Somnath temple | Commons
Somnath temple | Commons
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New Delhi: In a provocative move, Taliban leader Anas Haqqani visited the tomb of Turkic ruler Mahmud Ghaznavi in Afghanistan Tuesday and referred to him as a “Muslim warrior” who “smashed the idol of Somnath”.

“Today, we visited the shrine of Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, a renowned Muslim warrior & Mujahid of the 10th century. Ghaznavi (May the mercy of Allah be upon him) established a strong Muslim rule in the region from Ghazni & smashed the idol of Somnath,” tweeted the Taliban leader.

Haqqani also shared pictures of him and other armed Taliban fighters visiting the tomb and paying their respects.

Mahmud Ghaznavi was the first ruler of the Ghaznavid dynasty (977–1186 AD) who ruled over large parts of Iran, Afghanistan and areas that are part of  northwest India today. He invaded Indian territories multiple times and famously attacked the iconic Somnath Temple in Gujarat and destroyed the idol.

Who is Anas Haqqani? 

Anas Haqqani is the youngest son of Afghan military commander Jalaluddin Haqqani who founded the Haqqani Network and fought both the Soviet Union and the US in Afghanistan during the Cold War period. He is the brother of Taliban’s new Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani and helps operate the Islamist militant group Haqqani Network.

In November 2019, he was one of three Taliban leaders released by the Ashraf Ghani-led Afghanistan government as part of a prisoner swap involving two Western hostages. Later, he served as a key member of the Taliban’s negotiation team in its political office in Doha, Qatar.

Though the Taliban and the Haqqani Network are separate entities, the induction of senior Haqqani members like Sirajuddin into the new Taliban cabinet has highlighted the groups’ growing closeness since the 1990s.

Mahmud Ghaznavi’s raid, other attacks on Somnath temple

Several historians like A. L. Basham,  Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, W.W. Hunter, Stanley Lane-Poole, Romila Thapar, Sidney Owen and Mohammad Habib have written about Mahmud Ghaznavi’s raid on the Somnath temple in 1026 AD. Most theories suggest the Turkic ruler was attracted to the wealth in India.

“Mahmud’s 1026 raid on Somnath alone brought on twenty million dinars worth of spoil,” wrote historian Richard M. Eaton in a research paper in 2000 titled ‘Temple Desecration in Pre-modern India’.

Mahmud Ghaznavi is the son of the founder of the Ghaznavid dynasty, Sabuktigin, who defeated the Hindu Shahi raja who controlled the territory between Kabul and northwest Punjab in 986 AD.

Eaton further explains that Ghaznavid rulers frequently raided and looted Indian cities, especially temples which had “movable” wealth, to finance their larger imperial goals.

After Mahmud’s raid, the Somnath temple was rebuilt by Hindu rulers, according to an archaeological report submitted in 1950 by B.K. Thapar. However, it was attacked multiple times in the decades following, by various warriors such as Alaf Khan, a general of the Khilji rulers in Delhi, and Mughal ruler Aurangzeb.

Rebuilding Somnath temple

After independence, Deputy PM Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel on 13 November 1947 promised to rebuild the temple which was in ruins. The rebuilt temple was inaugurated on 11 May 1950 by the then President Rajendra Prasad.

“Hindu sentiment in regard to this temple is both strong and widespread,” notes Hilal Ahmed, associate professor at the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) in Delhi.

K.M. Munshi, a politician and activist, majorly contributed to the rebuilding of the Somnath temple.

In 1922, he wrote about the pain Indians felt about the destruction of the temple. “Desecrated, burnt and battered, it still stood firm – a monument of our humiliation, and ingratitude. I can scarcely describe the burning shame which I felt on that early morning as I walked on the broken floor of the once-hallowed sabha mandap, littered with broken pillars and scattered stones. Lizards slipped in and out of their holes and the sound of my unfamiliar steps, and Oh! The shame of it! – an inspector’s horse, tied there, neighed at my approach with sacrilegious impertinence.”


Also read: Taliban recognise Afghans’ goodwill towards India, want to tap into it: Ex-envoy Yogendra Kumar


 

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