The Garden Guide

Book: Journey and Embassy to Samarkand
Chapter: Biography - Life of Timur Beg

Timur - conquest of India

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For a time the enjoyment of great power, and the opportunities to work much good, in establishing peace throughout his now enormous empire, had charms for Timur; but, after an interval of rest, the conqueror still found the lust of conquest strong upon him, and, from the heights of Mawur-ul-naher, he looked down, with longing eyes, on the fertile plains of India. Having conceived the idea of conquering the rich empire of Hindustan, he asked counsel of his sons and nobles, but they all opposed it, except Shah Rokh {'My design for reducing Hindustan. First I asked counsel of my sons and my Amirs, and Shah Rokh advised it, but the Amirs opposed, and I forgave them.'-Institutes}. His resolution, however, had been already taken, and his grandson Peer Mohammed crossed the Indus, and laid siege to Moultan. Meanwhile Timur led his army across the River Oxus, and commenced a new campaign, in 1398, by attacking the infidel mountaineers who inhabit the ravines of the Hindu Kush, that tremendous range of mountains, which was called by the Arabs, 'the stony girdle of the earth.' It was in the month of March that Timur, with sixty-two thousand men, entered the defiles of that mighty range which rises in a bold and precipitous line, with sides bare, black, and polished, from the plains of Balkh and Koondooz. At that time of year, and until the end of June, the passes are clear of snow, but they are destitute of vegetation, and mural precipices rise up perpendicularly on each side of the road, to a height of two thousand or three thousand feet. The summits of the peaks are covered with eternal snow. On the approach of the invaders, the mountaineers retired into the deep ravines, where they were protected by snow drifts. No difficulties, however, could daunt the intrepid conqueror, or turn him from his purpose. True, the precipices, which he must pass to reach the retreat of the infidels, were perpendicular, but the resources of Timur's mind were inexhaustible, and he resolved upon a plan as audacious as it was novel. He ordered his army to be lowered down the rocky walls, by ropes, from ledge to ledge. The sovereign himself was lowered down on a stage of planks, secured together by iron rings, and the operation was five times repeated. The whole party was now on foot, except Timur himself, whose horse had also been lowered down; and this put them on equal terms with the mountaineers, who were, however, so amazed at the unexpected appearance of the invaders, that they abandoned their stronghold, sued for mercy, and humbly submitted to the authority of the mighty 'lord of the conjunctions.' {Sahib Keraun, which was one of Timur's titles, means 'lord of the grand conjunctions.' The Easterns believe that in all the great conjunctions of the planets, there is a great revolution in the world. Thus Abraham, Moses, Zoroaster, Christ, and Mohammed, came into the world in a grand conjunction. Kayomurs, Solomon, Alexander, Genghis, and Timur, were each in their turn, Sahib Keraun, or 'masters of the conjunctions,' and of all the great events during their respective reigns.-D' Herbelot}. Timur then continued his march to Kabul, and prepared for the invasion of India. Hindustan had been ruled by Muslim conquerors since the days of Mahmud of Ghizni, and at this time Mahmud, of the house of Tughlaq, reigned at Delhi over a disorganized empire, consisting of a Muslim army, a Hindu population, and various Rajput states, which were virtually independent. Timur crossed the Indus in 1398, and united his army with that of Peer Mohammed, on the banks of the Sutlej. He then marched to Delhi, slaughtered a vast number of prisoners who hindered his progress, and encamped on the banks of the Jumna, in January, 1399; where he found the Indian army, under King Mahmud, drawn up in order of battle, with ten thousand horse, forty thousand foot, and a brigade of elephants. Timur, to use his own words, 'resolved to appear weak in the sight of the Sultan of Delhi,' and he surrounded his army with a ditch. This stratagem filled the Indians with presumptuous confidence, they marched into the plain, were charged furiously by the Chatagai cavalry, and utterly defeated. Delhi fell into the hands of the conquerors, and an accidental collision with the citizens led to a general massacre. The holy city of Muttra met with the same fate, and Timur, satisfied with having become a Ghazee, or slayer of infidels, determined to return to Samarkand. He marched by the sources of the Ganges, Kashmir, and the Punjab, and crossing the Indus by a bridge of boats, he made a triumphal progress, through the defiles of the Hindu Kush, to his capital, which he reached in April 1399.