Surya Devi of Sindh – The Hindu Princess who defied the Caliph

By TUBS - CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Princess Surya Devi was the elder daughter of Raja Dahir of Sindh (663AD-712AD) (present-day Pakistan). Caliph Al Waheed of the Ummayad dynasty ordered an attack on Sindh. There are different versions of reasons behind the attack. The main reason was probably the looting of a ship loaded with pilgrims going to Mecca Hajj from Sri Lanka off the coast of Sindh by pirates. On reaching Mecca, the pilgrims wrote a letter to the governor of Basra, Mohammed Ibn Hajjaj. Ibn Hajjaj corresponded with Raja Dahir regarding the attack and demanded the pirates be brought to justice. Raja Dahir expressed his being helpless and fighting the pirates. Ibn Hajjaj decided to punish Raja Dahir as he thought Raja Dahir was making excuses and pirates had his patronage. So the matter was brought to the notice of Caliph Al Waheed, who ordered an attack on Raja Dahir. An army was sent under the military command of the 17-year-old general Mohammad bin Qasim.

A battle ensued, and after fighting bravely for many days, Raja Dahir lost. As was the custom of those days Raja Dahir ‘s Queens performed Jauhar (an act of self-immolation performed by the Hindu queens to save themselves from being dishonoured by the foreign Islamic invaders). His two beautiful young daughters, the elder one, princess Surya Devi and the younger one princess Parimal Devi were captured by Mohd bin Qasim and sent to the Caliph in Damascus as a gift.

On reaching the haram of the Caliph, Surya Devi decided to avenge her father and also try to save herself and her sister from being dishonoured. At night when the Caliph came into the bedroom, Surya Devi told him that she was no longer pure for the Caliph. She told him that Mohd bin Qasim had dishonoured her and in a way dishonoured the Caliph. The Caliph was furious, and he immediately wrote an order that Mohammad bin Qasim be wrapped alive in rawhide and put in a box and sent to Damascus immediately. On receiving the orders, Mohammad bin Qasim was treated the way it was mentioned in the letter, and he died a very torturous death en route to Damascus. When his body came to Damascus, the Caliph opened the box and showed Surya Devi that what happens when somebody dishonours the Caliph and does not follow orders.

She then told the Caliph how she tricked him into avenging her father and how she wanted to save herself and her sister from being made slaves in the harem and being dishonoured. The Caliph was furious because he was indeed tricked into killing one of his most successful and able generals. He ordered Princess Surya Devi and her sister to be tied to the tail of a horse and run through streets of Damascus until their last breath. His orders were carried out immediately.



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