Ikhtiyar-ud-Din Muhammad’s Conquest of Bihar and Bengal

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While Qutb-ud-Din Aibaq was thus busy, one of his commanders named Ikhtiyar-ud-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khaliji was planning the conquest of Bihar and Bengal. The commander was a curious specimen of the genus homo with his arms reaching up to the calves of his legs while standing erect. With these long arms, he reached the easternmost parts of Northern Indian.

In 1197 A.D., he organized an attack against Bihar with 200 horsemen. Odantapuri, the capital of Bihar, was looted and plundered. Raja Indruman was a coward and without giving a fight, he ran away. The Buddhist monasteries in Bihar wre destroyed. Thousands of monks were put to the sword.

Minhaj tells us that Ikhtiyar-ud-Din attacked Bihar suddenly and captured the fortes. “The greater number of the inhabitants of that place was Brahmans and all of them had shaved heads. They were all slain. There was a large stock of books there. When these books came under the observation of the Musalmans, they summoned a number of Hindus who might give them information regarding the purport of those books; but ail the (literate) Hindus had been killed. On becoming acquainted (with the contents of those books), it was found that the whole of that fortress and city was a college and in Hinduri tongue, they call a college Bihar.”

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Conquest of Bengal :

Ikhtiyar-ud-Din was so much emboldened by his success in Bihar that he planned the conquest of Bengal which was ruled by Lakshmansena of Sena Dynasty. It is true that the ruler was not an old man but he was absolutely lethargic and negligent of his duties. Although the invaders were in Bihar, he did nothing to protect his territory. No wonder, Ikhtiyar-ud-Din took advantage of this state of affairs in Bengal.

Sometime in 1204-5 A.D. he started at the head of his army and suddenly appeared at Nadia which was one of the two capitals of Bengal and the residence of its kings. It is stated that only 18 horsemen had accompanied him to Nadia and the rest of the army was left behind. The people thought that he was a merchant who had brought horses for sale. In this manner, he reached the gate of the palace of the Raja. He drew his sword and commenced the attack. The Raja was at his dinner. All of a sudden, a cry was raised at the gate of his palace and in the city.

Before the Raja could ascertain what had occurred, Ikhtiyar-ud-Din rushed into the palace and put a number of men to the sword. The Raja fled bare-footed by the back door of the palace and his whole treasure and all his wives, maid-servants, attendants and women fell into the hands of the invader.

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When his main army arrived the whole city was brought under subjection. Ikhtiyar-ud-Din moved towards North and established himself at Lakhnauti. Lakshman Sena took shelter in Eastern Bengal where he continued to rule for some time. No attempt was made by Ikhtiyar-ud-Din to conquer the whole of Bengal.

According to Dr. Habibullah, “The ease with which the king was put to flight and the city occupied must have surprised even Bakhtiyar himself. The story of the 18 horsemen defeating a great king has, at any rate, evoked sceptical comments from a number of Hindu scholars. Minhuaj’s veracity has been questioned and arguments have been advanced to reduce the account to sheer myth. There is however, little need to fee apologetic for the supposed cowardice of the Sena king; even where he really so, to consider his conduct as typical of the Bengali people would be historically incorrect.

Hasty, and what ungenerous critics would call, shameful flights have been the lot of even greater men and admittedly heroic peoples. Rajput recklessness has an element of romance in it but of little practical wisdom. It is impossible to reject the story altogether. To dismiss it on the ground, as Mr. Benerji did, that the Hindu accounts never speak of Nadia or Navadwip as a Sena capital or that ‘Rai Lakhmania’ cannot be identical with Lakshmanasena who, in Mr. Banerji’s view had long been dead, is to base positive history on negative argument. For Bakhtiyar’s occupation of a portion of the Sena kingdom following his raid on Nadia is an undisputed fact.

It is true one cannot claim a literal accuracy for Minhaj’s account, but the results of recent research certainly do not strengthen Mr. Banerji’s arguments. There is, on the other hand, little improbability in the story for Bengal from all accounts presented not many elements of strength.

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A Brahmin-ridden, disintegrated society, with a king whose youthful valour and military energy had given way to a supine addiction to religion and poetry, a top-heavy, hollow administration and with vassals finding strength to declare independence, Lakshmanasena’s kingdom was anything but a force that could put up sustained frontal resistance. The Turushka had become a bogey and everywhere inspired’a paralysing fear. The superstitious ‘prophecy’ about’ the ‘long armed.

Turushka’ eventually destroying the Sena kingdom is perhaps an overstatement; the king’s refusal to fly with his frightened courtiers from the threatened zone shows that rational courage had not entirely taken leave of him. But the apprehension of an impending catastrophe was undoubtedly felt: for, epigraphic evidence shows that the king in his 25th year (1203 A.D.) performed a great sacrifice to propitiate the Gods for help in averting it.

Every fresh advance of the Turk only depended this fear and destroyed self-confidence. The easy success of Bakhtiyar’s noon-day attack thus needs no other explanation. Boldly led surprise attacks can paralyse even more courageous and well prepared forces. It is worthy of note that the city of Nadia was occupied only after the main force had arrived.

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