Read this article to learn about the disintegration of the Delhi Sultanate and the rise of provincial Kingdoms.
Decline and Fall of The Delhi Sultanate:
The fall of the Delhi Sultanate was the logical conclusion of the decline that had set in during the last days of Muhammad bin Tughluq.
The indiscretion of Muhammad bin Tughluq brought into play a process of disintegration which was accelerated by the weakness and the impolitic steps of his immediate successor Firuz Shah Tughluq, such as the revival of the system of jagir, inordinate expansion of the number of the slaves, imposition of jizya on the non-Muslims and the persecution of heretical Muslim sects.
This process of decline could not be checked by the weak Sayyids and the impolitic Lodis. The Lodis had some military successes to their credit but could not breathe any vitality in the administration nor could stop the policy of official repression of the people. The Delhi Sultanate lacking the force and vitality was tottering to its inevitable fall.
The Delhi Sultanate depended on the personality, ability and military efficiency of the Sultan himself. It being the rule of the sword primarily did not grow up on the habitual allegiance of the subjects on whom the Sultan ruled. Naturally the foundations of the Sultanate were weak.
Where the Sultan was personally powerful and efficient, for example, under an Iltutmish, a Balban or an Ala-ud-din, the administration was effective and Sultan’s orders were obeyed. But whenever the Sultan was weak and incapable, the nobility of the court, the provincial governors and other nobles became busy in pursuit of self interest.
The inherent defect of the Sultanate which followed the system of granting jagirs except under Ala-ud-din especially, and which kept the central authority busy in suppressing rebellions, was that whenever the centre was weak the centrifugal tendencies came into play.
The big estate holders, jagirdars, amirs and maliks, provincial governors and nobles who were the pillars of administration held much local influence; and whenever there was any sign of weakness or inefficiency at the centre, they would raise the standard of rebellion.
The huge number of the slaves, further expanded under Firuz Shah Tughluq who opened a regular department for their maintenance, became not only a burden on the finances of the state but would in various ways interfere with the administration as did the army. At the beginning of the Sultanate period there emerged from among the slaves’ capable administrators and rulers like Qutb-ud-din, Iltutmish etc. but this class of efficient and devoted slaves could not be found later.
The life of luxury, drinking and debauchery lived by the nobles and the highly placed officials of the state led to their utter inefficiency and the administration became stagnant and ineffective. Ala-ud-din took some severe measures to stop the rot, but this was not followed under his successors.
Discriminatory treatment of the non-Muslims, particularly the Hindus, the corruption and want of discipline among the officials, and a general tendency among the revenue
officials to speculation and extortionate collection from the subjects contributed to the weakening of the administration.
In a country with vastly Hindu population establishment of a theocratic state and demolition of temples, imposition of jizya and all that, precluded the Delhi Sultans from becoming the national kings of the country. This wide gap in habitual allegiance of a vast majority of the people naturally contributed to the fall of the Sultanate.
When the internal maladministration and confusion, selfishness and struggle for the throne had made the situation extremely serious, Timur the lame invaded India, entered Delhi, plundered it and put many to the sword and thereby administered a deathblow to the Delhi Sultanate.
The subsequent history was one of mutual quarrel among the Lodis themselves and when selfishness got the better of the country’s good foreign assistance was invited by Daulat Khan Lodi and Alam Khan Lodi, rivals of Ibrahim Lodi, and the result was the first battle of Panipat, 1526, and the foundation of the Mughal rule in India in place of the Delhi Sultanate.
The centrifugal tendencies which were inherent in the administrative structure of the Delhi Sultanate began to be manifest in the assertion of independence by quite a few of the provinces of the Delhi Sultanate after the death of Firuz Tughluq. Jaunpur was one of the earliest to assert its independence.
Firuz Tughluq founded the city of Jaunpur which he named after his cousin Jauna or Juna Khan, i.e. Muhammad bin Tughluq. Malik Sarwar, a eunuch, was the governor who took the name of Sultan-ush-Sharq and threw off the allegiance of Delhi taking advantage of the confusion of the time of Timur’s invasion and began to rule as a de facto king.
His dynasty came to be known as Sharqi dynasty. Sarwar had extended his authority over Awadh and over parts of the Doab as far as modern Aligarh. Tirhut and Bihar also came under his sway. Sarwar ruled as a king but refrained from assuming the title of the king.
On Sarwar’s death in 1399, his adopted son Malik Qaranphul succeeded him and assumed the title of Mubarak Shah. He was the first member of the Sharqi dynasty to assume royal title, to strike coins and read khutba in his name. It was during his reign that Delhi sought to recover Jaunpur without success but this was (1401) the beginning of a contest between Jaunpur and Delhi which lasted for long years.
On Mubarak Shah’s death in 1402, his brother Ibrahim Shah succeeded him. Ibrahim was the greatest king of the Sharqi dynasty and ruled for nearly 34 years. He was not only an able ruler, but himself was a cultured prince who established schools and colleges endowed them liberally and many learned men enjoyed his patronage.
He invited scholars and theologians from different parts of the country and extended them his patronage. During his reign many scholarly works, both theological and secular, were produced. Under Ibrahim many beautiful mosques were built in Jaunpur and the Sharqi style of architecture took its name from the style introduced during his reign. The famous Atal Devi Masjid bears testimony to the excellent architectural work of the reign of Ibrahim. The Jaunpur mosques betrayed in their style of architecture the prevalent Hindu art.
During the reign of Ibrahim the relation between Jaunpur and Delhi became bitter. Mahmud Tughluq once had to take shelter in Jaunpur due to the tyranny of Mallu, but Ibrahim did not treat Mahmud Tughluq as his sovereign. For this Mahmud on his return from Jaunpur forcibly occupied the district of Kanauj from Jaunpur.
Ibrahim also came into conflict with Khizir Khan. Ibrahim was a powerful warrior and an ambitious ruler. He attempted without success to conquer Bengal. On his death in 1436, his son Mahmud Shah, who succeeded in conquering Chaunar but failed in his attempt to take Kalpi. He even invaded Delhi, but was defeated by Buhlul Lodi.
He died in 1475 and his son ascended the throne under the title Muhammad Shah. He was as unscrupulous as he was tactless. He soon alienated his nobles, quarrelled with them and they in their turn murdered him and raised his brother Hussain Shah to the throne. Hussain Shah was the last ruler of the Sharqi dynasty.
During his reign, the conflict between Jaunpur and Delhi came to a head and a long-drawn war ensued between the two. In 1458 a four-year truce was signed between Jaunpur and Delhi. After this, the respite he got gave him an opportunity to suppress the zamindars of Tirhut and carrying on a plundering raid against Orissa and thereby compelling the Raja of Orissa to pay him a rich indemnity. His next expedition was against Gwalior which he failed to occupy but Man Singh was compelled to pay him a heavy indemnity.
It was soon after this that Buhlul Lodi proceeded against him defeated him and compelled him to take shelter in Bihar. Buhlul Lodi subjugated whole of Jaunpur and placed his son Barbak Shah on its throne. Hussain Shah began to incite rebellion among the Jaunpur zamindars which ultimately made Sikandar Lodi, Successor of Buhlul Lodi to annex Jaunpur as an integral part of the Delhi Sultanate With the death of Hussain in Bihar as an exile in 1500 A.D. the Sharqi dynasty of Jaunpur came to an end. Under the rule of the Sharqi dynasty Jaunpur attained material prosperity and became noted for educational and cultural activities.
It was in 1297 that the rich province of Gujarat was conquered and annexed to the Delhi Sultanate by Ala-ud-din Khalji, and continued to remain a province of the Sultanate till 1401. In 1391 Zafar Khan, a son of Rajput convert was appointed governor of Gujarat by Muhammad Shah II Tughluq.
The invasion of Timur gave Zafar Khan the opportunity to throw off the allegiance of Delhi and make himself independent (1401). Zalar Khan was for a time deposed by his son Tatar Khan who occupied the throne as Nasir-ud-din Muhammad Shah but he was put to death by his uncle Shams Khan Zafar Khan now recovered his throne and assumed the title of Sultan Muzaffar Shah and ruled upto 1411.
His reign was marked by a prolonged conflict between Gujarat and Malwa in which Husang Shah was defeated. Muzaffar Shah succeeded in capturing Dhar. On his death his grandson Ahmad Shah became the ruler of Gujarat (1411) who ruled till 1442. He was a good warrior and an ambitious ruler and extended his kingdom by conquest. He waged wars against Malwa, Asirgarh, Rajasthan and other neighbouring states.
With ambition, energy and power of organisation, he first reorganized the administrative system of the kingdom, then he built the modern city of Ahmedabad on the site of the old town of Aswal and made it his capital. He built several stately buildings in this new city, also a grand mosque which exists till today. He is noted for his liberality munificence and impartial justice. But he was a religious fanatic and was intolerant towards his non-Muslim subjects. On his death in 1442, the throne passed to his son Muhammad Shah after whom the successors were both weak and incapable. Of the last two successive weak kings, Daud was deposed by the nobles who raised a grandson of Ahmad Shah to the throne who took the title of Mahmud Begarha.
Mahmud Begarha was the ablest and the greatest king of the dynasty. He possessed a huge physique and his appetite was unusually great. He was an intrepid warrior a successful conqueror and an efficient administrator. He added ‘glory and lusture’ to the kingdom of Gujarat. His rule was of an inordinately long period of fifty-three years during which he put down the recalcitrant courtiers who conspired to put his brother Hasan Khan to the throne.
He then launched upon a career of conquests. He defeated the chiefs of Kutch, conquered the forts of Junagarh and Champaner. He suppressed the pirates of Dwarka. He took the side of Nizam Shah Bahamani against Mahmud Khalji of Malwas whom he defeated signally.
The boundaries of Gujarat extended to the extreme limits under him. In alliance with the Sultan of Egypt he defeated the Portuguese who had monopolised the sea-borne trade in the Indian Ocean. But after their initial defeat the Portuguese recovered their position by defeating the allies near Diu. Mahmud Begarha was obliged to grant them a site for a factory at Diu. Mahmud Begarha died in 1511 and was succeeded by his son Muzaffar Shah II who fought with the Rajputs under Medini Rai and succeeded in restoring Mahmud Khalji of Malwa to the throne.
His death in 1526 was followed by the succession of two incompetent rulers for a few months after which Bahadur Shah, another son of Muzaffar II, became king. He was one of the ablest and most capable rulers of the dynasty and was endowed with courage, valour and love of adventure. He embarked on a career of conquest soon after his accession and defeated Mahmud II of Malwa and annexed it to Gujarat.
He then invaded Mewar and stormed the fort of Chitor. But he got involved in a conflict with the Mughals by giving shelter to Humayun’s rebellious cousins. Humayun defeated him and Malwa was taken away from him. Later he was driven out of Gujarat also. But Humayun had to withdraw his troops from Gujarat which gave Bahadur Shah Opportunity to recover Gujarat.
He then began to follow the policy of driving the Portuguese out of Gujarat, for; they did not help him against Humayun. The Portuguese governor Cunha beguiled Bahadur Shah on board a ship and got him drowned treacherously. He was succeeded by a number of weak successors and taking advantage of their weakness Gujarat was annexed to the Mughal Empire by Akbar.
Malwa was annexed to the Delhi Sultanate by Ala-ud-din Khalji in 1305 and it continued to be under the authority of Delhi till 1398 when it became independent, like other provinces of the Sultanate, taking advantage of the disorder and confusion that had resulted from the invasion of Timur. It was Dilawar Khan Ghur, probably appointed governor of Malawa by Firuz Shah Tughluq, who made himself independent of the Delhi Sultanate in 1401 although he did neither formally threw off the allegiance of Delhi nor assume royal title.
During Timur’s invasion of India when Sultan Mahmud Tughluq sought asylum in Gujarat but was not received there with the dignity of the sovereign by Muzaffar Shah of Gujarat, he came over to Malwa and stayed there for about three years.
He was received with all honour and dignity of the sovereign by Dilawar Khan which irked his son Alp Khan who retired to Mandu and laid the foundations of a fort there which later became one of the strongest forts of Malwa. On the return of Sultan Mahmud Khan Tughluq to Delhi, Dilawar Khan at the instance of his son Alp Khan assumed the paraphernalia of royalty.
On Dilawar’s death, his ambitious son Alp Khan succeeded him and assumed the title Hushang Shah. Alp Khan was a brave, restless, ambitious ruler who remained engaged in adventurous enterprises and wars all throughout the period of his reign. In 1422 he appeared before Orissa in the guise of a merchant and made a surprise attack on the Raja who had to buy him off by giving him seventy-five elephants.
On his return journey he captured Kherla and took the Raja of the place as a prisoner with him. He fought against the Sultans of Delhi, Jaunpur, Gujarat and of the Bahmani kingdom but met with defeat and disaster. On his death in 1435, his son Ghazni Khan ascended the throne as Muhammad Shah.
His incompetence and lack of attention to the business of state led to his deposition by his minister Mahmud Khan who assumed the title Shah and founded a new dynasty known as the Khalji dynasty of Malwa. His usurpation of the throne was opposed by a section of the nobles and Ahmad Shah of Gujarat who supported Muhammad Shah’s son as the rightful claimant to the throne. But Mahmud Khalji succeeded in overcoming the opposition.
Mahmud Khalji was an intrepid warrior and a successful commander. He fought against Ahmad Shah of Gujarat, Muhammad Shah of Delhi, Muhammad Shah III Bahmani and Rana Kumbha of Mewar. He was defeated in his contests with the Muslim Sultans and his war with Rana Kumbha was indecisive and both sides claimed victory and while Rana of Mewar erected a tower of victory.
Mahmud Khalji built a seven-storeyed column in Mandu in commemoration of the victory. But Mahmud Khalji was decidedly the ablest Sultan of Malwa. He extended the territories of Malwa upto the Satpura range in the south, to the border of Gujarat in the west, to ‘Bundelkhand in the east and Mewar and Harauti in the north’. His fame spread beyond India and the Sultan of Egypt, i.e. the Caliph. Recognised him as Sultan; he also received a mission from Sultan Abu Said.
According to Ferishta, “he was polite, brave, just and learned and during his reign his subjects, Mohammedans as well as Hindus, were happy and maintained a friendly intercourse with each other. Scarcely a year passed when he did not take the field, so that his tent became his home and the field of battle his resting place. His leisure hours were devoted to hearing the histories and memoirs of the courts of different kings of the world.” He was a just, impartial and active administrator. He died in 1469 after long thirty-four years of rule.
Ghiyas-ud-din succeeded his father in 1469. He was a highly religious minded man and passed his time in prayers. He was a devout Muslim, said his daily prayers, did not touch wine or food prohibited by Islam, He was a peace-loving man but his’ last days were rendered unhappy by the quarrels of his two sons. He was poisoned to death by his eldest son Nasir-ud-din who seized the throne in 1500.
Nasir-ud-din was given to drinking and debauchery, and he maintained a harem of 15,000 women. In a fit of drunkenness he one day fell into a lake and was drowned (1510) and was succeeded by his second son Mahmud II. Mahmud II called in Medini Rai, a Rajput chief, to crush his recalcitrant nobles, and appointed him his prime minister. The ascendancy of the Rajputs in the court gave rise to jealousy among the Muslim nobles who invited Muzaffar Shah II of Gujarat against the powerful Rajput prime minister.
But Medini Rai defeated them including Mahmud II himself with the help of Rana Sanga. In this war Rana Sanga took Mahmud II as a prisoner. But the Rana treated him very generously and restored his kingdom to him. But despite this generous treatment the hostility between Malwa and Mewar did not come to an end.
Mahmud II led an expedition against Ratan Singh, the successor of Sanga, who retaliated by invading Malwa and defeating Mahmud IL Mahmud also gave offence to Sultan Bahadur Shah of Gujarat by giving shelter to his brother Chand Khan for which Bahadur Shah captured Mandu, the capital of Malwa and thus the independence of Malwa came to an end (1531).
Malwa continued to remain a part of Gujarat till it was invaded and made a province under the Mughal empire by Humayun in 1535. It was also a province of Delhi under Sher Shah who appointed Shujaat Khan as its governor. But on Shujaat Khan’s death his son Baz Bahadur assumed the title of Sultan in the confusion that followed the death of Sher Shah. It was Akbar who defeated Baz Bahadur and annexed Malwa to the Mughal Empire (1562).
A Muslim adventurer from Swat, named Shah Mirza, had entered into the service of the Hindu Prince of Kashmir in 1315. The Hindu prince died shortly afterwards and Shah Mirza seized the throne setting aside the claims of the descendants of the Hindu prince and himself assumed the title of the king. He was, however, a wise and generous ruler. He died in 1349 and was succeeded by his four sons’ one after another who ruled for a total period of forty-six years. After the death of the fourth son Qutb- ud-din (1394) his son Sikandar ascended the throne.
It was during his reign that Timur invaded India and Sikandar exchanged envoys with him, but the two did never meet each other. Sikandar was a powerful ruler and a patron of Islamic learning. Scholars from Arabia, Persia and Mesopotamia were generously welcomed in his court. But his general attitude was not at all liberal. He was a blind bigot and persecuted the Hindus, and drove away the Brahmanas from Kashmir who refused to be converted into Islam.
He allowed only eleven Brahamana families to remain in Kashmir. He demolished Hindu temples the most important of which was the Martand temple of Mattan. On his death in 1416, his eldest son Adil Shah reigned for a few years but was deposed by his brother Shahi Khan and himself ascended the throne in 1420 under the title Zain-ul-Abidin.
Zain-ul-Abidin was the greatest Muslim ruler of Kashmir. He was highly enlightened, liberal and benevolent, for which he was known as the Akbar of Kashmir. He allowed the Kashmiri Brahamana families who had been banished during the reign of Sultan Sikandar to return. To eradicate robbery, theft and other crimes in his kingdom, he made the village communities responsible for the crimes in their respective jurisdictions.
He regulated the prices of commodities, reduced the burden of taxation and rehabilitated the currency which had been greatly debased during the reigns of his predecessors. He admitted Hindu scholars to his society, abolished jizya, showed remarkable toleration to the followers of other faiths. He had a good knowledge of Persian, Hindi and Tibetan besides his own language Kashmiri.
He was a patron of literature and art, painting and music. He caused the Mahabharata and Rajatarangini to be translated into Persian. Likewise several Persian and Arabic books were translated into Hindi. After an eventful reign, he died in 1470 and was succeeded by his son Haidar Shah.
After Zain-ul-Abidin’s death there ensued chaos and anarchy under the rule of the nominal kings who ascended the throne. Haidar Shah was a fairly competent ruler, but his successors were so incompetent that in 1540 a relative of Babur, Mirza Haidar, conquered Kashmir. Although he acted as a representative of Humayun, in practice he ruled independently.
But he was driven out by the Kashmiris in 1551, but the nobles began to quarrel over the question of occupation of the throne. In 1555, the Chakk tribe acquired ascendancy and one of its members ascended the throne of Kashmir. In 1586, Akbar conquered Kashmir and annexed it to the Mughal empire.
The kingdom of Orissa was consolidated by Anantavarman Choda Ganga who ruled from 1076 to 1148. The kingdom extended from the mouth of the Ganges to the Godavari in the south. He was not only a great warrior and a conqueror but also a patron of religion and literature. The famous Jagannath temple was built by him. He successfully repelled the Turkish onslaught.
After his death his dynasty began to decline. About 1434 this dynasty was supplanted by Kapilendra who founded a new dynasty. The Kapilendra dynasty ruled over Orissa for about a century. Kapilendra was a king of great ability and courage. He ably defended his kingdom against the invasion of the Bahmani and Vijaynagar rulers.
Kapilendra was succeeded by Purushottama during whose reign the kingdom became weak and lost the southern half of its territory. He was succeeded by his son Prataprudra (1496-1540) who was compelled to surrender a part of his territory south of the Godavari to the Vijaynagar ruler. In 1522 the Sultan of Golkunda invaded Orissa and compelled Prataprudra to agree to humiliating terms.
In 1441-42, the Kapilendra dynasty was supplanted by Bhoi dynasty whose founder was Govinda. This dynasty was overthrown in 1559 by Mukunda Harichandan who tried his best to save Orissa from the Muslim invaders. He died in 1568 and his kingdom was now sought to be occupied by the Mughals as well as by the Karrani Sultan of Bengal. Suleiman, the king of Bengal, annexed it to his kingdom in 1568.
Kamrupa and Assam:
During the early years of the thirteenth century the Brahmaputra valley was divided into a number of independent principalities the most important of which was Kamrupa. It was then called Kamta kingdom and was flanked on the east by the Ahoms and on the west by the Sultans of Bengal. In the fifteenth century the Khens established their rule over Kamrupa with its capital at Kamtaptir.
The ruler named Nilambar of this dynasty was overthrown by Ala-ud-din Hussain Shah in 1498. After some years Vishwasinha of the Koch tribe set himself as the ruler of Kamrupa in 1515. The greatest Koch ruler was Nara Narayan. Under him the Kamta kingdom reached its zenith of power and greatness. But due to internal dissensions the country was divided between Nara Narayan and his nephew Raghudeva.
The two parts came to be known as kooch Bihar and Kooch Hajo respectively. But the division of the kingdom did not end the mutual hostility of the two kingdoms, taking advantage of which the Ahoms and the Muslims intervened. In 1639 the western portion came under the supremacy of the Muslims and the eastern portion under the Ahoms.
The Ahoms were a section of the Shan tribe who came to Assam early in the thirteenth century (1215) and gradually consolidated their position and set up a strong monarchy which lasted for nearly six hundred years. During the period of the Delhi Sultanate, the Ahoms successfully checked the eastward expansion of the kingdom of Kamrupa and of the Sultans of Bengal.
It was only after the Muslims had succeeded in subjugating Kamrupa that the Ahom Kingdom became vulnerable to the Muslim attacks. It was Ala- ud-din Hussain Shah of Bengal who led an expedition against the kingdom of the Ahoms when it was ruled by Suhenpha.
The Muslim forces were initially successful, but the expedition ended in a disaster. For thirty years to follow there was no Ahom-Muslim conflict. Then a second phase of the expedition of the local Muslims of Bengal began against the Ahoms but their attempts also failed (1533).
The Rajput States:
The disruption of the Turko-Afghan Empire had stirred some of the Rajput states with the spirit of revival, the most important of which was the Guhila principality of Mewar. It was in Mewar that the Rajput genius had found best expression in the succession of brave generals, capable and prudent rulers, heroic leaders, intrepid warriors and some brilliant poets.
Ala-ud-din Khalji besieged and captured Chitor, the capital of Mewar but it was delivered from the hands of the Muslims by Hamir who was one of the wisest and most gallant of the princes of Mewar. The exact date of the recovery of Chitor cannot be ascertained but it seems possible that it took place during the widespread rebellion during Muhammad bin Tughluq’s reign.
On Hamir’s death, his son Kshetra Simha succeeded him in 1378, who in his turn was succeeded by his son Lakha. On Lakha’s death, his son Mokala ascended the throne but was assassinated by two of his uncles. The next Rana of Mewar was Kumbha who was one of the most famous Rajput rulers in history of India.
According to Tod Rana Kumbha “with Hamir’s energy, Lakha’s taste for arts, and a genius comprehensive as either or more fortunate, succeeded in all his undertakings, and once more raised the ‘crimson banner’ of Mewar upon the banks of the Jhaggar.”
Rana Kumbha fought against the Muslim rulers of Malwa and Gujarat and though he was not successful in all his enterprises, he could all the same hold his position against his ambitious neighbours. Kumbha was a great builder and many of the finest monuments of Mewar were built during his reign. Of the eighty-four fortresses built for the defence of Mewar, as many as thirty-two was crected by Kumbha. The fortress of Kumbhagarh was the most brilliant monument of his military and constructive genius and “was second to none in stategical importance or historical renown.”
His Jayastambha or Kirtistambha is another monument of his constructive genius He was also a musician, poet and a partron of learning. He was assassinated by his son Udaya Karan in or about 1469 which horrified the nobles of the court who placed Udaya’s younger brother Rayamalla to the throne.
On the death of Rayamalla there was a struggle for succession among his sons and one of them named Sangrama or Sanga as he was popularly called, ultimately succeeded to the throne of Mewar in 1509. Sanga was rare military genius and was the hero of hundred battles. “A hero of a hundred fields, he bore the scars of eighty wounds on his body in addition to having an eye blinded and a leg crippled.”
He fought with success against Delhi, Malwa and Gujarat and organised a large army and a strong treasury with a view to building the supremacy of Mewar on the breakup of the Delhi Sultanate. A fierce contest with Rana Sanga was, therefore, inevitable on the part of any body that would seek to establish supremacy in Northern India and the battle of Khanua was the logical conclusion.
The next important Rajput state was marwar. The period which witnessed the gradual development of the Sisodiya state of Mewar, also saw the establishment of the Rathor states of Marwar and Bikaner. The modern Rathors as also the Rajput traditions claim that the Rathors are descendants of the Gahdavalas of Kanauj. Sinha is regarded as the founder of the Rathor dynasty sometime in the first half of the thirteenth century.
Sinha died in 1273. The Rather family after its foundation in Kher was guided by a natural impulse of expansion which involved it in a struggle with its neighbours Muslims and the Bhattis. By first decade of the fourteenth century the greatest of the Delhi Sultans. Ala-ud-din Khalji, had conquered the whole of the eastern part of modern Mewar and Gujarat, and Kher found itself surrounded on three sides by the mighty Muslim power.
A struggle for its very existence followed. During the greater part of the fourteenth century the throne of Delhi was occupied by three prominent Sultans—Ala-ud-din. Mohammad bin Tughluq and Firuz Shah Tughluq when it was difficult for the rather state to make much headway. The weakness of the Delhi Sultanate must have afforded opportunity to the Rather to follow a policy of expansion.
The modern history of the Rathors begins from the time of Chunda who ruled from 1394 to 1421. His successor Jodha, his grandson, founded the new city of Jodhpur and made it his capital. It was called Jodhpur after the name of its founder Jodha and continued to be the capital of Rathors of Marwar.
Jodha at first lost Rathor lands to the Sisodiyas who established garrisons in important places to hold the country under subjection. Jodha was compelled to take shelter in the desert. Jodha made some attempts at recovery of his territories without success. But soon there was a war between Malwa and Mewar which continued from 1443 to 1458. Jodha obtained important success against Mewar during this phase of the struggle between Malwa and Mewar.
Sisodiya sardars were driven away from one position after another. Choksi, Kosano, Mandor, Sojhat, Merta and Ajmer fell into the hands of Jodha. The reign of Jodha forms an interesting landmark in the evolution of the Rather state into its modem shape. Jodha also built the fort of Mandor. His reign lasting for nearly fifty years brought Rathor state into great prominence.
Jodha’s death in 1448 was followed by a struggle among his sons for succession. The eldest of the seventeen sons of Jodha having died leaving no male heir, the throne was sought to be given to next brother but as he was found demented, the next brother Satal was placed on throne but he died shortly afterwards.
One of the brothers, Bika made an attempt to seize the throne, but he failed and another brother Suja secured the throne. Bika, however, founded the Rajput state of Bikaner. Suja failed to assert his authority on the collateral branches of Marwar like Metra, Bikaner etc.
The most important ruler during the period under study was Maldeva (1532-62) under whom the Rathor power reached its height. He came into conflict with Sher Shah who had to ultimately sign a peace treaty with Maldeva.
Khandesh was a province under Muhammad bin Tughluq. Firuz Shah Tughluq appointed Malik Raja Faruqi as the governor of the province but during the confusion that followed the death of Firuz Shah Tughluq Faruqi declared himself independent of the Delhi Sultanate as did many other provincial governors and local chiefs.
Faruqi was a generous ruler and a man of peaceful disposition and he treated his subjects Hindus and the Muslims alike. On his death in 1399, his son, Malik Nasir, succeeded him. Nasir made himself the sole master of Khandesh by defeating his brother Hasan. He also captured the fortress of Asirgarh from its Hindu chief but he himself was defeated by Sultan Ahmad Shah of Gujarat when he made an attempt to capture Nandurbar and compelled him to swear allegiance to the Sultan of Gujarat.
Malik Nasir was a very ambitious man and he even attempted to defeat his own son-in-law, Ala-ud-din Ahmad of the Bahmani dynasty but met with disaster. He died soon after in 1437-38. He was succeeded by his son, Adil Khan, who was in his turn succeeded by his son, Mubarak Khan I, in 1441. These two reigns were as weak as eventless. On Mubarak Khan’s death in 1457, his son, Adil Khan II, ascended the throne of Khandesh. He was an able and vigorous ruler and restored the administrative order in the kingdom. He also extended the authority of Khandesh over Gondwana.
As he died without any issue in 1501, the throne passed to his brother Daud who died in 1508 after an inglorious reign. He was succeeded by his son Ghazni Khan who was poisoned to death within ten days of his accession which was followed by a struggle between two rivals, one supported by Ahmad Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar, and the other by Mahmud Begarha of Gujarat till the latter succeeded in occupying the throne under the title Adil Khan III. He was not a worthy ruler and on his death in 1520 his successors were weaker still and incapable of saving the kingdom from external attacks. It was in 1601 that Akbar annexed Khandesh to the Mughal Empire.
The Bahmani Kingdom:
Bahmani kingdom of the Deccan was by far the most powerful independent Muslim kingdoms that arose as a result of the eccentric policy of Muhammad bin Tugluq. The Deccan nobles driven to desperation rose in rebellion and seized the fort of Daulatabad and proclaimed one of themselves, Ismail Mukh the Afghan, as the king of the Deccan under the title of Nasir-ud-din Shah.
Ismail Mukh was an old man and found himself unequal to the task of ruling the country. He voluntarily abdicated in favour of a more energetic and worthy young leader. Hasan, bearing the title Zafar Khan, who was declared king by the nobles in 1347 under the title Abdul Muzaffar Ala-ud-din Bahman Shah.
The Bahmani kingdom was divided into Tarafs, each under a Tarafdar, i.e. governor. While these provincial governors would enjoy great powers, they were under the control of the central government so long as there was a capable Sultan or an able Prime Minister like Mahmud Gawan. But in course of time two forces were in action, viz., the local governors, i.e., the Tarafdars were acquiring local power and influence, as also prestige with the people while the centre began to show signs of weakness due to absence of strong rulers or ministers and increase of party strife.
The inherent centrifugal forces that were in action in the Bahmani administration were all the more accentuated by the division of the Muslim aristocracy into two rival parties in the Sultan’s court, the older ones, i.e., the domiciled Muslim aristocracy called the Deccanis and the new comers, called the foreigners or pardesis.
The Deccanis were originally Muslim invaders, but their long stay in the Deccan and their marital relation with the Hindus carried Hindu blood in them. Many of them were also Hindu converts. Fathullah Imad Shah, founder of Imad Shahi dynasty of Berar and Ahmad Nizam Shah of Ahmadnagar were originally Brahmins.
The pardesis came from outside for trade and ultimately found it to their advantage to take part in politics of the country and live in it permanently. They were from Turkey, Persia, Arabia, Afghanistan, Central Asia, etc. These foreigners were drafted to the Bahmani army. Mujahid Shah Bahmani even showed preference to the Persians and Turks in recruitment to his army. This created a feeling of dissatisfaction and grievance among the Deccanis.
In course of time the number of the pardesis increased and they became a distinct community. They were more agile and enterprising than the Deccanis and many of them naturally rose to high positions of the state. The religious difference between the Deccanis who were Sunnis and the pardesis who were Shiahs, was a added cause of their mutual jealousy.
Towards the end of the fourteenth century the Deccanis realising that they were being ousted from power more and more, by the pardesis poisoned the ears of Ahmad Shah Vali (meaning saintly), when the king was declining both in physical and mental health. They succeeded in winning the favour of the Sultan and when the Bahmani army was defeated at the hands of the Gujarati army the blame of the defeat was cleverly fastened to the pardesis by the Deccanis at the court. The result was that the Deccanis were raised to power in place of the pardesis. Once placed in power, the Deccanis treacherously massacred a large number of the pardesis.
Soon after the Bahmani forces were defeated at the hands of the combined forces of Raja of Sangameswara and Raja Shankar Rao. The Bahmani forces under paradesis commander Khalaf Hasan had to retreat and take shelter in Chakan. The Deccanis represented to the Sultan that the debacle was due to the inefficiency of the pardesi commander Khalaf Hasan and the Sultan without realising the actual state of affairs, ordered the killing of all the surviving soldiers.
A few paradesis who managed to escape the massacre reported the matter to the Sultan who held an enquiry and threw out the Deccanis from power and restored the pardesis to their former position in the administration. But the massacre at Chakan had set the seal on the mutual recrimination of the Deccanis and the pardesis and there was no question of any workable understanding between the two.
Each party was out to destroy the other and this blind policy of extirpation of one by the other, led to the murder of the greatest of the medieval statesman Mahmud Gawan by the Deccanis in 1481. “The false accusation and violent death of this upright minister constitute one of the tragedies of medieval India.”
The Bahmani administration was modelled on the Islamic pattern. The highest power, administrative, judicial, military and religious rested in the king. King’s duty was all-embracing and his authority was all-powerful. Mujahid Shah even claimed himself to be shadow of God on earth. Bahman Shah, founder of the Bahmani dynasty, acknowledged the supremacy of the Abbasid Caliphate and called himself the right hand of the Caliph.
Theoretically though the authority of the king was unlimited, in practice it was limited by the advice of the ministers in matters of administration and in determination of state- policy. The king had a Prime Minister called vakil-us-SuItanat and all orders of the king would pass through him.
The finance minister, called the amir-i-jumla dealt with the finances of the state. Wazir-i-ashraf was the minister for external affairs. The judicial minister was called sadr-i-jahan. Apart from the major ministries, there were other minor ministers such as those of the kotwal, nazir, commander of the right wing and the commander of the left wing.
Ala-ud-din Bahman Shah divided his kingdom into four divisions, each under a trusted officer called tarafdar, i.e., governor. Tarafdar was the head of the provincial government both in civil and military matters. The posts of governors were transferable.
Mahmud Gawan divided each taraf into two parts and thereby there were eight subdivisions called sarlashkarships. This was done for more effective control of the tarafs. Each tarafdar held a command of 2,000 horses. The subdivisions of a sarlashkarshi were called parganas which were again divided into villages. Village was the lowest unit of administration.
The emergence of the Vijayanagar Empire was the result of Hindu reaction against the Turkish domination of the Deccan. Towards the end of the thirteenth century, that is, on the eve of Alaudin Khalji’s invasion of the Deccan, the territories south of the Vindhyas were ruled over by four Hindu dynasties.
The Yadavas of Devagiri ruled over whole of western Deccan from the Tapti to the Krishna, the Kakatiyas of Warangal were masters of eastern Deccan. The Hoysalas of Duarasamudra, and the Pandyas of Madura divided between themselves the rest of the peninsula.
Economically all these great Hindu kingdoms were well off and the kings possessed immense riches, gold, silver, diamonds and pearls. Agriculture and commerce were in a flourishing state and the cities were beautiful and were centres of trade and culture. Every South Indian prince spent lavishly on temples and buildings.
Clash of interests of the rival dynasties hindered harmonious progress of the country. The Yadavas fought against the Kakatiyas, the Kakatiyas were at war with the Pandyas, the Pandyas fought with the Hoysalas and the Hoysalas against the Yadavas. This internecine quarrel rendered them weak against the Muslim invaders from the north, yet it took three decades to establish any Muslim hold on the south. The hold of the Central Government on the subordinate Hindu kingdoms of the south was lost almost after each conquest, and they paid tributes of Delhi only when it could be enforced.
In any case the triumph of the Muslims over the south was short-lived and when Malik Kafur intrigued to secure supreme power and eventually hastened Alauddin Khalji’s death, and usurped power, the state was plunged into chaos. The Hindu kings of the south took advantage of the situation and immediately asserted their independence. But the set-back in imperial interests was only temporary and with the assassination of Malik Kafur within a short time, the south was recovered to the Delhi Sultanate.
The Hindu princes of the south did not rest in peace; there were repeated attempts at independence and followed by repeated assertion of imperial authority over the south. It was under Muhammad bin Tughluq that the entire peninsula from Tapti to Cape Comorin came under Turkish rule and in 1327 the Sultan decided to transfer his capital from Delhi to Devagiri, renamed by him Daulatabad.
The effects of the Turkish invasions were heartrending for the Hindus. “Their land was ravaged, their accumulated riches were confiscated, and their rulers were humiliated. “Amir Khusrau in his Khazainul Futuh records that Malik Kafur destroyed several hoary shrines of the Pandyan kingdom, and plundered their riches.”
Extension of the Turkish power in the south while disastrous to the Hindus was lacking in any attempt at organising a permanent administration. “The incessant clash of arms and mutual misunderstanding gave no opportunity for the evolution of some system of government, which could reconcile the interests of the victors and the vanquished. The rule Of Muhammad bin Tughluq was least fitted to hold together the vast areas under one sceptre.”
All this had set the stage for a great revolution among the Hindu kingdoms. Barani and Ferishta give some description of the freedom movement of the Hindu princes of the south. Both of them however, gave wrong names to Kapaya Nayaka who was the real leader of the revolt at Telingana.
The freedom movement spread westwards to Kampili Hanhara and Bukka, two of the five sons of one Sangama were sent by Muhammad bin Tughluq to quell the revolt. But the arrangement failed miserably. Harihara who had earlier taken to Islam, reverted to his ancestral faith and asserted his independence and laid the foundation of Vijaynagar under the inspiration of Madhava Vidyaranya a sage and a scholar.
Tirumalaraya (Aravidu Dynasty):
The battle of Talikota did not completely destory the empire of Vijayanagar. “The defeat in the battle simply reduced the empire’s military prestige, economic prosperity and the extent of its territorial jurisdiction. The empire itself lingered for nearly a century more.” Tirumala made peace with the Sultans surrendering all the places his brother had wrested from them.
Son of Tirumala is said to have killed the lawful king. Inscriptions, however, indicate that he lived upto 1576. With the murder of the rightful king, Tuluva Dynasty came to an end and Tirumala now an acknowledged king founded that Aravidu Dynasty of Vijayanagar.
It was no smooth sailing for Tirumala after his formal accession to the throne as an usurper. His authority was not universally obeyed and Muslim rulers were again trying to acquire parts of Vijayanagar. Tirumala divided his empire into three parts, placing one of his three sons in charge of each. His three sons were Sri Ranga, Rama and Venkatapati.
Thus relieved from the burden of administration Tirumala turned his full attention to the defence of his country and succeeded in putting down the rebels and warding off external attacks by Musalmans. In 1572 Tirumala died. He was succeeded by Sri Ranga I, his eldest son (1572), who in his turn was succeeded by Venkatapati II (1586).
Under Venkatapati, danger to Vijayanagar did not come from without, but from within. He had to fight incessantly against the rebellious lords and ultimately succeeded in bringing them back to his allegiance.
The latter part of the reign of Venkatapati was faced with two difficult problems, namely Akbar’s imperialistic expansion in the south and the advent of the Dutch Traders. Venkatapati took precautionary measures against possible Mughal attack. Father Coutinho, a Jesuit at Venkatapati’s court believed that the military preparations were intended “for driving back the army, of Akbar.” Akbar and Ibrahim Adil Shah’s envoys were waiting at Chandragiri the new capital of Vijayanagar for audience with Venkatapati in 1604 but things did not pass beyond diplomatic stage since Akbar died the following year.
Venkatapati showed much firmness in his dealings with the Portuguese for their hostility towards the Dutch which threatened to create disorder in Vijayanagar. He expelled the Dutch from their settlement Devanapatanam where they were permitted to build a factory and to carry on trade.
He received an embassy from Philip III, King of Spain and Portugal, but he did not hesitate to put down unruly Portuguese at St. Thome. The Portuguese expelled the Dutch from Pulicat (1612) but Venkatapati helped them to come back and build a fort named fort Geldria. But the death of Venkatapati in 1614 put an end to further development in the matter of conflict between the Portuguese and the Dutch.
Venkatapati II was the greatest ruler of Aravidu dynasty and was a man of ability and character. He raised the status of his empire and several embassies from foreign countries visited his court, Venkatapati was a devout Vaishnava but he was tolerant of other religions. His court was attended by Jesuit fathers who had complete freedom to preach their religion.
Eminent scholars, poets, philosophers graced his court. He was a great patron of the art of painting and engaged two Jesuit painters to paint some masterpieces of Christian theology. Venkatapati left his impress on the pages of history of Vijayanagar and his reign was the last flash of the glory of Vijayanagar before its final extinction.
Sri Ranga, Ramadevaraya, Venkata III who succeeded to the Vijayanagar throne were kings who saw the empire decline gradually.
It was Sri Ranga III who was the last great ruler of the Vijayanagar empire. His reign was consumed in establishing his authority which was challenged from within and without. While the provincial governors were behaving almost like independent rulers, apprehensions were there that the whole of the east coast might fall into the hands of the Muslims.
Jesuit records as well as English and Dutch factory papers show that Sri Ranga III took certain measures for the defence of his empire. He succeeded in defeating the Qutab Shahi Sultan of Golconda which gave his position some stability. But soon after three rebellious lords inflicted a severe defeat on Sri Ranga III.
Mir Jumla, general of the Sultan of Golconda and the soldiers of Bijapur made a joint attack of Vijayanagar and Sri Ranga III had to buy peace by payment of a huge indemnity. The rebellious lords were, however, defeated by Muslim forces which compelled them to return to their allegiance to Sri Ranga III. But the prospect of offering a united resistance to Muslim invaders was spoiled by the invitation of Bijapur Sultan by Tirumala Nayaka one of the lords in order to conquer Gingee which was also coveted by the Sultan of Golconda.
But the selfish policy of Tirumala Nayaka spelt the ruin of Vijayanagar and paved the way for foreign domination over the South. Gingee fell into Muslim hands, Mir Jumla carved out a big jagir in the heart of eastern Karnataka, the only remnant of Vijayanagar empire. Sri Ranga Ill’s appeal to the Mughal emperor for protection did not meet with any response.
Sri Ranga III did not, however, give up the hope of recovering his lost empire. He got the support and encouragement from the chief of Mysore and lkkeri and having made some preparation, was in the wait for a favourable turn of events. This came to him when Mir Jumla quarrelled with his master and left for taking up service under the Mughals, Sri Ranga III seized the opportunity and recovered a considerable part of Karanataka. Vellore also came under his control.
But the jealously and treachery of Tirumala Nayaka who alarmed at the recovery of power and territory by Sri Ranga III, invited the help of Bijapur Sultan. The Sultan of Golconda also took the field against Sri Ranga III of his own. From Thevenot, we learn that the Sultan of Golconda overran Coromandal, and the Bijapur Sultan conquered territories upto Negapatam. After loss of Karnataka Sri Ranga III, retired to Belur where he lived till 1678. Collapse of the empire was followed by an ugly scramble for power and territory among the local lords.
Gandeur of Vijayanagar:
“The grandeur of the city, the splendour of the buildings, the wealth of the bazars, the volume of trade and the density of population are amply attested by a series of witnesses beginning in the fourteenth century, when Vijayanagar was only a few years old down to the date of its irremediable ruin, and also by survey of the existing remains.”
According to Ferishta Vijayanagar rulers were superior in power, wealth and extent of their country to the Bahmani Sultans. Vijayanagar earned immense wealth from trade through the ports on the west coast as well as Goa.
Fortification of the city made it impregnable and construction of a dam in the Tungabhadra supplied water to the city fifteen miles away.
The Italian traveller Nicolo Conti who came to Vijayanagar in 1420, in the reign of Devaraya II thought that the extent of the city’s circumference was about 60 miles. He was impressed by the strength of the fortifications of the city. The custom of sattee was prevalent and the “king who had 12,000 wives, of whom no less than 2000 to 3000 were required to burn themselves with him when he died.”
In 1443 Abdur Razzaq of Herat, who was sent by Sultan Shahrukh, son of Timur to the court of the Zamorin of Calicut, visited Vijayanagar on the request of the king of Vijayanagar himself. He was so much impressed by the grandeur of the city that he observed: “The city in such that eye has not seen nor ear has heard of any place resembling it upon the whole earth. It is so built that it has seven fortified walls, one within the other.”
He then compares the city of Vijayanagar with his own city of Herat and remarks that the fortress in the centre of others occupied an area ten times greater than the chief market of Herat. By the palace of the king there are four bazars….the tradesmen of each separate guild or craft have their shops close to one another. The jewellers sell their rubies and pearls and diamonds and emeralds openly in the bazar.
All inhabitants of the country, whether high or low, even down to the artificers of the bazar wear jewels and gilt ornaments in their ears and around their necks, arm, wrists and fingers.
We have also the account of the Portuguese traveller Dominigos Paes who visited Vijayanagar in 1522 during the reign of Krishnadevaraya, when the empire was at the height “of its glory. According to Paes the city was as large as Rome. It was studded with numerous lakes, watercourses and orchards. The city had about 1, 00,000 dwelling houses and according to him it was “the best provided city in the world.”
Paes who went round the enclosure of the Palace saw thirty four streets in it and one room of the palace that he was shown was all or ivory from top to bottom, with flowers and lotuses of ivory. Paes remarked that “it is so rich and beautiful that you would hardly find anywhere another such.”
Nuniz, another Portuguese traveller who visited Vijayanagar thirteen years later observes that the king issued no written orders but his orders were noted down by Secretaries as was done at the Mughal court: According to Nuniz the king wore a cap of brocade and was dressed in fine silk cloth. “He was barefooted.”
The raya i.e. the king was assisted by a council of ministers the composition and powers of which varies from time to time. Some of the offices became hereditary and particularly, that of Pradhani. In order to prevent concentration of power in the hands of the ministers Krishnadevaraya followed the policy of inducting new men so that control of too powerful ministers might be broken.
Besides the Council, there was a large secretariat as well as officials of royal household. The empire was divided into a few provinces each under a governor who was a member of the royal family and each province was subdivided into divisions each under a Naik or noble who held it on conditions of payment of a specified amount as revenue and of sending a contingent of troops to the emperor when demanded. The Naiks and the provincial governors enjoyed enough liberty of action within their respective territories but they were under the strictest control of the emperor who was an autocrat.
Punishment was extremely severe and as Krishnadevaraya remarked “The king maintains the law (Dhamma) by killing.” Nuniz states that “for a thief, whatever theft he commits, however little it be, they forthwith cut off a foot and a hand; and if his theft be great one, he is hanged with a hook under his chin. If a man outrages a respectable woman or a virgin he has the same punishment.” The traitors if belonging to the Nobility were impaled alive on a wooden stake thrushed through the belly. Traitors belonging to lower order would get their heads cut off in the market place.
The Vijayanagar rulers maintained a vast army. In times of emergency a million fighting troops including 35,000 cavalry could be put in the field. The standing army, however, comprised one tenth of this number. According to Paes Krishnadevaraya in 1520 assembled for operation 7, 03,000 foot and 32,600 horse and 551 elephants. Compared to the Muslim soldiers the Vijayanagar troops, although physically strong and individually brave, were inefficient.
Vijayanagar kings assessed land revenue according to the nature of the land under cultivation. Assessment varied with reference to whether the land was wet, dry or garden land. According to Nuniz nineteenth of the produce used to be realised as land revenue. This is not, however, borne out by other evidences.
The fact remains that the assessment of land revenue was very high. According to Wilks as well as other later writers, there were various vexatious cesses and levies on the peasants and the merchants alike. Heavy toll and city dues exacted from traders, hampered trade.
Condition of the People:
The nobles used to live in luxury, but the common people lived a poor life in hovels. The Brahmans were mostly vegetarians but others used animal food freely. Brahmanas were held in high esteem by the authorities.
Paes refers to variety of meat of birds and beasts available in the market. Sheep killed daily were countless and the meat was clean, fat and looked like pork. Pork was also sold. Birds like partridges, quails, doves, pigeons and others were used for meat and were abundant and cheap. Nuniz writes that the kings of Vijayanagar eat all kinds of flesh but not of oxen or cows.
Some of the Vijayanagar kings were devout worshippers of Vishnu. The kings of the Sangama dynasty however, had preference for Siva.
Animal sacrifice, inconsistent with Vaishnavism was performed. Sheep for sale of mutton in the market were killed at the gate of a temple. Blood and heads of the animals were left to the temple.
Literature, Art and Architecture:
The Vijayanagar kings patronised Sanskrit and Telugu literature. Sayana the famous commentator of the Vedas was a minister of Harihara II and his brother Madhava Vidyaranya served Bukka II. Krishnadevaraya was himself an author and a liberal patron of Telugu writers. Alasani-Pedda was the poet-laureate of Krishnadevaraya. The tradition of royal patronage of literature was continued throughout the reigns of the kings of Vijayanagar.
The Vijayanagar kings were distinguished builders and they have many strong fortress and great works of irrigation to their credit. The palace of Vijayanagar was noted for its beauty and grandeur. The kings of Vijayanagar evolved a distinct school of architecture and had a large number of sculptors and painters in their service. Although no specimen of Vijayanagar painting has survived, enough of the sculptural remains show the excellent quality of the work.
From the Portuguese travellers and Abdur Razzq we know that the painters in the service of the Vijayanagar kings had reached a very high degree of excellence. The bas-reliefs on the walls of Krishnadevaraya’s chapel royal Hazara Rama Swami temple, depicting scenes of Ramayana built in 1513, are still admired.