* The inhabitants of the fort had an old, traditional faith. Their hands and feet began to tremble from fear of the (Imperial) army, and the thought of the enemy’s arrows filled their bodies with ‘thorns’* like the ‘bones’ of a fish. All these terror-stricken fish fell into lines, and getting into their armours, tied their shields to their backs and began moving up and down. Had you seen their restlessness in the fort, you would have said it was like the revolutions of fish in water. Rāī Bilāl Deo became as pale as a drowning man and his heart began to palpitate like the dew-lap of a frog. Within the Bīr (well) many meetings were held as to the reply to be given to the Imperial army. * If the fire-worshipping Rāī wished to refrain from displaying his wind and smoke, the handful of straws around him blew their breaths and tried to incite him. ‘Ages will be required,’ said they, ‘before the pillar of fire-worshipping tribes can be raised in Dhūr Samandar again. There is no doubt that our origin is from fire and from Dhūr Samandar (salamandar). Since the Turkish army, like a river of fire, has reached the thatch-houses of our villages, it will also have strength enough to reduce the stones of our fort into lime. None the less, our fort is called Dhūr Samandar (sea); water is, and always has been, within reach. If the “tongues” of the Turkish swords begin their work and we find it impossible to extinguish them—well, we have to be cremated, sooner or later, and it is better not to die without water (honour).’ The Rāī flared up at this advice and displayed his inner fire. ‘Before this time,’ he said, ‘my fire-worshipping ancestors, the lamp of whose soul burned bright, have declared that the Hindū cannot stand against the Turk, nor fire against water. This being the case, we have no alternative but to turn away our faces from the fiery arrows of the Turks. Nor must water be thrown at them; for water may turn into oil and make us feel its flame in our life-time. Therefore, I lay all idea of opposition aside. I will go kneeling before them, like water over the earth. May be the fire of the Turks will be somewhat appeased!’ This considerably cooled the advocates of further struggle; they gave up all thought of resistance and consented to open the doors of Bīr (well), so that the torches of warfare may be extinguished.*

*When, in the morning, the sāqī had brought her red wine-glass out of the transparent goblet of the sky, the commander of the army went round the fort, before which (the troops) of Ma’bar had been twice defeated. He thought that the flasks by the side of the ditch* were like a wine-table laid out. The ferocious lions and tigers (of the army) were organized, party by party, while he posted himself along with other Maliks before the gate of the fort. Noise and tumult arose from the blood-drinking lines and the thunder of the drums resounded on all sides. The mystic-minded sword of the Mussalmāns shed so much rebel blood that the deluge rushed to the ditch and meted out to it the punishment its sins deserved. The heat of the flaming arrows turned the blood of the Hindūs into water and brought it out as perspiration. The Council of the Maliks wished to batter down the fort, which stood like a demon’s hat, with their magẖrabi-stones, or else to order the lancers of the army to upturn it like an empty glass with the point of their lances; so that, surrounded by blood, the rebels may fly out of the boiling well (bīr) even as a fly flies out of a flagon. But they refrained from manifesting their power for a time in order that the negotiations may proceed. The choice of becoming Mussalmāns or ẓimmīs (tribute-payers) was placed before the besieged; if they accepted either, well and good; if not, in obedience to Divine com­mands, the fort was to be broken into potsherds with magẖrabi-stones, and the blood of its inmates spilled like wine poured out of a goblet.

* Bilāl Deo now found that the call to prayer would resound in his temple and the voice of the muazzin rise high where he, a demon, had assumed the name of Bilāl,* while the religion of Islam was extended by propaganda and the sword. When the night of Friday, after throwing the dark mantle of evening over its shoulders, had emerged out of its stony pulpit, this Bilāl, whose essence it was to be a demon, despatched Gaisū Mal after the night prayer to find out the strength and circumstances of the Muslim army. When Gaisū Mal reached the Muslim camp, he was stupefied, just as Satan is stupefied when he hears the Qurān read. Rows of horsemen surrounded the fort and kept a strict watch; next morning they would commence the struggle and enter the houses of the demons in full force to establish the Khuba and prayer where the idols had been worshipped. * When, through the locks of the night, Gaisū Mal* saw the enormous army spread out like the hair on a man’s head, the hair on his body stood up like the teeth of a comb in fear. He turned back like a curly lock, and rising and falling, hastened to the fort. When he reached the woolly Rāī and told him what he had seen, the Rāī came near to losing his reason and began to dishevel his hair in mourning at his own loss.

* Next, the Rāī taught all the charms and magic he knew to Bālak Deo Nāyak, who was equal in Satanism to a hundred-thousand (lakh) demons,* and sent him to the camp of the Imperial army. This household shadow came to offer submission before the royal canopy, and bringing to his lips the message he carried in his heart, petitioned for Bilāl Deo’s life and livelihood: ‘This servant, Bilāl Deo, submits to the Emperor like Laddar Deo and Ram Deo, and whatever the Solomon of the time commands, I am ready to obey. If you desire horses like demons, elephants like giants and other valuables, they are present. If all this noise and tumult is for the destruction of the four walls of this fort, they are, as they stand, no obstacle to your advance. The fort is the fort of the Sulān; take it. The servant, Bilāl Deo, has thrown a few stones from the top of his fort; but God forbid that the stones of a demon should do any harm to men! And what can be better for me than to keep my stones to myself, and remain out of harm’s way like the Hindūs of Deogīr? A Hindū on being cremated turns into a demon; but as yet the flame of the Hindī sword of the Turks has not reached me, and it would be unwise for me to become a demon before my time. Behold! The spirits of so many Hindū demons are revolving in the dust round the Imperial camp. They have thrown their lives to the wind by disobeying the demon govern­ing Solomon, and, consequently, they are grovelling in the dust after death. The servant, Bilāl Deo, is a descendant of great Deos; but before the Asaf-like wazīr, who is the deputy of Solomon’s court, he casts aside his Satanism and places his living body under the protection of the lines of angels that stretch towards his right and left, and, like an evil spirit in the month of Ramaān, places his neck in the chain of captivity.’

* The exalted minister heard the submissive message of the Rāī. His penetrating judgment discovered the reason of Bilāl Deo’s humility, but in obedience to the commands of the Muslim Caliph, he replied: ‘The order of the Caliph concerning Bilāl Deo and all other Rāīs is this: First I am to place before them the two negatives of the oath of affirmation.* May be, their hearts will be illuminated! But if Destiny has drawn a curtain before their eyes and they fail to see the light, I am to offer them the alternative of having the yoke of tribute (zimma) put on their necks. If they reject this also and refuse to pay tribute, then I will not place any burden on their necks but will simply relieve their necks of the burden of their heads. Now (tell me) which of these three conditions pleases Rāī Bilāl Deo most, so that I may consult the heads of the army and give you a reply suited to your judgment as well as mine? Weigh your reply carefully, even as I weigh you.’ * The Rāī’s messengers nearly collapsed at the fearful ultimatum. ‘We are Hindū arrows’, they said with their broken spirits, ‘and Hindūs are not good marksmen. May be your message, which is straight as an arrow, will become somewhat crooked (if we convey it). Some straightforward men should be sent along with us; for a messenger despatched by your stout arm is sure to pierce into the Rāī’s heart so effectively as to realize all your wishes.’

The Malik welcomed the idea. He ordered some Hindū Parmār ḥājibs—who, like Turkish arrows, were strong snakes with wings of demons—to go along with the two or three ambassadors of the Rāī. Thanks to the powerful arm that had despatched them, the (Imperial) messengers flew to the fort in the twinkling of an eye and began to attack the Rāī with their tongues. The Rāī jumped up from his place like a mad man on hearing their Venus-rending voices. He wished to talk boldly, but found himself tongue-tied, and it took some time before he was able to speak. When his fear had somewhat abated, and his spirit, which had flown away, returned to its abode, he stood up like an arrow with folded hands. ‘All property, animate and inanimate,’ he said, ‘which Fate has placed in the hands of this servant, Bilāl, is at the service of the Imperial court. Bilāl is also one of the tribute-payers. Next morning, before the shooting-stars and their lantern, the moon, have withdrawn, I will present all I have to the Muslim army. For myself I will keep nothing except my Hindū faith and the sacred thread (zunnār), which I wear round my body. If a uniform yearly tribute is fixed on me, I will gird up my loins like an arrow and meet the wishes of the Imperial officers. By the God who has given such strength to the arrows of the holy warriors, that they pierce the stony hearts of the gabrs, I will not repudiate this agreement.’ * When the Imperial messengers had consoled the Rāī, who looked like a broken bow, and were sure that his weaknesses could not be repaired, they retraced their steps and came to the exalted Malik. The Rāī’s presents, which were suitable for the bow-string, were given over to the archers of the army; and the Malik, having assured himself that the Rāī was sincere in the promise he had made, removed the knot of anger from his brow and placed his bow comfortably on its rack.

On the morning of Friday, the 6th Shawwāl, when the sky had clothed its feet in light, the messengers of the Rāī, men bad in shooting arrows, but truthful in speech, such as Bālak Deo Naik, Māīn Deo, Jīt Mal and some others, came out of the fort with folded hands. They brought their presents and bowed before the Imperial canopy, like a bow when an arrow is shot from it; next, like an arrow springing from the bow-string, they began their alluring speech. ‘The Rāī’, they said, ‘whose truthfulness is straighter than a bow-string, assures you that in the attempt to save himself, he has become more bent than a Hindī bow. Finding that the Turks shoot their arrows on whichever side they see a large corner, he enrols himself among the Imperial tributaries before they put a rope round his neck and bring him within their power. He will submit to such Imperial orders as are issued, and will not defend his fort with bows and arrows.’

* No one can describe the elephants so well as I (Khusrau), for only a cloud can cast its shadow over a mountain. Everyone of them was valiant in slaying the brave, gigantic in stature, yet like man in intelligence. The iron goad above its head looked like the inverted crescent over a cloud… Hard-headed but obedient, it bore on its back the prestige of the court. From a wide throat it emitted a soft sound. Its hands were without fingers and its feet beat like drums on either side. Its shanks were upright and strong like the trunks of trees and bore the enormous weight of its body. It could tear open the sides of a wolf as wide as laughing lips, or send infidels to sleep in red velvet under the weight of its feet. At one throw it could send a thief flying to the other world. The male elephant could win their ‘heads’ from the Hindūs with Chaugān-stick of its trunk; the female could colour the nails of her hands and feet with Mughal blood as if it was ḥinā* and at the same time carve out their eyes with her nails. The soles of its feet shook the unmoving earth, and at the same time dragged the chain behind. The Sah-kash considered the acquisition of the elephants a very good omen—that is, he thought them magnets for drawing the iron hills of Ma‘bar towards themselves. Officers were appointed to look after them and expenses were allotted for their food and upkeep.

* On the day of Mars, when the wine-coloured dawn had disappeared and the heat of the sun was falling vertically on the earth, the Rāī sent all his dust-raising horses to the Imperial stables. They came before the august canopy, rows after rows, like the winds that strike against the clouds; and the canopy, which has the hills for its pegs—if you saw it, you would think it to be the throne of Solomon floating in air— threw its shade over them. The horses seemed to leap into the field of vision out of the realm of imagination. The marine horses could swim through the sea as if it was a cup of water. Their eyes were like crows, with black linings, and they looked at Shabdīz* with contempt. There were dark horses with white faces, like the moon rising up in the horizon of the night; white horses with black hoofs, like an eclipse overshadowing the sun; horses with black patches which reminded one of clouds scattered by the winds; and bay horses with red marks like the air full of roses. Their essence was from the wind, and rain could do them no harm; their bodies were of fire and you could not make their effigies out of wax. They wore shoes of iron and could, nevertheless, dance in the air. Their limbs were like reeds, and they could not, therefore, be drowned in water. Their breasts were wide like the foreheads of the munificent, while their ear-holes were small like the eyes of the stingy.* Like true mystics, they could step on air and walk over the surface of water. Barley was permitted to them, but not whips.

* When the day of the sun* had dawned on the eastern horizon, the sun-worshipping Bilāl Deo saw the rays of the Muslim sword over his head. He bowed down, ran out of his constellation (fort), and throwing himself before the canopy of the ‘Shadow of God’ like a trembling and lifeless phantom, buried his head in the soil of submission. Having thus acquired the light of good fortune, he retired to his own constellation at a sign from the Hajib-i Mālikul Hujjab in order to bring out his gems, valuables and buried treasures. All that night he was engaged in digging up the treasures which he had hidden like the sun in the bosom of the night. When (next morning) the Hindū-faced night threw the sun out of the earth, the Rāī brought all the sparkling gems, which he had hitherto kept under­ground, in his skirt before the august canopy and entrusted them to the officers of the Public Treasury. In this city, the four towns of which are four months’ journey (from Delhī), the troops remained for twelve days till the main force joined them. Then the elephants of Dhūr Samandar were sent to the Imperial capital like eastern winds that go to the Ka’ba.

The march of the army to Ma’bar, accompanied by fortune and guided by success.—* On Wednesday, the 18th Shawwāl, the high-sounding army drums were mounted on camel-backs for the expedition to Ma’bar and led up and down across valleys and rivers. The ground was extremely uneven; but the men jumped like lions across hollows which made the camels weep, and cantered like camels over snake-holes and rat-holes where a bakh* would have sunk down to the neck. The sharp thorns drove their points into the feet of the camels as if they were horses to be shod; the pointed stones tore the horses’ hoofs with the deceptivity of a camel; the litters were torn by the rapidity of the march and then sewn up again by the thorns. Yet the obedient army patiently bore all the labours of the campaign. If a heavy mountain had been laid on its back every day, it would have carried the mountain without hesitation or protest. Every night they slept on ground more uneven than a camel’s back.

* Five days after the above date, the army reached the frontier of Ma’bar. Between the territories of Dhūr Samandar and Ma’bar, a mountain was seen that rubbed its head against the clouds; on the hills in front of it, there grew thorny trees, which, spear in hand, pro­tected the garrisons that had taken refuge among them. Two passes leading from two valleys had been opened for the fort-reducing army; one pass was Tarmalī* and the other was Tabar. But in a moment the mountain-rending army created a hundred passes on every side with the shots of its arrows; and they passed through the hill as rapidly as their arrows had passed through the rocks. At night they reached a river and encamped by its bank in the wilderness.* The dust of the desert flew with the wind of Islām, and attacked the Ma’barī troops, who were more numerous than sand-grains; their ranks were broken like ‘scattered motes,’* or like particles of dust carried about by the wind.