Prince Trilochanpála, the son of Anandapala, ascended the imperial throne in about AD 1011. Inheriting a reduced kingdom, he immediately set about expanding his kingdom into the Sivalik Hills, the domain of the Rai of Sharwa. His kingdom now extended from the River Indus to the upper Ganges valley. According to Al-Biruni, Tirlochanpála "was well inclined towards the Muslims (Ghaznavids)" and was honourable in his loyalty to his father's peace treaty to the Ghaznavids. He eventually rebelled against Sultan Mahmud and was later assassinated by some of his own mutinous troops in AD 1021-22, an assassination which was believed to have been instigated by the Rai of Sharwa who became his arch-enemy due to Tirlochanpala's expansion into the Siwalik ranges. He was romanticised in Punjabi folklore as the Last Punjabi ruler of Punjab.
Though more famous as the Kings of Lahore, the temple fort at Nandana, fourteen miles south-west of Choha Saidan Shah (near Katas Raj), situated on a remarkable dip of the outer Salt Range, had been a stronghold of the Vaid dynasty ruling Punjab. Lying midway between Lahore and Waihind, it must have served as the national capital of the Shahis after loss of Waihind. Ensconced in the mountain of Balanath, it had a strong fort and was strategically located not too far from the commercial town of Bhera and the river Jhelum.
Peace treaties between states are means of achieving national aims without resorting to war. Sultan Mahmud must have realised that the Shahis were not very pliable. He would not feel safe about his rear if he advanced deep into India beyond the territory controlled by the Shahis. So he decided to first attack the Shahi capital at Nandana and crush Trilochanapala. Mahmud collected a large army in the spring of 1014 and marched toward Nandana. When Trilochanapala became aware of the intentions of the Turk, he entrusted the defence of Nandana to his son Bhimapala – whom Utbi refers as Niddar Bhima (the fearless Bhima). The Shahis summoned their vassals and meanwhile Bhimapala advanced with his forces to take position behind the wings of a hill pass – probably Marigala Pass near Rawal Pindi. He positioned his elephants in the entrance of the narrow and precipitous pass while his forces occupied the hills on both sides. He thus waited in security while reinforcements kept arriving. Mahmud found himself outmanoeuvred and his spearmen failed to provoke the Hindus. “When his vassals had joined Bhimapala he left his entrenchments and came out into the plain, having the hills behind him and elephants drawn up on each wing. The battle raged furiously.” A general leading the Turkish vanguard was wounded grievously and Mahmud dispatched part of his own guards to extricate his commander. The conflict continued as before but the Turks were victorious at the end. Bhimapala survived the battle and escaped, entrusting the defence of their fort at Nandana to some of their devoted veterans. Mahmud advanced promptly to invest the fort. There was stiff resistance and Mahmud asked his sappers to lay mines under the walls, while the Turkish archers poured arrows into the fort. Finally the garrison surrendered. He next led is forces towards Kashmir to chase and destroy the Shahi King.
Meanwhile Trilochanapala had gone towards Kashmir along with some of his forces, to seek assistance from Sangramaraja, the ruler of Kashmir (1003–1028), who consented to help. Tunga, the commander of Kashmir forces, was sent at the head of a contingent consisting of several nobles, feudal chiefs and other ranks. From previous experience of battles with the Turks, Trilochanapala had devised a strategy quite similar to that followed by Bhimapala of blocking the advance of large Turkish army from behind a hill pass and later fighting on a restricted battlefield in the backdrop of these hills. He had advised Tunga accordingly. However, in his impetuosity Tunga came out in hasty moves. Mahmud found an opportunity to strike with full force and Tunga’s army dispersed. Trilochanapala tried to control the situation but was unsuccessful. Having routed the Hindu forces, Mahmud plundered the area, took many prisoners and converted much of the populace to Islam. Rajatarangini, a history of Kashmir, also gives a detailed account of this particular battle because forces of Kashmir state were involved in it.
This was a severe blow which almost destroyed the Shahis as a strong reigning power. But they were not yet completely wiped out. Mahmud was still not confident of advancing deep into India with the bruised and mauled Shahis in his rear. He organised some probing campaigns to test political waters.
- M. A. Stein, Tr. Kalhana’s Rajatarangini, VII, Verses 47 to 63, pp. 270–72. Also, Elliot and Dowson, History of India by Its Own Historians, Vol. II, pp. 38ff and Appendix, p. 452.
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