India, although, given his valour and resourcefulness, he could easily
have done so.
• Some historians suggest that he might have used India as a treasure
trove in order to acquire the means for consolidating his Central Asian
empire—but he regarded that with as much indifference as he did
India and only paid it attention at times of unrest.
• His capital, Ghazni, was the only place which definitely profited from
his enormous loot. He made it one of the finest cities of the day.
Many scholars and poets surrounded him at his court, among them
Firdausi, the author of the famous historical work Shahnama, and Al-
beruni, who composed the most comprehensive account of India ever
written by a foreigner before the advent of the Europeans.
• Mahmud’s fanaticism was not directed exclusively against the Hindus
and other infidels; he attacked Muslim heretics with equal ferocity.
Thus, he twice waged hostilities against Multan, whose ruler, Daud,
was an Ismaili. During his second onslaught on Multan, he killed
many local Muslims because they had not kept their promise of
returning to orthodox Islam.
Impact of His Campaigns Whatever one may think of Mahmud, he was
certainly one of the few people who made a lasting impact on Indian history.
His great military successes were, however, not entirely due to his own skill
and valour. The political situation in Northern India around 1000 AD was very
favourable to a determined invader. The perpetual triangular contest between
the powers of Northern, Eastern and Central India had weakened all of them.
It had particularly sapped the strength of the Gurjara Pratiharas and no
leading power had arisen in early eleventh-century Northern India to take
their place in defending the Northern plains against Mahmud’s incursions.
The greatest Indian dynasty of that time, the Cholas, were so remote from the
scene of Mahmud’s exploits that they hardly noted them. After Mahmud’s
death, India gained a respite of more than a century before new invaders once
more descended upon the plains from Afghanistan. The Indian rulers had not
taken advantage of this reprieve to mend their fences.