Nadir Shah

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Nadir Shah also known as Tahmasp Qoli Khan was born on October 22, 1688. He ruled as shah of Iran from 1736 to 47 and was the founder of the short-lived Afsharid dynasty. He created a great Iranian Empire with boundaries from the Indus River to the Caucasus Mountains (north) and India (east). He was born in the Dastgerd region of Khorasan, a province of Iran. His father was a poor peasant, who died while Nadir was still a child. Nadir Shah and his mother were carried off as slaves of Uzbeg tribesmen, but Nadir managed to escape. He joined a band of brigands while still a boy and eventually advanced to become their leader. Later he found refuge with the Turkish Afshar tribe, where, under the patronage of Afshar chieftains, he rose through the ranks to become a powerful military leader. Soon he became close to the Safavid ruler Tahmasp II. In 1736 with self-confidence, Nadir felt that he no longer needed to hide behind a nominal Safavid Shah. So after dismissing Safavid Shah, he ascended the throne himself.

The Afghans had invaded Iran several times, and to avenge these raids, Nadir Shah advanced upon Ghazni and then Kabul, both of which were occupied in May 1738. The Governor Nasir Khan was then in Peshawar. As Nadir Shah rode out towards the Khyber Pass in November 1738, Nasir tried to block his passage with a force of 20,000 ill-trained Afghans, who were just no match for the fierce Khurasani horsemen. By December 1738, Nadir Shah had crossed the river Indus, and the lush plains of the Punjab stretched before him, literally beckoning him on. Zakaria Khan had made frantic requests for aid from Delhi but in vain. When he himself came out to block the invaders at the banks of the river Ravi, his army was just brushed aside in January 1739.

Nadir Shah was an able general and a wise administrator but insane criminal. His band of soldiers was more like freebooters, rapists and looters. He inflicted atrocities on Punjabi Muslims and Hindus alike. He accepted a gift of two million rupees and retained Zakaria Khan as his governor at Lahore. He took as hostages a son of Zakaria and a son of the minister Lakhpat Rai, and thus became secure against revolt and proceeded towards Delhi. As his whole army was on horseback, his advance was rapid. Leaving Lahore on the 26th January, he reached Sirhind on 1st February, Ambala on the 7th, and Karnal on the 12th Fehruary. The Delhi army had been already alerted and the generals dragged their feet in moving out of Delhi. Every fresh report of Nadir’s advance struck terror into them. They took two months to move their large army and their heavy guns up to Karnal, a distance of 75 miles. Here, they decided to give battle. They heavily outnumbered the attackers, but had no discipline and hardly any heart for a fight. On the 13th February 1739, within three hours they had lost, over 20,000 killed or wounded, and the rest just scattered in all directions.

Nadir Shah entered Delhi as a victor on 9th March 1739. He demanded 2.5 million Rupees as retribution, but the Rangila Emperor had nothing to pay from his government treasury. He killed 30,000 of its citizens in some misunderstanding and plundered the Indian treasures of the Mughal Emperors, taking with him the famous jewel-encrusted Peacock Throne and the Koh-i Noor diamond. Nadir’s soldiers also took with them thousands of elephants, horses and camels, loaded with the booty they had collected. The plunder seized from India was so rich that Nadir stopped taxation in Iran for a period of three years, following his triumphant return.

Nadir continued his conquests and annexations. In 1740 Nadir had Tahmasp II and his two infant sons put to death. Then he invaded Transoxania. He resumed war with Turkey in 1743. In addition, he built a navy and conquered Oman. He was Persia’s most gifted military genius and is known as “The Second Alexander” and “The Napoleon of Persia”. He raised his country from the lowest depths of degradation to the proud position of the foremost military power in Asia. Unfortunately, his triumphs were at the expense of incalculable suffering and terrible loss of life of thousands of innocent people. After his death in June 1747, Afsharid dynasty fell victim to intrigues and power struggle, which resulted in chaos and anarchy. Later Ahmed Shah Abdali who had worked under Nadir Shah founded Durrani Empire.

This article was last updated on Wednesday, Jan 04, 2006