Thursday, July 26, 2018

Ramanuja is a history – 3 (Muslim invasion at Melkote)

Born on 1017, Ramanuja reached Karnataka region in 1078 and discovered the Moolvar Murthy at Melkote in 1099. Sometime before 1078, the temple at Melkote was ransacked and the Utsava Murthy along with the riches was taken away by the looters. Few decades before the arrival of Ramanuja at Thondanur, a number of prominent temples of North India were plundered by Mahmud of Ghazni and his followers.

Modern historians looking for primary sources of evidence for the destruction of those temples lament at the lack of contemporary Hindu literary sources on such destruction. According to them the currently available sources are largely Turko-Persian chronicles written at the time of the events or a few centuries later, containing exaggerated description of the raids and the wealth looted.[i] Well beyond those written records, the fact remains that Hindu temples were looted throughout India right from the time Mahmud of Ghazni attacked the Somnath temple. Writing on this Meenakshi Jain says, [ii]

Mahmud’s assault on Somanatha electrified the Muslim world because it was viewed as a sequel to the Prophet’s action at Kaba. Muslims identified the Somanatha idol as that of Manat, believed to have been ferreted out of Mecca just prior to the Prophet’s attack on its temple. By destroying Somanatha, therefore, Mahmud was virtually completing the Prophet’s work; hence the act was hailed as the crowning glory of Islam over idolatry.”

A well-motivated band of iconoclasts had targeted India starting from Mahmud of Ghazni. Even after the death of Mahmud of Ghazni in 1030, raids by his followers had continued and Melkote was perhaps the last temple in south India to have borne the brunt of the crude iconoclasts of that period. A first rate primary evidence of that attack lies on the banks of Tonnur Lake (Tonnur is the present-day name for Thondanur lying on the plains at the foot of Melkote hills). It is the tomb of a ‘fanatical follower of Mahmud of Ghazni’!

Francis Buchanan in the 1807 publication of his “Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar..” to investigate the state of affairs of the regions acquired by the East Indian Company from Tipu Sultan had seen the Mausoleum of the fanatic follower of Ghazni who had come to Thondanur and died there fighting. He was buried near the Thondanur Lake. A mausoleum was made in earlier times (discussed later in this article) and Tipu enlarged it after coming to know of the ‘martyrdom’ of the Mussulman. He came to know of this tomb after his audacious act of breaking the embankment of the Thondanur Lake originally built by Ramanuja during his stay at Thondanur. The following is Buchannan’s account of the tomb of the follower of Ghazni. [iii]     


The presence of this tomb was also recorded by B.Lewis Rice, the archaeologist of the British period in 1876.[iv]

A detailed report of this mausoleum with its picture was published in 1940 in the “Annual Report Of The Mysore Archaeological Department For The Year 1939”. This report gives the name of the Mussulman and the month of the death ceremony (urs). His name was ‘Sayyad Salar Masud”.[v] The details recorded in the Annual Report are reproduced below.

The picture of the mausoleum as printed in the same Annual report is reproduced below.

The name Sayyad (Sayed) Salar Masud is familiar to many in North India, as there is a Mausoleum for the same person in Bahraich in Uttar Pradesh! Not just the name, even the Hijiri month of urs is also the same! The fact file of Sayed Salar Masur is given below:

His Mausoleum at Bahraich is shown below

Pic source here

This person is better known as “Hazrat Syed Salar Masud Ghazi” – a nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni!
So we are seeing two Mausoleums at two different places – one at Bahraich and another at Thondanur for the same person who died on the same month!

How is this possible?

Before we investigate into this question, one must know that the very history of Salar Masud had been played down by the modern historians as something fabricated by Turko-Persian writers of later centuries.  There is a biography of Salar Masud written sometime in the 1620s by Abdur Rahman Chishti in the Persian language. Titled as “Mirror of Masud” (Mirat-i-Masudi) it describes his invasion of various places of India and his ultimate end at the hands of the Hindu king Suhal Dev of Shravasti. 

This Hindu King was perhaps the first one to have defeated a Muslim invader. For a nation subjugated by foreign forces inimical to its culture of temples and religion for nearly 1000 years, reclaiming the unknown history and the unsung heroes is certainly part of setting right the wrong history and healing itself from its historical wounds. Naturally Suhal Dev was hailed as the National Hero and the portrait of this king was unveiled by the President of the Bharatiya Janata Party at Bahraich in February 2016.

This invited a reaction of rejecting this Persian hagiography as a fabricated one by the modern, secular and literary critics who see an Hindutva agenda in accepting the biography of Salar Masud and in resurrecting the image of Suhal Dev as a National Hero. They refuse to accept the version of the Mirror of Masud that Syed Salar Masud was indeed the nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni!

Quoting Mirror of Masud, Anna Suvorova of Russian origin who is a Professor of Indo-Islamic Culture and Head of Department of Asian Literatures in Russia says that Salar Masud was born to the sister of Mahmud of Ghazni married to his commander Salar Shahu as a reward for defeating Hindu kings of Ajmir and bringing the regions around the city under his control. [vi]

According to Mirror of Masud, Masur was instrumental in influencing his uncle Mahmud of Ghazni in destroying the Murthy of Somnath, the Jyotit Linga. Such was his zeal as an iconoclast!

Salar Masud lived for only 16 years, but the glorification of him as a ‘warrior-saint’, as  one among the ‘Five Pirs’ is agreeable history for modern and secular historians. Then they should also agree to a phenomenon that developed soon after his death.

Soon after his death, people started seeing the ghosts of Salar Masud and his men, sometimes as an army of men. People started seeing ‘miracles’ and ‘dreams’ and the prominent personality to have got him in his dream was Firuz Shah Tughlaq (reign:1351-1388). He vigorously worked towards perpetuating Salar Masud’s name and fame. The tombs of the fellow fighters of Salar Masud were enlarged with Mausoleum under his orders. Writing on this Anna Suvorova says that those who could not reach Salar Masud’s tomb for the urs, reached to the tombs of the fellow fighters of Masud, closest to their location and conducted the urs on the same month Raijja.

She continues,

The tomb of the fellow fighter left out in this list is the one who was ‘martyred’ at Thondanur!
The ‘fanatical follower’ of Ghazni mentioned by Buchanan belonged to the army of Salar Masud. This can be substantiated on two counts.

1. The name on the tomb at Tonnur (Thondanur) is the same Syed Salar Masud. This is so as per the Annual Report of the Mysore Archaeological Department ForThe Year 1939. Lewis Rice also has recorded the same. Rice gives additional information which is shown below.

Rice gives the death date engraved on the tomb in Hijiri calander as 760. This is 1382 CE in the Gregorian calendar. Firoz Shah Thuglaq was in power at Delhi at that time!

The name as Salar Masud (a Ghazi too) and the mausoleum date falling within Firoz Shah Thuglaq’s reign could mean only one thing – that this person in eternal sleep at Thondanur was an accomplice of Salar Masud, the nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni and his tomb was enlarged into a Mausoleum at the orders of Firoz Shah Thuglaq, as done for other accomplices. This Mausoleum was treated as that of Salar Masud himself and urs was performed at the same time as that of Salar Masud.

The same name on the tombs and urs conducted in the same month in different parts of North India gave rise to an opinion that the tombs / Mausoleums were fabricated ones. But the presence of such a Mausoleum in a faraway place in South India where a Hindu temple with a glorious past was ransacked bears testimony to the historical accounts told in the Mirror of Masud and Firoz Shah Thuglaq’s dictates at perpetuating the name of Masud in all the tombs of his accomplices.

Buchanan’s account soon after the times of Tipu Sultan comes in support of the true identity of the dead person as the fanatical follower of Ghazni! When Tipu came to know of this identity of the dead person, he had further enlarged the Mausoleum using the materials of the Hindu temple ransacked by him. That is why the pillars and Mantapa are seen with the images of Hanuman. But Buchanann chose to say that they were the ‘spoils which the Brahmans had torn from the priests if Jaina”!! This is how British historians behaved – something meticulously followed by modern historians of India today!

This is also repeated in the Jaina Bibliography quoting “C.E.Parson’s book “A town in the Mysore State” 1931, page 20.[vii] The Englishman’s opinion about Brahmins and Hindus as destroyers of Jaina places of worship is faithfully copied by others without checking the merit of such statements. No one seemed to wonder which Besadi (Jain place of worship) was adorned with Hanuman figures?

2. The 2nd fact about the identity of the dead person in Thondanur tomb comes from the account of Mirror of Masud. According to it, Salar Masud, the nephew of Mahmud of Ghazni had entered India in 1031 CE, with an army of 100,000 men and 50,000 horses. Exaggerated or not, this figure definitely conveys that Salar Masud had entered India with an intention to fight and loot the wealth of the temples. He was already known to have advised his uncle to destroy the Murthy at Somnath. He had gone across North India, passing through Meerat, Kannauj, Malihabad, Satrikh and Saket, subjugating all those places.

At Ujjain he made friendship treaty! This is important information as Ujjain was under the rule of Paramara king Bhoja at that time (Bhoja’s reign 1010 – 1055).

The associates of Salar Masud took control of Bahraich, Mahona and Varanasi. Though other places also figure in the conquest of Salar Masud, two of his associates had gone to South India!

Sulutanu-e-Salateen and Mir Bakhtiar went south to Kannor and there Mir Bakhtiar was killed during a fight with the local army.”[viii]

There is a place called Kannur in Karnataka from which Thondanur is nearly 240 kilometres. After ransacking Kannur, these accomplices had gone to Melkote on their return journey. The temple was destroyed and Murthy taken, but in the ensuing scuffle with the ‘local army’, Mir Bakhtiar was killed. He was buried on the banks of Thondanur lake by his accomplice Sulutanu-e-Salateen who left for north India to join Salar Masud and other accomplices. All the booty had been deposited at a location in Delhi which continued to be in the grip of some accomplice of Salar Masud or a descendant of Mahmud of Ghazni of his General. It must be recalled here that Ebrāhīm, one of the descendants of Mahmud of Ghazni was in power till 1099 and was succeeded by Masʿūd III who also continued to ransack temples of north India to loot the wealth.

Let us examine the feasibility of the statement that the accomplices of Salar Masud came to Kannur from various angles.

Probable period of attack.

Salar Masud entered India in 1031 and died in 1032. So the invasion of Kannur had taken place at or after 1031. In other words, it had taken place in the 3rd decade of the 11th century CE. The doubting Thomases should know that Ramanuja was in his teens then. No one in the Tamil lands could have been aware of the raid at Kannur.  

Who was ruling Tamil lands at that time?

The Chola King Rajendra I was a powerful king in the Tamil lands at that time. He had completed his northern expeditions by then and established his new capital at Gangai Konda Cholapuram. He started concentrating on naval expeditions at the time of Muslim invasion at north India and at Kannur. According to K.A.Nilakanta Sastri Rajendra Chola I was busy with foreign expeditions. His 2nd emissary had gone to China around the time Salar Masud had raided North India. Rajendra Chola I was busy subjugating Sri Vijaya at that time.[ix]

With the entire concentration of the Cholas on the eastern seas, there was lack of vigilance at the north and western parts of Cholan Empire giving ample scope for a dare-devil ambush by the two accomplices of Salar Masud. Kannur is in  the region of Tulu nadu, a distant neighbour for the Cholas.

Why Kannur became the target of Masud’s men?

What was so special about Kannur that the accomplices risked a long and lonely journey to that place? Basically Kannur was known for famous temples – a feature that weighed high in the plans of the Ghazni’s men of the day.  Not only that, it was under the rule of Alupa Dynasty who were known to be the earliest rulers in minting Gold coins. That shows the level of prosperity of this region.

The earliest gold coins of this dynasty were seen from 8th century CE onwards. The gold for these coins were procured from trade with Romans and Arabs – to mention the regions outside India. Alupa region had important ports such as Mangalore, Barakuru (today’s Barkur), Bhatkal and Honnavar in the Arabian Sea that were the centres of trade.

The Alupa people had a long past. Their presence can be proved right from the beginning of the Common Era. Alupas were likely to be the “Aruva” people who accompanied the Velir of Dvārakā when they moved to South India at the end of the Indus civilization. Many of the place names of their region bear resemblance to ‘Vel’ / ‘Bel’. There is ‘Aruva Nadu’ mentioned in Tamil Sangam texts. Their region came to be known as ‘Tulu Nadu’ about 1000 years ago. Rajaraja Chola I had subdued them during his reign.[x] Mangalore near Kannur and Barkur were the main centres of Alupa dynasty.

This dynasty was known to have traded with Romans from 2nd century onwards and with Arab countries from 7th century onwards. The wealth and temples this region including Kannur must have been well known in the Arab world.

Temples at Kannur.

Polali Rajarajeshwari Temple is one of the oldest temples close to Kannur of today by 10 kilometres.  An 8th century inscription of the Alupa dynasty written in Kannada is found in this temple. This temple was rich in wealth as known from instances of kings like King Suratha donating precious gems and gold ornaments. No record of loot of this temple exists, but this temple could have been the target of Mir Bakhtiar and Sulutanu-e-Salateen.

Panchalingeswara temple at Vittala is also an old one built in 7th Century CE. The Mangala Devi temple at Mangalore near Kannur is also very old tracing its origin to the times of Parasurama. These temples could have been the targets of Mir Bakhtiar and his friend.

An evidence for an attack in a temple of Durga at Barkur does exist in the form of an inscription in a Hero stone. Known as Barakura or Barakanur, this coastal city was an important port even before the 11th century (period under focus). According to Buchannan an oral tradition existed that Mayurasharma of Kadamba dynasty ruled from Barakuru[xi]. Another source[xii] says that a mosque was built in the 9th century for the sake of Arab traders settled there. This makes it known that the invading Mir Bakhtiar could have had some contacts in Barakuru or could have been well informed of the location in and around Barakuru from Arabian sources.

A Hero stone found at a Durga temple at Barakuru tells about a fight with ‘wicked people’ (Dutta Kuram). The defending warrior had died in the fight and the hero stone was erected in his memory. [xiii]

This inscription[xiv] was however dated at the 11th century and not 9th century as stated by the Saletore whose version has been given above. Comparing this inscription with the one found at Mudukeri on Chola invasion, Ramesh K.V. writes that this inscription could be dated at the 11th century CE.[xv] This puts the date of the fight with the wicked people in the 11th century raising the probability of a raid by the fanatic followers of Ghazni at this temple at Barakuru.

It was sometime after this Barakuru was made the capital of Alupa dynasty. Perhaps a raid of this kind could have alerted the Alupa king of the need to safeguard this port city of strategic importance. King Bankideva I was the Alupa ruler at the time of this attack. He must have been in his capital at Udyavara in today’s Udupi. The swift attack and quick exit by the looters could have given very less time for the king to know of it and retaliate.

The route taken by Mir Bakhtiar and Sulutanu-e-Salateen.

The accomplices of Salar Masud could have taken a coastal route. There are 2 reasons in support of this.

1. The coastal route in Karnataka was dotted with famous temples of the past. The friendship treaty with King Bhoja of Ujjain became helpful for the invaders. They were able to cross the country of Malwa without any hindrance. Once they had crossed Malwa, the coastal route takes them to Kannur. The narrow patch of coastal plains bordered with the Western Ghats gave them a safe route without much resistance.

The following map is made taking into account the Malwa factor mentioned above and the temples on the way.

After crossing Balewadi in Malwa kingdom (explained in the next point), the next important temple is Mahabaleshwar. The earliest mention of this temple comes in 1215 when the structures were built around, but it is not known whether it was rebuilt after ruination. If so, the hand of these fanatics can be suspected here.

The next important city of those times is Ratnagiri with famous temples in the vicinity. Most of the temples of this region were rebuilt by Vijayanagara kings and therefore not much is known about the previous status of those temples.

The next location is Devgad where the Shiva temple of Kunneshwar was built by Yadava kings in 11-12th century. The previous status of that temple is also not known.

Next is Gokarna on the shore which is famous for Mahabaleshwar temple associated with the Kadamba dynasty of Mayurasharma since 4th century. This temple also was rebuilt or expanded by the Vijayanagara kingdom in the 14th century and therefore any attack by the fanatics could not be ascertained.

The next place of importance is Barakuru. The Hero stone at that place dated at 11th century could perhaps be associated with the fanatic followers of Ghazni.

The next stop is Kannur where Mangala Devi was a prominent and popular place from long past. After having looted  this place, the accomplices of Salar Masud had moved to Thondanur, perhaps hearing about the wealth of Melkote temple. It is also possible that they looted the temples at Thondanur. When Ramanuja reached Thondanur no Hindu temples were in proper condition.

Historians attributed it to the presence of Jaina king. But even that is doubtful. The Hoysala kings of the region had patronised Jaina and also Hindu temples. More research is needed into the temples of Thondanur to check for wanton destruction before Ramanuja arrived there.

Dvarasamudram was the capital city of Hoysalas when Mir Bakhtiar raided Melkote.

He was faced with a local army and was killed in that fight. The surviving accomplice had escaped with his booty to his location in North India. Whether he took the same route was not known but he could have gone off without indulging in any new military adventures in the absence of his friend. From Melkote, one can go to Delhi via Nagamangala, Phandarpur, Nashik and Ajmir. On reaching Nashik, it was Malwa region where he would not have faced any resistance.  

2. The Malwa factor has some hidden history that forms the 2nd reason. The Hoysalas of Malenadu were in control of the regions south of Malwa. The extent of Malenadu is shown below.

It looks obvious that Mir Bakhtiar had crossed through the Hoysala kingdom in the north. Looking for the Hoysala history of this period, it is silent for 20 years between 1027 and 1047[xvi] – the period when Salar Masud invaded India and died.

The starting of this period had Nripakama as the king. The end period had Vinayaditya as the king. What happened in between? What happened to Nripa kama? When did he die and how did he die? History is silent on this. If only we place the southern military expedition of the two accomplices of Salar Masud, we get a picture of what happened to this king, his dynasty and his land on the coastal region in the west.

A corroboratory incident appears in the times of Ereyanga, the son of Vinayaditya. He undertook a military expedition to Malwa and set on fire Dhara (today’s Dhar in Madya Pradesh) the capital of Malwa. The inscriptional evidence of this attack places on record the anger against Bhoja, the king who made friendly treaty with Salar Masud! The following is reproduced from the text “The Hoysala Vamsa”[xvii]

Why this anger against King Bhoja if not for the reason that he allowed the Muslim fanatics passage through his country to enter the Hoysala domain? The destruction of Baleyapattana on the sea-shore by fire is compared with the anger of Rama against the sea god. Why this murderous anger against these regions of Bhoja? This expedition by Ereyanga is comparable to Rama killing Vali who allowed Ravana a safe passage across his territory while abducting Sita.

The name Ereyanga sounds like honorific title with ‘ere’ meaning fire or burn in Tamil. (Most of old Kannada sounds like corrupt Tamil). Was he known as Ereyanga for having burnt Dhara and other cities of Malwa? He was also referred to as Erega – a reference to ‘burning’ in Tamil.

The specific reference to coastal route taken by Ereyanga also makes interesting reading. Did he go through the same route of destruction caused by Mir Bakhtiar and his accomplice to offer remedy to the people and also to charge himself with first hand information on the kind of destruction done by the fanatics?

The probable period of destruction of Dhara seems to have happened after the death of King Bhoja. But the period between 1027 and 1047 had seen a mysterious absence of any activity in Hoysala regions signalling destruction and recuperation. The same period had Bankideva I ruling Alupa territories in Kannur. In the same period Melkote must have been destroyed. Melkote also coming under Hoysala control, that period was bereft of able commanders to take on the fanatics. The Mirror of Masud says that Mir Bakhtiar died fighting a local army. This must have happened at Thondanur. This is comparable to the death of the soldier of the Hero stone in Barakuru.

There is an opinion that Bitti Deva (Vishnuvardhan) was ruling from Thondanur. The raid happening in the 3rd decade of the 11th century, Bitti Deva could not have been born at that time. Bitti Deva was the 2nd son of Ereyanga and Ereyanga himself was young at the time of the raid. Perhaps Bittideva could have participated in the war on Dhar accompanying his father.

Ereyanga’s inscriptions appear until 1100, the same period when his father Vinayaditya’s inscriptions also appear. So it seems Ereyanga did not come to the throne at all but was controlling a part of the kingdom as was the practice in those days.

His son Bitti Deva could have accompanied him in the Dhar expedition during which he could have lost his fingers. Traditional account of Vaishnavite text 6000 Padi is that he lost his fingers in the war with Turushka. It is possible to assume that the Turks (Ghazni men) allied with Malwa warriors (bound by the friendly treaty) when Erayanga attacked Dhara and Bitti Deva faced a Turkish warrior in the battle and lost his fingers.

The following map shows the route of Mir Bakhtiar and Ereyanga (From his capital at Dvarasamudram). Baleyapattana could have been Balewad or a town closer to the coast. The southernmost inscription of King Bhoja occurring just north of Nashik (indicated as a star), one can judge the extent of the free –ride the fanatic followers of Ghazni could have had.

Thus there are only hidden references to the raid of coastal regions upto Kannur.

The literary reference comes from 6000 Padi, a text written within 100 years of Ramanuja.

The tomb of the fanatic in Thondanur is a solid evidence for the raid at Melkote.

Ramanuja had entered Thondanur nearly three decades after the raid, by which time the memory of the raid was gone or no one affected by that raid lived to tell what happened.

So what is not evident does not mean non-existence.

What is evident cannot be rejected as religious in nature.

Our elders – the sages and swamis – were not interested in telling stories of imaginative kind. They told what happened and also what mattered.

What they told matters now, as primary literary source of evidence!

Continuing with establishing the ‘Delhi trip’ of Ramanuja as truth and not myth in the next part....

[i] Thapar, Romila (2005). “Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History”, Verso, Page 5

[ii] Jain, Meenakshi  ( 2004).  Review of Romila Thapar’s “Somanatha, The Many Voices of a History”

[iii] Buchanan, Francis, M.D (1807). “A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar….” Volume II, Printed for T. Cadell and W.Daviers. Pages 83 -84
[iv] Rice, B.L. (1876) “Mysore and Coorg, a gazetteer”. Page 278

[v] “Annual Report Of The Mysore Archaeological Department For The Year 1939” (1940). By Government Branch Press. Page 26 -27

[vi] Suvorova, Anna (2004). “Muslim Saints of South Asia: The Eleventh to Fifteenth Centuries”. Page 157.

[vii] Jain, Chhotelal. (1982). “Jaina Bibliography”, 2nd edition. Page 1176

[ix] Sastri, KAN. (1958), “A History of South India from Pre-historic times to the fall of Vijayanagar”, 2nd edition, Oxford University Press. Page 176.  

[x] Larger Leiden Plates of Rajaraja I C. 1006 CE

[xi] Buchanan, Francis, M.D (1807). “A Journey from Madras through the Countries of Mysore, Canara and Malabar….” Volume II, Printed for T. Cadell and W.Daviers. Page 91

[xiii] Saletore B.A. “Ancient Karnataka, Vol 1 History of Tuluva” Page 225.

[xiv] Original text of the inscription in Old Kannada from South  Indian Inscriptions Vol 7 No 388

[xv]  Chapter III “Political history of Barakuru from early times till the end of the Hoysalas”, pages 145-146.

[xvi] Coelho, William (1949). “The Hoysala Vamsa”. Page 29.

[xvii] Coelho, William (1949). “The Hoysala Vamsa”. Page 53



Awe inspiring stuff! Ma'am also the book "Conquest and Community: The after life of a warrior saint ghazi miyan" by Shahid Amin will aid this article addendum.

Saranathan TG said...

I am amazed and lose adequate and appropriate words to praise you, Madam, for the extensive and exhaustive research to prove our age-old traditions are not just myth but true recordings! How do you find time to write about various topics with evidence from Vedas to the modern concept of DNA techniques? I only hope one day all your deeply researched conclusions will prove you are right and accurate. May God bless you with more power and energy in your pursuits to bring out the truth.