Still more revealing is another episode about Anandapal, when viewed in its proper perspective. Reference has already been made to the prolonged struggle between Jaipal and the rulers of Ghazni. Towards the end of 1001 A.D., Jaipal was defeated by Mahmud and captured with fifteen royal princes. The treatment meted out to them is thus described by the Secretary of Sultan Mahmud
The result of this defeat was also very ominous for India. The gateway of India was now thrown open and Mahmud never made any secret of his plan to purge India of idolatry. As a matter of fact, he twice crossed the Sindhu and harried the Panjab during the next three or four years.
Taking advantage of his absence, the Turkish chief Ilak Khan, ruler of vast dominions from the banks of the Oxus to the border of China, invaded the territory of Sultan Mahmud. The Sultan left for Balkh and had to fight with his back to the wall against the Turks.
It was a golden opportunity for Anandapal to recover his lost territories in the Peshawar region and secure the gate of India against future encroachments of Ghazni. Even apart from patriotism and statesmanship, the life and death of his father, and the cruel indignities inflicted upon him by Sultan Mahmud, would have loudly called for such a course. But instead of pursuing a policy dictated alike by prudence and filial piety, Anandapal, according to a contemporary Muslim chronicler, sent the following message to Sultan Mahmud:
History does not record if there was any written reply to this noble message. But two or three years later Sultan Mahmud marched against Anandapal, defeated the confederacy organised by him, “slew the vanquished wherever they were found in jungles, passes, plains, and hills”, plundered Nagarkot and carried away immense, almost fabulous, treasure from that sacred temple.
Anandapal’a bombastic bravado ill-befits the role he played later when he humbly sued for peace on ignominious terms and actually joined Mahmud’s expeditionary force against Thaneshwar. It must be said to the credit of the son and grandsons of Anandapal that they gave up his pusillanimous policy and continued the brave resistance to Sultan Mahmud.
The conduct of Anandapal, call it chivalrous if you like, emphasizes some of the grave defects in our national character. It proves that even the great leaders were more concerned with personal prestige and selfish interests (i.e. the safety of their own kingdoms and families) than with larger national issues at stake. They were unable to take long views, and incapable of sustained efforts in pursuing a broad national policy.
It seems that the conception of a Hindu nationality, though certainly not altogether absent, sat very lightly upon the Indians. Though it might occasionally lead them to heroic efforts and a frenzy of enthusiasm, it never formed the basis of a settled policy of action overriding all petty individual and narrow interests.
This is further illustrated by the fact that Indian generals and soldiers accepted service under Sultan Mahmud and fought his battles. One of them, Tilak, is said to have brought many Hindus under the Muslim rule. Even the most barbarous outrage upon women, and the avowed policy of destroying all Hindu temples, so relentlessly pursued by Sultan Mahmud, could not awaken the stiff and sustained opposition of the Hindus on a wide national front. And men were not wanting, even among the foremost ranks, who proffered the hand of friendship to one who had trampled underfoot the most highly cherished sentiments of the Indian people.
Another remarkable fact is that even when Sultan Mahmud was harrying the country with fire and sword, the Indian chiefs had not ceased their internecine wars, and devoted, to the shedding of Indian blood, energy and resources which should have been reserved for a holy war against Islam, the common enemy of the land.
We have passed in rapid review the various opposite reactions that the ruthless invasions of Sultan Mahmud produced in India. Scenes of brave resistance and heroic self-sacrifice alternate with abject surrender; patriotic fervour and wild enthusiasm for national cause gave place to narrow selfish interests; anxious thoughts for the safety of the motherland and enlightened view of national interests yielded to personal vanity; keen sense of honour and respect for family contrasts with supreme callousness which nothing could move—not even the dishonour of women and indignities heaped upon father and dearest relations; heroic souls who preferred death to dishonour moved side-by-side with abject renegades who lick the very feet that trod them down; wonderful spirit of cooperation, involving extreme self-sacrifice, for the safety of the motherland is followed by petty internal squabbles that sap the vitality and integrity of the nation at the very moment when its freedom is at stake; heroic, almost suicidal, sacrifice of thousands for saving the purity of a single temple sadly contrasts with the supreme indifference to the defilement of hundreds of sanctuaries; and even the most cherished sentiments for the honour of women and sanctity of religion are most violently outraged without provoking a national outcry.
All these factors, or at least most of them, seem to be true also of the age that intervened between Sultan Mahmud and Muhammad Ghori, as well as the third phase of Muslim conquest which began with the invasion of Ghori. All this will form the subject of a separate discourse, and the general conclusions on the whole subject should also be fittingly discussed in that connection.
To prevent any misunderstanding, it is only necessary to say that the object of the whole discourse is to make a detached study of men and facts, incidentally making observations on their nature and effect, and not to apportion praise or blame.
Further, as this study concerns only Muslim invasion, reference has to be made to Islam as a religious creed and policy of state. But that does not mean any special animadversion against Islam as such or as distinguished from other religions.
For that matter, Alexander’s invasion is comparable in many respects to that of Sultan Mahmud, and in both we meet with many common features on the side of the conqueror as well as the conquered. Even Anandapal of the later age has a prototype in Porus, who bravely opposed Alexander but later submitted and helped him in subduing other Indian rulers.
If this discourse leads to a critical study of India’s reaction against foreign invasion in general with a view to finding out some essential national characteristics running through all ages, its object will have been achieved. A proper understanding of these national characteristics possesses more than a passing interest or mere academic importance. For, knowledge of the past defects may open our eyes to their present nature and significance for the future, and be of great help in removing or minimising them.
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