Khalji invasion of Bengal

This article describes the history of khalji invasion of Bengal of 13th century under the leadership of Muhammad Bakhtyar Khaji and the causes of the invasion. This article gives you the valuable stepping stones in the history of Bengal. This resource help to study the history of Bengal.

Conquest of Nadia and Gaur in Bengal

The Khalji invasion of Bengal at the turn of the 13th century under the leadership of Ikhtyaraddin Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji was a part of the great forward movement of the camel rearing Turko-men tribes variously named as Ghuzz, Kulij or Khaljis who overran the Saljuk empire and occupied Khorasan, Seistan and Afghanistan in the second half of the 12th century. These nomades possessed fierce war-like spirit, indomitable courage and unbound ambition for military glory. It is to be noted that the nomadic tribes of central Asia had already settled in Khorasan, Seistan and Afghanistan as early as 10th century A. D. But since the death of Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni, the war like spirit of these early settlers died out. However, the fresh outbursts of the Ghuzz and the Khaljis in the second half of the 12th century A.D. revived the dying spirit of Islam and hence after a century and a half since the death of Sultan Mahmud, Islamic movement for conquests started afresh. These neo-Islamic adventurers came to India in the train of Muhammad bin Ghore and Qutbuddin Aibak. "Its first rush did not stop till Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji carried the victorious banner of Islam further eastward (from Northern India) into South Bihar and soon after planted it triumphantly on the banks of the Bhagirathi and the Karatoya.

Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji, the maker of medieval history of Bengal

Our knowledge of the early life of Bakhtyar Khalji, the maker of medieval history of Bengal is very meagre. Delhi's chroniclers have cared little to relate his early life till he migrated to India. As a matter of fact. Bakhtyar did not belong to an obscure family. His uncle Muhammad bin Mahmud was a commander in the army of Muhammad bin Ghore and had fought against Prithwiraj at the second battle of Tarain. His performance at the battle attracted the attention of Ali Nagauri, the muqta of Nagaur, He took Muhammad bin Mahmud in his service and assigned him the iqta of Kashmandi. Besides Ali Nagauri also conferred a kettledrum and a banner on him as a mark of honour.

In the Comprehensive History of India it has been said that on the death of Muhammad bin Mahmud, his iqta was assigned to Bakhtyar. Raverty has tried to make out the following story: Ali styled Nagauri, entertained Muhammad Mahmud (Muhammed-i-Mahmud inRaverty), paternal uncle of Bakhtyar in his own serice. When Ali became the fief-holder of Nagaur, he made over the fief of Kashmandi to Mahmud. And when Mahmud died Bakhtyar became the fief-holder in his uncle's place. "Now taking the relative importance of the two persons, Mahmud and Ali", writes Abdul Majed Khan, "and of the two places Kashmandi and Kanauj, it is not improbable to hold that Ali held Kanauj and Mahmud's fief was Kashmandi. Kanauj as Ali's fief is more preferable to the less important Nagaur. The Gahadavala monarchy is known to have survived under Harischandra, son of Jaychandra, but the Hindu King had probably no control over Kananj and had moved to the inaccessible region of Benaras and Jaunpur. Kanauj is within the geographically natural division of Badaun and it is nor improbable that Ali held it under the authority of Hizbaruddin.

Bakhtyar was probably in the cash employ of Hizbar till his uncle's death after which he became the fief-holder of Kasmandi directly under Ali and ultimately under Hizbar. Sayyid Abu Zafar Nadvi writes that Muhammad Bakhtyar belonged to the Khalji tribe of Ghore and the territory of Garamsir now situated on the eastern border of Seistan. His name was Muhammad and his title was Ikhtyaruddin. His father's name was Bakhtyar. Raverty in his translation Tabaqat-i Nasiri reads the name as Muhammad-i-Bakhtyar or Muhammad, son of Bakhtyar. Blockman has contradicted him and has read the name as Ikhtyaruddin Muhammad Bakhtyar Khalji. Asa matter of fact, the conqueror of Bengal's name was Bakhtyar. Ikhtyaruddin seems to have been the title assumed or granted by Qutbuddin Aibak after Bakhtyar's initial success in Bihar when he was honoured for the first time by Aibak by a present of a robe of honour. According to his family tradition, Muhammad Bakhtyar had received military training thoroughly. Minhaj writes that Bakhtyar was a very smart, enterprising, bold, courageous, wise and experienced man. Though belonging to the Khalji tribe, Bakhtyar was an Afghan from the point of adoption and long habitation in Afghanistan. He had unbound ambition and reckless courage and that was his only asset in his early career of adventure.

Depending on his personal courage, Bakhtyar left Garamsir in search of fortunes. He first came to the court of Muhammad of Ghore at Ghazni in the year 1195-A.D. to seek an employment as a soldier. He presented himself before the Diwan-i-Arz. But he was rejected because his outward appearance was unimpressive. He was offered only a small stipend. This Bakhtyar rejected, left Ghazni and came to the court of Qutbuddin Aibak at Delhi. But here too fortune did not smile on him on account of his ugly features. As a matter of fact, Bakhtyar was a man of short stature with long arms and this was considered to be an evil omen in the then Turkish society. Moreover, Bakhtyar possessed neither a horse nor a suit of armour which was essential in those days for an adventurer to be enlisted in the Muslim army. It might be presumed also that it was the racial hatred of the Turks towards the Khaljis that prevented Bakhtyar from getting an employment at Ghazni or Delhi.

Turning points in Bakhtyar's life

However, repeated rejections could not damp Bakhtyar's burning spirit. He next proceeded eastward and came to Badaun to find an honourable career for himself. Malik Hizbaruddin, the Sipahsalar of that province, appointed Bakhtyar on a fixed salary. Soon he was sent against the neighbouring Hindu Chieftains against whom Bakhtyar exhibited his courage and military skill. Still he was not considered worthajagir. Having served the Sipahsalar of Badaun for sometime Bakhtyar repaired to Oudh and presented himself before Malik Husamuddin, Governor of that province in the year 1197 A.D. As he had come to possess by that time a horse and a suit of armour as well as some reputation as a bold soldier, Husamuddin took him into his service. Under Husamuddin's patronage, Bakhtyar collected some horses and weopons and rendered his master some useful services. But with a view to keep this ambitious adventurer at a safe distance, the Governor conferred on Bakhtyar the parganas of Bhagwat and Bhuili as fief in the Mirzapur district. It appears from the account of Minhaj that this was the first substantial employment of Bakhtyar and this was the first occasion when any Muslim entered this region. According to Isami, Bakhtyar got his first employment under Jaisimha of Jitur (probably Jaitra Simha of the Guhilot tribe). But Isami's statement lacks confirmation in any contemporary source. However, the granting of jagir with freedom of command was just the thing that suited an ambitious adventurer like Bakhtyar Khalji as it provided him with a base for satisfying his military zeal against the Hindus of the neighbouring regions. Bakhtyar with his handful of followers took charge of his new assignment. Thus ended the first phase of his adventurous career since his visit to the court of Muhammad of Ghore.

Bakhtyar's second phase of adventurous activities

Now began Bakhtyar's second phase of adventurous activities which resulted in his accumulation of wealth, power and fame. Bakhtyar first started supplanting the petty Gaharwal chiefs of this tract and then began his depredations into Muner (including Patna district) and Bihar s.arif and thereby acquired great booty. He came to acquire plenty of horses, arms and men. Bakhtyar's continued success against the Hindu princes and chiefs of the neighbouring region enhanced his prestige and his valour soon attracted to his standard a large number of Khalji adventurers who had been wan-dering in the different parts of the country in search of employment. This strengthened the hands of Bakhtyar and raised him to a potential power to be reckoned with. The reckless courage and military exploits of Bakhtyar were reported to Qutbuddin Aibak then Muhammad Ghore's viceroy in charge of conquered territories in India, who sent the former from Budaun a dress of honour of great value as well as a letter of encouragement. Bakhtyar accepted the Khilat' and thereby indirectly acknowledged the overlordship of Qutbuddin. It is to be noted that Bakhtyar was never in the service of Qutbuddin He was a 'free lance' and conducted his own affairs quite independently. However, the recognition of the status of Bakhtyar by Qutbuddin legalised his position and this encouraged the Muslims to join the standard of Bakhtyar unhesitatingly.

Battle led by Bakhtyar in Bengal

Encouraged by the honour conferred on him by Qutbuddin Aibak and strengthened by a new army of Muslim adventurers, Muhammad Bakhtyar now proceeded on his widespread depredations into the territories of the neighboring Hindu princes. But bakhtyar was cautions in not provoking wide spread commotion in she country by wanton attacks on the Hindu territories as he had no Bufficient siege train for occupying strong Hindu fortresses or taking possession of Hindu territories. "His object was to secure maximum of booty at a minimum of risk and bloodshed. So he confined himself to scouring the open country undefended by the field army of anyj organised State." Bakhtyar did not consider himself the "knight errant of Islam" to fight and destroy only his Hindu adversaries and to turn the Dar-ul-Harb into Dar-ul-Islam. He was an adventurer pure and simple and had great thirst for military fame and wealth. Of course, ultimately he succeeded in founding a kingdom for himself. At that time there was a number of Hindu ruling houses in and around Bakhtyar's seat of power such as Harischandra, son of Jayachandra of Kanauj who preserved his independence till 1200 A.D.; Vijayakarna, a feudatory of the princely house of Kanauj and the Mahanayakas, the princely chieftains who maintained their independence in Rohtas till the close of the 12th century. Under the circumstances, Bakhtyar preferred to confine his predatory activities to the open country and he never tried to make assaults on fortified Hindu fortresses and this strategy paid him good dividends. Having plundered the open country for a year and two, Bakhtyar made a sudden dash for Bihar. The author of the Maasir-i-Rahimi says that "with the assistance of Qutbuddin Aibak, Bakhtyar conquered Bihar". This statement does not seem to be correct. It is said 1 hat he went up to the gate of the fort of Bihar with only two hundred horses and began the war by taking the enemy unawares. Nadvi says that "with a strong army. Bakhtyar marched upon Bihar in 1199 A.D. Hearing the news of his invasion, people became terrified and took shelter in the University of Nalanda. At that time Nalanda was well-built and fortified. With two hundred soldiers, Bakhtyar crossed the wall of Nalanda". Minhaj writes "Muhammad Bakhtyar with great vigour and audacity rushed in at the gate of the fort and gained possession of the place. Great plunder fell into the hands of the victors. Most of the inhabitants of the place were Brahmans with shaven heads. They were put to death. Large number of books were found there and when Muhammad saw them, he calied for some persons to explain their contents but all the men had been killed. It was discovered that the whole fort and the city was a place of study (Madrasa). In the Hindi language the word Bihar means a college." Minhaj's reference to the fortress of Bihar indicates the Buddhist monastery-towns of Uddandapur and Nalanda and the Brahmans indicating Buddhists. According to Taranath, a 15th century Tibetan chronicler, Bakhtyar erected a fortress on the site of Uddandapur. It is to be noted that the Uddandapur and Vikramsila monastries were the last resorts of the Buddhists in Eastern India and the Muslim invasion of these monastries uprooted the Buddhists. Those who were spared from slaughter took to flight and took refuge in Tibet, Nepal and other places in the mountainous region. At that time South Bihar was the domain of Raja Govindapaladeva. The Raja could never anticipate any surprise attack upon his domain by the Muslims and hence he could not take any precautionary measures. Moreover, he could not secure any assistance from his arch-enemy, the ruler of Gaur, Raja Lakshmansena. Govindapaladeva fell in the battle and the invaders obtained an enormous booty. This event occurred in the year 1199 A.D.

A year after the destruction of the Uddandapur and Vikramsila monasteries, Bakhtyar marched upon Bihar for the second time. This time instead of resorting to further destruction or devastation, Bakhtyar kept himself busy in consolidating his hold over the conquered tract by ''establishing thanas or military outposts and by introducing administrative arrangements." The devastation of the Buddhist monasteries of Bihar has also been mentioned by a famous saint and Buddhist scholar Sakya Sribhadra of Kashmir who visited Bihar in 1200 A.D and found the Uddandapur and Vikramsila Viharas in complete ruins. He was so much terrified by the excess of the Muslims that he left Bihar and proceeded to the Buddhist Vihara of Jagddal for safety.


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