In the 11th century, the Turks under Mahmud Ghazni invaded India from the north-western side. Mahmud was the ruler of Ghazni, who was the son and successor of Subuktgin. He was a great conqueror. He decided to conquer central Asia. But in order to do so, he needed a large, well-equipped army. This required money. He had heard about the Indian wealth. During the twenty-five years of his rule; he raided India seventeen times. He targeted big towns and temples which were known to have vast amounts of wealth in cash, gold and jewellery. He attacked the temple towns of Mathura, Kanauj and Somnath and took back enormous wealth which added glory to his empire.
Motives For Invasions:
Mahmud Ghazni led seventeen expeditions to India but did not rule over this land. The reasons for the invasions were-
He wanted wealth to carry on his wars in Central Asia for which he needed to maintain a large and strong army. So he came to India with the purpose of amassing wealth.
He wanted to fight against the idol-worshippers and destroy the temple towns, and thus earn merit.
He realised that the political condition of India was very weak as India was divided. He did not have to face any tough resistance and won easily every time he raided India.
Important Invasions of Mahmud Ghazni:
War Against Jaipal (A.D. 1001):
Mahmud Ghazni attacked Jaipal the ruler of Punjab in A.D. 1001. A fierce battle was fought at Peshawar in which the Hindus were defeated. Jaipal was captured but was later released after signing a treaty. But Jaipal felt so humiliated that he preferred death to dishonour.
War Against Anandpal (A.D. 1008):
Anandpal, the son of Jaipal, wanted to check the advancement of Mahmud. He got into an alliance with the neighbouring states and the kings of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kanauj, Delhi and Ajmer. The two sides met in the Battle of Waihind, the Hind Shahi capital near Peshawar. A fierce battle was fought. Finally, Mahmud won and looted the famous temple of Jwalamukhi.
Mahmud Ghazni attacked Nagarkot and its famous temple in A.D. 1009, Thaneshwar in A.D. 1012-13 and Mathura and Kanauj in A.D. 1016-18. He defeated the Pratihara ruler of Kanauj and looted and plundered many temples.
Invasion Of Somnath (A.D. 1025):
The most important invasion of Mahmud was the attack on the Somnath temple of Kathiawar. Mahmud had heard of its richness. The Hindus from far and hear united to face the Muslim invader and to protect their sacred temple. But Mahmud appealed fervently to his soldiers to fight for the cause of Islam. The Muslims fought with zeal. Mahmud then entered the temple and took away mounds of gold and lots of costly jewels. He then razed the temple to the ground.
The last expedition of Mahmud was against the Jats during his return from Somnath. The jats were defeated and Mahmud returned to Ghazni in A.D. 1027.
Character And Achievements:
Mahmud Ghazni was one of the greatest rulers of Asia. He greatly extended his empire in Central Asia after his father’s death. He was a born military genius. He never suffered defeat. He was also a great lover of justice. While administering justice, he never discriminated between the weak and the powerful. He was also a deeply religious man and a devout Sunni Muslim.
He was a great builder and built many mosques and public buildings in his capital. He was also a patron of art and literature and patronized many scholars like Alberuni, Firdausi and Utbi. Alberuni was the author of Kitab-i-Hind and Tahkik-i-Hind (Reality of Hindustan). Firdausi was the author of the epic poem, Shahnama.
But, there were certain drawbacks in Mahmud’s character. He was a great lover of wealth. To amass wealth he did not hesitate to loot and plunder even the Hindu temples.
Mahmud waged many wars against India but did not annex any territory, other than the Punjab. This laid the path for the future invasion of India from the west.