Delhi Sultanate

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The Delhi Sultanate basically refers to the Muslim rulers who ruled India through Delhi. This basically came into existence after Mohammed Ghori captured Delhi after defeating Prithviraj. After Prithviraj was captured, the Delhi Sultanate went into the hands of one of Ghori's generals known as Qutub-ud-din Aibak. During the end of the 12th century, he established a series of rulers and this dynasty was called as the slave dynasty since the rulers had been military slaves. Read more about the history of the in India.


The extent of was till Bengal in the east and Deccan in the south. Even such a big sultanate faced constant threats from the North West and was also under pressure from internal politics within independent nobles. There was instability and unrest in the kingdom as there five dynasties that rose and fell which includes Slave dynasty, Khilji dynasty, Tughlaq dynasty, Sayyid dynasty and Lodhi dynasty. It was under the Khilji dynasty that most of South India was conquered. The territory was never fixed and depended upon the ability of the ruler as to how much was he able to conquer and control.


The effectiveness of a ruler during this time depended entirely upon his ability to conquer the places that fell near military highways and trade routes, collect land tax for revenue of the state and have firm authority over military and state governors. Agriculture and its related activities were the main source of livelihood in the kingdom but due to continued political unrest and instability, thepeasants suffered greatly. During this time, Persian language developed to a great extent at the places where power was concentrated.


Mahmud of Ghazni

  • Ghazni was a small kingdom in Afghanistan, which was founded by a Turkish nobleman in the tenth century. One of its successors, namely Mahmud wanted to make Ghazni into a big and powerful kingdom; therefore, he decided to conquer a part of Central Asia.
  • In order to make his large and powerful army, Mahmud had needed a huge property; hence, he decided to attack India to rob Indian wealth (to accomplish his great ambition).
  • The first raid of Mahmud began in A.D. 1,000. In a short period of twenty-five years, Mahmud made seventeen raids. Meanwhile, he fought battles in Central Asia and in Afghanistan as well.
  • Between A.D. 1,010 and 1025, Mahmud attacked only on the temple towns in northern India, as he had heard that there were much gold and jewelry kept in the big temples in India.
  • One of these attacks, which is frequently mentioned while discussing Medieval History, was the destruction of the Somnath temple located in western India.
  • In 1,030, Mahmud died and the people of northern India get relieved. Though Mahmud was destructor for the Indians, but in his own country, he was a builder of a beautiful mosque and a large library.
  • Mahmud was the patron of the famous Persian poet, Firdausi, who wrote the epic poem ‘Shah Namah.’
  • Mahmud sent the Central Asian scholar Alberuni to India, who lived here for many years and had written his experience, describing the country and the condition of the people.


Muhammad Ghori

  • Muhammad Ghori was the ruler of the Ghor kingdom, a small kingdom of Afghanistan. He was the supreme ruler of Ghurid Empire.
  • Ghori was more ambitious than Mahmud, as he was not only interested in robbing wealth of India, but also intended in conquering northern India and adding it to his kingdom.
  • Since Punjab had already been a part of the Ghazni kingdom; therefore, it made easier to Ghori to plan India campaign.
  • Muhammad's most important campaign in India was against the Chauhan ruler, Prithviraj III. In 1191, Prithviraj defeated Ghori; this battle is popularly known as the ‘first battle of Tarain.’
  • In 1192, Muhammad Ghori defeated Prithviraj in the second battle of Tarin. The defeat of Prithviraj opened the Delhi area to Muhammad and he began to establish his power.
  • In 1206, Ghori was murdered and his kingdom in northern India was left in the control of his general Qutb-ud-din Aibak.
  • After Muhammad Ghori’s death, slave sultans were ruled India.


The Slave Sultans (AD. 1206-1290)

  • Mamluks were the earliest rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. They are also known as the Slave Kings because many of them were either slaves or were the sons of slaves and became Sultans.
  • The first of the slave kings was Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who was the general of Muhammad Ghori. After the death of Ghori, Qutb-ud-din stayed in India and established his kingdom.
  • The ruler of Ghazni tried to annex the territory held by Qutb-ud-din, but he failed. When lltutmish succeeded Qutbud-din as Sultan, a separate kingdom was established in the northern India, namely Delhi Sultanate.
  • Over a period of time, the Sultans of Delhi extended their control up to Bengal in the east and Sind in the west.
  • During the Sultanate period, there was the problem of the local Indian rulers who had been conquered. Sultans had taken territories of some rulers and some others were allowed to keep it.
  • The rulers who were allowed to keep their territories paid a sum of money as a tribute and agreed to help the Sultan with military support when required.
  • Sultanate had also problems from the north-west, for example, the rulers of Afghanistan were quiet, but the Mongol people of Central Asia, led by Chenghiz Khan, made fresh conquests.
  • The Sultan Iltutmish had faced the administrative problems. However, when he died, his daughter Raziya became the sultan and she had to face the problems.
  • After Iltutmish, the next important Sultans was Balban, a strong and iron-willed Sultan. He was more successful in solving the problems than his predecessors. He defended the Sultanate from the attacks of the Mongols.
  • Balban fought against the local rulers who troubled him. His biggest problem was the nobles who had become very powerful and were threatening the position of the Sultan. Slowly but firmly, Balban broke their power and finally the position of the Sultan became all-important.
  • Balban’s success was integrated into his strategic administrative policy. He successfully changed the organization of the army and curbed the revolt of the nobles.
  • Balban encouraged people to do the ‘sijdah’ in his presence. Sijdah means, people had to kneel and touch the ground with their forehead in salutation to him (Balban).
  • Sijdah, horrified the orthodox Muslims. According to Muslims belief, “all men are equal, and therefore, no one should do the sijdah before anyone else except God.”
  • Khilji dynasty came after Mamluks and ruled until A. D. 1320.


Khilji Dynasty (1290 – 1320)

  • In 1,290, the Slave Sultans were succeeded by a new dynasty, known as Khiljis. Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji was the founder of Khilji dynasty.
  • Alauddin Khilji, who was the nephew and son-in-law of Jalal-ud-din was one of the most ambitious and powerful sultans of Khilji dynasty. He wanted to conquer the world (to become second Alexander).
  • Alauddin Khilji, when became sultan, gave presents (of gold) to the citizens. At the same time, he also contended that he was a strong and powerful ruler and hence, he would deal severely with anyone who showed signs of disloyalty.
  • Alauddin Khilji raised the land taxes on the wealthier people of the Doab (the fertile area between the Ganga and Yamuna rivers). Further, he strictly monitored the revenue, which the nobles got from their land and hence, did not allow them to keep anything, which was not their due.
  • The prices of goods were also closely controlled so that everyone could afford to pay the price demanded as well as no one could make a large profit.
  • Alauddin Khilji made a new policy i.e. he ordered a new assessment of the cultivated land and the revenue. First, the land under cultivation (of his kingdom) was measured. And the revenue of these lands was assessed on the basis of the measurement.
  • Alauddin Khilji campaigned against the kingdoms of Gujarat and Malwa. He tried to establish his control over Rajasthan by capturing the famous forts of Ranthambhor and Chittor.
  • Under the command of Malik Kafur, Ala-ud-din sent a large army towards the south with the intention to conquer the peninsula as well as obtain money and wealth.
  • Malik Kafur plundered in all directions and collected a large amount of gold from the various kingdoms of the south, including the Yadavas (of Devagiri), the Kakatiyas (of Warangal), and the Hoyasalas (of Dvarasamudra).
  • The defeated rulers were allowed to keep their throne provided they paid a tribute. Malik Kafur also conquered the city of Madurai. By the time, no north Indian ruler attempted to penetrate so far in the south India.
  • In 1,315, Aladdin Khilji died. After his death, there was a chaotic situation for the succession. Ambitious Malik Kafur made himself as sultan, but lacked support from Muslim amirs and hence, he was killed only after few months.
  • By 1,320, three more Khilji successors assumed power, but no one sustained rather killed brutally. Likewise, a new dynasty namely Tughlaq was founded.
  • Tughlaq dynasty came after the Khilji dynasty and ruled from A.D. 1320 to 1413.


Tughlaq Dynasty (1320 – 1413)

  • In 1,320, Ghazi Malik became the king under the title of Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq. Likewise, the ‘Tughlaq’ dynasty began.


  • Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1325-51), the eldest son and successor of Ghiyath al-Din Tughlaq, was one of the most ambitious and powerful Sultans of Tughlaq dynasty.
  • Ibn Battutah, the North African Arab traveler, came India during Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s period and he had written the detailed description of the Muhammad’s kingdom.
  • Muhammad was a man of ideals who attempted as far as possible, to rule on the principles of reason. He was a great knowledgeable mathematician and a logician.
  • Muhammad increased the taxes of the peasants (especially who were from the Doab area). However, a famine in the Doab region made condition worse.
  • As a result of famine, the people refused to pay the extra taxes and rose in rebellion; therefore, finally, the Sultan had to cancel his order.
  • Muhammad also moved the capital from Delhi to Devagiri (which he renamed Daulatabad). As per his strategic plan, Daulatabad (located nearby modern Aurangabad in Maharashtra) was a better place for controlling the Deccan.
  • The moving of the capital was, however, not successful, as it was too far from northern India, and hence, the Sultan could not keep a watch on the northern frontiers. Therefore, Muhammad returned the capital back to Delhi.
  • Muhammad decided to issue 'token' coins on brass and copper, which could be exchanged for silver coins from the treasury. This scheme would have worked, if he had monitored it carefully and allowed strictly only to the government body to issue token coins. But it did not happen rather many people started making brass and copper ‘tokens’ and the Sultan, therefore, had no control over the finances. The token coins had to be withdrawn.
  • Unfortunately, Muhammad’s many administrative policies failed; hence, gradually he lost the support not only of the people, but also many of the nobles and the ulema.
  • The ulema were the scholars of Islamic learning who were generally orthodox in their outlook.

Firoz Shah Tughlaq

  • In March, 1351, Muhammad died. After his death, his cousin Firoz Shah came to the throne who ruled till 1388.
  • Firoz realized that one of the reasons for the failure of Muhammad was that he did not have the support of the nobles. Therefore, Firoz first established a friendly relation with them and made them happy by giving them, grants or revenue.
  • Firoz, further, allowed the orthodox ulema to influence state policy in certain matters. Thus Firoz improved his relationship with the powerful groups at the court; however, in spite of all these, the power of the Sultan decreased.
  • In the meantime, the governors of certain provinces, including Bihar and Bengal, had rebelled against the Sultanate. Firoz tried to control them, but was not very successful.
  • Firoz was interested in improving the general welfare of his subjects. He improved parts of the kingdom by starting new irrigation schemes. The Yamuna Canal was one of his schemes.
  • Firoz also established a few new towns, such as Ferozpur, Ferozabad, Hissar-Firoza, and Jaunpur.
  • Firoz also constructed many educational centers and hospitals. He was interested in the ancient culture of India. Firoz order to translate a number of Sanskrit books into Persian and Arabic languages.
  • Firoz also owned two of the pillars of the emperor Ashoka and one of them was placed on the roof of his palace.
  • In September 1388, Firoz died, after which there was a civil war among his descendants. Because of the political instability, the governors of many provinces became independent kings and finally only a small area around Delhi remained in the hands of the Tughluq Sultans.


Sayyid Dynasty (1413 – 1451)

  • By 1413, the Tughlaq dynasty ended completely and local governor occupied Delhi and given way to Sayyid Dynasty.
  • In 1398, Timur, the Turkish chief invaded India and robbed Indian wealth. While returning back, he appointed Khizr Khan as the governor of Delhi.
  • Khizr Khan had taken Delhi from Daulat Khan Lodi and founded Sayyid dynasty in 1414. Sayyid dynasty ruled Delhi until 1451.
  • In 1421, Khizr Khan died, hence, his son Mubarrak Khan succeeded. Mubarrak Khan represented himself as ‘Muizz-ud-Din Mubarak Shah’ on his coins.
  • Mubarrak Khan ruled till 1434 and he was succeeded by his nephew Muhammad Shah. Muhammad Shah ruled till 1445.
  • Muhammad succeeded by Ala-ud-din Alam Sham, who ruled till 1451. In 1451, Bahlul Lodi became the Sultan and founded the Lodi dynasty.
  • Lodi Dynasty came after Sayyid dynasty and ruled until A.D. 1526.


Lodi Dynasty (1451–1526)

  • Lodi dynasty was originally from Afghan who ruled Delhi Sultanate for about 75 years.

Bahlul Lodi

  • Bahlul Lodi, who founded the dynasty and ruled Delhi from 1451 to 1489. After his death in 1489, his second son Sikandar Lodi succeeded the throne.

Sikandar Lodi

  • Sikandar Lodi took the title of Sikandar Shah. It was Sikandar Lodi who founded Agra city in 1504 and moved capital from Delhi to Agra.
  • Sikandar Lodi, further, abolished the corn duties and patronized trade and commerce in his kingdom.

Ibrahim Lodi

  • After Sikandar Lodi, Ibrahim Lodi (the youngest son of Sikandar Lodi) became sultan. Ibrahim Lodi was the last ruler of Lodi dynasty who ruled from 1517 to 1526.
  • Ibrahim Lodi was defeated by Babur in 1526, in the first battle of Panipat and from now Mughal Empire established.

Lodi Administration

  • The Lodi kings tried to consolidate the Sultanate and attempted to curb the power of rebellious governor.
  • Sikandar Lodi who ruled from 1489-1517, controlled the Ganges valley up to western Bengal.
  • Sikandar Lodi moved capital from Delhi to Agra, as he felt that he could control his kingdom better from A gra. He also tried to strengthen the loyalty of the people by various measures of public welfare.

The Nobles

  • During the sultanate period, the nobles played a powerful role. Sometimes, they even influenced state policy and sometimes (as governors), they revolted and became independent rulers or else usurped the throne of Delhi.
  • Many of these nobles were Turkish or Afghani, who had settled in India.
  • Some of the nobles were men who came to India only in search of their fortune and worked for the Sultan.
  • After Ala-ud-din Khilji, Indian Muslims and Hindus were also appointed as officers (nobles).
  • The Sultan followed the earlier system of granting the revenue from a piece of land or a village to the (noble) officer instead of paying them salary.
  • As the power of the Sultanate gradually declined, the number of new kingdoms arose in different parts of the subcontinent. Most of them began as provinces of the Sultanate, but later became independent province.









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