King Prithu of Assam vs Bakhtiyar Khilji (Destroyer of Nalanda university)
About King Prithu:
King Vishwasundar Dev alias Prithu defeated the entire army of Bakhtiyar Khilji as mentioned by the stone inscriptions in North Guwahati. King Prithu also defeated his Giasuddin Khilji during the second Turkish invasion of Assam as well as King Lakshman Sen during the second Sena invasion of Assam.
King Vishwasundar Dev Alias Prithu ( 1185 – 1228 AD ) was the ruler of Khen dynasty. The Khen dynasty of Assam replaced the Pala dynasty in the 12th century. Their accession marks the end of the Kamarupa kingdom, and the beginning of the Kamata kingdom, when Sandhya moved his capital from Kamarupanagara to Kamatapur in about 1250.
According to the Gosani Mangala (1823), the Khen rulers had a humble origin. They were probably local chieftains that rose to power after the fall of the Palas. Ethnically, they were possibly related to the Kheng people of nearby Bhutan. They worshiped Kamatashwari (also called Chandi or Bhavani), thus providing a break from the earlier dynasties that drew their lineage from Narakasura, the descendant of Vishnu.
History of Kamarupa:
Along with the change in the deity, the Khen rulers moved the capital from Kamarupanagara to Kamatapura further west on the banks of the Dharla River. Under the patronage of Kamata rulers ( Durlabh Narayan etc), some of the first examples of Assamese literature were composed.
The first few Muslim chroniclers like Minhajuddin, Salim, and Idrishi referred to this country as Kamru, Kamrud or Kamwaru, while those of later times preferred to call it Kamrupa, Kamata. But in the chronicles of the still later time we find that the country was mentioned as Koch and Koch Hajo as well as the Ahom Kingdom as Assam.
Such use of different names for Kamrupa, is indicative of the various phases of social and political changes, which swayed in the region through out the span of nearly five centuries.
“The kingdom came to be known as Kamarupa during the Puranic times based on a legend that Kamadeva, the God of love, the Indian Cupid, who was destroyed by the fiery glance of Shiva returned to life in this country.
In the seventh century the Chinese pilgrims mention the name of this country as Ka-mo-lu-po and three hundred years before Yuan Chwang, the famous ‘Prasasti’ of Samudra Gupta, mentions Kamrupa as the frontier territory of India.
“The Ahom Kingdom to the east of the Manas came to be known as Asam or Assam, after the Ahoms, and the name Kamrupa has, since then, been restricted to the present district between the Manas and the Bamadi”
Invasion by Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji and his Total Defeat:
Towards the end of year 1205 AD, Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji marched from Devakot , within the modern district of Dinajpur, with the cavalry of 10-12 thousand horsemen. Bakhtiar met and made friendship with All Mech a local chieftain. Ali Mech was local Mech chieftain, whom Bakhtiyar had converted to Islam. Ali Mech was instrumental in guiding Khilaji’s the army.
Khilaji wanted to rout Kamarupa and invade Tibet
Bakhtiyar Khilji proceeded with his army towards a town called Burdhankot on the banks of a river
Begamati . Begamati river had magnitude ,depth and breadth is said to have been three times more than the Ganges at that time. Bakhtiyar then followed the course of river northwards for 10 days until he came to a place where he found the river Spanned by a stone bridge, 116 feet long and consisting of 22 arches. He crossed the river from there and entered Kamarupa .
At that time Prithu was the ruler of Assam and river Teesta-Karatoya was known to be the western boundary of Kamrup.
It is said that the king of Kamrupa, Prithu , was evidently informed previously of Bakhtiyar’s intention of entering Tibet, to buy some more time, advised him to come next year much well prepared and also assured that he will accompany him for his expedition to Tibet.
Total Annihilation of Bakhtiyar Khilaji’s Army:
Bakhtiyar’s Khilaji disregarded this advice and continued the march until he emerged into a plain of Kamrup, which was well cultivated and thickly populated and in the midst of which stood a strong fortress.
He attacked the fortress and when he was on the verge of victory. But hearing a foreigner invasion, locals also took up arms quickly. The local inhabitants of the country joined the garrison in the fort and started offering stubborn resistance. Khilaji was taken aback by such strong reaction.
Muhammad Bakhtiyar was soon forced to fight a defensive battle. Throughout the day he held his ground in spite of very heavy losses.
After sometime he got information that the enemy was being reinforced from another fortified town, 15 miles off, which was named Karampatan and which was inhabited by Brahmans and Nunis. As a matter of fact , a horde of Mongol horsemen emerged to oppose the invaders .
Bakhtiyar Khilaji then held a council of war and decided immediate retreat.
But the retreat was disastrous as Prithu’s army cutting his supply line attacked them. The road in the rear of the invaders had been blocked and all supplies had been cutoff . The Raja of Kamrupa attacked the retreating army.
Large number of Muslim soldier were killed and captured . After enduring great hardship and privation Bakhtiyar Khilaji , with the remnant of his forces,reached the river only to find that two arches of the bridge had been destroyed and the river was uncrossable.
He then took shelter in Hindu temple in the vicinity which contained a huge image of gold . The Raja besieged him and threw up a bamboo palisade all round the temple. The Turks then grew desperate and, breaking through the palisade , ran for the river. A few of them entered the shallow banks and having found a river fordable to a certain distance shouted to the others to follow.
Then all rushed into the river headlong. Hundreds were carried by the rapid stream. It proved to be their watery grave. Only Muhammad and a few of the best mounted soldiers ,with much difficulty, reached the opposite bank.
Humiliated from this massive defeat, Muhmmad Bakhtiyar Khilji passed through Kooch Behar and hence he returned to Gaur and in 1206 AD he died of grief and mortification. Some authorities asserts that he was murdered by Ali Mardan.
” An inscription near Guwahati, dated Chaitra 13, 1127 Saka or 27 March,
1206, records the utter rout of the Turuksha or Muslim army in Kamarupa. This would imply that Bakhtyar penetrated to the interior of Kamarupa. This, however, seems untenable”.
The Raja of Kamrupa arrested many soldiers of the Muhammedan army. The imprisoned soldiers when sought pardon and shelter, the Raja pardoned them and made arrangements for their settlements in his kingdom with essential commodities(Alas Hindu generosity…on wrong people at wrong time). The Raja called them Gaudia as they had come from Gauda or from the kingdom of Muhammad Ghori.
Since then the Assamese people till today are calling the Muslims as Gaudia.
This futile expedition of Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar proved too costly for him. His sins for Nalanda University destruction must have repaid him a short visit for sure in Battle of Kamrupa.
1.Corpus Incriptionum Indicarum, Vol.UI, PP.14.
3.Early History of Kamrupa, K. L. Barua, PP. 9, Gauhati -1966.
4. The Comprehensive History o f Assam, Vol. II, H.K. Barpujari, PP. 37, Gauhati – 1992.
5. Acharyya, N. N. (1966), The History of Medieval Assam (From the 13th to the 17th century), Guwahati
Edit: Another version of Bakhtiyar Khilaji’s death has been posted by Mr. Rajveer in comments section quoting reference from a book ”Riyaju-s-Salatin” written by Islamic writer Gulam Husain Salim.
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