Unsung heroes 3: Lalitaditya Muktapida
Sind was conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim in 715 AD. He was succeeded by Junad. After conquering Sindh, the Arab marauders set their eyes on the fertile lands of Punjab. Here they met the mightiest of all the kings of that time, a fierce warrior and a brilliant strategist, Lalitaditya Muktapida of Karkota Dynasty.
Karkota Dynasty: 625 AD to 1003 AD for a total of 378 years.
Karkota dynasty was founded by Durlabhavardhana III. Durlabhaka, a.k.a Pratapaditya 2, son of Durlabhavardhana ,succeeded him in 712 AD. He had three sons .He was succeeded by Chandrapida, his eldest son in 712 AD who ruled till 724 AD. Lalitaditya was the youngest of the three sons who inherited the throne in 724 AD.
Caption: Kingdom of Kashmir in 700 AD
Caption: Kashmir and surrounding areas in 8th century AD
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Lalitaditya Muktapida: (ruled. 724–760 AD)
Lalitaditya’s reign began in 724 AD and in no way is it a hyperbole to mention that this king was not only the one of the greatest conqueror from Kashmir but probably from the whole of India. All evidence including numismatic supports this view. The credible and brilliant Kashmiri historian Kalhana, in his classic history of Kashmir, the `Rajataringini’ (written in the 12th century AD), describes Lalitaditya as such, ”The king, who carried his prowess, abandoned his (war-like) fury (only) when the (opposing) kings discretely folded their palms at his victorious onset. At the sound of his drums (beaten) in attack, the dwellings of his enemies were diverted by the (frightened) inhabitants and thus resembled women dropping in fright the burden of their wombs.” Besides Kalhana, the Chinese, Turkish and Tibetan legends also refer to him as a great conqueror.
Victory over Arabs:
Junad was appointed as governor of Sindh in AD 730. After tranquillising Sindh rebellion, he turned his attention towards other parts of India. His intention was to conquer the whole of India. But his army has to face the combined strength of Lalitaditya as well as Yashovarman, the king of Kannuj. Yashovarman‘s empire consisted of present day UP, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, parts of Bengal and Jharkhand. Lalitaditya ruled present day Kashmir, Haryana, and North Punjab (Takka kindom around Lahore) at that time. The armies met somewhere in Punjab or central India. Muslim armies were soundly defeated by the Hindu alliance. He is said to have ordered the Turushkas to shave off half of their heads as a symbol of their submission. The numerous conquests of Lalitaditya are also mentioned by the brilliant Alberuni of Khiva (b. 973 AD, d. 1048 AD). Alberuni, for example, informs us of the triumph of the Kashmiri King Mutthai (Lalitaditya Muktapida) over the Turks. According to Alberuni, a festival was held on the second day of Chaita (March) every year for centuries to celebrate the victory of King Mutthai over the Turks.
Emperor Lalitaditya punishing the defeated Arabs
However Lalitaditya was keen on teaching Arabs a lesson.
By 730 AD Lalitaditya establish his foothold in the north around 730 AD, by conquering:
Dardistan or Darad-Desha (northern Pakistan, and Kashmir in India and parts of north-eastern Afghanistan)
Transoxiana (portion of Central Asia corresponding approximately with modern-day Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan and southwest Kazakhstan.)
In fact, the colourful seventeenth century Kashmiri adventurer and historian Haider Malik Chadurah describes the conquests of Lalitaditya as such, ”Finally, when he was satisfied with (the conquest) of India, he headed towards Turkestan via Kabul. Mumin, the ruler of Bukhara, fought against him four times, but when he had no strength or resistance left, he solicited for safety (of his life) and met the raja and agreed to pay tribute and taxes to him. Thus, all the rulers of Mawara-al-Nahr (Transoxiana) and Turkestan submitted to him.
Lalitaditya and Tang dynasty of China:
In the beginning of the 8th century Kashmir was faced with dual problems, one was of Muslim caliphate and the other was the Tibetan empire. It was getting difficult to ward off both the invasions at the same time. When Lalitaditya became emperor in 724 AD he allied with Yashovarman of Kannuj and Shahis of Kabul to defend India by both Tibet and Arabs.
A fight broke out between Yashovarman and Lalitaditya on the terms of treaty and both waged war on each other. Yashovarman was vanquished in the battle and was never to be heard of again. The Kingdom of Kannuj was annexed by Lalitaditya in 733 AD. He then annexed Gauda and Vanga (Both of Bengal region)
Tibet grew stronger and Shahis of Kabul were unable to lend any support against Tibetans to Lalitaditya. He required more help and that he got from the Tang dynasty of West China.
Tang Dynasty was on its zenith of power in the beginning of 7th century however in the beginning of the 8th century it had lost lot of its territories in central China to the Tibetan Empire. There was a constant warfare between these two empires for supremacy in China. By 712 Caliphate was also encroaching on the lands of Tang Empire like Gilgit.
Caption: Kingdom of Kashmir, Tang Dynasty and Tibetan empire in 700 AD.
Lalitaditya being a smart diplomat convinced Chinese for their support against Arabs and Tibetans in 736 AD. Chinese provided him with their military and material aid which included advance infantry armour and heavily armoured Sassanid-Chinese type (armoured) cavalry. With such a might Yashovarman defeated the Tibetan king Khri-lde-btsug-brtan-mes-ag-tshoms in 747 AD and wrestled large territory which included kingdoms of Kucha and Turfan along with Assam and Bangladesh which were under Tibetan dominance.
Other conquest and related debate:
Lalitaditya desired to be Digvijaya (world conquer). Hence he was motivated to make such conquests. He is sometimes compared with Alexander the great.
Kalhana described some more feats achieved by Lalitaditya:
Defeat of Rastrakuta in Maharastra
Conquest of Central China
Conquest of Malwa and Mewar
Defeat of Pallava (Parasikas) queen in South India
Conquest of Kalinga
Aurel Stein (26 November 1862 – 26 October 1943): first translated and edited Kalhaṇa’s Rājataraṅgiṇī in 1900 AD. On account of the absence of the historic details in the Kalhaṇa’s Rājataraṅgiṇī, Stein dismissed many of the conquests and considered them as ‘manifestly legendary’. According to him only victory over Kannuj and Gauda (Bengal) are historical facts.
Hermann Goetz (1898-1976), a pioneer of Museum movement in India has a contradictory opinion and confirms the description of Kalhana as actual fact. The recent evidence also supports the incidents and the conquest mentioned in Rajatarangini.
Lalitaditya transformed Kashmir in to one of the most powerful state in the South and Central Asia. During the time of Lalitaditya, it’s boundaries covered an area from Tibet in the east to Iran in the west and from Turkestan in the north.
Due to his numerous conquests, Lalitaditya was able to enrich Kashmir. He constructed several temples and utilities and built the present town of Latipur in Kashmir. Kalhana describes the construction (in reality the enlargement) of the famous Martand Temple as such, “This liberal (king) built the wonderful (shrine) of Martand with its massive walls of stone within a lofty enclosure (prasadantar) and its town swelling with grapes.”
Martand Sun Temple-Anantnag Kashmir
Muktapida was a liberal king. Though he was a Hindu, he had equal respect for all faiths. Kalhana also informs us that he was a compassionate ruler who was well versed in the Sastras.
Lalitaditya also was a good administrator and an efficient king. Being a cautious person, he was fully aware of the problems that could arise if the powerful classes of the landed oligarchy (Damaras) rebelled. According to Muktapida, “If they should keep more wealth, they would become in a single year very formidable and strong enough to neglect the commands of the king.” This king instructed his ministers to be very careful in recruiting people for the two wings of the army, namely the cavalry and the infantry. Orders were sent out that no two persons from the same place were to be put in the same company.
In the year 760 AD, the reign of this great king came to an end. According to Kalhana, there were two versions relating to the death of Lalitaditya. One version states that this king perished during a military campaign in Aryanaka (Eastern Iran) due to heavy snowfall which occurred out of season. According to the other version, Lalitaditya’s army was perished in a Sinkiang in 756-57 AD .Unable to bear the humiliation; he burnt himself along with his generals.
Lalitaditya is celebrated as one of the greatest kings of Kashmir and is a revered as a hero, one who fought tooth and nail to protect Kashmir, to protect India, to protect Hinduism.
In spite of sufficient research done, how much India knows about this great hero? If it knows, well and good, but if it doesn’t the question is WHY? ———— By : Chetan Shirasi
“Al-Hind: The Making of the Indo-Islamic World” by André Wink.
Rajatarangini by Kalhana (1147AD-1149AD).
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