Alauddin Khilji

Alauddin Khilji

Ala-ud-din Khilji (Pashto/Arabic: علاء الدين الخلجي) (real name Juna Khan) (b. ? - d. 1316), was the second ruler of the Khilji dynasty in India. He reigned from 1296 to 1316. [Encyclopedia Britannica - [ Khalji Dynasty] ]

His historic attack on Chittor in 1303 AD, after hearing of the beauty of queen of Chittor, Rani Padmini, the wife of King Rawal Ratan Singh and the subsequent story has been immortalized in the epic poem Padmavat, written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in the Awadhi language in the year 1540 [] The Imperial Gazetteer of India, 1909, v. 2, p. 430.] .


Ala-ud-din Khilji was the nephew and son in law of Jalal-ud-din. At first, Jalal-ud-din appointed Ala-ud-Din as the governor of Kara near the city of Allahabad. In 1296 Ala-ud-Din killed his uncle. But Malika Jahan, the widow of Jalal-ud-din, put her younger son Rukn-ud-din Khilji on the throne. Ala-ud-din quickly marched on Delhi from Kara. He entered Delhi with his uncle's head on a pike and on October 3, 1296, proclaimed himself the "King of Delhi". Arkali Khan, Jalal-ud-din's older son, and Rukn-ud-din were blinded. Malika Jahan was imprisoned.

Very soon he went about despoiling the wealth of nobles, frequently blinding, imprisoning or killing them. In 1297, Alauddin sent an army to plunder Gujarat, under the generalship of Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan. This army looted the temple of Somnath and the Shivalinga was broken into pieces and was being carried back to Delhi. Kanhad Dev Songara, the ruler of Jalore in Rajasthan attacked and defeated Ulugh Khan and captured the broken Shivalinga which was washed in the Ganges River, and the fragments were established in various temples in Jalore. Muhammad Shah helped Kanhad Dev Songara. Muhammad was a general in Khilji's army. After the war, Muhammad Shah went and stayed with Hammir at Ranthambore. Ulugh Khan apprised Alauddin who ordered him and Nusrat Khan to conquer Ranthambore. In 1299 they started out with 80,000 cavalry and a large infantry to attack Hammir. Hammir's army repulsed the attack and killed Nusrat Khan. Ulugh Khan escaped and reached Delhi. Khilji was taken aback by this defeat and wanted revenge. He finally came himself in 1301, and there was a long siege. Hammir was very well prepared. When the fort would not fall after repeated bloody skirmishes, Khilji resorted to diplomacy. Hammir was very suspicious but he heeded to his councilors who told him that the sword is not always the best recourse. Ratipal and Ranmal, who were close confidants of Hammir, were sent to the Khilji camp. Ranmal's father was hung by Hammir for treachery and his property was confiscated. Ranmal earned the trust of Hammir by being brave in battles that Hammir fought but perfidy was in his blood. Khilji bribed these two generals of Hammir's army and consequently Ranthambore fell. After the annexation of Gujarat, he took to the practice of making the innocent families of rebels against the government suffer.

Mongol invasions

When Kublai Khan died in 1294, the former Mongol Empire was divided into independent Khanates. One such Khanate was the Chagatai Khanate which covered Central Asia and its leader at that time was Duwa Khan. Duwa was active in Afghanistan, and attempted to extend Mongol rule to India, but there he was defeated by a formidable foe, General Zafar Khan of the Delhi Sultanate in 1296-1297.The two armies met at Jalandhar in 1297. Zafar Khan defeated the Mongols in this first invasion. The Mongols attacked again under the command of Saldi and captured the fort of Siri. Zafar Khan holding the honour of being one of the few undefeated military commanders in history had no problem crushing this army, recaptured the fort and brought 2,000 Mongols prisoners before Sultan Alauddin Khilji. It was one of the worst defeats for the Mongols. Legend has it that Zafar Khan created such great terror in the minds of the Mongols that whenever their horses refused to drink water, the Mongols would ask them if they had seen Zafar Khan. The first invasion of the Mongols was an abysmal failure with Zafar Khan almost grinding them into the dust. The Mongols thereafter repeatedly invaded northern India. On at least two occasions, they came in strength. The second time around, they took Delhi but could not keep their hold on the Sultanate.

Battles for Delhi (1299-1308)

But in 1299, the Mongols came back. It says much for the tenacious Mongol spirit that they were back so soon and in such strength that they took over the fort of Siri, just beyond Delhi, which Ala-ud-Din Khilji had built. This time they came under a leader who was a legend in his own right, Qutlugh Khwaja, the feared Central Asian warrior and son of Duwa Khan now commanding a force of 200,000 Mongols. Ala-ud-Din Khilji realized that the Mongols meant business. If Qutlugh Khwaja had come himself it meant war, not for gold but for the kingdom itself.

The situation was serious enough for the usually individualistic Sultan Ala-ud-Din Khilji to be forced into take advice from others. Ala-ud-Din Khilji was urged to sue for peace by his advisors as Qutlugh was virtually wiping his feet at the doorsteps of Delhi. However Ala-ud-Din Khilji did not become the Sultan by playing it safe. He rejected their advice and said,

Ignoring their advice the young sultan attacked the Mongols. The advance guard of the army was led by Zafar Khan himself. He defeated the Mongols again and went off in hot pursuit of them as they withdrew. However, the wily Qutlugh tricked Zafar into a position where he was first surrounded and then killed by the Mongols. Ala-ud-Din Khilji took this loss calmly. Zafar Khan had been entirely too popular for his comfort anyway. However, the death of the general did not improve matters for the Mongols. In face of Ala-ud-Din Khilji‘s continued offensives, they had to retreat to the unconquerable heights from where they had come.

The Mongols took, what was for them, a long time to rally from this setback. They attacked at the worst time possible for Ala-ud-Din Khilji, when he was busy laying siege to Chittor. This time the Mongols traveled light. An army of 12,000 under Targhi’s leadership trickled into India like a shadow and moved to Delhi at a pace that was astonishing even by Mongol standards. Such was the swiftness of the attack that many governors could not send their troops to Delhi in time.

Ala-ud-Din Khilji was forced to duck into Siri and stay put for about two months. The Mongols stomped through and pillaged not only the surrounding areas, but Delhi itself. However they could not get into Siri. Although minor skirmishes were fought, a decisive win eluded both parties. This deadlock dragged on for more than a couple of months. In the end when Ala-ud-Din Khilji was fervently hoping for a miracle to help him, his prayers were answered.

The Mongols were a nomadic restless lot, and Targhi was more impatient than most of them. When Ala-ud-Din Khilji dug in his heels and stayed put in his seemingly impregnable fortress for months, Targhi lost interest in the whole affair, washed his hands of it and ordered his army to withdraw.

Barani, the contemporary historian at that time, attributed this marvel to the prayers of the Sufi mystic Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya. Ala-ud-Din Khilji’s defenses were so strong and enduring that the whole situation had really become quite an impasse. He wisely realized that the Mongols could not hold out forever and had to go home to Central Asia some time. That was where the Mongol power was concentrated and they could not afford to be away for too long.

Targhi had to go back with the consolation that he was leaving behind a much disturbed and thoughtful Ala-ud-Din Khilji, The seriousness of the Qutlugh Khwaja and Targhi led Mongol invasions which had left Siri panting for breath, forced Ala-ud-Din Khilji to take stock of the situation. A defensive measure like hiding in Siri till the Mongol storm blew over must have gashed his proud spirit. He had the forts along the border strengthened and equipped with larger garrisons. New, more effective fortifications were built along this area. A whole new army, with its own special governor, was created whose portfolio was managing and guarding the border areas.

Despite these measures, the Mongols under the leadership of Ali Beg and Tartaq, suddenly appeared in the Punjab and the neighborhood of Amroha. The Mongols plundered the Punjab and burnt everything to cinders along the way.

But this time Ala-ud-Din Khilji was ready for them. He sent a strong army led by two of his toughest generals Ghazi Malik and the famous Malik Kafur after them. They surprised theMongols on their way back to Central Asia with their plunder. The two generals pooled in their immense talents and defeated the Mongols. The Mongol generals were captured and brought back to Siri, along with other prisoners. Ala-ud-Din Khilji had the generals trampled to death by elephants while the other prisoners were put to death and their heads hung from the walls of the fort.

Even after the gory treatment meted out to their last expedition, the Mongols came in again in 1306. They crossed the Indus near Multan and were moving towards the Himalayas, when Ghazi Malik (who was by then the governor of the Punjab) intercepted them. About 50,000 Mongols were made prisoners including Kubak, their leader. Ala-ud-Din Khilji put them all to death and sold their wives and children as slaves. The last Mongol invasion took place in 1307-1308 under Iqbalmand. He had just about managed to cross the Indus when Ala-ud-Din Khilji’s armies overtook them and put them all to the sword.

After 1308, the Mongols did not attack India again. There were a number of reasons for this. Principal among these was that during their earlier descent from the mountains into the Indus plains, the Mongols became aware of their handicap in an environment of higher temperatures, humidity and their lack of dexterity in riding horses at the speeds they were comfortable at in higher & drier areas. To a lesser extent, of course that Ala-ud-Din Khilji, by repeated ruthlessness, finally managed to drive home the point that he would deal firmly and mercilessly with invaders into his territory. This was one of the greatest achievements of Ala-ud-Din Khilji. He was an original thinker and brilliant as a strategist. If the Mongols had still been serious about an Indian empire, they could have kept sending armies to India. It is to Ala-ud-din’s credit that he drove the idea of an Indian empire from the heads of the Mongols.

But he did not stop there, Ala-ud-Din Khilji had to be sure that the Mongols would never come back .T he only way to do that was to attack them, he sent plundering armies under the veteran general Ghazi Malik to Kandahar, Ghazni and Kabul. The Mongols were already so much in awe of him that they did not even bother to defend their own territories against him. These offensives effectively crippled the Mongol line of control leading to India until the arrival of Timur Lane.

ack of Chittor

In 1303, Khilji returned to sack Chittor. Ala-ud-din Khilji described himself as the "Second Alexander" on his own coinage and dreamt of founding a worldwide empire. Though not a man of learning himself, one of the great Persian poets of Indian history, Amir Khusro, was his poet laureate.


Alauddin died in January 1316, of edema. It is believed that his lieutenant Malik Naib hastened his death.


External links

* [ Encyclopedia Britannica - Khalji Dynasty]
* [ The Megalomania of Ala-ud-Din Khilji] from
* [ Ala-ud-din and His Eunuch General] from
* [ The Khilji Dynasty: Ala-ud-Din Khilji] from, written by Amrit Pal Singh 'Amrit'.
* [ Khilji followed The Slave Dynasty]

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