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Mongol Invasion of India

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  • Last Updated : 13 Jul, 2022

United with the emergence of Genghis Khan in the early 13th century, the Mongol empire stretched from Korea in Asia to Poland in eastern Europe, becoming the largest contiguous land empire in the world’s history. Known for their brute invasions and repression, Mongols invaded and captured every major capital of the Medieval World, including Delhi. Between the mid-13th and 14th centuries, Mongols tried to invade India several times from the North-western front. However, they had to face severe defeats at the hand of the Delhi Sultanate until the 16th century, when Babur invaded India. Let’s dive deep into the series of Mongol invasions in Medieval India.

Background 

  • Mongols were united under a military general, Temujin, better known as Genghis Khan, in 1206. The Mongol empire attempted to attack the Indian subcontinent between 1221 and 1327 and later by the Qaraunas of Mongol origin. They controlled the outskirts of the Indian subcontinent in the North-western part, including Afghanistan and part of present-day Pakistan, for several years.
  • During his reign, Genghis Khan made several raids into the Indian subcontinent while chasing down Jalal-ud-din, the last scion of the Khwarezmian Empire, and reached all the way to the outskirts of Lahore near the Indus river before defeating him in 1221.
  • After Genghis Khan died in 1227, his son Ogedei Khan became the Great Khan. In 1235, Mongols attacked Kashmir and formed a base at Darughachi. Kashmir remained under the Mongols for several years since then.

Major Mongol Invasions Against Delhi Sultanate

  • In the 1260s, constant civil war broke out in various sections of the Mongol empire. Later intrusions into India were attempted by the Chagatai Khanate, who ruled over the major parts of Central Asia. 
  • In the 1280s, Duwa Khan controlled Afghanistan and made several attacks on the North-western border towns of India, including Sindh, Balochistan, Lahore, and Multan.
  • Alarmed by the regular invasions and lack of border control in the Northwest, Delhi Sultanate concocted well-planned strategies, which led to severe defeats and pushbacks of Mongols in later years. Moreover, civil war within the Mongol empire gave significant impetus to the Sultanate to build the defences in the Northwest and chart out efficient strategies to quell the Mongol conquest.
  • The Sultanate under the reign of Ghiyas-ud-din Balban (1266-1287) was highly alarmed by the Mongol raids and prepared his army. As a result, large-scale attacks ceased, and Mongols could not cross the Indus river. He and future rulers recovered the border towns such as Multan, Urch, Sindh, and Lahore and punished local Ranas and Rais for joining hands with Mongols and their subsidiaries. 
  • By the 1290s, India witnessed a massive transformation of power from Turkic to Indian Muslims, who had migrated with Ghori a century ago. This led to the rise of the Khilji dynasty.
  • In 1292, the Chagatai Khanate under Abdullah raided Punjab in the reign of Khilji king Jalaluddin. However, their advance guard under Ulghu had to face severe defeat. Chagatai faced various losses by the Khiljis between 1296 to 1297.
  • Several major attacks happened under the successor of Jalaluddin, Alauddin Khalji. In 1297, Chagatai Noyan Kadar was defeated in the battle of Jaran-Manjur. In 1298-99, Mongols invaded Sindh and captured the Sivistan fort. However, Zafar Khan, the military general of Alauddin, defeated the forces at the siege of Sehwan. 
  • Perhaps the most significant defeat of Mongols happened in 1299 in the Battle of Killi near Delhi. Chagatai leader Duwa Khan’s son Qutlugh Khwaja moved his army to conquer Delhi. However, the Chagatai Mongols again had to face retreat. 
  • Soon in 1303, Alauddin Khalji’s focus was shifted to capturing Chittoor and Warangal. Taking advantage of Alauddin’s absence in Delhi, the Mongols again invaded the unprotected Delhi. Khalji had no time to prepare his army and returned to Delhi. However, the Mongols could not siege Siri Fort and had to retreat soon. Alauddin Khalji defeated the Mongols at the Battle of Amroha and Ravi in 1305 and 1306, respectively. 
  • In 1306, with the death of Duwa, the spate of invasions ended and led to consequential counter raids by Alauddin’s general Malik Tughalaq in Mongol territories in present-day Afghanistan.

Later Mongol Raids of India

After more than 20 years of peace, major Mongol invasions again started during the reign of the Tughlaq dynasty, which replaced the incumbent Khalijis. In 1327, Chagatai ruler Tarmashirin attacked and besieged Delhi, and Muhammad bin Tughlaq had to pay a huge ransom to free Delhi from him. After Tarmashirin, no major attacks materialized by the Mongols against India until Babur in 1526, who was the descendant of Timur. With Ibrahim Lodhi’s defeat at the hands of Babur in the first battle of Panipat in 1526, a new era began in India’s history with the emergence of the Mughal Empire.

 

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