Delhi sultanate – History, Significance, & Rulers

The Delhi Sultanate

Islam was propagated by the Prophet Muhammad during the early 7th century in the deserts of Arabia. Less than a century after its inception, Islam’s presence was felt throughout the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Iran and Central Asia. In India, the Muslim Period started with raids by Mahamud of Ghazni and the establishment of the Sultanate of Delhi. 

Check out History of India notes in detail. 

Arab Conquest of Sind

Muhammad bin Qasim’s invasion of Sind was part of the forward policy of the Umayyad governor of Iraq, Hajjaj, to annex the region from Sind to Transoxiana. Sind was then ruled by Dahir, the son of Chach, who had usurped power from the previous Buddhist rulers. In 712 A.D., Muhammad invaded Sind and killed Dahir in a battle near Brahmanabad. Muhammad married Dahir’s widow, Rani Ladi, and became the master of lower Sind. Hajjaj’s death in 714 A.D. led to the recall of Muhammad. The new Caliph put him to death, and subsequently, the administration in Sind broke down. Henceforth, Sind continued to be under Muslim’ occupation but the Arabs were unable to penetrate further into India at that time because of the presence of the formidable Pratihara kingdom in north India and also due to the wrong choice of Sind, which could not provide them with the necessary resources to conquer India.

Delhi sultanate – Mahmud of Ghazni’s Invasions

Mahmud’s invasions of India commenced in 1001 when he defeated Jayapala, the Hindu Shahi ruler, in a battle near Peshawar. After eight years Mahmud crossed the Indus again and defeated Anandapala, Jayapala’s successor, at Waihind in 1009 Mahmud’s repeated invasions of the Punjab and Rajasthan destroyed Rajput resistance. In 1025 – 26 he led his famous expedition to Somanath in Gujarat and looted the temple.

Delhi sultanate – Muhammad of Ghur’s Invasions

The Ghurid Empire which replaced the Ghaznavids, reached its zenith under two brothers – Shams-ud-din Muhammad and Shahib-ud-din (later Muizz-ud-din) Muhammad. The former concentrated on expanding westwards, while the latter, whose capital was in Ghazni, followed Mahmud’s tradition of invading India. Muiz-Ud-Din seized Multan in 1175, but when he invaded Anhilwara (the capital of the Chalukya king of Gujarat, Mularaja II) he was defeated in a battle near Mount Abu in 1178. Thereupon he decided to give up plans to invade India through Sind and Multan. Instead, he turned his attention to the Punjab, which offered better prospects.

When Muizuddin entered Punjab, he had to face the formidable Prithviraja Chauhan of Ajmer. The two met in a battle at Tarain, near Delhi, in 1191 where the Sultan was severely defeated. But the second battle of Tarain (1192) resulted in Muhammad’s victory. Prithviraja was taken prisoner to Ajmer, where he was executed later. Jayachandra, the Gahadavala ruler to Kanauj, was killed in 1194 in the battle of Chandwar on the Jamuna. Kalinjar, Mohaba and Khajuraho were also conquered by the Turks under the leadership of Muhammad’s commander, Qutb-ud-din Aibak.

Meanwhile, Bihar and Bengal were conquered by Bakhtiyar Khalji, another slave of Muhammad where he captured the Buddhist university at Odantapuri and slaughtered the Buddhist monks. In 1204-05, Bakhtiyar captured Nadia or Navadvipa, one of the two capitals of Lakshmanasena, the king of Bengal, who fled and Bakhtiyar finally took up his quarters in the western capital Lakhnauti. Unfortunately, Bakhtiyar was soon assassinated by one of his own commanders 

In the northwest, Muizz-Ud-Din Muhammad was defeated on the Oxus by the allies of the Khwarazm rulers: The news of the disaster encouraged the Kokhar tribes of Punjab to revolt. but Muhammad crushed their uprising. But in 1206 he was assassinated by a woman in the bank of the Jhelum.

Delhi sultanate – The Ilbari Turks (1206-90)

Qutubuddin Aibak (1206-10)

The slave and deputy of Muhammad in India, Aibak became the first independent Muslå ruler in India after the death of Muhammad. He founded the Slave dynasty (or Mamluk dynasty). Aibak could not consolidate the territorial gains made by him as his reign was too short. But he was a generous ruler and he was called Lakhbhakshya (giver of lakhs). He built the Qawattul Islam mosque at Delhi and the Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra at Ajmer besides starting the construction of the Qutub Minar. He died while playing chaugan or polo and was succeeded by his son, Aram Baksh (1210-11). Iltutmish (1211-1236): Aram Baksh was an inefficient ruler and so the nobles requested Iltutmish, the governor of Badaun, besides being a prominent slave and son-in-law of Aibak, to take over. He defeated Aram Shah and became the Sultan. First, he secured his throne from his rivals like Nasiruddin Qabaicha (who was killed in 1228) and Tajiddin Yalduz (killed in the third battle of Tarain in 1226), who were also the slaves of Muhammad of Ghur. It was during his reign that the great Mongol invader Chengiz Khan reached the borders of India but turned back. Iltutmish also crushed several Rajput kingdoms thereby strengthening Muslim rule in India. He completed the Qutub Minar and used to associate himself closely with Sufi saints. He was also progressive as seen by the fact that he nominated his daughter Razia to the Delhi throne ignoring his sons. He was the first Sultan to introduce a purely Arabic coinage with the standard being the silver tanka (175 g) and below it, the copper jital. The absence of an accepted law of succession and the weakness of Iltutmish’s successors, with the exception of Razia, gave the ambitious groups of Amirs (or nobles) unlimited opportunity to the power of ‘king-makers, the empire was plunged into chaos and disorder which jeopardised its solidarity.

Iltụtmish, in his lifetime, had attempted to groom his successors by giving equal opportunities to his children, Rukn-ud-din Feroz Shah and Razia, to prove their mettle but Razia proved more capable and in 1231 AD., he issued a proclamation appointing her as his successor. The wisdom of a woman surpassing a grown-up son was questioned by a number of Amirs. However, Iltutmish was convinced of Razia’s superiority and ability to administer. However, contrary to Iltutmish’s wishes, Shah Turkan, the mother of Iltutmish’s eldest surviving son, had her son crowned as Rukn-ud-din. When another son of Iltutmish rebelled in Avadh, Rukn-ud-din marched out of the capital to suppress the rebellion. This gave Raziya the opportunity to seize the throne and put her brother to death. Raziya (1237-1240): After ascending the throne, she promoted her supporters to high positions and did the same for her rivals, so as to appease them and avoid military confrontation. After consolidating her position, she made the mistake of promoting non-Turkish nobles to higher posts and her preference for an Abyssinian officer, Jamaluddin Yakut, who was appointed as Amir-Akhtar (master of stables) proved very costly. She also was determined to carve out an independent monarchy, free from the stranglehold of the nobility. She also discarded the female attire and the purdah, rode at the head of the armies and held open courts. All this was too much for the dominant Turkish nobility to digest. The provincial governors of Bhatinda and Lahore rebelled and though Razia’s diplomatic skills succeeded in winning over the former, she was defeated and executed by the latter. But it should be said that Razia was an efficient and popular ruler and an able diplomat. As the first-ever female ruler of a Muslim kingdom, she never allowed her sex to impair the efficiency of the state. What she lacked in military strength, she made up by being adept in the art of diplomacy. It has been said by a contemporary historian, Minhas-Us-Siraj that her sex was her greatest drawback which was not tolerated by the male-dominated nobility, otherwise she was capable of being a great ruler.

The brief reigns of Bahram (1240-42 AD) and Masud (1242-46 AD), one a brother and the other a nephew of Razia, witnessed the rise of the Chahalgani or the Famous Forty, (a group of forty nobles) to the highest peak of power. While the kingdom shrank in size, and corruption and lawlessness prevailed, the Turkish nobles enjoyed power which surpassed the But the period of chaos came to an end in 1246 AD when Nasiruddin Manmu Iltutmish, in connivance with a leading noble, Balban, came to the throne by king” made Balban his minister and never took an active part in state affairs. Balban carried the administration on the Sultan’s name and used his position to achieve his twin objectives 01 strengthening his position and consolidating the state. To achieve this, he eliminated his rivals, crushed the Hindu revolts and took measures to keep the Mongols away from the northwest frontiers.

Balban (1266-1287): He is said to have poisoned the Sultan and ascended the throne in 1266 AD. He knew that the real threat to the monarchy came from the Chahalgani’s intrigues and their scramble for power. He introduced rigorous court discipline and new customs, such as Sijada (prostration) and Paibos (kissing the Sultan’s feet) to prove his superiority over the nobles. He also introduced the Persian festival of Nauroz to impress the nobles and subjects with his wealth and power: A picked body of fearsome soldiers protected the throne. The court was an austere assembly where jest and laughter were seldom heard. He persistently brought home the message that the monarch was the vice-regent of God and next in sanctity only to the prophet. Instead of expanding the sultanate, Balban gave top priority to restoring peace in the region surrounding Delhi. Balban established a separate diwan-i-arz (military department and reorganised the army. His repeated attacks on the Mewati strongholds and villages stopped their frequent raids of Delhi. The roads became safe for travel, and trade and agriculture improved leading to further urbanisation.

Balban’s successors were extremely weak and as soon as Balban died, the affairs of the State fell into disorder. After his death, the Amirs, in a bid to regain their former glory and power appointed Balban’s son Kaigubad to the throne. Kaiqubad gave himself to luxury and pleasure, and left the government in the hands of one, Malik Nizam-ud-din. Soon, Nizam-ud-din earned the displeasure of the nobles who got him assassinated.

Jalal-Ud-Din Khilji, the Governor of Samana and the army commander murdered him and claimed the thļone for himself by exercising the age-old right.

Delhi sultanate – The Khaljis

The greatest consensus regarding the origin of the Khaljis is that they were origin who had settled in Afghanistan and assimilated the Afghan habits and manners to an each that they were treated apart from the Turks. 

Delhi sultanate – Jalaluddin Khalji (1290-961)

Though a brave general in his youth, he proved to be an efficient sultan. This provoked rebellions and the Hindu rajas were on the verge of declaring independence. It was at this time that Ali Gurshasp, the nephew of the sultan brutally murdered him when the latter had gone to receive the former after his successful expedition to Devagiri. Ali Gurshasp, then the governor of Kara, ascended the throne as Alauddin Khalji. 

Delhi sultanate – Alauddin Khalji (1296-1316)

He was one of the most powerful rulers in Indian history. Besides launching a series of expeditions to expand the sultanate, he also issued a series of administrative and economic regulations to make the state more secure. The early years of the sultan were turbulent due to rebellions by various nobles. An analysis by Alauddin to the causes of the rebellions convinced him that the general prosperity of his officials. inter-marriages between the families of the grandees, inefficiency in the espionage system and drinking liquor were the root causes of rebellion. Alauddin, therefore, passed four ordinances By the first he confiscated all grants of tax-free land and seized Muslim religious endowments Secondly, the intelligence system was reorganised, and all secret transactions in the houses of the nobility were immediately reported to the Sultan. Thirdly, the public sale of liquor and totally stopped. The fourth ordinance forbade social gatherings in noblemen’s senior officials was allowed to arrange marriages between members of their fam Sultan’s prior consent.

The above regulations were aimed at controlling the Muslim nobles, but the village headmen called khuts and muqaddams were also very rich. They often offered military help to the rebels. The Sultan’s revenue regulations reduced this class to poverty and reduced them down to the level of the ordinary peasants. The Sultan could not realise his imperialistic ambitions without a well-equipped and efficient standing army which seems to be around 4,75,000 cavalrymen. His military reforms included the introduction of Dagh (branding of horses) and Chehra (descriptive roll of soldiers), insistence on a regular muster of the army, abolition of the iqtas of the royal troopers and the payment of their salaries in cash. All these reforms eliminated the earlier existing malpractices in the army, besides making the army an effective fighting force. In order to keep his army satisfied with their salary, the Sultan introduced strict price-control measures. To enforce these measures, he established four separate markets in Delhi. The supply of grain was ensured by collecting tax in kind in the Doab and keeping it in the royal storehouses. The farmers were ordered to sell their grain for cash at fixed prices and were not allowed to sell grain elsewhere. The shahna (market controller), the barids (intelligence officers) and the munhias (secret agents) submitted their independent reports on these markets to the Sultan. Even a minor violation of the rules was not tolerated. Every merchant was registered with the commerce ministry and had to sign a bond guaranteeing a regular supply of the goods in which they traded. The prices fixed for the Delhi market were also applied in the provincial capitals and towns. His other financial reforms included an increase of land revenue to 50 per cent of the gross production and the elimination of all middlemen and the creation of a new department, the diwan-i-mustakhraj, to enquire into the revenue arrears, to collect them, etc. Alauddin’s army brought him success both against the Mongols and the Hindu kingdoms. The early part of his reign was marked by successive Mongol invasions. The first two invasions by the Mongol army were beaten back, but in 1297 the third invader, Qutlugh Khwaja, came up to Kili near Delhi. In 1303, the Mongols again reached Siri but were defeated.

Alauddin sent an army in 1299 under the command of his brothers Nusrat Khan and Ulugh Khan to conquer Gujarat. Alauddin’s army besieged Anhilwara, the capital of Raja Karan. While the Raja and his daughter (Deval Devi) escaped, his wife (Kamla Devi) was captured and sent to Delhi where the Sultan married her. The eunuch Kafur Hazardinari, later called Malik Kafur, was purchased here. Nusrat Khan and Ulugh Khan next attacked Hamir Deva of Ranthambhor. Nusrat Khan was killed, and only after the Sultan’s arrival, the siege was brought to a successful conclusion. In 1302-03, an army was sent against Prataparudra Deva of Warangal, who, however, succeeded in defeating the invaders. The Sultan’s armies also conquered Ujjain, Mandu, Dhar and Chanderi, and governors were appointed for these areas. In 1303, the Sultan himself marched against Chittor, a campaign motivated, according to a legend, to capture the beautiful queen, Padmini (the story is mentioned in Malik Mohammad Jayasi’s Padmavat). The Rajputs fought valiantly to the last man but were defeated. Alauddin also marched against Marwar, where the ruler ultimately submitted. Alauddin’s greatest achievement was the conquest of the Deccan and the far south, which were ruled by three important Hindu dynasties – the Kakatiyas of Warangal, the Hoyasalas of Dvarasamudra and the Pandyas of Madurai. Alauddin did not annex their countries but fleeced their treasuries and forced them to pay annual tributes. In 1306-07, he sent an army under Malik Kafur who defeated Raja Ramachandra of Devagiri for withholding tribute. In 1309, Malik Kafur defeated Prataparudra Deva II of Warangal and an enormous booty was collected. In 1311, Malik Kafur marched against the Hoyasala kingdom and the ruler Raja Vira Ballala III agreed to become the Sultan’s vassal by paying a huge tribute. In 1312, Kafur marched against the Pandya kingdom and its ruler Vira Pandya fled the capital, enabling Kafur to seize immense booty. Kafur was accorded a royal welcome by the Sultan on his arrival in Delhi and was made the malik naib with a pure Turkish lineage. For these reasons, he regulated his life according to the precepts of the Quran, discarded all non-Muslim practices and did his utmost to enforce the Shariat in public affairs and administration. Going by his policies, we can say that he was a religious bigot. Firstly, he restored the power and prestige of the Ulema (Muslim priestly class) and consulted them in all matters. Earlier, both Alauddin Khalji and Muhammad bin Tughlaq did not bother to seek the advice of the Ulema. Secondly, as a true champion of the Islamic faith, he considered it his duty to suppress Hinduism and put down idolatry. He broke the idols of the Jwalamukhi temple at Kangra and the Jagganath temple at Puri. Thirdly, he gave material incentives like jagirs to encourage Hindus to convert to Islam. Fourthly, he ordered that Haj pilgrims’ expenses be paid from the state’s treasury. And lastly, he enforced the payment of jizya strictly and even extended it to Brahmans who were earlier exempted from it.

Delhi sultanate – Military Campaigns

Firuz led several feeble military expeditions to Bengal, Kangra and Sind but only to assert the tottering central authority. Between 1353 and 1358 he made pathetic efforts to recover Bengal but virtually failed though the ruler of Bengal, Sikandar agreed to accept his suzerainty. The Sultan however did better in Orissa, whose ruler was Raja Gajpati. Firuz seized Cuttack and destroyed the Jagannatha temple at Puri. He then attacked Nagarkot in the Kangra region. The Raja submitted and offered to pay tribute. The Sultan collected 1,300 Sanskrit manuscripts from the Jwalamukhi and other temples and got them translated to Persian. The last years of the Sultan’s reign were marked by a precipitous decline in central political control. Firuz abdicated in 1387, crowning Prince Muhammad king. Two months later, Firuz’s slaves. numbering about a lakh, rebelled, forcing Muhammad to flee. Firuz appointed his grandson. Tughlaq Shah II, his heir, and died one year later at the ripe age of 82.

After Firuz’s death, the sultanate disintegrated further. The Sharqi kingdom of Jaunpur came into existence in 1394. Malwa and Gujarat also broke away. When Timur arrived upon the scene in 1398-99, the fate of the Tughlaq dynasty was sealed. He crossed the Indus, marched through Punjab and though Delhi submitted without much of a fight, Timur’s army sacked it for three days and indiscriminately massacred both Hindus and Muslims. His invasion, though was merely a plundering raid, delivered the death blow to the Tughlaq dynasty. 

Delhi sultanate – The Sayyids (1414-51)

After the Tughlaqs, the representative of Timur in India called Khizr Khan captured power and started the Sayyid dynasty. But the sultanate had shrunk in size with many Rajput kingdoms and provinces declaring independence. The Sayyid rulers Mubarak Shah, Muhammad Shah and Alam Shah were in the grip of the nobility and were weak. In 1451, Bahlul Lodhi, a leading noble captured power from the Sayyids in 1489. 

Delhi sultanate – The Lodis (1451-1526)

Bahlul Lodhi (1451-89) was an able ruler who extended the sultanate up to the borders of Bihar. He was succeeded by a more capable son Nizam Khan. Sikandar (1489-1517): The new Sultan, assuming the title of Sikandar, crushed Hussain Shah Sharqi of Jaunpur and liquidated the Rajput uprisings in the neighbouring region. From 1506 to 1517, the Sultan tried to capture Gwalior (ruled by the Tomar ruler, Raja Man Singh), but could capture only Chanderi. Sikandar enhanced the prestige of the sultanate without alienating the Afghan nobility. He also took a keen interest in the development of agriculture and regularly examined the price schedules for the markets. He used to write under the pen name, Gulrukhi.

Delhi sultanate – Ibrahim (1517-26)

The Afghan nobles made strong efforts to undermine the Sultan’s autocracy by forcing him to make his younger brother Jalal the independent ruler of the Jaunpur region Civil war broke out between the two brothers, which ended in the capture and execution of Jalal The civil war enabled Rana Sanga of Mewar to invade the Lodi territories and defeat the Sultan It also enabled some of the Lodi nobles to conspire against the Sultan and invite Babur to invade India. He died on the battlefield of Panipat in 1526 fighting against Babur.


The government established by the Turks was a compromise between the Islamic political ideas and institutions on the one hand and the existing Rajput system of government on the other. Consequently, many elements of the Rajput political system, with or without changes, became a part and parcel of the Turkish administration in India.

Muslim Political Ideas

Theological basis

Muslims believe that Islamic society and government should be organised on the basis of divine injunctions of the Quran. The sayings and doings of Prophet Muhammad, collectively known as hadis, began to be supplemented with the above. The ulema has given various rulings on the basis of the Quran and the hadis to meet different situations and problems, which are together known as the Shariat (Islamic Law). 

Muslim Political Ideas – Secular basis

Moreover, zawabit (rulers and regulations framed by the Sultans) were also used for the smooth and efficient running of the administration.

Muslim Political Ideas – Allah-Prophet relationship

According to the Quran, the real master and sovereign of the whole universe are Allah. Allah has sent to all lands through the ages, his Prophets for the transmission of his message, Muhammad being the last one. While it is the duty of the governed to obey the ruler, it is equally the duty of the ruler to discharge his functions efficiently. 

Muslim Political Ideas – Caliphate

In principle, the entire Muslim fraternity should have only a single monarch. But when the caliphate became very extensive and disintegrative forces began to gain the upper hand, the ulema or Muslim jurists developed the theory of governors by usurpation and said that the rulers should rule as the governors of the Caliph. Most of the Sultan’s kept up the pretence of regarding the Caliph as their legal sovereign nominally. Most of them included the name of the Caliph in the khutba (prayer) and the Sikka (coin) and adopted titles indicative of their subordination to the Caliph. As against this, rulers emphasised their own importance. Balban used to say that after the Prophet the most important office was that of the sovereign and called himself the Shadow of God’.

But only three Sultans sought, and secured a Mansur or “letter of investiture from the caliph. The first among them was Iltutmish. Next Muhammad bin Tughlaq tried to pacify the ulema by securing an investiture from the Abbasid caliph in Egypt. After him Firuz also sought and secured it twice. The Sultans kept up the pretence of subservience to the caliph just to exploit the popular Muslim sentiment in their favour.

Delhi sultanate – Central Government


He dominated the central government. He was the legal head of the state and acted as the chief executive and the highest court of appeal. He was the chief of the armed forces and made appointments to all the higher civil and military posts. He was assisted by a number of officials, chief among whom were : 

Naib Sultan

Appointment to this post was generally made only when a ruler was weak or a minor. But sometimes powerful rulers like Alauddin offered this high office to a nobleman as a mark of special favour. The naib enjoyed practically all the powers of the Sultan on his behalf and exercised general control over the various departments of the government. 


 He was the head of the finance department, called diwan-i-wazarat. He had a number of powerful assistants, three among whom deserve special mention – Naib Wazir, Mushrif-iMumalik and Mustauf-i-Mumalik. The first acted as his chief’s deputy. The second maintained a record of the accounts received from the provinces and other departments of the central government. The third audited these accounts.


He was the head of the military department called diwan-i-arz and was next to the wazir in importance. But he was the minister of war and not the commander-in-chief of the army since the Sultan himself commanded all the armed forces. The special responsibility of the ariz’s department was to recruit, equip and pay the army.


He was the head of the public charities and ecclesiastical department known as diwan-i-risalat. It was he who made grants in cash or land for the construction and maintenance of mosques, tombs and madrasas. Again it was he who granted maintenance allowances to the learned, the saintly, the orphaned or the disabled. The funds of the department of charities were utilised for the exclusive good of the Muslims alone. It had usually a separate treasury that received all collections from zakat (a tax collected from rich Muslims only).


He was the head of the judicial department and usually the posts of the chief sadr and the chief qazi were combined in a single person. Qazis were appointed in various provinces of the empire. The qazis dispensed civil law based on Muslim law (Shariat). The Hindus were governed by their own personal laws which were dispensed by panchayats in the villages and by the leaders of the various castes in the cities.


He was the head of the records department, known as diwan-i-insha. The farmans of the Sultan were issued from his office, while all high level correspondence also passed through his hands.


He was the head of the information and intelligence department ‘y a nobleman who enjoyed the fullest confidence of the ruler was appointed the chief barid, The large number of barids, who were posted in different areas, informed the Sun of what was going on through the chief barid.

There were officers connected with the court and the royal household. Vakil-l-dar looked arter the royal palace and personal attendants of the sovereign. Barbak looked after the royal court by maintaining the dignity of the court and assigning nobles a place according to protocol. Amir-ihajib scrutinised all visitors to the court and presented them before the sovereign according to court etiquette. Amir-i-shikar organised royal hunts and all areas where the Sultan went hunting were under his direct control and authority. Sar-i-jandar was the chief bodyguard of the Sultan. 

Provincial Government

The whole kingdom was divided into a number of provinces and tributary states. Little attempt was made to interfere in the internal affairs of the tributary states as long as they did not threaten the safety of the empire. But the provincial administration under – the Sultans was noi well organised.

In the earlier stages, a nobleman was assigned unconquered or semi-conquered territory as IQTA and he was acknowledged the governor of all the land he could subdue by force. But this no longer applied to later times. The ruler himself now undertook the task of conquest and subjugation and he assigned conquered territory to suitable governors.

The governor was called nayim or wali. Below the provincial governor, there was a provincial wazir, a provincial ariz and a provincial qazi. Their functions corresponding to those of similar dignitaries at the centre. Like the Sultan at the centre, the provincial governor combined in his hands the powers of maintaining law and order, control over the local army, the realisation of state dues and provision for justice.

Delhi sultanate  – Local Government

The provinces were divided into shiqs and below it into paraganas. The shiq was under the control of the shiqdar. The paragana, comprising a number of villages was headed by the amil. The village remained the basic unit of administration and continued to enjoy a large measure of self-government. The most important official in the village was the headman known as muqaddam or Chaudhari.

Delhi sultanate – Economy

Agrarian Structure and Relations

The principal achievement of the Delhi Sultans was the systematisation of land revenue administration. Immediately after the conquest, settlements were made with the members of the defeated aristocracies and so land revenue was the same as tributes fixed on subjugated rulers. The introduction of radical reforms in the revenue system came only after a century of experience and adaptation.

After consolidating their position in India, the Delhi Sultans classified the land into three categories: iqta land, i.e., land assigned to officials as iqtas; khalisa land or crown land, i.e., land which was under the direct control of the Sultan and whose revenues were meant for the maintenance of the court and royal household; înam land (also known as madad-i-maash or waqf land) i.e., land assigned or granted to pious persons, religious leaders and also to religious institutions.

The establishment of the Delhi sultanate marked a new phase in the cultural development of the country. When the Turks came to India, they not only had a well-defined faith in Islam to which they were deeply attached, they also had definite ideas of government, arts, architecture, etc. The interaction of the Turks with the Indians who had strong religious beliefs, well-defined ideas of arts, architecture and literature resulted, in the long run, in a rich development. 

Delhi sultanate  – Art and Architecture

The Turks eschewed representation of human and animal figures in the buildings. Instead, they used geometrical and floral designs, combining them with panels of inscriptions containing verses from the Quran. Thus, the Arabic script itself became a work of art. They also freely borrowed Hindu motifs such as the bell motif, lotus, etc. The skill of the Indian stone-cutters was fully used. L

Delhi sultanate  – Development And Growth


They at first converted temples and other existing buildings into mosques. Examples of this are the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque near the Qutb Minar in Delhi (which had originally been a Jaina temple, then converted into a Vishnu temple by some Hindus, and finally into the mosque by the Turks) and the building at Ajmer called Adhai Din Ka Jhonpra (which had been a monastery).

The most magnificent building constructed by the Turks (started by Aibak and completed by Iltutmish) in the 13th century was the Qutb Minar at Delhi. The tower, standing at 71.4 metres was dedicated to the Sufi saint, Qutb-ud-din Bakhtiyar Kaki.


Ala-ud-din built his capital at Siri, a few kilometres away from the site around the Qutb, but hardly anything of this city survives now. Ala-ud-din planned a tower twice the height of the Qutb, but did not live to complete it. But he added an entrance door to the Qutb, called the Alai Darwaza.


Ghiyas-ud-din and Muhammad Tughluq built the huge palace-cum-fortress complex called Tughluqabad. By blocking the passage of the Yamuna a huge artificial lake was created around it. The tomb of Ghiyas-ud-din, built by Muhammad Tughluq, marks a new trend in architecture. To have a good skyline, the building was put up on a high platform. Firuz Shah Tughluq built the famous Hauz Khas (a pleasure resort) and the Kotla at Delhi.


The Lodis further developed the tradition of combining many of the new devices brought by the Turks with indigenous forms. A device used by the Lodis was placing their buildings, especially tombs, on a high platform, thus giving the building a feeling of size as well as a better skyline. Some of the tombs are placed in the midst of gardens e.g., Lodi garden in Delhi. Some of the tombs are of an octagonal shape. Many of these features were adopted by the Mughals later on and their culmination is to be found in the Taj Mahal built by Shah Jahan.


The Turks inherited the rich Arab tradition of music. They brought with them a number of new musical instruments, such as the rabab and Sarangi and new musical modes and regulations. Amir Khusrau introduced many new breaths of air or ragas, such as ghora, Sanam, etc. He is credited with having invented the sitar. The Indian classical work Ragadarpan was translated into Persian during the reign of Firuz Tughluq. Musical gatherings were very popular with the Sufis. The Sufi saint Pir Bodhan is supposed to have been one of the great musicians of the age.

Delhi sultanate  – Persian Literature


The most notable Persian writer of the period was Amir Khusrau (1252-1325). He wrote a large number of poetical works, including historical romances. He experimented with all the poetical forms and created a new style of Persian which came to be called Sabaq-i-Hind or the style of India. He was also an accomplished musician and was a disciple of the great Sufi saint, Nizamuddin Auliya. Other important Persian poets were Mir Hasan Dehlawi, Badra Chach, etc.

Historical Works

Apart from poetry a strong school of history writing in Persian developed in India during the period. The most famous historians of the period were Zia-ud-din Barani, Shamsi-Shiraj Afif and Isami.


Zia Nakshabi was the first to translate Sanskrit works into Persian.’ His book Tuti Namah (book of the parrot), written in the time of Muhammad Tughluq, was a Persian translation of Sanskrit stories. Later, in the time of Firuz, Sanskrit books on medicine and music were translated into Persian. Sultan Zain-Ul-Abidin of Kashmir had the famous historical work, Rajatarangini, and the Mahabharata translated into Persian. Sanskrit works on medicine and music were also translated into Persian at his instance.


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