Invasion of Muhammad Ghori and Reasons behind the success of Turks

Dr. Richa Sharma, GNLU

Muhammad Ghori

The Ghori Region: In the 12th century AD  a small kingdom named Ghor, existed in the region between Ghazani and Herat. Taking advantage of the weakness of the Mohammad Ghazni’s successors, they steadily rose to power and entered into contest of supremacy with the Ghazanis. The struggle continued between the two families. Later, Giyasuddin-Bin-Ghor captured and annexed Ghazani. He appointed Muzzudin, his younger brother,  as king of Ghazani and gave the name Muhammad Ghori to him.

Expedition of Muhammad Ghori

He began his expedition in 1175 and captured Multan and then Sindh. He tried to penetrate into Gujarat, but found the local Rajputs too strong for him. In 1179, he occupied in the Peshawar. By 1182, the whole of Sindh was subdued. The next object of his attention was Lahore then ruled by Khusrau Malik, the last prince of the house of Ghazani. He defeated Khusrau Malik, captured Lahore and annexed Punjab to his dominions.

Ghori’s war with Rajputanas

The occupation of Punjab opened the way for his further conquest to India which however made inevitable a conflict with Rajputs particularly his neighbour Prithviraj Chauhan, king of Ajmer and Delhi. The particular conditions of India were far from satisfactory as it was divided into innumerable small states.

According to Muslim writers, Jaichandra of Ghadwala (Benaras) area was the greatest king. It is believed that he was jealous of the position of Prithviraj Chauhan. His beautiful daughter, Sanyukta was carried away by Prithviraj Chauhan and the story of this romance has formed the theme of many songs of that time. This added abitterness in their relationship and some writers suggest that he invited Ghori to India. However, looking at the political condition of India, the invasion was inevitable. Prithviraj Chauhan decided to check the advances of Muhammad Ghori and marched against the army of 2,00,000 horses and 3,000 elephants. He was helped by fellow Rajput princes except Jaichand.

First Battle of Tarain

The first battle of Tarain was fought in  1191 in a village 14 miles away from Thaneshwar. Muhammad Ghori directly fought with Govind Rai, brother of Prithviraj and both wounded each other, Ghori was injured severely, was exhausted and was about to fall down. The Khalji soldiers helped him and carried him off the battlefield. Thus, the first battle was won by the Rajputs.

The second battle of Tarain

Ghori punished all those who ran away from the battlefield. He re-gathered his forces and once again marched against the Rajputs. 150 Rajput princes participated in the war but were defeated. Prithviraj Chauhan was captured and taken to Ghazani where he was put to death. Ghori returned to Ghazani leaving the conduct of his Indian campaign to his trusted slave, Qutub-ud-din-Aibak.

Qutub-ud-din-Aibak captured Delhi, Merrut, Ranthambore and Koil in 1193. He fought the battle of Chandwar in 1194 and defeated Jaichand. In 1196, he captured Gwalior and then Anhilwar. In 1203, he captured Kalanjar and in 1206, Bihar and Bengal.

Why the Turks Succeeded?

According to British historians, the Turkish army was drawn from a warlike tribe inhabiting in the difficult regions lying between the Indus and the Oxus. Indians were pacifist in nature and opposed to war. They lack war skills. India was divided into small states which hampers expansion of an ambitious invader. This view is criticised since Indians were not really pacifist as they fought wars with rival kingdoms. Neither was they lacking in war skills. The Rajputs were equally brave and martial in spirit.

Jadunath Sarkar traces their success to Islamic social structure. The three unique characters which Islam imparted to the Arabs, Afghans, Pathans, and Turks were

  • Complete equality and social solidarity since they were not divided into castes.
  • Absolute faith in god.
  • Islam secured them from drunkenness which, according to Sarkar, was the main cause of the ruin of the Rajputs, Marathas, and other rulers.

The social and political structure of Indian and its military organisation also contributed to the success of the Turks. Politically, India was disunited and indulged in internal conflicts. Indian forces were a culmination of feudal forces and thus lacked unity of command.

The concept of Chhoot i.e. not mixing with other castes also hampered military efficiency and unity of the army. Rajputs fought bravely but were fighting a defensive war. Their movements were slow because of their elephants while the Turks were on horses and had Asian Turkish guerrilla warriors. They did not care to find the loopholes in the organisation of their enemy.


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