The name Alauddin Khilji has been in the news for all the wrong reasons. However, there is a name which can never be disassociated from Alauddin Khilji and that name happens to be of his most trusted general and alleged lover, Malik Kafur, also known as Malik Naib. Malik Kafur was originally a Hindu warrior who was captured by Khilji’s forces during his victory at Khambat. It is said that the Sultan fell for Kafur and hence castrated the warrior, converted him to Islam, and took him as a lover.
Malik Kafur was a personal favorite of Alauddin Khilji and was hence entrusted with the responsibility of invading the Southern part of India, a region which had never come under the rule of Delhi Sultanate or any Islamic Sultanate for that matter. There were glorious kingdoms in the South, each unique in its own way. The Yadavas of Devagiri, the Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra, the Kakatiyas of Warangal, and the Pandyans of Kanchi were the major powers in the South.
Kafur led the Sultan’s forces while attacking Devagiri in 1294. The Yadava prince Sankardeva was slain and the king Ramadeva was forced to become a vassal king of the Delhi Sultanate. Devagiri was plundered by the Delhi forces. However, after Ramadeva’s death in 1315, his sons declared independence from Delhi. Malik Kafur came quickly and crushed the rebellion, thereby assuming direct control of the kingdom. This Devagiri would later become Daulatabad under Mohammed bin Tughlaq.
Alauddin Khilji had attempted to attack the Kakatiyas of Warangal in 1303 but that had ended badly for the Delhi Sultanate. 6 years later, Malik Kafur invaded Warangal once again and this time with a strength of 1,00,000 soldiers.
Warangal was captured and the king Praptarudra was forced to become a vassal. The Kakatiyas had to pay a massive tribute and their treasured Kohinoor diamond was also snatched away by the Khilji Sultanate. Next in the firing line were the Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra. The brave king Veera Ballala-III was taken by surprise when Kafur attacked Dwarasamudra.
The capital city of the Hoysalas, Dwarasamudra was ransacked twice by Kafur and the famous Hoysaleshwara temple over there was plundered. The city was destroyed in such a way that the glorious Dwarasamudra, named after the legendary city of Dwaraka came to be known as Halebidu, meaning old ruined city in Kannada. To this date, the name of the place remains the same. Veera Ballala-III was also forced to become a vassal.
Kafur did not stop here. He went all the way till Madurai where he met the Pandyans. Kafur dealt a heavy blow to the Pandyans and the famous Meenakshi Amman temple in Madurai was damaged after weeks of siege. The siege ended when the ruler Veera Pandiyan agreed to give the full wealth, half of the rations and all elephants in exchange for leaving Meenakshi Temple and releasing his brother Sundara Pandiyan. As a result of this expedition, a Sultanate was setup for the first time ever in Madurai.
Malik Kafur’s raids had a devastating impact on the situation in Southern part of India. He personally destroyed the Yadavas and his raids greatly weakened the Hoysalas and Kakatiyas. These two great empires were both destroyed later. Kakatiyas were destroyed by the Tughlaqs, who succeeded the Khiljis and the glorious rule of the Hoysalas came to an end when the king Veera Ballala-III was caught and flayed by the Madurai Sultanate in the Battle of Madurai.
14th century saw massive changes in the political scenario in the South. 4 massive powers, which had fought against each other for supremacy in the Deccan and the peninsula region, were destroyed one by one. The Madurai Sultanate that came into existence was cruel to non-Muslims and its atrocities have been documented by traveler Ibn Batuta. Temples were plundered and cities were ransacked. And all this began with Kafur’s raid.
However, they say that the night is the darkest before the dawn. This was a dark period for the Southern part of the country. However, the dawn was coming. There were two brothers in the Hoysala army who were captured by the Sultanate forces. The two of them were taken and brought to the court of the Delhi Sultan. They were drafted into the Sultanate forces. On one particular Southern expedition, the two brothers came across a monk.
With the blessings of this monk, the two brothers ditched the Sultanate army and formed their own empire. This empire grew to be one of India’s most glorious empires. An empire that would continue to be among the most powerful ones in 200 more years to come. This empire became the protector of Hindus and is considered widely to be the last great Hindu empire. This magnificent empire was the Vijayanagara Empire, the monk was Sri Vidyaranya, and the two brothers were Harihara-I and Bukka-I, the founders of this magnificent empire. No doubt that Kafur’s raids had a devastating impact on the scenario in the South of the country. However, with the coming of the Vijayanagara Empire in 1336, the revival was quick and the situation remained stable for 200 years to come.
- A concise history of Karnataka: from pre-historic times to the present by Suryanath Kamath
- A Forgotten Empire (Vijayanagar): A Contribution To The History of India by Robert Sewell
- A History of South India by KA Nilakanta Sastri