Sikandar Shah Miri

Sikandar Shah (Sikandar Butshikan – "Sikandar, the Iconoclast")[1] was the sixth sultan of the Shah Miri dynasty of Kashmir from 1389 to 1413.[2]

Sikandar Shah
Sultan of Kashmir
Sultan al-Eazim
7th Sultan of the Shah Mir Sultanate
Reign1389–1413 CE
SuccessorAli Shah
Sikandar Shah Miri
HouseShah Miri dynasty
ReligionSunni Islam


The only contemporaneous source that exists is the Rajatarangini (lit. Flow of Succession of Kings) of Jonaraja.[3][4] Jonaraja was the Brahmin court-poet of Sikandar's successor Zain-ul-Abidin and was commissioned to continue Kalhana's Rajatarangini.[4] One manuscript of his work—edited between 1561 and 1588 by an anonymous person using information from other sources—emends certain portions of the text in the margins; he is conventionally called Pseud. J. (and the work, Ps-JRT) in Rajatarangini scholarship.[4]

Extant Persian sources, including ⁠Baharistan-i-shahi (anon.), Tohfatu'l-Ahbab (anon.) and Tarikh-i-Kashmir corpus, were written relatively later and drew from recensions of Rajatarangini(s) but they provide considerable additional information.[2] These were later used by authors starting from Abul Fazl, the first chronicler from outside Kashmir and Nizamuddin Ahmad to independent Persian chroniclers to colonial historians and Kashmiri Pandits, with different ideological proclivities, to produce varying strands of histories suiting different sociopolitical goals.[5]


The dynasty likely descended from Khasa chieftains of Panjgabbar valley; Shah Mir was the first to settle in Kashmir.[6][7][a] He began to serve in the royal court of the fledgling Deva Dynasty and before long, became the prime-minister of Suhadeva.[6][8] Soon, he would leverage a power-vacuum in the wake of a crippling Mongol raid to help Rinchan usurp the throne and after his death, wage a successful war against widow Kota Rani to claim the kingdom for himself.[2][7]

With the Shah Mirs actively patronaging Islam (esp. Sufism), a new social order arose that chipped away at Brahminic Hinduism.[8][7] A contemporary Shaivite mystic Lal Ded would borrow from major religions and local cults to pen verses that attacked core tenets of Brahminism and likely, serviced conversion to Islam among the lower strata of society.[8][b] By Sikandar's time, a considerable section of the populace had already adopted Islam.[8] However, the Kings continued to actively patronage Hinduism: Alaud'din had commissioned a Hindu Matha and Qutubu'd-Din had held royal yajnas.[6][8]

Birth and AscensionEdit

Sikandar was the great-grandson of Shah Mir; he was the eldest child of Qutubu'd-Din and Queen Sura (var. Subhata), and was born sometime around 1380.[2][4] Because he was a minor at the time of his father's death—9 August 1389—, his mother had to act as a regent for some time.[2][4] Sura consented to Prime Minister Rai Magre (var. Uddaka), who was also her cousin, burning his own daughter and son-in-law Muhammad, son of a fellow minister Sahaka, on charges of conspiring against Sikandar.[4][9] Magre went on to poison Haybat, Sikandar's younger brother and even Sahaka.[4] Sikandar, sensing a possible usurpation, choose to exert himself as the ruler.[4]

Military campaigns and rebellionsEdit

Except for a successful invasion of Ladakh under the command of Rai Magre, Sikandar did not annex any new territory.[2] Soon after this victory, Magre instigated a rebellion and assassinated Shobha's brother (Khunjyaraja) before turning against Sikandar with his loyal proteges.[4][9] The rebellion was ably suppressed with aid from Laddaraja's men without even resorting to minimal warfare and Magre was imprisoned, whence he committed suicide.[4][9][c] Palas—probably, a Persian tribe—were brutally suppressed too.[4]

A successful war was waged against Firuz, the Hindu Shahi ruler of Ohind (var. Udabhandapura and Sahibhanga) c. 1400 after he refused to recognize Sikandar's suzerainty.[2][4] Sikandar went on to marry Firuz's daughter Mera (prob. Raksasavivaha) whilst giving away one of his daughters from Shobha for marriage to Firuz.[2][4] Another successful campaign was mounted against Pala Deo (var. Billadeva), the Rajah of Jammu, after he refused to pay taxes; Jasrath Khokhar was installed as a vassal and Sikandar again entered into a matrimonial alliance with his daughter whilst giving away another of his daughters from Shobha for marriage to Pala Deo.[2][4]


Overall economic condition was decent.[4] Jonaraja remarks that the Goddess of Fortune always returned back to him — "the pleasure of [his] welfare elude[d] verbal description."[4] A welfare state was installed; oppressive taxes were abolished whilst free schools and hospitals (Daru'l-Shifa) were opened for public use.[2][10] Waqfs were endowed to shrines and numerous Sufi preachers from Central Asia were provided with jagirs and installed in positions of authority.[2][d] Land holdings were allotted to vast sections of society including scholars, poor, religious figureheads etc.[2][10] The office of Shaikhu'l-Islam was established to provide monetary stipend and alms to the needy, pilgrims, travelers, physicians, scholars and other deserving people.[10][11]

In December 1398, Sikandar was ordered to pay homage to Timur by his ministers during his camp on the banks of the Indus river.[2][12] Though accepted by Sikandar fearing a military conflict, the request was waived by Timur upon judged to be way above Sikandar's capacities.[2][12] While the two did not meet, they shared a mutual admiration; Timur gifted a pair of male and female elephants to Sikandar.[2][4][e] Upon receiving the elephants, Sikandar was ecstatic and showered all petitioners at the royal court with gold and land grants.[4]

Sharia was enacted into local law — music, dance, gambling, and intoxicants were prohibited.[2]

Suppression of HindusEdit

Jamia Masjid. Built in 1394 CE by Sikandar.

Jonaraja argues Sikandar's rule to have had terminated Kashmir's long-standing tolerant culture.[2][13][14][15] So do Baharistan-i-shahi and Tohfatu'l-Ahbab which note Sikandar to have cleansed Kashmir of all heretics and infidels — he is epithetized as the "idol-breaker."[16][10] Hasan Ali provides the most detailed narrative.

Sikandar commenced with destructing Hindu and Buddhist shrines of worship till—in the words of Jonaraja—no idol remained, even in the privacy of homes.[4][17] Jonaraja mentions temples at Martand (Sun God), Vijayesvara (Shiva), Cakradhara (Visnu), Suresvari (?), Varaha (Visnu), and Tripuresvara (?) to have been destructed by Sikandar.[4][17] Ali adds three temples at Parihaspore, Tarapitha temples at Iskander Pora, and a neighbouring Maha Shri Temple.[10] Pseud. J notes of a colossal statue of Buddha being razed and melted to produce coins.[4][17]

Then, the focus fell on abolishing caste system and all Brahmins unwilling to cede with their hereditary privileges were taxed with Jizya.[4][f] Contra Jonaraja who mentions Sikandar's successor (Ali Shah) to have initiated forced conversions for the first time, Hasan Ali notes of forced conversion under Sikandar's tenure; he is claimed to have massacred all those who had refused to convert![4][10][g]

Motivations and analysisEdit

Upon a literary reading of Rajatarangini, Sikandar's zeal behind the Islamisation of society is attributable to Mir Muhammad Hamadani[h] who advocated for the creation of a monolithic society based on Islam as the common denominator.[12][7][6] He along with fellow Muslim scholars flocked to Sikandar and "put an end to the local [Hindu] religious customs of Kasmir, like storms [destroy] woods, or locusts rice plants."[4] Sikandar's counsel, a Brahman neo-convert called Suhabhatta (var. Suhaka Bhatt and Saifuddin), is held to have played the primary role in the execution of those orthodox policies by "instigating" the Sultan who then "took delight day and night in demolishing the sculptures of the gods."[7][17][4][i] However, in Baharistan-i-shahi, both play equal roles with significance accorded to Sikandar's religious conviction.[10]

Ruins of the Martand Sun Temple, razed by Sikandar.[6]

Walter Slaje disagrees about the (proposed) absence of religious motivation, in part, given the differential rituals of destruction undertaken by Hindu and Muslim kings with the latter rendering sites inoperable for long passages of time by massive pollution or outright conversion.[17][6] Slaje however concludes the fierce opposition of Hindus to Muslim rulers, including Sikandar, primarily stemmed from their aversion to the slow disintegration of caste society under Islamic influence; Jonaraja explicitly mocks Hamadani's rejection of hereditary caste hierarchies.[17][6] Mohammed Ishaq Khan adopts a similar stance — he also notes how figures like Lal Ded found no place in the Rajatarangini(s) or Pandit corpus of history, until recent times.[8]

Fringe revisionist scholars completely reject the narratives of persecution, accusing the Brahman chroniclers of wanton bias and myth-making, stemming from their personal jealousy at losing socioeconomic dominance.[18][1][4]

Art and architectureEdit

The locality of Nowhatta was constructed by Sikandar — his royal palace was established soon.[2][10] He constructed the Jamia Masjid at Srinagar—considered to be the finest example of Indo-Saracenic archirecture in Kashmir—,[j] and two other mosques at Bijbehara and Bavan.[2] The latter was two-storied and enclosed by a garden; it doubled as Sikandar's spring-resort.[2] Sikandar also commissioned a new burial ground—Mazar-i-Salatin, on the bank of Jhelum near Zaina Kadal locale in downtown Srinagar—for the royals and elite.[10]

The first stone sculpture of Kashmir and one of the finest in its history—a four-armed Brahma—was sculpted by son of a Buddhist Sanghapati in 1409 and dedicated to Sikandar.[19] Numerous scholars arrived from Central Asia in his court: Sayiid Ahmad of Isfahan drafted a commentary on a Firazi text and also wrote epistles, Sayyid Muhammad Khawari wrote a commentary on Lum'at ul-I'tiqaad as well as another work (Khwar Nameh) of unknown genre, and Muhammad Baihaqi composed poems eulogizing Sikandar.[10]

Personal lifeEdit

Sikandar is believed to have had a puritanical temperament, and abstained from wine, festivities, and music — in tune with the laws decreed for his subjects.[2] Among his closest confidants were Suhabhatta, Sankara (chief physician), and Laddaraja.[4]

Issues, death, and successionEdit

Sikandar was married to at-least three women: Mera, an unnamed daughter of Pala Deo, and Sobha; Jonaraja does not provide any details about the latter's background.[4][k] He had at least five sons—Firuz (adopted by Sobha; sent alongside Hamadani, in his return journey to Iran), Shadi Khan (adopted by Sobha), Mir Khan (from Mira), Shahi Khan (from Mira), and Muhammad Khan (from Mira)—, and at least two daughters (both adopted by Sobha).[4][l] Sobha was likely infertile and her adoptees were exiled out of territory.[4]

Sikandar is claimed to have met a prolonged and painful death[m], seemingly from elephantiasis, in April 1413.[4][n] After his death, Sikandar's eldest son Mir was anointed as the Sultan, having adopted the title of Ali Shah.[4] Two years later, Mir was succeeded by Shadi Khan, who adopted the name Zain-ul-Abidin.[7][1]


Under Ali Shah's regime, Suhabhatta became the Prime Minister and the de-facto ruler; persecution increased manifold with forced conversions becoming commonplace, Hindu customs being banned, and Brahmans being prohibited to leave the territory while being forced into unemployment.[4] A regime of tolerance was only re-introduced under Zain-ul-Abidin, with Suhabhatta dead from tuberculosis; Hindu artists were provided with state-patronage, temples were rebuilt, Brahmans-in-exile were brought back, taxes reduced, and neo-Muslims were allowed to convert back.[2][7][3][14][4][o] Tohfatu'l-Ahbab, writing in the 16th century, blamed the poor state of Islam in the valley on Zain.[16]

Despite these changes, the Islamisation of elite politics meant very few caste groups other than Brahmans took the opportunity of re-conversion[7] and a largely irreversible change set-in in post-Sikandar Kashmir.[17][14]


  1. ^ Jonaraja notes Shah Mir to be the grandson of one Kuru Shah. He had (apparently) received a divine premonition from Mahadevi about Kashmir being the rightful territory of his lineage.
  2. ^ Ded was critical of untouchability, idol-worship etc.[8] She will in turn influence equally influential Sufi Rshis like Nund et al., who were more proactive to the cause of Islam.[8] All of these figures continue to remain influential among both Hindus and Muslims of modern Kashmir.
  3. ^ Magre's soldiers had gathered at Vallamatha (unknown - doubtful whether any of the recensions preserved the name) for a scheduled faceoff at Pampore but dispersed after mistaking herds of cattle on the other bank of Jhelum as Sikandar's cavalry. Magre was chased by Sikandar himself and caught at Vitastapura.
  4. ^ Among them the most prominent were: Sayyid Hasan Shirazi, appointed as the Qazi of Kashmir; Sayyid Jalaluddin, a saint from Bukhara; and Baba Haji Adham, a logician from Balkh.[2] Baharistan-i-shahi provides detailed information about these figures.[10]
  5. ^ This episode presents one of the few episodes where Jonaraja's account can be corroborated by Persian sources. Jonaraja had held Timur to have gifted the elephants out of fearing Sikandar, despite being powerful enough to have had Delhi razed to ashes!
  6. ^ The tax was set at two pals of silver.[4] Jonaraja snarks at those Brahmins who left their "superior class" in lieu of some material gains.[4]
  7. ^ The zunnars of all these dead men weighed three ass-loads, when taken for incineration.[10]
  8. ^ Son of Mir Sayyid Ali Hamadani (1314-1384), a Sufi preacher of the Kubrawiya order who had migrated from Huttalàn (present-day Tajikistan) in the wake of Timurid invasions to Shibu'd-Din's Kashmir. Ali Hamadani is believed to have played the most significant role in the propagation of Islam in Kashmir.
  9. ^ Hamadani went on to marry Suhabhatta's daughter after the death of his first wife (Bibi Taj Khatun).[2]
  10. ^ The architect was one Khwaja Sadru'd-Din from Khorasan.
  11. ^ Hasan speculates that Shobha might be the unnamed daughter of Pala Deo that is, SIkandar had two wives. It is likely implausible since Sikandar had bequeathed one of Shobha's (adopted) daughter to Deo!
  12. ^ Hasan gets these details wrong: he was not an expert in Sanskrit and had to mostly depend upon Dutt's error-ridden translation, which in the opinion of Slaje, "[is] completely unsuitable for purposes of research."[4]
  13. ^ To Jonaraja (as in the case of Kalhana), Kashmir was an "ethical space" dictated by karma. The tyrants always met unhappy deaths, if not assassinated. However, Jonaraja is careful to assert that the God of Death was angered not at him but at Suhabhatta; he had to merely atone for the sins of his subject.
  14. ^ A chronogram in Tarikh-i Hassan reports the year as 1417.[10]
  15. ^ Jonaraja—ever true to casting Kashmir as an ethical space—remarks that Mera's god-gifted purpose laid in saving Kashmir from Sikandar's depradations.


  1. ^ a b c Obrock, Luther James (2015). Translation and History: The Development of a Kashmiri Textual Tradition from ca. 1000-1500 (Thesis). UC Berkeley.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x Hasan, Mohibbul (2005). Kashmīr Under the Sultāns. Aakar Books. pp. 59–95. ISBN 978-81-87879-49-7.
  3. ^ a b Slaje, Walter (2004). Medieval Kashmir and the Science of History. South Asia Institute, University of Texas at Austin.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak Slaje, Walter (2014). Kingship in Kaśmīr (AD 1148‒1459) From the Pen of Jonarāja, Court Paṇḍit to Sulṭān Zayn al-'Ābidīn. Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis - 7. Germany. pp. 28–29, 36, 155–173, 185–189, 201–203, 213–215. ISBN 978-3869770888.
  5. ^ Zutshi, Chitralekha (7 July 2014). "A Literary Paradise : The Tarikh Tradition in Seventeenth- and Eighteenth-Century Kashmir". Kashmir's Contested Pasts: Narratives, Sacred Geographies, and the Historical Imagination. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199450671.003.0003. ISBN 978-0-19-945067-1.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Slaje, Walter (2019). "What Does it Mean to Smash an Idol? Iconoclasm in Medieval Kashmir as Reflected by Contemporaneous Sanskrit Sources". Brahma's Curse : Facets of Political and Social Violence in Premodern Kashmir. Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis - 13. pp. 30–40. ISBN 978-3-86977-199-1.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h AHMAD, AZIZ (1979). "Conversions to Islam in the Valley of Kashmir". Central Asiatic Journal. 23 (1/2): 3–18. ISSN 0008-9192. JSTOR 41927246.
  8. ^ a b c d e f g h Khan, Mohammad Ishaq (1 June 1986). "The impact of Islam on Kashmir in the Sultanate period (1320-1586)". The Indian Economic & Social History Review. 23 (2): 187–205. doi:10.1177/001946468602300203. ISSN 0019-4646. S2CID 144039616.
  9. ^ a b c Salomon, Richard; Slaje, Walter (2016). "Review of Kingship in Kaśmīr (AD1148–1459). From the Pen of Jonarāja, Court Paṇḍit to Sulṭān Zayn al-ʿĀbidīn. Critically Edited by Walter Slaje with an Annotated Translation, Indexes and Maps. [Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis 7], SlajeWalter". Indo-Iranian Journal. 59 (4): 393–401. doi:10.1163/15728536-05903009. ISSN 0019-7246. JSTOR 26546259.
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Pandit, Kashinath (1991). Baharistan-i-shahi: A chronicle of mediaeval Kashmir. Kolkata: Firma KLM Pvt. Ltd.
  11. ^ Ahmad, Khalid Bashir (2017). "Malice". Kashmir: Exposing the Myth Behind the Narrative. London: SAGE. p. 32. doi:10.4135/9789353280253. ISBN 9789386062802.
  12. ^ a b c Ogura, Satoshi (2015). "INCOMPATIBLE OUTSIDERS OR BELIEVERS OF A DARŚANA?: REPRESENTATIONS OF MUSLIMS BY THREE BRAHMANS OF ŠĀHMĪRID KAŠMĪR". Rivista degli studi orientali. 88 (1/4): 179–211. ISSN 0392-4866. JSTOR 24754113.
  13. ^ Slaje, Walter (2019). "A Glimpse into the Happy Valley's Unhappy Past: Violence and Brahmin Warfare in Pre-Mughal Kashmir". Brahma's Curse : Facets of Political and Social Violence in Premodern Kashmir. Studia Indologica Universitatis Halensis - 13. p. 5. ISBN 978-3-86977-199-1.
  14. ^ a b c Witzel, Michael (September 1991). The Brahmins of Kashmir (PDF).
  15. ^ Accardi, Dean (2017), Zutshi, Chitralekha (ed.), "Embedded Mystics: Writing Lal Ded and Nund Rishi into the Kashmiri Landscape", Kashmir: History, Politics, Representation, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 247–264, ISBN 978-1-107-18197-7, retrieved 3 February 2021
  16. ^ a b Zutshi, Chitralekha (2014). "Garden of Solomon : Landscape and Sacred Pasts in Kashmir's Sixteenth-Century Persian Narratives". Kashmir's Contested Pasts : Narratives, Sacred Geographies, and the Historical Imagination. Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780199450671.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g Slaje, Walter (19 August 2019). "Buddhism and Islam in Kashmir as Represented by Rājataraṅgiṇī Authors". Encountering Buddhism and Islam in Premodern Central and South Asia. De Gruyter. pp. 128–160. doi:10.1515/9783110631685-006. ISBN 978-3-11-063168-5. S2CID 204477165.
  18. ^ Zutshi, Chitralekha. "This book claims to expose the myths behind Kashmir's history. It exposes its own biases instead". Retrieved 1 February 2021.
  19. ^ Bhan, Jawahar Lal (2010). Kashmir Sculptures: An Iconographical Study of Brāhmanical Sculptures. Vol. 1. Delhi, India: Readworthy Publications. pp. 68–69.