An Expedition to Tibet.

There is a tradition in an old Muslim text that Bhaktiar Khilji, who famously conquered Bengal with 18 soldiers, later planned and executed an invasion of Tibet. The source for this tradition is most likely to be the The Tabaqat-i-Nasiri of Minhaj-ud-din . The same story has been repeated by the Riyazu-S-Salatin by Ghulam Husain Salim.
This book was written at about the end of the eighteenth century and was used as a sourcebook for various Histories of Bengal written by the early British administrators. The book became available in English in 1902 when the Asiatic Society of Calcutta published a translation by Maulavi Abdus Salam who was a civil servant then posted in Cuttack.
The story is interesting and bears repetition. Bhaktiar, fresh from his conquests in Bihar where he dealt the deathblow to the Nalanda University, decided in 1205 to invade Tibet. He led a force of cavalry 12000 strong to the mountains of North Bengal. The story goes that he was guided by a Koch warrior who had converted to Islam, Ali Mich. They rode for ten days along a river that was twice as broad as the Ganges and then crossed it over a stone bridge. Another 16 days later they came upon the Tibetan forces who defeated them easily forcing an ignonimous retreat. The Turks were forced to eat their own horses as supplies ran out and to add insult to injury found that the bridge that they had crossed the river was destroyed by the local people to cut off their retreat. An attempt was made to ford the river which led to the death of most of his men and Bhaktiar himself just about survived the crossing with 300 of his men of the twelve thousand he had set out with. Bhaktiar himself was worn out by this expedition and died during the journey back. Another tradition has it that he was slain by one of his officers, Mardan Khilji, who was probably tired of his crazy plans.
This story however is not really credible and most modern historians do not believe it. There is no Tibetan source which records this experience and as I have said only one Turk source. The Turks can be forgiven for being reticent about this disaster, but there is no reason for the Tibetans not to trumpet a famous victory.
Clues can be found in the story itself. The river referred to is obviously the Brahmaputra. The invasion therefore was probably of Kamrup, the kingdom of Assam which had recurring battles with the imperial invaders from Delhi for another six centuries. The Turks were to lead repeated invasions into Kamrup and Upper Assam from Bengal until they finally conquered Guwahati and took over the Kamrup kingdom in 1257.This victory was also very shortlived as the Raja of Kamrup cut all the embankments built on the Brahmaputra and its tributaries, flooding the country and starving out the Turks
The story of the Tibetan invasion is interesting but unfortunately untrue. It is not conceivable that Khilji could have crossed from the plains to Tibet through the Terai jungles and then over the Himalayas in just16 days. It is a pity because if it was true it would have been the first expedition from Bengal to the mountains of what is now Kalimpong, and Bhutan. As it was the next (or first) expedition had to await the misadventures of Younghusband seven centuries later


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