First Battle of Tarain (1191) :
It is true that Muhammad Ghori had become the master of the Punjab, Multan and Sindh, but he was far from being the Master of Hindustan. There were many wealthy and powerful Rajput Kingdoms in the heart of India which were ready to check his further advance in case he dared to invade their territories.
The Rajputs were proud of their pedigrees and jealous of their honour. Fighting was their hobby and they could never think of surrender. Prithvi Raj Chauhan or Raj Pithora, the Ruler of Delhi and Ajmer, decided to check the advance of Muhammad Ghori.
He marched against the Ghori chief at the head of a large army which, according to Firishta, included 2 lakh horses and 3,000 elephants. He was also helped by his fellow Rajput Princes. Jai Chandra, the Rathor Raja of Kanauj was the only Rajput Prince who kept aloof from the war as Prithvi Raj had insulted him by carrying awahy his daughter by force.
The armies met at Tarain, a village 14 miles away from Thanesar in 1191 A.D. Muhammad Ghori followed the tactics of the right, left and centre and himself occupied a position in the middle of his army. The Rajputs attacked both the wings of the Muslim army which was scattered in all directions. Muhammad Ghori attacked Govind Raj, the brother of Prithvi Raj, on the mouth with his sword and knocked out his teeth.
Govind Raj returned the blow and struck Muhammad Ghori in the arm and gave a severe wound. Stunned by his blow, Muhammad Ghori turned back and began to bleed. His strength was exhausted and he was about to fall down from his horse. However, a Khilji soldier helped Muhammad Ghori and carried him off the field of battle. The Muslim army dispersed in all directions. It was pursued for 40 miles and after that the chase was given up Muhammad Ghori went back to Ghazni. The Rajputs besieged Sarhind but were not able to capture it easily.
Second Battle of Tarain (1192) :
When Muhammad Ghori reached Gazni, he punished all those officers and soldiers who had run away from the battle-field. They were publicly disgraced and paraded in the city. It is stated that after the first battle of Tarain in 1191 A.D., Muhammad Ghori “never slumbered in ease nor waked but in sorrow and anxiety”.
In 1192 A.D., he marched from Ghazni at the head of a large army consisting of 1, 20,000 men. He encamped once again near Tarain. There was a bloody battle. As many as 150 Rajput Princes fought on the side of Prithvi Raj. To begin with, the Hindu cavalry was able to check the advance of the Muslims. The battle continued from morning till sun-set. However, towards the end, Muhammad Ghori with the help of 12,000 horsemen made a desperate charge and “carried death and destruction throughout the Hindu Camp.” The Rajputs were not able to stand the charge and were defeated.
According to Firishta, “Like a great building, this prodigious concourse of the Rajputs, once shaken, tottered to its fall and was lost in its ruins.” Govind Rai was killed in the battle-field. Likewise, Khande Rai who had wounded Muhammad Ghori in 1191 A.D. was killed. Prithvi Raj got disheartened, got down from his elephant and tried to escape but was captured near the town of Sirsuti.
There are many versions about the death of Prithvi Raj. According to Minhaj-us-Siraj, Prithvi Raj was captured and sent to hell. According to Hassan Nizami, Prithvi Raj was taken to Ajmer and later on put to death as he was found to be guilty of treason. The view of Chand Bardai is that Prithvi Raj was taken to Ghazni and there put to death. The view that he was taken to Ajmer is preferred as certain coins of Prithvi Raj with the Sanskrit superscription “Hammira” have been found.
Minhaj-us-Siraj has given the following account of the second battle of Tarain: “Next year the Sultan assembled another army and advanced to Hindustan, to avenge his defeat. A trustworthy person named Muiz-ud-Din, one of the principal men of the hills of Tolak informed me that he was in this army and that its force amounted to 1, 20,000 horsemen bearing armour. Before the Sultan could arrive, the fort of Sarhind had capitulated and the enemy was encamped in the vicinity of Narain (Tarain).
The Sultan drew up in battle array, leaving his main body in the rear with the banners, canopies and elephants to the number of several divison. His plan of attack being formed, he advanced quietly. The light unarmoured horsemen were made into four divisions of 10,000 and were directed to advance and harass the enemy on all sides, on the right and on the left, in the front and in the rear, with their arrows. When the enemy collected his forces to attack, they were to support each other and to charge at full speed. By these tactics the infidels were worsted, the Almighty gave us the victory over them and they fled.”
The account given by Firishta is in these words: “Inspired by their first victory with arrogance and pride, they (the rais) sent a haughty letter to the Sultan: ‘The strength and numbers of your army will be soon known to you and reinforcements are coming to us from all parts of Hindustan. Be merciful, if not to yourself, at least to the misguided men you have brought hither. If you repent of your venture and go back, we swear by our idols that we will not harass your retreat; otherwise we will attack and crush you tomorrow with more than three hundred thousand horsemen, archers beyond all computation and an army which the field of imagination is not wide enough to contain.’ ‘
Your message is wonderfully affectionate and kind,’ Mu’izzuddin replied, ‘but I have not a free hand in the matter. It is by my brother’s order that I have come here and undertaken the hardships of the campaign. If you will give me sufficient time, I will send some messengers to inform him of your overpowering strength and obtain his permission to conclude peace on the terms that Sirhind, Multan and Sindh belong to me and the rest of Hindustan remains under your sway.
“The Rajput leaders thought that the humility of the reply was due to the weakness of the Muslim army and went to sleep. But Mu’izzuddin spent the night in preparing for battle; and when, in the morning, the Rajputs came out of their entrenched positions to satisfy the call of nature and wash their hands and faces, he fell upon them with his lines drawn in order. The Hindus were taken aback by the unexpected attack, but somehow or other, they hurriedly took up their arms and came to the field.
The Sultan knew the fearless courage of the Hindu forces and had divided his army into four divisions, which came forward to fight the enemy by turns. When the Hindu elephants and horses attacked Mu’izzuddin’s army, it filed away; but when the enemy, deceived by the trick, followed in pursuit, it turned back and with the blows of its axes relieved the bodies of the enemy of the “weight of their heads.
Thus the battle raged from forenoon to afternoon, when Mu’izzuddin put on his helmet and armour and charged the enemy at the head of twelve thousand men with drawn swords and lances. The blood of brave warriors was mingled with the earth and in the twinkling of an eye the Hindu lines began to break. At the same time Kharmil and the other Amirs attacked the Rajputs on all sides and drove them away from the field.”
The second battle of Tarain is a landmark in the history of India. It ensured the ultimate success of Muhammad Ghori against the Indian states. According to V. A. Smith, “The second battle of Tarain in 1972 may be regarded as the decisive contest which ensured the ultimate success of the Mohammadan attack of Hindustan. All the numerous subsequent attacks were merely consequences of the over-whelming defeat of the Hindu league on the historic plain to the North of Delhi”.
Dr. Habibullah says, “Muizzuddin’s victory on the plains of Tarain was not, as is generally supposed, an isolated personal triumph, nor was it an accident. It was, on the one hand, the execution of a deliberate plan by a resolute conqueror and on the other, the consummation of a process which extended over the whole of the 12th century. His was only the most successful of the many attempts made by the Turks from the northwest to obtain a foothold in Hindustan all of which may therefore be regarded as preliminaries to Tarain.
The Shansabani conqueror thus perhaps, unwillingly, brought to successful end a century Of reconnoitering activity, a programme of military action of which he was not the orginator. Mahmud’s brilliant campaigns had shown the way, and the Ghaznavide Governors of Punjab, although serving a fast-declining empire, yet maintained pressure on the Hindu states of the Gangetic valley.”
Prof. K. A. Nizami says, “Tarain was a major disaster for the Rajputs. Rajput political prestige, in general and the Chauhan ascendancy, in particular, suffered a serious setback. The whole Chauhana 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 demoralization became widespread.”
There was a general demoralisation in the country and there was none among the Rajputs who could bring under his banner all his fellow princes to stop the further advance of the Muslims in India. The result was that the Muslims were able to capture Samana, Kuhram and Hansi without much difficulty. Ajmer was captured and plundered. Thousands of people were put to the sword.
The Sultan also “destroyed the pillars and foundations of idol temples and built in their stead mosques and colleges and the precepts of Islam and the customs of the law were divulged and established.” A son of Prithvi Raj was put in charge of Ajmer and he promised to pay tribute. Leaving Qutb-ud-Din Aibak in-charge of his Indian possessions, Muhammad Ghori went back to Ghazni. In a short time, Qutb-ud-Din conquered Meerut, Kol and Delhi and made Delhi the seat of his government.