Essay on the conquest made during Mughal Empire

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“Tarain was a major disaster for the Rajputs. Rajput political prestige in general, and the Chauhan ascen­dancy, in particular, suffered a serious set back. The whole Chauhan kingdom now lay at the feet of the invader. As Tarain was a concerted action on the part of a very large number of Rajput princes, its repercussions were also felt on a very extensive scale and demoralisation became widespread. Immedi­ately following his success at Tarain, Muizzuddin annexed the whole of the Siwalik territory including Hansi and Sarsuti. Having placed (Qutb-ud-din) Aibak in charge of Kuhram, Muizzuddin returned to Ghazni” (Professor K.A. Nizami, A Comprehensive History of India, Volume five, Part One).

In Ajmer, however, the Rajputs did not like Prithviraj’s son ruling as a vassal of the Turks. Hari Rai, a brother of Prithviraj, removed Prithvijaj’s son from Ajmer and then besieged the fort of Ranthambor, placed under Quwamul Mulk by Aibak. Aibak had a fight with Hari Rai who gave up Ranthambor as also Ajmer where Prithviraj’s son was reinstated, Even after suffering reverses Hari Rai did not give up and went on to regroup his forces. He was helped at- this juncture by Aibak’s departure to Ghazni, summoned by his monarch.

Hari Rai again captured Ajmer driving out Prithviraj’s son and was preparing for an attack on Delhi with his energetic general Jhat Rai when Aibak returned and made a move to check the process. Aibak’s manoeuvre unnerved Hari Rai and he committed jauhar to end his life. Jhat Rai took refuge in Ajmer. This time Aibak placed Ajmer under a Muslim officer and stationed Prithviraj’s son at Ranthambor. Within a short time, the Turkish position at Ajmer was threatened again by the rebellious Mher tribe who lived near Ajmer and they asked for help from the Chalukyan army. Aibak found himself in real difficulty with Rajput pressure gradually increasing, but was saved in the nick of time with the arrival of forces from Ghazni, and the Rajputs were forced to withdraw.

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Kuhram was the seat of Aibak’s government and from here he again captured Hansi besieged by Jatwan in September 1192. Returning to Kuhram, he crossed Jamuna and captured Meerut held by the Dor Rajputs. He also captured Baran (Bulandshahr) and Koil (Aligarh) from them in late 1192 and then proceeded to Delhi to occupy it. All these posses­sions gave him immense strategic advantage. Ini­tially, the Tomara ruler of Delhi was allowed to continue, but was thrown out in 1193 on charges of treason. Again, Aibak was summoned to Ghazni where he remained for six months. Returning to India in 1194, he crossed the Jamuna and captured Koil (Aligarh).

Around this time Muizzuddin also returned to India with the intention of attacking the Gahadavalas. Some recruitment were made at Delhi and then Muizzuddin proceeded towards Kanauj and Banaras with 50,000 horsemen and accompanied by Aibak and Sipah Salar Hussain Kharmil. In the battle of Chandwar, Muizzuddin emerged victorious. Although the entire territory of the Gahadavalas could not be conquered, the victory was important in the sense that military stations were established at a number of places, such as Banaras and Asni.

In 1195-96, Muizzuddin returning to India attacked Kumarapala, a Jadon Bhatti Rajput ruling over Bayana, who fled to Thankar and was com­pelled to surrender there. The newly conquered territory of Thankar and Vidyamandirgarh was put under Bahauddin Terghril. Next to surrender was the Pratihara, Sallakhanapala of Gwalior.

The Mher rebellion in Rajasthan, which Aibak could suppress only with help of fresh reinforce­ments from Ghazni, was followed by the encounter at Anhilwara with Dahravarsha of Abu and Kelhana of Nadol. Showing an apparent reluctance to fight, Aibak drew out that Chalukyan forces and then defeated them with his superior mobility and shock tactics. However, the Turks could not hold it for long, and epigraphic evidence shows that it remained with the Chalukyas upto 1240.

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Thereafter, Aibak con­quered Badun in 1197-98 and Chautarwal and Kanauj in 1198-99 due to the apparent loosening of the Turkish hold in Banaras. Aibak then captured Sirohi and followed it with perhaps a raid on Malwa (1199) but no other contemporary excepting Fakhri mentions it. In 1202, Aibak besieged Kalinjar, an important fort under Paramardideva Chandella of Bundelkhand. When after some time negotiations for peace were started, Paramardideva died suddenly. The chief minister, Ajayadeva, declined to submit in the belief that he would be able to hold on. He was, however, forced to capitulate when the water supply was cut off. The Chandellas were allowed to keep their nearby stronghold of Ajaigarh while Kalinjar, Mahaba and Khajuraho fell in the hands of the Turks and were grouped into a military division under the command of Hasan Arnal.

Bahauddin Tughril was a slave during the early years of Muizzuddin’s reign and due to his qualities was promoted as in-charge of the fort of Thankar. He administered with great efficiency and initiated the urbanisation programme of the Turks in India by encouraging considerable Muslim settle­ments in that region by “merchants and men of repute from Khurasan and different parts of Hindustan” (Minhaj). Subsequently, he founded the city of Sultan-kot in Bayana to be used as his headquarters as also the operations centre for capturing Gwalior fort (which Muizzuddin failed to accomplish). Erecting a new fort near the fort of Gwalior, he was able to break the resistance, but the soldiers there surrendered to Aibak by sending emissaries to him. It would appear Aibak and Tughril fell out over this and were getting ready for a fight when Tughril died, thus saving the situatior “He left many public works as his memorials in the region of Bayana”, writes Minhaj in the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri.

“The conquest of the eastern region was the work of Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji, whose per­sonality and achievement assumed an almost legend­ary colour in the history of medieval India” says K.A. Nizami. Minhaj says Bakhtiyar Khalji came to Ghazni in search of employment and left for Delhi refusing the petty job he was offered. In Delhi, he was rejected due to his pock-marked (by small pox) face, finally getting a position under Sipah Salar Hassan Adib, the Mukta (Muqta) of Badaun. Sub­sequently, Bakhtiyar was given iqtas of Bhiuli and Bhagwat which provided him with a base of opera­tions against the petty Gahadavala chiefs of the area.

Then he made incursions into Bihar where he got a lot of booty in the form of arms, horses, etc. This enabled him to extend his area of operations, attracting Khaljis from other areas to join him. “He had no siege-train for capturing Hindu forts; nor was it his policy to provoke any widespread commotion in the country. His object was to secure the maxi­mum of booty with the minimum of risk and bloodshed. So he confined himself to scouring the open country, undefended by the field army of any organised state” (History of Bengal, Vol.11).

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In 1197, he mounted an attack on Bihar with 200 horsemen. Odantapuri was sacked, thousands of monks were killed, and Raja Indruman, no great warrior himself, ran away. He also destroyed the monasteries at Nalanda and Vikramasila and erected a fort at Odantapuri. A fifteenth century Tibetan chronicler, Taranath, says that in 1200 the famous Kashmirian scholar, Sakya Sribhadra, found Odantapuri and Vikramasila monasteries in ruins during a visit.

Bakhtiyar now planned to invade Bengal, which was ruled by Lakshmanasena of the Sena dynasty. He was an indolent and lethargic king, who took no protective measures while Bakhtiyar was on the rampage in the neighbouring state of Bihar. In 1204- 05, Bakhtiyar appeared before the gates of Nadia, the capital city of Lakshmanasena. It seems that while the rest of his army was following him, he reached Nadia with only eighteen horseman and the people took them to be horse-sellers.

He reached the palace gates and attacked. The raja fled barefoot by the back door; “the whole of his treasures, his wives and other females, his domestics and servants and his particular attendants were seized; the Mussalmans captured a number of elephants and such a vast booty fell to their lot that it cannot be recorded” (Tabaqat-i-Nasiri). When the main army arrived, the town was put under subjection. Bakhtiyar made no attempt to conquer Bengal and moved some time later to Lakhnauti. Lakshmanasena ruled over a part of his empire form eastern Bengal.

Dr Habibullah says: “The ease with which the king was put to flight and the city occupied, must have surprised even Bakhtiyar himself. The story of the eighteen horsemen defeating a great king, at any rate, evoked skeptical comments….There is, however, little need to feel apologetic for the supposed cowardice of the Sena king; even were he really so, to consider his conduct as typical of the Bengali people would be historically incorrect.

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Hasty and, what ungenerous critics would call, shameful flights have been the lot of even greater men and admit­tedly heroic peoples. Rajput recklessness has an element of romance in it but little of practical wisdom. It is impossible to reject the story altogether….There is, on the other hand, little im­probability in the story, for Bengal from all accounts presented not many elements of strength. A brahmin- ridden, disintegrated society, with a king whose youthful valour and military energy had given way to a supine addiction to religion and poetry; a top- heavy, hollow administration and with vassals find­ing strength to declare independence, Lakshmana- sena’s kingdom was anything but a force that could put up sustained resistance.

The Turuska had become a bogey and everywhere inspired a paralysing fear. The superstitious prophecy about the long-armed Turushka eventually destroying the Sena kingdom is perhaps an overstatement; the king’s refusal to fly with his frightened courtiers from the threatened zone shows that rational courage had not entirely taken leave of him. But the apprehension of an impending catastrophe was undoubtedly felt….Every fresh advance of the Turk only deepened this fear and destroyed self-confidence. The easy success of Bakhtiyar’s noon-day attack thus needs no explana­tion.”

Now, Bakhtiyar set his eyes beyond the Himalayas and wanted to conquer Tibet. In 1205, he set out with 10,000 horsemen, having finalised a treaty of friendship with the Raja of Kamrup. On his way, he came across a stone bridge on a river which a contingent was left to guard. With the rest, he marched for fifteen days to reach a fortress with well-populated areas nearby.

The people joined the forces garrisoned in the fort in resisting Bakhtiyar, who decided to retreat after suffering heavy losses. On his way back, he found the villagers on the route had destroyed everything leaving his forces with no food and no fodder for the horses. Killing horses for food, his soldiers managed to reach the river to find the bridge destroyed. No boats were available and the Raja of Kamrup attacked the retreating army at this juncture.

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They had no option but to plunge into the river and were swept away. Bakhtiyar somehow reached Lakhnauti with about 100 horsemen. “This was the greatest disaster which had yet befallen the Muslim arms in India. Armies have been defeated but Bakhtiyar’s force had been all but annihilated and it would have been well for him to have perished with it, for he could not show his face in the streets of Lakhnauti without encountering the gibes and reproaches of the wives and families of those whom he had led to their death…” (Sir Wolsley Haig). He fell seriously ill. One of his amirs by the name of Ali Mardan killed him.

It was a period of defeat for the Turks. In 1204, Muizzuddin while attacking the Khwarizms, their neighbours at Ghur, was severely defeated at

Andhkudh and could just manage to save his life. News of his defeat reached India and the rumour was that he was killed. Two Khokar chiefs, Bakan and Sarka, who lived in the region through which the Lahore-Ghazni route passed, created distur­bances and planned to capture Lahore. Another army officer killed the governor of Multan and established independent authority. Realising that his presence was needed, Muizzuddin left Ghazni for India and defeated and suppressed the Khokhars. Thereafter, permitting Aibak to go back to Delhi, he left for Ghazni. On his way, he was assassinated at Damyak in March 1206.

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