The Delhi Sultanate

The period between 1206 A.D. and 1526 A.D. in India’s history is known as the Delhi Sultanate period. During this period of over three hundred years, five dynasties ruled in Delhi. These were: the Slave dynasty (1206-90), Khilji dynasty (1290-1320), Tughlaq dynasty (1320-1413), Sayyid dynasty (1414-51), and Lodhi dynasty (1451-1526). Of these five dynasties the first three were of Turkish origin and the Lodis were Afghans.

The Slave or Ilbari Dynasty (AD 1206-1290)

Qutub-ud-din Aibak (AD 1206-1210)

He was the founder of the Sultanate of Delhi. Qutub-ud-din Aibak was the first Muslim King of India. He began his reign with the modest title Malik and Sipahsalar which had been conferred upon him by Muhammad Ghori. Lahore and later Delhi, were his capitals. His task was only half done when he died of a sudden fall from a horse at Lahore in AD 1210 while playing Chaugan (Polo). He was famous for his generosity and earned the sobriquet of lakh-baksh (giver of lakhs). He laid the foundation of the Qutub Minar in Delhi after the name of the famous Sufi Saint Khwaja Qutub-ud-din Bakhtiyar khaki. Aibak constructed the first mosque in India Quwwat-ul-Islam (Delhi) and Adhai Din ka Jhopara (at Ajmer). Hasan Nizami and Fakhr-ud-din (whom Aibak patronised) were all praised for the qualities of head and heart of Aibak and sense of justice in their works Taj-ul Massir and Tarikh Mubarik Shahi respectively.
Qutub Minar
Shams-ud-din Iltutmish (AD 1211-1236)

Iltutmish was the real founder of the Sultanate of Delhi. He succeeded Qutub-ud-din Aibak as the Sultan and was the real consolidator of the Turkish conquests in India. He made Delhi as the capital of the empire. Iltutmish was one of the most outstanding rulers of medieval India. He suppressed the revolts of the ambitious nobles fought with the sons of Aibak and sent expeditions against the Rajputs in Ranthambor, Jalar and Mewar. His governing class was entirely of foreign origin. It consisted of two groups, Turkish slave officers and Tazik. He organised the iqtas, the army and also the currency, the three most important organs of the imperial structure of the Delhi Sultanate. The iqta was the grant of revenue from a territory in lieu of salary. Iltutmish formed Turkish-i-Chalagani or Chalsa ( a group of fotty powerful Turkish nobles) to suppress the nobles. On 18th February, 1229 the Khalifa sent emissaries from Baghdad with a decree registering the independent status of the Delhi Sultanate. He is called the father of Tomb building (build Sultan Garhi). Chengiz Khan Mongol invaded during his period. He introduced the silver coin (tanka) and the copper coin (jital). He completed the construction of Qutub Minar which was started by Aibak.

Razia Sultan (AD 1236-1240)

She was the first and the last Muslim woman ruler of medieval India. The first revelion was raised by Kabir Khan, the Governor of Lahore. Altunia, the Governor of Bhatinda was also a revolutionary. So, she moved straight towards Bhatinda, but was defeated and taken as prisoner by Altunia who married her. Razia with her husband was moving towards Delhi when she was defeated by Bahram shah, a son of Iltutmish. Deserted by her soldiers, she was murdered by robbers. Razia’s reign lasted three and a half years. Razia was an excellent horse woman. She led the army herself and rode in public on elephant back. Razia succession continued in which three ruled in significantly.

  • Bahram Shah (AD 1240-1242)
  • Alauddin Masud Shah (AD 1242-1246)
  • Nasiruddin Mahmud (AD 1246-1266)

Nasiruddin was the grandson of Iltutmish. Balban’s most important contribution was during the reign of Nasiruddin.

Ghiyasuddin Balban (AD 1266-1287)
Ghiyasuddin Balban

Balban ascended the throne in AD 1266-67 with a host of problems. The first and foremost among these was the future relationship of the nobility with the king. He ordered the separation of the military department from the finance department (Diwan-i-wizarat) and the former was placed under a minister for military affairs (Diwan-i-ariz). He established the military department (Diwan-i-ariz). And he impressed upon the people that the kingship was the vice regency of God on Earth (Niyabat-i-khudai) and its dignity was next only to the prophet-hood. The king was the shadow of the God (Zil-i-ilahi). Balban introduced Sijdah or Paibos and started Nauroz festival. Balban took strong measures to safeguard the North-West frontier against the Mongol invasions. In order to win the confidence of the public, he administered justice with extreme impartiality. His son Mohammad’s death was a mashing blow to Balban and the death-knell to his dynasty. He was deeply racist and excluded non-Turks from the administration. The last ruler of the dynasty was Qumaysh, he was ruled by Jalaluddin Firoz Khilji who established the Khilji dynasty.
Silver Coin of Ghiyasuddin Balban


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