In detailing the past of the Indian sub-continent I will of course be ignoring the thousands of years of culture and ideas that predated the arrival here of the one true faith, as my history books say that the world before Islam was irrelevant. It suffices to know that this region was a cesspit of moral and intellectual decadance. The indigenous people were all savages who lived in trees and worshipped self-crafted figurines. Instead of the invisible man in the sky like rational people.
Thus when the first Muslim conqueror, Mohammad bin Qasim, arrived on these lands looking for a prosperous society to pillage he was sorely disappointed. There wasn’t a sign of civilization for kilometers around. He stuck around for a while trying to convince the locals to climb down from the trees and die like men but the language barrier, since the Hindus didn’t speak any, ensured that most conversations ended with him being pelted from above with tropical fruit.
It wasn’t until the early 11th century (300 years later) that these Brahman and Vedic people managed to build something of a civilization half-worth conquering. So it was that Mahmud Ghaznavi launched his military expedition into the Indian heartland in the summer of 1001. And again in the winter of 1005, having failed the first time around. He tried a third time in 1007, and promised everyone that his attempt in 1009 would be the last but, as we know from his subsequent excursion and defeat in 1011, he wasn’t telling the truth.
His failure in 1013 was largely due to the monsoon rains, as his troops were without umbrellas, and critics agree that if not for the poor form of his cavalry in 1015, he would surely have lost in less embarassing terms. Four further attempts from 1017 to 1023 met with the same fate and the lack of the tiniest hint of success was beginning to affect morale. It has been argued that these presistent failures were largely due to poor tactics, as dying in large numbers has not been known to win many wars.
Things were looking even bleaker when he returned to lose a year later when suddenly in 1025, he took the Hindus by surprise by being defeated three consecutive times in the same year. He lost again during an assault in the following year and finally, in 1027, the Hindus gave up. Saying they had better things to do than fight a deranged imbecile every other year and spend months burning the corpses of his men.
Altogether, it took seventeen attempts for Mahmud Ghaznavi to establish the first Islamic empire in the sub-continent. His victory was to be short lived however, as he was much more successful in getting ill than fighting wars. He died having contracted his first terminal illness in 1030. His dynasty tumbled on for another hundred years before the Ghaznavid empire back in Afghanistan came under siege from the Ghauris and relinquished all Indian territories by 1187, when Muhammad Ghauri captured Lahore. As none of the famous attractions of the city like the Anarkali Bazaar, the Shahi Qila or the red light district behind it had yet come into existence, Ghauri died of boredom soon afterwards and left a sprawling collection of conquered territories without any single ruler.
Following these events minor independent kingdoms like the Delhi Sultanate and Mamluk Dynasty started propping up in the early 13th century as seats of consolidated Muslim power in the region. But it wasn’t until Tehmur, or Tamerlane or simply Tammy to his friends, dropped in from Central Asia one day to unify these fledgling sultanates under one rule and conquer the length and breadth of India that anything worth writing a poem over occurred. As none of his predecessors can be found in Edgar Allen Poe’s work.
The Tehmuri Dynasty would eventually pave the way for the glorious Moghul Empire that would give Indian cinema so many of it’s greatest hits. Having plundered all he could from the various kingdoms and states, Tehmur left India as he’d found it, wandering around aimlessly on the back of an elephant.
In Part 2: Babur and the Golden Era of Muslim rule in India. In the mean time, here are some end of chapter revision questions:
“Who attacked India seventeen times?”
“How many times did Mahmud Ghaznavi attack India?”
“Why did Mahmud Ghaznavi attack India seventeen times? Why not eighteen times?”