Mahmud Ghazni's Invasions of India

  • Name of the Battle: Mahmud Ghazni's Invasions of India
  • Venue: Various Parts of India
  • Year: 1000-1027 AD

In 998 AD, the Turkish conqueror, Mahmud of Ghazni, succeeded his father, and established a huge empire in Central Asia, with capital at Ghazni, the present-day South Kabul. He was 27 years old then and the first ruler to get the title as "Sultan", which means authority, thereby implying his power and strength. For 17 times, he attacked India during the period between 1000 and 1027 AD, a significant event in the history of India.

The reasons that led to the invasions

Mahmud of Ghazni had started his invasions in India during the period when the Rajput power had declined. The two main reasons that led to the conquest of India by Mahmud Ghazni was firstly, to accumulate the vast amount of wealth that existed in India, and secondly, to spread Islam. Another reason was that he wanted to transform Ghazni, his capital city, into a region of formidable power in the entire Central Asia's political scenario.

He raided India for the first time in 1000 AD. After that, he is said to have conquered India 17 times, till his death. He was resisted by King Jaipal and then by his son Anandpal but both of them were defeated. Between 1009 AD and 1026 AD, the places that Mahmud of Ghazni invaded were Kabul, Delhi, Kanauj, Mathura, Kangra, Thaneshwar, Kashmir, Gwalior, Malwa, Bundelkhand, Tripuri, Bengal and Punjab. He died in 1030 AD, and before his death, his last invasion of India was in 1027 AD. In 1027 AD, he invaded the Somnath temple in Gujarat, on the coast of Saurashtra or Kathiwar. This was supposed to be his biggest invasion as he had looted all treasures and precious items of the fortified temple.

Strength of the warring forces

Mahmud Ghazni's invaders were more of fast moving cavalry, while the Indian armies were mainly of elephants. The army of Rajputs, no doubt, evolved during the Mughal rule, which was also appreciated by the Mughals. But this expansion and evolution of the Rajput's army was nothing in comparison to the Turkish invaders and could not keep pace with the military tactics and troops of Mahmud Ghazni.

Aftermath of the battle: winner and loser

Obviously, the clear winner was Mahmud Ghazni. It is said that he always attacked India during the hot summer seasons and with the onset of monsoons, would go back to Ghazni, the reason being, he wanted to avoid the flooding rivers of Punjab, so that his forces won't get trapped there. In all his 17 invasions, a number of dynasties were conquered by him.
  • First invasion of Mahmud Ghazni in 1000 AD : Mahmud of Ghazni first invaded modern Afghanistan and Pakistan in 1000 AD. He defeated Hindu shahi kingdom ruler Jaya Pala, who killed himself later, and his son Ananda Pala became his successor.

  • 1005 : Ghazni invaded Bhatia.

  • 1006 : Ghazni invaded Multan. During this time, Ananda Pala attacked him.

  • 1007 : Mahmud of Ghazni attacked and crushed Sukha Pala, ruler of Bhatinda.

  • 1011 : Ghazni raided Nagarkot in the Punjab hills.

  • 1013 : This was Mahmud's 8th expedition into Pakistan and Eastern Afghanistan, the shahi kingdom under Anand Pala, who was defeated by Ghazni in the Battle of Waihind, the Hind shahi capital near Peshawar.

  • 1014 : Thanesar was conquered by Mahmud.

  • 1015 : Kashmir was attacked by Mahmud.

  • 1018 : He attacked Mathura, where a number of coalition of rulers were defeated, including a ruler called Chandra Pala.

  • 1021 : Mahmud conquered Kanauj by defeating Kanauj King Chandella Ganda. In the same year he defeated and killed two more rulers, Shahi Trilochana Pala and his son Bhima Pala, thereby conquering Rahib and Lahore (modern Pakistan).

  • 1023 : Gwalior was invaded and conquered by Ghazni.

  • Last invasion of Mahmud Ghazni, 1027 : In 1027, he attacked the Somnath temple. The brave Hindu Rajputs tried to defend the temple when the enemy tried to get inside it. The Hindus fought very bravely and initially the enemies could not damage the temple. However, after 3 days of fights, Mahmud Ghazni's troops were successful in plundering the Somnath temple, in which the sacred idol, Linga was destroyed. Ghazni looted all the treasures of the temple, which was at that time worth 20-million Dinars, more than eighty times of what he had collected in his first invasion. Around 5000 Hindus died during this last invasion.

The larger implications of the battle

  • Mahmud's invasions of India were no doubt bloody. He was a ruthless raider and plunderer of wealth.
  • In each invasion of an Indian dynasty, he carried back vast wealth with him.
  • Places like Mathura, Kanauj, Thaneshwar were transformed into ruins.
  • The demolition of the Shiva temple at Somnath earned him tremendous hatred of many Hindus.
  • He looted the wealth of the temples and then destroyed them completely at various places such as Jwalamukhi, Maheshwar, Narunkot and Dwarka.
  • Though his invasions did not show any systematic effort to conquer the subcontinent, they led to the foundation of the Turkish rule in India and his conquest opened the gates of India to be conquered from the Northwest.
  • Mahmud Ghazni built a large empire covering Samarkand in the north, Gujarat in the south, Punjab in the east and Caspian sea in the west. His empire included Persia, Afghanistan, Trans-oxyana, and Punjab.
  • He was considered a great Islamic Hero.

The overall place and significance of the invasions in Indian history
  • The 17 invasions of India undertaken by Ghazni, one after the other, revealed the Indian rulers' military weakness.
  • These invasions also disclosed how the Rajput rulers had no political unity among themselves.
  • These conquests proved that the Muslims were superior to Hindus in the field of war, discipline and duty.
  • With Ghazni's invasions, the economic condition of India weakened.
  • Huge wealth was looted out of the country.
  • The resources of India were drained out by his repeated conquests and India was deprived of her manpower, which also adversely affected the future political scenario of the country.
  • There was a huge setback to Indian arts, architecture and sculpture due to the demolition of idols and temples.
  • Islam also gained a major foothold in India after the attacks.
  • The conquests also led to a growing hatred and fear among the Hindus and the Muslims.
  • However, these conquests also led to the coming of the Sufis or the Muslim saints for more Hindu-Muslim interaction.
  • Ghazni's conquests, especially the inclusion of Punjab and Afghanistan in his kingdom, made the Indian frontiers weak. This made easier for other Afghan and Turkish rulers to enter India into the Gangetic valley at any time. One special mention is of Muhammad Ghori's invasion of India.


Last Updated on : December 23, 2014