Mongol Invasions on the North-West Frontier of India:
The North-West Frontier of India always remained vulnerable to foreign attacks in ancient and medieval times. Several invaders came to India from the North-West.
The rulers of India attempted to devote attention towards guarding their frontier according to their ability and competence.
During those days the frontiers comprised the Hindu Kush Mountains along with the regions of Kabul, Gazni and Gandhar.
The Mongols from Central Asia created difficult situations for several Indian Sultans. Their invasions weakened the powers of some of the rulers so much that they had to suffer humiliation and that some of the governors under them declared their independence and became independent rulers.
Mongols and the Sultans of Slave Dynasty:
During the beginning of the 12th century A.D., Mongols under the leadership of Changzeb Khan invaded several countries from Japan to Central Asia. Lakhs of people became victim of their atrocities. India barely escaped their fury. The Shah of Khwarizm, Jalal-ud-Din was forced by the Mongols to flee from his country.
He sought refuge with Sultan Iltutmish who very diplomatically sent him back on the plea of unsuitable climate of India. The Shah was hotly being pursued by the Mongols. Fortunately for India, the Mongols had to return from the frontiers of India on account of political exigencies in Central Asia.
Baharm Shah and Nasir-ud-Din:
The first Mongol invasion took place in 1241. The Mongols plundered several territories including Lahore to their heart’s content. The Sultan Baharm Shah could not do anything. Another adverse effect of the Mongol invasion was that the provinces of Sind and Multan became independent of the Sultan.
However, later on these two provinces were won over during Masud’s time i.e. the successor of Baharm Shah. During the next Sultan Nasir-ud-Din, the Mongols again attacked India and besieged Multan. The governor of Multan gave Rs. one lakh as war indemnity. Their attacks continued and Multan and Western Punjab came under their control.
Balban and the Mongols:
The Mongol invasions increased during Balban’s time but were met with great resistance. Balban knew well the strength and the savagery of the Mongols.
He took the following measures to safeguard his kingdom from the invasions of the Mongols:
1. Balban decided not to leave Delhi for a long period to expand his kingdom.
2. Balban personally kept a vigilant eye over the North-West Frontier.
3. For purpose of defence, Balban divided the North-west frontier into two parts. Multan, Samanta and Dipalpur were also made as frontier provinces.
4. Balban appointed his sons and dependable relatives as the governors of those provinces. Mohammad, his eldest son and Bughra Khan were made the Governors of Samana and Dipalpur respectively. Sher Shah Shangar (Sultan’s cousin) was appointed the governor of Multan. After Sher Khan’s death, Balban entrusted Sind, Multan and Lahore to his eldest son Muhammad.
5. Balban raised a strong army to defend the frontier itself and kept a large army at Delhi in the state of preparedness to meet the challenge of the Mongol invasions.
6. Balban built rows of strong forts at strategic points all along the frontier.
7. He posted experienced and well-trained military personnel in these forts.
8. Improved war weapons were manufactured and supplied to these forts.
9. Old forts were repaired and provided with adequate weapons and equipment’s. The Mongols made their biggest invasion in 1285 in which Balban’s eldest son Muhammad Khan was killed but in the end, the Mongols were defeated. Balban died the same year in the grief of his son.
The Khaljis and the Mongols:
Jal-uI-Din and Mongols:
During Jal-ul-Din’s period, the Sultan himself defeated the Mongols near Samana. Hundreds of Mongols were killed. Many Mongols embraced Islam. The Sultan allowed several Mongols to settle down near the vicinity of Delhi. The Sultan married his daughter to one of the Mongol officers.
Mongol’s and Ala-ud-Din:
Ala-ud-Din had to face more than a dozen Mongol invasions. They trampled the frontier provinces under the hooves of their horses. On several occasions, they even reached Delhi. Ala-ud-Din planned to fight offensively instead of defensively after some of their invasions.
The terror created by Zafar Khan, also called Rustam-a-Hind, one of the most prominent generals of the Sultan Ala-ud-Din, in the minds of the Mongol soldiers was so great that whenever the horses would not lower their mouths to drink water, the Mongol soldiers would mockingly shout at them whether they had seen Zafar Khan that they feared to stake their thrust.
Following were the important measures taken by Ala-ud-Din to check the Mongol invasions:
1. Old forts were repaired and seasoned officers and soldiers posted there.
2. New forts were built and experienced, well trained and well-equipped troops posted.
3. Armament manufacturing factories were set up under skilled technicians and engineers.
4. A separate and permanent army was prepared for the defence of the North-West Frontier.
5. A special governor was appointed for the North-West Frontier.
6. Strong armies were stationed at the frontier areas of Dipalpur, Samanta and Multan.
7. The most experienced generals like Zafar Khan, and Ghazni Malik were entrusted the responsibility of defending the borders.
8. A strong wall was constructed around the Capital (Siri Fort) so that the Mongols were unable to enter the capital.
9. Ala-ud-Din enforced the price control and market reform regulations in order to supply essentials commodities at reasonable rates to the army personnel.
As a result of the successful frontier policy of Ala-ud-Din, the danger from the Mongols almost disappeared. According to Barani and Ferishta, not only did the Mongols cease their aggression against India, but now they also had to defend themselves against the troops of Ala-ud-Din. Of course, in one of the Mongol invasions, the brave general Zafar Khan was killed.
Mongols and the Tughlaqs:
One Mongol invasion took place during his time but the Mongols were defeated.
The Mongols invaded under Tarmashirin. Historians have differed regard Muhammad Tughlaq’s policy. According to one version, he defeated the Mongols and himself chased them to drive them out. However according to another version, Muhammad Tughlaq bribed the Mongols and they went back.
Firoz Tughlaq and his successors:
Timur Lane’s invasion proved very destructive. He massacred the population of Delhi for several days. It paved the way for Babur’s invasion and the Mughal rule in India.
Effects of the Mongol Invasions:
For meeting the challenge of the Mongol invasions, the Sultans of Delhi had to spend a substantial part of revenue in raising and maintaining a large army which had an adverse effect on their financial resources. Some of the Delhi Sultans like Ala-ud-Din Khalji had to increase the land revenue even to the extent of 50 per cent of the produce of the land. This had an adverse effect on agriculture and the general conditions of the peasants deteriorated.
Balban lost his dear son Muhammad in whose grief he died. Subsequently the slave dynasty fell, yielding power to the Khaljis.
Ala-ud-Din Khalji, though he was successful in driving away the Mongols, he lost one of his ablest military commanders namely Zafar Khan.
Jal-ul-Din Khalji allowed hundreds of Mongols to settle in the vicinity of Delhi and these Mongols embraced Islam. However these new Muslims created many difficulties for Ala-ud-Din Khalji.
There is no doubt that the Mongol invasions proved very costly to all the kingdoms of the Delhi Sultanate and became one of the most important factors of its disintegration.