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Khulasatu-t Tawarikh

Khulasatu-t Tawarikh by Firishta
Selections translated in “History of Ghazni”, 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. 14.

  1. Overview

The Khulasatu-t Tawarikh is another work by the famous historian Firishta.  It is an account of the life of Mahmud of Ghazni, which differs from many of the other histories in that it only deals with the events that took place in India, and omits the many events of his life that took place in Persia or elsewhere.  It is based, as is his larger work, upon earlier Persian histories.

It was written by Muhammad Kasim Hindu Shah, Firishta during the reigns of Akbar and Jahangir, (c. late 16th century-early 17th century).  Firishta was born in Astrabad on the Caspian Sea circa 1570 CE.  His father, Gholam Ali Hindu Shah, traveled, with his family, to Ahmadnagar in India, in order to teach Persian to the prince Miran Husain Nizam Shah, with whom Firishta studied.  In 1587 Firishta was serving as a captain of the guard for his former schoolmate’s father, King Murtuza Nizam Shah, when Prince Miram Husain deposed his father.  He escaped death, the common fate of a deposed king’s attendants, on account of his former friendship with the prince.  He then left Ahmadnagar and moved to Bijapur, reaching that city in 1589, where he served under King Ibrahim Adil Shah II.  He completed his history during the reign of Jahangir, sometime during the early seventeenth century.

The excerpts included here deals with the Sultan Mahmud of Ghaznî.   Mahmud succeeded his father, Amir Nasiru-d din Subuktigin, to the throne of his in 997 CE, and 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 excerpt here deals with Sultan Mahmud’s raid on Thaneswar, which took place in 405 H. (1014 CE).

  1. Excerpts

[p. 29]

Tenth Expedition-Thanesar. A.H. 405

The Habibu-s Siyar makes this expedition occur in the same year as the one to Balnat. The Rauzaltu-s Safa ascribes it to the following year.  The Yamini makes it occur subsequent to the Balnat campaign, but says nothing about Mahmud’s returning intermediately to Ghazni.  We have seen, however, that the season was so late as not to admit of his proceeding to Thanesar direct from Balnat, unless he passed the season of the rains in India, which is not probable.  The Tarikh-i Alfi omits all notice of this expedition.

Supposing Thanesar to have been the place visited, it is difficult to reconcile ‘Utbi’s narrative with the geographical features of the country.  If Mahmud had reached Thanesar by crossing the upper part of the desert of Rajputana, he could have come to no stream with large stone or precipitous banks, or one flowing through a hill pass. If, again, he had come to any stream with such characteristics he would nowhere have had anything like a desert to pass.  Chandiol on the Chinab would alone answer the description, but that would be only halfway to Thanesar.

Firishta’s account is as follows: –

“In the year 402 Mahmud resolved on the conquest of Thanesar, in the kingdom of Hindustan.  It had reached the ears of the king that Thanesar was held in the same veneration by idolaters, as Mecca by the faithful; that there was an old temple there, in which they had set up a number of idols, the principal of which was called [p. 30] Jagsom, and was believed to have existed over since the creation of the world. When Mahmud reached the Panjab, he was desirous that, in accordance with the subsisting treaty with Anandpal, no injury should be sustained by that prince’s country, in consequence of the Muhammadan army passing through it.  An embassy was accordingly sent to inform the Raja of his design against Thanesar, and desiring him to depute his officers to remain with the army, in order that the villages and towns which belonged to him might be protected from the camp followers.

“Anandapal, agreeing to this proposal, prepared an entertainment for the reception of the king, at the same time issuing orders for all his subjects to supply the camp with every necessary of life.

“The Raja’s brother, with two thousand horse, was also sent to meet the army, and to deliver the following message: ‘My brother is the subject and tributary of the king, but he begs permission to acquaint his majesty that the temple of Thanesar is the principal place of worship of the inhabitants of the country; that, although the religion of the king makes it an important and meritorious duty to destroy idols, still the king has already acquitted himself of this duty, in the destruction of the idols in the fort of Nagarkot.  If he should be pleased to alter his resolution regarding Thanesar, and to fix a tribute to be paid by the country, Anandpal promises that the amount of it shall be annually paid to Mahmud; besides which, on his own part, he win present him with fifty elephants, and jewels to a considerable amount.’

“Mahmud replied: The religion of the faithful inculcates the following tenet: ‘That in proportion as [p. 31] the tenets of the Prophet are diffused, and his followers exert themselves in tile subversion of idolatry, so shall be their reward in heaven;’ that, therefore, it behoved him, with the assistance of God, to root out the worship of idols from the face of all India. How, then, should he spare Thanesar?

“This answer was communicated to the Raja of Dehli, who, resolving to oppose the invaders, sent messengers throughout Hindustan to acquaint the other Rajas that Mahmud, without provocation, was marching with a vast army to destroy Thanesar, now under his immediate protection. He observed that if a barrier was not expeditiously raised against this roaring torrent, the country Hindustan would be soon overhelmed, and every state, small and great, would be entirely subverted. It, therefore, behoved them to unite their forces at Thanesar, to avert the impending calamity.

“Mahmud having reached Thanesar before the Hindus had time to assemble for its defence, the city was plundered, the idols broken, and the idol Jagsom was sent to Ghaznin, to be trodden under foot in the street, and decapitated.  Immense wealth was found in the temples.  According to Haji Muhammad Kandahari, a ruby was found in one of them, weighing 450 miskals, the equal of which no one had ever seen or heard of.

“Mahmud, after the capture of Thanesar, was desirous of proceeding to reduce Dehli; but his nobles told him that it would be impossible to keep possession of it, till he had rendered the Punjab a province of his own government, and had secured himself from all apprehension of Anandapal (Raja of Lahore). The king resolved, therefore, for the present, to proceed no further, till he had accomplished these objects. Anandapal, however, conducted himself with so much policy and hospitabity towards Mahmud that the Sultan returned peaceably to Ghaznin. On this occasion, the [p. 32] Muhammadan army brought to Ghaznin 200,000 captives, so that the capital appeared like an Indian city, for every soldier of the army had several slaves and slaves girls.” -Firishta.