Delhi Sultanate, a pivotal chapter in the history of India, was a dynamic and transformative period that spanned from the early 13th century to the mid-16th century. Emerging as a consequence of the Turkish and Afghan incursions into the Indian subcontinent, the Delhi Sultanate marked the onset of Islamic rule in the region. This era witnessed a series of powerful and influential dynasties that left an indelible mark on India’s socio-political landscape. From the establishment of the first sultanate by Qutb-ud-din Aibak to the rise of the Mughal Empire, the Delhi Sultanate era was characterized by cultural amalgamation, architectural marvels, and complex political dynamics. It shaped the course of Indian history and set the stage for the grandeur of the Mughal Empire that would follow. In this introduction, we will delve into the significant events, rulers, and cultural contributions that defined the Delhi Sultanate, shedding light on its multifaceted legacy in the subcontinent’s rich historical tapestry.
After the death of Mohammed Ghori, there were multiple contenders for the throne. Qutb-ud-din Aibak emerged as the ruler and established the Slave dynasty, which marked the beginning of Muslim rule in India under the Delhi Sultanate. The Delhi Sultanate existed from A.D. 1206 to 1526 and witnessed the reign of five different dynasties – the Slave, Khalji, Tughlaq, Sayyids, and Lodis.
- Slave Dynasty (1206-1290)
- Khaliji Dynasty (1290-1320)
- Thuglaq Dynasty (1320-1414)
- Sayeed Dynasty (1414-1451)
- Lodhi Dynasty (1451-1526)
The first three dynasties belonged to the Turkish race, while the Sayyids were Arabs who claimed descent from Prophet Mohammed. The Lodis were Afghans. The first dynasty had the highest number of Sultans, while the Lodi dynasty had the least. The Tughlaqs ruled for a longer period of time than the Khaljis, while the Sayyids ruled over the smallest territory.
Slave Dynasty (1206-1290 AD)
Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1206-1210)
- Qutb-ud-din Aibak was a slave of Mohammed Ghori, and his dynasty is known as the Slave or Mamluk Dynasty.
- He focused on internal consolidation during his brief reign of four years.
- He built the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi to commemorate Islam’s victory in India.
- He also constructed the Adhai Din ka Jhopra mosque in Ajmer and began the construction of the Qutub Minar dedicated to Sufi saint Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakhtiar Kaki.
- Iltutmish was originally named Samshuddin Iliyas and was the son-in-law of Qutbuddin Aibak.
- His Mongol policy saved India from an attack by Genghis Khan.
- He shifted his capital from Lahore to Delhi and completed the construction of the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and the Qutub Minar.
- He introduced the feudalistic system of Iqta/Iqthadari and created a pact of forty Muslim nobles.
- He established the coinage system of the Delhi Sultanate, which included the Tanka (silver coin), Biranz (bronze coin), and Jittal (copper coin).
- He nominated his daughter Raziya as his successor.
Razia Sultana (1236-40)
- Razia Sultana succeeded Iltutmish and became the first Muslim woman ruler in Indian history.
- She appointed an African (Abyssinian) slave named Yakuth as incharge of cavalry.
- Her rule created differences with the Chahalgani (40 nobles).
- She married Altuniya, the governor of Bhatinda, and both were later killed by a coup of the Chahalgani.
- After Razia’s death, the Chahalgani became powerful.
- After six years, Balban succeeded in putting Nasiruddin Mahmud, a younger son of Iltutmish, as Sultan.
- Nasiruddin was interested in philosophy and was inefficient in ruling.
- He was dethroned by his prime minister, Balban.
Ghiyasuddin Balban (1266-1286)
- Balban was the greatest ruler of the Slave Dynasty.
- He abolished the Chahalgani and believed that the real threat to the monarchy was from the Forty.
- He introduced Persian customs and traditions and established the defense department known as Diwan-i-Ariz.
- Balban took severe action on robbers and dacoits, making the roads of Delhi safe to travel.
- He dealt with the Mongol issue using a blood and iron policy and strengthened the western frontiers.
- He sent his son, Mahamud, to fight against the Mongols on the western frontiers, where Mahamud died.
- Saddened by this tragedy, Balban fell ill and died in 1286.
- After his death, Kalimullah and Qaimus became Sultans, with Qaiqubad/Kaiqubad being the last Sultan in the Slave Dynasty.
- After a few years, Qaiqubad became paralytic and was removed from the throne by Jalaluddin Khalji.
2. The Khaljis
Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-96) was a Turk who settled in Afghanistan and won many battles, including successfully halting the Mongol hordes’ entry into India in 1292 even in old age. He gave his daughter to Mongol leader Ulugh Khan in marriage and his nephew and son-in-law, Alauddin Khalji, was governor of Kara. Alauddin invaded the Devagiri kingdom, the first south Indian state to receive Islamic invasion, and acquired a lot of wealth. However, he later murdered his uncle Jalaluddin and ascended the throne.
Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316) was the most imperialistic sultan, with military expeditions to Devagiri (1296, 1307, 1314), Gujarat (1299–1300), Ranthambhor (1301), Chittor (1303), and Malwa (1305). He defeated Waghela Karnadeva of Gujarat and married his wife Kamaladevi. He attacked Chittore for the sake of Rani Padmini, captured the city, but Padmini committed Jauhar. Alauddin’s Chittore campaign was described in the book Padmavath written by Malik Muhammed Jayasi. He framed regulations to control the nobles and made Malik Kafur, an eunuch, his chief commander. Malik Kafur led the South Indian campaign, defeating Ramachandradeva of Devagiri, Prathaprudradeva of Kakatiya, Veera
Bhallala 3 of Hoysala, and Veera and Sundara of Pandya. Alauddin inscribed the title sikandar-e-saini on his coins (sikandar means Alexander) and nominated his eldest son Khizr Khan as his successor, but Malik Kafur assumed authority of the government. After Kafur’s assassination, Alauddin’s son Qutbuddin Mubarak came to power, and during his reign, the Devagiri Yadava kingdom was annexed into the Delhi sultanate. Qutbuddin was murdered by his prime minister Nasiruddin Khushru Shah, who became the last sultan in Khalji dynasty. Later, Khushru Shah was dethroned by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in 1320.
Alauddin implemented several administrative reforms, including setting up a strong central government, separating religion from politics, and taking measures to prevent rebellions. He also introduced market reforms such as paying soldiers in cash and monitoring and controlling prices of essential commodities. Military reforms included branding horses and maintaining detailed soldier registers, paying salaries in cash, and appointing Ariz-i-Mumalik to oversee soldiers’ appointments. Alauddin created a separate revenue department, Diwan-i-Mustkharaj, and imposed Jaziya on non-Muslims while heavily taxing sardars, jagirdars, and ulemas. He also constructed the Siri city and Alai Darwaja.
3. The Tughlaqs
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320-25):
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq established the Thuglaq dynasty in 1320 and built Tughlaqabad city in Delhi. He reformed the courier system by replacing men with horses and establishing Dawk chowkies. His son, Prince Jaunakhan, conquered the kingdom of Kakatiyas in 1323. However, Ghiyasuddin died in an accident in 1325, and Jaunakhan ascended the throne as Muhammad bin Tughlaq.
Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1325-51):
Muhammad bin Tughlaq was a controversial figure in medieval Indian history. He was a learned and talented prince but gained a reputation for being merciless, cruel, and unjust. However, he was tolerant in religious matters. His innovative reforms were poorly executed and brought him a bad name. During his rule, Vijaynagar (1336) and Bahamani (1347) emerged. Ibn Batuta, a Moroccan traveler, visited Tughlaq and recorded his observations in his book Qitab-ul-Rihla. Muhammad bin Tughlaq added the Jahanpanah city to Delhi and introduced token currency, copper coins that had the same value as silver tanka. However, minting the copper coin was not retained as a monopoly of the government, leading to widespread forgery. He also tried to shift the capital from Delhi to Devagiri, causing many deaths during the rigorous journey. He raised taxes steeply, which was impractical during a time of no rainfall. He also launched agricultural reforms by providing takkavi loans and establishing a separate department for agriculture. He died in 1351 AD due to sunstroke.
Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-89):
Firoz Shah Tughlaq ascended the throne after Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq’s death. He imposed Jaziy and destroyed the Jwalamukhi temple but protected Sanskrit scriptures and translated them into Persian. He linked rivers and provided irrigation with the help of four canals and imposed water cess haq-i-shrib. He built many gardens and canals and established the Diwan-i-Khairat, the office for charity, and the Diwan-i-Bundagan, the department of slaves. He also established Sarais for the benefit of travelers and merchants, adopted the Iqtadari framework, established four new towns, and built hospitals known as Darul-Shifa, Bimaristan, or Shifa Khana. Due to all these, he was known as the Sultan of constructions. Firoz Shah died in 1388, and Muhammad Shah ascended the throne. During his rule, Timur invaded and ruined Delhi in 1398, and the Sayyid and Lodi dynasties ruled the declining empire from Delhi until 1526.
4. The Sayyids
During the 15th century AD, a dynasty known as the Sayyids was established by Khizr Khan, who was appointed as the governor of Multan by Timur. Under his leadership, Delhi was captured and the dynasty was founded in 1414. Khizr Khan was succeeded by Mubarak Shah and then Muhammad Shah, followed by Allam Shah who was a philosopher. Allam Shah willingly gave up his throne to Bahalul Lodi and retired to a peaceful life in a small town outside Delhi. This marked the end of the Sayyid dynasty and the start of the Lodi dynastic rule under Bahalul Lodi.
5. The Lodhis
- Bahalul Lodi founded the Lodi dynasty, originally from Afghanistan.
- Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517) succeeded Bahalul Lodi and was the greatest ruler of the dynasty.
- He was contemporary to the bhakti saint Kabirdas and tortured him.
- Sikandar Lodi constructed Agra city and shifted the capital from Delhi to Agra in 1504.
- He destroyed many Hindu temples and imposed many restrictions on the Hindus.
- Sikandar Lodi was succeeded by his son Ibrahim Lodi, who was not a good administrator.
- Ibrahim Lodi had differences with nobles and governors, and his close relatives Allam Khan Lodi and Daulat Khan Lodi invited Babar to invade India.
- Mewar ruler Rana Sanga also invited Babar to invade India.
- Krishnadevraya was the emperor of Vijayanagara in southern India during this time.
- Babar defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat in 1526 AD.
- Ibrahim Lodi was the last sultan in the Delhi Sultanate.
- Babar started the Mughal rule in India from 1526 AD.
6. Administration During Delhi Sultanate Period
- The Delhi sultanate brought a new ruling class and administrative system to India.
- The Sultanate was headed by the Sultan and assisted by nobles, with various other offices.
- There was a council of Ministers, Majlis-i-Khalwat, to theoretically assist the Sultan.
- The Sultanate administration was known as the Turko-Afghan setup in India and the Sultans saw themselves as representatives of the Caliph.
- Iltutmish was the first Sultan to receive recognition from the Caliph.
- The Delhi sultanate was neither a theocratic nor secular state and depended on the ruler.
- Mullahs interpreted shariyath and Qajis executed it.
- Territorial administration was divided into shiqs controlled by shiqdar, paraganas controlled by amil, and villages controlled by headmen (called muqaddam, chaudhri, or khut).
- Patwaries were the village accountants.
- The lands were classified into three categories: iqta land, khalisa land, and inam land.
7. Economy During Delhi Sultanate Period
The administration of the Delhi sultanate heavily relied on land revenue as a major source of income. Peasants were required to pay a significant portion of their produce, ranging from one-third to one-half, as land revenue. Agriculture was the primary occupation of the majority of people, and they produced a diverse range of crops, including food crops, cash crops, fruits, vegetables, and spices. Advanced agricultural techniques like crop rotation, double cropping, three crop harvesting, and fruit grafting were widely practiced, along with the use of artificial water lifting devices such as the Persian wheel.
Urbanization gained momentum during the Sultanate period, and the construction and maintenance of roads and sarais facilitated communication and transportation. The textile industry, especially cotton and silk production, flourished. The Chinese paper-making technology was introduced in India, and craft production was organized in villages and qasbas. There were also royal karkhanas that produced expensive and luxury items for the royal household and court.
In terms of commerce, India had trade links with several regions, including central Asia, China, South-east Asia, and Europe.
8. Literature and Languages during Delhi Sultanate
- Persian became the official language of Delhi sultanate
- Amir Khusrau’s writings marked a new era in Persian literature development in the subcontinent
- Court chronicles were important literary features during Delhi sultanate
- Ziauddin Barani’s Tarikh-I Firozshahi and Fatwa-I Jahandari were important works of Persian literature
- Minhaj-us-Siraj’s Tabaqat-iNasari was a general history of Muslim dynasties up to 1260
- Abu backer’s Chachanamh was the first geographical treatise dealing with the conquest of Sindh
- Many works were translated into Persian during this period, including the Tuti Nama by Zia Nakshabi, which was the first Persian translation of Sanskrit stories
- Urdu emerged as a new language during the 14th century
- The growth of regional languages like Bengali, Gujarati, Marathi, and Telugu was a significant development during this period.
9.Music during Delhi Sultanate
- Amir Khusrau played an important role in the development of music during this period.
- He described Kashmir as Eden on earth and proclaimed himself as tuti-i-hind or parrot of India.
- He witnessed the rule of eight sultans including Jalaluddin Khalji, Alauddin Khalji, and Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq.
- Qawwali style of music is said to have developed during this period and Amir Khusrau is credited for the development of many modern ragas like aiman, gora, and sanam.
- He also created a new musical instrument, the sitar, which was a combination of the Indian vina and the Iranian tambura.
- Sarangi and rabab were introduced as new musical instruments during this period.
- Raja Man Singh of Gwalior encouraged the composition of a great musical work called Man Kautuhal.
10. Architecture during Delhi Sultanates
- New architectural forms and styles emerged during the medieval period in India.
- Indo-Islamic architecture emerged due to the synthesis of Indian and Islamic architectural features.
- The arch and dome were new architectural additions of the period.
- The use of lime-mortar in construction altered building techniques.
- Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque near Qutub Minar in Delhi was built using materials from Hindu and Jain temples.
- Artisans from West Asia helped in precise construction of arches and domes, and local artisans acquired the skill.
- The tomb of Balban was adorned with the first true arch, and the Alai Darwaza built by Alaud-din Khalji was adorned with the first true dome.
- Tughlaqs introduced innovative features in architecture such as sloping walls, stone rubble as a building material, four-centred arches, pointed domes, and octagonal plans for tombs.
- Tughlaqs added Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanha, and Ferozabad to Delhi.
- Jama Masjid in Agra, constructed by Sikander Lodi, was the first structure in the middle of a garden.
- Structures in the middle of a garden became an essential feature in Mughal style after the Tughlaqs.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
FAQ 1: What was the Delhi Sultanate?
Answer: The Delhi Sultanate was a medieval Islamic kingdom in the Indian subcontinent that existed from the 13th to the 16th century. It was a series of Muslim dynasties that ruled over a significant portion of northern India.
FAQ 2: Who was the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate?
Answer: The first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate was Qutb-ud-din Aibak, who became the Sultan in 1206 after the death of his master and the founder of the Delhi Sultanate, Muhammad Ghori.
FAQ 3: What were some significant achievements of the Delhi Sultanate?
Answer: The Delhi Sultanate made notable contributions in the fields of architecture, art, and culture. The construction of the Qutb Minar and the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate’s unique architectural style are among its remarkable achievements. It also played a crucial role in spreading Islamic culture in the Indian subcontinent.
FAQ 4: How did the Delhi Sultanate come to an end?
Answer: The Delhi Sultanate gradually declined over time due to internal conflicts, invasions by external powers, and economic instability. The most significant blow to the Delhi Sultanate came with the invasion of Timur (Tamerlane) in 1398, which severely weakened its hold. Ultimately, the Mughal Empire, under Babur, defeated the last ruler of the Delhi Sultanate, Ibrahim Lodhi, in 1526, marking the end of the Sultanate.
FAQ 5: What was the impact of the Delhi Sultanate on Indian history?
Answer: The Delhi Sultanate had a profound impact on Indian history. It marked the beginning of the Islamic presence in India, which influenced its culture, architecture, and political landscape. The Sultanate’s legacy can be seen in the syncretic Indo-Islamic culture that developed, with influences from both Hindu and Islamic traditions. Additionally, the administrative systems and governance structures introduced by the Delhi Sultanate had a lasting impact on subsequent Indian dynasties, including the Mughals.
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