Chapter 17: INDIA UNDER THE DELHI SULTANATE
The Delhi sultanate had a powerful administrative
system. The authority extended as south as Madurai. It had an
impact on the provincial kingdoms and also the Mughal
administration. The sultans ran an Islamic Empire and
believed themselves to be the caliph’s representative. The
conditions of Non Muslims were poor here. The Ulemas paid
an important role here.
The succession wasn’t of the eldest son and all
children had equal rights. But the stability of the Empire
depended on support of the nobles. The military superiority was
the main factor in succession matters.
The administration had many posts and departments.
The advisors of the sultan controlled all activities. The civil
courts worked on Islamic law for Muslims and personal law of
Hindus for their cases. The criminal system worked on procedures
made by the sultan.
The sultan had issued districts to nobles
instead of payment by cash. The peasants had to pay one
third of produce to sultan as tax. Besides this they also had to
pay other taxes and lived a hand to mouth existence.
2. Urbanisation increased and many towns
were built. Trade and commerce to increase and links were
established with Arabs, south East Asian.
Roads and highways were maintained in a good manner.
Guesthouses were created for travelers.
3. Cotton and silk textiles became popular. Large
scale sericulture made India less dependent on
4. Paper industry, leather industry, crafts making,
carpet weaving and manufacture of gold, silver was popular.
5. The caste system was dominant in Hindus. The
practices like sati continued. They were treated like second
class citizens and had to pay jiziya. They were not
given high posts. Arabs, Turkish and Afghanistan residents came
to India. They didn’t mix with the Indian Muslims. The
foreigners brought the system of Purdah System in India.
Art and Architecture:
1. The Turks introduced arches, domes, minarets and
decorations in Arabic script. Marbles and red, yellow
sandstone's were used to bring colour to buildings.
2. Sarangi and Rabab were introduced during
this period. New music qawwalis were also started.
3. The Delhi sultans were patrons of learning and
literature. Arabic and Persian literature was promoted. Theology
and poetry was popular. Amir Khusrau, the Persian writer and
poet was during this period.
4. Literature movement led to development of
Sanskrit books in medicine, music.
Bhakti cult led to improvement in Gujarati and
Marathi. Vijayanagar Empire patronized Telugu and Kannada.
The Turkish sultans brought about an increase in the number of towns and money. The currency was based on the silver tanka and the copper dirham. The overseas trade also increased and India was trading with countries and kingdoms in West and Central Asia. Turkish rulers reactivated trade and improved communications.
Local trade at the village level was trading of produce to pay for the land revenue. The local bania was entrusted with the responsibility of trading in crops and providing the peasants the things that they need for their livelihood. Sometimes rich businessman used to engage in trading surplus produce at the local markets. In addition to markets for crops animals were also traded. Animals were required for agriculture, transportation and dairy production.
Overseas foreign trade was carried out through Multan as Lahore was destroyed by the Mongols.
China was also a trading partner from where Tea, silk was imported. Indian Hindus and Jains alongwith members of the bohra community engaged in trade with the overseas kingdoms. Horses were an important import overland into India. India also exorted slaves to islamic nations. The cotton textiles , foodstuffs, rice, sugar and spices were popular exports from India. Although sea trade changed little from earlier times but nwer trading ports were now opened up in the east coast of Africa.
Kharaj or land revenue was one third of the gross produce. It was paid by non muslims.
ushraf one tenth of the gross produce to be paid by muslims
Jazia or poll tax was paid by every male hindu with independent means of maintenance. Brahmins were exempt from this tax except during the period of Firoz shah tuglaq.
Zakat or tax raised by well to do muslims to provide alms for the needy.
Khams or war booty
Transit or octroi income from mines, forests, treasure troves
Charai agriculture tax based on number of animals.
As the powers of the sultanate declines, a number of other kingdoms rose. The political history of these kingdoms was one of incessant warfare. Their rulers were either fighting the sultanate or each other. The alliances shifted frequently and sometimes were also against same religion kingdoms. Example, the Muslim rulers of Malwa joined hands with the Rajputs to fight their co-religionists in Gujarat.
The distinct new kingdoms also established a closer association with their Hindu ruling elites, thereby encouraging a culture of rapid reapproachment between hindus and muslims. Almost all religious rulers encouraged local literary and cultural forms and traditions. Muslims were patronised, regional languages were patronised and distinctive architectural style of buildings were developed.
Gujarat was known for its excellent handicrafts and flourishing trade with sea ports. The trade of north india with foreign kingdoms was carried out through these sea ports. Rajasthan and Malwa were roads linking the produce of the Ganga valley with the seaports. The control over Gujarat and Malwa was important however, the kingdoms in these regions balanced each other. Neither of them could capture the kingdom of Mewar which was Rana Kumbha.
Gujarat was annexed to the kingdom by allauddin Khilji and it remained a province for a hundred years till its governor Ahmed Shah declared its independence. The first king built the beautiful city of Ahmedabad and replaced Patan as the capital. The next threat that Gujarat had to face was from the portuguese who threatened to capture the seatrade. After a failed confrontation with the portuguese the king had to allow them to build a factory in diu. The last important king of gujarat was Bahadur Shah who annexed Malwa and the forts of Mewar and Chitoor. It was after his death that the Emperor Akbar was easily able to annex Gujarat into his kingdom.
Malwa also emerged as an independent kingdom after the invasion by Timur ended the Lodi dynasty and also the Delhi sultanate. The kingdom of Malwa was formed after the first king Hushang Shah moved the capital from Mandu in the Vindhyas. The ablest commander of the Malwa kingdom was Mahmud khilji who extended his kingdom to the frontiers of Gujarat and Mewar. However, after his death the fortunes of Malwa declined and it was annexed first by the Gujarat kingdom and then by the Mughals.
Rajasthan had two regions Marwar and Mewar. By the reign of Allaudin khilji most of the rajput kingdoms were under the sultanate.However the former rulers were allowed to rule as vassals. However, the state of Marwar from Chitor continued its independence. Taking advantage of the decline of the Tughlaqs, Rao Chunda of Marwar occupied Sambhar, Nagaur and Ajmer and made Marwar the most powerful state of Rajasthan. However, Marwar received a setback due to the rising power of Mewar. His successor, Rao Jodha, founded the new city and capital of Jodhpur (1659), and re-established the State.
Mewar continued to remain independent throughout the 14th century. The discovery and development of zinc and silver mines strengthened the economy, and enabled the rulers to undertake irrigation projects and improve agriculture. A full treasury allowed them to construct new forts and build up a powerful army. It was Rana Kumbha (1433-68) who made Mewar a power to be reckoned with. Throughout his reign the conflict with Gujarat and Malwa kept him occupied. Kumbha was murdered by his son Uday, throwing Mewar into bloodshed and confusion, till Rana Sanga, a grandson of Kumbha ascended the gaddi of Mewar. He was a brilliant general and a man of vision. Under him, the Rajputs of Mewar took on the challenge of the Mughal invader, Babar. Unfortunately they were unsuccessful.
Bengal was one of the earliest provinces to break away from the Sultanate. Its distance from Delhi and its prosperity had always made the province difficult to control. It became independent in 1338, when the provincial governor rose up against the tyranny of Muhammad Tughlaq and established a new dynasty. After this, Bengal remained independent for almost 250 years until it was conquered and annexed by Akbar, later overrun by Sher Shah in 1538. Of the many kings that ruled Bengal, the most notable were Azam Shah, Husain Shah and his son Nusrat Shah.
Azam Shah re-established friendly relation with the Chinese emperor received his envoy cordially and sent his own envoy to the Sultan. The revival of contact with China helped in the growth of overseas trade of Bengal. Chittagong became a ﬂourishing port for trade with China. Bengal also became a centre for the re-export of Chinese goods. Husain Shah (1493-1518) recovered Magadh from the rulers of Jaunpur and extended his kingdom southwards to the borders of Orissa. He encouraged the translation of Sanskrit literature into Bengali.
The most notable of the mosque he built was Chota Sona Masjid. The fame of Nusrat Shah rests on his many cultural achievements. He also ordered the translation of Hindu religions texts into Bengali. His example was followed by many Muslim nobles, as well as local Hindu rajas, who had formerly preferred to patronize Sanskrit. The result was a great ﬂowering of Bengali literature. Krittivasa translated the Ramayana into Bengali which is read by Bengalis till today. Bengal was checked by the Gajpati rulers of Orissa, as also by the Sharqi rulers of Jaunpur (in eastern Uttar Pradesh).
The Jaunpur Kingdom had been set up by Malik Sarwar, a prominent noble of the time of Firoz Tughlaq. Malik Sharwar had been the wazir for sometime and then nominated to the eastern areas with the title lord of the east. This sharqi Sultan ﬁxed their capital at Jaunpur.
At its height, the kingdom extended from Aligarh in western UP to Darbhanga in northern Bihar and from the boundary of Nepal in the north to Bundelkhand in the south. They created a magniﬁcent style of their own in architecture, marked by lofty gates and huge arches. Malik Muhammed Jaisi, the author of Padmavat lived in Jaunpur.
In 1484, Bahdol Lodi, the ruler of Delhi occupied Jaunpur and annexed the Sharqi Kingdom. The kingdom was short-lived but the cultural tradition they established continued long after the downfall.
The rulers of Bengal had always tried to bring the rich and fertile valley of the Brahmaputra in modern Assam under their control.
With the decline of the Palas by the middle of the 12th century, the Brahmaputra Valley was divided into a number of warring principalities.
Gradually, the rulers of Kamrup and Kamta in the west—brought under their control the area between the Kartoya and their Barnadi river. To the east were the Ahoms.
The Ahoms belonged to the great Tai group of tribes which dominated southern China and many south-east Asian countries. They came to the Brahmputra valley from Yunan in the ﬁrst half of the 13th century and under their ruler Sukapha established their control over the modem districts of Dibrugarh and Sibsagar. In course of time, the entire valley began to be called Assam, after their name. The influence of Brahmanical Hinduism began to gain ground in Ahom in the early 15th century. Suhungmung (l497—1539 AD) reigned as Svarga Narayana. The Ahom Kingdom became the target of Mughal invasion in the 17th century.
The Ganga rulers, who came to power in middle of the llth century and ruled till the middle of the 15th century uniﬁed the three areas—Utkal, Kalinga and Kosala which constitute present Urissa. Narsinghdeo (1264), considered one of the greatest rulers, built the famous Sun temple at Konark. In the middle of l5th century, a new dynasty the Gajpari, came to the fore. The Gajpati rule marks a brilliant phase in Orissa history. They were mainly instrumental in extending their rule in the south towards Karnataka. This brought them into conﬂict with Vijayanagar, the Riddis and the Bahmani sultans. The Orissa language also developed during the period, with many works being produced in poetry and prose.
Kashmir The beautiful valley of Kashmir in the north was for long a forbidden land, according to Alberuni and was known to be a centre of Saivism. It suffered a devastating attack in l320 by the Mongol leader, Dulucha. The towns and villages were ravaged and plundered and set on ﬁre. One hundred years after the Mongol invasion, Zainul Abidin considered the greatest of the Muslim monarchs of Kashmir, ascended the throne, Kashmir society had profoundly changed during this period. There had been a continuous incursion of Muslim saints and refugees from Central Asia into Kashmir, the Baramula route providing an easy access.
Another development was the rise of a series of sufi saints, who combined some features of hinduism and islam. To complete the process a vehement persecution of the brahmanas began in the reign of Sikander Shah at the instance of king’s minister, Suha Bhatt who had converted to Islam.
The situation changed with the accession of Zainul Abidin who had all these orders cancelled. He conciliated and brought back to Kashmir all the non—Muslims who had fled. He was a liberal, enlightened and a benevolent king. Later historians have referred to him as ‘the Akbar of Kashmir‘.
The Sultan also looked after the economic development of Kashmir. He sent two persons to Samarqand to learn the art of paper-making and book-binding. He fostered many crafts in Kashmir, such as stone-cutting and polishing. bottle-making. gold-beating. etc. He also encouraged the art of shawl—making. Musket-making and the art of manufacturing ﬁreworks had also developed in Kashmir.
The Sultan developed agriculture by making large number of dams, canals and bridges. His growing achievement was Zaina Lanka—the artificial island in the Woolur lake on which he built his palace and a mosque. A great warrior, he defeated the Mongol invasion of Ladakh, conquered the Baltistan area and kept control over Jammu, Rajauri, etc.
He thus unified the Kashmir kingdom. The kingdom was annexed by Akbar in 1586. lbn Batuta entered India via Multan, the frontier city of Muhammad bin Tughluq's kingdom, in 1333. He observed that in Delhi most newcomers coming from west and central Asia sought recruitment into the Sultan’s service with the hope ‘to gain riches and then return to their countries’.
Marco Polo, the only traveller who could rival lbn Batuta's tag of ‘the greatest medieval traveller‘ arrived at lndia‘s opposite extremity, a Tamil port, en route from China in 1290. Marco Polo to his surprise found that in peninsular India there were no tailors or seamstresses. He failed to get a coat made for himself.
Athanasius Nikitin, a native of Volga, reached India barely thirty years ahead of Vasco da Gama. He too arrived by sea, at the port of Chaul, about ﬁfty kilometers south of modern Bombay (Mumbai), but from the Persian Gult rather than round Africa, and like other Gulf traders he brought horses.
Abdu-r-Razzaq, a fifteenth-century visitor to the Deccan, headed an embassy from Shah Rukh of Samarkand, who was "timur‘s son and successor. He noted that only Muslims wore trousers and Kaftans (long coats).
The Turks and Afghans brought with them from Persia and
central Asia new techniques of architecture, such the true
arch and dome. When these were combined with the earlier
styles they resulted in new forms and led to a variety of
experiments and shapes in architectural designs.
The true arch was the pointed arch which was not supported
by a beam but by stones placed obliquely to form the point.
The dome was a large area enclosed by a hollow semicircular
roof. Both these forms were based on advanced mathematical
knowledge and engineering skill.
The two began to be widely
used in mosques, palaces, tombs and gradually even in private
houses. Another structure which was frequently used was the
tall slender tower or minaret. But the decoration in these
buildings was largely Indian because Indian craftsmen were
used to construct these buildings. The coming together of
the two resulted in some beautiful structures.
The Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque and Qutah Minar at Delhi are the earliest
examples of these, having been built in the reigns of the
Sultanate architecture under the Tughlaqs underwent
a change. The simplicity of the lines, the reduction ot
ornamentation to a mininum and the use of large stone blocks,
all combined to produce an effect of strength and austerity.
Firoz Shah Kotla and the fort at Tughlaqabad bear evidence
The Lodis reverted to a more elegant style. Double domes
were used and the walls of their buildings were very thick.
A new type of decoration from Persia was introduced —
Provincial architecture developed along lines similar to that
of Delhi, with local modifications.
The earlier tradition of painting delicate miniature painting was
continued and the tradition of illustrating books with exquisite
miniatures developed. Music was enriched by new forms.
The Hindustani style
which developed at this time was inﬂuenced by forms from
Persia and the Arab world. In addition certain instruments such
as the sitar, sarangi and tabla became popular.