He was also a lover of arts. Lanepoole has written about him, “Mahmood was not crude. He seldom indulged in wanton slaughter, and when a treaty of peace had been concluded, the Raja and his friends were set free.” S. M. Jaffar observes, “He was an ideal soldier.”
Dr. Ishwari Prasad has also remarked, “Mahmood was stern and implacable in administrative justice and was always ready to protect the person and property of his subjects.”- Whereas his critics have remarked about him, To the Indian world of his day, Mahmood was a veritable devil incarnate —a daring bandit, an avaricious plunderer and a wanton destroyer of art …a conqueror who leaves behind desolate towns and villages and dead bodies of innocent human beings, cannot be remembered by posterity by any other title. Weighing the pros, and cons of his character and personality in the light of his works, we shall reevaluate him under the following headings.
As a Man:
Mahmood did not possess an attractive personality. He was not a man of good height but had broad shoulders and robust health. He was conscious of his ugliness as he had marks of smallpox on his face. Once he said to one of his officers. “The sight of a king should brighten the eyes of the beholder but Nature has been so unkind to me that my appearance is positively forbidding.” But he was a very bold man full of zest and courage. He invaded India again and attained victories.
He was a religious-minded person and had profound faith in Islam. Though scholars have depicted him as a cruel and callous ruler on account of his barbarous acts in India, yet in fact he was not so. S. R. Sharma has written about him that he was not a barbarian, in spite of his barbarious acts. For he performed many acts’ of charity in Ghazni and built many buildings.
Mahmood was a greedy person and his greed for gold motivated him to invade India a number of times. Owing to his excessive greed Havell has remarked, “He would have sacked Baghdad with as little compunction as he plundered Somnath, if the undertaking had seemed as profitable and as easy, for he did not hesitate to threaten the Khalifa with death when the latter refused to give him Samarkand.”
As a General:
Mahmood was a brave and courageous soldier. He was a worthy general too. He successfully invaded Central Asia and India and was seldom defeated. Lanepoole has remarked, “He was a great soldier, a man of infinite courage and indefatigable energy of mind and body.”
People of different castes and creeds were recruited in his army but he exercised effective control over them due to his fine qualities of a successful commander. He never lost temper even in adverse circumstances’, and attained victories by dint of his courage.
He was on the verge of defeat against Anandpal, Baji Rao and the ruler of Kalinjar but he ultimately stood victorious by injecting vigour and enthusiasm into his soldiers. He always made proper use of his resources. He had an efficient spy system which always kept him well informed and his expertise in the art of warfare defeated his enemies.
As A Great Empire Builder:
Mahmood waged various wars and extended his territory quite far from Ghazni. Famous historian Gibbon has counted him among the great emperors of the world. His empire can be compared with that of Alexander and Nepoleon the Great. Besides being a victor, he was a great empire builder.
Sir Wolseley Haig has remarked about his success, “Mahmood is one of the most prominent figures in the history of Islam. During the reign of thirty-two years, he extended his empire over the whole of the country now known as Afghanistan, the greater part of Persia and Transoxiana and the Punjab.”
As a Lover of Justice:
Mahmood was a lover of justice. He was quite stern in doing justice and adopted a complete impartial attitude at the time of dispensing justice. He was impartial even against his own kith and kin and awarded severe punishments to them in case they were found guilty. He got the head of his nephew chopped off for having illicit relations with a lady. But his attitude towards Hindus was quite narrow and he did not dispense impartial justice to them.
As a Patron of Arts and Literature:
Mahmood Ghaznavi was fond of Arts and literature and he awarded liberal patronage to all artisans and men of letters. Various scholars of Central Asia adorned his court. He was very fond of listening to poetry and often saved time to satisfy his thirst for it even during wars.
Scholars like Al Beruni, Firdausi, Ansari and Farrukhi were the precious gems of his court. Tahqiq-i-Hind, Shahnama and ‘Tarikh-i-Sabuktagin, were the finest speciment of history and literature during his times. Dr. A. L. Srivastava has remarked, “Mahmood was a cultured patron of scholarship and art. He had himself some skill as a poet and a scholar. Mahmood founded a University at Ghazni. He also collected brilliant artists from all parts of the Muslim word.”
Besides the virtues mentioned above, there were several shortcomings in the character of Mahmood Ghaznavi. He was not a worthy administrator. The empire founded by him lasted only up to his life time.
The greatest weakness of his character was that he was a fanatic He was a staunch follower of Sunni religion and he oppressed the infidels as well as non-Sunni Muslims. Besides plunder, his aim was to convert the people to the fold of Islam.
He inflicted severe punishments on those who did not embrace Islam and burnt down several villages and colonies and destroyed specimens of arts for this purpose. Nehru has written about him, “Mahmood was far more a warrior than a man of faith and like many other conquerors he used and exploited the name of religion for his conquests. India was to him just a place from which he could carry off treasure and materials to his home land.”
Professor Muhamood Habib has also condemned him in these words, “No honest historian should seek to hide and Musalmans acquainted with his faith will try to justify the wanton destruction of temples that followed in the wake of Ghaznavide army the preachings of Quran were misinterpreted.”
Historians hold different opinions regarding the effects of the invasions of Mahmood on India. Some are of the opinion that he invaded India like a storm and destroyed whatever came in his contact but after the storm had passed, the things were set right. The ruined temples and destroyed idols of the gods and goddesses were rebuilt and soon people forgot about Mahmood and his invasion.
But others are of the view that it was not so. On the other hand, the marks on the economic and military strength of the Indians were so deep that, they could not be removed in spite of the best efforts for years to come Owing to constant victories of Mahmood, the people of India began to feel that the armies of Ghazni were invincible and it paved the way for further invasions by the Muslims Dr. D, C. Ganguly has very aptly remarked, “The inclusion o? Punjab and Afghanistan in the kingdom of Ghazni made the Islamic conquest of India, a comparatively easy process. It was no longer a question of whether, but when, that mighty flood would overwhelm the country as a whole.”
To sum up, we may say that Mahmood Ghaznavi was a man of double-faced personality. He was brave, just and an efficient Commander but at the same time he was a plunderer, a fanatic and a greedy fellow. S. R Sharma has written, “The ruthless despoiler of temples in India was also the paragon of cultured monarchs among his own people at home.” Really, he was destroyer and builder at the same time.