The following points highlight the top six achievements of Balban. They are: 1. Balban’s Theory of Kingship and Restoration of the Prestige of the Sultan 2. The Destruction of ‘The Forty’ 3. The Army 4. The Administration and the Spy-System 5. The Suppression of Revolts 6. The Conquest of Bengal.
Achievement # 1. Balban’s Theory of Kingship and Restoration of the Prestige of the Sultan:
Balban was the first ruler of the Delhi Sultanate who expressed clear and firm opinion regarding the powers of the Sultan. Professor K.A. Nizami has expressed that it was necessary for restoring not only the dignity of the Sultan and eradicating the possibility of conflict with the nobility but also the result of an inferiority complex and guilty conscience.
Balban wanted to impress upon his nobles that he got the throne because of Divine will and not by the poisoned cup or the assassin’s dagger. Balban, primarily, emphasized two points regarding the theory of kingship. Firstly, that the monarchy was divinely ordained and, secondly, that it was necessary for the Sultan to be a despot.
He expressed that Kingship was the vice-regency of God on earth (niyabat-i-khudai) and it was next only to prophethood and therefore, his actions could not be judged by nobles or the people. He said to his son Bughra Khan that Kingship was the embodiment of despotism. On another occasion he declared that it was the King’s super-human awe and status which could ensure the people’s obedience.
Balban brought these ideas in practice. He claimed descent from the mythical Turkish hero, Afrasiyab of Turan, gave up drinking wine and pleasure-parties, kept himself aloof, maintained dignified reserve and stopped meeting not only the people but also the nobles. He never expressed unusual joy or sorrow in public.
Even when the news of the death of his eldest son, Muhammad was conveyed to him, he remained unmoved and carried on the routine administration though in his private apartment he wept bitterly. He never came to the court without complete regal dress and never laughed or gave a smile.
He framed certain rules for court-behaviour and enforced them strictly. He adopted many ceremonies of the Persian court. He introduced the practices of Zaminbos and Paibos (prostrating before and kissing the king’s feet on the throne), appointed tall and fearsome guards who were to stand round the king’s person with naked swords and, except high nobles, ordered the rest to remain standing in the court.
The court-dress was fixed up for the nobles also and drinking of wine was prohibited for them. Nobody could smile or laugh in the court. The yearly festival of Naurauj was celebrated in his court with great pomp and show. The foreigners were simply stunned by the glamour of his court.
Whenever Balban used to go outside the palace, his fierce bodyguards marched with him with naked swords and shouting ‘Bismillah-Bismillah’. All these measures, certainly, helped in restoring the prestige of the Sultan and added glamour to his personality.
Besides, Balban gave shelter to all foreign scholars and nobles and named their residences in the name of their country or family because of which he was regarded as the protector of Muslim culture. This gave him a respectable position even in foreign countries of the Muslim world.
Achievement # 2. The Destruction of ‘The Forty’:
Even when Balban worked as the Naib of Sultan Nasir-ud-din, he tried to break up the power of the group of ‘the forty’ (Turkan-i-Chihalgani) as he regarded it necessary to restore the powers of the Sultan. When he himself became the Sultan, he used every means to achieve this aim. A cup of poison and the dagger of an assassin were equally good for him.
By the time Balban ascended the throne, most of these nobles had either died by themselves or were destroyed by Balban. The rest who remained were now killed or deprived of power. The governor of Badaun, Malik Baqbaq, who had beaten one of his slaves to death, was flogged publicly. Another influential noble and the governor of Avadh, Haibat Khan was flogged with 500 stripes and then delivered to the widow of the slave whom he had murdered while he was drunk.
Haibat Khan felt so much ashamed that he never came out of his palace till his death. The same way Amin Khan, governor of Avadh was hanged at the gate of the city of Ayodhya when he failed to suppress the revolt of Tughril Khan of Bengal. Another member of ‘the forty’ and cousin of Balban, Sher Khan was poisoned as Balban became jealous of his ability and suspicious of his ambition.
That marked the end of “the forty’ as there remained no powerful noble to rival him or challenge his despotism. Balban, of course, raised his own loyal nobles to higher ranks once he had finished the previous powerful ones but none of them was in a position to claim equality with him. Thus, Balban, a member of ‘the forty’ himself brought about the destruction of that group which had grabbed the power of the state from the weak hands of the successors of Iltutmish.
Professor Habibullah has praised the sense of justice of Balban very much. He has described instances of punishment of highly placed nobles as examples of upholding justice by Balban. But, it has also not to be forgotten that Balban made justice a tool in his hands to destroy the power and prestige of ‘the forty’. Besides, while destroying the power of the Turkish nobles, Balban also doomed the fate of the Turkish race in India.
Prof. K.A. Nizami writes:
“Anxious to secure his personal and family interests, he completely ignored the interests of the Turkish governing class. He destroyed the talent amongst the Turkish nobles so ruthlessly that when the Khaljis entered the field as competitors for the throne against them, they were completely outmanoeuvred and defeated. Balban’s responsibility for the fall of the Turks’ power in India cannot be denied.”
Achievement # 3. The Army:
A strong army was a necessity for a powerful monarchy. Balban realised its necessity to make his despotism effective, to safeguard his empire from the invasion of the Mongols and to suppress rebellions. He increased the number of officers and soldiers of his army, paid them good salaries and took personal interest in their training.
During winter, he used to go up to Rewari every day with one thousand horsemen to provide them training in exertion. He appointed Imad-ul-mulk as his Diwan-i-ariz to look after the recruitment, salary and equipment of his troops and made him free from the control of the vazir so that he felt no shortage of funds.
Imad-ul-mulk proved a competent and loyal officer and he, certainly, provided Balban useful service in organising an efficient and well-equipped army. Besides, Balban did not engage himself in unnecessary military activities which could spoil his military resources. He personally planned his every military campaign and kept it secret till the operation day. His soldiers were ordered not to trouble the poor and the weak.
Balban instructed to have an inquiry about the lands and jagirs which were given to different people by previous Sultans in return of their military services and came to know that many of them were kept by those old men, widows and orphans who performed no service to the state.
He ordered to confiscate all such lands and jagirs to the state and arranged cash pensions for them. Even the land and jagirs of those people who were serving the state were handed over to the care of state officers and arrangements were made for cash payments to them. However, Balban had to make certain changes in these orders.
Many old men and widows appealed for mercy to his friend Fakhr-ud-din, the Kotwal of Delhi for mercy who, in turn, pleaded mercy for them to Balban. On his plea, Balban cancelled his orders concerning the aged, the widows and the orphans and, thus, a useful measure was dropped.
Balban did not attempt to centralize the army. The nobles and the governors were free to organise their own armies independently. There was no arrangement for cash payment to the soldiers. Instead like previous rulers, they were assigned lands. Therefore, certain serious defects remained in the organisation of the army. Yet, Balban succeeded in increasing the strength and efficiency of the army.
Achievement # 4. The Administration and the Spy-System:
The administration of Balban was half-military and half-civil. All his officers were supposed to perform both administrative and military duties. Balban himself kept control over the entire administration. There was no post of naib during his reign and the position of the vazir too had become quite insignificant.
Balban himself supervised the appointment of all officers and was particular that only people of noble birth were appointed to higher posts. Balban, certainly, succeeded in providing peace and justice to his subjects.
Balban owed his success largely due to an efficient organisation of his spy- system. He appointed spies (Barids) to watch the activities of his governors, military and civil officers and even that of his own sons. Balban appointed them himself and they were well-paid.
They were expected to provide every important information to the Sultan and those who failed were punished severely. Every spy had direct access to the Sultan though none met him in the court. Balban’s spy-system proved quite effective and was responsible for his success in administration.
Achievement # 5. The Suppression of Revolts:
Balban took immediate measures to provide security to the city of Delhi. The forests around Delhi were cleared, four forts were built on the four corners of Delhi and ferocious Afghan troops were placed in them. The robbers and freebooters around Delhi were constantly attacked and killed brutally.
Within a year, Delhi became free from the menace of those people who had made the life of the citizens unsafe in the capital. Next year, Balban suppressed the revolts in Doab and Oudh. He divided the area into several military commands, established military check-posts at several places, cleared the jungles and pursued the rebellious people from one place to another. His measures succeeded and peace was restored in these areas. Next, Balban went to Katehar.
There he adopted semi-barbaric measures to strike terror among the people. Even innocent women and children were not spared. He ordered his soldiers to slay the entire male population, burn their fields and villages and take women and children to slavery. This policy succeeded. Barani wrote that the people of Katehar never attempted rebellion afterwards.
Balban also constructed roads, cleared the jungles and took measures for the safety of the travellers. All these measures ensured peace within his kingdom. Within some years of his accession to the throne, Balban not only succeeded in suppressing the revolts but also in bringing about peace and security to his subjects.
Achievement # 6. The Conquest of Bengal:
Bengal was lost to the Delhi Sultanate during the reign of Sultan Nasir-ud-din when Arsalan Khan had declared himself independent. However, when Balban ascended the throne, Tatar Khan, the son of Arsalan Khan avoided open declaration of sovereignty and even sent sixty- three elephants as a mark of respect to Balban.
But Tatar Khan either died or was removed from the position of governor and Balban appointed Tughril Khan as governor of Bengal. But Tughril Khan revolted in 1279 A.D., declared himself independent and assumed the title of Sultan Mughis-ud-din. The rebellion gave a rude shock to Balban’s authority. It was the first revolt of a slave-noble and had it been allowed to succeed, it would have damaged the entire structure of awe and fear created by Balban.
Therefore, suppression of the revolt of Tughril Khan became a necessity. Balban immediately ordered Amin Khan, governor of Oudh, to attack Bengal. Amin Khan, however, was defeated and he was put to death by Balban. The next two succeeding expeditions, also met with a similar fate.
This infuriated Balban. He vowed never to return without the head of the rebel and proceeded towards Bengal personally with a large army. He added his strength further by additional troops of Avadh and reached Bengal with two lakh soldiers and his son, Bughra Khan.
Tughril Khan fled away from Lakhnauti. Balban pursued him and, ultimately, succeeded in killing him at Hajinagar in East Bengal. Balban then returned to Lakhnauti and inflicted a terrible punishment upon Tughril’s followers.
“On either side of the principal bazar, in a street more than two miles in length, a row of stakes was set up and the adherents of Tughril were impaled upon them. None of the beholders had ever seen a spectacle so terrible, and many swooned with terror and disgust.” Balban appointed his son, Bughra Khan as governor of Bengal and advised him to remain loyal to the Delhi Sultanate. Then he came back to Delhi.