Mahmud Ghaznavi's 17 Invasions of India [Work in Progress]

Ravi Rikhye

Adapted from Amrit Pal Singhís listing of Mahmud Ghaznaviís invasions. Please be welcome should you wish to add to this page. Contact the Publisher should you wish to take over the page.

This is a non-commercial page maintained in the public interest. We have used images that we believe to be in the public domain. If you own the copyright and do not grant us permission for use, please contact the publisher and we will immediately remove the picture.

Other sources

         Thapar, Romila [2002] Early India; Penguin Books, New Delhi, India.

Description: C:\public_html\site\cimh\kings_master\kings\mahmud_ghaznavi\p0108010101.jpg


The top one is from

The right one is from

Description: C:\public_html\site\cimh\kings_master\kings\mahmud_ghaznavi\ghazni.bmp


Until the rise of the west, India was possibly the richest country in the world. China was a rival in wealth, but we are not placed to compare the two nations. To the extent that Indiaís climate was more temperate than Chinaís, and the land probably more fertile, it is likely India was the richer.

Such a country presented an irresistible target for the ravening Mongols and their descendents who settled in present day Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikstan, all within comparatively easy reach of northwestern India.

The northwest was, at this time, a mish-mash of warring kingdoms, more interested in settling scores with their neighbors than in unifying against the Mongols. It is then unsurprising that Mahmud Ghaznaviís armies so handily defeated those of the Indian kings.

Mahmud Ghanznavi (translated: Mahmud of Ghazni) was not, according to some, like future Muslim invaders of India, a religious proselytizer. Indeed, with the exception of Punjab, which he needed as his "forward operating base" for his Indian expeditions, he made no attempt to rule any of his conquests. His intent was economic and political. It has been said that the destruction of Somnath is mentioned only in Muslim texts, whose authors had the habit of exaggeration. This view goes as far as to say in the opinion of some, the Ghaznivad empire fell apart because of Mahmudís excessive reliance on Hindu soldiers and generals.

Others, however, have argued the reverse: he may have wanted the money, but also wanted to spread Islam and did his best to destroy temples even when offered large sums to leave the temples alone.  The Indian historian Romila Thapar [2002] takes a middle view: Mahmud needed money for his wars; Indiaís temples were known to contain fabulous treasures; we need not look for more complicated explanations. Thapar said he was undoubtedly an iconoclast, and hardly averse to destroying temples to gain favor when he went to heaven. Nonetheless, he warred equally with other Islamic sects, because he was a Sunni. The secondary purpose of his raids may have been tied up with his need to convert Shias to Sunni beliefs.

Nonetheless, for our purposes, which are military history, Mahmud Ghaznavi's motives and large aims are irrelevant, and we say without hesitation we have little idea of where the truth lies.

Understandably, Indians know Mahmud Ghaznavi because of his invasions of India. But he fought many wars to the west, and captured large parts of today's Iran, and that was an entirely different part of his life. His father was a Turkish slave; this would be one reason he looked to the west.

While we have believed, as have most school and college students of Indian history, that there were 17 invasions, some say there were 14. We hope someone with the necessary scholarship can enlighten us on this.


Born in 971, Mahmud Ghaznavi was the elder son of Subuktagin, the king of Ghazni. When Subuktagin attacked King Jaipal, Mahmud fought for his father in the battlefield. Though Mahmud was the elder son of his father, it is said that in his last days, Subuktagin was not happy with Mahmud. So, when Subuktagin died in 997, his younger son Ismail became the king of Ghazni.

Ismail reigned only for a little time. Very soon, Mahmud defeated him and became the king.

Mahmud began a series of seventeen raids into northwestern India at the end of the 10th century. Nonetheless, he did not attempt to rule Indian territory except for the Punjab, which was his gateway to India, as Ghazni lay in present day Afghanistan.

Description: C:\public_html\site\cimh\kings_master\kings\mahmud_ghaznavi\ghazni2.bmp

Invasions [partial list, work in progress]

1000 AD: Indian Frontier Towns


1001-03 AD: Jaipal, Peshawar

Jaipal was the king of Hindushahi Kingdom. Mahmud had already fought against him, when Subuktagin was the king of Ghazni. When Mahmud became the king, he decided to attack on Hindushahi Kingdom, as its king, Jaipal, was his old enemy.

In 1001, Mahmud attacked the Hindushahi Kingdom. 15,000 Hindu soldiers were killed. Jaipal was defeated and captured. He was presented before Mahmud with his 15 other relatives; 500,000 enslaved persons were also brought along.

Mahmud looted all his wealth. He received 250,000   Dinars to free Jaipal. About 5,00,000 Indians were taken to Ghazni as slaves. Though Jaipal was freed, but he refused to survive his disgrace. He cast himself upon a funeral pyre and died.

Description:   Dinars and Slaves

1008: Anandpal

Anandpal was the son of Jaipal, and now became the king of Hindushahi Kingdom.

In 1008, Mahmud attacked on Anandpal. Anandpal called other Hindu kings to help him. The kings of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Kannauj, Delhi, Ajmer etc. came to help him with their armies. In the battlefield of Peshawar, both the armies remained standing before each other, but no one attacked. Meanwhile the Khokhars (a race) also came there to help Hindus. Mahmud deployed 6,000 archers to attack. Khokhars attacked the Muslims and killed approximately 5,000 Muslims.

Unfortunately, Jaipal's elephant became infuriated and ran from the battlefield. As soon as Jaipal left the battlefield, the Hindu army got confused and ran away. Muslims chased them and killed 20,000 Hindus. Thus, the best organized national efforts ever made by medieval Hindu India against the foreigners ended.

1009: Invasion of Nagarkot [Kangra]

Nagarkot was very famous for its wealth kept in its temples. So, Mahmud decided to invade Nagarkot. Like a swarm of locusts, his army destroyed everything in its path.

Paralyzed with fear, the defenders opened the cityís gate and fell on the ground in submission.

Mahmud got so much jewelry, gold and silver, that when he returned to his capital, his people congregated to see the incredible wealth of India.

1014: Thanesar

Mahmud came to know of the riches of Thanesarís temples. In 1014, he invaded Thanesar. The Hindus wanted to reach on a compromise, but Mahmud refused. His army destroyed the city, massacred the inhabitants, and plundered the sacred temples.

1015: Kashmir Valley

1018-19: Mathura and Kannauj

When Mahmud invaded Mathura, he was amazed to see so many huge and beautiful Hindu temples. No one would resist him, and he entered the city unopposed, leaving with untold wealth.

Then, he attackedKannauj in January of 1019. The King of Kannauj, Rajpal Pratihar did not dare to stop him and ran away. The invaders looted the sacred temples. Many innocent people were killed.

The king of Kannauj, Rajpal Pratihar accepted the superiority of Mahmud Ghaznavi and then Mahmud turned back for Ghazni.

1021: Kalinjar

Rajpal Pratihar, the king of Kannauj, had accepted the superiority of Mahmud. This made other Rajput kings angry. The Rajput kings of Kalinjar, Gandda Chandel, with the king of Gwalior and others attacked on Kannauj and killed the king Rajpal Pratihar.

Mahmud was unhappy with this. To punish the culprits, he attacked Kalinjar. The king, Gandda Chandel accepted the superiority of Mahmud. Mahmud was satisfied with the money the King gave him and he returned.

1023: Lahore

1925: Somnath, 16th Invasion

Description: Somnath & the Hindu Psyche

The most famous and terrible invasion launched by Mahmud was his sixteenth, against the Somnath Temple in Gujrat, western India. This was an immense distance from Ghanzni, but one supposes by now he was so feared that he had easy passage.

The Somnath temple was very famous for its treasures. There were one thousand priests to serve the temple. Hundreds of dancers and singers played before its gate. There was famous Linga, a rude pillar stone, adorned with gems embroidered with precious like stars, which decorated the shrine.

The brave Hindu Rajputs came forward to defend the temple. Shouting 'Allah hu Akbar', the enemy tried to entered into the temple. The Hindus fought very bravely and the invaders could not damage the temple. The battle lasted for three days.

After three days, the invaders succeeded and entered into the Somnath temple.

Mahmud ordered his men to destroy the sacred idol, Linga. He looted the treasures of the temple. It is said that he got wealth worth 20-million Dinars, eighty times the already huge sum he had gained on his first invasion.

1026: The 17th and Last Invasion

After looting the Somnath temple, when Mahmud was going back to Ghazni, the Jats had attacked his army. So, to punish the Jats, he returned and defeated them in 1026.

Death of Mahmud

On April 30, 1030, Mahmud died in Ghazni, at the age of 59 years. He had contracted malaria during his last invasion. This turned to tuberculosis.