Alauddin khilji imperial policy

Alauddin khilji imperial policy

In 1301 Alauddin Khalji, the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate in India, conquered the neighbouring kingdom of Ranastambhapura (modern Ranthambore).  Hammira, the Chahamana (Chauhan) king of Ranthambore, had granted asylum to some Mongol rebels from Delhi in 1299. He refused requests to either kill these rebels or hand them over to Alauddin, resulting in an invasion from Delhi. Hammira lost his general Bhimasimha to an army led by Alauddin’s general Ulugh Khan, and his brother Bhoja defected to Alauddin some days later. After recovering from these initial reverses, Hammira’s generals (including the Mongol rebels) defeated Ulugh Khan’s army at a mountain pass near Ranthambore. Alauddin then dispatched his general Nusrat Khan to reinforce Ulugh Khan’s army, but Nusrat Khan was killed while besieging the fort.

Alauddin then himself took control of the operations at Ranthambore. He ordered the construction of a mound to scale its walls. After a long siege, the defenders suffered from a famine and defections. Facing a desperate situation, in July 1301, Hammira and his loyal companions came out of the fort, and fought to death. His wives, daughters and other female relatives committed Jauhar (mass self-immolation). Alauddin captured the fort, and appointed Ulugh Khan as its governor.

Ranthambore was reputed to be an impregnable fort, and Alauddin’s predecessor Jalaluddin had made an unsuccessful attempt to capture it in 1291. In 1299, Alauddin Khalji sent his generals Nusrat Khan and Ulugh Khan to capture Gujarat. This army included several Mongol soldiers (also called Mughals or neo-Muslims), who had converted to Islam recently. When the army was returning to Delhi after its successful campaign, some of the Mongols staged a mutiny against the generals, near Jalore. The mutiny was crushed, and the army returned to Delhi. Two rebel Mongol leaders — Muhammad Shah and Kabhru — managed to escape with some of their followers. Hammira of Ranthambore (called Hamir Dev in Muslim chronicles) granted asylum to these Mongol fugitives.  Ulugh Khan was the governor of Bayana near Ranthambore. After returning to Bayana from Delhi, he sent messengers to Hammira, urging him to kill the Mongol fugitives as a friendly ruler. He also threatened to wage a war against Hammira, if this request was not complied with. Hammira’s counsellors advised him not to endanger his kingdom, and comply. However, Hammira refused to do so. He replied to Ulugh Khan that he had no desire to start a conflict, but he would not give up the refugees who had sought his asylum. He added that he was not afraid of a war, and had enough money and soldiers to participate in a war.

When Alauddin learned about Hammira’s reply, he dispatched an army led by Ulugh Khan to capture Ranthambore. According to Hammira Mahakavya and Surjana-Charita, Hammira was engaged in a religious ceremony at the time of this invasion. Ulugh Khan’s army marched unopposed up to the Banas River. There, Hammira’s general Bhimasimha stopped his advance. Bhimasimha underestimated the strength of the Delhi, and launched a direct attack on them, instead of keeping his army stationed at the top of the mountain pass leading to Ranthambore. The Delhi army retreated temporarily, possibly deliberately to fool the Chahamanas into dropping their guard. This led Bhimasimha to believe that he had foiled the invasion. However, while Bhimasimha was returning to Ranthambore, Ulugh Khan’s forces re-assembled and attacked his contingent. The defenders were defeated, and Bhimasimha was killed in the battle.

According to the Hammira Mahakavya, Bhimasimha had abandoned his strong position at the top of the mountain pass on the advice of the minister Dharmasimha. As a punishment, Hammira ordered Dharmasimha to be blinded and castrated, declaring that only a blind man would have failed to see the true strength of the invading army, and only an impotent man would have allowed Bhimasimha to die on the battlefield unsupported. After Dharmasimha’s dismissal, Hammira’s brother Bhoja became the chief royal counsellor. However, Bhoja was unable to arrange sufficient money for raising an army that could defeat Alauddin’s invasion. In the past, the Chahamanas had raised money by raiding their neighbours, but this was not possible as they were under siege.Dharmasimha, who now maintained a grudge against Hammira, took advantage of this financial crunch. He contacted the king through a court dancer named Dhara, and offered to arrange horses for Hammira’s cavalry from Malwa. Hammira took Dharmasimha back into service. Dharmasimha raised money by imposing heavy taxes, which made Hammira very unpopular among his subjects. Dharmasimha also sidelined Bhoja: on his advice, Hammira ordered Bhoja to provide a full account of the ministry during his tenure.

When Alauddin learned about Ulugh Khan’s defeat, he decided to personally lead a stronger force to Ranthambore. He ordered his other officers from various provinces to bring their armies to Tilpat near Delhi. While these armies were on their way to Tilpat, he spent his time hunting. During one such hunting expedition, his nephew Sulaiman Shah Akat Khan conspired to kill him. However, the conspiracy was not successful, and Akat Khan and his companions were executed.

When Alauddin reached Ranthambore, the fort was already surrounded by the Delhi army. He realized that a direct attack on the fort was not feasible: the advantage lay with the defenders. Alauddin’s camp was located on a hillock called Ran, which faced the Ranthambore Fort’s hill. Alauddin ordered the construction of a pasheb, an inclined mound built to fill the ditch separating his camp and the fort. Weavers from the neighbouring areas were brought, and asked to sew a large number of bags. Alauddin’s soldiers then filled these bags with soil, and used them to build the pasheb mound.

The construction of the pasheb was a long and difficult process for the invading army. But none of Alauddin’s soldiers deserted him, because he demanded three years’ pay from any deserter. The Delhi army used the siege engines called maghrabis to shoot stones at the defending garrison. But the defenders kept destroying the under-construction pasheb with fire and stones. Alauddin’s army also tried to construct a tunnel, but the defenders destroyed it and killed those involved in its construction by throwing a mixture of oil and resin on them. There was heavy loss of lives on both the sides. During this time, Alauddin’s army also plundered the neighbouring region, going as far as Dhar in the Paramara territory.

According to the 16th century historian Firishta, Alauddin’s army captured the fort on 10 July 1301. However, the Jain author Nayachandra dates this conquest to two days later in his Hammira Mahakavya. According to Nayachandra, Jaja continued to offer resistance for two more days after Hammira’s death, which may explain this discrepancy. In the fort, Alauddin found the Mongol rebel Muhammad Shah lying wounded. Alauddin asked Muhammad Shah what he would do if pardoned and saved. Muhammad Shah replied that he would kill Alauddin and appoint Hammira’s son as the new king. An angry Alauddin ordered Muhammad Shah to be trampled by an elephant. However, later he ordered Muhammad Shah to be buried with honour because of he appreciated the dead man’s courage and loyalty.  Alauddin ordered punishments for Ratipala and Ranamalla, who had deserted Hammira to join him. Ratipala was flayed alive, while Ranamalla and his followers were killed. Alauddin argued that these people had not been loyal to their earlier master, so he did not expect them to be loyal to him. The victors destroyed the Vaghabhatta (Bahar Deo) temple and other buildings in the fort premises. Before returning to Delhi, Alauddin gave the control of the fort to Ulugh Khan. However, the local public hated Ulugh Khan so much, that he decided not to go beyond the suburbs of Ranthambore.

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