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The Dehli Sultanate 1211-1526 AD

In the thirteenth century, Shams-ud-Din Iletmish (or Iltutmish; r. 1211-36), a former slave-warrior, established a Turkic kingdom in Delhi, which enabled future sultans to push in every direction; within the next 100 years, the Delhi Sultanate extended its sway east to Bengal and south to the Deccan, while the sultanate itself experienced repeated threats from the northwest and internal revolts from displeased, independent-minded nobles. The sultanate was in constant flux as five dynasties rose and fell: Mamluk or Slave (1206-90), Khalji (1290-1320), Tughluq (1320-1413), Sayyid (1414-51), and Lodi (1451-1526). The Khalji Dynasty under Ala-ud-Din (r. 1296-1315) succeeded in bringing most of South India under its control for a time, although conquered areas broke away quickly. Power in Delhi was often gained by violence--nineteen of the thirty-five sultans were assassinated--and was legitimized by reward for tribal loyalty. Factional rivalries and court intrigues were as numerous as they were treacherous; territories controlled by the sultan expanded and shrank depending on his personality and fortunes.

India in 1236 AD

India History Map - 1236The whole of Hindustan was kept by Altamsh (d. 1236), the greatest of the Slave kings, in various degrees of subordination ranging from complete subjection to partial dependence. The House of Ghazni, after flourishing for about 150 years, had been overthrown by the family of Ghor. Muhammad of Ghor (1186-1206) decided to conquer Hindustan which was then held by Eajput clans: Delhi by the clan of Tomara, Ajmere by that of Chouhan. These two were united under one raja Prithvi, but at enmity with the Rathors of Kanauj and the Baghilas of Gujerat.

The result of this dissension was disastrous to both parties. For, though Muhammad Ghori was defeated by Prithvi in the battle of Thaneswar (1191), he utterly routed the Rajput in the battle of Thaneswar (1193), slew him, and annexed his dominions. In the following year Muhammad defeated Jaichand, the Eathor raja of Kanauj, at Chadrawar (near Etava), took Benares and Kanauj, and added the territories of the defeated prince to his own.

Upon this the greater part of the Rathor clan retreated from Kanauj and founded the principality of Marwar. In the following year (1195) Gwalior was taken, and Kutb ud Din, Muhammad's Indian governor, invaded Gujerat or Anhalwara, took the capital, but could not secure possession of the country. In 1196 he took Kalinjar. Behar and Bengal (capital Gaur) were reduced about the same time. After the death of Muhammad Ghori, Kutb ud Din became independent ruler of India. His son-inlaw and successor Altamsh (in 1225) obtained Sindh which had been conquered from the Sumera Eajputsa by Nazir ud Din, another of Muhammad Ghori's generals. He also asserted his sovereignty over Behar and Bengal and reduced Eanthambor in Eajputana, Mandu and Ujjain in Malwa (1226-1232).

The Bellals were still ruling in the south and had become very powerful. The Ghalukya dynasty had come to an end about 1190, and their territory had been annexed by the Bellals in the south and by the Yadavas in the north. The Chola kingdom had in the 13th century lost much of its former splendor. Pandya was recovering its independence. Telingana was ruled by the Narupati dynasty whose capital was Warangal.

India in 1318 AD

India History Map - 1318By around 1318 the whole of India lay subject to the Muhammadan Afghans or Pathans in various degrees of dependency. The four successors of Altamsh had made no politioal acquisitions, and the dynasty of the Slave kings (12061290) had given way to that of the Khiljis (1290-1320).

The vigorous and talented Alia ud Din, nephew of Jalal ud Din, the first Khilji ruler (1290-1295), invaded the Dekkan in 1294 and forced Eamachandra, the Yadava raja of Deogarh, to cede Ellichpur. In 1297 he finally subjugated Anhalwara (or Gujerat), whose raja had reasserted his independence, and in the same and the following years Somnath and Sorath, the eastern part of the Kathiawar peninsula, were reduced, while Cutch and the north-western part of Kathiawar preserved their independence. In 1303 Chitor was taken aiter a brave defence. Jalor and Siwana were reduced in 1309. From 1309-1311 Malik Kafur, Alia ud Din's general, undertook his famous Dekkan campaign. In 1309 the raja of Warangal made his submission and undertook to pay a permanent tribute. In the same year Eamachandra of Deogarh once more submitted to Malik Kafur.

In 1310 this general invaded the Belial (or Hoisala) kingdom, took the raja prisoner, and reduced the whole of the eastern territory. In 1312 Malik Kafur put the Yadava raja to death and compelled the princes of Maharashtra and Karnata to pay tribute. In 1318 Khusru Khan, a converted Hindu and general of Mubarak, the last Khilji, conquered Malabar. In the same year a revolt led by Harapala, the last of the Yadavas, was suppressed, and Harapala was flayed alive.

Thus the power of the Muhammadans was felt throughout India. Kashmir in the north, Orissa in the east, Cutch and Junagarh in the west, and perhaps the extreme south of the peninsula alone retained their independence.

India in 1398 AD

India History Map - 1398Large though the Afghan Empire was in 1318, it was already doomed to dissolution. Two causes mainly brought about its downfall: the inroads of the Moghuls from the north-west and the want of cohesion among provinces which had yielded only an imperfect submission. Tribute, especially in the south, was given only when exacted by the emperor or his generals at the head of an army.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq, the second Emperor of the Tughlaq Dynasty, succeeded his father, Ghiyasu-d-dfn Tughlaq, on the throne of Dihll in A.h. 725 (a.d. 1324), and reigned for twenty-seven years till A.h. 752 (a.d. 1351). To say that this Prince was one of the most extraordinary rulers who ever sat on the throne of Dihlf would be to state less than the truth. The world's history furnishes us with few, if any, examples of a ruler in whom that which was bad so completely neutralized that which was good. He succeeded to a vast Empire. He left a few disjointed provinces surrounded by powerful independent kingdoms. By no means devoid of generous impulses, superior to the gross sensual indulgence, bred of unlimited opportunity, which is the besetting sin of Oriental potentates, an able and vigorous general, and devoted to public affairs, he was, nevertheless, a veritable scourge of God to the unhappy countries under his autocratic rule. Harsh and cruel, with inordinate ideas of the inviolability of the slightest expression of his will, a fierce enthusiast, eccentric to the verge of insanity, continually employed in hatching wild plans, the bantlings of a fevered brain, it would be hard to imagine a ruler less fitted to guide the peoples of India through the calamities which fell upon them during his reign.

Muhammad bin Tughlaq's famously attempted to establish a fictitious currency. He had probably heard of the paper currency of Kublai Khan in China, and of the fictitious money of Kai Khatu, the ruler of Persia. There were issued from the mints brass or copper tokens, which were by the Sultan's decree to pass current for the silver tonka of 140 grains. There was no special machinery to mark the difference of the fabric of the Royal mint and the handiwork of the moderately-skilled artisan. Unlike the precautions taken to prevent the imitation of the Chinese paper notes, there was positively no check upon the authenticity of the copper tokens, and no limit to the power of production of the masses at large. The enormous extent to which this counterfeiting was actually carried is described in graphic terms by all native writers who deal with this period of history. The Sultan, when the failure of his policy became apparent, acted with commendable straightforwardness and candor. He practically admitted his error by proclaiming that silver would be issued from the treasuries on exchange for copper tokens to all applicants. that the State distributed silver gratis, for the amount of copper that poured in was so enormous that no use could be found for it. Mountains of copper coin arose at the treasuries.

Muhammad Tughlak was the first Musalman ruler of India who can be said to have had a revenue-system. He increased the land tax between the Ganges and the Jumna,in some Districts tenfold, in others twentyfold The husbandmen fled before his tax-gatherers, leaving their villages to lapse into jungle, and formed themselves into robber clans. He cruelly punished all who trespassed on his game preserves; and he invented a kind of man-hunt without precedent in the annals of human wickedness. He surrounded a large tract with his army, 'and then gave orders that the circle should close towards the centre, and that all within it (mostly inoffensive peasants) should be slaughtered like wild beasts.' This sort of hunt was more than once repeated; and on a subsequent occasion there was a general massacre of the inhabitants of the great city of Kanauj. These horrors led in due time to famine; and the miseries of the country exceeded all powers of description.

Another of the Sultan's insane acts calls for notice. In AH 738 (AD 1337-38) he resolved to conquer China. In order to carry out this design, he assembled an army of 80,000 or 100,000 cavalry. Historians differ as to its numbers. This army was sent to invade the Chinese Empire by way of the Himalaya. The results of an attempt to invade Tibat from India by an army of this strength and composition may be imagined. The imperial cavalry found themselves opposed at all points by small bodies of mountaineers in impregnable positions. They were entrapped in defiles, checked in front, attacked in rear, harassed, cut off, and destroyed in detail. They would have been fortunate had the hill-men been their only adversaries. Cold, hunger, and exposure must have been more formidable enemies than the mountaineers.

Misfortune followed misfortune. The year A.h. 739 (a.d. 1338-39) saw Bengal in revolt. In AH 741 (AD 1340-41) the Sultan entered the Province, and punished some of the rebels; but, in this same year, 'Alf Mubarak established his independence, and was proclaimed Sultan of Bengal, under the title of 'Alau-d-din 'Al Shah. In AH 742 (AD 1341-42) Hasan Kangu, who afterwards established his independence in the Dakan, and founded the Bahmam dynasty, raised the standard of rebellion in Ma'bar. The Emperor marched against him, but fell sick on the way, and was obliged to return to Dihl. In AH 743 (AD 1342-43) disaffection in Northern India culminated in rebellion at Lahor. The rebellion was quelled, but was followed by a calamity far more appalling, for about this time occurred the most terrible famine in the history of India. In what year it actually commenced is uncertain.

Ghyas ud Din Tughlak (1320-1325) had strengthened the frontiers against the Moghuls and reduced Warangal and Bednor once more. But under his unfortunate, if not mad, son Muhammad Tughlak and his still more incapable successors province after province was lost. Bengal and Telingana became independent in 1340. A number of dissatisfied Moghul nobles founded in 1347 the kingdom of Bahmini in the Dekkan, whose first ruler was Hassan Gango Bahmini. South of the Kistna and Tungabhadra the princes of Vijayanagar reigned supreme. Jaunpur threw off its allegiance in 1394, Qujerat became practically independent in 1394, and the same applies to the kingdoms of Khandesh and Malwa.

The most powerful ol these states were Bahmini and Vijayanagar. In 1398 Bahmini, then governed by the famous and mighty Firoze Shah Bahmini (1397-1422), extended itself over the western part of Telingana; the frontier towards Gondwana ran either along the Wardha or the Wainganga river; Berar was its most northerly province; on the west the Ghauts formed the boundary, the petty rajas of the Konkan being independent: the ports of Chaul and Dabul were the doors of communication between this kingdom and the non-Indian world. The rich plain bounded by the Kistna and Tungabhadra rivers was an object of contention between Bahmini and Vijayanagar, and its strong fortresses Eaichur and Mudgal were held alternately by either party.

About 1344 the kings of Telingana, Dwara Samudra, Anagundi, and other Hindu princes of the south formed a league to stem the tide of Muhammadan invasion and to preserve or acquire independence. Of these Telingana remained independent, while all the chiefs of southern India from the banks of the Kistna and Tungabhadra submitted to the sway of the raja of Anagundi a small state which in less than a century grew into the mighty empire of Vijayanagar, with its capital bearing the same name. About 1398 Goa and Dharwar and the surrounding districts belonged to Vijayanagar, while Mudgal and Eaichur were then in the hands of the Bahmini Sultan.

Qujerat (capital Patan), Malwa (capital Mandu), Khandesh (capital Thalner), Jaunpur (capital of the same name), and Bengal (capital Gaur), were under Afghan sultans. The tribes of Qondwana were united under one Nersingh of Kherla who in 1398 and 1399 was at war with Bahmini and agreed to pay tribute. Sindh was ruled by the Jam family of Sumera Eajputs, who about the end of the 14th century embraced the Muhammadan faith. They paid tribute to Delhi till 1450 when they declared their independence. The upper Tapti valley was in the possession of the descendants of the ancient cowherd kings who were then independent. Though Kashmir had not been conquered by the sword of the Muhammadans and retained its independence, the ruling dynasty since 1326 were Moslems. The western part of Kathiawar and Cutch were still independent under Hindu chiefs. In Orissa also an independent Hindu dynasty was in power.

While India was thus divided into many kingdoms, weakening each other by incessant warfare, the cruel and wily Tamerlane, who had unified the Moghul hordes and conquered Persia, Transoxonia, and other states of Central Asia, burst upon the remaining portion of the Afghan Empire. The vanguard of the Moghul host under Pir Muhammad took Multan and Talamba. Tamerlane himself left Kabul in August, 1398, crossed the Indus at Dinkot, marched to the Jehlam and down its banks to Talamba, was joined on the Sutlej by Pir Muhammad, and took Adjudin, Bhatnair, and Samana, slaughtering the inhabitants of every town he passed.

Firuz Shah Tughlak, 1351-1388, ruled mercifully, but had to recognise the independence of the Muhammadan kingdoms of Bengal and the Deccan, and suffered much from bodily infirmities and court intrigues. He undertook many public works, such as dams across rivers for irrigation, tanks, caravan-sardis, mosques, colleges, hospitals, and bridges. But his greatest achievement was the old Jumna Canal. This work drew its waters from the Jumna near a point where it leaves the mountains, and connected that river with the Ghaggar and the Sutlej by irrigation channels. Part of it has been reconstructed by the British Government, and spreads a margin of fertility on either side to this day. But the dynasty of Tughlak soon sunk amid Muhammadan mutinies and Hindu revolts, and left India an easy prey to the great Mughal invasion of 1398.

Mahmud Tughlak (1394-1412), the Emperor, fled to Gujerat, Delhi surrendered, and Tamerlane was publicly proclaimed Emperor of India. Having plundered and slaughtered the people of Delhi, the Moghul marched to Meerut, crossed the Ganges, and proceeded up its banks to the foot of the Himalayas. He then marched along the foot of the mountains to Jammu, turned to the south, and left India by the same route by which he had entered, leaving anarchy, famine, and pestilence behind him.

India in 1525 AD

India History Map - 1525After Tamerlane's departure from India, there was for a time neither Emperor nor Empire of Delhi. The Sayids (1414-1450) had little authority outside Delhi, and the last of the line surrendered his claims to Buhlol Lodi (Emperor 1450-1488), who had occupied the whole of the Punjab. That ruler added Jaunpur to his dominions in 1478. His successor Secander Lodi (1488-1517-18) reannexed Behar and extended his territories in the direction of Bundelkhand; but his dominions, were rather "a congeries of nearly independent principalities, jaghirs, etc.," than a compact monarchy.

Secander's son Ibrahim (1517-18-1526) disgusted his followers by his pride and cruelty. In the eastern part of his dominions one Derya Khan Lodi asserted his independence, while in the west Daulat Khan Lodi, the governor of Lahore, rose in arms against his sovereign. Thus matters stood when Baber invaded India.

The Rajput princes had recovered their independence and acknowledged Sanga, the powerful raja of Marwar and Ajmere as their leader. Malwa, though still independent, was in 1526 annexed to Gujerat. The kings of Qujerat had subdued western Kathiawar, including Junagarh (or Girnar) and Cutch. The old capital had been abandoned and a new one (Ahmadabad) built by Ahmad Shah (1411-1443). Malik Nasir of Khandesh in 1399 captured Asirgarh and built the strong forts of Zainabad and Burhanpur.

At the time of Baber's invasion Sindh was in possession of Shah Hussein Arghun of Multan. In Qondwana Sanyram Shah of Mandla about this time extended his kingdom over fifty-two districts comprising the country now known as Bhopal, Sagar, and Damoh on the Vindhyan plateau ; Hoshangabad, Narsinghpur, and Jabalpur in the Narbada valley; Mandla and Seoni in the Satpura highlands. The rest of the country was governed by other independent chiefs, e.g., those of Chattisgarh, Eatanpur, and Chanda.

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Page last modified: 09-02-2017 19:32:56 ZULU