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Indian History

Muhammad Ghori

  • 05 Dec 2022
  • 13 min read

For Prelims: Muhammad Ghori, Battle of Tarain, Conquest of Bihar and Bengal.

For Mains: Significance of battle of Tarain, Significance of Bihar and Bengal conquest.

Who was the Muhammad Ghori?

  • About
    • The Ghurids had started as vassals of Ghazni, but had soon thrown off their yoke.
    • Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad, also known as Muhammad of Ghor, was the Sultan of the Ghurid Empire from 1173 to 1202 and as the sole ruler from 1202 to 1206.
    • He is credited with establishing Muslim rule in the Indian subcontinent, which lasted for centuries.
    • Muhammad Ghori was of Persian origin,
    • He ruled over parts of modern-day Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Iran, Northern India, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
    • Ghaznavids felt threatened by the Ghurids so they captured and poisoned the brother of the Ghurid emperor Alauddin Hussain Shah.
    • Subsequently, Alauddin Hussain Shah captured Ghazni by defeating the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram Shah.
    • The power of the Ghurids increased under Sultan Alauddin who earned the title of the world burner’ (jahan-soz) because during the middle of the twelfth century he ravaged Ghazni and burnt it.
    • Following Mahmud Ghazni's death, Ghori ascended to the Ghazni throne.
  • Rise of Ghurids:
    • Towards the middle of the twelfth century, a group of Turkish tribesmen, who were partly Buddhist and partly Pagan, shattered the power of the Seljuk Turks.
    • In the vacuum, two new powers rose to prominence, the Khwarizmi empire based in Iran, and the Ghurid empire based in Ghur in northwest Afghanistan.
    • The rising power of the Khwarizmi empire severely limited the Central Asian ambition of the Ghurids.
    • Khurasan, which was the bone of contention between the two, was soon conquered by Khwarizm Shah.
    • This left no option for the Ghurids but to look for expansion towards India.
    • Proceeding by way of the Gomal pass, Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad conquered Multan and Uchch.
    • In 1178, he attempted to penetrate Gujarat by marching across the Rajputana desert.
    • By 1190, Muizzuddin Muhammad had conquered Peshawar, Lahore and Sialkot, and was poised for a thrust towards Delhi and the Gangetic doab.
  • Background for Conflict between Muhammad Ghori and other Indian Rulers:
    • Gujarat ruler completely routed the Muhammad Ghori in a battle near Mount Abu, and Muizzuddin Muhammad was lucky in escaping alive.
    • He then realized the necessity of creating a suitable base in the Punjab before venturing upon the conquest of India.
    • The Chauhan power had been steadily growing. The Chauhan rulers had defeated and killed a large number of Turks who had tried to invade Rajasthan, most probably from the Punjab side.
    • They had also captured Delhi (called Dhillika) from the Tomars around the middle of the century.

What is the Battle of Tarain?

  • First Battle of Tarain in 1191:
    • Thus, a battle between these two ambitious rulers, Muizzuddin Muhammad and Prithviraj was inevitable.
    • The conflict started with rival claims for Tabarhinda. In the battle which was fought at Tarain in 1191.
    • The Ghurid forces were completely routed, Muizzuddin Muhammad’s life being saved by a young Khalji horseman.
    • Prithviraj now pushed on to Tabarhinda and conquered it after a twelve- month siege.
    • Little attempt was made by Prithviraj to oust the Ghurids from the Punjab.
    • This gave Muizzuddin Muhammad time to regroup his forces and make another bid for India the following year.
    • He rejected the proposal said to be made by Prithviraj to leave Punjab under the possession of the Ghurid ruler.
  • Second Battle of Tarain in 1192:
    • The second Battle of Tarain in 1192 is regarded as one of the turning points in Indian history.
    • Muizzuddin Muhammad had made careful preparations for the contest.
    • It is said that he marched with 1,20,000 men, including a force of heavy cavalry, fully equipped with steel coats and armor and 10,000 mounted archers.
    • As soon as Prithviraj realized the nature of the Ghurid threat, he appealed to all the rajas of northern India for help.
    • Prithviraj fielded a force of 3,00,000 including a large body of cavalry and 300 elephants.
    • The numerical strength of the Indian forces was probably greater, but the Turkish army was better organized and led.
    • The battle was mainly a battle between cavalry.
    • A large number of Indian soldiers lost their lives.
    • Prithviraj escaped, but was captured near Saraswati (Sirsa).
    • The Turkish armies captured the fortresses of Hansi, Saraswati and Samana. Then they attacked and captured Ajmer.
    • Prithviraj was allowed to rule over Ajmer for some time. Soon after, Prithviraj was executed on a charge of ‘conspiracy’, and Prithviraj’s son succeeded him.
    • Delhi also was restored to its Tomar ruler but this policy was reversed soon after.
    • The ruler of Delhi was ousted and Delhi was made a base for further Turkish advance into the Ganga valley.
    • Following a rebellion, a Muslim army recaptured Ajmer and installed a Turkish general there.
    • Prithviraj’s son moved to Ranthambore and founded a new powerful Chauhan kingdom there.
    • Thus, the Delhi area and eastern Rajasthan passed under Turkish rule.
  • Conquest of Bihar and Bengal:
    • Turkish dominance was expanded over the Ganga-Yamuna doab and the surrounding territory including Bihar and Bengal between 1192 and 1206.
    • In order to establish themselves in the doab, the Turks had first to defeat the powerful Gahadavala kingdom of Kanauj.
    • The Gahadavala ruler Jaichandra had been ruling over the state peacefully for two decades.
    • After Tarain, Muizzuddin returned to Ghazni leaving the affairs in India in the hands of one of his trusted slaves, Qutbuddin Aibak.
    • During the next two years, the Turks overran parts of upper doab, without any opposition from the Gahadavalas.
  • Battle of Chandawar:
    • In 1194, Muizzuddin returned to India. He crossed the Jamuna with 50,000 cavalry and moved towards Kanauj.
    • A hotly contested battle between Muizzuddin and Jaichandra was fought at Chandawar near Kannauj.
    • Jaichandra had almost carried the day when he was killed by an arrow, and his army was totally defeated.
  • Expedition to Banaras:
    • Muizzuddin now moved on to Banaras which was ravaged, a large number of temples there being destroyed.
    • The Turks established their hold over a huge territory extending up to the borders of Bihar.
    • Thus, the battles of Tarain and Chandawar laid the foundations of Turkish rule in north India.
    • Muizzuddin lived till 1206. During this period, he occupied the powerful forts of Bayana and Gwaliyar to guard the southern flank of Delhi.
  • Aibak’s Expedition:
    • A little later, Aibak conquered Kalinjar, Mahoba and Khajuraho from the Chandel rulers of the area.
    • With a base in the doab the Turks launched a series of raids in the neighboring areas. Aibak defeated Bhima III, the ruler of Gujarat, and Anhilwara and a number of other towns were ravaged and plundered.
    • Though a Muslim governor was appointed to rule the place he was soon ousted.
    • This showed that the Turks were not yet strong enough to be able to rule over such far-flung areas.
    • The Turks, however, were more successful in the east.
  • Expedition of Bakhtiyar Khalji (1205 AD.):
    • Bakhtiyar Khalji, whose uncle had fought at the battle of Tarain, had been appointed in charge of some of the areas beyond Banaras.
    • He had taken advantage of this to make frequent raids into Bihar, which was at the time in the nature of a no-man’s land.
    • During these raids, he had attacked and destroyed some of the famous Buddhist monasteries of Bihar, Nalanda and Vikramasila which had no protector left.
    • He had also accumulated much wealth and gathered many followers around him. During his raids, he also collected information about the routes to Bengal.
    • Bengal was a rich prize because its internal resources and flourishing foreign trade had given it the reputation of being fabulously rich.
    • Making careful preparations, Bakhtiyar Khalji marched with an army towards Nadia, a pilgrim center where the Sena ruler, Lakshmana Sena, had built a palace, and to which he had gone on pilgrimage.
    • Turkish horse merchants had become a common sight in those days.
    • Pretending to be a horse-merchant, Bakhtiyar Khalji made a sudden attack on the palace, and created a great confusion.
    • Bakhtiyar then marched and occupied the Sena capital, Lakhnauti, without any opposition.
    • Lakshmana Sena moved to Sonargaon in south Bengal where he and his successors continued to rule.
    • Bakhtiyar Khalji was formally appointed the governor of Bengal by Muizzuddin.
    • He ruled over it as a virtually independent ruler. But he was not to enjoy this position for long.

How did Muhammad Ghori Die?

  • He foolishly undertook an expedition into the Brahmaputra valley in Assam.
  • The Magh rulers of Assam retreated and allowed the Turkish armies to come in as far as they could.
  • Finally, the fatigued and drained armies realized they couldn't go any farther and chose to retire.
  • They could find no provisions on the way, and were constantly harassed by the Assamese armies.
  • Tired and weakened by hunger and illness, the Turkish army had to face a battle in which there was a wide river in front and the Assamese army at the back.
  • The Turkish armies suffered a total defeat.
  • Bakhtiyar Khalji was able to come back with a few followers with the help of some mountain tribes. But his health and spirits were broken.
  • Ghori was critically ill and confined to his bed when he was stabbed to death by one of his own amirs.
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