Comprehensive Essay on the Turkish Conquest of India


Medieval Indian history coincides with Muslim rule in India and begins with the Ghaznavid conquest of Punjab. Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) is said to have made 17 raids into India: against the Hindushahi rulers of Punjab: Jayapala (1001), Anandapala (Waihind 1008-09), the Muslim rulers of Multan and the famous raids against Kannauj (1018) and Somnath (1025). Ghazni posed as a great But Shikari (destroyer of images). He died in Ghazni in 1030.

After the Ghaznavid conquest of Punjab, Mahmud’s successors next plundered the Gangetic Valley. Traders began to pour into India and colonies of Muslim traders sprang up in some towns in northern India. Ghorids

The Ghorid ruler, Shahab-ud-Din Muhammad (1173-1206), also known as Muiz-ud-Din Muhammad bin Sam, conquered Multan and Uchh in 1173, and tried but failed to reach Gujarat in 1178. He conquered Peshawar in 1179-80 and met Prithviraj Chauhan unsuccessfully in the Battle of Tarain in 1191. In the Second Battle of Tarain (1192) Prithviraj was defeated and the Turkish armies captured the fortress of Hansi, Saraswati and Samana; shortly afterwards, Delhi and eastern Rajasthan came under Turkish rule.


Between 1192 and 1206, Turkish rule was extended over the Ganga- Jamuna Doab and Gujarat, Anhilwara, Bayana, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Bengal, Bihar, Mahoba and Khajuraho. The powerful Gahadavala ruler of Kannauj, Jaichand, was defeated and killed in the Battle of Chandwar in 1194. In the east, Bakhtiyar Khilji was appointed to look after the affairs. He defeated the Sena king of Bengal, Lakshmanasena, around 1204, and made his capital at Lakhnauti. Lakshmanasena and his successors, however, continued to rule South Bengal from Sonargoan.

In 1203, Muiz-ud-Din suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of the Khwarizmi rulers of Central Asia and had to bid good-bye to his dream of a Central Asian empire and began to concentrate on India. This led to the emergence of a Turkish State in India.

The defeat of the Indian States at Turkish hands can partly be attributed to social and political weaknesses and to their growing backwardness in science and technology as compared to the Central Asian States. The Turks also had some military advantages like better horses and horsemen and improved methods of warfare. Indian armies, on the other hand, still depended on elephant and the infantry. Further, as a result of the growth of feudalism, the various Rajput chiefs could not act in concert.

The Mamduk Sultans (Slave Dynasty) or the Ilbari Turks (1206-1290) Muiz-ud-Din was succeeded by Qutab-ud-Din Aibak at Delhi and by Taj-ud-Din Yalduz at Ghazni. Aibak was succeeded by Iltutmish (1210- 36), his son-in-law. This checked the law of heredity at the outset. At this time, Ali Mardan Khan had declared himself king of Bengal and Bihar. Qubacha, another slave of Muiz-ud-Din, declared himself an independent ruler of Multan and seized Lahore and parts of Punjab.


Some of the Rajputs, too, had begun to assert their independence. For instance, in Kalinjar, Gwalior, Ajmer and Bayana: Iltutmish recaptured Lahore, Multan and Uchh and strengthened his north-western frontiers. In 1226-27, Bengal and Bihar were re-conquered and he also took steps to recover Gwalior and Bayana. He can thus be regarded as the real consolidator of the Turkish conquest in north India.

Iltutmish nominated his daughter Raziya (1236-39) to succeed him. Her reign marks the beginning of a struggle for power between the monarchy and the Turkish chiefs, sometimes called “the forty” (Turkan- i-Chahalgani). The latter were irked at Raziya’s attempts to create her own party and raise non-Turks like an Abyssinian Slave, Yaqut Khan, to high positions. They accused her of violating feminine modesty and defeated her in battle.

The struggle between the monarchy and the Chahalgani continued till one of the Turkish chiefs, Balban (Ulugh Khan) (1246-84) gradually. Arrogated all power to himself. Between 1246 and 1265, he held the position of naib (deputy) under Sultan Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud (1246-1265), a younger son of Iltutmish.

In 1250, there was a conspiracy against the growing power of Balban, and Imad-ud-Din Raihan, an Indian Muslim, took his place. But Balban soon came back to power and after Mahmud’s death in 1265, ascended the throne. With him began an era of a strong, centralised government.


In order to strengthen his claim to the throne, he claimed descent from the mythical Turkish hero, Afrasiyab, and excluded all those who were not of noble Turkish lineage from high government positions. He was a despot and succeeded in breaking the power of the Chahalgani. He also organised a strong, centralised army both to deal with internal disturbances and to repel the Mongols from the north-west frontier.

He followed a strong policy to restore law and order to the Doab region. He had a personal theory of kingship which exalted the position of the king. To emphasise that the nobles were not his equals, he insisted on the ceremony of Sijda and paibos (prostration and kissing of the monarch’s feet) which were considered un-Islamic.

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