Of the three Lodi Sultans namely Bahlol Lodi (1451 to 1489), Sikandar Lodi (1489 to 1517) and Ibrahim Lodi (1517 to 1526), Sikandar Lodi is regarded as the ablest, the greatest and the most successful Sultan.
Most of the time of Bahlol Lodi was spent in checking revolts and consolidating his position. There was very little left at his disposal for bringing about administrative reforms. Ibram Lodi led to the downfall of the Lodi dynasty.
As compared with these two Sultans, Sikandar Lodi gave ample evidence of his qualities as a general, as an administrator, a consolidator of the empire and a man of letters.
Sikandar Lodi (1489-1517):
Greatest Lodi Sultan:
Sikandar Lodi has been accepted as the greatest Lodi Sultan. He established law and order. He was a brave and dauntless general. He encouraged agriculture and trade which resulted in economic prosperity. He enhanced the glory and power of the king. He was known for impartial justice. He asked all governors and officers to submit proper accounts of their income. He himself was a great scholar and patronized men of learning.
Sikandar Lodi’s main achievements are discussed below:
First of all Sikandar Lodi defeated his elder brother and seized Jaunpur and brought it under his direct control. He afterwards led his attack on Bihar, defeated its ruler and annexed it. He conquered the states of Dholpur, Bidar, Gwalior, Chanderi and other nearby kingdoms. He entered into a friendship treaty with the ruler of Bengal. Sikandar’s empire extended from the Punjab to the borders of Bengal and included the territories between Sutlej and Bundelkhand.
2. Control over nobles:
His control over his noble was so tight that he could boast, “If I order one of my slaves to be seated in a palanquin, the entire body of nobility would carry him on their shoulders at my bidding.” By his stern justice, code of conduct for the nobles and its strict adherence without any distinction, spy system and following a policy of happy blending of sternness and generosity, he succeeded in commanding the respect of his nobles. Sikandar’s sole motive was to restore the prestige of the Sultan and in that he succeeded.
Important measures that he adopted to strengthen his position were as under:
(i) He started sitting on the throne and compelled his nobles to show formal respect to him in the ‘darbar’ (court) and outside.
(ii) He framed certain rules which were observed by all his nobles and governors.
(iii) The governors were ordered to receive Sultan’s ‘firmans’ (orders) six miles ahead of their capital.
(iv) He asked all his governors and officers to submit their accounts of their income and expenditure. The offenders were punished. The governor of Jaunpur was punished on this very account and compelled to pay the embezzled money.
(v) A very efficient espionage system was organised. He posted spies and informers at every important place including the houses of his nobles.
3. Efficient administration:
Sikandar Shah was a well-meaning Sultan. He was very laborious. He attended to the smallest matter of administration. He worked hard from morning till night to supervise the administrative work.
4. Occasional tours in disguise:
Very often the Sultan toured in disguise to have the first hand information about the condition of the people and the activities of the Amirs and the Ulemas.
5. Efficient espionage system:
He was so well informed about every thing significant in the state through his spy system and his own tours that the people believed the Sultan had supernatural powers to assist him.
6. Impartial justice:
He brought about several reforms in the judicial system. He himself was the highest appeal of justice. He dispensed impartial justice to his subjects.
7. Economic welfare of the people:
He kept with him the rate-list of all articles of everyday use so that he could assess the economic condition of the people. An informal system of price control prevailed in the market which enabled people to get necessities of life at affordable price.
8. Development of agriculture:
He abolished duty on grain and encouraged farmers to improve agriculture.
9. Progress of trade:
The Sultan abolished all internal trade duties.
10. Development of literature:
The Sultan was an accepted scholar. He was well-versed in Persian and composed poems in this language. He was a partron of learned men.
11. Promotion of education:
The Sultan invited two eminent philosophers from outside India to improve the system of education in his empire.
He encouraged education particularly among children of Afghan nobles so as to make them cultured. He made mosques as centres of education.
He appointed one religious preacher, one teacher and one scavenger in each mosque at state expense. His court was a centre of learning and several scholars adorned it.
It is said that about seventy scholars discussed academic and religious problems every night by the side of his bed.
Several scholarly works were translated from Sanskrit into Persian.
12. Promotion of music:
The Sultan took a great interest in music. He enjoyed ‘sehnai’ very much. A reputed work on music titled ‘Lahjat-i- Sikandar Shahi’ was prepared during his reign.
13. Promotion of architecture:
The Sultan built the city of Agra which became an important administrative and cultural centre of the Mughals. He built many mosques and also the tomb of his father Bahlol Lodi in Delhi.
14. Public welfare activities:
The Sultan made suitable arrangements for the free distribution of ration to the poor from the royal treasury and opened free kitchen.
15. Reforms in Islam:
Sikandar tried to check certain customs which he considered bad in Islam. He forbade the visit of Muslim women to the shrines of saints. He prohibited the procession of ‘Tazias at the festival of Moharram.