There was no semblance of governance in Karra when I reached there. There were stories of a powerful Southern army raiding the area in force and living off the land for almost five years some ten years before I reached Karra. Locals said that the pious armies of Sultan Balban were slaughtered and those who survived were taken as slaves. No one knows what happened to them. To give confidence to the government, I first raided Benares, the holiest of the places of the infidels and burnt the new temple which the Southern king built. I learnt his name is Ramdeo. But I don’t know who that Ramdeo was. What I know was he suddenly came with a huge force and annexed the kingdom of Dahal to his territory. The raid on Benares and Karra was a part of that campaign. Slowly, I started to find about Ramdeo. When I invaded Bhilsan, I got to know about Ramdeo more. He is the king of Deogir and has got a kingdom as big as my uncle’s. That day, I decided. I will use Ramdeo to topple my uncle.

The first thing I did was to send the money which I got on raiding Bhilsan to my uncle and notify him on another raid, this time to Chanderi. I asked my uncle to permit me to levy new forces. Unknown to anyone, even Sanjar, I initiated talks with Ramdeo. It is decided that Ramdeo will come on a hunting trip to Elichpur and in a sudden raid, I will capture him. The ransom which I will get on releasing Ramdeo will be used to topple my uncle and buy loyalty. In return for that, I should not turn my eyes towards south and there will be mutual peace. The only exception is Gujarat where I was allowed to operate.

What happened later is history. On the news of my Deogir raid, my uncle came to see me at Karra. Poor one, he never even doubted my treachery. I killed my uncle personally in spite of his pleading me not to and abdicating in my favour. I was in a drunken rage and didn’t heed him. How much I feel about it even today!! He was the father I never had, he gave me everything I wanted, even after all my bad habits, he tolerated me and gave me an opportunity to prove myself, is this how I treated him?

This is what I wrote in a novelette. This is precisely the question I would want to ask – is it possible there was never a raid of Devagiri in 1296 and it’s a sinister plot hatched to achieve some ends? Ziauddin Barani, a contemporary of Muhammad bin Tughluq and Firuz Tughluq, and considered to be the greatest authority over Alauddin Khilji writes the below over Alauddin Khilji’s Devagiri expedition.

At Bhilsan ‘Alauddin had heard of the elephants and wealth of Deogir and enquired about the routes to that place. He had resolved to collect a large army at Karra for an attack on Deogir without informing the Sultan. Finding the Sultan more kind and affectionate than ever, he applied for some delay in paying the dues (fawazil) of Karra and Oudh. ‘I have heard,’ he represented, ‘that within the boundaries of Chanderi and many regions adjoining it, the people are free and ignorant and entertain no apprehension of the army of Delhi. If I am allowed, I will invest the money due from me (fawazil) to the Diwan in enlisting new horse and foot. With these I will march to those territories and bring the enormous spoils that I win, together with dues of which I am postponing the payment, to the Sultan’s Diwan.’

Alauddin fitted out three or four thousand foot-soldiers (payaks) with whom he set out from Karra on an expedition to Deogir. Publicly, however, he gave out that he was going to plunder Chanderi and kept his plans about Deogir secret. He appointed as his deputy (naib) for Karra and Oudh my uncle Alaul Mulk, one of his chief associates. He marched by stages to Elichpur and thence to Ghati Lajura. Here all intelligence of him was lost. But Alaul Mulk kept on sending the Sultan regular reports from Karra. These contained vague statements that ‘Alauddin was busy in chastising and plundering rebels, and that he would send his own reports in a day or two. The Sultan, who had brought up ‘Alauddin (as a son), suspected no evil. But discerning men in the City and the Court concluded from ‘Alauddin’s continued absence, that he had gone out to seek his fortune in a distant land. This news, born of guess-work, soon spread among the people.

When ‘Alauddin arrived at Ghati Lajura, the army of Ram Deo under the command of his son, had gone on a distant expedition. The people of Deogir had never heard of Islam before this time, for the land of the Mahrattas had never been invaded by any (Muslim) king, khan or malik. And yet Deogir contained an enormous quantity of gold, silver, jewels, pearls and other valuables. When Ram Deo heard of the approach of the Muslim army, he collected together such troops as he could and sent them under one of his ranas to Ghati Lajura. It was defeated by ‘Alauddin, who entered Deogir. On the first day he captured thirty elephants and several thousand horses. Ram Deo then came and offered his submission. ‘Alauddin brought with him such enormous quantities of gold and silver, jewels and pearls, that though more than two generations have passed since then and much has been spent in every reign at the devolution of the Crown, a large part of those elephants, jewels, pearls and other goods is still left in the Treasury of Delhi.

This is what Amaravati District Gazetteer says, regarding this.

In 1294 Ala-ud-din, governor of the province, of which Kara on  the Ganga, 42 miles north-west of Allahabad, was the capital, and  nephew and son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din Firoz Sah Khllji, the reigning emperor of Delhi, having assembled an army ostensibly for the purpose of punishing a refractory Hindu chief on the borders of his province, suddenly invaded the Deccan without the knowledge or consent of his uncle. His objective was Devagiri, of the wealth of which kingdom he had heard in the course of his forays in Central India. He marched from Kara to Canderi, and thence across the Satpudas to Ellicpur, where he halted for two days, explaining his presence by saying that he was one Malik- Ala-ud-din, who had been one of the nobles of the emperor of Delhi, but was now leaving his master with the intention of taking service with the raja of Rajamahendri in Telangana. His story served its purpose and he was not molested at Ellicpur, which he left suddenly at midnight, advancing by forced marches towards Devagiri. It is unnecessary to recount the details of his successful raid. Ala-ud-din not only carried off from Devagiri an enormous quantity of plunder, but was strong enough to insist on the assignment of the revenue of Ellicpur and the districts attached thereto, which probably included the whole of the Amaravati district and the rest of northern Berar. Annexation was not attempted, nor were Muhammadans introduced into the administration [W. Haig, pp. 96-97.]. Treasure was all that Ala-ud-din required for his immediate needs, and this the adventurer obtained in plenty.

It is possible that this information is sourced from Firishtah or other writer contemporary writer, for, this is what Firishtah writes.

This expedition is otherwise related in the Moolhikat, and in the Tubkat Nasiry, by con­temporary authors. Alla-ood-Deen (say these writers) left Kurra Manukpoor on pretence of hunting, and having passed quietly through the territories of many petty rajas, purposely avoided all hostilities; giving out that he had left his uncle, the King, in disgust, and was going to offer his services to the Raja of Rajmundry, one of the rajas of Tulingana. Accordingly, after a march of two months, he arrived without any remarkable opposition at Elichpoor, from whence he suddenly marched, in the direction of Dewgur, the capital of Ram Dew. On his reaching that place, he found the Raja himself in the city, but his wife and eldest son were at worship at a temple at some distance.

Though the two accounts are complementary and give us a complete reading, there are some important points to be noted over this.

Alauddin didn’t hear about Devagiri till he raided Bhilsan

Purushottamapuri plates of Ramachandra clearly state that Ramachandra has occupied Dahalamandala (Kalachuri Chedi Kingdom).

Chhattisgarh Kalar Mahasabha

By 1290, either Dahalamandala bordered Delhi Sultanate or bordered Chandelas who bordered Delhi Sultanate. Also, going by the fact that the Chandelas under Hammiravarman were still ruling till 1309 and that in his Charkhari plates, he used the title Maharaja unlike his ancestors who used Maharajadhiraja, it is possible that Chandelas were vassals of Delhi Sultanate or were an inconsequential entity between two powerful kingdoms or even vassals of Devagiri. Does this mean, Alauddin didn’t hear of the next powerful kingdom which sits on the border of his governorship? Also, how possible is it that Alauddin never heard of a powerful Hindu army which operated on both sides of Karra – which occupied Kannauj and Kashi, both of them around 200 km from Karra in eother directions, breaking the link between Bengal and Delhi just ten to fifteen years before he reached?

Bhilsan raid happened in 1291 while Devagiri raid happened in 1296. He was able to hide his aspirations completely secret for all these years

This is what Firishtah writes over this.

Alla-ood-Deen, upon this preferment, acquainted the King that there were some princes of great wealth towards Chundery, whom (if the King would give permission) he would reduce. The King was induced to consent to this measure from the account he had learnt of the riches of those rajas; but the object of Alla-ood-Deen appears to have been to establish an independent power. He was narrowly watched, however, by Mullika Jehan, the King’s favourite wife, who suspected him of being too ambitious, and warned the King that Alla-ood-Deen aimed eventually at fixing himself in an independent sovereignty in some remote part of India

What is the practical possibility that planning for a coup is kept in absolute secrecy when the ruling queen herself has put tabs on him personally and highlighted the king almost two years before the invasion? Is Jalaluddin that foolish not to foresee it, especially when there is no news whatsoever of Alauddin for months?

He stayed at Ellichpur for two days. The public impression he gave was, he is going to serve the king of Rajamundry

Going by the fact that Alauddin marched on Chanderi before advancing upon Ellichpur to reduce attention, it either means he marched through Yadava territory or through the Paramara territory which he has already raided before(Bhilsa raid). Whatever the route may be, the march of Alauddin would have been monitored and his reaching of Ellichpur without any event worth noting should be questioned. Also, it is worthwhile to note, will the Yadavas leave their northern borders unguarded going by the fact that Bhilsa was raided, Ranathambore was put under seige, Ujjain was raided and Yadavas were themselves ejected from Kashi-Kannauj general area?

Another important point to consider is the king of Rajamundry. There are two things here. Either Rajamundry was confused with Warangal or the name of Rajamundry is intended. In either of the case, Rajamundry was under the suzerainty of Kakatiyas of Warangal who was fighting a war with the Yadavas. How possible is it for a kingdom to provide safe passage to an enemy kingdom that too, when the war is still raging/just completed? Also, it is worthwhile to note that Rajamundry became a seat of government only by 1336, a clear indication that whatever written over this topic was hearsay.

His total field force was no more than 10,000 going by the fact that he fitted a force of 3000-4000 infantry. He forced the pass of Ghati Lajura and defeated an army sent by Ramadeva.

The 1862 Army Officer’s pocket companion of the American Army (Pg 115) gives the below w.r.t. the speed of march.

A column of infantry passes over about two and a half miles in an hour, at the route step, including halts; a column of cavalry alternately walking and trotting will get over six miles an hour.

Ellichpur to Devagiri is 300 km and assuming that there is no infantry wing, assuming a march of 18 hours a day, a near impossibility, Alauddin Khilji’s army should have been at Devagiri by sunset the next day after which he left Ellichpur assuming the march is uninterrupted. However, it is attested that Alauddin had to force Ghati Lajura before marching ahead. ZA Desai in his article Identification of Ghati Lajura of Malik Gurshap(Alaud-din Khalji’s) Deogiri Expedition identifies it as Rajura near Deolghat near Achalpur based on the name, the fact that it’s a mountainous area and is in the way from Ellichpur to Devagiri. All this would have increased the marching time to at least three days. Also, it is important to note that there are at least four attested northern invasions of Yadavas clearly indicating that there are troops stationed in the North just to stop this eventuality.

The people of Deogir had never heard of Islam before this time

Refer to Point 1 above. How possible is it that Ramadeva himself(not his ancestors) raided Kashi and Kannauj, and his people from whom the army is drawn, never heard of Islam?

The main armies of Yadava kingdom were engaged in the south.

This is another troublesome point which needs to be addressed. It is well attested that Kakatiyas faced a rebellion from around 1288-1293 supported by Devagiri. After Rudrama Devi was killed in a skirmish/ambush, Kakatiya troops went on the offence, taking Tripurantakam(the centre of the rebellion), Nellore(ruled by a recalcitrant vassal) and Raichur Doab which was held by Yadavas. A description of the attack reads thus.

Prataparudra’s third attack in this connection was against the Seunas who supported Ambadeva. The Narasaraopet inscription of Manuma Gandagopala also credits him with the titles Seuna-Kataka-Venu Kabalanadeva – payaka (the wild fire to the bamboo like army of the Seunas) which obviously hints that he joined in an expedition of the Kakatiya monarch against the Seuna kingdom. Some of the important events which had taken place during this invasion are recorded in an inscription set up in the fort of Raichur by Gona Vitthala, the Kakatiya feudatory ruling at Vardhamanapura in the Mahbubnagar district. According to this inscription dated S.1216 (A.D. 1294), Vittala captured the forts of Adavani and Tumbalam in the Bellary district together with Manuva and Haluva in the Raichur doab. After reducing to subjection the chiefs who held sway over this region, Vitthala finally entered the city of Raichur, where he erected a strong fort to protect its inhabitants. It is obvious that Gona Vitthala must have wrested the Krishna-Tungabhadra doab from the Yadavas of Devagiri.

The question then would be, with Kakatiyas holding Bidar and looking for a chance to attack Devagiri, what is the possibility that there is no army between Bidar/Bodhan and Devagiri? When Alauddin Khilji was able to march from Ellichpur to Devagiri crushing all opposition, how is it possible that the armies looking towards Kakatiya Empire weren’t able to come to the aid?

Ala-ud-din not only carried off from Devagiri an enormous quantity of plunder, but was strong enough to insist on the assignment of the revenue of Ellicpur and the districts attached thereto, which probably included the whole of the Amaravati district and the rest of northern Berar.

It is important to note that there was no rebellion or refusal to pay tribute even after the main Yadava Armies reached Devagiri. What’s the chance that a conquered province just beyond your most unstable and distant provinces voluntarily gave you tribute? Going by the fact that Kakatiyas destroyed a whole Khilji force in 1303 led by Alauddin Khilji’s brother in person are as powerful as/slightly more powerful than Yadavas, what’s the chance that Yadavas surrendered without a fight?

The Fort of Devagiri itself needs a special mention.

A description of Devagiri fort reads thus.

The area of the city the hill-fortress of Devagiri (sometimes Latinised to Deogiri). It stands on a conical hill, about 200 meters high. Much of the lower slopes of the hill has been cut away by Yadava dynasty rulers to leave 50-meter vertical sides to improve defenses. The fort is a place of extraordinary strength. The only means of access to the summit is by a narrow bridge, with the passage for not more than two people abreast, and a long gallery, excavated in the rock, which has, for the most part, a very gradual upward slope.

Looking at the size of the hill and the fort and the description, it is clear that a crack troop of 7000 exhausted by continued march and pitched battles is not enough to take the fort.

All of this begs one to question, what actually happened. Why did the Muslim Chroniclers of that era lie about an invasion which never happened? Is this a figment of imagination to explain how deserving Alauddin Khilji is, as a king and justify the murder of his uncle in, nothing more than a palace coup?

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