Baharistan-i-Shahi – Chapter 2

Baharistan-i-Shahi – Chapter 2 – ZULCHU AND RINCHAN

Shah Mir, now known by the title Sultan Shamsu’d-Din, a descendant of the rulers of Swadgir,[1] came to the Kingdom of Kashmir during the reign of Suh Dev.[2] The reason for his coming to Kashmir was this: His grandfather [or ancestor] Waqur Shah was a pious and righteous man. He had received spiritual training from the saints of a recognized order and the Shaykhs who followed the path of truth. He had undergone severe penance which helped him to attain knowledge and a state of purity of the inner self. Through an intuitive observation of the world of the spirit, he had announced : “My son Tahir will be given a son named Shah Mir who will become the ruler of Kashmir and assume the title Shamsu’d-Din. The kingdom of that region and the government of those lands will remain entrusted to and confirmed in the hands of his descendants for a long time.”

When Shah Mir came of age he heard this story from his father and his relatives. He believed in the uncanny and extraordinary feats of his ancestors. Encouraged by the prophecy[3], he migrated to Kashmir along with his wife and children. When Suh Dev received the news of his arrival in Baramulla he directed that arrangements be made for his stay at Dwarksil [4] where he be provided with means for his living.

Lankar Chak

It was during the days of Suh Dev that one Lankar Chak,[5] the forebear of the Chaks, abandoned the lands of Dardu[6] and moved to Drav because of a family feud. He then migrated to Kashmir with his wife and children and settled in the village of Trehgam.[7] As God willed, the same village became the seat of the Chaks [later on].


It was during the reign of Suh Dev that Rinchan came to Kashmir from the dominion of Tibet [8] on account of the hostility he faced from his enemies and adversaries . [9] On reaching Kashmir, he approached Rama Chand, the commander of Suh Dev’s army, who gave him a dwelling place at Gagangir. [10]

Zulchu’s ravages

Zulchu’s[11] [Zulju's] incursion on Kashmir also took place during the reign of Suh Dev. Chroniclers of the events of Kashmir have not recorded an event more disastrous and catastrophic than Zulchu’s raid. Its details are given below.

In the early spring of A.H. 727 (A.D. 1323), a king [12] Zulchu by name and confirmed as Zulaji by Mirza Haidar [13] entered [the valley] via Baramulla at the head of seventy thousand Mongol and Turk soldiers and horsemen.[14] From there he ordered his troops to carry out a wholesale massacre of the natives. Whosoever fell into their hands between the boundaries of Kamaraj[15] and the extreme end of Maraj[16] was put to the sword. People who had run away into mountains and forests were captured. Men were killed; women and children were made prisoners and sold to the merchants and traders of Cathay who had accompanied his troops. All the buildings of the city and the villages [of Kashmir] were burnt. His troops consumed as much of foodgrains as they needed and whatever remained they destroyed. The whole of Kashmir was subjected to destruction by their ungodly acts.

Suh Dev, the lord and ruler of Kashmir, was much disheartened and discouraged by the tyranny and corruption of Zulchu. With a handful of his close associates he fled towards Kathwar. His commander Rama Chand shut himself up in the fort at Gagangir[17] [sic] in the pargana of Lar. Zulchu’s troops went on killing people and looting their possessions; nobody dared to come out of their hiding places in forests and mountains. The people of Kashmir were reduced to such a state of helplessness that they could not attend to their work of tilling the land. The result was that all arable lands in Kashmir remained unattended and uncultivated. Foodgrains stocked during the previous year were partly consumed and partly destroyed by his troops who now faced hunger and famine and awaited death. In this way they “cast their boat of life into the whirlpool of disappointment and frustration.”

[ verses ]

These alien troops resorted to indiscriminate bloodshed, killing and pillaging beyond all limits for a period of about eight months.

When the sun crossed the capricorn in the zodiac, his [ Zulchu's] soldiers were faced with an acute scarcity of foodgrains and hence decided to flee this land. They deliberated over the question of the route they should adopt to come out of this land, and enquired about the shortest route to India from the prisoners and the detenus who suggested the road via Tarbal.[18] They proceeded to India by the same route along with the prisoners. On reaching the top of the mountain, God’s wrath hurled upon them a rain of destruction. Thunderbolts were let loose. Such was the onslaught of rain and snow that all the soldiers, the Turks and the prisoners met with their death and nobody survived.[19]

The lands of Kashmir were thus liberated from the ravages of the Turks and Zulchu. The people of Kashmir who had been forced to hide came out of their hiding places and went back to their homes and dwelling places in the hope of finding survivors among their kith and kin, their clan, or neighbours or well-wishers. They found that the domain of Kashmir had been totally destroyed.[20] They frantically searched from place to place, but could not find any of their relatives, friends, or acquaintances. They were so much overwhelmed by grief that they preferred death to life. For years on end, the lands in Kashmir remained barren, uncultivated and unproductive, so much so that though two hundred and seventy years have elapsed, every stretch of uncultivated and unattended land even now is traced to that period. Hence the saying: “Here Zulchu cultivated turf.”

Finding that Kashmir was in a state of desolation, the depradators and robbers[21] living in the mountains poured [into it] from all sides; they plundered the remaining people and took their womenfolk and children as captives. In each pargana, forty or fifty villagers formed a group and chose one person as their leader. They procured various kinds of weapons and resolved to protect their families, their lives and their property. In due course of time they captured a fort in each pargana, appointed a kotwal to take charge of it and claimed to be independent. None of them felt obliged to yield to the authority of others.

Rinchan’s plot

In the pargana of Lar, Rinchan raised a group of soldiers. [22] He aspired to be the master of the land and sent his men to the fort of Rama Chand in the guise of merchants with weapons concealed in their luggage.[23] They were instructed that as soon as he (Rinchan) arrived in the neighbourhood of the fort and signalled for attack and killing, they should throw open the gates of the fort from inside. Following his instructions his men entered into the fort of Rama Chand and he, too, proceeded thither the same night. He from outside and his men from inside of the fort resorted to killing and fighting [Rama Chand's men]. In the encounter that followed Rama Chand was killed.

Rama Chand’s son Ravan Chand and his wife and children were taken prisoner. Thus in A.H. 725 (A.D. 1324), Rinchan became the ruler and lord of this land. Not being a native,[24] he took the pragmatic view that it would not be possible for him to rule Kashmir unless he won over its people as his friends and supporters. Therefore he bestowed favours upon Ravan Chand to bring him closer to himself and married his sister (Rama Chand’s daughter) Kotehren.[25] He conferred upon Ravan Chand the pargana of Lar and the dominion of Tibet.
In those days the custom prevailing in this land was that if respect had to be shown to anyone, the title ‘Renu’ would be appended to his name. It was regarded as a mark of distinction. The meaning of the word ‘Raina’ is ‘master and possessor.’ For the same reason Rinchan conferred upon Ravan Chand the title of ‘Renu’ which has been retained by that house to this day.’[26]

Suh Dev, the ruler of this land, who had fled to Kathwar[27] because of the threat posed by Zulchu, returned in the hope of recapturing his dominion. He confronted Rinchan, who, some time back, had been one among his inferior servants, but he could not match him on the battlefield and, after suffering another defeat, turned back to Kathwar. In this way the government of his domain passed into the hands of Rinchan.

Rinchan’s wisdom

Rinchan was not bound by any religion or community.[28] However, during his rule, he tried to mete out even-handed justice to his subjects as far as he could, which helped the lands of Kashmir to achieve economic prosperity. In those days nobody would settle public disputes in accordance with the tenets of Muhammadan religion. That is why Rinchan solved very difficult problems of his people with the help of his intelligence, understanding, sagacity, and wisdom.[29] The episode of the claim of two mares over a colt and the jumping of one of them into a stream is one of the examples of wisdom.[30] During his reign, a colt was suckled by two mares and thus had become intimate with both of them to such an extent that the onlookers could not make out its real mother. [This led to a situation in which] an imposter staked his claim of ownership of the colt and pressed it hard upon the real owner. Both of them were compelled to take their dispute to Rinchan. The judges of those days, though competent, were indecisive and hesitant in issuing a decree. Rinchan considered the case carefully and using his [gift of] wisdom ordered that both the mares and the colt be driven to the bridge over the canal passing through the city and the colt be hurled into the flowing waters. The two mares were left on the bridge. As soon as the colt fell into water, one of the two mares, moved by motherly instinct, also plunged into the stream and escorted its young one to the bank. The other mare remained impassive and did not budge from its place. In this way it was Rinchan’s intelligence which established the genuineness of the real owner and rejected the false claim of the imposter.

Rinchan’s conversion

During the early stages of his career, Rinchan showed no inclination towards any of the existing religions.[31] It was in the fitness of things that he embraced one of these religions and vigorously prayed to God the Merciful.
At this time only a handful of people in Kashmir had embraced Islam. Most of the people were either infidels or dissemblers. But when Rinchan thought of embracing a religion and associating himself with a community he made enquiries about the principles and laws of their religion from the savants among the infidels and the learned men of the times. They beseeched him to join their fold.[32] The Muslims also put before him the principles and teachings of the Islamic faith and invited him to embrace their religion. But owing to serious differences between these two religions and the disagreement [prevailing] among the two religious groups, he was not able to reach any decision. Each community considered its religion the true one and each group induced him to embrace its religion. He was in a fix because of the serious differences and glaring contradictions in the views of these communities. Their heated discussions and discourses led him to no satisfactory conclusion. However, blessed as he was with a dispensation for justice, for ‘God helps those who help themselves,’ he found the right path. He firmly decided that he would embrace the religion of the first man he would meet in the street after coming out of his house the next morning. He also resolved to join the community to which that man belonged.

Next morning he came out of his house. The rays of the sun of divine guidance, bringing every object from darkness to light, liberated him from the darkness of ignorance and disbelief; for all of a sudden, in the neighbourhood of his mansion he saw a dervish offering namaz (the Muslim way of praying), with full devotion. He went towards him. When the dervish had finished his prayer, Rinchan held him by his hand and brought him to his house. Then he called in an interpreter who knew their languages. He asked the dervish his name and then about his religion and the sect he belonged to. The dervish told him that his name was Bulbul Qalandar, that his religion was Islam[33] and that his community was that of Muslims. He disclosed to him that he was a member of the sect of Shah Ne’matullah Wali. He then mentioned to him some of the miracles performed by the Prophet, the virtues and superior qualities of ‘Ali, the Imam, and lastly, the extraordinary feats of spirituality performed by Shah Ne’matullah Wali.

[ verses ]

His (Rinchan’s) heart had previously been blackened by the beliefs of a false community.[34] Now he subjected himself to the teachings of the religion of Mustafa (Prophet), and the right principles of the truthful path of Murtaza (Ali), and embraced Islamic religion with sincerity and conviction.[35] He gave up once for all the false and corrupt religions.

In this way Rinchan became the first ruler of Kashmir to be admitted to the Islamic faith. He got a khanqah[36] built for Baba Bulbul Qalandar in the neighbourhood of his own palace and conferred upon him a jagir[37] from the income of which expenses could be met for his followers, kinsfolk, the mendicants and casual visitors to the khanqah, who often stayed there. As a result of the abundance of good-will and purity of disposition of this dervish, the khanqah continues to be in a prosperous state even to this day. The grave of Baba Bulbul is also to be found there. Rinchan also built a mosque[38] for Friday prayers and congregations in the neighbourhood of his lodging and himself joined the Friday congregational prayers regularly besides joining the mass for all the five prescribed times of praying after the Muslim fashion.[39] The mosque built under his instructions caught fire but a smaller mosque made of solid stone was erected in its place later on.

The first to embrace Islam from the house of Chandas was Ravan Raina,[40] the younger brother of Kotehren [Kota Rani], who was brought up by Rinchan.[41] Shah Mir who later earned fame as sultan Shamsu’d-Din, was made one of his chiefs and close associates by Rinchan. By Koteh [Rani], Rinchan got a son and Baba Bulbul gave him the noble name of Haidar Khan. Rinchan entrusted him to the care of Shah Mir who was destined later to become Sultan Shamsu’ d-Din.


1. Originally pancagahvara. See Jonar, p 64. About Shah Mir’s Pandava ancestors, See Jonar. p. 62; Ain-i-Akbari, Vol. II, p. 386; and Tabaqat-i-Akzari (Calcutta text), Vol. iii, p. 424. Malik Haidar is of the view that Shah Mir came to Kashmir as a dervish, which seems to put his royal ancestory in doubt. TMH, MS, f. 28b.

2. One of the very remarkable features of the reign of Suh Dev is that during his rule many outsiders came into Kashmir who played a significant role in its future affairs. Suh Dev seems to have been a very tolerant king. This is attested to by Jonaraja. Commenting on his account of Suh Deva (A.D. 1301-20), the learned Srikanth Koul writes: … it appears from Jonaraja’s poetical language that Suhadeva was munificent in providing means of subsistance to outsiders who had entered the valley in search of employment. In fact the outsiders were mercenary recruits, refugees, and travellers patronized … by the king ….” Jonar p. 62.

3. According to Jonaraja the goddess Mahadevi came to Sahmira in a dream in which she told him that he would become the king of Kashmir. See Jonar. Stt. 138-39. Hasan has reproduced the version of the story presented in the text from Ferishta’s Tarikh. See THK, p. 161. However, there is no mention of either of these two versions in TMH.

4. Originally called Dvarvati. See al-Biruni’s India, (tr. Sachau), Vol II, p. 313, and Rajat. Vol, II, p. 480.

5. Lankarchak is a corruption of Alamkaracakra. See Rajat. Vol. II, p. 341.

6. They actually came from the village Barshal in Dardu. See THK. p. 217. For Dardu and Drav, see Rajat. Vol. II, p. 282 and i, p. 93, vii, 201, 1130.

7. Now in Kupwara district.

8. There are conflicting views about Rinchan’s status in Tibet. See THK. p. 161 Malik Haidar states that he was
just a noble person of his land. See TMH. MS. f. 28b.

9. This is contradicted by Jonaraja and Malik Haidar. Both of them state that he ran away because of the opposition from his relatives. See Jonar. Stt. 149-52, and TMH. MS. f. 25b.

10. Malik Haidar makes no mention of such a request. But Hasan confirms that he sought military assistance from Rama Chand in the fort of Gagangir. See THK. p. 161.

11. Jonaraja names him as Dulaca. See Jonar. St. 142.

12. There are conflicting views about his status in the country of his origin. Hasan, who calls him Zu’l-Qadr Khan, states that he was a grandchild of Hulagu from his daughter’s line. See THK, p. 162. Malik Haidar’s opinion is more assured when he states that he was the ruler of Turkestan. See T.M.K. MS. 29a. Jonaraja, however, says that he was a general in the army of Emperor Karmasena. See Jonar. St. 142. This seems to be correct because Srikantha Koul writes that Dulaca (Jonaraja’s version of Zulchu’s name), is not the personal name of Zulchu, but a corruption of Darakechen, a military office under the Mongols. See Jonar. p. 165.

13. Mirza Haidar Dughlat, the author of Tarikh-i-Rashidi.

14. The text obviously is silent about how the king of Kashmir reacted to his invasion. Malik Haidar says that unable to resist Zulchu’s attack, Suh Dev the ruler of Kashmir fled to Kathwar. See TMK. MS. f. 29b.

15. See Rajat. ii, 476-90.

16. Ibid.

17. The text is not clear. Hasan writes that the fort was that of Gagangir. THK. p. 162.

18. Name of a pass in the mountainous area of Divsar pargana. See Jonar. p. 69, 1n. The route over it led to Visalata (Srivara, i, 7. 206-7), identified with Bichlari river valley by Stein. See Rajat. viii, 177n. Tarbal in TMH. MS. f. 29b and Khori in Divsar mountains in THK. p. 163. One more possible reading of this word can be Barbal. See Rajat Vol . II, p. 399.

19. Fifty thousand Kashmiri captives perished in the disaster. See TMH. MS. Cat. No. 39, f. 56, and TNK, MS. Cat. f. 40b.

20. Jonaraja describes the ravages tellingly: “Depopulated, uncultivated, grainless, and gramineous, the country of Kashmir offered, as it were, the sight of primal chaos.” See Jonar. St. 162. Hasan says that out of a hundred persons only one person survived and the city (of Srinagar) shrank to eleven families. THK. p. 163.

21. The robbers belonged to the tribe of Khasas of Khakhas. See Rajat. Vol. II. p. 430 and THK, p. 164. Jonaraja describes them as Abhisaras, who lived between Vitasta and Chandrabhaga (the rivers of Jhelum and Chenab). See Jonar. St. 163. Also see Rajat. i, 180n.

22. Hasan writes that Rinchan was provided soldiers by Rama Chand, who had proclaimed himself king, to suppress the Khasas. See THK. p. 164.

23. This treacherous act is confirmed by Malik Haidar and Jonaraja. See TMK. MS. f. 30a and Jonar. Stt. 167-69. Hasan writes that arms were concealed in bags of charcoal which were unloaded by the Tibetan merchants in the cells of the fort at Andarkot. THK. p. 164.

24. Hasan writes that Kashmiris had shown their thankfulness to Rinchan for delivering them from the ravages of Khahan (Khasas) by offering him presents in cash and kind. Some of these had teen sent by him to Rama Chand also. See THK. p. 164.

25. From her he got a son named Haidar Khan; Shah Mirza was appointed his tutor (ataliq). See THK. p. 165.

26. Raina is the late version of Rajanaka. See Rajat. iv, 489n.

27. Now called Kishtwar. See TMH. MS. f. 29b.

28. Hasan contradicts this statement. According to him, Rinchan was a Buddhist. See THK. Vol. II, p. 166.

29. See Jonar. Stt. 179 and 184.

30. Hasan associates this story with Malik Saifu’d-Din (Suh Bhatt), the chief vizir of Sultan ‘Ali. See THK. p. 186.

31. Hasan’s account of the religions prevailing at that time is amusingly incorrect. According to him they were: Khetri, Vaish, Kaisth, and Parsi. The first three are actually the classes within the Hindu community. The mention of Parsis is, however, interesting. Jonaraja has made a revealing comment about Rinchan’s religious leanings by stating that “one Devasvami had scruples in initiating Rinchana into the Saivite faith. The refusal was made because Rinchana happened to be Bhautta by birth.” Jonar. p. 71.

32. Malik Haidar is of the view that Rinchan was inclined to embrace the religion of the Brahmans. See TMH. MS. f. 31a.

33. According to Malik Haidar, Baba Bulbul’s answer to Rinchan was: “garibam” (I am a stranger). See TMH. MS. f. 31a. Abu’l-Fazl writes that Rinchan accepted Islam because of Shah Mir. See Ain-i-Akbari, Vol. II, p. 386.

34. This contradicts the author’s earlier statement that “Rinchan was not bound by any religion …” Supra, p. 20. See also note 28.

35. The event occured in A. H. 726 (A.D. 1325). TMH. MS. f. 32a. This reveals that Rinchan was converted by Bulbul Qalandar to Shia’ faith.

36. This was perhaps the first khanqah built in Kashmir. THK. p .166.

37. Hasan writes that a few villages in Nagam pargana were given to him. See THK. p. 166.

38. Called Rentan (Renteh) Masjid. Ibid. p. 167.

39. Malik Haidar is of the opinion that Rinchan’s conversion to Islam was followed by mass conversions. See.TMH. MS. f. 32b.

40. A descendant of the house of Raja Sushram Chand of Nagarkot. Before embracing Islam voluntarily, he held a debate with Baba Bulbul. Ibid.

41. Ravan Raina received the title Malik from Rinchan. Ibid .