History of Mongol Soldiers in Afghanistan and India

Afghanistan was a bridge between Mongolia and the Delhi Sultanate in the XIII-XIV centuries.
Keywords: Mongol | Mughal | Afghanistan | Soldiers | Army | History | Delhi Sultanate | Xinjiang | Persian | Mongolian Confederacy | Language | Community | Wars   
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The book- “Research on the Moghols in Afghanistan” by Dr. Umesao Tadao, a Japanese scholar was translated into Mongolian language in 2019 by Dr. P. Naranbayar and edited by Honourable Sh. Choimaa,  an eminent  Mongolian historian. 

However the full history of Mongol soldiers in Afghanistan and India was not known in Umesao Tadao’s time.

I have written a book in Mongolian and English languages – “Ancient ties and contacts between Mongolia and India” in 2020 enshrining  the results of my research during half a century. It was published for the 65th Anniversary of establishment of diplomatic relations between Mongolia and India. 

Afghanistan was a bridge between Mongolia and the Delhi Sultanate in the XIII-XIV centuries. 

Moghol,  Moghul and Moghul Empire  are synonymous with  Mongol and Mongolia as pronounced in Persian language. Some Persian books also refer to Moghulstan or Mongolstan. 

The Moghul Empire was founded by Babur who said that he was son-in–law to Chinggis Khaan (Chagatai khan) and his ancestry is traced to Barlas Aimak of Mongolia who came to Central Asia with Chagatai Khan. 

The Moghul Empire can be seen as an offspring of the Great Mongolian State as Babur claimed. Other branches of the Mongolian Confederacy were the Golden Horde, the Chagatai Ulus, the Kipchak. the Ilkhanid kingdom of Iran and the Yuan empire of China. 

From the XIIth to the XVIII centuries, Chinggis Khan’s descendents ruled  Central Asia and in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of PRC  they remained in power until 1949. Chagatai  was the official language of Chagatai Ulus in which the historical annals of Mongols and Chagatai khan were written. So the people of these countries have the right to claim the heritage of Chagatai khan but not  of Chinggis Khan himself. We, Mongols, should make additional historical references to the Chagatai language together with Mongols, living in Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous, PRC. Chaggatai has the connotation of the equestrian nobility and acrobatic horse riding in Russian is still called ‘jigitovka’. In Turkish ‘Jigit’ means knight.

Regarding Moghols (Mongols) and Hazaras, who settled separately in Afghanistan, the Mongols lived in large numbers in the XIII–XIV centuries in that area which was then part of Khorassan.

During their wars with Mongols in the 1300-1400s the Sultans of Delhi brought back 20000 to 30000 Mongol soldiers as captives to Delhi and made them convert to Islam but there remained large numbers of them on the Indo-Afghan confines. 

Foreigners and foreign scholars who worked in India and Afghanistan noticed that these soldiers spoke the old Mongol language with a western Mongolian accent. 

According to Persian sources, these Mongol soldiers came from the Great Mongolian State, including  its main branches earlier cited, Some of them married local Afghan and Indian women which greatly enlarged the Mongol community in Afghanistan.

The Shi’ite Hazaras in Afghanistan are different then these Mongols though they still retain a bit of the ancient Mongolian language and culture. The Mongols of that region eventually  mixed with Hazaras and local peoples of Afghanistan and India. Only few are still aware that they carry Mongol blood.

There are several Persian sources which state that “The Delhi Prince, Jalal al –Din Masud Shah travelled to the Mongol capital of Karaqorum in 1254 (C.E.) to seek the assistance of Munkh Khan for taking back the Indian throne from his elder brother who had occupied it in 1248. The Prince was in  Karaqorum  along with Qatlugh Khan and Sher Khan (cousin of Ulugh khan Balbani) ”. According to Rashid al-Din Fazlullah “Munkh Khan, the Mongol King  treated Jalal al-Din  Masud Shah with honour and ordered the Mongol Noyon, named Sali Bahadur to help Jalal al-Din  Masud against his enemies. Thereupon, Sali Bahadur accompanied the prince into India. 

The Qara Unas  or Neguderi were a Mongol people that settled down in Afghanistan after migrating through  today’s Turkmenistan. Ogedei khan (Central Asia was given to Ogedei khan by his father Chinggis khan) had earlier dispatched his Mongol Tammachi troops (scouts tasked with  collecting information on the Delhi Sultanate’s economic and military power) to garrison western Afghanistan. In 1238, they were stationed on the Indian border to prepare the assault on Northern india. In 1250s their Sali Noyon became their leader.

All member states of the  Mongolian Confederacy sent non-Chinggisid commanders (Noyons) from within their own leaderships into Afghanistan. Thus Chagatai sent Dayir Ba’atur of Qongqotan, and Batu sent Neguder. Ogedei (from Kharaqorum) and his successors gave command of these two Tammachi tumens (divisions of 10000 soldiers) to Toluid (Ilkhanid) noyons, first Monggetu Sa’ur of the Besud  and then Sali of the the Tatars, camped in Taloqan and Qunduz (northeastern Afghanistan). In 1238, Qara Unas advanced near the Indian border. Munkh Khan ordered Sali Noyon and his troops to join Hulegu’s army in 1253. Neguderis wintered around Ghazna and summered in Ghur and Garchistan now in Afghanistan. So they joined Chagatai’s, Hulegu’s and Batu’s army against India. During the reign of Timur (Tamerlane), the  Qara Unas formed a huge part of  his forces Babur noted that they still spoke Mongolian in the early sixteenth century. The Neguderi  were the original Mongolian settlers  in Afghanistan. They were distinct from the Hazara  who don’t exhibit any Mongolic linguistic peculiarities, except for some stray  words.

The following Khalji dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate fought several wars against Mongol invaders. In 1292 the Delhi Sultan Jalaluddin  Khalji allowed  several thousand captive Mongols to settle down in his Empire. The number of these converted Mongols was 10000 in 1311.

According to chronicler Ziaddin Barani 20000 or 30000 Mongols were massacred by Alauddin  Khalji possibly to put down a rebellion. Delhi still has a Mongolpuri district.

Herbert F. Schurmann has written a book titled “The Mongols of Afghanistan: An ethnography of Mongols and related people of Afghanistan”. 

R. Leech  published a monograph in 1838. It is called “Vocabulary  of the Language of the Moghol Aimak”.

G. J. Ramdshedt, Professor at the University of Helsinki, founder of Mongolian dialectology, in 1903 was the first to bring back a sizeable amount of accurate information on that language.

We should not let the Chagatai language fall into oblivion as it is one of the main sources for Mongol historiography specially connected with Chagatai (Tsagaadai) khan who is sometimes confused with Chinggis Khan. 

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Dr. Prof. O. Nyamdavaa

Dr. Prof. O. Nyamdavaa is Former Ambassador of Mongolia to India

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