Timur Invasion of Delhi(1399): Darkest phase of Indian History

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The invasion of Timur which disintegrated the very foundations of the Delhi Sultanate took place around 1399 CE. The central Asian monarch just like his predecessor always wowed to lead an expedition against the country of idol worshippers.

Just like other invasions which were led by the Central Asian hordes Timur also came all the way from Central Asia to plunder the riches of Delhi. However, his plan was not limited to attacking and demolishing the sultanate of Delhi.

Timur wanted to ravage the kingdom of Hindus and wanted to suppress their religion by any means. His invasion and barbarism crossed all limits which left Delhi and its Hindu populace in immense despair.

Sculpture of Timur

Tamerlane in his autobiography stated that he wanted to invade the territory of Hindustan in order to proclaim the title of Ghazi i.e. the destroyer of idols. Furthermore, the fabulous and well-embellished wealth of the Indian subcontinent was also the reason behind his attack.

Early Life of Timur the Tamerlane

Born in the year 1336 at Kech in Transoxiana Timur belonged to the Turkish race of the Barlas clan. Timur belonged to the race of the Mongols.

From the start of his military career it is said that he believed in the concept of world conquest and in order to achieve it he led many expeditions.  

He carved out one of the biggest and strongest empires of his time consisting of Transoxiana, Afghanistan, Persia, Syria etc. He led the foundation of the Timurid Dynasty whose descendants later established the Mughal Empire at Delhi.  His army mainly consisted of Turks who were counted among lethal warlords.

After consolidating his power over central Asia he decided to invade the precious land of Hindus i.e. Hindustan. He was desperate for launching a military expedition against the infidels and made immense preparation to crush them.

Invasion of 1399: The Forgotten Massacre

Pir Muhammad the grandson and governor of Kabul, Kandahar, and Ghazni led an expedition towards India and annexed the northwestern part of the country. The territories of Uch and Multan fell under his control.

After this Timur assumed the charge to penetrate further on the Indian soil and on April 1398 he with his central Asian hordes marched towards India from Samarqand.

Timur and Sultan Mahmud at the Battle of Delhi

The region of Kator (territories between Kashmir and Kabul) became the first region to witness the brunt and tyranny of Timur.

The fort of Kator was demolished and the local Hindu populace was given two choices convert or die. Those who refused were suppressed ruthlessly on the order of Tamerlane.

A mountain of skulls was also erected from the head of the people who were slain under the orders of Timur. From here he marched further deep into the Indian sub-continent and defeated several local chiefs.

Bhatner and their Resistance

Later Timur crossed the Sindhu River in September 1398 and got united with Pir Muhammad. From here the Tamerlane marched towards Bhatner (Bhatnir).

The region of Bhatner was under the rule of Dul Chand a Hindu ruler who is believed to be a gallant fighter and was famous for his audacious spirit throughout the region.

The fort of Bhatner was guarded by a handful of Rajputs which gave a tough battle to Timur. The ruler of the defense i.e. Dul Chand also gave shelter to the rebellious nobles of Pir Muhammad. This further enraged the lame who wanted to punish the mutineers severely.

However, after a stiff resistance, the fort surrendered and the mutineers were made slaves did not even spare the women and children. Due to this act of barbarism, Dul Chand’s son and brother then decided to fight till their last breath.

Timur ordered to slay every single person. It is believed that in a span of one hour around 10,000 Hindus were killed and the invader didn’t even spare women and children. Hindus were enslaved and their houses were set to fire.  

From here Tamerlane marched towards the throne of Delhi via Panipat. Before reaching Delhi Timur also massacred around 2000 Jats and enslaved their families too.

Furthermore, Timur also ordered to separate the Muslim slaves from the Hindus and that the latter should be given the choice to either convert or die.

It is hard to believe that Timur reached as far as Yamuna and the sultan of Delhi didn’t take any measure to stop the invaders’ advance until they crossed Yamuna.

Tughlaqs against Timurids: Fate of Delhi

The central Asian hordes of Tamerlane collided against the army of Sultan Mahmud Tughlaq (Sulatn of the Tughlaq Dynasty) who was aided by Mallu. The battle took place on 12 December 1398 near Jahan Numa Palace.

After the battle, it is believed that there were about 1,00,000 prisoners in the camp of Timur. Later he ordered to execute every single one of them. He proclaimed that every noble who had a Hindu prisoner should be put to death by any means.

No one was spared and the idolaters were massacred in large numbers.

Later another battle was fought between Sultan Mahmud and Timur on December 17, 1398. The sultan was defeated and later fled but the innocent and helpless people of Delhi would now witness the most terrible atrocities.

The general public consisting of innocent men, women, and children was helpless and knew their fate. But instead of surrounding themselves and their families, they decided to fight till the end. Many people (Hindus) offered resistance but the Turks were no match for them. The Timurid army ransacked and plundered every possible section of Delhi.

Timur in his own autobiography mentioned that his troops ravaged the region and every soldier took at least 50 slaves consisting of men, women, and children.

The Turks also looted the ornament, jewels, pearls, silver, and gold coins of the Hindu people, and all three cities of Delhi were ruthlessly sacked. One point that should be noted which was also highlighted by R.C. Majumdar and was that Tamerlane did not do any harm to the Muslim populace.

Later in January 1399, Timur marched towards the region of Shiwalik Hills, Nagarkot, and Jammu where he did the same amount of savagery thing as done to Delhi.

It was in March when the Turks decided to march back to their country. Timur appointed Khizr Khan appointed the governor of Multan, Lahore, and Dipalpur and later became the viceroy of Delhi.


All in all the invasion of Timur brought misery and gave deep scars to the people of Delhi and north India. It can be regarded as the invasion which was most devastating than the invasions of Ghazni, Ghori, and even Babur. People were enslaved and their life became worse than misery.

But with the rise of men like Rana Sanga who smashed the armies of Sultanates like Delhi, Malwa, and Gujarat north India again became the safe adobe for Hindus.  


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