1902 Encyclopedia > Ghazni

Ghazni
Afghanistan




GHAZNI (called in European books often Ghaznah, Gazna, Ghizni, or Ghuznee, in the Oriental histories more generally Ghaznln), a famous city in Afghanistan, the seat of an extensive empire under two different mediaeval dynasties, and again of prominent interest in the modern history of British India. Ghazni stands on the high table-land of central Afghanistan, in 68° 20' E. long., 33° 34' N. lat., at a height of 7726 feet above the sea, and on the direct road between Kandahar and Cabul, 233 miles by road N.E. from the first, and 85 miles S.W. from the second. It also stands at the head of the Gomal route from the Indus, one much followed by trade.

Ghazni, as it now exists, is a place in decay, and probably does not contain more than 4000 inhabitants. It stands at the base of the terminal spur of a ridge of hills, an off-shoot from the Gul-Koh, which forms the watershed between the Arghandab and Tarnak rivers (see AFGHANISTAN). The castle stands at the northern angle of the town next the hills, and is about 150 feet above the plain. The town walls stand on an elevation, partly artificial, and form an irregular square, close on a mile in circuit (including the castle), the walls being partly of stone or brick laid in mud, and partly of clay built in courses. They are flanked by numerous towers. There is also a loopholed fausse-braye wall, and a ditch which can be filled (partially at least) from the Ghazni river, which flows close to the west of the town. There are three gates. The town consists of dirty and very irregular streets of houses several stories high, but with two straighter streets of more pretension, crossing near the middle of the town. New fortifications had been erected previous to 1857, but their present state is not known. In 1839 they were of no real power to resist artillery of moderate calibre, though imposing in aspect and highly picturesque, judging from the views given by Sir Keith Jackson and others. Of the strategical importance of Ghazni there can hardly be a question. The view to the south is extensive, and the plain in the direction of Kanda-har stretches to the horizon. It is bare except in the vicinity of the river, where villages and gardens are tolerably numerous. Abundant crops of wheat and barley are grown, as well as of madder, besides minor products. The climate is notoriously cold,—snow lying two or three feet deep for about three months, and tradition speaks of the city as having been more than once overwhelmed by snow-drift. Fuel is scarce, consisting chiefly of prickly shrubs. In summer the heat is not like that of Kandahar or Cabul, but the radiation from the bare heights renders the nights oppressive, and constant dust-storms occur. It is evident that the present restricted walls cannot have contained the vaunted city of Mahmiid. Probably the existing site formed the citadel only of his city. The remarks of Ibn Batuta (c. 1332) already suggest the present state of things, viz., a small town occupied, a large space of ruin; for a considerable area to the N.E. is covered with ruins, or rather with a vast extent of shapeless mounds, which are pointed out as Old Ghazni. The only remains retaining architectural character are two remarkable towers, rising to the height of about 140 feet, and some 400 yards apart from each other. They are similar, but whether identical, in design, is not clearly recorded. They belong, on a smaller and far less elaborate scale, to the same class as the Kutb Minar at Delhi. Views of one of the minarets will be found in Fergusson's Indian Architecture, in Vigne's Visit to Ghazni, Cabul, &c, in Atkinson's Sketches in Afghanistan, and other works. Arabic inscriptions in Cufic characters show the most northerly to have been the work of Mahmud himself, the other that of his son Masa'ud. On the Cabul road, a mile beyond the Minaret of Mahmud, is a village called Bauzah (" the Garden," a term often applied to garden-mausoleums). Here, in a poor garden, stands the tomb of the famous conqueror himself. It is a prism of white marble standing on a plinth of the same, and bearing a Cufic inscription praying the mercy of God on the most noble Amir, the great king, the Lord of church and state, Abul Kasim Mahmud, son of Sabuktigln. The tomb stands in a rude chamber, covered with a dome of clay, and hung with old shawls, ostrich eggs, tiger-skins, and so forth, The village stands among luxuriant gardens and orchards, watered by a copious aqueduct. Sultan Baber celebrates the excellence of the grapes of Rauzah.

The famous " Gates of Somnath" (so-styled) were at-tached to the building covering Mahmud's tomb until their removal to India, under Lord Ellenborough's orders, on the evacuation of the country in 1842. The governor-general's intention, as announced in a famous prose paean addressed to the Hindu princes, was to have carried them solemnly through Upper and Central India to Guzerat, and there to have restored them to the (long-desecrated) temple. Calmer reflexion prevailed, and the gates were consigned to the arsenal at Agra, where they now remain. These gates (11 feet in height, 9|- in width) are ascertained to be of Himalayan cedar (deodar), and are richly carved in geometric Saracenic patterns, so that there is no likelihood of any real connexion with Somnath. But tradition did ascribe to them such a connexion. And when Shah Shuja in 1831 treated with Maharaja Ranjit Singh for aid to recover the throne of Cabul, one of Eanjit's stipulations was the restoration of the gates to Somnath, a circumstance which probably suggested the notion to the eccentric governor-general. A still more remarkable fact ('stated in a report by Capt. Claude Wade, dated 21st Nov. 1831) is that the shah reminded the maharaja of a prophecy that foreboded the downfall of the Sikh dominion on the removal of the Ghazni gates. The gates were removed to India in the end of 1842 ; and the Sikh kingdom practically collapsed with the death of Sher Singh in September 1843. Another relic of Sultan Mahmud is the Band-i-Sultdn, a great dam on the Ghazni river, some 12 miles above the city. Baber describes it as 80 or 100 feet in height, pro-bably along the slope, and about 600 feet long. It had lain ruined in his time since its destruction by Alauddin Jahansoz, but Baber sent money to restore it. Vigne calls it only 25 feet in height. He found it much out of repair. It supplies irrigation to the plain west of Ghazni.

There are many holy shrines about Ghazni surrounded by orchards and vineyards. Baber speaks of them, and tells how he detected and put a stop to the imposture of a pre-tended miracle at one of them. These sanctuaries make Ghazni a place of Moslem pilgrimage, and it is said that at Constantinople much respect is paid to those who have worshipped at the tomb of the great Ghazi. To test the genuineness of the boast, professed pilgrims are called on to describe the chief notabilia of the place, and are expected to name all those detailed in certain current Persian verses.





The city is not mentioned by any narrator of Alexander's expedi-tion, nor by any ancient author so as to admit of positive recognition. But it is very possibly the Gazaca which Ptolemy places among the Paropamisadm. and this may not be inconsistent with Sir H. Bawlinson's identification of it with Gazos, an Indian city spoken of by two obscure Greek poets as an impregnable place of war. The name is probably connected with the Persian and Sans-krit ganj and ganja, a treasury (whence the Greek and Latin Gaza). We seem to have positive evidence of the existence of the city before the Mahometan times (644) in the travels of the Chinese pilgrim, Hwen Thsang, who speaks of Ho-si-na (i.e., probably Ghazna) as one of the capitals of Tsaulcuta or Arachosia, a place of great strength. In early Mahometan times the country adjoin-ing Ghazni was called Zdbul. When the Mahometans first invaded that region Ghazni was a wealthy entrepSt of the Indian trade. Of the extent of this trade some idea is given by Ibn Haukal, who states that at Cabul, then a mart of the same trade, there was sold yearly indigo to the value of two million dinars (£1,000,000). The enterprise of Islam underwent several ebbs and flows over this region. The provinces on the Helmand and about Ghazni were invaded as early as the caliphate of Moawia (662-680). The arms of Ya'kiib Leis swept over Cabul and Arachosia (Al-Bukhaj) about 871, and the people of the latter country were forcibly converted. Though the Hindu dynasty of Cabul held a part of the valley of Cabul river till the time of Mahmud, it is probably to the period just mentioned that we must refer the permanent Mahometan occu-pation of Ghazni. Indeed, the building of the fort and city is ascribed by a Mahometan historian to 'Amru Leis, the brother and successor of Ya'kiib (d. 901), though the facts already stated dis-credit this. In the latter part of the 9th century the family of the Samani, sprung from Samarkand, reigned in splendour at Bok-hara. Alptigin, originally a Turkish slave, and high in the service of the dynasty, about the middle of the 10th century, losing the favour of the court, wrested Ghazni from its chief (who is styled Abu Bala- Lawik, wali of Ghazni), and established himself there. His government was recognized from Bokhara, and held till his death. In 977 another Turk slave, Sabuktigin, who had married the daughter of his master Alptigin, obtained rule in Ghazni. He made himself lord of nearly all the present territory of Afghanistan and of the Punjab. In 997 Mahmud, son of Sabuktigin, succeeded to the government, and with his name Ghazni and the Ghaznevid dynasty have become perpetually associated. Issuing forth year after year from that capital, Mahmud carried fully seventeen expe-ditions of devastation through northern India and Guzerat, as well as others to the north and west. From the borders of Kurdistan to Samarkand, from the Caspian to the Ganges, his authority was acknowledged. The wealth brought back to Ghazni was enormous, and contemporary historians give glowing descriptions of the magnificence of the capital, as well as of the conqueror's munificent support of literature. Mahmud died in 1030, and some fourteen kings of his house came after him ; but though there was some revival of importance under Ibrahim (1059-1099), the empire never reached anything like the same splendour and power. It was overshadowed by the Seljuks of Persia, and by the rising rivalry of GHUR (q. v.), the hostility of which it had repeatedly provoked. Bahram Shah (1118-1152), put to death Kut-buddin, one of the princes of Ghur, called king of the Jibal or Hill country, who had withdrawn to Ghazni. This prince's brother, Saifuddin Suri, came to take vengeance, and drove out Bahram. But the latter recapturing the place (1149) paraded Saifuddin and his vizier ignominiously about the city, and then hanged them on the bridge. Ala-uddin of Ghur, younger brother of the two slain princes, then gathered a great host, and came against Bahram, who met him on the Helmand. The Ghuri prince, after repeated vic-tories, stormed Ghazni, and gave it over to fire and sword. The dead kings of the house of Mahmud, except the conqueror himself and two others, were torn from their graves and burnt, whilst the bodies of the princes of Ghur were solemnly disinterred and carried to the distant tombs of their ancestors. It seems certain that Ghazni never recovered the splendour that perished then (1152). Ala-uddin, who from this deed became known in history as Jahansoz (Brule-monde), returned to Ghur, and Bahram reoccupied Ghazni; he died in 1157. In the time of his son Khusru Shah, Ghazni was taken by the Turkish tribes called Ghuzz (generally believed to have been what are now called Turkomans). The king fled to Lahore, and the dynasty ended with his son. In 1173 the Ghuzz were expelled by Ghiyassuddin Sultan of Ghur (nephew of Ala-uddin Jahansoz), who made Ghazni over to his brother Muizuaflin. This famous prince whom the later historians call, it is not clear why, Shahdb-uddln Ghuri, shortly afterwards (1174-5) invaded India, taking Multan and Uchh. This was the first of many successive inroads on western and northern India, in one of which Lahore was wrested from Khusru Malik, the last of Mahmiid's house, who died a captive in the hills of Ghur. In 1192 Prithvi Eai or Pithora (as the Moslem writers call him) the Chohan king of Ajmir, being defeated and slain near Thanesar, the whole country from the Himalaya to Ajmir became subject to the Ghuri king of Ghazni. On the death of his brother Ghiyassuddin, with whose power he had been con-stantly associated, and of whose conquests he had been the chief instrument, Muizuddin became sole sovereign over Ghur and Ghazni, and the latter place was then again for a brief period the seat of an empire nearly as extensive as that of Mahmud the son of Sabuktigin. Muizuddin crossed the Indus once more to put down a rebellion of the Khokars in the Punjab, and on his way back was murdered by a band of them, or, as some say, by one of the Muldhidah or Assassins. The slave lieutenants of Muizuddin carried on the conquest of India, and as the rapidly succeeding events broke their dependence on any master, they established at Delhi that monarchy of which, after it had endured through many dynasties, and had culminated with the Moghul house of Baber, the shadow perished in 1857. The death of Muizuddin was fol-lowed by struggle and anarchy, ending for a time in the annexation of Ghazni to the empire of Khwarazm by Mahommed Shah, who conferred it on his famous son, Jalaluddin, and Ghazni became the headquarters of the latter. After Jenghiz Khan had extinguished the power of his family in Turkestan, Jalaluddin defeated the army sent against him by the Mongol at Parwan, north of Cabul. Jenghiz then advanced and drove Jalaluddin across the Indus, after which he sent Okkodai his son to besiege Ghazni. Henceforward Ghazni is much less prominent in Asiatic history. It continued subject to the Mongols, sometimes to the house of Hulakii in Persia, and sometimes to that of Chaghatai in Turkestan. In 1326, after a battle between Amir Husain, the viceroy of the former house in Khorasan, and Tarmashirin, the reigning khan of Chaghatai, the former entered Ghazni and once more subjected it to devastation, and this time the tomb of Mahmud to desecration. The statement in a recent book on Afghanistan, that a new Ghori dynasty reigned at Ghazni from 1336 to 1383, is erroneous.

Ibn Batuta (c. 1332) says the greater part of the city was in ruins, and only a small part continued to be a town. Timur seems never to have visited Ghazni, but we find him in 1401 bestowing the govern-ment of Cabul, Kandahar, and Ghazni on Pir Mahommed, the son of his son Jahangfr. In the end of the century it was still in the hands of a descendant of Timur, Ulugh Beg Mirza, who was king of Cabul and Ghazni. The illustrious nephew of this prince, Baber, got peaceful possession of both cities in 1504, and has left notes on both in his own inimitable Memoirs. His account of Ghazni indicates how far it had now fallen. " It is," he says, " but a poor mean place, and I have always wondered how its princes, who possessed also Hindustan and Khorasan could have chosen such a wretched country for the seat of their government, in preference to Khorasan." He commends the fruit of its gardens, which still contribute largely to the markets of Cabul. Ghazni remained in the hand.-, of Baber's descendants, reigning at Delhi and Agra, till the inras'on of Kadir Shah (1738), and became after Nadir's death a part of the new king-dom of the Afghans under Ahmed Shah Durrani. We know of but two modem travellers who have recorded visits to the place previous to the war of 1839. George Forster passed as a disguised traveller with a kafila in 1783. "Its slender existence," he says, "is now maintained by some Hindu families, who support a small traffic, and supply the wants of the few Mahometan residents." Mr Vigne visited it in 1836, having reached it from Multan with a caravan of Lohani merchants, travelling by the Gomal pass. The historical name of Ghazni was brought back from the dead, as it were, by the news of its capture by the British army under Sir John Keane, 23d July 1839. The siege artillery had been left behind at Kandahar ; escalade was judged impracticable ; but the project of the command-ing engineer, Captain George Thomson, for blowing in the Cabul gate with powder in bags, was adopted, and carried out success-. fully, at the cost of 182 killed and wounded. Two years and a half later, the Afghan outbreak against the British occupa-tion found Ghazni garrisoned by a Bengal regiment of sepoys, but neither repaired nor provisioned. They held out under great hard-ships from 16th December 1841 to 6th March 1842, when they sur-rendered. In the autumn of the same year General Nott, advancing from Kandahar upon Cabul, reoccupied Ghazni, destroyed the de-fences of the castle and part of the town, and carried away the famous gates. Since then Ghazni has not been entered by any Englishman ; for when Colonel Lumsden's mission passed this way in 1857 they were not allowed to approach the place.

See Elliot, Hist. of India, ed. by Dowson; Tabakdti-i-Ndsiri, translated by Major Raverty in the Bibliotheca Indica; E. Thomas, in J. E. As. Soc, vols. ix. and xvii.; Forster's Journey; Vigne's Visit to Ghuzni, &c; Masson's Travels; Reports of Lumsden's Mission in 1857 ; Journal of the As. Soc. of Bengal, vol. xii.; Autobiography of Baber, by Leyden and Erskine; Cunningham's Hist, of the Sikhs, Ac. (H. Y.)







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