delhi sultanate

The Delhi Sultanate is a term used to cover five short-lived dynasties and one sultan, Delhi based kingdoms or sultanates, mostly of Turkic origin in medieval India. The sultanates ruled from Delhi between 1206 and 1526, when the last was replaced by the Mughal dynasty. The five dynasties were 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 Slave Dynasty

Slave Dynasty

Time period

1. Qutub-ud-din Aibak
1206-1210 AD
2. Iltutmish
1210-1236 AD
3. Raziya Sultan
1236-1239 AD
4. Bahram Shah
1240-1242 AD
5. Ala-ud-din Masud
1242-1246 AD
6. Nasiruddin Mahmud
1246-1266 AD
7. Balban
1266-1285 AD
8. Kaikubad
1286-1290 AD

Qutub-ud-din Aibek

Qutub-ud-din Aibek laid the foundation of a new dynasty called the slave dynasty in 1206 AD. He established himself as the sultan of Delhi at Lahore. He strengthened his position through matrimonial alliances with his rivals. He gave his daughter to Iltutmish the foremost of his slaves.


After Qutub-ud-din Aibek his son, Aram Shah succeeded the throne. He was not able to display the skill of conquests and administration shone by his forerunners. Iltutmish over threw his rule with the support of the nobles. A battle followed in which Aram Shah was defeated and killed. In 1211 AD Iltutmish came to the throne. He was also known as Shamsuddin. He spent his days in retrieving the lost territories of Qutub-ud-din Aibek and also added Malwa and Sind. During the reign of Iltutmish, he fought against the rival slave chiefs Yildiz and Qabacha.
At the battlefield of Tarain Yildiz was defeated. Iltutmish also faced danger from the Mongols led by Chingiz Khan. In his diplomatic decision, he avoided the conflict with the mighty Mongol by preventing Jalal-ud-din the ruler of Khawarism from coming to India. Another major threat to the power of Iltutmish was the independent Rajput rulers who in spite of their rivalry could pose a serious danger to the Sultanat. In 1226 AD he attacked Ranthambor and Mansor. He also occupied Ajmer, Jalor, Nagor.
In 1229 Gwalior was occupied and the fort of Kalinjar was plundered. Kannauj, Benaras, and Badaun were under his dominion. In the year 1229AD the Caliph of Baghdad recognized him as Sultan. He brought order in Rohilkhand. He suppressed the revolt of Tughril Khan, the governor of Bengal. Iltutmish was the greatest ruler of 13th century India and a wise statesman. He was generous to talented people who willingly became the pillars of the central administration.


Raziya came to the throne by overthrowing her brother Rukn-ud-din. After elevating many Tajiks to high positions Raziya appointed Jamal-ud-din Yaqut an Ethiopian slave as superintendent of the royal horses which aroused resentment in a majority of the already disgruntled Turkish nobles. Moreover, sultana began to appear unveiled in public. Though the people of Delhi supported her, hostility mounted among the iqtadars. In 1239-40 she crushed some of the rebellious iqtadars but one of them Altunia killed Yakut and took Raziya prisoner. In the meanwhile, the powerful Turkish nobles put Iltutmish’s third son Bahram on the throne. Raziya married Altunia and their combined efforts to capture Delhi failed. They were killed during an attack on their convoy.
The fall of Raziya made the clique of Turkish nobles dominant in the court and they started a scramble for supremacy. Raziya’s successor Bahram Shah was a weak and incompetent ruler and was over thrown by the nobles after a brief reign of two years. He was succeeded by Alauddin Masud Shah who also met the same fate of Bahram Shah. In 1246 Nasir-ud-din Mahmud the grandson of Iltutmish ascended the throne. He owed his throne to the Turkish aristocracy and the latter was bound to have tremendous influence in the administration. He places all his powers in the hands of his prime minister Balban. Balban married off his daughter to Sultan and was made Naiib-i-Mamlakat with the title of Ulugh Khan. Balban became the defacto ruler of the Sultanate. In 1266 Nasiruddin Mahmud died.


Balban had full control over sovereignty sat on the throne of Delhi in 1266 and he adopted the name of Ghiyasuddin Balban. With his accession, the line of rulers of the family of Iltutmish ended. The most serious problem, which he faced soon after his succession, was the restoration of law and order in Delhi and other parts of his kingdom. Balban in his attempt to curtail the power of the nobility increased the power and prestige of the Sultan. For this purpose, he introduced Persian ceremonies and etiquettes in his court and allowed no manner of levity there. He was a thorough aristocrat and he never gave the office to anyone except to well-born men. He impressed upon the people that kingship was the vice-regency of God on earth and in its dignity it was next only to prophethood. The king was the shadow of God and was the repository of divine guidance and radiance. Having consolidated his authority Balban addressed himself to the task of maintaining peace and order with his characteristic vigour. He realized that a strong army was essentially necessary to cope with the internal troubles and external dangers. Hence, he reorganized his army and increased his efficiency. Additional officers were appointed with higher emoluments.
Balaban did not try to extend his empire although he had a powerful army. He instead concentrated on consolidating the territory already in possession. He suppressed the revolts in the Doab and Oudh and tracked down recalcitrant elements in the region of Rohilkhand. Mughals invaded again in 1279 and 1285 but was defeated and driven away. In 1286 the Mongols reappeared and this time, Prince Muhammad was killed. Balban could never recover from the tragedy and died in 1286.

Khalji Dynasty

Rulers of the Khalji Dynasty

Time period

1. Jalaluddin Firuz Khalji
1290-1296 AD
2. Alauddin Khalji
1296-1316 AD
3. Qutubuddin Mubarak
1316-1320 AD

Jalaluddin Firoz Khilji 

Jalaluddin Firoz Khilji was the founder of the Khilji dynasty. He came to power after the overthrow of slave dynasty. Their ascendancy is known as Khilji imperialism because, with the accession of Jalaluddin on the throne of Delhi, the supremacy of the Turks ended in India. He expanded the boundaries of his empire besides his achievements include suppression of the revolt of Malik Chhaju with the governor of Oudh. He suppressed the Thuggees a band of robbers and send them off peacefully to Bengal. He adopted the conciliatory policy towards the Mongols. He allowed some of the Mongols to settle in India.

It was during the conquest of Bhilsa that Alauddin the nephew of Jalaluddin started realising the dream of being sultan. In 1292 AD Alauddin led an expedition to Devagiri hearing of its wealth. Devagiri was forced to pay a huge war indemnity. This helped Alauddin in buying the nobles and pleasing the soldiers who were dissatisfied by the rule of Jalaluddin. Alauddin than hatched a conspiracy and got Sultan Jalaluddin killed and proclaimed himself as the sultan.

Alauddin Khilji

In 1296 Alauddin became the sultan after Malika Jan the widow of Jalaluddin and her younger son Qadir Khan left Delhi. He also exterminated the old Balboni and Jalali nobles. The reign of Alauddin Khilji marks the zenith of the power of the Delhi Sultanate. In 1297 he set off for conquering Gujarat. He sent an expedition under Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan to Gujarat. On the way Ulugh Khan conquered Jaisalmer. During the plunder of the rich port of Cambay Alauddin’s commander Nusrat Khan acquired a Hindu turned Muslim slave Kafur who later on rose to become a great military general and the Malik Naib of Alauddin.
After the conquest of Gujarat, Alauddin sent an expedition under Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan to Ranthambhore. However the Rajputs defeated them and Nusrat Khan died. Alauddin went to Ranthambhor and annexed it in 1301. The next expedition was sent to Mewar and after the siege of 8 months, he captured Chittor in 1303. The administration of Chittor was put in the hands of Khizr Khan, the eldest son of Alauddin. Chittor was renamed as Khizrabad after the name of Khizr Khan. In 1305 Alauddin sent Ain-ul-Mulk Multani for the conquest of Malwa which was placed under the governorship of the latter. By the end of 1305, the whole of Northern India fell into the hands of Alauddin and he directed his attention to the conquest of Deccan.
Between 1307 and 1312 he began the southward expansion of his empire. He invaded Devagiri in 1306-07 AD. The immediate cause for this was an unduly long delay in sending the annual tribute. In 1309 the Kakatiya kingdom was attacked and its ruler Pratap Rudra Deva accepted the suzerainty of Delhi and surrendered vast treasures. The next expedition was against Vir Ballala III the Hoysala ruler in 1311. His capital Dwarsamudra was captured. The whole of Deccan was forced to acknowledge the supremacy of Alauddin. His motives were to secure the immense wealth and to force the southern states to accept the suzerainty of the Sultanate. He had to face more than a dozen invasions. These invasions started from the end of 1296 and continued upto 1308.The Mongols threatened not only Punjab,Multan and Sindh but even Delhi and the Ganga-Yamuna Doab. This grave crisis compelled him to take strong measures for the protection of the northwest frontier. The 20 years of his rule came to an end with his death on 2nd January 1316 AD.

Qutubuddin Mubarak Shah Khalji

A young son of the Sultan was placed on the throne and Malik Kafur acted as the regent. Malik Kafur killed other members of the Allauddin’s family but he was murdered and Mubarak Khan the third son became the regent. He imprisoned Sahibuddin and ascended the throne as Qutub uddin Mubarak in the year 1316. He tried to win the good will of the people. He liberalized Alauddin’s rigorous administrative policies and repealed economic regulations. All prisoners were released and harsh regulations were cancelled. The lands which were confiscated were given back to their legitimate owners. Taxes were lowered. He was under the influence of youth called Hassan who later was called Khusru Khan who conspired to kill him. Thus, Khalji dynasty came to an end. Khusro tried to strike a reign of terror to control the nobles. This was resented by the nobles particularly Ghazi Malik who captured and beheaded the sultan. He ascended the throne under the title of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq Shah.

Tughlaq Dynasty

Rulers of the Tughlaq Dynasty

Time period

1. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq Shah
1320-1325 AD
2. Mohammad Bin Tughlaq
1325-1351 AD
3. Firuz Tughlaq
1351-1388 AD
4. Later Tughlaq
1388-1414 AD
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq
Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq laid the foundation of the Tughlaq Dynasty. The word Tughlaq was not the name of any tribe or clan but was the personal name of Ghiyasuddin. He had to face enormous problems as a Sultan. There were riots in various parts of the empire and the royal treasury was empty. He pursued a policy of reconciliation with the nobles and the people who were severely restricted under Alauddin. He liberalized administration in certain respects. He gave up the practice of physical torture in case of economic offences and recovery of debts.
He also discarded Alauddin’s system of measurement of land for the assessment of land revenue. He attempted to improve the finances of the state and perused a policy to encourage agriculture. His twin object was to increase land under cultivation and improve the economic condition of the cultivators. He took a keen interest in the construction of canal for irrigation and formulated famine policy to provide relief to peasants in the time of drought. The state demand of revenue was fixed between 1/5th and 1/3rd of the produce. He further instructed that the land revenue should not be enhanced more than 1/11th of the estimated produce.
He continued the system of Dagh and Chehra instituted by Alauddin. He built the fortified city of Tughlaqabad and gave a new touch to the architecture of the Sultanate period. In 1321 he dispatched the crown prince Jauna Khan to re-establish Sultan’s authority in the south. He annexed Warangal. Madurai and Bengal.

Mohammad Bin Tughlaq

Jauna Khan ascended the throne in 1325 AD with the title of Mohammad Bin Tughlaq. He ruled up to 1351. He was a profound scholar of Persian, a penetrating critic, a litterateur of repute. He was a great scholar of Persian and Arabic. He faced many revolts and rebellions. The first of these revolts included his attempt to consolidate his empire by curbing the rebellions of 1327 by his cousin Bahauddin Garsharp in the Deccan and other of Kishulu Khan the governor of Multan and Sind in 1328.
One of the much-condemned experiments of the Sultan was the transfer of capital from Delhi to Devagiri (1327). The transfer was attempted primarily due to two reasons -for its central location and secondly its close proximity to the south which was a newly conquered region. The transfer of capital involved the shifting of the army, officials, servants, tradesmen, court and shift of population. There was a widespread resentment against the Sultan who decided to retransfer the capital to Delhi. The order of going back to the old capital caused much distress to the people. Another of his novel and daring experiments was the introduction of the token currency of bronze coins in place of silver tanka in 1329-30.
The value of the token coins was deemed to be equal to a silver coin. The main reason for this measure was the scarcity of silver. This measure proved useful in the beginning but later on it caused serious problems. People soon began to manufacture counterfeits of bronze in large numbers. There was a surfeit of coins in circulation. This naturally led to its depreciation and most people began to prefer copper tankas for payments and silver or gold issues for receipts. The Sultan was compelled to withdraw the token currency. He offered to exchange all the token coins for the silver coins resulting in huge losses to the treasury. He planned an expedition for the conquest of Khurasan and Iraq.
He raised an army of 3,70,000 soldiers and gave it a whole year’s salary in advance. But the army did not leave for the expedition and was disbanded. The scheme was abandoned when the Sultan learnt that the conditions in Iraq had improved and was not conducive to an expedition. Towards the end of his reign, the sultan increased the land revenue in the doab. He decided to enhance the land tax in the doab because of the richness of its soil. Doab was facing total famine which was followed by the plague. The Sultan raised the tax from 5 to 10%. Therefore, the peasants instead of paying the taxes abandoned their lands and adopted highway robbery. The tax collectors continued to collect taxes by oppression. It resulted in extensive revolts. Mohammad Bin Tughlaq died in 1351. The whole of south India became independent during his lifetime and three major independent states- the empire of Vijayanagar, the Brahmani kingdom and the Sultanate of Madura were founded in the territories of the sultanate of the south.
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