“He (Ala-Ud-Din) was a savage tyrant with very little regard for justice and his reign, though marked by the conquest of Gujarat and many successful raids was exceedingly disgraceful in many respects”-V.A. Smith.
Theory of Kingship:
In the matters of theory of kingship, Ala-ud-din like Balban believed in the divine right of king. Considering him as the representative of God, he ruled the way he liked.
He acted as an absolute monarch with unlimited powers. He believed that the will of the Sultan was law, the Sultan was above all and all powers of the state emanate from him.
Ala-ud-din was the first Sultan who neither ruled according to Islamic Principles nor allowed the Ulemaas to interfere in the matters of state. He once explained his views to Kazi Mulghis- ud-din of Bayana in these words, “To prevent rebellion in which thousands perish, I issue such orders as I conceive to be for the good of the state and the benefit of the people. When men are headless, disrespectful and disobey my commands, I am then compelled to be severe to bring them into obedience. I do not know whether this is lawful or unlawful; whatever I think to be for good of the state or suitable for the emergency, that I decree and as for what may happen to me on the Day of judgement that I know not.”
However, this does not mean that Ala-ud-din was against Ulemas or Islamic principles. In-fact he was a great follower of the faith as well as a defender of Islam. But he did not like the Ulemas and their religious concepts should create obstructions in his administration. By doing so he wanted to be an absolute ruler.
Causes of Rebellions:
Ala-ud-din had to face a number of rebellions in the initial few years of his region. Most of the rebellions were created by his own relations and nobles of the state. He studied the causes of the rebellions and came to the conclusion that these rebellions were due to four causes viz.
(1) Lack of a strong system of espionage as a result the sultan could not get any information prior to rebellions.
(2) Drinking habits among nobles like other people which promoted them to indulge in rebellions.
(3) Social intercourse and inter-marriages among nobles which made them united against the Sultan.
(4) Excess wealth in the hands of some nobles which gave them both power and leisure for evil thoughts and rebellions.
After analyzing the causes of the rebellions, Ala-ud-din declared four ordinances in-order-to take some drastic measures to prevent rebellions,
(i) By first ordinance all grants and pensions were revoked. All lands given to people as gifts, pensions, grants and endowments were confiscated. The tax collectors were instructed to collect various taxes from the people so that nobody will remain rich. Barani says that the orders were so faithfully carried out that there remained no gold in the houses of the people except those of maliks, amirs, state-officers, Multani merchants and Hindu Seths.
(ii) By the second ordinance Ala-ud-din re-organised the system of espionage. He appointed a large number of spies and news writers in every department and in every house of nobles and in every town to collect important information and secret plans and treasons. Spies were instructed to report immediately to the Sultan all occurrences and even the silly gossips of market. As a result, the nobles, officers and common people feared to meet and talk anything against the sultan.
(iii) The third ordinance prohibited the sale and use of wine and other intoxicating drugs. Ala-ud-din himself gave up drinking and all his wine-vessels were broken before the public. Those who violated this law were punished severely. But in spite of the rigorous enforcement of this ordinance, people did not give up drinking. People even travelled miles together to drink secretly. Realising this fact Ala-ud-din made certain amendments and permitted private manufacture and use of wine. As a result the drinking of wine reduced almost completely.
(iv) The fourth ordinance prohibited social gathering and inter-marriages among the nobles without the consent of the Sultan. All the four ordinances of Sultan fulfilled his objects. There occurred no revolt during his reign.
Policy towards the Hindus:
During the rule of Ala-ud-din Khilzi, the Hindus were worst sufferers. They had to lead a life of acute poverty and misery due to many severe measures of Ala-ud-din against them. It is said, Ala-ud-din once consulted the Qazi of Bayana to know about the position of the Hindus and the Qazi explaining him his view said that “the Hindus are called Kharaj-guzars (payers of tribute) and when the revenue officer demands silver from them, they should without question and with all humility and respect, tender gold.
If the officer throws dirt into their mouths, they must without reluctance open their mouths wide to receive it. “It is well understood, what was the idea of the Islamic religious men had on Hindus. Ala-ud-din acted according their advices and took some severe measures to crush the Hindus. The land revenue was raised to the fifty percent of their total production. Besides some other taxes such as grazing tax, Jiziya, Customs and excise taxes were collected from the Hindus. The Hindus nobles were deprived of their privileges. Barani says that “the Chaudhuris, Khuts and Maquddams were not allowed to ride on horse-back, to find weapons, to get fine clothes or to indulge in betels.”
As a result the common Hindu people were reduced to a dead level of poverty and the Hindu nobles were deprived of their all honours and privileges. Even poverty compelled the Hindu women to work as maid-servants in the house of their Muslim neighbours. It is said that this policy of Ala-ud-din towards Hindus was not only based on religious motivation but also economic and political considerations as well. Ala-ud-din did not want the main bulk of the society should be economically strong and politically powerful to challenge him in future.
Ala-ud-din knew that without a strong army continuance of his despotic rule and his ambition of a vast protected empire could not be achieved. He was bent upon to build a strong permanent standing army at the centre. Previously the Sultans of Delhi had no permanent standing army at the centre and they all depended on the forces of provincial nobles and feudatory chiefs for strengthening their own forces.
But Ala-ud-din brought a drastic reform in it by establishing a strong army at the centre. He appointed an army minister (Ariz-i-mamalik) who directly recruited the soldiers of the sultan’s army. The soldiers were well equipped, trained and paid by the centre. They were supplied with good horses and arms and were paid in cash from the royal treasury.
The soldier with one horse (yak aspa) was paid 234 tankas and a soldier with two horses (do Aspa) was paid 78 tankas more. According to Ferishta, the Sultan’s army consisted of 4, 75,000 cavalrymen. The strength of the infantry was definitely more than the cavalry. Besides, there was a section of war elephants which also constituted an major part of his army. The arms used by the soldiers were swords, bows, arrows mace, battle-axe and dagger. Stone throwing machines were also used by his soldiers.
He gave utmost emphasis on the discipline and training of the army men. He introduced two reforms such as the practice of recording the descriptive roll (huliya) of individual soldiers in order to detect the absentees in the army camp as well as the branding of horses (the dagh system) in-order-to prevent the substitution of a bad horse for a good one. He also built some new forts and repaired the old forts on the north-western frontiers. Spies and news reporters were appointed in the army by him to get information about their regular activities. Thus Ala-ud-din had built a strong and efficient army which helped him a lot to fulfill his ambition of conquest.
Ala-ud-din had devised a very good market system and fixed the prices of various essential commodities. It is said that Ala- ud-din had had done so in order to maintain a vast army. He had raised a vast army but payment to the army men was not sufficient. That is why, he fixed the prices of essential commodities so that a soldier with a very less salary could get those commodities at a cheap rate and could manage his family smoothly and peacefully.
He appointed an officer who acted as controller of grain market and was known as shahana-i- Mandi. The office of Shahana-i-Mandi controlled the grain Market and prepared a chart mentioning the prices of various essential commodities. He fixed the prices of food-grains, cloth and other commodities and under no circumstances he permitted any rise of them. He was assisted by a number of experienced subordinates. The state collected its revenue in kind from the Khalisah lands and from the territory of vassals and, thus, raised large stocks of grain. The merchants of Delhi, who wanted to sale those commodities at the Government fixed prices, were required to obtain license from the office of Shahana-i-Mandi.
Except those authorized merchants, no one was allowed to buy grains from the cultivators. Advances were given to those merchants who had no sufficient capital to run their business. The merchants had to sell all commodities at the fixed rates without any deviation in it. If a merchant was found black-marketing the commodities, he was subjected to severe punishments.
Even if a merchant sold a commodity under-weight, the same amount of flesh was cut off from his body. Black- marketing and hoarding of food grains and other articles were seriously viewed and the officers, engaged in the work of supervision were required to furnish guarantee in writing that they would not permit any-one neither to hoard nor to do any sort of black-marketing.
Notable persons, nobles, officers and other well to do people had to get permits from the office of ‘Shahana-i-Mandi’, before they could purchase costly articles from the market. The other important officers engaged in this work were ‘Diwan-i-riyasat’ and ‘Sarai adl’, who acted as a judge.
They performed their duties with strict honesty and regularity and punished everyone who was guilty of violating the regulation. As a result the prices of commodities throughout the reign of Ala-ud-din remained cheap. This was infact a great achievement of his economic policy. But this market regulation was confined to Delhi and its suburbs. However, this was a praiseworthy step of Ala-ud-din.
Ala-ud-din had given utmost importance to increase the state revenue as it was necessary for the expansion of his empire as well as to extract as much money as possible from the hands of the people so that they could not get any scope to revolt against the Sultan. He wanted to reduce both Hindus and Muslims to a dead level of poverty. He took the following measures to raise revenue. In the first measure, he confiscated all lands given as grants and gifts. He compelled the people who have enjoying these lands, to pay tax. The tax collectors were instructed to extract from them as much money as possible.
Secondly, the Hindu privileged people like Chaudhuris, Muqaddums and Khuts were compelled to pay land tax, house tax grazing tax like the other ordinary Hindu People. They were deprived of their previous honour and respect. The Hindus were compelled to pay Jizya and many other taxes.
Thirdly, he fixed the land revenue at fifty percent of the total produce for the Hindus. But in case of Muslims the land tax was fixed at one fourth of the total production. However the most important measure of Ala-ud-din was the measurement of lands for assessment of revenue. But this land measurement system was confined to a few parts of his empire. He appointed very competent and honest revenue officers in the task of revenue collection and measurement of lands. However, the revenue policy of Ala-ud-din had brought untold misery to Hindus.
Foreign Policy of Ala-ud-din Khilzi:
Ala-ud-din’s foreign policy was completely based on his conquests of North and South India. After suppressing internal rebellions and establishing law and order in his kingdom, Ala-ud-din thought of the expansion of his empire through wars and conquests. His military campaigns had been divided into two parts i.e.
(a) Conquest of North India and
(b) Conquest of South India.
(a) Conquest of North India:
1. Occupation of Gujarat:
Ala-ud-din’s occupation of Gujarat took place in 1299. He dispatched an army under Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan to Gujarat. At that time Gujarat was ruled by a Baghela Rajput king named Karan Deva II. Its capital was Anhilwara. The Delhi army captured Anhilwara. Karan Dev being defeated fled to Devagiri with his daughter, Deval Devi. But his wife Kamala Devi was captured and sent to Delhi and she became a queen of Ala-ud-din. Nusrat Khan also captured one Hindu eunuch named Kafur in Gujrat who was taken to Delhi. This boy eventually rose to be the most influential person in the administration. Ala-ud-din appointed Alap Khan as the governor of Gujarat.
Ala-ud-din’s next expedition was against Ranthambhor which was ruled by Hamir Deva, a Chouhan descendant. Hamir Dava had asserted independence by throwing off the Turkish Yoke and had given shelter to some rebellious Muslims. Ala-ud-din wanted to punish him and therefore he sent an army under Ulugh Khan and Nusrat Khan to attack Ranthambhor. But unfortunately the Delhi army was defeated and Nusrat Khan was killed by the Chauhans. After this, Ala-ud-din personally marched against Ranthambhor and besieged the fort. It took almost one year but he could not be successful. At last Ala-ud-din resorted to treachery and brought Ram Mai the Chauhan prime-minister to his side.
With his help he got into the fort of Ramthambhor and occupied it in July 1301. Hamir Deva was killed and Ram Mai was also put to death for his treachery to his own country. Ala-ud-din appointed Ulugh Khan as the governor of Ranthambhor and returned back to Delhi.
Ala-ud-din’s strong longing campaign was against the state of Mewar which was famous for her bravery and valour. Ala-ud-din wanted to win such a state in order to establish his supremacy over the Rajput States. The ruler of Mewar was by then Ram Ratan Singh. It is said that Ala-ud-din had waged a war against Mewar not to establish his supremacy over such a powerful state, but to get the beautiful queen of Rana Ratan Singh.
She was Padmini, reputed for her peerless and rare beauty. But this view has not yet been established. However, Ala-ud-din attached Chittor, the capital of Mewar in 1303. The battle continued for long five months. The Rajputs defended the fort gallantly and with a spirit of patriotism. Finally Ratna Singh was defeated and the city of Chittor fell into the hands of Ala-ud-din. But Ala-ud-din could not get Padmini as she along with the ladies of the harem performed Jouhar. As a pious Hindu woman, she preferred death to disgrace. Ala-ud-din being angry gave orders for a massacre and nearly 30,000 Rajputs were killed. He appointed his eldest son Khizr Khan as the governor of Chittor and returned to Delhi.
After conquering Mewar Ala-ud-din sent an expedition under Ain-ul-Mulk to conquer Malwa in 1305. The kingdom of Malwa had a number of strong forts like Ujjain, Mandu, Dhar and Chanderi and had a powerful army which consisted of thirty to forty thousand horsemen and a large infantry. In spite of its strong forts and strong army, Raja of Malwa was defeated by the Delhi army. Ala-ud-din conquered Malwa and appointed Ain-ul-mulk its governor.
Siwana, a fort city was a strong hold of Marwar and was ruled by king Sitala Deva. In 1309, Ala-ud-din personally besieged Siwana and defeated its king. The fort was occupied and kept under the control of Malik Kamal-ud-din who acted as the governor of this kingdom.
The state of Jalor was ruled by Kanera Deva who had to defied the authority of Delhi. In 1311, Ala-ud-din sent a strong army under Kamal-ud-din defeated and killed king Kanera Deva and Jalore was annexed to Delhi. As a result of these conquests the entire North India excepting a few states like Kashmir, Nepal, Assam and a part of North-Western Punjab came under his empire.
Ala-ud-din’s conquest of Deccan:
Ala-ud-din also had conquered the powerful kingdoms in the distant Deccan.
(1) The Yadava kingdom of Devagiri with its capital at Devagiri.
(2) The Kakatiya kingdom of Telingana with its capital at Warangal.
(3) The Hoysala kingdom with its capital at Dwara Samudru and
(4) The Pandya Kingdom with its capital at Madura.
Ala-ud-din was attracted to the South because of its vast wealth. He did not follow the policy of annexation with regard to the Southern States. He only compelled them to accept the authority of Delhi by paying the huge booty and the tributes.
1. Conquest of Devagiri:
The Yadava king Ram Chandra Dev of Devagiri had provoked Ala-ud-din by giving shelter to the fugitive king Raja Karan Dev of Gujarat and his daughter Deval Devi. The marriage of Deval Devi with Yuvaraj Shankar Dev of Gujrat had been fixed. Besides, Raja Ram Chandra Dev had not remitted the revenue of Ellichpur to Delhi for the last three years.
Ala-ud-din, therefore deputed Malik Kafur to settle the score with the king of Devagiri in A.D 1307. Alap Khan, the governor of Gujarat joined Kafur in this mission. Alap Khan captured Deval Devi and sent her to Delhi where she was married to Khizr Khan, the eldest son of Sultan Ala-ud-din. Malik Kafur on the other hand defeated Raja Ram Chandra Dev and occupied Ellichpur. The Raja was sent to Delhi where he declared Devagiri a vassal of Delhi. He also paid a huge booty for his misdeads.
Conquest of Telingana:
An expedition to the state of Telingana in 1303 had failed miserably. Ala-ud-din, therefore sent Malik Kafur to Telingana in 1310 A.D. He besieged Warangal and defeated the Kakatiya King, Pratap Rudra II The king of Telingana surrendered and gave Kafur 100 elephants, 7000 horses and a huge quantity of gold and jewels. He also agreed to send tribute to Delhi every year.
Conquest of Dwara Samudra:
After the Telingana expedition, Ala-ud-din sent Malik Kafur to settle score with the king Vira Ballala III of the Haysala kingdom of Dwara Samudra. The king was defeated and was compelled to submit. He declared Dwara Samudra a vassal of Delhi and promised to pay annual tribute. He also paid huge wealth as war indemnity.
Conquest of Pandya Kingdom:
After the Subjugation of Dwara Samudra, Ala-ud-din decided to conquer the Pandya kingdom of South. He therefore instructed Malik Kafur to proceed towards the Pandya Kingdom from Dwara Samudra. At that time there was bitter quarrel between the two royal brothers, Sundara Pandya and Vira Pandya. They were the two sons of Pandya king Kula Sekhara out of whom the eldest son Vira Pandya was the illegitimate son.
So his right to the throne was challenged by the younger son Sundra Pandya. But king Kulasekhra had nominated Vira Pandya as his successor. At this, Sundra murdered his father and occupied the throne. But he was defeated by Vira Pandya and sought the help of Delhi. Ala-ud-din directed Malik Kafur to help Sundara Pandya against Vira Pandya. Soon after the Delhi army reached Madura, the capital of Pandya kingdom, Vira Pandya fled away with panic.
Malik Kafur plundered the safue and marched as far as Ramesvaram where he destroyed the great temple and built a mosque which was named after his master. After that he returned to Delhi with enormous wealth and a large number of horses and elephants.
Conquest of Devagiri Again:
Ala-ud-din had to re-conquer Devagiri, as the new King Shankara Dev denied to be a vassal and behaved independently. He did not send tributes to Delhi. In 1313 Ala-ud-din sent Malik Kafur to Devagiri who defeated and killed Shankara Dev. Shankara also fought gallantly till death. Malik Kafur returned to Delhi with huge booty. However Ala-ud-din did not annex the kingdoms of Decean. His only object was to get as much wealth as possible from the Decean. He regarded the Decean as a milch cow for the gold which he required to stabilize his position in the North
Ala-ud-din like Balban had to face a series of Mongol invasions. It was due to these Mongol problems Balban did not venture for a career of conquest. But Ala-ud-din was more daring and adventurous than Balban. He not only repulsed the Mongols for more than a dozen times but also followed a policy of war and aggrandizement.
The first and Second Mongol invasions on the Empire of Ala-ud- din took place in 1296 and 1297 A.D. respectively but both the invasions were successfully repulsed by Zafar Khan, a military genius of high repute, and the commander in-charge of the frontiers. The third Mongol invasion was led by Kutlugh Khwaja in 1299. This time Mongols reached near Delhi by crossing the frontier.
Ala-ud-din got puzzled and was advised by his friend Ala-ul-Mulk, the Kotwal of Delhi to make peace with the Mongols. But Ala-ud-din rejected his advice and instructed Zafar Khan to confer attack of the Mongols. Zafar Khan fell upon the Mongols with courage and valour and inflicted a crushing defeat upon them. But unfortunately while pursuing Mongols, he departed himself from his main army and became alone. Taking this opportunity Mongols surrounded him and put him to death. Ala-ud-din achieved this victory at the cost of the life of general.
The fourth Mongol attack took place in 1303 by Taghi when Ala-ud- din was busy in the siege of Chittor and another main army was sent to Telingana under Chhajiu. Mongols finding no opposition entered and plundered Delhi. The Sultan on coming back from Chittor found himself helpless and took shelter in the fort of Siri which was also besieged by the Mongols. Fortunately for him, the Mongols retreated home after a siege of nearly three months. They returned back because their aim was plundering and not conquest.
After this, Ala-ud-din took some effective measures to strengthen the frontier. He repaired the old forts in Sind, Punjab and Multan and constructed some new forts along the border. In spite of these arrangements, the Mongols appeared again under their leader Ali Beg. Ala-ud-din without any delay sent Malik Kafur and Ghazi Malik who defeated the Mongols. In 1306 Mongols appeared again under their Leader Kabk. Ghazi Malik, the then governor of Punjab, fell upon them and inflicted a crushing defeat. They were put to death and their children and wives were enslaved.
In 1307-08, the Mongols appeared for the last time under their leader Iqbalmand and he was defeated and killed along with his thousand followers. After this, the Mongols did not dare to invade Ala-ud-din’s empire. He ruled in peace for the last part of his reign.
Last Days and Death:
During the last part of his reign, though Ala-ud-din was free from Mongol problems, but the problems at home made him puzzled. He had grown old and had lost much of his mental strength. It was due to hard work and excessive indulgence he fell ill and was confined to bed. He sent for Malik Kafur and Alap khan to Delhi to stay with him during his illness. Malik Kafur took this opportunity and finished one by one from his path.
He poisoned the ear of Ala-ud-din against his son Khizr Khan and made him imprisoned. He also finished Alap Khan from his path. When the news of Ala-ud-din’s illness reached the vassal rulers, they declared their independence by throwing off the Turkish Yoke. Ala-ud-din was disheartened at these news and died on 2nd January 1316.
An Estimate of Ala-ud-Din:
Historians have strongly differed about the character and achievements of Ala-ud-din Khilji. V.A. Smith says, “He was a savage tyrant with very little regard for justice and his reign, though marked by the conquest of Gujarat and many successful raids was exceedingly disgraceful in many respects.” On the other hand, according to Elphin Stone, “Ala-ud-din was a successful monarch and his reign was glorious in many respects.”
The Personal Character of Ala-ud-din was very bad and suffered from some serious defects. He was selfish, cruel, arrogant and unscrupulous. He treacherously murdered jalal-ud-din who was his own uncle, father-in-law and greatest benefactor. He was almost a savage tyrant to the Hindus and very severe to the Muslims. He robbed the Hindus and the Muslims of their property and brought them to a miserable state of poverty.
He inflicted severe punishments to his subjects for ordinary crimes. He always wanted to reach his goal by any means. He was jealous of his own general, Zafar Khan. He neglected the education of his sons and treated them with great severity. With the advance of his age, he became violent and whimsical and a puppet of Malik Kafur. The grave defects of Ala-ud-din’s administration were that it was based on the naked force and not on the good will of the people. It was, therefore, not destined to last long.
In spite of these blemishes, Ala-ud-din is regarded as the most successful monarch in the history of Delhi Sultanate. He was daring, energetic and ambitious. He was a vigorous commander and a brilliant administrator. He was the first Sultan who separated religion from the state administration. He was the first Sultan of Delhi who conquered south.
He was successful against Mongol raids. He kept himself busy for consolidation, protection and expansion of empire. He was the first sultan who introduced the system of land measurement. His successful market policy was really a praise-worthy step. Ala-ud-din was a great patron of learning. During his reign poets like Amir Kusrav Amir Hassan and many other scholars attended his court.
Ala-ud-din had a great love for architecture. Alai Darwaza which is regarded as the perfect example of early Turkish architecture was constructed by him. He built a number of new forts, mosques and palaces. He had a desire to build a minar which would be twice the size of the Kutab Minar. He started its construction but could not complete it. However Ala-ud-din Khilzi is considered as the greatest king in the history of Sultanate for all these above achievements.