Kingdoms & Dynasties of the Medieval Period
The Early Medieval Period saw the rise of many kingdoms all over India. In the north were the Palas, the Gurjara-Pratiharas, the Rajput kingdoms, and the Ghaznavids and Ghorids. The Rashtrakutas ruled in the Deccan. There were some more small kingdoms here. In the south were the Pallavas, the Pandyas and the Cholas. They pray at fire temples. The holiest of these temples in India is the Atash Behram at Udvada, near Mumbai, where the Sacred Fire brought by Iranian refugees from Iran has been burning continuously since 1741.
Zoroastrianism In India
An old religion, founded in today’s Azarbaijan in the 6thï¿½century BC, Zoroastrianism teaches the duties of manï¿½according to the law of nature, which Zarathushtra, theï¿½founder of Zoroastrianism, called the law of Asha. Fire andï¿½the sun are the emblems of Zoroastrianism.
Zarathushtra spent several years in meditation, reflectingï¿½on life and human existence, until he discovered perfect powerï¿½or energy and perfect wisdom. His religion was universalï¿½and advanced for an age when people were still practising aï¿½primitive form of polytheism. He preached that a better lifeï¿½could be achieved with the help of an invisible god of wisdom,ï¿½truth, light and goodness, rather than a set of superstitiousï¿½rituals. Zarathushtra emphasised doing good towards one’sï¿½fellow man; hence the motto of the religion is ‘Good thoughts,ï¿½good words, good deeds’.
The religion’s holy texts, the Gathas, are sacred songsï¿½written while Zarathushtra meditated on a mountain. Otherï¿½scriptures were later written by his disciples in Eastern Iran.ï¿½There are five Gathas: Gatha Ahunavaiti, on freedom of choice;ï¿½Gatha Ushtavaiti, on supreme bliss (ushta); Gatha Spenta Mainya,ï¿½on the holy spirit; Gatha Vohu Kshathra, on the good kingdom;ï¿½and Gatha Vahishtoishti, on sovereign desire or fulfillment.
The followers of Zoroastrianism are called Parsis, a termï¿½derived from Parsa, the name of a province in south-westernï¿½Iran in ancient times. Around 766, a small group of Iranianï¿½Parsis set sail in open sailing vessels and landed at Divo Dui,ï¿½a tiny island at the tip of Kathiawar, in Gujarat. They settledï¿½there to practise their faith and later spread along the westï¿½coast of Gujarat where they settled down as farmers, fruitï¿½growers, toddy planters, carpenters and weavers. The Parsisï¿½were excellent weavers and they have left a legacy of threeï¿½ancient crafts, namely the Surti ghat, the garo and the tanchoi.ï¿½All three are exquisite silk textiles differing in texture andï¿½design. The Surti ghat is a soft silk with a satin finish, whileï¿½the garo is fine embroidered silk and the tanchoi is a type ofï¿½rich floral brocade.
They pray at fire temples. The holiest of these temples inï¿½India is the Atash Behram at Udvada, near Mumbai, whereï¿½the Sacred Fire brought by Iranian refugees from Iran hasï¿½been burning continuously since 1741 .
The Palas The Palas ruled in the region of Bengal, Biharï¿½and Jharkhand. The first ruler of the dynasty was Gopala.ï¿½He and his son Dharmapala expanded and strengthenedï¿½the kingdom. Dharmapala also encouraged trade withï¿½South-east Asia.ï¿½Devapala was another powerful ruler. He conquered someï¿½parts of present day Assam and Orissa. After his death, theï¿½kingdom became weak. It finally collapsed in the middle of theï¿½twelfth century. The Palas were succeeded by rulers of the Senaï¿½dynasty.
Pratiharas of Kanauj
The Pratiharas are believed to be theï¿½clan of Rajputs. They set foot in India during the Hun’s invasionï¿½and settled around the Punjab Rajputana region. Soon theyï¿½advanced to Aravali and Ujjain. The branch of the Pratiharasï¿½who ruled in the Gujarat were the Gurjaras-Pratiharas. Towardsï¿½the end of 10th century, the prestige of the Pratiharas cameï¿½to an end with the humiliating submission of Rajyapala toï¿½Mahmood in the year 1018 A.D. The successors of Pratiharasï¿½like Trilochanapala, Yasapala continued reigning for anotherï¿½century. The Pratiharas of Kannauj were different from theï¿½Gurjara-Pratiharas. They ruled for a very short period.
Chandellas of Bundelkhand
The Chandela Rajput clan ruledï¿½Bundelkhand from the 10th to the 16 th centuries. In the earlyï¿½10 th century when they were feudatories of the Pratiharas ofï¿½Kannauj, the Chandellas took over many of their territories.ï¿½The Chandelas built the famous temple-city of Khajurahoï¿½between the mid-10th and mid-11th centuries. Khajuraho wasï¿½the capital city of Chandella rulers. It has many temples built byï¿½them. The most famous among them is the Kandariya Mahadevï¿½temple. During the Chandela period, Bundelkhand was homeï¿½to a flourishing Jain community and numerous Jain templesï¿½were built in that period. The king Kirtivarman was the mostï¿½powerful ruler of the dynasty.
The Ghaznavids dynasty was founded byï¿½Subaktagin, a Turkish slave who had been converted to Islam.ï¿½It was formed during the long battle of the Samanids, who wereï¿½Iranians by descent, with the Turkish tribesmen, towards theï¿½end of the ninth century. In this respect the Ghaznavids were asï¿½much missionaries as fighters. It was their resourcefulness andï¿½willingness to undergo great privations for the sake of Islam thatï¿½enabled the infant Muslim states of central Asia to hold theirï¿½own against the Turks.
From the year 1000 A.D. onwards, there were manyï¿½invasions into India. Mahmud of Ghazni led the first series ofï¿½invasions.
Mahmud of Ghazni
Mahmud played an important role in the defence of the Islamicï¿½states against the Turkish tribes and in the Iranian culturalï¿½renaissance. But in Indian history he is perceived more as aï¿½plunderer and destroyer of temples than a defender of Islam.ï¿½Muhammad was a ruler of the kingdom of Ghazni, now inï¿½Afghanistan. He wanted to make Ghazni the most powerfulï¿½kingdom in the region. For this he needed a large army but didï¿½not have enough money to maintain it. He had heard about theï¿½wealth of India. So he decided to raid India to raise money toï¿½build up a powerful army.ï¿½In a span of 25 years (1000 -1025 A.D.), Mahmud invadedï¿½India 17 times. His early raids were against the Hindushahi rulers,ï¿½whose territories extended from Punjab to Afghanistan. Heï¿½defeated Jaipal and Anandpal and made them his vassals. Theyï¿½paid tribute to Mahmud. The subsequent raids were against theï¿½temple towns of India. He plundered the enormous wealth lyingï¿½in these temples and carried away the riches to his homeland.
Mahmud’s most daring raids were against Mathura andï¿½Kannauj in the year 1018 A.D. and against Somnath in 1025 A.D.ï¿½The Somnath temple in Gujarat was stripped of all its wealth.ï¿½Even the precious stones embedded on the temple walls wereï¿½taken out. Mahmud carried the booty to Ghazni.
Mahmud died in the year 1030 A.D. His successorsï¿½were weak and the Ghaznavid Empire shrank rapidly in theï¿½subsequent period. As a result, there were no further invasionsï¿½for more than a century.
The Ghoris Like Ghazni, Ghor was a small kingdom inï¿½Afghanistan. Mahmud of Ghazni defeated the ruler of Ghorï¿½and made him accept his suzerainty. After Mahmud’s deathï¿½and the decline of the Ghaznavids, Ghor became independent.ï¿½Taking advantage of the weakness of Ghazni, the Ghor rulerï¿½Muizzudin Muhammad conquered Ghazni in the year 1173ï¿½A.D. He is popularly known as Muhammad Ghori.
Muhammad Ghori, also known as Shahab-ud-Din-Muhammadï¿½Ghori was an ambitious ruler. He wanted to expand his empire.ï¿½He had heard about Mahmud’s invasions into India. He tooï¿½decided to invade India. Plunder, however, was not his motive.ï¿½He wanted to build up an empire in India.
Muhammad Ghoris first invasion into India was in the yearï¿½1175 A.D. He conquered Multan. In 1178 A.D., he received aï¿½temporary setback as he was defeated by the ruler of Gujarat.ï¿½Soon he realised that Punjab could be a good base for furtherï¿½conquests. In 1190, he conquered Punjab. The boundaries ofï¿½Muhammad Ghori’s kingdom now touched that of the kingdomï¿½of the Chauhan ruler – Prithviraj Chauhan.
In the year 1191 A.D., Muhammad Ghori conqueredï¿½Bhathinda. His advance threatened Prithviraj Chauhan. The twoï¿½armies met at Tarain, 80 miles from Delhi. Muhammad Ghoriï¿½was decisively defeated. However, Prithviraj made no attemptsï¿½to expel the Ghorids from Punjab. Muhammad Ghori began toï¿½regroup his forces.
Prithviraj and Muhammad Ghori came face to face onceï¿½again in the year 1192 A.D. This time Muhammad’s army wasï¿½better organised and better prepared. Prithviraj appealed to theï¿½neighbouring kings for help. Some Rajput rulers came forward.ï¿½However, the most powerful Rajput ruler-Raja Jaichandra ofï¿½Kannauj, stayed away. Prithviraj was defeated and captured andï¿½his territories were occupied by Muhammad Ghori.ï¿½Muhammad Ghori did not stop at this. In 1194 A.D., heï¿½defeated Raja Jaichandra at the Battle of Chandwar. Thereafter,ï¿½his army overran the entire Ganga Yamuna doab. Soon, aï¿½Sultanate with Delhi as its power centre was established.
Final Days and Death
In 1206, Shahab-ud-Din Ghori had to travel to Lahore toï¿½crush a revolt. On his way back to Ghazni, his caravan restedï¿½at Damik near Sohawa (which is near the city of Jhelum in theï¿½Punjab province of modern-day Pakistan). He was assassinatedï¿½on March 15, 1206, while offering his evening prayers. Theï¿½identity of Shahabuddin Ghori’s assassins is disputed, with someï¿½claiming that he was assassinated by local Gakhars and othersï¿½claiming he was assassinated by Hindu Khokhars.
Some also claim that Shahab-ud-Din Ghori was assassinatedï¿½by a radical Ismaili Muslim sect.
As per his wishes, Shahabuddin Ghori was buried whereï¿½he fell, in Damik.
Written by princy