Mahmoud of Ghazna is one of the least well-known but at the same time most successful conquerors of human history.
The Ghaznadians, the dynasty of Ghazna, ruled over the second-largest Islamic empire in the history of the world. Their territory stretched from the present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan in the east to the Caspian Sea in the west.
Between 997 and 999, a Civil War broke out in the Ghaznadian Dynasty. The brothers Ismail and Mahmoud fought for the reign, which Mahmoud finally won in a crushing battle against his brother. In his subsequent tenure, he raided the Punjab region (also known as Sindh region) 17 times. The speed with which he raided big cities like Gwalior, Kanaui and Mathura indicates a thorough military planning.
Kadir, the caliph of Bagdad, acknowledged the sovereignty of Mahmud in the east, sent him an honorary robe and awarded him several titles. From this point on, the name Kadir appeared next to his on all the coins that Mahmud had stamped. The act of the caliph also confirmed him in his Islamic beliefs and he decided to take action against the idolaters in India.
During his conquering and pillaging campaigns in Northern India from 1005 to 1030, Mahmoud of Ghazna always carried off slaves. In 1005, Mahmoud conquered the Panjab valley and began with his raids in Northern India. The deployment of his troops was protected by border fortresses, the real strength of his army were the organizational and planning skills.
The Seldchuks (see also 2.7) under Tugril Beg defeated the Ghaznadian army in 1040, and thus stopped the broadening of the Ghaznadian Dynasty to the west.
The army existed of slave troops put together of the most diverse ethnicities. This was his basis, his strong troop core. A different part of his troops was made up of mercenaries and volunteers.
The state system was based on two pillars. First, the yearly raiding campaigns into the then-wealthy regions of Northern India. Second, the tax incomes. Mahmoud had his soldiers collect the taxes, who of course had their own interest in their leader being affluent, so that he could pay them.
The armies of Mahmoud consisted of professional soldiers who came from all around to serve in his army. The slave troops served more as maintenance for the front and to cope with the incidental menial labour, but were, if necessary, also integrated into the battle actions.
These slaves, mostly craftsmen, were not only integrated into the army machinery, but also in the state system. This was the secret of Mahmouds success.
The great number of slaves trained in arts and crafts heavily improved the commercial conditions of the industry in the Ghaznadian Dynasty.
In 1017, it was reported that Mahmoud of Ghazna carried off more than 50,000 slaves from Khorezm.
During those times, not much could oppose the striking force of Mahmoud. 54,000 horsemen and 1,300 elephants were with him on his raiding campaigns, with his sophisticated artillery as a major help.
During his reign, Mahmoud forayed India almost every year. These raids did not only mean disadvantages for India, though. Under the influence of the Ghaznadian Dynasty, India slowly began to open itself to the Islamic science, philosophy and literature. With Mahmouds advancements, the Islam started to spread in this region and displaced Buddhism and Hinduism bit by bit.
Thus, the whole region prospered under the reign of Mahmoud of Ghazna, who awarded himself the title of sultan. The capital of the empire and birthplace of its ruler, Ghazna, was famous in those days for its wonderful gardens und impressive buildings and palaces. Some of them still remain today. Mahmoud turned Ghazna into a city of literature and the arts and carried this on into the region. The influences of Islamic education and Persian culture in India had lasting effects on the contemporary and subsequent art and literature.
Mahmoud of Ghazna was famous as an experienced and courageous general in wartime, and as a wise and just ruler during times of peace.
He ended his carrier as a military leader with his expedition to Persia. This would also be his last greater action, he died in the year 1030 at the age of 59. He found his last peace in Agra.
After Mahmouds death, the Seldchuks, the Ghurides, the Chwaresm-Shahs and other Turkish tribes threatened the power of the mighty Ghaznadian Dynasty.
The empire started to break up. The first sign was the disastrous loss in battle to the Seldchuks in 1040-1041 at Dandanqan. Mas’du of Ghazna, the successor of Mahmoud, fled back to Ghazna and left Chorassahn to the Seldchuks.
The Ghurides, a people from the Northern territory of Afghanistan, grew to become the dynasty of Ghur in the following century. Mahmoud of Ghazna had subdued this people during his reign, but his successor did not manage to control the Ghur. Due to a family feud between the Ghurides and the Ghaznadians, Ghazna is finally conquered and burnt down by the Ghurides in 1186. The treatment of the Roma slaves remained the same.
As a result of the break-up of the great Ghaznadian empire, numerous small Islamic emirates came up in the region, and the Chwaresm-Shahs seized the empire under the order of the Seldchuks. Only at this point there was no longer an accepted emperor, so that even the two slave generals of the Ghaznadian Dynasty, Yildiz and Aybak, declared their independence from the dynasty in Ghazna and Delhi. Yildiz and Aybak were finally defeated by the Ghurides in 1206. These battles freed most of the Roma of those days from slavery.
Between 1186 and 1266, the Roma turned into different directions. Mostly into the empire of the “Rum-Seldchuks” (see also 2.7), another part joined the Mameluks (see also 2.5), and the rest remained in the first and second “Slave Dynasty”, from which they only escape no sooner than at the end of the 13th century. The last group of freed Roma either immediately made their way to Europe, or remained in the region in smaller groups.
The „Slave Dynasties“
The first Slave Dynasty existed from 1206 – 1266, the second one from 1266 – 1290.
In 1206, Schams al-Din Iltutmisch bought the title “sultan of India” from the caliph of Bagdad, and founded the first Slave Dynasty. The second one even managed to withstand the Mongolians, but their strength and influence made an expansion to the east impossible. That is why the group of Roma that today calls itself Bazigar-Banjara remained in India and Pakistan respectively.
1186 – 1348 A Region in Change and Upheaval
With the collapse of the Islamic military state of the Ghaznadians, a vacuum of power and control emerged in the region, maybe comparable to the situation in Iraq after the government collapsed there in 2003.
After the Ghaznadian Dynasty, several smaller Arabic emirates came into existence in the region, one of them of the Seldchuks, also known as “Rum-Seldchuks”.
The change of the region only began with the appearance of the Mongolians under the leadership of Dschinghis Khan. This led to a restructuring of the circumstances, since the rulers saw their powerful positions endangered by the Mongolians.
In the year 1192, Islamic warriors conquered Northern Indian territory for the first time and remained there for centuries.
The region of Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and little Asia was the dominion of the Seldchuks, an Islamic Turkish people, for almost 300 years.
In the time span between 1226 and 1355, the Mongolians forayed into the region for pillage and murder again and again. Hit heaviest were the empires of the Mameluks and the Seldchuks.
The collapse of the Ghaznadian Dynasty in 1206 was a blessing in disguise for the Roma. On the one hand it set them free. On the other hand they had no territory to claim, basically the same problem as today.
The region they came from, the Panjab and Sindh, was Islamic, too, by then. After 200 years the Roma no longer had roots in their home, since also the Greek elements had vanished from the linguistic place of origin, and now the Christian Mongolians were foraying.
The region was highly unstable, so the Roma had to join someone, and they decided on the Seldchuks. It is historically traceable that this must have happened between 1206 and 1290.
In 1290, The empire of the “Rum-Seldchuks” was defeated by Ottoman I. and thus became a part of the Ottoman Empire.
In 1346, the Ottoman Empire oriented itself towards the west, and the first Ottoman warrior soldier set foot on the European continent.
In 1348, the first Roma was recorded in Belgrad/Serbia. The first Roma slave on the run.