This is story of Ahmad Shah Abdali – founder of Afghanistan & the Durrani empire, Destroyer of Mathura, Warrior Extraordinaire, a Thief, a Betrayer & the owner of Koh-i-Noor diamond. Yet he started his life as a sex slave of the “Son of the Iron Sword” – Nadir Shah. Nadir was so infatuated with the beauty of his slave boy that he named Ahmad Shah, Durr i Durran – Pearl of Pearls.

He was a barbaric marauder, destroyer of people & nations. Hindustan suffered his barbarity as much as we did during the invasions of his bloody predecessors Timur – the Grey Wolf & Nadir – Son of the Iron Sword. In spite of his baleful presence in India he remains an enigma. Who was he? How did a sex slave rise up to be an emperor and founder of current day Afghanistan? Our knowledge of this barbaric man remains limited to the famed Battle of Panipat. What is forgotten is his barbarism & our stubborn resistance and fierce battles that forced him to go back – never to return. Not surprisingly, Abdali’s story is NOT the story we think we know.


The origin of the man and his tribe is well documented. Like all afghan tribes, his tribe Abdali, rose through the ranks by a bloody road of betrayal & devotion, blood & barbarism. The Abdalis descended directly from Abdal – the son of Qis – An Israelite Jew. Through a convoluted chain of intermarriages and politics, one branch of the tribe came be called Saddozeis. Members & descendants of this clan were clansmen of an afghan saint – Khwaja Khizar Khan (Son of Saddo). Such was the respect of the Khwaja that afghans did not deny anything to the saint, his family and even the clansmen of this tribe (known as Saddozei). A Saddozei was exempt from laws of the land and no one, not even the King could punish a Saddozei. Conflict and tribal politics defined the tribe that was destined to be led by Ahmad Shah Abdali – A Soddozei & Abdali.

THE PERSIANS РEarly 18th century was the time of the Persian Safavid empire. The Safavids ruled much of what is now Afghanistan along with all of Perisa . Afghans were their vassals among them the Ghalzeis, the Soddozeis & the Abdalis. This empire was overthrown by the Afghans Рled by Mir Wais a wily Ghalzei Chieftain. He deposed the Safavids after defeating their greatest general Gurgain Khan (So called because of his Salvic (present day Georgia) descent) and for a short period of 8 years the Afghans ruled over the Persian Safavid lands. This instance also meant independence of the Afghan territories (then called Khurasan).  True to the Afghan tradition of duplicity, the Heratis  wanted to take revenge on Mir Wais and seek freedom from Persians. It was during this period that the Abdali branch of the Soddozeis under Abdullah Khan (father of Ahmad Shah) revolted & took over Herat.

NADIR SHAH – At the time Nadir Quli Khan Afshar, who afterwards became famous as Emperor Nadir Shah of Persia, had captured Mashhad and started his rise as an emperor. There was rumor that he would attack the Soddozeis. This prompted the to seek peace with the Abdalis & the Ghalzeis. However in 1729, Nadir defeated the combined forces and subjugated the Afghans, chased them out of Persia and made them his slaves. He massacred them wholesale and made the territories free of Ghalzeis & Soddozeis. The Abdalis ran away into India (controlled by remnants of Mughals).

AHMAD KHAN/SHAH –¬†During the next 6 years, the Abdalis worked at gaining Nadir’s trust and by 1738, the Abdalis were allowed to return to Herat. Abdullah Khan was made governor by Nadir Shah. However Ahmad Khan (as he was known then) had been taken prisoner in Qandhar by the local Ghalzei chief. When Nadir attacked and defeated the double crossing Ghalzies, he freed Ahmad Khan. Besotted by Ahmad’s good looks, Nadir took him into his service as his “personal attendant – a Yasawal” & body guard. Ahmad Khan later became Nadir’s Bankbashi and his favorite Yasawal.

PS – Ahmad Khan (born 1722) was the second son of Abdullah Khan, servant and slave of Nadir Shah.

Nadir was so infatuated by Ahmad that he lovingly called Ahmad as “the most beautiful man in Iran, Turan & Hindustan”

THE PROPHECY –¬†No telling of Ahmad Shah’s story would be complete without the PROPHECY of Nizam ul Mulk Chin Qalich Khan Asafjah – the governor of Deccan & erstwhile prime minister of mughals. One day after Nadir’s victory over the mughals, on March 9, 1739, the nizam saw Ahmad sitting outside the Jali gate near the Diwan-i-Aam and he predicted that Ahmad had signs of greatness and that he was destined to become a king. Nadir, on hearing this called Ahmad Khan to his presence and taking out a knife from his belt, clipped his ears saying, “When you become a king, this will remind you of me”. To this Ahmad Khan submitted, “May I be a sacrifice to you. Should your Majesty wish to slay me, I am at your majesty’s disposal. There is no need (or cause) for saying such words.” Thereupon Nadir repeated, “I know it for certain that you will become a king. Be kind to Nadir’s descendants.”

Mir Imam-Ud-Din Husaini in his Tarikh-i-Husain Shahi, claims Ahmad Shah, respected these words of Nadir and showed kindness to Nadir’s family always.


Nadir Shah was rumored to have become despotic & mad – Killing indiscriminately and wantonly. Innocent or Guilty did not matter. On the night of June 19-20, 1747 he was murdered – some say Ahmad Khan/Abdali killed him others say it was Muhammad Quli Khan. Ahmad used the opportunity to seize the royal treasury and the royal seal. He also took possession of the Koh-i-noor. He used his Afghan warriors (4000 horsemen) to seize control of the royal pavilion and in connivance with Bibi Sahiba (Nadir’s wife)¬†he declared himself the King of Afghanistan and seceded from Nadir’s Afshar empire. Upon taking the reign of kingship Abdali decalred himself Ahmad “Shah” Abdali & in love for his “master” called his dynasty the Durranis.


Abdali invaded India a total of 8 times. However his most notorious invasions were the 4th & 5th invasion in which he fought the Jats & the Marathas. A lot of misconception revolves around these invasion. Credit and discredit are both given to undeserving¬† protagonists. Among them Shah Waliullah Khan (Often confused with Abdali’s wazir Shah Wali Khan)¬†The Marathas, The Rohillas, The Jats and even the Afghans. A lot of attention has been paid on the 5th invasion due to the battle of Panipat, but the 4th invasion was a brutal expedition with only the Jats under Raja Suraj Mall & his son Jawahar Singh standing against the marauding afghans.

The 3rd Battle of Panipat that took place during the Shah’s 5th invasion was NOT the break all battle for the Marathas nor was it a magnificent win for Abdali.¬†


By this time the mughals, rendered helpless and destitute by the Marathas, had virtually surrendered to the whims of fate. They were rulers only in the name and had decided to prostrate themselves at the feet of Ahmad Shah in hopes that he would rescue them from the Marathas. Ahmad Shah was by now the default ruler of Delhi.

The Jats (under leadership of Suraj Mal Jat) were another force that was nibbling away at the mughal territories, reclaiming the lands to the “Bhagwa”. Ahmad Shah saw in the Jats, a more immediate threat to his expansion into Hindustan. Raja Suraj Mall was as willy as he was brave. The mughal court was run by their wazir – Ghazi-ud-din and he was a thorn in the side for the Jats.¬†

PS- at this time mughals were paying chauth to the Marathas (after the Badshahi agreement between Marathas & mughals) and therefore Marathas were treaty bound to fight the Jats

RAJA SURAH MALL – On the arrival of the Shah at Delhi, Suraj Mall had sent in a letter of submission, as Samin tells us (Halat-i-Ahmad Shah Abdali), and agreed not to fight against the Shah on the side of Ghazi-ud-Din. He also signed a petition to Ahmad Shah drafted by Khan-i-Khanan Intizam-ud-Daulah, Nagar Mall and others kings, offering to pay fifty lakhs of rupees, if he were to send Ghazi as a prisoner beyond the Indus and not allow him to return to India lest the Marathas should come up to his help. When Ahmad Shah called him to pay tribute and to serve under his banner, Raja Suraj Mall disobeyed the summons and returned to his stronghold at Kumbir. He left Mathura (his bse camp) under the command of Jawahar Singh (his son). Suraj Mall also provided refuge to a large number of Hindus fleeing Ahmad Shah’s persecution and when he was commanded by the Shah to hand over the refugees, Suraj Mall refused.

Deciding to march against the proud Jat, the Shah dispatched a
kahi, a foraging army, in the direction of Faridabad to collect food and
fodder for the expedition. Jawahar Singh was in the neighboring fort of Ballabhagarh. He rushed out with about 5000 sawars, annihilated the foragers and carried away about 150 horses as booty.

The Shah was extremely angry and ordered Abdus Samad Khan Muhammadzei to proceed immediately to the scene of the disaster. Abdus Samad laid a trap for Jawahar Singh. He sent out 150 sawars (horsemen) to attack Jawahar and when Jawahar gave chase, he fell into the trap of the Afghans. But Jawahar fought on and extricated himself and his men from the trap and escaped to Ballabhgarh. Angered the Afghans looted the nearby villages and killed as many Hindus as they could. The Hindus were beheaded and the Afghan forces returned with 500 heads as trophies (Ahmad Shah paid, as reward, 8/- per head).

SACK OF MATHURA РWhile Abdali went after Jawahar Singh, he detached Sardar Jahan Khan and Najib-ud-Daulah with 20,000 men with the orders:

“Move into the boundaries of the accursed Jat and plunder and ravage every town and district held by him. The city of Mathura is a holy place of the Hindus; let it be put entirely to the edge of the sword. Leave nothing in that kingdom and country. Up to Akbarabad (Agra) leave nothing standing.”

Abdali also proclaimed through his nasaqchis, a general order to the army

to carry fire and sword wherever they went. Any booty, they acquired, was made a free gift to them Every person cutting off and bringing in heads of the infidels should throw them down before the tent of the chief minister. An account would be drawn up and five rupees per head would be paid from the government funds.”

Prince Jawahar Singh was stationed at Mathura. When the Afghans and Rohillas forces arrived at Mathura, Jawahar was hopelessly outnumbered (5000 against 28,000). The Hindu forces were determined to stop the invaders and they fought the marauding invaders valiantly for 9 hours. But after suffering very heavy losses (3000+ dead and many wounded) the Hindu forces lost and Jawahar Singh retreated to Ballabhgarh (where he fought against Abdali himself. Ballabhgarh fell and was put to sword and fire)

On 1st March (2 days after Holi) Jahan Khan entered Mathura and another Holi was played in the streets of Mathura. Such was the massacre that the Yamuna ran red for 7 days. The pandits and pujaris were selected for special cruelty. Countless cows of the city were slaughtered. Cow’s heads were then sewn on the head of the pujaris and they made to walk the streets. Their women were raped in front of their eyes and their children slaughtered. After that they were taken back to their homes and beheaded – with the cow’s head still sown on their heads.

“The devotees of the degenerate Vaishnavism, who lived in bowers beside the stream (Jamuna) dreaming of the frolics of the Divine Cowherd and hearing in ecstasy the tune of his amorous flute, met with a fit retribution,’ says Dr. Qanungo.

Idols were broken and their decapitated heads were knocked around in the streets. Jahan Khan left by night fall and the remaining loot and slaughter was left to the Rohillas. The Rohillas under Najib-ud-Daula, set about looting and slaughter that put the bloody Afghans to shame. 

BRINDAVAN –¬†Jahan Khan repeated the play of fire and sword on the 6th of
March in Brindaban, 7 miles to the north of Mathura. To quote from
Samin’s Memoirs, ‘wherever you gazed you beheld only heaps of the
slain; you could only pick your way with difficulty, owing to enormous
number of bodies lying about and the amount of blood spilled. At one
place that we reached, we saw about two hundred dead children in a
heap. Not one of the dead bodies had a head’.

GOKUL –¬†After destroying Ballabhgarh (Jawahar Singh had again slipped the Afghan hands). Abdali arrived near Mathura on the 15th of March and camped at Mahaban, six miles to the south-east of the town. From here he
detached a force for the plunder of Gokul. Here the Afghans came face to face with the fury of the Naga Sadhus of the Bairagi Cult. Their martial spirit of the sturdy was roused in defense of their monastery and 4,000 of these ‘naked ash-besmeared warriors’ issued out of the town to oppose the advance of the Afghans. A desperate struggle ensued. 2,000 of them fell dead on the battlefield. They exacted such a heavy cost from the Afghans that they lost heart and Abdali’s men were forced to retreat. Jugal Kishor, the vakil of Bengal, who was then in Abdali’s camp, told him the cost in men and material was too much with little to gain. The Shah, reluctant to face the Nagas was therefore, conviced by Jugal Kishor & recalled his men and
Gokul was saved.

DIVINE RETRIBUTION –¬†These massacres and looting, some say, invited divine retribution. A few days after the sack of Mathura, Brindavan a cholera outbreak spread through the Afghan camp. Such was the devastation that nearly 150 afghans were dying daily. Horses and pack animals also died in countless numbers. Abdali with his severely depleted army felt, by now threatened by the indomitable Suraj Mall. Suraj Mall remained defiant even when threatened by Abdali and promised an equal retribution if Abdali tried to attack.

The recalcitrant Suraj Mall and the cholera outbreak had forced Abdali to return to Kabul via Delhi. The outraged Hindus were up in arms against Abdali as a result his other overtures into Bengal and Oudh met with failure and sever losses. Abdali’s invasion earned him 30 crore in cash, countless cartloads of gold and silver, 28,000 elephants, horses, camels etc. 80,000 horses laden with loot and over a lakh women and children as slaves.

However, his return was not easy and the losses incurred necessitated further attacks.

à suivre 




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