Sack of Delhi by Taimur the Lame
Taimur invaded India in 1398 to punish the Kaffirs. He sacked Delhi in the most horrendous manner. The incident has been described by Kishori Saran Lal in his book `Twilight of the Sultanate’ in the following words
” During the course of the day soldiers of the victorious army went in batches into the city. Some went there as an escort to Timur’s consort Chaplan Malik Agha who wanted to have a view of the Palace of Thousand Pillars (Qasr-i-Hazir Situn), others to collect the ransom imposed upon the city while many others to obtain provisions. Trouble started when some soldiers who were purchasing sugar-candy at a shop got rowdy and looted it. Some others tried their hands at other shops. Their petty quarrels soon developed into clashes and in no time “the flame of strife” spread to the whole city. On Thursday and the following night nearly 15,000 soldiers were engaged in slaying, plundering, destroying. The next morning the soldeirs who had remained outside, too were tempted to share the spoils of their compatriots and rushed into the unfortunate city. It was ruthlessly sacked during the next two days, Friday and Saturday. Gold and silver in coins and bullion, ornaments of women-captives, precious stones and finest fabrics of all kinds were obtained in immense quantities. Even the booty in human flesh and blood was enormous for each soldier had secured a large number of prisoners.
At last Amir Timur woke up to the situation. Unable to restrain his soldiery, he was enraged at the resistance of the people. On Sunday the 21st he ordered Amir Shah Malik and Sultan Husain Tawachi to go into the city and kill the people who had taken shelter in the Jama Masjid. They were massacred in cold blood and then the entire city was given over to rapine and plunder. Timur, however pleaded innocence of all that had happened. With the easy conscience of a conqueror he described the horrible occurrence thus:
“By the will of God, and by no wish or direction of mine, all the three cities of Delhi by name Siri, Jahanpanah, and old Delhi, had been plundered. The Khutba of my sovereignty, which is an assurance of safety and protection, had been read in the city. It was therefore my earnest wish that no evil might happen to the people of the place. But it was ordained by God that the city should be ruined. He, therefore, inspired the infidel inhabitants with a spirit of resistance, so that they brought on themselves their own ruin.” The explanation is as unconvincing as the event was monstrous, and the sack of Delhi will ever remain a blot on Timur’s even otherwise also not too clean a career.”
Twilight of the Sultante by Kishori Saran Lal, Professor of History, Government Hamidia College, Bopal, India.( Published by Asia Publishing House, Bombay, Calcutta, New Delhi, Madras, London, New York, 1963, pages: 30-31.)
Taimur’s Invasion of Delhi and the massacre of 50,000 unarmed captives by him in Delhi
” Next day the Amir (Taimur) set out with about 700 horsemen to decide on the site of the battle. On the other hand Mallu Khan, who was constantly watching the movements of the enemy, considered it a good opportunity to strike particularly when the latter had only a scanty following. Marching under the cover of trees and orchards, he delivered a surprise attack with a force twenty times the number of the enemy. Timur was hardly prepared for an engagement, and made a precipitate retreat, leaving Saiyyad Khwaja with 300 Turks to hold the ground. They were soon reinforced by two regiments (Kushuns) under Sanjak Bahadur and Amir Allahadad who hurled back Mallu.
“During the skirmish the prisoners in the camp of Timur had become jubilant; and it was feared that on the day of the final battle with Sultan Mahmud, when the army would be completely engrossed in war, the prisoners would break their bonds and make common cause with the Indian army. He, therefore, took a cruel and quick decision to do away with them. It took little time to kill the unarmed captives and about 50,000 men were massacred in cold blood on 12 December, 1398 (3 Rabiul Akhir). A pious man like Maulana Nasiruddin Umar, “who in all his life had never killed a sparrow”, for fear of Timur slew with his own hand fifteen men who were his captives.”
(Twilight of the Sultanate by Kishori Saran Lal, Professor of History, Government Hamidia College, Bhopal, India, published by Asia Publishing House, London, New York, New Delhi, Bombay, ) 1963, page 24.
Taimur’s Return Journey Homeward after sacking Delhi, Hardwar etc.
“So he set out on his homeward journey. To avoid any more conflicts, he chose a safe route along the foot of the Himalayan hill. Still, wherever he went, he did not fail to inflict some more damage and loot some more wealth. Consequently, even during the the return journey campaigning and killing went on on as large a scale as during his onward march, to the disgust of some of his own nobles like Amir Sulaiman Shah, Amir Shah Malik and Amir Shaikh Nuruddin. To their protest Timur gave the usual reply now couched in clearer terms. “My principal object, said he, “in coming to Hindustan had been to accomplish two things. The first was to war with the infidels and to acquire some claim to reward in the life to come. The other was to give a chance to the army of Islam to gain something by plundering the wealth and valuables of the infidels; plunder in war is as lawful as their mother’s milk to the Muslamans.”
(Twilight of the Sultanate by Kishori Saran Lal (Asia Publishing House, 1963, p.35)
compiled by A.L.Rawal, Associate Professor, DCAC, University of Delhi