It is true that Mahmud of Ghazni is one of the best war leaders in history of warfare. He is the harbinger of Islamic civilization in Indian sub-continent. His raids into India exposed many of the weaknesses of Hindu civilization in early part of 11th century.

India had been the scene of some of his greatest triumphs. But none of his triumphs can beat the raid of Somnath temple which fired the imagination of the Islamic world and till now topic of fierce discussion among Hindus; mostly seen as a national humiliation.

I am here trying to weave an alternative and positive (or less negative) narrative  out of different stories around this raid.

Mahmud chose to come to Somnath swiftly through the desert avoiding conflict with any of the major Rajput kings. He did not face any strong resistance from Solanki king of Gujarat Bhimadeva. Bhima left his capital and took shelter in Kanthkot during this invasion. This is the standard narrative that we know.

Then two things happened; a block followed by a chase.

As per Muslim authors (Kitab-Zain-ul-Akhbar by Al-Gardizi), Mahmud headed straight back to Ghazni through the most treacherous route after plundering Somnath. This was because he learned that one Parama Dev was preparing to intercept him in the desert. This made Mahmud to move towards Multan through Sind in order to avoid a fight with Parama Dev. In this journey, his men and beasts of burden suffered much from lack of water and harassment by Jats of Sind.  Now who was this Parama dev? This could be Raja Bhoja of the Parmar Dynasty in Malwa who was well known for his military prowess. It is also possible that a confederacy of Hindu rulers had organized an army to counter him. As per R. B. Sing (History of the Chāhamānas), Chahamans were a part of this alliance.

As per the book Tarikh-i-Sorath by Ranchodji Amarji, Chudasama King Mandalika 1 along with Bhima pursued the retreating Ghaznavid army.

This act so provoked the Maharaja Mandalika, who was a protector of his own religion, that he marched with Bhim Deva, the Raja of Gujarat, in pursuit :  They ran like fawns and leaped like onagers, As lightning now, and now outvying wind. The Muhammadans did not make a great stand, but fled ; many of them were slain by Hindu scymitars and prostrated by Rajput war-clubs, and when the sun of the Raja’s fortune culminated Shah Mahmud took to his heels in dismay and saved his life, but many of his followers, of both sexes, were captured. Turkish, Afghan, and Moghul female prisoners were, if they happened to be virgins, considered pure according to their own belief, and were without any difficulty taken as wives ; the bowels of the others, however, were cleansed by means of emetics and purgatives

Probably the Gujarat kings raised an army in quick time and gave a chase to the retreating Ghaznavid army. They likely caught up with the rear guard of Ghaznavid army, defeated it and captured many enemy people.

K.M Munshi in his book “Somnath the shrine eternal” strongly supports this view that Mahmud did suffer a defeat in Gujarat against a local powerful king (most likely Chudasama King Mandalika 1). He raised some pertinent questions, “What was it that made Mahmud suddenly leave such an easy conquest of a rich country?”

So what should we conclude? Mahmud’s last great raid was probably his the lowest point in India, that Hindu princes could unite despite their differences, that they adopted a proactive stand in matters of national defense at least on one occasion. This narrative might not be 100% accurate or flawless; still we need to explore more of this to counter the gloomy negativity that surrounds our memory of Somnath raid.


Tarikh-i-Sorath – A history of the provinces of Sorath and Halar in Kathiawad, Translated from Persian by Ranchodji Amarji, Divan of Junagadh

Somanatha, The Shrine Eternal by K.M. Munshi

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