• The Slave Sultans
  • The Khiljis
  • The Tughlaq Sultans
  • The Sayyid Dynasty
  • The Lodi Sultans
  • Causes of the Downfall of the Delhi Sultanate
  • The Administration of the Sultanate
  • Economy
The Slave Sultans
Muhammad Ghori
Muhammad Ghori's conquests became the nucleus of a new political entity of indie-the Delhi Sultanate.
Muhammad had left his Indian possessions in the care of his former slave, General Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1206 -ll) who on the deaths of his master, severed his links with Ghazni and asserted his independence.
He was the founder of what is referred to as the slave dynasty or the mamluks.
He died as a result of a fall from his horse while playing Chaugan.
lltutmish (1211-36)
lltutmish succeeded Qutb-ud-din Aibak as the sultan. He consolidated the Ghurid acquisitions in India into a well-knit and compact state, the Sultanate of Delhi.
He gave the new State a capital, Delhi, a monarchical form oil government and a governing class.
He also procured a deed of investiture from the caliph of Baghdad in 1229 for the State.
However, the State under the Delhi Sultans was not considered truly Islamic by the historian Barani because the Sultans supplemented the Muslim law by their own regulations.
He organised the iqtas, the army, and also the currency, the three most important organs of the imperial structure of the Delhi Sultanate.
Raziya (1236-40)
Iltutmish was succeeded by his daughter, Raziya, who also had to face these problems.
Being a woman ruler made it even more difficult for her.
The intrigues of the Turkish chiefs sometimes called the forty or chahalgami increased against the monarchy.
Raziya was ultimately murdered.
Balban (1265-85)
Court intrigue continued unabated until the emergence of Balban, who was himself a Turkish chief and rose from the position of a minister to become a Sultan in 1265.
Balban was more successful in solving these problems than Iltutmish had been.
He defended the Sultanate from the attacks of the Mongols on the north and wrested Multan from them. But realizing the situation, he tacitly agreed to leave the whole of the Punjab under Mongol control.
He fought against the local rulers who were threatening the position of the Sultan both within the Sultanate and along its borders.
Balban was able to save the Sultanate, but could not found a dynasty. After him, a new dynasty of the Khilji came to power.
The Khiljis (1290-1320)
Starting of Khilji's
The Khiljis used their Afghan descent to win the loyalties of the discontented Afghan nobles, who felt that they had been neglected by the earlier Sultans.
Led by Jalaluddin Khilji, they wrested power from the incompetent successors of Balban in 1290.
Jalaluddin (1290-96) was succeeded by his nephew, Alauddin (1296-1316).
Khilji's Reign
The hold of the Turk Sultan was limited to Delhi, the Gangetic region and eastern Rajasthan.
Bengal and Bihar remained outside their control during the greater part of the 13th century.
Punjab remained under the Mongols. In the Deccan, Malwa and Gujarat could not be annexed by them.
Alauddin, however, was ambitious and dreamt of an all-India empire.
Over a 25-year-period not only was Malwa and Gujarat brought under control, but most of the princes in Rajasthan were subdued. The Deccan and the south up to Madurai were also over-run.
Alauddin Khilji
Alauddin's famous general, Malik Kafur, led the campaigns to the south.
He carried back large amounts of gold from the various kingdoms of the south, including the Yadavas at Deogir, the Kakatiyas at Warangal and the Hoysalas at Dwarasa-mudra.
These rulers were allowed to keep their throne provided they paid the tribute.
Expansion continued under his successors, the climax being reached during the reign of Mohammad-bin-Tughlaq.
After 1306, the Mongols, because of the domestic troubles in Transoxiana, returned to central Asia, and ceased to be a danger to the Sultanate.
Alauddin's Tenure
Alauddin's military successes were because of a large standing army directly recruited and paid by the State which reduced his dependence on the troops of provincial governors and vassals.
To prevent fraudulent musters, he began the practice of branding the horses (dagh) and of preparing descriptive rolls of soliders (chehra).
The State needed revenue to maintain such a large army. Alauddin, therefore, brought about many changes in the agrarian system.
To prevent corruption, he kept a strict watch on the revenue which the nobles got from their land and did not allow them to levy any additional cess as a source of income.
Alauddin's Fray
Above all, Alauddin tried to introduce price controls covering almost the entire market, so that the cost of living would not be high.
Ala-ud-din banned the drinking of intoxicants since convivial gatherings could become the foci of rebellion.
The nobility under the Khiljis became more broad-based, with high offices being granted to Indian Muslims as well.
Towards the end of his reign, Gujarat, Chittor and Deogir broke away from the Sultanate.
Kings followed in quick succession in the four years after Alauddin's death in 1316, till Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq proclaimed himself the Sultan of Delhi in 1320.
The Tughlaq Sultans(1320-1414)
Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq (1325-51)
He succeeded his father Ghiyas-ud-din. He has been referred to as an 'illstarred idealist' whose experiments generally ended in failure.
Muhammad's political ambitions extended even beyond India, into central Asia.
To meet the expenses of maintaining a large army, he increased the revenue imposed on the Doab. But, this time, the peasants refused to acquiesce and rebelled.
Though the rebellion was suppressed, the taxation policy had to be revised.
Popularisation Token Currency
Another experiment which ended in failure was Muhammad's attempt to popularise token currency.
This was again a part of his attempt to obtain more money.
The Sultan decided to issue token coins made of brass and copper which had the same value as silver coins.
This new idea might have solved some of his financial problems, but unfortunately people began forging the new coins.
The result was a financial chaos, and token coins had to be discontinued. He also issued a new gold coin called Dinar by lbn Batutah.
Capital Confirmation
Muhammad also decided to move the capital from Delhi to Deogir (which he renamed Daulatabad), to be able to control the Deccan and extend the empire into the south.
He himself camped for two years at a place called Swargadwari, and moved the elite of Delhi and the mystics, who would perform the role of acculturation, to the new capital.
The plan ended in a failure because of the discontent amongst those who had been forced to move.
Muhammad also found that he could not keep a watch on the northern frontiers.
So Muhammad returned to Delhi.
Fray of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq
In 1334, bubonic plague wiped out more than half his army, and it, therefore, ceased to be an effective instrument of central authority.
In 1334, the Pandyan Kingdom (Madurai) rejected the authority of the Sultanate and this was followed by Warangal.
The coastal regions of the south were thus independent. in 1336, the kingdom of Vijayanagar and, in 1347, the kingdom of the Bahmanis were founded.
Because of his policies, Muhammad lost the support of the people, the nobles and the ulema.
The diverse elements in the nobility under him resulted in a lack of homogeneity of spirit and outlook, so essential for the successful implementation of his policies and projects.
Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351-88)
The nobles and theologians at the court selected Muhammad's cousin Firoz Shah as the next Sultan.
His immediate concern was to quell the rebellions, but many of his campaigns ended with conceding virtual independence to the provinces, as in the case of Bengal.
Having become Sultan with the support of the nobles and the theologians, he had to appease them.
First, the government prohibited siyasat, i.e. infliction of death penalty or torture.
But he put nothing in its place for political offenders.
Tax System
All the loans that the people owed to the state were ceremoniously washed off.
It was also ordered that kharaj (land-tax) be levied according to produce.
Thus, there was no uniform rule with reference to the state's share of the produce for the whole country.
He also decreed hereditary succession to iqta and other sinecures.
This chiefly accounted for the absence of rebellions by the nobels in his reign. It also made the Sultan dependent on a narrow oligarchy.
Military Management
The soldiers and military officers were paid by the assignments on the land revenue of villages and not in cash.
This meant that a soldier had to either go to the villages to collect his salary, and absent himself from services, or to give the assignment to some broker who would given him a half or one-third of its value.
Firoz extended the principle of heredity to the army as well.
The entire military administration became lax.
The soldiers were allowed to pass useless horses at the muster by bribing the clerks. The result of all this was the degeneration of the once invincible army of the Sultanate.
Religious Views
In the interest of the theologians, he declared that religious endowments which had reverted to the State under the previous rulers would be returned to the earlier holders or their descendants, conceding to them the hereditary principle.
Firoz proclaimed himself a true Muslim king, and the State under him a truly Islamic state.
He tried to ban practices which the orthodox theologians considered un-lslamic.
Thus, he ordered that Muslim women were not to come out of their houses or go to visit tombs.
He persecuted a number of Muslim sects which were considered heretical by the theologians and refused to exempt brahmanas from the payment of the jaziya.
Revenue System
Firoz amassed considerable private property through various measures.
A water tax was imposed on all the land irrigated by the canals dug by the State, north and north-west of Delhi.
The Yamuna canal is one of these. He planted various orchards. He also acquired numerous slaves.
Some of whom were employed in royal karkhanas all over the empire. From the karkhanas, he earned lakhs as revenue.
Firoz also used slaves to form a corps of soldiers, who he thought would be completely loyal to him.
Fray of Firoz Shah Tughlaq
Firoz also established new towns such as Firozpur, Firozabad, Hissar-Firoza and Jaunpur.
His death was followed by a civil war among his descendants.
The governors of many provinces became independent and finally only a small area around Delhi remained in the hands of the Tughlaq sultans.
The subsequent weakness of the Delhi sultanate was revealed by the Mongol raids in 1398 under the leadership of Timur (Tamerlane).
Timur's army mercilessly sacked and plundered Delhi. Timur returned to central Asia leaving a nominee to rule in Punjab. The last of the Tughlaq ruler was Nasir-ud-din Mahmud.
The Sayyid Dynasty (1414-1451)
Rise of Sayyid Dynasty
The Tughlaq dynasty ended soon after but the Sultanate survived, though it was merely a shadow of its former self, Timur's nominee captured Delhi and was proclaimed the new Sultan, the first of the Sayyid dynasty, which was to rule during the earlier half to the 15th century.
Sayyid rule was short-lived and was confined to a radius of some 200 miles around Dem.
They kept the machinery going until a more capable dynasty, the Lodis, took over.
The Lodis were of pure Afghan origin, which meant the eclipse of the Turkish nobility.
The Lodi Sultans (1451-1526)
Bahlul Lodi
Bahlul Lodi was one of the Afghan Sardars who established himself in the Punjab after the Timurid invasion.
The most important Lodi Sultan was Sikander Lodi (1489-1517) who controlled the Ganga valley as far as western Bengal.
He moved the capital form Delhi to a new town which later became famous as the city ongra, to be able to control the kingdom better.
Lodi's Reign
The Sultan had to deal with the tribal character of the Afghan nobles.
The Afghan concept was of partnership rather than subservience to the King.
In matters of succession, they were guided by considerations of suitability rather than the principle of heredity or nomination.
The army turned into a tribal militia, making it less effective.
Some of the Sultan's privileges and prerogatives came to be commonly used by some nobles.
End of Lodi Sultans
The first two Lodi kings modified the autocracy of the Sultanate and thus made an appeal to Afghan loyalty, but the last Lodi, Ibrahim, asserted the absolute power of the sultan and did not consider tribal feelings.
This led to his making enemies among them.
Finally, they plotted with Babar, the king of Kabul, a descendent of Tamerlane and Ghengiz Khan, and succeeded in overthrowing lbrahim in 1526 at the First Battle of Panipat.
Rana Sanga of Mewar who dreamed of ruling from Delhi also made an alliance with Babar, who however, founded his own dynasty in India and his descendants, the Mughals, created their own empire in India.
Reasons for Downfall
No individual Sultan can be held responsible for the downfall of the Delhi Sultanate.
Regional factors of disintegration were strong in medieval India.
There were also powerful Chiefs who either had a clan-following of their own, or had strong links with particular areas.
They were always ready to rebel when they found any weakness in the central Government.
The Turkish Sultans tried to counter these elements first by collecting a corpe of slaves, create a nobility completely dependent on the Sultan.
Recruitment of Army
The recruitment of the army also created a problem.
Once the Sultans of Delhi had been cut off from the Western and Central Asia, they could no longer hope to recruit Turkish and other soldiers from that area.
They had, therefore, to fall upon
  • Afghans, many of whom had settled in India
  • Descendants of Turkish soldiers who had come to India, mainly at the time of occupation
  • Mongols and Muslim converts
  • Hindus belonging to what might be called the martial communities (Rajputs, Jats, etc.)

Each of these sections had their own problems.
Succession of Sultans
Firoz tried to give preference to the descendants of Turks and Mongols by giving them a hereditary character.
He also recruited Muslims in his corpe of slaves. Neither proved a success.
The hereditary soldiers proved inefficient and the corpe of slaves selfish and disloyal. Each of these groups were also antagonistic to each other.
Another problem facing the sultans was that of succession. There was no rule whereby the eldest son could succeed.
This led to struggles for succession in which ambitious nobles found an opportunity to further their own interests.
The Administration of the Sultanate
The sultan's administration was concerned mainly with the work of collecting and recording the revenue from the land, and maintaining law and order.
This they achieved with iqta system.
lqta System
The Iqta was a territorial assignment and its holder was designated as Muqti.
The muqtis had the right to collect and appropriate taxes, especially land revenue, due to the king, during the latter's pleasure.
The iqta, however also implied, in return, certain obligations on the part of the muqti to the sultan, the major one being to maintain troops and furnish them to the sultan when needed.
The revenues he appropriated from the iqta were thus meant to provide him with resources wherewith to fulfill these obligations.
The muqti was thus tax collector, and army paymaster (also commander), rolled into one.
The area that the sultan did not give in iqta was called khalisa.
The sultans' sought always to enlarge their own khalisa.
However, a later tradition related that Iltutmish paid cavalry soldiers of his own 'central' army (qalb), 2000 or 3000 in number, by assigning them villages, which came to be called iqtas.
The practice continued under Balban (1266-86), who, in spite of discovering great abuses, did not seek to abolish the assignments, but only to reduce or resume those from which full or proper service was not forthcoming.
Balban's Dynasty
Well before the fall of Balban's dynasty, the Sultan expected that 'excess amounts' (fawazil) must be sent from the iqtas to the sultan's treasury.
One could say that inherent in the calculation of the excess was an estimation of tax income of the iqta, and the expenditure on the troops the muqti's Were, expected to maintain.
Sultan Balban's appointment of a khwaja (accountant) along with the muqti suggests perhaps that the sultan's govemment was now trying to discover what was actually collected and spent within the iqta.
Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316)
Major changes occurred during the reign of Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316).
Alauddin Khalji decreed the new system of assessment and collection of agrarian taxes in a large region, the bulk of which, as Barani himself shows, was under muqtis.
The tax income (kharaj) from each iqta was estimated at a particular figure by the finance department (Diwan-I-Wizarat). The department remained on constant look out for an opportunity to enhance this estimate.
Alauddin Khalji's harsh measures, including imprisonment and physical torture, were aimed at keeping a check on this tendency.
Revenue officials were kept by him for long years in chains and subjected to torture for small misappropriations.
Ghiyasuddin Tughluq had no radical changes to introduce in this system, except to propound moderations.
Under Muhammad Tughlaq (1325-51), we find a further extension of the control of the sultan's government.
Firoz Tughlaq's accession (1351) took place amidst a severe political crisis; and he began his reign by promising concessions to the nobility.
He decreed that there should be a new estimate of the revenues (mahsul) of the sultanate; and within four years this was prepared, the total amounting to 67,500,000 or 68,500,000 tankas.
Under the Lodis (1451-1526)
Under the Lodis the system remained essentially similar, but a reorganization occurred.
The term iqta now disappears from view, replaced simply by sarkars and parganas.
The village had three main officials, the head man (muqaddam); the accountant (patwari), who kept the local records, and the mushrif, who supervised the accounts and attended to the revenue when it was collected.
At the court, the wazir (chief minister) supervised the collection of revenue, the checking of accounts and the regulation of expenditure.
The wazir supervised the work of all officers. He also advised the sultan.
Economy-Sources of Revenue
Agricultural Production
There were hardly any elements of change in the rural economy during the Sultanate period, except that during the 14th century, under Muhammad bin Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq, there was a marked development of gardens.
These gardens led to the improvement of fruits, especially grapes. It is said that wine used to come to Delhi from Meerut and Aligarh.
Other arcas like Dholpur, Gwalior and Jodhpur also adopted improved methods of fruit cultivation and gardening.
Regarding implements, there was no change in them till the 19th century.
Most of the land was rainfed; though digging of wells and making of bunds for storing water for irrigation were considered holy acts, and the state took an active part in building and preserving them.
Textile was the biggest industry of India and it goes back to ancient times.
It included the manufacture of Cotton cloth, woollen cloth and silk.
Coarse cotton cloth was manufactured in households in the villages, but was also produced in some regions, such as Awadh from where it was imported to Delhi.
Cloth of fine variety included muslin and this was produced at Sylhet and Dacca in Bengal and Deogir in the Deccan.
The production of cloth improved during this period because of the introduction of the spinning wheel (Charkha).
Paper-making : A new industry
A new industry which arose during the period was paper-making.
There is no evidence of its use in India before the 13th century and the earliest paper manuscript in India available is from Gujarat dating 1223-24.
Paper making undoubtedly meant a great increase in the availability of books.
The other crafts widespread in India was leather-working, based on the large cattle wealth in the country.
Other crafts included salt-making, quarrying for stone and marbles, and mining of iron and copper ore.
Foreign Trade
Overland foreign trade was moving through Multan, as Lahore had been ruined by the Mongols.
Multan was the entry point of all foreigners, including traders who were all called Khurasanis.
Indians, both Hindus (Agrawals and Maheshwaris) and Jains and Bohras were also active in this trade with colonies of Indian traders living in West and south-east Asia.
Bengal also carried on trade with China and countries of south-east Asia exporting textile and importing Tea, silk, spices, etc.
Horses were the most important commodity imported overland into India.
Other Sources of Revenue
Kharaj or land revenue was one-third of the gross produce and was raised to half by Alauddin. It was paid by non-Muslims.
Jazia was poll-tax levied upon every adult Hindu male with independent means of maintenance. Brahamans were exempt from the payment of Jaziya except in the reign of Firoz Shah.
Zakat was a tax raised from well-to-do Muslims for the sake of providing alms to needy Muslims.
Transit and Octroi duties were income from mines, forests, treasure trove and hairless property.
Charai, based on the number of animals, was an important agricultural tax.
Delhi Sultanate
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This chapter summarizes some of the main points of the book. It examines the view that the period of the Afghan rule witnessed the disintegration of the 'centralized' political structure of the Delhi Sultanate resulting in a general crisis. It notes the suggestion that this disintegration was caused by the 'tribal' or 'centrifugal' character of Afghan polity. Contrary to that, however, the Afghan rulers drew on the universal tropes of kingship for the articulation of their power. The details of governance recorded by the medieval authorities point to a kind of 'welfare monarchy' in the period. By the end of Akbar's reign the Afghans had reconciled to the Mughal rule, their marginalization continued throughout the Mughal period, and consequently in the historiography of medieval India as well.