How Samgramaraja of Kashmir Repulsed Attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni
Raja Samgramaraja! Not everyone are familiar with this king from Kashmir, who ruled from 1003 to 1028 CE. He was the founder of the Lohara dynasty. Mahmud of Ghazni plundered and looted many kingdoms in India besides razing hundreds of temples to the ground, beheading lakhs of Hindus, taking women as sex slaves, and converting many to Islam. Do you know Raja Samgramaraja repulsed several attacks of Mahmud of Ghazni in Kashmir? Plunderer Mahmud could never defeat the Kashmiri king! Besides, Raja Samgramaraja also helped Trilochanpala, the Hindu Sahi ruler of Lahore, with an army against Mahmud of Ghazni. The combined army defeated Sultan Mahmud. It is unfortunate that History books did not teach us this!
Samgramaraja ascended the throne of Kashmir in 1003 CE after the death of Didda, the queen of Kashmir. Didda belonged to Lohara, a region located in the Pir Panjal range of mountains between western Punjab and Kashmir. She was married to Ksemgupta, the king of Kashmir. After the death of Ksemgupta, Didda became the queen Regent, as the heir to the throne Abhimanyu II was a minor. It was 958 CE. Abhimanyu II died 13 years later. Didda assumed sole power of Kashmir. As she had no sons left, she adopted Samgramaraja, her nephew in her old age, and declared him heir though she already vested administrative affairs of the kingdom to Vidraharaja, one of her brothers. After Didda’s death though Samgramaraja became king of Kashmir, thus laying the foundation of the Lohara dynasty, there were internal conflicts with several claimants to the throne.
The Arabs made several attempts to conquer Kashmir after they established themselves in Sindh in the beginning of the 8th century, but in vain. Junaid, the Arab governor of Sindh, attacked Kashmir few years later following the orders of Caliph Hisham. Lalitaditya Muktapida was then the king of Kashmir. The Kashmiri king defeated Junaid and thus the Arab attempt of plundering Kashmir failed. Junaid also attacked North India, but failed in this expedition. A confederacy of North Indian and South Indian rulers under the leadership of Nagbhat I, the Gurjar Partihar king badly defeated the Arab forces in Rajasthan. Another attempt to attack Kashmir was made by Hisham ibn ‘Amr al-Taghlibi, the Arab governor of Sindh after Junaid, appointed by Caliph Mansur. But Taghlibi failed to subjugate Kashmir too. After the Arabs, it was the Ghaznavids who attempted to conquer Kashmir. During Samgramaraja’s reign, Mahmud was the Sultan of Ghazni. Sultan Mahmud heard a lot about the wealth of India. He started on a plundering expedition in India. He himself attacked Kashmir several times, but failed. Samgramaraja bravely repulsed all of his attacks.
Tunga was the prime minister of Kashmir during Didda’s reign. He continued holding office under Samgramaraja. He was a herdsman before his stint in the Kashmir court and was in love with the queen. During Didda’s reign, he misused powers to satisfy his own greed. He inducted corrupt officials who were more interested in meeting their respective selfish motives and usurping money from the subjects. Samgramaraja could not curtail Tunga’s power. This continued for several years until Tunga was murdered. But even after his death, corruption in Kashmir continued. Despite internal conflicts, Samgramaraja was always alert against any possible military attacks by Arabs. He fortified his kingdom, kept a strong standing military force, and upgraded the military infrastructure.
During Samgramaraja’s time, Trilochanpala was the Hindu Sahi ruler of Lahore (also parts of Kabul) with capital at Waihand. Earlier, this kingdom expanded to cover eastern Afghanistan, Gandhara of Punjab, and more areas. During the beginning of the 10th century, the Hindu Sahi kingdom comprised little parts of Afghanistan, Punjab and Pakistan with capital at Waihand near Peshawar. In 1001, Mahmud of Ghazni started his military expeditions attacking regions in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and then India. He attacked Waihand in 1002 and 1009 respectively. Jaipal was then the Hindu Sahi ruler in 1002 CE and his son Anandpal in 1009. Both faced a crushing defeat. Sultan Mahmud had vowed to raid, plunder and loot the wealthy Hindu kingdoms regularly. This was the reason why he attacked India 17 times.
After the two attacks by Sultan Mahmud, the influence of the Hindu Sahi kingdom was confined only to the Salt Range. Trilochanpala feared of another possible attack by Sultan Mahmud. He sought military aid from Samgramaraja. The Kashmir king agreed to help. Samgramaraja sent a large army contingent to Trilochanpala’s aid. The combined army of the two Hindu kings defeated Sultan Mahmud’s forces. But later, months after Samgramaraja’s army left for Kashmir, Sultan Mahmud personally advanced with a huge army and attacked Trilochanpala. He defeated the Hindu king.
Sultan Mahmud was annoyed by Samgramaraja’s conduct of helping Trilochanpala. In 1014 C.E., he marched towards Kashmir with a huge army to attack the city, take revenge, and teach Samgramaraja a lesson. He tried entering Kashmir via the Toshamaidan Pass. Samgramaraja’s kingdom comprised not only Kashmir but also the Pir Panjal range of mountains that housed the strong Loharkot Fort. A strong army was stationed there to check advancement of enemy forces. Sultan Mahmud could not move beyond this fort. He laid siege of Loharkot Fort at the base, but failed to capture it. Loharkot Fort finds mention in Persian historian Firishta’s book as Lokote. Samgramaraja’s army offered a stiff resistance. This continued for a month until heavy snowfall began. It cut off Sultan Mahmud’s communication with his ground base. He was thus compelled to retreat.
According to Firishta whose book was translated to English under the title History of the Rise of the Mohammedan Power in India by John Briggs, “The first of those forts was Lokote, remarkable on account of its height and strength, and which entirely defeated the King’s utmost efforts; for not being able to reduce it during the summer season, he was obliged, on the approach of winter, to abandon his enterprize and return to Ghizny. On his route he was misled by his guides, and falling into extensive morasses, from which he for several days could not extricate
his army, many of his troops perished, and he failed in all the enterprises of this campaign.” Firishta does not mention the name of the Kashmir king but describes Sultan Mahmud’s failed expedition.
Seven years later, i.e. in 1021 CE, Sultan Mahmud again set out to invade Kashmir with a huge army. He had by then already plundered several kingdoms in the Indian sub continent including Bhatinda, Thaneshwar, Mathura. Sultan Mahmud failed in his Kashmir expedition again. It was not only a strong defence by the Kashmiri forces but also the bad weather conditions that foiled his attack. He was compelled to retreat. And Sultan Mahmud never attempted to attack Kashmir again!
Do you know during his seventeen military expeditions in the Indian sub continent, Sultan Mahmud looted wealth of all the temples he came across including the famous Somnath temple of Gujarat. He razed the temples to the ground. He plundered and looted wealth from the people, beheading many and taking the women gentry as his sex slaves. He spared those who converted to Islam. He turned his capital Ghazna into a wealthy capital from the wealth looted from India. His wealthy kingdom comprised major parts of Pakistan, Afghanistan, eastern Iran and later Punjab.
Till 1320 CE, Kashmir remained unaffected from Islamic invasions. Islamic settlements started in the region after the kingdom was conquered by Zulju, a Mongol chieftain. He entered Kashmir via the Jehlum Valley route. This marked the end of the Lohara dynasty after the then Lohara king of Kashmir Suhadeva fled to Kistwar after failing to offer a stiff resistance. Amid the chaos after Zulju left, Rinchana, a Buddhist and son of a Ladakhi chief, got Ramchandra, the Prime Minister turned Raja murdered and ascended the throne. He married Ramchandra’s daughter Kota Rani to gain sympathy of the Kashmiris. Later Rinchana converted to Islam under the influence of Bulbul Shah (also called Sayyid Sharfudin), a Sufi preacher and attained a new name – Sultan Sardarudin Shah. He in turn converted Ramchandra’s son, the commander of the Kashmiri army and many other ministers of the court and subjects to Islam. And thus started a Muslim rule in Kashmir under the first Muslim ruler Sultan Sardarudin Shah, a convert. Today Islam is the major religion practiced in Kashmir with 97.16% of the region’s population being Muslims as per the latest Census. Who isn’t familiar about the Kashmiri Pundits Exodus in 1990, wherein the Hindu Kashmiri Brahmins were forced to leave the Valley. They are still living as refugees in their own motherland. Justice has not been delivered yet.
Kashmir was saved from being looted, raided, and plundered by the barbaric Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni. It was Samgramaraja who repulsed his attacks.
Featured image courtesy: Prabook, indiatimes.com, and Ruchira Nag Verma.
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