Essay on the character and achievements of Muizzuddin Muhammad of Ghur

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Different assessments have been made of the char­acter and achievements of Muizzuddin Muhammad of Ghur. “In fact, his military career is often viewed with an almost unconscious attitude of comparison with that of Sultan Mahmud. That he was no comparison to the great Ghaznavid conqueror as a military leader can hardly be denied; his achieve­ments in the broader perspective of Central Asian history seem less impressive. But this hero of three stupendous defeats-Andhkhudh, Tarain and Anhilwara, as Professor Habib calls him, has to his credit the establishment of one of the greatest empires of the middle ages, and in this he definitely rises above Mahmud of Ghazni” (K.A. Nizami, A Comprehension History of India, Vol.V, Part I).

Admit­tedly, the social and political condition of North India facilitated him in his task, but there is no doubt about his role in laying the foundation of the Turkish rale in India. It needed a military leader of great vision and tact to organise military campaigns over an area stretching from the Oxus to the Jamuna. Also, to hold this vast empire together, there was the need for a bold but careful planner. All these qualities Muizzuddin had and, though he was away in Ghazni for quite long periods, his eyes were fixed on his armies in India.

Not much is known about the administrative arrangements of the Ghurids in India. There was no way for Muizzuddin to establish a direct adminis­tration, the language difficulty would have made it nearly impossible. Before him, Mahmud Ghazni had not annexed beyond Ravi and thus the areas that came under Muizzuddin due to conquests had no tradition of Muslim administration. There were, however, some Muslim settlements in North India in the wake of Mahmud Ghazni’s invasions. Some of these bi-lingual Muslims no doubt helped him, but their number was too small for effective central, regional and district level administrations.

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His native country of Ghur could not even provide the required men of talent to take charge of his soldiers, and he had to look for such people among his slaves. So, there was no question of getting skilled administra­tors from Ghur, and Muizzudin knew that a direct administration of the conquered territory from Punjab to Bengal was not possible. He realised that if the kings were only removed and the administration was left in the hands of the middle order-ranas and rawats-the people would not feel the change and his government would last.

Consequently, Ghurids only controlled the capitals and larger towns of strategic and commercial importance as also the established and famous trade routes. Muizzudin knew that if the kings got together, it would make things difficult for him. So he fought them in a manner that prevented them from forming groups. In short, he was happy with things half-done and did not push matters to the extreme.

“The two striking features of Muizzuddin’s character were his dogged tenacity of purpose and his grim political realism Muizzuddin refused to take any reversal as final. He reorganised his forces and came again determined to achieve the objective he had set before himself. He analysed the causes of his defeat dispassionately and changed his policies as time and circumstances demanded. His thrust into the country from Rajputana proving abortive, he did not hesitate to change his plan”, says K.A. Nizami.

Muizzudin tried not to take unnecessary risks by plunging into political uncertainties and pro­ceeded cautiously, strengthening his hold. Even when he was busy in Ghur facing hostile powers, he did not forget about his Indian possessions.

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Before his assassination, when he was leading a punitive expedition for the Khokars, another campaign was in the offing in Trans-oxiana, a project for building a bridge over the Oxus was started and a castle, half of which was under water, was nearing completion. He was equally adept at planning and executing works for public use as also a military campaign and his area of operations included the Gangetic plain as well as the regions through which the Oxus meandered its way.

Assessing the character and achievements of Muizzuddin, Lane-Poole said that “he earned less fame than Mahmud Ghazni, yet his conquests in India were more extensive and permanent”. Obser­vant by nature, he understood the political situation in India at that time and decided to establish an empire. He faced many obstacles, but he did not give up the goal of founding an empire in India.

As compared to Muizzuddin, Mahmud Ghazni at­tacked India more often and did not suffer a single defeat. His objective was to plunder the wealth of India and he did not think of establishing a kingdom there. Considering that empire-building is a monarch’s creed, Muizzuddin should be regarded as pursuing a higher ideal than Mahmud Ghazni.

Muizzuddin’s handling of the defeated Rajput ruling houses also shows his political sagacity. He knew that it would be extremely difficult for him to fight a combined Rajput front and he therefore decided to ally with some of them.

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Presumably, for this reason, he did not annex Ajmer and Delhi to his territories just after the second battle of Tarain Snd allowed the sons of Prithviraj and Govinda Rai to rule as his vassals there.

Only after consolidation of the Turkish position, did Aibak annex these two but even then Prithviraj’s son was given the charge of the fort at Ranthambor. Govinda Rai’s son was however, removed on charges of treason.

The Hindu chiefs accepting the Ghurid suzer­ainty did not lose their status, nor there was any interference in their administration. Perhaps to keep a close watch over their activities, military posts were established here and there and were garrisoned with Turkish troops.

Endowed with a good understanding of human nature, Muizzuddin would select the best man out of many, assign him tasks suited to his abilities and get the best out of him. Aibak, Tughril and Yaldez were all slaves in the past, who proved their superio in their assigned tasks, and were hand-picked and trained by Muizzuddin.

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It should also be stated that there was a tradition among slave- traders of selecting talented slaves and training them in aits of warfare, administration, etc., in Ghur and Persia so that they could be sold i kings and nobles. Such slaves were given important positions. For instance, “Muizzuddin was disappointed in his fam­ily, as is clear from his action in ignoring the claims of Ghiasuddin’s son, Mahmud, and assigning Firoz- Kok to A’auddin Muhammad (Ghiyasuddin’s son- in-law).

He was also disappointed in the Ghurid chiefs, wh had deserted him in the battlefield of Tarain and again at Andhkhudh. His remark that his slaves were his sons and would succeed after him shows his utter distrust and disappointment in his family as well as in his Ghurid officers. It is in this background that the whole position (of succession) should be viewed”, says K.A. Nizami.

Muizzuddin’s assassination in 1206 should be regarded as the event that made Aibak Qutb-ud-din the founder of the Turkish dominion in India.

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