Chaulukya Queen Naikidevi- The Defender of Gujarat From Muhammad Ghori

The history of the Chaulukyas of Gujarat has never suffered from want of historians since Hemachandra wrote his Dvyāśrayakāvya. His lead in this field of literature was followed by many writers such as, Someśvara, Somaprabha, Chandraprabha or Prabhachandra, Balāchandra, Udayaprabha, Merutunga, Jayasimha Suri and others. Many of these authors really wrote the biography of Kumarapala or of Vastupala and Tejahpala, but even such biographies usually contained a canto, or, if the whole work consisted of a short prasasti, several verses, in praise of the Chaulukya kings. The information thus left is, however, often of the greatest importance for reconstructing the history of the Chaulukyas of Gujarat.

Far more remarkable than the heroic martyrdom of Lakshmibai, the Queen of Jhansi, was this dazzling victory in the Indian annals scored by a valiant woman against a treacherous, ruthless, and barbaric invader compared to whom the British foe would look like a fine flower of civilization. Yet somehow the history of Naikidevi is little known to the people of India.

Mularaja-II, or Bala Mularaja as he is affectionately called by the Chroniclers, ascended the throne of his father Ajayapala, while still a boy. His mother was Naikidevi, the daughter of one Paramardin, who has been identified with the Goa Kadamba Mahamandalesvara Permadi or Sivachitta (circa 1147-1188 AD). The earliest known inscription of Mularaja’s brother and successor Bhima-II, is dated V.S. 1235. Hence his reign lasted for not more than three years.

The most important event in the short reign of this boy king was the sanguinary defeat he inflicted on a Muslim army. The inscriptions of his successors invariably describe him as: prabhuta-durjaya-Garjanak-adhiraja, or Mlechchha-tamo-mchaya-chchhanna-mahi-valaya-pradyotana-valarka.

The Chroniclers rightly single out the defeat of the Muslims as the only incident worthy of being remembered about Mularaja. Somesvara states that Mularaja defeated the lord of the Turushkas, and vanquished the Mlechchha army. Balachandra states that King Mularaja, though an infant, defeated the Mlechchha king. Arisimha also refers to Mularaja’s victory over the Muslims, and an inscription of Bhima’s reign state that during the reign of Mularaja even a woman could defeat Hammira.

A more detailed description of the battle is given by Merutuñga who states that Mularaja’s mother Queen Naikidevi, the daughter of Paramadin, taking her son in her lap, fought at a ghat called Gadararaghatta and conquered the king of the Mlechchhas by the aid of a mass of rain clouds that came out of season attracted by her virtue. Apparently, Merutuñga could not check the temptation of improving his anecdote by introducing supernatural elements in aid of human valour in order to impress his readers.

However, it is evident that Naikidevi defeated a Muslim army; but, as none of the Chroniclers name the invader, there is some difficulty in identifying him. Forbes, Buhler, Jackson, Hodivala, and Habibullah are of the opinion that the defeated Muslim army was led by Mu’izz ud-din Muhammad bin Sam, better known as Muhammad Ghori. But the Muslim historians are unanimous in stating that the victor of Mu’izz ud-Din was Bhim Dev, king of Nahrwala, i.e. Bhima-II, the brother and successor of Mularaja-II. An inscription at Kiradu which mentions Bhima as the reigning monarch and records the repairs to a temple broken by the Turushkas is dated 1178 AD. As the invasion of Mu’izz ud-Din also took place in the same year (1178 AD), some scholars have assumed, on the authority of the Muslim sources alone, that Bhima defeated the Muslim army of Mu’izz ud-Din. But, if this assumption is accepted the difficulty would be to identify the Muslim army which was defeated by Mularaja, as between 1175-1178 AD the only recorded Muslim invasion was the one led by Mu’izz ud-Din, in 1178 AD.

In order to realize the full magnitude of Mularaja’s victory, it is necessary to trace in brief outline the rapid rise of the Ghoris. Towards the middle of the 12th century AD, a clan of Afghans under their Suri chiefs revolted against the Ghaznavid Sultan, the descendant of Sultan Mahmud. These rebels are better known in history as the ‘Ghoris’, a word derived from the name of their native place, Ghor, a mountainous tract which lies between Herat and Bamiyan. The first Ghor chief to come into prominence was Ala ud-Din Hussain, who in revenge of his brother’s death at the hands of the Ghaznavid Sultan Bahram, captured Ghazni, plundered the city, set fire to the buildings which were left burning for seven days, massacred the whole male population of the city, and carried away the women and children as slaves (1150 AD). This terrible deed earned for him the sobriquet of Jahan Soz, ‘the world burner’, though Ala ud-Din failed to occupy Ghazni permanently. Soon after Ala ud-Din was defeated by Seljuk Sanjar, but the foundation of the Ghaznavid Empire of Sultan Mahmud was shaken.

In the year 1160 AD the craven hearted Ghaznavid Sultan retired for good to Lahore before an attack by the Ghuzz Turcomans, and since then the descendants of Sultan Mahmud became for all practical purposes an Indian power. The Ghuzz Turcomans retained possession of Ghazni for twelve years after which period it fell into the hands of Ghiyas ud-Din, the nephew and second in succession to ‘world-burner’. Under Ghiyas ud-Din, the power of the Ghoris reached its apogee; he conquered Garmsir, Zamin Dawar, Fars, Kaliyan, Garjistan, Bagshoor, Talkan, Balkh, and parts of Khorasan adjacent to Heart. This brought him into rivalry with the Khwarazm Shahs, which leter on had some indirect influence on the history of India. Ghiyas ud-Din’s younger brother was placed by him in charge of the Indian campaigns; he was Mu’izz ud-Din Muhammad bin Sam better known as Muhammad Ghori. The Indian invasion of Mu’izz ud-Din therefore, was in reality an invasion by a fresh band of hardy mountaineers uncontaminated by the enervating effects of city civilization. They burst into India just as the dynasty of Sultan Mahmud was coming to its natural end.

The enmity between the Ghoris or Shanshabanis, as the dynasty of Ghiyas ud-Din was called, and the Khwarazm Shahs blocked the former’s expansion in Central Asia, particularly as the Khwarazm Shahs enjoyed the powerful support of the Buddhist Kara Khitais. The occupation of Ghazni also made the Shanshabanis eager to grasp the whole of the Ghaznavid Empire, and Ghiyas ud-Din entrusted his brother Mu’izz ud-Din with this task, i.e. the conquest of India.

In 1175 AD, Mu’izz ud-Din led his first expedition into India and captured Multan from the Qarmatian heretics and Uch from a Hindu prince. Thus he obtained two good bases in India and could now turn towards Lahore as he wanted to do so. But it does not seem that at this date Mu’izz ud-Din was aiming to capture the Indian capital of the Yaminis. The shortest route that leads from Ghazni to Lahore is through the Khyber Pass, so that if Mu’izz ud-Din had wanted to capture Lahore he would have naturally occupied Peshawar first, and then marched on Lahore as he did later. Instead he entered through the Gomal Pass and after taking Multan and Uch turned sharply south towards southern Rajputana and Gujarat. Had this invasion been successful the whole of southern Rajputana and Gujarat would have been fallen to the Muslims, and Mu’izz ud-Din could, after establishing secure bases in these countries an securing his line of communications with Ghazni, attack either Ghaznavids or the Chahamanas of Sakambhari. His defeat by Naikidevi in 1178 AD compelled him to change his plans entirely. The next year he entered India through the Khyber Pass, captured Peshawar, and later occupied Lahore by a stratagem. Ultimately he had to face the Chahamanas in a frontal attack. Whatever effect this might have had on the history of northern India, Mu’izz ud-Din never again in his life attacked Gujarat, and the next Muslim invasion of that country was provoked by Chaulukya aggression under Bhima-II.

Minhaj states that in the year 574 A.H. (1178 A.D.) Mu’izz ud-Din “marched an army towards Nahrwala by way of Uchchha and Multan. The Rae of Nahrwala …. Was young in years, but had numerous forces and many elephants, and when the battle took place, the army of Islam was defeated and put to rout, and the Sultan-i-Ghazi (Mu’izz ud-Din) returned again without completing his designs. Nizam ud-Din states that “in the year 574 A.H. he (Mu’izz ud-Din) again came to Uch and Multan and thence marched towards Gujarat through the desert…. the ruler of the country gave him battle, and after a severe struggle the Sultan was defeated, and after much trouble, he returned to Ghazni and rested there for a short time.” Badauni states: “Then in the year 574 A.H. proceeding by way of Multan he brought an army against Gujarat and suffered defeates at the hands of…. The ruler of that country and with great difficulty reached Ghazni and obtained relief. According to Ferishta, “in the year 574 A.H. Mu’izz ud-Din again marched to Oocha and Multan and from thence continued his route through the sandy desert to Gujarat. The prince (a lineal descendant from Brahma Dev of Gujarat, who opposed Mohammad Ghaznavi), advanced with an army to resist the Mahomedans and defeated them with great slaughter. They suffered many hardships in their retreat before they reached Ghazni.” This defeat the Muslims were to remember for a long time.

Soon after the battle with Mu’izz ud-Din, Mularaja died, for the earliest known inscription of Bhima-II is dated circa 1178 AD. All the Chroniclers of Gujarat have proudly mentioned this gallant boy with affection, and Somesvara laments that the Creator swiftly uprooted the shoot of the tree of paradise that was Mularaja.

Disclaimer: This write-up is prepared from Asoke Kumar Majumdar’s remarkable book Chaulukyas of Gujarat, published by Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Bombay in 1956.

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3 thoughts on “Chaulukya Queen Naikidevi- The Defender of Gujarat From Muhammad Ghori

  1. This will go down one of the most important events in the muhammad ghori history. Beautifully written.. thanks a lot for posting.. keep writing.. I came to know about muhammad ghori when I was studying about his coinage on websites like Mintage World.

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