Timur was born in 1336, at a small town called Kesh, 50 miles south of Samarkand. A Chengezi Turk, he was the son of a minor chief who due to hard work and focused aims was able to become the ruler of a vast empire consisting of Transoxiana, a part of Turkistan, Afghanistan, Persia, Syria, Kurdistan and a major part of Asia Minor. The areas he conquered in his lifetime were only second to the conquests of Alexander.
As a young man he received a serious leg wound while stealing sheep, that resulted in a permanent limp. He was nicknamed Timur Leng (the lame), which ultimately became “Tamerlane”. This handicap never hampered his ambitions. His aim was to become a conqueror of the caliber of Chengez Khan.
Timur’s career was a combination of destruction and construction. On one hand he organized his army on the line of Mongols but on the other hand he left his administration in the hands of trained Muslim administrators. He would punish rebellions like Chengez Khan but would show a lot of respect for Muslim men of learning. Before destroying a beautiful piece of architecture, he would order sketches drawn, so that he could build its replica in his capital city of Samarkand.
After destroying the powers of Persia and Russia, Timur decided to invade India. His army initially entered India under the leadership of his grandson, Pir Muhammad Jehangir, in November 1397. This army managed to conquer Uch and Multan. In September of the following year, Timur himself came with a huge army 92,000 cavalrymen. He stormed though the areas that came in his way; Bhatnir, Sarsuti, Kaithal, Samana, Tughluqpur and Panipat. He finally reached Delhi. A weak Tughluq ruler, Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, ruled Delhi at that time. Mahmud ran away after being defeated by Timur.
After conquering Delhi, Timur announced general amnesty. It was only after the murder of a few of the Timur’s soldiers at the hands of the local people, that he ordered a general massacre of locals and the plundering of Delhi. After looting Delhi for several days, Timur decided to go back. On his way back, he captured Jammu and Punjab. He made Khizar Khan his governor of Multan, Lahore and Dipalpur and left the area before the arrival of summer in March 1399. The booty acquired by Timur’s soldiers included rubies, diamonds, garnets, pearls, vessels of gold and silver, silk, brocade and ornaments.
Against advise, he embarked on a grand conquest of China in January 1405. His age caught up with him and he became seriously ill. He was carried back to Samarkand, where he died in February, the same year.
This article was last updated on Sunday, June 01, 2003