RAJA DAHIR – 1 : tHE LAST CUSTODIAN OF GATES OF HINDUSTAN
This is not the story you have read before. This is not the simple story of war. This is a 2 part story of politics & propaganda, a story of brotherhood & betrayal, of heroism & revenge
The story of Raja Dahir, the king who was also the last gatekeeper of Hindustan, is NOT only the story of a man who was King. His story is the story of desperate bravery against an implacable enemy drunk on Jihad. Raja Dahir’s story is the story of superstition, revenge, of conquest & defeat. It is the story of extreme brutality & of a daughter’s vicious revenge.
Raja Dahir’s story is as old as the stories of good vs evil. As engrossing as this story is, it wouldn’t need to be told were it not for the fact that Raja Dahir’s defeat triggered a series of events spread of 300 years. These “events” rewrote our story – the story of Hindustan.
No telling of Raja Dhair’s tale will be complete without the magnificent tale of founder of the dynasty & his father, Chach (pronounced as Chauk). Like Dahir’s story, Chach’s story is an engrossing one but unlike his son’s end, Chach’s story is a happy story of love, war, loyalty, bravery & chivalry.
Chach’s story begins in the city of Alor/Aror (Arorkot – now known as Rohri in Pakistan) on the banks of river Mihran (Indus). It was the largest city in the area, rich & prosperous. It was ruled by the Rai Dynasty’s Rai Sahsee. The king after decades of fighting had ensured secure borders and a thriving economy. So he had retired to his harem and left the running of the kingdom to his able prime minister, his wazir, Rais Ram. Like his king, Rais Ram too was a kind loyal man who served the king most ably. One day, in court, he meets a young Brahman, named Chach, who defeats every learned Brahman of the court in “shasrtarth”. The impressed Rais Ram took Chach under his wing and trained him in the finer points of diplomacy & administration. Soon the student surpassed his teacher. As years passed, Rais Ram’s health started failing & Chach took over running of the kingdom. He served his king Rai Sahsee with loyalty & dedication.
One day news of a raid on Daybul/Daiwul/Debal came but the king was with his wife in the “Ranibada”. As the news reached him, the king asked that a puradha be set up in the bed chamber & Chach be brought to him. The queen then remarked that he (Chach) was a Brahmin— why have a curtain with him; it is better to have him visit as it is. Chach approached the king’s throne, read the letter and suggested the course of action. The king was so impressed that he rewarded Chach & ordered him, that when any business of importance occurred, he should bring it into the ranibada.
However, the Rani, Suhanadi, was besotted by Chach. She sent overtures to him expressing her love to him but Chach remained loyal to his king and rejected her overtures. She was dejected and heart broken by his reply. She stopped eating and pined away for Chach. She even rejected the king, her husband from her bed. Tareekh al-Hind wa a’s-Sind describes her condition as “from unhappiness she rolled about like a half-killed bird”. Yet Chach remained faithful to his king.
Fate took a fortuitous turn, the king got sick and after a month of sickness, dies. But the wise queen Suhanadi did not inform anyone. Instead she calls for Chach. As she was childless there was a possibility of a succession war. She asks him to marry her and take the throne of Sindh. Chach agrees and they get married by the royal priest. Together they sent out letters on different dates to various successors/claimants informing them that king Sashee wanted to hand over his royal crown to them. Along with the 50 letters, Suhanadi sent one gold chain to each claimant. She wrote that the king sends the heavy gold chain as a symbol of the burden of responsibility of the kingdom. If they accepted the offer, then the claimant had to come wearing the heavy gold chains tied on his hands and legs to show that they are worthy of the burden & the throne.
Each possible claimant arrives wearing the heavy gold chains, at the allotted different dates to the palace in capital Aror. And each one is killed as they enter the king’s chamber. Soon in 50 days all claimants are put to sword and Chach ascends the throne and then publicly, marries Suhanadi. There is hardly any opposition from the army or the people as both Suhanadi and Chach are well loved. Chach had made his reputation as a fair man of noble disposition, intelligent and honest. Suhanadi was renowned for her beauty and loving attitude towards her people. And they both ruled well, the lands of Sindh.
The legend of Suhanadi & Chuck does not end there. But their legendary story is for another time and a different blog. For now, let us move forward to 663 CE & the birth of their children Dahir, Dahir Sen and a daughter Ma’ian (Manian)
ISLAM IN HINDUSTAN
Islamic narrative would have us believe that Islam came to India in 712 CE on the shoulders of a 17 year old Muhammed ibn Qasim. That the lands of Sindh were made pure by his sword and lance. But a closer examination of various Arabic records makes it clear that Arabia and lands far to the west (Egypt, Greece, Crete, Minoa, Europe) were all serviced by traders from Hindustan. Arabic court records & twarikhs like Tarikh-i-Hind wa Fath-i-Sindh & Masum’s Tarikh-i Masumi and Qani’s Tuhfat ul-Kiram record trade relations between the Arabia & Hindustan long before advent of Islam. Even after Islam became the dominant religion of Arabia, trade relations with Hindustan continued to be cordial with only sporadic looting sorties by small bands of renegade Sassanids, Meeds or Arabic bandits. Such sorties were swiftly & brutally punished by the Hindu kings (Rai Dynasty, Brahman Dynasty) of the border areas.
Baladhuri describes the campaigns to Hind and Sind in the early phases of Islamic conquests, during the caliphate of ‘Umar (634-644 CE). He reports on naval expeditions that were launched toward Thana (in Maharashtra) in 636 CE, to Broach (in Gujarat), and to Daybul (in Sind on the Indus river). However, these early campaigns were repulsed and the Arab invaders were forced to return. When they return to Umar, he proclaims:
“Oh brother of Thaq’aif, you sent ants to wolves. If they had been lost, I swear I would have exacted the same number of men from your people (qaum).”
Baladhuri further notes that this rebuke stopped further sea approaches into Sind for the next few decades till Abd al Malik becomes caliph.
After the death of his father, Chach, Dahir ascends the throne in 681 CE, his brother Dahir Sen/Dahirsiah took over the vassal kingdom of Brahmanabad (Mansura in presen day Sindh). Dahir continued with the systems put in place by his father Chach. The result was the continued prosperity of the kingdom, so much so Abd al Malik is said to have described Sindh as the “Coast of Gold”. Attracted by the prosperity of Sindh, looting sorties by Meeds, Sassanids & Arabs continued during the reign of Dahir. But every time they were brutally punished by forces of Raja Dahir & his brother Dahir Sen.
708 CE and the first discrepancy enters into the records of the Arabic historians. Contrary to Arabic records, Buddhist records of the time describe a continued influx of Shia refugees (after the battle of Karbala). Many of the survivors of the pogrom that followed sought shelter in Sindh. Chief among them was Zayada al Sindi, second wife of Ali ibn Abdulla (4th Caliph, Son in Law of the prophet Mohammed ibn Abdulla). Another notable Shia who took refuge in Raja Dahis’s Sindh was Atiyah ibn Saad. This angered Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, the governor of Basra. He sent out an army to capture Atiyah (who had escaped his captivity) but they were repulsed by Raja Dahir. So great was the defeat & so heavy the losses to the Arabic forces that it is said that the news of the defeat reached Waleed ibn Abd al Mallik, as the caliph was mounting his horse. He got down from the horse and went inside his palace. After a few days the shell shocked caliph died.
The story of invasion of Sindh and defeat of Raja Dahir is full of interesting twists & intrigues.
Hajjaj ibn Yusuf used the power vaccum to his advantage. He kept the news of death of Abd al Mallik secret and used his position as governor of Basra to mount an expedition against Raja Dahir. He deputed his nephew (and son in law Mohammed ibn Qasim) to lead an army into Sindh, wage Jihad on the Kaffirs and punish Raja Dahir for his intemperance. (thus Hajjaj’s expedition was without royal sanction & an excuse for issuing a fatwa for Jihad had to be created)
As mentioned earlier in the blog, there exits a narrative discrepancy between Arabic & Buddhist records of the time. The Arabic records mention an evocative tale to justify the Jihad against Sindh. This very interesting tale was created as an excuse for Jihad & to make the people forget the recent defeat by hands of Raja Dahir. A false tale of “news came to Muhammed Ibn Qasim of rape of a muslim woman by kaffirs of Sindh that inflammed his religious senses and drove the 17 year old to exact revenge on the kaffirs”
For the invasion Hajjaj emptied out his treasury. Records show that he issued 30,000 gold soverigns (dirham/dinar) for the entire invasion. This impoverished him as a result of this Qasim’s wife (Hajjaj’s daughter had to beg outside mosques for money to outfit Qasim with armour and sword. (This narration is suspect as Ali Kufi’s Chachnama caters to his reader’s Islamic sensitivities & creates a fake picture of a pious, young Qasim taking on the old, fornicating kaffir Raja Dahir)
Raja Dahir had arranged for the marriage of his sister and asked the fortunetellers and pandits to read the stars (Janampatri) of his sister (Ma’ian or Bai – records are unclear).
PS – His father Chach had the pundits draw up “patris” of all his children but had the patri of his daughter sealed.
When Dahir as king, ordered the patri to be read, he was informed that it was prophesied that Bai would not leave the city of Aror & her husband & children would rule Sindh. This shook Dahir and he consulted his wazir who advised him, through clever arguments that the King should marry his sister if he wanted Sindh to remain safe for his children. Dahir agrees to it.
Some say he forced Bai to marry him, others say Bai married him of her own free will, still other historians (Arabic) of the time claim that both Bai & Dahir were lovers (obvious narrative since Qasim too had married his own sister & incest was quite common in the Arabic society) and married (using the prophesy as an excuse)
Whatever the truth, it angered his noblemen, army generals and even his own brother who led a revolt against Raja Dahir. The revolt never came to fighting as it ended with death (by poisoning??) of the brother Dahir Sen. All these things shook the loyalty of his citizens & weakened his army at the very perilous time of an imminent Arab invasion.
PS – be sure to check out Part 2 of the blog – RAJA DAHIR – 2 : DEATH OF A KING & A DAUGHTER’S REVENGE —— coming soon
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