In this dual system of governance, Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad presided over the western region of the Ghurid Sultanate from his capital at Firozkoh, while Muhammad Ghori spearheaded the expansion of Ghurid territories towards the east. It was during his rule that Muhammad Ghori laid the groundwork for Islamic dominance in the Indian Subcontinent, establishing a legacy that endured for almost five centuries under subsequent Muslim dynasties.
Early life of Muhammad Ghori
Muhammad Ghori's early life unfolded in the Ghur region of present-day west-central Afghanistan, where he was born. His father, Baha al-Din Sam I, briefly ruled the Ghurid realm before his passing in 1149, when Muhammad Ghori was still a child. Throughout history, his name has been transliterated in various ways, including Muizuddin Sam, Shihabuddin Ghuri, Muhammad Ghori, and Muhammad Ghori.
According to the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, Muhammad Ghori's birth name was "Muhammad," which, in the Ghurid vernacular, was spelled as "Hamad." During his early years, his mother affectionately called him "Zangi" due to his dark complexion. Following his coronation in Ghazna, he adopted the title "Malik Shihabuddin," and after his occupation of Khurasan, he assumed the name "Muizzuddin" or "Mu'izz al-Din."
Following the demise of Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, Muhammad Ghori's senior partner in the dyarchy, he took on the grandiose title of "al-Sultan al-Azam," denoting the "Greatest Sultan." As a tribute to his accomplishments, Muhammad Ghori was celebrated as "Sikander al-thani" on one of the colonnades of the Qutb Minar, and his golden mints circulated in India. Within Muhammad's court, his courtiers fervently praised him as the champion of Islam, bestowing upon him the title "Sultan-i-Ghazi," the sultan of the holy warriors.
Early Career of Muhammad Ghori
The early career of Muhammad Ghori, along with his brother Ghiyath al-Din, was marked by adversity and constant challenges. Initially, their uncle, Ala al-Din Husayn, appointed them as governors of Sanjah after his campaign in Ghazna. However, Husayn grew apprehensive of their growing influence and potential threat to his own authority. Consequently, he imprisoned Muhammad and Ghiyath al-Din in the castle of Gharjistan. It was only after the death of Husayn in 1161 that his son, Sayf al-Din Muhammad, released them from captivity. Tragically, Sayf al-Din lost his life in a battle against the nomadic Oghuzs of Balkh.
Once free, the Ghurid siblings were supposedly reinstated in Sanjah, as mentioned in "Tarik-i-Firishtah." However, the earlier account from the "Tabaqat-i-Nasiri" suggests that they continued to face financial difficulties. Seeking refuge, Muhammad sought the court of his uncle Fakhruddin Masud, who held the principality of Bamiyan as a vassal of their uncle Alauddin Husayn.
Fakhr al-Din Masud, claiming his own right to succession after the death of Sayf al-Din, instigated a revolt. Muhammad aided his brother in suppressing the rebellion, resulting in the defeat and execution of Fakhruddin and his allies from Balkh and Herat. Although Fakhruddin was eventually reinstated in Bamiyan in 1163, the remaining local Ghurid officers and "maliks" supported Ghiyath al-Din's ascent to the throne. Initially, Muhammad held a minor position in his brother's court, which left him dissatisfied, prompting him to retire temporarily to the court of Sistan.
However, Ghiyath al-Din recognized Muhammad's value and dispatched an envoy to bring him back. Subsequently, Muhammad was entrusted with the administration of the southern part of the Ghurid domains, possibly including Istiyan and Kajuran. As a prince, Muhammad embarked on early campaigns, tasked with subduing the waning Oghuz tribes, despite their continued hold on extensive territories. Utilizing Qandhar as his base, he conducted multiple raids on the Oghuz principality before decisively defeating them, aided by Ghiyath al-Din. The victorious campaign extended to the conquest of Ghazna in 1169, alongside other territories in present-day eastern Afghanistan. Muhammad's coronation took place in Ghazna in 1173, while his brother returned to Firuzkuh to pursue westward expansion into Transoxania.
Utilizing Ghazna as a launching point, Muhammad initiated a series of lucrative expeditions extending down to the Indus Delta and beyond. In 1174, he led an expedition against the Ghuzzs of Sanquran in present-day Turkmenistan, successfully subduing them. The following year, Muhammad marched from Ghazna to support his brother in annexing the cosmopolitan city of Herat and Pushang, after defeating a former general of the Seljuks. The Ghurid siblings expanded their influence into present-day Iran, bringing the Nasrid dynasty of Sistan under their suzerainty. Taj al-Din III Harb ibn Muhammad ibn Nasr, the ruler of Sistan, acknowledged Ghurid authority and subsequently dispatched his armies to assist the Ghurids in various conflicts. Continuing their conquests, Ghiyath al-Din captured Balkh and the surrounding territories adjoining Herat in Khurasan.
Early invasions of Muhammad Ghori
Engaged in a joint rule, Muhammad Ghori and his senior partner, Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, confronted the Khwarazmians in a prolonged conflict. Ghiyath al-Din operated from his capital, Firuzkuh, located in west-central Afghanistan, while Muhammad Ghori expanded the Ghurid territories eastward into the Indian plains, with Ghazna as his seat of power. Muhammad's campaigns in the Indian subcontinent yielded substantial wealth through the plunder of Hindu temples in the Gangetic Plain.
Muhammad Ghori's first expedition in the Indian subcontinent was directed against the Qarmatians, a branch of Isma'ilis, who regained control of Multan following the death of Mahmud of Ghazna, under whom a Sunni governor had been appointed. In 1175, Muhammad defeated the Qarmatian ruler Khafif and annexed Multan.
Following the conquest of Multan, Muhammad turned his attention towards Uch, situated south of the confluence of the Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Uch was placed under the governance of Malik Nasiurdin Aitam until his death in the Battle of Andkhud in 1204, after which it was entrusted to Nasiruddin Qabacha.
During his early invasions, Muhammad strategically avoided Punjab and instead focused on territories bordering the middle and lower Indus regions. To outmaneuver the Ghaznawids in Punjab and establish an alternative route to Northern India, Muhammad turned his sights southward towards present-day Gujarat, targeting Anhilwara. Prior to reaching Anhilwara, he besieged the fort of Nadol, capturing it from Kelhanadeva after a brief siege, while also looting the Shiva temple in Kiradu.
The Ghurid army, fatigued from traversing the arid Thar Desert south of Marwar, faced defeat at the hands of Solanki ruler Mularaja II in the mountainous pass of Gadararaghatta, aided by other Rajput chiefs such as Naddula Chahamana ruler Kelhanadeva Jalor Chahamana ruler Kirtipala, and Arbuda Paramara ruler Dharavarsha. Heavy casualties were suffered by the Ghurid army during the battle and the subsequent retreat across the desert back to Ghazni. This defeat compelled Muhammad to shift his focus to northern routes, concentrating on establishing a solid base in Punjab and the northwest for further incursions into northern India.
In 1179, Muhammad Ghori achieved the conquest of Peshawar, a region that may have been under the rule of the Ghaznawids. Continuing his expansion, he proceeded to lay siege to Lahore in 1181. However, Khusrau Malik, the local ruler, managed to keep Muhammad at bay by offering tributes and by holding one of the Ghaznawid princes, Malik Shah, as a hostage in Ghazna. This tactic prolonged the standoff at the borders of Lahore for a few more years.
In 1182, Muhammad embarked on a southerly campaign, reaching the port city of Debal on the Arabian Sea coast of Sindh. Here, he subdued the Soomras, further expanding and consolidating his conquests in what is present-day Pakistan. He annexed Sialkot, sacked Lahore, and ravaged the surrounding countryside. Khusrau Malik, in a failed attempt to dislodge the Ghurid garrison in Sialkot, ultimately surrendered to Muhammad after a brief siege of Lahore. Muhammad, however, violated his own agreement of safe conduct and imprisoned Khusrau Malik in the fort of Gharchistan. Subsequently, Khusrau Malik and his entire kin were executed in Firuzkuh, under the orders of Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad. With this event, the lineage of the Ghaznawids and their historic struggle against the Ghurids came to an end.
Having eliminated the Ghaznawids, Muhammad Ghori established his dominance over the strategic Indus Basin, including a significant portion of Punjab. As part of his administration, he appointed Mulla Sirajuddin, who had previously served as a prominent Qa?i in his father's court, as the head of the judicature department in the newly conquered Ghaznavid territories, with additional responsibility for Multan. Mulla Sirajuddin's son, Minhaj al-Siraj, born in 1193, later authored the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri in 1260.
Battle of Tarain
In 1190, following consolidation in Sindh and western Punjab, the Ghurid generals embarked on raids in the eastern Punjab region and successfully captured the castle of Bathinda, located in present-day Punjab state, on the northwestern border of Prithviraj Chauhan's kingdom. Muhammad Ghori appointed Qazi Zia-ud-Din of Tulak as the fortress's governor, assigning him a force of 1200 horsemen. However, news reached Muhammad that Prithviraj's army, led by his vassal prince Govind Rai, was marching towards the fortress with the intention of besieging it.
The two armies eventually encountered each other near the town of Tarain, situated 14 miles from Thanesar in present-day Haryana. The first battle of Tarain began with a mounted Mamluk archer attack from the Ghurid side, prompting Prithviraj to respond by launching a counter-attack from three directions, gaining the upper hand. In the course of the battle, Muhammad mortally wounded Govind Rai in personal combat, but sustained injuries himself. As a result, his forces began to retreat, while Prithviraj's army claimed victory.
Following the defeat in Tarain, Muhammad administered severe punishments to the Ghurid, Khalji, and Afghan "emirs" who fled during the battle. These individuals were paraded through Ghazna with wallets filled with grains tied around their necks, and those who refused were beheaded. Prominent Ghurid general Husain Kharmil, along with other seasoned warlords like Mukalba, Kharbak, and Illah, were summoned from Ghazna to reinforce Muhammad's army.
Prithviraj Chauhan had called upon his banners but hoped to buy time as his banners, composed of other Rajputs under his command or his allies, had not arrived. However, before dawn on the following day, the Ghurids launched a surprise attack on the Rajput army. Although the Rajputs managed to swiftly form their formations, they suffered losses due to the unexpected assaults prior to sunrise in the second battle of Tarain. Ultimately, the Rajput army was defeated, and Prithviraj was captured and subsequently executed. Following the victory, the Ghurids sacked Ajmer and expanded their control over much of the Chahamana territory of Siwalik. Muhammad Ghori established strong garrisons at strategic military stations, including Sirsa, Hansi, Samana, and Kohram. He later installed Prithviraja's minor son, Govindaraja IV, as a puppet ruler on the condition of paying heavy tribute.
However, a revolt led by Prithviraja's uncle Hariraja forced Govindraja to move towards Ranthambore, where he established a new dynasty of the Chahamanas. Hariraja briefly expelled the Ghurid garrison from Ajmer but was ultimately defeated by Qutb ud-Din Aibak. Hariraja then immolated himself on a funeral pyre, and the Ghurids reoccupied Ajmer, placing it under Muslim governance. Soon after, Muhammad Ghori, along with Qutb al-Din Aibak, captured Delhi in 1192. Similar to their approach in Ajmer, a puppet Rajput scion, likely the son of Govindraja who died in Tarain, was installed in Delhi on the condition of paying tribute. However, he was soon deposed due to his involvement in treasonous activities.
Later invasions of Muhammad Ghori
While Muhammad Ghori continued raiding the North Indian plain, his attention shifted towards the Ghurid expansion in Transoxiana against the Khwarazmian Empire, as his brother Ghiyath al-Din faced health problems. Nonetheless, as recorded by Fakhr-i Mudabbir and Minhaj-i Siraj Juzjani, Muhammad appointed Aibak as the administrator of the Ghurid domains in North India after the Second Battle of Tarain. His lieutenants, including Aibak, Bahauddin Tughril, Bakhtiyar Khalji, and Yildiz, swiftly raided local kingdoms and expanded the Ghurid Empire in the Indian Subcontinent, encompassing northwestern parts of Bengal in the east, Ajmer and Ranthambore in the north, and extending up to the borders of Ujjain in the south.
After Qutb ud-Din Aibak consolidated Ghurid rule in and around the Delhi doab, Muhammad Ghori himself returned to India to further expand his territories in the Ganga Valley. In 1194, he crossed the Jamuna River with an army of 50,000 horsemen and engaged in a battle near Jumna against the forces of Gahadavala king Jayachandra. Jayachandra was killed in action, and a general massacre of the populace followed. The Ghurids desecrated the Hindu pilgrim center of Benaras and captured the castle of Asni, where they plundered the royal treasure of the Gahadavalas. The Gahadavala capital of Kanauj was annexed in 1198, and during this campaign, the Buddhist city of Sarnath was also sacked.
Around 1196, Muhammad Ghori returned to the Indian frontier to consolidate his hold on the present-day Rajasthan region. The territory of Bayana was under the control of a sect of Jadaun Rajputs at that time. Muhammad, accompanied by Aibak, besieged and defeated the ruler Kumarpal of Thankar, placing the fort under the control of his senior slave Bahauddin Tughril, who later established Sultankot as his stronghold. After the conquest of Thankar, Bahauddin Turghil led the reduction of the fort of Gwalior, whose Parihar chief Sallakhanapala surrendered after a long siege, accepting the Ghurid suzerainty. Following the death of Muhammad Ghori, Bahauddin Turghil declared himself Sultan in Bayana.
In 1197, Qutb ud-Din Aibak invaded Gujarat, defeated Bhima II in Sirohi through a surprise attack, and subsequently sacked his capital, Anhilwara. This campaign avenged the earlier defeat suffered by Muhammad Ghori at the same location in 1178.
While Muhammad Ghori continued to support his brother's expansion in the west against the Khwarezmians, he faced complications in the affairs of Chorasmia. Sultan Shah sought the assistance of the Ghurid brothers in expelling his brother Ala al-Din Tekish from the Khwarezmian throne. Although the Ghurids welcomed Sultan Shah, they declined to provide military aid against Tekish, as they had maintained good relations with him until then. Sultan Shah established an independent principality in Khurasan and began plundering the regions of Ghor with the support of his governor, Bahauddin Turghil. Seeking aid, Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad asked for assistance from his brother Muhammad, who was occupied with his Indian expeditions at the time. Muhammad marched from Ghazna with his army, joined by Ghurid feudatories Shamsuddin Muhammad of Bamiyan and Tajuddin of Herat with their respective contingents, to confront the Khwarezmians.
After months of campaigning, the Ghurid forces decisively defeated Sultan Shah on the banks of the Murgabh River and executed their governor of Herat, Bahauddin Turghil, while Sultan Shah fled to Merv. The Ghurids followed their victory by recapturing Herat.
In 1200, Tekish died, leading to a brief struggle for succession between Alauddin Shah and his nephew Hindu Khan within the Khwarezmian house. Seizing the opportunity amidst the turmoil, Muhammad and Ghiyath al-Din invaded and captured the oasis cities of Nishapur, Merv, Tus, and even reached Gorgan. For a short period, the Ghurids established their sway over most of Khurasan, a first in their history. However, their success was short-lived as Alauddin ascended the throne in August 1200 and soon recaptured the territories lost to the Ghurids by 1201.
Despite the success against the Ghurids, Alauddin attempted diplomacy with Muhammad, potentially to focus on freeing himself from the suzerainty of the Qara Khitais by seeking peace with the Ghurids. However, the negotiations proved futile, prompting Muhammad to march once again with his forces towards Nishapur. Alauddin, unable to withstand the Ghurid advance, took refuge within the city walls. Muhammad recaptured Tus and Herat, while also sacking the countryside.
Around this time, Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad passed away in Herat on 13 March 1203, after months of illness that briefly diverted Muhammad's attention. Seizing the opportunity of Muhammad's absence from Herat, he appointed his nephew Alp Ghazi as his representative. The Khwarezmian forces captured Merv and executed the Ghurid governor Karang. Muhammad Ghori, possibly aiming to take over the entire Khwarezmian Empire, laid siege to their capital, Gurganj, instead of Herat, which was under siege by the Khwarezmians after Ghiyath al-Din's death. Alauddin, facing pressure from the Qara Khitai forces, was forced to retreat, and he desperately sought aid from the Qara Khitais. They responded by sending a sizable army to assist the Khwarezmians.
Muhammad, under the pressure of the Qara Khitai forces, was compelled to lift the siege and retreat. However, he was pursued by the Qara Khitais on his way to Firuzkuh and suffered a decisive defeat in the Battle of Andkhud in 1204. The combined forces of the Qara Khitais and the Kara-Khanid Khanate led by Taniku and Uthman ibn Ibrahim, routed Muhammad's army. In order to secure his release, Muhammad was forced to pay a heavy ransom to the Qara Khitai general Taniku, which included elephants and gold coins. Following his defeat, the Ghurids lost control over most of Khurasan, except for Herat and Balkh. Muhammad Ghori, compelled by circumstances, agreed to a cold peace with the Khwarezmians.
With the demise of his brother Ghiyath al-Din and the loss of territories in Khurasan, Muhammad's attention shifted back to his Indian expeditions. He continued his raids in the northern Indian plains, with Aibak and other trusted lieutenants leading the way. They swiftly raided local kingdoms and expanded the Ghurid empire in the Indian Subcontinent, reaching as far as the northwestern parts of Bengal in the east, Ajmer and Ranthambore in the north, and the borders of Ujjain in the south. Muhammad Ghori's dominance in the region laid the foundation for the establishment of Muslim dynasties in northern India.
Final Conquests of Muhammad Ghori
Following the tumultuous events after the Battle of Andkhud, Muhammad of Ghor faced widespread insurrections within the Ghurid Sultanate. Rebel factions, including Aibak Beg, Husain Kharmil, and Governor Yildiz of Ghazna, challenged his authority. To restore order, Muhammad first directed his attention to Multan. There, his loyal general Aibak Beg, who had rescued him during the battle, orchestrated the assassination of the Ghurid governor Amir Dad Hasan and falsely proclaimed himself as the new governor under Muhammad's appointment. However, Muhammad swiftly defeated Aibak Beg in battle and captured him.
Turning his sights to Ghazna, where Yildiz had mutinied and taken control of the city, Muhammad marched with a formidable army. In the face of Muhammad's advance, Yildiz and his nobles surrendered, realizing the futility of resistance. Muhammad, displaying his clemency, pardoned them, thereby reestablishing stability within his empire.
With internal rebellions quelled, Muhammad of Ghor refocused his attention on Central Asia to avenge the defeat at Andkhud and reclaim his holdings in Khurasan. In July 1205, his governor in Balkh laid siege to Tirmidh, located in present-day Uzbekistan, and successfully captured the city. The Qara Khitai garrison stationed there was destroyed, and Muhammad placed the city under the control of his son. In preparation for his campaign, Muhammad ordered the construction of a boat bridge and a castle across the Oxus River by his viceroy, Baha al-Din Sam II, in the Bamiyan Valley. This infrastructure would facilitate the movement of his armies into Transoxiana. Additionally, Muhammad summoned his Indian soldiers to join him in the expedition against the Qara Khitais.
However, political unrest erupted once again, diverting Muhammad's attention back to Punjab. The Khokhar tribe, known for their hostility towards Muslims, took advantage of the situation, disrupting communication between Lahore and Ghazni and plundering Lahore itself. Determined to subdue the Khokhars, Muhammad embarked on his final campaign in December 1205. The Khokhars, led by Bakan and Sarkha, put up a fierce resistance between the Chenab and Jhelum rivers. Despite their valiant efforts, Muhammad emerged victorious, aided by the arrival of Iltutmish and his reserve contingent stationed on the banks of the Jhelum.
In recognition of Iltutmish's bravery and support, Muhammad honored him with a special robe of honor. Furthermore, according to Minhaj al-Siraj, Muhammad emancipated Iltutmish, even though his master, Aibak, who had initially enslaved him, remained a slave along with other senior slaves of Muhammad who had yet to be freed.
Assassination of Muhammad Ghori
Upon concluding his successful campaign against the Khokhars, Muhammad of Ghor's caravan made a stop at Dhamiak near Sohawa, close to the city of Jhelum in modern-day Pakistan. Tragically, it was at this location that Muhammad met his demise in 1206, as he fell victim to assassination orchestrated by Isma-ili emissaries.
Muhammad of Ghor, unfortunately, left no direct heirs as his only daughter had already passed away during his lifetime. His untimely assassination in Dhamiak sparked a power struggle among his slaves and other prominent figures within the Ghurid dynasty, all vying for control and the right to succeed him. The aristocrats of Ghazna and Firuzkuh lent their support to Baha al-Din Sam II, who hailed from the Bamiyan branch of the family. On the other hand, Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud, Muhammad's nephew and the son of his brother Ghiyath al-Din, found favor among the Turkic slaves. However, the prospects for Baha al-Din's succession were cut short when he passed away due to illness during his journey to Ghazni on February 24, 1206.
As a result, Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud assumed the mantle of leadership. Nevertheless, many of the territories conquered during Muhammad's incursions into the Ganga Valley were already under the control of his trusted lieutenants, such as Qutb ud-Din Aibak, Taj al-Din Yildiz, Bahauddin Tughril, Nasir ad-Din Qabacha, and Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji. These commanders, who scarcely consulted Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud in their affairs, maintained a strong grip on the conquered regions.