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India - Delhi - Timur’s Invasion

Timur’s Invasion


After Feroze Shah the Delhi Sultanate fell steadily into decline. His many successors, Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq II, Nasir-ud-din Muhammad, Ala-ud-din Sikander Shah and Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Tughlaq came and went so quickly that they left nothing but blurred memories behind. By far their most important achievement seems to have been usurping the throne and killing the incumbent; except in the case of the last named where Ala-ud-din helped matters by dying almost as soon as he succeeded the throne. Despite this Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Tughlaq had a hard time keeping his head intact. Three years after he took over the throne, he fought a bitter battle with Feroze Shah Tughlaq’s grandson Nusrat Shah. The nobility of Delhi, never one to keep out of trouble, was evenly split in this power struggle and many skirmishes resulted.


Timur¤ Turkish Invader- The Mongol crossed the Indus

Towards the end of 1397, news reached Delhi that the armies of a certain Turkish king of Mongol descent had crossed the Indus. Instead of sobering down the nobles of Delhi, the news merely intensified the intrigue and more backstabbing followed. By the time the nobility woke up to the gravity of the situation, the invading army had whizzed past the Indus, Chenab and Ravi rivers and occupied Multan. That was when they realized that they had all but rolled out the red carpet for Timur the Lame.
Why India? Well that is the question that many historians would like to answer. What led Timur, who was in his sixties and already a major success in Central Asia, to come here? His own autobiography cites an auspicious dream which prompted him to come here. It has also been suggested that he wanted to rid the earth of kafirs (unbelievers) – this last could hardly be true since the rulers of the Delhi Sultanate were as Islamic as he himself was. Also once the plundering of Delhi was over, there is no evidence of Timur sticking around and urging the people of Delhi to see the light. As far as the customary destroying of temples was concerned, Timur seemed to think of it as a total waste of time.


¤ A Horrifying Massacre

On December 7th 1398, after overrunning and plundering most of northern India with a speed (Timur had crossed the Indus on September 24th 1398) that was both astonishing and alarming, the right wing of Timur’s army reached the north of Delhi which then overlooked the Yamuna river. On 10th December the army moved across the river to take Loni, where every Hindu inhabitant was put to death. On December 12th a part of the sultan’s divided army came out of the city to meet Timur’s in battle. The result was a terrible massacre where (although there is a controversy about the figures) about 1,00,000 people were put to death by Timur in a shocking display of barbarity. On December 17th, Timur crossed the Yamuna to meet the full force of the Sultanate’s army. The generals of Timur, according to his biography, ‘…scattered them as hungry lions scatter a flock of sheep and killed 600 of them in one charge.’ The army of the sultan was crushed completely and thoroughly by Timur and his son Pir Muhammad. When Timur took over Delhi, the bloodshed continued unchecked for many days. The towns of Siri and Jahanpanah were completely destroyed by Timur who occupied them for 15 days.

¤ The Brutal Killings

The sack of Delhi by Timur has gone ringing down as the worst ever in the history of the city. Sickeningly horrifying details of the plunder can be read in the Safarnama, a contemporary account of it.

Before he left India, Timur sacked Meerut, Hardwar, Kangra and Kashmir on his way to Lahore, which he didn’t spare either. On March 19th 1399, Timur at last crossed the Indus to go back to Samarkand. By all contemporary accounts, Timur surpassed all others in the matter of ‘…the murder of peaceful non-combatant Muslims and in a much smaller degree, non-combatant non-Muslims who were beheaded or put to death on his orders in the most original ways.’ and he fancied himself the saviour of Islam.

Timur left Northern India in general and Delhi in specific in a state of complete devastation. According to a contemporary account, ‘…the city was utterly ruined and those of the inhabitants who were left died, while for two whole months not a bird moved wings in Delhi.’ The Tughlaq Empire was completely liquidated and its majesty and glory raped. Delhi had no glory, no riches, no people, no joy and no master.



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