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What Was the Religion of Genghiz Khan: Greatest Conqueror of the World

MG is an air warrior and a global traveler who loves to visit and explore new places.

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Ghenghiz Khan

In the 12th century, one man from a remote corner of Central Asia swept across the world. He was Genghis Khan(1158-1227). He is recognized as the man who unified the Mongolian tribes and went on to establish a massive empire that challenged the powerful Jin dynasty in China and captured territory as far west as the Caspian Sea. Many rate him the greatest conqueror of the world.

He was a man who fought incessant wars and was successful all the time. His one failing was that he failed to conquer India and was stopped at the banks of the Indus by the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate Iltitimish. Apart from his failure to conquer India, Genghis Khan led his Mongol army across the known world and devastated the Muslim and Christian states.

The conquests of Genghis Khan are well documented, but not much is known about his religion. The fact that he had "Khan" as a suffix to his name makes many people think he was a Muslim. However the Khan was not a Muslim and though Islam had made an appearance in the 6th century, it was an alien religion in Mongolia from where Genghis Khan hailed.

The Muslim armies under Mohammed had conquered vast areas but never reached Mongolia and China and as such these areas were not aware of the Islamic religion. The Moslems had however conquered the Turks and Central East Asia. Christianity, though having appeared earlier to Islam was also unknown in Central Asia at that time. The question then arises if the Khan was not a Christian or Muslim, then which religion he followed?

what-was-the-religion-of-genghiz-khangreatest-conqueror-of-the-world

Religion of Genghis Khan


The Khan was a Mongol and hailed from the area which is now known as Mongolia. This nation sandwiched between China and Russia was the home of the greatest conqueror of all time. There is a chance that the great Khan was a follower of an earlier form of Hinduism. Historians have discovered that the Mongols during the period the great Khan lived followed a culture of Shamanism as well as Animism. These form a distinct part of Hinduism and come under the subject of Tantra. Tantric concepts are the oldest form of Hinduism and integral to Hindu culture.

Shamanism is a system of religious beliefs often associated with the belief that there is a connection to the spirits, and souls of the dead to the afterlife. It is an ideology centered on the belief in supernatural phenomena such as the world of gods, demons, and ancestral spirits.

Animism is the belief that all plants, rocks, animals, thunder, and storms, and other natural phenomena have spirits and influence human life. The Mongols at that period followed this primitive religion, though they had their own legends. A line of thought is that the word Khan is derived from the name of the greatest Hindu warrior from mythology Karn. In case the name Karn is pronounced slowly than the name Khan becomes a corrupted form of Karn. It must also be remembered that the river Ganges or Ganga is called Changa in Tibet / China and means the “Strong One.”

In all probability, Genghis Khan followed the animist faith. This is similar to the faiths followed by many religious sects and tribes in India. Animist faith is part of tantric faith in the North East of India. It must also be noted that the Muslim faith never took roots in Mongolia and even now lesser than 5% of the population of Mongolia is Muslim

what-was-the-religion-of-genghiz-khangreatest-conqueror-of-the-world

Last Word

The name khan is a misnomer as it construes that the great Mongol leader was a Muslim, which was not the case. In the 13/14th centuries, the religion in vogue in Mongolia was Tengrism which is close to Shamanism and Hindu Tantra. It was only the grandson of Genghis khan who converted to Islam, but his descendants in China like the great Kublai Khan embraced Buddhism and Confucianism.

Genghis Khan was a brutal man and reportedly killed more people than other similar conquerors. But this was the culture of the Mongols, who rarely took prisoners as they were a burden. The Mongol armies moved on horseback and had great mobility. Taking prisoners would have hampered their mobility; hence the Khans took very few prisoners. But records now indicate that the great Khan was tolerant of all religions, yet we hear little about it as his conquests and killing of opponents takes center stage.

Genghis Khan was perhaps not aware of the origin of his religious beliefs. Now we know that ancient Indian kings like Kanishka ruled over great areas in Central Asia ahead of Afghanistan. It is possible that religious beliefs of Buddhism and Hinduism percolated to Mongols like Buddhism going to China from India.

The name khan is now synonymous with Muslim ethos, but Genghis Khan was not a Muslim

Comments

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 06, 2021:

Peggy, nice of you to have commented

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on June 06, 2021:

Your speculation of what religion Genghiz Khan might have followed makes for an interesting read. Also, the reason he shunned taking captives makes sense from his perspective. He certainly makes his mark in history books!

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 06, 2021:

Thank you Rodric, pleasure to read your comments.

Rodric Anthony Johnson from Surprise, Arizona on June 06, 2021:

Thanks for this informative article. I saw a television show that showed the religious tolerance of Genghis khan. I learned nothing about him in primary or secondary school. I had to read on my own about his conquests. He was a footnote at best in my schooling in South Georgia, USA.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 05, 2021:

Thanks, Mike, so nice you commented

Readmikenow on June 05, 2021:

Another fascinating story. I enjoyed reading it.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 05, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, it was all a mess really.

tom on June 04, 2021:

islam was busy fighting indias,attack on tibet via darjeeling failed,baktiar kilji failed,chinese empire blocked muslims in xinjiang,iran fight vs afghans and caliphates,caliphates vs byzantine ,too busy in multiple front wars.europe allid wit iran to beat caliphates ,iran empire independent

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 04, 2021:

Tom, I think you have a point that the Mongols never faced strong armies and they were defeated by the Delhi sultanate ruler. But they could not conquer India but devastated other Islamic areas notably Iran ,Turkey.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on June 04, 2021:

Thanks, Tom, surprisingly Islam never took roots in China and Mongolia.

tom on June 04, 2021:

khwarzem empire destoyed by changez,changez was never defeated,after kublai empire declined temujin unified all mongolian tribes

tom on June 04, 2021:

changez was buddhist or shamanist,khan tribal chief suffix,not muslim ,his son chagtai muslim .chagtai turk,,babur descendant of timur and changez.after changez mongols failed to defeat delhi sultanate,alauddin khilji beat them,mongols reached nera delhi.golden horde mongolian empire in russia deafeated by russians,mongols never faced strong armies,deafeated calphate and iraq became a desert,destoyed iraqi canals.poland to mongolia empire,kublai failed to capture japan due to tsunami,john mans biography chengez khan,1965 movie changez khan omar sharif title role.1956 flop conqueror john wayne as changez

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on February 02, 2016:

Thank you Lawrence. Yes, he was indeed a special character and not many like him in the world, past or present

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on February 01, 2016:

Very inteeesting look at the man.

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 30, 2016:

Thank you Nell for commenting and sparing time for this post

Nell Rose from England on January 29, 2016:

How fascinating! it wasn't something I had thought of but yes he definitely had a religion, and his life was so amazing that he has gone down in history as one of the most proficient of all leaders, nell

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 19, 2016:

Lollyj, great of you to have commented. Glad you liked the hub

MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 19, 2016:

Thank you Manatita for commenting and the interesting info

Laurel Johnson from Washington KS on January 19, 2016:

Fascinating hub. I love historic info like this, and have always been curious about Genghis Khan. Well done.

manatita44 from london on January 18, 2016:

Great man and most certainly he had a Faith, and like you said, probably closer to the Hindus. He knew of them and their beliefs. There is a story where he sent some of his soldiers in search of a Holy man, as he sought advice. The Holy man did not go, but asked that Genghis Khan should come to him.

Great Khan sent back the soldiers with the message to tell this man that he, Genghis, was the King, upon which the Holy man said that he, too, was a King. The great Khan realised that the Holy man was special, visited him and learnt at his feet. Very nice Hub.

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