History books tell us that only events of tectonic magnitude, like say the Vasco Da Gama journey, shapes the history of the world.
This post is not about events like that.
This post is about some random little incidents from Indian history. Incidents, which are inconspicuous when viewed in isolation. So inconspicuous in fact, that they were eliminated from our History books.
Can’t blame the textbooks though. I mean what is the worst that they could have missed by not mentioning a single arrow, a pencil stroke or a nod of the head?
It is not as if these things influenced our History.
No 4: Iltutmish, with a polite harmless nod, says No to Jalal ad-din Mohammad, Ruler of the Khwarezmian Empire. Unknowingly saves Indian Civilization
It all started with this
A gift basket
Seriously, this story started with a pretty little, 13th century style gift basket, sent by Genghis Khan. If you bothered to read the link, you have a fair idea how this thing ends.
In 1215 A.D, Genghis Khan, the ruler of Mongolia, sent a pretty looking gift basket to Ala Ud-Din Mohammad, the ruler of the neighboring Khwarezmian Empire. He even inscribed the words, ‘You are the ruler of the land of the rising sun and I of the setting sun’ on it. He just wanted to be friends.
However, Ala ad-Din went all Gerard 300 This is Sparta Butler on the caravan. He ordered his governor, a guy called Inalchuq, to slaughter every one of the poor souls who carried the basket. And on top of the murder, Ala Ad-din didn’t even return the basket.
Strike One: Ala ad-din
Genghis Khan, perhaps giving Ala ad-din the benefit of doubt, sent three royal ambassadors (One Muslim and Two Mongols), to politely enquire about his missing caravan and the fate of his basket. He still wanted to be friends.
Ala ad-din, this time, shaved the heads of the two Mongol ambassadors and beheaded the Muslim one. Sending the two bald men back, with the severed head, he sent the message, ‘What the f***k can you do Genghis’?
Strike Two : Ala ad-Din
With Genghis Khan, two strikes is all you got.
With an army of 250,000, 13th century Rambos, battering rams, gunpowder, trebuchets, enormous siege bows capable of throwing 20-foot arrows into siege works and a guy called Subutai, the greatest General of the 13th century and the eight centuries that followed it, Genghis Khan marched into Khwarezim to avenge his dead ambassador.
Which was like arriving to a knife duel with an AK-47 assault rifle.
What followed was an orgy of blood and pillage, never before witnessed in human history. Khwarezmian cities were captured with the ease of capturing enemy cities in Rise of Nations; being played with cheat codes. Six to eight million Khwarezmian civilians and 1 million soldiers were ruthlessly murdered and decapitated. The favourite Mongol game of ‘Cut off head and build a wall with it’, was played outside the capital city of Samarkand with its now dead 1.2 million inhabitants. And the guy who started this tale of annihilation, Governor Inalchuq/the gift basket caravan killer, was executed in the most hideous way possible. Molten silver was poured through his mouth, ears and every other orifice in his body.
Genghis however reserved his best/worst for the city of Urgench, the birth place of Ala ad-din. Every Mongol soldier was ordered to kill at least 24 Urgenchi citizens. Once that was done and everyone was dead, Genghis as the final eff-you, demolished all the dams around the city that held back the River Amu Darya, completely wiping the city off the face of the earth.
All because Khwarezmian’s killed one Mongol and shaved the head of two others.
A great city lies beneath the still water
Maybe as an evil joke, Schadenfreude or benevolence, Genghis Khan allowed Ala Ad-din to escape to a town on the Caspian sea, where he finally died. Books say Ala Ad-din died of some inflammation. But it is more likely that he just dropped dead from the shock of seeing the violent dismemberment of his once glorious empire.
How the hell did it happen!
After what the Ala Ad-din family went through, you expect the survivors to just give up. But not his son Jalal. He ran into Khorasan, what is today’s Afghanistan, to continue the war. Not wanting to leave any loose ends, Genghis marched right after him. As the cities of Khorasan rapidly vanished before his eyes, Jalal, as the last resort, ran to India.
India was then ruled by Iltutmish, the third king of the Delhi Sultanate.
Keeping in mind the ‘Me Muslim, He Muslim, We both brothers’, he appealed to Iltutmish for help. He sought refuge and an army to wrest his kingdom back from Genghis. He was confident that Iltutmish would not let his fellow Muslim monarch and brother down against an infidel. And then
ILTUTMISH SAID NO.
For the first time in the history of the world, a Muslim monarch had denied asylum to another Muslim monarch who was being hunted by a non-Muslim Emperor. Jalal was flabbergasted. Shocked at this blunt refusal and pretty much out of options, Jalal Ad Din went back to Khorasan disheveled, disillusioned and praying to God that his head would not become a brick in a Mongol skull wall.
Genghis, by now though, was simply bored of all the bloodshed, pillage and orgy. Realizing that anyone from Khwarezim was either a skeleton or a hobo, he returned to Mongolia. Importantly for Indians though, he went back without invading India.
Meanwhile, Jalal disguised himself and lived incognito for the rest of his life, forever wondering whether the annihilation of his entire empire for the killing of one man was a little over the top.
WHAT IF ILTUTMISH HAD SAID YES TO JALAL?
Indian Civilization, as we know it, would not exist. Simple.
This was the Khwarizmi Empire, before the gift basket arrived. Why do you think we don’t read about it in the History books alongside the other great empires of the time? What happened to them?
Genghis Khan happened to them. And they were not alone. When Genghis Khan invaded Baghdad in 1258, he turned what was then fertile plain into a freaking desert. Baghdad has still not recovered, 760 years after the Mongol invasion. 7 centuries.
Genghis was, what the Bible calls, Armageddon. If Genghis arrived in your city in the 13th century, not even its dogs and cats remained alive to see the aftermath. He was unbelievably intelligent and extremely ruthless. He took the dictum ‘All is fair in war’ to an entirely new level. Hell, he was the first guy to invent biological weapons and use them in a battle.
If Iltutmish had said Yes to Jalal Ud-din, all it would have done is to show a red flag to the rampaging Genghis. Angry Genghis would have straight up marched into India with his superb, undefeated army to fight Iltutmish. Iltutmish would have had as much of a chance against Genghis as India has against Spain in a football match. Zero.
The probable timeline would have been
Genghis Invades India —–> Genghis decimates Iltutmish —–> Genghis destroys Delhi —–> Genghis sees the rubies and the boobies on offer —–> Genghis pushes further into India —–> Obliterates other cities and massacres everybody else —–> Wipes out Indian Civilization, like the Khwarezmian one —–> Leaves behind Mongols to govern —–> We all become Mongols.
Never was a more important No said in the history of India. And never was a more important ‘No’ missed by a history textbook.
No 3: A freak arrow hits Hemu in the eye at the second battle of Panipat. Ensures Mughal rule in India.
Mughals were briefly discussed on this site before. In one line, Mughals can be described as
Wandering Central Asian tribe, who after getting kicked out of their country landed in India and became its rulers.
Babur founded the Mughal empire in 1526, and was succeeded by his opium addicted, pleasure seeking, hookah smoking son Humayun in 1530. Opium and wars were never happy companions and he, inevitably was defeated by Sher Shah Suri in 1540. The crippling defeat ensured Humayun, his family and his hookah, were back to being Nomads, exactly 14 years after his father was crowned the emperor of Hindustan.
Google image search for Nomads
While Humayun was wandering in the Persian wilderness, begging to different Monarchs for a few crumbs of support, a son of a Hindu priest and a salt petre trader, Hem Chandra a.k.a Hemu was fast rising up the ranks of Islam Shah, the successor of Sher Shah Suri. Initially made the minister of commerce for his administrative acumen, Hemu became his chief advisor and confidante. So important was Hemu, that when an upstart called Adil Shah seized the throne in 1553, Hemu was elevated to the post of the Prime Minister. This, when all the other Islam Shahi court members were executed.
While Adil Shah was busy drinking and boning away to glory, Hemu was ruthlessly putting down insurrections against the new Emperor. When he was in Bengal in 1555, the nomad Humayun returned to India with an army. He killed Adil Shah, crowned himself the Emperor of Hindustan and declared war on Hemu.
You don’t piss a guy like Hemu off.
Hemu embarked on a campaign that mirrored Genghis Khan in tactical brilliance and strategy. Mughal territories fell like dominoes as Hemu won 22 consecutive battles against various Mughal generals. Such was Hemu’s might, that the commander of the Mughal city of Agra, ran away in pure terror when he saw Hemu’s armies. As the final stamp of his domination, Hemu marched onto Delhi and routed the Mughal army there under some dude called Tardi Beg. Christening himself as Hema Chandra Vikramaditya, he crowned himself the emperor of Hindustan in 1556, thus becoming India’s first Hindu Emperor after 350 years of uninterrupted Islamic rule. Unfortunately though, he was to become the last.
While Hemu was marching towards Delhi, Humayun managed to get himself killed by falling down a flight of stairs. His death left the 13 year old, Jalal Ud-Din Mohammad Akbar as the Emperor of whatever was left of the Mughal empire. Seeing Hemu’s charge, Akbar’s Persian adviser Bairam Khan, considered running away to Kabul. However, as a last throw of the dice, he attacked Delhi with whatever was left of his army.
They clashed with Hemu at Panipat on the 5th of November 1556, which History calls the Second battle of Panipat.
Hemu, being a daredevil, was atop his battle elephant, personally leading his Afghan troops into battle. Bairam Khan was three miles behind. Dividing his army into three flanks, Hemu’s initial charge shattered the Mughal flanks and cavalry. With their main strength annihilated, the severely disoriented and disorganized Mughal army at that point of time was like a rabbit standing in front of a hunting lamp, totally defenceless and ready for slaughter.
Then, fate intervened.
Mughal’s tactics to counter Hemu’s elephant army, consisted of shooting random arrows at the mastodons and praying to God they hit. Unsurprisingly, the tactic never worked. This time, by some freak of fate
One of those arrows hit Hemu in his eye.
Hemu’s first reaction to this was to remove the arrow and continue the fight. But because of incessant blood loss, Hemu eventually slumped in his howdah unconscious, but alive. His troops though, sadly assumed he was dead. Demoralized due to the apparent loss of their General, they lost their co-ordination. Which was when Bairam Khan ordered the reserves to charge. The now disorganized army, wilted before the Mughal reserves and were annihilated. Hemu was captured and beheaded by the thirteen year old Akbar and Bairam Khan. His torso was hung outside the Purana Qila in Delhi as a warning to others. And Bairam Khan, got a skull wall made out of Hemu’s soldiers.
Life and death, for Hemu, was like an African’s left hand. Neither right nor fair.
What if the arrow hadn’t hit him?
The reign of the Mughals, would have ended before it even started. And, we would have been a Hindu Monarchy under Hemu XVIII. So, No Taj Mahal, Red Fort, unnecessary Mughal glory in our history books and
No Akbar-Birbal tales
If not for that freak arrow, Hemu would have obliterated the Mughals to a state worse than their erstwhile nomadic existence. Hemu would have triumphed at Panipat and it would have been Bairam Khan’s torso instead that would have hung at Purana Qila. Akbar, the thirteen year old kid, would have either been exiled to Central Asia or killed outright to prevent future conflicts. Most probably the latter.
Hindustan, would have had a Hindu King. But with a difference. He would have had active support of his Muslim subjects. Because Hemu never made any religious distinctions. He even convinced Afghan warriors, radical Islamists all of them, to call him Badshah and fight for his Hindu standard. Hemu was a firm believer in meritocracy and was probably the first secular king in medieval India.
Now the bigger picture. By being a Hindu, when all the empires were divided on religious lines, Hemu would have secured the support of the next most powerful people at that time, the Hindu Rajputs.. And this would have been in addition to the support of the Afghan warlords. So, for the first time in the History of India, you would have had an Emperor who had the support of both the majority and the minority. Which would have been bad news for his opponents, the renegade Muslim sardars of the Delhi Sultanate and Mughals, in the Indian hinterland.
Whenever Hemu would have marched against them , they would not have had a sniff of a chance. As a result, India, would have been born long, before the British arrived. And in this India, both Hindus and Muslims would have lived peacefully as their Emperor, did not make any religious distinctions.
Going ahead into the future, there would have been no Shivaji and all the other Anti-Mughal Indian emperors. They existed because of the Mughals. Now replace Muslim Mughals, with a Hindu Hemu. Shivaji and company, would have not only accepted Hemu IV, but would have joined him. And Hemu IV, recognizing their prowess, would have made them important cogs in his machine. Think of this like, Hemu+Shivaji+Everyone else…
And that, would have meant big problems for our eventual rulers, the British. When they arrived in India, they mainly faced petty and scheming Indian kings, all trying to cut each other’s throats. All Brits had to do was play one against the other, which they did brilliantly. But here, their opponent would have been a united and a powerful Indian empire led by Hemu VI. If they as much as raised a finger, Hemu VI would have cut their freaking head, packed it onto a ship and sent it back to England as a warning. So no Pax Brittanica for India.
No Brittania, No Mountbatten, No Nehru, No Commonwealth and finally no Suresh Kalmadi and the Commonwealth Games scam in 2008.
Suresh Kalmadi, seen thanking the unnamed archer
But for that freaking arrow.