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Delhi Sultanate

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Persian (official), Hindavi (since 1451)

Qutb-ud-din Aibak (first)

Delhi (1334–1506, 1214–1327, ...)

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The Delhi Sultanate was a Muslim kingdom based mostly in Delhi that stretched over large parts of the Indian subcontinent for 320 years (1206–1526). Five dynasties ruled over Delhi Sultanate sequentially, the first four of which were of Turkic origin: the Mamluk dynasty (1206–90), the Khilji dynasty (1290–1320), the Tughlaq dynasty (1320–1414), the Sayyid dynasty (1414–51), and the Afghan Lodi dynasty (1451–1526). The sultanate is noted for being one of the few states to repel an attack from the Mongol Empire, and enthroned one of the few female rulers in Islamic history, Razia Sultana, who reigned from 1236 to 1240.


Delhi Sultanate Life under delhi sultanate for class 7

Qutb-ud-din Aibak, a former slave of Muhammad Ghori, was the first sultan of Delhi and his dynasty conquered large areas of northern India. Afterwards the Khilji dynasty was also able to conquer most of central India, but both failed to unite the Indian subcontinent. The sultanate reached the peak of its geographical reach during the Tughlaq dynasty, covering most of the Indian subcontinent. This was followed by decline due to continuing Hindu-Muslim wars, states such as the Vijayanagara Empire asserting independence, and new Muslim sultanates such as the Bengal Sultanate breaking off.

Delhi Sultanate Delhi Sultanate The Slave Dynasty India The Nation

The Delhi Sultanate desecrated politically important temples of enemy states as was common in pre-Islamic India, but the time of their rule also included the earliest forms of Indo-Islamic architecture. In 1526 the Sultanate fell, to be succeeded by the Mughal Empire.

Delhi Sultanate Economic Condition During the Delhi Sultanate IAS


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By 962 AD, Hindu and Buddhist kingdoms in South Asia were under a wave of raids from Muslim armies from Central Asia. Among them was Mahmud of Ghazni, who raided and plundered kingdoms in north India from east of the Indus river to west of Yamuna river seventeen times between 997 and 1030. Mahmud of Ghazni raided the treasuries but retracted each time, only extending Islamic rule into western Punjab.

Delhi Sultanate The Delhi Sultanate 1206 1290 IAS

The wave of raids on north Indian and western Indian kingdoms by Muslim warlords continued after Mahmud of Ghazni, plundering and looting these kingdoms. The raids did not establish or extend permanent boundaries of their Islamic kingdoms. The Ghurid Sultan Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad began a systematic war of expansion into north India in 1173. He sought to carve out a principality for himself by expanding the Islamic world. Mu’izz sought a Sunni Islamic kingdom of his own extending east of the Indus river, and he thus laid the foundation for the Muslim kingdom called the Delhi Sultanate. Some historians chronicle the Delhi Sultanate from 1192 due to the presence and geographical claims of Mu'izz al-Din in South Asia by that time.

Mu'izz al-Din was assassinated in 1206, by Ismāʿīlī Shia Muslims in some accounts or by Hindu Khokhars in others. After the assassination, one of Mu’izz slaves (or Mamluk, Arabic: مملوك), the Turkic Qutbu l-Din Aibak, assumed power, becoming the first Sultan of Delhi.


Qutb al-Din Aibak, a slave of Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori (known more commonly as Muhammad of Ghor), was the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate. Aibak was of Cuman-Kipchak origin, and due to his lineage, his dynasty is known as the Mamluk (slave) Dynasty (not to be confused with Mamluk dynasty of Iraq or Mamluk dynasty of Egypt). Aibak reigned as the Sultan of Delhi for four years.

After Aibak died, Aram Shah assumed power in 1210, but he was assassinated in 1211 by Shams-ud-din Iltutmish, his son in law. Iltutmish's power was precarious, and a number of Muslim amirs (nobles) challenged his authority as they had been supporters of Qutb al-din Aibak. After a series of conquests and brutal executions of opposition, he consolidated his power. His rule was challenged a number of times, such as by Qubacha, and this led to a series of wars. Iltumish conquered Multan and Bengal from contesting Muslim rulers, as well as Ranathambhore and Siwalik from the Hindu rulers. He also attacked, defeated, and executed Taj al-Din Yildiz, who asserted his rights as heir to Mu'izz ad-Din Muhammad Ghori. Iltutmish's rule lasted till 1236. Following his death, the Delhi Sultanate saw a succession of weak rulers, disputing Muslim nobility, assassinations, and short-lived tenures. Power shifted from Rukn ud-din Firuz to Razia Sultana and others, until Ghiyas ud-din Balban came to power and ruled from 1266 to 1287. He was succeeded by 17-year-old Muiz ud-din Qaiqabad, who ordered the poisoning of Nizam-ud-Din and appointed Jalal-ud-din Firoz Khilji as the commander of the army. Khilji assassinated Muiz ud-din Qaiqabad and assumed power, thus ending the Mamluk dynasty.

Qutb al-din Aibak initiated the construction of Qutub Minar and the Quwwat-ul-Islam (Might of Islam) Mosque, now a UNESCO world heritage site. It was built from the remains of twenty seven demolished Hindu and Jain temples, and completed by Muhammad-bin-Sam. The Qutub Minar Complex or Qutb Complex was expanded by Iltutmish, and later by Ala-ud-din Khilji in early 14th century. During the Mamluk dynasty, many amirs (nobles) of Afghan and Persia migrated and settled in India, as West Asia came under Mongol siege.


The first ruler of the Khilji dynasty was Jalal-ud-din Khilji. He came to power in 1290 after killing the last ruler of the Mamluk dynasty, Moiz ud din Qaiqabad, at the behest of Turkic, Afghan, and Persian amirs. Jalal-ud-din Firoz Shah Khalji was of Turkic origin, and ruled for 6 years before he was murdered in 1296 by his nephew and son-in-law Juna Muhammad Khilji, who later came to be known as Ala-ud-din Khilji.

Ala-ud-din began his military career as governor of Kara province, from where he led two raids on Malwa (1292) and Devagiri (1294) for plunder and loot. His military campaigning returned to these lands as well other south Indian kingdoms after he assumed power. He conquered Gujarat, Ranthambor, Chittor, and Malwa. However, these victories were cut short because of Mongol attacks and plunder raids from northwest. The Mongols withdrew after plundering and stopped raiding northwest parts of the Delhi Sultanate.

After the Mongols withdrew, Ala-ud-din Khilji continued expanding the Delhi Sultanate into Southern India with the help of generals such as Malik Kafur and Khusro Khan. They collected lots of war booty (anwatan) from those they defeated. His commanders collected war spoils and paid ghanima (الْغَنيمَة, a tax on spoils of war), which helped strengthen the Khilji rule. Among the spoils was the Warangal loot that included one of the largest known diamonds in human history, the Koh-i-noor.

Ala-ud-din Khalji changed tax policies, raising agriculture taxes from 20% to 50% (payable in grain and agricultural produce), eliminating payments and commissions on taxes collected by local chiefs, banned socialization among his officials as well as inter-marriage between noble families to help prevent any opposition forming against him, and he cut salaries of officials, poets, and scholars. These tax policies and spending controls strengthened his treasury to pay the keep of his growing army; he also introduced price controls on all agriculture produce and goods in the kingdom, as well as controls on where, how, and by whom these goods could be sold. Markets called shahana-i-mandi were created. Muslim merchants were granted exclusive permits and monopoly in these mandi to buy and resell at official prices. No one other than these merchants could buy from farmers or sell in cities. Those found violating these mandi rules were severely punished, e.g. by mutilation. Taxes collected in the form of grain were stored in the kingdom's storage. During famines that followed, these granaries ensured sufficient food for the army.

Historians note Ala-ud-din Khilji as being a tyrant. Anyone Khilji suspected of being a threat to this power was killed along with the women and children of that family. In 1298, between 15,000 and 30,000 people near Delhi, who had recently converted to Islam, were slaughtered in a single day, due to fears of an uprising. He is also known for his cruelty against kingdoms he defeated in battle.

After Ala-ud-din's death in 1316, his eunuch general Malik Kafur, who was born in a Hindu family in India and had converted to Islam, tried to assume power. He lacked the support of Persian and Turkic nobility and was subsequently killed. The last Khilji ruler was Ala-ud-din Khilji's 18-year-old son Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah Khilji, who ruled for four years before he was killed by Khusro Khan. Khusro Khan's reign lasted only a few months, when Ghazi Malik, later to be called Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq, killed him and assumed power in 1320, thus beginning the Tughlaq dynasty of the Delhi Sultanate.


The Tughlaq dynasty lasted from 1320 to nearly the end of 14th century. The first ruler Ghazi Malik rechristened himself as Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq and is also referred to in scholarly works as Tughlak Shah. He was of Turko-Indian origins, with a Turkic father and a Hindu mother. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq ruled for five years and launched a town near Delhi named Tughlaqabad. According to some historians such as Vincent Smith, he was killed by his son Juna Khan, who then assumed power in 1325. Juna Khan rechristened himself as Muhammad bin Tughlaq and ruled for 26 years. During his rule, Delhi Sultanate reached its peak in terms of geographical reach, covering most of the Indian subcontinent.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq was an intellectual, with extensive knowledge of the Quran, Fiqh, poetry and other fields. He was also deeply suspicious of his kinsmen and wazirs (ministers), extremely severe with his opponents, and took decisions that caused economic upheaval. For example, he ordered minting of coins from base metals with face value of silver coins - a decision that failed because ordinary people minted counterfeit coins from base metal they had in their houses and used them to pay taxes and jizya.

On another occasion, after becoming upset by some accounts, or to run the Sultanate from the center of India by other accounts, Muhammad bin Tughlaq ordered the transfer of his capital from Delhi to Deogir in Maharashtra (renaming it to Daulatabad), by forcing mass migration of Delhi's population. Those who refused were killed. One blind person who failed to move to Daulatabad was dragged for the entire journey of 40 days - the man died, his body fell apart, and only his tied leg reached Daulatabad. The capital move failed because Daulatabad was arid and did not have enough drinking water to support the new capital. The capital then returned to Delhi. Nevertheless, Muhammad bin Tughlaq's orders affected history as a large number of Delhi Muslims who came to the Deccan area did not return to Delhi to live near Muhammad bin Tughlaq. This influx of the then-Delhi residents into the Deccan region led to a growth of Muslim population in central and southern India. Muhammad bin Tughlaq's adventures in the Deccan region also marked campaigns of destruction and desecration of Hindu and Jain temples, for example the Svayambhu Shiva Temple and the Thousand Pillar Temple.

Revolts against Muhammad bin Tughlaq began in 1327, continued over his reign, and over time the geographical reach of the Sultanate shrunk. The Vijayanagara Empire originated in southern India as a direct response to attacks from the Delhi Sultanate. The Vijayanagara Empire liberated south India from the Delhi Sultanate rule. In 1337, Muhammad bin Tughlaq ordered an attack on China, sending part of his forces over the Himalayas. Few survived the journey, and they were executed upon their return for failing. During his reign, state revenues collapsed from his policies such as the base metal coins from 1329-1332. To cover state expenses, he sharply raised taxes. Those who failed to pay taxes were hunted and executed. Famines, widespread poverty, and rebellion grew across the kingdom. In 1338 his own nephew rebelled in Malwa, whom he attacked, caught, and flayed alive. By 1339, the eastern regions under local Muslim governors and southern parts led by Hindu kings had revolted and declared independence from Delhi Sultanate. Muhammad bin Tughlaq did not have the resources or support to respond to the shrinking kingdom. The historian Walford chronicled Delhi and most of India faced severe famines during Muhammad bin Tughlaq's rule in the years after the base metal coin experiment. By 1347, Bahmanid Sultanate had become an independent and competing Muslim kingdom in Deccan region of South Asia.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq died in 1351 while trying to chase and punish people in Gujarat who were rebelling against Delhi Sultanate. He was succeeded by Firoz Shah Tughlaq (1351–1388), who tried to regain the old kingdom boundary by waging a war with Bengal for 11 months in 1359. However, Bengal did not fall, and it remained outside of Delhi Sultanate. Firoz Shah Tughlaq ruled for 37 years. His reign attempted to stabilize food supply and reduce famines by commissioning an irrigation canal from the Yamuna river. An educated sultan, Firoz Shah left a memoir. In it he wrote that he banned the practice of torture, such as amputations, tearing out of eyes, sawing people alive, crushing people's bones as punishment, pouring molten lead into throats, setting people on fire, driving nails into hands and feet, among others. The Sunni Sultan also wrote that he did not tolerate attempts by Rafawiz Shia Muslim and Mahdi sects from proselytizing people into their faith, nor did he tolerate Hindus who tried to rebuild their temples after his armies had destroyed those temples. As punishment, wrote the Sultan, he put many Shias, Mahdi, and Hindus to death (siyasat). Firoz Shah Tughlaq also lists his accomplishments to include converting Hindus to Sunni Islam by announcing an exemption from taxes and jizya for those who convert, and by lavishing new converts with presents and honours. Simultaneously, he raised taxes and jizya, assessing it at three levels, and stopping the practice of his predecessors who had historically exempted all Hindu Brahmins from jizya tax. He also vastly expanded the number of slaves in his service and those of amirs (Muslim nobles). The reign of Firoz Shah Tughlaq was marked by reduction in extreme forms of torture, eliminating favours to select parts of society, but also increased intolerance and persecution of targeted groups.

The death of Firoz Shah Tughlaq created anarchy and disintegration of the kingdom. The last rulers of this dynasty both called themselves Sultan from 1394 to 1397: Mahmud Tughlaq, the grandson of Firoz Shah Tughlaq who ruled from Delhi, and Nusrat Shah, another relative of Firoz Shah Tughlaq who ruled from Firozabad, which was a few miles from Delhi. The battle between the two relatives continued till the invasion by Timur in 1398. Timur, also known as Tamerlane in Western scholarly literature, was the Turkic Islamic king of Samarkhand. He became aware of the weakness and quarreling of the Sultans in Delhi, so he marched with his army to Delhi, plundering and killing all the way. Estimates for the massacre by Timur in Dehli range from 100,000 to 200,000 people. Timur had no intention of staying in or ruling India. He looted the lands he crossed, then plundered and burnt Delhi. Over five days, Timur and his Mongol army raged a massacre. Then he collected and carried the wealth, captured women and slaves (particularly skilled artisans), and returned to Samarkhand. The people and lands within Delhi Sultanate were left in a state of anarchy, chaos, and pestilence. Sultan Mahmud Tughlak, who had fled to Gujarat during Timur's invasion, returned and nominally ruled as the last ruler of Tughlak dynasty, as a puppet of various factions at the court.


The Sayyid dynasty was a Turkic dynasty that ruled the Delhi Sultanate from 1415 to 1451. The Timur invasion and plunder had left the Delhi Sultanate in shambles, and little is known about the rule by the Sayyid dynasty. According to historian William Hunter, the Delhi Sultanate had effective control of only a few miles around Delhi. Schimmel notes the first ruler of the dynasty as Sayyid Khizr Khan, who assumed power by claiming to represent Timur. His authority was questioned even by those near Delhi. His successor was Mubarak Khan, who rechristened himself as Mubarak Shah and tried to regain lost territories in Punjab, unsuccessfully.

With the power of the Sayyid dynasty faltering, Islam's history on the Indian subcontinent underwent a profound change, according to Schimmel. The previously dominant Sunni sect of Islam became diluted, alternate Muslim sects such as Shia rose, and new competing centers of Islamic culture took roots beyond Delhi.

The Sayyid dynasty was displaced by the Lodi dynasty in 1451.


The Lodi dynasty had its origins in the Afghan Lodi tribe. Bahlol Lodi (or Bahlul Lodi) was the first Afghan, Pathan, to rule Delhi Sultanate and the one who started the dynasty. Bahlol Lodi began his reign by attacking the Muslim controlled Kingdom of Jaunpur to expand the influence of Delhi Sultanate, and was partially successful through a treaty. Thereafter, the region from Delhi to Benares (then at the border of Bengal province), was back under influence of Delhi Sultanate.

After Bahlol Lodi died, his son Nizam Khan assumed power, rechristened himself as Sikandar Shah Ghazi Lodi and ruled from 1489-1517. One of the better known rulers of this dynasty, Sikandar Lodi expelled his brother Barbak Shah from Jaunpur, installed his son Jalal Khan as the ruler, then proceeded east to make claims on Bihar. The Muslim amir (noble) governors of Bihar agreed to pay tribute and taxes, but operated independent of Delhi Sultanate. Sikandar Lodi led a campaign of destruction of temples, particularly around Mathura. He also moved his capital and court from Delhi to Agra, an ancient Hindu city that had been destroyed during the plunder and attacks of the early Delhi Sultanate period. Sikandar thus erected buildings with Indo-Islamic architecture in Agra during his rule, and the growth of Agra continued during the Mughal Empire, after the end of Delhi Sultanate.

Sikandar Lodi died a natural death in 1517, and his second son Ibrahim Lodi assumed power. Ibrahim did not enjoy the support of Afghan and Persian amirs or regional chiefs. Ibrahim attacked and killed his elder brother Jalal Khan, who was installed as the governor of Jaunpur by his father and had the support of the amirs and chiefs. Ibrahim Lodi was unable to consolidate his power. After Jalal Khan's death, the governor of Punjab - Dawlat Khan Lodi - reached out to the Mughal Babur and invited him to attack Delhi Sultanate. Babur defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodi in the Battle of Panipat in 1526. The death of Ibrahim Lodi ended the Delhi Sultanate, and the Mughal Empire replaced it.

Destruction and desecration

The Delhi Sultanate was an era of temple destruction and desecration. Richard Eaton has tabulated a campaign of destruction of idols and temples by Sultans, intermixed with instances of years where the temples were protected from desecration. In many cases, the demolished remains, rocks and broken statue pieces were reused to build mosques and other buildings. For example, the Qutb complex in Delhi was built from stones of 27 demolished Hindu and Jain temples by some accounts, and additionally included parts from Buddhist temples by other accounts. Similarly, the Muslim mosque in Khanapur, Maharashtra was built from the looted parts and demolished remains of Hindu temples. Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji destroyed Buddhist and Hindu libraries and their manuscripts at Nalanda and Odantapuri Universities at the beginning of Delhi Sultanate.

The first historical record of a campaign of destruction of temples and defacement of faces or heads of Hindu idols lasted from 1193 through early 13th century in Rajasthan, Punjab, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh under the command of Ghuri. Under Khalaji, the campaign of temple desecration expanded to Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, and continued through late 13th century. The campaign extended to Telangana, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu under Malik Kafur and Ulugh Khan in 14th century, and by Bahmani in 15th century. Orissa temples were destroyed in the 14th century under Tughlaq.

Beyond destruction and desecration, the Sultans of Delhi Sultanate in some cases had forbidden reconstruction of damaged Hindu, Jain and Buddhist temples, and they prohibited repairs of old temples or construction of any new temples. In certain cases, the Sultanate would grant a permit for repairs and construction of temples if the patron or religious community paid jizya (fee, tax). For example, a proposal by the Chinese to repair Himalayan Buddhist temples destroyed by the Sultanate army was refused, on the grounds that such temple repairs were only allowed if the Chinese agreed to pay jizya tax to the treasury of the Sultanate. In his memoirs, Firoz Shah Tughlaq describes how he destroyed temples and built mosques instead and killed those who dared build new temples. Other historical records from wazirs, amirs and the court historians of various Sultans of the Delhi Sultanate describe the grandeur of idols and temples they witnessed in their campaigns and how these were destroyed and desecrated.

Mamluk/Slave dynasty

  • Qutb-ud-din Aibak (1206–1210), appointed Naib us Sultanat by Mu'izz al-Din Muhammad, first Muslim Sultan of India, ruled with Delhi as capital
  • Aram Shah (1210–1211)
  • Shams ud din Iltutmish (1211–1236), son-in-law of Qut-bud-din Aibak
  • Rukn ud din Firuz (1236), son of Iltutmish
  • Raziyyat-ud-din Sultana (1236–1240), daughter of Iltutmish
  • Muiz ud din Bahram (1240–1242), son of Iltutmish
  • Ala ud din Masud (1242–1246), son of Ruk-nud-din
  • Nasir ud din Mahmud (1246–1266), grandson of Iltutmish
  • Ghiyas ud din Balban (1266–1286), ex-slave, Father-in-law of Sultan Nasir ud din Mahmud
  • Muiz ud din Qaiqabad (1286–1290), grandson of Balban and son of Nasiruddin Bughra Khan
  • Khilji dynasty

  • Jalal ud din Firuz Khilji (1290–1296)
  • Alauddin Khilji (1296–1316)
  • Umar Khan Khilji (1316)
  • Qutb ud din Mubarak Shah Khilji (1316–1320)
  • Khusro Khan (1320)
  • Tughluq dynasty

  • Ghiyath al-Din Tughluq (1320–1325)
  • Muhammad bin Tughluq (1325–1351)
  • Mahmud Ibn Muhammad (March 1351)
  • Firuz Shah Tughluq (1351–1388)
  • Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughlaq II (1388–1389)
  • Abu Bakr Shah (1389–1390)
  • Nasir ud din Muhammad Shah III (1390–1393)
  • Sikander Shah I (March–April 1393)
  • Nasir-ud-Din Mahmud Shah Tughluq (Sultan Mahmud II) at Delhi (1394–1412), son of Nasir uddin Muhammad, controlled the east from Delhi
  • Nasir-ud-din Nusrat Shah Tughluq (1394–1414), grandson of Firuz Shah Tughluq, controlled the west from Firozabad
  • Sayyid dynasty

  • Khizr Khan (1414–1421)
  • Mubarak Shah (1421–1434)
  • Muhammad Shah (1434–1445)
  • Alam Shah (1445–1451)
  • Lodi dynasty

  • Bahlul Lodi (1451–1489)
  • Sikandar Lodi (1489–1517)
  • Ibrahim Lodi (1517–1526), defeated by Babur in the First Battle of Panipat on 21st April, 1526
  • References

    Delhi Sultanate Wikipedia