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The Tale of the Last Hindu Ruler of Sindh – Raja Dahir

The land adjacent to Indus River and the Thar Desert, Sindh is one of the oldest inhabited regions that held one of the world’s greatest pre-classical civilizations. Raja Dahir is said to be the last Hindu ruler of Sindh and he was born in 663 AD.

Raja Dahir
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Raja Dahir was the son of Chach of Aror who belonged to the Pushkarna Bhramin Dynasty of Sindh, and when his uncle Chander died, he took upon the throne. This dynasty ruled over the parts of modern day Afghanistan, Balochistan, Pakistan, parts of Punjab, and Iran.

ancient sindh map

Eight years later, the kingdom ruled by Dahir was invaded by Ramal at Kannauj. They had lost at the beginning, but he allied with Alfai, an Arab. Alfai and his warriors had actually been exiled from the Umayaad Caliphate, but he recruited them. They were part of Dahir’s armies to repel the invading forces, and he remained as the valued members of Dahir’s court. However, in the later war, Alafi served as the military advisor but didn’t take part in the campaign. He was thus pardoned from the caliph.

In the oldest chronicles of Arab conquest of Sindh, the primary reason for this invasion started when a pirate raided off the coast of Debal, the valuables of which were stolen from the king of Serendib (modern Sri Lanka). Upon hearing this matter, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, the governor of Basra, wrote a letter to Raja, and when a compromise couldn’t be reached, he launched a military expedition. The other reasons have been attributed to the interest in part of Umayyad to get hold of Makran, Balochistan and Sindh region to protect their maritime interests. Various armies from Sindh alongside Persian fought in the battles of Nahawand, Salasal, and Qadisiyyah, and thus, granted the refuge to fleeing rebel chieftains.

Another story tells that Al-Hajjaj’s decision to send the powerful battalion was commanded by his nephew, Muhammad Bin Qasim, which was considered to be a revengeful act. It was because Raja Dahir had refused to hand over some Arab exiles who had fallen out of favor with Hajjaj and had sought asylum in Sindh.

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In 711 BCE, Qasim attacked Debal. The policy was in fact enlisting and co-opting support from defectors, and which defeated lords and forces. After the successful invasion of Debal, Qasim moved to Nerun for supplies. The city’s Buddhist governor acknowledged it to be the tributary state of Caliphate, and after the first campaign, he capitulated to bin Qasim.

Bin Qasim had the support of various other local tribes such as Jats, Meds, Bhuttos, Buddhist rulers of Nerun, Bajhra, Kaka Kolak, Siwistan. And with the strong support, he defeated Dahir and captured the eastern territories for Umayyad Caliphate.

Dahir had made attempts after attempts to prevent Qasim to cross the River so that he couldn’t force his armies into the eastern bank. Unfortunately for Dahir, Wasim crossed the river and defeated forces at Jitor led by Jaisiah (Dahir’s son). Dahir then had to fight Qasim at Raor (which is near modern Nawabshah) in 712, and in the battle, Qasim killed Dahir. When he was killed, his head was cut off and sent to Hajjaj bin Yousuf.

When the head was presented to Hajjaj, the courtiers sang:

“We have conquered Sindh after enormous trouble…. Betrayed is Dahir by Mohammed Bin Qasim’s masterly strategy. Rejoice, the evil doers are disgraced. Their wealth has been brought away… They are now solitary and brittle as eggs and their women, fair and fragrant as musk-deer, are now asleep in our harems.”

Dahir’s wife and other women in the household committed Jauhar because they didn’t want to be captured by the invaders. But two of them were unlucky. It was his two daughters – Surya Devi and Premala Devi – who were captured by the invaders. They were then sent to Khalifa as presents for the harem in Damascus. They tricked the caliph to believe that Muhammad bin Qasim had, in fact, violated them before he sent them as the presents. Qasin was then wrapped and stitched in oxen hides and returned to Syria, which killed him from suffocation en route.

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When the Khalifa discovered the deceit, he was filled with guilt and remorse, and then buried the daughters alive in a wall.