The Hindu Shahi Dynasty (870 C.E. - 1015 C.E.)
By late 10th century the Muslim presence in Sindh had deteriorated to two insignificant families in control of Multan and Mansurah. Kabul and surrounding neighborhood was under the control of Hindu kings from the middle of 9th century. A dynasty called the Shahis flourished here and extended their kingdom up to Punjab in the east. Then in the year 870 Kabul was lost to invading Muslims. A Turkic slave, Aptigin by name, had amassed power and occupied Ghazni, an important town on the Kabul-Kandahar road, in the year 963. Aptigin's son Sabuktigin succeeded him in the year 977. He was anxious for religious war with the Hindus and ravaged the provinces of Kabul and Punjab.
Shahi dynasty under King Jayapala still controlled the area west of Jalalabad and thus part of what is known as Kabul valley. He resisted the onslaught gallantly but had to sue for peace when the weather turned hostile during the treacherous winter of Afghanistan.
Sabuktigin with his later to be infamous son, Mahmud, gorged on the Hindu population with butchery and sorcery, the likes of which had not been seen before in the subcontinent. Jayapala gathered a large army with the help of neighboring kingdoms and mounted a counter attack. The Ghazni forces were more mobile and superior riders compared to the slower elephant-mounted Indians. They were routed and the Khyber Pass and countless number of elephants and other booty fell into the hands of Sabuktigin. The invaders had a foothold on the Indian soil and controlled the gateway, the Khyber Pass, to the vast Indian subcontinent.
After the death of Sabuktigin his son, Mahmud succeeded him. He was to be to India what a Satan was to Islam. Grotesquely ugly in appearance Mahmud controlled a vast empire and had ambitions of expanding further east into the heartland of India. With the god given right of every Muslim to root out idolatry as an excuse, he started his assault into India. He resolved on a pattern of yearly incursion into India with the charade of spreading Islam to the infidels. However, he had heard of the fabled wealth of India and was in dire need of capital to maintain his large armed forces and entourage.
The religious mission quickly changed to indiscriminate looting and murdering of Hindus with large caravans of bounty marching back to Ghazni after each monsoon. The first assault was on November 27, 1001. A concurrent, though biased, account of the assault was kept by his faithful secretary al-Utbi and later a more reliable account was given by historian Ferishta. It was during his second invasion near Peshawar the much-weakened King Jayapala suffered a crushing defeat of enormous proportions. Following this the proud king abdicated his throne to his son Anandapala and committed suicide by climbing onto his own funeral pyre.
Mahmud continued his raid into India on a regular basis (a total of seventeen times over twenty-seven years, from 1001-1027) and the Shahis were the only kings to oppose him, but with little success. Large assortments of loot including precious jewels and pearls, tons of gold and silver were hoarded on thousands of elephants and transported to Ghazni. The Indians headed for the hills with the sound of advancing troops of the Muslim army and there was no significant opposition to the ugly marauder. City after city, year after year felt the wrath of Ghaznivads. Pillaging of the cities was invariably followed by rape and murder.
Then in the year 1008 it was the turn of Mathura with its well-endowed temple of Lord Krishna. Before razing it to the ground and plundering it, Mahmud is said to have marveled at the sheer beauty of the architecture and imagined it would take him two hundred years to build a similar magnificent mosque. However, he had no difficulty in desecrating and looting the temple of tons of gold, silver and precious stones before burning it. The taste of blood and booty had practically blinded him so much so that even the Muslim sympathetic, sycophant historians felt uncomfortable writing about his ruthless murderous rampage.
The Shiva temple of Somnath was one of his last targets. Somnath in Gujarat (Saurashtra) had a fortified temple with its most sacred and celebrated lingam. The people, however, were pacifists and defenseless. In 1025, Mahmud with only cavalry and camels crossed the Thar Desert and surprised the residents of Somnath. When the soldiers scaled the walls with ladders all they found inside were defenseless worshippers. Fifty thousand devotees praying to the lingam and weeping passionately with hands clasped around their necks were massacred in cold blood. The marauders looted twenty million dirhams-worth of gold and silver. Mahmud himself took great pleasure in destroying the stone lingam, after stripping it off its gold ornaments. Bits of the lingam were sent back to Ghazni and incorporated into the steps of its new mosque to be trampled and perpetually defiled by the faithful.
Eventually Anandapala's empire shrank to a small part of northeast Punjab. His son Trilochanapala even lost that last bit of land and became a refugee in Kashmir. In his zeal to accumulate wealth, Mahmud neglected to administer to the lands he had conquered. He finally died in the year 1030 but not before he transformed Ghazni into a worthy capital from the looted wealth. India breathed a collective sigh of relief. Mahmud had two sons born on the same day to two different wives and a dispute ensued after his death. This manner of horrific bloodbath and murderous plots before each succession was to become common practice among the Muslim rulers of India for the rest of their history. The reign of Masud was insignificant and eventually the Ghaznivads lost their famed capital of Ghazni to invading Turks. Lahore served as their capital for next several decades.
Hindu Shahis & Kashmir
Kashmir, although cut off by impregnable mountain barriers from the rest of the world, always had very deep cultural and political relations with her neighbors. She had her diplomatic relations with China and other countries in the north. Lalitaditya led his armies as far as Gobi desert in the north. For long the exploits of Lalitaditya, which have been narrated in the Raj Tarangni quite in detail, were treated by scholars as a mere figment of the imagination of Kalhana, but ruler of Sindh, Dahar's letter to Bin Qasim, to which reference has been made earlier, has set at rest all the controversy on this score. Dahar's letter finds its place in Chhachhinama, which is an account of the war between Dahar and Bin Qasim given by an Arab eyewitness. The nearest Hindu Kingdom to Kashmir was that of Kabul. With Kabul, Kashmir was tied with bonds of religion, but she had also political relations with her, which lasted for a number of centuries as will be presently seen. Reference may in this behalf be made to Alberuni, an Arab scholar who came to India with Mahmud of Gazni in the beginning of 11th century and stayed in India for a number of years.
Alberuni has left a book on India, in which he has given with great scholarly precision an account of the social, political, and economic conditions of the then India. Alberuni writes that, "the Hindus had kings residing in Kabul. The last king of this race (Kshatriya) was Lagutarman and his wazir was Kallar, a Brahman. Lagutarman had bad manners and worse behavior, so the Vazier put him in chains and occupied the royal throne. After him ruled Brahman kings named Samand, Kamalu, Bhim, Jaipal, Anandpal and Tarojanpal (Trilochanpal).'' Out of the seven Brahman kings of Kabul mentioned by Alberuni, we find mention of four in Kalhana's Raj Tarangini, with this difference that Kalhana calls the first king Lalliya and not as Kallar as Alberuni calls him, the other three being Kamluka, Bhima and Trilochanpal. Kalhana wrote his history in 1148 A. D. about 125 years after the fall of Trilochanpal, who according to Alberuni was killed in 1021 A. D.
There is one thing very interesting about the Hindu Kings of Kabul, and that they were known as Shahs, and their dynasty as Hindu Shahis of Kabul
About the time when Lalliya, the Brahman Vazier of the last Kshatriya king, usurped the throne of Kabul, there reigned in Kashmir a strong ruler by name Shankara Varman. His reign lasted from 883 A.D. to 902 A.D. Shankara Varman was as noticed earlier a sagacious ruler, who made his country great, both militarily and economically. He started many industries and greatly encouraged trade and commerce, though he is described also as an oppressive ruler whose exactions from the people as taxes were exorbitant. One thing very important about him was that he established a direct relation with the common people and talked their language instead of Sanskrit. For all this he is very much criticized and taunted by Kalhana, the Brahman author of Rajtarangini. But by such methods he must have secured a substantial backing from his people. Whether it was for securing markets for the articles of Kashmir manufacture or simply to win military glory, Shankara Varman went out of Kashmir at the head of a military expedition, and conquered all the neighboring principalities including Gujrat, which was according to Rajtarangini ruled under the overlordship of Kabul by a king named Ala Khan. Lalliya, the Brahman ruler of Kabul, came to the help of his vassal, Ala Khan, but was defeated and driven out of his own country. The easy victory which the Kashmir ruler Shankara Varman achieved over Lalliya has to be attributed to the fact that Lalliya was a usurper with no title to the throne and had therefore struck no deep roots in men's minds and consequently must have received very little help from the people. But the occupation of Kabul by an outsider stirred the patriotism of the people of Kabul and a resistance movement was the result.
The people of Kabul were then, as they are now, very patriotic and seldom brooked interference from outside. They fought Arabs and other Muslim rulers from 663 A.D. to 1021 A.D. but never accepted their suzerainty.
The occupation of Kabul by Shankara Varman only led to a grim struggle, which reached its climax during the reign of Gopal Varman (902 to 904 A.D.), who succeeded Shankara Varman; and another military expedition was sent by the Kashmir ruler under a General by name Prabhakar Deva to restore order and tighten the grip. The Kashmiri General though successful did not press his victory too far. He had realized by his experience that the people of Kabul could not be kept for long under subjection. He started negotiations with them and agreed to install Lalliya's son by name Toramana on the Kabul throne. This was done and Toramana ascended the Kabul throne under a new name or title, Kamluka, which was given to him by Prabhakar Deva. As already seen, Alberuni in his list of Kabul kings describes him as Kamlu. Henceforth, the relations between Kabul and Kashmir became very cordial and in course of time marriage relations came to be established between the ruling dynasties of the two countries, which further strengthened the mutual bonds of amity, and concord. Kshema Gupta who ruled Kashmir from 951 - 959 A.D. married the granddaughter of Bhima, who is described by Alberuni as the fourth Brahman King to rule Kabul after Lalliya. We have it on the authority of Kalhana that this Kabul King Bhima came to Kashmir and stayed there for some time and built a temple dedicated to Vishnu which was given the name of Bhima Keshava. The dedication of a temple to Vishnu would show that the Hindu Shahis of Kabul were Vaishnavites and not Buddhists as some take pleasure in describing them as such. The temple of Bhima Keshava is even now existing in a village now known as Bumzu near Mattan, though as a Muslim Ziarat, and is now known as Ziarat Bam Din Sahib
The name of Bhima's granddaughter was Didda who ruled Kashmir after her husband's death as sole sovereign from 980 A.D. to 1003 A.D. She appointed her brother's son Sangrama Raj as heir to the throne. By now the Turkish king, Subaktagin had occupied Ghazni and Kabul Shahis came face to face with a rising power, which within a short period liquidated the Hindu Shahi rule in Kabul. But the struggle was grim and a stout resistance was offered both by Jaipal and his son Anandapal and his grandson Trilochanpal. Kashmir also participated in these wars, as Queen Didda of Kashmir was closely related to Jaipal, son of Bhima. But Rajtarangini is silent on that. But to the final resistance, which was organized by the last Shahi King, Trilochanpal, Kashmir also made her contribution. This time Sangram Raj, (1003 - 1028 A.D.) Diddas' son was on the Kashmir throne. The Kashmir ruler sent well-equipped force under a Minister by name Tunga. But unfortunately the methods of warfare of Tunga and Trilochanpal were different. Trilochanpal was in favor of using the traditional Kabul methods of war are which consisted of retiring into mountain fastnesses and from there start depredations on the enemy, cutting his line of communications and harassing his rear. Trilochanpal counseled the adoption of such methods. But the Kashmir General who was both vain and inglorious did not heed the advice and came down to the plains and engaged in battle with Mahmud. Kalhana gives a graphic description of this battle. Says that Trilochanpal and some Kashmiris of royal blood fought very bravely, but the chances of victory, thanks to the tactical blunder made by Tunga receded back very far. The last resistance movement on the Kabul soil was finally crushed. The defeat of Trilochanpal had very far-reaching effects. The Punjab fell an easy victim to Mahmud who occupied it as a Province. The whole of India now lay bare before any invader who might have chosen to creep in, though for another two centuries no serious invasion was either planned or made.
After the fall of Trilochanpal, his sons, Rudrapal, Diddapal, Kshempala and Anangpala went to Kashmir and settled there under royal patronage. Here also they distinguished themselves by their deeds of valour. Not long after they had settled in Kashmir, that the country was attacked by some warlike tribes from the north. All the four Pal brothers took part in the defense of Kashmir and distinguished themselves by their acts of bravery. Thereafter nothing is heard about the descendants of Trilochanpal, excepting that Harsha, a Kashmiri king was involved in a civil war and one of his Ranis who was connected with Trilochanpal, distinguished herself in actual warfare. What type of kings were these great Hindu Shahi rulers of Kabul becomes clear from a remark of Alberuni who says that: “The Hindu Shahiya dynasty is extinct and of the whole house there is not the slightest remnant in existence. We must say that in all their grandeur, they never slackened in the ardent desire of doing that which is good and right, that they were men of noble sentiment and noble bearing.”
Kalhana in his Raj Tarangini expresses grief over the fall of Trilochanpal in the following words: “We have described the prosperity of the Shahi country during the days of Shankara Varman. Now we think in our minds with great grief, where is the Shahi dynasty with its ministers, its kings, and its great grandeur? Did it exist really or did it not? Tunga returned to his own country Kashmir, totally defeated, and left the whole Bharata land open to the descent of the Turshkas.” He further expresses his anguish in these words: “The very name of the splendor of Shahi kings has vanished. What is not seen in dream, what even our imagination cannot conceive, that destiny accomplishes with ease.”
Hindu Shahis – History
Western Afghanistan comprising the provinces of Herat (whose name is derived from Hari-Rud which is said to be a derivation from the older term Hari-Rudra - two Hindu dieties), Kandahar (the ancient Gandhara of the Mahabharata) was ruled by Sabuktagin a Muslim ruler from a town named Ghazni. He was facing Raja Jaya Pala who ruled from Kubha (modern Kabul) in Eastern Afghanistan. His kingdom comprised the provinces of Kapisa on the western side of the Hindu Kush Ranges and Punjab on the Eastern side. (Incidentally, his kingdom was like that of Ambhi who ruled approximately the same provinces, when Alexander the Great had invaded the area in 330 B.C.E.)
Raja Jaya Pal Shahi, Ruler of Punjab bore the brunt of the Islamic Onslaught
The year 980C.E. marks the beginning of the Muslim invasion into India proper when Sabuktagin attacked Raja Jaya Pal in Afghanistan. Afghanistan is today a Muslim country separated from India by another Muslim country Pakistan. But in 980 C.E. Afghanistan was also a place where the people were Hindus and Buddhists.
The name "Afghanistan" comes from "Upa-Gana-stan" which means in Sanskrit "The place inhabited by allied tribes". This was the place from where Gandhari of the Mahabharat came from Gandhar whose king was Shakuni. The Pakthoons are descendants of the Paktha tribe mentioned in Vedic literature. Till the year 980 C.E., this area was a Hindu majority area, till Sabuktagin from Ghazni invaded it and displaced the ruling Hindu king - Jaya Pal Shahi.
The place where Kabul's main mosque stands today was the site of an ancient Hindu temple and the story of its capture is kept alive in Islamic Afghan legend which describes the Islamic hero Sabuktagin who fought with a sword in every hand to defeat the Hindus and destroy their temple to put up a Mosque in its place. (This is not being mentioned here to reclaim the place as a temple. But to record a long forgotten fact that today's Islamic battlefield of the Taliban was once inhabited by Hindus.)
The victory of Sabuktagin pushed the frontiers of the Hindu kingdom of the Shahis from Kabul to behind the Hindu Kush mountains (Hindu Kush is literally "killer of Hindus" - a name given by Mahmud Ghazni to describe the number of Hindus who died on their way into Afghanistan to a life of captivity) . After this setback, the Shahis shifted their capital from Kubha (Kabul) to Udbhandapura (modern Und in NWFP). Sabuktagin's son Mahmud Ghazni, kept up the attacks on the Shahis and captured Und. Subsequently, the Shahis moved their capital to Lahore and later to Kangra in Himachal.
Tirlochan Pal Shahi - The Last Hindu Ruler of Punjab
Three generation of Shahi kings laid down their lives and their kingdom in battling the invaders. Raja Jaya Pal Shahi was followed by his son Anand Pal Shahi who fought a battle with Mahmud near Lahore, but lost as his elephant is said to have run amok within his own army. His son Tirlochan Pal Shahi continued his struggle with the Muslims from Kangra but he too went down fighting when he was treacherously killed when away from the battlefield.
The defeat of the Shahis opened up the Gangetic plains to the Muslims and Mahmud Ghazni repeatedly attacked the main Hindu kingdoms ruled by the Gurjara-Pratiharas and sacked Hindu temples. The main ruler in those days was Rajyapala Pratihara who resisted Mahmud Ghazni's raids, partly successfully. In his last attack on Somnath, Mahmud Ghazni successfully sacked the temple at Prabhasa Patan in Gujarat, but on his way back he was roundly defeated by the Gujar rulers of North Gujarat. Mahmud never came back to India after that. (Refer to the Glory that was Gujar Desha by K.M. Munshi) But these first Muslim raids into India proper had given an ominous indication of what was to come a couple of centuries later in the year 1194 C.E.
But for now, the Muslim rule of the Ghaznivids was established in Kabul, Paktoonistan and in the land of the five rivers - Punjab. Thus after Sindh in 715; Kabul, Paktoonistan, and Punjab became the next Indian provinces which went under Muslim domination in the period 980 C.E. to 1020 C.E.
Afghan Vedic History
Afghanistan was once center of Vedic Culture. The Indo Aryans definitely lived in that region before migrating further either upwards or downwards. For the Aryans Afghanistan was the land of the Gandharvas or the celestial beings. The Gandharvas were depicted in the Vedic scriptures as celestial beings, skillful in music, with magical powers, and beautiful forms. In status they were not equal to the devas, but regarded as higher beings with divine powers, mischievous at times, but mostly friendly and reliable.
In ancient times, the valleys of Afghanistan must have resonated with the sounds of many caravans crisscrossing the country. The Indus valley people conducted their overland trade with Mesopotamia through Afghanistan. Their caravans carried a variety of goods that included rare and precious stones, minerals, food grains, resins, gold, silver and bronze, incense, Pistachios and more. After the expansion of the Vedic culture and the decline of the Indus valley civilization Afghanistan was invaded and occupied by the Persian army headed by Darius, the Great, (522 to 486 BC). We have little information as to who were ruling Afghanistan at that time. Probably it was part of an Indian kingdom from the Punjab region or was ruled by local chieftains.
When Alexander marched towards India, he passed through the mountainous territories of Afghanistan and had to subdue many native tribes in the region. In the course of multiple battles he fought with them, his army was put to enormous strain and loss. Since his army was not familiar with the territory and his soldiers were not that skilled in mountain warfare, his army was literally exhausted by the time they reached the Indian borders and lost much of their motivation to fight further and march deeper into the subcontinent. The tired and frustrated soldiers insisted Alexander to return to their homeland. On their way back, Alexander had problems once again in the region and had to remain cautious till they crossed the borders of Afghanistan.
Alexander appointed Seleucus I as the viceroy of the Asian territories he conquered, which comprised of a vast area that stretched from the northwestern borders of India to most of Anatolia and parts of Syria-Phoenicia. Selucus I was not able to maintain his hold on the region for long. A few years after he took over the reign, about 303 BC, Chandragupta Maurya, the founder of the mighty Mauryan Empire from eastern India waged a war with Seleucus and defeated him.
As a part of the agreement, Seleucus I gave his daughter in marriage to Chandragupta Maurya and also ceded him Afghanistan and surrounding areas. For a few centuries from then on, Afghanistan remained under the control of the Mauryan Empire and enjoyed some degree of stability. During the Mauryan rule, Buddhism spread into Afghanistan and became a dominant religion there.
The Mauryan emperor who made this possible was Ashoka. He was the son of Bimbisara and the grandson of Chandragupta Maurya. During his reign the Mauryan empire reached its zenith. (See the Map). Perhaps under no other ruler before him or after him, so much of the country owed allegiance to one power.
Ashoka had a special relation with Afghanistan. When he was still a young prince, his father Bimbsara appointed him as the viceroy of this region, with Taxila (Org.SK. Takshasila, currently located in Pakistan near Rawalpindi ) as his headquarters. Taxila was then a great religious and trade center. It was a great seat of Vedic learning, where flourished the study of Vedic scriptures, many arts, crafts and ancient sciences. With the emergence of Buddhism in the region this region started attracting Buddhist scholars too.
Originally a cruel king, who allegedly ascended the throne after killing nearly a hundred of his own brothers, Ashoka underwent a life transforming experience at the height of his career. In the course of his conquests, which were many, he waged a bitter and bloody war against the people of Kalinga. This kingdom existed in those days in south eastern India, comprising the present day Orissa. The people of Kalinga were equally ferocious and stubborn people. Hence a bloody battle ensued in which there was a huge bloodshed on both sides and thousands of innocent people were killed, while materially nothing much was gained. The tragedy of the war and the ruin it brought upon so many people disturbed the emperor severely and changed his thinking forever. From a ruthless and ambitious ruler, he became converted to Buddhism and the ideals of compassion and nonviolence it preached. Within a few years after the war, he developed a philosophy of his own called the law of piety or dharmma, which was a hotch potch of Buddhist philosophy, Vedic dharma and the prevailing social and moral values of his times
He spent the rest of his life in pious activities and spreading his dharmma, which he got carved into stone inscriptions in the form of edicts. He appointed a task force to get those edicts planted all over India as a reminder to the people of the moral life he cherished them to follow. Encouraged by his patronage and protection, the Buddhist monks traveled to various parts of India and outside also to spread the teachings of the Buddha and bring people to the path of righteousness.
The Mauryan empire declined after Ashoka and for some time Afghanistan was left to itself. But it came into lime light once again with the invasion of the Bactrian Greeks. They invaded the subcontinent during the second century BC and established their power from the Oxus river in the west up to the Punjab in the east. Afghanistan was under their control. Not much is known about these new rulers. But we know that in matters of religion and social life they adopted some local practices. While some rulers turned to Hinduism for spiritual solace, some became devout Buddhists and patronized Buddhism.
Buddhism owes a great deal to the Bactrian Greeks, whose patronage enabled Buddhism to gain firm foot holding in Central Asia and Chinese Turkistan. The most famous of the Bactrian Greeks about whom we have some confirmed details was King Menander. He ruled Punjab with Sakala as his capital and he became interested in Buddhism. The ancient Buddhist manuscript, the Milindapatha or the Path of Milinda by Nagasena records the conversations King Menander had with Nagasena about some aspects of Buddhism.
The Bactrian Greeks were soon over thrown by the invading armies of Scythians and Parthians, followed by the Kushanas. The Kushanas were originally Chinese in origin, and came from a nomadic tribe by the name Yueh-chih. They reached India in a circuitous way through Central Asia, Bactria and Afghanistan and into the plains of the Punjab. They established a great empire that extended from the sea of Aral in the present day Russia in the north and the Chinese Turkmenistan in the east upto the northwestern frontiers of India including Afghanistan.
Kanishka (2nd century AD) was the most famous of the Kushana rulers. His period was marked by the rise of Mahayana Buddhism. Pali became the principal language of literary expression. And most important of all the period witnessed the remarkable maturing of the Gandhara school of art. The artists of this school blended both the Indian and Greek traditions of in a very harmonious way to produce remarkable pieces of art. It was an art that used Indian motifs but mostly Greek techniques.
Foremost among the works produced by this school of art were the statues of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas. Many of them now adorn the museums all over the world, while some were stolen and may be in the private collections. We also do not know fully the fate of those pieces that are presently lying in the Kabul Museum, and whether the Government there destroyed or preserved them.
The Kushanas were subsequently ousted by the Sassanids or Sassanians. They ruled Persia (modern Iran) and parts of northern Afghanistan from AD 224 to 651. Ardasir I was the founder of this dynasty and he was succeeded by his son Shapur I, whose reign lasted from AD 240 to AD 272. Shapur I defeated the Romans and expanded his empire considerably. The Sassanids were fire worshippers and followers of Zarathushtra. But they did not interfere much with way of life in Afghanistan, for Buddhism continued to flourish in the region. Probably after conquering the land, the Sassanids left the governance to local rulers because of the difficulties involved and their preoccupation with other the regions of their empire.
This period is significant in the history of Buddhism because during this period the giant statues of the Buddha at Bamiyan were carved, which were considered to be the largest stone statues in the world, standing 177 feet tall. It is now well know that they were destroyed recently by the Taliban, the then government of Afghanistan as a part of its religious zeal.
Buddhism continued to flourish in this region till the 5th Century AD and declined thereafter. Two factors contributed to this trend. One was the invasion of Hunas. The Hunas were a barbarian and cruel band of vandals who perpetrated many religious atrocities against the native people and put many Buddhists to death.
The second factor was the emergence of the Gupta empire. The Guptas were staunch followers of the Vedic religion, especially Vaishnavism, and they took upon themselves the task of reviving Hinduism which was then in a state of decline because of the popularity of Buddhism. Politically, however, Afghanistan continued to retain its strategic importance, because it still facilitated a great deal of trade along the silk route that connected Xinjiang or the Chinese Turkistan with the Middle east.
With the invasion of Arabs in AD 642, for the first time Afghanistan encountered Islam. The Arabs converted some people there to Islam, but did not stay there for long because of the resistance from the Persians. Islam had to wait for another 300 and odd years to take its roots in the soil. Not much is known about the history of Afghanistan during this period following the Arab invasion. Probably the land was under the control of petty rulers who owed allegiance to the Persians.
Then came the Ghaznavids. The Ghaznavid was a Turkish Muslim dynasty, which captured power in AD 970 and ruled Afghanistan and parts of Iran till AD 1087. Mahmud Gazni was the most aggressive ruler of this dynasty and is well known in the subcontinent for the 17 so called "holy wars" he conducted against the present day Pakistan and India. A materialist to the core who loved the best things of life, and a lover of arts who patronized poets and writers, his main objective was not to spread Islam, but to plunder and loot the rich kingdoms of the subcontinent in the name of religion. He destroyed many Hindu temples, looted the rich treasures of the native rulers and converted some native Hindus and Buddhists to Islam through wanton destruction and use of cruelty and force.
After the Ghazanivids, Afghanistan once again came under the rule of petty rulers and plunged into anarchy. In the 12th Century AD it was invaded by the Mongols under the leadership of Genghis Khan (1167-1227) a ruthless, cruel and notorious ruler, who indulged in the destruction of many cities, including Herat, Ghazni, and Balkh. The fertile regions of Afghanistan were left fallow as many peasants either fled their homes or were killed by his cruel and destructive soldiers.
Genghis Khan's invasion was one of the many in a series of invasions by the foreign powers into Afghanistan. One name that is worth mentioning at this juncture is Babur. Babur was the founder of Mughal empire in the Indian subcontinent. He was a descendent of Timur, who in turn was a descendent of Genghis Khan.
A petty ruler with a mighty ambition, Babur ruled parts of Afghanistan for some time, with Kabul as his capital, before he decided to invade India and try his fortunes. A freebooter with a natural instinct for leadership, he gathered a band of committed soldiers and invaded India supposedly on invitation from some local nobility to fight against Ibrahim Lodi, who was then the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. The Sultanate was already in a state of decline and was ready to collapse any time. The two armies fought a fierce battle on the grounds of Panipat in 1526 and Babur won because of his superior planning, organized army and committed leadership. After the victory, Babur decided to stay in India and consolidate his empire through further conquests.
For nearly two hundred years thereafter Afghanistan remained partly under the control of the Mughals and partly under the Saffavids of Persia. The eastern parts owed their allegiance to the Mughals while the western part to the Safavids. In 1747, following the assassination of Nadir Shah of Persia, Ahmed Shah Durrani (or as he is also known Ahmed Shah Baba) established his rule as an independent ruler supported by Pashthun tribal council. The Pasthuns controlled Afghanistan till the Communist regime came to power in 1978.
FIGURE OF BRAHMA - Afghanistan 3rd-4th Century AD
HINDU-SHAHI MARBLE STELE OF DURGA - Afghanistan 8th Century