Battle of Bahraich of Raja Sukhdev/SaharDev/Suhaldev 1034 AD

30 Dec

Salar Masud 1014-1034 AD, a Military General was Mahmud Ghazni’s sister’s son.
Known Ghaznavid historians of 11th century AD are quiet about him.
Well obviously, if he died in a devastating defeat after which no Ghaznavid dared to venture in India. Who would speak of it.
But the tradition and memory around Salar Masud has evolved over the centuries.

Pilgrimage to his tomb in Bahraich started in late 12th century during Ghurid rule at Delhi.
With subsequent centuries seeing complex constructions, repairs etc sanctioned by islamic rulers of the day.
Tomb of Salar Masud and his identity is consistenly corroborated through centuries in Amir Khusro’s Ejazi-i-Khusrowi 13th century AD, Ziauddin Barani’s Tarik-i-Firuz Shahi 14th century AD and many later works including Abu Fazl.

In 14th century AD Ibn Batuta accompanied Muhammed bin Tughlaq to India went to an islamic shrine at Bahraich. This was followed by Firoz Shah Tughlaq’s visits. Some claim these to have been at Masud’s shrine. While others give a different account.
Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh written by Sujan Singh Bhandari in late 17th century AD outside any court patronage states that at Bahraich lie the shrines of Salar Masud as well as Salar Rajab the brother of Giasuddin Tughlaq.

Over the centuries, Masud has been metamorphed into a warrior saint (Ghazi) by muslims, with islamic rulers and historians noticing the growing popularity of the cult.
Numerous shrines of supposed warriors popped up in the region. Some place the total figure at 40 tombs/shrine in and around Bahraich in upper gangetic plains.
In 16th century AD Goswami Tulsidas refers critically to the practice to people visiting Masud’s tomb at Bahraich. He writes in Dohavali:
लही आँखि कब आँधरे बाँझ पूत कब ल्याइ ।
कब कोढ़ी काया लही जग बहराइच जाइ ॥
Trnslation: When did a blind person regain his eye sight?, when did a barren woman get son? And when a leper was cured for his leprosy and got his beautiful body back?. But even then people visit Baharaich. (for no particular reason out of misplaced superstition)
via @Kal_Chiron (http://kalchiron.blogspot.com/2008/08/battle-of-baharaich-14th-june-1033-ad.html)

There may be more such stray references on Bahraich and its events in apabhramsa, centuries preceding the evolution of Hindi (a matter of research).

Due to lack of contemporary primary sources on either sides quoting the battle. It has been binned into the legend/myth cateogry by most of the historians.

True that the battle of Bahraich hasn’t been established as an undisputable fact.
But also true is that can’t be handwaved as pure fiction.
Arguments :-
1. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Besides, two 17th century Islamic sources refer to the incident independently.
2. Records on both sides fall conspicuously silent of any raids in entire north India, let alone invasion attempts, for almost half a century after Mahmud Ghazni.
Quite uncharacterstic of our islamic zealots isn’t it?
Possible reasons?
-First, muslims were cut down to the last man at Bahraich in 1043 AD.
-Second, is that Bahraich battle was fought by federation including Pasi and Tharu tribes which were mostly forest dwelling in Himalayan foothills and not of traditionally ruling stock of gangetic plains to maintain court histories or inscriptions.
-Thirdly, one cannot expect upper caste rulers of gangetic plains to happily mention later that Pasi/Tharu tribes achieved what they couldn’t.
3. It can’t be that islamic centres in northwest had pussies in lead for 50 years after Mahmud or that Indian kings were always too powerful to be challenged. Ghori didn’t hesitate anyway, even when powerful Kings were ruling India.
So an utter absence of any attempts for half century in the otherwise consistently zealot thrusts of islam on India, tells us there is more than what meets the eye.
Similar gap occured after Arabs were thoroughly beaten in mainland India at multiple places in 8th century AD.
It took up to Mahmud Ghazni for a major invasion in Indian mainland to recur.
When you beat an enemy and kill his soldiers so resoundingly. It takes him time to regroup, re-org and renew the attacks properly.
4. Mythical folklores that our “uber modern” historians love to trash, are known to have a kernel of truth interwoven with layers of poetic rhetoric, exaggerations, interpolation etc. It creates a mesh of blurring confusion but doesn’t negate the core facts, if one is careful enough to glean them. Traditions around Masud, Sukhdev and Bahraich have similar trajectory.
5. Native powers based in Himalayan hills have handed some of the most humiliating defeats to plains based Islamic armies time and again. There are well known examples. Thus Bahraich is not an odd case in that perspective.
6. Historical facts have been many times transmitted by evolving literary traditions over the centuries where our first verifiable evidence comes hundreds of years later. PrithviRaj Raso is one such case where factual data (interwoven with layers of fiction) was preserved for centuries and we have its earliest known manuscript in late 16th / early 17th century.
7. Abdur Rahman Chishti the author of Mirat-i-Masudi knew he was talking of an event 6 centuries away.
He thus says he consulted two independent sources to reach at this history:
a) A brahmin (named Acharya Mali Bahadur) of a Raja of Himalayan hills who was well versed in Hindu history of the region. He shared the details of Bahraich battle with the author.
b) Tawarikh-i-Mahmudi by Mulla Muhammad Ghaznavi (unknown and unavailable) which author claims to be a contemporary work of 11th century AD.

Ferista & Mirat-e Masudi (both 17th cent AD) are two main sources feeding data around Bahraich battle of Hindu kings alliance against Salar Masud.
20 years old Masud had been on a campaign in India for few yrs -> Indus ->Multan ->Delhi -> Meerut ->Satrikh.
While fighting multiple battles in upper gangetic plains, he reached at Bahraich near Himalayan foothill in 1034 AD.
It was to reinforce a commander in his or his father’s command.
A group of local chieftains that the text identifies as ‘Rais’ send letter to Masud, asking him to leave the land.
After initial negotiations broke down, there were multiple skirmishes and battles with combined forces of one or few Rais at a time.
Masud is said to have won these encounters.
After a calm of 2 months, the Rais regroup, this time under leadership of SuhalDev aka SaharDev aka Sukhdev.
Sukhdev change battle tactics with special preparations against cavalry and fireworks etc.

Soon another letter was sent to Masud, warning him to vacate and return. Masud rejects the proposal again. Fighting resumes.
Masud repluses one charge but second time a chieftain SuhelDev thrusts with his reserve forces.
This time Masud’s remnant army is gradually cut down and he is seriously injured by an arrow shot in the arm and dies.

This is how Masud and his large army were surrounded and completely destroyed by forces of a grand coalition of 17 Hindu chieftains supposedly led by King Sukhdev aka Suheldev of Shravasti.

SukhDev’s (aka SuhalDev) identification is dicey though, with claims ranging from being Rajput to Himalayan foothill based Tharu or Pasi tribe.
But Sukhdev’s exact ancestry is immaterial in context of Bahraich. What matters is that he was a son of the soil, a chieftain who led a federated army to complete victory in Bahraich.

British officers who scrutinized Mirat-i-Masudi state that its major events and flow corroborate in general with other sources of history.
Thus the work cannot be handwaved as complete fiction.

I won’t say that I’m 100% convinced Bahraich took place.
But there are plenty of arguments in favour of it and thus it is a theory whose likeliness I subscribe to.
Jury is still out.

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Hindu conversions and Castes – an argument

16 Jun

I see people engage in debates (blame games) on internet forums, social media sites about which caste converted to Islam in more numbers, percentage or ease.

There is no way to quantitatively judge today, on what percentage of which caste converted during which period of medieval era. Since this record would not settle forever, due to lack of facts. I never venture in the area. All you would do is form subjective opinions and pick bias knowingly or unknowingly.
Yet the debate and bickering goes on over the internet, with same subjective opinions and bias. Hence few words…

Crux of my argument is that upper castes were subject to far more and consistent pressure for conversion, because of the very reason – that
they were ‘upper’ caste.
Let us expand on why it would happen so. Islamic invaders of India were incapable of replace administrative layers of this large nation with themselves completely and at once.
They obviously needed to re-use existing layers. To strengthen their hold they focused on conversion of these layers with twice the intensity.
To them there was more value & feasibility in converting these layers (less in number but high in importance), than going after large masses of commoners everywhere in the country. That also was a goal but to be achieved slowly in the long run by other means.
Upper caste concentrations were found in urban areas due to the administrative nature of their work and requirement of resources.
As a matter of fact the Islamic invaders writ also, was best run around urban areas only. Because they mostly lived in urban areas. Country side was visited for long duration only due to reasons like military/political campaigns.
In northwest India, the constant pressure on country masses was of taxes, plunder etc not conversion.
Because firstly, the ruler ship of many areas kept flipping between Islamic and Hindu kind. The consistent and intense influence you need to convert in a dense country like India, cannot be obtained by a rule that doesn’t run un-toppled, unchallenged for a very long time. It also can’t happen when rule is applied via the agency of a Hindu king. Percentage of Hindus in NW India after 1000 years bigotry is a testimony to that.
Second, the Islamic states didn’t have the resources to keep the pressure up throughout the countryside all the time. When a campaign ends, the pressure of conversion on ground masses in various nooks and corners loosens as well. Even among those from lower castes who converted, there are plenty of instances of reverting to own faith.

The situation with unconverted upper castes was however different.
It was natural for Islamic rulers to go after upper castes co-habiting with them, with max effort. Occupational hazard ?
At the end of the day, Islamic rulers of the long run did not need an “Islamic nation”; as much as they needed “Islamic rule” of the nation.
That objective was to be met by going with focus after upper castes, not the millions of masses.

Peculiarity about upper caste conversions though, is that there are barely any enmasse conversions in upper castes. Individuals for personal gains or small surviving groups post battle are common examples.
Tribes like Gakkhars however (after fighting gallantly) did convert enmasse. Medieval Punjab saw conversions in huge numbers for two reasons:
1) They were at the doors of India, so became the first and foremost victims to bear the brunt of Islam.
2) Their upper castes and martial sections i.e. local leadership did not have clannish organization. So any de-centralized resistance after reversals could not happen, as it did in Rajputana successfully.
In all fairness I must state an exception – Ajmer. Here the ruling Rajput clan dispersed after facing reversals against Turks. That gradually led to large number of conversions among dispersed Chauhans and allowed an Islamic wound to fester within Rajputana.

Clan system among Rajputs (though blamed for infighting) was a bulwark against conversion. Converts were socially boycotted and their clan identity was no longer recognized. This prevented enmasse conversion, though dripping conversions at individual levels were still seen.

Upper castes conversion becomes a talking point for one more reason. It is their conversion that had more media value for medieval history’s records; than an unknown commoner’s. Then precisely those records are what people read today and form opinions from.
History is full of numerous occasions where rulers like Aurangzeb insisted on conversion of kings, princes, chiefs; even after vassalage and tributes were submitted.

Which brings us to the third reason for Islamists going after upper castes.
It was the theory – convert the head and advertise, body shall follow.
It was to set an example for Hindu masses, that their leader had converted and so they should too.
Instead of running with a stick after every rabbit in the bush tirelessly, this was deemed to be a more feasible & efficient approach.

So today, instead of generalising on individual castes and pointing fingers. Hindus would do better in diagnosing the root causes of conversions and tackling them. Because the root causes clearly don’t single any caste out. Thus the solution also, doesn’t exist in retrospectively pontificating on a caste basis.

Shared from WordPress

23 Jul

A look at recent findings about the ‘mythical’ River Saraswati – Anil Kumar Suri – http://wp.me/pEi6D-pnf

JNU and the historic hoax

28 Feb

Via @trueindology a superb, methodical take down of JNU leftist cabal’s crap on Mahishasura and Durga. Next, it would be best to have the elders of this tribe and spill the beans.

TrueIndology

[In this article, I use ‘Asur’ to refer to a tribe in Bengal and Bihar. I use ‘asura’ to refer to the Hindu mythological beings]

Summary-The article looks into the claims that there exist Mahishasura worshipping tribes in India who mourn during Dussehra and bewail the ‘Aryan invasion’. Every single one of these claims turns out to be false

On Feb. 24 2016, India’s education minister Smriti Irani read out a pamphlet that had been circulated on ‘Mahishasura Martyrdom Day’. This ‘Mahishasura Martyrdom day’ is deliberately organised during the Hindu festival of Dussehra.

Below I reproduce  contents of the said pamphlet-

“Durga Puja” is the most controversial racial festival, where a fair skinned beautiful goddess Durga is depicted brutally killing a dark-skinned native called Mahishasura

Mahishasura, a brave self-respecting leader, tricked into marriage by Aryans. They hired a sex worker called Durga, who enticed Mahishasura into marriage and killed…

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How Sonam post got it’s name

17 Feb

Source: How Sonam post got it’s name

Indian medieval history and the typical bashing

22 Dec

Following is a response to a flurry of tweets on medieval history where I was tagged.

————————————————————-

People read a half baked article and start passing verdicts on history like pandits.
Why did x do that. Why didn’t y do so.
X was a hero. Y was a scoundrel.
It is always easy to second judge history from hindsight.
As easy as a person watching cricket match on TV and taunting at the batsmen on ground “Useless fellow, I would have easily driven that one to long-off.”
This condition is well known in historical studies and they call it – ‘Presentism’ (more here)

Now to the serious business. If you think alliance with Mughals was sin, for your information Shivaji was ready to do that.
If fighting for Mughals was a sin, Shivaji again was more than willing to do that and he did so as well. All these are facts on record in contemporary sources.
History isn’t that simplistic where you can segregate heroes and villains cleanly like in a bollywood movie.
Truth is, they all have their share of sins – Rajputs, Marathas, Sikhs, Jats- you name it.
Holier than thou attitude doesn’t work nor does singling one out. I’m saying this despite (& because of) knowing what Marathas did in drought ridden Rajputana.

So let us put the facts straight before being judgmental.

Why did Jai Singh ally with Mughals?
First reason:
Hard geographic reality of north India is, whoever dominates the indo-gangetic plains is surely the ruler of north India (go back and forth in timeline to verify as much as you’d like).
This area was out of Rajputs hands, since generations before Jai Singh. Even Sanga at his peak could only scratch the surface (till PeelaKhal near Agra).
Be it Turks, Mughals or Hindus even before that. The power sitting on indo-gangetic plains has always enjoyed an upper hand over the rest.
In this geographically consistent, well fed and resourced land block, one could easily maintain huge standing armies without letting them break into feudal/federal hierarchies. Co-ordination of different arms of army and government machinery throughout the plains was seamless; which  provided for quicker reflexes and logistics. Needless to mention the tremendous natural resources one could marshal in the fertile plains.
That edge shows in political setup as well. Kannauj was considered the de-facto capital of north India before Islamic invasions, after which the focus shifted to Agra (not far). Both are in indo-gangetic plains, so is Delhi.

There is not a single successful Islamic invasion of any part of Rajputana that was not campaigned from Indo-Gangetic plains. Almost all the tide turning battles of medieval north India took place in these plains only.
Before we start pointing fingers at Rajputs (and I’m not saying we shouldn’t), Rajputana’s human cost and toll of eight centuries of constant battles, resistance against invasions has to be counted. All that is before Jai Singh.

So far as Amber is concerned, even with Mewar before Mughals, it was a minor ally, part of confederation. Raja PrithviRaj the ruler of Amber fought under Maharana Sanga against Babur, as part of Rajput federated army in 1527 A.D.
Basics of politics (or survival if you will) dictate that in picking ally/confederation, stronger one should be the obvious choice.
As long as Mewar was strong (till 1527 A.D.), Amber was in their confederacy. Even though geographically they were still right next to a strong, plain dwelling Muslim power (Lodis of Agra Sultanate). There was no reason to flip over.
Enter Babur and 1527’s watershed moment. Babur smoked away the Mewar confederacy. He not only emerged the un-disputed ruler of indo gangetic plains, but also the technologically superior one (gunpowder).
This defeat opened the minor Rajput states like Amber to a whole new geo-political reality.
Mewar reteated into its own wounds and there was absolutely no other Hindu power in north India near or strong enough that could be allied with, to thwart Babur (who was stronger, remember?).
If one beats your boss, he definitely becomes your boss.
Why I am stressing on Khanwa’s implication as reason for Amber’s switch, is because the switch happened soon after Khanwa.
Many may not know, but it wasn’t out of the blue that one day Bharmal decides to marry his daughter to young Akbar.
It was his predecessor, elder brother Puranmal (1527-1534) who allied with Babur’s son Humayun and died fighting alongside Mughals in retaking the  same fort of Bayana, with which Babur and Sanga’s rivarly had sparked. This, as is evident, happens barely few years post the Khanwa battle.

We pick Amber for bashing because with time Amber had grown in importance as a crucial Mughal ally (since Akbar-Man Singh days).
Amber played a major (often lead) role in virtually all important Mughal campaigns. Their financial health improved and political power rose in and out of Rajputana.
To these developments, the rest of Rajputana could either grudge (like Mewar) or join the chorus like others.

Next comes the timing (second reason).
When Rajputs were strong and Mughals as well, Sikhs and Marathas were not on the scene.
When Marathas were strong, Rajputs were already spent and Sikhs had only begun as a political power.
By the time Sikhs rose, Marathas had been dealt with by British and Rajputs fully co-opted.
So it was never easy for one hindu/native power to actively gel with the other.

Then there’s the emergence of caste and clan based Kingdoms in early medieval centuries. It effectively nullified possibilities of Hindu native powers in producing another Imperial ruler pan north India. No prizes for guessing who filled the vacuum then.
This by the way is the fundamental difference that permeates below many crucial phases of medieval history. A serious threat to Imperial muslim power at Agra would unite the sub-continent’s muslims. Which is the reason why even in peak power Marathas dominated Agra via Mughal proxy.
If on the other hand it were instead a Hindu Imperial power on decline, there would be a bee-line of Hindu rivals and dis-grunted allies to pick the empire’s flesh piece by piece and make a good run for it, while its free for all.
‘Jitnee Naap Lee Utnee Tumharee’
Did infighting not happen in Muslim Kingdoms. Yes it did, but primarily at ruler level (not as deep social schisms like ours). Regardless, there was always the call of Islamic Ummah and Jihad which would unite and zeal up the fragments like they were never splintered.

Coming to Jai Singh. If Jai Singh had no regards for Shivaji or other Hindu Kings or he was such a blind Mughal servant, why would he and his son Ram Singh swear an oath to protect Shivaji during the latter’s Agra visit?
Why would his son tell the emperor hell bent on killing Shivaji – “I’m bound by oath to protect Shiva, kill me before you harm him.”
Why would Jai Singh let his son file an affidavit to emperor saying “Should Shivaji do anything untoward or flee, I would be responsible.”
Why would Ram Singh’s men guard Shivaji’s life in the inner most circle of troops around him?
Why would Ram Singh be punished and doubted by Mughals all his life, for letting Shivaji slip away?
Why would Shiavji after fleeing confess to Jai Singh “Your son would not leave me alone.”
It bewilders me, which selfish father-son duo would behave in this way and how could this be a selfish behavior in the first place.

Till Marathas were weaker they made proposals to Rajputs for alliance.
Once Marathas were powerful enough to cross Narmada and Mughals were weaker, did they ask Rajputs for any alliance?
No, they asked Rajputs for Chauth. So where was the nationalism or religion then? Where did the talk of pan-Hindu, anti-Mughal alliance go when Marathas pillaged the drought ridden Rajputana for hafta wasooli?
Factually, that is how power works.
Anyway, going back, Shivaji had asked Jai Singh for alliance so lets analyze it properly.
On what basis would Jai Singh (ruler of Amber close to Mughal base in Agra) unlearn his geographic reality and ally with Marathas?
Let us imagine he just somehow would. Have you thought of the logistics of what next? No, but Jai Singh did.
Simple question, would all the Rajput states between Amber and Marathas (far beneath Narmada back then, no presentism please) co-operate in such an anti-Mughal alliance??
If not, then what alliance, what logistics.

Lets say regardless, he should still pursue alliance. Next question comes on the “why” part.
Putting aside all sentiments of nationalism, religion, emotions and ego, can we answer this “why” like a cold calculated statesman?
Would Jai Singh, a mansabdar of Mughals, ally with a power against Mughals when he himself had defeated that power.
Even if the thought of counter alliance crossed his mind. Wouldn’t he rather look for a power whose addition would definitely and clearly tilt the scales?
Yes Marathas did become that strong, but not in Jai Singh’s time, not in 17th century. That happened in 18th century, when they needed Rajputs only for chauth.

Now we come to the final question. Disregarding all these previous questions, we for a moment assume Jai Singh did refuse to ally with Mughals or say rose against them.
What would happen then? I’ll tell you what would happen.
Firstly Shivaji wouldn’t be able to leave south with full power when Islamic sultanates and other rivals were present in South. If he would enter north to Jai Singh’s aid with partial punch, it is as good as not coming. Both Jai Singh and Shivaji would suffer losses and weaken further. What else; any of the kingdoms like Marwar, Mewar and numerous others would use this god sent political opportunity to side with Mughals against Jai Singh, thus scoring brownie points, better court status/ political equations for self; where does that leave Amber and Jai Singh? To the gallows.
That is how nasty politics is and has always been.
That is part of what stopped the Hindu states from uniting.
Do you know what was one of the conditions of the hardy Hada Chauhans in their very balanced treaty with Mughals. Here, have a look:
“That we or our troops would never be placed under any other Hindu commander.”

There’s your last reason. Have you all got your answers?
I for one am tired of clarifying & repeating on numerous forums and sites either way. Bailing out now.

Regards,
Virendra

Possible Solution to Indian Defence Industry: Learn from history

17 Aug

A good piece by Yusuf …
It is well known that Chinese leap in Technological self reliance began with the induction of (ex)Soviet scientists. They gave the much needed impetus and knowledge base, after which there has been no looking back for China.
I don’t see anything wrong with the approach if adopted in India, However under the same approach, the option of reversing brain-drain and importing foreign based Indian scientists on priority should be keenly explored.

Sarvatra Vijay

Posting here what I had quite sometime back written on my forum

For about three decades India has been struggling with design and development of defence products. The success record is patchy. Below par products, budget overruns and more importantly time overruns.

India for a better part of the three decades was under international technology denial regime. Considering that, we can say that a lot has been achieved. But for a country like India it clearly isn’t enough.-

After the second world war both the Soviets and the US managed to get hold of a lot of German technology and more importantly, the top scientists. Wernher von Braun was one such prized catch for the US. The father of the Vengeance missiles of Nazi Germany better known as V1 and the V2. Von Braun moved to the US and produced rockets that resulted in the US putting man on the…

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