The Hindu Shahi (879–1026) was a Hindu dynasty that held sway over the Kabul Valley and Gandhara (modern-day Pakistan and Afghanistan) during the early medieval period in India. They succeeded the Turk Shahis. There were two dynasties in Kabul Valley and Gandhara: the Kshatriya dynasty and the Brahmana dynasty which replaced it. Both used the title of Shahi. Details about these rulers have been assembled from chronicles, coins and stone inscriptions by researchers as no consolidated account of their history has become available.
- 1 The varna of Shahis of Kabul
- 2 Ethnicity of the Brahmana Shahis
- 3 Defence of Zabul by Kshatriya Shahis
- 4 Islamic kingdoms in the Shahi neighbourhood
- 5 Bhimadeva
- 6 Jayapaladeva
- 7 See also
- 8 References
The varna of Shahis of Kabul
Efforts were made, earlier also, to apportion the Kshatriya varna to Kallar's Brahamana successors on the basis of their name-endings, marriage alliances and even their ‘terrible valour’ at the battlefield. All these arguments were deemed untenable. However, in 1973, Yogendra Misra projected the view that according to Rajatarangini Hindu Shahis (meaning here post-Lagaturman kings) were also Kshatriyas.
Ethnicity of the Brahmana Shahis
The Shahi rulers of Kapisa/Kabul who ruled from the early 4th century until 870 CE were Hindu Brahmins. The Shahis of Afghanistan were discovered in 1874 to be connected to the Kamboja "race" by E. Vesey Westmacott.
E. Vesey Westmacott, Bishan Singh, K. S. Dardi, et al. connect the Kabul Shahis to the ancient Indian Kshatriya clans of the Kambojas/Gandharas. George Scott Robertson writes that the Kators/Katirs of Kafiristan belong to the well known Siyaposh tribal group of the Kams, Kamoz and Kamtoz tribes. But numerous scholars now also agree that the Siyaposh tribes of Hindukush are the modern representatives of the ancient Iranian cis-Hindukush Kambojas.
The powerful evidence from Xuanzang (AD 644) attesting that the ruler of Kabul/Kapisa was a devout Buddhist and belonged to Kshatriya caste would rather connect this ruling dynasty either to the erstwhile Gandharas or more probably to Ashvaka clan of the Kambojas, the eminent Kshatriya clan of the Mauryan times from the neighbouring region in India.
Defence of Zabul by Kshatriya Shahis
At some stage the Hindu kingdom of Kapisha had split up. Its western part formed a separate state called the kingdom of Zabul. It can be surmised that it was a family division because there were consanguineous and political relationships between the states of Kabul and Zabul.
In 700-701, Abdur Rehman bin Mohammed bin Ashta was dispatched with forty thousand men and was able to collect considerable booty but failed to have any territorial gains – thus incurring the displeasure of Hajjaj. Exasperated by the threats of super session he determined to carry arms against his master and, in order to strengthen his power, conducted a treaty with the enemies of faith (Rutbil) that the latter would afford him asylum in the event of the failure of his campaign against the caliph. After some initial successes, Abdur Rehman was at the end compelled to seek the protection of his Hindu ally. Sustained political intervention of the Rutbil brought the Islamic expansion to a halt and he had made Sistan an ‘ill-omened frontier’ for the Arabs. In folklore Rutbil became the hero of many Arab stories of holy wars on the frontier of Hind. Gradually, the Arabs - the ruling caliphs - ceased to be a powerful political force and Rutbils ruled in comparative peace for another one hundred and fifty years.
Islamic kingdoms in the Shahi neighbourhood
The Samanids and the Saffarids
In theory, the caliph as the successor of the Prophet was the fountainhead of all political authority. Kings and all tribal chiefs were subordinate to him and his sanction alone could provide the legal basis for their authority. With the waning of political might of the caliphate, its governors in Khurasan set up their own strong kingdom – the Samanid dynasty (c. 819-1005 CE) – controlling regions west and north of Koh Hindu Kush up to Balkh. Under the loosely centralized feudal government of the Samanids, Transoxiana and Khurasan prospered with a notable expansion of industry and commerce. Samanids were great art patrons and they turned Bukhara and Samarkand into famous cultural centres, rivaling Baghdad.
The Brahmana Hindu Shahi Dynasty of Kabul
According to The Mazare Sharif Inscription of the Time of the Shahi Ruler Veka, recently discovered from northern Afghanistan and reported by the Taxila Institute of Asian Civilisations, Islamabad, Veka (sic.) conquered northern region of Afghanistan ‘with eightfold forces’ and ruled there. He established a Shiva temple there which was inaugurated by Parimaha Maitya (the Great Minister). He also issued copper coins of the Elephant and Lion type with the legend Shri Vakkadeva.
Nine principal issues of Bull and Horseman silver coins and only one issue of corresponding copper coins of Spalapatideva have become available. As many as five Elephant and Lion type of copper coins of Shri Vakkadeva are available and curiously the copper issues of Vakka are contemporaneous with the silver issues of Spalapati.
Kabul Town not attacked
On his way back from Balkh, Yaqub is stated to have attacked Kabul. "Whether the word Kabul stands here for the city in particular or Kabul valley in general, is not clearly stated. The sequence of events, however, suggests that latter was probably the case" (Abdur Rahman). As we know, Shahis had a governor in Northern Afghanistan. Invasion of this province was an attack on (the state of) Kabul and the idols, say from the Shiva temple established by Vakkadeva would verily be ‘idols from Kabul’. There is no indication of a direct battle between Yaqub and the king of Kabul, which event could not go unreported.
It was some time during this period that the Hindu Shahis shifted their capital from Kabul to Udabhandapura.
Kamalavarman attacks Ghazni
Reliable evidence has now become available indicating that this oft-quoted narration by ‘Ufi was short of the ‘whole truth’. Kamlu did not stop in his tracks by Fardaghan's ingenious propaganda. Tarikh-i-Sistan illuminates the history of this period differently. Amr-i-Lais's pre-occupation with affairs in Khurasan and the provocative action of his newly appointed governor of Ghazni, prompted two Indian Kings (Rai of Hindustan), whose names reported in very corrupt form have been restored as Ashta and Tormana, to take firm retaliatory measures. They combined their forces and launched a united invasion of Ghazni. Fardaghan is said to have opposed the Hindu army. The Tarikh does not tell us whether the city of Ghazni was actually occupied by the victors at this stage or the name Ghazni stands for the province of Zabulistan, and not the city of Ghazni. The news of this invasion reached Amr when he was in Gurgan on his way to his last encounter with Ismail. In April 900 Amr was decisively defeated and sent as a prisoner to Baghdad where he breathed his last. He must have passed through Gurgan only a couple of months before his defeat. Thus Kamlu's invasion of Zabulistan can safely be placed in the beginning of 900 at the latest.
Having successfully dealt with the Saffarids, Ashta (the governor of Kabul) appears to have stayed back and maneuvered a ‘palace coup’. He seized the Shahi throne at Udabhandapura, dislodging his brother Kamalavarman but the state of Kashmir intervened. Rajatarangini records that Prabhakaradeva the Koshadhyaksha (Superintendent of Treasury) led a victorious expedition against the Shahi power at the town of Udabhandapura and bestowed the kingdom of the rebellious Shahi (ajna atikrami Shahi – a Shahi violator of order) upon Tormana, Lalliya's son and gave him the new name Kamaluka. This may have happened in 903 during the reign of child king Gopalavarman (r. 902-904) ruling under the guardianship of his mother Sugandha.
Kamaluka has been identified as Kamalavarman, son of Lalliya (Samantadeva). He was succeeded by his son, Bhimadeva.
Hindu rule at Ghazni
During the reign of Kamalavarman, the Saffarid rule weakened precipitately and ultimately Sistan became a part of the Samanid Empire. The disorder generally prevailed and the control of Zabulistan changed hands frequently. Taking advantage of the situation, the Shahis stepped up activities on their western frontier. The result was the emergence of a small Hindu power at Ghazni, supported by the Shahis. "The authorities either themselves of early date or enshrining early information mention Lawik" who was a Hindu as the ruler at Ghazni, before this place was taken over by the Turkish slave governor of the Samanids.
By the middle of the tenth century, Turkish slaves began to acquire power in the Samanid realm, as they were holding principal offices in the court and kingdom. One of these, Alaptagin, a former Hajib or Door Keeper, defeated the superior royal army near Khulm Pass and decided to carve out an independent kingdom for himself. He first took over Bamian ‘the country of the infidel (Hindu) Shir Barak’. He next turned to Ghazni where Lawik, its ruler, submitted after a prolonged siege of four months. Alaptagin thus became the undisputed master of Ghazni but he died soon thereafter and his son Abu Ishaq succeeded him in 963.
Substitution of Hindu potentates of Bamian and Ghazni by an emerging Turkish power posed a serious threat to the Shahi kingdom which acted with ‘remarkable alacrity’ at this stage. The Lawik was sent back to Ghazni with a huge army which ousted the Turks and sent Abu Ishaq flying to Bukhara. The Shahis had secured their western frontier – for the time being. But the gathering storm had not blown away.
Bhimadeva and Kashmir
End of Bhimadeva
The Shahi state had successfully managed to ward off danger from the strong neighbouring kingdom of the Samanids for more than a century. That Muslim kingdom was gradually decaying but its ambitious Turk officers were acquiring power and setting up personal fiefdoms, menacing the Hindu states south of Koh Hindu Kush. Though ruling with grandeur, unmolested by any neighbouring kingdom, Bhimadeva was getting old and must have been weighing his options in the matter of succession, because he did not have a male heir. The Shahi kingdom was strong and prosperous but not easy to govern - and protect. He could not count either on the Lawiks or his granddaughter Didda of Kashmir for this onerous responsibility. He selected the allied kingdom of Punjab for this honour and probably installed a successor in his own life for the succession seems to have been without ‘contest or convulsion’.
With Jayapala, a new dynasty started ruling over the former Shahi kingdom of south- eastern Afghanistan and the change over was smooth and consensual. On his coronation, Jayapala used the additional name-suffix deva from his predecessor's dynasty in addition to the pala name-ending of his own family. (With Kabul lost during the lifetime of Jayapaladeva, his successors – Anandapala, Trilochanapala and Bhimapala - reverted to their own family pala-ending names.) Jayapala did not issue any coins in his own name. Bull and Horseman coins with the legend Samantadeva, in billon, seem to have been struck during Jayapala's reign. As the successor of Bhima, Jayapala was a Shahi monarch of the state of Kabul, which now included the Punjab. Minhaj-ud-din describes Jayapala as "the greatest of the Rais of Hindustan."
From the beginning Jayapala followed an aggressive and pro-active policy towards the Turks. As stated earlier, Abu Ishaq had been evicted from Ghazni and the Lawiks were installed there with Shahi help. In 965, Abu Ishaq regained Ghazni with assistance from the Samanid ruler Abu Mansur and the Lawik fled to ‘Hind’ once again to seek help from the Shahis. Ultimately, Sabuktagin descended the throne of Ghazni in 977. He soon added Bust, Dawar, Qusdar, Tukhristan and Ghur to his dominions. Conflict with ‘Hind’ could not have been postponed for too long.
Jayapaladeva attacks Sabuktagin
Sabuktagin then became more involved in the affairs of the Samanid state and left the Shahis in peace. He became very powerful in the Samanid Kingdom by virtue of his strong and disciplined army. Sabuktagin died at Balkh in 997 at the age of fifty six. After a struggle for succession with brothers, his son Mahmud ascended the throne of Ghazni in 998. Mahmud first consolidated his position on his western front, even if he had to challenge the authority of his Samani over-lord. Soon he had control over Herat, Balkh, Bust and Khurasan. Recognising his power, the Caliph of Baghdad acknowledged him as a sovereign in his own right and conferred high sounding titles on him. The Ghaznavids had thus acquired a status equal to their former masters – the Samanids. The balance of power had been gradually tilting in favour of Ghazni.
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- Gazetteer of the Attock District, 1930, Part 1. Sang-e-Meel Publications. 1932. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- Rafi U. Samad (2011). The Grandeur of Gandhara: The Ancient Buddhist Civilization of the Swat, Peshawar, Kabul and Indus Valleys. Algora Publishing. pp. 275–. ISBN 978-0-87586-860-8.
- In this discussion, views of E. Thomas, H. M. Elliot, Alexander Cunningham and C. V. Vaidya are noteworthy. (The omnibus word ‘caste’ cannot adequately denote different divisions in Hindu society. Varna system was the traditional four tiered classification of Hindus into Brahmanas, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas and Shudras. People were advised that it was best to marry within one's own varna.)
- Yogendra Mishara, The Hindu Shahis of Afghanistan and the Punjab AD 865-1026, p. 4.
- Abdur Rahman, Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis: "In about AD 680, the Rutbil was a brother of the Kabul Shah. In AD 726, the ruler of Zabulistan (Rutbil) was the nephew of Kabul Shah. Obviously the Kabul Shahs and the Rutbils belonged to the same family" – pp. 46 and 79, quoting Tabri, I, 2705-6 and Fuch, von W.
- See: H. M. Elliot and John Dowson, The History of India, as Told by Its Own Historians, Vol. I, p. 429 and Vol. II, p. 416-417; André Wink, Al Hind, pp. 121-123; K. A. Nizami, ed. Politics and Society during the Early Medieval Period, Vol. II, p.37 ff
- C. V. Vaidya, History of Mediaeval Hindu India, Vol. III, pp. 8-13; and others.
- See R. T. Mohan, AFGHANISTAN REVISITED … Appendix – A, pp. 162-163.
- D. W. Macdowall, "The Shahis of Kabul and Gandhara" Numismatic Chronicle, Seventh Series, Vol. III, 1968, pp. 189-224, see extracts in R. T. Mohan, AFGHANISTAN REVISITED … Appendix –B, pp. 164-68
- Abdur Rahman, The Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis, pp. 101-103
- The Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis, p. 102.
- Abdur Rahman, The Last Two Dynasties of the Shahis, pp. 110-116 quoting Tarikh-i-Sistan, pp. 255-56. Also, André Wink, Al Hind, I, p. 125: "Muslim control of Zamindwar remained imperfect until the end of ninth century, and in Ghazni the Saffarid governor was again expelled by two Indian princes in 890-900 CE"
- C. E. Bosworth, ‘Notes on Pre-Ghaznavid History of Eastern Afghanistan, Islamic Quarterly, Vol. XI, 1965.
- Raizada Harichand Vaid, Gulshane Mohyali, II, pp. 83 and 183-84.
- H. G. Raverty, Tr. Tabaqat-i-Nasiri of Maulana Minhaj-ud-din, Vol. I, p. 82