Battle of Somnath : Symbol of Unbroken Faith

Posted September 28, 2014 by admin in Legendary Battles

Amidst the thundering roar of projectiles and arrows an old man stood silently – behind him the sacred temple of Somnath was in ruins with hordes of Turk horsemen riding over the dead bodies of the custodians of the holy shrine. Their desperate attempts at defending the temple against the fanatical iconoclasm of the Muslim attackers saw thousands prostrate themselves before the sacred murti and rushing out sword in hand giving their lives in a desperate attempt to save the temple from desecration.
 
The aged 90 year old Rana Ghogna assembled his clansmen to defend the temple – from around thousands answered the call to face the ruthless Mahmud of Ghazni whose armies had raged from India to Iraq in devastating raids. The kingdoms of Central Asia and Persian fell before the armies of Mahmud as they poured in relentless waves into modern day Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan and finally towards India.

The aged Rajput warrior stood for ten hours against the endless waves of cavalry launched against him and his men – the undaunted Rana whose fame was spread across the Kathiawar region of Gujarat stood firm against the Turks resolved to give his life rather than tamely surrender the Somnath Temple to the hordes from Central Asia who had mercilessly destroyed countless churches, Zoroastrian fire temples and Buddhist monasteries.
 
The wily Ghaznavi, well aware that his lightning and unexpected raid to the Holy Shrine had caught the attention of his dreaded foe Raja Bhoja knew he had limited time before the Hindu forces racing towards Somnath would encircle and perhaps destroy him.

The veteran Rana stood as long as he had strength to defend the temple – Holding his battle axe the veteran of a thousand combats stood firm striking down his enemies until the ground to his left and right were littered with the bodies of his foe until eventually he fell under a wave of arrows.

Amidst a deluge of blood and dead and dying Hindu and Muslims warriors The temple was destroyed and the holy murti was unceremoniously carted off to Ghazi as a symbol of the victory of the ‘faithful’ The famed silver gates taken as well to different parts of the Ghaznavid Empire..

The efforts and sacrifices made to save the temple were never forgotten. The energy and zeal of Raja Bhoja rebuilt the temple. A further invasion of India by the Salur Ghazanvi in 1033 CE was caught by Raja Bhoja and Raja Sukhdev and in the Battle of Bharaich the pride of the nascent Muslim Empire in South Asia was humbled as over 100,000 of the until then undefeated Ghaznavi warriors were slain and the tide of attack stemmed for a further 150 years.

The temple rose and fell and rose again through the turbulent middle ages of South Asia as the Muslims and Hindus fought each other and sometimes in unison to rule the subcontinent. Thousands of temples were destroyed in a land traditionally known for its tolerance. The once mighty edifice of Buddhism was wiped out from the land of its origin and other groups like the Jains were reduced to an insignificant minority.

The Hindus resisted however and by the late 17th Century a huge wave of revolts and risings convulsed the country which eventually utterly destroyed the Muslim kingdoms in India – a movement which was only stopped by the sudden and treacherous  encroachments of the rising British Empire.
 
By 1782 the Maratha warlord Mahadji Sindhia – the kingmaker of India had emerged as the most powerful force in Northern India. His unmatched military skill and determination had allowed him to stamp and defeat the last vestiges of Mughal and Afghan power in India. Four of his brothers were martyred in the struggle of the Marathas against the Afghans in a time of tumultuous change.

By 1782 one of the sons of the dreaded Afghan king Ahmed Shah Abdali known as Mahmud Shah was in control of the vast city of Lahore. Sindhia however after establishing his power at Delhi with the backing of the Maratha legions of cavalry attached towards the Afghans- After a bitter engagement the Afghans withdrew and leaving countless of their dead and wounded behind them fled towards their distant mountain homes.

In their terror the Afghans failed to take with them the prized symbols of their perceived victories. The remnants of the famed original Somnath Temple were scattered across South Asia- Some had been taken by the hordes of plunderers under Mahmud Ghaznavi and he himself had taken the famed gates as a memorial to his kingdom.

The pious Maratha warrior located and took the famous silver gates of Somnath taken seven centuries earlier. Sindhia reverentially removed the gates from the clutches of the Afghan plunderers and in a great procession to be returned to their rightful place within the holy precincts.

Some have alleged that the Hindus have no sense of history but to a critical observer and reader of this turbulent period of Indian history cannot but fail to see the unending efforts to preserve and fight to rectify the historical wrongs inflicted on the collective psyche of the Hindu peoples of the subcontinent.

The victories won over the until then undefeated Arabs in the eighth century were followed by the invasions of the Ghaznavaids and their subsequent defeat in the Battle of Bhariach in 1033.

Further breakthroughs in the thirteenth century culminated in the fall of Chhittor in 1303 CE amidst a series of wars and bloodletting scarce seen in human history as the victory of the Islamic invaders now seemed complete. But just as the famed temples of India rose and fell – only to rise and fall again and again so the fortunes and spirit of the Hindus continued to rise after each setback . By the mid 1300-s the major and new Hindu kingdoms rose again as did the ancient schools of learning and teachings best represented in the teachings of the Bhakti movement.

The Somnath temple fell again only to rise again and again and was never forgotten. After the dawn of independence in 1947 the temple was once again reconstructed as a symbol of hope. Somnath has became a symbol of the undying spirit and energy of Dharma and the unrelenting spirit never to bow before the forces of fascist monotheism and hatred.The ongoing plight of the pagan Yazidis at the hands of the ISIS (Islamic State) jihadis in Iraq and Syria is a grim reminder of a thousand such attacks in the Indian subcontinent and that liberty and freedom have been bought at a terrible cost and sustained only through the ingrained truths contained within the fabric of Dharma.

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