Friday, May 27, 2011

The Devil's Son

This blog post is about the book that I read few weeks ago; Chengiz Khan - The Devil's Son by Vassili Yan (translated in English by Linda Noble). Vassili Yan is a Russian scholar whose journey & research led to the development of this epic chronicle.  I am writing this not only to recollect the facts what I have read, but the essentials of the main character: Chengiz Khan.

The book is very beautifully organized. There is no trace of Chengiz Khan in the first sixty pages of the book. It starts with a journey of a dervish from Baghdad in search of knowledge. He enters Gurjung, the capital of  the rich empire of Khorezm: The greatest Muslim Estate. it starts speaking about the mighty ruler, Mohammad Shah Khorezm, portraying him as the child of the almighty. Then with these introductory lines, behold Chengiz Khan:
"Who does not know of Temujin-Chengiz Khan! I left him. He does not forgive those who dare stand before him without bowing their servile backs! He avenges the willful, he hunts down those who once fought him and slays their entire clans down to the last infant!" - A prisoner fled after the battle.
At this time, he had already captured Europe and China. Army of just 60,000 soldiers, he was able to destroy armies of strength 2-3 lac and consequently conquering half of the world invincibly. Very wicked & cunning in approach & extremely disciplined by his virtue. He was the one who first united the Mongol tribe: Tatars, who were quarreling among themselves earlier, brought them together and led them way forward. The Tatars, being grateful to the the Khan, were very loyal & faithful to him. His people always had the pride of being ruled by a great leader. He himself chose the commanders of  his army. He named himself as Genghis Khan or Chengiz Khan at the age of 50. Chengiz means "from the eternal skies". He was earlier called Temujin.

“It is not sufficient that I succeed - all others must fail.”
He was smart in striking a trade deal with Khorezm Shah that ultimately led to war. The strategies employed by Chengiz Khan where impeccable during 1200s. For instance, making the enemy chase a group of Tatars and later the enemies were ambushed from all sides and slaughtered, putting the captured prisoners who are physically strong in the front line of battle, exploiting weakness very quickly and exercising psychological warfare; he used to keep craftsmen alive (who used to make armory, garments, etc)  and butcher rest of the people and the city. Handful of women and children were spared, so that they can spread the terror of Chengiz Khan in other places. So, when he invaded the cities, people would easily surrender. For quick mobility, all horsemen had spare horses at stations and horsemen jumped from one running horse to other along the way thereby covering long distances in short time. At night, every horseman and soldier would light five-six flame torches, which would appear to the enemy that their force was almost five times larger than it actually was!
"At military exercises I am always in front, and in time of battle am never behind. In the space of seven years I have succeeded in accomplishing a great work, and uniting the whole world in one empire." - Chengiz Khan
"He who wishes not to cling tight to the sword's black hilt will fall victim to the sword's sharp blade!" - a saying
The Khorezm empire constituted the wealthy cities of Samarkand and Bukhara. Both are the largest cities of Uzbekistan. Gurjang, Bukhara and, Samarkand being the richest city, were plundered by Chengiz. He was also very impressed by the architectural beauty of the Samarkand that made him keep monuments unharmed. He ultimately conquered the complete empire easily which was under Khorezm Shah's rule. Jelal ed-Din Shah, son of Khorezm Shah was the only one who successfully escapes, unites scattered soldiers and defeats one of the Mongol detachments. Later, he was unable to keep his army united for long. Khorezm Shah, the emperor with great stature, tired escaping from the Tatars, flees to an island in Caspian Sea filled with lepers, with his body decayed, dies in vain.
"All who surrender will be spared; whoever does not surrender but opposed with struggle and dissension, shall be annihilated." - Chengiz Khan, during the war with the Khwarezmian empire
 "What is there in the city of scorpions and tarantulas, when there is no unity even in the face of danger?" - Jelal ed-Din Shah, mightiest son of Khorezm Shah Mohammad
Now again there is no trace of Chengiz Khan. He sends his two eminent commanders in search of Jelal ed-Din Shah. They come across a river: Kalka which connects Russia. As usual, the commanders take advantage of the situation being the Russian princes fail to stand united against the enemy. It was a fearsome battle that lasted for few years. The Tatars were successful in taking control of whole of Russia. The Tatars proceeded to Hindu Kush where the weather conditions did not suit them. So, the Khan orders the entire army to return to Mongol.
According to historical study and research, Chengiz Khan's military conquests were frequently characterized by the wholesale slaughter of the vanquished. It has been estimated that his campaigns killed as many as 40 million people based on census data of the times.
The last part of the book describes the final days of Cheghiz Khan and his desire to become immortal in order to conquer other half of the world. He calls upon a wise ascetic who resides in Chinese mountain ranges to develop a medicine which will make him younger. The saint convinces the Khan that there is no such thing that can make a man immortal. He resolves to die at the age of 65. Till today, there is no clue of his tomb.
"When I die, don't reveal my death in anyway. Do not weep or wail, so that the news of my death should give our enemies reason to take heart or rejoice. When the Khan and the Tangut inhabitants come through the fortress gates with gifts, pounce on them and slay them!" - lasts words of Chengiz Khan
The powerful portrayal of Chengiz Khan is justified as he appears only in the middle portion of the book and nowhere else. He never enters the battle field till the end, he orders his loyal and able men to do the job instead. His leadership was a noble one. Its a fact that there are descendants of Chengiz Khan exist even today. Lately, I get alarmed when I see Chinks wandering here and there on the streets.
Genghis Khan - A prolific lover: An international group of geneticists have found that nearly eight percent of the men living in the region of the former Mongol empire carry y-chromosomes that are nearly identical. That translates to 0.5 percent of the male population in the world, or roughly 16 million descendants living today. His descendants extended the empire and maintained power in the region for several hundred years, in civilizations in which harems and concubines were the norm. And the males were markedly prolific. - National Geographic News
The narration style is unique, unlike any other book. Initially, I found it difficult to get hold of the storyline. Later I was sucked into it! All readers who love to read real war stories, an episode of history is here, this "must-read-book" is the best pick :)

Further reading: