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Invasions of India
Part of the Mongol conquests, Mongol invasion of Central Asia
Datea) 1221-1225 b) 1235-1241, 1254-1255 c) 1257-1258 d) 1293-1298 e) 1299-1311, 1327 f) 1320
LocationNorth-Western Indian subcontinent and parts of Central Asia
Result Mongol Empire conquers Indian borderlands but repelled from interior. Mongols continue raids throughout the 14th century.
Mongol Empire gains control of Central Asia, Kashmir, and exterior portions of Indian subcontinent. Delhi Sultanate retains hold of Indian interior.
a) File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Mongol Empire
b) File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Mongol Empire
c) File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Mongol Empire
d) Flag of Chagatai khanate Chagatai Khanate
e) Flag of Chagatai khanate Chagatai Khanate
f) Qara'unas
a) Punjab
Delhi Sultanate
c) Delhi Sultanate
d) Delhi Sultanate
e) Delhi Sultanate
f) Delhi Sultanate
a) Khwarazmian dynasty
Salt Range
Khilji dynasty
Commanders and leaders
a)File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Genghis Khan
File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpgDorbei the Fierce
File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Bala
File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Turtai

b)File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Ögedei Khan
File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Dayir
File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Möngke Khan
File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Sali
Sham al-Din Muhammad Kart
c) File:White Sulde of the Mongol Empire.jpg Hulagu Khan
Sali Bahadur
Sali Noyan
d) Flag of Chagatai khanate Abdullah
Flag of Chagatai khanate Ulugh
Flag of Chagatai khanate Saldi
e) Qutlugh Khwaja
Flag of Chagatai khanate Kebek
Flag of Chagatai khanate Ali Beg
Flag of Chagatai khanate Tartaq
Flag of Chagatai khanate Abachi
Flag of Chagatai khanate Tarmashirin
f) Zulju
a) unknown
b) unknown
c) unknown
d) Zafar Khan
e) Alauddin Khilji
Zafar Khan
Ghazi Malik
Malik Kafur
Ulugh Khan
Muhammad bin Tughluq
f) Suhadeva
a) Jalal ad-Din Mingburnu
Kalich Khan
Uzbek Pai
Hassan Qarlugh

Alauddin Khilji (D. 1316), The Turkic ruler of Delhi.

Genghis Khan

Genghis Khan

The Mongol Empire launched several invasions into the Indian subcontinent from 1221 to 1327, with many of the later raids made by the unruly Qaraunas of Mongol origin. The Mongols subjugated Kashmir as a vassal state and occupied most of modern Pakistan and Punjab for decades. As Mongols progressed into Indian hinterland and reached on the outskirts of Delhi, the Delhi Sultenate led a brave campaign against them in which Mongol Army inflicted huge losses on the rival army. On the verge of victory, the Mongols however withdrew from India abruptly and thus Khiljis were saved from a humiliation.


After pursuing Jalal ad-Din into India from Samarkand and defeating him at the battle of Indus in 1221, Genghis Khan sent two tumens (20,000 soldiers) under commanders Dorbei the Fierce and Bala to continue the chase. The Mongol commander Bala chased Jalal ad-Din throughout the Punjab region and attacked outlying towns like Bhera and Multan and had even sacked the outskirts of Lahore. Jalal ad-Din regrouped, forming a small army from survivors of the battle and sought an alliance, or even an asylum, with the Turkic rulers of Delhi Sultanate, but was turned down.

Jalal ad-Din fought against the local rulers in the Punjab, and usually defeated them in the open but could not occupy their lands. At last he proposed an alliance with the khokhar chieftain of the Salt Range and married his daughter. The Khokhar Rai's son joined Jalal ad-Din's army along with his clansmen and received the title of Kalich (sword) Khan. Jalal ad-Din's soldiers were under his officers Uzbek Pai and Hassan Qarlugh.

Khokhar tribe of Punjab was in alliance with Mongols during their invasion of India.[1]

While fighting against the local governor of Sindh, Jalal ad-Din heard of an uprising in the Kirman province of southern Iran and he immediately set out for that place, passing through southern Baluchistan on the way. Jalal ad-Din was also joined by forces from Ghor and Peshawar, including members of the Khilji, Turkoman, and Ghori tribes. With his new allies he marched on Ghazni and defeated a Mongol division under Turtai, which had been assigned the task of hunting him down. The victorious allies quarreled over the division of the captured booty; subsequently the Khilji, Turkoman, and Ghori tribesmen deserted Jalal ad-Din and returned to Peshawar. By this time Ögedei Khan, third son of Genghis Khan, had become Great Khan of the Mongol Empire. A Mongol general named Chormaqan sent by the Khan attacked and defeated him, thus ending the Khwārazm-Shāh dynasty.[2]

Mongol conquest of Kashmir and conflicts with the Delhi Sultanate[]

Some time after 1235 another Mongol force invaded Kashmir, stationing a darughachi (administrative governor) there for several years, and Kashmir became a Mongolian dependency.[3] Around the same time, a Kashmiri Buddhist master, Otochi, and his brother Namo arrived at the court of Ögedei. Another Mongol general named Pakchak attacked Peshawar and defeated the army of tribes who had deserted Jalal ad-Din but were still a threat to the Mongols. These men, mostly Khiljis, escaped to Multan and were recruited into the army of the Delhi Sultanate. In winter 1241 the Mongol force invaded the Indus valley and besieged Lahore. General Dayir was killed while storming the town. However, on December 30, 1241, the Mongols under Munggetu butchered the town before withdrawing from the Delhi Sultanate.[4] At the same time the Great Khan Ögedei died (1241).

The Kashmiris revolted in 1254-1255, and Möngke Khan, who became Great Khan in 1251, appointed his generals, Sali and Takudar, to replace the court and appointed the Buddhist master, Otochi, as darugachi of Kashmir. However, the Kashmiri king killed Otochi at Srinagar. Sali invaded Kashmir, killing the king, and put down the rebellion, after which the country remained subject to the Mongol Empire for many years.[5] The Delhi prince, Jalal al-Din Masud, traveled to the Mongol capital at Karakorum to seek the assistance of Möngke Khan in seizing the throne from his elder brother in 1248. When Möngke was crowned as Great Khan, Jalal al-Din Masud attended the ceremony and asked for help from Möngke. Möngke ordered Sali to assist him to recover his ancestral realm. Sali made successive attacks on Multan and Lahore. Sham al-Din Muhammad Kart, the client malik (ruling prince) of Herat, accompanied the Mongols. Jalal al-Din was installed as client ruler of Lahore, Kujah and Sodra. In 1257 the governor of Sindh offered his entire province to Hulagu Khan, Mongke's brother, and sought Mongol protection from his overlord in Delhi. Hulagu led a strong force under Sali Bahadur into Sindh. In the winter of 1257 - beginning of 1258, Sali Noyan entered Sind in strength and dismantled the fortifications of Multan; his forces may also have invested the island fortress of Bakhkar on the Indus.


The Mongol Empire during the reign of Mongke Khan (r.1251-59)

But Hulagu refused to sanction a grand invasion of the Delhi Sultanate and a few years later diplomatic correspondence between the two rulers confirmed the growing desire for peace. Hulagu had many other areas of conquests to take care of in Syria and southwestern Asia. Large-scale Mongol invasions of India ceased and the Delhi Sultans used the respite to recover the frontier towns like Multan, Uch, and Lahore, and to punish the local Ranas and Rais who had joined hands with either the Khwarazim or the Mongol invaders.

Large numbers of tribes that took shelter in the Delhi Sultanate as a result of the Mongol invasions changed the balance of power in North India. The Khilji tribe usurped power from the older Delhi Sultans and began to rapidly project their power into other parts of India. At about this time the Mongol raids into India were also renewed (1300).

The Chagatai Mongols vs. Delhi sultanate[]

The Tushar sources claim invasions by hundreds of thousands of Mongols, numbers approximating (and probably based on) the size of the entire cavalry armies of the Mongol realms of Central Asia or the Middle East: about 150,000 men. A count of the Mongol commanders named in the sources as participating in the various invasions might give a better indication of the numbers involved, as these commanders probably led tumens, units nominally of 10,000 men.[6] These invasions were led by either various descendants of Genghis Khan or by Mongol divisional commanders; the size of such armies was always between 10,000-30,000 cavalry although the Muslim chroniclers of Delhi exaggerated the number to 100,000-200,000 cavalry, which was their norm in describing enemy forces.[7] After civil war broke out in the Mongol Empire in the 1260s, the Chagatai Khanate controlled Central Asia and its leader since the 1280s was Duwa Khan who was second in command of Kaidu Khan. Duwa was active in Afghanistan, and attempted to extend Mongol rule into India. Negudari governor Abdullah, who was a son of Chagatai Khan's great grandson,[8] invaded Punjab with his force in 1292, but their advance guard under Ulghu was defeated and taken prisoner by the Khalji Sultan. He was intimidated by the main Mongol army and bought off their attacks for a price. The 4000 Mongol captives of the advance guard converted to Islam and came to live in Delhi as "new Muslims". The suburb they lived in was appropriately named Mughalpura.[9] Chagatai tumens were beaten by the Delhi Sultanate several times in 1296-1297.[10] The Mongols thereafter repeatedly invaded northern India. On at least two occasions, they came in strength. The two armies met at Jalandhar in 1297. Zafar Khan defeated the Mongols in this first invasion. The Mongols attacked again under the command of Saldi and captured the fort at Siri. Zafar Khan, holding the honour of being one of the few undefeated military commanders in history, had no problem crushing this army. He recaptured the fort and brought 2,000 Mongol prisoners before Alauddin Khilji. During Mongol incursions in 1298, a mixed Turk-Mongol army fought against the Rajput Kings. The Mongols quarreled with the Turk commander and killed his brother in an argument over the distribution of captured wealth. The wives and children of these Mongols were treated with ferocious cruelty and they escaped to the forts of the Rajputs.

Shortly afterward, Duwa Khan sought to end the ongoing conflict with the Yuan Khagan Temür Öljeytü, and around 1304 a general peace among the Mongol khanates was declared, bringing an end to the conflict between the Yuan Dynasty and western khanates that had lasted for the better part of a half century. Soon after, he proposed a joint Mongol attack on India, but the campaign did not materialize.

Late Mongol invasions[]

In 1299, against advice, Delhi sultan Alauddin Khilji attacked the Mongols. The advance guard of the Khilji army was led by Zafar Khan himself. He defeated the Mongols and pursued of them as they withdrew. However, the Mongol general Qutlugh Khwaja tricked Zafar into a position where he was surrounded and killed by the Mongols. However, in face of Alauddin Khilji's continued offensives, they had to retreat to the heights from where they had come.

The Mongols took a long time to rally from this setback. Then they attacked at the worst time possible for Alauddin Khilji – when he was busy laying siege to Chittor. This time the Mongols traveled light. An army of 12,000 under Targhi's leadership moved to Delhi in a swift attack; many governors could not send their troops to Delhi in time.

Alauddin Khilji was forced to retreat to Siri for about two months. The Mongols attacked and pillaged not only the surrounding areas, but Delhi itself.[11] Alauddin Khilji continued to hold the fortress at Siri; Targhi withdrew the siege after a few months and left the area. Barani, a contemporary historian at that time, attributed this "marvel" to the prayers of the Sufi mystic Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya.

Alauddin Khilji had the forts along the border strengthened and equipped with larger garrisons. New, more effective fortifications were built in the area. A whole new army with its own special governor was created whose portfolio was managing and guarding the border areas.

Despite these measures, the Mongols under the leadership of Ali Beg and Tartaq suddenly appeared in Punjab and the neighbourhood of Amroha. The Mongols plundered Punjab and burnt everything along the way.

Alauddin Khilji sent a strong army led by two of his toughest generals: Ghazi Malik and the famous Malik Kafur to engage the invaders. They surprised the Mongols on their way back to Central Asia with their plunder. At the Battle of Amroha Kubak and other Mongol generals were captured and brought back to Siri, along with other prisoners. Alauddin Khilji had the generals trampled to death by elephants while the other prisoners were put to death and their heads hung from the walls of the fort.

The Mongols returned under the leadership of Kebek, who became a khan later in 1306. They crossed the Indus River near Multan and were moving towards the Himalayas, when Ghazi Malik, governor of Punjab, intercepted them. About 50,000 Mongols were made prisoners including one of their generals. Alauddin Khilji put them all to death and sold their wives and children as slaves. The last Mongol invasion of this period took place in 1307-8 under Iqbalmand and Tai Bu. They had just about managed to cross the Indus when Alauddin Khilji's armies overtook them and put them all to the sword. In that same year the Mongol Khan, Duwa, died and in the dispute over his succession this spate of Mongol raids into India ended.

Alauddin Khilji was an original thinker and brilliant as a strategist. He sent plundering armies under the veteran general Ghazi Malik to Kandhar, Ghazni and Kabul. These offensives effectively crippled the Mongol line of control leading to India.

After besieging and taking Siwana, Jalor, and Warangal, the Indian army, led by the Alauddin Khilji Indian slave commander Malik Kafur, invaded Malababar from Devagiri in 1311. They returned with immense amounts of gold and other booty. After the Mongol commander Abachi tried to kill Kafur, Alauddin had him executed. Believing that thousands of Mongols who were captives and later converted into Islam in Delhi were conspiring to kill him, the Sultan ordered all Mongols arrested, and about 20,000 were reported to have been executed. The court of Delhi also executed emissaries of Oljeitu, the Ilkhan of Mongol Persia. In 1320 the Qaraunas under Zulju (Dulucha) entered Kashmir by the Jehlam Valley without meeting any serious resistance. The Kashmiri king, Suhadeva, tried to persuade Zulju to withdraw by paying a large ransom.[12] After he failed to organize resistance, Suhadeva fled to Kishtwar, leaving the people of Kashmir to the mercy of Zulju. The Mongols burned the dwellings, massacred the men and made women and children slaves. Only refugees under Ramacandra, commander in chief of the king, in the fort of Lar remained safe. The invaders continued to pillage for eight months until the commencement of winter. When Zulju was departing via Brinal, he lost most of his men and prisoners due to a severe snowfall in Divasar district. The next major Mongol invasion took place after the Khiljis had been replaced by the Tughlaq dynasty in the Sultanate. In 1327 the Chagatai Mongols under Tarmashirin, who had sent envoys to Delhi to negotiate peace the previous year, sacked the frontier towns of Lamghan and Multan and besieged Delhi. The Tughlaq ruler paid a large ransom to spare his Sultanate from further ravages. Muhammad bin Tughluq asked the Ilkhan Abu Sa'id to form an alliance against Tarmashirin, who had invaded Khorasan, but an attack didn't materialize.[13] Tarmashirin was a Buddhist who later converted to Islam. Religious tensions in the Chagatai Khanate were a divisive factor among the Mongols.

No more large-scale invasions or even raids took place in India; by this time the Mongol attempt to conquer India had finally ended in failure. However, small groups of Mongol adventurers hired out their swords to the many local powers in the northwest. Amir Qazaghan raided northern India with his Qara'unas. He also sent several thousand troops to aid the Delhi Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq in suppressing the rebellion in his country in 1350.

Timur and Babur[]

Timur Exhumed


Timur defeats the sultan of Delhi

Timur defeats the Sultan of Delhi, Nasir Al-Din Mahmum Tughluq, in the winter of 1397-1398


Babur, the Turco-Mongol descendant of Timur, who later invaded India in 16th century.

The Delhi sultans had developed cordial relations with the Yuan Dynasty in Mongolia and China and the Ilkhanate in Persia and the Middle East. Around 1338, Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq of the Delhi Sultanate appointed Moroccan traveller Ibn Battuta an ambassador to the Mongol court of Emperor Huizong of Yuan China. The gifts he was to take included 200 slaves.

The Chagatai Khanate had split up by this time and an ambitious Mongol Turk chieftain named Timur had brought Central Asia and the regions beyond under his control. He followed the twin policies of Imperialism and Islamization, shifting various Mongol tribes to different parts of his empire and giving primacy to the Turkic people in his own army. Timur also reinforced the Islamic faith over the Chagatai Khanate and gave primacy to the laws of the Quran over Genghis Khan's shaminist laws. He invaded India in 1398 to make war and plunder the wealth of the country.

Timur's empire broke up and his descendants failed to hold on to Central Asia, which split up into numerous principalities. The descendants of the Mongol Chagtais and the descendants of Timur empire lived side by side, occasionally fighting and occasionally inter-marrying. One of the products of such a marriage was Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire. His mother belonged to the family of the Mongol Khans of Tashkent. Babur was a true descendant of Timur and shared his beliefs: he believed that rules and regulations of Genghis Khan were deficient as he remarked, "they had no divine authority." Even though his own mother was a Mongol, Babur was not very fond of the Mongol race and wrote a stinging verse in his autobiography:

"Were the Mughals an angel race, it would be bad,
Even write in gold, the Mughal name would be bad."

When Babur occupied Kabul and began invading the Indian subcontinent, he was called a Mughal like all the earlier invaders from the Chagatai Khanate. Even the invasion of Timur had been considered a Mongol invasion since the Mongols had ruled over Central Asia for so long and had given their name to its people. Both Timur and Babur continued the military system of Genghis Khan. One part of this system was the name Ordu - used for the collective of tents that formed the military camp — it was now pronounced Urdu. In all their campaigns in India the Mughal camp was called the Urdu and this word became current in the languages of the various soldiers that formed the body of this camp.

In time these Indian and foreign languages mingled together in the Urdu and a new language of that name was born. This language of the military camp survived in some of the North Indian cities after the fall of the Mughal Empire. The Urdu that passed through all these centuries of political changes ultimately became the language of poetry, of music, and of other forms of cultural expression—today it is recognized as one of the languages of Pakistan and modern India.

See also[]

  • India-Mongolia relations


  2. Chormaqan Noyan: The First Mongol Military Governor in the Middle East by Timothy May
  3. Thomas T. Allsen-Culture and Conquest in Mongol Eurasia, p.84
  4. Islamic Culture Board-Islamic culture, p.256
  5. André Wink-Al-Hind, the Making of the Indo-Islamic World, p.208
  6. John Masson Smith, Jr. Mongol Armies and Indian Campaigns.
  7. John Masson Smith, Jr. Mongol Armies and Indian Campaigns and J.A. Boyle, The Mongol Commanders in Afghanistan and India.
  8. Rashid ad-Din - The history of World
  9. J.A. Boyle, "The Mongol Commanders in Afghanistan and India According to the Tabaqat-I-Nasiri of Juzjani," Islamic Studies, II (1963); reprinted in idem, The Mongol World Empire (London: Variorum, 1977), see ch. IX, p. 239
  10. Although Muslim historians claimed Mongols were outnumbered and their army ranged from 100-200,000, their force was not enough to cow down Delhi mamluks in reality. See John Masson Smith, Jr. Mongol Armies and Indian Campaigns.
  11. Rene Grousset - Empire of steppes, Chagatai Khanate; Rutgers Univ Pr,New Jersey, U.S.A, 1988 ISBN 0-8135-1304-9
  12. Mohibbul Hasan-Kashmir Under the Sultans, p.36
  13. The Chaghadaids and Islam: the conversion of Tarmashirin Khan (1331-34). The Journal of the American Oriental Society, October 1, 2002. Biran


  • Harold Lamb, Genghis Khan: Emperor of All Men. ISBN 0-88411-798-7
  • Rene Grousset - Empire of Steppes, Rutgers Univ Pr,New Jersey, U.S.A, 1988 ISBN 0-8135-1304-9
  • John Masson Smith, Jr. - MONGOL ARMIES AND INDIAN CAMPAIGNS, University of California, Berkeley [1]
  • Chormaqan Noyan: The First Mongol Military Governor in the Middle East by Timothy May [2]


  • J.A. Boyle, "The Mongol Commanders in Afghanistan and India According to the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri of Juzjani." Central Asiatic Journal 9 (1964): 235-247. Reprinted in The Mongol World Empire, 1206-1370, edited by John A. Boyle, Variorum Reprints, 1977.
  • Peter Jackson - Delhi Sultanate: A Political and Military History, Cambridge University Press,1999. ISBN 0-521-40477-0
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