Read the Beautiful & Baseless Glorification of Alauddin Khilji on Scroll? Now Read an Unkind & Honest Rebuttal

Alauddin Khilji

In ‘Kāṇhaḍade Prabandh’, one of the greatest Indian works, written by poet Padmanābha during the medieval period and one of the finest work in old Gujarati [1], the brutal defeat of Alauddin Khilji’s general and younger brother Ulugh Khān at the hands of King Raval Kanhadade (Kanhadadev), ruler of Jalor (of Chahamana dynasty), who as a prince, had earlier refused Khilji to allow passage of the Muslim Army, is described as…

“Suddenly, there was a loud clamour, and elephants came rushing on even as the Rajput’s got ready to meet the blows from all sides. Mad for fight, each one more keen than the other to return life to its great giver, as if it were some borrowed thing, the brave warriors rushed forward and surrounded the armour wearing Habśhīs. In a fierce mood they carried destruction among the enemy ranks, humbling their vain pride. They slew Mādhava Muhta also who was the root cause of the catastrophe” [2]

When Mādhava Brahmana (who betrayed his King Kanhadade) along with Ulugh were returning through Marwar after they had advanced on Gujarat and sacked Somnath Patan in Saurashta, Kanhadadev seized the idol of Somnath which was being carried off to Delhi to be desecrated and rescued all the Hindu Prisoners along with it[3]. The second Khanda of the poem also tells about the Heroic bravery of the nephew of Kanhadadev, Santa Singh, who defeated Nahar Malik, the army general of Alauddin Khilji and died fighting Alauddin Khilji himself at Siwana after their wives embraced Jauhars.

Even the Mughals met similar fates many a times at the hands of those who they wanted to vanquish and often it was through betrayal and conquests by deception alone, that concealed their non-existent military tactics and cowardness, were they able to defeat their enemies.

दिल्ली कहे देसूरी, तू जीती मैँ हारी।।
कलमा औरंगजेबरी, जीती बीके उतारी 
(Delhi says to Desuri, you win I lose. The sword of Aurangzeb does down to defeat him) – is one such famous couplet to mark Aurangzeb’s defect by Rajput Vikramaditya Singh Solanki in the battle of Desuri.

It has been centuries since the despot sultans of the Delhi Sultanate and their successor Mughals were beaten to submission many a times by Rajput clans such as Solankis, Goras*, Badals, Prataps, Shivajis, Sainis**, Batadas and countless others. But sadly even after decades of loot, destruction and plunder and other grisly crimes like rapes and murder they perpetrated, the Sultans continue to be glorified and loved in many books and articles by our ‘own’ people. They hail them as great and charismatic rulers who brought architectural wonders, taxation reforms and military knowledge. Their tales often in direct contradiction to what historians wrote about them, played like ballads to glorify their times is a current fad. Change Aurangzeb Road to A.P.J. Abdul Kalam and its Distortion of ‘History’ for them.

Quite aptly, in the words of Ghalib,

“Nisha baki nahin hai sultanate ka
Magar hain naam ke Aurangzeb”

(No authority of Sultanate exists any more, but the symbolic kingship exists)

When in fact, historians and scholars (of genuine credibility and not a moppet from JNU), not just in India but across the globe, have all agreed that period right from the onset of the Slave Dynasty (beginning the Delhi Sultanate) upto the decline of the last Mughal, were principally the dark ages for the Indian subcontinent and have no value as regards to the current Indian setup. The monuments they built shrouds the decimation of hundreds of pre-existing temples. In their administrative regimes they had more people out in open rebellion than serving them loyally.

One such “hero” who has recently emerged from the pages of an epic poem Padmavat into digital parlance. The “Hero” who is perhaps worst of them all. His Name is Alauddin Khilji.

Alauddin Khilji was probably the cruelest ruler of them all, a pedophile by character, and a self-declared prophet who forced Qazis to interpret scriptures to suit his fetishes; he persecuted Hindus and Shia minorities with equal zest and was the living manifestation of every crime that every Muslim invader has ever committed. He introduced a taxation system ‘shahana-i-mandi’ based on religious lines where only Muslims had monopoly to buy and sell. He also imposed taxes like jizya (poll tax), kharaj (land tax), kari (house tax) and chari (pasture tax) on non-Muslims [4]. Further, often to pay for his battles against Mongols and rebels, he increased the taxes to fifty percent[5].It reduced agriculture output, caused severe inflation, led farmers to quit farming and created extended periods of famines, worst that Delhi ever witnessed. During his reign, at least half of the population were slaves working as servants and bondage labor was pervasive [6].

Padmavat does shower a lot of praise on Alauddin Khilji, hailing him as a ferocious warrior and someone who was unassailable in the field. Padmavat which is widely considered a fictitious account of Alauddin Khilji could be highly exaggerated account of Alauddin Khilji’s Bravery and Kingship. because Poets were paid for exaggerated accounts, and paid well. Less-fictitious epic poems like ‘Kanhadade Prabandh’ and another 15th-century Indian Sanskrit epic poem written by Jain scholar Nayachandra Suri ‘Hammira Mahakavya’ describes how Alauddin Khilji suffered multiple defeats by another King Hammira, but was eventually defeated by Khilji’s deception. When Khilji ascended to the throne of Delhi, soon multiple rebellions against him broke out due to his extreme policies. King Hammira, the last king of Chahamana, gave asylum to noblemen who rebelled against Alauddin Khilji in his Ranthambore Fort. Angered, Alauddin Khilji (or Khalji in some texts) sent Ulugh Khan to capture the fort. Hammira sent his general Bhima Singh to fight and Ulugh Khan was immediately defeated. But when Bhima Singh started marching back, Ulugh Khan secretly followed him with a large army and waited until most of his soldiers marched ahead to Ranthambore to carry all the gold they sacked in the war and Bhima Singh was left with a small number of men. In a cowardly act, Ulugh Khan then attacked this small detachment and killed Bhima Singh before returning to Delhi. The text describes how eventually, Hammira was betrayed by his own officer Ratipala which led to his defeat and death.

 

When Ratipala came there, that deceitful Śaka lord rose at once and made (Ratipāla) sit in his own seat and he deceptively pleased (Ratipāla) by showing him respect and giving gifts. People are fooled by deceivers or they are fooled in continual delusion. He sent away the assembly and accompanied only by his brother, He said to Ratipāla, “I am Allāvādīn, the lord of the Śaka family by whom many forts—even unconquerable forts [7]—have been conquered. If at this moment I go away without making your fort my own, then how long until my fame is like vine surrounded by the flame? Even the thousand-eyed is unable to take (this fort) by force. You, however, have fortunately come to us. Our wish has been fulfilled. Act quickly and I will adhere to the following agreement: This kingdom will be your very own. I only desire victory (not the fort).

– Hammīra Mahākāvya, XIII, vv. 68–104

Purport – when King Hammīra dismissed Bhoja, his royal servant for speaking ill against his General and promoted Ratipala, another of his men, to his rank. Bhoja then betrayed Hammira and shook hands with Alauddin Khilji and informed him that to defeat Hammira and conquer the Ranthambhor fort, he must entice Ratipala. The canto above describes how Alauddin Khilji, after getting defeated repeatedly, was left with no other option but to approach the battled discreetly and connivingly. The thousand-eyed one mentioned above is Indra, the conqueror of forts in the Vedas that Alauddin Khilji used could show how much incapable he thought about himself to conquer the fort.

But again, looking at Padmavat, one question comes to mind, if rulers like Alauddin Khilji were such despots, then why texts and poems ‘of their times’ praise them so much?

Scholars have a good answer for the question. True – the rulers of these Dynasties, right from Mamluk, to Syyid and Lodi to Khilji were all despotic. True –they destroyed hundreds of temples [7] and renamed or converted hundreds of architectural sites and towers pre-existing in India to tombs or Minars with Islamic inscriptions (renaming Dhruva stambh to Qutub Minar for example [8]) and killing for them was fun. They were also braving multiple revolts all the time within their kingdoms by their own people. Infact, the reason for the Sultanate’s  eventual decline was the fanaticism and religious intolerance and persecution of Hindus by the likes of Firoz Tughlaq, Sikandar Lodhi, and the resultant Hindu reconquests [9]. The Muslim sultanates were breaking off one by one [10] since the sultans, especially Alauddin Khilji, were involved in wine and Harems with thousands of women.

But the desire to be remembered for long and for good and to have someone to project a powerful image of the emperor for the future generations was a trait common with every ruler in all the subsequent dynasties.  Whatever they did, from tombs constructions to issuing coins (such as Sikandar-e-sani), they did that with the same inherent intention.

But it had a basic shortcoming. People of their kingdom were tormented by the despotism and hence would often pass telltale accounts of their brutality to the next generation. So, the solution was to hire people of some literary, vocal or musical merit from outside, shove enough money down their throat, raise their ranks in society and appoint them as royal courtiers so that they would write fictional accounts of the kings, chronicle their glory in mesmerizing words. Especially the Persian Poets were both in vogue as well as demand, since Persian poetry was garnering attention at that time.

Frequently, poets with little creative or metaphorical ability took characters from the great Vedic traditions and Puranic tales and used them as allegories to sell their ideas and glorify the kings.

Most Sultans of Delhi provided patronage to scholars of Persian language – Khwaja Abu Nasr, Abu Bakar Bin Muhammad Ruhani, Taj-ud-din Dabir, Amir Hasan Dihalvi – at their court. The Poems were mainly aimed to please the Sultans, and poets were instructed to sing the glories of their King’s victories in order to paint them as heroes and immortal kings.

Amir Khusrau, a courtier to Jalaluddin Firuz Khalji (Alauddin Khilji’s uncle who he killed to gain the Sultanate), who continued his role with Alauddin’s court as well, composed similar exaggerations in ‘Miftah al-Futuh’ and ‘mathnawis’ in praise of his employer’s victories[11].

And Padmavat poem is just one of such poems written by Malik Moh’d Jayasi infested with similar ridiculous hyperbole towards Alauddin Khilji.

Khusrau even remained silent in his works when Alauddin orchestrated Jalal al-Dīn’s assassination. Moreover, much to the chagrin of modern historians, Khusrau praised ‘Alā’ al-Dīn with a newly composed poem when he reached Delhi to become the next sultan. Khusrau, however, simply followed his role as a court poet who composed panegyric irrespective of his personal feelings. As he noted in a qaṣīda:

Composing panegyric kills the heart,

Even if the poetry is fresh and eloquent.

A lamp is extinguished by a breath,

Even if it is the breath of God

Similar story goes with Akbarnama (written by Abu’lFadl) who was then made one of Akbar’s Nine jewels. With Mughals however, especially, when their decline came, they ran to find poets to write about them. Bahadur Shah Zafar in his own verse laments the loss

“Le udi khakh, baha le gya sailab mujhe” 

(Swept by the dust, and washed away by the swirling waters) [12]

The tale of Padmavati is still debatable as evidences are far too less compared to the poetic magnificence portrayed. But what it certainly does reveal is Alauddin Khilji’s evil intentions of capturing the fort of Chittor and make its beautiful queen Padmavati his royal consort. In principle, a hallmark of every Sultan’s character – Lust, Harems and conquests by deceitful invasions. Alauddin Khilji knew it well that he wouldn’t be able to conquer the fort himself ruled by the King Ratan Singh (so much so for the ‘Bhoomi dol shesh fan phata’ verse that the poet Jayasi wrote in Padmavati praising him).

So he offered to withdraw the troops if he could have a glimpse of Rani Padmavati. Albeit he did saw her and driven by lust, he befriended, tricked and then deceived Padmavati’s husband and Chittor’s illustrious King Rawal Ratan Singh and eventually tricked him into captivity. Rajputs knew that Alauddin Khilji was drunk with lust and would do anything to acquire her, they made him believe that if he frees the King, he could have the Queen. When Khilji did that, the Rajput warriors sitting inside palanquin attacked his camp and freed their King. Enraged Khilji laid siege again. Faced with certain defeat, Rajput Women led by Padmavati immolated themselves in Jauhar. Jauhar was done to save honor and body from marauders who would even rape a dead body.

In the book ‘The Naked Mughals by Vashi Sharma’, claims are made that after Ratan Singh is captured, a group of Rajputs led by Badal and Gora butchered the generals in Khilji’s camp. One went in search of Rana Ratan Singh and other in search of Alauddin Khilji. A naked Alauddin Khilji, is caught in bed with many women. He uses a woman as his shield to save himself from the Rajput warrior, escaping thus in the end.

But, looking at the way people glorify the ‘legacy’ of these invaders through ill-researched articles on the internet (I read an extremely hollow, baseless and pointless over-glorification of Alauddin Khilji on Scroll), the only thing to ponder upon is if the Delhi Sultanate is long gone, or if the philosophy of it still flows like a stream of metaphor in their coarse blood?

References

[1] Kāṇhaḍade Prabandh is one of the greatest Indian works written by the poet Padmanābha during the medieval period. It is the finest work in old Gujarati by eminent scholars like Muni Jinavijaya, K. M. Munshi, Dasharatha Sharma and K.B. Vyas.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanhadade_Prabandha

The Book in Sanskrit is here

https://ia601604.us.archive.org/35/items/in.ernet.dli.2015.314052/2015.314052.Kanhadade-Prabandha.pdf.

[2] PhD Thesis- Conquest and Resistance in Context:

A Historiographical Reading of Sanskrit and Persian Battle Narratives by Michael Boris Bednar, The University of Texas at Austin, May 2007

[3] The Indian Narrative: Perspectives and Patterns edited by C. Shackle, Rupert Snell, Page 140. More References are given in the book itself. Besides Kanhadade Prabandha, Nainsi’s Khyat and Ranamalla Chhanda (1408-1411) by Shridhara Vyasa also credit Kanhadadeva for rescuing the Somnath temple idol from desecration by the Delhi army. This is still debatable on account of Amir Khusrau’s Khazainul-Futuh, but the defect of Delhi army is agreed in all.

**Saini was a great general and had led several expeditions into the country of Malwa and Gujarat.

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khalji_dynasty#Economic_policy_and_administration

[5] Kenneth Kehrer (1963), The Economic Policies of Ala-ud-Din Khalji, Journal of the Punjab University Historical Society, vol. 16, pp. 55-66.

[6] Ray Chaudhuri et al (1982), The Cambridge Economic History of India: c. 1200-1750, Orient Longman, pp 89-93

[7] Paper – Temple Desecration and Indo-Muslim States, Journal of Islamic Studies, by – Richard Eaton (2000).

[8] https://archive.org/details/KutubMinarOrDhruvStambh

[9] The Many Lives of a Rajput Queen: Heroic Pasts in India, c. 1500-1900By Ramya Sreenivasan

https://books.google.co.in/books?id=QXQkDwAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_atb#v=onepage&q&f=false. Same is also referenced in the Bengali translated version of ‘Annlas and Antiquities of Rajasthan (1829-32) by James Tod’ as bhadralok, and comic book ‘Padmini’ of ‘Amar Chitrta Katha’ series.

[10] Book – The Oxford History of India: From the Earliest Times to the End of 1911by Vincent Arthur Smith, Clarendon Press, 1920. This is a good book for many other references.

[11] Professor Peter A. Jackson Paper, Professor at ANU College of Asia and the Pacific.

[12] Book – The Life and Poetry of Bahadur Shah Zafar by Aslam Parvez (translated by Ather Farouqui).

 

Other References

  • Book – History of Medieval India: From 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D By Radhey Shyam Chaurasia
  • http://vle.du.ac.in/mod/book/print.php?id=11664&chapterid=22666
  • https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/jjasas1989/2000/12/2000_12_50/_pdf
  • http://www.san.beck.org/2-8-DelhiSultans1300-1526.html
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rani_Padmini
  • https://www.speakingtree.in/allslides/facts-about-alauddin-khilji-sexuality-and-death/slave-market
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malik_Muhammad_Jayasi
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kanhadade_Prabandha
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammiradeva
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hammira_Mahakavya