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Habibu-s Siyar

Habibu-s Siyar by Khondamir
In The History of India as Told by its own HistoriansThe Posthumous Papers of the Late Sir H. M. Elliot. John Dowson, ed. 1st ed. 1867. 2nd ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, vol. 15, pp. 124-190.

The Habibu-s Siyar is a general history of the world.  Like other works of its kind it drew upon the rich Persian historical tradition.  Its author, Khondamir, whose full name was Ghiyasu-d din Muhammad bin Humamu-d din.  He was born in Hirat in 880 H. (1475 CE).  His father, Mirkhond, was also a historian, having written the Rauzata-s Safa, a history of the Ghaznivids.  He served as a sadr, judge of the ecclesiastical court, under Sultan Badi’uz Zaman, the last of the Timurid rulers.  After Khurasan fell to the Uzbeks he retired to Basht in Georgia, where he wrote many of his works.  In 935 H. (1528-9 CE), he traveled to India and met the first Moghul emperor, Babar, at Agra.  He served Babar, and accompanied him on many of his expeditions.  He died in Gujarat in 941 H. (1534-5 CE).

Khondamir commensed writing the Habibu-s Siyar in 1521 CE, at the request of Muhammad al Husaini.  The history describes events up to 930 H. (1523-4 CE), but it may not have been finished until some years after this time.

The excerpts included here deal with the numerous raids into India conducted by Sutan Mahmud of Ghaznî.  After succeeding his father to throne in 997 CE, Mahmud continued his father’s policy and conducted many more raids until his death in 1030 CE.  His numerous incursions into India were largely raids designed to capture spoil in material wealth, slaves and livestock.  He is portrayed as a zealous Muslim eager to destroy “idol temples”, but this was probably justification for pillage, since these activities contravened the earlier Arab policy of granting Hindus and Buddhists protected dhimmi status.  These raids generally were not conquests resulting in annexation of territory, with the exception of the Punjab, most of which he did annex.  Ghaznivite control even of the Punjab passed away with Mahmud.  His incessant raiding over the course of almost thirty years, however, clearly destabilized Northern India and paved the way for the Muhammad Ghûrî’s invasion of northern India in 1175 CE, which led to the establishment of the Delhi sultanate.

The excerpts included here narrate several of the raids undertaken by him, namely the major raids on Kangra (1009 CE), Kanauj (1018-9 CE) and Somnath (1023-24 CE).

  1. Excerpts


  1. Raid on Bhimnagar (Kangra)
  2. Raid on Kanauj
  3. Raid on Somnath


[p. 145]

Expeditions into Hindustan

When Yaminu-d daula Aminu-l millat Mahmud Ghaznavi had rested for some time from his toil, he again, in order to strengthen the religion of the Prophet, evinced a desire to make war on the infidels of Hind, and accordingly marched in that direction. When his standards, the symbols of victory, cast the shadow of their arrival over capacious Hind, Pal bin Andpal,1 who, for his excessive wealth and numerous warriors, was more distinguished than the other princes of Hind, opposed Mahmud, and a terrible battle took place. The standards of the faithful became exalted, and those of the infidels were depressed. [p. 146] The Sultan himself having pursued the pagans, killed multitudes of them with the sword, and having arrived at the fort of Bhimnagar,2 he encamped his victorious army in its vicinity.  That fort was built on the top of a hill; the people of Hind believed it to be the repository of one of their great idols, and for ages had transported thither provisions and treasures; they had filled it with money and jewels, and fancied that by this conduct they approached near to the house of God.  When Mahmud besieged that lofty fort, fear seized upon the hearts of the residents.  Their cries for quarter reached up to the hall of the planet Saturn, and having opened the gate of the fort, they threw themselves on the ground before the horse of the Sultan.  Yaminu-d daula, with the governor of Juzjan, entered into that fort, and gave orders for taking possession of the spoil.  The wealth which he obtained consisted of 70,700 mans of gold and silver utensils; and the jewels and gold and robes and movable effects were incalculable.  Sultan Mahmud, having delivered over the fort to a confidential person, hoisted the standard of his return to Ghaznin.3

In the year 400 H. he again exalted his victorious standards, and hastened to the cities of Hind, and after punishing the infidels and scattering abroad the impious, he again turned his steps towards the royal residence of Ghaznin.4 In the same year, the king of the kings of Hind, having sent a petition of humiliation to the Sultan, [p. 147] sued for a pacification, and consented to send him fifty elephants, and to pay every year a large sum of money into the royal treasury.  By way of subsidy, he appointed 2000 cavalry to serve in the army, which wore the mantle of victory, and swore that his own posterity should observe the same conduct towards the descendants of the Sultan.  The Sultan was satisfied with this reconciliation, and merchants began to come and go between the two countries.


[p. 151]

Expedition to Kanauj

In the year 409 H. (1018-19 A.D.), during the season of flowery spring, when the days and nights are equal, when the lord of vegetation leads his army of verdure and of odoriferous herbs over the deserts and gardens, and when from the temperature of the air of Ardibihisht,. and from the blowing of the morning breeze, he has subdued the citadels of the green rose-buds, Yaminu-d daula again formed the resolution of warring against the infidels of Hindustan. With an excellent anny of 20,000 volunteers, who, for the sake of obtaining the reward of making war upon infidels, had joined the mighty camp, he marched towards Kanauj, which was distant a three months journey. In the middle of his way he came upon an impregnable fort, which was the residence of a certain king possessed of bravery in war. When that [p. 152] king saw the multitudes of the warriors of the religion of the chief of the righteous, having come to the foot of the fort, he confessed the unity of God.

The Sultan then directed his steps towards a fort which was in the possession of a certain infidel named Kulchand.  Kulchand fought with the faithful, but the infidels were defeated; and Kulchand, through excessive ignorance, having drawn his dagger, first killed his wife and then plunged it into his own breast, and thus went to hell. Out of the country of Kulchand the dependents of Yaminu-d daula obtained 185 elephants.

From that place the Sultan proceeded to a certain city, which was accounted holy by the people of the country.  In that city the men of Ghaznin saw so many strange and wonderful things, that to tell them or to write a description of them is no easy matter. There were a hundred palaces made of stone and marble, and the Sultan, in writing a description of these buildings to the nobles at Ghaznin, said “that if anyone wished to make palaces like these, even if he expended a hundred thousand times thousand dinars, and employed experienced superintendents for 200 years, even then they would not be finished. Again, they found five idols of the purest gold, in the eyes of each of which there were placed two rubies, and each of these rubies was worth 50,000 dinars: in another idol there were sapphires, which weighed 600 drachms. The number of silver idols upon the spot was more than 100.5  In short, Sultan Mahmud, having possessed himself of the booty, burned their idol-temples, and proceeded towards Kanauj.

Jaipal, who was the King of Kanauj, hearing of the Sultan’s approach, fled, and on the 18th of Sha’ban, of  [p. 153] the year above mentioned, Yaminu-d daula, having arrived in that country, saw on the banks of the Ganges seven forts, like those of Khalbar, but, as they were destitute of brave men, he subdued them in one day.  The Ghaznivides found in these forts and their dependencies 10,000 idol-temples, and they ascertained the vicious belief of the Hindus to be, that since the erection of those buildings no less than three or four hundred thousand years had elapsed.  Sultan Mahmud during this expedition achieved many other conquests after he left Kanauj,6 and sent to hell many of the infidels with blows of the well-tempered sword. Such a number of slaves were assembled in that great camp, that the price of a single one did not exceed ten dirhams.

3.The Conquest of Somnat

When Mahmud returned victorious from this expedition to the royal residence of Ghaznin, he built a general mosque and a college, and endowed them with pious legacies.  Some years after these events, Sultan Mahmud, of praiseworthy virtues, formed the design of taking Somnat, and of slaying the detestable idolators.  On the 10th the Shaban, 416 H. (1025-6 A.D.), he marched towards Multan with 30,000 cavalry, in addition to a multitude of [p. 154] men, who also bent their steps thither for their own pleasure, and for obtaining the reward of warring against infidels.  Having arrived at that city in the middle of Ramazan, he resolved to travel the rest of the distance, by the way of the desert.  The soldiers were obliged to carry water and forage for many days, and in addition the Sultan loaded 20,000 camels with water and provisions, so that the troops might by any means become diminished in number.  Having passed that bloodthirsty desert,7 they saw on the edge of it several forts filled with fighting men, and abounding with instruments of war, but the omnipotent God struck fear into the hearts of the infidels, so that they delivered the forts over without striking a blow.  Sultan Mahmud went from that place towards Nahrwala,8 and he killed and plundered the inhabitants of every city on the road at which he arrived, until in the month of Zi-l ka’da of the above year, he arrived at Somnat.  Historians agree that Somnat is the name of a certain idol, which the Hindus believe in as the greatest of idols, but we learn the contrary of this from Shaikh Faridu-d din’ Attar, in that passage where he says: “The army of Mahmud obtained in Somnat that idol whose name was Lat.”  According to historians, Somnat was placed in an idol-temple upon the [p. 155] shore of the sea.  The ignorant Hindus, when smitten with fear, assemble in this temple, and on those nights more than 100,000 men come into it.  From the extremities of kingdoms, they bring offerings to that temple, and 10,000 cultivated villages are set apart for the expenses of the keepers thereof.  So many exquisite jewels were found there, that a tenth part thereof could not be contained entirely in the treasury of any king.  Two thousand Brahmans were always occupied in prayer round about the temple. A gold chain, weighing 200 mans, on which bells were fixed, hung from a comer of that temple, and they rang them at appointed hours, so that by the noise thereof the Brahmans might know the time for prayer.  Three hundred musicians and 500 dancing slave girls were the servants of that temple, and all the necessaries of life were provided for them from the offerings and bequests for pious usages.

The river Ganges is a river situated to the east of Kanauj,9 and the Hindus are of opinion that the water of this river springs from the fountain of Paradise; having burned their dead, they throw the ashes into the stream, and this practice they hold as purifying them from their sins.

In short, when Mahmud encamped at Somnat, he saw a large fort on the shore of the sea, and the waves reached up to the earth underneath that castle.  Many men having come upon the top of the rampart, looked down upon the Musulmans, and imagined that their false god would kill that multitude that very night.

“The next day, when this world, full of pride,

Obtained light from the stream of the sun;

The Turk of the day displaying his golden shield,

Cut off with his sword the head of the Hindu night.”

[p. 156]

The army of Ghaznin, full of bravery, having gone to the foot of the fort, brought down the Hindus from the tops of the ramparts with the points of eye-destroying arrows, and having placed scaling-ladders, they began to ascend with loud cries of Allah-u Akbar (i.e… God is greatest).  The Hindus offered resistance, and on that day, from the time that the sun entered upon the fort of the turquoise-coloured sky, until the time that the stars of the bed-chambers of Heaven were conspicuous, did the battle rage between both parties.   When the darkness of night prevented the light of the eye from seeing the bodies of men, the army of the faithful returned to their quarters.

The next day,10 having returned to the strife, and having finished bringing into play the weapons of warfare, they vanquished the Hindus.  Those ignorant men ran in crowds to the idol temple, embraced Somnat, and came out again to fight until they were killed.  Fifty thousand infidels were killed round about the temple, and the rest who escaped from the sword embarked in ships and fled away.11 Sultan Mahmud, having entered into the idol temple, beheld an excessively long and broad room, insomuch that fifty-six pillars12 had been made to [p. 157] support the roof.  Somnat was an idol cut out of stone, whose height was five yards, of which three yards were visible, and two yards were concealed in the ground.  Yaminu-d daula having broken that idol with his own hand, ordered that they should pack up pieces of the stone, take them to Ghaznin, and throw them on the threshold of the Jami’ Masjid.13  The sum which the treasury of the Sultan Mahmud obtained from the idol temple of Somnat was more than twenty thousand thousand dinars, inasmuch as those pillars were all adorned with precious jewels.  Sultan Mahmud, after this glorious victory, reduced a fort in which the governor of Nahrawala had taken refuge.


  1. So say Mirkhond and theTarikh-i Alfi,but Firishta says “Anandpal”.
  2. Abdu-l Kadir adds, “which is now called Thana Bhim.”  He, as well as most authorities, says the trea-sure was accumulated at that fort from the time of Bhim.
  3. Where he held the festival described in the extract from the Tarikh-i Yamin.  Firishta fixes the date in the year 400 H., and says it lasted for three days. Haidar Razi says, “the beginning of the year 400 H.”
  4. This must allude to the expedition against Nardin or Narain, on which subject there is nothing in Firishta or Haidar Razi.  Mirkhond ascribes it to the year 400 H.
  5. Firishta adds, these were laden on as many camels, which, according to Briggs, would not carry more than 150,000l.in silver.
  6. The omissions here are the conquests of Munj, Asi, and the fort of Chandra Rai, which are mentioned by ‘Utbi, Rashidu-d din, and Mirkhond.  The subsequent expeditions to India preceding that of Somnat, which none of these authors have noticed, but which are given in detail by Firishta, are also omitted.  TheTarikh-I Alfialso omits these subsequent expeditions, mentioning, however, one which cannot be identified with any of Firishta’s.
  7. Firishta says that he passed by Ajmir, but theTirikh-i Alfi, perhaps more correctly, says Jaisalmir, destroying all the temples on his way, and massacring so many of the inhabitants that for some time no one could pass that way on account of the stench arising from the dead bodies.
  8. Mirkhond Khondamir and theTarikh-i Alfiread “Bahwara,” but no doubt the reading of Firishta is correct, “Nahrwala.”  It appears from Bird’s Gujarat, p. 144, that the Raja’s name was Jamund, a Solankhi Rajput.  Ibn Athir sa,ys his name was Bhimpal confounding him with his contemporary Bhimpal, the last of the dynasty of Northern India.
  9. Something is omitted here: it being intended to imply that the idol was washed with water conveyed from the Ganges.
  10. Firishta represents that reinforcements arrived to the Hindus on the third day, led by Parama Deo and Dabshilim whom Mahmud attacked and routed, slaying 5,000 Hindus.
  11. Mirkhond, the Tarikh-i Alfi, and Firishta say that some of the Sultan’s men pursued them on the sea, and as Sarandip is mentioned, Briggs considers that probably the dip or island of Diu is indicated; but from the historical annals of Ceylon it appears that that island was then a dependency of India-Upham’sHistory of Buddhism,p. 31.
  12. Mirkhond adds that the columns were set with hyacinths, rubies, and pearls, and that each column been raised at the expense of one of the chief “Sultans” of Hind, and that more than 50,000 idolators were slain in this siege.
  13. TheTabakat-i Nasirisays the fragments of the idol were thus distributed, one at the gate of the Jami’ Masjid, one at the gate of the royal palace, one was sent to Mecca, and one to Medina.