“The history of Muslim sovereignty in India, properly speaking, begins with Iltutmish. It was he who gave the country a capital, an independent state, a monarchical form of government and a governing class.
Among his other achievements, beautification of the city of Delhi as well as execution of a better administration in the country were important”-Dr. R.P. Tripathy.
Iltutmish was the first real Turkish Sultan of Delhi. After the death of Qutb-ud-din Aibak, his inefficient Son Aram Shah was placed on the throne by his officers at Lahore.
But his candidature was opposed by the nobles of Delhi. High officials including Turkish nobles at Delhi decided to invite Iltutmish, the Son-in-law of Aibak to succeed him. Iltutmish was more efficient as well as a capable military commander. He was by then the governor of Badaun.
Iltutmish who was eagerly awaiting this opportunity, responded to their call very promptly and reached Delhi and assumed sovereign powers. Aram Shah marched towards Delhi with a vast army but Iltutmish defeated and killed him. He is said to have ruled only for eight months. After this inglorious period of eight months rule of Aram Shah, there started a glorious period of Iltutmish in 1211 A.D. which continued for a long period till he died on 1236.
To his credit, he was the first Sultan of India who was recognized by the Khalifa. He was successful in keeping the throne of Delhi safe from the danger of Mangol invasion as well as from the attacks of both Yeldoz and Qubacha. He broke up the Rajput powers in the north and established his supremacy over them. He made his rule hereditary, issued coins in his name and made Delhi a beautiful capital.
Iltutmish’s full name was Shams-ud-din Iltutmish and was born in a Turkish family in Central Asia. His family belonged to the Ilbari tribe of the Turks. He was handsome and intelligent and loved by his parents. His brothers being envious had sold him as a slave to a slave merchant named Jamal-ud-din. He took him to Delhi and sold him again to Qutb-uddin-Aibak.
He received training as a soldier and learnt reading and writing as well. Very soon he proved his talent and became a great warrior. It is said that Muhammad of Ghur was much impressed and recommended him to Qutb-uddin-Aibak in these words: Treat Iltutmish well, for he will distinguish himself. His words become true. Under Aibak, Iltutmish rose from position to position and just before his Sultan-ship he was the governor of Badaun. Aibak made him his son-in-law by giving him his daughter in marriage. However with a stroke of good fortune and hard work he became the Sultan of Delhi and ascended the throne in 1211 A.D. after the death of his great master.
His Early Difficulties:
Iltutmish ascended the throne of Delhi at a time of crises. The difficulties which his master Aibak had faced were not yet over. Therefore, he did not find the throne a bed of roses. He had to face a number of difficulties at home and from outside. After Aram Shah there were dangerous rivals like Taj-ud-din Yeldoz of Ghazni and Nassiruddin Qubacha of Uch’s upper Sind & Multan.
Yeldoz reasserted his sovereign power over Hindustan and treated Iltutmish as his vassal. Qubacha, the governor of Multan had marched upto Lahore by declaring his independence. Ali Mardan, the governor of Bengal and Bihar had declared his independence immediately after the death of Qutb-uddin.
The Rajput states like Ranthambhor, Jalor, Ajmer, Gwalior and others had stopped paying tributes and also had declared their independence. Thus the Sultanate of Delhi was in a precarious position when Iltutmish ascended the throne. It looked like almost non-existent. But Iltutmish was a man of high courage and determination. He accepted the challenge and faced the problems bravely.
Defeat of Yeldoz:
The most formidable enemy of Iltutmish was Taj-ud-din Yeldoz of Ghazni. At first owing to internal problems he did not like to direct conflict with Yeldoz. He admitted him as his-overlord and remained in his book for some time. After Aram Shah issue was over, he made preparations to face Yeldoz. In the mean while Yeldoz was defeated by Khwarizm Shah and fled to India. In India, Yeldoz defeated and drove Qubacha and occupied Lahore and Punjab. According to Ferishta, he succeeded in occupying the Punjab upto Thaneswar.
Iltutmish considering it as the right time attacked Yeldoz and a battle between the two took place in the historic battle field of Tarain in 1215 A.D. Yeldoz was defeated and put to death. With this all connections with Ghazni were cut off and Iltutmish felt more secured. But he did not attack Qubacha and allowed him to rule over Multan. Punjab only came to the occupation of Iltutmish.
The Mongol Invasion:
During the reign of Iltutmish, the greatest danger to the country was the possible invasion of Mongols under the leadership of Chengiz Khan. It was in 1221 A.D., Chengiz Khan; the Mongol hero appeared at the border of India by following Jalal-ud-din Mangbarni, the defeated Shah of Khwarizm empire. Mangabarni fled into Punjab, took shelter there by making a matrimonial alliance with the khokhar chief of Punjab. Chengiz Khan on the other hand halted on the bank of the river Indus and observed the activities of Mangabarni. He also sent a message to Iltutmish not to give shelter to Mangabarni.
Mangbarni proceeded towards Lahore and sent an envoy to Iltutmish with an appeal for help and shelter. Iltutmish was a very wise and clever ruler and he knew this would provoke Chengiz Khan and as a result the country would face a great Mongol invasion. So he refused to give any help or shelter to Mangbarni and requested to withdraw from the Punjab.
So he diverted his attention and proceeded towards Multan and inflicted a crushing defeat upon Qubacha. This attitude of Iltutmish perhaps gave satisfaction to Chengiz Khan who withdrew instead of invading India. And due to this wise policy of Iltutmish, not only Delhi was saved from Mongol raids but also Qubacha was punished by Mangbarni.
Defeat of Qubacha:
Nasir-ud-din Qubacha was another formidable enemy of Iltutmish. But by the time his power had been reduced due to the reverses. He was severely suffered by the attack of Yeldoz and Mangabarni one after another within a very short period. After the attack of Mangabarni, Qubacha was almost ruined. Iltutmish, thought it the right time to attack and finish Qubacha once for all.
For this purpose, he sent two armies, one from Lahore to attack Multan and the other from Delhi to invade Uch. During the capture of Uch, Qabacha being defeated took shelter in the fort of Bhakkar which was besieged by the Delhi Army. At last finding no way out, he committed suicide by drowning himself in the river Indus. As a result Sind and Multan were annexed to the empire of Delhi Sultanate.
Suppression of Revolt in Bengal:
Bengal another distant province in the east was under the authority of Delhi Sultan during the reign of Qutb-ud-din Aibak. But she had declared her independence soon after the death of Aibak. Iltutmish on the other hand was busy in the Frontier provinces in west and had no time to divert his attention to Bengal. But soon after the completion of his work in the west with the death of Qubacha, he thought of invading Bengal.
By then the ruler of Bengal was Sultan Ghiyasud-din. Iltutmish sent an expedition against Bengal and himself followed the same. Sultan Ghiyasuddin submitted without any fighting recognised the suzerainty of Delhi and agreed to pay the annual tribute. But within a very short period of this Glriyasuddin again revolted and declared Bengal independent.
This time Iltutmish by sending an Expedition to Bengal defeated and killed Sultan Ghiyasuddin. He appointed his son Nasir-ud-din Muhmud as the governor of Bengal. After Nasirud-din’s departure there was again another rebellion in Bengal under the leadership of Balka Khalji. This was in 1230 A.D., Iltutmish proceeded to Bengal in person defeated and killed Balkha Khalji and Bengal was annexed to Delhi Empire.
The Conquest of Rajput Kingdoms:
After the death of Qutb-ud-din Aibak, the Rajput states had declared their independence. Iltutmish, as he was busy in northwestern frontier had no time to pay his attention to the Revolts of Rajput states. The Rajput Kingdoms such as Ranthambhor, Jalor, Mander Kalinjar, Gwalior, Ajmer, Bayana, Thangir and many other had raised the standard of rebellion and put an end to the Turkish supremacy. Iltutmish dealt with them one after another and re-annexed those states.
Investiture of Khalifa:
Iltutmish was the first Sultan of Delhi, who received the Investiture of Khalifa. In 1229 A.D. the Khalifa of Baghdad, A1 Mustansir Billah, bestowed on Iltutmish the titles of “Sultan-i- Azam” or the Sultan the great and “Nasir-amir-al-Mommin” or the Deputy of the leader of faithful. This investiture not only guaranteed his right to the throne but also increased his power and prestige in the Muslim world. As a mark of commemoration of this event, Iltutmish introduced a coin inscribing his name thereon as the representative of Khalifa. This was a great achievement of his life.
Some other Conquests of Iltutmish:
Iltutmish is said to have conquered some more kingdoms such as Ajmer, and Gwaliar which were left unconquered during his campaign against Rajput states. Kanauj and Benaras were reoccupied in 1231 A.D. In 1239 A.D. he annexed Malwa and Ujjain to his empire. As a result, Iltutmish made the Turkish empire in India as vast as it was during the time of Aibak.
His Last Days and Death:
Iltutmish fell ill in 1235 A.D. due to continuous military operations. During his last expedition against Bayana, he was attacked by severe illness and was brought to Delhi immediately for treatment. But he could not recover from such illness and struggling with life for about a year he breathed his last 1236. With his death the country lost a great ruler and also there came to an end the long twenty-five years glorious reign of Delhi Sultanate.
Character and Achievements of Iltutmish:
Iltutmish has occupied a place among the outstanding rulers of Medieval India. From the life of a slave he rose to the status of the Sultan of Delhi by his talent, meritorious services and good luck. When he ascended the throne, the Sultanate of Delhi was almost non-existent as most of the states under the Sultanate had declared their independence and the politics at Delhi had plunged into crises. But as he was a brave soldier and shrewd statesman, he could easily save the Sultanate from the impending dangers.
He destroyed the powers of Yeldoz and Qubacha and made his position safe on the throne of Delhi. He saved the country from a great Mongol invasion by adopting wise policy and not allowing the enemy of Chengiz Khan to take shelter at Delhi. After making his position safe at Delhi, he made a series of campaigns against Rajput States and the ruler of Bengal and Bihar and annexed those kingdoms to the empire of Delhi Sultanate. As a result of his conquests and annexation, the Turkish empire of Delhi became vast and the political unity of the country was achieved.
According to Dr. R.P. Tripathy, ‘The history of Muslim sovereignty in India, properly speaking, begins with Iltutmish. It was he who gave the country a capital, an independent state, a monarchical form of government and a governing class. Among his other achievements, beautification of the city of Delhi as well as execution of a better administration in the country were important.
He decorated the city of Delhi with construction of mosques and the famous Qutub Minar. He also invited scholars, Muslim saints, artists and artisans to Delhi to make the city developed both culturally and industrially. Iltutmish trained a band of good slaves numbering forty and placed them in responsible posts for better and efficient administration. He is said to have introduced new silver and copper currency which were two basic coins of the sultanate period. He was very much religious in his personal life and observed the Islamic rites with a sense of respect and devotion.
His greatest achievement was the grant of Investiture by Khalifa to him. This not only gave a guarantee to his right to throne of Delhi but also made him one of the prestigious men in the Muslim world. However, he was intolerant towards the Hindus. He destroyed some famous Hindu Temples like Mahakala Temple of Ujjain and hurt the religious sentiments of the Hindus. But his deeds for the establishment of Muslim rule in India have made him the founder of Delhi Sultanate.