First battle of Taraori or Tarain, 1191

The first battle of Taraori (or Tarain) of 1191 was a rare defeat suffered by Muhammad of Ghur during the series of campaigns in Northern India that laid the foundations of the Delhi Sultanate.

Muhammad of Ghur was the younger brother of Ghiyas ud-din, the Emperor of Ghur from 1162 to 1202. During most of his brother's reign Muhammad was his viceroy in Ghazni, once the capital of the Ghaznevid dynasty.

Muhammad's campaigns in India began in 1175, but for the next decade he concentrated on eliminating the Ghaznevid presence in the Punjab. By the late 1180s this had been achieved, and Muhammad was free to turn his attention to the Hindu kingdoms of Northern India.

During the winter of 1190-91 Muhammad captured the fortress of Bhatinda, then part of the kingdom of Prithviraja Chauhana III of Delhi (possibly after being encouraged to invade by Jaichandra of Kanauj). Prithviraja responded to the threat by raising a massive army which greatly outnumbered Muhammad's force.

Muhammad must have advanced some way east from Bhatinda, for the two armies met at Taraori, near Karnal. Prithviraja was able to take advantage of his superior numbers, driving both wings of Muhammad's army off the battlefield. Muhammad's centre still held, and he attempted to save the day by leading a charge against the Hindu centre.

This brought him face-to-face with Prithviraja's brother Govind Rai. Muhammad smashed Govind Rai's teeth with his lance, before Govind Rai inflicted a serious arm injury with his javelin. Muhammad was soon weak from loss of blood and came close to being captured, but was rescued by a Khalj Turk, who managed to get him to safety.

The remains of Muhammad's army managed to escape back across the Indus, and then retreated back to Ghazni. A garrison was left in Bhatinda, which held out for thirteen months, while Muhammad prepared for his return. In the following year he returned to India, and inflicted a crushing defeat on Prithviraja, once again at Taraori.

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (22 February 2010), 22 February 2010, http://www.historyofwar.org/articles/battles_taraori_1191.html

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