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Saturday, November 5, 2011

The Mongol Empire Its Rise & Legacy

Sunday, November 06, 2011

A banker by profession, Salim Ansar has a passion for history and historic books. His personal library already boasts a treasure trove of over 7,000 rare and unique books.

Every week, we shall take a leaf from one such book and treat you to a little taste of history.

BOOK NAME: The Mongol Empire Its Rise & Legacy

AUTHOR: Michael Prawdin

PUBLISHER: George Allen & Unwin Ltd - London


The following excerpt has been taken from Pages: 171 — 176

“Seven hundred years ago a man almost conquered to earth. He made himself master of half the known world, and inspired humankind with a fear that lasted for generations. In the course of his life he was given many names — the Mighty Manslayer, the Scourge of God, the Perfect Warrior, and the Master of Thrones and Crowns. He is better known to us as Genghis Khan.”


“There was little time for anything except action that eventful autumn. Herat and the other cities rose against the conquerors. Jelal-ed-Din was mustering an army in the east — so messages from the corps of observation along the Hindu Kush reported. Genghis Khan was planning to send Tuli, his most dependable leader, after the Kharesmian prince, when he heard of the rising in Herat. Instead, he sent Tuli west into Khorassan with several divisions.

“Genghis Khan took the field with 60,000 men to find and destroy the new Kharesmian army. He found in his path the strong city of Bamiyan in the Koh-i-Baba ranges. He settled down to invest it, sending the greater part of his forces under another Orkhon to meet Jelal-ed-Din.

“In due course couriers arrived at Bamiyan with word that Jelal-ed-Din had 60,000 men with him — that the Mongol general had come in contact with him, and had avoided several attempts of the Kharesmians to ambush him. Scouts were watching the movements of the redoubtable prince.

“What had happened was that an Afghan army had joined Jelal-ed-Din in this crisis, doubling his strength. Word came in not long after that the Turks and Afghans had defeated the Mongol Orkhon, driving his men into the mountains.

“Genghis Khan turned with new fury to the city before him. The defenders had laid bare all the district, even removing the large stones that could be used in siege engines. The Mongols had not the usual equipment with them, and their wooden towers, raised against the walls, were fired by arrows and flaming naphtha — until the cattle were slaughtered and their hides used to cover the wood frames. The Khan ordered an assault-the storm that is not to be abandoned until the city is taken. At this point one of his grandsons, who had followed him under the walls, was killed. The old Mongol ordered the body of the child-that he had liked for his courage-to be carried back to the tents.

“He urged on the assault, and, throwing off his helmet, pushed through his ranks until he was the head of a storming party. They gained footing in a breach, and Bamiyan fell to them not long after. Every living being was slain within its walls, and mosques and palaces pulled down. Even the Mongols spoke of Bamiyas as Mou-baligh, the City of Sorrow.

“But Genghis Khan left it at once to assemble his scattered divisions. They were feeling their way toward him through the hills, not much the worse for their drubbing. The Khan rallied them, and praised their devotion. Instead of blaming the unhappy Orkhon who had been worsted by Jeal-ed-Din, he rode back with him over the scene of the action, asking what had happened and pointing out the mistakes he had made.

“The Kharesmian prince did not prove himself as able in victory as he had been sturdy in defeat. He had his moment of exultation when his men tortured to death the Mongol prisoners and divided up the captured horses and weapons; but the Afghans quarreled with his officers and left him.

“Genghis Khan was on the march against him, after detaching an army to watch the movements of the Afghans. Jelal-ed-Din retreated east to Ghazna, but the Mongols were hard after him. He sent messengers to summon new allies, but these found that the Mongols had guarded the mountain passes. With his thirty thousand men Jelal-ed-Din hurried down through the foothills and out upon the valley of the Indus.

“His hope was to cross the river and league himself with the sultans of Delhi. But the Mongols, who had been five days behind him at Ghazna, were now within half a day’s ride. Genghis Khan had barely allowed his men to dismount to cook their food.

“Desperate now, the Kharesmian prince hastened to the river, found that he had come to a place where the Indus was too swift and deep for the crossing, and turned at bay, his left flank protected by a mountain ridge, his right by a bend of the river. The chivalry of Islam, hunted out of its own lands, prepared to measure its strength against the inexorable Mongol. Jelal-ed-Din ordered all the boats along the bank to be destroyed, so his men would not think of fleeing. His position was strong, but he must hold it or be annihilated.

“At dawn the Mongols advanced all along the line. They had emerged out of the darkness in formation, Genghis Khan with his standard, and the ten thousand cavalry of the imperial guard in reserve behind the center. These, at first, were not engaged.

“The impetuous Kharesmian prince was the first to send his men forward. His right wing-always the strongest division in a Muhammadan army of that day — under Emir Malik skirmished with the left of the Khan, and drove home a charge along the bank of the Indus that forced the Mongols back at this point. They scattered into squadrons as usual, reformed under one of the Khan’s sons, and were forced back again.

“On their right, the Mongols had been checked by the barrier of the lofty and barren ridges, and here they halted. Jelal-ed-Din detached forces from this part of his line to aid the advancing right wing of Emir Malik. And later in the day he, withdrew still more squadrons from the defenders of the mountain to strengthen his center.

“Determined to risk everything in one cast of fortune, he charged with the elite of his host, straight into the Mongol center, cutting through to the standard, seeking the Khan. The old Mongol was not there. His horse had been killed under him and he had mounted another and gone elsewhere.

“It was a moment of apparent victory for the Kharesmian, and the ululation of the Muhammadans rose above the din of beating hoops, the grinding of steel and the cries of the wounded.

“The Mongol center, badly shaken by the charge, kept on fighting stubbornly. Genghis Khan had noticed the withdrawal of nearly all the Kharesmian left wing, posted on the heights. He ordered a tuman commander, Bela Noyon, to go with the guides he had been questioning and to cross the mountain at all costs. It was the old turning movement of the Mongols, the standard-sweep.

“The Noyon with his men followed the guides into sheer gorges and ascended cliff paths that seemed impassable. Some of the warriors fell into the chasms, but the greater part gained the ridge late in the day and descended on the remnant of men left by Jela-ed-Din to protect this point. Over the mountain barrier the Kharesmian flank was turned. Bela Noyon charged into the enemy camp.

“Meanwhile Genghis Khan had taken the leadership of his ten thousand heavy cavalry, and had gone-not to the menaced center, but to the defeated left wing. His charge against Emir Malik’s forces routed them. Wasting no time in following them up, the Khan swung his squadrons about the drove them against the flank of Jelal-ed-Din’s troops of the center. He had cut off the wing by the river from the Kharesmian prince.

“The stout hearted but wearying Muhammadans had been rendered helpless by the sagacity of the old Mongol, and by maneuvering as perfect as the final moves of a check-mate. And the end came swiftly, inexorably. Jelal-ed-Din made a last and hopeless charge against the horsemen of the guard, and tried to withdraw his men toward the river. He was followed up, his squadrons, broken; Bela Noyon pressed in upon him, and when he gained the steep bank of the Indus at last, he had around him no more than seven hundred followers.

“Realizing that the end had come, he mounted a fresh horse, rid himself of his armor, and with only his sword and bow and a quiver of arrows, he forced his charger over the edge of the bank, plunging into the swift current, and making for the distant shore.

“Genghis Khan had given orders that the prince was to be taken alive. The Mongols had drawn in upon the last Kharesmians and the Khan lashed his horse through the fighting to watch the rider he had seen leap from the twenty-foot bank. For a while he gazed in silence at Jelal-ed-Din. Putting his finger to his lips he uttered an ungrudged exclamation of praise.

“‘Fortunate should be the father of such a son!’

“Though he could admire the daring of the Kharesmian prince, he did not intend to spare Jelal-ed-Din. Some of his Mongols wished to try to swim after their foeman, but the Khan would not allow this. He watched Jelal-ed-Din reach the far bank, in spite of current and waves. The next day he sent a tuman in pursuit where the river could be crossed, giving this task to Bela Noyon, the same officers who had led a division over the cliff paths to the Kharesmian camp.

“Bela Noyon ravaged Multan and Lahore, picked up the trail of the fugitive, but lost him among the multitudes upon the way to Delhi. The oppressive heat astonished the men from the Gobi plateau and the noyon turned back at length, saying to the Khan:

“‘The heat of this place slays men, and the water is neither fresh nor clear.’

“So India-all except this northern segment-was spared the Mongol conquest. Jelal-ed-Din survived, but his moment had passed. He fought against the horde again, but as a partisan, an adventurer without a country.


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