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LESSON 1

TOWARDS THE EARLY MEDIEVAL (II): CHANGES IN SOCIETY AND


CULTURE
-Vishwa Mohan Jhan
In this lesson, we shall survey the socio-cultural changes that marked the transition to early
medieval India. Our sources for locating these changes remain to some extent the same as those
for discovering political and economic ones, but for the better part they are different. Even when
they remain the same, they have to be analysed differently. At times the links between the two
sets of changes are not difficult to discern, as for example between changes in economic/political
and social statuses, although the paucity or problems of historical data may make it difficult to
establish the relationship. However, the connection is as often not so easily apparent or seems
tenuous at best. In fact, it is not possible in this brief sketch to provide answers to these and
other questions, a good deal of which are either under investigation or under debate (in fact, some
questions that you might ask may not have occurred to the specialists at all!). The purpose here
is to introduce you to the subject matter in simplest terms, and induce you to think critically as
you peruse the other readings in the subject.
SOCIETY
A number of important social changes have been identified in the transition to early medieval
period. These changes are best approached through the composition, character and scope of the
caste system, and the status of women within it. As you know, Jati is the basic unit in the caste
system. People are grouped in endogamous Jatis, i.e. members of a Jati marry within and not
outside their Jati. Often a number of Jatis in an area that are similar to each other in status and
occupation make up a Jati cluster; and these Jatis and Jati clusters form part of one of the four
Varnas - Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. At the bottom of this caste hierarchy, i.e.
Jati-based Varna hierarchy, are the Untouchables, who are placed outside and in an inferior relation
to the fourfold Varna order, although they are also termed as impure Shudras.
Identifying the nature of caste society and the direction of social changes during our period
demands a careful analysis of the sources. The terms jati and varna are not always used there
in our sense of these categories, and their exact import has to be ascertained each time. A text
by itself may give the impression of a static society, and it is only through a critical collation
of all pieces of relevant information that one is able to see the processes of change.
A comparison of the evidence across our period shows that state society - the society of
kingdoms and empires, which was by and large caste society, as distinct from the non-state,
casteless societies of hunter-gatherers and tribes- was expanding significantly during our period.
First, a considerable number of immigrants from outside the subcontinent, such as the Hunas, the
Gurjaras, etc. were settling down. The Gurjaras, the ancestors of the present Gujar community,
seem to have been particularly widespread in western and northwestern India. In some regions
a gradual transformation of the original structure of Gurjara society was well under way during
our period as at the end of it we see not only the emergence of a small section of them as
rulers (the Gurjara-Pratiharas) but also the rest as humble peasantry. The recognition of the Hunas
as one of the traditional thirty-six Kshatriya clans took a longer time. There were probably other
peoples too. For instance, the Kalachuris who figure as an important political entity and had even

founded an era called Kalachuri-Chedi Era are supposed to have been such immigrants, and the
term Kalachuri is interpreted as a derivative of the Turkish title kulchur
Large parts of India continued to remain covered with forests, in which small, scattered
groups of hunter-gatherers and tribal people practising pastoralism and/or primitive agriculture lived.
For instance, in calling southern Andhra Pradesh a sparsely populated jungle territory infested by
highwaymen, Xuan Zang referred to one such area dominated by aboriginal population, who did
not lead a settled life and for whom plunder was a legitimate source of livelihood. Similarly, for
an extensive country in the northwest, he reports the presence of people who are stated to live
solely by pastoralism, be very warlike, and have no masters, and, whether men or women, have
neither rich nor poor. Quite a few of the aboriginal groups were in regular touch with the members
of caste society, and vivid descriptions of their lives are recorded, though not without bias, in
contemporary works of literature, such as the Dashakumaracharita of Dandin and the Kadambari
of Banabhatta.
A number of the aboriginal peoples were also being assimilated in the caste society, some
wholly, some in part. For instance, while the name Shabara continued to stand for a tribe or
a number of tribes till well after our period, the reference to a Shabara king with a Sanskritic
name, Udayana, in our sources suggests the integration of a section of Shabara people into caste
society. In general, the majority of the members of a tribe were converted into a Jati belonging
to the Shudra Varna (some into an Untouchable caste), while a tribal chief, if he was sufficiently
resourceful, could claim a Kshatriya status for himself and his close kinsmen.
The caste society was also being transformed from within in response to political, economic,
and cultural-ideological changes. An interesting example is the crystallisation of the professionals
called kayastha as a Jati. Kayasthas come into view as important officials from the Gupta period
onwards, and just after our period are seen as a caste. Our sources suggest that they came from
a number of communities, including tribes (especially Karanas) as well as brahmins. The names
of a considerable number of brahmins in Bengal in the Gupta and post-Gupta inscriptions end
with suffixes such as Vasu, Ghosha, Datta, Dama, etc., which are today the surnames not of Bengali
brahmins but of Bengali Kayasthas. The absence of these surnames among the brahmins of the
region suggests that it was the case not of people of lower Varnas adopting the surnames of
their superiors in a bid for upward mobility, but one of the formation of a caste through fission
of brahmin and non-brahmin kayastha families from their parent bodies and fusion into a caste
of Kayastha. In other words, the Kayastha caste began to form as the families belonging to this
profession started marrying among themselves and stopped marrying within their own original Jatis
or tribes.
As you know, each Varna was associated with some specific functions; for instance,
priestly functions were considered the preserve of brahmins. Historians have noted a remarkable
change in this matter during the transition, which is registered both in the brahmanical treatises
as well as attested by foreign observers. Agriculture, which was considered earlier generally the
work of the Vaishyas, now comes increasingly to be seen as the occupation of the Shudras.
However, the meaning of this is not easy to understand, or rather is capable of being understood
in at least three different ways. First, this has been interpreted as amounting to a marked
improvement in the status of the Shudras. From being slaves, servants, and agricultural labourers
they now become landholding peasants like the Vaishyas. Second, this may represent the decline
in the status of peasantry as a result of extensive land grants. There was, it is said, such a
downgrading of the Vaishya peasants that they were considered no different from the Shudras.
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Third, this could refer to the phenomenon of the absorption of tribal people in caste society
as Shudra peasantry. It is of course hypothetically possible that the different statements in our
sources may collectively represent in some, hitherto unexplained, way the sum total of all
these inferences. However, the point is that the problem of the exact correlation of this shift in
Varna theory with the historical reality, especially the mutually contradictory nature of the first
two inferences, has so far not been realized by historians, and needs to be sorted out.
From about the third to the post-Gupta centuries, a number of developments take place
in the history of untouchability. Although the practice had been known earlier, the term
untouchable (asprishya) for them is used for the first time now. The number of untouchable
castes increases through the period, largely through the absorption of aboriginal groups in the
caste society. However, the Chandalas and the Shvapachas (literally, dog-cookers) remained
the most conspicuous of them. The miserable life of these people seldom failed to attract the
attention of shocked foreign observers. Early in the Gupta period, Fa Xian noticed it, and in
the seventh century Xuan Zang observed: Butchers, fishermen, public performers, executioners,
and scavengers have their habitation marked by a distinguishing sign. They are forced to live
outside the city and sneak along on the left when going about in the hamlets.
The practice of slavery seems to have continued without much remarkable change. This
may be inferred from the treatment of the subject in the legal digests called shastras: the topic
is treated in more or less the same manner in a Gupta-period work as in a twelfth-century
one, the Mitakshara, which is otherwise very particular about recording change. Slaves seem
to have mainly been used as domestic labour.
As with the other social groups, the status of women did not remain unchanged during
the transition to the early medieval period. The changes that are noticed mainly pertain to the
womenfolk of the upper classes of society; of course these changes did not occur uniformly
everywhere. The brahmanical attitudes betray certain unmistakable tendencies of further
depreciation of womens status, one of the most intolerable things being a womans attempt to
have independence (svatantryd). There was an increasing tendency to club them together with
either property or Shudras, just the Chandalas were coming to be bracketed with dogs and
donkeys. Post-puberty marriages were deprecated, with one authority prescribing the age of the
bride as one-third of the bridegrooms. Wives would considerably outlive husbands in such cases,
and detailed provisions were accordingly made for regulating the lives of widows. An extreme
provision was that she should become a sati, i.e. commit suicide with her husband dead body
on the funeral pyre (or without it if it had already perished, as Harshas sister Rajyashri tried
to do). Although not unknown in the earlier periods, the practice of sati gained ground steadily
in early medieval times as instances of it begin to multiply. However, this did not win universal
approval even in Brahmanism. Baanbhttaa and Shudraka, the leading literary figures of the times,
criticised it strongly, and the strongest protest was beginning to develop in tantrism, Which was
to declare it a most sinful act.
A general indication of the depreciation in the social standing of upper caste women is
the deliberate erasure of their pre-marital identity after marriage. Till the Gupta period there is
evidence that a woman did not need to lose her gotra identity and affiliation after marriage;
thereafter, however, such marriages seem to have gone gradually gone out of use, at least among
the ordinary people.

Sometimes a certain improvement in the status of women in early medieval times is


perceived in the fact that they were allowed, like the Shudras, to listen to certain religious texts
and worship deities. However, this seems to have served, by making them religious-minded, mainly
to strengthen the brahmanical religions and enhance the income of the officiating priests rather
than to improve the quality of womens lives. Much cannot also be made of the increase in
the scope of stridhana, i.e. the wealth that a women could receive as a gift, for this did little
to empower them in relation to men; their dependence and helplessness remained unaffected.
While some authorities tried to get inheritance rights for the widow or daughter of a man dying
sonless, actual historical instances make it clear that their prescriptions were routinely disregarded
in favour of the contrary opinion by the early medieval kings, who would confiscate the property
of such persons except for some privileged few; this provision, however, like those against
widow remarriage and advocating sati, did not apply to the women of Shudra Varna. In fact,
as in the previous and following periods, women of the labouring masses, simply for the reason
that they had to work in the fields, pastures, etc. along with men in order to keep body and
soul together, could not be subjected to the same kind of subordination and helplessness as
was the fate of women of the privileged classes.
CULTURE
It is for the multi-faceted cultural activities that the documentation in our period - literary
and monumental - is the richest, liveliest, and most vivid. It is best appreciated firsthand, visually
via the sites of monuments or by reading up the literature - through a colourfully illustrated
narrative at a pinch - rather than through an investigation into the transitional aspects of it.
However; such investigation helps us place the creative-aesthetic-scientific achievements of the
age in their proper historical contexts, enriching our sensibilities thereby, and therefore comes in
very useful whenever we decide to descend on the monuments or dive in the literature. There
exists a highly technical and voluminous scholarly output on the different aspects of these activities,
and, in the limited space at our disposal, we can do no more than describe some broad trends.
There were a number of significant linguistic developments. First, there was the onset and*growth
of the third stage of Middle Indo-Aryan languages, i.e. the Prakrits [Old Indo-Aryan languages
include Classical and Vedic Sanskrit], from about AD 600. This third stage of the Middle IndoAryan is termed Apabhramsha by the linguists, out of which the New or Modern Indo-Aryan
languages such as Hindi and Marathi began to evolve from the tenth century. Second, the
predominance of Sanskrit continued to grow as the official language of the states and one used
for trans-provincial communication throughout the culture region of South and South-east Asia,
apart from as a language of literature and religion; towards the end of our period even the
Jainas were beginning to give up their Ardha-Magadhi Prakrit in its favour. In the history of
Sanskrit legal literature, our period marks a watershed, during which the last of the Smritis, the
Katyayana Smriti, was composed, and towards the end of which the great tradition of Sanskrit
commentaries on these Smritis made its first beginning with the commentary of Asahaya on the
Narada Smriti.
Third, there was the continuing ascent of Tamil along with the foundations of Kannada
and Telugu as a literary language. The growth of Tamil received a great fillip from the Bhakti
movement. Although no extant works can be ascribed to our period, epigraphic references as
well as the later literary ones show nevertheless that Kannada was flourishing as a literary
language, aided by state patronage and royal participation. For instance, Durvinita, who is
mentioned as a celebrated literary figure of the language, was probably the sixth-century Ganga
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king Durvinita of southern Karnataka. As for Telugu, the discovery of fragments of an early text
on prosody, called Janashraychhandas, points to a strong likelihood that its rise as a literary
language may have commenced as early as the first references to Telugu words in stone inscriptions
of the fifth and sixth century AD.
In the field of religion, the Puranic temple-based Brahmanical sects, about the nature and
rise of which you have already read in the previous lessons, continued to be in the ascendant. Of
these the Vaishnava and Shaiva sects were the most important. Taking the evidence of royal
patronage as an indicator, the various Shaiva sects appear to have been moving ahead of the
Vaishnava ones during our period.
A major new development of great importance was Bhakti movement in the Tamil south.
The idea of bhakti or devotion to a deity was basic to most sects of the period, but it was in
the south during our period that it was invested with an unprecedented emotional intensity and
became the focua of a powerful religious movement. It was espoused by both Shaiva saints called
Nayanars and Vaishnava ones called Alvars. They journeyed extensively in propagation of their
faith; debated with rivals; sang, danced and composed beautiful lyrics in praise of their deities; and
converted kings and commoners alike to their faith, exhorting them to bring disgrace to the other
faiths. Besides fulfilling the religious cravings of the people, the idea of bhakti served to tone down
the severity of the iniquitous caste system as well as helped, as the central doctrine of templebased religiosity and in calling forth the unquestioning loyalty of the subjects, the monarchs to shore
up their rule.
There is a perceptible decline in some areas of Buddhism, which had gradually been falling
out of royal favour since the Gupta period. In many others, however, it continued to retain a
substantial presence. There was a century of lavish royal patronage by the Maitraka state of
Saurashtra in the west, and in the east the importance of Nalanda reached its peak during this time
as the most outstanding of all the centres of Buddhist learning, to which some more like Vikramashila,
Oddantapuri, and Somapura were added. In Gujarat and Rajasthan regions, Jainism too seems to
have done reasonably well among the people despite the dwindling royal support.
It is in the South that the two religions lost out to Brahmanism in a major way, although
the Kannada territory remained a Jaina stronghold. There was never any love lost between them
and the Brahmanical religions, and religious rivalry and persecution have long been identified as
distinct features of our age, despite a certain general reluctance to accept it and a rather desperate
bid by some scholars to see nothing but religious tolerance and harmony. There were no doubt
kings during these centuries who were evenhanded in their attitudes to the various religions, but so
were those with partisan views bordering on bigotry. For instance, the following quote from one
of the earliest studies on South Indian Jainism represents a standard view of the downfall of the
faith in the region, about which students of history tend to be unfamiliar these days:
The vast remains in South India of mutilated statues, deserted caves, and ruined temples
at once recall to our mind the greatness of the religion in days gone by and the theological rancour
of the Brahmins who wiped it out of all active existence. The Jains have been forgotten, their
traditions have been ignored; but, the memory of that bitter struggle between Jainism and Hinduism,
characterised by bloody episodes in the South, is constantly kept alive in the series of frescoes on
the wall of the mantapam of the Golden Lily Tank of the famous Minakshi Temple of Madura.
... As though this were not sufficient... the whole tragedy is gone through at five of the twelve
annual festivals at the Madura temple.

Tantrism was well on way to becoming a salient feature of religious life all over the
subcontinent. In Tantrism the cult of female divinities, who were in general known as Tara in
Buddhism and Shakti or Devi in Brahmanism, was combined with a set of esoteric beliefs and
magical practices. A graphic portrayal of Tantric religion is seen in the Harshacharita, where a
Sascetic from the South performs what may clearly be identified as a Tantric rite for Harshas
ancestor Pushpabhuti. The ascetic lived near an old temple of the Mothers (matri), and performed
a fire-rite in the mouth of a corpse in an empty building near a great cremation ground on the
fourteenth night of the dark fortnight.
Among the other features of religious life in this period of transition, one was the coming
of Islam on the west coast and in Sindh, and the other was the expansion of Christian communities
from Malabar and some other places on the west coast in early sixth century to the east coast
of ,the peninsula by the eighth.
Philosophy continued to be enlivened and enriched by debates and discussions. Apart from
the six maj^r schools of philosophy in Brahmanism, there were, as you already know, three
heterodox, i.e. non-Brahmanical ones: Buddhist, Jaina, and Charvaka. No works of the Charvakas
have come down to us and their views are known only through refutation by others. A major
representative of this school was Purandara, who probably lived in the seventh century and is known
to have composed texts on his school of philosophy. In the same century flourished Dharmakirti,
the outstanding Buddhist philosopher. In Vedanta philosophy we have Gaudapada, who is reputed
to have been Shankaracharyas paramaguru, the teacher of his teacher. Some greatest names in
Mimamsa philosophy also belong to our period: Shabara, Prabhakara, and Kumarila.
In stone architecture, there were two major forms: rock-cut and structural. Rock architecture,
as you probably already kno w, refers to the creation of architectural forms in living rock. These
rock-cut temples and monasteries usually look like artificial caves in hills and cliffs. These were
distinct from structural architecture, which refers to building freestanding structures with dressedstone (or brick) masonry. Occasionally these two forms could be combined, but normally they
remained separate, and have different chronological spans. Rock architecture, which over its long
career was a virtually pan-South Asian phenomenon, goes back to the Mauryan period, but it is
from about mid-fifth, century (beginning at Ajanta and Ellora) that it entered its most active phase.
By the end of our period the great age of rock architecture in Indian art history was by and large
drawing to a close, even though its greatest achievement - the Kailasanatha temple at Ellora - comes
just after it. It was during these centuries that construction of structural buildings in stone and brick
got under way in an important way, but the really magnificent and classic phase of structural temples
begins after the age of rock architecture was over. Generally speaking, there was an overlap between
the two types of construction during our centuries, except in the south under the Pallavas, where
the structural phase begins in the eighth century only after the rock-cut phase comes to an end
in the seventh.
As the fine examples from Ajanta and Ellora testify, major advances were made as the artists
stopped imitating wooden prototypes and achieved increasing perfection of design and execution;
in some instances, it has been observed, lines are straighter, angles more correct, and surfaces more
true than in any other examples. Further, two monasteries at Ellora are the only examples we have
of three storeys in rock-cut art. Till about the end of the sixth century Buddhism largely dominated
the rock-cut mode of architecture, and then gradually Brahmanism became more important, followed
by Jainism. Despite the different religious affiliations, the architectural style remained common, expect
for some adaptation for ritualistic purposes.
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Examples of freestanding structures, built of stone or brick, are known from an earlier
period. A most remarkable development of our period was the evolution of the typical brahmanical
temple of the medieval era. The medieval temple was a very elaborate structure with several typical
features. The process began, about the turn of the sixth century, with the addition of a tower called
shikhara to the flat roofs of the shrine-rooms of the Gupta period. The earliest examples of such
an addition come from Bhitargaon near Kanpur (brick) and Deogarh near Jhansi and Aihole near
Badami (stone). The remaining features were gradually added till about AD 740, when at the
Vaikunthanath Perumal shrine at Kanchipuram we see a combination of all the standard attributes
of the medieval temple. The evolution occurred at different pace in various regions. For instance,
an important stage in the evolution was the connection of the pillared assembly hall called mandapa
with the sanctum by means of a vestibule called antarala. As late as AD 700 this had not become
a general practice as it is absent in both the Shore temple at Mamallapuram and the Kailasanatha
at Kanchipuram (this Kailasanatha temple was used as an inspiration for the one at Ellora).
In sculpture, the classical tradition with its emphasis on fully rounded volume by and large
continued. The medieval style, in which rounded volume and smooth convex lines give way to flat
surfaces and sharp curves, is seen occasionally in isolated examples, such as in a sixth-century
frieze at the Dhamek stupa at Sarnath, but it did not come into its own till a later period, and
even then remained confined to certain regions only.
The same is true of painting. It was quite a developed art by the onset of our period, and
the Vishnudharmottara Purana, a contemporary text from Kashmir, provides a detailed account
of its various aspects. Literary references show that there were both murals (paintings on walls and
ceiling) of different types in private homes, royal palaces, and religious places as well popular
portable galleries of pictures drawn on textiles. However, although several examples of paintings
from our period have survived, they all are all murals in religious establishments. The best-preserved
specimens come from the sixth-century Buddhist caves (rock-cut halls) at Bagh in Madhya Pradesh,
Ajanta, and Badami, the seventh-century rock-cut Jaina temple at Sittanavasal in Tamil Nadu (a
good part of the extant paintings, it has now been found out, belong to the ninth century), and
the seventh-century Shaiva Kailasanatha temple at Kanchipuram. Outside India, Sigiri in Sri Lanka
furnishes beautiful instances. The tradition of classical painting continued in all these and many other
cases through the seventh century and beyond. In the classical mode, there was an attempt at
three-dimensional representation by employing several techniques, such as chiaroscuro (use of light
and shade by means of colour shades and tones). Through these centuries, however, the medieval
style, which was to find a foothold in many regions, was also developing; it appears in an eighthcentury Ellora painting with a completeness that suggests a long period of prior evolution. As in
sculpture, the classical and the medieval were to coexist in South Asia after our period.
In the scientific field, Brahmagupta is the most outstanding figure in our period. He made
a number of seminal contributions in mathematics. He was the first mathematician in the world
to recognize negative numbers, which he presented as debts in contrast to positive numbers,
which he called fortunes. In many other ways he was ahead of the mathematicians of the time.
For instance, one of his methods for proving Pythagoras theorem remained unknown to the
western world till the seventeenth century. Astronomy was closely linked to mathematics, the
word for the mathematician - ganaka - being also the term for the astronomer. Like his equally
eminent predecessor Aryabhata, Brahmagupta was thus an astronomer also. He headed a major
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observatory, and grappled with such questions as lunar and solar eclipses, conjunctions of the
moving planets with each other as well as with fixed stars, etc.
However, although he was characteristically dazzling in applying mathematical techniques
to astronomy, Brahmagupta failed to achieve the same success in astronomy. He in fact strongly
argued for the wrong conclusion that the earth does not rotate on its axis. The reason for this
was his inability to go beyond and question the religion-sanctioned knowledge. It has been shown
how Brahmagupta was prevented from achieving the same success in astronomy by the
stranglehold of scriptural authority. Thus while he attempted a careful calculation of the diameter
of the shadow of earth in order to see how the moon is eclipsed by it, he also condemned
the heretics who mock and reject the view that the demon Rahu swallows celestial bodies!
Evidently the same need to uphold religious authority led him to revile and reject Aryabhatas
findings.
The Surya Siddhanta, which provided the basis of medieval astronomy in India from
the fifth century onwards by replacing the Vedanga astronomy, continued to undergo gradual
changes; it was its later version, one that evolved between AD 628 and 960, that was to gain
immense popularity. In Tamil region, an old system of astronomical calculations by means of
certain numerical schemes continued as a parallel tradition, as distinct from the trigonometrical
tradition of the Surya Siddhanta. Apart from Brahmagupta, Bhaskara I, who was a contemporary
of Brahmagupta and a disciple of the great Aryabhata, and Lalla (AD 748) were the leading
astronomers of our times.
In medicine, Vagbhata claimed, or was claimed, to have become the leading authority
for his age, rendering superfluous the previous masters. There are two Vagbhatas, the first of
whom wrote a treatise called the Ashtanga-sangraha, and who flourished in the seventh century
just before the visit of the Chinese pilgrim Yijing. Scholars place the other Vagbhata, the author
of Ashtanga-hrdaya-samhita, about a century later. Both were Buddhists, and thus bear witness
to the close links of Buddhism with the medical tradition; medicine was avidly studied in the
monasteries of Nalanda and Vikramashila.
Conclusion
In this and the previous lesson, you have studied how the lives of people in early India
were being transformed in several significant ways over the two hundred odd years. Our concern
was with identifying the dynamics of change rather than providing a detailed description of
economy, polity, society, and culture. For instance, no attempt has been made to give an account
of the numerous works of literature that were produced during these centuries. The purpose
has been to discuss change, not narrate details.
You must not imagine, however, that the changes occurred in a uniform fashion all over
the subcontinent. The transition to the medieval era occurred at different points of time in different
spheres and regions, and the pace at which change occurred also varied. Moreover, historical
change seldom occurs in a sweeping, wholesale fashion. Remnants of the past, including the
remotest past, somehow manage to cling to us; the scientist D. D. Kosambi in fact would always
urge historians to detect clues to the past in the present. All the same, the patterns of change
that we have outlined above made early Indian society recognizably different about mid-eighth
century from what it was about mid-sixth. As you read on, you shall see how the processes
of transformation continued to operate in the times ahead.

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SUGGESTED READINGS
Agrawal, D.P.

The Archaeology of India.

Alichin, F.R. and B.

Origins of a Civilization. The Prehistory and each


Archaeology of South Asia.

Basham, A.L.

The Wonder That was India.

Chakrabarti, D.K.

Archaeology of Ancient Indian Cities.

Chattopadhyay, B.

Kushan State and Indian Society.

Gonda, J.

Vishnuism and Shivasimed Corporation.

Gurukul Rajan
and M.R.R. Varrier

Cultural History of Kerala.

Huntington, S.L.

The Art of Ancient India.

Jaiswal, Survira

Caste, Origin, Function and Dimentions.

Jha, D.N.

Ancient Indian in Historical Outline (1998 edu.)

Kosambi, D.D.

Culture and Civilization of Ancient India in Historical Outline.

Kulke, H.

Historical Outline

Rothermund, D.

A History of India.

Maity, S.K.

Economic Life in Nothern India in the Gupta Period.

Margabandhu, C.

Archaeology of Satavahana-Kshatrapa Times.

Moenakshi, C.

Social Life and Administration under the Pallavas.

Ray, H.P.

Monastery and Guild.

Ray Niharanjan

Maurya and post Maurya Art.

Sastri, K.A.N.

A History of South India.

Sharma, R.S.

Perspective in Social and Economic History of Early India.

Sharma, R.S.

Aspects of Political Ideas Institutions in Ancient India


(1991 edu.)

Subramania, N.

Sangam Policy.

Thapar, Romila

History of early India.

Thapar, Romila

Ashoka and the decline of the Mauryas (1997 edu.)

Yazdani, G.

Early History of the Deccan.

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LESSON 2

INDIAN MERCHANTS IN OVERSEAS TRADE


(8TH TO 15TH CENTURIES)
Madhu Trivedi
The long standing economic image of Indian subcontinent as totally agrarian, especially in
the context of early medieval period, has changed considerably in the historical researches of recent
past. These researches show that there was an active non-agrarian sector of the traditional economy
though it remained firmly rooted to overarching agrarian material milieu.1 Sustained scholarly efforts
also show that urbanization, craft production and trade were quite visible in India up to c. AD
1300. Economic historians, roughly from the middle of the 1980s, have highlighted the significance
of Indian Occean in the trading activities and linkages of India in the oceanic trade net-work.
Their researches have successfully negated the widely believed stigma that Indians were averse
to seafaring in order to retain their ritual purity, and such attitudes were available in the normative
Brahmanical law books, and at the most, these were probably applicable only to the priestly
community. On the contrary we find the existence of a commercial economy that incorporated
many societies of Eurasia and Africa and its economic impact was not insignificant in any way.
Material milieu of Indian society of was undoubtedly agricultural and bulk of the Indian population
was engaged in agriculture, yet trade (vanijyd) was also recognized as one of the major ingredients
of economic life from remote times. Indias role in the maritime network of Indian Occean was
substantial.
The central position of India in the Indian Ocean
It may be pointed out here that in respect of maritime trade India enjoyed a unique position on
three counts: one, it had a vast landmass; two it was surrounded on three sides by the Indian Ocean;
and lastly it had, along with Sri Lanka, a central position in Indian Ocean which undoubtedly dominates
the sea-face of Asia.
Indian Ocean occupies almost 20% of maritime space. It includes in it two important sea-lanes
in the west - The Red Sea and the Persian Gulf - and washes the sea coast of Africa. The eastern sector
of Indian Ocean is marked by the Bay of Bengal (but not the Java and the China Seas), and it stretches
up to the Antarctica in the south. In spite of the fact that the Atlantic and the Pacific Oceans are larger
than the Indian Ocean, it is the Indian Ocean which has acted as a bridge amongst numerous communities
of Asia and Africa over a very long period of time. This association has yielded far reaching results
especially in the context of maritime trade and has projected Asia as one of the leading maritime zone
of the world. It has also been instrumental in establishing unity between the maritime space and its
related landmass. The maritime historians have taken keen interest in delineating Indias position in the
Indian Ocean affairs and establishing the maritime linkages in this maritime space.

Ranabir Chakravarti, Visiting Faraway Shores: Indias Trade in the Western Indian Ocean, in Rajat Duttas, p.

12

The historiographical gap in trade history


The existing historiography suggests three broad strands or areas of academic interests:
(1)
(2)
(3)

The maritime linkages of Harrapan civilization (c. 2500BC -1750 BC) with Sumer and
Akkad through the Persian Gulf.
Indias flourishing sea-borne commerce with the Roman empire through the Res Sea (late
1st century BC to AD 250)
The changes in Indias maritime situation owing to the involvement of European trading
Companies in the Indian Occean.

One may notice a historiographical gap for the maritime history of the period ranging from
8 to 15th centuries; a period which witnessed a transition from early medieval to medieval. It may be
pointed out here that this period is considered as a period of crisis in social, economic and political
spheres. According to some prominent historians of feudalism, such as R. S. Sharma, this period
especially from 500 to 1000 AD marked the emergence and consolidation of self sufficient, enclose and
stagnant village economy which was not favorable to trade, especially long-distance overseas trade. The
paucity of trade led to urban decay and the attendant monetary anemia. Although they agree that there
was a revival of trade including the maritime trade in India from 1000 AD onwards. This concept of
sharp decline in the overseas commerce in early medieval India has given view to the relatively languishing
role of India in the trade of Indian Ocean. This formulation was contested by K. N. Chaudhury.
According to him written evidences bring out an entirely different image of the overseas trade in the
eighth and ninth centuries and reflect that trade was not languishing during the early medieval period as
has been assumed by the historians of feudalism. Indian merchants not actively participated in the Indian
Ocean commerce; they played an important role in it.
th

Sources for the history of overseas trade during 8th to 15th centuries
A large number of Sanskrit inscriptions and indigenous literary texts, Arabic and Persian accounts,
Chinese texts, the account of the Italian traveller Marco polo (late thirteenth century), and the letters
of the Jewish merchants trading with India provide information for the history of overseas trade for the
early medieval period. However, the information offered by these sources should be cautiously handled
which is hardly adequate, often scattered and stereotyped and offer little statistical data and these
sources belong to the category of qualitative sources. However, this fact does not in any way
undermine their importance as source of history of the Indian overseas trade during the period under
review. The letters of Jewish merchants, known to us as Genizah documents, are particularly important
in this regard. They highlight the activities of travellers of India (musafirun ul Hind), which generally
belonged to the trading community. These letters enable us to hear the voices of the merchants who
actually participated in the Indian Ocean trade; they also occasionally provide some statistical information.
The Arab travelers and merchants were also frequenting the water sector of Indian Ocean. It is
confirmed by the descriptions of the first Arab invasion in early eighth century, narrated in a later source
Chachnama which point to the direct voyages between Daibul and Sri Lanka.

For details see Ranabir Chakravarti, of cit. p.

13

Revival of trade in the Indian Ocean (c. 1000 AD)


K. N. Chaudhury and some other leading scholars like G. F. Hourani have effectively shown
that there was a great spurt in commercial activities in the Indian Ocean after the rise and spread of
Islam. It was mainly because of the fact that Islamic culture had a pronounced orientation in commerce
and urban life1, and this phenomenon had a favourable bearing on the trade in the Indian Ocean from
late eighth and early ninth century onwards and provided a major boost to the maritime commerce of
India during the early medieval period. The geographical accounts and travelogues of Arab and Persian
authors frequently mention the expression al bahr al Hindi which refers to Indian Ocean and also
included bahr Larvi i. e. the sea of lata or Gujarat. The Arab authors were clearly familiar with the
channel (aghbab) that separated the southern part of the Indian peninsula with the Sri Lanka. The
maritime space to the east was designated by these authors as bahr Harkal, or Harkand. Chinise
annals also speak of maritime linkages with India and various areas of Indian Ocean for which they use
the expression Hsi-hai. This also suggests to the frequent sailings of the merchants across the vast
maritime space.
The sailing patterns
The sailing patterns in the Indian Ocean were determined by the monsoon wind system. The
shipping in this maritime space was largely guided and shaped by the more or less predictable
alterations of the south-western (June to September) and north-eastern monsoon (October to January)
wind system. The western terminus of the Indian Ocean network at the time of its zenith was situated
in Siraf, Kish, and Hormuz (in the Persian Gulf) and al Fustat (old Cairo) under the Fatimid Caliphate
in Egypt, while the eastern terminus was stretched to the ports of South East Asia and China. Because
of the alterations of the monsoon winds, it was difficult to make a round trip in the western and eastern
terminals of this vast maritime space in a single year. This situation must have been immensely advantageous
to the overseas commerce of India which had two seaboards dotted with numerous ports ideally suited
as stopovers and as points of transshipments. It must have also facilitated the growth of brisk import
and export transactions.
A careful study of these sources show that the maritime trade of India was not certainly of that
magnitude as it was during the time of the Roman empire. Also, this fact cannot be denied that there
was a gradual decline of the premier ports of that particular era during the eighth century such as
Broach, Kaveripattinam, and Tamralipta. However, decline in maritime commerce was not that sharp,
and this period was not a period of slump as has been assumed by the historians of feudalism. There
are voluminous evidences in the Arabic and Persian to show the volume of overseas contacts of India
with the countries in the maritime space ,of Indian Ocean. They speak about the importance of Indian
ports and the transactions of commodities, which show that many new ports began to gain importance
from about the eighth century.
A whole range of information is available the Arabic and Persian sources for the period
under review from the secend half of the ninth century to thirteenth century. Mention may be
made of Sulaiman merchant (c. 851), ibn Khuradbeh (c. 882) al Masudi (c. 915), al Biruni
(1030), al Marvazi (1120), al Idrisi (c. 1162), Ibn Battuta (early fourteenth century). In addition
to the Arabic and Persian works there are some valuable Chinese and European accounts which
shed ample light on the trade history of the Indian Ocean during the thirteenth century. The
Chinese account was by an officer Chau ju Kua (12250, who supervised the foreign trade
under the Sung dynasty and wrote a valuable account of the commodities and ports of India.
The other was the famous Morco Polo who has written elaborately on the commerce of Indian
Ocean towards the end of the thirteenth century. The Jewish merchants commercial business
14

enterprises extended from Tunisia and Levant to Egypt and Aden, trom where they sailed to Indian
ports on the west coast. The account of their activities is found in the trade documents known as
Genizah papers.
The growth of trade in the Persian Gulf around 10th century
The establishment of the Abbasid Caliphate in Baghdad facilitated the growth of trade in the
Persian Gulf. Initially the premier port in the Persian Gulf was Siraf which, however, languished in the
late eleventh century and later on Kish or Qays acquired great prominence. The most important port
in this maritime space was Hormuz which emerged as the premier port in the western Indian Ocean
commerce during the thirteenth century. After the rise of Fatimid Caliphate in Egypt in 965 the Red Sea
network acquired prominence. It further established linkages with the vibrant Mediterranean maritime
trade through Egypt which acted like a pivot between the Indian Ocean and Mediterranean Sea.
The premier ports of the eastern Indian Ocean
Both the sectors of western and eastern India Ocean were dotted with numerous ports. A large
number of these ports owed their origin and prosperity to the maritime trade in the Indian Ocean. This
phenomenon is noticeable from the eighth century onwards.
Indus delta: The most important port in the Indus delta was Daybul which had certainly prospered
in the new scenario. It seems to be well connected with Multan and Mansura on one hand and also
with the Makran coast on the other.
Gujarat: In the Gujarat coast a new port, Stambatirtha/Stambhak came into prominence during the
period under review. This famous port, today known to as Cambay, figures in the Arab accounts as
Kanbaya and Kambaya. According to V. K. Jain the rise of the Chalukyas as a regional power of
Gujarat paved the way for the integration of the coast with the extensive interior by a number of
overland routes.3 There were some other factors which facilitated the growth of trade in the region and
contributed greatly to the prosperity of the ports of Gujarat:
(1) Gujarat experienced tremendous agricultural growth in the early medieval period.
(2) There is the emergence of a new type of exchange centre in western India, especially in Gujarat,
Rajasthan, Malwa, and the region which now forms the western part of modern Uttar Pradesh. It was
known as mandapika (modern mandi).
This meant that the ports on the Gujarat coast commanded a vast hinterland for commerce and
they maintained coastal linkages with ports in the Konkan and Malabar, and most importantly with
Hormuz in the Persian Gulf. It was also well served by a few smaller ports in the vicinity. Divi (Diu)
was another important port from where ships sailed to Aden. It was well connected with Kanara coast
and Aden. Another prominent port was Somnath. According to Al Biruni it was the vintage point of
departure for Zanz or Zanzibar in east Africa. A bi-lingual inscription (in Arabic and Sanskrit of 1264
proves that Somnath was well connected with Hormuz and received ships regularly from here.
Konkan: Towards the south of Gujarat lay the narrow strip of Konkan region dotted with
numerous ports. Amongst these Sristhanaka (thana) was of great eminence. Others were
Candrapur which is mentioned as Sindabur in Arabic sources (modern Chandaur), and
Gopakapattana (modern Goa), and Chaul (referred as Saimur). As is evident from the Sanskrit

3 V.K. Jain, Trade and Traders in Western India AD 1000-1300, Delhi, 1989.

15

inscriptions, Arabic texts and Jewish business letters, these ports were less prosperous and prominent
than the ports of Gujarat although geographically these ports were located in the most advantageous
area in the harbour building. It was probably because of the fact that neither they had rich hinterland
at their command nor they had linkages with the interior because of the geographical barriers between
the coast and the mainland. These ports were, however, engaged in looping coastal commerce. The
Sanskrit inscriptions of Kadamba rulers mention about the long voyages from around Goa to Somnath
in Kathiawad. They also derived substantial advantages from their linkages with Persian Gulf commerce.
These ports of Konkan witnessed regular settlements of Arab merchants referred as Tajjikas
in the Sanskrit inscriptions. Al Masudi noted the presence of large number of Omani, Sirafi and
Baghdadi merchants at the port of Chaul.
Malabar: The prominent ports of Malabar, the southernmost section of the western sea-board, were
Kulam Mali (Quilon), Panatalyani, Kollam, and Calicut. The Malabar ports had an advantageous
situation to their credit that they could be reached from both the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea ports
by utilizing the south western monsoon around thirty days. These ports handled the invaluable cargo of
spices, especially the pepper. Amongst the Malabar ports Calicut attained immense glory during the
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Ibn Battuta speaks about Calicut in glorious terms. According to him
the huge Chinese junks did not sail further west of Calicut, and that Calicut provided excellent transshipment
facilities for Chinese and Arab vessels.
Eastern Indian Ocean
Significant developments occurred in the patterns of trade in early medieval centuries in the
expansion of maritime activity in the eastern water of the Indian Ocean and the China Sea. The old
silk-route, a major trade route for commerce with the Roman world, of China had been cut off; and
from the seventh century onwards maritime connection developed between China and the Persian Gulf.
The maritime activities were greatly increased in South East Asia under strong Hindu and Indian
Buddhist influence. Also, there is the entry of Indian merchants into direct trading with China. Mali
patan, Negapatan, and Kaveripatan were the prominent ports of this sector. The Chinese sources show
that in the early twelfth century_,thg_major portion of the export trade was in the ships of the Kling
merchants of Coromandel and Ceylon. Shortly afterwards these were outclassed by the Chinese junks
(vessels) which started plying in the Indian Ocean and visiting Indian ports. During the thirteenth and
fourteenth century no traveler could think of travelling to and from China except in these Junks. The
Chinese junk of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries was technically the most advanced and sea
worthy vessel of its period.
By the end of 1175 the common pattern of transshipment of commodities was set. The Arabian
Sea ships sailed to the ports of Malabar and Coromandel in dhow, a variety of vessel of non-Arab
origin. Then the passengers and commodities of the dhows were exchanged with the junks plying in the
Eastern Indian Ocean. In the earlier pattern, during the eleventh and early twelfth centuries, the goods
were transferred from the Arab vessels to Kling bottoms in south India.
Exchange of commodities/ pattern of export and import
Our sources show that these ports were actively involved in the exchange of
commodities, such as strategic war-animals, spices and medicaments, toys (works of arts and
craft), rarities, and exotic textiles, and base metals for brass industry. Among the perennial
16

export items of India were various types of textiles of Gujarat, Malwa, and Bengal. Textile products
ranged from the famous muslins of Bengal to ordinary cotton meant for daily necessity.4 Precious gems
and stones formed a favourite item of export. Amongst spices, the pepper of Malabar was highly prized.
The Genizah papers of Jewish merchants inform about the regular shipments of pepper from Malabar
Coast and it fetched high price. It was exported in large quantities from Malabar to Aden, and from
there through the Red Sea to Egypt. From Egypt pepper finally reached the Italian ports by voyages
across the Mediterranian. Aloe wood and teak was in high demand in west Asia, especially Indian teak
which was regularly exported to Persian Gulf and .Red Sea ports as the basic raw material for building
ships for Arab merchants. The Genizah letters tell us about the shipment of various types of iron from
the ports of Malabar to Aden during the period from eleventh to thirteenth centuries. Indigo was also
regularly sent to the west.
The impressions of Ibn Battuta and a Chinese writer Ma huan reveal that that Bengal shipped
rice to Maldives which in return sent out cowry shells which functioned as a major currency not only
in eastern India, but also in some places on east and west coast of Africa. The cowry currency was
part and parcel of Indian Ocean economy of the pre modern times and it was used as small exchanges
in the maritime net work of Indian Ocean.
India received exotic spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, camphor and gems especially ruby
as well as sandal from Sri Lanka and south-east Asia as imports many of which were further shipped
to the western destinations. This suggests Indias participation in transit trade. Indian imports certainly
included precious metals, especially gold and silver. These metals were generally preferred by Indian
merchants as form of payment for their commodities. Copper was also brought to India from west Asia.
Silk was also imported from Aden.
There was great demand for war horses from Arabia and Pars. It may be noted here that good
quality war horses, called Tatari, were regularly imported from the central Asian steppe regions. These
were brought to India by overland routes through the northwestern borderlands of the subcontinent.
From the eleventh century onwards horses of excellent quality began to arrive from Arabia and Pars
by overseas transportation. These horses, described as bahri (sea-borne) in Arabic and Persian sources,
were imported in large quantity at enormous price - each fetching a price of over 200 gold coins.
According to Marco polo every year ten thousand horses were shipped to Pandya kingdom alone from
the ports like Shihr, Kish, Hormuz, and Aden. The Malabar Coast served as the entry point of these
bahri horses and the Tamil horse-dealers were engaged in the distribution of these horses to distant
power centres.
During the fourteenth century large quantities of luxury textiles were imported from the Islamic
Near East for the consumption at the court of Delhi sultans. Chinese silk and Chinese porcelain were
also imported in large quantity for them.
Merchant communities
The merchant communities included nakhudas (ship captains), nauvittakas (ship-owners),
and navikakarmakaras (sailors) besides the merchants involved in the transshipment trade which
included small traders for which the peddler term is used. The big traders stayed at the base
of operation. The captaincy of ships over vast distances required nautical skills and experience
for which Arabs, Indians, Malays, and Chinese ship captains (nakhudas) were available who were
highly esteemed. The Indian merchants involved in the overseas trade were very rich and many
of these were ship owners. This is not only true of the western sector of the Indian Ocean, the
Tamil merchants were also very prosperous, especially the ship-owning merchants. The
4 Lallanji Gopal, Economic Conditions in Northern India AD 750-1200, Delhi, 1965.

17

merchants were undoubtedly the key players in the maritime network of the Indian Ocean. Indian
merchants did undertake overseas voyages both in the Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal.
Jewish merchants had an active role in the coastal network along the western sea-board and
had a prominent role in India trade. The Jewish and Muslim merchants engaged in Indian Ocean trade
hardly faced religious intolerance. Al Masudi noted in the in the early tenth century that Muslim
merchants were given excellent support by the Rashtrakuta rulers to the extent that they were allowed
to construct mosques in the port town of Konkan. A bilingual inscription tells about the construction of
a majigiti (masj id/mosque) in Somnath where Islamic festivals were celebrated which were typically
associated with nakhudas, nauvittakas (ship-owners), and navikakarmakaras (sailors). The merchant
communities in the Indian Ocean played as bridges among different ethnic groups and religious faith.
We may conclude by saying that Indian Ocean had already become a much frequented maritime
zone long before the arrival of Portuguese in the late fifteenth century. The trade activities in the Indian
Ocean were precipitated around the tenth century and Indian Ocean was a theatre of merchants,
sailors and even pirates. Indian ports on western and eastern sectors had all the hustle bustle of a busy
commercial life. The political powers, undoubtedly, were greatly benefited from the immense oversea
trading activities in the vast maritime space, but they did not consider it an arena to establish their
authority as may be witnessed in the venture of the European trading companies from about the
sixteenth century.
Reading List
B. D. Chattopadhaya, The Making of Early Medieval India. Delhi, 1994.
Lallanji Gopal, Economic Conditions in Northern India AD 750-1200, Delhi, 1965.
Ranabir Chakravarti, Visiting Faraway Shores: Indias Trade in the Western Indian Occean, in Rajat
Duttas,.
Ranabir Chakravarti, Trade in Early India, New Delhi, Manohar, 2002.
Tapan Raychaudhuri and Man Habib (eds.), The Cambridge Economic History of India, c. 12001750, Vol. 1, Delhi, 1982.
V. K. Jain, Trade and Traders in Western India AD 1000-1300, Delhi, 1989

18

LESSON 3

REGIONAL STYLES OF ARCHITECTURE


(8TH TO 12TH CENTURIES)
Madhu Trivedi
The period from eighth to twelfth centuries marks an important phase in the history of
art and architecture. In one respect it is an age of culmination and ultimate exhaustion of the
earliest tendencies and movements in architectural styles and forms. In another, it marks the ushering
of a new age which is particularly connected with the temple building. It is a creative and formative
age, associated with the foundation of the typical styles of Indian temple architecture. It was for
the reason that worship of Bramha, Vishnu and Shiva was becoming popular during the time. The
Alvar and Nayannar saints popularized the worship of Vishnu and Shiva respectively from the seventh
century onwards. Brahmanism had come to the forefront since the Gupta period. Idol worship
became a common feature of Hinduism. The images of Shiva and Vishnu, and some other gods
appeared for the first time in the free standing temples - the brick temple of Bhitargaon and Deogarh
in Jhansi. The chief diety appeared in the middle with his retainers all around, who are drawn
on the panel on a smaller scale to suggest distinction and hierarchy. During this periomany features
of Hinduism were incorporated in Buddhism.
Cave architecture
Rock-cut excavations represent an aspect of Indian architecture that had been characteristic of
earlier period. Most of these belong to the Buddhist faith, though Brahmanical and Jain establishments
of this type are not rare.
Buddhist caves
The rock-cut architecture of the Buddhists, as in the earlier period consists of two conventional
types - the chaitya hall (the shrine proper), and the sangharama or the vihar (the monastery). The most
notable groups are found in Ellora in Aurangabad, and also in Elephanta Island.
The cave architecture, especially of the chaitya hall retains the plan of its prototypes but with
extensive changes in the ornamentation of the fa9ade and in the designs of pillar in the interior. The
carvings and decoration are much richer in design and execution and except in some cases the emphasis
on wooden form and techniques had disappeared. The wealth of carving is not intended for decoration
only, but also for reducing the weight of the solid rock wherein the chaitya hall was excavated. The most
significant innovation was the wealth of figure sculptures both in the exterior as well as in the interior
space in contrast to the plain exteriors of the earlier period. In fact, there is an excess of figure sculpture.
However, the fa?ade undoubtedly is a further development of earlier times. Cave no. X in Ellora, known
as the Vishvakarma cave, represents one of the latest examples of the chaitya hall of the excavated type
and it marks a significant stage in the history of this kind of shrines.
At Ellora the excavations consist of three series of caves - Buddhist, Brahmanical, and Jain.
Amongst the Buddhist caves the three storied caves are the most imposing. It is noted for the beauty
of its fa9ade, rising to a height of nearly fifty feet, rich profusion of sculptures in the interior and the
balance and consistency of design.

19

Brahamanical caves
The Brahamanical caves at Ellora date from about AD 650.These are sixteen in number. The
far famed Kailash (no. XV) is considered the most important. It is an extensive establishment entirely
excavated out of the rock in imitation of the celebrated Kailashnath temple or Rajasimhashvara at
Kanchipuram.
These caves are divided in three different types:
The first is represented by the Dashavatara cave which closely follows the design of the
Buddhist vihara and appears to be the earliest among the Brahamanical caves of the site and planned
in the rows of cells around a central court. However, it has a unmistakably Brahmanical connotation
in the form of a detached mandapa formed out of the rock in the centre of the courtyard.
In the second type, there is a variation that in it the shrine proper forms distinct component
with a processional corridor around it. The second type is represented best by the Ravana ka khai
and Rameshwara caves. They indicate a parallel line of development in caves of the Buddhist and
Brahmanical religions.
In the third type, which appears to date from the second half of the eighth century AD, may
be recognized in the Dhumar Lena. It is the last and the finest in the series of the Brahamanical caves
in Ellora. It consists of a cruciform hall having more than one entrance to court and with a shrine
standing isolated within it. The Dhumar Lena is noted for the gracefulness of its pillars and sculptures
as well as its architectural arrangement.
The Brahmanical cave in the island of Elephanta near Bombay is similar to Dhunar Lena, in
general arrangement though much smaller and irregular. However, in the beauty and quality of its
sculpture it excells the Dhumar Lena; these are regarded as marvels of plastic art. It is to be noted that
Brahamanical cave excavations were inspired by the Buddhists. But their unsuitability for Brahamanical
worship of images was more and more felt and monolithic shrines became popular.
Jain caves
The Jain caves were similar, in plan and other arrangements to the Buddhist and Brahamanical
caves. The most notable group of Jain caves are to be found in Ellora and these are not earlier than
800 AD. Of these chhota Kailas, Indra Sabha, and Jagannath Sabha are important specimens.
With the Jain caves at Ellora the long persisting tradition of cave architecture cease for all
practical purposes. The rock-cut technique was given up in favour of the structural method which
provided immense scope to the builder.
Structural Buildings
Temples
The structural temples, which were constructed for the enshrinement of the deity, differ
with the cave temples in details of form and general appearance. Various types and forms were
experimented until significant forms were chosen for further elaboration and final crystallization.
It may be pointed out here that the temples constructed during the Gupta period heralded the
two important styles - Nagara and Dravida. The cruciform and the Rekha tower which form
the distinctive feature of the Nagara style already made appearance in the deshavtara temple
of Deogarh and the brick temple of Bhitargaon. The square shape of the Nagara style also

20

originated during this period. Similarly we can also witness many characteristics of the Dravida
style.
Formation of the traditional temple style
The Indian Shilpashastra recognizes three main temple styles known as Nagara, Dravida
and Vesara. The Nagara style was prevalent in the region between Himalayas and the Vindhaya.
While the Dravida style flourished in that part of the country lying between the Krishna river and
cape Kanyakumari. The temples erected in this region are sharply distinguished from each other,
both in respect of ground plan and elevation. The Vesara style, also known as the Chalukyan style,
flourished between the vindhyas and the Krishna river. This style is hybrid one, borrowing elements
and features both from the Nagara and the Dravida style. It is difficult to make an idea of the
characteristics forms and features on the basis of the Shilpa texts and one has to depend on the
extent of the extant monuments.
The Nagara style
The Nagara style has its origin in the structural temples of the Gupta period, especially the
Dashavtara temple of Deogarh and the brick temple of Bhitargaon. A study of northern Indian
temples reveals two distinct features of the Nagara style - one in planning and other in elevation.
The plan is square with a number of gradual projections in the middle of each side which imparts
it a cruciform shape. In elevation it exhibits a tower (shikhara) gradually inclining towards in a
convex curve. The projections in the plan are also carried upwards to the top of the shikhara.
Thus, there is a strong emphasis on vertical lines in elevation. For this region it is also called the
rekha shikhara. By the eighth century the Nagara style emerges in its characteristic form. The
Nagara style exhibits distinct varieties in elaboration. The temple belonging to the Nagara style of
architecture may be seen from the Himalaya to the north of Bijapur district in the south, from the
Punjab in the west to Bengal to the east. As a result, there are local variations and ramifications
in the formal development of the style in the different regions. Such variations are cause by local
conditions, by different directions in development as well as assimilation of unrelated trends. However,
the cruciform plan and the curvilinear tower are common to every Nagara temple.

The Dravida style


The Dravida temple is an adaptation of the earlier storied of the Gupta temple, enriched
further by the addition of new elements in the matter of detail. The outstanding and the common
characteristics of the Dravida style is the pyramidal elevation of the tower (vimari), which consists
of a multiplication of storey after storey slightly reduced than the one below, ending in a domical
member, technically known as the stupi or stupica. The storey in the later period became more
and more compressed so much so that they are almost hidden under a profusion of details which
became characteristic of the subsequent evolution of the style. In plan the Dravida temple presents
a square chamber as the sanctum cell within the square enclosure serving as the pradakshina
(circumambulatory passage). The pillared halls and corridors, and the immense gopurams (gateways)
are the additions of the later date to the Dravida temples.

21

The Vesara
The Vesara, also known as the Chalukan style owing to the fact that the Chalukas of Badami
constructed numerous temples, as many as about seventy in number from about the seventh century
onwards in this style. It has two principal components, the vimana and the mandapa in the fashion
of the Drayada style. Sometimes these temples have an additional open mandapa in front. The vimana
is surmounted by a pyramidal tower of storied elevation with a dome-shaped crowning member, while
the manadapa are covered with a flat roof supported on pillars. In later compositions the height of the
storied stages of the vimana are compressed as may be found in the Dravida style. However, there
are some architectural features which show an inspiration from the nagara shikhara, especially the
ornamental niche motifs, repeated one above the other up the ascent of the tower stimulate the vertical
bands of the northern spire. Another divergence from the Dravida style is that the mandapas are
usually wider than the vimanas. There seems to be blending of the Dravida and Nagara conceptions
in the treatment of the exterior walls. The walls are broken up by ratha offset which is a characteristic
of the Nagara fashion. These are further spaced at regular intervals by pilasters in accordance with
the usual Dravida mode. Also, the temples of this style retain a distinct Dravida shape. According to
S. K. Saraswati the temples of this style represent one of the most ornate and florid expressions of
Indian architecture.
The style reaches its maturity and supreme expression in the twelfth century. According to Henry
Cousens the most significant temples of this style is the Kashivishveshvara at Lakhundi.5 Each doorway
is a perfect example of delicate and intricate chiselling and some of the bands are so undercut that they
resemble fine filigree or lace work. This temple has been rightly regarded as one of the most eminent
production of decorative architecture. These temples owe their character more to the sculptors than
to the masons.
Exotic type
Apart from the Nagara, Dravida, and Vesara styles there are types of structures which are
entirely exotic in shape or form. Specimens of this style may be seen in Kashmir; Lalitaditya Muktapida
(AD 724- 769) inaugurated an era of building activity in the Kashmir valley.
The typical Brahmanical temple in Kashmir has a distinction of its own. It has a distinctly unIndian appearance which is emphasized by its pillars, the treatment of wall-surface, and the elevation
of its superstructure. It is peripteral in composition (having a single row of pillars on all sides in the style
of the temples of ancient Greek). It is situated within a quadrangular court enclosed by a peristyle of
cells and approached by one or three porticoes. The portico itself is a monumental composition and
the peristyle a broad and imposing conception in the fashion of the Buddhist establishments. It has a
double pyramidal roof obviously derived from the usual wooden roofs common in Kashmir. The pillars
are fluted and surmounted with capitals of quasi-Doric order. One of the earliest and most impressive
monuments is the sun-temple of Martand, built by Lalitaditya and this appears to be the modeled for
the subsequent ones.6

For details see Henry Cousens, Architectural Antiquities of Western India, London, 1928, p. 17.
For details see R. C. Kak, Ancient monuments of Kashmir, London, 1933.; James Fergusson,
History of Indian and Eastern Artchitecture, London, p. 187; Percy Brown, Indian Architecture,
5

22

Regional developments of the Nagara style


Orissa: Of all the developments of the Nagara style that of Orissa is one of the most remarkable. The
building activity centred round the sacred city of Bhuvaneshvara, a temple town which alone contains
hundreds of temples, large and small. According to Fergusson these temples form one of the most
compact and homogeneous architectural groups in India and may be said to represent, to some extent
the a pure form of the original Nagara style. They remain nearest to the original archetype (model).
One important feature which imparts distinction to the Orissan temple is the fact that Orissa had its own
canon of architecture conformed by the local craftsmen. They refined and elaborated the plain early
form of the Nagara temple into a typically Orissan one. Beginning with triratha, the plan is divided
into the pancharatha, saptaratha, and even navaratha1 There was an extra emphasis on decorative
details which consisted of rich and elegant mouldings, pilasters, niches and figures - human, animal, and
composite. The majestic temple of Lingarqja at Bhuveneshwara represents the Orissan type of temple
in its full maturity and highly appreciated for its majestic grandeur, proportions, its elegant carvings, and
height and volume. The famous temple of Jagannatha is another impressive and massive example of
the typically Orissan style.
The celebrated sun temple at Konarka, built in the AD 1238-64, is a noble conception initiated
by a master mind and executed and finished by a master architect1 and it represents the crystallized and
accumulated experience of several hundred years. The temple is designed in the form of a chariot,
drawn on exquisitely carved wheels drawn by a team of seven spirited horses. At Konarka the
extraordinary genius of the architect and sculptor were combined. There is a profusion of carving. The
intricate treatment of the walls with figures and decorative motifs of varied nature create the effect of
sculptural magnificence.
Central India: Temples in this region present significant varieties in contrast to the unilateral Orissan
type. One may notice the transition of the archaic shikhar form of the fifth century A D to the Nagara
form of the eighth century in this region. There are certain distinct traits of the central Indian temple:
(1) It is usually saptharatha in plan.
(2) There is a clustering of the anga-shikharas all around the body of the main tower which
imparts it the plasticity and volume.
(3) Invariably two amalakas crown the shikharas as well as those of the anga-shikharas;
it is a singular characteristic of the Central Indian temple.
(4) The vestibule (antarala) and pillared audience hall (mandapd) occupy an important place
in the regular temple scheme of this region.
(5) Columns and pillars have an important place in the architectural scheme. Roofs are
supported on pillars which are usually worked with exquisite carvings providing a richly
ornamented look to the interiors. These halls stand on high terrace.
The Kandaria mahadeo temple at Khajuraho represents the most notable creation of this style.
The Khajuraho temples, 30 temples in all large and small dedicated to Shiva, Vishnu, and Jain tirthankaras,
were constructed between Ad 950 and 1050. In plan and elevation they are all alike and distinguished
by certain details.
Temples of circular shape and plan were also constructed in central India. This type is best
represented by a temple at Gurgi Masaun near Rewa which was constructed about the middle of the
tenth century.

The term ratha denotes vertical section.

23

Rajputana: In plan, shape and its appearance the early Rajputana temples resembles the temples of
the Nagara style. The distinctive type of the early Rajputana temple differs very little from a typically
central Indian one. A clustered arrangement of the anga-shikharas all around the body of the main
tower is also a characteristic of the typical Rajputana temple. However, it lacks many of the features
of the central Indian type. In Rajputana the three-fold division (trirathd), an early characteristic of the
Nagara type was retained to the last. In other places we find pancharatha and saptaratha temples.
The disposition of pillars and toranas is a distinguishing feature of Rajputana temples also found in
Gujarat especially of later period. Another feature is the disposition of the pillars in the centre of the
mandapa hall supporting the shallow dome; this feature emerges in the eleventh century in the most
developed type of this region and represented best by the Jain temples of Mount Abu. These temples
are noteworthy for the exuberance of the ornamental details minutely wrought in white Makarana
marble. There is like a shell-like treatment of marble as per as delicacy of the workmanship is
concerned. The temples of Adinath and Neminath, constructed in the 11th and 12th centuries, represent
the sculptural magnificence at its best, especially the carving in the domed ceiling which resembles
filigree work in metal.
Gujarat and Kathiawar: The development of the Nagara style in this region, to a very great extent,
is closely allied to that in Rajputana. This striking affinity was due to two geographical proximity as well
as due to the fact that the temple building in western India was confined to a hereditary class of temple
builders known as Salats. However, are some temples in Kathiawar which have some architectural
features which are not found in the Nagara style. For instance, a temple at Gop, considered to be the
oldest structural temple in the region, contain chaitya windows. It shows the continuity and combination
of the Buddhist and Brahmanical traditions as well as cave and structural temples.
Deccan: Temples of the Nagara style are found as far as south as the Krishna and Tungabhadra basin
and may be divided in two groups. One is confined to southern Deccan while the temples of other
groups are scattered over the western part of the Upper Deccan mainly in Khandesh and its adjacent
area. The temples in this region are not a pure representation of the Nagara style; they represent two
movements in respect of stylistic progress - the Nagara and Dravida. In fact the Krishna-Tungbhadra
basin seems to be a meeting ground of the two well defined Nagra and Dravida styles. The Chalukan
style originated from the blending of the two and in spite of its hybrid origin it maintained its distinctness.
Upper belt of northern India: Very few temples survive in the regions of the upper belt of northern
India. One major reason was the iconoclast fury of the Muslim conquerors. A few dilapidated monuments
in brick in the Utter Pradesh are found to exhibit the characteristics of the early Nagara design for their
preference for a circular shape. However, in the Himalayan region are found several temples decidedly
of the early Nagara conception. In west Bengal and the adjoining region also the same conception is
illustrated by a few monuments.
In the absence of any magnificent regional manifestations or style it is not easy to trace the
developments of the Nagara conception of temple building in any of these regions like the Orissan, the
Central Indian, the Solanki, or the Deccani.
Reading List
Henry Cousens, Architectural Antiquities of Western India, London, 1928.
James Fergusson, History of Indian and Eastern Architecture, vol. II.
R. C. Kak, Ancient monuments of Kashmir, London, 1933.
R. C. Majumdar & others, The Struggle for Empire, vol. V, Bombay, Bhartiya Vidya Bhavan.
24

LESSON 4

POLITICAL, SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC CONDITIONS


(8TH-12TH CENTURIES)
Political condition
India after the death of Harsha (606-647) saw the rapid disintegration of his empire. The whole
empire of Harsha, which covered a large part of northern India, was split up into numerous kingdoms.
The common feature of these kingdoms was the rapid growth of a system which has been called by
the modern scholars as feudalism.
Feudalism originated in the Gupta period. In the subsequent years which followed the eclipse of the
Gupta empire the spread of feudalism was quite noticeable and during this period military governorship
was conferred on important chiefs. We are further told : In the age of Harsha and of imperial Kanauj,
high ranking civil as well military offices came to be bestowed upon persons holding feudal title. Thus,
feudalism, which became a dominant productive system during the eleventh and twelfth centuries, had
originated and spread much before the invasions of the Turks.
Rise of Feudalism
In the period under review feudalism became a universal phenomenon, particularly in Northern
India. Recently two outstanding research works, Indian Feudalism by R.S. Sharma, and Society and
Culture in the Northern India by Prof. B.N.S Yadav, have thrown ample light on the various aspects
of feudalism. B.P. Mazumdars The Socio-Economic History of Northern India also provides us valuable
information on this problem. B.P. Mazumdar calls this period as the hey day of feudal anarchy. The
writings of D.N. Jha and K.M. Shrimali also deserve our attention.
One of the significant features of the prevailing political system was the complete fragmentation of
political power from top to bottom. The basic changes in the economic structure and relationship did
have their implications on the political structure. With the shifting of economic power to the vassals the
supreme political authority i.e., the king was not in a commanding position to concentrate all political
power in his hand. The result was obvious K.M. Shrimali rightly points out :
The growing bardic sycophancy, however, had begun to create an aura around kings, treating them
as rulers of rulers and ascribing divinity to them. As a result of this image building the king was
increasingly becoming more of a private person than the real head of the state.
The vassal was usually called as samanta, rauta, thakkur, etc. The vassal was granted land by the
ruler. In lieu of this land grant he was expected to send military contingent to the ruler. Apart from this
obligation the samanta was left free with full powers to administer his territories. If the samanta remained
loyal to the fuller and committed to his military obligations there was no interference from the above.
However, the division of political power was not restricted to this level alone. Feudal lords had their
own sub-vassals. The increase in the number and power of these samantas and sub-samantas weakened
the central authority. It resulted in the emergence of a political system which deprived the ruler of
administrating his territory directly and effectively. Prof. Mohammad Habib thus remarks :
the strength of Hindustan was divided among a multitude of factious Rais, Sub Rais, local chiefs
and village headmen, between whom anything like sensible co-operation was impossible.
Weak Administration
With the emergence of a new political order, which saw the sharing and shifting of political authority,
the need of making the central administration really imposing was no longer there. The role of centre was
25

rapidly marginalized. As already stated the land was assigned to the samantas, which provided a solid
base for their political power; the rulers were reduced to a nominal position and virtually lost the power
to intervene effectively in the affairs of the territories that were under the control of the samantas.
Whatever structure that existed at the top was retained nominal. Under these prevailing conditions
nothing was done to gear up the administrative machinery. The more powerful rulers concentrated their
energies on settling scores with their neighbours. Continuous warfare did not give them any opportunity
to look seriously into the administrative problems.
Left practically free the samantas had framed their own rules and regulations and conducted the
affairs of their territories in their own way. The multiplicity of the administration within a state created
a complex situation : all this finally led to the weakening of the entire administrative machinery.
Out-dated Military System
Moreover, the approach of the Indian rulers to the military system was out-dated. While the Turks
had raised well-trained standing army consisting mainly of the cavalry the Indian rulers were religiously
sticking to the traditional methods of warfare.
The army of an Indian ruler consisted largely of the troops supplied by his vassals or the samantas.
Obviously such an army supplied from various pockets could not work in cohesion in a battlefield. The
idea of raising a standing army remained more or less alien to the Indian rulers. Further, these rulers
neglected their cavalry. A fragmented and slow-moving army was hardly an answer to the well-trained
horses of the Turks.
Social Condition
The society was divided into exploiters and exploited. The exploiters constituted the ruling class.
They controlled the means of production (land) and lived a prosperous and luxurious life. The exploited
were the toiling masses, who worked day and night only to lead a life of semi-starvation or near
starvation. Besides this a peculiar feature of Indian society was the caste system.
Caste System
In the initial state of its development perhaps the caste system was not socially very rigid. But in
due course of time the caste system shunned its flexibility and it had become stiff. This is specially true
in the case of early medieval India. This change took place perhaps because of the intensification of
the contradictions between the upper castes and the lower castes. The former tried to make the castesystem more and more suited to their class interests. But on the other hand the discontent of lower
castes resulted in popular movements. The role of Buddhism is quite significant. It showed to the people
an alternative path, which was free from caste hierarchy and rituals. Consequently, it had gained
widespread popularity.
Thus, for decades Buddhism played a useful role against the oppressive mechanism of the caste
system. But in the post-Harsha period Brahaminism had once again established its supremacy. This was
possible because of certain socio-economic changes. The emerging landed aristocracy (feudal lords)
patronized the Brahmins which proved more suitable and convenient to their class interests. The revival
of Brahaminism resulted in the rigidity of the caste system. Though the caste system has retained its
essential features in the course of Indian history but never it appeared in such an ugly form as we see
after the mid-seventh century.
Brahmins at the Apex
The Brahmins, who theoretically, occupied the highest position in the caste hierarchy, benefitted
from the changes that took place in the post-Harsha period. Taking the full advantages of the changing
26

circumstances, which saw the emergence of feudal lords or vassals who extended their patronage to
them, the Brahmins tightened their grip on the socio-religious order of the day.
Romila Thapar aply remarks: The brahman really came into his own in the post-Gupta period when
Buddhism began to decline and the brahmans religious authority was backed both by an economic base
and by his indispensability for the legitimation of power. (The Past and Prejudice, p.29). The Brahmins
were unscrupulous enough to distort learning and education which were used to bestow numerous
privileges on the members belonging to their own-caste.
The Brahmins claimed reverence from all varnas by the mere fact of birth, expounding the duty
of all classes, freedom from death sentence, exemption from taxes, precedence on all roads, lesser
punishment for certain offences in comparison with the other castes, a shorter period of mourning, etc.
Alberuni says that if a Brahmin killed a man, the former had only to fast, pray and give alms.
Position of the Kshatriyas
Next to the Brahmins stood the Kshatriyas in the caste system. They were master of the land, and
generally .the rulers belonged to this caste, The system which they inherited narrowed their outlook.
Continuous warfare became their main preoccupation. They made war a social virtue. To quote professor
Romila Thapar:
war became a grand pageant, and death on the battlefield the highest possible honour.
Heroic virtues were instilled into the child from birth and a man who shirked fighting was held
/contempt....... women, too, were taught to die, should her husband be killed.
Making war a social virtue the Kshatriyas entered into an era of senseless military confrontation
even on a slight pretext. Continuous warfare involving indiscriminate killing certainly weakened the
structure over which they were sitting.
In their private life the Kshatriyas did not observe simplicity since they owned means of production
(land) and wielded political power. Like contemporary ruling classes they led a luxurious life and did
not hesitate to spend liberally. Many of them used to indulge in reckless drinking of wine, others led
a highly sensual life. B.P. Mazumdar observes : to a modern man the kings as well as their court-Poets,
who composed the laudatory verses for copper-plates and inscriptions, appear to be shameless. They
took pride not only in capturing the womenfolk of defeated countries but also in openly proclaiming
before the world their dalliance with them. As far as the economic conditions were cencerned the
Kshatriyas generally lived a happy and prosperous life. All this was possible because they owned land
and could exploit it to the maximum for maintaining their social as well as political status.
Declining Status of the Vaishayas
The social condition of other castes which were placed in the lower order was far from satisfactory.
The position of the Vaishayas, who constituted the business community received a setback. This was
firstly because of the emergence of feudalism and secondly to the revival of Brahaminism. The former
had affected its economic position, while the latter gave a blow to its rising social status. It is interesting
to note that Alberuni did not find any difference between the Vaishayas and Sudras. This may be an
exaggeration but it certainly shows the declining position of the Vaishayas in the Society.
Commenting on the condition of the Vaishayas Prof. B.N.S. Yadav points out:
As in the feudal societies, the merchant class was here also generally scorned by the elite. In the
areas under the observation of Alberuni the distinction between the Vaishayas and the Sudras had to
a considerable extent, faded away by the 11th century A.D. In the wake of the rise and growth of the
feudal tendencies and the consequent economic decline during the first phase of the early medieval
27

period the social and economic status of the Vaishayas generally suffered decline. (Society and Culture
in Northern India in the Twelfth Century, p. 38)
Plight of the Sudras
The sudras were placed in the last or the fourth category of the varna system. They comprised of
the majority of agricultural labourers and petty peasants, artisans and craftsmen, and also some
vendors, manual workers, servants and attendants, and those following low occupation. They were
divided into several caste groups. But the overwhelming section of the Sudras was engaged in cultivation
and agricultural labour.
The sudras led a miserable life. Their economic condition was deplorable. Also they were despised
by the upper castes. Education was barred to them. Any violation of the restrictions, imposed by the
Brahmins, meant death or severe punishment for sudras. Sometimes the sudras could organize themselves
to liberate themselves, as evident from the armed revolts of the Kaivartas in Bengal in the time of
Mahipala and Rampala. But these instances however inspiring were rare.
Antyaja or Untouchables
The most miserable condition was of those who were not given any place, even the lowest, in the
caste-system. They were kept outside the caste hierarchy. They were not even permitted to live within
the city-walls or inside the fortified villages. The upper most of these groups were termed as antyaja
or untouchables while the rest of the groups were given no label. Alberuni mentions following eight
groups of the antyaja.
1. Fuller of Washerman,

5. Sailor,

2. Shoemaker,

6. Fisherman,

3. Juggler,

7. Hunter or wild animals and birds

4. Basket and shield maker,

8. Weavers.

Besides these groups Alberuni refers to other groups who were the worst victims of the caste
system. They were hadi, doma, chandala and bhadatu. They lived an awful life. They were responsible
for looking after the sanitation of the villages and other dirty work but they lived a very miserable life.
Untouchability continued to receive sanction from the contemporary scholars. The sudras, antyaja
and chandala etc., continued to be regarded as untouchables. Kalhanas Rajatarangani reveals that the
horror of untouchability had increased in his age.
Impact of Social Organization
A social organization based on caste system was bound to create an unhealthy and suffocating
atmosphere. It generated a narrow outlook and petty mentality in the ruling class, which was prone to
reject anything which was reasonable, rational and scientific. The contemporary Indian society had
become insular. Alberuni thus writes :
The Hindus believe that there is no country but theirs, no nation like theirs, no king like theirs, no
religion like theirs, no science like theirs.
This self-glorifying and conceited attitude had a serious effect on the contemporary society which
refused to grow and turned into a store of superstition and prejudices.
Commenting on the social conditions prevailing in the contemporary medieval society on the eve of
the Turkish invasion Dr. P. Saran remarks :
28

This spirit of exclusive superiority was created and maintained by a process of intellectual fraud,
in as much as almost the entire literature of the period was utilised for this purpose and the masses were
asked to follow it blindly in the name of Holy Writ, to question whose authority was an unpardonable
sin.
During the early medieval period we find the beginning of child marriage and sati system. Moreover,
widow remarriage had become a thing of past. Commenting on the prevailing conditions in the early
medieval period Prof. Mohammad Habib makes the following remarks:
This division of Indian society into castes and sub-castes with impossible barriers between them,
and the principle of discrimination as the basis of society, could not fail to lead to the unhappiest results.
Indian culture had once been on the offensive, it had penetrated into the heart of Central Asia in the
form of Buddhism and it had also gone to the islands of the Pacific Ocean. But for centuries before
the Ghorian invasion Indian culture had been on retreat. Within the country itself the Thakur class with
its monopoly of power had completely alienated the workers and peasants.
The social conditions thus prevailing in the period under our study created a wide gulf between the
rulers and the ruled. Prof. D.D. Kosambi aptly remarks, .... the people had no interest preserving their
rulers. Consequently, the masses did not bother to rise against the Turks. The indifference thus shown
by the common people mainly facilitated the victory of the Turks against the rulers of India. No system
can last for long without keeping the confidence of the toiling people.

Economic Condition
The most significant economic features of the period under our study were as follows :
(i)
Self-sufficient village economy,
(ii) feudalization of land system,
(iii) decline in trade and commerce.
Self-sufficient Village Economy
The self-sufficient village economy means that production is restricted to meet the immediate need
of a village community. In other .words, we may say that production was essentially for the purpose
of local consumption and did not intend to meet the requirements of a wider market. For performing
the task of production a village contained in itself various component groups of workers, wherein
worker in the group was assigned a duty, which was determined by the fact of his birth. The groups
of workers usually consisted of peasants, blacksmiths, potters, cobblers, etc. Thus the village was selfsufficient for the daily needs and services. This was indeed a significant and important feature of the
economy of India during the period under our study, and remained so down to the nineteenth century.
However, we should also note that self-sufficient village economy does not mean that it was entirely
a closed system. We have important exceptions, as noted by Prof. D.D. Kosambi, like commodity
production in metals, salts, coconuts, cotton, tambula (pan), areca nuts, etc. Moreover, the villages
existing on the seashores and very near to the towns differed in their economic activities with their
counterparts.
Feudalization of Land System
The second important feature of the early medieval period was the feudalization of land. As already
stated the process of feudalization of land had originated in the Gupta period itself. It continued to
flourish in the territories under the rule of Harsha (606-647), but it became a universal phenomenon
from the ninth century onwards. This new system led to the rise of class of landowners who stood
29

between the state and the peasantry. These landowners or feudal lords are referred in the contemporary
literature as samants, rautas, thakkurs etc.
The landowners or feudal lords obviously occupied a key position in the feudal order. The landowners
shared the political power with the rulers. And this new relationship acquired a special significance in
the emerging economic structure. Hence onwards, it was not the ruler at the top who controlled the
destiny of his people but feudal lords who kept the entire population under subjugation in their respective
territories by virtue of their economic power. This hold on economic productivity gave them enough
resources to maintain their military strength. In order to meet their personal and military expenditures
they not only taxed the peasantry heavily but exploited them in numerous other ways.
Under feudalism exploitation of the basic producer, i.e., agricultural labourers and peasants continued.
The basic producers were condemned to lead a life of utter poverty almost bordering on semistarvation.
Commenting on their miserable economic condition Dr. B.P. Mazumdar points out :
Their needs were very few, they-did not aspire for luxuries; they earned enough only for two
square meals a day, one or two pieces of cloth to hide their nakedness and some kind of shelter over
their head. Contemporary literature shows that even these were not available to many.
Moreover, continuous warfare and deterioration of law and order contributed further to make the
life of peasants more miserable and insecure.
However, certain scholars have tried to show that India was a rich country when it was attacked
by the Turks. To prove this contention they cite examples of the temples which possessed fabulous
wealth. The concentration of wealth in the hands of a few individuals or institutions, does not mean that
the country was prosperous. The economic position of a country should be judged by the standard of
living of its common people, the toiling masses. In this respect on the basis of the evidences in the
contemporary literature it can be said without any hesitation that the toiling masses led a life of semistarvation.
Decline in Trade and Commerce
The third important feature of the economic life was the decline in trade and commerce. The
emergence of self-sufficient village economy and feudalization of land adversely affected trade and
commerce. Particularly, the smaller merchants and traders were squeezed by innumerable restrictions
and imposts, levied by a host of thakkurs, Rais and other varieties. Moreover the chaotic political
conditions in turn also hit trade and commerce of the country and restricted its economic growth. All
this contributed to the slackening of the economic development of the various contemporary kingdoms
of the early medieval India.

30

LESSON 5

INDIAN KINGDOMS, 1000-1200


During the eleventh and twelfth centuries India saw the emergence, growth and the eclipse of many
dynasties. Some of these dynasties ruled over the kingdoms which were quite extensive in area and had
sufficient resources. Keeping in view their position and role in the contemporary period of the early
medieval Indian history we have chosen the following dynasties for our discussion
Brahmanshahis : By the end of the ninth century the Brahmanshahi rule was founded by Kallara,
who dethroned the last ruler of the Turkshahi dynasty. The area under their rule extended from Kabul
to Punjab. This kingdom was known as Gandhara. The new rulers of Gandhara, who came after
overthrowing the Turkshahi dynasty, were Brahmins by caste. This was an exception from the norms
of caste system as generally the contemporary ruler of India belonged to Kshatriya caste. Hence the
new dynasty was called the Brahmanshahi of Gandhara. Towards the end of the tenth century the Turks,
under the leadership of Subuktagin, who was the ruler of Ghazni, came into conflict with the neighbouring
Indian kingdom, Gandhara.
At the time of Turkish invasion led by Subuktagin the ruler of Gandhara was Jaipal. The Brahmanshahi
rulers did not surrender tamely. On the contrary they put up a tough resistance to the invaders.
Especially Anandpal, the son of Jaipal, succeeded in mobilizing the various rulers of Northern India to
meet the challenge of the Turks at the battle-field of Waihind (1008). The combined armies of the Indian
rulers after the initial success in the battlefield were routed.
The last ruler of the Brahmanshahi dynasty was Bhim, who succeeded Anandpala in 1012. He was
called by a contemporary historian as Bhim-i-nidar (Bhim, the fearless).
The rulers of the Brahmanshahi dynasty were brave and dignified. Alberuni, the great scholar and
historian of the contemporary period, praises them in the following words :
They were men of noble sentiment and noble bearing. In all their grandeur they never slackened
in the desire of doing what is good and right.
Ultimately the kingdom of Gandhara could not stand the repeated onslaughts of the Turks. And its
territories were annexed by Mahmud of Ghazni, the son of Subuktagin, in 1021-22the only annexation
which the mighty Turkish invader made in India.
Pratiharas : Another important dynasty was of the Pratiharas. About the origin of the Pratiharas
there is lot of controversy. According to Dr. P. Saran, Nagbhat II (800-834) had left Rajputana and
made Kanauj the capital of his newly conquered kingdom. However, the rise of the Pratiharas actually
starts under Mihir Bhoj (836-85). He was an expansionist, and added new territories to his already
extensive kingdom. He was succeeded by his son, Mahendrapala (885-915), who besides being a great
warrior, was also a patron of letters. Rajshekhar was the noted poet and dramatist of his court.
In the mid-tenth century the Pratihara kingdom was in deep crisis and its rulers found it difficult
to curb the forces of disintegration, which considerably weakened its political authority. Soon new minor
kingdoms started emerging out of the declining one. Subsequently, the area under the direct rule of the
Pratiharas shrank considerably. They ceased to be a political force when Mahmud of Ghazni invaded
Kanauj in 1018. The Pratiharas were dislodged by the Rashtrakutas. The last ruler of this dynasty was
Lakhanpala. Ultimately, the Pratiharas suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Mahmud of Ghazni in
1018.
Gahadwalas : The Gahadwalas rose to power in closing years of the 11th century. Particularly
Govindchandra (1114-1154) extended the territory of Gahadwala kingdom upto Mongher (Bihar). The
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last important ruler of the Gahadwala dynasty was Jai Chand, who was knocked down by Muhammad
Ghuri, the founder of Turkish empire in India. The battle of Chandwar (district Etawah, U.P.), in which
Jai Chand was decisively defeated, sealed the fate of the Gahadwalas. After this event the Gahadwalas
tried to regain power, but none of the minor rulers were able to turn the tide. Even their regained
territories were lost finally to the Turks.
Chandellas : The Chandellas were the rulers of Khajuraho-Mahoba. Its ruler Vidyadhara tried
to resist the onslaught of the Turks under the leadership of Mahmud of Ghazni. The Chandella kingdom
had passed through many ups and downs.
Another distinguished ruler of the Chandella dynasty was Madanvarman (1129-1163), who not
merely defended his kingdom against the inroads of his neighbours but also expanded it. His rule saw
a consolidated empire with enlarged boundaries exercising political influence over a large portion of
Central India. However, his grandson Paramardi who ruled from 1165 to 1202 had to suffer defeat
at the hand of his neighbour Prithviraja Chauhan of Sakambhari-Ajmer. Again Paramardi was confronted
with another invasion by the Turks. He was not willing to surrender before the invading army and,
therefore, offered stubborn resistance when Qutubuddin Aibak beseiged Kalinjar in 1202. Paramardi
suddenly died at a time when the negotiations with the Turks were inconclusive. His prime minister,
Ajaydeva initially continued the hostilities but finally surrendered the fort of Kalinjar to the Turks. This
surrender had shaken the very foundation of Mahoba-Khajuraho kingdom.
Tomaras : Adjacent to the possessions of the Ghaznavi Turks in the Punjab was the kingdom
of the Tomaras of Delhi. The Tomaras had more than once resisted the onslaughts of the Turks. They
prevented the Turks to make further inroads into their kingdom.
Under the leadership of Gopala the Tomaras captured Hansi, Thanesar and Nagarkot.
However, the Tomaras received a serious set-back because of the hostile attitude of their neighbours
particularly the Chauhans, who made an attack on their territories of Tomara kingdom. At the same time
the Chauhans were not prepared to continue a policy of hostility towards the Turks, and they appeared
to have entered into some sort of an alliance with the Ghaznavi rulers against their common enemy, the
Tomaras. After some time the Tomara kingdom became internally very weak. Therefore it was not
possible for it to resist outside pressure with dignity and honour. The result was that it was just reduced
to the status of dependency of the Chauhans. At the time when Mohammad Ghuri invaded India it was
not a sovereign state. Aibak succeeded in capturing Delhi in 1193.
Chauhans : One of the most prominent dynasties which flourished during the early medieval India
period was of the Chauhans. The Chauhans, who had long been the rivals of the Tomaras, steadily
increased their power in the eleventh and twelfth centuries. They clashed very early with the Turkish
invaders. In 1079 or there abouts Durlabharaja III of Sakmbhari lost his life at the hands of the
Ghaznavi commander Ibrahim, who succeeded in reaching as far as the western coast of India.
Durlabharaja IIIs nephew, Prithviraja I continued the struggle against the Turks. However, he appears
to have suffered at the hands of Bahlim who rebelled against the Ghaznavi ruler Bahram Shah (11171157), and established himself as an independent ruler at Nagor. Bahlim raided the Chauhans territories
more than one.
These raids were more than avenged by Arnoraja (1130-1150), the son of Ajayaraja. He not only
defeated the Turkish invaders in a battle near Ajmer, but also carried his raids into their territories.
During the reign of his illustrious son, Bisal or Vigraharaja IV (1153-64), a Turkish attack was beaten
off. Bisal was not only a brave and competent fighter but he was also an accomplished poet. He was
also a patron of learning. During the reign of Bisal the Chauhans succeeded in capturing the strong forts
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of Hansi and Delhi, the former probably from the Turks and the latter from their allies, the Tomaras,
who continued thereafter to rule at Delhi as feudatories of the Chauhans. To Bisal must be given the
credit of having realised the danger from the Turks.
When the Ghorians took possession of the territories in the Punjab there was bound to be the clash
between them and the Chauhans. The Chauhans had a long tradition of fighting against the Turks-.
Actually the appropriate time for crushing the Turks came in 1178 when Mohammad Ghuri attacked
the dominions of Chalukyas of Gujarat. The latter asked for help against the Turks. Unwise counsel
made Prithviraja III (1179-92) to hold back. Though Mohammad Ghuri was defeated by the Chalukyas
of Gujarat at the battle of Kayadara, (a village near Mount Abu) the Chauhans did nothing to take
advantage of the situation at that crucial moment.
After some time the Chauhans engaged Mohammad Ghuri at the battlefield of Tarain in 1191. The
Rajputs were able to keep the morale of their army. Displaying their exemplary bravery in the battlefield
the Rajputs put the Turks to rout. Mohammad Ghuri just managed to survive physically. In a precarious
condition he was rushed to Ghazni. But soon the tables were turned against the Chauhans. Mohammad
Ghuri again appeared after a year to take avenge of his defeat. At the second battle ofTarain (1192)
a crushing defeat was inflicted on Prithviraj III. Finally, all the territories under the Chauhans were
captured by the Turks.
Chalukyas : The Chalukya dynasty of Gujarat shot into prominence in the early period of medieval
Indian history. The Chalukyas of Gujarat played a significant role in resisting the Turks.
The Chalukya kingdom was established by Mularaja I in the middle of tenth century. It had steadily
increased its power especially under Jayasimha Siddharaja (1093-1143) and Kumarapala (1143-72).
During this period the Chalukya kingdom was the strongest in Western India comprising Gujarat,
Saurashtra, Malwa, Abu and Nadol.
Kumarapala was followed by an unpopular successor, Ajayraja, who died in 1178. He was followed
by two infants-Mularaja II and Bhima II who succeeded to the throne one after the other. Mohammad
Ghuris invasion of the Chalukya kingdom in the reign of Mularaja II (1178-79) was repelled by his
mother with the help of her feudatories, prominent among them were the Chauhans of Nadol and the
Paramaras of Abu. Mularaja II died within twelve months of his accession to the throne.
The next ruler, Bhima II (1179-1241) soon found that it was not easy to rule over such an extensive
kingdom, which saw the rapid rise of the political power of the feudatories. Taking advantage of his
youth and inexperience and the growing weaknesses of the Chalukyas central administration, feudatories
began establishing independent principalities. For a short period, Bhima II was perhaps even deprived
of his throne. Lavanaprasada and Viradhavala of Dholka helped him in recovering some of his lost
power but soon they themselves usurped the political power.
Bhima II headed a kingdom which was strong in man-power and rich in material resources.
However, he did not seem to have realised the gravity of the situation. As long as his own territory was
not attacked he did not involve himself in the fighting between the native Indian rulers and the Turks.
In this way he gave no provocation to the Turks. Probably the internal weakness of his administration
was the chief cause of this policy of aloofness. However, when they were left with no alternative the
Chalukyas were forced to change their tactics, but it was then too late. Nothing could make up for the
opportunities they had lost. In 1299 Gujarat was occupied by the Khaljis.
Paramaras : To the east of the kingdom of Gujarat lay the territories of the Paramaras of Malwa.
Its founder was Upendra or Krishnaraja (790-817). He was originally a vassal of the Pratiharas. One
of the rulers of this dynasty was Siyaka Harsha (844-93). In the later part his reign Siyaka Harsha
33

clashed with Rastrakutas. His successor Vakpati alias Munja (894-920) was a brave fighter. He
showed his interest in architecture and is credited with the construction of some temples.
The Paramaras of Malwa were so placed that they had to fight against most of the northern as well
as southern powers, namely, the Rastrakutas, the Chalukyas of Kalyani, the Yadavas of Devagiri, the
Chalukyas of Gujarat, the Chandellas of Mahoba, and the Chauhans of Nadol and Sakambhari-Ajmer.
Continuous warfare weakened their power.
Bhoja (1015-65) was undoubtedly the most prominent ruler of the Paramara dynasty of Malwa.
He defeated the Chalukyas of Kalyani and Gangeydeva of Tripuri. It was during his time that Mahmud
of Ghazni plundered the famous temple of Somnath in 1025. Bhoja preferred to adopt the policy of
aloofness, and, subsequently, he did not come into armed conflict with the Turks. Mahmud of Ghazni
also avoided any confrontation with Bhoja, since the main aim of the mighty invader was to denude
Somnath of its wealth rather than to embark on an expansionist policy with a view to consolidating his
rule.
Bhoja was a versatile writer. He wrote many works on a variety of subjects like poetry, grammar,
religion, medicine, architecture, etc. He extended his patronage to men of letters. He was a great builder
of temples. He also founded a city of Bhojpur not far away from Bhopal. After the death of Bhoja the
kingdom of Malwa retained its independence for a fairly long time. However, in the closing years of
the 12th century Malwa was no longer a political force. Finally it was annexed by the Khaljis.
Kalachuris : Another important clan which rose to some political prominence was of the Kalachuris.
Two of their branches ruled at Gorakhpur. But their most important branch was that of Tripuri (modern
Tewar) in Dhala (in Jabalpur region). Another early ruler of Dhala, who fought against the Turks was
Gangeyadeva Vikramaditya (1019-41). He was in possession of Benaras in 1034 when the Ghazani
governor Niyaltigin plundered it. In the subsequent years we find the Kalachuris engaged in a struggle
for supremacy with the Chandellas of Bundelkhand on the one side, and the Paramaras on the other.
Jayasimha Kalachuri, who came to the throne about 1139, repulsed an attack led by the Ghaznavi ruler,
Khusrau Malik. He was succeeded by Vijayasimha who ruled at least upto 1195. Like his predecessors,
he seems to have continued fighting against his neighbours.
Cholas : In the Southern India the most important kingdom was that of the Cholas. The Chola
kingdom right from the beginning assumed a key position in the politics of South. It produced many
outstanding rulers but it reached at its zenith under Rajaraja, who ascended the throne in 985. Rajaraja
followed an expansionist policy, and subsequently added new territories to the Chola kingdom. Not only
that Rajaraja expanded the boundaries of his kingdom he contributed to its all round growth also.
Rajaraja ruled for thirty years. Finally he died in 1016.
Another prominent ruler of the Chola dynasty was Kulottunga III. He started his reign in 1178. He
was the last effort to check the disruption of the Chola kingdom. However, after his death in 1218, the
Chola kingdom was seriously faced with the forces of disintegration. With the passage of time the crisis
further deepened. Ultimately, the Chola rule came to an end at the beginning of the 13th century.
Chalukyas (Western) : Another great power of the Southern India was the Western Chalukyas.
The rulers of the Chalukyas dynasty were in constant conflict with their neighbours, the Cholas. Many
bloody wars took place between these two powers. Somesvara I was a renowned ruler of this dynasty
who succeeded his father Jayasimha II in 1042. He was so powerful that even the famous ruler of
Malwa, Bhoja, submitted before him. Somesvara I extended his power across Vidarbha and part of
modern Madhya Pradesh, into Kosala and Kalinga and imposed his sovereignty on the Nagavamsi
ruler, Dharavarasha of Chkurakuat. He died on the 29th March, 1068.
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The last ruler of the Chalukyas kingdom was Somesvara IV (1184-1200). He was hard pressed
by the Hoysalas under Ballala (1173-1220). A series of engagements were fought. The last and the
decisive battle was fought in 1190 the Chalukyas were completely routed in the battlefield which
resulted in the eclipse of their rule.
Conclusion
One thing clearly emerges that constant warfare was the chief feature in this period. This considerably
weakened these kingdoms internally, and when the rulers of India were confronted by a superior military
power they were forced to surrender. But it will be too hasty to conclude that constant warfare was
the key factor which spelled ruin for the rulers of India. The contemporary Turkish rulers also fought
continuously against each other. However, when they attacked India they succeeded in their aims and
objectives.

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LESSON 6

RISE OF THE TURKS


Emergence of Islam
The emergence of Islam is one of the most significant facts of the medieval age. It had a powerful
impact on the future course of world history. Islam, under the leadership of prophet Muhammad (570632) and particularly under the first two caliphs, Abu Bakr (632-634) and Umar (634-644) united the
warring Arab clans into a world conquering force. Within a century of Prophets death, the Islamic
empire extended in a long belt which stretched from the frontiers of Turkestan across northern Africa
to Morocco.
Politically speaking the expansion of the Islamic empire was not a static phenomenon; it underwent
many political changes.
The first important change was the rise of the Umayyads (661-750), which led to the establishment
of the institution of monarchy. Before the time of Umayyads the affairs of the state were conducted in
consultation with the leading chiefs and the commoners who were free to render their advice or to
criticise the government. Consultation and everybodys right to question the government was considered
to be unsuited to the growing needs of the Islamic empire. In other words it can be said that tribal
institutions were considered outdated to run the expanding state machinery. Hence monarchy was
introduced by Muawiya, the founder of the Umayyad dynasty.
The second important change under the Umayyads was the organization of the leading Arab tribes
into an exclusive governing class. It is also to be noted that this was also the period which saw the
birth of feudalism in Arabia. Finally the tribal system was replaced by the emerging feudalism. The state
under the Umayyads was essentially based on feudalism.
The Abbasids (750-1258), who replaced the Umayyads in 750, added much pomp and show to
the institution of monarchy. But the Arabs could not retain their exclusive position as the governing class
for long. We soon witness the entry of the non-Arabs particularly the Persians, and later on the Turks,
into the ruling hierarchy. These new entrants who were non-Arabs realized that the Arabs are no longer
in a position to hold on effectively, and, thus they fully exploited the weaknesses of the declining Abbasid
empire. Soon the process of disintegration started. Many independent principalities grew up during the
tenth century. The rulers of these independent principalities outwardly continued to owe allegience to
the Abbasid ruler (Caliph). This was done because of the reason that the Abbasid Caliph continued to
enjoy a certain social reputation in the Islamic world. Certainly this manifestation was not the result of
religious consideration. Islam does not give sanction to monarchy.
Establishment of Independent Kingdoms of the Turks
One such important principality which was independent of effective control of the Abbasid Caliph
succeeded in establishing itself in the Transoxiana region in the Central Asia. This virtually independent
principality was under the Samanid dynasty which lasted for over a century (892-999). The Samanid
rulers depended heavily upon their Turkish slaves. Shortly, the Turkish slaves became an important
political force in the state. Alptigin, the governor of Khorasan, was also a Turk. In the dispute over
succession in 962, he backed the wrong horse. This forced him to establish himself elsewhere, Ghazni
was his first choice. He forcibly occupied it and set himself up as an independent ruler in 962-63.
Subuktigin
Alptigin died in 969. He was succeeded by his son, but the latter died within the same year of his
accession. He was followed by Bilaktigin. He was an enlightened and competent ruler. His ascendancy
was also short lived. He was followed by Piery in 977. But Piery unlike Bilaktigin turned out to be both
36

worthless and cruel. He was quite unpopular with his officers, who did not tolerate his high-handed
methods for more than a few months. The disgruntled and dissatisfied officers invited Subuktigin, who
was appointed the Incharge of the Eastern borders of Ghazni by Alptigin. Subuktigin accepted the
invitation, and immediately he rushed to Ghazni. On entering Ghazni he was well received and without
encountering any difficulty he became the ruler of Ghazni in 977.
The rise of Ghazni as a kingdom, truly speaking, starts with the accession of Subuktigin. Right from
the beginning the new ruler showed his keenness to launch an expansionist policy. Therefore, in 978
he invaded Lamghan (south of the river Kabul), which then formed a part of the territory of Jaipal
the Brahmanshahi ruler of Gandhara. On hearing about the invasion on his territories by the Turks, led
by Subuktigin himself, Jaipal immediately marched towards Lamghan with his army. But a severe snowstorm caused confusion in his army, and finding himself in not too happy a position he negotiated for
peace. It was agreed that Jaipal after reaching Lahore would pay a million dirham and fifty elephants
to Subuktigin. As a guarantee Subuktigin kept some hostages. When Jaipal reached Lahore he refused
to comply with the terms of the treaty. He even demanded the restoration of the hostages. War between
Subuktigin and Jaipal seemed inevitable. Since both of them were apprehensive of each others designs,
each regarded the other as barrier in the way of his political ambitions. Jaipal this time organised a
confiederacy of the Rajput rulers and chiefs. Subuktigin on his part was also not sitting idle. In 981 he
along with his eldest son, Mahmud, marched towards the dominion of Jaipal. In the battle Jaipal was
defeated because his army was ill-organized and lacked unity of command. Subuktigin took full advantage
of his victory and soon after the rout of Jaipals force he strengthened his position further by capturing
Lamghan and Peshawar. These victories increased Subuktigins power and prestige, but obviously
weakened the position of Jaipal.
Rise of Mahmud of Ghazni
After ruling over the kingdom of Ghazni for two decades Subuktigin died in 997. He nominated his
second son Ismail as his successor in preference to his eldest son, Mahmud.
This was so because Mahmud, the eldest son, did not enjoy Subuktigins confidence. But this
decision of Subuktigin was not acceptable to Mahmud, who was both ambitious and capable military
leader. After the death of his father Mahmud made adequate preparations to confront his younger
brother. Subsequently he marched against Ismail, who was defeated and captured. This brought Mahmud
on the throne of Ghazni in 998.
Under the rule of Subuktigin, the kingdom of Ghazni was more or less confined to what comprised
Afghanistan of today. It was surrounded by the enemies from all sides. On the one hand, Mahmud
inherited the hostility of Central Asian princes, and, on the other he faced the Brahmanshahi ruler, Jaipal.
Primarily Mahmud was keen to defeat his Central Asian enemies as his real aim was to establish a
Turko-Persian empire. It is one thing to set a target but the real thing is how to achieve it. For the
establishment of Turko-Persian empire Mahmud required abundant resources, which could help him to
raise a large well-equiped army with a view to realising his burning desire, but the resources of Ghazni
were not sufficient enough to meet the necessary requirements. This forced him to turn his attention
towards India. Perhaps, he was aware that India could provide the required wealth with comparatively
less efforts. Thus, it should be remembered that Mahmuds real motive was to establish a Turko-Persian
empire and Indian campaigns were the means to fulfil that end.
Raids of Mahmud on India
Mahmud began his long career of military raids on India in 1000, when he invaded the territories
situated on the north western frontiers of India. He captured a few small towns situated on the frontier.
37

Though the gains were not much and were politically insignificant, yet they were indicative of his future
plans of bigger operations.
Jaipals defeat
As has been noted earlier Mahmud as a prince had encountered Jaipal, and now as a sultan he
realised that his passage into India was not safe unless Jaipals power was reduced.
Mahmud marched against Jaipal in 1001. In the initial stage Mahmud faced perhaps no resistance.
After passing Peshawar he found that Jaipal had also moved out with a huge army to arrest his further
advance into the Brahmanshahi Kingdom of Gandhara. Then the two armies met Mahmud made a
ferocious attack on the army of Jaipal. This resulted in the defeat and capture of Jaipal along with fifteen
of his important nobles. Mahmud marched to Jaipals capital. Waihind which was subsequently captured
by the Turks and perhaps without any resistance. Finally, a treaty was concluded. Jaipal was released
on his agreeing to pay an annual tribute. Mahmud returned to Ghazni well satisfied that he had secured
many valuable Indian elephants and also a considerable booty.
But Mahmuds plans of reducing Jaipal to the position of a subordinate chief did not materialise.
Being thoroughly demoralized Jaipal abdicated in favour of his son Anandpal and purified his polluted
body by burning it in fire. After the death of Jaipal, his successor, Anandpal, did not believe in making
compromise with Mahmud. On the contrary he was determined to avenge his fathers defeat. Thus, the
problem of reducing the power of the Brahmanshahi dynasty remained unsolved. However, Mahmud
did not want to take a hasty step. For some time he allowed Anandpal to rest in peace.
Fall of Bhera
After about two years, in 1003-4 Mahmud again marched into the Punjab in the direction of Bhera.
The city of Bhera was situated on the banks of the Jhelum.
Bhera was quite an important place because it commanded the highway to India. Bhera was ruled
by Vijay Rai or Biji Rai. He was a man of great courage. He had never submitted to Jaipal. But to
face Mahmud was a stupendous task. However, he showed his resolve to frustrate the designs of
Mahmud. Therefore, there was no alternative left except to fight a pitched battle, which lasted for three
days. With great difficulty Mahmud ultimately succeeded to turn the table and thus scored a wellcontested victory. After being defeated, Biji Rai tried to escape but finding it difficult killed himself with
a dagger. After his victory Mahmud captured Bhera. At Bhera he also gained two hundred and fifty
elephants besides enormous wealth.
Attack of Mahmud on Multan
Next year (1005) Mahmud turned his attention towards Multan, which was then ruled by Abul
Fateh Daud. Mahmud had been offended by Daud, who had attempted to help Biji Rai, the ruler of
Bhera Daud thought that the fall of Bhera would leave Multan open to Mahmuds attack. However,
he found himself not sufficiently strong to face Mahmud. Therefore, Daud appealed to Anandpal for
help. Thus Mahmud found his passage to Multan barred by the forces of Anandpal.
Noticing the change in the situation Mahmud changed his plan of action and he first attacked
Anandpal. He defeated Anandpal and drove him up to the Chenab, thereby clearing the passage to
Multan. Daud was, thereafter, besieged in the fort of Multan. After seven days of seige he promised
to pay twenty thousand dirhams to Mahmud. Before Mahmud could further press his advantage he
received the news of Ilak Khans invasion of Khorasan and Balkh and the defeat of the governor of
Herat. This danger near his capital (Ghazni) led Mahmud to accept the terms offered by Daud. He
hastily returned to Ghazni. However, while returning to Ghazni, Mahmud appointed Nawasa Shah as
38

the governor of Bhera. Nawasa Shah was the son of Anandpal. His earlier name was Sukhpal. About
1004 he had embraced Islam, and he was given the name of Nawasa Shah.
Nawasa Shahs Rebellion
Mahmud had to march again to Bhera in 1005, because Nawasa Shah during his absence had not
only returned to his old faith but had also driven away Mahmuds officers from Bhera. While Mahmud
was marching towards Bhera he had the satisfaction of receiving the news of the capture of Nawasa
Shah by his trusted military chiefs. The rebel subsequently was brought before Mahmud who seized all
the accumulated wealth of Nawasa Shah and imprisoned him for life. After making fresh arrangement
for the administration of Bhera he returned to Ghazni.
Battle of Waihind
Anandpal, the son and successor of Jaipal, had by now realized that left to him alone he could not
resist the onslaught of Mahmud. What was to be done? He would not rely on his own army alone,
which was defeated by Mahmud in an earlier encounter. Consequently, he appealed to other Indian
rulers for a joint front against Mahmud. They too were impressed by the validity of the cause and readily
responded to the appeal of Anandpal to save this buffer state from further inroads. Even the Gakkhers
of the Punjab did not lag behind in extending their support to Anandpal. They seemed to be a country
wide stir, and all sections of Indian society seemed to have left it.
The contemporary political climate has been thus vividly described by Prof. Mohammad Habib :
All that excites nation to heroic deeds was therethe preservation of an ancient and everlasting
civilization, the sacred temple and the no less saved wealth. Yet the patriotic spirit of the people was
paralysed by suspicious created by years of civil war; the Rais were doubtful of each others intentions
and their followers shared their doubts. Anandpal was important enough to take precedence but not
strong enough to issue orders and the Indian army directed by no single commander on the field of
battle.
Anandpal with huge army, which included the rulers of Ujjain, Gwalior, Kalinjar, Delhi, Ajmer and
thirty thousand Gakkhars moved towards waihind. By that time Mahmud well understood the danger
posed by the ensuring armed conflict. He marched against Anandpal at the end of the season in 1008.
Mahmud was a brilliant military commander. At Waihind he took no time to take necessary
precautions. Firstly he gave up the idea of attacking the joint army of Indian rulers immediately. Instead
he decided to make arrangements for the safety of his soldiers. Consequently he ordered to dig trenches
around the camp of Turkish army. For forty days Mahmud watched the movements of the joint armies
of Indian rulers. Ultimately, he opened the attack with the archers. At this juncture thirty thousand
Gakkhars immediately attacked the army of Mahmud. It is said that this attack mounted by the
Ghakkars was about to carry the day when Anandpal rs elephant frightened by the Naptha (fire-works)
ran away from the battlefield carrying its mount. The incident demoralized other rulers and chiefs and
instead of rising to the occasion they ordered to pack up their tents. Amidst such confusion Mahmud
led a charge with his select cavalry and turned the confusion into a complete route. Finally the tactics
adopted by Mahmud in the battlefield resulted in his victory. He chased the defeated soldiers for two
days and nights and killed as many as eight thousand of them.
Sack of Nagarkot
The complete route of the combined armies of Anandpal and other Indian rulers was followed by
Mahmuds attack on Nagarkot. He sacked the town and its famous temple. The sack of the temple
yielded a treasure far beyond expectations. The plunder consisted of seven hundred thousand gold
dinars, hundred mans of mixed jewels. This immense wealth convinced Mahmud of the truth of the
39

fables he had heard about the wealth of the Indian temples. In the words of Prof. Mohammad
Habib :
It was the Sultans first great find and naturally whetted his appetite for more.
For another fifteen years Mahmud repeatedly attacked Northern India. He sacked Thaneshwar,
Baran, Mahaban, Mathura, Kannauj etc. He annexed the whole of the Punjab and successfully raided
Gwalior and Kalinjar.
Plunder of Somnath
In 1025 Mahmud marched out on an expedition to Somnath, which was situated in the extreme
South of Gujarat. Mahmuds expedition to Somnath no doubt was a daring military achievement. Cut
off from his base and homeland by a vast stretch of desert and surrounded by enemies virtually on all
sides, any small mishap could cut short his career. Nevertheless, with caution and calculation, Mahmud
succeeded in reaching Somnath. He ruthlessly sacked the famous temple of Somnath, and denuded it
of all its wealth and treasures. What is remarkable is that he encountered no serious hurdles in this
plundering raid. No Indian ruler-including the famous ruler of Malwa, Bhoja-was prepared to come
forward in defence of the sacred temple. Worldly considerations made them a silent spectator to the
destruction of their religious monuments.
After this successful campaign Mahmud as usual ordered return journey. He was able to reach
Ghazni after marching through areas held by his enemies. However, the Jats, inhibiting the banks of
Indus, created some problem on his return journey.
The Last Invasion
In 1027, Mahmud led a punitive expedition against the Jats who inhibited both the banks of the
Indus. The Jats had harassed him on his return journey from Somnath. To punish them Mahmud built
a number of boats and moved along the Indus. He engaged the Jats in a naval battle. He brought heavy
destruction on them, and took a large number of captives in men, women and children. This proved
to be his last expedition as far as India was concerned. The remaining years he spent in fighting against
his enemies in Central Asia.
At the age of sixty-three Mahmud died on the 30th April, 1030 after forty years of ceaseless
warfare. Thus came an end of a military genius, who was not even once defeated in the battlefield.
An Appraisal of the Raids of Mahmud of India
Mahmud like other great men in history has his admirers as well as his detractors. Some Muslim
writers have attempted to elevate him to the position of a saint and even gone to the length of attributing
miraculous power to him, while some modern historians who had according to Nazim a very superficial
knowledge of his career, have tried to depict him in such lurid colours as to give him the character of
a brigand chief who took delight in plunder and bloodshed. To the Indian world of his day Mahmud
was a veritable devil incarnate - a daring bandit, an avaricious plunderer and a wanton destroyer of art.
The communal historians, whether Hindus or Muslims, are of the opinion that Mahmuds raids on
India were basically religious in character. The communalist approach does not help us to solve the
historical problems, rather it blurs our vision. Hence, its application to the character of Mahmuds raids
would lead us nowhere.
A careful study of the subject shows that Mahmud was not basically a religious fanatic. Neither his
chief mission aimed to spread Islam in India. The Ghaznavi army was not a host of holy warriors,
resolved to live and die for the Lord. It was an enlisted and paid army of professional soldiers
accustomed to fight Hindus and Muslims alike. S.M. Jaffar points out :
40

He was more of a conqueror than a fanatical propagandist, or a pious missionary. To say that he
invaded time and again for the spread of his religion is historically wrong and psychologically untrue.
In the light of the facts known to us it is to be noted that while Mahmud practically overran the
whole of Northern India he hardly indulged in forcible conversions. Dr. M. Nazim is also of the opinion
that Mahmud did not spare the Muslim sovereigns of Iran and Transoxiana. The drama of plunder and
bloodshed that was enacted in the sacred Ganges Doab was repeated with no less virulence on the
slopes of the Mount Damawand and the banks of the river Oxus. Religious consideration rarely weighed
with a conqueror and the Sultan does not appear to have been influenced by them in his schemes of
conquest.
Mahmud was an offspring of a period which is known for its refinement, cultural attainment and
materialistic civilization. He himself was too clear about his plans. Worldly ambition, and not religion,
was his real inspiration. Religion was used to achieve his mundane objective.
Mahmuds overpowering motive was to build an extensive Turko-Persian empire. As stated earlier,
the small kingdom of Ghazni could hardly provide the required resources to accomplish this stupendous
task. India could provide all material resources required by Mahmud to fulfil his ambition of establishing
a vast empire in Central Asia. The Indian temples had unlimited stock of gold, silver and other precious
metals, which had been accumulated over so many centuries. Mahmud discovered this secret at
Nagarkot, whose temples were full of wealth. From now onwards he redoubled his efforts to plunder
Indian temples ruthlessly. Temples were looted and destroyed and thereby Mahmud got virtually all
wealth that he needed for providing him a sound financial base for the establishment of an extensive
Central Asian empire.
The destruction of the temples caused by Mahmuds raids was not meant to further essentially the
religious gains. He attacked them because of their fabulous wealth. In this regard the opinion of Dr.
Ishwara Topa may be cited in his own words. He observes :
It may also be observed that the temples of India which Mahmud raided were storehouses of
enormous and untold wealth and also some of these were political centres. The temples, were, in fact,
broken during the campaigns for reasons other than religious, but in times of peace Mahmud never
demolished a single temple.
Mahmud also raised a contingent of Indian soldiers and placed them under Tilak Rai. Even he
allowed his Hindu captives a free hand to practice their own faith. Al-Maari informs us that the Hindus
were granted separate quarters in the Imperial Ghazni and allowed to observe their religious ceremonies
without any let or hindrance. what Mahmud actually required from them was their services and not the
acceptance of his own religion.
Though India took up much of Mahmuds time, she had no place in his dreams. He had no plans
to annex Indian territories. Mahmud annexed the Punjab only in 1021-22, and this he did primarily
because he could plunge into Hindustan and Gujarat at will. Thus, his two main aims were gold and
glory. The Indian campaigns swelled his personal ambitions and also gave him enormous wealth.
Effects of the Mahmuds Raids on India
Mahmuds invasions spelled ruin for India. The entire political and economic life of Northern India
was almost paralysed. Many brave rulers lost their lives, and those who survived had the misfortune
to see nothing but destruction all around. Treasuries were emptied; temples were in ruin, land lay waste;
all languished because thousands of Indias chosen artisans were carried to Ghazni. Mahmuds raids
cast a dark shadow on the cultural life of Northern India also. The destruction of temples, which were
also the seat of learning and education, caused a general exodous of the Pandits from these sanctuaries.
41

They left their original places and settled in distant places like Banaras and Kashmir. Alberuni has
pointed a vivid picture of the disastrous impact of Mahmuds raids in the following words :
Mahmud utterly ruined the prosperity of the country, and performed those wonderful exploits by
which the Hindus became like atoms of dust scattered in all directions.
Mahmud had no regular department of supply. Soldiers were fed with whatever they could lay their
hands upon. This further antagonised the Indians. The success of Mahmuds innumerable raids did not
doubt somewhat undermine the Indians faith in the omnipotence of their gods and goddesses. Stunned
by the inability of their gods either to defend themselves on their worshippers many of them began to
doubt the validity of the tall claims attributed to them by the priests. Thus a sceptic mind was created,
which proved favourable to the spread of Islam and the Bhakti movement in India.
The effects of Mahmuds raids were, however, temporary. Within fifteen years of Mahmuds death,
the Indian rulers had once again reestablished their political authority. East of Lahore there was no trace
of the Turks. The rulers of India, however, did not seem to have learnt any lesson from their past
experience. It was the return of the old order-the domination of Brahmins, the rigged division of castes,
the exploitation of peasantry, incessant warfare and absence of any new ideas. True, there was no
dearth of valour, but the continued absence of an effective single command either in the battlefield or
in administration, the lack of new military techniques and skill and shortsighted political outlook were
highlighted when the Indian political power clashed with that of a new invader from Central Asia, i.e.,
Muhammad Ghuri.
Impact of Mahmuds Invasions on the Fortunes of Ghazni
The effects of Mahmuds raids on the fortunes of Ghazni were tremendous. From a petty kingdom
it rose to the height of a great and extensive empire. Indian gold and artisans both contributed to
enhance its splendour and magnificance. The capital was beautified. Mosques and places were built.
A library was founded and above all the court of Ghazni became a wonder of the contemporary period.
Personality and Character of Mahmud
Mahmud had an unflinching belief in the unity of God, and it gave him the consolation he needed.
Nonetheless his outlook on life was essentially secular and he was too conscious of his position as the
head of the state to allow priesthood to become supreme. He was not essentially a religious fanatic.
It is to be noted that Mahmud was the product of his age. His thinking, his political plans and his
personal ambitions were all moulded by the spirit of Persian renaissance and the ideal Turkish valour,
which were two outstanding features of the contemporary Central Asia. He lived in an age in which the
two culturesPersians and Turkishwere influencing each other. He epitomised a synthesis of the two.
The Turkish traditions inspired him to adopt a career of ceaseless fighting and to work in the direction
of establishing a vast empire in Central Asia. On the other hand, by organising state machinery on the
Persian model and setting up a dazzling court which was full of scholars and poets, he established
himself as the upholder of the spirit of the Persian renaissance.
Mahmud did pay attention to poets and scholars. As mentioned by C .E. Bosworth four hundred
poets adorned his court. Amongst them, poets like Unsuri and Firdausi (the author of famous Shahnama),
are too well-known in the literary history of Persia. These literary activities of these poets were rich both
in quality and quantity. Because Mahmud was so fond of collecting around him a galaxy of scholars that
he even used foul means to get them into his court. Mahmud sent an order to the ruler of Khwarizm
to send leading scientists who were attached to his court to Ghazni. Alberuni was accordingly deported
to Mahmuds court, but another genius of the contemporary age Ibn-i-Sena (Avicenna) refused to serve
under Mahmud. The refusal of this outstanding personality enraged Mahmud who ordered his immediate
42

arrest. However, Ibn-i-Sena escaped the arrest and died in Hamdan in 1037. Alberuni also did not
relish the court life, and soon left Ghazni for India. He visited various places in India. On the contemporary
Indian conditions he contributed an excellent work, Kitab-ul-Hind. However, Alberunis remarks with
regard to Mahmud are curt and unenthusiastic. This was first mentioned by Sachau, the translator of
Kitab ul Hindi.
Mahmud was undoubtedly one of the greatest military leaders of all time to come. He fought
ceaselessly for forty years, and never suffered a single reverse. The chief cause of his innumerable
brilliant victories was not his personal valour but it was his scientific approach towards warfare, which
awed his enemies and put them to rout. He raised a well-trained standing army, which was taught to
obey the command of a single will. Its movements were directly under the orders of Mahmud.
Mahmud was also a perfect master of strategy and tactics. Every move of his was well-calculated.
He knew where to be cautious and where to make a rapid dash. (Note his plan of battle in Waihind
in 1008 and attack on Nagarkot). His military genius was displayed in the numerous battles which he
fought against the rulers of India, who in spite of their huge armies were defeated (whether fighting
jointly or individually).
Even though some of the historians try to establish that Mahmud was a competent administrator,
a careful study of his rule shows that he stands nowhere in comparison to Alauddin Khalji or Akbar.
He conquered land after land, but nothing substantial was done to meet the administrative requirements
of the newly conquered territories. In spite of the fact that Mahmud after the successful campaigns of
India had no dearth of money and prestige he showed no initiation in the field of administration. No
experiment was done, and no institution worth the name was created by Mahmud even in his native
land. Such was the miserable state of affairs that within fifiteen years of his death Mahmuds successors
were forced to abandon their empire in Central Asia and to take shelter in the Punjab. However, it does
not surprise any student of medieval history who knows it too well that Mahmuds first love was to
crave out an extensive Turko-Persian empire. And he staked everything, including the stability of his
administration, to achieve it.

43

LESSON 7

ESTABLISHMENT OF THE TURKISH EMPIRE


The Rise of the Ghurians
Ghur was the name given to a mountainous region in the west-centre of Afghanistan. Perhaps the
overwhelming majority of this region professed Buddhism before the advent of Islam. Slowly this new
religion made an impact of their religious moorings. And by 11th century Islam was a popular religion.
Still many of the earlier traits remained with these people.
After the death of Sultan Mahmud the disintegration of his empire started. The Shansabani dynasty
of Ghur was the first to take advantage of the situation. Even when Mahmud was alive the Ghurian
chiefs challenged his authority, which forced him more than once to dash to Ghur in order to reduce
them to submission. Masud, the successor of Mahmud of Ghazni, faced insubordination from the chiefs
of Ghur. He took them to task and succeeded in forcing them to be submissive to the ruling dynasty
of Ghazni. Writing on the military feats of Masud the noted contemporary historian Baihaqi remarks :
No one has penetrated so far into Ghur or performed such exploits there as Sultan Masud. But again
in the reign of Bahram Shah of Ghazni (1118-1152) the Ghurians succeeded in occupying Ghazni under
the leadership of Saifuddin Suri. Soon Bahram Shah avenged his defeat in 1158 and Sairuddin Suri was
beheaded.
The news of the murder of Saifuddin Suri was a severe shock to his brother. Bahaudin, who
decided to march immediately to Ghazni in order to take avenge of the ghastly murder of his brother.
But he failed to perform this task as he died of an ulcer on the way to Ghazni in 1149. He left behind
him two sons-Shamsuddin (his title was Ghiyasuddin. He was the elder brother of Muhammad Ghuri)
and Shihabuddin (His title was Muizuddin but he is popularly known as Muhammad Ghuri). both of
them were destined to play important roles in the history, particularly the latter.
True to the family traditions Alauddin Husain, a younger brother of Bahauddin, emulated the
example of Saifuddin Suri. In 1151 he launched a furious attack on Ghazni, and thrice defeated Bahram
Shah. Entering the city of Ghazni, he gave immediate orders for its plunder and the massacre of its
population. But this was not the end of his revenge. He had something more in his heart. Subsequently
the capital of Ghazni was set on fire which lasted seven days and nights. It was this act which earned
him the nickname of jahansoz (the world burner).
Alauddin Jahansoz could not, however, retain his authority for long. He had developed strained
relations with his powerful neighbour, Sultan Sanjar, who belonged to Seljuq dynasty. He also stopped
sending tribute to Seljuqs in 1152. Antagonism between the two reached at such a level that resulted
in open hostilities. The war they fought ended in the defeat of Alauddin Jahansoz. He was captured and
was made a prisoner. However because of his intelligence and general good behaviour Sultan Sanjar
released him and returned to him his principality. After making some important additions to his territory
Alauddin died in 1161. He was succeeded by his son, Saifuddin II.
In 1157 Sanjar, the Seljuq Sultan, was defeated by the Ghuzz Turks, who followed this success of
theirs by capturing Ghazni in 1160. In 1163 Saifuddin II was also defeated and slain by the Ghuzz
Turks. After Saifuddin IIs death, his cousin, Shamsuddin (Ghiyasuddin, son of Bahauddin Sam) was
chosen to lead the Ghurians. Ghiyasuddin (since Shamsuddin is popularly known as Ghiyasuddin we
will refer to him by his title) succeeded in driving out the Ghuzz Turks from Ghur. In 1173 Ghazni was
also occupied. He then appointed his younger, brother, Shihabuddin (Muizuddin Sam) as governor of
Ghazni. Ghiyasuddin himself ruled from Firoz Koh, the capital of Ghur.
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Muhammad Ghuri
Muizuddin popularly known as Muhammad Ghuri, was destined to play a prominent role not only
in the history of Central Asia but also of India. Right from the beginning he was keen to embark upon
an expansionist policy. He made India as his target for the establishment of the Turkish empire. With
the limited resoruces of a petty principality at his disposal he succeeded in establishing a vast empire
extending from Herat to Bengal. After making some initial conquests in the neighbourhood of the
kingdom of Ghazni, he attacked Multan in 1175. The Karmathians of Multan were easily overpowered
and Muhammad Ghuri posted his own officers there. He then returned to Ghazni.
One may notice the difference between the aims of Muhammad Ghuri and Mahmud of Ghazni.
Right from the beginning the former was bent on annexation, hence he kept Multan under the administration
of the Turkish officers.
Victory over Multan and Ucch
Again Muhammad Ghuri left Ghazni to proceed towards Uchch which was situated a little to the
south of the confluence of the rivers, Chenab and Jhelum. The fort of Uchch was captured in 1176,
and it was kept under the charge of Muhammad Ghuris trusted officer, Ali Kirmij. These two easy
victories of Multan and Uchch emboldened Muhammad Ghuri. He marched in 1178-79 against Anhilwara,
the capital of Gujarat. The ruler of Gujarat at this crucial juncture was Mularaja II but he was a minor.
This, however, did not make the task of Muhammad Ghuri an easy one. On the contrary, the chiefs
of Gujarat showed full sense of responsibility and gave an ample proof of their examplary courage and
bravery. They engaged the army oi the Turks at Kayadara, a village near Mount Abu. The battle of
Kayadara proved disastrous for Muhammad Ghuri as his army was completely routed. With great
difficulty Muhammad Ghuri could manage to reach Ghazni.
Annexation of Punjab
The defeat of Kayadara forced Muhammad Ghuri to re-examine his plans of conquering India. He
came to the conclusion that it was only after establishing his political authority in the Punjab that he could
hope to extend the Turkish ascendancy in other parts of India. He, thus, turned his attention towards
the regions which formed the part of the kingdom ruled by Khusrau Malik, the last of the Ghaznavi
rulers. In 1179 Muhammad Ghuri left Ghazni to invade the kingdom of Khusrau Malik.
Khusrau Malik was presiding over a weak political structure and his officers were also no match
to meet the danger posed by Muhammad Ghuri. The weakness of the Punjab kingdom made the task
of conquest easier for Muhammad Ghuri. He captured and annexed Peshawar in 1179-80.
Again in 1181-82 Muhammad Ghuri appeared before Lahore. Khusrau Malik avoided military
confrontation by surrendering his finest elephant and his four years old son as a hostage in recognition
of the suzerainty of Muhammad Ghuri.
At this juncture Muhammad Ghuri showed statesmanship and accepted his offer of submission.
However, he did not return immediately to Ghazni. The surrender of Khusrau Malik was followed by
an attack on Debal. The rapid conquest of the territories of Debal by the Turks forced the Sumra ruler
to acknowledge Muhammad Ghuri as his suzerain. On his way back Sialkot was also captured by the
forces of Muhammad Ghuri who put it under the supervision of Hussain bin Kharmail. For three years
Muhammad Ghuri did not make any fresh move to attack the territories of the Indian rulers.
During Muhammad Ghuris absence Khusrau Malik made many attempts to drive out Ghurians from
the garrison of Sialkot but in the process (Khusrau Malik) had instigated the Khokars to revolt against
Chakradeva, who sought the assistance of Muhammad Ghuri. When in 1185 Muhammad Ghuri once
more penetrated into the Punjab Chakradeva sent a force under his son, Vijayadeva, to assist him. The
45

combined forces appeared at Lahore in 1186 and easily defeated Khusrau Malik, who was made a
captive. He, along with his son, was sent to Firuzkoh, where, after sometime, both were put to death.
Thus Muhammad Ghuris rule was finally established over the Punjab and his southern boundary now
reached upto the bank of the river Sutlej. Muhammad Ghuri ordered Ali Karmakh, the governor of
Multan, to be stationed at Lahore, and was given the power to administer the entire area. He then
returned to Ghazni.
It is very important to keep one point in mind that Muhammad Ghuri unlike Mahmud aimed at
annexing all those territories which he overran. In the new territory that he conquered he took particular
care to put at the top level a team of the Turkish officers to run the administration.
The Occupation of North India
First Battle of Tarain
In 1191 Muhammad Ghuri crossed the Sutlej and occupied Bhatinda which was in the dominion
of Prithviraj Chauhan. After conquering Bhatinda Muhammad Ghuri garrisoned it with twelve hundred
Turkish soldiers under the command of Qazi Ziauddin and decided to return to Ghazni. He had,
however, to change his plan when he was informed that Prithviraj Chauhan was proceeding against him.
This was an unexpected development. Muhammad Ghuri was not properly equipped to meet the
challenge. Any avoidance of the conflict might have lowered his reputation before his army, and,
therefore, he preferred to risk war with Prithviraj Chauhan.
Prithviraj Chauhan was not alone to fight the Turks. He was well supported by various rulers of
India. Muhammad Ghuri encountered Prithviraj and his allies at Tarain situated between Karnal and
Thanesar. In the battle of Tarain Muhammad Ghuri was completely outnumbered and the Rajputs gained
a decisive victory. Mohammad Ghuri was seriously injured. But he, anyhow, managed to reach Ghazni.
Second Battle of Tarain
The first battle of Tarain was a big blow to the rising conqueror of Ghazni. This defeat had
thoroughly shaken Muhammad Ghuri. But then he was a man of determination. He meticulously devoted
himself in making suitable preparations for avenging his defeat at the hand of Prithviraj Chauhan. After
making sufficient preparations he again marched out of Ghazni in 1192, and advanced towards Bhatinda.
During his absence, the fort of Bhatinda had successfully withstood the sustained assaults of the
Ghurians for about thirteen months. However, by the time Muhammad Ghuri reached Lahore, he
received the news of the fall of Bhatinda.
The fresh invasion of Muhammad Ghuri naturally alarmed Prithviraj Chauhan, who immediately
rearranged his position and encamped his army of the plains of Tarain again in 1192. Though Muhammad
Ghuri had come this time with force of one hundred and twenty thousand cavalry, he was extremely
cautious not to repeat earlier mistakes. According to Ferishta the army of Prithviraj Chauhan consisted
of three lakh Rajput and Afghan horsemen. But these figures may be questioned.
Muhammad Ghuri divided his army into five divisions at the battlefield of Tarain. He ordered four
divisions to attack the enemy from all the four sides right in the early morning. The Rajputs were caught
unaware. Still hurriedly they came forward to hurl back the attack. Again Muhammad Ghuri cautioned
his own commanders that these divisions were not to get involved into actual engagement, they were
to attack and retire again and then harass the Rajputs. Rajputs were not familiar with this type of
fighting. In the afternoon the fifth division, kept in reserve, attacked the exhausted army of the Rajputs.
This decided the issue. Prithviraj tried to escape but was overtaken near Sarsuti and was beheaded.
(According to Hasan Nizami he was taken to Ajmer where after some time, on being found guilty of
treason, he was put to death.
46

The second battle of Tarain proved decisive battle. It is truly regarded a landmark in the history
of India. It marks the beginning of the Turkish rule in India. Prithviraj Chauhan was no doubt the most
powerful among the rulers of northern India and his defeat completely stunned them. With Prithvirajs
defeat the very back-bone of the Rajputs resistance was broken. It proved to be a major disaster for
the Rajputs. There was no power formidable enough which could now effectively check the ownward
march of the Turks in the plains of Northern India.
Prof. K.A. Nizami rightly remarks :
Tarain was major disaster for the Rajputs. Rajput political prestige, in general, and the Chauhans
ascendancy, in particular, suffered a serious setback. The whole Chauhan kingdom now lay at the feet
of the invader. At Tarain there was concerted action on the part of a very large number of Rajput
princes, its repurcussions were also felt on a very extensive scale and demoralization became widespread.
Arrangements after the battle of Tarain
Muhammad Ghuri followed his victory at Tarain by occupying Hansi, Samana. and Kuhram. He
then marched to Ajmer. After plundering that city he appointed a son of Prithviraj as its governor. He
then appointed Qutubuddin Aibak as the governor of the newly conquered territories, with Kuhram as
headquarter. Aibak enjoyed the confidence of his master to tackle the internal problems. He was also
encouraged to extend the Turkish authority over other areas of Northern India, which were under the
control of native rulers. After thus making the necessary administrative arrangements of his Indian
possessions Muhammad Ghuri returned to Ghazni.
Role of Aibak
Qutubuddin Aibak set upon himself the task of completing the work started by his master. He also
followed an expansionists policy. The rulers of Northern India had expected that Muhammad Ghuri like
Mahmud of Ghazni had no ambitious design of establishing his rule in India and only wanted its wealth.
But when they found that the Turks were settling in the country they started offering resistance. The
first uprising was of the Jats in the region of Hansi, which, however, failed to achieve its political aim.
Jatwan who led the uprising against the Turks was finally put to death. Hansi was then put under the
Turkish officers.
Aibak was anxious to have a permanent headquarter for his forces from where he could effectively
extend his masters authority over the Doab and eastern Rajputana. Delhi was then held by the Rais
who even when they had earlier accepted the Turkish suzerainty were not practically inclined. An excuse
of an alleged evil design on their part was immediately grabbed by Aibak as a justification for an attack
upon Delhi, which was easily occupied by his forces in 1193. Delhi was made the capital of the newly
founded Turkish empire on Indian soil. It was followed by capture of Badaun by Hasan Adli.
Annexation of Ajmer
Serious trouble was brewing in Ajmer which required the immediate attention of Aibak. Ajmer was
held by Govindaraja, who was the son of Prithviraj. Govindaraja was a vassal of Muhammad Ghuri.
The Chauhans did not swallow this arrangement for long, and they forced Govindaraja to leave Ajmer.
The opposition was organized by Hari Rai, a brother of Prithviraj. Aibak immediately took note of these
developments and decided to march towards Ajmer. On reaching Ajmer he inflicted a crushing defeat
on Hari Rai. Once again Ajmer was occupied but Govindaraja was not restored because he had proved
to be a great liability. He was sent to Ranthambhor as its incharge. Ajmer was annexed to the Turkish
empire.
47

Defeat of Jai Chand


There was still another important Rajput clan, the Gahadwala, which had to be subjugated. With
this objective in view Aibak crossed the Jamuna. Firstly, he occupied Baran (Bulandshahr) and Meerut.
These areas were held by the vassals of the Gahadwalas. This expansion of the Turkish authority over
the Gahadwala Territory naturally made Jai chand, the most powerful Gahadwala chief, apprehensive
of the designs of the Turks. He began to make frantic preparations. The situation appeared to be so
alarming that Muhammad Ghuri decided to direct personally the military campaign against Jai Chand.
Muhammad Ghuri consequently returned to India in 1194.
Commanding a force estimated at fifty thousand horsemen Muhammad Ghuri marched towards
Kanauj. Jai Chands main army was then encamped at Chandwar (district Etawah, U.P.) It was a
fiercely contested engagement in which the Rajputs suffered defeat. Jai Chand was also killed. The
victorious Turkish army headed towards Asni where Jai Chand had kept his treasure. This was seized
without any hitch or difficulty. But still the Ghadwalas continued to resist the Turks, and many important
centres in the eastern regions remained under their possession. Kanauj was occupied only in 1198-99.
The next target of the Turkish army was Banaras which was also easily occupied.
The Turks had now become the master of the most fertile region of Northern India. There hardly
remained any other ruler of any importance in the Doab who had not been either liquidated or made
a vassal of the Turkish Sultan. Thus securing an advantageous position for his newly established empire,
Muhammad Ghuri could now afford to go back to Ghazni. Aibak also returned to Delhi.
Further Expansion of the Turkish Empire
Again Muhammad Ghuri came back to India in 1195-96. He attacked Bayana. The ruler of
Bayana, Kumarapala finally gave up the resistence and he yielded before Muhammad Ghuri. After
securing the submission of the ruler of Bayana. The Turks advanced towards Gwalior. Its ruler,
Sallakhanapala, also accepted the suzerinty of Muhammad Ghuri. However, these surrenders could not
stop the desulatory fighting between the Rajputs and the Turks.
Invasion of Gujarat
In 1197 Aibak invaded the kingdom of Gujarat. Notwithstanding the fact the Rajputs fought with
their customary bravery and tenacity, they were utterly defeated. Finding no way out the ruler of
Gujarat, Bhima II ran away from the battlefield. Anhilwara which was the capital of Gujarat, was
completely ransacked. However, the occupation of Anhilwara by the Turks appears to be a temporary
phenomenon. After some time the Chauhans succeeded in dislodging the Turks and remained in power
till 1242.
Occupation of Kalinjar
The Turks in 1202 atempted a penetration into Bundelkhand. Kalinjar, which was ruled by the
Chendela chieftain Parmardi offered stubborn resistance. But he died prematurely in the besieged fort.
His untimely death facilitated the occupation of Kalinjar by the Turks, who subsequently even seized
Khajuraho and Mahoba. These occupations were put under the command of Hasan Arnal.
Conquest of Bihar and Bengal
During the absence of Muhammad Ghuri his interests in northern India were ably looked after by
his devoted and loyal slave officers. Qutubuddin Aibak was undoutedly his most distinguished officer,
whose services to his master were of inestimable value. It would be no exaggeration to say that he was
the chief architect of Muhammad Ghuris Indian Empire. Nonetheless we should not ignore the contribution
of some other slave officers of the Sultan.
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Next almost to Qutubuddin Aibak was a slave officer named Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji. In
appearance he was ugly and was often laughed at even by the companions. But he was a dashing
soldier. Some of his military deeds hardly find any parallel in the annals of Indian history. These were
his conquests of Bihar or Bengal. With a small body of soldiers he attacked Uddandapur (or Odantpuri),
the capital of Bihar and captured it in 1197.
Aibak, as a mark of recognition of his service, made him the governor of Bihar with an assurance
that he was absolutely free to carry out the expansion of the Turkish rule in the eastern region. Aibaks
encouragement emboldened Mohammad Bakhtiyar Khalji. Without wasting any time, even when he had
a very small number of horsemen with him, he entered Nadia in Bengal.
The ruler of Nadia was Rai Lakshmansena, who was a generous and kind-hearted ruler. According
to the contemporary historian, Minhajus-Siraj he (Rai Lakshmansena) was taken absolutely unaware
when his palace was attacked by the Turkish soldiers. With difficulty Rai Lakshmansena managed to
save himself by escaping from a back door. Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji then proceeded towards Gaur
(Lakhnauti) which was captured (most probably) in 1205. There he caused the khutba to be read in
the name of Muhammad Ghuri. The Turkish dominion now stretched over certain parts of Bengal as
well. Muhammad Bakhtiyar Khalji had undoubtedly established his reputation as great conqueror.
Death of Muhammad Ghuri
The Turkish empire covered a considerable portion of Northern India. However, political conditions
in Central Asia became increasingly confusing. Between 1196 and 1205 the rulers of Ghazni and Ghur
were bogged in a prolonged tussle with the Shah of Khwarazm; Ghiyasuddin, the elder brother of
Muhammad Ghuri died in 1203. Muhammad Ghuri became the unqestioned head of the Ghuri family.
But again he suffered a serious set back.
In 1205 the Shah of Khwarazm inflicted a severe defeat on him in the battlefield of Andkhud. The
humiliating defeat of Andkhud gave a severe blow to the prestige of Muhammad Ghuri. At places there
were revolts by his officers.
Muhammad Ghuri had hardly recovered from the military setback at Andkhud when he learnt of
a very disquieting news. The Khokhars of Punjab rose in rebellion against the Turks. At this juncture
Muhammad Ghuris presence in India was urgently needed as his local officers had failed to stem the
sewlling tide of Khokhar uprising. Therefore, the Sultan marched to India in 1206. The Khokhar
rebellion was suppressed with much ruthlessness and barbarity. After completing this task he went to
Lahore where he finalised his plans of establishing a permanent machinery for administrating his Indian
territories. Aibek was to be sent to Delhi from where he was to preside on behalf of the sultan over
the administration of the territories under the control of the Turks. The Sultan himself began his return
journey to Ghazni. He sojourned at Dhamyak on the Indus. On the evening of 15th March 1206, when
he bent his head to offer his prayers, he was attacked with a sharp weapon by an assassin. He could
not survive the fatal attack. The dead body of the sultan was carried to Ghazni for burial. Thus came
to an end so abruptly the career of a brave soldier a shrewd statesman, and above all the founder of
the Turkish empire in India.
An Assessment of Muhammad Ghuris Achievements
Muhammad Ghuri was the founder of the Turkish empire in India. Right from the beginning when
he became the governor of Ghazni he conceived the plan of establishing the Turkish rule in India. In
the initial stage he, however, showed a hasty approach. Consequently he was beaten kayadra and
Tarain (1st battle)on the Indian soil. Such humiliating defeats would have completely demoralized an
49

invader of an ordinary calibre, but Muhammad Ghuri was of a different type. He was a man of
determination and possessed strong will.
Muhammad Ghuri endowed with unlimited courage; he was always prepared to withstand any
heavy odds. Without losing his nerves he rectified with all seriousness his past mistake. The way he
worked day and night to prepare his army for taking the revenge of the first battle of Tarain amply
shows the guts of the man. The temporary set-backs could not deter him from achieving his goal.
Ultimately he succeeded in founding the Turkish empire on the Indian soil which lasted for a fairly long
time.
Muhammad Ghuri was neither a plunderer nor a crusader. His campaigns in India were not motivated
by the lust of gold. He also did not invade India with the aim of propagating Islam or to force conversion
on the Indian people. In fact, he was a shrewd statesman, who immediately sensed the rotten conditions
prevailing in India. Therefore, he made every effort of exploiting them for establishing the Turkish
empire.
It should also be remembered that Muhammad Ghuri was not merely satisfied with the conquest
of land. He always kept before him the administrative requirements of the newly conquered territories.
While it is true that he did not disturb the local administration and left it untouched but at the top level
he manned the administration with his trustworthy Turkish officers.
Again Muhammad Ghuri is credited with creating team of slave-officers. He purchased the most
talented slaves and trained them for helping him in the work of conquest and consolidation. Some of
the noted slave officers were Qutubuddin Aibak, Nasiruddin Qubacha and Muhammad Bakhtiyar
Khalji. In his absence they discharged their duty sincerely and seriously. They not only kept the forces
of disintegration in check but continued the further expansion of the newly established Turkish empire.
Particularly the task of Aibak in keeping the territories of Northern India intact and simultaneously
continuing the process of expansion was a great achievement indeed. Likewise Muhammad Bakhtiyar
Khalji achieved a unique distinction by extending the Turkish empire right upto Bengal. Muhammad
Ghuris slave-officers always behaved properly and this shows that he enjoyed their complete confidence.
However, Muhammad Ghuri, in spite of his personal bravery and daring approach, was not a
military genius. Unlike Mahmud of Ghazni his military record is not without any blemish. He suffered
three humiliating defeats, twice in India, once in Central Asia. Only his unflinching determination kept
him on the move. Moreover, his military victories in India were not the result of his mastery over the
military affairs but basically due to the inherent weaknesses of the India society. But what distinction
he could not achieve in the military field in comparison to Mahmud he attained it by founding the Turkish
empire in India. His achievement was more enduring than the work of Mahmud of Ghazni. His Indian
empire did not whither away within a short time after his death but lasted for a couple of decades.

50

LESSON 8

FOUNDATION AND EXPANSION OF THE DELHI SULTANATE


(1206 - 1236)
Introduction
Mahmud of Ghazni with his well-trained and disciplined cavalry burst upon the plains of Northern
India like a flood sweeping all resistance before him. His success was startling, but his raids were
primarily motivated by his overpowering lust for loot and plunder. He had no inclination to transform
his military victories in India into a durable empire, controlled and managed by him. It was many years
after Mahmud of Ghaznis demise that the Turks could think of securing a firm political foothold in India.
It was left to Muizuddin popularity known as Muhammad Ghuri, to subjugate Northern India militarity
as well as politically.
The second battle of Tarain (1192) was not an isolated incident or the personal triumph of a military
adventurer. It marked the culmination of a process that had started with the emergence of Muhammad
Ghuri, who was absolutely determined to lay the foundation of the Turkish empire in India. Surmounting
heavy odds, including two disastrous defeats (Kayadra and Tarain1st battle, 1191) in India, Muhammad
Ghuri succeeded in achieving his goal. He laid the foundation of the Turkish empire on the soil of India.
The Foundation of Delhi Sultanate
The sudden death of Muhammad Ghuri in 1206 by an assasin created a difficult situation for the
Turks in Northern India. He left behind an extensive empire that stretched from Ghuri in Central Asia
to Nadia in Bengal, and from the Himalayan Tarai to the deserts of Rajputana. However it is to be noted
that in India the Turks were not firmly in control of their possessions. Rather the Turkish hold was
precarious. What prevented the infant Turkish empire from being sucked into the whirlpool of destruction
in India was the wisdom, boldness and the imagination of Muhammad Ghuris trusted lieutenant,
Qutubuddin Aibek. Moreover, the defeated Indian ruling class did not have sufficient military strength
to take advantage of this opportune moment.
Muizzuddin left no male heir to succeed him but Aibek was his ablest officer. The foundation of the
Delhi Sultanate was laid by Qutbuddin Aibek, who after his humiliating retreat from Ghazni thought, of
confining his energies to the territories of Northern India.
The Turkish empire in Northern India was unique in some respects. The Delhi Sultanate saw a
number of rulers who did not originally belong to India. Obviously they had different socio-cultural and
religious background. However, the new immigrant ruling class including the Sultans gradually had
become an inseparable part of the Indian society. The most significant thing to understand is that even
when the new government was based on exploitation the wealth of the country was not drained out as
happened under the British rule. The Turks established essentially a military rule in Northern India, which
was based on centralized despotism.
The Turkish Slave System
Muhammad Ghuri had no, son. His Indian possessions fell into the hands of one of his slave-officer,
Qutubuddin Aibek, who became the first Sultan of the newly established Delhi Sultanate. That a slave
could have attained such a high status seems rather strange. Ttiere was little social stigma attached to
slavery among Turks. Often slaves married in the family of their masters and then succeeded them after
their death. As such the phenomenal rise of Aibek was neither exceptional nor accidental. It was the
result of as unique Slave System among the Turks where the talented boys were bought as slaves and
methodical trained and carefully groomed for high officers.
51

Sultan Qutubuddin Aibek


After the second battle to Tarain in 1192 Qutubuddin Aibek was entrusted with the charge of his
masters Indian dominion. Much of the credit of the Ghurid conquests in India should go to Aibek. He
saved Ajmer from two uprisings. He played an important role in the defeat of Jai Chand. Besides,
Qutubuddin Aibek captured Koil (Aligarh), Ranthambhor (1195). Badaun (1197-98) and Kanauj
(1198-99). Kalinjar, Mahoba and Khajuraho (1202-03). He also occupied Delhi and made it capital
of the newly established Turkish empire in 1193.
It was Aibek who was formally invested with viceregal powers and promoted to the rank of a malik
in 1206. The death of Muhammad Ghuri marked only a change of status for Aibek. who lost no time
in exploiting the situation in his favour. He marched to Lahore and formally assumed power as a
sovereign of the Ghurid empire on 25 June 1206.
The death of Muhammad Ghuri removed the support of a powerful protector and involved
Qutubuddin Aibek in the intricate web of Central Asian politics. The Ghurid empire broke up into
warring fragments; Ghiyasuddin Mahmud succeeded in establishing his rule.in Ghur. Tajuddin Yalduz,
another slave of Muhammad Ghuri, laid claims to his masters Indian possessions. The internal situation,
in Northern India was also disturbing. Preoccupied with these affairs, Aibek could not deal effectively
with the Rajputs who lately were quite active in recovering their lost political authority. Kalinjar had been
recovered by the Chandellas, the Gahadwalas under Harishchandra reoccupied Farrukhabad and
Badaun, while Gwalior seems to have been lost to the Prariharas.
In 1210 when Aibek died of injuries sustained from a fall from his horse while playing chaugan
(polo), the Delhi sultanate lacked political stability and had no effective administration. Yet his contribution
is immense as he laid the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate which had an independent status.
Aibek was a brave soldier and a competent military general, whose contribution in extending the
Turkish empire was unique. Besides it is to be noted that his early training in Nishapur equipped his
with refined literary taste as is evident from his patronage of scholars like Hasan Nizami and Fakhre
Mudabbir. His generosity was proverbial and earned him the title lakh bakhsh (giver of lakhs). As his
reign was too short and the difficulties he faced were too many, he does not seem to have made a
significant contribution in evolving a solid administrative structure of the Delhi Sultanate. But there is no
doubt that he managed the show. Abul Fazl the official historian of Akbars reign is all praise for Aibek
and sums up his contribution in the following words : He achieved things, good and great.
Sultan Iltutmish
On the death of Aibek, the Turkish faction at Lahore supported Aibeks son Aram Shah (there is
a good deal of controversy whether he was actually the son of Qutubuddin Aibek or not) whole the
nobles at Delhi, led by Ismail, who occupied the post of amir-i-dad (an important functionary of judicial
department), invited Iltutmish to ascend the throne. Iltutmish at that time was the governor of Badaun.
He marched towards Delhi. But before entering the capital he met the army of Aram Shah. He easily
defeated Aram Shah, whose rule lasted only for about eight months (1210-1211) and was of no
significance.
Shamsuddin Iltutmish was the son of a noble belonging to the Ilbari (ILBARI) tribe of the Turks.
He was sold as a slave by his jealous brothers to a merchant named Jamaluddin, from whom he was
bought by Qutbuddin Aibek. It is interesting to note that like Aibek, the rise of Iltutmish was rapid. In
due course of time he rose to the post of amir-i akhur (master of stables). Iltutmish married a daughter
of Qutbuddin Aibek, who after sometime appointed him the muqtai (governor) of Badaun. And finally
he succeeded in occupying the throne of the Delhi Sultanate in 1211.
52

The Initial Problems


Iltutmish did not find the throne of Delhi a bed of roses. The death of Aibek had plunged the Delhi
Sultanate into confusion. Iltutmish had to start cautiously. His was a task fraught with dangers and
difficulties which were not only numerous but of a varied character : internal and external, political and
administrative and cultural. However, Iltutmish rose to the occasion. By showing proper understanding
and adopting timely measures he provided a fresh lease of life to the infant Delhi Sultanate.
The Turkish jandars (guards) of Delhi rose in rebellion and created a difficult situation before
Iltutmish. They were, however, taken to task and were finally suppressed. Yet there were other problems
also. Yalduz and Qubacha claimed of sovereignty. Bengal shook off its allegiance to the central authority.
Ali Mardan assumed royal status at Lakhnauti in Bengal.
Rajput chiefs rose in rebellion and ravaged the country-side Jalor and Ranthambhor were first to
regain independence. Above all, there loomed large over the north-western frontier the Mongol hurricane
that could easily sweep aside the infant Turkish empire in India before it could stand on its legs. That
the new Sultan was able to deal effectively with most of these problems is the proof of his ability and
tactfulness.
Iltutmish was a realist and a shrewd statesman. He followed a policy of caution and compromise.
Unwilling to risk a civil war or provoke his rivals, he even compromised his sovereign status by
accepting the royal insignia (canopy and baton) sent by Yalduz, Iltutmish bided his time, and followed
a defensive policy towards his contenders for the throne of the Delhi Sultanate. However when Yalduz
occupied the Punjab and moved towards Delhi he came forward to meet the challenge. Yalduz was
defeated at the battle field of Tarain in 1215-16. He was imprisoned and sent to Badaun by Iltutmish.
This victory certainly enhanced his prestige in the eyes of the nobles. However Qubacha could be finally
eliminated only in 1228.
Mongol Threat
The Mongol threat was also averted by Iltutmishs tact and diplomacy. The Mongols came in hot
pursuit of Jalaluddin Mankbarani, the Crown Prince of Khwarazm, who sought refuge
in India. This placed Iltutmish on the horns of a dilemma. To help Jalaluddin Mankarani meant to incur
the wrath of Chengiz Khan. And this would have been suicidal for the infant Turkish
empire. To refuse aid bluntly to a fugitive, who had become a hero in the Islamic world, would have
alienated the Muslim sentiments but Iltutmish keeping in view alone the interest of
the Turkish empire followed dilatory tactics which discouraged Jalaluddin Mankbarani who left India in
1224. Close on his heeis departed the Mongols who had no immediate design for the
conquest of India. It is also to be noted that Chengiz Khan died in 1227 which averted the imminent
Mangol Threat.
Conquest of Bengal
The Mongols danger having passed away Iltutmish turned his attention towards Bengal, which had
been a constant source of trouble to Delhi. Ali Mardan having been murdered in 1211 was succeeded
by Hisamuddin /IWAZ, who assumed full sovereign powers. It took three campaigns before Bengal
could be subjugated and the authority of the central government reestablished in this rebellious province.
In 1225, the Sultan, himself led a successful expedition and Bihar was subsequently annexed. Iltutmish
forced Iwaz to pay an indemnity and accept the overlordship of Delhi. When Iwaz tried to assert his
independence once again Nasiruddin Mahmud, the son of Iltutmish, was assigned the task to suppress
the rebellious chief. Nasiruddin Mahmud defeated and killed Iwaz. He captured Lakhnauti in 1226. The
last campaign was necessitated by a fresh outbreak following the sudden death of Nasiruddin Mahmud.
53

Iltutmish led an army in person. He decisively defeated the rebels led by Balka. Thus Iltutmish once
again brought the eastern region consisting of the provinces of Bihar and Bengal under the control of
Delhi.
War against the Rajputs
The Rajputs presented another problem with which Iltutmish had to grapple. They were making a
fresh bid to throw off the yoke of Turkish rule. The security of the Turkish political ascendancy in India
demanded the subjugation of the insurgent Rajputs and the recovery of the territories lost to them. This
Iltutmish achieved methodically. Ranthambhor was the first to be captured in 1226. The victory over
Ranthambhor was followed by Nagor next year i.e., 1227. Gwalior was also brought under the
possession of the Delhi Sultanate in 1231. The campaigns in Rajputana were rounded off by the sack
of Bhilsa and Ujjain (1234-35). The Gangetic valley was also pacified, and the Turkish rule was
re-established by force in Awadh and the Doab.
A review of the military campaigns of Iltutmish establishes beyond doubt that his achievements, were
quite remarkable. When he became the Sultan of the early Turkish empire it was confronted with
enormous problems, external as well as internal. Iltutmishs authority was questioned even in his own
capital. Under such difficult circumstances Iltutmish displayed great fortitude, courage and farsight.
Though he did not resort to rapid conquests, he gradually succeeded in recovering all those territories
which were lost since the death of Muhammad Ghuri.
Iltutmish showed much more interest in their complete surrender of the acquired territories to the
central authority. His military campaigns in Bengal resulted in weakening the local opposition, may be
temporarily. Thus, the military campaigns of Iltutmish were not plundering raids but aimed at re-affirming
the might of the Turkish empire. Whatever success he achieved enhanced the prestige of his rule and
made the Sultanate of Delhi more formidable and consolidated.
Organization of Administration
Though the Turkish rule was established in North India after the second battle of Tarain (1192) no
concrete steps were taken to gear up the existing administrative machinery. Muhammad Ghuri had no
time to spare for this task, and whatever he initiated was not sufficient enough to provide stability to
his newly founded empire. Personally he was available in India only for launching military campaigns.
The burden of running the administration was left to the slave-officers. After his death when. Qutubuddin
Aibek came at the helm of the affairs but there was no appreciable change in the situation. It was in
the reign of Iltutmish that for the first time the Turkish state thought of understanding the administrative
problems with some seriousness.
Though, in the beginning, Iltutmish took some time to settle himself, but once he strengthened his
position he was not prepared to lower the authority of his office. He believed in upholding the status
and dignity of the Sultan. Therefore, first of all he cleared from his path all those opponents who
renounced his sovereignty and tried to get rid of him. Once he got rid of his arch rivals or put some
of them on the defence he turned to more concrete measures.
As a Sultan he knew that single-handedly he could not perform his tasks. Therefore, he built around
him a group of loyal and trustworthy slaves, called the chihalgani (forty). They were not only used in
conquering the new territories but were assigned the administrative tasks also. It was some sort of a
mini but powerful machinery at the personal command of the Sultan.
We know that with the establishment of the Turkish rule the empire was divided into many iqtas
or the administrative-cum-revenue units. These were not of uniform size. Some iqtas were quite extensive
while the others were small. Those who were assigned the iqtas were known as the muqtai. The muqtai
54

was entrusted with the task of keeping law and order and to collect taxes. Though not much is known
about the actual working of iqtadari system during the reign of Iltutmish, but whatever evidence is
available indicates that the system continued to operate more or less smoothly.
The iqta was a territorial assignment and its holder was designated muqtai.
The medieval historians have shown great appreciation for Iltutmishs care for rendering justice.
Long after his death the people remembered his justice. Ibn Battuta, who visited India in the reign of
Muhammad bin Tughlaq, records that Iltutmish fixed two statues of lions on the gate of imperial place.
Hanging chains were attached with them and on the other end of the chains a bell was fixed. As soon
as an aggrieved person reached the spot he pulled the chain which made the bell ringing. The act was
sufficient to draw the attention of the relevant authorities to the person concerned. However this practice
of pulling the chain was usually confined to night clone. But during the day time aggrieved person used
the coloured garment for catching the attention of the concerned authorities. Besides, Iltutmish saw to
it that amir-i-dads were appointed in almost all the important towns. He passed judgement on the
appeals coming from the lower courts. However, in all important matters relating to justice Iltutmish
could directly intervene and pronounce his judgement.
Iltutmish made a place for himself in monetary system also. It was during his reign that introduction
of the tanka (silver coin) and the jital (copper coin) took place. Commenting on Iltutmishs performance
in this field Nelson Wright remarks :
The reign of lltutmish stands out as a landmark in the coinage of Delhi lltutmish was a great
moneyer. That he established the silver tanka and the jital on a firm footing was in itself a remarkable
achievement.
Conclusion
lltutmish occupies a prominent place amongst the Sultans of Delhi. A shrewed, cautious and farseeing statesman, he left a permanent mark on the canvas of Indian history. The history of muslim
sovereignty in India, rightly observes Dr. R.P. Tripathi, properly speaking begins with him. While it is
true that lltutmish was neither a military genius like Mahmud of Ghazni nor an outstanding administrator
like Alauddin Khalji but significance of his work can not be underestimated. Overcoming one problem
after another he was not only able to save the disintegration of the Turkish empire but he placed it on
a firm ground. It was he who gave the country a capital, an independent state, a monarchical form of
government and a governing blass. If he is called the real founder of the Sultanate of Delhi it is not an
exaggeration but a befitting appreciation of his work.

55

LESSON 9

CONSOLIDATION OF THE DELHI SULTANATE


UNDER BALBAN (1266-1286)
The struggle for power (1236-1266)
During the three decades that followed Iltutmishs death in 1236, important changes occurred in the
distribution of power within the Sultanate ruling class. The Chihalgani nobles, who supported Iltutmish
in every possible way, became claimant of power and authority. This resulted in the declining status of
the monarchy. The Sultans played like pawns in the hands of these ambitious nobles. In case they
resisted, they were deposed and killed. The first ruler who succeeded Iltutmish was Rukruddin Firuz
Shah. He was, however, deposed very soon and Raziya ascended the throne with the help of Wazir
Zunaidi and the intervention of prominent Delhi citizens, whom she appealed regarding her claim to
authority. She was able to grab the throne and was subsequently successful in creating schism in the
camp of opposing Turkish nobles (thus prevented them to offer her a united challenge) but this was a
momentary gain. Without a band of powerful supporters she could not ensure a prestigeous and
dominating position for monarchy.
As the chihalgani (forty) or most of them could no longer be relied upon Raziya had no alternative
but to opt for building a non-Turk and non-Tazik group of loyalists. She was able to rally some and
Malik Yaqut, an Abyssinian1 slave, was a prominent figure amongst them. He was appointed to the post
of amir-i-akhur (officer commanding the horse). This was treated as an open assertion of Raziyas
increasing power and many prominent nobles did not take it lightly.
Before Raziya could establish herself on a firm support base these nobles chose to strike first. Malik
Kabir Khan, the muqtai of Lahore rebelled. Altunia who was the incharge of the iqta of Bhatinda also
behaved in the same fashion. While these rebellions were quite alarming the most dangerous development
was the erosion of her hold over the nobles stationed in Delhi itself, who brought Bahram Shah on the
throne even when Raziya was alive. Both the Turk and Tazik groups of nobles became united as
observed by Prof. Irfan Habib, in smashing the newly emerging group of loyalists under Raziya. Though
before her end she could enlist the support of Altunia, but this new combination was not strong enough
to defeat the united opposition of the nobles hostile to her. The result was that a valiant attempt to
maintain the dignity of monarchy ended in a failure.
At the initial stage it appeared that monarchy in Bahram had lost the battle for supremacy once for
all as the nobles tried to enhance their position within the official heirarchy. It is interesting to note that
for the first time in the history of Delhi Sultanate the office of naib was created and Malik Aitagin was
the first to occupy it. It appears that he had the support of some influential members of nobility. Our
contemporary historian Minhaj clearly states that with the help of Muhazzabuddin, the Wazir and
Muhammad Iwaz, the auditor, he took all functions in his hands. Again Minhaj mentions :
After the appointment as naib Aitagin well organized all the functions of the state.
The emergence of such a powerful office was a clear cut indication of the intention of Aitagin, who
was bent to reduce the status of monarchy by resorting to a legal step. If naib continues to be the
symbol of concentration of state authority the Sultan would soon become a political non-entity. It is to
the credit of Bahram Shah that he was able to finish off Aitagin within a month or two. But still he was
1.

Abeyssinia = modern Ethopia, known as Habsh in medieval times: Habshi is derived from this word.

56

not able to get rid of powerful nobles like Muhazzabuddin, the wazir, who finally succeeded in despatching
him to the next world.
Muhazzabuddin did not survive for long. The new Sultan, Alauddin Masud (1242-1246) soon
managed to get him murdered. But this action did not curtail the power of its potentials were yet to
be exhausted and hence in the power struggle, in spite of their efforts, the successors of Iltutmish were
not successful in saving their skin. Alauddin Masud too was replaced by Nasiruddin Mahmud (12461266)
New Phase of Power Struggle
The startling features of the reign of Nasiruddin Mahmud were :
(i)

The powerful role of naib,

(ii)

Clipping of Sultans power,

(iii) Near destruction of Chihalgani (Forty/Shami slaves.)


Ulugh Khan (future Balban) was the key figure to get the throne for Nasiruddin Mahmud. And in
return he wanted to make maximum political gain. However in the first few years of the Sultans reign
he could not succeed to achieve what he desired. Perhaps he could not act tactfully and therefore many
Turkish nobles turned their guns against him. At this juncture Imaduddin Raihan, an Indian noble also
appeared on the political scene. Like Malik Yaqut his elevation also was resented. And finally Ulugh
Khan, who was forced to relinquish his post of naib in the face of mounting opposition of Turkish and
Indian nobles under the patronage of the Sultan, succeeded in convincing the Turkish nobles of the
danger posed by the emerging Indian nobles led by Raihan. Even Nasiruddin Mahmud was bullied to
restore the office of naib to Ulugh Khan once again. The Turkish nobles and the Sultan both erred and
very soon they realized their folly. But then it was too late. No Turk amir cared to visualize when Raihan
was beheaded that same sword was waiting for them also. It did not take much time for Ulugh Khan
(future Balban) to finish them off. Some of them were physically done away while others were made
political dead. Hence such a powerful group of Turkish nobles (chihalgani) was doomed for ever. And
Nasiruddin Mahmud, who was tolerated for a decade or little more as a puppet, was poisoned by
Ulugh Khan (Balban) in 1266.
Ghiyasuddin Balban (1266-1286) Nasiruddin Mahmud died in 1266. Whether he died a natural
death or was a victim of poison administered to him at the instance of Ulugh Khan (the future Balban),
cannot be proved conclusively. But his death definitely cleared the way for Ulugh Khan to occupy the
vacant throne. His succession was smooth as no one dared to raise his finger amongst the remaining
members of the Chihalgani (Forty). They were not alone in their docility other constituents of the
nobility also behaved in an equally submissive way. On the issue of succession never before such unity
or silence was witnessed in the ruling circle since the establishment of the Sultanate of Delhi. But under
the circumstances, loaded with coercion and ruthless repression this timid and spineless behaviour of
the nobility was not at all surprising. The nobles had to function submissively at the command of the
new Sultan i.e., Ghiyasuddin Balban.
On becoming the Sultan, as reported by Barani, the noted historian of the Sultanate period, Balban
took the following steps :
(i) High posts and big iqtas were conferred on his sons and nobles;
(ii) By following the rules of ancient monarchs, like the emperors of Iran he adorned his
court.
57

The distribution of high posts and vast iqtas was not done at random. Balban was highly calculative
in his choice. Only those were awarded upon whom he could rely upon.
Monarchial Despotism
Right from the beginning of his reign Balban opted for monarchial despositm. Instead of following
the Quran, the Holy Book of Islam he preferred to adopt the rules, regulations and norms of the
Sassanid rulers of Persia. Even their courtlife was a model for him. The question arises why he did so.
The answer is not difficult to find out. How he could make the Quran the guide for his governmental
work when it does not say much on the problems connected with governance. The Quran, it must be
understood, is not a political treatise and therefore its instructions were considered to be out of tune
with the changing circumstances. The monarchial system was the order of the day and monarchy as such
was not acceptable to Islam.
Moreover if we examine too well known political injunctions of Islam : (i) Take decision through
consultation and (ii) obey the authority. One thing clearly emerges. Consultation was the basic principle
of the Islamic Polity. In other words whenever any issue arises the decision is to be arrived at through
the consultation in the umma (muslim community), such decisions taken in this manner alone are to be
implemented by the authority that may be. Authority is to be obeyed because it reflects the verdict of
the community. In Islam, authority reflects collectivity and not the will of an autocrat.
However, consultation was not found to be feasible in the governance of an expanding Islamic
empire. Hence in the life time of Ali, the fourth pious Caliph, Muawiya laid the foundation of dynastic
monarchy. And then onwards it was the march of monarchy throughout the Islamic world. In the
absence of rules regarding governance the Muslim rulers were left with no other choice but to borrow
extensively from the Byzantine and Sassanid imperial traditions.
By the time Balban sat on the throne of Delhi the borrowing of Sassanid traditions among the Turks
was a well established fact. Even a pious ruler like lltutmish without any hesitation adopted monarchial
despotism. Barani informs us that Nuruddin Mubarak Ghaznavi vehemently castigated lltutmish for not
following the shariat in the functioning of his administrative system and also in his life-style. The enforcement
of sijda (prostration) before the Sultan, his costly attires and drinking habits were all deviations and were
opposed to the true path. These things as observed were considered by the visiting scholar as antiGod. Barani further informs us that while recealling this sermon in the presence of his sons, brothers
and selective associates Balban started weeping profusely and said the following :
At times the Sultans pretended and tried to project themselves as true defender of Islam, but it was
all farce miles away from their real designs. But how one can accuse them as they were the product
of a different time. Balban knew that the circumstances demanded a non-religious approach towards
the state affairs. Barani accuses Balban as he paid no consideration to religion (Islam) at the time of
inflicting death sentence and other penalties to the rebels and to those who violated (imperial) order.
Whatever was deemed fit for the state, whether sanctioned by the shariat or not he enacted immediately.
Whatever attitude Balban adopted towards the shariat was a logical extention of the approach followed
by the Muslim rulers since the time of Muawiya-the founder of Ummayid dynasty. Still Balban
behaved in a peculiar way also. For instance he claimed that he belonged to the family of Afrasiyab
the legendary figure of Turan. Again his newly born grandsons were named after the ancient rulers of
PersiaKaikhusrau and Kaiqubad.
Balbans Views of Kingship
Kingship has no place in Islam but Balban did not hesitate to twist religiosity for political reasons.
He claimed :
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Kingship is the vice-regency of God.


The Sultan is the Shadow of God.
And the heart of the Sultan is the repository of divine guidance and radiance.
He also regarded kingship next to prophethood. In other words in the mundane affairs the monarch,
according to Balban, occupied the top-most position.
Needless to say that these ideas had no place in the teachings of Quran or Muhammad. To trace
their origin one has to go back to Sassanid Persia. The divine character of monarchy was an integral
part of the thinking of Sassanid emperors.
Commenting on Balbans theory of kingship K.A. Nizami opines :
The actual implication of this concept was that the source of a kings power lay, not with
the nobles or the people, but with God only, and consequently his actions could not be the
subject of public scrutiny. This was a subtle religious device to sanctify the exercise of his
despotic authority.1
Thus in protecting the interests of monarchial despotism religion was used in a most unreligious way.
Baranis ideas on monarchy get full expression in Fatwa-i Jahandari and whatever Balban utters in
Baranis Tarikh-i Firozshahi is nothing new. Still one thing is certain that these ideas were not alien to
the ruling class.
Balban did not stop here. He not only made court dazzling but saw to it that it functions according
to strict code of conduct. He himself behaved in a most disciplined way and forced his nobles and other
functionaries to pay due respect to the decorum of the imperial court. None was allowed to laugh loudly
or to crack cheap jokes. Moreover, as soon as any noble or chief entered the court he had to kiss
the feet of the Sultan (paibos) and to offer sijda (prostration). The open manifestations of these acts
meant the recognition of the supreme stature and status of the Sultan, who was no more a figure-head
or a model but a real despot.
After physically getting rid of Iltutmishs family Balban was keen to shatter the power of chihalgani
once for all. He himself was one of them and obviously the most distinguished and fortunate one.
Whatever was enacted by the chihalgani during the reign of Iltutmishs successors Balban not only was
a first hand witness but also a key operator, particularly in the reigns of Alauddin Masud and Nasiruddin
Mahmud. This association made Balban more suspicious of the role of the remaining members of the
Chihalgani. Barani informs us that many Shamsi nobles, suspected to be a potential danger to his
throne, were done to death by mixing poison in the syrup or wine, this method was adopted by Balban,
because naked killing of these nobles, according to Barani, would have damaged his reputation and
credibility.
In this way Balban completely sealed the fate of the chihalgani, and other nobles who were a
suspect in his eyes. Those who somehow survived remained servile. As mute spectators they saw the
emergence of a powerful despot, who gave them no option but to obey his orders strictly.
However the eclipse of the old nobles created a vaccum in the nobility. New recruitment was bound
to take place. Apart from the Khalji nobles we do get the scanty information regarding the Afghans in
our contemporary sources. In other words racial base of the nobility was further expanded. But still it
1.

A Comprehensive History of India, Vol. V, Part I, Peoples Publishing House, Second Edition, P. 281.

59

remained foreign or central Asian in character. Whatever earlier inroads were made by the nobles of
Indian origin became a thing of the past. Of course, exceptions are there. This racial exclusiveness of
the nobility proved detrimental to the very survival of Balbans dynasty.
Yet Balban succeeded in infusing through discipline in the nobility. The nobles had to act as desired
or directed by the Sultan. Particularly till 1275 his grip over the nobility was absolutely tight but then
he had to suffer a jolt when Tughril, the governor of Bengal, defied him and assumed independence.
This was just unthinkable for Balban to witness the rebellion of a slave-officer but then it was a hard
reality, which he had to face.
Suppresstion of Tughrils Rebellion
Balban failed to guage the real strength of Tughrils rebellion. He mistakenly thought that despach
of the governor (muqtai) of Awadh, Amin Khan, would accomplish the desirable result. To his surprise
Tughril inflicted a humiliating defeat on the army headed by Amin Khan. Helplessly he ran away from
the battlefield and reached Awadh after sometime. But he never knew that his end was so near. Balban
did not hesitate to pass an urgent order for his physical elimination by gibbeting him on the gate.
Balban sent another military General for restoring the authority of the Delhi Sultanate over Bengal.
Tughril confidently met the advancing army led by Bahadur, who in spite of his personal valour, could
not avert defeat.
Balbans prestige thus received one blow after another. Now he was left with no other option but
to lead the military campaign against Tughril personally. Camouflaging his real plan he suddenly appeared
in Awadh. Realising that the army which accompanied him from Delhi was not sufficient in number to
achieve its target Balban ordered a general recruitment at Awadh. Soon he succeeded in raising an army
of two lakhs. Such a massive conscription was done because by this time Balban had learnt enough
from the two successive defeats of his generals that Tughril s military strength had to be taken seriously.
Tughril also realised that direct confrontation with the advancing imperial army meant nothing but
inviting total destruction of his military power. Perhaps he believed in a protracted war. Consequently
he left Lakhnauti which was subsequently occupied by Balbans army. Unfortunately after some time
the whereabouts of Tughrils army became known to a search party. With a view to escaping arrest
Tughril ran away on the back of his horse but then he was successfully chased and done to death.
The occupation of Lakhnauti and death of Tughril did not satisfy Balban. All these years he was
following policy of ruthless repression. In his scheme of things rebels had to be given an exemplary
punishment. Accordingly the followers, supporters and relative of Tughril deserved same treatment. At
Lakhnauti Balban ordered a row of gibbets to be created on both side of the market for more than
two miles and all friends, supporters and relative of Tughril were impaled on them. This punishment
was shocking to Barani but it was in line with the general policy adopted by Balban towards the rebels.
To set things right he used his sword ruthlessly and consistently. With the result that by 1281-82 from
Lahore to Lakhnauti his rule was well established.
The sinking prestige of monarchy and political position acquired by the Chihalgani in the power
structure could not be ignored by Balban. But equally important task before him was to restore order
in the surrounding areas of Delhi. In these adjoining territories the Mewatis and the local chiefs were
on the offensive. Even the capital i.e. Delhi was not safe from the inroads of the Mewatis. Besides other
factors they took advantage of the jungles adjoining Delhi. With a view to depriving them of making
use of these jungles for shelter or hiding purposes right in the first year of his reign he, according to
Barani, saw to it that all the jungles were totally cut down.
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The clearance of the jungles was followed by an immediate military campaign against the Mewatis.
In the open terrain it became extremely difficult for them to fight back successful. Subsequently their
losses were heavy and soon the imperial army was able to achieve its target.
The annihilation of the Mewatis was followed by some solid steps too. In their territory a fort was
built and numerous thanas (posts) were established which were manned by the newly recruited Afghans.
Thus having consolidated his position vis-a-vis the Mewatis Balban turned his attention to other rebellious
regions. He gave first priority to the rebels of Doab.
The Doab Rebellion
In the Doab region also Balban started with the order of clearance of the jungles. It is also to be
noted that the rebellion in the Doab region was of a bigger magnitude. To reduce this region to
submission was not left to one or two nobles. Barani informs us that the resourceful nobles with their
enormous armies were deployed to wipe out the rebels and to destroy their villages. The local chiefs
of the Doab could not withstand this combined onslaught of the armies of the nobles. Consequently their
power was soon shattered and the rule of Delhi Sultanate was effectively established.
Rebellions at other places
The situation at other places which little further from Delhi was also very precarious. One cannot
fail to make mention of Kampil [situated in the district of Farrukhabad, Uttar Pradesh], Patiali [district
Etah U.P.] Katihar [the region of Rohelkhand, U.P.]
Such was the grave situation in the above-mentioned territories that Balban had to lead these
campaigns against the rebels personally. We are told that Balban had to stay for five or six months in
Kampil and Patiali. The stay of the Sultan in these regions for such a longer duration shows that the
task of curbing the rebels was not an easy one. However the power of the rebels was completely
shattered. With the result that the route to Awadh was cleared and movement of caravans and merchants
on this trade route became smooth without the fear of the robbers. It appears that one of result the
Balbans military campaign in Kampil and Patiali was the opening pf trade routes passing through this
region.
The rebellion at Katihar was mainly of agrarian nature, and, therefore, it was considered to be more
dangerous. Consequently Balban ordered full military preparation before launching an attack on the
rebels of Katihar. Not only that the Central army was thrown into action it was further strengthened
by the company of 5000 archers.
Since the rebels at Katihar had a wider social base, this campaign proved to be bloodiest of all
the previous military exercises. The destruction of human life and property was unprecedented. However,
Balban succeeded in smashing the rebellion. With the result that the emerging urban centres like Badaun,
Amroha and Sambhal became safe from the attacks of the natives of Katihar.
The next target was the Salt-range (the Jud hills) and here too the Sultans army succeeded in its
mission. Why this attack was launched it is difficult to ascertain. But Barani remarks that Balban got
so many horses that their price went down in the market and a horse could be purchased for 30 to
40 tankas suggests that this campaign aimed at procuring horses for maintaining or enhancing the
strength of his cavalry.
Whatever the heavy cost the rebels paid in terms of life and property Balban succeeded in establishing
his rules in these troubled areas. This was certainly a big boost to his emerging monarchial despotism.
Besides strengthening its position in political terms these successful military operation cleared the way
for accumulation of finances by the state. The firm hold in these disturbed areas meant the smooth flow
61

of land tax from the rural areas to the imperial treasury and fillip to trade and commerce. Therefore
pacification of these regions not only provided the Delhi Sultanate political stability but also put it on
a better financial footing.
Measures against the Mongols
After the death of Chengiz Khan (1163-1227) the Mongols did not have a single united empire.
In fact according to the will of Changiz Khan his vast empire was sliced amongst his sons and grandson.
His descendants who ruled over Turkestan and Transoxiana were called Chaghtai.
And those of the Halakus descendants who rule over Persia were called IL Khans.
The Mongols under Chaghtai rulers adopted an aggressive policy towards the Delhi Sultanate and
since they had sufficient military strength their inroads posed a real threat.
To meet the Mongol menace Balban shunned the policy of expansion and devoted his energies to
consolidate his internal position. While dealing with the internal problems simultaneously he had to chalk
out a suitable plan to frustrate the designs of the Mongols. To begin with Balban deputed his eldest son
Prince Muhammad to take charge of the northwest frontier. He made Multan his headquarter. In other
words the first line of defence was entrusted to Prince Muhammad.
This arrangement was followed by putting Sunam, and Samana under the command of Bughra
Khan, who happens to be the second son of Balban. Malik Barbek was also kept ready in Delhi.
However, all these commanders had to operate jointly if the situation demanded so. Perhaps each of
them was supplied 17,000 to 18,000 horseman.
Besides taking these steps Balban ordered building of new forts and repair of old forts. He
established thanas (military posts) also. All these steps were quite meaningful. But still the vast border
could not escape occasional inroads of the Mongols.
Sealing off the entire border was a gigantic task. The military and financial resources at the disposal
of the Delhi Sultanate were too inadequate to meet the requirement of the situation. However thanks
to Balbans measures a large part of his empire remained safe. But in the process he had to sacrifice
his eldest son Prince Muhammad, who died in the battlefield while facing the sudden attack of the
Mongols in 1285. This was a terrible blow and soon in 1286 Balban died. And by 1290 his dynasty
also came to a sudden eclipse when Qaiqubad was done to death.
Lastly it is to be observed that in spite of the fact that Balban could not ensure the continuity of
his dynasty for a longer period yet his contribution to the consolidation of the Delhi Sultanate was
significant and provided a firm political base to the continuation of despotic monarchy under the Khaljis
and the Tughluqs.

62

LESSON 10

THE KHALJI RULE


(1290-1320)
MILITARY ACHIEVEMENTS OF THE KHALJIS
Introduction
Balbans dynasty, after his death in 1286, stayed for a short period. Those who wanted to retain
the house of Balban in power were no match to the more powerful group led by Jalaluddin Khalji.
He outmaneuvered his rivals. However, Jalaluddin Khalji preferred to keep Kaimurs, son of Kaiqubad,
on the throne for a little over three month. Nonetheless after consolidating his position further he
ascended the throne of Delhi Sultanate under the title of Jalaluddin Firuz Shah Khalji. The Khaljis ruled
over the Delhi Sultanate for the next thirty year (1290- 1320).
Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-1296)
At the time of his accession Jalaluddin Khalji was seventy years of age. In his days of youth he
earned the reputation of a valiant warrior. He had successfully fought the Mongol invaders on many
occasions, but then old age had sapped much of his strength. Moreover, he inherited many problems.
The first task before Jalaluddin Khalji was to consolidate his newly established rule. Particularly he paid
proper attention to overcome the opposition led by a section of old nobles. He was not vindictive and
followed a conciliatory policy towards them with a view to winning them over to his side. He succeeded
in this effort but in the process the young nobles of his stock i.e. the Khaljis were disillusioned and this
ultimately led to a crisis well exploited by his nephew, Ali Gurshasp (later on he is known as Alauddin
Khalji. He was also Jalaluddins son-in-law. Subsequently he was made the governor of Awadh. After
some time Ali Gurshasp conceived the bold plan of making a raid into the distant territory of Devagiri.
He had heard about the wealth of Devagiri, the capital of the Yadava kingdom (modern Maharashtra),
when undertook a campaign to Bhilsa (Vidisha). He eagerly longed to obtain its wealth for furthering
his future political design. In fact, it was a well-designed scheme and Ali Gurshasp was prepared to take
any risk for its implementation.
Early in the counter of 1295 Ali Gurshasp (Alauddin) secretly moved out of Kara and marching via
Chanderi, Bhilsa and Elichpur arrived at Devagiri. He defeated its ruler Rama Chandra Deva (12711310). Ali Gurshasp was able to obtain immense treasures from him. Laden with this wealth he was
sure to consolidate his political position and to clear the way for capturing the throne of Delhi. After
some time he returned to Kara. He persuaded his unsuspecting uncle, Jalaluddin Khalji, to visit him at
Kara. This journey proved fatal to the reigning Sultan who never knew that assassins were waiting for
him. He was murdered in broad day light. Ali Gurshasp ascended the throne of Delhi in 1296.
Nowonwards he is known as Alauddin Khalji.
Allauddin Khalji (1296-1316)
Alauddin Khalji was the most outstanding Sultan of the Khalji dynasty. He was a great warrior and
a versatile administrator.
In the military sphere Alauddin Khalji not only succeeded in repulsing the invasions of the Mongols
but added vast territories to his empire. With his accession a new chapter of conquests was opened
in the history of the Sultanate.
Capture of Multan (1296) : No sooner had Alauddin Khalji ascended the throne he sent his two
generals Ulugh Khan and Zafar Khan to capture Multan where the two sons of the late Sultan, Arkali
Khan and Ruknuddin Ibrahim, had established themselves. Ultimately they had to submit. Alauddins
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army succeeded in taking over Multan in 1296. Arkali Khan and Ruknuddin Ibrahim were captured and
were blinded. Thus, Alauddins authority was firmly established in Multan. Nowonwards Alauddin
Khalji was keen to expand the boundaries of his empire. He was a thorough expansionist but for the
time being his ambitious designs could not be translated into practice at once as he came to know about
the invasion of the Mongols in 1297.
Mongol Invasion (1297-98) : Kadar Khan, a Mongol commander, was sent by Daud Khanthe ruler of Transoxiana, with 1,00,000 Mongols to conquer Multan, Sindh and the Punjab. The
Sultan despatched Ulugh Khan and Zafar Khan to deal with the invader. Kadar Khan was
defeated on 5 February 1298 at Jaran-Manjur on the bank of the river Sutlej. The Mongols
suffered heavy losses and were pushed out of the country.
Invasion of Gujarat (1299) : As the Mongols were driven out Alauddin Khalji immediately
planned to attack the rich and prosperous kingdom of Gujarat. Its land was fertile and it was a
great centre of trade and manufacture. Perhaps more for economic reasons Alauddin wanted to
annex it to his empire.
Early in 1299, he deputed Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan for the conquest of Gujarat placing a large
force at their command. When the Khalji army arrived in Gujarat, its ruler Rai Karan Vaghela was taken
by complete surprise. He was unprepared for meeting the challenge and was easily defeated. The Khalji
army also succeeded in capturing his treasures and also his chief queen Kamla Devi. Besides, Nusrat
Khans incursion into Cambay resulted in the capture of Kafur. Kamla Devi and Kafur were sent to
Delhi.
Most of the towns in Gujarat were sacked and plundered by the Khalji soldiers. With rich spoils
of war, the victorious army returned to Delhi. The Kingdom of Gujarat was annexed to the Delhi
Sultanate and Alp Khan was appointed to govern it.
According to the contemporary historian, Ziauddin Barani,1 these early successes of Alauddin made
him very proud and arrogant. He began to entertain fantastic scheme. He declared that he wanted to
lay foundation of a new religion and also to conquer the whole world. But on the advice of Malik Alaul
Mulk, an important noble of the state, and also the kotwal of Delhi the Sultan gave up his schemes.
He now decided to concentrate his attention on conquering the remaining independent kingdoms within
Indian territory and fighting the Mongols who used to invade the country now and then.
Invasion of Qutlugh Khwaja (1299) : Towards the close of the year (1299, Qutlugh Khwaja, son
of Dawa of Transoxiana, entered the country with 20 tumans2 (2,00,000) soldiers. The aim of Qutlugh
Khwaja was to conquer Delhi with a view to dislodging the Khalji rule. He crossed the river Indus and
his forces arrived near Delhi. The people in the capital and its environs became very panicky. They
flocked into the streets, markets and mosques of Delhi. Such was the terror due to this invasion that
Alaul Mulk Kotwal, one of the most trusted nobles of Alauddin, advised him to postpone the battle and
retreat to a safer place. But the Sultan, Alauddin Khalji, was made of a stern stuff. He boldly accepted
the challenge.
Alauddin Khalji assembled his forces to face the Mongols with a view to offering them a determined
fight. With this object in view Alauddin moved with his army from Siri to Kili where the Mongols were
encamped. At Kili both armies faced each other, but none took initiative. Alauddin did not want to strike
first. However, Zafar Khan had different ideas. He could not resist the temptation of attacking the
1.
2.

Ziauddin Barani composed his famous work Traikh-i - Firuzshahi in 1357. It is one of the most important
sources of history of this period.
One tuman = 10,000 (ten thousand).

64

Mongols. But in the process he was ambushed and killed. This was a terrible blow for the Khalji army
but then the Mongols fled. Thus the determination of the Sultan had saved his empire.
Conquest of Ranthambhor (1299-1300) : For the time being the Mongol danger was over, which
prompted Alauddin Khalji to embark upon the conquest of Rajputana. The emperor sent his two
generals Ulugh Khan, governor of Bayana, and Nusrat Khan, governor of Awadh, to invade Ranthambhor.
At that time Ranthambhor was ruled by the Chauhan Raja Hamir Deva, a direct descendant of the
renowned Prithvi Raj. The Khalji generals converged on the kingdom, but Raja Hamir Deva was not
to be cowed down. He spurned the offer of surrendering some royal refugees1 who had taken shelter
with him and prepared to stand the siege. While the siege was on, Nusrat Khan was killed by a missile
(sang-i-maghrabi) from the fort.
The death of Nusrat Khan deprived the Khalji army of one of its most capable military leaders, and
it was bound to have a demoralizing effect on the invading army. Alauddin Khalji, on receiving news
of the sudden demise of Nusrat Khan, was convinced that without his presence the victory was not
possible. Therefore he decided to march from Delhi to Ranthambhor in person. During his absence from
Delhi, his nephews revolted at Kara and Haji Maula rose in insurrection at Delhi. But Alauddin Khalji
remained undisturbed and pressed on the siege of Ranthambhor with still greater vigour. At last
Ranthambhor was captured in July 1301. Ulugh Khan was appointed as its governor, but he died after
some time.
Conquest of Chitor (1303) : Success at Ranthambhor served as an additional spur to the territorial
ambitions of Alauddin Khalji to undertake further conquests in Rajputana. In January 1303, the Sultan
marched at the head of a large army for the conquest of Chitor. Amir Khusrau, historian and poet, who
accompanied the Sultan in this expedition gives a detailedaccount of the Chitor campaign. The fort was
built on a rock and was deemed impregnable. Besides, the Rajputs were valiant warriors and were
renowned for their chivalry throughout India. Chitors Rana Ratan Singh put up a heroic resistance for
full eight months. In the end three women performed jauhar (Jivahar-self-immolation) and the brave
Rajputs dashed out of the fort to fight to the bitter end. However, Prof. Banarasi Prasad Saxena is of
the opinion that Ratan Singh surrendered and his life was spared. But Ratan Singhs chiefs (maqaddams)
and soldiers were not shown any mercy and three thousand of them were put to sword. After appointing
his son, Khizr Khan, as the governor of Chitor, the Sultan returned to Delhi on hearing the news of the
Mongol invasion led by Targhi.
Invasion of Targhi (1303)
On coming to know about the involvement of Alauddin in Rajputana the Mongols perhaps thought
of attacking Delhi in his absence. Under Targhi an army of 30,000 to 40,000 horsemen was despatched. But to their surprise Alauddin was first to reach Delhi. On hearing about the plans of Mongols
the situation in the capital again assumed a critical turn. Khalji army had not yet recouped from the
losses it had suffered at Chitor. Besides, this time the Mongols were determined on capturing Delhi
itself. They had marched straight to Delhi without disturbing the country through which they passed. But
nothing could frighten Alauddin Khalji. He arrayed his forces in the plains of Siri and strengthened its
defenses by digging trenches and constructing palisades, fence of strong pointed wooden stakes). The
Mongols attacked the environs of the capital and even looted the royal granaries, but they could not
pierce the defences set up by the Sultan. The patience of Targhi, who had come prepared only for a

1.

These royal refugees were those soldiers who had rebelled at Jalor after the conquest of Gujarat in 1299,
and had been provided shelter by Raja Hamir Deva of Ranthambhor.

65

quick and open action, was exhausted in two months time, and he decided to order a retreat with a
clear intention of reaching his country by forced marches.
The invasion ofTarghi opened the eyes of Alauddin as pointed out by Barani. He had learnt a lesson
from this menacing Mongol invasion, and he now took definite measures to combat the Mongols
effectively.
Alauddins Security Measures
(i) Alauddin Khalji shifted his head-quarters to the newly built city fort of Siri.
(ii) Old forts were repaired, new forts were constructed.
(iii) Experienced officers and well-equipped soldiers were appointed to garrison these forts.
(iv) The army too was reorganised and new enlistment were made. The strength of the standing
army was raised to 4,75,000.
(v) The soldiers were kept satisfied by fixing the prices of commodities in the market. Government
granaries were kept well-stocked with foodstuffs throughout the year so that in times of war
there could neither be fear of scarcity of provision nor of any rise in prices.
Invasions of Ali Beg, Tartag, and Targhi (1305-06) : Targhi could not reconcile with his retreat.
He therefore, marched into India once again in 1305. This time two other Mongol generals, Ali Beg
and Tartaq, accompanied him. But the supreme commander of this campaign was Ali Beg. This invasion
was in no way less formidable than that of 1299 and 1303. It seems that Targhi retreated after some
time but Ali Beg and Tartaq, however, continued to advance. They bypassed Delhi and entered the
Doab inflicting numerous cruelties. On hearing about the advances of the Mongols, Alauddin Khalji
immediately deputed Malik Nayak. He was a Hindu officer of Alauddin Khalji and enjoyed his confidence.
It is also to be noted that the governorship of Samana and Sunam was entrusted to Malik Nayak. With
thirty thousand horsemen Malik Nayak swiftly moved into action and inflicted a crushing defeat on the
Mongols near Amroha on 20 December, 1305.
Invasions of Taibu Iqbal and Kabk (1306-07) : The following year (1306), the Mongols
appeared again but now Alauddin was well prepared to meet their challenge. This time the Mongols
were under the leadership of three generals: One was Tai Bu, the other was Iqbal and the third was
Kabk. Each of them had a separate contingent under him. The Mongols attacked Sindh and the Punjab
simultaneously and carried fire and sword wherever they went. Alauddin Khalji appointed Malik Izzuddin
Kafur Sultani to deal with the invaders one by one. The Khalji commander routed the army of Kabk,
who was taken into custody along with his numerous soldiers. Others fled into the desert of Sindh where
the (Mongols) with their fingers in their mouths begged for water. Many of them were killed, many
others were made prisoners and the rest were chased out of the country.
The capture of Kabk and the complete rout of his army created panic in the camps of Iqbal and
Kabk, who thought it wise to save their skin and swiftly returned to their country. However, it did not
prove an easy task for them. Many of their soldiers were either killed or captured by the Khalji army.
Some had the consolation of saving their life, but Kabk lost it shortly after he reached Delhi. With
Kabks expedition the last spark of Mongol aggression died out. They dared not invade India again.
The defeats of the Mongols encouraged Alauddin to take further steps. He initiated aggressive
policy with a view to crushing the power of the Mongols further Ghazi Tughlaq, who had been
appointed to guard the north-western frontier, could march every year into the Mongol territories. These
repeated inroads of his struck terror in the heart of the Mongols. Thus the tables had been completely
turned and for this the credit goes to Alauddins bold imaginative and realistic appreciation of the
situation and the timely remedial measures taken by him. Consequently, the Mongol menace, which had
66

made his predecessors tremble on the throne, was put to an end. Alauddins bold measures (which will
be discussed in length in the next lesson), including the maintenance of a formidable standing army, and
above all, his firm resolve to arrest the Mongol encroachments relieved the Delhi Sultanate of a calamity
that had been constantly haunting the minds both of the rulers and the peoples of India for many
decades.
Conquests of Malwa (1305) : Alauddin Khalji was truly a great conqueror. The recurring Mongol
invasions did not deter him from launching a new scheme of conquests. Capitulation of Ranthambhor
and Chitor had opened the eyes of the Rajput princes to the irresistibility of the Turkish arms. Many
of them readily submitted to Alauddin, but others who did not submit before him were taken to task.
One such defiant Rajput ruler was Rai Mahlak Deva of Malwa, who possessed 30,000 or 40,000
cavalry and a still larger infantry. Annoyed at his recalcitrance, the Sultan sent Malik Ainul Mulk Multani
with a large force (10,000 horsemen) to conquer Malwa in 1305. Ainul Mulk entered Malwa carrying
fire and sword. When his commander-in-chief, Koka Pradhan, was defeated, Mahlak Deva flew from
Dhar to Mandu. Even Mandu was besieged. Mahlak Deva was killed and the kingdom was incorporated
in the Sultanate. Ainul Mulk was appointed Malwas governor and he administered the country well.
He was also able to capture Ujjain, Dhar and Chanderi.
Conquest of Siwana and Jalor (1309) : In 1308, Malik Kafur was sent on an expedition to the
south, while Sultan himself left with a large army to attack Siwana in Rajputana. Its ruler Sital Deva
defended the fort stoutly but was defeated and killed in September 1309. His kingdom was placed
under Malik Kamaluddin Gurg.
In the same year the Chauhan Raja of Jalor, Kanher Deva who too had refused to submit to
Alauddin was attacked. The Rajputs met the royalists in a number of engagements, but ultimately they
were defeated. And Kanher Deva was killed in a close combat. Maldeva, a brother of Kanher, survived
the massacre of Jalor. He secured the goods will of the Sultan and was appointed to govern Jalor.
With the capitulation of almost all the leading states of Rajputana like Ranthambhor, Chitor, Siwana
and Jalor the remaining states -like Bundi, Mandor, Tonk and Marwar were made to surrender to the
Delhi Sultanate. Thus by the end of the first decade of the 14th century the whole of Rajputana lay at
the feet of the Sultan of Delhi.
Causes of the Failure of Rajput Rulers : Why the Rajput rulers suffered defeat against Alauddin?
The reasons for their defeat are numerous and may be discussed as follows :
Firstly, the Rajputs failed to build a strong centralized political structure. In the absence of a
centralized administrative set up every unit was working without a definite aim with the result that
administrative cohesiveness was completely lacking. On the other hand the Turks established a centralized
machinery which was further perfected by rules like Balban and Alauddin.
Another reason of Rajput defeat was their excessive reliance on the forts. They were usually
constructed on the tops of some hillocks as a measure of defence. But once the citadel was subjected
to a siege, it was cut off from the plains, and provisions could not reach the fort the plains below.
Sanitary conditions inside the forts were not satisfactory, more so during a siege, when these became
over-crowded and epidemics often took a heavy toll of lives.
Moreover, the Rajputs were steeped in their age long traditions of warfare. They had little contact
with the Central Asian countries and were unacquainted with the change the Mongols had introduced
in the art of war. The army of the Delhi Sultanate had learnt much from Mongol tactics of warfare, as
it was continually poised against the latter. Besides, it possessed engines of war like Iradas (stone
throwing machine) and also gargajes. It knew the art of constructing pashebs (an earthen mound built
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so high that it reaches the top a besieged fort for escalating the fort walls.) The Rajputs fought with
elephants in open engagements. They failed to learn ambushes, camouflaging and feigning retreats, in
which the Turks were adept.
Lastly, the resources of the Rajput Rajas were limited. Their country was hilly and barren, both
crops and water were scarce. How could the Rajput Rajas hope to win against the Sultans of Delhi?
The Sultans of Delhi possessed the Punjab and Awadh-like Bengal and Gujarat these were the most
fertile regions of the country, and could bank upon an unlimited supply of provisions and reinforcements.
Alauddin Khalji and the Deccan
By 1307 the tide of Mongol aggression had been fully checked and almost the whole of Northern
India had been conquered. These were great military achievements but Alauddin was still keen to
expand his empire further. In 1295 Alauddin marched beyond Vindhayas and succeeded in defeating
the ruler of Devagiri. His Short lived stay in the Deccan helped him to make the assessment of the
situation prevailing in this new region, Alauddin was convinced that before the well-trained army of Delhi
the Deccan rulers could not stand. The Deccan was ripe for invasion. Therefore after becoming the
Sultan of Delhi Alauddin could not ignore the conquest of the Deccan. There were four prominent
kingdoms in the Deccan at this time :
1)

The Maratha kingdom of Devagiri, ruled by the Yadavas, lay to the south of the Vindhyas.

2)

To its south-east was situated the kingdom of Telingana which was ruled by the Kakatiyas
from their capital at Warangal.

3)

To the south of Devagiri and South-west of Telingana was the kingdom of Dwarsamudra
ruled by the Hoyasalas.

4)

To the extreme south was situated the kingdom of the Pandyas known to Persian his
torians as the country of Maabar.

All these kingdoms were known for their wealth. For Alauddin Khalji the Deccan provided the best
prospects of obtaining both wealth and glory. Alauddin Khalji needed wealth to maintain his standing
army and at the same time he was a thorough expansionist. Hence he could not resist the temptation
of embarking upon a plan of conquest of the Deccan as soon as he found himself reassured that the
security of his northern dominion was no longer exposed to any threat, internal or external.
Expeditions of Devagiri (1308) : It may be recalled that even when Alauddin Khalji was a prince,
he had invaded Devagiri, and forced its ruler Rama Chandra to submit to him. For many years, Rama
Chandra continued sending the yearly tribute but then taking advantage of the long distance between
Delhi and Devagiri, he stopped it. Alauddin could hardly tolerate this, but immediately he was not in
a position to retaliate. However, in 1308 he deputed Malik Kafur to march against Devagiri in order
to realise the areas of tribute. Malik Kafur had been captured in the sack of Gujarat in 1299 and since
then, had risen from one position of trust and responsibility to another position of greater responsibility.
With 30,000 horses, Malik Kafur started for the Deccan. On the way, he was joined by the forces
of Ainul Mulk Multani, governor of Malwa, and Alp Khan, governor of Gujarat. Plundering and
ravaging the country-side, Malik Kafur arrived at Devagiri, Rama Chandra was hardly prepared for an
invasion. However, he hurriedly collected his army but the battle that followed resulted in his defeat.
He sued for peace and presented a large amount of treasure and a number of elephant to Kafur. When
Malik Kafur returned to Delhi Rama Chandra accompanied him. The sultan received the Yadava ruler
honorably and gave him the title of Rai Rayan. It was a great diplomatic move of Alauddin. Thus Rama
Chandra was befriended and he later on helped Malik Kafur in the subjugation of the southern states.
68

Campaign of Warangal (1309-10) : The success at Devagiri encouraged Alauddin to send Malik
Kafur against the kingdom- of Warangal. Alauddin instructed Malik Kafur to force Pratap Rudra Deva,
the ruler of Warangal, to submit. The latter was permitted to retain his kingdom provided he gave up
his treasures and accepted the suzerainty of Alauddin Khalji.
In October, 1309 Malik Kafur, the supreme commander of the Khalji army in the Deccan, invaded
Warangal. As Malik Kafur was already acquainted with the road the Deccan, he marched via Devagiri.
Rama Chandra, the ruler of Devagiri, provided every facility to the Khalji army by establishing markets
for their soldiers. He even reinforced the Delhi army with some of his Maratha troops. Helped by the
guides of Rama Chandra, Malik Kafur reached Warangal without wasting any time.
On his arrival at Warangal Malik Kafur laid siege to the fort. Partap Rudra Deva was taken
unaware, but stood the siege as long as he could. When he found his task hopeless, he sued for peace.
Malik Kafur, in accordance with the instruction of the Sultan, demanded from the Raja most of his
treasures as well as promise of a yearly tribute. When these conditions were accepted by Pratap Rudra
Deva the siege of the fort was raised by Malik Kafur. With the captured wealth, which perhaps included
the famous diamond, koh-i-noor, he started back for Delhi, where Sultan Alauddin Khalji was overjoyed to receive him.
Expeditions of Dwarsamudra and Maabar (1310-11) : On his return from Warangal, Malik
Kafur told Sultan Alauddin Khalji that he had learnt at Warangal that the kingdom of Ma abar
possessed large number of elephants and immense wealth. He therefore, expressed a desire to lead an
expedition into that far-off kingdom of the Southern India. Alauddin Khalji was no less keen to get us
as much wealth from the Deccan as possible. He ordered Malik Kafur to lead an expedition into farther
south which was reported to be a distance of about one years journey from Delhi. Malik Kafur started
on his expedition in November, 1310.
At Devagiri, Rama Chandra once again rendered all possible help to the Khalji army on its southward march. After crossing many difficult rivers and high hills, Malik Kafur reached the borders of
Dwarsamudra. Luckily for him, the Hoyasala ruler, Vir Ballala III, at this time had gone farther south
with his army on an expedition. On hearing of Malik Kafurs arrival in his kingdom, he returned in haste.
But he was so frightened at the turn of event that he gave up resistance after a few minor skirmishes.
He made his submission. Vir Ballala III gave a good amount of his treasure to Malik Kafur and
promised to send a yearly tribute.
Malik Kafur asked Vir Ballala III to lead on the way towards Maabar. The Hoyasala, ruler had
no option but to agree. From Dwarsamudra he Khalji army started in March 1311 towards Maabar.
After five laborious marches, it reached the frontier of Maabar. Incidentally a war of succession was
raging in Ma abar. Two Pandya princes, were contesting for their ancestral throne. Sundar Pandya
invited Malik Kafur to help him in defeating his brother, Vir Pandya. This gave a welcome opportunity
to Malik Kafur to fish in the troubled water of Ma abars politics. He went from place to place in
pursuit of Vir Pandya, destroying many ancient temples and collecting a large booty in gold weighing
approximately 96,000 man (maunds) jewels. 20,000 horses and 612 elephants Malik Kafur arrived
back in Delhi in October 1311. The Sultan had grand darbar to honour this valiant general and profusely
rewarded his officers and soldiers. However, it is pointed out than in spite of obtaining enormous wealth
from Maabar Malik Kafur failed to subdue it completely.
Causes of Malik Kafurs Success in the Deccan : The various invasions of Malik Kafur gave
a big blow to the rulers of the Deccan peninsula. However, the causes of his success in the Deccan
69

are not far to seek. Like the Rajput states of the north, the southern kingdom were constantly fighting
against one another. When Alauddin had marched into Devagiri in 1296, Rama Chandras son Sankara
Deva, had gone towards the Hoyasala country with his forces. When Kafur marched against the
Hoyasala country, its king Vir Ballala III was absent in farther south trying to snatch a portion of the
Pandya country, and the two Pandya brothers were constantly fighting with each other. Not only that,
in place of uniting and helping one another in face of a common foreign foe, they used to assist the
invaders against their neighbors. Thus Rama Chandra helped Malik Kafur in the conquest of Telingana
and Dwarsamudra and Vir Ballala escorted the imperial army farther south to Ma abar. Sundar Pandya
even sought Malik Kafurs help against his own brother. What better conditions he could obtain for.the
Turkish arms in the South?
The defeat of the southern princes was not due wholly to their disunity. The army of Alauddin on
account of his various reforms was efficient, well-equipped and well-organized. In discipline, strategy
and tactics, the Khalji army was far superior to those of the southern armies under various rulers of
the South. The intelligence services of the south Indian rulers seems to have been out of gear, and this
is proved by the fact that to each state.the invasion of Malik Kafur came as a surprise.
After achieving stupendous military successes Alauddin Khalji was not destined to enjoy the fruits
of his victory for more than a decade. He expired in the night of 4 January 1316.
Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah Khalji (1316-20) : After some difficulty Alauddins son Qutbuddin
succeeded him under the title of Mubarak Shah Khalji. Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah Khalji was hardly
a match to his father, Alauddin. Many of Alauddins administrative measures fell into disuse, but
somehow Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah Khalji was able to retain the territories which he inherited from
his father.
When in 1316 Gujarat revolted, Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah Khalji deputed Ainul-Mulk Multani to
deal with the rebels. Ainul Mulk marched to Gujarat. He quelled the rebellion and brought the countryside under control.
In 1318 Harpal Deva, son-in-law of Rama Chandra of Devagiri, unfurled the standard of revolt.
Qutbuddin Mubarak Shah marched to Devagiri in person. He defeated and killed Harpal Deva. Leaving
his favorite Khusrau Khan in the Deccan, he himself returned to Delhi. After a short stay in the Deccan
Khusrau Khan returned to Delhi. His ambitions soared high and the intrigued against the Sultan.
Ultimately Qutbuddin Mubarak Khalji was killed in 1320. Thus the rule of the Khalji dynasty came to
an end.
Conclusion : Of all the monarchs of the Khalji dynasty Alauddin was the most able ruler. During
his reign of twenty years he had conquered almost the whole of India, both north and the south. His
empire extended from the river Indus in the west to the borders of Bengal in the east. Gujarat and
Rajputana were also under his control. In the Deccan, all the leading rulers were his vassals. Such an
extensive empire was neither held by his predecessors nor even by his successors during the Sultanate
period. And what is more remarkable is that Alauddin Khalji had initiated the process of expansion at
a time when the Mongols were constantly invading the territories of the Delhi Sultanate. Indeed the
conquests of Alauddin Khalji are unique in the annals of Medieval Indian history.

70

LESSON 11

REFORMS OF ALAUDDIN KHALJI


In the preceding lesson we had discussed the brilliant military achievements of Alauddin Khalji, the
most outstanding military leader of the Sultanat period, who not only built up an extensive empire but
also successfully repelled the Mongol attacks. In the field of administration too his accomplishments
were of the high order. From the inception of the Turkish rule in India upto the time of Jalaluddin Khalji,
most of the Sultans of Delhi were mainly preoccupied with conquests only, or to defend whatever they
had acquired from their predecessors. Alauddin Khalji not only carried the expansionist policy of the
earlier Sultans to its logical culmination, but at the same time initiated concrete steps to gear up
administrative machinery, to reoganize army and to evolve a new economic policy. It was left to
Alauddin Khalji to overhaul the administrative machinery and introduce steps of far-reaching consequence
in the land revenue system. Equally important were his market regulations.
Alauddins Approach towards Administration
Alauddin Khaljis approach towards the business of the state was not guided by religious law. In
the formulation of his policies he took into account the mundane considerations. He Kept the sufis and
the ulama at a distance, and never allowed them to meddle in politics. His attitude may be best summed
up in his own words. I know not whether my laws are sanctioned by our faith (i.e. Islam) or not, but
whatever I conceive to be for the good of the state, that I decree. In this way he struck a new note
in the conception of medieval kingship. Under him the temporal power eclipsed the ecclesiastical. He
emphatically warned the orthodox Muslim Ulama (religious scholars) that the business of the Sultan was
to administer the state, and in this sphere he was absolutely free to act according to his own judgement
irrespective of their opinion or advice. Only in matters related with the personal laws of the Muslim
community the position of the Qazis and Muftis was more or less left untouched. However, this was
not his theoretical position, he meant what he said. Alauddin Khalji possessed the required iron will to
enforce his command, he made the clergy to submit to his wishes and refused to tolerate any interference
from the side of religious leaders in matters of administration.
Suppression of the Nobility
The nobility posed more often a problem to the Sultans of Delhi. The nobles mainly consisted of
Turks, Pathans, few of them were Indian. During the early Turkish period many of them started their
careers as slaves and achieved great eminence and some even had ascended the throne because of their
personal merit. (Can you cite some examples?) Theoretically there was no limit to the acquisition of
the highest position by a nobleman or a slave. Consequently throughout the Turkish period of medieval
Indian history a struggle for the possession of actual power was a recurring phenomenon. Under strong
Sultans the nobles usually served loyally. However at an opportunate moment they did not hesitate to
raise the banner of revolt, but under the weak kings they became a real threat to the very existence
of the Sultanat of Delhi.
Alauddin Khalji was aware of the dangers of powerful nobility. The various revolts of nobles like
Ikat Khan, Umar Khan and Mangu Khan and the episode of Haji Maula at Delhi, had alarmed the
Sultan. He thought over this problem, and finally came to the conclusion according to Barani, that there
were four chief reasons behind these revolts :
First, the ignorance of the Sultan regarding the acts of the Subjects.
Second, the drinking parties of the nobles.
71

Third, sense of unity amongst the nobles.


Fourth, wealth of the people.
Therefore, after his return from Ranthambhor in 1301, Alauddin Khalji issued certain regulations
which struck at the power of the nobles.
The nobles were ordered to refrain from visiting one another or holding drink-parties. They were
prohibited from contracting marriages without the permission of the Sultan. On the death of a noble,
his property lapsed to the crown. All these regulations were rigidly enforced. Noncompliance was
sternly punished. An efficient system of intelligence and espionage was established. All the activities of
the nobles were kept under close and strict surveillances, this scared the nobles. They began to behave
most cautiously and carefully. According the contemporary historian Ziauddin Barani because of the fear
of the spies, the Amirs and Maliks dared not speak aloud with each other in the their private lodges,
and expressed themselves only through gestures. Further the nobles were asked to handover their jagirs.
Whether all of them or some of them were deprived of their jagirs is a matter of dispute among the
scholars but certainly they had to undergo a tough time so long Alauddin Khalji lived. All these measures
affected the power, pocket and position of the nobility to a large extent.
The suppression of the clergy and the nobility facilitated the Sultans work of administration in which
he occupied the key position. However Prof. Satish Chandra is of the view that by suppressing the
nobility Alauddin Khalji destroyed the very basis of support to his dynasty. With a view tip asserting
his authority he inflicted severe punishments as deterrent to crimes. Police administration was streamlined.
Fiscal and Revenue Reforms
Alauddin Khalji was the first sovereign of the Delhi Sultanat who took a keen interest in fiscal and
revenue administration. His predecessors, from Qutbuddin Aibek to Jalalauddin Khalji, did not possess
the initiative to devote their attention to these complicated problems of administration.
The first major step which Alaudin Khalji took was connected with land question, which occupied
a pivotal position in the medieval economy. It was impossible to run the stupendous state machinery
without properly tackling this vital economic question. Generally it is believed that Alauddin Khalji began
by reclaiming as much land as possible. He ordered that all estates held as milk (proprietary) inam
(reward or remuneration) and waqf (endowment) were to be turned into the khalisa or crown lands and
their management was taken over by the government. Contrary to this view Prof. Banarsi Prasad
Saksena opines :
No one was plundered on account of his wealth. At his accession Alauddin had not only confirmed
but increased charitable endowments and state grants of all types. Now he issued an order cancelling
them. Wherever there was a village held by state-grant (milk), state-gift (inam) or charitable endowment
(waqf), it was by a stroke of the pen to be brought back (bazarand) into the Khalisa Nothing was
taken into the Khalisa, which did not originally belong to it.
It is also to be understood that Alauddin Khalji strictly supervised the working of the representatives
i.e. khuts, muquddams and chaudharis. They were no more allowed to act according to their whims
in the rural areas under their jurisdiction. Contrary to earlier practice of not paying any tax from their
own lands and their refusal to come to the revenue office the representatives were not onward forced
to behave obediently. And no difference was permitted in the payment of taxes. In this regard they were
treated as ordinary peasants. They were also prevented from shifting their economic burden to the
common peasanty.
By another ordinance Alauddin Khalji fixed the governmentss share of the produce of the land and
laid down the method of assessment. He was the first Sultan of medieval India who fixed the revenue
72

on the basis the actual measurement of land. The unit of measurement was the biswah which is known
and used even to this day. Under the system all cultivable land was brought under assessment at the
uniform rate of fifty per cent. The demand of 50% on the gross produce was undoubtedly a very harsh
imposition. But it was done to meet the financial requirements of a strong and expanding state structure
including its enlarged military apparatus.
Besides the land tax, Alauddin Khalji also levied a house-tax (ghari) and a grazing-taxs (chari).
All milk-yielding animals like cows, buffaloes and goats that went for grazing were to be taxed. Jizya
(Properly Jiziya poll tax levied on non-Muslims or Zimmis) was also a source of income. However,
it was not taken from those who paid Kharaj or land tax. Women, children and the insance were
exempted from it. Another tax was Khums. This word means one-fifth and was the share of the state
in the loot of war. Alauddin however, collected from his soldiers 4/5 th of the loot seized in a military
campaign. Another tax was zakat which was levied in the shape of import duties. All these taxes
combined, left the people very little money over and above that was necessary for bare livelihood. But
the fixation or revence on the basis of measurement as well as the new regulations pertaining to the jagirs
were bold measures which strengthened the position of Sultan in tackling the problems of administration
more effectively.
Revenue Officials
The credit of the success with which the orders of the Sultan pertaining to revenue matters were
enforced and the revenue realized goes to the naib wazir, i.e. deputy prime minister, Sharaf Qaini. He
was successful in introducing the system of measurement in the regions around Delhi, the Doab,
Rohilkhand, the Punjab with exception of Multan and parts of Malwa and Rajputana. Obviously
assessment on the basis of measurement could not be effected throughout the empire. In Awadh or
Bihar and Gujarat the new revenue regulations regarding measurement and produce per biswa were not
introduced. Nevertheless, all that had been accomplished was a great achievement.
A large number of officials were appointed to carry on the revenue administration. There were :
accountants (mutasarrifs) demanders of tributes (muhassils), clerks (nawisandas) etc. The patwaris kept
land-records of the village. : amils (revenue collectors) collected the revenue and karkuns helped the
amil in his duties. But as the revenue system now introduced by Alauddin was new, and the machinery
for assessment and collection still underdeveloped, large arrears of revenue were bound to remain
unrealized. Moreover the lower grade revenue staff, whose number had very much increased with the
increase in the area of the khalisa (crown lands), were corrupt and often resorted to extortion and
coercion. Alauddin was determined to set them right.
Sharaf Qaini, the naib wazir, took steps to enquire into the arrears which stood in the name of amis
or revenue collectors, and to punish them if the arrears were not paid by them in full. To meet the other
evils he fixed salaries for the revenue staff so that they may not resort to corruption and extort money
from the poor peasants. Sharaf Qaini, the naib wazir, freely punished the amils and karkun for neglect
of duty. Corrupt officials were severely dealth with. Falsification of accounts or resort to bribery, which
were common practices, were severely checked. The punishments seem to have been severe, for
thousands of clerks and revenue collectors were removed from service or had to suffer imprisonment.
Service in the revenue department thereby seems to have got a bad name, and Barani says that nobody
would give his daughter in marriage to a revenue official. In many ways the tone of administration was
improved and corruption was arrested. Barani thus remarks :
It was impossible for any one to obtain even a tanka dishonestly or take anything in bribe from
the Hindus or the Muslmans.
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Market Regulations
Alauddin khalji did not confine his activities to the land revenue sphere only. Being realist he devoted
himself to frame the market regulations with the purpose of regularizing the prices of various commodities.
Military considerations forced him to take bold steps in this direction. Alauddin had to repel a number
of Mongol invasions as well as to conquer many independent kingdoms. For this he needed a large
army. It is said that the standing army totalled about five lakhs. Through a number of reforms like direct
recruitment, branding of horses, and periodical inspections and review, the Sultan had made his army
very efficient. But this huge army had to be kept satisfied if the Sultan desired success in his schemes
of conquest and of defence. He could not pay as high a salary to his soldiers as the situation demanded.
In any case it could not be tagged to the price rise. If he would have done it that would have drained
his treasury. Therefore he offered a rational solution to make the soldiery contented with the salary to
be paid by the central treasury.
Aluddin Khalji fixed a soldiers salary at 234 tankas a year. This salary was not much, but the
soldiers had to be kept contented. To realise this end, the Sultan hit upon the plan of fixing prices of
almost all the essential commodities in the market of Delhi so that every soldier could live well within
his fixed salary. Incidentally, the people of Delhi also gained by this measure though it was primarily
intended for the benefit of the soldier.
Price Fixation : As you know the prime necessity of man is food. People are happy if food can
be had without costing them much. Alauddin Khalji who had to keep a large army contented, felt it
necessary that the price of foodgrains must be regulated and kept at a reasonable level.
Alauddin Khalji began by regulating the price of foodgrains and fixed it at a reasonable level.
However, it should be kept in mind that man (maund) of Alauddin Khaljis period would be, according
to Irfan Habib, equivalent to 12.235 present-day sirs. Coming to Alai tanka, we are told by Prof.
Banarsi Prasad Saksena, it was equal in weight but higher in silver content than the rupee of the British
Indian empire. Jital was a small copper coin. The contemporary historians of the Sultanat period point
one very important fact the prices of essential commodities in Delhi remained fixed whether it was a
period or of plenty or of scarcity. So long as Alauddin lived, monsoon no monsoon, there was not the
slightest rise in these prices. The regulation of prices in the grain market was a wonder of the age. Barani
Prices
1. Barely
4 Jitals
1 man
2. Gram
4 Jitals
1 man
3. Rice
5 Jitals
1 man
4. Pulse
5 Jitals
1 man
5. Wheat
7.5 Jitals
1 man
According to Prof. Satish Chandra a citizen of Delhi could buy for a tanka (almost equivalent to
a silver rupees) 96 kilos of wheat, 144 Kilos of rice, and 180 kilos of barley.
Supply of Foodgrains Assured : after the regulations of price control were brought into operation,
grain was sold in the market at the fixed rates only. In the grain market, there were two types of
merchants, viz., those who had permanent shops in Delhi, and the travelling merchants who brought
grain into the city and sold it to the shopkeepers as well as to the people. The enforcement of the
market regulations and the fixing of the prices of grains at low rates discouraged the travelling merchants
from coming to the city. But Malik Qubul, the Superintendent of the Grain Market, forced the leaders
of the travelling merchants to take up residence in Delhi and compelled them to bring grain regularly
74

to the market. To obviate the difficulties of these travelling merchants in obtaining grain at a reasonable
price- Alauddin issued orders to the officials and collectors in the Doab to obtain as much grain as
possible from the cultivators as soon as the crop was ready for harvest at a fixed rate, leaving to them
(i.e. the peasants) only that much which was essential for their bare needs. Consequently, all available
grain flowed into the market which remained well-stocked.
The system no doubt did impose some hardships on the merchants and traders. But keeping in view
the compulsion of the market system as deviced by Alauddin it was unavoidable.
In times of drought there was danger of this supply being cut off or reduced. As a guard against
the uncertainty of nature, the Sultan established government stores. There were godowns where grain
was stored in reserve to be released in times of emergency. When the country suffered from a drought
grain was rationed and it could not be sold freely. In abnormal times each household was given half
a man (i.e. 6.175 seers) of grain per day which was sufficient for a normal family.
At least in Delhi people lived a life of contentment, undisturbed by any fear of scarcity. The system
of rationing was a novel idea of Alauddin Khalji and does credit to his administrative imagination and
skill.
Cloth-Trade Regulated : next to food, the other important item brought under price control was
cloth. Barani gives a long list of different varieties of silk and cotton fabrics, the prices of which were
fixed by Alauddin Khalji. From the list appears that in medieval times Delhi Sultanat, cloth was not so
cheap as grain. Price of silk was even higher. The control of prices of cloth confronted the government
with almost the same problem which it had to face when it controlled the prices of the food grains. The
merchants, who came from far-off places like Multan and Devagiri were reluctant to sell their goods
in Delhi, since they could not make much profit. To induce the cloth merchants not to abondon
transaction business in the capital, Alauddin advanced to them large sums of money and provided them
even with residential accommodation. There was yet another problem for the Sultan to tackle. People
used to buy costly merchandise, especially silk cloth, at Delhi and sell it at a higher price outside the
city. To put a stop to this type of black-marketing, the Sultan ordered that permits should be issued
only to bonafide purchasers like high class nobles. All the purchasers of such like merchandise were
required to give a written receipt for the articles thus bought by them. In this way any possibility of
profiteering was eliminated.
Rules were also framed to regulate the sale of horses, cattle and slaves, their prices were also fixed.
Broker or dalals who tried to make undue profits were severely punished. In short, prices for almost
all the essential commodities needed by the inhabitants of Delhi whether civilian or military were fixed.
What is more interesting is that the government even fixed prices of such articles of daily use as shoes,
combs, needles, etc.
Market Officials : Such an elaborate system of market control under which prices of a large
number of articles of common use were fixed, the merchants registered, and profiting and speculation
strictly forbidden, could not be worked without a large and efficient staff. Two trustworthy nobles Malik
Qubul and Malik Yaqub, were appointed in charge of the Grain and Cloth Markets respectively. They
were designated as shuhnas(superintendents of controllers). Besides them a number of barids (intelligence
officers) and munhis (spies) were appointed Individually and separately they used to send reports about
happening in the markets to the Sultan, who used to compare these reports. And if there was any
discrepany in the reports and inquiry was ordered and the culprits punished. Even as high an officer
as Malik Qubul was once punished for suggesting the rising of the price of wheat in a time of scarcity.
Naturally, all the officials were terribly afraid of the Sultans wrath and most of them tried to work
honestly. With a view to keeping the shopkeepers on the right track Alauddin used to send small boys
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to the market with a few copper coins and when they returned with their articles, he got these weighed.
If any shopkeeper was found to have weighed less he was severely punished. Such was the fear of the
Sultans reprisals that sometimes the shopkeepers gave to their customers even more than the actual
weight. Whipping and other punishments were very commonly used for the enforcement of these market
regulations.
Review of price control Policy
Some scholars of medieval Indian history (like Dr. P. Saran) criticize Alauddin Khaljis price-control
policy on account of its adverse effects on the traders and merchants. While not denying the fact that
the traders and merchants were subjected to strict regulations and at time were harshly treated too. It
will be wrong to think that they were denied any incentive to carry on their business. At no time
Alauddin thought of getting rid of the merchants and traders. Rather huge amount of money was
advanced to them to make purchases. However, Alauddin Khalji was not prepared to allow them a free
hand to indulge in hoarding or to a mass profits at the cost of his price scheme. Moderate profits and
incentives were not denied to them but they had to operate within limits laid down by Alauddin. Unlike
the price system of the modern age, his governments scheme was a success.
In regard to the peasants, the tyranny of the intermediaries was curbed and better law and order
conditions prevailed for them. But their economic condition could not improve as land revenue was
raised to 50%.
It must, however be remembered that the welfare of the people was not the motive of AlauddinKhaljis economic policy. To him the prime necessity was the maintenance of large army, which was
raised to repel Mongol invasions, to suppress nobility and the defiant chiefs of India and to capture new
territories. Alauddin succeed in accomplishing these objectives. It can also not to be denied that the
benefits of market regulations certainly provided-welcome relief to the bulk of the people of Delhi
whether civilian or military.
It is also to be kept in mind as remarked by Irfan Habib : ......the entire basis of the new taxation
was the consumption of a large part of the agricultural surplus in the towns. In turn, as Barani logically
explains, the new system of taxation enabled Alauddin Khalji to lower prices in Delhi and presumably,
in the neighbouring cities.
Conclusion
The reign of Alauddin Khalji rightly occupies an important place in the history of medieval India.
Alauddin was indeed an administrator of a very high calibre and many of the rulers who succeeded him
have benefited from his wisdom and experiments. The Afghan ruler Sher Shah Suri adopted Alauddin
system of measurement of land for assessment. This great Afghan ruler also resorted to the principle
of direct recruitment of soldiers who at other time were enrolled by provincial governors and sent for
imperial service when required. Branding of horses and cash payment to the soldiers (and not giving
land in lieu of pay) were two other reforms of Alauddin which where also adopted by Sher Shah. Even
otherwise, the reforms of Alauddin were unique. Price control, rationing, establishment of government
grains-stores, the system of permits etc., were indeed novel and original innovations in medieval India.
Alauddins marked regulations ended with his death. His son and successor Qutbuddin Mubarak
Khalji did not possess his fathers ability nor he had the inclination to enforce these regulation with same
strictness. Moreover, the Mongol storm had by them subsided and perhaps he thought there was no
longer any need for continuing these strict administrative measures.

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LESSON 12

THE TUGHLUQ DYNASTY


Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq (1320-24)
The founder of the dynasty was Ghazi Malik who assumed the title of Ghiyasuddin Tughluq Shah
in 1320. The death of Alauddin Khalji had plunged the Delhi Sultanat into confusion. Ghazi Malik who
has previously held the office of the Warden of Marches1 skilfully exploited the chaotic political situation
and succeeded to be the new ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. The origin of Ghazi Malik is a subject of
controversy among the historians. Amir Khusrau, a literary genius and a historian of the contemporary
medieval period, in his work Tughluq Nama mentions that Ghazi Malik joined the imperial guard in the
reign of Jalaluddin Khalji. The next ruler of the Khalji dynasty, Alauddin Khalji recognized the merits
of Ghazi Malik and he was elevated to the key post of the Warden of Marches.
When Khusrau Khan captured the throne after killing Mubarak Shah Khalji (1316-20), Fakhruddin
Jauna Khan (later Mohammad bin Tughluq) was appointed by the new Sultan to the post of amir-iakhur (master of the stables) but Jauna Khan secretly planned to overthrow Khusrau Khan and
communicated all that was happening at Delhi to his father Ghazi Malik, who was stationed on the
western frontier at Dipalpur. Ghazi Malik secretly advised his son to avoid confrontation with Khusrau
Khan. After a short time, along with some of his companions, he succeeded in running way from the
capital and joined his father. Soon after the father and son were together. Ghazi Malik began to make
preparations to overthrow Khusarau Khan. He invited all the leading nobles to come to his assistance.
Many of them responded to his appeal and joined him with their forces. There were, however, among
them some nobles who adopted an attitude of neutrality on the ground that they must pay homage to
any person who happened to be in possession of the throne of Delhi. Ain-ul-Mulk Multani was the most
prominent among such nobles. Another was Malik Lakhi of Samana.
Ghazi Malik, however, proceeded towards Delhi. After a hardfought battle he gained victory over
Khusrau Khan, who was captured and put to death. Khusrau Khan behaved like a brave warrior in
the presence of his captor, the victorious Ghazi Malik, asking him to be treated as his royal position
deserved. His manly behaviour shows clearly that Khusrau Khan was not a coward. He died with
grace.
The Administrative Measures of Ghiyasuddin Tughluq
Ghazi Malik ascended the throne by the common consent and approval of the nobles, who had
helped him to victory against Khusrau Khan. But he had a crop of problems to face. During the later
part of Alauddins reign and that of his successors the prestige of Delhi sultanate suffered a lot. This
encouraged the various Rajas and chieftains who had begun to assert their independence. The second
problem which faced the new sultan who that of restoring the financial stability of the empire. Though
much was done in the reign of Alauddin Khalji to contain the Mongols there was some possibility of
their invasion as the political situation was deteriorating.
Ghiyasuddin Tughluq restored security and stability in the empire by reconciling even those nobles
warriors who had supported the cause of Khusrau Khan. But those who persisted in their hostility were
severely dealt with. Their lands were confiscated and they were deprived of their posts. The Sultan did
not spare even those to whom Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya has distributed five lakh of tankas which he
had received from Khusrau Khan. He asked Shaikh Nizamuddin Aulia to return the money, and on his
refusing to comply. Ghazi Malik ran into a rage. The strained relations thus developed between the two
1.

Warden of Marches : officir responsible for guarding the North-Western region of the Delhi Sultanate.

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men continued for long and have given rise to much speculations as regards the hand of Shaikh
Nizamuddin Aulia hastening the end of the Sultan. When the Sultan was unable to compel him to
disgorge the money he had received he forced all other who had been similarly benefitted to surrender
their shares to the State treasury.
Because of the chaotic conditions, which developed during the last days of Mubarak Khalji, the
revenue system of the Delhi Sultanate was seriously affectd. Without adopting a realistic approach it was
difficult to gear up the revenue system. In the absence of adequate realization of the land revenue, which
was the key sources of income to maintain the state structure, nothing concrete could be achieved.
Ghiyasuddin Tughluq followed the policy of encouraging agriculture and protecting the cultivators. He
ordered that the land revenue should not be enhanced beyond one-tenth and one-eleventh in a year.
His instructions were that the enhancement should be gradual and should be spread over a number of
years.
Further, Ghiyasuddin abandoned the Alai system of assessment by measurement and yield per biswa
and resorted to the old method of batai (sharing). Regarding the share of the state in the produce there
is a lot of confusion among the historians. However Prof. Banarsi Prasad Saksena opines :
In all probability he reduced its incidence to some figure lower than that fixed by Alauddin and it
may safely be presumed that this rule must have been the traditional one-fifth of the produce.
Ghiyasuddin Tughluq paid special.attention to the problems of cultivation and cultivator. The officers
were instructed to see the increase in cultivation from year to year. At the same time he warned them
not to increase tax or to harass the peasantry. Nonetheless Ghiyasuddin Tughluq once again gave due
status to the village headman, and he ordered the restoration of their perquisites, he exempted their
cultivation and pasturage from assessment. Still he was careful to see that they did not become too
affluent, thus to cause rebellion. He also caused lands lying uncultivated to be brought under the plough
in order to increase the state income. To encourage and promote agriculture Ghiyasuddin Tughluq is said
to have constructed canals for irrigation and planted a number of gardens-an example which was
followed with much greater energy and vigour by his nephew, Sultan Firuz Shah Tughluq.
To promote the countrys economy, Ghiyasuddin Tughluq improved old roads, constructed new
ones and organised an efficient postal (dak) system. Dak was carried either by foot runners or on
horses. These carriers easily covered a hundred miles in 12 hours. It may also be mentioned that in
order to improve the general administration, Ghiyasuddin Tughluq tried to make criminal law milder and
improved the working of the judiciary.
Among other administrative measures mention may be made of his efforts to suppress brigandage
and lawlessness which stalked the land consequent upon the political chaos during the reign of Allaudins
successors. Public works such as construction of forts and frontier outposts, were undertaken to help
maintain internal peace and defence of the frontiers. The Sultan also forbade the manufacture and sale
of liquor.
Defence of the north-western frontiers : the problem of defence of the north-western frontier
became urgent on account of the invasion of Delhi by the Mongol hordes. But the veteran sultan had
no difficulty in defeating them and they had to sacrifice two of their great leaders who were made
captives. It was at this time that the sultan built his massive fort of Tughluqabad ruled only for four years
and during this brief span what he accomplished by way of securing peace and stability and promoting
the economic conditions, speaks much for his vigour, practical sense and administrative ability, he met
his death in a tragic manner as is well known. His son, Jauna Khan (also known as Ulugh Khan) had
caused a wooden pavilion to be erected for the Sultans reception when he returned after settling the
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affairs of Bengal. As the Sultan and his younger son were dining, the pavilions collapsed and both the
father and the son were killed under the debris.
Ghiyasuddin Tughluq was a realist who neither desired nor perhaps had the faculty of formulating
inigenious schemes and unprecedented projects. Nevertheless, he showed great vigour and keenness
in recovering the lost territories of the Decane and also in suppressing the rebellious governors of the
provinces like those of Bengal and Warrangal. He himself undertook an expedition in 1324 against the
governor of bengal who had declared himself independent and compelled him to offer his submission.
Against Warrangal he sent his son Jauna Khan, who proceeded via Devagiri on the mission in 1321,
It is stated by contemporary writers including Ibn battuta that while at Warrangal, Jauna Khan attempted
rebellion against his father. But finding that his cause was not supported by the majority of the army
and also that the matter has been reported to the Sultan, he immediately returned to the capital in order
to pacify and conciliate his father. The sultan did not take serious notice of his sons disloyalty and sent
him back again to Warrangal to complete the conquest of that kingdom in 1323. On his way, Jauna
Khan captured Vidharba and marching forward laid siege to the fort of Warrangal. The garrison put
up a strong resistance but could not hold out long enough and had to give way eventually. The fort was
captured and the Kakatiya ruler, Partap rudra Deva with his family as well as all the treasures of the
palace is said to have fallen into the hands of the victor. Telingana was annexed and for the first time
brought under direct central rule. It was divided into several administrative units.
However, Jauna Khan retained the old Hindu officers at their posts and accorded generous
treatment to some of the former ministers.
The Tughluqs thus pursued an annexationist policy in Deccan. Ghiyasuddins policy was directed
towards reducing to submission those states which had renounced their allegiance to Delhi during the
reign of his predecessor. But he did not rest contented merely by the reconquest of these territories.
He wanted to annex them as well as to bring them under the direct rule of Delhi. Khalijis on the other
hand earlier pursued a quite different policy. Alauddin wanted to annex and rule directly the territories
of northern India. But he rightly realised that it was impossible in those days to establish his direct rule
in the remote and also extensive region of the Deccan. He only desired to compel the rulers of Southern
India to acknowledge his supremacy and to send him annual tributes.
Muhammad bin Tughlaq (1324-1351)
After the sudden death of Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughluq Juana Khan ascended the throne with
Muhammad bin Tughluq is known for his unique personality all in the entire period of Indian History.
Indeed it would be difficult to find a man like him among the other rulers of any period. He had a
stupendous memory, a keen intellect and in-stable thirst for knowledge. For his range and depth of
learning, Muhammad bin Tughluq was looked upon even by his contemporaries who were not at all
sympathetic to him, as an intellectual gian. He was a profound scholar of Mathematics, Astronomy,
History, Geography and the Science of Medicines. In the knowledge of the Islamic Law and its various
branches, he was unparalleled amongst his contemporaries. He was also a poet and a writer as well
as a superb orator. Although he was very particular about the performance of his daily religious duties,
but so far as his state policy was concerned he did not like to bind himself by the narrow injunctions
and teachings of the conservative preachers of Islam. He was accentuated by a strong urge of social
reform and wanted to stop sati and other evil customs and practices of Hindus and the Muslims.
In his administrative policy Muhammad Tughluq did what he thought best without ever caring for
the religious leaders of Islam. He treated his subjects equally irrespective of their creed or faith. In
making the appointments he took into consideration merit of the person and not his caste or creed. He
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appointed a Hindu as the governor of the province of Sindh. His behaviour as a free thinker and a
philosopher naturally antagonised and offended the conservative Muslim divines. Ziauddin Barani is also
critical of his liberal attitude. But Muhammad Tughluq greatness as an intellectual and as a
liberal-minded person could not help him to check the emergence of the forces pf decline.
Muhammad bin Tughluq failed because in the first place he could not patch up with the orthodox
ulama (religious scholars) and the professional sufis. Rather he treated them harshly which placed them
in the hostile camp.
Secondly, while making use of his powerful intellect and imagination he devised certain new and
original schemes to be enforced in the empire, but he failed to realise that the common people were
not capable of properly appreciating the value of those schemes.
Thirdly, in spite of his efforts he failed to collect around him a team of bureaucrats who could
consistently stand by his side. Higher or lower ranks of bureaucracy failed him again and again. Lastly,
he was so impatient with tardiness of the officials who failed to comprehend his extraordinary measures
and to cooperate with him in implementing them, he would often run into rage and ruthlessly, punish
them.
Thus while Muhummad bin Tugluq possessed most extraordinary intellectual powers and an original
mind and a burning desire to introduce new measures in the administration, he lacked realism and vision
of a realist and statesman. Therefore, Muhammad bin Tughluq failed to gauge the capacities of the
persons around him and his schemes and projects went over their head.
The First Phase of Muhammad bin Tughluqs Reign (1324-42)
During 1324 and 1342 Muhammad bin Tughluq started vigorously. And from the very start he tried
to improve upon the revenue system of his father. He caused the entire cultivable land to be properly
surveyed and its produce to be estimated. For this purpose, he established a large and elaborate
department known as diwan-i-kohi and with its help, he fixed the revenue of each province and made
its governor responsible for its collection.
But at this time he had to divert his attention from administrative activities. His nephew Gurshasp
became a rebel and raised on army. If Ibn Battuta is to be believed Muhammad bin Tughluq not only
captured and killed Gurshasp but had him flayed alive and ordered his flesh to be cooked and then
distributed amongst his relatives. This, however, seems to be a bazar gossip. It is difficult to believe it.
Muhammad bin Tughluq then fell upon the Raja of Kampil who had given shelter to Gurshasp. The Raja
fought bravely and died like a warrior.
The projects of Muhammad bin Tuglaq
Transfer of the Capital or Establishment of Second Capital : In 1327, Muhammad bin
Tughluq worked out a scheme of transferring the capital from Delhi to Devagiri in the Decan, 800
miles away. It may be noted that the fury and frequency of the Mongol raids which were such a
conspicuously recurring feature of the Khalji period, had abated to such an extent that in the time of
Ghiyasuddin, as there was only one abortive raid that met with a complete rout at the hands of the Ghazi
Malik. The situation in Central Asia was no more favourable for the Mongols to carry out their raids
into India. Beside those few who had cast longing eyes on the Indian plains had realised the strength
and powers of the Delhi Sultans. It was this consciousness of freedom from risk from the north-west
frontier which encouraged Muhammad bin Tughluq to hazard the bold project of a second capital in
the making Deccan by which he sought to fulfil certain definite objects.
Muhammad bin Tughluq had been in the Deccan a number of times and had realised that a strong
and well-ordered administration of the southern provinces of the empire was only possible from a centre
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within the region itself and Devagiri as he saw, occupied in every respect a suitable location for such
purpose. Enclosed within the esteem output of the Sahiyadri range, perched upon a formidable and
invicible rock, that old capital of the Yadavas commanded the surrounding regions as no other place
in the south could or did. Furthermore, that city could also serve as the most suitable centre for the
spread of Muslim religion, culture and learning in the Deccan Peninsula. Ibn Battuta who came to India
in 1335 (6 years after the so-called transfer) and wrote from hearsay asserts that the capital was
transferred twice. This does not seem to be correct. There was no occasion for such a step because
when the entire government with all its functionaries were transferred. It was but natural that the bulk
of the population consisting of merchants and traders would have also been obliged to follow the
government staff as they must have largely depended on them for their daily business and maintenance.
It is also clear that Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq did not order the transfer of the entire population
as a punitive measure because he made all possible arrangements for the comfort of the people during
their long journey from Delhi to Daulatabadi i.e. Devagiri. It is not true that Delhi was completely
deserted of population and left desolate as we know that when Ibn Battutasited it in 1335 the city was
quite populous and there were ample signs of its prosperity. The real truth seems to be that only a
substantial part of the government staff as was necessary for the intended plan in the south, was
transferred with the result that there were two capitals of the empire at least for some time. There was
nothing extraordinary or whimsical about it. In those days of slow means of communication, political
and administrative necessities quite often obliged monarchs to:create more than one administrative
centre. The purpose which was sought to be achieved by creating a second capital was misunderstood
by many of his contemporaries. Thus there was nothing wrong or unusual in the empire having two
capitals one for the north and the other for the south. Unfortunately this scheme of his misfired.
Geographic climate, political and other considerations ultimately forced him to converge once again
upon Delhi which are long acquired its old status.
Token Currency 1330-32 : Another scheme which Muhammad bin Tughluq launched was token
currency, which has provoked a great deal of speculation and controversy among modern scholars as
to the causes which persuaded him to undertake such an extraordinary and novel measure. It has been
suggested that on account of the famine in the Doab which had occurred almost immediately after his
accession to the throne, as also on account of the enormous expenditure incurred on the transfer of the
capital coupled with the fact that the Sultan was over-generous in disthbuting gifts to foreign envoys and
visitors, had left the treasuFy depleted.
However, this view can not stand a close examination of the facts. If the treasury had been depleted,
Muhammad bin Tughluq would not have found it possible to give away gold and silver coins in exchange
of the token coins which were brought in millions to the imperial treasury when the project was
withdrawn on account of its failure. Indeed Muhammad bin Tughluq wanted only to set at rest all the
wild speculations of the people who were thoroughly unable to understand and appreciate such a novel
measure but also to prove his integrity and good intentions, because the people had begun to suspect
that the Sultan by that device wanted to cheat them of their wealth.
In the opinion of some scholars the token currency was introduced because of the shortage of silver
as this phase in history is noted for the shortage of silver in camparision to gold. It has also been opined
that the main reason which led the Sultan to try this measure was that he wanted to multiply the currency
of the country for the sake of the promotion of trade and commerce and not to replenish an empty
treasury. The measure of introducing the token currency may be summerised in the followiing way that
this experiment was by no means all together new or strange. It had been tried earlier in China as well
as in Persia. In China, the Mongol Emperor, Qublai Khan (1260-94) had introduced paper currency.
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It had also been tried in Persia by about 1293. Muhammad bin Tughluq was fully aware of the success
of the paper currency in China also which naturally encouraged him to give a trial to it in his empire
in the hope that it would contribute towards the betterment of the economic life of the country. But his
fault was that he did not take necessary precaution to prevent misuse of the currency by the people,
Hence, the project failed.
The measure of introducing the token currency may be summerised in the following way that the
token currency was intended to replace silver coins of different denominations. The token coins were
made both of copper and brass. Muhammad bin Tughluq, however, depended rather too much on the
honesty and cooperation of the people around him. He did not use government machinery to enforce
measure rigidly. He failed to prevent the manufacture of counterfeit coins by private individuals and their
circulation in the market. This meant disaster to this novel scheme.
Reform of Coinage : Muhammad bin Tughluq was a man of artistic tastes. He could not tolerate
the degenerate type of coins which had been issued from the royal mints during the chaotic reigns of
the later Khaljis. Ghiyasuddin Tughluq had too little time and too many problems on hand to be able
to pay any attention to the improvement of the currency, even if he had any inclination for it. But
Muhammad bin Tughluq from the very outset, made great improvements in the coinage system. All his
coins were properly milled and as he was a callgraphist himself, the legends of the coins were written
in beautiful letters, Besides this he introduced further subdivisions of the coins in order to facilitate small
business transactions. He also improved the purity of the material from which the coins were made. For
all these measures, the renowned British numismatist. Edward Thomas was perfectly justified in giving
to the Sultan the well deserved title of the Prince of Moneyers.
Project of Conquering Foreign Lands
Muhammad bin Tughluq had lately become the master of practically the whole country. He could,
therefore, very well think of conquering neighouring countries and expand his empire. There was nothing
unusual or fantastic about this ambition in the circumstances which made him feel strong enough to add
to his empire by the conquest of other lands.
Conquest of Khurasan : Muhammad bin Tugnluq had come to known that owing to certain
personal differences there was an acute quarrel going on between the king of Khurasan and his Wazir.
He had also been posted with the information about the critical conditions of Khurasan. The Chaghtai
ruler Tarmashirin of Central Asia as well as the ruler of Egypt, were making preparations to invade
Khurasan. Taking advantage of this situation Muhammad bin Tughluq also thought of carrying an
expedition into Khurrasan. For this purpose he raised a special army which, according to Ziauddin
Barani, consisted of nearly four lakhs of soldiers. But as Muhammad bin Tughluq was then much
involved in the affairs of his country, he had to wait for a suitable opportunity before he could launch
his attack on Khurasan. The whole army was fed and maintained for a whole year without doing
anything. This meant a terrible strain on the state treasury. On the other hand, the ruler of Egypt made
a treaty with the ruler of Persia. But Tarmashirin moved out with his army and waited on the border
of Khursan for about a year. But when he saw that the others were not coming he felt so disappointed
that he broke the camp and returned to his country. Muhammad bin Tughluq releasing the difficulties
of the projected plan and disbanded the army that he had recruited for the purpose.
Qarachil Campaign : The second project of the same type in which he is accused by some
modern historians of attempting to conquer China was actually by way of a reprisal or a punitive
campaign against the Raja of Qarachil, because the latter had descended from the hilly kingdom into
the plains and occupied some regions belonging to the Delhi Sultanat. Muhammad bin Tughlug therefore
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sent an expedition against the Raja of Qarachil but here he made a grave miscalculation as he did not
take proper precautions for a campaign in the hilly regions. The result was that much of his army was
lost or destroyed because it lost its way in the hills. The Raja of Qarachil was, however, so much
frightened of the might of the Sultan that he readily signed a treaty with Muhammad bin Tughluq.
Expedition against Nagarkot : In 1337, the Sultan made an attack on the fort of Nagarkot in
the district of Kangra. Sultan was completely successful and the Raja of Nagarkot was compelled to
accept the suzerainty of Sultan.
Diplomatic Relations with Foreign Countries : Muhammad bin Tughluq exchanged embassies
and established friendly relations with some neighbouring countries. The ruler of China sent an envoy
to Muhammad bin Tughluq in 1341 requesting him to repair all those Budhist temples which had been
demolished by the Sultans army in the hill of Qarachil during its campaign. The Sultan deputed Ibn
Battuta, the Moorish African traveller, as his envoy to the Mongol Emperor of China in 1342.
Reception of the Envoy of Caliph : Muhammud bin Tughluq regarded himself as the shadow of
God. The inscriptions of some of his coin also indicate that the Sultan entertained this idea about himself.
For the same reason he gave up the practice of inscribing the names of the Caliphs on his coins. The
result of all his new projects combined with his freedom of thought and action was that the Sultan
became extremely unpopular with the Muslim elite. But when he realised this, he made rather an
awkward attempt to remedy the situation by making a display of his great faith in the Caliphs. He,
however, found there was no Caliph at that time who could be universally recognised by the Islamic
world. There was a Caliph in Egypt but his claim was not recognised by many. Nevertheless Muhammad
bin Tughluq entreated this Caliph to confirm his legitimate claim to the throne by means of a proclamation.
He also got the Caliph name inscribed on his coins and issued a number of decrees in the name of the
Caliph. In 1340 the Sultan invited a representative of this helpless and norminal Caliph of Egypt. This
representative named Haji Said Satsari was received by the Sultan with extraordinary honours and the
Sultan himself served him like a slave.
Some other events of the reign of Muhammad bin Tugluq
In 1335 the governor of Madura in the Far South declared himself independent and the Sultan
moved down personally to suppress the revolt. But misfortune everywhere dogged his steps. Cholera
broke out & in his camp and took a heavy toll of life. Consequently, the Sultan was compelled to return,
leaving the governor of Madura to establish an independent kingdom in the Far Sourth.
At this time Muhammad bin Tughluq was detained at Daulatabad (Devagiri) due to serious illness
and when the news reached Delhi, it naturally created a great stir there. As if this was not bad enough,
when the Sultan returned to Delhi he found the country in the grip of a severe famine. We are told that
to relieve the city and its surroundings from this prolonged calamity the Sultan distributed cooked food
to the people for six months and encouraged the farmers to cultivate their lands by giving them loans
and every other kind of assistance, including digging wells for irrigation and providing them with seeds.
Further, when he found that procurement of foodgrains in and around the capital had become impossible,
he took the bold step of building up a new city near Kanauj where foodgrains were available in plentyhe is said to have given it the name Swaragdvari (Swargdwar : Gate of Paradise), and asked the people
of Delhi to go and settle there. During this crisis, Ain-ul-Mulk, the governor of Awadh, helped the Sultan
and the people very liberally because Awadh was free from famine. The Sultan with the people of Delhi
passed six months in the temporary, abode of Swaragdvari.
When Muhammad bin Tughluq was busy in experimenting with his novel projects his empire was
gradually, beginning to crumble. The revolt of the governor of Madura in 1335, had given him a fair
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taste of the way the wind was blowing. At the same time, in other regions more successful revolts had
taken place. As early as 1336, the whole country south of the river Krishna had become independent
where the empire of Vijyanagar was founded by the Sangama brothers. Ten years later in the area
between the Nabada and the Krishna another kingdom which came to be known later as the Bahamani
Kingdom came into existence. This was the result of a successful revolt on the part of certain Muslim
chiefs and nobles who had become thoroughly disgusted with the oppression of the sultan. Even the
loyal Ain ul Mulk, the governor of Awadh, who had served and helped the Sultan so much during the
famine, grew suspicious of the Sultans intention and revolted. The Sultan, however, succeeded in
crushing this uprising. All the rebels and their supporters were severely dealt with, many being put to
sword. However, his efforts proved futile in the long run and the Sultanat long lost practically the whole
of the south in Muhammad bin Tughluqs life time.
Conclusion
From all that we know of Muhammad bin Tughluq, there can be no denying the fact that he was
a man of most extraordinary qualities. His vast learning had greatly liberalised his outlook which was
amply reflected in many of his political activities. In his sober moments, he tried to conform to the ideals
but his overweening ambition and his inability to comprehend the limitations of the situation marred his
otherwise distinguished political career. His several ingenious schemes and projects and his fertile
imagination would have undoubetdly yielded better results, only if he had gone a little slow not carried
his projects too far. His great intellect and speculative imagination in a way were responsible for his
misfortunes.
It will be interesting to note that Alauddin Khalji was, in many respects, the very opposite of
Muhammad bin Tughluq, because the former was unlettered and in many ways a man of average
intellectual or cultural calibre. But Alauddin Khalji was successful in the fulfilment of his ambition
because he possessed not only imagination but also realism. Muhammad bin Tughluq had plenty of
imagination on but he at times ignored the realities of the situation. His planning was excellent, But he
executed his plans in a faulty manner. All the more he abondened these in a haste which was fatal to
the interest of his vast empire.

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LESSON 13

FRAGMENTATION OF THE DELHI SULTANATE


THE PROVINCIAL KINGDOMS
Vijayanagar Kingdom
Muhammad bin Tughluq failed to avert the disintegration of his empire. Not withstanding the initial
success his policy of consolidating the newly conquered territories in the South ended in a failure. The
rebellious chiefs in the Southern peninsula availed the earliest opportunity to overthrow the Tughluq
paramountcy. With the result that two new kingdoms, Vijayanagar and Bahmani, were established. The
new kingdoms were not meant for a short span and continued to dominate the Southern India for a
fairly long time. To begin with we start with the Vijayanagar kingdom.
(1) Sources of Information : We do have a variety of valuable sources regarding the history of
Deccan specially of the Vijayanagar kingdom. These can be mentioned under the following heads :(A) Sanskrit Works : There are some important Sanskrit works which contain valuable information
on the period under our discussion. A Sanskrit poem Madura Vijayam (conquest of Madura) was
composed by Queen Gangadevi, who lucidly narrates how her husband (Kumara Kampana, son of
Bukka I (1356-77) conquered Madura. Another Sanskrit workAchyutarayabhudayam, written by
Rajanatha Dindima throws light on some of the military campaigns of the reign of Achyuta Raya
(1530-42), the successor of Krishna Devaraya (1509-29).
(B) Persian Works : Regarding Bahmani and Vijayanagar kingdoms useful information is available
in some Persian works. Most of these works give preference to the political events. However some
information is also available on other aspects also. Most important of them are : Gulshani-i-Ibrahimi or
Tarikh-i-Ferishta of Muhammad Qasim Ferishta, Tabqat-i-Akbari of Nizammuddin Bakhshi and Burhanii-Maasir of Sayyid AH Tabatabai (written between 1591-96).
(C) Accounts of Foreign Travellers : Earliest of them is the Italian traveller Nicolo de Conti. His
work was originally written in Latin is now lost but fortunately we possess a Portuguese version and
an Italian translation. He visited Vijayanagar in 1420. He was followed by Abdur Razzaq, the Persian
ambassador to the court of Zamorin of Calicut, who visited Vijayanagar in 1443. Abdur Razzaqs work,
Matla-us Sadain, throws ample light on different aspects of contemporary history of Vijayanagar.
Further, the name of the Russian traveller Nikitin deserves special mention as he has distinctly and
elaborately written about the Bahmani kingdom.
(D) Epigraphic Evidence : The literary and the foreign sources are duly corroborated by the
inscriptions found particularly in Mysore, Nellore and Pudukottah regions of the southern India.
The Political Phase
Sultan Ghiyasuddin Tughluq was keen to consolidate his position in the Deccan. With this in view
he sent prince Ulugh Khan (Muhammad bin Tughluq) to attack Warangal in 1323. The Kakatiya ruler
of Warangal, named Partap Rudra, was finally captured and before he could attend the Sultan he died.
However, two of his distinguished servants Harihara and Bukka, (the sons of Sangama, who were
destined to renounce the Tughlaq tutelage and to proclaim the independence of Vijayanagar), fell into
the hands of the imperial forces and were carried as prisoners by prince Ulugh Khan (the future
Muhammad bin Tughluq) to the imperial capital. Their presence in Delhi had given them a fairly good
idea of the prince Ulugh Khan and the weakness of the imperial structure. Muhammad bin Tughluq
entrusted them with the task of restoring his authority in the Deccan. Instead of obeying the royal orders
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Harihara and Bukka rebelled. Taking advantage of the preoccupations and difficulties of Muhammad
bin Tughluq they succeeded in founding the kingdom of Vijayanagar in the year 1336.
Vijayanagar was situated on the southern bank of the river Tungabhadra, only at a stones throw
from the temple of Virupaksha a form of Siva, opposite the older fort of Anegondi situated on the
northern bank.
Within almost ten years, the Sangama brothers Harihara I and Bukka I had not only successfully
entrenched themselves but they had even firmly established their political authority over a vast area
Finally Harihara I and Bukka I were able to capture the whole of the Hoysala kingdom by the year
1346. Harihara died in 1356 and was succeeded by his brother, Bukka I, who dominated the politics
of Vijayanagar till his death in February 1377. His rule saw an incessant tussle against the Bahmani
Sultan, Muhammad Shah I. (1358-77).
Some historians try to show religious motive behind these conflicts. The real source of trouble was
the fertile and rich land between the Krishna and the Tungabhadra. Earlier the Western Chalukyas and
the Cholas fought against each other to keep it under their control. So did the Yadavas and the
Hoysalas. Prof. Gurty Venkat Rao aptly points out: The contest between the Bahmani sultans and the
rayas of Vijayanagar was but a revival of the ancient economic struggle.
Bukka I was succeeded by Harihara II (1377-1404). He was a contemporary of the fifth Bahamani
Sultan Muhammad Shah II (1378-97), the only Bahamani ruler who refrained from aggressive acts
against Vijayanagar. Harihara II followed an expansionist policy. He successfully launched long campaigns
and extended his hegemony over a great part of southern peninsula. He expelled the Reddis of
Kondavidu and annexed Trichinopaly, Kanchi, Dabhol and Goa. Harihara II died in August 1404. After
a brief war of succession, which continued for about two years, Deva Raya I (1406-22) sat on the
throne of Vijayanagar on 7 November 1406. He had an uncomfortable rule during which serious dents
in his authority were made. The expansionist policy of Harihara II received a serious setback in this
period when the Reddis of Kondavidu recovered their lost territories during his reign.
The next ruler was Deva Raya II (1422-46) who pushed forward the authority of Vijayanagar
which now included Kerala, except Calicut. Warangal was absorbed in 1425. However, he had to face
serious threats from the north as Ahmad Shah (1422-36) pressed hard upon him. He suffered some
reverses at the hands of the Bahamani rulers. However, Deva Raya is regarded the greatest ruler of
the Sangama dynasty who raised a new model army, infused vigour into the administration, and dealt
out prompt and impartial justice (Prof. Gurty Venkat Rao). He died in 1446.
Saluva Dynasty
The death of Deva Raya II saw the dissolution of the Sangama family. However, it lingered on for
some time. The last ruler of Sangama family was Virupaksha Raya II who sat on the throne of
Vijayanagar in October 1456. He miserably failed to consolidate his rule and consequently the Saluva
family captured the throne of Vijayanagar kingdom in 1485 or 1486. The first ruler of Saluva dynasty
was Narasimha, who had a chequered career and witnessed many ups and downs. He died in 1491.
The last ruler of Saluva dynasty was Immadi Narasimha who sat on the throne about the close of
1493'. However, the real power was actually exercised by Narasa Nayaka, a Tuluva general. His son
and successor, Vira Narasimha, gave up the pretence of regency.
Tuluva Dynasty
Vira Narasimha laid the foundations of Tuluva supremacy over Vijayanagar which lasted till 1570.
He died in 1509.
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The most outstanding ruler of Tuluva dynasty was Krishna Raya (1509-29). His military exploits
were brilliant indeed. He defeated, right in the beginning of his reign, Yusuf Adil Shah, the Sultan of
Bijapur. He also invaded Bijapur, Gulbarga and Bidar. He also subjugated Gangaraja of Ummattur in
Southern Mysore by capturing the strong forts of Seringapatam and Sivansamudram. He defeated
Pratap rudra, the king (Gajapati) of Orissa and married his daughter. He recovered the lost provinces
of Udayagiri and Kondavidu by the terms of a treaty concluded in 1519. He also waged war against
Ismail Adil Shah of Bijapur who suffered a crushing defeat on 9 May 1520 near Raichur.
Krishna Raya was a ruler of many qualities; occasionally reckless but always considerate towards
the fallen, a devout Hindu in his personal life but devoid of religious fanaticism, a soldier of high order
yet interested in art and literature. Krishna Raya led a life marked by purity and solicitude for the wellbeing of the ruling class. It was during his reign that the Vijayanagar kingdom reached the zenith of its
glory. It stretched upto South Konkan in the west Vizapatam in the east in the South, almost to the
extremity of the peninsula. His death in 1529 was certainly a blow to the fortunes of the Vijayanagar
kingdom.
After this brief survey of the reigns of some of the more important rulers of the Vijayanagar kingdom
let us now turn our attention to the dominant factor which characterised the fortunes of the Vijayanagar
kingdom, viz, its incessant struggle with the Bahmani rulers. The political tussle of the Vijayanagar
kingdom with the Bahmani rulers resulted in protracted wars. There was constant marching of force into
each others territories, transfer of the Raichur Doab from the overlordship of one to another, according
to respective military strength, and sometimes even sieges of the capitals. The constant military conflicts
vitally affected the destinies of these kingdoms in two respects :
Firstly, the common people suffered enormously at the hands of the invaders; and secondly, they
prevented the formation of one single supreme political entity for the south.
After the break-up of the Bahmani kingdom into five smaller principalities, Vijayanagar rulers
interfered in their wars of succession, internecine intrigues and conflicts, siding now with Bijapur, then
Ahmadnagar or Golkonda against their immediate rivals. Though quite successful in the beginning, it in
the last produced an adverse effect, which culminated in a coalition of the four Deccan states (with
Berar standing aloof) against them and thus leading to the battle of Talikota in 1565.
The political struggle between the two big kingdoms of the Deccan. (i.e.Vijayanagar and Bahmani)
often took the shape of military conflicts, which embittered the relations between the two states beyond
the point of redemption. The following encounters deserves our attention:
(a) Bukka I declared war against Muhammad Shah Bahmani in 1366 and succeeded in capturing
the fort of Mudkal. This was followed by a ruthless slaughter of its garrison. Though the historians say
that only one survived this cant be regarded as correct. Possibility is that most of them were butchered.
This savage act enraged Muhammad Shah I who after achieving victory, it is said, massacred the
population of Vijayanagar, indiscriminately killing men, women and children. Thousand of persons lost
their lives, among whom were ten thousand men from the priestly class. Some historians put the figure
at five lakhs but certainly it is an exaggeration,
But there can not be any doubt that such brutal acts enacted at Mudkal and Vijayanagar, have few
parallels in human history. All this was so ghastly and inhumane that it led to a proposal that the
contestants in future should spare the non-combatants. It was accepted by both the sides. Though not
strictly followed by either, it still mitigated to some extent the horrors of the long period of intermittent
warfare between the two states.
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(b) According to Ferishta in the year 1398 both the kingdoms clashed in a big way. Harihara II
(1377-1404) invaded the Raichur Doab with a huge army of thirty thousand horses and nine lakh
footsoldiers. In 1398-99, the rival armies faced each other at the banks of the river Krishna. The
strategem of a Bahmani qazi, Sirajuddin, led to a victory for the Bahmani forces which resulted in the
acquisition of enormous quantities of wealth from Vijayanagar.
(c) The alliance of the four states of the Deccan viz, Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Bidar and Golconda,
was formed in December, 1564, with the clear objective of wiping out the kingdom of Vijayanagar.
Rama Raja, the ambitious minister of the king Sadasiva Raya (1543-1567) of Vijayanagar, and his two
brothers Tirumala and Venkatadri, were the real masters who had noticed the designs of the rulers of
Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Bidar and Golconda. Rama Raja gathered a huge army of eighty thousand
horses, nine lakh footsoldiers and two thousand elephants with a park of artillery. The army of Vijayanagar
under Rama Raja met the confedarates (the joint armies of Ahmadnagar, Bidar, Bijapur and Golconda)
at a place marked by the two villages of Rakshasa and Tagadi in Bijapur territory near the river Khon.
In the initial stages of the battle the Vijayanagar army gained advantages so much so that most of the
enemy commanders were thinking of leaving the battlefield. The only commander who stood firm was
Hussain Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar.
The battle of Talikota (23 January 1565) was well-contested and ended in a victory for the
confederates mainly due to the overconfidence and lack of vigilance on the part of the Vijayanagar.
Rama Raja himself was taken a prisoner and was immediately beheaded.
The desire to grab Raichur Doab resulted many times in an unprecedented brutalities but the real
motive was not religious. Both the sides Bahmani and Vijayanagar were too much adamant to exploit
the fertile Raichur Doab for their advantage. Hence the fight was motivated by economic factor.
The battle of Talikota led to the eclipse of Vijayanagar kingdom which had made significant
contribution in many fields.
The Administrative Aspect
The Vijayanagar kings were autocrats. Abdur Razzaq who arrived in the city of Vijayanagar
remarks: One might seek in vain throughout the whole of Hindustan to find more absolute
rai (king).
In fact the rulers of Vijayanagar were the embodiments of all power whether in civil, military or
judicial spheres. An idea of theory of kingship of the Vijayanagar kings can be formed from
Amuktamalyada, a book in Teugu attributed to Krishna Raya. To quote him again: A crowned King
should always rule with an eye towards dharma. A king should rule collecting round him people skilled
in state craft, should investigate the mines yielding precious metals in his kingdom, and extract the same
and levy taxes upon his people moderately, should counteract the acts of his enemies by crushing them
with force, should be friendly, should protect his subjects, should put an end to the mixing up of the
castes among them, should always try to increase the merit of the Brahmins, should strengthened his
fortress and lesson the growth of the undesirable things. The kings will seemed to be the law, and to
legalise it, the Brahmins were always at hand furnishing sanction from the holy books.
The rulers of Vijayanagar were despots and consequently they attempted to evolve the central
structure of government based on despotism. Nontheless there was a council of ministers to help the
king. A ministers office was sometimes hereditary and sometimes rested on selection.
There were many departments each under a departmental head. The exact number of such officers
is a matter of controversy. The departments Heads helped the king in routine matters. They could be
promoted or dismissed according to the kings wishes. They were recruited from the upper castes as
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the rulers of Vijayanagar were the upholder of caste system.This is a cruel aspect of Indian sociopolitical
history as it gave legtimacy to obnoxious caste system. Besides them them there were hosts of petty
officials who worked in the government offices.
The Vijayanagar kingdom was divided into several provinces.
The scholars of Indian History differ in the exact number of provinces in which this kingdom was
divided. In the opinion of H. Krishna Sastri the number of such provinces was restricted to six, and
the incharge of each province was called viceroy or naik. The naiks either hailed from the royal family
or came from the higher sections of the nobility. They were chiefly responsible for civil, military and
economic affairs of the provinces under their supervision. Prof. Nilakanta Sastri is evasive as far as the
exact number of provinces is concerned. However the distinguished scholar remarks :
The names of divisions and differed with the locality; but every where the provincial governor
appointed from the centre was more the military commander of a strategic fort than an ordinary civil
servant of the crown.
However, in the opinion of Prof. Satish Chandra:
The kingdom was divided into rajyas or mandalam (provinces) below which were nadu (district),
sthala (sub-district), and grama (village).
Land revenue was the main source of the states income. The exact rate of assessment demanded
by the state is not clear. At any rate in the case of most crops it was higher than one sixth, the usual
rate prescribed in some ancient manuals. Prof. Satish Chandra informs us that one-sixth of millet and
other crops cultivated on dry lands. There are instances where the peasants were taxed heavily and
they had to part with half of their gross yield. Prof. Irfan Habib on the basis of the considerable data
collected by T. V. Mahalinigam is convinced that in theVijayanagar Kingdom land tax was really heavy.
Land for purposes of assessment was divided into three categories, viz, wet, dry and orchard
woods. Besides land tax, other taxes were also imposed, such as marriage tax, grazing tax, manufacture
tax, customs duty and a sort of tax on horticulture.
According to N. Karashima the Tamil Country was heavily taxed and this resulted in a peasant
uprising.
There were regular courts to decide cases according to the customary law of the region. Criminal
offences were punished severely. Traitors, adultrators and thieves were awarded capital punishment.
As far as the military affairs were concerned the rulers of Vijayanagar did not seem to streamline
the army structure. Though according to Abdur Razzaq. The troops amount in number to eleven lakhs,
there seems to be much reliance on footmen, and their army also lacked cohesiveness.
Social and Economic Conditions
The caste system, an ulcer of Indian social system, with all its ugly manifestations was prevalent in
the Vijayanagar kingdom. The Vijayanagar rulers considered it to be their primary duty to uphold the
social order organised on its basis....
While on the one hand the Brahmins occupied a privileged position, the people belonging to low
castes suffered all humiliation of this notorious system. Prof. Nilkanta Sastri remarks:
Both in towns and villages, the castes tended to live in separate quarters of their own and follow
their own peculiar customs and habits. The outcastes who tilted the land and did menial work (under
conditions little different from slavery) lived in hamlets at a distance from the village proper.
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There was sharp difference between the life pattern of the rulers and ruled. Writing on this Verthema
informs us:
The dress is this: the men of position wear a short shirt, on their head a cloth and silk in the
Moorish fashion, but nothing on the feet. The common People go quite naked, with the exception of
a piece of cloth about their middle. The king wears a cap of gold brocade two spans long, and when
he goes to war he wears a quilted dress of cotton, and over it he puts another garment full of golden
plasters, and having all around it jewels of various kinds. His horse is worth more than some of our
cities on account of the armaments which it wears. (Emphasis added).
The capital city, Vijayanagar, was beautiful, vast and prosperous, The circumference of the city is
sixty miles wrote Nicolo de Conti, an Italian traveller, who visited Vijayanagar kingdom in 1420. Its
walls are carried upto the mountains and encloses the valley at their foot, so that its extent is thereby
increased. In this city there are estimated ninety thousand men fit to bear arms.
Abdur Razzaq, who visited the city in 1442. bears witness to the prosperity of the ruling class of
Vijayanagar in the following words :
The country is so well populated that it is impossible in reasonable space to convey an idea of it.
In the kings treasure there are chambers with excavations in them, filled with molten gold forming one
mass.
Agriculture throve in the Vijayanagar Empire whose capital was stocked with provisions such as
rice, grains, and they were very cheap. The streets and markets are full of laden oxen without count.
The kingdom maintained commercial contacts with many countries which included China, Persia,
and Portugal. Its goods reached parts of Arbia and Africa This activity is corroborated by the testimony
of another foreign visitor Barbosa, who was in India in 1516. Barbosa mentions: Vijayanagar is the
seat of an active commerce in country:
We are informed that Vijayanagar imported horses, mercury, coral, copper, China-silk and velvet.
It exported rice, cloth, saltpetre, sugar, spices and iron. Its Important industries were textiles, perfumery,
mining and metallurgy.
Even Babar did not fail to mention the Kingdom as one of the most powerful in India.
Literary Activities
In the literary field the kings of Vijayanagar kingdom patronised Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannari and
Tamil. Scholars like Sayana and Madhava Vidyaranya lived and worked in their reigns. Some of the
kings were themselves literary figures of considerable stature. One of them was Krishna Raya who was
not only a patron of letters, but also produced many original and outstanding works. The most notable
of these was Amuktamalyada, which was written in Telugu. He also extended partonage to a distinguished
galaxy of eight Telugu poets, designated as Ashta-diggajas, i.e. elephants supporting the eight cardinal
points of the literary firmament. Not surprisingly, the nobles also followed the monarchs example.
TELUGU reached new heights of excellence. The Golden Age of Telugu literature, which began with
the accession of SaluvaNarasimha (1485) burst forth in full splendour in the reign of Krishna Raya
(1509-29), and his court became the centre of literature and learning in the country. His court poet was
Peddana.
Architectural Contribution
In the architectural field the city of Vijayanagar occupied a pre-eminent position. Its description from
the pens of such divers observers as the Italian Nicolo Conti, the Portuguese Peas and the Persian
ambassador Abdur Razzaq is really flattering to the hith skill of the architects of Vijayanagar. In addition
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to this city, the Vijayanagar rulers built many temples, of which the finest architectural specimen are the
Amman shrine, the Kalyanamandapa and the Vitthalasvami temple. The temple architecture of Vijayanagar
was characterised by an intricacy of design at once elegantly beautiful and exuberantly rich. According
to Furguson the Vitthalsavami temple shows the extreme limit in florid magnificence.Krishna Raya built
the magnificant temple of Hazara which according to an art critic is once of the perfect specimens of
Hindu temples architecture in existence. These temples are, at times, even oversumptuously decorative
which was sometimes even distracting to the eye. But, nonetheless, it cannot be denied that the art
attained a high standard of beauty and versatility under the royal patronage. Hampi, according to the
contemporary Portuguese chronicler Domingo Paes, was as large as Rome and very beautiful to look
at.
Conclusion
The Vijayanagar kingdom definitely made significant contribution in the history of India, particularly
of Southern India. However the achievements of Vijayanagar should not be seen from communal angle.
The conflict between Vijayanagar and Bahamani was not religious. Nor Vijayanagar state was The
protector of Hindu varnasramadharna.
Barton stein points out :
The Vijayanagar states primary enemies were Hindu chiefs and kings, and the city accomodated
within itself a Turushka quarter, a mosque and Muslim fombs. It was, in many ways more like a
Muslim capital than a Hindu one in its monumental architecture and in its Muslim soldiery, and also in
its very urbanity.

91

LESSON 14

THE PROVINCIAL KINGDOMS


The Bahmani Kingdom
Introduction
Another independent kingdom which made a prominent place in the politics of the Deccan came
into being in 1347. It was the Bahmani kingdom. Hardly eleven years separated the foundation of this
kingdom from Vijayanagar, which had established its independence in 1336. Actually, the Bahmani
kingdom was the child of a rebellion. The years from 1343 to 1351 witnessed many military uprisings
in the Deccan against Muhammad bin Tughluq, who failed to arrest the emergence of the Bahmani
kingdom.
In 1347, the sadah nobles of Daultabad raised the standard of revolt under an Afghan named
Mukh. However, Muhammad bin Tughluq failed to suppress this revolt because of a more serious
outbreak against the Sultan in Gujarat. Taking advantage of Muhammad bin Tughluqs pressing
preoccupations against numerous recalcitrant elements in the Deccan as well as in northern India,
another enterprising adventure Hasan Gangu succeeded in establishing his authority under the title of
Alauddin Hasan Bahman Shah in 1347. He, thus, became the founder of the Bahmani kingdoma
kingdom which along with the Vijayanagar Empire, was destined to play a significant role in the history
of the Deccan peninsula.
The Bahmani kingdom in its infancy was a tiny kingdom. It was composed mainly of the Berar area,
with the northern boundary touching the province of Malwa and the kingdom of Khandesh, and in the
South upto the Telingana area. From the very beginning the Bahmani kingdom came in conflict with its
neighbours, the Khaljis of Malwa, the Faruqis of Khandesh, the Muzaffarids of Gujarat, the Rajas of
Orissa (towards northeast), the Kakatiyas of Warangal and the rulers of Vijayanagar in the south.
Surrounded as it was the Bahmani kingdom, from its inception was engaged in innumerable battles
to subjugate the various independent rulers of the Deccan and had to protect itself from the incursions
of the northern kingdoms. To occupy the Raichur Doab, and to check the expansion of the territories
of their neighbours, specially Vijayanagar, were the two other tasks of the Bahmani rulers which they
had to attend to. The Bahmani Sultans were ruthless in enacting largescale massacres. Treating their
subjects like hewers of wood and drawers of water they punished them ruthlessly and tyrannised them
incessantly.
The Bahmani dynasty lasted about 180 years, with vigour and strength upto the death of Muhammad
III in 1482 and it lingered on in a state of disintegration and strife thereafter upto 1527. The administrative
machinery could not rise to the occasion which made it easy for the provincial governors to declare
independence in the latter stages of their rule at five centres. Once the process of disintegration started
the enemies of the Bahmani kingdom took full advantage of its difficulties, fishing into troubled water,
whenever they got an opportunity to do so. Then the political factions (the Deccanis and the Foreigners),
with their mutual quarrels helped to wreck the fragile fabric of the state and brought its final disintegration.
The Bahmani Sultans
A short account of the Bahmani throne was occupied by eighteen rulers in all. Some of them
deserve special mention. Alauddin Hasan Bahman Shah (1347-58), the architect of Bahmani
independence, was a raler of considerable merit. It was he who initiated the prolonged duel with the
Vijayanagar kingdom which embittered the relations of these two southern states for nearly two centuries.
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Alauddin Hassan Bahmani Shah found Daulatabad too insecure a place to serve as the capital.
Therefore he established a new capital at Gulbarga and named it Ahsanabad. It continued to be the
capital of the Bahmani kingdom till 1424. In 1424 the capital of the Bahmani kingdom was shifted to
Bidar.
Alauddin Hasan Bahman Shah was an expansionist and he extended his empire from the Wainganga
river in the north to the Krishna river in the south, and from Daulatabad in the West to Bhongir in the
east. His kingdom was divided into four provinces, i.e. Daulatabad, Gulbarga, Berar and Bidar. He was
the first to launch aggression against Vijayanagar and Gujarat. Though not successful in his attempts to
annex territories belonging to his adversaries, he was able to keep intact his own. When he died on
11 February 1358, he left behind him an independent state based on centralized despotism which could
keep the ambitions of the provincial officers in check.
The second important Bahmani Sultan was Muhammad Shah I (1358-75) who succeeded his father
Alauddin Hasan Bahmani Shah. He savagely pursued the struggle against Vijayanagar. He was a militant
youngman who loved wars and massacres and often pretented fanaticism to achieve political ends, but
was generally a libertine who indulged in drunken orgies. Most of his time was taken up by his repeated
military conflicts with the Vijayanagar kingdom. Besides he had to suppress many rebellions at home.
Muhammad Shahs keenness to pick up quarrel with Vijayanagar is reflected in an incident when
he ordered his officers to pay the dancers and singers of his court by a draft (hundi) on the Vijayanagar
treasury. The order naturally led to a war in which Bukka I invaded the Raichur Doab with 8,000 horses
and nine lakh footsoldiers. Muhammad Shah I also marched to meet him. Both sides indulged in
massacres. In the retaliation of the killing of 800 Bhamani soldiers, Muhammad Shah massacred 70,000
persons beloning to Vijayanagar. In 1366 the battle of Kautalam was fought between the two kingdoms.
The victors (Bahmani) ruthlessely butchered thousands of people. Later, both sides realized the futility
of this cruel destruction and came to terms; thus sparing the lives of the surviving non-combatants. Still
the tussle between the two kingdoms continued throughout the reign of the successors of Muhammad
Shah I.
Muhammad Shah I died on 21 April 1375. He was followed by his son Mujahid. His encirclement
of Vijayanagar ended in retreat and terrible massacre of people belonging to both sides. He was
stabbed to death by his cousin Daud on 16 April 1378, who ruled till he was stabbed to death on 21
May 1378.
After the death of Daud a grandson of Alauddin Bahman Shah sat on the throne of the Bahmani
kingdom. The new Sultan Muhammad Shah II shunned the policy of expansionism and is regarded as
one of the most peace-loving, and cultured monarchs of the line of Bahman Shah. He died on 4 April
1397 and was succeeded by his son, Ghiyasuddin, who ruled barely over two months. Then came
Shamsuddin Daud II whose rule lasted from 14 June to 11 November 1397.
In 1397 came to power Tajuddin Firuz Shah. He was a grandson of Alauddin Hassan Bahman Shah
who displayed many outstanding qualities as a leader of men and as an administrator.
During the twenty-five years (1397-1422) of reign Tajuddin Firuz Shah had to measure his sword
repeatedly with his neighbouring states, especially Vijayanagar. The first encounter with Vijayanagar
resulted in forcing Harihara II to pay ten lakhs of hunts to the Bahmani Sultan. The second conflict
saw Deva Ray I coming to terms with Firuz who agreed to marry his daughter. His third campaign
against Vijayanagar was a prolonged and deadly one which ended only when the fort of Panagal
situated to the north of the Krishna was wrested by the forces of Vijayanagar.
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In the last years of his reign Tajudding Firuz foud it difficult to keep the administration efficiently
under his grip. Therefore in 1416 Hasan Khan, his son, was made heir-apparent. Finally Ahmad Shah
(1422-1436) succeeded in capturing the throne from Firuz. Needless to say that Ahamad Shah was
the brother of Firuz. His reign also saw the shifting of capital from Gulbargato Bidar. This was done
probably in June 1424.
Ahmad Shah also followed an expansionist policy. He carried on the war against Vijayanagar with
redoubled energy. Ahmad Shah had successfully forced Vijayanagar to pay the arrears of tribute.
Ahmad Shah could now turn his attention towards Warangal whose raja had originally allied himself with
the ruler of Viiayanagar. Warangals political autonomy was extinguished without any serious difficulty.
Ahmad Shah did not believe in maintaining peace at all cost. Rather he was aggrassive. Hence soon
he was in conflict with the rulers of Gujarat (Ahmad Shah I) and Malwa (Hoshang Shah). The Bahmani
forces suffered a lot at the hands of Gujarati troops and finally at Beul a treaty was concluded between
the two parties. The Sultan of Gujarat concluded a peace-treaty with him. In the case of Malwa also
the military conflict came to an end as things were resolved mutually.
The next notable Bahmani Sultan is Alauddin Ahmad II, who ruled from 1436 to 1458. He began
his rule with a campaign against Vijayanagar. However the most serious clash occurred in 1442-43 in
which the Raichur Doab was again the bone of contention. In the initial stage the forces of Vijayanagar
had an upper hand, but ultimatly they had to withdraw from Raichur and agreed to pay all arrears of
tribute. Alauddin s last days were marked by many rebellions and the most serious one was led by
his brother-in-law Jalal Khan. The Sultan, however, died on 4 March 1458.
Alauddin Ahmad 11 succeeded by Humayun Shah (1458-61) and was so cruel that he was called
a zalint (tyrant). Luckily Humayun Shah had the invaluable services of Mahmud Gavan, who certainly
is one of the talented personalities in the medieval history of South India. Mahmud Gavan was appointed
Wakil-i-Sultanat.
Another Bahmani Sultan, who deserves our attention, is Shamsuddin Muhammad III (1463-1482).
Mahmud Gavan continued to serve him as Wakil-i Sultanat (Deputy to the Sultan), an office which he
retained for nearly fifteen years. There is no doubt that Mahmud Gavan had served with distinction the
Bahmani Sultans till his murder on 5 April 1481. He was the victim of a conspiracy hatched by the
Deccani nobles who were jealous of his rise. With the murder of Mahmud Gavan, the outstanding
Wakil-i Sultanat of Bahmani kingdom, departed all the cohesion and power of the Bahmani kingdom
(Meadows Taylor). Many new territorial gains, such as those of Hubli, Belgaum and Bagalkote, were
made and the Bahmani kingdom may be said to have reached its farthest extremities.
After the murder of Mahmud Gavan in 1481, the days of the Bahmani kingdom were fast running
out. The Sultan Shihabuddin Mahmud (1482- 1518) who had succeeded his father Muhammad III
could not check the downfall of the Bahmani kingdom. His reign was marked by intensified strife in the
nobility. Quarrels between the nobles became more frequent and the murders were the order of the day.
The real power had passed into the hands of a crafty Turk, Qasim. He dictated the succession of a
puppet ruler who followed Shihabuddin Mahmud Shah after his death in 1518. The last of the Bahmani
Sultans was Kalimullah who had to take shelter first in Bijapur and then he crossed over to Ahmadnagar.
Perhaps he died sometime in 1538. The death of Kalimullah marked the end of the Bahmani kingdom
which held its sway for about a period of one hundred and eighty years.
Conflict with the Neighbours
Besides Vijayanagar the other states with which the Bahmani rulers often clashed were those of
Gujarat, Khandesh, Orissa and Gondwana. Wars with Orissa and Gondwana were few and far between.
These were mainly undertaken in pursuance of the agressive design on the part of the Bahmani rulers
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for the acquisition of more territory and the enrichment of their treasury. But the conflict with the other
three states i.e. Gujarat, Malwa and Khandesh was of a much greater political consequence, leading
as it did to a drastic check on the expansionist designs of the Bahmani rulers. Of these three kingdoms;
the Muzaffarides of Gujarat were the real force worth reckoning. They always stemmed the influence
of the Bahmani rulers in the north-west. Their military strength even helped to preserve the separate
entitities of Malwa and Khandesh. Their show of force at their own borders kept the Bahmani rulers
within the bounds of sanity. On some crucial occassions the rulers of Gujarat forced the Bahmani rulers
to retreat from the territories of Khandesh and Malwa.
Alauddin Hasan (1347-1358) could not succeed in materializing his ambition of conquering
Gujarat. During the rule of Ahmad I (1422-36) the Bahmani forces invaded Nandurbar in 1430, but
they were Begarha beatenback with heavy losses. Though defeated they stubbornly kept up the conflict
till they were put to shame in other encounters. Finally a treaty was concluded at Beul. Afterwards they
remained quiet. The encounter with the Kingdoms of Malwa and Khandesh, at a later stage, brought
the famous Mahmud Begarha to the rescue of the victims and forced the Bahmani forces to retreat from
Malwa and Khandesh.
It is to be noted that the Gujarat kings despite the provocations from the Bahmani rulers never
counter invaded the territories of the latter, though at times they were in a position to do so. But in the
case of Malwa it was not a one-way traffic. Whenever an opportunity arose, each invaded the territory
of the other. The advantage, not the whole, lay with the Bahmani rulers, who benefitted more from their
raids. Had it not been for Vijayanagar and Gujarat, especially the latter, the Malwa kingdom would have
fallen a prey to the Bahmani expansionist policy. As regards Khandesh, it suffered most at the hands
of the Bahmani rulers. It was always at receiving end. It was saved from extinction at the hands of the
Bahmani rulers by Gujarat, which shielded it till the former fell a victim to its own dissensions.
Internal Situation
Internally the Bahmani Sultans had to face many rebellions i.e. of the members of the royal family,
the local cheifs, the zamindars and the nobles. From a small kingdom in the earlier stages, they
expanded their territory to vast areas, converting it into an empire. Their territory at the time of their
zenith extended from coast-to-coast in south India. In the north it kept to the line Godavari, then
proceeding upwards on the banks of the river Wardha it joined river Tapti much above Ellichpur.
Thence turned southwards at the junction of Purna-Tapti, crossed Godavari and struck south-westwards
to the coast, near Bombay. In its southern boundary it kept to the Raichur.
However the rulers of Bahmani kingdom could not extend their social base, nor they succeeded in
establishing harmony within their own ranks. Finally the Bahmani rulers failed to avert the eclipse of their
dynasty.
Administrative System Under the Bahmanis
The Bahmani administration had its own peculiarities. Like all other administrative systems it developed
in many stages. Later on, some of its features were retained by the Mughals and even the Marathas.
From the very beginning it had the characteristics of highly centralised administration. The Sultan was
the pivot of all power. He was the final authority. His ministers were only to help and advise him.
However this does not mean that all ministers were just non-entities.
The development of the Bahmani administration could be traced through three main stages:
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First Stage
(i) In the first stage of the development of the Bahmani administration there were a number of
advisors at the centre. Probably the number of the members of the advisory board was confined to two.
And one of them was the Amirul-Umara (the commander-in-chief).
The kingdom was divided into four provinces, which were called taraf. (Taraf means province and
atraf is plural). The governors of these atraf were known as tarafdars.
The provinces and their governors in the earlier stages were
(1) Gulbarga under Saifuddin Ghuri,
(2) Daulatabad under Bahram Khan,
(3) Berar under Safdar Khan, and
(4) Bidar under Saifuddins son.
(ii) Even though Muhammad I (1358-1357) was a war-loving monarch but he showed interest in
the re-organization of the administration. Particularly at the central level he took certain steps.
The Council of Advisers was expanded from two (2) to nine (9) members. The designations
and functions of the advisers at the centre were reorganized as detailed below:
(1) Wakil-i Sultanatthe naib or deputy of the Sultan
(2) Wazir-i Kul the Chief Minister.
(3) Amir-al UmaraChief Military Commander or Commander-in-Chief
(4) Sadar-i Jahanthe Cheif Justice and Minister for Religious Endowments.
(5) Mir-Jumlathe head of the Finance Department.
(6) Wazir-i AshrafChief of the Ceremonies.
(7) NazirDeputy to Mir Jumla
(8) Kotwal Chief of the Police in the Capital or the Magistrate.
(9) Peshwaan officer attached to the department of Vakil i-Sultanat.
Second Stage
During the second stage of development the provincial governors were given certain titles or
designations. They were called by these designations. The order of precedence was also introduced in
the following manner:
(1) Ahsanabad (Gulbarga)Its governor was given the title of Malik Naib.
(2) DaultabadIts governor was called Masand-i Aali.
(3) BerarThe title of the governor of this administrative unit was Majlis-i Aali.
(4) Bidar the governor was known as Azam Humyaun.
During the same period Muhammad I paid attention to the army administration also. Prof. Haroon
Khan Sherwani informs us:
The commander-in-chief was henceforth called Amirul Umara and a group of officers, called
barbardaran, was created whose duty it was to mobilize troops in the time of need. There were,
besides, two hundred yakka jawanan or silahdaran, whose duty it was to keep charge of the personal
arms of the Sultan. Besides this there was a well-equipped force of 4,000 bodyguards of the Sultan,
who were called khasah khel.1
1. (A Comprehensive History of India, Vol. V, pp. (975-976)
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Third Stage
The third stage in the administrative development concludes with the reign of Muhammad III (14631482) whose famous minister, Mahmud Gavan, brought in certain reforms specially in the provincial
administration. By 1463 the boundaries of the Bahmani kingdom had expanded on many sides. It could
not be properly managed from the four existing centres. However the intention was also to reduce the
area of influence and jurisdiction of the provincial governors. Leaving them as such was considered to
be a potential danger to the existing Sultan. Thus each taraf (province) was broken into two parts. The
total number of provinces (atraf) had now gone upto eight. In the same way, the number of governors
had also increased.
With the rise in the number of provinces the principle of checks and balance was also introduced.
All of the forts in the provinces, except one, were away from the control of the governors and placed
in-charge of qiladars, directly responsible to the centre. Moreover, certain tracts of land were taken
away from the provinces and declared the personal lands of the Sultan. These tracts were known as
Khasah-i Sultani. They were administered by officers directly appointed from the centre.
Simultaneously, reforms were also introduced in the army. Formerly, all big nobels held some rank
or command. For instance the Wakil-i-Sultanat had two thousand two hundred horses; the AmirulUmra one thousand five hundred horses, and provincial governors, either two thousand or less than two
thousand horses.
In the third stage of reform it was ordered that any person commanding five hundred horses was
to be paid a salary of one lakh huns provided he kept the whole number under him. If he failed to keep
the exact number allotted to him, he had to refund the amount in proportion to the number of horsemen
he was not employing.
It is quite evident that the rulers of Bahmani, at least some of them, showed keen interest in
establishing a powerful administrative machinery. And undoubtedly their administration was to some
extent an improvement upon the administration of the Sultans of Delhi.
Conclusion
After the death of Muhammad III the Bahmani kingdom disintegrated quickly. His successor,
Mahmud (1482-1518), was utterly Inable to arrest its dissolution. Many provincial governors fully
exploited the weakness of Mahmud and some even proclaimed their independence. Of these, the
following ultimately succeeded in establishing independent dynasties. These were :
(i)
The Qutab Shahi Dynasty of Golkunda.
(ii)
The Imad Shahi Dynasty of Berar.
(iii) The Nizam Shahi Dynasty of Ahmadnagar.
(iv) The Barid Shahi Dynasty of Bidar.
(v)
The Adil Shahi Dynasty of Bijapur.
The gradual absorption of the above mentioned kingdoms in the Mughal Empire was a task which
took many decades to complete. As a matter of fact, it was finally achieved in the reign of Aurangzeb.
This integration stayed for a short duration. Entire adventure proved very costly to the Mughals. It was
beyond their capacity to stop the forces of disintegration. Finally the Marathas took full advantage of
the situation and forced the Mughals to retreat from the South.

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LESSON 15

MONGOLS AND THE DELHI SULTANS


Introduction
During the Sultanat period, and, in fact, also prior to it India had suffered repeated invasions through
the mountain passes located on its north-west frontier. One of the basic causes of these invasions lay
in the political upheavals that frequently occurred in the Central Asian steppes. Lack of fertile lands and
periodic population explosions compelled the nomadic peoples of this region to move southward in
successive waves. After penetrating into Iran and Afghanistan they were tempted to enter into India. The
fabulous wealth of India and the vulnerability of its north-west frontier attracted as well as facilitated
the invasion of this couutry. The Ghaznavid and Ghorid invasions of India were the direct outcome of
these factors. Before the Turks could settle down and consolidate their political foothold in the plains
of Northern India, they were threatened by yet another eruption of nomadic and ferocious hordes from
Central Asia, the Mongols.
The rise of the Mongols under Temuchin or Chingiz Khan (1162-1227) was an earth-shaking event.
The Mongols inflicted incalculable suffering on the human race and destroyed civilizations and cultures
on a scale and with a ruthlessness the like of which the world has seldom known. According to one
writer the Mongols turned back the hands of the clock of progress by at least two hundred years.
Within less than a century of their rise, these hitherto unknown Mongols carved out an empire that
extended from the Sea of Japan to the Baltic Sea in Europe. The Mongol holocaust defies description.
Edward G. Brown has graphically described the sudden eruption of the Mongols in the following words:
In its suddenness, its devastating destruction, its appalling ferocity, its passionless and purposeless
cruelty, its irresistible, though short-lived violence, this outburst of savage nomads, hitherto hardly
known by name even to their neighbours, resembles rather some brute cataclysm of the blind forces
of nature than a phenomenon of human history.
Mongol Invasions during the Early Turkish Rule
In the beginning when the Mongols first confronted the Delhi Sultanat it was in its infancy and was
faced with a number of internal problems. Since Chingiz Khan was not keen to cross the river Indus
the Delhi Sultanat was thus saved. But afterwards it continued to be a target of the Mongol invasions.
However, the Delhi Sultanat escaped extinction whereas the Chinese and Abbasid empires succumbed
to the Mongol onslaughts. The survival of the Delhi Sultanat may be attributed to following reasons:
(i) the Mongols were mainly interested in plunder and did not aim at establishing their
empire in India;
(ii) after the death of Chingiz Khan the Mongols were no more a united force;
(iii) the concrete steps taken by the rulers like Balban and Alauddin Khalji to combat the
Mongols were timely and effective.
To begin with it is necessary to keep in view the difficult situation in which the Sultans were placed
as they themselves were new to the country under their rule. They were faced with innumerable
problems. However, to the best of their capacity most of them rose to the occasion. Let us start with
Iltutmish who was the first Sultan to face the Mongol danger.
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The first Mongol incursion into India occurred during the reign of Iltutmish in 1221 under their most
formidable leader, Chingiz Khan himself. Fortunately the aim of Chingiz Khan was not to invade India.
His sole purpose was to capture Jalaluddin Mankbarni, the Crown-prince of Khwarazm, who, after the
loss of his fathers kingdom, refused to yield before the Mongols.
Being chased by the Mongols Jalaluddin Mankbarni, the Crown-prince of Khawarazm, sought
shelter in the region between the Indus and the Jhelum. Chingiz Khan came in hot pursuit upto the river
Indus.
The presence of Chingiz Khan on the western bank of Indus posed a great threat to the survival
of the Delhi Sultanat but Iltutmish knowing fully the gravity of the situation, as well as his own weakness,
refused to be dragged into any armed conflict with the Mongols. Iltutmish diplomatically refused help
to the fugitive from Khwarazm on the plea that the climate of this country was utterly unsuitable for him.
Perhaps the envoy sent by Jalaluddin Mankbarni was also killed. Chingiz Khan did not, however,
pursue his enemy, Jalaluddin Mankbarni, to the extremity. As there was no provocation from Iltutmish
he avoided to launch an attack on the Delhi Sultanat. Thus was averted what would have been a terrible
calamity for the newly established Delhi Sultanat.
For nearly twenty years the north-western frontier was never seriously disturbed by the Mongols.
It was in 1241 during the reign of Bahram Shah that the Mongols made another inroad into India under
Tair Bahadur who was appointed by Ogatai (1227-41). The Mongols moved northwards and plundered
Lahore. During the next ten years, the insurgence of the Khokhars and the selfish ambitions of some
Turkish nobles, including even Balban s own brother Kishlu Khan, created a chaotic situation. Most
of Sindh and the region between the rivers Jhelum and Indus passed under the influence of the Mongols.
During this time Baghdad fell into the hands of the Mongols in 1258. This emboldened the Mongols
further and they disturbed repeatedly the peace of the north-western frontier of India. As the frontier
was not adequately defended, the Mongol inroads hardly found any resistance. This further encouraged
them and they almost annually intruded into the country for loot and plunder.
It was left to Balban to tackle the Mongol menace in a realistic way. To begin with Balban gave
up the policy of expansionism. The only target before him was to save the Delhi Sultanat from the
onslaughts of the Mongols. To guard against the Mongol getting any help in the frontier region the
Khokhars were punished and their territory i.e. the Salt Range was subdued and pacified.
Further to put some check on the inroads of the Mongols Balban thought it proper to pay immediate
attention to the construction of the new forts; besides he repaired the old forts also. Thus a chain of
fortresses was constructed and manned by well-equipped and sufficiently provisioned garrisons. The
command of the frontier defence was entrusted to tried military hands like Balbans own cousin Sher
Khan who did his work quite well. But Sher Khans very success and his popularity cost him his life.
It is alleged that Balban became jealous of his cousin and had him poisoned. The death of Sher Khan
emboldened the Mongols. Their inroads could not be checked till Balban appointed his son Prince
Muhammad as the Warden of the Western Marches, i.e. officer responsible for the defence of the
north-western frontier.
Two more Mongol invasions occured-one in 1279 and the other in 1285. The latter was led by
Tamar Khan of Ghazni. Both these invasions were repulsed but the latter at a great cost, viz the life
of Prince Muhammad, who was killed on 9 march 1285. Thus, the measures taken by Balban, although
defensive in character, saved the Sultanate from complete surrender.
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In the reign of Qaiqubad (1287-90) Tamar Khan again penetrated into India and even marched as
far as Samana, but the Mongol invaders were ultimately driven back.
Preventive Measures by the Khalji Sultans
The reign of Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-96) witnessed a major Mongol invasion. In 1292 a Mongol
army of more than 1,00,000, which carried rapine and plundered upto Sunam, was crushingly defeated.
Ulghu, a descendant of Chingiz Khan, and a few thousands of his Mongol followers embraced Islam,
and were settled in a colony outside Delhi, which came to be known as Mughalpura.
It was during the reign of Alaudding Khalji (1296-1316) that the Mongol deluge reached its peak
but the tide was not only arrested but successfully rolled back.
Defeat of Kadar
In 1297 an army of 1,00,000 Mongols led by Kadar crossed the Indus. It was stopped by Ulugh
Khan and Zafar Khan at Jullunder and driven back. Next year, another Mongol horde under Saldi
entered India through the Bolan Pass. It entered Sawistan (Sibi) and occupied the fort. Zafar Khan who
was despatched against them won a decisive victory. The fort of Sibi was recaptured by assault. Saldi
and 1700 Mongols were captured and sent in chains to Delhi.
Retreat of Qutlugh Khwaja
The most formidable Mongol invasion took place in 1299 when Qutlugh Khwaja with an army
twenty tumans or 2,00,000 (one tuman had 10,000 soldiers) entered India with the definite objective
of conquest rather than mere loot and marched right upto Delhi. Alauddin Khalji rose equal to the
occasion at this critical hour. Against the advise of Alaul-Mulk, the Kotwal of Delhi, Alauddin Khalji
decided to face the Mongols. Alauddin, however, avoided to pounce on the Mongols immediately. But
Zafar Khan contrary to Alauddins instructions attacked the Mongol contingent in front of him. The
Mongols retreated in a deceptive way and surrounded Zafar Khan when he followed them. Zafar Khan,
cut off from the main army, fought bravely but he could not escape death. However, on the third day
the Mongols preferred to retreat after the nightfall.
Invasion of Targhi
Delhi was besieged again in 1303 by the Mongols under the leadership of Targhi. The Mongols
took advantage of Alaudding Khalji preoccupation with the siege of Chittor and their commander Targhi
marched to Delhi with an army of 1,20,000 and besieged the capital. The aim of Targhi seems to
capture Delhi and thus to establish a new empire under the Mongol rule. On knowing about the designs
of Mongols, Alauddin Khalji immediately returned to the capital from Chittor. The siege of Delhi lasted
two months. The Mongols failed to break the resistance which demoralised them. Ultimately Targhi
thought it wise to return without achieving his goal.
These two invasions (Qutlugh & Targhi) posed real threat to the throne of Delhi, and consequently
awakened Alauddin Khalji from his rather indifferent approach to this problem. He could not ignore this
question any more. Barani, the contemporary historian, says that the invasion of Targhi opened the eyes
of Alauddin khalji. He now fully realized that the need to chalk out a comprehensive plan for the security
of the Delhi Sultanat.
In his own characteristic way, Alauddin Khalji tackled the problem on a massive scale:
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(i) Old forts were repaired,


(ii) New forts were built,
(iii) A mammoth standing army of 4,75,000 was raised.
Let us quote Barani:
The invasion of Targhi was a misfortune of considerable importance, it awoke Alauddin from his
senseless dreams and he gave up the idea of leading campaigns and besieging forts. He built his place
in Siri and resided there. Siri consequently became his capital and its buildings and population increased.
The old fortwall of Delhi was repaired. Under his orders the old forts on the route of the Mongols
were also repaired and new forts were built where necessary, He ordered well-known and efficient
kotwals to be put incharge of these forts and plenty of munjaniqs (a catapult or medieval machine for
shooting stone missiles) and iradas (a kind of small balista or engine for hurling stones missiles) to be
constructed. Clever artisans were to be employed and weapons of all types were to be kept ready.
Stores of grain and fodder were also to be collected. At Samana and Dipalpur a large force of efficient
soldiers was to be enlisted and kept ready. The iqtas of the Mongol frontier were strengthened by the
appointment of efficient and experienced amirs, walis and army officers.
Other Invasions
The invasion of Targhi was followed by two other invasions in 1305-06 and in 1306-07. The first
invasion was led by Ali Beg, Tartaq and Targhi. The Mongols were thoroughly routed. Barani says:
Many thousands Mongols were brought to Delhi with ropes round their necks and thrown under the
feet of elpahants....
In 1306-07 the Mongols came in three separate contingents and under different commanders,
namely, Kabk, and Iqbal and Tai Bu. Alauddin sent the royal army without any delay which
defeated all these contingents in succession. With difficulty Iqbal and Tai Bu could save their,
skin by crossing to their country but Kabk along with the Mongols was captured and finally put
to death in Delhi.
According to Barani these barbaric punishments demoralised the Mongols and all fancy of
coming to Hindustan was washed off their breasts. In fact, the bold and comprehensive policy of
Aladdin Khalji not only resulted in resisting the Mongols successfully but emboldened his military
generals to take initiative also to chase the routed Mongol soldiers effectively. They even carried fire
and sword in the Mongol territory every winter, and according to one authority, even captured Ghazni.
Thus Alauddin Khaljis policy was crowned with success. However, it must be remembered that
he was the only ruler during the entire period of the Delhi Sultanate who did not confine his measures
only to military field but took steps in gearing up the administrative machinery and successfully implemented
his economic schemes. Internally he made his government a powerful instrument to meet the internal
challenges which were confronting the Delhi Sultanate. This really gave him required strength on a
permanent basis to tone up his military strength continuously. Consequently he did not stop there. His
growing strength enabled him to follow an offensive policy against the Mongols, which pushed the
Mongols to the wall.
After the eclipse of the Khaljis the Mongols could not gather sufficient strength to attack the Delhi
Sultanat again and again. Though there were some attacks but none of them posed any serious threat
to the Delhi Sultanat even though it was in the process of decay. However, it was left for Timur to give
the Delhi Sultanat a terrible blow.
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Nature of Mongol Invasions


It is to be noted that the Delhi Sultanat did not experience the full thrust of the Mongol might. The
conquest of India was not an item not included in the early programme of the territorial expansion of
the Mongols. The incursion of Chingiz Khan into India was accidental and not pre-planned. None of
the early Mongol leaders such as Chingiz Khan or Hulaku were interested in establishing an empire in
India. They were preoccupied elsewheres i.e. the conquest of China or the destruction of the Abbasid
Caliphate. Nonetheless many Mongol hordes continued to attack India with unpleasant frequency. The
main object of all the Mongol raiders except Qutlugh Khawaja and Targhi was plunder. Political
subjugation of the country was not their aim.
There was another feature of these Mongol invasions. Most of them were undertaken mainly by the
ill-organised hordes of the rulers of Transoxiana or semi-independent chieftains who had acquired
control over Kabul and Ghazni in the north end of Qandhar and the Bolan Pass in the south end. This
was definitely advantageous to India because the Delhi sultanat in early phase of the Khalji empire was
incapable of withstanding a frontal attack of the Mongols, if that had happened. But there were also
some disadvantages in dealing with a disorganised army. With a settled government it is possible to enter
into diplomatic relations or to predict its course of action but neither was true of these loosely-knit and
disarrayed Mongols who burst like locusts in India. They appeared on the Indian frontiers like ants and
locusts; they looted, plundered and then departed. Therefore it was not the strength of the Mongol
attack but its frequency and the state of uncertainty and consequential anxiety which had a demoralising
effect on the north west region of India.
The failure of the Delhi Sultans except Alauddin Khalji to prevent the Mongols from crossing into
Indian territory sprang form two causes : (a) the rapid mobility of the Mongols, and (b) the vulnerability
of the Indian north-west frontier. Depending on their cavalry and unburdened by any problem of food
supply and other usual requirements of the armies organized on conventional lines, the Mongols could
organise their raids with the speed of lightening and most often carried these raids without suffering
serious damage.
The Mongols were generally on the offensive and had, therefore, the initiative on their side. Militarily
the advantage lies invariably with the army on the offensive except where the defenders have the
protection of a natural barrier and the walls of an impregnable fortress or they are fully prepared.
Strategically, the scientific frontier for the defence of India from any invader from the Central Asia has
been the Kabul-Qandhar line. That was not the case during the ascendancy of the Turkish Sultans in
India. The river Indus being not much of a natural barrier, the Delhi Sultans could not prevent the
Mongols from penetrating into Sindh and Upper Punjab. A line of defence was chalked out considerably
in the interior of the country and ran along Lahore, Dipalpur, Uch, Saman a and Multan. Often the
Mongols could not be held even at this line. It is indeed amazing that even then the Mongol invaders
did not find any firm footing in Northern India. Notwithstanding the devastation inflicted by them on the
country the Mongols could not be considered to have been politically successful in India; ultimately they
were generally stopped and repulsed.
In spite of many flaws and shortcoming in the defensive machinery of the Sultanat the success of
the Delhi Sultans in protecting Hindustan from the Mongol invasions stands out as their most notable
achievement. Much of the credit for this should go to AlauddinKhalji for his farsighted realism and his
ingenuity in evolving appropriate means to meet complicated situations and serious challenges. In this
connection we should also not ignore the services of generals like Sher Khan, Zafar Khan and Ghazi
Malik who showed examplary courage, boldness and leadership in meeting the challenge posed by the
Mongols.
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The Effects of the Mongols Invasions


The effects of the Mongol invasions on India were far reaching varied and profound. The Mongol
menace hung like the proverbial sword of Democles on the destiny of the Sultans of Delhi and was the
most important single factor in determining their policies and administrative institutions.
(i) Shrinkage of the Delhi Sultanat
The most obvious effect was that some portions of the Indian territory were temporarily lost. During
the entire thirteenth century, the political frontiers of the country had receded from the base of the
Hindukusli mountains to the Ravi, if not Beas in the north and the lower course of the Indus in the south.
Most of Sindh and the region between the Ravi and the Indus was either under the control of the
Mongols or in the possession of insurgent tribes or semi-independent chiefs.
(ii) Territorial Expansion of the Sultanat Retarded
The Mongols also hampered the process of expansion of the Delhi Sultanat in its early phase.
During the course of century of Turkish rule in India, from Aibak to Jalauddin Khalji, the territorial
boundaries of Delhi Sultanat did not extend much beyond the lines of conquest of Muhammad Ghori.
(iii) Military-Oriented Administration
Many aspects of the administration were neglected till we come to the reign of Alauddin Khalji.
Sultanat had failed to forge an effective administrative machinery. It retained the form of a military
occupation rather than that of settled government. Before Alauddin Khalji introduced his policy, the
collection of revenue was left to resourcefulness of individual officers who either utilised local existing
agencies like the headman or resorted to punitive expeditions. The strength of government mainly rested
on its military base. This strengthened the despotic character of the Turkish government in India. The
recurring Mongol invasions created the continuing military emergency which produced a situation where
the obligations of civil administration could not get the undivided attention of a Sultan even when he had
the inclination and ability for it. The result was that the administration under the Sultans became highly
military oriented.
(iv) Economic Effects
The economic effects were quite disastrous. The Mongols isolated India from the rest of Central
Asia and blocked the traditional overland trade routes. The expenditure for various military operations
conducted against the Mongols was generally met by exhorbitants increase in the burden of the taxation
on the cultivators. As stated in the previous lesson Alauddin Khalji market regulations no doubt regulated
the price of foodgrains in the capital but it also imposed an added burden on the peasantry, which even
before was heavily burdened with innumerable demands and cesses.
(v) Indian Orientation of the Sultanate
There were, however, some silver linings in the dark clouds of the hovering Mongols. Their invasions
did prove beneficial to India in some way. The Mongol conquest of Afganistan and Iran isolated the
Turkish invaders in India from the rest of the Muslim world. This denied them, the material support
of their co-religionists. This ultimately proved a blessing in disguise for them. The alien rulers of India
were compelled to make India as their homeland.
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Then Indian possessions had acquired an Indian political entity and India could no longer be treated
as a colony of Central Asia nor was there any scope for the emergance of a Home Government
located outside the confines of Indian territory. This constitutes the most important difference which
distinguishes the Turkish Rule in India from the British Rule of India.
With hardly any contacts with the outside world and with very little import of personnel and ideas
from the outside world the Turkish in India had to absorb and adopt indigenous traditions. Their political
and cultural outlooks and institutions thus became increasingly hidianised. Therefore, it would not be
incorrect to say that Mongols indirectly contributed to the gradual process of Indianisation of the alien
Turk conquerers of India.

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LESSON 16

BHAKTI MOVEMENT
Introduction
The medieval period of Indian history saw the emergence of a number of reformers, who may be
placed in three categories:
(i) The representatives of the first category were those who confined their work only to the
religious sphere.
(ii) The second category contains the reformers who extended the scope of their activities
to the social sphere also. However, these reformers operated within the framework of
Hinduism.
(iii) The reformers of the third category were those persons who totally rejected the existing
socio-religious order and suggested an alternative path.
First Category
Perhaps the most important of the first category was Shankaracharya (788-820). He laid emphasis
on strict monoism (one God) and propagated the teachings of the Vedas. He tried to give simple
appearance to Hinduism by rejecting many rituals and ceremonies. However, he suggested no change
in the existing social order which was based on the caste-system. In fact he defended it. Hence
Shankaras popularity was restricted to the upper strata of the society. He, therefore, failed to attract
the common people, who were the victims of the caste system.
Vallabacharya (1579-1531), who was born of a Telegu Brahman family, may also be placed in this
category because his teachings were more or less confined to the religious sphere. He preached Suddha
(pure) mononism (advaita).
Second Category
The reformers who belonged to second category were aware of the urges of common people both
in the religious and social spheres. Therefore, they made a vigorous attempt to reform the religious well
as social aspects of the society. Consequently, they stood against the monopoly of the Brahmans over
the religious activities of the Hindus. They also pleaded for the rejection of ritualism and ceremonies and
tried to make religion as simple as possible. They showed a direct way of approaching God without
the help of the priests through bhakti (devotion). The basis of their devotion was love of God and his
creatures. Since the central point of all their devotion was love of God and his creatures, this movement
has been styled by the scholars as the bhakti movement. The leaders of this movement were called
santas or saints. Because of the fact that their approach to religion was simple, direct and emotional,
and at times also rational they were bound to attract the common people. Moreover, their all-out attack
on the caste system made them very popular in the lower sections of the society. Some of the important
saints of this movement were Jananeshwar, Namdev, Ramananda and Chaitanya.
Third Category
The leaders of the third category were most popular saints like Kabir and Nanak. Like the socioreligious reformers of the second category they also exposed as well as attacked the hegemony of the
Brahmans and the evils of the caste system. But still they were distinct from others since they showed
the courage to detach themselves from the existing religious framework. They rejected both Hinduism
and Islam and made a bold attempt to carve out new paths, which ultimately led to the develpment of
organised socio-religious orders of Kabir Panthi and the Sikhism.
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Background of the Bhakti Movement


The post-Harsha period saw the rapid decline of Buddhism. This development gave ample
opportunities to the Brahmans to revive their power and to re-establish their hold on the Indian society.
The Brahmans now onwards started emphasising and even creating new distinctions in the society.
In every form of temple-priestly daily behaviour distinctions tended to become rigid. Every attempt was
made to convert the existing socio-religipus pattern into a paradise for the high castes especially the
Brahmans, while on the other hand, such conditions were created that the life for the common people
became quite unbearable. Besides the economic plight they had to suffer the agony of social discrimination.
In the field of learning and education, the Brahmans had established their complete hegemony. In
fact education was exclusively used not to enlighten the human mind but to support the privileged
positions of the Brahmans and to deprive the common people of any say in the existing order.
Such conditions were bound to stir the mind of the thinking people. They started registering their
protests against the social evils. In due course mounting protests became more pronounced. Firstly,
some of the enlightened Brahmans were quick enough to notice the social decay and they did not have
to wait long to realize that Hinduism could not be saved in the existing form.
Besides a new awakening spread to other sections of the society also. Many leaders emerged from
the lower classes to raise the banner of protest against the prevalent system. In this process the legacy
left by Buddhism and the introduction of Islam proved significant. The teaching of Islam with its
emphasis on the unity of God and equality of man had one significant influence on the leaders of the
Bhakti movement. Prof. Irfan Habib rightly points out that these saints picked up their ideas from the
ideological store of Hinduism and Islam.
BhaktiLove of God
Almost all the saints were saturated with the love of God, Bhakti, or love of the Divine. According
to some ancient scriptures recommend three paths for the emancipation of the soul : (Path of Knowledge),
Karma Marg (Path of virtuous deeds), and Bhakti Marg (Path of love for God). It is believed that
by following any one of these paths, man can be released from the meshes of ignorance and that the
emancipation of soul thereby is possible. But those who followed the path of bhakti believed in direct
approach. But those who followed the path of bhakti believed in direct approach.
A Bhakta needs no temple or church, no seripturec or priestly class for establishing direct relationship
with God. Love of God alone can help him to establish direct communication with him. Muslim sufis
also believe in this principle.
It is to be noted that the Muslims (Arabs) came to Southern India as traders and merchants earlier
than the Turks came as conquerors to Northern India. Influence of Islam and of Sufi ideas made its
appearance in south India first. These new ideas were bound to influence the teachings of many Bhakti
saints of southern India. The intermingling of the ancient concept of Bhakti and Sufi cult of communion
with the Divine produced a type of cultural-cum-religious renaissance which first emerged prominently
in Maharashtra. As M.G. Ranade points out that the preachers in Maharashtra, were calling the people
to identify Ram and Rahim and ensure their freedom from the bonds of formal ritualism and caste
distinctions, and unite, in common love of man and faith in God.
The saints of the Bhakti Movement
Now we turn our attention to the role and achievements of some of the noted saints. But before
that it should be kept in mind that it was not their love of God but their firm stand against the caste
system which made the Bhakti movement popular among the masses. Particularly with the advent of
Kabir and Nanak Bhakti movement touched a new height.
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Vallabhacharya
Vallabhacharya (1479-1531) is said to have been born in 1479 at Benaras of a Telegu Brahman
parentage. He is regarded as a great exponent of the Krishna cult of Vaishnavism. Besides he enjoyed
very good reputation as a scholar. He produced a number of works in Sanskrit and Brijbhasha. Some
of his works are: Vedanta Sutra, Sidhant Rahasya, Subodhini.
The teachings of Vallabhacharya as pointed out earlier, were confined more or less to the religious
sphere. He strictly adhered to monoism and the central point of his teachings was one personal and
loving God. He considered Krishna as the highest Brahaman and source of the highest joy. This
attainment was possible through dedicated bhakti which should be full of intense love. He insisted on
the complete identity of both soul and world with the Supreme spirit. He also advocated renunciation.
Vallabhacharya attracted many followers because of the emotional appeal of his teachings. He died in
1531.
Namdeva
Namdeva is considered to be one of the most significant figures of the Bhakti movement. He is
rightly regarded as a great socio-religious reformer. Though bom in Maharashtra he contributed hymns
both in Marathi and Hindi. His teachings, which turned the minds of man from the priest-ridden rituals
to freedom of love, spread all over India in the fourteenth century. He gave Bhakti Movement a social
goal. Unlike Shankara and Vallabhacharya he talked about the problems of the people which they were
bound to face in a caste-ridden society. Namdeva was opposed to idol-worship and he openly
declared:
Vows fasts, and austerities are not all necessary, nor it is necessary for you to go on
pilgrimage......Realise a fondness for the feet of Hari.
Namdeva also stated that both Hindus and Muslims were blind in insisting upon worshipping in
temples and mosques, as man for Gods worship needed neither temple nor mosque. Namdev
categorically said:
The Hindu is blind and so is the Musalman.
The Hindu worships in the temple and the Muslim in the Mosque :
But Nama offers his worship to Him who needs neither temple nor mosque.
Namdeva attacked caste distinctions. He also insisted on the upliftment of women, mutual toleration
and reconciliation between diverse creeds and religions like Hinduism and Islam. His message had great
appeal for the masses. Among his disciples many of whom became saints in their own right, were
Brahmans, Marathas, the outcaste Mahars, women and also some Muslims.
About the date of birth or death of Namdeva there is a lot of controversy amongst the scholars.
According to Macauliffe he was born in 1270. Bhandarkar and Carpenter do not agree to 1270.
According to their opinion Namdeva was born in the 14th century. Still there are other scholars who
think that he was born in the 15th century.
Ramananda
In Northern India the pioneer leader of the Bhakti movement was Ramananda. Regarding the date
of birth and death of Ramananda there is difference of opinion amongst the scholars. But one thing is
certain that he was not born earlier than 11th century. He was a follower of Ramananuja (1017-1137),
the celebrated Vaishnava philosopher. Ramananda forcefully preached against the formalism and
superstition of the orthodox religion. Perhaps he was the first to use Hindi or Hindvi as the medium of
his instruction and preachings. He was a Vaishnava who worshipped Vishnu in the form of Rama and
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Sita. Though he did not denounce the caste system yet he admitted into his new sect people without
caste distinction. His disciples, therefore, came from all the castes and from both sexs and even his
following crossed religious barriers and Muslims were also became his disciples. His twelve disciples
included Kabir (weaver), Sena (barber), Dhanna (jat peasant), Ravidas (cobbler) and Padmawati
(woman).
Chaitanya
Chaitanya (1486-1534) was a child of his age. It is, thyerefore, necessary to say a word about the
social life of Bengal at that time. As in the rest of northern India Turkish rule had been established in
There was as elsewhere, development of understanding between the Hindus and the Muslims. Hindus
offered sweets on the Muslims shrines and the Musalmans responded with similar gestures. Sultan
Husain Shah (1493-1519) was the originator of the cult of Satya Pir to which both the Hindus and the
Muslims were attracted. It sought to unite the Hindus and the Muslims. Satyapir soon came to be
regarded, as the name of a deity who came to be venerated and worshipped members of both the
communities, Hindus and Muslims. With this record of amity and goodwill there were social tensions
for the lower strata of society which groaned under the tyranny of the ruling class. But the lower classes
suffered also from caste system and religious narrow-mindedness. Thus the state of Hindu religious
society was most unsatisfactory. On the one hand there was the worship of Chandi i.e. Durga with all
its concomitant sacrifies and tantrism of a debased and sensuous nature. On the other hand, society was
suffering from religious narrow mindedness, pride of pedigree, superstition and excessive ritualism.
It was in this above-mentioned social set-up that Chaitanya was born in 1486. His parents were
Jaganath Misra and Sachi Debi. They belonged to a high class Brahmin family. Chaitanya received good
schooling. At the age of eighteen he married. He setup a school on the banks of the river Bhagirathi
and started his life as a teacher. But he was disgusted with the prevailing conditions and left his school.
He went to eastern Bengal where he held many debates on philosophical subjects which added to this
scholastic reputation.
At Gaya, Chaitanya met Ishwar Puri, a Vaishnava saint and preacher. Ishwar Puri initiated Chaitanya
into the Bhakti cult. Chaitanya returned home at the age of twenty three completely imbued with the
love of Krishna. He began to pass most of his time in Sankirtana or singing in worship of the Lord.
Chaitanyas kirtans won him hundreds of adherents from all sections of society, castes and religions.
Two years later, he took sanyas and started a round of travels both in the north and the south of India.
He stayed for some time at Kashi and Mathura. The last eighteen years of his life he passed at
Jagannath Puri.
Chaitanyas leading principle was devotion to God, the supreme Being. But he did not conceive of
God as a non-arthropomorphic (non-human being i.e, nirguna), but a saguna manifested in the
charming personality of Lord Krishna.
Chaitanyas God was a personal being full of grace and love for his creatures. He calls Him
Bhagwan or more often, Hari. According to Chaitanya Bhakti and love are best exemplified by the
mutual love of Radha and Krishna. The way to salvation lay in prapti or complete surrender to Him.
Through a number of stages man could reach close to God. The first stage was shanti or quite
contemplation. The next was a dasya or service to Him. In the third stage of sakhya, the devotee felt
a friendly dearness to him. The next two stages were of vatsalya or love like that of a child for its
parents and madhurya the all engrossing love of a lover.
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Chaitanya thought there was joy in life, for this was tila or playground of God. Each devotee has
a place in Lila. In existence there is no misery, for existence is not maya. Once the devotee feels that
everything is apart ofhis sport, his attachment to wordly objects would automatically slacken and his
soul would be liberated. In this process of liberation Chaitanya gives great importance to Guru. Again,
like the other contemporary saint-thinkers, he was against asceticism or renunciation.
Chaitanya was also a social reformer of his age. He condemned all caste distinctions. He insissted;
Learning these temptations and the religious systems based on caste, the true Vaishnava helplessely
takes refuge in Krishna, Even when he was a school teacher, he used to visit the huts aad houses of
the lowliest and the poorest. He accepted all types of people, and a number of Muslims became his
followers. On his way from Vrindaban to Kashi he even won ten Pathans to his Bhakti cult. Chaitanya
was fearless in his attacks on those who stood for orthodoxy and fanaticism. He condemned the
ritualistic system of the Brahmans. Equally strong was his condemnation of the Qazis.
Kabir
About the dates of Kabir s birth and demise there is a good deal of controversy among the
scholars. But it seems to be most probable that he lived towards the close of the fourteenth and the
beginning of the fifteenth centuries.
Perhaps Kabir was born in a Brahmin family at Varanasi. Since his mother was a widow he was
abandoned on the street from where he was picked up by a Muslim couple: Niru and Nima, who were
weavers. Kabir adopted the profession ofhis new parents and continued to earn his bread from
weaving. He also had a wife and led a family life.
Kabir was a sensitive person, and, therefore, he found it difficult to accept the social conditions
prevailing around him. At this juncture he came into contact with Ramanand and became his disciple.
But soon he made a distinct place for himself by giving shape to his ideas which were rich in social
content.
Kabirs ideas gave a new dimension to the bhakti movement, which became more social than
religious in his hand. By providing a new social orientation to the Bhakti movement Kabir made it
popular amongst the toiling people.
According to Kabir, there is only one Supreme Being although he is called by different names like
Ram, Rahim, Allah, Hari, Khuda and Govind. Although God, according to Kabir, was without shape
or form, he was the supreme object of love. He declared that God and soul were identical and there
was no distinction between the absolute and the devotee. The devotee, therefore, needed no temple
or mosque or pilgrimage to reach him. Idols, avtars, pandits and ulama were superfluous; for the
devotees love for God was enough. Union with God could be realised through intense devotion (Bhakti)
and guidance of a Guru who could guide the devotees to the correct path. For union with Him there
was no need to renounce the world or to seek retirement in solitude. The Kabir preached a simple
religion which had a special appeal for the masses.
To both Hindus and Muslims Kabir taught respect for the living creatures, abstention from violence
and bloodshed, renunciation of pride and egoism. If you say that I am a Hindu, he declared, then
it is not true, nor I am a Musalman...... Mecca has verily become Kashi, and Ram has become Rahim.
However, Kabir was not a follower of either Hinduism or Islam. He kept himself above Hinduism
and Islam. In fact he rejected the Vedas as well as the Quran. Kabir said :
Vedas and Koran are traps laid, for poor souls to tumble in.
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Kabir wanted to remove all distinctions based on caste and creed. Kabir thought that blind faith
and ignorance were responsible for rifts and strifes, and, therefore, he vehemently attacked blind faith,
ignorance, and superstitious beliefs of both the Hindus and the Muslims. There is a large number of
sayings of Kabir in which he castigates leaders of both these religious communities for their ignorance
and fanaticism. He also criticized blind faith in the scriptures, idol worship, pilgrimages, ritualism,
polytheism and the like.
Kabir makes a scathing criticism of the practices of Hinduism in the following words:
There is nothing but water at the holy bathing places and know that they are useless, for 1 have
bathed in them.
The images are all lifeless, they cannot speak, I know, for I have cried about to them.
The Puranas and the Karma are mere words, lifting the curtain I have seen.
Kabir gives utterances to the words of experience, and he knows very well that all other
things are untrue.
Again Kabir blasts Islamic practices and attacks Qazis (judges) in the following words:
The five prayers which the Musalman offers are all useless, because their prayers are a mere
outward show and sham while they have some other thoughts all the time in their mind.
By making a show of religious deeds, the Qazi deceives the poor people and does them harm
instead of good.
While the above-mentioned criticism by Kabir of the practices of Hinduism and Islam is selfexplanatory but it speaks highly about the man who could dare to come out so boldly in a society which
did not have a high level of social consciousness. He did not care for the consequences while asserting
his views on social evils and hegemony of the pundits and ulama.
Kabir was really a supreme figure of the Bhakti movement whose radical ideas not only
exerted considerable influence on the people of his time but continue to inspire us our
times also.
Nanak
Nanak (1469-1539) was born (According to popular belief, he was bom in Katik, OctoberNovember, but historians do not accept it) on 15 April 1469, at the village of Talwandi in Sheikhpur
district (now in Pakistan). He acquired some knowledge of Punjabi, Hindi and Persian, but had no deep
desire for traditional learning. He longed to know the Truth. With a view to enriching his experience of
human life he toured extensively. It is claimed that he even visited Ceylon and Mecca. In these tours
he was accompanied by Mardana, a Muslim by birth; it is said.
Kabirs teachings had a profound impact on Nanaks thinking. However, his meeting with Kabir is
doubted by Prof. Harbans Singh. Still it can not be denied that there is much common in them. Both
tried to carve out a distinct path free from caste system, rituals and priesthood. On several social issues
they evolved a rational attitude.
Nanak died on 7 September in 1539 at the ripe age of seventy. The Muslims erected a tomb and
the Hindus a shrine in his memory. Both these have since been swept away by the waters of the river
Ravi.
Nanaks Janamsakhis say that the first words uttered by Guru after his revelation were, There is
no Hindu, there is no Musalman. These words also spell out his mission. It was Nanaks determination
to keep himself above the religious differences of the Hindus and the Muslims. He did not look at
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religion as a weapon to divide people. Rather he presented religion in a humane framework, He said:
When he has established his goodwill for all, O Nanak, will he be called a Musalman.
Again Nanak said : Religion lies not in empty words. He who regards all men as equal is religious.
He stood for the essential integrity of humanity,
Guru Nanak laid emphasis on the oneness or unity of God and he conceived him as Nirguna
(attributeless) and Nirankar (formless). This Absolute Supreme could be understood, there could be no
difference between his creaturesHindus and Muslims. It could also help in eradicating superstitious
beliefs, polytheism and idol-worship. Nanak used the name of Hari, Ram, Gobind, Allah and Khuda
for his Diety. To the Muslims his advice was: Make kindness the mosque, sincerity thy prayer-carpet,
and what is just and lawful thy Quran.
The teachings of Guru Nanak were direct and simple, he strongly condemned the superstitions of
both the Hindus and the Muslims, he attacked the caste-system of the Hindus. Caste system was
regarded by him as being against the will of God. He explicitey preached that class and caste
distinctions are just so much nonsense, that all men are born equal.
Again Nanak expressed his noble ideas in the following words:
I am lowliest among the lowly:
Nanak is with the lowly and has nothing to do with rich.
Nanak further says:
Gods eye of mercy falls on those who take care of the lowly;
Nonsense is caste, and nonsense the titled fame.
What power has caste? Nobody is without some worth
With the passing of time Sikhism became a full-fledged religion with its own Prophet, i.e., Guru
Nanak, a Book i.e. the Adi Granth, latter on popularly known as the Guru Granth Sahib and a Church
(Gurudwara). Nanaks pure and serene life, his humility and forbearance won for him many Hindus and
Muslims as his sincere disciples. Although in the course of the next two centuries Sikhism saw many
changes, yet in its essentials it continued to bear the indelible impress of Guru Nanaks teachings.
Finally we end our discussion on Nanak by quoting Dr. Gopal Singh.
For him, there were no final truths except those that answered the questioning of man-every manthrough the ages. He never considered himself either the final messenger of God, or an exclusive
one. And therein lies his eternal glory.
Conclusion
The saints of Bhakti movement gave to the people a simple religion with emphasis on the unity of
God. The soul was his part, which constantly strove to establish a communion with him. The path of
salvation lay in Bhakti. Salvation could be achieved through intense devotion and by all without distinction
of caste or creed or religion. These saints advocated a middle path of life. True bhakti lay neither in
excessive attachemt to the world, nor by renunciation from it. This was a simple creed which everyone
could follow,
The contribution of these reformers in the religious field was significant. But still more important was
their work in the sphere of social life. The humane teachings of Bhakti movement had a great appeal
for the masses. It showed the futility of meaningless conflicts when the essence of all religions was the
love of God. By showing a path of direct communion with God, it struck at the exploitation of the
masses by the priestly class.
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The attacks of Kabir and Nanak on the superstitious beliefs of both the Hindus and the Muslims
opened the eyes of the masses and created awareness in them to understand their exploitation by the
vested interests, and also paved the way for equality based on the solid foundation of amity and
brotherhood. These saints were against fanaticism and therefore attacked Ulama and Pandits for
creating an atmosphere of superstition in their respective religious communities. Kabir boldly said:
This Mahadev, that Muhammed,
this Barahma, that Adam,
this a Hindu, that a Turk,
but all belong to earth.
Again Kabir says: he lives from age to age, who drops his family, caste and race.
Equally important was their effort to reform the existing social conditions. Their attacks on polytheism
and pilgrimages helped to check expensive rituals and ceremonies. Their attack attracted the people on
the caste system released a new social consciousness in the belonging to lower masses and particularly
the people belonging to lower castes castes saw in the movement a ray of hope for raising their status
in the caste-ridden society. Many of them joined the movement and some of them became its prominent
preachers also. One of the disciples of Kabir was Dhanna, an ordinary peasant. The other well known
disciples of Kabir were : Sain, a barber and Raidas, a cobbler.
The Bhakti saints were men of high character. In addition, many of them had travelled widely and
extensively. Guru Nanak is said to have visited most of the important places in India and also Ceylon,
Arabia and Iran. Chaitanya similarly travelled in most parts of India both in the north and the south.
On their travels these saints met people of all shades and opinions. This further helped them to widen
their mental horizon.
The saints of bhakti movement not only raised the social consciousness of the contemporary people
but made a significant contribution in the development and enrichment of their languages. In medieval
India Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit were cultivated in the institutions of Islamic and Hindu studies.
However, Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian were not understood by the masses and what was written in
these languages was read by the educated elite, that is, microscopic minority. But the message of these
reformers was delivered in the simple language of the common people. Their common medium of
communication and recitation was unaffected poetry as is seen from Sant Kavya in Hindi Language and
literature. There is no doubt that Hindi got a definite shape at the hands of Sant kavis like Kabir and
Raidas. Similarly the Vaishnava poets of Bengal, Maharashtra and Gujarat contributed a lot to the
development of their regional languages. In the Punjab, a new script, e.g., Gurumukhi was developed.
In the end our discussion may be summed up quoting professor K. Damodran.
The bhakti movement attained varying degrees of intensity and sweep in different parts of the
country. It appeared in a variety of forms also. Yet, some basic principles underlay the movement as
a whole
first, recognition of the unity of the peoples irrespective of religious considerations;
secondly, equality of all before God;
thirdly, opposition to the caste system;
fourthly, the faith that communion between God and man depended on the virtues of each individual,
and not on his wealth or caste;
fifthly, emphasis on devotion as the highest form of worship; and,
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finally, denigration of ritualism, idol worship, pilgrimages, and all self-mortifications.


Prof. K. Damodaran further opines:
The bhakti cult recognised the dignity of man and denounced all class and caste distinctions and
social tyrannies rampant in the name of religion.
Giving the assessment of the bhakti movement Prof. K. Damodaran remarks:
The Bhakti movement, however, had, its own limitations. It is true that, through mass prayers,
dances and community singing, the personality of the saint inspired the creative energy of the people.
It awakened the masses to a new consciousness and generated popular impulses to action. It considerably
weakened the caste and religious exclusiveness of feudalism and gave an impetus to anti-feudal struggles.
All this is true. But, the impulse for religion essentially through emotion and not reason. It is, therefore,
incapable of either making a rational investigation of the social problems or giving a rational solution to
them. The Bhakti movement, for all it did to awaken the masses, failed to grasp the real causes of
the maladjustment in the social and economic set up and to offer a radical cure to human suffering.

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LESSON 17

THE ADMINISTRATIVE SYSTEM UNDER THE DELHI SULTANS


(1206-1526)
Introduction
Some historians are of the view that the Delhi Sultanat was an Islamic State. However, a careful
examination of the development of the Delhi Sultanat, its working and its policies clearly shows that it
was a monarchical system based on military despotism. According to Prof. Muhammad Habib the Delhi
Sultanat was un-Islamic because Islam neither recognizes nor sanctions a despotic form of government.
Not only the Sufis but even some of the orthodox theologians make a sharp distinction between
duniyadari (of which kingship was a highest form) and dindari It is said :
The meaning of kingship is power (istila) whether obtained by lawful means or by force; even the
older pagan law of dynastic legitimacy finds no place in the present kingship. In substance the Delhi
Sultanat was not a state based on the teachings of Quran or the Prophet Muhammad.
In substance the Delhi Sultanat was not a state based on the teachings of Quran or the Prophet
Muhammad.
In spite of lip service paid to Islam by the rulers of the Delhi Sultanat its laws, far from being
observed and enforced, were often flagrantly violated. In the case of wine; drinking, the law of
inheritance, and the taking and giving of interest etc.; the Sultans never cared to
take a religious view. Whatever suited to their interests and whims they decree. The concept of
government, the organisation of the imperial court with all the court ceremonies and etiquetes like sijda
(touching the ground with forehead) and paibos (kissing the feet), are obviously
anti-Islamic. In Islam such reverence is exclusively reserved for God and not for any human being
(whatsoever may be his status in the society). But the Sultans ignored Islam completely for the sake
of naked despotism.
Morever, they did not make Arabic, the language of Quran the official language. Persian was made
the court language Dress ad diet, customs and manners of the ruling elite all were largely borrowed from
Persia and Central Asia and had little to do with Arabia, the original land of Islam.
In this connection we should also try to examine the teachings of Prophet Muhammad. The Quran
is a religious book and not a political treatise and consequently it has little to say about state and
government. There is a reference to Mulsim brotherhood, umma, i.e., to a community in contrast to
mutually fighting tribes and clans in which the Arabs were then divided. In the Quran there are two
political injunctions : One, to decide their affairs by mutual consultation (mashward) and the other, to
obey the authority that be. That is all. One is bound to observe how simple but at the same time vague
and inadequate these injunctions are to serve as a treatise of political instructions. However, it is true
that at times the Sultans exploited religion and tried to create a religious facade (i.e. exterior front) to
hide their naked despotism and used it to further their vested interests. This was done in a shameless
way and they readily got the support of the ulama, who allowed them to exploit religion for earthly
gains.
With the connivance of ulama Islam was used as a tool for achieving the political and economic
objectives by different rulers of the Delhi sultanat.
Composition of the Ruling Class
When the term Muslim Rule in India is used it is presumed that all Muslims, irrespective of their
position and status in society, formed the ruling group because they professed the same faith (Islam)
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as that of the reigning Sultan. This is not correct. Not only a distinction was made between Indian
Muslims, and foreign-born Muslims, but it should be noted that the common Mussalmans-the peasants,
the weavers and the artisans etc. were completely kept out of the ruling class.
The basis of the ruling class was not religion. Those who lived on the exploitation of others and
wielded political power constituted the ruling class. This was true in the case of the Delhi Sultanat The
exploiters consisted of the Sultan, his family, the Turks and the Afghan nobles, the Rajas, and the rural
Chieftains. The Rajas were Hindus and most of the rural chiefs were also Hindu. Hence, the economic
power was not in the hand of one religious group. The common people i.e., peasants and artisans,
(whether they were Hindus or the Muslims) were exploited fully by those who composed the ruling
class.
A despotic form of government whether of the Mauryans or the Guptas, or that of the Khaljis and
the Tughluqs was based on the exploitation of the masses by the ruling minority.
Evolution of Political Concepts and Institutions
The establishment of Delhi Sultanat saw the evolution of political concepts which were opposed to
he teachings of Quran and Prophet Mohammad. Offering Up service to Islam the Sultans adopted those
political concepts which suited the circumstances.
In his work, Fatwa-i Jaijandari, Ziauddin Barani rightly points out :
....The Caliphs and kings of Islam were faced with two irreconcilable alternatives, both necessary
for the religion and the state. If they follow the traditions of the Prophet and his mode of life, kingship
and government would be impossible for them..
Taking a realistic view the ruling class during the Sultanat period evolved those political concepts
which strengthened its despotic institutions. Rulers like Alauddin Khalji were frank enough to declare
that whatever was suited to the circumstances they decreed irrespective of the fact whether their
utterances or acts were in conformity with the teachings of Islam or not.
Administrative Organisation of Delhi Sultanat
The administrative structure of Delhi Sultanat was the product of many factors, viz., the customs
and conventions of the Turks and the Persians, and the well established administrative traditions and
institutions of India. It will not be incorrect to describe the Delhi Sultanat as a Turko-Persian system
in an Indian setting.
The vastness of the area to be conquered and administered required the ruler to accept and utilize
the existence and service of local. Long distances combined with the vastness of the country and the
rich resources of various regions within it tended to facilitate the break up of the transfer empire into
independent kingdoms. It is said that the history of Northern India has been the struggle between
centripetal and centrifugal forces.
In the words of Ghoshal :
The unifying idea has struggled with the deeply rooted tendency towards disruption, and hence
empires of greater or smaller duration and extent have alternated with a bewildering move of petty
states.
The emergence of monarchy has also been determined by many socio-economic factors. The ever
increasing hostility among the members of the ruling class with a view to assuming more power and thus
creating instability in functioning of the state resulted in throwing up a despotic system of monarchy. The
Sultans thought that only by concentrating absolute power in a single hand they could keep harmony
in the ruling class, Monarchy being a political necessity had to be supported by the Indian social and
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political institutions and even Muslim political thinkers had to build up theories and change the social
structure of Muslims to support it. According to Ibn Hasan.
The vastness of country, the problem of distance, the dispersal of population in rural areas, left no
scope for representative institutions or for that spirit and activity which creates demand for them.
Thus monarchy became the general rule irrespective of the fact whether the ruler was a believer of
Islam or Hindusism.
(i) Sultan
In the despotic form of government the central government occupies a key position. In short time,
the Sultans were able to build a strong central structure. In this set-up the Sultan was at the top. He
was the creator and sustainer of the entire administrative system. He was the head of the State, the
supreme executive authority. He was also the supreme military authority. He was also the fountain-head
of justice, title and honour.
The Sultans were constantly faced with a difficult situation. The strong and ambitious members of
the nobility and the powerful local chiefs were always eager to weaken the concentration of power in
their hands. The rulers like Balban, Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad bin Tughluq refused to submit to
their whims and made the position of the Sultan untenable. However despotism has a logic of its own.
It can not be sustained for a pretty long time. Again and again it faced crisis and consequently those
who were enjoying the status of nobles created the situation that threw only weak Sultans. But still the
traditions of monarchial despotism survived and helped to prevent complete anarchy.
(ii) The Ministers
No doubt the Sultan was all in all in conducting the business of the government but whatever might
be the capacity of a Sultan or his competence it was next to impossible for him to manage the affairs
single-handedly. The Sultan thus shared his burden of running the administration by delegating to his
subordinate officers such powers as might conveniently be exercised by them on his behalf. (Dr.
Muhammad Aziz Ahmed). Therefore, the Sultan had a certain number of ministers to aid and assist him.
They enjoyed a higher rank in comparison to other imperial officers
The institution of the ministers developed quite late in Arab polity, and it took proper shape with
the establishment of the Abbasside Calihate. There were two types of ministers, those with limited
powers, and others with unlimited powersthe latter were also called naib-i mumalik. Balban under
Nasiruddin Mahmud was elevated to the position of naib-i mumalik and enjoyed unlimited powers. In
fact, he completely overshadowed the reigning Sultan.
Unfortunately the contemporary historians of the Sultanat period pay scant attention to the
administrative structure that worked under the Sultans. Particularly about the ministries, ministers and
other departments they pass on to us little information. Obviously it becomes very difficult to provide
exact working of the various central as well provincial Administrative institutions.
There was no fixed number for ministers but generally it became the practice to have four ministers,
each in charge of a separate ministry.
The Wazir was the most important and powerful minister. He was the head of the ministry of finance
and revenue. He was responsible for the general supervision of the administration. Sometimes, he also
had a naib Wazir (deputy prime minister who looked after the revenue department. He was also assisted
by mushrif-i mumalik (The accountant general) and mustaufi-i mumalik (the auditor-general).
The ministry under the Wazir was called Diwan-i wazarat. The other three major ministries
were :
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(i) Diwan-i Arz


(ii) Diwan-i Insha
(iii) Diwan-i Riyasat/Diwan-i rasalat
Diwan-i Arz was kept under Ariz-i Mumalik, or controller general of the military. He was not the
Commander-in Chief nor was he required to lead the army but he was the inspector general of the
forces. He was, however, responsible for the maintenance, equipment and the general organisation of
the army, it was his duty to see that the descriptive roll of the horses and soldiers were properly
maintained in his department.
While discussing about the four ministries Prof. Mohammad Habib does not mention Diwan-i
Risalat, but another distinguished scholar Dr. Habibullah opines that the fourth ministry is called
Diwan-i rasalat. He further adds: Its functions are not outlined but the term rasalat suggests foreign
and diplomatic correspondence and as such must have been a kind of foreign office, in close touch with
ambassadors and envoys sent to and received from foreign potentates. According to Dr. U.N. Day
Diwan-i rasalat was the ministry where complaints from the people were received. He further adds:
It is only during the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq that it seems to have assumed some importance when
it received appeals and tried to redress the grievances of the people, in the capacity of Sultans rasul
(Agent). Thus regarding functioning and jurisdiction of Diwan-i Rasalat one can not say with certainty.
Another ministry which sprang up in the reign of Alauddin Kahlji (1296-1316) was Diwan-i Riyasat.
The need for creating this ministry was felt because of the increasing responsibilities of the government
in view of implementing the market policy of Alauddin Khalji. With a view to keeping a firm grip on
the supply and sell of commodities on the fixed prices Alauddin Khalji ordered that the merchants,
whether Musalmans or Hindus should be registered in the book of the Diwan (Diwan-i Riyasat) . Also
it was ordered that the merchants should sign agreements to bring commodities regularly and observe
fixed rates for making his market policy a success Alauddin entrusted the task of Diwan-i rasalat to
Yaqub. Our contemporary historian Ziauddin Barani thinks very high of this minister, and says that such
a person conferred indeed every honour on the office. He further says that because of the strict
measures adopted by Yaqub everyone of them stood in awe of him, and sold his things cheap. Yaqub
also appointed for every market a shuhna (Superintendent). These shuhnas (Superintendents) enforced
the price-list and took the dishonest shopkeepers to task.
Diwan-i Insha worked under the Dabir-i Mamalik who dealt with all the correspondence of the
Government including the personal and confidential corespondence of the Sultan. According to Prof D.
Mohammad Habib: He had to convey the wishes of the emperor to the governors and local officers
and place their petitions befor the emperor .......He was the usual channel for all correspondence
between the central and local government, though questions referring the particular ministries were sent
to them direct
(iii) Revenue System
India being primarily an agricultural country land revenue provided the bulk of the income of the
state. Till the reign of Alauddin Khalji there is no specific mention of the method of revenue assessmem.
It appears that there was no proper land revenue settlement and the government generally depended
on sharing of the crops in which the states share varied between one-third and one-fourth. There was
also no adequate machinery for the collection of revenue. The Iqtadars (Aqtadars) performed this
function as a part of law and order problem with the actual job of collection of the revenue being done
by local headmen.
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It was under Alauddin Khalji that for the first time the revenue settlement was made on a systematic
basis. The land was measured biswa by biswa and in accordance with the fertility of the land. After
measurement was enacted the land tax was fixed on the actual holding rather than varying from year
to year with the actual harvest. However this system, as introduced by Alauddin Khalji, was confined
to a significantly large portion of the empire. As far as other places were concerned the old system
continued.
The reign of Alauddin Khalji saw the expansion of revenue administrative machinery. Besides the
wazir Barani mentions the name of Sharaf Qaini (or Qai) who acted as his deputy and worked efficiently
but with aheavy hand. Obviously the entire working of Alauddin Khaljis revenue policy required the
deployment of an enormous staff. These various officers and officials were termed as follows:
Muhasil Demander of tribute
Amil Revenue Collector
Gumashta Agent
Mutasarrif Accountant or Auditor
Nawasinda Writer or Clerks
PatwariVillage-accountant
The act of measurement of land and realiszing 50% of the produce as land tax brought the state
into direct contact with the peasantry. Being a realist Alauddin Khalji must have thought that with such
a heavy state demand the peasants were bound to be completely broken if other taxes continued,
besides he had to see that the privileges of the representatives of the villages i.e. Khuts, Muqaddams
and Choudharies could not go together with his new measures. Hence they were immediately deprived
of their privileges and he ordered so that they could not shift their burden to the peasantry.
While on the one hand Alauddin Khaljis (and revenue policy, which saw the increase of land tax
to 50% of the produce, had its own repercussions on the paying capacity of the peasants, on the other
hand his naib-wazir, Sharaf Qaini saw to it that the revenue officers and officials do not pounce on the
remaining meagre income of the peasants. Barani informs us:
It was impossible for any one to obtain even a tanka dishonestly or take anything in bribe from
the Hindus or the Musalmans.
The Tughluqs inherited such an extensive administrative machinery but they did make changes in the
revenue policy. For instance Ghiyasuddin Tughluq reduced the land tax; and it appears that in the reign
of Firuz Tughluq the land tax was not heavy. It is interesting to note that Muhammad bin Tughluq started
advancing loans to peasants so that they could bring waste or uncultivated land under cultivation. Barani
informs us that a ministry for extending cultivation was formed. He calls it Diwan-i-Kohi. He also
mentions the employment of nearly 100 Shiqdars for making this experiment a success.
Firuz Tughluq did not follow many aspects of Alauddin Khaljis revenue policy. He remitted various
imports or taxes and lowered the rate of land tax. It appears that he encouraged the practice of
assigning faejagirs to the nobles and his attitude towards the officers and officials was quite different.
Firstly he increased their salary and they were no more subject to physical coercion and humiliation.
Even he had withdrawn spies and informers appointed to watch their activities. This was all done to
win the confidence of the officers and officials. But this does not mean that Firuz Tughluq had no idea
of running the administration. His appointment of Khwaja Husamuddin (who laboured for six years to
fix the income of the empire, which was calculated at six crores and seventy five lakhs oftankas). The
digging of canals and plantation of gardens show that he never wanted the state to suffer financially.
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However, he continued with the practice of farming i.e. to parcel the land to the highest bidder. With
a view to getting the revenue in advance his predecessor Muhammad Tughluq gave a free hand to the
practice of farming. Prof. R.P. Tripathi says that Firuz placed at the disposal of the farmers the entire
local machinery of government
During SaiyidAfghan period some changes are noticeable. As far the land tax was concerned
none of the Sultan of this period enhanced it to 50%. Besides we find the emergence of one
uniform yard of forty-one digits as a standard unit of measurement in the reign of Sikandar Lodi
(1489-1517). He also abolished cess on grain. Further it is interesting to note that land tax was
remitted not in cash but in kind in the reign of Ibrahim Lodi (1517-1526). Why he passed such
an order it is difficult to say. Prof. R.P. Tripathi is not sure whether such a step was taken due
to shortage of silver or the cause was some thing else.
The remarks of Prof. Irfan Habib on the Lodi period deserve our attention. He writes:
Under the Lodis (1451-1526), the system remained essentially similar, but a reorganization
occurred. The term iqta now disappears from view, replaced simply by sarkars and parganas. These
were territotial divisions each sarkar comprising 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 noble holding the sarkar-assignment.
Whatever the limitations and compulsions the Sultans did try to evolve a revenue policy with a view
to meeting the expenditures of the state. Some of them took really bold steps and reorganization of the
revenue departments owes much to them. However the land-tax even though the major source of
income for the Sultanat there were numbers of other taxes or cesses also. But regarding the exact
application of such taxes there is good deal of confusion. And this confusion increases because of the
faulty understanding of certain scholars who mix up the application of such taxes to the place of their
origin. For instance take the example of Zakat. Prophet Muhammad annually levied it on the Muslims
at he rate of 2.5%. But in Sultanat period it was used in varied way. We certainly know that Sikandar
Lodi abolished Zakat on grain. There is an evidence that Zakat is used as equivalent to custom duty
in the reign of Muhammad Tughluq.
Prof. K.A. Nizami rightly points out: The taxation system had all the terms of the classical periodKharaj, ushr, zakat, jiziy ah, khums, but their connotation had undergone great change. (State and
Culture in Medieval India, pp.86-87)
Barring the reign of Firuz Shah Tughluq the jiziya was not exacted as a separate tax. Prof. Irfan
Habib opines:
Before this time (the reign of Firuz Tughlaq-Editor) the land tax was indifferently called jiziya or
Kharaj-yiziya; and it seems that no separate tax under the name of jiziya was levied in addition to the
land tax.
As quoted by Dr. U.N, Day it appears the sale tax on betel leaves was termed as Jaziyah
Tanbul.
Barani says even Hindu chiefs exacted poll tax (jiziya) and tribute (kharaj) from the subjects in their
territories. In the same way we find the mention of the term khums. This was the tax distributed between
the state and its soldiers. Firuz Tughluq claimed that he gave 4/5 of the total share of loot to the soldiers
and retained only 1/5 for the imperial treasury contrary to earlier practice. Most of the time entire loot
was usurped by the Sultans.
We now close our discussion on this topic by producing below the views of Prof. B. R.
Grover :
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Though the Delhi Sultanat laid considerable emphasis on the organisation of the military-cumrevenue machinery for the collection of the revenues from the conquered territories in India. It may really
be wondered if at all the theoretical Islamic fiscal ideas relating to state demand, methods of assessment
and the nature of land tenures were really enforced in actual practice even in the such regions of North
India which were under the direct control of the Sultanate. It could not have been enforced in India,
a primarily agricultural country which possessed its own agrarian pattern based on its practices evolved
in accordance with the regional geographical features and the clannish customs of the peoples settled
in different parts of the country. During the medieval age even in the West Asian countries the shariat
priniciples of agrarian administration pure and simple, were never rigidly enforced. (Presidential Address,
Medieval India Section, 37th Session, Calicut, 29-31 December, 1976, p.3).
(iv) The Army
Under the direct control of the Sultan the army was managed by the Diwan-i Arz which performed
all the functions, such as recruitment, keeping the descriptive roll, payment of salaries, inspection of
troops, etc. All salaries were disbursed through the Diwan-i Arz. The distribution of the army was made
according to the needs of different localities. For the sake of defence from foreign invasions and internal
trouble, forts were kept in a good repair and stocked with war provisions, especially in the reigns of
Balban and Alauddin Khalji.
The main branch of the army was the cavalry. To keep the efficiency of the cavalry the Sultans
encouraged import of horses from outside India. According to Prof. Nizami the Turks are referred to
as ashvapatis (Lord of the Horse) in the contemporary Sanskrit literature. The dagh (branding) and
chera (description) system was introduced by Alauddin Khalji. Thanks to Barani we have a detailed
information regarding certain aspects of military administration in the reign of Alauddin Khalji. With a
view to keeping the soldiers contended he introduced market control system.
There was also an elephant corp. The elephants were generally used for transport of heavy baggage
and mounts for the royalty.
The infantry also was a part of the army, which consisted of all sorts of retainers and attendants
attached to the army.
There is mention also of some firearms being used in the time of the Khaljis. Combustibles like
naphta and rockets were used especially in seiges. Certain indigenous devices were used for hurling
heavy stonebals, et., into the beseiged fortresses.
The army was organised on the Turkish model and divided into units of 10,000 and sub-divisions
of 1,000 down to a hundred.
(v) Justice
Whatever the thinking level of the contemporary historians of the Sultanat period they expected the
monarch to be just and firmly uphold justice. Ziauddin Barani in his Fatwa-i Jahandari writes:
Consequently there can be no stability in the affairs of men without justice. No religion, which is
founded on Divine Commandments (ahkam), can do without justice. Both ancient and modern thinkers
have said, Religion and justice are twins.
He further adds:
Justice is the basis of the social organisation and the civil order, and it is administered by the strong
ruler among the people. The real justification for the supremacy of kings and their power and dignity
is the need for enforcing justice.
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However this is interesting to note that Ziauddin Barani does not shun his class outlook while
commenting on Justice. He warns the monarchs that it they deviate from discharging justice there would
be complete community of women and property (ibahat); The distinction between one mans property
and anothers would vanish. According to Ziauddin Barani sharing property on a common basis is an
open invitation to anarchy. He remarks: no time or place would be free from disorder. For the interest
of social organization he is prepared to shun the difference between Muslims and non-Muslims, wise
or foolish, learned or illiterate but he is out and out defender of a system based on property relationship.
In actual practice the Sultan was the highest judicial court. Barani says that Balban used to hear
and decide cases himself. It was the highest judicial authority in deciding appeals. Prof. Habibullah
informs us: In cases arising out of the violation or application of the religious side of the Shariat, he was
assisted by the mufti and the sadrus-sadur while in cases of a secular nature he sat with the qaziul-quzat
(chiefjustice). However, there is an instance of Muhammad bin Tughlaq appearing in the court of the
Qazi.
Besides Chief justice (Qaziul-quzat) we find the mention of the amir-i-dad.
However the bulk of the population i.e. peasantry looked towards of the local panchayats for
getting justice.
Besides the judicial department, which occupied a prominent place in the list of other departments,
there were members of other departments. Some departments and offices continued with all the Sultans
while some were the creation of this or that Sultan. One of the continued office was of Kotwal.
Particularly the Kotwal of the capital i.e. Delhi was an important office. And if Delhis kotwal is
endowed to aperson like Ala-ul Mulk Kotwal, the maternal uncle of Barani, his role was bound to be
crucial. He had a direct access to the Sultan and used to visit Alauddin Khalji on the first of every
month. Normally the Kotwal was assigned the duty of guarding the city and maintaining law and order.
He also kept the keys of the city gates.
(vi) Political Divisions of the Empire
Because of lack of material it is not possible to throw sufficient light on the political divisions of the
empire under the Sultans. However, it seems that in the initial stage of the establishment of Delhi Sultanat
the conquered territory was divided into administrative units. (Usually written as Iqta in the modern
works. However Dr. K.M- Ashraf writes this word as Aqta and the holder this administrative unit was
termed as Muqta,) which was assigned to military commanders who were called Muqta. The Muqta
was responsible for the maintenance of law and order and for the collection of revenue. He would
deduct from the amount collected, his personal salary and the expenses of his administration and send
the balance (fazilat) to the central government. However, it may be noticed the Iqtadari (Aqtadari)
system was not a carbon copy of the European feudalism. The post of Muqta was not hereditary; he
could not transferred from one iqta (Aqta) to another. Above all, the Iqtadar (Aqtadar) had no
proprietary right in the iqta (Aqta). He could not sell or mortgage it; he had no inherent legal right; he
was only a sort of contractor for collection of revenue on behalf of the government. The system was
unsatisfactory and led to the weakening of the centre. Some of the powerful Muqtas became independent
rulers. Later on one finds clear cut evidence of the emergence of provinces in the reign of Muhammad
bin Tughluq.
The provinces were divided into Shiqs and a shiq into paraganahs and each had a staff for purposes
of maintaining peace and security and collection of revenue.
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Conclusion :
Thus our discussion on the Delhi sultanat clearly establishes the fact that it was not a government
which based itself on the teachings of Islam. On the contrary, the Sultanat made vigorous efforts to keep
the Ulama and Sufis in their proper place. Even in the beginning Iltutmish rejected the plea of a
delegation of Ulama to govern his kingdom according to their wishes. Balban also kept himself above
them.
During the reigns of Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad bin Tughluq many concessions, extended to
the religious class in the earlier period, were taken away from them. At times Ulama and Sufis were
harshly treated too. In fact, the Delhi Sultanat was neither keen to spread Islam nor to suppress
Hinduism. Its main goal was to serve the interests of the military despots, who at times made use of
religion to achieve their political goal, and even indulged in acts of fanaticism. But these acts of
fanaticism were not enacted for the glory of Islam. In running their state machinery the Sultans had
evolved their own state laws. Barani explicitly says :
...all the customs and ways of kingship are violations of the traditions of the Prophet and that in
this violation they and their followers and their servants are involved.

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