The Sultanate Period – Indian History

Following the Arab occupation of Sind, the western and north western parts of India became vulnerable enough to withstand the might of quite a few aggressive and ambitious rulers of Central Asian origin. Among them, the first to invade the country was Mahmud Ghaznvi.

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Ilbari Turks of Slave Dynasty (1206-1290 AD)

During the first half of the 11th century, the launched a spate of swift attacks on India with the obvious purpose to plunder its boundless treasure of wealth and invaluable resources. Though he did not cherish high political ambitions to establish his foothold in India, his continuous raids blazed the trial for a Turkish rule in the Punjab. Also, these raids exposed India to more politically motivated attacks by the likes of Muhammad Ghuri in future. Like Ghaznavi who hailed from the small principality of Ghazni, Ghuri also came from a small place called Ghor. in the decisive battle of Tarain in 1192 AD against the brave Prithvi Raj Chauhan of Ajmer, Ghuri emerged victorious. Thereafter, he defeated several other Indian rulers including Jayachanda of Kannuaj and eventually, succeeded in occupying Delhi.


Qutbuddin Aibak, Muhammad Ghuri’s deputy in India, captured Ajmer, Koil and Meerut and raided Anhilwara (Patan). Muhammad himself marched from Ghazni (which he had annexed earlier) twice, in 1195 AD and 1205 AD, and conquered the region up to Varanasi in the east. By  2104 AD, Muhammad bin Bakhtyar Khalji carried the Turkish banner into Bengal and established a provincial capital at Lakhnauti (Gaur). By 1206 AD, when Muhammad Ghuri was killed and Qutbuddin became ruler of India, the Sultanate included many of the important towns and strategic places in Northern India.

Ghuri did not stay in India regularly and for long, He had to go back to set his own house in order because Ghor had grown restive just after he left for his Indian campaign. In his absence, it was his deputy Qutbuddin Aibak who ruled in his name over the territories conquered by him.

Qutbuddin Aibak (1206 – 1210 AD)

Originally,, Qutbuddin Aibak was a slave of Ghuri, However, due to his brilliant qualities, he became the closest companion and successor of the latter. He had earned his laurels as a warriors during the fourteen years he had acted as his master’s representative in India.


By the time his master Muhammad Ghuri was killed in 1206 AD and Qutbuddin Aibak became the Sultan of India, Turkish political supremacy in Northern India had been established, at least militarily. However, there was still a lot to be done to consolidate the gains of Ghuri in India. And it was up to Aibak to realize this goal amidst dormant forces of resistance and constant revolts. he administered the country fairly well, made the highroads safe for travel, dispensed even-handed justice, and by his generosity earned the sobriquet of Lakh-bakbsb (giver of lakhs). After a reign  of four years, he met with an accidental death while playing cbangan ( the game of polo),

Shamsuddin Iltutmish ( 1211 – 1236 AD)

On Aibak’s death in 1210 AAD, probably his adopted son Aram Sah succeeded to the throne, but he was soon removed by Iltutmish, Qutbuddin’s slave and governor of Badayun. Many powerful Turkish nobles, including Qubacha, the governor of Sind, and Yalduz, the governor of Ghazni, rose in revolt against Shamsuddin’s elevation. Yalduz was defeated near Tarain in 1215 AD and Qubacha was finally subdued in 1228 AD. After the other refractory nobles from power, Iltutmish assigned important posts to his own trusted group of Amirs, historically known as Corps of Forty (Turkan0i-Chabalgani or Chalisa).

In 1221 AD, the Sultanate was faced with an imminent peril of Chingiz Khan. The Mongol leader, having divested many Central Asian counties, came up to the Indus in pursuit of Jalaluddin, a prince of Khwarizm. Finding India in the danger of being overrun by the Mongols, Iltutmish acted with prudence and refused asylum to the fugitive. Thus, the infant Turkish empire was saved from the wrath of one of the most dreaded warlords in human history.


When the Mongol threat had receded, Iltutmish marched into Bengal, where the Khalji Maliks had established their independence (1225 AD). He crushed the rebels and restored order in Lakhnauti. In the central part of India he captured Ranthambhor (1226 AD) and Gwalior (1232 AD) and invaded Malwa (1234 AD). A deed of investiture from the Caliph of Baghdad strengthened his position still more. It gave his authority the sanction of a name honored in the whole of the Islamic world.

He introduced a purely Arabic coinage. The standard type of coinage introduced by him survived until the later medieval period. His most remarkable contribution in this field was the standardization of two major coin types the sliver and copper. His building exhibit a marked Saracenic influence. He extended the screen-walls of the Quwwat-ul-Islam Mosque construced by Qutbuddin Aibak, and built three stories of the famous Qutb Minar, the tallest brick minaret in the world, in Delhi. The construction of Qutb Minar was started by Aibak in 1193 AD, in the fond memory of the great sufi saint, Qutbuddin Bakhtiyar Kalki.

Raziya ( 1236-1240 AD)

Shortly before his death in April, 1236 AD, Iltutmish nominated his daughter Raziya as his successor in preference to his incompetent sons. But the proud Turkish nobles, refusing to be ruled over by a women, raised to the throne Iltutmish’s eldest son Ruknuddin Firuz. His rule ended quickly because of his extreme debauchery and the crown was offered to Razia (November 1236 AD). She cast off the seclusion of the harem, wore male attire, administered justice in open court and personally led armies against rebellious chiefs.

Her bold, independent and dominating ways were repugnant to the Chabalganis and they planned her destruction. Raziya fought the rebels bravely but was ultimately defeated and killed in October 1240 AD. Iltutmish’s estimation of her is shared by the contemporary chronicler Minhaj-us0Siraj, who describes her as a great sovereign, sagacious, just and beneficent; a patron of the learned, a dispenser of justice and of warlike disposition. Siraj, who adorned the court of Libari Sultans, gave a vivid account of the feats of his patrons in his book, Tabaqat-e-Nasiri.

Nasiruddin Mahmud (1246-1266 AD)

After  Raziya’s fall two weak rulers, Bahram (1240-1242 AD) and Alauddin Masud (1242-1246 AD), followed in quick succession. Then in 1246 AD Nasiruddin Mahmud, another son of Iltutmish, ascended the throne. A man of peaceful disposition, Nasiruddin placed all power into the hands of his Prime Minister Balban. They worked in perfect harmony except on one occasion when Balban was removed from office for a brief period 1253-54 AD) at the instigation of Imaduddin Raihan, the leader of the party of Indian nobles.

As Prime Minister, Balban ruled with a strong hand. he crushed the rebellious governors of Bengal, Avadh and Sind and defeated the Mongols who had marched into the Punjab in 1257 AD. Next year, he swooped upon the hilly country of Mewat and punished the Mewati marauders. The frontier posts were strongly garrisoned, the Mongol invaders kept in check and refractory elements suppressed. On the death of Nasirruddin who had no son, Balban ascended with the acquiescence of the nobles and the officials.

Ghiyasuddin Balban ( 1266-1287 AD)

As Sultan Balban worked to achieve his aims with still greater vigor. To enhance the prestige of the kingly office, he maintained after the Persian model a magnificent court where tall and fearsome bodyguards stood around the throne with drawn swords. he never laughed aloud in the court, nor did he allow anyone to indulge in frivolity in his presence. He came down with a heavy hand on the nobles and in course of time destroyed their power completely. Through a well-organized spy system, he struck terror into the hearts of high and low. The main instrument of Baban’s despotism was his army. He reformed the financial side of military administration. In spite of his large and efficient force, he did not think of undertaking any fresh conquest largely because of the Mongol menace and the necessity of consolidating the territory already in his possession.

He suppressed the recalcitrant elements in the Ganga valley as far as Western Bihar and Katehr (Rohilkhand) and made the environs of Delhi safe from Mewati depredations. When, in 1275 AD, Tughril of Bengal unfurled the standard of revolt and defeated royal armies successively sent against him, Balban himself marched with a  large force, inflicted a crushing defeat (1280 AD) on the rebel and ordered barbarous punishments on his partisans. In 1285 AD, the Mongols under their leader Tamar reappeared in the Punjab. Muhammad, the eldest son of the Sultan went forward to repel the attack but was killed. Prince Muhammad, and able soldier and a patron of letter, had been nominated by Balabn for the throne. The bereavement was a hard blow for the aged father and set a t naught his plans for the succession. he died broken-hearted in 1287 AD.

Successor of Balban and End of the Libari Dynasty ( 1284 – 1290 AD)

Balban had nominated Kaikhusraw, son of the late Prince Muhammad, as his successor. After his death, the nobles in Delhi placed on the throne Prince Kaiqubad, son of Balban’s second son Bughra Khan, the governor of Lakhnauti. Muizzuddin Kaiqubad had been kept by his grandfather under rigorous control and discipline, but on coming to the throne at the age of seventeen or eighteen the plunged headlong into debauchery until he was struck by paralysis.

The affairs of the government fell into disorder and the nobles began to form factions to seize power. Jalaluddin Khalji, the Arid-i-Mamalik (Minister of War), placed himself at the head of a powerful faction and routed the Turkish Amirs who had been rendered important by Balban. Kaiqubad was murdered in his place, and Jalaluddin ascended the throne. The rule of the Libari Turks came to and end in 1290 AD.

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