The twilight of Ancient Indian history witnessed many political events that affected the fortunes of the region around the North and North-Western parts of the Indian Sub-continent. The end of Harsha’s and his rival Pulakeshin’s 2 reigns in the 7th century CE closed the era of Ancient Indian Imperialism. Subsequently, the scramble for territorial possession among different regional rulers started. It further resulted in the political disintegration of the country and the spread of anarchy. It was under such circumstances that led the Arab invasion of Sind in the 8th Century C.E.
Background of the Arab Invasion of Sind
The rise of Islam from the 7th Century onwards was instrumental in uniting the warring Arab tribes into a powerful empire. The Arab Empire founded by the early Caliphs embraced many parts of Western Asia and included Egypt, North Africa, and Spain.
By the 8th Century, the Arab invaded Sind which turned out to be a significant event in the history of India. On the eve of the Arab invasion of Sind, the region around Northern India was marked by a scramble for power among different rulers. They wanted to capture the city of Kanauj which had been an object of political ambition of many rulers. The city had become a symbol of imperial power, perhaps owing to its connection with Harsha and Yashovarman, who maintained the status of the city. This further contributed to the political disintegration of the region which had an impact not only during the Arab invasion of Sind but in the later period as well.
Sind during the time of Harsha
During the time of Harsh, Sind was an independent kingdom. Shudra dynasty rules the kingdom. Its ruler Sahiras, a contemporary of Harsha was killed by Persian invaders. His son and successor had a Brahmin minister called Chach. On the death of his master, Chach usurped the throne and married the widowed queen. The rule of the new dynasty was oppressive and unpopular. Raja Dahir a son of Chach ascended the throne in 708 CE. It was he who faced the Arab invasion of Sind in 712 and perished in the process.
Why did the Arab invade the Sind?
The Arabs had been the carriers of the Indian trade with Europe for a long time. They were drawn to the rich seaports of Western India and had tried a number of times to establish their foot hole. However, the ruler of Sind, Dahir had managed to thwart their invasions earlier. Al-Hajjaj, the Arab governor of Iraq then dispatched his youthful nephew and son-in-law Imaduddin Muhammad Bin Qasim at the head of a huge army. In the process, he probably became the first Islamic ruler to have invaded India in 712 CE and conquered Sind.
Reasons for Arab Invasion of Sind
There were many factors that contributed towards the Arabs invading Sind.
Among them, one was religious in nature. The Arabs wanted to spread their faith in distant lands like India. Earlier also there had been expeditions sent by the caliphs towards India and it was in 712 CE that the Arabs were successful.
Wealth of India
Apart from religion, there was another factor that tempted the Arabs to come towards Sind. This factor was the wealth of India. There had been a lot of commercial exchange between the Arabs and the merchants of India. The merchants and traders who traveled to India went back with a large amount of wealth and riches. The Arab rulers knew about India’s wealth and were keen to invade it. With the growth of their military power, their ambitions also grew. As a result, they started aspiring to capture territories on the India Subcontinent. Ultimately, they were successful in their quest to invade Sind in 712 CE.
To Punish the Pirates of Debal
Another cause of the Arab invasion of Sind was to punish the pirates of Debal (the region around modern Karachi) who had plundered the Arab ships containing valuable presents sent by the King of Ceylon for the Caliph and Hajjaj, the governor of Iraq. The Khalifa and the governor of Iraq demanded compensation from the ruler of Sind.
However, King Dahir refused to meet their demand because the port of Debal was not under his control. Therefore, it was not King Dahir’s responsibility to pay for the compensation. The Arabs then respond with force and send on an expedition which was quelled by the Sindhians. The governor of Iraq did not give up and he sends another expedition in 712 CE under Muhammad Bin Qasim and this expedition proves to be a successful one.
The Arabs struck at Debal which was the premier seaport of Sind. They were victorious and slaughtered many people. King Dahir fought courageously against the invaders and died fighting on the battlefield. His widow also fought till the bitter end and when the Arab defeats her, she performs Jauhar (Mass self-immolation by women) along with other women.
The Arab conquers the Multan along with the adjoining South-Western region of Punjab. While at the height of his youthful career, Qasim was recalled by the Caliph and charged under moral turpitude. As a result, he was sentenced to death.
Effects of Arab Invasion of Sind
The conquest of Sind and Multan boosted the morale of the Arabs in the Muslim world but it proved to be a mere episode in the history of India.
The Arab conquest of Sind did not lead to anything substantial and scarcely left any trace behind. However, in spite of its limited political significance, the Arabs conquest of Sind did have some impacts on the natives as well as the Arabs themselves, i.e. there was a two-way cultural impact.
From the cultural point of view, the Indian culture and civilization deeply influence the Arabs. They were fascinated by the wisdom, administration, acumen, and high moral character of the vanquished.
On the other hand, a good number of Indians embraced Islam voluntarily. The Muslim Saints and Ulema in other parts of India too practice a peaceful propagation. The conciliatory attitude of the Arabs also enabled the Arabs to win the confidence of the conquered populace.
Indian musicians, architects, sculptures, painters, and philosophers instilled in the Arabs deep respect for Indian culture. Indian craftsmen were widely employed by the Arab chiefs and in the process, Arab architecture was influenced to some extent.
The Indian scholars and sages began to educate the Arab ruling elite about Indian literature, philosophy, astronomy, mathematics, medicine, and other sciences. This has led to the dissemination of Indian sciences and cultural values to other foreign lands.
When the Arab invaded Sind, they became the cultural ambassadors of India to the Islamic world as well as Europe. As a result, they conquest India mainly for religious reasons and to gather riches and wealth of India.
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