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Timurlane Medieval Sadistic Conqueror Who Shook the World

MG is a military specialist having spent quality time in the Indian Air Force. He is also an alumnus of the Defence Services Staff College.



Recently the film star Saif Ali Khan and his Hindu wife Kareena Kapoor named their son Taimur. This immediately raised the hackles of the nationalists and they pointed out that Taimur or Timur was no doubt a great warrior but he is more known for his bloodbath of the city of Delhi that he occupied in 1398. The people of that period and the writings ( though exaggerated) relate that Taimur wished the blood to flow in Delhi up to the height of a horses legs. In short, it was a massacre of unheard dimension.

This is one aspect of Taimur, but he was a complex man. When we judge Taimur with modern day standards we must understand that the period in which this warrior lived was dominated by the sword and giving quarter to an opponent was not in vogue. Violence was inherent in the system and thus one can say in the defense of Taimur that he was not an exception.

Taimur was born in 1336 in Central Asia. He was a conqueror and built up a gigantic empire but his empire had no lasting effect and just after his demise, it folded up. It was only his descendant Babur who established a dynasty in India that ruled for 300+ years.

The Conqueror

Taimur started his campaigns in 1364. He started by establishing his rule in the area now known as Uzbekistan and ventured into Iran. He was the victor there and in 1380 invaded Russia. He advanced north of Moscow but turned back and captured Herat in Afghanistan in 1383. What is surprising is the length and breadth of his campaigns where he moved a thousand miles in less time than a year laying waste all those who opposed him. This is the classic principle of war, mobility, and offense and Taimur was a master of both.

Taimur turned back to Russia and in 1395 captured Moscow. A look at the map of the world will show the extent of the military maneuvers of this warrior and one cannot find another example in history of a man so mobile as to launch attacks within a year or two against his opponents thousands of miles apart. Considering his force was mostly consisting of horses and he had no means of transport other than this, his campaigns are nothing short of what legends are made up off.


Invasion India

Taimur now turned back from Russia and decided the time had come for him to enter the fertile plains of Hindustan. The political situation in India was fragile at that time as Sultan Firuz Shah Tughlaq had died and many states had broken away from the Delhi Sultanate. Taimur collected an army of 90,000 and it crossed the Indus river and headed towards Delhi in one mighty sweep.

Nobody could withstand the ferocious assault of the Mongol army and in a matter of weeks, Taimur had captured Delhi. Taimur's occupation of Delhi was a sad episode as he razed the city to rouble and looted vast treasures in gold and silver. The warrior also captured 90 elephants and over 200 of the most beautiful Hindu virgins for his harem. But Taimur could only destroy and not build anything and as was his won't left Delhi with his booty.

Taimur now set out westwards and the Christian rulers trembled at his advance. The scope on the canvas of the campaigns of Taimur is unsurpassed in history and no conqueror emerged earlier or later that had his vision of a global conquest.



Taimur left India and by 1404 had conquered Syria and the European nations braced up to face this man. His campaigns were amazing and after he had defeated the Ottoman Empire, the kings of France, Italy, and Spain congratulated him, fearing at the same time an assault by him. Taimur, however, was a maverick soldier and in 1405 he decided to destroy the Ming empire in China. He turned his attention now to China and started his march but he fell ill and died in 1405. Thus died one of the greatest conquerors the world has ever seen and perhaps there won't be another like him again.

Taimur was no doubt a great soldier but he liked to kill and as per some historians he could have killed close to 19 million people. Perhaps the figure is exaggerated but there is no doubt that Taimur took sadistic pleasure in killing for the sake of killing.

Taimur could not establish any permanent form of administration and the result was that his heirs fought over the empire which disintegrated inside 40 years. A sad end to a great military campaign. Many western writers and poets have eulogized Taimur and an example is Edgar Allen Poe's poem " Timberlane". But Timur spoilt his copybook by a penchant for killing and perhaps that is the reason the title " the Great" has eluded him.

Legacy in Uzbekistan

Timur's influence goes far beyond simple military conquest. He is a hero in Uzbekistan and gives a sense of pride to the people of this landlocked state. Timur is responsible for commissioning much of the stunning architecture that we now associate with the great silk road cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. He was also a great patron of the arts and theology, encouraging artists, scientists, and theologians to attend his magnificent court. He also reopened many trade routes and welcomed ambassadors from European powers. This is the obverse side of Timur and historians will have to place Timur on a higher pedestal.


MG Singh emge (author) from Singapore on January 23, 2017:

Thank you, Lawrence, it's always great to interact with you.

Lawrence Hebb from Hamilton, New Zealand on January 20, 2017:


I was watching a YouTube clip recently about Timurlane. Apparently he put a curse on his tomb. It went something like "On the day I awake, I'll unleash such a fury the world has not seen, it will only cease when I return to peace"

The story goes that the day the Soviets opened his tomb (June 1941) was the day Hitler launched operation Barbarossa, the German invasion of Russia. His tomb was resealed (full Islamic burial) the same day the Russians turned the tide on Germany!

Timurlane was a great warrior, and is regarded as one of the greatest ever alongside Alexander.

Great stuff


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