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Tazjiyatu-l Amsar

Tazjiyatu-l Amsar wa Tajriyata-l Asar by ‘Abdu-llah Wassaf.
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. 26-70.

  1. Overview

The Tazjiyatu-l Amsar wa Tajriyata-l Asar, “A Ramble Through the Regions and the Passings of Ages”, is a rambling and rather literary history.  It was written by ‘Abdu-llah, son of Fazlu-llah of Shiraz, who was called wassaf, the “Panegyrist” on account of his literary skills.  It is a history which is limited to a rather narrow historical period, despite its expansive title.  It begins with the death of the Mongol Emperor Möngke Khan in 1258 and and the ascension of Khubilai Khan.  The first four volumes of the work deal primarily with the Mongols, and was published in Sha’ban 699 H.  (March 1300).  Later, in 728 H. (1328 CE), he composed a further volume, which served to update the history, and which also had greater coverage of India.  His work is an important and early source of information concerning the Mongols; it was used by later historians such as Rashîd al-Dîn.

The extract included here narrates an expedition conducted in 1298 CE by Sultan ‘Alâ-ud-dîn against Gujarat.  Sultan ‘Alâ-ud-dîn was the second of the Khiljî Sultans of Delhi.  His uncle and stepfather, Fîrûz Shah, was a high official serving Sultan Muiz-ud-dîn Qaiqabad, the last of the “slave kings” of Delhi.  When the latter was murdered without an heir in 1286 CE, the former was elected sultan, taking the title Sultan Jalâl-ud-dîn.  In 1294 CE his nephew and son-in-law ‘Alâ-ud-dîn gained his permission to lead an expedition against Malwa.  He secretly went much further, invading the Deccan, obtaining tremendous loot.  In 1296 CE, his uncle the Sultan unsuspectingly placed himself in ‘Alâ-ud-dîn’s care.  ‘Alâ-ud-dîn had him beheaded, and then paraded his head around atop a spear.  Following his accession of the throne he engaged in a series of attacks against his neighbors, including the attack on Gujarat described herein, conducted in 1297 CE. During this raid he conquered the kingdom of the Baghela Rajput and amassed tremendous wealth from the trading centers in Gujarat, as well as a significant number of slaves, concubines and eunuchs.  Overall, he was considered to be an extremely cruel and bloodthirsty ruler; the historian Ziâ-ud-dîn Baranî wrote that “he shed more blood that ever Pharaoh was guilty of.”1  He ruled until his death in 1316 CE, and it was suspected that he was murdered by Malik Kâfûr, who placed ‘Alâ-ud-dîn’s infant son on the throne, and imprisoned, blinded or killed the other members of the royal family.

  1. Excerpt

[bottom p. 46]

The Conquest of Somnat2From Book IV, of the MS.

When Sultan ‘Alau-d din, the Sultan of Dehli, was well established in the centre of his dominion and had cut off the heads of his enemies and slain them, and had imparted rest to his subjects from the fountain of his kindness and justice, the vein of the zeal of religion beat high for the subjection of infidelity and destruction of idols, and in the month of Zi’l-hijja 698 H. (1298 A,D.) his brother [p. 47] Malik Mu’izzu-d din3 and Nusrat Khan, the chief pillar of the state and the leader of his armies, a generous and intelligent warrior, were sent to Kambayat, the most celebrated of the cities of Hind in population and wealth.  Its air is pure, its water clear, and the circumjacent country beautiful and charming both in scenery and buildings.  With a view to holy war, and not for the lust of conquest. he enlisted under their banners about 14,000 cavalry and 20,000 infantry, which, in their language, are called dakk.”

They went by daily marches through the hills, from stage to stage, and when they arrived at their destination at early dawn they surrounded Kambayat, and the idolators were awakened from their sleepy state of carelessness and were taken by surprise, not knowing where to go, and mothers forgot their children and dropped them from their embrace.  The Muhammadan forces began to kill and slaughter on the right and on the left unmercifully, throughout the impure land, for the sake of Islam, and blood flowed in torrents. They plundered gold and silver to all extent greater than can be conceived, and an immense number of brilliant precious stones, such as pearls, diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, etc., as well as a great variety of cloths, both silk and cotton, stamped, embroidered, and coloured.

They took captive a great number of handsome and elegant maidens amounting to 20,000, and children of both sexes, more than the pen can enumerate, and thirteen enormous elephants; whose motions would put the earth in tremor.” In short, the Muhammadan army [p. 48] brought the country to utter ruin, and destroyed the lives of the inhabitants, and plundered the cities, and captured their offspring, so that many temples were deserted, and the idols were broken and trodden under foot, the largest of which was one called Somnat, fixed upon stone, polished like a mirror, of charming shape and admirable workmanship.  It stood seven yards high.  Its position was such as if it was about to move, and its expression such as if it was about to speak.  If the introducer of idolatry were to look on it he would become enamoured of its beauty.  The infidels objected to people going near it.  Its head was adorned with a crown set with gold and rubies and pearls and other precious stones, so that it was impossible for the eyes to trace the redness of the gold on account of the excessive lustre of the jewels, and a necklace of large shining pearls, like the belt of Orion, depended from the shoulder towards the side of the body.

The Muhammadan soldiers plundered all those jewels and rapidly set themselves to demolish the idol. The surviving infidels were deeply affected with grief, and they engaged to pay a thousand thousand pieces of gold as a ransom for the idol, but they were indignantly rejected, and the idol was destroyed, and its limbs, which were anointed with ambergris and perfumed, were cut off.  The fragments were conveyed to Dehli, and the entrance of the Jami’ Masjid was paved with them, that people might remember and talk of this brilliant victory.  “Praise be to God, the Lord of the worlds. Amen!”

After some time, among the ruins of the temples, a most beautiful jasper-coloured stone was discovered, on which one of the merchants had designed some beautiful figures of fighting-men and other ornamental figures of globes, lamps, etc., and on the margin of it were sculptured verses from the Kuran.  This stone was sent as an offering to the shrine of the pole of saints, Shaikh Murshid Abu Is’hak Ibrahim bin Shahriar.  At that time they were building a lofty octagonal dome to the [p. 49] tomb.  The stone was placed at the right of the entrance.  At this time, that is, in the year 707 H. (1307 A.D.), ‘Alau-d din is the acknowledged Sultan of this country.  On all its borders there are infidels, whom it is his duty to attack in the prosecution of a holy war, and return laden with countless booty.


  1. Cited in Vincent A. Smith,The Oxford History of India(Oxford 1919), p. 245.
  2. This does not mean the Somnat, but as Ziau-d din Barni explains, “an idol to which the Brahmans gave the name Somnat, after the victory of Mahmud, and his destruction of their idol Manat” (text 251).  Guzerat was overrun and Nahrwala was taken in this expedition, but there is no special mention of the temple or town of Somnat.
  3. In the translation of Firishta he is called “Aluf Khan,” but this is an erroneous transcription of his title “Ulugh Khan,” or “Great Khan,” the same title as was previously borne by Ghiyasu-d din Balban.  The texts of Firishta and Barni both read “Ulugh Khan.”