Raja Dahir the great Brahmin King

Rājā Dāhir (661 – 712 AD) was the last hindu   ruler of sindh. He presided over the brahmin dynasity of sindh, which included territories that now constitute parts of the modern-day states of AAfghanistan, the Balochistan region of Iran and Pakistan, and parts of Punjab. At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of the Indian subcontinent, his kingdom was conquered by Muhammad bin Qasim, an Arab general, for the Umayyad Caliphate. He was killed in battle by bin Qasim at the banks of the Indus River in Raor, near modern-day Nawabshah, while trying to resist the Umayyad invasion of his kingdom. The Raja was decapitated by bin Qasim,and his severed head was sent to Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, an Umayyad governor. Following the collapse of the kingdom, most Hindu women committed Jauhar to prevent themselves from being raped by the invading Muslim forces, and the remaining survivors were enslaved by the Umayyad forces and sold into slavery.

Raja Dahir was a Brahmin King,whose ancestors snatched the throne from the Buddhist rulers.

Sindh in 700 AD, under the Raja’s Brahmin Dynasty. The Umayyad Caliphate can be seen advancing upon the Western frontier of India.

The Chach Nama is the oldest chronicles of the Arab conquest of Sindh. It was translated in Persian by Muhammad Ali bin Hamid bin Abu Bakr Kufi in 1216 CE from an earlier Arabic text believed to have been written by the Thaqafi family (relatives of Muhammad bin Qasim).

Dahir’s kingdom was invaded by Ramal at Kannauj. After initial loss, the enemy advanced on Aror and he allied himself with Alafi, an Arab. Alafi and his warriors (who were exiled from the Umayyad caliph) were recruited; they led Dahir’s armies in repelling the invading forces, remaining as valued members of Dahir’s court. In are later war with the caliphate, however, Alafi served as a military advisor but refused to take an active part in the campaign; as a result, he later obtained a pardon from the caliph.

“I am going to meet the Arabs in the open battle, and fight them as best as I can. If I crush them, my kingdom will then be put on a firm footing. But if I am killed honourably, the event will be recorded in the books of Arabia and India, and will be talked about by great men. It will be heard by other kings in the world, and it will be said that Raja Dahir of Sindh sacrificed his precious life for the sake of his country, in fighting with the enemy.”

— Raja Dahir

The primary reason cited in the Chach Nama for the expedition by the governor of Basra, Al-Hajjaj ibn Yusuf, against Raja Dahir, was a pirate raid off the coast of Debal resulting in gifts to the caliph from the king of Serendib (modern Sri Lanka) being stolen and a number of Muslim women who were also travelling using the ship were captured. Meds (a tribe of Scythians living in Sindh) also known as Bawarij had pirated upon Sassanid shipping in the past, from the mouth of the Tigris to the Sri Lankan coast, in their bawarij and now were able to prey on Arab shipping from their bases at Kutch, Debal and Kathiawar. in Sindh to a well-known follower of Imam Hussian, Muhammad Bin Allafi–a man much sought by the Umayyad in their deadly hunt for eliminating the last of the Ahl-e-Bait (Prophet Muhammad’s immediate family). That, according to some very believable sources, Dahir had even offered asylum to Hussain ibn Ali, the grandson of Prophet Mohammed, who was being persecuted at home. That as a result of this offer, Hussain was on his way to Sindh when he was seized at Karbala in Iraq and killed most viciously. That according to G.M. Syed, the grand old man of Sindh, “the Sindhis weep for Hussain ibn Ali and they weep for Raja Dahir Sen.” 

Hajaj’s next campaign was launched under the aegis of Muhammad bin Qasim. In 711 bin Qasim attacked at Debal and, on orders of Al-Hajjaj, freed the earlier captives and prisoners from the previous (failed) campaign. Other than this instance, the policy was generally one of enlisting and co-opting support from defectors and defeated lords and forces. From Debal Hajaj moved on to Nerun for supplies; the city’s Buddhist governor had acknowledged it as a tributary of the Caliphate after the first campaign, and capitulated to the second. Qasim’s armies then captured Siwistan (Sehwan) received allegiance from several tribal chiefs and secured the surrounding regions. His combined forces captured the fort at Sisam, and secured the region west of the Indus River.

The Chach Nama describes rule by successors of the Rai Dynasty as characterized by persecution of Buddhists, and Meds from the time of Chach; a prophecy of Raja Dahir’s fall encouraged defections to bin Qasim’s army. The king was a Brahmin, and the majority of his advisers were from his family. The ruler of Alor professed Buddhism. Nonetheless, there was a sense of “ideological dualism” between them.

By enlisting the support of local tribes Meds and Bhuttos) and Buddhist rulers of Nerun, Bajhra, Kaka Kolak and Siwistan as infantry to his predominantly-mounted army, Muhammad bin Qasim defeated Dahir and captured his eastern territories for the Umayyad Caliphate.

Sometime before the final battle, Dahar’s vizier approached him and suggested that Dahar should take refuge with one of the friendly kings of India. “You should say to them, ‘I am a wall between you and the Arab army. If I fall, nothing will stop your destruction at their hands.'” If that wasn’t acceptable to Dahar, said the vizier, then he should at least send away his family to some safe point in India. Dahar refused to do either. “I cannot send away my family to security while the families of my thakurs and nobles remain here.

Dahir then tried to prevent Qasim from crossing the Indus River, moving his forces to its eastern banks. Eventually, however, Qasim crossed and defeated forces at Jitor led by Jaisiah (Dahir’s son). Qasim fought Dahir at Raor (near modern Nawabshah) in 712, killing him. After Dahar was killed in the Battle of Aror on the banks of the River Indus, his head was cut off from his body and sent to Hajjaj bin Yousuf. His queens burnt themselves to death in the tradition set by the Rajput heroines. These included Bai, the unfortunate sister of Dahar. Other ladies of the royal household, who remained alive, were captured by the Arab conquerors along with other women of Sindh, and sold into slavery. Thus ended the dynasty that had sprung out of the ambitions of Queen Suhandi and Chach the Brahmin.

It seems that Dahar was nostalgically looking back towards the days of the pre-Islamic Persia when the glorious Sassanid Dynasty ruled over that vast empire with great pomp and show. It was difficult for him to accept that the ancient glory of Iran had gone forever, and he could never make up his mind to deal with the Bedouins of the Arab Deserts as successors of the great Persian Emperors.

The Arabs, at the same time, displayed no desire for establishing friendly relations with the other powers of their time. Specially in the case of Sindh, the Arabs had always been speaking in terms of whether it was difficult or easy to annex this state, and never in terms of whether or not the Sindhis have given them a cause for invasion. We must remember that “world peace” is a very modern term and has its origin in the Romantic Movement of the 18th and 19th Century. Even so it wasn’t until after the World War I in the 20th Century that the concept of world peace became a reality in the foreign policies of states. The modern Muslim historians, more than anyone else, are guilty of anachronism when they try to perceive of the early Arab colonialism in terms of the 20th Century notions of democracy and world peace.

Dahar, it seems, didn’t display any personal aversion to the Muslims or their religion. He welcomed the Arab talent at his court, and was a great admirer of the Arab military genius. Unfortunately, the Arabs who found refuge at Dahar’s court were the Allafi adversaries of the Umayyad Caliphate. It is said that one of their relatives, a dignitary of the Allafi tribe, was beheaded in Mekran by a deputy of Hajjaj bin Yousuf as he refused to pay proper honour to that deputy. His skin was taken off and his head sent to Basra. In true Arab spirit some of the tribesmen of the victim took their revenge upon the deputy, who had by that time become the governor of Mekran, and then fled to the court of Dahar.

We cannot be certain how far the famous story about the plunder of eight Arab ships at Debal is true. It has been recorded in most histories that the King of Sarandeep had sent some gifts to the Umayyad Caliph Walid bin Abdul Malik, and the caravan of eight ships also carried the orphaned daughters of deceased Arab merchants. These ships were forced by rough weather to take refuge on the coasts of Sindh, possibly Debal, and there they were looted by some outlandish tribes. The story even relates that one of the women called upon Hajjaj when she was being captured, and this message was conveyed to Hajjaj by a survivor. Hajjaj sent a letter to Dahar asking him to release the women, and we are told by historians that, “in that letter he couched many threats in very strong terms.” If that was the case then Dahar must be praised for his patience in replying only, “This is the work of a band of robbers over whom I do not have power.”

Mainly two facts make this story doubtful. Firstly, Chachnameh, the primary source of these events, narrates that when Muhammad bin Qasim later conquered Debal he found all the women in the castle prison. Why would those women be kept in the prison? Women captured in this manner were usually treated as slave girls and distributed among the captors for their pleasures, as Mohammad Bin Qasim reportedly did at the time of his capture of Sindh.

Secondly, the Chachnameh states again in the events of a year later that after the Arabs had conquered almost all of Sindh, the Hindu vizier Siyakar brought those Muslim women prisoners to Muhammad bin Qasim. How could they be freed now, if they had been already freed and sent home from Debal? Indeed, it seems that the story had become a folk tale and there were many versions of it. We can’t be sure that the version that has come down to us was closest to reality.

In the light of what we know, it is more plausible to believe that some ships were probably looted but that was an act of the robbers whom Dahar had banished from his lands with great difficulty and now didn’t want to provoke by challenging their hold over the seas. Dahar’s personal involvement in the events, as well as the captives’ release from the prisons of Debal and (or) Alore, seems to be a fabrication by the later storytellers for obvious reasons.

The events of Muhammad bin Qasim’s invasion of Sindh are well known. What isn’t so well known to most students of history is the manner in which Raja Dahar met his death. It is said that when the Arab conqueror had captured most of Sindh, and Dahar’s countrymen had changed their sides to join the Arabs, Dahar called his Arab friends, the Allafi rebels. In a way they were the cause of Dahar’s misfortune because it was by giving them refuge that Dahar had first annoyed the dreadful Hajjaj bin Yousuf. “O Allafi!” Dahar said to his Arab friend, “It was for such an emergency that we patronized you. You are best acquainted with the ways of the Arab army, and it is advisable that you should go with my forces in advance.” The Allafi replied, “O King! We are grateful to you, but we cannot draw our swords against the army of Islam. If we are killed by them we will earn a bad name, and if we kill them we will burn in hell. We agree that in return for the favours you have shown us, we must at least give you some advice on how to fight these invaders even if we do not draw our swords against them. But if we give you advice, then again, this army will never forgive us. Please be kind to us and allow us to depart quietly.” In a magnanimous gesture of royal grace, Dahar allowed these dubious characters to leave his camps in safety.

Sometime before the final battle, Dahar’s vizier approached him and suggested that Dahar should take refuge with one of the friendly kings of India. “You should say to them, ‘I am a wall between you and the Arab army. If I fall, nothing will stop your destruction at their hands.'” If that wasn’t acceptable to Dahar, said the vizier, then he should at least send away his family to some safe point in India. Dahar refused to do either. “I cannot send away my family to security while the families of my thakurs and nobles remain here. And I consider it shameful as well that I should go to the door of another prince and await his permission to see him.” Vizier Budhiman then asked Dahar what did he intend to do. To this Dahar gave a very dramatic reply, which was recorded faithfully by the early Arab historians despite their hostility to the unfortunate infidel.

“I am going to meet the Arabs in the open battle”, he said, “And fight them as best as I can. If I crush them, my kingdom will then be put on a firm footing. But if I am killed honorably, the event will be recorded in the books of Arabia and India, and will be talked about by great men. It will be heard by other kings in the world, and it will be said that Rajah Dahar of Sindh sacrificed his precious life for the sake of his country, in fighting with the enemy.”

After Dahar was killed in the Battle of Aror on the banks of the River Indus, his head was cut off from his body and sent to Hajjaj bin Yousuf. His queens burnt themselves to death in the tradition set by the Rajput heroines. These included Bai, the unfortunate sister of Dahar. Other ladies of the royal household, who remained alive, were captured by the Arab conquerors along with other women of Sindh, and sold into slavery. Thus ended the dynasty that had sprung out of the ambitions of Queen Suhandi and Chach the Brahmin.