The Shahi (Devanagari शाही) , Sahi , also called Shahiya dynasties ruled portions of the Kabul Valley (in eastern Afghanistan) and the old province of Gandhara (northern Pakistan and Kashmir) from the decline of the Kushan Empire in third century to the early ninth century . The kingdom was known as Kabul-shahan or Ratbel-shahan from (565 - 670 CE) when they had their capitals in Kapisa and Kabul, and later Udabhandapura (also known as Hund) for its new capital. In ancient time, the title Shahi appears to be a quite popular royal title in Afghanistan and north-western province of Indo-Pakistan Sub-continent. It has been used by Achaemenids , Sakas , Kushanas , Hunas , Bactrians , as also by the rulers of Kapisa/Kabul as well as of Gilgit etc. In Persian form, the title appears as Kshathiya, Kshathiya Kshathiyanam, -Shao of the Kushanas and the Ssaha of Mihirakula (Huna chief) . The Kushanas are stated to have adopted the title Shah-in-shahi ("Shaonano shao") in imitation of Achaemenid practice . Ancient Jaina work Kalakacarya-kathanaka says that the rulers of the Sakas who had invaded Ujjaini/Malwa in 62 BCE also wore the titles of Sahi and Sahnusahi . Since the title Shahi was used by the rulers of Kapisa/Kabul or Gandhara also in imitation of Kushana "Shao", it has been speculated by some writers that the Shahi dynasty of Kapisa/Kabul or Gandhara was a foreign dynasty and had descended from the Kushans or Turks (Turushkas). However, the title has been used by several rulers irrespective of any racial connotations and this may refute the above speculation. The Shahis of Kabul/Gandhara are generally split up into two eras -- the so-called Buddhist Turk-Shahis and the so-called Hindu-Shahis, with the change-over thought to have occurred sometime around 870 AD.
The affinities of the earlier Shahi rulers of Kapisa/Kabul who are believed to have probably ruled from early 5th century till 870 AD are still not clear. The confused accounts of 11th century Persian Muslim scholar Alberuni, ("which bear the impress of folklore for the early history of the Kabul Shahi rulers") state that:
Based on Alberuni's accounts, V. A. Smith speculates that the earlier Shahis were a cadet branch of the Kushanas who ruled both over Kabul and Gandhara until the rise of Saffarids. H. M. Elliot relates the early Kabul Shahis to the Kators and further connects the Kators with the Kushanas. Charles Fredrick Oldham also traces the Kabul Shahi lineage to the Kators-- whom he identifies with the Kathas or Takkhas-- Naga worshipping collective tribal groups of solar (Sun-worshiping) lineage. He further speaks of the Urasas, Abhisaras, Daradas, Gandharas and Kambojas etc as allied tribal groups of the Takkhas belonging to the Naga-worshipping and Sun-worshiping race of the north-west frontiers . D. B. Pandey traces the affinities of the early Kabul Shahis to the Hunas.
Bishan Singh and K. S. Dardi connect the Kabul Shahis to the ancient Ksatriya clans of the Kambojas/Gandharas. George Scott Robertson writes that the Kators/Katirs of Kafiristan belong to the well known Siyaposh tribal group of the Kams, Kamoz and Kamtoz tribes . Numerous scholars now also agree that the Siyaposh tribes of Hindukush are the modern representatives of the ancient Kambojas.
According to Olaf Caroe, the earlier Kabul Shahis in some sense were the inheritors of the Kushana-Hephthalite chancery tradition and had brought in more hinduised form with time. There does not yet exist in the upper Kabul valley any documentary evidence or any identifiable coinage which can establish the exact affinities of these early Shahis who ruled there during the first two Islamic centuries . Obviously, the affinities of the early Shahis of Kapisa/Kabul are still speculative, and the inheritance of the Kushan-Hephthalite chancery tradition and political institutions by Kabul Shahis do not necessarily connect them to the preceding dynasty i.e. the Kushanas or Hephthalites.
It appears that from start of 5th century till 793-94 AD, the capital of the Kabul Shahis was Kapisa. In the wake of Muslim invasions of Kabul and Kapisa in second half of seventh century (664 AD), the Kapisa/Kabul ruler called by Muslim writers as Kabul Shah (Shahi of Kabul) made an appeal to the Ksatriyas of the Hind who had gathered there in large numbers for his assistance and drove out the Muslim invaders as far as Bost . This king of Kapisa/Kabul who faced the Muslim invasion was undoubtedly a Ksatriya .
In subsequent years, the Muslim armies returned with large reinforcements and Kabul was swept when the Shahi ruler agreed to pay tribute to the conquerors. For strategical reasons, the Shahis, who continued to offer stubborn resistance to Muhammadan on-slaughts finally moved their capital from Kapisa to Kabul in about 794 AD. The fact that Chinese pilgrim Hieun Tsang (644 AD) specifically addresses the ruler of Kapisa as Ksatriya and that of Zabul at this time being known as Shahi , casts serious doubt about the speculated connections of the first Shahis of Kabul/Kapisa to the Kushanas or the Hephthalites. Neither the Kushanas nor the Hunas/Hephthalites nor the Turks (or Turushakas) have ever been designated or classified as Ksatriyas in any ancient Indian tradition.
Therefore, the identification of the first line of Shahi kings of Kapisa/Kabul with the Kushanas, Hunas or Turks obviously seems to be in gross error . Once the political clout of the invaders like the Kushanas or the Hephthalites had declined, some native chieftain from the original dominant clans of this region seeems to have attained ascendancy in political power and established an independent kingdom on the ruins of the Kushanas and/or the Hephthalites empire .
The powerful evidence from Hiuen Tsang (644 AD) attesting that the ruler of Kabul/Kapisa was a devout Buddhist and belonged to Ksatriya caste would rather connect this ruling dynasty either to the erstwhile Gandharas or more probably to Ashvaka clan of the Kambojas, the eminent Ksatriya clan of the Mauryan times from this very region .
Song Yun, the Chinese Ambassador to the Huna kingdom of Gandhara, in 520 AD writes that the Yethas (Hephthalites) had invaded Gandhara two generations prior to him and had completely destroyed this country. The then Yetha ruler was extremely cruel, vindictive and Anti-Buddhist and had engaged in a three years border war with the king of Ki-pin (Cophene or Kapisa), disputing the boundaries of that country . The Yetha king referred to by Song Yun may have been Mihirakula (515 - 540/547AD) or his governor. This evidence also proves that the Kapisa kingdom was well-established prior to the Huna/Hephthalite invasion of Gandhara (~477 AD) and that it did not submit to the Yethas but had survived and continued to maintain its independence.
It is also a known fact of history that from second century BCE onwards (much prior to the Huna ascendancy), the Tukharas had settled in considerable numbers in the ancient Kamboja land and thus the culture of the Kambojas undoubtedly underwent some changes and due to the interaction of two cultures, the Kambojas of Kapisa were also substantially influenced by Tukharas who remained quite for a time the ruling power in this region.
This fact is also verified by Hiuen Tsang who records that the literature, customary rules, and currency of Bamiyan were same as those of Tukhara; the spoken language is little different and in personal appearance the people closely resembled those of the Tukhara country. On the other hand, the literature and written language of Kapisa (=Kamboja) was like that of Tukharas but the social customs, colloquial ideom, rules of behavior (and their pesonal resemblance) differed somewhat from those of Tukhara country which means that the original and dominant community of Kapisa had imbibed the Tukharan culture and customs but to a limited extent and the penetration of the Tukharas in the Kapisa territory appears to have therefore been also limited. The Kambojas and the Tukharas (Turks) are mentioned as immediate neighbors in north-west as late as 8th century AD as Rajatarangini of Kalhana demonstrates .
Evidence also exists that some medieval age Muslim writers have confused the Kamboja clans of Pamirs/Hindukush with the Turks and invested the former with Turkic ethnicity. For example, 10th century Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi, refers to the Kumiji (=Kamoji/Kamboja) tribesmen of Buttaman mountains (Tajikstan) , on upper Oxus, and calls them of Turkic race . According to the confused accounts recorded by Alberuni which are chiefly based on folklore , the last king of the first Shahi dynasty, Lagaturman (Katorman) was overthrown and imprisoned by his Brahmin vizier Kallar, thus resulting in the change-over of dynasty.
The name (Katorman or Lagaturman) of the last king of the so-called first Shahi line of Kabul/Kapisa simply reveals a trace of Tukhara cultural influence in the Kamboja (Kapisa) region, as hinted in above discussion. Thus, the first ruling dynasty of Kapisa and Kabul, designated as Ksatriya dynasty by Hiuen Tsang, may indeed have been a Kamboja dynasty . It is also very remarkable that Kalhana (c. 12th century), the author of Rajatarangini (written in 1147-49 AD) also refers to the Shahis and does not maintain any any difference or distinction between the earlier Shahis (RT IV.143) and the later Shahis or does not refer to any supplanting of the dynasty at any stage as Alberuni does in his Tarikh-al-Hind . Furthermore, Kalhana takes the dynasty of the ancestors of the Hindu Shahi rulers Lallya (Kallar), Kamala Toramana, Bhimadeva, Jaipala, Anandapala, Trilochanpala, Bhimapala etc.,unbroken, to as far as or earlier than 730 AD . It is also remarkable that Rajatrangini and all other sources refer to the Shahi rulers of Udabhandapura/Waihind as belonging to the Kshatriya lineage in contrast to Alberuni who designates the earlier Shahi rulers as Turks and the later as Brahmins . The system of naming the kings of the so-called Turki Shahi dynasty and the Hindu Shahi dynasty is also similar for which reason it is very likely that the caste of the two might also have been same i.e Ksatriya . Thus, if we follow Kalhana, then the ancestors of Shahi kings Lallya, Toramana, Kamalu, Bhimadeva, Jaipala, Anandapala, Trilochanapala etc may be traced back to the Ksatriya ruler of Kapisa/Kabul (644-45 AD) mentioned by Hiuen Tsang and also probably to prince Guna Varman (424 AD), a princely scion of the Ksatriya rulers ruling at the start of 5th century in Kapisa (Ki-pin) as mentioned in the Chinese Buddhist records . In addition, one ancient inscription and several ancient Buddhist manuscripts found from Gilgit area between upper Indus and river Kabul shed some light on three kings who ruled in Gilgit region in 6-7th c AD. They also wore Shahi titles and their names are mentioned as Patoladeva alias Navasurendradiyta Nandin, Srideva alias Surendra Vikrmadiyta Nandin and Patoladeva alias Vajraditya Nandin. It is very relevant to mention here that each of the Shahi rulers mentioned in the above list of Gilgit rulers has Nandin as his surname or last name . It is more than likely that the surname Nandin refers to their clan name. It is also very remarkable that the modern Kamboj tribe of northern Punjab still has Nandan (Nandin) as one of their important clan names.
It is therefore, very likely that these Gilgit rulers of upper Indus may also have belonged to the Kamboja lineage . Furthermore, "Shahi" as a septal name is still carried by a section of the Punjab Kambojs which appears to be a relic from the Shahi title of their Kabul/Kapisa princes .
They were the same bold and warlike people whom king Asoka Maurya had thought it wise and expedient to bestow autonomous status and give eminent place in his Rock Edicts V and XIII.
They were fiercely independent warlike people who had never easily yielded to any foreign overlord . They were the people who, in fifth c AD, had formed the very neighbors of the Bactrian Ephthalites of Oxus and whom Chandragupta II of Gupta dynasty had campaigned against and had obtained tribute from about the start of 5th century AD . The Bhishma Parva of the Mahabharata, supposed to have been edited around the 4th or 5th century AD, in one of its verses mentions the Hunas with the Parasikas and other Mlechha tribes of the northwest including the Kambojas, Yavanas, Chinas, Darunas, Sukritvahas, Kulatthas etc .
Dr V. A. Smith says that this epic verse is reminiscent of the times when the Hunas first came into contact with the Sassanian dynasty of Persia . And the Monghyr grant of king Devapala of the Pala dynasty of Bengal attests that the great king had led his war expedition (810 AD - 850 AD) into the northwest against the Hunas (in western Punjab) and then the Kambojas (in the Kabul/Gandhara valleys) . Sata-pañcāśaddesa-vibhaga of the medieval era Tantra book Saktisamgma Tantra locates Kambojas (Kabul Shahis?) to the west of South-west Kashmir (or Pir-pañcāla), to the South of Bactria and to the east of Maha-Mlechcha-desa (=Mohammadan countries i.e Khorasan/Iran) and likewise, locates the Hunas (Zabul Shahis?) to the south of Kama valley (or Jallalabad/Afghnaistan) and to the north of Marudesa (or Rajputana) towards western Punjab .
Kavyamimasa of Rajshekhar also lists the Sakas, Kekayas, Kambojas, Vanayujas, Bahlikas, Hunas, Pahlvas, Limpakas, Harahuras, Hansmaragas (Hunzas) etc in the north-west. Since Rajshekhar (880-920 AD) was contemporary with Hindu Shahis, he identifies people called Kambojas (Kabul/Kapisa), Vanayujas (Bannus), Limpakas (Lamghanis), Hunas (Zabul), Pahlvas (Persians--Maha-mlechchas), Harahuras (Red Hunas located in Herat) etc almost exactly in the same localities which were occupied by Kabul Shahi and Zabul Shahi kingdoms respectively. The above referred to pieces of evidence again spotlight on the Kambojas and the Hunas together and places them near the environs of the Muslim Persians in north-west. During first century AD and later in 5th century (~477 AD), the cis-Hindukush Kambojas and Gandharas partially came under the sway of foreign invaders like the Kushanas and the Hephthalites (Hunas).
These warlike people were temporarily overpowered by the numerous hordes but they did not become extinct; and once the political tide of the foreign hordes ebbed down, someone from the native chieftains from the original dominant clans (i.e. the Ksatrya Ashvakas) of this region asserted his authority and attained ascendancy in political power and had established himself as Ksatriya overlord of an independent kingdom on the ruins of the erstwhile Kushana and/or the Hephthalites empire . Having been exposed to the foreign environs for a while and having also, in a sense, inherited the Kushana-Hephthalite chancery tradition of their predecessors, these native Kabul/Kapisa native rulers had also adopted their political institutions and regal titles such as "shahi" and "tegin" etc in the same way as the Sakas, Kushanas and Hunas had earlier adopted a form of Kshayatiya title from their predecessors, the Achamenids of Persia. The Shahis of Afghanistan have specifically been connected to the Kamboja race by E Vesey Westmacott .
The first Hindu Shahi dynasty was founded in 870 AD by Kallar (see above). The kingdom was bounded on the north by the Hindu kingdom of Kashmir, on the east by Rajput kingdoms, on the south by the Muslim Emirates of Multan and Mansura, and on the west by the Rashidun Caliphate. In 671 AD Muslim armies seized Kabul and the capital was moved to Udabhandapura, where they became known as the Rajas of Hindustan.
The Hindu Shahi's became engaged with the Yamini Turks of Ghazni over supremacy of the eastern regions of Afghanistan initially before it extended towards the Punjab region. They briefly recaptured the Kabul Valley from the Samanid successors of the Saffarids, until a general named Alptigin drove out the Samanid wali of Zabulistan and established the Ghaznavid dynasty at Ghazna. Under his general and successor Sabuktigin the Ghaznavids had begun to raid the provinces of Lamghan and Multan. This precipated an alliance first between the then King Jayapala and the Amirs of Multan, and then in a second battle in alliance with Delhi, Ajmer, Kalinjar and Kannauj which saw the Hindu Shahi lose all lands west of the Indus River. His successor Anandapala arrived at a tributary arrangement with Sebuktigin's successor, Mahmud of Ghazni, before he was defeated and exiled to Kashmir in the early 1000s.
Al-Idirisi (1100 AD -1165/1166 AD) testifies that until as late as the 12th century, a contract of investiture for every Shahi king was performed at Kabul and that here he was obliged to agree to certain ancient conditions which completed the contract . Kalhana remarked: "To this day, the appellation Shahi throws its lustre on a numberless host of kshatriya abroad who trace their origin to that family" .
The term Hindu Shahi was a royal title of this dynasty and not its actual clan or ethnological name. Al-Biruni used the title Shah for many other contemporary royal houses in his descriptions as well. (Journal of the Pakistan Historical Society, xxxvi, Dr N Ahmad, 1988, i, NWF Regions of Pakistan Geographical tribes and Historical perspective, p53)
When the Chinese visitor Hsuan-tsang visited Kapisa (about 60 km north of modern Kabul) in 7th century, the local ruler was a Kshatriya king Shahi Khingala. A Ganesha idol has been found near Gerdez that bears the name of this king, see Shahi Ganesha
Several 6th or 7th century A.D Buddhist manuscripts were found out from a stupa at Gilgit. One of the manuscripts reveals the name of a Shahi king Srideva Sahi Surendra Vikramaditya Nanda. See Gilgit Manuscripts
The initial Hindu Shahi dynasty, was the House of Kallar, but in 964 AD the rule was assumed from Bhima upon his death by the Janjua emperor Maharajadiraja Jayapala, son of Rai Asatapala Janjua and a descendant of Emperor Janamejaya (Coins of Medieval India, A.Cunningham, London, 1894, p56, p62, 'The Last Two Dynasties of The Sahis, A Rehman, 1988, Delhi, p131, p48, p49, p3001, Chronicles of Early Janjuas Dr H.Khan, 2003 iUniverse, p3, p5, p8, p9). Epithets from the Bari Kot inscriptions record his full title as "Parambhattaraka Maharajadhiraja Paramesvara Sri Jayapala deva"' the first Emperor of the Janjua Shahi phase. He is celebrated as a hero in his struggles in defending his Kingdom from the Turkic rulers of Ghazni.
Emperor Jayapala was challenged by the armies of Sultan Sabuktigin and later by his son Sultan Mahmud. According to the Minháj ad-Dīn in his chronicle Tabaqát-i Násiri (H. G. Raverty's trans., Vol.1, p.82), he bears a testament to the political and powerful stature of Maharaja Jayapala Shah, "Jayapála, who is the greatest of all the ráis (kings) of Hind..." Misra wrote on Jaypala: "(He) was perhaps the last Indian ruler to show such spirit of aggression, so sadly lacking in later Rajput kings." (Indian Resistance to Early Muslim Invaders Up to 1206 AD, R.G Misra, Anu Books, repr.1992)
Prince Anandapala who ascended his father's throne (in about March/April 1002AD) already proved an able warrior and General in leading many battles prior to his ascension. According to 'Adáb al-Harb' (pp.307-10) in about 990, it is written, "the arrogant but ambitious Raja of Lahore Bharat, having put his father in confinement, marched on the country of Jayapála with the intention of conquering the districts of Nandana, Jailum (Jehlum) and Tákeshar" (in an attempt to take advantage of Jayapala's concentrated effort with defence against the armies of Ghazna). "Jayapala instructed Prince Anandapala to repel the opportunist Raja Bharat. Anandapala defeated Bharat and took him prisoner in the battle of Takeshar and marched on Lahore and captured the city and extended his father's kingdom yet further." However, during his reign as emperor many losses were incurred on his kingdom by the Ghaznavids. During the battle of Chach between Mahmud and Anandapala, it is stated that "a body of 30,000 Gakhars fought alongside as soldiers for the Shahi Emperor and incurred huge losses for the Ghaznavids" . However, despite the heavy losses of the enemy, he lost the battle and suffered much financial and territorial loss. This was Anandapala's last stand against Sultan Mahmud. He eventually signed a treaty with the Ghaznavid empire in 1010AD and shortly a year later passed away a peaceful death. R.C Majumdar (D.V. Potdar Commemoration Volume, Poona 1950, p.351) compared him ironically to his dynastic ancient famous ancestor "King Porus, who bravely opposed Alexander but later submitted and helped in subduing other Indian rulers". And Tahqíq Má li'l-Hind (p.351) finally revered him in his legacy as "noble and courageous" .
Prince Tirlochanpála, the son of Anandapala, ascended the Imperial throne in about 1011AD. Inheriting a reduced kingdom, he immediately set about expanding his kingdom into the Siwalik Hills, the domain of the Rai of Sharwa. His kingdom now extended from the River Indus to the upper Ganges valley. According to Al-Biruni, Tirlochanpála "was well inclined towards the Muslims (Ghaznavids)" and was honourable in his loyalty to his father's peace treaty to the Ghaznavids. He eventually rebelled against Sultan Mahmud and was later assassinated by some of his own mutinous troops in 1021-22AD, an assassination which was believed to have been instigated by the Rai of Sharwa who became his arch-enemy due to Tirlochanpala's expansion into the Siwalik ranges. He was romanticised in Punjabi folklore as the Last Punjabi ruler of Punjab.
Prince Bhímapála, son of Tirlochanpala, succeeded his father in 1021-22AD. He was referred to by Utbí as "Bhīm, the Fearless" due to his courage and valour. Considering his kingdom was at its lowest point, possibly only the control of Nandana, he admirably earned the title of "fearless" from his enemy's own chronicle writer. He is known to have led the battle of Nandana personally and seriously wounding the commander of the Ghaznavid army Muhammad bin Ibrahim at-Tāī ('Utbi, vil.ii, p.151.) He ruled only five years after his father before meeting his death in 1026AD. He was final Shahi Emperor of the famed dynasty.
His sons Rudrapal, Diddapal, Kshempala and Anangpala served as generals in Kashmir. They gained prominence in the Kashmiri Royal court where they occupied influential positions and intermarried with the royal family. They are mentioned frequently in Rajatarangini of Kalhana written during 1147-1149. Rudrapal was mentioned by the writer Kalhana as a valiant general in the campaigns he led to quell resistance to the Kashmiran kings to whom they served whilst in exile. His later descendants fell out of the favour of the royal court were exiled to the Siwalik Hills retaining control of the Mandu fort. After a brief period, they rose again to take control of Mathura under Raja Dhrupet Dev in the 12th century before the campaigns of the Ghorid Empire.
Alberuni, in spite of the fact that he lived under Mahmud, praises the Shahis:
"The Hindu Shahiya dynasty is extinct and of the whole house there is not the slightest remnant in existence. We must say that in all their grandeur, they never slackened in the ardent desire of doing that which is good and right, that they were men of noble sentiment and noble bearing."
Kalhana writes about the sad fate of the Shahis:
"Where is the Shahi dynasty with its ministers, its kings, and its great grandeur? ... The very name of the splendor of Shahi kings has vanished. What is not seen in dream, what even our imagination cannot conceive, that dynasty accomplished with ease"
The Janjua Rajputs of Punjab are the descendants of the House of Jayapala (Chronicles of Early Janjuas, 2003, iUniverse, Dr H Khan, p2-10) (Coins of Medieval India, A.Cunningham, London, 1894, p56, p62) (The Last Two Dynasties of The Sahis, A Rehman, 1988, Delhi, p131,p48, p49)(Gazeteer of the Jhelum District, Lahore, 1904, p93)