When a warrior becomes a bait for votes & an invader becomes a Ghazi: The story of Raja Suheldev.
Mahmud of Ghazni in 1100 CE, sent from Kandhar, a contingent of 70,000 calvary lead by his brother in law Salar Sahoo who routed the Hindus and built a masjid at the gates of the Ajmer fort.
“Beginning of the 5th century Hijri, 1101 of Christian era and the Sultan of Ghazni, to execute the purpose of Allah, made many intrusions across the River Sindhu. Muslims of Ajmer appealed to him for help against the infidels, Mahmud in return, took a promise from them to include his name in the khutaba of the Friday namaz in return.”
- Abdur Rahman Chisti, Mirat-i-Masudi.
Metamorphosed into a Ghazi or a warrior saint, Salar Masud whose tomb in Bahraich was made into a pilgrim place by the Muslims, was born in Ajmer in 1015 CE to Mahmud Ghazni’s sister and Salar Sahoo.
Bhagwan Shiv describes to Parvati ji, in Skand Puran, that He is manifest in the form of the eternal Somnath lingam from which the whole universe has originated & into which it ultimately merges. That area is called Prabhas Kshetra, situated between Vajrini and Nyankumati rivers, close to sindh mahasagar, radiated by surya for the longest period of time.
In 1025, Mahmud Ghaznavi took along with him his 11-year-old nephew Salar Masud, to destroy the Somnath Mandir, that was of great sanctity to the Hindus. The Somnath Mandir was plundered, the jyotirling was broken and part of it was sent to Ghazni and placed at the entrance of the Jama Masjid for the Muslims to trample while entering and coming out of it.
“When the Hindus came to negotiate a deal for the remaining portion of the moorti, Salar Mahmud the betel eater, offered to give it back, ground into a paste with quick lime & wrapped into a paan for twice its weight in gold.” - Abdur Rahman Chisti
In 1031 CE May, Salar Masud attacked Raja Mahipal Tomar of Delhi with a strength of 100,000 men, he could surmount Delhi only because of re-enforcements from Ghazni. He then marched into the upper Doab where Raja Hari Dutt surrendered, reached Kannauj too surrendered. Masud used the wealth of Kannauj to make his base.
From there he crossed the River Ganga and arrived Satrikh, Bara Banki in the heart of Awadh. Satrikh was a flourishing sacred Hindu town, where Guru Vashisht had taught Shri Ram and Lakshman.
*Satrikh = Sapt Rishi.
Masud set his base in Satrikh and sent his men to conquer the surrounding country, Miyya Rajab and Salar Saifuddin to Bahraich which was across the Ghaggar river, Amir Hasan to Mahona, Malik Fazal to Kashi, Sayad Sahu to Karra and Manikpur. Azizuddin against Hardoi, but he fell in the battle at Gopamau .
Masud was marching towards Ayodhya when Salar Saifuddin was besieged at Bahraich, Masud turned back to renforce him and that set the stage for the final show. He established his camp at Bahraich and sent a word to the surrounding Hindu kings to surrender and embrace Islam.
In Bahraich, Masud encountered the Sooraj Kund & the Pratima of Bala Rikh, in the Ashram of Rishi Balak. The Kund had miraculous powers to heal skin diseases and leprosy. Bahraich gets its name from, Bala = Sun & Rich= Rishi. Hindus gathering at the Sooraj Kund and worshiping Baladev bothered Masud so much that he wanted to build a mosque over it.
Raja Suheldev, a disciple of Balak Rishi, was the eldest son of Raja Mangal Dhwaj/ Mordhwaj of Sharavasti. Sharavasti derives its name from the king Shravasta, it was also called Champakpuri and Chandrikapuri, Kalidasa called it Sravasti.
Suheldev sent an ultimatum to Masud that he either vacate the Hindu land peacefully or face the sword. To which Masud replied that all land belonged to Allah, he could settle wherever he pleased. He added that it was his duty to convert to Islam all those who did not recognize his Khuda.
Multiple skirmishes and battles took place between Masud with combined forces of one or few Rais/ chieftain at a time. The regions of Barabanki, Bahraich, Lakshimpur, Sitapur, Lucknow, Unnao, Faizabad, Sravasti, Gonda, were ruled by a federation of 21 Pasi & Bhar chieftains under Raja Suheldev.
After the initial battle of eight days, to dispel the Hindus from the spot, Masud dumped bodies of his dead men in the Suraj kund, on the banks of which he’d built a chabootara as his seat under a Mahua tree he had taken great fancy for.
After a calm of 2 months, Suhel Dev/ Sukhdev regrouped the Rais and changed the battle tactics making special preparations against cavalry and fireworks of Masud and sent him another message, warning him to vacate their land. Masud rejected it again.
On June 13 1033, Raja Sukhdev with active support of Raja Bhoj of Malwa, an allied army of seventeen Rais/ chieftains & about 120,000 soldiers, descended on Masud near Chittaura Jheel on the banks of Bhakla nadi, a tributary to Rapti nadi.
“The army of the enemy was innumerable, like mountains on every side, although numerous forces fought in the army of Islam, they were mown down like grass. Many of the greatest nobles met their death. From morning till evening namaz, two third were slain, leaving one third to mourn their los…”- Mirat-i-Masudi.
Salar Masud was able to repluse one attack. Suheldev attacked hime again with his reserve forces. Remnants of Masud’s army were cut down to the last man showing no mercy. His army collapsed when his commander Mir Nasrullah and a close relative of Salar Masud, Salar Miya Rajab were slain. Raja Suheldev shot an arrow at Salar Masud and beheaded him.
Abdur Rehman writes:
“Meanwhile, Rai Suhel Deo & Har Deo, with other chiefs who had kept their atroops in reserve, seeing the army of Islam reduced to nothing, unitedly attacked the bodyguards of Masud….it was 14th of the month of Rajab, year 424 A.H….an arrow pierced the main artery of the faithful..his sun like countenance became pale as the new moon.. the unbelievers drove his descendants from Ajmer, reestablished their idols and idolatry again regained over land of Hindustaan..”
This decisive defeat lead to a big pause in the Muslim conquest of Bharatvarsh, none dared to invade from 1033 to 1187 A.D.
Muslim chronicles too mention no further raids of Ghaznavides after the death of Masud.
Well versed in the history of that region, acharya Mali Bahadur details, the battle of Bahraich to Abdur Rahman Chishti, the author of Mirat-i-Masudi. Ferista & Mirat-e Masudi are the two main sources of information on Bahraich battle of Sukh Deo/ Suheldev and alliance against Salar Masud.
Suheldev constructed several water tanks in and around the Shravasti to commemorate his victory. Raha Suheldev’s valour can not be deemed as a myth, many powers based in Himalayan hills boast of humiliating defeats of Islamic invaders.
Firoz Shah Tughlaq built Masud’s tomb at the Ashram of Balak Rishi where Suryakund and the Sun Temple was. An Urs is held every year at the grave of the invader, ‘Ghazi Mian Masud’ who is hailed a Peer who fought against the oppression of the evil King Suheldev. They call him Aftab-i Shahadat meaning, Sun of Martyrdom who is buried under the same Mahua tree with his his head supposedly still resting on the the Soorya Pratima!
The Soorya kund has been renamed Hoz Shamshi.
Even today the gates of the Masud’s Dargah are closed with an iron chain, of ‘magical powers’ when a strong wind blows, so that the evil spirit of Suheldev can’t enter to torment Ghazi Miyan and his murids.
Salar Miya Rajab’s tomb is located at Shahpur Jot Yusuf village, 3 km east of Bahraich and he is known as Hathila Pir. A total number of 40 tombs are said to be in there and around Bahraich.
The gallantry of the Hindu soldiers who lost their lives in this victory is forgotten and Raja Suheldev is used as a bait in the political campaigns to garner votes!
Tulsidas refers to people visiting Masud’s tomb writes:
लही आँखि कब आँधरे बाँझ पूत कब ल्याइ ।
कब कोढ़ी काया लही जग बहराइच जाइ ॥
Like a blind can not regain his sight,
Like a barren woman can’t bear son,
Like a leper can not be cured completely and get his beauty back,
So do, the people visit Baharaich…