Lal Kot or Qila Rai Pithora
After that rather sensational start Delhi
remained musing and silent for a long time. Much water was to flow
down the Yamuna before it was settled as a city again. It happened in
what the historians call the early medieval period of
India about the 11-12th century AD when the much travelled
Rajputs were floating restlessly around looking for a home, before
finally finding shelter in the Rajputana area. Here again the
strategic location of Delhi came to play it was the doorway to
both the fertile Punjab, the fabled land of the fiver rivers and the
fertile Ganges valley.
Foundation of Lal Kot City
The first Rajputs to hit Delhi were the Tomaras. The second city of
Delhi, Lal Kot (the Red Fortress), was built in 1060AD by Raja Anang
Pal one of the earliest Tomara rulers to settle in Delhi. The popular
tourist resort, Surajkund near Delhi was also built by an earlier
Tomara ruler, Raja Suraj Pal, around 736AD. You can still see parts of
Lal Kot scattered around the Mehrauli and in the Qutub Minar complex.
However the Tomara rule was pretty short-lived. Soon the Chauhan
Rajputs under the generalship of Prithviraj Chauhan seized control of
Lal Kot in the 12th century. Prithviraj had massive
ramparts built around the city called the Qila Rai Pithora. This was
the third city of Delhi. At one time it had thirteen gates (which
probably proved to be its undoing). Now only fragments survive of that
immense structure the Hauz Rami, Barhka and Budaun gates.
All this was happening against a very troubled backdrop in Delhi
history. There was no clear central authority in sight and each petty
ruler was daring to dream the mad dream of ruling all over the country
which at that point in time meant basically the Gangetic plains
and the Deccan. This is the main reason why no ruler was able to hold
Delhi long enough to establish a kingdom here and also, the principle
reason why the Arabs and Turks didnt exactly have to sweat to
the bone to stamp their authority all over them.
¤ The Great Invasions of Mahmud of Ghazni Into India
Since 1000AD, Mahmud of Ghazni (Afghanistan) had made invasions into
India almost an annual feature. and this when the politics of
Afghanistan were in main centered around close ties with Central Asia
rather than India. From Mahmuds point of view, his incursions
into India were merely detours and of no lasting political
significance. What with no strong central power, looting the wealth of
India to replenish the coffers of Ghazni must have been as easy as
finding it. For Mahmud it made much more sense to hold Khvarazm and
Turkestan, as the Ghaznavids did for some years, than northern India
since Ghazni had long-standing lucrative trade links with China and
The speed with which Mahmud turned from campaigns in India to others
in central India was quite remarkable. Obviously his armies were both
mobile and effective otherwise these annual offensives in widely
separate areas would not have been successful; much careful planning
must have gone into this. To give you an example, the arrival of the
Afghan armies in India always coincided with the harvest thus
eliminating the necessity of lugging around provisions and improving
the armys mobility.
¤ The Death of Mahmud
Perhaps India did not regret Mahmud's death in 1030 AD, but then
Indians never got to see him for the erudite cultured aristocrat that
he really was. It must have been poor consolation for the people of
northern India to know that the money he looted from here went into
making enormous libraries, fabulous museums and spectacular mosques in
Ghazni. Incidentally, Mahmud was also the patron of the famous
historian and scholar Alberuni, whom he brought back with him from a
campaign to Khvarazm. Alberunis Tehqiq-i-Hind contains
observations about India, which celebrated contemporary historian
Romilla Thapar describes as remarkably incisive and acute.
The Rulers Were Further Relaxed
One would think that after this drubbing the rulers of northern India
would have had the sense to form a confederacy to save themselves from
a retun of such raids occurring from another source. However, the
significance of Mahmuds raids as forerunners for others to
follow was never quite grasped. His death further relaxed any chances
of such a mutual consensus being reached among the rulers. The Rajput
clans were almost constantly at war among themselves in the 11th
and 12th centuries. It had become a matter of pride to use
every supposed slight as an excuse for war and the prevailing
chivalric code allowed no place for long-sightedness, clear thinking
and strategy. The stage was set for another foreign invasion from the
country round the corner.
It was around this time that Prithviraj had married the daughter of
the king of Kanauj Jaichand in true Lochinvar style, by
carrying her away in the middle of her wedding. But this couple did
not go walking happily ever after into the sunset. Their happiness was
marred by the second invader from the northwest.
¤ Next- Shihab-ud-din Muhammad Ghuri Invaded India
But then Shihab-ud-din Muhammad Ghuri or Mohammad of Ghur (between
Ghazni and Herat) was no mere invader. He wanted to establish a
kingdom here. He was shrewd enough to realize that the richer parts of
northern India and also the areas that he would be able to
control were the upper Indus valley and Punjab, which he
therefore planned to conquer.
The Rajputs at first ignored his forays into India by mistaking him
to be yet another mlechchha (foreigners, who were perceived to be
lowly creatures as they had no caste) in search of gold. In 1185AD
Muhammad sent the Rajputs abuzz by taking Lahore. Now that he was
almost breathing down their necks there could be no doubt that the
unwelcome stranger was here to stay. The rulers of north India then
half-heartedly threw in their lot with the ruler of Delhi, Prithviraj
and were actually able to defeat Ghuri in the Battle of Tarian in
1191AD. Unfortunately, here is where the foolhardiness of the Rajput
code of honour came into play. Prithviraj had Ghuri captured but when
the latter appealed to his better nature, he made the grand gesture of
actually setting Ghuri free.
¤ Prithviraj Captured
If hed imagined that Ghuri would be grateful for ever more,
Prithviraj must have been very disappointed because the Afghan simply
sent for reinforcements and launched another attack the very next
year. The battle of 1192 was fought at Tarain too, but this time Ghuri
crushed the Rajputs clinically and effectively, as only the Central
Asians could. and when he captured Prithviraj, Ghuri didnt do
any such fool thing as letting him go.
The difference in the psychological approach to war, more than
anything else, was the undoing of Indian rulers. The Afghans and Turks
regarded war as serious business, a matter of life and death it
is said that after the initial defeat at the hands of Prithviraj
Chauhan, Ghuri never slumbered in ease nor waked but in sorrow
and anxiety. In striking contrast, Indian princes (mostly
Rajputs) took war as a form sport, with its own rules of gallantry and
chivalry, to show off their bravery and skill. Man to man, no doubt,
the Rajputs were better warriors, but when it came to using their
resources and devising strategy, the Afghans were superb. The Rajputs,
unfortunately, were more concerned with the loss of honour.
If they lost they preferred to die in battle, thus effectively
depleting the strength of their armies. The Rajputs scorned strategic
retreat, which was the strength of the Afghans and Turks. The more
patient Afghans were willing to give away a battle to win the war.
Anyhow, Delhi and Ajmer passed on to Muhammad of Ghur, who returned
home after leaving Qutubuddin Aibak as his viceroy in Delhi.
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