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The Ghurids

The Ghurids or Ghorids (Persian: سلسله غوریان; self-designation: Shansabānī) were a medieval (12th to 13th century) Muslim dynasty of Iranian origin in Khorasan that was centered in Ghōr (now a province in Afghanistan). At its zenith, their empire stretched over a vast area that included the whole of modern Afghanistan, the eastern parts of Iran and the northern section of the Indian subcontinent, as far as Delhi.

The origins of the dynasty are obscure. According to legend, the Shansabānī family had ancestral lines to the Sassanian royal family who - led by Perōz II - fled with some hundred thousand of followers from Western Iran to Khorasan, following the Arabic conquest of Persia. It is also claimed by some that the inhabitants of Ghor were still Zoroastrians, isolated from all Arab-Islamic influence until the 11th century when they were eventually converted to Islam by the Samanid and Ghaznavid ghāzīs
The Ghurids
Ghurid era Art

In the 19th century, some European scholars, such as Mountstuart Elphinstone, tended to classify them as a Pashtun tribe, but this is generally rejected by modern scholarship, and, as explained by Morgenstierne in the Encyclopaedia of Islam, is for "various reasons very improbable". Instead, the consensus in modern scholarship (incl. Morgenstierne, Bosworth, Dupree, Gibb, Ghirshman, Longworth Dames and others) holds that the dynasty was most likely of Tajik origin. Bosworth further points out that the actual name of the Ghurid family, Āl-e Šansab (Persianized: Šansabānī), is the Arabic pronunciation of the originally Middle Persian name Wišnasp, perhaps hinting at a (Sassanian) Persian origin.

The language of the Ghurids is subject to some controversy. What is known with certainty is that it was considerably different from the New Persian literary language of the Ghaznavid court. Nevertheless, like the Samanids and Ghaznavids, the Ghurids were great patrons of the New Persian literature, poetry, and culture, and promoted these in their courts as their own. There is nothing to confirm the recent surmise (as claimed in the Paṭa Khazāna) that the Ghurids were Pashto-speaking, and there is no evidence that the inhabitants of Ghor were originally Pashto-speaking.

Ghurids were bounded to Ghaznavids and Seljuks almost 150 years before 1148. Beginning in the mid-1100s, Ghor expressed its independence from the Ghaznavid Empire. In 1149 the Ghaznavid ruler Bahram Shāh poisoned a local Ghūrid leader, Quṭb ud-Dīn, who had taken refuge in the city of Ghazna after a family quarrel. In revenge, the Ghūrid chief ʿAlāʾ-ud-Dīn Ḥusayn sacked and burned the city of Ghazna and put the city into fire for seven days and seven nights. It earned him the title of Jahānsuz, meaning "the world burner". The Ghaznavids retook the city with Seljuk help, but lost it to Oghuz Turk freebooters.

In 1173, Shahabuddin Muhammad Ghori reconquered the city of Ghazna and assisted his brother Ghiyasuddin - to whom he was a loyal subordinate, - in his contest with Khwarezmid Empire for the lordship of Khorāsān. Shahabuddin Ghori captured Multan and Uch in 1175 and annexed the Ghaznavid principality of Lahore in 1186. After the death of his brother Ghiyas-ud-Din in 1202, he became the successor of his empire and ruled until his assassination in 1206 near Jhelum (in modern-day Pakistan). A confused struggle then ensued among the remaining Ghūrid leaders, and the Khwarezmids were able to take over the Ghūrids' empire in about 1215. Though the Ghūrids' empire was short-lived, Shahabuddin Ghori's conquests strengthened the foundations of Muslim rule in India. On his death, the importance of Ghazna and Ghur dissipated and they were replaced by Delhi as the Islamic capital for the Ghurid Sultans in India.

The Ghurids were great patrons of Persian culture - language, identity, arts and literature were all of great importance to them, although many of the written works have been lost. They transferred the Khurasanian architecture of their native lands to India, several great examples of which can be seen in the Minars they built.

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