Delhi Sultanate

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The Delhi Sultanate is a noble example of the glory of Medieval India. Its culture, art and architecture that exist even today are praiseworthy. The Sultans of Delhi ruled for quite a long period of 320 years during which there were achievements in different fields. Go through this article to read about the Delhi Sultanate

Delhi as the center of attraction

  • Delhi became an important city only in the 12th century.
  • Delhi first became the capital of a kingdom under the Tomara Rajputs, who were defeated in the middle of the twelfth century by the Chauhans .

Rajput Dynasty

  1. Tomaras [early twelfth century – 1165]
  2. Ananga Pala [1130 -1145]
  3. Chauhans [1165 -1192]
  4. Prithviraj Chauhan [1175 -1192]

Delhi Sultans

  • By the 13th century Sultanates transformed Delhi into a capital that controlled vast areas of the subcontinent .
  • “Histories”, tarikh (singular) / tawarikh (plural), written in Persian, the language of administration under the Delhi Sultans by learned men: secretaries, administrators, poets and courtiers who lived in cities (mainly Delhi) and hardly ever in villages.
  • Objectives of these writings : (a) They often wrote their histories for Sultans in the hope of rich rewards (b) they advised rulers on the need to preserve an “ideal” social order based on birthright and gender distinctions  (c) their ideas were not shared by everybody.
  • In 1236 Sultan Iltutmish’s daughter, Raziyya, became Sultan. Nobles were not happy at her attempts to rule independently. She was removed from the throne in 1240.

Early Turkish  [1206-1290]

  1. Qutbuddin Aybak [1206 -1210]
  2. Shamsuddin Iltutmish [1210 -1236]
  3. Raziyya [1236 -1240]
  4. Ghiyasuddin Balban [1266 -1287]

The expansion of the Delhi Sultanate

  • In the early 13th century the control of the Delhi Sultans rarely went beyond heavily fortified towns occupied by garrisons.
  • The Sultans seldom controlled the hinterland, the lands adjacent to a city or port that supply it with goods and services, of the cities and were therefore dependent upon trade, tribute or plunder for supplies.
  • Controlling garrison towns in distant Bengal and Sind from Delhi was extremely difficult.
  • The state was also challenged by Mongol invasions from Afghanistan and by governors who rebelled

Khalji Dynasty [1290 – 1320]

  1. Jalaluddin Khalji [1290 – 1296]
  2. Alauddin Khalji [1296 -1316

Tughluq Dynasty  [1320 – 1414]

  1. Ghiyasuddin Tughluq [1320-1324]
  2. Muhammad Tughluq [1324 -1351]
  3. Firuz Shah Tughluq [1351 -1388]
  • So, what the first thing Sultans did were consolidating these hinterlands of the garrison towns. During these campaigns forests were cleared in the Ganga-Yamuna doab and hunter- gatherers and pastoralists expelled from their habitat.
  • Secondly , expansion occurred along the “external frontier” of the Sultanate. Military expeditions into southern India started during the reign of Alauddin Khalji and culminated with Muhammad Tughluq.

Administration & Consolidation

  • Rather than appointing aristocrats as governors, the early Delhi Sultans, especially Iltutmish, favoured their special slaves purchased for military service, called bandagan .
  • The Khaljis and Tughluqs continued to use bandagan and also raised people of humble birth, who were often their clients, to high political positions.
  • Authors of Persian tawarikh criticised the Delhi Sultans for appointing the “low and base-born” to high offices.
  • Military commanders were appointed as governors of territories . This land is called iqta and their holder called iqtadar or muqti . The duty of muqti was to lead military campaigns and maintain law and order in their iqtas.

A.Khalji’s defensive policy against Genghis

  • As a defensive measure, Alauddin Khalji raised a large standing army.
  • Constructed a new garrison town named Siri for his soldiers.
  • In order to feed soldiers, produce collected as tax from lands was done and paddy has got fixed tax as 50% of the yield.
  • Alauddin chose to pay his soldiers salaries in cash rather than iqtas. He made sure merchants sell supplies to these soldiers according to prescribed prices

M.Tughluq offensive policy against Genghis

  • The Mongol army was defeated earlier. M.Tughluq still raised a large standing army.
  • Rather than constructing a new garrison town he emptied the residents of a Delhi city named Delhi-i Kuhna and the soldiers garrisoned there.
  • Produce from the same area was collected as tax and additional taxes to feed the large army. This coincided with famine in the area. .
  • Muhammad Tughluq also paid his soldiers cash salaries. But instead of controlling prices, he used a “token” currency. This cheap currency could be counterfeited easily because it was made of “bronze”.
  • His campaign into Kashmir was a disaster. He then gave up his plans to invade Transoxiana and disbanded his large army .
  • His administrative measures created complications. The shifting of people to Daulatabad was resented. The raising of taxes and famine in the Ganga-Yamuna belt led to widespread rebellion. And finally, the “token” currency had to be recalled.

15th & 16th Century Sultanates: Sayyid, Lodi and Suri

Sayyid Dynasty [1414 – 1451]

  • Khizr Khan 1414 -1421

Lodi Dynasty [1451 – 1526]

  • Bahlul Lodi 1451 -1489

Suri Dynasty [1540-1555]

  • Sher Shah Suri [1540-1545] captured Delhi.
  • For the first time during the Islamic conquest the relationship between the people and the ruler was systematized, with little oppression or corruption.
  • He challenged and defeated the Mughal emperor Humayun (1539 : Battle of Chausa, 1540 : Battle of Kannauj)
  • Sher Shah introduced an administration that borrowed elements from Alauddin Khalji and made them more efficient.
  • Sher Shah’s administration became the model followed by the great emperor Akbar (1556-1605) when he consolidated the Mughal Empire.
  • His tomb is at Sasaram [Bihar]

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