Campaigns Of The Crescent 2

A.D. 1001 TO A.D. 1200

Part II

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,
n the

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

the body.

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!