Delhi Sultanate

Political History of Delhi Sultanate

  • The course of Indian History was invariably changed with the rise of Islam and increased Islamic invasions on India. As early as 711 AD, Muhammad-bin-Qasim had captured Sind and Multan; however, his career ended suddenly because his masters recalled him and put him to death.
  • By 10th century, a strong Ghaznavid Empire was founded by Subuktgeen in parts of modern Iran, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, southern Kyrgyzstan, southwest Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India.
  • His son Mahmud Ghaznavi carried out as many as seventeen raids on India between 1000 and 1026 AD. Subuktgeen and his son Mahmud and repeatedly defeated the Hindushahi King Jayapala. Jayapala burnt himself to death due to repeated humiliation.
  • His son Anandpala made an alliance {Rajput Confederacy} with six Rajput rulers of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Kannauj, Delhi and Ajmer. This combined army engaged in a battle with Ghaznavids in 1008 near Peshawar.
  • However, Rajput army was defeated following a stampede; and Mahmud became undisputed ruler of Punjab, Multan and Sindh. Between 1008 and 1026, Mahmud repeatedly attacked Nagarkot, Thaneshwar, Kannauj, Meerut, Mathura, Somnath, Ajmer, Kalinjer, Gwalior and other places. The Somnath temple was destroyed and its Lingam was personally hammered by Mahmud. The pieces of the Lingam were carted back to Ghazni to be used in pavements of a Jama Masjid. After his last attack on Somnath, he returned via Thar Desert due to fear of organized army of Raja Bhoj, though Jats had confronted him. During the last invasion, he got Malaria and died in 1030 AD.
  • The key objective of Mahmud behind invasions on India was to loot the wealth from its rich Rajas and temples. Every time, he returned with enormous wealth. He could be defeated by the Rajputs but the Rajputs suffered from political myopia. They often fought with each other and followed epic era rules and customs of war such as not attacking the fleeing enemy, not attacking the enemy with no arms etc. The invaders took advantages of this lack of political foresight and the result was that within a century, all the Hindu dynasties of the country were swept away by the torrent of the Muslims.
  • Mohammad Ghori In the later part of 12th century, Mohammad Ghori led a series of campaigns in India. In his first battle, he defeated a Muslim rule in Multan in 1175. In 1178, he was badly defeated in the Battle of Gujarat {also known as Battle of Kayadara} near Mount Abu by Solanki queen Naikidevi. This was last attack of Ghori from Gujarat side.
  • In 1191, he was defeated in the First Battle of Tarain by Prithviraj Chauhan; however, his life was saved by a Turkic retainer. He reverted back in 1192 in second battle of Tarain. In this battle, Prithviraj lost and tried to flee but was captured and was executed either in India or in Ghazni. Ruthless slaughter of civilians followed this battle at Ajmer, Hansi and Delhi.
  • Qutub-ud-din, the slave and general of Mohammad Ghori sacked Ayodhya and campaigned even to Bengal. Before his death, Mohammad appointed Qutub-ud-din as Naib-us-Sultanate (Viceroy) of his empire in India and bestowed him the title of Aibak (The axis of faith).
  • Mohammad Ghori was assassinated in 1206 by Khokhars in Punjab. He had no sons, so after his death, his Turkic slaves distributed the empire among themselves.
  • In India, Qutub-ud-din became the first of the 34 Muslim Kings who ruled between 1206 to 1526. These 34 Kings belonged to five dynasties and are collectively called “Delhi Sultanate”.
    • Mamluk {Slave} Dynasty (1206-1290): Turkish Origin
    • Khilji dynasty (1290–1320) : Turkish Origin
    • Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1413): Turkish Origin
    • Sayyid dynasty (1414–51) : Disputed / Arabian Origin
    • Lodi dynasty (1451–1526) : Afghan Origin
  • The continuance of the three Turkish origin dynasties was disturbed by the invasion of Timur in 1398, which put an end to the Tughlaqs and the Delhi Sultanate was broken up in pieces. It was taken over by the Sayyid Dynasty which were actually nobles and claimed Arabian descent from the dynasty of Hazarat Muhammad. Lodi dynasty was last before Mughals took over Delhi.

Mamluk dynasty (1206–90)

  • First ruler of Mamluk dynasty was Qutub-ud-din Aibak (1206-1211). He reigned only for four years and died in 1210 due to falling from horse while playing Chaugan.
  • He was called Lakha Baksh Sultan due to his generosity.
  • He laid the foundation of Qutub Minar, named after Sufi saint Qutb-ud- din Bakhtiyar Kaki and also built Quvvat-ul-Islam mosque.
  • Second ruler of Mamluk dynasty was Iltutmish (1211-1236), a son-in-law of Qutub-ud-din.
  • He belonged to Ilbari tribe so some people called Slave dynasty as Ilbari dynasty also. He did some experiments in Indian Administration.
  • During his reign, the Ilabari elite called Chahalgani or Chalisa remained dominant in administration.
  • During Iltutumish reign, Mongols attacked under Chengez Khan. His eyes were set on west, so he returned quickly from Punjab towards Sindh and Multan.
  • He built Hauz Shamshi in Delhi, completed the Qutub Minar works and also built India’s first Islamic Mausoleum Sultan Garhi in Delhi to bury his son Nasiru’d-Din Mahmud.
  • He organized iqta system of land revenue on salary basis. This system underwent changes in later times, which we would discuss later.
  • He introduced two coins viz. Silver Tanka and Copper Jital. The Silver Tanka was weighing 175 grams. Later Balban issued Gold Tankas of same weight.
  • Prior to these, the invaders had issued coins engraved with Sanskrit characters.
  • For example, Mohammad Ghori issued coins with seated Lakshmi in imitation to the Gahadwals. Iltutmish became the first ruler to issue Arabic coins in India.
  • He was also the first Sultan to receive the investiture of “Sovereign Sultan of Delhi” from the Caliph of Baghdad. This investiture legitimized his rule.
  • The third ruler of Mamluk dynasty was Raziya Sultan, the military trained daughter of Iltutmish. By that time, the Chalagani had become very dominant and she could hold for only three and half years. She lost her life to Jats of modern Haryana.
  • The fourth ruler was Balban (1266-1287) who took the advantage of feebleness of successors of Iltutmish and become top noble of the Chahalgani. However, once he became Sultan, he mercilessly executed the other nobles thus putting an end to the Chahalgani dominance. He also subdued the Mewatis by clearing forests and executing lakhs of Mewatis. He also subdued the dacoits of Doab. He ruled for 21 years as per the practical requirements of 13th century India.
  • He introduced practice of Zaminbosi {to kiss the earth} and Paibosi {kiss the feet of Sultan} as per the Iranian theory of divine rights which believed that King / Sultan is God’s representative on Earth.
  • The successor of Balban was his grandson Kaikubad, a young boy of 17 years, who debauched himself soon. He was killed by Jalal-ud-din Firuz Khilji aka Malik Firuz. Thus slave dynasty was put to an end and Delhi slipped in hands of Khilji dynasty.

The Khilji Dynasty (1290-1320)

  • The founder of this dynasty was Jalauddin Khilji aka. Malik Firuz, a general of the Slaves.
  • Kaikubad had appointed him at Baran but when he knew about the debauchery of Kaikubad, he marched to Delhi and got the sultan and also his three years old son killed. He sat on throne of Delhi at the age of 70 years. During his time, Mongol invaders Halaku and Ulugh Khan invaded but the old sultan avoided war with them. He made peace with Ulugh Khan by giving him his daughter.
  • Jalauddin was assassinated by his nephew Alauddin Khilji (1296-1316) who became the second Sultan of Khilji dynasty. He was illiterate but a great commander who became the first Muslim invader to cross Vindhyas, Satpuras and Narmada River to conquer Deccan.
  • Alauddin faced most frequent Mongol attacks (under Duwa Khan, Saldi, Kutlugh Khwaja, Targhi khan etc.). He was able to deter the Mongols. He built Siri fort his capital to save himself from Mongols. Due to the repeated invasions, horde of nomadic Mongols started staying near Delhi and accepted Islam. They were called New Muslims. The sultan sensed a conspiracy in New Muslims and ordered to eliminate all of them in one day. This led to massacre of 40,000 Mongol mans in one day. The women and children were thrown into slavery. Alauddin also sent a strong army to Kandhar, Ghazni and Kabul to teach lesson to Mongols. After this, no Mongol happened during his life time.
  • He conquered the Ranthambore in 1301 with the help of a Rajput traitor Ranmal and seized Chittor in 1303. Seize of Chittor was followed by self-immolation by its queen Padmini and other ladies of the fort. Chittor was renamed as Khijrabad after Alauddin’s son Khijra Khan.
  • He sent Malik Kafur to win over Deccan. Malik Kafur was able to march up to Rameshwaram and build a mosque there. Alauddin died in 1316 and was succeeded by his son Mubarak Shah. Like his father, he also had a beautiful Pariah from Gujarat called Khusru Khan, a Hindu castrato and convert.
  • Mubarak Shah and entire Khilji dynasty was eliminated by Khusru Khan, who sat on the throne as Sultan Nasiruddin. He in turn was killed by Ghiyas ud-Din Tughluq, thus Delhi slipped into hands of Tughlaq dynasty.

Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1413)

  • The first ruler of Tughlaq dynasty was Ghiyas ud-Din Tughluq (1321-1325) aka Ghazi Malik. He was succeeded by Mohammad Bin Tughlaq in 1325. He was a man of ideas and famous for his foolish adventures. His expeditions to Khurasan and China failed and reduced him to penury.
  • To raise the revenues, he increased taxes in doab region which in turn reduced farmers to beggars. His idea to shift capital to Daultabad to keep control over wealthy Deccan backfired. When his wisdom strikes back, he abolished all the oppressive taxes and sets up a Department of Agriculture (Diwan-i-Kohi) and established a Famine Code to relive victims of famine.
  • To improve monetary conditions, he took the idea of paper money issued in China and allowed Copper and Brass coins at par with Silver Tanka. However, this experiment also backfired because of great coin piracy by artisans. The result was the public become rich and government became poor. Ultimately, he repealed the edict of these token coins and gave order to bring copper coins to treasury and exchange them with silver / gold. Due to these experiments of Sultan, the discontent grew among people and revolts started appearing in sultanate.
  • In 1351 Mohammad bin Tughlaq died and was succeeded by his cousin Firoz Shah Tughlaq, who ruled as third Tughlaq Sultan from 1351 to 1388 AD.
  • Firozshah Tughlaq was half Muslim {his mother was a Hindu}. To prove himself equal to pure Muslims, he ruled strictly as per Shariat. He abolished all taxes {such as Octroi} which were not as per Shariat; and imposed Jaziya on Hindus. He pulled down the temples, burnt a Brahmin alive for resisting to embrace Islam, and imposed water tax on agricultural land irrigated from state canals.
  • His reign is also known for plenty of public works. He established cities such as Firuzshah Kotla (Delhi), Hisar, Jaunpur (West Bengal), Fatahabad, Firozabad etc.
  • He moved one of the Asokan pillars from its original place and erected it in Delhi.
  • To support Hissar, he constructed a Double System of Canals from Yamuna to Sutlej (called rajwahas in the Indo-Persian historical texts).
  • This canal was later repaired during times of Akbar.
  • Firuzshah did close to 845 public works during his regime.
  • Firuzshah was gentle towards peasantry. He had destroyed all records of farmer debts ceremoniously to give clean chit to farmers. This was one of the major reasons that he saw no major revolt in 32 years of reign.
  • Death of Firuzshah brought an end to Turkish Sultans of Delhi. His successors were killed one by one and none could sustain the throne.
  • In 1398, Timur attacked India and returned with thousands of slaves and 90 elephants laden with treasure. Delhi lost its ascendency and charm for many decades thereafter.

Sayyid dynasty (1414–51)

  • After a series of successions, the Tughlaq dynasty ended. In 1414, Khijr Khan founded Sayyid dynasty by taking over Delhi as a deputy of Timur in India.
  • Four kings of this dynasty remained in perpetual struggle to retain control. The last ruler of this dynasty Alauddin Alam Shah voluntarily abdicated the throne in favour of Bahlol Lodi.
  • The Timur invasion, followed by confusion in Delhi over control and absence of a strong ruler resulted in loss of hegemony of Delhi Sultanate over other parts of India during entire 15th century. India was disintegrated into small states and petty rulers, some of which were not larger than 20 or 30 miles. This was time of rise of Rajput chieftains in Rajputana, Bahmani Kingdom, Vijaynagar Kingdom in Karnataka etc.



Lodi Dynasty (1451–1526)

  • Lodi Afghans tried to gain the old power and pomp of Delhi but could not succeed. The first ruler of this dynasty was Bahlol Lodi (1451-1489). He was leader of the Lodi Afghan tribes holding the fiefdom at Sirhind. He was invited by last Sayyid ruler Alauddin Alam Shah to take the throne and control the fighting nobles. After this, Alauddin Alam Shah retired to Badun to die in peace.
  • Bahlol Lodhi was succeeded in 1489 by his son Sikandar Lodi who was again a half Muslim like Firuzshah Tughlaq. He launched campaigns to regain the old supremacy of Delhi and subdued the Rajas of Bihar, Bengal, Dholpur, Chanderi, Gwalior, Awadh, Tirhut, Bundelkhand etc. In 1503, he established city of Agra and transferred his capital there.
  • His religious policy was akin to Firuzshah Tughlaq, partly due to his compulsion to prove that he was equal to pure Muslims. He pulled down Jwalamukhi temple at Nagarkot, burnt Hindus alive to terrorise them to adopt Islam, and imposed Jaziya on infidels. Sikandar died in 1517 and was succeeded by his son Ibrahim Lodi, who was the last Sultan of the Delhi Sultanate. Ibrahim (1517-1526) did not know how to win friends. He was so much obsessed with royal prerogative that he forced his nobles to stand motionless with folded hands in his court. When discontent grew, he tried to subdue it by killing some of the nobles. One of his uncles Daulat Khan Lodi fled to Kabul and invited Babur to invade India.
  • In Mewar, a new power under Rana Sanga was on its zenith. Under these circumstances Babur attacked India and closed the chapter of Delhi Sultanate.

Contribution of Iltutmish to Administration

  • Iltutmish was one of the most outstanding rulers of Medieval India. In true terms, history of the Muslim sovereignty in India begins with him. He gave the sultanate a capital, a legitimate sovereign state (he got an investiture from Caliphate, and that was a proof of sovereignty in that time) , monarchical form of government and a governing class or nobility called Chahalgani or Turkan-i- Chalgani or Chalisa (a group of forty) which was the ruling elite  of  the period.
  • The majority of the nobles in IItutmish’s nobility were Turks followed by Tajiks who were Iranians from the transoxiana and Khurasan regions. He divided his empire into numerous big and small iqtas, as assignment of land in lieu of salary, which he distributed to his Turkish officers.
  • IItutmish also used this institution as an instrument for liquidating the feudal order of the Indian society and linking up the far-flung parts of the empire to one centre.

Iqta System

  • The conquest of Mohammad Ghori and establishment of the Sultanate brought major changes in the land revenue system in India. The Governments in those times made all attempts to increase the revenue by collecting taxes as per those in Islamic nations. The new taxes were imposed upon people and government’s share in produce increased. However, till that time, the original form of Hindu system of Land tenure as per ancient Manu’s laws survived with some modifications done by some of the greedy sultans and their officials. The agricultural and land revenue system of the early Turkish Sultans rested on two foundations viz. the Iqta (assignment of land revenue) and Kharaj (Land Revenue). The Iqta system provided an agrarian system to the country while the members of the ruling class attained income without any permanent attachment to any territory. The Iqta system was provided institutional status by Iltutmish and later this system became the mainstay of the sultanate administration under slave dynasty.
  • Under Iqta System, the land of the empire was divided into several large and small tracts called Iqta and assigned these Iqtas to his soldiers, officers and nobles. In the beginning, an Iqta was based upon salary. Later, under Firoz Shah Tughlaq it became hereditary.
  • Literally, Iqta means land or land revenue assigned to an individual on certain conditions. The holders of these Iqtas were the trustful agents of the Sultan. There were two kinds of Iqtas viz. Large Iqtas and Small Iqtas. The holders of large Iqta were the provincial governors, who had some administrative responsibilities also.
  • On the other hand, the holders of the small Iqtas were the small troops holders who had no administrative responsibilities. The small Iqta holders held and appropriated all the income obtained from the cultivators but as a quid pro quid, they were bound to present themselves with horses and arms whenever called upon by the Central Government.
  • These small Iqta holders were called Khuts and Muqaddams.
  • Amir Khusarau, for the first time, referred to Khuts as Zamindars. The Khuts and Muqaddams became fond of luxurious living over the period of time, later, Alauddin Khilji suddenly abolished the system of small Iqtas with a stroke of pen and brought them under the central Government (thus called Khalsa land). This was regarded as one of the most important agrarian reforms of Alauddin Khilji.

Land Revenue Reforms of Alauddin Khilji

  • Under Alauddin Khilji, India saw one of the most harsh land revenue system in India. His land and revenue reforms are notable for two measures viz. abolition of small Iqtas and Land Measurement (Paimaish) Abolition of small Iqtas
  • With a stroke of pen, Alauddin abolished almost all small Iqtas and brought these lands under Khalsa or Crown lands. Almost entire land of Doab was brought under Khalsa. In the Khalsa lands, the revenue was collected directly by the state.
  • The Sultan deprived the Khuts, Maqaddams and Chaudhuris of their privileges. They were forced to pay arrears of land revenue in a newly established department of arrears called Mustkharaj. This Mustkharaj reduced these Khuts and Muqaddams to beggars literally.

Land Measurement and Tax rates

  • Alauddin Khilji made several sweeping reforms in the field of revenue system. He was the first Sultan who paid attention to measurement (paimaish) of the cultivable land, which he called zabita, and estimated yield per Biswa was fixed as unit of revenue collection (currently, Biswa is 20th part of Bigha).
  • The ancient Hindu terminology of taxes viz. Bhaga, Bhoga and Kara were still in operation in those times but their meaning and demand had changed. Bhaga now meant Land revenue, Bhoga meant cess and Kar meant other taxes. These three were basis of assignment of land to nobles under Khilji.
  • As far as state demand is concerned, Alauddin made the harshest possible hike in tax demand till that time. He fixed state demand to be half of the produce per Biswa yield. This scale of agrarian tax at 50% was the highest under Khilji among all other sultans and kings so far in India. Not only this, he also imposed house tax (Ghari) and pasture tax (Charai or Chari) on the agrarian population. But these harsh measures were not sustainable. As soon as Alauddin died, the system lost into oblivion. Later, Mohammad Tughlaq somehow tried to return to the Khilji’s system and he tried to implement such a pilot project in a local area in Doab, but this pilot project failed like many of his other adventures.

Amir Khusru

  • Amir Khusrow was a Sufi mystic and a spiritual disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya. He lived for 72 years, out of which 60 years he lived in the courts of as many as ten different rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. He was a poet as well as prolific musician. His primary language to write poems was Persian but he composed almost half a million verses in Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Braj Bhasha, Hindavi as well as the Khadi Boli.
  • His Khaliq-e-bari, which is known as oldest printed dictionary of the world deals with Hindi and Persian words. He is regarded as the “father of qawwali”.
  • He is also credited with enriching Indian classical music by introducing Persian and Arabic elements in it, and was the originator of the khayal and tarana styles of music.
  • Khayal later reached to its zenith during the times of Mohammad Shah Rangile and today is integral part of Hindustani classical music.
  • His association with various sultans enabled him to travel and stay in various parts of India and this gave him exposure to various local traditions. This helped him to assimilate diverse musical influences. He was patronized by three Khilji rulers successively.

Revenue and Military Reforms of Alauddin Khilji

  • His first revenue regulation (zabita) related to the measurement of cultivable land as the principle for determining and revenue. Biswa (1/20th of a bigha) was declared to be the standard unit of measurement. The state demand was fixed as half of the produce per Biswa and assessment was done on the basis of paimash (measurement).
  • Bhaga (land-revenue), Bhoga (cesses) and Kar (taxes) became the basis for the assignment of land to the nobles. The sultan deprived the village chiefs and Hindu revenue collectors, such as Khuts, Maqaddams, and Chaudhuris of their privileges. They were forced to pay land revenue and other peasants were taxed.
  • Besides the land revenue, house tax (Ghari) and pasture tax (chari) were also imposed on the agrarian population. Most of the small iqtas were abolished and such lands were brought under Khalisa (crown lands). Doab was also brought under Khalisa. In the Khalisa lands the revenue was collected directly by the state.
  • To support his market control system, revenue was mostly collected in kind and peasants were made to sell the surplus produce at their fields only so that they could not hoard the food grains.
  • To ensure full realization of dues or arrears from the collectors, Alauddin Khilji established a new department called the Diwan-i-Mustakharaja. The booty captured during war was called Ghanima, of which the state was to receive 1/5th share called the Khums; and the rest 4/5th was to be divided among the soldiers. Alauddin reversed this and the state was now entitled to 4/5th Khums, 1/5th being distributed among the soldiers.

Military reforms

  • Alauddin Khilji had the largest well equipped standing army. According to Farishta, there were 475,000 cavalrymen in his army. The historian, Ziauddin Barani, informs us that the annual salary of a trained armed soldier with one horse was 243 tankas and with two horses 321 tankas. The soldiers were paid in cash. He was the first among the Delhi sultans to introduce dagh (branding of horses) and Chehra (maintain the descriptive roll of each soldier) so as to avoid fraud in the system. To keep the army satisfied with their salary, he started a strict price control mechanism which came to be known as the market reform system.

Market control or economic regulations of Alauddin

  • As per Barni, the basic objective of these market reforms was to maintain a large and efficient army for keeping the Mongols in check. Such a large army could not be maintained and kept content out of the normal revenues of the state, unless the prices of commodities were reduced. Thus, economic regulations were primarily a military measure.
  • However, this view of Barni is debated because several commodities, for which the prices had been fixed, were of little or no use to the soldiers. Besides, merely for the military needs such extensive economic reforms were not needed.
  • This view of Barni can be supplemented with that of Amir Khusru. He says that sultan introduced these reforms for the general welfare of the people and these were intended to ensure the supply of important commodities for the benefit of common people as also collect food grains for the royal treasury at prescribed rates to combat famines.
  • The economic regulations issued by the sultan for controlling the markets were as under: Zawabitor detailed regulations were made to control the prices of various commodities, from food grains to horses, cattle and slaves, which were fixed by the state.
  • No change was permitted in the price of the commodities without the state’s permission.
  • He tried to control prices along with its availability and distribution.
  • The Karwanis or Banjaras carriers formed a guild where they became guarantors for each other. The cultivators were not allowed to hoard.
  • Only 10 mound {1 mound=40 kg} of grain they could store. Rest they had to sell into market. Four separate markets were established for various commodities central grain market, market for manufactured goods, market for general merchandise and market for horses, cattle and slaves. Each market was put under the charge of a Shuhna or controller of market, and all merchants were to be registered with the state. The sultan received daily reports for the markets from the three independent sources – Shuhna, barids (intelligence officers) and munshis (secret spies). Very strict punishment was prescribed for cheating and under-weighing.
  • Shehna-i-mandi was appointed to keep a strict vigil. To reduce the prices of the costly or imported commodities, the state used to subsidize their costs. But such subsidized items were sold on a permit issued by the permit officer (Parwana Rais), appointed by the state. There was also provision for rationing during famine, drought or scarcity of food drains.
  • Sarai-i-adl was the market for clothes, which was setup near the royal palace at Badayun gate.
  • Horse trade was monopoly of the Afghans and Multanis. The middlemen and dalas sold them in the market.
  • Alauddin did away with the intermediaries and asked the merchants to sell the horses directly to the Diwan-i-arz.
  • The economic regulations of Alauddin were the greatest administrative achievement of the Sultanate period. The prices remained steady and there was no change in them even after lack of rain or other causes. It was a unique and remarkable achievement. The success of these economic measures was largely due to the genius and personal attention of the sultan. These measures failed to survive his death because they operated against economic laws.

Firuzshah Tughlaq: Reverse of Alauddin Khilji

  • The greatest success of the reign of Firuz was the promotion of agriculture through the construction of canals by the state, bringing fresh lands under cultivation along the banks of those canals, introduction of superior crops and lying out of more than 1200 state-managed fruit gardens.
  • He built twin canals to bring water from Ganga and Yamuna to Hissar. This canal was later repaired by Akbar and extended up to Delhi by Shah Jahan. The British repaired it again in the 19th century and this canal became the feeder to the western Yamuna canal.
  • Firoz also built a number of dams for irrigation. However, Firuz’s progressive measures for agriculture proved counter-productive to some extent mainly because he made Iqtas hereditary basis of civil and military officers and even to ordinary troopers . Not only this, he did not streamline the state machinery in matters of revenue assessment and gave the collection work to the bidders, contractors and middlemen. He made the civil and military posts hereditary. 80% of the soldiers were paid by the grants of village. The implication of making Iqtas hereditary was that they went into hands of the pensioners who had lost all military qualities.

State Organization in Delhi Sultanate

  • In theory the Muslim state was theocracy, i.e. the head of state was also the religious head and derived his position and authority from god. Thus the caliph was the supreme head of the whole Muslim world.
  • Although the sultans of Delhi professed formal allegiance to the Caliphate, the sultanate was always in independent state for all practical purposes. Further, the political need and the ignorance of the sultans about the Shariat had resulted in a division of the functions of the head of state. The religious side was looked after by the ulema and the administrative side was managed, organized and supervised by the sultan.
  • The ideal of kingship in the Delhi sultanate was derived from the Islamic world whereby the rulers claimed divine origin for themselves. The ruler was the representative god and was endowed with Farr, thus he was to be obeyed and respected due to divine origin of kingship.
  • During the reign of IItutmish, the position of the sultan was not considered much higher than that of an exalted noble. He treated the great Turkish nobles as his equals and professed his shyness to sit on the throne.
  • However, Balban was fully aware of its dangerous implications.He had, therefore, to place the monarchy at a higher level than the nobility. He proclaimed himself as the vice-regent and the shadow of god on earth. He believed that the king’s heart is the mirror of divine attributes.
  • The same idea was followed by Alauddin Khilji also. He also dreamt himself to be another prophet but his advisors brought him back to reality. Nevertheless, he assumed the title of Sikander-i-sani(the second Alexander) and kept away Ulema from his decision making periphery.
  • However, this trend was softened by Ghiyasuddin Tughluq, who was soft on Ulema and extremely social with nobles.
  • The same was reversed by Firuz shah, who strictly worked in guidance of Ulema and weakened the monarchy.
  • Under Lodis, kingship assumed the racial basis. They believed in superiority of their races and this lowered the dignity of the Sultans. The sultan was a despot and bound by no law. He was not subject to any ministerial or other checks. The people had no rights but only obligations. Only two pressure groups existed with varying impacts in various times viz. nobility and Ulema.
  • Sultan was on apex of the central government who worked with imperial Diwans. The four Diwans viz. Diwani-I-Wizarat, Diwan-I-Arz, Diwan-I-Insha, Diwan-I-Risalat served as four pillars of central government.
  • The Delhi sultanate was divided into smaller units called Wilayat or Iqlim or Iqtas. The number of Iqtas changed, for instance, under Alauddin Khilji, there were 12 Iqtas. Each Iqta was under a Wali, Muqti or Naib and was divided into Shiqs (districts) under a Shiqdar. Each Shiq was further divided into Pargana under an Alim and then further into a village under Khuts and Muqaddams.

Military, Police and Justice

  • The military organization of Delhi sultanate was based on Turkish model. The survival of the government was based on military, it got maximum importance.
  • Iltutmish, a Turkish ruler had thought of organizing the army of sultanate as King’s army, which is centrally recruited and centrally paid. What he organized was called “Iqta army”. However, usually army ranks would be disbanded as soon as a campaign was over.
  • Balban increased the number of soldiers in army.
  • It was Alauddin Khilji, who took more interest in army than any other Sultan. He was the first sultan to set up a permanent standing army of Delhi Sultanate. He did not disband the soldiers after a campaign was over and he recruited directly and paid them in cash from public treasury.
  • The same policy was followed by Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq but Firuz Shah adopted granting hereditary assignments of land to the soldiers. This particular decision ruined the army’s position. During Lodi regime, too much emphasis was on tribal traditions and army of the Sultanate was turned into a tribal militia.
  • As far as Police organization is concerned, the head of the police was a Kotwal, who were responsible for maintenance of law and order in towns. The judicial department was headed by Qazi-ul-Quzzat. Sultan was the supreme or highest court of justice and he sat in a court called Mazalim.

Society of Delhi Sultanate

  • The Delhi sultanate society was broadly divided into four major groups viz. nobles (Aristocrats), Priests, Towns people and Peasants. Nobles included Sultan and his relatives, courtiers and holders of Iqta, Hindu and Muslim chieftains, merchants, bankers etc.
  • Almost all the wealth and power was concentrated in this group. They lived in luxury and style. Second group of priests included Brahmins and Ulemas.
  • Brahmins as well as Ulemas were given tax free land grants so they were also rich and powerful. During most of Sultanate era {except under Alauddin Khilji}, the influence of Ulema was so much that it often influenced the policies of the Sultan. The town people included urban wealthy merchants, traders and artisans. Since nobles and merchants lived in towns, they gradually became centres of administration and military. The places where Sufi saints lived became pilgrim centres. In urban centres, there was a trend of colonies of artisans, for example, weavers living in weavers’ colony while Goldsmiths living in their colony. International trade was flourishing. State patronized the royal Karkhanas for producing goods.
  • The lowest stratum of the society of Delhi Sultanate was peasants. They lived in villages, paid taxes to state as land revenue. A change in dynasty generally did not brought any change in their lives.
  • There was a rigid caste system. Intercaste marriage and dining got totally prohibited. Hindus and Muslims influenced each others’ customs and traditions. Those who converted to Islam continued their old traditions and thus a composite culture of India was born.
  • Trade During Sultanate era, the trade was flourishing. Communities such as Banias, Marwaris and Multanis had their own special vocation of merchandise trade. The Banjaras acted as Couriers and they traded in caravans. The growth of trade also encouraged use of money in place of barters.
  • The introduction of Tanka and Jital by Iltutmish was most used currency in early periods of sultanate. Religion By early Sultanate era, Hinduism was India’s main religion. However, it had degenerated to a great extent due to superstitions, rituals, sacrifices; and due to Brahamanic dominance. Islam was opposite to the Hinduism of the day as it talked of equality, brotherhood and monotheism. Its simple doctrine challenged the social pattern of society and most important result of this was emergence of Bhakti movement and Sufi Movement. Both of these emphasized that God was supreme, all men were equal and Bhakti or devotion to God was the way to achieve salvation.
January 10, 2018

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