Campaigns Of The Crescent 2
A.D. 1001 TO A.D. 1200
The Great Raider Mahmud being now put past, the Campaigns of the
Crescent continued in feebler fashion. In truth, for a few years
Mahomed and Masud, the dead king's twin sons, were occupied in
settling the succession. Mahomed, the elder by some hours, mild,
tractable, was his father's nominee and on the spot; Masud,
other hand, was a great warrior, bold, independent, and promptly
claimed as his right those provinces which he had won by his sword. So
they came to blows.
At the outset Mahomed's piety failed him; for having decorously halted
his host during the whole of the Month of Fasting--Ramzan--Masud
thereinafter fell upon him, armed at all points, defeated him, and put
out his eyes after he had reigned a short five months.
Masud, the new king, appears to have been a man of considerable
character and grim humour, for one of the first acts of his reign was
in cold blood to hang an unfortunate gentleman who once, long years
before, when the question of succession was the subject of
conversation, had been heard to say crudely that if Masud ever came to
the throne he would suffer himself to be hanged.
So he suffered.
But in truth, as we read the story of this Ghuznevide dynasty, and of
the Ghori dynasty which followed it, we rub our eyes and wonder how
many centuries we have gone back. For these big, bold, burly men are
fairly savages in comparison with the cultured Hindu whom they
harried. And Masud, though by repute an affable gentleman, generous
even to prodigality, and of uncommon personal strength and courage,
was as turbulent as a king as he had been as a prince.
His favourite maxim was, "Dominion follows the longest sword." His was
not only long, but heavy. No other man of his court could wield it,
and an arrow from his bow would pierce the hide of a mailed elephant.
During the ten years of his reign he entered India with an army three
times. But the first of these raids was followed, A.D. 1033, by a
terrible famine, a still more terrible outbreak of plague, from which
in one month, more than forty thousand people died in Isphahan alone.
This was in its turn followed by a severe defeat of the Ghuznevide
arms by the Turkomans on the north-east frontier; for it must not be
forgotten that though these dynasties of which we are treating are
counted as of India, they have in reality but little to do with it.
They were but titular suzerains, and very often not that, of the more
northerly provinces of Hindustan.
Apparently as a salve to resentment and shame at this defeat, Masud
began to build a fine palace at Ghuzni, over which he must have spent
some of his father's treasures, for a golden chain and a golden crown
of incredible weight appears as a canopy in the Hall of Audience.
It must have been this depletion of the royal treasures which led to
his last and most successful campaign against the kingdom of Sivalak,
where he is said to have found enormous wealth; and so on to Sonput,
ancient Hindu shrine and city to the north of Delhi, whence he made a
Mahmud-like return laden with loot.
A quaint old city is Sonput, and a curious authenticity of its hoar
antiquity turned up not long ago, when some cultivators were digging a
well. This was a small clay image of the Sun-God, a deity to which
there is now in India but one single shrine.
But here the star of Masud's fortune touched its zenith. The
Turkomans, encouraged by success, renewed operations, finally forcing
the king to abandon his border principalities and seek time in India
to recover strength for renewed efforts.
Urged, perhaps, by kindness, perhaps by fear, he ordered his blinded
and imprisoned brother to be brought to Lahore, with the unforeseen
result that his household troops suddenly revolted, and hoisting the
blind prisoner on to their shoulders, incontinently proclaimed him
once more King.
It was all over in a moment; and Masud, whose life was spared by the
mild Mahomed, found himself forced to beg a subsistence of his
brother. His pride, however, would not stand the pitiful dole of L5
which was sent him, so he promptly borrowed L10 from his servants and
bestowed them as bakshish on the messenger who had brought, and who
took back, the shabby gift.
Not a very tactful way of beginning what was practically an
imprisonment. But it was not to last long, for Prince Ahmed, Mahomed's
son, in whose favour the blind king resigned the crown, would have no
half-measures, and prevented further complications by burying Masud
The historian explains that the prince was suspected of a "strong
taint of insanity."
In truth, homicidal mania appears to set in generally, for the
remaining records of the Ghuznevide dynasty are as irrational, as
murderous as transpontine melodrama.
Prince Ahmed was in due time murdered by the murdered Masud's son, who
reigned long enough to see his Indian empire almost reft from him;
since with violent internal dissensions racking the body politic,
there was naturally no time for foreign affairs. So in the year A.D.
1048 the Rajah of Delhi, taking counsel with his compeers of Ajmir,
Kanauj, Kalungar, Gwalior, once more made themselves practically
independent of the Crescent. Only Lahore remained Mahomedan, repelling
a siege of seven months, and after actual street fighting, succeeded
in driving off the investing force.
Thus in a History of India there is small need to note that Masud II.,
a child of four years, succeeding his father, reigned six days; or
that Hussan Ali and Absal Raschid between them numbered but four
In the general turmoil, wonder comes faintly how Ibrahim--a worthy
soul who, as the historian says, "begot 36 sons and 40 daughters by
various women"--ever managed to rule for forty-two years. Apparently
by a peaceful policy; but, as the same historian goes on to say that
this monarch "was remarkable for morality and devotion, having in his
youth succeeded in subduing his sensual appetites," one hesitates
before accepting either the narrator's facts or his deductions.
Finally, after the Ghuznevide dynasty had touched a bakers' dozen,
came one Byram, who was destined to lose the throne for his race by
two useless and brutal murders. The first was the public execution of
his son-in-law, an apparently harmless prince of Ghor--as the country
of the Afghans was then called. The reason of this act is obscure,
though it seems probable he was suspected of high treason. Be that as
it may, Kutb-din Ghori-Afghan was an ill man to assail, for he had two
big brothers. The first of these, Saif-ud-din, had no little success
in his immediate campaign of revenge. Byram fled, Ghuzni was occupied;
but finally, by a stratagem, the victor fell into his enemy's hands,
whereupon the latter doubled and excelled his former crime, by
blackening his captive's face, and sending him face tailwards round
the town on a bullock as a preliminary to torturing him, beheading
him, and impaling his grand wazir.
Allah-ud-din, the last brother, then took up the gloves, after defying
Byram in these words: "Your threats are as impotent as your arms! It
is no new thing for kings to make war on their neighbours, but
barbarity like yours is unknown to the brave, and such as none have
heard of being exercised towards princes. You may therefore be assured
that God has forsaken you, and has ordained that I, Allah-ud-din,
should be the instrument of that just revenge denounced against you
for putting to death the representative of the independent and very
ancient family of Ghor."
A quaint touch! that of the "very ancient," showing the value set on
blue blood in those days.
Allah-ud-din proved a true prophet. In the resulting battle the two
"Khurmiels," gigantic brothers-in-arms, the Gog and Magog of those
days, brought victory to his arms by the ripping up of elephants'
bellies and other prodigies of strength and valour. Byram fled, to die
miserably in India overwhelmed by misfortunes, while the conqueror
earned for himself the title of "The Burner of Worlds," by the deadly
revenge he took on Ghuzni and its inhabitants.
"The massacre," writes the historian, "continued for the space of
seven days, in which time pity seems to have fled from the earth, and
the fiery spirits of demons to actuate men. A number of the most
venerable and learned persons were, to adorn the triumph, carried in
chains to Feroz-Kuh, where the victor ordered their throats to be cut,
and tempering earth with their blood, used it to plaster the walls of
his native city."
Allah-ud-din thus ended the House of Ghuzni; for though two
descendants of Byram's kept a feeble hold on power from Lahore during
the space of a few years, he was the last real king. His actions are
strangely at variance with his character, for he is said to have "been
blest with a noble and generous disposition!"
We hear also of an uncommon thirst for knowledge. But in truth these
wild, revengeful Mahomedans of the borderland were then very much as
they are to-day; that is to say, proud, lawless, quick to respond in
kind to good or evil, above all, possessed by a perfect devil of
revenge--the cruel revenge which is ever associated with sensuality.
So, naturally, Allah-ud-din, after plastering the city walls with
blood, spent the gold he had taken from Ghuzni on pleasure, until he
died four years later, in A.D. 1156.
His son only reigned for a year. A fine fellow this, apparently, both
physically and mentally, if we are to believe what is said of him;
but, as usual, passionate, revengeful. So, seeing a chief who had
fought against and defeated his father wearing some of the family
jewels which had been stripped from his own wife after that occasion,
he out with his sword and slew the offender forthwith. Whereupon the
dead man's brother, choosing a convenient moment in the middle of a
subsequent battle, out with his lance and ran the young king through
Scarcely any of them, however, died in their beds. The procession of
murders and sudden deaths becomes indeed monotonous, but was now to be
broken for a while by the advent of another of those strong men who
every now and again make, as it were, a landmark in Indian history.
This was Shahab-ud-din who, counting the time during which he was his
elder brother's deputy, was to reign for close on fifty years, and
once more weld the principalities of India proper into one solid
A strange history is this of the devoted brothers, who appear from
their babyhood to have gone through life hand in hand in fortune and
misfortune; but the house of Ghori seems to have been remarkable alike
for its family feuds and for its family affection. The latter it was,
be it remembered, which led to the establishment of the dynasty.
Another peculiarity was their sonlessness. Ghiass-ud-din, the elder
brother, succeeded to the throne by virtue of cousinship only, and as
neither he nor Shahab-ud-din had sons, it passed at their death to a
Before that, however, India had to be reconquered, and for this
purpose the Campaigns of the Crescent had to recommence.
The first was in A.D. 1176, when Mahomed Shahab-ud-din--for ere
commencing his task he added the name of the Prophet to his own, which
signifies the "Meteor of Faith"--swept through the low-lying lands
about the junction of the Punjab rivers with the Indus. He must have
had in his mind's eye the exploits of Mahmud nigh on two hundred years
before. Perhaps it was this memory which made him choose what is
practically the same name; on the other hand, he may only have been
seeking an excuse for plunder, like the dead conqueror had done in the
religious enthusiasm roused by the name of the prophet.
Be that as it may, in reading the account of his exploits, one is
tempted to rub one's eyes and ask, "Is this Mahmud of Ghuzni, or
Mahomed of Ghori?" So curiously alike are they in every way.
He did not, however, lead quite so many raids: on the other hand, he
was more permanently successful in them, despite far more organised
resistance than that which had opposed his great predecessor.
In fact, it is in this resistance that the real interest of the period
lies, so it may be as well to make a complete volte face, and having
viewed the introduction of Islam to India through Mahomedan eyes, look
at these final Campaigns of the Crescent from the Rajput side.
Before passing on to this, let us picture the man who, for close on
half a century, found his sole occupation in a soldier's life. Here we
have no added reputation of the arts or sciences. We are told he was a
great king and a just man, but he appears to have been quite
unscrupulous towards every one excepting his brother. Many of his
successes were due to treachery, and when he died--an old man,
assassinated in his sleep by those same wild tribes of the Punjab Salt
Range who inflicted so much damage on Mahmud of Ghuzni--he was the
richest king in the world. "The treasure," says the chronicler, "which
this prince left behind him is almost incredible. In diamonds alone of
various sizes he had five hundreds muns (at the lowest computation
about 1,000 lbs.), the result of his nine expeditions into Hindustan,
from each of which, excepting two occasions, he returned laden with
Yet India was still rich!