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Delhi Sultanate – The Khaljis Dynasty

The Khaljis (1290-1320)

Jalal-ud-din Khalji (1290-1296)

  • As Balban’ son Kaiqubad was found unfit to rule, his three-year-old son Kaymars was placed on the throne.
  • As there was no unanimity on the choice of a regent and a council to administer the empire, the contending nobles plotted against each other.
  • Out of this chaos a new leader, Malik Jalal-ud-din Khalji, the commander of the army, emerged supreme.
  • While he ruled the kingdom for some time in the name of Kaiqubad, he soon sent one of his officers to get Kaiqubad murdered and Jalalud-din formally ascended the throne.
  • However, Jalal-ud-din faced opposition on the ground that he was an Afghan and not a Turk.
  • But Khaljis were indeed Turks settled in Afghanistan before the establishment of Turkish rule and so they were Afghanized Turks.
  • Jalal-ud-din won many battles and even in old age he marched out against the Mongol hordes and successfully halted their entry into India (1292).
  • Ala-ud-din, a nephew and son-in-law of Jalaluddin Khalji, who was appointed governor of Kara, invaded Malwa and this campaign yielded a huge booty.
  • The success of this campaign stimulated his urge to embark on a campaign to raid Devagiri, the capital city of the Yadava kingdom in Deccan.
  • On his return he arranged to get Jalaluddin Khalji murdered and captured the throne.

Ala-ud-din Khalji (1296–1316)

Ala-ud-din and Nobles

  • Ala-ud-din spent the first year of his rule in eliminating the enemies and strengthening his position in Delhi.
  • Soon he turned his attention to establishing a firm hold over the nobles.
  • He dismissed several of his top officers.
  • He was particularly severe with the nobles who had shifted loyalty and opportunistically joined him against Jalal-ud-din.

Mongol Threats

  • Mongol raids posed a serious challenge to Ala-ud-din.
  • During the second year of his rule (1298), when Mongols stormed Delhi, the army sent by Ala-ud-din succeeded in driving them back.
  • But when they returned the following year with more men, people of the suburbs of Delhi had to flee and take refuge in the city.
  • Ala-uddin had to meet the problem head-on.
  • In the ensuing battle, Mongols were routed.
  • Yet raids continued until 1305, when they ravaged the doab region.
  • This time, after defeating them, the Sultan’s army took a large number of Mongols as prisoners and slaughtered them mercilessly.
  • But the Mongol menace continued.
  • The last major Mongol incursion took place in 1307–08.

Military Campaigns

  • The inability of the Sultanate to effectively harness the agrarian resources of its North Indian territories to sustain its political ambitions was evident in its relentless military campaigns in search of loot and plunder.
  • Ala-ud-din’s campaigns into Devagiri (1296, 1307, 1314), Gujarat (1299–1300), Ranthambhor (1301), Chittor (1303) and Malwa (1305) were meant to proclaim his political and military power as well as to collect loot from the defeated kingdoms.
  • It was with the same plan that he unleashed his forces into the Deccan.
  • The first target in the peninsula was Devagiri in the western Deccan.
  • Ala-ud-din sent a large army commanded by Malik Kafur in 1307 to capture Devagiri fort.
  • Following Devagiri, Prataparudradeva, the Kakatiya ruler of Warangal in the Telengana region, was defeated in 1309.
  • In 1310 the Hoysala ruler Vira Ballala III surrendered all his treasures to the Delhi forces.
  • Malik Kafur then set out for the Tamil country.
  • Though Kafur’s progress was obstructed by heavy rains and floods, he continued his southward journey, plundering and ravaging the temple cities of Chidambaram and Srirangam as well as the Pandyan capital Madurai.
  • Muslims in Tamil provinces fought on the side of the Pandyas against Malik Kafur.
  • Malik Kafur returned to Delhi with an enormous booty in 1311.

Ala-ud-din’s Internal Reforms

  • The vast annexation of territories was followed by extensive administrative reforms aimed at stabilising the government.
  • Ala-uddin’s first measure was to deprive the nobles of the wealth they had accumulated.
  • It had provided them the leisure and means to hatch conspiracies against the Sultan.
  • Marriage alliances between families of noble men were permitted only with the consent of the Sultan.
  • The Sultan ordered that villages held by proprietary right, as free gift , or as a religious endowment be brought back under the royal authority and control.
  • He curbed the powers of the traditional village officers by depriving them of their traditional privileges.
  • Corrupt royal officials were dealt with sternly.
  • The Sultan prohibited liquor and banned the use of intoxicating drugs.
  • Gambling was forbidden and gamblers were driven out of the city.
  • However, the widespread violations of prohibition rules eventually forced the Sultan to relax the restrictions.
  • Ala-ud-din collected land taxes directly from the cultivators.
  • The village headman who traditionally enjoyed the right to collect them was now deprived of it.
  • The tax pressure of Alaud-din was on the rich and not on the poor.
  • Ala-ud-din set up the postal system to keep in touch with all parts of his sprawling empire.

Sultan’s Market Reforms

  • Ala-ud-din was the fi rst Sultan to pay his soldiers in cash rather than give them a share of booty.
  • As the soldiers were paid less, the prices had to be monitored and controlled.
  • Moreover, Ala-ud-din had to maintain a huge standing army.
  • In order to restrict prices of essential commodities, Ala-ud-din set up an elaborate intelligence network to collect information on black-marketing and hoarding.
  • The transactions in the bazaars, the buying and selling and the bargains made were all reported to the Sultan by his spies.
  • Market superintendents, reporters and spies had to send daily reports on the prices of essential commodities.
  • Violators of the price regulations were severely punished.
  • If any deficiency in weight was found, an equal weight of flesh was cut from the seller’s body and thrown down before his eyes!

Ala-ud-din’s Successors

  • Ala-ud-din nominated his eldest son Khizr Khan, as his successor.
  • However, Ala-ud-din’s confidant at that time was Malik Kafur.
  • So Malik Kafur himself assumed the authority of the government.
  • But Kafur’s rule lasted only thirtyfive days as he was assassinated by hostile nobles.
  • Thereafter there were a series of murders which culminated in Ghazi Malik, a veteran of several campaigns against the Mongols, ascending the throne of Delhi in 1320 as Ghiyas-ud-din Tughlaq.
  • He murdered the incumbent Khalji ruler Khusrau and thereby prevented anyone from Khalji dynasty claiming the throne.
  • Thus began the rule of the Tughlaq Dynasty, which lasted until 1414.

The Forty System (Chahalgani)

The nobles occupied a position next only to the king in status and rank. Enjoying high social status and commanding vast resources they at times became strong enough to challenge the king. In the Delhi Sultanate, nobles were drawn from different tribes and nationalities like the Turkish, Persian, Arabic, Egyptian and Indian Muslims. Iltutmish organized a Corps of Forty, all drawn from Turkish nobility and selected persons from this Forty for appointments in military and civil administration. The Corps of Forty became so powerful to the extent of disregarding the wishes of Iltutmish, and after his death, to place Rukn-ud-Din Firoz on the throne. Razziya sought to counter the influence of Turkish nobles and defend her interest by organizing a group of nonTurkish and Indian Muslim nobles under the leadership of Yakut, the Abyssinian slave. This was naturally resented by the Turkish nobles, who got both of them murdered. Thus in the absence of rule of primogeniture, the nobles sided with any claimants to the throne and either helped in the choice of the Sultan or contributed to the de-stabilization of the regime. The nobles were organized into several factions and were constantly engaged in conspiracies. Balban therefore abolished the Corps of Forty and thereby put an end to the domination of “Turkish nobles”. Alauddin Khalji also took stern measures against the “Turkish nobles” by employing spies to report to him directly on their clandestine and perfidious activities.

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