Ghaznavid Empire | History of Ancient Pakistan

1010 – 1187 A.D -Ghaznavid Empire

In 1001 Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi defeated Jeebal the king of Kabulistan and marched further into Peshawar and in 1005 made it the center for his forces. From this strategic location Mahmud was able to capture Panjab in 1007, Tanseer fell in 1014, Kashmir was captured in 1015 and Qanoch fell in 1017. By 1027 Sultan Mahmud had captured Pakistan and parts of northern India.

On 1010 Mahmud captured what is today the Ghor Province (Ghor) and by 1011 annexed Balochistan. Sultan Mahmud had already had relationships with the leadership in Balkh through marriage and its local emir Abu Nasr Mohammad offered his services to Sultan Mahmud and offered his daughter to Muhammad son of Sultan Mahmud. After Nasr’s death Mahmud brought Balkh under his leadership. This alliance greatly helped Mahmud during his expeditions into Pakistan and northern India.

In 1030 Sultan Mahmud fell gravely ill and died at the age of 59. Sultan Mahmud was an accomplished military commander and speaker as well as a patron of poetry, astronomy, and math. Mahmud had no tolerance for other religions however and only praised Islam. Universities were formed to study various subjects such as math, religion, the humanities and medicine were taught, but only within the laws of the Sharia. Islam was the main religion of his kingdom and the Perso-Afghan dialect of Dari language was made the official language.

Ghaznavid rule in Pakistan lasted for over one hundred and seventy five years from 1010 to 1187. It was during this period that Lahore assumed considerable importance as the eastern-most bastion of Muslim power and as an outpost for further advance towards the riches of the east. Apart from being the second capital and later the only capital of the Ghaznavid kingdom, Lahore had great military and strategic significance. Whoever controlled this city could look forward to and be in a position to sweep the whole of East Punjab to Panipat and Delhi.

By the end of his reign, Mahmud’s empire extended from Kurdistan in the west to Samarkand in the northeast, and from the Caspian Sea to the Yamuna. All of what is today Pakistan and Kashmir came under the Ghaznavid empire. The wealth brought back to Ghazni was enormous, and contemporary historians (e.g. Abolfazl Beyhaghi , Ferdowsi) give detailed descriptions of the building activity and importance of Lahore, as well as of the conqueror’s support of literature.

Often reviled as a persecutor of Hindus (and in many cases Hindu temples were looted and destroyed) much of Mahmud’s army consisted of Hindus and some of the commanders of his army were also of Hindu origin. Sonday Rai was the Commander of Mahmud’s crack regiment and took part in several important campaigns with him. The coins struck during Mahmud’s reign bore his own image on one side and the figure of a Hindu deity on the other.

Mahmud, as a patron of learning, filled his court with scholars including Ferdowsi the poet, Abolfazl Beyhaghi the historian (whose work on the Ghanavid Empire is perhaps the most substantive primary source of the period) and Al-Biruni the versatile scholar who wrote the informative Ta’rikh al-Hind (“Chronicles of Hind”). It was said that he spent over four hundred thousand golden dinars rewarding scholars. He invited the scholars from all over the world and was thus known as an abductor of scholars. During his rule, Lahore also became a great center of learning and culture. Lahore was called ‘Small Ghazni’ as Ghazni received far more attention during Mahmud’s reign. Saad Salman, a poet of those times, also wrote about the academic and cultural life of Muslim Lahore and its growing importance.