In case of the Subcontinent, the first prominent Turk was Mahmud of Ghazni son of Sabuktagin, a former Mamluk worrier slave. When the Samanid dynasty based in Bukhara began to decline, Sabuktagin seized control of Ghazni in 977. During Mahmud’s reign, his empire stretched from the Oxus to the Indus valley and the Indian Ocean. The Bhamani dynasty of south India were in contact with Mahmud Ghaznavi. Ghaznavi was first one to enter India and breaking the military strength of the Hindus, but did not establish his rule. He invaded India seventeen times; the first invasion took place in 1000 AD. Ghaznavi advanced as far Kanauj and Delhi but annexed only Punjab as Lahore became provincial capital of Ghaznavid governors.

He was a great military commander and was famous for his attack on Somnath in Gujrat. When Ghazanvid rule declined, the rulers of Ghur Shahabuddin began to assert themselves and ultimately conquered Ghazni after overthrowing the rulers. Shahabuddin and his forces were the followers of Ghaur Khan, the leader of Ghur Turks. His first invasion of India was in 1175 and was defeated in the first battle of Tarian, however, in 1192 in the second battle of Tarian he came back and defeated Prithvi Raj. After the battle, he appointed Qutbuddin Aibak, his slave, as the governor of Delhi and Ajmer and founded the first Muslim kingdom in 1193. Ghauri was the one who established Muslim (Turkish) rule in India. Ghauri came back in 1194 and defeated rajput ruler Jaichand of Kanauj near Chandawar and Banaras was captured too.

The slave dynasty (Turks) ruled India from 1206 to 1290 and Qutbuddin Aibak was the first ruler who was bought from Turkistan and sold to Qazi of Nishapur. The author of the Mishat Namah says “No slave bought at a price has ever became a king except among Turks”. A merchant then brought him to Ghazni where he was bought by Ghauri. During Ghauri’s attack on India he accompanied him as one of his generals. He justified his selection and confidence placed in him by extending his territory from Delhi to Bengal. The other famous slave rulers were Iltitmush, Sultana Razia and Balbun.

After slaves, the second Turkish dynasty was Khaljis as they ruled India from 1290 to 1320. The famous among them was Alauddin Khilji who ruled India for 20 years. It was Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji who brought Bihar and Bengal under Khilji (Turkish) control which was not done by Aibak and Ghauri. The Khiljis encouraged conversion to Islam and Muslim missionaries were at their greatest during their tenure. That was the time when a majority of the population of Delhi was Turk.

The Khiljis were replaced by Tughluqs and Ghaisuddin, the hero of forty battles against the Mongols, became the first Tughluk sultan followed by Firuz Tughluq. According to Ibn Battuta, Ghiasuddin Tughluk belonged to the Qarauna tribe of the Turks. Tughluk ruled India for 67 years. Mughals too shared Turkic and Mongolian ancestry. The Mughal empire was founded by Babur who descended from the Turco-Mongol conqueror Timur on his father’s side and claimed descent from Changez Khan through his mother.

Turkish was the first language of Babur and his sons Hamayun and Kamran wrote poetry in Turkish. Bairam Khan, a prominent Mughal noble during Akber’s reign was famous for his Turkish poetry. Babur in his memoir, recounted the story of his exploits in Turkish. He was a noted poet and writer of Turkish. In his book, the “Mongols, a history”, Jeremiah Curtin writes “the term Mongol embraces the Chinese, the Koreans, the Japanese, the Manchus, the original Mughals with their relatives the Tatar or Turkish tribes which hold Central Asia or most of it. According to a paper “From Mongols to Mughals” by Nicholas F Gier, “the term Mughal comes from a mispronunciation of the word Mongol but the Mughals of India were mostly ethnic Turks not Mongolians.”

The Mughals ruled India over 300 years from 1526 to 1857. According to Jeremiah Curtin, five groups of Mongols have made themselves famous in Europe, which also include the Turks or Osmanali. According to Haila Aburrehman Al-Sahli of Princess Nora University of Saudi Arabia. “The Turks governed the vast area of Indian Subcontinent for approximately 800 years”. According to the book, the History of India, Lane Poole writes that “The real Mohammandan conquerors of India were not Arabs but Turks.”

The writer is a retired brigadier and freelance columnist.

The term Mughal comes from a mispronun

ciation of the word Mongol.