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India - The Magnitude of Muslim Atrocities

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Neil Ozman

Apr 17, 2002, 7:40:26 PM4/17/02
The Magnitude of Muslim Atrocities
(Ghazanavi to Amir Timur)
The world famous historian, Will Durant has written in his Story of
Civilisation that "the Mohammedan conquest of India was probably the
bloodiest story in history".

India before the advent of Islamic imperialism was not exactly a zone of
peace. There were plenty of wars fought by Hindu princes. But in all their
wars, the Hindus had observed some time-honoured conventions sanctioned by
the Sastras. The Brahmins and the Bhikshus were never molested. The cows
were never killed. The temples were never touched. The chastity of women was
never violated. The non-combatants were never killed or captured. A human
habitation was never attacked unless it was a fort. The civil population was
never plundered. War booty was an unknown item in the calculations of
conquerors. The martial classes who clashed, mostly in open spaces, had a
code of honor. Sacrifice of honor for victory or material gain was deemed as
worse than death.

Islamic imperialism came with a different code--the Sunnah of the Prophet.
It required its warriors to fall upon the helpless civil population after a
decisive victory had been won on the battlefield. It required them to sack
and burn down villages and towns after the defenders had died fighting or
had fled. The cows, the Brahmins, and the Bhikshus invited their special
attention in mass murders of non-combatants. The temples and monasteries
were their special targets in an orgy of pillage and arson. Those whom they
did not kill, they captured and sold as slaves. The magnitude of the booty
looted even from the bodies of the dead, was a measure of the success of a
military mission. And they did all this as mujahids (holy warriors) and
ghazls (kafir-killers) in the service of Allah and his Last Prophet.

Hindus found it very hard to understand the psychology of this new invader.
For the first time in their history, Hindus were witnessing a scene which
was described by Kanhadade Prabandha (1456 AD) in the following words:

"The conquering army burnt villages, devastated the land, plundered people's
wealth, took Brahmins and children and women of all classes captive, flogged
with thongs of raw hide, carried a moving prison with it, and converted the
prisoners into obsequious Turks."

That was written in remembrance of Alauddin Khalji's invasion of Gujarat in
the year l298 AD. But the gruesome game had started three centuries earlier
when Mahmud Ghaznavi had vowed to invade India every year in order to
destroy idolatry, kill the kafirs, capture prisoners of war, and plunder
vast wealth for which India was well-known.



In 1000 AD Mahmud defeated Raja Jaipal, a scion of the Hindu Shahiya dynasty
of Kabul. This dynasty had been for long the doorkeeper of India in the
Northwest. Mahmud collected 250,000 dinars as indemnity. That perhaps was
normal business of an empire builder. But in 1004 AD he stormed Bhatiya and
plundered the place. He stayed there for some time to convert the Hindus to
Islam with the help of mullahs he had brought with him.

In 1008 AD he captured Nagarkot (Kangra). The loot amounted to 70,000,000
dirhams in coins and 700,400 mans of gold and silver, besides plenty of
precious stones and embroidered cloths. In 1011 AD he plundered Thanesar
which was undefended, destroyed many temples, and broke a large number of
idols. The chief idol, that of Chakraswamin, was taken to Ghazni and thrown
into the public square for defilement under the feet of the faithful.
According to Tarikh-i-Yamini of Utbi, Mahmud's secretary,

"The blood of the infidels flowed so copiously [at Thanesar] that the stream
was discolored, notwithstanding its purity, and people were unable to drink
it. The Sultan returned with plunder which is impossible to count. Praise he
to Allah for the honor he bestows on Islam and Muslims."

In 1013 AD Mahmud advanced against Nandana where the Shahiya king,
Anandapal, had established his new capital. The Hindus fought very hard but
lost. Again, the temples were destroyed, and innocent citizens slaughtered.
Utbi provides an account of the plunder and the prisoners of war:

"The Sultan returned in the rear of immense booty, and slaves were so
plentiful that they became very cheap and men of respectability in their
native land were degraded by becoming slaves of common shopkeepers. But this
is the goodness of Allah, who bestows honor on his own religion and degrades

The road was now clear for an assault on the heartland of Hindustan. In
December 1018 AD Mahmud crossed the Yamuna, collected 1,000,000 dirhams from
Baran (Bulandshahar), and marched to Mahaban in Mathura district. Utbi

"The infidels...deserted the fort and tried to cross the foaming river...but
many of them were slain, taken or drowned... Nearly fifty thousand men were

Mathura was the next victim. Mahmud seized five gold idols weighing 89,300
missals and 200 silver idols. According to Utbi, "The Sultan gave orders
that all the temples should be burnt with naptha and fire, and levelled with
the ground." The pillage of the city continued for 20 days. Mahmud now
turned towards Kanauj which had been the seat of several Hindu dynasties.
Utbi continues: "In Kanauj there were nearly ten thousand temples... Many of
the inhabitants of the place fled in consequence of witnessing the fate of
their deaf and dumb idols. Those who did not fly were put to death. The
Sultan gave his soldiers leave to plunder and take prisoners."

The Brahmins of Munj, which was attacked next, fought to the last man after
throwing their wives and children into fire. The fate of Asi was sealed when
its ruler took fright and fled. According to Utbi, ".... the Sultan ordered
that his five forts should be demolished from their foundations, the
inhabitants buried in their ruins, and the soldiers of the garrison
plundered, slain and captured".

Shrawa, the next important place to be invaded, met the same fate. Utbi

"The Muslims paid no regard to the booty till they had satiated themselves
with the slaughter of the infidels and worshipers of sun and fire. The
friends of Allah searched the bodies of the slain for three days in order to
obtain booty...The booty amounted in gold and silver, rubies and pearls
nearly to three hundred thousand dirhams, and the number of prisoners may be
conceived from the fact that each was sold for two to ten dirhams. These
were afterwards taken to Ghazni and merchants came from distant cities to
purchase them, so that the countries of Mawaraun-Nahr, Iraq and Khurasan
were filled with them, and the fair and the dark, the rich and the poor,
were commingled in one common slavery."

Mahmud's sack of Somnath is too well-known to be retold here. What needs
emphasizing is that the fragments of the famous Sivalinga were carried to
Ghazni. Some of them were turned into steps of the Jama Masjid in that city.
The rest were sent to Mecca, Medina, and Baghdad to be desecrated in the
same manner.

Mahmud's son Masud tried to follow in the footsteps of his father. In 1037
AD he succeeded in sacking the fort of Hansi which was defended very bravely
by the Hindus. The Tarikh-us-Subuktigin records: "The Brahmins and other
high ranking men were slain, and their women and children were carried away
captive, and all the treasure which was found was distributed among the

Masud could not repeat the performance due to his preoccupations elsewhere.



Invasion of India by Islamic imperialism was renewed by Muhmmad Ghori in the
last quarter of the 12th century. After Prithiviraj Chauhan had been
defeated in 1192 AD, Ghori took Ajmer by assault.

According the Taj-ul-Ma'sir of Hasan Nizami, "While the Sultan remained at
Ajmer, he destroyed the pillars and foundations of the idol temples and
built in their stead mosques and colleges and precepts of Islam, and the
customs of the law were divulged and established."

Next year he defeated Jayachandra of Kanauj. A general massacre, rapine, and
pillage followed. The Gahadvad treasuries at Asni and Varanasi were
plundered. Hasan Nizami rejoices that "in Benares which is the centre of the
country of Hind, they destroyed one thousand temples and raised mosques on
their foundations".

According to Kamil-ut-Tawarikh of Ibn Asir, "The slaughter of Hindus (at
Varanasi) was immense; none were spared except women and children, and the
carnage of men went on until the earth was weary."

The women and children were spared so that they could be enslaved and sold
all over the Islamic world. It may be added that the Buddhist complex at
Sarnath was sacked at this time, and the Bhikshus were slaughtered.

Ghori's lieutenant Qutbuddin Aibak was also busy meanwhile. Hasan Nizami
writes that after the suppression of a Hindu revolt at Kol (modern day
Aligarh) in 1193 AD, Aibak raised "three bastions as high as heaven with
their heads, and their carcases became food for beasts of prey. The tract
was freed from idols and idol worship and the foundations of infidelism were

In 1194 AD Aibak destroyed 27 Hindu temples at Delhi and built the
Quwwat-ul-lslam mosque with their debris. According to Nizami, Aibak
"adorned it with the stones and gold obtained from the temples which had
been demolished by elephants".

In 1195 AD the Mher tribe of Ajmer rose in revolt, and the Chaulukyas of
Gujarat came to their assistance. Aibak had to invite reinforcements from
Ghazni before he could meet the challenge. In 1196 AD he advanced against
Anahilwar Patan, the capital of Gujarat. Nizami writes that after Raja Karan
was defeated and forced to flee, "fifty thousand infidels were dispatched to
hell by the sword" and "more than twenty thousand slaves, and cattle beyond
all calculation fell into the hands of the victors".

The city was sacked, its temples demolished, and its palaces plundered. On
his return to Ajmer, Aibak destroyed the Sanskrit College of Visaladeva, and
laid the foundations of a mosque which came to be known as 'Adhai Din ka

Conquest of Kalinjar in 1202 AD was Aibak's crowning achievement. Nizami
concludes: "The temples were converted into mosques... Fifty thousand men
came under the collar of slavery and the plain became black as pitch with

A free-lance adventurer, Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji, was moving further east.
In 1200 AD he sacked the undefended university town of Odantpuri in Bihar
and massacred the Buddhist monks in the monasteries. In 1202 AD he took
Nadiya by surprise. Badauni records in his Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh that
"property and booty beyond computation fell into the hands of the Muslims
and Muhammad Bakhtyar having destroyed the places of worship and idol
temples of the infidels founded mosques and Khanqahs".



Shamsuddin Iltutmish who succeeded Aibak at Delhi invaded Malwa in 1234 AD.
He destroyed an ancient temple at Vidisha. Badauni reports in his

"Having destroyed the idol temple of Ujjain which had been built six hundred
years previously, and was called Mahakal, he levelled it to its foundations,
and threw down the image of Rai Vikramajit from whom the Hindus reckon their
era, and brought certain images of cast molten brass and placed them on the
ground in front of the doors of mosques of old Delhi, and ordered the people
of trample them under foot."

Muslim power in India suffered a serious setback after Iltutmish. Balkan had
to battle against a revival of Hindu power. The Katehar Rajputs of what came
to be known as Rohilkhand in later history, had so far refused to submit to
Islamic imperialism. Balkan led an expedition across the Ganges in 1254 AD.
According to Badauni,

"In two days after leaving Delhi, he arrived in the midst of the territory
of Katihar and put to death every male, even those of eight years of age,
and bound the women."

But in spite of such wanton cruelty, Muslim power continued to decline till
the Khaljis revived it after 1290 AD.



Jalaluddin Khalji led an expedition to Ranthambhor in 1291 AD. On the way he
destroyed Hindu temples at Chain. The broken idols were sent to Delhi to be
spread before the gates of the Jama Masjid. His nephew Alauddin led an
expedition to Vidisha in 1292 AD. According to Badauni in
Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh, Alauddin "brought much booty to the Sultan and the
idol which was the object of worship of the Hindus, he caused to be cast in
front of the Badaun gate to be trampled upon by the people. The services of
Alauddin were highly appreciated, the jagir of Oudh (or Avadh - Central
U.P.) also was added to his other estates."

Alauddin became Sultan in 1296 AD after murdering his uncle and
father-in-law, Jalaluddin. In 1298 AD he equipped an expedition to Gujarat
under his generals Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan. The invaders plundered the
ports of Surat and Cambay. The temple of Somnath, which had been rebuilt by
the Hindus, was plundered and the idol taken to Delhi for being trodden upon
by the Muslims. The whole region was subjected to fire and sword, and Hindus
were slaughtered en masse. Kampala Devi, the queen of Gujarat, was captured
along with the royal treasury, brought to Delhi and forced into Alauddin's
harem. The doings of the Malik Naib during his expedition to South India in
1310-1311 AD have already mentioned in earlier parts.



Muslim power again suffered a setback after the death of Alauddin Khalji in
1316 AD. But it was soon revived by the Tughlaqs. By now most of the famous
temples over the length and breadth of the Islamic occupation in India had
been demolished, except in Orissa and Rajasthan which had retained their
independence. By now most of the rich treasuries had been plundered and
shared between the Islamic state and its swordsmen. Firuz Shah Tughlaq led
an expedition to Orissa in 1360 AD. He destroyed the temple of Jagannath at
Puri, and desecrated many other Hindu shrines. According to 'Sirat-i-Firoz
Shahi' which he himself wrote or dictated,

"Allah who is the only true God and has no other emanation, endowed the king
of Islam with the strength to destroy this ancient shrine on the eastern
sea-coast and to plunge it into the sea, and after its destruction he
ordered the image of Jagannath to be perforated, and disgraced it by casting
it down on the ground. They dug out other idols which were worshipped by the
polytheists in the kingdom of Jajnagar and overthrew them as they did the
image of Jagannath, for being laid in front of the mosques along the path of
the Sunnis and the way of the 'musallis' (Muslim congregation for namaz) and
stretched them in front of the portals of every mosque, so that the body and
sides of the images might be trampled at the time of ascent and descent,
entrance and exit, by the shoes on the feet of the Muslims."

After the sack of the temples in Orissa, Firoz Shah Tughlaq attacked an
island on the sea-coast where "nearly 100,000 men of Jajnagar had taken
refuge with their women, children, kinsmen and relations". The swordsmen of
Islam turned "the island into a basin of blood by the massacre of the

A worse fate overtook the Hindu women. Sirat-i-Firuz Shahs records: "Women
with babies and pregnant ladies were haltered, manacled, fettered and
enchained, and pressed as slaves into service in the house of every

Still more horrible scenes were enacted by Firuz Shah Tughlaq at Nagarkot
(Kangra) where he sacked the shrine of Jvalamukhi. Firishta records that the
Sultan "broke the idols of Jvalamukhi, mixed their fragments with the flesh
of cows and hung them in nose bags round the necks of Brahmins. He sent the
principal idol as trophy to Medina."



In 1931 AD the Muslims of Gujarat complained to Nasiruddin Muhammad, the
Tughlaq Sultan of Delhi, that the local governor, Kurhat-ul-Mulk, was
practising tolerance towards the Hindus. The Sultan immediately appointed
Muzzaffar Khan as the new Governor. He became independent after the death of
the Delhi Sultan and assumed the title of Muzzaffar Shah in 1392 AD. Next
year he led an expidition to Somnath and sacked the temple which the Hindus
had built once again. He killed many Hindus to chastise them for this
"impudence," and raised a mosque on the site of the ancient temple. The
Hindus, however, restarted restoring the temple soon after. In 1401 AD
Muzaffar came back with a huge army. He again killed many Hindus, demolished
the temple once more, and erected another mosque.

Muzaffar was succeeded by his grandson, Ahmad Shah, in 1411 AD. Three years
later Ahmad appointed a special darogah to destroy all temples throughout
Gujarat. In 1415 AD Ahmad invaded Sidhpur where he destroyed the images in
Rudramahalaya, and converted the grand temple into a mosque. Sidhpur was
renamed Sayyadpur.

Mahmud Begrha who became the Sultan of Gujarat in 1458 AD was the worst
fanatic of this dynasty. One of his vassals was the Mandalika of Junagadh
who had never withheld the regular tribute. Yet in 1469 AD Mahmud invaded
Junagadh. In reply to the Mandalika's protests, Mahmud said that he was not
interested in money as much as in the spread of Islam. The Mandalika was
forcibly converted to Islam and Junagadh was renamed Mustafabad. In 1472 AD
Mahmud attacked Dwarka, destroyed the local temples, and plundered the city.
Raja Jaya Singh, the ruler of Champaner, and his minister were murdered by
Mahmud in cold blood for refusing to embrace Islam after they had been
defeated and their country pillaged and plundered. Champaner was renamed

Mahmud Khalji of Malwa (1436-69 AD) also destroyed Hindu temples and built
mosques on their sites. He heaped many more insults on the Hindus. Ilyas
Shah of Bengal (1339-1379 AD) invaded Nepal and destroyed the temple of
Svayambhunath at Kathmandu. He also invaded Orissa, demolished many temples,
and plundered many places. The Bahmani sultans of Gulbarga and Bidar
considered it meritorious to kill a hundred thousand Hindu men, women, and
children every year. They demolished and desecrated temples all over South



The climax came during the invasion of Timur in 1399 AD. He starts by
quoting the Quran in his Tuzk-i-Timuri: "O Prophet, make war upon the
infidels and unbelievers, and treat them severely."

He continues: "My great object in invading Hindustan had been to wage a
religious war against the infidel Hindus...[so that] the army of Islam might
gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the Hindus." To
start with he stormed the fort of Kator on the border of Kashmir. He ordered
his soldiers "to kill all the men, to make prisoners of women and children,
and to plunder and lay waste all their property". Next, he "directed towers
to be built on the mountain of the skulls of those obstinate unbelievers".
Soon after, he laid siege to Bhatnir defended by Rajputs. They surrendered
after some fight, and were pardoned. But Islam did not bind Timur to keep
his word given to the "unbelievers". His Tuzk-i-Timuri records:

"In a short space of time all the people in the fort were put to the sword,
and in the course of one hour the heads of 10,000 infidels were cut off. The
sword of Islam was washed in the blood of the infidels, and all the goods
and effects, the treasure and the grain which for many a long year had been
stored in the fort became the spoil of my soldiers. They set fire to the
houses and reduced them to ashes, and they razed the buildings and the fort
to the ground."

At Sarsuti, the next city to be sacked, "all these infidel Hindus were
slain, their wives and children were made prisoners and their property and
goods became the spoil of the victors". Timur was now moving through (modern
day) Haryana, the land of the Jats. He directed his soldiers to "plunder and
destroy and kill every one whom they met". And so the soldiers "plundered
every village, killed the men, and carried a number of Hindu prisoners, both
male and female".

Loni which was captured before he arrived at Delhi was predominantly a Hindu
town. But some Muslim inhabitants were also taken prisoners. Timur ordered
that "the Musulman prisoners should be separated and saved, but the infidels
should all be dispatched to hell with the proselytizing sword".

By now Timur had captured 100,000 Hindus. As he prepared for battle against
the Tughlaq army after crossing the Yamuna, his Amirs advised him "that on
the great day of battle these 100,000 prisoners could not be left with the
baggage, and that it would be entirely opposed to the rules of war to set
these idolators and enemies of Islam at liberty". Therefore, "no other
course remained but that of making them all food for the sword".

Tuzk-i-Timuri continues:

"I proclaimed throughout the camp that every man who had infidel prisoners
should put them to death, and whoever neglected to do so should himself be
executed and his property given to the informer. When this order became
known to the ghazis of Islam, they drew their swords and put their prisoners
to death. One hundred thousand infidels, impious idolators, were on that day
slain. Maulana Nasiruddin Umar, a counselor and man of learning, who, in all
his life, had never killed a sparrow, now, in execution of my order, slew
with his sword fifteen idolatrous Hindus, who were his captives."

The Tughlaq army was defeated in the battle that ensued next day. Timur
entered Delhi and learnt that a "great number of Hindus with their wives and
children, and goods and valuables, had come into the city from all the
country round".

He directed his soldiers to seize these Hindus and their property.
Tuzk-i-Timuri concludes:

"Many of them (Hindus) drew their swords and resisted...The flames of strife
were thus lighted and spread through the whole city from Jahanpanah and Siri
to Old Delhi, burning up all it reached. The Hindus set fire to their houses
with their own hands, burned their wives and children in them and rushed
into the fight and were killed...On that day, Thursday, and all the night of
Friday, nearly 15,000 Turks were engaged in slaying, plundering and
destroying. When morning broke on Friday, all my army ...went off to the
city and thought of nothing but killing, plundering and making
prisoners....The following day, Saturday the 17th, all passed in the same
way, and the spoil was so great.that each man secured from fifty to a
hundred prisoners, men, women, and children. There was no man who took less
than twenty. The other booty was immense in rubies, diamonds, garnets,
pearls, and other gems and jewels; ashrafis, tankas of gold and silver of
the celebrated Alai coinage: vessels of gold and silver; and brocades and
silks of great value. Gold and silver ornaments of Hindu women were obtained
in such quantities as to exceed all account. Excepting the quarter of the
Saiyids, the Ulama and the other Musulmans, the whole city was sacked."

Contributed by Rajiv Varma


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