Amir Timur and Afghans

It appears from Babur Nama and Malfuzat-i-Timuri that Amir Timur was ninth in descent from Toman Khan, great-great-grandfather of Chingiz Khan [1].The real aim of his Indian expedition was only to plunder and loot the cities and collect its wealth. He never exercised the idea to subjugate permanently the throne of Delhi. During his campaign he also exploited the services of the Afghans and recruited them in his army. For instance, the Lodis and Shiranis swelled his army with large contingents. He spent almost six months amongst the Afghans in tribal areas. In the first phase of his invasion, he started to subdue tribal malaks of the Afghans. In 1398 we read of an expedition led by Pir Muhammad, grandson of Timur Lang, against the Afghans of the Sulaiman Mountains [2]. Some other Afghan malaks of Roh supported his cause. B. Dorn writes:

“When Emir (Amir ) Taimoor, in the year eight hundred and one (Hijra), had resolved, in the world adorning wishdom, on subduing Hindustan, he directed his march towards that quarter; and sending his farman (royal order) to Malik Khyzer Lodi, Malik Bahu-ud deen Jalwani, Malik Yusuf Sarwani and Malik Habib Niazi, to repair him from the Roh district (The Pashtun country), they came with twelve thousands ferocious soldiers, to pay him homage: upon which he presented them with a honorary garment, ….” [3].

Soon after the death of Firuz Shah Tughluq in 1388 AD, the disintegration of the Empire started. Zafar Khan Lodhi and his sons Sarang Khan and Iqbal Khan became very powerful in the Delhi court. Sarang Khan became the Governor of Dipalpur in 1394 AD. Sarang Khan Lodhi occupied Lahore, which increased his prestige. Then, he attacked Khizr Khan in 1395 AD and captured Multan and Uch. Khizr Khan ran away to Central Asia and joined the service of Amir Timur. Amir Timur deputed his grandson Pir Muhammad Jahangir to march on Hindustan in 1397 AD. Amir Timur fowled him in 1398 AD. Pir Muhammad Khan appeared before the Fort of Uch. Malik Ali, the deputy of Sarang Khan, decided to resist. Pir Muhammad besieged Uch and ultimately the fort was captured. Then, Pir Muhammad proceeded towards Multan where Sarang Khan resisted and the siege lasted for six months. The news of the arrival of Amir Timur near Tulamba dismayed the people of Multan. The Multani army was defeated and Sarang Khan was captured. Multan was occupied in 1398 AD. Later Sarang Khan was killed under the order of Amir Timur.

In Meerut, Timur’s soldiers indiscriminately plundered the houses of the common masses. This brutal treatment greatly perturbed the local population, including Hindus and Afghans. They resented this high-handedness and consequently rebelled under the leadership of Ilyas Afghan and Ahmad Thanseri [4]. Equally assisted by the Hindus, the Afghans offered tough resistance to the invading army. Timur besieged the city and a fierce fight took place. At the end, the invading army captured the city in January 1399. This incident increased the already existing gulf between the Afghans and the Mongols [5]. According to Tarikh-i-Khurshid Jahan, the brutal devastation of the Afghan houses and the killing of their men was the first case in terms of conflict between the two peoples. Moreover, on his way back to Samarqand, Timur brought havoc in Kabul by large-scale plundering. For the second time, he faced the Afghan challenge in Kabul. As a result he destroyed their localities indiscriminately and thousands of them were executed [6].

During Timur’s Indian campaign, Malik Bahu-un-din Jalwani and Malik Khizr Lodhi had fallen and after the campaign, Malik Yusuf Sarwani and Malik Habibi Niazi returned to their country. Their contribution in reduction of India was of material importance [7].

On his way, Timur held his court in Lahore and appointed Khizr Khan Governor of Lahore, Dipalpur and Multan. Being a viceroy of Timur, he availed the opportunity and defeated Mallu Iqbal Khan Lodhi (brother of Sarang Khan Lodhi) in 1405 AD. In 1412 Daulat Khan Lodhi won the support of most of the nobles and managed to occupy the Delhi throne. He sent several expeditions to establish the imperial hold over Punjab but in vain. He had defeated Bairam Khan, naib (second in command) of Khizar Khan on 22 December 1406, and then established himself at Samana. But on the approach of Khizar Khan’s army, majority of his soldiers deserted and went to the enemy camp. With the passage of time, his own people, for instance Ikhtiyar Khan also joined the army of Khizar Khan. At last in March 1414, Daulat Khan Lodhi was besieged at Siri by 60,000 strong army of Khizar Khan. The unrelenting process of desertion gravely weakened his position and at the eleventh hour, some of his officers treacherously deserted and went to the side of Khizar Khan. In this way, he was forced by circumstances to surrender. On May 28, Khizar Khan Captured Delhi, imprisoned Daulat Khan Lodhi and founded a new dynasty known as the Sayyed Dynasty of India [8].

The impact of Timur’s invasion of India was tremendous, because it not only shattered the very structure of its administrative machinery but also led to the emergence of a large number of small independent states. Consequently the authority of the Sultan over the frontier areas became extremely weak. Most importantly, the establishment of the Sayed dynasty by Khizar Khan brought about a tricky controversy in the political structure of the Delhi throne in India. From this political development, the Mughal successors of Timur in Kabul and Central Asia perceived the impression that not only the areas of Multan and Lahore, but also the whole of India was their rightful dominions [9]. As far as the Afghans were concerned, the whole of their country including that of Ghakkar came under the control of the Central Asian Empire built by Timur. A large number of the people were dislocated and for the time being, the frontier was wiped out from the contemporary historical narration.


  1. Amir Timur, Tuzk-i-Timuri, English translation H.M. Elliot (Lahore: Sindh Sager Academy,1974), p. 55, 208
  2. Imperial gazetteer of India, (Volume 24), p-430
  3. B. Dorn, History of Afghans, p 40-41
  4. Agha Hussain Hamadani, The Frontier Policy of the Delhi Sultans, p-157
  5. Haig, The Cambridge History, p.-199
  6. Sardar Sher Muhammad Gandapur, Tarikh-i-Khurshid Jahan, Urdu translation by Siraj Ahmad Alvi, (Karachi: Shaikh Shaukat Ali and Sons, 1991), p. 208.
  7. Haroon Rashid, History of Pathans, Volume III, p-322
  8. Joshi, The Afghan Nobility, p. 26.
  9. Ibid., p. 200.
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