March 7

Mongol invasions during the early Turkish Dynasty

The Mongol empire was one of the largest and most powerful empires in the world in the medieval era. This empire originated in present-day Mongolia in East Asia and had an expansionist policy in the time of its founder Genghis Khan. Under this policy, the Mongol empire expanded itself from the Japan Sea in the West to parts of Eastern Europe, from the Arctic sea in the North to the parts of the Indian subcontinent in the South. All of the success of the Mongols was seen within the limited period of one century.

Mongols were stationed at the North-western borders of India for a very long period when Northern India was being governed by the Delhi Sultanate. Though the Mongols were on the outskirts of Delhi and also led several invasions, they were still unsuccessful in capturing Delhi and failed against the army of the Delhi Sultanate continuously. The dynasties that were in governance during this period of the 13th and 14th centuries were the Slave dynasty and the Khalji dynasty. The rulers of both dynasties were successful enough to combat the Mongols and keep control of the borders.

About Mongols

All the Mongol invasions in India were in the form of ill-organised crowds with the objective of plunder and looting

Mongols were the nomadic tribe of Central Asia that was compiled in the form of the Mongolian empire through the efforts of Genghis Khan. This was the tribe that indulged in warfare and had great expertise in the practice of archery. Their success as the largest empire has been attributed to their skill in archery. These were aggressive people who liked looting, plundering, and destruction a lot. They enjoyed massacres, genocides, and sometimes even the burning of entire towns. Many times, historians consider the Mongol tribe for the kinds of inhuman atrocities in humanity.

All the Mongol invasions in India were in the form of ill-organised crowds with the objective of plunder and looting. Though in some of the final raids, Mongols were targeted towards conquering Delhi. They had already acquired the regions of Kabul, Qandhar, and some parts of Kashmir, thereby having a huge influence on the bordering areas of the Indian subcontinent. Several times, the Delhi Sultans even while protecting their borders were not able to determine the reason behind the attacks of Mongols as they used to attack in the form of hordes that appeared in the cities, plundered them, and retreated to their respective camps.

This had become the duty of the Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate to be prepared for the attacks and raids by Mongols so that the combats could be made in time.

Mongols during the reign of Iltutmish

During the reign of Iltutmish, Mongols were highly active at the border of the Indian subcontinent and that of the Delhi Sultanate. The credit for this is attributed to the Khwarizm dynasty which had been ruling at the borders of the Indian Subcontinent and was the first one in the region to be attacked by Mongols. It was just due to the intellect and intelligence of the Iltutmish that the Mongols were not furious to attack and capture the area during that time.

Shah Jalauddin, the Khwarizm prince of Samarkand was defeated in the battle of Indus by Genghis Khan. Genghis Khan had sent his commanders Dorbei the Fierce and Bala to chase Jalaluddin who had escaped along with some of his followers in search of refuge and help. The commanders pursued Jalaluddin till Lahore and Multan but were not able to find him. While at this time, Jalaluddin, along with his followers reached Delhi in search of asylum. The refuge that Khwarizm prince was seeking was rejected by Iltutmish diplomatically. Iltutmish had the clear idea that granting the asylum would directly mean an invitation to Mongols for invasion and that’s why the asylum was rejected on the claims that the climate of the region was not suitable for Jalaluddin.

As refuge was not granted, the army of Genghis Khan was not attracted to the throne of Delhi.

Mongol raids of 1241

For 20 years, there was no disturbance from the side of Mongols to the Sultanate (except in 1235, when parts of Kashmir were captured). In 1241, the Mongol forces attacked India and invaded the Indus valley under the leadership of Tair, the lieutenant of Hulagu. Their initial march from the captured regions of Kashmir was over Multan but was not a successful one. The Governor of Multan, Kabir Khan Ayaz was prepared enough to combat the Mongol armies. They then moved upwards to Lahore and captured it in December 1241. The reasons attributed to the easy capture of Lahore were that there were no protected boundaries and well-equipped garrisons. Even the people and traders of Mongols did not show any resistance focusing on their selfish aims.

Mongols even defeated the army of the Delhi Sultanate, sent by Behram Shah. Within a month, the territory of Lahore was plundered and badly massacred. Mongols retreated on 30th December 1241.

Mongols in Indian Subcontinent (1248-58)

Jalal al-Din Masud, the Delhi prince himself reached the Mongol capital Karakorum seeking the assistance of Mongols in regaining his ancestral territory and empire. In 1248, Möngke was crowned as Great Khan. Masud attended the ceremony of his coronation and asked for help from Möngke. Möngke ordered his general Sali (who was appointed in Kashmir) to help Masud to regain power. Sali made successive attacks on Multan and Lahore, managed to capture them, and made Jalal al-Din Masud the ruler but under the suzerainty of the Mongols.

Further in 1257 Hulagu Khan, the governor of Sindh offered his entire province to the Mongol empire and demanded Mongol protection from the surrounding rivals. Sali, the Mongol general here also played an important role in laying the foundation for the protection of Sindh from neighbouring regions and especially from Multan. Investments were also made to build the island fortress of Bukkur on the Indus.

Mongols during Balban

Though making a long-lasting and formidable impact on the Delhi Sultanate, the Mongols were defeated and driven away. The cost that Balban had to bear as a result of these wars was very high.

By the time Balban rose to power, the Mongols had been in a very powerful position and their raids too had become more frequent. Not with the target of conquest, but the Mongols had been doing attacks on the Indian territories with the aim of loot and plunder. Two of the very important Mongol invasions took place during the reign of Balban – 1279 and 1285.

The Mongol invasion of 1285 is referred to as the Battle of the Beas River as the Beas River was taken as the military defence line by Balban.

Both invasions were so powerful that they brought an earthquake to the economy of the Delhi Sultanate. All the major resources at this time were being spent in the combat with the Mongol forces. Though making a long-lasting and formidable impact on the Delhi Sultanate, the Mongols were defeated and driven away. The cost that Balban had to bear as a result of these wars was very high. Prince Mohammand, the son of Balban who he had been training for the succession lost his life while fighting against the Mongols. This incident was not taken by Balban with leniency, and he adopted several measures to protect his empire from the Mongols.

Balban laid a lot of investment in the establishment of a defence strategy against the Mongols. He built a chain of fortresses with well-equipped garrisons at all the strategic points. All the previous commanders and generals were suspended, and the power was given to the hands of some of the most loyal ones of Balban. The command of defence was given in the hands of Sher Khan Sanqar, a cousin of Balban. He made a lot of contributions towards strengthening the defence. Although his defence of the territory provided by him was exceptional, Balban became jealous of his success and hence Sher Khan was poisoned.

Mongol raid after Balban

 The last Mongol raid during the period of the Slave dynasty was made under the leadership of Tamar Khan of Ghazni. The Sultan of Delhi at that time was Qaiqabad. 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’. This became the last Mongol expedition towards the slave dynasty as the dynasty saw its decline after this and was replaced by the Khalji dynasty.

The Khalji dynasty too faced many raids from the side of Mongols but the efficient rulers and efficient commanders were able to protect the borders through strategic planning.

Effects of Mongol Invasion

Mongol invasions have shown a big and long-lasting impact on the Delhi Sultanate. Continuous fighting over the border territories was usual during the 12th and 13th centuries. 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. The Mongol invasions have been named as one of the reasons for the decline of the slave dynasty.

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

Economically too, continuous Mongol invasions made the Slave dynasty weak enough, that for once the royal treasure was about to diminish. It was only after Khaljis adopted the new revenue policies and did continuous raids on Hindu kingdoms that the treasure could be refilled. 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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