Jambudveep's Blog

May 22, 2010

Five Rupee Note

Filed under: Nostalgia — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 10:06 pm
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Five Rupee Note

It was   Friday afternoon on a hot October day with the mercury touching close to 35°C. I was sitting on a wooden bench on platform number 1 of Akola junction. Since nobody knows where Akola is, here is what I used to tell people: Akola is located in the plains of central India and is only four hours away from Nagpur (the centre of India).Even this used to elicit stares of incomprehension!

Under the roof of the platform it was surprisingly cool, maybe even 5°C cooler. As usual having a backlog of at least one paper from the previous year (lovingly known as ATKT or allowed to keep term!!), I was spending my Diwali holidays sitting in a squalid top floor flat, preparing for the exam (again!).The flat was pretty clean till four of us misfits had moved in six months back. Things went downhill pretty fast from there. The four of us being   “majnu” Sikdar, “Abe Dhakkan” Brijesh, Thane ka Sagar and   Yogi Bappa(i.e. yours truly).

I used to be permanently   dissatisfied with Akola and was the first to run to the train station. Life being what it is, today I feel nostalgic whenever I remember those days and friends.

Sitting on the platform I was waiting to meet my father (Appa) who was coming by Puri Ahemdabad express. It passed through Akola junction at 14:00 hours every day, reaching Ahmadabad at 06:00 hours the following day.

The platform at this time was nearly deserted, except for the odd passenger and vendors on the platform. Looking for something to kill the time till Appas train arrived in twenty minutes; I sauntered over to the Wheeler book stall on the platform. I was ordinarily a maha chingu (miserly) person who used to get a coronary over just two rupees. However   I used to be quite liberal in spending money (my parents money!!) on books and magazines (as it is my hard earned money now, it’s only books that I buy! Talk about double standards).Finally deciding that the fast-going-downhill India Today was the cheapest option, I parted with twenty rupees with great difficulty. All the while I was moaning to the guy in the stall what a rip off India today had become. Thinking back I must have given up a fortune in buying those magazines.

Near the book stall stood a young man probably not older than thirty years of age. Dressed in formal shirt and pant with leather shoes, he would have been a picture of the smart working fellow, had it not looked like he had not taken a bath in the last couple of days. To give company to his tired look was an even more weather beaten VIP briefcase. His hair was probably all grey already, a fact barely hidden by the thin coat of hair dye. He was of a medium height about 5feet 6 inches and he was already developing a middle age belly.

As I paid for the magazine, I noticed that he was looking at me and smiling. If my reading was right the smile basically said, “I need some cash and I’m going to have a chat with you about that!!” When you have stayed in a hostel with a mixed bunch of samples you become accustomed to deciphering peoples smiles and stares. It is easy to get lulled into false sympathy for a stone broke chain smoker and lend him two rupees, only for the guy to develop short term memory loss later!!

I scrambled over to the nearest bench and made a show of reading the magazine in the vain hope that he would leave me alone. But I was being too optimistic.

The guy came and next to me   and started off with, “Are you a student?” This was not very difficult to make out looking at my scruffy clothes.

“Yes” I answered tersely. When dealing with unknown quantities in life I try and keep my answers as short as possible. My motto being, “Mouth is the source of all calamities”.

This did not seem to deter him and he plunged into conversation with all the enthusiasm of a hunter who has spotted a deer.

“I used to be a student once. I did my diploma in mechanical engineering from Nagpur.”

Without waiting for an answer he continued, “You know Machine Design? I used to find that subject very difficult. Oh and engineering drawing as well”.

Having scraped through by the skin of my teeth in those subjects, my ears naturally perked up at the guy’s story. But I had no way of knowing whether he was genuine or not. Akola, particularly the station area was   full of fantasists and frauds who tried to convince you they were engineering students!

But this guy seemed a decent sort, so I decided to go along for a while.

Then he told me his name, which due to my   advanced age (!) I cannot remember, so we will call him Ramesh. I told him my name was Krishna. This wasn’t an outright lie; one of the synonyms of my name is Krishna.

The next question was, “Where are you from?”

On learning that I was from Gujarat, pat came the reply “Gujarati people are very nice. Some years back I stayed with one of my colleagues at his home in Surat. Excellent hospitality, but my only complaint is Gujarati food is too sweet. They put sugar in even dal.

Being a connoisseur of Gujarati food, this of course rubbed me the wrong way. Before I could argue the point with him he asked, “Are you a Brahmana?”

I replied in the affirmative. With a sad smile on his face he said, “Can you help a fellow Brahmana out by giving him a few rupees?”

By now I was curious to listen to why he wanted the money. For me it is never a question of the money when helping people, but whether the person genuinely needs it or is just trying to scam me.

“If you can spare some change, I need the money to call my father in Nagpur to come and pick me up from Akola,” Ramesh said with an apologetic note in his voice.

Seeing the questioning expression on my face he clarified, “I was pick pocketed on the train while coming from Jalgaon. I suffer from a bad back and had to go to the hospital there for an X-ray. My train ticket was in my wallet which was stolen along with all my cash. I tried to convince the Ticket Collector to let me ride the train till Nagpur, but he did not agree. Having no money for the ticket or for the fine I was forced to get down in Akola. The station master has kept my X-rays as collateral till I pay the fine. I need to make a phone call to my father in Nagpur to board the next train and come and get me.”

“You can ask the STD(phone) booth chap to let you make a call and pay him later,” I suggested. The story about the station master keeping his   X-rays as collateral did not strike me a plausible. But I have known stranger things to happen, so I went along with the flow.

“I requested the STD booth owner to let me make a phone call. I even offered to sit in his booth till my father came from Nagpur. But he refused,” a sad note had crept into his voice.

Seeing the cynical expression on my face, he began to open his briefcase.

“This is all I have left. I can assure you I am not lying.”Ramesh said.

At this point I was becoming very uncomfortable.

Then something happened which tipped the scales in Ramesh’s favour. Three of my batch mates had just entered Platform 1 for their afternoon tea and cigarettes . They were a decent bunch but had the unfortunate tendency to have a good laugh at someone’s expense if they felt like it.

I could see them wandering towards me. They saw the guy and I am quite sure they recognised him as a prospective time pass to enliven the afternoon. If he approached them they would rag him to their hearts content.

Genuine or not, I cannot stand someone undergoing public humiliation for a few rupees. Everyone has self respect which should not be trampled on. It would be indeed a base man who would gloat over someone’s misery.

Taking a torn five rupee note out of my pocket I handed it to him. At that time good crisp notes seemed to be in short supply in Akola. Even a torn note encased in   plastic film was accepted as valid tender for a brief period of time.

“Ok then take care of yourself.”I said, waving him goodbye.

With a word of thanks he gathered his briefcase and ambled off the platform,presumably to the row of STD booths located outside the station.

I met up with my batch mates and within a short time Puri-Ahemdabad express had rolled into the station. As it was an express train it s halt was barely five minutes in Akola Junction.

Out stepped Appa from the 2 tier AC coach, dressed in a white lungi and a khadi kurta.

His first reaction on seeing me and my batch mates was to shout, “This is Puri culture!!”.This was followed by his trademark laugh.

I introduced everyone to my father and within a few moments he had boarded the train. The train began to pull out from the station, picking up speed as it went. I stood for sometime on the platform looking at the train receding in the distance.

Going back to my flat, I   thought about Ramesh and debated whether he was genuine or not. Finally I came to the conclusion that what was done was done and there was no point in pursuing the matter further.

May 19, 2010

Some Books on Vijayanagar and Muslim Invasions of South India

I downloaded these books from the Delhi University DSPACE website.These cover the history of Vijayanagar,muslim invasions of South India etc.I will add more books to the list from time to time.

1.South India and her Mohammedan Invaders: written by KAN Sastri who was a pioneering historian of South India.
South India & Her Mohammedan Invaders

2. Early Muslim expansion in South India :

Early Muslim Expansion in South India

3.  Sources of Vijayanagar History

Sources of Vijayanagar history

4.Vijayanagar Sexcentenary Commeration Volume

Vijayanagara Sexcentenary Commemoration Volume

5. Studies in the Third Dynasty of Vijayanagara

Studies in Third Dynasty of Vijayanagara

6. Mediveal Jainism With Reference to Vijayanagara History

Mediveal Jainism-With Ref to Vijaynagara Empire

7. Social and Political Life Vijayanagara Empire Vol I ( AD 1346-AD 1646)

Social and political life in the Vijayanagara Empire Vol 1

8. Social and Political life in Vijayanagara Empire Vol II ( AD 1346-AD 1646)

Social and Political Life in Vijayanagara Empire

May 15, 2010

Vijayanagar – Chapter 3

I have created rough graphics of Malik Kafurs invasion routes using in S Krishnaswami Iyengar’s description and with the help of Google Earth .I have modified Vijaynagar Chapter 2 to show the map for Kafurs invasion of Deogiri and Wrangal.

Vijayanagar –Empire of the Gods

Chapter 3

After   extracting tributes from two of the most powerful Hindu Kingdoms in India at that time, Ala-ud-dins gaze was naturally turned on the rich Hoysala kingdom in Karnataka and Pandya kingdom in Tamil Nadu.

The Hoysalas

The Hoysala kingdom was extensive and covered almost all of modern Karnataka and parts of western Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. It was a rich and flourishing kingdom with revenues from sea trade, teak   etc. The Hoysala kings were known for their patronage of Kannada literature and fine architecture. Many temples from the Hoysala period still survive to this day and are outstanding examples with superb detail and exquisite craftsmanship.

The capital of the Hoysala’s was Dvarasamudram (modern day Halebid in Karnataka), a well fortified city. Veera Ballala III (ruled from 1291-1343 CE) was the ruler at the time of Kafurs raid on South India. He was a person with exceptional foresight, courage and   one of the mighty defenders of Hindu Dharma in troubled times of the fourteenth century. Even at the age of   eighty years this great king was still fighting against the Muslims, when he was treacherously murdered in 1343 CE by Sultan   Ghiyas-ud-Din Muhammad Damghani of Madurai.

The Pandyas

The Pandya kingdom was extremely rich and powerful, commanding the vital sea routes. It stretched from Quilon in Kerala to Nellore in Tamil Nadu. The capital of the Pandyan kingdom was Madurai and its second great city was Vira Dhavalapattanam (known to the Muslims as Bir Dhul).As it stood astride the major sea trading routes, it had a flourishing network of ports and a large fleet of ships.

The Pandya kings used to maintain a large cavalry force, sustained by constant imports from abroad. It must be pointed out here that India is not ideal horse country, the weather and climatic conditions render horses susceptible to a host of diseases and early death. Except for the hardy indigenous breeds of horses, foreign breeds had a very short life. This was why maintaining a large cavalry force was a luxury for most kingdoms .They needed to be constantly replenished and were a drain on resources. A good cavalryman in that age was worth his weight in gold. The Muslims in contrast had access to large cavalry forces straight from Central Asia.

The Pandyas also possessed a force of nearly thousand elephants, a large army with a contingent of Arab fighters as well. Elephants played a role on the battlefield much like battle tanks do today i.e.  steamroll   the opposition. War elephants   worked fine until they ran amok and turned on their own side.

The king ruling over this porsperous domain  just prior to the muslim invasion was Kulashekhara Pandya.He was an extremely capable and ambitious ruler. He defeated the Kakatiya’s and laid siege to the Hoysala capital of Dvarasamudram twice. Ceylon and other islands were subject to his power. After he was foully assassinated by his son Sundara Pandya, the Pandya kingdom fell on hard times.

A fratricidal war erupted between Sundara Pandya and his   younger brother Vira Pandya. Vira Pandya had been nominated by Kulashekhara as his successor. This was the reason why   Sundara Pandya killed his father and usurped the throne.

In a see-saw of battles the fortunes of Vira and Sundara Pandya rose and ebbed in turn. Thus on the eve of Kafurs attack the entire Pandya kingdom was in a state of chaos.

Attack on Dvarasamudram

Fig 1. Kafurs invasion route to Dvarasamudram and Madurai

In the map above I have charted out a rough route for Kafur’s attack on Dvarasamudram and Madurai based on the description given in in S Krishnaswami Iyengar’s book.

Malik Kafur reached Deogiri on 3rd February 1311 CE.As usual Rama Deva provided all the materials needed to help to the invaders.Rama Deva deputed one of his commander in chief Parshuram Dalavi to guide Kafur onto the right route for Dvarasamudram. Parshuram’s domains bordered Veera Ballala’s kingdom. Rama Deva had his own axe to grind against Veera Ballala III, as Veera Ballala had made repeated attacks on the Deogiri kingdom to seize territory.

Thus suitably provisioned, Kafurs force started from Deogiri on 7th February 1311 CE and reached a place called Bandir (as per S K Aiyangar this is Pandharpur in Maharashtra) on   22nd February 1311 CE. This was at the border of   Deogiri and the Hoysala kingdoms.

Like all good practitioners of warfare, Kafur had an intelligence wing in his army. Before penetrating into the Hoysala kingdom, Kafur despatched four officers(Bahram Karra, Qatlah Nehang, Mahmud Sartiha and Abaji Mughal), each accompanied by an interpreter to gather information about the enemy. The interpreters were fluent in the local language; I assume this was ancient Kannada.

Meanwhile Veera Ballala had decided to take advantage of the chaos in the Pandya kingdom and   was leading his army to try and take back territory lost by the Hoysala’s to Kulashekhara Pandya. As soon as Kafurs scouts reported this news, Kafur decided to head straight for   the capital Dvarasamudram.

Veera Ballala on his part learned of the Muslims at his rear and returned with great haste to Dvarasamudram.

En route one of Veera Ballala’s   Nayakas   attacked Kafurs   army, but was killed on the battlefield.

Following his tried and tested strategy of launching   surprise attacks straight on enemy capitals, Kafur reached Dvarasamudram on 25th February 1311 CE. In a short span of twelve days he had force marched his army straight to the gates of Dvarasamudram.

As per accounts initially Veera Ballala wanted to go into battle with Kafur. The Pandya king Vira Pandya had already despatched a force to help Veera Ballala. He however changed his mind on seeing the destructive capacity of Kafurs army. Before making up his mind he sent his advisor Kesava Mal to ascertain the strength of the enemy. Learning of the formidable strength of the enemy   Ballala decided to sue for terms. Veera Ballala was prepared to lose his treasure in order to safeguard his people and kingdom. He sent Ballapa Deva Nayaka who was known for his negotiation skills to Kafurs camp. Kafur made the same demands as before and extracted a heavy price from Veera Ballala.

There were two additional stipulations to the terms of surrender; one was that Veera Ballala’s son Veera Virupaksha Ballala was to accompany Kafur back to Delhi (possibly as a hostage to prevent Veera Ballala turning against Delhi) and that he should lead the Muslim army to Madurai.  With no way out of the quandary he was in Veera Ballala agreed to these terms.

Onward to Madurai

Guided by Veera Ballala, Kafur’s army reached the border with the Pandya kingdom on 15th March 1311 CE. The Pandyan princes mounted guerrilla warfare against the invaders almost as soon as they entered their territory.

Showing tactical ingenuity the Pandyas refused to fight set piece battles where Kafurs armoured cavalry would have an advantage. Instead they kept eluding Kafurs forces.

Kafur moved towards Veera Dhavalapattam, conducting savage massacres of defenceless Hindus along the way. Vira Pandya was in Veera Dhavalapattanam and he sent out a mixed force of Hindu and Muslim cavalry. A ferocious battle raged between the combatants from afternoon till sunset. In the might taking advantage of the lull in fighting Vira Pandya escaped with his family and treasure.

Furious at losing Vira Pandya, Kafur pursued him from place to place without any success. In the meanwhile rains had started and Kafur was obliged to stop as his army was in no position to fight.

As soon a Kafur made camp, Pandyan cavalry launched a fierce attack in the rain and were only repulsed after a terrible battle. Realising that making camp in the rains would make him a sitting target Kafur resumed Vira Pandyas pursuit.

With the entire landscape flooded by torrential rains, it was left to Veera Ballala to safely guide the Muslims across the waters. In the course of his pursuit Kafur came upon hundred and twenty elephants laden with Vira Pandyas treasure which he promptly appropriated.

After sacking the town of Kandur, Kafur’s forces fell upon the town of Marhatpuri in the night where every civilian was killed. In Marhatpuri the Brahmana’s and other courageous civilians had decided to defend the temples to their last breath and were killed to a man fighting Kafur’s forces. The temples in every case were razed to the ground.

Reaching Veera Dhavalapattanam on 1st April 1311 CE, Kafur destroyed the temples; even going to the extent of digging up their foundations to make sure no traces remained of them.

Kafur   reached Madurai on 10th April 1311 CE, but was unable to plunder it .Madurai was the seat of power of Sundara Pandya and was very well defended. Sundara Pandya had already fled Madurai.

Just when it seemed all was lost, a hurricane rose up which nearly destroyed Kafur and his band of thugs. Vikrama Pandya who was the younger brother of Kulashekhara Pandya took charge of the army. Vikrama Pandya was   eighty years old and with the help of his veteran Brahmana commander he marshalled the Pandya warriors to destroy the invaders ( to put the significance of this in context, try to imagine geriatrics like Manmohan Singh, Lal Krishna Advani etc taking up arms to defend India, can’t see that happening can you?!).

By now Kafur had overstretched himself and had penetrated too deep into the Pandya territory. Gathering a   vast force Vikrama Pandya attacked Kafur (I’m not sure of the location).The Pandyan warriors were incited to terrible fury by the heinous acts committed by Kafur. In the fury of their attack the Muslim cavalry was annihilated and most of Kafurs army destroyed.

Like other Hindu kings Vikrama Pandya fell short of completely annihilating Kafurs army and killing Kafur.

On his part Kafur managed to escape along with the treasure which had been despatched to Delhi. The battered remains of Kafurs army returned to Dvarasamudram and from there made their way to Delhi, reaching Delhi on 30th October 1311 CE.

Kafur took  Veera Virupaksha Ballala to Delhi where Ala-ud-din pleased with the help rendered by Veera Ballala, presented him with ten lakh tankas (silver coins) and sent him back to Dvarasamudram.

Thus Kafurs attack on the Pandya kingdom came to an ignomious end at the hands of the valiant Vikrama Pandya. Veera Ballala’s kingdom was left intact and he would be the last Hindu king left standing when the next wave of conquest started from Delhi.

For Chapter 4 click here.

References :

  1. The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, N. Venkataramanayya, edited by Prof. K A N Sastri, Madras University Historical Series, 1942. Available at http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/
  2. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pandyan_Dynasty
  3. South India and Her Mohemmedan Invaders, S Krishnaswami Iyengar, S Chand & Co,1921, http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/
  4. The Never to be Forgotten Empire “Vijayanagar”, B Suryanarain Row,1905, http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/handle/1/3601

May 10, 2010

A Must have Book for Every Patriot

Filed under: Ebooks — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 9:22 pm
Tags: , ,

I downloaded this exceptional book from here  http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/. This site is a veritable treasure trove of  old but gold books which have gone long out of print but remain relevant even today.

The late and great Veer Savarkar’s ground breaking book The Indian War of Independence   was the first writing of the war of 1857  against the British ( to be more specific the East India Company) from an Indian perspective.The book like its author underwent many trials and tribulations at the hands of the British who tried their best to destroy it.

I am uploading it.Please go through the book ,so the next time a clueless person says the British were great for India (same nonsense that they gave us railways,etc etc) ,you will know better.Educating ourselves on the past is the only way to prevent it from recurring.

As time permits I will try and do a write up on “What the British Did for India”,a compendium of all their atrocities.

Here is the book,click on it to download:

Veer Savarkar 1857

May 9, 2010

Chita (The Pyre)

Filed under: Stories — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 4:31 pm
Tags: , ,

 This story is based on a real life experience of my maternal grandmother and was narrated to me by my mother and Maushi (aunt). Except the end part and the location of the story,everything else is completely fictional and from my imagination.The names of the characters are fictional as well.But the personalities  they portray were very real.

I wanted to try and do a period piece on a small scale.Hopefully it has come out all right.If you have the time,I would encourage you to read on the Quit India Movement of 1942,how Gandhi & the Congress finally betrayed the people they asked to rise against the British ( they did the same thing in 1947 with the Hindus and Sikhs of  what is now Pakistan).A lot of people left their jobs etc to join this movement and when it fizzled out,had nowhere to go.Ironically when we became free in 1947,the people in the independent government were those who had collaborated with the British!!

I won’t even mention the role of the despicable Jawahar Lal Nehru,a person who used to describe himself as the last Britisher in India (or something to that effect).

Whoops!! I have started ranting ! So without further ado….

 Chita (The Pyre)

By Yogeshwar Shastri

Ahmednagar, August 1942

The heat of summer had given way to the relief of the rains. Ahmednagar was once again transformed from a dusty plain to a veritable nature’s garden. People breathed as sigh of relief as the agonies of summer finally died away.

    Kamala tai looked out from the hospital window at the army parade grounds next to the hospital. Beyond the vast parade grounds was the smashan (cremation ground).

Sitting in a metal chair next to her bed ridden son, the scene outside gave her momentary respite from the worries which assailed her mind.

 An imposing building three storeys high, the civil hospital was made of solid Dakkhani stone. Built in 1882 by the British, it had grown slowly, wing by wing, serving the needs of Ahmednagar and the villages surrounding it.

 In the first floor of the hospital where Kamala tai sat, thick stone walls protected the inhabitants from the vagaries of weather outside. The typical style of Deccani architecture which used readily available stone for construction ensured that in summer the buildings were cool and in winter were pleasant.

 Kamala tai was nursing her two-year old son Bhalachandra, more affectionately known as Balu .Balu was an extremely lively child and being the youngest in a family of three sisters, was the darling of all. This was before he was struck down by a bout of malaria. Admitted three days back to the hospital with high fever, he was continually relapsing into unconsciousness. It seemed as if a malignant force had sucked all life out of the child.

 Today his fever had gone down somewhat but his little body was rendered extremely weak by the stress placed upon it. Even though Doctor Sathe had told her Balu had a good chance of pulling through, her brow was creased with worry as she sat next to Balu.

Kamala tai had not left Balu’s side since he was admitted to the hospital.

Dipping a wet cloth in the water bowl on the small table next to the bed, she applied it on her son’s warm forehead.

 It was now coming towards dusk; she had passed whole of the morning and the afternoon attending to her son. The only change to her routine was the soldiers in the parade ground practising their manoeuvres. Soldiers in their thousands from the army cantonment nearby used to practise from dawn to dusk in the parade grounds. She did not know what war they were preparing for. Her husband Dattatraya had told her that the British were fighting a great war in their homeland and needed Indians to fight for them.

She did not understand, why were our people fighting for the British?

Kamala tai and her family were Deshastha Brahmins, descended from the same hardy stock which had brought down the Mughals and then fought the British till they had nothing left to fight for. Dattatraya or Dattu ran a used book shop in Ahmednagar’s   main market. Even though he had never been to a school, he had a natural knack of finding rare and antiquarian books in markets across India. Things were looking up and he was already thinking of opening a second book shop in Pune, in partnership with his cousin Jagtap (better known as Nana).

Dattu used to visit mother and child early in the morning before opening his shop, coming back for a visit in the afternoon and finally in the evening. Much as Dattu wanted to be near Balu’s side for the night, he could not as they had three young daughters’ at home .Kamala tai’s eldest daughter Gauri was barely twelve years old, but was single-handedly taking care of the house in her absence.

A thought flashed across her mind that Dattu was late today. At precisely this instance an exhausted Dattu came into the room. Dattu presented an imposing figure, nearly six-foot high, with broad shoulders and sharp features. He had a moustache not very different from the one kept by the Rajputs. Before his marriage he had trained as a wrestler in an Akhada in Ujjain. A terror to the rowdies of his street, he was a soft person at heart and very attached to his family.

He was wearing a brown khadi kurta and a baggy white pyjama which is quite typically worn in rural Maharashtra. Although barely in his early thirties, he was balding at an alarming rate.

Looking at Kamala Tai he was struck by how much she had aged in the last few days.

“How is Balu feeling now?” asked Dattu, sitting down next to Balu.

“There has been no change in his condition. He regained consciousness for a few minutes in the afternoon. He kept repeating your name.” with this she began to sob uncontrollably as the pent-up emotions came rushing out in a torrent.

A pall of gloom descended on Dattus face.

Kamala Tai calmed down after sometime and Dattu offered her a glass of water.

Taking out a metal tiffin box from his jute bag Dattu said, “Gauri has sent some food from home.”

“Poor Gauri, everything is one her tender shoulders now.”Kamala tai responded with a deep sigh.

“She is a grown girl now, in a few years she will have her own family,” Dattu replied while running his fingers through Balu’s hair.

“I heard from the nurse that there was some kind of a riot in Tankha-peth today.” asked Kamala tai with a questioning look on her face.

“Not a riot, it was a peaceful march in support of the Bharat Chodo Andolan (Quit India Movement). They were treacherously fired upon without any provocation. A lot of people were killed in the firing. There must have been thirty or forty dead bodies.” Dattus soft voice had taken an angry turn as he recounted the tragic events of the day.

“Did not Commissioner Purandare stop the police from firing?”asked an outraged Kamala tai.

Purandare refused to give his men orders to shoot. He has been suspended from duty for this. Some white man called Jones brought in soldiers from the cantonment. Shot by our own people!! I would not have believed this if I had not seen it happening with my own eyes”, Dattu exclaimed angrily.

“The smashan (cremation ground) is going to be busy tonight”, said Kamala tai with sadness.

“But there won’t be any relations present. People in the market were saying the British have prohibited any relations from attending the last rites of those killed. Jones has ordered the soldiers to cremate the bodies as soon as possible.”Dattu was looking at the smashan in the distance.

Already   army trucks could be seen arriving at the entrance to the smashan. If the parade ground was empty as it was now, it was possible to get a clear view of the happenings in the cremation grounds.

Both husband and wife’s eyes were glued to the macabre spectacle unfolding in front of them. There were four trucks and a jeep parked near the entrance to the cremation ground. Soldiers were unloading bodies wrapped in a white cloth from the back of the trucks. In the cremation ground itself, piles of wood stood ready to act as the pyres.

Today there was no Brahmana present to give the dead the dignity of a proper funeral. Neither were grieving relatives present to remember their dear ones. Instead the bodies were unceremoniously dumped on the wooden pyres and wood piled upon them.

On the signal from a white officer, kerosene was poured on the pyres and they were set alight. The soldiers stood around for some time to make sure the pyres were burning properly. Once satisfied that their work was done, they left as efficiently as they had come.

It was quarter past seven in the evening now and the light from the burning pyres illuminated the parade ground. The scene was so clear that for a second they thought they could see   the outline of a body burning.

Tearing their gaze away from the sight, they turned their focus back on Balu. Both of them finished their dinner from the tiffin box and at half past eight Dattu got up to leave.

“I hope Nana comes back tomorrow. I can stay here in the night then.”Dattu said while leaving.

“Don’t worry, I can manage till then.” she reassured Dattu.

With a last pensive glance at Balu, Dattu left.

With Dattus leaving Kamala tai was all on her own with Balu. The hospital had gone deathly quiet. With only a skeleton staff in the hospital for the night shift, there was hardly any commotion.

In the pin drop silence the ticking of the wall clock resounded throughout the room. For a second Kamala tai thought she could smell something burning, but dismissed it as imagination. Balu’s breathing had become peaceful now.

Looking out from the window she saw only one pyre still burning. The light of the flame cast a ghostly luminescence over the cremation ground. She thought it strange that the pyre was still burning when others had turned to ash.

It was half past nine when Kamala tai went to sleep in the reclining chair given by the hospital.

Precisely an hour later, at half past ten a pungent odour of something burning hit her nostrils. Her first instinct was to check if Balu was all right. Seeing that there was no change in the room, she looked out of the window.

What she saw disturbed her composure. The burning pyre had somehow moved out from the cremation ground and was in the middle of the parade grounds which lay between the hospital and the cremation ground. And it was burning as if the pyre has just been lit!!

Certain that she was dreaming, Kamala tai rubbed her eyes. Convinced she was wide awake, the next thing she saw was the pyre slowly moving back to the cremation ground.

Now Kamala tai’s sleep was gone for good. The atmosphere had suddenly become tense and she could feel a throbbing sensation at the bottom of her spine. A ball of tension seemed to have settled in her belly and she became extremely alert.

Like a ghostly puppet the pyre kept moving back and forth, from the cremation ground to the parade grounds. But all this time it kept inching closer to the hospital.

Kamala tai closed the window and sat next to Balu on the bed. Holding his hand tightly, her gaze was transfixed by the strange spectacle being enacted in front of her.

The hospital grounds were separated from the parade ground by a low lying stone wall which ran along the hospitals perimeter.

It was half past eleven, when the pyre came right upto the boundary wall. Even with windows closed, the smell of burning flesh was unmistakable.

 She could clearly make out the outline of the dead person. It looked like a man, half of whose face had been burnt away. Molten flesh hung in narrow strips on the rest of his body. Half of his body was skeletonised.

 It was a terrible scene; the rank odour of death was stronger than ever.

Kamala tai was not a person who would scare easily. But she knew one thing for certain, whatever being was in the pyre, it was coming to take Balu.

After a few minutes the pyre had crossed the boundary wall and was barely a few metres from the window. She could feel the heat of the fire filtering through the windows.

 At the intensity at which the pyre was burning the body should have turned to ashes by now. But it stayed the same, unchanging.

Tightly grasping Balu’s hand, she sat frozen on the bed, unable to move even a muscle. A silent scream was forming in her throat.

The pyre was right next to the windows now, the brightness of the flame like a thousand suns. The windows were blown open by the heat of the flames. Inside the room the atmosphere had become intolerable, even Balu in his unconsciousness writhed in agony.

Kamala tai could see very clearly the skeleton inside the pyre. Bits of burnt flesh hung on to a grinning skull. In place of eyes were two fireballs. Surrounded by a sea of flames, it pointed its right hand towards Balu.

This was the last memory she had before  she screamed and fell unconscious.

When Kamala tai recovered consciousness she was in another bed in the hospital. Dattu and Nana were sitting next her bed. Dattu’s eyes were bloodshot due to a lack of sleep and constant worry. Nana was wiping his tears with a pancha (towel).

“Where is Balu?” asked a weak Kamala tai.

There was no response from either of the men.

“Where is Balu?”Kamala tai   demanded with all the effort she could muster.

Finally Nana spoke in a voice choked with emotion, “Balu died yesterday night.”

May 1, 2010

The Home Coming

Filed under: Stories — Yogeshwar Shastri @ 4:43 pm
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This was a short story I wrote couple of years back…..

The Homecoming

By Yogeshwar Shastri

Daylight was fast giving way to darkness as the veteran state transport bus sped along the thin strip of broken tar that posed as the highway and cut through the heart of the forest. The glow of its lights danced on the shadows of the surrounding forest which threatened to engulf the road.

Looking out from the sliding glass window which was jammed shut by years of dust and dirt, Sahyadri watched in fascination as in the last snatches of daylight he could see the forest interrupted in places to give way to paddy fields and coconut plantations.

“The forest cover has thinned a bit”, he thought, gets thinner year on year. Some things never change though, the bus is the same, is as packed as before and the road gets even worse every year. Sitting in the back of the bus he could feel every bump and break in the road beneath and wondered how many new craters had the rains made since his last visit home.

His musings were interrupted by the snores of the person on the seat next to him. Looking over the shoulder of the person sitting in front he could see the mass of people and their baggage spilling over into the drivers cabin/space. He wondered how the driver could change gears and focus on the road while chatting up with the passenger crammed into his seat.

More worrying was the fact that the road dropped off sharply on both sides to give way to deep rain water gullies/channels and the way the bus was hurtling along, he was certain it would topple into the gully any moment.

At last after what seemed an eternity, the bus came to a grinding halt being accompanied by a hoarse shout seemingly ensuing from the conductors mouth “Tallikatte!!!”

There was a banging sound as the bus door was thrown open. Sahyadri pushed his way through the mass of humanity to the front and as soon as his feet hit the ground the bus started off into the night.

Standing alone at side of the road, in the pale luminescence of the full moon overhead he could make out the beginning of the wide unpaved mud track which ran perpendicular to the tar road and would take him to his home, three kilometers in the interior. At present it was wide enough to take a small lorry or a tractor but in the monsoons shrunk to less than half its width.

Familiar household sounds and smells wafted through the air from the thatched huts belonging to the farm workers, which clustered around the side of the road and near the mouth of the mud track.

On the other s ide of the tar road was an open clearing which was dominated by an ancient banyan tree with a low platform of concrete built around its circumference. During the day people would sit on the platform under the shade and wait for the bus or just pass the time chatting. But at this time of the night it was deserted.

Pausing for a few minutes to take his surroundings in he started to move along the mud track which was flanked by thin forest cover on both sides. Moving along he could see at the left side of the road, the dark shape of the primary school building .It was a rite of passage for village children he thought, moving from the primary school here to the secondary school five kilometers away in Manchikeri, then to the higher secondary further away finally going to hostel in Dharwad for intermediate.

As he came near to the school he was startled by a shout from behind him. Looking behind to see the source, he saw he could see the figure of a man clad in a traditional dhoti with kurta and a shawl thrown over the right shoulder.

As he came closer, the moonlight cut into slivers by the overhanging branches reflected off his face, highlighting the face of a man in his mid sixties. His gait was rapid and within a few moments he was barely few feet away.

Recognition dawned on Sahyadri and he shouted, “Ram master!”

A smile appeared on the person’s face, gently pushing the creases due to age into the background.

“I thought I might bump into you. I had heard that you were coming on the night bus from Sirsi”, said Ram master, all the while vigorously shaking Sahyadri’s hand.

“I nearly missed it; my connecting train from Bangalore was late by almost an hour. I had to do a nice sprint to catch the last bus,” replied Sahyadri while starting to walk further along the track.

“It’s a good thing we met this way; I’m going to Dharwad tomorrow morning, to my daughter’s house. The only thing to do in retirement is to become a pest to others”.

“I didn’t know you had retired”, exclaimed Sahyadri with an expression of incredulity on his face. His childhood conception of Ram masters as an immortal whose only task on this earth was as headmaster of the secondary school, which was carried well into adulthood, received a painful push. It brought into focus the fact that he wasn’t getting any younger.

As if reading his thoughts, Ram master said with a sad smile, “When you get old, you forget things; it becomes difficult to cope with the stress of everyday tasks. But lets not bother about an old mans groans, tell me what’s up with you?”

As they continued walking, the conversation grew increasingly animated jumping from village gossip to family problems, the hot topic being the financial difficulties in the village brought on by crash in the market value of vanilla. They passed small gaps in the forest on both sides of the road where a clearing had been made to allow lorries to back up.

In one of these clearings they were joined by a dog, the kind kept by the farm laborers, some unknown country breed, which followed them, all the while keeping a cautious distance. Sahyadri barely paid any attention to the dog, assuming it to be following in the hope of getting some crumbs.

Ant hills of various shapes and sizes dotted both sides of the road, rising into space like the towers of lost cities .The track curved gently while undulating up and down following the contours of the hillock. Narrow foot trails trampled onto the forest floor by years of use, radiated outwards from the track at regular intervals. They led to individual houses usually of landowners tucked away in the corners of the forest.

Being engrossed in the conversation, Sahyadri did not notice when the trail leading to his home came into view.

“I believe this is where we part company”, said Ram master breaking Sahyadri’s mental reverie. “Be sure to visit our house for lunch or dinner, whatever is convenient for you. Everybody at home will be very happy to meet you.”

“It’s a pity I wont be able to meet you though”, said Sahyadri, wondering if Ram master would be all right walking alone. Ram masters house lay nearly a kilometer further down the road, where the road was abruptly cut off by paddy fields. He dismissed the thought, comforted by the fact that Ram master was perfectly at home, navigating the track innumerable times over the years.

“Don’t fret over it, we will definitely meet up on your next visit”, replied Ram master starting to move along the road.

Sahyadri waved goodbye and stood for a few minutes watching Ram masters figure disappear around the curve.

He turned his feet in the direction of the trail and doing a brisk walk reached within a few minutes a cluster of huts. These belonged to the farm laborers and the house lay beyond them in a shallow depression cut into the side of the hillock. A deep moat was dug running along the entrance, its purpose being to divert floodwaters in case of torrential rains.

The house itself was a two storied building, the older portions made of timber and mud, intermingling with newer portions made of bricks and cement. The house had a large courtyard with a tulsi plant in the centre and was ringed by a perimeter wall approximately eight feet high, built by his great grand father to keep out wild animals.

The moat was spanned by a crude walkway made of logs lashed together and covered with red mud.

He noticed the dog still following him, making a mental note to ask Anna to feed him some morsels on reaching home. Passing the huts he came across the engravings of the serpent (Naga) gods right at the beginning of the walkway, who stood as guardians to his ancestral house.

Mentally bowing to them he crossed the walkway and began his descent down the steps which led to the wooden door in the perimeter wall.

Finding the door open he made his way across the courtyard to the main building calling out his elder brother’s name, “Ramanna, Rammana!!!”

The main door was thrown open and a tall, well built person rushed to embrace his brother in a bear hug.

“Where is everybody?” asked Sahyadri disentangling himself from his brothers’ hug. He was used to the house busting with activity and the silence puzzled him.

“They are off to Yellapur to attend a marriage. I stayed back as the vanilla harvesting is about to begin. Lets go inside, wash your hands and feet at the tap here and we can have dinner,” Rammanna said, propelling Sahyadri towards the tap.

“I was worried about you coming alone from the bus stop till here at this time. Not that anything happens, but it’s easy to get a nasty stumble on a dark night. Luckily the sky was clear tonight,” Rammanna said while holding the tap open.

“Nothing to worry, I’m grown up now, besides I had Ram master for company along the way”, Sahyadri said, washing his face with his back to his brother.

For a split second there was no reply from behind him. Then Rammanna asked in a low voice, “Did you say Ram master?”

Sensing something, Sahyadri looked behind and saw that his brothers’ face had gone deathly pale.

His hand were shaking as he said, “Ram master died three weeks back”.

Vijayanagar-Chapter 2

Vijayanagar –Empire of the Gods

Chapter 2


Malik Kafur

 

We have seen previously that Ala-ud-din Khilji made a surprise attack on Deogiri and with the enormous treasure he looted, became Sultan of Delhi.

Now his attention was naturally on the rich and flourishing kingdoms of the south. The Kakatiya kingdom of Warangal was next on his list of Hindu kingdoms to loot. In this he was ably aided by his trusted general and “lover” Malik Kafur [i].

Malik Kafur was originally a Hindu from Khambat (Cambay) on the coast of Gujarat. During Ulugh Khans attack on Gujarat in 1297 and its subsequent conquest, Malik Kafur was amongst the innumerable Hindus sold into a life of slavery. But by various accounts he was a handsome youth who attracted the Sultans attentions . Chroniclers like Zia-Ud-Din Barni are quite explicit in the details of Ala-ud-dins sexual infatuation towards Malik Kafur. It is quite hypocritical that Muslims cry foul on homosexuality when quite a few of the “Ghazis” (warriors who carry out jihad against the infidels) had a liking for young boys!

Ala-ud-din had him castrated and converted to Islam. Castration of slaves and making them eunuchs was an integral part of the Islamic slave system. This ensured that the captured men would not be able to reproduce and dilute the Muslim bloodlines. As per K S Lal the present day system of Hijras in our country is a direct consequence of the distinct class of eunuchs created by the muslim rulers .

Lo and behold, the new convert became even more fanatic than the sultan himself!! Being a favourite of Ala-ud-din, he rose fast through the ranks to become Malik Naib (senior commander of the army). An extremely shrewd and ruthless man, Malik Kafur was the ideal companion to Ala-ud-din.

Neo converts like Malik Kafur were more of a threat to the Hindus than the Sultans themselves. To prove themselves worthy of their new religion, they usually exceed even their masters in committing atrocities upon their former co-religionists. Even more damaging was the fact that they had an insider’s view of contemporary Hindu society and knew how society worked. Being aware of the Hindus strengths and weaknesses, they ruthlessly exploited them.

Malik Kafur became the second most powerful man in the Delhi Sultanate after Ala-ud-din After Ala-ud-dins miserable death due to dropsy(as per Barani, Kafur hastened Ala-ud-dins death by poison).Ironically, Kafur himself met a gruesome end in 1316, trying to play the kingmaker in Delhi.

Second Invasion of Deogiri

Fig 1 Malik Kafurs second invasion of Deogiri and second invasion of Warangal

Around 1300 AD Rama Raya of Deogiri had stopped sending tribute to Delhi. Ala-ud-din was preoccupied in quelling internal rebellions and pushing the Mongols back. Now his attention was again turned beyond the Vindhyas and the riches that lay in the kingdoms of Warangal.

Meanwhile in Deogiri Rama Raya’s son Shankar Deva (also known as Sangama) was a man of courage and a free spirit, who could not bear to see the devastation, wrought by the Muslims. The realisation that his sister was now part of the Sultans harem would also have spurred him against tyranny of the Muslims. It made no difference whether you submitted your kingdom to Ala-ud-din or were killed on the battlefield trying to defend it; the end result was always the same: total ruin of your people and destruction of contemporary Hindu society [iii].

While on one hand Rama Raya was constrained by many reasons: concern for the safety of the people of Deogiri, his daughter was now in the Sultans harem (this was part of the price extracted by Al-ud-din on the first invasion of Deogiri) and the fact that his treasury was nearly empty.

On the other hand Shankar Deva was made of sterner stuff and realised that if the Muslims were not defeated and driven out, it was only a matter of time before Deogiri’s independence was extinguished forever by the Sultan. Under Muslim administrators the life of Hindus would become a living hell, as was demonstrated later on when Deogiri was incorporated into the Sultanate.

By 1306 the heroic Shankar Deva had taken over the administration of Deogiri and after defeating the Muslim administrators put in place, nearly brought Deogiri back to its former independence. The reins of Deogiri were taken over from Rama Rayas hands by Shankar Deva.

There was another not completely unrelated reason why Ala-ud-din sent his hordes hurtling down into the Deccan.

When Ulugh Khan invaded Gujarat in 1297 CE, Karnadev Vaghela cowardly fled his capital Anhilwara Patan leaving his queen, the beautiful Kamala Devi to fall into the hands of the Muslims. Kamala Devi was made by Ala-ud-din a part of his harem, but her only surviving daughter Devala Devi was still with Karnadev. As per different accounts Karnadev sought sanctuary with Deogiri .

The Khiljis made a demand for Devala Devi and Karnadev refused. Instead of giving his daughter to the Muslims to use as chattel, he agreed to marry his daughter to Rama Raya’s son Shankar Deva (also known as Sangama). Muslim chroniclers have portrayed the incident as Kamala Devi pining for her daughter and asking Ala-ud-din to get her from Karnadev!! It is one thing for Kamala Devi to be resigned to her fate, but which mother would want her daughter to be subjected to a life of sexual slavery in a Muslim harem?

Thus two expeditions started from Delhi in 1306:-

1. One was led by Malik Ahmad Jitam. Its purpose was to defeat Karnadev and bring Devala Devi to Delhi and completely extinguish resistance in Gujarat.

2. The second expedition was under Malik Kafur tasked with extracting tribute from Rama Raya and making him submit.

They were joined by reinforcements from Gujarat and Malwa.

The first mission was successful; Karnadev was reduced to a refugee fleeing from court to court seeking protection. The unfortunate Devala Devi was captured by the Muslims when she was being escorted to Deogiri and was subsequently sent to Delhi. This brave woman was forcibly married to Ala-ud-dins son Khizr Khan. On Khizr Khans assassination, Qutbuddin Mubarak Khilji in turn forcibly made her his concubine. To add to her miseries after Qutbuddin was killed by his lover Khusrau Khan, she was forced into Khusrau’s harem [ii]. A terrible fate to the princess of the royal house of Vaghelas.

Malik Kafur started with nearly 100,000 horsemen and in March 1307 CE clashed with Shankar Deva outside Deogiri. Shankar Deva being aware of Kafurs advance gathered all his troops near the capital. Shankar Deva had made the strategic mistake of allowing the invader to advance unmolested right upto the capital and then fighting him with all his troops in once place. This meant that the battle became a set piece one. Ideally Shankar Dev should have set up ambushes and tried to cut off the supply lines of Kafurs army.

In the meantime Kafurs army had caused immense destruction of the surrounding countryside. Civilians were massacred, women raped and wanton destruction of crop and property took place.

Shankar Dev was assisted by his brother Bhillama, his commanders Raghava and Ramadeva. After a hard fought battle Shankar Dev was defeated and was martyred by Malik Kafur. Deogiri was plundered, and its population was made to experience all the horrors of Islamic conquest. The same gory story of rape, murder and loot was repeated here as well.

Rama Raya and the royal family were made prisoners and sent to Delhi, where Ala-ud-din Khilji pardoned his father in law and reinstated him to his kingdom. Kafur had specific instructions to spare Rama Raya during the sack of Deogiri. As per N. Venkataramanayya the reason for Ala-ud-dins benevolence towards Rama Raya was due to Rama Raya having informed the sultan of Shankar Deva’s rebellion. Of how true this explanation is I have no idea.

First Invasion of Warangal

Warangal was the capital of the Kakatiya kingdom. The Kakatiya kingdom covered a wide area including most of present day Andhra Pradesh, parts of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Orissa. The Kakatiya kings were suryavamshi kshatriyas.

The Kakatiya’s produced a great line of monarchs and most unique among them was the warrior queen Rudramba who took over the reins of the kingdom after her father Ganapatis death in CE. She fought off aggressive attempts by the Yadavas of Deogiri to expand into Kakatiya territory.

Her grandson Prataparudra succeeded her after she retired from public life. Prataparudra was an ambitious ruler who carried out regular campaigns against the Hoysala who ruled the present day Mysore region, the Deogiri Yadavas and the Pandyas of Tamil Nadu. It is a sad testament to our short sightedness that these four great Hindu dynasties were constantly engaged in trying to overthrow each other, rather than combine their arms and kick the invaders out of India.

The first invasion of Warangal took place in 1304 CE. A large Muslim army led by Malik Fakhr-ud-din Juna (Mohammed Tughlaq) and Malik Jhaju of Karra was despatched to plunder the riches of Warangal.

But the Hindus of Warangal were prepared for them. Armies led by Prataparudra’s commanders Potuganti Maili & Venna among others, met the Muslims at Upparapalli in Karimanagar district (Andhra Pradesh).In the ferocious battle which took place, the heroic Telugu chiefs destroyed a large part of the sultans army and forced the remnants to flee in confusion.

This was a great setback to Ala-ud-dins plans of looting the Kakatiya kingdom. At the same time the Mongol chief Targhi penetrated right upto Delhi with the speed of a hawk and an army of 20,000 Mongols. The “brave” Ala-ud-din was forced to take shelter in Siri fort as no reinforcements were at hand, most of them down south trying to conquer Warangal!!

Although this incident has been presented as an attempt to raid Warangal for loot, I believe this was more to try and establish Ala-ud-dins administration in the south. Why would Ala-ud-din risk sending a large force when his frontiers were threatened by the Mongols? All these years he had been cautious not to open another front within India, till the Mongol threat to his sultanate had passed over.

This incident like many other Islamic defeats has been glossed over by Muslim historians. It is a great pity that we know more about Muslim tyrants like the Khiljis, rather than about valiant heroes like Potuganti Maili who risked all to protect their motherland against the Muslim hordes.

Second Invasion of Warangal

After getting a sound thrashing Ala-ud-din kept away for some years from the Deccan. He was now occupied with defeating the valiant Raja Satal Deva of Siwana and Raja Kanhad Dev Songara of Jalor (Rajasthan).

Kanhad Deva Songara was the true embodiment of how a Kshatriya should be. He had not only rescued over 50,000 Gujarati Hindus who were being taken to Delhi as slaves by the Muslims, but also the fragments of the broken Shiva lingam of Somnath which was being taken to Delhi to be defiled by the Muslims.

Kanhad Deva and his son Vikrama Deva both attained veeragati fighting Ala-ud-dins forces and the women of Jalor committed jauhar to save their honour. With northern India subdued for the time being, the avaricious Ala-ud-din turned his gaze back upon the Kakatiya kingdom.

Going back to the Deccan, Rama Raya had become a staunch ally of the sultan and kept sending him regular tribute.

A vast force under the command of Malik Kafur and Khwaja Haji started on 31st October 1309 from Delhi. This force would have been extremely well armed and well supplied. In the five years since the Muslim defeat at the hands of the Telugu people, Ala-ud-din would have put a lot of thought and effort to avoid a repeat of the disastrous performance of the Muslims.

Their first stop was Deogiri which had now become a base for further operations in the Deccan. Rama Raya gave all the assistance required to Kafurs army and they proceeded into Telangana.

The first encounter with the Kakatiya’s took place at Sirpur fort. Kafur besieged the fort from all sides. The Kakatiya garrison fought valiantly, but with food and other supplies running out the situation inside the fort became desperate. As a last resort a huge pyre was lit inside the fort and the Hindu warriors along with their families sacrificed themselves in the yajna kunda of war. Whatever few survivors of this assault remained fled to the protection of Warangal.

Prataparudra was well prepared to meet the invasion. By some accounts his army consisted of 20,000 horsemen, hundred elephants and a large number of archers. In some ways his strategy mirrored that of Shankar Deva of the Yadavas. Prataparudra pulled back all his forces from the forts in the path of the invading army and concentrated them in and around Warangal. In the formidable fortress of Warangal, Prataparudra was joined by many of his chiefs along with their forces.

Following a scorched earth policy, Telugu soldiers laid to waste the route the Muslim armies would take, in order to deny the invaders any provisions.

One of the reasons why Kafurs forces were able to reach Warangal in quick time by January 1310 CE, as there was no substantial force to oppose them on their way.

On 19th January 1310 CE, Malik Kafurs forces began the siege of Warangal. As a first step they captured the hill fort of Hanumakonda, which overlooked the city and from which the interiors of Warangal were visible.

Warangal itself was a great fortress with a circumference of nearly 12,546 yards. It was protected by two massive walls, the outer wall made of mud and the inner wall made of stone. The inner and outer walls were essentially two separate forts, which meant if one fell the defenders could retire to the inner fort. The outer wall had nearly seventy seven bastions (burj or towers) manned by Prataparudra’s chiefs who were known as “Nayakas”. The outer wall was surrounded by a large moat.

As per Venkataramanayya the fort was well equipped with weaponry to withstand a prolonged siege. Presumably this means catapults, trebuchets etc. Malik Kafur was also well prepared to assault such a strong fort. His army was equipped with the most advanced siege equipment of that age including weapons such as maghribi (catapults), mangonels, trebuchets etc.

Kafur set up his headquarters a miles from the main gate and ordered his army to pitch their tents all around the fort. Each division of his army was responsible for the siege of the 1200 yards of fort walls allocated to it. In addition the camp of each division was protected by a strong wooden stockade (wooden wall).

The siege started in earnest on 19th January 1310 CE .In the meantime Kafurs postal service which enabled Ala-ud-din to get rapid communication from the battle front, was destroyed by Telugu soldiers who engaged in guerrilla warfare against the Muslims.

A valiant night attack by thousand horsemen commanded by Vinayaka Deva was launched on the Muslim camp. A fierce encounter ensued with heavy causalities on both sides, but the attack failed.

Prataparudra was in no mood to surrender, as the Muslims had not made even a breach in the outer wall. Kafur kept up the momentum of the attack and had the moat filled .

Finally a breach was made in the outer wall and a flood of Muslim soldiers rushed in. Heavy fighting followed with neither party giving nor taking any quarter.

By means of a night attack three bastions of the outer wall were taken and within three days Kafur was in command of the whole outer wall.

Inside the inner fort conditions were growing increasingly grim. The inner stone fort was filled to the brim with civilians, nobles & soldiers. People suffered greatly in such crowded conditions. And once the Muslims gained control of the outer wall, civilians came straight in the line of fire. Many were killed by the arrows launched by the enemy. Treating the wounded became a near impossibility in such conditions.

Not being able to see the suffering of his people and realising that prolonging the siege would end in a general massacre, Prataparudra decided to negotiate with the Muslims.

The siege finally came to an end on 20th April 1310 CE.

As per the truce which was subsequently agreed, Prataparudra had to give Kafur all his treasure. This amounted to a golden image of Prataparudra, hundred war elephants and nearly thousand camels laden with gold. Additionally Prataparudra agreed to pay the jizya and send tribute annually. Prataparudra dutifully sent the annual tribute every year till the disturbances caused by Ala-ud-dins death.

Kafur reached Delhi on 10th June 1310, where he was given a grand reception by Ala-ud-din.

 

For Chapter 3 click here

References:

[1] TÁRÍKH-I FÍROZ SHÁHÍ,      ZÍÁU-D DÍN BARNÍ, Packard Humanities Institute, retrieved on 16-04-2010, http://persian.packhum.org/persian/main

[2] Muslim Slave System in Medieval India, K.S.Lal, Voice of India  Books, http://voiceofdharma.org/books/siii/index.htm

[3] The Early Muslim Expansion in South India, N.Venkataramanayya, edited by Prof.K A N Sastri, Madras University Historical Series, 1942. Available at http://library.du.ac.in/dspace/

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