Defence and Administration under Delhi Sultanate!

The Mongol Menace and the Defence of the North-West Frontier:

The Mongols were a scourge of the Delhi Sultanate from the early days of the Sultanate.

Iltutmish, acting with great circumspection, allowed Yildiz and Qubacha to consume their strength in mutual struggle, and ultimately proceeded against Qubacha (1217) and suc­ceeded in putting him to flight and occupying Lahore.

Iltutmish’s steady advance towards the Indus basin received a serious setback because “like an avalanche, the Mongols of Tartary swept across Central Asia and drove an incalculable number of refugees—princes and peoples alike—into safety of the Punjab.”


The Khvarzami Empire was rolled up in the process and the Khvarzamian crown prince Jalal-ud-din Mangbarni pressed by Chinghiz Khan, also known as Temuchin came flying across the Indus through Khurasan and Afghanistan.

Chinghiz stopped on the border of the Indus in the wait for the fugitive prince. “He sent his emissaries to Iltutmish, perhaps to ensure that Mangbarni did not receive any help from Delhi. Nothing is known about the way Iltutmish received the Mongol envoys, but his policy shows that he took good care not give the Mongols any cause of complaint. But so long as Chinghiz was alive—he died in 1227—Iltutmish did not try to extend his authority in the cis-Indus region.”

The Mongols drove Hasan Qarlugh and Uzbek Pai, two representatives of Khvarazamian prince Mangbarni to lower Sind. For thirty years after the death of Iltutmish Delhi Sultanate was too much pre-occupied in dealing with internal strife and was unable to maintain continuity of action against the Mongols. Raziyya was approached by Hasan Qarlugh, representative of the Khvarazam house, who was then struggling single handed against the Mongols for an alliance. But like her father, she showed a realistic prudence by firmly yet tactfully turning down the proposal. The Mongols were then operating in Western Sind and Sagar Doab.

In 1214, the Mongols advanced on Lahore and Bahram, the Sultan sent the wazir against them, but he betrayed the Sultan and instead of containing the Mongols returned to Delhi, defeated and killed Bahram and Iltutmish’s grandson Ala-ud-din Masud was placed on the throne.


It was under Ala-ud-din Masud Shah that Balban who was made amir-i-hajib dominated the nobles of the court called the ‘Forty’ and diverted their attention from mutual quarrels to campaigns against the Mongols as also the Rajputs. His policy was so successful that Masud’s reign enjoyed comparative tranquillity for some years. In 1245, however, the Mongols reappeared in the Punjab and even laid siege of Uch but Balban sent an army from Delhi which compelled the Mongols to abandon the siege.

Under the Sultan Nasir-ud-din Mahmud, Balban became the de facto ruler and had to deal with rebellions of governors. Kashlu Khan, governor of Multan and Uch had repudiated allegiance to Delhi and became a vassal of Hulagu, the Mongol ruler of Persia.

He entered into an alliance also with Qutlugh Khan of Awadh and thus strengthening his position made an attempt to occupy Delhi. But due to the diplomacy of Balban the attempt failed, for, an understanding was arrived at between Delhi and Hulagu who sent an emissary to Delhi to assure the Sultan that the Mongols would not disturb the north­western frontier of India. But trouble continued in Punjab and even Lahore passed into the hands of the Mongols in 1254.

On his assumption of the crown, Balban was in a better position to deal with the Mongols. In fact, it was due to the Mongol menace that Balban could not follow a policy of conquests. By repeated raids the Mongols had brought Lahore under their control, and only Multan and Sind remained in the hands of Delhi.


Balban placed Sher Khan Sanqar in charge of the entire region of the north-west who struck terror in the hearts of the Mongols. But Sher Khan died in 1270 and Balban placed his son prince Muhammad and the younger son Bughra Khan in charge of the defence of the north-west frontier.

Prince Muhammad effectively checked the Mongol advance. In 1286, the Mongols reappeared and Prince Muhammad in fighting them lost his life. Balban, however, did not relax his efforts to secure the north-west frontier. He even succeeded in re-occupying Lahore. Barring this, his success was not very spectacular. Delhi’s authority did not extend beyond Lahore and the region west of Ravi continued to be under the Mongols.

Ala-ud-din’s reign was greatly disturbed by a series of Mongol raids which threatened not only Punjab, Multan and Sind but even the capital Delhi, and the fertile tract of the Doab. Ala-ud-din is said to have repelled a dozen Mongol invasions. From the very beginning of his reign till 1308, the Mongols constantly disturbed Delhi and gave him little repose.

It was in 1296 when Ala-ud-din was only a few months on the throne, the Mongols invaded India. Zafar Khan beat them off. The next year the Mongols reappeared and captured Siri a fortress very near Delhi. Zafar Khan again proved more than a match for the Mongols and drove them back with great slaughter.

Their leader and 1700 Mongols with their wives and children were taken prisoners. In 1299 the Mongols reappeared under the leadership of Qutlugh Khwaja with two lakh strong force, and marched upto the vicinity of Delhi. Ala-ud-din and Zafar Khan led the royal army and inflicted a defeat on the Mongols but Zafar Khan lost his life in action.

When Ala-ud-din was busy in the siege of Chitor and when his army had suffered reverses at Telingana, the Mongols invaded the country with 1200 strong army under their leader Taghi. The Mongols came and encamped near Delhi. Ala-ud-din had to take shelter in the fortress Siri which was besieged by the Mongols for three months.

In the meantime the Mongols plundered the country around Delhi and even carried their raids into the streets of Delhi. But due to lack of experience how towns are captured, the Mongols withdrew after three months.

It was after noticing that the Mongols had marched near Delhi unhindered that Ala- ud-din took measures to protect the north-west frontier against future raids by the Mongols. Old forts were repaired and new forts were built and army was posted in Punjab, Multan and Sind. A warden of the Marches was appointed for the security of the north-west frontier. But all this did not deter the Mongols. Under Ali Beg, their leader, who was a descendant of Chinghiz Khan, the Mongols raided Punjab and evading the frontier garrison appeared near Amroha, burning the pillaging the country through which they had passed. Malik Kafur and Ghazi Malik were sent to oppose the invaders.

The Mongols were intercepted on their return journey with immense booty they had collected. They were defeated and their leaders were trampled to death under the foot of the elephants. Fifty thousand of the invaders including their leader were taken prisoners and later put to death.

The last Mongol raid during the reign of Ala-ud-din Khalji took place in 1307-1308 under their leader Iqbalmand. They crossed the Indus but could not proceed further as they were defeated by the Delhi forces. Iqbalmand was killed. A large number of the Mongols were taken prisoners and taken to Delhi where they were put to death. The Mongols did not disturb Ala-ud-din any more.

In 1324 when prince Jauna Khan, later Muhammad bin Tughluq, was absent in the Deccan, the Mongols invaded Northern India but were thoroughly defeated and their leader captured and brought to Delhi. There was no further Mongol raid during the reign of Giyas-ud-din Tughluq Shah. But when prince Jauna ascended the throne as Muhammad bin Tughluq, the Sultanate was threatened with a series of Mongol raids which took place after the Sultan had ordered the transfer of the capital from Delhi to Devagiri. Tarmashirin the Mongol leader appeared with a vast army and ravaged the country from Lahore and Multan upto the vicinity of Delhi.

The Sultan taken by surprise is said to have bribed the Mongol chief and persuaded him to retire. This encouraged further invasion and the same method was applied to buy them off. This was, to say the least a very unwise policy for it exposed the weakness of the policy of Muhammad bin Tughluq of not resisting the invaders as Balban and Ala-ud-din had done.

Defence Against the Mongols:

We have seen in the preceding section how the Mongol meance pursued the Delhi Sultanate from the early days of the Sultanate. The Delhi Sultans, barring Balban and Ala-ud-din Khalji did not make any permanent, systematic arrangements for the security of the north-western frontier of India crossing which the Mongols repeatedly came to invade the country. Iltutmish and Raziyya had recourse to diplomacy in getting rid of the Mongol invasion, but did not think it necessary to evolve out any policy to offer permanent security to the north-west frontier. They had, of-course, no time to do so either.

It was not until we come to the time of Balban that we find any policy of defence against the Mongols was actually evolved. Balban clearly saw that to protect the Sultanate from the Mongol raids some permanent arrangement had to be made. He, therefore, placed Sher Khan Sanqar in charge of Multan, Sind and Lahore regions so that the Mongols might not easily cross that area into the territories of the Sultanate.

Sher Khan was a capable commander and he struck terror into the hearts of the Mongols. But he died in 1270. But Balban was quick in filling in the vacuum by dividing the frontier region into two parts and placing his two sons in charge of each of them.

In one part comprising Multan, Sind and Lahore, he placed Prince Muhammad and in the other comprising province of Sunam and Samana he placed his second son Bughra Khan. Prince Muhammad was very capable administrator and an excellent military commander. He took effective measures to check the advance of the Mongols, but the latter ravaged the upper Punjab and succeeded in crossing the Sutlej. Both Muhammad and Bughra Khan sent their troops to oppose Mongols who were defeated and driven out. But the Mongols reappeared in 1286 and in the contest with the army of Prince Muhammad, the latter was killed. This was a great loss both personal as well as in regard to the defence against the Mongols, of Balban.

But Balban despite the shock of the death of his eldest son re-occupied Lahore which the Mongols had occupied after the death of Muhammad. Under Balban the authority of Delhi did not, however, extend beyond Lahore and the regions west of the river Ravi continued to be under the control of the Mongols.

Apart from the defence measures taken by Balban against the Mongols the only other Sultan who took the policy of defending the country against Mongol raids was Ala-ud-din Khalji. Ala-ud-din’s reign saw a series of Mongol invasions which threatened Punjab, Multan, Sind and even Delhi.

Ala-ud-din is said to have repelled a dozen Mongol invasions. He noticed that twice early in his reign the Mongols succeeded in reaching the vicinity of Delhi without any hindrance. He therefore, took effective steps to protect the frontiers in order to prevent future Mongol raids.

He repaired the old forts in Punjab, Multan and Sind and built a series of new ones. All these forts were garrisoned with strong forces. Apart from these garrisons, he appointed additional army with specific charge of defending the frontier against the Mongol invasions. A special governor—a Warden of the Marches was appointed for the same purpose.

These defensive measures were, however, not sufficient to prevent the Mongols from making repeated raids but the effect of these measures could be seen in the defeat of the Mongol raiders every time they invaded India. It was in 1308 that the Mongols had raided India for the last time and the country remained immune from Mongol invasions during the rest of the reign of Ala-ud-din’s and many more years.

The defence measures of Ala-ud-din were not maintained in subsequent reigns of the Delhi Sultans. Under Muhammad bin Tughluq the defence of the north-west frontier became so lax that the Mongols easily reached the vicinity of Delhi and surprised the Sultan. Muhammad bin Tughluq, of necessity, had to buy them off with a fat bribe which encouraged them to make repeated raids which meant more money for them. Towards the end of the Sultanate, however, the Mongol pressure was relaxed and Delhi was relieved of its greatest scourge. But Timur came to deal the tottering Delhi Sultanate its death blow.

Evolution of the IQTA System:

The iqta system occupied a pivotal place in the administrative arrangements made by Sultan Iltutmish. The term iqta literally means ‘a portion’; technically it was the land or revenue assigned by the ruler to any individual. According to Mawardi there were two types of iqtas, viz; iqta-i-tamlik and iqta-i-istighlal. The former related to land, fallow, cultivated or having mines; the latter related to stipends. The iqtas of the former type, i.e. iqta-i-tamlik is only relevant to our discussion on iqta system.

“In the development of Islamic politico-economic institutions, the iqta has a long and interesting history. It existed since the early days of Islam as a form of reward for service to the state, and passed through various phases of development… The early Turkish Sultans of Delhi, particularly Iltutmish used this institution as an instrument for liquidating the feudal order of the Indian society and linking up the far flung parts of the empire to one centre.” Through this system collection of revenue in newly conquered areas was ensured, despite communication difficulties. Besides, maintenance of law and order, tacking of local problems, iqta system proved useful.

Iqtas were both big and small. The small iqtadars held neither any administrative nor financial duty towards the centre. They held land in lieu of military service. The large iqtas (provinces) which were given to men of status carried administrative responsibilities with them and the assignees had to maintain law and order and supply contingents to the centre in times of emergency.

Iltutmish granted iqtas to the Turks on an extensive scale, for his purpose was intensive control of the conquered territories and the liquidation of Indian feudal institution. But curiously enough, iqta system had in it elements which could develop feudal characteristics. Iltutmish strictly discouraged localism in administration and rejected the feudal concept of the legal immunity of the overlord.

He infused a bureaucratic form in the iqtas by the institution of transfer of the iqtadars from one assignment to another. Iltutmish also realised the economic potentialities of the Doab and granted iqtas to two thousand of his Turkish soldiers there.

In the evolution of history of the iqtas Balban’s reign needs special mention. Balban instituted an enquiry into the conditions and tenures of iqtas given to the Turkish soldiers. Iltutmish had granted iqtas both big and small besides two thousand small iqtas to the Turkish soldiers for a two-fold purpose:

(i) To reward his Turkish soldiers for their services to the Turkish government in India, and

(ii) To utilise them for the consolidation of the Turkish rule in the most prosperous part of the country.

The iqtadars in the Doab were to realise revenue from the land assigned to them for their military service. But they being all small iqtadars had no administrative duty in their locality, nor any financial responsibility to the centre.

The dangers inherent in iqta system were almost similar to those of the feudal system of the Continental Europe. But Iltutmish’s careful and vigilant control of the administrative machinery eliminated the dangers of the iqta system. But during the anarchy that followed the death of Iltutmish, the iqta administration broke down and the iqtadars assumed an attitude of defiance towards the central authority. The iqta system which was intended to be a centripetal force tended to degenerate into a centrifugal force, threatening disintegration and decentralisation of the central authority.

Balban’s ideal of kingship did not permit this kind of an attitude towards decentralisation. He instituted an enquiry into the terms and conditions of the grant of the iqtas of the Doab. The enquiry revealed that the original iqtadars having died or become too old to render military service, the very purpose of making the original grants became useless.

The sons of the deceased iqtadars claimed hereditary rights over the iqtas and with the connivance of diwan-i-arz retained hold on the iqtas. Balban’s view was that the grant was personal in nature and on the basis of a contract for rendering military service. Thus with the death of the original assignee, the grant became null and void.

After a full enquiry, Balban issued order for the resumption of these iqtas, with payment of compensation in certain cases. He also granted pension of 20 to 30 tankas as compensation in certain cases, where the soldier was too old or infirm. Balban’s order caused great resentment among the grantees. Some of the Turkish leaders approached Fark-ud-din, the famous kotwal of Delhi and through his intercession succeeded in getting the order withdrawn.

Revenue Administration under the Sultanate:

Land revenue was the most important source of income of the Delhi Sultanate. The total income from this source was next in quantum, to plunder and booty acquired in times of war. For the purpose of land revenue administration there were four classes of land that were taken into consideration namely,

(i) The khalisa territory,

(ii) Land divided into iqtas and held by iqtadars either for some years or for life,

(iii) Principalities of the Hindu chiefs in alliance with the Sultan,

(iv) Land given away to the scholars and saints such as milk, inam or waqf.

The khalisa was directly administered by the central government. But the state dealt with the local revenue officers like chaudharis and muqaddams and not with the individual ryots. There was an amil, i.e. revenue collector in every sub-division who would collect revenue from the chaudharis and muqaddams, who used to collect the revenue from the ryots. The state demand of revenue was not based on any calculation or actual produce of the soil, but just a summary assessment.

In iqta the administration including assessment and collection of revenue was in the hands of the muqti who paid to the central government the surplus after deducting his own dues. It was naturally his interest to show as little surplus as possible and keep as much more for himself and to evade payment on one pretest or another whenever possible.

The Sultan, therefore, on the advice of the wazir appointed an officer called khwaja in each iqta to keep watch over revenue collection and to exercise check on the muqti. There was still possibilities of collusion between the khwaja and the muqti for which the Sultan appointed an elaborate espionage system and the spies had to report about the activities of the local officers directly to the central government.

The Hindu chief and rajas who were in tributary alliance with the Sultan enjoyed autonomy in their respective states subject to the payment of the tribute. The zamindars also paid a fixed amount as revenue to the government and the ryots recognised nobody else’s authority other than that of the zamindar within whose jurisdiction they lived.

Land given in gift as inam or waqf were free from assessment of revenue and allowed to become hereditary possessions of the grantees. The above system continued to be in force till the time of Ala-ud-din Khalji who introduced certain vital changes in the revenue policy and revenue administration.

He had two main considerations for making these changes, viz ;

(i) To increase the income of the state to the optimum limit, and

(ii) To keep the people in poverty so that they might be mindful to earn their daily bread and have no time to indulge in any conspiracy for rebellion or insubordination.

He therefore;

(a) Confiscated the estates of the Muslim grantees and religious land held as proprietary right (milk), free gift (inam) or endowment (waqf). While some of the grantees were left untouched, most of the land of the above description was appropriated by the state,

(b) The privilege so long enjoyed by the Hindu muqaddams, khuts and chaudharis was withdrawn and they were obliged to pay taxes as on other land held by them. They had also to pay housing tax and pasture tax.

(c) The state demand of the land revenue was enhanced to half of the gross produce of the soil,

(d) A few more taxes in addition to those which were current, were imposed by Ala-ud-din. Jizya, customs duties, and zakat which were levied by earlier Sultans were continued to be realised under Ala-ud-din.

(e) He introduced the system of measurement of land in order to ascertain the actual produce and patwari’s records were consulted to fix revenue settlement,

(f) While efficient machinery was established to make rigorous collection of revenue of all kinds, he took care so that no damage was caused to the agricultural crops due to natural or accidental cause.

It is true that under Ala-ud-din measurement of land could not be done in all provinces, but his aim was to increase the revenue income considerably and make all classes of the society, the peasants and the landlords, merchants and the traders bear the burden of taxation.

Ala-ud-din’s revenue policy was too rigid and very strictly enforced. Naturally it was unpopular. While a Sultan as powerful as Ala-ud-din could enforce such rigid revenue policy, it could not be followed by his weak successors. Many of the rigid and harsh regulations of Ala-ud-din Khalji were allowed to fall into decay but the rate of revenue fixed remained unaltered.

Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq while lessened the rigours of the revenue policy and administration of the time of Ala-ud-din Khalji, did not reduce the revenue demand of the state which continued to remain one half of the gross produce of the soil. But he ordered remission of revenue for damages due to natural calamity or any accidental cause.

He also allowed the khuts, muqaddams and chaudharis to enjoy exemption from payment of tax on their land and their grazing animals. Ghiyas-ud-din also ordered that the revenue demand from any iqta must not be enhanced more than one-tenth or one-eleventh of the standard assessment in a year.

Ghiyas-ud-din, however, gave up the scientific practice of assessing the revenue after measurement of land and reverted to the policy of fixing revenue on guess. He also abandoned the practice of payment to the civil and military officers and resumed the old custom of granting assignment of revenue to civil and military officers.

Muhammad bin Tughluq wanted to systematise the revenue administration of his realm. In order to introduce a uniform standard of land revenue, he instructed the department of revenue to compile a comprehensive register of income and expenditure of the Sultanate. He also instructed the revenue department to see that no village went un-assessed. But this work could not be finished during his reign.

Under Firuz Tughluq there was marked change in the revenue policy of the Delhi Sultanate. He paid much attention to the revenue matters with a view to fostering material prosperity of his subjects. One of the first things he did was to write off the taqavi loans that his late cousin Muhammad bin Tughluq had granted to the agriculturists of the Doab when they had been driven to miserable state due to heavy taxation besides 50% land revenue, and also due to famine and pestilence.

Firuz increased the salaries of the revenue staff so that they might not coerce the ryots to pay more than their legitimate dues to the state. He strictly prohibited physical coercion of the ryots by the governors and revenue officials for realisation of revenue. The revenue of the khalisa land was fixed on a permanent basis after careful and proper examination of local revenue records.

The vexatious taxes like house tax, grazing tax and such other taxes numbering twenty-four altogether, were abolished by him. He levied only five kinds of taxes besides the land revenue as permitted by the Quranic law, namely, kharaj, khams, jizya, zakat and irrigation tax. He also tried for the improvement of agriculture and encouraged cultivation of commercial crops like sugar cane, poppy, oil-seeds etc.

He also encouraged horticultural development in the gardens that he had constructed. Firuz’s measures not only enhanced the revenue income of the government, but contributed much to the material prosperity of the people.

But Firuz Tughluq’s revenue policy suffered from three major defects, namely, the farming out of the land revenue, assignment of the revenue to civil and military officers who were permitted to sell out the assignments to brokers and the rigorous realisation of jizya. Yet it must be said that speaking generally, Firuz Tughluq’s revenue administration was generous yet efficient on the whole.

But it fell into negligence under his successors and although the essence of the system continued to exist under the later Tughluq and the Sayyids, under the Lodis the khalisa land was greatly reduced and the land in the country was divided among the powerful Afghan families. The revenue administration became extremely slack and inefficient.

Sikandar Lodi made an attempt to revive the system of measurement of land for the purpose of fixation of land revenue, but barring this solitary instance to pay attention to revenue administration there was nothing done after the time of Firuz Tughluq.

Administration, Society, Economy, Education, Art and Literature under the Delhi Sultanate: Theory of State:

The Delhi Sultanate was a theocracy and the religion of the state was Islam. The political theory on which the Delhi Sultanate was based was the Quran. The Quran laid down the principle of solidarity and unity among all Muslims and condemned any attempt to break away from the organised community.

A natural corollary was that the entire Muslim world should offer allegiance to one single head. After the death of the Prophet, it was the Caliph, who was that single head. Muslim jurists as well as thinkers like Ibn Khaldun emphasise that Caliphate is a canoncial necessity, and therefore allegiance to the Caliphate is demanded by the law of Islam.

The Sultans of Delhi pursuant to this Islamic law owed a nominal allegiance to the Caliph but for all practical purposes, they were independent rulers. This fiction of allegiance to the Caliph was kept alive even after the real Caliphate came to an end when the last Abbasid Calip Mustasim was put to death by Hulagu, the Mongol leader in 1558.

In conformity with this tradition the Delhi Sultans called themselves deputies of the Caliph and received investiture from the Caliph and inscribe his name on the coins and read his name in the khutba along with his own. Ala-ud-din Khalji was the first Sultan to make a departure from the practice of offering allegiance to the Caliph. His son Qutb-ud-din Mubarak not only refused to believe in the fiction of the Caliphate, but himself assumed the title of Khalifa (Caliph) for himself.

The fact remains that no Delhi Sultan really believed in the sovereignty of the Caliph, but they thought it advantageous to maintain a formal relation with the Islamic world outside and earn the unstinted support of the religious-minded Muslims in India.

Administrative Organisation:

The head of the state under the Delhi Sultanate was called the Sultan. Islamic law and philosophy both recognised him to be the representative of the Caliph. According to the Islamic jurists the Sultan had to protect the Faith to settle disputes between his subjects, to defend the territories of Islam and to keep the highways and roads safe for the travellers, to maintain and enforce the criminal code, to strengthen the frontiers of the Muslim territory against possible aggression, to wage holy war against those who act in hostility to Islam, to collect rates and taxes, to apportion the shares of those who deserve an allowance from the public treasury, to appoint officers to help him in his public and legal duties, and to keep in touch with public affairs and the condition of the people by personal contact.

These functions are, obvious enough, the executive functions of the head of the state. The Sultan had responsibility towards his non-Muslim subjects as well which has been carefully defined by Muslim law. By accepting the suzerainty of the Sultan and payment of taxes the non-Muslims acquired the right of protection, the maintenance of their rites and worship and observance of their social code of conduct and enforcement of their personal law.

Although theoretically the Sultan’s authority was despotic, in practice his authority and political power had serious limitations. He was subservient to Shar for he had to depend on the Muslim soldiers and open breach of Shar would lead to serious consequences. He could not interfere with the personal law of any group of his subjects. The Sultan had to depend on the active support of the nobles, and also ensure the cooperation of a fairly large number of ulemas.

Further, there were many wise and experienced public servants whose administrative experience and technical knowledge the Sultan could not ignore, nor could the Sultan forget the cultivators, the Hindu peasants and the tribal chiefs. The ultimate force of the state and for the matter of that the power and strength of the Sultan consisted of the Muslim fighters and no monarch could venture to alienate this section without peril. These diverse constraints served as limitations to the authority of the Sultan.

Although the usual practice of the Sultanate was hereditary succession, yet majority of the Muslim jurists are of opinion that a monarch elected by the most influential men at the capital is entitled to the allegiance of the people. This naturally gives sanction to the election of the Sultan whenever necessary. The right to dethrone a monarch is therefore a logical corollary. During the period of the Delhi Sultanate, both election and deposition of Sultans took place.

The Sultans maintained a great splendour in their court which had great utilitarian value. The Turkish Sultans preferred Persian etiquette in their courts. The Sultans discharged their formal duties in public darbars and matters requiring deliberations would be dealt with in the council chamber where those officers were admitted whose advice was required.


The diverse nature of the business of the state and the maintenance of ceremonial assembly of the royal court necessitated the appointment of a large number of officials. The dignity of the monarch required that everything should be done smoothly; order of predence of the officers to be strictly maintained and even manner of salutation at the court to be formally prescribed.

Thus a big staff of officers, ushers and heralds was necessary. Besides, the Sultan had his personal staff, his body guards, palace guards, personal attendants and host of other workers who were all under the charge of waki- i-dar who also supervised the payment of salaries of this personal staff.

Amir-i-hajib also called barbak was the master of ceremonies at the court. There were karkhanas in the royal household for the manufacture of articles for the royal household and the court. There were karkhanas also for manufacturing arms, ammunitions and armours. The royal court also served as the patron of learning and fine arts and was instrumental to the promotion of culture.


At the top of the civil government was the wazir who under weak Sultan enjoyed almost unlimited authority. But where the Sultan was strong and capable, he was only a very powerful officer. The immediate concern of the wazir was the central finance, but he was also responsible for the activities of the other officers at the headquarters.

He appointed and superintended the civil servants, and organised the agency for the collection of revenue. He also exercised control over expenditure. The assistants under him examined all the accounts submitted by different departments and it was in his department that all financial statements were compared, checked and passed. The wazir at times took humiliating and unpleasant measures against local officials to recover the money spent illegally.

From his department stipends to scholars and men of learning, doles to the poor and needy were paid. “No branch of public administration was outside his purview, and every subject from the mightiest governor to the lowliest peasant in the land had dealings with him or his assistants.” The department of the wazir was called diwan-i-wazirat; it mainly dealt with finance. There was a naib-wazir to assist him.

Next to the wazir and naib-wazir was mushrif-i-mumalik who was the accountant general of the empire, and mustafi-mumalik was the auditor general. Originally the mushrif used to enter the accounts that he would receive from the provinces and the mustafi would audit the account. Under Firuz Tughluq their work was redistributed and the mushrif dealt with income only while the mustafi dealt with expenditure. Mushrif was assisted by a nazir and mustafi by a waquf.

There were three other ministers which, together with the diwan-i-wazirat were compared to four pillars that supported the vault of the state. The next in importance was diwan-i-ariz, which was the office of ariz-mumalik, who was the controller general of military establishment. His main functions were to recruit troops, to maintain the descriptive rolls of men and horses and to hold muster of men and horses for the purposes of review.

The Sultan being the commander-in-chief of the royal army, ariz-in-mumalik was not usually required to command the army and if he would, he only commanded a part of the army. He looked particularly after the discipline and equipment of the army and their deployment in the battlefield. The department being very important, Ala-ud- din Khalji would at times look after the department personally.

The next important minister was sadar-us-sudur whose office was called diwan- i-risalat. He was in charge of religious matters, pious foundations, stipends to deserving scholars and men of piety. According to Dr. Habibullah, he was a minister of foreign affairs. The sadr-i-sudur was also the qazi-i-mumalik and in this capacity he controlled the department of justice.

The third ministry was diwan-i-insha which was under the dabir-i-khas and dealt with state correspondence. The dabir-i-khas was also the confidential clerk of the state. All the correspondences, confidential or otherwise, between the Sultan and rulers of other states or his own tributaries or officials passed through this department. Another minister was barid-i-mumalik who was the head of the state news agency. The headquarters of every administrative subdivision had a local barid who sent regular news letters to the central office.

The ministers were servants of the crown, held office during his pleasure and responsible only to him. There was no question of any team work among the ministers, or any opposition to the Sultan’s wishes. They only exercised their authority as experts and heads of well organised bureaucratic departments.

An office called naib-ul-mulk was filled in from the nobles which meant Lord Lieutenant of the Empire whose authority varied according to the ability and personality of the Sultan. When the Sultan was weak the naib-ul-mulk held absolute authority, but when the Sultan was capable and strong, the naib-ul-mulk was a mere title.

Financial Administration:

Besides land revenue, which has been discussed under a separate section, and which formed main source of income of the state, the income of the state also came from the sources of other taxes. A capitation tax called jizya was levied on the Hindus at the rate of ten, twenty or forty tankas per annum according to the wealth of the assessee. “Jizya was charged in lieu of military service which was theoretically compulsory for all Muslims….” There is also evidence that the cultivators also did not pay jizya. The other sources of income were the import duties, the state share of the spoils of war, imposts on mines and on treasure-troves if they contained coins of pre-Muslim days. “The import duties ranged from 2½ to 10 percent, the rate of demand under the other heads being uniform twenty per cent.” The Muslims had to pay a poor tax called zakat.

The Army:

The Delhi Sultanate was based on force and not on the habitual allegiance of the people.

It had, therefore, to maintain a large force which comprised:

(a) Regular soldiers who were permanently maintained in the Sultan’s service,

(b) Troops in permanent employ of the provincial governors and nobles,

(c) Troops appointed temporarily during wars, and

(d) Muslim volunteers who were recruited in the name of holy war, i.e., Jihad. In Delhi there were two categories of troops, viz., those in the service of the Sultan and those in the service of the nobles, ministers, and high officials.

The Sultan’s body­guards, troops of the capital constituted the standing army of the Sultanate and it was reinforced by the contingents sent by the provincial governors as also by the contingents of the Hindu troops in times of need. It was under Ala-ud-din Khalji that a standing army in the proper sense and directly recruited, paid and officered by the central government was organised.

The number of the standing army under Ala-ud-din was 475,000 horse and vast number of foot. The system of standing army continued till the time of Muhammad bin Tughluq. But Firuz Tughluq feudalized the army and made it dependent on land grants. Under the Lodis, the army was organised on tribal basis and thus became organisationally very weak.

There were no fixed rules of recruitment, training, payment or promotion. In times of holy wars, that is wars against Hindu rulers, that maulvis and ulemas were sent out to encourage the Muslim population to join in the jihad. The volunteers were not paid any salary but were given a share of the booty.

The army under the Sultanate was not a national army, for it consisted of soldiers belonging to different nationalities, such as the Turks, the Tajiks, the Persians, the Mongols, the Afghans, the Arabs, the Abyssinians, the Indian Muslims and the Hindus. It was neither a homogeneous body, nor scientifically trained.

The army had three divisions, namely, the cavalry, the infantry and the elephants. It goes without saying that the cavalry comprised the most powerful arm of the army. The cavalry was divided into two grades, those troopers who had two horses each, and those who had only one horse each.

There was yet a third grade which was not regarded as proper, cavalry although troopers of this group possessed a horse each. The foot soldiers who were mostly Indian Muslims, Hindus and slaves were armed with spears, swords and bows and arrows. The elephant had hauda, i.e., a wooden structure which could accommodate several fighters, on the back of each elephant.

There were also incendiary arrows, javelins, naptha balls, fireworks, rockets and hand grenades. There was also a sort of mechanical artillery for discharge of fire balls, fire arrows, stones etc. on the enemies. The Sultans maintained a number of boats for both river battles and transport of troops by waterways.

The Sultan was the commander-in-chief of the army. The army ministry called diwan- i-ariz under ariz-mumalik that looked after the army. But in view of the importance of the armed forces, the Sultan himself would look after the organisation and upkeep of the army.

There used to be general muster of the soldiers and the horses from time to time. But there used to be proxy men in the battle or military review and production of the same horse for more than once for review at the time of the muster. To do away with this corruption Ala-ud-din instituted the system of muster roll of the troops and branding of horses. But this salutary system was abandoned at the time of Firuz Tughluq. Under Ala-ud-din the soldiers were paid in cash. But Firuz Tughluq revived the system of payment by assignment of revenue to the soldiers.


The Sultan was the fountainhead of justice, and justice in the state emanated from him. He was responsible for upholding, maintaining and enforcing the Quranic laws. There was a judicial department called diwan-i-qaza and a chief qazi, i.e., qazi-ul-qazat. But in fact the chief justice did not function independently; he assisted the Sultan in both the religious and secular cases.

The chief qazi discharged the functions of the sadr-i-sudur while the Sultan dealt with religious cases and advised him with his expert knowledge. As the posts of the sadr-i-sudur and qazi-ul-qazat were held by the same person, in his capacity as chief qazi he would advise the Sultan in secular cases. But when the Sultan was not in session, the chief qazi functioned as the highest court of justice, but his decisions were liable to be revised by the Sultan.

The Sultan appointed provincial and district qazis perhaps on the recommendation of the chief qazi. In important cities and equivalent post called amir-i-dad would be appointed by the Sultan. The chief qazi held his court at Delhi, heard appeals from the provincial courts and was assisted by the legal interpreter called the mufti.

The penal laws under the Sultanate were very severe and the punishments were often mutilation and death. Torture of various kinds was resorted to extort confession. There was no police system under the Sultanate but in important cities an officer of the name of kotwal used to be appointed, whose duty was maintenance of peace and order.

There was another officer appointed in every province and every important town, named muhtasib whose duty was to see that Islamic regulations were observed by the Muslims, five prayers were said by them daily, as well as to control the market and to regulate the weights and measures.

Provincial Administration:

Under the Sultanate there was no uniform distribution of provinces. While the direct influence of the Sultan was limited to the areas within striking distance of his forts and outposts, the distant provinces were placed under viceroys called naib Sultans. The number of provinces under the Sultanate varied from twenty to twenty-five. The province was divided into smaller portions which were in charge of muqtas or amils, and these smaller portions were again subdivided into further smaller units each under a shiqdar.

Each province under a naib Sultan was a replica of the empire and head of the province exercised executive, judicial and military functions within his jurisdiction almost as a despot subject to the control of the Sultan. The power and authority of the heads of provinces varied according to the strength or weakness of the Sultan.

Under Muhammad bin Tughluq the provincial viceroys declared themselves independent taking advantage of the confusion and weakness of the central government. The viceroy would pay the surplus of the revenue collections after meeting the local expenditure to the Sultan. He maintained his own troops and in times of need would be required to send contingents to the assistance of the centre.

The efficient working of the provincial government was hindered by the intrigues and the selfish pursuits of the nobles and there was no peace and order in most of the provinces. Besides the imperial provinces, there were hereditary Hindu chieftains who paid tributes to the Sultan and were allowed to rule their ancestral territories without any interference so long as they paid the tributes in time. The villages being more or less self-sufficient remained unaffected by changes of the government at the centre.


Muslim Society:

During the Sultanate period the Muslim society in India fast became Indianised. The Sultan was at the top of the Muslim society and below him stood the priviledged classes, viz., the nobles and the ulemas, who held fiefs and estates under the Sultan. The slaves, in spite of their degraded social position, one way may be regarded as a privileged class for, they were well cared for and there was a department to look after them.

Some of the slaves exercised great influence on their royal masters. “This is clearly shown by the examples of Malik Kafur, the lieutenant of Sultan Ala-ud-din Khalji, and Malik Khusrav, the favourite of that monarch’s son, Qutb-ud-din Mubarak Shah.” The Muslim nobles were usually of foreign origin, the Persians, Turks, Afghans, Sayyids, Arabs etc.

There was some arrogance in the aristocratic classes and there gradually developed a sort of exclusiveness and caste system which were contrary to the spirit of Islam and perhaps the result of Indian influence. Thus Turk, a Pathan or a Sayyid would never think of any matrimonial relationship with any family of lower rank.

There was practically no strong or prosperous middle class in those days, and as a result, the wealth and splendour of the upper classes stood in great contrast with the poverty and squalor of the masses both Hindu and Muslim.

The purdha system or seclusion of women had already become a common practice. Purdah was, however, unknown among the lower classes, particularly in the rural society. How far the rigidity of purdah system was the result of the Rajput influence cannot be definitely determined. “What is certain is that peculiar social conditions in India were largely responsible for the development of this system which was unknown in other Muslim countries in medieval times.”

Polygamy or keeping of concubines was not a common practice. This sort of luxury could be afforded by privileged few. In most cases the much spoken of harem was nothing more than a separate living quarter for the women folk of the family. Harem with large number of women was, however, maintained by some Sultans and nobles.

Sultans’ use of costly royal dresses, the gilded and studded swords and daggers, colourful umbrellas, richly caprisoned elephants were all typically Indian royal parapher­nalia of pomp and grandeur. The old Indian practice of chewing betel-leaf was adopted by the Sultans and the grandees.

While the Muslims adopted the head-gears called chira and the pag of the Rajput origin, the tight fitting cloak for men and tight-fitting trousers for women were of foreign origin and adopted by the Rajputs. The use of neck-chain, ear-rings, rings etc. by Muslim men was due to Indian influence; these vanities were prohibited in Islam. Fine cotton fabrics, silk cloth for which India was famous were used by the Muslim gentry.

On festive occasions an amazingly large varieties of dishes were served which showed the luxurious and refined tastes of the Sultan and the well-to-do people.

About the cultivation of music there are two contradictory opinions among the Muslim Jurists. According to one school music is not permissible under Islamic law, but according to another school it is permissible. Khwaja Muin-ud-din Chishti’s band of qavvals used to sing every evening. Iltutmish put a ban on music, but a member of the Chishti order persuaded him to withdraw the ban. Ghiyas-ud-din had also banned music but the ban was withdrawn by Muhammad-bin-Tughluq. The lowest stratum of the Muslim society comprised the peasants and cultivators, workmen, artisans and domestic servants.

Hindu Society:

The Hindu society consisted of four primary castes, namely, the Brahmans, the Kshatriyas, the Vaisyas and the Sudras. There was an indefinite number of the so-called mixed castes of varying social status, and finally a despised class at the bottom of the society. A uniform pattern of social structure as described above was, however, not to be found everywhere. There were local differences in different regions. Besides the above social divisions there were slaves among the Hindus.

While the Muslims took delight in enslaving Hindu women en masse from the highest to the lowest rank and even making presents of male and female Hindu slaves, from Nizam-ud-din we come to know that the “even Musalmans and Sayyid women were taken by the Rajputs and were turned into slave girls.” Sultan Muhammad-bin-Tughluq sent “one hundred male slaves and one hundred slave songstresses and dancers from among the Indian infidels” to the Chinese Emperor.

Smriti authorities of this period emphasised perpetual subjection of women and their lifelong tutelage- under their male relations at successive stages of their lives. Before marriage they were to be under the tutelage of their father, next under that of the husband and lastly under the son.

High standard of living of earlier times seems to have prevailed at least at the upper level of the society during the most part of this period. Except under Ala-ud-din Khalji when well-to-do Hindus were reduced to miserable state, during the rule of most of the other Sultans this was true. The condition of the peasants, workers, artisans etc., was similar to that of their Muslim counterparts.

Hindu-Muslim Relations:

The political and religious condition, under which the Hindus were forced to live under the Muslim state of the Sultanate, raised a barrier between the two communities. Under the Islamic theory there could be only one faith, one people and one over-all authority. “As for the Hindus and Zoroastrians, they had no place in such a political system. If their existence was tolerated, it was only to use them as hewers of wood and drawers of water, as tax-payers, khiraj-guzar, for the benefit of the dominant sect of the Faithful. They were called zimmis or people under a contract of protection by the Muslim state on condition of certain service to be rendered by them and certain political and civil disabilities to be borne by them to prevent them from growing strong. They very term zimmi is an insulting title.”

The Quran calls upon the Muslims to fight the non-believers ’till they pay jizya with the hand in humility.” Jizya was a poll tax payable by the Hindus for permission to live in their ancestral homes under a Muslim ruler. The social and religious differences and the political condition under which the Hindus were forced to live led to an uncompromising spirit of animosity between the Hindus and the Muslims in India in the thirteenth century.

But two factors led to some reciprocal influences between the Hindu and the Muslim communities, namely, a vast majority of the Indian Muslims must have been decendants of Hindu converts, and the Muslims who claimed descent from foreigner or foreign immigrants into India lived as close neighbours of the Hindus for generations.

Many of the social practices of the Indian Muslims, such as marriage, class distinction, and some of their ideas and beliefs, were probably due to the influence of the Hindu society. Reciprocal influence can be noticed, particularly in Northern India, with regard to dress, food, language, music, art and architecture.

In religious ideas while Sufism influenced the Hindu religion, the doctrines of medieval Hindu saints on the other, influenced the Islam. The Muslim saints, particularly the mystics, were revered by the Hindus and the Hindu yogis and astrologers were held in high esteem by the Muslims.

Some local cults, such as that of Satya pir became popular with the rural people of both communities. In minor matters, such as setting out for any journey or any important work auspicious day would be chosen even by the Muslims according to the Hindu customs.

In both scholarship and literature there was considerable understanding between the two communities. While the Muslim scholars studied Hindu philosophy and sciences, such as Yoga, Vedanta, medicine, astrology etc., the Hindus learnt from the Muslims, geography, arithmetic and chemistry. Again, while some Muslim scholars wrote in Indian vernaculars, many Hindus learnt and wrote in Persian.

It may, however, be mentioned here that all these only touched the fringe and external elements of life and were confined to comparatively small section of the society. But the chief features of the culture of the Hindus or Muslims were not imbibed by the Muslims or the Hindus. The ultra-democratic social ideas of the Muslims were strictly confined to the Muslim community and the Hindus despite the example of the Muslim community before their eyes did not relax their social rigidity.

“Nor did the Muslims every moderate their zeal to destroy ruthlessly the Hindu temples and images of gods, and their attitude in this respect remained unchanged from the day when Muhammad bin Qasim set foot on the soil of India till the eighteenth century A.D. when they lost all political powers. The Hindus combined catholicity in religious outlook with bigotry in social ethics, while the Muslims displayed an equal bigotry in religious ideas with catholicity in social behaviour.” In concession, it may be pointed out that reciprocal influences were too superficial in character to affect materially the fundamental differences between the two communities.

Economic Condition:

During the Sultanate the village following the traditional pattern was more or less a self-contained unit and the backbone of India’s economy. But due to the centralised administration of the period, the ancient self-governing village assemblies decayed. The economic life of the towns and cities was maintained as of old in full vigour during the period. Ibn Batuta found great cities with rich markets in upper Gangetic valley, in Malwa, Gujarat, in Bengal and the Deccan as well as in Malabar.

In the early sixteenth century the sea ports of Gujarat, Deccan, Malabar and Bengal used to handle extensive inland, coastal and overseas trade. During the fifteenth and the sixteenth centuries the city of Vijaynagar with its large population and rich bazars, skilled craftsmen, and dealers in a remarkable varieties of articles including precious stones, impressed foreign travellers such as Dominigo Paes and others.

The foreign travellers of this period described the extensive cultivation of food grains and other crops, raising of domestic animals etc. They often refer to the exceeding fertility of the soil. We learn from Ibn Batuta that there were seven varieties of autumn crop raised every year, and four varieties of spring crops. Rice was grown thrice in a year. His list of Indian fruits includes mangoes, jackfruits, oranges, black-berries, pome-granate, etc.

Sesame and sugar cane which were cultivated with autumn crops. At Daulatabad grapes were grown. Chinese writers Wang Ta Yuan, Ma Huan, Fei Hsin and Husang Sheng-tseng and travellers like Abdur-Razzaq, Barbosa, Paes etc. corroborate the statement of Ibn Batuta with regard to the production of agricultural and horticultural crops during the period.

According to Barbosa, in Bengal with its sea-port at Satgaon there were many cotton fields, sugar-cane, ginger and pepper plantations as well as gardens of orange, lemons and other fruit-trees. There was also an abundance of cows, horses and fowls.

The textile industry appears to have flourished in this period, as during the preceding centuries. From the account of Barbosa it appears that by the beginning of the sixteenth century Gujarat led the way in the volume of textile manufacture. Cambay was particularly noted for the manufacture of woven white cotton fabrics, printed cotton stuffs, silk cloth, coloured velvet, satins, thick carpets, beautiful quilts etc. Cambay cloth found markets in Western Europe by East African route, Burma, Malaya and Indonesian islands.

Shaliyat, near Calicut, Coimbator and cities of Malabar were famous for cotton fabrics, silk cloth, coloured cotton stuff, chintz, etc. The printed cotton cloth of Pulicat found a good market in Malabar, Gujarat and in countries outside India, such as Burma, Malacca, Sumatra etc.

In Eastern India, Bengal was famous for the abundance and variety of finer cotton textiles and silk cloth. When Ibn Batuta visited Bengal in 1346, finest cotton cloth was being sold at a very cheap price. Ma Huan writing in the middle of the fifteenth century refers to six varieties of fine cotton stuffs, besides silk brocaded kerchiefs and head-coverings woven with gold. The Chinese writer of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries as well as Barbosa in the sixteenth century speaks of the Bengal cotton stuffs in the same strain.

The lavish display of jewellery and pearls besides ornaments of gold and silver testified to the advanced condition of the work in precious metal as well as in precious and semi­precious stones, ivory work, and polishing of pearls. The Hindu and Muslim rulers of the time made use of costly ivory in the decoration of their furniture and palaces.

Gujarat craftsmen stood pre-eminent in the ivory industry. In the city of Cambay best workmen of every kind were found and a great amount of work was done there in coral, carnelian and other stones. The Pearl fisheries in Kayal were worked by the local fishermen. At Pulicat, in Vijaynagar, and particularly at Calicut and other cities of Malabar there existed a great industry of cutting and polishing stones like diamonds, sapphires, and rubies which were imported from Ceylon and Pegu, as well as from the Deccan in India.

From the accounts of the foreign travellers, we come across direct evidence of the large volume of India’s inland and coastal trade during the period under study. Ibn Batuta called one market in Delhi to be the largest in the world. Delhi was the common market for fine rice from Sarsuti, sugar from Kanauj, finest quality of wheat from Marh, and betelleaf from Dhar.

The Hindu merchants of Daulatabad dealt in pearls specially, and were very wealthy. The very good roads connecting big cities facilitated the development of inland trade during that period. The insecurity of travel by the highways, and the constant confusion due to insurrection often disturbed the movement of the internal trade.

From Barbosa we come to know that from the inland town of Limodara in Gujarat, carnelian beads were carried in large quantities to Cambay sea port for export to Europe and East Africa. Copper was imported from abroad to the port of Dabhol in huge quantities and sent to interior areas where from cloth, wheat, millet and pulses were obtained in return. The sea port of Rander in Gujarat was the largest centre of trade in that region to which products from Malacca and China were imported.

Goa which had passed into the hands of the Portuguese in the sixteenth century was the port to which horses from outside were imported and Vijaynagar purchased horses from the Portuguese at a very high price. Bhatkal in the vicinity of Vijaynagar kingdom was a very great trade centre.

From the narrative of Ibn Batuta and also from that of Barbosa we have come to know that during the period under discussion there was a chain of sea ports with excellent harbours which was used for the purpose of coastal trade. Among these ports Diu in Gujarat, Goa in the Deccan, Calicut, Cochin and Quilon in Malabar appear to be most important according to Barbosa’s description.

The highly profitable trade between Gujarat and Malabar was monopolised by the malabari merchants. The list of imports from Malabar included cocoanuts, cardamoms, different kinds of spices, emery, wax, iron, palm sugar, sandal­wood, silk and other articles and export list included cotton, cloth, wheat, other grains, carnelians, horses etc.

The coastal trade of the Deccan ports was, however, shared both by the Gujarati and Malabari traders. Gujarat imported cotton cloth, silk, opium, wheat, horses etc. and exported cotton linen fabrics. Malabar imported arecanuts, spices, drugs, palm-sugar, emery, wax, copper, quick-silver and exported cotton goods, rice, wheat, millet, gingili oil, muslin and calicos.

The Ceylon market in the neighbourhood was largely controlled by the Indian merchants. The coastal trade of the Vijaynagar kingdom was carried on the Hindu and Muslim merchants from the cities of Malabar.

The overseas trade of India during the period was carried on with Western Asia especially. The Indian merchandise was carried along the Persian Gulf wherefrom by overland route through Mesopotamia to the Mediterranean coast. The second route was through the Red Sea ports to Egypt and thence to the Mediterranean coasts.

The merchandise was thereafter distributed to west European countries by the Venetian and Italian merchants. From Ibn Batuta we learn that in the early part of the fourteenth century Or muz was the entrepot of the trade from Hind and Sind. Indian merchandise was carried from Ormuz to two Iraqs, Fars and Khurasan.

Aden was the port where the Indian ships arrived from Cambay, Thana, Quilon, Calicut, Fandarina, Shaliyat, Mangalore, Farkanor, Hinawar, Sindabur and so forth,. A colony of Indian merchants grew up in Aden. From Barbosa we learn that in the beginning of the sixteenth century a highly profitable trade , was carried on between the Indian ports of Diu, Chaul, Goa, Bhatkal, Calicut etc. and those of Arabia and Persia, such as Jiddah, Aden, Esh-Shihr and Ormuz.

India exported pepper, cloves, ginger, cardamoms, sandal wood, saffron, indigo, wax, iron, sugar, rice, cocoa-nuts, precious stones, benzoin, porcelain, cloth, Bengal muslin. Import comprised Arabian horses, dates, rasins, salt, sulphur, coarse seed-pearls.

Literature and Education:

Amir Khusrav declared with pride that Delhi was an intellectual competitor of Bukhara, the famous university-city of Central Asia. During the Sultanate period, the Muslim rulers patronised the Persian scholars who crowded into their courts from other parts of Asia due to the pressure of the Mongol raids.

They also established institutions of Muslim learning at places like Delhi, Jullundur, Firuzabad, etc. A big library was founded at Delhi of which Amir Khusrav was appointed librarian. The Sultans and Amirs of Delhi and the Muslim rulers and nobles of the provinces encouraged literary activities in Persian.

Amir Khusrav was the most famous of the contemporary scholars whose works covered poetry, prose in Persian, as well as music. He enjoyed a pretty long life and had risen into fame under Balban, was the tutor of Prince Muhammad, court poet of Ala-ud-din Khalji and enjoyed the patronage of Ghiyas-ud-din Tughluq.

Shaikh Nizam-ud-din Hasan, popularly known as Hasan-i-Dihlavi was another poet of the time whose fame spread beyond India. About the patronage that the great men of different nationalities received from Ala-ud-din Khalji, the observation of Barani is worth quoting. “The most wonderful thing that people saw in Ala-ud-din’s reign was the multitude of great men of all nationalities, masters of every science and expert in every art. The capital of Delhi by the presence of these unrivalled men of great talents became the envy of Baghdad, the rival of Cairo, and the equal of Constantinople.”

Nizam-ud-din Auliya, the pious man and scholar and several other scholars, flourished during Ala-ud-din’s reign. Muhammad bin Tughluq, a man of much accomplishment, was a patron of learned men. Sultan Firuz Shah was responsible for writing his own memoirs named Fatuhat-i-Firuz Shahi which reveals his great zeal for education. He established one college to each of the several mosques built by him.

Qazi Abdul Muqtadir, Maulana Khwajagi and Ahmad Thanesvari were among the eminent learned men who enjoyed Firuz Shah’s patronage. Sikandar Lodi was himself a poet and gave encouragement to learning. Most of the ruling dynasties of Bijapur, Ahmadnagar, Golkunda, Malwa, Jaunpur, Bengal and Multan were patrons of literature. The Muslim writers of the period showed their skill in a branch of study, namely, history, which was neglected by the Hindus. “They wrote several first- rate historical books in elegant prose.”

Minhaj-us-Siraj’s Tabaqat-i-Nasiri, Amir Khusrav’s historical mesncvis and his Tarikh-i-Alai are valuable historical works. Zia-ud-din Barani was the most celebrated historian of the period and contemporary of Muhammad bin Tughluq. Tarikh-i-Firuz Shahi of Shams-i-Siraj Afif. Ahmad Sarhindi’s Tarikh-i- Mubarak Shahi are historical works of value.

The Sultanate period was not entirely barren in regard to important Sanskrit works, both religious and secular. Parthasarathi Misra was responsible for several works of which Sastra Dipika was very important and studied widely. Some works on Yoga, Vaiseshika and Nyaya philosophy were produced during this period.

Jay Singh Sun’s Hammir-mada- inardana, prince Ravivarman’s Pradyumna-abhyudaya, Prataparudra Kalyan of Vidyanalh, Parvati Parinaya of Vamana Bhatta Bana, Vidaghdhamadhabha and Lalita- madhabha of Rupa Goswami, minister of Hussain Shah of Bengal, Smriti and grammatical works of Bengal and Mithila of the period by famous writers like Padmanabha Datta, Vidyapati Upadhyaya and Vachaspati of Mithila and Raghunandan of Bengal deserve special mention. Sayana and Madhava Vidyaranya of Vijaynagar were two famous Sanskrit scholars of the time. There were also few Muslim scholars who possessed knowledge of Sanskrit language and literature.

Religious reformers of the period preaching to the unlettered masses spoke in a language which could be easily understood by the ordinary people. Ramananda, and Kabir preached in Hindi, Namadeva in Marathi, Mira Bai in Brajabhasha, Nanak in Punjabi and Gurmukhi. Muslim rulers in Bengal engaged scholars to translate the Ramayana and Mahabharata into Bengali. Vidyapati was the court poet of the Hindu king Siva Singha.

Vaishnava poet Chandidas born towards the end of the fourteenth century in Nanur in Birbhum is still held in high esteem for his lyrics. Maladhar Basu, Srikar Nandy, Krittivasa were the famous writers of Bengal of the period.

Art and Architecture:

According to Fergusson and some others the architecture of the Sultanate period was Indo-Saracenic or Pathan. Havell on the other hand calls it entirely Indian in soul and body. But the fact remains; the architecture of the period was a happy blending of Indian and Islamic styles as is noticed in certain other aspects of the culture of the time. Sir John Marshall observes that the Indo-Islamic art was not a local variety of the Islamic art, nor is a modified form of the Hindu art.

The Indo-Islamic architecture, he points out, derives its character from both Indian and Islamic sources though not always in equal degree. It has to be mentioned as in India at that time there were Brahmanical, Buddhist and Jaina styles, so also in Islamic style there were Arabian, Persian and Turkish characteristics.

The mingling of these diverse styles and influences gave rise to the Indo-Islamic style of architecture during the period. While in the Delhi architecture Islamic influences predominated, the styles of architecture in provinces had their local variations. Thus there were Jaunpur, Bengal, Bijapur, Gujarat styles.

The mixture of the Islamic and Indian styles of architecture was due to various factors such as, use of the Indian craftsmen and sculptors who were naturally guided by the existing art traditions of the country. It was also due to the use of the materials of the Hindu and Jaina temples for the purposes of the construction of mosques.

Further, there were adaptations by minimal changes of non-Muslim temples to convert them into mosques. There were, however, certain factors which were common to the Indian and the Islamic architecture, namely, open court encompassed by chambers or colonnades both in the cases of temples and mosques. Again, both the Hindu and the Islamic art were ornamental and decorative.

The best specimen of the Delhi architecture of the period is the Qutb Minar. Jama’ at Khana Masjid and the Alai Darwaza at Qutb Minar of the time of Ala-ud-din Khalji reveal preponderance of the Muslim ideas over those of the Hindu architects. The Tughluq architecture was prosaic and devoid of splendour. The Lodis tried to revive the brilliance of the style of the Khalji period.

In Jaunpur many new buildings were built with the materials of the Hindu temples. The Atala Devi Masjid (1377) is one of the best specimens of the Jaunpur architectural style. In Bengal as well there grew a mixed style of architecture. Use of Bricks and adaptation of Hindu temple style and Hindu decorative designs in imitation of lotus were characteristic of the Muslim architecture of the period in Bengal.

Adina Masjid, Chhota Sona Masjid, Bara Sona Masjid and Qadam Rasul are specimens of architecture of the period in Bengal. Gujarat evolved an excellent architectural style. It was an indigenous style which had developed there even before the coming of the Muslims and the buildings of the Muslim conquerors bear unmistakable influence of that style.

Fine wood-carvings, delicate stone lattices and ornamental decorations are the effects of this influence. In Malwa Jami Masjid, Hindola Mahal, Jahaj Mahal, Hushang’s tomb, Baz Bahadur’s and Rupamati’s palaces, mostly built of marble and sand stones, are excellent specimens of the architectural work of the period.

In the Bahamani kingdom of the south, the architectural style betrayed a mixture of Indian, Turkish, Egyptian and Persian characteristics. Jami Masjid of Gulbarga and Chand Minar of Daulatabad and the college of Mahmud Gawan at Bidar bear testimony to this mixed style. Many of the buildings in Bahamani kingdom were built on the site of old temples and with the materials of those temples which gave unavoidably a Hindu look in the style.

At Bijapur the native art began to reassert itself and the Adil Shahi buildings which were constructed by the Indian artists and craftsmen bore an Indian style. Sir John Marshall remarks that “it was inevitable that Indian genius should rise superior to foreign influence and stamp itself more and more deeply on these creations.” Thus the impact of Hindu and Islamic civilisations was leading to harmony and understanding in the diverse spheres of society, art and culture.