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Mongols, Central Asian Rivalry and Kashmir

By M.M. Munshi

This has a reference to letters of Bilhan Koul and B.N.Sharga in June 06 and September 06 respectively issues of your magazine in which it has been said that ancestors of B N Sharga of Mongolian origin entered Kashmir in eight century raised families after marrying Kashmiri Women were Brahaminised and settled in Rainawari.

In the first instance we must try to understand as to who were these Mongols ? They belonged to Hun race and inhabited a bleak and barren mountain plateau between China and Siberia. They are short of stature, and thickset compact in their bodies broad headed yellow skinned, straight haired with an epicanthic fold in their eyes. Extreme climate, the barrenness of their habitat and lack of agriculture turned them into wanderers, Shepherds, seasoned horsemen and at the same time a warlike, savage and ferocious people. It brought them into conflict with other people, conquered distant lands. In the first century BC they turned towards west and by second century AD they practically threatened Roman empire under their leader Atilla “The Scourge of God”. In the east tribes of Dun-hu and Miung-nu advanced to invade China and the Chinese emperors endeavored to check them by building the “Great Wall”. Subsequently the infighting among the Mongolians weakened them, they were pushed back from their conquered territories and Mongolia itself was divided into small principalities.

In Central Asia China, and for a time India also witnessed the culmination of integrated drives during the sixth and seventh centuries to weld together new empires from petty kingdoms that had emerged from the ruins of Old empires. The Sui dynasty [ 581-618] reunited most of China proper under a centralized administration, providing a sound foundation for their successors the T’ang dynasty [618-907] who consolidated north West China. By 630 the armies eastern Turkistan were completely routed by the Chinese and in the ensuing decades even petty chiefdoms of Turkistan (Sinkiang) modern Xinjiang made their submission to Chinese emperors.

The struggle to dominate Central Asia was not however restricted to China and Turkistan.

But directly involved Tibet, Baltistan, Ladakh, Kashmir and to a lesser extent Northern India and Nepal. In Tibet a dynastic line who’s influence to seventh Century was restricted to a smaller area east of Mayum Pass and south of Tsangpo [Bhramputra ] River began a rapid expansion of its domains. The most famous of its kings Song-Tseng–Gam-Po of the area made Tibet a dominant military power and was able to demand and receive princess in marriage from Nepal and China.

A new facet was added to these complexities with the advance of the Islamic Arabian empire into Central Asia via Iran and Iraq in late seventh century and with the fall of Sind to Arabs in 712.

The bitter struggle between Tibet and China was resumed in 660 and lasted for three centuries involving at one time or other directly or indirectly most of the neighboring states. The contest was waged in three principle areas (1) Szechun lying directly east of Tibet,(2) KoKo Nor (Tsinghi) and Kansu in the north east and (3) Turkistan ( the four garrisons i.e. Kashgar, Khotan, Kucha and Karashahr.. If the Chinese dominance of Turkistan was to be effectively challenged the primary requisites would be the control of western Tibet and passes for the passage in Baltistan and Ladakh. West Tibet was accordingly brought under Tibetian hegemony and after several years of fluctuating war the territory of the four garrisons was conquered in 670, and held for more than twenty years before a huge Chinese force taking advantage of dissension in Tibet recovered Turkistan for T’sang empire.

Soon afterwards Baltistan and Ladakh became the chief arena fighting between Tibet and China into which Kashmir was actively drawn and conflict became wider with increasing Arab pressure both against China and Kashmir, which brought both together in an alliance of some sort against the Arabs on one side and Tibetians on the other. Chinese records state that at least three Indian embassies visited Chinese court between 713-14 to ask for military aid against the Arabs {Ma-twan –lin, “Thien-chu-India “Trans.James Burgess, Indian Antiquity IX (1880) It is known that at least one of these was sent by King Tchen-ko-lo-pi-li who has been identified as Chandrapida Vajradantia [ U.N.Mukerjee "Chronology of Karkota Naga Dynasty of Kashmir" Uttara Bharati, IV No 3 Mar. 1958]

There was hardly any period during the eight century that was free of active hostilities. Much of the fighting centered on the Baltistan-Turkistan area. In 722 a Chinese force of about four thousand coming to the aid of Baltistan was able to prevent the Tibetian domination of the passes into Turkistan. About ten years later the great Kashmiri Monarch Laltaditya Mukhpida not only turned a Tibetian invasion of Baltistan but also advanced into north west part of Tibet . In 737 Tibetians launched another attack aimed at exclusion of Kashmiri influence from the crucial pas-ses. This time Chinese extended aid by a divers-ionary attack on Koko Nor which did not have the desired affect. Once Again in747 a large Chinese force acting in conjugation with Kashmiris successfully crossed the passes and reestablished T’ang influence in Baltistan. Chinese garrisons were placed as far west as Gilgit in an effort to counter an Arab advance.. But the Chinese success was temporary and Arabs ousted them in751 and also surrendered much of the western Turkistan to Abbasid Caliphate [ Pandit Daya Ram Sahni,,” References to the Bhotas or Bhauttas in the Rajtarangini of Kashmir” (Notes from Tibetan sources by A.S.Francke), Indian antiquity,XXXVII ( July 1908) ].

The Chinese disaster enabled the Tibetian King Tri-di-tsuk-tsen to regain control over Baltistan and his successor Tri-song-de-tsen carried the Tibetian empire to what was to be its maximum expansion conquering Turkistan, most of Kansu, a large portion of Szechuan. In 763 Tibetian forces even captured Changan the western capital of China. King Laltaditya’s glorious achievements did not survive after his death.Tibetian power reached its new heights with a  series of decisive victories over the Chinese between 760 to 780 culminated in a peace treaty

In 783 the terms of which were favorable to Tibet, but events became unfavourable for Tibet when their alliances broke down with the Shans of Yunnan in the east and Arabs to the west as Shans were competing not with T’angs (Chinese) but Tibetians in the upper Yangtse valley. Similarly with their success in Turkistan it became clear that it was Tibet which stood in the way of Arabs in latter’s expansion . Caliphate of Baghdad joined hands with Chinese against the Tibetians in Turkistan which resulted in weakening of Tibetian position in Central Asia and elsewhere. In due course of time process of decay set in much of the areas over which Chinese and Tibetians had fought so bitterly reverted to petty chief tens and other conquerers.Turkistan fell to Uighurs, West Tibet and Ladakh gradually emerged as petty independent principalities

Neither the Chinese Annals, Chronicles of Tibet or Ladakh or Kashmiri or Turki sources mention anything about involvement of Mongolians of the struggle in Central Asia between third and twelfth Century. The concept of a Hindi speaking Kashmiri Pandit at present residing at Lucknow that his ancestors of Mongolian Origin entered Kashmir in 8th century and eventual settled in Rainawari is based on wishful thinking and not on historical

Research. King Tra-shi-gon (1200-1230 ) was ruling Ladakh when Gengis Khan was consolidating his Great Mongol empire. There is no mention of Ladakh having been subjugated by Gengis Khan not even mention of the Mongol conqueror in Ladakhi Chronicles. Thus the concept of Mongols having reached Delhi via Kashmir is also ruled out.

As far as northern India was concerned the aggression started in the time of Gengis Khan who defeated Jalaluddin Mangbarni son of Sultan Said Khan of Khwarizm on the west bank of Indus in 1221. Although he never crossed the Indus himself, yet some of his followers penetrated in pursuit of Jalaluddin After they began to hover over the north western plains of India. Lahore fell to them in 1241 and they harried Multan, northern Sind and Punjab.Balban punished and routed them. 1n 1290 Jalaluddin Khilji repelled their intrusion, then he appeased them and made them settle at Mongolpuri at present informally called Mangalpuri. It is this Mongolpuri B.N.Sharga refers in support of his claim that Mongols reached Delhi via Kashmir.That of course did not guarantee peace they repeated pillaging and disaster and led fresh aggression in 1297 under their leader Qutlugh during the rule of Allauddin Khilji and threatened northern India but were somehow repulsed.. They again appeared in 1303,devastated Punjab and laid siege to Delhi Then they suddenly withdrew presumably they were recalled by grandsons of Gengis Khan who were in Afganistan-Turkemaenstan. area. In all probability some of them found their way into Kashmir. Kashmir was not unknown to them and had been included by Ogatay the third son of Gengis Khan and latter by Halakhu [Tabakat Nasiri Raverty’s trans.) History of Mongols III ] But then it had escaped.The earliest Mongol invasion of Kashmir in historic times took place in the early summer of 1320 during the rule of King Sahadeva Infact Mongols penetrated Kashmir from the plains of north India and not the plains of north India or Delhi from Kashmir as envisaged by B.N.Sharga. The invasion was led by Mongol chief Dulacha who entered Kashmir via Baramula route with about seventeen thousand horses and foot. Raja Sahadeva and his government were paralyzed by fright and tried to save off ruin by offering gratifications to Dulacha, but he spurned the offer and moved with a passion of wholesale annihilation destruction and devastation of the valley. It appears that he came to know Delhi was suddenly taken in the grip of a civil war. Sultan Mubarak Shah was assassinated and Khusrav Khan had ascended a precarious throne and wanted to take advantage of the situation and decided to proceed to Delhi via the shortest possible Banihal route carrying with huge booty of men women as slaves, animals and whatever fell into his hands . But as soon as they were crossing Banihal pass they were suddenly caught in a blizzard in which all of them perished.

After the death of Rinchan Shah the Ladakhi prince in 1323 Udyanadeva a cousin of Sahadeva was installed as the king who also married Rinchan’s widow Kota Rani a second Mongol invasion of Kashmir led by Achala took place. At the approach of the enemy King Udyanadeva like a coward fled to Ladakh leaving behind his family and subjects to their fate.

But Kota Rani like a woman rose to the occasion, she enthused her subjects and also enlisted the help of Kotarajas (feudal lords) and Shahmir a muslim refugee of Iranian origin and offered battle to the invaders.

By offering united opposition to the enemy they trumpeted and saved their country. After the death of Udyanadeva in 1339 Shahmir proclaimed himself as Sultan and muslim rule was established in Kashmir, his descendants ruled Kashmir till middle of sixteenth century.

In 1530 Humayun ceded Punjab and Indian frontier to his brother Kamran in addition to Kabul and Kandhar which were already in latter’s possession. He dispatched a sizable force to annex Kashmir which reached Srinagar without facing any serious opposition but combined forces of various Kashmiri factions inflicted a crushing defeat on the Mogul forces near Athwajan [Baharistan Shah Tariq-i-Haidar Malik].

The country had hardly two years when it was invaded for the first time in historic times via the Zojilla route by armies of Sultan Said Khan of Kashghar. Having completed subjugation of Baltistan and Ladakh dispatched under Mirza Haider Dughlat and Sikandar Khan who were Turks and not Mongols four thousand horsemen reinforced by many axillaries provided by defeated Balti and Ladakhi chiefs [Tariq-i-Rashidi] Kashghari army entered Kashmir via Zojilla pass in 1533, met very feeble resistance at Drun Nar, a narrow and dangerous defile below Sonamarg and proceeded up to Nowshahar. After resting for a few days at Nowshahar they advanced southwards pillaging and destroying whatever came their way.

Kashmiri forces mostly foot soldiers offered them battle near Mattan but proved no match for Kashghari horsemen.Kashmiris retreated to steep hills and narrow glens where Kashgharis could not attack them. After suffering a series of defeats Kashmiris by getting fresh reinforcements and courage of despair finally succeeded in defeating the Kashgharis somewhere south of Srinagar. Mirza Haidar wanted to stay in Kashmir and subdue the country but was forced to quit due to discontent, spread in his troops by his subordinate commanders.

After reaching Ladakh he was reinforced with fresh troops from Kashghar with the object of capturing Tibet but the mission failed due to long supply line and aid extended to Tibetians by Raja of Jumla [A.H.Francke “Antiquities of Indian Tibet” Archeological Survey of India 1065]. After the death of Kashghar ruler his successor Rashid Khan was not kindly disposed towards Mirza Haider and withdrew most of the forces to Turkistan. Mirza Haider was forced to flee Ladakh, made his way upto Yarkand valley through Tagbundash, formidable Pamir passes and Badakshan to Kabul and finally Punjab.

Humayun who was still toying with the idea of annexing Kashmir gave assistance to Mirza Haider Dughlat who was poised to invade valley at the invitation of one of the warring Kashmiri factions. King Ibrahim Shah was disposed and Mirza Haider placed a puppet of his own on the Kashmir throne and himself ruled himself for about decade when he was killed by Shia rebels for his pro-Sunni policies. Kashmir again passed into the hands of weak and ineffectual kings of Chak clan till it was annexed by Akbar in 1586.


A preview of the above leaves no doubt, that except for intrusions of Dulacha and Alacha during the rules of King Sahadeva (1301-1320) and Udayanadeva (1323-39) who entered Kashmir via Baramula and Hirapur routes in 1313 and 1324 respectively no other Mongol invaded or penetrated Kashmir during known historic times. Mongolia remained divided into small tribal kingdoms for about a millennium till it was unified into an empire by Genghis Khan (1611-1227), expanded by his successors and held for about a century. In between the power rivalry in central Asia was restricted to China, Kashmir etc on one side and Tibet,the Abassid Califate (Arabs) and Turkistan on the other side. As such Mongolians having penetrated Punjab or Delhi via Kashmir especially during the eight century as stated by B N Sharga and others is far from the truth and nothing short of distortion of history.

Rinchan was a Ladakhi prince, a descendant of Nyi-ma-gon of Tibetian origin and not of the Hun race of Mongolia and entered Kashmir as a refugee in early 14th century with a handful of followers was given shelter by Ram Chandra minister and commander in chief of king Sahadeva. Since he was not accompanied by any army the question of his generals marrying Kashmiri Women and raising families has also to be ruled out.Most of the invasions of Kashmir from Prehistoric times to 1819 were from west, north west and south i.e. Baramula-Kishenganga side and western passes on the Pir Panjal range. The only exceptions are the invasion via Zojilla Pass by armies of the Kashghar ruler in 1533 and minor skirmishes from across the Saribal range from Kishtwar which was used as a hideout and sanctuary by disposed Kashmiri Kings and rebels from time to time.

Source: Kashmir Sentinel



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