The Mughal period saw important social and economic developments. During this period, many European travelers and
traders came to India and their accounts contain a mine of information about the socio-economic conditions of India. In general, they described the wealth and prosperity of India and also the luxurious life of the aristocratic classes. On the other side, they also mentioned the poverty and sufferings of the ordinary people such as peasants and artisans.
The nobles of the Mughal period formed a privileged class. Most of them were foreigners such as Turks and Afghans. But there was tussle between them throughout this period. However, many of them settled down in India and made it their permanent home. They readily assimilated themselves into the Indian society and culture. At the same time they retained some of their personal traits. From the time of Akbar, the Hindus, particularly the Rajputs were included in the nobility. For example, mention may be made about Raja Man Singh, Raja Birbal and Raja Todar Mal. Later, the Marathas also joined the Mughal service and rose to the position of nobles. The Mughal nobles were paid high salaries but their expenses were also very high. Each noble maintained a large number of servants, horses, elephants, etc. The nobles tried follow the luxurious life style of the Mughal emperors. They wore fine clothes and ate imported fruits. Costly jewels were worn by men and women. They also made costly presents to the emperors.
While the wealthy people wore silk and cotton clothes, the poor people wore the minimum cloths. They suffer from insufficient clothing even during the winter. Nikitin observed that the people of Deccan were bare-footed. It might be due to high cost of leather. Rice, millets and pulses were the staple food of the common people. Fish was popular on the coastal region. While ghee and oil were cheaper, salt and sugar were more expensive. As plenty of cattle were kept by the rural people, milk and milk products were available in plenty.
An estimate claims that the population of India at the beginning of the seventeenth century was about 125 million. As plenty of land was available for cultivation, agriculture was prosperous. A large variety of crops such as wheat, rice, gram, barley, pulses were cultivated. Commercial crops such as cotton, indigo, sugarcane and oil-seeds were also cultivated. During the seventeenth century two new crops, namely, tobacco and maize were added. Potato and red chillies came later in the eighteenth century. But, no new agricultural technique was introduced during this period. However, India was able to export food items like rice and sugar to the neighbouring countries.
The Indian trading classes were large in numbers and spread throughout the country. They were well organized and highly professional. Seth, bohra traders specialized in long distance trade while local traders were called banik. Another class of traders was known as banjaras, who specialized in carrying bulk goods. The banjaras used to move to long distances with their goods on the back of oxen. Bulk goods were also taken through rivers on boats. The trading community did not belong to one caste or religion. The Gujarathi merchants included the Hindus, Jains and Muslims. In Rajasthan, Oswals, Maheshwaris and Agarwals came to be called the Marwaris. Multanis, Khatris and Afghanis conducted trade with central Asia. In south India, the Chettis on the Coramandal coast and the Muslim merchants of Malabar were the most important trading communities.
Bengal exported sugar, rice as well as delicate muslin and silk. The Coramandal coast became a centre of textile production. Gujarat was an entry point of foreign goods. From there, fine textiles and silk were taken to north India. Indigo and food grains were exported from north India through Gujarat. It was also the distribution centre for the luxury products of Kashmir such as shawls and carpets. The major imports into India were certain metals such as tin and copper, war horses and luxury items such as ivory. The balance of trade was maintained by the import of gold and silver. The growth of foreign trade had resulted in the increased import of gold and silver in the seventeenth century. The Dutch and English traders who came to Gujarat during the seventeenth century, found that Indian traders were alert and brisk.
The Mughal period witnessed a significant and widespread development in cultural activity. It was manifest in the sphere of art and architecture, painting, music and literature. In this cultural development, Indian traditions were blended with Turko-Iranian culture which was brought into India by the Mughals.
The architecture of the Mughals includes the magnificent forts, palaces, public buildings, mosques and mausoleums. The Mughals were fond of laying gardens with running water. Some of the Mughal gardens such as the Nishat Bagh in Kashmir, the Shalimar Bagh at Lahore and the Pinjore garden in the Punjab have survived even today. During the reign of Sher Shah, the mausoleum at Sasaram in Bihar and the Purana Qila near Delhi were built. These two monuments are considered as the architectural marvels of medieval India.
Large scale construction of buildings started with the advent of Akbar. He built many forts and the most famous one was the Agra Fort. It was built in red sandstone. His other forts are at Lahore and Allahabad. The climax of fort-building reached its climax during the reign of Shah Jahan. The famous Red Fort at Delhi with its Rang Mahal, Diwan-i-Am and Diwan-i-Khas was his creation.
Akbar also built a palacecum- fort complex at Fatepur Sikri (City of Victory), 36 kilometres from Agra. Many buildings in Gujarathi and Bengali styles are found in this complex. Gujarathi style buildings were probably built for his Rajput wives. The most magnificent building in it is the Jama Masjid and the gateway to it called Buland Darwaza or the Lofty Gate. The height of the gateway is 176 feet. It was built to commemorate Akbar’s victory over Gujarat. Other important buildings at Fatepur Sikri are Jodh Bai’s palace and Panch Mahal with five storeys.
During Akbar’s reign, the Humayun’s tomb was built at Delhi and it had a massive dome of marble. It may be considered the precursor of the Taj Mahal. Akbar’s tomb at Sikandara near Agra was completed by Jahangir. Nur Jahan built the tomb of Itimaddaulah at Agra. It was constructed wholly of white marble with floral designs made of semi-precious stones on the walls. This type of decoration was called pietra dura. This method became more popular
during the reign of Shah Jahan. The pietra dura method was used on a large scale in the Taj Mahal by Shah Jahan. Taj Mahal is considered a jewel of the builder’s art. It contains all the architectural forms developed by the Mughals. The
chief glory of the Taj is the massive dome and the four slender minarets.
The decorations are kept to the minimum. Mosque building had reached its peak during Shah Jahan’s reign. The Moti Masjid at Agra was built entirely in white marble. The Jama Masjid at Delhi was built in red stone. The Mughal architectural traditions continued in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century. Their influence in the provincial kingdoms is clearly visible. Many features of Mughal tradition can be seen in the Golden Temple at Amritsar.
The contribution of Mughals to the art of painting was remarkable. The foundation for the Mughal painting was laid by Humayun when he was staying in Persia. He brought with him two painters – Mir Sayyid Ali and Abdal Samad to India.
These two painters became famous during Akbar’s reign. Akbar commissioned the illustrations of several literary and religious texts. He invited a large number of painters from different parts of the country to his court. Both Hindus and Muslims joined in this work. Baswan, Miskina and Daswant attained great positions as Akabar’s court artists.
Illustrations of Persian versions of Mahabharata and Ramayana were produced in miniature form. Many other Indian fables became the miniature paintings in the Art Studio established by Akbar. Historical works such as Akbar Nama also remained the main themes of Mughal paintings. The most important work is Hamznama, which consisted 1200 paintings. Indian colours such as peacock blue, Indian red began to be used. Mughal paintings reached its climax during the reign of Jahangir. He employed a number of painters like Abul Hasan, Bishan Das, Madhu, Anant, Manohar, Govardhan and Ustad Mansur. Apart from painting the scenes of hunting, battles and royal courts, progress was made in portrait painting and paintings of animals. Many albums containing paintings and calligraphy were produced during the Mughal period. Later, the influence of European painting could be seen.
Music had also developed under the Mughals. Akbar patronized Tansen of Gwalior. Tansen composed many ragas. Jahangir and Shah Jahan were also fond of music.
Persian language became widespread in the Mughal Empire by the time of Akbar’s reign. Abul Fazl was a great scholar and historian of his period. He set a style of prose writing and it was followed by many generations. Many historical works were written during this period. They include Ain-i-Akbari and Akabar Nama authored by Abul Fazl. The leading poet of that period was his brother Abul Faizi. The translation of Mahabharata into the Persian language was done under his supervision. Utbi and Naziri were the two other leading Persian poets.
Jahangir’s autobiography, Tuzuk-i-Jahangiri was famous for its style. He also patronized many scholars like Ghiyas Beg, Naqib Khan and Niamatullah. Shah Jahan also patronized many writers and historians like Abdul Hamid Lahori, author of Padshah Nama and Inayat Khan who wrote Shah Jahan Nama. His son Dara Shikoh translated the Bhagavat Gita and Upanishads into the Persian language. Many historical works were written during the reign of Aurangazeb. Famous dictionaries of the Persian language were also compiled during the Mughal period. Regional languages such as Bengali, Oriya, Rajasthani and Gujarathi had also developed during this period. Many devotional works including the Ramayana and Mahabharata were translated into regional languages. From the time of Akbar, Hindi poets were attached to the Mughal court. The most influential Hindi poet was Tulsidas, who wrote the Hindi version of the Ramayana, the Ramcharitmanas.
Babur was the founder of the Mughal Empire in India. His original name was Zahiruddin Muhammad. He was related to Timur from his father’s side and to Chengiz Khan through his mother. Babur succeeded his father Umar Shaikh Mirza as the ruler of Farghana. But he was soon defeated by his distant relative and as a result lost his kingdom. He became a wanderer for sometime till he captured Kabul from one of his uncles. Then, Babur took interest in conquering India and launched four expeditions between 1519 and 1523.
On the eve of Babur’s invasion of India, there were five prominent Muslim rulers – the Sultans of Delhi, Gujarat, Malwa, Bengal and the Deccan – and two prominent Hindu rulers – Rana Sangha of Mewar and the Vijayanagar Empire. Once again by the end of 1525, Babur started from Kabul to conquer India. He occupied Lahore easily by defeating its governor, Daulat Khan Lodi. Then he proceeded against Delhi where Ibrahim Lodi was the Sultan. On 21st April 1526 the first Battle of Panipat took place between Babur and Ibrahim Lodi, who was killed in the battle. Babur’s success was due his cavalry and artillery. Babur occupied Delhi and sent his son Humayun to seize Agra. Babur proclaimed himself as “Emperor of Hindustan”.
His subsequent victories over Rana Sangha and the Afghans secured his position as the ruler of India. Rana Sangha of Mewar was a great Rajput warrior. He marched against Babur and in the Battle of Khanua (near Agra) held in 1527 Babur won a decisive victory over him. Babur assumed the title Ghazi. In 1528, Babur captured Chanderi from another Rajput ruler Medini Rai. In the next year, Babur defeated the Afghans in the Battle of Gogra in Bihar. By these victories, Babur consolidated his power in India. Babur died at Agra in 1530 at the age of forty seven.
Babur was a great statesman and a man of solid achievements. He was also a great scholar in Arabic and Persian languages. Turki was his mother tongue. He wrote his memoirs, Tuzuk-i-Baburi in Turki language. It provides a vivid account of India. He frankly confesses his own failures without suppressing any facts. He was also a naturalist and described the flora and fauna of India.
Humayun was the eldest son of Babur. Humayun means “fortune” but he remained the most unfortunate ruler of the Mughal Empire. Humayun had three brothers, Kamran, Askari and Hindal. Humayun divided the empire among his brothers but this proved to be a great blunder on his part. Kamran was given Kabul and Kandahar. Sambhal and Alwar were given to Askari and Hindal.
When Humayun was busy with fighting the Afghans in the east, he got the news that Bahadur Shah of Gujarat was advancing towards Delhi. Therefore, he hastily concluded a treaty with the Afghan leader Sher Khan (later Sher Shah) and proceeded towards Gujarat.
Humayun captured Gujarat from Bahadur Shah and appointed Askari as its governor. But soon Bahadur Shah recovered Gujarat from Askari who fled from there. In the meantime Sher Khan became powerful in the east. Humayun marched against him and in the Battle of Chausa, held in 1539, Sher Khan destroyed the Mughal army and Humayun escaped from there. Humayun reached Agra to negotiate with his brothers. But as they were not cooperative, Humayun was forced to fight with Sher Khan alone in the Battle of Bilgram in 1540. This battle was also known as Battle of Kanauj. Humayun was thoroughly defeated by Sher Khan. After losing his kingdom, Humayun became an exile for the next fifteen years.
The founder of the Sur dynasty was Sher Shah, whose original name was Farid. He was the son of Hasan Khan, a jagirdar of Sasaram in Bihar. Later, Farid served under the Afghan ruler of Bihar, who gave him the title Sher Khan for his bravery. We have already seen how he defeated Humayun at the Battle of Chausa and became the ruler of Delhi in 1540.
Sher Shah waged extensive wars with the Rajputs and expanded his empire. His conquests include Punjab, Malwa, Sind, Multan and Bundelkhand. His empire consisted of the whole of North India except Assam, Nepal, Kashmir and
Although his rule lasted for five years, he organized a brilliant administrative system. The central government consisted of several departments. The king was assisted by four important ministers:
1. Diwan –i- Wizarat – also called as Wazir – in charge of Revenue and Finance.
2. Diwan-i-Ariz – in charge of Army.
3. Diwan-i-Rasalat- Foreign Minister.
4. Diwan-i-Insha- Minister for Communications.
Sher Shah’s empire was divided into forty seven sarkars. Chief Shiqdar (law and order) and Chief Munsif (judge) were the two officers in charge of the administration in each sarkar. Each sarkar was divided into several parganas. Shiqdar (military officer), Amin (land revenue), Fotedar (treasurer) Karkuns (accountants) were in charge of the administration of each pargana. There were also many administrative units called iqtas.
The land revenue administration was well organized under Sher Shah. Land survey was carefully done. All cultivable lands were classified into three classes – good, middle and bad. The state’s share was one third of the average produce and it was paid in cash or crop. His revenue reforms increased the revenue of the state. Sher Shah introduced new silver coins called “Dam” and they were in circulation till 1835. Sher Shah had also improved the communications by laying four important highways. They were: 1. Sonargaon to Sind 2. Agra to Burhampur 3. Jodhpur to Chittor and 4. Lahore to Multan. Rest houses were built on the highways for the convenience of the travelers. Police was efficiently reorganized and crime was less during his regime. The military administration was also efficiently reorganized and Sher Shah borrowed many ideas like the branding of horses from Alauddin Khalji.
Sher Shah remained a pious Muslim and generally tolerant towards other religions. He employed Hindus in important offices. He was also a patron of art and arch
itecture. He built a new city on the banks of the river Yamuna near Delhi. Now the old fort called Purana Qila and its mosque is alone surviving. He also built a Mausoleum at Sasaram, which is considered as one of the master pieces of Indian architecture. Sher Shah also patronized the learned men. Malik Muhammad Jayasi wrote the famous Hindi work Padmavat during his reign. After Sher Shah’s death in 1545 his successors ruled till 1555 when Humayun reconquered India.
When Humayun left India in 1540, he married Hamida Banu Begum on his way to Sind. When they stayed in Amorkot, a Hindu kingdom ruled by Rana Prasad, Akbar was born in 1542. Humayun then proceeded to Iran and sought help from its ruler. He later defeated his brothers, Kamran and Askari. In the meantime the Sur dynasty in India was declining rapidly. In 1555, Humayun defeated the Afghans and recovered the Mughal throne. After six months, he died in 1556 due to his fall from the staircase of his library. Although Humayun was not a good General and warrior, he was kind and generous. He was also learned and a student of mathematics, astronomy and astrology. He also loved painting and wrote poetry in Persian language.
Akbar was one of the greatest monarchs of India. He succeeded the throne after his father Humayun’s death. But his position was dangerous because Delhi was seized by the Afghans. Their commander-in-Chief, Hemu, was in charge of it. In the second Battle of Panipat in 1556, Hemu was almost on the point of victory. But an arrow pierced his eye and he became unconscious. His army fled and the fortune favoured Akbar. The Mughal victory was decisive. During the first five years of Akbar’s reign, Bairam Khan acted as his regent. He consolidated the Mughal empire. After five years he was removed by Akbar due to court intrigues and sent to Mecca. But on his way Bairam was killed by an Afghan.
Akbar’s military conquests were extensive. He conquered northern India from Agra to Gujarat and then from Agra to Bengal. He strengthened the northwest frontier. Later, he went to the Deccan.
The Rajput policy of Akbar was notable. He married the Rajput princess, the daughter of Raja Bharamal. It was a turning point in the history of Mughals. Rajputs served the Mughals for four generations. Many of them rose to the positions of military generals. Raja Bhagawan Das and Raja Man Singh were given senior positions in the administration by Akbar. One by one, all Rajput states submitted to Akbar.
But the Ranas of Mewar continued to defy despite several defeats. In the Battle of Haldighati, Rana Pratap Singh was severely defeated by the Mughal army led by Man Singh in 1576. Following the defeat of Mewar, most of the leading Rajput rulers had accepted Akbar’s suzerainty. Akbar’s Rajput policy was combined with a broad religious toleration. He abolished the pilgrim tax and later the jiziya. The Rajput policy of Akbar proved to be beneficial to the Mughal state as well as to the Rajputs. The alliance secured to the Mughals the services of the bravest warriors. On the other hand it ensured peace in Rajasthan and a number of Rajputs who joined the Mughal service rose to important positions.
Akbar rose to fame in the pages of history due to his religious policy. Various factors were responsible for his religious ideas. The most important among them were his early contacts with the sufi saints, the teachings of his tutor Abdul Latif, his marriage with Rajput women, his association with intellectual giants like Shaikh Mubarak and his two illustrious sons – Abul Faizi and Abul Fazl – and his ambition to establish an empire in Hindustan. In the beginning of his life, Akbar was a pious Muslim. Soon after marrying Jodh Bai of Amber, he abolished the pilgrim tax and in 1562, he abolished jiziya. He allowed his Hindu wives to worship their own gods. Later, he became a skeptical Muslim. In 1575, he ordered for the construction of Ibadat Khana (House of worship) at his new capital Fatepur Sikri. Akbar invited learned scholars from all religions like Hinduism, Jainism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism. He disliked the interference of the Muslim Ulemas in political matters. In 1579, he issued the “Infallibility Decree” by which he asserted his religious powers.
In 1582, he promulgated a new religion called Din Ilahi or Divine Faith. It believes in one God. It contained good points of all religions. Its basis was rational. It upholds no dogma. It was aimed at bridging the gulf that separated different religions. However, his new faith proved to be a failure. It fizzled out after his death. Even during his life time, it had only fifteen followers including Birbal. Akbar did not compel anyone to his new faith.
Akbar made some experiments in the land revenue administration with the help of Raja Todar Mal. The land revenue system of Akbar was called Zabti or Bandobast system. It was further improved by Raja Todar Mal. It was known as Dahsala System which was completed in 1580. By this system, Todar Mal introduced a uniform system of land measurement. The revenue was fixed on the average yield of land assessed on the basis of past ten years. The land was also divided into four categories – Polaj (cultivated every year), Parauti (once in two years), Chachar (once in three or four years) and Banjar (once in five or more years). Payment of revenue was made generally in cash.
Akbar introduced the Mansabdari system in his administration. Under this system every officer was assigned a rank (mansab). The lowest rank was 10 and the highest was 5000 for the nobles. Princes of royal blood received even higher ranks. The ranks were divided into two – zat and sawar. Zat means personal and it fixed the personal status of a person. Sawar rank indicated the number of cavalrymen of a person who was required to maintain. Every sawar had to maintain at least two horses. The mansab rank was not hereditary. All appointments and promotions as well as dismissals were directly made by the emperor.
When Akbar died, Prince Salim succeeded with the title Jahangir (Conqueror of World) in 1605. Jahangir’s rule witnessed a spate of rebellions. His son Khusrau revolted but was defeated and imprisoned. One of h
is supporters, Guru Arjun, the fifth Sikh Guru, was beheaded.
In 1611, Jahangir married Mehrunnisa who was known as Nur Jahan (Light of World). Her father Itimaduddauala was a respectable person. He was given the post of chief diwan. Other members of her family also benefited from this alliance. Nur Jahan’s elder brother Asaf Khan was appointed as Khan-i-Saman, a post reserved for the nobles. In 1612, Asaf Khan’s daughter, Arjumand Banu Begum (later known as Mumtaj), married Jahangir’s third son, prince Khurram (later Shah Jahan). It was believed by some historians that Nur Jahan formed a group of “junta” and this led to two factions in the Mughal court.
This drove Shah Jahan into rebellion against his father in 1622, since he felt that Jahangir was completely under Nur Jahan’s influence. However, this view is not accepted by some other historians. Till Jahangir became weak due to ill health, he only took important political decisions. It is revealed from his autobiography. However, it is clear that Nur Jahan dominated the royal household and set new fashions based on Persian traditions. She encouraged Persian art and culture in the court. She was a constant companion of Jahangir and even joined him in his hunting. The rise of Shah Jahan was due to his personal ambitions. He rose in revolt against his father who ordered him to go to Kandahar. This rebellion distracted the activities of the empire for four years. After Jahangir’s death in 1627, Shah Jahan reached Agra with the support of the nobles and the army. Nur Jahan was given a pension and lived a retired life till her death eighteen years later.
Shah Jahan launched a prolonged campaign in the northwest frontier to recover Kandahar and other ancestral lands. The Mughal army lost more than five thousand lives during the successive invasions between 1639 and 1647. Then Shah Jahan realized the futility of his ambition and stopped fighting. His Deccan policy was more successful. He defeated the forces of Ahmadnagar and annexed it. Both Bijapur and Golkonda signed a treaty with the emperor. Shah Jahan carved four Mughal provinces in the Deccan – Khandesh, Berar, Telungana and Daulatabad. They were put under the control of his son Aurangazeb.
The last years of Shah Jahan’s reign were clouded by a bitter war of succession among his four sons – Dara Shikoh (crown prince), Shuja (governor of Bengal), Aurangazeb (governor of Deccan) and Murad Baksh (governor of Malwa and Gujarat). Towards the end of 1657, Shah Jahan fell ill at Delhi for some time but later recovered. But the princes started fighting for the Mughal throne.
Aurangazeb emerged victorious in this struggle. He entered the Agra fort after defeating Dara. He forced Shah Jahan to surrender. Shah Jahan was confined to the female apartments in the Agra fort and strictly put under vigil. But he was not ill-treated. Shah Jahan lived for eight long years lovingly nursed by his daughter Jahanara. He died in 1666 and buried beside his wife’s grave in the Taj Mahal.
Aurangazeb was one of the ablest of the Mughal kings. He assumed the title Alamgir, World Conqueror. His military campaigns in his first ten years of reign were a great success. He suppressed the minor revolts. But he faced serious difficulties in the latter part of his reign. The Jats and Satnamis and also the Sikhs revolted against him. These revolts were induced by his harsh religious policy.
The Deccan policy of the Mughals started from the reign of Akbar, who conquered Khandesh and Berar. Jahangir fought against Malik Amber of Ahmadnagar. During the Shah Jahan’s reign, Aurangazeb, as governor of Deccan, followed an aggressive Deccan policy. When he became the Mughal emperor, for the first twenty five years, he concentrated on the northwest frontier. At that time, the Maratha ruler, Sivaji carved out an independent Maratha kingdom in the territories of north and south Konkan. To contain the spread of the Marathas, Aurangazeb decided to invade Bijapur and Golkonda. He defeated Sikandar Shah of Bijapur and annexed his kingdom. Then, he proceeded against Golkonda and eliminated the Kutb Shahi dynasty. It was also annexed by him. In fact, the destruction of the Deccan kingdoms was a political blunder on the part of Aurangazeb. The barrier between the Mughals and the Marathas was removed and there ensued a direct confrontation between them. Also, his Deccan campaigns exhausted the Mughal treasury. According to J.N. Sarkar, the Deccan ulcer ruined Aurangazeb.
Aurangazeb was a staunch and orthodox Muslim in his personal life. His ideal was to transform India into an Islamic state. He created a separate department to enforce moral codes under a high-powered officer called Muhtasib. Drinking was prohibited. Cultivation and use of bhang and other drugs were banned. Aurangazeb forbade music in the Mughal court. He discontinued the practice of Jarokhadarshan. He also discontinued the celebration of Dasarah and royal astronomers and astrologers were also dismissed from service. Initially Aurangazeb banned the construction of new Hindu temples and repair of old temples. Then he began a policy of destroying Hindu temples. The celebrated temples at Mathura and Benares were reduced to ruins. In 1679, he reimposed jiziya and pilgrim tax. He was also not tolerant of other Muslim sects. The celebration of Muharram was stopped. His invasions against the Deccan sultanates were partly due to his hatred of the Shia faith.
He was also against the Sikhs and he executed the ninth Sikh Guru Tej Bahadur. This had resulted in the transformation of Sikhs into a warring community. His religious policy was responsible for turning the Rajputs, the Marathas and Sikhs into the enemies of Mughal empire. It had also res
ulted in the rebellions of the Jats of Mathura and the Satnamis of Mewar. Therefore, Aurangazeb was held responsible for the decline of the Mughal empire.
In his private life, Aurangazeb was industrious and disciplined. He was very simple in food and dress. He earned money for his personal expenses by copying Quran and selling those copies. He did not consume wine. He was learned and proficient in Arabic and Persian languages. He was a lover of books. He was devoted to his religion and conducted prayers five times a day. He strictly observed the Ramzan fasting.
In the political field, Aurangazeb committed serious mistakes. He misunderstood the true nature of the Maratha movement and antagonized them. Also, he failed to solve the Maratha problem and left an open sore. His policy towards Shia Deccan Sultanates also proved to be a wrong policy. His religious policy was also not successful. Aurangazeb was an orthodox Sunni Muslim. But his move to apply his religious thought rigidly in a non-Muslim society was a failure. His antagonistic policies towards non-Muslims did not help him to rally the Muslims to his side. On the other hand it had strengthened political enemies of the Mughal Empire.
The Mughal Empire declined rapidly after the death of Aurangazeb. The Mughal court became the scene of factions among the nobles. The weakness of the empire was exposed when Nadir Shah imprisoned the Mughal Emperor and looted Delhi in 1739. The causes for the downfall of the Mughal Empire were varied. To some extent, the religious and Deccan policies of Aurangazeb contributed to its decline. The weak successors and demoralization of the Mughal army also paved the way for it. The vastness of the empire became unwieldy. The financial difficulties due to continuous wars led to the decline. The neglect of the sea power by the Mughals was felt when the Europeans began to settle in India. Further, the invasions of Nadir Shah and Ahmad Shah Abdali weakened the Mughal state. Thus the decline and downfall of the Mughal Empire was due to the combination of political, social and economic factors.
The history of Vijayanagar and Bahmani kingdoms constitutes an important chapter in the history of India.
Four dynasties – Sangama, Saluva, Tuluva and Aravidu – ruled Vijayanagar from A.D. 1336 to 1672. The sources for the study of Vijayanagar are varied such as literary, archaeological and numismatics. Krishnadevaraya’s Amukthamalyada, Gangadevi’s Maduravijayam and Allasani Peddanna’s Manucharitam are some of the indigenous literature of this period.
Many foreign travelers visited the Vijayanagar Empire and their accounts are also valuable. The Moroccan traveler, Ibn Battuta, Venetian traveler Nicolo de Conti, Persian traveler Abdur Razzak and the Portuguese traveler Domingo Paes were among them who left valuable accounts on the socio-economic conditions of the Vijayanagar Empire.
The copper plate inscriptions such as the Srirangam copper plates of Devaraya II provide the genealogy and achievements of Vijayanagar rulers. The Hampi ruins and other monuments of Vijayanagar provide information on the cultural contributions of the Vijayanagar rulers. The numerous coins issued by the Vijayanagar rulers contain figures and legends explaining their tittles and achievements.
Vijayanagar was founded in 1336 by Harihara and Bukka of the Sangama dynasty. They were originally served under the Kakatiya rulers of Warangal. Then they went to Kampili where they were imprisoned and converted to Islam. Later, they returned to the Hindu fold at the initiative of the saint Vidyaranya. They also proclaimed their independence and founded a new city on the south bank of the Tungabhadra river. It was called Vijayanagar meaning city of victory. The decline of the Hoysala kingdom enabled Harihara and Bukka to expand their newly founded kingdom. By 1346, they brought the whole of the Hoysala kingdom under their control. The struggle between Vijayanagar and Sultanate of Madurai lasted for about four decades. Kumarakampana’s expedition to Madurai was described in the Maduravijayam. He destroyed the Madurai Sultans and as a result, the Vijayanagar Empire comprised the whole of South India up to Rameswaram. The conflict between Vijayanagar Empire and the Bahmani kingdom lasted for many years. The dispute over Raichur Doab, the region between the rivers Krishna and Tungabhadra and also over the fertile areas of Krishna-Godavari delta led to this long-drawn conflict. The greatest ruler of the Sangama dynasty was Deva Raya II. But he could not win any clear victory over the Bahmani Sultans. After his death, Sangama dynasty became weak. The next dynasty, Saluva dynasty founded by Saluva Narasimha reigned only for a brief period (1486-1509).
The Tuluva dynasty was founded by Vira Narasimha. The greatest of the Vijayanagar rulers, Krishna Deva Raya belonged to the Tuluva dynasty. He possessed great military ability. His imposing personality was accompanied by high intellectual quality. His first task was to check the invading Bahmani forces. By that time the Bahmani kingdom was replaced by Deccan Sultanates. The Muslim armies were decisively defeated in the battle of Diwani by Krishna Deva Raya. Then he invaded Raichur Doab which had resulted in the confrontation with the Sultan of Bijapur, Ismail Adil Shah. But, Krishna Deva Raya defeated him and captured the city of Raichur in 1520. From there he marched on Bidar and captured it.
Krishna Deva Raya’s Orissa campaign was also successful. He defeated the Gajapathi ruler Prataparudra and conquered the whole of Telungana. He maintained friendly relations with the Portuguese. Albuquerque sent his ambassadors to Krishna Deva Raya.
Though a Vaishnavaite, he respected all religions. He was a great patron of literature and art and he was known as Andhra Bhoja. Eight eminent scholars known as Ashtadiggajas were at his royal court. Allasani Peddanna was the greatest and he was called Andhrakavita Pitamaga. His important works include Manucharitam and Harikathasaram. Pingali Suranna and Tenali Ramakrishna were other important scholars. Krishna Deva Raya himself authored a Telugu work, Amukthamalyadha and Sanskrit works, Jambavati Kalyanam and Ushaparinayam. He repaired most of the temples of south India. He also built the famous Vittalaswamy and Hazara Ramaswamy temples at Vijayanagar. He also built a new city called Nagalapuram in memory of his queen Nagaladevi. Besides, he built a large number of Rayagopurams.
After his death, Achutadeva and Venkata succeeded the throne. During the reign of Rama Raya, the combined forces of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Golkonda and Bidar defeated him at the Battle of Talaikotta in 1565. This battle is also known as Raksasa Thangadi. Rama Raya was imprisoned and executed. The city of Vijayanagar was destroyed. This battle was generally considered to mark the end of the Vijayanagar Empire. However, the Vijayanagar kingdom existed under the Aravidu dynasty for about another century. Thirumala, Sri Ranga and Venkata II were the important rulers of this dynasty. The last ruler of Vijayanagar kingdom was Sri Ranga III.
The administration under the Vijayanagar Empire was well organized. The king enjoyed absolute authority in executive, judicial and legislative matters. He was the highest court of appeal. The succession to the throne was on the principle of hereditary. Sometimes usurpation to the throne took place as Saluva Narasimha came to power by ending the Sangama dynasty. The king was assisted by a council of ministers in his day to day administration.
The Empire was divided into different administrative units called Mandalams, Nadus, sthalas and finally into gramas. The governor of Mandalam was called Mandaleswara or Nayak. Vijayanagar rulers gave full powers to the local authorities in the administration. Besides land revenue, tributes and gifts from vassals and feudal chiefs, customs collected at the ports, taxes on various professions were other sources of income to the government. Land revenue was fixed generally one sixth of the produce. The expenditure of the government includes personal expenses of king and the charities given by him and military expenditure. In the matter of justice, harsh punishments such as mutilation and throwing to elephants were followed.
The Vijayanagar army was well-organized and efficient. It consisted of the cavalry, infantry, artillery and elephants. High-breed horses were procured from foreign traders. The top-grade officers of the army were known as Nayaks or Poligars. They were granted land in lieu of their services. These lands were called amaram. Soldiers were usually paid in cash.
Allasani Peddanna in his Manucharitam refers the existence of four castes – Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and Sudras – in the Vijayanagar society. Foreign travelers left vivid
accounts on the splendour of buildings and luxurious social life in the city of Vijayanagar. Silk and cotton clothes were mainly used for dress. Perfumes, flowers and ornaments were used by the people. Paes mentions of the beautiful houses of the rich and the large number of their household servants. Nicolo Conti refers to the prevalence of slavery. Dancing, music, wrestling, gambling and cock-fighting were some of the amusements.
The Sangama rulers were chiefly Saivaites and Virupaksha was their family deity. But other dynasties were Vaishnavites. Srivaishnavism of Ramanuja was very popular. But all kings were tolerant towards other religions. Borbosa referred to the religious freedom enjoyed by everyone. Muslims were employed in the administration and they were freely allowed to build mosques and worship. A large number of temples were built during this period and numerous festivals were celebrated. The Epics and the Puranas were popular among the masses.
The position of women had not improved. However, some of them were learned. Gangadevi, wife of Kumarakampana authored the famous work Maduravijayam. Hannamma and Thirumalamma were famous poets of this period. According to Nuniz, a large number of women were employed in royal palaces as dancers, domestic servants and palanquin bearers. The attachment of dancing girls to temples was in practice. Paes refers to the flourishing devadasi system. Polygamy was prevalent among the royal families. Sati was honoured and Nuniz gives a description of it.
According to the accounts of the foreign travelers, the Vijayanagar Empire was one of the wealthiest parts of the world at that time. Agriculture continued to be the chief occupation of the people. The Vijayanagar rulers provided a stimulus to its further growth by providing irrigation facilities. New tanks were built and dams were constructed across the rivers like Tunghabadra. Nuniz refers to the excavation of canals. There were numerous industries and they were organized into guilds. Metal workers and other craftsmen flourished during this period. Diamond mines were located in Kurnool and Anantapur district. Vijayanagar was also a great centre of trade. The chief gold coin was the varaha but weights and measures varied from place to place. Inland, coastal and overseas trade led to the general prosperity. There were a number of seaports on the Malabar coast, the chief being Cannanore. Commercial contacts with Arabia, Persia, South Africa and Portugal on the west and with Burma, Malay peninsula and China on the east flourished. The chief items of exports were cotton and silk clothes, spices, rice, iron, saltpeter and sugar. The imports consisted of horses, pearls, copper, coral, mercury, China silk and velvet clothes. The art of shipbuilding had developed.
The temple building activity further gained momentum during the Vijayanagar rule. The chief characteristics of the Vijayanagara architecture were the construction of tall Raya Gopurams or gateways and the Kalyanamandapam with carved pillars in the temple premises. The sculptures on the pillars were carved with distinctive features. The horse was the most common animal found in these pillars. Large mandapams contain one hundred pillars as well as one thousand pillars in some big temples. These mandapams were used for seating the deity on festival occasions. Also, many Amman shrines were added to the already existing temples during this period.
The most important temples of the Vijayanagar style were found in the Hampi ruins or the city of Vijayanagar. Vittalaswamy and Hazara Ramaswamy temples were the best examples of this style. The Varadharaja and Ekamparanatha temples at Kanchipuram stand as examples for the magnificence of the Vijayanagara style of temple architecture. The Raya Gopurams at Thiruvannamalai and Chidambaram speak the glorious epoch of Vijayanagar. They were continued by the Nayak rulers in the later period. The metal images of Krishna Deva Raya and his queens at Tirupati are examples for casting of metal images. Music and dancing were also patronized by the rulers of Vijayanagar. Different languages such as Sanskrit, Telugu, Kannada and Tamil flourished in the regions. There was a great development in Sanskrit and Telugu literature. The peak of literary achievement was reached during the reign of Krishna Deva Raya. He himself was a scholar in Sanskrit and Telugu. His famous court poet Allasani Peddanna was distinguished in Telugu literature. Thus the cultural contributions of the Vijayanagar rulers were many-sided and remarkable.
The founder of the Bahmani kingdom was Alauddin Bahman Shah also known as Hasan Gangu in 1347. Its capital was Gulbarga. There were a total of fourteen Sultans ruling over this kingdom. Among them, Alauddin Bahman Shah, Muhammad Shah I and Firoz Shah were important. Ahmad Wali Shah shifted the capital from Gulbarga to Bidar. The power of the Bahmani kingdom reached its peak under the rule of Muhammad Shah III. It extended from the Arabian sea to the Bay of Bengal. On the west it extended from Goat to Bombay. On the east, it extended from Kakinada to the mouth of the river Krishna. The success of Muhammad Shah was due to the advice and services of his minister Mahmud Gawan.
The Bahmani kingdom reached its peak under the guidance of Mahmud Gawan. He was a Persian merchant. He came to India at the age of forty two and joined the services of Bahmani kingdom. Slowly he became the chief minister due to his personal qualities. He remained loyal to the kingdom. He lived a simple life and was magnanimous. He was also a learned person. He possessed a great knowledge of mathematics. He made endowments to build a college at Bidar which was built in the Persian style of architecture. He was also a military genius. He waged successful wars against Vijayanagar, Orissa and the sea pirates on the Arabian sea. His conquests include Konkan, Goa and Krishna-Godavari delta. Thus he expanded the Bahmani Empire through his conquests.
His administrative reforms were also important. They were aimed to increase the control of Sultan over the nobles and provinces. Royal officers were appointed in each province for this purpose. Most of the forts were under the control of these officers. Allowances were reduced to the
nobles who shirked their responsibility. This was disliked by the nobles. So, the Deccani nobles organised a plot against Gawan. They induced the Sultan to punish him with death sentence. After the execution of Gawan, the Bahmani kingdom began to decline. Muhammad Shah was succeeded by weak Sultans. During this period the provincial governors declared their independence. By the year 1526, the Bahmani kingdom had disintegrated into five independent sultanates. They were Ahmadnagar, Bijapur, Berar, Golkonda and Bidar and known as Deccan Sultanates.
The Saivaite Nayanmars and Vashnavaite Alwars preached the Bhakti cult under the Pallavas, Pandyas and Cholas. But, the spread of Bhakti movement in medieval India is a different kind. This medieval Bhakti movement was the direct result of the influence of the spread of Islam in India. Monotheism or belief in one God, equality and brotherhood of man and rejection of rituals and class divisions are the distinctive characteristics of Islam. These Islamic ideas created a profound impact on the religious leaders of this period. Moreover, the preaching of Sufi teachers shaped the thinking of Bhakti reformers like Ramananda, Kabir and Nanak.
Sufism was a liberal reform movement within Islam. It had its origin in Persia and spread into India in the eleventh century. The first Sufi saint Shaikh Ismail of Lahore started preaching his ideas. The most famous of the Sufi saints of India was Khwaja Muinuddin Chishti, who settled in Ajmer which became the centre of his activities. He had a number of disciples who are called Sufis of the Chishti order. Another well known Sufi saint was Bahauddin Zakariya who came under the influence of another famous mystic Shihabuddin Suhrawardi. His branch of Sufi saints was known as the Sufis of the Suhrawardi Order. Yet another famous Sufi saint was Nizamuddin Auliya who belonged to the Chishti order and who was a mighty spiritual force. These Sufi saints are revered even today by not only Muslims but by a large number of Hindus. Their tombs have become popular places of pilgrimage for both communities.
Sufism stressed the elements of love and devotion as effective means of the realisation of God. Love of God meant love of humanity and so the Sufis believed service to humanity was tantamount to service to God. In Sufism, self discipline was considered an essential condition to gain knowledge of God by sense of perception. While orthodox Muslims emphasise external conduct, the Sufis lay stress on inner purity. While the orthodox believe in blind observance of rituals, the Sufis consider love and devotion as the only means of attaining salvation. According to them one must have the guidance of a pir or guru, without which spiritual development is impossible. Sufism also inculcated a spirit of tolerance among its followers. Other ideas emphasised by Sufism are meditation, good actions, repentance for sins, performance of prayers and pilgrimages, fasting, charity and suppression of passions by ascetic practices.
These liberal and unorthodox features of Sufism had a profound influence on medieval Bhakti saints. In the later period, Akbar, the Mughal emperor, appreciated Sufi doctrines which shaped his religious outlook and religious policies. When the Sufi movement was becoming popular in India, about the same time the Bhakti cult was gaining strength among the Hindus. The two parallel movements based on the doctrines of love and selfless devotion contributed a great deal to bringing the two communities closer together. However, this trend did not last long.
In the ninth century Sankara started a Hindu revivalist movement giving a new orientation to Hinduism. He was born in Kaladi in Kerala. His doctrine of Advaita or Monism was too abstract to appeal to the common man. Moreover, there was a reaction against the Advaita concept of Nirgunabrahman (God without attributes) with the emergence of the idea of Sagunabrahman (God with attributes).
In the twelfth century, Ramanuja, who was born at Sriperumbudur near modern Chennai, preached Visishtadvaita. According to him God is Sagunabrahman. The creative process and all the objects in creation are real but not illusory as was held by Sankaracharya. Therefore, God, soul, matter are real. But God is inner substance and the rest are his attributes. He also advocated prabattimarga or path of self-surrender to God. He invited the downtrodden to Vaishnavism.
In the thirteenth century, Madhava from Kannada region propagated Dvaita or dualism of Jivatma and Paramatma. According to his philosophy, the world is not an illusion but a reality. God, soul, matter are unique in nature. Nimbarka and Vallabhacharya were also other preachers of Vaishnavite Bhakti in the Telungana region. Surdas was the disciple of Vallabhacharya and he popularized Krishna cult in north India. Mirabai was a great devotee of Krishna and she became popular in Rajasthan for her bhajans. Tulsidas was a worshipper of Rama and composed the famous Ramcharitmanas, the Hindi version of Ramayana.
In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Ramananda, Kabir and Nanak remained great apostles of the Bhakti cult. They drew inspiration from old masters but showed a new path. They helped the common people to shed age-old superstitions and attain salvation through Bhakti or pure devotion. Unlike the early reformers, they were not linked with any particular religious creed and did not believe in rituals and ceremonies. They condemned polytheism and believed in one god. They also denounced all forms of idolatry. They strongly believed in Bhakti as the only means of salvation. They also emphasised the fundamental unity of all religions.
Ramananda was born at Allahabad. He was originally a follower of Ramanuja. Later he founded his own sect and preached his principles in Hindi at Banaras and Agra. He was a worshipper of Rama. He was the first to employ the vernacular medium to propagate his ideas. Simplification of worship and emancipation of people from the traditional caste rules were his two important contributions to the Bhakti movement. He opposed the caste system and chose his disciples from all sections of society disregarding caste. His disciples were:
Among the disciples of Ramananda the most famous was Kabir. He was born near Banaras to a brahmin widow. But he was brought up by a Muslim couple who were weavers by profession. He possessed an inquiring mind and while in Benares learnt much about Hinduism. He became familiar with Islamic teachings also and Ramananda initiated him into the higher knowledge of Hindu and Muslim religious and philosophical ideas. Kabir’s object was to reconcile Hindus and Muslims and establish harmony between the two sects. He denounced idolatry and rituals and laid great emphasis on the equality of man before God. He emphasised the essential oneness of all religions by describing Hindus and Muslims ‘as pots of the same clay’. To him Rama and Allah, temple and mosque were the same. He regarded devotion to god as an effective means of salvation and urged that to achieve this one must have a pure heart, free from cruelty, dishonesty, hypocrisy and insincerity. He is regarded as the greatest of the mystic saints and his followers are called Kabirpanthis.
Another well-known saint-preacher of the medieval period was Guru Nanak, founder of the Sikh religion and a disciple of Kabir. He was born in Talwandi near Lahore. He denounced caste distinctions and rituals like bathing in holy rivers. His conception of religion was highly practical and sternly ethical. He exhorted people to give up selfishness, falsehood and hypocrisy and to lead a life of truth, honesty and kindness. ‘Abide pure amidst the impurities of the world’ was one of his famous sayings. His life was dedicated to establishing harmony between Hindus and Muslims. His followers were known as Sikhs.
Chaitanya was another well-known saint and reformer of Bengal who popularised the Krishna cult. He renounced the world, became an ascetic and wandered all over the country preaching his ideas. He proclaimed the universal brotherhood of man and condemned all distinction based on religion and caste. He emphasised love and peace and showed great sympathy to the sufferings of other people, especially that of the poor and the weak. He believed that through love and devotion, song and dance, a devotee can feel the presence of God. He accepted disciples from all classes and castes and his teachings are widely followed in Bengal even today.
Gnanadeva was the founder of the Bhakti Movement in Maharashtra in the thirteenth century. It was called Maharashtra dharma. He wrote a commentary of Bhagavat Gita called Gnaneswari. Namadeva preached the gospel of love. He opposed idol worship and priestly domination. He also opposed the caste system. In the sixteenth century, Ekanatha opposed caste distinctions and sympathetic towards the lower castes. He composed many lyrics and his bhajans and kirtans were famous. Another Bhakti saint of Maharashtra was Tukaram, a contemporary of Sivaji. He was responsible for creating a background for Maratha nationalism. He opposed all social distinctions.
The importance of the Bhakti movement was very great. Various preachers spoke and wrote in the regional languages. So, the Bhakti movement provided an impetus for the development of regional languages such as Hindi, Marathi, Bengali, Kannada, etc. Through these languages they made direct appeal to the masses. As the caste system was condemned by the Bhakti saints, the lower classes were raised to a position of great importance. The importance of women in society was also increased because the Bhakti movement gave equal importance to them. Moreover, the Bhakti movement gave to the people a simple religion, without complicated rituals. They were required to show sincere devotion to God. The new idea of a life of charity and service to fellow people developed.
The establishment and expansion of the Delhi Sultanate led to the evolution of a powerful and efficient administrative system. At its zenith the authority of Delhi Sultan had extended as far south as Madurai. Although the Delhi Sultanate had disintegrated, their administrative system made a powerful impact on the Indian provincial kingdoms and later on the Mughal system of administration. The Delhi Sultanate was an Islamic state with its religion Islam. The Sultans considered themselves as representatives of the Caliph. They included the name of the Caliph in the khutba or prayer and inscribed it on their coins. Although Balban called himself the shadow of God, he continued to practice of including the name of Caliph in the khutba and coins. Iltutmish, Muhammad bin Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq obtained mansur or letter of permission from the Caliph. The office of the Sultan was the most important in the administrative system. He was the ultimate authority for the military, legal and political activities. There was no clear law of succession during this period. All the sons had equal claim to the throne. Iltutmish even nominated his daughter in preference to his sons. But such nominations or successions were to be accepted by the nobles. Sometimes ulemas played crucial role in accepting the succession to the throne. However, the military superiority remained the main factor in matters of succession.
The Sultan was assisted by a number of departments and officials in his administration. The post of Naib was the most powerful one. The Naib practically enjoyed all the powers of the Sultan and exercised general control over all the departments. Next to him was the Wazir who was heading the finance department called Diwani Wizarat.
The military department was called Diwani Ariz. It was headed by Ariz-i-mumalik. He was responsible for recruiting the soldiers and administering the military department. He was not the commander-in-chief of the army. The Sultan himself was the commander-in-chief of the army. The military department was first set up by Balban and it was further improved by Alauddin Khalji under whom the strength of the army crossed three lakh soldiers. Alauddin introduced the system of branding of the horses and payment of salary in cash. Cavalry was given importance under the Delhi Sultanate.
Diwani Rasalat was the department of religious affairs. It was headed by chief Sadr. Grants were made by this department for the construction and maintenance of mosques, tombs and madrasas. The head of the judicial department was the chief Qazi. Other judges or qazis were appointed in various parts of the Sultanate. Muslim personal law or sharia was followed in civil matters. The Hindus were governed by their own personal law and their cases were dispensed by the village panchayats. The criminal law was based on the rules and regulations made by the Sultans. The department of correspondence was called Diwani Insha. All the correspondence between the ruler and the officials was dealt with by this department.
The provinces under the Delhi Sultanate were called iqtas. They were initially under the control of the nobles. But the governors of the provinces were called the muqtis or walis. They were to maintain law and order and collect the land revenue. The provinces were divided into shiqs and the next division was pargana. The shiq was under the control of shiqdar. The pargana comprising a number of villages was headed by amil. The village remained the basic unit of the administration. The village headman was known as muqaddam or chaudhri. The village accountant was called patwari.
After consolidating their position in India, the Delhi Sultans introduced reforms in the land revenue administration. The lands were classified into three categories:
1. iqta land – lands assigned to officials as iqtas instead of payment for their services.
2. khalisa land – land under the direct control of the Sultan and the revenues collected were spent for the maintenance of royal court and royal household.
3. inam land – land assigned or granted to religious leaders or religious institutions.
The peasantry paid one third of their produce as land revenue, and sometimes even one half of the produce. They also paid other taxes and always led a hand-to-mouth living. Frequent famines made their lives more miserable. However, Sultans like Muhammad bi Tughlaq and Firoz Tughlaq took efforts to enhance agricultural production by providing irrigational facilities and by providing takkavi loans. They also encouraged the farmers to cultivate superior crop like wheat instead of barley. Firoz encouraged the growth of horticulture. Muhammad bin Tughlaq created a separate agricultural department, Diwani Kohi.
During the Sultanate period, the process of urbanization gained momentum. A number of cities and towns had grown during this period. Lahore, Multan, Broach, Anhilwara, Laknauti, Daulatabad, Delhi and Jaunpur were important among them. Delhi remained the largest city in the East. The growth of trade and commerce was described by contemporary writers. India exported a large number of commodities to the countries on the Persian Gulf and West Asia and also to South East Asian countries. Overseas trade was under the control of Multanis and Afghan Muslims. Inland trade was dominated by the Gujarat Marwari merchants and Muslim Bohra merchants. Construction of roads and their maintenance facilitated for smooth transport and communication. Particularly the royal roads were kept in good shape. Sarais or rest houses on the highways were maintained for the convenience of the travelers. Cotton textile and silk industry flourished in this period. Sericulture was introduced on a large scale which made India less dependent on other countries for the import of raw silk. Paper industry had grown and there was an extensive use of paper from 14th and 15th centuries. Other crafts like leather-making, metal-crafts and carpet-weaving flourished due to the increasing demand. The royal karkhanas supplied the goods needed to the Sultan and his household. They manufactured costly articles made of gold, silver and gold ware. The nobles also aped the life style of Sultans and indulged in luxurious life. They were well paid and accumulated enormous wealth.
The system of coinage had also developed during the Delhi Sultanate. Iltutmish issued several types of silver tankas. One silver tanka was divided into 48 jitals during the Khalji rule and 50 jitals during the Tughlaq rule. Gold coins or dinars became popular during the reign of Alauddin Khalji after his South Indian conquests. Copper coins were less in number and dateless. Muhammad bin Tughlaq had not only experimented token currency but also issued several types of gold and silver coins. They were minted at eight different places. At least twenty five varieties of gold coins were issued by him.
There was little change in the structure of the Hindu society during this period. Traditional caste system with the Brahmins on the upper strata of the society was prevalent. The subservient position of women also continued and the practice of sati was widely prevalent. The seclusion of women and the wearing of purdah became common among the upper class women. The Arabs and Turks brought the purdah system into India and it became widespread among the Hindu women in the upper classes of north India.
During the Sultanate period, the Muslim society remained divided into several ethnic and racial groups. The Turks, Iranians, Afghans and Indian Muslims developed exclusively and there were no intermarriages between these groups. Hindu converts from
lower castes were also not given equal respect. The Muslim nobles occupied high offices and very rarely the Hindu nobles were given high position in the government. The Hindus were considered zimmis or protected people for which they were forced to pay a tax called jiziya. In the beginning jiziya was collected as part of land tax. Firoz Tughlaq separated it from the land revenue and collected jiziya as a separate tax. Sometimes Brahmins were exempted from paying jiziya.
The art and architecture of the Delhi Sultanate period was distinct from the Indian style. The Turks introduced arches, domes, lofty towers or minarets and decorations using the Arabic script. They used the skill of the Indian stone cutters. They also added colour to their buildings by using marbles, red and yellow sand stones. In the beginning, they converted temples and other structures demolished into mosques. For example, the Quwwat-ul-Islam mosque near Qutub Minar in Delhi was built by using the materials obtained from destroying many Hindu and Jain temples. But later, they began to construct new structures. The most magnificent building of the 13th century was the Qutub Minar which was founded by Aibek and completed by Iltutmish. This seventy one metre tower was dedicated to the Sufi saint Qutbuddin Bakthiyar Kaki. The balconies of this tower were projected from the main building and it was the proof of the architectural skills of that period. Later, Alauddin Khalji added an entrance to the Qutub Minar called Alai Darwaza. The dome of this arch was built on scientific lines. The buildings of the Tughlaq period were constructed by combining arch and dome. They also used the cheaper and easily available grey colour stones. The palace complex called Tughlaqabad with its beautiful lake was built during the period of Ghyasuddin Tughlaq. Muhammad bin Tughlaq built the tomb of Ghyasuddin on a high platform. The Kotla fort at Delhi was the creation of Firoz Tughlaq. The Lodi garden in Delhi was the example for the architecture of the Lodis.
New musical instruments such as sarangi and rabab were introduced during this period. Amir Khusrau introduced many new ragas such as ghora and sanam. He evolved a new style of light music known as qwalis by blending the Hindu and Iranian systems. The invention of sitar was also attributed to him. The Indian classical work Ragadarpan was translated into Persian during the reign of Firoz Tughlaq. Pir Bhodan, a Sufi saint was one of the great musicians of this period. Raja Man Singh of Gwalior was a great lover of music. He encouraged the composition of a great musical work called Man Kautuhal.
The Delhi Sultans patronized learning and literature. Many of them had great love for Arabic and Persian literature. Learned men came from Persia and Persian language got encouragement from the rulers. Besides theology and poetry, the writing of history was also encouraged. Some of the Sultans had their own court historians. The most famous historians of this period were Hasan Nizami, Minhaj-us-Siraj, Ziauddin Barani, and Shams-Siraj Afif. Barani’s Tarikhi- Firoz Shahi contains the history of Tughlaq dynasty. Minhaj-us-Siraj wrote Tabaqat-i-Nasari, a general history of Muslim dynasties up to 1260.
Amir Khusrau (1252-1325) was the famous Persian writer of this period. He wrote a number of poems. He experimented with several poetical forms and created a new style of Persian poetry called Sabaqi-Hind or the Indian style. He also wrote some Hindi verses. Amir Khusrau’s Khazain-ul-Futuh speaks about Alauddin’s conquests. His famous work Tughlaq Nama deals with the rise of Ghyiasuddin Tughlaq. Sanskrit and Persian functioned as link languages in the Delhi Sultanate. Zia Nakshabi was the first to translate Sanskrit stories into Persian. The book Tutu Nama or Book of the Parrot became popular and translated into Turkish and later into many European languages. The famous Rajatarangini written by Kalhana belonged to the period of Zain-ul-Abidin, the ruler of Kashmir. Many Sanskrit works on medicine and music were translated into Persian.
In Arabic, Alberuni’s Kitab-ul-Hind is the most famous work. Regional languages also developed during this period. Chand Baradi was the famous Hindi poet of this period. Bengali literature had also developed and Nusrat Shah patronized the translation of Mahabaratha into Bengali. The Bakthi cult led to development of Gujarati and Marathi languages. The Vijayanagar Empire patronized Telugu and Kannada literature.
The founder of the Tughlaq dynasty was Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq. Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq sent his son Juna Khan to fight against Warangal. He defeated Pratabarudra and returned with rich booty. Ghiyasuddin laid the foundation for Tughlaqabad near Delhi. Ulugh Khan was said to have treacherously killed his father and ascended the throne with the title Muhammad bin Tughlaq in 1325.
He was a very attractive character in the history of medieval India owing to his ambitious schemes and novel experiments. His enterprises and novel experiments ended in miserable failures because they were all far ahead of their time. He was very tolerant in religious matters. He maintained diplomatic relations with far off countries like Egypt, China and Iran. He also introduced many liberal and beneficial reforms. But all his reforms failed. Contemporary writers like Isami, Barani and Ibn Battutah were unable to give a correct picture about his personality. But, Muhammad bin Tughlaq was the only Delhi Sultan who had received a comprehensive literary, religious and philosophical education.
Muhammad bin Tughlaq wanted to make Devagiri his second capital so that he might be able to control South India better. In 1327 he made extensive preparations for the transfer of royal household and the ulemas and Sufis from Delhi to Devagiri, which was renamed as Daulatabad. When they resisted the Sultan enforced his orders ruthlessly and caused great hardship of the population of Delhi. The distance between these two places was more than 1500 kilometres. Many people died during the rigorous journey in the summer. After two years, the Sultan abandoned Daulatabad and asked them to return to Delhi.
In 1329-30 Muhammad bin Tughlaq introduced a token currency. There was a shortage of silver through out the world in the fourteenth century. Kublai Khan issued paper money in China. In the same manner, Muhammad bin Tughlaq issued copper coins at par with the value of the silver tanka coins. But he was not able to prevent forging the new coins. The goldsmiths began to forge the token coins on a large scale. Soon the new coins were not accepted in the markets. Finally, Muhammad bin Tughlaq stopped the circulation of token currency and promised to exchange silver coins for the copper coins. Many people exchanged the new coins but the treasury became empty. According the Barani, the heap of copper coins remained lying on roadside in Tughlaqabad.
The failure of these two experiments affected the prestige of the Sultan and enormous money was wasted. In order to overcome financial difficulties, Muhammad bin Tughlaq increased the land revenue on the farmers of Doab (land between Ganges and Yamuna rivers). It was an excessive and arbitrary step on the farmers. A severe famine was also ravaging that region at that time. It had resulted in a serious peasant revolts. They fled from the villages but Muhammad bin Tughlaq took harsh measures to capture and punish them. The revolts were crushed.
However, the Sultan realized later that adequate relief measures and the promotion of agriculture were the real solution to the problem. He launched a scheme by which takkavi loans (loans for cultivation) were given to the farmers to buy seed and to extend cultivation. A separate department for agriculture, Diwan- i- Kohi was established. Model farm under the state was created in an area of 64 square miles for which the government spent seventy lakh tankas. This experiment was further continued by Firoz Tughlaq.
The latter part of Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s reign witnessed a spate of rebellions by the nobles and provincial governors. The rebellion of Hasan Shah resulted in the establishment of the Madurai Sultanate. In 1336 the Vijayanagar kingdom was founded. In 1347 Bhamini kingdom was established. The governors of Oudh, Multan and Sind revolted against the authority of Muhammad bin Tughlaq. In Gujarat Taghi rose in revolt against the Sultan who spent nearly three years in chasing him. Muhammad bin Tughlaq’s health became worse and he died in 1351. According to Baduani, the Sultan was freed from his people and the people from the Sultan. According to Barani, Muhammad bin Tughlaq was a mixture of opposites. His reign marked the beginning of the process of its decline.
After the death of Muhammad-bin-Tughlaq in 1351 Firoz Tughlaq had the unique distinction of being chosen as sultan by the nobles. He appointed Khan-i-Jahan Maqbal, a Telugu Brahmin convert as wazir (prime minister). The wazir helped the Sultan in his administration and maintained the prestige of the Sultanate during this period.
After his accession Firoz had to face the problem of preventing the disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate. He tried to safeguard his authority over north India instead of reasserting his authority over the Deccan and south India. He led two expeditions to Bengal but they were not successful. Bengal became free from the control of Delhi Sultanate. Firoz led a campaign against Jajnagar (modern Orissa). He returned with rich booty acquired from the temples. He marched against Nagarkot and made its ruler to pay tributes. During this campaign the Sultan collected 1300 Sanskrit manuscripts from the Jawalamukhi temple library and got them translated into Persian. Firoz next marched against Thatta in the Sind region and crushed a rebellion there.
The reign of Firoz Tughlaq was more notable for his administration. He strictly followed the advice of the ulemas in running the administration. He pleased the nobles and assured hereditary succession to their properties. Thus the iqta system was not only revived but also it was made hereditary. As per the Islamic law he levied the taxes. Jiziya was strictly imposed on non-Muslims. He was the first Sultan to impose irrigation tax. But at the same time he dug irrigation canals and wells. The longest canal was about 200 kilometres from Sutlej to Hansi. Another canal was between Yamuna and Hissar. There were about 1200 fruit gardens in and around Delhi yielding more revenue. The special tax on 28 items was abolished by him since they were against the Islamic law. He also developed royal factories called karkhanas in which thousands of slaves were employed. About 300 new towns were built during his reign. The famous among them was Firozabad near Red Fort in Delhi, now called Firoz Shah Kotla. Old monuments like Jama Masjid and Qutb-Minar were also repaired.
A new department called Diwan-i-Khairat was created to take care of orphans and widows. Free hospitals and marriage bureaus for poor Muslims were also established. Firoz patronized scholars like Barani and Afif. As he was guided by the ulemas, he was intolerant towards Shia Muslims and Sufis. He treated Hindus as second grade citizens and imposed Jiziya. In this respect he was the precursor of Sikandar Lodi and Aurangazeb. Also he increased the number of slaves by capturing the defeated soldiers and young persons. In his regime the number of slaves had increased to one lakh eighty thousand. When Firoz died in 1388 the struggle for power between the Sultan and the nobles started once again. His successors had to face the rebellion of th
e slaves created by Firoz. In the following years, the Delhi Sultanate had disintegrated further. Many provinces like Malwa and Gujarat declared their independence. The invasion of Timur in 1398 had worsened the situation. When Timur entered Delhi there was no opposition and he sacked Delhi for three days murdering thousands of people and looting enormous wealth. He withdrew from India in 1399 and his invasion in fact delivered a death blow to the Tughlaq dynasty.
Before his departure from India, Timur appointed Khizr Khan as governor of Multan. He captured Delhi and founded the Sayyid dynasty in 1414. He tried to consolidate the Delhi Sultanate but in vain. He died in 1421 and was succeeded by his son, Mubarak Shah. Muhammad Shah who succeeded him was always busy against conspirators and gradually lost control over his nobles. Buhlul Khan Lodi dominated everything. Muhammad Shah died in 1445 and was succeeded by his son Alam Shah (1445-1451) the weakest of the Sayyid princes. He handed over the throne to Buhlul Lodi and retired to Badaun.
The Lodis, who succeeded Sayyids, were Afghans. Buhlul Lodi was the first Afghan ruler while his predecessors were all Turks. He died in 1489 and was succeeded by his son, Sikandar Lodi. Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517) was the greatest of the three Lodi sovereigns. He brought the whole of Bihar under his control, many Rajput chiefs were defeated. He attacked Bengal and forced its ruler to conclude a treaty with him, and extended his empire from the Punjab to Bihar. He was a good administrator. Roads were laid and many irrigational facilities were provided for the benefit of the peasantry. Despite certain laudable qualities, he was a bigot. He destroyed many Hindu temples and imposed many restrictions on the Hindus. Yet, he was one of the great Lodi sultans who made the sultanate strong and powerful.
Sikandar Lodi was succeeded by his eldest son Ibrahim Lodi who was arrogant. He insulted his nobles openly in court and humiliated them. Those nobles who revolted were put to death. His own uncle, Alauddin revolted. Daulat Khan Lodi, the governor of the Punjab was insulted and disaffection between king and courtier became very common. Greatly displeased by the arrogance of Ibrahim, Daulat Khan Lodi invited Babur to invade India. Babur marched against Delhi and defeated and killed Ibrahim Lodi in the first battle of Panipat (1526). The Afghan kingdom lasted for only seventy-five years.
The advent of the Khalji dynasty marked the zenith of Muslim imperialism in India. The founder of the Khalji dynasty was Jalaluddin Khalji. He was seventy years old when he came to power. He was generous and lenient. Malik Chhajju, nephew of Balban was allowed to remain the governor of Kara. His leniency was misunderstood as weakness. When Chhajju revolted, it was suppressed but he was pardoned. When the thugs (robbers) looted the country, they were allowed to go after a severe warning. In 1292 when Malik Chhajju revolted for the second time, he was replaced by his son-in-law, Alauddin Khalji.
In 1296 Alauddin Khalji took an expedition to Devagiri and returned to Kara. During the reception there, Alauddin Khalji treacherously murdered his father-in-law Jalaluddin Khalji and usurped the throne of Delhi.
Alauddin Khalji made enormous gifts to the hostile nobles and Amirs of Delhi to win over them to his side. Those who still opposed him accession were punished severely. He framed regulations to control the nobles. He was convinced that the general prosperity of the nobles, intermarriages between noble families, inefficient spy-system and drinking liquor were the basic reasons for the rebellions. Therefore, he passed four ordinances. He confiscated the properties of the nobles. The intelligence system was reorganized and all the secret activities of the nobles were immediately reported to the Sultan. The public sale of liquor and drugs was totally stopped. Social gatherings and festivities without the permission of Sultan were forbidden. By such harsh measures his reign was free from rebellions.
Alauddin Khalji maintained a large permanent standing army and paid them in cash from the royal treasury. According the Ferishta, he recruited 4,75,000 cavalrymen. He introduced the system of dagh (branding of horses) and prepared huliya (descriptive list of soldiers). In order to ensure maximum efficiency, a strict review of army from time to time was carried out.
The introduction of paying salaries in cash to the soldiers led to price regulations popularly called as Market Reforms. Alauddin
Khalji established four separate markets in Delhi, one for grain; another for cloth, sugar, dried fruits, butter and oil; a third for horses, slaves and cattle; and a fourth for miscellaneous commodities. Each market was under the control of a high officer called Shahna-i- Mandi. The supply of grain was ensured by holding stocks in government store-houses. Regulations were issued to fix the price of all commodities. A separate department called Diwani Riyasat was created under an officer called Naib-i-Riyasat. Every merchant was registered under the Market department. There were secret agents called munhiyans who sent reports to the Sultan regarding the functioning of these markets. The Sultan also sent slave boys to buy various commodities to check prices. Violation of regulations was severely punished. Harsh punishment was given if any shopkeeper charged a higher price, or tried to cheat by using false weights and measures. Even during the famine the same price was maintained.
We are not sure whether the market regulations in Delhi were also applied in the provincial capitals and towns. Apart from market reforms, Alauddin Khalji took important steps in the land revenue administration. He was the first Sultan of Delhi who ordered for the measurement of land. Even the big landlords could not escape from paying land tax. Land revenue was collected in cash in order to enable the Sultan to pay the soldiers in cash. His land revenue reforms provided a basis for the future reforms of Sher Shah and Akbar.
Alauddin Khalji sent his army six times against the Mongols. The first two was successful. But the third Mongol invader Khwaja came up to Delhi but they were prevented from entering into the capital city. The next three Mongol invasions were also dealt with severely. Thousands of Mongols were killed. The northwestern frontier was fortified and Gazi Malik was appointed to as the Warden of Marches to protect the frontier. The military conquests of Alauddin Khalji include his expedition against Gujarat, Mewar and the Deccan. He sent Nusrat Khan and Ulugh Khan to capture Gujarat in 1299. The king and his daughter escaped while the queen was caught and sent to Delhi. Kafur, an eunuch, was also taken to Delhi and later he was made the Malik Naib – military commander. Then in 1301, Alauddin marched against Ranthampur and after a three month’s siege it fell. The Rajput women committed jauhar or self-immolation.
Alauddin next turned against Chittor. It was the powerful state in Rajasthan. The siege lasted for several months. In 1303 Alauddin stormed the Chittor fort. Raja Ratan Singh and his soldiers fought valiantly but submitted. The Rajput women including Rani Padmini performed jauhar. This Padmini episode was graphically mentioned in the book Padmavath written by Jayasi.
Alauddin Khalji’s greatest achievement was the conquest of Deccan and the far south. This region was ruled by four important dynasties – Yadavas of Devagiri, Kakatiyas of Warangal, Hoysalas of Dwarasamudra and the Pandyas of Madurai. In Alauddin sent Malik Kafur against the ruler of Devagiri, Ramachandra Deva, who submitted and paid rich tributes.
In 1309 Malik Kafur launched his campaign against Warangal. Its ruler Pratabarudra Deva was defeated and enormous booty was collected from him. Malik Kafur’s next target was the Hoysala ruler Vira Ballala III. He was defeated and a vast quantity of booty was seized and sent to Delhi. Kafur next marched against the Pandyas. Vira Pandya fled the capital Madurai and Kafur seized enormous wealth from the Pandya kingdom and returned to Delhi. Alauddin Khalji died in 1316. Although the Sultan was illiterate, he patronized poets like Amir Khus
rau and Amir Hasan. He also built a famous gateway known as Alai Darwaza and constructed a new capital at Siri.
Mubarak Shah and Khusru Shah were the successors of Alauddin Khalji. Ghazi Malik, the governor of Dipalpur, killed the Sultan Khusru Shah and ascended the throne of Delhi under the title of Ghiyasuddin Tughlaq in 1320.
The Muslim invasions into India had ultimately resulted in the establishment of Delhi Sultanate which existed from A.D. 1206 to 1526. Five different dynasties – the Slave, Khalji, Tughlaq, Sayyids and Lodis – ruled under the Delhi Sultanate. Not only they extended their rule over North India, but also they penetrated into the Deccan and South India. Their rule in India resulted in far-reaching changes in society, administration and cultural life.
The Slave dynasty was also called Mamluk dynasty. Mamluk was the Quranic term for slave. The Slave dynasty ruled Delhi from A.D. 1206 to 1290. In fact, three dynasties were established during this period. They were
Qutbuddin Aibak was a slave of Muhammad Ghori, who made him the Governor of his Indian possessions. He set up his military headquarters at Indraprasta, near Delhi. He raised a standing army and established his hold over north India even during the life time of Ghori. After the death of Ghori in 1206, Aibak declared his independence. He severed all connections with the kingdom of Ghori and thus founded the Slave dynasty as well as the Delhi Sultanate. He assumed the title Sultan and made Lahore his capital. His rule lasted for a short period of four years. Muslim writers call Aibak Lakh Baksh or giver of lakhs because he gave liberal donations to them. Aibak patronized the great scholar Hasan Nizami. He also started the construction of after the name of a famous Sufi saint Khwaja Qutbuddin Bakthiyar. It was later completed by Iltutmish. Aibak died suddenly while playing chaugan (horse polo) in 1210. He was succeeded by his son Aram Baksh, who was replaced by Iltutmish after eight months.
Iltutmish belonged to the Ilbari tribe and hence his dynasty was named as Ilbari dynasty. His half brothers sold him as a slave to Aibak, who made him his-son-in law by giving his daughter in marriage to him. Later Aibak appointed him as iqtadar of Gwalior. In 1211 Iltutmish defeated Aram Baksh and became Sultan. He shifted his capital from Lahore to Delhi. During the first ten years of his reign he concentrated on securing his throne from his rivals. In the meantime, Temujin popularly known as Chengiz Khan, the leader of the Mongols, started invading Central Asia. He defeated Jalaluddin Mangabarni, the ruler of Kwarizam. Mangabarni crossed the river Indus and sought asylum from Iltutmish. Iltutmish refused to give him shelter in order to save his empire from the onslaught of the Mongols. Fortunately for Iltutmish, Chengiz Khan retuned home without entering into India. In fact, the Mongol policy of Iltutmish saved India from the wrath of Chengiz Khan.
Iltutmish marched against Bengal and Bihar and reasserted his control over them. He also annexed Sind and Multan into the Delhi Sultanate. He suppressed the Rajput revolts and recovered Ranthampur, Jalor, Ajmir and Gwalior. He led an expedition against the Paramaras of Malwa but it was not successful.
Iltutmish was a great statesman. He received the mansur, the letter of recognition, from the Abbasid Caliph in 1229 by which he became the legal sovereign ruler of India. Later he nominated his daughter Raziya as his successor. Thus the hereditary succession to Delhi Sultanate was initiated by Iltutmish. He patronized many scholars and a number Sufi saints came to India during his reign. Minhaj-us-Siraj, Taj-ud-din., Nizam-ul-mulk Muhammad Janaidi, Malik Qutb-ud-din Hasan and Fakhrul-Mulk Isami were his contemporary scholars who added grandeur to his court. Apart from completing the construction of Qutb Minar at Delhi, the tallest stone tower in India (238 ft.), he built a magnificent mosque at Ajmir.
Iltutmish introduced the Arabic coinage into India and the silver tanka weighing 175 grams became a standard coin in medieval India. The silver tanka remained the basis of the modern rupee. Iltutmish had also created a new class of ruling elite of forty powerful military leaders, the Forty.
Although Iltutmish nominated his daughter Raziya as his successor, the Qazi of Delhi and Wazir put Ruknuddin Feroz on the throne. When the governor of Multan revolted, Ruknuddin marched to suppress that revolt. Using this opportunity, Raziya with the support of Amirs of Delhi seized the throne of Delhi Sultanate. She appointed an Abyssinian slave Yakuth as Master of the Royal Horses. Also, Raziya discarded the female apparel and held the court with her face unveiled. She even went for hunting and led the army. This aroused resentment among the Turkish nobles. In 1240, Altunia, the governor of Bhatinda revolted against her. She went in person to suppress the revolt but Altunia killed Yakuth and took Raziya prisoner. In the meantime, the Turkish nobles put Bahram, another son of Iltutmish on the throne. However, Raziya won over her captor, Altunia, and after marrying him proceeded to Delhi. But she was defeated and killed.
The fall of Raziya paved the way for the ascendancy of the Forty. In the next six years, Bahram and Masud ruled Delhi. There ensued a struggle for supremacy between the Sultans and the nobles. In 1246 Balban succeeded in putting Nasiruddin Mahmud, a younger son of Iltutmish, as Sultan.
Ghiyasuddin Balban, who was also known as Ulugh Khan, served as Naib or regent to Sultan Nasiruddin Mahmud. He also strengthened his position by marrying his daughter to the Sultan. Balban was all powerful in the administration but he had to face the intrigues of his rivals in the
royal court. He had overcome all the difficulties. In 1266 Nasiruddin Mahmud died without issues and Balban ascended the throne.
Balban’s experience as the regent made him to understand the problems of Delhi Sultanate. He knew that the real threat to the monarchy was from the nobles called the Forty. He was convinced that only by enhancing the power and authority of the monarchy he could face the problems. According to Balban the Sultan was God’s shadow on earth and the recipient of divine grace. Balban introduced rigorous court discipline and new customs such as prostration and 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 people with his wealth and power. He stood forth as the champion of Turkish nobility. At the same time he did not share power with other nobles. Indian Muslims were not given important post in the government. He appointed spies to monitor the activities of the nobles.
Balban was determined to break the power of the Forty, the Turkish nobles. He spared only the most obedient nobles and eliminated all others by fair or foul means. Malik Baqbaq, the governor of Badaun, was publicly flogged for his cruelty towards his servants. Haybat Khan, the governor of Oudh, was also punished for killing a man who was drunk. Sher Khan, the governor of Bhatinda was poisoned. Instead of expanding his kingdom, Balban paid more attention to the restoration of law and order. He established a separate military department – diwan-i-arz – and reorganized the army. The outskirts of Delhi were often plundered by the Mewatis. Balban took severe action against them and prevented such robberies. Robbers were mercilessly pursued and put to death. As a result, the roads became safe for travel.
In 1279, Tughril Khan, the governor of Bengal revolted against Balban. It was suppressed and he was beheaded. In the northwest the Mongols reappeared and Balban sent his son Prince Mahmud against them. But the prince was killed in the battle and it was a moral blow to the Sultan. Balban died in 1287. He was undoubtedly one of the main architects of the Delhi Sultanate. He enhanced the power of the monarchy. However, he could not fully safeguard India from the Mongol invasions.
When Balban died, one of his grandsons Kaiqubad was made the Sultan of Delhi. After four years of incompetent rule, Jalaluddin Khalji captured the throne of Delhi in 1290.
The Ghoris started as vassals of Ghazni but became independent after the death of Mahmud. Taking advantage of the decline of the Ghaznavid empire, Muizzuddin Muhammad popularly known as Muhammad Ghori brought Ghazni under their control. Having made his position strong and secure at Ghazni, Muhammad Ghori turned his attention to India. Unlike Mahmud of Ghazni, he wanted to conquer India and extend his empire in this direction. In 1175, Muhammad Ghori captured Multan and occupied whole of Sind in his subsequent expeditions. In 1186 he attacked Punjab, captured it from Khusru Malik and annexed it to his dominions. The annexation of Punjab carried his dominion eastward to the Sutlej and led his invasion of the Chauhan kingdom.
Realising their grave situation, the Hindu princes of north India formed a confederacy under the command of Prithiviraj Chauhan. Prithviraj rose to the occasion, and defeated Ghori in the battle of Tarain near Delhi in 1191 A.D. Muhammad Ghori felt greatly humiliated by this defeat. To avenge this defeat he made serious preparations and gathered an army of 1,20,000 men. He came with this large force to Lahore via Peshawar and Multan. He sent a message to Prithviraj asking him to acknowledge his supremacy and become a Muslim. Prithviraj rejected this proposal and prepared to meet the invader. He gathered a large force consisting of 3,00,000 horses, 3000 elephants and a large body of foot soldiers. Many Hindu rajas and chieftains also joined him. In the ensuing Second Battle of Tarain in 1192, Muhammad Ghori thoroughly routed the army of Prithiviraj, who was captured and killed.
The second battle of Tarain was a decisive battle. It was a major disaster for the Rajputs. Their political prestige suffered a serious setback. The whole Chauhan kingdom now lay at the feet of the invader. The first Muslim kingdom was thus firmly established in India at Ajmer and a new era in the history of India began. After his brilliant victory over Prithiviraj at Tarain, Muhammad Ghori returned to Ghazni leaving behind his favourite general Qutb-uddin Aibak to make further conquests in India. Aibak consolidated his position in India by occupying places like Delhi and Meerut. In 1193 he prepared the ground for another invasion by Muhammad Ghori. This invasion was directed against the Gahadavala ruler Jayachandra. Muhammad routed Jayachandra’s forces. Kanauj was occupied by the Muslims after the battle of Chandawar. The Battles of Tarain and Chandawar contributed to the establishment of Turkish rule in India.
The causes for the downfall of Hindu states have to be analysed historically. The most important cause was that they lacked unity. They were divided by factions. The Rajput princes exhausted one another by their mutual conflicts. Secondly, many Hindu states were declining in power. Their military methods were out of date and far inferior to those of Muslims. Indians continued to rely on elephants while the Muslims possessed quick-moving cavalry. The Muslims soldiers had better organization and able leaders. Their religious zeal and their greed for the greater wealth of India provided stimulus to them. Among the Hindus, the duty of fighting was confined to a particular class, the Kshatriyas. Moreover, the Hindus were always
on the defensive, which was always a weak position.
The Invasion of Mahmud of Ghazni. By the end of the ninth century A.D., the Abbasid Caliphate declined. The Turkish governors established independent kingdoms and the Caliph became only a ritual authority. One among them was Alptigin whose capital was Ghazni. His successor and son-in-law Sabuktigin wanted to conquer India from the north-west. He succeeded in capturing Peshawar from Jayapala. But his raids did not produce a lasting effect. He was succeeded by his son, Mahmud
Mahmud is said to have made seventeen raids into India. At that time, North India was divided into a number of Hindu states. On the frontier of India, there existed the Hindu Shahi kingdom which extended from the Punjab to Kabul. The other important kingdoms of north India were Kanauj, Gujarat, Kashmir, Nepal, Malwa and Bundelkhand. The initial raids were against the Hindu Shahi kingdom in which its king Jayapala was defeated in 1001. After this defeat, Jayapala immolated himself because he thought that his defeat was a disgrace. His successor Anandapala fought against Mahmud but he was also defeated in the Battle of Waihind, the Hind Shahi capital near Peshawar in 1008. In this battle, Anandapala was supported by the rulers of Kanauj and Rajasthan. As a result of his victory at Waihind, Mahmud extended his rule over most of the Punjab.
The subsequent raids of Mahmud into India were aimed at plundering the rich temples and cities of northern India. In 1011, he raided Nagarkot in the Punjab hills and Thaneshwar near Delhi. In 1018, Mahmud plundered the holy city of Mathura and also attacked Kanauj. The ruler of Kanauj, Rajyapala abandoned Kanauj and later died. Mahmud returned via Kalinjar with fabulous riches. His next important raid was against Gujarat. In 1024, Mahmud marched from Multan across Rajaputana, defeated the Solanki King Bhimadeva I, plundered Anhilwad and sacked the famous temple of Somanatha. Then, he returned through the Sind desert. This was his last campaign in India. Mahmud died in 1030 A.D.
Mahmud was not a mere raider and plunderer of wealth. He built a wide empire from the Punjab in the east to the Caspian sea on the west and from Samarkand in the north to Gujarat in the south. The Ghaznavid empire roughly included Persia, Trans-oxyana, Afghanistan and Punjab. His achievements were due to his leadership and restless activity. Mahmud was considered a hero of Islam by medieval historians. He also patronized art and literature. Firdausi was the poet-laureate in the court of Mahmud. He was the author of Shah Namah. Alberuni stayed in Mahmud’s court and wrote the famous Kitab-i-Hind, an account on India. His conquest of Punjab and Multan completely changed the political situation in India. He paved the way for the Turks and Afghans for further conquests and make deeper incursions into the Gangetic valley at any time. He drained the resources of India by his repeated raids and deprived India of her manpower. The exhaustion of India’s economic resources and man power had its adverse effect on the political future of India. The Hindu Shahi kingdom was guarding the gates of India against foreign invaders. Mahmud destroyed it and thus India’s frontiers became defenceless. The inclusion of Punjab and Afghanistan in Ghazni’s kingdom made the subsequent Muslim conquests of India comparatively easy.