Here is a list of nine mighty rulers who shaped the history of medieval India:- 1. Muhammud Bin Tughluq 2. Firuz Shah Tughlaq 3. Khizr Khan 4. Mubarak Shah 5. Muhammad Shah 6. Ala-Ud-Din Alam Shah 7. Bahlul Lodi 8. Sikandar Shah Lodi 9. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi.
Ruler # 1. Muhammud Bin Tughluq:
No ruler in medieval India has aroused so much controversy concerning his character and policy as Muhammad Tughluq. Probably, one reason for it was that contemporary historians did not express clear-cut opinion regarding his character and personality.
However, the controversy is limited concerning his cruel nature, adamant character and responsibility of failure of his schemes. Leaving them aside there are many other fields where unanimity has been expressed by historians.
All historians agree that Muhammad Tughluq possessed extraordinary qualities as a person. He had a well-built and powerful body. He was well- educated and there was hardly any branch of learning in which he had not achieved something—literature, history, philosophy, poetry, logic, mathematics, medicine, astronomy and calligraphy.
He knew both Persian and Arabic languages. He was interested in fine arts particularly music and patronized artists. His memory was remarkable and his intelligence was sharp and penetrating.
Thus, he was a scholar and a cultured individual who patronized scholars and persons of intellectual attainments. He was extremely generous and distributed rewards, gifts and presents with open heart to deserving individuals. He helped poor people, distributed large amounts in charity among them, built up hospitals and forty thousand people received food every day from the royal kitchen.
He observed high morality and was free from many vices of his age. He avoided liquor and attempted for prohibition. He was absolutely chaste concerning women and restrained his officers and soldiers to carry women with them to the battlefield. He respected persons elder to him in age. Probably he was responsible for the murder of his father but he inscribed the name of his father on his coins and always respected his mother.
He was a capable commander and a daring soldier. He proved his military talents when he fought against the Mongols as a prince. Even when he became the Sultan, he himself participated in all important battles of his reign and, thus, spent his life mostly on battlefields.
No other Sultan of Delhi spent so large time of his life on military campaigns as he did. He himself was primarily responsible for the conquest of the South. He faced many rebellions during his reign but wherever he went he largely succeeded in suppressing them.
Of course, he lost many distant provinces during his own rule but the reason for it was not his military incapability. He did not fail in any of his military campaigns even though the growing economic hardships of the empire, the famines in the North and the plague and cholera in the South had reduced the strength of his army. Thus, he failed not because of the failure of his military skill but because he had created certain conditions which were beyond his control and towards which he could not pay attention.
As a ruler, Muhammad Tughluq was devoted and extremely laborious. Besides, he opened all state offices to talent without any distinction of caste, creed, race or religion. But, he proved a failure. He gained no success in any field of administration during twenty-six years of his rule. All his schemes of internal reform failed and each of them taxed the resources of the empire, brought misery to his subjects and ruined his honour among them.
In foreign affairs, his scheme to conquer Khurasan was abandoned, his conquest of Qarajal adversely affected his military strength with no comparative gains, Bengal was lost to the Sultanate, independent kingdoms were established in the South and he lost his grip over the affairs in Gujarat and Sindh. Muhammad Tughluq had ascended the throne of a powerful and extensive empire. But he left it crippled and reduced in size.
It is accepted by all historians that the downfall of the Tughluq dynasty began during the closing years of his rule. Only two facts can be pointed out in favour of the Sultan as a ruler. One is that though he failed practically in every field yet no individual or a group of people dared to murder him as had been the fate of many weak rulers of the Delhi Sultanate.
Second is that though the Sultan died in the camp and his army remained in Sindh without a Sultan for two days, no noble dared to make himself Sultan and Firuz was elected as the Sultan without a contest.
Of course, the circumstances too, probably, were responsible for them, yet, it cannot be denied that the personality of Muhammad Tughluq as a ruler was also responsible for them. However, except these facts the Sultan must be pronounced a failure as a ruler and administrator.
The consensus of historians ends here. They largely differ regarding the personality, character, nature and activities of the Sultan. There are some historians who maintain that the Sultan failed as a ruler not because of his weaknesses but because of certain circumstances and non-cooperation of his subjects who were backward and prejudiced against him. But the majority of historians do not agree with this view.
They say that the Sultan himself was responsible for his failure. He lacked patience, balance, practical wisdom, common sense and quality of judgement of human nature and circumstances. All these weaknesses of his character led to his failure as a ruler.
This view of historians is logical and nearer the truth. The Sultan was fond of and also capable of propounding lofty schemes and visionary projects and, probably, these were correct also in principles. Yet, he always failed to find out ways and means to make them successful.
Therefore these, though sound on paper, failed when put to practice. The Sultan was overhasty and possessed a violent temper as well. He gave no proper time to assess the result of his schemes, because when he got annoyed in the face of least resistance he gave up his scheme in haste and punished the people without discrimination. The Sultan did not seek the cooperation of his officials and subjects patiently.
On the contrary, he was easily annoyed with them. If he did not get their cooperation he did not try to find faults with himself. Rather, he regarded them unreasonable and dishonest and, therefore, punished them severely. Thus, primarily, the Sultan himself was responsible for his failure. It would be wrong to contend that he failed due to his bad luck or non-cooperation of his subjects.
Contemporary historians Barani and Isami charged the Sultan of blasphemy (of being Kafir or irreligious). But this charge is absolutely baseless. Muhammad Tughluq was an extremely tolerant Sultan among rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. In spite of his devotion to Islam, he was prepared to tolerate people of other faiths. He called scholarly Jain saint, Jin Prabhu Suri to his court and gave him due respect.
He, rather, contacted saints and scholars of every religious faith. He was tolerant towards the Hindus, respected their religious sentiments and gave them respectable offices in the state. When he conquered Nagarkot he did not destroy the temple of Jwalamukhi. He was the first Sultan of Delhi who participated in the festival of Holi of the Hindus.
The fanatic Ulema group of people failed to appreciate his generosity in religious affairs. The Sultan, during early period of his reign, also did not care about them. On the contrary, he snatched away their privileges and punished them severely when found guilty of any offence. Therefore, the Ulema and fanatic Muslims became annoyed with him and charged him of being irreligious.
During later years of his reign, the Sultan had to compromise with them because of his increased unpopularity among his subjects. That is why he sought sanction of the Khalifa for his position and title and gave undue respect to Ghiyas-ud-din who was a distant descendant of the Khalifa.
Personally the Sultan who certainly was a devoted Muslim, observed principles of Islam, maintained its respect and punished those who worked against it. Therefore, Muhammad Tughluq was an extremely tolerant Muslim ruler and should be accepted as such.
However, the controversy regarding Muhammad Tughluq primarily concerns the cruel and self-contradictory nature. Ibn Batuta described that the Sultan enjoyed bloodshed as much as giving awards to the people. In an instant a poor person could become rich at his door and, on the contrary, an innocent could be punished by death.
Barani also wrote:
“(The Sultan) wantonly shed the blood of innocent Muslims, so much so indeed that a stream of blood was always seen flowing before the threshold of the palace.” Probably, because of these very opinions, Elphinstone concluded that “the Sultan suffered from some degree of insanity.”
He wrote- “It is admitted on all hands that he was most eloquent and accomplished prince of his age … yet the whole of these splendid talents and accomplishments were given to him in vain; they were accompanied by a perversion of judgement which after every allowance for intoxication of absolute power, leaves us in doubt whether he was not affected by some degree of insanity.” Some other European historians also accepted this view. But, modern historians do not accept this.
There is no doubt that Muhammad Tughluq severely punished all those who were criminals or who revolted against him and sometimes his punishment was out of proportion and extremely cruel. Ibn Batuta gave several examples of such cruelties of the Sultan. Firuz Tughluq was also convinced of abnormality of his cruel nature and therefore, compensated the successors of those people who had been victims of excesses of the Sultan.
Therefore, the attempt to free him from charge of cruelty is futile. Yet it would be wrong to conclude that the Sultan enjoyed bloodshed and was insane. Dr Ishwari Prasad has expressed- “Some historians lay the charge of madness on him but neither in the pages of Ibn Batuta nor in the history of Barani there is any mention of it.” He again wrote- “The charge that Muhammad Tughluq was mad was prepared by Mullas towards whom the behaviour of the Sultan was definitely contemptuous.”
Dr A.L. Srivastava also has kept him free from the charge of insanity against him. He writes- “Muhammad inflicted the punishment of death for petty offences not because he was mad but because he could make no discrimination between one crime and the other. The mistake was due to the lack of a sense of proportion rather than to mental insanity.” The majority of modern historians have refused to accept the Sultan as insane or mad.
Yet, there is another controversy regarding Muhammad Tughluq, “Was he a mixture of opposites?” Dr V.A. Smith wrote- “He was a mixture of opposites, as Jahangir was in his later age.” Dr Ishwari Prasad, however, has contradicted this view. He writes- “Only when viewed superficially Muhammad appears to be an ‘amazing compound of contradictions,’ but he was not really so.”
He contends that primary reasons for this misunderstanding were his ‘lofty ideals concerning administration’ and unreasonable adamant nature. Dr K.A. Nizami also does not accept him as “a mixture of opposites.” He contends that this view about the nature of the Sultan has been formed because of Barani who described him “a mass of inconsistencies” or a “mixture of opposites” while he himself possessed a miserably torn personality and gave inconsistent statements regarding the personality of the Sultan.
Barani sometimes praised the Sultan very much and, at other times, decried him whole-heartedly. Professor Nizami writes- “When Barani is in the present, he has love for Muhammad Bin Tughluq- when he is in the past, he has nothing but hatred for him.” This inconsistency of Barani’s statements has created wrong impressions about the personality of the Sultan among modern historians.
The same way, Dr Mahdi Hussain also does not accept him as “a mixture of opposites”. He contends that contradictory qualities of the nature of Muhammad Tughluq appeared at different periods of his career and there were clear reasons behind them. Therefore, he cannot be accepted as a “mixture of opposites.” But, there are certain other modern historians who have described the Sultan as “mixture of opposites.”
Certainly, activities of Muhammad Tughluq exhibited contradictory qualities of human nature. He was very much humble but at the same time extremely arrogant. He pleaded and forced Ghiyas-us-din, a poor relative of the Khalifa, to place his foot on his neck. This was a proof of his humble nature.
However, he was not prepared even to listen that there was any territory in the world where he did not rule. This was due to his pride and arrogance. At one time, the Sultan appeared before the court of the Qazi, sent him word to treat him as an ordinary person and accepted his judgement. While the same Sultan, at other times, inflicted penalty of death for ordinary offences.
This proves that ordinarily the Sultan was temperate but, at times used to lose balance of mind entirely. The same way, at times he was extremely generous and at other times extremely narrow-minded. That is why, Sir Woolseley Haig wrote- “Some of his administrative and most of his military measures give evidence of abilities of the highest order, others are the acts of madness.” Therefore we are inclined to accept Muhammad Tughluq as “a mixture of opposites.”
Dr A.L. Srivastava has accepted him as such. Dr R.C. Majumdar also writes- “He was not a monster or a lunatic, as has been suggested by some, but there is no doubt that he was a mixture of opposites, for his many good qualities of head and heart seem to be quite incompatible with certain traits of vices in his character such as revolting cruelty, frivolous caprice and an inordinate belief in his own view of things.” Thus, we do not accept Muhammad Tughluq as a mad man but, we agree that he, certainly, possessed opposite qualities of human nature.
Sultan Muhammad Tughluq, of course, failed as a ruler. Yet he has been assigned a prominent place among rulers of the Delhi Sultanate. Gardner Brown has praised the Sultan whole-heartedly while Dr Ishwari Prasad writes- “Muhammad Tughluq was unquestionably the ablest man among the crowned heads of the middle ages. Of all the kings who sat on the throne of Delhi since Muslim conquest, he was undoubtedly the most learned and accomplished ruler.”
The same way, Sir Woolseley Haig wrote- “He was one of the most extraordinary monarchs who ever sat upon a throne.” There is a large amount of truth in the statements of these historians. Muhammad Tughluq was an educated and scholarly Sultan.
He pursued high morality in his personal life which was rare with Sultans of medieval age. He was courageous, a good commander and a laborious ruler. Therefore, his personality and character have attracted even modern historians.
Of course, it cannot be denied that with all these virtues he failed as a ruler and, thus, can never be regarded as a capable or successful ruler in history. Yet, his scholarship, imaginative vision, enterprising spirit, personal valour and religious tolerance provide him a high place among the Sultans of Delhi. Thus, Muhammad Tughluq does not enjoy his reputation among the Sultans of Delhi on the basis of his success as a ruler but because of his scholarship and certain virtues of personal character.
Ruler # 2. Firuz Shah Tughlaq:
The contemporary historians, Barani and Afif were full of praise for Firuz and described him as a just, merciful and benevolent ruler. Modern historians like Henry Elliot and Elphinstone have also praised him and have described him as the Akbar of the Sultanate period. Sir Woolseley Haig also wrote- “The reign of Firuz closes the most brilliant epoch of Muslim rule in India before the reign of Akbar.” But there are other modern historians who have expressed a different opinion.
V.A. Smith regarded comparison between Firuz and Akbar as an absurdity. Dr Ishwari Prasad expressed, “Firuz had not even a hundredth part of the genius of that great-hearted and broad-minded monarch (Akbar).” Dr R.C. Majumdar is prepared to accept Firuz as the last important ruler of the period of the Delhi Sultanate but is not prepared to assign him any remarkable place. In fact, Firuz neither possessed any such virtue, nor achieved something great because of which his reign could be regarded glorious.
Firuz, certainly, possessed certain personal virtues. He was a scholar and patronized scholars. He was a religious-minded person and ordinarily observed principles of Islam in his personal behaviour and activities. He also desired to improve the morals of his Muslim subjects. He searched for capable persons and got their loyalty.
His one virtue was to make a proper assessment of circumstances and make compromises with them. That is why he could command the loyalty of the majority of nobles, ascended the throne with their consent and continued to rule peacefully for nearly thirty-seven years without any serious challenge to his authority. He also needed the support of the Ulema and he succeeded in getting it. He had neither desire nor desired capability to extend the empire. Therefore, he did not attempt for it.
Primarily, the empire needed internal consolidation and economic prosperity at that time. Firuz understood it and achieved it. Except this, Firuz was neither completely kind, nor liberal nor honest. His kindness and liberality were limited only to Sunni sect and its faithfuls. He was intolerant towards other Muslim sects and unjust towards the Hindus who constituted the majority among his subjects.
Numerous instances can be enumerated even from his autobiography to prove his religious intolerance and policy of bigotry towards the Hindus. He was not honest as well. The Sultan who could give money to his soldiers to bribe their officers cannot be regarded as honest. It is also agreed by historians that the Sultan enjoyed alcohol in seclusion. Therefore, the personal character of Firuz cannot be accepted as an ideal character.
Dr U.N. Dey is very much near the truth about his character when he writes- “He was a typical product of his age, ambitious and shrewd enough to wear a mask of disinterestedness. Capable of assuming false appearance of virtue and of goodness with dissimulation of real character, he posed as leading a religious life with constant proclamation of his championing the cause of Sunni orthodoxy.” Besides, all historians agree that Firuz was not courageous or daring and lacked the qualities of a good soldier and a successful commander.
As a ruler, the best success of Firuz was to bring about prosperity to his subjects and the state. He was the first Sultan of Delhi who gave priority to peace and prosperity of his subjects. He sincerely desired it and achieved it.
All historians agree that Firuz attempted for economic progress of his subjects and succeeded. His measures to promote agricultural production, irrigation and trade, certainly, brought prosperity among his subjects and they forgot the economic hardships of the reign of Muhammad Tughluq. Firuz’s public welfare works were also admirable. His construction of bridges, wells, reservoirs, cities, buildings etc. and measures to protect historical monuments were creditable.
His humanitarian works like establishment of Diwan-i-Khairat and Dar-ul-Shafa were also praiseworthy. Besides, his patronage to scholars and establishment of schools and colleges were also very much useful. Of course, Firuz primarily concentrated and desired the welfare of his Muslim subjects only, yet it is accepted by all historians that he was the first Sultan of Delhi who gave a wider definition of the duties of a Sultan towards his subjects.
He maintained that it was the duty of the Sultan to enhance the welfare of his subjects besides the normal duties of maintaining peace and order, collection of revenue and engaging in wars, if necessary. But then, Firuz’s success as a ruler was also limited. His success was primarily due to his capable and loyal officers. As regards himself, he was rather a source of weakness than strength to the state because of his imprudent generosity.
Very often, he forgave corrupt officials. He was not laborious and did not pay much personal attention towards administration. Therefore, he gave extensive powers to his nobles and officials which, ultimately, went against the larger interests of the state.
Sir Woolseley Haig wrote, “No policy, however well-devised, could have sustained this power under the feeble rule of his successors and the terrible blow dealt at the kingdom within ten years of his death, but his system of decentralisation would have embarrassed the ablest successors, and undoubtedly accelerated the downfall of his dynasty.”
Another weakness of the administration of Firuz was that he treated the Sunni section of his subjects as a privileged group and allowed the Ulema to interfere and, thus, influence his administration. Firuz, therefore, was not necessarily interested in improving his administration as such, but was more keen to patronize a section of his subjects and gain popularity amongst them. The administration thereby, naturally, suffered.
Dr U.N. Dey has commented- “But all this apparent peace, comfort and prosperity was at the cost of efficiency. It sapped the root of administration. His supplication to the Ulema only encouraged a group of unscrupulous selfish people to behave arrogantly and pose themselves as the custodians of Muslim conscience. All these combined to create a situation in which disintegration became inevitable.”
Thus, Firuz did not organise the administration. On the contrary, he weakened it and made it corrupt which contributed towards the downfall of the Tughluq dynasty, Qazar Khan, the officer of the royal mint mixed less silver in new coins than required and it was brought to the notice of the Sultan. Yet, he was simply transferred to other post.
Therefore, it can be accepted that the Sultan tolerated the corruption of his officers and, thereby, it must have resulted in widespread corruption in administration. The slave system of Firuz added to wasteful expenditure of the state and also resulted in interference in matters of state by his slaves in later years of his life. Firuz’s treatment of the Hindus was certainly more oppressive as compared to previous Sultans of Delhi in matters of religion.
In fact, he was the first Sultan of Delhi who accepted and practised principles of Islam in administering the state. In this field, Firuz certainly gave a reactionary turn to the policy of the Sultan of Delhi which was against the interest of the state.
The resentment of the Hindus was also partially responsible for the downfall of the Tughluq dynasty. Dr Ishwari Prasad has commented- “The reforms of Firuz, . . . failed to gain confidence of Hindus whose feelings were embittered by his religious intolerance. Altogether they produced a reaction which proved fatal to the interest of the dynasty of which he was by no means an unworthy representative.”
However, the greatest failure of Firuz was not to build up a strong army which resulted in his failure to restore the lost prestige of the Sultan and the Delhi Sultanate. A strong army was the primary necessity for maintaining the existence and power of a Sultan and his dynasty during medieval age. Firuz failed to maintain one. He rather weakened his army. He did not turn out old soldiers, recruited soldiers on heredity principles, paid them by assigning lands and stopped annual inspection of the cavalry.
All these measures weakened the military strength of the empire further. Firuz failed to capture even a single province which was lost to the empire during later years of the reign of Muhammad Tughluq. He declared that he did not desire to shed the blood of the Muslims. It was no genuine desire to respect lives of the Muslims but a cover to hide military weakness.
In fact, Firuz failed to establish the military and administrative prestige of the Delhi Sultanate and, thereby, was responsible for the downfall of his dynasty.
Dr R.C. Majumdar has correctly remarked:
“On the whole, in spite of peace, prosperity and contentment that prevailed during the long reign of Firuz Shah, no one can possibly doubt that his policy and administrative measures contributed to a large extent to the downfall of the Delhi Sultanate, and accelerated the process of decline that had already set in during his predecessor’s reign.”
Therefore, Firuz cannot be accepted as a great king of the Delhi Sultanate and there is no question of comparing him with the Mughal emperor Akbar though, of course, he can be accepted as one of its capable rulers.
Ruler # 3. Khizr Khan:
Khizr Khan was the founder ruler of Sayyid dynasty. He claimed to be a descendant of Prophet Muhammad. But there is no proof for that. Probably, his ancestors originally hailed from Arabia and he utilized this fact in order to strengthen his position on the throne. Khizr Khan was appointed governor of Multan by Firuz Tughluq. He participated in the war of succession which ensued between rival princes after the death of Firuz.
Once he had to take refuge at Bayana but when Timur attacked India he got a good opportunity and threw his lot with him. Timur was pleased with his services and, before he left India, he appointed him the governor of Multan, Lahore and Dipalpur.
He then tried to capture Delhi and, finally, succeeded in snatching it from the hands of Daulat Khan Lodi in 1414 A.D. Khizr Khan never assumed the title of Sultan and remained satisfied with that of Bandgi-i-Rayat-i-Ala and Masnad-i-Ala.
He continued to send yearly tribute to Shah Rukh, son of Timur and, thus, did not challenge his suzerainty, though for all practical purposes he behaved as an independent ruler. His coins also continued to bear the name of Tughluq rulers. It was probably necessary because of the shortage of gold and silver. Besides, by that he tried to keep his subjects in good humour as well as his Turks and Afghans nobles.
Prior to his accession to the throne, the empire of the Delhi Sultanate was limited to parts of Doab and Mewat. Now with his accession, it nearly doubled its territory as Punjab. Multan and Sind were added to it. This, however, remained the maximum territory of the Delhi Sultanate during the reign of Khizr Khan as he did not attempt seriously to extend it.
His limited efforts to recover Etawah, Katehar and Kannauj failed. Khizr Khan pursued a policy of appeasement towards Turkish nobles and allowed them to enjoy ownership of their jagirs. Yet, they remained dissatisfied with him and used their positions to rise in revolt against him occasionally. Khizr Khan committed one more mistake. He divided his lqtas (provinces) into Shiqs (districts) and gave quite independent powers to district officers which resulted in local or regional loyalties.
Therefore, throughout his reign, Khizr Khan was forced to undertake military expeditions to exact tribute even from those chiefs who formally owed allegiance to him. In this task, he was loyally supported by his minister Taj- ul-mulk. Yet, Khizr Khan failed to subdue permanently the revolting nature of his jagirdars.
An imposter declared himself Sarang Khan and revolted in Punjab. He was, however, defeated. The Khokhars under their chief, Jasrath, also gave him constant trouble in north-eastern Panjab. The rulers of Gujarat, Malwa and Jaunpur aspired to conquer Delhi though failed to attempt any serious effort. Thus, Khizr Khan mostly engaged himself in keeping intact the territory of the Delhi Sultanate which he had acquired in the beginning of his reign.
During his last days, he attacked Mewat and destroyed the fort of Kotla. He, then, plundered part of the territory of the state of Gwalior and proceeded up to Etawah whose ruler acknowledged his suzerainty. While returning from there, he fell ill. He reached Delhi but died shortly on 20 May 1421 A.D.
Khizr Khan was wise, just and generous and was free from vices common in those days. His personal virtues, therefore, won him the affection of his subjects. Firishta wrote- “The people were happy and satisfied under his rule and therefore young and old, slaves and free citizens—all expressed sorrow at his death by wearing black clothes.” But as a ruler he could not achieve much.
He failed to solve those problems of the country which had arisen after the dismemberment of the Tughluq dynasty and had left the country in a state of virtual anarchy after the invasion of Timur. The Sultanate of Delhi could not gain ascendancy over other kingdoms in India during his time and therefore, remained one of the states among certain other significant states of the North.
Ruler # 4. Mubarak Shah:
After the death of his father, Mubarak Khan ascended the throne without any opposition. He assumed the title of Shah, got Khutba read in his name and also issued coins bearing his name. Thus, he did not accept suzerainty of any foreign power.
Like his father, Mubarak too had to undertake punitive expeditions against Jagirdars and nobles to collect revenue from them and bring them to submission. He transferred his governors from one place to another in order to prove that their jagirs or Iqtas were not their hereditary property, but a right to be enjoyed with the consent of the Sultan.
It meant the assertion of the right of the Sultan which certainly displeased jagirdars and governors who, taking advantage of the weakness of later Tughluq Sultans, had treated their jagirs and provinces as their own property. It created trouble for the Sultan who had to fight against his own nobles in order to keep them under his control. The Sultan attacked Badayun, Etawah, Katehar, Gwalior, etc., solely for this purpose.
But more than that, Mubarak Shah had to face and fight against his foreign enemies. From towards the north-west Jasrath the leader of the Khokhars, the ruler of Malwa from towards the south and the ruler of Jaunpur from towards the east, tried to capture Delhi in their own turn.
However, Mubarak succeeded in foiling their attempts. Jasrath attacked Sarhind, Jalundhar and Lahore several times but failed to gain any success. Husang Shah, the ruler of Malwa, attempted to conquer Gwalior several times but failed to capture it and Gwalior remained under the suzerainty of Delhi Ibrahim, the ruler of Jaunpur, claimed Bayana, Kalpi and Mewat and tried to capture them many times but failed.
Rather, in March 1428 A.D., Ibrahim was defeated in a pitched battle by Mubarak Shah near Bayana and forced to retreat. It was only after the murder of Mubarak Shah that Husang Shah, ruler of Malwa, could capture Kalpi.
Shaik Ali, the naib-subedar of Kabul, also tried to take advantage of the troubles of Mubarak Shah. He supported Pulad, the rebel governor of Sarsuti, Amroha and Tabarhind and plundered parts of Jalundhar, Firozpur, Lahore and Multan. But, he was defeated in pitched battles several times and therefore, failed to capture any territory of the Delhi Sultanate.
The dissatisfied nobles of Mubarak Shah hatched a conspiracy against him under the leadership of his vazir, Sarwar-ul-mulk and succeeded in murdering him on 19 February 1434 A.D. while he was supervising the construction of his new town Mubarakabad on the bank of the river Yamuna.
Mubarak Shah was the ablest ruler of the Sayyid dynasty. He freed the Delhi Sultanate from the nominal suzerainty of a foreign power and issued coins in his name. He succeeded in suppressing the revolts of his nobles and jagirdars. He also succeeded against his foreign foes each of whom tried to capture Delhi.
For thirteen years he fought against his internal and external enemies and succeeded in keeping intact the territory of the Delhi Sultanate though, of course, he failed to extend it further. But, Mubarak Shah failed to select loyal officers and nobles to serve him and therefore, fell a prey to their conspiracy.
Except this he was quite successful as compared to other rulers of Sayyid dynasty. He built a city, Mubarakabad and a beautiful mosque therein. He provided protection to his contemporary scholar, Yahiya-bin-Ahmad Sarhindi who compiled the chronicle of his age and that of his predecessors in a Persian work entitled Tarikh-i-Mubarakshahi.
Ruler # 5. Muhammad Shah:
Mubarak Shah had nominated Muhammad-bin-Farid Khan, the son of his brother as his successor. Farid Khan ascended the throne after his murder and assumed the title of Muhammad Shah. He proved himself as an incapable and sensuous ruler and therefore, prepared the way for the downfall of his dynasty.
During the first six months of his reign, virtually the vazir, Sarwar-ul-mulk, enjoyed the power of the state. The vazir gave positions of importance to his own loyal officers and those Hindu jagirdars who had helped him in the murder of Mubarak Shah. However, deputy commander-in-chief, Kamal-ul-mulk remained loyal to the Sayyid dynasty, kept his intentions secret and formed another group of nobles against the vazir.
The vazir sent him to suppress the revolt at Bayana. That proved to be his opportunity. Once he took the command of the army, he disclosed his plan to other nobles to displace the vazir from power and then returned to the capital with his army.
The vazir tried to murder the Sultan but as the Sultan himself was a party to the conspiracy against the vazir, he had taken all precautions. Therefore, when the vazir went to murder the Sultan, his bodyguards killed the vazir and his supporters then and there.
Muhammad Shah now appointed Kamal-ul-mulk as his vazir and freely engaged himself in sensual pleasures. Kamal-ul-mulk was no good administrator. The neglect of the affairs of the state by the Sultan and the incapability of the vazir encouraged both internal and foreign enemies. Mahmud, the ruler of Malwa, attacked Delhi. Muhammad Shah called Bahlul Lodi, the governor of Multan to his help.
The battle between the two near Talpat brought about no conclusive result. Muhammad Shah then sued for peace and Mahmud agreed to return as his own capital was threatened by an invasion by the ruler of Gujarat. Bahlul Lodi attacked him while he was returning and was successful in capturing some booty and imprison some of his soldiers.
Muhammad Shah honoured Bahlul Lodi for his timely help, called him his son, gave him the title of “Khan-i-Khana” and accepted his possession over larger part of Punjab. It inflamed the ambition of Bahlul Lodi who attacked Delhi in 1443 A.D. in order to capture it. He failed at that time but then waited for a better opportunity.
Muhammad Shah failed to safeguard his kingdom from internal disruption and foreign attacks during later years of his reign. The ruler of Jaunpur snatched away some parganas from him, Multan became independent, provincial governors avoided payment of annual tribute and even those nobles who lived within a circle of twenty miles around Delhi exhibited tendency of insubordination towards the Sultan. Thus, Muhammad failed as a ruler and the fall of his dynasty began during his reign. He died in 1445 A.D.
Ruler # 6. Ala-Ud-Din Alam Shah:
Muhammad Shah was succeeded by his son under the title of Ala-ud-din Alam Shah. He was indolent and sensuous and proved himself the weakest ruler of the Sayyid dynasty. He quarrelled with his vazir, Hamid Khan, left for Badaun and settled himself there.
Bahlul Lodi once more attacked Delhi in 1447 A.D. though failed again. But Hamid Khan, apprehending the forceful occupation of Delhi by some neighbouring ruler, himself invited both Bahlul Lodi and Qiyam Khan, the governor of Nagaur.
Bahlul Lodi reached Delhi first and therefore, Qiyam Khan turned back. Hamid Khan had expected that Bahlul Lodi would be a puppet in his hands. But Bahlul who had the ambition to rule Delhi since long could not share the power with anybody. He imprisoned and afterwards killed Hamid Khan and captured all powers of the state in 1450 A.D. Bahlul invited Ala-ud-din Alam Shah to come to Delhi which he politely refused.
On his part, Bahlul did not attempt to capture Badaun any time. Ala-ud-din, therefore, ruled over Badaun till his death in 1476 A.D. Badaun was afterwards captured by his son-in-law and ruler of Jaunpur, Hussain Shah. Thus, Ala-ud- din Alam Shah was the last ruler of Sayyid dynasty. Though he lived till 1476 A.D. but had lost the throne of Delhi to Bahlul Lodi much earlier.
Dr K.A. Nizami has commented:
“Thus ended the Sayyids dynasty after an inconspicuous rule of 37 years. Emerging as the principality of Multan, it ended as the principality of Badaun. Neither politically nor culturally did it contribute anything worthwhile to the history of medieval India. It was, however, an inevitable stage in the process of dissolution and reconstruction of the Delhi empire.”
Ruler # 7. Bahlul Lodi:
Sultan Bahlul Lodi, the founder of the Lodi dynasty had a humble beginning. He belonged to the Shahu Khel clan of the Lodis which formed an important branch of the Afghans. Bahlul was brought up by his uncle Islam Khan who had taken up service under the first Sayyid ruler, Khizr Khan and had risen to the position of Khan.
Islam Khan found him diligent and daring, married his daughter with him and nominated him his successor. After the death of Islam Khan, therefore, Bahlul became the governor of Sarhind. He went on increasing his power and influence and, for the timely help which he gave to Sultan Muhammad Shah against the ruler of Malwa, was awarded the title of Khan- i-Jahan and also possession over Punjab.
Bahlul, afterwards, attempted twice to capture Delhi but failed. But when vazir Hamid Khan called him to Delhi, he got his opportunity. Sultan Ala-ud-din Alam Shah had already left for Badaun while Hamid Khan was an imprudent man.
Bahlul easily imprisoned Hamid Khan and got him killed afterwards. He invited Ala-ud-din Alam Shah to come to Delhi. The offer was refused. He, then, ascended the throne on 19 April 1451 A.D. under the title of Sultan Abul Muzaffar Bahlul Shah Ghazi and had his name proclaimed in the Khutba.
Bahlul had to tackle many baffling problems. His primary tasks were to restore back the lost prestige of the Sultan, to establish the supremacy of the Afghans in the kingdom, to suppress the rebellious nobles and jagirdars, to safeguard his kingdom from jealous neighbours and to consolidate his gains.
In fact, the occupation of Delhi by Bahlul had not increased his territorial possessions significantly but had increased his responsibilities manifold. Bahlul faced all these problems boldly and tactfully.
He tried to please his Afghan nobles who alone could help him in strengthening his position. He gave them extensive jagirs, respected them, called the Afghans from outside India and gave them jagirs and high offices. He, however, was equally interested in restoring the prestige of the Sultan.
Therefore, he punished disobedient and rebellious nobles and jagirdars. He undertook a series of military expeditions to Mewat, Sambhal, Rapri, Bhogaon, Gwalior, etc. and forced their chiefs to offer submission and pay annual tribute. He also succeeded in exacting loyalty from his Afghan nobles.
Bahlul, of course, could not pursue the ideal of an absolute monarchy and his policy of giving extensive jagirs to the Afghan nobles, certainly, contributed to the weakness of Lodi Sultans, yet there is no doubt that he succeeded in keeping under his control the spirit of independence of the Afghans and in exacting obedience from them. Bahlul gave no opportunity to his Afghan nobles to carve out independent states of their own.
One remarkable success of Bahlul was the conquest of the state of Jaunpur. Mahmud Shah Sharqi, the ruler of Jaunpur, had married a daughter of the Sayyid Sultan, Ala-ud-din Alam Shah. This lady constantly urged her husband to attack Delhi in order to avenge the disgrace of her father.
Mahmud Shah, on his own part also, regarded himself as the rightful claimant of the throne of Delhi which earlier belonged to his father-in-law. He, therefore, attacked Delhi in the very first year of the reign of Bahlul. Bahlul, who had gone on an expedition towards Multan, returned quickly to his capital and then proceeded to face the enemy.
Dariya Khan Lodi, the commander of the Sharqi king, left the side of his master before the battle which reduced the strength of the Sharqi army. Bahlul, therefore, succeeded in defeating Mahmud Shah at Narela in the vicinity of Delhi. Mahmud Shah did not forget this disgrace and attacked Etawah after some time. He again failed to gain any success and both parties agreed for peace. But no party fulfilled the terms of the treaty and quarrel again broke up on the possession of Shamsabad. It also brought no result and the peace was signed again.
Sometime after, Bahlul attacked Jaunpur but without any result. In 1457 A.D., Mahmud Shah died. However, his son, Muhammad Shah continued to fight against Bahlul. But Muhammad Shah was soon killed by his brother Husain Shah who now occupied the throne of Jaunpur.
Husain Shah agreed for a treaty in the beginning of his reign and peace was maintained by the two rivals for four years. But Husain was an ambitious and courageous ruler. He also pursued the policy of his predecessors and attacked Delhi.
It led to continuous warfare between the two rival kingdoms, peace being transitory in between sometimes. Bahlul succeeded twice in capturing Malka-i-Jahan, wife of Husain Shah though sent her back to Jaunpur with honour both times.
Husain Shah, however, was defeated in the end and forced to take refuge in Bihar. Bahlul annexed the kingdom of Jaunpur and appointed his son, Barbak Shah as its ruler. The conquest of Jaunpur which was more powerful and prosperous as compared to the kingdom of Delhi was the greatest achievement of Bahlul. It proved his military talents. It added to his resources and raised his prestige among other rulers. It enabled him to compel the Chiefs of Kalpi, Dholpur, Bari and Alipur to acknowledge his suzerainty.
Bahlul attacked Gwalior during the last year of his reign. Raja Man Singh gave a present of eighty lakhs of tankas and Bahlul returned back. In the way, he fell ill and died near Jalali in the middle of July 1489 A.D.
Ruler # 8. Sikandar Shah Lodi:
Bahlul had nominated his third son Nizam Khan as his successor. But, after his death, the Afghan nobles pushed forward the claim of his second son, Barbak Shah who was the ruler of Jaunpur at that time or that of Azam Humayun, son of his eldest but deceased son, Khwaja Bayezid. The claim of Nizam Khan was challenged on the ground that his mother was the daughter of a goldsmith. But eventually, the majority of them favoured Nizam Khan who ascended the throne on 17 July 1489 with the title of Sikandar Shah.
Sikandar Shah justified the nomination of his father and proved himself as his most capable son. He destroyed all claimants to the throne and those nobles as well who had opposed his candidature. Sultan Bahlul had annexed only Jaunpur to his kingdom, Sikandar extended his empire further.
Sultan Bahlul, of course, had kept his Afghan nobles under his control but had compromised the position of Sultan with the rights of the nobles but Sikandar Shah destroyed the power of the nobility, finished all rebellious nobles and forced others to obey and respect him as the Sultan. Thus, Sikandar succeeded more than his father in extending the empire and restoring the prestige of the Sultan and therefore, rightly claimed to be the greatest Lodi Sultan.
First, Sikandar Shah suppressed those opponents who could dispute his succession. He forced his uncle Alam Khan to leave Rapri, separated him from Isa Khan and, ultimately, forced him to leave his kingdom. Alam Khan fled to Gujarat. Isa Khan, who had opposed Sikandar’s succession, was defeated next and wounded in a battle. He died some days after.
His nephew, Azam Humayun, was also defeated and Kalpi was snatched away from him. Tatar Khan, governor of Jhatra and another opponent of his succession, was also defeated though generously allowed to remain in possession of his jagir. Thus, within a year after his succession, Sikandar Lodi destroyed or brought to submission all his opponents and claimants to the throne.
Sikandar asked his elder brother Barbak Shah, the ruler of Jaunpur, to accept his suzerainty so that the empire remained united. But Barbak Shah did not agree to it. Sikandar Shah then attacked and defeated Barbak Shah though allowed him to continue as titular ruler.
Barbak Shah, however, proved a failure and could not face even local rebellious jagirdars who were instigated by the previous ruler of Jaunpur. Husain Shah. He fled from his capital. Sikandar suppressed the rebellion, again placed Barbak Shah on the throne but, ultimately, finding him incapable, imprisoned him and appointed his own governor at Jaunpur.
The rebellions of jagirdars of Jaunpur gave an opportunity to Sikandar Shah to conquer Bihar. Husain Shah was in league with those jagirdars and had provided shelter to their leader, Juga. Sikandar Shah asked him to surrender Juga which was refused. He then attacked Husain Shah who fled away to Bihar. In 1494 A.D. Husain Shah dared to attack Sikandar Shah when he was busy in suppressing revolts of the jagirdars of Jaunpur.
Again, he was defeated near Banaras and was forced to flee. Sikandar Shah pursued him until he crossed into Bengal where he spent the rest of his life as a pensioner of the ruler of Bengal, Ala-ud-din Husain Shah. Bihar was then annexed to the territory of the Delhi Sultanate.
Sikandar Shah attacked Tirhut from Bihar. The Rai of Tirhut accepted his suzerainty without fighting.
The army of Delhi had pursued Husain Shah up to the border of Bengal. Ala-ud-din Husain Shah did not like the occupation of Bihar by Sikandar Shah but thought it prudent to come to terms with the Sultan of Delhi. A treaty was signed between the two by which both parties agreed not to attack each other’s territory. Bihar was accepted part of the Delhi Sultanate and Ala-ud-din Husain Shah agreed not to give shelter to enemies of Sikandar Shah.
The internal strife in the state of Malwa provided Sikandar Shah an opportunity to interfere in its affairs. However, he restrained himself and interfered least. He helped Sahib Khan, one of the princes of Malwa, in capturing Chanderi and kept him under his control.
Sikandar Shah also succeeded partially against Rajput states. He conquered Dholpur, Mandrail, Utgir, Narwar and Nagaur. He defeated the ruler of Gwalior occasionally but failed to annex Gwalior to his territory. He established the city of Agra in 1504 A.D. primarily to keep control over Rajput rulers.
Thus, the conquest of Bihar was the only remarkable success of Sikandar Lodi from the point of view of extension of the Imperial territory. Besides, he kept Jaunpur under his control and raised his prestige among Rajput chiefs by defeating some of them.
Sikandar wisely realised the limitations of his resources and therefore, tried to maintain peaceful relations with other neighbouring Muslim kingdoms. His policy towards Malwa and Bengal was guided by same considerations.
The one serious problem before Sikandar Shah was to keep under control the independent and rebellious nature of his own Afghan nobles. He tried for it. He asked all his governors and officers to submit proper accounts of their income and expenditure and punished the defaulters.
The governor of Jaunpur was punished on this very account and compelled to pay the embezzled money of the state. He started sitting on the throne and compelled his nobles to show formal respect to him in the darbar (court) and even outside. He framed certain rules which were observed by all his nobles and governors to honour the Sultan, i.e., the governors were asked to receive his firmans (orders) six miles ahead of their capitals.
Sikandar made no distinction between the rich and the poor while dispensing justice. He organised an efficient espionage system which helped him much in keeping his nobles under his control. He posted spies and informers at every important place including the houses of his nobles. His system proved very much efficient and he was so well-informed about everybody and everything significant in the state so that the people believed that the Sultan was assisted by supernatural powers.
All these measures succeeded and Sikandar Shah was successful in controlling tendencies of tribal independence of his nobles. However, he was not cruel or disrespectful in his treatment towards his nobles. Of course, he expected respect from them and desired disciplinary behaviour from them. But, otherwise, he cared to satisfy their personal emotions and respected the old and the experienced ones amongst them. His sole motive had been to restore the prestige of the Sultan and in that he succeeded.
One time, nearly twenty-two nobles at the court conspired to dethrone him and place his younger brother, Fateh Khan, on the throne. Fateh Khan divulged this conspiracy to the Sultan. All those nobles were either banished from the court or killed. After that, there occurred no revolt or conspiracy against the Sultan during his reign.
Sikandar Shah was a laborious, generous, just and well-meaning Sultan. He worked hard from morning till midnight to supervise the administration. He dispensed impartial justice to all his subjects. He encouraged trade and agriculture. He abolished all internal trade duties.
He was provided with a rate- list of all articles everyday so that he could assess the economic condition of common people. He maintained peace and order within his kingdom. All this helped in the economic prosperity of the state. He was also a kind ruler and free food was provided to the poor and needy persons from the royal kitchen everyday.
He cared for capable and learned people whose name-list was handed over to him after every six months and each of whom was provided economic help from the state according to one’s capability. Thus, the reign of Sikandar Shah was that of peace, order, prosperity and progress. The disorder which had prevailed in the administration of the Delhi Sultanate after the death of Sultan Firuz Shah was removed by Sikandar Shah.
Sikandar Shah, however, behaved as a fanatic in religious matters and proved intolerant of other faiths. Contemporary historians described him as a fanatic-king. Nizammuddin Ahmed wrote- “His (Sikandar’s) bigotry in Islam was as great that in this regard he went beyond the bounds even of excess.” He had given the proof of his bigotry even as a prince when he had desired to prohibit the Hindus from bathing in the sacred tank at Thaneshwar.
When he became the Sultan he destroyed Hindu temples, broke their images and raised mosques in their places. According to a contemporary historian he broke the sacred image of the temple of Jwalamukhi at Nagarkot and gave its pieces to butchers to use them as weights.
He destroyed the temples and their images at Mathura, Mandrail, Narwar, Chanderi, etc. He prohibited the Hindus to shave their hairs and take bath in the river Yamuna at Mathura. He encouraged the Hindus for conversion to Islam. It has been expressed in favour of Sikandar that he tried to check certain bad customs of Islam also. He prohibited the processions of Tazias at the festival of Moharram.
He forbade the visit of Muslim women to the shrines of saints. He ordered the destruction of the mosques at Jaunpur built up by Sharqi rulers though withdrew his orders afterwards on the advice of the Ulema. Among modern historians, Dr K.S. Lal has also given a reasonable argument in his favour.
He writes- “Indeed Indian society was undergoing a change. This change was also due to the teachings of the fifteenth century socio-religious reformers like Kabir and Nanak. In such an atmosphere a few acts of intolerance on the part of Sikandar Lodi appeared to be so much out of tune with the spirit of the age that they shocked even the Persian chroniclers. In the fourteenth century Sikandar Lodi’s attitude would have caused no surprise. He would have been considered one among the common run of monarchs. But in the fifteenth century his bigotry was particularly noticeable. Hence the assertion of the chroniclers.”
Yet, whatever, has been expressed in favour of Sikandar Shah, it does not make him free from the charge of bigotry. The majority of historians blame him for being intolerant towards the majority of his subjects.
However, Sikandar Shah was a successful ruler. In his last days, he went to Bayana and, while returning from there, he fell ill. He reached Delhi but, then, died on 21 November. 1517 A.D.
Ruler # 9. Sultan Ibrahim Lodi:
When Sikandar Lodi died, all his sons and important nobles were present in the capital and it was unanimously decided by all that while the eldest son of the Sultan, Ibrahim would be the ruler at Delhi, his younger brother Jalal Khan would be the ruler at Jaunpur. Therefore, Ibrahim ascended the throne of Delhi after his father and assumed the title of Shah.
Ibrahim Lodi remained the last ruler of the Lodi dynasty. His reign began with the conflict against his brother Jalal Khan; the conquest of Gwalior remained the only significant conquest of his reign; and his conflict with the state of Mewar weakened and dishonoured him.
But the most notable feature of his reign was his conflict against the Afghan nobility. Of course, it is certain that Babur who defeated him and destroyed the rule of the Lodi dynasty was a more capable commander and possessed better military resources and therefore, the fate of the Afghans could not be otherwise than what happened to be in the first battle of Panipat, yet this is also a fact that the conflict of Sultan Ibrahim with his nobility was also one of the primary causes of the downfall of the Lodi dynasty.
When Ibrahim ascended the throne of Delhi he accepted his brother, Jalal Khan, as the ruler of Jaunpur. But he changed his mind as soon as Jalal Khan left for Kalpi along with his loyal nobles. He decided to keep the empire intact and therefore, recalled Jalal Khan from Kalpi when he had hardly reached there.
He ordered the nobles at Jaunpur and Bihar not to obey Jalal Khan. He also imprisoned his other brothers who were in Delhi. Jalal Khan, in his turn, refused to come to Delhi and declared himself the Sultan at Kalpi and entitled himself Sultan Jalal-ud-din. It resulted in a serious conflict between the two brothers.
Jalal Khan was, ultimately, defeated and found shelter first in Gwalior and then with the Raja of Gonda who imprisoned him and sent him to Ibrahim. Ibrahim sent him to the fort of Jhansi but got him poisoned in the way. Ibrahim, thus, saved the division of his empire but many Afghan nobles felt that Ibrahim could not be relied upon. It was the beginning of doubts between the Sultan and his Afghan nobles.
Ibrahim desired to conquer Gwalior which had defied the attempts of the previous Sultans of Delhi including Sikandar Lodi and had dared to give shelter to Jalal Khan, brother of Ibrahim Lodi. Besides, the then ruler of Gwalior, Vikramajit who had succeeded his father, Man Singh, did not possess the capability like his father and therefore, could be vulnerable.
Ibrahim sent a large army under Azam Humayun Sarwani to attack Gwalior and another army was sent for his support from Agra. Vikramajit put up a brave resistance but failed to defend the fort for long and surrendered. Gwalior was annexed to the Delhi Sultanate. However, Ibrahim liberally granted the jagir of Shamsabad to Vikramajit.
Encouraged by his success against Gwalior, Ibrahim planned to conquer Mewar. Mewar was the most powerful and respected state of Rajasthan at that time and its ruler was valiant Rana Sangram Singh, popularly known as Rana Sanga. He was an ambitious ruler and was increasing his hold on Malwa which was contested by Ibrahim Lodi.
Mahmud Khalji II, the ruler of Malwa was feeling helpless against the growing power and influence of his own minister, Medini Rai and had sought help both from the rulers of Gujarat and Delhi. Sikandar Lodi had tried to help him during his reign. Medini Rai, in turn, had received support from Rana Sanga of Mewar and foiled the attempts of the rulers of Gujarat and Delhi to interfere in the affairs of Malwa. Thus, Rana Sanga had succeeded in extending his influence over Malwa.
Ibrahim Lodi, who himself desired to bring Malwa under his influence, decided to conquer Mewar itself. Rana Sanga had provoked his anger also by capturing some places of the Delhi Sultanate during the period of revolt of Jalal Khan. Ibrahim himself took the field against Rana Sanga.
The battle took place at Khatauli near Gwalior in 1517-1518 A.D. Rana Sanga lost his left hand and his one leg was also wounded. Yet, Ibrahim was defeated and had to retreat. In 1518-19 A.D. Ibrahim again took up the offensive but was again defeated near Dholpur.
Even afterwards, Mewar and Delhi fought against each other many times. Mostly the army of Delhi met with reverses. Thus, Ibrahim failed to conquer Mewar. He also lost his prestige and resources. Besides, the Rajputs succeeded in capturing the territory up to Bayana.
Ibrahim came in serious conflict with his Afghan nobility. The rebellion of Jalal Khan had made him suspicious of his nobles while the nobles, in their own turn, had started to doubt his infentions. Ibrahim desired to keep them under his strict control while the nobles found his attitude overbearing and unreliable. But the main issue involved in the conflict was the concept of absolute monarchy of the Sultan on the one hand, and on the other hand, the Afghan concept of regarding the Sultan as one among equals.
Ibrahim started behaving as an absolute despot. Unlike his father who had slowly asserted royal authority without outraging the sentiments of Afghan nobles, Ibrahim resolved to centralize all powers by the outright suppression of Afghan nobility. He declared that ‘kingship knows no kinship’ and treated his nobles only as his subordinates.
He required the nobles to observe the Court-etiquette properly which was made further strict. He compelled his nobles to stand in his court with folded hands across their chests. He developed suspicion towards all Afghan nobles of the time of his father and resolved to kill them all or to reduce them to absolute submission. It proved to be a great mistake of Ibrahim.
He, in fact, tried to destroy those very nobles on whom the power of the Afghan empire depended. Sikandar Lodi had been successful in commanding the respect of his nobles and utilizing their strength in the interest of the state. When Ibrahim tried to destroy the powerful nobles with a view to establish a despotic monarchy, he lost on both grounds.
He neither could command their respect nor could utilize their strength in order to strengthen himself or his empire. On the contrary, he forced them to challenge his authority and rise in open revolt. Ibrahim, therefore, wasted his energy and strength of the empire in fighting against his rebellious nobles most of the time during his reign.
In the very beginning of his reign, the division of the empire between the two brothers was agreed upon by Ibrahim in the presence of his nobles. He refuted it very soon. It displeased all those nobles who were in favour of that agreement and had left with Jalal Khan. Ibrahim annoyed further many other Afghan nobles when he refused to accept those terms of peace with Jalal Khan which were agreed upon by Malik Adam Kakar as price of surrender of Jalal Khan.
When Jalal Khan could escape from the fort of Gwalior, Ibrahim doubted the loyalty of Azam Humayun Sarwani, recalled him from Gwalior and imprisoned him and his son Fateh Khan. Ibrahim behaved cruelly with his brothers. While the rebellious prince Jalal Khan was poisoned, the rest of the princes except one, Mahmud, died in prison.
Ibrahim further enraged the old nobility by deliberately dishonouring them by reducing their status and raising younger ones to their posts. Miyan Bhua, the vazir who was loyally serving Lodi Sultans from the last twenty-eight years was imprisoned simply because he could not look after affairs of the State very diligently due to his old age.
It was so revolting to Afghan nobles that most of them came to the conclusion that the Sultan was not to be trusted. Ibrahim committed another serious mistake. While he imprisoned Miyan Bhua, he raised his son to the position of vazir. It was foolish to depend on the loyalty of one whose father was in prison. Thus, Ibrahim annoyed a large section of the Afghan nobility.
The dissatisfaction of the Afghan nobles resulted in open revolt when Azam Humayun was thrown in prison. The second son of Azam Humayun, Islam Khan revolted at Kara and was soon joined by two other nobles, Azam Humayun Lodi and Sayyed Khan Lodi. One army of the Sultan under Ahmad Khan was defeated by the rebels. The revolt spread in the entire area from Kara to Kannauj.
The rebels defeated another army sent by Sultan against them. Ibrahim ordered his nobles not to turn back till the revolt was suppressed and, then, himself took the field at the head of a large army. The rebels too had collected a large force consisting of forty thousand horsemen and five thousand elephants.
In both the armies, there were prominent Afghan nobles and even fathers and sons had taken the field against each other. It was clear that the battle would be contested hotly and the Afghan nobles would be killed from both the sides.
Therefore, a holy man, Shaikh Raju Bukhari, tried for a peaceful settlement but failed. The rebels demanded the release of Azam Humayun which was refused by the Sultan. It resulted into a fierce battle between the two sides.
In the words of Niamatullah, the author of Tarikh-i-Khan-i-Jahani:
“For many years such a sanguinary action had not occurred in Hindustan…Dead bodies, heap upon heap, covered the field….and streams of blood ran over the plain. Brother against brother, and father against son, urged by mutual rivalry and inborn bravery, mixed in the conflict; and restraining their hands from long arrow and spear, they contended only with dagger, sword and knife.”
In the battle 10,000 gallant Afghans fell on both sides. Ibrahim got the victory. Islam Khan was killed while Sayyed Khan Lodi was taken prisoner along with many other notable Afghan chiefs. Of course, Ibrahim succeeded not only in suppressing this revolt but also in breaking the power of the Afghan nobility but he also paid a heavy price for that.
Best of the Afghan soldiers and chiefs were killed in this battle which certainly weakened the power of the Afghans as well as that of the Delhi Sultanate. Ibrahim had destroyed the very source of the strength of his empire.
Ibrahim became more insolent towards his nobles after his success in this battle. He treacherously got murdered Husain Khan Farmuli, the governor of Chanderi and rewarded his assassin with 700 gold coins and ten villages. A little earlier, Azam Humayun and Miyan Bhua had died in prison. This murder created widespread indignation and disaffection. Dariya Khan Nuhani, governor of Bihar, and Khan-i-Jahan Lodi rose in rebellion in the East.
Dariya Khan Nuhani died shortly afterwards but then his son Bahadur Khan (Bahar Khan) declared himself independent ruler in Bihar and assumed the title of Sultan Muhammad. The governor of Ghazipur, Nasir Khan Nuhani and many other disaffected nobles flocked under the banner of Sultan Muhammad.
Sultan Muhammad collected an army of nearly one lakh horsemen and occupied all territory from Bihar to Sambhal. He succeeded in defeating the army of Delhi several times. Ibrahim called Daulat Khan Lodi, governor of Punjab, to his help. Daulat Khan sent his sun. Dilawar Khan to Agra to assess the situation.
Ibrahim Lodi tried to terrorise Dilawar Khan who then secretly slipped away from Agra and informed his father that Sultan Ibrahim could not be trusted. Daulat Khan Lodi, therefore, instead of going for the help of Ibrahim invited Babur, the ruler of Kabul, to attack India.
The same time, Alam Khan Lodi, uncle of Ibrahim who had been in Gujarat so far, also invited Babur to attack India. Babur who himself was anxious to attack India was encouraged by these invitations.
He attacked India in 1524 A.D. as far as Lahore and defeated one army of Delhi which was sent against him. But, then he returned. Daulat Khan who had developed suspicion against Babur now made a common cause with Alam Khan and attacked Delhi in 1525 A.D. But they were defeated by Ibrahim.
Babur again started on his Indian campaign from Kabul in November 1525 A.D. Daulat Khan, Dilawar Khan and Alam Khan joined him and he easily conquered Punjab. Babur reached the plain of Panipat. Ibrahim also reached there to give him a battle. But, by then, Ibrahim had reduced much of his strength. Rana Sanga had reduced his strength, the rulers of Malwa and Gujarat were desirous of his defeat and he had lost all his empire in the east.
The first battle of Panipat took place on 21 April 1526 A.D. Ibrahim fought bravely but was defeated and killed on the battlefield. It was the end of the rule of the Lodi dynasty and it was also the end of the history of the Delhi Sultanate.