First Battle of Tarain (1191AD): The story of Prithviraj Chauhan

2 Dec 2022  Read 1137 Views

Char Bans Chaubi Gaj, ungal asat parman;

Ta upar sultan hai, mat chuke Chauhan.

Since childhood, we have heard & watched many folklores & myths of Prithviraj Chauhan, yet the confusion persists. According to  Indian folklore, the couplet mentioned above was narrated by the poet Chandbardai to Prithviraj Chauhan, tipping him about the exact position where Muhammad Ghori was seated, after which Prithviraj shot Ghori with his arrow. In contrast, on the other hand, historically, it is believed that Ghori was killed by assassins on his way back to Ghazni, after concluding his campaigns in India. He was assassinated on March 15, 1205, but the identity of his assassins remains unknown. Therefore, the story of Prithviraj Chauhan differs. 

All that we know is he was a brave & courageous ruler of Delhi and Ajmer (Chahamana dynasty), also known as Rai Pithora, who fought and defeated Muhammad Ghori in the First battle of Tarain. This article discusses the first battle of tarain fought between Rajputs and a Turkish leader in 1191, the causes and aftermath of the battle, and the complete story. So, let’s get started.

Rise of Ghurid Dynasty- Who were the Ghurids?

  • The Ghurids were patrons of Persian culture, placed in the Ghor province of today’s central Afghanistan, where they initially started as local chiefs and vassals of the Ghaznavid empire (Ghaznavid dynasty that ruled before Ghurid’s). 

  • Ghurids slowly converted to Sunni Islam from Buddhism after the conquering of Ghor province by the Ghaznavid Sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1011 CE (Sultan of Ghaznavid dynasty).

  • Ghori dynasty ultimately overthrew the Ghaznavid Empire when Muhammad of Ghor conquered the last Ghaznavid principality of Lahore in 1186 CE from Khusrau Malik (the last Sultan of the Ghaznavid empire).

  • So, the Ghurid empire took Khorasan in the west and reached northern India.

Who fought the first battle of Tarain?

The first Islamic conquest of India, also known as the Battle of Tarain or Taraori, took place in 1191 and ultimately established Islamic reign in North India. The battle was fought between Prithviraj III- Chauhan Rajput, ruler of Ajmer and Delhi and the Turkish leader Muizz al-Dn Muhammad ibn Sm of Ghr (Muhammad Ghori). 

Background of the Battle of Tarain

  • The decline of the Ghaznavid empire (977–1186 CE) in the 12th century resulted in a power vacuum wherein many tribes fought for control of the empire. 

  • So, the empire that finally emerged and filled this vacuum was the Ghurids, who ruled over the city of Ghazni in Afghanistan by 1149. 

  • The Ghurid empire was led by two brothers, Muhammad Ghori (also called Mu'izz ad- Din) and Ghiyas al-Din, both of them played a significant role in an expansion policy which covered most of modern-day Afghanistan, Iran & Pakistan.

  • First of all, they thought of expanding their empire east into India. And at that time, northern India didn’t have any strong state, but Chalukya dynasty being the most powerful of them in Gujarat, the Solanki dynasty of Jaichandra in Kanauj and the Rajput Chahamanas of Prithviraj Chauhan based out of Ajmer & Delhi. 

  • Muhammad Ghori first decided to send a delegate to Prithviraj Chauhan’s court for a settlement. Still, the conditions stated conversion to Islam and accepting the supremacy of the Ghurids, to which Prithvi Raj Chauhan refused.

Hence, the first battle of Tarain, which one of many battles fought during the Arab and Turkish invasions of India. 

Who was Prithviraj Chauhan of Chahamana Dynasty?

Prithviraj Chauhan, the last Rajput ruler of Delhi, was a warrior king of the Chahamana clan of rulers who ruled the territory of Sapadalaksha, with his capital at Ajmer (in present-day Rajasthan). He held alliance with many other Rajput kings, thus helping him defeat Muhammad Ghori but in the second battle of Tarain, he was defeated by Ghori resulting in the Islamic conquest of India.

Beginning of the first Battle of Tarain

Muhammad Ghuri marched his army to the Chalukya dynasty in north in 1178 because the direct route to Delhi was blocked by the last remnants of the Ghaznavids located in Lahore & Multan. The Ghurid army was defeated by the Chalukya army & suffered heavy casualties. Yet Ghori, didn’t gave up and built his forces which defeated the last remnants of the Ghaznavids when he took Lahore in 1186. After this, the road to Prithvi Raj Chauhan’s kingdom opened up. 

  • Muhammad Ghuri captured the Tabarhindah fort (presently, may be Bathinda) before 1191.

  • According to Sirhindi, it is believed that in 1191, Prithviraj marched against the Ghurid army with infantry, cavalry, and an elephant force & Ghori was about to leave Tabarhindah when he learned about Prithvi Raj coming; he then marched against Prithviraj, and the two armies met at Tarain.

  • Prithviraj was accompanied by numerous rulers, known as "the entire Ranas of Hind." Sirhindi (Indian mystic & theologian) claims that Govind Rai Tomar, the ruler of Delhi, was seated on an elephant at the front. From this, we can predict that he was the commander-in-chief of Prithviraj's army.

  • Govind Rai Tomar is portrayed as Prithviraj's brother in Sirhindi & even Firishta (Persian historian) also believed Prithviraj and Govind Rai as brothers, claiming that the two men marched against the Ghurids in alliance with other Indian rulers.

  • The Ghurid cavalry began the battle & the Chahamana forces counter-attacked from three sides and dominated the battle, leading to the withdrawal of Ghurid army.

  • According to Sirhindi, the Ghurid troops suffered defeat & Ghori charged against Govind Rai.

  • According to Minhaj, Ghori would have died or been captured if a young soldier had not led his horse to safety. 

  • Ghori then left for Ghazni, leaving a regiment at Tabarhindah behind. Prithviraj surrounded the fort and then took it sometime before the second battle of Tarain. He did not pursue the Ghurid army because he did not want to invade the hostile territory.

Causes of the first battle of Tarain

  • The hussle began when Muhammad Ghori marched his troops into India & proceeded towards the fort of Bathinda. This loss of Bathinda forced a response from the Delhi army wherein Prithviraj Chauhan along with his allies led his army into battle against Muhammad Ghori.

  • The battle commenced with an attack by Ghurid archers, who scattered arrows across the Rajput formation.

  • Prithvi Raj Chauhan immediately countered this attack & defeated Ghurids.

  • The Rajput cavalry overpowered Ghurid’s cavalry as Ghurids were unfamiliar with the combat style of Rajputs. 

  • Muhammad Ghori realised that close-quarter fighting (a situation which involves a physical fight with firearms between many combatants at quite short range) benefited the Rajputs 

Aftermath of First Battle of Tarain

Muhammad Ghori returned after learning his enemies’ strengths and weaknesses. So, his raids did not end here. As followed by the second battle of Tarain which deliberates that Prithvi Raj Chauhan's failure to pursue and assassinate his rival had disastrous consequences in Indian history.

About the Author: Kakoli Nath | 137 Post(s)

Kakoli Nath is a legal Content Curator at Finology Legal who pursued BBA.LL.B (5 years integrated course) & she is a patent analyst. She has pursued advanced certification in Forensics Psychology and Criminal Profiling from IFS, Pune.

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