Ahmad Shah Durrani

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Ahmad Shah Durrani : biography

1722 – 16 October 1772

Meanwhile, in the preceding three years, the Sikhs had occupied the city of Lahore, and Ahmad Shah had to return in 1751 to oust them. In 1752, Ahmad Shah with his forces invaded and reduced Kashmir. He next sent an army to subdue the areas north of the Hindu Kush. In short order, the powerful army brought under its control the Turkmen, Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara peoples of northern, central, and western Afghanistan. In 1752, Kashmiri nobles invited Ahmad Shah Durrani to invade the province and oust the ineffectual Mughal rulers.

Then in 1756–57, in what was his fourth invasion of India, Ahmad Shah sacked Delhi and plundered Agra, Mathura, and Vrndavana. However, he did not displace the Mughal dynasty, which remained in nominal control as long as the ruler acknowledged Ahmad’s suzerainty over the Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir. He installed a puppet emperor, Alamgir II, on the Mughal throne, and arranged marriages for himself and his son Timur into the imperial family that same year. He married the daughter of the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah. His de facto suzerainity was accepted by the East India Company. Leaving his second son Timur Shah (who was wed to the daughter of Alamgir II) to safeguard his interests, Durrani finally left India to return to Afghanistan.

On his way back he attacked the Golden Temple in Amritsar and filled its sacred pool with the blood of slaughtered cows. Durrani captured Amritsar in 1757, and sacked the Harmandir Sahib at which point the famous Baba Deep Singh and some of his loyalists were killed by the Afghans. This final act was to be the start of long lasting bitterness between Sikhs and Afghans.A Punjabi saying of those times was "khada peeta laahey daa, te rehnda Ahmad Shahey daa" which translates to, "what we eat and drink is our property; the rest belongs to Ahmad Shah."

Third battle of Panipat

The Mughal power in northern India had been declining since the reign of Aurangzeb, who died in 1707. In 1751–52, the Ahamdiya treaty was signed between the Marathas and Mughals, when Balaji Bajirao was the Peshwa.Patil, Vishwas. Panipat. Through this treaty, the Marathas controlled virtually the whole of India from their capital at Pune and Mughal rule was restricted only to Delhi (Mughals remained the nominal heads of Delhi). Marathas were now straining to expand their area of control towards the Northwest of India. Ahmad Shah sacked the Mughal capital and withdrew with the booty he coveted. To counter the Afghans, Peshwa Balaji Bajirao sent Raghunathrao. He succeeded in ousting Timur Shah and his court from India and brought Lahore, Multan, Kashmir and other subahs on the Indian side of Attock under Maratha rule. Thus, upon his return to Kandahar in 1757, Amidst appeals from Muslim leaders like Shah Waliullah, Ahmad Shah chose to return to India and confront the Maratha Confederacy.

He declared a jihad (Islamic holy war) against the Marathas, and warriors from various Pashtun tribes, as well as other tribes such as the Baloch, Tajiks, and Muslims from South Asia answered his call. Early skirmishes ended in victory for the Afghans against the smaller Maratha garrisons in northwest India. By 1759, Durrani and his army had reached Lahore and were poised to confront the Marathas. By 1760, the Maratha groups had coalesced into a big enough army under the command of Sadashivrao Bhau. Once again, Panipat was the scene of a battle for control of northern India. The Third battle of Panipat (January 1761), fought between largely Muslim armies of Abdali and Nawabs and largely Hindu Maratha army was waged along a twelve-kilometre front, and resulted in a decisive victory for Ahmad Shah.for a detailed account of the battle fought see Chapter VI of The Fall of the Moghul Empire of Hindustan by H.G. Keene. Available online at

Kashgaria

Ahmad Shah sought to aid the Muslim city of Kashgar which was being conquered by the expanding Qing dynasty, artempting to rally Muslim states to check Qing expansion.Holy War in China, By Ho-dong Kim, pg. 20 Ahmad Shah halted trade with Qing China and dispatched troops to Kokand.L. J. Newby The Empire and the Khanatep34 However, with his campaigns in India exhausting the state treasury, and with his troops stretched thin throughout Central Asia, Ahmad Shah did not have enough resources to check Qing forces. In an effort to alleviate the situation in Kashgaria, Ahmad Shah sent envoys to Beijing, but the talks did not yield favourable prospects for the people of Kashgar.John K. Fairbank(1968) China and Central Asia, 1368–1884 in the Chinese World Order pp. 206–224, 337–68. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press.