The Mongol invasions of India deserve special attention at the hands of the students of history of the Sultanate period as the Mongols threatened the very existence of the Muslim Empire in India for about a century.
They attacked India again and again more with a view to enrich themselves with the wealth of India than with a view to set up a kingdom of their own in this country. The Mongols were ferocious people who took pleasure in loot, murder, plunder and destruction. They were barbarians and they took pleasure in burning towns and organising massacres.
They were responsible for every kind of inhuman atrocity. They were the enemies of civilisation. They destroyed mosques, temples and churches. They took pleasure in burning holy books. The poet Amir Khusro himself was captured by them and he suffered terribly at their hands.
This is what he says about them. “The Muslim Martyrs died in the desert with their blood, while the Muslim captives had their necks tied together like so many flowers into garlands. I was also taken prisoner and from fear that they would shed my blood, not a drop of blood remained in my veins.
It ran about like water, here and there with innumerable blisters on my face like bubbles on the surface of a stream. My tongue was parched and dry from excessive thirst and my stomach seemed to have collapsed for want of food. They left me nude like a leafless tree in winter or flowers that have been much lacerated by thorns. My Mongol captor sat on a horse like a lion bestriding the spur of a mountain, a disgusting stench came out of his mouth, etc, and on his chin there grew, like a hyacinth, a tuft of hair.
If through weakness I lagged a little behind, he would threaten me sometimes with his frying pan and sometime with his spear. I sighed and thought that release from such a situation was quite impossible. But thank God, I did regain my freedom without my breast being pierced by an arrow or my body cut into two by the sword.”
The Mongol invasions were undertaken mainly by the ill-organised hordes of the rules of Transoxiana who had control of Kabul and Ghazni in the North and Qandhar and the Bolan Pass in the South. It is rightly pointed out that if India had been attacked by the main armies of the Mongols, the Sultans of Delhi might not have been able to check them.
However, one disadvantage of this was that the Sultan of Delhi was not able to ascertain the strength of the invaders an also the object of their invasions. They appeared on the Indian frontiers all of a sudden like ants and locusts.
They looted, plundered and fled away. The uncertainty and the perpetual anxiety arising out of the frequency of the Mongol invasions had a very demoralising effect on the Government and people of India. The Mongol menace was like a dark ominous cloud on the North-West horizon of India and no one knew when it was likely to burst. The Mongols depended upon their fleet-footed cavalry. They had no problem of food supply. They could organise lightning raids with impunity.
They were generally on the offensive. From the military point of view, the lies invariably with the army which is no the offensive and hence the Mongols were gainers. From the strategic point of view also, the Sultans of Delhi were not in a happy position. The scientific frontier for the defense of India would have been the Kabul-Ghazni Qandhar line.
Such a line of defense was not possible and consequently the Mongols were able to penetrate successfully into Sindh and Upper Punjab. When the line of defense was prepared, it ran along Lahore, Dipalpur, Uch, Samana and Multan. Experience showed that the Mongols could not be held even at that line although in many cases they were stopped and repulsed.
The first Mongol invasion of India took place in the reign of lltutmish. The Mongols appeared on the banks of the river Indus in 1221 under the command of their formidable leader called Changiz Khan (1162-1227). They came to India under the following circumstances:
Jalal-ud-Din Mangbami, the last Shah of Khwarism of Khiva, sought shelter from the Mongols in the Doab between the Indus and the Jhelum. Changiz Khan came in hot pursuit of Jalal-ud-Din up to the Indus. It appeared that lltutmish was going to be in trouble. However, the latter diplomatically refused to help Jalal-ud-Din on the ground that the climate of the Punjab was not suitable for him. The result was that Changiz Khan did not pursue his enemy and retired. Thus was averted what might have been a terrible calamity for the country.
About the attitude of lltutmish towards Jalal-ud-Din, Dr. Habibullah observes: “Rules of hospitality required only one answer to the request but lltutmish was a great realist. To reverse Aibak’s and his own foreign policy at this stage and to seek the displeasure of a far more terrible power by receiving the fugitive prince would have been not only unwise but almost suicidal.
Mangbami therefore was given a polite refusal and when he prepared to avenge himself by further aggressions in the Punjab, lltutmish got ready for military action. It did not, however, come to actual fighting for the prince thought it prudent to turn his attention to Qabachah.
For about 20 years the Mongols did not disturb the peace of the Sultanate. In 1241, they attacked India again under their leader named Tair who was a lieutenant of Hulaqu. The Mongols attacked Multan but did not succeed in capturing it. They moved northwards and captured Lahore in December 1241. The Government of Lahore was taken by surprise. Moreover, the garrison at Lahore was not well-equipped.
The merchants and people of Lahore also did not like the idea of opposing the Mongols on account of their selfish aims. An army was sent by Behram Shah against the Mongols but the same was defeated. Lahore was captured and plundered and its residents were massacred. After that, the Mongols retired.
During the next 10 years. The insurgents of the Khokhars and the selfish ambitions of some Turkish nobles including the brother of Balban, named Kishlu Khan, created a chaotic condition. Most of Sind and the region between the Jhelum and the Indus passed under the hands, if not the sovereignty of the Mongols.
The menace of the Mongols became very great during the reign of Balban. Their raids became more frequent and powerful. Without making an all-out attempt at conquest, the Mongols almost annually intruded into the country for loot and plunder. Two important Mongol invasions took place in the reign of Balban in 1279 and 1285. These invasions were so formidable that they strained all the might and resources of Balban. However, the Mongols were defeated and driven away. Prince Mohamnland, the son of Balban, lost his life while fighting against the Mongols.
A reference may be made to some of the measures adopted by Balban to protect his empire against the Mongols. The Khokhars were punished and the Salt Range was subdued and pacified. A chain of fortresses with-equipped and adequately provisioned garrisons were built.
The command of the defense of the frontier was given to tried military hands like Sher Khan Sanqar, a cousin of Balban. Sher Khan did a lot in strengthening the defenses of the frontier. However, the very success of Sher Khan made Balban jealous of him and the result was that Sher Khan was poisoned.
The Mongols attacked again in the reign of Kaiqubad under their leader Tamar Khan of Ghazni. They carried rapine and plunder as far Samana. However, the defense measures adopted by Balban were still strong and the result was that the Mongols were defeated and they had to go back home after terrible losses. Malik Baqbaq played and important part in the defeat of the Mongols.
The Mongols again attacked India in the reign of Jalal-ud-Din Khajli in 1292 A.D. under the command of Abdulla, a grand son of Hulaqu. They were more than one lakh in number. They carried rapine and plunder up to Sunam.
In spite of his old age, Jalal-ud-Din went in person to oppose them and was successful in defeating them. Ulghu, a descendant of Changiz Khan and a few thousand of his Mongols followers, embraced Islam and were settled in a colony outside Delhi which came to be known as Mughalpura. The descendants of these Mongols came to be known as new Mussalmans.
Ala-ud-Din had to face more than a dozen Mongols invasions. Those invasions started from the end of 1296 A.D. and continued up to 1308 A.D. The first invasion took place in 1296 A.D. Zaffar Khan was dispatched against them and they were defeated near Jullundur and a large number of them were killed. The second invasion took place in 1297 A.D. under Kadar. The Mongols were more than one lakh in number.
They crossed the river Indus but were stopped by Ulugh Khan, the son-in-law of the Sultan and Zaffar Khan at Jullundur and driven back. In 1298 A.D. another Mongols horde under Saldi entered India through the Bolan Pass. It captured Siwistan and re-occupied the Fort of Sibi. Zaffar Khan was despatched against them and he won a decisive victory against them. The Fort of Sibi was recaptured by assault. Saldi and 17,000 Mongols were captured and sent in chains to Delhi.
In 1299 A.D., The Mongols attacked India under their leader Qutlugh Khawaja, with an army of 2 lakhs. This time they entered India with the definite object of conquering it. The invaders did not bother about the frontier garrison and marched straight to Delhi. Ala-ud-Din rose to the occasion at this “darkest hour”.
He rejected the advice of the Kotwal of Delhi who suggested that the Mongols be paid and asked to go back. Zaffar Khan played an important part in beating back the Mongols. However, he himself lost his life.
In 1303 A.D., the Mongols attacked India under the leadership of Targhi. They were 100,000 strong and marched to Delhi and be seiegd it. Ala-ud-Din was away to Chittor and when he came back he had to encamp himself in the Fort of Siri. Had the siege been carried on relentlessly by the Mongols, the city of Delhi would certainly have fallen.
However the Mongols called off the siege and marched homewards. It is stated that the sudden departure of the Mogols was due to a miracle perfromed by the Sufi Saint, Nizam-ud-Din Aulia. However, this view is not accepted. The real reason was that the Mongols had to siege-guns and hense they decided to retire.
The Mongols appeared again in 1306 A.D. They crossed the Indus near Multan and proceeded towards the Himalayas. Ghazi Malik who was the Governor of the Punjab intercepted the Mongols and a large number of them were killed. 50,000 Mongols were made prisoners including their leader Kubak. They were put to death and their wives and children were sold as slaves.
The last Mongols invasion took place in 1308 A.D. under their leader, Iqbalmand. He crossed the Indus but could not make any headway. He was defeated with his followers and killed. A large number of Mongols were made prisoners and sent to Delhi where they were put to death. The Mongols did not dare to attack India after 1308.
A reference may be made to some of the measures adopted by Ala-ud-Din to tackle the Mongol problem. He got the old forts repaired New forts were constructed. A massive standing army of 4, 75,000 were raised to fight against the Mongols. Very capable and trusted officers were put in charge of the defense of the frontiers. Ghazi Malik was appointed the Warden of the Western Marches in 1305 A.D. New workshops to manufacture improved types of weapons were set up. Armies were stationed at Dipalpur, Samana and Multan. The Mongols who had embraced Islam and settled in India were massacred.
Even their wives and children were brutally murdered. Barani, the historian of this period, tell us that the Mongols were crushingly defeated. Every year thousands of them were trampled by the elephants and their blood and bones were used as mortar for building the new capital of Ala-ud-Din at Siri.
These barbaric punishments so demoralised the Mongols that “all fancy of coming to Hindustan was washed off their breasts.” As a matter of fact, the new frontier army under Ghazi Malik took the offensive and paid the Mongols in their own coin. The Delhi army carried fire and sword to the Mongol territories. According to one authority, the Delhi army even captured Ghazni.
The Mongols threat continued to persist even after Ala-ud-Din. Many Mongols tribes, even after their conversion to Islam, continued to harass the Sultans of Delhi. It is interesting to note that Babar who was a direct descendant of Changiz Khan and Timur was the founder of the Mughal Empire in India.