whose orders the fables of Pilpai were composed. Ferishta calls both the pretenders’ in the following story by the name of their supposed ancestor; but they probably were representatives of the family of Chawara, to whom the father of the reigning raja of the family of Chaluka had succeeded through the female line. (Bird’s Mirati Ahmedi, p. 142., and Tod’s Rajasthan, vol. i. p. 97.)

852. This story is chiefly taken from D’Herbelot and Bird’s translation of theMirati Ahmedi,” whose narratives are more consistent than that in Ferishta. When stripped of some wonderful circumstances with which the historians have embellished it, it is by no means improbable in itself, and is too true a picture of the hypocritical humanity of a Hindi, priest in power to have been invented by a Mahometan author.

853. It seems surprising, when we read of all these sufferings, that Mahmud should neither in going or returning have availed himself of the easy and safe passage along the banks of the Indus, with which he could not fail to be well acquainted, both by the accounts of Mohammed Casim’s expedition, and by the neighbourhood of the Afghans. So unaccountable is the neglect of this route, that we are led to think that some physical obstacles may then have existed which have now ceased to operate. It seems certain that the Rin, which is now a hard desert in the dry season, and a salt marsh in the rains, was formerly a part of the sea. The traditions of sea ports on the north of Cach, and the discovery of ships in the Rin, appear to put this question beyond a doubt; while the rapidity of the changes which have taken place under our own eyes prepare us to believe that still greater may have occurred in the 800 years that have elapsed since the taking of Somnat. (See Burnes’s Travels, vol. iii. p. 809.) I suppose Mahmud’s expedition to Somnat to have occupied more than a year and a half, i.e. from October or November, 1024, to April or May, 1026. Ferishta says it occupied two years and a half, and Price, in one place, two years and a half, and in another, more than three. (Vol. ii. p. 291.) But these periods are inconsistent with the dates in Ferishta, which are as follows: – March from Multan, October, 1021, AH 415; return to Ghazni, 1026, AH 417. The return must have taken place before the middle of the year, as Mahmud’s sufferings in the desert would not have happened in the rainy season, and, moreover, as no time would be left for the expedition against the Jats, which took place in the same year. The two years and a half, therefore, could only be made up by supposing Ferishta to have made a slip in ascribing Mahmud’s return to 1026, instead of 1027; but 1027 appears by his own account to have been employed in an expedition against the Seljuks. (Briggs, vol. i. p. 83.) Supposing Mahmud to have remained for two years in Guzerat, it would be difficult to explain how he kept up his communications with Ghazni; as well as to account for his inaction during so long a period, in which not a march nor a transaction of any kind is recorded.

854. I have endeavoured to reconcile this account, which is entirely on Ferishta’s authority, with the size of the river and the geography of the neighbourhood. His own description gives an idea of a regular naval armament and a sea fight; Mahmud, he says, had 1400 boats built for the occasion, each capable of containing twenty-five archers and fire-ball men, and armed with spikes in a peculiar manner. The enemy had a fleet of 4000, and some say 8000 boats, and a desperate conflict took place; yet Mahmud’s boats must have been constructed after his return during the present year, and the mountaineers could scarcely have possessed a large flotilla. I question if 1000 boats could now be collected on the whole of the Indus and the rivers connected with it.

855. Briggs’s Ferishta, vol. i. pp. 82, 83.

856. See p. 523.

857. D’Herbelot. Price. Gibbon.

858. D’Herbelot, art. 44 Mahmoud,” p. 521. See also art.Magdeddulat.”

859. Briggs, vol. i. p. 84.; Price, vol. ii. p. 294.

860. It was probably this anecdote that suggested to Sadi a story which he relates in theGulistan.” A certain person, he says, saw Sultan Mahmud (then long dead) in a dream. His body was reduced to a bare skeleton; but his eyes (the organs of covetousness with the Asiatics) were still entire, and gazed eagerly from their sockets, as if they were insatiable and indestructible, like the passion which animated them.

861. Briggs’s Ferishta, vol. i. p. 60.

862. The first encouragers of Persian literature appear to have been the Samanis. TheTarikhi Tabari” a celebrated historical work, was translated into Persian from Arabic by the vizir of one of the kings of that race, in 946; and Rudeki, the earliest of the Persian poets, received 80,000 dirhems from another of those princes for a moral work founded on Pilpay’s fables. The Buyas, or Deilemites, are mentioned by Gibbon as revivers of the language and genius of Persia; but it is to Sultan Mahmud that she is indebted for the full expansion of her national literature.

863. Colonel Kennedy, from Daulot Shah, Transactions of the Bombay Literary Society, vol. ii. p. 75.; where, also, is the authority for the present to Rudeki.

864. The story told is, that Mahmud had promised a dirhem for every verse; and that, although he had meant golden dirhems, the sight of the sum was too much for his covetous nature, and he changed the payment into silver dirhems; but Mahmud had too much prudence to have promised an unlimited sum for verses, even of Ferdousi’s, and too much taste to have thought that he would improve their value by offering a premium on their number.

865. D’Herbelot; Kennedy on Persian Literature, Bombay Transactions; Malcolm’s Persia; Introduction to Shahnameb, Oriental Magazine, vol. vi.

866. Ferishta.

867. See a letter from Aurangzib, in the Asiatic Register for 1801, p. 92.

868. A story is told of him in Ferishta and in theRauzat u Safa,” that puts his zeal for religion in a new light. A citizen of Nishapur was brought before him on an accusation of heresy.O king,” said he,I am rich, but I am no heretic; can you not take my property without injuring my reputation ?The king heard his proposal with great good humour, took the bribe, and gave him a certificate under the royal signet of his perfect orthodoxy.

869. Ferishta. D’Herbelot. Price.

870. From Zabul, the country adjoining to Cabul on the south, beginning from Ghazni, and extending to, perhaps including, Sistan on the west.

871. The Samanides are generally reckoned Turks; but their founder was presented to the calif Mamun at Merv in Khorasan, and was neither a Turki chief nor a slave. The family claimed a Persian ancestor at a time when a descent from Guebres would not have been an object of ambition to men of another race. De Guignes, who exhausts all Tartar tribes, and even adopts single Turks like the Ghaznevites, lays no claim to the Samanis. Whether they came from Bokhara or Balkh, the fixed inhabitants of either country are Persians; and their being the first encouragers of Persian literature is another argument for their descent.

872. Seljuk is said to have been converted; and the fact is proved by the scriptural names of his sons, the contemporaries of Sultan Mahmud, which were Michael, Israel, Musa (Moses), and according to some Yunas (Jonas); but his celebrated grandson, though a zealous Mahometan, bore the Tartar name of Toghrul, and his equally famous successor that of Alp Arslan.

This collection transcribed by Chris Gage
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