Many times we have seen Bollywood celebrities boasting about themselves for being a Pathan. In essence, those who came from northern Pakistan, Afghanistan, or Persia. The reason for boasting indicates their sense that they pride themselves on being from a warrior clan.
But living in India, carrying an Indian passport, and then boasting about being a Pathan is an utter nonsense and bigot thing to do. Although there are many arguments stating that it was someday a part of Hindustan. But how can one forget the plundering and mass murders staged by these Pathans in medieval Hindustan?
Who are Pathans? They are Pashto-speaking individuals, and the area depicted below is where they were born. Hinduism, Buddhism, and Zoroastrianism were the three major religions practiced in ancient Afghanistan. In Afghanistan before Islam, people of these faiths coexisted peacefully. Pre-Islamic Afghanistan can be classified as an Indo-Iranian region.
There were also certain indigenous cults, such as that of Nana (the Kushan goddess), who shares a lot of traits with both Indian Shakti and Mesopotamian Inanna/Ishtar.
All of these religions were eradicated with the Islamic invasion of Afghanistan, and today’s Pashtuns, or Pathans as they are known in India and Pakistan, are primarily Sunni Muslims.
The history of contemporary Afghanistan, Pakistan, and northern India is closely entwined with that of the Pashtuns. Many Pashtun ghazis (warriors) invaded and conquered a large portion of northern South Asia under the reigns of the Ghaznavids, Ghurids, Khiljis, Lodhis, Suris, and Durranis following Muslim victories from the 7th to the 11th centuries.
All of them were savage marauders who destroyed nations and people. Hindustan was subjected to their barbarism in the same way as we were during the brutal invasions of Timur.
In this article, we will talk about Ahmed Shah Abdali. The barbaric invader controlled a large part of Afghanistan and Persia. The infamous Battle of Panipat is all we know about this savage invader. What is forgotten is his brutality, as well as our tenacious opposition and bloody battles that drove him out, never to return.
The man’s and his tribe’s history is well known. His tribe, the Abdali, as with all Afghan tribes, advanced through the ranks along a terrible path of betrayal and devotion, violence and cruelty. The Israelite Jew Abdal, son of Qis, was the immediate ancestor of the Abdali family. One branch of the tribe came to be known as Saddozeis through a complicated series of intermarriages and political maneuvering. Members and successors of this clan were Khwaja Khizar Khan’s (an Afghan saint) clansmen (Son of Saddo). Afghans had such reverence for the Khwaja that they showed the saint, his family, and even the clansmen of this tribe nothing but respect (known as Saddozei). A Saddozei was exempt from the law, and no one, not even the King, had the authority to punish one. The tribe that Ahmad Shah Abdali was destined to lead was characterized by conflict and tribal politics.
Abdali invaded India eight times in total. However, the fourth and fifth invasions, in which he fought the Jats and the Marathas, are the ones for which he is best known. There are many myths that surround these invasions. Undeserving protagonists receive both praise and criticism. They included the Marathas, the Rohillas, the Jats, and even the Afghans. Shah Waliullah Khan is frequently mistaken for Abdali’s wazir Shah Wali Khan. Due to the Battle of Panipat, the Fifth Invasion received a lot of attention; however, the Fourth Invasion was a horrific expedition, with only the Jats under Raja Suraj Mall and his son Jawahar Singh resisting the savage Afghans.
The Mughals had essentially given up to the whims of fate at the time of the fourth invasion of Abdali since the Marathas had left them defenseless and poor. They had made the decision to bow down to Ahmad Shah in the hopes that he would save them from the Marathas even though they were merely nominal rulers. By this time, Ahmad Shah had assumed control of Delhi.
Another force that was eroding the Mughal territories and regaining the territory for the “Bhagwa” was the Jats (led by Suraj Mal Jat). The Jats were a more direct danger to Ahmad Shah’s plans to conquer Hindustan. Raja Suraj Mall had a strong will and was courageous. Their wazir, Ghazi-ud-din, ran the Mugal court, and he was a pain in the Jats’ side.
According to Samin (Halat-i-Ahmad Shah Abdali), when the Shah arrived in Delhi, Suraj Mall had sent in a letter of submission in which he agreed not to oppose the Shah on the side of Ghazi-ud-Din. Additionally, he agreed to sign a petition to Ahmad Shah that was written by Khan-i-Khanan Intizam-ud-Daulah, Nagar Mall, and other kings, in which they offered to pay fifty lakhs of rupees if Ghazi were to be sent as a prisoner beyond the Indus and prevented from returning to India for fear that the Marathas would come to his aid. Raja Suraj Mall ignored the order from Ahmad Shah to report to his fortress at Kumbir and pay homage and serve under his banner.
He left his BSE camp in Mathura under Jawahar Singh’s order (his son). In addition, Suraj Mall offered asylum to a sizable number of Hindus who were fleeing Ahmad Shah’s persecution. When the Shah ordered Suraj Mall to turn the refugees over, Suraj Mall resisted.
The Shah sent a kahi, or foraging army, in the direction of Faridabad to gather food and fodder for the trip after deciding to march against the arrogant Jat. In the nearby fort of Ballabhagarh, Jawahar Singh was present. He dashed out, slew the foragers with roughly 5000 cavalries, and stole about 150 horses as loot.
The Shah, who was furious, gave the order for Abdus Samad Khan Muhammadzei to head straight for the disaster. Jawahar Singh fell into a trap set by Abdus Samad. In order to attack Jawahar, he dispatched 150 horsemen, and when Jawahar took chase, he fell into the Afghans’ trap. However, Jawahar persisted in his fight, freed himself and his soldiers from the trap, and made his way to Ballabhgarh. The Afghans, incensed, pillaged the surrounding villages, and massacred as many Hindus as they could. The Afghan army killed the Hindus and brought back 500 head trophies as payment from Ahmad Shah (8/- each head).
With 20,000 soldiers, he removed Sardar Jahan Khan and Najib-ud-Daulah from the pursuit of Jawahar Singh while giving the following orders:
“Enter the accursed Jat’s territory, and loot and ravage every town and district he holds. Hindus consider Mathura to be a sacred location; let it be completely destroyed. Nothing should be left in that kingdom and nation. Up to Akbarabad (Agra), nothing should remain standing.
Additionally, Abdali issued a general command to the troops via his nasaqchis to travel around with a sword and a fire. They received any loot they found as a free gift.
They received any loot they found as a free gift. Anyone chopping off and bringing in the heads of the unbelievers is required to hurl them down in front of the chief minister’s tent. The government funding will be used to create an account and pay each person five rupees.
At Mathura, Prince Jawahar Singh was posted. Jawahar was utterly outnumbered when the Afghan and Rohilla soldiers arrived in Mathura (5000 against 28,000). Hindu warriors fought the raiding invaders bravely for nine hours because they were determined to stop them. However, the Hindu forces lost after suffering extremely high casualties (3000+ killed and numerous injured), and Jawahar Singh withdrew to Ballabhgarh (where he engaged in combat with Abdali himself).
Ballabhgarh was destroyed and subjected to fire and sword.
Jahan Khan arrived Mathura on March 1st, two days after Holi, and another Holi was played there. The Yamuna became red for seven days as a result of the massacre. The pujaris and pandits were chosen for their particular harshness. The city’s numerous cows were butchered. The pujaris were then forced to walk the streets while wearing cow’s heads stitched onto their heads. In front of their eyes, their women were raped, and their kids were killed. They were then returned to their homes where they were beheaded while still sporting the cow’s head on their heads.
Broken idols and their severed heads were flung around in the streets. By the time darkness fell, Jahan Khan had fled, leaving the Rohillas to handle the remaining plunder and killing. Under Najib-ud-Daula, the Rohillas embarked on a campaign of plundering and massacre that put the bloodthirsty Afghans to shame.
BRINDAVAN – On March 6, 7 miles north of Mathura, in Brindaban, Jahan Khan performed the play of fire and sword once more.
Once Ballabhgarh had been destroyed (Jawahar Singh had again slipped the Afghan hands). On March 15, Abdali arrived close to Mathura and set up camp six miles to the southeast of the city at Mahaban. He dispersed a force for the robbery of Gokul from here. Here, the Afghans encountered the wrath of the Bairagi Cult’s Naga Sadhus face-to-face. Four thousand of these “naked ash-besmeared warriors” emerged from the town to thwart the Afghans’ assault as their martial spirit of the strong was inspired by the need to defend their monastery. A futile effort followed. On the battlefield, 2,000 of them died. They pushed the Afghans to pay such a high price that they lost spirit, forcing Abdali’s soldiers to flee.
The vakil of Bengal at the time, Jugal Kishor, who was in Abdali’s camp, informed him that the expenditure in terms of troops and resources was excessive given the minimal benefit. Jugal Kishor convinced the Shah, who was unwilling to face the Nagas, to recall his forces, which saved Gokul.
Cholera broke out in the Afghan camp a few days after Mathura was captured by Brindavan. Because of the destruction, around 150 Afghans were dying every day. Numerous horses and pack animals also perished. Abdali felt worried by the unstoppable Suraj Mall at this point due to his drastically reduced army. Even though Abdali threatened Suraj Mall, Suraj Mall remained defiant and vowed an equal response if Abdali tried to assault them.
Suraj Mall’s resistance and the cholera epidemic had compelled Abdali to take Delhi as a shortcut back to Kabul. Abdali’s earlier forays into Bengal and Oudh failed and resulted in severe losses due to the uprising of the enraged Hindus. With the help of his invasion, Abdali amassed 30 crores in cash, innumerable cartloads of gold and silver, and 28,000 elephants, horses, camels, and other animals. Over a lakh, women and children were held as slaves, and 80,000 horses were hauling the plunder.
DISCLAIMER: The author is solely responsible for the views expressed in this article. The author carries the responsibility for citing and/or licensing of images utilized within the text.