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Ghurid dynasty

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Ghurid Empire
before 879–1215
Map of the Ghurid dynasty at its greatest extent under Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad[1][2]
Map of the Ghurid dynasty at its greatest extent under Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad[1][2]
Ghazna (1170s–1215)[5]
Common languagesPersian (court, literature)[6][7]
before 1011:
From 1011:
Sunni Islam[9]
GovernmentHereditary monarchy
• 9th-century–10th-century
Amir Suri (first)
• 1214–1215
Ala al-Din Ali (last)
• Established
before 879
• Disestablished
1200 est.[10]2,000,000 km2 (770,000 sq mi)
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Great Seljuq Empire
Chahamanas of Shakambhari
Gahadavala dynasty
Delhi Sultanate
Khwarazmian Empire

The Ghurid dynasty (also spelled Ghorids; Persian: سلسله غوریان; self-designation: شنسبانی, Shansabānī), was a Persianate[11] Muslim dynasty which ruled from the 10th-century to 1215. Of presumably eastern Iranian Tajik origin,[12] the Ghurids were centered in the Ghor of present-day central Afghanistan, where they initially started out as local chiefs. They converted to Sunni Islam from Buddhism[8][9] after the conquest of Ghor by the Ghaznavid sultan Mahmud of Ghazni in 1011. The dynasty ultimately overthrew the Ghaznavid Empire in 1186 when Sultan Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad of Ghor conquered the last Ghaznavid capital of Lahore.

At their zenith, the Ghurid empire encompassed Khorasan in the west and reached northern India as far as Bengal in the east.[12] Their first capital was Firozkoh in Mandesh, Ghor, which was later replaced by Herat[4] and finally Ghazna.[5] The Ghurids were patrons of Persian culture and heritage.[13] Abu Ali ibn Muhammad (r. 1011–1035) was the first Muslim king of the Ghurid dynasty to construct mosques and Islamic schools in Ghor.

The Ghurids were succeeded in Khorasan and Persia by the Khwarazmian dynasty and in northern India by the Mamluk dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.


In the 19th century some European scholars, such as Mountstuart Elphinstone, favoured the idea that the Ghurid dynasty was related to today's Pashtun people[14][15][16] but this is generally rejected by modern scholarship and, as explained by Morgenstierne in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, is for "various reasons very improbable".[17] Some scholars state that the dynasty was of Tajik origin.[18][19][20] Iranica states that "Nor do we know anything about the ethnic stock of the Ḡūrīs in general and the Šansabānīs in particular; we can only assume that they were eastern Iranian Tajiks".[21] Bosworth further points out that the actual name of the Ghurid family, Āl-e Šansab (Persianized: Šansabānī), is the Arabic pronunciation of the originally Middle Persian name Wišnasp.[12]

When the Ghurids started to distinguish themselves during their conquests, courtiers and genealogists (such as Fakhr-i Mudabbir and al-Juzjani) forged a fictive genealogy which connected the Ghurids with the Iranian past. They traced the Ghurid family back to the legendary Arab tyrant Zahhak, mentioned in the medieval Persian epic Shahnameh ("The Book of Kings"), whose family had reportedly settled in Ghur after the Iranian hero Fereydun had ended his thousand-year tyranny.[7][12]

Ghur remained primarily populated by Buddhists till the 11th century. It was then Islamised and gave rise to the Ghurids.[a][8]


The Ghurids' native language was apparently different from their court language, Persian. Abu'l-Fadl Bayhaqi, the famous historian of the Ghaznavid era, wrote on page 117 in his book Tarikh-i Bayhaqi: "Sultan Mas'ud I of Ghazni left for Ghoristan and sent his learned companion with two people from Ghor as interpreters between this person and the people of that region." However, like the Samanids and Ghaznavids, the Ghurids were great patrons of Persian literature, poetry, and culture, and promoted these in their courts as their own. Contemporary book writers refer to them as the "Persianized Ghurids".[22]

There is nothing to confirm the recent surmise that the inhabitants of Ghor were originally Pashto-speaking, and claims of the existence of Pashto poetry (as in Pata Khazana) from the Ghurid period are unsubstantiated.[23][17]


Early history

Jam Minaret
The Minaret of Jam in Ghor Province of Afghanistan, established by the Ghurids and finished in 1174/75 CE. Inscription on the Minaret, showing the name and titles of Sultan Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad (1163–1202 CE).

A certain Ghurid prince named Amir Banji was the ruler of Ghor and ancestor of the medieval Ghurid rulers. His rule was legitimized by the Abbasid caliph Harun al-Rashid. Before the mid-12th century, the Ghurids had been bound to the Ghaznavids and Seljuks for about 150 years. Beginning in the mid-12th century, Ghor expressed its independence from the Ghaznavid Empire. In 1149 the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram-Shah of Ghazna poisoned a local Ghurid leader, Qutb al-Din Muhammad, who had taken refuge in the city of Ghazna after having a quarrel with his brother Sayf al-Din Suri. In revenge, Sayf marched towards Ghazna and defeated Bahram-Shah. However, one year later, Bahram returned and scored a decisive victory against Sayf, who was shortly captured and crucified at Pul-i Yak Taq. Baha al-Din Sam I, another brother of Sayf, set out to avenge the death of his two brothers, but died of natural causes before he could reach Ghazna. Ala al-Din Husayn, one of the youngest of Sayf's brothers and newly crowned Ghurid king, also set out to avenge the death of his two brothers. He managed to defeat Bahram-Shah, and then had Ghazna sacked; the city burned for seven days and seven nights. It earned him the title of Jahānsūz, meaning "the world burner".[24] The Ghaznavids retook the city with Seljuq help, but lost it to Oghuz Turks.[24]

In 1152, Ala al-Din Husayn refused to pay tribute to the Seljuks and instead marched an army from Firozkoh but was defeated and captured at Nab by Sultan Ahmed Sanjar.[25] Ala al-Din Husayn remained a prisoner for two years, until he was released in return for a heavy ransom to the Seljuqs. Meanwhile, a rival of Ala al-Din named Husayn ibn Nasir al-Din Muhammad al-Madini had seized Firozkoh, but was murdered at the right moment when Ala al-Din returned to reclaim his ancestral domain. Ala al-Din spent the rest of his reign expanding the domains of his kingdom; he managed to conquer Garchistan, Tukharistan, and Bamiyan, and later gave Bamiyan and Tukharistan to Fakhr al-Din Masud, starting the Bamiyan branch of the Ghurids. Ala al-Din died in 1161, and was succeeded by his son Sayf al-Din Muhammad, who died two years later in a battle.

The Ghurids at their zenith

Fortress and Ghurid arch of Qala-e-Bost as printed on an Afghan banknote.

Sayf al-Din Muhammad was succeeded by his cousin Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad, who was the son of Baha al-Din Sam I, and proved himself to be a capable king. Right after Ghiyath's ascension, he, with the aid of his loyal brother Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, killed a rival Ghurid chief named Abu'l Abbas. Ghiyath then defeated his uncle Fakhr al-Din Masud who claimed the Ghurid throne and had allied with the Seljuq governor of Herat and Balkh.[26]

In 1173, Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad reconquered the city of Ghazna and assisted his brother Ghiyath in his contest with the Khwarezmid Empire for the lordship of Khorasan. In 1175, Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad captured and annexed the Ghaznavid principality of Punjab in 1186. He was alleged by contemporary historians to have exacted revenge for his great-grandfather Muhammad ibn Suri. After the death of his brother Ghiyath in 1202, he became the successor of his empire and ruled until his assassination in 1206 near Jhelum by Khokhar tribesmen (in modern-day Pakistan).[27]

Decline and fall

A confused struggle then ensued among the remaining Ghūrid leaders, and the Khwarezmians were able to take over the Ghūrids' empire in about 1215. Though the Ghūrids' empire was short-lived, Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad's conquests strengthened the foundations of Muslim rule in India. On his death, and major defeats from Khwarazmian Empire and loss of Ghor and Ghazni the capital was transferred to Delhi recognizing Khwarazmian rule on north and central Afghanistan. Ghorids continued their rule on much of the Indian subcontinent, Sisitan region of Iran and south of Afghanistan.[28]

Cultural influences

The Ghurids were great patrons of Persian culture and literature and lay the basis for a Persianized state in the Indian subcontinent.[12][29] However, most of the literature produced during the Ghurid era has been lost. They also transferred Iranian architecture to India.[30]

Out of the Ghurid state grew the Delhi Sultanate which established the Persian language as the official court language of the region – a status it retained until the late Mughal era in the 19th century.

Titular Name(s) Personal Name Reign
Amir Suri
امیر سوری
9th-century – 10th-century
Muhammad ibn Suri
محمد بن سوری
10th-century – 1011
Abu Ali ibn Muhammad
ابوعلی بن محمد
Abbas ibn Shith
عباس بن شیث
1035 – 1060
Muhammad ibn Abbas
محمد بن عباس
1060 – 1080
Qutb al-din Hasan
قطب‌ الدین حسن
1080 – 1100
Izz al-Din Husayn
عز الدین حسین
Sayf al-Din Suri
سیف‌ الدین سوری
Baha al-Din Sam I
بهاء الدین سام
Sultan al-Muazzam
سلطان المعظم
Ala al-Din Husayn
علاء الدین حسین
Sayf al-Din Muhammad
سیف‌ الدین محمد
Sultan Abul-Fateh
سلطان ابوالفتح
Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad
غیاث‌ الدین محمد
Sultan Shahāb-ud-din Muhammad Ghori
سلطان شهاب‌ الدین محمد غوری
Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad
معز الدین محمد
Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud
غیاث‌ الدین محمود
Baha al-Din Sam III
بهاء الدین سام
Ala al-Din Atsiz
علاء الدین دراست
Ala al-Din Ali
علاء الدین علی
Khwarazmian conquest
  • Blue shaded rows signifies Ghurid vassalage under the Ghaznavids.
  • Yellow shaded rows signifies Ghurid vassalage under the Seljuks.
  • Green shaded row signifies Ghurid vassalage under the Khwarazmian dynasty.

Bamiyan Branch

Titular Name(s) Personal Name Reign
Fakhr al-Din Masud
فخرالدین مسعود
Shams al-Din Muhammad ibn Masud
شمس‌ الدین محمد بن مسعود
Abbas ibn Muhammad
عباس بن محمد
Baha al-Din Sam II
بهاء الدین سام
Jalal al-Din Ali
جلال‌ الدین علی
Khwarazmian conquest

Ghurid family tree

Amir Suri
Muhammad ibn Suri
Abu Ali ibn Muhammad
Shith ibn Muhammad
Abbas ibn Shith
Muhammad ibn Abbas
Qutb al-din Hasan
Izz al-Din Husayn
Sayf al-Din Suri
Shuja al-Din MuhammadQutb al-Din MuhammadBaha al-Din Sam I
Nasir al-Din Muhammad KharnakAla al-Din Husayn
Fakhr al-Din Masud
Ala al-Din Ali
Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad
Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad
Shams al-Din Muhammad
Sayf al-Din Muhammad
Ala al-Din Atsiz
Abbas ibn Muhammad
Baha al-Din Sam II
Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud
Jalal al-Din Ali
Ala al-Din Muhammad
Baha al-Din Sam III

Rulers of Ghurid Dynasty

King Reign
Amir Suri 9th Century
Muhammad ibn Suri 1007 - 1011
Abu Ali ibn Muhammad 1011 - 1035
Abbas ibn Shith 1035 - 1060
Muhammad ibn Abbas 1060 - 1080
Qutb al-din Hasan 1080 - 1100
Izz al-Din Husayn 1100 - 1146
Sayf al-Din Suri 1146 - 1149
Baha al-Din Sam I 1149
Ala al-Din Husayn 1149 - 1161
Sayf al-Din Muhammad 1161 - 1163
Ghiyath al-Din Muhammad 1163 - 1203
Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad 1172 - 1203
1203 - 1206
Ghiyath al-Din Mahmud 1206 - 1212
Baha al-Din Sam III 1212 - 1213
Ala al-Din Atsiz 1213 - 1214
Ala al-Din Ali 1214 - 1215

See also

  • List of battles involving the Ghurid dynasty
  • Minaret of Jam
  • Mandesh
  • Ghor Province
  • Notes

    1. ^ The rise to power of the Ghurids at Ghur, a small isolated area located in the mountain vastness between the Ghaznavid empire and the Seljukids, was an unusual and unexpected development. The area was so remote that till the 11th century, it had remained a pagan enclave surrounded by Muslim principalities. It was converted to Islam in the early part of the 12th century after Mahmud raided it, and left teachers to instruct the Ghurids in the precepts of Islam. Even then it is believed that a variety of Mahayana Buddhism persisted in the area till the end of the century[8]


    1. ^ Bosworth 2001b, pp. 586–590, "Ḡūr was then the nucleus of a vast but transient military empire which at times stretched from Gorgān (q.v.) in the west to northern India in the east".
    2. ^ Schwartzberg, Joseph E. (1978). A Historical atlas of South Asia. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. p. 147, map XIV.3 (g). ISBN 0226742210.
    3. ^ Firoz Koh in Ghur (a region to the west of Ghazni), the Ghurids' summer capital
    4. ^ a b Firuzkuh: the summer capital of the Ghurids, by David Thomas, pg. 18.
    5. ^ a b The Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art & Architecture: Three-volume set, by Jonathan Bloom, Sheila Blair, pg. 108.
    6. ^ The Development of Persian Culture under the Early Ghaznavids, C.E. Bosworth, Iran, Vol. 6, (1968), 35;;"Like the Ghaznavids whom they supplanted, the Ghurids had their court poets, and these wrote in Persian"
    7. ^ a b O'Neal 2015.
    8. ^ a b c d Satish Chandra, Medieval India:From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526), Part 1, (Har-Anand Publications, 2006), 22.
    9. ^ a b The Ghurids, K.A. Nizami, History of Civilizations of Central Asia, Vol.4, Part 1, ed. M.S. Asimov and C.E. Bosworth, (Motilal Banarsidass Publishers, 1999), 178.
    10. ^ Bang, Peter Fibiger; Bayly, C. A.; Scheidel, Walter (2 December 2020). The Oxford World History of Empire: Volume One: The Imperial Experience. Oxford University Press. pp. 92–94. ISBN 978-0-19-977311-4.
    11. ^ Auer 2021, p. 12.
    12. ^ a b c d e Bosworth 2001b, pp. 586–590.
    13. ^ Finbarr Barry Flood, Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter, (Princeton University Press, 2009), 13.
    14. ^ Elphinstone, Mountstuart. The History of India. Vol. 1. J. Murray, 1841. Web. 29 Apr. 2010. Link: "...the prevalent and apparently the correct opinion is, that both they and their subjects were Afghans. " & "In the time of Sultan Mahmud it was held, as has been observed, by a prince whom Ferishta calls Mohammed Soory (or Sur) Afghan." p.598-599
    15. ^ A short history of India: and of the frontier states of Afghanistan, Nipal, and Burma, Wheeler, James Talboys, (LINK): "The next conqueror after Mahmud who made a name in India, was Muhammad Ghori, the Afghan."
    16. ^ Balfour, Edward. The Cyclopædia of India and of Eastern and Southern Asia, Commercial Industrial, and Scientific: Products of the Mineral, Vegetable, and Animal Kingdoms, Useful Arts and Manufactures. 3rd ed. Vol. 2. London: Bernard Quaritch, 1885. Web. 29 Apr. 2010. Link: "IZ-ud-DIN Husain, the founder of the Ghori dynaasty, was a native of Afghansitan. The origin of the house of Ghor has, however, been much discussed, – the prevailing opinion being that both they and their subjects were an Afghan race. " p.392
    17. ^ a b M. Longworth Dames; G. Morgenstierne; R. Ghirshman (1999). "AFGHĀNISTĀN". Encyclopaedia of Islam (CD-ROM Edition v. 1.0 ed.). Leiden, The Netherlands: Koninklijke Brill NV. "... there is no evidence for assuming that the inhabitants of Ghūr were originally Pashto-speaking (cf. Dames, in E I1). If we are to believe the Paṭa Khazāna (see below, iii), the legendary Amīr Karōṝ, grandson of Shansab, (8th century) was a Pashto poet, but this for various reasons is very improbable ..."
    18. ^ Encyclopaedia of Islam, "Ghurids", C.E. Bosworth, Online Edition, 2006: "... The Shansabānīs were, like the rest of the Ghūrīs, of eastern Iranian Tājik stock ..."
    19. ^ Andre Wink, The Making of the Indo-Islamic World, C.700-1800 CE, (Cambridge University Press, 2020), 78.
    20. ^ Cynthia Talbot, The Last Hindu Emperor: Prithviraj Chauhan and the Indian Past, 1200-2000, (Cambridge University Press, 2016), 36.
    21. ^ Encyclopaedia Iranica, "Ghurids", C.E. Bosworth, (LINK): ". . . The Ghurids came from the Šansabānī family. The name of the eponym Šansab/Šanasb probably derives from the Middle Persian name Wišnasp (Justi, Namenbuch, p. 282). . . . The chiefs of Ḡūr only achieve firm historical mention in the early 5th/11th century with the Ghaznavid raids into their land, when Ḡūr was still a pagan enclave. Nor do we know anything about the ethnic stock of the Ḡūrīs in general and the Šansabānīs in particular; we can only assume that they were eastern Iranian Tajiks. . . . The sultans were generous patrons of the Persian literary traditions of Khorasan, and latterly fulfilled a valuable role as transmitters of this heritage to the newly conquered lands of northern India, laying the foundations for the essentially Persian culture which was to prevail in Muslim India until the 19th century. . . ."
    22. ^ Finbarr Barry Flood, Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim" Encounter, (Princeton University Press, 2009), 13.[1]
    23. ^ Encyclopaedia of Islam, "Ghurids", C.E. Bosworth, Online Edition, 2006: "... There is nothing to confirm the recent surmise that the Ghūids were Pashto-speaking [...] the Paṭa Khazāna "Treasury of secrets", claims to include Pashto poetry from the Ghūid period, but the significance of this work has not yet been evaluated ..."
    24. ^ a b Bosworth 2001a, pp. 578–583.
    25. ^ Ghurids, C.E. Bosworth, Encyclopedia of Islam, Vol.2, Ed. Bernard Lewis, C. Pellat and J. Schacht, (E.J.Brill, 1991), 1100.
    26. ^ The Iranian World, C.E. Bosworth, The Cambridge History of Iran, Vol. 5, ed. J. A. Boyle, John Andrew Boyle, (Cambridge University Press, 1968), 163.
    27. ^ Balaji Sadasivan, The Dancing Girl: A History of Early India, (ISEAS Publishing, 2011), 147.
    28. ^ Ira M. Lapidus, A History of Islamic Societies 2nd ed. Cambridge University Press 2002
    29. ^ Persian Literature in the Safavid Period, Z. Safa, The Cambridge history of Iran: The Timurid and Safavid periods, Vol.6, Ed. Peter Jackson and Laurence Lockhart,(Cambridge University Press, 1986), 951;"...Ghurids and Ghurid mamluks, all of whom established centres in India where poets and writers received ample encouragement.".
    30. ^ Encyclopedia Iranica, "Delhi Sultanate", Catherine B. Asher,"Although parts of the Indian subcontinent had experienced the impact of Persian culture since the invasion by the Ghaznavid sultan Maḥmūd in the 10th century, Delhi was little affected before 1192, when the Ghurid general Qoṭb-al-Dīn Aybak defeated Prithvi Raj Chauhan, the last Hindu ruler of the city. By 1193 Aybak had taken Delhi itself and had established Islam as the new state religion; the Friday sermon (ḵoṭba) was read in the name of the Ghurid ruler Moʿezz-al-Dīn Moḥammad...[...].. Persian influence on the architecture of the newly established Ghurid splinter state in Delhi was manifest in the very types of buildings constructed, particularly mausolea."


    • Auer, Blain (2021). In the Mirror of Persian Kings: The Origins of Perso-Islamic Courts and Empires in India. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-1108832311.
    • Bosworth, C. Edmund (2001a). "Ghaznavids". Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, Vol. X, Fasc. 6. New York. pp. 578–583.
    • Bosworth, C. Edmund (2001b). "Ghurids". Encyclopædia Iranica, online edition, Vol. X, Fasc. 6. New York. pp. 586–590.
    • Frye, R.N. (1975). "The Ghaznavids and Ghūrids". In Frye, R.N. (ed.). The Cambridge History of Iran, Volume 5: The Iranian world. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 157–165. ISBN 0-521-20093-8.
    • O'Neal, Michael (2015). "Ghūrids". In Fleet, Kate; Krämer, Gudrun; Matringe, Denis; Nawas, John; Rowson, Everett (eds.). Encyclopaedia of Islam, THREE. Brill Online. ISSN 1873-9830.