Somanatha: The Many Voices of a History

Thu 02 March 2017 by Thejaswi Puthraya

The plunder of Somanatha by Mahmud of Ghazni was supposed to be a watershed moment in Indian history. It is usually summed up as the start of Islamic rule in India and the oppression of majority Hindus.

Romila Thapar investigates if that is the case. She concludes that is not the case and to do so she uses sources from both sides ie the Ghaznavid and local sources like from the Rashtrakutas, the priest family of Somanatha etc. Some of the reasons provided by her include that Islam was already co-existing with Hinduism for quite some time. The attack of Somanatha by the Mahmud of Ghazni was a one-off event and he had no plans of establishing a caliphate in India as claimed. One of the reasons he attacked Somanatha was to destroy the port (the temple being an afterthought) to protect horse export from his kingdom. A host of other reasons are provided and she exhorts the reader to view these events in the context of that particular age and not extrapolate them with later or current events.