Taraori, India (1191 AD & 1192 AD)
The two battles at Tarain, fought a year apart, were the decisive engatements that ultimately led to the dominance of Islam in Northern India. The first battle in 1191 was a Hindu victory, but only postponed the inevitable onslaught from the west. The second battle in 1192 was a decisive victory for the Muslim army of Muhammad Ghori. This led to the subsequent conquest of much of north-central India which was consolidated into the Delhi Sultanate in later decades. After the triumph at Tarrain, Islam maintained dominance in this region until the 20th century.
Islam had arrived on the western frontiers of India as far back as the 7th century AD. By the late Middle Ages, the region now known as Pakistan and some of the west Indian states were solid Muslim territories. In the 1190s, Muhammad Ghori, the Sultan of Ghor (now part of Pakistan and Afghanistan) decided to finally continue the Muslim drive into the Indian subcontinent.
In 1191, a large army from Ghor comprised mostly of slave-soldiers invaded north India. In response, the Rajput leader Prithviraj Chauhan raised a massive army from his own and neighboring realms. After the initial clash at Tarain, the outnumbered and outclassed ranks of the Ghor army broke and fled. Muhammad Ghori himself was captured. However, as an act of mercy and with an eye towards peace, the Rajputs released him.
This turned out to be a titanic mistake. Upon returning to Pakistan, Muhammad Ghori raised a fresh, much larger army. Ghori then demanded his enemy’s surrender. Prithviraj refused, and prepared to defend his realm again. According to some sources, Ghori acted as duplicitously as possible, trying to deceive the Rajputs about his intentions and dividing them when they should have been united. When he invaded again in 1192, he was much better prepared, and the Rajputs less so.
The second battle of Tarain was a disaster for the Hindu kingdoms of Rajput. The Muslim army made a surprise attack before dawn, and though the Rajputs put up a stout defense, they were unable to effectively get organized. They were eventually defeated, and Prithviraj taken prisoner. In mockery of the mercy he had received the previous year, Ghori had his enemy tortured and killed. The Rajputs never recovered from this loss, and within a few years most of Northern India was overrun.
The Battlefield of Tarain now consists largely of an open, rocky, hilly area. The sites associated with the battle are not well marked or commemorated, perhaps because it represented an invader’s victory on Indian soil.
The Tarrain battlefield is located just outside of the modern-day city of Taraori, approximately 70 miles north of New Delhi. It is an open site. There is no cost of admission. Web: www.tourism.gov.in (official tourism website of India).