Mongol invasions of India: Wikis


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The Mongol Empire launched several Mongol invasions into the Indian subcontinent from 1221 to 1327. The Mongols made Kashmir their vassal state, however, the campaigns against the Delhi Sultanate proved unsuccessful, in spite of the constant Mongol threat. After the collapse of the Mongol Empire, the final Turco-Mongol invasion occurred when Timur sacked and plundered Delhi, the capital of the Delhi Sultanate, though he left India soon after.



Genghis Khan

After defeating Jalal ad-Din at the battle of Indus in 1221, Genghis Khan sent two tumens under Dorbei the fierce and Bala to pursue him. The Mongol commander Bala had chased Jalal ad-Din throughout the Punjab plains, had attacked outlying towns like Bhera and Multan and had even sacked the outskirts of Lahore. The October heat put a stop to their operations and the Mongols returned to their Khagan, confident that Jalal ad-Din could never again be a threat to them. However, the Turk survivors from the battle of the Indus were also wandering through the Punjab at that time and these eventually formed the nucleus of a small army for the Sindhu prince. Jalal ad-Din though met with a cruel disappointment when his request for an alliance, or even an asylum, with the Muslim rulers in India was turned down.

Jalal ad-Din fought against the local rulers in the Punjab, who sported titles like Rana and Rai, and usually defeated them in the open but could not occupy their lands. At last he proposed an alliance with the Gakkhar chieftain of the Salt Range and married his daughter—the Gakkhar Rai's son joined the Muslim army with his clansmen and received the title of Kalich(sword) Khan. Jalal ad-Din soldiers were under his officers Uzbek Pai and Hassan Qarlugh.

While fighting against the local governor of Sindh, Jalal ad-Din heard of an uprising in the Kirman province of southern Iran and he immediately set out for that place, passing through southern Baluchistan on the way. Jalal ad-Din was also joined by forces from Ghor and Peshawar—belonging to the Khilji, Turkoman, and Ghori tribes. With his new allies the Turk prince marched on Ghazni and defeated a Mongol division under Turtai, which had been assigned the task of hunting out Jalal ad-Din. The victorious allies quarreled over the division of the captured booty and the Khilji, Turkoman, and Ghori tribes deserted Jalal ad-Din and returned to Peshawar.At this time Ogedai had become Great Khagan of the Mongol Empire— a Mongol general named Chormaghan sent by him attacked and defeated the prince and ended his rebellion forever[1].

Mongol conquest of Kashmir and conflicts with the Delhi Sultanate

Some time after 1235 another Mongol force invaded Kashmir, stationing a darughachi there for several years, and Kashmir became Mongolian dependency.[2] Around the same time, a Kashmiri Buddhist master, Otochi, and his brother Namo arrived at the court of Ogedei. Another Mongol general named Pakchak attacked Peshawar and defeated the army of tribes who had deserted Jalal ad-Din but were still a threat to the Mongols. These men, mostly Khiljis, escaped to Multan and were recruited into the army of the Delhi Sultans. In winter 1241 the Mongol force invaded the Indus valley and besieged Lahore. Dayir killed while storming the town, however, on December 30, 1241, and the Mongols under his number two Munggetu butchered the town before withdrawing from the Delhi Sultanate.[3] At the same time the Great Khan Ogedai died.

When the Kashmiris had revolted in 1254-1255, and Mongke Khan appointed his generals, Sali and Takudar, to replace the court and a Buddhist master, Otochi, as darugachi to Kashmir. However, the Kashmiri king killed Otochi at Srinagar. Sali invaded again, killing the king, and put down the rebellion, after which the country remained subject to the Mongol Empire for many years.[4] When the striking power and reach of the Mongol armies had been displayed so graphically, the ambitions of the Muslim chiefs within the Delhi Sultanate were fired. The Delhi prince, Jalal al-Din Masud, traveled all the way to Kara Korum to seek the assistance of Mongke Khan for seizing the throne from his elder brother in 1248. When Mongke was crowned as Khagan, Jalal al-Din Masud attended the ceremony and asked help from Mongke. Mongke ordered Sali to assist him to recover his ancestral realm. Sali made successive attacks on Multan and Lahore. Sham al-Din Muhammad Kart, the client malik of Herat, accompanied the Mongols. Jalal al-Din was installed as client ruler of Lahore, Kujah and Sodra. In 1257 the governor of Sindh offered his entire province to Hulagu Khan of Persia and sought Mongol protection from his overlord in Delhi, the Mongol Khan sent a strong force under Sali Bahadur into Sindh. In the winter of 655/1257-8 Sali Noyan entered Sind in strength and dismantled the fortifications of Multan; his forces may also have invested the island fortress of Bakhkar on the Indus.

The Mongol Empire during the reign of Mongke Khan (r.1251-59)

But Hulagu refused to sanction a grand invasion of the Delhi Sultanate and a few years later diplomatic correspondence between the two rulers confirmed the growing desire for peace. Hulagu after all had many other areas of conquests to take care of. Large-scale Mongol invasions of India ceased and the Delhi Sultans used the respite to recover the frontier towns like Multan, Uch, and Lahore…and punish the local Ranas and Rais who had joined hands with either the Khwarazim or the Mongol invaders.

Large numbers of tribes that took shelter in the Delhi Sultanate as a result of the Mongol Cataclysm changed the balance of power in North India. The Khilji tribe firstly usurped power from the older Delhi Sultans and began to rapidly project their power into other parts of India. At about this time the Mongol raids into India were also renewed.

The Chagatai Mongols vs. Delhi sultanate

The sources claim invasions by hundreds of thousands of Mongols, numbers approximating (and probably based on) the size of the entire cavalry armies of the Mongol realms of Central Asia or the Middle East: about 150,000 men. A count of the Mongol commanders named in the sources as participating in the various invasions might give a better indication of the numbers involves, as these commanders probably led tumens, units nominally of 10,000 men[5]. These invasions were led by either various descendants of Chingiz or by Mongol divisional commanders—the size of such armies was always between 10,000-30,000 cavalry although the Muslim chroniclers of Delhi exaggerated the number to 100,000-200,000 cavalry, which was their norm in describing enemy forces[6].

The Mongol Empire and its sub-division khanates

After the civil war broke out in the Mongol Empire in the 1260s, Chagatai Khanate controlled Central Asia and its leader since the 1280s was Duwa Khan who was number two of Kaidu Khan. Duwa was active in Afghanistan, and attempted to extend Mongol rule to India. Negudari governor Abdullah who was a son of Chagatai khan's great grandson[7] invaded Punjab with his force in 1292, but their advance guard under Ulghu was defeated and taken prisoner by the Khalji Sultan. He was intimidated by the main Mongol army and bought off their attacks for a price. The 4000 Mongols captives of the advance guard converted to Islam and came to live in Delhi as "new muslims"—the suburb they lived in was appropriately named Mughalpura[8]. Chagatai tumens[9] beaten by Delhi Sultanate several times again in 1296-1297. The Mongols thereafter repeatedly invaded northern India. On at least two occasions, they came in strength.

The two armies met at Jalandhar in 1297. Zafar Khan defeated the Mongols in this first invasion. The Mongols attacked again under the command of Saldi and captured the Fort Siri. Zafar Khan holding the honour of being one of the few undefeated military commanders in history had no problem crushing this army, recaptured the fort and brought 2,000 Mongols prisoners before Alauddin Khilji. Shortly afterward, Duwa sought to end conflict with Oljeitu Temur, and around 1304 a general peace among the Mongol khanates was declared, bringing an end to the conflict between China and Central Asia that had lasted for the better part of a half century. Soon after, he proposed a joint Mongol attack on India, but the campaign did not materialize.


Late Mongol invasions

Khilij Dynasty

The situation was serious enough for the usually individualistic Alauddin Khilji to be forced into take advice from others. Alauddin Khilji was urged to sue for peace by his advisors as Qutlugh was virtually wiping his feet at the doorsteps of Delhi.However Alauddin Khilji did not become the sultan by playing it safe. He rejected their advice and said,

"If I were to follow your advice how could I show my face, how could I go into my harem? No, come what may tomorrow, I must march into the battlefield".

Ignoring their advice the young sultan attacked the Mongols. The advance guard of the army was led by Zafar Khan himself. He defeated the Mongols again and went off in hot pursuit of them as they withdrew. However, the wily Qutlugh tricked Zafar into a position where he was first surrounded and then killed by the Mongols. Alauddin Khilji took this loss calmly – Zafar Khan had been entirely too popular for his comfort anyway. However, the death of the general did not improve matters for the Mongols. In face of Ala-ud-Din Khilji ‘s continued offensives, they had to retreat to the unconquerable heights from where they had come.

The Mongols took, what was for them, a long time to rally from this setback. They attacked at the worst time possible for Alauddin Khilji – when he was busy laying siege to Chittor. This time the Mongols traveled light. An army of 12,000 under Targhi's leadership trickled into India like a shadow and moved to Delhi at a pace that was astonishing even by Mongol standards. Such was the swiftness of the attack that many governors could not send their troops to Delhi in time.

Alauddin Khilji was forced to duck into Siri and stay put for about two months. The Mongols stomped through and pillaged not only the surrounding areas, but Delhi itself[10].

However they could not get into Siri. Although minor skirmishes were fought, a decisive win eluded both parties. This deadlock dragged on for more than a couple of months.

When Alauddin Khilji dug in his heels and stayed put in his seemingly impregnable fortress for months, Targhi lost interest in the whole affair, washed his hands off it and ordered his army to withdraw.

Barani, the contemporary historian at that time, attributed this ‘marvel’ to the prayers of the Sufi mystic Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya. Alauddin Khilji's defenses were so strong and enduring that the whole situation had really become quite an impasse. He realized that the Mongols could not hold out forever and had to go home to Central Asia some time. That was where the Mongol power was concentrated and they could not afford to be away for too long.

The seriousness of the Qutlugh Khwaja and Targhi led Mongol invasions which had left Siri panting for breath. They forced Alauddin Khilji to take stock of the situation. A defensive measure like hiding in Siri till the Mongol storm blew over must have gashed his proud spirit. He had the forts along the border strengthened and equipped with larger garrisons. New, more effective fortifications were built along this area. A whole new army, with its own special governor, was created whose portfolio was managing and guarding the border areas.

Despite these measures, the Mongols under the leadership of Ali Beg and Tartaq, suddenly appeared in Punjab and the neighbourhood of Amroha. The Mongols plundered Punjab and burnt everything along the way.

But this time Alauddin Khilji was ready for them. He sent a strong army led by two of his toughest generals Ghazi Malik and the famous Malik Kafur after them. They surprised the Mongols on their way back to Central Asia with their plunder. Kubak (not confused with Kebek) and other Mongol generals were captured and brought back to Siri, along with other prisoners. Ala-ud-Din Khilji had the generals trampled to death by elephants while the other prisoners were put to death and their heads hung from the walls of the fort.

Even after the gory treatment meted out to their last expedition, Mongols returned under the leadership of Kebek who became a khan later in 1306. They crossed the Indus near Multan and were moving towards the Himalayas, when Ghazi Malik (who was by then the governor of Punjab) intercepted them. About 50,000 Mongols were made prisoners including one of their generals. Ala-ud-Din Khilji put them all to death and sold their wives and children as slaves. The last Mongol invasion took place in 1307-8 under Iqbalmand and Tai Bu. He had just about managed to cross the Indus when Alauddin Khilji's armies overtook them and put them all to the sword.In that very year their monarch, Duwa, died and in the unending dispute over his succession this spate of Mongol raids into India ended.

After 1308, the Mongols did not attack India again for a while. There were a number of reasons for this. This was one of the greatest achievements of Alauddin Khilji. He was an original thinker and brilliant as a strategist. Alauddin Khilji had to be sure the Mongols would never come back .The only way to do that was to attack them– he sent plundering armies under the veteran general Ghazi Malik to Kandhar, Ghazni and Kabul. These offensives effectively crippled the Mongol line of control leading to India.

The remaining Muslim Mongols living in Delhi were denied high posts in the Muslim army and were also discriminated against in the matter of land grants. They attempted to kill Alauddin Khilji while he was out hawking in the outskirts of Delhi. The attempt failed and Alauddin Khilji ordered a general massacre of these Mongols and their women and children.

Delhi sultanate during the Tughlaq dynasty.

In 1320 the Mongols under Zulju entered Kashmir by the Jehlam Valley and he didn't meet any serious resistance. The Kashmiri king Suhadeva tried to persuade Zulju to withdraw by paying large ransom.[11] After he failed to organize resistance, Suhadeva fled to Kishtwar, leaving the people of Kashmir to the mercy of Zulju. The Mongols burned the dwellings, massacred the men and made women and children slaves. Only refugees under Ramacandra, commander in chief of the king, in the fort of Lar remained safe. The invaders continued to pillage for 8 months until the commencement of winter. When Zulju was departing via Brinal, he lost most of his men and prisoners due to a severe snowfall in Divasar Pargana.

The next major Mongol invasion took place after the Khiljis had been replaced by the Tughlaq tribe in the Sultanate. In 1327 the Chagatai Mongols under Tarmashirin, who had sent envoys to Delhi to negotiate peace the previous year, sacked the frontier towns like Lamghan and Multan and besieged Delhi—the Tughlaq ruler paid him a large ransom to spare his Sultanate from further ravages. Muhammad bin Tughluq asked the Ilkhan Abu Sa'id to form an alliance against his relative Tarmashirin who had invaded Khorasan but it didn't materialize.[12] Tarmashirin was a Buddhist who later converted to Islam. The religious tensions in the Chagatai Khanate dissipated its strength and no more large-scale invasions or even raids took place in India.

However, small groups of Mongol adventurers were hiring out their swords to the many local powers in the northwest—and by this time the Mongol attempt to conquer India had finally ended in failure. Amir Qazaghan raided northern India with his Qara'unas. He also sent several thousand troops to aid the Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq to suppress the rebellion in his country in 1350.

Mongols in Delhi

During the Mongol incursions in 1298, the Mongols settled in Delhi had also created problems for the Khaljis. Sent in a mixed Turk-Mongol army against the stalwart Rajput Kings, these "new Muslims" quarreled with the Turk commander and killed his brother in an argument over the distribution of captured wealth. The wives and children of these Mongols were treated with ferocious cruelty and they escaped to the forts of the Rajputs.

Ala-ud-din moved against these forts with his entire army—Mongol and Rajput fought shoulder-to-shoulder against the Turks to the bitter end. And while the Khalji Sultan's military strength was drained away in these fierce battles the Chagtai Khanate saw its chance and sent a force under Targhi in 1303, which blockaded Ala-ud-din in Delhi for two months and then returned to Central Asia with plunder.

After besieging and taking Siwana, Jalor, and Warangal, the Khalji army, led by the Sultan's Indian slave commander Malik Kafur, invaded Ma'bar from Devagiri in 1311. They returned with immense amounts of gold and other booty even though the Pandya princes did not submit. After the Mongol commander Abachi tried to kill Kafur, Khalji had him executed. Believing that thousands of Mongols who were captives and later converted into Islam in Delhi were conspiring to kill him, the Sultan ordered all Mongols arrested, and about 20,000 were reported to have been executed. The court of Delhi also executed emissaries of Oljeitu, the Ilkhan of Mongol Persia. When Ramachandra died and his successor Singhana II asserted independence, Kafur's army defeated and killed the Devagiri king, though not all the Yadava kingdom was subjugated. 'Ala-ud-din used a labor force of 70,000 Hindus for construction projects. As the Sultan's health declined, Kafur arranged to have ambitious family members killed. The historian Barani wrote that the conflict between Malik Kafur and the heir Khidr Khan's uncle Alp Khan destroyed 'Ala-ud-din's regime. The Sultan connived at Alp Khan's murder in the palace, and Khidr Khan was imprisoned.

Delhi sultans had also developed cordial relations with Yuan Dynasty and Ilkhanate. The fact about some envoys from India was recorded in Yuan-shi. In around 1338, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq of Delhi Sultanate appointed Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta an ambassador to the Mongol court of Togan-temur in China. The gifts he was to take included 200 Hindu slaves.

Legacy: the sack of Delhi

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi, Nasir Al-Din Mahmum Tughluq, in the winter of 1397-1398

Ironically the Chagatai Khanate had also split up by this time and an ambitious Mongol Turk chieftain named Timur had brought Central Asia and the regions beyond under his own control. He followed the twin policies of Imperialism and Islamization, shifting various Mongol tribes to different parts of his empire and giving primacy to the Turkic people in his own army. Timur also reinforced the Islamic faith over the Chagtai Khanate and after a long gap put the laws of the Quran over Chingiz Khaan's shaminist laws. He invaded India in 1398 to make war and plunder the wealth of the country.

Timur's empire broke up and his descendants failed even to hold on to Central Asia, which split up into numerous principalities where also ruled the Mongol Khans. The descendants of the Mongol Chagtais and the descendants of the Timur lived side by side, occasionally fighting and occasionally inter-marrying—one of the products of such a rare marriage was Babur. His mother belonged to the family of the Mongol Khans of Tashkent, who in the 16th century were more powerful than Babur's family.

But Babur was a true descendant of Timur and shared his beliefs—he believed that rules and regulations of Genghis Khan were deficient as he remarked,

"they had no divine authority."

And even though his own mother was a Mongol, Babur hated the Mongol race and wrote a stinging verse in his autobiography:

"Were the Mughals an angel race, it would be bad,
Even writ in gold, the Mughal name would be bad."

When Babur occupied Kabul and began invading the Sub-continent plains, he was called a Mughal like all the earlier invaders from the Chagtai Khanate had been. Even the invasion of Timur had been considered a Mongol invasion since the Mongols had ruled over Central Asia for so long and had given their name to its people. Timur of course had returned home but Babur stayed and formed the greatest Islamic empire of India, the Mughal Empire.

The military heritage of the Mongols, unlike their secular laws, had no conflict with the question of religion. Hence both Timur and Babur continued the military system of Chingiz Khan—one part of this system was the name Ordu used for the collective of tents that formed the military camp—it was now pronounced Urdu. In all their campaigns in India the Mughal camp was called the Urdu and this word became current in the languages of the various soldiers that formed the body of this camp.

In course of time these Indian and foreign languages mingled together in the Urdu and a new language of that name was born. This language of the military camp survived in some of the North Indian cities after the fall of the Mughal Empire. Ironically the Urdu that passed through all these centuries of political changes ultimately became the language of poetry, of music, and of other forms of cultural expression—today it is recognized as one of the national languages of Pakistan and modern India.

See also


  1. ^ Chormaqan Noyan: The First Mongol Military Governor in the Middle East by Timothy May
  2. ^ Thomas T. Allsen-Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, p.84
  3. ^ Islamic Culture Board-Islamic culture, p.256
  4. ^ André Wink-Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World, p.208
  6. ^ John Masson Smith, Jr. - MONGOL ARMIES AND INDIAN CAMPAIGNS and J.A. Boyle, The Mongol Commanders in Afghanistan and India
  7. ^ Rashid ad-Din - The history of World
  8. ^ J.A. Boyle, "The Mongol Commanders in Afghanistan and India According to the Tabaqat-I-Nasiri of Juzjani," Islamic Studies, II (1963); reprinted in idem, The Mongol World Empire (London: Variorum, 1977), see ch. IX, p. 239
  9. ^ Although Muslim historians claimed Mongols were outnumbered and their army ranged from 100-200,000, their force was not enough to cow down Delhi mamluks in reality. See John Masson Smith, Jr. - MONGOL ARMIES AND INDIAN CAMPAIGNS
  10. ^ Rene Grousset - Empire of steppes, Chagatai Khanate; Rutgers Univ Pr,New Jersey, U.S.A, 1988 ISBN 0813513049
  11. ^ Mohibbul Hasan-Kashmir Under the Sultans, p.36
  12. ^ The Chaghadaids and Islam: the conversion of Tarmashirin Khan (1331-34). The Journal of the American Oriental Society, October 1, 2002. Biran


  • Harold Lamb, Genghis Khan: Emperor of All Men. ISBN 0884117987
  • Rene Grousset - Empire of Steppes, Rutgers Univ Pr,New Jersey, U.S.A, 1988 ISBN 0813513049
  • John Masson Smith, Jr. - MONGOL ARMIES AND INDIAN CAMPAIGNS, University of California, Berkeley[1]
  • Chormaqan Noyan: The First Mongol Military Governor in the Middle East by Timothy May[2]


  • J.A. Boyle, "The Mongol Commanders in Afghanistan and India According to the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri of Juzjani." Central Asiatic Journal 9 (1964): 235-247. Reprinted in The Mongol World Empire, 1206-1370, edited by John A. Boyle, Variorum Reprints, 1977.
  • Peter Jackson - Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press,1999. ISBN 0521404770


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