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Advent of Arabs and Turks


  • The period from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries (1206-1526 CE) saw the arrival of Islamic institutions and Islamic culture in India.
  • Historians have interpreted the history of this period from differing perspectives.
  • Conventionally the regimes of the Sultanate have been evaluated in terms of achievements and failures of individual Sultans.
  • A few historians, critiquing this personality oriented history, have evaluated the Sultanate as having contributed to material and cultural development, leading to the evolution of a composite culture in India.
  • Historians focusing on history of class relations, have argued that the medieval state served as the agent of the ruling class and hence, the regimes of the Sultanate were diminutive in their institutional advancement when compared with the Great Mughals.
  • Thus there is no consensus yet amongst scholars in determining the true nature of the Sultanate.
  • The two-fold objective of this lesson are:

(a) to introduce the students to a conventional study of rulers, events, ideas, people and their conditions under the Sultanate, and

(b) to structure the content in such a way that the students examine it critically and raise new questions.

Advent of Arabs: The Context

  • The geographical location of Arabia facilitated trade contact between India and Arabia.
  • As sea-faring traders the pre-Islamic Arabs had maritime contacts with the western and eastern coasts of India.
  • Arabs too settled in Malabar and the Coromandel Coast.
  • The Arabs who married Malabar women and settled down on the West Coast were called Mappillais (sonsin-law).
  • Arab military expedition in 712 and subsequent Ghaznavid and the Ghori military raids, intended to loot and use the resources seized to strengthen their power in Central Asia, created a relationship of the conqueror and the conquered.
  • Following the invasion of Afghanistan by Khurasan (Eastern Iran) Shah and later by Chengiz Khan severed the ties of North India Sultanate with Afghanistan.
  • Mongol invasions destroyed the Ghurid Sulatanate and Ghazni, and cut into the resources of Sultan Nasir-ud-din Qubacha (1206-1228), the ruler of Uchch and Multan.
  • Thus the Sultan Iltutmish had the opportunity of expanding his influence in northern India that enabled Muslim rulers to rule Indian provinces with Delhi as capital for about four centuries.
  • Though it is customary to describe this period as the Muslim period, the rulers of medieval India came from different regions and ethnicities: Arabs, Turks, Persians, and Central Asians were involved militarily and administratively.
  • Iltutmish was an Ilbari Turk and many of his military slaves were of different Turkish and Mongol ancestries brought to Delhi by merchants from Bukhara, Samarkhand and Baghdad.
  • There were some slaves of other ethnicities as well (notably Hindu Khan, captured from Mihir in Central India) but Iltutmish gave them all Turkish titles.
  • The Sultanate (1206–1526) itself was not homogenous.
  • Its rulers belonged to five distinct categories:

(a) Slave Dynasty (1206-1290)

(b) Khalji Dynasty (1290-1320)

(c) Tughlaq Dynasty (1320-1414)

(d) Sayyid Dynasty (14141451) and

(e) Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526).

Sources for the Study of Delhi Sultanate

  • Al-Beruni: Tarikh-Al-Hind (Indian Philosophy and Religion written in Arabic)
  • Minhaj us Siraj: Tabaqat-i-Nasiri (1260) (World Islamic History written in Arabic)
  • Ziauddin Barani: Tarikh-i-Firoz Shahi(1357) History of Delhi Sultanate up to Firuz Tughlaq
  • Amir Khusrau: Mifta Ul Futuh (Victories of Jalal-ud-din Khalji); Khazain Ul Futuh (Victories of Allauddin Khalji – Texts in Persian)
  • Tughlaq Nama (History of Tughlaq dynasty in Persian)
  • Shams-i-Siraj Afif: Tarikh i Firuz Shahi (after Barani’s account of Delhi Sultanate in Persian)
  • Ghulam Yahya Bin Ahmad: Tarikh-iMubarak Shahi (Written in Persian during the reign of Sayyid ruler Mubarak Shah)
  • Ferishta: History of the Muslim Rule in India (Persian)

Persian chronicles speak about the Delhi Sultanate in hyperbolic terms. Their views dealing with the happenings during the period of a certain Sultan were uncritically appropriated into modern scholarship.— Sunil Kumar, Emergence of Delhi Sultanate

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