Itihaas
Feb, 23rd, 1994
Akhilesh Mithal

The Doe and the Fleet-footed Subuktagin

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After this had continued for a while the mother deer's misery started affecting Subuk.   He halted his steed and released the fawn.  as he moved away from the terrorized fawn, the doe bounded to her young one and lovingly licked it back into action.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tribal hordes have since time immemorial left the poor, inhospitable steppes, arid rocky infertile terrain of the trans-Himalayan countries to pour into the rich, fertile, alluvial Indo-Gangetic plains. Some of these well known ‘invaders’ include the Kushans, Huns, Sakas and Gujaras, who over the years settled down and meshed with the Indian society.

The stocky builds of many Indians betray a Central Asian origin, although both Hindus and Muslims of all castes claim either Aryan, Arab or Persian origins, as the case may be. And, blue eyes and blonde hair are rarely offered as proof. Except in some cases in the North, where a connection is claimed with Alexander. Sometimes I wonder whether the Tommies campaigning in the Punjab were all celibate monks!

The Kushans, who originated from the Yeuh-Chi tribe have left many coins, some of which carry the portraits of their emperors like Kadphises, Kanishka and Huvishka. These portraits depict them sporting a high head gear, ankle lenght cloak and sturdy boots. This apparel is quite different from the clothes depicted in the earlier artifacts of the Mauryas and the Sungas. In fact the people who resemble the Kushanas most closely, are the pre-Akbar Mughals like Barbar and Humayun. The historians have no difficulty in accepting these Central Asians as Indian. It is however a different story with invaders like the Turki-Ghaznavids.

If the fighters for the faith of Islam are known as 'Ghazis' the Sultan Mahmoud of Ghazi would probably be considered to be the foremost Ghazi. So here, it would be interesting to examine just how deep rooted is Islam in Mahmoud's family.

The founder of his dynasty, Amir Naseerudin Subuktagin, whose fame has long been overshadowed by his son Mahmoud; was captured in a raid by a tribesman of an inimical clan and subsequnetly sold as a slave.  In those days, a slave owned neither his body nor his life.  If he so wished the owner could mutilate or even kill his slave without violating any law.

If the owner happened to be a Christain then the slave assumed the faith propounded by Jesus and if the owner was Muslim, them the slave converted to Islam. Thus, it was not faith but fate that made Subuk a Muslim. 

Subuk was a good looking boy with a quick mind and sturdy limbs.  In fact, the word Subuk means fleet-footed, or swift.  And it is likely that this name was given to him after he was purchased by Alaptagin, a commander in the army of Abdul Malik, the Smanid ruler of Bokhara.  Abdul Malik had thrown off the Arab yoke and become independent of the Caliphate, which claimed to be the centre of the Muslim world and wielded authority over all Muslim rulers.

The Samanids were the local people and interestingly, the word Bukhara is similar to Bihar.  The genesis of both words can be traced to Vihara, which means a seminary or shelter for the Buddhist monks.

But to get back to Subuk, he earned laurels for himself in several battles and soon became Subuktagin ie Subuk, the commander.  And later, when he became the ruler of Ghazni, came to be known as Amir Naseerudin Subuktagin.  The reason for his rapid rise is told in a story, in a chronicle which portrays the House of Ghazni as doughty warriors for the faith of Islam or Ghazis.

It is said that as a slave of Alaptagin, Subuk had little to call his own. The clothes he wore, the arms he carried and horse he rode, all belonged to his master.  And during peace, Subuk had to go out each day to hunt for his own food.

Once, during a bitter, unrelenting winter in Khurasan, Subuk ventured on a hunt.   Food was scarce and from early morning to late afternoon he rode all around and found no game.  The short winter's day was already waning and Subuk was getting weary and dispondent.  Suddenly, in a small clearing near a bush, he saw his quarry, a new born fawn. He trussed it up and rode off, looking forward to a scrumptious dinner. 

But after a while Subuk's well honed hunter's instinct warned him of pursuit.  He turned his head to find a doe following him.  She was looking at him in distress.   Her large, jet black eyes were misty with tears and she seemed to be beseeching him to release her young.

Subuk however was determined not to give in to these blandishments. He made a couple of feints in the direction of the doe to chase her off. But each time she would retreat just far enough to be out of harm's reach and then resume her pursuit.

After this had continued for a while, the mother deer's misery started affecting Subuk.   He halted his steed and released the fawn.  As he moved away from the terrorized fawn, the doe bounded up to her young one and lovingly licked it back into action.  Then, together they started moving into the wilderness.  But once in a while, till they disappeared out of sight, the doe would turn her head to gaze at Subuk with happiness and gratitude.

Subuk returned home to a spartan repast and hard bed.  That night he had a dream that he had been transported to heaven by an angel, who took him straight to the Prophet Muhammad.

There, Subuk waited till the Prophet's glance fell on him, who then said "O kind hearted Subuk! Today you have shown great mercy, kindness and compassion to one of the most insignificant and mute creature of the Almighty.  You have proved yourself   worthy of trust and responsibility.  You will be given a dominion and bestowed with kingship." 

Akhilesh Mithal, 1991-1998. All rights reserved.
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