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Delhi Sultanate

By the 10th century the Turks began invading India, bringing Islam to India. The Ghaznavis, a dynasty from eastern Afghanistan, began a series of raids into northwestern India at the end of the 10th century. Mahmud of Ghazni, the most notable ruler of this dynasty, raided as far as present-day Uttar Pradesh. Mahmud did not attempt to rule Indian Territory except for the Punjab area, which he annexed before his death in 1030.

In 1175 one of the successors to Mahmud's empire, Muhammad of Ghur (Muhammad Ghori), began his conquest of northern India. Within 20 years he had conquered all of north India, including the Bengal region. After the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan in the second battle of Tarain in A.D. 1192 the Muslim rule (also known as Turkish rule) in India got firmly established for the first time. After the defeat of Prithviraj Chauhan, Jaichandra, who had helped Ghori, was expecting a reward from Ghori, instead Ghori attacked Kanauj and defeated and killed Jaichandra. With this Ghori got the control of the territory extending right from Afghanistan to the Ganga-Yamuna doab upto Varanasi. Muhammad Ghori was murdered in A.D. 1206. After this his Indian Positions came under control of one of his generals, Qutbuddin Aibak.

The Slave Dynasty (A.D. 1206-1920)
Qutbuddin is known as the founder of the slave or Mamluk dynasty. They were called slave-kings because three of its army Sultans themselves were slaves. They had risen and had earned great reputation for courage, fighting skills and organizational abilities. Qutbuddin Aibak was one such trusted slave-general of Muhammad Ghori.

After Ghori's death, Aibak set up an independent kingdom with its headquarters at Lahore and thus laid the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate. Except Qutbuddin, other sultans of this dynasty belonged to the Ilbari tribe of Turks. During his brief rule of four years Qutbuddin's entire attention was devoted towards strengthening his position and kingdom.

Qutbuddin was succeeded by Iltutmish. He made Delhi his capital. His reign is marked by his efforts in securing his throne from rivals, attacks by Chenghiz Khan and the Mongol hordes. Iltutmish organized his government and made several reforms. First, he organized the ruling elite or nobility of the period, which is better known as Turkan-I-Chahalgani or Calisa. Secondly, he divided his empire into numerous big and small pieces of land, called Iqtas. These Iqtas were assigned to the nobles and officers in lieu of salary. Thirdly, he introduced the silver coins called tanka and copper coins called jital, which were used during the sultanate period.

Iltutmish chose his daughter Razia as his successor instead of his son in view of her ability to become a ruler. She ruled for a short period and after her a number of less important sultans came to the throne.

Balban was another important ruler of the slave dynasty. He was known for his strong policies to consolidate his position as the king. Balban defended his kingdom from the Mongol invasions and from internal rebellions. He broke the power of Turkish nobility (Chalisa) that had become more powerful than the Sultan. He derived his concept of kingship from Persia. He called himself a shadow of god on earth and next only to the prophet. He encouraged people do sijdah in his presence, (they had to kneel and touch the ground with their forehead in salutation to him and do paibos, kissing the feet of the king). This was against the tenants of Islam.

After the Slave Sultans, the Khajlis came to the throne. The first Sultan of this dynasty was Jalaluddin Khalji. He came to throne in A.D. 1290, at the age of seventy, but was murdered and succeeded by his ambitious nephew Alauddin Khalji in A.D. 1296. Khalji wanted to become a world conqueror and called himself the second Alexander (Sikander-i-Sani).

First, he followed the policy of defense from the Mongol invasion. The Mongols had already invaded the Sultanate six times. He followed the policy of Balban in tackling the Mongol menace in the frontier regions.

He then adopted the policy of expansion. He conquered the kingdoms of Gujarat, Malwa and Rajasthan. His attack on Chittor has been described vividly in various Rajput sources and in Malik Muhammad Jayasi's Padamavat. One of the objectives of Alauddin Khalji in attacking Chittor was to acquire Padmini, the beautiful queen of Rana Ratan Singh.

After-conquering north India he sent his army under the command of Malik Kafur to conquer south India. Malik Kafur defeated the Yadavas of Davageri, Kakatiyas of Warangal and Hoysalas of Dvarasamudra.

Alauddin Khalji's motives behind his southern expeditions were to acquire immense wealth and to force the southern kings to accept his authority. He, therefore, released the kings on payment of tribute to him.

Alauddin Khalji's motives behind his southern expeditions were to acquire immense wealth and to force the southern kings to accept his authority. He, therefore, released the kings on payment of tribute to him.

Alauddin followed the policy of consolidation. He took various measures for the prevention of rebellions and, therefore, restricted interrelations among the nobles and officers. After this he made several sweeping reforms in the field of revenue system. These were - (a) measurement of Land, (b) fixation of state's demand at half of the produce; (c) bringing more land under state control by abolishing small iqtas and forcing village chiefs and other officers to pay taxes to increase the revenue of the state.

He also began the market control system. For this purpose he fixed the prices of various commodities, established separate markets for specific commodities under the charge of a controller of market. He prescribed strict punishment for those who violated the rules and indulged in cheating.

Alauddin died in A.D. 1316. After his death, the Khalji dynasty could not survive as the Tughlaqs organized a revolt and captured the throne by killing the last ruler of the Khalji dynasty.

The Tughlaqs (A.D. 1320-1412)
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq founded the third dynasty of the Sultanate period. He was an experienced warrior, statesman and an able administrator. He liberalized various harsh measures imposed by Alauddin Khalji and restored peace and order in the kingdom. He built the fortified city of Tughalaqbad in Delhi. Muhammad bin Tughlaq in A. D. 1325. There are many sources, which provide information about his reign. Ibn Battutah, a traveller from Morocco, visited India during his reign. He was appointed as the chief Qazi of Delhi and was later sent by the Sultan as in ambassador to China. Muhammad Tughlaq was a great scholar and was well versed in various branches of learning. He offended the orthodox ulema by curbing their political influence and tried to resolve the problems of the states. But he failed on account of his three famous projects. The first project was the Transfer of Capital from Delhi to Devagiri (district Aurangabad, Maharashtra). He thought that it would be easier to control the Deccan from Daulatabad. But the project failed because of two reasons. First he ordered the entire population to shift to Daulatabad. This caused great hardship to the people. Secondly, it became impossible to control north India from the attacks on the northwestern frontiers. Within five years the capital was shifted back to Delhi, once again causing great hardship to the people.

Muhammad's second project was the introduction of token currency. This project failed on account of the circulation of counterfeit coins on a very large scale, which caused chaos in trade and commerce. Muhammad had to finally withdraw the token currency and offer to exchange all the token coins for silver coins.

The third project he launched was to compensate his monetary loss in the above projects. In order to get more money he increased the land revenue in the Doab. The measure proved to be ill timed, as the Doab region was then passing through a great famine, which was followed by plague. The discontentment among the people forced him to withdraw his order. After this he established a new department of agriculture to improve production. During the last decade of his reign, he faced various rebellions in which several regions of south and north of India became independent.

After Muhammad Tughlaq, Firoz Shah Tughlaq came to the throne. He adopted appeasement policies to gain support of the nobles, the army and the ulema. To please orthodox Muslims he imposed jizyah on Brahmans also and made it a separate tax. He also granted lands to the ulema and made iqtas hereditary. The one remarkable feature of his reign was his interest in public works. He founded new cities like Hissar, Ferozpur, Jaunpur and Firuzabad. He also constructed dams, canals, sarais, mosques and madarsas and laid about 1200 state managed fruit gardens.

The process of decay and disintegration of the Sultanate began with the death of Firoz Shah. Firoz Shah and his successors were not able to take back the lost provinces. The Sultanate was reduced to a local principality within two decades after the death of Firoz. During the reign of Nasiruddin Mahmud, the last ruler of the dynasty, Timur, the Mongol, king from central Asia, invaded India. On his way to Delhi he plundered various towns and cities. He reached Delhi in A.D. 1398 and ordered a general massacre. Like Mahmud of Ghazni, Timur too carried wealth of India to beautify Samarkand and to build mosques and palaces.

Timur's invasion dealt a fatal blow to the Tughlaq dynasty and the Sultanate of Delhi. By A.D. 1412 the Sultanate disintegrated and numerous new kingdoms emerged in its place.

Sayyid Dynasty (A.D. 1414-51)
Khizr Khan, a local governor, who called himself as viceroy of Timur, founded the new dynasty known as Sayyids. This dynasty ruled over Delhi and its surrounding region for a short time.

Lodi Dynasty (A.D. 1451-1526)
Bahlol Lodi, who was an Afghan, founded the last dynasty of the Sultanate known as the Lodi dynasty. The Lodi kings tried to regain the lost territories of Bihar and Bengal. Sikandar Lodi founded the new city of Agra in A.D. 1506 and made it his capital.

The last Lodi Sultan was Ibrahim Lodi. He was defeated and killed by Babar in the first battle of Panipat in A.D. 1526. With the fall of the Lodis the Sultanate of Delhi also ended.

Medieval India