Devastated India

A.D. 1389 TO A.D. 1514

For over a hundred and twenty years India remained free from a master

hand. It is true that the puppet-king Mahmud, who had fled from Delhi

on that fateful night of the 15th of January 1389, returned to it,

first as a mere pensioner, afterwards as nominal ruler; but the whole

continent had split up into petty principalities governed by Mahomedan

rulers. Guzerat, Malwa,
Kanauj, Oude, Karra, Jaunpur, Lahore,

Dipalpur, Multan, Byana, Kalpi, Mahoba, these were but a few of the

countless kings who rose up and warred with one another.

Beyond these, again, to the southward, lay the great kingdom of the

Dekkan, which one Allah-ud-din Hassan had reft bloodlessly from

Mahomed Toghluk. This Hassan had a curious history. The servant of a

Brahman astrologer, he appears to have lived a life absolutely without

colour, until one day, when ploughing, the share caught in a chain

attached to an old copper vessel full of antique gold coins. This

treasure trove introduced him to the king's notice; he was made

captain of a hundred horse, so rose gradually to power. And wherever

he went he took with him his former master, the Brahman Ganga, who

long years before had predicted for him great distinction. When Hassan

reached royalty, the Brahman became finance-minister, and from this

fact the whole dynasty was called Bahmani, or Brahmani. It lasted for

close on two hundred years; a most unusual stability for India. But

ere the period now before us had closed, the Dekkan also had split up

into five separate states--Bijapur, Golconda, Berar, Ahmudnagar,


About the time of Timur's invasion, the Brahmani dynasty was in the

zenith of its fortunes. We have in the description of it, then, a

picture of Eastern despotism that fits in with the preconceived ideas

of most Westerns on this subject. Absolute power, untold wealth,

munificence, cruelty, passion, pride, prejudice; all the concomitants

of an Eastern potentate are there. The celebrated Turquoise Throne

itself fills the imagination with its "enamel of a sky-blue colour,

cased in gold which was in time totally concealed by the number of

precious ornaments"; but when we add to this the golden ball over the

throne "all inlaid with jewels, on which sate a bird of paradise

composed entirely of precious stones, in whose head was a ruby of

inestimable price," we desire no more. The Eastern glamour is


So the kings of the Dekkan went on ruling, every now and again letting

themselves loose on some minor rajah, and killing a few thousand

Hindus for the sake of the Faith; every now and again ruling wisely

and well, but as often as not badly and brutally. Sometimes they

combined the epithets, as in the case of Mahomed Shah Bahmini, A.D.

1358-1375, during whose reign it is said "all ranks of the people

reposed in security and peace," and that "nearly five hundred thousand

unbelievers fell by the swords of the warriors of Islam, by which the

population of the Carnatic was so reduced that it did not recover for

several ages"!!!

Some of these precious potentates died in their beds, a larger

proportion of them were assassinated. This much, at any rate, may be

said of Indian public opinion in these times, that it sided with

morality, for the most condign punishments on record are invariably

meted out to the biggest villains. Perhaps the most picturesque of

these records is that concerning King Ghiass-ud-din Bahmini and

Lalchi, one of the principal Turki slaves of the household. This man

possessed a daughter of exquisite beauty, whom the seventeen-year-old

young monarch happened to see and instantly desired. The father

refused, the king persisted. So Lalchi laid his plans. He invited the

passion-struck lad to an entertainment at his house, plied him with

wine, and then induced him to order his attendants to withdraw, in

order that the exquisite beauty might appear. The half-intoxicated

prince attempted flight when Lalchi returned from the harem not with a

girl, but a naked dagger, rolled down some steps, and the next instant

both his eyes were blinded; whereupon Lalchi coolly sent for the royal

attendants one by one, as if by the king's order, and put them to

death severally as they appeared. As these were mostly nobles and

officials of high rank, he found no difficulty in deposing

Ghiass-ud-din, who had only reigned for six weeks!

The history of the Dekkan finds echo in the kingdoms of Kandeish,

Malwa, Guzerat, all of which came into existence about the same

period. But in addition to these Mahomedan principalities a great and

powerful Rajput confederacy--for the semifeudal system of the race was

antagonistic to empire--was springing up among the hills in Mewar, the

"middle mountain" country now called Oudipur, and in the deserts of

Marwar or the "Region of Death," now called Jodhpur and Jeysulmeer.

The two former kingdoms were ruled by princes of the Sun, but

Jeysulmeer claimed, as it does now, descent from the Moon.

Such slight differences, however, were as naught before a common

enemy, and ever since Mahmud of Ghuzni had defeated Anangpal, Lunar

king of Delhi--representative of a dynasty which, legend has it, had

lasted since the days of Yudishthira of Mahabharata fame--down through

the time when Mahomed Ghori had annihilated Prithvi-Raj, grandson of

the last Anangpal, and Kutb-uddin Eibuk, his Slave-general, had

carried on his butchery, until the present day, the common enemy of

every Rajput had been the Mahomedan.

So, naturally, the conflict of the conquerors was the opportunity of

the vanquished.

It is true that the young Ajey-si, saved from the sack of Chitore by

so much bloodshed, did not fulfil his father's hope that the child

should recover what the man had lost, but his appointed heir, Hamir,

more than redeemed the promise; for, during the two centuries

following on the recapture of his kingdom, it rose to a pitch of power

and solidarity never before touched, and received the homage of all

surrounding principalities. The story of Hamir's success is a strange

one, and is reminiscent of the legend of Sir Gawaine, or the Knight of

Courtesy, since the success came as a consequence of chivalry to


Hamir's perseverance had brought him to the very walls of Chitore, but

the real struggle for possession was before him. At this juncture the

city gates opened, and a peaceful procession passed out, bearing the

recognised symbol of a marriage proposal, a cocoa-nut. It came from

the mercenary but highborn Hindu Governor of Chitore, offering his

daughter as a preliminary to peace. The young prince's advisers voted

for a return of the offer. Hamir bid its retention, boldly saying

that, come what might, his feet would thus tread the rocky steps which

his ancestors had trodden.

Forth, therefore, with but the stipulated five hundred horse, went the

Bridegroom-Prince. He was met at the gate by the bride's five

brothers, gloomy of face, solemn of mien. But on the city portal was

no mystical triangle of marriage, no wedding garlands decorated the

streets. Yet ceremony was not absent. The ancient hall of his

ancestors was filled with chiefs awaiting him with folded hands; the

bride's father welcomed him gravely. One can imagine the young man,

ready to take what the gods chose to give for the sake of a hold on

Chitore, waiting while the bride was led forth.

No cripple this! The young heart must have breathed more freely as the

slim, veiled figure stood silent by his side. A promise of beauty

here, surely! The young blood shivered through his veins, as the

strong sword-hand met the soft, slender fingers; then seemed to flow

almost tumultuously towards the new, the unknown, as the attendant

priest knotted the marriage garments together. Yet still no smile, no

word of congratulation. What did it mean? What matter! it was for the

sake of Chitore.

So to the marriage chamber, where the family priest lingered

hesitatingly to preach patience.

Patience! with a bride before one, every fold of whose veiled figure

told of beauty!

Beauty indeed! but--one glance was enough--she was a widow!

He had been tricked indeed! A virgin widow, no doubt, and beautiful,

exceedingly; yet still a widow, and accursed, almost unclean.

What did she say to him? History does not tell us. All we know is that

"her kindness and vows of fidelity overcame his sadness."

Doubtless, the pity which is akin to love swayed him, but it was her

cleverness, and not her kindness that gained the victory. For that

strange marriage night was spent in a woman teaching a man how to win

back his ancestral kingdom. Not by war, that was too crude. The people

must be won over. Let her husband ask next morning as the marriage

gift which no Rajput bridegroom is refused, for one Jal, a humble

scribe of the city.

So Hamir went home burdened by a widow-wife and a scribe.

A year passed, and a prince was born; another year spent in what wiles

and guiles only the widow mother and her scribe adviser knew, and the

little prince, sick, had to be taken back to Chitore in order to be

placed for healing before the shrine of Vyan-Mata. Taken, oddly

enough, while his grandfather, the mercenary governor, was away with

most of the troops on an expedition.

A beautiful injured queen, a lovely baby prince, a hero husband ready

to regain the throne of his ancestors, a devoted adherent prepared for

every emergency; these were the factors in the sudden acclaim by which

Hamir, in consequence of his courtesy, was able once more to raise the

standard of the Sun on the walls of Chitore. Where it remained for

long years gloriously, comparatively peacefully; for while in

Mahomedan Delhi no less than twenty-five monarchs were needed--such

was the perpetual procession of assassinations, rebellions,

dethronement--to bridge the period between Kutb-ud-din's seizure of

Delhi and Timur's invasion of India, in Chitore--that is to say,

Mewar, or as it is now called, Oudipur--eleven princes had sufficed to

fill the throne.

But in addition to Mewar we have to reckon with Marwar, or Jodhpur and

Jeysulmeer. The former, however, was at this time a comparatively

modern principality. After the defeat of Jaichand, the Rajah of

Kanauj--who had so unavailingly performed the Sai-nair rite at which

Prithvi-Raj had carried off the Princess Sunjogata--his grandsons

Shiv-ji and Sayat-Ram, set out towards the great Indian Desert, hoping

to carve fresh fortune from its barren stretches. They succeeded; but

it was not until A.D. 1511 that Prince Jodha laid the foundation of a

new capital, and brought Marwar into line with the other great Rajput


Jeysulmeer had a longer record. Headquarters of the Bhatti clan, its

legendary history goes back to the eighth century; but from A.D. 1156

the chronicle is fairly continuous, and is full of romance and

interest. Proud, passionate, clean-lived princes, these descendants of

the Moon--for they were of the Yadu race--seem to have been. One of

them, still quite a lad, giving way to Berserk rage, struck his

foster-brother. The blow was returned; whereupon, stung with shame,

both at the insult and the lack of self-control which brought it

about, the offender stabbed himself with his dagger. Another still

more typical story is told of the passing of Rawul (an honorific title

equalling Rajah) Chachik, who, finding disease his master, sent an

embassy to the Mahomedan ruler of Multan, begging from him the last

favour of jud-dan, or the gift of battle, "that his soul might

escape by the steel of his foeman, and not fall sacrifice to slow


The challenge was accepted, after the Mahomedan had been assured that

honourable death was the sole end and aim.

So on the appointed day Rawul Chachik, followed by seven hundred

nobles, who, having shared all his victories, were prepared to follow

him to death, marched out "to part with life."

"His soul was rejoiced, he performed his ablutions, worshipped the

sword, bestowed charity, and withdrew his thoughts from this world.

The battle lasted four hours, and the Yadu prince fell with all his

kin, after performing prodigees of valour. Two thousand Mahomedans

fell beneath their swords, and rivers of blood flowed in the field;

but the Bhatti gained the abode of Indra, who shared His throne with

the hero."

Such, then, were the people who were gradually recovering some of the

possessions and the prestige which they had lost when Prithvi-Raj fell

victim to Mahomed Shahab-ud-din Ghori.

Meanwhile, at Delhi the thirty-six years of kinglessness passed into

seventy-three, during which the government was in the hands of three

comparatively strong men, Belol Lodi, Secunder Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi.

The first was a warrior, the second a bigot, the third a tyrant. Of

the three, Belol did most for his country, since at his death his

empire extended eastwards as far as Benares.

Secunder seems to have subordinated policy to religion. He destroyed

every image and temple which he could see, or of which he could hear,

and promptly put to death a Brahman who preached that "all religions,

if sincerely practised, were equally acceptable to God."

Tolerance was not a virtue in those days.

It was during the reign of Ibrahim Lodi that Babar, the first of the

great Moghuls, entered India in A.D. 1514; but this was an event of

such vast importance that it will be necessary to hark back some

thirty years to the little kingdom of Ferghana, where Babar was born

on the 14th of February, A.D. 1483.

[Map: India to A.D. 1483]