Hindu Resistance to Islamic invasions and Counter attacks

  • This article gives you examples of Hindu kings who fought back Muslim invasions. Covered are Orissa, Vijaynagar, Assam, Nepal and Hemu.

Part One was Hindu resistance to Islamic conquest of Sindh, Punjab and Kabul. Part Two is about the Battle of Bahraich where Hindus defeated Muslims. Part Three is about the Rajputs won and lost. Read part 4 now.

From the first resistance of the Rajas of Makara/ Makran and Sindh in 638 till the elimination of Muslim rule by the Marathas, Jats, Rajputs, Gurkhas and Sikhs in the 18th and 19th centuries, the Hindus gave a tough fight to Islamic invaders. During that period of a thousand years, every Muslim victory came with a wholesale slaughter of Brahmins and warrior class, of those who refused to convert or pay Jaziya, destruction of temples, universities, libraries and property. The intention was clear, erase Hindu national & cultural identity and impose Islamic identity.

Muhammad Ghori revived Jihad in Hindoostan, at Ajmer, he destroyed the pillars and foundations of the idol temples and built in their stead mosques and percepts of Islam, the customs of law were divulged & established.”- Hasan Nizami, 13th century Muslim historian.

“At Aligarh, 3 bastions as high as heaven with their heads and carcasses became the food for the beasts of prey. The tract was freed from idols and the foundation of infidels was destroyed.”

“Ghori plundered Hindu treasures at Asni and Varanasi..the carnage of men went on until the earth was weary, women and children were of course enslaved…in Banaras, 1000 temples were destroyed and mosques were raised on their foundations. Brahmins were put to death. Lots of books were found but no one could explain their contents as all the men were killed.” Ibn Asir, Muslim historian. 

After the repeated incidents where Muslim used treachery, subterfuge, deceit; the Hindus rulers like Man Singh Tomar, Maharana Sangram Singh, Maharana Pratap, Harihara Raya, Krishna Deva Raya, Narsimhadeva, Lachit Barphukan, Guru Govind Singh, Chattrapati Shivaji Maharaj and others launched successful counter attacks on their Muslim tormentors. Narasimhadeva, the King of Orissa was the first Hindu king to pay back the Muslims in the same coin and Chattrapati Shivaji was the epitome of successful Hindu counter-attacks on Islamists.

How Narasimhadeva, King of Orissa, trapped Tugan Khan in a counter attack.

In 262 B.C.E. Kumara, the king of Kalinga had given a tough fight to Ashoka before Orissa could be annexed into the Mauryan Empire.

In the 13th century, when Tugan Khan attacked Orissa, Narsimhadeva, the king of Orissa decided to use subterfuge against the invaders who incidentally had mastered the art of deceit. He sent word to Tugan Khan that he was willing to surrender without a fight like Lakshmansena of neighbouring Bengal. Tugan asked for the surrender at Puri, handing over all weapons to the Muslims, the entire population embracing Islam at the central square in front of the Jagannath Temple and converting Jagannath temple into a Mosque as an acknowledgement of submission.

Tugan Khan happily advanced into the city, unaware of the trap Narasimhadeva had laid, by completely evacuating the city of its pilgrims, aged and children, and posting soldiers in every nook and corner. Once inside the city, Tugan’s troops had to dismount their horses and advance through unfamiliar lanes and bylanes towards the central square where the surrender ceremony was to take place.

At a prefixed signal, the temple bells started ringing and Narasimhadeva’s army pounced on the invaders. The battle lasted entire day, while the Hindus took many losses, the entire Muslim army was completely annihilated, only a few escaped. Orissa remained a Hindu bastion for many centuries which accounts for the low percentage of Muslims in Orrisa even today. Narasimhadeva erected a victory pillar designed as a war chariot, and built Konarak Surya Mandir.

Muslims could never entirely subjugate the Southern half of India (Dakkan/ Dakshin) unlike the North. The successful counter-attacks by Shivaji outdid the Muslims in their games of deceit, treachery and subterfuge. His guerilla warfare gave sleepless nights to Aurangzeb. It was the Marathas who finally threw off the Muslim yoke and marched toward Delhi in 1720 to liberate North India, then to Punjab and up to Attock in Paktoonisthan in 1756.

The Sikhs carried the Bhagwa further into Afghanistan and made Kabul an Indian province again in 1823. Remember that Hindu Shahi Raja Jay Pal had been treacherously defeated by Subuktigin in 980 A.D.

Hindus of Vijayanagar gave the Muslims a tough time and held back aggressors at Krishna river.

Vijaynagar battled the Muslim Aggressors for 200 years from 1331- 1565.

The first Hindu kingdom that gave up the Hindu practice of sparing non-combatants was Vijaynagar. The armies of Vijaynagar torched and overran the Bahamani cities instilling fear of death into Muslim minds.

As a result the Adil Shahi and Nizam Shahi sultans sued for a treaty that would forbid the killing of civilians by either side. The Muslims nevertheless disavowed the treaty and indulged in a gory slaughter of all the Hindu inhabitants. Further they reduced Vijaynagar to rubble by six months of ceaseless pillage and destruction after Aliya Rama Raya was captured and beheaded by the allied forces of Deccan Sultanates at Talikota in 1565.

In the one thousand years of the gradual Muslim occupation of North India, ie from 715 to 1720, many Hindus aspired to overthrow the tyrannical Muslim occupation of their fatherland.

Hemu Vikramaditya nearly overthrew the Mughal dynasty in 2nd battle of Panipat.

After Humayun’s death on 24th January 1556, 13 year old Akbar was enthroned as emperor. Hemu, the Hindu chief minister of Afghan Adil Shah led a surprise attack on Delhi in October 1556. The Mughal forces under Tardi Beg Khan panicked and took flight. Hemu was victorious the 22nd time in successive battles, captured Delhi on 7th October 1556 & set himself up as an independent ruler under the title of 'Raja Vikramaditya'. 

Akbar and Barium Khan met Hemu’s undoubtedly superior army at Panipat on 5th November 1556. In this second battle of Panipat, Hemu, leading from atop an elephant was struck in the eye by an arrow that pierced his brain making him unconscious. Shah Quli Khan captured the Hawai elephant, the unconscious Hemu was brought before Akbar and Bairam. Bairam advised Akbar to perform the holy duty of slaying the infidel and earn the Islamic holy title of Ghazi, Akbar beheaded Hemu with a scimitar, bystanders plunged swords into the bleeding corpse. His head was sent to the ladies of Humayun's harem at Kabul as a sign of victory, his torso was gibbeted at the gate of Delhi. Hemu's wife escaped from Delhi with Pir Mohammad Khan's troops chasing her but could not lay their hands on her. His aged father was captured and killed on refusing to accept Islam. 

Keeping with the custom of his ancestors Tamerlane and Chengiz Khan, Akbar erected a tower of severed Hindu heads. 1500 elephants were captured, immense treasures were looted. Source Akbar the great Mogul, by Vincent Smith Pg 50-51.

Peter Mundy, an Englishman travelling through Mughal Empire about 75 years later, during Jahangir and Shah Jahan's rein, witnessed the Towers of Heads still being made.

In Assam, the Ahom kings defeated each Muslim incursion in to their territory from the time of Mohammed Bin Tughlaq.

How Lachit Borphukan annihilated the Mughal on the banks of the Bramhaputra?

Aurangzeb attacked Assam with a huge force in 1671. The Battle of Saraighat was fought between the Mughals, led by Raja Ramsingh and the Ahoms, led by Lachit Borphukan, governor of Guwahati.

In a surprise night attack, Lachit Barphukan dramatically captured the Mughal post in north Guwahati and, later, their fort in south Guwahati. The greatest threat to Lachit's army were the many Mughal cannons. The night before the battle Bagh Hazarika poured water into the cannon barrels and disabled them. Ahom army defeated the Mughal by using a combination of guerrilla tactics, psychological warfare and military intelligence.

Lachit Barphukan anticipated a larger retaliatory attack by the Mughals. He prepared a complex system of mud embankments, relying upon the hillocks around Guwahati and the Brahmaputra River, as natural barriers against an invading army. When the Mughals found Guwahati impregnable by land, they would be forced to use their navy, which was their weakest asset.

The Mughals struck back in March 1679 with 30,000 infantry, 15,000 archers, 18, 000 Turkish cavalry, 5,000 gunners, more than 1000 cannons and a large flotilla of boats. Portuguese and European sailors were employed to man the fleet. These forces moved up the Brahmaputra from Dhaka to Guwahati. The Mughal siege of Guwahati lasted for more than a year.

Unable to penetrate Ahom defences the Mughals launched a massive naval assault with large boats carrying as many as sixteen cannons on the river at Saraighat. Despite having high fever, Lachit along with seven other boats, advanced headlong against the Mughal fleet. His bold advance inspired his retreating army to rally behind him. Inspite of their small boats the Ahoms outmaneuvered the larger, more sluggish Mughal boats. Lachit Borphukan died in the lap of victory.

The unsuccessful Muslim attack on Nepal and Tibet

In 1402 Mohammad bin Tughlaq launched the first Muslim attack on Nepal. The Nepalese King withdrew his army into the snowy fastness of the Himalayas, this refused to meet the Muslim army at the border of his kingdom in the Nepalese plains.  The king of Tibet sent him reinforcements as Tughlaq’s aim was to overrun Tibet after the conquest of Nepal. He wanted to capture Kasthamadapam, Kathmandu and Lhasa.

The Muslim army was fatigued by the march through deserted villages, burnt fields towards snowy upper reaches of the Himalayas. The much smaller Nepalese - Tibetan forces lay waiting at a narrow pass for the Muslim army weary of the biting cold and harsh terrain.

The hardened Gurkhas mercilessly cut down Muslims to the last man in the snow clad barren valley. Only a few returned to the plains to tell the story of this humiliating defeat.

All through the seven hundred years of Muslim tyranny over Northern India, Nepal, Assam and Orissa remained Hindu. The temples of Pashupatinath, Bhaktapur, Patan and Hanuman Dhokha did not meet the fate of Kashi, Ayodhya, Mathura and other innumerable temples.

In Punjab, Rajputana, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Nepal, Assam and South India, the Hindus defeated and rolled back the Muslim aggressors, as a result these parts of Bharatvarsha remained predominantly Hindu.


1. Islam and Colonialism, Rudolph Peters.

2. The Legacy of Muslim rule in India, K.S.Lal.

3. The Arab Conquests in Central Asia, H.A.R. Gibb.

4. The story of Islamic Imperialism in India, Sita Ram Goel.

Also read

1 Lachit Borphukan Memorial Assam

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