Rise of Delhi Sultanate

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Muhammad Ghori defeated Prithviraj Chauhan in the Second Battle of Tarain (1192) and laid the foundations of Muslim rule in India. After establishing his empire Ghori returned to Afghanistan, leaving Delhi in the hands of his trusted slave general, Qutub-ud-din Aibak. (During Ghori's period, slaves occupied all high positions of the administration and loved his slaves like his sons) Upon the death of Ghori in 1206, leaving no son, Qutub-ud-din proclaimed himself as the Sultan of Delhi and this marked the beginning of Delhi Sultanate.

The period between 1206-1526 in India's history is known as the Delhi Sultanate. During this period of over 320 years, five Muslim dynasties ruled in Delhi. These were: the Slave dynasty (1206-1290), the Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414-1451) and the Lodi dynasty (1451-1526). The official language of the Delhi Sultanate was Persian. Amir Khusro, the Persian poet (1253-1325) has adorned the royal courts of more than seven rulers of Delhi Sultanate.

Qutab Minar
The Slave Dynasty (1206-1290):

The first Muslim dynasty that ruled India. The slave dynasty was founded in 1206 by Qutub-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210). He established his capital in Lahore. Aibak had to face many revolts from Rajputs and other Indian chiefs. He strengthened his position by matrimonial alliances with the powerful Muslim chiefs. He laid the foundation of Qutab Minar in Delhi in honor of the Sufi Saint Qutub-ud-din Bakhtiar Kaki. He also constructed two mosques: Quwal-ul-lslam at Delhi and Adhai din ka Jhopra at Ajmer. He was very kind and generous to his people and for his generosity, he was given the title of 'Lakh Baksh', meaning giver of lakhs. He ruled only for four years as he died of injuries received in a fall from his horse while playing Polo in 1210. He was succeeded by his son Aram Shah, who proved to be an incapable ruler. Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, a slave and son-in-law of Qutub-ud-din, defeated Aram Shah with the support of the Turkish nobles and ascended the throne in 1211.

Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (1211-1236) is regarded as the real founder of the Delhi Sultanate. He shifted his capital from Lahore to Delhi. On his accession, Iltutmish faced a number of challenges. Other slaves of Muhammad Ghori like Tajuddin Yaldauz, Nasir-ud-Din Qubacha (the Governor of Uch and Multan) and Ali Mardan (the Governor of Bengal) rose into power. He defeated Yaldauz in 1215 and drove away Qabacha from Punjab in 1217.

In 1221, the Mongols appeared for the first time on the banks of the river Indus under their famous leader Chengiz Khan. By his diplomatic skills, he saved the kingdom from the attack of Chengiz Khan  He refused giving shelter to Jalal-ud-din, whom Changiz Khan was chasing. Iltutmish's eldest son, Nasir-ud-din defeated Ghias-ud-din, the son of Ali Mardan and reconquered Bengal in 1227. Iltutmish also reconquered Bihar, Gwalior, Ranathambhor. Jalor, Ajmer, Kalinjar and Mandor from the Rajputs.

Group of Forty: Iltutmush introduced reforms in civil administration and set up an official nobility of slaves known as Turkan-i-Chahalgani or Chalisa (a group of forty). These were Turkish nobles who advised and helped the Sultan in administering the Sultanate. After the death of Iltutmish, this group assumed great power in its hands. For a few years they decided on the selection of Sultans one after the other. The group was finally eliminated by Balban.

He initiated an Iqta system, in which lands were assigned to the nobles and officers in lieu of salary. He introduced silver tankas and copper jital, the two basic coins of the Sultanate period. Iltutmish completed the construction of Qutub Minar which was started by Qutub-ud-din Aibak. Sultan Ghari, the first Islamic Mausoleum in Delhi, was constructed by Iltutmush in memory of his eldest son Nasir-ud-din Mahmud who had died in 1229 while governing Bengal. 

Jalalat al-Din Radiyya (Raziyya) (1236-1240): Please read: Raziyya: The Slave Empress of India

Bahram Shah's reign was followed by Ala-ud-din Masud Shah (1242-1246) and Nasir-ud-din Mahmud (1246-1266), who were weak rulers. Balban became the de-facto ruler of the Sultanate during the reign of Nasir-ud-din. 

Ghias-ud-din Balban (1266-1286) was a slave of Iltutmush. After the death of Nasir-ud-din, Balban became the Sultan of Delhi in 1266. Balban was one of the ablest kings of the Delhi Sultanate. He broke the power of Chalisa and reorganized the administration. He established the military department Diwan-i-Arz and maintained an efficient spy system. The Persian court model influenced Balban’s conception of kingship and he took up the title of Zil-i-Ilahi. (shadow of God) He introduced Sijda (prostration before the monarch) and Paibos (kissing the feet of monarch) as the normal forms of salutation. He also destroyed the rebellious people of Mewat. He introduced the celebration of the Persian new year Nao-roz in India. His son Prince Muhammad was killed in one of the battles against the Mongols in 1285, which was a smashing blow to Balban. He never recovered from the death of his dearest son and died in 1287. Balban was succeeded by his grandson Kaiqubad, who was a weak and incompetent ruler. Kaiqubad was replaced by his son Kayumars who ruled for three months. Kayumars was murdered by Jalal-ud-din Khilji and thus came to an end of the powerful Slave dynasty.

The Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320):

After defeating Kayumars, Jalal-ud-din Khilji (1290-1296) established the Khilji dynasty in 1290. He was an old an of seventy when he took over the throne. Jalal-ud-din tried to win the goodwill of the nobility by a policy of tolerance. He believed that the states in India could not be a truly Islamic state since the large majority of the people in India were Hindus. Jalal-ud-din was assassinated by his nephew and son-in-law, Ali Gurshasp, who proclaimed as the Sultan with the title of Ala-ud-din Khilji in 1296.

Ala-ud-din Khilji (1296-1316) was the first Muslim ruler whose empire covered almost the whole of India up to its extreme south. His reign was considered as the golden period of the Khilji dynasty. He conquered Gujarat (1297), Ranthambhor (1301), Mewar (1303), Malwa (1305), Marwar, Siwana (1308) and Jalore (1311). His general, Malik Kafur  defeated the Yadavas of Devagiri,  Kakatiyas of Warrangal, Hoysalas of Dwarsamudra and the Pandyas of Madurai. To curb any revolt from his followers, he reorganized the spy system and prohibited the use of wine. The nobles were ordered not to have social gatherings or inter-marriages without his permission. He established a huge permanent, standing army to protect the country from Mongol invasion. Ala-ud-din also lowered and fixed the price of the commodities of daily use. Mongol attacks increased during the reign of Ala-ud-din and he built the Siri fort in Delhi to defend the city from Mongol invasions. In 1316, after death of Alauddin, Malik Kafur placed Ala-ud-din's 6 year old prince Shahab-ud-din Umar on the throne and himself became his regent. Soon Malik Kafur was murdered and another son of Ala-ud-din, Qutub-ud-din Mubarak (1316-1320) proclaimed himself as the new Sultan. He was a weakest ruler and he abolished all taxes and penalties and all prisoners were released. Mubarak was murdered by Khusrau Khan, his Commander-in-Chief and a Hindu slave, in 1320. Khusrau Khan (1320) replaced the Muslim officers with Hindu officers and they dishonored the Mosques and insulted Muslims. The Muslims could not tolerate this and they invited Ghazi Malik, a Tughlaq noble to attack Khusrau. Khusrau was killed in the battle and this marked the end of the Khilji dynasty.

Please read: Ala-ud-din's Conquest of Mewar

The Tughlaq Dynasty (1320-1412):

Ghazi Malik ascended the throne as Ghias-ud-din Tughlaq (1320-1325) and founded the Tughlaq dynasty in 1320. Ghias-ud-din was an efficient ruler and administrator. He built the city of Tughlaqabad near Delhi. He died in 1325 from the collapse of a wooden structure built by his son Jauna.

Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq (Fakhr-ud-din Jauna 1325-1351) succeeded his father in 1325. He started a new department for the development of Agriculture called Diwan-i Kohi. He introduced many experiments like increasing the rate of taxation in Doab and introduction of token currency using copper coins; but none of them was successful. He first shifted his capital from Delhi to Devagiri (which he renamed as Daulatabad) in Deccan and then again to Delhi caused heavy financial loss and great hardship to the people: The two places are six hundred miles apart. The unfortunate people were compelled to obey and thousands including women, children and aged persons died by the way. He frequently punished the slightest offences with death, and often without examining the accused. Thus he lost support of the nobles resulting in revolts in many parts of his empire and breaking up of the provinces. The whole of South India became independent during his reign and two new kingdoms: the Vijayanagara and the Bahmani Kingdoms were emerged in the south. Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq died while campaigning against Taghi, a Turkish slave in Sindh. 

Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq was succeeded by his cousin Feroz Shah Tughlaq (1351-1388) in 1351. He constructed canals for the promotion of Agriculture and also established four new towns: Firozabad, Jaunpur, Fathehabad and Hissar Firuza. He also repaired the top two stories of the Qutub Minar, which were damaged by lightning in 1368. He was intolerant towards Hindus and imposed the Jizya tax on the Brahmins. Hindu temples and idols were destroyed. After the death of Feroz in 1388, Malwa, Gujarat and Jaunpur Kingdoms broke away from the Sultanate and the Tughlaq dynasty virtually came to an end.

Timur's Invasion - 1398: Please read: Timur's Invasion of India

The Sayyid Dynasty (1414-1451):

Timur appointed Khizr Khan (1414-1421) as the Governor of Punjab before he left to Samarkand. Khizr Khan took Delhi from Daulat Khan Lodi and established the Sayyid dynasty. He did not take up the title of Sultan but continued to be a vassal of the Timurids. Khizr Khan claimed to be a Sayyid or descendant of Prophet Mohammed. During his reign, a number of provinces of Delhi declared their independence and the whole of his period was spent in trying to suppress those revolts. After Khizr Khan's death, Mubarak Shah (1421-1434) and Mohammad Shah (1434-1443) ascended the throne one after another. Mohammad Shah's son Alam Shah (1443-1451) was a weakest ruler and he handed over the rule to Bahlol Lodi, the Governor of Punjab, and thus the Lodis came to power in 1451.

Lodi Dynasty, the First Afghan Empire of India (1451-1526):

Bahlol Khan Lodi (1451-1488) established the first Afghan Empire in India known as the Lodi dynasty. After continuous war for 26 years, he succeeded in extending his authority over Jaunpur, Rewail, Itawah, Mewar, Sambhal and Gwalior. He was succeeded by his son Sikander Lodi (Nizam Shah 1489-1517), who conquered Bihar and Bengal. He founded the city of Agra in 1504 and shifted his capital from Delhi to Agra. Ibrahim Lodi (1517-1526), succeeded his father Sikander Lodi in 1517. Ibrahim Lodhi asserted the absolute power of the Sultan and he used to insult his nobles. He replaced old and senior officers with young ones who were loyal to him. The nobles who revolted were put to death. He murdered his own brother Jalal Khan. At last, Daulat Khan Lodi, the governor of Punjab and Alam Khan, an uncle of Ibrahim Lodi, invited the Timurid Prince Babur to crush Ibrahim Lodi.

Zahir-ud-din Muhammad Babur defeated Sultan Ibrahim Lodi in the First Battle of Panipat in 1526 and became the ruler of Delhi and Agra. With this the Delhi sultanate came to an end and began the era of the Mighty Mughals in India.

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