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History, Muslim and Mongol Invaders

Lodi dynasty, Sayyid dynasty, Mahmud of Ghazni, Mongol tribes, Daulatabad

By the 10th century Turkic Muslims began invading India, bringing the Islamic religion to India. The Ghaznavids, a dynasty from eastern Afghanistan, began a series of raids into northwestern India at the end of the 10th century. Mahmud of Ghazni, the most notable ruler of this dynasty, raided as far as present-day Uttar Pradesh state. Mahmud did not attempt to rule Indian territory except for the Punjab area, which he annexed before his death in 1030.

A little more than a century after Mahmudís death, his magnificent capital of Ghazni was destroyed in warfare among rivals within Afghanistan. In 1175 one of the successors to Mahmudís dismembered empire, the Muslim conqueror Muhammad of Ghur, began his conquest of northern India. Within 20 years he had conquered all of north India, including the Bengal region. In 1206 Qutubuddin Aybak, one of Muhammad of Ghurís generals, founded the Delhi Sultanate with its capital at Delhi and began the Slave dynasty. Also in 1206 Genghis Khan united the Mongol tribes and established the Mongol Empire. He then moved rapidly into China and westward, reaching the Indus Valley about 1221. In the following three centuries the Mongols remained the dominant power in northwest India, gradually merging with the Turkic Muslim peoples there.

The Delhi Sultanate engaged in constant warfare during its 300-year reign, subduing intermittent rebellions of the nobles of the Bengal region, repelling incursions of Mongols to the northwest, and conquering and looting Hindu kingdoms as far south as Madurai in Tamil Nadu. Beginning with the Slave dynasty, the sultanate was ruled by a succession of five dynasties before it was finally overthrown by the Mughal emperor Humayun in 1556. During the reign of the short-lived Khalji dynasty (1290-1320), the warrior leader Alauddin financed his successful campaigns to south India with an established system of local revenue. The next dynasty, that of the Tughluqs, weakened when Muhammad Tughluq moved his capital from Delhi to the more centrally located Daulatabad in an effort to assert more permanent rule over his southern lands. He lost control over the Delhi area, and nobles in the south and in Bengal also established their independence. In 1398 the Mongol conqueror Tamerlane invaded India, sacking Delhi and massacring its inhabitants. Tamerlane withdrew from India shortly after the sack of Delhi, leaving the remnants of the empire to Mahmud, who as last of the Tughluqs ruled from 1399 to 1413. Mahmud was succeeded by the Sayyid dynasty (1414-1451), under which the Delhi Sultanate shrank to virtually nothing. The Lodi dynasty (1451-1526), of Afghan origin, later revived the rule of Delhi over much of north India, although it was unable to give its rule a firm military and financial foundation. The rest of India remained under the rule of other kings, some Muslim and some Hindu. The greatest of these polities was the Hindu empire of Vijayanagar, which existed from 1336 to 1565, centered in what is now Karnataka.

Many Indians converted to Islam during this era. One of the areas where a great majority of the population became Muslim was in the Punjab region, which by the end of the Delhi Sultanate had been under the continuous rule of Muslim kings for more than 500 years. Muslims did marry Hindus (the founder of the Khalji dynasty was the offspring of one such marriage), and Hindus did convert to Islam. In general, Muslim kings were far from tolerant, even despising their Hindu subjects, but there is no record of forced mass conversions. The region that is now Bangladesh also became overwhelmingly Muslim during this period. This area had been mainly Buddhist before the Muslims arrived. Even in south India, where the Hindu revival inspired by the works of Shankara and others had its greatest influence, a small minority of people became Muslim.

Article key phrases:

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