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Sumadhwa Vijaya - Historical Exploration Part 2

To summarise, the period of the last two decades of Madhva (1298 – 1318 AD) followed by the periods of Padmanabha Tirtha (1318 – 1324 AD) and Narahari Tirtha (1324 – 1333 AD)  saw some of the worst destruction of organized Hindu political power, famous temples, and mass killings.The Hindu kings proved inept both politically and militarily in dealing with the menace and the Parashurama Kshethra area and Hampi area were like Oases in the desert – along with the distant Hindu ruled Orissa. 

The dissolution of Hindu power started with Alla uddin Khalji’s raids on Devagiri Kingdom ruled by the Yadava king Ramachandra, first in 1296 AD, even before ascending the throne, for looting and for control followed by those (after occupying it) in 1307/9 AD. This was followed rapidly by the successful raids on Prathaparudra of Warangal in 1310 AD, Ballala III of Dvarasamudra in 1311 AD and culminated in the final raids on Madurai ruled by the Pandya princes and the whole sale destruction and looting of the famed temple of Sri Rangam, Chidamabaram, and even reaching Rameswaram, where a mosque was built on a temple site.

The very first raid on Devagiri had made Ramachandra totally submissive and even cooperative, and Allauddin ensured that by retaining him in the seat, the Devagiri state became an accomplice in his further ventures against other states, like using the wood of a tree cut first as the handle of the Axe. The invasion deluge was successfully resisted only by the small Kampili Kingdom in the immediate vicinity of Hampi for a few years.

The invaders returned to Delhi in October 1311. In 1313 AD, he invaded again the submissive kingdom of Devagiri and finished off its existence even as a vassal Hindu Kingdom by killing its last surviving King. Alla Uddin died in 1316 AD and his governor crushed attempts by the Yadava lineage to emerge out of the ashes by killing Harapal, the son in law of Ramachandra in 1318 AD, thus integrating the Maratha areas north of the Krishna river into his Delhi ruled empire.

The Thuglaq dynasty came into power in Delhi in 1320 AD with Ghiyasuddin who ruled for only 5 years followed by Mohammed Bin Thuglaq in 1325 AD. They not only crushed the Hindu backlash in Devagiri, but even the capital of the Muslim empire was shifted from Delhi to Devagiri – renamed Daualatabad in 1326-27 AD and increased the Muslim population both by concentration and forced conversions. This brought increasing pressure on the neighbouring Hindu kingdoms.

The other direct buffer state of Kakatiyas of Warangal was first attacked unsuccessfully by All Uddin in 1303 AD, but he was defeated by Prathaparudra. His second invasion to Warangal in 1310 AD was successful and he received great wealth as compensation from the King.  He continued southwards from Warangal, by first returning to Devagri and attacking Hoysala king Ballala III in a surprise attack, and forced him to sue for peace and agree to cooperate in his final goal – capture of Madurai of the Pandyas.

Though the invaders could not capture and ensure surrender of the fighting brothers who ruled the kingdom, they captured vast booty from the temples destroyed and the cities sacked which included SriRangam, Chidambaram, Madurai etc as mentioned earlier.  Allauddin’s depredations had all taken place, before 1318 AD, when Madhva was still in Udupi area.

The Thuglaq dynasry headed by Ghiyasuddin was even more destructive, as unlike Allauddin who was mainly after riches, loot etc and was prepared to leave an impoverished and servile king in place, the new rulers were actuated by motives of conversion to Islam and obliterating the Hindu identity completely. The following words of Nilakanta Sastri express this situation:

“To stamp out heathenism and gather all the people in the folds of Islam, they prohibited the public exercise of Hindu religion and subjected its followers to inhuman tyranny.  Hindus could not dress well, live well and appear prosperous. Vexatious taxes were imposed on them. Their seats of learning were destroyed. Their temples were plundered and demolished and the images of the gods whom they adored were defaced and smashed and used for building prayer houses of the faithful”. The imposition of Jeziya tax, on Hindus which kept them impoverished and discriminated against, as well as mass killing of even non-combatants in conquered areas, forced abduction of women and children etc were common features which the more rabid of the sultans were encouraged to practice, when guided by the religious heads.

I will also quote an interesting observation by Dr. Koenraad Elst:

“During the Islamic conquests in India, it was a typical policy to single out the Brahmins for slaughter, after the Hindu warrior class had been bled in the battle field. … . The Muslims could not rule the country except by systematic terror. .. If there were any uprising, it was instantly and savagely repressed. – houses were burned, the countryside was laid waste, men were slaughtered and women were taken as slaves. 

“There is only one among four law schools in Sunni Islam, which allows Pagans to subsist as zimmis – disempowered third class citizens, the other three schools of Jurisprudence ruled that Pagans as opposed to Christians had to be given a choice between Islam and Death.”

Staggering numbers also died as collateral damage of the deliberate impoverishment by Sultans like Allauddin Khalji and Jehangir. As Braudel put it – “The levies it had to pay were so crushing that one catastrophic harvest was enough to unleash famines and epidemics capable of killing a million people at a time. Appalling poverty was the constant counterpart of the conqueror’s opulence”.

Providentially, the success of Islamin this phase of zealous extremism was limited mainly because they could not establish their numbers fast enough and the Hindus, in great majority, though led with poor strategy and militarily weak, rebounded back again and again till they threw off the yoke of the oppressors. Many brave warriors were slain with their kingdoms short lived - but they kept the torch burning and did not allow it to be extinguished.But for religious leaders, this period must have been particularly difficult as they could hardly expose themselves in public and perform their prescribed functions. Even Sumadhvavijaya conveys a picture in shloka 10-15 of Chapter 10, showing a face of the Islamic forces of a King which would kill a harmless party of a few ascetics instantly – and how Madhva warded off the danger by his tact and personality.

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