Although the names of Timur, Genghis Khan, and Mahmud of Ghazni are well-known for the destruction they wrought in South and Central Asia, the name of the founder of the Afghan nation-state is relatively unknown to Westerners, though Ahmad Shah created an Afghan empire that, at its largest in the 176Os, extended from Central Asia to Delhi and from
Kashmir to the Arabian Sea. There have been greater conquerers in the region before and since Ahmad Shah, but never before his reign and rarely since has there been a ruler of this fragmented area capable not only of subduing the truculent Afghan tribes but also of pulling them together into a nation.
Ahmad Shah Durrani was bom in 1720 A.D. to Mohammad Zaman Khan Abdali and his wife, Zarghoona Alakozai. His grandfathers were Dawlat Khan and Sarmast Khan from the Abdali tribe, one of the two ruling tribes of Kandahar. The other one is Ghilzai. His birth place is believed to be Herat. Many Dunmis migrated there from Kandahar. Ahmad was the second son of the chief of the Sadozai, which although small was the most honored of the Abdali lineages. Along with his brother, he had risen in rebellion against Nadir Shah and had been jailed by the Ghilzai in Kandahar.
Ahmad Shah is buried in Kandahar from where his family and tribe originated. Before rising to power, Shah Hussain Hotak of the Ghilzi tribe was ruling the country.
Ahmad Shah began climbing to power in 1745 A.D. and established the modern Afghanistan kingdom. He ruled over cities in Iran, Pakistan, India and Russian Turkistan for about 26 years. Those were exciting years of politics, wars, and conquering. He died in 1771 A.D. at the age of 51.
Ahmad Shah and his brother, Zulfakar Khan, were jailed by Shah Hussain in Kandahar in 1738 A.D./149 A.H. At this time, Nader Afshar of Persia moved against Afghan King, with the help of other rival tribes. The Abdali Persians seized Kandahar after two years of struggle. He ended the Afghan government of the Hotaki's dynasty. Soon Persian Nader freed Ahmad Shah and his brother, Zulfakar Khan, from jail. Nader had plans for the two brothers hoping they would be instrumental in the future military advances of Iranians in Afghanistan.
Nader's admiration continued to grow for the talented Afghan brothers. He bestowed gifts and special favors on them. In a short time Ahmad Shah was promoted to the rank of general and became head of an Afghan Abdali regiment serving in Nader's army. Ahmad Shah was all this time with the Persian Nader, almost six years under his direct supervision and close company. Historians state that one time Nader personally told Ahmad Shah, ..."that after me you will make a great ruler."
Some historians report that Nader Afshar caused numerous killings, a bloodshed, and ruined the culture and resources of Afghanistan to such a degree that no one could forget these cruel actions. The only benefit Ahmad Shah gained from Nader Afshar was his military training and administrative experience.
According to Iranian historian Jehan Kushayi Naderi, Nader Afshar became mentally ill because of his cruel activities and bloodshed. With the stress and confusion he could not trust anyone around him. He became crueler and started killing his generals and/or chiefs of his tribes (Afsharis and Kizilbashis). People around him were troubled by his fearful state of mind.
Finally, Nader Buelli, his brother, along with the aid of many others plotted a coupe against him. The plan succeeded and Nader Afshar was murdered at night when Afghan Ahmad Shah was not around. His body was found at dawn in the Army Courtyard in Fatheh Abad near Mashhad. Thus, the powerful empire of Persia was ended.
As soon as Ahmad Shah found the report he safeguarded Nader's family and children, so nobody would harm or disgrace any member of the Royal family. In appreciation of this valued service and honesty, Nader's wife offered Ahmad Shah the famous and most significant Kohi Noor (meaning "mountain of light") diamond which is now in the possession of the British Royal family.
Immediately, Ahmad Shah and his soldiers retreated to Kandahar, his homeland. He contacted all the tribes to foster national unity and to choose a head of the state as soon as possible. After hard campaigning against rivals he called for the formation of the traditional Afghan National Loya Jirga (Grand National Assembly). For nine days serious discussions were held among the candidates in the Argah. Ahmad Shah kept silent by not campaigning for himself. At last Sabir Shah, a religious chief, came out of his sanctuary and stood before those in the Jirga and said: He found no one worthy for leadership except Ahmad Shah. He is the most trustworthy and talented for the job. He had Sabir's blessing for the nomination because only his shoulders could carry this responsibility. The leaders agreed unanimously. Ahmad Shah emerged supreme, gaining the king title of Dur-i-Durran (Pearl of Pearls).
In 1747 A.D./160 A.H., a true nation consisting of all the clans was established for the first time and was called Afghanistan. Ahmad Shah's tribal title Abdali was changed to the Durrani and was named Baba, Father of the Nation. His political fortune rose and rose. He extended his power to India in the East, to Iran in the West and toward the North to the Axes River. Since his youth, Ahmad Shah desired a permanent, independent, united and strong Afghanistan that would be prepared for national progress and not disturbed by its neighbors.
In 1748 A.D., Ahmad Shah Baba entrusted his nephew, Mohammad Loqman Khan, in Kandahar. He and General Sardar Jehan Khan traveled to Ghazni, Kabul, Jalalabad and Peshawar. These cities fell to his rule without resistance. Governor Naser Khan, who was ruling in these areas, escaped to Lahore, India. He had proclaimed himself in the region since Nader Afshar was murdered in Iran. Ahmad Shah encouraged the residents of Peshawar to join the consolidation of the Afghan Empire and assist their brothers in conquering India where Muslim brothers were being suppressed by the Moghul rulers. The wise invitation was jointly accepted by those people. Ahmah Shah extended his trip to Lahore. Crossing the Indus he seized Attock and its surrounding areas. The governor of Punjab, Shah Nawaz Khan fled toward Delhi but was followed by Ahmad Shah. The Afghan ruler faced the 1,000,000 armies of Moghul led by General Mir Menu at Manpur on the Siltig River. The severe fight resulted in heavy losses on both sides. Finally, Ahmad Shah accepted the peace proposed by the Delhi rider. He retreated to Kandahar to strengthen his army. There he jailed his untrustworthy nephew who claimed independence in the absence of the king.
In 1162 A.H., Ahmad Shah made a second trip with his fresh army to meet Mir Manu in Punjab. This time the Governor of Punjab chose not to fight. He submitted to Afghan power asking for peace. He accepted payment of Rs. 140,000 in cash and was to send annually specified taxes to Kandahar, Afghanistan. To save his kingdom the Moghul king in Delhi ceded all territories west of the Indus River to the Afghan emperor. On his return Alunad Shah reappointed Mir Menu as Governor of Punjab.
Arriving home in Kandahar, Ahmad Shah discovered another plot against him. This time Noor Mohammad Khan Sulemankhel, one of the unsuccessful candidates of Shir Surklfs s Loya Jirgah had claimed leadership over Kandahar. Noor Mohammad along with a few of his assistants such as Kado Khan, Mohabat, Osman and others were deposed and killed. On his way from Punjab to Kandahar, Ahmad Shah was asked by the local leaders to accept the leadership of the Pashtuns tribes at Dera Ghazi Khan, Dera Ismail Khan, and Brahui of Kalat. These areas were thus joined with Afghan territories.
In 1163 A.H., Ahmad Shah moved with 25,000 soldiers to free Herat from the Persian rule. Here Amir Alam Khan, a local Arab, was governing the city for Shah Rukh, ruler of Khurasan. Herat was reinforced and supported by Persians against the Afghan take over. After nine months of siege, Ahmad Shah directly engaged in a bitter and bloody battle until the city fell into Afghan hands. Amir Alain Khan escaped to Mashhad. Ahmad Shah appointed Darwish Ali Khan Hazara as the governor of Herat. The Afghan king then proceeded to Mashhad, the capital of Shah Rukh, who was now helped by Amir Alam Khan, in controlling his territory. Ahmad Shah defeated both of them. The latter was killed in the fight outside the city. Ahmad Shah pardoned Shah Rukh because of his recent blindness and his strong youth's impression. He was also reappointed as the ruler of Mashhad. The Afghan king then reappointed as the ruler of Mashhad. The Afghan king then proceeded to Nishapur but retreated to Kandahar because of the severe winter and to strengthen his army.
On his way back to Herat, Ahmad Shah delegated his Chief Minister, Shah Wali Khan, with an armed force of 10,000 to regain and organize Northern Afghanistan. Shah Wali Khan successfully accomplished the mission. He attached all cities to the new kingdom of Ahmad Shah, further unifying Afghanistan. The north included Marva, Maimana, Andkhuoi, Shiberghan, Balkh, Tashkurghan, Aibak, Bamiyan, Hazarajath, Kunduz, Kataghan, Badakhshan, Khana Abad and Asterabad. New administrators and controllers were installed to work for Ahmad Shah. The Afghan king also left General Sardar Jehan Khan in Herat with 5,000 soldiers to discourage any uprising by Persian forces in the occupied areas of Herat.
Early in 1751 A.D./164 A.H., Ahmad Shah rode to Nishapur for the second time attacking the city with heavy artillery. The shots were fired from a 500 pound cannon. The shots scared the people of Nishapur who submitted to Ahmad Shah easily.
On returning to his home Ahmad Shah had to show his force again to Shah Rukh who had forgotten his pardoning favors. In this show of force Shah Rukh was defeated. Ahmad Shah again exercised his generosity by reappointing the blind Shah Rukh as ruler of Khurasan. The only agreement was that Khurasan would be consolidated and considered part of the Afghan kingdom.
While Ahmad Shah was busy fighting in Persia and consolidating Northern Afghanistan, Mir Menu used the opportunity to negotiate, with Moghul in Delhi, support against the Afghans. Then he refused to pay taxes to the Afghan ruler in Kandahar. For this reason and for the third time Ahmad Shah Durrani invaded India in 1751 A.D./165 A.H. The attack was carried out with great strength and Mir Manu was defeated with great losses. Because of Ahmad Shah’s victories, the Indian government in Delhi feared his strength. However, Ahmad Shah did not continue invading due to the summer heat. Instead he sent an Afghan mission to integrate Kashmir into the Afghan empire.
In 1753 A.D./167 A.H., Mir Menu died. He was replaced by his three-year-old son. In fact, his mother, Moghulani Begum, controlled the administration and politics. She was strong willed and sexually promiscuous. Her lack of character and wisdom fostered civil disorder, power seeking and anarchy. She strengthened her ties with the Delhi government by marrying her daughter to Waziruddin, a powerful chief minister in Delhi. She broke ties with the Afghan government and ignored her husband's commitment to the Afghans. For the fourth time Ahmad Shah invaded India. He captured Lahore and entered into Delhi in 1757 A.D./I 170 A.H As usual Ahmad Shah allowed the Moghul Emperor Alamgir H (installed in 1754 A. D. ) to remain in power. In return he accepted the Afghan government in Kashmir, Punjab, and Sindh. Ahmad Shah sent another army to fight and subdue strong Mahrattas and Jets. His army reached as far as Agra with success. He also appointed his son, Timur Shah, to rule over Lahore and its surrounding territories.
During this trip Ahmad Shah also arranged to marry a daughter of Alamgir 11 to his son, Timur Shah. The Indian emperor gave Timur Shah the City of Sirhind as a wedding gift (dowry). Ahmad Shah left Delhi satisfied with the successes and pleasure of India. Being bored, homesick, and not able to tolerate the summer heat and cholera in Delhi, Ahmad Shah Baba returned to his home in Kandahar. At this time he wrote a poem illustrating his love and devotion to his country:
Bloody chests are full of land-love-affair Youths sacrifice heads, and call it only fair.
Relief comes to me when I come to you Anxiety snakes in my heart when I am far from-you.
No matter the increase in lands I capture It's the beauty of your gardens I'll never forget.
Discard I the magnificent throne of Delhi When I remember the summits of Afghan mountains.
The legacy of Hamid and Farid times returns When I run victorious all around.
Ahmad Shah will not forget your legacy Even if he conquers the world in whole.
If the universe comes into either hand I'll prefer your bare and naked deserts.
Timur Shah didn't rule Punjab or the cities in Northern India. The Sikhs launched a revolt in Amritsar. It was toppled by the great Afghan General Sardar Jahan Khan. Then the Mahrattas and Hindus under Raghunath Rao fought agamst the Afghans in Lahore in April 1758 A.D./I 171 A.H..The Afghans got out and waited for another chance. Adina Beg stayed as Governor of Lahore.
At this time, Nasir Khan of Brahui-Baluch in Kalat, disobeyed and broke his loyalty to Ahmad Shah, probably due to Persian or Moguls provocation. Ahmad Shah met Nasir Khan for the second time. He used diplomacy rather than power in handling the Baluch ruler. Ahmad Shah authorized Nasir Khan to keep the local ruling and was asked in return to support the Afghans in their wars, and also to not take sides with the Afghan enemies. The diplomacy worked as Nasir Khan delightfully agreed and did swear loyalty to Ahmad Shah Durrani.
For the fifth time, Ahmad Shah invaded India, October 1756 A.D., recapturing Punjab. He fought Mahrattas in many areas. His most famous and courageous battle was noted at Panipat, January 14, 1761 A.D./174 A.H., where Mahratta, Hindu and Sikh forces were destroyed. Again Delhi was conquered at the traditional Pampat Battleground by the hands of Ahmad Shah Durrani. Historians believe this serious Afghan victory in Panipat opened the door for Britain!s future occupation of India.
Ahmad Shah Durrani helped Shah Alam II, son of Alamgir , to stabilize and rule India after he left the country for his own land. Ahmad Shah even sent Royal Orders (Farmans) to most Indian provinces and to British Robert Cline in Calcutta to recognize the rightful government under Alam Il. The Farmans received positive responses. Ahmad Shah Durrani left Delhi for Kandahar in the spring of 1761 A.D./I 174 A.H For the sixth time, in February 1762 A.D./175 A.H., Ahmad Shah made his excursion to India for the purpose of putting Sikhs under control. It took two Years for the residents to take Punjab and reestablish their own government. Ahmad Shah Durrani learned the news of the Sikhs' freedom. He came to India for the seventh time in October 1764 A,D./178 A.H., and recaptured Lahore. After sometime, the Sikhs started guerilla style attacks against the Afghan army when the caravans were returning home to Kandahar. Ahmad Shah Durrani for the eighth time returned to India to subdue the Sikhs in 1766-67 A.D./1180-81A.H. He occupied Lahore easily. This time he pressed the City of Amritsar destroying places and subjugated the people. At this time Britain backed Indians in Bengal. Because of summer heat and some problems at home, Ahmad Shah decided to return to Kandahar and delay activities in India.
In 1769 A.D./183 A.H., Ahmad Shah Durrani rode to India for the final two tries of preventing Sikh revolts and uprisings. This time he did not succeed due to his illness. He suddenly developed cancer of the face which forced him to look for his recovery. Some have called the malady an uIcer. None-the-less, it deformed his nose; the great man wore an artificial silver nose. The rumor of his bad health spread around the empire and people began to turn against him. In the East, the Sikhs weakened the Afghan empire with the usual uprisings. In the North, instability reigned in some cities. They proclaimed freedom. The Amir of Bukhara claimed some other regions. Ahmad Shah reached Bukhara but preferred not to fight against his Moslem brothers to avoid killings. The Amir of Bukhara accepted the terms of peace that the Amu Darya(River) will be recognized as a boundary dividing the land of Ahmad Shah and Bukhara. The Amir of Bukhara (Murad Beg) in consideration of good faith presented to Ahmad Shah Durrani the highest and most religious Kherka-e-Mubarak, the clock wore by the Prophet Mohammad (PBUH). Excited and delighted Ahmad Shah Durrani brought the Kherka-e- Mubarak to Kandahar with special honor and ceremonies. To house the grandiose gift, the king constructed an artistic building near the Royal Court. It is adjacent to a huge beautiful mosque. The mosque and Kherka-e-Mubarak both still exist in splendor- Every day, large number of people go there to pray. The Persians in Mashhad forgot the glory of the Afghan empire. Nasrullah Mirza, son of Shah Rukh, with the assistance of Zards in Shiraz and the Kurds claimed independence. Ahmad Shah Durrani with his iron fist moved to Khurasan in 1769/70 A.D./I 183 A-H..Mashhad was besieged. This could be counted as the final victorious triumph of the Afghan ruler. Ahmad Shah Durrani was always kind to blind Shah Rukh. So, Shah Rukh was again reappointed as ruler of Khurasan. To prove his loyalty in return of this favor Shah Rukh, gave his daughter in marriage to Timor Shah, the second son of Ahmad Shah Durrani. As Ahmad Shah Durrani's final days of life were soon approaching, he designated Timor Shah Durrani as his heir.
Then the Emperorwent to the Sulaiman Mountains near the east of Kandahar waiting in peace and agony. The cancer or ulcer increased in the upper part of his nose so much so that his words were not understood. In his final days, he had to be fed. Peace came upon him in October 1772 A.D./I 186 A.H. in Kandahar where he is buried in a prestigious mausoleum.
Reflections on Ahmad Shah Baba Durrani's Life
Ahmad Shah Durrani strictly believed in God and honored his instructions. He was knowledgeable in religion and The influence of Sufiism is evident in King Durrani's ambitions. He followed two great religious leaders, Shah Fuqurullah of Jalalabad City and Miya Mohammad Omar of Peshawar City. It is disclosed that some 17,500 followers of religious leader Miya Mohammad Omar Sufi aided Ahmad Shah's army in the famous Panipat battle near Delhi, India, bringing the distinguished Afghan victory.
Ahmad Shah Durrani firmly imposed Afghan ways and promoted Afghan family character. During his reign, building national unity was stressed to such a degree that tribal feuds gradually and steadily collapsed. His policies stressed equality and freedom for individuals was expanded. Friendship treaties were formulated with neighboring states based upon the principle that freedom is a natural right of all races.
As amoral grandeur, Ahmad Shah Durrani steadfastly supported the Afghan code of honor, customs and characters under the essence of Islam. The Afghan ruler accepted other cultures by inviting the right to coexist in the land of Afghans free of any discrimination. His only terms were that others should appreciate Afghans and be no threat to their independence.
Ahmad Shah was not only a heroic warrior but also an elegant and charming poet. His poetry and prose are classics with political, religious, humanitarian and national overtones. Ahmad Shah wrote tender, powerful, simple, and sensitive poetry. Like other oriental poets, his poetry speaks of grief, satire, bitterness, joy, reverence and humility. According to the Afghan historian and literary scholar, Prof Abdul Hai Habibi, Ahmad Shah wrote some 2,500 poems. Professor Habibi compiled the poems with strenuous effort and published the Dewan in 1319. The book is a monumental volume of magnificent poetry and prose Ahmad Shah wrote in his native mother tongue, Pashto.
Internationally known nineteenth-century philosopher, Sayed Jamaluddin Afghani writes in his famous book, Tatimmat al-bayan fi tarikh al-Afghan, (published in Arabic) that Ahmad Shah took great interest in all his tribes and considered them all for strengthening national unity. He gave equal attention to all of them. He formed a nine-member council that represented each tribe from around the country for the purpose of advising him in all affairs. The council was powerful and heard in all matters pertaining to the country and building and maintaining national unity.
Ahmad Shah was famous for being a just and fair leader. It is said that during his reign a lion and deer could live together and drink from the same well. During Ahmad Shah's reign there were administrative posts such as First Minister, Finance Minister, Controller, Tax and Revenue Minister, Chief Justice, Chief of Army, Minister of Defense, Interior Minister, ambassadors and others.
Historian Ghobar writes in Persian that Ahmad Shah Baba Durrani predominantly spent his life with sword, gun, battles and politics. His character and morals were supreme.
The public considered him a high religious personality. He advised his sons to treat criminals with respect and not to look down upon them. He taught his children not to bow their heads or backs during greetings. They were also encouraged to stay in contact with the learned and prominent.
English Colonel Milson writes that Ahmad Shah Durrani was constantly in contact with all his tribal people and their leaders. He sought their opinions in all national matters and followed Afghan traditions with keen interest. Milson witnesses that Ahmad Shah expressed to his nation, "I am your King. My duty is to keep you independent, preserve your pride and dignity, and to secure your prosperity and unity."
As a Poet
By blood, we are immersed in love of you.
The youth lose their heads for your sake.
I come to you and my heart finds rest.
Away from you, grief clings to my heart like a snake.
I forget the throne of Delhi
When I remember the mountain tops of my Pushtun land.
If I must choose between the world and you,
I shall not hesitate to claim your barren deserts as my own.
Ahmad Shah, the founder of the Durrani monarchy, rose from the mere character of a partisan, to a distinguished command in the service of the Persian conqueror; Nadir Shah. Of the family of the Saddozis, and chief of the tribe of Abdali, the most illustrious family of the Afghans, he was, in his youth, imprisoned in a fortress, with his elder brother Zulfakar Khan, by Husain Khan, governor of Kandahar for the Ghalzis, which powerful tribe of Afghans, after overrunning the whole of Persia, had, a few years previously, trodden the throne of the sufis in the dust, and conquered that mighty empire.
Ahmad Shah and his brother, whose tribe were at feud with the Ghalzis, owed their freedom to Nadir Shah who in the year A.D. 1736-37, laid siege to Kandahar, which he captured. The brothers, with a powerful body of their clansmen, followed the fortunes of the conqueror; and greatly distinguished themselves in the war with the Turks; and were rewarded with the lands now held by the Durrani tribe in the vicinity of Kandahar.
On the day subsequent to the murder of Nadir Shah, (the particulars of which, as belonging to Persian history, need not be here detailed, although one among the causes of it has been attributed to his attachment to the Afghan troops in his service) a battle ensued between the Persians on the one side, and the Afghans and Uzbaks on the other; but the event does not appear to have decided any thing. But after this affair; Ahmad Shah saw that no time was to be lost in looking to the safety of himself and clansmen, and he accordingly fought his way through the greater part of Khurasan with a small force of between 2000 and 3000 horsemen, and repaired, by rapid marches, to Kandahar, which had now become the head-quarters of the Abdali tribe, and chief city of south-western Afghanistan. Here he intercepted an immense treasure, which had been sent from India for the use of Nadir Shah, which Ahmad appropriated, after compelling the Durranis, who had first seized upon it, to give it up.
In October of the same year, Ahmad, then but twenty-three years old, assumed the title of Shah or King of Afghanistan, and was crowned at Kandahar; with great pomp, the different chiefs of the various Afghan tribes, with but few exceptions, and the Kazalbash, Balochis, and Hazaras, assisting; thus laying the foundation of the Durrani monarchy. And although the warlike and indepciident people, who now became his subjects, had never been accustomed to a sovereign’s yoke, save in being compelled to pay tribute to a foreign ruler; yet such were his energy and capacity for government, that he was successful in gaining the affection of his own tribe; and with the exception of the Ghalzis, ever a most turbulent and unruly sept, he succeeded in instilling among the other Afghan tribes a spirit of attachment to their native monarch; and also in others, not Afghans, but dwelling in Afghanistan. With the Baloch and Hazara tribes, his neighbours, he formed an offensive and defensive alliance.
Having first brought the refractory Ghalzis into subjection, Ahmad Shah began his conquests; and such was the uninterrupted tide of his success, that by the summer of 1751 he had conquered the whole of the countries, extending as far west as Nishapur in Persian Khursan. In 1752 he conquered Kashmir, and obtained from the Mughal Emperor of Hindustan, a cession of the whole of the tract of country as far east as Sirhind, thus laying the founda-tion of a kingdom, which soon became formidable to surrounding nations.
Ahmad Shah had now leisure to turn his attention to internal affairs, and to the settlement of Afghanistan and the newly-acquired provinces. He thus passed the next four years in tranquillity, and appears to have had time to devote himself to literature. He used to hold, at stated periods, what is termed a Majlis-i-Eeulama, or Assembly of the Learned, the early part of which was generally devoted to divinity and civil law-for Ahmad Shah himself was a Molawi and concluded with conversations on science and poetry. He wrote a Collection of Odes in Pushto his own native tongue, tinged, as usual, with the mysticisms of the sufis, and from that work the following specimens have been taken. The work is scarce, particularly in eastern Afghanistan. He was also the author of several poems in the Persian language.
In the year 1756 Ahmad Shah had again to buckle on the sword, and advance into the Panjab, which the Moghuls about this time attempted to recover; but he quickly regained all that had been lost; drove them out of the Panjab; and advanced straight upon Delhi, which he entered after but a faint opposition. His troops having become sickly, from passing the whole of the hot season in India, warned Ahmad Shah to return, which he did soon after, having compelled the Moghul Emperor to bestow the Panjab and Sindh upon his son Timur; who had already been married to a Mogbul princess. Ahmad Shah passed the next winter at Kandahar; but was obliged to set out soon after, for the purpose of quelling disturbances in Persia and Turkistan.
During the next year; matters had gone on badly in India; and Prince Timur was unable to stem the tide of Maharata conquest. which had now rolled upon the Panjab. The Maharatas had taken Sirhind, and were advancing from the west, which put Prince Timur under the necessity of retiring across the Indus with his troops. The Maharatas, being now unopposed, pushed on as far as the Hydaspes or Jhilum, and also detached a force to take possession of Multan.
These events happened in the summer of 1758; and Ahmad Shah was preparing to march into India, when he was detained by the rebellion of the Baluchis and although this matter was subsequently settled by negotiation, it was not until the winter of 1759 that he could cross the Indus and advance towards Hindustan, the Maharatas retreating before him towards Dilhi, with the intention of covering that city. After totally defeating them at Budli, Ahmad Shah again captured Dilhi. He afterwards pursued his conquests in the Do-ab; but subsequently encamped at a place near Anup-ahahr, where, being joined by the Wazir of Hindustan, with the few available troops of the Mughal Emperor; he prepared for passing the monsoon, or rainy season, and for the final struggle with the Maharatas, upon which the fate of India rested.
The strength of Ahmad Shah’s army consisted of 41,800 horse, his own subjects, on whom he chiefly relied; 28,000 Rohilahs- Afghans, who were descended from those tribes who had emigrated from Afghanistan at different periods, and settled in India and about 10,000 Hindustani troops, under their own chiefs. He had also 700 zamburaks, or camel swivels, small pieces carrying balls of about a pound weight, and a few pieces of artillery.
The Maharata army, under Wiswas Rao, and Saeddasheo Rao better known as the Bhow, consisted of about 70,000 horse, 15,000 infantry, trained after the European fashion, and 200 pieces of artillery, besides numberless shutturnalls, or zamburaks. At length, on the 7th of January 1761, after facing each other for some months, the Maharatas, who had been blockaded in their own intrenched camp at Panipat, a few miles from Dilhi, were, from the extremities to which they were put, for want of food and forage, under the necessity of attacking the Durrani army. The details of this great and important battle need not be enlarged on here: suffice it to say, that Ahmad Shah was completely successful. The Maharatas were entirely defeated and put to flight; and Wiwas Rao, the heir-apparent of the Maharata empire, and almost the whole of the army, perished in the flight or pursuit.
The crowning victory at Panipat, which was fatal to the power of the Maharata, laid Hindustan at the feet of Ahmad Shah; but he, seeing the difficulty of retaining so remote a dominion, adhered to the wise plan he had, from the first, carved out, and contented himself with that portion of India that had formerly been ceded to him, bestowing the rest on such native chiefs as had aided him in the struggle.
In the spring of 1761, Ahmad Shah, returned to Kabul; and from that period, up to the spring of 1773, was actively employed against foreign and domestic foes; but at that time his health, which had been long declining, continued to get worse, and prevented his engaging in any foreign expeditions. His complaint was a cancer in the face, which had afflicted him first in 1764, and at last occasioned his death. He died at Murghah, in Afghanistan, in the beginning of June 1773, in the fiftieth year of his age.
The countries under his dominion extended, at the time of his death, from the west of Khurasan, to Sirhind on the Jumna, and from the Oxus to the Indian Ocean, all either secured by treaty, or in actual possession.
The character of Ahmad Shah has been so admirably depicted by Mountstuart Elphinstone, that I shall not hesitate to give it here in full. "The character of Ahmad Shah appears to have been admirably suited to the situation in which he was placed. His enterprise and decision enabled him to profit by the confusion that followed the death of Nadir, and the prudence and moderation, which he acquired from his dealings with his own nation, were no less necessary to govern a warlike and independent people, than the bold and commanding turn of his own genius."
"His military courage and activity are spoken of with admiration, both by his own subjects, and the nations with whom he was engaged, either in wars or alliances. He seems to have been naturally disposed to mildness and clemency; and though it is impossible to acquire sovereign power; and perhaps, in Asia, to maintain it, without crimes; yet the memory of no Eastern Prince is stained with fewer acts of cruelty and injustice."
"In his personal character he seems to have been cheerful, affable, and good natured. He maintained considerable dignity on state occasions, but at other times his manners were plain and familiar; and with the Durranis he kept up the same equal and popular demeanour which was usual with their Khans or Chiefs before they assumed the title of King. He treated Mullahs and holy men with great respect, both from policy and inclination. He was himself a divine and an author, and was always ambitious of the character of a saint."
"His policy towards the different parts of his dominions was to rely principally on conciliation with the Afghans and Balochis with this difference between the nations, that he applied himself to the whole people in the first case, and only to the chief in the other. His possessions in Turkistan he kept under by force; but left the Tartar chiefs of the country unremoved, and used them with moderation. The Indian provinces were kept by force alone; and in Khurasan he trusted to the attachment of some chiefs, took hostages from others, and was ready to carry his arms against any who disturbed his plans."
The handsome tomb of Ahmad Shah stands near the palace at Kandahar. It is held in great estimation by the Durranis, and is respected as a sanctuary, no one venturing to touch one who has taken refuge there. It is not uncommon for persons of even the highest rank, to give up the world, and spend their lives at the monarch’s tomb; and certainly, if ever an Asiatic King deserved the gratitude of his country, it was Ahmad Shah, the “Pearl of the Durranis."
Ahmad Shah was the grandfather of the unfortunate Shah Shuja, whom the British re-seated on the throne of the Durranis in 1839, which affair terminated so unfortunately for all concerned.
Poetry of Ahmad Shah Durrani