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Turkic Muslims Take India

The Foundation of the Turkic Ghaznavid Dynasty

The Muslim world had split by the time the first half of the tenth century rolled in. The Abbasid caliphs under Buyid control continued to rule in Baghdad; the Samanids ruled Khorasan in the east. The Saffarids’ ruled directly to the south; the Umayyad Caliph in Cordoba; the Hamdanids near the Mediterranean coast; and finally, the Ziyarids south of the Caspian Sea. Another dynasty appeared during the latter half of the tenth century, but this time, the formidable newcomers came not from the Arabs nor the Persians, but from the ranks of the slaves-turned-warriors: the Turks. The Turkic Muslims took India in 1030 AD according to the Bible Timeline with World History.

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The prominent Turkic general Alp Tigin was under the service of the Samanids when he rebelled after the death of the emir in 963 AD. He tried to install his own son on the Samanid throne, but this attempt failed so he and his family fled east to avoid the new emir’s assassins. They went as far as present-day Afghanistan and conquered the city of Ghazni. Alp Tigin, however, had to be temporarily content with this tiny city as his domain. The renegade general died twelve years later. He was succeeded by his son Abu-Ishaq and his son-in-law Sabuktigin as rulers of his tiny domain.

The ambitious Sabuktigin convinced his co-ruler Abu-Ishaq to ask Mansur (the Samanid emir) permission to rule their tiny domain in exchange for their loyalty. The Samanid emir agreed and made Abu-Ishaq the legitimate governor of Ghazni with Sabuktigin as his successor. When Abu-Ishaq died some time later, Sabuktigin rose to become his successor and immediately expanded his domain by attacking the city of Kandahar. The Samanids were already suspicious of Sabuktigin, but they could not do anything about this as they were busy managing the Karakhanids who raided their profitable silver mines.

“Bust of Alp Tegin”

Mahmud al Ghazni’s Expansion and Islam in India

One person who could not afford to ignore the Ghaznavid threat was Jayapala, the Hindu king of the Kabul Shahi kingdom, who immediately prepared his army to counter Sabuktigin’s. He launched a preemptive strike against Sabuktigin which the Turkic governor/king effectively countered, and this miscalculation cost Jayapala a lot of his territories. Jayapala suffered defeat after defeat in the years that followed. By the time Sabuktigin died in 997 AD, his kingdom was greatly reduced.

Sabuktigin left the crown to his son Ismail, but another son, Mahmud, fought with him for the domination of the expanding Ghaznavid Empire. Mahmud won the civil war, deposed his brother, and faced his father’s long-time nemesis, the king Jayapala, near Peshawar in November of 1001. The Hindu king was once again defeated by the fierce Ghaznavid army. He became so disheartened that he set himself on fire after his defeat. His successor, Anandapala, continued the resistance against the Ghaznavids but was forced to surrender and negotiate a peace treaty in 1011. He was succeeded by his son, Trilochanpála. His kingdom was so greatly reduced by then that he and his remaining army were forced to go into exile into the mountains. He was the last of the Kabul Shahi kings.

The defeat of the Kabul Shahi opened the way into India. By 1018, Mahmud had conquered the Gurjara-Pratihara kingdom in northwest India then drove out King Rajyapala from his capital Kannauj. Mahmud had conquered most of northwestern India by 1025, and his troops sacked an important Hindu temple when they arrived in the coastal town of Somnath. It was alleged that he removed the statue of the Hindu god Shiva and sent the rest of the statue’s body back to Ghazni after he destroyed the statue’s head. According to tradition, he had the rest of the statue positioned outside a mosque in Ghazni where worshipers stepped on it as they entered the building.

Picture By VikiçizerOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link
“Maps of the Middle East.” Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Accessed October 5, 2016.
Morgan, David, Anthony John Stanhope Reid, and Michael Allan Cook, eds. The New Cambridge History of Islam, Volume 3: The Eastern Islamic World (Eleventh to Eighteenth Centuries). Vol. 3. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010.
Thapar, Romila. Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History. London: Verso, 2005.
Utbi, Abu Al-Nasr Muhammad Ibn ‘Abd Al-Jabbar. The Kitab-I-Yamini: Historical Memoirs of the Amir Sabaktagin and the Sultan Mahmud of Ghazna. London: Printed for the Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1858.
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1 thought on “Turkic Muslims Take India

  1. Interesting read about Jayapalas and Ghaznavids.

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