Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji

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Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji
Died 1206
Occupation Military General

Ikhtiyar ad-Din Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, also known as Malik Ghazi Ikhtiyar 'l-Din Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji or Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji (died 1206) was a Turkic[1] military general of Qutb-ud-din Aybak. The biggest credit in his record is the conquest of Bengal, which marks the beginning of Muslim rule in the region, which turned predominantly Muslim in the subsequent years.[citation needed]

Early life[edit]

Ikhtiyar ad-Din Khilji, a member of the Khilji tribe,[1] a Turkic tribe long settled in what is now southern Afghanistan,[2] was head of the military force that conquered much of eastern India at the end of the 12th Century and at the beginning of the 13th century.[3]


Khilji came from the town of Garmsir in present-day southern Afghanistan. Tradition has it that Khilji's conquest of Bengal at the head of 18 horsemen was foretold.[4] It is reported that he was of common birth,[5] had long arms extending below his knees,[4] a short physical stature, and an unfavorable countenance. He was first appointed as the Dewan-i-Ard at Ghor. Then he approached India in about the year 1193 and tried to enter in the army of Qutb-al-Din, but was refused rank. Then he went further eastward and took a job under Maklik Hizbar al-Din, then in command of a platoon at Badayun in northern India.[5] After a short period he went to Oudh where Malik Husam al-Din, recognized him for his worth.[5] Husam gave him a landed estate in the south-eastern corner of modern Mirzapur district. Khilji soon consolidated his position by recruiting some fiercely Muslim soldiers under his domain and carried out successful raids into neighboring regions.[3]


The end of Buddhist Monks, A.D. 1193

A certain reference in literature suggests that in 1193, the ancient college-city of Nalanda and the university of Vikramshila were sacked by[6] Bakhtiyar Khilji.[7] The Persian historian Minhaj-i-Siraj, in his chronicle the Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, reported that thousands of monks were burned alive and thousands beheaded as Khilji tried his best to uproot Buddhism. The burning of the library continued for several months and "smoke from the burning manuscripts hung for days like a dark pall over the low hills."[8]

Ruins of ancient Nalanda

Khilji's career took a new turn when he subjugated Bihar in 1203.[3] This effort earned him political clout in the court at Delhi. In the same year he took his forces into Bengal. As he came upon the city of Nabadwip, it is said that he advanced so rapidly that only 18 horsemen from his army could keep up. He conquered Nabadwip from the old emperor Lakshman Sen in 1203.[9] Subsequently Khilji went on to capture the capital and the principal city, Gaur,[3] and intruded into much of Bengal.[10][11]

Death and aftermath[edit]

Ikhtiyar Khilji left the town of Devkot in 1206 to attack into Tibet, leaving Ali Mardan Khilji in Ghoraghat Upazila to watch the eastern frontier from his headquarters at Barisal. Khilji forces were ambushed in Assam and Ikhtiyar returned to Devkot with about one hundred surviving soldier. Upon Ikhtiyar Khilji's return to India, while he was lying ill at Devkot, he was assassinated by Ali Mardan.[12]

Loyal troops under Muhammad Shiran Khilji avenged Ikhtiyar's death, imprisoning Ali Mardan. Ghiyas-ud-din Iwaz Khilji became the successor. Ali Mardan escaped and was made Governor of Bengal by Qutb-ud-din Aibak, but was killed in 1210. Ghiyas-ud-din again assumed power and proclaimed his independence.[12]


Al Mahmud, a leading Bangladeshi poet, composed a book of poetry titled Bakhtiyarer Ghora (Horses of Bakhtiyar) in the early 1990s.[13] He depicted Khilji as the praiseworthy figurehead of conquest of Bengal. During Bakhtiyar Khilji's reign, Islam achieved most number of converts in India.[14] Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji had the Khutbah read and coins struck in his own name. Mosques, madrasas, and khanqahs arose in the new abode of Islam through Bakhtiyar's patronage, and his example was imitated by his Amirs.

Buddhist sources hold him responsible for the destruction of Nalanda.[15][16]

Preceded by
Sena dynasty
King Lakshman Sen
Khilji Dynasty of Bengal
Succeeded by
Muhammad Shiran Khilji

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b The Turkic Khilji must not be confused with the Pastun Ghalzi tribe. Minhāju-s Sirāj (1881). Tabaḳāt-i-nāsiri: a general history of the Muhammadan dynastics of Asia, including Hindustān, from A.H. 194 (810 A.D.) to A.H. 658 (1260 A.D.) and the irruption of the infidel Mughals into Islām. Bibliotheca Indica #78 1. Calcutta, India: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal (printed by Gilbert & Rivington). p. 548.  (translated from the Persian by Henry George Raverty)
  2. ^ the Khiljī tribe had long been settled in what is now Afghanistan ... Khalji Dynasty. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. 23 August 2010.
  3. ^ a b c d Sarkar, Jadunath (2003). The History of Bengal (Volume II): Muslim Period. Delhi: B.R. Publishing. ISBN 81-7646-239-X. 
  4. ^ a b (Minhāju-s Sirāj 1881:556–557)
  5. ^ a b c (Minhāju-s Sirāj 1881:549)
  6. ^ "The Buddha and the Sahibs" by William Dalrymple
  7. ^ Scott, David (May 1995). "Buddhism and Islam: Past to Present Encounters and Interfaith Lessons". Numen 42 (2): 141. doi:10.1163/1568527952598657. 
  8. ^ Gertrude Emerson Sen (1964). The Story of Early Indian Civilization. Orient Longmans. 
  9. ^ "District Website of Nadia". Government of West Bengal. Retrieved: 2014-01-11
  10. ^ Sen, Amulyachandra (1954). Rajagriha and Nalanda. Institute of Indology, volume 4. Calcutta: Calcutta Institute of Indology, Indian Publicity Society. p. 52. OCLC 28533779. 
  11. ^ "Far East Kingdoms". 
  12. ^ a b Chandra, Satish (2004), Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526) - Part One, Har-Anand Publications, pp. 41–43 
  13. ^ "Al Mahmud". Truly Bangladesh. Retrieved: 2014-01-22
  14. ^ The preaching of Islam: a history of the propagation of the Muslim faith By Sir Thomas Walker Arnold, pg. 227-228
  15. ^ Shōhei Ichimura, Buddhist Critical Spirituality: Prajñā and Śūnyatā, (Motilal Banarsidass, 2001), 65 n87.
  16. ^ Sen, Gertrude Emerson. The Story of Early Indian Civilization. Orient Longmans. 

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