Muhammad of Ghor is being chased by the army of Prithviraj Chauhan.
The lightning charge of the Rajputs took the Ghurids completely off guard during their first encounter on the fields of Tarain, and it was only because of their superior mobility that the Ghurids were able to escape almost unscathed from the battlefield.
The defeated Sultan was forced to abandon the fort of Bathinda and its defenders to their fate and retreated to his realm to lick his wounds.
But, he would soon return…
Immediately after their victory over the Ghurids, the Rajputs besieged Bhatinda.
But, lacking proper siege equipment they were forced to adopt an attritional approach and attempted to starve out the defenders.
Prithviraj did not assume direct command of the siege, but left one of his generals in charge and returned to Ajmer.
Back in his domains, Muhammad of Ghor was outraged at his failure.
He took an oath to refrain from all luxury and set himself to avenge his defeat.
He publicly disgraced all of his generals and captains who showed cowardice at Tarain, and single-mindedly began to rebuild and reorganize his army in the ensuing months, raising a new force of Tajiks, Afghans, and Turks, and putting an even greater emphasis on firepower, mobility, training, and discipline.
Meanwhile, Prithviraj was elated with his victory over the Turkic nomadic army and complacently assumed that his forces had definitively demonstrated their superiority.
While the Indian King was, reportedly, spending his time in marital bliss, the only measures that he took to prepare for the impending clash were to secure several alliances with neighboring Kingdoms, so that he could be able to field an even greater army.
The Rajput ruler, from his residence at Ajmer, dispatched two of his prominent generals to other operational theaters and took no further significant measures.
For example, he did not set up early warning systems near his borders, nor did he strengthen his frontier defenses.
Instead, a large portion of the Rajput army was left outside the walls of Bathinda which they continuously besieged for over 12 months, eventually capturing it when the garrison’s food and water supplies ran out.
Αll the while, Muhammad of Ghor had been fervently preparing to re-invade northern India, and his dedication eventually paid off.
Around the summer of 1192 BC, the Sultan was ready to march out with a force of some 52,000 cavalry, which was nearly half of the entire army of the Ghurid Empire.
The remaining troops were left behind in the heartland to guard the realm against possible incursions from the neighboring powers.
When Muhammad reached the city of Peshawar, he had the wisdom of pardoning his recently dismissed captains and summoned them to join his campaign.
The fast-moving mounted army descended upon the unsuspecting garrison of Bathinda, and they were able to re-capture the fort only a few weeks after it had been occupied by Indians troops.
Thus, the whole progress of Prithiviraj’s army had been reversed within a few days, and the strategic situation looked eerily similar to that of the previous year.
From his base at Bathinda, Muhammad now sent a letter to Prithviraj demanding his submission and requiring to accept his sovereignty.
Predictably, these demands were refused.
Alerted by the imminent danger, Prithviraj again began to mobilize his troops and prepared to meet the invader.
But despite his newly formed alliances, the number of men that he was able to concentrate on was below his expectations because earlier in the year he had sent a few of his prominent generals to campaign elsewhere.
The sources attest a presumably exaggerated number of men for the Indian army of about 300.000, accompanied by the even more improbable number of 3000 war elephants.
In reality, the size of the Indian force was around 100,000 men and 300 elephants.
In late 1192, Muhammad of Ghor and Prithviraj Chauhan marched against each other, following almost the same route of the previous year’s campaign.
They met at the same spot, in the fields of Tarain.
On the eve of battle, the confident Rajput leader sent a letter to the Ghurid Sultan that read: “You know the bravery of our soldiers, and you can count our great superiority in numbers.
Even if you are tired of life, pity your men who might still think of a pleasant thing to continue living…
We will allow you to retreat safely, but if you are hell-bent on seeking your evil fate, we are sworn by our gods to advance upon you with our rank breaking elephants, our trampling horses, and our bloodthirsty soldiers, and destroy the army that you are leading into ruin…”
Muhammad of Ghor was not intimidated by this rhetoric.
But on the other hand, he was a commander fairly familiar with the concept of war as being a form of deception.
Subsequently, the Sultan decided to play a cunning trick on Prithviraj and pretended to be daunted by his display of force.
He seemingly agreed to a peace offer and sent a reply informing the Rajputs that he would withdraw as long as he would be allowed to retain Bathinda and Multan, but first, he would need to acquire the consent of his elder brother who was the co-ruler of his realm.
All the while, he continued his preparations and reconnoitered the Rajput positions to assess the enemy state.
The ruse was successful, and Muhammad’s pacifying tone lulled Prithviraj into a false sense of security.
During the following night, the Ghurid army left their camp in secret, and before dawn, they had taken up positions near Prithviraj’s camp.
Just before the crack of dawn, while the Rajputs were being totally oblivious to the events that were unfolding around them, the Turkic cavalry attacked!
Unaccustomed to such kind of warfare due to their military ethos that forbade night attacks, the Rajputs had few to no sentries posted that could warn the rest of the army.
They were literally caught in their sleep.
The Ghurid cavalry wreaked havoc and inflicted heavy casualties on the Rajputs who were still trying to recover from their initial shock.
Soon, the Rajput heavy cavalry countercharged and was able to repulse the Turkic horsemen, but not before the Turks have managed to neutralize a great number of war elephants.
The Rajputs spent some time to redress their ranks and recover from the chaos of this first engagement and soon followed after the Ghurid army which was already deployed on the plains nearby, in battle formation.
Muhammad of Ghor had arrayed his army in a specifically designed way that maximized the mobility and swiftness of his cavalry.
He divided up his horsemen into 5 divisions.
Four of these were made up of about 10.000 light cavalries each.
Behind his mainline was the Ghurid final reserve that was made up of about 12.000 elite and heavily armed Ghulam lancers.
On the other side of the field, the large Rajput army arrayed in its traditional linear formation, with elephants positioned in front of the mainline.
Even though Prithviraj had a numerical advantage of almost 2 to 1, his army was far from cohesive, being a conglomeration of a hundred different chiefs subordinate to the Indian leader.
Once again, the battle was initiated by Muhammad who sent two of his divisions to attack the Rajput left flank.
The retrained Turkic horse archers advanced toward the Indian flank and, once in range, they unleashed a devastating volley of arrows with their lethal composite bows.
The Indian left flank responded by chasing after their assailants, but as they were closing in, the light horse archers broke the attack and retreated-all the while firing their arrows by turning their bodies 180 degrees, a maneuver that closely resembled the famous “Parthian shot”.
Ghurid implementation of these novel tactics meant that the Rajputs were unable to repeat the deeds of the previous year.
Wary of overextending their lines, Prithviraj’s men soon abandoned the chase, being incapable of catching up with the agile Turkic cavalry.
Muhammad now ordered his other two divisions to attack the Indian right flank in the same way.
The same sequence of events followed, with the Ghurids unleashing their volleys and the Rajputs attempting to engage in close combat.
But, try as hard as they might, the Indians were unable to pin down the fast-moving horsemen.
The fighting dragged on over the course of the entire day, with the Rajputs growing increasingly frustrated due to their mounting casualties, and their incapability of inflicting any sort of damage to their enemy.
On the other side, Muhammad was also growing a bit wary because, even though his army had caused heavy attrition to the Rajput ranks, they were actually running out of arrows…
Late in the day, and after hours of fighting, the demoralized and less reliable forces of the Indian army began to individually desert the battlefield.
When Muhammad observed this, he ordered all four of his horse archer divisions to abandon their skirmishing tactics and engage both wings of the enemy to pin them down.
Soon both armies were locked in a lethal close quarter’s combat, with Prithviraj’s men being especially enthusiastic as they could finally get at their tormentors.
As the desperate fighting continued, Prithviraj drew some troops away from his center to reinforce his heavily pressed flanks.
This was the moment that Muhammad had been waiting for.
He ordered his final reserve, the elite 12.000 heavily armored Ghulam lancers to attack the enemy’s weakened center.
They soon smashed into the Rajput ranks, with great momentum.
Slashing about with their swords, they simply mowed down everyone in their path.
Not long after, the Ghulams punctured through the thinly stretched enemy center and swung around attacking the heavily engaged Rajput wings from their flanks and rear.
Prithviraj’s battered troops disintegrated in front of the Ghurid onslaught.
Others fled for their lives, while those who were dedicated to the Rajput code of military conduct, stood their ground and fought to the death.
It wasn’t long before Prithviraj himself was captured and summarily executed.
The number of men lost during this fateful day isn’t known, but it is obvious that most of the Ghurid casualties were inflicted during the close-quarters fighting stage of the battle.
The Rajputs on the other hand were utterly devastated.
Most of the army was either captured or killed.
After his victory at the second battle of Tarain, Muhammad of Ghor captured Prithviraj’s entire domain with relative ease.
Shortly afterward came the turn of the Gahadavalas who stood in the way of the triumphant Ghurids.
They also shared the same fate as Prithviraj’s kingdom, after they were defeated in battle in 1194.
The rampaging Ghurid Sultan was eventually able to overrun the entire Gangetic plain in less than a decade, reaching as far as Bengal.
The second battle of Tarain was a decisive one because even though the Ghurid Empire was short-lived, its victory over the northern Rajput kingdoms established a permanent Muslim presence and influence in the Indian subcontinent.
And, as a consequence of this conquest, an Islamic dynasty would rule from Delhi for almost a century.