Battles of Tarain: 1191/1192 A.D

The Battles of Tarain, also known as the Battles of Taraori, were  series of two battles fought in 1191 and 1192 A.D between Prithviraj Chauhan III of Ajmer and Ghurid ruler Mu’izz al-Din Muhammad or Mohd. Ghori. The battles were fought near the town of Tarain (Taraori), near Thanesar in present-day Haryana.


Mohd. Ghori:

Mohd. Ghazni established the Ghaznavi empire with capital at Ghazni. After his death, Ghazni was Oghuz Turks. Ghori, defeated the turks and laid foundation of Ghurid empire. After having made his position strong and secure at Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori turned his attention to India.

In 1175, Muhammad Ghori captured Multan and occupied whole of Sind in his subsequent expeditions. He turned south across the desert towards  Anhilwara (modern day Patan, in Gujarat). In 1178, suffered defeat in the Battle of Kayadara (Gujarat), from ruler of Gujarat, Bhimdev Solanki II (ruled 1178–1241). As a result, Ghori retreated back to Multan.

In 1186 he attacked Punjab, and defeated Khusru Malik and added Malik’s empire to his dominions. Ghori returned back to Ghanzi to help his brother, only to return in 1191.


The first Battle of Tarain (1191)

In 1191, Ghori proceeded towards India through the Khyber Pass and  captured a fortress of Bathinda. This brought him on northwestern frontier of Prithvīrāj Chauhān’s kingdom. Realising their grave situation, the Hindu princes of north India formed a confederacy under the command of Prithiviraj Chauhan. Prithviraj’s army, led by his vassal prince Govind Tai marched on to Bhatinda and met his enemy at a place called Tarain (also called Taraori).

Sketch: Prithviraj Chauhan

Ghori was wounded in personal battle with Govind Tai and so Ghori’s army retreated, giving victory to Prthviraj Chauhan. However,  Prithviraj did not pursue Ghori’s army, not wanting to invade hostile territory or misjudging Ghori’s ambition, instead electing to retake the fortress of Bhatinda.

Alternatively it has also been mentioned that, Ghori’s army surrendered and Muhammad was made prisoner. Muhammad of Ghor begged for mercy and Prithviraj pardoned him.

Hence, Prithviraj Chauhan won the First Battle of Tarain, held in 1191.


After the First Battle:

Ghori return to Ghazni, and started preparations to avenge the defeat. When he reached Lahore, he sent his envoy to Prithviraj to demand his submission, but the Chauhan ruler refused to comply.


The Second Battle of Tarain (1192)

In 1192, Ghori challenged Prithviraj  and a battle ensued at the same place (Tarain). Both Ghori and Prithviraj increased their army’s strength. But Ghori changed his tactics as he didnot want to engage t in melee combat with with disciplined Rajput warriors. He divided his huge troop into 5 parts and four units were sent to attack the Rajput flanks and rear. Hoping for Rajput attack, Ghori ordered his fifth unit to fast retreat. As Ghori expected, the Rajput’s charged the fleeing Ghurid unit. The Ghurids then sent a fresh cavalry unit of 12,000 and they managed to throw back the Rajput advance.

Ghori won the second Battle of Tarain.

Regarding, fate of Prthiviraj after second battle, two stories emerge.

  • The first story says that Prthivraj Chauhan was captured in the battle field and executed.

The second story: 

The second story, the more famous one in Rajasthan, is based on poem written by Prithviraj’s court poet Chandbardai. The story says that Mohammad Ghori attacked Prithviraj Chauhan unfairly at night, defeated his armies and captured him. Later Chauhan was taken to Ghor and presented in the court.  Ghori ordered Prithvi to lower his eyes to which Prithvi retorted that the eyelids of Rajputs are lowered only on his death. Feeling insulted, Ghori blinded the rajput price.

Chandbardai entered the court of Mahmud of Ghori in a disguise. Chand Bardai told Ghori that Prithviraj was a very skilled archer, and he could take aim based only on sound, and did not even need to look at his target. Ghori disdained to believe this and asked for the display.

When Prithviraj was given a bow and arrows into his hand and asked to take aim. Sighting opportunity, Chandbardai recited in a poetic stanza the location where Ghori sat. The stanza are:

Char bans, chaubis gaj, angul ashta praman,
Ta upar sultan hai, Chuke mat Chauhan.”

(Four measures ahead of you and twenty four yards away as measured with eight finger measurement, is seated the Sultan. Do not miss him now, Chauhan).

Getting the direction and location Prithviraj shot his arrow through Ghori and killed him.


Consequences of Second Battle of Tarain on India:

The second battle of Tarain was a decisive battle. It was a major disaster for the Rajputs and their political prestige suffered a serious setback. In 1193, Ghori’s general Qutub-Din Aibak, took over Ajmer and soon established Ghurid control in northern and central India. Son of Prithviraj was moved to Ranthambore ( laid foundation of chauhan kingdom there). Further, In 1194, Battle of Chandwar took place, in which Aibak defeated Gahadavala ruler Jayachandra. In conlusion, the Battles of Tarain and Chandawar laid the foundation for establishment of Turkish rule in India.

Bakhtiyar Khilji extended the domain of empire to Bihar destroying Universities of Nalanda & Vikramshila in the process. Later in 1202, his army completed the occupation of Hindustan by taking the province of Bengal.


Causes for the failure of Hindu kingdoms:

The most important cause for the downfall of Hindu Kingdoms was that the lack unity. They were divided by factions and Rajput Kingdoms were engaged in eternal mutual conflicts. It was the result of these conflicts that Jai Chandra did not help, Prithvi Raj chauhan in putting up a united front against invaders.

Secondly, the military methods of Indian Kingdoms were also out of date and inferior to those of Muslims. Indians continued to rely on elephants while the Muslims possessed quick-moving cavalry.  More importantly, Ghori had spent the time carefully planning his campaign and his tactics proved a major winner in war.


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