February 25

Mongol invasions during the Khalji dynasty

The Mongols have several times been compared to the force of Macedonia under Alexander, as that too had managed to reach the outskirts of Delhi for a very long time but was unable to capture Delhi.

Mongols had always been the special point of attention of the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate till 1327. The continuous defeat of the Mongol forces has been attributed to the Kings of the slave dynasty and the Khalji dynasty. Balban and Alauddin Khalji specifically laid the strategies for opposing the Mongols. But before carrying on about the Mongols, it is important to know basically who the Mongols were.

Who were the Mongols?

Mongols were barbarians who sought their enjoyment in massacres, genocides, and the burning of entire towns

Mongols are referred to as the ethnic tribe of Central India which was known for its warfare. These were aggressive people who liked looting, plundering, and destruction a lot. They were barbarians who sought their enjoyment in massacres, genocides, and the burning of entire towns. History holds them responsible for all kinds of inhuman atrocities during the medieval period.

The Mongol invasions in India were done mainly in the form of ill-organised crowds with the sole objective of plunder and looting. The region of Kabul and Qandhar was already in the hands of Mongols, and they had besieged the North-western frontier of India. Many times, the Sultans of Delhi were not even able to determine the strength and objective of the rival army as it was not an organised one. The attack happened in hordes and gangs. They used to suddenly appear, plunder the frontiers, and flee away.

Mongols, by historians, were described as the dark clouds on the North-western borders and no one knew when it was likely to burst. From the military point of view, they were generally offensive and could continue any raids for months without a shortage of food supply.

It was one of the duties of each Sultan, to plan something for getting rid of this Mongol problem.

Balban’s Contribution

The problem of Mongols was raised highly during the reign of Balban, the ruler of the slave dynasty. Even Prince Muhammad, the son of Balban, lost his life fighting against the Mongols. All this led to the rise of measures adopted by Balban to stop or resist the Mongol invasions and plunder efficiently.

Balban pushed discipline and organised his army to the best level possible. Brutal punishments were decided for those chiefs, local Ranas, and Rais who had joined hands with the Mongols. A strong chain of fortresses with provisioned garrisons was built along with sets of better war equipment. The command taken from any Hindu officers was provided to experienced military personnel like Sher Khan Sanqar, the cousin of Balban. Sher Khan played a huge role in strengthening the defence of the Sultanate.

Mongol invasions faced by Jalal-ud-din Khalji

Jalal-ud-din Khalji joined the service of the Delhi Sultanate under King Balban and probably gained prominence in service of the son of Balban – Bughra Khan. Jalal-ud-din was highlighted in the eyes of higher authorities, nobles, and even neighbouring kingdoms after he was appointed as governor of Samana, where he showed his military and strategic capability by combating Mongol invasions. These were the invasions that were held during the time of Balban.

Before Jalal-ud-din rose to the throne, during the reign of Sultan Qaiqabad when Jalal-ud-din was appointed as regent of Kayumars the Mongols attacked under the leadership of Tamar Khan and Ghazni. The Mongol forces sieged and plundered Samana, targeting Delhi. But till this time too, the measures adopted by Balban were strong enough to stop the Mongol forces. Hence, the Mongols were defeated and had to go back after defeat. The person who played an important role in this defeat was ‘Malik Baqbaq’.

Another expedition led by Mongols was in 1292, during the reign of Jalal-ud-din under the leadership of Abdulla. Abdullah was the grandson of Hulaqu, who was the previous leader of the Mongols. The army strength was more than one lakh in number, and they proceeded to capture and plunder the region of Punjab. Jalal-ud-din himself led the army and opposed the invasion. Despite his old age, he was successful enough to defeat the Mongol army. At the forefront of the army, there was Ulghu (the descendant of Changiz Khan) and 4000 Mongol soldiers who were captured and forced to adopt Islam.

They all settled in the region outside Delhi which later came to be known as ‘Mughalpura’ and the people were called ‘New Muslims’.

Mongol invasions faced by Alauddin Khalji

The victories over the Mongol invasions made the rule of Alauddin stable and increased his authority all over the Delhi Sultanate.

Alauddin faced more than 13 Mongol invasions during his reign of 20 years. The invasions started at the end of 1296, just after Alauddin ascended the throne. Unlike the other ones, the invasions that happened during the reign of Alauddin were relatively stronger and difficult to suppress. Zafar Khan was dispatched by Alauddin against the Mongol invasion. Mongols were defeated near Jullundur and many of them lost their lives.

The second invasion is infamous as the Battle of Jaran-Manjur. The Mongols captured the Punjab region that was under Delhi Sultanate. Alauddin sent the army led by his brother Ulugh Khan and probably Zafar Khan along with him to make the invasion unsuccessful. Ulugh Khan is said to be very passionate about his responsibility and is said to cover twice the distance in a single day to face the Mongols. The battle was held in modern-day – Jalandhar. About 20,000 Mongols lost their lives and several thousand were captured and brought to Delhi. These prisoners were awarded the death penalty.

The victory over the Mongol invasion made the rule of Alauddin stable and increased his authority all over the Delhi Sultanate, which he had recently ascended.

The third invasion by Mongols happened in 1298 when the Delhi army was already busy in the conquest of Gujarat. The Mongol army invaded Sindh and acquired the fort of Sivistan. The Mongol army faced defeat at the hand of Zafar Khan. Also, a large number of Mongols were captured and brought to Delhi.

The fourth invasion happened in the form of the Battle of Killi. The invasion was held under the leadership of Qutlugh Khwaja in 1299. Qutlugh had an army of more than two lakh personnel. This time, the scenario was different, they were not here to plunder, but to conquer. They did not plunder the people on their way to Delhi but just besieged Delhi from all ends. This became a crucial situation even for Alauddin and he was advised by the nobles not to fight with the Mongols and sign a treaty. The advice was not taken into consideration by Alauddin and the army led by Zafar Khan was dispatched. Zafar Khan defeated the Mongols and forced them to retreat. But later, Zafar Khan was surrounded by the Mongols and killed in battle. He was among the ablest generals of Alauddin but Alauddin did not mind the death of Zafar Khan as he considered Zafar a threat to his position.

As per mentions, the attack of Zafar Khan on the Mongol army created a big terror in the minds of the Mongols. The terror is illustrated as whenever their horses did not drink water, the Mongol soldiers urged them by asking if they had seen Zafar Khan and they feared to stake their thirst.

The fifth invasion by the Mongols was seen as a strategic plan of the Mongols to attack India. This was the time when Alauddin himself marched to Chittor and sent his army to conquer the Kakatiya and Warangal empires. Delhi was temporarily unprotected, and this was the perfect time for Mongols to attack and siege the Delhi Sultanate. The Mongols this time came with a force of 12,000 men under the leadership of ‘Targhi’. The attack was so quick that the governors and tributaries were not able to send their contingents to Delhi. Though Alauddin managed to reach Delhi before the invaders, he was forced to take shelter in the heavily guarded under-construction Siri Fort. Eventually, Mongols besieged Siri Fort for two months and plundered Delhi and the surrounding regions. Minor attacks were done from both sides but neither side was able to claim victory. Targhi, the Mongol leader, got exhausted after waiting for many months and started to retreat.

This Mongol invasion forced Alauddin to implement a series of economic and military reforms. He managed to make sufficient revenue flows through the implementation of these reforms by which the central army could be strengthened. Old forts of Punjab, Multan, and Sultan were repaired, and new ones were also developed. An additional army was also created for guarding the frontiers.

The sixth invasion of Mongols is referred to as the Battle of Amroha which was held at the end of 1305. The Mongols, despite a lot of guarding and new implementation of defence by Alauddin, managed to bypass the highly guarded city of Delhi and proceeded to the South-East. Mongols plundered and burned the entire territory on the way. To suppress the battle, Ghazi Malik and Malik Kafur were dispatched. They both came into conflict with Mongols when they were returning from their plunder. The Mongols were defeated, and their leaders were made prisoners. The Mongol leaders were given the death penalty. The other prisoners were put to death too and their heads were hung on the walls of the fort of Siri.

The seventh invasion of Mongols happened in 1306. Mongols crossed the Indus near Multan and proceeded towards the Himalayas. During this time, Ghazi Malik who acted as the Governor of Punjab came in the way of Mongols, defeated them, and killed many of them and about 50,000 Mongols were made prisoners. These prisoners were put to death and their wives and children were sold as slaves.

The last Mongol invasion took place in 1307-08 under the leadership of Iqbalmand. They crossed the Indus River but were not able to proceed after that. He was defeated along with his followers and killed. A large number of Mongols were made prisoners, sent to Delhi, and put to death. The Mongols did not dare to attack India after 1308.

Counter Raids

There have also been reports about the raids performed by Ghazi Malik of Tughluq dynasty in the period around 1307-08 in Mongol territories of Afghanistan. This happened after the death of Duwa.

Many Mongol problems continued to exist in India even after the reign of Alauddin. Several Mongol tribes after their conversion to Islam continued to rebel against the Sultans of Delhi.

Effects of Mongol Invasion

Mongol invasions have shown a long-lasting impact on the Delhi Sultanate. Some of the territories have several times been lost by the Delhi Sultanate due to Mongol invasions. Also, the continuous Mongol invasion and their stay at the North-western frontier led to the hindrance of the vision of expansion of the Delhi Sultanate.

Another effect of the Mongol invasion was that the central authority of the Delhi Sultanate always remained weak till the invasions were not stopped. The dependency on the nobles was increasing due to continuous Mongol invasions, and hence there was always a threat to the throne.

Economically too, continuous Mongol invasions led to the weakening of the Delhi Sultanate during the rule of the Khalji dynasty. The condition of the Delhi Sultanate turned adverse and adverse as the entire revenue was being invested in the defence and maintenance of the army. The burden on the peasantry was also continuously increasing and they were forced to sell their commodities for pay revenue. 

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