Sultan Mahmoud, the prominent ruler of the Turkish Ghaznavid dynasty
Compiled By: Syed Ali Shahbaz
On 11th of the Islamic month of Safar in 421 AH, Sultan Mahmoud, the prominent ruler of the Turkish Ghaznavid dynasty who for 34 years ruled the eastern Iranian lands, died. He turned Ghazni into the capital of an extensive empire that covered most of today's eastern and southern Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan, Pakistan, Turkmenistan, parts of Uzbekistan, as well as Northwest India. His initial campaign was the capture of Khorasan along with his father, Sebuktigin, a slave of Alaptagin, who in turn was a Turkish slave of the Iranian Samanid dynasty of Bukhara.
Soon, Mahmoud succeeded his father and invaded Sistan to end the Iranian Saffarid dynasty. He then turned towards the north to end the rule of the Samanid dynasty. He next invaded Punjab in the east and overthrew the Ismaili Shi'ite Muslim kingdom of Multan which was allied with the Fatemids of Egypt. Mahmoud massacred the Ismailis and then penetrated into India defeating the Hindu rulers of Lahore.
He next crushed the Rajput confederacy, and in the subsequent years the Indian kingdoms of Nagarkot, Thanesar, Kannauj, Gwalior, and Ujjain were all conquered and left in the hands of Hindu, Jain and Buddhist kings as vassal states, since he never maintained a permanent presence in India. His armies stripped the temples of their wealth, especially the main temple of Somnath in Gujarat.
Despite his brutal nature, Mahmoud was a patron of arts and Persian poetry. He brought whole libraries from Rayy and Isfahan to Ghazni after raiding these Iranian cities. He even demanded that the Khwarezmshahi court send its men of learning to Ghazni, such as Abu Rayhan Birouni, and Abu Ali ibn Sina. Birouni joined Mahmoud's court and accompanied him to India where he stayed, learned Sanskrit, and did valuable research on a wide variety of subjects such as astronomy, geology, anthropology, and history.
Ibn Sina declined and fled to the Buwaiyhid courts in Rayy, Isfahan, and Hamedan. The famous Persian poet, Abu'l-Qassem Ferdowsi, after laboring 27 years, went to Ghazni and presented his monumental epic, the "Shahnamah", to Mahmoud. According to historians, Mahmoud had promised Ferdowsi a dinar for every distich written, but when he saw the "Shahnamah" was made up of 60,000 distiches, which required him to pay 60,000 dinars, he retracted and presented him a mere 200 dinars, which Ferdowsi declined and returned to Tus, where after writing a scathing satire against the Sultan, he died heartbroken.
Mahmoud's last four years were spent contending with the influx of Oghuz Turkic tribes from Central Asia, and rebellions by Seljuqs. Mahmoud's tomb is located at Ghazni in what is now Afghanistan.
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