Slave Dynasty – India under the Delhi Sultanate

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.

Slave Dynasty

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

  1. Qutbi dynasty (1206-1211) founded by Qutbuddin Aibak.
  2. First Ilbari dynasty (1211- 1266) founded by Iltutmish.
  3. Second Ilbari dynasty (1266-1290) founded by Balban.

Qutbuddin Aibak (1206-1210)

Qutbuddin Aibak 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 (1211-1236)

Qutb MinarIltutmish 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.

Chengiz khanIltutmish 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.

Raziya (1236-1240)

Silver Tanka if IltutmishAlthough 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.

Era of Balban (1246-1287)

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.