Medieval India: Dark Age and conflict

This is the third part of a series on “Distortions in Indian History,” excerpted from Dr. N.S. Rajaram’s book, “Nationalism and Distortions in Indian History. Read Part 1 and 2.

Harshavardhana was the last great Indian ruler of North India. Several empires continued in the south like the Chalukya, the Rashtrakuta and finally Vijayanagara. Islamic invasions into India began in the 8th century or about a century after Harsha’s death.

Iran (or Persia) collapsed within a single generation to the Islamic armies, as did the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire of Constantinople. Arabs intruded into Sind, but their hold did not last. It took the Islamic forces more than 300 years before they could defeat the Hindu kingdom of Afghanistan. Then the invasion of India began in earnest with the Mahmud of Ghazni in the 10th – 11th centuries.

It should be understood that what Islam brought to India—and other parts of the world—was a new kind of warfare that was unknown in ancient times. It was called Jihad. The idea was not merely to conquer a country but to totally destroy its history and civilization. Iran and Egypt had great civilizations going back thousands of years, but they have been totally wiped out. This is what is happening to Afghanistan today and also what the Jihadists are trying to do to Kashmir.

To understand what these warriors brought to India, it helps to look at what believers in Jihad have to say today. The most influential of these was General Zia-ul-Haq, the former president of Pakistan and the father of Taliban. According to him, “JIHAD FI-SABILILLAH is not the exclusive domain of the professional soldier, nor is it restricted to the application of military force alone.” The book The Quranic Concept of War, sponsored by him, tells us that

“More than mere military campaigns and battles, the Holy Prophet’s operations against the Pagans [pre-Islamic Arabs] are an integral and inseparable part of the divine message revealed to us in the Holy Quran. … The war he planned and carried out was total to the infinite degree. It was waged on all fronts: internal and external, political and diplomatic, spiritual and psychological, economic and military.”

ziaThis is what Jihad means: a total war fought not only against soldiers, but also against civilians, including women and children. According to the Urdu instructional manual (called Jihad) carried by the Pakistani militants in Kashmir,

“The Quranic military strategy thus enjoins us to prepare ourselves for war to the utmost in order to strike terror into the heart of the enemy… Terror struck into the hearts of the enemy is not only a means, it is the end in itself. …Terror is not a means of imposing decision upon the enemy; it is the decision we wish to impose upon him.”

So terrorism is not an exception but an integral policy of Jihad.[i] This is what we are seeing today in Kashmir, and this is also what Islamic vandals like Muhammad of Ghazni and others brought to India. The famous Alberuni, who accompanied Muhammad on his campaigns into India wrote:

… Nasir-addaula Sabuktagin. This prince chose the holy war as his calling. … his son Yamin-addaula Muhammad [of Ghazni] marched into India during a period of thirty years and more. God be merciful to both father and son! Muhammad utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed there wonderful exploits, by which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions. … Their scattered remains cherish, of course, the most inveterate aversion of all the Muslims. This is the reason, too, why Hindu sciences have retired far away from those parts of the country conquered by us, and have fled to places which our hand cannot yet reached.

So it was not just the wealth that was looted; Muhammad the Holy Warrior was responsible for uprooting Hindu learning from the places he invaded. This was part of the Jihad to uproot the civilization of India. Here is one telling statistic that should give a true picture of the Islamic rule of India, beginning with the invasions of Muhammad of Ghazni. Pre-Islamic India was renowned for its universities. Great centers of learning like Nalanda, Vaishali, Sarnath, Vikramashila, Takshashila, and many more — they attracted students from all over Asia and the world. Following the Islamic invasion of India, all these centers were destroyed. In the centuries following, during the next eight hundred years, not a single university was established by any Muslim ruler. This was a Dark Age worse than what overtook Europe in the Middle Ages. Only in the last century or so is India slowly coming out of this long Dark Age.

This is the true picture of Medieval India, which was a long Dark Age. As the distinguished American historian Will Durant says, “The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history.” Fortunately, Hindu learning survived in places like Sringeri, Benares, Kanchi and a few other places. Also, Indian rulers, especially in Vijayanagara, Mysore and several others protected scholars and artists.

The problem today is that Leftist historians (‘secularists’) claim that none of this happened even though there are literally thousands of ruined temples and monasteries all over India to prove it. One has only to go to Hampi, the former capital of Vijayanagara to see the evidence first hand. Even Akbar allowed Rajputs and other Hindus to join his administration only because he could not find enough foreigners. Otherwise, the policy of the Delhi Sultans and the Moghuls was to import officials from outside the country — just as the British did. All this is whitewashed in Indian history books. For example, students are taught that Babar was a tolerant ruler who loved India. But here is what Babar himself says in his autobiography, the Baburnama.

Chanderi had been in the daru’l-harb [Hindu rule] for some years and held by Sanga’s highest-ranking officer Meidini Rao, with four or five thousand infidels, but in 934 [1527-28], through the grace of God, I took it by force within a ghari or two, massacred the infidels, and brought it into the bosom of Islam.

And when in a particularly happy mood, he wrote the following poem:

For the sake of Islam I became a wanderer;

I battled infidels and Hindus.

I determined to become a martyr.

Thank God I became a holy warrior.

And what did he find interesting in India? “Hindustan,” he wrote, “is a place of little charm. … The one nice aspect of Hindustan is it is a large country with lots of gold and money.” In other words, he came to India attracted by loot. For the better part of three hundred years, the Moghuls ruled North India as foreign occupiers, using a foreign language — Persian — in their administration.

baburThis record of Medieval India has been whitewashed in history books in use today. One of the clearest examples of history distortion occurred during the Ayodhya-Ramjanmabhumi controversy. Secularist historians repeatedly asserted that no Ram Temple had been destroyed at the site of Babri Masjid.

The first point is that Muslim writers have made no secret of the fact that they destroyed the temple. Here is what Aurangazeb’s granddaughter wrote in 1707, in her Persian work Sahifah-i-Chihal Nasa’ih Bahadurshahi:

… keeping the triumph of Islam in view, devout Muslim rulers should keep all idolaters in subjection to Islam, brook no laxity in realization of Jizyah, grant no exceptions to Hindu Rajahs from dancing attendance on ‘Id days and waiting on foot outside mosques till end of prayer … and ‘keep in constant use for Friday and congregational prayer the mosques built up after demolishing the temples of the idolatrous Hindus situated at Mathura, Banaras and Avadh.

In addition to the matter of fact statement of the destruction, what is striking is the tone of intolerance. She was after all Aurangazeb’s granddaughter. In addition, we have archaeological evidence showing that a temple existed at the site. After the demolition of the Babari Masjid by karsevaks on 6 December 1992, archaeologists found a temple under it and also a stone inscription. Here is what an important part of the inscription says:

Line 15 of this inscription, for example, clearly tells us that a beautiful temple of Vishnu-Hari, built with heaps of stones…, and beautified with a golden spire … unparalleled by any other temple built by earlier kings … This wonderful temple … was built in the temple-city of Ayodhya situated in Saketamandala. … Line 19 describes god Vishnu as destroying king Bali … and the ten-headed personage (Dashanana, or Ravana).

In the face of this, no one can argue that no temple was destroyed. The distinguished archaeologist Professor B.B. Lal who carried out the excavation at Ayodhya wrote a sixty-page report on his findings. But this was suppressed, thanks to influential secularist historians like Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar and R.S. Sharma. These secularists then put out a propaganda pamphlet on Ayodhya denying that there ever was a temple at Ramjanmabhumi.

Muslim writers have made no secret of the fact that they destroyed the temple.

While the secularist intellectuals are motivated by their hatred of Hinduism, Muslim intellectuals are driven by fear of Hindu backlash. They know very well that their rulers have persecuted the Hindus for centuries. In fact it was this fear that led to the founding of the Muslim League, with the goal of asking the British never to leave India. Its first president Nawab Viqar-ul-Mulk, Mushtaq Hussain said that if the British left, “then the rule of India would pass into the hands of that community which is nearly four times as large as ourselves … Then, our life, our property, our honor, and our faith will all be in great danger. … woe betide the time when we become the subjects of our neighbors, and answer to them for the sins, real or imaginary of Aurangazeb, and other Mussalman conquerors and rulers who went before him.”

This is still the fear that haunts the Muslim intellectuals in India. That is the reason why they begged the British to hold on to India and protect them. It was this fear combined with the Congress appeasement policy that led to the Partition. It was again this fear that made them support the Congress dynasty from Nehru to Sonia Gandhi. And now, it is the same fear that makes them turn themselves into a vote bank to be manipulated by cynical politicians like Mulayam Singh and Laloo Prasad Yadav.

This fear is baseless. Hindus are not a vindictive people. But the Muslims and their newfound secularist allies cannot expect the Hindus to accept falsehoods about their history and tradition simply to serve their own interests. They cannot whitewash their terrible record and try to put all the blame on the Hindu victims in the interests of their version of ‘secularism’. This would be like blaming the Jews for the Nazi atrocities. The only way of achieving peace and harmony is for the Muslim leadership to acknowledge the crimes of their ancestors and learn to live at peace with their Hindu neighbors. They should also give up intolerant doctrines like Jihad as medieval barbarisms incompatible with civilization. As the late K.M. Munshi wrote more than fifty years ago:

If, however, the misuse of this word ‘secularism’ continues, … if, every time there is an inter-communal conflict, the majority is blamed regardless of the merits of the question,… the springs of traditional tolerance will dry up. While the majority exercises patience and tolerance, the minorities should adjust themselves to the majority. Otherwise the future is uncertain and an explosion cannot be avoided.

This is exactly what happened at Ayodhya. If the country does not learn its lessons, it will be repeated over and over again. Of course the ‘secularists’ did not learn their lesson and kept blaming the victims following the Godhra massacre, leading to the Gujarat riots. There is no sign that they have still learnt their lesson.

The secularist intellectuals, who were busy falsifying history, were not there to defend the disputed structure at Ramjanmabhumi or protect the victims in the riots that followed. In fact they were the first to run from the scene. The lesson: history cannot be falsified forever. In the end truth will always triumph — satyameva jayate. We should be prepared to face the truth.

Continued in the next part