Mirati Mas’udi

Mirati Mas’udi by ‘Abdur Rahman Chishti
In The History of India as Told by its own HistoriansThe Posthumous Papers of the Late Sir H. M. Elliot. John Dowson, ed. 1st ed. 1867. 2nd ed., Calcutta: Susil Gupta, 1956, vol. 14, pp. 103-145.

  1. Overview

The Mirati Mas’udi is a life of Mahmud of Ghazni by ‘Abdur Rahman Chishti.  It was written sometime during the reign of the Moghul emperor Jahangir (1605-26 CE).  It is a biography of Salar Mas’ud, a retainer of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, who accompanied the latter on many of his raids into India, including the raid on Somnath.  The biography has a rather gossipy feel.  According to the author, he based the work on an earlier (and now lost work) by Mulla Muhammad Ghaznawi, a contemporary of the Sultan Mahmud and Salar Mas’ud.

The excerpt included here deals with Mahmud began the raid December 1023 CE, and did not reach the fort until March 1024 CE.  This resulted in the destruction of the celebrated temple complex, and the accruement of a vast amount of wealth by Sultan Mahmud.  Mahmud succeeded his father to throne of Ghaznî, in what is now Afghanistan, in 997 CE, and ruled until his death in 1030 CE.  His numerous incursions into India were largely raids designed to capture spoil in material wealth, slaves and livestock.  He is portrayed as a zealous Muslim eager to destroy “idol temples”, but this was probably justification for pillage, since these activities contravened the earlier Arab policy of granting Hindus and Buddhists protected dhimmi status.  These raids generally were not conquests resulting in annexation of territory, with the exception of the Punjab, most of which he did annex.  Ghaznivite control even of the Punjab passed away with Mahmud.  His incessant raiding over the course of almost thirty years, however, clearly destabilized Northern India and paved the way for the Muhammad Ghûrî’s invasion of northern India in 1175 CE, which led to the establishment of the Delhi sultanate.

This account differs from the many other accounts in that it mentions the raid itself only in passing, and focuses instead on the events that occurred before and after it in Ghaznî.  This is consistent with the apparent fact that the original source of the account, Mulla Muhammad Ghaznawi, was present in Ghaznî and thus described events that occurred there.

  1. Excerpt

[p. 116]

It happened that Mahmud had long been planning an expedition into Bhardana, and Gujerat, to destroy the idol temple of Somnat, a place of great sancity to all Hindus.  So as soon as he had returned to Ghazni from his Khurasan business, he issued a farman to the General of the army, ordering him to leave a confidential officer in charge of the fort of Kabuliz, and himself to join the court with his son Salar Mas’ud.  Accordingly, they presented themselves before the Sultan, who received them with special marks of favours, and showed such great kindness to Mas’ud that his wazir become jealous.

Afterwards he invited Salar Sahu to a private audience, and asked his advice about leading an army against Somnat.  “Through the favour of Allah,” said that officer, “the power and grandeur of your Majesty have struck such terror into the hearts of the unbelievers, that not one of them has the daring to oppose you.  The best plan is at once to commence the enterprise. “This advice was most pleasing to tile Sultan, though Khwaja Hasan Maimandi dissented from it.  After some conversation, it was settled that the General of the army should return to Kabuliz, and guard that province against the rebellious unbelievers, leaving Salar Mas’ud, with his victorious army, in attendance upon the Sultan.  As soon as he had dismissed Salar Sahu, the Sultan set out for Somnat with his victorious host, Mas’ud serving under him in the enterprise with several thousand youths in the flower of  [p. 117] their age. They performed many illustrious deeds, and the Sultan showed them increasing favour and kindness.

They first reached Multan, and, when everything was fully prepared, took the road for Somnat.  The details of the expedition are thus given in the history called the Rauzatu-s Safa.

God bestowed great grace on this king, and his perfections may be understood from the following relation of the author of the Nafahat.

When the Sultan Mahmud Subuktigin had gone on the expedition to Somnat, they suggested to Khwaja Abu Muhammad of Chisht that he ought to go and help him.  The Khwaja, though he was seventy years old, set out with some darweshes, and when he arrived made war upon the pagans and idolator; with all his sacred soul.  One day the idolators made a successful assault, and the army of the Faithful, nearly overwhelmed, fled to the Shaikh for protection.  Khwaja Abu Muhammad had a disciple in the town of Chisht, Muhammad Kalu by name.  He called out’ ‘Look, Kalu!’  At that moment Kalu was seen fighting with such fury, that the army of the Faithful proved victorious.  The unbelievers were routed. At that very time Muhammad Kalu was seen in Chisht, striking upon the wall with a pestle, and when he was asked the reason, he said, “When the Almighty commanded a man of Abu Mnhammap of Chisht’s exalted piety to go to the assistance of the Sultan, who could stand before him?”

It is related in the Tarikh-i Mahmudi that the Sultan shortly after reached Ghazni, and laid down the image of Somnat at the threshold of the Mosque of Ghazni, so that the Musulmans might tread upon the breast of the idol on their way to and from their devotions. As soon as the unbelievers heard of this, they sent an embassy to Khwaja Hasan Maimandi, stating that the idol was of stone and useless to the Musulmans, and offered to give twice its weight in gold as a ransom, if it might be returned to them.  Khwaja Hasan Maimandi represented to the Sultan that the unbelievers had offered twice the [p. 118] weight of the idol in gold, and had agreed to be subject to him.  He added, that he best policy would be to take the gold and restore the image, thereby attaching the people to his Government.  The Sultan yielded to the advice of the Khwaja, and the unbelievers paid the gold into the treasury.

One day, when the Sultan was seated on his throne, the ambassadors of the unbelievers came, and humbly petitioned thus: “Oh Lord of the world we have paid the gold to your Government in ransom, but have not yet received our purchase, the idol Somnat.”  The Sultan was wroth at their words, and, falling into reflection, broke up the assembly and retired, with his dear Salar Mas’ud, into his private apartments.  He then asked his opinion as to whether the image ought to be restored, or not?  Salar Mas’ud, who was perfect in goodness, said quickly. “In the day of the resurrection, when the Almighty shall call for Azar, the idol-destroyer, and Mahmud, the idol-seller, Sire! what will you say?”  This speech deeply affected the Sultan, he was full of grief, and answered, “I have given my word; it will be a breach of promise”.  Salar Mas’ud begged him to make over the idol to him, and tell the unbelievers to get it from him. The Sultan agreed; and Salar Mas’ud took it to his house, and, breaking off its nose and ears, ground them to powder.

When Khwaja Hasan introduced the unbelievers, and asked the Sultan to give orders to restore the image to them, his majesty replied that Salar Mas’ud had carried it off to his house, and that he might send them to get it from him.  Khwaja Hasan, bowing his head, repeated these words in Arabic.  “No easy matter is it to recover anything which has fallen into the hands of a lion.”  He then told the unbelievers that the idol was with Salar Mas’ud, and that they were at liberty to go and fetch it.  So they went to Mas’ud’s door and demanded their god.

That prince commanded Malik Nekbakht to treat them courteously, and make them be seated; then to mix [p. 119] the dust of the nose and ears of the idols with sandal and the lime eaten with betel nut, and present it to them.  The unbelievers were delighted, and smeared themselves, with sandal, and ate the betel leaf.  After a while they asked for the idol, when Salar Mas’ud said he had given it to them. They inquired, with astonishment, what he meant by saying that they had received the idol? And Malik Nekbakht explained that it was mixed with the sandal and betel-lime.  Some began to vomit, while others went weeping and lamenting to Khwaja Hasan Maimandi and told him what had occurred.

The Khwaja writhed like a snake, and said, “Verily the king is demented, since he follows the counsel of a boy of yesterday I will leave the service of the Sultan for your sakes, and do you also go and attack his country. We will open his Majesty’s eyes.”  Accordingly the unbelievers returned with the news to the Hindu princes. And Khwaja Hasan, from that day resigned the office of Wazir, became disaffected, and left off attending to the duties of his office.

Afterwards the image of Somnat was divided into four parts, as is described in the Tawarikh-i Mahmudi.  Mahmud’s first exploit is said to have been conquering the Hindu rebels, destroying the forts and the idol temples of the. Rai Ajipal (Jaipal), and subduing the country of India.  His second, the expedition into Harradawa and Guzerat, the carrying off the idol of Somnat, dividing it into four pieces, one of which he is reported to have placed on the threshold of the Imperial Palace while he sent two others to Mecca and Medina respectively.  Both these exploits were performed at the suggestion, and by the advice, of the General and Salar Mas’ud; but India was conquered by the efforts of Salar Mas’ud alone, and the idol of Somnat was broken in pieces by his sole advice as has been related, Salar Sahu was Sultan of the army and General of the forces in Iran.