Disintegration of the Sultanate Period:
The Sultanate period covering a period of about 320 years between 1206 to 1526 A.D. had five ruling dynasties, each with an average period of about 64 years.
These dynasties were: Slave Dynasty (1206 to 1290), Khalji Dynasty (1290-1320), Tughlaq Dynasty (1320-1414), Sayyid Dynasty (1415-1451) and the Lodi Dynasty (1451-1526).
The disintegration of the Sultanate had begun during the Tughlaq period. The first to break from Delhi were the Deccan States in the South, Bengal in the east and Sind and Multan in the north-west.
Thereafter, the governors of Gujarat, Malwa and Jaunpur in eastern Uttar Pradesh also declared themselves independent. Various states in Rajasthan also asserted their independence.
Important independent powers were as under:
Bengal, Assam and Orissa, Gujarat, Malwa and Mewar, Sharqis of Jaunpur and Kashmir. In South India, Vijayanagara, Bahamni and Khandesh were the important powers.
The first Muslim invader to conquer Bengal was Ikhtiyar-ud-Din Muhammad Bin Bakhtiyar, a military commander of Muhammad Ghori. In 1204, he conquered Nadia, one of the capitals of Lakshman Sena of Bengal. During Balban’s reign, Bengal broke away from the Delhi Sultanate and declared its independence. Firoz Tughlaq made two attempts to capture Bengal but failed. Bengal enjoyed freedom for about two hundred years. Several Hindu and Muslim dynasties alternatively ruled over Bengal during this period.
Sher Shah Suri annexed Bengal in his empire in 1541. The Sultans of Bengal adorned their two capitals of Pandua and Gaur with magnificent buildings. The rule of Sultan Ala-ud-Din Hussain (1493-1519) witnessed a peaceful period. The Sultan followed a liberal religious policy.
He is said to have shown great respect to the famous saint Chaitanya. His Prime Minister was a Hindu. The chief physician, the chief of the bodyguard and the master of the mint and Sultan’s private secretary were also Hindus. Bengali literature flourished under his patronage.
On account of the richness of its soil, excellence of handicrafts and its flourishing seaports, Gujarat was considered one of the richest provinces of India. Its wealth tempted Mahmud Ghazni to plunder its important places and temples. He, therefore, invaded Gujarat and plundered Somnath. In 1297, during the reign of Ala-ud-Din Khalji, it was annexed to the Sultanate of Delhi. It became one of the provinces of the kingdom of Delhi and was ruled by Muslim Governors. In 1401, Zafar Khan, the governor of the province declared himself independent.
There was a bitter rivalry between the kingdoms of Gujarat and Malwa, which weakened the two kingdoms. After Zafar Khan, the next ruler was Ahmad Shah (1411-1422) who is considered to be the real founder of this kingdom. He fought several wars against Malwa, Khandesh and the Bahamni Kingdoms. He raised beautiful buildings and shifted his capital to the new city of Ahmedabad.
The most famous ruler of Gujarat was Mahmud Begarha who ruled for about 52 years from 1459-1511—a rare feat – (Ashoka about 40 years, Akbar 50 years and Aurangzeb 49 years). He fought many battles and supported the Bahamni Kingdom against Malwa. He fought against the Portuguese with the support of Egyptian fleet but could not check their influence on the sea and finally compromised with them.
Mahmud raised Gujarat to the status of one of the powerful states of northern India.
Gujarat made great progress under Mahmud in the field of literature and fine arts.
Mahmud, however, was not liberal in his religious outlook and he sacked Dwarka and destroyed several temples there.
Another capable ruler of Gujarat was Bahadur Shah. He conquered Malwa in 1531 and plundered Chittor, the capital of Mewar. However, he was defeated by Humayuan. Gujarat was finally conquered by the Mughal ruler Akbar in 1572 A.D.
Malwa occupied a very strategic position from geographical as well as political point of view. Its territory included on the north-west of the Deccan plateau, between the river Narbada and Tapti. It commanded the road trunk route between Gujarat and North India and between North and South India.
Its situation was such that if any of the kingdoms of the region could conquer Malwa, it would be in a very strategic and powerful position to become the master of the whole of northern India and could also play an important role in east, west and south India.
As long as Malwa was strong, it acted as a barrier against any ambition of expansion by the rulers of Gujarat, Mewar and the Lodi Sultans of Delhi. On account of its internal dissensions, Malwa became a prey to Ala- ud-Din Khalji in 1305 and remained under Delhi till 1401 when it became independent after the ransacking of Delhi at the hands of Tamer Lane.
Most of the rulers Of Malwa remained intolerant towards the Hindus. Mahmud Khan Khalji (1436-69), who is considered to be the ablest and the most powerful ruler of Malwa destroyed many temples. He fought with almost all the rulers of the neighbouring states but most of his time was spent in fighting against Rana Kumba of Mewar.
Mewar has produced several men and women of great qualities which have made them immortal in the annals of history. Among the great figures were Rana Hamir, Rana Kumba, Rayamalla Sangram Singh, popularly known as Rana Sanga and Maharana Pratap.
Mewar is associated with bravery, chivalry, honour and respect. The Kingdom achieved so much strength and progress during the reign of Rana Hamir that according to one version, he even imprisoned Muhammad Tughlaq for some time. However, this version is not accepted by several historians.
Rana Sanga is said to have invited Babur to invade India.
Kingdom of Jaunpur:
The Kingdom of Jaunpur located in eastern Uttar Pradesh was founded in 1394 A.D. by Malik Sarvar, a prominent noble of the time of Firoz Tughlaq. The dynasty had six rulers and it lasted for about 100 years. The dynasty came into being after the chaos and confusion that followed on account of the invasion of Timur.
At the height of its glory, the Jaunpur Kingdom (also known as Sharqi Kingdom of Jaunpur after the title Sharqi assumed by its founder) extended from Aligarh in Western Uttar Pradesh to Dharbhanga in North Bihar and from the boundary of Nepal in the north to Bundelkhand in the South. There were constant conflicts between the rulers of Delhi and Jaunpur for the expansion of the territory. Ultimately in 1505, Sikander Lodi annexed Jaunpur Kingdom.
Jaunpur, ‘the Shiraz of the East’:
The city of Jaunpur, situated on the river Gomati, 34 miles away from Varanasi towards the north-east, was the capital of the state of Jaunpur. On account of its being the centre of learning, art and architecture, it came to be known as ‘Shiraj of the East’.
Many rulers of this dynasty were great patron of culture. Ibrahim Shah who ruled from 1402 to 1436 made a special contribution. Men of letters, poets and scholars and saints used to assemble at Jaunpur and shed luste on it. Malik Muhammad Jaisi, the author of the well-known Hindi work ‘Padmavat’ lived at Jaunpur.
Jaunpur was beautified with magnificent buildings which included several mosques and mausoleums. The Atal Masjid is the most enduring achievement of Sharqi architecture.
Till the middle of the 14th century A.D., Kashmir remained a Hindu Kingdom with the vast majority of the Hindu population. It also remained nearly unaffected from the influence of the Delhi Sultans. It became a province of the Mughal Empire in 1586 under Akbar.
In 1315, Shah Mirza, a Muslim adventurer from Persia entered the service of a Hindu ruler. After the death of Udayana, the ruler of Kashmir in 1338m his wife took up the administration of the state in her hands as the sons were minors. By then Shah Mirza had become quite powerful. He imprisoned the queen and her sons and himself became the ruler of Kashmir.
Sikander Shah and Zainul Abidin were the two most important rulers of Kashmir during the medieval period. However, both of them were diametrically opposed.
Sikander Shah (1389-1413):
He was a great bigot. He ordered that all Brahamans and learned Hindus should embrace Islam or leave the valley. He destroyed several temples. He got the title ‘But-Shikani’ (Idol-breaker). It is said that only a few families of the Brahamans were left in Kashmir, as others were either converted to Islam or turned out of Kashmir.