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Ahmad Shah Durrani

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AHMAD SHAH DURRANI (1722-1772), aka Ahmed Shah Abdali the first of the Saddozai rulers of Afghanistan and founder of the Durrani empire, belonged to the Saddozai section of the Popalzai clan of the Abdali tribe of Afghans.

In the 18th century the Abdalis were to be found chiefly around Herat. Under their leader Zaman Khan, father of Ahmad Khan. they resisted Persian attempts to take Herat until, in 1728, they were forced to submit to Nadir Shah. Recognizing the fighting qualities of the Abdalis, Nadir Shah enlisted them in his army. Ahmad Khan Abdali distinguished himself in Nadir's service and quickly rose from the position of a personal attendant to the command of Nadir's Abdali contingent in which capacity he accompanied the Persian conqueror on his Indian expedition in 1739.

Death of Nadir Shah, Ahmad Khan Becomes the Pearl of Pearls

In June 1747, Nadir Shah was assassinated by Qizilbashi conspirators at Kuchan in Khurasan. This prompted Ahmad Khan and the Afghan soldiery to set out for Qandahar. On the way they elected Ahmad Khan as their leader, hailing him as Ahmad Shah. Ahmad Shah assumed the title of Durr-i-Durran (Pearl of Pearls) after which the Abdali tribe were known as Durranis. He was crowned at Qandahar where coins were struck in his name. With Qandahar as his base, he easily extended his control over Ghazni, Kabul and Peshawar. As for himself, he, as heir to Nadir Shah's eastern dominions, laid claim to the provinces which Nadir had wrested from the Mughal emperor.

First of Nine Invasions of India


He invaded India nine times between 1747 and 1769. He set out from Peshawar on his first Indian expedition in December 1747. By January 1748, Lahore and Sirhind had been captured. Eventually Mughal forces were sent from Delhi to resist his advance. Lacking artillery and vastly outnumbered, he was defeated at Manupur in March 1748 by Mu'in-ul-Mulk, the son of the Wazir Qamar-ud-Din who had been killed in a preliminary skirmish. Ahmad Shah retreated to Afghanistan and Mu'in-ul-Mulk was appointed governor of the Punjab. Before Mu'in-ul-Mulk could consolidate his position, Ahmad Shah, in December 1749, again crossed the Indus. Receiving no reinforcements from Delhi, Mu'in-ul-Mulk was forced to make terms with him. In accordance with instructions from Delhi, Ahmad Shah was promised the revenues of the Chahar Mahal (Gujrat, Aurangabad, Sialkot and Pasrur) which had been granted by the Mughal emperor Muhammad Shah to Nadir Shah in 1739. The nonpayment of the revenues of the Chahar Mahal was the reason for his third Indian expedition of 1751-52. Lahore was besieged for four months and the surrounding country devastated. Mu'in-ul-Mulk was defeated in March 1752, but was reinstated by Ahmad Shah to whom the emperor formally ceded the two subahs of Lahore and Multan .

During this expedition Kashmir was annexed to the Durrani empire. By April 1752 Ahmad Shah was back in Afghanistan. Mu'in-ul-Mulk found the Punjab a troublesome charge and his death in November 1753 only served to intensify the anarchy. All power was for a time in the hands of his widow, Mughlani Begam, whose profligacy signalled many a rebellion. The Mughal Wazir Imad ul-Mulk took advantage of this anarchy to recover the Punjab for the empire and entrusted its administration to Adina Beg. Ahmad Shah immediately set out to recover his lost province. He reached Lahore towards the end of December 1756, and, after an unopposed march, entered Delhi on 28 January 1757. The city was plundered and the defenceless inhabitants massacred. A similar fate befell the inhabitants of Mathura, Vrindavan and Agra. Towards the end of March 1757, an outbreak of cholera amongst his troops forced Ahmad Shah to leave India. The territory of Sirhind was annexed to the Afghan empire. Najib ud-Daula, the Ruhila leader who had supported him, was left in charge of Delhi and his own son, Taimur, appointed viceroy of the Punjab. He had no sooner left India than the Sikhs, together with Adina Beg, rose in revolt against Taimur. Early in 1758 Adina Beg invited the Marathas to expel the Afghans from the Punjab. This was accomplished by the Marathas who actually crossed the Indus and held Peshawar for a few months. These events brought Ahmad Shah to India once again (1759-61). The Marathas rapidly evacuated the Punjab before the Afghan advance and retreated towards Delhi. They were routed with enormous losses at Panipat on 14 January 1761.

Vadda Ghallughara—the Great Killing

After Panipat the main factor to reckon with was the growing power of the Sikhs who had constantly been assailing Ahmad Shah's lines of communication. It was against them that the Afghan invader's sixth expedition (1762) was specifically directed. News had reached him in Afghanistan of the defeat, after his withdrawal from the country, of his general, Nur ud-Din Bamezai, at the hands of the Sikhs who were fast spreading themselves out over the Punjab and had declared their leader, Jassa Singh Ahluvalia, king of Lahore (1761). To rid his Indian dominions of them once for all, he set out from Qandahar. Marching with alacrity, he overtook the Sikhs as they were withdrawing into the Malva after crossing the Sutlej. The moving caravan comprised a substantial portion of the total Sikh population and contained, besides active fighters, a large body of old men, women and children who were being escorted to the safety of the interior of the country. Surprised by Ahmad Shah, the Sikhs threw a cordon round those who needed protection, and prepared for the battle. Continuing their march in this form, they fought the invaders and their Indian allies desperately. Ahmad Shah succeeded, in the end, in breaking through the ring and glutted his spite by carrying out a fullscale butchery. Near the village of Kup, near Malerkotia, nearly 25,000 Sikhs were killed in a single day's battle (5 February 1762), known in Sikh history as Vadda Ghallughara, the Great Killing. But the Sikhs were by no means crushed.

Harimandar Quickly Restored

Within four months of the Great Carnage, the Sikhs had inflicted a severe defeat on the Afghan governor of Sirhind. Four months later they were celebrating Divali in the Harimandar (God's Temple) Amritsar, which had been blown up with gunpowder by order of the Shah in April 1762, and were fighting with him again a pitched battle forcing him to withdraw from Amritsar under cover of darkness (17 October). Ahmad Shah left Lahore for Afghanistan on 12 December 1762.

Ahmad Shah planned another crusade against the Sikhs and he invited this time his Baluch ally, Amir Nasir Khan , to join him in the adventure. He started from Afghanistan in October 1764 and reaching Lahore attacked Amritsar on 1 December 1764. A small batch of thirty Sikhs, in the words of Qazi Nur Muhammad, the author of the Jangnamah, who happened to be in the imperial train accompanying the Baluch division, "grappled with the ghazis, spilt their blood and sacrificed their own lives for their Guru." Ahmad Shah came down to Sirhind without encountering anywhere the main body of the Khalsa. This time he went no farther than Sirhind. As he was marching homewards through the Jalandhar Doab, Sikh sardars, including Jassa Singh Ahluvalia, Jassa Singh Ramgarhia, Charhat Singh Sukkarchakkia, Jhanda Singh Bhangi and Jai Singh Kanhaiya, kept a close trail constantly raiding the imperial caravan. Their depredations caused great annoyance to the Shah who lost much of his baggage to the Sikhs. The floods in the River Chenab took a further toll of his men and property, and he returned to Afghanistan mauled and considerably shaken.

Last Invasions and Death of Ahmad Shah

The fear of his Indian empire falling to the Sikhs continued to obsess the Shah's mind and he led out yet another punitive campaign against them towards the close of 1766. This was his eighth invasion into India. The Sikhs had recourse to their old game of hideandseek. Vacating Lahore which they had wrested from Afghan nominees, Kabuli Mall and his nephew Amir Singh, they faced squarely the Afghan general, Jahan Khan at Amritsar, forcing him to retreat, with 6,000 of the Durrani soldiers killed. Ahmad Shah offered the governorship of Lahore to Sikh sardar, Lahina Singh Bhangi, but the latter declined the proposal. Jassa Singh Ahluvalia, with an army of 30,000 Sikhs, roamed about the neighbourhood of the Afghan camp plundering it to his heart's content. Never before had Ahmad Shah felt so helpless. The outcome of the unequal, but bitter, contest now lay clearly in favour of the Sikhs. The Shah had realized that his Indian dominions were at the mercy of the Sikhs and he bowed to the inevitable. His own soldiers were getting restive and the summer heat of the Punjab was becoming unbearable. He, at last, decided to return home, but took a different route this time to avoid molestation by the Sikhs. As soon as Ahmad Shah retired, Sikhs reoccupied their territories.

The Shah led out his last expedition in the beginning of 1769. He crossed the Indus and the Jehlum and reached as far as the right bank of the Chenab and fixed his camp at Jukalian to the northwest of Gujrat. By this time the Sikhs had established themselves more firmly in the country. Moreover, dissensions broke out among the Shah's followers and he was compelled to return to Afghanistan.

On Ahmad Shah's death in 1772 of the cancerous wound said to have been caused on his nose by a flying piece of brick when the Harimandar Sahib was destroyed with gunpowder, his empire roughly extended from the Oxus to the Indus and from Tibet to Khurasan. It embraced Kashmir, Peshawar, Multan, Sindh, Baluchistan, Khurasan, Herat, Qandahar, Kabul and Balkh.


1. Ganda Singh, Ahmad Shah Durrani. Bombay, 1959

2. Gupta, Hari Ram, History of the Sikhs, vol. II. Delhi, 1978

3. Sarkar, Jadunath, Fall of the Mughal Empire, vol. II. Delhi, 1971

4. Khushwant Singh, A History of the Sikhs, vol. I. Princeton, 1963

From Article 2

Retreive Uncommon facts...Thanks

Ahmed Shah Abdali also known as Ahmad Shah Durrani, sometimes also Ahmad Shāh Bābā, was the founder of the Durrani Empire of Kandahar and is therefore often regarded as the founder of modern Afghanistan. He was an ethnic Pashtun and was born as the second son of Mohammed Zaman Khan, chief of the Abdali tribe, in the city of Multan in 1723. In 1772, Ahmad Shah retired to his home in Maruf in the mountains east of Kandahar, where he died in October the same year. He was succeeded by his son, Timur Shah Durrani.

In his youth, he and his elder brother (Zulfikar Khan) were imprisoned inside a fortress by Hussein Khan, who was governor of Kandahar for the Ghalzais. Hussein Khan commanded a powerful tribe of Afghans, having conquered the whole of Persia a few years eariler.

Ahmad Shah and his brother were freed by Nadir Shah, the new emperor of Persia, after his conquest of Kandahar in 1736-37. The brothers, with a powerful body of their clansmen, pledged their loyalty to Nadir Shah and soon distinguished themselves in battle. He quickly rose to command a cavalry contingent estimated at four thousand strong, composed chiefly of Abdalis, in the service of Nadir Shah.

Popular history has it that the brilliant and megalomanical Nadir Shah could see the talent in his young commander. he is reported to have said, "I have not seen in Iran, Turan and Hindustan any mass of such laudable talents as possessed by Ahmed Abdali!".

Military Campaigns

Ahmed Shah had accompanied Nadir Shah to Delhi in 1739, and had seen the weakness of the ruler there. To pay for the maintenance of the army, he had to conquer new lands. His own country had no resources at all, compared with the vast wealth of India. Apart from that, he wished to enhance his own reputation in Afghanistan by capturing a neighboring country.

In 1947, Ahmad Shah then began his career as head of the Abdali tribe by capturing Ghazni from the Ghilzai Pashtuns, and then wresting Kabul from the local ruler, and thus strengthened his hold over most of present-day Afghanistan. Leadership of the various Afghan tribes rested mainly on the ability to provide booty for the clan, and Ahmed Shah proved remarkably successful in providing both booty and occupation for his followers. Apart from invading the Punjab three times between the years 1747-1753, he captured terrotary to the west as well.

In December 1747, Ahmed Shah set out from Peshawar and arrived at the Indus river-crossing at Attock. From there, he sent his messenger to Lahore but reception from Shah Nawaz was frosty. When Ahmed Shah reached the bank of the Ravi on 8th January, 1748, the Lahore army of 70,000 prepared to oppose the invader. The Pathans crossed over on the 10th of January and the battle was joined on the 11th. Ahmed Shah had only 30,000 horsemen, and no artillery. But during the battle, a force of 5,000 Pathans of Qasoor under Jamal Khan defected to his side, and he was able to crush the poorly trained forces of Lahore. Shah Nawaz fled to Delhi, and Adina Beg was equally fast in running away to the Jalandhar area.

Ahmed Shah entered the city on the 12th January 1748, and set free Moman Khan and Lakhpat Rai. He then ordered a general massacre. Towards evening, the prominent leaders of the city including Moman Khan, Lakhpat Rai and Surat Singh collected a sum of three million rupees and offered it as expenses to Abdali, requesting him to halt the looting and slaughter. Ahmed Shah appointed Jamal Khan of Qasoor Governor of Lahore, and Lakhpat Rai his minister, and restoring law and order around the town by February 18, he set out towards Delhi.

Meanwhile, in the preceding three years, the Sikhs had occupied the city of Lahore, and Ahmed Shah had to return in 1751 to oust them.

Then in 1756/57, in what was his fourth invasion of India, Ahmed Shah sacked Delhi looting every corner of that city and enriching himself with what remained of that city's wealth after Nadir Shah's invasion in 1739. However, he did not displace the Mughal dynasty, which remained in nominal control as long as the ruler acknowledged Ahmad's suzerainty over the Punjab, Sindh, and Kashmir. He installed a puppet Emperor, Alamgir II, on the Mughal throne, and arranged marriages for himself and his son Timur into the Imperial family that same year. Leaving his second son Timur Shah (who was wed to the daughter of Alamgir II) to safeguard his interests, Ahmad finally left India to return to Afghanistan. On his way back, Ahmed Shah captured Amritsar (1757), and sacked the sikhs holy temple of Golden Temple.

As early as by the end of 1761, the Sikhs had began to occupy much of Punjab. In 1762, Ahmad Shah crossed the passes from Afghanistan for the sixth time to crush the Sikhs. He assaulted Lahore and Amritsar (the holy city of the Sikhs), massacred thousands of Sikh inhabitants, destroyed their temples and again desecrated their holy places with cow's blood. Within two years, the Sikhs rebelled again, and he launched another campaign against them in December, 1764 resulting in a severe Sikh defeat. However, he was unable to hold his ground and soon had to departed from Punjab and hasten westward to quell an insurrection in Afghanistan.

After the departure of Ahmad Shah Abdali, Jassa Singh Ahluwalia attacked Sirhind and it was razed to ground. The Afghan Governor Zen Khan was killed. This was a great victory for the Sikhs who were rulers of all the area around the Sirhind. Jassa Singh also paid a visit to Hari Mandir at Amritsar, and restored it to original shape after defilement by Ahmad Shah.

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