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Bust of Timur ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ), and Timur standing with cane (Public Domain)

When I rise, the world shall tremble! Tamerlane’s Deadly Drive into India—Part I

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Timur, historically known as Tamerlane (1336 - 1405), was a Turco-Mongol conqueror and the founder of the Timurid Empire in Persia and Central Asia. Timur rose through the ranks by gaining the respect of local chieftains due to his personal valor in combat and his brigandage. His actions, whether raiding or in combat, caused many to flock to him. It was during a battle that arrows struck his right arm and leg which left him partially paralyzed. Because of this, Europeans referred to him as ‘Tamerlane’ or ‘Timur the Lame.’

Timur was born in Transoxania a member of Barlas tribe. He rose to power among the Ulus Chaghatay. The Ulus Chaghatay was nomadic tribal confederation that formed the central region of Mongolian Chaghadaid khanate. Timur's story is similar to Genghis Khan; How true these stories are is up for debate.

Portrait of Timur, 15th century.

Portrait of Timur, 15th century. (Public Domain)

Timur, not being related to Genghis Khan, could not bear the title  Khan. Since he could not use the title, he decided to use politics to his advantage. While in the city of Balkh, (now northern Afghanistan), Timur quickly gained allies from among the merchants, peoples, and clergy due to sharing his loot with the locals, while the ruler, Husayn, who also happened to be Timur’s brother-in-law, was not viewed in with such praise. It may be that Husayn was a fine ruler; it is just that Timur had the capital to profit from his ambition.

The Chagatai Khanate and its neighbors in the late 13th century.

The Chagatai Khanate and its neighbors in the late 13th century. (CC BY 3.0)

Timur challenged and defeated Husayn in 1370 and took his other wife, Saray Mulk Khanum, who was a direct descendent of Genghis Khan. This allowed him to become the indirect imperial ruler of the Chaghatay tribe. To strengthen his position further, he collected a number of princes from the various branches of the Genghisid branches.

Timur also used Islam to legitimize his position by praising and patronizing the Sufi sheikhs and ulama. He built religious monuments to both please the religious faith and at the same time show that he was favored by the supernatural due to his connection to Genghis Khan. Timur understood the power of charisma as well as using the fear of the divine to solidify his position. 

Emir Timur feasts in the gardens of Samarkand.

Emir Timur feasts in the gardens of Samarkand. (Public Domain)

Facing India: Soldiers, Elephants, Destroyers of Men!

By the time Timur had considered invading India 1398, he had already conquered most of the Near East. However, his appetite for conquest had not been quenched. He wanted more, and he desired India.

Timur had focused most of his military career on the west. With the west secured there was no remaining kingdom in that region that could really put a dent into his empire. Therefore, he looked east as he always had a desire to conquer China and bring it back under the fold of the Mongol Empire. However, India was closer; this multi-kingdom subcontinent bordered his empire. The grand prize in all this was the powerful kingdom of the Delhi Sultanate. Timur knew that the Kingdom of Delhi was no pushover, but given that it was weakened due to being in a state of civil war, made Delhi ripe for the sacking.


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Cam Rea is an author and military historian. He has written numerous articles for Ancient Origins, Classical Wisdom Weekly, and has authored several books, including: March of the Scythians: From Sargon II to the Fall of Nineveh


Top Image: Bust of Timur ( CC BY-SA 3.0 ), and Timur standing with cane (Public Domain); Deriv.

By Cam Rea

Cam Rea's picture

Cam Rea

Cam Rea is a Military Historian and currently the Associate Editor/Writer at Strategy & Tactics Press. Mr. Rea has published several books and written numerous articles for Strategy & Tactics Press and Classical Wisdom Weekly. His most current publication is... Read More

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