The Ramachandra we don’t know – Did Alauddin Khilji ever reach Devagiri?

Barani writes,

At Bhilsan ‘Alauddin had heard of the elephants and wealth of Deogir and enquired about the routes to that place. He had resolved to collect a large army at Karra for an attack on Deogir without informing the Sultan. Find­ing the Sultan more kind and affectionate than ever, he applied for some delay in paying the dues (fawazil) of Karra and Oudh. ‘I have heard,’ he represented, ‘that within the boundaries of Chanderi and many regions adjoining it, the people are free and ignorant and entertain no apprehension of the army of Delhi. If I am allowed, I will invest the money due from me (fawazil) to the Diwan in enlisting new horse and foot. With these I will march to those territories and bring the enor­mous spoils that I win, together with dues of which I am postponing the payment, to the Sultan’s Diwan.’

Alauddin fitted out three or four thousand foot-soldiers (payaks) with whom he set out from Karra on an expedition to Deogir. Publicly, however, he gave out that he was going to plunder Chanderi and kept his plans about Deogir secret. He appointed as his deputy (naib) for Karra and Oudh my uncle Alaul Mulk, one of his chief associates. He marched by stages to Elichpur and thence to Ghati Lajura. Here all intelligence of him was lost. But Alaul Mulk kept on sending the Sultan regular reports from Karra. These contained vague statements that ‘Alauddin was busy in chastising and plundering rebels, and that he would send his own reports in a day or two. The Sultan, who had brought up ‘Alauddin (as a son), suspected no evil. But discerning men in the City and the Court concluded from ‘Alauddin’s continued absence, that he had gone out to seek his fortune in a distant land. This news, born of guess-work, soon spread among the people.
When ‘Alauddin arrived at Ghati Lajura, the army of Ram Deo under the command of his son, had gone on a distant expedition. The people of Deogir had never heard of Islam before this time, for the land of the Mahrattas had never been invaded by any (Muslim) king, khan or malik. And yet Deogir con­tained an enormous quantity of gold, silver, jewels, pearls and other valuables. When Ram Deo heard of the approach of the Muslim army, he collected together such troops as he could and sent them under one of his ranas to Ghati Lajura. It was defeated by ‘Alauddin, who entered Deogir. On the first day he captured thirty elephants and several thousand horses. Ram Deo then came and offered his submission. ‘Alauddin brought with him such enormous quantities of gold and silver, jewels and pearls, that though more than two generations have passed since then and much has been spent in every reign at the devolution of the Crown, a large part of those elephants, jewels, pearls and other goods is still left in the Treasury of Delhi.

For all practical purposes, this is what we know about Seuna Ramachandra. In synopsis, the story is that Alauddin Khilji, as the Governor of Karra, during an invasion, heard of Devagiri and decided to invade it. He suddenly landed in Devagiri when the army was away, caught the king by surprise and acquired a formal surrender before the armies returned. After that, he was a pliant vassal providing logistics for Alauddin Khilji’s southern expeditions. It seems there was a sort of rebellion which was crushed with no effort and Ramachandra was carted off to Delhi as a prisoner. After turning back, he never rebelled. His son and successor and after him, his son-in-law rebelled and were killed.

The question is, is this narrative correct? Or is it another spin off? While searching whether there are any Yadava accounts of Ramachandra’s forced visit to Delhi, I came across Purushottamapuri plates issued by Purushottama, a minister of Ramachandra. It seems to be the last authenticated grant of Ramachandra and the initial 18 verses in the grant talks about the achievements of the Seuna Yadava rulers. Two verses are dedicated to Ramachandra –

Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 17.23.20Screen Shot 2017-10-06 at 17.30.28

Epigraphia Indica XXV

Synopsising, the grant says, Ramachandra subjugated Dahala(Kalachuris ruling from Tripuri near Jabalpur), Bhandagara(Bhandara), Vajrakara(Vairagarh near Gadchiroli), Palli(may be some hill tribes), Kanyakubja, Kailasa, Mahima(Mahim?), Sangama(Sangameshwar), Kheta(Khed) and last but not the least, Varanasi.
No Southern areas were mentioned, but what we see is, he is successful in Konkan, Western Maharashtra and Central Madhya Pradesh. Jabalpur to Varanasi is 400 odd km. A march that small is not a big matter. May be he raided or may be, he conquered. Another place to mention is Kanyakubja – Kannauj. Raiding it is also possible through Kalachuri territories. Did he send a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash, one can only conjecture.
This tells about a few things. Ramachandra came to the throne in 1271 AD. Forgetting what his predecessors did, the Yadava armies were active at least from around 1275 in North India. Karra is between Kannauj and Varanasi. Are we seriously saying the governor of Karra didn’t know about a Southern Army which defeated Muslim forces all around his headquarters a few years before he came? And then, the next question. Where exactly is the northern border of the Yadava Empire and how far is it from Devagiri? Kara to Aurangabad, for example, is around 1200 km and the route goes through the general area of Jabalpur.
Now, about the route Alauddin Khilji took. It’s Bhailasán > Elichpur > Ghati-lájaura > Deogír. This is what Amaravati District Gazetteer says, regarding this.

He marched from Kara to Canderi, and thence across the Satpudas to Ellicpur, where he halted for two days, explaining his presence by saying that he was one Malik- Ala-ud-din, who had been one of the nobles of the emperor of Delhi, but was now leaving his master with the intention of taking service with the raja of Rajamahendri in Telangana. His story served its purpose and he was not molested at Ellicpur, which he left suddenly at midnight, advancing by forced marches towards Devagiri.

Even this doesn’t stick. It should have been Raja of Warangal, not Rajamahendri. And if it is Raja of Rajamahendri, he is a subordinate of the Kakatiya ruler of Warangal, who is a clear enemy of the Yadavas. Prataparudra is already aggressive on Yadava border. Will the governor of Elichpur or the Yadava emperor consent the passage of a force of 10000, powerful enough to change the course of a war, but insufficient to run a campaign, to an enemy who has every chance to use them against the same Yadavas?
So, the question is, how did Alauddin Khilji maintain his position in Elichpur? Also, it is assumed that Ramachandra conquered Varanasi and then lost it – it’s not just a raid. On such a volatile border, is it possible that Ramachandra will leave the borders open without any security? Ramachandra’s achievements as a ruler are not mean. Is it that easy to reach the capital city of such a powerful kingdom undetected? Also, note, even according to Barani, Alauddin Khilji stopped at Elichpur for two days. Either it is not under Yadava rule, which is not the case, or it is conquered, meaning Yadavas are marshalling forces to block him and hence can’t reach Devagiri with a token force as such or as is mentioned in the gazetteer, asked for a passage, meaning he will be monitored. And if he changed his direction towards Devagiri, he will be cut down.
So, the question arises, what exactly happened? Did Alauddin Khilji ever reach Devagiri or did he capture the king in Elichpur or somewhere North when he is on a pilgrimage or on a hunting trip and then used him as a ransom for whatever wealth he got? The two day halt, is it possible, is for ransom negotiations? With kingdoms being eponymous to the capital city, capture of a fort can always be equated to capture of the capital city. And if Alauddin Khilji is bent on dethroning his uncle, a mere border raid won’t work – what he needs is toppling of a major kingdom. Going by the fact that 1308 Malik Kafur’s invasion of Devagiri against a ‘reclariant’ Ramachadra is that sanguine that Malik Kafur had to go back and get a new army to achieve his aims, can we expect that an alternate narrative is constructed to give Alauddin Khilji against his uncle?

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Kakatiyas defeating Ala-ud-din Khilji – The Ramifications

Barani writes,
“In the first expedition the Malik Naib Kafur Hazardinari was sent to Deogir with the amirs and maliks and the red canopy. Khwaja Haji, the Naib ‘Arz i Mumalik, was also sent with him to look after the administration of the army and the collection of elephants and treasures. No army had been sent from Delhi to Deogir since the time ‘Alauddin had invaded it as a mere malik; consequently, Ram Deo had rebelled and refrained from sending any tribute for years. The Malik Naib reached Deogir with a well-drilled army, plundered the territory and captured Ram Deo and his sons together with the Rai’s treasury and seven­teen elephants. Great spoils fell into the hands of the troops. A message of victory was sent from Deogir to Delhi; it was read from the top of the pulpits, and drums were beaten in joy. The Malik Naib returned to Delhi with Ram Deo and the spoils, and presented them before the throne. The Sultan treated Ram Deo with great favour and presented him with the green canopy along with the title of Rai Rayan. He was further given a lac of tankas and sent back with great honour to Deogir with his sons, family and followers. Deogir was recon­ferred on him. Thenceforth to the end of his life, Ram Deo always obeyed the Sultan; he passed his remaining days in loyal obedience, never wavered from ‘Alauddin’s orders and sent regular tribute to Delhi.
Next year, in A.H. 709 ‘Alauddin sent the Malik Naib to Arangal with the maliks, amirs and a large army accompanied by the red canopy. ‘Sacrifice your treasure, elephants and horses in capturing the fort of Arangal,’ the Sultan directed him, ‘and try to make up for the loss in future years. Be quick and do not persist in exacting too much. Do not insist on Laddar Deo’s presenting himself before you in person or on bringing him to Delhi for the sake of your fame and honour. Do not remain there long. Be moderate and polite in your dealings with the maliks and amirs. Do not undertake any venture with­out consulting Khwaja Haji and the more important officers. Be kind and gentle to the men and do not show any unnecessary irritation. You are going into a foreign country; it is a long journey from there to Delhi and you should not be guilty of any acts or words which may lead to trouble. Connive at the small speculations and faults of the men.”
The second paragraph is more interesting as it ultimately, sets the context for the first paragraph. Ala-ud-din Khilji ordered Malik Kafur to gain token acceptance from Prataparudra of Warangal. Notice this one particular line.
Sacrifice your treasure, elephants and horses in capturing the fort of Arangal, and try to make up for the loss in future years. Be quick and do not persist in exacting too much.
In other words, in spite of sending Malik Kafur, Ala-ud-din Khilji is not confident of defeating Prataparudradeva. He wants just a token show. It’s a different thing altogether that Malik Kafur was able to defeat the Kakatiya forces at Warangal itself, though the strength, neither of the kingdom nor of the fortress of Warangal was not defeated.
Now, let’s go back to the first paragraph. It simply means, Malik Kafur had to invade Devagiri, subdue it and cart off the king to Delhi as a prisoner. But, the king is released and the kingdom restored. Reading between the lines, is it possible that a deal was struck between Ramadeva and Ala-ud-din Khilji for an attack on Warangal with Ramadeva receiving his kingdom in return for logistical support? Is it an offer he could not refuse, like kingdom against his head or violation of his women? After all, that’s what he did with Karnadeva, the Vaghela king who is a part of this discussion. Making this offer, does it indicate a defeat against the Kakatiyas which Ala-ud-din was not able to forget?
We also have this, from Barani, giving the time as 1303-1304.
At this time the Sultán was engaged in the siege of Chítor. Malik Fakhru-d dín Júná, dádbak-i hazrat, and Malik Jhaju of Karra, nephew of Nusrat Khán, had been sent with all the officers and forces of Hindustán against Arangal. On their arrival there the rainy season began, and proved such a hin­drance that the army could do nothing, and in the beginning of winter returned, greatly reduced in numbers, to Hindustán.
Combining both the snippets, are we seriously saying, it’s a matter of shame for Ala-ud-din Khilji that his armies were not able to take Warangal because of rains? How many such parallels do we have in world history? Or is the story something different?
We have a reference to this from a single line in a Kakatiya inscription –
Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 23.57.20
Going by the fact that the Muslims wrote they won every war against Warangal except the first siege of Warangal Fort by Ulugh Khan, this line, meaning, defeated the Turkish armies at Upparapalli, as conjectured by Nilakantha Sastry and others should tell exactly why the expedition failed.
Going into the details, it seems the Muslim armies marched diagonally South from Bengal before they were intercepted by the Kakatiyas under Pothuganti Maili near Upparapalli some 90 km north of Warangal and 50 km from the Yadava borders. That they were able to cross Godavari in flood but were not able to cross minor streams in that area due to rains raises questions over his claims.
Parallel to this, we see that when Ala-ud-din Khilji took Gujarat in 1304, Karnadeva, the Vaghela king escaped into Devagiri. Ramadeva gave him asylum and was ready to face the Muslim armies instead of surrendering Karnadeva. A massive force was sent under Malik Kafur in 1308 to take down a fully prepared Ramadeva. In spite of the fact that Karnadeva escaped into Kakatiya territories, the Muslims were unable to proceed further to Warangal and had to broker a deal with Ramadeva, which clearly tells that the battle was sanguine and Ramadeva or Singhana were capable of creating a general insurrection in the Yadava territories – they need a pliant vassal and not a belligerent loser.
Does this mean, not the rains but the potential of rebellion among conquered territories is the reason for shame, combined with the fact that Karnadeva, the original husband of his wife Kamaladevi is still roaming free?

Kakatiyas defeating Ala-ud-din Khilji – The Ramifications

Barani writes,
“In the first expedition the Malik Naib Kafur Hazardinari was sent to Deogir with the amirs and maliks and the red canopy. Khwaja Haji, the Naib ‘Arz i Mumalik, was also sent with him to look after the administration of the army and the collection of elephants and treasures. No army had been sent from Delhi to Deogir since the time ‘Alauddin had invaded it as a mere malik; consequently, Ram Deo had rebelled and refrained from sending any tribute for years. The Malik Naib reached Deogir with a well-drilled army, plundered the territory and captured Ram Deo and his sons together with the Rai’s treasury and seven­teen elephants. Great spoils fell into the hands of the troops. A message of victory was sent from Deogir to Delhi; it was read from the top of the pulpits, and drums were beaten in joy. The Malik Naib returned to Delhi with Ram Deo and the spoils, and presented them before the throne. The Sultan treated Ram Deo with great favour and presented him with the green canopy along with the title of Rai Rayan. He was further given a lac of tankas and sent back with great honour to Deogir with his sons, family and followers. Deogir was recon­ferred on him. Thenceforth to the end of his life, Ram Deo always obeyed the Sultan; he passed his remaining days in loyal obedience, never wavered from ‘Alauddin’s orders and sent regular tribute to Delhi.
Next year, in A.H. 709 ‘Alauddin sent the Malik Naib to Arangal with the maliks, amirs and a large army accompanied by the red canopy. ‘Sacrifice your treasure, elephants and horses in capturing the fort of Arangal,’ the Sultan directed him, ‘and try to make up for the loss in future years. Be quick and do not persist in exacting too much. Do not insist on Laddar Deo’s presenting himself before you in person or on bringing him to Delhi for the sake of your fame and honour. Do not remain there long. Be moderate and polite in your dealings with the maliks and amirs. Do not undertake any venture with­out consulting Khwaja Haji and the more important officers. Be kind and gentle to the men and do not show any unnecessary irritation. You are going into a foreign country; it is a long journey from there to Delhi and you should not be guilty of any acts or words which may lead to trouble. Connive at the small speculations and faults of the men.”
The second paragraph is more interesting as it ultimately, sets the context for the first paragraph. Ala-ud-din Khilji ordered Malik Kafur to gain token acceptance from Prataparudra of Warangal. Notice this one particular line.
Sacrifice your treasure, elephants and horses in capturing the fort of Arangal, and try to make up for the loss in future years. Be quick and do not persist in exacting too much.
In other words, in spite of sending Malik Kafur, Ala-ud-din Khilji is not confident of defeating Prataparudradeva. He wants just a token show. It’s a different thing altogether that Malik Kafur was able to defeat the Kakatiya forces at Warangal itself, though the strength, neither of the kingdom nor of the fortress of Warangal was not defeated.
Now, let’s go back to the first paragraph. It simply means, Malik Kafur had to invade Devagiri, subdue it and cart off the king to Delhi as a prisoner. But, the king is released and the kingdom restored. Reading between the lines, is it possible that a deal was struck between Ramadeva and Ala-ud-din Khilji for an attack on Warangal with Ramadeva receiving his kingdom in return for logistical support? Is it an offer he could not refuse, like kingdom against his head or violation of his women? After all, that’s what he did with Karnadeva, the Vaghela king who is a part of this discussion. Making this offer, does it indicate a defeat against the Kakatiyas which Ala-ud-din was not able to forget?
We also have this, from Barani, giving the time as 1303-1304.
At this time the Sultán was engaged in the siege of Chítor. Malik Fakhru-d dín Júná, dádbak-i hazrat, and Malik Jhaju of Karra, nephew of Nusrat Khán, had been sent with all the officers and forces of Hindustán against Arangal. On their arrival there the rainy season began, and proved such a hin­drance that the army could do nothing, and in the beginning of winter returned, greatly reduced in numbers, to Hindustán.
Combining both the snippets, are we seriously saying, it’s a matter of shame for Ala-ud-din Khilji that his armies were not able to take Warangal because of rains? How many such parallels do we have in world history? Or is the story something different?
We have a reference to this from a single line in a Kakatiya inscription –
Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 23.57.20
Going by the fact that the Muslims wrote they won every war against Warangal except the first siege of Warangal Fort by Ulugh Khan, this line, meaning, defeated the Turkish armies at Upparapalli, as conjectured by Nilakantha Sastry and others should tell exactly why the expedition failed.
Going into the details, it seems the Muslim armies marched diagonally South from Bengal before they were intercepted by the Kakatiyas under Pothuganti Maili near Upparapalli some 90 km north of Warangal and 50 km from the Yadava borders. That they were able to cross Godavari in flood but were not able to cross minor streams in that area due to rains raises questions over his claims.
Parallel to this, we see that when Ala-ud-din Khilji took Gujarat in 1304, Karnadeva, the Vaghela king escaped into Devagiri. Ramadeva gave him asylum and was ready to face the Muslim armies instead of surrendering Karnadeva. A massive force was sent under Malik Kafur in 1308 to take down a fully prepared Ramadeva. In spite of the fact that Karnadeva escaped into Kakatiya territories, the Muslims were unable to proceed further to Warangal and had to broker a deal with Ramadeva, which clearly tells that the battle was sanguine and Ramadeva or Singhana were capable of creating a general insurrection in the Yadava territories – they need a pliant vassal and not a belligerent loser.
Does this mean, not the rains but the potential of rebellion among conquered territories is the reason for shame, combined with the fact that Karnadeva, the original husband of his wife Kamaladevi is still roaming free?

Muslim-Ladakh relations

It is surprising to see that, sometimes, at the points where multiple civilizations merge, there is a blackhole about which we literally know nothing. Take for example, Dandakaranya – Bastar area. We have Bahamani Sultanate on one side, Delhi Sultanate on the second and Kalinga on the third side. They fought with each other everywhere but left out this small patch of land in the centre of the happenings. Because of this, even though it’s in the centre of a happening area, we literally know nothing of that area. Bastar area is one such, Singbhum is another and Ladakh is another.
Take the case of Ladakh. It is a no man’s land between multiple very powerful kingdoms and which no one preferred to occupy, for whatever reasons. We don’t see it literally in the history of Central Asia with Arabs, Turkic Khanates, Tibet, China, Persia and Kashmir fighting with each other continuously. What exactly do we know about Ladakh before the collapse of Tibetan Empire in 842? Besides the fact that rhere were some indications that Kushanas ruled this area, what we have is only circumstantial – Tibet took Zanzun on the east of Ladakh in 635 and it snatched Baltistan from the Chinese between 721 and 737. China was active in that area till the defeat at Talas made the Chinese retreat. Again, there is a blank of two centuries till some remnants of Tibetan Empire established their base in Ladakh.
Ladakh’s history is only the history of it’s interaction with it’s neighbours with very rare intervention of global power brokers. While interactions with eastern neighbours Tibet and Guge are mostly religious with rare exceptions like invasion of Guge and Tibetan invasion of Ladakh, it’s interactions in all other directions is almost always military. With Kashmir and Yarkand turning Muslim, most of Ladakhi political history is only the dealings between Muslim kingdoms and Ladakh.
The first Muslim raid of the Ladakh area happened during the reign of Sikandar(1394-1416) where a Kashmiri force under Rai Madari crossed Zoji-la and invaded and conquered Baltistan. Ladakh escaped invasion because Madari rebelled and marched on Kashmir, only to be captured. The next was a raid during the reign of Zain ul-Abidin(1420-1470) almost immediately after he ascended the throne under his personal command. The raid proceeded till Guge. Adham Khan, the son of Zain ul-Abdin raided in 1451, hitting Baltistan. In 1483, another expedition was sent under Jahangir Magre and Sayyid Hassan to invade both Ladakh and Baltistan. But, due to some discord, two separate expeditions were launched. Magre reduced Baltistan and returned to Srinagar. Hassan’s army was massacred by the Ladakhis to the last man and he barely escaped.
By this time, the religions of the borders are established – Buddhism in East and in Ladakh, Hinduism/Buddhism in South and Islam in all other directions. Of the eight feudatories of Ladakh, Pashkyum and Sod in Purig, Suru and Dras turned Muslim while the king of Spiti was a Hindu and the rest, the rulers of Zanskar, Nubra and Gya were Buddhist.
Then, there was a raid in 1532 under Mirza Haidar Dughlat when he was passing to Yarkand. The detachment sent to reduce Suru was destroyed and the subsequent force sent captured the chief of the area Baghan and sold him as a slave. It looks like there was a continued presence, for, the king, Tashikun was executed because he was not able to contain a rebellion against Mirza Haider’s troops in Nubra in 1535. Tashikun seems to be an independent breakaway from Ladakh. Mirza Haider, after a failed expedition to Tibet, retreated towards Badakshan in 1536. He then became the king of Kashmir, raided Ladakh in 1545 and sent a full scale invasion, occupying Ladakh and Baltistan. He appointed Mullah Hasan as the governor for Ladakh and Mullah Haider for Baltistan. It was just a pretention of rule and when Mirza Haider died in 1551, even that vanished.
In response to Ladakhi raids, a raid was launched in 1553 under Daulat Chak and others. Nothing was achieved out of this. The next raid was during the reign of Ghazi Chak in 1562 under the command of Fateh Chak and Ahmad Khan. Fateh Chak raided the capital city and retired after promise of a tribute. But, Ahmad Khan, Ghazi Chak’s son tried to repeat the exploit but was surrounded. In an attempt to relieve his army, Fateh Chak was killed. Another invasion came from Yarkand, but was defeated.
Tsedban Namgyal, after invading Kulu, Baltistan, Guge, Tibet, he decided to attack Yarkand but was dissuaded because the main trade route passes through Yarkand and Ladakh. Jamyang Namgyal, his brother and successor tried to interfere in a dispute between two chiefs of Purig. The Magpon of Skardu, Ali Mir entered the fight against Ladakh. Whole of Ladakh was pillaged with much destruction to religious property before the Balti army retreated. The king was kept in honourable custody but he made Ali Mir’s daughter pregnant. Ali Mir, with no option, released the king and married him off to his daughter. The Balti king lost control of Purig but the Balti control over Ladakh stayed till the end of Ali Mir’s reign. The Ladakhi king, ashamed, turned religious. This actually opened another avenue in the Ladakhi politics, with Ladakhi kings taking Muslim wives, which we will be seeing with regular frequency.
His son, Sengge Namgyal tried to assuage the situation by invading Cigtan but the invasion was a failure – Gaga Tsanpa, the leader of the expedition was captured while the nephew and niece of the ruler of Cigtan who were in Ladakh were detained. A truce was brokered by Taktsang Gyatso by exchange of prisoners. However, the Mughal accounts state that on invasion of Sangi Bamkhal of Purig, Adham Khan, now a Mughal vassal solicited the aid of Ali Mardan Khan, the governor of Kashmir. He sent Husain Beg along with a massive army. The combined armies defeated Sengge in 1639 and he retreated to the fort of Karpu. To escape the siege, he accepted vassalage. Husain Beg accepted the proposal as he is apprehensive to cross Indus and be trapped there in winter. However, Ladakhi chronicles declare a Ladakhi victory as Sengge didn’t even send the tribute he promised. In retribution for this, the king closed the trade from Central Asia into Kashmir. While trade to India passed through Patna-Nepal-Lhasa, trade to Kashmir passed through Skardo-Shigar-Kashgar with Ladakh the only loser. This literally destroyed the prosperity of Ladakh.
In 1647, Kashgar raided under Babak Beg and Sara Beg to avenge an insult to their minister Zandaq Khan. There were two engagements, at Upsi and Chushot. They were bribed off. Shortly after, there was another raid, but of no consequence.
In 1663, Aurangzeb visited Kashmir. Fearing retribution, the Ladakhi king sent a voluntary embassy professing vassalage and with the promise of a mosque built and qutba read. It is possible the embassy is not voluntary but was sent on the face of an imminent invasion. When nothing was done by Ladakh, an envoy Mohammed Shafi was sent with a request for construction of mosque and conversion to Islam at the threat of an invasion. He was called the Zamindar of Greater Tibet. Qutba was read, foundations of a mosque were laid and steps were taken to diffuse Islam among the population. A heavy tribute was paid.
Parallel to this, in 1673, Sakya Gyatso, a Minister of Ladakh invaded Lower Ladakh and Purig, with the field of operations extending to Baltistan by the next year. Khaplu and Chorbat fell. Baltistan asked Kashmir to intervene, but the relief force was defeated in Lower Purig by Brug Namgyal. The Mughal troops under Nawab Ibrahim Khan and Timur Beg invaded around 1680 but were convinced to withdraw.
In the feud between Brug-pa of Bhutan and Gelug-pa of Tibet, Ladakh intervened in support of Bhutan in 1677. After making a peace pact with Bhutan in 1678, Tibet turned it’s full might towards Ladakh. Kehri Singh of Bashahr was bought off. In the Battle of Ralajung of 1679, Ladakh was defeated and the forces were pursued till Lungkhung where the Ladakhis stopped the Tibetan army. Some contingents retreated into the forts of Taklakot, Tsaparang and Tashigang. Both the troops were no more than thousand. But, Tibet sent overwhelming reinforcements, almost 5000 in 1680. The Guge fortresses were surrendered without a fight and they met the main Ladakhi army under the king at Changla Pass where the Ladakhis were defeated. In no time, the Ladakhi capital fell and the king ran the show from Tingmosgang till 1683. Next in line was Zanskar. The defence was entrusted to King Indrabodhi, who led the initial defence of Guge. He retreated to Tarla and conducted his affairs from there. Kulu troops who were summoned acted as mere raiders sparing none. Both the opposing armies came together to repel the Kulu forces.
Despairing of the stalemate in Bagso, the Ladakhi king asked the intervention of Kashmir. Fidai Khan was sent by the governor Ibrahim Khan who was reinforced by Purig, the Baltis and levies in lower Ladakh. In the Battle of Bagso, the Tibetans were defeated and chased into Guge. Fidai Khan extracted the charges and pending tribute, the king converted, under the name of Aqibat Mahmud Khan before Fidai Khan left. Along with that, one of his sons was to be sent to Kashmir as a hostage. The only territorial change was the village of Nabsat. As a consequence of this war, Raja Bidhi Singh of Kulu gained Upper Lahul, Purig and Balti acquisitions were reverted. Tibet invaded again after the Mughals left and destroyed the Leh Fort before the king surrendered. The Tibetans faced two problems now – a Mughal vassalage means Mughals can penetrate into Tibet proper if provoked and the king is a Muslim convert and can do serious harm to the religion. Tibet initiated the peace discussions with the condition that the king reconvert to Buddhism, which he did. The territorial change involved was annexation of Guge and Spiti. This war was the end of Ladakh as a local power. It’s a matter of providence that Mughals and Tibetans who will eventually be supported by the Dzunghars and China didn’t clash.
As a vassal of Mughal Empire and out of it’s own economic interests, it became imperative for Ladakh to keep the trade route to Kashmir open. And from now on, we see, the story of Ladakh is the story of Ladakh and Baltistan and their vassals till the Dogras came.
In 1715, there was a rebellion by the chief of Paskyum and in 1720, Sod and Kartse rebelled under Bahram Beg who surrendered after a week long siege of Sod.
In 1715, there was a rebellion in Baltistan where Daulat Khan, the son-in-law of the king rebelled. Shigar and Skardu supported him. The Balti king Hakim Khan solicited aid and the Ladakhis marched in his support. Though they were defeated at Rina, the rebellion was crushed by Ladakhis with Daulat Khan becoming a refugee. In 1719, the ruler of Skardu appealed for Ladakhi help against Shigar and the Ladakhis coerced Shigar into peace. But, in 1722, Shigar under Azam Khan occupied Skardu and occupied territories as far as Gilgit. Hatim Khan asked for Ladakhi aid. The Ladakhis marched through Nubra deep in winter with the support of frontier Balti chiefs. Kures was taken and the main relief force sent by Azam Khan to support Keris reached a day after Mahmud Khan, the governor of Keris surrendered. The force had to face the Ladakhis in open land and was crushed. This led to the unravelling of Azam Khan’s empire. He fled to Rongdo and the Ladakhis installed Ali Khan in Shigar and Mahmud Zafar Khan in Skardu. Many Buddhist relics and considerable war booty was brought back.
After the death of Nima Namgyal, his second wife, the daughter of Hatim Khan demanded her son to be made the king as against the heir designate. He was given a separate tract in Purig area and was installed in 1734. By virtue of being on the Balti border, he was the first who came in the line of fire in case of any hostilities as is seen in the same year where he forced Skardu to back down. Muhammad Zafar Khan, the ruler of Skardu attacked Khaplu in 1733 and again in 1734 after being beaten back. The prince, Krasis Namgyal defeated the fresh army and imposed vassalage on Skardu.
Against the wishes of the king Deskyong Namgyal, his sister is married off to the king of Kishtwar, the family which converted to Islam in 1687. It was not a happy marriage and the princess returned back. When the king of Kishtwar demanded his wife back. He was assassinated and the assassination was to be passed as an accident, but the information leaked. Kishtwar petitioned the Mughal Empire and a war was averted as Ladakh bribed off the Mughals. Around 1750, there was a quarrel between the Ladakhi king Phuntsog Namgyal and his uncle Kra-sis Namgyal. Ladakh and Skardu joined forces to take Shigar and before the fight became bitter, in 1750, the Dalai Lama advised peace. But, both of them sent requests to help from Kashmir. The Mughal governor sent forces but the Dalai Lama, fearing Muslim interference, coerced peace between the both. The Mughal Governor asked for a combined attack on Purig by Ladakh and Kashmir when Krasis Namgyal is away. Fully knowing of the Battle of Manupur(1748) where the Mughal army was defeated by Ahmad Shah Abdali and that Kashmir is not in a position to send an army, the Tibetan mediator, Katog Rigdzin Tsewang Norbu asked for an envoy as well. The pact was signed in 1752. It was decided that no two kings should exist in Ladakh and all the brothers of the eldest should be ordained as monks. Kra-sis Namgyal will rule till his death and after that, his kingdom of Purig will be annexed to Ladakh. Status quo on trade was promised for the Kashmiris.
During the destruction of Dzunghar Khanate, it is estimated that the rulers of Yarkand and Kashgar, Khojas who claimed descent from Prophet Mohammed will slip into Ladakh. The authorities in Lhasa prepared themselves to send an army into Ladakh in 1758, even possibly dragging it into a full war leading to it’s annexation. But, the imperial envoy sent to help identify the incarnate of the deceased Dalai Lama countermanded the rule. Finally, it turned out that the two princes, Burhanuddin and Khoja Jihan escaped to Badakshan where they were killed.
In 1759, Muhammad Zafar Khan, the ruler of Skardu occupied Shigar and imprisoned the ruler Husain Khan. With the support of Keris, he occupied Kures and invaded Khaplu. The chief, Mahmud Ali Khan asked for Ladakhi help – Keris surrendered, Husain Khan was reinstated and Sakrdu was forced to call off the fight. But the king fell into the influence of a low class Muslim woman whom he married. She was deridingly called Bhemo Gyal. She got the top nobles arrested and executed and got her brother Nasib Ali made the Prime Minister, after the Prime Minister is executed. There was an open rebellion where the royal palace was stormed– the Muslim wife is killed and possibly her brothers, but the king was not touched. He married a princess of Sod, but later in life, he got influenced by her, a Shia. He revived the old title Aqibat Mahmud Khan and stopped the religious practices in Leh. Having induced into buying horses by a Muslim trader, his penchant for horses strained the economy much to the level that he hired a Muslim goldsmith to mint silver coins in the Muslim fashion to fund his extravagance in 1781. There was another rebellion in response and the king abdicated the next year.
In 1785, Shigar and Skardu declared war on Ladakh. A fortress was built at Balaghar. Keris and Kures are taken, fearing invasion, the chief of Khaplu chief Mahmud Ali Khan asked for Ladakhi intervention. Ladakhi army advanced through Nubra and crushed the Balti Army at Dowani.
In 1792, Azam Khan, the chief of Shigar asked the King of Ladakh to help contain the Wazir Mama Sultan. But, due to the hot season, the march was delayed and in the meanwhile, the Ladakhi officials patched both the parties.
Next was in 1804 when the Balti king Muhammad Sultan seized Sikar. Ladakhi counter thrust ejected the Baltis. In 1806, continuing the offence, the Ladakhis besieged Nar castle which was surrendered to them. In 1810, Ahmad Shah of Skardu besieged Kaza and the Ladakhis raised the siege. In 1811, there was another Balti attack, Ladakhis advanced to Khaplu to push the Baltis back. In 1812, there was a succession dispute in Khaplu which the Ladakhis settled amicably.
In 1815, there was a fight with Ahmad Shah of Skardu over Keris. The Baltis were defeated again. He broke peace and captured a hundred Ladakhis as what the Ladakhis say and a complete Ladakhi army as what the Baltis say. The prisoners reverted back on negotiations.
The Sikh conquest of Kashmir changed the picture considerably – Ladakh was more closely governed than those in the Muslim days. In 1821, Ladakh solicited the help of the Sikh Empire in a possible Balti invasion which didn’t happen. It is possible the Sikhs didn’t respond when Ahmad Shah conquered Shigar, Keris and Khaplu giving the Baltis a success for the first time. Did the Ladakhis became complacent, did the Sikhs drain the coffers dry, did the Sikhs have a plan to use Ladakh as a bait to take Baltistan, we don’t know. But, it is clear Ladakh was considerably weakened, for it was not able to stop or counter multiple raids into Spiti and Zanskar between 1822 and 1825.
In the next year, a scion of the Yarkand Khojas led an invasion to retake his ancestral lands. After seeing some initial success, he was captured. His troops under Abdus Sattar, a prince of Kokhand retreated into Ladakh with terrible losses. The band of 300 out of the original 1000 were provided succor and Abdus Sattar was accorded the treatment of the head of a visiting ruler. A few of his followers left for Haj and the rest under Abdus Sattar settled in Leh. The king, to avoid any trouble from the Chinese, congratulated the Chinese of their victory and apprised them of the fugitives. China asked them to be extradited. Before even the Dalai Lama could know and intervene in their behalf, they were taken into Tibet and executed. It seems Ladakh allowed many of them to slip away and of the 102 delivered, 45 escaped, 19 died of illness and 38 executed in two batches. The refugees cursed the royal family, death by smallpox for the betrayal and the dynasty ended formally after the last king died of small pox as a Dogra commander.