Bharat Ek Khoj

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Delhi Sultanate part-l
Turk-Afghans & Prithviraj Raso-l

(Episode 24)

Nehru records that while Harsha's death in 648 AD ended his powerful reign, lslam was taking shape in Arabic. Its revered prophet Mohammad, who had vitalized his people with faith and enthusiasm, died in 632 AD. Soon after, Arabs carried the banner of lslam right across the Iran and central Asia in the east by the 8th century, but their conquests in 712 AD did not go beyond Sind in India. Though there was no more invasion for nearly 300 years contacts grew between India and the Arab world with Indians getting to know the new religion, Islam, before it came as a political force. Missionaries came to spreed the new faith and they were welcome in the old tradition of India to be tolerant to all faiths and forms of worship.

Nehru notes that the new Arab Empire under the Khalifas took the capital to Baghdad. Evenafter the Turks came from Central Asia and Sultan Mahmud of ghazni, a Turk, arose in Afghanistan as a warrior, ignoring Khalifas, Baghdad still continued as the cultural centre of the lslamic world. By 1000 AD, Sultan Mahmud began his raids into India. These raids were bloody and ruthless, and on every occasion Mahmud carried away with him a vast quantity or treasure.

As we see, the conflict mounts between Mahmud of Ghazni and Khalifas of Baghdad with the dwindling power of the latter, AI-Beruni, the famous scholar and traveler, and the noted Persian poet Firdausi, author of Shahnama, are both contemporaries of Sultan Mahmud and sing paeans of his praise in court. Al-Beruni seeks permission to come to India and record glimpses of Indian life. Firdausi remains a universally applauded poet.

As Nehru notes, Mahmud died in 1030 AD and another 160 years elapsed without further invasions of India or extension to Turkis rule beyond the Punjab. Then an Afghan, Shahab-ud-Din Ghori, captured Ghazni before marching to Lahore and then to delhi. But as we witness here, he is cautioned to compromise by an Indian messenger before launching his vaunted journey against the Rajput King of Delhi, Prithviraj Chauhan. The vainglotious Ghori retaliates by killing the messenger!

Prepration, progress and outcome of the battle are narrated by the court-singer. After an utter defeat of Ghori, we see how Prithiviraj most magnanimously extends his hand of friendship to Ghori, squrned haughtily by the latter. Still he is allowed to go scot-free in lieu of 700 iraqi horses, 30 elephants and 30 shields, apart from Prithviraj presenting him with bejeweled necklaces.

In a charming legend, Prithviraj is eulogized as a popular hero for his love of Sanjukta, the beauteous daughter of king Jaichandra of Kanauj. Sanjukta returns the love in ample measure and puts her nuptial garland round the neck of Prithvirj's staru as doorkeeper, which his father erected contemptuously! In a reckless venture, Prirhviraj comes on horseback to claim his bride and return to Delhi.