In this article we will discuss about the Mongol invasions that happened during the reign of Khalji Sultans in India.
The first and the only Mongol invasion during the reign of Jalal-ud-din Khalji took place in 1292 A.D. The Mongols, under the command of a grandson of Hulagu, Abdullah attacked Punjab and reached near Sanam. Jalal-ud-din marched against them personally and reached the banks of the river Indus. According to Barani, the Mongols were defeated by the Sultan. But it was not so.
The Sultan succeeded in defeating an advance guard of the Mongols and in capturing some of their officers. But, he dared not face the main army of the Mongols and tried for peace. The Mongols agreed to withdraw.
Ulghu, a descendant of Chengiz Khan, however, accepted Islam with his four thousand followers and decided to stay in India. They were called ‘New Muslims’ and settled in the suburbs of Delhi. Sultan Jalal-ud-din also married one of his daughters to Ulghu.
The Mongols threatened the security of India during the entire reign of Ala- ud-din Khalji except some last years. The Mongols had divided and, thereby, weakened themselves by that time, yet they were a great power in Asia. Ghazni and Kabul formed their powerful bases to attack India and they had advanced as far as Sindh and Punjab.
During the reign of Ala-ud-din, their attacks were more fierce as compared to previous ones. Besides, they had a different object now. Previously, they had attacked India primarily to gain booty and extend their sphere of influence. But now they attacked India either to extend their empire or to take revenge of their defeat and disgrace.
Therefore, they threatened not only the security of Punjab but even that of Delhi and Ganga-Yamuna Doab. The Khokhars and the Afghan tribes also used to join them because of the temptation of booty and, at times, dissatisfied nobles of the Delhi Sultanate also used to help them to gain advantages for themselves. However, there was one saving grace for Ala-ud-din.
From among the different branches of the Mongols, India was attacked either by the Il-Khans of Persia or by the Chaghtais of Transoxiana at that time. But these two ruling dynasties of the Mongols contended against each other for the expansion of their empires not only in Central Asia but also in India and therefore, failed to unite their strength.
The first Mongol invasion took place in 1297-98 A.D. only a short time after Ala-ud-din’s accession on the throne. Dava Khan, ruler of Transoxiana, sent an army of one lakh Mongols under the command of Kadar to attack India.
They entered Punjab and started plundering the nearby places of Lahore. Ala-ud-din sent an army under Jafar Khan and Ulugh Khan which defeated the Mongols near Jullundhar with great slaughter. Nearly 20,000 Mongols were killed in the battle.
Many Mongol officers were taken prisoners who were killed afterwards and their captured women and children were sent to Delhi as slaves. In 1299 A.D. the Mongols attacked again under the command of Saldi, brother of Dava Khan. They captured Sehwan. Ala-ud-din sent Zafar Khan against the Mongols who recovered Sehwan from them and imprisoned a large number of Mongols including Saldi and his brother.
Towards the close of 1299 A.D., Dava Khan sent a strong army of 2,00,000 horses under the command of his son, Qutlugh Khwaja to avenge the disgrace and death of Saldi. This time the Mongols did not mean plunder but conquest. They avoided fighting in the way till they reached the neighbourhood of Delhi. The Mongols were, thus, determined to fight against Ala-ud-din.
Ala-ud-din, on his part, decided to give them a battle even against the counsel of his friend, Ala-ul-mulk who advised him to wait and avoid the risk of an open battle. The battle took place on the plain of Kili near Delhi.
It was won over by Ala-ud-din, primarily, because of the valour of Zafar Khan who broke the left flank of the Mongols by his fierce attack. He pursued the fleeing Mongols for eighteen kos but, while returning, he was ambushed and killed by them. But the Mongols had tested the strength of the army of Ala-ud-din.
They decided to retreat and withdrew thirty kos back from Delhi during the night and then returned to their country. The fourth Mongol invasion took place only after some months of Ala-ud-din’s return from Chittor in 1303 A.D. The Mongols numbering 1,20,000 horsemen under the command of Targhi moved so swiftly that provincial governors could not get time to reach Delhi to help the Sultan.
Besides, a large part of the army of Ala-ud-din had left for Telingana campaign and the army left at Delhi was insufficient and weak after its tough battle at Chittor. Therefore, Ala-ud-din was not in a position to face the Mongols in an open battle.
He retired to the fort of Siri and took up defensive position. The Mongols plundered the environs of Delhi and besieged the fort for two months. But as they were ignorant of the art of siege-warfare, they failed to capture the fort and withdrew.
The invasion of Targhi awakened Ala-ud-din to the necessity of frontier defence. He made Siri his capital, strengthened its fortifications, repaired the fort of Delhi and those in the North-West, constructed some new ones there, kept standing armies in them, kept a separate and permanent army for the defence of the North-West, appointed a separate governor for the same and increased the number and efficiency of his army.
In 1305 A.D., the Mongols attacked again under the command of Ali Beg and Tartaq. Targhi also joined them in the way. The strong army of 50,000 Mongols could reach upto Amroha where it met the army of Ala-ud-din under the command of Malik Kafur and Ghazi Malik. The Mongols were completely defeated on 30 December 1305 A.D. Targhi had died earlier in a battle and now Ali Beg and Tartaq were taken captives. They were brought to Delhi and killed.
In 1306 A.D., the Mongols attacked again to take revenge of the defeat of Ali Beg and Tartaq. One of their strong force, under the command of Kubak, reached the banks of the river Ravi while another one, under the command of Iqbalmand and Tai-bu, reached upto Nagaur. Ala-ud-din had again deputed Ghazi Malik and Malik Kafur to repulse the invaders. They first met Kubak at the banks of Ravi. They defeated and imprisoned him.
They, then, marched to Nagaur and defeated the Mongols so crushingly that they fled away. However, fifty thousand of them were imprisoned and brought to Delhi where the males were trampled under the feet of elephants and a tower of their skulls was constructed in front of the Badayun Gate while their women and children were sold as slaves.
According to Zia-ud-din Barani, the Mongols attacked India under the command of Kank, Iqbalmand and some other leaders also at different times. Therefore, according to him, the Mongol invasions took place even after 1306 A.D.
But Isami and Amir Khusrav regarded the invasion of 1306 A.D. as their last invasion. Dr K.S. Lal and Dr S. Roy have agreed with Barani while Dr A.L. Srivastava has opined that the last Mongol invasion took place in 1307-8 A.D.
Thus, most fierce invasions of the Mongols took place during the reign of Ala-ud-din. Yet, he succeeded in repulsing them all. Therefore, the Mongols did not dare to attack India during the last years of his reign.
According to Barani and Firishta, Ghazi Malik Tughluq, who was appointed governor of the north-west frontier in 1305 A.D., even attacked Kabul, Ghazni and Kandhar and plundered the territories of the Mongols there. This aggressive policy of Ghazi Malik broke up the capacity of the Mongols to invade India.
The Last Phase of the Attacks of the Mongols:
The Mongols made some feeble attempts to plunder India even after the reign of Ala-ud-din. One such attempt was made during the reign of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq in 1324 A.D. The Mongols, however, were badly defeated by the Sultan and many of their leaders were brought to Delhi as captives and then killed.
During the reign of Sultan Muhammad Tughluq, the Mongols attacked only once. The Chaghatai Chief, Ala-ud-din Tarmashirin of Transoxiana attacked India in 1327 A.D. at the head of a powerful army. Dr M. Hussain contends that Tarmashirin was defeated by Amir Ghoban near Ghazni in 1326 A.D. and therefore, came to India as a refugee.
Muhammad Tughluq gave him five thousand dinars by way of help and then Tarmashirin returned. But this version of Dr Hussain has not been accepted by the majority of modern historians. They all agree that the Mongols came as aggressors and ravaged the country from Multan and Lahore to the vicinity of Delhi. However, these historians also differ as to how Muhammad Tughluq dealt with them.
According to Isami, the Mongols were defeated by the army of the Sultan near Meerut and forced to retreat. Sir Woolseley Haig has accepted this version of Isami. Firishta differed with Isami and holds the view that the Sultan gave the Mongols huge presents and, thus, bribed them to turn back. Dr A.L Srivastava and Dr Iswari Prasad have supported the viewpoint of Firishta.
In view of the fact that the Mongols could reach the vicinity of Delhi without any resistance and turned back without fighting a battle, their contention seems to be more correct. It showed the weakness of the Sultan and also his neglect towards the defence of his northwest frontier.
The Sultan however, took preventive measures to safeguard his north-west frontier after the return of the Mongols. According to Isami the Sultan occupied Peshawar and Kalanore in Punjab and made arrangement for their defence.
Afterwards, during the second half of the 14th century, the Sultanate of Delhi remained free from the menace of the Mongols. The Mongols in Central Asia embraced Islam. Amir Timur also broke up the remaining power of the Mongols in Central Asia, Afghanistan etc. and succeeded in establishing a powerful empire with its capital at Samarqand. Therefore, there existed no Mongol chief to attack India.