How Narasimhadeva of Orissa defeated Turkic Afghan Tughan Khan in 1244 AD
Hindu kings have a track record of following the rules of Dharma in warfare. They avoided fighting with an opponent already engaged in a fight with another. They avoided stabbing from behind or hitting below the navel. They took care of the injured at the end of the day. They considered women, prisoners of war, and farmers as sacred. They never pillaged the land or destroyed standing structures in enemy lands. They were merciful if enemies asked for pardon.
History is full of such examples of Dharma followed by Indian Hindu kings. Prithviraj Chauhan pardoned Mohammad Ghori when he asked for pardon though he attacked him several times. At one instance Prithviraj saw Ghori fleeing from the battlefield but he did not attack the running enemy. Had he killed Ghori, History would have been different. King Prithu badly defeated Bhaktiyar Khilji in 1206 AD, but he allowed the Muslim prisoners of war to settle in his kingdom when they sought pardon. That was how Muslim settlement in Assam started.
But Muslim kings did the opposite of these very rules of Dharma followed by Hindu kings in warfare. They followed the tactics of treachery, deception and cruelty. They plundered kingdoms, pillaged land, killed the weak and innocent, raped women and took them as slaves, stabbed warriors from behind, destroyed standing structures and temples, and what not! Converting the defeated people to Islam was one of their key strategies. Akbar, deemed ‘the GREAT’ ordered the slaughter of around 40,000 unarmed old men, women and children of Chittorgarh after he captured it on 23 February 1568 as per accounts by Abul Fazl and Badauni, Muslim historians. Rajput women started committing Jauhar only to save themselves from disgrace at the hands of Muslim invaders.
Do you know Narasimhadeva I of Orissa followed only a single tactic tagged on by Muslim invaders and defeated the Turkish Muslim Nawab of Bengal? He defeated Tughan Khan in 1244 AD. He did follow the rules of Dharma, but to save his kingdom from being plundered, ransacked, and destroyed by the brutal invaders, he thought it wise to follow it! He was the first king of Orissa to give a strong defence against Muslim invasion during his reign.
Narasimhadeva was one of the greatest rulers of the imperial Ganga family, especially of the Eastern Ganga dynasty, also called Chodaganga dynasty. He was the son of Kasturidevi and Anangabhimadeva III. This dynasty was founded in the 11th century by Anantavarman Chodaganga Deva, whose mother Rajasundari was the daughter of Chola king Virarajendra Chola.
Initially, the territory of this dynasty included the southern part of Kalinga. Later, the empire expanded to include more kingdoms. Narasimhadeva I ascended the Ganga throne in 1238 AD. Under his reign, the Eastern Ganga empire expanded from up to river Bhagirathi Ganga or Hooghly in the north and Gautami Ganga or river Godavari in the south. Narasimhadeva was also called Langula Narasimhadeva because of some of his bodily deformities.
During the reign of Anangabhimadeva III, his father, the Turkic Afghan Nawabs of Bengal made an unsuccessful attempt to occupy Orissa. The might and power of the Delhi Sultanate and the Nawabs of Bengal during the time of Narasimhadeva could not be underrated. The king realized this and he was certain that they would attack his kingdom in the near future. Hence, he strengthened his military power and decided to launch an offensive against the Muslim Nawabs of Bengal and create terror in their minds. This strategy of setting out to invade Muslim territories and defeating them would help check the enemy’s future plans of attacking Orissa.
Malik Izzuddin Tughril-i-Tughan Khan was then the Nawab of Bengal. He established his supremacy, ascending the Bengal throne as Nawab in 1233 AD though he did bow to the supremacy of Razia Sultana.
Narasimhadeva invaded Bengal with a large army in 1243 AD and advanced up to Lakhnor. They seized Katasin fort. The major Muslim army, stationed in Lakhanavati advanced up to Katasin fort, led by Tughan Khan, the Nawab himself on 15th April 1244. The Ganga army retreated without offering a fight and abandoned the fort. They concealed themselves in the thick jungles and bushes surrounding the fort and remained in hiding. It was part of a plan hatched by the Ganga king in line with the war tactics followed by Muslim invaders.
As there was no challenge from the enemy forces and thinking the Ganga army fled, Tughan Khan’s army retired for a midday meal and started relaxing. Suddenly, the Ganga forces sprung up from their hideouts and attacked the relaxing Muslim army. Taken by surprise and unprepared for a battle at that moment, the Muslim army could not offer stiff resistance. Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraz wrote in his book Tabaqat-i- -Naisiri how ‘a section of the Ganga forces made a sortie from the direction of the fort and simultaneously another detachment of two hundred footmen and fifty horse-men stole their way from behind the cane jungle and fell upon the Muslim forces’. This was followed by heavy casualties from Tughan Khan’s army.
Tughan Khan could not continue with the battle. Most of his soldiers were all killed. Defeated, he fled to Lakhanavati, his capital. The Ganga army of Narasimhadeva pursued the Muslim forces far away from Katasin. With this, the Ganga territory expanded up to river Damodar in the north.
In 1245 AD, Narasimhadeva attacked Lakhnor, another principality of the Nawab of Bengal. Fakhor-ul Mulk Karim-ud-din-Laghori was the commandant of the fort. The Ganga army easily defeated the commandant and the Muslim forces and captured the fort. Then they advanced up to Lakhnavati fort, laid seize of it at the base, and threatened the Nawab.
Meanwhile, Tughan Khan, who dreaded the Ganga army, sought help from the Sultan of Delhi. He sent Sharf-ul-Mulk-Al-Ashari and Kazi Jalia-ud-din-Kashani to the Imperial court. Following the orders of the Sultan, Malik Qura-quash Khan, the Nawab of Kara Manikpur and Malik Tamur Khan, the Nawab of Oudh advanced towards Lakhnavati with a huge force to help Tughan Khan. They reached Lakhnavati on 30 April, 1245 AD. By then, sensing the arrival of the huge Muslim army, the Ganga forces vacated their seize on the fort and retreated.
Tughan Khan expected that the two forces together would pursue the Ganga army out of the territories of Bengal, but in vain. Meanwhile, Tamur Khan developed a distrust on Tughan Khan; he laid seize of Lakhnavati and forced Tughan Khan to flee Bengal. Thus, Narasimhadeva’s tactic helped end the supremacy of Tughan Khan and shattered his dreams of him becoming the Sultan of entire Bengal. Besides, the Ganga king snatched back territories in Bengal and Bihar from the Turkic Afghans and established Hindu supremacy.
Narasimhadeva built the famous Konark Temple dedicated to Surya Dev in Orissa. He erected a victory pillar designed as a war chariot. The structure commemorates the victory in the battle against the Muslims.
Primary Ref: NARASIMHA DEVA I (shodhganga.inflibnet.ac.in)
Featured image (representation purpose only) courtesy: Quora.