Sultan Muhammad of Ghur

Sultan Muhammad of Ghur
Sultan Muhammad of Ghur

The victory of Muhammad of Ghur over the Rajput king, Prithviraj Chauhan III (r. 1178–92), was a turning point in the history of South Asia. Islam began to pervade the northern portion of the Indian subcontinent, in present-day India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan.

It was Muhammad of Ghur who prepared the groundwork of the establishment of political power. Muizuddin Muhammad of Ghur, also known as Shahbuddin, came from the Ghur region located in modern Afghanistan. In the rivalry between the house of the Ghaznavids and Ghurids, the latter under the leadership of Alauddin Husain (r. 1149–61), emerged victorious.

Muhammad’s early career began with the conquest of Ghazni in 1173. He was ambitious and bent upon a career of territorial aggrandizement. Muhammad could not expand toward the west because of the presence of the powerful Khwarizm dynasty of Persia.

He found the Indian subcontinent ruled by regional kingdoms, with no unity among themselves to check external aggression. Prevailing social tensions, apathetic attitude of the common people, and advanced military technology facilitated his conquest.

In 1175 Multan fell into the hands of Muhammad, and afterward he occupied Uch and the lower Sind. Three years afterward he faced defeat at the hands of the Chalukyas of Gujrat. Bhimdev II defeated Muhammad near Mount Abu. Muhammad planned an attack through the Punjab region, where Ghanazvid king Tajuddaula Khursav Malik (r. 1160–86) ruled. By 1179 he was master of Peshawar, Lahore, and Silakot. Most of the areas in present-day Pakistan were under his sway. His territorial border was contiguous with Prithviraj III, the Chauhan ruler of Delhi and Ajmer. At the first Battle of Tarai in 1191, he defeated Muhammad.

The latter was captured and brought before Prithviraj, who released the vanquished as an act of magnanimity. Prithviraj was not friendly with the Gaharwar ruler of Kannauj, Jaychandra (r. 1170–93), and Muhammad exploited it. Jaychandra sided with the Ghur ruler, as he was bitter over Prithviraj’s forced marriage with Princess Sanjukta.

The Rajput control over North India was over after Muhammad defeated Prithviraj in the second Battle of Tarai of 1192. The defeated Rajput ruler was taken as a captive to Ghur and ultimately he was blinded and killed.

The rule from the northwest began, which culminated in establishing the political kingdom of the Delhi Sultanate. Muhammad controlled much of northern India and parts of Gujarat and Gwalior.

Qutubuddin Aibak (r. 1206–10), the general of Muhammad, was put in charge of Delhi and Ajmer. He made Delhi capital and conquered Ranthambhor, Bulandshahr, Aligarh, and Meerut. Muhammad returned to the Indian subcontinent in 1194. He defeated his erstwhile ally Jaychandra in a decisive battle fought on the banks of the Jamuna River near Chandawar.

Within a year Muhammad was master of northern India after occupying Bayana, Varanasi, and Gwalior. He returned to Ghur leaving his generals, who consolidated and further expanded the territory of Muhammad. Even outlying provinces like Bengal, Bihar, and Gujarat felt the onslaught of a new rule.

While Muhammad’s lieutenants were busy on the Indian subcontinent, he returned to settle the affairs of his parent kingdom. His elder brother Ghiyasuddin had died in 1202 and Muhammad became the ruler of Ghur. After three years Alauddin Muhammad (r. 1199–1220), the Khwarizm Saha ruler, defeated him in the Battle of Andhkhud.

Muhammad came to India again in 1205 to suppress the rebellion of the Ghakkar tribe in the Punjab. On his way back home during the next year, Muhammad made a stop at Dhamyak on the banks of the river Jhelum.

He was stabbed and killed while offering evening prayers in the Ghokkar territory. Some authorities believe that the Isma’ili sect were responsible for his death. Qutb ud-Din Aibak took control of Muhammad’s territory in India, declaring independence from the Ghurids.

The Ghurids continued to rule the Ghurid kingdom until 1211, when Alauddin annexed their kingdom. The territorial extent of the Khwarazm dynasty extended from Turkistan in the east to the borders of Iraq in the west. The Mongols conquered part of Ghurid territory in Afghanistan.

Earlier victories of Muhammad bin Qasim (712) and the raids of Mahmud of Ghazni (1000–25) had not resulted in establishment of political power. Major areas of present-day India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan came under the reign of the Delhi Sultanate, who ruled after Muhammad.