Hindu resistance to Islamic conquests - How Rajputs won and lost

  • Part three in this series about how Rajputs defeated Mohammed Ghori and became victims of being unable to realize that their opponents did not play by the Hindu rules of battle.
  • Read about the brave Prithviraj Chauhan.

Part one was about the brutal Muslim conquest of Sindh, Multan, Afghanistan and how they used deceit to unsusceptible Hindus to conquer them.


Part two was about three cities in modern day Pakistan that were important to Hindus, how they came under Muslim rule and their destruction thereafter. It also told how invading Muslims were defeated in Battle of Bahraich 1033.


Unlike the constructed narrative established by foreign historians, the Hindus have fought every invader who crossed their borders, from Alexander to the Arabs, the Turk Mongols, Afghans and all others.


Islam had risen in Arabia as a small sect that destroyed and converted by the sword, the civilizations of Syria in 635 A.D, Iraq & Egypt in 639, Persia in 640, huge parts of North Africa-Libya, Algeria, Morocco, and Sudan in 670 A.D. towards Europe & conquered Spain.


For the first time these hordes were checked at the Hindu Kush mountains by the Hindus, Rutbil/ Zunbil of Kandhar and the Shahis of Kabul. Together they held off Arab invasions for about 300 years. 


Zabulistan and Kabulistan were the frontline states of Bharatvarsha that blocked Srab’s path to Khyber Pass. The Kshatriya Kings of Zabulistan, South Western Afghanistan, were given a hereditary designation of Rutbil. Arab chronicles record Rutbil as Reital, Zunbil, Santhal etc. 


Hiuen Tsang mentions Rutbil as, “an able Kshatriya King at Kapisha, 60 miles Northwest of Kabul, who ruled a vast Kingdom”.


Abdul Malik (684-705 A.D.) took over the Caliphate and appointed Hajjaj bin Yusuf as the Governor of Iraq (694-714). Hajjaj sent Obaidullah to invade the Kingdom of Rutbil, destroy its forts, kill and enslave its people. 


However, Rutbil drew the Arabs inside Afghanistan in a guerrilla war fashion, closing the passes behind them. The starving Arabs were forced to buy their way back home by paying seven lakh Dirhams.


Around 700 CE, Hajjaj sent Abdur Rehman with 40,000 Arabs to launch their second attack. This proved to be even a greater disaster. Abdur Rehman faced stiff resistance at Kandhar and instead of fighting further he looted, plundered and returned to Sistan with the booty.


He sent elaborated reports of his loot to Hajjaj who accused him of turning away from jihad against infidels. Hajjaj threatened to sack him unless he attacked Rutbil immediately and captured Zabulistan, which culminated in a rebel amongst Arab fighters.


This way the Gazwa-e-Hind dream of Arabs tasted their first humiliating defeat at the gates of Bharatvarsha.


Targeting Sindh, Hajjaj now sent the second crop of Arabs under Mohammed Bin Qasim via Sistan and Makran. 


Between 638 and 711, the Arabs launched fifteen attacks against the province of Sindh. First one was under Caliph Umar Ibn al Kattab who sent naval expeditions against Thane and Bharuch/ Broach. To read part one in this series


The Chach Brahmim rulers of Sindh were originally from Mathura. Rai Chach migrated to Sindh where he was appointed as the prime minister in the court of Raja Sahasi/ Rai Sinhasana. Sobhi, a childless queen, turned to her trusted Prime Minister Rai Chach to preserve the independence of her Kingdom. 


An aggressive military leader, Rai Chach died in 674 AD, after 40 years of glorious rule. He was succeeded by his son Dahir.


Hajjaj sent Obaidullah bin Nathan to attack the seaport of Karachi. The Arabs were slaughtered to a man.


Hajjaj now sent Budail/ Bazil to attack Debal. Dahir sent his son Jaisiya/ Jai Singh with an army of 4,000 men to stop him. Budail was killed and Arabs taken prisoners.


Next Hajjaj gathered a larger force consisting of 6000 horsemen and 3000 camels, with further reinforcements to attack Sindh in 712 A.D. The force was led by his son in law Imdad Mohammed bin Qasim.


Raja Dahir fought Qasim fiercely. Ilafi an Arab, who headed some of his battalions, refused to fight against a Muslim’s ‘jihad against a kafir’ and joined Qasim. He provided Qasim with information about the fort and its defences.


It is because of Ilafi’s treachery that the Hindus lost their first battle to the Muslims.


A 9th century Muslim historian Ahmad ibn Yahya al Baladhuri wrote, “After the conquest of Debal, Qasim kept slaughtering its inhabitants for three days, the Temple was desecrated and 700 women who had taken shelter there were enslaved. At Roar, 6000 fighting men were massacred, their families enslaved, at Brahamanabad, 26,000 inhabitants were slaughtered, 60,000 slaves including 30 royal women were sent to al-Hajjaj. Qasim gave a quarter of the city to Muslims and built a mosque there.”


Dr K M Munshi wrote


Foreword to Volume 5 of The History and Culture of Indian People, “The Indian kings waged wars according to certain human rules. Whatever the provocation, the shrine, the Brahmana and the cow were sacrosanct to them. Harassment of the civilian population during military operations was considered a serious lapse from the code of hour.”


“The wars in Central Asia, on the other hand, were grim struggles for survival, for the destruction of their enemies and appropriating their womenfolk. When therefore, Mahmud’s armies swept over North India it saw torrents of barbarians sweeping across its rich plains, indulging in indiscriminate massacre; raping women, capturing thousands of men, women and children, to be sold as slaves in the market of Ghazni and other Central Asian markets.” 3


Now read Part 3


Mohammed Ghori allied himself with the Muslim governor of Sindh and attacked Gujarat in 1187 CE. The Solankis/ Chalukyas defeated him at a battle fought on the plains below Mount Arbuda / Abu, forcing him to flee across the Thar Desert. It was Chalukya Mularaja II who defeated Ghori at Kasahrada at the foot of Mount Abu.


To read part two Hindu resistance of Islamic conquest of North India – Battle of Bahraich


Having tasted defeat, Mohammed Ghori decided to use subterfuge. Like Sabuktgin, he studied Hindu warfare and invaded from another route.


Fully prepared, Mohammed advanced through West Punjab and attacked the fortress of Bhatinda in East Punjab which was on the frontier of the domains of Prithiviraj Chauhan (1166-1192 CE), the Maharaja of Sambhar/ Shaka-ambara.


Prithviraj marched on to Bhatinda and met Ghori at Tarain/ Taraori, 14 miles from Thanesar. The two armies fought furiously. The forces of Prithviraj counter-attacked from three sides and dominated the battle. Ghori’s forces broke ranks and fled leaving him to face the onslaught of the Rajput cavalry.


Mohammed Ghori was captured. During their retreat they left behind many of the best steeds in their cavalry which fell in to the hands of the pursuing Solanki army.


With the Rajputs in hot pursuit, the fleeing Muslim general Kutub-ud-din Aibak let loose a big herd of cows, chained to each other to block the path of Hindus, who would obviously not cut them down. Thus, the Ghurid forces escaped shrewdly preventing Muslims from being taken as captives by the victorious Hindus.


Brought before Prithviraj as a captive bound in chains, humiliated for being captured by a Kafir, Mohammed again used deceit. Pretending to be repentant, he addressed Prithviraj as brother, begged for mercy and promised never to attack Bharatvarsha.


Prithviraj pardoned Mohammed Ghori whom he had defeated and captured.


Going against the advice of his friend Chand Vardai, general Hammira and the brave warrior twins Aalaa and Uddhal, Prithviraj not only released him but also gifted Mohammed, five hundred horses and twenty elephants as a token of his generosity. Fortunately Shivaji did not make the same mistake whilst dealing with Afzal Khan although the context was different.


Seething with rage, Mohammed Ghori killed the Rajput escorts and envoys that Privithraj had sent to accompany him to Ghor and sent their severed heads to the astonished Prithviraj.


The twice beaten Mohammed decided to go by subterfuge that gave them victory over more powerful and less scheming adversaries. He was aware that Hindus had no warfare before sunrise and after sunset.

Breaking his deceptive promise to Prithviraj, Mohammed attacked India once again the following year. In order to take revenge he organised at Ghazni an army of 1.20 lakh men.


He met the Rajputs once again at the same battlefield of Tarain.


In 1191, Prithviraj with his armies had camped near a river. Violating the convention, of fighting from sunrise up to sunset, Muslims attacked Rajput army camp at 3 am. Unprepared for the assault, Rajput soldiers had begun their morning ablutions and some were asleep when Muslims unexpectedly broke into the Hindu camp.


Though the Ghurids had the advantage of surprise gained by deceit, the Rajputs slaughtered many of their treacherous enemies and gained the upper hand. 


By midday Mohammed saw victory slipping from his hands once again. Ghori sent a word that if Prithviraj fought his champion Qutub-ud-din Aibak in single combat, he would call off the battle.


The barbaric Arab hordes had used this technique of single combat - called Mard-o-Mard in Farsi, cunningly against the Zoroastrian Persians when they first burst out of Arabia and attacked Iran.


To conclude the war and save lives of his soldiers, Prithviraj agreed. But with the insidious Muslims, this rule did not hold.


When the two met and Prithviraj’s sword felt heavy on Qutub, he resorted to a feint and by whirling below his saddle he cut off one foot of Prithviraj’s horse. Prithviraja fell off his wounded horse.


Had this been a fair combat, Qutub would also dismount and fight Prithviraj on foot. Since it was a foul move, at a pre-arranged signal from Qutub a band of truculent soldiers, who had till then stood aside as horse-tenders, jumped on Prithviraj, and pressed a dose of hashish on his face. Bound and drugged Prithviraj was carried into their ranks before the Rajputs could realize and react to this unexpected act of treachery. 


The drugged Prithviraj was hoisted on one of the elephants that he had gifted to Mohammed Ghori. The Ghurids spread a rumour in the Rajput camp that Prithviraj was dead and that they were holding his dead body to show the Rajputs the futility of fighting further.


Seeing their dead Maharaja, the Rajputs fell back against Pithoragarh, their fortified capital at Mehrauli.  Ghori retreated with the captured Prithviraj to Afghanistan.


The chained Prithviraj was presented before Mohammed Ghori who reminded him of he had honourably released him. Mohammed and his courtiers laughed at him and ordered him to lower his eyes. Prithviraj’s eyes were pierced with red hot irons when he said that a Rajput’s eyes are lowered only after death. The blinded Prithiviraja was kept in solitary confinement hauled occasionally to his court to be made fun of as the “Lion of Delhi”.


Chandra Vardai/Chand Bardai the court poet and biographer of Prithviraj Chauhan, accompanied him in all his battles. Chandra Vardai planned to avenge the betrayal and humiliation of his King and offered himself as a prisoner to Mohammed. Before the annual event of Buskhazi Chandra Vardai told Mohammed, that Prithviraj would like to show his skill in archery but would accept orders to shoot only from a king who had defeated him.

On the said day Prithviraj following Chandra Vardai’s poetic directions; “Char bans, chaubis gaj, angul asta pramaan, Ete pai Sultan hai, Ab mat chuko Chouhan." (Ten measures ahead of you and twenty four feet away, is seated the Sultan, do not miss him now, Chouhan) shot three arrows in the direction of Mohammed wounding him fatally.


This incident and the history of the Prithviraj Chauhan was written in a literary flavour by Chandra vardai. Its oldest portions were written in Lata Apabhramsa/ Latiya Apabhramsha, a style typical of 12th, 13th centuries. The last canto that narrates Prithviraj and Chand Bardai’s death was composed by Jalhan, the son of Chand Bardai.


Apabhramsa/ अपभ्रंश literature is a valuable source for the history of North India for the period spanning the 12th to 16th centuries.


The contemporary Rasos, inspired by exceptional valour of Hindu Rajputs, Prithviraj Raso, Hamir Raso, and Chatrasal Raso are rejected as mixture of historical facts and imagination and considered historically unreliable.


Whereas the 8th century biographer of Prophet of Islam, Inb Ishaq, is considered reliable, ‘Kitab fi Tahqiq ma li’l Hind’ of Al Biruni (1048), Minaji Siraj (1259), Amir Khusro (1325) are considered historians and their works genuine history!


Our History claims so many brave men that volumes ought to be dedicated to them and Hindu generations delve deep into them, as they would into the Ramayana.

Part four is about counter aggression that saved Hindu society from extinction. 



1. History of India (9 volumes) Edited by A. V. Williams Jackson

2. The Mohammedan Period as Described by its Own Historians, Volume 5 - Selected from the works of the late Sir Henry Miers Elliot, K.C.B.

3 Published by the Bhartiya Vidya Bhawan page xiii.

Also read

1 Hiuen Tsang Memorial Naladana, Bihar

2 Two articles on how the Arabs conquered Persia

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