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Timur invades India

  • Name of the Battle: Timur invades India
  • Venue: Delhi
  • Year: 1398

Timur, the founder of the Timurid Dynasty, was the conqueror of Western, South and Central Asia in the 14th century. An ancestor of Babur, who formed the Mughal empire in India, Timur had this unstoppable urge to re-establish the broken Mongol empire. He founded the Timurid Empire. Timur was known in History for his barbaric conquests of India and Russia. He was also known for his cultural achievements of the Timurid Dynasty, though the architectural marvels of Samarkand, his capital in modern Uzbekistan. He was also known as Tamerlane or Timur Lang or Timur the Lame. He left India in 1399 after the massive conquests. And just as he was preparing a huge army to invade China, he died in 1405 CE.

The reasons that led to the battle

After his victorious win over Persia and Mesopotamia and other areas in the west and the south, Timur, the great conqueror turned his attention to India. The main reasons for his conquest of India were:
  • To destroy and plunder the massive wealth of India
  • To fight a "Holy war" against the infidels
  • To destroy the temples and the idols and make people believe in Islam
In 1398, Timur invaded India with an aim of destroying the hindu kings and rulers. Also, he felt that the Muslim sultans of Delhi were showing great tolerance to their Hindu subordinates. He started his journey from Samarkand. After crossing the Sindh river, he entered Punjab. This was on 24 September 1398. Many villages and towns were destroyed. Mass murders took place. Timur and his army marched forward unchecked. Prior to this invasion, Timur's grandson Pir Muhammad had already started his expedition to India. He had captured Uch and Multan. Pir Muhammad then joined Timur. The governor of the fort of Bhatnir was defeated, and Timur destroyed the fort and the city. He marched further with his troops and entered Delhi by crossing the Indus River. Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Tughluq of the Tughlaq dynasty could not do anything to resist Timur and was easily defeated. Another battle took place between the Indian army of Mahmud Tughluq and Timur in December 1398; the army of Mahmud Tughluq was completely routed at Panipat. This conquest of Delhi by Timur, led to the complete destruction of the city, people were killed and Delhi was reduced to ruins. His atrocities were justified by himself in the name of holy war that took place for the glory of Islam.

The Strength of Warring Forces

Historians say that in 1398, when Delhi was attacked by Timur, he had 92 regiments of 1000 horsemen each.

Aftermath of the battle: winner and loser
  • Winner: Timur
  • Loser: Tughlaq Sultan Mahmud Shah
Timur stayed in Delhi for about 15 days and plundered all its wealth. While returning back to his kingdom, he conquered Firozabad, Meerut, Haridwar, Kangra and Jammu. He left India in 1399 and appointed Khizr Khan as governor of Lahore, Multan, and Dipalpur. He brought with him to his empire thousands of slaves and 90 captured elephants, carrying with them precious stones, gold, coins looted from India.

The larger implications of the battle

More than lakhs of Hindus were taken as prisoners before he entered Delhi. To provide protection to the elephants in the war, Timur made a defence camp with brushwood and trees, followed by huge stones, cattles and the Hindu women. His army were kept with the women prisoners, where they were tortured and raped . Before leaving for the battle, all of the 1 lakh men, who were supposed to be the infidels, were ordered to be killed brutally. These included both the Muslims and the Hindus. Timur's conquests of India brought a huge scale devastation to the country. Whichever place he went, he reduced it to ruins. Many people were massacred. Thousands of villages were burnt and destroyed completely. The cities with riches were extensively plundered. Even after capturing Delhi, the bloodshed continued for many days. The towns of Jahanpanah and Siri were completely demolished by Timur. It is said that the army of Timur could not be brought under anyone's control and they went on killing, looting, plundering, and making prisoners.

The overall place and significance of the battle in the Indian history

The invasion of India by Timur had a great significance in the Indian History. In history, Timur is known as a ferocious ruler who did not hesitate to massacre the inhabitants of his conquered cities. Timur's invasion of India led to the destruction of the agricultural fields and crops, granaries were plundered, trade and commerce fell. There was a terrible famine in Delhi after the war. The whole suburbs became infectious due to the massacre of the people with bloods and bodies laid all over. A large number of people were butchered . The north western provinces were ravaged and laid in waste. The Tughlaq Empire was completely liquidated. Delhi lost its richness, its glory, its people, and its rule. All builders, stone-masons and craftsmen were taken as prisoners to build Timur's seat of his empire, Masjid-i jami, in his capital city Samarkand, which was one of its kind in the country.

According to Historians, one of Timur's greatest achievements was the capture and invasion of the Delhi Sultanate. This conquest had undoubtedly surpassed other great invasions of India, such as that of Alexander the Great or Genghis Khan. The reason being, it was this invasion of Delhi which took away the entire richness of the city and harsh conditions were inflicted on the people. After Delhi was conquered by Timur's army, few uproars took place by the people against the Turkic-Mongols. But, these led to more bloody massacre within the city. Timur destroyed the entire Delhi Sultanate and also the Tughlaq dynasty. It is said that Delhi took almost a century to recover and emerge again from this great loss.

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Last Updated on : January 2, 2015