Chapter 16: RISE OF THE DELHI
The Arab invasions led to the establishment of the
Delhi sultanate. This flourished for about three centuries. The
Delhi sultanate consisted of: Aibak (Slave), Khilji, Tuglaq,
Sayyids and the Lodis.
Qutubuddin Aibak was a slave of Mahmud Ghuri who made him the
governor of Indian provinces. His military capital was Delhi. He
established his dominance over the Northern India. He
established Turkish rule in India.
After Ghuri's death he declared himself as the
sultan and cut all ties with Ghuri's Empire. His capital now
shifted to Lahore. He started construction of Qutub Minar in
memory of Saint Qutubuddin Bhaktiyar. He didn’t issue any coins
in his name. He was succeeded by his son Iltutmish. He died
while playing polo.
Iltutmish: he was sold as a slave to Qutubuddin Aibak. He
defeated Aibak's son and claimed the throne. He shifted his
capital to Delhi. Initial years of his kingdom were spent in
securing his throne. The Mongol king Chengiz khan invaded
Khwarizam and the ruler fled to India. But Iltutmish denied him
asylum. Hence he saved India from the wrath of the Mongol king.
Iltutmish marched against Bengal and Bihar. He
annexed Sind and Punjab. His Malwa campaign was however
He was acknowledged as the legal sovereign of
India. He was a patron of literature and received many scholars.
He introduced Arab coinage in India. The silver tanka
was minted by him. He nominated his daughter Razia as the
Razia: she was nominated by Iltutmish but her nobles
refused to accept this and gave the throne to a male. The
governor of Multan revolted and Razia used this opportunity to
capture the throne.
Razia would hold the court with her face unveiled,
she would also go hunting and lead the army. This angered the
Altunia the governor of bhatinda revolted
Razia went to suppress the revolt personally. The nobles put
Iltutmish's son on the throne. Altunia had captured Razia but
she won him over and married him. Together they marched to Delhi
but were defeated.
Balban: Balban successfully restored the son of Iltutmish
to the throne after Razia died. He was the Sultan's noble. He
also married his daughter. When the sultan died Balban acceded
to the throne.
Balban knew that the threat to his power were the
powerful nobles of the court. He then succeeded in eliminating
those who challenged him and kept a few loyal ones alive. He
focused more on restoration of law and order than expanding his
kingdom. Robbers were persecuted and killed. He also established
a separate military department.
Amir Khusrau, Parrot of India, famous poet
during Balban's time.
The Mongol invasion forced him to send his son but
the prince was killed. This dealt a moral blow to Balban. He
died soon after. Balban enhanced the power of the sultanate but
due to weak successor the slave dynasty ended and the Khilji
Jalaluddin Khilji was the founder of the
Khilji dynasty. He was lenient and kind. He was murdered
treacherously by son in law Aladdin
Aladdin Khilji: Aladdin Khilji was an able commander with political
insight. He knew that rebellion would be possible because of the
powerful nobles, their inter marriage and consumption of
intoxicants. He made regulations to prevent these. Thus his
reign was free from rebellion.
He maintained a large standing army. He carried out
their reviews periodically to maintain efficiency.
Markets were established and regulated. The prices
of essential commodities were controlled.
3. He also reformed the land revenue system. Land was
measured and tax imposed. Even zamindar's couldn’t escape from
taxation. This system was continued even by Sher shah and Akbar.
He ignored the Ulema's and didn’t allow their
interference in administration.
The army could defend against Mongol invasions. The
Mongols invaded 6 times but were defeated and numerous were
To protect against future invasions a warden was
appointed in northwest frontier.
Aladdin Khilji led successful invasions against the
Rajput's and captured many forts. Unfortunately the women had to
commit self immolation to escape.
He also was the first to invade South India. His
Empire reached till Madurai. All powerful kings of south India
were defeated by him.
Architecture of the Khilji dynasty was built using
red sandstones everywhere. The Khilji successors were
weak and the dynasty ended and was succeeded by the
The founder is Ghaiyasuddin Tuglaq. The
next ruler was Muhammad bin Tuglaq who had treacherously killed
Muhammad bin Tuglaq:
His novel ideas and experiments were far ahead of
time but ended in failures. He was tolerant in religious
matters. He maintained diplomatic relations with foreign with
Egypt, china. He was the only Delhi sultan who received a
1. Shifting of the capital from Delhi to Devgiri. He
renamed Devgiri to Daulatabad. He forced people to cover the
1500 km distance in summer. Many died in this journey but after
2 years he changed his decision and moved capital back to
2. He introduced copper coins instead of silver
tanka. But goldsmiths started minting this currency on large
scale. The value fell and it wasn’t accepted in the markets. He
announced exchange of copper coins with silver but this made the
3. Due to the above measures the need for revenue
increased. Tuglaq increased taxation in the doab region. This
led to revolts as the famine was going on at that time.
4. His next experiment was agriculture loans for
farmers to buy seeds. He even created a separate department for
this and built a model farm.
5. He had to face many rebellions by provincial
governors. The rebels founded independent kingdoms like vijaynagar
and bahamani kingdoms.
6. First sultan to raise an army for offensive
against the Mongols.
He was chosen by the nobles to lead the sultanate.
He focused on reasserting the authority over north India instead
of focusing on Deccan and south India. He couldn’t conquer
Bengal but subdued rebellion in Orissa, nagarkot and Sind.
He followed advice of Ulema's in administration. He
allowed them hereditary succession on titles. He also ran the
kingdom as per Islamic laws and imposed Jiziya on non
2. He was a patron of constructions and
architecture. He built 300 towns, canals for irrigation. He also
repaired old monuments like mosques and Minar's.
3. He was intolerant in religious matters and
discriminated against shies, Sufi's and Hindus.
His successors had to face rebellion of the
nobles. They also had to deal with Timur's invasion. The
invasion dealt a deadly blow to the Tuqlaq's and ended their
Timor Invasion (1398):
He was attracted by India’s wealth and wanted to
spread Islam in India.
Looted Russia, India up to Delhi to conquer more
He sent his grandson Pir Muhammad to India and
later joined him.
Took a large number of artists with him and Indian
art reached central Asia.
Killed many Hindus and this created resentment
against foreign rulers.
Timor appointed Khisir Khan as
the Governor of Multan. But the king had to face rebellion from
nobles. Finally Bahdol Lodi was handed over the kingdom by the
king and he retired to Badaun.
The Lodis were Afghans and their kingdom lasted for
Bahdol Lodi [Founder] was followed by his son
Sikandar Shah. Sikandar Shah was a great and powerful sultan. He
improved the sultanate by military conquest against Rajputs,
Bihar. He also founded the city of Agra. Even though he was an
able commander he was a bigot. He killed many Hindu kings and
ruined many temples.
He was followed by Ibrahim Lodi. Ibrahim Lodi was
ignorant. He used to constantly insult his nobles. Due to his
attitude the governor of Punjab Daulat Khan Lodi invited Babur
to invade India. Babur defeated Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle
of Panipat in 1526.
Concept of double dome was introduced by Lodi's.
This was the end of the Delhi sultanate and the
beginning of the Mughal Empire. The Turkish rulers brought to
India the Dome, Arch, Lofty towers, vault and use of mortar
No individual can be held responsible for the downfall of the sultanate. Regional factors also led to disintegration. There were numerous chief who had clan following of their own and had strong links in particular areas. They were ready to rebel when they found any weakness in the central government. The Turkish sultans tried to counter the rebellion by keeping corpe of slaves and nobles completely depending on the sultan.
However, the nobles would become ambitious and tried to assert their authority especially when the successor was weak. This would also lead to problems.
The sultans were cutoff from the central and Western Asia and could no longer recruit soldiers from Afghanistan or Turkey. They depended on local warrior clans, convert muslims etc for their army. However this system also proved weak as each of this category was antagonistic to the other.
Finally in the absence of a rule of succession. The descendants would quarrel and this would lead to loss of lives and precious resources giving an opportunity to nobles to interfere.
Administration was mainly concerned with collecting of land revenue and administration of law and order. This they achieved using the iqta system.
Iqta was a system of land grants to officials. Under this a system a vassal would get administrative rights over the land and this was required to be maintained by the vassal for the king. The vassal would collect taxes and maintain troops. The portion of the taxes would be kept by him and the also used to maintain the army. he had to give the rest to the royal treasury. In areas that were not given as iqta the officials of the king directly collected taxes for the royal treasury.
The Ghorians conquered and divided their territories amongst the commanders. These commanders maintained their territories by loot or plunder.
Illtutmish onwards these iqtas would be transferred from one person to another. The owner of the iqta also called muqti was free to assign his own subiqtas to the people. The excess revenue from the iqtas would be sent to the central treasury. However, the sultan appointed a accountant to verify the actual amount collected as tax and the excess left. Sultan illtutmish also paid iqtas to his cavalry by assigning them revenue rights over villages.
Major changes occured during the reign of Allauddin Khilji. The system of paying sultans cavalry troops with assignment of villages was abolished and now they were paid in cash. Iqtas were given to only the commanders and in lieu of salaries. The agrarian tax assessment system was also changed. The bulk of the lands were as iqtas under the control of commanders. A revenue from each iqta was decided by the department of revenue and the commander was allowed to keep a ortion of the revenue for his own salary and for payment of salary to the troops. The remaining total income was to be given to the treasury. Thus the commanders were tempted to understate the revenue to the Sultan. However, Allauddin khilji gave harsh punishments to revenue officials for misappropriations of small amounts.
This system continued with minor changes till the Lodi dynasty. The lodis organised the province into sarkars and each sarkar now had a number of parganas. Each sarkar was assigned a jama or estimated revenue whose purpose could only be to lay down to some extent the military and other obligations of the nobles holding the sarkar assignment. The basic unit of administration was a village and it had three officials headman, accountant and mushrif. At the court the wazir supervised the collection of revenue, checking of accounts and regulation of expenditure. The chief qazi was a religious judge whose work was to advice on religious matters.
There were hardly any elements of change in the rural economy during the sultanate period except under the rule of Muhammad bin tuglaq and Firoz tuglaq there was a marked improvement in development of gardens. There was improvement in fruit production and garden development due to this. Fruits produced in towns were meant mainly for the consumption of the wealthy and town people. They may have produced some revenue and increased trade.
Regarding implements of agriculture there was no change in them till the 19th century. Productivity of soil may have been higher due to extensive manuring by cattle which were plentiful. Peasants had more land per head and forests were also extensive and plentiful.Most of the lands were rainfed and there was digging of wells and making bunds for storing water for irrigation. The state took an active part in building and maintaining them. An extensive system of canals were set up for the first time under Firoz tuglaq and they benefitted the areas around hissar , Haryana.
Non agriculture activities too were practised and were textiles, leather works, metallurgy etc.
Textile was the biggest industry in India and this goes back to the ancient times. From course cotton cloth to fine muslin from Dacca and the deccan all was manufactured in that period. Various varieties of cloth were both painted and printed by wooden blocks. A device introduced during those days was the dhunia which sped up the process of separating cotton from seeds. Silk was imported from Bengal where silk worms were reared. However, a great supply of silk yarn including raw silk was imported from Iran and Afghanistan. The shawl industry of kashmir was well established. Carpet weaving was developed under the patronage of the sultans with many Iranians and central Asian designs being imported.
The high quality of sultanate coinage is an evidence of the skill of the Indian metal workers. Indian swords and daggers were famous all over the world. Even gold and silversmiths were known for their jewellery making.
Turkish sultans introduced a new style of dome, arch, vault and mortar. Lime was used for making cement. As more people started living in stone and brick houses the demand and production of bricks increased. Enamelled tiles were introduced in India. Woodwork of excellent quality was carried out and also in stone sculptures Indians were unmatched.
Paper making started in China in 100 AD and the earliest evidence of it in India is in Gujarat during the 13th century. Paper production signals an increase in the production of books.
Leather making, salt making, quarrying for stones, mining of copper and iron ore, diamond and diving for pearls in the sea were the other occupations.
Ivory working also existed in those days.