Invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni

Invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni

India has been invaded many times for its wealth and immense natural resources. From Alexander the Great to Britishers, India has been invaded more than 200 times, and some of the most talked-about invasions were made by Mahmud of Ghazni.

Who was Mahmud of Ghazni?

Mahmud of Ghazni or Mahmud Ghaznavi was the first and perhaps the most powerful ruler of the Turkic dynasty. Having ascended the throne at the age of 27, Mahmud was known for practicing bureaucratic, political, and cultural customs that were highly influenced by the Persian school of thought. As an able ruler, he made the capital of Ghazni a center of culture, commerce, and intellect. Considering himself to be the “Shadow of God on Earth,” Mahmud plundered and looted some of the richest and wealthiest cities and countries at that time, and one of these countries was India. Mahmud of Ghazni is believed to have invaded India 17 times during which he plundered many richest cities and temple towns in India. However, like many other invaders, he was not able to conquer India.

Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni

Reasons for Invading India

Mahmud Ghazni invaded India because of the following reasons:

To prove his might in Central Asia

Mahmud of Ghazni wanted the capital of Ghazni to be the center of all political power in Central Asia, and invading India was one of the steps to accomplish this task. By invading India, he wanted to prove his might and also expand his empire.

An illustration of Mahmud of Ghazni and his court

An illustration of Mahmud of Ghazni and his court

The Wealth of India

Mahmud Ghazni was attracted by the wealth of India, which in many ways coerced him to invade India many times. Temples in India were the repositories of a lot of wealth, especially antique idols and jewelry, and it made these temples most vulnerable to attacks from invaders.

A Hindu idol during the time of Mahmud of Ghazni's invasions

A Hindu idol during the time of Mahmud of Ghazni’s invasions

Fertile Land in India

The fertile land in India, especially of Punjab that appeared lush and rich as compared to the barren lands of Hindukush mountains, was another reason for the invasion of India. This was also one of the main reasons why his invasions never extended to central, southern, or eastern parts of the country. Each of the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni not only made India lose its wealth but also made several great rulers and dynasties succumb. Some of the well-known dynasties that were defeated by Mahmud of Ghazni and his army were the Rajputs of Gwalior, the Pratiharas of Kanauj, and the Chandela of Khajuraho.

Dynasties in India during Mahmud of Ghazni's invasions

Dynasties in India during Mahmud of Ghazni’s invasions

Chronology of Invasions

The First Invasion

The first invasion by Mahmud of Ghazni was in 1000 A.D. that led to the capture of some of the frontier forts in the Khyber Pass. After capturing the forts, Mahmud of Ghazni appointed governors in these cities and forts and left India.

An illustration of Khyber Pass

An illustration of Khyber Pass

The Second Invasion

In 1001 A.D., Mahmud of Ghazni invaded the Hindu Shahi kingdom near Peshawar. The ruler of the kingdom, Jaipal, fought a fierce battle with the invader but lost. In this invasion, Mahmud of Ghazni added 50 elephants and 2,50,000 dinars to his booty. Mahmud of Ghazni also added several thousand Indians as slaves to his empire.

Hindu Shahi Ruler Jaipal

Hindu Shahi Ruler Jaipal

The Third Invasion

The third invasion took place in 1005 A.D. when Mahmud attacked Bhera. The ruler Bijai Rai offered a tough fight to the invaders but lost. The entire kingdom was looted by Mahmud of Ghazni and several people were killed mercilessly.

The Fourth Invasion

In 1006 A.D., Mahmud Ghazni invaded Multan which was under an Arab ruler. He was able to conquer Multan in a week and plundered all of its wealth.

The Fifth Invasion

The year 1007 A.D., saw Multan being invaded yet again and Mahmud Ghazni was easily able to defeat the ruler who had denounced Islam.

The Sixth Invasion

In 1008 A.D., Mahmud Ghazni attacked Anandpal, the ruler of the Hindu Shahi kingdom. Anandpal had called upon the rules of Ujjain, Gwalior, Delhi, Kanauj, Ajmer, etc. to help him defeat the invaders. A race called Khokars also helped Anandpal attack Mahmud Ghazni’s army and killed almost 5000 soldiers of Mahmud’s army. However, on the battlefield, Ananpal’s elephant got scared and fled from the field, leaving the other rulers and the entire army at the mercy of Mahmud of Ghazni. Reportedly, Ghazni’s army slaughtered the army of the Hindus and killed almost 20,000 of them.

Depiction of a battle during Mahmud of Ghazni's invasions

Depiction of a battle during Mahmud of Ghazni’s invasions

The Seventh Invasion

The seventh invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni was that of Nagarkot in Kangra. The region was known for its wealthy temples. It is believed that after this invasion, Mahmud of Ghazni returned with so much wealth, jewelry, silver, and gold that his people congregated to see the wealth of India.

The Invasion of Thanesar

Mahmud of Ghazni came to know about the wealth in Thanesar’s temples and decided to invade it in 1014 A.D. Mahmud of Ghazni and his army plundered the city, killing many people and plundered its temples.

An illustration of Mahmud of Ghazni's attack on Thanesar

An illustration of Mahmud of Ghazni’s attack on Thanesar

Invasions of Mathura and Kanauj

The invasions of Mathura and Kanauj took place in 1018 and 1019 A.D., respectively. Mathura, a city with over 1000 temples, attracted Mahmud of Ghazni to invade it and loot it. The people and the rulers of Mathura did not resist the invasion. The same was the story of Kanauj from where Mahmud of Ghazni was able to amass a lot of wealth.

The Invasion of the Somnath Temple

The invasion of the Somnath Temple was the last invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni in India in 1026 A.D. In 1025 A.D., Mahmud invaded this temple for the first time and took away a lot of its wealth. The temple was known for its riches. It is said that Mahmud of Ghazni gathered a wealth equal to almost 20 million U.S. dollars after invading this temple. Though the Rajput kings gave a tough fights to the army of Mahmud of Ghazni, they ultimately were defeated. In 1026 A.D., Mahmud of Ghazni invaded the temple again to defeat the Jats who had attacked the army when it was on its way back after amassing a lot of wealth from the Somnath Temple.

Ruined Somnath temple, 1869

Ruined Somnath temple, 1869

Consequences of the Invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni

Mahmud of Ghazni’s invasions had dire consequences in several aspects and impacted the people of India. The immediate consequences of the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni were:

Expansion of Empire

One of the major consequences of the invasions of Ghazni was the expansion of his empire. Mahmud Ghazni was able to annex Punjab to a Ghazni Sultanate, thereby disturbing the political scene of North India.

Empire of Mahmud of Ghazni

The Downfall of the Hindu Shahis and Rajputs

Hindu Shahis, the defenders of Punjab, perished because of the invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni. The capture of forts at the Khyber Pass resulted in the Hindu Shahis losing all their power. Additionally, when the North-Western Frontier perished, the dignity and valour of the Rajput kings also went for a toss.

Sultan Mahmud and his forces attacking the fortress of Zaranj, 14th century painting

Loss of Lives

The invasions by Mahmud of Ghazni led to the killing of several thousand of soldiers in various encounters. Additionally, many soldiers were taken slaves and those who survived were demoralized and not motivated enough to prevent further attacks.

Increase in Trade

One of the positive consequences of these invasions was the increase in trade in India. Indian traders were able to establish trade links with traders in South Asia, China, and Europe.

Destruction of Art and Architecture in India

Mahmud of Ghazni plundered and destroyed several temples in India. This ruined the art and architecture of India.

Spread of Islam

The invasions of Mahmud Ghazni led to the spread of Islam in India. In fact, several people were forced to convert to Islam, and it also provided a basis for the Mughal Dynasty in India.

Ferdowsi reads the Shahnameh to Mahmud of Ghazni (by Vardges Sureniants, 1913)

Ferdowsi reads the Shahnameh to Mahmud of Ghazni (by Vardges Sureniants, 1913)

A Gateway to Further Invasions

The invasions by Mahmud of Ghazni revealed the weaknesses of the Indian rulers as well the political structure of India, leaving the country even more vulnerable to further invasions.

Add Comment