BATTLES OF TARAIN 1191 -92 (The Tripartite Contest)BACKGROUND : INDIA - EVOLUTION OF THE POLITICAL LANDSCAPE The Imperial guptas represented the last great long standing centralized empire in India that dominated the subcontinent of the pre-islamic period.Gupta power was however fading by the 6th century and the early half of the 7th century in India was dominated by Harshavardhana's empire in North India and the Chalukya emperor Pulakeshin in South India.By the 8th century,the political landscape had changed again - 3 great powers came to rule the subcontinent.The Gurjara Pratiharas of Western India based in Gujarat and Rajasthan,the Palas of Eastern India based in Bengal and the Rashtrakutas who replaced the Chalukyas as the greatest power of South India ,with their power base in the Deccan. An important event of this time was the first encounter of Indian Kingdoms with the warriors of Islam - in form of the Arab invaders of the Umayyad Caliphate. The muslim arabs having annexed large parts of the byzantine empire and completely overrun the Persian Sassanid empire ,had began intrusions on a small scale by the end of the 7th century into the westernmost reaches of the subcontinent.Between 711-715 AD the arabs conquered Sind.But further attempts to extend their rule to the East of the Indus failed.In 738-39 AD in a series of battles collectively known as the Battle of Rajasthan,the arab forces were decisively routed by an alliance of the ascendant Gurjara Pratiharas and the Chalukyas (whose most powerful feudatories would shortly establish the Rashtrakuta dynasty) supported by the Guhilot and Chauhan Rajput clans(feudatories of pratiharas).Hereafter the arab threat gradually receded and the kingdom of sind had over time become tributaries of the powerful pratiharas. The next 150 years in Indian history is dominated by what is called the 'Tripartite Struggle' between the 3 great empires of India over Harshavardhana's capital -Kannauj,which had replaced Pataliputra as the symbolic seat of imperial power in India( later replaced by Delhi).Each empire had brief periods of supremacy ,though eventually the pratiharas were left in control of Kannauj.The rashtrakutas were the strongest overall,and generally when they appeared in force in the North they had their way over the other two - but they lacked any staying power.After one and a half century of pyrrhic warfare, the Rashtrakutas devastated Kannauj in a final attack to try and break the deadlock.The long struggle ultimately proved to be the bane of all 3 empires - which broke up within a remarkably short time of each other in the early 10th century into smaller kingdoms.This would have security implications for the Western frontier of India where the Pratiharas had for 2 centuries stood as a powerful bulwark against invasion. Rise of the Rajputs - After the Rashtrakutas we do not see major interventions in the North from any Southern empire, and the politics of North and South largely drifted into their own orbits.Political mastery in North India was taken up by the Rajputs,who established their own kingdoms.Rajputs are a loose grouping of 36 patrilineal clans found in the Indian sub-continent who enter historical records from around the 6th century AD ,after the decline of the Gupta empire.It is generally thought that the rise of the decentralized 'Samanta' system in what has been called 'Indian Feudalism' created this group.The later Guptas unable to maintain salaried standing armies due to financial crisis( loss of western trade,White hun invasions) initiated the process of land grants in lieu of salary to their military officials(mostly kshatriya caste),this practice was extended in scope under Harsha and reached its peak during the Tripartite struggle era,by which time coinage had become sparse.Thus a centralized power with a standing army and bureaucracy was replaced first by a network of vassals or feudatories,and as central power collapsed altogether these curved out their own spheres of influence and grew into new powers.Another theory of Rajputs being the result of assimilation of huns into Indian society has not found favour in genetic studies.By 1000 AD with the disintegration of the Pratihara empire,their former feudatories gradually established power bases all over Western and Central India.The most prominent were the Chalukya Solankis in Gujarat,the Chauhans in Ajaymeru(Ajmer),the Tomars in Delhi,Parmars and Chandellas in central India.The Eastern Rajputs established themselves in the gangetic basin under the Gahadvalas(who would come to control Kannauj eventually) and Kalachuris.The Shahi dynasty of the Kabul valley was under Janjua Rajputs.Even as the Rajput kingdoms established their supremacy in North India,wider developments were taking place in Central Asia and the Middle East which would eventually be felt in the subcontinent.The most important of these was the ascendancy of the Turks in the Islamic world. (Rise of the Turks) ASCENDANCY OF TURKISH POWER : The turks (Turushkas in Sanskrit) in medieval history refer to a broad array of nomadic peoples of Central asian origin.The earliest mention is from Chinese sources where the Turks were a part of the Xiongnu (usually equated with the greater Huns)Confederation.After the breakup of the greater Xiongnu ,the turks as a political entity first emerge in the 6th century under the Gokturk Empire -a great confederation of turkic peoples of central asia(map top left).Gokturk Khaganate gradually collapsed by the 7th century owing to civil war and Chinese Tang Dynasty pressure. From the 8th century they came in contact with the Arabs who were probing into central asia and began to convert to Islam.The turkic mastery as horse warriors was not unnoticed by the Arab Caliphates which from the 9th century onwards instituted the Ghulam system.Under this system young turkish boys were bought from central asia by the Sultan and trained for warfare as personal slave-soldiers of the ruler and loyal only to him.This practice spread rapidly and these Mamluks or Ghulams replaced the arabs as the military elite of the islamic world.After the breakup of the Abbasids into smaller emirates/sultanates these troops emerged as the kingmakers and kingbreakers.Thus a strong turkish military elite caste already existed by the turn of the millenium in the islamic world and would gradually usurp political power in many areas as well.The Turks of central asia also broke out into Persia and would between the 11th and 12th centuries under the Seljuk sultans conquered most of the islamic world.They also suceeded in breaking through the Byzantine defensive frontier in Anatolia which had held against the might of the arab caliphates at their peak for 400 years.(after the byzantine debacle at Manzikert 1071).A breakaway emirate of the greater seljuks in anatolia would eventually evolve into the Ottoman empire. (Ghaznavids -greatest extent) Ghaznavids - One of the first Turkic sultanates was founded in Ghazni,where a former mamluk general of the Iranian Samanid empire Alptigin broke away.His son in law Sabuktigin founded the Ghaznavid dynasty and began the initial confrontations with the Shahi dynasty.It was under Mahmud ,his son that the Ghaznavids became a great power - they overran the Shahis after inflicting a series of battlefield defeats and the turks penetrated into the Indian heartland for the first time.Mahmud launched 17 large scale raids (generally targeting the wealthy religious centres which would both amass loot and gain fame for mahmud in the wider islamic world as a 'ghazi')into 'Hindustan' causing widespread death and devastation and carrying off huge amounts of plunder.However there was no bid at permanent conquest,and the rajputs recovered relatively quickly.A legacy of Mahmud's attacks however was that Western Punjab with Multan and Lahore passed under muslim rule .After Mahmud's death, the Ghaznavids declined gradually owing to defeats at the hands of the seljuks. Rajput Responses - The period between 1000-1200 has been termed the 'Age of conflict' as they witnessed constant battles between the rajputs and the turks.Ghaznavi's last attack came in 1025 AD.Between 1025 and the rise of the ghorid power in the 1170s culminating in the twin battles at Tarain in 1191 and 1192, there were numerous engagements between the succesors of Ghazni looking to follow through on his successes and the Rajput Kingdoms.The Parmars under Bhoja in the first half of the 11th century and the Gahadavalas under Govindacharya (2nd half of 11th century) repulsed major ghaznavid attacks.By the 12th century the Chauhans were the rising power in Western India. Ajayraj Chauhan founded Ajay-meru(Ajay's hill) in probably 1113 AD which became the Chauhan capital of Ajmer.His successor Arnoraraja,grandfather of Prithviraj won a major victory over the turks near Ajmer.His son Vigraharaja made an alliance with the Tomar rajputs of Delhi who became their vassals.Chauhan power reached its peak under Prithviraj II (1178-1192) who expanded his kingdom and warred with all his neighbours- particularly the Chandellas and the Solankis.He also had a rivalry with Jaichandra,the Gahadavala ruler of Kannauj and the breach became irrepairable when prithviraj supposedly abducted jaichandra's daughter from her wedding ceremony(of her own will) and married her - a well known romantic folktale.At the time of Muhammad ghori's invasions, North India was thus divided into 3 main power centres - Solanki Chalukyas of Gujarat,the Prithviraj Chauhan of Ajmer and Delhi and the Gahadavalas under Jaichandra at Kannauj.However due to the politics of the day,these 3 powers were mutually antagonistic towards one another. (Prithviraj Chauhan) Ghurids- The region of Ghor in Afghanisthan converted to Islam from buddhism during its conquest under Mahmud.The local rulers wer the Ghurid Dunasty of Tajik ancestry,.Initially vassals of the Ghaznavids they grew in power as the region was a reknowned centre for ironworking and horsebreeding.As Ghaznavid power decreased they gradually asserted themselves, in 1149 they sacked and burned Ghazni and became independent.From 1163 they came to be ruled by the brothers Ghiyath al Din and Muizz -al- din,under whom the empire would reach its zenith.Ghiyath -al Din concentrated on the Western domains campaigning in Central Asia against the Khwarezmian empire ,while Muizz -al din (Mohammad Ghori) after helping his brother secure the West turned his eyes Eastwards. (Muhammad Ghori) Ghurid Invasions (1173 -1191) - Unlike Mahmud,Ghori from the beginning aimed at creating a permanent empire in Hindustan any Westward expansion being blocked by the powerful Khwarezmids.In 1175 he took Multan and Unch from the Ismailis and expanded his control over Sindh.Gujarat now appeared a ripe target for him .In 1178 he offered Prithviraj to provide him passage and divide up the Chalukya Solanki kingdom between themselves.This was rebuffed ,but Prithviraj didn't send any aid to the Solankis either.Undeterred Ghori marched his army on a circuitous route through the Thar desert into the fringes of Chalukya territory.Here the turkish army found itself unexpectedly opposed by the chalukya army led by Queen regent Naikidevi drawn up in battle formation on the valley of Gadarghata.Ghori's army tired and thirsty from the journey and unable to use the mobility of its cavalry in the closed valley properly was forced into a set-piece frontal battle by the rajputs and routed.However the fleeing turks were not pursued by the chalukyas in any serious capacity owing to the rajput customs of the time and thus escaped annihilation. Ghori however didn't give up.He rebuilt his forces and having been repulsed in Gujarat now sought to enter Hindustan via Punjab.In the next decade he methodically took Peshawar ,then Sialkot and in 1187 ended the last remnant of the Ghaznavids by conquering Lahore.This now brought the borders of the Ghurid empire in contact with the Prithviraj's domains.Between 1187-90 there were several small to mid sized turkish incursions,but these were rebuffed by the chauhans.Things came to a head in the winter of 1190 when Ghori took Bhatinda - a important border fortress.This finally galvanized Prithviraj into action ,who amassed a large army and marched towards the Ghurid forces.The 2 armies met on the fields of Tarain(Taraori) in 1191 in the first of two fateful battles fought on this battlefield.