Delhi Sultanate

The course of Indian History was invariably changed with the rise of Islam and increased Islamic invasions on India. As early as 711 AD, Muhammad-bin-Qasim had captured Sind and Multan; however, his career ended suddenly because his masters recalled him and put him to death.  By 10th century, a strong Ghaznavid Empire was founded by Subuktgeen in parts of modern Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan, southwest Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India. His son Mahmud Ghaznavi carried out as many as seventeen raids on India between 1000 and 1026 AD.

Subuktgeen and his son Mahmud and repeatedly defeated the Hindushahi King Jayapala. Jayapala burnt himself to death due to repeated humiliation. His son Anandpala made an alliance {Rajput Confederacy} with six Rajput rulers of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Kannauj, Delhi and Ajmer. This combined army engaged in a battle with Ghaznavids in 1008 near Peshawar. However, Rajput army was defeated following a stampede; and Mahmud became undisputed ruler of Punjab, Multan and Sindh.

Between 1008 and 1026, Mahmud repeatedly attacked Nagarkot, Thaneshwar, Kannauj, Meerut, Mathura, Somnath, Ajmer, Kalinjer, Gwalior and other places. The Somnath temple was destroyed and its Lingam was personally hammered by Mahmud. The pieces of the Lingam were carted back to Ghazni to be used in pavements of a Jama Masjid.

After his last attack on Somnath, he returned via Thar Desert due to fear of organized army of Raja Bhoj, though Jats had confronted him. During the last invasion, he got Malaria and died in 1030 AD.

The key objective of Mahmud behind invasions on India was to loot the wealth from its rich Rajas and temples. Every time, he returned with enormous wealth.  He could be defeated by the Rajputs but the Rajputs suffered from political myopia. They often fought with each other and followed epic era rules and customs of war such as not attacking the fleeing enemy, not attacking the enemy with no arms etc. The invaders took advantages of this lack of political foresight and the result was that within a century, all the Hindu dynasties of the country were swept away by the torrent of the Muslims.

Mohammad Ghori

In the later part of 12th century, Mohammad Ghori led a series of campaigns in India. In his first battle, he defeated a Muslim rule in Multan in 1175. In 1178, he was badly defeated in the Battle of Gujarat {also known as Battle of Kayadara} near Mount Abu by Solanki queen Naikidevi. This was last attack of Ghori from Gujarat side. In 1191, he was defeated in the First Battle of Tarain by Prithviraj Chauhan; however, his life was saved by a Turkic retainer.  He reverted back in 1192 in second battle of Tarain. In this battle, Prithviraj lost and tried to flee but was captured and was executed either in India or in Ghazni.

Ruthless slaughter of civilians followed this battle at Ajmer, Hansi and Delhi. Qutub-ud-din, the slave and general of Mohammad Ghori sacked Ayodhya and campaigned even to Bengal. Before his death, Mohammad appointed Qutub-ud-din as Naib-us-Sultanate (Viceroy) of his empire in India and bestowed him the title of Aibak (The axis of faith).

Mohammad Ghori was assassinated in 1206 by Khokhars in Punjab. He had no sons, so after his death, his Turkic slaves distributed the empire among themselves. In India, Qutub-ud-din became the first of the 34 Muslim Kings who ruled between 1206 to 1526. These 34 Kings belonged to five dynasties and are collectively called “Delhi Sultanate”.

  • Mamluk {Slave} Dynasty (1206-1290): Turkish Origin
  • Khilji dynasty (1290–1320) : Turkish Origin
  • Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1413): Turkish Origin
  • Sayyid dynasty (1414–51) : Disputed / Arabian Origin
  • Lodi dynasty (1451–1526) : Afghan Origin

The continuance of the three Turkish origin dynasties was disturbed by the invasion of Timur in 1398, which put an end to the Tughlaqs and the Delhi Sultanate was broken up in pieces. It was taken over by the Sayyid Dynasty which were actually nobles and claimed Arabian descent from the dynasty of Hazarat Muhammad. Lodi dynasty was last before Mughals took over Delhi.

Mamluk dynasty (1206–90)

First ruler of Mamluk dynasty was Qutub-ud-din Aibak (1206-1211). He reigned only for four years and died in 1210 due to falling from horse while playing Chaugan. He was called Lakha Baksh Sultan due to his generosity. He laid the foundation of Qutub Minar, named after Sufi saint Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki and also built Quvvat-ul-Islam mosque.

Second ruler of Mamluk dynasty was Iltutmish (1211-1236), a son-in-law of Qutub-ud-din. He belonged to Ilabari tribe so some people called Slave dynasty as Ilabari dynasty also. He did some experiments in Indian Administration. During his reign, the Ilabari elite called Chahalgani or Chalisa remained dominant in administration. Some of the notable points about his reign are as follows:

  • During Iltutumish reign, Mongols attacked under Chengez Khan. His eyes were set on west, so he returned quickly from Punjab towards Sindh and Multan.
  • He built Hauz Shamshi in Delhi, completed the Qutub Minar works and also built India’s first Islamic Mausoleum Sultan Garhi in Delhi to bury his son Nasiru’d-Din Mahmud.
  • He organized iqta system of land revenue on salary basis. This system underwent changes in later times, which we would discuss later.
  • He introduced two coins viz. Silver Tanka and Copper Jital. The Silver Tanka was weighing 175 grams. Later Balban issued Gold Tankas of same weight.
  • Prior to these, the invaders had issued cons engraved with Sanskrit characters. For example, Mohammad Ghori issued coins with seated Lakshmi in imitation to the Gahadwals. Iltutmish became the first ruler to issue Arabic coins in India.
  • He was also the first Sultan to receive the investiture of “Sovereign Sultan of Delhi” from the Caliph of Baghdad. This investiture legitimized his rule.

The third ruler of Maluk dynasty was Raziya Sultan, the military trained daughter of Iltutmish. By that time, the Chalagani had become very dominant and she could hold for only three and half years. She lost her life to Jats of modern Haryana.

The fourth ruler was Balban (1266-1287) who took the advantage of feebleness of successors of Iltutmish and become top noble of the Chahalgani. However, once he became Sultan, he mercilessly executed the other nobles thus putting an end to the Chahalgani dominance. He also subdued the Mewatis by clearing forests and executing lakhs of Mewatis. He also subdued the dacoits of Doab. He ruled for 21 years as per the practical requirements of 13th century India. Some other notes are as follows:

  • He introduced practice of Zaminbosi {to kiss the earth} and Paibosi {kiss the feet of Sultan} as per the Iranian theory of divine rights which believed that King / Sultan is God’s representative on Earth.

The successor of Balban was his grandson Kaikubad, a young boy of 17 years, who debauched himself soon. He was killed by Jalal-ud-din Firuz Khilji aka Malik Firuz. Thus slave dynasty was put to an end and Delhi slipped in hands of Khilji dynasty.

The Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320)

The founder of this dynasty was Jalauddin Khilji aka. Malik Firuz, a general of the Slaves. Kaikubad had appointed him at Baran but when he knew about the debauchery of Kaikubad, he marched to Delhi and got the sultan and also his three years old son killed. He sat on throne of Delhi at the age of 70 years. During his time, Mongol invaders Halaku and Ulugh Khan invaded but the old sultan avoided war with them. He made peace with Ulugh Khan by giving him his daughter.

Jalauddin was assassinated by his nephew Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316) who became the second Sultan of Khilji dynasty. He was illiterate but a great commander who became the first Muslim invader to cross Vindhyas, Satpuras and Narmada River to conquer Deccan.

Alauddin faced most frequent Mongol attacks (under Duwa Khan, Saldi, Kutlugh Khwaja, Targhi khan etc.). He was able to deter the Mongols. He built Siri fort his capital to save himself from Mongols. Due to the repeated invasions, horde of nomadic Mongols started staying near Delhi and accepted Islam. They were called New Muslims. The sultan sensed a conspiracy in New Muslims and ordered to eliminate all of them in one day. This led to massacre of 40,000 Mongol mans in one day. The women and children were thrown into slavery.

Alauddin also sent a strong army to Kandhar, Ghazni and Kabul to teach lesson to Mongols. After this, no Mongol happened during his life time.

The conquered the Ranthambore in 1301 with the help of a Rajput traitor Ranmal and seized Chittor in 1303. Seize of Chittor was followed by self-immolation by its queen Padmini and other ladies of the fort. Chittor was renamed as Khijrabad after Alauddin’s son Khijra Khan.

He sent Malik Kafur to win over Deccan. Malik Kafur was able to march up to Rameshwaram and build a mosque there.

Alauddin died in 1316 and was succeeded by his son Mubarak Shah. Like his father, he also had a beautiful Pariah from Gujarat called Khusru Khan, a Hindu castrato and covert. Mubarak Shah and entire Khilji dynasty was eliminated by Khusru Khan, who sat on the throne as Sultan Nasiruddin. He in turn was killed by Ghiyas ud-Din Tughluq, thus Delhi slipped into hands of Tughlaq dynasty.

Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1413)

The first ruler of Tughlaq dynasty was Ghiyas ud-Din Tughluq (1321-1325) aka Ghazi Malik. He was succeeded by Mohammad Bin Tughlaq in 1325. He was a man of ideas and famous for his foolish adventures. His expeditions to Khurasan and China failed and reduced him to penury. To raise the revenues, he increased taxes in doab region which in turn reduced farmers to beggars. His idea to shift capital to Daultabad to keep control over wealthy Deccan backfired.

When his wisdom strikes back, he abolished all the oppressive taxes and sets up a Department of Agriculture (Diwan-i-Kohi) and established a Famine Code to relive victims of famine.

To improve monetary conditions, he took the idea of paper money issued in China and allowed Copper and Brass coins at par with Silver Tanka. However, this experiment also backfired because of great coin piracy by artisans. The result was the public become rich and government became poor. Ultimately, he repealed the edict of these token coins and gave order to bring copper coins to treasury and exchange them with silver / gold. Due to these experiments of Sultan, the discontent grew among people and revolts started appearing in sultanate.

In 1351 Mohammad bin Tughlaq died and was succeeded by his cousin Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled as third Tughlaq Sultan from 1351 to 1388 AD. Firozshah Tughlaq was half Muslim {his mother was a Hindu}. To prove himself equal to pure Muslims, he ruled strictly as per Shariat. He abolished all taxes {such as Octroi} which were not as per Shariat; and imposed Jaziya on Hindus. He pulled down the temples, burnt a Brahmin alive for resisting to embrace Islam, and imposed water tax on agricultural land irrigated from state canals.

His reign is also known for plenty of public works. He established cities such as Firuzshah Kotla (Delhi), Hisar, Jaunpur (West Bengal), Fatahabad, Firozabad etc.

He moved one of the Asokan pillars from its original place and erected it in Delhi.

To support Hissar, he constructed a Double System of Canals from Yamuna to Sutlej (called rajwahas in the Indo-Persian historical texts). This canal was later repaired during times of Akbar. Firuzshah did close to 845 public works during his regime.

Firuzshah was gentle towards peasantry. He had destroyed all records of farmer debts ceremoniously to give clean chit to farmers. This was one of the major reasons that he saw no major revolt in 32 years of reign.

Death of Firuzshah brought an end to Turkish Sultans of Delhi. His successors were killed one by one and none could sustain the throne.

In 1398, Timur attacked India and returned with thousands of slaves and 90 elephants laden with treasure. Delhi lost its ascendency and charm for many decades thereafter.

Sayyid dynasty (1414–51)

After a series of successions, the Tughlaq dynasty ended. In 1414, Khijr Khan founded Sayyid dynasty by taking over Delhi as a deputy of Timur in India. Four kings of this dynasty remained in perpetual struggle to retain control. The last ruler of this dynasty Alauddin Alam Shah voluntarily abdicated the throne in favour of Bahlol Lodi.

The Timur invasion, followed by confusion in Delhi over control and absence of a strong ruler resulted in loss of hegemony of Delhi Sultanate over other parts of India during entire 15th century. India was disintegrated into small states and petty rulers, some of which were not larger than 20 or 30 miles. This was time of rise of Rajput chieftains in Rajputana, Bahmani Kingdom, Vijaynagar Kingdom in Karnataka etc.

Lodi Dynasty (1451–1526)

Lodi Afghans tried to gain the old power and pomp of Delhi but could not succeed. The first ruler of this dynasty was Bahlol Lodi (1451-1489). He was leader of the Lodi Afghan tribes holding the fiefdom at Sirhind. He was invited by last Sayyid ruler Alauddin Alam Shah to take the throne and control the fighting nobles. After this, Alauddin Alam Shah retired to Badun to die in peace. Bahlol Lodhi was succeeded in 1489 by his son Sikandar Lodi who was again a half Muslim like Firuzshah Tughlaq. He launched campaigns to regain the old supremacy of Delhi and subdued the Rajas of Bihar, Bengal, Dholpur, Chanderi, Gwalior, Awadh, Tirhut, Bundelkhand etc. In 1503, he established city of Agra and transferred his capital there.

His religious policy was akin to Firuzshah Tughalq, partly due to his compulsion to prove that he was equal to pure Muslims. He pulled down Jwalamukhi temple at Nagarkot, burnt Hindus alive to terrorise them to adopt Islam, and imposed Jaziya on infidels.

Sikandar died in 1517 and was succeeded by his son Ibrahim Lodi, who was the last Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate. Ibrahim (1517-1526) did not know how to win friends. He was so much obsessed with royal prerogative that he forced his nobles to stand motionless with folded hands in his court. When discontent grew, he tried to subdue it by killing some of the nobles. One of his uncles Daulat Khan Lodi fled to Kabul and invited Babur to invade India. In Mewar, a new power under Rana Sanga was on its zenith. Under these circumstances Babur attacked India and closed the chapter of Delhi Sultanate.



  • Anees

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  • Devindra.nanjwade

    It’s a very important in the all computational exam