Q. 1. Who was Genghis Khan ?How did he become the Great Khan of the Mongols
Ans. Genghis Khan was born near the Onon river, around 1162 CE, which is in the north of present day Mongolia. His early name was Temujin. His father’s name was Yesugei, who was the Chieftain of the Kiyat tribe. His father was murdered when he was quite young. That is why Temujin, his brothers and step brothers were raised in great hardship by his mother, Oelun-eke. Temujin was captured and enslaved in the 1170s. Borte, his wife, was also kidnapped. He fought very hard to recover his wife. He made some important friends during these years of hardship. His first friend was the young Boghurchu who remained a trusted friend of Temujin. His blood-brother, Jamuqa, was his another trusted friend. He again made old alliances with his father’s old brother, Tughril/Ong Khan, who was the ruler of the Kereyits.
Genghis Khan on the Path of becoming the Great Khan : Temujin’s blood-brother, Jamuqa became his enemy in later years. In the 1180s and 1190s, Temujin defeated powerful adversaries like Jamuqa with the help of Ong Khan. It was after defeating Jamuqa that Temujin felt confident enough to move against his other enemies. These included his father’s assassins, the powerful Tatars, the Kereyits and Ong Khan himself. In 1206 CE, he gave the final defeat to the Naiman people and the powerful Jamuqa.
Proclamation of Genghis Khan as the Great Khan: After his success on enemies Temujin emerged as the dominant personality in the politics of the steppe lands. This position of his was recognised at an assembly of Mongol chieftains (quriltai). In this assembly he was proclaimed the Great Khan of the Mongols with the title Genghis Khan, the ‘Oceanic Khan’ or ‘Universal Ruler’.
Q. 2. After recognition by the quriltai, discuss the military achievements of Genghis Khan.
Ans. Before the quriltai of 1206, Mongol people were reorganised by Genghis Khan into a disciplined and more effective force. Now he wanted to conquer China. At this time, China was divided into the following three realms:
(i) The North-Western provinces were ruled by the Hsi Hsia people.
(ii) The Chin dynasty ruled North China from Peking.
(iii) South China was controlled by the Sung dynasty.
Conquest of China: In the Chinese regions, many campaigns were launched by Genghis Khan.
(i) By 1209 CE, he defeated the Hsi Hsia people.
(ii) In 1213 CE, the Great Wall of China was breached.
(iii) Peking was plundered in 1215.
Until 1234 CE, long drawn-out battles against the Chin continued. But Genghis Khan was satisfied with the progress of his campaigns. That is why he came back to Mongolia in 1216 CE by leaving the military affairs of the region to his subordinates.
Other Campaigns. Mongols conquered the great cities like Bukhara, Otar, Balkh, Samarqand, Merv, Gurganj, Herat, Nishapur, etc., in the campaigns between 1219 and 1221. Those towns were destroyed who tried to resist. During a siege operation, a Mongol prince was killed at Nishapur. Genghis Khan was furious with this and ordered that, “town should be laid waste in such a manner that the site could be ploughed upon, and that in the exaction of vengeance (for the death of the prince) not even cats and dogs should be left alive.”
In the mean time, Mongol forces reached Azerbaijan while pursuing Sultan Muhammad. They defeated Russian forces at the Crimea and encircled the Caspian Sea. Another unit of army followed the son of Sultan, Jalal-ud-din till Afghanistan and Sindh. When they reached the banks of the river Indus, then Genghis Khan thought of returning back to Mongolia through North India and Assam. But he was forced to change his mind by the excessive heat, the natural habitat and ill portents reported by his Shaman soothsayer. Genghis Khan spent most of his life in military combats and died in 1227 CE. His military achievements were outstanding.
Q. 3. Dicuss political activities of the Mongols after Genghis Khan.
Ans. After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, the Mongol empire was divided into two phases:
(i) The first phase spanned the years 1236–42 when the Mongols obtained major gains in the Russian Steppes, Bulghar, Kiev, Poland and Hungary.
(ii) The second phase spanned the years 1255– 1300 in which whole of China, Iran, Iraq and Syria were conquered.
In the decades after 1203, the Mongol military forces faced certain hardships. But the original impetus of campaigns could not be sustained in the west after the 1260s. It is right that Vienna, western Europe and even Egypt were well within the reach of Mongol forces but when forces were retreated from the Hungarian steppes and when they were defeated by Egyptian forces then there came the signals of emergence of new political trends. There were two facets of this:
(i) The first was the result of internal politics of succession within the Mongol family. In this, descendants of Jochi and Ogodei tied up with each other to control the office of the Great Khan. Instead of pursuing campaigns in Europe, these interests were given more importance.
(ii) The second situation occurred when the Toluyid branch of Genghis Khanid escendants sidelined or marginalised the Jochi and Ogodei lineages. When Mongke, grand-son of Genghis Khan, became the ruler, military campaigns were launched in Iran during the 1250’s. But in the decade of 1260, descendants of Toluy started taking more interest in China. That is why supplies and forces were diverted into the heartlands of the Mongol empire. As a result, a small and under-staffed force was fielded against the Egyptian military because of which it was defeated. Their western expansion came to an end with this defeat and this increased their interests in China. During this, conflicts started between Toluyid and Jochid descendants along the Russian-Iranian frontiers. It diverted the Jochids away from more European campaigns. Their expansion in the west was suspended but it did not stop their campaigns in China. In the end, they unified the China.
Q. 4. What do you know about the four Ulus?
Ans. Genghis Khan assigned his four sons, the responsibility of governing the newly conquered people. In this way, four Ulus were organised. It did not originally mean fixed territories. On the other hand, Genghis Khan was busy in conquering new areas. That is why, frontiers of the empire kept on changing.
(i) Russian steppe region was given to Jochi, the eldest son of Genghis Khan. But there was no fixed farthest extent of this region. It extended to far east.
(ii) Genghis Khan’s second son, Chaghatai, received Transoxianian steppe and lands north of the Pamir mountains which was adjacent to those of his brother.
(iii) Genghis Khan had indicated that he would be succeeded by his third son, Ogodei, as the Great Khan. Ogodei established his capital at Karakorum on accession.
(iv) Tolui, youngest son of Genghis Khan, received the ancestral lands of Mongolia. Genghis Khan was of the view that his four sons would collectively rule the empire. That is why he kept military contingents of the individual princes in each Ulus. The sense of a dominion was shared by the members of the family which could be seen at the assembly of chieftains. Decisions were taken collectively on all aspects.
Q. 5. What was the condition of the Mongol Empire in the thirteenth century? What role did ‘Yasa’ play in it?
Ans. By the middle of the thirteenth century, the Mongols emerged as a unified group. They created the largest empire. They ruled over the most complex urban socities who had their own cultures, histories and rules. Although the Mongols had political dominance over their reign, but they were in minority from numerical point of view. They could claim to protect their identity and distinctiveness through a sacred law (yasa) which was given to them by their ancestors. There is a great possibility that yasa was a compilation of the customary traditions of the Mongol tribes. But by calling it as a code of law of Genghis Khan, the Mongols claimed to a law giver like Moses and Solomon. It means that their code was authoritative like code of Moses and Solomon and could be imposed on their subjects. Role of Yasa : Yasa had been to cohere the Mongols around a body of shared beliefs. It also accepted their affinity to Genghis Khan and his descendants. Although they adopted different aspects of a sedentary lifestyle, even then yasa helped them to retain their ethnic identity and to impose their law on defeated people. Yasa was a very powerful ideology. It was definitely inspired by the vision of Genghis Khan who played a great role in the construction of a Mongol universal dominion.