Mahmud of Ghazni

Sultan of the Ghaznavid Empire from 998 to 1030

Mahmud of Ghazni, (Persian: محمود غزنوی, Maḥmūd-e Ghaznawī; (2 November 971 – 30 April 1030) commonly known as Mahmud Ghaznavi, was the ruler of the Ghaznavid Empire from 997 until his death. He turned the former provincial city of Ghazni into the rich capital of an extensive empire which included modern-day Afghanistan, most of Iran, and parts of north-west India including modern-day Pakistan. He was also the first ruler to carry the title Sultan, signifying his break from the power of the Islamic Caliph.

Mahmud of Ghazni

Mahmud of Ghazni was known as Yāmīn al-Dawlah Maḥmūd (in full: Yāmīn al-Dawlah Abd al-Qāṣim Maḥmūd ibn Sebük Tegīn). He was the eldest son of Emir Sebüktegin. When he was young, Mahmud helped his father gain land through military campaigns against Turk nobles. In 997, he overthrew his younger brother, Ismail, who had been nominated for the throne after his father’s death. As soon as he had the throne, he went out to conquer territory.

Between 1000 and 1026, he invaded India at least 17 times. He led the first major Muslim army to invade India. His conquest of the entire Punjab including Haryana all the way up to Agra was the last invasion where he increased his territory in India. From then on, most of Mahmud’s raids were to gain wealth. Mahmud's last and most famous raid was on Somnath. This is a temple city on the Gujarati coast that was also a pilgrimage site. The temple had many riches: heavy golden chains and thousands of jewels. The battle was violent, and more than 50,000 people died. Mahmud's army won and plundered the temple of its riches and wealth.

With all his riches, Mahmud founded a university, a library, and a museum, a grand mosque and richened his capital. When Mahmud was about to die, he ordered all of his riches to be placed before him. Mahmud died on 30 April 1030.

Campaign timeline


As Emir

  • 994: Gains the title of Saif ad-Dawla and becomes Governor of Khorasan under service to Nuh II of the Samanid Empire in civil strife
  • 995: The Samanid rebels Fa'iq (leader of a court faction that had defeated Alptigin's nomination for Emir) and Abu Ali expel Mahmud from Nishapur. Mahmud and Sabuktigin defeat Samanid rebels at Tus
  • 997: Kara-Khanid Khanate
Ghaznavid fortress of Lashkari Bazar in Lashkargah, ancient Bost, southern Afghanistan. It was founded by Mahmud of Ghazni in 998-1030 CE.

As Sultan

  • 999: Khorasan, Balkh, Herat, Merv from the Samanids. A concurrent invasion from the north by the Qarakhanids under Elik Khan (Nasr Khan) ends Samanid rule.
  • 1000: Sistan from Saffarid dynasty
  • 1001: Gandhara: Sultan Mahmud defeats Raja Jayapala in the Battle of Peshawar; Jayapala subsequently abdicates and commits suicide.
  • 1002: Seistan: Is imprisoned in Khuluf
  • 1004: Bhatia (Bhera) is annexed after it fails to pay its yearly tribute.
  • 1005-6: Multan: Fateh Daud, the Ismaili ruler of Multan[1] revolts and enlists the aid of Anandapala. Mahmud massacres the Ismailis[2][3] of Multan in the course of his conquest. Anandapala is defeated at Peshawar and pursued to Sodra (Wazirabad) in modern day Gujranwala and the region is partly annexed by Mahmud. Mahmud then goes on to capture Bathinda from its ruler, Sukhapala.

Ghor and Muhammad ibn Suri are then captured by Mahmud, made prisoner along with Muhammad ibn Suri's son, and taken to Ghazni, where Muhammad ibn Suri dies. Appoints Sewakpal to administer the region. Anandapala flees to Kashmir, fort in the hills on the western border of Kashmir. Mehmud attacks the fort but fails to capture it so he destroys every village in Kashmir during his retreat back to Afghanistan. He also defeats an army near Mirpur and captures the area appointing a Muslim governor. He establishes a caravan in the modern day city of Rawalpindi and fully annexes the Pothohar region.

Mahmud of Ghazni raided India as far as Somnath, Mathura and Kannauj in Gurjara-Pratihara territory.[4]
Note: A historical narrative states in this battle, under the onslaught of the Gakhars, Mahmud's army was about to retreat when King Anandapala's elephant took flight and turned the tide of the battle.[source?]
  • 1010: Ghor; against Amir Suri
  • 1010: Multan revolts. It's Ismaili ruler Abul Fatah Dawood is defeated and imprisoned for life at Ghazni.
  • 1012-1013: Sacks Thanesar[5]
  • 1012: Invades Gharchistan and deposes its ruler Abu Nasr Muhammad.
  • 1012: Demands and receives remainder of the province of Khorasan from the Abbasid Caliph. Then demands Samarkand as well but is rebuffed.
  • 1013: Bulnat: Defeats Trilochanpala.
  • 1014: Kafiristan is attacked
  • 1015: Mahmud's army sacks Lahore, but his expedition to Kashmir fails, due to inclement weather.[6]
  • 1015: Khwarezm: Marries his sister to Abul Abbas Mamun of Khwarezm, who dies in the same year in a rebellion. Moves to quell the rebellion and installs a new ruler and annexes a portion.
Silver jitals of Mahmud of Ghazni with bilingual Arabic and Sanskrit minted in Lahore in 1028 CE.
Obverse in Arabic: la ilaha illa'llah muhammad rasulallah sal allahu alayhi wa sallam "There is no God except Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah"
Reverse in Sanskrit (Sharada script): avyaktam eka muhammeda avatāra nrpati mahamuda "There is one Invisible; Muhammad is the avatar; the king is Mahmud".[7][8][9][10]
  • 1017: Kannauj, Meerut, and Muhavun on the Yamuna, Mathura and various other regions along the route. While moving through Kashmir he levies troops from vassal Princes for his onward march; Kannauj and Meerut submit without battle.
  • 1018-1020: Sacks the town of Mathura.[5]
  • 1021: Raises Ayaz to kingship, awarding him the throne of Lahore.
  • 1021: Kalinjar attacks Kannauj: he marches to their aid and finds the last Shahi King, Trilochanpaala, encamped as well. No battle, the opponents leave their baggage trains and withdraw from the field. Also fails to take the fort of Lokote again. Takes Lahore on his return. Trilochanpala flees to Ajmer. First Muslim governors appointed east of the Indus River.
  • 1023: Lahore. He forces Kalinjar and Gwalior to submit and pay tribute:[11] Trilochanpala, the grandson of Jayapala, is assassinated by his own troops. Official annexation of Punjab (including present day Haryana at that time) by Mahmud Ghaznavi. Also fails to take the Lohara fort on the western border of Kashmir for the second time.
  • 1024: Ajmer, Nehrwala, Kathiawar: This raid is his last major campaign. The concentration of wealth at Somnath was renowned, and consequently it became an attractive target for Mahmud, as it had previously deterred most invaders. The temple and citadel are sacked, and most of its defenders massacred.
  • 1025: Somnath: Mahmud sacks the temple and is reported to have personally hammered the temple's gilded Lingam to pieces, and the stone fragments are carted back to Ghazni, where they are incorporated into the steps of the city's new Jama Masjid (Friday Mosque) in 1026. He places a new king on the throne in Gujarat as a tributary. His return detours across the Thar Desert to capture the city of Ajmer and other important forts on his return.
  • 1025: Marches against the Jats of the Jood mountains who harry his army on its return from the sack of Somnath.
  • 1027: Rey, Isfahan, Hamadan from the Buyids Dynasty.
  • 1027: Devastates the fleet of Jats in Indus river to avenge the "heavy losses" suffered by his army in an onslaught by Jats in 1026 CE.[12]
  • 1028, 1029: Merv, Nishapur are lost to the Seljuk dynasty.


  1. Blank 2001, p. 37.
  2. Hanifi 1964, p. 21.
  3. Daftary 2005, p. 68.
  4. Chandra, Satish (2004). Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526) - Part One. Har-Anand Publications. pp. 19–20. ISBN 978-81-241-1064-5.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Barua 2005, p. 27.
  6. Chandra 2006, p. 18.
  7. Flood, Finbarr B. (20 March 2018). Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter. Princeton University Press. p. 41. ISBN 978-0-691-18074-8.
  8. Pollock, Sheldon (1993). "Ramayana and Political Imagination in India". The Journal of Asian Studies. 52 (2): 285. doi:10.2307/2059648. ISSN 0021-9118. JSTOR 2059648. S2CID 154215656.
  9. Cappelletti, Sara. ""The bilingual coins of Maḥmūd of Ghazna (r. 998-1030) Translating the medieval Indo-Islamic world between Arabic and Sanskrit" (Poster presented at the Workshop "Les Ghaznavides et leurs voisins: nouvelles recherches sur le monde iranien oriental" at CNRS, Ivry sur Seine, February 26th, 2016)". CNRS.
  10. Thapar, Romila (2008). Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History. Penguin Books India. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-14-306468-8.
  11. Kumar 2008, p. 127.
  12. Baumer, Christoph (30 May 2016). The History of Central Asia: The Age of Islam and the Mongols. Bloomsbury. pp. 207–208. ISBN 978-1838609399. In 1026, warriors of the Jats, the indigenous population of Sindh, inflicted heavy losses on Mahmud's army when he retreated from Somnath to Multan. Mahmud returned a year later to take revenge on the Jats, who had been stubbornly resisting forced Islamisation since the eighth century. As the contemporary writer Gardizi reports, Mahmud had 1,400 boats built; each boat was to carry 20 archers and be equipped with special projectiles that could be filled with naphtha. Mahmud's fleet sailed down the Jhelum and then the Indus, until it met the Jat fleet. Although the Jats had far more boats than Mahmud, their fleet was set ablaze and destroyed.
  • "Mahmud of Ghazni." World Book Advanced. World Book, 2013. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.
  • "Mahmud of Ghazni." Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998.Biography in Context. Web. 4 Dec. 2013.