The Delhi Sultanate

During the eleventh century, the Turkish horsemen pillaged northern India and due to their persistent campaigns, they succeeded in seizing political control of the Gangetic plain by the next century. Though the success of their conquests could be attributed to their audacity and ferocity ,their success is really due to the failure of Indians to defend themselves and their territories. Indians viewed each other with distruct , failing to take note of the success of Islam in early years of its spread. The superior military might of Muslim soldiers was yet another factor that contributed to success in their conquests. In this lesson,we discuss how Turkish warriors set about founding and consolidating their Islamic rule till the advent of Babur.

Slave Dynasty (1206 – 1290)

Muslim rule in India was established by Muhammad Ghori in 12th century A.D.(CE). As he had no sons,he nurtured special slaves called bandagan (a Persian term used for slaves purchased for military service). These slaves were posted as Governors and they were later raised to status of Sultans. After Ghori’s death in 1206 ,one of his slaves Qutb-ud-din-Aibak who had been left behind by Muhammad Ghori to govern the territories he had conqured, proclaimed himself ruler of the Turkish territories in India. He laid the foundation of the slave Dynasty. This dynasty is also known as Mamluk dynasty. This dynasty is also known as Mamluk dynasty. Mamluk is an Arabic word meaning “slave”.Qutb-ud-din-Aibak, Shams-ud-din-Iltutmish and Ghiyas-ud-din-Balbam were the three great Sultan’s of this dynasty. The slave Dynasty ruled over the sub – continent for about 84 years.

Qutb-ud-din-Aibak (1206 – 1210)

Qutb-ud-din-Aibak began his rule by establishing Lahore as the capital of his kingdom. later he shifted his capital to Delhi. He was active all through his rule in Delhi conquering new Territories and suppressing rebellions. He personally led military campaigns to the central and western Indo-Gangetic plain and left the conquest of the eastern Gangetic plain ( Bihar,Bengal) to the care of Bakhtiar Khalji. Aibak built the Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid (mosque) in Delhi. This mosque is considered to be the oldest in India. He also laid the foundation of the Qutb-Minar,but he was unable to complete it. It was later finished by his son – in – law and his successor Iltutmish. Aibak died injuries received during an accidental fall from a horse, while playing Polo in 1210.

Quwwat-ul-Islam Masjid

Iltutmish (1210 – 1236)

Aibak’son aram Shah proved incompetent and so the Turkish noble chose Iltutmish,the son-in-law of Aibak as the Sultan,who served as a military commander of Aibak.Iltutmish firmly established his control over the territories by suppressing rebellions.It was during his reign that the threat of Mongols under chengis Khan loomed large over the frontiers of India.He averted the impending danger by refusing to provide shelter to the kwarezm Shah jalal-ud-din,who had been driven out by chengis Khan.In order to counter the possible attact of the Mongols, Iltutmish organised Turkish nobility into a select group of 40 nobles known as chahalgani or the Forty.Iltumish granted iqtas (land) to members of his army. Iqta is the land granted to army officials in lieu of a regular wage. The iqta holder is called the iqtadar or muqti who had to provide the Sultan with military assistance in times of war. The iqtadar collected revenue from his iqta to meet the cost of maintaining his troops and horses.


Iltutmish completed the construction of the Qutb -Minar ,started by Aibak. Iltutmish died in April 1236 after ruling for 26 years.

Razia (1236 – 1240)

As the most capable son of Iltutmish,Rukn-ud-din-Firuz,was dead, Iltutmish nominated his daughter Razia Sultana as his successor to the throne of Delhi. Razia was an able and brave fighter. But she had a tough time with Turkish nobles as she favoured non-Turkish nobles. She also faced the situation of the ferocious Mangola raiding Punjab during her reign.Razia made an Ethiopian slave named Jalal-ud-din Yakut as her personal attendant and started trusting him completely.This led to a revolt of the Turkish nobles who conspired against her and got her murdered in 1240.

Ghiyas-ud-din-Balbam (1266–1287)

After Razia,three weak rulers in succession ascended the throne. After them came Ghiyas-ud-din-Balbam . Balban abolished the forty as it was hostile to him. He established a department of spies to gather intelligence about the conspirators and the trouble makers against his rule. He dealt with insubordination and defiantly of royal authority sternly. Tughril Khan, a provincial governor of Bengal, who raised a banner of revolt against Balban,was captured and beheaded. He was ruthless in dealing with enemies like Meos of Mewat. Balban, however,took care to maintain cordial relationship with the Mongols. He obtained from Hulagu Khan ,a grandson of Chengiz Khan and the Mongol viceroy in Iran,the assurance that Mongols would not advance beyond Sutlej. Balban built forts to guard his empire against the Mongol attacks. He patronised the famous persian poet Amir Khusru. Balban died in 1287. Balban’s son Kaiqubad turned out to be weak. In 1290 Malik Jalal-ud-din Khalji,the commander of the army, assumed the office of Naib and ruled the kingdom in the name of Kaiqubad. Then one day, Jalal-ud-din sent one of his officers and had Kaiqubad murdered. Jalal-ud-din then formally ascended the throne. With him began the rule of Khalji dynasty.

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