The last quarter of the twelfth century CE brought Muhammad Ghori to Bharat who succeeded in establishing a sovereign Muslim state in Bharat. Even though he accomplished the unfinished task of earlier Mohammedan invaders, he too had to face Hindu resistance which was but scattered and limited.
Bharat’s rulers had been alive to the threat of Turkish expansion into the interior Bharat had been present from the time Ghaznavids had caused the fall of the Hindu-Sahis and their subsequent occupation of Punjab. Rajput kings had been individually taking measures against the Mohammedan threat.
During the Ghorid invasion, three powerful dynasties reigned over North Bharat and all of them were fully alive to the peril posed by the Turuska conquest. Gujarat Chaulukya rulers Mularaja II (1176-78 CE) and Bhima II (1178-1241 CE), Delhi and Ajmer‘s Chahamana king Prithviraj III (1177-1192 CE) and Kanauj’s Gahadawala ruler Jayachandra (1170-1194 CE). Despite the fact that each of them was strong enough to repel attacks by the Turkish invaders and had individually driven back Muhammad Ghori twice (Mularaja in 1178 and Prithviraj in 1191), the biggest tactical error on the part of the Hindu kings is they never made any combined efforts to fight the Islamists.
Chaulukyan resistance to Ghori
Continuing the tradition of resistance to Mohammedan invaders as exemplified by Bhima I Chaulukya during Ghaznavid attack on Somnath, Mularaja II halted the march of Ghori who had reached Gujarat in 1178 CE passing through Multan, Uch, and western Rajputana. “Had this invasion been successful, Muhammad Ghori would have become the master of the entire south Rajputana and Gujarat…But his defeat at the hands of Mularaja II of Gujarat in 1178 CE, compelled him to change his plans completely” opines Dr. Mishra.
Minhaj, Firishta, and Nizamuddin speak of Ghori’s defeat at the hands of Bhimdeo following which the former had to retire to Ghazni. Despite the fact that Muslim historians identify Bhimdeo as the ruler who drove back Ghori, Hindu epigraphic records show that it was Mularaja II who was ruling Anhilwara at this point in time.
Merutunga described the battle in detail in his Prabandhachintamani. He says it was queen Naikidevi, who was the daughter of Goa’s ruler Parmardin and Mularaja’s mother, who led the Chaulukyan army against the Turuskas and emerged victorious against them at Gadaraghatta located at the foot of Mount Abu. It must be mentioned that Naikidevi was Mularaja’s regent and entered the battlefield with the young king in her lap as Merutunga puts it.
Inscriptions of Bhima II also confirm that it was indeed Mularaja who was ruling Gujarat at the time of Ghori’s campaign by referring to Chaulukyan ruler as the conqueror of Garjanakas. “During the reign of Mularaja, even a woman could defeat Hammira”, reads an inscription dated to Bhima’s reign thereby confirming the identity of the ruler as also recognizing the contribution of Rani Naikidevi.
The Gujarati generals chose the strategically located Kayadram village (mentioned as Kasahrada in the Sunda Hill Inscription) at the foot of Mount Abu giving them an upper hand over the Islamic army. Mularaja, unfortunately, died shortly after this victory. The second Chaulukyan ruler who faced another tide of Muslim invasion under Qutubuddin Aibak was Bhima II just three years after the fall of Chahamana Prithviraj III in 1192 CE. Bhima II chose Jatwan to lead the army against the invaders.
Jatwan besieged Hansi and pressed on with such an energy that Aibak was forced to rush mid-campaign. Jatwan’s army had raised the siege after learning about the arrival of reinforcements. “The field of battle became tulip-dyed with the blood of warriors”, notes Hasan Nizami. According to some accounts, Jatwan was killed and as per some others, he was pursued up to Gujarat. However, for all practical purposes, the Chaulukyan armies had scored over their Islamist foes.
In any case, the siege of Hansi turned Aibak’s attention away from Gujarat. Aibak took hold of Ajmer in 1195 CE having defeated Gahadawala Jayachandra and Chahamana Prithviraj’s brother Hariraja. However, this brought the Islamists and Chaulukyan army face-to-face again as the Rajput Mhers tribe residing near Ajmer rose against the Muslims and appealed to the Chaulukyan monarch, the sole surviving Hindu ruler capable of resisting the invaders, for help against the Turks. The Chaulukyan army arrived to the aid of the Mhers and defeated the Muslims driving them to retreat to the Ajmer fort.
The brief fall of Anhilwara and recovery by Bhima II
The back-to-back defeat of his armies at the hands of the Chaulukyas at a time when the Muslim armies were scoring victories at other places across Bharat was too much of a bitter pill for Aibak to swallow. In 1197 CE, Aibak set out in a bid to conquer Gujarat. The Chaulukyan army had positioned itself at Kayadram where Mularaja had scored a brilliant victory.
When the Muslims did not dare attack the Chaulukyan army realizing that the latter was in a position of strength, the Hindu soldiers threw caution to the wind and made the strategic error of rushing to attack the Islamists leaving their secure position. They paid a heavy price for this mistake and for the first time Anhilwara fell into Muslim hands in addition to several leaders of the Chaulukyan army being taken prisoners and more than fifty thousand soldiers losing their lives. Jinapati Suri makes a reference to this defeat of Bhima II’s armies in his Kharatara Gacchcha Pattavali.
However, Bhima II was not one to tolerate the Muslim occupation of his dominion and by 1201 CE he was back in Anhilwara having successfully driven out the Muslims. The recapture of Mewad by 1207 CE and the mountain passes of Abu by 1209 CE is attested to by the Ahada Grant and Abu stone inscription respectively.
Vaghela chief Arnoraja and later his son Lavanaprasada ably supported Bhima II in his efforts against the invaders. The governor of Devapattana Sridhara was another able lieutenant of Bhima II. The Devapattana prasasti confirms that the Muslim army was routed at the hands of Sridhara.
Bhima II, aided by Lavanaprasada and Sridhara, refused to rest content until he had freed Gujarat completely of Muslim occupation. The victories scored by the Chaulukyan rulers had created such an impact on the Islamic invaders and their men that Gujarat remained independent for the whole of the next century.
“Perhaps no other north Indian dynasty put up a more sustained or successful resistance against the Muslims for a longer period” – AK Majumdar.