Society in Delhi Sultanate

The Delhi sultanate society was broadly divided into four major groups viz. nobles (Aristocrats), Priests, Towns people and Peasants.

Nobles included Sultan and his relatives, courtiers and holders of Iqta, Hindu and Muslim chieftains, merchants, bankers etc. Almost all the wealth and power was concentrated in this group. They lived in luxury and style.

Second group of priests included Brahmins and Ulemas. Brahmins as well as Ulemas were given tax free land grants so they were also rich and powerful. During most of Sultanate era {except under Alauddin Khilji}, the influence of Ulema was so much that it often influenced the policies of the Sultan.

The town people included urban wealthy merchants, traders and artisans. Since nobles and merchants lived in towns, they gradually became centres of administration and military. The places where Sufi saints lived became pilgrim centres. In urban centres, there was a trend of colonies of artisans, for example, weavers living in weavers’ colony while Goldsmiths living in their colony. International trade was flourishing. State patronized the royal Karkhanas for producing goods.

The lowest stratum of the society of Delhi Sultanate was peasants. They lived in villages, paid taxes to state as land revenue. A change in dynasty generally did not brought any change in their lives. There was a rigid caste system. Intercaste marriage and dining got totally prohibited. Hindus and Muslims influenced each others’ customs and traditions. Those who converted to Islam continued their old traditions and thus a composite culture of India was born.


During Sultanate era, the trade was flourishing. Communities such as Banias, Marwaris and Multanis had their own special vocation of merchandise trade. The Banjaras acted as Couriers and they traded in caravans. The growth of trade also encouraged use of money in place of barters. The introduction of Tanka and Jital by Iltutmish was most used currency in early periods of sultanate.


By early Sultanate era, Hinduism was India’s main religion. However, it had degenerated to a great extent due to superstitions, rituals, sacrifices; and due to Brahamanic dominance.  Islam was opposite to the Hinduism of the day as it talked of equality, brotherhood and monotheism. It’s simple doctrine challenged the social pattern of society and most important result of this was emergence of Bhakti movement and Sufi Movement. Both of these emphasized that God was supreme, all men were equal and Bhakti or devotion to God was the way to achieve salvation.

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