The sacking of the temple of Somnath (1026), with its ‘56 golden pillars’ was perhaps the most lucrative of Mahmud of Ghazni’s (r. 997–1030) many looting raids into India. The Ghaznavid Empire had been founded by his father, Sebuktigin, a Turkic slave soldier for the Samanid dynasty, who seized a base at Ghazni, then rapidly overran much of present day Afghanistan. Mahmud usurped the throne on Sebuktigin’s death by defeating his older brother at the battle of Ghazni (998). In a reign of restless conquest, he extended the empire to the Caspian Sea and the valley of the Ganges. However, by its final years, his northern frontiers were increasingly harried by the new Turkic conquerors on the block, the Seljuks. After his death, the Seljuks defeated Mamhmud’s son Masud at Dandanaqan (1040), and the Ghaznavid empire spiralled into rapid decline, although it maintained a lingering stronghold around Delhi until 1186.
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