The Delhi Sultans

Sultans of Delhi : Chapter Summary

Delhi became the capital city after the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in the 13th century. From 1206 to 1526, Delhi was ruled by many rulers of different Muslim dynasties. They all preferred the title of Sultan, and so this period of history came to be known as the Delhi Sultanate.

It started with the Mamluk Dynasty, and was followed by the Khilji, Tughluq, Sayyid and Lodi dynasties.
The Rajput Dynasties ruled Delhi from the early 12th century to 1165 AD.

After Qutbuddin Aybak, his son-in-law Shamsuddin Iltutmish took over the throne of Delhi. Raziyya was the only woman ruler from the Delhi Sultanate to rule Delhi.

Delhi went under the control of the Khilji Dynasty in 1287. The first ruler from the Khilji Dynasty was Jalaluddin Khilji. In 1316, the death of Alauddin Khilji brought the end of the Khilji Dynasty. The Khilji dynasty ruled over Delhi from 1290 to 1320 AD.
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The Tughluqs came next.  Ghiyasuddin Tughluq was the first emperor of the Tughluq Dynasty.  The
Tughluq dynasty ruled over Delhi from 1320 to 1414.

Khizr Khan founded the Sayyid dynasty, which ruled over Delhi from 1414 to 1451 AD. Bahlul Lodi established the Lodi Dynasty in 1451. The Lodi dynasty ruled over Delhi from 1451 to 1526.

Sources of Information : Chapter Summary

The most important source of history is the historical accounts written in the administrative language Persian, and known as tawarikh. The authors wrote about events and gave administrative advices to the Sultan. However, it was mainly written to please the rulers and gain rewards, so it gives only a partial picture of the period.

The authors lived in the cities and were quite unaware of the realities of rural areas. Sometimes, the authors also penned down their displeasure about certain decisions.

From Garrison Town to Empire : Chapter Summary

The Muslim rule in India started with the establishment of the Delhi Sultanate in 1206. Their control was limited to the fortified towns which depended on the areas beyond for supplies. When the areas on the outskirts refused to trade supplies, the rulers often plundered their own regions to obtain supplies for the fortified towns.

Under the reign of Ghiyasuddin Balban, Alauddin Khalji and Mohammed bin Tughluq the control was expanded over all the fortified towns and the areas surrounding them.

During 1296 to 1351, the Sultans conquered the external frontiers. The control of the Sultans had reached South India where they added elephants, horses to their armies, captured slaves and collected precious metal from the conquered regions.

Hunters-gatherers and nomadic herders were expelled from the forest. This land was cleared for farming and distributed amongst the peasants and agriculture. Regional trade was promoted alongside and new trade routes were built with new fortresses and towns along the way. As people converting to Islam had different backgrounds, so the rulers built many prayer areas, called mosques.

Administration and Consolidation : Chapter Summary

Between 1206 and 1526, the Delhi Sultanate fought many battles to expand its region. The administration and integration of such a vast kingdom required reliable administrators. Earlier rulers appointed their heirs, chieftains and aristocrats as governors, but Sultan Iltutmish started appointing special slaves called bandagan for administration and military services.

The Khaljis and Tughluqs along with using the slaves raised ordinary people to high positions like governors and generals. The loyalty of these administrators to their masters led to political instability in the region.

The rulers assigned military commanders the job of regional governors. Each region was called iqta, and the governor was called iqtadar or muqti.

The muqti were appointed for a period of time and were responsible for maintaining law and order in their region, leading military campaigns, and collecting tax.

Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad Tughluq brought the hinterland of the cities under their control, and imposed their authority on the local chieftains and rich landlords called samanthas. The land was reassessed and collection of land revenue was brought under the control of the state. Now, the local chieftains could not impose tax on the subjects, and were themselves forced to pay tax.

The rights of the local chieftains to impose tax were revoked, and they were forced to pay tax. As per the state law taxes were imposed on cultivation, known as Kharaj, cattle and houses. However, the region under the Sultan was continuously increasing, but many areas faced instability as the newly conquered regions would soon gain independence after being conquered.

Administration Styles of Delhi Sultans : Chapter Summary

The Mongol Empire was established by Genghis Khan in 1206 and controlled Asia and Europe. He attacked the Delhi Sultanate under the rule of Sultan Alauddin Khalji and later under Sultan Muhammad bin Tughluq.

Both the rulers had different strategies to overcome the Mongol threat. If Alauddin Khalji used a defensive strategy, Muhammad bin Tughluq used an offensive strategy. Alauddin, as per his defensive strategy constructed a new garrison town called Siri for his troops. Muhammad bin Tughluq, shifted his capital, including the residents, from Delhi to Daulatabad rather than establishing a new garrison town for soldiers.

While Alauddin collected tax in the form of farm produce to feed his army, Muhammad bin Tughluq introduced the first token currency of India.

Alauddin, one of the best administrators, also prescribed rates at which goods could be sold, and controlled the market price so that people could buy their supplies at a reasonable rate. He hence sustained the morale of his army and his people, and gain more support from them while defeating the Mongols.

Alauddin proved to be a successful administrator, while Muhammad Tughluq was a failure at it. However, it was Muhammad bin Tughluq who decided to attack the Mongol Empire.

After the Tughluqs, the Sayyids and Lodis ruled the Delhi Empire. However, by their time many new independent kingdoms emerged like Malwa, Bengal, Gondawana, Gujrat, Rajputs and Vijaynagar.  One such ruler was Sher Shah Suri, who defeated Humayun and established the Suri Dynasty in Delhi.

Though Sher Shah’s rule lasted for just 6 years, he built a strong administrative foundation which was later even adopted by Emperor Akbar.

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