Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji

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Ikhtiyar al-Din Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji
Amir al-Muminin of Bengal
The end of Buddhist Monks, A.D. 1193.jpg
Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji and his fellow warrior Subahdar Awlia Khan leading troops in the slaughter of Buddhist monks. Early 20th-century illustration.[1]
Ruler of (Bengal-Bihar)
Reignc. 1203 – 1206
Predecessor(Position stablished)
SuccessorMuhammad Shiran Khalji
BornGarmsir, Helmand, Afghanistan
Diedc. 1206
Devkot , South Dinajpur, West Bengal
Pirpal Dargah, Narayanpur, Gangarampur, West Bengal
Era dates
(12th13th Centuries)
ReligionSunni Islam
OccupationMilitary general

Ikhtiyār al-Dīn Muḥammad Bakhtiyār Khaljī,[2] (Pashto :اختيار الدين محمد بختيار غلزۍ, Persian: اختیارالدین محمد بختیار خلجی, Bengali: ইখতিয়ারউদ্দীন মুহম্মদ বখতিয়ার খলজী) also known as Bakhtiyar Khalji,[3][4] was a Turko-Afghan[5][6] military general of the Ghurid ruler Muhammad of Ghor,[7] who led the Muslim conquests of the eastern Indian regions of Bengal and Bihar and established himself as their ruler.[8][9][10][11] He was the founder of the Khalji dynasty of Bengal, which ruled Bengal for a short period, from 1203 to 1227 CE.

Khalji's invasions of the Indian subcontinent between A.D. 1197 and 1206 led to mass flight and massacres of Buddhist monks, and caused grave damage to the traditional Buddhist institutions of higher learning in Northern India.[12] In Bengal, Khalji's reign was responsible for displacement of Buddhism by Islam.[13][14] His rule is said to have begun the Islamic rule in Bengal, most notably those of Bengal Sultanate and Mughal Bengal.[15]

Bakhtiyar launched an ill-fated Tibet campaign in 1206 and was assassinated upon returning to Bengal by Ali Mardan.[16][17] He was succeeded by Muhammad Shiran Khalji.

Early life[edit]

Bakhtiyar Khalji was born and raised in Garmsir, Helmand, in present-day southern Afghanistan. He was member of the Khalaj tribe,[18][19][20][21] which is of Turkic origin[22] and after being settled in south-eastern Afghanistan for over 200 years, eventually led to the creation of the Ghilji tribe.[23][24][25][26]

Bakhtiyar during his early years went in search of employment to Ghazni and Delhi, although he was rejected there due to his ugly appearance. Afterwards, he move towards Badaun in present-day Uttar Pradesh, where the Ghurid governor Hizabrudin Hasan Adib took Bakhtiyar in his service and thus, he got his first assignment. A slightly different account of 14th century chronicler Abdul Malik Isami states that Bakhtiyar's first employment was in the service of a Rajput ruler Jaitra Singh. The account of Isami is not attested by the earlier authorities and is unlikely to be true considering the hostility between the two in later twelfth century. While, there were instances of Afghan soldiers fighting in the Rajput forces as attested by a later chronicler Ferishta as well, still the account of Isami regarding Bakhtiyar's first assignment is largely unreliable and dubious.[27]

Although, Bakhtiyar did not came from an obscure background. His uncle Muhammad bin Mahmud Khalji was a lieutenant of the Ghurid ruler Muhammad of Ghor and according to chronicler Minhaj-i-Siraj fought valiantly in the Second Battle of Tarain against Chahamana ruler Prithviraja III where the Ghurids secured a decisive victory. Mahmud was later honoured with the iqta of Kashamandi for his gallantry in Tarain. After the death of his uncle, the iqta was passed to Bakhtiyar. However, Bakhtiyar did not stay in Kashamndi for long and approached the commander of Benaras Husamudin Aghul Bek who was impressed with his gallantry and bestowed on him the iqta of Bhagwat and Bhilui. ( present-day Mirzapur district)

In his early career before the expeditions in Bengal and Bihar, Bakhtiyar displaced the minor Gahadavala chiefs in the region of present-day Uttar Pradesh and from there raided Maner and Bihar where he looted a large amount of booty. These successful neighbouring raids increased Bakhtiyar's fame and several Khalji emir joined in his service. At the same time, Muhammad of Ghor's slave Qutb ud-Din Aibak also honoured him.[28]

Conquest of Bengal[edit]

Khalji was head of the Ghurid Empire military force that conquered parts of eastern India at the end of the 12th century and at the beginning of the 13th century.[29]

The ruins of Nalanda.
Bengal coinage of Bakhtiyar Khalji (1204–1206 CE). Struck in the name of Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, dated Samvat 1262 (1204 CE).
Obverse: Horseman with Nagari legend around: samvat 1262 bhadrapada "August, year 1262". Reverse: Nagari legend: srima ha/ mira mahama /da saamah "Lord Emir Mohammed [ibn] Sam".[30][31]
Another type of Bengal coinage of Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji as governor (1204–1206 CE). Obverse: horseman galloping, holding lance with Devanagari legend around (śrimat mahamada samah "Lord Mohammed [ibn] Sam"). Reverse: name and titles of Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad bin Sam in Arabic. Struck AD 1204–1205.[30] This is his earliest coinage in Bengal, using both Sanskrit and Arabic legends.[32]

He subjugated Bihar in 1200.[33] His invasions severely damaged the Buddhist establishments at Odantapuri, Vikramashila, and destroyed Nalanda University.[34][12] Minhaj-i-Siraj's Tabaqat-i Nasiri documents Bakhtiyar Khalji's sack of a Buddhist monastery,[12] which the author equates in his description with a city he calls "Bihar", from the soldiers' use of the word vihara.[35] According to the early 17th-century Buddhist scholar Taranatha, the invaders massacred many monks at Odantapuri, and destroyed Vikramashila.[35]

In 1203, Khalji took his forces into Bengal. With the octogenarian emperor Lakshmana Sena at the helm, Sena dynasty was in a state of decline, and could not provide much resistance. As Khalji came upon the city of Nabadwip, it is said that he advanced so rapidly that only 18 horsemen from his army could keep up.[36] The small horde entered the city unchallenged and took the emperor and his army by shock .[37][38] This caused Lakhsmana Sena to flee with his retainers to east Bengal.[39][40][41] Khalji subsequently went on to capture Gauda (ancient Lakhnauti), the capital and the principal city of Bengal[42] and intruded into much of Bengal.[43]

Muhammad Bakhtiyar's rule was related by Minhaj al-Siraj, as he visited Bengal about 40 years later:[44]

After Muhammad Bakhtiyar possessed himself of that territory he left the city of Nudiah in desolation, and the place which is (now) Lakhnauti he made the seat of government. He brought the different parts of the territory under his sway, and instituted therein, in every part, the reading of the khutbah, and the coining of money; and, through his praiseworthy endeavours, and those of his Amirs, masjids [mosques], colleges, and monasteries (for Dervishes), were founded in those parts.

— Account of the conquest of Bengal, Minhaj al-Siraj.[44]

Death and aftermath[edit]

Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji founded the Khalji dynasty of Bengal.

Ikhtiyar al-Dīn Muḥammad Khalji left the town of Devkot in 1206 to attack Tibet, leaving Ali Mardan Khalji in Ghoraghat Upazila to guard the eastern frontier from his headquarters at Barisal. Bakhtiyar Khalji's forces suffered a disastrous defeat at the hands of Tibetan guerrilla forces at Chumbi Valley, which forced him to retreat to Devkot with only about a hundred surviving soldiers. As he lay ill and exhausted in Devkot, Bakhtiyar Khalji was assassinated by Ali Mardan Khalji.[16][17]

The Khalji noblemen then appointed Muhammad Shiran Khalji as Bakhtiyar's successor. Loyal troops under Shiran Khalji and Subedar Aulia Khan avenged Ikhtiyar's death, imprisoning Ali Mardan Khalji. Eventually Ali Mardan fled to Delhi and provoked the Sultan of Delhi Qutb al-Din Aibak to invade Bengal, who sent an army under Qayemaz Rumi, the governor of Awadh, to dethrone Shiran Khalji . Shiran fled to Dinajpur where he later died.[45] Ghiyas-ud-din Iwaz Khalji assisted the invasion and assumed the governorship of Bengal in 1208. But shortly after, he yielded power to Ali Mardan willingly, when the latter returned from Delhi in 1210. However, the nobles of Bengal conspired against and assassinated Ali Mardan in 1212. Iwaj Khalji assumed power again and proclaimed his independence from the Delhi sultanate.[46]


Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji had the Khutbah read and coins struck in his name. Mosques, madrasas, and khanqahs arose in the new abode of Islam through Bakhtiyar's patronage, and his example was imitated by his subordinates.[47][48] Khalji's conquest began nearly 600 years of Muslim rule over Bengal which ended when British East India company rook complete control of Bengal between 1772 to 1793.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hutchinson's story of the nations, containing the Egyptians, the Chinese, India, the Babylonian nation, the Hittites, the Assyrians, the Phoenicians and the Carthaginians, the Phrygians, the Lydians, and other nations of Asia Minor. London, Hutchinson. 1906. p. 169.
  2. ^ "Ikhtiyār al-Dīn Muḥammad Bakhtiyār Khiljī | Muslim general". Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved 9 September 2018.
  3. ^ Faruqui, Munis D. (2005). "Review of The Bengal Sultanate: Politics, Economy and Coins (AD 1205–1576)". The Sixteenth Century Journal. 36 (1): 246–248. doi:10.2307/20477310. ISSN 0361-0160. JSTOR 20477310. Hussain argues ... was actually named Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji and not the broadly used Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji
  4. ^ Hussain, Syed Ejaz (2003). The Bengal Sultanate: Politics, Economy and Coins (AD 1205–1576). New Delhi: Manohar. p. 27. ISBN 9788173044823.
  5. ^ Know Your State West Bengal. Arihant Experts. 2019. p. 15. Turk-Afghan Rule: Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khilji's invasion to Bengal marked the advent of Turk-Afghan rule in Bengal.
  6. ^ Chandra, Satish (2004). Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526). p. 226. Although the Afghans formed a large group in the army of the Delhi Sultanat, only few Afghan nobles had been accorded important positions. That is why Bakhtiyar Khalji who was part - Afghan had to seek his fortune in Bihar and Bengal.
  7. ^ Turkish History and Culture in India: Identity, Art and Transregional Connections. BRILL. 17 August 2020. p. 237. ISBN 978-90-04-43736-4.
  8. ^ Majumdar, R. C. (1973). History of Mediaeval Bengal. Calcutta: G. Bharadwaj & Co. pp. 1–2. OCLC 1031074. Tradition gives him credit for the conquest of Bengal but as a matter of fact he could not subjugate the greater part of Bengal ... All that Bakhtyār can justly take credit for is that by his conquest of Western and a part of Northern Bengal he laid the foundation of the Muslim State in Bengal. The historians of the 13th century never attributed the conquest of the whole of Bengal to Bakhtyār.
  9. ^ Mehta, Jaswant Lal (1986) [First published 1979]. Advanced Study in the History of Medieval India. Vol. I (2nd ed.). Sterling Publishers. pp. 81–82. ISBN 978-81-207-0617-0. OCLC 883279992. The Turkish arms penetrated into Bihar and Bengal, through the enterprising efforts of Ikhtiyaruddin Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khalji ... he started plundering raids into Bihar and, within four or five years, occupied a large part of it ... Nadia was sacked by the Turks and a few districts of Bengal (Malda, Dinajpur, Murshidabad and Birbhum) were occupied by them ... Bathtiyar Khalji could not retain his hold over Nadia and made Lakhnauti or Gaur as his capital.
  10. ^ Thakur, Amrendra Kumar (1992). India and the Afghans: A study of a neglected region, 1370–1576 A.D. p. 148. ISBN 9788185078687.
  11. ^ Ahmed, Salahuddin (2004). Bangladesh: Past and Present. p. 59. ISBN 9788176484695.
  12. ^ a b c Hartmut Scharfe (2002). Handbook of Oriental Studies. BRILL. p. 150. ISBN 90-04-12556-6. Nalanda, together with the colleges at Vikramasila and Odantapuri, suffered gravely during the conquest of Bihar by the Muslim general Muhammad Bhakhtiyar Khalji between A.D. 1197 and 1206, and many monks were killed or forced to flee.
  13. ^ Arnold, Sir Thomas Walker (1896). The Preaching of Islam: A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith. Archibald Constable and Co. pp. 227–228.
  14. ^ Hindu-Muslim Relations in Bengal, 1905–1947: Study in Cultural Confrontation, Page 11, Nachiketa Publications, 1974, Hossainur Rahman
  15. ^ Eaton, Richard Maxwell (1996). The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204–1760. University of California Press. pp. 28–34. ISBN 9780520205079.
  16. ^ a b Nitish K. Sengupta (1 January 2011). Land of Two Rivers: A History of Bengal from the Mahabharata to Mujib. Penguin Books India. pp. 63–64. ISBN 978-0-14-341678-4.
  17. ^ a b William John Gill; Henry Yule (2010). The River of Golden Sand: The Narrative of a Journey Through China and Eastern Tibet to Burmah. Cambridge University Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-1-108-01953-8.
  18. ^ 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. Vol. 1. Translated by Henry George Raverty. Calcutta, India: Royal Asiatic Society of Bengal (printed by Gilbert & Rivington). p. 548.
  19. ^ the Khiljī tribe had long been settled in what is now Afghanistan ... Khalji Dynasty. Encyclopædia Britannica. 2010. Encyclopædia Britannica. 23 August 2010.
  20. ^ Satish Chandra (2004). Medieval India: From Sultanat to the Mughals-Delhi Sultanat (1206-1526) - Part One. Har-Anand. p. 41. ISBN 978-81-241-1064-5. The Khaljis were a Turkish tribe from southwest Ghur. However, Bakhtiyar was ungainly in appearance...
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  22. ^ Chaurasia, Radhey Shyam (2002). History of medieval India: from 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D. Atlantic Publishers & Distributors. p. 28. ISBN 81-269-0123-3. Retrieved 23 August 2010. The Khiljis were a Turkish tribe but having been long domiciled in Afghanistan, and adopted Afghan habits and customs. They were treated as Afghans in Delhi Court
  23. ^ Pierre Oberling (15 December 2010). "ḴALAJ i. TRIBE". Encyclopaedia Iranica. Retrieved 4 July 2020. Indeed, it seems very likely that [the Khalaj] formed the core of the Pashto-speaking Ghilji tribe, the name [Ghilji] being derived from Khalaj.
  24. ^ Ashirbadi Lal Srivastava (1966). The History of India, 1000 A.D.-1707 A.D. (Second ed.). Shiva Lal Agarwala. p. 98. OCLC 575452554. His ancestors, after having migrated from Turkistan, had lived for over 200 years in the Helmand valley and Lamghan, parts of Afghanistan called Garmasir or the hot region, and had adopted Afghan manners and customs. They were, therefore, wrongly looked upon as Afghans by the Turkish nobles in India as they had intermarried with local Afghans and adopted their customs and manners. They were looked down as non-Turks by Turks.
  25. ^ Abraham Eraly (2015). The Age of Wrath: A History of the Delhi Sultanate. Penguin Books. p. 126. ISBN 978-93-5118-658-8. The prejudice of Turks was however misplaced in this case, for Khaljis were actually ethnic Turks. But they had settled in Afghanistan long before the Turkish rule was established there, and had over the centuries adopted Afghan customs and practices, intermarried with the local people, and were therefore looked down on as non-Turks by pure-bred Turks.
  26. ^ Radhey Shyam Chaurasia (2002). History of medieval India: from 1000 A.D. to 1707 A.D. Atlantic. p. 28. ISBN 81-269-0123-3. The Khaljis were a Turkish tribe but having been long domiciled in Afghanistan, had adopted some Afghan habits and customs. They were treated as Afghans in Delhi Court. They were regarded as barbarians. The Turkish nobles had opposed the ascent of Jalal-ud-din to the throne of Delhi
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  42. ^ Sarkar, Jadunath, ed. (1973) [First published 1948]. The History of Bengal. Vol. II. Patna: Academica Asiatica. p. 8. OCLC 924890. Bakhtyār fairly completed his conquest of the Varendra tract with the ... city of Gaur before the year 599 A.H.
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  45. ^ Khilji Malik
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External links[edit]

Preceded by Khalji dynasty of Bengal
Succeeded by