INVASION – TIMUR: THE WOLF THAT ATE THE WORLD
He was born into storms and bad omens with bloody hands. He was the Great Grey Wolf & the Great Deceiver. His name meant iron - He was Timur - The wolf that ate the world
He was born into nothing, no inheritance, no future and no prospects except to die young from disease or war. As a young man he had his leg broken for stealing chickens. BUT in that hard world – he grew up to be the world’s greatest genocidal maniac – the legendary “Grey Wolf” who would devour the world and feast on the bodies of 15% of humanity.
The world had never seen nor will it ever see such maniacal, senseless genocides carried out with such zeal and passion.
The world calls him a great conqueror AND a scourge of humanity. The ground, once, inhabited by flourishing cities, teeming with life and culture were left marked by his abominable trophies – the pillars & pyramids of human heads. Astracan, Carizme, Aleppo, Delhi, Isfahan, Baghdad, Smyrna, Damascus and thousands others were destroyed so completely that no human life existed in them for 100’s of years.
Timur came to power in Transoxiana (Central Asia) on the border between the nomad steppes and the agricultural Middle East. As a Muslim and a Mongol, bilingual in Turkic and Persian, he belonged to both worlds. His native region had been part of the Chaghatayid Khanate, which was one of the less powerful and organized sections of
the Mongol Empire, controlled by the descendants of Genghis Khan’s second son Chaghatai.
Starting as a member of the Barlas tribe in Transoxiana, he won his way to power over the region in 1370. By 1380 he had achieved supremacy as far as Kashghar in the east and Khorezm in the west. Timur’s victories gave him control over the lands that stretched from the Russian steppes to Anatolia to the Issyk Kul. Even though Timur led the largest and most successful army of his time and dominated the political world, he was not eligible for supreme office within the imperial traditions he honored. Since he was not directly descended from Genghis Khan, he could not claim the title of Khan, the mark of sovereignty within the world of the steppe nomads. He could likewise not call himself Caliph, the supreme title of the islamic world, since that office was limited to the Quraysh, the tribe of the Prophet Muhammad.
In the mist of times long past, in antiquity, Hindustan – the golden peacock, had always been famed for its wealth. Looters and marauders have made their way here in search for what they never had – WEALTH – material and scientific. Timur the Earth Shaker was also one such looter. Like his predecessor looters, he was drawn to India by tales of its vast wealth. And like them, he too used the excuse of religion and jihad to break one of the sacred vows of Mongols – The Genghis Edict – That no Mongol should make camp at night in Hindustan (That is one of the reasons why no significant Mongol invasions took place in Hindustan)
THE FIELD IS RIPE – Death of Delhi Sultanate’s ruler, Firoz Shah Tughlaq led to disintegration of his sultanate. His heirs and vassals fought for their share of the sultanate. As the chaos deepened and everyone with an army formed his own small independent riyasat – the strength of the sultanate was destroyed. This gave Timur the excuse to mount an expedition into Hindustan and seize the throne – By Decree of Death & Fortune.
YOUNG WOLF IN PERIL – In 1397, as soon as war against Hindustan was sounded, he deputed the suzerainty of the provinces of Qunduz, Baqlan, Kabul, Ghazni, Qandhar & all the dependencies as far as the boundaries of Hindustan, to his grandson Pir Mohammed. Greed drove Pir Mohammed to enter Hindustan through Multan but he was stopped and defeated by Sarang/Sarnak the governor of Multan. Pir Mohammed took refuge inside his stronghold while Sarang laid siege and destroyed one fort after another, closing in on Pir Mohammed. Sarang’s forces ranged out around the countryside destroying all the wealth and strongholds of Timurid kingdom in the area.
DECLARATION OF JIHAD – Meanwhile Timur’s spies came back with grave news from Hindustan. They told of lands beyond Multan, beyond Sarang, where implacable Kaffirs (Jats & Rajputs rulers), who in spite of defeat, would keep on fighting, hold grudges for generations and to whom honor was paramount. There was news of armored war elephants so powerful that they could break a man’s back with a swing of their trunks. Timur feared wealth alone wasn’t incentive enough for his men to venture forth and rescue his grandson. He therefore, used the call of Jihad against the Kaffirs to fuel his men. It is another matter that, ironically this Jihad was called against a Kingdom ruled by muslims – the Delhi Sultanate!!
NOTE – Hindustan was a land that no invader had till that time, successfully and truly conquered – Alexander to the Arab Mujahids all failed to truly suppress the Kafir Hindus.
It was in March of 1398 when the Earth Shaker left Samarkand with a force of 92,000 strong cavalry. His army included a large contingent of heavy armored horsemen with bows longer and more powerful than normal Mongol bows. His armada also had a secret weapon – something that had never been used in India.
He crossed the Indus river on 24th September 1398 and reached Multan. Timur then sacked the small kingdoms of Tambula & Bhatnir before sending forth a letter seeking Sarang’s surrender (see below). Sarang refused and the ensuing battle lasted for months – Sarang had organized all the local chieftains and princes under his banner and led them against Timur’s forces. After many intense battles, Sarang lost against a highly mobile, battle hardened Timurid armada. Sarang was beheaded and Multan was looted & burnt to the ground. The Timurid army moved further into Hindustan. looting and burning cities on their way to Delhi. Pillars of skulls & Vultures marked this journey.
LETTER FROM TIMUR TO SARANG OF DIPALPUR – ‘If the rulers of Hindustan come before me with tribute I will not interfere with their lives, property or kingdoms; but if they are negligent in proffering obedience and submission, I will put forth my strength for the conquest of the kingdoms of India. At all events, if they set any value upon their lives, property and reputation, they will pay me a yearly tribute, and if not, they shall hear of my arrival with my powerful armies. Farewell.’
SARANG REPLY – ‘It is difficult to take an empire like a bride to your bosom without trouble and difficulty and the clashing of swords. The desire of your prince is to take this kingdom with its rich revenue. Well, let him wrest it from us by force of arms if he is able. I have numerous armies and formidable elephants, and am prepared for war.’
THE WOLVES CIRCLE – Delhi at that time was under the control of Mallu/Mallah – a vizier of the old sultan Firoz Shah Tughlaq and now the premier power center of the new sultan Mahmud Shah. Mallu was the brother of Sarang and hence the upcoming battle was personal to both – the wolf and the peacock.
11th December 1398, Timur had reached Delhi and camped a few miles outside the city. He then took a contingent of 700 horsemen to scout the countryside and select a suitable site for battle. Mallu was a shrewd man and had his men shadowing Timur’s army. When he got to know of Timur’s scouting party, Mallu led a contingent to ambush the mongol. But Timur’s men were on horses and Mallu’s men were on foot with a small contingent of horsemen. In the ensuing battle Mallu was defeated and he and his men taken prisoner.
Mallu was put with the prisoners taken from Multan and other cities that Timur had burnt to the ground. These prisoners were Hindus and numbered well over 1,00,000. Mallu tried to cause a revolt among the poisoners but the guards put down the revolt. This revolt forced Timur to reassess the quality of men he held captive. He realized that with Mallu in their midst and as their leader, the prisoners posed a very real danger to his army. On 12th December 1398, Timur had Mallu skinned alive and then ordered that anyone who had Hindu prisoners should behead them immediately. If any of his men disobeyed, then they too would be beheaded along with the Hindu prisoners. Sharfuddin in “bar ravayat-i-iql” states that over 1,00,000 Hindu male prisoners were killed on 12th, December, by Timur’s men. (Women & children were not killed as they held value as slaves)
[Yahahya & Badouni, contemrory historians of that time claim that women prisoners were spared as they had more value as sex slaves in the bazars of Baghdad]
THE BATTLE – The tughlaq army had its contingent of armored war elephants and infantry. They were short of capable cavalry. The war elephants were famed for their power as the rank breakers (Saf-shikans) & cavalry dispersers. Timurid army crossed Jamuna (Yamuna) river on the same day as it was an auspicious day (Friday/Jumma). Timur moved quickly and by Sunday 14th December 1398, he had reached the plains of Firozabad.
Mallu’s death had left the sultan’s army without a leader. The sultan was able to send out only 40,000 infantry, 10,000 cavalry and 125 war elephants against the war hardened Timurid army. The infantry was made up of peasants (gujjars, jats alongwith muslim robbers/prisoners) with bamboo sticks (some had old rusted swords). The archers among them were ineffective as they used the single curved bow (very short range as compared to mongol recurved bow).
A FEAST FOR THE VULTURES – On 16th December 1398, the two armies clashed. The war elephants led the charge and started cutting through the advancing Timurid cavalry. But Timur had his secret weapons ready – He had planted long iron spikes in the ground from behind which his men wielded a weapon that was unseen in India – Gun Powder brought in from China (under Ming Dynasty)
Camels were laden with sacks of gunpowder and let lose on the Elephants trapped by the iron spikes. As the camels charged among the elephants, fire arrows were shot at the camels….the gunpowder laden camels exploded (like bombs) among the elephants, killing them and panicking the rest. The armored war elephants were made useless and killed. Timurid cavalry made short work rest.
Mahmud Shah was dethroned. He managed to escape, abandoning his people and city. But the people of Delhi (who had lost their loved ones in the great massacre) did not submit. They kept on resisting and Timur had to fight for every street and every house. The flame of looting and brave resistance spread everywhere – in Jahan Panah, in Siri and in old Delhi. This obstinate resistance was something the Timurid army had not seen before. For five days people kept on fighting. (Timur & Sharfuddin both give high praise to the men of Delhi who fought bravely till their last breath)
THE LOOT – As the city fell, Timur’s consort Chaplan Malik Agha was escorted into the palace of Mahmud Shah. She was fascinated by the majestic view of the palace of the thousand pillars. Under her eye all beautiful tapestry, paintings & works of art was looted. On Thursday and the following night nearly 15,000 soldiers were engaged inside the city – slaying, plundering, destroying. On the morning of Friday the soldiers who were outside Delhi too were tempted to share the gains of their compatriots and rushed into the unfortunate city. The killing and looting went on without a break on the next two days, Friday and Saturday. Immense quantities of gold and silver in coins and bullion, ornaments of the women captives, precious stones and finest fabrics of all kinds were obtained.
As soon the great treasury of the sultan was emptied of its treasures, on 19th December, Timur ordered Amir Shah Malik & Ali Sultan Tawachi to burn down the city. Another great massacre all Hindus men – old and young followed. The women and small children were taken as slaves to be transported to Samarkand.
The big treasury of the Tughlaqs and those of his ministers yielded such a great treasure of gold, rubies, diamonds that the Timurid men had to weigh instead of count the treasure. Each of his men had atleast 20 Hindu women as slaves along with a more gold they could carry.
Wealth of Hindustan enriched the Timurid empire for generations. Timur had ordered that no masons, architects or artist should be killed. These people could not be taken as slave by anyone. They were all claimed by Timur as his share of the booty. He took these crafts men and the gold of Hindustan back to Samarkand. It was men of Hindustan – the kaffirs (against whom he had declared Jihad) who made the great Jama Masjid of Samarkand and transformed Samarkand from a dusty city into the city that could proudly claim to be the Capital Of The World.
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