collection of hauma hamiddha's scattered posts

Posts tagged ‘mongol’

Muhammad Tuglaq’s invasion of China

“1337 A.D.

Mahomed Toghlaq had heard about the great wealth of China and decided
to possess that for himself, so says Ferishta. The saner of his
courtiers warned him against doing so. They told him that such a
daunting task was beyond his capability. Mahomed Toghlaq instead
decided to listen to sycophants. He put together a great force that
comprised of 1,00,000 horses and made his nephew, Khoosrow Mullik its
commander. He ordered that forts and camps be built all the way
across the Himalayas. That task accomplished, the army made its foray
into China. The Chinese awaited them in strength. They were far
numerous, better equipped, familiar with the mountain terrain and
physically superior. Mahomed’s army was attacked with a fury they had
not even imagined before – and routed. As they made a retreat, the
Chinese, who had the advantage of attacking from a higher altitude,
chased them mercilessly. To make the matters worse, rains and floods
cut off the escape routes of Mahomed’s army. The Chinese massacred
them within 7 days and just a handful returned to tell the story.
Once the enemy was humiliated, the Chinese returned, not even
bothering about the territory that was theirs for the asking.”

To be precise this massive defeat that was handed to Mohamed bin Tughlaq in
1337 was by the armies of Toghan Timur,
the Mongol Kha’Khan who was then ruling over China. The army was comprised of
light Tibetan cavalry divisions and a few
heavily armored Mongol squadrons. Ironically this was one of the weaker Mongol
armies at time when the Mongol empire
in China was already only a pale reminder of the fierce force that it was under
Kublai, the ancestor of Toghan. This was
also one of the rare occassions when a Buddhist army gave the Moslems a much
needed punch in the face. The Tibetan
Buddhists, unlike the Indian BUddhist maintained a large force of horse borne
archers. Tughlaq’s men while having good
horses were simply out of touch with involved archery shootouts after their easy
conquests in India. This battle is a very
important data point to show how the Turkic armies had degenerated since the
days of Alla-ad-din due to the neglect of
archery.

Indo-Iranian and Mongolic deities

While the general thought has been that the Indianisms have infected
the Mongol religion rather later in their history via the buddhists, I
feel some of the material entered it an early period. Examination of
Buryat, Oirat and Chingizid material discussed in Chabros and
Heissig’s works and provide much evidence for this.

One set of influences can be traced to the late Iranian period:
1) The Supreme deities of the Northern regions are called Qormusda and
Adar. These are derivatives of Ahura Mazda and his son Atar. One of
the deities of the southern regions is Chagchi, the god of time. who
is described as a white old man riding a Lion. This matches well with
the late Iranian deity Zurvan and perhaps entered the Mongol world
from the Iranian colonists in central Asia rather than the earlier
steppe Iranians.

Heissig records a fragment of a chant prior to 1500 that goes as:
“The highest of the 99 gods is Moengke Tengri; The the 33 gods are led
by Qormusta Khan Tengri.” The number 33 also appears clearly
Indo-Iranian and the above chant suggests a syncretic development
where the original Altaic deity Moengke Tengri is invoked along with
the Ir Qormusta. Another chant states “Burqan (Buddha) struck the
first light but it was Qormusta who made the first fire”. Thus the
fire cult is also associated with Qormusta. The Western visitors to
the court of the Chingizid Mongols records their worship of the fires
suggesting that it was acquired well before expansion of the Mongol
regime.

The fire worship amidsts the Mongols, with libations of ghee, has many
parallels to the I-Ir fire worship. Important fire rituals are
performed at the end of the year, spring equinox and summer solstice
like the mahAvrata rite. Further the marriage cermonies were also fire
rituals with a chant asking for good children and brides. However, the
fire was mainly invoked as a female deity Ghalakhan Eke. This
suggests a development through an even earlier contact with the I-Irs.

The Mongols make a fire offering similar to the svAhA offered by the
Indo-Aryans. One such hymn to the supreme tengri of heaven is recored
as being used when the banner of Chingiz Kha’khan was planted when he
was ordained supreme Khan of Turko-Mongol tribes:
Above is my eternal Koeke Moengke Tengri,
Below is my mother Earth,
Through the prior decision of Koeke Moengke Tengri arose fire,
From him was the cattle born. (Fire offering)
Tengri Echige, sacrificing I pray to you,
you who protect my body,
who takes illness and sorrow away from me,
who keep far from me the danger of the sword. (Fire offering)
Tengri Echige, sacrificing I pray to you,
you who defeat brigands and bandits,
those who act covetously,
you who keep far from me the danger of the deity of death. (Fire
offering)

A distant echos of the ancient common Eurasiatic culture shared by the
Indo-Europeans and Uralo-Altaics with the later layer of the fire
offering from an Indo-Iranian source become apparent.

The Mongols also worship sets of gods arranged analogous to Indian
deity hierarchies:
doerben jobkis un tengri: Gods of the 4 directions
nayiman kijaghar-un tengri:Gods of the 8 directions
with Maqagala Darqan guejir tengri (mahAkAla) in the center.
mahAkala is also called Mal-un tengri*- the cattle god (as pashupati)
This suggests a possible syncretization of an original ancient rudra
like deity with the later Indian import mahAkAla (via Tibet).
Maqagala is also associated with two later Indian imports bisnu tengri
and Bisman (viShNu and kubera respectively).

Indra was brought in via the Tibetans. As lamaism spread he was
clearly identified with a much older deity Khan Atagha Tengri, not
traceable thus far amidst any of the Turkic branches (other than
perhaps the early Uighurs). It may suggest an early acquisition from
Indo-Iranians from an Indra like deity. A fragment chanted by a Buriat
shaman has been preserved (note the ancestral similarity to Indra):
We worship Khan Atagha Tengri,
your thundering voice is heard close to the abyss,
unifier of thoughts of the Mongols,
With a gigantic, great body, with a thunderbolt,
Ruler over the many clouds, with a thousand eyes,
My Atagha Tengri supreme over all,
May you grant me the blessing and good fortune of your protection.

(*Hindi word mAl?)

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