Geographically Diminishing India – Afghanistan


Introduction:

It is human thinking that makes his way of life. When a way of life is commonly shared by a large number of people, it becomes their culture. It is the culture that binds people together more than their political institution.

Political institution – whether it is kingship or democratic or dictatorship – is shaped and sustained by the individualistic ambition but culture is sustained and continued by the group sentiment.

A nation may be defined more by its culture than by its political institution. India was a vast nation by its culture, which was hosting a multitude of different political institutions. This vast India comprised almost all parts of Asia, leaving small pockets of people here and there outside its influence.

This India by culture had its origin in pre-historic Vedas, Upnishads, Ramayan, Mahabharat etc. and on being defiled by the effect of time had been purified and re-invigourated by countless saintly people from time to time. In this process, about 2500 ago, Gautam Buddha was the notable one among those saintly people; and this process of purification continued since antiquity till today.

All these peoples Indian by their culture are today separate political countries, most of them conquered by political Islam and oblivious of their Indian roots. This vast India has been diminishing in geographical area over the millenia and this process is still on.

It is said, “It is the truth alone that shall prevail = सत्यमेव जयते”. If there is truth in this Indian thinking that created a vast cultural India and sustained it for long, it would again be loved by a large part of humanity, in whatever form it might be; else it (thinking and culture) will die forever. Let us retrace the history of this diminishing India.

One has the luxury in India to indulge in tall talks of democracy, constitution and things like that but all these achievements of India will go down the drain of history, unless the urgent drastic measures are taken by this country to checkmate the fast marching steps of coming future. This India – the democratic India – will become a history, not very long after, unless these measures are taken. What could be these measures?

A similar question was posed to Sri Aurobindo. He said, ” I am sorry they are making a fetish of this Hindu-Muslim unity. It is no use ignoring facts; some day the Hindus may have to fight the Muslims and they must prepare for it. Hindu-Muslim unity should not mean the subjection of the Hindus. Every time the mildness of the Hindu has given way. The best solution would be to allow the Hindus to organize themselves and the Hindu-Muslim unity would take care of itself, it would automatically solve the problem. Otherwise, we are lulled into a false sense of satisfaction that we have solved a difficult problem, when in fact we have only shelved it.”. How could it be done? There is only one way to make this law abiding Hindu democratic India strong: Make military service compulsory for all and organize Indian society equipped with Self Defense Committees at local levels.

If you fear to make Indian people strong at their own at the local level – that is, making them strong without the help of police and military – you are doomed, your future is doomed. Only a blind will not see the coming futute of this democratic India. Afghanistan of 9th century, or even Lahore of pre-1947 days, had never thought that they will become what they are today. What happened to the 9th century Afghanistan and the Lahore and Debal (Karachi) of yore, can happen to the present so-called democratic India once more. History has no mercy in its bossom.

(1) Afghanistan:

Afghanistan was Hindu and part of India, which in the past had been forcibly converted by the invading forces of Islam. But the vestiges of its Hindu past were still available as of 1890-91, when George Scott Robertson – a Frank – had visited an area near Kunnar in Afghanistan, which was called, “Kafiristan”. He wrote a book about what he witnessed there, which is titled, “The Kafirs of the Hindu-Kush “, which was first published in 1896 by Lawrence & Bullen Ltd. London. He found there what were nothing but the lingering vestiges of Hinduism still prevalent in that area of Afghanistan. The people of Kafiristan are organized into tribes and tribes into clans. There are 9 tribes: Katirs; Madugal; Kashtan or Kashtoz; Kam; Istrat or Gourdesh; Presun or Viron; Wai; Ashkun. We enumerate their customs here:

  1. People in Kafiristan are living in independent tribes. The number of these tribes have been reduced to a few villages. The  tribal people are brave and intelligent. They love to host guests. They are quarrelsome with  other rival tribes but unite when fighting against Islamic outsiders. They are surrounded on all sides of their valley of Kafiristan by Muslims, who regularly make raids on these tribes, break their idols and deities and convert them to Islam. The newly converts are given the title of “Shaikh”. These Shaikhs on conversion become the most ferocious enemies of their ex-tribes. However, Robertson observes one significant thing: “In case of war with a Musalman power, I was informed that, even in the event of an actual invasion of the country, the Shaikhs would not co-operate with the Kafirs, nor fight on their side, but would stand aloof, unless the invaders, if victorious, unduly oppressed the conquered Kam, when the Shaikhs would probably do all in their power to proptect and avenge their relations” (page 73).
  2. There is strict custom in all these tribes that they cannot marry within their own tribes. This prohibition of marriage extends to the tribes of the father’s side as well as to mother’s side. It looks like Hindus’ custom of “sapinda” relations, where Hindus are prohibited from marrying in their father’s and mother’s “gotras” (=something like clans). This custom of “Kafirs” is just opposite to the Muslims’ custom, whereunder they marry within their own close families.

  3. They have among them a population of people who serve them menially, in their outside and household works. However, these servants – Robertson calls them slaves – are not allowed to “cross over” the doorsteps of their masters. All these serving people live in a separate area at the corner of their village. However, these serving people are given due respect by all the people of the tribe and these serving people are equal part of the tribe in their fighting against outsiders. The individuals of these serving people are not paid for their services but are part of individual households. This custom among them is very ancient and looks just like an equally ancient Indian custom of treating the so-called “Sudras”.

  4. The names of their villages, tribes and gods still retain phonetically roots of Sanskrit language. For example, the names of some of their villages have suffix “grom”, which is corrupt form of “gram”, that is village. Some villages are named: Ptaigrom (=Patai Gram), Purstam (Purushottam), Bajindra (page 76), Mergrom (=Mer Gram) Bagalgrom (=Bagal Gram) (page 77), Shtevgrom (=Saitev (hundred?) Gram), Pontzgrom (=Pontz Gram), Diogrom (=Deo Gram), Katigigrom (=Katigi Gram), Satsumgrom (=Satsum Gram), Puskigrom (=Puski Gram) (page 80). Some of their tribal areas are called, “desh”, which means nation. Some such areas are: “Kamdesh”, “Gourdesh” (page 72), which means the nation of Kams and Gours. Kamdesh has ten chief clans of their people: Utahdari (=Uttam Dhari; Utahdari belong to a high priest class among them); Demidari; Garakdari; Sukdari; Bilezhedari; Waidari; Lalandari; Kanardari; Gutkechdari; Batardari (page 85).  Their gods are called, “Imra”, which looks like “Ishwara”.

(2) Afghanistan:

Borrowed with thanks from: Cesta Lavie Priya

There is a widespread myth about Indian history that the Islamic invaders from the central Asia who descended upon Afghanistan, then part of the Indian civilization had sort of a free pass in capturing it, that the native rulers were such dumb puppets that they gave no resistance and were also not given support by the rulers of mainland India. But, when one looks through the history, such accusations prove to be baseless. Indeed, Hindu rulers of Afghanistan did loose to the Islamic invaders. But, that was the result and a lot happened before the unfortunate conclusion of this struggle. Neither it was a free pass to the Islamic hordes, nor the Hindu rulers were support less from their peers from the mainland India.This is a short account of the Hindu Shahi King Maharaja Jaipal, who ruled the present south-eastern Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan from 964 to 1001 CE and encountered numerous Islamic invasions.

Today’s Afghanistan was very much a part of the Indian civilization. Around the early medieval period, the territory had two regional names i.e. Kabul and Zabul, the northern and southern regions respectively. In late seventh century, both these regions had faced the Islamic armies sent by the Caliph Al- Hajjaj in which though sometimes defeated by them, at the end, the native rulers had emerged victorious and as a result, the Kabul and the Zabul kingdoms remained independent and unmolested for almost 150 years. This part of history needs special attention as the kingdoms not only defeated the arab armies but also kept two important passes (Khyber and Gomal) secured for a long time. But for the time being, lets take our attention towards the eighth century Kabul which was governed by a Buddhist dynasty. In 865 CE, the last Buddhist ruler, Lagaturman was deposed by a Brahmin called Lalliya by Kalhana, the Kashmiri historian. Zabul on the other hand was ruled by the Rajput rulers of Bhatti clan.

Though securing the country for almost two centuries, Zabulistan fell to an Arab named Yaqub ibn Lais, the founder of Saffrid dynasty during 867-870 CE. He even snatched fort of Kabul from Lalliya in 871 CE. He also reportedly laid the foundation of Ghazni. But, the Kabul valley was still under the control of Hindu Shahis.

Illustrative Map of Hindu Shahi Kingdom as of 900 CE

Alptagin, the turkish general conquered Ghazni from the Arab Abu Bakr Lawik in 962 CE. Alptagin and his successors became a source of constant nuisance for Maharaja Jaipal. Important point to note is that throughout history, such attacks on the Indian cicilization were always unprovoked and the Kingdom of Hindu Shahis was no exception to this rule. Piretagin, one of the successor of Alpatagin was the one to launch first organised attack on the Hindu Shahis in 977 CE. And when Sabuktagin became the ruler of Ghazni, he plundered Kabul valley and amassed a huge booty.

Jaipal quite understood what was happening and was very much worried with the events. He knew Ghazni was growing in power. The constant raids by the Islamic barbarians into the Lamghan/ Laghman area had alerted him. Now, in order to take the offensive, Jaipal made a huge organized attack on Ghazni in 986-987 CE. Though, the step was very strategic but with lack of planning and also bad luck to his side, his army suffered due to sudden hailstorm and heavy rainfall.

Knowing what he had to do to survive, he sued for peace on very unfavourable conditions but went back on it after reaching his dominion. This didn’t go down well with Sabuktagin and he launched another raid into Lamghan. Jaipal immidiately called for help from the Indian rulers and many rulers provided the same. This fact is usually overlooked but needs to be popularised that when needed, the mainland rulers of India didn’t disappoint. Including the armies of Chauhans of Ajmer, Chandelas of Kalinjar and the Pratiharas of Kannauj, a total of almost 100,000 troops marched on Ghazni. But alas, the army was defeated and Jaipal was taken prisoner.

The Maharaja secured his release by giving up a large part of his territory upto the banks of Indus. Under immense pressure, he even had to shift his capital from Kabul to Udabhandapur (Waihand, near Peshawar) in 995 CE. In the meantime, Sabuktagin was succeeded by his son Mahmud who was later, probably first time in history even, given the title of ‘Sultan’ by the Caliph Al Qadir Billah. Mahmud took a vow to wage jihad and annually commit raids on the kafirs.

Maharaja Jaipal during this time tried to construct pathways and roads in the eastern border of his kingdom. After suppressing a revolt in Khurasan, in 1000-1001 CE, Mahmud descended upon the Indian territory and invaded by crossing the Khyber pass. He even reached near Peshawar and snatched some fortresses. Mahmud quite smartly garrisoned the pass and after some time, marched on the Hindu Shahis. He had with himself 15,000 strong cavalry and almost 10,000 ghazis, ready to wage Jihad. Maharaja Jaipal on the other hand had 12,000 cavalry, 30,000 infantry and almost 300 elephants. Jaipal crossing the Indus, met the invader and a huge battle ensued on 27 November 1001 CE. But, the Hindu Shahis were defeated.

Almost all of our army lay dead on the ground. The Maharaja was taken prisoner along with his kinsmen and chief nobles. Andrew Bostom tells us from the account of Utbi that Jaipal, the Hindu Shahiya king of Kabul “his children, his grand children, his nephews and the chief men of his tribe and his relatives, were taken prisoners and being strongly bound with ropes were carried before the Sultan like common evil-doers…Some had their arms forcibly tied behind their backs, some were seized by the cheek, some were driven by blows on their neck.” Bostom continues from the writings of Hodivala about details of humiliation of Jaipal by Mahmud, “publicly exposed at one of the slave auctions in some market in Khurasan, just like thousands of other Hindu captives….(He) was paraded about so that his sons and chieftains might see him in that conditions of shame, bond and disgrace…inflcting upon him the public indignity of commingling him in one common servitude.”

Anandpal, son of Jaipal still took matters in his hand and was successful in securing the release of his father and some of the relatives by giving a heavy ransom. But Jaipal couldn’t bear it. He lit a pyre and burnt himself to death. A.Bostom says that “no wonder Jaipal immolated himself for such humiliation was inflicted deliberately to smash the morale of the captives.” The prisoners of Islamic barbarians once captured, “young or old, ugly or handsome, princes or commoners, could be flogged, converted, sold for a tuppence or made to work as menials”. But, from here on, a lot more fighting was yet to happen and the resistance was continued by Anandpal. Mahmud, on the other hand amassed a huge booty and took it to Ghazni.

Here, there are certain points to keep in mind. As mentioned above, the rulers of our frontiers need to be given credit that they fought and kept the Islamic hoards at bay for a very long time. At a time when entire kingdoms and civilizations were falling like dominoes in front of the Islamic attack, our rulers including the Chalukyas, the Pratiharas, the Hindu Shahis etc kept fighting them. The Caliphate had started to attack firstly from the sea and were successfully repulsed. Even when Sindh Rajputs succumbed under the attack of Muhammad bin Qasim, it was a combination of good military strategy mixed with a lot of treachery on part of Qasim and even some natives. So, sometimes we successfully defeated them and sometimes we were defeated by better military skills with zealous attitude of a new religion whose believers were hell bent on spreading it by sword. Despite that they were fighting since the seventh century, 637 CE to be precise when first expedition was sent by the Caliphate to Thane and was repulsed by our rulers. With the exception of Sindh the gap is of almost five centuries when India came under Islamic rule by the end of twelfth century.

But, we also have to except that despite giving a tough fight, we were defeated and a huge part was played by our lack of military strategy. Our over dependence on elephants also contributed as elephants were very unpredictable and our sub-par cavalry in front of the Islamic hoards from Central Asia was a bane. Our insistence on following morals of knightly fighting when none was followed by our enemy has always been our disadvantage. Its better that we learn from history, all the pros and all the cons of our conduct.

References:

  1. The History of India as told by its Historians by Elliot and Dowson.
  2. Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India, Vol.I by J.L.Mehta.
  3. The Legacy of Jihad: Islamic Holy War and the Fate of Non-Muslims by Andrew G. Bostom.

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