(The period between 1206 and 1526 in the Indian history is known as Delhi Sultanate)

In 1194 A.D. Muhammad Ghori attacked Kanauj and defeated and killed the Gahadhavala king Jaichandra in the battle of Chandawar near Kanauj. With this Ghori got the control of the territory extending right from Afghanistan to the Ganga Yamuna doab up to Varanasi. Muhammad Ghori was murdered in 1206 A.D. After this his Indian positions came under the control of one of his generals, Qutbuddin Aibak.

The Mamluk (Slave) Dynasty (1206-1290 A.D.)

After Ghori’s death, Qutbuddin Aibak (slave-general of Muhammad Ghori) set up an independent kingdom with its headquarters at Lahore and thus laid the foundation of the Delhi Sultanate. Except Qutbuddin, other sultans of this dynasty belonged to the ilabari tribe of turks. During his time Bhaktiyar Khalji raided and plundered the areas of eastern U.P., Bihar, and Bengal. In the process he attacked and destroyed the famous universities of Nalanda and Vikramashila. Qutbuddin was succeeded by Iltutmish.
Iltutmish made delhi his capital. He organised the rulling elite or nobility of the period, which is better known as Turkan-i-chahalgani or chalisa. He divided his empire into numerous big and small pieces of land, called Iqtas. These Iqtas were assigned to the nobles and officers in lieu of salary. He introduced the silver coins called tanka and copper coins called jital, which were used during the sultanate period. Iltutmish chose his daughter Razia as his successor.
Razia Sultan was the first and last woman Muslim ruler of the medieval period. She ruled for a short period and after her a number of less important sultans came to the throne.
Balban, another ruler of the slave dynasty, defended his kingdom from the Mangol invasions and from internal rebellions. He broke the power of Turkish nobility (Chalisa), which had become more powerful than the Sultans. He derived his concept of kingship from Persia. He called himself a shadow of God on earth and next only to the prophet. He encouraged people to do Sijdah in his presence, (they had to kneel and touch the ground with their forehead in salutation to him) and do Paibos (kissing the feet of the king). This idea was much to the indignation of the people, who believed that in Islam all men are equal and no one is supposed to do Sijdah before anyone except God.

The Khiljis (1290-1320 A.D.)

Jalaluddin Khilji the first sultan of khilji dynasty came to the throne in 1290 A.D. at the age of 70. He was murdered by his ambitious nephew Alauddin Khalji in 1296 A.D. Alauddin Khalji wanted to become a world conqueror and called himself the second Alexander (sikander-i-sani). Therefore, he follwed the policy of defence from the Mongol invasion. He also followed the policy of Balban in tackling the Mongol menace in the frontier regions.
He adopted the policy of expansion. He conquered the kingdoms of Gujarat, Malwa, and Rajasthan. The source, Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s ‘Padamavat’ said that one of the objectives of Alauddin Khalji in attacking Chittor was to acquire Padmini, the beautiful queen of Rana Ratan Singh. He sent his army under the command of Malik Kafur to conquer south India. Malik Kafur defeated the Yadavas of Devagiri, kakatiyas of Warrangal and Hoyashalas of Dvarasamudra. His motives behind his south expeditions were to acquire immense wealth and to force the southern kings to accept his authority. Therefore, he released the kings on payment of tribute to him.
Alauddin followed the policy of consolidation. He took various measures for the prevention of rebellions and therefore restricted interrelations among the nobles and officers. He made several sweeping reforms in the field of revenue system. They were –
  • Regulation of revenue on the basis measurement of land.
  • Fixing of state’s demand at half of the produce.
  • Bringing more land under state control by abolishing small iqtas and forcing village chiefs and other officers to pay taxes to increase the revenue of the state.

He also began the market control system. For this purpose he fixed the prices of various commodities, established separate market for specific commodities under the charge of a controller of market. He prescribed strict punishment for those violated the rules and indulge in cheating. Alauddin Khalji died in 1316 A.D. After his death, the dynasty could not survive beyond 1320 A.D. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq organized a revolt and captured the throne by killing the last ruler of the khalji dynasty.

The Tughlaqs (1320-1414 A.D.)

Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq was an experinced warrior, statesman and an able administrator. He liberalised various harsh measures imposed by Alaudin Khalji and restored peace and order in the kingdom. He built the fortified city of Tughlaqabad in Delhi. He was succeeded by his son Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1325 A.D.
Ibn Battutah, a traveller from Morocco, visited India during Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s reign. He was appointed as the chief Qazi of Delhi and was later sent by Sultan as an ambassador to China. Muhammad Tughlaq was a great scholar and was well versed in various branches of learning. He offended the Orthodox Ulema by curbing their political influence and tried to resolve the problems of the States.
He failed on account of his three famous projects. The transfer of capital from Delhi to Devagiri (district Aurangabad, Maharashtra). He renamed Devagiri as Daulatabad. He thought that from Daulatabad it would be easier to control the Deccan. But the project failed because of two regions. First, he ordered the entire population along with the cattle to shift from Delhi to Daulatabad. A large number of people and cattle died on the way. Secondly, it became impossible to control north India from Daulatabad and keep the kingdom safe from the attacks from northwest frontiers. Within five years the capital was shifted back to Delhi, again causing great hardship to the people.
Introduction of token currency project failed on account of the circulation of counterfeit coins on a very large scale, which caused chaos in trade and commerce. Muhammad had to finally withdraw the token currency and offer to exchange all the token coins for silver coins. To compensate his monetary loss in the above projects and in order to get more money he increased the land revenue in the doab. The measure proved to be ill-timed, as the Doab region was then passing through a great famine, which was followed by plague. The discontent among people forced him to withdraw his order. After this he established a new department of agriculture to improve production. During the last decade of his reign, he faced various rebellions in which several regions of south and north of India became independent. After him, Firoz Shah Tughlaq came to the throne.
Firoz Shah Tughlaq adopted appeasement policies to gain support of the nobles, the army and the Ulema. He also granted lands to the Ulema and made iqtas hereditary. To please orthodox Muslims he imposed Jizyah on Brahmans. He founded new cities like Hissar, Ferozpur, Jaunpur, and Firuzabad. To beautify his new capital at Firuzabad in Delhi, two Ashokan pillars, one from Topra (Ambala) and the other from Meerut were brought. He also constructed dams, canals, sarais, mosques and madarasas and laid about 1200 state-managed fruit gardens.
The sultanate was reduced to a local principality within two decades after the death of Firoz. During the reign of Nasiruddin Mahmud, the last ruler of the dynasty, Timur, the Mongol king from central Asia, invaded India. Timur reached Delhi in 1398 A.D. and ordered a general massacre. He stayed in Delhi for several days and people were robbed, disgraced and butchered. He left Delhi as a deserted city in early 1399 A.D. Timur’s invasion dealt a fatal blow to the Tughlaq dynasty and the Sultanate of Delhi. By 1412 A.D. the sultanate disintegrated and numerous new kingdoms emerged in its place.

Sayyid Dynasty (1414-1451 A.D.)

Khizr Khan, a local governor, who called himself as viceroy of Timur, founded the new dynasty known as Sayyids. This dynasty ruled over Delhi and its surrounding region for a short time.

Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526 A.D.)

Bahlol Lodi, who was an Afghan, founded the Lodi dynasty. The Lodi kings tried to regain the lost territories of Bihar and Bengal. Sikandar Lodi founded the new city of Agra in A.D. 1506 and made it his capital. The last Lodi Sultan was Ibrahim Lodi. He was defeated and killed by Babar in the first battle of Panipat in 1526 A.D. With the fall of the Lodis the Delhi Sultanate was also ended.


After the Sultan, the nobles and ulemas were sometimes served as checks on Sultan’s powers and influenced state policies. The nobility was mostly comprised of people of foreign origin, belonging mainly to two distinct groups, the Turkish and the non-Turkish. These people immigrated into India from central and west Asia in search of fortune. They paid high salaries in the form of assignment of land, called iqtas. Iqtas were transferable and they were assigned to soldiers, officers, and nobles. The holders of iqtas were called iqtadars. Whereas, the ulemas were theologians well versed in shariat laws. They were consulted in religious matters and held monopoly of judicial offices in the state. In this way they formed a section of the governing class.
There were four important departments of administration.
  • The diwan-i-wizarat – It was headed by wazir, who looked after finance and public administration.
  • The diwan-i-arz – It was responsible for the administration of military affairs.
  • The diwan-i-insha – It looked after state correspondence.
  • The diwan-i-risalat – It was the department of religious affairs and education.

The heads of the provinces were called wali and muqti. They were directly responsible to the central government. The province was further sub-divided into shiqs and parganas. A number of villages collectively formed a pargana, which was headed by an amil.

Society, Economy and Religion

Sant Kabir
In society, the period is important for the introduction of new elements-the Turks, the Persians, the Mangols and the Afghans besides the Arabs who had settled sown in some coastal regions-into India. Muslims were mainly belonged to Sunni and Shia sects. Majority of them belonged to foreign countries. There were a large number of slaves in the services of Delhi Sultanate. Ibn battutah praises hospitality of the Hindus and says that the caste rules were strictly followed in marriages. The freedom of women was much restricted. Purdah became common in the society.
Guru Nanak
Agriculture was the main occupation of the people. The Sultans of Delhi began the state sponsored workshops called Karakhanas to fulfill their needs. Internal and external trade was flourishing despite some setbacks from invasions. In economic life trade and craft received a stimulus and many towns arose as centres of administration, trade and crafts.
The important development during this period was the rise of Sufism and Bhakti movements. Significantly the bhakti movement best represented by Kabir and Nanak disapproved religious narrow-mindedness, superstitions and observance of formal rituals. The Bhakti saints condemned caste inequalities and laid stress on human brother-hood. The Sufis or the Muslim mystics preached the message of love and human brotherhood. These two movements played a leading role in combating religious exclusiveness and narrow mindedness and in bringing the people of all communities together. Sikhism began to emerge as a new religion in this period based on the teachings of Guru Nanak and other saints.

Language and Literature

A Court Scene
Two new languages i.e. Arabic and Persian became a part of India’s linguistic heritage. Of these, Arabic was mainly the language of Islam learning. For literature and in its widespread use, Persian was more important. Persian was the court language of the Sultanate. Because of its literature many Persian words became part of the Vocabulary of Indian languages. A very notable contribution of the Turks was in the field of historical literature in Persian. Under the influence of Persian, new forms of literature such as the Ghazal were introduced. The Muslim rulers in their administration used as a mixture of Arabic, Persian, and Turkish languages, although Sanskrit, Prakrit and Tamil continued to be mediums of literature.
The period of Sultanate of Delhi saw fusion of different languages resulted in development of Hindi, Braj, Avadhi, Bengali, Gujarati, Odia and Sindhi in the north and Marathi, Kannada, Telugu, and Malayalam in the south. The Bhakti saints enriched the modern Indian languages and this gave the literature of these languages many common features. Braj Bhasa and Khari Boli, forms of Hindi began to be used in literary compositions. Many devotional songs were composed in these languages. Heroic literature was written in Rajasthani, which was akin to Hindi and Gujarati.
The famous ballad Allah Udal and the Vishaldeo Raso belong to this period. Mulla Daud wrote perhaps the oldest poem in Awadhi language called Chandayana. With the introduction of paper the oldest available texts were reproduced during this period, throughout the country. A new language called Urdu started developing during this period. Its grammar was mostly like that of Hindi, but its vocabulary consists of both Persian and Hindi languages. Amir Khusrau, a disciple of Shaikh Nizamuddin Auliya was the first Muslim writer made use of Urdu or Hinduivi language as a vehicle for the expression of his poetic ideas.
In ancient India, there was no tradition of historical writing. The Turks introduced the Arab and Persian traditions of historical writing in India. Historian Ziauddin Barani wrote the Tarikh-i-Firozsahi which gives a detailed account of the reigns of the Khaljis and the Tughlaqs. He also wrote a work on political theory called the Fatawa-i-jahandari. Perhaps the most outstanding literary figure of this period was Amir Khusrau. He was a poet, historian, mystic and composer of music. He was also a disciple of Nizamuddin Auliya. He wrote the Ashiqa, the Nuh Siphir, the Qiranal-sadayan, the Khazain-ul-fultuh and several works of poetry. He took great pride in his being an Indian and praised India as the Earthly Paradise. He praised India’s flora and Fauna, its beauty, its buildings, its knowledge and learning. He believed that in many respects the essence of Hinduism resembled Islam. He considered Hindawi, the Hindi spoken around the region of Delhi, his mother tongue and composed many verses in it. He composed a number of bilingual quatrains and verses in Hindi and Persian. The healthy tradition started by him continued for centuries after him.
Krishnadeva Raya
In the regional kingdoms the Sultans of Bengal, Gujarat and other states patronized local language and literature. There were two main forms of Hindi in this period- Bhojpuri and Awadhi. Kabir wrote in Bhojpuri and his Dohas or couplets have become a part of the folklore. Malik Muhammad jayasi wrote the Padmavat in Awadhi. The famous Ramacharitamanas by Tulsidas was also written in Awadhi in this period. Another poet Qutban, a disciple of the Sufi saint Shaikh Burhan wrote the Mrigavati in Awadhi. In Bengali the Ramayana by Krittivasa and the hundreds of lyrics by the famous poet Chandi Das were written under the patronage of the rulers. With Chaitanya, the tradition of writing devotional songs began. Narasi mehta wrote devotional songs in Gujarati and Namamdev and Ekanath in Marathi.
There were important developments in Kashmir also under Zainul Abidin, under whose patronage many Sanskrit works like the Mahabharata and the Rajatarangini were translated into Persian. Under the Vijayanagar kingdom, Sanskrit literature continued to grow. However, this was an important period of growth of Telugu literature. Krishnadeva Raya, the greatest of Vijayanagar rulers was also a Telugu and Sanskrit writer. He wrote the Vishnuchittiya. Allasani Peddana, a famous court poet of Krishnadeva wrote the Manucharita. Dhurjati wrote the Kalahasti Mahatamya.

Art and Architecture (Indo-Islamic)

Qutub Minar & Alai Darwaza
The earliest mosque is the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque in Delhi, which was built by Qutubuddin Aibak. It measured about 70 into 30 metres. The central arch of this mosque is decorated with beautiful sculptured calligraphy and is about 17 metres high and about 7 metres wide. He also started the Qutab Minar which was completed by his successor Iltutmish. This is a tower rising to a height of about 70 metres. It was dedicated to the sufi saint Qutubuddin Bakhtiyar Kaki.
Alauddin Khalji built a new capital called Siri, a few kilometres from the Qutub complex. He enlarged the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque still further and added an entrance door to the Qutub complex called the Alai darwaza. He also started building a minar which was designed to be double the height of Qutub Minar, but the project remained unfulfilled.
Tomb of Sikander Lodi
The Tughlaqs concentrated on the building of new cities in Delhi like Tughlaqabad, Jahanpanah and Ferozabad. A number of buildings were erected which differed in their style from the earlier buildings. Massive and strong structures like the tomb of Ghiyasuddin and the walls of Tughlaqabad marked a new trend in architecture. The tomb is octagonal in shape. The tombs of Lodi kings and nobles were built inside gardens and decorated with colorful tiles. The buildings of the Tughlaq period were significant from the point of view of the development of architecture. They were not beautiful but massive and very impressive.

Some Inferences by the Blogger

  • Politically Sultanate of Delhi led to the unification of Northern India and parts of the Deccan for almost a century.
  • Almost from the time of the establishment of the Sultanate, rulers of Delhi Sultanate succeeded in separating it from the country from which they had originally come from.
  • The provincial government was a replica of the central government.
  • New elements of technology were introduced during this period.
  • The Bhakti movement which has started many centuries earlier spread throughout the country.
  • There was a great advance in the growth of modern Indian languages and literature.
  • A systematic account of Indian History began in this period with the sultanate of Delhi.
  • Decorative element was introduced to beautify the buildings in this period.