Here we detail about the top thirty Sultan’s or the rulers of Bengal of the independent Sultanate of Bengal after the Muslim penetration and settlement. They are:
1. Ala-Ud-Din (Ali Mardan) (1210-13) 2. Ghiyas-Ud-Din, Husam-Ud-Din Iwaz (1213-27) 3. Nasir-Ud-Din Mahmud (1227-29) 4. Ikhtiyar-Ud-Din Balka Khalji (1229-30) 5. Malik Ala-Ud-Din Jani (1231-32) 6. Saif-Ud-Din Aibak (1232-35) 7. Aor Khan Aibak (1236) 8. Tughral Tughan Khan (1236-45) and Others.
Mega List of Bengal Kings
Sultan # 1. Ala-Ud-Din (Ali Mardan) (1210-13):
The sudden turn of fortune which made Ali Mardan Sultan of Bengal both in name and fact, completely turned his head. Unbridled power, inflow of wealth and all this made sycophants and sanctimonious hypocrites gather round him and he came to fancy that he was the sovereign of the then known Muslim world.
Ala-ud-din was doubtlessly, a soldier of great ability, of dare-devil courage, but he was extremely impolitic, blood-thirsty and of murderous disposition. He engaged his army to kill the greater part of the Khalji Amirs and the Hindus of the surrounding countries were terrified to send him tributes. “He began issuing orders of assignment of different parts of Hindustan, and his tongue uttered empty boastings. Both in public gatherings and open daroar he gave himself the airs of the lord of Khurasan, Ghazni and Ghor, and talked idle non-sense.”
(Tabakat-i-Nasiri). He even granted investiture for Ghazni, Khurasan and Ispahan to his flatterers and provided them with expenses to travel to those far off jagirs. But his own subjects were groaning under his ruthless tyranny. As a reaction to his tyranny the Khalji Amirs under the leadership of Husam-ud-din Iwaz entered into a conspiracy and killed Sultan Ala-ud-din Ali Mardan (1213).
Husam-ud-din was elected by the Khalji Amirs as their ruler. Although there is no direct evidence as to the extent of the dominions ruled over by Ala-ud-din, yet there is no doubt that Bihar to the east of the river Son was annexed by him to Lakhnauti. The country of Lakhnauti under him must have extended in the south as far as the river Ajay, on the east to the river Bhagirathi, a little beyond Devkot in the north, river Karotoya in the east and the river Kosi in the west.
Sultan # 2. Ghiyas-Ud-Din, Husam-Ud-Din Iwaz (1213-27):
Husam-ud-din Iwaz assumed the title of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din. He was a fellow countryman of Bakhtiyar Khalji. In his early life he was an .ass driver, but when Mohammad Ghuri conquered Delhi, he like many other adventurers came to India. He joined Bakhtiyar Khalji an equally destitute fortune hunter and by favourable turn of events eventually found himself lodged on the masnad of Bengal.
Ghiyas-ud-din came to the throne as the leader of the discontented Khalji Amirs of Lakhnauti. The initial years of his rule were, therefore, occupied in consolidating his authority in Lakhnauti and to win over the Turkish elements—the supporters of Ali Mardan to his side.
At this point of time Ganga Emperor Anangabhima of Orissa invaded Radh and carved out a portion, Laknor south of Radh. This success of Ganga Emperor damped the spirit of the Muslims for a time and they could not be easily roused to military action by the Sultan. Their religious frenzy had to be stirred by Jalal-ud-din. Ghiyas-ud-din led an expedition to recover Laknor. The campaign was a prolonged one but ultimately Orissa army had to withdraw to their own territories clearing out of Laknor. According to Minhaj elephants and treasures fell into the hands of Ghiyas-ud- din when the Orissa army left Laknor.
Ghiyas-ud-din after having restored the prestige and morale of the Muslim arms by containing the imperialistic designs of the Ganga emperor of Orissa, pushed his southern frontiers from the bank of the Ajay river to that of the Damodar and the borders of Bishnupur. It is said that Jajnagar ruler paid tribute to Ghiyas-ud-din. But it is thought improbable in as much as Jajnagar was a tributary of Ganga dynasty.
It is supposed that Vishnu the ruler of Jajnagar might have paid presents to Ghiyas-ud-din, but there is no evidence to show that he became a feudatory of Ghiyas-ud-din. Likewise, it is said that “Bang, Kamrup and Tirhut” paid tributes to Ghiyas-ud-din. But we have no source of information about Muslim inroads into these countries. But it is doubtless that Ghiyas- ud-din Iwaz made a definite bid for over-lordship of Bengal and adjoining provinces by transferring the seat of his government to the city of Gauda-Lakhnauti the possession of which had been symbolic of the sovereignty of eastern India since the days of the Pala Dynasty.
Ghiyas-ud-din soon realized that for a country like river-intersected Bengal boats and foot-soldiers would command superiority over horsemen. The horse could guarantee only six months’ security during the year but in rains, boats and footmen were the only reliable defence. Ghiyas-ud-din, therefore, raised a flotilla of war-boats which showed his military far-sight. Ghiyas-ud-din constructed a number of dykes with arched bridges to protect the capital city. He also connected the two frontier cities of Devkot and Laknor (in Birbhum) with the capital city, by an unusually wide and high-embanked Grand Trunk Road which survived the ravages of time and flood down to the close of the nineteenth century.
Under the beneficent yet vigorous rule of Ghiyas-ud-din the kingdom of Lakhnauti and Bihar enjoyed uninterrupted peace for nearly twelve years. The relation of vassalage of Lakhnauti to Delhi Sultanate was severed since the time of Ali Mardan (1211), Ghiyas- ud-din retained that independent status and read Khutba in his own name and struck his own coins, and assumed the title of Sultan. He, however, obtained honours and Farman from the Caliph-al-Nasir.
In 1225 Sultan Iltutmish advanced against Ghiyas-ud-din to wrest Bihar and Bengal from him. Ghiyasrud-din marched from his capital with his army while his war-boats proceeded up the river Ganges. Iltutmish’s progress was arrested at some point in Bihar either at Monghyr or Sakrigally-Teliagarhi passes of the Rajmahal Hills.
It is said that there was a peace treaty signed between Iltutmish and Ghiyas-ud-din whereby the latter had to pay 80 lakhs and 38 elephants as indemnity and accept the suzerainty to the Delhi Sultan. Ala-ud-din Jani was placed in charge of Bihar by Iltutmish before leaving for Delhi. But hardly Iltutmish had left Bihar Ghiyas-ud-din expelled Ala-ud-din Jani. It is doubtful if Ghiyas-ud-din respected the terms of the treaty with Iltutmish.
While Ghiyas-ud-din was apprehending reprisals from Iltutmish for driving out Ala- ud-din Jani from Bihar, the Delhi Sultan was embroiled in a rebellious situation in Oudh where the Hindu chief Prithu over-ran the whole of the country and killed “hundreds and thousands of Musalmans.” Iltutmish sent his son Prince Nasir-ud-din Muhammad against Prithu. Ala-ud-din Jani also joined him. This came as a relief to Ghiyas-ud-din who now thought of conquering “Bang.” He advanced east-ward with his army and his river-flotilla, leaving his capital without defence.
As he was advancing Nasir-ud-din made a sudden attack against Ghiyas-ud-din’s capital. On hearing the news of this attack Ghiyas-ud-din rode back with as many troops as could accompany him. But the enemy had in the meantime entered the city and surprised the fortress of Basankot. But undaunted Ghiyas-ud-din fought a pitched battle outside his capital with the superior cavalry of Nasir-ud-din. The inevitable result was his defeat and capture with his men at the hands of his enemies who beheaded him and his men forthwith (1227, March).
Fairly long period of fourteen years that Ghiyas-ud-din ruled over Lakhnauti was pleasing epoch of peace and prosperity for his kingdom. Although he had begun his life as an ass driver, he proved a liberal patron of fine arts and learning. The news of his generosity and piety travelled beyond Hindukush and tempted Islamic learners to Lakhnauti. After the nightmarish reign of Ali Mardan, the rule of Ghiyas-ud-din came as a blessing of Almighty. On a later occasion when Iltutmish visited Lakhnauti, he showed respect to the memory of Ghiyas-ud-din.
“Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din in his exterior and interior graces was every inch a Padshah, just, benevolent and wise.” One mistake that cost him his throne and life was his proceeding against ‘Bang’ leaving his capital defenceless. All the same he gave battle to the enemy and died a noble martyr to liberty. Ghiyas-ud-din was the first independent Sultan of Bengal whose coins have been found. But despite the fact that he was a great patron of architecture and the founder of several, benevolent institutions, no inscription of his time has come to light till now.
In absence of epigraphic evidence it is difficult to define the boundaries of the kingdom of Lakhnauti at the time of Ghiyas-ud-din’s death. Within Bengal proper the Sultanate of Ghiyas-ud-din comprised Sarkars Lakhnauti, Purniah, Tajpur, Panjrah, Ghoraghat, Barbakabad, western part of Bazuha, (i.e. portions of Bogra and Rajshahi) parts of Sulaimanabad (i.e. Burdwan). Ghiyas-ud-din annexed South Bihar pushed his frontier upto the mouth of Gandak in South Bihar. It may be pointed out that the whole of Bengal was never conquered or even visited by Muslim army during the pre-Mughal period.
Sultan # 3. Nasir-Ud-Din Mahmud (1227-29):
Prince Nasir-ud-din Mahmud who had defeated and killed Ghiyas-ud-din united the provinces of Oudh and Bengal under one rule and shifted his residence to Lakhnauti and distributed the accumulated treasures of Ghiyas-ud-din among the ulemas of Delhi. Sultan Iltutmish who had received Khilat from Caliph al-Mustanasir-Billah, sent a portion of the same, namely, a red umbrella and a red canopy of state as also the lofty title of Malik-us-Sharq i.e. Lord of the East for Nasir-ud-din. But Prince Nasir-ud-din died within a few days of the receipt of the honours. “The dead body of the Prince was taken to Delhi where it was buried and a mausoleum built on it, is known as Sultan Ghazi’s maqbara.
Sultan # 4. Ikhtiyar-Ud-Din Balka Khalji (1229-30):
Hardly Nasir-ud-din breathed his last, Malik Ikhtiyar-ud-din Balka Khalji a trusted follower of Ghiyas-ud-din Iwaz Khalji expelled the imperial troops from Bengal and began to rule over Bengal as an independent king, for a period of one and half years during which he was not, however, disturbed by Sultan Iltutmish. A coin of the rebel chief Ikhtiyar-ud-din-Balka reveals that he assumed the title of Daulat Shah Bin Maudud, but the coin also bears the name of the Delhi Sultan.
Towards the end of 1230 Iltutmish advanced against Balka who met the imperial forces in an engagement but was defeated and captured. Under orders of the Sultan he was beheaded. Iltutmish placed Malik Ala- ud-din Jani, Governor of Bihar in charge of Bengal and the vacant governorship of Bihar was given to Malik Saif-ud-din Aibak.
Sultan # 5. Malik Ala-Ud-Din Jani (1231-32):
Ala-ud-din Jani- was a Shah-Zadah of Turkistan who had fled his country due to the Mongol menace. His demeanour his princely ability and administrative efficiency were proofs of his royal blood. We have no information about his activities as governor of Bengal for a short time. For reasons, not known, he was removed from his post and Malik Saif-ud-din Aibak governor of Bihar was appointed Governor of Bengal. Governorship of Bihar was given to Tughral-Tughan Khan governor of Badaun.
Sultan # 6. Saif-Ud-Din Aibak (1232-35):
Saif-ud-din was a Tartar by origin. He possessed all the noble qualities of his race and was one of the front-ranking Maliks of his time. Saif-ud-din rules over Bengal for three years with great efficiency and although his attempt at conquering bang did not succeed, he captured some elephants which he sent to Iltutmish as present.
The Sultan much pleased with Aibak for his presents and honoured him with the title Yughan-tat. Sultan Iltutmish died in 1236 (April 29) which was a signal for the rise of the forces of disorder and indiscipline all over Hindustan. According to Riyaz-ud-Salatin Saif-ud- din Aibak was poisoned to death soon after the death of Iltutmish.
Death of Iltutmish followed by that of Saif-ud-din Aibak, governor of Bengal, threw Bengal into disorder. The situation was taken advantage of by Aor Khan Aibak a Turk of great daring and impetuosity who seized power of Lakhnauti.
Sultan # 7. Aor Khan Aibak (1236):
Aor Khan Aibak’s usurpation of power at Lakhnauti was challenged by Tughral- Tughan Khan, governor of Bihar who demanded surrender of the province of Lakhnauti, from Aor Khan. Failure of Aor Khan to surrender the province made Tughral Khan to lead an expedition against him to enforce his claim.
In the battle that was fought between Aor Khan and Tughral Khan in the place between the fortress Baskot and Lakhnauti, Aor Khan lost his life as an arrow from Tughral Khan pierced through him. “The partisans of the vanquished chief evacuated the capital and Tughral-Tughan became the master of both the wings of the Muslim territory, Radha and Varind, in addition to his own province of Bihar.”
Sultan # 8. Tughral Tughan Khan (1236-45):
Tughral Khan was also a Turkish Mamluk trained in the royal household of Sultan Iltutmish. He began his career as a cup-bearer, Saqi-i-Khans, of Iltutmish. His promotion to the post of the custodian of the royal pen and ink (sar-dawat-dar) brought him to grief. For he lost the bejewelled pen of the Sultan and got a round beating for the offence and demoted to a post in the royal kitchen. But Tughral regained his master’s confidence and was promoted to the post of Amir-i-Akhur, i.e. in charge of the royal stable. Minhaj- us-Siraj speaks highly of the personal qualities of Tughral. “He was adorned with all sorts of humanity and sagacity, and graced with many virtues and noble qualities; and liberality, generosity and power of winning men’s hearts, he had no equal.”
Even after making allowances for the possible exaggeration, for Minhaj was bestowed by Tughral with many favours, it can be safely accepted that Tughral was far superior to the contemporary Maliks whose selfishness and tyranny made people suffer terribly under their rule. Tughral Tughan Khan ruled over Bengal and Bihar for nearly nine years in virtual independence. But he obtained formal recognition of his authority from Sultana Raziyab- He received from her the insignia of office—a red canopy and standards in return for his protestations of loyalty to the Sultana and the rich presents that he had sent her through his personal envoy.
Tughral Tughan kept himself aloof from the court politics at Delhi and would read Khutba and strike coins in the name of the member of Iltutmish’s family whoever might happen to occupy the Delhi throne. He kept every Delhi Sultan pleased by sending presents after his accession. Tughral now launched upon a career of conquest. He began with a successful campaign against Tirhut which resulted in acquisition of rich booty but no submission. Tughral Tughan was particularly mindful of reorganizing his army and navy. While he raised a large number of horse and infantry, he also built a flotilla of war-boats.
It is rather interesting to find that he did not use his military strength to extend his dominions within Bengal by occupying the nearby Hindu rulers’ kingdoms, but conserved his energy for trial of strength with his fellow Mamluks of Oudh, Kara-Manikpur, and Ganga-Jamuna doab in order to make himself the defacto sovereign of eastern India. It is said that his Syrian minister Baha-ud-din Hilal instigated him to this ambitious scheme.
That Tughral Tughan was a highly ambitious person can easily be understood from his adoption of high-sounding title to be found in his inscription discovered at Bihar. Majlis-i-Ala Ghiyas- al-Islam wa al-Musalmain Mughis-al Muluk wa al-Salatin Abi-al-Fatha Tughral-al- Sultani. In 1242 Tughral advanced towards Bihar by river route and without any opposition succeeded in proceeding in a victorious march through Chunar, Benaras, Allahabad and Kara. Ala-ud-din Mahmud Shah was the Sultan at Delhi. Tughral obtained Khilat from him (1243) an umbrella and a red canopy of state.
But soon after his triumphant return to Lakhnauti Narasimhadeva king of Orissa led an expedition into Radha and the frontiers of Vanga. Narasimhadeva took advantage of the time consumed in the withdrawal of the army and the fleet from Lakhnauti to distant places like Kara, Allahabad etc. The result was that “The Muslims sustained an overthrow, and a great number of those holy warriors attained martyrdom.”
Situation at Lakhnauti was also very critical. Tughral sent Sharf-u’ Mulk and Jalal- ud-din Kashani to Delhi to seek military assistance. Sultan Ala-ud-din Mas’ud Shah ordered Malik Qara-Qash Khan governor of Kara-Manikpur and Malik Tamar Khan of Oudh to at once proceed to “exterminate the infidels of Jajnagar” (Orissa). The Orissa King Narasimhadeva, in the meantime, had occupied Laknor and was advancing towards Lakhnauti.
He advanced upto Rajmahai Hills but finding the combined forces of Kara- Manikpur and Oudh arrayed against him he fell back and retreated. Tughral Tughan wanted the forces of Qara-Qash Khan and Tamar Khan to return to their places. But Tughral had to share the unhappy fate of a prince that calls more powerful ally for military assistance.
Tamar Khan now contemplating to dispossess Tughral from Bengal laid seige of Lakhnauti and fighting between the forces of Tamar and Tughral continued. One day when after an engagement both sides were busy in taking their mid-day meal, Tamar Khan surprised Tughral Tughan who was left with few troopers with him in the camp near the gates of his city. Absolutely unprepared for the attack Tughral saved himself by fight within the city.
Through the good offices of Minhaj-us-Siraj negotiations were opened between the two Khans and Tughral was allowed to leave his city unmolested “with his treasures, elephants and followers”, giving up Lakhnauti and Bihar to Tamar Khan. Tughral left for the imperial court with his Amirs, Malik Qara-Qash, Minhaj, Taj-ud-din etc. and reached there on July 11, 1245′.
Sultan Ala-ud-din Masud was too weak to punish Malik Tamar Khan and it was not until Prince Nasir-ud-din Mahmud II occupied the Delhi throne that some relief was given to Tughral. He was appointed governor of Oudh, the province over which Malik Tama himself was also the governor. Tughral reached Oudh to make good his claim but he was removed by death before he could do anything.
Malik Tamar Khan was also not destined to enjoy his usurped rule for more than two years and by a divine coincidence died on the same night (March 9, 1247) that Tughral died in Oudh.
Sultan # 9. Jalal-Ud-Din Masud Jani (1247-51):
On the death of the usurper Tamar Khan Jalal-ud-din Jani was appointed governor of Bengal and Bihar by the imperial court. He ruled for about four years assuming the high-sounding title Malik-us-Sharq. Although he acknowledged the supremacy of the Delhi Sultanate, he assumed the title of Shah also.
Sultan # 10. Mughis-Ud-Din Yuzbak (1251):
Ikhtiyar-ud-din Yuzbak (later Mughis-ud-din Yuzbak) governor of oudh, was transferred to the governorship of Bengal and Bihar. He was a disloyal, habitual rebel and twice he revolted against Sultan Nasir-ud-din but Ulugh Khan Balban secured his pardon twice. As Minhaj puts it “rashness and imperiousness were implanted in his nature and constitution. Ikhtiyar-ud-din was, however, a man of great ability both as a soldier and a ruler.
He aimed at retrieving the prestige of the Turkish arms. He led an expedition to Radha but a very valiant chief of the Orissa king Narasimhadeva, who was also latter’s son-in-law has occupied the north-eastern comer of the Hooghly district and made Madaran his capital. In the three battles that were fought during the expedition, Ikhtiyar-ud-din was signally defeated.
He implored military assistance from Delhi in vain. But he was not to be daunted. He made another attack on Madaran and this time fortune smiled on him and he succeeded in capturing it. Gradually the whole of Radha came under his sway. Ikhtiyar-ud-din Yuzbak now rebelled against Delhi for the third time and declared himself independent assuming the title of Sultan Mughis-ud-din Yuzbak.
Next Mughis-ud-din conquered Oudh, thus making him sovereign over Bengal, Bihar and Oudh. In 1257 the imperial court was embroiled in a struggle of powerful nobles. This gave Mughis his opportunity. He proceeded on his expedition against Kamrup which was an unknown land to the Turks except only the bordering areas. He advanced with his army through Ghoraghat in modern Rangpur district, and Goalpara.
The king of Kamrup offered on resistance to Sultan Mughis and fled his capital. He sent proposals for paying tribute to Mughis-ud-din. Mughis-ud-din in the flush of success refused the offer. While Mughis-ud-din and his army were staying in kamrup the rains set in which made departure difficult. The Hindu subjects of the king of Kamrup laid an economic siege of Kamrup stopping all ways through which supply of food and other requirements of the army could reach.
Supply of fodder for the horses was also stopped. When Mughis ud-din and his men were in dire distress the Hindu subjects of the king of Kamrup took arms against them and in a desperate bid to leave Kamrup when Mughis-ud-din and his men began to flee the city they were attacked by the Hindu subjects of Kamrup king.
While fighting his way back Mughis-ud-din was fatally struck by an arrow in his breast and finding that death was approaching he surrendered with his army and his own family who were with him, to the king of Kamrup. As Sultan Mughis breathed his last (July, 1257) Bengal reverted to its allegeance to the Delhi Sultanate.
Sultan # 11. Mughis-Ud-Din Tughral Khan (1268-81):
Mughis-ud-din Tughral Khan was the last and the greatest of the Mamluk Maliks that ruled over Bengal. He was originally a household slave who rose into the position of Bengal governor during the reign of Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Balban. All the characteristic virtues of a Turk, namely, rack-less bravery, boundless ambition and resourcefulness were abundant in his character.
Mughis-ud-din Tughral Khan was first appointed a naib i.e. deputy of Bengal Governor Amir Khan who was also governor of Oudh. As Amin Khan had to look after the governorship of Oudh, which was his original appointment, the affairs of Bengal were largely left into the hands of Mughis-ud-din, his deputy. Mughis- ud-din Tughral Khan was a soldier of great ability and also an efficient administrator. He extended the boundary of Lakhnauti well within East Bengal and Built a fort named after himself Qila-Tughral at a place twentyfive mile from Dacca.
Tughral’s aggressions were not confined to East Bengal; he also perhaps extended the boundary of the Muslim dominion in the Radha tract and carried raids into the territory of Jajnagar (Orissa) whose northern boundary extended from Chotanagpur to the delta of the Bhagirathi River including portions of Birbhum, Bankura and Burdwan districts, and western half of Hooghly district. Tughral’s raid into Jajnagar brought him immense booty in elephants and treasures. But Tughral did not care to send to the imperial court the accustomed share of one-fifth of the booty.
Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Balban preoccupied with the Mongol menace could not turn his attention to Bengal. When on the occasion of a Mongel invasion he betook himself to Lahore and fell sick, rumour was afoot that the Sultan was dead, Tughral Khan took advantage of this situation and thinking that he had no obligation towards the Delhi Sultanate, absolved himself of his allegeance to Delhi.
Amir Khan who was the governor of Oudh and was also placed in charge of Bengal where Tughral was a naib i.e. deputy governor, at once sought to put down Tughral Khan. In the hostilities that began Amir Khan was defeated in a battle outside Lakhnauti. From Tarikh-i-Mubarakshahi we learn that Sultan Balban kept a diplomatic silence during his illness and on his recovery asked Tughral to celebrate the Sultan’s recovery in a befitting manner. Tughral was in no mood to retreat to the position of surveillance and replied by reading Khutba in his own name and assuming the title Sultan Mughis- ud-din. He made his court a rival of the imperial court at Delhi in grandeur and magnificence.
“He was more popular with the people and better served by them than Sultan Balban who was more feared than loved by his subjects.” According to Barni Tughral Khan “was profuse in his liberality ; so the people of the city (of Delhi), who had been there, and also the inhabitants of that place (Lakhnawati) become very friendly to him.
The troops and the citizens having shaken off all of the Balbani chastisement joined Tughral heart and soul.” On the authority of Barni we learn that Tughral Khan made a gift of five maunds of gold for the maintenance of an establishment of Darwishes in Bengal. His kingly virtues and liberality made him loved and respected by both Hindus and Muslims alike.
Sultan Balban when he came to know of Tughral’s assumption of sovereignty in Bengal “lost his sleep and appetite.” The Delhi Sultan at that time had no standing army and was obliged to depend on feudal and provincial levies. In 1278 an army composed of provincial levies marched against Tughral but after it had crossed the river Sarju on its way to Tirhut its progress was checked by Tughral’s forces which although weak in cavalry, were numerically superior to the imperial army.
The two armies remained encamped facing each other for a pretty long time which was used by Tughral in winning over some of the officers of the imperial army by payment of money. In the battle that eventually took place the army under Malik Turmati, governor of Oudh was miserably defeated; some of his men fearing the terrible punishment that would come upon them from Sultan Balban preferred to accompany Tughral to Lakhnauti According to Futuh-us-Salatin Sultan Balban got Turmati gibetted in the gateway of Oudh.
Next expedition against Tughral was sent under the next governor of Oudh who was also defeated by Tughral. It is said Balban also ordered the defeated governor who commanded the army against Tughral to death. Now Balban had no other alternative but to take the field against Tughral personally. Bengal campaign necessitated three years’ absence of Balban from the capital.
One year was consumed in making the preparation and two years in actual campaign. Balban placed the imperial administration in charge of Malik-ul-Umara, the Kotwal of Delhi and required his younger son Bughra Khan to leave the charge of Samana and Sunam and to follow up the expeditionary force. According to Barani Sultan’s expeditionary force comprised two lakhs men including cavalry, infantry, paiks (i.e. Hindu footmen), Dhanaks etc. To this two lakhs was added one lakh that accompanied Bughra Khan. Such a huge army never assembled under the banner of any Muslim emperor other than that of Muhammad bin Tughluq when he made a project for conquest of Khorasan. Needless to say Bengal was likely to be crushed under the sheer wight of numbers.
Tughral stealthily watched the crossing of the river Sarju by the imperial army from a fleet at the mouth of the river and then sailed back to Lakhnauti. In the meantime rains set in; the Balban’s army was slow in proceeding through mud and water. Tughral thinking defence of the city impossible against a force so vast evacuated the city of Lakhnauti with more respectable section of the civil population to escape from the barbarous cruelty of the Sultan. He took the road to Jajnagar.
Balban reached Lakhnauti, stayed there till the end of the rains and left for Delhi in September, 1280 leaving Hisham-ud-din as Commandant of Lakhnauti. Balban led two more campaign against Tughral one in the winter of 1280 and another after the rains of 1281. In 1281 expedition his army advanced far into East Bengal very near to Qila- i-Tughral. Tughral’s march towards Jajnagar in 1279 was “a mere bluff’ to divert the attention of Balban from the fort of Narkila where his family was staying. In 1281 again Tughral gave Balban slip.
According to Barani, Balban declared in public that “I have put half the empire of Delhi at stake for the pursuit of Tughral; if he would sit down on sea, I will pursue him.” This implacable resolve of the Sultan must have been born of his failure to touch Tughral and also perhaps of his realisation of his possible escape by boats into the sea if necessary.
At this point of time Balban entered into an agreement with Rai Danuj of Sonargaon according to which Rai Danuj undertook to watch the Brahamputra and the Padma down to Narkila as also other river ways to prevent Tughral’s escape when the Sultan would march upon the stronghold of Tughral.
Tughral had in the meantime left Narkila suspecting that the enemy got information of his hideout. Tughral successfully baffled the Sultan till now keeping his movements secret. One day a few merchants were found to return to their village. Suspecting that they might know the whereabouts to Tughral were caught hold of by some scouts of the imperial forces. Two of the merchants were at once beheaded, and being thus terrified others revealed the place where Tughral and his army were encamping.
This was followed by Malik Sher-Andaz and his desperadoes’ stealthy march on the camp of Tughral who was found drinking while his horses were grazing and elephants kept tied to trees. They attacked Tughral, who puzzled by the surprise attack thought that the entire army of the Sultan was upon him, fell into the nearby river to swim across in a bid to escape but was struck by an arrow from an enemy and another cut off his head. Thus came to an end the stormy career of Sultan Mughis-ud-din Tughral whose achievements both as a soldier, strategist and a ruler the contemporaries admired and the posterity must as well admire.
Balban stayed at Lakhnauti for some time during which he reorganised the administration and put his youngest son Bughra Khan on the masnad as governor of Bengal granting him all insignia of royalty. One day in a private meeting Balban administered an oath to his son Bughra Khan that he should thereafter exert himself in conquering Diyar-i-Bengal and establishing his authority there firmly, not to drink wine or idle away his time in childish amusement.
Balban exhorted his son: “Remember my son what amount of blood I have drunk in subduing Iqlim-i-Lakhnawati and Arsh-i-Bangala (Satgaon region) for the sake of the durability of the government of this country, I have acted like a Pharaoh and hanged people from gallows….But I know as soon as I shall travel away five or six stages, from Lakhnauti in the direction of Delhi, you will plunge yourself in voluptuous pleasures and merriment.”
Sultan # 12. Bughra Khan (1281-1300):
Prince Nasir-ud-din Mahmud Bughra Khan, youngest son of Sultan Balban was appointed viceroy of Bengal after the death to Tughral. There was a note of despair in the advice that Balban had administered to his son Bughra Khan and he made no secret that despite his advice, Bughra Khan would act in its full disregard. “I know” wrote Balban “that whatever principles of government I may enforce on this son of mine, he through his devotion to pleasure, will disregard them.”
Bughra Khan ruled over Bengal as viceroy, for six years from 1281-87 during which he lived a care-free life of pleasure. But his capable lieutenants true to Balban’s advice to his son Bughra Khan were carrying out the conquests of Satgaon and Sonargaon which had been only partially conquered before.
As Balban felt that his death was nearing he sent for Bughra Khan so that he might assume the imperial robe on his death, the eldest son Muhammad having been killed during a Mongol raid. Bughra Khan preferred to remain the viceroy of Bengal with all its pleasures to the prospect of an imperial throne and stealthily left for Bengal. Balban died in July, 1287 having settled the succession on his minor grandson Kai-Khusru. But the wazir, Nizam-ud-din set aside Kai-Khusru and placed Kaiqubad, son of Bughra Khan on the imperial throne with the ulterior motive of usurping the government.
Bughra Khan after observing a week’s mouring of his father’s death assumed full independence under the title Sultan Nasir-ud-din (Sept. 1287). The crafty wazir Nizam- ud-din at Delhi induced the young Sultan of 18 years who had been brought up by his grandfather in a puritanic atmosphere, shielding him from the prevalent vices, to give himself up to voluptuous pleasures and wine. This was done to reduce him to a puppet in order to make himself (wazir) the real master of the State. Bughra Khan wrote a series of letters to his son to mend his ways and when his advice proved unavailing he himself marched against Delhi.
In the plains of Ajodhya father and son met, and Kaiqubad sent his own son Kaimurs, a baby in arms with his minister to Nasir-ud-din (Bughra Khan). At the sight of his grandson Nasir-ud-din forgot himself, fondled the baby prince without noticing anything around. Sultan Nasir-ud-din wanted to see his son Kaiqubad. Crafty Nizam-ud-din set certain pre-conditions to the interview of Sultan Nasir-ud-din Bughra Khan with his son Sultan Kaiqubad.
When Nasir-ud-din reached the camp of the Delhi emperor by boat Kaiqubad was seated on the imperial masnad set up in the camp, the father felt like leaping out of the boat and the son coming down from the masnad. Ultimately Kaiqubad “ran barefooted to his father and was about to fall at his feet, when the weeping father caught him in his embrace.” Nasir-ud-din gave certain wholesome advice to his son and recommended Nizam-ud-din and Quam-ud-din to his special favour but in an opportune moment whispered into his son’s ears that these two should be put to death at the earliest opportunity.
Politically speaking, independence of Bengal was recognised by the Delhi Sultanate. Nasir-ud-din, however, handed back Oudh to Delhi but kept his hold on Bengal and Bihar. The political scene in Delhi was fast changing, Nizam-ud-din was poisoned to death but Sultan Kaiqubad himself was killed by the Khalji Maliks. Kaimurs a child, son of Kaiqubad was placed on the Delhi throne a few days before the murder of his father.
Kaimurs was given the title of Sultan Shams-ud-din but he also met with cruel death at the hands of Arkali Khan within a nominal reign of three months and a few days. The House of Balban thus came to an end at Delhi. The imperial throne was now occupied by Jalal-ud-din Firuzshah Khalji (April, 1290).
Nasir-ud-din on receipt of the news of the death of his son and grandson was much mortified. He discarded the royal insignia in disgust for life and abdicated placing his son Ruku-ud-din Kaikaus on the throne of Bengal. He died perhaps some time in 1290.
From the advice given by Bulban to his son Bughra Khan, later Sultan Nasir-ud- din Muhammad, gives us a clear idea about the latter’s character. Sultan Nasir-ud-din was of weak temperament, although wise in consel and was given to pleasures which kept him unmindful of his responsibilities as Sultan. His geniality of temperament, his affection for his children and his subjects earned him the esteem of his people.
Sultan # 13. Ruku-Ud-Din Kaikaus (1291-1301):
From the coins and inscriptions of the reign of Kaikaus we find that his rule extended over Bengal and Bihar. Under his father Nasir-ud-din Mahmud the Sultanate of Bengal was divided into four governorships of Bihar, Satgaon, Bang and Devkot. Tradition of local independence was deep rooted in Bengal and whenever there was weak government at the capital of Bengal, the centrifugal forces came into play. This force of local independence was working since the fourteenth century and ended up with the parceling out of portions of Bengal among the Bara Bhuniyas in the sixteenth century.
Kaikaus held his sway over a number of the Bengal feudatories including Firuz Aitigin who was the most powerful among them. The reign of Kaikaus synchronized with that of the Delhi Sultan Jalal-ud-din Firuz Khalji and initial years of the reign of Ala-ud- din Khalji. There is no evidence of any intercourse friendly or otherwise, between Delhi and Bengal during this period except that Jalal-ud-din who was unwilling to shed Muslim blood banished boat-loads of Thugs into Bengal. Invasion on Mongols and the distance of Bengal from Delhi precluded Jalal-ud-din’s attempting conquest of Bengal. Kaikaus was succeeded by Sultan Shams-ud-din Firuz.
Sultan # 14. Shams-Ud-Din Firuz (1301-22):
Sultan Shams-ud-din Firuz was the most capable and powerful ruler of Bengal among the descendants of the house of Balban. The greatest achievement of the reign of Shams- ud-din Firuz was the expansion of Muslim power over Mymensingh and Sylhet districts.
Shams-ud-din Firuz ascended the throne pretty late in life when he had already a few grown up sons each of whom was impatient to get the kingly power. His reign for the first seven years was peaceful but after this his sons became rebellious, the most turbulent among whom was Bahadur who began to rule as Sultan Bahadur Shah. Shams- ud-din was a ruler of exceptional ability which saved him from the tragedy of Emperor Shahjahan during his life time because of his rebellious sons.
He had a fad for naming cities after himself. Tribeni in Hooghly district was named Firuzabad. Pandua was found by Firuz-ud-din to be suitable from strategic and health points of view than Lakhnauti, and named it Firuzabad where the capital was transferred. Firuz-ud-din died full of years.
Sultan # 15. Shams-Ud-Din Iliyas Shah (1342-57):
Sultan-Shams-ud-din Iliyas Shah foster-brother of Ala-ud-din Adil Shah who had made himself independent in Northern Bengal reigned during 1339-1345. Fakhr-ud-din Mubarak Shah was the ruler of Sonargaon. In 1342 a new chapter was opened in the history of Bengal with the accession of Iliyas Shah to the throne of Lakhnauti. The entire Northern India was in turmoil at that time due to the impracticable plans put into hurried execution by Muhammad bin Tughluq. The Hindu Chiefs had thrown off the allegiance to the Delhi Sultan, the governor of provinces carved out independent position for themselves.
Lack of unity among the Hindu chiefs and absence of Delhi Sultan’s authority over the provincial governors made Iliyas Shah to lake advantage of the situation. Iliyas Shah took advantage of the struggle between the Hindu Rajas of Tirhut area and easily conquered Tirhut. He then advanced towards Nepal and destroyed many cities; entered Katmandu burnt and destroyed the holy Swayambhunath stupa and the sacred standard of Sakyamuni. His success whetted his military ambition and he sought to bring the long stretch of alluvial plain from Suvaranarekha to Godavari under his sway.
The wealth and numerous temples of this area namely of modem Bhuvaneswara, Cuttack Puri and Konarak long excited the cupidity of the Muslim invaders. Iliyas Shah exacted tribute from Orissa and advanced as far as Benares. In 1353 he further strengthened his position by overthrowing Fakr-ud-din Mubarak Shah’s son, the rival Sultan of Sonargaon. But within a year his conquests began to melt away.
On the death of Muhammad bin Tughluq Firuz Tughluq, the new Sultan of Delhi quickly set the affairs of the state in order, then proceeded to chastise Sultan Iliyas Shah. His army comprised 90,000 horsemen, a vast number of infantry and archers, and one thousand war-boats.
On the evidence of Siraj-Afif we learn that the flotilla of Iliyas Shah proceeded up to the confluence of the Ganges and the Gogra to oppose the imperial navy. But Firuz Tughluq overcoming all oppositions occupied Pandua, the capital of Iliyas Shah. Iliyas Shah took shelter in the Ekdala which could not be reduced to submission by the imperial forces despite prolonged efforts. Firuz then had recourse to a strategem and sent a saint as a spy who represented to Iliyas Shah that confusion and disorder broke out in the imperial forces and it would be easy for Iliyas Shah to defeat them.
Relying on the false representation of the spy Iliyas Shah felt encouraged to emerge from the fort to fight the imperial army in open engagement Firuz Shah’s stratagem having succeeded, he inflicted a severe defeat on Iliyas Shah who again repaired to the fort Ekdala.
Firuz Shah laid siege of the fort but to no purpose. According to Sirat-i-Firuz-Shahi it is said that the imperial army was determined to raze the fort to the ground “but the piteous lamentation and supplications of Muslim women who came unveiled to the parapet with dishevelled hair, so moved the Sultan that he forthwith quitted Ekdala for Delhi.” Zia- ud-din Barani, however, says that the Sultan would not listen to the demand to make an all out attack on the Ekdala and proceeded towards Delhi with Bengali prisoners, forty- seven elephants and other booty. Iliyas Shah was left to rule over Bengal as an independent Sultan.
In 1355 and 1356 Iliyas Shah sent presents to the Delhi Sultan as token of friendship. In 1357 Sultan Firuz Shah requested Iliyas Shah to send him a few elephants which Iliyas Shah gladly sent through Malik Taj-ud-din. Firuz Tughluq reciprocated by sending Iliyas Shah a few Turkish and Arabian horses, some fruits brought from Khorasan and other valuable presents. After having ensured the friendship of the Delhi Sultan. Iliyas Shah started preparations for conquest of Kamrup. Conquest of Kamrup was the last military achievement of Iliyas Shah.
We have no historical records about the character, administration and life of Iliyas Shah. It is said that he had built a city named Hajipur and excavated an aqueduct in Firuzabad, i.e. Adina. It is also not known for certain the year in which his reign came to an end. There is difference of opinion about the date of his death. According to the coins of his reign the date of his death has been placed at 1357 whereas Twarik-i- Mubarakshahi and Sirat-i-Firuz-Shahi put the date as 1358.
It goes without saying that Iliyas Shah was one of the greatest independent Sultans of Bengal. Under his rule Bengal knew peace and order which again resulted in overall prosperity. He patronised architecture, and various other cujtural activities.
Sultan # 16. Sikandar Shah (1357-89):
On the death of Iliyas Shah, his son Sikandar Shah became Sultan of Bengal. He was an equally capable monarch like his father Iliyas Shah. For the three decades that he ruled over Bengal, he protected the independence of Bengal against the attacks of Delhi. Unfortunately we have no records of his long reign except a few inscriptions and brief reference in contemporary Persian chronicles which refer to his engagement with imperial forces.
In order to consolidate his position on the throne, Sikandar Shah made diplomatic overtures to Delhi by sending an envoy Alam Khan to the imperial court in the year of his coronation. A second embassy was sent some months afterwards with a present of five elephants. But all this did not neutralise the hostilities of the Delhi Sultan towards Bengal. Firuz Tughluq won a great military victory over Iliyas Shah, but could not reduce the latter to his vassalage. Independence of Bengal was naturally a challenge to the pride of Firuz Tughluq as also an affront to his pride and prestige. Firuz Tughluq was, therefore, looking for a favourable opportunity to deal with Bengal adequately.
Sultan Fakr-ud-din of Sonargaon and his family had been massacred by Iliyas Shah in 1532 while conquering Sonargaon. Fakr-ud-din’s son-in-law Zafar Khan, a Persian, held a high post in the revenue department of Fark-ud-din, but was reduced to insignificance by Iliyas Shah. Zafar Khan went to Delhi to seek redress. Firuz soon after the accession of Sikandar Shah sent an ultimatum demanding the latter’s allegiance and the demand was supported by marching an army 80,000 strong cavalry, 470 elephants, and an enormous body of infantry.
Sikandar Shah followed the same strategy as did his father. He avoided any open battle and took shelter in the fort Ekdala. There were only skirmishes between groups of imperial and Bengal troops. The imperial army dashed itself in vain against the fort and could not detect a single weak point in the defences of the fort nor a split in the ranks of the Bengalis who kept the imperial army on the defensive.
According of Afif a tower of the fort crumbled down due to the sheer weight of Sikandar’s men and when the imperial army wanted to enter the fort through the breach Firuz Tughluq desisted them in order to save the honour of the women within the fort. Negotiations were started and brought to a successful, close due to a Bengali officer Azam Humayum Haibat Khan whose readywit and mastery over speech ended in the signing of a treaty of friendship between Firuz Tughluq and Sikandar Shah and there was exchange of presents. Firuz Tughluq left for Delhi (1359). From this year, for a period of about two centuries Bengal maintained her independence.
Sikandar was a capable ruler and under his rule peace and order prevailed, which led to much prosperity. He was a patron of architecture and the famous Adina Mosque which can be seen even to-day. This mosque is 507 feet in length and 285 feet in breadth. A mosque so large cannot be found anywhere else in India.
“This sumptuous mosque extending 507 ft. north to south and 285 ft. east to west surpasses in sheer dimension any other building of its kind in India. The central quadrangle inside the mosque forms a rectangle 400 ft. long by 150 ft. wide and is enclosed within ranges of pillard aisles five feet deep on the western side and three on the remainder, consisting of 400 pillars in all.”
In Riaz-us-Salatin it is stated that the mosque took four years (1364-68) to be built. This statement is also corroborated by an inscription on the western side of the wal of the mosque. This magnificent structure which rivals in size the Great Mosque of Damascus was built with the spoils of the Hindu and Buddhist shrines. R. K. Chakraborty observes that “a Buddhist stupa was dismantled to secure materials for its building.”
Remains of Hindu images, carved head of a lion said to have formed the part of the throne of a Hindu Raja, mutiliated figures of Hindu deities are found in the door sills and all over to hall. “It is not improbable” remarks Percy Brown “that the finest monuments of the Hindu capital Lakhnauti were demolished in order to produce this one Muhammedan mosque. Adina mosque apart, the mosque of Akhi Siraj-ud-din, the Kotwali Darwaza built in the centre of the city of Gaur as also two other mosques built by Maulana Ata (1363) at Gangarampur in Dinajpur District and the other at Molla Simla in Hooghly district belong to this period. The famous saint Shaikh Alaul Haq lived at Pandua during Sikandar’s reign.
The last years of Sikandar’s reign were disturbed by the plots of his sons. Sikandar had seventeen sons by his first wife and only one by his second. His too much love for the only son of his second wife excited the jealousy of the first wife who poisoned Sikandar’s ears. The young Prince Ghiyas-ud-din Azam had to escape for life to Sonargaon where he took up arms against his father in 1388 and conquered Sonargaon and Satgaon. The war ended in the victory of the prince Ghiyas-ud-din Azam but Sikandar lost his life in action against his son (1389). According to tradition Sikandar was buried in a chamber attached to Adina mosque.
Sultan # 17. Ghiyas-Ud-Din Azam Shah (1389-1409):
Ghiyas-ud-din Azam Shah was a patricide no doubt but he was driven to that state by the jealousy of his stepmother. According to Sir Jadunath, Ghiyas-ud-din Azam Shah was an attractive figure among the Sultans of Bengal. Two anecdotes which got currency among the people of Bengal and assumed the character of proverbs are worth mentioning. One was Sultan Ghiyas-ud-din Azam Shah’s great regard for law and justice. On one occasion the Sultan while practising with bow and arrows, an arrow accidentally killed the son of a widow who sued the Sultan before the Qazi.
On being summoned by the Qazi the Sultan appeared before him and accepted the punishment, namely to compensate the widow for the death of her son. After the trial was over the Sultan told the Qazi that if he would have shown favour towards him (Sultan) he would have been beheaded, the Qazi promptly replied, if his Royal Majesty would not obeyed the law Qazi would have scourged him.
The second anecdote was that the Sultan when fell ill and thinking that the illness would prove fatal asked his three concubines named Cypress, Tulip and Rose to wash his body after his death. The Sultan recovered but the three concubines were now shown greater favour by the Sultan which made jealous the other inmates of the harem.
When the matter reached the ears of the Sultan he wrote a poem praising the three concubines, but he could write only one line of the poem but failed to complete it. He wrote to poet Hafiz who supplied him the second line of the poem. This is how he corresponded with Hafiz, but its truth is questioned by many.
From Assamese Buranji it is learnt that the Ahom King Sudangpha led an expedition against the Raja of Kamta for harbouring a noble in his court who had given offence to Ahom King. When the Ahom King invaded kamta kingdom, Ghiyas-ud-din Azam Shah thought it be a good opportunity for him to carve out a portion of the Kamta kingdom. Faced with the double danger the Kamta Raja concluded a peace with the Ahom King and the combined forces of the Ahom and Kamta Kingdoms forced the Bengal army to retreat beyond the river Karatoya.
According to Ferishta Ghiyas-ud-din cultivated friendship with Khwaja Jahan ruler of Jaunpur to whom he sent elephants and other gifts. There was also friendly intercourse between Ghiyas-ud-din and the contemporary Chinese ruler. In 1406 a Chinese mission visited Bengal and Mahuan came as an interpreter of the mission. Mahuan has left a brief but interesting account about Bengal. In 1409 Ghiyas-ud-din reciprocated by sending his own envoys with presents to the Chinese emperor. Ghiyas-ud-din was murdered in 1409 for which a tradition holds Raja Ganesh responsible.
Sultan # 18. Saif-Ud-Din Hamza Shah (1409-10):
On the murder of Ghiyas-ud-din his son Saif-ud-din Hamza Shah was placed on the throne by the army chief in 1409, with the title Sultan-us-Salatin i.e. King of Kings. But his accession was a signal for a civil war between himself and his Kinsmen. During the confusion Ganesh, the Zamindar of Bhaturia and Dinajpur and an influential officer of Iliyas Shahi rulers of Bengal, declared his independence and assumed the title Raja and made himself the virtual dictator during the reign of the puppet rulers like Saif- ud-din Hamza Shah.
Sultan # 19. Jalal-Ud-Din Muhammad—Jadusen (1418-31):
From the coins issued by Jalal-ud-din it may be confidently said that he ruled over whole of Bengal including East Bengal and Chittagong. According to tradition, recorded by Ghulam Hussain Salim, Jalal-ud-din transferred his capital from Pandua to Gaur. He had, however, built many splendid buildings at Pandu, and one mosque, two tanks and a sarai in Gaur.
Jalal-ud-din’s rule was a period of peace and prosperity for Bengal. According to Ghulam Hussain the Eklakhi tomb at Pandua contains the mortal remains of Jalal-ud-din, his wife and son. Cunningham considers this sepulchre as an excellent example of Muslim architecture of Bengal in the pre-Mughal days. Many of the stones of this tomb clearly show that they once formed parts of Hindu and Buddhist shrines.
Jalal-ud-din was succeeded by his son Shams-ud-din Ahmad in 1431, but his reign was a catalogue of crimes and follies. The nobles, at last, got rid of this ruler by getting him assassinated (1442).
For a time the assassins of Shams-ud-din Ahmad held the power of the State, but under them situation did not improve. On the contrary the two assassins Shadi Khan and Nasir Khan fell out in a struggle for power in which Shadi Khan was first killed but Nasir Khan was also assassinated within a week. A descendant of Iliyas Shahi dynasty—Nasir-ud-din, was chosen by the people to be the new sovereign.
Sultan # 20. Rukh-Ud-Din Barbak (1459-74):
Before his accession to his father’s throne Rukh-ud-din Barbak was a viceroy of Satgaon. He is regarded as a sagacious, law-abiding sovereign in whose reign the citizens and soldiers enjoyed security and contentment alike.
In Risalat-us-Shuhada by Pir Muhammad Shattari exploits of Barbak are narrated. Hostilities with Orissa were perhaps an unending process and these hostilities related to the occupation and recovery of the fortress. Mandaran in the Arambagh subdivision which was captured by Gajapati king Kapilendra but was ultimately recovered by Ismail on behalf of Barbak.
Ismail was then sent to recover the cis-Karatoya regions which had been lately over run by the Kamrup forces. Kamtapur kingdom was then in most flourishing state and progress of Ismail was severely contested. Kamtapur king Kameswar fought the battle near Santosh in Dinajpur and was severely defeated.
But the saintly character of Ismail so impressed him that he is reported to have surrendered and embraced Islam. So long as Ismail was alive the frontiers of Bengal ran along the Karatoya. But the suctess of Ismail excited the jealousy of Bhandsi Rai Commandant of the fort of Ghoraghat. He poisoned the ears of Barbak who ordered Ismail’s execution (Jan. 1474).
On the authority of Ferishta we come to know that Barbak collected a large number of Abyssinian slaves and employed them in the army as also in the palace guard. He is said to have employed about eight thousand Abyssian slaves to such posts who gradually monopolised all the key positions of the state.
Dinajpur inscription of Barbak indicates that his dominions extended north of the Ganges. But the districts of west of Monghyr belonged to the Sharqis of Jaunpur. Sylhet belonged to Bengal Sultan, the possession of Chittagong was disputed by the Arakanese but Barbak’s authority was re-established there. Occupation of Bakhargunge which linking the recently conquered Jessor-Khulna regions gave Muslim dominion in Bengal a continuous frontier.
Barbak took great interest in Bengali literature and patronised Maladhar Basu who wrote his Shri Krishna Bijay in 1473 and honoured him with the title Gunaraj Khan. Maladhar Basu records gratefully the patronage he received from Barbak. Maladhar Basu’s son was likewise conferred the title of Satyaraj Khan by Barbak.
Sultan # 21. Shams-Ud-Din Yusuf (1474-81):
Barbak was succeeded by his son Yusuf. According Ferishta and Nizam-ud-din, Shams-ud-din Yusuf was an able administrator and a vastly learned man. He dispensed strictest justice according to law and insisted on impartial application of law to all his subjects. He would often assist the judges to come to correct judgement in difficult cases.
He refrained from taking wine. The inscriptions on the wall of the Baisdarwaza mosque show that he extended his dominion to the south, perhaps at the cost of Orissa. His dominion over Sylhet continued as is evident from an inscription near the mosque of Shah Jalal at Sylhet. Yusuf perhaps died in 1481.
Sultan # 22. Jalal-Ud-Din Fath (1481-86):
According to Salim, Yusuf was succeeded by his son named Sikandar but on his accession he showed signs of lunacy and after three days of his accession the crown was offered to another son of Yusuf named Hussain who assumed the title of Jalal-ud- din Fath.
Jalal-ud-din Fath is said to have been a liberal, intelligent and capable ruler under whom people “enjoyed happiness and comfort.” The Abyssinians through the continued patronage of Barbak and Yusuf were holding positions in the government. They now swarmed in the palace and the city.
Power made them arrogant and their behaviour with the people was characterised by violence. As their arrogance exceeded all tolerable limits Fath decided to punish them and curb their power. As Ferishta states, more defiant among them were punished “with the scourge of justice.” This led to discontent among them and they entered into a conspiracy with chief eunuch of the palace Sultan Shahzada who commanded the palace guards and at a time when the loyal Abyssinian commander of the forces Amir-ul-umara-Malik Andil, Shahzada murdered Fath (Dec. 1486).
With the murder of Fath Iliyas Shahi dynasty finally disappeared from the history of Bengal. This dynasty had produced with remarkable consistency able rulers who were tolerant, enlightened and contributed much to the economic and intellectual life of the people of Bengal for nearly a century.
It certainly goes to the credit of the Iliyas Shahi Sultans of Bengal that although they belonged to an alien faith, ruled over the people of Bengal and enjoyed people’s trust and allegiance. Tolerance was their greatest asset and when this dynasty was out of power for about twenty-five years and situation fast continued to deteriorate people of Bengal restored this dynasty to power. “It was a singular proof of their popularity— a popularity which rested on their past services. The dynasty had almost become an integral part of Bengal’s political and social life and its passing boded ill for the country.”
Sultan # 23. Barbak Shah (1487):
Rukh-ud-din Barbak’s too much latitude towards the Abyssinian slaves and employing them in high positions of the government, army and palace guards cost the life of Fath. The blind policy of placing reliance on the Abyssinian slaves had resulted in so total destruction of old nobility that there was not a sign of opposition when the murderer Abyssinian slave body-guard assumed sovereignty. Bloch-mann observes “from protector of the dynasty, the Abyssinians became the master of the kingdom.”
Murderer of Fath, Shahzada sat on the throne, assumed the title of Barbak Shah. Malik Andil, the loyal commander of Fath’s army returned to the capital. This un-nerved Barbak Shah. He persuaded Malik Andil to take an oath not to place his hand on him so long as he would be on the throne.
Malik Andil with the help of the paiks, one night secretly entered the palace but finding Barbak Shah sleeping on the throne, he remembered his oath not to place his hand on Barbak so long as he was on the throne, and stopped. But nemesis dragged Barbak Shah to his end. Due to the influence of too much drinking he slipped down from the throne. This gave Malik Andil his opportunity to kill Barbak.
It is difficult to say how long Barbak Shah’s sovereignty lasted. Salim assigns to him a reign of six months only.
Sultan # 24. Saif-Ud-Din Firuz (1487-90):
Malik Andil was loyal to his assassinated master Fath. True to his salt he offered the throne to Faith’s infant son, but Fath’s widow declined it. The Abyssinian general then was persuaded by the nobles led by Wazir Khan Jahan to assume the sovereignty. Malik Andil ascended the throne in 1487 with the title Saif-ud-din Firuz.
Saif-ud-din Firu”z’s attachment to Iliyas Shahi dynasty and his reputation as a capable soldier inspired awe and respect and people soon forgot his racial origin. His benevolence, his charity kindness were highly praised by the historians. According to Riyaz the largeness of his gifts “once confounded his treasury officials.” Firuz’s inscription found at Sherpur on northern Mymensingh, shows the continued inclusion of that part of Bengal within the kingdom of Gaur. Saif-ud-din’s rule terminated with his murder at the hands of the paiks, (Abyssinian Troops) who now became the King-makers.
Sultan # 25. Nasir-Ud-Din Mahmud II (1490-91):
The antecedents of Sultan Nasir-ud-din are not known. In coins and inscription of his time he described himself as “king, son of a king”—an unprecedented and unusual description of the parentage of a ruling monarch. Mahmud was very young as such the government was carried on by Habsh Khan, an Abyssinian.
But Sidi Badr, nick-named Diwana (i.e. mad), became jealous of Habsh Khan and assumed the regency and was planning to usurp the throne. He entered into a conspiracy with palace guards and murdered Mahmud and occupied the throne himself. Mahmud’s reign ended within one year of his accession.
Sultan # 26. Shams-Ud-Din Muzaffar (Sidi Badr Diwana) (1491-93):
Sidi Badr, assassin of Mahmud assumed the style Shams-ud-din Muzaffar. The rule of three years and few months of this Abyssinian was the climax of the infamous reign of tyranny and disorder which caused widespread discontent among officers, soldiers, including the wise minister Sayyid Hussain who was of Arab descent.
In order to root out opposition, he did not rest content by purging the administration of all suspected of disloyalty but commended a ruthless destruction of Hindu nobility and princess suspected of least opposition to his sovereignty. His greed for money led him to make extortionate demands from the people.
The reign of terror unleashed by Sidi Badr ultimately drove the people to armed resistance. The Wazir Sayyid Hussain secretly joined the insurgents. Sidi Badr was beseiged in Gaur for four months during which he died. Nobles of Bengal raised Sayyid Hussain to the throne of Bengal in 1493 under the title Ala-ud-din Hussain Shah.
Sultan # 27. Hussain Shah (1493-1538):
Ala-ud-din Hussain Shah marks the beginning a new dynasty which ruled over Bengal for nearly half a century.’ After the Habshi interregnum had violently disturbed the social, economic and cultural progress of Bengal, there was the need for a capable person who would meet the Hussain, an Arabian. One of the first things that Hussain Shah did was to transfer his capital to Ekdala.
Hussain Shah was a wise, far-sighted capable administrator, a liberal-minded, just and honest ruler. He was a great patron of art and culture. The creative genius of the Bengalis reached its Zenith under the liberal patronage of Hussain Shah.
On the accession to the throne Hussain Shah’s task was to bring peace and order out of the prevailing confusion and disorder into which the country had been thrown by the Abyssinian usurpers. In order to save Bengal and her people from the Habshi berteful political influence Hussain Shah drove the Habshis i.e. the Abyssinians from Bengal.
The palace guards had become unruly during the Habshi rule. Hussain Shah put them down with a strong hand and then disbanded and dispersed them. He sent efficient district officers to different parts of his dominions and all the disloyal elements were suppressed and removed from office. In 1494 Sikandar Lodi defeated Sharqi Sultan Hussain of Jaunpur and the kingdom of Jaunpur was annexed to the Delhi Sultanate.
Hussain of Jaunpur took refuge in Bengal. Occupation of Jaunpur, the entrance to Bihar and Bengal by the Lodi Sultan of Delhi was a threat to the security of Sultanate of Bengal. Hussain Shah received his name sake with all honour and hospitality. Sikandar Lodi saw in this undue liberal treatment of the Sharqi Sultan by Hussain Shah some secret political motive. He, therefore, advanced towards Bengal frontiers.
Hussain Shah had anticipated it and sent his son Daniyal to intercept the invaders. Whether for fear of the Bengal army or exhaustion of war and long march, the Lodi generals hesitated to start fighting. Sikandar Lodi was obliged to open negotiations. The result was that the whole of North Bihar and trans-Gandak region came within Hussain Shah’s sway.
Next, Hussain Shah proceeded tpwards north-east. Barbak had lost considerable territories on the eastern bank of Karatoya to the king of Kamtapur. Hussain Shah invaded Ahom kingdom of Assam and captured Kamtapur. A colony of Afghans was left in Kamrup, but Kamrup was recovered by its Ahom king.
From Riyaz-us-Salatin and an annonymous historical writing we know that Hussain Shah extended his territories upto the borders of Orissa. He could not succeed in his military campaign against Orissa. When Hussain Shah ascended the throne Bengal was involved in a war with Tipperah. Hussain Shah annexed portions of Tipperah and recovered Chittagong from the Arakanese possession.
Recovery of Chittagong is also indicated in Rajmala. Tipperah and Chittagong campaigns were in all probability led by the crown- prince Nusrat. He was assisted by Paragal Khan who was appointed military governor of the newly acquired territory. Paragal Khan and later, his son Chhuti steadily pushed the Arakanese southwards and kept a vigilant watch on the Tipperah king. Hussain Shah died in 1519.
Sultan # 28. Nasir-Ud-Din Abul Muzaffar Nusrat Shah (1519-32):
Of the eighteen children of Hussain Shah, Nusrat Shah was the eldest. He was nominated to succeed Hussain Shah during the latter’s life time and as was customary in Bengal, the crown-prince was permitted to strike coins in his own name.
Nusrat Shah inherited his father’s quality of liberalism and humanism. He was equally just and impartial administrator. On his accession to the throne, he, contrary to the prevalent custom, instead of putting his brothers to death, raised their status and dignity and enhanced their allowances. He practically settled double the estate each of them had actually inherited.
Nusrat Shah had inherited his father’s qualities in full and by working with his father as the crown-prince he had imbibed the administrative and military abilities of a high order and got a thorough grasp of the political problems of the state. He also possessed subtle diplomatic ability which stood him in good stead as a ruler.
Accession of Nusrat Shah to the throne of Bengal synchronised with the decline and fall of the Delhi Sultanate. The Lohani and Formuli Maliks appropriated the country from Jaunpur to Patna. Hussain Shah’s non-aggression pact with Sikandar Lodi gave Bengal peace but no security. Occupation of North Bihar later by Hussain Shah gave protection to only one flank of Bengal but no military barrier separated Delhi from Monghyr.
Nusrat Shah entered into an alliance with the Lohani and Formuli Maliks and thereby strengthening his frontiers against possible attack from Delhi, advanced against Tirhut and brought whole of it under his sway. He placed his two brothers-in-law in charge of administration there. He set up a military out-post at Hajipur on the confluence of the Ganga-Jamuna Rivers, thereby gave security to his kingdom.
In 1526 when Babur won victory in the battle of Panipat, Nusrat Shah formed and entente with the Afghan chiefs who had flocked to the East. The Afghans sustained a defeat at the hands of Humayun in August 1526, this made Nusrat Shah to realise the strength of his adversary and he thought it prudent to maintain neutrality in order to disarm Mughal hostility. Babur sent his envoy to Nusrat Shah’s court to know his attitude towards him. Nusrat Shah kept the envoy in his court for one year avoiding any answer as to his attitude. As this roused suspicion, Nusrat Shah sent an envoy to Babur with presents and assurance of loyalty. He, however, lent secret support to the Afghans.
Thus by feigning loyalty to the Mughals at times and supporting the Afghans against the Mughals, Nusrat played his diplomatic cards well. Death of Bahar Khan Lohani, the main organiser of Afghan resistance against the Mughals had practically disrupted the Afghan confederacy in the East.
Sher Khan who obtained a jagir from the Mughals was trying to enhance his power and interest with the assistance of the governor of Jaunpur all the more disrupted the Afghan unity. The task, therefore, fell on Nusrat Shah who with his subtle diplomacy kept appearances of friendship with the Mughals and at the same time tried to reorganise Afghan resistance against the Mughals.
By 1529 Mahmud of the Lodi dynasty, Nusrat Shah and Sher Khan for a time formed a confederacy against the Mughals but the purpose of the confederacy did not succeed due to utter incompetence of Mahmud.
On the death of Babur, Nusrat shah again formed a confederacy and Sher Khan for a time the Mughals. Humayun was about to march against Nusrat Shah when news reached him that Bahadur Shah of Gujarat had rebelled. Nusrat Shah sent his envoy Malik Marjan to Gujarat to establish contact with rebel Bahadur Shah. In the circumstance, Humayun has to first proceed against Bahadur Shah leaving Bengal alone.
During the reign of Nusrat Shah there were several engagements between Bengali and the Ahom Troops in which the Bengal was defeated. Even after Nusrat Shah’s death conflict with the Ahoms continued.
Nusrat Shah lost his life at the hands of an assassin who was one of his own slaves whom he had punished on an earlier occasion.
Like his father Hussain Shah, Nusrat Shah patronised Bengali literature. He ordered the translation of the Mahabharata into Bengali, which was the earliest of its kind. His military governor of Chittagong, Chhuti Khan ordered the translation of Mahabharata to be done by yet another writer named Srikara Nandi, Nusrat Shah was also a great builder. The Kadm Rasul and the Bara Sona Masjid of Gaur were built under his orders.
Sultan # 29. Ala-Ud-Din Firuz (1532-33):
Abdul Badr brother of Nusrat Shah seem to have been nominated heir-apparent during the life time of Nusrat Shah. But his nomination was perhaps opposed by a section of the nobles headed by the governor of North Bihar. Governor of Bihar Mukhdum, brother of Nusrat Shah, declared his young son as the ruler of Bengal under the title Ala-ud- din Firuz.
He, however, ruled a few months. But although young and ruled for a very short time, Ala-ud-din’s name is remembered for his patronage of literature, for it was on his request poet Sridhara composed the versified life story of Vidyasundar.
Sultan # 30. Ghiyas-Ud-Din Muhammad Shah (1533-58):
Usurpation of throne by Ala-ud-din Firuz Shah, contrary to the nomination of Abdul Badr led to an unfortunate struggle not consistent with the ideas and attitudes of the Hussain Shahi kings. Ala-ud-din was killed by his uncle Ghiyas-ud-din Muhammad Shah who occupied the throne in 1533. It was during his reign that Afghan chief Sher Khan, later Sultan Sher Shah defeated and expelled Ghiyas-ud-din Muhammad from Bengal. Thus Hussain Shahi dynasty of Bengal came to an end.