Yesugei led the shaman to his baby son. The old man knelt on the grass and looked carefully at the babe. His lips moved as he read the signs that only he could perceive. His eyes fell on the baby’s right fist which was tightly curled inwards as if the baby was holding something. The shaman gently pried the fist open and onlookers gasped. A large blood clot lay in the tiny white palm. So filled it was with blood that the blob was nearly black the clot pulsating like a live thing.
‘This boy will grow to be a mighty warrior. He is the chosen one who will bring all Mongolia together. He will become the Khan, a great conqueror,’ pronounced the old man.
To commemorate Genghis Khan’s 795th death anniversary, the Times of India announced a must-read list of books on the conqueror that included my book, The Legend of Genghis Khan. To be counted among researchers and writers such as Dr John Man, Jack Weatherford was indeed gratifying. However, aside from claims that I am the only Indian author who has written about the conqueror and school plays staged on my Genghis Khan book, I strongly believe it is essential we know and honour this legendary Asian of the 11th century.
The little that the world knows about Genghis Khan is from an ancient chronicle, The Secret History of Mongols. However, even that only mentions his death in 1227 CE but nothing about how he died or where he is buried. As expected, this mysterious obscurity has led to many myths about him and his death.
MYTHS ABOUT GENGHIS KHAN
When I researched for my book, I realised his death had been kept a state secret probably on the orders of the Khan, himself, to prevent his enemies taking advantage of his demise. Apparently, The Great Khan said, ‘Bury me here when I pass away,’ referring to Burkhan Khaldun, the sacred mountain of Mongolia. But there was no mention of his tomb.
Legends say that his men buried him in a nondescript grave but wanted to remember the grave to venerate their Lord. So they killed a baby camel still feeding on mother’s milk and buried it next to the Khan’s grave. Thereafter, every spring they would release the mother camel who would return to the spot where her baby was buried, and thus followers found his grave. Eventually, the mother camel died, and the location of the Khan’s grave disappeared from posterity.
Another myth says that the 1000 soldiers who carried the Khan’s body to the burial site were killed and those who killed them were also massacred to keep it hidden. And thousands of horses trampled the ground in which he was buried to remove all traces of the grave. Other stories tell of a forest planted there or a river diverted to hide the site.
SECRET TOMB DISCOVERED
In August 2022, after 800 years of exploration by archaeologists, scientists, adventurers, and also robbers, Genghis Khan’s burial site has been discovered.
Building a road near the Onon River in Khentii province of Mongolia, construction workers discovered a mass grave of human corpses lying on a stone structure. Forensic experts and archaeologists have confirmed it is a Mongolian royal tomb from the 13th century and concluded that the body under the stone slab belonged to a man aged between 60 and 75 years who had died between 1215 and 1235 CE. The age, date, location, and the opulence of the site confirms that the tomb did actually belong to Genghis Khan.
The 68 skeletons found on the stone structure were probably the slaves who had built the tomb and had been massacred to keep the site secret. Inside the tomb were a tall male and sixteen female skeletons. The women were possibly concubines and wives killed to go with the warlord into afterlife. Scattered across the tomb were gold and silver artifacts and thousands of coins.
The rock dome had been buried under the Onon River for centuries. Since the river had changed its course in the 18th century, the contents of the tomb were badly deteriorated.
Does this discovery diffuse the mystery built around Genghis Khan? Does he become more human and less legendary? I do not agree for his legacy holds a timeless, indisputable place in world history.
LEGACY OF GENGHIS KHAN
Founder of the Mongol Empire and truly the first world conqueror, Genghis Khan united the tribes of Mongolia under his banner launching series of military campaigns in China, Central Asia, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe. By the time of his death, the Mongolian Empire was four times the size of Alexander’s and twice the size of Rome’s. His descendants expanded the empire to one-sixth of the world’s land area by 1300 CE. But he was more than a world conqueror.
He connected the East and the West through the creation of the Silk Route transmitting trade and culture throughout Eurasia. He kept in touch with his vast empire through a postal service, the first in the world.
Unheard of in 11th and 12th centuries, Genghis Khan gave equal rights to men and women in his empire. Women were respected matriarchs of their families and even widows owned property. Genghis Khan encouraged women to train in warfare and gave them administrative roles during his campaigns.
Mongolia followed Shamanism. However, all religions were practised in the Great Khan’s empire. He was illiterate, but encouraged literacy in his empire,
His leadership skills were phenomenal. He commanded his men by demanding loyalty and rewarding loyalty. At a time when birth decided social status and advancement all over the world, Genghis Khan let his men climb the social and administrative ladder solely on merit.
BOOK ABOUT GENGHIS KHAN
I have been bewitched by Genghis Khan for a very long time. While reading and watching documentaries about him as well as scanning ancient literary chronicles, I just fell in love with the Great Khan. It is amazing that a man of such wisdom and stature had been dismissed as an uncivilized barbarian by most western historians of yore.
It is only in the recent past that research in Mongolia and the western world has generated profound interest in Genghis Khan also called Chinggis Quan. Writers such as Michal Biran, Ruth W. Dunnell, Peter Jackson, Conn Iggulden have written prolifically about him. When I wrote my book, The Legend of Genghis Khan, Untold Story Of The Conqueror, I was guided extensively by Dr John Man and my book is dedicated to this great mongolist.
YOU COULD BE A DESCENDANT OF GENGHIS KHAN
It is interesting to know that genetic studies prove one human out of every 200 in the world and every 5th Asian could have descended from Genghis Khan. In Mongolia alone as many as 200,000 of the country’s 2 million people could be Genghis Khan descendants.
The discovery of his tomb and the secrets it may reveal have great implications for all humanity not only because Genghis Khan was one of the most influential men in the history of mankind, but also because he could be your or my ancestor.