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What Was the Religion of Genghiz Khan; Greatest Conqueror of the World

Updated on December 21, 2017

Ghenghiz Khan

In the 12th century one man from a remote corner of Central Asia swept across the world. He was Genghis Khan and now he is recognized as the greatest conqueror of the world. He was a man who fought incessant wars and was successful all the time. His one failing was that he failed to conquer India and was stopped at the banks of the Indus by the ruler of the Delhi Sultanate Iltitimish. Apart from his failure to conquer India, Genghis Khan led his Mongol army across the known world and devastated the Muslim and Christian states.

The conquests of Genghis Khan are well documented, but not much is known about his religion. The fact that he had "Khan" as a suffix to his name makes many people think he was a Muslim. However the Khan was not a Muslim and though Islam had made an appearance in the 6th century, it was an alien religion in Mongolia from where Genghis Khan hailed.

The Muslim armies under Mohammed had conquered vast areas but never reached Mongolia and China and as such these areas were not aware of the Islamic religion. The Moslems had however conquered the Turks and Central East Asia. Christianity, though having appeared earlier to Islam was also unknown in Central Asia at that time. The question then arises if the Khan was not a Christian or Muslim, then which religion he followed.

Religion of Genghis Khan

The Khan was a Mongol and hailed from the area which is now known as Mongolia. This nation sandwiched between China and Russia was the home of the greatest conqueror of all time. To cut a long story short, there is a chance that the great Khan was a follower of earlier form of Hinduism. Historians have discovered that the Mongols during the period the great Khan lived followed a culture of Shamanism as well as Animism. These form a distinct part of Hinduism and come under the subject of Tantra. Tantric concepts are the oldest form of Hinduism and integral to Hindu culture.

The Mongols at that period followed this primitive religion, though they had built their own legends. A line of thought is that the word Khan is derived from the name of the greatest Hindu warrior from mythology Karn. In case the name Karn is pronounced slowly then then the name Khan becomes a corrupted form of Karn. It must also be remembered that the river Ganges or Ganga is called Changa in Tibet / China and means the “Strong One.”

In all probability Genghis Khan followed the animist faith. This is similar to the faiths followed by many religious sects and tribes in India. Animist faith is part of tantric faith in the North East of India. It must also be noted that the Muslim faith never took roots in Mongolia and even now lesser than 5% of the population of Mongolia is Muslim

Painting of the Great Khan
Painting of the Great Khan

Last Word

The name khan is a misnomer as it construes that the great Mongol leader was a Muslim, which was not the case. In the 13/14 th century the religion in vogue in Mongolia was Tengrism which is close to Shamanisms and Hindu Tantra. It was only the grandson of Genghis khan who converted to Islam, but his descendants in China like the great Kublai Khan embraced Buddhism and Confucisism.

Genghis Khan was a brutal man and reportedly killed more people than other similar conquerors. But this was the culture of the Mongols, who rarely took prisoners as they were a burden. The Mongol armies moved on horseback and had great mobility. Taking prisoners would have hampered their mobility; hence the Khans took very few prisoners. But records now indicate that the great Khan was tolerant of all religions, yet we hear little about it as his conquests and killing of opponents takes center stage.

Genghis Khan was perhaps himself not aware of the origin of his religious beliefs. Now we know that ancient Indian kings like Kanishka ruled over great areas in Central Asia ahead of Afghanistan. It is possible that religious belief of Buddhism and Hinduism percolated to Mongols like Buddhism going to China from India.

The name khan is now synonymous with Muslim ethos, but Genghis Khan was not a Muslim


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    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you Lawrence. Yes, he was indeed a special character and not many like him in the world, past or present

    • lawrence01 profile image

      Lawrence Hebb 2 years ago from Hamilton, New Zealand

      Very inteeesting look at the man.

    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you Nell for commenting and sparing time for this post

    • Nell Rose profile image

      Nell Rose 2 years ago from England

      How fascinating! it wasn't something I had thought of but yes he definitely had a religion, and his life was so amazing that he has gone down in history as one of the most proficient of all leaders, nell

    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Lollyj, great of you to have commented. Glad you liked the hub

    • emge profile image

      Madan 2 years ago from Abu Dhabi

      Thank you Manatita for commenting and the interesting info

    • lollyj lm profile image

      Laurel Johnson 2 years ago from Washington KS

      Fascinating hub. I love historic info like this, and have always been curious about Genghis Khan. Well done.

    • manatita44 profile image

      manatita44 2 years ago from london

      Great man and most certainly he had a Faith, and like you said, probably closer to the Hindus. He knew of them and their beliefs. There is a story where he sent some of his soldiers in search of a Holy man, as he sought advice. The Holy man did not go, but asked that Genghis Khan should come to him.

      Great Khan sent back the soldiers with the message to tell this man that he, Genghis, was the King, upon which the Holy man said that he, too, was a King. The great Khan realised that the Holy man was special, visited him and learnt at his feet. Very nice Hub.