First Battle of Tarain

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First Battle of Tarain
Result Chahamana victory, Ghurid invasion of India repulsed.
Prithviraj retakes the fortress of Tabarhindah fort (possibly present-day Bhatinda)
Ghurid Empire Chahamanas of Shakambhari
Commanders and leaders
Mu'izz al-Din (WIA) Prithviraj Chauhan
unknown[1] unknown, reportedly outnumbered Mu'izz al-Din's army[1]

The First Battle of Tarain was fought in 1191 between the Ghurids against the Chahamanas and their allies, near Tarain (modern Taraori in Haryana, India). The Chahamana king Prithiviraj Chauhan defeated the Ghurid king Mu'izz al-Din, who avenged this defeat at the Second Battle of Tarain a year later.


The contemporary sources for the battle include Tajul-Ma'asir of Hasan Nizami (on the Ghurid side) and Jayanaka's Prithviraja Vijaya (on the Chahamana side).[2]

Later sources for the battle include the following Persian-language chronicles:[3]

These chroniclers call Prithviraj by various names including "Rae Kolah Pithorā" (Minhaj), "Pithor Rai" (Sirhindi), and "Pithow Ray" (Firishta). They call Prithviraj's commander-in-chief Govind Rai as "Gobind Rae" (Minhaj); "Gobind Rai" (Sirhindi); Khand, Khanda, or Khandi (Nizam al-Din and Bada'uni); and Chawund Ray (Firishta).[3]

The later sources written in Indic languages include Hammira Mahakavya and Prithviraj Raso.[4]


Mu'izz ad-Din captured Multan in 1175, and in 1178, unsuccessfully invaded the Chaulukya kingdom in present-day Gujarat and northern Rajasthan. Subsequently, the Ghurids defeated the Ghaznavids, and conquered Lahore in 1186.[5]

Mu'izz ad-Din sent his envoy - the Chief Judge Qiwam-ul Mulk Ruknud Din Hamza - to the court of Prithviraj, to persuade the Indian king to come to a peaceful agreement.[6] Tajul-Ma'asir, a chronicle by the Muslim writer Hasan Nizami, describes the envoy as a "prominent dignitary", who conveyed Mu'izz ad-Din's message to Prithviraj "in a refined and graceful manner", using "elegant language". The Chahamana-sponsored text Prithviraja Vijaya, which describes Mu'izz ad-Din as an "evil" beef-eating "demon", portrays the envoy as an extremely ugly person whose "ghastly white" complexion made him appear to be suffering from a skin disease, and whose speech was like "the cry of wild birds".[7]

Prithviraj refused to agree to the Ghurid envoy's terms, which according to Hasan Nizami, included converting to Islam and accepting the Ghurid suzerainty.[7] Mu'izz ad-Din then decided to invade the Chahamana kingdom.[6]

The Ghurid campaign that led to the first battle of Tarain may have started in 1190, but the actual battle was most probably fought in the winter of 1191 CE.[8]

The battle[edit]

Sometime before 1191, Mu'izz ad-Din's army captured the Tabarhindah fort (probably present-day Bathinda), which was presumably under Chahamana control.[9] According to Sirhindi, sometime in 1191 (Hijri year 587), Prithviraj marched against the Ghurid army with infantry, cavalry, and an elephant force.[10] Mu'izz ad-Din was about to leave Tabarhindah, when he received the news of Prithviraj's approach; he then marched against Prithviraj, and the two armies met at Tarain.[3]

Prithviraj was accompanied by a number of feudatory rulers, whom Minhaj describes as "the whole of the Ranas of Hind". These rulers included Govind Rai, the ruler of Delhi. Sirhindi states that Govind Rai, seated on an elephant, was at the frontline, suggesting that he was the commander-in-chief of Prithviraj's army.[10] Sirhindi and later chroniclers, such as Nizam al-Din and Bada'uni, describe Govind Rai as a brother of Prithviraj.[10] Firishta also describes Prithviraj and Govind Rai as brothers, stating that the two men marched against the Ghurids in alliance with other Indian rulers. Firishta portrays Govind Rai as someone who was almost equally powerful as Prithviraj, presumably because Govind Rai was the ruler of Delhi, which had become politically important by Firishta's time.[11]

The Ghurid cavalry initiated the battle by launching arrows at the enemy center. The Chahamana forces counter-attacked from three sides and dominated the battle, pressuring the Ghurid army into a withdrawal.[12]

According to Sirhindi, the Ghurid troops suffered reverses despite having fought bravely: when Mu'izz ad-Din saw this, he charged against Govind Rai.[10] Minhaj states that Mu'izz ad-Din, who was riding a horse, attacked Govind Rai with a lance, hitting his mouth and breaking two of his teeth. Govind Rai retaliated with a javelin, severely wounding Mu'izz ad-Din's upper arm.[13] According to Minhaj, Mu'izz ad-Din would have died or been captured, had a young soldier not led his horse to safety. After his departure from the battlefield, the Ghurid troops were disheartened and defeated.[9]

The Sultan turned his charger's head round and receded, and from the agony of the wound he was unable to continue on horseback any longer. Defeat befell the army of Islām so that it was irretrievably routed.

Minhaj in Tabaqat-i Nasiri[13]

Mu'izz ad-Din left for Ghazni, leaving behind a garrison at Tabarhindah. Prithviraj besieged the fort, and captured it sometime before the second battle of Tarain.[9] He did not pursue the Ghurid army either not wanting to invade hostile territory or misjudging Mu'izz ad-Din's ambition.[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Paul K. Davis, 100 Decisive Battles: From Ancient Times to the Present, (Oxford University Press, 1999), 133.
  2. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, pp. 29-30.
  3. ^ a b c Cynthia Talbot 2015, pp. 86-87.
  4. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 88.
  5. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 36.
  6. ^ a b Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 29.
  7. ^ a b Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 30.
  8. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 44.
  9. ^ a b c Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 47.
  10. ^ a b c d Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 87.
  11. ^ Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 87-88.
  12. ^ Spencer C. Tucker 2009, p. 263.
  13. ^ a b Cynthia Talbot 2015, p. 86.
  14. ^ Satish Chandra 2006, p. 25.


  • Cynthia Talbot (2015). The Last Hindu Emperor: Prithviraj Cauhan and the Indian Past, 1200–2000. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107118560.
  • Dasharatha Sharma (1959). Early Chauhān Dynasties. S. Chand / Motilal Banarsidass. ISBN 9780842606189.
  • Satish Chandra (2006). Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526). Har-Anand. ISBN 978-81-241-1064-5.
  • Spencer C. Tucker (2009). A Global Chronology of Conflict: From the Ancient World to the Modern Middle East. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-1-85109-672-5.