Select from the drop-down MENU & READ the Blog in your PREFERRED Language


Akbar & Harka Bai | Maharana Pratap | Mauryans | Razia Sultan | Miscellaneous | Jodha Akbar | FolkLore | Suggestions

5300+ comments registered on over 165 active posts, till now.
Plagiarism is a serious ethical offense amounting to copyright infringement. ZERO tolerance for Plagiarism.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Struggle before the establishment of Delhi Sultanate & Introduction to characters in the reign of Razia Sultan | History of Razia Sultan - I

Hi all,

This is the first post in the new section of this blog, which has been created to discuss the history of the first and only woman ruler of the Delhi Sultanate - Razia Sultan. This section will have a limited number of posts but care has been taken to ensure that the contents are well-researched like the earlier posts. The quality of content will not be compromised with.

Before starting with this series, we need to make a careful note about the following point. 

There is a difference between the Delhi Sultanate and the Mughal Empire, the former preceding the latter. The Delhi Sultanate was a kingdom based mostly in Delhi that stretched over parts of the Indian subcontinent from 1206 to 1526. Five dynasties ruled over the Delhi Sultanate sequentially, the first four of which were of Turkish origin and the last was the Afghan Lodi. The Mughals who formed their empire in Hindustan after 1526, were not the successors of Delhi Sultanate, but an entirely different dynasty altogether, who came to Hindustan from Central Asia via Persia.

It is important to make this difference clear because the excesses committed by the early invading forces are used as parameters to judge the Mughals also, simply because the Mughals too were of the same origin (Central Asia) and came from outside Hindustan. This is not to gloss over the excesses committed by the Mughals, but to specify that every dynasty is different and must be held accountable only for its own actions of omission / commission. 

During any phase of history, tolerance and excesses are practised to different extents. The purpose of reading history for the layman should only be to understand the past so that they can understand how the present society and its culture evolved over time. Such a reading should be done keeping emotions and prejudices under check, for any learning to be possible and to ensure that grudges / feelings of vendetta are not generated, based on a reading of events that happened long back. 

Before starting with the actual history of Razia Sultan, i have provided a brief background of how the Delhi Sultanate was established because many readers may not be aware of it. This would be helpful in understanding future posts related to Razia Sultan.

Later, some of the important people related to the life and times of Razia Sultan have been introduced. The list of references used in this series has also been included in this post. 

The post covers the struggle between the Central Asians and native rulers of Hind, from 712 AD to 1192 AD. All the major wars have been included here, and dealt with as much briefly as possible. The post also covers the contest between the Sultan of Ghazni - Muhammed Ghori and the last Rajput Emperor of Ajmer and Delhi - Prithviraj Chauhan III, as that might interest some of the readers. Pictures of various forts, monuments, coins, rulers, etc. have been included in the article to giving a better understanding of the events.

The contemporary literature and stone inscriptions of Rajputs use the term 'Malechas' , etc. to refer to Arabs and other Turkish invaders. I will be using the words Arabs and Turks mostly.

A Brief Background of Delhi Sultanate :

I am covering the important events related to the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate, according to the time line, in 2 phases.

Phase - I : The Prelude
Early Medieval India or the Rajput Period

India's contact with the Arabic world goes a long way back in history. Till 712 AD, such relations were purely commercial. The situation changed after 712 AD, with the defeat of King Dahir and the Arabic conquest of Sindh. With this defeat, the rule of the Brahmin dynasty (of King Dahir, who was from a Pushkarna Brahmin family) came to an end in Sindh*. This region was called "Chacha". The territories under the control of Dahir included parts of present-day Iran, Pakistan, India and Afghanistan.

* - Sindh is a province situated in present-day Pakistan.

Extent of region of 'Chacha'

712 AD : The Expedition of Muhammad-bin-Qasim into Sindh 

Al Hajjaj (died 714 AD), the minister of the Ummayad Caliph* -  Al Walid (705–715) , whose capital was at Damascus**, had sent his general Muhammed-bin-Qasim (died 714 AD) to capture the territories east of the river Indus and fight against Dahir. Details can be read from the contemporary Arabic account - Chachnama, the oldest chronicle of Arab conquest of Sindh.

* - A caliphate is a form of Islamic government led by a caliph — a person considered a political and religious successor to the Prophet Muhammad and a leader of the entire Muslim community.

** - Capital of present-day Syria in the Middle East. 

Muhammad-bin-Qasim's Expedition into Sindh

Some Indian Rulers Who Fought Early Arab Invaders

However, the success of the conquest of Sindh could not be replicated deep into North India. The reason was the presence of mighty empires in North India and the Deccan. The prominent empires among them were those of Palas, Pratiharas and the Rashtrakutas.

725 AD: Nagabhatta I
The Gwalior inscription of the Pratihara King - Bhoja I, tells us that Nagabhatta I, the founder of the family who ruled in Avanti (Malwa) around 725 AD, defeated the army of a powerful Malecha ruler who invaded his dominions.

738 AD: Pulakesini Avani - Janasraya
The early success of the Arab armies was checked by the Chalukya ruler of Gujarat - Pulakesin Avani - Janasraya. The Navasari inscription (738 AD) records that Pulakesin defeated a Tajika (Arab) army which had defeated the kingdoms of Sindh, Kutch, Saurashtra, Cavotaka, Maurya and more, and advanced as far south as Navasari where this prince was ruling at the time. This victory earned him the titles of - "solid Pillar of Dakshinapatha" - (Dakshinapatha-sadhata) and the "Repeller of the Unrepellable" (Anivarttaka-nivartayi). 

The Chalukyas of Gujarat founded the Solanki Rajput dynasty in Gujarat.

776 AD: The Saindhavas
Arabs tried to invade Sindh again via the sea in 776 AD but were defeated by the Saindhava naval fleet. A Saindhava inscription provides information about these naval actions. Details can be read in the Journal of the National Maritime Foundation of India, (Taylor & Francis), Vol. 8 No. 1 Summer 2012, Pg 110.

Extent and expansion of Umayyad Caliphate rule under Muhammad-bin-Qasim and later reign in medieval India (modern state boundaries shown in red). Click on the map for a larger view.

The references to all these wars can be found in any book which talks about the early medieval history , or the early history of Rajputana, etc. This series of wars is collectively famous as the "Battles of Rajasthan".

Let us now take a leap of approximately 300 years and move to the reign of Mahmud Ghazni. The above-mentioned 3 Indian empires had become weak by now.

998 to 1030 AD - Reign of Mahmud Ghazni

Mahmud Ghazni made 17 raids into Hindustan, mostly for capturing wealth from places of religious worship. 

Historians are divided about the reason for his continuous attacks on India. There are 2 camps. According to one set of historians, these raids were not aimed at establishing an Islamic empire in Hindustan, but only for gaining wealth.

The second set claims that along with looting the wealth, these raids were aimed at the expansion of the Islamic empire in India. Mahmud was proudly called But-Shiqan (idol-breaker), as his forces destroyed many temples during their looting sprees. Mahmud earned the praise of the Caliph, who called the former "The Star of the Islamic World", for his activities in the Indian subcontinent. 

961 to 1001 AD - Emperor Jaya Pal

Jaya Pal ruled in the North-West provinces. He was from the Hindu S(h)ahi dynasty. He is referred to as the "greatest Rai of Hind" in the contemporary Persian account Tabaqat-i-Nasiri. His empire extended from Laghman*** to Kashmir and Sirhind** to Multan* with Peshawar* in the center. (Refer the world map for an idea about the extent of his empire.)

*     - In present-day Pakistan
**   - Near Chandigarh in the Indian state of Punjab
*** - In present-day Afghanistan

He was quick to see the danger from Ghazni and attacked Ghazni, fought 2 continuous battles with Mahmud Ghazni and his father Subukt-gin, and suffered defeat.
The reason for Jaya Pal's defeat is stated, in contemporary Turkish texts, to be "sudden snow-fall", which did not suit Jaya Pal's army.

Emperor Jaya Pal was taken prisoner, but was released in exchange for some war indemnity. Subukt-gin rushed back to Ghazni without making any major annexations after this war.

On the other hand, Jaya Pal considered himself unworthy of the throne he occupied, as he was unable to uphold the honor of his clan. Hence, he burnt himself alive on his own funeral pyre. In present times, this act may appear shocking to us, but, a 1000 years back, this was seen as a demonstration of his Rajput "sense of honour".

Emperor Jaya Pal is remembered for his continuous resistance to the Ghaznavid conquest throughout his lifetime and has earned a good name even in his enemies' accounts.

Depiction of disaster of Emperor Jaipal's army in the snowfall at Ghazni - By Hutchinson's story of nations

1001 to 1010 AD - Emperor Anand Pal

Jaya Pal was succeeded by his able son, Emperor Anand Pal in 1001 AD. Anand Pal continued the struggle against Arab invaders. During the lifetime of his father, Anand Pal had conquered Lahore and added it to the domains of the Hindu Sahi empire.

The Muslim ruler of Multan helped the Hindu Sahis i
n their wars against Mahmud because Mahmud was bitterly opposed to the sect of Islam to which the ruler of Multan belonged. Anand Pal also made an appeal to the rulers of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Kanauj, Delhi and Ajmer; and formed a confedaracy with them.

He fought a long and closely contested battle with Mahmud in 1008-09, but eventually lost it. The fate of the battle was turned when the elephant of Anand Pal fled from the scene due to a fierce stream of arrows from Mahmud's archers. This battle is called the Battle of Waihind (Peshawar). Both sides suffered heavy losses. Mahmud took Anand Pal a prisoner but he was released. Historians have compared this incident with the release of King Porus by Alexander on account of the valour shown by the former.

Emperor Ananda Pal's death marked the end of the Hindu Sahi dynasty in Punjab and their descendants established their rule in Kashmir.

Details of the encounters between the above two Emperors and the Ghazni rulers can be read in the contemporary Arabic account - Tarikh-i-Yamini, which contains the history of the reigns of Subukt-gin and his son Mahmud up to 1020.

A drachma of the Hindu Shahi dynasty that ruled until 1026 ; it features stylized bull and horseman images, and legends in two Indic scripts.


Mahmud died in 1030 AD. It is not correct to dismiss Mahmud as a raider and plunderer only. We saw that Punjab* and Multan came under the Ghaznavid rule. This changed the political situation in North India. Now, the Turks had crossed the mountainous chains and could any time march into the plains of Hindustan.

* - Punjab here includes the parts of Punjab in present-day India and Pakistan. 

Now, a doubt may arise in the minds of the readers: if Mahmud made inroads as far as Punjab by 1030 AD, then why did the Turks take over 200 years to set up their rule in India?

There are 2 reasons for this:

Mahmud's son was defeated by the Seljuk Emperor of Central Asia and the former had to flee. The Turks remained in Punjab but were a weak force who were kept in check by stronger Hindustani forces, mentioned in point 2.

Presence of Rajput states in the North West frontier provinces. Chief among them, along with their capitals, were :

   -  Chauhans of Ajmer/Delhi

   -  Solankis of Gujarat
   -  Gahadavalas of Kannauj
   -  Parmars of Malwa
   -  Tomars of Delhi

The location of the Chauhans and Solankis brought them in direct conflict with the invading Ghaznavids. Among them, the Chauhans of Ajmer and Delhi were the ones who repelled the continuous raids of Turks during this time.

Phase - II : The Age of Conflict (10o0 to 1200 AD)

Historians have termed these 200 years as the age of conflict. These 200 years were a time of continuous fights between the Rajputs and the Turks. For us, the events after 1173 AD are of major importance, but i am also providing a brief insight into the wars before 1173 AD.

It is to be remembered that the rulers of India fought among themselves too and rarely provided a united front to the invading Arabs / Turks. There were fights going on all sides. The Southern dynasties were protected from the threat of Turks for a longer time due to the mountains of the Vindhyas which separated them from the Northern empires. Initially, the Turks focused on fighting the Rajputs of the Northern provinces, to make a headway into Hindustan, before they spread their sway over the South.

The rulers of Ghazni too were fighting attacks by Central Asians. In this section, we will try to understand just what the term, "The Age of Conflict", means. The section tries to provide a brief overview of the continuous fights for 200 years before the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate. 

After reading this section, we will be in a clear position to understand the circumstances in which Razia Sultan came to the throne. She faced opposition from all sides - both within her court and outside, from those kingdoms which were resisting the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate.

Here's a brief look at the events from the Age of Conflict, as per the timeline. 

Sideview of Somnath Temple in 1869, British Library

1025 AD: Anahilla Chauhan

Defeat of a 'terrible Malecha' at the hands of the Chauhan ruler of Nadol (in Rajasthan) - Anahilla Chauhan, in 1025 AD. The name of the Turkish chief has not been mentioned in the Sundha Hill inscription, but historians have automatically taken the Turkish chief to be either Mahmud Ghazni himself or one of his generals, because at this time only one invasion was undertaken by a Turkish army and that was the plunder of the Somnath Temple in Gujarat.

Epigraphica Indica and Record of the Archeological Survey of India,
Volume - 11, Ed. E. Hultzsch, 1911-12, Page-68
Office of Superintendent of Govt. Printing, Calcutta, India

The Sundha Hill inscription was discovered (in Jodhpur, Rajasthan) and translated in early 20th Century but the Annals of Rajasthan, written much earlier, also contain a reference to this event: "...the prince of Nadol did not hesitate to measure his sword with Mahmud."

Interior of Somnath Temple in 1869 - British Library

1032 AD: Rajput Confederacy

Mahmud Ghazni died in 1030 AD. The son of Mahmud Ghazni's sister, i.e., his nephew* - Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud and his forces, who led an army into India to conquer Northern India, which his uncle Sultan Mahmud Ghaznavi, had failed to conquer, were slain and routed in a battle with the native confederacy of Rajput rulers including Raja Bhoja Parmar (see next point) and the Chauhan ruler**. The battle happened near Bahraich town in Uttar Pradesh, from morning to evening. No one was spared; it was a decisive battle. The battle is said to be fought under the leadership of Raja Sohail Dev.

350 years after the death of Salar Masud, his tomb was built by the Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate - Firoz Shah Tugluq, in the 14th Century, in Bahraich district of Uttar Pradesh. The tomb exists even today.

* - Salar Masud was a descendant of Hazrat Ali. Some historians doubt his relations with Mahmud Ghazni, as the latter was an orthodox Sunni whereas Salar Masud was a Shia scholar. However, in my view, exceptions are also possible for any logical argument in history. For more details, read the book - Ghazi Saiyyad Salar Masud by Jesse Russell & Ronald Cohn.

** - The Chauhan ruler during this time was Anahilla Chauhan, about whom we read just now.

According to Tarikh-i-Firistha, Vol-1, Tr. Briggs, Pg-118 - " The ruler of Delhi was supported by the other Rajas*** and he took Thaneswar, Hansi and other dependencies, and later laid the siege to the Fort of Nagarkot for 4 months and ultimately captured it". He mentions that the idols were re-established at Nagarkot. He also tells us that the Fort of Lahore was besieged for 7 months by these Rajahs.

*** - I am not sure about who these other Rajahs were. But, historians have mentioned that these "other Rajahs" were none other than Bhoja Parmar and Anahilla Chauhan. Let us see how they arrived at this conclusion.

Firishta says that the Raja of Delhi got support from "other Rajas". His claim is supported by a contemporary Rajput inscription discovered in Udaipur,  whose translation has been provided by the eminent historian, D C Ganguly, in The History of Parmars, Page-100/101

This inscription says that the victory was alluded to Bhoja Parmar who,  along with his soldiers and with help from the King of Delhi, succeeded in repelling the Turks. So, according to the inscription, the battle was fought under the leadership of Raja Bhoja Parmar.

Hence, taking in account this inscription, Firishtha'a account stands the scrutiny of historians as far as the association of King of Delhi and Bhoja Parmar is concerned. During this time, Delhi was ruled by the Tomar Rajputs, and this incident falls within the reign of Emperor Kumara Pal (1019 to 1049 AD).

The name of Anahilla Chauhan as a part of this confedaracy is not mentioned either in the inscription or by Firistha, who only says that "other Rajas" helped the ruler of Delhi. But Anahilla Chauhan's name has been proposed by some historians, like R C Majumdar. He has given strong reasons for this proposal. The reasons can be read in his book - The Struggle for Empire, Page-94.

The picture becomes more clear as we read more and more accounts. At present, i personally do not believe that Anahilla could have been a part of this confedaracy because he was a fierce enemy of Emperor Bhoja Parmar and had inflicted a crushing defeat on him earlier - an exception in the otherwise illustrious career of Bhoja. But, if he participated in this confedaracy then it could have been an exception because according to Firishtha "all these Rajahs" had made up their minds to eliminate the Turks from their land.

1055 AD: Emperor Bhoja Parmar

Just when the rule of the Hindu Sahi dynasty had ended with the death of Emperor Ananda Pal (1010 AD), another Rajput Emperor Bhoja Parmar of Malwa had emerged in Central India as a great power. He ruled for around 50 years and fought in the war against Salar Masud who was slain in 1032 AD. {mentioned above}

Bhoja Parmar died in 1055 AD. This event could have led to serious repercussions, as it created a lack of central authority for some time.

Emperor Bhoja Parmar was considered unbeatable by the Turkish invaders. In Tabaqat-i-Akbari, the chronicler of Mughal Emperor Akbar mentions that " In the year 1025 AD, when Mahmud (Ghazni)  was returning back from Somnath, he heard that a king, named Parmar Deo, stood ready with his formidable army to deal with Mahmud after return. But Mahmud did not like to wage war with him and so he returned to Multan* through Sindh*."

See the section under the year Hijri 417 for details in Tabaqat-i-Akbari.

* - Multan and Sindh are in present-day Pakistan. Mahmud moved West towards Multan instead of moving East to launch his plundering raids to avoid coming in contact with Bhoja Parmar. Mahmud's army was earlier routed when they faced the might of another Rajput ruler Annahila Chauhan, as we saw earlier. Hence,  they retreated through the North West, even though they had to pass through the large desert area of Sindh.

The Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Volume 62, 2002, Page-1028 states : "Mahmud Ghazni was chased by the Emperor Bhoja Parmar, when he came to know that the former had plundered Somnath." Emperor Bhoja Parmar repaired the Somnath Temple after 1025 AD.

It was Emperor Bhoja's military prowess which checked Mahmud's steps from reaching deep into Central India. Ghaznavids feared the powerful army of Emperor Bhoja & retreated via the desert of Sindh to avoid a clash. Mahmud lost many of his men during the hasty escape in the deserts. The contemporary Turkish historian Abu Sa'id Gardezi while at the court of Abdul-Rashid, sultan of the Ghaznavid empire, gives a description of this event in his Persian account Zayn'al-Akhbar, which he completed writing in 1050 AD.

Emperor Bhoja Parmar's kingdom included areas of the Konkan coast on the West and extended as far East as the town of Puri. There are several copper plate inscriptions from around 1020 AD, which tell us about his victories. { A separate post about his military career can be made, if readers are interested.}

32 feet high statue of Emperor Bhoja Parmar weighing 7 tonne in Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh

1075 AD: King Govindacharya

Death of Emperor Bhoja in 1055 AD and of another able ruler Lakshmi Karna in 1073 AD again made invasions possible. Starting from 1075 AD, the Sultan of Ghazni sent expeditions into Hindustan. These incursions were checked by the celebrated ruler of Gahadavad dynasty of Kannauj - Govindacharya, who was also a patron of arts and letters.

Details can be read in The Proceedings and Transactions of the All-India Oriental Conference, 1927, Page-166 which states that : "Another army of Govindachandra defeated them twice and levied Turushka-danda* on them. "

* - Fine extracted from Turks, a sort of war indemnity.

1090-1110 AD: Prithviraj Chauhan I

The Chauhan ruler, Prithviraj Chauhan I, ascended the throne of Sambhar. He took the title of Paramabhataraka-Maharajadhiraja-Parmeshvara - the devoted Lord of the King of Kings. He was highly liberal in religious outlook and a patron of the Jains. He got cupolas of gold embedded in the Jain temples of Ranthambor. He took field against the Turkish invaders during his brief yet bold reign. He was the contemporary of Sultan Masud III of Ghazni. His reign marks the starting of the active policy of warfare of the Chauhans against the Ghaznavids.

A coin of Prithviraj Chauhan depicting a horseman bearing a lance with streamers.

1110 - 1133 AD: Ajayraj Chauhan

Prithviraj Chauhan I was succeeded by his son Ajayraj Chauhan* who constructed the Ajmer Fort near the holy pilgrimage center of Pushkar between 1110 and 1113 AD. The site commanded a strategic gap in the Taragarh Hills of Aravalli — to the west was Sambhar and the trade routes leading to the southern ports, while to the east was the fertile basin of the River Ganga and its tributaries. This hill-fort was named Ajay-meru (Ajay's hill), which with the passage of time was pronounced Ajmer, and which became the site for a new capital city for the Chauhans. 

* - He was the great grandfather of Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan III (died 1192) , one of the most celebrated warriors of this land.

Earlier the capital was Sambhar. The capital was shifted due to increasing activities of Turkish invaders during Ajayraj Chauhan's reign. He is credited for repelling the Turks during the initial part of his reign, though he suffered reverses later. Sultan Bahram Shah of Ghazni increased his activity during this time and took careful measures by appointing governors for special tasks in 1112 AD. The town of Nagaur was under Ajayraj's occupation till 1121 AD. Though Ajayraj was able to maintain his independence and resist the invasions of the Turks, he lost Nagaur after 1121 AD and could not capture it back.

His reign is regarded as a glorious phase for women of the Chauhan dynasty. There are silver coins issued in the name of his wife Somaldevi. Women of the Chauhan dynasty were involved in public welfare and the repair of temples. { Journal of Asiatic Society, 1909-10, Pg-57 }

Like his father, Ajayraj Chauhan was also liberal in religious outlook and patronized the Jains in his court, despite being a Shaivite*. He held religious discussions in his court among the Shvetambar and Digamber sects of Jains.

* - Like the Rajputs of Mewar, the Chauhans also held Lord Shiva / EkLinga Ji in high esteem.

Engraving of the hill fort and town of Ajmer (Ajaimeru), by Edward Francis Finden (1791-1857) and Patrick Young Waugh (1788-1929).
The town of Ajmer is situated next to the Ana Sagar Lake at the foot of Taragarh Hill, which rises 870 metres above sea level. The Fort at Ajmer is a rectangular fortress with large corner bastions and thick walls that were built by Ajairaj Chauhan in the early 12th century, when the city became the capital of the Chauhan Rajputs. It was sacked by Muhammad Ghori in 1193 and later came under the control of the rulers of Mewar, followed by the rulers of Malwa before it was annexed by the Mughal Emperor Akbar. After the collapse of the Mughal Empire the city fell to Jodhpur, then to the Marathas before it was annexed by the British in 1818. Courtesy : British Library

Picture taken from the TOPMOST point of the Taragarh Hill Fort of Chauhans, at Ajmer

1134-51 AD: Arnoraja Chauhan

Ajayraj Chauhan was succeeded by his celebrated son - Arnoraja Chauhan who made the destruction of Turks his sole objective. 

His reign marked the decisive and humiliating defeat of invading forces of Ghazni at the doors of the Chauhan capital of Ajmer; the Turkish commander fled from the battlefield & a large number of Turkish soldiers were massacred in the war against Emperor Arnoraja Chauhan*. 

* - He was the grandfather of Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan III, one of the most celebrated warriors of this land.

The victory was so huge that it was celebrated for many days in the city of Ajmer. This was the worst ever defeat of the Turkish armies in Hindustan since their advent in 712 AD. The war was so fierce that the sands of Ajmer were turned red with blood, according to accounts. Excellent details of this war are preserved in the Ajmer Museum, Rajasthan from contemporary inscriptions. 

View of Ajmer City with Taragarh Hills in the Background. Note the steps carved on the hills to reach the Chauhan Fort of Ajaimeru. Courtesy : British Library

Photograph of the Taragarh Fort walls and Gate at Ajmer, taken by O.S. Baudesson in the 1880s. On the highest point of Taragarh fort stands the Dargah of Syed Hussian who was the governor of Ajmer after its conquest by Sultan Shahabuddin Ghori in 1192 AD. When the Chauhans launched a counter assault (explained later in the post) to re-conquer Ajmer, Syed Hussain was slain. Later, his Dargah was built here, when the Turks again re-conquered Ajmer from the Chauhans. This picture has been taken from the Archaeological Survey of India Collections.

1153-64 AD: Vigharaja Chauhan

Emperor Arnoraja Chauhan's successor, Emperor Vigharaja Chauhan followed the footsteps of his father and launched a series of expeditions against the Turks of Lahore and Ghazni, inflicting heavy losses on the latter. In a decisive battle, he vanquished the Sultan of Ghazni - Khusrau. He took the title of 'The King of Kings".

He was an empire builder and an able statesman. Sensing the increasing threat of Ghaznavids, he established friendly relations with the Tomar Rajputs of Delhi despite conquering them and allowed them to exercise their rule under his sovereignty. His empire extended from the Himalayas to the Vindhyas. Thus, the Chauhans now claimed to be an 'all India power' and identified their independence with the independence of 'AryaVrata' * . It was a rare occasion for any kingdom to equate its independence with the independence of the entire country.

* - Inscriptions of details of his conquests are present on the Asokan pillar in Delhi, which mentions his reign as extending upto the Shivalik Himalayas in the North.

In the Shivalik Pillar inscription at Delhi, Vigharaja declares - " to have freed 'AryaVrata' from the continuous attacks of the 'Malechas' and rendering AryaVrata worthy of its name ". He reclaimed a lot of land from Turkish occupation, driving them out of Rajputana and other parts of the North. Now the Turks were confined to the position which they had under their control 150 years back in the times of Mahmud Ghazni.

The contemporary Sanskrit text, Lalitavighraja, tells us about the vow made by Vigharaja to protect the Brahmanas, his friends, sacred places and the temples from Ghaznavids.

He was a man of literary taste, wrote many Sanskrit works and established a Sanskrit College in the Chauhan capital of Ajmer. The college was later converted into a mosque named Adhai-din-ka-Jhopda by Qutb-ud-din Aibak after the IInd Battle of Tarain, 1192. However, it retained its original look and has been praised by Alexander Cunningham, the first director of the Archaeological Survey of India, in the words - " justly vies with the noblest buildings which the world has yet produced...* "

* - For more details, see Annual Report of Archaeological Survey of India, Monuments and Museums, II, Page-263.

His constructions of lake palaces and literary talents are too many to be included in this single post. We will see them in a separate post later, if possible. Vigharaja is called one of the greatest rulers, considering his legacy and his accomplishments in the short reign of 10 years.

Emperor Vigharaja Chauhan was the uncle of Prithviraj Chauhan III, the last Rajput Emperor to sit on the throne of Ajmer and Delhi.

View of the delicately carved pillars and ceilings of Adhai-Din-Ka-Jhopda in Ajmer, originally a Sanskrit College

Close View of Pillars at Adhai Din Ka Jhopda

1173 AD: Emergence of Muiz-ud-din Muhammad bin Sam / Shahab-ud-din Muhammed Ghori

The Ghurid Sultan Muhammed Ghori began a systematic war of expansion into North India in 1173 after ascending the throne at Ghazni. His elder brother ruled at Ghor.

The presence of Rajputs in the East had prevented the Ghurids from entering this side of Hindustan for the last 200 years. We have taken a quick look about their encounters just now. But the same was the condition in the West now. A very powerful Khwarizm empire was present in Iran. The Ghurids now therefore looked towards the East again.

Ghori sought to carve out a principality for himself by expanding the Islamic world, a tradition common among the warring orthodox (Sunni) and heterodox (Shia) warlords in West and Central Asia since the 9th century onwards. He sought a Sunni Islamic kingdom of his own, extending east of the Indus river, and he thus laid the foundation for the kingdom called the Delhi Sultanate.

View of Ajmer City from the Taragarh Hills, Ajmer Fort

City of Ajmer, with Taragarh Hills in the background and Ana Sagar Lake. Courtesy : British Library

1169-77 AD: Someshwar Chauhan

The next notable ruler was the brother of Emperor Vigharaja Chauhan, Someshwar Chauhan, who was succeeded by his elder son Prithviraj Chauhan III at the young age of 11 in 1177.

1178 AD: Prithviraj Chauhan III

Muhammed Ghori entered Hindustan from Ghazni. He sent his messenger to Prithviraj's court asking him to submit and bow in homage, or pay tribute. These proposals were sternly rejected by the 11 year old Chauhan Emperor whose reply was - "I am initiated in the ceremony of destroying these devils in the form of men*".

* - The exact word used was 'Nar Rakshasa'.

Ghori then captured the stronghold of the Fort of Nadol. Around 150 years back, at this very location, in 1025 AD, Prithviraj's ancestor, Anahilla Chauhan had defeated the Turks, as we saw above.

Ghori attacked Gujarat, but suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Bhima Dev Solanki, the Rajput ruler of Gujarat. The battle was fought near Mount Abu and Ghori barely managed to escape alive.

When Bhima Dev was attacked by Ghori in 1178 AD, Prithviraj wanted to go for his assistance, but was dissuaded from doing so by his minister*.

* - Rajput historians have termed this a blunder of Prithviraj. However, we do not know the reasons behind this decision. Perhaps, this decision was motivated by the fact that the Emperor was only 11 years old and hence too young to march on such a dangerous campaign. It is interesting to note that, at the age of 11, Prithviraj kept Ghori on his hit list.

Coins of Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan - III of Ajmer and Delhi

1179 AD

For 2 years, Prithviraj's mother took care of the kingdom and was the de facto ruler of Ajmer and Delhi who ruled with the help of able ministers. Then, in 1179,  at the age of 12, Prithviraj Chauhan III took the responsibility of the Chauhan empire in his hands, and thus began his glorious career which was full of conquests.

He recovered the lost province of Phalodi from the Ghaznavids in the same year. Keep a track of the age of this young Emperor!

Prithviraj Chauhan was feared by the Ghaznavids. This fact is alluded to in the Taj'ul-Ma'asir, which is a contemporary account of Muhammed Ghori. One of the lines states - " the desire of something like the conquest of the world had raised a phantom (in Prithviraj) . "

Prithviraj had pledged that it was his "special mission in this world" to eliminate the Turks from AryaVrata. Prithviraj was bitterly opposed to them due to their inhuman activities which involved looting, plundering, defiling women and destruction of temples.

These reasons are supported by the contemporary Sanskrit texts & stone inscriptions too. The Goverdhan inscription of 1187 AD engraved in the Pokharan district of Rajasthan mentions about the fight with the Turks and gives an account of the Rajputs who had laid their lives while rescuing the women and guarding the religious shrines from the Turks. 9 more such inscriptions of this period have been read till now.

1181 AD

Ghori builds the Fort at Sialkot.

1186 AD

Ghori captures Lahore from another Ghaznavid, Sultan Khusrau, by treacherously eliminating him. Now, this brought him in conflict with the 19 year old Chauhan Emperor.  

1186 - 1190 AD

According to reliable* Rajput sources, before the major First battle  of Tarain, Ghori was defeated 7 times by Prithvi Raj. Some sources say 21 times. But these wars were not fought on as large scale as the 2 battles of Tarain which included the armies with their numbers running into lakhs of soldiers, etc. 

* - Historians do not use Prithvi Raj Raso as a reference because that work is not in sync with the actual historical events. I have also not relied on it for any of the details in this post. There are several stone inscriptions which have been discovered, along with the texts which are of valuable importance. The factual details about Prithviraj are so much, that they are fit to start a separate section about his life history.

On the other hand, contemporary Muslim sources like the Jami-ul-Hakiyat and Taj'ul-Ma'asir do not even mention the First battle of Tarain where Ghori was decisively defeated and had to flee from the battlefield. An account of that defeat is mentioned only in one contemporary Muslim source - Tabaqat-i-Nasiri.

Coins of Chahada Deva of Delhi, (1172 - 1191 AD) Chauhan dynasty ,Bullion drachm - 3.40 Grams

1191 AD - First Battle of Tarain

The forces of Muhammed Ghori were decisively beaten and his army destroyed before his own eyes. His army fled from the field, but a determined Ghori fought with utmost bravery, receiving a severe wound on his arm from the Chauhan general and fell down from his horse, as per Tabaqat-i-Nasiri. He was unconscious for several hours and was rescued from the field by a Khalji horseman.

Rajput sources mention the same details, with the difference that Ghori was pardoned by Prithviraj. 

1191 to 1192 AD: Chauhans Wrest Control of Fort of Tabarhind

After the defeat of Ghori, the Fort of Tabarhind, which was under his generals, was besieged for 13 months by the Chauhan army and finally taken into control. This was immediately followed by the next battle which changed the course of Indian History. 

Fort of Tabarhind from inside

Fort of Tabarhind from outside

1192 AD - Second Battle of Tarain

Defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan III. Ghori won the war through deceit. Prithviraj was taken captive and later beheaded. Thus ended the reign and life of one of the finest and most celebrated monarchs produced by medieval India. He was not only a fighter & a fine archer but a patron of arts and letters. Poets from as far away as Kashmir were patronized in his court. He earned a lot of fame in his short life of 26 years.

The Chauhan capital of Ajmer was razed to ground, but not before a heroic defence put by the defenders. The details are terrible and can be read in the Taj'ul-Ma'ssir.

The minor son of Prithviraja, Govinda, was seated on the throne by Ghori after extracting a huge tribute.

Although the might of Chauhans was over with the end of Prithviraj, they still had some fighting spirit left in them. The younger brother of Prithviraj Chauhan, Hari Raja, recaptured Ajmer and the surrounding areas in the same year from the Turks. He sent his general Jait to recapture Delhi from the Turks.

Prithviraj's son, Govinda, went to Ranthambore and slowly carved the Chauhan dynasty there, after payment of a heavy tribute. Thus, the Chauhan dynasty continued.

All these events took place in 1192 AD. One can imagine the extent of the struggle which might have taken place in a short period.

Memorial of Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan - III. In the background are the hills of Ajmer where the ruins of his Taragarh Fort are present, the seat / capital of Chauhan Rajputs

Modern Day view of the Taragarh Fort as seen from the Memorial of Prithviraj Chauhan. Roads have been constructed to reach the top of the hill. In front of the hill are 2 monuments - the Ajmer Dargah of Sheikh Muin-ud-din Chisti and the Memorial of the last Rajput Emperor of Ajmer and Delhi - Prithviraj Chauhan III. The Adhai Din Ka Jhopda stands a few kilometres away from the Ajmer Fort.

Close View of Memorial of Emperor Prithviraj Chauhan - III, with Taragarh Hills in background.

1194 AD: Qutb-ud-din Aibak Captures Delhi and Ajmer

After 2 years, Qutb-ud-din Aibak re-captured Delhi from Jait and later Ajmer also. Jait and Hari Raja gave a tough fight to the Turkish forces but were defeated and slain near Ajmer.

Thus, the rule of the Chauhans of Ajmer and Sambhar finally ended after a glorious period of 5 Centuries. Their dynasty continued to rule from Ranthambore, but did not have the same ancient glory & power as it had when it ruled from Ajmer.

In the same year, Raja Jaichandra of Kannauj was defeated and slain. Turkish accounts mention that Jaichandra had almost carried the day and routed the forces of Ghori, but he was suddenly struck by a arrow and his army was defeated, after losing its leader. This is similar to the fate suffered by Hemu in the IInd Battle of Panipat against the forces of Mughal Emperor Akbar. 

After the defeat of the two most powerful kingdoms of the Chauhans and the Gahadavalas, by 1206 AD, many other kingdoms were defeated too.

1206 AD: Assassination of Ghori and Establishment of Delhi Sultanate

Ghori was assassinated in 1206 by Khokhars. After the assassination, one of his slaves (or Mamluk), the Turkish general Qutb-ud-din Aibak assumed power, becoming the first Sultan (Muslim ruler) of Delhi.

Ghori used to say that he had no son, but his 1000s of slaves were like his sons. His prediction proved true. After his assassination, his Empire was divided amongst his slaves. Most notably:
  • Qutb-ud-din Aibak became the ruler of Delhi in 1206, establishing the Sultanate of Delhi, which marked the start of the Slave dynasty of India.
  • Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha became the ruler of Multan.
  • Taj-ud-Din Yaldoz became the ruler of Ghazni.
  • Ikhtiyar-ud-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji became the ruler of Bengal, but was soon assassinated by Ali Mardan Khan in 1206.

1210 AD: Death of Aibak
Iltutmish occupies the throne after removing the chosen successor Aram Shah*.

* - He was either the son or brother of Aibak.

1210 to 1236 AD: Reign of Iltutmish, son-in-law of Aibak. 

The important milestones during this period include: 

1226 AD: Conquest of Ranthambore
Among Iltutmish's important achievements was the conquest of Ranthambore, after getting the Chauhan ruler poisoned. Ranthamabore became independent again in 1236 AD.

1227 AD: Recapture of Rajput Territories
Recapture of Ajmer, Sambhar and Bayana* by Iltutmish, which had been regained by the Rajputs. Ajmer also became independent once again after this conquest.

* - Bayana is modern-day Agra city. More or less, it was a Rajput principality even till the times of Rana Sanga of Mewar (1527).

1231 AD: Capture of Gwalior, Razia Sultan Makes Her Mark
Capture of Gwalior after a siege of 1 year. Razia Sultan served actively in this siege. After this campaign, Iltutmish made up his mind to declare her his successor. Gwalior was lost soon.

1233-34 AD: Solankis of Gujarat Defeat Iltutmish
Iltutmish turned his attention towards Mewar, which he almost won, but had to beat a retreat after the Solankis of Gujarat came to the aid of Mewar.

In revenge, the following year, Iltutmish sent a well-disciplined force against the Solankis of Gujarat, but he again suffered heavy losses. His dream of winning over the Solankis could not be fulfilled.

1236 AD: Starting of the 4-year reign of Razia Sultan, after a 6-month reign of her step-brother Rukn'ud-din Firoz. 

Important People Associated with the History of Razia Sultan

Malik Altunia
He was the subedar of Bhatinda and married Razia Sultan towards the end of her life. He will be a key character of our discussion in future posts.  

Father of Razia Sultan, and the Sultan of Delhi Sultanate.  

Shah Turkan
A very powerful concubine of Sultan Iltutmish. She exercised great power during the 6-month reign of her son Rukn'ud-din Firoz, before Razia came to the throne. She hatched LOTS of conspiracies during this time. 

Rukn'ud-din Firoz
Son of Iltutmish and Shah Turkan. He ruled for 6 months in 1236, despite the will of Iltutmish according to which Razia was to be the successor. Indulged in extreme debauchery.

Jamal-ud-Din Yaqut African slave who was a close confidante of Razia Sultan. His 'friendship' with Razia Sultan is talked about a lot. He will be an important part of our discussion in subsequent posts.

Muiz-ud-din Bahram
Another son of Iltutmish. He came to power in 1240, after the death of Razia Sultan. He was killed by the army itself in 1242 AD.

Ala-ud-din Masud (1242-1246)
He was the son of Rukn'ud-din Firoz and sat on the throne in 1242. He was a nephew of Razia Sultan.

Some Extra Information... For readers who are interested:

Qutb-ud-din Aibak 
Turkic king of Northwest India who ruled from his capital in Delhi. He captured Kalinjar in 1202 from the Chandela Rajputs. Qutbudin Aibak ruled for only four years, from 1206 to 1210 AD. He died while playing polo in Lahore.

Taj-ud-Din Yaldoz: A slave of Muhammed Ghori. 
He became the ruler of Ghazni after his master's death. He was defeated and killed by Iltutmish in 1216, when he laid claim to the throne of Delhi. 

Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha:  Another slave of Muhammed Ghori. 
In 1210, Nasir-ud-Din Qabacha declared himself independent. He twice repulsed the attacks of Taj-ud-din Yaldoz of Ghazni, but could not defeat Shams-ud-Din Iltutmish. He drowned in 1228 in the Indus River while trying to escape. Both he and Iltutmish were sons-in-law of Qutb-ud-din Aibak. 

Balban / Ulugh Khan - The Dark Horse
He was purchased as a slave by Sultan Iltutmish in 1232. He served as a water carrier initially and was a Amir during the reign of Razia Sultan. He gradually rose into prominence. He was a king maker. He placed a (grand) son of Iltutmish, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud on the throne in 1246 and ruled under his name till the latter's death in 1266. He occupied the throne himself in 1266 and ruled till 1286.

Original Sources Used:

The original sources used in this series are as follows. Their English translations have been used:

1. Tarikh-i- Firozshahi
2. Zafarle-Walilihi
3. Rehla-i-Ibn-Batuta
4. Tabaqat-i-Nasiri
5. Tarikh-i-Mubarakshahi
6. Taj'ul-Ma'asir
7. Futuh-us-Salatin
8. Kitab-ul-Hind
9. Tabaqat-i-Akbari
10. Chachnama
11. Jami'ul-Hakiyat
12. Gulshan-i-Ibrahimi
13. Riyaz'us-Salatin
14. Futuhat-i-Firozshahi
15. Muntakhab-ut-Tawarikh
16. Fatwa-i-Jahandari
17. Fakhr-i-Mudabbir

These accounts and the rest of the accounts will be quoted in this series. 

I hope these details were helpful and provide a sound base for understanding the situation under which the Delhi Sultanate was formed after a very long struggle. From next post onwards, we will deal with the exclusive history of Razia Sultan's reign.

The article has been posted under the Razia Sultan section of this history BLOG.

Share this article :