Battle of Kili

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Mar 23, 2022, 8:00

The Battle of Kili was one of the most epic battles on Indian soil. It was fought between Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate and Chagatai Khanate's Mongols led by Qutlugh Khwaja. This epic battle took place in 1299.

What Led to the Battle of Kili?

The Civil Wars of the 13th Century, the Berke-Hulagu war, and the Kaidu-Kublai war divided the Mongol Empire into four independent Khanates. Khanate refers to a political entity under the administration of a Khan, Khanum, Kharun, or Khagan.

While the Golden Horde Khanate ruled over Eastern Europe, the Chagai Khanate ruled Central Asia. The Ilkhanate and the Yuan dynasty ruled Southwest Asia and East Asia, respectively.

Of the four Khanates, the Chagatai Khanate was the least known. Since the Chagatais could not expand to other areas controlled by three other Khanates, they thought of expanding southwards to the Indian subcontinent. India's northern half was ruled by the Delhi Sultanate in those days.

The connection between the Mongol Empire and the Delhi Sultanate began in the 1220s when the then Mongol Emperor Genghis Khan pushed the Prince of Khwarizmi to the Sultanate borders. However, it is not known why Genghis Khan decided to move towards the east instead of marching southwards.

Before the 1250s, the Delhi Sultanate tried to maintain cordial relations with the Mongols. They believed diplomacy was the only way to ward off the dangers of Mongol invasion. However, the Mongols proved them wrong by attacking the Punjab region ruled by Alauddin Khilji in the winter of 1297. Khilji retaliated with force led by Khilji's brother Ulugh Khan. Khilji's forces were able to defend the soil by killing around 20,000 Mongol soldiers forcing the Mongols to retreat.

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When the Delhi Sultanate was ruled by Balban (much before Khilji), Delhi took an aggressive stance against the Mongols. Balban recaptured Lahore and Multan and fortified the mountain-clad borders of India. Balban passed away in 1287, and his grandson, Kayqubad assumed the throne. Kayqubad was murdered in 1290, and the founder of the Khilji dynasty, Jalal-al-Din Khilji, seized the throne. Jalal had prior experience in thwarting off a Mongol battalion at Bar-Ram in 1292. In 1296, Alauddin Khilji murdered Jalal-al-Din Khilji and assumed the throne.

Soon after seizing the throne, Alauddin Khilji initiated many reforms and started preparing his army for defending India against Mongol invasions.

Battle of Kili Begins

In 1299, Qutlug Khwaja and Temur Buqa advanced towards Delhi, intending to capture Delhi. The orders to march towards Delhi were given by the then Mongol ruler Duwa. Mongols brought between 50,000 and 60,000 horsemen with them, while the Delhi army took 3,00,000 horses and 2,700 elephants.

The Mongol army was divided into the following four wings:

  • The left-wing (under Commander Hijlak)
  • The centre wing (under Commander Qutlugh Khwaja)
  • The right-wing (under Commander Tamar Budha)
  • A unit of 10,000 soldiers in ambush under the commandment of Targhee

The Delhi army was divided into five wings:

  • The left-wing (under Commander Nusrat Khan)
  • The right-wing (under Commander Hizabruddin Zafar Khan)
  • The centre unit (under Alauddin Khalji)
  • A unit in front of Alauddin's unit (Commanded by Akat Khan)
  • A reinforcement unit (under Commander Ulugh Khan)

During the early part of the battle, Commander Zafar Khan marched ahead without taking prior permission from Alauddin. He was eventually captured and murdered.

However, with just 1000 soldiers, Zafar Khan managed to kill 5,000 Mongol soldiers. This was one of the prime reasons why Qutlugh Khwaja decided to retreat from the Indian soil within days of the beginning of the Battle of Kili. Kili is situated 10km away from Delhi's suburbs.

Despite Zafar Khan's notable contribution to Alauddin's army, his name was removed from the Royal Chronicle, and nobody recognised his contribution. The Battle of Kili emboldened Alauddin Khilji's confidence and stature in the Delhi Sultanate.

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FAQs on Battle of Kili

Q.1) In which year did the Battle of Kili take place?

The Battle of Kili was fought between Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sultanate and Chagatai Khanate's Mongols led by Qutlugh Khwaja in 1299.

Q.2) Who won the Battle of Kili?

The Delhi Sultanate ruled by Alauddin Khilji won the Battle of Kili.

Q.3) What is a Khanate in the Battle of Kili?

Khanate refers to a political entity under the administration of a Khan, Khanum, Kharun, or Khagan.

Q.4) Where was the Battle of Kili fought?

The Battle of Kili was fought at Kili, which is situated 10km away from Delhi's suburbs.