Mongol invasions of the Punjab

Changez KhanWith the establishment of Muslim Sultanate in Delhi in 1206 AD a new power had sprung up beyond Central Asia. Changez Khan had been crowned head of the united Mongol tribes the same year. A few years later began the misfortunes of the Muslim world which had a profound effect on every facet of Muslim life in the subcontinent, particularly the Punjab.

Having smashed the power of Muhammad Khwarizm Shah who was the
greatest Muslim monarch of the time, Changez Khan began to chase his nephew, Jalaluddin Khwarizm Shah.
This young and valiant monarch gave fight to the ‘Scourge of God’ and had several encounters with him all along Khorasan and Afghanistan– the last on the banks of River Indus. With his forces depleted and unable to stand the vast numerical superiority of the Mongols, Jalaluddin Khwarizm Shah, while fighting the enemy and inflicting heavy casualties on him, plunged into the Indus at Kalabagh and wavingf his flag swam accross into the Punjab along with his retinue. From a rock jetting over the river near Kalabagh, Changez Khan watched this singular act of daring with deep admiration and profound respect. Turning to his sons Changez advised them to imbibe the invincible spirit, indomitable courage and implacable determination demonstrated
by his youthful adversary. “Such a son must a father have”, he exclaimed.

Perhaps exhausted, perhaps overawed by the bleak prospects of chasing such a formidable enemy, Changez returned home leaving in peace the newly born Delhi Sultanate. If Changez had crossed the Indus, history of this subcontinent would probably have been different. “Jalaluddin Khwarizm Shah fought bravely and desperately against the Mongols at the bank of the Indus and atlast seated on his charger, leapt from the top of a 60 ft cliff near Kalabagh into the river bearing the banner in his hand. Changez admired his bravery but it did not prevent him sending an army across the Indus in pursuit. It ravaged the districts of Peshawar, Lahore and Multan but did not find the Shah”.

However, peace was not to last long. Changez Khan’s successors took up the cutgels within a decade and for the next hundred years kept the Delhi Sultanate on it’s tenterhooks. From the days of Shamsuddin Altamash
to the early days of Tughlaq dynasty, Mongol raids and ravages were a regular and constant feature. And who bore the brunt of these ferocious Mongol attacks? The Punjab!!

It was on the rivers Indus, Jhelum and Chenab that India was defended; it was on the plains of the Punjab that the enemy forces were so often defeated and beaten; it was in the ‘doabas’ of the Punjab that the Mongols practised their fiendish scorched earth policy. Thrice Lahore was captured, sacked and burnt. But the people of the Punjab bore these calamities with perfect equanimity and exemplary fortitude.

The extent to which the Punjab suffered as a result of Mongol attacks from 13th century onward can be reckoned from the following events:

1. In 1221 AD some of Changez Khan’s forces crossed the Indus in pursuit of Jalaluddin Khwarizm Shah, ravaged vast tracts of the punjab and sacked Multan and Lahore. (At this time Naseeruddin Qabacha was the independent ruler of Pakistan and Shamsuddin Altamash of India).

2. In 1241 AD during the reign of Altamash’s daughter, Razia Sultana, Mongols attacked the Punjab, sacked and burnt Lahore.

3. In 1246 AD Mongols attacked the Punjab and invested Multan.

4. In 1260 and in subsequent years during the time of Balban, Mongols attacked the Punjab and ravaged the countryside several times. In one of the encounters near Multan, Balban’s eldest son Prince Mohammad was killed.

5. Next big attack came in 1285 AD.

6. In 1291 AD a grandson of Hulagu invaded Punjab and was defeated by Alauddin Khilji.

7. In 1298 AD Mongols again invaded the Punjab with a force of 100,000 and advanced as far as Delhi butwere decisively defeated by Alauddin Khilji.

8. In 1304 and 1305 AD Mongols attacked the punjab and ravaged Multan, but were defeated by the Governor of the Punjab, Ghiyazuddin Tughlaq.

9. In 1327 AD the punjab was attacked and Multan ravaged.

10. In 1358 AD Mongols again attacked the Punjab.

These were only the major attacks, in between there were innumerable raids with what consequences one can only visualize. Ghiasuddin Tughlaq who was Governor of Lahore before he became ruler of Delhi in 1320 AD is said to have fought 29 battles against the Mongols during Alauddin Khilji’s reign.

Since to save the Delhi Sultanate, it was vital to make defence on one of the five rivers of the Punjab, whoever defended it successfully was considered a national hero and tipped for rulership at Delhi. When the Khilji dynasty declined, the court nobles invited Ghiasuddin Tughlaq, Governor of Lahore to take over. The Tughlaq dynasty he established lasted from 1320 to 1398 AD. It collapsed when Delhi was attacked by Taimur Lung.

From the establishment of Delhi Sultanate in 1206 AD for over 300 years, the Punjab bore the brunt of foreign attacks and saved the Muslim state from extinction. In this painful process, Punjab’s population and prosperity
diminished and its entire life was crippled. After this period, the Punjab was almost an uninhabitable waste, except for a few walled cities. Because of constant Mongol raids, it remained depopulated and very little agriculture was carried on.


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