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Tarikh-i Firishta

Tarikh-i Firishta of Muhammad Kasim Hindu Shah, Firishta (b. 1570).  A general history of Muslim India.

Extracts 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. 21.

  1. Overview

The Tarikh-i Firishta is a very well known text.  It is a general history of India, largely based upon earlier Persian historical works.  It is generally regarded as one of the best of the later compilations based on earlier works, and it was relied upon heavily by early European historians of India such as Elphinstone.

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 an important battle which occurred in 1008 CE in Peshwar.  In 991 CE Subuktigin defeated decisively a confederation of Indian kings led by Râja Jaipâl of Bathindah in battle at the Kurmah Valley near Peshwar.  In 1008 CE Jaipâl’s son, Andpâl, organized another confederacy consisting of the Râjas of Ujjain, Gwâlior, Kanauj and Ajmer, who together fielded an army on the plain of Peshwar even greater than that fielded seventeen years earlier by Jaipâl.  The Indian alliance originally dominated the battle, until the elephant carrying the Indian chieftain (presumably Andpâl) panicked and fled when assaulted with flaming naphtha and arrows.  This in turn panicked the Indian troops, who were subsequently routed.  This ended the attempts at organized resistance against the invaders from Afghanistan.

  1. Excerpt

[p. 60]

Mahmud of Ghazni1

Mahmud having thus settled his affairs in India, returned in the autumn to Ghazny, where he remained during the winter.  In the spring of the year A.H. 399 (A.D. 1008) he determined again to attack Anundpal, Raja of Lahore, for having lent his aid to Dawood, during the late defection in Multan.  Anundpal, hearing of his intentions, sent ambassadors on all sides, inviting the assistance of the other princes of Hindustan, who now considered the expulsion of the Mahomedans from India as a sacred duty.  Accordingly, the Rajas of Ujein, Gwaliar, Kalunjar, Kanauj, Delhi, and Ajmir, entered into a confederacy, and collecting their forces, advanced towards the Panjab with the greatest army that had yet taken the field.  The Indians and Mahomedans arrived in sight of each other on a plain, on the confines of the province of P’eshawur, where they remained encamped forty days without coming to action.  The troops of the idolaters daily increased in number.  The Hindu females, on this occasion, sold their jewels, and melted down their golden ornaments (which they sent from distant parts), to furnish resources for the [p. 61] war; and the Gukkurs, and other warlike tribes joining the army, surrounded the Mahomedans, who were obliged to entrench their camp.

Mahmud, having thus secured himself, ordered 6000 archers to the front to endeavour to provoke the enemy to attack his entrenchments.  The archers were opposed by the Gukkurs, who, in spite of the King’s efforts and presence, repulsed his light troops and followed them so closely, that no less than 30,000 Gukkurs with their heads and feet bare, and armed with various weapons, penetrated into the Mahomedan lines, where a dreadful carnage ensued, and 5000 Mahomedans in a few minutes were slain.  The enemy were at length checked, and being cut off as fast as they advanced, the attacks became fainter and fainter, till, on a sudden, the elephant upon which the prince who commanded the Hindus rode, becoming unruly from the effects of the naphtha balls, and the fights of arrows, turned and fled.  This circumstance produced a panic among the Hindus, who, seeing themselves deserted by their general, gave way and fled also.  Abdulla Taee, with 6000 Arabian horse, and Arslan jazib, with 10,000 Turks, Afghans, and Khiljis, pursued the enemy day and night, so that 20,000 Hindus were killed in the retreat. Of the spoil, thirty elephants (besides other booty) were brought to the King.


  1. These Extracts are taken from Briggs’s translation) and his spelling is retained.  Brigg’s vol. I, p. 46.