Raja Jayapala(Jayapaladev): The Savior of North India who invaded Ghzani | Hindu Shahi Dynasty

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The Hindu Shahi kingdom also known as Raes (Kings) of Hindustan & present day Afghanistan and Pakistan had bravely fought and resisted several Arabs invasion. From the late 6th century CE the Hindu Shahi were at constant war against the Arabs and their caliphs.

We know that there was a Hindu king who was known as Ranbal or Ranbil in Islamic texts who continuously defeated the Arabs. Later this struggle was continued by a Hindu king whose name has been forgotten in Indian history.

He was Maharaja Jayapala or Jayapaladev who not only stood against the wrath of the Yamini Turks, but also invaded their stronghold i.e.  Ghzani.

For a very long time we had heard that Mahmud Ghzani attacked India from 1001 AD- 1027 AD but prior him it was Maharaja Jayapala of Hindu Shahi Dynasty who decided to invade Ghzani twice. But unfortunately ,such heroic courage of raiding the territory of the Subuktigin (Ghazni) with a united Hindu front under king Jayapala couldn’t find its place in Indian history.  

Background

The powerful Samanid dynasty of Persia didn’t make any efforts to invade the Hindu Shahi kingdom. But with the rise of Alb-tigin (Alpatagin) a Turkish slave soldier of the Samanid governor Mansur the position of the Shahis soon became vulnerable.

During the period of 870 CE the Hindu Shahi lost Kabul and were forced to retreat. This temporary loss of the great Hindu Shahi kingdom was the beginning of another chapter in the medieval history of the Indian Sub-continent.

Turkish Invasion

The introduction of the Turk (Turuskas) warlords completely changed the mentality and the conduct of war. The establishment of this new Muslim (Turk) authority in Ghazni completely changed the policy of the Muslims.

Under the Turks, the raids on the Hindu Shahi’s and later on northern India became even more aggressive and lethal. The first Hindu king who faced this wave of the Turuskas was Jayapala (Jaipal or Jayapaladev), who fought till his last breath in order to protect his kingdom of people.

The Hindu Shahi after 870 CE transferred their capital to Udabhandapura as they had suffered heavy losses from the war against the Arabs and also from the defeat they suffered from a Turkish leader Yaqub ibn Layth (founder of the Saffarid Dynasty).

The Hindu Shahi kingdom under Maharaja Jayapala was stretched from Sirhind to Lumghan (Laghman) and from Kashmir to Multan.

Hindu Shahi Kingdom in map - Pala Dynasty Pala Empire History, Founder
The Hindu Shahi Kingdom

According to Firishtah (Persian historian) , the Hindu king Jayapala was aware of the rising threat at Ghzani and decided to make the fort of Waihind or Bhatinda his strong hold for checking the repeated invasion of the Mahomedans.

Another historian Minhaj-i-Siraj calls Jayapala the greatest kings of Hindustan. He further adds that he is in a very powerful state whose army was more numerous than the stars of heaven. He also adds:

His soldiers had so imbrued their hands in blood that their swords were as red as the morning dawn. Hadst thou seen his spears gleaming like tongues of flame, though black smoke, thou wouldst have said his host was dispersed in the wilderness of hell. Sense fled from the brain at fear of him; and the light of the eye was confounded.

Conflict against Subuktigin (Sabuktigin)

According to Firista ,initially there was a temporary alliance between King Jayapala and Alpatgin’s general Subuktigin. But when the latter became the ruler of Ghazni, he broke the alliance and decided to invade the territories of Jayapala through frequent raids.

But king Jayapala was aware of this rising threat and before Subuktigin could raid his territory the former assembled an army of almost all of his fellow allies and prepared to invade the strong hold of Subuktigin i.e GHAZNI.

This plan of raiding the territory of the powerful Turks, who were not only superior in arms, cavalry logistics but, were ruthless warriors too was the bravest decision ever taken by a Hindu king. If these types of policy and courage was shown by the future kings of India then its history would have been different.

Jayapala’s Invasion of Ghzani

The invasion or raid on Ghzani took place somewhere in 986-87. The battle lasted for several days and the Hindu army of Jayapala were able to secure the upper hand in the battle. According to al-Utbi the Turkish army of Subuktigin, including the young prince Mahmud (Mahmud Ghzani) were reduced to despair.  

But a snowstorm and inhospitable weather completely changed the course and the outcome of the battle. Due to the storm the army of Jayapala which was fighting far from their homeland decided to settle for peace.

 Maharaja Jayapaladeva army suffering in the snowstorm- Hindu Shahi raid on Ghazni
The Struggling army of King Jaypala in the snowstorm

King Jayapala wrote:

                     “You have heard and know the nobleness of Indians, how that, in seasons of extremity, they fear not death or destruction. They run the edge of the sword over those who wrong them, when there is no means of escaping the blade. In affairs of honour and renown we would place ourselves upon the fire like roast meat, and upon the dagger like the sunrays”

                    Quoted from Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders up to 1204 AD

These were the words of King Jayapala to Subuktigin. If the snowstorm hasn’t happened there the story of Yamini Turks would have ended there and the raids of Mahmud Ghzani would have never happened.

Temporary peace was established between the Hindu Shahi and the Ghaznavids. But after witnessing this invasion Subuktigin was well aware of the threat. To suppress his enemy , he started raiding the territories of Lamghan of Shahi kingdom.

In reply . Jayapala decided to organize a united hindu front against Subuktigin. The neighboring kings of Chahamans, Chandelas, and Tomars organized their armies to help Jayapala. This was the last hope of the Indian to crush the Turks once and for all. The two armies then met on the fields of Lamghan.

Although the Shahi army did have a united front but against the superior Turkish Cavalry and mobility, it was helpless. The Indians from the invasion of Alexander the Great to Huns, Parthians or the Arabs or the Turks had suffered from the lack of good quality of cavalry and logistical support.

This had been proved time and time again. With the military capability of Subuktigin and their fierce cavalry , the battle resulted in the defeat of the Shahis after a fierce battle and the territory of Lamghan was annexed by the Turks.

Al-Utbi defined the battle as

“Men and officers mingled in close conflict and all other arms were useless except the swords. The dust which arose prevented the eyes from seeing; swords could not be distinguished from spears, men form elephants, the valiants from cowards.”

Final Showdown

After this battle the conflict between the Shahis and Ghznavids continued for almost two decades. Mahmud rose the throne of Ghzani in 998 CE and in 1001 CE he invaded Peshawar.

Although alone and helpless but full of indomitable courage king Jayapala decided to stop the advance of the Mahmud Ghzani.

Although prior to this battle Jayapala didn’t get enough time to mobilize his army in front of Mahmud, whose army was more than him.  Jayapala’s army consisted of 12,000 cavalry, 30,000 infantry and about 200-300 war elephants.      

The battle resulted in the defeat of the Shahi king and he along with his family members was taken captive. But after some time Jayapala was released by Mahmud in exchange of 50 war elephants.

But Jayapala, after his captivity at the hands of the idol breaker who don’t’ have any respect for Hindu and were only focus on plundering cities and temples considered himself unworthy of the throne and declared that he had failed in protecting his kingdom from the malecchas. He ordered a funeral pile and set fire to it and attained martyrdom.

Later the struggle against the Ghaznavids was continued by his successor Anandpala and Trilocanapala for almost two more decades.      

Hindu Shahi Dynasty - Dharmayudh
Majestic Temple Built during the Hindu Shahi Rule in present day Pakistan

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