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Bahram-Shah of Ghazna

The basics
Date of birth
Date of death 1157
Mother: Gawhar Khatun
The details

Bahram-Shah (full name:Yamin ad-Dawlah wa Amin al-Milla Abul-Muzaffar Bahram-Shah) (1084 - 1157) was Sultan of the Ghaznavid empire from 25 February 1117 to 1157. Son of Mas'ud III and Gawhar Khatun, sister of Sanjar, sultan of the Great Seljuq empire. During his entire reign, his empire was a tributary of the Great Seljuq empire.

Removes Arslan Shah

Following the murder of Sultan Shirzad by Arslan Shah in 1116 and the latter's usurpation of the Ghaznavid throne, Bahram marched an army from Zamin-Dawar to assert his claim to the throne. Arslan and Bahram's forces met at Tiginabad, whereupon Bahram was defeated and fled to the Seljuk court in Khurasan. Gaining support from Sanjar, sultan of the Great Seljuq empire, Bahram returned with a Seljuq army and defeated Arslan Shah's army at the Battle of Ghazni. A decisive battle occurred just outside Ghazna on the plain of Shahrabad, again resulting in Arslan's defeat and he fled to the Ghaznavid territories in northern India. Bahram entered Ghazna, in the company of Sanjar, and was formally installed as sultan in 1117, but as a vassal of the Great Seljuq empire. Bahram saw Ghazna, his capital, subjected to 40 days of occupation and ransacking by the Seljuq army. After Sanjar's departure, Arslan Shah advanced towards Ghazna and Bahram fled from the capital city to the fortress of Bamian. At Bahram's request, Sanjar sent another army to retake Ghazna. Arslan fled into the Ughnan mountains but was captured by the commander of Sanjar's army and was strangled on Bahram's orders.

Bahram's reign

Bahram's court was accompanied by a Seljuq amil or tax collector and the sending of his eldest son, Daulat Shah, to the Seljuq court at Merv as a hostage. It is believed that Bahram raided India once, attacking Sapadalaksha or eastern Rajputana.

Faced with a rebellious faction led by Muhammad b. 'Ali, Bahram marched an army to Multan in 1119. Bahram asked for Muhammad's obedience but was refused. The ensuing battle in western Punjab resulted in Muhammad's death and the deaths of most of his sons. Bahram appointed Salar Husain b. Ibrahim 'Alawi as his governor in India.

In 1135, Bahram stopped paying tribute to Sanjar. In response, Sanjar marched an army to Ghazna, and Bahram, seeing the size of Sanjar's army, fled to Lahore. After sending diplomatic entreaties, Bahram was assured of his throne, his position as a tributary of the Seljuq empire and returned to Ghazna. Between 1143 and 1146, Abu'l-Ma'ali Nasrallah translated the Arabic translated Indian fable story Kalila wa Dimna to Persian, and dedicated it to Bahram.

In an attempt to strengthen his hold over the Ghurids, Bahram invited Qutb ad-Din Muhammad b. Husain, his son in law, to court. Believing that Qutb and his brother Sayf al-Din Suri had come to court to scout the city for a future raid, Bahram had Qutb poisoned, though Sayf al-Din Suri escaped. By 1148, Sayf al-Din Suri returned with an army, scored a victory at the Battle of Ghazni while Bahram fled to Kurram. Building an army, Bahram marched back to Ghazna. Sayf al-Din Suri fled, but the Ghaznavid army caught up with him and a battle ensued at Sang-i Surakh. Sayf al-Din Suri and Majd ad-Din Musawi were captured and later crucified at Pul-i Yak Taq.

In response, Ala al-Din Husayn, younger brother of Sayf al-Din Suri and chief of the Ghurids, launched a campaign against Bahram in 1150. The Ghaznavid and Ghurid armies met at Tiginabad and through the heroic efforts of Kharmil Sam-i Husain and Kharmil Sam-i Banji the Ghaznavid army was routed. Bahram rallied elements of his army at the hot springs, Jush-i Ab-i Garm, but was again routed and fled back to Ghazna. Bahram again rallied the remaining elements of his army with the addition of the city's garrison, but again his army was routed and the city was burned by the Ghurids. Following this defeat, Bahram fled to the Ghaznavid territories in India. Ghazna was then subjected to seven days of pillage and rapine, in which 60,000 of the city were killed. All the tombs of the Ghaznavid rulers, with the exception of Mahmud, Mas'ud and Ibrahim, were broken open and the remains burned. From these events, Ala al-Din Husayn gained the nickname, World-Incendiary(i.e. World Burner).

Bahram stayed in northern India for over a year, rebuilding his army. After the defeat and capture of Ala al-Din Husayn at Herat by Seljuq forces, Bahram returned to Ghazna and removed the Ghurid governor. Bahram spent his remaining days in Ghazna, died in 1157 and was succeeded by his son, Khusrau Shah.

Fall of the Ghaznavid empire

According to Bertold Spuler, a German Orientalist, Bahram's treachery, personal cowardice and desertion of his subjects directly contributed to the disintegration of the Ghaznavid empire.

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