Updated: Dec 31, 2020
The eighth-century Hindu kingdom of Sindh was larger in area than the modern province of that name and extended to Kashmir in the north, Kanauj in the east and the sea in the south. In the northwest, it included a large portion of modern Baluchistan and the Makran coast. Its capital was at Alor (modern Rohri), and the Kingdom was divided into four provinces, each of which was in charge of a semi-independent governor.
Even before the advent of Islam in the 600s, Arab traders were in contact with India. Merchants would regularly sail to the west coast of India to trade goods such as spices, gold, and African goods. Naturally, when the Arabs began to convert to Islam, they carried their new religion to the shores of India. The first mosque of India, the Cheraman Juma Masjid, was built in 629 in Kerala, by the first Muslim from India, Cheraman Perumal Bhaskara Ravi Varma. Through continued trade between Arab Muslims and Indians, Islam continued to spread in coastal Indian cities and towns, both through immigration and conversion.
Chachnama, the most authentic and almost contemporary account of Arab invasions of Sindh reports that as early as 638 A.D. Khalifa Umar sent Mughairah to launch a naval attack against Sindh, but it was repulsed on the Indian side. The Chachnama Lists six more major attempts by land and/or by sea during the next 80 years, led by Hakam, Abdullah, Rashid, Munzir, Sinan, and Bazil, but they were all repulsed and the invading commanders killed.
Khalifa Usman was so upset by the Arab defeats in Sindh during his term that he forbade any more attempts on Sindh, on the ground that "its water is dirty, its soil stony, and its fruit poisonous.'' It is interesting how a land of "musk and pearls'' can suddenly become ``dirty and stony'' when there is no way to sack it.
However, the itch for war and the bug for booty had bitten the Arab soul. And so Khalifa Ali also sent an expedition. But they returned disheartened when Ali died. The next Khalifa, Muawiyah, had sent a big land army with provisions enough not to need to light any fire in the camp. But the Sindh army gave them hell and their commander Abdullah had raised the piteous cry before he fell dead. The Arabs had decided to run away and live, if only in Makran --- rather than fight on and die, just to go to heaven.
The next major invasion was led by "Sinan, son of Salmah'', who had been blessed on his birth by Mohammed himself. Sinan now even saw in a dream, Mohammed bless his adventure. But neither the blessings on birth nor the benediction from the other world availed him when the Sindhis killed him at Budhiya.
It was the Baluchs who put up stiff resistance against the first Arab Muslim attack on Makara in 638 and thereafter up to 715 when the Muslims overran Baluchistan and invaded Sindh. The defeats that they suffered at Baluch hands are documented by Arabs chroniclers as:
"The Hindus of Makara (Makran) practice Voodoo and Black Magic and so bring Jinns and Shaitan to help them win in war. Hence the Arabs cannot defeat them; the way the Arabs could easily defeat the Persians and the Byzantines."
At this stage, Hajjaj, a notorious pervert, and tyrant, was appointed governor of Iraq. And it was directly his charge to conquer Sindh. An Arab leader Alafi with 500 men had fled from his terror to Sindh and Dahir had given him asylum. Hajjaj also claimed that the Sindhi pirates had looted some Arab ships coming from Lanka. He made these two incidents a new excuse to go to war against Sindh. Khalifa Walid gave reluctant permission. Hajjaj sent Bazil with a large army, but he was worsted by Jaisiah, the son of Dahir, and killed. Hajjaj now threatened ``not to leave a single kafir alive up to the frontiers of China''. And based on his astrologers' predictions, he appointed Mohammed Bin Qasim, his nephew, and son-in-law, as the new invader of Sindh. So, astrologers were heeded not only by Dahirs but also by Hajjajs!
However, Khalifa Walid was in no mood for another bloody attempt on Sindh. He wrote to Hajjaj: ``the people (of that country) are cunning and the country itself is very distant. It will cost us very large sums of money to provide a sufficient number of men and arms and instruments of war. This affair will be a source of great anxiety, and so we must put it off; for every time the army goes (on such an expedition) vast numbers of Muslims are killed. So think no more of such a design.'' But Hajjaj invoked the ``honor of Islam'' and vowed to ``spend the wealth of the whole of Iraq'' to ``avenge the death of Bazil''.
Governor Ziyad then appointed Munzir, son of Harud, son of Bazhar, in A.D. 680 to go and get Sindh. However, as he got up in the court, his robe was caught in a piece of wood and torn, Abdullah, the governor of Iraq, took this as a bad omen and wailed: Munzir will never return from this journey and will die.'' And that was exactly what happened.
Qasim led his forces to conquer Sindh, Using foul tactics, he kidnapped three children of the chief guardsman of the fort of Debal. Beheading one & threatening to behead the other two, they blackmailed their father into leaving a secret trap door open. Despite a bold fight, the Hindus suffered defeat and the seventeen-year-old Mohammed-ibn-Qasim, on the orders of Al-Hajjaj, captured Debal for the Ummaid Caliphate.
Huge booty and a large number of women fell into the hands of the Arabs. On refusing to embrace Islam, thousands of Hindus including Brahmins were mercilessly butchered. The massacre continued for three days.
In Sindh, the very first thing the Arabs did was to convert the Debal temple into a prison. Soon, however, all Sindh became an Arab prison. The loot of Sindh enriched the Arab lands. Twenty thousand Sindhis were sold in slavery, mostly as cooks and cashiers. Here they especially popularized the Sindhi rice porridge Bhatt (Sanskrit Bhakt, Hindi bhaat, rice). Others captivated the Arab hearts with their sweet singing, to the accompaniment of the ektara and the cymbals. Many other Sindhis became trusted accountants in Arab business houses. A Sindhi accountant became a guarantee of business success. Several Sindhi vaids (native physicians) became famous in West Asia. One of them, Manik, cured Khalifa Harun al-Rashid when the local and Greek physicians had given up hope. On another occasion, Manik revived the Khalifa's dear cousin Ibrahim, after he had been declared dead by the physicians. Many Hindu arts and sciences began to flow from Sindh into the Arab lands. Hindu astronomy, medicine, and mathematics reached Europe through the Arab hands. To this day, the numerals 1,2,3,.... are known in Arabic as Hindsa. The Panchatantra stories of wisdom were translated into Arabic as Kalilah wa Dimnah.
Unable to make any headway into India from their occupation of Sindh in 715 up to 980, instead of attacking Rajasthan, Punjab, and Gujarat from Sindh, using another gateway, they attacked the Shahiya kingdom in Upaganastan/Afghanistan. The first Turko-Persian Muslim chieftain to attack the Hindu domains was Sabuktagin.
Within two years of the Arab invasion, the Arab influence was confined to Debal and the surrounding coastline. Dahir's son Jaisiah had become a Muslim to survive -- only to become Hindu again to survive with honor. The Arabs thereupon sent a huge army twenty-five years later under the leadership of Salim. In the titanic battle that raged on the Sindh-Rajasthan border, Jaisiah, assisted by his mother Ladi, and the redoubtable Bappa Rawal of Chittor (A.D. 739-753), and blessed by Hirat Swami, worsted the Arabs. A treaty of peace was signed only when Salim surrendered all equipment, gave his daughter Maiya in marriage to Bappa Rawal, and vowed that the Arabs would never again attack India. It is significant that in the succeeding centuries the Arabs never again attacked India.
But otherwise, the relations between the Sindhis and the Arabs were none too good. In Sindh, the Arabs lived in isolated colonies, particularly in Mansurah, the twin-city of Brahmanabad, while the people went their way under the local chiefs. The Sindhis viewed the iniquities of Baghdad with horror. To this day, in the Sindhi language, ``Baghdad'' means the ``limit of tyranny''. Mahmud Ghazni's invasion of Sindh put an end to the rump of the Arab governors of Sindh and thereby helped the local Rajput dynasty of the Soomras to come up. Today there is no trace of the 300-year-long Arab adventures in India. The twin-cities of Brahmanabad and Mansurah, now known only as Brahmanabad, were so destroyed that according to Richardson, archaeologists, ``even twenty barrels of gunpowder under each house would not destroy it so completely.''
The Hindu-Shahi kingdom of Jayapal Shahiya (964-1000), son of Asatapala Deva descendant of the Pandavas and the Raja of Kubha/Kabul extended to Kabul from the West, Bajaur to the North, Multan to the South, and the present-day India-Pakistan border to the East.
Seeing the danger of the Ghaznavids rising to power, Jaypal attacked the city of Ghazni during the reign of Alptigin and his son Mahmoud. Alptigin had seized Ghazna during the fall out of Samanid of Bukhara. His slave Sabuktigin married his daughter and ruled Ghazni after his death. Forcing his way up to the domains of Hindu-Shahis, Sabuktagin challenged Jayapal Shahiya to open warfare.
True to his word, Raja Jaypal reached the appointed place one day earlier to the day of the war. The two adversaries exchanged ambassadors and decided that the hostilities would commence at sunrise the next day.
After the Hindus had retired for the night, taking cover of the dark stormy night, dressed in black, covering the hooves of their horses with felt and cloth, the Muslim Arabs attacked the sleeping Hindu army at 2 am. Caught unaware, half-awake, struggling to prepare themselves for war, the Hindus put up a stiff fight against their beastly adversaries but were overpowered past dawn. They retreated to Kabul with the Muslims in hot pursuit.
The seventeen-year-old grandson of Jayapal Shaiya, Tirlochanpal Shahiya took the reins of the death struggle against the Muslims into his hands. He shifted his capital from Lahore to Kangra where he tried to reorganize the defense of his reduced Shahiya Empire that had once stretched from the rivers the Yamuna to Kabul.
The Shahiya Empire which stretched from Herat to Hardwar was now one fifth its size. Herat, once its western border was now pushed a thousand miles East at Kalka in the Shivalik Hills. The shrunk Shahiya domains were no more in a position to block the further advance of the Muslims into the Indian heartland. But he followed the valiant example of his father and grandfather and allied himself with the kings of Kashyapmeru (Kashmir) and Tibet, to eject Muslims from Punjab and Upaganasthan (Afghanistan).
Mahmud Ghazni, sent a group of his soldiers dressed up as Hindu mendicants to meet Tirlochanpal. Pretending to have come from Kubha/ Kabul with a message for their king, they gained entry into Tirlochanpala’s headquarters at the fortress of Kangra. The unsuspecting young prince was surrounded and beheaded.
Son of Tirlochanpal, succeeded his father in AD 1021 C.E. and was the last emperor of the famed Shahiya Dynasty. His kingdom was now at its lowest point. He commanded the battle of Nandana and wounded the Ghaznavid army commander Muhammad bin Ibrahim at-Tāī. Bheempal was killed in 1026. Abd al-Jabbar ʻUtbi in Kitabi-i-Yamini refers to Bheempal as, ‘Bhīm, the Fearless’.
“Thus after 23 years, we find the Muslim governors, left in India, East of the Indus.”- Briggs, the translator of Ferishta.
Bhimpal's widow and with minor sons took shelter in Kashmir.
The leaderless surviving remnants of the once formidable Shahiya army migrated deep into the Himalayas and settled down as goat-herds known today as Gaddis. They still come down to the Shivalik foothills and the plains of Punjab in the winter to graze their cattle.
Thus ended, with Bhimpala, the last scion of the Hindu dynasty that ruled Afghanistan. The memory of a dynasty that had held guard at the northwest frontier of India since the days of the Kushans in the 3rd century C.E. disappeared into the sands of time leaving only the gold and silver coins artfully minted by them as reminders.
The defeat of the Shahiyas opened the Indian heartland to the marauder invaders enabling Mahmud of Ghazni to repeatedly attack India.
Millions of Hindu captives were transported on foot across the Western ranges of the Himalayas, many died on the way due to the merciless treatment of their cruel captors!
The lesson learned here is that 300 years of Indian history was erased from the face of the earth by these torrents. Nowhere in the pages of history can the facts and figures and true stories be found of years between 720 to 1000 AD, a food of thought for new-age historians and researchers.