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Mahmud of Ghazni (October 2, 971–April 30, 1030), also known as Yamin ad-Dawlah Mahmud (in full: Yamin ad-Dawlah Abd al-Qasim Mahmud Ibn Sebük Tigin) was the ruler of Ghazni from 997 until his death. Mahmud turned the former provincial city of Ghazni (in present-day Afghanistan) into the wealthy capital of an extensive empire which included today's Afghanistan, most of modern Iran, and parts of Pakistan and northern India. Mahmud's grandfather was Alptigin, a Turkic general from Balkh in Turkestan who crossed the Hindu Kush mountains to seize Ghazni, located strategically on the road between Kabul and Kandahar. Alptigin was succeeded in 977 by his son Sabuktigin, who enlarged upon his Alptigin's conquests, extending his domain north to Balkh, west to Kandahar and Khorasan, and east to the Indus River. Sabuktigin was recognized by the Abbasi Caliph in Baghdad as governor of his dominions. Sultan Alptigin died in 997, and was succeeded by his younger son Sultan Ismail of Ghazni. Mahmud rebelled against his younger brother, Sultan Ismail of Ghazni, and took over the Ghazni as the new Sultan. Issuing forth year after year from his capital of Ghazni, Sultan Mahmud carried sixteen or seventeen campaigns into northern India and Gujarat, as well as others to the north and west. His first campaigns were against the Hindu Shahi kingdom, which occupied the Punjab from the Indus east to the Ganges. He had participated in his father's campaigns against the Shahi king Jayapala in the late 980s that conquered the Khayber Pass region as far east as the Indus. Sultan Mahmud campaigned against the Shahis in 1001, and in 1004 marched deep into the Punjab, defeated a Shahi army and captured Bhatia and Multan. In 1008, he conquered most of the Punjab and captured the Shahi treasury at Kangra in the Punjab Hill States, which reduced the Shahi kingdom to a sliver of the eastern Punjab. Mahmud's campaigns seem to be motivated by both religious zeal and an interest in wealth and gold. Mahmud followed the injunction to convert pagans, whom he had vowed to follow every year of his life. Hindu temples were depositories of vast quantities of wealth, in cash, golden idols, diamonds, and jewelry - and these made them targets for a non-Hindu searching for wealth in northern India. The later invasions of Mahmud were directed against the pagan temple towns, including Nagarkot (1009), Thanesar (1012), Mathura and Kanauj (1018), Kalinjar 1021, and finally Somnath (1026). Mahmud's armies took the wealth of the temples and then destroyed them; after Mahmud's raids on the cities of Varanasi, Ujjain, Maheshwar, Jwalamukhi, and Dwarka. The concentration of wealth at Somnath was renowned, and consequently it became an attractive target for Mahmud. The raid in 1026 was his last major campaign, and took him across the Thar Desert in Sindh, which had previously deterred most invaders. The temple and citadel were sacked, and most of its Brahmin defenders died in the battle; Mahmud personally hammered the temple's gilded lingam (the phallic symbol of Shiva) into pieces, and the stone fragments were carted back to Ghazni, where they were alleged to be incorporated into the steps of the city's new Jamia Masjid (Friday mosque). By the end of his reign, his empire extended from Kurdistan in the west to Samarkand in the northeast, and from the Caspian Sea to the Yamuna. Although his raids carried his forces across northern and western India, only the Punjab and Sindh, modern Pakistan, came under his permanent rule; Kashmir, the Doab, Rajasthan and Gujarat remained under the control of the local Hindu Rajput dynasties. The wealth brought back to Ghazni was enormous, and contemporary historians (e.g. Abolfazl Beyhaghi, Firdowsi) give glowing descriptions of the magnificence of the capital, as well as of the conqueror's munificent support of literature. On April 30, 1030, Sultan Mahmud died in Ghazni, at the age of 59 years. Sultan Mahmud had contracted malaria during his last invasion. The medical complication from malaria has caused lethal tuberculosis. In Afghanistan, Mahmud is celebrated as a national hero and a great patron of the arts, architecture and literature as well as a vanguard of Islam and a paragon of virtue and piety. In modern Pakistan, Mahmud of Ghazni is hailed as a conquering hero who established the standard of Islam upon heathen land, while in India he may be depicted as raiding iconoclastic conqueror, bent upon the loot and plunder of Hindu temples. Iranians remember him as an Orthodox Sunni who was responsible for the revival of the Persian culture by commissioning and appointing Persians to high offices in his administration as ministers, viziers and generals. In addition Iranians remember him for the promotion and preference of Persian language instead of Turkish and patronage of great nationalist poets and scholars such as Ferdowsi, Al-Biruni and Ferishta as well as his '''Lion and Sun''' flag which is still a national symbol in the modern state of Iran. The Ghaznavid Empire was ruled by his successors for 157 years, but after Mahmud it never reached anything like the same splendor and power. The expanding Seljuk Turkish empire absorbed most of the Ghaznavid west. The Persian Ghauris captured Ghazni c. 1150, and Muhammad Ghauri captured the last Ghaznavid stronghold at Lahore in 1187.


 


 

 

 

 

 

Page Last Updated: Friday, March 28, 2008 17:12:50 -0400