Short notes on Kafur’s Expedition to Dwarasamudra & Mabar

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Barely five months had passed after his return from the south that Malik Kafur thought of leading another expedition to conquer the remote kingdoms of Dwarasamdura and Mabar. While at Warangal he had learnt of the fabulous wealth of these kingdoms which had remained outside the pale of Muslim domination so far.

Kafur set out on November 17, 1310, arriving at Devagiri on February 3, 1311. As on previous occasions, Ramadeva gave all possible help to the invading army including the setting up of markets where all the necessities of life were provided.

Ramadeva also sent his commander-in-chief on southern frontier, Parasuram Dalavay by name to help Kafur’s army for the conquest of “Bhir Dhul and Bir Pandi” (Dwarasamudra and the country of Vira Pandya).

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Ramadeva had his own reasons for assisting Kafur in his invasion of Dwarasamudra. The ruler of this kingdom, Ballala III, had repeatedly invaded Seunas territory and had tried to capture some of the towns.

They had been constantly on war and, therefore, Ramadeva was happy at the prospect of Ballala’s defeat at the hands of Kafur. The Imperial army reached Bandri or Bandar in Satari taluk of North Kanara district after five days’ march.

Four officers along with interpreters were sent in the Ballala’s dominions to get the necessary intelligence. It was learnt that Ballala had marched towards Mabar to take advantage of the civil war which had broken out between the sons of Kulasekhara, Sundara Pandya and Vira Pandya.

Vira Pandya was a favourite of the king whom he nominated to the throne. Sundara Pandya killed his father in rage. Vira Pandya defeated his brother who fled northwards and asked for assistance from the sultan of Delhi or his general Kafur.

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Ballala wanted to plunder the rich mahajans or bankers and if possible to recover his ancestral possessions in the Tamil country which had been captured during the time of his predecessors by Jatavarman Sundara Pandya and Maravarman Kulasekhara. As soon as he heard about the arrival of the Delhi army, he hastened back to the capital to meet the invader.

On learning from his spies, that Ballala was away, Kafur thought the time to be very opportune to capture the citadel of Dwarasamudra by surprise attack before the Raya could make preparations. He reached Dwarasamudra on February 25, 1311 A.D. Ballala had already arrived there and held a council of war.

His nobles and officers were all determined to resist the invader with all their might. They preferred death to ignoble submission. But Ballala -was a far-sighted monarch. He knew that the enemy was a tough fighter. The chances of success against such a ruthless invader were remote. He could, of course, gain a martyr’s glory by dying in the field but the suffering of his people would be great.

He, therefore, decided to open negotiations and deputed the clever diplomat, Balak Deva Nayak to settle the terms of surrender. Kafur reiterated the usual conditions. Ballala agreed to become a zimmi and part with all his wealth, elephants and horses.

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Some of the contemporary Muslim historians have referred to the construction of a stone mosque but this is impracticable. Kafur stayed in Dwarasamudra for only 13 days and could not have been able to erect a mosque in such a short time.

In any case, he plundered Ballala, and marched towards Mabar. Ballala, it seems, guided the Imperial army to Mabar. It took them 5 days to reach Mabar on March 5, 1311. There was disaffection among the officers of the army who had been away from their home and families for such a long time. One of the officers Abaji Mughal planned to desert to the enemy and kill malik naib.

But he was seized and kept in custody for the rest of the campaign. Unlike their contemporaries Ramadeva, Prataparudra and Vira Ballala III, the princes of Mabar were shrewd enough to realize that a pitched battle with the invaders was useless.

The Imperial army had superior weapons such as manjanicjs, maghribies, aradah sabats etc. which enabled it to capture even the strongest forts. They, therefore, decided against the strategy of fighting the enemy in the open country and adopted guerilla warfare tactics which were later on followed by the Marathas in their wars against Aurangzeb so successfully.

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Kafur failed miserably in his attempt to defeat Pandya princes. He pursued them relentlessly from Birdul to Kandur and thence to Jalkota, but Vir Pandya and his family were able to evade him successfully. Eventually, he came to know that Vir Pandya had taken refuge in the impenetrable forests.

Heavy rains made his task still more difficult, and he had to give up his futile pursuit in sheer disgust. Meanwhile, he had plundered almost the entire country, put hundreds of people to death, destroyed temples, broken the idols and collected huge quantity of gold and gems.

The famous golden temple at Marhatpuri (Barmatpuri or Chidambaram) was razed to the ground and its foundations were dug up. Almost all the temples near Kannanur including that of Srirangam were destroyed. Finally, Kafur returned to Madura where Vira Pandya was reported to have arrived. But he was greatly disappointed to find that he had once again given him a slip.

Meanwhile, new danger loomed large on the horizon. In the face of the Muhammadan invasions, the Pandya princes gave up their internecine war and joined hands under the leadership of Vikrama, younger brother of Kulasekhara I and attacked the Imperial army. The Mughal cavalry fled in panic and Kafur suffered a defeat.

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But he was able to save the vast booty which he had captured. Now he decided to give up this fruitless pursuit which had cost him so heavily and taken him to unsafe places and started his march towards Delhi on 25 April, 1311. He took with him the son and heir of Ballal III who had proved such a faithful ally and arrived at Delhi, after about six months, on October 19, 1311.

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