Prince Jaisiah’s Strong Defence Of Debal In Sindh Against Arab Aggression

Aggression Of Al Hajjaj And Renewed Attacks On Temple Town Of Debal (Devalaya)

After the end of Caliph Muawiyah’s reign, Sindh experienced peace and respite from Arab aggression for the next twenty years. However, with the appointment of Al Hajjaj ibn Yusuf as governor of Iraq in 695 A.D. by the succeeding Umayyad Caliph Abd Al Malik ibn Marwan (685–705 A.D.), the predatory Arab gaze turned back on Sindh. Al Hajjaj was a ruthless and tenacious imperialist and a loyal servant of Caliph Abd Al Malik, who had taken part in the Second Fitna or Islamic Civil War. He was appointed by Malik to oversee several Arab expansionist campaigns in the East including Central Asia and India.

Sindh was under the rule of Raja Dahir when Al Hajjaj took up the governorship of Iraq. Dahir and Dahirsiah were the two sons of the powerful king, Raja Chach Rai by Suhanadi, the widowed queen of Rai Sahasi II, whom Chach Rai had married upon ascending the throne. After the demise of Raja Chach Rai, his brother Chander acquired the throne. Chander’s son Duraj laid a claim on the throne upon his father’s death, but Dahirsiah ousted him and the kingdom of Sindh was divided between the two sons of Raja Chach Rai, Dahir and Dahirsiah. However, after Dahirsiah expired, Dahir became the sole ruler of the unified kingdom of Sindh.[1] Dahir was an able and powerful ruler like his father.

Debal (near present day Karachi) was an ancient seaport and was largely inhabited by sea-faring merchants, traders and artisans. Due to its importance as a trading hub, it was also home to bands of pirates like the Bawarij who sometimes raided ships passing off the coast of Debal. At the heart of Debal was a magnificent, iconic temple which could be seen towering above the coastline from the sea. The temple was dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva.[2] The main building of the temple was forty cubits in height and the dome was also forty cubits in height. Atop the dome was a flagstaff, also forty cubits high, from which fluttered a huge four-fold flag.[3]There was at Debal a lofty temple (budd) surmounted by a long pole, and on the pole was fixed a red flag, which when the breeze blew, was unfurled over the city.” [4] The port city was named after the temple, Dewal or Devalaya, which got corrupted in time to Debal. “The very name of Debal, or rather Dewal, ‘the temple,’ was doubtless acquired from the conspicuous position which that object must have occupied from the sea; where it was calculated to attract the gaze and reverence of the passing mariner, like its fellow shrines of Dwaraka and Somnat…“ [5] The Arabs had raided Debal by the sea route as early as 643 A.D. The governor of Raja Chach Rai had successfully defended Debal against the naval Arab raid after which they were forced to explore land routes further northwards to invade Sindh.

Sometime around 708 A.D., a ship from Serendib (present day Sri Lanka) carrying some gifts, slaves and local Muslim women being sent to the Caliph was captured by pirates off the coast of Debal. When Hajjaj learnt of the pirate attack, he wrote to Raja Dahir of Sindh to release the women but Raja Dahir expressed his inability to do so, saying “That is the work of a band of robbers than whom none is more powerful. They do not even care for us.” [6] For an aggressive imperialist like Hajjaj, this was provocation enough to renew the Arab military campaign against Sindh, “a country which had so long defied the might of Islam.” [7] The Arabs had been vying to conquer Sindh for nearly seventy years and the incident at Debal merely provoked the pre-existing hostilities between the Arabs and Sindh and gave Al Hajjaj the pretext to declare a religious war on Sindh.

Jaisiah’s Strong Defence And Failure Of Ubaidullah And Budail At Debal

Al Hajjaj wrote to Caliph Al Walid ibn Abd Al Malik (705–715 A.D.), apprising him of the pirate attack and “asked his permission to declare a religious war against Hind and Sind.” [8] Like his predecessors, Caliph Al Walid was wary of the heavy losses suffered by the Arabs in Sindh in the past and was reluctant to sanction such a high-risk expedition again. His wariness was not without reason, for “the Arabs who had been recognized by now as the masters of most of the civilized world, had so long fared disastrously in their attempt to conquer any of the frontier states of India, viz., Kabul, Zabul and Sindh.” [9] However, Hajjaj persisted and wrote to the Caliph again, convincing him of the need for such a religious war against India. Eventually, Caliph Al Walid gave in to the insistence of Hajjaj and gave his consent for a large-scale military expedition to Sindh.

Upon getting the sanction from the Caliph, Al Hajjaj despatched a large Arab army under the leadership of Ubaidullah to raid Debal. Ubaidullah attacked Debal but was defeated and killed in battle by the troops of Raja Dahir’s governor. When he learnt of Ubaidullah’s death, “Hajjaj wrote to Budail who was at Oman, directing him to proceed to Debal.” [10] Budail travelled with 6000 troops by sea and landed on the coast of Sindh. At Nerun, he received a reinforcement of another 3000 men from Mohammed Harun as per the instructions of Hajjaj. With a huge reinforced Arab army, Budail proceeded towards Debal.

In the meantime, the people of Debal had already sent a messenger to Raja Dahir at his capital Alor, informing him of the large Arab expedition that had landed at Nerun. Raja Dahir rushed his son Jaisiah with a 4000 strong army with horses and camels and elephants to defend Debal. Jaisiah’s army battled with the Arabs relentlessly for a full day from early morning till evening. During the battle Budail’s horse was frightened by the elephants of Jaisiah’s army and Budail was surrounded on all sides and killed.[11] The Arab army was defeated overwhelmingly and the valorous prince Jaisiah defended Sindh gallantly.

The news of the crushing defeat of the Arab army in Sindh yet again left Caliph Al Walid crestfallen and despondent. When Al Hajjaj asked him for permission again to invade Sindh one more time, Caliph Al Walid discouraged Hajjaj by saying, “The people (of that country) are cunning and the country itself is very distant. It will cost us very large sums of money to provide a sufficient number of men and arms and instruments of war… This affair will be a source of great anxiety and so we must put it off; for every time the army goes (on such an expedition) (vast) numbers of Mussulmans are killed. So think no more of such a design.” [12]

References:

[1] – The History And Culture Of The Indian People: Vol. 3 — The Classical Age, P 166 — R. C. Majumdar

[2] – Citation Needed

[3] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 78 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[4] – The History Of India As Told By Its Own Historians, Vol. 1 — The Muhammadan Period, P 120 — Elliot And Dawson

[5] – The History Of India As Told By Its Own Historians, Vol. 1 — The Muhammadan Period, P 375–376 — Elliot And Dawson

[6] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 69 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[7] – The History And Culture Of The Indian People: Vol. 3 — The Classical Age, P 170 — R. C. Majumdar

[8] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 69 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[9] – Indian Resistance To Early Muslim Invaders Upto 1206 A.D., P 21 — Dr. Ram Gopal Mishra

[10] – The History Of India As Told By Its Own Historians, Vol. 1 — The Muhammadan Period, P 119 — Elliot And Dawson

[11] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 69 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

[12] – The Chachnama: Volume 1 (1900), P 69 — Translated from Persian by Mirza Kalichbeg Fredunbeg

Featured Image Credit: Artefacts Found From Banbhore

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