Islam in India: History

It is a daunting task to compress the history of thirteen hundred years into a few pages and so we have highlighted only some important but less known events of this period. Simply put it appears that Muslim invaders simply walked into our country and held it tightly for over thousand years until the British in turn conquered it from them. This is contrary to facts which we have highlighted in this essay. The period has been covered objectively by Dr. S. D. Kulkami in “Encounter with Islam”1 of the BIITSHMA series.

Common Historical Misconceptions

It will be a surprise to most readers who have been fed on the establishment history books to know that it is the Hindus who resisted the onslaught of Arabs for over two centuries unlike the regions west and north of Arabia which succumbed immediately. It took over five hundred years for the Arabs and Turks to lay a foundation for their empire in India and another two centuries before a stable Empire could be formed after Akbar’s reign which also perished after a century. The chronology of important events is given in Appendix B.

It is also a mistake to assume that the Arabs ruled India2. Actually the Arabs did not rule India except Sindh for 150 years and a small kingdom in Madura for a few years, although many Arab families settled in the country. The rulers were mostly Turks and Afghans (several Turk families had settled in Afghanistan from where they came into India) and senior officers apart from them also included those from Iran.

It should be noted that the Turkish race originated in Central Asia which was mostly a part of the erstwhile Soviet Union. In fact the Turks were initially imported as slaves, both domestic and military, from beyond the eastern borders of Islam in the ninth century. They gradually rose to high ranks in the military and ultimately took over the Muslim world as empire builders. From 960 AD onwards whole Turkish tribes got converted and these converts moved to the Middle-East in waves and changed the whole demography of the region including the present day Turkey3. The Turks accepted Islam without any reservations, sank their national identity in it and became its greatest champions even pushing the Arabs to the background. Later on they were joined by another central Asian tribe, the mostly Buddhist Mongols.

Ambedkar states in his book on Pakistan4, “These invasions of India by Muslims were as much invasions of India as they were wars among the Muslims themselves. This fact has remained hidden because the invaders are all lumped together as Muslims without distinction. But as a matter of fact, they were Tartars, Afghans and Mongols. … They were not a loving family cemented by the feeling of Islamic brotherhood. They were deadly rivals of one another and their wars were often wars of mutual extermination. What is, however, important to bear in mind is that with all their internecine conflicts they were all united by one common objective and that was to destroy the Hindu Faith.” It should also be noted that these rulers considered the local converted Muslims as second class Muslims. Aurangzeb, for instance, has often remarked ‘We Turks, you Hindusthanis’ to both Indian Hindus and Muslims. Even in the ‘enlightened’ Moghul period, over seventy percent of the senior administrative and military posts were in the hands of Muslim foreigners. There are only a few instances of local Muslims establishing kingdoms like the Sultans of Gujerat and the Nizamshahi of Ahmednagar. Hence there is no substance to the claim by Indian Muslims that they ruled over India for over a thousand years. That even this claim is not true can be seen from the Table given below. It will also be noted that the local Muslims along with their Hindu brethren could not live in peace and tranquility in these tumultuous times in spite of receiving a more favourable treatment from their rulers.

The Hindu kingdoms put up a sustained and valorous resistance to the invaders. It should be remembered that all the accounts of the Muslim period have been written by Muslim and British historians and are both distorted and exaggerated in their favour. But ultimately Hindus in spite of their valour, could not prevent the Muslim invaders from running over this nation. Many reasons can be given for this. The greatest fault lies in our not studying the scriptures and psychology of the invaders which would have given us a clue to their behaviour. Our standards of dharmic, ethical warfare were not reciprocated by the invaders. When they lost, they were magnanimously pardoned and allowed to go back. But they used the reprieve only to regroup and attack treacherously again. We never understood that treachery was an intrinsic feature of their religion practiced by no less a person than their prophet. Unfortunately this lacunae still persists even today. We also always fought defensively that is only when we were attacked

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and then too it was each king for himself. Our intelligence was inadequate if not absent and the enemy could always spring an element of surprise leaving no time for the rulers to equip themselves adequately. The Hindus also lacked skills of military organisation, a forte of Muslims. Never did the Hindu rulers, even after convincing victories adopt an aggressive posture and take the trouble of uniting their forces and drive out the invaders once for all from the subcontinent and then fortifying the borders. Other shortcomings are excess of superstition, lack of adequate espionage and not keeping the military machine up-to-date.

It may not be farfetched to describe these Islamic invasions as asuric. Ambedkar states in his book on Pakistan, “Muhammad of Ghazni ‘demolished idol temples and established Islam. He captured…cities, killed the polluted wretches, destroying the idolaters, and gratifying Muslims’. ..Muhammad bin Qasim’s first act of religious zeal was forcibly to circumcise the Brahmins of the captured city of Debul…. Muhammad of Ghazni from the first adopted those plans that would strike terror into the heart of Hindus….Not infrequently the slaughter of the Hindus gave a great setback to the indigenous culture of the Hindus….Even in the reign of Shah Jahan, we read of the destruction of the temples that the Hindus had started to rebuild…it was left to Aurangzeb to make a final attempt to overthrow idolatry… Slavery was the fate of those Hindus who were captured in the holy war. But, when there was no war the systematic abasement of the Hindus played no unimportant part in the methods adopted by the Muslim invaders…all this was not the result of mere caprice or moral perversion. On the other hand, what was done was in accordance with the ruling ideas of the leaders of Islam in the broadest aspects.”

And to see just a brief cursory history (very brief and very cursory) of the atrocities on Hindus in medieval India, click here.

The British have, as is usual for them, distorted history by calling this period as the Muslim Period (instead of Turkish Period) and claiming that they captured power from them. By the same logic the European period should also have been called as the Christian Period! Again most of the important conquests of the British of the cities of Delhi, Agra, Lahore and Peshawar, and the bulk of the territory were from Marathas, Sikhs and other non-Muslim rulers. Only the regions in Karnataka, Tamilnadu, Andhra, Bengal, Bihar, Sindh and middle and eastern Uttar Pradesh were captured from the Muslim rulers.


Prophet Muhammad, the founder of Islam was born in 570 AD. From 622 AD when he went to Madina until his death in 632 AD i.e. in a short span of just ten years he consolidated Arabia into a single political and religious unit with his undoubted abilities as a proselytiser and General. The Caliphs who succeeded Muhammad, in spite of internal politicking and bickering, expanded the boundaries of the Muslim Empire within the next 10 – 12 years to cover the territories of the two great powers of the time, the Byzantine and the Sassanid empires. Between 637 and 651 AD Persia was conquered and the Islamic borders touched Afghanistan (Gandhara) which was then a part of Bharat. Egypt fell in 641 AD. By 718 AD Spain was conquered. Even Southern France was annexed for a few years. Within one hundred years of the Prophet’s death, the Arabs became the masters of a vast region extending from the Bay of Biscay to the Indus and the frontiers of China, and from the Aral sea to the Upper Nile.

As for India, Caliph Umar had sent a naval expedition in 636 AD itself to capture the port of Thane (now a suburb of Mumbai), but the attack was successfully repulsed. Immediately thereafter the ports of Broach in Gujarat and Debal in Sindh were unsuccessfully attacked. Umar wanted to avenge these defeats by attacking Makran (Baluchistan), but the Governer of Iran, Abu Musa, realising that it will be futile in view of the strength of the ruler of Sindh, Chachrai, advised him that ‘.. .he should no more think of Hind’. It should be noted that this happened at the time when the Arab armies were marching victoriously in the west. Umar wisely decided to concentrate on expanding his sway over Turkish speaking territories of outer Mongolia, Bukhara, Tashkand, Samarkand etc.

During Ali’s reign (656 – 661 AD), his army invaded Sindh again under the leadership of General Heras, which advanced upto Kikan where it was routed with severe losses incurred by them. During the Caliphate of Muwahiyah, six expeditions were lead by the Arabs to capture Sindh but without success. It was only in 680 AD after many attempts and a fierce campaign that Makran or Baluchistan was finally subjugated.

Thereafter, no attempt was made for the next thirty years to extend the rule to Sindh proper. In 708 AD, 4000 soldiers under the command of Budial attacked Debal but their army was routed. A larger well equipped force was sent under the leadership of Muhammad bin Kasim. With treachery they captured Debal and advanced to Fort Raor with the help of some Buddhists. Here Dahir, the king of Sindh proved to be an easy target on his elephant. In spite of stiff resistance from his wife and son, Muhammad captured Sindh including Multan after a year in 713 AD. At this stage Muhammad was recalled and there was again a revival of Hindu power and the Arabs were able to retain only a toehold of land along the coastal strip. In 718 AD, Junaid the then Governor of Sindh again defeated Dahir’s son and pressed forward into Gujerat and Kashmir, where their advances were checked by Pulakesin and Lalitaditya respectively and thus the Arabs were again confined only to Sindh.

Conversions to Islam through political pressure began with the conquest of Sind and Multan by Muhammad bin Qasim between 711 and 713. There was a stiff resistance from Hindus unlike in the West. The Hindus reverted to their old faith as soon as the Arabs turned their back! Hence Muhammad bin Kasim, according to the ruling Ulema of Damascus, accorded Hindus and Buddhists the status of dhimmls (protected subjects) following the precedent set with regard to Zoroastrians. The dhimmis’ willingness to pay Jizyn (poll tax) in addition lo other taxes, collectively known as khiraj, meant that they were permitted to repair their places of worship. They were allowed to retain the high offices they had held previously and to worship the gods in their temples. Thus the former Hindu and Buddhist governing classes became the counterpart of dihqan (hereditary village leader) class of Iran and Transoxonia. They acted as intermediaries between the Cultivators and the conquerors who belonged to the military class and had little administrative experience. Muslims became friendly with their Hindu neighboring states and entered into alliances with them. Muslim travelers, merchants and saints freely roamed all over India and later proved to be spies for the Muslim rulers. The liberal Muslim policy lulled the Hindus into complacence and weakened their spirit of resistance.

Coming to Afghanistan, there were two kingdoms, Kabul (then known as Kapisha) and Zabul, ruling the region. The kingdom of Zabul lay south of present day Kabul and was ruled by the Hindu dynasty called Shahs or Shahias. Afghanistan, as late as the seventh century, formed part of India both politically and culturally and constituted the borders of India. Immediately after the fall of Persia, the Muslims turned their attention to it. After initial attacks which were repulsed, the province of Seistan was annexed in 653 AD. They lost it for a while in 683 AD. Attempts to annex the rest of the kingdom were made repeatedly but Ranbal, the ruler repulsed them with bravery. Ultimately, by deceit both kingdoms were captured by the Turk Yakub in 870 AD thus ending the glorious resistance of this border state against mighty hordes for over two hundred years. Even then the kingdom was not fully subjugated and the Shahis continued to rule Kabul until the ruler of Ghazni, Subuktigin, finally conquered Kabul in 987AD.

Penetrating The Indian Heartland

Subuktigin’s son, the famous Muhammad, ascended the throne in 998 AD. He was a military genius of a high order. He first annexed large territories of Persia and then turned his attention towards India, the largest bastion of idolaters. The earlier attacks were mainly for loot and plunder and the powerful Hindu rulers like the Imperial Guptas of Magadh and Shahis of Afghanistan could contain these. But now Muhammad wanted to over run this ancient civilisation with the intention of wiping out Hindus and Hinduism.

Muhammad First attacked Jaipal of Peshawar. The latter was narrowly defeated and stung by it, cremated himself. His son Anandpal who succeeded him was also defeated and had to escape to Kashmir. But instead of learning his lesson he offered help to Muhammad when the latter was attacked by another Turkish leader, expecting that he will win Muhammad’s lifelong friendship! This was obviously not reciprocated and Muhammad attacked him again in 1008 AD after quelling the rebellion. Anandpal sought the assistance of neighbouring Hindu rulers. The rival armies camped facing each other for forty days and then a bitter battle ensued. Unfortunately, just as the Hindu forces were about to win, the elephant carrying the king was scared with naphtha balls, and when the army saw it fleeing, lost its courage and fled. But Muhammad too had to return back to Ghazni at that time. After Anandpal’s death, Muhammad attacked again in 1013 AD and gradually eliminated his successors until 1026AD. Thus the Shahi kingdom which guarded the borders of India for 1500 years since 500 BC came to an end.

Muhammad now turned his attention to other territories. He attacked the Chandellas in 1018 AD. When he saw the powerful enemy army facing him, he returned to Ghazni. The Chandella army at this stage could have decisively finished him, but as usual it was another instance of misplaced generosity. He again returned in 1022 AD but could not penetrate the fort of Kalinjar. Hence he made peace by giving costly gifts to the ruler. Having failed in these attempts he turned his attention to the famous Sonmath temple on the western coast. He chose a route via Multan and barren deserts so that he did not have to encounter opposition from the Hindu kings. The 20.000 strong army of the Chalukya king could not stop him and he reached Somnath. This was a well guarded fort and a siege was laid to it. After a bitter struggle lasting for several days, Muhammad penetrated the fort, broke the idol and looted all the temple treasure. He chose another infrequent and difficult route so that the neighbouring powerful Hindu kings could not avenge the desecration and recover the loot. But in the process he could barely manage to reach Ghazni and enroute the Jats of Sindh looted much of the wealth carried away from Somnath. It is obvious that the accounts of Muslim historians are highly exaggerated. It will be a surprise to many that he had a large Hindu army which he obviously did not use in India. Muhammad died in 1030 AD and there was a fratricidal struggle for the throne which ultimately resulted in the end of this dynasty.

Muhammad’s raids encouraged other Muslims also to carry out surprise raids and one such party even reached Banaras. The Hindu chiefs got together and decided to meet the challenge. They joined forces and attacked the Muslim army at Kahsala and convincingly defeated it. The Ghaznavides were completely routed from all areas except Multan and Lahore. (This happened in June 1033 AD, and Raja Bhoj played a great role in routing the Ghaznavides, led by Mahmud Ghazni’s nephew Salar Masud Ghazni). For the next few decades the Hindus lived in peace but they did not make any effort to eliminate the marauders from the subcontinent. In fact many Muslim merchants, Sufis and Mullahs settled in various parts of the country and later acted as spies.

Meanwhile the Ghoris replaced the Ghaznis in Kabul. Shahahuddin Ghori fortified Multan and attacked Gujarat but his army was routed. He therefore captured southern Sindh and Lahore. Prithviraj Chauhan ruled Delhi then. Ghori attacked the Bhatinda fort in 1189 AD and captured it because of lax defense. Prithviraj was annoyed and with a large army laid a siege in 1191. In the fierce battle that ensued Shahabuddin’s army was completely routed and he had to flee. Several more attacks were made but they were repulsed. But at no time did the Hindus wage an attack on enemy territory to eliminate the enemy from our soil. Our tactics were purely defensive. Shahabuddin now practiced deceit. He first sent a message asking Prithviraj to become a Muslim. When this was refused he asked for truce until he received his brother’s instructions. Prithviraj fell for the ruse and spent the night in revelry. The same night Ghori made a surprise attack from the rear. In the Fierce battle that ensued, Prithviraj lost his life and Delhi fell into the hands of the Muslims. Since Shahabuddin did not have enough resources to man such a vast territory he appointed Hindu governors. The other kings put up some resistance but since they did not fight unitedly they were eventually defeated. The chronology so far can be briefly stated as follows

713-715 AD Sindli occupied

716 Hindu rule restored in Sindh

775 Cities of Multan and Mansurah and small regions around these captured

853 Capture of Seistan in Afghanistan

870 Capture of Kabul

1026 Muslims occupy Afghanistan

1030 Lahore captured by Muslims

1192 Fall of Delhi

1200 Bengal invaded

It will be seen that the initial political progress of Islam in the subcontinent was slow and halting. But now large parts of India were under their control from 1200 to 1800 AD i.e. for six centuries out of about twelve centuries of their presence in the subcontinent. The Table below indicates the approximate period for important territories under their control.

Region Period Duration (Years)

Sindh 700-1853AD One thousand one hundred and fifty

NWFP 1000-1812 Eight hundred

Punjab 1027-1800 Seven hundred seventy five

Delhi 1196-1784 Six hundred

Kashmir Valley 1326-1812 Five hundred

Ladaakh 1660-1820 One hundred seventy five

Himachal Pradesh 1650-1800 One hundred fifty

Uttar Pradesh 1200-1800 Six hundred

Bihar 1200-1757 Five hundred fifty

Bengal 1206-1757 Five hundred fifty

Orissa 1568-1750 One hundred seventy five

Assam 1660-1670 Ten

MP-Malwa 1300-1740 Four hundred fifty

MP-Chattisgarh 1640-1715 One hundred seventy five

Gejerat 1300-1740 Four hundred forty

Maharashtra 1317-1664 Three hundred fifty

North Karnataka 1320-1760 Four hundred forty

South Karnataka 1760-1800 Forty

West Andhra 1340-1800 Five hundred

South Andhra 1640-1800 One hundred fifty

East Andhra 1575-1752 One hundred seventy five

North Tamilnadu 1650-1775 One hundred twenty five

North Kerala 1764-1792 Twenty eight

South TN & Kerala Nil

Source : Bharatiya Musaman : Shodh ani Bodh, Setumadhavrao Pagadi (Pune, 1986), P.48

Establishing the Empire

Shahabuddin appointed Kutubuddin Aibak, his Turkish slave as his representative in India. In 1197, Kanauj, Janupur and Mirzapur came under his control. But Gujarat managed to repulse him and remained independent for another century. One Khilji marched towards Bihar and Bengal but the rulers there held on for some time. His army was repulsed from Assam.

Looking a little ahead, we see that the Turks took another two centuries to consolidate their hold over all of India. The Mughals, particularly after Akbar’s reign, become emperors of India. But this empire collapsed like ‘autumn leaves’ within a decade or so after Auragzeb’s death in 1707 AD, i.e. a century after Akbar’s death.

Shahabuddin Ghori was murdered in 1206 AD and since his successors were weak, Aibak managed to become the Sultan and ruled until 1210 AD. After a brief rule by his son, his son-in-law, Iltutmish seized power and ruled until 1235 AD. During his reign the dreaded Chengiz Khan the Mongol (Mongols or Hoons as we called them were from the Central Asian steppes and were nominally Buddhists then), after destroying the Islamic kingdoms elsewhere came upto Indus in 1221 in pursuit of a Muslim king and caused a scare. lltutmish put down a number of rebellious governors and also was the first Muslim ruler to be recognised as a Sultan by the Caliph of Baghdad. He expanded his territory by annexing Gwalior and Malwa. The famous Mahakal temple of Ujjain was destroyed. A number of his descendants including his well known daughter Razia ruled until 1266 AD. In 1241 the Mughals, who were Buddhists then entered the country and killed a number of Muslims.

In 1266 AD, Balban, a Turk and a powerful Wazir of the last Sultan killed him (despite the fact that two daughters of the Sultan were married to Balban and his son as well as the Sultan, in turn, marrying Balban’s daughter!) and ruled during 1266-87 AD. He was a mild ruler and did not unnecessarily harass the Hindus. The shock of the death of his prince-designate by the Mughal raiders (who were still Buddhists) at Lahore in 1285, killed him. He was a firm believer in Turkish superiority.

After Balban’s death, his grandson succeeded him but was overthrown by the powerful army general, Jalaluddin Khilji, an Afghan, in 1290. He was a humane ruler but an iconoclast. Under his leadership the Muslim army was victorious against the Buddhist Mughals and Chinghiz Khan’s grandson, Ulghu, became a Muslim along with his companions. They stayed on in India and were called ‘New Musalmans’. In 1296 AD, his nephew and son-in-law, Allauddin, for the first time crossed the Vindhyas and subdued the Yadava king, Ramdeo, at Deogiri and collected a huge ransom. When the Sultan went to congratulate him, he was ruthlessly murdered and Allauddin proceeded to crown himself after eliminating other rivals. He next overran Gujerat and plundered many temples including Somnath. He also repulsed repeated attacks of the Mughals. With great efforts and treachery the impregnable fort of Ranthambhor was captured. He next turned his eyes towards Chitor which was captured after eight month’s siege in 1303 AD. Padmini and other women committed Jauhar. Gradually Mandu, Dhar, Ujjain and Chanderi were also taken and Allauddin became the emperor of North India.

Now Allauddin turned his attention to south of the Vindhyas. He defeated Ramdeo again but treated him honourably and married his daughter so that he had a Hindu ally in South. He now sent his able general, Malik Kafur, further south, Kafur attacked and made successful treaties with the kings of Warangal and Hoysala. The Pandyan territory was attacked next and Kafur returned to Delhi in 1311 AD with a large booty. Ramdeo died in 1312, and his son resisted the Muslims. Again Kafur raided the south and killed him and installed another king. The other kingdoms were also raided again and vast loot collected. The southern Hindu kings unfortunately did not learn any lesson like their northern counterparts to resist the onslaught unitedly. These raids like those of Ghazni’s earlier, did not annex the south politically but facilitated establishment of small Muslim kingdoms in the south.

Allauddin died in 1316 AD and thus ended the career of the ‘most ruthless empire builder and conqueror in the world history’. He, in fact, wanted to be a prophet of a new religion. He was selfish and arrogant, suspicious, cruel and unscrupulous, Kafur nominated his son as successor and began a very repressive career but was himself beheaded shortly afterwards by his numerous enemies. After a period of confusion, one Ghazi Malik Tughlak of Turkish blood (1320-25 AD) ultimately crowned himself Sultan under the title Ghiyasuddin Tughlak. Warangal was annexed and authority established over Bengal and North Bihar. He was killed by his son who assumed the title, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughlak Shah and ruled from 1325 to 1350 AD. He was a perverted genius and remembered for many eccentricities like shifting his capital to Daulatabad (Deogiri) in Deccan. He had scant respect for the Ulema and did not persecute Hindus or desecrate temples.

A Period Of Confusion And Turbulence

Rebellions took place all over but were crushed. The empire covered almost the whole of India except Rajasthan. Unfortunately it lasted for only about fifteen years and it took another two hundred fifty years before a full fledged Mughal empire could again be established. But Tughlak’s policy of replacing local Hindu chieftains with Muslim governors enabled the establishment of many local Muslim kingdoms and hence Muslims effectively ruled a large portion of India during this period. In his last days one Hasan Gangu assumed the title of Allauddin Bahman (Brahman) Shah and established the Bahamani kingdom in the South. The Sultan was succeeded by his cousin, Firoz Shah (1351-88 AD). He was a mild ruler hut an iconoclast and destroyed many temples like those of Puri and Jwalamukhi. He was followed by a number of successors from his family.

This period will be remembered for the invasion of the country by the notorious Timur-i-lang, of Turkish-Mughal ancestry, who invaded the country from his capital in Samarkand and massacred Hindus in millions and plundered their homes and temples in 1398 AD. He came with the express purpose of butchering the infidels and retired immediately but not before taking a number of skilled Hindu craftsmen as prisoners to his lands for construction of edifices there. He has rightly been regarded as an anti-Hindu robot, a barbarian without parallel.

This was a period of great confusion and the Sayyids ruled regions around Delhi between 1414-51 AD. They were not very competent and their rule extended only in regions around Delhi. They were succeeded by the Afghani Lodis (1451-1526 AD). Bahlul was the first ruler who reconquered the neighboring territories so that his rule extended from the Punjab to the western frontiers of Bihar. Hs son Sikandar (1489-1517 AD) extended it to Bihar and Bengal. He shifted his capital to Agra. He desecrated the shrines in Mathura and constantly humiliated the Hindus. After his death, lbrahim ascended the throne after killing his brother. He treated his nobles so badly that they invited Babar, the then king of Kabul and Kandahar, and a descendent of Chingiz Khan and Timur. Babar had already attempted unsuccessfully to penetrate India. But now he descended with full force and in the first battle of Panipat in 1526 AD defeated lbrahim and became the ruler and started a new epoch in Indian history. Thus during this period between 1206 and 1526 AD there were as many as 28 rulers from numerous dynasties.

The Mughal Rule

Babar First had to establish his rule by defeating the local Muslim chieftains and Rajputs. He won because of his superior artillery power. Rana Sanga the famous king of Chitor as well as the sultan of Bengal were defeated. But Babar had to return to Kabul to quell rebellions there where he died in 1530. His son, Humayun, succeeded him and continued the wars with local rulers. He was kind and generous but

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a weak, easy-going ruler. Unfortunately he had to fight his own brothers and cousins at every stage. Bahadur Shah of Gujerat annexed Malwa and Chitor and entered into a treaty with Sher Shah. Humayun marched against him and defeated him. Sher Shah, however, proved to be more wily and made Humayun’s position insecure by alternately fighting and entering into friendship treaties. It was a tussle between the Afghans and the Moghuls. Ultimately Humayun had to go into exile in Kabul in 1540 AD while Sher Shah ruled Delhi from Punjab to Bengal. Sher Shah was a bigoted ruler and ruthlessly destroyed Hindu kingdoms and temples in Central India. He was an efficient administrator and the systems he set up in his short rule were followed in total by the subsequent Mughal rulers. He died in 1545 AD and again there was a vacuum. Humayun saw an opportunity and captured Lahore in 1555 AD. Unfortunately he met with an accident and died in 1556.

His young son, Akbar, succeeded him. Since he was only 14, his regent Bairam Khan managed his kingdom and enabled him to consolidate his kingdom by winning the second battle of Panipat in 1556 against Hemu, the Hindu general of Shah Adali. He also captured Ajmer and Gwalior. The other nobles were envious of Bairam who ultimately died in court intrigues. Akbar now became the undisputed ruler. He made a significant move by befriending the Rajputs who were appointed by him in senior positions. Thus his sway also extended to Rajasthan which had mostly escaped the Muslim rule so far. Only the famous Rana Pratap refused to succumb, but was ultimately defeated after a glorious resistance. Similarly Rani Durgavati of Gondwana was defeated in an unprovoked attack although she fought with courage and determination. Sindh and Kandahar were also taken and Akbar became the undisputed master of North India.

Meanwhile in the South, the Bahamani kingdom continued to prosper after the death of Muhammad Tughlak and held sway over the Deccan until it split into five kingdoms around 1590 due to rivalry between the foreign and local Muslims. Akbar saw a good opportunity to penetrate the territory south of the Vindhyas. With some effort he managed to annex Berar, Ahmednagar, Khjandesh and Bijapur and declared himself the emperor of Deccan in 1602.

Akbar’s last days were not happy. Two of his sons died and Salim (later Jehangir) raised a banner of revolt. The great emperior died of stomach ailment in 1605. He was succeeded by Jehangir who continued the policy of putting trust in Hindu officers but turned away from his father’s liberal attitude towards Hindus although he did not excessively harass them. He however put to death the Sikh guru Arjun Singh and destroyed several Jain temples. He won the impregnable fort of Kangra and also subdued the Mewar Rana.

Court intrigues involving his sons and wife Noorjahan prevailed and the emperior died in 1627 to be succeeded by his son Khurram or Shahjahan. Immediately on accession Shahjahan had to face rebellion from the Bundelas. They were conquered by his son Aurangzeb who treated the Hindu prisoners with terrible inhumanity typical to him. The Bundelas were not completely subdued and later the Chatrasal challenged the authority of the Mughals. The emphasis under Shahjahan was more on loot than conversions and Deccan was particularly affected with ‘Asmani and Sultani’, the wrath of God and the Muslim marauders. Deccan was constantly plunged into warfare with wars between Mughals led by Aurangzeb and the Bijapur and Nizamshahi kingdoms.

In 1657 Shahjahan fell ill and the usual terrible process of succession commenced amongst his sons. The eldest, Prince Dara, a true admirer of Hindu scriptures, had been earlier been appointed successor but the crafty Aurangzeb eliminated his brothers one by one, put his fater in prison and became emperior in 1658 and until his death in 1707 for fifty long years proved to be an unmitigated curse on the Hindus. He expanded his empire to cover almost the whole of India but at the same time planted the seeds of its destruction by alienating Hindus completely.


At this stage it will be necessary to briefly trace the Hindu resistance offered by the South5 as Aurangzeb spent most of his later life in the South to annex it to the empire. As we have seen Allauddin Khilji first crossed the Vindhyas in 1296 AD but did not establish a Muslim rule. Later Muhammad Tughlak decided to extend his domination to the South by making Deogiri his capital. Although this scheme failed, it enabled the establishment of the stable Bahamani kingdom covering central and northeast peninsula. The northwest was added later. But the south remained essentially unmolested as seen in the above Table. And ultimately it was the south which preserved our culture and loosened the grip of Islam from the whole of India. Unfortunately before a stable Hindu rule could be established the British took over the reigns.

We have earlier seen that when Malik Kafur raided the south, the Hindu kingdoms of the Hoysala, Kakatiya and Pandya were defeated now and then but continued their rule by offering heroic resistance. The kingdom of Kamapili comprising of Anantpur, Dharwar and Raichur could not however be subjugated by Malik Kafur’s invasion during 1313-15. But the king was killed in subsequent battles around 1328 and his sons, Harihar and Bukka were converted by force and appointed to be in charge of Kampili. But they were defeated by king Ballal and were wandering around as fugitives. They met Swami Vidyaranya who reconverted them and under his inspiring guidance and along with several Hindu chieftains who had successfully rebelled against the Muslims the foundation of the great Vijaynagar Empire was laid in 1336 AD. Under several able kings the empire expanded and ultimately ruled whole of south India, south of rivers Tungabhadra / Krishna. Under Krishnadevaraya (1509-29) the empire was at its zenith. Meanwhile the Bahamani kingdom which ruled to the north split into five kingdoms around 1500 AD but the fighting continued. Ultimately all the five powers together marched against Vijayanagar and in the battle of Talikota in 1565, defeated the Hindus.

General confusion reigned in the south with several small dynasties springing up everywhere and the Bahamani kingdoms invading these regions every now and then. It was only after the advent of the Marathas under Shivaji that Hindu rule was finally established. The great Shivaji was born in 1630 and inspired by his mother and tutor steadily and astutely built up his kingdom by simultaneously tackling hostile powers like the Mughals, Adishahi and Nizamshahi. By the time he died in 1680 he had laid the firm foundation for a Hindu empire. His son, Sambhaji, too was brave and despite opposition from Soyarabai, his stepmother (His real mother Saibai passed away when he was 2 years old) he bravely defended the Maratha empire for 9 years- from 1680 to 1689 facing combined opposition. When the Maratha war of independence began Aurangazeb got Adilshah, Qutubshah, Portuguese and Siddique together against Sambhaji, who fought for till AD 1687 bravely defending the empire against five combined powers simultaneously. Aurangazeb realized that that despite trying his utmost to destroy the Marathas, he could not achieve an easy victory for them and hence he suspended his campaign andturned to Qutubshah and Adilshah kingdoms, which he conquered in AD 1686 and 1687 and then returned to war against Marathas. However due to treachery from some of the own people Sambhaji was captured and tortured to death by Aurgangzeb on 11 March 1689 who personally came down to the south in 1682 after Shivaji’s death to vanquish the Marathas and other rulers and extend the Mughal empire all over India.

The Marathas were shocked and resolved to take revenge under, Rajaram, the younger son of Shivaji. The mighty forces of the Mughals hounded them and Rajaram had to run from one place to another for safety. The Marathas under able generals, Santaji Ghorpade and Dhanaji Jadhav hit back with a vengeance adopting the guerrilla tactics perfected by Shivaji and the Emperior did not have a moment of peace until he died, a frustrated and disillusioned old man in 1707. His successors were weak and the empire existed nominally only around Delhi, buffeted and bullied by various forces.

The Marathas under the able guidance of the first three Peshwas largely liberated the country from Muslim misrule and established the Maratha empire over a large portion of central and northern India. Unfortunately due to faulty strategy they lost the key battle of Panipat in 1761 with the Afghan invader, Ahmad Shah Abdali who was invited by disgruntled Muslim nobles to attack India. The Maratha losses both in manpower and resources were enormous and they did not recover from this blow. Actually even after this battle, Madhavrao Peshwe who ruled from 1761 to 1772 AD re-established Maratha supremacy in the North and Marathas were powerful rulers of North till at least AD 1794. Abdali although victorious, had to return to his native land since he realized that he could not establish his rule permanently due to Maratha opposition.


Again there was a period of confusion all over the country providing an ideal opportunity for the crafty British to establish their hegemony. After winning the battle of Plassey in 1757 they grew from strength to strength and gradually consolidated their hold by defeating several chieftains like Hyder, Tipu and the Nizam in south and Hindu and Muslim rulers in the north and annexing their territories. After defeating the Peshwas in 1818 their supremacy was absolute and they ruled this country for a long period of nearly one hundred and fifty years until they departed in 1947.

As far as the Muslim question is concerned, the departure of the British resurrected the problem once more since they partitioned the subcontinent on the basis of religion. Muslim countries, Pakistan and Bangladesh were carved out which resulted in a great holocaust for Hindus living there. The events leading to this tragedy and its aftermath have been brilliantly discussed in ‘The Tragic Story of Partition’6 and ‘Hindus Betrayed’7. Even in the Hindu Indian Union, due to the so called secularist policies of the government, Muslims have again started to assert themselves and coupled with their high growth as brought out in Chapter 6 we can be certain of further partitions in the near future unless remedial measures are taken on a war footing.


  1. 1. Encounter with Islam, Ed. S. D. Kulkarni, BHISHMA Series, Vol. 6, Mumbai, 1990
  2. 2. Bharatiya Musalman, Shodh ani Bodh (in Marathi), Sethumadhavrao Pagadi, Parchure Prakashan, Mumbai, 1986
  3. 3. The Middle East – A Brief History of the Last 2000 Years, Bernard Lewis, Touchstone, New York, 1995, (Chapter 5)
  4. 4. Reprint of Pakistan Or The partition of India, Vol. 8, Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar, Education Dept; Govt. of Maharashtra, 1990
  5. 5. The Struggle for Hindu Supremacy, Ed. S. D. Kulkarni, BHISHMA Series, Vol. 7, Mumbai, 1992
  6. 6. The Tragic Story of Partition, H. V. Seshadri, Jagarana Prakashana, 1984
  7. 7. Hindus Betrayed, Kanayalal M. Talreja and R. S. Narayanswami, Rashtriya Chetana Sangathan New Delhi, 1997.
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